Elster's World

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rock N Roll (Football) Fantasy

Sorry for the silence here at Elster’s World. I have been on a mini (and quite sucky) vacation this week and didn’t feel like posting anything.

Last night, the Zionist Conspiracy fantasy football league (led by the great Joe) held its draft. It was a night of pageantry and celebration. OK, it was a night where six people who had no idea what they were doing attempted to pick fantasy football squads relying on little more than mock draft sheets from ESPN and Sports Illustrated. With six people picking twenty picks (one minute per pick) I was all set for a long evening in front of the computer. I fasted the majority of the day so there was no worries about having to use the facilities during crunch time. Of course, I ended up with the fourth pick in a three pick draft. Here’s what transpired:

6:00 pm – I log in to find Joe and TO already on. Akiva, Jetsphan and MOC are no where to be seen. Bad start. After shooting the breeze, MOC comes on. Though we are supposed to begin at 6:15, Joe gives Phan a five minute grace period.

6:20 – MOC grabs LT with the first pick. I would have gone with Larry Johnson, but since San Diego will have the human turnover Phil Rivers starting at QB, they will be relying on Tomlinson even more heavily.

The computer picks Shaun Alexander for Akiva (who never shows up for the draft) and the computer then drafts Larry Johnson for Phan (who still isn’t here). I bite the bullet and grab Tiki Barber, hoping this isn’t the year the wheels come flying off. Joe cuts against the grain and takes Fantasy stud Peyton Manning and TO completed the first round by grabbing Rudi Johnson and Carnell “Cadillac” Williams back to back.

Other highlights from the draft included:

- Team Joe took Brian Westbrook and Willis Mcgahee to stand behind Manning, causing him to proclaim "I don’t love my running backs”. Um, but we love your running backs Joe. He took Arizona’s pair of wide outs and is hoping that Kurt Warner stays alive long enough to keep tossing it to them. The computer accidentally picks Vilma for Joe 2 rounds too early causing team Elster to take his linebackers earlier than expected (more on that later). Joe ends up with two Jets, Laverneous Coles (very solid number three receiver) and Vilma (my top rated defensive player – tackling machine who should make more big plays in the 3-4).

- With two stud running backs in tow, TO grabbed Carson Palmer and Terrel Owens (“I just had to”) with his next two picks. In fact, TO had a very solid, if very boring draft. The lone controversy was his selection of Ed Reed, causing me to ask if Reed was eligible to play since I thought he was in prison.

- The computer picked well for latecomer Jetsphan, who ended up with two great backs (LJ and Edge James), a shaky QB (McNabb) and 2 interesting receivers (Randy Moss and Chris Chambers). He showed his evil side by grabbing John Abraham causing me to call him a traitor. He also grabbed a number of the players I wanted (Stephen Jackson, Chris Gamble, Derrick Brooks and Hines Ward).

- The computer picked really well for Akiva, considering he didn’t even show up. It grabbed Clinton Portis for him (letting me make my “does that pick come with a free sling?” joke) and Drew Brees (causing me to proclaim he has the all-shoulder team). But all joking aside, he is deep.

- MOC’s team is boring. Solid but boring.

- Finally we have Team Elster. I am ok with my running backs (Barber and Dunn), LOVE my receivers (Steve Smith/Chad Johnson) and am ok with my QBs (the crappy Manning and Delhomme). I took a flyer on Braylon Edwards and his reconstructed knee with my third pick and grabbed Jeremy Shockey as my tight end (causing Joe to change my name to Giantsphan). I hate my bench – Julius Jones (losing time to Barber) Edwards (either brilliant or awful) and Chris Cooley (waited too long for Alge Crumpler). For some reason, I took two kickers. And yet, I wasn’t even drunk. When Joe took Vilma, I immediately used early round picks on Donnie Edwards and Keith Bullock - I would rather have gotten ALge Crumpler.

Well, the draft was really fun and I hope everyone has a successful season (most of all, me). The whole thing took under an hour and I was able to enjoy a tasty grilled chicken in lafa at a reasonable time (kudos to Mrs. Ester for running out and grabbing that for me – Thanks dear). I will keep you posted as the season progresses. I’m sure you are all riveted.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

New Storytellers Submission Up

We are tickled pink to have real life published author(!!!) Sheyna Galyan's submission up this evening at Storytellers.

