Saturday, March 13, 2010

It's the first-ever SUPERHUNK! (Sweetie's Hunk of the Week, 53)

When I first asked Sweetie about this week's Hunk, I accidentally called him a SuperHunk. But it turns out that he
IS. You'll see why.

Today's hunk -- hunk 53 but the first SuperHunk -- is Linus Roache:

No, wait, that's not right. Let me try again: Linus Roache!

You Don't Know Him Without You Have: Seen Law & Order. That's one of the first -- but not the best -- things that makes Linus...

I'll try to stop doing that, but it's funny.

To me.

Being on Law & Order -- not guest-starring or anything like that, actually being on the show as a regular, is the first thing that makes Linus Roache:

There. See? I said I'd stop doing this:

And I'll really try.

Being on Law & Order makes Linus Roache the first-ever SuperHunk, because, as I explained in one of these not long ago, Law & Order is actually our society's universal clock, counting down to the end of time, when our existence will come to an end. Forget the Mayans and their broken-pyramid thing or whatever everyone's talking about in 2012 (which is actually going to happen in 2011 because there was no year zero): The Law & Order Clock is what actually determines the length of human existence: Once every person everywhere has appeared in an episode of Law & Order, our existence will come to an end, and the squirrels will get their chance.

Beware! Their time is coming!

Which means two things for you: First, that the existence of many different versions of all the Law & Orders means that the end of the universe is approaching faster than ever as more and more people appear on more and more Law & Orders, and second, that Linus Roache:

Sorry. I know I promised to stop, but I'm not going to miss a chance to suck up to the future rulers of the Universe?

Anyway, the second thing is that being in Law & Order makes Linus Roache one of the Secret Overlords of the Universe -- a position that I just now revealed/made-up, one of the people who helps determine when the Universe will end. Yes, Linus Roache:

(Gotcha! You thought I was going to do this:

Or this:

But I didn't! I did this:

I have completely forgotten where I was. And I'm pretty sure that pirate isn't actually a squirrel. I think it's a woodchuck. How'd they get involved in this?

Let's move on.

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmmm About Him: Aside from his position as Secret Overlord of The Universe... oh, yeah. That's what I was talking about... aside from that position, Linus Roache:

(See? I'm done with the jokey pictures.)

Linus Roache has other remarkable things about him, things that make him the first-ever SuperHunk.

Probably. But I can't imagine what they are, and his biographies are very limited. There's not much information about him out there. It seems as though the only truly remarkable thing that Linus Roache:

Has ever done is be on Law & Order -- But a hidden anonymous history is about what you'd expect, from a guy who is secretly helping determine just how much time humanity has left, isn't it? The guys in the Star Chamber never publicize themselves much. Linus is probably already on the squirrels' payroll.

He certainly isn't supporting himself on what he earned in such roles as "Samuel Taylor Coleridge," playing a poet most famous for not actually finishing the poem he wrote.

How's that for a career to shoot for? I'd like to have a job doing something where, say, I never actually complete the thing I was supposed to do but nevertheless have my name live on forever... is there any career other than poet where that's possible?

Not in bridge-building, that's for sure. Or maybe it would.

This is Samuel Taylor Coleridge, by the way:

And while he does look a little like a squirrel, he doesn't look a whole lot like Linus Roache:

Which means that if you, or, more importantly, I, had simply had the foresight to set our caps, career-wise, on "Poet Who Doesn't Finish His One Poem," then, without ever having to finish even one thing, you -- or, more importantly, I-- would have been rich (probably) and been, eventually, played in a movie by a SuperHunk:

Reason I Assumed Sweetie Likes Him: This time, I didn't even recognize the hunk... excuse me... SuperHunk... even though, as the star of Law & Order he's on our TV screen 23.2 hours a day, and frequently (probably) shows up in Sweetie's dreams... something I'm not jealous about because of the...

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: "Because he's smart and sexy... and he reminds me of you!"

THAT is why he's a SuperHunk. Linus Roache:

Reminds Sweetie of me:

You can totally see the resemblance. Which means that while Samuel Taylor Coleridge gets to have Linus Roache play him in movies, Linus Roache gets to have me play him in...

... um. Well, I'm not going to finish that. You get the point: Linus Roache is a SuperHunk because he's like me, or I'm like a SuperHunk-- it doesn't matter who's first (I am.)

And I'm pretty sure Sweetie's not just saying that to butter me up or anything, because it's not even payday and I'd already planned to give her a day off from Mr F and Mr Bunches by taking them somewhere.

So, the...

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him is that Sweetie is awesome. Or drunk. But I'm going to go with awesome.

And also, there is a shortage of photos of Linus Roache shirtless. While you can find lots of this:

You can't find anything with him shirtless. So to finish up this post, you'll have to settle for this:

Right now, the only gold I have is my gold library card... and that's not really a gold card. I just put some gold construction paper on it.

Here's a great way to begin funding -- or continue funding -- your retirement: A gold IRA.

I bet you didn't even know you could put gold coins into an IRA -- but it's true. The US allows you go hold some bullion and proof coins (gold and silver) in retirement plans. A complete list is available at Regal Gold Coins (, and it's not a bad idea to go to that site and read up on it, because you can also buy gold coins right through them.

And Regal can not only sell you the gold to put in your IRA, but can help manage it -- their retirement account specialists have been doing this for 25 years, and the gold is held a their Delaware depository, so you'll know it's safe.

Gold can be a great investment -- like any investment, it can go down as well as up, but lately gold has been going up. And holding it in an IRA lets you enjoy tax-free growth (until you take it out). So $10,000 worth of gold bought in the 70s would be worth more than $500,000 in your IRA today -- $590,000, to be exact. That's an increase of... well, a lot, over 40 years, which means that if you could get the same return NOW on your $10,000 investment, you'd want to begin right away -- especially you young people, who need to put down your Guitar Hero controllers and go get saving for retirement.

Investing in things like the st gaudens gold you can get online can be a unique, fun, and remunerative way to begin that saving process -- more interesting and possibly more rewarding than just putting money into a savings account. Get some investment advice and read up on it (I'm just a blogger, after all, not a gold expert) so that you'll know what I'm coming to understand: Buying gold (online, even) and investing in it can be profitable if you do it right -- profitable and easy, considering that Regal Gold Coins will even ship the stuff to you.

One Percent, Day Sixteen: "These stories are wrong. They are heartbreaking."

What's One Percent about? Click here.

Their child was born with severe hemophilia. They had health insurance -- but the insurance company upped their premiums to over $12,000 per year, with a $10,000 deductible, and then they found out they have a lifetime cap -- so there was a limit to the care their child would get.

Oh, and the medication their son gets, once a day, costs $1,000 a day -- they were paying $25,000 per year and then got hit with an $$80,000 bill. Listen to their whole story:

They HAD health insurance. Fat lot of good it did them. I hate Republicans.

Some people might invite others over to enjoy this, too. Not me. I'm keeping it all to myself.

This might be the year -- the year I finish the 1-year-but-really-it's-6-now project of turning our yard into a perennial garden that never needs mowing but instead just exists and is both beautiful and easy to maintain.

I've got the plants, I got rid of the old haunted shed (haunted by raccoons, mostly), I've got little garden statuary to put out, the next-door neighbor kids who used to trample through our yard are grown up and moved away, and the only thing remaining is to get me one of them fancy patio furniture sets.

