We Are In Control

GetSmart.ConeofSilenceThey hired 31 of us. We all passed our background checks and got our paperwork in on time. For the first day of orientation, we all sat in a large conference room, in four rows of six and one row of seven. The walls were all white and doubled as wipe boards. Taped to them were various witty posters espousing the benefits of a can do approach combined with a great attitude. We were each given a notebook tablets and a pen. On the inside cover, under Subject, I wrote “Hunting Nazis”. The head of the group stood at the podium in the front of the room and began to introduce himself as a guy who joined the Company a decade ago in Tennessee, and proceeded to earn his way into a previous opportunity in Seattle before ending up here at this account for the past 7 years; and then he said, before he can go any further, that we all have to sign the NDA, the gist of which was, nothing could be said about the job or the Client to anyone outside of this room. We, in essence, work for the Company, and the Company is thrilled to have the trust and respect of the Client. Capiche?

For the next three hours, we sat under the halogen lights of the bland conference room located on an odd numbered floor of a nondescript downtown office building, and we began to learn the learning process of what was going to happen during our training sessions; but first we finished taking care of the paperwork, both personal and company, and then we had to introduce ourselves. I had chosen to sit next to the oldest guy in the room. He had use to run a rock club in Lawrence, KS, back in the ‘70s, and since has managed various IT teams of 10-15 people for national firms. Like me, he had gone through a long unemployment; unlike me, he had done his research of all firms that would hire a gent at his age, and eventually sought out this Company via his experience. I, on the other hand, experienced the Company reaching out to me not once but twice over a 3 month stretch with this particular task in mind. The rest of the class proved to be at least 15 years younger than me, including a Brazilian, a few Mexicans, an Aussie, and a Gaucho of Greek heritage. There’s a guy who played basketball for a team in Tel Aviv before playing for a team in Germany. There are about 3 folks who moved to town within the past 3 months, another 3 folks who moved to town within the past 6 months, and about 20 who moved to town within the past 7 years. (For those that need to know, there is only one Californian in this group other than me.) Many of these folks are dog people, there is a handful of cat people, and a surprising number of parents.GetSmart.ShoePhone

As an employee of a high tech consulting firm, I was issued a very recent fancy laptop that will right click function when I use two fingers on the trackpad, and doesn’t do so when I press down with one. Every conference room is equipped with a camera, a screen, and a panel to conduct meetings. (I discovered the microphone by leaning back and looking straight up.) The kitchen is fully stocked with snacks, both sweet and nutritious, as well as various caffeinated drinks. This is in addition to being fed by the Company courtesy of the Client twice a day with catered meals including fresh fruit in the morning and a full salad bar in the afternoon. By the way, all our plates and utensils are compostable, so no guilt on this end for that end.

Halfway through the first week, 7 of us got pulled out of the 31, and we were further pared down into a group of 3 and a group of 4. I’m in the latter contingent, along with the old guy, the basketball player, and a young lady who just moved from Florida. We were all given our desks, and since last Wednesday, only enter the main training area for pop quizzes of the content. We have our own conferences as well, and spent our mornings this week hooked up to a global training session being led by a Thai lady in Dublin along with the help of a very enthusiastic Pakistani (we think) videoing in from an undisclosed Middle Eastern location.

We were given tests on the subject matter today; all of us failed. We missed it by that much.

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The Baseball Diaries: World Series Game 7

Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers; series tied 3-3.

Feeling the Bern

Someone is happy this has all ended…

Dear Diary. This is my final entry. The baseball season has ended. The Houston Astros won the championship, beating the Dodgers in a relatively anticlimactic 5-1 victory, having scored all their runs by the end of the 2nd inning, culminated by George Springer’s fifth home run of the Series, a 2-out, 2-run shot that could have entirely been avoided. Of course, that’s the thing with hindsight and Game 7s. So many different scenarios could have played out, but the fact is, the Dodgers couldn’t get the big hits when they needed them, while at the same time, they failed to stop the Astros when it was necessary. As such, the Dodgers will universally be recognized as the second best team in Major League Baseball for 2017. I take some solace in the fact that they are also universally appreciated (along with the Astros) for putting on a hell of a show over the past 10 days. No sense in getting into it all. Maybe next year I’ll cover everything and not peter out halfway through the Series wondering how the fuck I’m going to get something done after all of that… and a That that didn’t necessarily end well for me (definitely not well enough) at that.

