silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
I welcome all of the following types of comments on ANY of my entries:
  • Single or two word comments, e.g. , woo!, yay, yes, no, please, thanks, absolutely, agreed, seconded, so much, no way, etc.
  • "+1" or Facebook style "like".
  • Otherwise brief comments, e.g. single sentences.
  • A comment that is a punctuation mark(s) to let me know you read, e.g. a period, an asterisk.
  • A comment that is a punctuation mark(s) to express your response, e.g. an exclamation mark or question mark.
  • A comment that is an emoticon(s) to express your response, e.g. \o/, <3, :), :(, :-D, :-P, etc.
  • Long, wordy comments. Rambling is totally okay.
  • Comments and links on related topics.
  • Comments on single links, entities, paragraphs, topics, or words in the entry. I throw out a lot of things each entry, and I don't expect anyone to have to come up with a coherent comment on each and every one of them to comment.
  • Sequential commentary. It's totally okay to comment about one thing as you read it, then another thing in a separate comment, then a third thing after you've chewed on it for a while and feel ready to talk about it.
  • Incoherent comments. It’s all good. I would rather have you here and showing interest,, even if it's just a *flail*, than for you to stay silent because you are afraid or unable to get the perfect comment out.
  • Talking amongst yourselves in the comments is fine. I like creating a place where people get to interact!

I also welcome:

  • Comments on older entries, access-locked or public.
  • Comments on VERY OLD entries, access-locked or public. I have many years of archives.
  • Comments from people who are not subscribed to me.
  • Comments from people who I’ve never met.
  • Comments from people who haven’t talked to me in awhile.
  • Comments from people who’ve never talked to me.
  • I like knowing the provenance of new commenters. If you're new, I'd love to know where you came from and what brought you here.

My great anxiety is that there's nobody out there and I'm shouting into the wind. If you’re feeling like you want to comment with something, feel free to comment with what feels good and comfortable to you, whether that’s leaving a !!! or an essay. If you don't have the spoons for any comment, that's okay, too. No pressure, no obligations.

How I reply to comments:
  • I mostly try to reply to comments.
  • I normally try to reply to comments as soon after they arrive as I can.
  • My comments will probably try to elicit more discussion and longer-form commentary. Part of it is my professional training, part of it is because I like discussions.
  • You are never obligated to reply to a reply, nor to write longer-form than you wish.
  • If you would like a response to a comment, I encourage you to let me know. “I would appreciate a response to this if possible,” etc. is totally fine with me.
  • Absentminded. If I have forgotten to reply to something you want a reply to, a poke is totally okay.

Linking to my entries:
  • If it’s public, it’s fair game.
  • It’s access-locked, ask me.
  • Please do not archive my work without asking me first.
  • If you do link to me elsewhere, it warms my heart if you tell me where you linked, but it's not a requirement.
  • If something I linked or wrote inspired you, it warms my heart if you link me to it. Also not a requirement.

Transformative works:

As of the time of writing this (02013-09-09), the content of my blog is licensed CC-BY-SA (3.0 Unported), which says that if you use my work for something, your work should attribute me (the user name and a link back to my blog is usually sufficient) and your work should also be licensed under a license similar to the Attribution-Sharealike license. The stuff I link to is not governed under this license and may have additional requirements for you to use.

Adding and access:

If you want to add me, go ahead! Please feel encouraged to do so.

I like new subscribers. I also respect access-locks - if something you created is That Awesome, I'll ask for permission before excerpting or posting elsewhere.

I may not add you back - I tend to evaluate based on what's available on your entries page. If you're mostly access only, it may take some comments or a conversation in a third space before I have an idea of whether I want to subscribe. If your journal is a repository for your fiction efforts, I may not add you back, because I do not have near enough time to properly read anyone's fiction as a part of my daily list crawl. I would probably enjoy it, if I had the time.

I don't give access, generally. For one, nearly everything posted is public, so you're not missing out on anything by not having that access. If I do post something under access-lock, it is probably something intensely personal, and so I'd be hand-selecting who I want to see it.

(This idea stolen and modified from [personal profile] trascendenza, who first broached it in their own journal when talking about commenting culture and their own anxieties.)
silveradept: Charles Schulz's Charlie Brown lays on Snoopy's doghouse, sighing. (Charlie Brown Sighs)
So. This is a bit awkward to write, not just because there's a whole cultural Thing involved here, but because, y'know, we try so hard to put up a front of invincibility, or at least competence, that it's difficult to say that you've basically Failed.

I've bought into the myth of the American Dream, where it should be possible for any person to enjoy a middle-class lifestyle with a family (or at least a significant other and yourself) on a single income, especially one of a government functionary with a reasonably good college degree. Perhaps in another economy, this might be possible.

I knew that this was basically impossible for someone at a minimum wage job, even providing for themselves. For a while, living by myself, it seemed like I could pull it off - at least for living by myself. Then, well, relationships, and pets, and unexpected expenses, and let's just say that the budget is not looking healthy. And continues to not look healthy.

This is not, unfortunately, the kind of thing where I can say "I just need a little money to take care of those unexpected expenses and all will be well." I would rather not be a charitable burden on someone for an indefinite amount of time, until my salary catches up or the budget gap gets filled with work from my significant other. So, to try and fill the budgetary gap, at least until my S.O. can find steady work, I present the following offer:

I Want Work.

I have various and sundry skills - I can write, read, edit, create ePUBs, make simple static web pages, research, simply edit audio, images, and video, and and other things. I have various oracles that may be helpful to you. Programming, unfortunately, is beyond my ken. I'm pretty good at looking at something and being able to adaptit with some examples and a lot of thinking, but creating stuff out of whole cloth? Not my thing right now.

There are a few caveats:
  1. Obviously, whatever Work you have to offer will have to be something done electronically (or that you're willing to pay for the postage cost to and back for). I cannot travel, nor do I expect you to be willing to travel for the Work
  2. This must be Work that you are willing to pay for. I can't take much in trade (unless it's a Really Cool Trade) because the bills still have to be paid.

Prices are to be negotiated based on the Work you would like me to do. Payment method will have to be negotiated, as I do not have PayPal or other electronic methods. You can leave a comment or use the private messaging system to contact me. Any comment threads will be screened upon request.

So, yeah, I need work. And lots of it.

Please pass the message along to your contacts and others who might have some money to spare and Work they are willing to pay someone to do. I know, in this economy, that this is unlikely, but it never hurts to ask.

Please link to this post so that I can be sure that everything is in one place.
silveradept: Domo-kun, wearing glass and a blue suit with a white shirt and red tie, sitting at a table. (Domokun Anchor)
Let's ring in the new calendar year with caves containing bioluminescent organisms in New Zealand, which makes for an interesting light show in the darkness. If you go, these methods may help with packing small and light.

Dr. King is not a safe historical figure, no matter what textbook history says. And no matter how much students are discouraged from seeking that history in the places where it happened. Or how much memorials may fade into the distance because their participation hasn't been as high before. This year may have more focus, but this year is not unique in any special way - these things must be done at all times, not just when it rises high enough in the collective conscious.

To promote and maintain harmony among cats, try to encourage a group scent by brushing each cat sequentially, so they all get each other's scent. Additionally, persistence is key in retraining a cat to accept a new configuration of foodstuff. And you can use a cat attractant as mosquito repellent.

Surprising very few of the people who have read the actual tales, the Grimm fairy tales, in their first edition, had more of the dark content they are known for today, due to new knowledge from a translation of a first edition.

The offices of the publication Charlie Hebdo were attacked by gunmen, killing many of the staff, and three policemen, at least one Muslim (because the attacks were apparently motivated by some philosophy claiming to be Islam), as well as attacks in a Jewish market. A Belgian arms dealer confessed to selling the weapons to the suspects. And things are not yet done - Some suspects are still sought in relation to all the attacks.

Charlie Hebdo has the right to say provacative and scandalous things in the name of satire. We also have the right to call them out on it. But not the right to kill anyone over it. So we wonder what Anonymous will do in revenge for the attack.

If you intend to overthrow a dictator, check to make sure your country is at war with them, unless you want to be charged with crimes in your home nation for an unsuccessful attempt.

The Twitter account for United States Central Command was hacked for a short amount of time to display pro-ISIS propaganda.

The current House majority whip for the Republican party was the guest of white supremacists in 2002. Nobody appears to have a problem with this, nor the lack of women in leadership positions I'm this Congress.

Memo to Kirby Delauter: Being a public figure means newsmedia can use your name without begging your permission when reporting on what you do as a public figure.

Governor Cash and Prizes was sentenced to two years in federal prison after a conviction on more than sixteen federal corruption charges, significantly under the minimum recommended sentence for hits crimes, apparently receiving such a reprieve after the testimony of many character witnesses. Which should mean precisely dick in relation to the bribes and favors he did while in office. His wife is due for sentencing on her own charges after Governor McDonnell is to report to prison.

New things to know about the web this year, which are entirely familiar to those that have been here. For actual progress, take time to document the accessibility features of your event and post them. If for no other reason than to get you thinking about how to make things better. And then you can budget for accessibility, possibly using a service like LinguaBee to contract interpreters.

Because her parents could not provide unconditional love, a teenager committed suicide. Because her parents insisted their reality was more real than hers, and only allowed her to exist in their world. This is a critical failure, and one that will be replicated many times over until we understand what needs to be done. Medical students are starting to get the training they need to get it right, so hopefully the next generation of physicians can help, but we still need more for parents and laypeople. Under-eighteen teenage women may be your best bet for a starting point, as they are likely already hip-deep in the relevant issues and conversations.

An article about how some people are naturally highly sensitive to stimuli, and that knowing this may be helpful in interacting with the world.

Remember: When you are invited to the table, do not go and sit at the high place.

There are still some aspects of Japanese culture and topography forbidden to women for some flimsy-seeming reasons. Culture is tricky to say aye or nay to completely, though, as a prominent dictionary of the Japanese language has removed heteronormative language from definitions such as love or carnal desire.

Infographics on various healthy foods and preparations, along with methods to maintain a healthy kitchen, although the last bit about cast iron skillets may be bunk. Additionally, using spice mixes has advantages, no matter what the nose-in-the-air snob says.

The United Kingdom Home Secretary believes it a good idea to send them students back to the country they came from immediately, instead of trying to retain them for a while to see if they will find employment.

The legal system does not provide clear avenues by which those subjected to online harassment can stop or prosecute their assailants, nor has it adequately trained people to correctly respond to those complaints. Additionally, avenues outside the legal system are often ineffective and/or place the burden of stopping harassing behavior on those being harassed.

Police officers have many ways of getting people to give up their constitutional rights, including intimidation, attempting to instill fear, and lying. Anything to get consent to the search.

Dystopia and revolution do not function normally as young adult novels suggest they do. They are far messier.

Effective editing requires context awareness, just like effective writing. For writers, context may mean having to thoroughly understand and write the world from someone else's viewpoint. Or to turn the nitpick off long enough to enjoy what is good about a story and to be willing to tell any supposed rules of writing to go fuck off if they don't work for you.

Because sometimes all the shameless self-promotion pays off.

Because certain countries in north Florida have decided they won't allow all people to get married, the mayor of Tallahassee, Florida, had said anyone denied their license at home can get married in his city.

Some excerpts describing the increasing pressure in World War II to stigmatise gay and lesbian relationships among soldiers, and the ways those soldiers fight back. Not to mention the long history of drag shows.

Feminism helps men, too, by providing them with an alternative to the worldview of MRAs and others who see the power struggle as zero sum, instead of absurd.

Rum + Coke fashion creates sizes for all sizes and shoots their fashion exclusively on plus-size models, although in this case, it seems like using plus-size is wrong, because the point isn't to stigmatize any body type.

When it comes to feminism or other issues that disproportionately affect minorities, prioritizing feels over reals, or even treating them equally, is a bad approach to solving the issues. Once we're solid there, if someone from a minority says something is so, odds are it is so, and you should believe them. Their reals are still more important than your feels. Because they live in a reality with an entirely different set of questions about life, one where no matter what they do to respond to a compliment, it reflects negatively on them, and you have to adjust to that. Because they can't yet tell you off as firmly as they want to. And they also get to deal with products that aren't different, except that they're more expensive when marketed to them.

So one of the best things you can do is indicate you can be talked to about issues, but also that you will listen instead of trying to talk over them. And not using offensive language. Additionally, figuring out how to avoid making someone else's narrative all about you.

And no, there's no equivalent thing oppressing the privileged as there is privilege oppressing others. There are intersections that might make someone who seems privileged not so, though. And people who should be allies in feminism instead have to fight lies.

Nearly three million gallons of a toxic brine spilled into a North Dakota river right after a large oil spill into the Yellowstone River. Tell me again why we shouldn't be accelerating the production of energy that doesn't foul the environment?

I could have used this bibliographic instruction when I went into a degree concentration that required a senior thesis. Instead, I ended up bouncing ideas and functions off my advisor and peers, but it probably would have been much more awesome had I made time with a librarian. (Yes, I became a librarian, so now I wish people would make time with me.) Because, as you should know by now, librarians are awesome. We can recommend you other resources than your favorite search engine that will help with your inquiries, show you apps that can make your daily life a little easier, get your Gmail experimentally powered up, and point you at tips and underused features for your Google products, or suggest contrasting colors to use so that your calendars and their appointments are not confused for each other.

Jessamyn West is entirely correct - librarians have incredible treasure troves of knowledge regarding what you can do with technology and the things you own, but because copyright cabals continue to find new ways of screwing their consumers, the "right" way to do things like borrow library materials are privacy-invasive and require hoops to jump through that direct purchasing doesn't. Since those cabals see any use that isn't paid for as piracy, libraries are increasingly being subjected to ridiculous restrictions. And those same cabals have so messed things up that nothing can be definitively added to the public domain in the United States until 2054. Examine what United States audiences are missing it in being able to build on, while others enjoy the newfound public domain material.

It is incredibly difficult to tell whether or not the deceased in a cemetery got there by normal attrition or by catastrophe if all you have to study are the bones. What you would need would be things like the accounts of those that survived, as one might get by studying the records of a cult leader and his settlement.

A tautology: Biblical literalism is a-historical. Elsewhere, mindfulness without its context is mindless, and therefore much less useful than it could be.