And if this gets me one step closer to being published myself (through some sort of weird internet osmosis), then all the better.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Sad Scene Indeed

Editor's Note: A more serious new post directly below this one - But there is no way I could let this piece of news go without comment:

Jocelyn Bell Burnell approaches the former giant, a look of both sadness and apology on her face. "I'm sorry," she said.

"Sorry about what?" came the deep, throaty reply.

"Um, I'm not exactly sure how to tell you this.."

"Just spit it out. There are revolutions to be made."

"Spit it out, right," she replied, still clearly nervous. "You see, the thing is, we voted and you are out."

"Out?" came the question.

"Out," she replied.

"I'm not following."

She sighed. "This is really hard for me, ok? You see, you aren't a planet anymore. You are too small to be a planet. The experts took a big vote and you lost. You are now a dwarf planet and the solar system only has eight full planets."

"A dwarf pl... are you serious? I've been a named planet since 1930. That's seventy-six years young lady. And I've been revolving around the sun for longer than I care to even remember."

"Yes but under the new guidelines, a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit. You, Pluto, are automatically disqualified because your oblong orbit overlaps with Neptune's."

"My oblong orbit overlaps..." Pluto shakes its northern half in wonder. "You humans never cease to amaze me. I suppose now I'm in the same classification with Ceres and UB313 right?" Pluto said, unable to keep the sarcasm from its voice.

"Um, well, yeah, you are in fact. Well, have a nice solar year Mr. Pluto," she said and re-boarded NASA'a New Horizon's spacecraft for her return voyage to Earth.

"Get bent," Pluto replied.

The Israel Bug

This post was inspired by Jameel’s latest and greatest:

When I was younger, fresh off of a year and a half studying in Israel, it seemed as though the “Aretz” would always be there whenever I needed it. After all, I was young, had all the free time I could ever want, and I have four or five years of school in front of me – meaning there were four or five winter breaks, spring breaks and summers to get there. Life was good.

And oh, did I take advantage. Over those five years or so, I must have gone eight or so times (too lazy to actually think of the number) including six weeks there in one summer as a camp tour leader. Whenever the Israel bug bite, off I went. Honestly, it got to the point where I was so “sick” of going to Israel, I flaked on a winter break trip there my third year of law school in exchange for a week in sunny Miami with my friend Evan.

But time certainly has a way of getting away from you, doesn’t it?. After I graduated law school, I got married and started my law job (not necessarily in that order). Time (and money) got a little tighter (damn you Riverdale rentals). Mrs. Elster and I took a majorly kick arse vacation there the summer we were pregnant with my daughter (she kicked for the first time in the Holy Land) - two weeks of such bliss, that I forgot (completely unintentionally, I promise) to even call into work one time over those two weeks. Not one time.

But then, the dry spell.

Work responsibilities piled up, making longer vacations more difficult. We had a second child. We bought a house (damn you mortgage companies and real estate tax collectors), we had a third kid. Now we are barely breaking even. There is no way I can take the whole family to Israel – the flights alone would cost me over five thousand dollars. Besides, we always said that we wouldn’t take the kids on such an expensive (and lengthy) trip until they were old enough to appreciate it. And my oldest is less than six (probably still too young for it).

Exacerbating the problem – the Israel bug has bitten me hard lately. So hard, that I find myself scheming all kinds of ways to go. I could just go myself or we can leave the kids and go for a short week (nixed by Mrs. Elster, who refuses to leave the kids for extended periods of time). Oh and Mrs. Elster isn’t thrilled with me taking a trip solo either.

So where, then, does that leave me?

Truth is, I have no idea. I really want to go. It’s almost a physical ache if you get me. I have not been to beloved Israel for seven years. I have not laid my forehead on the Kotel. I have not spend a few days regenerating at the Dead Sea. I have not taken a spiritual journey to Sefat or a fun-filled board walk stroll in Tibereas. There was a time in my life where it would have been laughable to suggest I go more than twelve months without a visit. Now it’s been exactly eighty four months. Gulp.

