Kind Acts Of Randomness

May 30, 2019   //   by bwilber   //   Bob's Blog  //  Add a Comment

Today’s headline is what we call “a play on words” and it’s possible I’ve used it before. I mean, you write a blog for close to 15 years and it’s hard to keep that sort of stuff straight. But, even with the “play” it’s an accurate description of today’s content. Once again, I started the day with a blank slate and it stayed that way until about 15 minutes ago. Then, at around 11:45, I looked on the ottoman in our living room and thought “That’s worth writing about” and off it went. Just a bunch of random things that are all worthy of inclusion, but none of which are big enough to carry the whole load.

Still just a manuscript, but you can hold it in your hands and flip pages! (Click on any image to enlarge)

Barbara asked me a few days ago if she could read any of what I’ve written so far, for the new book. I said, “Sure, but let me print it out for you.” She didn’t want to waste the paper, but I really thought printing it out was a good idea. I’m going to have to do it when I share it with a few technical advisors, who have offered to take a look, and more importantly I needed to see it in a different format. When you only look at it as a digital document on your laptop you start to miss things. And once you miss something, you rarely ever see it going forward. Just having it on paper made it seem like a totally different thing for me, almost as if I was reading stuff written by someone else. So, I put it all in a binder and I went through it first, finding a whole bunch of typos and other things that needed clarifying. Each time I found something, I circled it and folded over the upper corner of the page, just like you see here.

Where am I in the writing process? I’m not sure. It’s not like I set out to write a 295-page book and I have to make it fit. I could be about halfway, because the two characters are just about to meet. I could be 33% of the way. We’ll see when I’m done.

I also never set out to have an outline of X number of chapters. I write each chapter until it feels like it comes to a logical conclusion without being too long to keep a reader’s attention. Three times now, I’ve actually started a new chapter thinking “This is going to get this guy all the way to graduation” or something like that, and then I realize at about page 12 that I’m not even close. I’m trying to keep all the chapters under 15 pages, just to keep both characters fresh in the reader’s mind and to keep it moving. So, right now I’m working on Chapter 16. Not at this precise moment, of course, because right now I’m working on this blog, but that’s where I am. The binder feels pretty hefty. There are about 165 pages of standard one-sided sheets. Not sure what that equates to in a 6×9-inch formatted book, but I’m still seeing this thing somewhere under 350 pages.

The sheer length and mass of “Bats, Balls, & Burnouts” was clearly something we wrestled with. When you spend four months meticulously editing just to get it DOWN to 545 pages, and you use the narrowest margins and the larger 7×10 format, you have a huge book on your hands (and hopefully not on your foot). All those edits and tricks were done to keep the page count down. For “How Far?” I’m hoping we’ll be using methods to make it much more manageable with a lot more white space. Fingers crossed!

Do I like what I’m reading? I’m hesitant to answer that, but the truth is I am. Reading it in print brought it further to life for me. It flows nicely and the two guys’ voices are clear, up in my pea-sized brain. So yeah, and I’m looking forward to creating the next 15 chapters and more. And to seeing it published.

There is a lot of hockey stuff in the book, and there was a lot of hockey stuff on my TV last night. I was dead tired (hardly slept the night before for no reason other than insomnia) so I was straining to get through the intermission after the third period and before overtime. I actually missed the game-winning goal by the Blues because I’d changed the channel during the intermission and didn’t change it back in time. Oh, but I’ve watched it a number of times since. What a huge moment for St. Louis and Blues fans everywhere.

After being in existence for more than 50 years, last night marked the St. Louis Blues’ first victory in the Stanley Cup Finals. They are now 1-13 in the Finals. Whether they win the Cup or not, they’ve finally broken the glass on that alarm box.

Kyle Gibson

And now a word (or more) about Kyle Gibson.

Kyle is a starter for the Twins and has become a frontline Big League pitcher. Right now, the team’s starting staff is quite stout and he’s a big part of that. He’s also a midwestern guy (born in Indiana and drafted out of the University of Missouri) who is as much about what he does off the field as he is about what happens on the mound. He’s heavily involved in a number of charitable endeavors, and he must be a good recruiter because he’s able to get a lot of teammates to join him in those campaigns.

He recently announced a program where he and many other teammates will donate money for wins and other performance milestones. The proceeds will go to helping those who are much less fortunate. In addition to the funds the players donate, fans can also participate by making donations of any amount. I signed up right away.

I’ve seen photos of Kyle getting his hands dirty, building houses and schools, and this past winter it almost got the best of him. He, his wife, his agent, and some other players visited the Dominican Republic and Haiti to help impoverished communities, and he came down with E. coli while there. It laid him low for most of the winter, and he was actually a bit behind in Spring Training because of it, having lost a lot of weight from the illness.

