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Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for December 2011

2011: My Year in Review (the Good, the Bad, and the Incredibly Sad)

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Everyone’s doing a “2011 Year in Review” column; at some places, like Shiny Book Review, this makes more sense (there, we did a “best of 2011” piece; check it out here).  So I thought I’d do one, too, incorporating most of what went on that’s fit to print that made any sort of impact on my life whatsoever.

Note that as Shiny Book Review has already been covered, I’m not going to say much about it here; I enjoyed posting reviews in 2011, and I will continue to do the same in 2012.

As far as fiction writing goes, I estimate that I wrote about 150,000 words on various projects.  I completed a new chapter and a half of CHANGING FACES; this will be finished in 2012.  I wrote a new chapter and revised five chapters of KEISHA’S VOW, an ELFY prequel set in 1954.  I wrote a new chapter and a half and revised six chapters of AN ELFY ABROAD, the direct sequel to ELFY.  I did my best to find an agent, but found no takers.

As far as editing goes, I was pleased to edit six different books — one on conventions and careers, four medical books (including one anthology), and one science fiction novel.  More editing is planned for the New Year.

Now, let’s get to the month-by-month breakdown of other events.

January 2011: 

New Republican Governor Scott Walker takes office, turns down federal railroad funds (following through on his election promise to do so), vows to work with everyone, etc.  (Too bad that last was all talk.)

“Joey Maverick: On Westmount Station” published at e-Quill Publishing (with Michael B. Caffrey).  This is the first piece of writing in Michael’s universe sold in over five years; I wrote over half of this story, but it continues to go under Michael’s name as an editorial decision by e-Quill’s publisher as it’s a continuing series.  (I’m sure Michael wouldn’t have approved, but there’s nothing to be done.  My name is on it as the secondary writer and there’s a permanent link to this story on this blog’s sidebar.)

Green Bay Packers blow through post-season, winning the National Football Conference championship.  Will represent NFC in the Super Bowl.

January 8:  United States Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) shot in the head by crazed gunman; she miraculously survives and recovers.  Several staff-members and innocent bystanders killed, including U.S. District Judge John Roll.  Gunman in police custody.

February 2011: 

February 6:  Packers win Super Bowl XLV. 

February 11:   Scott Walker vows to eliminate collective bargaining for all public employee unions (including teachers, nurses, and snowplow drivers, among others) except for fire and police personnel.  A firestorm of protest follows; the fourteen Democratic state Senators (“Wisconsin 14”) flee the state in order to deny the Legislature a quorum to keep the Republican-dominated Senate from passing a companion bill to the quickly-passed bill from the Republican-dominated Assembly.  The “WI 14” state their reason for doing this as the only way to educate the public as to what this bill will do to the state; more protests ensue.

March 2011: 

Gov. Walker and his allies, including Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon, brother of Scott F.), take to the airwaves urging the WI 14 to return to Wisconsin so Senate Bill 10 (eliminating collective bargaining for all public employee unions, even though the teachers, nurses, etc., have all vowed publicly to take paycuts and give back vacation days and pay more for their health and life insurance providing collective bargaining is left in place) can be passed.

March 9:  Senate strips all financial provisions out of the bill, allowing it to be passed without a quorum.  Only Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) opposes this bill, saying it goes too far; the Senate passes this motion 18-1.

March 12:  WI 14 returns to state to loud acclaim from most; some vow to recall their sitting state Senators from both parties.

April 2011: 

Milwaukee Brewers start their season.

Vinny Rottino starts season with New Orleans Zephyrs of the Pacific Coast League (affiliated with the Florida Marlins, prior to the Marlins’ name change).

JoAnne Kloppenburg loses state Supreme Court race to incumbent David Prosser by less than 1/2 of 1% of the vote.  Recount commences.

April 21:  Recall petitions filed for nine Senators, six Republicans and three Democrats.  Elections scheduled for three different days; the first is held in mid-July.

May 2011:

Rottino has a fantastic month for the Zephyrs. 

Brewers are still rounding into form. 

Looking forward to recall elections. 

Receive praise but no sales for three separate pieces of writing.

May 1:  Osama bin Laden killed, at long last.

May 23: Recount confirms David Prosser as winner of state Supreme Court seat.  JoAnne Kloppenburg decides not to sue; eventually seeks seat on state’s Appellate Court.

June 2011:

Observe my ninth wedding anniversary, the seventh spent alone since Michael’s untimely death in 2004.

Waiting avidly for recall elections.

July 2011: 

Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Rickie Weeks elected to represent the Brewers at the All-Star Game.  Braun is on the disabled list; does not play.  Minor controversy ensues as closer John Axford, having an excellent season, is not named to the All-Star team, nor is Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo.

Observe my late husband’s birthday even though, were he alive, he’d have taken no notice of the event.  (Michael counted unBirthdays instead, as there were a whole lot more of them, thus more to celebrate.)

