Monday, October 31, 2005

News from Afghanistan - Part 9

The latest from my wife’s niece, stationed in Ghazni, Afghanistan as part of a US Army MEDCAP unit;
I just got several boxes and one had the 4th episode of Nip/Tuck! We have a “waiting” list for the 3rd season. It’s pretty funny because I am the sole provider for the borrowing of the recent episodes. I know I always tell you thanks, but it really makes our day. We look forward to each episode as they arrive! Please thank Auntie Lynn for all the hygiene kits she took the time to assemble.

We are going on a VETCAP to Jaghuri and we are stopping at the orphanage to drop off coats, blankets and food for the winter. Of all the places we go, Jaghuri and Malistan are by far the nicest and most appreciative places where our work is done. It’s so far away (nearly a 12 hour drive) that we can’t get there very often, but the people are so friendly and they just love the soldiers. They know when we come around we are doing good things to help them; we’re not seen or treated as just a source to scam some radios or beans off of.

I am going to try and get some pictures of Sarah and Daniels toys tomorrow with some of the kids at our clinic. I’ve been out for the past few days and with Ramadan our Afghani doctor took some time off so we were not running the clinic. When you lived in Saudi were the locals as strict about adhering to law as they are here? We had a Afghan National Army soldier come in for treatment. He was very sick and we had to start an IV on him to give him fluids, and although he did not protest when we started, he was very upset with us when he left because of giving him fluids during Ramadan. I never even considered the implications that certain types of medical attention would be considered offensive during Ramadan.
To answer Reiko’s question about the Afghan soldier becoming upset because he was given an IV, a little background is necessary. In the Islamic world, one of the most significant religious holidays is Ramadan. Among other things, Islam specifies that a Moslem can take no food or sustenance during the daylight hours. This soldier was upset evidently because he felt that the American medical personal broke his fast in a manner not allowed by his religion. I think he was way off base. My wife Lynn worked as a Respiratory Therapist at King Faisal hospital in Riyadh. When I asked her about this, she told me that there was no difference in the type or timing of treatments to patients during Ramadan. In addition, and according to Wikipedia, in both the Quran and the Hadith (Muslim religious texts), there are clear exceptions quoted as to who has to fast during the daylight hours and this soldier would have qualified. I think this soldier was just wrong in his religious interpretation.

Previous postings;

News from Afghanistan - Part 8
News from Afghanistan - Part 7
News from Afghanistan - Part 6
News from Afghanistan - Part 5
News from Afghanistan - Part 4
News from Afghanistan - Part 3
News from Afghanistan - Part 2
News from Afghanistan - Part 1

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Chicago White Sox 2005 Season – Final Thoughts

I promise, this will be my last 2005 White Sox posting. Of course, spring training is only a few months away…

No real theme here – just some random thoughts.

The Sox won their first game this year 1-0 and their last game this year 1-0. And, for good measure, they won the first game after the All Star break 1-0. Of the 12 post-season games they played, only 2 were decided by more than 3 runs. I don’t have the exact figures in front of me, but they led baseball this year in both 1 and 2 run games played and won. It’s a nail-biting way to do it, but we White Sox fans will take it any way we can get it.

The Sox pitching in the post-season was little short of phenomenal. In the 12 games they played, they only allowed their opponent 31 earned runs, 33 runs in all. That’s an ERA of well under 3.00. The highlight, of course, was the 4 consecutive complete game victories that Buerhle, Garland, Garcia and Contreras threw at the Angels.

The Sox had the best road record in baseball this year. They clinched their division on the road, they won the ALDS on the road, the won the ALCS on the road and they won the World Series on the road. In the post-season, they were a perfect 6-0 on the road (to go along with a pretty special 5-1 record at home, too). This team, truly, was a great road team.

Was there ever a classier move than what Paul Konerko did in game 4 of the World Series after the fans interfered with him when he tried to catch a foul pop-up? Rather than melting down like Moises Alou of the Cubs did in a similar situation, he retrieved the ball (which had dropped on the field), handed it to a child in the seats and went quietly back to his position. Talk about grace under pressure… I freely admit that had it been me being unable to make a crucial play because of fan interference, I would have resembled Alou much more than I would have resembled Konerko.

The White Sox have done a good job in locking up most of their players for next year. The only Free Agents or non-protected contracts they have among their “Starting 25” are Geoff Blum, Chris Widger, Carl Everett, Frank Thomas, Pablo Ozuna, Cliff Politte and, of course, Paul Konerko. Even if they lost ALL of these guys, they’d still be in pretty good shape next season as their pitching and defense would still be intact. If they can get a healthy Frank Thomas for the 2006 season, which I think they have an excellent chance of doing, then the potential loss of Paul Konerko would be mostly mitigated.

I know I have no chance for this to happen, but I’d really like to see post-season games broadcast by the local announcers as well as the National ones. Joe Buck was, at best, so-so. Tim McCarver was better, but both of them suffered from not really knowing the teams like the local announcers do. I would have much preferred to hear Hawk Harrelson and Darrin Jackson broadcast the games – they know the White Sox inside and out and their comments are much more relevant than the ones you’ll get from a National crew. Oh well, if that’s the price we have to pay to get into the post-season, it’s a bearable one.

Baseball really needs to do something about balls and strikes calls. Too many times, bad pitch calls affect crucial at bats and affect the course of a game. One cannot blame the umpires for this as the problem is caused by a) not the best vantage point and b) having to watch out for too many things. I’ve umpired a few games myself and believe me, it’s not easy calling balls and strikes. This is a topic all by itself and one which I will take up a some future date. And I hope that the other questionable/bad calls in these series will ratchet up the pressure for implementing some sort of Instant Replay system in baseball. I touched on this earlier; I think that allowing a manager to make up to two requests for Instant Replay per game, with him not being charged with one if it turns out he is correct, would greatly add to the integrity of the game. Pro Football has a system like this and it seems to work pretty well. It’s still not perfect, but they get far more calls right now than they used to and that’s the whole point. Umpires should never decide the outcome of game, only the players should.

Enough rambling. Thank you Chicago White Sox for a wonderful season. Let’s do it again next year…

GO SOX!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Chicago White Sox - WORLD SERIES CHAMPS !!!

Pitching and defense; pitching and defense; pitching and defense; the pitching staff shutting out the Astros in Game 4; Juan Uribe, unable to contribute with the bat but making two stellar plays in the ninth inning to preserve the victory. And just enough offense, one lonely, solitary run, to win the game, the series and the Championship.

It’s never easy with this team – every game was a nail-biter. Tonight a base-running gaffe by Aaron Rowand, inexplicably slowing down when heading into second base after Joe Crede’s wall-shot, even though there were two out, may have cost them a run. And, in the ninth, they wasted a lead-off double by A.J. But this is what they’ve done all year; score just enough runs to get a lead, and then let the pitchers and fielders finish it off.

