Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for August 11th, 2012

16″ softball: the Chicago game

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When I lived in Iowa, I did get a chance to play a bit with a 16″ softball: enormous and, after a certain amount of play, soft indeed. The game requires no gloves because of the ball’s softness, and that makes it a terrific casual game: the equipment is down to the ball and the bat. I was reminded of it by Adam Doster’s article “Gloves Off” in The Classical:

The North Siders are trying to overcome a 4–2 deficit in the final inning of the annual Chicago 16-Inch Softball Hall of Fame Game. Runners are on first and second with nobody out. At the plate is Jimmy Nalen, the potential go-ahead run. Nalen’s commemorative blue t-shirt is tucked snugly into his royal blue baseball pants. His face, wrinkled after years working as a union electrician, is partially obscured by coke-bottle glasses and a baby blue bucket hat. At 77, the oldest player on the team looks more like a Wrigley Field usher than a ball player.

Nalen delivered plenty of clutch hits over the years: for four decades, starting in the early 1950s, he patrolled the outfield of Chicagoland’s snug softball diamonds. At the plate, he laced line drives into the gaps and rounded the short base paths with blistering speed. On this humid late-July afternoon, as the 2003 HOF inductee takes a few warm-up swings, the spectators and players at a western suburban park—about 300 in total—shower him with a standing ovation. It’s a heartwarming moment, the loudest cheer of the day, and a visceral reminder that Chicagoans who play or watch 16-inch softball, the town’s most parochial and distinctive pastime, take pride in its rich history.

They also take the games remarkably seriously. This becomes clear seconds after the applause dies down and Nalen steps into the batter’s box. The South Siders in the field may have clapped, but they aren’t interested in watching the lean man in the bucket hat steal their victory. On the first pitch he sees, Nalen takes one shuffle-step and strokes a hard grounder back up the middle. The pitcher sucks it up effortlessly with his bare hands, pivots, and rifles the ball to his teammate at second base, who makes a crisp turn and guns Nalen down at first by seven steps, killing the rally. A lazy fly ball from the following hitter secures a victory for Nalen’s cross-town rivals, spoiling a fairy-tale finish. Sure, it was an exhibition game, with bloated rosters, silly chatter, and excess pageantry. But when that oversized orb comes soaring off the bat, Chicagoans don’t mess around.

Standing with his friends behind the backstop, Al Maag is thrilled to see Nalen and the other legends taking cuts and playing catch. Sixteen years ago, in an effort to preserve the legacy of the sport he skipped weddings and funerals to play, he and several other softball diehards co-founded the 16-Inch Softball Hall of Fame, an institution designed to honor the players, teams, umpires, managers, and writers who championed Chicago’s favorite gloveless game. Since then, Maag and his crew have inducted almost 350 people into the Hall and scoured Chicagoland for antique bats, balls, photos, and uniforms. It’s their hope that within the calendar year, should they raise the necessary funds, these artifacts will line the walls of a physical museum, one that’s adjacent to the existing plaque display (and giant replica softball) they’ve mounted at “Inductee Park” in suburban Forest Park. “It may not happen right away,” says current Hall of Fame president Ron Kubicki. “But it’s going to happen.”

The structure can’t open soon enough. 125 years after the game was founded, fewer and fewer locals are playing 16-inch softball, once the most popular regional sport in America. Like the stockyards and steel mills before it, this cornerstone of mid-century Chicago is in danger of disappearing forever.

***

Chicagoans may not like to admit it, but their hard-nosed, working-class game has aristocratic roots. On Thanksgiving Day 1887, at the tony Farragut Boat Club on the South Side, 20 alumni gathered around the club’s ticker tape machine to track the results of the annual Harvard-Yale football game, played that year at the Polo Grounds in New York City. When the news broke that the Bulldogs had beaten the Crimson 17–8, an overenthusiastic Yalie chucked an old boxing glove at one of his Harvard peers. To defend himself, the Boston Brahmin grabbed a nearby broom handle and swatted the glove away. Inspiration struck George Hancock, a reporter for the Chicago Board of Trade, who tied together the laces of the boxing glove, chalked out a baseball diamond on the club’s gym floor, and split the men into two teams. Mitts were not available, and thus not used. “A big soft ball and a small bat—that was the central idea,” the Chicago Tribune wrote of that first game, which ended in a 41–41 tie. A new sport was born. . .

Continue reading. It’s a terrific game to play in a park or schoolyard. It will be sad if it vanishes—but then, I like duckpins more than ten-pins (and in particular Baltimore duckpins: 3 balls per frame).