Last year, the Cubs went through the Dodgers to end their 108 years of futility. This year the Astros beat the Dodgers for their first ever World Series championship, a 60+ year-long endeavor. It’s a bunch of bullshit being chosen to put with all that nonsense. Vegas odds have the Dodgers meeting Cleveland in the World Series next year. They haven’t won the World Series since 1948, but I sure don’t give a shit about that. Next season, it’ll be 30 years since ’88. That’s all that really matters.

Houston wins the game 5-1 and beats the Dodgers 4-3 in the World Series. The End

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The Baseball Diaries: World Series Game 6

Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers; Astros lead series 3-2.

WS.Game6.JocHomerMurgatroid is being a good boy, though he doesn’t think he is. He thinks he’s been a bad dog, and is being punished all day by me being at work before spending all night on the couch as I watch the Dodgers continue their postseason run. He is intuitive enough to be  concerned for my well-being, though. Deep down, he knows it might be best to just avoid me altogether. He typically goes outside to chase possums and squirrels out by the bamboo forest in the far SE corner of the yard, but it’s raining outside, and so he’s instead in the back room laying on the backroom couch, bored out of his short attention span, Catahoula mind. Every once in a while, he’ll try to lure me away from the empty void into which I stare. (I never seem to get him to see the TV.) He knows when things are going bad for my team, because he can hear me breathe harder into my clutched fists. He tends to stay in the back room since I’m seemingly ready to cry like a sad, little child, but then when things turn around, and the Dodgers score some runs, he insists on joining the party. It’s an up-and-down life for [AGarDog ], yet such is life and baseball.

Things don’t start out too good for my team. The Dodgers are unable to cure my extreme nausea by not scoring runs through the first half of the ballgame. Thankfully, they only give up one run during this time, a two out, top of the 3rd inning solo home run by Astros leadoff hitter, George Springer. It’s his fourth home run in the Series, an impressive bounce back from striking out all four plate appearances in Game 1. Meanwhile, starting pitcher Justin Verlander is throwing a one-hitter, striking out eight Dodgers through the 5th inning. However, the former pitcher, current color commentator made an interesting observation, and put me at ease. The Dodgers, he said, have scored in the 6th inning in each of their previous two home games during the Series, and sure enough, the Dodgers score twice by way of a base hit, a hit batter, a run scoring double, and then a deep sacrifice fly to right. This action encouraged Murgatroid to come over with rope toy. “Tug it,” he says to me with his eyes. “Don’t let me down.” So we play, and he ends up biting the back of my hand. WSGame6.VerlanderHR

Joc Pederson, though, makes life easier for me in the 7th inning as he adds his third home run of the Series in the 7th inning to increase the lead to 3-1, and Kenley Jansen was brought in the 8th inning to close out the game with a 6-out save. He threw 19 pitches, 18 of which were strikes, and recorded, in order: fly out, foul out, strike out and then pop out, strikeout, strikeout. The elimination game is over. The Dodgers win, and my dog is unimpressed. Much to his chagrin, there will be another day of baseball. Game 7 is on the schedule, and will be for all the marbles.

Get ready, Dog.

Dodgers win the game 3-1 and tie the World Series up at 3 games apiece.

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The Baseball Diaries: World Series Game 5

Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros; series tied 2-2

Game5.win_reactThis post is tardy, and I don’t just mean that in a David Lee Roth sort of way. I am writing from the desk of my new job hours before the start of Game 6, as opposed to minutes after Game 5 from the confines of my humble abode. Game 5 lasted over 5 hours long and didn’t end till well past midnight. The game was tied 7-7 through the 7th inning , and as in Game 2, the fun had only got started. When it was over, the Astros came out on top, beating the Dodgers 13-12 in 10 innings. I would be going into great detail if my team had won the game, but they did not, and as such, my team is facing elimination. One more loss, and the Astros win the baseball world championship. Subsequently, with two wins over the next two games (tonight and tomorrow), the Dodgers will become the undisputed, universally recognized best team in Major League Baseball for 2017.