There are no super-stars on this team, but a lot of hero’s. Every night in the playoffs (and all year, for that matter) there was a different hero. In game one, it was Joe Crede, making outstanding plays in the field and hitting the home run that broke a 3-3 tie. In game two, it was Paul Konerko with his grand-slam and Scott Podsednik with his walk-off. In game three, it was Geoff Blum with his home-run and the bullpen – bending but not breaking. Tonight it was pinch-hitter Willie Harris getting a single to start off the eighth, Jermaine Dye driving him in with the games only run and Juan Uribe making two stellar defensive plays in the ninth inning to help Bobby Jenks close it out. The theme all year was pitching, pitching, pitching and defense, defense, defense. The Sox only scored 20 runs in this series, but they held the Astros to just 14 runs. No game was decided by more than two runs.

There are a lot of things one can quibble about – all the walks issued in game three, the run-scoring opportunities missed in all of the games, etc. But these things happen in all major league games. Baseball is like chess in that way. The rules are easy to learn, but the game is hard to master. The team that makes the fewest mistakes usually wins and this series was no exception. Ozzie Guillen was, once again, spot on when he said (before game 3) “the team that gets the most hits with two-outs is going to win this series”. Blum’s home run in game three was with two outs. Dye’s single tonight was with two outs. The Astros had more scoring opportunities tonight than the Sox did, but couldn’t cash in any of them. Credit fine starting pitching by Freddy Garcia and good relief pitching by Politte, Cotts and Jenks.

Once again, Ozzie made the right moves. In the eighth inning, with Freddy Garcia scheduled to lead off, he chose to send up Willie Harris to pinch hit rather than Carl Everett or perhaps Timo Perez. Harris came through with a single and eventually scored the go-ahead and ultimately winning run. Ever since he was recalled to the roster late in the season, Harris has been a real go-to guy.

There are a million more things I could write, but I’m going to finish my celebratory adult beverage and watch the party on TV. Congratulations White Sox – you made us all proud.

GO SOX !!!

White Sox - 10 down, 1 to go…

Its 1:30 in the morning and the Sox are 1 game away from winning a World Series. What a tremendously hard-fought game this was. Sloppy, but hard fought. It seemed at times as if neither team wanted to win this game and, at other times, it seemed as if they both desperately wanted it. This was epitomized by Juan Uribe’s error on the potential game ending, routine grounder. I don’t know if the ball took a bad hop or he was screened by the runner or he just missed it. But in a (small) way I’m glad it happened because we then had the chance to watch Mark Buerhle pitch in relief and pick up a save.

If I was an Astros fan, I’d be absolutely sick right now. They had so many opportunities to win the game in the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th innings that I, as a Sox fan, grew numb – I was just so sure that the Astros would cash in somewhere. And yet the Sox held them off, somehow, and finally broke through in the 14th on a Home Run by another unlikely hero, Geoff Blum.

I enjoy watching National league-style baseball. You get to see a lot more players and the managers have more decisions to make. I think Ozzie’s coaching experience with the Marlins was a big plus – having given him experience in the National league. Both managers played their cards pretty well. You could blame Garner, I suppose, for bringing in Astacio instead of Rodriguez, but with any game going on that long, sooner or later someone is going to make a critical mistake. Fortunately for the White Sox, it was the Astros who broke first.

The pitching was sloppy on both sides. Yes, the White Sox staff gave up 12 walks, but the Astro pitchers almost matched that by giving up 9. Oswalt didn’t live up to his billing. He only had one or two good innings – the Sox hitters were getting to him the rest of the time. Garland pitched pretty well, giving up only 2 earned runs. With National league baseball being played, i.e. no designated hitters, we finally got to see the rest of the Sox bullpen, ALL of the Sox (and Astro) bullpens. Bobby Jenks pitched well as he was finally able to get his curve ball over, at least most of the time. When the Astro hitters can’t sit on his fastball, it makes it that much more effective. I think Ozzie handled Jenks just right, letting him pitch two full innings. It was enough time for him to get his confidence back, but not enough exposure to the Astros where he might start getting hit again. And Marté finally stepped up for the team. He looked good in his first inning of work and looked very good in his last inning – throwing the ball like he did two years ago. It was a shame that Uribe’s error cost him the save, but it sure is nice to know that maybe this guy is back on track. With the possible loss of Hernandez and at least one, and maybe two more National league-style games yet to be played, the Sox are going to need Marté.

And no one can say that the White Sox got the calls in this game. The Home Run that was given to Mike Lamb clearly wasn’t – and should have been only a single or maybe a double. And this time Jermaine Dye did get hit by a pitch, but the umpire didn’t award him first base. There was also a number of borderline/bad balls and strike calls, too, but they seemed to even out over both teams.

So, on to game four and a chance to sweep. Who woulda’ thunk it?

GO SOX!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I'm bored...

Can you find the man’s head in the following picture?


According to medical experiments; If you can find the Man's Head within 3 seconds, your right brain is more developed than normal people. If you can find the Man's Head within 1 minute, your right brain is developed normally. If you can find the Man's Head within 1-3 minutes, your right brain is slow in reacting, you should eat more meat protein. If you can't find the Man's Head in 3 minutes or more, your right brain is a disaster ... extremely slow in reacting, eat way more protein and try some Ginkgo Biloba.

YES, THERE REALLY IS A MAN IN THERE.
It took me about 25 seconds… Nice to know that there’s at least one thing about me considered “normal”.

Can you tell I’m bored – waiting for Game 3?

Thanks, mom.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Happy National Bologna Day!

Hey everyone – if you like Bologna, today is your day. It is the official “National Balogna Day” and is dedicated to the enjoyment of crappy meat and sandwiches made in desperation.

From Wikipedia:
Bologna sausage is an American version of the Italian mortadella (a finely hashed/ground pork sausage with lard pieces). The American version can alternatively be made out of chicken, turkey, beef or pork. It is commonly called bologna and often pronounced and/or spelled baloney (or boloney).

This food is usually served in round uniform slices pre-cut in a package or sliced by the butcher. It is popularly produced and sold by Oscar Mayer, which had a famous ad campaign in the 1970s with a well-known jingle ("My bologna has a first name, it's O-S-C-A-R..."). There are many other manufacturers as well, including local butcher shops and grocery meat counters.

Bologna sausage is typically served in a sandwich, often for lunch; hence, it is perhaps the most common "lunch meat" in the U.S. However, bologna may also be served fried or wrapped around mashed potatoes and baked as a version of "pigs in blankets."