In attempting to blame technology and multitasking for decreased cognitive performance, neuroscientist makes a strong case for social changes that demand instant and immediate answers to all queries as the proper culprit for cognitive exhaustion, as it is quite possible to treat all those apparent problems as the tools they are and not engage them excepting on one's own terms.

When executive function is impaired, victory means completing a step (or more) along the path.

Architecture still fails to construct bathrooms in such a way that women do not have to wait in line while men sail on through. And retrofitting over buildings, even governmental ones, is a slow process marred by many years of institutional sexism.

Possible approaches to collecting and analyzing gender data, with commentary on the ethics of using those methods.

Hair care suggestions that can appear counter-intuitive.

A mirrored surface on a teacup reflects the pattern of the saucer beneath it to create a complementary pattern on the cup.

How two twins, separated and adopted at birth, found each other, thanks to one being semi-prominent and the other having a social media account. Or, a solution to a small world problem.

The Sixth Stage of Grief is Retrocomputing - coming to terms with loss by replicating the past and then realizing that the past lives on in new forms, as the foundations of the now, and sometimes as the way things get done in the now. As the traffic report of Night Vale puts it: We are eternal. We will not last.

Even so, every now and then, something survives past us, waiting for the future to return it to life. (Several tracks of that revived sound can be listened to.)

The virtues of the Kitty character I'm the show Elementary.

Forty-three methods to lace up shoes, skates, or other footwear.

A selection of the newest members of the identified species club, many of which are tiny, but very important. Considering how a single unit in the universe can inspire significant in-depth study, there will be a lot of information to come on these matters.

When reading about science in anything other than a research paper, it's best to check the source. If in a research paper, check the source all the same.

Common confusions about intellectual property and its use, including what it means when you license your work permissively though schemes such as Creative Commons.

In tech, methods by which someone can batch-convert documents in a Microsoft Word-compatible form to the Portable Document Format.

Tips for staying less discoverable while on a public network, which can help protect from intruders on your side of a connection.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but most popular freeware material includes bundles of things you really don't want on a computer, and your antivirus software may not stop them from installing.

Using an Arduino and a smartphone, a dancer can use their pointe shoes to leave traces of their moves on a recording of their dance.

As technology advances, the technology to fool that technology advances as well. But also technology makes a process like bone marrow donation much less painful. And some experimental features allow you to undo what you have already pressed send to.

Vintage advertisements from John Cleese selling Compaq computers.

A significant portion of games from the DOS era can now be played in modern web browsers, thanks to the Internet Archive. So if you want to try games you never owned or get some nostalgia going on, here's a possible way.

Speaking of nostalgia, how the film Clue bombed at the box office and then became a cult hit on par with the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Also, drawing on the web with tools much like the Spirograph art toy and the beginning of a Twitter-type choose your own adventure game.

A translation matrix between common client comments and what it means to web designers.

An excellent analysis of fanfiction purposes, weights of story, and what fanfic does well that paid work does not. Which can then be paired with recommendations for stories and books where disabilities are done well (although the comments suggest that some of the recommendations are not actually done well) and reflections on horror writing and the expectations that come with it.

In praise of Wonder Woman, who has, by being Wonder Woman, spent many decades telling great stories. Along with this, ways to design better women in games, as both protagonists and antagonists, and to make the supposedly gender-neutral not read male.

1.5 billion pixels is still only one third of the Andromeda galaxy. I wonder how the computers back on Terra will be able to process the image so that it can be studied for interesting things to zoom in on. As I wonder, I'll examine panoramic time-lapses of the sky, captured by an array of fisheye lenses.

Advanced X-ray techniques may provide a method of reading the text on scrolls burned in the Vesuvius eruption. That would mean the possibility of new primary sources, which would be awesome.

Last for today, Pigeons. And animals in snow. Also, the Grand Canyon covered in snow, all the way to the bottom.

And something very vulgar - a discussion of the proper spelling of the vulgarity suggesting ejaculate or ejaculation.
silveradept: A star of David (black lightning bolt over red, blue, and purple), surrounded by a circle of Elvish (M-Div Logo)
[This is the last of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, regrettably, there are no more open slots. All comments are still welcome, of course.]

Wow. I did it. Thirty-one posts, one each day. That's exhausting. I think I understand the elation of finishing a NaNovel a bit more now.

As befits the ending point of this series, there's very little left to do but tally up the score. Which is easy enough for television graphics or newspaper box scores to do at the end of their games, often with neat rows and columns about RHE, and then individual player statistics for the game - how many at-bats, hits, runs scored, runs batted in, walks, strikeouts, and so forth. Very nicely arranged in straight rows as befitting a summary meant for quick and casual consumption or the fantasy sports players to see how their team of awesome did in the game for that period of time. The television-era equivalent of this is the highlight reel, where particularly noteworthy plays off the game are played in mostly-chronological order, but without any context surrounding them. You'll see the pitch that results in the home run, but you won't see that the batter fouled off two pitches like it right before finally getting to turn on the third one and put it in the stands. You don't see the methodical work of the pitcher that gets ground balls all the time, but the one pitch that got a away from them a bit and looked for all the world to be a hit before the shortstop proved that white men occasionally can jump and snagged it out of the air as it was passing overhead. We remember the exceptions quite well, but an appreciation of the efficiency of a pitcher requires paying closer attention. Much like Association Football, baseball looks to be a lot of nothing punctuated by short bursts of Very Interesting, and the long stretches and breaks in between action lends both sports to work well as social outings. (I highly recommend seeing sport with other people. A good time can be had by all inexpensively if you don't have to have Major League Baseball.)

If you want to know how a game ended, you can just look at the box score. If you want to see what happened during the game that brought about that score, you need to see the notebook of someone keeping score. Every game has an Official Scorer whose job it is to rule on whether particularly tricky plays should be counted as hits for the offense, errors for the defense, or other designations, based on rules and their judgment about the play as it unfolded. I don't know what their books look like, nor what their complete system is. Most sport supply shops, however, will carry a notebook that will give people a basic layout to record the game as it happens. Typically, on one page, there will be space to record the name and number of the players in the batting lineup (and their substitutes) for one team, the pitchers in the game (and their substitutes) for that team, the names or numbers of the umpires for the game, and a space to record the action of an at-bat during an inning for each of those players, and any other action that might happen to them on the basepaths. On its most basic level, I can look at a score book and know that in the third inning, #25, Mr. Bunny Foo-Foo, hit into an inning-ending double play off a 3-1 pitch from the starting pitcher, #13, Ms. Bar None. I'll know how the double play went down, as each defensive position is represented by a number from 1-9. (In order: pitcher, catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field, center field, right field.) So a 4-6-3 (second-shortstop-first) is fairly common, but a 1-5-6 (pitcher-third-shortstop) is going to be memorable. (Most likely, it's a poorly-executed bunt.)

After that, though, it's mostly up to the scorekeeper and their system to provide as much or as little detail about the game as they want. One common addition is to mark a strikeout with whether it was a swinging strikeout or a looking strikeout by changing the orientation of the K symbol. Sometimes an out is given extra letters to indicate what kind of out it was (for example, F can be Fly out, P a Pop Fly, FO indicates a Foul (Fly Ball) Out, FC indicates a Fielder's Choice), or someone might make notations about pitch speed or selection through the use of colored pens and pencils when marking the balls and strikes. Each keeper develops their own system based on what they want to remember about the game as it goes on our when it is over. Keeping score is a way of staying engaged with the game at all points of the game, not just the ones where the crowd gets on their feet. And it's still easy enough to do and maintain the social aspects of the game, as well. The prize for keeping score is that, at the end of the game, you have a record of what happened, which serves as a memory aid for describing the game later. For many games, that may not be that important, but for the ones that are going to etch themselves on your memory, or for when you want to give a gift to a young child that says "I was there for you, and I was paying attention", a scorecard is a really good way to go. I remember that I watched my first live professional game at a young age at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, that my dad and uncle were in attendance with me, that we sat behind the foul screen...but I don't actually remember the game itself, other than that the home team lost. (I have a bad record with live professional game attendance - most of the time, the team I'm supporting doesn't win.) I would have liked to keep a scorecard from that game so that I could look back and remember what happened that day. Instead, I have mildly-embarrassing video of myself expressing my team love at home while a televised game plays in the background. Some things are better left to live performance.

The associated card for all of this is Nostalgia, which can be both an act of looking back on the past with fondness and the physical collection of stuff as reminders of the past, preserved from the now so that the future can see what we were up to and what we considered important. "Retro" as a styling is an intentional invocation of the past, whether to evoke nostalgia while maintaining technological advances, or to produce some sense of the past, often sanitized to greater or lesser degrees, for the future to try and understand and experience. The card represents looking back and seeing how far the journey has come, rejoicing in the highlights and reliving some of the pain of the lowlights. It's associated with Retirement pretty strongly, as those who realize their time is coming to an end often come to the question of whether their career had been a good one, and whether the Hall or a retirement of number is coming in their future. This can sometimes evoke a panic and a flurry of attempted activity in service of making the career look better in retrospect. Right around the end of the year and the Vague Early Winter Possibly Religious Festivals, a lot of movies get play that are about this kind of nostalgia - It's A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, the original Charlie Brown Christmas - these are all about looking at one's legacy and seeing how everything, good and bad, produced the person looking back on their life. In most of these cases, there's a major decision to be made based on this information, one last possible push before time seals what history will think of them. If Nostalgia appears, it's time to think about both past and future - what lessons from the past have you taken to heart and how do they guide you, how are you going to inspire others, and what artifacts are you leaving for others to collect as they think of you? Beware of doing things for cynical or manipulative reasons to try and influence opinions, though - most people can see through it, and the statistics will win out in the end when it comes to your career.

There's a bad side to nostalgia as well - if you spend too much time in the past, time will eventually take apart your carefully constructed world, fiction by fiction. Refusing to acknowledge that Time Marches On will eventually put you in a bad position - you'll become someone who believes in a Past That Never Was and try to dictate policies that do not apply to the reality around you. Later generations may find you pitiable, others will find you laughable. This is not to say that the past must be discarded wholesale and that there is nothing to learn or keep from it - I suspect many ventures and adventures in our current world could have been prevented by studying the history a bit more. But lionizing what was often requires willful ignorance of the entirety of the past - life may have been good or simpler for you, but that was probably the result of privileges, and sometimes laws, that protected you or unfairly put burdens on others so that you could be comfortable. It may have been nice, if you were of a certain social class or race, but things were not universally rosy, nor are they now. Our careers are too short to have to relearn everything, so part of our work is to preserve those things that will mean later generations do not have to learn those lessons. Whether they can is up to them, but we must provide them with the opportunity to do so, or we are just as guilty of living in Nostalgia.

The game changes, always, as new methods and new ways of gaining advantage are discovered, perfected, and eventually patched by changes in the rules of the game or the imposition of luxury taxes and revenue-sharing methods. The past may appear better, and memories are with cherishing, but the pitfall is a big one. It's up to you to decide whether or not this is something to aspire to or to be repulsed by:
(From The Simpsons Movie, staring at an impending apocalypse)

Comic Book Guy: I've spent my entire life doing nothing but collecting comic books... and now there's only time to say... LIFE WELL SPENT!
silveradept: Blue particles arranged to appear like a rainstorm (Blue Rain)
[This is the next-to-last of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, regrettably, there are no more open slots. All comments are still welcome, of course.]

On any given baseball field, the are two lines that extend from the corners of home plate closest to the pitching mound in the direction of the corner (as if it were an arrow, and the corner the top of the arrow) indefinitely far (or, in a modern stadium, to the outfield fence). These lines define the areas known as fair and foul territory. Sixty (for Little League Baseball) or ninety (for collegiate and professional baseball) feet from home plate on those lines is one of the bases (first and third base) that the offense will need to touch to make progress toward scoring a run.

Unlike cricket, where the entire field is playable, with the batters at the center, in baseball only a portion of the field is considered legal (fair) territory for balls to be batted in such that the offense can advance. Fair territory constitutes the area in between those lines, extending as far as the lines themselves do. All other territory is foul territory.Any ball batted that is in fair territory is live for as long as it stays in fair territory, does not leave the playing field, and the time-out that is the end of a play has not been granted by the umpires. Balls that touch a fielder or the field of play in fair territory at or beyond beyond first or third base are permanently fair (and live) balls for the remainder of the play regardless of where they go after that. Balls fielded in fair territory when first touched remain fair regardless of where they go after that.

The space beyond the outfield fence is fair territory, but not in the playing field. A ball going there is out of play, which is important for the awarding of bases and home runs - if the ball was touched by a fielder or touched any part of the field of play in fair territory before leaving the field of play, bases are awarded according to the rules. If the ball leaves the field of play in fair territory without touching any part of the field of play, a home run is awarded. To assist the umpires in their decisions regarding fair or foul, most professional stadia have poles erected at the outfield fence on the foul lines. These days, those poles also have grates on the fair territory side of the pole to make it easier for the umpire to see whether or not a fly ball passes in front of the foul pole as it leaves play (foul ball, also known as a long, loud, strike) or behind it (home run). Striking the grates with a fly ball is a home run according to the rules, as the grates are beyond the field of play and are in fair territory.

Any other ball first touching down or touched while in foul territory is a foul ball, and will be called so. Any batted ball that strikes a batter-runner while still in the batter's box is a foul ball (outside of the box, any contact between batter and ball in fair territory likely to be called interference) Foul balls are dead balls, excepting those balls cleanly fielded in foul territory without first touching the ground (i.e. fly balls caught in foul territory), which are live, and which runners can attempt to advance bases off of at their own peril.

Make sense? The rules regarding fair and foul are often full of exceptions, as you can see. But they govern some of the most important interactions between offense and defense. They create some of the competitive balance that keeps the game in the ballpark of fair.

