Fatherland

I’m a little backlogged on book reviews, which is one of my intents with this blog. That would make me “bookblogged”. Dur.

I tore through “Fatherland” by Robert Harris this weekend. It’s a detective story set in 1964 Nazi Germany; a counterfactual account of how the world might have been if Germany had not lost the Second World War. The book focusses mostly on an SS detective who’s investigating the murder of a high-level Nazi, with international political implications. Turns out that Germany conquered central Europe and Russia west of the Urals and is settling Germans in the Slavic lands. The rest of Europe, including Great Britain, is a trading bloc of puppet states. Germany and the US are involved in a cold war. Japan is defeated, and the US is backing what’s left of the Soviet Union on Germany’s Siberian front. By the way, Joseph Kennedy (elder) is the appeasement-minded president.

The book describes a really creepy evil empire, maybe more than the Soviet Union because the Nazi’s way of life is much closer to our own. The Germans are well along to realizing their world of racial ordering, with the Final Solution long completed and the Slavic peoples mostly relegated to servitude.

I thought the premise was realistic, and it made me consider how inevitable our victory was not, though we look at it that way now. How confident or optimistic would the US be if we had to live with a powerful Third Reich, with no influence in Europe, and forced into a prolonged alliance with the disgraced Soviets (in the book the Bolshevik atrocities and mass murders were exposed by the Germans, but the Holocaust remains unknown)?

As interested as I was in the interpretation of history, it’s a very good read and a serviceable detective story.

Cardinals win

They could have called it the Rust Belt Series or the White Flight Series…

The Tigers looked like the Fish in the World Series, after looking like Hall of Famers against the Yankees. They simply did not execute. The Cardinals played good ball, despite being a sort of mediocre team.

On to 2007… Go Yanks.

Las Vegas and beyond

I haven’t written much about my vacation in Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. In two separate trips during August and September, I visited Las Vegas three times, plus six national parks.

It only took me a couple of days of Las Vegas to realize I disliked the place. For a while I kept telling people I wasn’t in Vegas to gamble. Well, I did gamble–on a relationship–and lost big time. It was an emotional disaster, but at least I had a good time hiking, so enjoy the photos. I took five hundred or so, and posted much fewer.

During my first stay in Vegas, we went backpacking at Lake Mead National Recreation Area–a poor exercise in judgment on my part. It was August and about 100 degrees; “cool” according to the volunteer in the visitor center. We did find a nice camping spot on Lake Mojave, the part of the Colorado River just downstream of Hoover Dam.

The Ozarks in color

This past weekend I visited Lance in Missouri. He showed me around the Ozark National Scenic Riverways where he worked. The fall colors were thrilling, especially since I neglected the fall foliage peak in Iowa.

Ag careers

I was in Ames yesterday for the Iowa State University Ag Career Day. I went to recruit, but since I had nothing to recruit for, I was just there for public outreach purposes. I probably spoke to 25 or 30 students at length about NPS careers. I talked their ears off, which is unusual for me, but I wish when I was in college someone had told me as much as they could about NPS careers. I had nothing else to talk about, agriculture is pretty foreign to me.

White hot tub in the motel room alcove.I drove to Ames Monday and spent the night before the all-day career fair. I stayed in a motel room with a hot tub. Sometimes the motel just sticks you in whatever room they feel like if they have it available. It still only cost the government rate of $60.

While I was there I chatted with a State DNR official who was there recruiting as well. He painted a pretty grim picture of Iowa’s environment, particularly its lack of native plants and declining water quality, which in his words is “dropping like a rock”. He must have brought a different perspective than the students were getting from Cargill, ConAgra, and the other Big Ag firms there. By the way, he thought ethanol production would contribute more damage to Iowa’s environment.

A close shave?

Every October Gillette advertises its razors during the baseball playoffs. And every year they promote a new model with an extra blade in it. They’re up to five per razor. When I’m an old man will Gillette razors have forty blades in them? Will each additional blade shave my beard that much closer?

The Gillette corporation is breaking the law of diminishing returns. There should be an economics police.