Bologna sausage is commonly believed to be created from lowly scraps of meat cuts. It is assumed that this food, therefore, is the origin of the slang word baloney, which means nonsense (similar to "hogwash") and is often used as an expletive.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

White Sox - 9 down, 2 to go…

Can there be any doubt now that the Sox are destined to win this thing? What an exciting game and what an incredible finish!!

It’s hard to overshadow a grand-slam homer, but Podsednik’s walk-off was even more dramatic than Konerko’s slam.

Buerhle pitched well, but Pettitte pitched better. Politte pitched well out of the Sox bullpen, as did Cotts, but the Astro hitters were able to get to Jenks. I must say I’m not surprised. I’ve written on several previous occasions that major league hitters can hit anyone’s fastball, if they can sit on it. I don’t think Jenks threw a curve-ball tonight – he certainly didn’t get one over. And so the Astro hitters could just time the fastball. As fast as Jenks can throw it, the Astro hitters can swing the bat. I’m glad Ozzie took him out when he did and went to Cotts who was, again, his normal lights-out.

I think Jenks has got a great future IF he can master a second pitch. There’s no closer I know of who has consistently won with just one pitch. The second pitch doesn’t even have to be a breaking ball, though that’s the preferred one. Keith Foulke helped Boston win a World Series last year with just a fastball and a change-up. But if Jenks doesn’t get his second pitch working, he’s going to wind up like Matt Anderson, the former Tigers closer who’s now trying to make it with the Colorado Rockies. Before he injured his shoulder, he regularly threw his fastball at 100+ mph. But he couldn’t get his breaking ball over consistently and hitters just sat on his fastball. Kyle Farnsworth was the same way. He seems to have resurrected his career somewhat with the Braves, but I’m sure it’s because that the Braves pitching coach, Leo Mazzone helped him with controlling his breaking stuff. Incidentally, it will be interesting to see what happens with Brave pitchers, like Farnsworth, now that Mazzone has joined the Orioles. Anyway I digress, but I’m glad that the Sox have Hermanson, Cotts, Politte, Vizcaino and Hernandez in the bullpen along with “Big Bad Bobby”.

And what’s going on with the Houston Bullpen? I thought, coming into this series, that this was the only advantage the Astros had; if they could turn this series into a battle of the bullpens, they had a chance to win it. But tonight, the Sox got to Wheeler, to Qualls and to Lidge; their Big 3. I will admit to not having followed the Astro’s this year, so my opinion of their bullpen came from some of the baseball analysts I follow plus looking at their stats. But you know, their stats were compiled against National League hitters. And the National league just doesn’t have as many good hitters as the American league does. Baseball goes in cycles – 20-30 years ago, the National League was the superior league. But now it’s the American league which is stronger and deeper, and they have been the better league for some time. If anyone thinks that I’m wrong in that assessment, I’d just ask them to take a look at the inter-league records – the American league holds a huge advantage as of late. I think there were only 3 or 4 National league teams that had winning records in inter-league play this year, contrasted with the large majority of American league teams that were winners in this category. Maybe the Astro bullpen is just not as good as I thought it was. If that’s true, this series is over in 4 games unless Oswalt can throw a complete game.

So now it’s on to Houston and Game 3. I’m looking forward to seeing Roy Oswalt pitch – he really is supposed to be something special. But the way the White Sox are going right now, it won’t surprise me at all if they get to him and do so in a big way.

Go Sox!!

News from Afghanistan - Part 8

I received another email from my wife's neice today. My Nip/Tuck recordings are making it through OK and evidentally are being much enjoyed. I hope FX doesn't mind... Here's her email;
I just got episode 3 in the mail yesterday, along with the hygiene kits Auntie Lynn put together! Thanks for all the stuff, they will be greatly appreciated!

Spent a couple of days at Bagram while they were drawing funds for different projects. Bagram Air Field is one of the places that is to nice to visit, but only for a short time. After about 4 hours I’m bored stiff. They never stock anything good at the PX (Army’s version of Wal-Mart), and the rest of the time you spend avoiding the “Nazi Uniform Police” who like to gripe at you for petty uniform infractions. I was asked why my uniform looked like it was in such terrible shape and I replied, “Because I actually go out of the wire.” Most of the people stationed at Bagram never leave the base and just lounge around going to the gym and eating Burger King. I don’t have a lot of patience or respect for people who are on a “combat deployment” who get to take Karate Lessons, go to the gym three times a day and go to party every night at the makeshift club they have set up and then want to get after me because they feel my uniform needs to be ironed!

Not much else to say right now. It’s been fairly quiet here. We have a MEDCAP and VETCAP in a week, so that will be interesting. I’ve never helped the veterinarians before, so that will be an interesting change of pace!

Hope everything is good back home! I wish I could have come down for a visit when my Mom stopped by! I sure miss OberWeiss ice cream!

Love,
Reiko
I guess there are bureaucrats everywhere. I can just see some of these "Armchair soldiers" doing nothing dangerous at all and at the same time can't wait to get home to impress all their friends with stories of their "battlefield heroics".

Stay safe Reiko...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

White Sox - 8 down, 3 to go…

Sweet, sweet, sweet – Sox take game one of the World Series 5-3.

This was a typical Sox win. Good starting pitching (though Contreras was not at his best), great bullpen pitching, outstanding defense and just enough hitting to get the job done.

And, as usual in a Sox win, they had a chance to blow the game wide open, but Pierzynski hit into a bases-loaded double play to end the 6th inning. They did put an insurance run on the board in the 9th, though, and they’ve started making a habit of doing that. If they keep that up, this series will be over quick.

It’s great to see Scott Podsednik back to full strength. He’s running well and is hitting well. As long as he keeps that up, the Sox are very tough to beat. It was no accident that the Sox swoon in the second half of the season coincided with Podsednik going on the DL. Once he came back, he reignited the Sox offense. One guy who hasn’t been hitting well for the Sox in the post season is Tadahito Iguchi. I don’t know if he’s in a funk or if it’s just that the opposing pitchers have finally figured him out. Fortunately, Dye, Konerko and Everett have picked up the slack and having been driving Scotty home – a role that Tadahito filled so often this year. His defense is still stellar, though, and hopefully his hitting will come around.

I was very happy to see the Sox hitters break through against the vaunted Astro’s bullpen. They scored both their 4th and 5th runs off of Astro relievers. I said in my last post that I thought the Astro bullpen was better than the Sox pen, if you consider all the pitchers in both of them. But the Sox starting pitching is negating that Astro advantage, just as they negated the same advantage the Angels had. By going so deep into the game, and often finishing them, Ozzie only needs to use one or, at most, two relievers. And the Sox 1-2 bullpen punch of Cotts and Jenks is as good as it gets. If the Sox had to go into their fourth and fifth relievers, I think they could get in trouble. But again, the Sox starting pitching is making all that a moot point.