At it's most basic, a foul ball is an attempt to put a ball in play that doesn't succeed. Contact is made, but the ball goes places that won't help the offense, as a foul ball that doesn't result in an out is a dead ball and no runners can advance. Even if they were stealing and going to get to the next base. Most foul balls have limited defensive values, as well, since they count only as a strike against the batter if not caught for an out, unless the batter already has two strikes, at which point the foul ball counts for nothing, assuming the player is swinging the bat - a third strike resulting from a bunt attempt that goes foul is an out. Good batters extend their at-bats and force the pitchers to throw more pitches at them by fouling off pitches that aren't quite right for them or that are different than the pitch the batter wants to hit for a very long way. The longer the at-bat goes, the more likely it is the pitcher will make a mistake or the hitter will get the pitch they are looking for. And in a metagame sense, the more pitches a pitcher has to waste on one batter, the less pitching strength they have for every other batter that follows them, which means possible good things like the starting pitcher leaving the game earlier than planned (relief pitchers are generally good only for a few innings before passing things off to a closer) or, in the case of Little League, a pitcher reaching their appointed pitch count faster. So sometimes a foul ball helps the offense in little ways.

As you can see, the fair-foul determination is incredibly context-dependent, based on where the ball is when it is touched first, and by what it is touched. What happens as a result of the foul ball is also context-dependent, and so both players and umpires have to be able to sort scenarios automatically to arrive at the right call or likely call so as to know what to do with the ball. For example, any bunted ball that looks like it's going to roll foul should be allowed to do so, unless the fielder has such a great jump on it that they can definitely get an out. It is far preferable to force the batter to try again with an extra strike than to have to make a difficult play against a fast runner. You may end up eating a hit if the ball stops rolling in fair territory near the line, which is the mark of an excellent bunt, but even that is preferable to the extra possible bases from a wild throw. If you're in the outfield and there's a ball drifting foul that you can catch with great effort, remember where the runners are - if you catch it, but are otherwise unable to get up and throw the ball back in for a while, will that be trading a run for an out? Maybe it's best to not slide or dive for that one and hope the next ball will be easier to handle.

Unsurprisingly, when this card shows up in your reading, it's a reminder to check the context of your situation - what looks like an easy out might end up being nothing more than a strike. Good for you if you're the batter - you get to try again for something better, even if it does mean the pressure increases a bit, some of your options become a lot riskier, and you're closer to a bad end. With two strikes, you'll have to play more defensively - "protect the plate" by swinging at pitches that are close - foul them off if you have to, so that you can try and get the pitcher to throw something better.

It's not so good if you're the fielder, but there's still a small benefit to be gained by putting the batter closer to out. Stay alert to the next action, and you may yet get your result. If you're the battery, pay attention. A foul ball is only a little way off from a ball in play. You may want to consider changing your next pitch or your at-bat strategy based on how that ball was fouled off. Proceeding without thinking will likely get them a hit instead of you an out.
silveradept: A plush doll version of C'thulhu, the Sleeper, in H.P. Lovecraft stories. (C'thulhu)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's only one space left for tomorrow. Leave a comment with a prompt if you want in. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

For [personal profile] onyxlynx, who wanted to talk about how players sometimes live on.

A career in sport is much like any other career, truthfully. After study and practice, one applies, and if accepted, begins the path. The Rookie represents the beginning of the journey, and also, in my opinion, its end, but most people would peg the end of a career at the point of retirement, when one stops doing the job that one has been doing for many years of life. There's no guarantee, of course, that retirement will be with the same team, or doing the same job, or that one won't have been fired, laid off, or otherwise had an upheaval along the way that caused a change in direction. No, at retirement, one gives up the game completely, at least at the point where one is engaged, as many players go on to be coaches, managers, commentators, or maintain ties to the game after they stop playing. Coaches and managers sometimes do the same, but more often than not, they move on from the game entirely.

The Rider-Waite equivalent of this card is DEATH, which has long been used as a symbol of change in mystic traditions. The evocation of mortality, however, often brings with it feelings that are difficult to process, memories of those gone, and the existential unknown of whether there is a continuance of existence after consciousness and corporeality cease. It's a scary place whenever DEATH gets involved, which is why it can be more comforting to think of it in less final terms, or to portray that particular sibling of the Endless as a generally perky and upbeat Goth woman, because she knows the secret of what's next. Retirement is certainly a preferable concept to work with, even though for a career in baseball, it can be just as final.

There are some whose career will be cut short - injury is common in baseball, and some injuries are worse than others. Some will necessitate a trip to the Disabled List, others will be described as "season-ending", but the very worst will be described as "career-ending." Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis claimed the career of a very good baseball player long before their time. Other players will do things off the field that compromise their ability to play or coach, by behaving in ways that gather or warrant prison sentences. Or participating in a military draft. When those things come to light, that player or coach will not likely be able to play again. Much like life, one's time in baseball is not a fixed guarantee.

Then there are the players who want to prolong their retirement as much as possible, or that feel their career arc is not going to produce enough fame and fortune for their liking. Some people turn to performance enhancement as a way of keeping themselves in the game, risking their bodies and their careers for a little more - to be a little stronger, a little faster. These days, especially in the wake of the BALCO scandal, it appears to be an open secret about the use of steroids and other methods to produce bigger and better baseball players for hitting, running, throwing, and pitching. The game seems to be losing the mental aspects in favor of becoming a brute-force contest. This is not good, especially when it encourages bodies that aren't yet developed to try better living through chemistry. There may be a benefit in the short term, but the long term effects, including what happens after retirement, could easily wipe out those gains.

In the end, though, retirement comes for us all. The body is not fast enough any more to run the bases, the arm doesn't have enough zip, the eyes don't see, the bat doesn't pop any more. Or the game just isn't fun or worthwhile any more. For whatever reason, someone just can't keep up any more, or the game has changed sufficiently for them that they're no longer able to play well. In the best case scenario, it's after a long career with great numbers and statistical categories, possibly with more than a few playoff visits and at least one World Series ring on their finger. The kind of career as a player that would make someone a first-ballot entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame and well-remembered by the team(s) they played for throughout. There are many names in the Hall that aren't names that come immediately to mind, unless you're a fan of that particular team, but if you look at their accomplishments, they clearly deserve to be there.

The pinnacle of accomplishment, even after making the Hall, is for the team that you are most famous for playing with to determine that your career with them was just that good that all other players for that team will no longer be able to select your number. When you retire, so does your number. There's usually a big ceremony where a jersey with your number on it is presented, and your number and name will be displayed somewhere in the stadium where they honor the team's greatest players. There are a lot of players in the Hall who didn't have their numbers retired - it's usually only a handful of players even for teams like the Yankees of New York, the Cubs of Chicago, and the Red Sox of Boston that have a very long history of baseball. When teams change places, their history still comes with them, even if they change names, so you may find some very famous people who are retired from the Nationals of Washington, D.C. whose mark was made on the game when they were the Expositions of Montreal. Having a number retired is the way to ensure that your legacy is felt by the team for years to come. You become the legend that many will talk about when they lament the team's current state and long for when the team was good, or at least decent. Certain fans may have a skewed view of what constitutes good (the AL Central is closer to reality than the AL East, for example), but you'll always be good in their minds.

Framing it as retirement helps to take away the sting of finality that accompanies the knowledge that this card is normally DEATH, and helps to also point out that the nature of the card is change, not finality. Most people do not retire from their careers by dying. They have put in their work, saved their wages and are ready to go on to the next phase of their life. Most of us plebeians retire from our jobs to live out the rest of our life without having to work, with the freedom that implies. And many people that I see who have retired are busier than ever doing all the things they want to do instead of the things they were paid to do. Baseball players sometimes follow the same track - they end up mentoring or coaching or being available to younger teams without pay, or they end up in the front office of their team, recruiting, marketing, and sometimes managing, whether in the dugout or as the general manager of the team, drawing a salary to another retirement later on in time. Those who don't stay with the game still have lives to continue on doing, and all the assets to manage. Or they have families to spend more time with, and new generations of players to inspire. Things change a lot when you retire, and that freedom can be scary, with all that time on your hands and having to manage the money you've collected over working time (with a little help from pensions or Social Security) to last for many more decades.

If Retirement appears in your reading, change is on the way. You're moving from one phase of life to another - it may seem like the end, but it's a transition into something new and likely just as exciting. You might have a little time left, so now is a good time to shore up your legacy and make sure that the people who come after you have everything they need to succeed when you aren't there. Your hope is still to get to the Hall and have your number retired, but those things happen after you're gone. If what you leave behind is good, then you'll make it.

The bad side of Retirement is refusing to acknowledge that it's a force of life. Postponing the planning makes it harder to transition and may leave you entirely unprepared for Retirement when it happens. If you can live your life and career with the expectation that you will be out of baseball tomorrow, then there is very little that can phase you on the field or off. Make sure you have all your paperwork in order, for you and for the other people in your life, because the time they need it is usually the time that you're incapacitated or unable to express your wishes. And in those situations, you want nobody to be guessing what you want.
silveradept: The emblem of the Heartless, a heart with an X of thorns and a fleur-de-lis at the bottom instead of the normal point. (Heartless)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's only one space left. Leave a comment with a prompt if you want in. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

For [personal profile] onyxlynx, whose prompts have been numerous and wonderful.

The Rules do say that everyone on each team, players, coaches, and managers alike, must wear a uniform. They say that the uniforms must be similar in color, cut, and trim, and that they must have numbers on them that are at least six inches high. They do leave it up to the leagues to decide for themselves whether each team has one uniform or two, one for games played at home, one for away, and what color choices are permitted or restricted for those uniforms. Both leagues have adopted rules that give a high color contrast between the visiting team (often in grey) and the home team (usually in colors or in white).

There are obvious benefits to this requirement - it makes it easy to tell what team any given player is playing for, which means fans and fielders alike can tell at a glance where the action is. The number means each player is uniquely identified (the rules leave it up to the leagues to determine what their requirements are regarding names, with the exception that if there are to be names on the uniform, they are to be the surname of the player, unless the League has approved something else for them), such that when recounting the action of the game, or in those occasions where the umpire needs to talk to someone specifically, they have a method to do so. As baseball becomes a more international sport through things like the World Baseball Classic, it starts to need the same chain of translators that Association Football does to ensure that instructions are given in a language that the player understands. The gestures are, thankfully, universal, but they're a limited way of talking about things and you want to be sure the right player gets the right instructions.

Patches and other deviations from the approved uniform have to be cleared by the League, so it is possible to have memorial or celebratory markers on the uniform. Those teams or players playing in the World Series or the All-Star Game will often have an emblem attached to their uniform for those games to signify the honor accumulated by achieving those milestones. And, occasionally, the League honors players that have contributed significantly to the game - for example, a game honoring Jackie Robinson had all players on both teams wearing Robinson's number, 42, which in some ways has become the shorthand for referring to that player. Famous names are sometimes associated with their numbers that tightly.

There are other benefits to the uniform as well that are less tangible or visual. They are the kind of benefits that appear with any form of uniform or similar dress requirement, with the intention being that a unit of disparate people will unite under one purpose if they are wearing similar costuming. By requiring a uniform, many entities believe they can also manufacture a team. They are, of course, entirely and completely wrong. The uniform does not constitute the team. If you want proof of this, take a look at your local low-wage service industry job. Do the people that work there wear their uniform outside of going to, at, and coming back from work, with occasional stops for chores or errands to be run? Do the executives of the company also wear the uniform? Are the people there enthusiastic about working there, about the people they are working with, when they are away from the prying eyes of their paymasters? No? Then the uniform means nothing about whether or not there is a team present.

One part of team-building involves managing personalities. There are some people who can work well with anyone, anywhere, and will produce an excellent game every time they step on the field, whether they're making the league minimum or have been signed to an exorbitant amount of money over time. (Treasure them and pay them what they're worth. Forserious.) There are others who insist on being the star player and getting the star treatment - perks, high salary, promotions and billing, and some measure of control over themselves and who they work with. For some teams, if a personality like that can produce on the field, they're willing to work with their shortcomings off the field and try to mold them into a less abrasive version of themselves. It doesn't always work, and sometimes off-field antics can be more expensive to the team and players than anything produced on-field. Other teams have no want to deal with drama or personalities, and will get rid of even their star players when they start to develop an attitude. Disgracing the uniform is one of the fastest ways to get traded, benched, or suspended, whether by the League or by the team. Outside baseball, those kinds of antics generally get you fired, although many entities these days will fire a worker for much less than causing drama, because they do desperately believe that all their workers are part of a team that they can't stand to see those same workers talking about the team's shortcomings in any sort of public forum, including social media. I get told that wherever I go, on-line or off-line, I represent The Organization and should conduct myself accordingly. Which is a highly restrictive burden - if everything I do reflects on The Organization, then where's my room to have my own life, desires, and wants, apart from them? A lot of celebrity and sport gossip revolves around this issue - a player makes a choice or does something questionable and everyone wants to know how that will affect the team, as if all private life decisions have something to do with team cohesiveness. (Some do, like getting arrested, or showing up to work in an altered state. Most, like having a drink with friends, or, for that matter, coming out as (X), don't, or at least, shouldn't.) That said, it seems pretty reasonable to say, when you put on the uniform and go to work, you agree to conduct yourself as a professional member of the team, because you want to be part of that team and stay there.

Baseball requires a high degree of coordination of individual efforts for success. There's enough room for individuals to shine, as when performing difficult catches or relays, or when hitting in tight situations, and players will often be recruited or traded to fill holes in these skill categories. But there's a definite need to work together for the game. I can't imagine a game where one player has to handle all the pitching, catching, and fielding duties - it's kind of ridiculous to imagine a single player having to cover all of that ground by themselves and still get outs. So the players have to work together, and, with their coaches, learn how everyone else plays the game and eventually come to an agreement about how it's done. At the learning levels, this often means the coach is putting people in the places they want, based on the tendencies of the hitter before them. Eventually, that duty passes on to the catcher, with help from the dugout. Even so, everyone has to actually do it. A shift only works if all the players know where they are going to be and what they will be covering. Some of that chatter on the field is players reminding each other of scenarios, but it's also letting those who need to know around them what parts of the play they have covered. And some things, like who covers second base on a steal and how one performs the exchange from one middle infielder to the other to start the double play sequence, are a matter of having practiced it many thousands of times, to the point where it is automatic. To the point where a fielder might cheat one way or another unconsciously, knowing from experience that this player tends to hit the ball back up the middle a lot and their fielding partner isn't as good at range and movement. When an outfielder knows from the angle of the pitcher's arm that he needs to start running for the warning track once the bat leaves the batter's shoulders, because it's the only way he's going to run down the fly ball that is about to happen. When the entire infield shouts "Bunt!" and a flurry of activity results where the base fielders charge and the middle fielders dash to cover the appropriate base. That's where teamwork comes from - mass repetition of basic things to the point where they are executed well every time. If the team isn't working together on the basic things, preventable errors happen and opportunities and games are lost.

