Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bonsai Saturday

I have been sadly neglecting my bonsai plants. The outdoor plants are doing well, as we've had a lot of rain recently. But the indoor plants need to be watered everyday and I've not been doing that. My wife got me a new juniper bonsai for my birthday this week so I'm taking this as an opportunity to get these indoor plants in shape. First, a photo of me with my new baby. Never in a million years could I make a bonsai plant that looks as nice as this.In addition to not watering them enough, I've got aphids in my indoor plants. I'm not sure how that happened. I have had them outside on occasion so I guess one of them got infested. Aphids are nasty pests. They are so small you can barely see them, and they excrete this sticky stuff that gets on everything. Below is my willow ficus which appears in the banner photo above. Every leaf it still has is sticky. After this photo, I cut off the rest of the leaves, cleaned up the pot (the sticky stuff is at least water soluble) and sprayed it for bugs.
Next is my umbrella tree bonsai. This was was a Christmas gift from my wife in 2004 and is what started me on my bonsai hobby. It's now over 5 years old (who knows when it was actually planted?) and overdue to be re-potted. I'm going to spare you what it looked like before this photo but it didn't look good. So in addition to re-potting it I've decided to trim it back and start over. Here it is in the pot ready for soil.
It was severely root-bound, which is probably another reason it didn't look too good. In addition to trimming off all the branches, I also took several inches of roots off. I really like the above ground root structure so I got a little creative with the stone placement.
One idea of bonsai is to make the plant look like it's a miniature tree growing in nature. So I've tried to make it look like the roots are growing over rocks. I'll be pretty happy with the look if it gets new leaves. As long as I water it every day and fertilize it once in awhile it should look pretty good in about a year.

Monday, October 26, 2009

1988 Score

In the box of baseball collectibles I got at the church bazaar a few weeks ago were 16 54-card rack packs of 1988 Score. That's 864 cards. I already had 200 so I thought, even though I don't care for this set that much, I should be able to assemble a complete set from this. No such luck. With three packs to go I only had 537 of the 660 cards in the set. The next two packs were dry, no new cards. Then I got 13 new ones from the last pack to end up at 550, 110 short. I don't think I'll be making any effort to complete the set. I got just about every player that I collect from the set.

Going through all these cards, however, made me appreciate this set a bit more. I started collecting in 1985 and I was pretty much a Topps snob in those days. 1988 was the first year from Score and I'm pretty sure I didn't buy any new packs. The cards I had came in repack boxes. I can't say that I like the borders too much. The set is arranged in 110-card blocks of color. The first 110 cards are purple, followed by blue, red, green and yellow (or mustard perhaps). The photography, however, is pretty good.This George Brett card is probably my favorite card. I like cards featuring a swinging batter with a ball in the shot. This one is great because you can see George's face and his concentration.
Nothing special about the Mike Schmidt card, except that it's Mike Schmidt.
One thing I like about a lot of the photographs is how they are framed. This Dwight Evans card is an example. A full body shot with three points touching the border, his right foot, his hands and the top of the bat.
Here's a similar shot of a pitcher. I also like this one because the color in the frame goes well with the color of the frame.
Did Gary Carter use an especially long bat. Sure looks like it from this shot.
Another good job of framing. Ruffin's body leans to the right of the frame but his arm draws your attention across the photo to the ball on the left.
Here's Kirk Gibson running out of the frame, hopefully after getting a hit.
Another interestingly framed shot.

The set certainly has it's share of boring shots, but almost every card features an action shot, there are very few posed pictures. And in most cases, the photos are sharp and bright. The wrapper says "Photography Quality Printing".

Another thing that struck me was the number of future Hall Of Famers who were playing in 1988. I may not have got them all but here's who I saw in this set: Wade Boggs, George Brett, Ozzie Smith, Rickey Henderson (in the set but actually retired in 1987), Jim Rice, Mike Schmidt, Eddie Murray, Kirby Puckett, Ryan Sandberg, Dave Winfield, Dennis Eckersley, Robin Yount, Gary Carter, Paul Molitor, Tony Gwynn, Reggie Jackson, Nolan Ryan, Carlton Fisk, and Cal Ripken. And, perhaps still potential HOFers, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Song of the Week - Bitter Heart by Zee Avi

I have 8,076 songs on iTunes. This is one of them.

