Category Archives: Miscellaneous

World’s Greatest Caucus – 2022

Sunday May 29, 2022
12:00 p.m.
Pike & Pint
Alexandria, MN

Here’s a post that everyone can respond to in order to keep all responses in one place and accessible.

zooomx.2’s offer:

I am going to close to the public on Sunday (29th) and Monday that weekend. The Twins play at 1pm on Sunday. I would be willing to open up at noon for the caucus. My thoughts would be to have one of my cooks put together a little lunch buffet for the group. I would have a bartender on staff. Food is on me, cocktails would be cash bar. Bring the kids. If its nice weather we will hang out on the patio. If it's inclement weather, me hang out in the bar with the 6 TV's. I can break out the cribbage boards and some cornhole boards.

The IT Crowd: Laptop Dance

Several months ago I had plans to do another upgrade project on my laptop. Built in 2010, the Dell Latitude E6410 has been my daily driver for many years now. I had already done the quick and easy upgrades, exchanging the original hard drive for an SSD, swapping out the wireless card for an 802.11ac model, and adding an HD decoder card for flawless video performance. But I wanted more. I did some research and found that you could replace the stock Intel i5 processor with an i7 and thereby increase the RAM capacity from 8GB to 16GB. Since more is better but I also tend to procrastinate a bit, I got the parts and then never got around to doing the project. Until now. There are lots of reasons to like a Latitude - good design, solid builds, and value. Because of their widespread enterprise use you can pick up 3-4 year old off lease models on eBay for a song. But for me the kicker is how easy they are to work on and upgrade. The back cover is held on with a single screw, and once removed you have access to the whole can of worms.

Right there in the middle is the new CPU, an i7 720qm quad core running at 1.6 gigahertz. Over to the left next to the cooling fan compartment is the NVidia video processor, and that is where my project went sideways. When I removed the cooling fan to get access to the CPU, the thermal pad between the GPU and heat sink tore and I had to scrape it off and throw it out. Thermal pads are used to fill gaps between processors and heat sinks so they maintain good contact and provide efficient heat transfer for cooling. When I reassembled the unit I gooped it up with thermal paste, but the gap was too big. I got good heat sink contact with the CPU, but not the GPU, so when I tested it out the GPU temperature was spiking up to 80 degrees Celsius. It got so hot that it affected my keyboard, which started to lag and glitch. No good. So while I consider the project successful, it's not quite finished. I have some thermal pads and copper shims on order that should be here by Monday. In the meantime, I'm working on my daughter's old Lenovo Thinkpad T400 that I resurrected to serve as a backup until my parts arrive and I can complete the Latitude project. After that I'm going to tackle another long overdue project, upgrading the processor and adding an HD decoder card to the old 15.4" Thinkpad T61, the last of the true IBM laptops, which is currently running Linux Mint 19.3 Tricia like a champ.

Thinking About The Good Place

After finishing The Good Place a few days ago, I’ve found that it hasn’t been far from my mind. Obviously the show has some appeal for me, what with all the philosophy talk and such. But I wanted to say a few words, specifically in response to something Nibs said earlier.

Heads up, spoilers may abound. You’ve been warned. Also, this is a bit rambling. Again, you’ve been warned.

Anyway, here’s what Nibs wrote:

I really liked the horror of infinite wish fulfillment as a kind numbing negative thing. I'm not sure that I'm totally sold on their solution to the issue, but it was vastly better than "everything perfect forever" as an ending.

This question – and the whole show really – touches (embraces, encircles, confronts directly) one of the great questions in life: what do we want the afterlife to be?

It’s no secret that I’m a person of faith. I believe in an afterlife. But even if you don’t, I think this question really captures something fascinating about human nature. If you had infinity time, what would heaven be? Can anything infinite even really be called heaven?

The Good Place captured this succinctly, with the happiness zombies in the Good Place, where people were completely numb. Infinite wish fulfillment is, frankly, crap, according to human nature. We crave challenge, growth, improvement, variety, etc. That’s just in our nature. And it is precisely why traditional notions of heaven are so… depressingly boring. Harps and clouds and sitting around with nothing to do. Blech. But even if heaven is infinite wish fulfillment… is that really better? According to The Good Place the answer is clearly “no.”

So what would we want the afterlife to be? It’s actually a topic I’ve spent a long time thinking about, particularly since my sister passed away. Now, I believe in a Heaven and a Hell, and that, in some form or another, what we do on Earth directs what our afterlife might be. But I also don’t super-subscribe to traditional notions of afterlife and that somehow sitting quietly in a church your whole life is what gets you to heaven.