The card associated most with the uniform is The Team, which translates in the Rider-Waite system to The Lovers. As one might guess, this card is most associated with things you do with others, with fitting in to a larger group and contributing in such a way that the many can do a lot more than just one individual. When you're on a team, you should have a role that you fulfill well, even if that role is being the person that can step into any other position and help where needed. (There is a term for that - utility player. They may not have the specialized knowledge and practice that the normal people in that position have, but they can perform any role at an acceptably professional level. Most teams have at least one of these players on their roster in case of injury, suspension, or another situation where a hole needs filling. They also tend to be great pinch-hitters.) Think about whether or not you are part of a larger picture and what part in that you might need to play, or be asked to play. This includes managers and coaches! Effectively putting your team's skills to work and avoiding personality clashes makes for a good workplace. It also means listening to your team and trying to make sure their needs and passions get fulfilled - a team that doesn't enjoy the work, or at least find some important meaning in it, isn't always going to turn in the highest-quality material. When the team is working well, everyone is in harmony, the manager is able to concentrate on the game, and the execution is excellent.

A downside of the Team is dysfunction. At the learning levels, and sometimes even in Major League Baseball, there are times where things break down. An obvious-to-the-viewer example is what happens when two or more players are all calling to catch a fly ball, and it drops in between all of them, or there is a collision. In the drop scenario, nobody remembered who has the priority in terms of coming in to catch the ball, and so to avoid hurting each other, everyone stays too far away. With nobody willing to step up, or without a reminder of what job it is to do things when nobody else is doing them, things get dropped. In the collision scenario, nobody is willing to compromise. They've still forgotten whose job it is and who has priority, but most likely, the colliding players are completely convinced that the other person coming to the ball isn't going to get there in time. So they will continue on and finish the work, right up until they hit the person that is actually getting there. Some collisions still result in an out, as the fielder catching is able to hold on. Others don't, and in either situation, both players suffer injury. The lack of trust between teammates produces this scenario, and it can be just as damaging to good operation and execution as the drop. If you're part of a dysfunctional team, is there something you're doing that's contributing? Do you not trust others to do their job? Does the manager need to know, or are they the problem? The Peter Principle affects us all, but there should be ways and systems that can be put in place to ensure quality work happens even when there are errors. And sometimes being part of the team means that you have to let other people share in the credit for the work you were the primary person on. Almost all outs require at least two people to achieve, and most runs are scored by someone other than the batter that hit them in.

The very worst negative part of the Team is cliquishness. A team that closes ranks around those who are already in and refuses to let others in unless they meet very specific and arbitrary requirements is not going to be a great team to work with or be a part of. This isn't about qualifications - if you want to make it to The Show, you've got to have the stuff that can compete on that level. This is more about the Royal and Ancient Order of No Silver Adepts Allowed. The history of systematic racism in the United States, and in professional baseball, is a black and indelible mark on both. The fact that Major League Baseball honors and promotes the story of Jackie Robinson bravely breaking the color barrier tacitly admits the color barrier was there in the first place, and reminds us of the history of enslavement and legal discrimination that preceded and succeeded the accomplishment of Jackie Robinson. Major League Baseball employs no women in their ranks, even as Little League Baseball is a mixed-gender organization and celebrated the accomplishments of a black female pitcher in getting her team to the Little League World Series. As was pointed out in a previous entry, there were good female pitchers and players, but then the men got too scared of what would happen to their egos to whiff against someone they considered inferior, and women haven't been back. Likely not because they lack the qualifications, although you will probably hear that said if you asked, but because there is still a system in place that says women are lesser, and their sport is lesser, and obviously they could not compete with the men, so they should be given no opportunities to try. If that sounds familiar outside of baseball, then the system is there, too. Boys are good at maths and sciences and want to play with action toys and video games. Girls are good at reading and want to play with nurturing toys and social games. Pink and blue. It starts early, and it can seem intractable and invisible, an impersonal force that is a constant of the universe, but it is not.

The Team represents us at our best and our worst, because we are all part of many teams with what we do and what characteristics we are born with. And if that cleaves our heart in twain, then we must throw away the worser part, and live the purer with the other half.
silveradept: An 8-bit explosion, using the word BOMB in a red-orange gradient on a white background. (Bomb!)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's very little space left. Leave a comment with a prompt if you want in. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

Sports games can sometimes get chippy. They start with the smallest things - a fielder believes a runner gave him a spikes-up slide, the pitcher is throwing balls just a little too far inside to be innocent, instead of trying to slide under the tag, a runner charges the catcher and tries to bowl him over and knock the ball loose. A manager is still playing aggressive baseball with steals despite being ahead by ten in the bottom of the eighth inning. Some young player is showboating and taunting from their home run. (Don't do it, kids. If you're lucky, the worst that will happen is the umpire or your coach will pull you aside and give you a stern talking-to.)

So one of the other team's players expresses their opinion about the matter. Perhaps with civil words, perhaps with uncivil words, perhaps with an easily disguisable retaliation for a perceived or actual wrong. Now, at this point, the impending problem is sure to attract the attention of the umpires. One of those sayings of the sport world (and of life in general) is that the original foul is not always going to get caught, but the retaliation most certainly will. So any players goaded into obvious retaliation are likely going to end up penalized. In baseball, though, it's not going to be yardage or time or free throws our bases awarded for that kind of thing - the penalty is likely going to be a one-way ticket to the clubhouse. So there is a definite impulse to keep things calm enough so that the umpires don't act on their suspicions.

That said, once the retaliation begins, it's very hard to stop from escalating. And as things escalate, they slowly lose their ability to stay hidden from others and the umpires. And then the words are almost always unkind, the actions intended to hurt, and it usually culminates in a headhunter from the pitcher that nobody can explain away as any other possible thing. Then there is staring, and walking, and even though the umpire is already starting the ejection process, there will be what is euphemistically referred to as "rhubarb".

More commonly, we call it a bench-clearing brawl. As with any large melee, most of the participants in the conflict will be people grabbing on to other people to prevent them from joining in or from sneak-attacking their person, and will let go as soon as the energy has dissipated. Those players will likely not face individual discipline from the office of the commissioner, but if there's is any team punishment handed down, they will participate in that exercise. There will also be many people who are holding on to their own people to prevent their participation as well.

At the central point of the conflict will be the people who are actively engaged in fisticuffs or otherwise, with a small nebula around them of people pushing and shoving each other, which could ignite into a new fistfight if the conditions are right. The dialogue in the middle of such a storm would have to be continuously censored were it to be appearing in the television broadcast, and unlike professional pugilists, rhubarb continues until everyone is satisfied.

Unlike other sports where player-to-player violence is an expected part of the game and penalties exist for excess of that violence or play that is dangerous to the health and well-being of players (ice hockey had the clearest examples here, with penalties for using the stick to hit, trip, or strike people outside of narrowly-defined zones as well as penalties for hitting people while they are unable to defend themselves or when doing so presents a serious risk of injury), baseball is expected to play as a game without much direct interaction between the opposing sides outside of plays at bases and the pitching. In fact, there are penalties for interfering with the opposition's rights to field or to run the basepaths outside of specific situations, usually involving application of tags (which only come into play if the defensive fielder possesses the baseball - otherwise, interference will be called). Compounding matters, the umpires have a limited set of tools for discipline at their disposal for bad behavior. They can't award penalty strikes, balls, outs, bases, or runs based on behavior. They can warn and they can eject. So if you're going to do something that will get you kicked out, you may as well make it worth your while. This probably contributes to things being larger and more vicious than they otherwise would be when everything finally boils over.

After the dust settles from the fight, the will be the ejections from the game, handed out like analgesics for the bruises and headaches, and the whole incident will be sent to the Office of the Commissioner to see if there will be extra punishment handed down outside of the game. Fines and multiple-game suspensions are fairly standard affairs from something like this. The footage available from the television cameras will also be packaged into training material for the umpires on how to recognize a situation that threatens to get out of control, and as practice in figuring out who gets the hook in situations like these when they develop. From bad behavior comes training on how to avoid bad behavior in the future.

This card appearing in a reading is a nearly-universal negative - a fight like this produces a lot of heat, injury, and bad blood, but it doesn't illuminate or resolve anything, really. At best, it could represent a fight that was necessary to expose things that need to be worked on, but that's generally an outside chance. If you're in the rhubarb, your job is to get out. Which will likely mean having to abandon your quest for satisfaction for all the wrongs committed against you, real or perceived. You don't necessarily have to forgive yet (although being able to forgive makes it more likely you won't backslide), but you have to be willing to let it go and walk away. Even if the other side isn't yet. Stop feeding the conflict energy. Without you, it may rage on, but getting out while you can will put you in a better position when the umpires arrive and when the Commissioner is considering punishment. If you started the rhubarb, shame on you and everything in this paragraph goes double, plus be willing to accept that your punishment will be harsher so as to discourage other people from doing the same.

If you can see the rhubarb, but you're not in it, run away. Stay well wide of the conflict if you can. There's nearly zero reason to think that something good will happen if you join in, and third parties have a history of escalating when they get involved. If you think you can profit of a rhubarb by playing both sides and/or selling weaponry to both sides, shame on you even more than those who started it, because you are causing both sides injury for your own gain. If someone finds out, the destruction of your reputation is the least of your worries.

If you're the umpire in this conflict, be fair. Punish everyone who's involved based on the degree of their participation, and try to find ways of doing so that don't give anyone a reason to restart the conflict. This is difficult, but it is part of your job, so don't shy away from it or half-ass it. No matter what you do, the players involved think you're being too harsh on them and too lenient on the other team, so you may as well go forward with the most effective plan of your options. If the punishment is fair, the resentment will recede fairly quickly, and hopefully the rhubarb won't happen again.

This card represents poor judgment and an inability to keep things contained. Furthermore, this card indicates that the issue is also dragging teammates into the conflict, whether by retaliation for something else that ends up in their lap, or by feeling like they have to protect their teammate from the insults delivered to them. A system of alliances like this only took one assassination event to spark off what was supposed to be the "War to End All Wars", and everyone got pulled in. At the end of it all, though, the retaliation from the winning side planted the seeds for the losers to build resentment and frustration to the point where they decided to have another go at it a generation later, which resulted in the user of nuclear weapons, the fallout of which we are still dealing with today. From thence came the Cold War, and from the Cold War came the seeds of the current conflict in the Middle East, the whirlwind of which we are now reaping, and most likely will eventually lead to another major incident after this one is resolved. Every time rhubarb breaks out, everyone loses, because revenge is the first thing in mind. Once there has been one bench-clearing brawl, the next one is much more likely to happen.
silveradept: A dragon librarian, wearing a floral print shirt and pince-nez glasses, carrying a book in the left paw. Red and white. (Dragon Librarian)
Let's start with 3D printed phalluses synchronized to music or reporting on stock prices. And graffiti that appears to produce a three-dimensional image. And then manwha reimaginations of Disney princesses.

Then we shift to Bloomberg, talking about Anita Sarkeesian and the narrative amounts of harassment she receives on a daily basis, whose slug is "Anita Sarkeesian battles sexism in games [and] gamergate harassment", which is the article, but whose title is "The Game Industry's Greatest Adversary Is Just Getting Started", which is both clickbait and inaccurate. The game industry's greatest adversary is itself - Anita Sarkeesian is just pointing it out in a way that's hard to ignore or sweep under the rug, but the legions that want games to never evolve would rather get rid of the messenger than allow games to change.

And it's not just games - even if they never actually see a teacher, male-sounding names get rated higher in online courses rather than female-sounding ones.

research suggests that, all other things being equal, it's harder to be happy when in the middle of your life. I think it has something to do with the lack of milestones in life at those points, too - between 25 and 65, there aren't really any new privileges accorded to anyone, while the debts,, obligations, and issues mount. It makes it easy to be unhappy about things. If that's your current state, perhaps the Advent Calendar For Depressed People can help?

Time management may be better thought of as trying to do things that will make more time for you later, rather than making more work for yourself later.

The brains of people engaging in simultaneous translation of languages are doing fascinating things, but when put under the imaging machines, there's not a lot of explosive brain activity. Which is interesting by itself.

There are some people whose internal compasses work quite well, so much so that they can navigate without needing much of a map, or no map at all.

The practice of hosting celebrities and giving them humanitarian awards seems quite contrary to the idea of rewarding people who do lots of humanitarian work. But, like any charity or political campaign knows, to collect dollars, you must court those that have them, regardless of what their track record on the issues actually is.

Reparations are a necessity if any progress is to be made on equality between white people and black people - there have been too many centuries of exploitation for any hope of otherwise.

Unsurprisingly, the hostility women face as bosses and high-level managers contributes to mental health issues, as the masculine-coded traits they display to become managers produce negative reactions from their peers and subordinates ("frigid bitch"), and the feminine-coded traits men expect them to have and use are ridiculed ("too soft"). There's also the way that some men in a workplace will exploit impostor syndrome to ensure that the women in their workplace are not supported.

Perhaps not different at all, women's football was a thriving thing while men were fighting wars. Once they came back, though, suddenly it was forbidden for women to play.

Like all art styles, anime and manga style have shifted over the last twenty years or so, while remaining recognizably part of the same style family.

Some large corporations, outside of telecoms, are advocating for Net Neutrality. Which, understandably, gives people shivers, because large corporations generally don't support things that aren't beneficial to their bottom line. Or that the side of net neutrality is so obviously correct that even big corporations join in.

Every now and then, a company lets the people in charge of their social media out to play, with great results.

The United Kingdom has an issue with video on demand services showing very specific kings of sex acts. Not all pornographers, not all sex acts, but a very specific set and only against VoD. To protect THE CHILDREN, of course, is one of the official excuses. In reality, though, it looks like some dudes decided to ban anything they felt squicked by, because there's no rhyme or reason to it otherwise.

Being sex-positive means more than just accepting all messages about sexuality - it means analysis and decisions about which messages to promote.

The more we change, the more we stay the we continue to talk about the issues surrounding whether women should change their name on marriage.

Thank Stephen Colbert for the reasons why you can still make fun of conservative politicians without getting dirty looks, and why you laugh when pundits talk about patriotism as solely a conservative value.

