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May 24, 2009


We went out last night to see Sugar, a (fictional) movie about a minor-league pitcher from the Dominican Republic, Miguel “Sugar” Santos, and his adventures in single-A baseball.

The basic plot premise sounds fantastic, and aside from some pacing issues I think it’s done pretty well: Santos, who was signed with the Kansas City “Knights” (all his gear has the “KC” of the Royals) at age sixteen, gets called up to spring training in Arizona at twenty and eventually is assigned to the single-A Swing in “Bridgetown”, Iowa, which seems to be a stand-in for the Quad City River Bandits in Davenport. (They were known as the “Swing” for several years, and the home game scenes are shot at their park.)

So, drop a young, inexperienced and non-English-speaking Dominican into Iowa, playing baseball at the very edge of his ability, and what happens?

Well, things get vague there. The movie is pretty good at spelling out Santos’s difficulties with language and culture (it takes him days to learn to order anything but french toast at a diner in Arizona), but less so at showing his growing disillusionment with baseball. One friendly Iowan asks Santos about a scar on his forehead, and when he stumbles for the words in English, tells him to go ahead in Spanish; his explanation, then, is presented without subtitles, and we get a quick dose of how confusing the English-speaking world is for him, and we can see from the blank expression of the questioner that she isn’t picking up any more than we are.

There’s a vivid contrast with a teammate who was drafted out of Stanford, particularly when the pair discusses what they might do if baseball doesn’t work out for them. Sugar itself is definitely a theme; it’s another Dominican export and comes up in different forms, from rum to syrup, at the oddest times, though I don’t have anything intelligent to say about the symbolism.

It’s not clear if this is a baseball movie and it’s definitely grimmer and tougher than the “making it as a pro athlete” movie from 2005, Goal!. I wonder if a similar scenario, given a full-on Hollywood treatment, would have been a more gripping story, or too sweet.

Posted by pjm at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2009

Believing your own hype

I have a new hypothesis: any page containing the words…

You’ve come to the right place if you are looking to acquire mad skills.

…probably has nothing useful to offer me. (Bolding from the original.)

Posted by pjm at 2:05 PM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2009

Preservation Nation

I read a (private) blog of a guy in New York who does theater reviews. He’s concocted a rating system he calls the “Yes System” which is most easily summarized as the beginning of any sentence in response to the production’s argument: “Yes, And…”, “Yes, Or…”, “Yes, If…” or “Yes, But…”. It’s not just a good-and-bad rating; it engages the project.

I feel that way about a link my mother sent me yesterday. The link was the Flickr feed for “Preservation Nation”, the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The NTHP is using the photos for a photo mosaic project, and there are quite a few buildings and places which “matter” in the stream that are in my hometown, or the nearby small city. It’s pretty cool to be flicking through the list and see whole blocks of our downtown. It’s a great use of Flickr.

And here’s where I get to “Yes, If.” If you just see the Flickr stream, why hasn’t an effort been made to geo-tag these photos? It would’ve made a great connection to other parts of Flickr, bringing new people in to the photo stream who might not otherwise have found it. And those browsing the stream could have had more context for the other intriguing photos they found.

There’s a Google Maps chart of NTHP sites on the main site, but it’s not integrated with the Flickr stream. The NTHP is starting to use these tools to create an intriguing presentation of their projects and mission, but there’s another step to be taken. The next step would be tying those tools together to create a more seamless experience which can be entered from any of the components.

Posted by pjm at 7:43 PM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2009


If you’re reading this, you should seriously consider reading the blog of my former colleague, Alisa Bowman. The target audience is married people, or people who think they might eventually be married, but if you’re not one of those you should consider it anyway, just so you can say you were reading it before it became a book.

(Because it wouldn’t be the first blog of a contemporary of mine which became a book… or a movie.)

Posted by pjm at 7:41 PM | Comments (1)

May 18, 2009

Just a host

I don’t know when I crossed the line to where bug-fixing began to be the sort of thing I want to tell stories about. In the last week I’ve had several incidents where code has started to have its own stories.

Like the time I was sitting in a conference room where another developer was discussing a related-but-not-mine component of the larger project. By the time he got around to the bug in my project, which stemmed from code checked in by the team on the other end of the call… I had a fix on my screen.

Today, on the other hand. We have VM images which are supposed to be a clone of the production environment, made to work with VMWare. Naturally, I have to work around two or three problems to get this working (the VM can’t see the code repository, for example, so I can’t check out recent code) but I hack around it until it’s working.

But shouldn’t I test the fix before I check it in? In multiple browsers?

So this was how I found myself firing up Windows XP in Parallels Desktop, so I could use one virtual machine to test an application running in another virtual machine. I felt a little bit like I was juggling chainsaws.

Posted by pjm at 8:27 PM | Comments (0)

May 8, 2009

Slow down

My running log advises me that if I want to lose weight, I should eat more slowly. The idea is that if I give my body a chance to register that it’s full, I would stop eating sooner.

Their suggestion to slow my pace down is to “converse more at the table.” Anyone who’s eaten with me knows this is not an issue, but Iz hasn’t been holding up his end of the conversations recently.

My alternate strategy: I’ve been eating as many meals as possible with chopsticks. I’m actually developing chopstick calluses.

Posted by pjm at 8:23 PM | Comments (0)

My work here is done

Speaking of finding money… this morning on the run I found an entire wallet.

Cash in the billfold, cards in the pockets, the works. (It was a pretty stuffed wallet. Not the wallet of a neat freak.) I didn’t count the cash but there were plenty of bills. My Friday morning running group, who already give me grief for my well-established magpie tendencies, ran right by; naturally I noticed it and picked it up.

We found the driver’s license and checked the address, in case it was someone nearby and we could drop it in the mailbox or something. No dice: Acton, and a 1989 birth date. Most likely a student.

I made a detour from the usual warm-up to drop it off at the police station. Their door was locked, and I had to call in to the dispatchers to be let in. An officer met me at the front counter and I pushed the wallet through the little ticket-office gap in the window.

Someone suggested later that I should have counted the cash, or at least gotten a receipt when I handed it over. Maybe I’m too na├»ve for a big town like Amherst. But nobody took my name, and I didn’t take any cash (though I could have) so I am not worried about my karma.

Posted by pjm at 7:12 PM | Comments (0)