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After a ten year hiatus due to annoying, time-consuming things like med school and residency, I finally got back to the summer ballpark tours with my guys. Pittsburgh PA, home of the beautiful PNC park was the choice for this summer’s trip, and it proved to be a great pick. Pittsburgh is a very historical baseball city;  the Pittsburgh Alleghenys played in the American Association from 1882-1886. They defected at the end of the 1886 season to join the 11 year-old National League for the 1987 season and have been there ever since. They initially continued to be identified as the Alleghenys, but after raiding the by then struggling American Association of players in 1890, they were called “piratical” by that league. In response, the franchise renamed themselves the Pirates beginning with the 1891 season and have retained the nickname for 120 years now. In town were the Cincinnati Reds, National League members since 1890 themselves. Cincinnati is 465 miles down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh and the cities have been long-time rivals in the Senior Circuit.

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Set on the northern bank of the Allegheny River just before it merges with the Monangahela River to form the mighty Ohio River, PNC Park opened in 2001 and is one of the more beautiful ballparks in the world. From downtown Pittsburgh you can walk over the Roberto Clemente bridge right into the plaza of the ballpark. Sitting behind the plate, you can look out beyond centerfield and have a beautiful view of the bridge crossing back across the river. Long home runs that clear the bleachers in right field can actually come to rest in the Allegheny. There is a real retro feel to the ball park. Some of my favorite features were the mammoth steel light towers, the 21 foot high right field wall (in honor of Roberto Clemente of course who wore that number on his uniform), and the walkway up to all levels in the left field corner.

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Making things even sweeter, my Redlegs won in come from behind fashion on both Friday night and Sunday afternoon to take the series after dropping a tough one on Saturday. I got to see Joey Votto launch two monstrous home runs. John got sick of me calling him “reigning National League MVP Joey Votto” every time he came to the plate, but when his 3 run shot turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 Reds lead in the 6th inning of Sunday’s game, John had to give me a “and that’s why he’s the MVP”  acknowledgment.  Another favorite, Brandon Phillips (DatBPDude on Twitter) went 7 for 13 in the series with a 3 run homer on Friday night.

While we were in town, a few of the streets near our hotel were closed because Universal Studios was filming the next Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.” Pittsburgh is taking on the role of Gotham City in the movie. There were all kinds of production people around guarding alleys, communicating on their walkie-talkies and making sure that the people on the streets couldn’t find the Batmobile. There was artificial snow remnants on the streets from the week’s shooting. We did catch a glimpse of what looked like the Batplane parked way down one street as seen in the background here, but no sign of stars Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Morgan Freeman, or Michael Caine.

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There was a battered City of Gotham Police Department car parked on a studio flatbed truck outside our hotel.

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Other highlights were riding the river walks on a rented bicycle, seeing a crazy life size mousetrap played out at the Carnegie Science museum and some Parma Pizza every night. Lots of fun. Maybe we will finally get to Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati next summer.

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If you have kids, you have to love this.

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Windows 7


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My mother’s six year old Dell PC died recently. She has been using a desktop PC for years but she is still one of those unintuitive users that so many of her generation tend to be. When she learns something new on her computer, she prefers a very “step-by-step” algorithmic approach without much understanding of what she is doing to accomplish her goal. All she wants to know is “click in this box, type this, hit OK, press Escape, etc.” That kind of approach to learning does not lend itself to generalization at all, so when she wants to do something similar in another application, we have to start all over.  Often when she asks me to show her how to do something, she will grab a pencil to take down verbatim instructions. I love to tell her, “Stop! Don’t write anything down … just think about what we are trying to do, and the actual steps become superfluous to the process!” OK, I don’t really say that, but its close to what I am thinking.

About six years ago, I converted from being a very dedicated long time DOS – Windows – PC user to a Mac person. There are tons of reasons why I think that Apple’s OS X is superior to Windows and now I can’t ever imagine going back. I tried to evangelize my mother a few years ago when she wanted to try a laptop. I convinced her to get a MacBook. The amount of “fixing” things I had to do for her went way down. I wasn’t having to uninstall intrusive browser toolbars that she didn’t mean to install. I didn’t have to keep her anti-virus and her security software up to date. I guess it didn’t “take” though. Much of her failure to love her MacBook was not a lack of appreciation for the well constructed hardware and the OS, but her difficulties with the relatively small screen, the trackpad, and the differences with a dedicated keyboard. When my sister needed a new laptop, Mom gave her the MacBook.

As I have drifted ever further away from Windows, I have become less and less able to help her with issues that come up.Her machine was still running Windows XP and I knew that pretty well, but I really didn’t have much motivation to keep up with any of the newer Windows software packages that were coming out. I certainly didn’t want any part of using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. I did mange to get her to use Firefox as her browser, but over the last couple of years I was not as actively involved in maintaining and tweaking her machine as I had before. So when the motherboard died on her trusted desktop, she was ready to buy a new machine.