Vinny Rottino makes the AAA All-Star team for the first time since 2008.

July 19: Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) is easily retained in his recall election.

July 31: Debt-ceiling crisis legislation is signed by President Obama.  Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) claims victory.  Most people unimpressed; Congress’s approval rating falls to new lows, and the President’s approval rating takes a hit, too.

August 2011:

Observe my birthday, though my best friend Jeff is many states away and my husband is long dead, so I wonder what the point is.

August 9: Two Republican state Senators, Dan Kapanke (La Crosse) and Randy Hopper (Fond du Lac) are ousted in recall elections.  Another four Republican state Senators, Alberta Darling (River Hills), Robert Cowles (Green Bay), Sheila Harsdorf (River Falls) and Luther Olsen (Ripon) are retained.

August 16:  Both Democratic Senators up for recall, Bob Wirch of Kenosha and Jim Holperin of Conover, are easily retained.  Status of nine recalls:  Two Rs lost their seats, while four Rs were retained.  All three Ds were retained.  Wisconsin state Senate stands at 17 Rs and 16 Ds.

September 2011: 

Vinny Rottino’s fine AAA season is rewarded by a September call-up from the Florida Marlins.  He plays in several games, mostly as a pinch hitter or in the outfield.  Gets a few hits.

Occupy Wall Street (soon to be Occupy Everywhere) movement starts.

Tenth anniversary of 9/11/01. 

Observed the seventh anniversary of Michael’s last day of life on 9/21/11. 

Late September: Jeff falls ill but does not go to the doctor. 

September 28: Milwaukee Brewers win first National League Central division title in history, make post-season play for first time since 2008.  Hopes are high.  John Axford sets single-season saves record with 46 and most saves successfully converted in a row with 42.

October 2011:

October 7:  Brewers win first post-season series against Arizona Diamondbacks (3-2).

mid-October:  Jeff is taken to the hospital and is quickly transferred to the best specialty hospital in Northern Colorado.  Bacterial endocarditis is the diagnosis.  I don’t find out about it until he’s been in the hospital seven days (fortunately he told a good friend there how to get a hold of me).  He nearly dies on the table due to open-heart surgery, something I don’t find out until nearly two days afterward.  He’s unable to talk for nearly two weeks and is mostly unresponsive to stimuli.  Death seems near.

October 16:  Brewers lose National League Championship series to eventual World Series champs St. Louis Cardinals; I’m more obsessed with Jeff’s condition and say so.

October 20:  Moammar Qaddafi, dictator of Libya, killed.  This, too, barely registers.

November 2011:

Jeff slowly starts to get better, regaining his powers of speech and mobility.  Cannot read well, which vexes him as a longtime, avid reader — and cannot write or create, which vexes him as a writer.  He improves so much he’s transferred to a long-term rehabiliation place (I talk with him every night he’s able, which basically is every single night).

However, Jeff only lives for four days after he’s transferred to rehab; in our last conversation on November 11, he tells me he’s exhausted and wondering when he’s going to get better, though he’s mostly upbeat.  Inwardly, I cheer that he has enough energy to mildly complain; I look forward to our next phone call, which was to be on November 12 at 7:45 p.m MST.

November 12:  At 7 p.m. MST, Jeff has a massive stroke and is taken back to the specialty hospital.  I don’t find out about this until November 13; all I know at the time is that Jeff hasn’t answered his phone, and I’m not able to get anyone at the rehab place to find out why.

November 13:  Get call from Jeff’s brother, Randy; Jeff is dead.  The stroke killed him.  His parents were with him when he died. 

None of this comforts me at all, as I’d been hoping somehow to get out to him to visit and cheer him up. 

His death, which a few weeks ago had seemed imminent, now seems like an extremely bad joke made by an unloving, uncaring Deity; Jeff had worked so hard to regain his speech and mobility, and could reason and think.  His personality and most of his memories were intact.  He deserved a lot more time, to fully recover, and for him and I to be able to see each other, bare minimum.  To say that I find this monstrously unfair is a severe understatement.

November 15:  Wrote a poem for Jeff, in memoriam.  I hope he’d have enjoyed it (poem is below).

November 21:  Jeff would’ve turned 48 today, had he lived.  Instead, his memorial service is called in Fort Collins, Colorado, and I’m unable to go due to financial considerations (I will regret this to the end of my life, and probably afterward). 

I start to slowly come to terms with the fact that the best friend I’ve ever had, save only my late husband Michael, is dead.  (Jeff was my staunchest supporter as a writer and poet who gave well-thought out, helpful criticism.)  I find out that Jeff was writing a novel, which he’d never shown me (though he had shown me six in-progress short stories, various pieces of non-fiction, and other writing, all of it excellent), at the time of his passing.  Now, none of his writing will ever be completed.