And I loved it when Jenks blew away Bagwell. Bagwell got on in an earlier at-bat by allowing himself to be hit by a pitch. It’s aggravating, but he’s been doing it his whole career and he’s certainly not going to stop now. He never let himself be hit by a Jenks fastball, though, I wonder why. I've not been a huge fan of Jenks in that I think major leaguers can hit anyone's fastball if they're sitting on it, even one that is thrown as hard as Jenk's is. But he had his curve ball working tonight (I think he threw only two but they were both for strikes) and when he has both of those pitches working, then he can really dominate.

The umpires did OK in this game – no really controversial calls. And the two close ones at first base were both called correctly. Joe West’s strike zone was a bit inconsistent, but nothing outrageous.

I’m not going to attend any of the games in person – the price is just too steep. But I have it pretty good at home. I have a 58” Pioneer High Definition screen with a Zenith High Definition satellite receiver. The picture is outstanding. And I timed it perfect tonight – I turned on the TV just seconds before the first pitch so I didn’t have to listen to any of that pre-game crap.

On to game two and things are looking pretty good right now…

Go Sox!!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Cal Skinner – new blogger in town…

In 2002, I had the honor of being the campaign manager for Cal Skinner’s Libertarian gubernatorial campaign. Actually, Cal was the real campaign manager – I kind of just tagged along for the ride, gleaning whatever bits of political wisdom I could from this master.

For those of you who don’t know who Cal Skinner is, he was an 8 term Republican state legislator here in Illinois, representing each of two different districts for four terms. Prior to that, he served as the McHenry County Treasurer and also worked for the US Budget Bureau. He has a Bachelors degree in Economics and a Masters Degree in Public Administration. As far as government goes, Cal is someone who has really “been there and done that”.

That election is old news and there’s not much I want to say about it now (other than, in a just world, Cal would have won that election in a walk). But I did want to introduce my readers to Cal’s latest project, The McHenry County Blog. In this blog, Cal will be commenting on various political and tax issues (especially tax issues) that crop up in McHenry County, Illinois. His writings should be of much interest to people who live there and also for those who want to see how a truly knowledgeable person views the workings of local government.

Welcome to the blogosphere Cal, I’m sure your blog will make a great contribution.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

So it’s the Astros…

If I’d of had my druthers, I would have wanted the Sox to play the Yankees in the ALCS and the Cardinals in the World Series. But I guess I’ll just have to be happy with the Sox beating whichever team shows up.

The Astros are a fine team, no doubt about it. After a horrendous start, they played great ball in the last two-thirds of the season. Their starting “Big 3” pitchers, Oswalt, Pettite and Clemens, are as dominant as any other threesome in the game today. But the White Sox have a “Big 4” rotation that has proven, in spades, that they can get the job done. In addition to a deeper starting staff, I think the Sox have a superior defense and somewhat better hitting. I think the Astros have the advantage in the Bullpen, but then again, the Bullpen advantage didn’t do the Angels any good. The White Sox also have home field advantage. I’m not sure if that’s a plus or a minus as they had a better record on the road than they did at home this year. But if does come down to a game seven, having the last at-bat may loom huge.

One possible wild-card in this is that both Clemens and Pettite have World Series experience. Sox starter Orlando Hernandez does, too, but only in relief. Hopefully, the jitters won’t get to the White Sox pitchers, but one never knows.

Another possible wild-card is the umpiring crew, one that Joe West is heading up. Trivia purists note that he was one of 22 umpires who lost their job in 1999 when a mass resignation backfired. West was rehired in 2002 and worked the All-Star game this year as well as in one of the AL Division series. I just hope this crew is good enough so that their calls don’t engender any controversy in this series.

I’ve got to like the Sox chances. They’re playing great ball right now and there doesn’t appear to be any clouds on their horizon. I pick the Sox to win it all in six games.

Go Sox!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

White Sox - 7 down, 4 to go…

How sweet it is - the White Sox are going to the World Series!!

You could sense the Sox really wanted to finish it tonight. They took the lead three separate times in this game. Even when they got behind, they figured out a way to take the lead back.

José Contreras was solid tonight, if not spectacular. He was behind on several counts, but wound up only walking two batters. Like the first game, he gave up only three runs. He was in trouble a couple of times, but good pitches, good defense and some poor Angel at-bats kept him from giving up the big inning. He got stronger and better all game long, retiring the last fifteen Angel batters that faced him. And, like all the other Sox pitchers, he kept Vlad Guerrero from doing any damage at all. In this series, Guerrero was one for twenty and his only hit was an infield grounder that bounced off of John Garland’s foot. In the series against the Yankees, he drove in zero runs and in this series he drove in only one run. So, one rbi in ten games. I don’t know who was the bigger disappointment to their team, him or A-Rod. And between the two of them, they made nearly forty million dollars this year. I’m sure Kenny Williams is paying attention.

The White Sox defense was solid all series long, especially after the first game. Their gloves took the Angels out of an inning so many times that I think it had to be demoralizing to Mike Scioscia’s team. They knew they had to place the ball perfectly or hit a home run or else they were probably going to be out. With Pierzynski, Uribe, Iguchi and Rowand up the middle, it sets the table for great defense. They have three center fielders patrolling the outfield and they are super-solid at the corners with Crede and Konerko. And there are no pitchers who field their position better than Buerhle and Garland. I love good defense and the White Sox gloves are a joy to watch.

Paul Konerko won the Series MVP trophy and I think it was well deserved. His first inning home runs in games three and four really put the Angels up against it and they just never recovered. And when he drove in the fifth run tonight in the top of the ninth to put the Angels down by two, you could really sense it was the final nail in the coffin.

The umpires did a pretty decent job tonight. There were only two controversial calls, the fan-interference play and the no-ball tag on Pierzynski. Both times the initial call was wrong, but after a brief umpire-team conversation, they reversed the calls and got them right. Balls and strikes were a different matter, but that’s a subject for another time.

I picked the White Sox to beat the Red Sox in five and they did it in three and I picked them to beat the Angels in six and they did it in five. Silly me. In fairness (to me), I didn’t know that Colon would not be pitching in this series when I made my pick. I think he could have been worth a victory for the Angels, but now we'll never know. When I first wrote about this series, I was worred that the Sox bullpen, especially with the troubles that Marté and Hermanson have been having, could prove to be their Achilles heel. But when you only have to use them for two-thirds of an inning over a total of five games, it becomes a non-factor.

The Sox have now won seven of the eight post-season games they’ve played, plus they won eight of their last ten regular season games. This means they’re fifteen and three in their last eighteen games. What a great time to be peaking. Hopefully they can keep it up for one more series. I don’t care who they play in the World Series, the Astros or the Cardinals. The Sox should take care of business and bring the trophy home.

