Monday, February 29, 2016

February 2016 Reading List

Gathering Prey - John Sandford

The latest in the Lucas Davenport series by Sandford. I've read all but the first 1-2 of this series. This is the 25th in the series. Lucas is feeling that his job is getting too routine. He feels like he's still doing good, and still likes the job but when you've seen one maniac killer you've seen them all, In this installment he gets involved in a case of a traveling band of killers, a Manson-like group with a camping trailer. He goes pretty far out of his jurisdiction but gets the job done. The ending leaves us wondering if this isn't that last of the Davenport series or if Sandford plans a massive retooling of the character.

Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty by Charles Leerhsen

I did a whole blog post on this book here.

We The Living by Ayn Rand

I have a couple of lists I carry around of the "books you should read" type. This was the next book on one of them. I had read her classics "Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" in my early 20s. To me, the read like alternate history fantasy. As Noble Prize winning economist Paul Krugman once noted:

'There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession  with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world.The other, of course, involves orcs'

"We the Living" was her first book and it's a pretty gripping tale of life in Communist Russia in the early 1920s. Her ideas on individualism were first expressed here. The main characters,  Kira a young woman who wants to be an engineer in a society which discourages her at every turn; Leo, a former aristocrat in a society which sees aristocrats as the ultimate enemy; and Andrei, a young member of the secret police, whose idealism is slowly worn down by his corrupt comrades are all pretty unlikable characters. The three are involved in a love triangle and use each other in quite shameful ways. Shameful to normal people, but Rand believes that people should pretty much do what they like regardless the consequences to others. But it was an interesting read. I'm not sure how realistic her portrayal is because her hatred for Communism is quite evident. 

The Interstellar Age by Jim Bell

The spacecraft Voyagers 1 and 2 are now approaching the very boundary of the solar system. Launched some 40 years ago on a "Grand Tour" of the solar system, they are still powered and being tracked. The mission was first conceived in 1968 by a grad student who figured out the math and when the planets would be in a position (roughly in 10 years) to make such a journey possible. Voyager 1 visited Jupiter and Saturn before being aimed for the stars. Voyager 2 also made it to Uranus and Neptune.  Jim Bell, now a prominent astronomer was a young college student when he got accidentally involved in the program in the early 1980s and managed to stay involved at some level for years, tells an interesting story about the people running the program and the things, many unexpected, they discovered over the long journey. 

The Essential Calvin and Hobbs Treasury by Bill Watterson

I imagine just about everyone loves Calvin and Hobbs. I came upon several Calvin and Hobbs collections when I was helping set up our local library used bookstore. Since we volunteers were allowed to take some books as a thank you I choose these. Some decidedly light reading after some heavy books this month.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Spring Training Here I Come

The blog is taking a holiday to Spring Training 2016.

I'll be in Florida next week catching some early spring training games.  I'll be seeing:

Tuesday March 1, 2016 - Phillies vs. Blue Jays in Clearwater
Wednesday March 2, 2016 - Braves vs. Orioles in Sarasota
Thursday March 3, 2016 - Phillies vs. Astros in Clearwater.

The weather is supposed to be great.

There will be a book post on 2/29. Baseball card blogging to resume 3/7 or 3/8. Probably with spring training photos.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Card Show Finds 3 - 65 cent cards

Another dealer had $1 cards with 15 cards for $10. That works out to about 65 cents/card.

1991 Conlon TSN #250 Ty Cobb

Since I just finished reading Cobb's bio I bought this card. Turns out I had a colorized version of this card that Conlon printed as a test in 1992. It has SAMPLE printed on the back.

1992 Upper Deck Comic Ball 3 #51 Ken Griffey Jr.
Along with various Warner Bros. cartoon characters, this set features just two actual players, Griffey and Jim Abbott. This is a gruesome card of Daffy Duck being used as a baseball bat.

1995 SP Top Prospects #64 Bob Abreu

Upper Deck issued this minor league set for most of the late 1990s. At this point Abreu is both a future Astro and Phillie. I always liked him as a player.

1995 Jimmy Dean All-Time Greats #4 Mike Schmidt

I should make a post of odd-ball Mike Schmidt cards. I've got a bunch of them. This 6-card set was probably available by mail redemption rather than included in a package of sausages since it doesn't smell like some meat product.

1997 Pinnacle Mint Coins Brass #15 Mark McGwire

 In my opinion, one of the weirder products from a time of weird products. The cards and the coins came separately, but the dealer had both together. I was never sure if the coin would really fit in the hole in the card but it does.

2001 Bowman Heritage #371 Jeff Bagwell

 A short-print Jeff Bagwell for $0.65 works for me.

2004 Flair Hot Numbers #21 Jeff Bagwell

Another Baggy, this one serial numbered to 500. I was surprised to see that no one had entered any images for this insert in I previously had a jersey card version with Mike Piazza. Mike Schmidt is my favorite player overall, but Jeff Bagwell is a close second. This is my 506th Bagwell card.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Card Show Finds Part 2 - 75 cent cards

What can you get at a card show for 75 cents. Quite a lot actually if you're willing to sort through a bunch of cards. At one table a guy had a couple of boxes of cards for a dollar. He was offering 25 for $20. I pulled out 26 which he let me have for just $20. That works out to about 75 cents a card.

