Sunday, September 30, 2012

No Passport Required

It's gotten to the point where I want to get away.  Not just for the weekend.  Not just to a new job.  I want out of this society.  I want to leave this state of being.  I want to go someplace where I feel safe, comfortable, appreciated, challenged and acknowledged for what I am and the things I do. 
I want to move to another country. Not just any old country.  Not any of the countries currently in existence.  I want to go to My Own Country.  
It will be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Somewhere near the equator.  I'm basing this on a book I read years ago by a guy named Marshall T. Savage called "The Millennial Project: Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps."  The first step was the creation of artificial floating habitats in the middle of the ocean.  The code name for this step was Aquarius.  It is grown out of minerals in ocean water.  It would be powered by low-pressure thermal exchange units that would generate electricity by exploiting the temperature difference between the ocean water on the surface of the ocean and that pumped up from near the bottom.  It would look something like this: 

There would be a cluster of these floating habitats.  About five or six to start with.  
The second thing my country would have are orphids.  Orphids are  nano-devices conceptualized by a science fiction writer named Rudy Rucker in a short story, later turned into a novel, called "Postsingular."  Orphids will build themselves out of ambient dust on the earth.  They will replicate until they reach a density of about two orphids per square millimeter.  Everyone on the planet will be covered with a few million of them.  It would take ten sextillion, or 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 orphids to cover the entire Earth.  They would stop replicating at that point and only do so to replaced any orphid that was damaged or lost during normal use.  
With orphids you can know anything and everything you want to know.  They would communicate with each other using quantum entanglement, forming a planet wide "orphidnet."  They would communicate with the citizens of my country by sending magnetic vortices. 
Only citizens of my country would be able to access the orphidnet.  Sorry.  My country, my rules.  
With orphids, the citizens of my country would not need an army.  If anyone, a foreign leader or terrorist, wanted to attack or conquer us, the orphidnet would warn us and then stop it.  Any solider or attacker coming to the country would become violently nauseous before they could hit the switch or pull the trigger.  Fighter planes wouldn't take off.  Ships would turn on their own away from our floating cities.  Missiles would refuse to launch.  
The foreign policy of my country would be very simple and straightforward.  It is encapsulated in this single sentence: 
"Leave us alone and we'll do the same for you."
My country would be peaceful.  It would be like living on a resort island.  And, for me right now, it would be easy to tell who is pulling their weight and who is cheating, being lazy or getting credit for things they didn't deserve.  We would just "know."  Our public behavior would be part of the public record.  Our private record would be filter out and only admitted if our public behavior called it into question.
Yeah, I know...  That last statement sounded snarky to me too.  It'll be one of those things that the people of my country will work out amongst themselves.  But be assured that everyone that immigrants to my country will be given the mental training, a series of meditative exercises, to keep the orphids from releasing your private thoughts without permission.  They will also be programed to not transmit anything you do in the bathroom or bedroom without your permission.  
My country will export cheap, reliable and absolutely fabulous electronics.  That will be our main export, besides the delicious lobsters we'll grow in the aqua farms surrounding each habitat.  The electronics will be packed with orphids programmed to work like whatever device you purchase.  You'll be able to connect immediately with anyone you want to talk to with perfect clarity.  And if your cell phone, notepad or laptop is lost or stolen, you have no worries about lost data.  It won't work for anyone else.  If a thief tries to use it, the screen will have the following message pop up before their eyes: 
"Look...  This isn't yours.  You stole me.  I won't work for you.  Return me to my owner or I'll call the police and let them know where you are.  See, here's a picture of you I'm sending them right now."  
They'll see themselves on the screen, holding the stolen device.  If they decide to chuck it in the trash, the device will send a signal so you can track it and recover it.  If they try to open it up, the orphids will turn into a green, gooey slime that will stick to their hands and harden into a substance harder than concrete.  It will only come off if they return the device to the police.  
In my country I'll have time to go to the gym.  I'll be able to sleep eight hours a day.  If my friends of family get sick, the orphids will be able to tell us what's wrong and how to fix it.  How's that for universal healthcare?  I'll have time to meet with friends.  I won't feel so tired all the time.  I won't have to go into work on Saturdays, unless I really want to, and then have someone else praised for the good work that got done.  I won't have to deal with childish, stupid behavior from employees, because they'll know that doing things they're not supposed to do will be noticed by the orphids.  The problems I'll have to face will be actually problems, which will require effort and team work to solve, where everyone's contribution will be noticed and respected.  
The name of my country?  How about Weare.  As in "WeAre what we are."  Maybe the country won't even have a name.  It will be whatever other people want to call it.  
For those of us that live there, it'll simply be Home.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Week as Story

My week started badly.  