In fact, that notion is part of what helps me think about the afterlife. See, I think life is meant to be lived, not hidden away from. If you want to be a good person, in the truly virtuous sense of the word, that probably means getting out in the world and living life to the fullest. Being a positive influence in people’s lives. Loving. Laughing. Crying. Suffering. There is beauty in struggle. There is something human in pain. If we could just infinitely waive away all unpleasantness, we’d basically be those happiness zombies of the Good Place.

So for me, the test of whether you would get into heaven at all turns less on traditional notions of “good” and more on notions of whether you’ve lived life the fullest in a virtuous way. Did you seize your opportunities to make the world better? Did you push yourself to grow? Did you suffer loss because you had things worth losing?

And I think to some extent, this approach helps address the “problem of infinity.” A person who lives fully is going to be less likely to be bored with the afterlife than a person who just seeks the pleasurable ends. Ultimately, I think the true answer to the problem of infinity is that time doesn’t exist in the afterlife – we’ll all experience it the way Janet does (or maybe as the dot over the ‘i’?) – but I think the notion of an afterlife that fulfills human nature is a heck of a lot more appealing than the traditional notions.

I also think that there is one final smart move that The Good Place made: in having characters walk through that final door, they left the ultimate afterlife as an unknown. Which, of course, it is. But they showed that essence of Eleanor drifting back to Earth and landing on that one guy, who was influenced to bring Michael his mail. That influence itself is a huge part of the afterlife: namely, the way we live on here on Earth, after our lives. We want to have a lasting impact on the people still here (note: the absence of children for all the characters makes perfect sense, but I’d love to see what they’d have done if any of the main 4 had had kids on Earth).

In this regard, too, I think that “living life to the fullest” approach is essential. How many people have impacted your life for the better by sitting quietly and avoiding their own temptations? Probably very few. But how many have impacted your life for the better by either seizing opportunities, living their lives fully, or helping you do the same? And, maybe somewhat depressingly, how many more times could our lives have been better if we’d seized those chances?

Anyway, I’m officially rambling now. But I wanted to get some thoughts down, because they’ve been burning a hole in my head. These are fun questions to think about. And for me the conclusion to be reached – and, the ultimate takeaway from The Good Place – is this:

Life – and the afterlife - is an opportunity to be seized, and Good is in the struggle.

On Mental Illness

Zee German raised a few excellent questions that I thought deserved an entire post.

Do conscientious commentors need to distinguish violent desires from mental illness when we consider the issue? Is it a mental illness, specifically, to be drawn to violence? Or driven to violence? I know you can diagnose anything that deviates sufficiently from the norm as a condition of some sort, but asking from ignorance, is that necessarily the same thing as mental illness?

Before I answer them, though, I think a bit of primer on mental illness is in order. As I already stated, every single one of us experiences mental health symptoms with various levels of frequency and duration, and what makes them diagnosable is whether or not they significantly impact functioning (not whether or not they deviate form the norm). That can be anywhere from impacting your ability to take care of one's physical health, to isolating from friends, to being unable to work or learn new things. That said, here's a very basic outline of the major illnesses that are diagnosed and/or get talked about and some of their symptoms:

  1. Major Depressive Disorder: sad mood, feeling hopeless, worthless, sleep changes, diet changes.
  2. Bipolar Disorder: Depression plus periods of mania, which is elevated mood, decreased need for sleep, high energy, pressured or rapid speech, impulsive behavior. Bradley Cooper's portrayal of this disorder in Silver Linings Playbook is excellent.
  3. Schizophrenia: Restricted range of emotions, or incongruent emotions. Reduction in speech. Paranoid thoughts. Hallucinations. Delusions.
  4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Experiencing a traumatic event plus deficits in functioning directly related to that event. Very simply, could be not being able to sleep or focus, obsessing about the event, having flashbacks (i.e. literally being there again), hypervigilance.
  5. Borderline Personality Disorder: Persistent fear of abandonment that drives most relationships. Often think in extremes or absolutes. Act impulsively.
  6. Antisocial Personality Disorder (nee sociopathy, nee psychopathy): Lacking empathy, frequently deceiving others for personal gain, aggression towards others, lack of remorse

So let's answer the questions:

Is it a mental illness, specifically, to be drawn to violence? Or driven to violence? I know you can diagnose anything that deviates sufficiently from the norm as a condition of some sort, but asking from ignorance, is that necessarily the same thing as mental illness?

There are two ways to answer this.

If we clarify violence as any act that hurts another, then the answer to these questions is categorically no. I enjoy violent video games and movies. I've punched somebody before when a diplomatic solution was smarter. I've also had periods of extreme duress and exhaustion when I wanted to hurt my baby (disclaimer: I haven't, though once I jerked my toddler's arm too hard; still feel guilty). So I've been violent and I've fantasized about being violent. But this hasn't impacted my functioning in daily life nor has it caused me much trouble. So lumping it in with the above mental illnesses wouldn't make any sense.