Sometimes in my life, I want things of importance, but I have no idea how to acquire them. I dwell on them, they depress the hell out of me and then I eventually get over them. The bigger things, though, keep coming back. Maybe they take a break from torturing me, but they always return with a vengeance, dropping me into bigger funks than the time before.

I cannot remember having the Israel bug so bad in a long time. I can only hope that I get an opportunity to scratch.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Storytellers Query

Just about a month ago we (the proverbial "we", actually me) launched Storytellers. In the wake of Tommy's disappearance from cyberdom (still very troubling, by the way), I wanted to do another collaboration. When I couldn't think of a suitable project, I thought "hey, how cool would it be to invite other bloggers to write stories for Elster's World?" Then I thought that if people were actually interested in doing that, I would create a new blog just for it. And thus, Storytellers was born.

As with all brilliant ideas, it was a tad slow to develop. When I first announced it on my site, I wasn't exactly inundated with positive replies. Not so shocking actually. So I did what any entrepreneurial person would do - I hit the bricks and started emailing people or soliciting them in the comments sections of their blogs (yes, I apologize for all the stalking, it was for a good cause). Perhaps a little shameless, but it was very effective. I (along with an assist from Scraps) solicited thirteen people (not including me) in my initial round. Of those thirteen, eight people have committed and one more said maybe. The other three (including surprising silence from Bec, who I assumed was a given - shame on you Bec) have not yet replied, and I assume are not interested. Altogether, I have twelve people (including me) committed to Storytellers. (Of course, a commitment and an actual submission are two distinctly separate animals....)

But I digress. Here's the actual point of this post. I have been (generally) very impressed by the submissions and I am soliciting some feedback from you, the readers. So here are the questions - to both submitters and non-submitters alike:

1. Have you been reading Storytellers?

2. What do you think?

3. Is there a reason why you all don't comment for the most part?

4. Do you have any suggestions for improving the site?

Please note that Storytellers is not some sort of exclusive club. If I did not solicit you, it simply means that either (i) I don't know who you are, or (ii) I assumed you wouldn't be interested. By no means should anyone take that as a sign that I don't think you can write fiction. If anyone else is interested, you can email me and let me know. My contact information can be found in my profile or in the Submit link on the right.

Whew!

The New York Post (and at least two major sports websites are running with the story) is reporting that Tom Glavine's shoulder contains a number of small clots which require no more than medication to clear up. This means that Glavine will probably not need to miss too much time from the rotation.

This is some much needed good news for a team marred in a major run of bad karma. Since Duaner Sanchez hurt his shoulder trying to satisfy a case of the late night munchies, the Mets have been a walking black cat. They were forced to trade Xavier Nady for the pitcher formerly known as Roberto Hernandez, Cliff Floyd's achillies acted up (and his sister died), Jose Valentine's hammy got strained, Ramon Castro hurt his knee stretching (!!!), staff ace Pedro Martinez hurt his calf and then news came out that Glavine's season might be over. The starting outfield right now would have trouble in the little league world series.

With the possible losses of Pedro and Glavine, it would have meant that only the immortal Steve Trachsel would have remained from the opening day rotation. Instead, if Glavine is, indeed, healthy and Pedro returns for the playoffs as expected (and doesn't get hurt again), the Mets playoff pitchers are Pedro, Glavine El Duque, Trachsel and Maine - probably a stronger group than the original five men from April.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Things That Rhyme With 'ets

Before I turn my attention to pressing sports issues, a quick note:

I was tagged by McAryeh to discuss books - what I read and what books/authors have impacted me. I commenced that post last night but realized that I had some serious thinking to do to make sure I didn’t leave out anything important. So that post is in the works.

- The mystery surrounding Tom Glavine and his right shoulder is probably making every Met fan weak knee-d and watery bowel-ed. The idea of Steve Trachsel, John Maine and Dave Williams playing prominent roles in the playoffs is absolutely terrifying. Pedro Martinez is currently on the disabled list with a leg issue and now it seems at least 50/50 that Glavine has pitched his last game of the season.