I've got to do that because what's the point of having a beautiful, amazing backyard if you can't go sit out in it, have lunch around it while the butterflies flap slowly around and the kids play and the cats laze and I drink lemonade?

There's no point in having a great yard but not being able to enjoy it. And I intend to enjoy our yard, sitting out there and relaxing on Saturday afternoons (while you're all mowing your lawns like suckers). I can sit at my patio table, or in a reclining patio chair, the baseball game -- any baseball game, it doesn't matter -- on the radio, a diet Coke and my Kindle there, the Babies! throwing things at other things, and just enjoy the pleasant breeze, the flowers and trees I've planted, and the fact that my yard will have become an extension of my house -- a room with no walls or ceiling where I can sit and enjoy life.

You can't do that on a clump of grass. There has to be a table. Some chairs. Maybe even an umbrella. And then... relaxation.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

If you can read this, you're seconds away from an accident. (Commutations)

The other day, when I walked out to my car after work, I saw that the car next to mine had this bumper sticker on it:

I liked that, because I could read it, and because I thought it was clever, and also because, as a lawyer, it meant more work for me in the future, since, while it was a clever bumper sticker that promoted people learning music, it also was a bumper sticker that could only be read from about a foot away. Here's what it looked like from a safe following distance:

So I drove home picturing people trying to speed up and get close enough to see what that bumper sticker said, only to then get into an accident because they were following too closely.

Who would do that? you might ask: Who would tailgate just to read a bumper sticker?

Me -- I've done that tons of times. I just haven't gotten into an accident.


I'd cheat a priest to get to Sweetie. (3 Good Things From 3/10/10)

We went grocery shopping last night, I and the Babies!, and I could only stare and long to buy cheeseburger Pringles. But it's Thursday, which is almost Friday, and I've got money in my pocket, and I get to leave early today, and I've also got my 3 Good Things from yesterday, cheering me up today...

1. The fog was pretty cool. Ordinarily, a foggy day isn't really that great, because the fog is too far away to be anything but a blur on the horizon -- but when it's really foggy, like it was yesterday and last night, I enjoy it: it makes me feel like when you're on an airplane, flying through the clouds. It's great when weather is interesting without being dangerous, and fog isn't dangerous (unless you drive too fast, or unless it lets in all sorts of monsters that you'll have to fight in a grocery store.)

2. I meant it as a compliment. Sweetie, after reading my post yesterday, was reminiscing a bit last night about all the other people who have remembered her, over the years -- literally, over the years. Sweetie indelibly imprints herself on people's minds, to the point where years later, they recognize her. I'm not making that up: we were in Minneapolis once, on a weekend getaway, and a guy who Sweetie had taught to swim when she was a lifeguard recognized her, about 15 years after he'd last seen her. We ran into a guy at church once, a guy who'd grown up in her hometown, and this guy reminded Sweetie not only that he'd grown up in her town, but that he'd seen her, about four years ago, in a grocery store (so now people are remembering when they happened to run into Sweetie years ago, too).

When I teased her about how much she enjoyed having that effect, Sweetie said "You make me sound conceited," and I said she was, but in a good way. I then maintained that it's not bad to be conceited if you're conceited for a good reason. I don't think Sweetie saw it that way, but, in my defense, when I made the comment, I was trying to wrestle pants onto Mr F so that we could go grocery shopping, and that was using up a lot of my mind- and muscle-power.

3. I already had the S'mores. Once we went grocery shopping, Mr F and Mr Bunches were, for the most part, very cooperative and mild-mannered, until near the end when we hit the snack food aisle, where we always pick up some S'more crackers - -they're Mr Bunches' favorites (he mispronounces the name as Spores). Mr F was riding in the cart and playing with his Holly Hobby dolls (which he'd brought along in lieu of the dinosaurs, this time) and Mr Bunches was distracted, walking along and looking at the other side of the aisle, as I put the Spores into the cart. We then advanced down the aisle, until Mr Bunches realized we'd passed the Spores, and, thinking that I'd skipped them, he laid down in protest and refused to go on, forcing me to pick him up and carry him to the cart to show him that we had the snacks.

99 Down, 10,615 to go: I woke up this morning humming this song, for some reason. It's one I haven't listened to in a while but I like the background chorus, and I like the line "I'd cheat a priest just to get to you." It's Little Miss Pipe Dream by The Wombats:

One Percent, Day Fifteen: Does your grandma have an extra $2,000 to spare?

Click here for an explanation behind these posts.

In the face of polls showing the health care bill isn't as popular as people thought -- what polls are those, I wonder? I haven't seen any-- Obama is pointing out that people don't know what's in the bill. Which is why I'm still explaining it, step by step.

Another thing Obama's plan would do is this: It'll Close The Medicare Drug Payment Gap. Commonly called the "donut hole," the gap is in the Medicare drug benefit, which pays for the first $2,830 in subscriptions, but then stops paying for prescriptions until the senior on Medicare hits $4,550 in out-of-pocket costs.

So if your grandma needs more than $2,830 in prescriptions per year, current law requires that she'll begin paying out of pocket at that point -- and will continue until she shells out enough to hit the next phase.

What that means in practical terms is that if you're not very sick, Medicare will pay your all costs. If you're very sick, Medicare will pay some of your costs -- but only after you pay some.

Helluva way to run a system, isn't it? Who would be against plugging that hole?

It's always the right time to give this as a gift. (MAN, I love puns.)

The nice thing about watches is that you can give them to just about anyone, for anything. What else can you say that about, in terms of present-giving?

You can't give a book or CD or DVD to someone without worrying whether they have it already, or whether they'll like it, or whether it might offend them. Giving clothes is tough, because you may not be exactly clear on the size, and what if your tastes aren't the same as theirs? (Not everyone likes funny ties, I've found.)

Gift certificates? Too impersonal. Jewelry? Too emotional -- you don't give jewelry to acquaintances, or friends, or your dad.

But a watch: It's the right size, it's useful, it's decorative, and it doesn't over- or under-sell the occasion. Take the watch shown here: a Man's Fossil Watch I found on Blue Dial ( They've got all kinds of watches there -- mens, womens, kids, the popular Seiko Kinetic Watches, but the one that caught my eye was this Fossil Watch. It's perfect for just about any man -- businessmen could wear this to the office, guys who actually work for a living could have it on a job site and not be embarrassed... Dads who have a birthday coming up in April, say, and whose sons have to buy them a present and otherwise have no idea what to get them.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why Don't You Get A Job (From The Cheesecake Truck To The End Of The Line, 12)

Just before I got married to Sweetie, I made a mixtape to take on our honeymoon road trip to New York. The other day, I found that tape and decided to tell the story of our honeymoon through the songs on that tape. This is part 12; click here for the Table of Contents.

"Well I guess it ain't easy doing nothing at all..."

You may wonder how the song Why Don't You Get A Job ends up on a supposed-to-be-romantic mixtape intended to be played as Sweetie and I drove from Madison, Wisconsin, to New York City and back.

There's a good reason: It's because that was the song for a summer one year.

