The Cardinals’ Uncontrollable Pitchers

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On Saturday night (July 19th), Cardinals starter Joe Kelly hit Dodger right fielder Yasiel Puig on the hand. The next game, Puig was forced to sit due to soreness in that hand. In game 1 of the National League Championship Series last year, the same Joe Kelly drilled Dodger shortstop Hanley Rameriz in the ribs with a pitch. Rameriz suffered a bruised rib, and was out of commission for the rest of the series. So when Puig was hit by Kelly Saturday night, naturally people began questioning whether Kelly may have hit Puig on purpose. I, however, found it easy to believe that Kelly simply hit Puig on accident. Around 500 batters get hit by a pitch a year in the MLB. A single Dodger getting hit, therefore cannot necessarily be ruled as intentional.

On Saturday night (July 20th), Hanley Rameriz came up to bat in the ninth inning, and was nailed on the wrist by 98 MPH fastball out of the hands of Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal. Rameriz, who remember was the fell victim to Cardinals pitching in the NLCS, was forced to come out of Sunday night’s game. This was the second time in the game that Rameriz was hit by a pitch. In the third inning, Rameriz was hit on the shoulder by a 99 MPH Carlos Martinez fastball.

This leads to the question of whether or not the Cardinals are to blame for the injuries of Puig and Rameriz. While evidence suggest that the plunkings were intentional, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny argued that his pitchers were simply throwing inside to good hitters. Yet even if this argument is accepted, the injuries are still the Cardinals’ responsibility. It is fine for a team to pitch inside on a hitter, given the pitcher has control over his pitches. Cardinals pitchers, however, seem incapable of controlling their inside pitches. As a result, two Dodgers have bit injured. There is not much a hitter can do when a pitcher throws an erratic fastball inside. Until Cardinals pitchers can control their inside pitches, they should not be throwing inside.

That’s What a Hamburger is All About

jpegA friend recently described In-N-Out to me as the place “where the young cool kids of SoCal and tourists like to get thin burgers on a late Thursday night.” This friend is not from an In-N-Out state, and therefore I find this answer interesting. They are removed from the culture surrounding In-N-Out. In-N-Out is very popular, but it is not popular because they serve the best burger in the world. After all, their burgers are thin. The “cool kids”, however, eat there, and post photos of double-doubles on Instagram with the hashtag “dank.” Trips to In-N-Out are often hyped up to a level not usually associated with thin burgers. But while In-N-Out rarely lives up to this hype, it is the most consistent, cheap burger I know of. The key to this consistency, I believe, is their meat and costumer service.

The meat is fresh, something that becomes clear after one bite. Where the meat in most fast-food burgers is dry and fake tasting, an In-N-Out patty is juicy and tastes like actual meat. For me, another key are the grilled onions, which add great texture to an otherwise mediocre sandwich. There are other factors – the paper wrapping, the bun, the Thousand Island sauce – at play, but the difference maker at In-N-Out is the hospitality.

To a reasonable extent, servers at In-N-Out will try to grant any request. This includes having a burger cooked rare, prepared animal style, or made up of five patties (more commonly known as a 5X5). One time I asked for iced coffee – which is not on the menu. The server paused for a moment before he proceeded to take a soda cup, fill it with ice, and put coffee into it, making me my iced coffee. All of this – not just the iced coffee – presents the costumer with endless possibilities, not restricted to what is listed above on the menu. So where In-N-Out may serve a slightly above average thin pattied burger, they bring the cool kids and tourists in by exceptional service. Just ask your server for one of those paper caps; they’ll oblige.

The Summer of Streaks

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Who needs the summer of love when you could have the summer of streaks? The summer of 2014 can be certainly be characterized as a summer of streaks for a diverse set of reasons. A European soccer team won the world cup for a third straight time. Game of Thrones left millions of viewers itching for a new season for the fourth straight year. Clayton Kershaw (the greatest pitcher of my lifetime) had a streak of 41 consecutive scoreless innings. All of these streaks will fade away in my memory, but there is one streak that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Eight straight days of Mexican food. This doesn’t mean I survived on a diet of pork, beans and salsa. I actually felt that I was eating a perfectly balanced diet. The rules were quite simple: eat Mexican food at least once a day.