I just got this song from the Minnesota Public Radio Song of the Day Podcast and fell in love with it. Zee is a Malaysian singer-songwriter who (according to Wikipedia) got her start on You Tube. You can read her story here. As I've mentioned before, I like women singers with quirky voices and she fits the bill. There is an official music video of this song on You Tube but is's not available for embedding. This appearance on Carson Daly's show is pretty good however.

Sun rays come down as seen when they hit the ground,
Children spinning around till they fall down down down.
I wait for you: it's been two hours now,
You're still somewhere in town,
Your dinners getting cold.
I rest my case you are always this late,
And you know how much I hate waiting around 'round 'round,

Bitter heart, bitter heart tries to keep it all inside,
Bitter heart, bitter heart shadows will help you try to hide,
Bitter heart, my bitter heart is gettin' just a little fragile,
Bitter heart, bitter heart of mine.

And then you come and tell me the same reason as you did yesterday,
So tell me what's her name.
Doo doo da dum, doo doo da dum, doo doo doo doo doo doo da da dum dum, da da da da dum, da da da da dum, da da da da dum.

Bitter heart, bitter heart tries to keep it all inside
Bitter heart, bitter heart shadows will help you try to hide,
Bitter heart, my bitter heart is just getting a little fragile,
Bitter heart, bitter heart of mine, of mine, of mine, of mine, of mine, of mine.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Soupy Sales - Dead at 83

Most of you who read my blog may not remember Soupy Sales but he had a TV show in the early 1960s aimed at kids called "The Soupy Sales Show". I used to love this show. It was full of loopy humor, music, puppets and pies-to-the-face, usually his face. I picked this little piece because it features White Fang. I was about 12 years old when this show was on.

The singing lion puppet was Pookie. The big white paw was White Fang. You rarely saw more of White Fang than his paw. I loved White Fang.

When look at this now, I am amazed at the similarity to Pee Wee's Playhouse.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Your 2009 National League Champion Phillies!

This will be like the post I made last year after the Phillies won the NL Championship. I could get used to doing this every year. I'm writing this on Tuesday night hoping, with a few edits, I can post it Wednesday night. Go Phillies!

Jimmy Rollins - Shortstop: I noted last year that Jimmy didn't have as good a year in 2008 as he did in his 2007 MVP season. I hate to report that 2009 wasn't as good as 2008. His BA dropped from .277 to .250 and his on-base percentage dropped from .344 to .296. Neither good trends for a lead-off hitter. In fact, he was dropped from the lead-off spot for part of the season. His home runs increased from 11 to 21, but you're not paying Rollins to hit home runs. Defensively he had a great year. But he was in the lead-off spot in all the games of the playoffs. And he had that huge hit in Game 4 of the NLCS to win the game.

Shane Victorino - Outfield: Shane had another fine regular season and another great post season. As usual he was in the thick of all the action.

Chase Utley - 2nd Base: Chase had a typical Chase Utley regular season, appearing in his 4th straight All-Star Game. In the NLDS, he hit .429. He did have costly errors in both series which factored into both games the Phillies lost. He's still the premier 2nd baseman in the National League.

Ryan Howard - 1st Base: I don't know what more can be said about Ryan Howard. His performance in this post-season has been phenomenal, with 2 HR, 14 RBIs and a .380 BA. He has surpassed Mike Schmidt for most RBIs by a Phillie in the post-season. If they named an MVP for the NLDS it would have to been him. And he was named the MVP of the NLCS!

Jayson Werth - Outfield: Jayson hit 36 home runs in the regular season, a career high for him, 12 more than he had in 2008. He had some big hits in the NLDS although he was pretty cool in the NLCS, except for 2 big home runs in Game 5.
Rual Ibanez - Outfield: Rual was a free agent signing by the Phillies to replace Pat Burrell. For the first part of the regular season he was terrific. He got hurt and didn't come back as strong but still finished the season with 34 home runs. The fans love him, shouting "Ruaaaaaaal" when he comes up to bat.
Pedro Feliz - 3rd base: Pedro is probably the least heralded Phillie. He had a solid year at 3rd base. He hasn't been outstanding in the post season, but hasn't embarrassed himself either. A big home run in Game 5.
Carlos Ruiz - Catcher: Carlos is the surprise favorite this post season. While he shared the starting catcher with others in the regular season he was the starter for every post season game. He calls a great game and really performs offensively in the post season.