I reflect upon Jeff’s compassion, which was probably his strongest and best quality besides his high intelligence and creativity.  I reflect upon the fact that six years ago, I had no idea our friendship would grow to the point that he was my acknowledged best friend . . . who knows where it would’ve gone, had he lived?  (Now, I will never know, and that’s a sadness I can’t even begin to express, were I to write from now until the end of time.)  I’m grateful for the time I had with him, but I really wish there had been more of it because if anyone deserved more, it was Jeff.

I wonder, again, what the point is, when I can’t even get to see my best friend before he dies, then can’t get to his funeral, either, when I dearly wanted to do both things.  (Financial considerations be damned.)

Other stuff:

November 15:  Recall petitions to oust Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Kleefisch, and Racine’s state Senator Van Wanggaard (all Rs) are filed.  I’d been looking forward to this for months, but due to Jeff’s death, it barely registers.  Did sign the recall forms and get a few signatures, as Jeff was very strongly in favor of all of these people being recalled (we talked of this on November 11, and he’s the one who brought it up — as I said, his mind was intact and it was sharp); I tell myself that he’d be happy I was doing something I’d looked forward to, and try to be content with that even though I know I’ll never hear his voice again.

Ryan Braun wins NL Most Valuable Player award.  Prince Fielder departs in free agency (is currently unsigned).

Vinny Rottino signs a minor league free-agent contract with the New York Mets; he will be invited to Spring Training.

December 2011: 

December 13:  Play first concert in thirteen years as a member of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Community Band; I play a lengthy, extended solo in Valerie Coleman’s composition, “Roma.”   My sister is in the audience, and says I haven’t lost a thing.  (I like to think that both Michael and Jeff were listening, too, from wherever they are in the positive afterlife.  I hope they were pleased.)

mid-December:  Ryan Braun accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs; he appeals this decision and proclaims his innocence.  (For the record, I believe him.)

December 17:  North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il dies.

Just before Christmas:  Federal government plunges into yet another crisis when House of Representatives initially refuses to extend the payroll tax cut.  Speaker Boehner adamantly defends his party, which includes many hard-right Rs self-identifying as “Tea Party” members, but is eventually talked around due to public statements made by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), former George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove, and a strongly-worded Wall Street Journal editorial advising him to just give in already.  Congress adjourns and goes home for the holidays.

Winter holidays commence; once again, I wonder what the point is.  The present I’d bought for my friend Jeff gathers dust as I can’t bear to put it away, nor can I part with it; the musical composition I’m working on to commemorate Jeff’s life and death is, at best, half-finished at 64 bars.   I’m told by a couple of poets I respect that my poem for Jeff won’t stand alone, thus has no chance of independent publication — which is why it’s here, so you all can read it and think about it, instead.

Note that this is a very formal way of writing, which is quite different from my usual, free-form style.  I wanted to impose some sort of structure on my shock, which is why I came up with this particular poem.  And while I believe this is among the most important pieces of writing I’ve ever created, it’s something I profoundly wish I’d not have had to do — much less this soon.

Here goes . . . but before I forget, Happy New Year, everyone.

*********** POETRY SEPARATOR ***********

“A Poem for Jeff Wilson — in Memoriam”

by Barb Caffrey

 

One who seeks is

one who asks

the questions that

no one else dares.

 

One who seeks is

one who finds

the answers, which are

unknowable.

 

One who waits is

one who looks

for love, creeping

in unawares . . . .

 

One who waits is

one who hopes

for light, which breaks

the dark forever.

 

One who waits is

one who seeks

out answers, or

merely himself.

——– written November 15, 2011

Powerball Execs Stupidly Raise Price to $2 per Line — Hello, Bad Economy, Anyone?

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Remember how I said a few days ago that I was having trouble coming up with meaningful blog subjects?

Well, forget that, because today’s blog subject is so easy I’m surprised no one else has taken a whack at it.

Put succinctly: who came up with the idea that Powerball should cost $2 per line rather than $1 in this terrible economy?  And why hasn’t that person been fired by now due to this atrocious idea, rather than Powerball being about to institute their new $2-per-line “fee schedule” on January 15, 2012?

As of that date, Powerball will raise its opening jackpot to $40 million (meaning you can never win less than this if you take the multi-year option prize) and will guarantee that you’ll win $1,000,000 if you match five of five numbers (rather than the current $200,000).  And they’re touting that the “overall odds” to win a prize will be better — I don’t see it, but whatever — which must be the reasoning they used.

But that is not enough to justify raising the price from $1 to $2 per line, especially as the popular “multiplier” feature is not included — it’s still separate.  So if you want to “multiply” your prize, you’ll now have to pay $3 per line rather than $2.  While this isn’t as big a jump — because the multiplier feature has remained the same at $1 per line — this is still a jump and most people won’t bother.