The streak began the day after the fourth of July, more commonly known as July 5th. While on a day trip in San Francisco, I had lunch at Ocean Taqueria. A tortilla is put onto a grill, and while cooking, became the resting place for a pile of carnitas, pinto beans and cheese. Then, this pile of yum was placed on a counter, where guacamole, salsa, onions and cilantro were added. The burrito was then folded impeccably and wrapped in tinfoil.

It has been awhile – two weeks – since I bit into the burrito at Ocean Taqueria, and I can no longer describe how it tasted. I can, however, vouch that is was spectacular. The tortilla, because it was grilled, was crunchy and this contrasted with the juiciness of the carnitas and beans. It was a simple burrito, but packed quite a wallop. It was a burrito that I will remember for awhile, and more importantly, it was a burrito that didn’t fall apart.

I went to Chiplote a lot during the streak. There’s not much to say about that. It’s always a carnitas burrito with no rice and it’s always good but always the same. I had a few too many black bean tostadas at the UCLA cafeteria one day, and I had far too few tacos at Tacos Por Favor one day. The streak will remembered above and beyond by sitting down and bitting into that burrito at Ocean Taqueria. It embodied everything I enjoy about Mexican food. The walls were brightly painted. The chips were free. The mariachi was bopping. The salsa was spicy and the burrito was flawless.

Update, 12/31/15: I still have not had a burrito as good as the one I had a year an a half ago at Ocean Taqueria. Clayton Kershaw remains the best pitcher in baseball and also for the third year a row choked in the playoffs. I also would mention that I my opinion of Chipotle has decreased in this time. This has nothing to do with the E. Coli scare, but simply because I have eaten there too much. 

The Funnel Mill Experience

IMG_0012In surfing, there is a saying that goes “you never leave surf to find surf.” What this means is that when driving around, looking for surf, the first place with decent waves is where you’ll surf. I have abided by this rule for two reasons. One being that often it is the act of going surfing rather than the quality of the waves that make the overall experience enjoyable. The other reason is that finding another surf spot often involves finding traffic. Recently, I have been applying this rule to coffee. If I pass a decent looking coffee shop, rather than continue to another place.

Today, while running some errands on my bike, I decided I wanted some coffee. Initially, my plan was to go to The Refinery – a pour over place on 4th and Santa Monica – but riding down Broadway, I passed The Funnel Mill. I had been there when I was younger with my dad, but had a hot chocolate. Hot chocolate, as delicious as it may be, is not a great gauge of a coffee shop and I knew I would be able to find a decent cup of coffee there. The prices, however, made me question my decision to walk in the front door.

Coffee in Los Angeles is not cheap, but the Funnel Mill takes overpriced coffee to a whole new level. The cheapest coffee on the menu was $9. That’s pretty expensive you may be thinking, but just guess the price of the most expensive cup. $90. Yup. $90. Kopi Luwak starts as coffee beans. Instead of being picked, washed and roasted, Kopi Luwak undergoes a much more…interesting journey from shrub to cup. See, the beans are eaten by these little, ugly animals called civets. These fellas apparently will only eat the best coffee beans so the final product will naturally be top notch coffee coffee. The beans somehow manage to stay intact during the journey through the digestive tract of our furry friends and are therefore pooped out looking like your normal, non-bacteria laden coffee bean. A farmer will then come along and collect this fecal matter/coffee to be washed, roasted and sent to coffee shops around the world like The Funnel Mill.

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The pooping animal under discussion. 

Despite this fascinating process, I am taken aback by price. Remembering the mantra of “never leave coffee to find coffee”, however, I order their Nicaraguan roast ($9), and sit down in a comfy chair to wait.

The coffee is served in a tall, clear, beer-stein like glass resting on a silver platter. This must be how the queen has tea served to her. Upon bringing the cup to my mouth, my nose is greeted with the crisp, sweet aromas of some fruit I am unable to pinpoint. I am initially not that impressed with the taste. I think the coffee may still be a bit hot. There is a nice citrus-like aftertaste and hopefully as the coffee cools, subtle flavors will begin to emerge. I will now go to the restroom to wash my hands. When I return, I will decide whether this cup of coffee was worth $9.