"One size fits all" does not even fit most, especially for women who have anything other than a model-size body with very little in the way of chest or hips. I'm also going to make a frowny-face at the Buzzfeed decision to show the thinner ladies' bare legs in some of these sections to the exclusion of others. Mind you, for those things, the other women would have been showing off their underwear collection, but it does reinforce the idea that some women are to be afforded bare skin and others not, even if the picture selected shows the woman's distaste for the item. It would be fairly easy to use a contrasting color of tights to show off the shortness of the shorts. Much better is dapperQ showing how all body types can achieve an androgynous look and the mic highlighting a pin-up project showing off sexy Asian men.

The Conservative Party of the United Kingdom is doing its level best to make the UK a hard place to migrate to, sufficiently so that even a beloved children's character would end up not being able to get refugee status in the UK. That is, if course, when not participating in the shared fantasy that austerity in spending can produce economic growth.

Chicago Public Schools auctioned bonds to raise money, but then let the banks handle the investments, which lost the public school system a tenth of the money raised and more. I'm quite sure the banks themselves are quite happy being flush with cash they collected from the deal, and they don't care how much they have screwed the schools.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against the practice of employers threatening their employees with health insurance premium spikes if they don't participate in "voluntary" screenings and questionnaires. It's yet another if those ways that people who don't fit a societal norm get hammered on. Like the expectation that bigger people can just make their own stuff as needed.

A couple married in New York is suing the state of Florida to recognize their marriage and allow them driver licenses in their married name. As one might guess, this is only a problem because the couple both present as men.

Gender and sexuality, they are complicated things, which is why it is best to let people define themselves instead of trying to get them to fit your definitions. Additionally, know what you are listening about for all the letters, including asexuality. Because gender identities are a part of self-image these days, and costuming follows identity.

Cultural appropriation sticks in the craw for people whose culture is being appropriated. And if the complaints coming through about that are all about how it's totally not appropriation, or how it would mean that no culture could do things that were part of another culture, don't be surprised if the rejoinder is impolite, as the point and the complainers are on opposite ends of Terra. Instead, design things, all things, with all the cultures that you can think of and all the others that everyone else can.

An experiment involving paying an unconditional basic income to poorer people in India resulted in higher economic activity and greater freedom for those receiving the income.

THC in cannabis may be useful in combating the degenerative disease of Alzheimer's.

Because there's no OSHA requirements (or your national equivalent), home is the place where accidents happen most often. This isn't a surprise, just that being at home means nobody to make sure you're being safe, or your kids being safe, but you. On the chance that you happen to hurt yourself, there may be a few things you can do to help yourself stretch or exercise muscles.

Anxiety disorders, like other mental health issues, so not always behave as expected - have since toys to keep in mind when trying to help someone, which crucially appear to revolve around understanding that the person having the anxiety knows what is going on, but can't necessarily stop it.

A doctor praises the idea of a site that is clearly run by humans to talk about their psychiatric medications, while understanding that they could not recommend it to any patient because of the possibility that one might take offense, because it would only take one.

Applications like Uber represent a possible threat to the London black cab, but those that drive the cabs believe that the app cannot displace them so thoroughly as to make them disappear. Elsewhere, one of the new low-wage underclass is those people who work for jobs that only appear when other people desire things.

A repository of cleaning stains of all sorts on all kinds of fabrics. Nice work, Illinois.

Google is leveraging their massive trove of data to produce a CAPTCHA that consists of checking a checkbox - but it's how you do it that matters. Google is also making progress on automatically analyzing and captioning an image.

Gangnam Style is so popular, its view count on YouTube exceeded the maximum value for a 32-bit hexadecimal address. So now the counter is a 64-bit hexadecimal address.

In the department of when, not if, bebe stores and Sony Pictures suffered intrusion attacks, the stores once making off with credit and debit cards, the Sony one collecting employee data, including very sensitive material about taxes and health care for employees, as well as racist jokes and gossip. The hack exposed the weakness of security at Sony, a weakness that most likely is replicated across several industries.

Turtles are a bit more understood in terms of their relationships to other reptiles, their genetic ancestors, and so forth. Filling in more gaps in the sciences.

The geopolitical implications of having a young mermaid princess want to catch a land-dwelling prince, as told by the witch who tried to make sure everyone stayed safe.

Many things between the English of the States and the English of the Empire don't have local equivalents. Which makes them prime candidates for importation.

Those familiar with the work of Isaac Asimov will understand the solid sporking of Asimov done in "How I saved the Internet from the ghost of Isaac Asimov".

Last for tonight, the core of mindfulness and spiritual centering exercises is in noticing things as they arise. Not necessarily the stuff that you want to notice, but everything, as if comes. As one might guess, this is both the simplest and most difficult part of the whole thing. Until, that is, you get to the point where you have to start forgiving and letting go. In all cases, though, remembering to take care of the body is important.

As is planning for the possibility of your non-existence. Because you may be the person who has to say what you want...or be the person who helps someone else with their directives.

Cats in holiday trees. Or cats trying to steal food. And foxes in nature, which are wonderful photographs of natural creatures.
silveradept: The emblem of Organization XIII from the Kingdom Hearts series of video games. (Organization XIII)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's very little space left. Leave a comment with a prompt if you want in. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

Home plate is a most unique base among all the bases on any given baseball field. The other bases are raised above the ground level, to provide something to slide into or run over for the offense, and something that can be found without having to look for the defense. Home plate is even with ground level, which makes it possible to slide with the intent of sliding through the plate as one might with other bases, but also one can perform a form of tag-avoiding hook slide where a runner slides their body deliberately past the plate, only using one of their hands to reach out and touch the plate as they slide by. (Less excitingly, home plate is likely flat because if it were raised, there's a high likelihood that right handed batters would trip on it coming out of the batter's box, potentially injuring themselves. It's why many leagues employ breakaway bases these days, so that the energy of a slide doesn't get directed back into the player's body in ways that would hurt them.) The plate is also differently-shaped than all the other bases, being in the shape of a pentagon that looks like a triangle placed on top of a square, giving it a distinct house shape. (At least, in cultures where that representation means a house).

Home plate is the beginning and the end of every offensive player's plan for scoring runs. To start the offense, someone has to be able to leave home on a hit or a walk, which is tough enough. Then there's the gauntlet of running the bases, which is dependent on your teammates to provide hits and walks to help advance you. Some people get to go in easy, others have to run hard and get dirty to achieve success. However you get there, though, once you're safe at home, there's very little that can be done to undo that (appeals can wipe runs off the board, as does the last out of the inning being anything other than a tag play). The more runs and hits, the merrier, and the higher likelihood it is that you'll be able to win your game. Playing as a team sometimes means someone else gets to cross the plate, but you'll be acknowledged for your efforts with an RBI. Keeping the rally going is more important than trying for a home run.

If you like, it can become a life metaphor at this point - to succeed, you must leave home and go or into places where it's not certain to be safe, where you will be relying on others to help with your success. I'd tweak the ending, though, such that you don't have to return to the home you left to have it all count in the grand scheme of things, although I suppose that's one function of a class reunion. There are more than enough people who have no intent at all of returning to the home they left from, even in emergency situations, for very good and valid reasons. So, instead, you just have to return to your home, however you choose to define it, to score runs. In baseball, it's a little easier, as home is objectively defined. In life, not so much. And, in life, the acknowledgements that come from being a team player aren't always automatic, ether. So that can be discouraging.

Home plate also has significance to the defense, as it establishes the lateral dimensions of the strike zone for the pitcher, is one of the endpoints of establishing the lines that divide fair and foul territory, usually is a reference point in determining whether a batter had committed themselves to a swing at a pitch, and is the domain of the catcher, who is going to receive a little extra in the way of takeout attempts by virtue of being armored.

Home plate is also the place where the biggest plays of a baseball game are likely to happen. I saw on a television game many years ago a spectacular play at home plate where the attempt to take out the catcher with a slide succeeded, bowling over the catcher and leaving the ball and both players involved all on the ground past the plate. Since the ball had been jarred loose, any tags the catcher had applied didn't result in an out (keeping control of the ball while applying the tag is necessary), but the player making the slide had also not touched home plate, so they could still be put out with an appropriate tag. The spectacle, such that it was, was in watching the clearly dazed runner crawl back toward home plate and put their hand on it, earning themselves the run and making it possible for someone to call time and check on the health of all the players involved.

I also had an encounter of that nature myself at the plate. From what I remember of it, I came in and slid for the plate, not with any bad intent, bit apparently, the incoming throw was high, and the catcher went up for it, and came down on me - my head, or something else. I can't really say I know what happened, because the only thing I remembered after going in for the slide was that time had passed. I had to ask whether I was safe or not. I was, but the full extent of everything wasn't made completely clear to me until a minute or two later, when I noticed that my nose was bleeding. Which was promptly stopped in time for me to go out and pitch the next inning. It's still a blank in my memory as to what actually happened, but accidents and all that. Good for us and our rally, I suppose, that I had enough time to get it all in order. The pair of shoes that I was wearing for that game wouldn't ever lose the blood stain, even after the blood itself was long since cleaned up. As one might guess, things that happen at home are always memorable.

If this card appears in a reading, it's a sign of success brought on by the application of knowledge and experience. It may be shepherded and guided by others to make it better as they apply their knowledge to help you get home, but you're the one who gets there. Because you had to do the leg work, as well as get things started with the hit that got you on base. So there's a lot to be proud of.

Of course, there's also that tiny problem where some people can't actually make it out of the batter's box. It could be a slump, or it could be that they're not really learning from past experiences. The coaches can only do so much when it comes to advice - eventually, a player has to be able to execute, or at least demonstrate the learning, for progress to be made on their issues. Players that don't show progress get sent down to the minor leagues. You may have to make that decision, or make a decision about how much someone gets to participate on your team. Or you may have to own up to the fact that you're not learning from your past efforts, either. Pitchers exploit whatever they can to get you out, and if you're not aware of what you need to counter that, or you haven't done your scouting homework, it's not going to go well.
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's very little space left. Leave a comment with a prompt if you want in. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

Also for [personal profile] onyxlynx, who could probably feed prompts all day and all night.

If you ever want to know how difficult a sport really is to play, learn how to officiate it. Being an official in any given sport means all the fun of knowing the rules in intimate detail and their application, but it also means having to look for violations of those rules and knowing the penalties for those violations. The good thing is, all sports and games that have officials invest in them the ability to make judgment calls about various states of play, according to the rules, and used to specifically exempt many of those calls from being reviewed or disputed, with varying penalties that could be assessed for such an action. In these days of video replay in the major sports, new rules have had to be crafted to determine what sort of things could conceivably be reviewed, and how many times a manager or coach may request reviews. For example, the calling of balls and strikes is non-reviewable during the game (although umpires will be evaluated by their governing body based on how accurately, according to a machine, they call balls and strikes), but the question of whether a ball is a home run or not is reviewable by video. (And before we get to video, it's actually possible for umpires to ask for help from each other in determining the correct call, or for the home plate umpire to overrule a base play, if the home plate umpire can see something the base umpire can't - like a ball that is not in a glove that tagged an opponent.)

And then there are the people. On the lowest level of that kind of thing are players that will give you a hard time for enforcing the rules, telling you it's not what it looks like, and that the person on the other team was doing something way worse. This is more evident in sports like football, basketball, and ice hockey, where some part of the game involves direct contact with opponents and there are a multitude of fouls that have to be looked for and called every play. But baseball has a few - I once had a batter who launched immediately into how the first baseman had never made contact with first base while they had the ball, which I was aware of - since I had to look at the base and wait for feet to make the call about whether the batter was safe there. The was an audible "Thank you!" at the safe call, which seemed to be an indication that they had dealt with officials that weren't up to par. Considering this was for the intramural slow-pitch leagues and this particular team was known for playing very seriously in an otherwise fun environment (and that sometimes had cameos from other varsity sports), they probably felt justified. And there will be players who dispute calls, sometimes very vocally, sometimes with all sorts of colorful language, in an attempt to get the call overturned or done in their favor. In Major League Baseball (and actually, in all leagues), players that protest calls to much, or delay the game, or touch the umpire while doing so are likely to be ejected from the game. Which is why you will often see coaches and managers hustle the player back to the dugout that has an issue, and then the manager will go out and have a conversation with the umpires about what happened. At the youngest levels of play, the umpire is often the other person, in addition to the coach, who has to teach players about the game. Explanations come from the coach, but the calls come from the umpire.

Then there are the fans, who will give you the very best in invective when you're ruling against them and will sing your praises when you're with them. This does not necessarily mean they know what they are talking about - while in the stands during university, watching a softball game, on a close bunt, the fielder picked up the ball while the ball was in foul territory to throw down to first base. The umpire made the correct call - foul ball - and the stands erupted. You see, the body of the fielder was clearly in fair territory and so it looked for all the world the umpire had just robbed the home team of an out from excellent fielding. The fans were focusing on the wrong thing - the bigger thing, the obvious thing, the thing that would make sense, when the ball was the important thing. Having been on the end of that kind of thing, I felt the need to say what an excellent call it was. After the furor died down some, once of the other fans who had been vocal about their displeasure asked me what was going on, and so I explained to him the rule, and after all was done, he vocally apologized to the umpire. Now, the umpires didn't need the apology - they made the right call and knew it. But it was nice for them, I hope, to have someone apologize for being wrong about the call. Without the knowledge gained by either umpiring or playing, the situation would have remained and the fans would have had no knowledge added to them.

The people who will most get on an umpire's case about anything, though, are the managers and coaches. Some of this is because the managers and coaches are the most "expendable" people on the team, not being strictly necessary to play the game, so if a dispute is going to get up to the ejection level, better to lose the manager than a position player who could directly affect the outcome of the game. Some of it is because managers and coaches are the people most likely to have the encyclopedic knowledge of the rules and are most on the lookout for irregularities or violations of the rules that players trying to make plays may not be aware of, so they will raise issues not normally seen. And there are some coaches who want to try and portray the umpires as incompetents, for whatever reason, so they will ask things like what the count of balls and strikes is and pooh-pooh any umpire who had to look at a counting tool to ensure they have the right numbers. (To counter this, many counting tools are ridged on their outside surfaces such that an umpire just has to feel the appropriate dials' patterns and can relay the count without having to look. I don't honestly know what a manager hopes to gain from doing this - if they are trying to convince their players that is just bad officiating as to why they are losing, that seems to be more of an incentive not to try.