On Monday, at work, the system was down for over half the day.  It didn't come back until 1 PM.  Without the ability to review orders or print out instructions, we only got half the amount of work we normally do.  It also dropped us from being little bit ahead of reaching the monthly goal to being a good chunk behind.  

I did my manager thing.  Refigured what the unit needed to do on a daily basis until the end of the month and gave that to my staff.  I encouraged them to do their best.  I hired someone new to take the place of someone that had left.  I monitored the work to see how things were going...

At about the same time, early in the week, I listened to a podcast from Science News.  It featured a story about Killer Whales and how females live to be ninety, sometimes one hundred years old, even though they stop breeding around 40, which is about the same time male killer whales die off.  The article informed me that killer whales are the only other animals besides humans to have such an extended menopause (pilot whales may also have an extended menopause, but the article seemed to indicate it wasn't verified yet).  Most animals die out very soon after their breeding lives are over (some while in the midst of the first and final time).  

I thought this was incredibly fascinating.  Especially when the article went out to say that having these "grandmother" killer whales around helped the males in the pod survive.  A male was fourteen times more likely to die in the first 18 months after a grandmother whale's death than a female.  What grandma Shamu is doing to help her male offspring survive isn't clear, but it reminded me of something else I'd read...

The work week continued to be difficult.  We made the daily goals we needed to make, but just barely and only by working well past "quitting time."  We were short-handed, people taking time off scheduled in previous weeks.  And mistakes were being brought to my attention, basic things that should never happen.  Our daily results kept decreasing until they were only a few hundred dollars above what we were supposed to be doing when caught up.  I was skipping the gym to stay at work until the last order was processed.  I was feeling myself getting more and more upset.  

A few months ago, in Scientific American, I read an article about Modern Humans and Neanderthals during the Middle Paleolithic.  A statistical study was done of the fossil remains of these two competing groups and an interesting fact emerged.  Modern Humans were far more likely to have grandparent aged members of their community than Neanderthals.  I had heard of the "Grandparent hypothesis" before, how having grandparents around helped ancient communities survive and thrive.  They were natural reservoirs of information.  They could provide childcare while the members of the community in their physical prime went to hunt and gather, and later, tend to the crops that were their food stuff.  From this article, it seemed that grandparents also gave the our ancestors the advantage that allowed them to replace the Neanderthal.  

Since Neanderthals and Modern Humans were so similar in physical characteristics, as well as cultural development, the distinction must have been a cultural one.  It was something humans did that allowed their older members to survive into grandparent age, as opposed to a physiological distinction that made us longer lived.  This pleased me.  It seemed to me that we survived because of being more cooperative in some way rather than just being better.

I became more cranky as the week went on.  For a while it had seemed to me that work was the only part of my life doing well.  This week, even that idea was being challenged by circumstances.  Late one night, as I felt myself sinking into a depression over this seeming realization, I complained about the situation to a colleague of mine, the woman that runs the Invoicing Department, which is the same room as my Production Department.  I was telling her how, after so many months of working on the staff's perception of what needed to be done, after seeing our performance levels rise and then rise again, after getting the company to pay tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade our equipment, installing new computers, new scanners, new software to manage it all, seeing all the pieces coming together to make the department become a truly efficient production machine, I told her that I thought I should be seeing the fruits of my labor ripening before my eyes.  Instead, it felt as if I were fighting it, being trampled by my own creation.  

She laughed at me.  

"What are you thinking, Man?" she said in her thick Thai accent.  "For manager, there never a good day.  Why you think they hire you, huh?  If things go smooth, they don't need you!  For manager, ever day a bad day!"  

Despite my mood, I started chuckling.  I laughed along with her.  What she said struck a cord in me.  She was right.  If things just worked the way they were supposed to on their own, they wouldn't have had me come and oversee it.  It was a brief respite in the bludgeoning I was getting for the week.  