Now, as to the reality of why people play Powerball and other lottery games of chance?  It’s because we all want to hope for better, and Powerball plays off that in its advertising.  The typical Powerball ad says, “With one dollar, you can buy a ticket — and a dream.”  And that’s pretty much what you’re buying with regards to Powerball, as the overall odds aren’t that great (view current odds here).

Anyone with half a brain knows that playing the lottery is a fool’s game.  You’re better off, really, to bury your dollar in the backyard than you are to play the lottery, yet many people — including myself — do play the lottery mostly because they want to dream about something better.  And hey, there’s lots of ways to waste a dollar — so why not?

But when you’re talking about putting $2 down for each ticket rather than only $1, things change.  Suddenly, you’re having to pay double the amount of money and that doesn’t seem reasonable — especially as the economy remains awful in many parts of the country, including my own Wisconsin.

Which is why this is such a stupid idea that I really don’t understand why anyone would want to roll this out just past the New Year, especially considering how many people are struggling just to pay for the basics, much less optional luxuries like a lottery ticket.

Here’s what’s likely to happen with regards to Powerball as of 1/15/2012; sales will plummet.  Those who have a dollar and a dream will play MegaMillions instead (which draws on Tuesdays and Fridays in many states and has kept its price, sensibly, at $1 per line), or will play their own state’s lottery, or will maybe just save it and bury it in the backyard.

And the reason Powerball sales will plummet is this: the economy is bad.  It is brutal.  And in the Midwest, where money is at a premium, lottery sales have already gone down — so why do the Powerball execs want to make it even worse?

So if I can see this new “fee schedule” as a non-starter as a regular lottery player who’s spent more than her share of cash on the Powerball over the years, why can’t the Powerball execs?

Oh, yeah.  They must not have been hit by the horrible economy, so they actually think there’s enough money out there to do something like this.

I have news for you, Powerball execs: think again.  Or watch your business go south.  Way south.

Just Reviewed J.M. Frey’s TRIPTYCH at SBR

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Folks, if you want to read one of the very best books of 2011, look no further.

Go read my review of J.M. Frey’s TRIPTYCH, which is an outstanding novel of love, sexual politics, aliens, tolerance, and xenophobia — among many other sterling qualities.  This reads like something that could actually happen, and is a sensible, logical exploration of our current world as seen by the ultimate outsider (as well as by two insiders).

(Seriously, what are you waiting for?)

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/triptych-by-j-m-frey-among-best-books-of-2011/

Enjoy!

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 30, 2011 at 12:07 am

In Praise of Dogs and Cats (Friends, all)

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As we’re in the winter doldrums now — caught between two holidays, where everything seems both surreal and pointless — it’s grown harder for me to come up with blog subjects that have some meaning.  And thus, might strike a chord with someone else.

But there’s one thing I am always grateful for, and that’s the companionship of my Mom’s three dogs.  They’re my friends; they have personalities all their own.  Even though they have the typical dog faults — they love food to distraction and will gladly eat themselves sick over and over again, for just one — and they’re not “shining beacons of light,” it’s still a joy to be around them.  They enjoy life for what it is: they get fed, they’re warm and out of the cold, they get affection and told they’re loved quite frequently.  And they are content.

Lest you think I only feel like this about dogs, think again.  Cats, too, are very special creatures.  They definitely have personalities, in some ways stronger ones than many dogs.  Their reasoning can be easier to follow by human beings — or at least, by me — and while cats can be aloof, if they like you, they let you know it.  And they, too, are a joy to be around because they know what’s important: companionship and caring.  Anything else just doesn’t register for cats, being profoundly irrelevant to their lives.

I keep thinking what are the most important qualities in a friend, and I think “companionship and caring” about sums it up.  This is why pets are so important to many human beings, because it gets harder every day to reach out and keep trying to make a connection with another living soul.

I know that in the strongest human friendships, these same two things — companionship, and caring — are what count the most.  Then comes communication — something you don’t need to worry about as much with a cat or dog, as they read nonverbal clues far better than most humans — and shared experiences, among many other things that go into making up a strong friendship with a human being.

Friends are vitally important.  In the end, it doesn’t matter so much what kind of friends we have, though it’s much easier for human beings to have a human friend or two as that’s really the best way we have to be fully understood, as a companion animal, no matter how wonderful it might be, cannot reason on a human level.  (Nor should it be asked to do so.)

