Happy birthday

The Ideapad turns eight on Wednesday. Eight! When this page launched, Google was in beta, Netscape was still battling Microsoft prior to the AOL acquisition, and blog tools like Pyra’s Blogger had yet to be invented. Heck, even the word “blog” hadn’t been invented yet.

I am proud (and more than a little impressed with myself) that the Ideapad has endured, more or less continually, for so long. Some of the archives are a lot of fun, and a few things I’ve written have become lovely little remembrances. Thanks for reading, and for those of you that have been referenced along the way, thank you for indulging me. I hope it’s been as fun for you as it has for me.

Where we are in our lives

Me: “Where’s the Mets game?”

B: “It was a rainout. And I’m so glad.”

Me: “So Glavine gets an extra day of rest?”

B: “No no—so I do! Do you know how hard it is to watch baseball five straight days? And with the baby running around? That’s just too much time….”

Today’s liquor lesson

Whisky (or “whiskey”; see update below) refers to alcoholic beverages that are derived from grains and aged in oak casks. Scotch whisky (or simply Scotch) refers specifically to whiskey produced in Scotland, and which is distilled primarily from malted barley. Bourbon, in contrast, is an American whisky that is at least 51% derived from corn. Canadian, or rye, whiskey typically is 51% or greater rye alongside other grains. And, of course, those with small home distilleries and unspecified grain percentages have a name, too: moonshine.

I am far from a drinker, but I do enjoy a nice glass of Scotch on the rocks, Lagavulin in particular. And as of this past weekend, I’m going to start exploring the world of bourbon as well (Knob Creek was a good introduction). Just don’t reprimand me if you see me ordering it before dinner instead of after.

Update: the wise and observant Ken Schlager points out that the correct spelling (per AP style) is “whiskey” unless referring to “Scotch whisky.” Duly noted and repaired.

Southern hospitality

Without a doubt, Atlanta has the nicest taxicab drivers I’ve encountered in all my travels, domestic or international.

Imagine if any cabbie in New York offered even two of these nice touches, most of which I had on all three of my rides:

–Opening the passenger door

–A clean, spacious back seat without a partition

–Several of today’s newspapers

–Classical music playing quietly

–Pleasant and unintrusive small talk

–Asked permission to open the windows

–Noticed the passenger making a phone call and temporarily turned off the radio

Really, everyone is nice in Atlanta, even the normally disgruntled airport staff, who don’t have that oh-lord-why dazed emptiness in their eyes, and who actually say things like “pardon me” and “good afternoon” and “thank you.” I’m used to the aggressive rhythms of Manhattan but I can sure see the appeal in this.

I didn’t get to see much of Atlanta today, but I most certainly felt welcome.

Eerie

Part of me would rather not, but yes, let’s talk about how wholly unsettling a feeling one gets when one’s employee bursts into one’s office and asks, “Do you see the smoke uptown? I was told a plane flew into a building.” And the pit that swells in the stomach, and the emotions from 2001, very recently revisited, that flood back: the sounds, the smells, the confusion, the horror.

And let’s reflect upon the suppression of the horror, the forced effort to maintain an even keel, in order to investigate the situation, both out of curiosity and necessity, and to try to share the news and a bit of the shock with one’s curious visitors from Paris, yet with the least possible mention of previous events, to them or to any New Yorkers in the room.

And let’s layer on top of this the concept of heading to LaGuardia Airport for a business flight less than three hours following the discovery of said uptown smoke, amid rush hour, pouring rain, and the aftermath of a minor but very real hysteria, only 13 blocks north of one’s office, and the knee-jerk reactions that spew from the gut, conversations that bluntly go something like:

“I think you should just go to the airport and take your flight.”

“Oh? Would you have said that last time?”

And add to that the hour-plus car service delays, the need to hail an off-duty cab and cajole the driver into a last fare, the perverse feeling of trying not to miss a flight while not wanting to get on the plane, and the fact that Yankee pitcher and deceased pilot Cory Lidle was profiled in the New York Times five weeks ago…to showcase his hobby as a pilot, in a piece that includes this paragraph:

“A player-pilot is still a sensitive topic for the Yankees, whose captain, Thurman Munson, was killed in the crash of a plane he was flying in 1979. Lidle, acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies on July 30, said his plane was safe.”

So, yeah. Let’s not.

What is he, like, 40?

Baseball playoffs are back! And with them come misguided attempts to sensationalize players. This op-ed piece in today’s New York Times suggests that Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez is, to use the appropriate term, being picked on because he’s a) older than he admits and b) Latino. The rather upfront intimation here is that El Duque’s age is an issue because of a racist undertone.

But the author of the piece has it all wrong. Hernandez’s age is an issue because a) if he truly is older than he admits, b) it makes his pitching that much more impressive. Baseball fans know that a pitcher with good stuff and guile in his 40s is a marvel, and as the playoffs arrive and El Duque’s game face intensifies, speculating as to his true age becomes part of the legend.

The reason it seems tilted toward Hernandez and fellow Latin players is simple: most caucasian American baseball players don’t lie about their age. They can’t, because they’re drafted out of high school or college and their records are readily available. Arrive on a boat from Cuba, and pretend you’re 28 when you’re 32, and the subject becomes far more prominent, and interesting. The fact that El Duque has let it persist only makes it more fun.

So please, let’s drop the racial subtext and cheer on the ageless wonder as he takes the mound for the Mets tonight. He may be in the wrong uniform for me, but El Duque will have my cheers as usual. And that has nothing to do with race.

(Update, Oct. 5: El Duque is injured and not pitching in the playoffs. But I’m rooting for him all the same.)

(Update II, Oct. 17: Baseball’s collective marveling at the performance of 41-year-old Kenny Rogers this postseason reinforces the case.)