I came up with a metaphor the previous week about work.  The idea of the caveman grandparents the killer whales lead me to brought it back to me.  I want to elaborate on it a bit: 

Work is like being a caveman, going out to hunt down some creature and bring its carcass back to the cave to eat.  For most people its bloody necessity.  You do it because you want to stay alive.  Paying bills, washing dishes, cleaning your work clothes, all of those activities are the functional equivalent of sharping your stone spears and making obsidian tipped arrows.  Culture, story-telling, looking up at the stars and wondering what those little points of light that look like distant campfires are, those things are what we think of when we think of being 'human.'  Work is survival.  Plain and simple.  

Using this metaphor, this is how I would encapsulate this last week: 

These days, I feel like a starving caveman that has gone out to find some prey only to be trampled by a herd of mammoths.

By Friday, I was pretty much ready to quit.  The Invoicing Manager, a woman I respect and normally get along with, and I were snapping at each other.  

"Why the fuck do I have to stay late every night to make the goal?" she asked when I brought her more work to bill out. 

I turned back around after starting to leave.  "I don't know.  Why do I have to stay late just to push out stuff that's just sitting there, when I'm short three people and I feel like I have to babysit the rest, huh?"  

She shook her head and didn't say anything back to me.  She kept invoicing.  I kept finishing orders.  

By the time everyone was done and gone, I kept working, finally getting to other things I'd let slide.  I first looked at my morning "to do" list around 8:10 in the evening.  I went through my emails.  I approved payroll.  I approved requests for time-off.  I wanted so badly to go, but knew if I left anything undone I would feel compelled to come back on Saturday.  Just as I had the Saturday before that.  Just as I probably would the following Saturday, the very last day of the month, with a, more than likely, month-end goal just out of reach.  I kept working not because I so enjoyed being there.  But because I wanted to make sure all my stone-tipped spears and newly fletched arrows were ready to battle the mammoth again on Monday AFTER I had two full days of rest.  

At about 8:40 PM, eleven and a half hours or so after I arrived, I returned to my cave.  I felt like I wanted to roll a big rock before its entrance and seal myself in.  

I decided to treat myself and bought a grill shrimp burrito from Rubio's.  I walked to the restaurant, fifteen minutes there and fifteen minutes back, and counted that as my exercise for the week. I turned on my TV.  It was set to the Japanese Language station I often watch as part of my language practice.  

There was a show about the future of the global economy produced by NHK, the largest news service in Japan, their equivalent of CNN.  It was in English and had several experts I didn't recognize from around the world, Japan, India, China and the United States.  Glad I wasn't going to be forced to translate what they were saying, and too tired to get up and change the channel, I ate my shrimp burrito and listened.  

"It used to be," the expert from the United States said near the end of the program.  He was a very young looking fellow, very energetic, who was listed as a CEO of some company I didn't recognize.  "That businesses prepared for boom and bust cycles...  Like a ship at sea, the storm would come, they'd furl their sails and wait it out...  When good weather returned, they'd unfurl their sails and continue their voyage...  Boom and bust.  In the future, boom and bust cycles will be faster...  After a tsunami, after riots in the middle east, after something like the next 9/11...  These cycles will come so quickly, it will be constant turmoil.  You'll have to learn to keep sailing in the storm.  What keeps you going, your sails, are your values..."  

I finished my burrito.  I threw the paper it was wrapped in away.  I kept the plastic bag to take it to the recyclers.  I put my dishes in the sink.  Then, because I hadn't had the chance all week, I cleaned my dishes, all of them, to get them out of the way.  Fletching the arrows.  Sharpening the stone spear.  I started thinking about what I was going to say to my staff during our meeting on Monday.  

Then I went to bed and fell asleep.  

That was my week.  How was yours?