Every summer, I have a song that somehow ends up defining my summer in one way or another. In the summer of 2009, it was Mary's Market,

A song that picked me out for that summer because it had a wistful, timeless quality that made me forget how often I was sitting in traffic on my way to or from the office, instead of wading through a river with the Babies!, or walking through the park with Sweetie, or just relaxing on the couch while the sun set and the cardinals jumped around the lilac bushes outside our dining room.

Earlier summer songs include Tubthumping, by Chumbawamba, and the song Underdog, by Spoon, a song I listened to incessantly one summer while preparing for what was, and still is, the biggest trial of my life, a trial I won, thankfully, because if you link a song that you love to something that becomes disappointing, you're going to hate that song thereafter.

(I know that because it's happened to me on other occasions: There's one song that I listened to over and over while getting ready for a trial I lost, and I can't stand to listen to that song anymore, even years later.)

On the other hand, if you take a song that otherwise doesn't have anything to do with anything in your life, and doesn't mean much of anything to you, period, and link it with something fun in your life, that song will then take on its own personal meaning for you and become imbued with sentiment, and some songs that made it onto the mixtape for my honeymoon, including Why Don't You Get A Job, are those kinds of songs.

Why Don't You Get A Job was released in November, but it ended up being a big hit on the radio just in time for me to start to like it in the summer after it came out. This was just after Sweetie and I had first started dating. I had grown to like the song because I heard it on the radio -- I'm always a few months behind on things like that, and having started liking it, I ultimately got The Offspring's album, with that song on it, in time for the summer, the result being that I listened to that tape all the time, heading to or from work at my law practice, a practice I'd started up only the year before and which was not doing all that well, although it was doing well enough that I was able to support myself and pay my rent, sometimes doing both in the same month.

(I think, looking back, that I must have gotten the cassette itself from Sweetie, since at that time I was very very poor. I was still living off of some savings I'd had from when a drunk driver hit me and broke my neck, ultimately ending up with me getting a small settlement that I hoarded carefully, and at the time I was working in a startup law practice that had, as its primary business model, not getting paid. My budget in those days barely allowed for groceries, and certainly didn't allow for luxuries like cassette tapes. Back then, I tended to bootleg my songs off of the radio, leaving a blank cassette in the stereo as I listened while studying or hanging out, and when a song came on, I'd hit record and get that song. Mixtapes from that stage of my life -- I still have most of them -- have a lot of DJ intros to songs, or songs that start 3 or 4 seconds into them. So the fact that I had the album itself tells me that in all likelihood, Sweetie bought that tape for me.)

The album itself wasn't great: It had two good songs on it, one of which was Why Don't You Get A Job, which I liked because it was funny and vaguely reggae-ish in nature. I'm not generally a fan of reggae music; as far as I'm concerned, a little bit of reggae goes a long way, and about 1 minute into a reggae song I'm already bored with it. (I shouldn't even, really, distinguish between one reggae song and another, since each reggae song sounds exactly like all other reggae songs, the beats and instruments and music and singing and choruses all blending seamlessly into each other in a tiresome, bland, boring way. So I should just say the reggae song bores me.)

But I liked Why Don't You Get A Job because it wasn't quite reggae, so I listened to it a lot and sang along with it and enjoyed it, and that song became associated with that summer, the summer of '99, a summer in which what I was doing, mostly, was trying to get my law practice going, trying to keep going for planning my wedding to Sweetie (she was doing the planning; I was doing the "trying to keep costs down without wrecking the entire process"), and playing softball on a team I'd set up, a co-ed softball team that turned out to be more of a headache than I ever could have imagined.

I'd wanted to play softball because I thought it could be a fun thing for Sweetie and I to do, and using my new law practice, I could pay for the uniforms -- shirts that said Pagel Law Office and had a little shark symbol on them -- and write it off as an advertising expense.

I unfortunately was not entirely clear on what writing things off really meant, resulting in a rather large tax liability when I would file my taxes for the first full year of running my office. But, luckily, I also did not pay the full load for the shirts, as I got contributions from teammates to cover the cost of the team and the shirts. It ended up costing me about $50, total, for the whole thing.

$50 and my sanity, for a big part of the summer, as the team that I'd put together was filled with a lot of boyfriends who'd talked their girlfriends into playing, girlfriends who weren't actually all that motivated to play softball. The guys on the team, too, were not exactly gung-ho about showing up, since games were on Fridays and many times the guys wanted to keep their options open: if something better was going on, they wanted to be able to go do that, but if they had nothing better to do they'd come play softball.

The trouble was, I had to set up a roster and be ready to play, and we had 15 people for a 10-person team. So I told people, up front, that if they would commit to being there on a Friday, they'd be a starter. If they weren't sure they could make it, they'd be a backup. That policy immediately got me about 10 phone calls per week, leaving messages that said, more or less: "I'm not sure I can make it Friday. I'm pretty sure I can make it but not 100% sure, but since I think I'm going to make it, don't make me a backup on the roster because if you do then I may not come, but if I'm a starter I'll probably come."

That's what happens when you put lawyers on a sports team.

To fill in the gaps and make sure I had people to play, I also invited my brothers, who lived in Milwaukee, to be on the team. They agreed to be on the team -- but both were unable to drive, regularly, at the time, since both were habitually in trouble with the law, in more- and less-serious ways, but ways that regardless of their seriousness inevitably involved having their drivers' licenses suspended and being prohibited from driving. That never stopped them from driving... except on Friday nights, when they'd opt to obey the law (or that law, anyway) and ask me to come pick them up and bring them to the game, in Madison, and then take them back home.

It's a sign of just what a sucker/nice guy I was, and just how much I needed people to field a softball team, and just how little real work I had to do at the time, that I inevitably agreed to drive to Milwaukee, pick up one or both of my brothers, bring them to the game in Madison, and then drive them back home.

That was how I spent my summer: trying to find a way to get paid for doing my job, wrangling softball rosters, driving to Milwaukee and back a lot, and, in between times, spending as much time as possible with Sweetie, including time on the softball field, where Sweetie played catcher and where she made one of the most phenomenal plays anyone ever made in a softball game -- especially in one of our softball games, where "good plays" were scarce and losses were frequent. (We lost one game 35-6, after having jumped out to a 6-0 lead.)

Sweetie, in the phenomenal play, was at home plate, and a long ball was hit out to the outfield, deep center field. That wasn't anything unusual: Long balls were always being hit out there, because our pitcher, Jeff, wasn't a very good pitcher at all. He wanted to play pitcher, and I didn't want to discourage people or have them quit the team, so I let him play pitcher, a position Jeff played with a glove on one hand, a cigarette in his mouth, and a beer on the mound.

On this particular long ball, Jason was playing centerfield. Jason was the only real athlete on our team, or one of two, maybe, but he was the best on our team. Jason was like a major leaguer, as far as we were concerned, and he played centerfield because he could, in that position, really play the entire outfield.

(I played first base, because I was left-handed, and sometimes I played right field, a position I'm not really suited to play because I don't have a strong or accurate throwing arm, and because I have lazy eye, which means I don't really have very good depth perception which means I have a lot of trouble fielding fly balls. But I had to play somewhere, and Sweetie had taken catcher.)