Nothing much exciting to report in the bathroom. A lack of water pressure marred the hand-washing process. My coffee has cooled to an ideal temperature, however and a distinct flavor profile has emerged. While the coffee is in my mouth, the citrus dominates the palate. Something similar to tangerine, perhaps a bit more bitter. Swallowing the beverage, a nuttiness becomes prominent. I’m leading towards pistachio, but I may being making that up. The aftertaste is slightly sweet but still nutty, somewhat like a handful of Planter’s Salted Peanuts.

The coffee has really cooled off now, and tastes completely different. Instead of citrus, the mouth is greeted by a fruity taste. Sweet but still crisp. The nuttiness has become sweeter, and now the coffee itself begins to match the aftertaste. The coffee is at the temperate of a lukewarm bathtub and tastes wonderful. But was it worth $9? Of course not! The does not mean, however, that the experience was not worth $9. The Funnel Mill is one of the more luxurious coffee shops I have been to. To my left is a water fall made out of a sheet of glass. The sound of the water, along with the burr of the coffee grinders, make for a very relaxing environment. Bamboo and other tropical plants are scattered throughout the shop, hiding the dull street the Funnel Mill is located on. If I was making six-figures, this would be my everyday coffee shop. Still, if I happen to pass by the Funnel Mill, I find no reason to sway from the “never leave coffee to find coffee” rule and buy a cup of $9 coffee.

When a Notebook Retires

IMG_0011I recently bought a new notebook because my old one had to retire. His [1]
spine was breaking and pages were filling up. As I was placing my old notebook on the shelf to rest, I spotted my even older notebook. It [2]
had been out of commission since the January of 2013. I decided to look through and see what caught my eye.

  • I used to be able to do math. Like actual. And by actual math I mean basic calc. [3]
  • I wrote in fountain pen a lot. I have had bad penmanship since I’ve been in diapers. I high-school I convinced myself that writing with a fountain pen would solve my handwriting problems. My handwriting hasn’t improved at all, but over time I have developed the ability to decipher it.
  • I got really bored literary analysis once. We were picking a part theory written by Louis Althusser [4]. I ended up drawing an extraterrestrial city in my notebook with a blue pen.
  • I wrote a blurb in the notebook about another notebook. This is relevant because you are reading a post about notebooks.
  • I wrote about my dreams over winter break. I really have nothing else to say about that.
  • From a to-do list in mid-April: “Wake up.” This is puzzling because I’m pretty sure the to-do list was written after I had woke up.
  • I went through a colored pen phase after buying a case of Staedtler® triplus fineliners [5].
1. For whatever reason, my notebook adopted a masculine persona.
2. “It” is used here because after a notebook has been put to rest (set on a shelf) it ceases to have a gender like it once did.
3. Upon closer inspection, it was basic algebra I was looking at. It was just a whole bunch problems where I was attempting to solve for X. I seem to have been correct about 75% of the time.
4. From my post on 11/08/12: “Louis Althusser was a manic-depressed French-Marxist who strangled his wife to death. He was also a brilliant philosopher who argued that instead of being labeled as a science, philosophy should be viewed as “the class struggle within theory.”
5. The 0.3 mm models…in case you were wondering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4-27: The Dodgers

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The Dodgers played the Rockies last night. The Rockies, playing away from Denver in Los Angeles, were wearing their vest uniforms. There is only one team [1]
who can pull of the vest look, and it is not the Rockies. There are a couple of players on the players on the Rockies who can pull off the vest look. I don’t remember their names, but by wearing stirrup socks and a tight 3/4 length shirt under the vest.