Sure, we can all hope that the clot is something which can be thinned away with medication in two weeks, allowing Glavine to get healthy and prepped for the playoffs and beyond. But it’s just as likely that the Mets will be announcing on Wednesday that Glavine will be having season (and possibly career?) ending surgery soon.

It would be a shame for someone like Glavine, who has remained pretty healthy for his entire career, to have to end it all so close to 300 wins (287) and a shame for the Mets, so close to knocking on the world series door again, to be without him.

So in review – If the Mets lose Glavine, you can still print those playoff tickets, but I wouldn’t rush to start distributing those world series vouchers just yet.

- In slightly better news, the New York Jets have acquired running back Kevan Barlow for a fourth round pick (which, rumor has it, can possibly become a higher pick is Barlow has certain success this season). Despite suffering a knee injury last season, Barlow is certainly an upgrade over the current Blaylock/Houston combination. If I had to guess, assuming Barlow is healthy and plays well the rest of the pre-season, the Jets will cut Blaylock (who is much more expensive than Cedric Houston) before the season begins.

- I caught some of the pre-season game Saturday night. It’s impossible to take much from these games but I will say this: To me Brooks Bollinger looked better than Ramsey, which is a very troubling thought.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Storytellers

Slightly earlier than anticipated, we have a new entry today. Sara's contribution (better late than never, and in her case definately worth the wait) is up a few days into Lvnsm27's tenure (sorry LV) because lucky Sara is going AWOL on us for a little summer vacation. Since she will have limited (read almost no) internet access, I promised she could see her story up before she leaves.

Thanks again to Scraps, Jack, me, Lvnsm27 and Sara (sorry, too lazy to link everyone) for contributing so far. I am actually anticipating a number of new submissions "any day now". I hope you are all enjoying both reading and writing these stories as much as I am seeing people actively participating in this great joint effort.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Deflated Part II - Inflated

Just a quick update - as I do not want my loyal readers to fret. Problem discovered, problem solved and all is right in Elster's World again.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Like Spinning Plates

Last night, at around 10:30, I settled into my brand new, high thread-count sheets and prepared to drift off for a second consecutive early night, when nighttime silence was shattered by the sounds of screaming from outside. My wife and I went downstairs to check, knowing already what we would find.

As heat lightning crackled in the distance, there was our neighbor, barefoot, pregnant and hysterical crying, chasing after her husband’s SUV as he drove off to wherever it is that he goes every night until all hours in advance of his Jewish reggae career. My wife went out to calm her and I stayed behind at first, watching from the door but not wanting to leave my three little ones alone in the house. And there they stood, under a windblown, dying oak, as “Sally” broke down sobbing and recounted the events of the evening, the events of the week, the whole nine yards.

They were out there for over half an hour when her husband, “Greg” started driving past the corner. Never stopping, back and forth, observing his wife telling over a tale so horrible to strangers. When Sally saw Greg’s car, she freaked. “Now I’m in trouble,” she cried. “He’s gonna kill me.” At this point I went outside, not knowing what to do, but knowing that a seven and a half month pregnant woman needs to be calmed down for her baby’s sake if not her own.

And so I listened to her tale. Her side of the tale anyway. As I mentioned before, Sally is very damaged, emotionally and mentally. She is a woman drowning in her own worries, paralyzed by doubt, unable to make decisions. Unable, even to stop talking about her minor troubles and instead try to focus on her larger ones. I gave what counsel I could. You cannot do this alone Sally. You need to speak to someone. Unfortunately, the Rabbi proved to be very unhelpful (not surprising, he is very green).

But Greg tells her things simply to upset her. And she goes for it every time. And to top it off, her oldest child is already (at age five) in trouble at school, recently even biting another child. Her twins (two years old) don’t eat. Who can blame them? There is so much discord in the house, even I’d have no appetite. And the baby may have Downs, according to a recent test. She won’t take an Amnio, she’ll wait to see when he (oh, it’s a he) is born. Oh and the child was an accident. Greg asks her is he is actually the father.

I could go on and on. The stories came out in a flood, like the impending rains that would soon come. In the end, I told her she needs to go home and check on her children, who were alone in the house for over an hour and a half. And she needed to call someone who can help her. I suggested OHEL, but I have strong doubts about her making the call. She is too paralyzed by her own doubts, sweating the small stuff, failing to see the big picture; the destruction of her kids.