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Story's Outcome

This is going to be an odd blog entry.  Bear with me.  
Originally, I was going to write about what looked like a switch in Karma.  A change of fortune.  The narrative was going to go something like this...
Right now things are going really well at work.  Since the end of March, when I took on the role of Production Manager, my company's fortunes have soared.  My first month was the absolute worst my unit has done under my direction, and we finished about ten thousand dollars over the company's revenue goal.  Last month, August, we set a production record.  One of the owners of the company took the management team out to lunch to celebrate.  He highlighted my accomplishments by pointing out the turn in the company's fortunes that took place after I took over the production department.  
Even when bad things happen, fortune seems to be on my side.  One of my employees stopped coming into work while I was on vacation.  No call.  No show.  We've been scrambling to keep things going, especially when other employees take their days off.  
This week, though, I got an email from someone, a woman looking for a job.  She heard about the sudden opening through someone she knows in my office.  She's been doing the same job as the person who left for about 17 years.  I contacted a former boss of mine who worked with her and was told that she was someone who, "Came in and got a lot of work done every day," and never caused a fuss.  She's going through her background checks right now prior to hiring her.  It feels like I've trade up.  
So, with all this success, you'd think I'd be feeling pretty happy these days.  
No.  Not really.  
I mean, it's great.  Don't get me wrong, doing well at work is important.  My Mom used to tell me all the time growing up, "Even if you're a ditch digger, do your job to be the best ditch digger there is!"  Your job is a signature, it's says something about you.  You have to do your best at it.  
But work is survival.  It's the caveman taking down a mammoth on the tundra, ripping off a bloody haunch, then dragging it back to his cave to fill his hungry belly with as much food as he can choke down because he knows he might not be able to take down a mammoth the next time around, or the time after that, or ever again.  
Survival is good.  But it's only a start.  
To contrast with work, the rest of my life seems decidedly mediocre.  I can seem to finish a story to the point where I think it's ready to send to someone to publish.  The stories I do send out get rejected.  I'm single, again.  And it feels like I'll probably stay single until I die.  I'm struggling to get over a cough and cold that I've had for about two weeks now so I can get back to the gym and stop what feels like a steady slide into bad shape.  

A couple of years ago, I was telling myself in this narrative that I had planned, things were different.  In fact they were completely the opposite.  
A couple of years ago, I pointed out to myself, I was sending off the story, "Shadow Angel."  It would be accepted by Asimov's Science Fiction and would get published in their September, 2011 issue.  I had the first issue of a comic book, "SoftMetal," available for purchase through a small comic book company.  They were communicating to me about making it a graphic novel.  
During that same time period, I had someone in my life that I thought would be with me from that point on.  
And work?  Work was work.  That's how I responded when people asked me, "how things are going?"  "Work is work," I would say, then go on to describe the other things in my life.  My recollection was that all these other things were much going so much better, and that I was, in a word...  Happier.  
That was going to be the narrative.  How two years ago, the personal parts of my life were going in a positive direction, while at work, I was working.  I was hunkered down, glad to have a job with the economy going the way it was, not excepting much more than a pay-check.  
I was going to use the caveman analogy to describe it this way: Back then, a couple of years ago, I would stuff myself with Mammoth meat.  Once full, I'd hide the rest in a snowbank, to keep it fresh for tomorrow, and sit in front of my cave.  I'd look up at the little points of light in the sky and make up stories about what they were.  I spend some time carving this thing I thought would be really cool that I was naming a "Wheel" after my mate, "Wheela."  And I was imaging how I would describe killing the mammoth all by myself to my tribes people over the camp fires the next day.  
Was I happy?  Yeah.  I was pretty happy.  And I thought, with the prospects I was seeing for myself, I would be even happier a couple of years later.  
That WAS going to be the narrative.  Then I got the idea of checking my journal from a couple of years ago and see what I wrote.  I've been writing a daily journal for years, and I save my entries in these three ring binders I keep on my shelf.  They were out of order, but I finally found the one that contained the entry for this date two years ago.  September 16, 2010.  
It was two years ago today that I made the decision to have my cat, Tybalt, euthanized.  
That didn't seem so happy.  In fact, it wasn't a very happy time at all, judging by the entries that followed.  Pages and pages detailing my struggles at the time.  Couldn't sleep (I still deal with that one).  Trying to get a story done that I liked (that one, too).  Etc., etc., etc....
I stopped reading before I got to the happy part.  I knew it was coming.  But you couldn't tell there was going to be a happy ending from the chapters I was reading.  
That's the difference between life and story: You have happy endings in stories.  Points were everything is wrapped up, the problems solved, and the hero has a chance to "Live Happily Ever After."  In life, there's just another chapter which moves randomly about based on roll of the dice encounters clashing with your efforts to bring home the bacon (or the mammoth haunch) and to make sense of what it is all about.  
And doing whatever makes you happy.  That, too.  
In keeping with this observation, I'm not going to write a conclusion to this entry.  I'll simply say, "This is where I'm ending today.  We'll see about tomorrow when it comes."  