1995 Topps Traded Power Booster #8 Jeff Bagwell

"At The Break" was a subset in 1995 Topps Traded. Topps took this subset, printed them on thicker card stock, added some refractive foil on the front and included them as an insert called "Power Boosters".

2007 Artifacts Antiquity Artifacts Paul Konerko
A serial-numbered card with a striped jersey relic. Not bad for $0.75 when I didn't have any of these. 2007 Artifacts was a nice set. I'm not sure why this is called "Antiquity", Konerko wasn't all that old.

2009 UD A Piece of History Rookie Autographs Violet #111 Phil Coke
On the other hand, 2009 A Piece of History wasn't a great set, but I'll put out $0.75 for any autograph from any set from which I don't have a card.  Even if it's only Phil Coke. And a sticker auto. This card is currently available on eBay for between $7 and $8, so good deal.

2013 Topps Silver Slate Blue Sparkle #360 Khristopher Davis
When I saw this in the box I scratched my head wondering what it was. calls it a wrapper redemption.

2014 Bowman Chrome Dualing Die Cut Refractors Oscar Taveras/Gregory Polanco

A crazy die-cut card of the late, could-have-been great Oscar Taveras.

2014 Bowman Chrome Fire Die Cut Mark Appel

I never saw any 2014 Bowman Chrome in retail so these are a surprise to me. This is supposed to look like a burned card with, I guess, the player rising from the ashes?

2014 Topps Triple Threads #100 Ken Griffey
 High-end cards like Topps Triple Threads don't make it to my neighbor Target so this is a good find for me.

2015 Bowman Chrome Series Next Die Cuts George Springer
Come to think of it, I never saw any 2015 Bowman Chrome either, so more surprises. There are a lot of cuts on this card making it difficult to scan straight. The scan looks almost as good as the actual card.

2015 Bowman Chrome Prospects Profiles Minis #15 Mark Appel
 That Springer card had some intricate cuts but here they just lopped off the sides.

2015 Topps Chrome Blue Refractors #40 Jon Singleton
A nice refractor parallel I didn't have.

2015 Topps Chrome Sepia Refractors #23 Stephen Strasburg
I generally like Topps Chrome and their crazy parallels but I'm not sure that sepia was a good choice.

2015 Topps Chrome Pink Refractors #151 Jose Altuve
 Although I'm not sure that the color pink belongs anywhere near a baseball card but it sure looks better than that sepia card.

2015 Topps Triple Threads Gold #61 Craig Biggio
Not only a Topps Triple Threads card, but a gold parallel, numbered to 99 of Craig Biggio!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Movie Review - Hail, Caesar!

If you like the Coen Brothers, you'll love this.

We went to see this last Sunday. The theater was crowded with people seeing "Deadpool", I guess. There were not a lot of customers for "Hail, Caesar!" It looks like it will be a successful movie however. Since it's opening on 2/5/16, it seems to have already made back its budget.

George Clooney plays actor (I know a big stretch) Baird Whitlock, the star of a new feature coming from Capitol Pictures, "Hail, Caesar!". Clooney plays Whitlock with a goofball charm. Whitlock the actor isn't very good (as evidenced by the lines he delivers in the movie) and it appears that he's not quite sure of what's going on around him when he's not on set. Clooney spends the entire movie (2 days of film time) in a Roman centurion outfit.

There are a number of movies-within-a-movie going on here as most of the action takes place on an enormous studio lot in the early 1950s. Scarlett Johansson plays DeeAnn Moran, an Esther Williams type, whose getting tired of all the "swimming pool" movies she gets cast in. Especially since she's pregnant and is having trouble fitting into her mermaid costume. Ralph Fiennes is director Laurence Laurentz making a serious "drawing room play" and has to contend with the only studio actor available for the lead male role, Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) who has only played the lead roles in singing cowboy movies. Ehrenreich has a very funny scene where he is using a piece of cooked spaghetti to do rope tricks. Channing Tatum plays Burt Gurney, song-and-dance man staring in a movie about sailors getting ready for sea.

The whole movie is held together by Josh Brolin as Eddie Mannix, the studio "fixer", who spends his days and nights, getting the studio out of trouble. Trouble like pregnant un-wed actresses, actors going on benders, actors getting kidnapped (notice abduction on the poster), and bit actresses making "French postcards" on the side. Brolin is great in this and is in maybe 80% of the scenes.

It's what I call an adult comedy in that the humor mostly derives from the situations and not so much from fart jokes and the like. It plays like a enormous movie studio "in-joke" but if you're a movie fan you'll get the jokes.