Cole Hamels - Pitcher: Cole was the darling of the post season last year but had a pretty disappointing 2009, going only 10-11. He hasn't been much of a factor in the post season either.

Cliff Lee - Pitcher: The Phillies acquired Lee from the Indians on August 1 for 4 prospects. This acquisition made the Phillies virtually a lock for the post season. Lee, last year's AL Cy Young Award winner was 7-4 with the Phillies. He is 2-0 in the post season with an ERA of 0.74.
Pedro Martinez - Pitcher: The Phillies signed Pedro on July 15, for a million bucks. This was a few weeks before they signed Lee and I think folks were pretty disappointed that Martinez was the best they could get. "I might surprise you, I might not," Martinez said. "It's going to be really fun to go find out." And it has been fun. He was 5-1 for the Phillies down the stretch and pitched a great 7 innings in Game 2 of the NLCS. He didn't get the win (in fact the Phillies lost 2-1) but that wasn't his fault.
Jamie Moyer - Pitcher: After going 16-7 in 2008 (one of the best years of his career) he was only 12-10 in 2009. And he was hurt for part of the season. And he got demoted to the bullpen when the Phillies acquired Lee. And he hasn't been much of a factor in the post-season. But he's still everybody's favorite 46-year-old pitcher.
Ryan Madson - Relief Pitcher: Madson was 5-5 for the Phillies this year with 10 saves. He had more oppotunities for wins and saves this year because of Brad Lidge's troubles. He hasn't been real effective in the post season, giving up 3 earned runs in 5 innings of work.

Brad Lidge - Closer: Much has been made of Brad's troubles in 2009. After a perfect season in 2008, almost anything would have been a disappointment in 2009. He only had 31 saves compared to 41 in 2008. But even more alarming he blew something like 11 saves and had an ERA of 7.21. But in the post season he has 3 saves and 1 win. Here's hoping he can carry on through the World Series.
Charlie Manual - Manager: If Charlie can hang around with the Phillies for a few more years (and with this team he should) he will go down as the best Phillies manager ever. He has a 447-363 record in 5 years with the Phillies. He is 4th on the all time win list for Phillies managers. Only Gene Mauch (1960-1968), Harry Wright (1884-1993) and Danny Ozark (1973-1979) have more wins. Only Ozark had a team comparable to today's Phillies. Charlie's team has won 89.4 games a year with him as manager, while Ozark's teams won 84.8. He's been looking like a genius so far in the post season. 2009 Manager of the Year?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jim Palmer cards

I got this Jim Palmer rookie card in the great church bazaar box from a few weeks ago. Certainly not a mint condition card but not in bad shape for a 43 year-old piece of cardboard. Beckett lists this card at the ridiculous price of $100. As of when I wrote this post, there were about 25 of these cards going on eBay. Only two had bids, both in better shape than my card and the bidding was in the $5-$10 range. This card has not too sharp corners, a couple of light creases and a little stain on the upper right corner. The back is spotless.
This is the only card from Palmer's career that I own. I had these two post-career cards. This next card is a 2004 Diamond Kings Hall of Fame Heroes numbered 65 of 1,000. I pulled this from the box of 2004 Diamond Kings I had bought that year.
This card is a 2006 Topps Turkey Red. I pulled this from a pack of Turkey Red.
Jim Palmer had some great accomplishments in his Hall Of Fame career. He was a 6-time All-Star, a 3-time Cy Young Award winner and has 3 World Series rings. And he was also a famous underwear model.

This ad was on sale on eBay for about $4.00.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Song of the Week - Battle Of Who Could Care Less by Ben Folds Five

I have 8,068 songs on iTunes. This is one of them.