And it makes me wonder. Why can some people emerge from the depths of messy divorce and still function while other become so damaged that they perpetuate the cycle by bringing down the same misery on the next generation? I recently had conversations with someone whose parents are going through a divorce. Obviously affected by the trauma, this person is still able to function on all cylinders, even excelling in society. It’s all about mental makeup and support systems. Poor Sally has no one but a mother who doesn’t want to get involved. Her father is dead. She believes she will die soon too.

Maybe a piece of her already has.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Deflated

Since I use my blog not only as a means of entertaining the masses but also as cheap self-therapy:

Today I feel a sense of loss - something so acute, it makes me feel almost hollow inside. As I struggle to understand this feeling, I also realize the negative effect it has on my ability to function properly. In other words, I'm sad and it is affecting my day.

In order to "move on", first I need to recognize the source. Did you ever feel really sad or anxious about something unidentifiable, let it really make you nervous, and then finally locate the source of the problem and immediately feel like a weight has been lifted off you? That's the feeling I'm striving for. The moment when I say "oh, that is what's bothering me?" and immediately feel relief flooding in.

But sometimes locating the source doesn't make the pain go away. Sometimes locating the source makes you feel even worse. Like, "oh, that is the problem and damn, it isn't going away any time soon". (And no, this isn't another one of my I Hate My Job rants. I have officially decided to spare you all those for the foreseeable future.)

So is it Israel? A bad deal for my country breaking my heart? That Hizbollah has claimed a victory over the Jewish State and talk of a Hamas/Fatah unity government threatening Israel from Gaza? Maybe. But I don't think so. Maybe I know exactly what the problem is. Maybe I'm rambling, in hopes that just running my mouth (or fingers) will provide balm for my soul.

Don't worry, the hollow feeling will eventually fade. That's what they say. I want to believe "them". They are supposed to be pretty smart. But right now, something hurts and I don't think that it should be.

Alas, I don't get to make all the decisions, even the ones that affect me directly.

End Rant.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

One Man's Expression Of Frustration

The craziest thing happened to me this weekend. I must tell you all about it.

So there’s this squatter who has been living in my backyard, throwing stones at my house, for months. It’s really annoying and slightly damaging. I have had to replace windows and my kids are afraid to venture into the yard. The problem is that the police refuse to recognize him as a squatter and, thus, they will not remove him from my backyard. They also seem to look the other way at the fact that he’s been randomly lobbing stones at my house for the last several months. I don’t get how they turn a blind eye towards his behavior. I suspect the police simply dislike me because I’m Jewish.

Anyway, things really began to escalate last week when he entered into my kitchen, swiped my favorite cereal.

Well, my kids (who rule the roost in my house, but who are clearly too inexperienced to be properly dealing with this situation) demanded that I retaliate, but they didn’t want me anywhere near the guy. So I pulled out my trusty paintball gun and began mercilessly pelting him with paint pellets – night and day – for a whole week.

Instead of driving him away, however, the squatter simply started firing more and even larger stones at Casa Elster. The kids suggested I go out there and hit him with a wiffle bat, which I did, but damn if that son of a gun didn’t start throwing rocks right at me. Ouch.

Well at this point, the mayor of my town started to get involved. While the town council clamored for an immediate end to our violence and for me to just let the squatter live in my backyard, the mayor condemned the squatter and said that the Elsters should take as much time as they needed to remove all of the squatter’s rocks, and get back Elster’s favorite cereal, so that we could all live in relative “peace”.

And so, upon orders from my kids, out I went with a frikking two by four and homicide in my eyes. And as I’m approaching this crazy squatter, ready to beat him senseless and, thus, making his rock pile a moot point, a Range Rover pulls up in front of my house. Out pops the mayor and town council.

“Here’s the deal,” the mayor tells me, unable to look me directly in the eye. “The council has drafted a resolution regarding you and the squa..uh, I mean gentleman living legally in your backyard. Here are the terms. 1. He gets to live in your backyard. 2. He gets to keep his rock pile. 3. At a later date you can try and negotiate for the safe return of your cereal, but you will probably have to give him something else for it. 4. Oh, and you know that nice deck you have? Um, that’s his deck now.”

