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October 1st, 2004:

“Lost”

Just finished watching the last half of the Lost pilot, and I’m totally hooked. The characters are interesting, the premise is gripping, the way we’re getting backstories in dribs and drabs is a great device – did I mention that I relly liked this? Yeah, I know, it could all fall apart in an instant, much like (I’m sad to say) The 4400 did at the end (though I’m still rooting for it to be brought back), but for now it’s a great ride. If you missed it, both parts of the pilot are being rerun tomorrow (Saturday) night at 8 Eastern, so check it out.

Greg speculated about some of the mysteries after the first half of the pilot. I think we were a bit off in the discussion there. I’ve put my current hypothesis beneath the More link, so you won’t be spoiled if you haven’t seen it yet. I’m going to have to start reading Television Without Pity’s recaps to make sure I don’t miss anything, since there’s so much going on.

Anyway. “Lost” rocks. We’ll see if Desperate Housewives can make it two-for-two this fall.

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Strikeouts and singles

Everybody knows that Ichiro! is about to pass George Sisler for the all-time single-season hits record, but to me a more interesting record was broken yesterday: Adam Dunn struck out for the 190th and 191st times, passing Bobby Bonds and his 189 whiffs from 1970 for the single season mark.

Dunn wasn’t upset at all by setting the record, actually joking with reporters at first.

“It’s great. I’m the only person that actually has claim to that record. Now I’m just going to try to add on to it before the year is over,” he said.

He did admit the record is a rather dubious one.

“Actually it does matter. But, you know, I’m not going to sit and lose sleep over it,” he said.

Nor should he. Look at Dunn’s stats for the year: 264/387/564 AVG/OBP/SLG, for a 951 OPS, plus 45 HRs, 101 RBIs, and 103 runs. Who cares if he makes outs by swinging and missing instead of grounders or popups? The dude is a force at the plate.

I’ve never quite understood the stigma attached to strikeouts. Mickey Mantle was the all-time career leader in Ks for years before Reggie Jackson passed him. Last I checked, they were both good guys to have in the lineup. In 2002, when Jose Hernandez sat out the last three games of the season after reaching 188 whiffs, he was the best bat on the Brewers at 288/356/478, all while playing shortstop. Guys who fan a lot get the chance to do so because they hit the ball hard when they hit it. Maybe now that Dunn has reminded us all of that, we can get over it.

Of course, it is a bit odd that strikeouts by batters are not such a big deal, but strikeouts by pitchers are one of the best predictors of success. I’ve not seen a good sabermetric explanation of this – Rob Neyer was asked the question awhile ago and more or less waved his hands at it.

Getting back to Ichiro! – It’s almost a cliche to call a player unique, but there really are no other ballplayers today who are as well-suited to the task of hitting singles. Of his 256 hits so far, 219 of them are one-baggers. He’s got an isolated slugging percentage of .084, meaning that if he were a mere .300 hitter, he’d have a little less pop than Omar Vizquel. Go back and look at Sisler’s line for 1920. Ichiro! has 37 extra-base hits. Sisler had 37 in just triples and homers – he also had 49 doubles, and slugged .632 (isolated slugging .225) with 399 total bases. What Ichiro! has done is special, but what Sisler did was more impressive.

There’s still time, but not much

This weekend is your last chance to register to vote in the State of Texas for the 2004 election. I just got back from the HCDP Sharpstown location where we signed up about 20 people in the two hours I was there. Not too bad, but I’m a total piker compared to this person.

Katie O’Harra was prepared to get arrested in order to get people registered to vote.

“I had encouragement from people like my mother,” she said of her plan to invade retail centers that don’t allow solicitation of any kind on their premises.

No one interfered, though, as she distributed 15,000 voter registration cards during the past month at retail locations, as well as post offices and community centers. She even set up a stand outside the Verizon Wireless Theatre during concerts.

This weekend is her last big push.

Because if you aren’t registered to vote by Monday, your voice won’t be heard in the Nov. 2 election.

Some states permit voter registration on Election Day, but Texas law requires voters to be registered 30 days prior to the election in which they wish to vote.

O’Harra estimates that she personally has registered 350 voters.

I am not worthy. I’ll try to swing by there again on Saturday and catch up a little. I’m sure Greg will be there, too.

How are things overall in Harris County?

Voter registration is up throughout the area, with the highest concentration of new voters in areas that have seen new residential development, including downtown and the Beltway, said Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt. His duties include voter registration.

But only 200 more people registered in Houston during the month of September this year than during the same month in 2000, the last presidential election.

“We have what I call moderate interest in voter registration,” Bettencourt said. “The super excitement that is occurring in battleground states is not occurring here.”