One of my favorite Ben Folds Five songs even though I'm way too old for the imagery. "See, I've got your old I.D. And you're all dressed up like the Cure"? Trust me, when I was in high school, nobody dressed like the Cure.

Do you not hear me anymore
I know it's not your thing to care
I know it's cool to be so bored
It sucks me in
when you're aloof
It sucks me in, it sucks it works
I guess it's cool to be alone

Do you never rest
Fight the Battle of Who Could Care Less
Everyday you wake up late
Sometimes I wish I was
that way

And you think Rockford Files is cool
But there are some things
that you would change
if it were up to you
So think about your masterpiece
Watch the Rockford Files
And call to see if Paul can score some weed.

Will you never rest
Fight the Battle of Who Could Care Less
Unearned unhappiness
That's all right I guess...

I've got this great idea
Why don't we pitch it to the Franklin fucking Mint?
Fine pewter portraits of
General Apathy and

Major Boredom singing...
Whatever and ever... amen

Oh well, maybe not, I'll try again
This should cheer you up for sure
See, I've got your old I.D.
And you're all dressed up like the Cure

you never rest
fight the Battle of Who Could Care Less
unearned unhappiness
You're my hero, I confess

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thursday Night at the Movies - The Invention of Lying

We hadn't seen a trailer for this in the theater but the local paper gave it a good review so we decided to see it. Imagine a world where no one can lie. This is the premise. Not only can nobody lie, but everyone seems compelled to say whatever is on their minds, no matter how hurtful, revealing or unfeeling it is. When Mark (Ricky Gervais) picks up Anna (Jennifer Garner) for their first date, she tells him right off that she wasn't really looking forward to their date, finds him unattractive and most likely will not date him again. He just accepts this as the way things are.As you might expect, this makes for a pretty depressing society. The young, attractive, well off people (like Anna) are pretty happy because other people are always giving them complements. When Mark and Anna get to the restaurant for dinner, the sort of dumpy hostess says to Anna "I feel threatened by you". On the other hand, people like Mark are mostly unhappy. When the waiter comes to their table he tells Mark that his date is way out of his league. This doesn't sound very funny but the movie has a lot of funny moments.

The writers put in a lot of effort to take this world to some not so obvious conclusions. For example, there are no words for lying or truth. When Mark discovers he can lie, he has a hard time describing it. The best he can do is say "I said something that isn't". There is no literature or fiction writing of any kind. Mark is a screenwriter. Movies consist of a person reading about some historical event (there can't even be actors in such a world). Mark's specialty is 14 century Europe, the time of the Black Death, which nobody wants to hear about.

Mark learns that there are some definite advantages to being able to lie, for example at the casino (when he buys his chips the girl tells him that the games are rigged in favor of the house) he can outrageously cheat because they believe everything he tells them. But when he gets a beautiful woman in a hotel room by telling her if they don't make love right away the world will end (to which she says "Do we have time to get to a motel or do we have to do it right here?) he can't go through with it because it would be wrong.

The humor is mostly situational (not much slapstick) and is adult in nature (and by that I mean grownup, not based in sex). We really liked it and strongly recommend it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Church Bazaar Find

This past weekend was our annual church bazaar. This is a major fund-raising event and the event which brings in the most money is the auction. The items in the auction are donated by members of the church. We usually end out bidding on something which we want but end up spending more than we could get if for in a store. But it's for a good cause so we don't mind. This year, there wasn't too much we were interested in. Near the end of the list was something described as "Joe DiMaggio albums and baseball cards". I took a look at the item (which was a box full of stuff and decided to try for it. I ended up getting it for $50. There were very few people left in the auction tent by this time and I think the guy I was bidding against was just trying to jack me up so the church would get more money. He dropped out at $50.