As I’m attempting to pick my jaw off the floor, the mayor continues. “Oh but don’t you worry boy. We’re gonna put someone right in this buffer zone area of your yard, right here by the swing set, to make sure the squatter leaves you alone.” He then goes on to introduce me to the squatter’s brother. “Have a nice day,” he said, as they all pulled into their Range Rover and drove away.

Sound familiar?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

If You Build It (Correctly) They Will Come (Around)

Sports Illustrated’s Rany Jazayerli (no I did not make up that name) has a piece on SI.com today giving an in-depth look at how the 2006 Tigers, the best team in baseball to this point in the season, were built. I thought I would try and do the same for the best team in the National League, the New York Mets, and how they evolved over the last two seasons.

In the wake of the Scott Kazmir trade for Victor Zambrano two years ago, Team Wilpon realized a front office shakeup was needed. The Mets brought back former assistant GM Omar Minaya and made him Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager, effectively putting him in charge of, well, all baseball operations. So far, this move has been a success.

Minaya is a smart baseball man with a plan. Sure, some argue that he is attempting to make the Mets Latino North, but the fact remains that he is in the process of building a very good club. He isn’t afraid to make a splash (Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran were two huge free agent signings and he brought in slugger Carlos Delgado via a trade) and his moves have been working out.

In the wake of the shakeup, the Mets hired Willie Randolph as manager and replaced all of their coaches except pitching guru Rick Peterson, who has done a tremendous job with the pitching staff, especially Tom Glavine. Randolph is now in his second year and still learning on the job. But he is a very even guy and seems to be very good at gauging the mood of his club. They all really seem to respect him as well. He needs to get better at in-game moves, but that often comes with experience.

Pitching: Minaya immediately made a splash when he guaranteed a fourth year and stole Pedro Martinez from the Boston Red Sox. Pedro has been a real breath of fresh air for the Mets. He is a master on the mound (despite being about 70% of the pitcher he was in his heyday) and a positive voice in the clubhouse. Despite making just 18 starts so far this season due to injury, Pedro leads the team with 122 strikeouts. Tom Glavine has been turned around after three forgettable seasons with the Mets (he’s currently 12-4 with a sub-4.00 ERA) and despite being pretty unimpressive this season, Steve Trachsel has won 10 games. Injuries to the end of the rotation (including the aforementioned Zambrano) caused a scramble, but Minaya made a great trade for Orlando Hernandez (very up and down at first, but since then has really settled in) and the throw in to the Kris Benson trade, John Maine has been fantastic, currently riding a 23 inning scoreless streak. Let’s not forget some misfires though – Jose Lima and Alay Soler failed in their chances to fill the back end of the rotation. Young untouchable prospect Mike Pelfrey showed promise (and a very live fastball) in his short time with the club).

In the bullpen, Minaya tried to splash again this past offseason by signing Billy Wagner to a long term deal. At best, the results so far have been mixed. Wagner has a respectable 24 saves, but he has blown 5 saves as well, way too many for a supposedly elite closer.

Minaya also traded Jae Seo for Duaner Sanchez this offseason, which was going brilliantly for the Mets until a freak accident last week lost Sanchez for the season. Home grown product Aaron Heilman has been asked by the coaching staff to step up his uneven game and try and take over for Sanchez. The Mets also added Darren Oliver, Chad Bradford and Pedro Feliciano to the staff and all have contributed.

In the infield, Minaya did not have to touch the left side, manned for the long term (thanks to two excellent contract recently signed) by Jose Reyes at shortstop and David Wright at third. The Mets patience with Reyes is especially rewarding, as New York is not a patient town. The were able to look past his early career injuries and he has rewarded them by batting close to .300, leading the league in stolen bases and triples, second in the league in runs scored and even showing pop with the bat. Wright is a developing MVP-type player who could eventually replace Derek Jeter as the face of New York baseball.