Dee Gorden, who was also wearing stirrup socks in last nights game, seems to be electrifying Dodger Stadium like Yasiel Puig did last year. Gordon, in addition to stealing a league leading 12 bases is hitting .350. He collected a single and a triple last night. The highlight of his night was making a great diving stop to start a double play in the fifth inning. In full extension, Gordon dove, grabbed the ball flipping it to the shortstop without taking out of his glove. In comparison to Puig, who comes across as Flashy, Gordon is exiting. Puig often tries to make a routine play spectacular. In doing so, he makes a fair amount of blunders. Gordon, however, makes excitement simply by executing difficult plays. It also helps that he looks kinda funny in his uniform.

It is interesting that Gordon is currently one of the best hitters on the Dodgers. This is a pleasant surprise considering that he hit .234 last year. The fact that Dee Gordon is one of the better hitter on the Dodgers is also a bit concerning. More than half of the Dodger’s lineup have made at least one All-Star appearance. But most of the “big guns” on the Dodgers are not playing at their potential. This is seen with the respective .219 and .214 averages of Matt Kemp and Andre Either. This being said, however, it is way too early in the season for the Dodgers to be alarmed by this. Furthermore, the Dodgers are the type of team that are designed to start of sluggish. The Dodgers feature a wide array of playing styles. The patient Adrian Gonzales is in many ways the total opposite of the impatient Yasiel Puig. The same goes for Juan Uribe who checks in at 235 lbs. and Dee Gordon and his 5′ 11” 170 frame. Despite their differences, everyone in a healthy Dodgers lineup has one things in common: they all have potential to be elite. Once they all start to hit, the Dodgers can turn into a fast moving machine that will be hard to stop.

1.The Cincinnati Reds. The Rockies vest uniforms, worn only during select road games, feature a purple and black palette. Sports teams that wear purple and black never become storied franchises. The Reds, a storied franchise, wear their red and white vest uniforms like pros. Red and white simply make for a better uniform.

The Morning and Garlic

_MG_9767Mornings are rarely windy. Sometimes, even if the day is stormy, the morning will still be windless. Everything is quite like the world is waking up. None of this changes that mornings are still when I wake up. Waking up is not always something I enjoy. Started off slow, however, and a morning becomes enjoyable.

Eggs and coffee are a good way to start the morning. There is usually a debate about whether or not I am going to put garlic in my eggs. A bit of garlic that has been sautéed in butter is a great addition to eggs, scrambled or omelet. But this also means garlic breath for the rest of the day. And brushing your teeth does nothing.

Garlic does not smell bad. It smells unique. Cooking with garlic for extensive periods will make me smell like garlic for days. Soap and water are no match for garlic. I have heard people say that rubbing toothpaste on your hands gets rid of the smell of garlic. I tried once, and my hands still smelled like garlic.  I prefer to enjoy the taste of garlic and ignore the smell. It is better smelling than most Axe body sprays. I usually include garlic in my eggs, however, because there are far bigger things to worry about in the morning.

A far more important thing to worry about in the morning is having your coffee, eggs, and bacon be hot at the same time. When I cook by myself, timing must be impeccable. Prep work is done first. This includes chopping the garlic and other vegetables. Then the bacon is cooked. While the bacon is cooking, coffee is made and toast is toasted. Eggs always come last.

Once breakfast has been brought to the table, a course of action has to be decided upon. Will you make a sandwich with the eggs, bacon, and toast, or will each be enjoyed separately?  If the eggs are scrambled, I choose a sandwich. If the eggs are extra runny or an omelet, I will eat them separately. An omelet should be enjoyed by itself. In the case of runny eggs, bread is the perfect tool for soaking up yolk.

After finishing my eggs toast, I will drink my coffee alongside eating the bacon. Coffee and bacon pair up well. Another important decision must be made here: entertainment. I never like reading a book with breakfast. I save that for lunch. The morning is the time to learn what is happening on earth. Reading a newspaper is always a good choice, but sometimes it is a drag eating with newsprint all over your fingers. The radio is a good choice if Morning Edition is on. It is like someone is reading the paper to you.

The best type of days are the days when preparing breakfast is the most stressful thing I have to do. Hopefully the long process involved will help me decide what I will do with the rest of the day. But even on days where I have responsibilities, breakfast gives me time to relax before the day begins.