So at this time of year, where it’s cold and dark and dreary over the Northern Hemisphere, do your best to celebrate your friends, near and far.  If they’re still alive, tell ’em you appreciate them; if they’re dead, celebrate their lives as best you’re able.  And please do remember to pet your cat or dog a few extra times, too.  They’ll appreciate it, and it might actually help you out, too.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 28, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Posted in friendship, Writing

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Just Reviewed Sabrina Jeffries’ “How to Woo a Reluctant Lady” at SBR

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Folks, if you enjoy quick, light romances with some snappy dialogue, you’ll enjoy Sabrina Jeffries’ historical romance HOW TO WOO A RELUCTANT LADY as much as I did.  But you might still like to take a gander at my review anyway . . . just to be sure.

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2011/12/24/sabrina-jeffries-how-to-woo-a-reluctant-lady-is-a-fun-quick-read/

Enjoy!

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 24, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Posted in Book reviews

This Xmas Season, Give Thanks for the Persistence of Racine’s Pro Athletes

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Folks, as it’s the Christmas/Yuletide season, and most people write columns and blogs giving thanks for something going on, I thought I’d do something unusual — give thanks for my fellow Racinians who are professional athletes.

First, there’s Vinny Rottino, a professional baseball player who’s now with the New York Mets organization.  Rottino has been trying for years to break in as a major league baseball player; he has a positive attitude, a very strong work ethic, plays nearly every position imaginable and is a very smart player who makes few mistakes (the few he does make, he corrects ASAP).  Rottino is still in there fighting, for which I applaud him.

Next, there’s John Clay, who is a professional football player in the National Football League for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Clay was recently activated off the Steelers’ practice squad, and ran for ten yards and a TD today on one carry in the Steelers impressive 27-0 win over the St. Louis Rams (meaning as of right now, his official NFL stats read ten yards per carry: impressive!).  Clay was an undrafted rookie who’s worked hard all year to learn the Steelers’ complicated playbook and get better as a running back; he, too, has shown persistence and a strong work ethic.

Next, there’s Chris Maragos, who is a pro football player in the NFL for the Seattle Seahawks.  Maragos is a safety, a second-year player who went undrafted and yet played for the San Francisco 49ers last year (mostly on the practice squad) and is with the Seattle Seahawks this year.  Maragos started with the Seahawks on the practice squad, but was promoted to the regular 53-man roster soon afterward and has played in eleven games with the Seahawks.  Apparently they like what they see, as Maragos continues to play . . . this is yet another example of a Racine, WI, athlete refusing to give up on himself, for which I applaud him.

There’s another Racine, WI, athlete I haven’t yet mentioned: Jason Jaramillo, who last played for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization last year, and has some professional experience at the major league level (just like Rottino in that, though Jaramillo has played a bit more).    Jaramillo is currently an unsigned free agent, as the Pirates cut him loose; he’s twenty-nine currently and will be thirty next year, but as Rottino (who will turn thirty-two in 2012) has shown, age is irrelevant if your work ethic and belief in yourself is strong enough.

My hope for Jaramillo is that he’ll continue to believe in himself, whatever he ends up doing next; he’s a good player, a strong defensive catcher, and he will help a major league ball club if someone will just give him a chance.

At any rate, we Wisconsinites should give thanks that we have these particular four examples from Racine — people who haven’t had an easy road to the major league(s) in their respective sport, yet have continued to persevere and maximize their chances to make a difference.

See, life is about risk, and these men all are taking the risk of daring to fail.  Because if you don’t risk failure, you cannot succeed — as Winston Churchill’s famous quote says, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”  I believe that quote should be memorized by everyone, because we all need something to believe in when things look the most bleak.

But whether or not these four Racine athletes know about that quote or not, they’re already winners.  Even if their careers end tomorrow, they’ve refused to give up on themselves and their talents.  And for that, I am glad to give thanks — because we all need examples of how important persistence is no matter how long it takes, and these are some of mine.

———

** Update: Note that I used stats from BaseballReference.com and the “alternate” stats don’t show up well for Jaramillo or Rottino.  This, partly, is due to the fact that neither one of them has had an extended period of time in the major league level — they’ve never played day after day, month after month.  Instead, they’ve both been fill-in players, or have been brought to the majors after an impressive minor league season and have played sparingly, at best.

Don’t let this fool you.  You need to look at the minor league stats, too (which is why I’ve included them in this updated version), before you figure out what either one of them can do.  What I’ve said about Rottino and Jaramillo is the flat truth; they can play, and if either or both are given a chance, they will do very well.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 24, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Ryan Braun Knows the One, Confirmed Minor-Leaguer Who Successfully Fought 50 Game Ban

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Have any of you heard of Brendan Katin?

I hadn’t, at least not for years; he was a prospect in the Milwaukee Brewers minor league system.  But Brendan Katin is the one and only person that anyone is aware of who’s actually successfully appealed a 50-game suspension — that is, he cleared his name after he’d falsely tested positive for an elevated level of testosterone.

Well, Ryan Braun knows Katin, something Katin confirms in this article from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel by Todd Rosiak on December 19, 2011.   Here’s what Katin had to say about his own ordeal:

“We were playing the Smokies in Tennessee this one morning and I wake up to a call from our employee assistance program guy,” Katin recounted in a recent phone interview.

