20 Important Life Lessons I've Learned From Baseball

Why is baseball the Great American Game?  Could it be because baseball teaches us so many critical life lessons?
  1. Talent is important, but hard work is even more important
  2. It takes a team
  3. Sportsmanship matters
  4. You have to show up to play
  5. Some people are born to specialize; some people are born to be position players
  6. If you're right 40% of the time, you're a phenom
  7. Rookies may add excitement, but veterans are the foundation of every team
  8. Always make time for a 7th inning stretch
  9. Charge every base, even if you think they're going to throw you out
  10. The greatest achievements in life are years in the making
  11. There's always another game; what matters is how you close out the season
  12. Sometimes the only way to win is to bunt
  13. Don't let them get inside your head
  14. Cover your bases
  15. Statistics are a valuable tool, but sometimes it comes down to heart
  16. Know when to take the at-bat and when to go with a designated hitter
  17. Home runs are great, but more often it's base hits that win game
  18. Everyone plays better when they've got fans cheering for them
  19. Not all calls are going to be fair
  20. If you're going to fail, at least go down swinging


10 Fun Baby Shower Games

Baby showers are sweet but almost always lame.  Here are some game ideas sure to perk things up:

  1. Baby Name Darts.  Pin a variety of baby names on a dartboard.  Throw darts.  For the rest of the party, refer to the baby by the name that was struck by the most darts.
  2. Baby Outburst.  Make a bunch of "top 10" lists having to do with babies (see suggestions below).  Form 2 teams.  One team reads category; other team has to guess as many items on the list as possible in 1 minute.  Alternate turns until all cards used.  Keep score. (This is adapted from the game "Outburst".)  (Potential categories: Top 10 ... boys names, girls names, reasons babies cry, toys, books, baby food varieties, aphorisms for "poop", baby nicknames, items in nursery, items in diaper bag, Disney movies, "firsts", songs with word "baby" in them, nursery rhymes, baby songs, etc.)
  3. Baby Bingo.  You can purchase this game or make your own, using clipart.  Use pink or blue m&ms as placeholders.  Allow guests to eat their placeholders after each round.
  4. Guess Mom's Width.  Hand out pieces of string and scissors.  Each person cuts string to approximate width of mom's stomach.  When done, wrap strings around the mom.  Person who comes closest wins. 
  5. Baby Scattergories.  Identify 10 categories having to do with babies (see "Baby Outburst").  Create card/checklist listing the 10 categories, leaving a line after each category to allow guests to fill in info.  Make duplicates.  Put letters of alphabet in hat.  Mom draws letter.  For each category, guests have to come up with word that starts with that letter.  Person (if small party) or team (if large party) that comes up with most ORIGINAL (not duplicated) answers wins.  You can play as many times as you want - just draw new letter for each round.  (This is adapted from the game "Scattergories".)
  6. Clothespin game.  Issue everyone 3 clothespins.  Every time they use the word "baby", guest who catches them using the word gets one of their clothespins.  Guest with most clothespins at end of shower wins.
  7. Baby Mad Lib.  Create a customized "Mad Lib" for the mom of honor.  Be sure to build in lots of opportunities for humor.  Have guests contribute missing words.  Read finished product aloud.  (I usually create a story in which mom reflects back on her grown child's life - careers, achievements, family, etc.  Lots of potential for humor there!)
  8. Guess the Baby Accessory.  Wrap baby-related items in tissue paper.  (Wrap them loosely but well; use tape!)  Place them in small paper bags.  Number bags.  Give guests paper, pen, and one bag.  Assign someone to act as timer.  Guests have 5 seconds to feel object through tissue paper, without removing from bag.  Then, they write their guess next to the bag's number on paper.  Pass bags clockwise and repeat until everyone has guessed contents of each bag.  Have folks unwrap/reveal objects.  Person with most correct guesses wins.
  9. Baby Predictions.  Purchase large matte for 5" x 7" photo. Write "I predict ..." on top.  Using acid free pen, ask each guest to contribute a prediction about baby or parents.  Predictions can be serious or funny.
  10. Guess the Gerbers.  Pour small samples of a variety of baby food  into small plastic panekins (a.k.a. disposable condiment cups "liberated" from your local fast food restaurant).  Assign each type a number and number cups accordingly (use indelible ink).  Give each guest pencil, paper, and 5 random cups.  Have guests try to guess contents of each cup, recording their guesses next to each cup number.  Person who gets most right wins.  (TIP: Use particularly disgusting flavors, like green beans or squash.  Blends are particularly hard to guess.)