On this particular long ball to center, there was a runner on second, and as the ball flew out and Jason got under it, we realized that Jason would easily make the catch. (Jason easily made every catch). Once he did make the catch, the runner took off, tagging up and heading for home. Jason reared back with his major-league throw and hurled the ball at Sweetie, who by then was standing on home plate (as I'd taught her), holding up her glove, in the way of the runner who was rounding third.

The runner tore home and the ball rocketed into Sweetie, who had every reason to have dropped it or stepped off the plate or otherwise blown the play. We were down by 20 points, or more, at that time, so it didn't really matter, anyway -- but Sweetie stood firm, and the ball hit her glove at Warp 9, just as the runner got home and ran into Sweetie, who tagged him out and saved the run and didn't drop the ball. We all cheered, not because we'd lose by one less run but because it was an amazing play. It would have been a great play for anyone -- but Sweetie had never played baseball of any sort before this summer, and this was one of the first few games, making it extra great.

That play, and Sweetie herself, were so memorable that years later, when Sweetie accompanied me to Chicago to watch me argue a case, she was remembered for it. We were walking down a busy street in Chicago, my mind on my case and Sweetie's mind on whatever it was she thinks about when I'm distracted, which is all the time, when I heard someone call her name. A guy came walking up to us, a guy I didn't recognize at all, and he didn't say anything to me, but talked to Sweetie, who said "Jason!" and reminded me who this guy was -- about six years after the softball team disbanded. This guy, Jason, didn't look as though he remembered me at all -- but he'd picked Sweetie out of a crowd, in Chicago, during rush hour.

That's what I choose to remember about the song Why Don't You Get A Job: not the fact that I was too poor to buy the album, not the fact that I was constantly hassled by friends and family who made it unreasonably difficult to simply get together and play softball, not the fact that we lost almost every game and lost badly. Not even the fact that ultimately my business venture folded ignominiously and I never got that tax writeoff.

Instead, I listen to that song and I remember standing in right field, watching Sweetie take her place at home plate, and hold her glove up, and that ball zoom in there faster than I could barely follow, holding my breath as the runner and the ball arrived and Sweetie grabbed the ball, made the catch, tagged the runner out, and got a hearty round of cheers from the team, a small celebration of a small victory that meant nothing in the game but meant everything to Sweetie and to me because of that.

That's why I put that song on the tape to listen to as we drove on our honeymoon: because it reminded me that even amidst all the troubles of life, Sweetie was a bright spot, standing tough and hanging in there.

For me.

Still, spinach has killed more people than potato chips ever have. (3 Good Things From 3/9/09)

It's a crisis of cataclysmic proportions: Last night, Stephen Colbert broke the news that Pringles have been recalled because of salmonella concerns. So the one rock-solid principal I've always followed: Nobody ever died from eating potato chips has now been proven false! What else do I have left to believe in? Cheer me up, 3 Good Things:

1. I found my iPod. Tuesday morning, I couldn't find my iPod to take to work, and then Tuesday night, I couldn't find it to take to the club to work out. I remembered, clearly, bringing it in Monday night after my drive home, stuffing it into my pocket quickly as I got out of the car in a hurry so that Mr Bunches wouldn't get impatient. That made me sure that I'd set it on the kitchen counter when I'd come in, and Sweetie confirmed seeing it on the counter. Deciding that Mr F must have taken the iPod to play with -- even though he's never supposed to touch it -- I checked under my bed, alongside my dresser, in the Babies!' toy box, under their dresser, under their box-springs, behind their beds, behind all the shelves in the living room, under the couch, between the couch cushions, behind the Only Living Plant and in the dirt of that plant, in the bathroom garbage, under the downstairs couches, in their toy room... and finally gave up and decided to head to the club sans iPod.

Then I double-checked my car and found it in the glove box.

And while Sweetie was laughing at me for being so confused, I pointed out that she'd clearly said she saw it on the counter the day before.

2. Mr Bunches was okay after an ironic fall! We took the Babies! to the club with us so they could play in the daycare while we worked out. On the way out, Mr Bunches tried to go down the stairs carefully -- backwards and crawling because the stairs are steep. Then he gathered his nerve and started, instead, the "right" way, only to change his mind near the bottom and try to switch to the safe way again -- but the switch tripped him up and he tumbled down the last step, ending up surprised but not hurt.

3. Toast for dessert is not weird! Giving in to my demands, Sweetie made french toast for dinner last night, and it was delicious. Then I wanted some dessert, and I was in the mood for regular toast. (Or "Toast Toast," if you must.) So I made some for dessert, which Sweetie thought was weird, but I thought was just fine.

98 Down, 10,616 to go: "Building All Is Love" by Karen O and The Kids, from the Where The Wild Things Are soundtrack. When I first heard the movie was being made, I wanted to see it. Then I didn't want to see it because it didn't sound good and I thought the explanation for Max's behavior was too pat and standard. Then I heard the soundtrack and I wanted to see it all over again, so now I have to convince Sweetie to put it on Netflix and then I have to wait until she and The Boy get every movie ever made, and then my choices will come up.

Until then, I have the soundtrack:

One Percent: Day Fourteen: Does the number 1,115 mean anything to you?

Click here for an explanation of this series of posts.

I got an email from the White House yesterday -- that's how important I am: I am able to be on a list of people getting spammed by the White House -- introducing a "health insurance by the numbers" campaign. The number of the day was that number above, 1,115.

$1,115 is the average monthly premium for employer-sponsored family coverage. That is, if you get your health insurance through your job, on average, you and your company pay (between you) $1,115 per month for your coverage.

Now, as you consider that number, consider two questions:

1. Have you received $13,000 worth of medical coverage in the past year? How many times have you gone to the doctor... period, in the last year? In the last five? Over five years, your premiums were $65,000. That doesn't count deductibles. If you're not using the coverage, why is it so high?

2. What else could you do with $13,000 per year, or even a big chunk of it? If you didn't get a raise this year, or last year, it might be because your employer has to pay $13,000 to an insurance company for care you're not using.

One reason premiums are so high is insanely high compensation for health insurance CEOs. But another reason is uninsured people costing the system a lot of money, so that hospitals have to make up the difference by charging you. So getting universal health coverage spreads the cost, reducing your share, and putting some of that $1,115 per month back in your pocket.

Forget about here's the real hot site.

Think about all the jobs that the Internet is helping to make easier: insurance agent... um... butler...

Okay, maybe the web isn't improving that many jobs, but it certainly is taking care of helping out insurance agents: now, in seconds using just a couple of clicks of your mouse, you can get quotes and agent referrals for any kind of insurance you want.

It's ridiculously easy to get insurance quotes without ever dealing with an insurance agent. Say you want some California insurance for your auto or home or business. All you have to do is go to a place like They'll have links set up for you to click on to choose the kind of insurance you want quotes for. You type in your ZIP code and answer a few questions, and you've got your insurance quotes, right there.

I just did it right now -- it took less than a minute and I got five different referrals to agents or insurance companies, with names and addresses and the ability to click through and contact them immediately in some cases.

Which means I've got time to fire that butler I hired.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Metropolis is in Illinois? (3 Good Things From 3/8/10)

I was going to skip posting this today because I'm superbusy, but I'm also super-annoyed right now, and I need my 3 Good Things to not blow the entire day. So here goes... concentrate... concentrate...

