Remembering Private McAdow

I had numerous ancestors who fought in the U.S. Civil War. On my mom’s side, one of my direct ancestors was a Union spy during the war. He was captured three times. We joke sometimes that he was better at escaping from Confederate prisons than he was at being a spy. He survived the war and lived a long life.

On my dad’s side, Dr. Isaac Proctor Farquhar put medical school on hold and became Private Isaac Proctor Farquhar, like many of his brothers did. The elder Farquhar brothers who were already doctors became officers in the Union army, while the younger Farquhar brothers became infantry. All survived, came home to their families and resumed their productive medical careers.

James Washington McAdow did not. Read more

KC: Don’t give in to Scott Boras

Well, with the Royals having been all but mathematically eliminated from contention by Memorial Day–that’s what happens when you forget how to field, pitch, and hit, and aren’t fast enough to steal any bases–it looks like they’ll soon be disassembling the team. And the first to go out the door will be Carlos Beltran.

He shouldn’t be.Beltran is possibly the most underrated player in baseball. He’s a classic five-tool player, in that he makes spectacular catches, has a great throwing arm, can steal bases, hit home runs, and hit for average. For the past four years or so he’s been one of the most exciting players in baseball, but because he’s played in Kansas City, even a lot of Kansas Citians don’t know it.

Trouble is, Beltran is represented by Scott Boras, who is a leading candidate, along with George Steinbrenner, Bud Selig, and Donald Fehr, to do the most to ruin the game of baseball. I think the nicest thing I’ve ever heard Boras called was "a one-man wrecking ball." Hey, none of those words will get you fined by the FCC…

Boras gets called lots of colorful things because Boras is a master at extracting every red cent out of you. Boras gets seven-figure salaries for pitchers who can’t pitch and position players who can’t hit or field routinely. And if you happen to be any good at all, Boras will get you an eight-figure salary.

How’d World Series MVP Ivan Rodriguez end up playing for the Detroit Tigers, a team that lost 119 games last year? Easy. They were the only team willing to pay the salary Boras demanded.

So, back to Beltran. Scott Boras’ job now, the way he sees it, is to present Beltran as the best player in baseball. Or at the very least, twice as good as anyone else available. And as we all know, if you’re twice as good as someone else who plays baseball, you should make at least four times as much money.

Scott Boras is going to try to get Beltran $25 million a year. And if he can’t get it, he’ll take the best offer on the table, which needless to say probably won’t be the $9 million the Royals are paying Beltran now.

So the Royals, desperate to get more than nothing for the best player they’ve developed since George Brett, are shopping Beltran. The only thing is, how many teams are willing to give you anything in exchange for a Scott Boras client, who’s going to walk at the end of the season?

The Yankees will, but the Yankees don’t have anything the Royals want or need. They’ve depleted all of it trading for less-talented players for their pennant drives the last few years. The Royals and Yankees discussed an even-up trade of Beltran for Alfonso Soriano during the offseason, but then the Yankees traded Soriano for Alex Rodriguez.

Seeing as nobody else is likely to have an Alfonso Soriano-caliber player at an Alfonso Soriano price to offer, the Royals’ best bet is to keep Beltran around and let him give them some highlight reel exposure. The Royals’ pitchers give him plenty of chances to chase down long fly balls.

The reason for this is simple: When a free agent the quality of Beltran departs, you don’t get nothing. You get a draft pick. In the case of Beltran, you’re virtually assured of getting the team’s first-round draft pick.

When you’re a small-market team, drafting is just about your only hope for being able to find and afford another player like Beltran.

CompUSA’s $30 house-brand router looks like a rare bargain

I just built a network for a friend using CompUSA’s $30 cable/DSL router/4-port switch. I’m not sure if the price was a Memorial Day special, or if that’s the regular price. Considering you can’t get a Linksys or D-Link for under $50 without rebate hassles, and usually they cost closer to $80, that’s a nice deal.
The CompUSA unit looks bland and generic–it’s brown and boxy, from the same design school as the original Commodore 64–but that’s the only knock I have on it. Hide it behind your desk if its homely looks bother you. Installing it was literally a plug-in-and-go affair. Plug in the cable modem, plug in the computers, release the computers’ IP addresses and renew them (or reboot if you wish), and they’re all on the network.