There is plenty of solace I can take from losing this epic Game 5. My Houston Astro friends have been sending me text messages reiterating their love for me, their lifetime compadre, telling me when this all over, we should get together, touch base, and hang out soon; and coworkers have been rather gracious reaching out to say how this World Series has just been amazing, fabulous, and stufuckingpendous. And all of those expressed fears of walking about town with my LA cap proved to be unfounded. There are no stink eyes in the air, but rather an air of mutual respect. HFT_Waldo

It was an additionally tough Sunday for me as my football team, the Houston Texans, also lost their game on the road, playing the super tough and competitive Seattle Seahawks, who scored the winning touchdown with 29-seconds left on the clock, giving them a 41-38 victory. Certainly, the majority of Astros fans are Texans fans, too, but not many Dodgers fans are also Texans fans, meaning I must fall in a one percentile of super game losers.

So excuse me for being anxious.

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The Baseball Diaries: World Series Game 4

Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros; Houston leads 2-1

Game4.JTBaseball is supposed to be fun. Winning a championship brings a lot of happiness to the players and their fans. One would think, therefore, that playing for a baseball championship, and watching your favorite team doing so, would be a really swell and super time rather than a hair raising battle against rampant blood pressure. Losing Game 3 and being down in the World Series sucked my energy dry. In addition, there was the internationally recognized racist incident directed by the Astro from Cuba towards the Dodger from Japan. That had been all the hubbub all day long, and had watered down much of my anticipation for the very consequential Game 4 about which I spoke practically and philosophically. They only need one game in Houston to bring the Series back to L.A.; it would just be nice for them to not have to rely on Clayton Kershaw in Game 5 to do it.

APTOPIX World Series Dodgers Astros BaseballDecent, logical thinking, though, couldn’t stop the butterflies from storming my guts like the Allies taking on the Nazis at Normandy. In ’88, I practiced the art of breathing into my clutched fists, and so I resurrected the behavior if for no other reason than to repeat my actions from a successful past.  Things got off to an inauspicious start, though. Astros leadoff hitter, George Springer, claimed to be hit by a pitch; the umpires checked video replay and confirmed he wasn’t. The very next inning, Yasiel Puig actually hit a foul ball that was redirected by his cleats and into fair territory. The Dodgers requested a replay review and were denied; Puig was declared out, and I shouted at my TV, posted on Facebook, and then sat and hyperventilated for a few innings. A true pitcher’s duel which saw the Dodgers getting only one hit while holding the Astros hitless. Then with two outs in the 6th inning, George Springer hit a home run. Houston was up 1-0. World Series Dodgers Astros Baseball

The Dodgers responded. After stumbling around for the past game and a half, their offense got going. Cody Bellinger hit a double with one out, for his first hit of the series. He came around to tie score on Logan Forsythe’s single. Then in the 9th inning, the Dodgers put together a five run rally consisting of three hits, two walks, and a sacrifice fly, with the biggest hit being Joc Pederson’s second home run of the Series, a 3-run shot with two outs, making the score 6-1. Kenley Jansen came in to close out the game, though he did give up a home run to Alex Bregman.

The World Series is now tied at 2 games apiece, and I feel much better now. Thanks.

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The Baseball Diaries: World Series Game 3

Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros; series tied at 1-1

Game3.shittyNo one said it was going to be easy, but then no one said I had to enjoy it, either. The Dodgers looked like crap most of the night. Starting pitcher Yu Darvish had a horrible start, allowing four runs on six hits, including a home run, and one walk with no strikeouts in less than two innings. A total shame of a game for a guy who had really found his groove over the previous month and a half. The Dodgers started the 3rd inning by drawing three straight walks and loading the bases, but only one run scored when Corey Seager grounded into a double play. Justin Turner then failed to pick up the slack by grounding out to end the inning. The Astros added an unearned run with a 2-out rally in the 5th inning curtesy of the bottom half of their batting order by a 2-out base hit followed by an infield hit and a throwing error. The Dodgers did cut into the lead in the top of the 6th inning, but like their other scoring rally, they took a lot (a leadoff walk followed by a double) and did nothing with it (strikeout, ground out, wild pitch, pop-up for two runs). Add in Chris Taylor going 0-3 and Cody Bellinger striking out all his four at-bats, and this is the team that eclipsed the team that won 47 out of 56 by losing the 20 out of 25.