“He just asked me, ‘Is there any reason why you would have tested positive for steroids?’ I answered, ‘Absolutely not. I have absolutely no idea.’ Then he said, ‘Well, you did, and they’re going to suspend you for 50 games.’ ”

Katin wasted no time in contacting his agent and filing an appeal. But from everything he knew, it would be an exercise in futility. A suspension seemed inevitable.

“They’d tell you every time in those meetings in spring training that nobody’s ever won an appeal,” Katin said.

At this point, Rosiak states what little is known about the Ryan Braun situation — something I blogged about here a few weeks ago — and the parallels are eerily similar.

Katin goes on to say this:

Katin, to this day, is believed to be the only player at any level in professional baseball to have won such an appeal. In the major leagues, 12 players on 40-man rosters have taken their cases to arbitration, and all 12 have lost.

Katin was allowed to play as the process dragged on for about two months, but he struggled mightily as he tried to figure out what might have triggered the positive test and what he’d do if the suspension was upheld.

“It was the worst start I had gotten off to in my career. I was hitting .200, if not sub-.200,” he said. “How could I have taken anything that possibly could have caused this? I couldn’t think of anything. At that point in my career, I didn’t even drink protein shakes or anything. Absolutely nothing.”

Katin finally learned he was cleared when he was handed a letter by Huntsville’s trainer as he boarded the bus in Chattanooga, Tenn., for a game. He’d beaten the odds, but the process had taken its toll.

“Pretty much you wake up every day and you tell yourself, ‘I could be suspended tomorrow for 50 games,’ “he said. “I knew that I did nothing wrong, but you’ve got to know that there’s still that chance.”

Katin also said that it was quite difficult for him to deal with the fact that to most, he was guilty until proven innocent — and as Rosiak’s article shows, Katin also suffered greatly in the short-term from the mere perception that he was a cheater.

Aside from that, Katin had only kind words for Braun:

“Completely shocked,” Katin said when asked of his reaction to the news that his friend and former teammate had reportedly tested positive. “He’s as clean-cut a guy as it gets and as classy a guy as it gets.”

In other words, Braun’s test could be a false positive of the sort Katin had happen to him; just because it hadn’t yet happened as far as anyone’s aware in the majors yet, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.  Tests are handled by humans, thus are inherently flawed, and it is possible that a completely innocent man could be caught in the cross-hairs, just like Katin was back in 2007.

My view remains that Braun is innocent until and unless he is proven guilty, not the reverse — and that I fully expect that Braun will be exonerated.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 22, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Politics, US and Wisconsin-style — A Big, Fat Mess

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Tonight’s post is about what’s been going on in politics — but as time is of a premium, let me sum it up for you in four words: a big, fat mess.

Look at the national political scene, for example.  Yesterday Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) said that the House “would not pass” the two-month extension to the payroll tax holiday (something that saves the average worker $40 per paycheck, as was Tweeted ad nauseum with the hash-tag #40bucks).  Boehner stood firm after this Wall Street Journal staff editorial saying the deal was a no-brainer; as the editorial said:

GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest.

The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play.

Republicans have also achieved the small miracle of letting Mr. Obama position himself as an election-year tax cutter, although he’s spent most of his Presidency promoting tax increases and he would hit the economy with one of the largest tax increases ever in 2013. This should be impossible.

As the editorial goes on to state, the House had voted to kill the payroll tax “holiday” on Tuesday — the exact, same bill that the Senate had passed on a bipartisan basis with an 89-10 vote — by a 229-193 highly partisan vote (meaning the Rs were mostly against; the Dems were largely for it).  Speaker Boehner was standing firm, so he said, because he felt the Democrats hadn’t negotiated in good faith, but the Republican leadership (at least, anyone who isn’t currently sitting in the United States House of Representatives) en masse told Boehner he was wrong.

For example, here’s what George W. Bush’s main advisor, Karl Rove, had to say last evening (via this TalkingPointsMemo article, which quotes Rove from an appearance on the Fox News Channel yesterday — that is, Wednesday, December 21, 2011):

“I think the Wall Street journal editorial today hit it on the nail,” Rove said Wednesday on Fox News.

So today, Thursday, December 22, 2011, Speaker Boehner had to give in.  He did so as graciously as he possibly could, but facts are facts; Boehner got his hat handed to him, and he’s likely to end up resigning as Speaker soon because he’s totally lost control of his caucus.  And in so doing, he’s hurt his party, he’s hurt his party’s chances for winning the 2012 elections (from the Presidency on down), and he’s definitely hurt himself; these things are what tends to make a current Speaker a former Speaker, in short order, one way or another — and it’s far easier to resign than to be removed in disgrace.  (And if you resign, you get the lovely “perks” that come with being a former Speaker — I’m not sure if you do if you are replaced, though it’s likely you still would.  But it would still look better for Boehner if he just got out ASAP, and it probably would be a great deal better for his physical health.  He truly did not look well today in his press conference.)