Additionally, all levels of the same highly frown on questioning the integrity of the umpire's judgment, but especially at the learning levels, leagues do not want bad habits or bad examples happening for young men and women to emulate. I umpired summer fast-pitch softball at the learning levels, and there was only one game where I had to stop the game and declare a forfeit, and it was because the coach for one of the teams started in on my judgment of balls and strikes, as well as outs, early and often. Not the players, which was good for them, but the coach was taking to her players, saying things like "Don't worry, the umpire doesn't know what he's doing." and making very loud remarks about my decisions regarding the strike zone. Well, I asked the coach to not say those things in front of the players, as it sets a bad example and encourages the players to do the same, and I reminded the coach that matters such as balls and strikes were things that could not be argued without consequences. It didn't stop, so on time two of taking with the coach, I set the ultimatum that the next incident would result in their dismissal from the game. It still didn't stop, so I made good on my threat and told the coach she had to leave the playing field, beyond the outfield fence, and remain there for the remainder of the game, or within a few minutes, the game would be forfeit. (Those are the rules. Any ejected player, coach, or manager must leave the playing field and team dugout within a reasonable time or forfeit the game to their opponents). The coach had no intention of leaving, still solidly on the line that I was incompetent, and so the game was recorded as a forfeit. I made my apologies to the players for stopping the game, explained why they could not continue, and left the playing field. The follow-up call from the head of officials for the league that night was brief, asking for the details and the reason for the game ending the way it did, and the head of officials mentioned they had received comments from the parents watching the game about the conduct of the dismissed coach and the reflect they had for the professionalism of the umpire. So, that was a nice outside perspective to validate what I was experiencing. Not that it was a question, and the head of officials stressed that it wasn't a question, but it didn't hurt to have that validation.

These days, in these professional leagues, while you might still see some hat-stomping and dirt-kicking, conversations between managers and umpires are usually going to appear civil on both sides, because television cameras are watching. I appreciate much more a manager like Jim Leyland, when he was with Detroit, who would jog out, for all visible purposes, have a friendly conversation with the umpire that seemed to be more of the demeanor of "Tell me what happened there, because it looked different from my perspective", would get the explanation, point out what he wanted to point out, and might nod and thank the umpire, and then would jog back to the dugout. Being civil with an umpire really does help. It won't necessarily change the call, but it will make the umpire less likely to give you the boot if you come back out about something else later on.

The Tarot Card associated here is The Umpire, thankfully, and their associations are much the same as in the actual game - an independent arbiter who shows no favor to either team, but interprets and applies the rules of the game to the game unfolding in front of them. If the Umpire is in your reading, it's time to get an opinion from someone you trust to tell you exactly how it is, with no spin and no attempts to shy away from the truth. Those people are often rare in your life, and if you've got one, hold on to them (even if their honesty stings when you receive it). If you're being asked to be the Umpire for something, the card is a reminder to be fair and to interpret according to the rules laid out in front of you. You may have a desired outcome - if you can make it work within the rules, great, but don't bend the rules to fit your outcome. Everyone else involves also knows the rules and will come after you if you're not within their structures.

The bad side to the Umpire is favoritism, which is death to any official's career. If the field is being tilted to one team's advantage and the officials are not fixing it, or worse, are actively collaborating to make this happen, someone with oversight abilities over the officials needs to know, and quickly, so that the corruption can be rooted out immediately and better controls put in place to prevent this from happening again. For some institutions, the task will appear Sisyphean, but eventually equality and fairness win out. If for no other reason than because we prefer those lies to other lies.

As Sir Terry put it in Hogfather:
"All right," said Susan, "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need ... fantasies to make life bearable."

No. Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.

"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers?"

Yes. As practice. You have to start out learning to believe the little lies.

"So we can believe the big ones?"

Yes. Justice. Duty. Mercy. That sort of thing.

"They're not the same at all!"

Really? Then take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder and sieve it through the finest sieve and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet you act, like there was some sort of rightness in the universe by which it may be judged:

"Yes. But people have got to believe that or what's the point?"

My point exactly.

silveradept: The logo for the Dragon Illuminati from Ozy and Millie, modified to add a second horn on the dragon. (Dragon Bomb)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's only a little space left. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

For [personal profile] onyxlynx, whose baseball knowledge likely eclipses my own.

In any contest between opposing forces, rules exist to define the conditions of victory and defeat, and to attempt to make the contest as fair as possible and dependent only on the skill of the players. Even that paen to anarchism that is Calvinball has one permanent rule: You cannot play it the same way twice. And even that single rule is enough to define the game, give it shape, and tell us what kind of player will succeed at it. Unsurprisingly, once Rosalyn understood the nature of the game, she became its greatest player immediately, as her vast experience in the realm of imagination swiftly outstripped Calvin's.

In baseball, the rules are mutable and changeable, often in response to something that has happened that upsets the balance too far in the direction of the defense or offense, or that clearly violates the spirit or letter of playing a fair game. For example, batted balls at Chicago's Wrigley Field have the possibility of becoming lodged or lost in the ivy that covers the outfield fences. It would clearly not be fair to the defense to force them to find the ball in the ivy and then throw it in, with runners advancing all the while. So, should the ball get lost in the ivy, the batter and all runners are awarded two bases from where they were when the ball was pitched. It's a compromise, and such "ground rules" are present in most playing fields today, as many of them have a unique feature or quirk that requires a ruling on how they should be treated when a player or the ball interacts with them. Other rules include the automatic double that happens when a batted ball leaves the field of play after touching down in fair territory without being touched by a fielder, again in the interests of fairness, this time to the defense, as they used to be considered home runs for some time.

One of the more interesting rule patches is the Infield Fly Rule. It can seem a bit confusing at first, especially to newcomers to baseball, but here's the gist of why it's there: Any batted ball caught by a fielder in the air, in the field of play, is an out, after which any runners may advance at their peril so long as they have touched the base they last legally obtained at the time of or after the catch. Any runners who have not touched the last legal base at the time of the catch can be put out if a fielder with the ball touches the base before the runner does. Also, any runner who is being forced to try and take the next base on a batted ball because the batter (or a runner behind them) has the legal right to their base, which occurs as soon as the ball touches the ground in fair territory and doesn't cross into foul territory before being played or passing out of the infield, can be put out if a fielder in possession of the ball touches the base they are being forced to before they touch that base. Handled properly, this means ground balls on the infield can often be used to record multiple outs, so long as the fielders collect them in such a way as to preserve force outs down the chain (f'rex, by forcing out the runner going to second base from first (being pushed by the batter-runner) before then collecting the force out at first base (which the batter-runner must obtain, being forced to leave home plate by the next batter in the lineup)). Double plays are common this way, and very rarely, it's possible to record a triple play this way, of the runners on the bases are not particularly swift and the ball is batted at the third baseman near third base.

So, on the question of a fly ball batted that stays in the infield, efficient baseball players, with the rules as they are above, recognize a perverse incentive present - they can collect more outs by making a show of catching the ball in the air (forcing all the runners to hold to their bases to prevent being put out) but not actually catching the ball, instead letting it touch the ground and then picking it up to throw to an appropriate base to start a force out chain that will likely take the leading two runners, if not make all three outs at once. This is clearly unfair to the offense, who have to basically telegraph which option they are choosing to believe will happen, allowing the defense to select the opposite scenario and connect multiple outs.

Thus, the Infield Fly Rule, which is unlikely to be called or commented on during a television broadcast, was created to handle this problem. It says that if there is a scenario where the perverse incentive is in play (f'rex, baserunners at first and second base) and there are less than two outs in the inning (as all someone has to do to end the inning with two outs is catch the ball), then any fly ball that, in the umpire's judgement at the zenith of the fly ball's arc, can be caught with ordinary effort and that fails to leave the infield, results in the batter being declared out by the umpire as if the ball had been caught.

The Rule is fair to the defense, giving them the out they can expect to obtain from the fly ball, but I'd also fair to the offense, and it does so fairly elegantly - by declaring the batter to be out, the perverse incentive is also removed, as no runners are then in a forcing situation, and can either stay at their base or attempt to move forward according to the normal rules regarding fly balls. Which is the desired outcome in those kinds of scenarios.

The associated Tarot card for this and all other rules, patches, and interpretations is the Rule Book. As the authoritative codex of the game, it provides structure and the universal truths of baseball. The Rule Book backstops the authority of the umpire and is the word by which appeals to the umpire or disputes with the umpire, as in games played under protest, are made. The Rule Book provides methods for appeals in addition to the requirements that it has for teams and players. It is also always in flux, like any other book of laws, as players, coaches, managers, and others strive to find any advantage they can get that isn't explicitly forbidden, and the writers of the rules move to patch those holes during the following season. In a Rider-Waite deck, this card would be Judgement, with the court and law implications that come along with it. If they appear in a reading, the suggestion is that one needs to return to the source material for guidance - instead of relying on someone else's interpretation of the rules, go check them out yourself and see what they have to say. You may come to the same conclusion as the umpire does, or you may not. In either case, though, you have done the scholarly work of actually reading the rules that you are supposed to be playing by, which puts you in a category above many others, who just listen to their arbiters, because it's easier to do that than to think for yourself. By actually knowing the rules, however, you can often work your way out of a jam that would otherwise seem impossible to resolve. For some people, that's the reason they can stay in their community, and for others, it's the reason they have to leave.

There are two negative sides of the Rule Book, though - the Rules Lawyer and the Literalist. Rules Lawyers examine the rules in detail to find exploitable loopholes and places and then leverage those loopholes to give themselves an unfair advantage. No matter how much it might violate the spirit of the game, a Rules Lawyer will say that unless it is explicitly forbidden, it's permissible. Many rules systems prevent Rules Lawyering and other Munchkin behavior by adding a rule that says the umpires have the authority to bend, break, or outright ignore the rules if doing so would be more beneficial to the game than allowing the Rules Lawyer to run roughshod over everything. In baseball, as in coding, once an exploit is known, a patch will be swiftly issued to address the problem. It may not take effect until the next season (Patch Tuesday for baseball), but it will be addressed. Dealing with a Rules Lawyer often means finding a way to let them do their thing without affecting the rest of the game, or in setting up situations where those tendencies will get them in trouble (by playing many games of Paranoia, for example). It may also work if the other players just agree not to play with a Rules Lawyer. (Or, you get a group of them together and sic then on the Tomb of Horrors.)

Literalists, on the other hand, insist that the scope of permissible actions is limited solely to the explicit text of the rules and that all other actions cannot be taken, even if a variation based on the rules and in the spirit of the game would have better results. Where the Rules Lawyer uses the rules to escape control, the Literalist uses the rules to enforce control, often offering only a single acceptable path through the game and reserving for themselves the right to declare when you've gone off that path. A Literalist might insist that if the umpires don't make the "hammer" gesture when calling strikes or outs, then those calls aren't valid, because the "hammer" gesture is the only one actually described for use in the rule book. Clearly, the point is for the umpire to make an indication, and it really is a better game for optics and television when the close play at the plate gets an appropriately dramatic call from the umpire. Literalists will often slow the game down with their objections and angle for a way to get themselves put in power so they can enforce what their idea of the rules are on everyone else.

If you want to know why your country's legal system is such a hodgepodge and so badly allergic to common sense, remember that most people who end up in court will be Literalists paying Rules Lawyers to represent them. And that the Rule Book can't patch itself, either with new law or judicial ruling, fast enough to keep up, even if it is operating at peak efficiency without all the lobbying and other problems.

Sometimes it's nice only having to think about the rules for baseball.
silveradept: Blue particles arranged to appear like a rainstorm (Blue Rain)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still a little space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

Speaking of errors, the wild pitch is one of the things that a pitcher can do when they're out of focus, or when the mechanics slip, or the ball slips out of their hands. Or when they step wrong on one of the stones on the pitching mound. Occasionally, it happens when the pitcher throws the pitch they want to instead of the pitch called (possibly after some shake-offs and a mound conference) and the catcher can't react in time to the realization.

One of my pitching exercises had a hole for stepping into as the delivery point for a pitch. The first pitch I threw, I sank into the hole, off-balance, and the pitch went wild. Thankfully, nobody was on base at the time. Having diagnosed the problem from that throw, the coach called time and filled it in. The next three pitches were strikes, and I didn't like holes to step into after that.

In any case, the hallmarks of a wild pitch are that the ball has to not be easily handled by the catcher, and that there's someone on the base paths to take advantage of it by advancing a base while the defense retrieves the ball (which is still live). If, for whatever reason, the wild pitch hops out of play, all the penalties assessed to the defense for taking a ball out of play still apply. The official scorer has to indicate that it's a wild pitch, compared to other possibilities where the catcher doesn't collect the ball immediately, but most of the things that end up being classified as wild pitches are pretty obviously so.

Balls that actually hit a batter are a different thing (that's an HBP), but headhunters could be considered wild pitches if they get past the catcher...and the scorer doesn't think of them as intentional. Most commonly, though, the wild pitch is one that bounces in the dirt funny, or doesn't actually bounce when it should, keeping a low profile and getting underneath a rising catcher. If a knuckleball pitcher is in the mound, every pitch is potentially wild and only contained through the incredible skill of the catcher, who has to be able to read where the ball is going from pitch to pitch.

There are a lot of cards in the balls suit that aren't very favorable to the defense. Like all errors, the presence of the Wild Pitch indicates a lack of focus. Something has disrupted the routine past the point of being corrected or recovered from, and the pitch reflects this. It may not be something the pitcher can control that has caused this issue. It might be.

Unlike the balk, which is paying too much attention to ultimately extraneous things, the wild pitch has more in common with throwing errors from the defense, which generally result from trying to rush things too quickly. Trying to deliver a ball to the plate fast enough to give the catcher a chance to throw out sometime stealing can mean not making a mechanically sound pitch and watching as the runner advances anyway. Not getting correctly set at the start can result in landing points that are unfamiliar, which changes the delivery and the result. Throwing without getting a firm foundation set is something that happens on highlight reels when it works...or when it doesn't, and in any league other than the Majors, the "nots" are much more likely to appear. Spontaneity is contrived in baseball, as picking one option from a limited set of possibilities. Those pitchers that are truly impulsive about selection and delivery tend not to last long as professionals, because they won't take direction and they get a lot of his and runs recorded against them.

