Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mid-Season Reflections

The day after Opening Day, I expressed my thoughts about the Angels and their chances this season. I didn't say much because, first of all, the Angels had only 2 of their 5 starting pitchers on the roster (the rest being on the DL). Secondly, my reflections were based on only one game. Not much to go on there. Nonetheless, I was excited but on the fence about whether we could preform well under the particular constraints under which we started the season.

But now it's the All-Star Break and half of the season is over. Here's the negative perspective:

-We still don't have all five starting pitchers healthy.
-Nick Adenhart (a young replacement starter) was killed the night of his first start.
-I'm not sure about now, but for most of this first half, our bullpen has been the worst in baseball.
-Vladdy has spent more time on the DL than not on the DL.
-We've gone 2W-7L against the Rangers, our AL West competitors.

Actually, the last one hurts the most since our ability to perform against the Rangers may determine our playoff chances down the stretch. If you would have forced me to write this email one week ago, it would have been too depressing to read. We had just lost 2 of 3 to Texas and losing that series knocked us out of 1st place and propelled them into that spot. It was terrible and I didn't think that following that performance up with a series against the Yankees was going to help things much. Imagine how excited I was to hear that we were entering the Yankee series with Torii Hunter and Vlad Guerrero on the DL with Juan Rivera joining them the next day!

But now it's time for the positive perspective:

-We swept that series against the Yanks and, with the Rangers losing 2 to Seattle, we entered the Break in 1st place by a game and a half.
-Jered Weaver is pitching up a storm and is carrying our struggling pitching staff.
-The little guys (Izturis, Aybar and Mathis) are making up for the home runs that Vladdy and Bobby Abreu aren't hitting.
-Torii Hunter is going above and beyond what anyone could ever ask of him, providing needed leadership and inspiration on and off the field.
-The Angels have won 5 of the 6 games that I've been able to attend and they've all been pretty exciting.

So, as my beloved Halos enter the 2nd half, I'm hopeful. I'm not sure when or in what condition Vladdy, Hunter and Rivera will return and I always worry that trips to the DL might ultimately mean the end of a season—or career—for a player. But the Yankee series showed that, if the rest of our team has their game on, we can play adequately without them. Our bullpen still needs A LOT of help, but they've settled down somewhat and aren't an exhibition in dismal failure anymore. I'm going to see the Angels play the Athletics in Oakland tomorrow night. That will be my final game before going back to Ukraine. I'm not excited about seeing Ervin Santana pitch but, if the offense is on, I'm not too worried. And even if we lose, they'll still have a winning record on games that I've been able to attend—I can't ask for much more when I'm around for only parts of every 3rd or 4th season. So, as we say goodbye to the first half of the '09 season, I can say, from the depths of my heart and with high hopes for the remainder of the season, "Go Halos!"

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Thrill-seeking's in the Blood

When I was young, my dad used to do some crazy stuff. I have memories of standing on the beach, watching my dad swim away from shore with his face mask and flippers on. He'd swim so far out beyond the waves that I'd no longer be able to see him. I think that's the point at which I'd start crying, thinking that he'd never come back. I also remember outings that involved descending into old mines that I'm sure have been closed off by now as safety hazards.

Well, I wasn't too old when I started to manifest my own thrill-seeking nature by climbing dangerously high into trees, eating live bugs and jumping off of all kinds of things. As a kid, I never felt any need to psychoanalyze it, I just had lots and lots of fun. The thrill of jumping off the roof of our garage just never got old, EVER!

But now I have an almost-3-year-old. Everything that I do is lodged into my son's memory. If I say it, he might say it. If I do it, he might do it. I'm almost to the point where I believe that if I think it, he'll think it. Needless to say, as a parent, you have to be cautious about what you do. That, combined with the fact that my knees are 35 years old—25 years older than at peak roof-jumping time—and I don't find myself jumping off of too many things anymore. If Dietrich doesn't see his daddy jump off of stuff, maybe he won't feel the need to jump off of stuff.

Wrong-O, buddy bean! Dietrich jumps off of everything. Everything that we'll let him jump from, that is. It proved to be solidly part of his daily routine about 6 months ago and there isn't much that we can do about it, except mildly monitor and, when it's not too out of control, enjoy it. Oh, and there's one more thing that we (read, "I") can do. I can join in the fun! As noted, my knees aren't what they used to be, but I can out-jump Dietrich, for now. So, here's me and him indulging at a park while visiting the younger Martins in Camas, WA, in April:

On that same trip, Dietrich did had a lot of fun with Nels and Willem. One of their thrill-seekingest moments was this tire swing at another of Camas' great little parks:

The fun continued once we were settled back in Morgan Hill, CA, at Josie's parents' place. A short-lived joy was cruising down the driveway—driveways are quite long on a 3-acre farm—on daddy's 1967 Honda CT-90, named Vanguard. Dietrich thinks that Vanguard's motor is a little too loud, so he didn't want to get anywhere near it while it was running. But he loved to sit on it while it wasn't. And, as it turns out, he loved coasting down the driveway on Vanguard with daddy holding him. Here's 2 great shots of that fun:

But notice that a lot of the verbs in the previous paragraph are in the past tense. Dietrich "loved," not "Dietrich loves." That's because there is a flip side to the thrill-seeking lifestyle. The danger is accompanied by the pain of accidents. And the accidents can be traumatic enough to keep us from retravelling some avenues of thrill-seeking. On what would prove to be our final ride, a car was coming up the driveway as we were coming down. I put on the brakes and the combo of only having one hand on the handlebars—the other hand being on Dietrich—and being on a particularly gravelly part of the driveway resulted in us tipping over. Dietrich got a nice scrape on his ankle but was fine otherwise, physically. Psychologically however, he's done with the motorcycle or, as he calls it, "da muh-kah-duh." In retrospect, he's much too young to go on actual motorcycle rides with the engine running so, maybe this incident was meant to keep him from wanting to move from the engine-off stage of riding to the engine-on stage. We wouldn't have stepped it up to that level and much frustration would have ensued. Still, the powerful memory of that accident lingers as a reminder that thrill-seeking has potentially painful consequences.

But the incident at the Splash Zone of Gilroy Gardens was the topper. We discovered Gilroy Gardens in early June and, since Dietrich loved it and it's only a 20-minute drive away, we upgraded our one-day admission to a membership and have been back about 10 times since. About 4 of the first 5 of those visits involved a trip to the Splash Zone. What a great way for a kid to spend part of his day! I remember when all I had available were the sprinklers in the front yard. Here's Dietrich busting through a geyser, an action that causes him to scream with delight:

But then it happened. On what would prove to be his final visit to the Splash Zone, Dietrich was running full speed at the same geyser pictured above while a kid not much older than him—but twice his size—came running full speed from the opposite direction. Right on top of the geyser, the 2 of them collided, sending Dietrich falling backwards right onto the back of his head. "Smack!" You could tell it was gonna be a doozy and it was. We had to keep a close eye on him for the rest of the day and it seemed like it took a few days before he was his fearless, thrill-seeking self again. But, due to the memory of shock, pain and disappointment, Dietrich has closed this avenue of excitement for himself. The only time he's ever seemed interested in returning to the Splash Zone was when I offhandedly commented that he needed a Splash Zone helmet. Unfortunately, there's no such thing and I'm afraid that all I did was add to the disappointment by mentioning the mere possibility.

So, Dietrich certainly is an adventurous little tike. It's fun to watch him have a blast discovering new ways to exhilarate himself and to occasionally join in the fun. But he's had some hard lessons in the last few weeks about the downside to thrill-seeking. It's hard to watch the tears fall when the living out of the Oldenburg nature leads to the accidents that accompany that nature.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Another Book and Another Blog

A few months back I made mention of J.P. Moreland's newest book, The God Question. I ended up making time for it much sooner than I expected to and just finished it last night. I confirm and multiply the force of everything I said here. This is the book to start with if you've not dabbled much in apologetics or Christian philosophy before now. I remember giving a friend J.P.'s Scaling the Secular City as a gift, like 15 years ago, or so, and he still hasn't read it. He says it's too much for him. If The God Question was out back then, I would've given it instead.

Interestingly, when I was about half way through the book, I came across Doug Groothuis' brand new blog (which is actually the blog for Denver Seminary's Christian Thought division—but only Groothuis has posted, so far). I was checking out Ph.D. programs (which they, unfortunately, don't have) when I found the blog and I didn't exit until I'd read everything there. Groothuis, like Moreland, is as sharp as a Ginsu, offering perceptive insights on some of today's most pressing issues. Add this to your bookmarks and read it when you can. Groothuis writes at a pace more like mine so, don't expect floods of material. But when he does post, expect nothing but the best. One of his posts, fortunately, is a review of Moreland's, The God Question. Thus, instead of writing a bunch myself, I can just link that review and be done. Thanks Professor Groothuis, I think I'll go take a nap.

But before my snooze, I'll leave you—as has become a veritable custom when I've read a book that qualifies—with the review entry for my annotated bibliography of Christian apologetics for The God Question.

"J.P. Moreland, The God Question: An Invitation to a Life of Meaning (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers: 2009).

It would not be outrageous to guess that if a first-rate Christian philosopher—one who has spent two-thirds of his life propounding the deepest aspects of Christianity in professional and academic settings—attempted to present the basics of those aspects to an audience unfamiliar with them, that confusion and misunderstanding would result. Not so with Moreland’s, The God Question. Moreland speaks primarily and directly to the skeptic of Christianity and, secondarily, those believers who have not been introduced to some of the basic issues in Christian philosophy and spirituality. What he’s said in thousands of pages of technical work in the past on arguments for the existence of God, the historical reliability of the New Testament and how to live a life of genuine spirituality and happiness, he says here in just 200 pages of conversational prose. And not only is he able to communicate these complex issues clearly, he does so winsomely, with passionate conviction and genuine concern for those who do not yet know God. This is a book to give to anyone who is interested in the rationality, coherence and meaning of a vibrant life as a disciple of Jesus but who isn’t yet able to plunge into the intellectual deep end of the Christian faith. Reading this book will move that person toward those deep waters, armed with many of the devices necessary for staying afloat as they get there."