After making my donation I kept up on the progress of the program but I had forgotten that the players were also donating memorabilia as rewards for those who got involved. It was a random thing, I believe, but somehow I found out on Twitter that I was the first person to win an item. Kyle tweeted it himself. I was pretty stunned.

Much appreciated, No. 44

I never donated in the hope I’d get anything out of this other than a good feeling of joining in on a great project. I also had no idea what might show up on my front porch.

Yesterday, this showed up. Well, it was in a box. Pretty cool deal, right? Thrilled to have it, but more importantly I’m thrilled to be involved and to support Kyle and his many outreach programs. He’s a good man.

A lot of people have been asking me about home runs lately. The Twins are hitting so many they’re on a pace to shatter the Major League record for home runs in a season. Of course we all know “on a pace” is one of those overused and misused phrases in sports. There are ebbs and flows and stats eventually do tend to even out. But, baseballs are flying this year. Why?

Roy Smalley spoke about it on his “Chin Music” podcast and it was typical Smalley super-intelligent stuff. I’m paraphrasing here, but basically what he said was along the lines of “I’ve been holding baseballs my entire life, and this year’s ball does feel different. It feels a bit harder. I don’t think they juiced the core of the ball or did anything on purpose to see the home runs we’re seeing, but the ball does feel harder and the seams seem smaller and tighter as well. And then there’s the maple bats so many hitters are using. Those bats are really hard.”

For way more than my lifetime just about every Major League bat was made from ash trees. It was actually pretty soft wood, and as players we’d get a new shipment from Hillerich & Bradsby and search through all the Louisville Sluggers in the box to find the bats with the tightest grain. That, at least, made the bat a bit harder. Sometimes we’d spend hours “boning” the bats by actually rubbing a hard bone along the barrel. Almost without fail, after putting all that effort into it you’d get “sawed off” by an inside pitch and break the bat within an at-bat or two. That used to drive me crazy. All that work for nothing.

Ash was becoming far more scarce a few years back, and boutique bat companies were coming up with new woods to try. Maple ended up being the best bet, apparently. I’ve never swung a maple bat so I don’t know what it feels like, but if it’s a harder and more durable wood, and if the balls are stitched together a bit tighter, that could answer the questions about the plethora of home runs. Heading into tonight’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Twins have hit 106 home runs in 54 games. They still have 108 games left to play. The all-time record was set by the Yankees last year, at 266 home runs. Hmmm… It is interesting, I’ll say that.

It will be great to get this fixed.

And now a topic that should be foreign to many of you, especially those from warm-weather areas. It’s a thing called “frost heave” and it’s very real, especially up here where it gets cold and the soil is typically damp. As you know (I assume) when water freezes it expands. When it does that, it’s surprising how much weight the soil can lift. This is a photo of exactly how far the door out to our grilling deck will open.

Why? Because our harsh winter and our wet soil combined to create some very real frost heave this year. We get some of it nearly every year, as does most of Minnesota (it’s just a fact of life) and I can’t remember a year here when this door remained free and clear for 12 straight months, but it usually settled back down as things warmed up and it would open just fine, all the way to the railing. This year, it didn’t settle back down much at all.

The reason is the frost pushed up the big post that supports the far right corner of the deck. It’s now out of level, and the heave caused the entire deck to raise up on that side. I have a plan to buy a new grill soon, but until we get this fixed I’d have to take the door off to get the old grill out and the new one in. So we need to fix it, and our home builder is coming to the rescue.

We’ve owned this property since the middle of 2012, so it’s been a while, but the head of construction for the builder came out and took a look at it and he committed to getting it rectified and hopefully solved. It will involve digging out around the footing and making it more difficult for the frost to push anything up. As he said, “The frost doesn’t have to get under the footing to lift it, and these footings are way deeper than code. They’re 60 inches. The frost can grab the footing by the sides and lift it up. Pea gravel should help. The gravel acts like ball bearings and solves a lot of the heave issues.”

With more than 10,000 lakes in Minnesota, and that’s not counting the tens of thousands of ponds and marshes, we definitely do live in a moist place, and it’s something most of us are accustomed to dealing with. We’ve spent a lot of time and money working on solutions. We have installed drain tiles that run out to a main underground drain line that empties into a pond. We’ve put drain tiles around all of the back-facing foundation, and have connected it all. I think we need one more, to give the water around this post an easy way out.

It’s a Minnesota thing. As are sump pumps and drain tiles.

So that’s about it for this week, gang. Plenty of chewy randomness, but some good stories, I think. Hope you enjoyed.

And if you did enjoy, I hope you’ll click on the “Like” button at the top. Maybe if I get enough “Likes” I can buy myself a maple bat…

Bob Wilber, at your service and randomly writing.


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