The advice on a wild pitch is also the same for many errors - slow down, re-focus, and examine your surroundings. Are you rushing through something that requires delicate work or patience? Are you setting impossible deadlines for your subordinates or co-workers? (Are you dealing with impossible deadlines?) Are you trying to do too much at once? Are you running on impulse and instinct for things that require more thought, research, and examination? Quality of work is important at this point, so hopefully you can arrange for lower-priority things to wait for a bit while you get back into the routine. Be deliberate.

If you're dealing with a wild pitch, or someone that throws them a lot, you may need to encourage them to slow down and focus, as well. Once the pitch has left their hand, the only thing to do is try to prevent it from causing too much damage. Bring it to the manager's attention if they don't seem to be doing anything about it, but he ready for the manager to tell you that wild pitches are what they want, because they prize speed over accuracy.

And sometimes, there's just something off about that particular delivery. Learn what you can from it, and go forward. Even machines are off sometimes.
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silveradept: A head shot of Firefox-ko, a kitsune representation of Mozilla's browser, with a stern, taking-no-crap look on her face. (Firefox-ko)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

This is for [personal profile] strangecharm, who we wish a happy birthday to today.

The running score for any given baseball game contains three columns - the number of runs each team has scored, the number of hits each team has, and the number of errors each team has commited. RHE is one of those things you start to not need to see the markers for to know, at a glance, how the game has gone for each team. Unsurprisingly, number of hits doesn't always correspond with the number of runs, but if there's a positive value in the E column, there's almost a guarantee that a run or a big run threat came from that.

Baseball is a game where there are errors all over the place. A hitter that swings at a pitch that turns out not to be a strike, or takes one that does (assuming they haven't received signs that say to take the next pitch and not swing) generally commits an error of judgment. Which makes another strike, or sometimes, an out. Pitchers can commit errors, too - sometimes a pitcher isn't able to execute the requested pitch, or they balk. Pitcher errors can be damaging - a hanging curveball or other breaking ball that's left in a hittable place can be tagged for home runs and hits - a bad pitch can make a four-run defecit in the worst case scenario. Those don't get qualified as errors, though - they're hits and runs, even if it was a mistake that produced them.

Generally, though, things that are officially scored as errors are fielding errors. The kinds of things that happen when a ground ball gets booted instead of gloved, or a ball goes right between the legs of the fielder, right underneath the glove they thought they had down on the ground. Or wild throws that go well past the fielder they were intended for into somewhere else, and the bases that result from those throws. Errors are a thing in baseball, and their commission can change the tenor and the momentum of any game, giving the offense free batters that they wouldn't otherwise have, and runs they wouldn't otherwise be able to collect. In some cases, games are won, including World Series games, when a defensive error occurs at the worst possible time.

The statistics, at least, are kinder - runs that cross the plate because of an error that would have otherwise finished a half-inning are considered unearned and do not count toward a pitcher's ERA (Earned Run Average). They will affect the fielding percentage of the player that committed the error, lowering it usually a few fractions of a point - the opportunities accorded to fielders to make plays are great, and so in the end, an error here and there doesn't affect their percentages all that much.

Being able to take a long view toward errors is essential to being able to continue playing. Dwelling on a single thing after it happens can pull mental focus and lead to other errors. This is much more prevalent in Little League, because the experience of life hasn't yet hardened the players against the effects of errors. Mistakes are much more important when you're younger, or when they're related to things like work or schooling. And young children being who they are, it can be easy for their teammates to continue to harp on their mistake (until something great happens and they've forgotten it) instead of being supportive to their teammate and helping them get beyond it. (It is often up to Coach to re-orient the team and help the player forget about the past and focus on the next at-bat.)

That said, for each error, there are consequences. Being able to accept them, deal with them, learn what is needed, and then moe on makes you valuable to a lot of people, and means you can see the opportunity that often follows from a mistake.

If the error shows up in your reading, it means there are mistakes being made. Often mistakes that come from a lack of mental focus. Figuring out whether you're the one making the errors or having to deal with them is not always easy, regrettably, until the consequences of the error show up. You might be able to get help from someone you trust to take an outside perspective on things. If it's you who is making errors, then re-focus, fix what you can, and be willing to deal with the consequences of those mistakes. The next at-bat might have the opportunity to fix the error and put your team back in a good position - you can still double-up someone on first with the next ground ball, even if you punted the first one that put them on. Dwelling too much on the past will make it harder for you to engage with the future. Some errors might repeat themselves - those are generally trying to tell you that their is an important thing in your life to learn from these mistakes. Pay attention!

If you have someone in your life who insists on rehashing your old mistakes and holding them over you, then the error card may be pointing out that your error of judgment is keeping that weight in your life. If you can't ditch them, because they're your boss, consider a career change. Or reporting them to HR or their supervisors once you have the documentation you'll need to prove their error. Nobody should be forced to suffer punishment for mistakes long in the past.

If you're the person that will have to deal with someone else's errors, recall that "to err is human, to forgive, divine" is a saying that has lasted for some time. Everyone makes mistakes, and yes, they might have big consequences associated with them, but hopefully you have failsafes in place so that mistakes don't have domino effects. Making mistakes is one of the best ways that people learn, so not only be willing to forgive them for their mistakes, try to make sure that the environment you are in encourages people to take risks - there will be more mistakes, sure, but there will also be spectacular successes that can more than make up for the mistakes that get made to learn in the process. Talk to the people when they make mistakes, and gauge what they're learning from it and how they plan to go forward by listening to them. Don't just file things away and then spring past mistakes on someone with a disciplinary notice. You might find out that you're making mistakes from untrue assumptions, or that you're scaring the absolute shit out of someone without offering them any way of knowing how they can avoid further seeming caprice from you. Finally, grudges are a pain in the ass for everyone, whether you're holding them or receiving them. Let it go. Really. Learn, figure out what you can trust, protect yourself as necessary, but let the grudges go.

It's easier to learn and forget mistakes in baseball or other games and pursuits, because the worst thing that can happen is that you lose the game and can try again later. In life, it's a little bit harder, but life consequences hopefully mean you only make certain mistakes once...or can learn from other people's errors in life so as not to make them in the first place.
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

There are four main calls from the umpire in baseball - ball, strike, out, safe. Evenly balanced between helping the defense and helping the offense, these calls drive the game of baseball forward. Safe helps the offense, and is a call delivered by spreading the arms out from the chest, palms down, usually in a quick motion, and then holding that pose until everyone understands the call or a request for time is granted.

Safe indicates that the batter or runner has successfully and legally arrived at the base they are attempting to reach, whether by batted ball, attempted steal, retreat to beat a pickoff throw, or through the use of tag-avoidance measures designed to allow them to make contact with a base and deny the defense their body for touching. Generally, to be safe, a part of the body of the runner must be in contact with the intended base before the ball arrives to that base and a tag or force is applied. Some part of the body must also remain in contact with the base (excepting home plate) while a tag is applied - woe to those runners who overslide their bases, as any break in the contact results in the runner being out if there is a tag applied to them.

The safe gesture, like the out gesture, is designed to be visible from very far away, and so has developed into the method by which an umpire indicates a no answer to questions. This is most commonly seen in appeals made from home plate to ask whether a batter's partial swing was complete enough to be called an attempted swing, and therefore a strike. Other appeals, such as whether a runner legally touched a base, are also usually answered in this manner.

Safe is usually a gratifying call to the offense, an indication of success in their difficult endeavors. When it shows up in a reading, it's always an indication that your efforts have succeeded. There are, however, varying degrees of success, and all of them are indicated by the safe call without distinction. Just barely getting there (or back) may earn you a talking-to from the coaches or the manager about the need to play the game smarter and to leave yourself more room for safety, or the need to train harder so that you can go faster and not have so many close plays. How you get there may earn you congratulations if your method was particularly effective at avoiding the defense. In any case, safe is safe, but the context around it will need to be analyzed to figure out whether your "playing it safe" is something to be rewarded and replicated, or whether it's being frowned upon for being too conservative and you need to open up your game so as to have the possibility of scoring more runs.
silveradept: A representation of the green 1up mushroom iconic to the Super Mario Brothers video game series. (One-up Mushroom!)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

The pitcher is accorded a special place among the defense. Position 1 on scorekeeping systems, they are the only position in the entire game who will be guaranteed to touch the ball for all outs. And, for that matter, all the parts of any at-bat. They are physically elevated above all the other positions in the defense, bit receive a corresponding increased share of the danger of being struck by a batted ball while defenseless, as human reflexes can only go so quickly. The delivery methods and mechanics for their pitches are wide and varied, and their personalities often come through in their pitching. They are the only players of the defense that can be "perfect" for a game, even though such perfection is a result of teamwork.

They are the only position about which the is a dispute as to whether they should bat in the batting order or whether another player should be designated to do the hitting for them. When the interleague experiment first started, much hay was made that American League pitchers would finally have to bat, and that a good time would be had by all watching them do so. Some pitchers that year recorded their first hits, RBI, and home runs of their career, which revealed to many a secret of baseball they hadn't been considering - most of the work involved in determining how far a ball will fly when stuck is done by the pitcher, not the batter. Even when they bat, they are more likely to be used to perform a sacrifice hit (usually a bunt) than others, with the intention of keeping them rested and off the basepaths.

The statistics kept for pitchers are an entirely separate category, involving how many runs, on average, other teams collect against them, not counting runs scored due to defensive errors that should have resulted in outs, how many times they have been penalized with bases on balls, how many times they have recorded outs through a third strike, and how many times they have won or lost their game. Pitchers who do not start the game often have a mark of how many times they have been able to "save" (preserve) close leads into victories for their team. Determining which pitcher is the winner or the loser, and whether a save has occurred uses its own set of rules. Generally, to be eligible for a win in today's game, a starting pitcher must not be substituted for before they have recorded fifteen outs (five innings), their team must be ahead when the pitcher is substituted for, and their team must stay ahead for the ready of the game. With many teams on a five-pitcher rotation for starters, that gives each pitcher approximately thirty-two starts every year - which is why any pitcher that can make twenty wins is both a good pitcher and has a good team behind them that can score runs early and often. Other pitchers may receive wins, as the winning pitcher is otherwise the pitcher when the winning team goes ahead and stays ahead until the end if the game, but closers (pitchers that specialise in high-velocity pitching at the end of a game to prevent the offense from getting the rhythm of the pitching) are often rated on their saves, which say that a game has to be close, their team to be leading while they are pitching, and for the lead to be preserved to the end of the game while they are pitching. Closers can mount impressive streaks of their own - Eric Gagne of the Los Angeles Dodgers currently holds the record for consecutive saves with eighty-four - and are an effective weapon in the pitching arsenal.

Television cameras focus on the pitcher because of their unique role in the defense - all things, all plays, all action in a baseball game begins with the pitcher's delivery to somewhere, whether the plate or a base in a pickoff attempt. The variety of pitches at the command of the pitcher provide variance and deception in the modern game, and many pitches other than the fastball make the pitch move ("break") from one place to another, in addition to variations on pitch speed during the delivery, to make them harder to hit, with some pitchers breaking more than others. The manner of the break determines the pitch (curveballs generally break down, sliders break side-to-side, the slurve does both, the knuckleball is...random), and all pitchers at the Major League level will have at least one of these pitches at their disposal. Many good pitchers will have more, even if they are known more for one of them than the others. Pitching is one of the reasons that three out of ten is fantastic in baseball - a hitter has to hit a moving round ball with a round bat somewhere where nine people cannot catch it in the air nor collect it off the ground and throw to the base ahead of you before you get there. It's hard!

A pitcher that is firing on all cylinders can retire batters quickly and with few pitches, which is the ideal situation for a defense. Pitching takes a lot of energy and stresses the body in unique ways. The current rotation system among starting pitchers is meant to give their bodies sufficient rest in between throwing up to 100 pitches (between 80 and 100 MPH) on their outings. Many pitchers in their lives will undergo reconstructive surgery on their pitching arm to prolong their career (Tommy John surgery), which is a commonplace and routine operation in these modern times. The stresses of pitching are so well-acknowledged that the Little League system instituted hard rules about rest time required in between pitching outings and a maximum pitch cap, 65 + the at-bat where the pitcher reached 65, as a protective measure for the bodies and arms of their players.

The Tarot equivalent of the Pitcher is the Sun, completing the dyad with the Moon that the Pitcher does with the Catcher to comprise the battery. The Sun and the pitcher are both regularly thought of as the animating force for their respective institutions. Their positive aspects are things like performing consistently at a high level, being able to do what's needed without problems, having the necessary creativity to handle new scenarios as they arrive, being illuminating and warm, and taking initiative at the right times to produce results.

The is a big danger associated with the Pitcher, though, and it's one that's not always easy to see coming. A lot of people will readily proclaim that without the sun, life as we know it would not exist on Terra. Which is true - we need the radiation of the sun to warm us and brighten our days, as well as to provide the energy for several organisms, mostly plants, to start the food chain going. But in giving praise to the sun so much, we sometimes forget that we also need the moon to provide its gravity so that the tidal forces work, moving the waves and cycling the water to prevent it from stagnating too much. The pitcher needs a catcher to receive their work, to provide targets and guidance and to help the umpire with their calls.

It's easy, with the television cameras as the stardom potential and the way that sports writing and statistics tends to talk about pitching a lot, for a pitcher to start believing they are in charge of the defense, or that they are the star of the defense. The pitcher's greatest danger is hubris. Star pitchers are usually lauded for their velocity and control, and the ways in which they get batters to strike out (because, like the long ball to a hitter, a strikeout is the most exciting-for-TV thing a pitcher can deliver). If you don't have that kind of stuff, it's not likely you're going to rise in the ranks of fame. The sobering thing to remember is that a pitcher cannot win a ball game by themselves, from the mound. At some point, they have to get help from someone in the batter's box scoring a run. Pitching can only prevent runs from scoring - it can't actually score runs on its own. A pitcher that forgets that their wins are inherently a team effort risks being traded...or benched.