I saw the opportunity to standardize the family! She asked for recommendation as always and I told her that I couldn’t in good conscience suggest she go cheap with a PC box, when she could get a beautiful iMac though the cost (at least upfront) would be quite a bit more. She always trusts my advice, and I thought I had her sold. But then she talked to a fellow teacher at the Community College where she works who recommended another Windows machine. She said “Paul” told her that’s what she needed. I suggested she get Paul to come and set it up for her. But knowing I needed to get what she wanted or she wouldn’t be comfortable, I picked her up an eMachine box at Best Buy. About $383 with tax for the box, mouse and keyboard. She is keeping her old flat screen monitor. We got the machine plugged . in. Power cord from the box, the monitor and the speakers. Video cable to the monitor. Speaker cables, mouse and keyboard. Of course the ethernet cable to her router. You could get lost in all of that stuff. The images of a beautiful large screen iMac with its single power cord and ethernet in came to my mind. Wireless keyboard and mouse, and cables are virtually a thing of the past.

Of course the beast ran Windows 7 Home Premium. As opposed to Windows 7 Starter. Or Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate. Or the Windows 7 Home Basic which apparently is only available in “emerging markets.” That’s one of my first grumbles about Microsoft’s flagship. Do they really need to market 7 versions of the thing? Maybe that’s why they call it Windows 7. Because I recall Windows 1.0, Windows 2.0, Windows 3.0, Windows 3.1, Windows 3.11 for workgroups, Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows XP, and finally Windows Vista and I am not at all sure how they got to 7 after all of that.

When we booted up for the first time we immediately began getting bombarded with messages from all of the conveniently pre- installed packages. Norton Security warned that if we didn’t subscribe immediately, an exiled Nigerian ruler would take over our machine remotely and begin massive regular deductions from her checking account. Adobe wanted her to upgrade her reader. A half dozen programs insisted that they were worthy of automatic start-up at boot time. Explorer already had extraneous handy “toolbars” installed. In the past, I probably would have tried to clean this mess up. But maybe I am the one stuck in the past. Maybe I am the one who is odd for thinking that only the software I explicitly install should have a place on my harddrive. Maybe everyone needs to have 25% of their CPU cycles being taken up by software they don’t even realize is running. I ended up just making sure that she could reach the internet, and told her happily, “here you go!” And I think she was actually pretty satisfied.

I just know as I write this post on my MacBook Pro, I am a lot happier!

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This week I watched Macey play her final soccer game in a Lady Pirate jersey. I knew when she took the field it would be the last time. Sure, if Pearl had won, they would be in the State Championship Game today; but the writing was on the wall. Ridgeland was better, more confident, more hungry. I watched the first half in the stands with all of the fans who braved the bitter cold rains. It was a terrible night for soccer. Many of the playoff games in the area scheduled for that night had been postponed due to the weather. Ridgeland, as if knowing the night was theirs, just moved the game time back an hour to wait out the worst of the freezing precipitation. The extra hour just made it that much colder as the sun set.

Ridgeland’s girls came out with energy and passion. The Pearl girls played tentatively and defensively. After several goal opportunities, Ridgeland’s pressure finally forced a breakdown and we went down 1-0 just 10 minutes into the game. The goal would prove to stand up.

As the second half started, I just wanted to soak it up. Macey had 40 minutes of soccer left in her high school experience and I wanted to see them from the same vantage point of the players. I went down to the field, went through a gate, and walked across the track just ten feet from the sideline. I was down at one end, standing by myself near Ridgeland’s goal. The game seems different down there. More personal and real. I could see the growing frustration and desperation on Macey’s face. I could hear the Ridgeland defenders yelling at each other to stay with her.

Macey had ended the season strong. The last few games included a 1-0 win over St. Andrews when she headed a pass into the net for the win with 4 minutes to play. She scored twice in the final 10 minutes agains Northwest Rankin to beat them 2-1. Four more goals in two easy playoff wins had brought us here to the North State title game. There would be none of that this evening.

Macey is Peter Pan. I think its difficult, if not impossible, for an 18 year old to fully appreciate how wonderful their life is at that age without the benefit of the hindsight that you acquire only once those years have slipped away. Macey comes as close to getting it as a teenager is able. She knows that the independence gained by growing up, also demands relentless decision making and responsibilities that are hard. If she could freeze time and stay a kid forever, she would.

My friend Keith Warren took the beautiful picture above. It captured both the frustration of the night and the losing battle against time and change. Just as with every other time the ball got into Macey’s proximity, there were Lady Titans all over her. In the photograph she desperately tries to keep control of the ball while fending off the enemy with an extended arm. But the three defenders were too much, just as they would be all night. She could not hold them off long enough to give herself a chance to score. The Lady Titans would defeat her, and usher her out with the relentlessness of time.

Macey is one of those special people who just seem to have that indescribable “it.” Often that gift can be a burden because of the expectations it creates for you. Sometimes you can meet those expectations and sometimes you don’t quite make it. Everything comes to an end. Nobody can keep the ball at their feet forever. Sometimes you put it in the back of the net, and sometimes it gets taken away from you. Final score: Ridgeland 1 Pearl 0.

I felt a lump in my throat as the final seconds ticked off. Not because of the loss to Ridgeland, but because it was the end. A large part of my “now” is in the past, and I will miss it. Macey will play a lot of more soccer in all probability. It will be the same game but completely different. I had so much enjoyment watching her. So many moments to be proud of. I didn’t want to see it end any more than she did.

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Pearl 1 St Andrews 0

More photos in the Gallery … link on top of right-hand column.


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