On the other hand, if we take Zee's questions to be about a specific kind of violence that is premeditated, where the perpetrator takes pleasure and doesn't feel remorse for their violent behavior, then the answer to the question is yes and it's likely such a person could be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.

Do conscientious commentors need to distinguish violent desires from mental illness when we consider the issue?

All of this brings me to my answer to this question, which is a resounding YES.  One of the problems with the discussion of mental illness in this country is that there is a misconception that raising more money for mental illness treatment will prevent this kind of violence. But experience has taught me that it will not. At least not directly.

Disorders like schizophrenia are deeply rooted in genetic luck and people who have it need significant amounts of resources to be successful in the community.  Schizophrenia needs more money.

Depression and PTSD are a combination of genetics and environment (e.g. some people can experience the same trauma and their brains experience it differently) and extra resources can help people who have these disorders be successful in the community.

However, there really is no great treatment for antisocial behavior (though animal therapy has shown some success for those displaying antisocial traits while still young). Most people who lack empathy and remorse don't seek treatment, or if they do it's for something else like anxiety. There's no pill that can create empathy. I work with a guy who is textbook antisocial; he is racist, xenophobic, sexist.  And he wants help with getting money and housing, but has never shown remorse for anything he's done, including sexual assaulting many women. There are resources out there to get him housing. But he's been kicked out of everywhere he's ever been, including all of the shelters, because of his behavior.

So while the DSM-V considers both Carrie Fisher and Jeffrey Dahmer mentally ill, their experiences and needs as humans in society couldn't possibly be more different. Honestly, I wish antisocial behavior wasn't even considered a mental illness. It's the only disorder where being violent towards others is one of the symptoms. And given how many people still believe that those with schizophrenia are prone to violence, I think choosing to use language that makes the distinction clear can only be helpful to those who are unfairly stigmatized every day of their lives.

There is some evidence that antisocial traits have genetic component, and can also be caused by head-trauma or other neurological disorders. Though of all the people I've worked with that have the disorder, they consistently have traumatic childhoods filled with abuse and neglect. Some people who are abused and neglected wind up with no mental illness. Some develop other mental illnesses. And some who may be genetically predisposed to antisocial traits have it nourished by abuse and neglect. While I'm not against research that could possibly identify gene therapy that could help, I would much rather focus on building a society that is inclusive and supportive of all people. Where we understand that nobody is born evil and that everyone deserves compassion, because every action someone takes is trying to fit a need they have in that moment. Because while even in that society we will still need to help people who are sad or are hallucinating or have an exaggerated startle response to sudden noises, I suspect that the need to figure out how to keep people from brutally murdering others will not be a big priority.




Lent for Non-believers

Per, CH's recommendation, here's a stand-alone post for this discussion. It's religion, so please, tread lightly.

Today being Ash Wednesday, and the start of Lent, I find myself with some genuine questions for non-believers. For myself as a Catholic, Lent is a time to grow. By giving things up, I develop more will power. By taking time to reflect on my failings, I find paths to address them. By recognizing and working on my weaknesses, I grow into a stronger person. By going without, I ensure others don't have to. Etc.

For me, this is both recommended by my religion and a point of personal growth. Having a time set aside each year for this type of thing has a lot of appeal to me. It makes sure I'm actually doing the "hard work" of becoming a better person, not just subscribing to a vague notion of self-improvement (not that I mean to imply that for others; I just know myself, and that I tend to not do what I intend to do towards self-improvement a lot of the the time).

So I'm curious what non-religious people do in this regard? Are there specific sacrifices you make? At certain times? Do you set try to focus on this type of thing, or do you go about it differently?

I look forward to learning more, if you're willing to share. Thanks!

Mount Rushmore of MN Sports

Alright, let's do this. Nibs dropped Lindsey Whalen as a suggestion for the MN Sports Mount Rushmore, and I find myself curious what others would come up with.

The rules are simple: you get 4 people (no less, no more). You can only use athletes who played for Minnesota teams (we'll keep out the Sid Hartmans and Bud Grants), but can include non-athletic factors in your decision (Kent Hrbek now advertises for a local company, Alan Page was a MN Supreme Court Justice!). This is not limited to athletes from Minnesota, though I think most people would agree that being from MN probably helps.

I'm gonna kick it off:

Whalen, KG, Dave Winfield, Mauer

(Wow, this was way tougher than I expected.)

How @SouhanStrib could silence his critics

The so-called Greener's Law advises, "Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel." As any old farmhand can tell you, when you pick a fight with chickens, eventually you get egg on your face. (I made this up.)

Star Tribune scribe Jim Souhan recently authored a screed against baseball bloggers, calling them "plagiarists, amateurs, [sic] cowards and professional liars" who don't "have to have the courage and work ethic to show their faces in the clubhouse every 10 years or so." A prudent reminder here to readers that Souhan continues to insinuate that bilateral leg weakness, the diagnosed condition which afflicted Twins star Joe Mauer in 2011, does not exist. Souhan's professional biography does not indicate he holds advanced medical or athletic training degrees.