President Bush is expected to defeat Democratic nominee John Kerry easily in Texas this year, so both candidates are focusing their quest for electoral votes in states where the race is closer.

But Bettencourt still believes Harris County will set a record this year with registration of 1.9 million.

Nearly 80 percent of Harris County residents are registered, Bettencourt said, but that is no guarantee that they will vote on Election Day or during the early voting period Oct. 18-29.

Good, but not as good as Bexar and Travis. There’s still time, but not much. Check out HCVoter if you’re not sure about your status, and for crying out loud get registered already if you’re not.

Char Miller

Char Miller, editor of Fifty Years of the Texas Observer, gets profiled in the San Antonio Current this week.

Miller has become so ubiquitous (he recently referred to himself with characteristic self-deprecation as a “media whore”) and so universally respected, that it’s easy to forget he’s a bona fide progressive. Or perhaps it’s just that we think of him as our progressive. But Miller is in favor of spending more money on education (“I think San Antonians, rich and poor, have been undereducated”), he’s suspicious of developers (the business community likes a weak council, he says, “because they can influence policy making through staff and they don’t have to deal with council”), and he’s ambivalent about cars (” … in postmillennial San Antonio, which is utterly dependent on the automobile … we daily flee the very human set of interactions that once made this community so livable”). Now he has his own printing press in the Trinity University Press, which this fall is coming out with a collection of his essays, Deep in the Heart of San Antonio: Land and Life in South Texas. As students of history can tell you -Miller is a professor of economic, social, and environmental history at Trinity where he recently chaired the History and Urban Studies programs – Gutenberg’s invention set in motion a cultural revolution that is still underway, taking knowledge and information out of the exclusive control of the elites and putting it in the hands of the common people.

Miller is interested in doing much the same thing with his writing, moving it out of the academic journals and into the hands of citizens. “What I wanted to do was write a book that spoke to my very deep needs and interests about this community, but which I hoped could talk to neighborhood associations, could talk to the City Council, could speak to power brokers of one kind or another, and not necessarily convince them, but raise issues.” It’s no coincidence, it seems, that Miller chaired the search committee that hired Trinity University Press Director Barbara Ras. “Part of the press’ mission is to find really high quality books that speak directly to the experiences of people in this region,” Miller says, “and in that process generate and sustain a kind of intellectual life that hasn’t been happening.” Or has been happening in small pockets. The press’ first run of titles also includes Fifty Years of the Texas Observer, a collection of articles from the state’s journal of progressive and radical politics, edited by Miller.

I took two classes from Char while I was at Trinity, and I enjoyed them enough to briefly contemplate a history minor. I regained my senses once I realized I don’t do so well reading books on deadline (as you may have noticed), but the classes I took were still cool. Anyway, it’s a nice piece, so check it out.

DeLay admonished

The House Ethics Committee has finally taken action against Tom DeLay, but not for the Chris Bell complaint. They admonished DeLay and two other members for actions during the Medicare bill last year.

In a lengthy report, the panel said it had determined in its investigation of allegations first raised by the lawmaker, Representative Nick Smith, a Republican, that Mr. DeLay offered to endorse Mr. Smith’s son in a Congressional primary if he would support a measure then teetering on the edge of defeat.

The special four-person subcommittee that conducted the inquiry said it had “deliberated extensively” over the actions of Mr. DeLay, who is one of the most powerful members of Congress, and weighed his actions against the leadership’s traditional role of trying to round up votes. The report concluded that Mr. DeLay went too far in trying to secure a victory.

“The promise of political support for a relative of a member goes beyond the boundaries of maintaining party discipline, and should not be used as the basis of a bargain for members to achieve their respective goals,” the committee said, saying there was evidence to find Mr. DeLay in violation of House rules.

The panel recommended no further action against Mr. DeLay or two others it also admonished – Mr. Smith and another Michigan Republican, Candice S. Miller. The committee is considering a separate complaint against Mr. DeLay on a series of allegations made by a Texas Democrat, but it made no disclosure of its intentions on those accusations.

In a statement, Mr. DeLay said that he had not meant to violate House rules and that the panel had never ruled on this type of activity before.

“In this report the committee has provided guidance regarding a novel and very specific subject matter,” he said. “I accept their guidance.”

Well, that’s something, I guess. I thought they were going to say something about the Bell complaint by now, but who knows what they’re up to. Thanks to BZ for the tip.

UPDATE: Sarah thinks this may be a sign DeLay’s power in the House is slipping.

UPDATE: More from the Stakeholder. Also, click the More link for statements from Chris Bell and Richard Morrison.

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