1. I found a parking spot directly across from the courthouse in Milwaukee.
I had to go to court at the federal courthouse in Milwaukee, and not only did I leave in plenty of time so that even when I realized that most of the streets I would ordinarily use to get there were closed off, requiring me to be re-routed around the city, I had enough time to be early for court -- but then, there was a parking spot directly across the street from the courthouse, giving me a short-and-leisurely-walk into the hearing.

2. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog re-runs during clean up time: After seeing Neil Patrick Harris at the Oscars on Sunday, I was in the mood for more showtunes, so last night I listened to this:

As I cleaned up after dinner.

"Hi, D!": Mr Bunches' new greeting for me... and almost everyone. For a while there, he'd say "hi, dad" to me, and also to anyone else he wanted to say hi to. Now, he's shortened it to "Hi, D," because, like everyone else, Mr Bunches doesn't have time for whole names.

(I've tried to get him to call Sweetie M for Mom, with no luck. Yet.)

97 down, 10,617 to go: "Man Of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts," by Sufjan Stevens: This is one of those songs that seems to be like three different songs all in one, satisfying my short attention span all in one fell swoop. It also features a kids' choir, and that always wins me over. Plus, I think it might be about Superman, even though it's from the Illinoise album. Wasn't Superman from Illinois?

Actually -- maybe he is, according to this site.

One Percent, Day Thirteen: The Health Care Proposal Even Helps Insurance Companies.

What's this about? Click here.

Not that they need it -- insurance companies earn enough to pay their CEOs 10s of millions of dollars - -but ObamaCare is going to help the insurance companies, too: His proposal will provide extra funding for health care to people making between $29,000 and $88,000. The plan would pay anywhere from 70% to 94% of the health care costs for those families.

My question is this: if insurance companies, under the plan, will not only be the beneficiaries of the requirement that everyone buy insurance, but will also get government assistance to make sure the less-well-off can pay for the insurance they'll be required to buy, why are insurance companies opposing this plan?

Monday, March 08, 2010

Have you ever tried to relax lying on a plastic cow? (3 Good Things From The Weekend)

Update: If you watched the Oscars last night, you know that Steve Martin used my joke! Steve said that Meryl Streep had more nominations than anyone else... "Or," Steve said, "As I like to think of it, losses."

I said it first when I wrote "But "nominee" hides the truth: "Academy Award LOSER!" would be equally as accurate." Thanks for reading, Steve!
Last night, we took the Babies! for a car ride to tire them out before bed. It seemed it had worked perfectly: they both fell asleep in the car. Then they woke up while I carried them in, and didn't really
ever go back to sleep. Ever. Now I'm tired and need my 3 Good Things more than ever today:

1. Friday: Boys' night out, featuring french fries and tasty ice cream treats! Friday night, Sweetie and the girls went to her sisters for a "make-up party" and The Boy worked, leaving me alone with the Babies! for an entire night... a night to par-tay. Which we did: We ate dinner while watching Enchanted (Mr Bunches' new favorite movie), then we played tunnel attack (where I attack them in a tunnel, naturally) and then baths and then we went to the Sonic drive-in for a dessert that turned out to be an extra meal. See, I wanted one of their ice-cream-and-limeade deals, while the Babies!, I thought, would like the tater tots.

Tater tots were on special -- they came free with any purchase of a cheeseburger, which meant that I would be a sucker if I didn't order the cheeseburger, right? That's what I did, and that's when things got crazy: the cheeseburger was giant (but I bravely ate it anyway) and they messed up and gave us french fries instead of tots, but the Babies! managed to enjoy those anyway, and, in the end, it was the kind of wild night you'd expect from three guys on the town. Then we went home and watched more Enchanted.

2. Saturday: The Boy almost won
his soccer game, which was a good thing even though I didn't get to see it. The Boy's in a soccer league now, and they played a game on Saturday night at the indoor soccer facility. We took the Babies! to watch him, but they got bored (instantaneously) so I ended up supervising them on the indoor-playground while Sweetie watched The Boy's team lose a thriller, 7-6.

3. Sunday: Oscar Party! It was my first-ever Oscar party, prompted by The Boy's love of movies. (He announced yesterday that he thinks Oscar Week is bigger than Super Bowl Week -- which surprised me in that I hadn't known there was an Oscar Week. But there was an Oscar party, which featured me and Sweetie and The Boy eating bratwurst and pretzel-based hors d'ouevres, but I then missed most of the show itself because, as mentioned, Mr F and Mr Bunches had woken back up after their calming car ride, and they were crying and upset and didn't want to be alone, so I spent much of the night hanging out in their room, watching Finding Nemo (which won Best Picture, as far as the Babies! were concerned) and getting kicked off of Mr Bunches' bed: He wanted me in the room, but didn't want me laying on his bed with him, and I couldn't lay on Mr F's bed, as he had it filled up with (honestly): two Buzz Lightyear Action figures, four rubber dinosaurs, a Fisher Price barn, a car, the front part of a semi-truck, and a plastic cow.

And him, of course.

95 and 96 down, 10,618 to go
: As I drove to work today, I was listening to "Lucky" by Kat Edmonson:

And I decided to make that today's song -- because it seemed happy and upbeat and a good way to start off a Monday (although I worried, a little, that Kat was saying Lucky lucky me in an ironic way... you kids and your irony this and sarcasm that are throwing me off... and then, as I got to the parking garage, on came the song "A More Perfect Union" by Titus Andronicus, and I really wanted that to be the song, so I decided to just do both and let you first get a little bouncy and upbeat, and then get really amped up and ready to tear down the obstacles that may face you today...

One Percent, Day Twelve: It Turns Out You're Actually In Favor Of The "Public Option."

What's this about? Click here.

... and I'm not talking about polls which show that most Americans favor the public option for health insurance. I'm talking about you, and how you, specifically, favor the public option.

You may think that you don't, but consider this:

... do you enroll your kids in public schools, or did you attend one?
... do you use the U.S. Post Office?
... did you, or will you, take out a student loan?

All of those things are public options -- and all of them compete with the private sector, without running the private sector out of business. Private schools aren't failing. Fed Ex is doing fine. Lenders are so successful in giving out private student loans that the government is having trouble competing with them.

A public option exists for education, for borrowing, and for mailing. Why not for health insurance?

Pictured: One of the first "public options."

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Pop Quiz Time: Free Agents are (a) Stupid or (b) Hate Your Team (Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!)

I hope Joe Mauer can eat a lot of cupcakes.

"Cupcakes" in that sentence means money. I have to substitute cupcakes for money when I talk about things like free agency, and money, because otherwise people don't really get my point, and they call me a communist.

(Which...sigh... I probably am, I suppose. But that's for another day.)

I talk about money a lot -- specifically, about how much money people have, and how much people make and how stupid it is that Ellen Degeneres will get paid a bazillion dollars to be a judge on American Idol, which is on top of what she gets paid for everything else, and even after that she still demands a "clothing allowance" of $150,000, something that's really stupid and that makes me want to just go ahead and be a Communist because while it would mean eating beets and being cold and standing in line outside the Kremlin for bread, at least there wouldn't be as many outrages like that.

See, if you say people have too much money, everyone says stuff like "How can you have too much money?" and "You're a communist!" and "I love Ellen and think she's a welcome antidote to Oprah's overwhelmingly bland and self-serving show." (That last one, I think, came from Ellen.)