Go Sox!!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

White Sox - 6 down, 5 to go…

Baseball, especially playoff baseball, really, really, really needs instant replay. It’s almost embarrassing, the number of calls that have gone the White Sox way in this series (and I say this as a true-blue White Sox fan). A system I’d like to see is something modeled on the way Pro Football does it. In the baseball version, I’d give a manager two challenges per game. If he challenges a play, and wins, it doesn’t count against him, i.e. he still “owns” that challenge. But if he doesn’t win, he loses that challenge. This way, a manager won’t challenge anything other than a call that he truly believes his team was robbed on. In tonight’s game, Angel’s manager Mike Scioscia could have challenged a few plays, the catcher interference play, the pickoff of Posednik at first and the steal at second. He could have and should have won them all. Not that I think it would have made a difference in the outcome of the game, but the Angels and their fans wouldn’t be feeling that they had been jobbed by the umpires…

But enough griping... The Sox won this game tonight, and they deserved to win it. Great pitching, solid defense and clutch hitting has put the White Sox within one game of going to the World Series. If Konerko sees more than one or two breaking balls tomorrow, I’d be really surprised. I had originally picked the Sox to win this series in six games, and I’m sticking with that, but now I think they have an outstanding chance to win it in five. They have, arguably, their best pitcher going tomorrow, in José Contreras. They’re on a roll – everything is going their way, and everything is going against the Angels. Chone Figgins and Vlad Guerrero have been held in check by Sox pitching and, as long as that continues, the Angels have little or no chance to take this series any further.

There was another mistake made tonight by the announcers. Joe Buck said that Dustin Hermanson was the White Sox closer at the beginning of the season. Sorry, Joe, that’s not true. The initial White Sox closer this year was Shingo Takatsu (remember him?). Yes, he didn’t last long, but he was the White Sox closer at the beginning of the season.

Regarding that double-play that wasn’t – the one where the second base umpired ruled (correctly) that Tadahito Iguchi had not tagged second base before he threw to first. The interesting thing about this play is that in Japan, where Iguchi used to play, the runners do not try to take out the guy trying to turn the double-play, so they always tag or stay on second before throwing to first. But in America, of course, taking out the guy trying to turn two is a time-honored tradition. There were several occasions earlier in the year where Iguchi was obviously surprised when a runner barreled into him when he was trying to “turn two”. This was before Uribe or Guillen taught him the “phantom tag” or the “neighborhood play” where it’s only required that he be close to the bag before throwing to first. And how did I know this? Did I study the Japanese leagues? No. Did I interview Tadahito Iguchi and ask him about this? No. I learned it from the White Sox announcer Darrin Jackson, who used to play in Japan. Just another reason why I was that they were doing the announcing rather than the Buck / McCarver / Pinella team.

Anyway, let’s hope that the White Sox can close this out tomorrow…

Go Sox!!

Friday, October 14, 2005

White Sox - 5 down, 6 to go…

Sweet – very, very sweet. This was the White Sox and John Garland at their best. Scoring 3 runs in the first inning was huge, especially being capped off by a Konerko 2-run dinger. And beating John Lackey was truly special – that guy has owned the White Sox this year.

It seemed to me that the Angels were never really in this game. I don’t think that the controversial call in game two had anything to do with it as they are much too professional to let something like that bother them. But, for whatever reason, they just seemed to be on their heels the whole game.

The White Sox starters have been nothing short of magnificent. They’ve gone all but two-thirds of an inning in these first three games and have given up a total of five runs and only one walk. One gets the feeling that Ozzie knows he has an advantage in the starting staff and is pushing it to its limit. I think it may be demoralizing the Angels – they may be starting to think that they’re just not good enough to knock the White Sox starters out. The Angels bullpen is, IMHO, marginally better than the White Sox pen. But the White Sox starters are making that a moot point.

The White Sox defense was also outstanding. My favorite play was when they cut down Darin Erstad trying to stretch a double into a triple. Jermaine Dye rifled a throw to the cutoff man, Tadahito Iguchi, and Iguchi, in turn, threw a strike to Joe Crede to nail Erstad. This is not the first time this year that a Dye to Iguchi relay has cut down a runner. I don’t know if the Angels scouting missed this or Erstad or the Angels third base coach decided to take a chance on this play. But running on the Sox defense this year has usually been fatal for the opposing team and this occasion was no exception.

A couple of comments about the TV announcers. Joe Buck is not my favorite play-by-play guy, but he’s usually OK. However, one comment he made in this game was pretty ignorant. He was talking about the “base-running blunders” that have occurred in this series and he cited the example of Aaron Rowand’s attempt to score in game two on an error, a play in which he was thrown out. Uh Joe, in case you hadn’t noticed, Joey Cora, the White Sox third base coach, waved Rowand in. Yes, it was a mistake, but it was a mistake by the coach, not by the base-runner. I’ve always liked Tim McCarver, both as a player and as a color announcer. He really knows the game and it shows in every comment he makes. The question mark for me has been Lou Pinella. I don’t know if this is his first broadcast assignment or not, but it sure has seemed that way. Listening to him in the first game was pretty painful – most of his comments were of the “I agree with you” and “You’re absolutely right” variety – adding nothing of value for the listener. He was a bit better in the second game and, in this third game, he was actually pretty good. He’s starting to make comments about specific managerial moves and doing it from a manager’s perspective – one he knows well. And, most importantly, he’s making comments about things that he thinks should or should not happen, not about something that has already happened. I really enjoy commentary that helps me to understand what happens on the field and Pinella is beginning to contribute to that. Hopefully he’s only going to get better. This crew is OK, but I would take Hawk Harrelson and Darrin Jackson in a heartbeat.

So now it’s on to game four. With a win here or in game five, the Sox can take a strangle-hold on the series.

Go Sox!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Doesn’t FEMA have enough to worry about?

CNSNews.com is reporting that FEMA is not allowing people seeking refuge at a FEMA compound to bring their firearms with them.
According to a report that aired on the Lehrer News Hour on Thursday, displaced New Orleans residents are being allowed to move into a trailer and RV compound called "FEMA City," but the conditions for residency include a ban on firearms.
Not only is this illegal, it’s just plain wrong. There were numerous stories about people in New Orleans protecting themselves, their families and their property with their lawfully-owned firearms. And now the Feds want to take away the only protection these people were able to count on? Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation said it very well; "Being the victim of a natural disaster does not require a citizen to surrender his or her civil rights, and that includes firearms rights and property rights."

Gun-grabbers just don’t get it. In their mind, if they pass enough laws and enact enough restrictions against gun ownership, “ordinary citizens” will give up their guns and then we’ll all live happily ever after. The fact is that regardless of the number of anti-gun laws and restrictions in place, criminals will continue to acquire guns. Gun-grabbers seem to miss that point entirely. Gun laws disarm law-abiding people, not criminals, and leave us defenseless against them.