The Joe DiMaggio Albums turned out to be two 9x7" hardback books in a sleeve which describe Joe's career in newspaper and magazine clippings from his career. It has a price tag on it for $90. There are a few of these going on eBay in the $4 to $15 range. Plus shipping (the books are heavy). But this is just what was on the top of the box. There are 3 old Sports Illustrated magazines, in plastic sleeves including a 1973 cover featuring Willie Mays, a 1988 cover featuring Pete Rose and this cover from 1976. It is apparently Schmidt's first SI cover. Already, I'm pretty happy with this purchase.
Does anybody remember the Senior Professional Baseball Association? It existed in 1989 and 1990. It was a winter league in Florida for former professional players who were over 35 years old. In the box are a bunch of baseball cards from the league, including this one of Dave Kingman. I haven't counted the cards but it looks like most of the set is there.
Next is a 10x8 glossy autographed photo of Ryan Klesko. It's not dated but I guess it could be his rookie year. He looks pretty young here.
There are also autographed photos of Phil Plantier (dated 1991 on the back) and Ruben Sierra with the Rangers. There is also a cover from a 1989 football magazine featuring Warren Moon of the Oilers which is autographed by him.

Look, 10 Tim Hardaway rookie cards (one of the sleeves has two cards). eBay lists these as going for 1 cent to about $12. I don't collect basketball cards so I have no idea.
There are 4, 4x6 wooded wall plaques like this one with a 1987 Topps Mark McGwire card. The others have a 1992 Fleer Frank Thomas, a 1992 Skybox Magic Johnson and a 1991 Leaf Gold Rookie Andujar Cedeno.
In addition to all of that there is:

18 14-card packs of 1992 Fleer Ultra Baseball. Each pack was carefully opened and contains only 13 cards. I'm not sure what the opener was after as there are good cards in each pack
1987 Donruss Baseball factory set
1989 Topps Baseball factory set
1988 Donruss team collection sets for the Cubs, Yankees, Mets, Red Sox and A's. These are booklets with the team cards on uncut sheets, 9 cards to a page.
16 1988 Score Baseball rack packs. Each contains 54 cards.
24-count box of 1988 Donruss Baseball 39-card packs
24-count box of 1991 Fleer Baseball 30-card packs
36-count box of 1991 Score Football Series 16-card packs
1978 Astros scorecard magazine
1966 Topps Jim Palmer card
1991 Fleer Ultra Wes Chamberlain
2 1990 Upper Deck Juan Gonzalez
1954 Topps Harvey Kuenn (believe it or not this is the first 1954 Topps card I've ever owned).

I believe that this stuff was all bought an an auction where the contents of a hobby shop were being liquidated. How it came to be at the church bazaar is beyond me but I'm quite pleased by my $50 purchase. I plan to feature much of this material in future blog posts so keep tuned.

In the meantime, I've got to go watch the Phillies hopefully clinch a National League Championship spot from the Rockies.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Song of the Week - Reelin' In The Years by Steely Dan

I have 8,068 songs on iTunes. This is one of them.

I can't believe that I haven't featured a Steely Dan song before. They were one of my favorite bands of the 1970s. They released 7 albums in the decade and everyone of them was great. Steely Dan is really two guys, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. Although the first 7 albums had a core of steady musicians, Becker and Fagen were the driving force. In their early years the were really just a studio band but gradually have become a good stage act. Since the 70s, Becker and Fagen have put out a lot of music, either solo, together or as Steely Dan. I like a lot of their later stuff but to me, the Steely Dan sound will always be those great albums from the 70s. Can't Buy A Thrill, Countdown to Ecstasy, Pretzel Logic, Katy Lied, The Royal Scam, Aja, and Gaucho.

This track is from Can't Buy A Thrill. Fagen is the guy on keyboards and Becker is the long-haired guy on guitar.

Your everlasting summer and you can see it fading fast
So you grab a piece of something that you think is gonna last
Well, you wouldn't know a diamond if you held it in your hand
The things you think are precious I can't understand

Are you reelin' in the years
Stowin' away the time
Are you gatherin' up the tears
Have you had enough of mine
Are you reelin' in the years
Stowin' away the time
Are you gatherin' up the tears
Have you had enough of mine

You've been telling me you're a genius since you were seventeen
In all the time I've known you I still don't know what you mean
The weekend at the college didn't turn out like you planned
The things that pass for knowledge I can't understand

Are you reelin' in the years
Stowin' away the time
Are you gatherin' up the tears
Have you had enough of mine
Are you reelin' in the years
Stowin' away the time
Are you gatherin' up the tears
Have you had enough of mine