But if you say someone has too many cupcakes, people shut the heck up about communism, and Ellen, and listen to your point, instead.

So I've long substituted cupcakes for money as an analogy, and I'm going to do that again today when I talk about why free agents are stupid, or hate the team they play on, or both. I'll walk you, and the stupid/hateful free agents, through it step-by-step, but, at the various critical points where money comes up, I'll be using cupcakes. Just keep that in mind.

Free agents are stupid, and/or hate your team -- and are killing their sport-- because they do stupid things like leave a perfectly good team for a perfectly bad team, even though the money...I mean cupcakes are irrelevant -- and in doing so, often times damage their careers, or their reputation, or their sport (although they probably don't care about that latter part that much) good reason.

Here's the thing: Why do people become professional athletes? If you answered "For the love of the game" then you're either a disingenuous free agent who's lying to the public, or you're an idiot.

Professional athletes didn't become professional athletes for the love of the game. They became pros for money. Think about how difficult it is to become a pro athlete, and how lucky you have to be. There are, at any given time, about 1,500 pro football players. There are about 352 pro basketball players* (*I'm assuming 11 players per team, 32 teams, and I don't care if I'm wrong about that because I don't really care about basketball as a sport.) There are, at any given time, about 800 pro baseball players.

That means, out of the three sports that actually count** (**NASCAR is not a sport; the other sports don't count.) there are less than 3,000 pro athletes at any one time. Out of a country with 302,822,068 people right this very second [1:41 p.m. 3/7/10], according to the US Population Clock.

You know what's awesome? While I typed that line, the clock went up to 302,822,072. Cool.

So 1 in 302,000 people will have a chance at some point of being a pro athlete. (This site puts it at 22,000 to 1, but they're probably counting sports that don't really count.) Those people won't just get to be a pro football quarterback; nobody just gets handed that job, as I've sadly learned in my life (I kept waiting my turn!). They have to work at it. They have to begin with the genetic ability to be a top-notch athlete and then work at it, constantly, practicing and working out and eating right and not doing stupid stuff like accidentally blowing their fingers off with firecrackers or something... and then when they hit the pros, they have to work even more.

They do that for the love of the game? Bushwah, as they used to say in those Great Brain books I read when I was a kid. If you love the game that much, just go play. Nobody practices 8 hours a day and gets injections in their knee to keep walking and takes a bunch of cheap shots in the NFC title game in New Orleans because they love the sport.

They do it for the money, and glory. That's it. That's why everybody does their job, and everything else: because we get paid to do it and because it makes us feel good.

Pro athletes are no different. That's the number one stupidity of free agency: Free agents all too often make stupid decisions, because they opt to go for money after it's no longer relevant, and in doing so, give up on the glory and hurt their teams and their sport.

...I mean, they opt to go for cupcakes after they're no longer relevant.

Pro athletes to come into the game one of two ways: As a highly-overpaid star who makes his money up front, or as an unheralded nobody. However their entry, for some athletes, there will come a time they will be offered big money. And that is when they will do something stupid.

The stupid thing that athletes do at that point is forget that they came into the league for money and glory, and in particular they forget that you can only eat so many cupcakes in this lifetime. When the time comes to cash in, they inevitably blow it and lose the chance to either be happy, or to make themselves the most popular and amazing -- and still super-rich -- athlete of all time.

Instead, they go for the cupcakes.

Consider Aaron Kampman. Aaron Kampman was a Green Bay Packer until this weekend. He was an unheralded nobody, coming into the league as a fifth-round draft choice in 2002. He's been with the Packers since then, until this weekend, when Aaron signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. In doing so, Kampman left a team whose fans are crazy in love with their guys, a team that went to the playoffs last year and has been in the playoffs 2 of the last 3 years -- to join a team that has 12 wins in the last two years and which struggles to fill its own stadium for home games.

Did Kampman do that for glory? I doubt it: The Jaguars play in the AFC South, home to the Colts and the Titans; in 2005, the Jaguars' best year in recent history, the team went 12-4 and had to qualify as a wild card because the Colts went 14-2. The Colts and Jaguars have 44 playoff berths between them; the Jaguars have six.

Kampman was reported to be unhappy with the Packers' switch from an ineffective 4-3 defense to an ineffective 3-4 defense, a move that caused him to shift to linebacker instead of defensive line. It's interesting, then, that Jacksonville played a 3-4 last year (but promises to switch this year.)

So did Kampman switch because he didn't like the Packers' scheme? The lack of prominence (two years ago, Kampman was the toast of the NFL for his sacks)? Did Kampman switch for glory, in other words?

I doubt it: Nobody moves from Titletown and playoff berths to ... Jacksonville, and a perennial 3rd-place-divisional finish if they want glory.

No, Kampman obviously moved for money, or because he hates Green Bay. And maybe the latter is true -- that's one reason free agents move, if they hate their team -- but if it was money, then Kampman is stupid.

Kampman in Green Bay would have made probably a little less than he'll make in Jacksonville -- but "a little less" isn't, in this case, the difference between $80,000 and $85,000. It's the difference between, say, $9 million and $10 million.

Far be it from me to disparage a whole million bucks, but there is no difference between the two figures. Not in any practical way, not in any way that matters.

Here is where I have to switch to cupcakes, so as to keep your fingers off the button that auto-types communist when I make this argument.

Let's say Kampman was paid in cupcakes. And let's say Kampman can eat a lot of cupcakes. More than you or I could; more than you and I together could. Let's say Kampman can eat as many cupcakes as five people in a given day.

Heck, let's say he can eat as many as ten people.

With me so far? If Kampman can eat as many cupcakes, per day, as ten people, there is still a finite limit to the number of cupcakes Kampman can eat in his lifetime. After that number is reached -- after he has every cupcake he can eat in his lifetime, giving him more cupcakes doesn't make a whit of a difference in his life.

If Kampman can eat 100 cupcakes a day -- 36,500 cupcakes per year -- and if he lives 100 years, he'll need 3,650,000 cupcakes to get him through that lifetime. If he has 3,650,001, then that last cupcake goes to waste: it's irrelevant; he doesn't need it.

So if Kampman does something to get himself that extra cupcake -- the 3 million, six hundred fifty-thousand and first cupcake -- he's wasting his energy, because he'll never, ever, ever eat that cupcake.

And that's why there's no difference between $9 million and $10 million. And that's why Kampman is stupid, or hates the Packers.

Kampman turns 31 this year. If he lives to be 100, he'll need money for 70 years. Leave aside what he's already been paid. If Kampman is paid $9 million this year, that's all the money he'll ever need in his lifetime. $9,000,000, over a 70-year-span, is $128,571 per year. So Kampman, if he gets paid $9,000,000 just one time in his life, will be able to spend $128,571 per year for the rest of his life, even if he lives to be 100.

That's enough to place Kampman in the upper 50% of income earners in every single state, no matter how big of a family he might have. And that's not counting what he could have if he invested it in some safe, government-insured CDs that earn 5% per year.

One $9 million paycheck, and Kampman will never need money again. And the difference, over that 70 years, of earning Ten million? Not much: $142,857.14 per year -- or about $14,000 more per year. That's chump change; Kampman would earn that in interest if he invested his $9 million.