A Thousand Words: In the Beginning ....

I'm pretty sure that if God wrote the Bible we wouldn't be able to read it, because it would be in math.


Book Look - All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren

Have never read a book that felt more like a graduate class. No, make that three graduate classes, for there's enough in here to provide ample curriculum for Ethics in Politics 320, Rhetoric & Logic 420, and at least a full semester of Modern American Literature.

The story is set in the 1930s and is told in first person by Jack Burden, former journalist-turned-aide to Willie Stark, a southern governor in the Huey Long mold: broad, brash, and bold. But now that I've gotten that out of the way you can stop worrying about it, because what this book is really about is Original Sin/corruption/moral compromise. Literally every character in this tale faces some sort of moral/ethical dilemma. A small handful (for instance, the governor's wife Lucy) manage to navigate the morass of existence without falling from grace, but the vast majority slip and fall - some out of a genuine lack of morality (for instance, the assistant governor, Tiny Duffy, a true Tammany Hall villain), but most of them gradually, one ethical compromise yielding inevitably to another, like a Jenga tower from which pieces are systematically removed until the whole thing collapses. I'm not sure whether Penn himself is clear whether this is the result of free will or a manifestation of Original Sin. One of the governor's favorite quotes, repeated often throughout the tale, is that "man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud. There is always something [corrupt in their nature]" - suggesting that at least a part of him comes down on the side of Original Sin. But it's hard not to want to kick many of the (largely unsympathetic) characters in the butt every time they wittingly make choices that are obviously going to lead to catastrophe.

Students of Ethics in Politics will relish the examination of how Governor Stark's noble motives become gradually corrupted by the realities of the political system in which he operates. Originally convinced to run for office by corrupt politicians counting on him to split the "rube" vote so that the state's Political Machine can continue to churn unmolested, Stark eventually turns the tables on his manipulators, but in doing so finds himself resorting to increasingly unethical methods (threats, blackmail) in order to achieve his largely unselfish and well-meaning ends. Which begs the question that seems to arise every time someone like Huey Long - or, more recently, DC Councilman Marion Berry - ends up on trial for corruption, even as thousands of deservedly grateful, devoted constituents picket the courthouse steps: can even the noblest of intentions ever justify ethically questionable means?

Meanwhile, students of rhetoric and logic will be kept busy by chapter upon chapter of cascading syllogisms employed in order to justify all sorts of questionable ends. No topic seems too vast or intimidating to escape Penn's scrutiny, from life, death, and fate, to the nature of good, evil, and God. The narrator, Jack Burton, uses these syllogisms as justification for a series of increasingly dubious acts; what's less clear is whether he is self-aware enough to realize the extent to which his syllogisms are laced with sly and intricate fallacies, enough to keep a class of grad students huddled over pints of ale for months, hashing them all out.

And, lest students of Modern American Lit feel left out, there's plenty left for them in examining the parallelism between ancient Greek tragedy and Stark's gradual fall from grace (substitute Judge Irwin's fall from grace, or Adam Stanton's fall from grade, or Jack Burden's fall from grace, if you prefer), culminating in a series of climaxes as horrific as they are undoubtedly hubristic. Even the names of the characters in the story - Jack Burden, Tiny Duffy, Willie Stark - are loaded with symbolic and metaphoric relevance. No - English lit students needn't feel slighted; there is more than enough here to keep them churning out papers until final exams week.

In other words, this book is stuffed full of juicy, complex content - which makes it a capital book for studying, but perhaps doesn't much contribute to creating a diverting or entertaining reading experience. The characters aren't particularly likeable, the plot is largely introspective rather than event-driven, and - believe me - I'm not spoiling anything by letting it slip that no one lives happily ever after, which can make portions of this tough slogging. Guess I'm saying that while there's plenty of meat here, definitely requires an investment in energy, attention and cognition on the part of the reader in order to appropriately digest it.