Tonight on Charlie Rose

Charlie interviewed James Baker. I am a James Baker freak. Best Secretary of State in my lifetime, hands down. He is very conservative and highly partisan, but also very pragmatic. It makes me sad when I look at the bunch of retards in the W administration. Baker had a lot of slanted criticisms of the W, and is working on a bipartisan committee to come up with ideas for Iraq. How novel. Why is pragmatic bipartisanship the last resort for these knuckleheads in Washington?

Charlie also discussed North Korea going nuclear with a panel. This news is totally unacceptable to me, and it underscores the incompetence of the administration. What I’m taking from all of it is that there’s not much we can do about it now.

Stupid FOX announcers

Spare me from these idiots. Earlier, Jimmy Rollins (yes, you read it right) was analyzing the psychological effect on Alex Rodriguez of batting eighth in the lineup during the playoffs. I looked up Jimmy Rollins’ postseason stats and, oh, there aren’t any.

And then there’s Steve Lyons, who I remember from my childhood as a utility infielder for the White Sox. I recall his main contribution was playing all nine positions in one game.

They’re so damned fickle too. Tim McCarver, my archenemy, and Joe Buck were going on and on about Steve Trachsel like he was Cy Young. Steve Trachsel. The guy’s a poster boy for baseball mediocrity. After less than three innings Steve Trachsel wasn’t even in the game anymore.

Phoo.

Well, that was a quick fade by the Yankees. 200 million dollars for nothing. I hope to see the end of Johnson, Rodriquez, Giambi, and Sheffield in the bargain this winter. I’m getting sick of Jeter and Rivera having to carry those guys.

And Mike Mussina might be gone this winter too. When the Yankees got him 6 years ago, he was touted as the new anchor of the rotation that had a lot of aging pitchers on it. He’s been pretty solid and consistent, and he pitched some good games in the postseason. I remember he outdueled Barry Zito in a crucial playoff game several years ago.

Clearly, pitching is the key and the Yanks have lost sight of that. When they won, it was with four big-game starters: Cone, Wells, Pettitte, and Hernandez (Clemens was unreliable in the postseason). Then they had a deep bullpen, a deep bench, and lineup full of quietly productive all-around players who were never the biggest names: Williams, O’Neill, Martinez, Brosius. Even Luis Sojo would contribute a game-winning hit once or twice each October.

Where are the guys like that?

Congratulations, Tigers. The better team won again.

Congress is a cesspool

Mark Foley says he is not a pedophile (are you sure?).

I can see how the Congressional leadership would blow something like this off. It probably looked a little iffy to them at first, and then it was hard to believe it was true. But this whole episode just lays bare the cynicism in Congress. There are no principles there.

I’m real depressed right now because I just saw a documentary on PBS about the Abramoff scandal. Talk about cynicism. These guys took money from anyone willing to buy off a Congressman. Disgusting.

October madness

It’s that time of year again. I’ll be parking my butt in front of the TV for the baseball playoffs. As usual, the only drawback is having to watch the games on FOX, with their stupid sound effects and Tim Carver’s idiotic analysis.

I think the Yankees will be all over the Tigers. Detroit was swept by Kansas City at the end of the season and lost the division title. Fortunately there’s the wild card playoff spot to reward their mediocrity.

And thank the God Almighty I don’t have to watch the Red Sox this fall.

This will the first year in several I won’t be able to watch the postseason with my folks. The last three years I’ve been in Colorado for Columbus Day weekend.

I love Congress

Have you heard about this stupid pedophile homosexual Republican congressman who resigned the other day? My god, what an idiot. And Newt Gingrich is saying the House’s Republican leadership didn’t lower the boom on him earlier because they were afraid of being accused of gay-bashing. Please. They live for gay-bashing.

If this guy was in any other profession, there’d be some law–passed tomorrow–requiring every applicant for that sort of job to undergo a special pedophile background check. Think Congress is going to undergo that sort of review?

The Democrats are going to think they don’t need to come up a program or ideas because the Republicans keep imploding.

Radioactive man

I learned from a friend that Great Kills Park, where I worked for about four years, is radioactive. Woo-ha!

The park used to be a landfill, and some radioactive equipment was buried there. The locals are nervous. Officials, including my employer the National Park Service, say it’s not dangerous, then again officials say a lot of things. The radioactive area is covered with grasses that go up in flames periodically. Next time that happens people are going to flip out.

And I mean flip out. We’re talking about Staten Island here.