In other words, Kampman left a playoff contender in a city that loved him and where he was a big fish in a little pond -- to go to a place where he'll likely finish his career on a losing note and where the fans couldn't care less about the team.

Sound like a smart move? Not to me.

Take almost any big-name free agent, and the analysis is the same. And, yes, I'm including Brett Favre in that analysis: My idolization of him notwithstanding, Brett Favre is both stupid and hates his old team -- that's why he signed with the Jets, and that's why he signed with the Vikings. I firmly believe that Favre hates the Packers and wants to show them that they made a mistake letting him go -- and that he's stupid, because he's jeopardizing his legend -- he's already lost much of the aw, shucks aura that used to surround him, the just-a-good-old-boy gunslinger feel, as more and more stories come out about his attitudes, and he capped off what could have been a phenomenal season with another last-pass-thrown interception: Favre's gone from definite Hall of Famer to a guy who is now said to have ended everyone of his last three seasons with an interception. And he did it for money, or because he hates his team -- and he's already got more money than he'll ever need, too.

Sound like a smart move? Not to me.

There's only one good reason for a player ever to leave a team: just one: Glory. The chance to make a name for himself and elevate himself to one of the all-time greats, to set records, to win championships, to go down in history as the greatest something-or-other ever.

Glory has nothing to do with money, though, and in fact going for the money makes it unlikely that the player will get as much glory as he thought. That's something almost nobody -- athlete or regular guy -- understands. It's about the cupcakes: Making $3 million to play for a contender is the same as making $7 million to play for a loser -- except that in the former, you might get the glory and in the latter you definitely won't. That's what Aaron Kampman did, and it was stupid.

After a certain amount of money, it's all irrelevant, so taking $4 million in irrelevant money to move to a loser team hurts the chances of getting glory, while not helping an athlete's bottom line, not in any meaningful way, because it's more money than they need or can use.

Even when they don't move, free agents make stupid choices, hold up their own team for tons and tons of money -- thereby blowing their chance at glory, and blowing their chance at winning. And hurting their sports in the long run.

And that's where Joe Mauer comes in.

I know who Joe Mauer is because a few years back, I thought it might help me follow baseball and find baseball more exciting if I had a fantasy baseball team. Playing fantasy football had helped expand my horizon to the point where I followed, at least loosely, more teams than just the Packers and the Bills, and I thought maybe fantasy baseball would do that for baseball: give me a rooting interest in the game to help get me through the deadly-boring 162-game season that's too many games which last too long.

It didn't work: I still don't follow baseball that closely. But I do know who Joe Mauer is because he was my catcher on that team, and so I've off and on heard about Joe Mauer since then, his name catching my eye because of the fantasy team.

Most recently, what I heard about Joe Mauer is that he's looking for a big payday as a free agent and that he may move to the New York Yankees.

Joe Mauer, in his baseball career, has always played for the Minnesota Twins, a small-market team that by the weird economics of baseball has no chance of winning a World Series, not really. Here's his salary history:

2004 Minnesota Twins $300,000
2005 Minnesota Twins $325,000

2006 Minnesota Twins $400,000

2007 Minnesota Twins $3,750,000
2008 Minnesota Twins $6,250,000
2009 Minnesota Twins $10,500,000

Nice, right? Mauer's made $21,000,000 in his career -- most of it in the last two years. He's now rumored to be headed for the New York Yankees after the 2010 season, unless he reaches an agreement with the Twins to keep him there for 7-10 years. The speculation is that Mauer, a catcher, could make as much as $30 million a year if he's bought up by the Red Sox or the Yankees. So the Twins are talking about paying him a ton of dough to keep him there -- paying him almost Red Sox or Yankee money.

Whatever Mauer does, you can bet this: It's going to hurt the Twins, and it's going to hurt baseball, and it's not going to help Joe Mauer, not really.

Mauer doesn't need more money. Mauer's been paid $21 million already. He's 27 years old. He'll never need money again.

This isn't a matter of being communist, so don't bother saying "Who are you to tell him how much he can earn?" Remember: this is about cupcakes. Joe Mauer can only eat so many cupcakes in his life -- and he can only spend so much money in his life, no matter how hard he tries. At $21 million already, Mauer has $287,671 to spend each year for the rest of his life if he lives to be 100.

He could play for free for the rest of his career, and not be hurting; that is, he could refuse to take more cupcakes than he could ever eat, and still be okay.

I'm not advocating that; I'm not saying Joe Mauer should play for free -- but should Joe Mauer insist on being paid $10 million, or $20 million, or $30 million to play baseball?

No, he shouldn't -- unless he's stupid or hates the Twins. And baseball.

Look at each option:

If Joe Mauer leaves the Twins for the Yankees, or the Sox, he'll make $30 million a year, and he'll probably be in the postseason and he'll probably win a World Series. That's glory and that's not a bad thing; it's understandable that he'd want to win a World Series and I wouldn't think that doing this is the stupidest thing he could do. It's still pointless, because the $30 million he'll make is too many cupcakes, more than he needs, but at least he'd be moving to get a real shot at a Series. Moving under those circumstances means he simply hates the Twins.

Or that he hates baseball
. I'll get to that in a minute.

If, on the other hand, Joe Mauer stays with the Twins but demand and gets almost-Yankee money, then he's stupid and he hates the Twins (and still hates baseball.) That's because by demanding more money than he needs (or can ever spend), he'll end up crippling his own team's chances to win in the postseason -- and that's stupid and hateful. If the Twins pay Mauer $10 million, or $20 million, that's $10 or $20 million they don't have to pay other players, or to help get coaches, or scouts, or whatever it is that separates the Yankees from the Twins.

And there's not that much separating the Yankees and the Twins; the Twins make the postseason regularly, only to get shut-down by a big-money team. What separates the Yankees and the Twins is money; the Twins need more of it but won't get more of it under baseball's weird structure.

So what can the Twins do? And what can Mauer do? Create more money artificially: get players to play for less, by reminding them that there's no difference in the numbers they're talking about.

Mauer could opt to play for the Twins for, say, $5 million a year -- 1/6 what he'd bring in free agency. That would leave the Twins, who apparently have the ability to pay him $10 or $15 million per year, an extra $5 or $10 million to spend on other players -- players who would have to come to Minnesota to play for less money than they could get elsewhere, too, but players who could be made to understand that, hey, $5 million, $6 million, $7 million... it's all irrelevant. Once you're in the millions, the difference between this million and that million is negligible.

If that happened, the players would still get the money -- less, on paper, than they'd expected, but a meaningless amount less -- and they'd get the glory... and what glory. Imagine the love that would be bestowed on a player who came to Minnesota, foregoing $10 million to play for the Twins for $5 million, in order to help bring a World Series to Minnesota?

That player -- who would then have about as good a chance to win a World Series as anyone else, given that his team could then afford to get lots of good players, just like the big four in baseball -- would not only have all the money (cupcakes) he could ever use, would have not just a chance at the glory, but would go down in history as one of the most beloved and famous players of all time. Minnesota (or Milwaukee, or Kansas City, or any place) would roll out the red carpet for those guys, would adopt them, and would reward them with more fame and glory and love than they could imagine.