If you want to get fancy, then open the manual. You can do port forwarding, set up a DMZ, and do everything else you’d expect from a consumer router. It even includes dynamic DNS support–something the more expensive units didn’t give you, the last I checked.

I can’t speak for the long-term reliability of the unit, since I literally spent 15 minutes with it. The price is good enough that to me, it’s worth a slight risk. In devices like this, it’s the wall wart that’s most likely to fail anyway.

So if you or a friend is looking to share your cable or DSL broadband connection and there’s a CompUSA nearby, it’s worth a look.

Memorial Day in St. Louis

I made a big mistake at work yesterday. I let someone be unreasonable and ruin my day. No, I don’t want to talk about it. I’d rather go back to a happier time… like Monday.
On Monday, Gatermann and I went out shooting. He’s experimenting with high-contrast b&w photography and I wanted some harsh and stark pictures of myself in an urban setting, so we went driving around in the warehouse district. We found a great source of used car parts–drive around the right places, and you’ll find tires, hubs, car batteries, mufflers, and even gas tanks just sitting there, and no one complains if you take them. I even found a couple of tires mounted on hubs. They must make them in some of those old buildings or something.

But that wasn’t what we were looking for. We were looking for good shots. Well, we found a building that they’re tearing down, and one corner that’s still standing has a really big word painted on it, descending down the building: “Fresh.” Gatermann said he’d be coming back when more of the building was gone to get a shot of that. And Gatermann got a shot of a modern train running past the old, abandoned, St. Louis Southwestern Railroad (aka The Cotton Belt Route) freight depot on the riverfront.

And we found some neat-looking doorways for me to stand in while he took some shots.

We drove around some more, and Gatermann said he knew of a really neat-looking trestle nearby, so we went there. It’s been years since the trestle’s been used, but someone still mows under it. We got a few shots, then Gatermann looked over to the left. Next to a building, there were a few coal hoppers just sitting there. “Let’s get a shot of you standing between those two cars,” he said. I walked over there, then Gatermann said, “No, let’s go to the other side. With where the sun is, we’ll get backlighting there.” So we walked to the last car, stepped over a rope that was blocking our way and totally ignored the sign on the rope, and then one of us noticed a sign on the door of the building: Danger. Radioactive. Keep out. I looked at the signs on the fence next to the building: Radioactive contamination. Keep out. Gatermann and I looked at each other. “Maybe it’s not a good idea for us to be here.”

We stepped back over the rope and read the sign: Radiological buffer zone.

I looked at Gatermann. “Well, that was probably the smartest thing we’ll do all day.”

As we drove off, I noticed some more signs on that fence: Guard dog on duty. Guard dog? Isn’t radiation that’s bad for us bad for dogs too?

Chances are one of the sets of signs was lying. Maybe both of them. But that just didn’t seem to be the place to be that afternoon.

We weren’t the only ones to think that. Apparently some people think the thing to do in St. Louis on Memorial Day is to go find a warehouse, preferably with a loading dock that you can use like a porch, pack up the lawnchairs and the grill, and barbecue there with your family or a bunch of your buddies. You’ll have to ask Gatermann why that is, because I’m not a St. Louis native. I just live here. I don’t even like pork steaks.

But no one was BBQing at the House of Radioactivity. I guess no one wanted to know whether the barbecue would cook faster there. Or maybe they just didn’t want to share with the dog.

Memorial Day: Thank a vet

It’s Memorial Day. Memorial Day for many means barbecues, maybe a trip to the lake. We’re far enough removed from war that it’s mostly become another excuse for a three-day weekend. Yes, we fought a war 10 years ago, but it was so quick it didn’t really seem like war, and it was undeclared. And our previous administration involved us in plenty of skirmishes, but that wasn’t exactly war either. And I know, to many of us Vietnam seems like it was just yesterday, just like the first Bush administration seems like it was just yesterday to me, but Vietnam was long enough ago that there’s an entire generation of adults who view it exclusively as an historical event–by the time I was born, we were out of there.
One of the elders at church told me this week that 1.2 million U.S. soldiers have died in combat over the course of our history. That’s a lot of lives to gain and protect our freedom. And yes, as screwed up as our country is, we’re still a lot better off than much of the world. The dangers we face today are the dangers of our own making. There is no foreign dragon looming over our heads waiting to devour us.

So if you know any veterans, thank them the next time you see them. If you don’t, at least take a minute to thank God for their sacrifice.