After a misfire two seasons ago (extensively covered on Elster’s World), Minaya got his slugging first baseman in Carlos Delgado from the Florida Marlins, giving up prospect Mike Jacobs and other prospects for a legitimate 35-100 guy – a thumper in the middle of the lineup. Minaya went back to the Marlins for his catcher, and number two hitter extraordinaire, Paul Lo duca. Lo duca has been masterful with the staff, calling a very aggressive game, and has been a perfect number two hitter, helping move Reyes and setting up the thunder behind him. Castoff Jose Valentin has been marvelous since becoming the regular second baseman, allowing the Mets to concentrate on filling other holes.

In the outfield, Carlos Beltran is the shining star. After a disastrous first year of his 7 year-119 million dollar contract, Beltran is having an MVP type season (.281, 33 hr, 97 rbi, .619 slugging). Xavier Nady was having a fine season before being emergency trade bait for Roberto Hernandez (fallout from the Sanchez injury). Cliff Floyd has continued to struggle with a variety of injuries, but Endy Chavez has been a fantastic pick-up for the Mets (like a much better version of Timo Perez) and highly touted prospect Lastings Milledge is now getting a full time shot at the bigs.

The Mets have the best record in the National League and a fairly comfortable 12 and a half game cushion in the East. Much of that is due to the great work of the Mets front office in putting together a fine mix of veterans and youth (let us not forget that Beltran is only 27 years old and makes up a great young nucleus with Wright, Reyes, Milledge, Pelfrey and Maine).

The Mets should challenge for the right to represent the National League in the World Series this fall. They have a very deep lineup (especially with a healthy Floyd – it may to shut him down for a month of so and then get him some at bats before the playoffs), the deepest in the NL. The key for this team, like any team, is pitching. For the most part, the staff is old and cannot be relied upon to go more than 6 innings. Pedro is pretty much a 6 inning, one hundred pitcher guy and Glavine and Trachsel rarely go deep into games. I firmly believe that the greatness of the El Duque trade will not be seen until the playoffs.

Still, pitching is the Mets weakest link. Their staff is good enough to get them to the World Series against a weak NL, but especially with out Sanchez, they probably are not good enough to beat any of the American League rivals they would face there.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Call Off the Dogs

I got my computer issues worked out. Thanks to all of you who responded. Actually, I got exactly two responses to my inquiries so thanks to Dayli and Lakewood Venter, who get links for showing interest.

Quick roundup of things to blog about:

- BP was forced to shut down its Alaskan oil drilling operation, due to major issues with the Alaskan pipeline. This operation was providing the US with something like eight percent of its oil supply. The fear is that this may cause oil prices to skyrocket - something to keep an eye on. The upshot of the never ending oil saga domestically or abroad is that the world's reliance on oil (especially in the US) is staggeringly dangerous. This country should be investing whatever it takes to come up with alternative methods of energy; whether that be nuclear or other. Why not take the power away from Middle eastern fanatics by taking away their second best hammer (the first being the willingness to give up their own lives to slaughter innocents)? It seems so logical.

Clearly, conservation will not be the answer. In fact, it will hurt the economy. And it is a band-aid, not a fix. The world needs a cleaner, safer, cheaper energy source that won't destroy the environment or force us to be slaves to the Middle East.

- Even the president is calling for an end to the violence in Lebanon and Israel. Israel has managed to get its proverbial rear end kicked in the public relations battle - which is not particularly surprising. The world media (Fox excluded) wants Israel to be in the wrong and therefore simply manipulates its reporting so that Israel is in the wrong. Nothing to really be done for it. Photos of dead babies trump photos of wealthy sections of Chaifa with some smoke billowing in the distance.

This is so frustrating to observe. Despite the UN's reluctance to proclaim it so, Hezbollah is a terrorist organization responsible for the murder of Israelis, Americans and French citizens since 1982. Why are they getting a free pass now? Why are they not strongly condemned for basically using women and children as human shields for their movable rocket launchers? There is a great cartoon making the rounds of a Hezbollah terrorist firing at Israel behind a baby carriage while an Israel soldier fires back, blocking a baby carriage. These people are despicable, yet they are fast becoming heroes both in the region and to leftist-Anti-Israel parties everywhere.