In my summer ball days, when I was able to pitch, I was usually one of two pitchers. The other part I most clearly remember was someone with speed and a few off-speed pitches that was quite good at getting people out. I thought of him as a good pitcher. Since I didn't have that stuff, I didn't think of myself as all that good of a pitcher, even though I wanted to do it as a relief from the tedium of the outfield. My dad pointed out something to me at the time, though, that has stuck with me and that I think is a better metric by which to measure the pitcher's effectiveness. As a pitcher, he said, my best asset was that I would throw strikes for most of my pitches. Batters would not be able to just wait me out and draw walks - they would have to swing the bat to get on base. What that meant in practical terms was that, as a pitcher, I was really only as good as the fielders I was playing with. With time and perspective, I realize that an awful lot of the pitches where contact was made resulted in a ground ball of some sort. Very few people hit my pitches in the air to the outfield. If I had a good set of infielders, I could produce a lot of outs fast by forcing hitters to hit balls. (Many of my pitching years, this was not the case.)

Evaluating pitchers by their ability to get outs quickly, and their percentage of ground ball outs, seems like a better metric for figuring out who is a good pitcher than just strikeouts. The WHIP calculation, ((Walks + Hits) / Innings Pitched) hints at this kind of metric, as each out recorded while a pitcher is on the mound counts as a third of an inning. Many pitchers will not become famous, but will be in demand for their ability to throw few pitches and collect many outs by using the field behind them. It's Boring, But Practical to do things this way. Which may describe many of the people in your life and your workplace. If you have one of those kinds of pitchers, be sure to thank them and recognise them for the consistent high quality work they do. If you don't, they might sign with another team, or they might decide they don't need to give you full-quality work any more, since you're not recognizing them or paying them enough for it.

Pitchers are unique entities on the field. Treat them with care, and they'll help you win lots of games.
silveradept: A representation of the green 1up mushroom iconic to the Super Mario Brothers video game series. (One-up Mushroom!)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

If you look at a newspaper, or various sports reporting on the standings of a sports team, among the more common statistics such as the number of wins and losses, the standing of the team in terms of the number of "games back" or "games behind" the leader of the division (and as the playoffs approach, the leaders of the wild card race) a team is, and the number of wins and losses in the last ten games, there's a curious bit that refers to the "streak" the team is on. The streak just refers to the number of times a team has had the same result, whether win or loss. So, you could call it a measure of improbability, as these days, especially in Major League Baseball, any team in the league can beat any other team. Much to the chagrin of the fans of the New York Yankees and other big market teams that tend to have payroll well past the luxury tax (and the eternal delight of those who root against them), having the highest-paid players on your team is no guarantee of success.

We've already seen what a losing streak looks like when we took a look at the slump, as that's generally what a losing streak is called in baseball. By doing so, fans and players remind themselves that such things are only temporary and at some point in time, perhaps soon, perhaps later, they will win a game again. Those games may be few and far between, as there have been teams that lose 100 or more of their regular season games in a single year. It's a little bit harder for fans to remember that winning streaks also do this if your team tends to win more than they lose, but those are usually passed off as bad luck or other flukes. Cognitive biases at work, ladies and gentleness.

That said, a long winning streak, like the one the Washington Nationals put on this year (ten games!) is something to behold, as rarely does a team win the same way twice. The Nationals ended up winning half of those games with timely hitting in the bottom of the ninth, which is a thrill for their fans, and proof that a team that can stay close can sometimes win games they had no business winning on paper. So long as the winning continues, mistakes are forgiven, decisions unquestioned, and everybody has a good time. Even the most drama-filled team looks like a cohesive unit when they're winning more often than not.

The team is the most important part of a winning streak, because baseball can't consistently put the outcome of the game always on a quarterback or point guard or star forward. Each player has to contribute at their appointed time in the batting order, and field and throw what balls come their way. Which is why the meaning of the card, when it appears, talks about teamwork and everyone doing their assigned roles. If you're on the winning streak, it's meant to be both a celebration of your successes, but also a reminder that those successes are not accomplished in a vacuum, so acknowledging and recognizing the contributions of your teammates in addition to yourself is the way to go.

For example, yesterday I received notification that a person in my cohort at another work site nominated me and a couple others for the highest award our organization gives for helping sort and process the entries in our annual teen writing, drawing, and photography contest, especially the work day where all the entries are checked for completeness and then bundled off to their preliminary judges. It takes a significant amount of time to complete for the crew. This year, things went seamlessly and we finished well ahead of schedule. A team effort is necessary to make the contest work as well as it does. The acknowledgement helps ensure those team members are lonely to come back again next year.

That said, the organization as a whole doesn't have a lot if ways of acknowledging the team effort, and it can sometimes seem like lip service from the top when they talk about how excellent we are on one hand but rarely follow through on finding ways to reward that excellence. It can be dangerous to think that the winning streak is primarily because of you, because if you engender that idea, it's going to be you they come after when the winning streak stops. And you they get mad at if you can't immediately start another streak right after the last one. Many a person's job has been removed when the company that expects them to win all the time has to deal with the fact that winning all the time is inherently highly improbable.

After all, if you could do it like that, casinos, gaming houses, and shysters playing three-card monte wouldn't be able to make enough money on your losses to keep themselves in business.
silveradept: The letters of the name Silver Adept, arranged in the shape of a lily pad (SA-Name-Small)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

For [personal profile] cxcvi, who has had bad associations with the Tarot equivalent, the three of swords.

There are two pairings in baseball that tends to get mentioned a lot in combination - the shortstop and second baseman, who have to be synchronized well to perform the first leg of the double play, and to know who is going to receive the catcher's throw to apply a tag during a steal, and the battery, composed of the pitcher and catcher. The catcher gives the signals to the pitcher, and the pitcher attempts to deliver the ball the way the catcher requested.

Except, that is, when the pitcher disagrees. Sometimes the pitcher has their own idea about what pitch should be thrown, based on their confidence in the called pitch, how the game has gone, or something they have noticed about the hitter on this at-bat. A pitcher disagreeing like this will usually indicate their non-agreement by shaking their head from side to side a bit. The catcher may move down their list of possible pitches to the next option and present that one, which can either be accepted with a nod, or another shake-off. Very patient catchers may have a third possible pitch in mind to present, but after the third shake-off, it's pretty well inevitable that the catcher will call for time and have a jog or to the pitching mound to see what's wrong and try to get the pitcher back on the same page as the plan. After a discussion, where pitchers will talk until their mitts to avoid having their lips read, everyone returns to their positions and play resumes. Long conferences will be broken up by the umpire, whose patience is discretionary on these matters.

So, at its core, the shake-off is a disagreement. In a game, though, where the nine players of the defense all need to be following the same playbook, disagreements have to be handled swiftly and completely, as outstanding disagreements lead to fielding errors, or worse, extra-base hits. Bad things generally happen when everyone isn't working from the same book from the start.

Now, this seems not all that bad, mostly because in baseball, you always have a team around to help with support, and most people know that baseball is an abstraction, where the worst consequences are "if they don't win, it's a shame." Outside of baseball, though, the team isn't always there. And the consequences can be or feel a lot worse. And to be fair, the Rider-Waite imagery for this card is pretty scary and memorable - on the field of a lightning rainstorm, a heart pierced by three swords. It's pretty iconic, and most people will remember that type of imagery when it appears in their readings. As one might guess, that card generally signals the appearance or presence of pain of the heart, sometimes very strong pain of the heart. And most of us get our worst heart pains by people we know and are friends with, often over disagreements that explode if handled poorly or left to fester. We tend to use the imagery of being stabbed, either as a betrayal or as how acutely the pain is felt, so there's a good reason that imagery has swords through the heart. The translation to the baseball concept softens things somewhat, but inside that context, things like giving up a double or a home run are bad, heart-hurting things - just look at a pitcher that's just been tagged for that, and try to tell me they're not hurting. Especially if this isn't the first time this game or they've been having trouble with their stuff and struggling the whole time.

So, if this card shows up in your reading, figure out whether you're giving the shake-off or whether you're receiving it. If you're giving the shake-off, what's your problem with the signal? Are you not confident in that pitch? Is the something you think you're seeing about the batter that would make a different pitch better? Can you articulate this to the catcher if they come up to the mound? The thing is, you'll probably get blamed for bad pitch selection or execution by the TV audience no matter what pitch you throw, but they aren't important, so if you're concerned about what others think in this situation, you probably shouldn't be. More important is what your team thinks about it. If you can't put your finger on the why, you're going to frustrate everyone, so be ready to articulate or to go along with the signs. There's still more players behind you that can save your butt if it turns out the pitch call was wrong. In a relationship, if you're giving the signs and your partners ask, you'll probably have to be completely open and forthright if you want to fix the problems. If you're already in a situation where honesty doesn't produce reconciliation or a lessening of the problems, it's probably time to think about dissolving the relationship. It's going to hurt a lot, but it will likely be better for your emotional and mental health (and possibly your physical health) in the long term.

If you're getting a shake-off, try to figure out why. Discomfort is a very real thing and impacts performance, so spend some time figuring out what the problem is. See if any alternatives will work out, or if you can find out the core of the disagreement. This is going to require listening, but also doing the prep work or having done the prep work so that you are perceived as someone who actually listens and cares about what the other people around you have to say. If you're seen as the bully that always gets their way because they don't move or listen, people will find a way to route the workflow around you, or will not open up and be intimate with you about their feelings and perceptions. If you're in a managerial position or tasked with responsibility, being routed around makes your job infinitely more difficult, because you're robbing you're team of the resources you can bring to bear, because nobody wants to work with you. This is a bad situation and needs to be fixed immediately. If you're in a relationship and getting these signs, if you want to keep the relationship, you're going to have to be willing to work through the disagreement and be able to compromise if necessary. Otherwise, it's probably time to stop the relationship.

It's not the cheeriest card, but all cards are not universally good or bad, but context and question dependent. This, too, is something that must be learned.
silveradept: A star of David (black lightning bolt over red, blue, and purple), surrounded by a circle of Elvish (M-Div Logo)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

If you want to learn about the complexities and subtleties of baseball, watch baseball games. In person. Accept no substitutes nor television broadcasts. And keep score. If there isn't a Major League team in your area, or tickets for those games are ridiculously expensive, many areas have minor league teams that are much more affordably priced, or a local university or college team may play regularly.

Television focuses on the things it considers exciting - the pitcher-hitter duel, runners on the basepaths, and the action that happens after the ball is put into play. In doing so, however, television misses out on the major strategic portions of the game, and it denies the savvy baseball watcher the understanding of what is about to happen. TV makes the pitcher out to be the leader of the defense as the person that sets everything in motion. In reality, much of the material that makes the highlight reel in terms of defensive catches and plays has been carefully orchestrated before the batter even steps into the box, while television is doing promotions or nattering on about sponsors and upcoming broadcasts. There is, in fact, a conspiracy among the defense to make sure they are precisely in the correct spot to make plays based on the tendencies of the hitter approaching the plate. Much of this information is in the dugout with the manager, and needs to be relayed to the players on the field. Since even the mightiest lungs will not reach all the players, and the time in between batters is too short to relay all instructions verbally, a system of shorthand and signs are used to communicate from dugout to fielders.

The responsibility of signaling falls to the field general of the defense - the catcher. As the only player blessed with the ability to see the entire field, the catcher can position the defense correctly for maximum effectiveness against batted balls. As a member of the battery (the pitcher and catcher, so named because their roles during pitching resemble that of spotter and shooter in an artillery unit), the catcher is also able to indicate to the pitcher where the most effective place to throw a pitch will be, as well as the type of pitch that will be most effective in achieving an out, or at the very least, a strike. Television cameras do occasionally catch this part of the catcher's responsibility, so when you see a series of gestures delivered at crotch level before a pitch is delivered or hear a commentator talking about "the signs", those are generally the signals involved in pitch placement and selection. The other signs have long since already gone by, and TV broadcasts are not usually in the habit of showing the defensive alignment created before the batter begins their at-bat, unless the alignment had been seriously wrenched out of a normal configuration (also called "the shift", where sometimes a hitter hits so much to one side of the field that a player who would normally be playing on the other side of the field crosses over to provide an extra fielder on that side). So an important part of the game of baseball doesn't get covered when you don't see it live.

As an aside: While it is not expressly forbidden by the rules to steal and relay the defensive signs to the offensive batter and coaches, as a runner, if the defense catches you at it, you can expect an extra-hard tag, an "accidental" spikes-up slide, or a catcher that chooses to block the plate and apply a full-body tag, the kind that reminds players of running full-force into an immovable object, on a close-ish play, as a reminder that there are things one does not do, even if the rules don't expressly forbid it. Similarly, disrespecting others, taunting, or showboating while you are on the field may earn an "accidental" headhunter from the pitcher the next time once is at bat. The umpires are instructed to punish deliberate retaliation, usually with immediate ejection from the game, but one can usually get away with sending a message once.

The Tarot deck, for this card, emphasises the fact that the catcher is the one who receives the pitch, always ready to collect whatever comes to him. There's a little mention of the fact that the catcher both receives and delivers signs, ever-changing signs that the catcher always knows, but mostly, the catcher hews more toward their Tarot equivalent, the Moon, which has the domain of secret knowledge, of intuition, psychic power, and of being okay with and working through emotions. The presence of the card is supposed to indicate being receptive to signs, your intuition, and to not overthinking things to find your solutions. Which is nice and dandy, but it's also misleading - sometimes being an effective catcher is directing the action with the signs, putting things into their correct places, and providing targets for the pitchers in your life to try and hit, in the support role instead of a passive one. As well as throwing the ball to the base ahead of anyone trying to steal on you, picking off those who stray too far, backing up fielders on throws, and occasionally using the fact that you're the only armored player on the field to physically prevent someone from scoring a run on you, which are much more active roles than just receiving. Catchers are also traditionally deceptively strong and fast hitters - wearing the armor can lull the opposition into thinking you're slow without the armor on, to their surprise. Another thing the television cameras don't usually show is that on many throws to first base, the catcher is the fielder backing up the play, having hustled their way down the line from the plate. While wearing armor.

The catcher has to have the wisdom of a sage so as to pull the strings and set everything up. They are dependent on everyone else to execute the plan, so they have to be good team players. A good catcher relieves the manager of a lot of the burden of managing the game by being an effective field commander and making decisions. Many of those decisions will seem magical or intuitive, but they are the product of experience and expertise, just not always consciously thought about.


silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
Silver Adept

January 2015

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