We saw trailers for "Now You See Me II" and "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising". These two comedies, from the slapstick and fart joke school, had noting funny in the trailers and looked to be as enjoyable as fingernails on a blackboard.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Card Show Finds #1 - 1952 Topps

There is a major card show in the Houston area twice a year. I haven't been to it in a few years
because I seem to always hear about it too late. But this year, I made it to the first one. My daughter, who is always looking out for my benefit, found a flyer for the show at her comics store.

I ought to be able to get a few posts from my trip.

I had exactly one 1952 Topps card prior to this show, now I have three, and one of them is a Phillies card.

I've posted this one before.

1952 Topps #55 Bob Boone

I got this in 2008 on eBay for a few reasons. It gave me at least one card for the 3 generations of Boones to have played in MLB; It was an inexpensive 1952 Topps cards (considering it's not in great shape; and it's a black back variation.

At the card show I got this.

1952 Topps #149 Dick Kryhoski

Dick Kryhoski? Yeah, I never heard of him either. But it is in reasonably good shape, and the player was with the St. Lewis Browns. I did not have any Browns cards in my collection. When I got it home I also realized that the card is the "usual" variation of 1952 Topps, on white card stock with the red banner on the back.

I also got this.

1952 Topps #221 Granny Hamner

My first 1952 Topps Phillies card. It's badly cut but otherwise in good shape. It's also the other 'usual' variant of 1952 Topps, on gray cardboard with a red banner on the back.

These two cards, along with some other older Phillies cards came from the first dealer I encountered after coming through the door.

The show was at the NRG Arena. You may be familiar with NRG Stadium, where the Texans play (Super Bowl LI) will be there. The NRG Arena is located in what used to be called The Astrodomain. The old Astrodome (no they haven't torn it down yet, nor have they figured out what to do with it yet) and several other convention spaces are located there in a sea of parking spaces. It was a pretty busy weekend there with the card show, an RV show, a home show and something else all going on at the same time.  NRG, by the way, is an energy company located in Houston.

Monday, February 15, 2016

1991 Topps Stand-Ups - Phillies Lenny Dykstra

I've been looking around in, looking for Phillies cards I don't have when I came across this.

They didn't have an image for it so I looked on eBay and found a couple of sellers offering it. The scan above is mine but the scan with the item looked like this. It looks like a slightly smaller than usual die-cut card.  Here's the back.

It still sort of looks like a baseball card unless you look carefully near the bottom where it says "Slide to open & close".

Here's a photo.

Look, it stands up!  It's a small plastic container with Lenny Dykstra's face plastered on the front. It's got candy inside. 25-year-old candy. In case someone would be tempted to eat it, a previous owner has glued shut the sliding door on the bottom.

It's maybe not the most oddball baseball related thing I've bought, but it's pretty close.

Friday, February 12, 2016

My 97,000th Card

Well, it's not so special, just a run-of-the-mill 2016 Topps card.

The last time I reported on how many cards I had was August 11, 2015 when I had 95,000 cards. That was 184 days ago, which means I have an 11-card a day (about a pack a day) habit. Most of the increase was fueled by my buying the complete sets of 2015 Topps and 2015 Topps Update.

Is it time to start looking for a 12-step-program?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

2016 Topps - Second Look

Ok, I've got about 70 cards from the first blaster scanned and can now form a better opinion.

I have to admit that the design is growing on me, mainly because I really like full-bleed cards but I don't think I'm going to love this set.  Lets look a a few more.

Noah Syndergaard - #43

A good, well framed, close-up shot. Topps reintroduced the "Future Stars" subset a few years ago. I don't like that they sometimes combine it with the All-Star Rookie Cup.

Jhonny Peralta - #46

The percentage of fielding cards seems lower than usual but this is a good one.

Salvador Perez - #56

This is a goofy card. Is that Perez in the lower left with some guy's arm on his shoulder?

Adam Lind - #57

The big logo stripe makes me think of recent Panini cards. And this is a typical Panini card pose.  Not a good thing.

Edwin Encarnacion - #89

OK, so here is still a major beef about this design. The smoke, smog, fog, dust, whatever, is very distracting. I look at this card and think, OMG, the field is on fire. Run for your life! The Peralta card above makes me wonder how they can play baseball in such heavy fog.

Clayton Kershaw - #150

The effect isn't too noticeable on some cards. Here it just seems like a part of the out-of-focus background.

Tommy Kahnle - #245

There are a lot of dark cards as well. Another Panini trait.

Brock Holt - #280

A good outfield catch photo. Too bad the fans couldn't see it from the stands.

Carter Capps - #172

 I'm not sure the design works as well in the horizontal mode (as is the problem with many recent Topps sets). The logo slash is actually not any bigger than on a vertical card but it sure looks bigger.

And speaking of Carter Capps, as near as I can tell, he has exactly one other Topps card, from 2013.

Only his second Topps card in 4 years and it has the same pose as his first card (with out the smoke and the beard).

OK, one more card.

 Looks like Posey had some work done in the off-season. Think how effective he'll be behind the plate with 4 arms.