Tomorrow, the House will meet and attempt to pass the two-month extension of the payroll tax “holiday” by unanimous acclamation.  If that doesn’t happen, I haven’t a clue what will happen next.

But I do know that the American public doesn’t like stalemates like this when political theatre threatens to interfere with real people’s lives, and they tend to hold the party who instigated such a thing responsible.  In 2009, the Dems had several highly partisan fights, mostly over health care, and in 2010, they paid for it at the ballot box; now, it’s 2011, and the Rs have had several highly partisan fights, mostly over the payroll tax and the debt ceiling issues . . . my guess is that unless they get their collective house in order, fast, they, too, are likely to pay for it at the ballot box.

Now to Wisconsin’s recent political news.  We continue the fight to recall our Governor, Scott Walker (R), our Lieutenant Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch (R), and four state Senators, including my very own Van Wanggaard (R-Racine).   It was reported about a week ago that there are nearly enough signatures to recall Scott Walker, as 507,000 valid signatures (by real Wisconsin voters, no signatures of “Mickey Mouse” or “Adolf Hitler” as has been alleged by some Republican leaders, including state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), himself a target of a well-funded recall election).  

Note that 507,000 valid signatures have been gathered in one month; those of us working on the recall effort (including me) have another full month left in which to get signatures.  And the efforts to recall Kleefisch, Wanggaard, and Fitzgerald (among others) continue unabated; it looks good that all six Republicans targeted for recall will indeed have to face the voters in 2012 for this option: will they be retained, or will they instead be replaced?

Tempers remain high in Wisconsin.  We’re frustrated by a weak economy, months of negative job “growth” (in other words, we have big, big job losses here and little actual growth going on), five or six people going for every one job, and more.  Then, we have a Governor who’d rather cause trouble than govern — which is why he’s going to be recalled and replaced — we have Senators who didn’t have the sense they were born with (including my own, Van Wanggaard), and voted for something they should’ve stayed far, far away from (the whole vote on Senate Bill 10 — that is, when they voted to repeal collective bargaining for most public employees, which has caused all sorts of trouble in the state, economically and otherwise).  And we have a Lieutenant Governor in Kleefisch who is either too weak to affect policy in any way so she has to parrot whatever Scott Walker tells her to say, or really, honestly believes what she’s saying — and I’m not sure which is worse.

Look.  I have friends of all political stripes and I am in agreement with some of my R friends in other states when they say spending is out of control and the government should make absolutely certain every nickel is spent wisely and well.  But I am against nonsensical stuff like what Walker, Kleefisch, Fitzgerald and his brother, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (also an R), my Senator, Van Wanggaard, etc., have said and done because there was no reason for it except to do one thing: bust unions, and make it harder to get Walker, et. al., on out of there.

But I have news; we will oust Scott Walker.  We will oust Rebecca Kleefisch.  We will oust Senators Fitzgerald and Wanggaard, all by our quite legal recall method — by getting 1/4 of the total voters in the last, highly-charged election.  We must oust these people in order to restore some sense of fairness and bipartisanship to Wisconsin.  

Wisconsin is not a red state, nor is it a blue state; instead, it is a truly purple state.  That’s why what the radical Rs, led by Scott Walker, have done here is so blatantly offensive to the vast majority of Wisconsinites I’ve talked with — including many, many Rs and Indys — and it’s why I fully expect to see Scott Walker and Van Wanggaard, among others, hitting the unemployment line ASAP.

Just Reviewed Lackey/Edghill’s “Legacies” and “Conspiracies” at SBR

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Folks, if you love urban fantasy as much as I do, you really need to grab hold of these novels and don’t let ’em go until you’ve read ’em.

Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill have created a magical academy out in the middle of Montana called Oakhurst that’s both familiar and terrifying.  They get all the “teen stuff” right — the “teen speak,” all the emphasis on technology, wanting to eat junk food (and hating healthy food, for the most part), “teen angst,” etc. — and they also manage to get in there a great many hints at mysteries that go back to the Morte d’Arthur . . . really nice work, and I enjoyed both Legacies (book one) and Conspiracies (book two) immensely.

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/sbr-2-for-1-special-lackey-and-edghills-shadow-grail-series-off-to-a-rousing-start/

So go read my review already, then go grab the books!

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 22, 2011 at 12:17 am

The Topsy-Turvy, Upside-Down NFL: Packers lose, Colts win, and Tebow becomes a “mere mortal”

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Today’s slate of National Football League games held high drama, stunning reversals, and at least one game that featured the comeuppance of a highly-touted player, Tim Tebow.