FEMA’s stated mission is to “Lead America to prepare for, prevent, respond to, and recover from disasters” (from their Strategic Plan. They should concentrate on this task rather than enacting restrictions on people who wish to defend themselves.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

White Sox - 4 down, 7 to go…

A helluva way to win a ball game, but we’ll take it. The Sox have now played five games in this post season. All of them, except for the opening game blowout of Boston, have been decided by one or two runs.

Surely the unsung hero of the Sox this year has been A. J. Pierzynski. That was such a heads up play; not taking it for granted that he was out in the bottom of the ninth and running to first to force the action. He’s made a few plays like that this year. I remember a game against the Tigers earlier in the season when he was catching and a runner tried to steal on him. The batter didn’t clear the plate area like he was supposed to. A.J. made sure he stepped into the runner while throwing to second so that the umpire would rule interference and call the runner out. Just head’s up ball. And his handling of the pitching staff is a largely un-remarked upon reason why they are all so solid.

I don’t know if that ball hit the dirt or not. The replays they showed on TV were inconclusive. Fox News said that they were able to slow it down and see a “definite change of direction”, in other words the ball bounced up. If that’s true (and I still haven’t seen it), then the umpire got the call correct. If it didn’t bounce up, i.e. if the ball was gloved cleanly, then he was out and the Sox caught a break. On Baseball Tonight right after the game, both Kruk and Reynolds said that the Angels catcher should have tagged out Pierzynski or thrown the ball to first base, just to be sure. Either way, if I was an Angels fan, I freely admit I would have been upset by the call. Mike Scioscia was very classy in the press conference afterwards; I’d like to think that Ozzie would have reacted the same way had the situation been reversed.

The Sox only scored two runs, both unearned, but it was enough thanks to the outstanding, complete-game performance of Mark Buerhle. The Sox needed him, big-time, and he delivered. Neither he nor Contreras issued a walk in their starts.

So now it’s on to game three. I don’t know if this controversial call is going to affect the teams or not. It may make the Angels mad and they’ll really come out smoking. Or, it may give the Sox batters the lift they need to finally start hitting – it certainly seemed to help Joe Crede hit that game-winning double. More than likely, it will make little or no difference. Both teams are just too good to worry about stuff like this. And there’s no reason to think that the rest of the games in this series will be any less tense than the opening two were. What wonderful baseball we’re seeing and how fortunate we are to have the Sox in the thick of this.

Go Sox!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Not a good start...

Not much mystery in the Sox’s loss tonight. The Angels executed when they had to and the Sox didn’t, simple as that. When the Angels needed a sacrifice in the 3rd, Figgins came through for them, putting men on 2nd and 3rd. Both of them eventually scored. The Sox failed, twice, to execute the sacrifice. The Angels were 1 for 1 in Stolen Base attempts while the Sox were 0 for 2. The Sox and the Angels play very similar ball, but tonight the Angels just did it better.

Contreras pitched very well and he deserved to win that game. But you really have to tip your hat to Paul Byrd. Doing what he did on just 3 days rest, coming off games in 3 cities in 3 time zones in 3 days is really sucking it up.

So now it’s on to game 2. I sure hope Buerhle is up to the challenge. With the road record the Sox have, game 2 is not, strictly speaking, a must-win game for them. But if they fall behind in the series 2-0, they are really up against it. This isn’t the Tigers or the Indians or even the Red Sox. As I’ve said before, the Angels are a terrific team.

I really, really miss Frank Thomas…

Are the Stars aligned for “Sox-cess”?

You can’t ask for a much more favorable setup for the White Sox. They get an opponent that is tired and drained, and maybe a little hung over. The opponent’s star pitcher has injured his arm. The Sox are rested and have their own starting pitching set up just the way they want. And, they have home field advantage.

So why do I feel so uneasy? I think it’s because now it seems like the Sox are expected to win this series. They’ve been the underdog all year long and most analysts picked them to lose to Boston in the ALDS. All of a sudden they’re the favorites. I’m not used to this feeling and it kind of creeps me out. Something else which makes me nervous is José Contreras, who has been outstanding for so many starts recently, is due to have a bad game somewhere along the line. I just hope it’s not until next year.

Just a couple comments about the Yankee-Angel series; it’s amazing that Alex Rodriguez, the man who was paid a salary of nearly 26 million dollars this year ($25,705,118.00 to be exact according to Wikipedia), failed to drive in a single run in the entire series. Not one RBI. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. He’s a great player, no doubt about it. But that’s an awful lot of money to pay for no production, even for George Steinbrenner. A-Rod’s bouncing into a double-play in the ninth inning of game five was typical of his series, one I’m sure he wants to forget as quickly as possible. Once again, the Yankees come up a little bit short. It’s too bad, because I think the Sox would have an easier time against them than they will against the Angels. And, it’s so much more fun to beat the Yankees…

The Angels are a terrific club. Ozzie said months ago that he thought the Angels were the best team the Sox had played and I have to agree. The Angels have solid starting pitching, outstanding relief pitching, excellent defense and they score all the runs they need. And they have one thing the Sox don’t have, a bona fide superstar in Vlad Guerrero.

But I love the way the Sox are playing right now. The way they took the last two games from Detroit to clinch, swept the Indians to knock them out of playoff contention and then swept the Red Sox to get to the ALCS was no fluke. They’re playing about as well as they can right now. If the Sox have an Achilles heel in this series, it’s their bullpen. Damaso Marté is a real worry. If this guy was pitching like he was 2 years ago, he’d be a tremendous weapon out of the bullpen. As it is, he’s a heart attack waiting to happen. I understand Ozzie needs to keep him on the roster so he can have two lefties in the pen for his late inning match-ups. I just hope the Sox can get up by 7 or 8 runs in a game late and then are able to bring him in for an inning or two of relief in a non-pressure situation. But we’ll probably see him with the game on the line and then I and every other Sox fan will be hoping and praying we see the 2003 version of Marté, not the 2005 version. The other bullpen worry is Dustin Hermanson’s questionable back. Hopefully Politte, Cotts, Jenks, Vizcaino and Hernandez will get the job done on their own.

Almost every Sox game I’ve seen this year (and I’ve watched most of them) has been of the pressure-cooker variety and I don’t expect the games in this series to be any different. I pick the Sox to take this series in 6 games and go on to meet the Cardinals in the World Series…

Go Sox!

Friday, October 07, 2005

White Sox - 3 down, 8 to go…

El Duque for President !! What an incredible pitching performance by Orlando Hernandez. It was another outstanding move by Ozzie Guillen, putting him on the playoff roster so that he could bring him in, in just such a spot.