Written by LeisureGuy

11 August 2012 at 8:08 am

Posted in Daily life, Games

TrapWire: Surveillance goes to a new level

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Ben Doerenberg has an article in Spotify that describes a government surveillance program that has naturally been kept secret from the American public—and given the intensity with which the Obama Administration persecutes those who leak classified information (except for his own Administration and members of Congress, who routinely reveal classified information that puts them in a favorable light), it is likely that this is but one of many security programs focused on the American people. We wouldn’t know about this one except for Wikileaks.

His report begins:

New emails released by WikiLeaks indicate that TrapWire, a defense contractor owned and operated by ex-CIA operatives, sits at the heart of American intelligence. Everything from incidents on military base to calls to NYC’s “See Something, Say Something” are routed through TrapWire.

I. The Bottom Line: TrapWire’s Role In International Intelligence Too Important To Stay Cloaked
II. Introduction
III. What Does TrapWire Do?
IV. Who Uses TrapWire?
V. Who/What Is TrapWire?
VI. Stratfor and TrapWire’s Troubling Revolving Doors

I. The Bottom Line: TrapWire’s Role In International Intelligence Too Important To Stay Cloaked

According to newly released WikiLeaks documents, shadowy private security company TrapWire has taken law enforcement information sharing to an unprecedented level while staying largely under the radar. After 9/11, when agencies failed to “connect the dots” to prevent the World Trade Center attacks, it was common knowledge that coordination between law enforcement agencies became a priority. What has not been clear until now is that a private company run by ex-CIA operatives is at the heart of it.

Many cities encourage citizens to call and report suspicious persons and activity; what callers may not know is that if they live in Las Vegas, DC, Los Angeles, or New York City, their call is processed by a private company (TrapWire), and then forwarded to a national database accessed by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security if analysts believe it to be necessary. The same goes for “suspicious activity reports” generated by surveillance cameras integrated with TrapWire’s threat detection software, such as in 500 locations in the New York Subway system.

TrapWire is also noteworthy because it maintains a centralized database of all these reports submitted by citizens or TrapWire-enabled CCTV cameras. TrapWire not only collects these reports but cross references them across geographic and territorial boundaries; for instance, a report from the London Stock Exchange might be cross referenced with a report from the LAPD, or a citizen’s phone call in Washington, DC. That an intelligence network connecting private businesses, military bases, civilian police, and federal agencies has managed to escape attention for so long is surprising, to say the least.

Finally, TrapWire is raising concerns because of its close ties to the CIA. Its CEO, President, and two of its top three managers are all ex-CIA, with more than 10 years experience each. The CIA is generally “prohibited from collecting intelligence concerning the domestic activities of U.S. citizens.” While the emails released by WikiLeaks do not indicate that information obtained by TrapWire has been shared with the CIA, TrapWire’s former parent company (also run by TrapWire’s CEO) was involved with a number of CIA contracting operations, and it does not seem out of the realm of possibility that lines could at some point be crossed, either due to personal loyalties or an “ends justify the means” approach to combating terrorism.

In any case, it seems clear that TrapWire’s role in the US and international intelligence community bears scrutiny, scrutiny it has largely avoided until WikiLeaks’ latest release.

II. Introduction

According to internal emails from global intelligence firm Stratfor newly released by WikiLeaks, TrapWire’s surveillance analysis system seems to be near the center of the intelligence world. “Designed to provide a simple yet powerful means of collecting and recording suspicious activity reports,” it collects information from and shares information with local police departments, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and in some cases private businesses such as Las Vegas casinos.

TrapWire, run by ex-CIA operatives, is a software program that seeks to prevent terrorist attacks by recognizing patterns in activity. The hope, according to Stratfor Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton, is that, “a suspect conducting surveillance of the NYC subway can also be spotted by TrapWire conducting similar activity at the DC subway.” There are at least 500 TrapWire-connected surveillance cameras in the New York subway system, according to this blog post by Mr. Burton.

Continue reading. This makes Big Brother seem like small potatoes. We truly now live in a surveillance society. Strange how easily we gave up privacy.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 August 2012 at 7:39 am

I Coloniali and the ARC

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I enjoy I Coloniali shaving cream quite a bit. I can’t place the fragrance, but it’s pleasant, and the lather is excellent. The Rooney Style 3, Size 1 worked up the lather on my beard after I smeared a little shaving cream on my chin and cheeks. I’ve learned to take my time with lathering to improve both enjoyment and efficacy.

The ARC Weber is shown at an angle to better display the finish of the head—a shaver on Wicked Edge wanted to compare the finish of mine with the finish on one he received from the most recent manufacturing run to see whether they were the same.

Three extremely nice passes with an Astra Keramik Platinum blade, which clearly is a best blade for me, perhaps especially in this razor. It seemed totally efficient, smooth, and comfortable, and left my face wonderfully smooth.

A splash of TOBS Bay Rum, and a return to work on the apartment. It seems endless.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 August 2012 at 7:24 am

Posted in Shaving

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