Keep in mind that I am an adult with responsibilities, and I sort of know what I’m doing with my life. I am no longer the 15-year-old who smashed a wooden bat to pieces when Jack Clark hit his 3-run home run off of Tom Niedenfeur to seal the 1985 championship for the St. Louis Cardinals. A 2-1 World Series deficit isn’t the end of the world, but Dodgers fans aren’t happy at the moment, including the many of us are trying to figure out what it is we like about this whole damn thing in the first place. /patooey!

The Astros lead the World Series, 2-1.

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The Baseball Diaries: World Series Game 2

Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers; L.A. leads series, 1-0.

World Series Astros Dodgers BaseballCorporate America needs to step the fuck back. Bad enough there are all of these high tech product ads that come with their own version of earworm worthy hits, whether it be disco, trance, electronica, or even the rock. Then in the 1st inning, during the second pitch to the second player, the former pitcher, current color commentator hummed a national insurance company’s diddly. This, I think, was in response to either tonight’s National Anthem sung by a country singer who stars in the insurance company’s commercial. Or it could have been the athlete actor who starred in the ad alongside the country singer who was in attendance with a bunch of other random athletes from various sports, as well as some singers and dancers and other actors. The game was being played in L.A., naturally. The beautiful people must be noticed.  Well, the beautiful people saw a great ballgame, and they were able to do so without suffering through commercial breaks that ended as soon as the first pitch of the inning was about to be thrown; and because they are so beautiful, they also got to avoid the five second middle of the inning shout outs to Duracell batteries and T-Mobile cell service plans. It got to a point where the play-by-play guy delivered more corporate messaging than game description. What a tool.

The Astros, who looked pitiful against Clayton Kershaw in Game 1, don’t seem to be in much trouble for Game 2. They take an early 1-0 lead in the 3rd inning with a three hit rally (including a successful sacrifice bunt by their lifelong American League pitcher), all the while keeping the Dodgers off the bases entirely. L.A. ties the score in the bottom of the 5th inning with a solo home run (by Joc Pederson, who dances around the base paths), and then take a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the 6th with a two run home run (by Corey Seager, who screams in satisfaction as soon as he hits his drive). The Dodgers now have two hits overall. Seager.screamer

The Astros did have the top American League offense during the 2017 season for a reason. It’s quickly obvious they aren’t going to continue being inefficient and unproductive all series. The Astros rally in the 8th inning for one run with a double and a single, and then they tie the game in the 9th, when their first batter of the inning hits a solo home run off Kenley Jansen. Yet, as they say, the action just was getting started. The Dodgers almost win the game in the bottom of the 9th inning when, with two outs, Cody Bellinger sends a deep drive to right center field that is caught at the wall, and then Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa open the 10th inning with exuberant back-to-back home runs: Altuve tossing kisses to Houston fans sitting behind the plate, and Correa chucking his bat high in the air, and sticking his tongue out as he runs the bases.

Springer.Game2.winninghrYasiel Puig the leads off the bottom of the 10th with a monster shot to deep left field. He gently lays his bat on the ground and then saunters around the bases anteing it up.  The Dodgers then tie the game with two outs in the inning. after a walk, a passed ball, a base hit, and then a pretty amazing slide at home plate. The 11th inning then opens with the Astros striking immediately with a single and a home run, to which the Dodgers respond with their own home run, a solo shot with two outs. They can’t pull it out, though, as Puig strikes out swinging for the third out.

The Astros get their first ever World Series game victory, 7-6. Game 3 is Friday at Houston. The series is now tied, 1-1.

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