- Not to pick a fight with Joe - Seriously I don't even want to discuss it. But the more I read, see and experience, the more I believe that my initial assertion that Israel had, in fact, somewhat miscalculated Hezbollah's ability to resist and retaliate was indeed correct. Joe, you and I shall simply agree to disagree on this point.

- Finally, my Storytellers post is up and from what I can tell (based on the lack of comments anyway), not being particularly well read.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Storytellers

As it is Sunday, I have just posted the third installment over at Storytellers (link to the right). This week's stud writer is, well, me. I'm very interested in hearing what you guys thing so please head on over and leave your critiques.

Please note that the post below this one solicites the help of anyone who knows (or at least claims to know) anything about home computers (Mac or PC).

Friday, August 04, 2006

Audience Participation, Flip Floppers and More

- First order of business. I hate my home computer. Hate is a strong word, I know. But it totally fits in this case. I HATE MY COMPUTER. A Dell, it has been a sub-par purchase since day one. I have had to replace the hard drive twice (within the first week I owned it!!!), it’s unbearably slow, it lacks modern upgrades (it’s three years old) oh and did I mention it’s unbearably slow?

So I ask you computer gurus out there – and even you novices and technophobes. Do you have any suggestions for me for the new computer I will be purchasing within the next few months? Let me know if you are happy with what you have, strengths, weaknesses and, of course, price. You can add it in the comment box or use the email in my Profile. I would really appreciate anyone getting me in the right direction.

Oh and yes, I know – nothing beats a Mac. But I don’t think I have the cojones for such a move so….

- Some Storytellers news: Jack’s weeklong run is almost at an end. I will be putting up a new submission Sunday. Programming note. Sara from Trophy was supposed to get the honors this week but has informed me that her masterpiece will not be ready in time so we are giving her a week’s extension and replacing her with writing master ….Elster. Yes, that’s right fans, I will be going one week early and I’m pretty happy with what I did for Storytellers. I was going for comedy, you will all let me know if I succeeded.

- Joe wrote an very interesting piece for his blog today re: Ehud Olmert and his claims that Hezbollah has been dismantled. There are about 300 Katushas which disagree with Mr. Olmert. You should all check it out.

- Just hours after Tisha B’av was complete, something happened which lead me to a spiritual realization. It came to me with stunning clarity: After watching the Mets bullpen melt down against the Marlins I realized - The loss of Duaner Sanchez was a devastating blow to the Mets. Aaron Heilman is lost out there, walking too many batters and working too hard to finish people off. He has two pitches and that doesn’t seem to be enough in his case. And Roberto Hernandez? Please. I still think it’s safe to print those world series tickets, but I strongly doubt that a series against the Red/White Sox, Yankees or Tigers will go more than 5 games.

- I’m really stoked for this weekend,. Perhaps because the Three Weeks, Nine Days and Tisha B’av are finally over. I can listen to music again. That makes me happy. I’m so easy. Also, I traditionally take off a couple of days in August for some serious family time in Sesame Place – where you can basically get on about three rides over the course of the day because the freaking lines are so damn long.. Good times abound.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Quick Observations

Blogger Jewboy mentioned in the comments to his latest and greatest that he was stayng away from certain mainstream topic because they had been extensively covered on the J-Blogsphere and were thus simply repetitive. With all due respect to Mr. Boy, I think he's kinda missing the boat on this one. The whole purpose of blogging (or at least a main pourpose) is to express your own opinions on a topic that you might find important. Or sometimes, it's simply a coping mechanism for issues taking place around us. That's why Jack, for example, has about 25 Israel related posts since the conflict began, because it's his was of showing support. So I fail to see anything particularly wrong with being repetitive here, it's par for the blogging course.

Speaking of Israel - there is so much happening right now it's become impossible to keep up. Hezbollah is coming out with insane reports of casualties (trumping up deaths of Israeli soldiers, Lebanese civilian deaths, and downplaying Hezbollah terroist deaths), the number of rockets raining down over northern Israel - and now, sadly, creeping more south, the recent raids and 8,000 troops over the border. It's madness. Sources of information are, well, unreliable at best. It's hard enough being glued to this war at work all day, the least they could do is have a place where we can do one-stop shopping for everything.

The Fast of Av begins tonight. Look for an appropriately sad post to follow.