In his anti-blogger invective, Souhan details the groups of people he believes are and are not trustworthy sources of information about baseball. He includes himself in the former category, along with beat writers and "tethered bloggers," while team broadcasters, "untethered bloggers," and Sid Hartman your grandpa the late Jim Ed Poole are in the latter group. (One wonders where ESPN-era Hunter S. Thompson falls in this taxonomy.) Souhan draws a stark contrast between his fellow Anna Politkovskayas of sports truth and the "local trolls and national know-nothings," who he accuses of being professional chickens:

[T}hey have the opportunity to get credentials and talk to people face to face and defend what they write, especially the many untrue things they write, and they never show up. They are afraid to. They are actual trolls, unwilling to do the work or look people in the eye and justify or defend what they’ve written.

There is a reason they take this approach. Their stuff wouldn’t stand up to the scrutiny of players and team officials. They’re afraid. And they would have to face the traditional journalists they’re trying to push aside so they have a place at the table.


These untethered-from-reality bloggers are trolls, liars, plagiarists and frauds. But mostly, they’re cowards.

Souhan's churlish defense of the unwavering bravery of the beat writer and the noble courage of the newspaper columnist has been echoing in my mind for the last few days. How could anyone doubt the stones of the guy who has to hear from Minnesotans who don't like how he does his job? What better way, I thought, for Souhan to show just how much juice he really has in this town, and just how unfettered by jeopardy to professional relationships his reporting is, than to write a series of columns on subjects that put his courage on display and show bloggers how the pros do it? Remember, this is the guy who claims he is one of "two columnists in town ... who can call up Tom Kelly or Hrbek or Torii Hunter whenever we like[.]"

So, I drafted ten suggestions for Souhan's column requiring the all access pass & intestinal fortitude of a real sports journalist:

  • Souhan should ask his buddy Torii Hunter to go on the record about whether he still thinks Twins like Miguel Sanó, Rod Carew, & Tony Oliva are race "imposters." Has Torii ever apologized to Carew, Oliva, or Sanó for his bigotry?
  • During the Nineties Souhan was a Twins beat reporter for the Star Tribune. Which Twins were steroid users when he was a beat reporter? What do clean teammates think of the PED users in the clubhouse during that time? Why didn't Souhan write about steroids in the organization then?
  • What does Jim Pohlad think about his father Carl's failed attempt to take a payout from Major League Baseball to contract one of the American League's original franchises? What did the family hear from its former stars like Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, & Kent Hrbek? What did Tom Kelly say to the Pohlads?
  • What do Pohlad & St. Peter think the Twins owe the fans financing their taxpayer-funded ballpark after the worst stretch of on-field & front office incompetence during the club's half-century tenure in Minnesota? How high is Pohlad willing to raise the payroll to win the World Series and make good on the promises made to fans about championship-caliber baseball at their new ballpark?
  • How do Jim Pohlad & Dave St. Peter justify the Twins' ongoing corporate partnership with Kwik Trip, a company run by enthusiastic Trump supporters, in light of Trump's policies on immigration and his detestable rhetorical footsie with white supremacists? Does that connection reflect the values of the Minnesota Twins and its leadership group?
  • In light of recent movements to remove statues in public spaces that memorialize figures who professed significant racial prejudice, do the Twins plan to remove the statue of former owner Calvin Griffith, who told an audience that includesd a reporter for Souhan's own paper he moved his club because Minnesota "only had 15,000 blacks here"? Get a response from Pohlad or St. Peter on the record.
  • Interview Bert Blyleven and ask how he feels about the "untethered bloggers" who were the staunchest & most persistent advocates for his election to the Hall of Fame. What does Bert think old-school sportswriters missed in his career, and what can they learn from bloggers like those who supported his candidacy? What has Bert learned in his broadcasting career that has given him new insight on pitching or playing the game?
  • What is the full, real story behind the firing of former head trainer Dick Martin? What does Martin think motivated his dismissal? And why have the Twins, who once had such a good reputation for injury prevention that Martin had an athletic training award named after him, been so plagued by injury problems since Martin left?
  • Next time Souhan passes Derek Falvey & Thad Levine in the hallway, he should ask them which websites they would  recommend to Twins fans who want to learn more about evaluating players, then provide links to & descriptions of their recommendations.
  • Ask Glen Perkins for his on the record comment on Souhan's claims about his conditioning and when he plans to announce his retirement; report his response, word for word.

If Souhan has the cast iron drawers of a seasoned journalist, surely he won't balk at this small list. Since he has Access, why doesn't he show us he's not afraid to use it?