I've spent a lot of money and I've spent a lot of time
The trip we made to Hollywood is etched upon my mind
After all the things we've done and seen you find another man
The things you think are useless I can't understand

Are you reelin' in the years
Stowin' away the time
Are you gatherin' up the tears
Have you had enough of mine
Are you reelin' in the years
Stowin' away the time
Are you gatherin' up the tears
Have you had enough of mine

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ok, Ok, I'm Back

In what some might say was a cynical attempt to get people to comment on my blog, I made an announcement the other night that I was through with blogging. To be fair, I did leave myself some wriggle room. After what was a pretty unexpected outpouring (OK 14 comments is perhaps not an outpouring but it's the most comments the blog has ever received) of support, I've decided to use my wriggle room and un-retire (can anyone say Brett Farve?). But, really my blogging time is reduced so I'm going to try to do one baseball card post a week and Song of the Week and probably Thursday Night at the Movies.

And thanks to all the kind comments which I received.

I mentioned that I'd bought a few packs of Topps Ticket to Stardom. I also bought the Phillies team set on eBay which follows.My main complaint with this set is the photography. There seem to be a lot of poses like this Howard photo where the player's face is partially (or even completely) obscured by his hat, a shadow or the direction he is facing.
This Rollins card is another example. As far as I'm concerned this could be a card of just about anybody in a Phillies uniform (expect the Phillie Phanatic).
The Hamels card is better.
And so is the Utley (although it's a boring pose).
And lastly we have Geoff Jenkins. Why a set which comes out so late in the year features a player who was not signed by the Phillies (or anybody for that matter) is beyond me. He did have a big hit in the World Series which gives me an excuse to show the back of the card, which features my birthday. Isn't that nice?
Does anybody remember Fleer Authenix? This was a set issued by Fleer from 2002 through 2005. Their idea was to make baseball cards which looked like game tickets. Here's what the 2004 cards looked like.
Any similarity between 2004 Fleer Authentix and 2009 Topps Ticket to Stardom is surely coincidental.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Goodbye to blogging (at least for awhile)

I started this blog on February 3, 2008 with the oldest Mike Schmidt card that I owned (his rookie card). So it's fitting that I end it (if indeed this is the end) with my newest Schmidt card, a 2009 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions card. 20 months and 444 posts. This is much longer than the average blog lasts I think.My regular readers (all 2 or 3 of you, who really knows) may have noticed that I haven't made a post in week. When I missed my regular Song of the Week feature I figured I'd better post something so everyone wouldn't think something dreadful had happened to me.

The truth of the matter is that I don't have the time to put good posts together. I've got plenty of ideas still but time is the problem. I didn't mention my job related difficulties here. I lost my job at the company I worked for 35 years as the result of a merger. I was only out of work for 2 months before I got recruited by a consulting firm I had done work with for many years at my old company. So I've landed pretty well, much better than many during this recession. But the new job adds about an hour to my daily commute which is where some of my time has gone.

In addition to that, I committed my self to digitizing my wife's family photos. I have 5 shoe boxes of photos, some of them dating back 100 years. I'm trying to get this done by Christmas. Then, really, I need to get to work on my own family photos.

I'm not giving up on baseball cards, I just bought some Topps Ticket To Stardom (boring and a total rip off of Fleer Authentix from a few years ago) and some Bowman Chrome.

And I'm not giving up on all the baseball card bloggers I've met and traded with (both cards and quips) over the past 20 months. You'll still see me making comments (maybe even more than before) on various blogs.

Speaking of the bloggers I met, I have been amazed at the generosity and knowledge of my fellow bloggers. I've enjoyed reading your stuff, trading with you and getting and giving the occasional gift. I don't want to mention anyone by name because I know I'll forget somebody. You know who you are.

Since it is Sunday, I am going to end with a video. This is a band called Au Revoir Simone. The band is composed of 3 women who play electronic keyboards supplemented with a drum machine. They have beautiful voices. I don't actually own this song but it's the best of their videos I could find on You Tube. Enjoy.

Oh, and by the way, Go Phillies!