The sixth inning of this game was one that real baseball fans are going to remember for a long time. In the top of the inning, Paul Konerko hit a two run homer to give the White Sox the lead, 4-2. They threatened to score more, having two men on with only one out, but Crede fouled out to Trot Nixon in right field (a fine play by Nixon, reaching into the stands and snagging the ball) and Uribe struck out. In the bottom of the inning, Manny Ramirez led off by hitting his second home run of the game. Now the Red Sox were only down by one run. Ozzie brought in Damaso Marte who promptly loaded the bases, giving up a hit and two walks. It looked like it might be beginning to unravel for the White Sox. After all, this is the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park with the bases loaded and nobody out. Their backs were to the wall and you just knew they were going to score. All you could hope to do was to keep it to a run or maybe two at the most. Ozzie brought in El Duque who got out of the jam without allowing another run to score. He got Varitek and Graffinino to pop out and struck-out Johnny Damon to end the inning. Unbelievable!! This inning, which took 58 minutes to play, saw five pitching changes, three by Boston and two by Chicago. Both teams had big scoring opportunities, stopped by outstanding pitching and fine defense. This was playoff baseball at its finest.

Pierzynski opened up the ninth inning with a double. Two successive bunts plated him, the first getting him to third inning and the second squeezing him home for an insurance run. When he scored that run, especially with HOW he scored that run, that’s when I began to feel that the White Sox would win the game. And once again, Bobby Jenks came in to close the door. Three up, three down, and because of that, he didn’t have to face David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez again.

I picked the White Sox to win this series, but I thought it would go five games. Never in my most optimistic moments did I think that the White Sox would sweep – the Red Sox are just too good a team. How happy I am to be wrong.

So, now it’s time to wait for the winner of the Yankee – Angel series. I’m picking the Angels in five, but I hope the Yankees win it. This is for two reasons. First, I think the White Sox match up better against the Yankees than they do the Angels. Yes, the Yankees have an extremely dangerous lineup, but so did Boston. And second, it would be so sweet to get to the World Series by knocking off both the Red Sox AND the Yankees along the way. THAT would be a statement…

Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen – what hath you wrought, a team that can win it all?

Go Sox!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

White Sox - 2 down, 9 to go…

This game was a typical White Sox one-run nail-biter. I couldn’t relax until Konerko gloved the last out. Even then I’m thinking “Are we sure that there are 3 outs?”

I know I’m in the minority, but I’m not a huge fan of Bobby Jenks. I know that Ozzie loves him, but there’s not enough movement on his fastball, IMHO. He’s been hit hard a few times and I was afraid that the Red Sox would just sit on his fast ball and get to him. In this outing, Jenks was unable to throw a single curve ball for a strike over 2 innings, yet he somehow still got the job done. Once again, Ozzie was right. There have been several times this season when I’ve been yelling at the TV; “Ozzie, what the heck are you doing?!?” But he’s been right almost every time. Eric Wedge has done a good job managing the Cleveland Indians this year, but if Ozzie doesn’t win the Manager of the Year award, there’s no justice in this world…

Once again, Iguchi comes through in the clutch. As I wrote yesterday, this guy has been clutch all year long, both with the bat and the glove. Today he delivered the big blow, a 3 run home run. Ozzie has consistently called Iguchi the team’s MVP and he proved why again today. What a great pick-up by Kenny Williams over the winter.

Unremarked upon by the announcers was the fact that Carl Everett is starting to swing a hot bat. Even though he hit into a double-play in his last at bat, almost all of his at bats, both yesterday and today, have been good ones – he’s really been hitting the ball hard. The Sox are going to need his bat, somewhere along the line. And Dye got his first hit of the series. He, too, can carry a team when he gets hot.

Buehrle pitched a pretty solid game. He bent, giving up 4 runs, but he didn’t break and he was helped out by some fine outfield defense. The infield defense was almost the White Sox undoing though, especially that ground ball that Crede missed in the first inning. 999 out of 1000 times he makes that play, and makes it easy. And Konerko suffered a brain-fart when he threw to second rather than to home. It cost the Sox a run, but fortunately it didn’t matter. David Wells was the losing pitcher - the icing on the cake...

So, on to Boston with a 2-0 lead. I’d love to see the White Sox sweep and not give Boston a chance to get back into the series. And with Garcia going on Friday, I like our chances…

Go Sox!

Original Intent and the nomination of Harriet Miers

In an earlier posting, I wondered why there is such national disagreement as to what the United States Constitution means and what the role of the Supreme Court is in our government. It just seems very odd to me that the meaning of the Constitution, a document which is discussed in Civics, US History and Political Science classes all across the country and to which every elected Federal Office holder must swear allegiance to, causes such controversy. The nomination by President Bush of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court has rekindled this debate.

President Bush has been very emphatic when he says that he thinks judges should be “strict constructionists” in how they approach their job. I completely agree, but I have little faith that President Bush, or the Senators that will ultimately vote upon her nomination, actually mean this.

For a “strict constructionist”, there are a whole host of Federal Government programs which are clearly and obviously unconstitutional. These run the gamut from the War on Drugs to the Department of Education. They include Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, the FDA, the DEA and the BATF. I can guarantee you, however, that every Senator and the President and Vice-President agrees that the Executive and Legislative Branches have power in these and every other area.

If we as a nation WANT the Federal Government to create a program such as Social Security, it should be authorized via a Constitutional Amendment. Only in this manner can we be assured of broad national support for new powers given to the Federal Government.

For anyone who actually READS the Constitution, it’s clear that it delegates specific powers to the Federal Government and FORBIDS it from expanding those powers except via the Constitutional Amendment process. There is no wiggle room here. There is no clause in the Constitution which states that the Legislative and Executive branches can pass legislation on any subject they want to. And yet they continue to do so. We have recently witnessed the farce of baseball players testifying before Congress as to whether or not they have used performance enhancing drugs. Can anyone show me ANY clause in the Constitution which would, however remotely, give Congress the power to regulate these substances?

If President Bush can kindle and foster a true national debate about these issues via the nomination of Ms. Miers, it would be the finest thing he has ever accomplished as President. But I will lay long odds that it won’t happen. Conservatives will continue to push to expand government powers to advance their agenda and Liberals will do the same to advance theirs. And all of us will continue to sacrifice more and more of our rights and our liberties on the altar of government power.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

L'Shana Tova and Ramadan Mubarak!

By an odd quirk of the calendar, the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah and the Islamic holiday of Ramadan began at nearly the same time this year.

I wish all of my Jewish and Islamic friends a most joyous holiday season.

L'Shana Tova and Ramadan Mubarak!

White Sox – 1 down, 10 to go…

What a sweet, sweet way to start the series! One monkey, not having won a home playoff game since 1959, is now off their back. A second monkey, never having won a playoff game at US Cellular field, is now also off their back.