I'm not the first one to float such an idea: Sports Illustrated not long ago ran an article suggesting that LeBron James do something similar for the Cavaliers, playing for $1 a year. (This article reprints that SI column.) SI noted that Steve Jobs had long made the symbolic gesture of paying himself only $1 a year as a salary, and suggested that athletes think of themselves as corporations -- what would grow the brand in the long run, a couple of years of salary or the goodwill (and endorsements and the like) that come with such a phenomenal gesture as taking less money to help the team?

Some players take pay cuts to help the team -- Brett Favre did that in the past, before he was stupid, and some recent high-profile near-busts have taken pay cuts, too (such as 49ers QB Alex Smith cutting his salary.) Those cuts help prove my point: Players who have made their money in the past can afford not to make much money in the future, and should do so because once you've made your money, once your lifetime income is set, the only thing left to play for is the glory, and you'll have a better shot at that if you can surround yourself with good players.

But it's wrong to even think of it is as a pay cut, which is why I put it into cupcakes: How is it a pay cut to say "Joe Mauer, we'll pay you $5 million a year from here on out, and we're going to use the other $10 million we were going to pay you to get you a really good pitcher to help out, and maybe a good hitter, too." Sure, he's making $10 million now, but remember, once you're up over a couple million, it's all Monopoly money. Or cupcakes.

And it's wrong to think of it in terms of generating good will to generate more pay in the future. That's the wrong way to think, too. Sure, taking less money now could result in more money later, but that's just feeding into the stupid, strange way we think about sports and money.

Our society thinks about a lot of things the wrong way, and the way we think about sports and money is, for the most part, wrong in each case. We look at sports and idolize athletes for the wrong reasons: We idolize them for winning, or making a lot of money, or playing for the love of the game instead of looking up to them for the incredible amount of dedication and work and fortitude it takes to be a pro athlete. If we're going to look up to athletes, let's do it for the right reasons and celebrate the hard work.

And, more importantly, let's not let them off the hook when they make stupid decisions that show they don't understand money any more than we do, and when they do things that prove they're stupid or hate our team. Or their sport.

Because we also celebrate the wrong idea of money, and athletes show how. If we truly understood how money works -- if we truly understood that there is a finite limit to the amount of money you can use in a lifetime, and that any money more than that is, like a warehouse full of excess cupcakes, being hoarded and going to waste -- then we would look at free agency in sports, and our sports heroes, in the proper light. We'd look at them and say "What are you doing? Why are you going to that team? Why are you making our team pay you so much money that it hurts our chances of seeing you win championships?" We'd say "Why do you need $10 million this year, when nobody can spend that much money in their lifetime?"

We'd tell Joe Mauer, and Aaron Kampman, and every free agent, that they, along with the owners (and aided and abetted by us,) are a big part of the problem: Their demands for more money than they could ever spend helps keep some teams down and other teams up and keeps Milwaukee and Oakland and Seattle and Kansas City and Tampa from ever winning a World Series, while funneling more and more money through the big four baseball teams, for no good reason -- because if those players looked at reality, and said "I guess I can live on $4 million this year," which they can, and they'd never notice the difference between $4 million and $40 million -- and if they didn't hate their team -- they'd stay and play for "less," because the "less" isn't really and the "more" isn't really, either. There's no difference that matters between $4 million and $40 million.

But they don't.

We don't, either.

We think of money, and they think of money, differently than we think of every other commodity in the world. We never think that one can have enough money; just saying that seems to be heresy in the Western World. And because we can't wrap our minds around the concept of having enough money, we think it's okay that players like Aaron Kampman and Joe Mauer do stupid things that hurt their current teams -- making their team lose a good player for an irrelevant amount of money -- and which hurt their sport, by altering the economic landscape in a senseless way, tilting things towards rich teams even though the numbers are big enough that they no longer have meaning. Kampman sucked an extra million out of Jacksonville -- a million that could have been used to lure another good player there, or to lower ticket prices, or to otherwise help his team. It's a million that's meaningless to him, but his taking it means his team, and his new city, and his sport, are suffering by that much. Stupid.

And we suffer for it. We have our players go to other teams, and our teams go on being terrible, and we go on demanding salary caps and revenue sharing -- demanding that someone, somewhere, reduce their income even though we don't demand that this player reduce his income -- and we still find the time and the heart to idolize the players, players who are too stupid to understand they can only eat so many cupcakes, players who could take a reasonable amount of money to play and thereby increase not only their team's chances at winning but their own personal glory, but who don't do that.

That's why Joe Mauer's trip to the Yankees, or the Sox, for $30 million, even though it could get him closer to a Series, is still stupid and shows he hates the Twins, or maybe baseball: because Mauer would be making the move for money and glory -- but by taking the money, he tilts baseball more in favor of rich teams. He sends talent to teams that can afford to pay that extravagant, unnecessary, totally meaningless amount of money -- and the Twins can't match it.

The $30 million doesn't mean anything to Mauer, in those circumstances. He'll have $30 million in the bank already, and doubling $30 million is like having two warehouses full of cupcakes: You can't eat them all, making all the extras irrelevant. Mauer would be -- will be-- trading an irrelevant amount of money, something that benefits him not at all, not in any real, meaningful, way, for a more imbalanced baseball league, one which makes it even harder for teams to compete. Mauer's $30 million will ultimately be one more straw on the camel's back, one step closer to the end of baseball.

That's stupid -- it's stupid to let him do it, and it's stupid to not criticize him for it. So I will: Joe Mauer, if he takes more than a reasonable amount of money (and I think nobody should earn more than $200,000 a year, but I'm willing to let him take, say, $5 million), is a selfish person who hates the Twins and is helping destroy them, and baseball.

Stupid as it is, and even with my criticism, it's not going to change anytime soon -- the SI article didn't convince LeBron that he had enough money now, and most people reading this will decide that I don't get it and that I'm a communist.

And, next year, the headlines will say that Joe Mauer either went to the Yankees, earning $30 million meaningless dollars. Or they'll say that Mauer got $15 million or so to play for the Twins, money that he'll pocket when it could have gone to buy the Twins some other people so that when they meet the Yankees in the postseason, they'll win instead of getting swept.

I don't doubt that one of those two will be true. I have zero belief that Joe Mauer will do what's right for himself, the Twins, baseball, and society, that he will take a reasonable amount of money -- reasonable being a relative concept here. Mauer won't do that even though reasonable would still be $3 or $4 or $5 million, more money than he'd ever be able to spend, too. He'll opt for big-but-meaningless money with the Sox or Yankees, or he'll opt for not-as-big-but-still-meaningless money with the Twins.

Either way, it'll be bad for the Twins, bad for baseball... and not good for Joe Mauer, who will have a warehouse full of cupcakes and nothing much to show for it. His legacy will be that of one more pro athlete who didn't understand money and who opted to hurt his fans and his sport, getting nothing real in return.

Like I said: I hope Joe Mauer can eat a lot of cupcakes. He's going to have more than any person can ever finish, and he'll need something to do while contemplating the problems his decision, whatever it is, helped worsen for baseball.

Maybe he can share them with the free agents and highly-paid athletes around the league, and in other sports, as they congratulate each other on milking their fans, their teams, and their leagues ...for nothing.


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