First, the local news: the Green Bay Packers’ bid to go undefeated this season is over.  They lost, 19-14, to the Kansas City Chiefs; the Chiefs played a very strong, ball-control offense and didn’t give up any offensive turnovers.  Aaron Rodgers, who’s had an outstanding season thus far, had a rather pedestrian game with 235 yards passing, was sacked four times, and even threw one INT (though to be fair, many of his receivers, including TE Jermichael Finley, dropped many well-thrown balls, which is partly why Rodgers’ stat line read 17-35); in fact, NFL retread Kyle Orton, who’s the Chiefs newest QB, had a far better game with 299 yards passing on 23-31 attempts, with no sacks and no INTs.

Read more about the Packers-Chiefs game here; the Packers new record is 13-1, while the Chiefs are at 6-8.

Now, as for the good surprise of the day — the Indianapolis Colts have finally won their first game, trouncing the Tennessee Titans 27-13.  Colts starting QB Dan Orlovsky has finally won a game (in his previous seven years in the NFL, Orlovsky was 0-9 as a starter), the Colts have avoided an 0-16 season, and Colts’ fans can finally hold their heads up high after their team played an excellent second half to deny Tennessee (7-7).

Here’s what the Titans’ coach Mike Munchak had to say about it all:

“I never would have expected us to come out, and they’re playing like the team going to the playoffs and we’re the team that’s 0-13,” coach Mike Munchak said. “We just weren’t playing well at all. The intensity wasn’t there at the start.”

That’s why the NFL has its famous saying, that anyone can beat anyone else on “any given Sunday.”  Because I agree with Munchak; the Titans still have a chance to go to the playoffs, while the Colts came into this game winless and really had only one halfway decent game all year before this (and they still lost it).

Finally, the New England Patriots did something I never thought they could do: they got me to root for them.

Why is this?  Well, it’s simple.  I have a hard time with players like Tim Tebow, who seem to believe that God cares whether or not they win football games.  (I believe the Deity cares about individuals playing the games, yes.  And I think that the Deity probably cares whether the games are “clean” ones, with no dirty play, no gamblers’ interference, and no terrible injuries.  But I do not believe any Deity worth His, Her, or Its salt would ever care about who actually wins these games — that’s up to the players, and coaches, and how hard everyone works, and sometimes even whether or not the ball bounces the right way.)

Tebow, you see, is not a prototypical NFL QB.  So much has been written about this because Tebow runs as well as passes; he’s far from the first QB to do this, as NFL Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton was famous for this back in the early 1970s, but there’s been so much press about Tebow of the fawning variety that I’ve had it.

So I actually rooted for New England, even though I dislike their team and don’t really care for Tom Brady as a person, either — though of course I admire his play on the field — because the Patriots, to the best of my knowledge, have never had any player whatsoever insist that his ability to play football is “divinely inspired.”**

At any rate, while Tebow did run for two TDs (and looked good doing it), and threw for 194 yards and looked halfway decent doing that (Tebow is left-handed and has an off-kilter throwing motion, though it has improved), the Patriots were by far the better team; this is why the Patriots (11-3) won, 41-23, over the Broncos (8-6).  Brady had an excellent day, throwing for 320 yards and completing 23 of 34 passes with two throwing TDs and one rushing TD.  (Note that many of the Broncos had “fumble-itis” for most of the second half, which is one reason why Tebow couldn’t perform any of his comeback “mojo.”)

Read more about the Broncos — and Tebow’s — comeuppance here.

As for next week?  Who knows what’ll happen in the NFL, other than that there’ll be some great games, some good ones, some stunning upsets and some thrilling comebacks (in no particular order).

—————–

**

Note that Green Bay Packers DE and legend Reggie White (aka “the Minister of Defense”), sometimes did say that God was on his side.  But he was a minister.  I have a better understanding of why a minister would say this than someone like Tebow, who isn’t.  And White didn’t say this from the time he was a rookie, either, nor did he come into the league and insist from the start that God was on his side to the exclusion of everyone else in the league — White believed God was on his side, sure, but he also believed that God had given him the ability to play football so White himself could help determine the outcome on the field along with the other players constituting the Green Bay Packers.  (In other words, while White was a Godly man, he believed that football is a team sport.  Which, of course, it is.)

I far prefer White’s attitude to Tebow’s, because I understand why someone who believes in God and is an extremely spiritual person (as White was; I met him, once, and there was no doubt) would believe God is everywhere, including on the football field.  But I do not understand why any one player like Tebow would believe that God is so much on his side that this is the only reason his team, the Broncos, has won any games whatsoever — that denigrates everyone on the Broncos who isn’t Tebow, and that’s the main reason I really don’t understand Tebow’s attitude.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 18, 2011 at 8:38 pm