This game showed the White Sox of the first half of the season. Solid pitching, solid defense and clutch hitting. Of course in today's case, the clutch hitting was all homers, all the time… Contreras was again simply magnificent on the mound. The Red Sox have a helluva lineup, but he just shut them down. The White Sox defense, outside of a goofy play by Crede when he kicked that ball, was pretty solid. And Posednik hitting a home run? Just the icing on the cake.

The critical play of the game was in the 4th inning. The Red Sox already had two runs in and were trailing only 6-2. The White Sox had committed an error in that inning and Contreras had thrown a wild pitch – both miscues figuring in the scoring. Kevin Millar was sitting on 2nd, having just doubled in a run. Former AL Batting Champ Bill Mueller was coming to bat. And there were no outs. It could really have unraveled here. A long ball and it’s a 2 run game. Mueller hits a sharp ground ball to Iguchi. But instead of Iguchi throwing to first, with the runner taking third, Iguchi throws to third and Crede tags out the runner trying to advance. Now you have 1 out and a man on first, not 1 out and a man on 3rd. It’s a lot easier to score that guy from third; a fly ball, a ground ball to the right side, a wild pitch, all could have scored him. The replay showed that Iguchi checked to make sure that Crede was ready to take the throw before he threw it. This play really seemed to stop Boston’s momentum as the next batter grounded into a force play and Damon struck out to end the inning. Iguchi has been stepping up in the clutch, with his bat and his glove, all season long. That play he made in the 4th was the key one, IMHO.

I wrote in my previous posting that I like the White Sox chances in this series. I like them even more, now. As an aside, I hope they pound the crap out of David Wells tomorrow. I think he gave the White Sox less than 100% when he was a starter here, and I’d love to see some payback for that. But I’ll take a 1-0 win, on a wild pitch, off a reliever in the 9th inning, too.

I know, I know. It could turn around tomorrow and the Red Sox could sweep the next three games. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Go Sox!

Monday, October 03, 2005

News from Afghanistan – Part 7

Reiko recently emailed an update as to what is going on with her and the MEDCAP team as well as several pictures (98, to be exact). You can view all of the pictures at Shutterfly, but I’ve included a few in this post. Her latest email follows the pictures.

Sign on MEDCAP building


Lines of people waiting for MEDCAP treatment


Everyone gets screened going in - women, too


Mother and child awaiting treatment


Members of the 82nd Airborne, in Afghanistan to help secure the elections, help local kids assemble some flags. More about the 82nd's deployment to Afghanistan can be read here.


Afghan boy with a McDonalds Neopets toy - I like this picture because we sent a bunch of McDonalds toys to Reiko to be distributed.


Two Afghani teachers


From left; Sarah Groden, from the US State Department, in Afghanistan for the elections; Major Fry PRT XO (Civil Affairs); Reiko (in the center); two other Afghani teachers


Hello again from Afghanistan!

Well, the elections are finally over and it’s afforded me some time to send out an update of what adventures continue to occur here. If you ever thought the mud-slinging during elections is bad in the US, you should see how the locals protest! Our FOB was attacked on a daily basis, and the first morning I had off since I got here we were rocketed. I spent my morning off sitting in a bunker waiting for the rocketing to stop. We were running missions like crazy in support of the elections to help win the “hearts and minds” of Afghanistan. This is really a politically correct way to say the locals had a chance to score some free radios and some Tylenol.

The day before elections we were in Jaghatu helping the Afghan National Police by distributing riot gear and AK-47’s to the local police stations. We were getting ready to cross a bridge when the front vehicle spotted an individual planting something underneath the bridge. When he took off we realized something was up and discovered it was an anti-tank mine that he was going to detonate. He managed to get on a motorcycle and sped away, but the guys got to engage in a little bit of action before we left the area. It was nerve racking hearing the gun shots being fired, but it was all indirect, so at least no one was hurt while we were being engaged.

Life is a little slower now that elections are over, but the well on the FOB recently collapsed and we were left without water for about a week. Life gets interesting when you do everything with bottled water. Laundry, showering and cleaning all take on a different meaning when you have cases of water stacked in front of you and empty bottles scattered everywhere around you!

Most of the pictures are taken of the last two MEDCAP’s that I have gone on. I also had the chance to visit the local Ghazni orphanage and pass out many of the school supplies and toys so generously donated by many of you. I hope the pictures help give a better idea of what we do out here to help the local province. I’ve tried to include descriptions where I could, but I hope everyone enjoys them all the same. I have pasted the link on the bottom of the email in case the invitation to see them was not received.

Please know that I appreciate all the support and everything that people have taken the time out to send. To all my friends back in Texas I hope you make a speedy recovery after Hurricane Rita and my thoughts are with those who have been personally affected by Hurricane Katrina. All the Texas Guardsman got the call up for Hurricane relief efforts for Katrina, even the ones like me who are serving in Afghanistan. It was difficult for all of us to sit by and watch our home station get hit so hard from so far away.

Thanks again for all of your support!

Love,
Reiko


Previous postings;

News from Afghanistan - Part 6
News from Afghanistan - Part 5
News from Afghanistan - Part 4
News from Afghanistan - Part 3
News from Afghanistan - Part 2
News from Afghanistan - Part 1

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Sox playoff chances...

After all the agonizing that I and every other Sox fan went through in the past 6 weeks, it sure was nice to see how they played their year-end series with Cleveland. This was the White Sox of the first-half of the season; a team with outstanding pitching, outstanding defense and clutch, two-out hitting. We’ve come to expect Contreras to give us quality starts, but the way that Buehrle, Garcia and Garland have thrown recently, I had to wonder if they had been replaced by their evil twins. Fortunately, they seem to be back and, because of that, I think the Sox have a real chance in the playoffs.

I listened to Joe Morgan tonight for a while and he talked about the upcoming White Sox – Red Sox series and he declared that the White Sox should be considered the favorites. I agree. Despite the Red Sox’ big advantage in hitting, I think that the White Sox pitching will carry them through. No guarantees, of course. If the Boston hitters get locked in, then look out. But I think that a combination of iffy Boston pitching, both starting and relieving, and solid White Sox pitching should carry the day. I see this series going 5 games; I wish it was a 7 game series as this would make the White Sox pitching and defense advantage even more pronounced, but 5 games it is.

The Yankees – Angels series should be a helluva battle, too. On paper, the Angels have the advantage. And, many of them have been there before, having won it all just a few years ago. They have a great manager and, like the White Sox, have recovered from a late season swoon and are playing good baseball again. This, too, should go 5 games and I’m picking the Angels, though I’m certainly not placing any money on it.

The White Sox in the playoffs. Two months ago, they looked like a lock. Two weeks ago, I was terrified that they would fall off the cliff. But they righted the ship just in time.

Go Sox!

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