Monday, September 10, 2012

A View on Quitting

With apologizes for being a couple of days late, here is my latest blog entry.  I was thinking about not finishing it, skipping this week and posting a new entry this coming Saturday.  But I didn't want to give up like that.  
I heard an interesting story at the end of WorldCon in Chicago.  I was chatting with a couple, the man was a few years older than me I believe.  We got to talking about baseball.  He told me about his father, a man that had been born and raised in New York.  Had never left the city his entire life.  When his father died and they were going through this things, they discovered something that shocked them.  
He was a closet Boston Red Sox fan.  
In his father's possessions, they found hand-written journals, going back to when his father had been about 13 years old, detailing the fortunes of the team.  Player stats and game scores, decades of information written down by hand and kept in secret. 
For the uninitiated, the Red Sox are the most hated rivals of the New York Yankees, the team that has owned the cities for about a century.  The fact that he kept his support of the Red Sox a secret isn't really a surprise.  He was, in baseball terms, was an American living in an Al Queda controlled neighborhood in Afghanistan.  What is harder to understand is what kept him going for all those years?  Why didn't he just...  Quit.  Give up.  Join his neighbors in cheering on the Bronx Bombers.  The Red Sox did not win a single championship from 1918 until 2004.  During that same stretch, the Yankees won 26 of the their 27 titles.  
But quitting isn't always about not being successful.  
In my adult working career, I quit my job one time.  It was eighteen years ago.  I was working for the company where I started in the field I'm currently working in, Legal Photocopy.  I had been working in the customer service department, but had switched to the Collections Department for the opportunity for a promotion.  
I had been recruited by the Manager of the Collections Department, a woman named Sharon, to collect for the services provided to our clients in Texas.  The problem at the time was that the Texas clients had been more or less left to themselves.  No one was following up on their unpaid invoices, and the accounts were in disarray.  
One stat that I remember was this: At the time I was transferred to collections, the Texas accounts had a past due percentage (invoices not paid after 60 days or more) of 36 percent.  The company's target for past due percentage was 12.5 percent.  Remember this number, it will be important later on.  
The idea was, Sharon told me, was to have someone permanently oversee the Texas accounts.  They would start off by making me a Collections Representative.  As the volume of work grew, they would create a unit, then a section, and ultimately create a Texas Collections Department.  I would, if successful, be promoted to Team Leader, Supervisor and even Manager as the Texas accounts grew.  

I started working the accounts in March.  By September, six months later, I would be reviewed on my progress.  
I have to say that I didn't much care for the work.  I very quickly came to see that collections did not suit me.  I much preferred the things I did in customer service, where I took on client problems and solved them.  Most of the time, when I followed up on some unpaid invoice, I would be told of problems that had taken place that made the client believe they hadn't received the service they were expecting.  I would do what I could to help them, but it wasn't the same.  
But, I had made a decision to switch to the department and so I gave it my best.  And the feedback I got from Sharon, the manager, was positive.  She once showed me a chart, about four months into the job, showing that revenue collected from the Texas accounts was tracking about 15 percent higher than projected.  "This is because of you," she proclaimed, pointing at the lines on the graph looking like a mountain range.  She seemed excited by the lines.  I smiled and tried to convey a sense of appreciation.  
At the end of August, Andrew, my direct supervisor, gave me a Review Packet.  It was the policy of the Collections Department that the employees review themselves before getting their official review.  Both Andrew and Sharon touted the fact that the Collections Department gave reviews that were "Objective."  It didn't matter how the supervisors felt about an employee, whether they "liked" you or not.  The review was based solely on performance criteria.  It was fair and "objective."   I could tell they liked that word, "objective," by the number of times they repeated it.  I took the review packet from Andrew.  I planned on taking it home that weekend and turning it in next Monday.  
It was while working on my self review that I started to get worried.  
The Review was pretty straightforward.  It listed the criteria the company wanted the accounts a representative was handling to meet and gave you a score based on those criteria.  I mentioned the one I remember above: The over 60 days past due percentage was to be no higher than 12.5%.  Having exactly that percentage gave you a score of 2, the equivalent of a "D" if you were getting a letter grade, passing but just passing.  
In the five months since taking over the Texas accounts, which no one had worked on before I had started on them, I had taken the Past Due percentage from 36% to 15%.  Since 15% was higher than the 12.5% target, according to what I was reading in the review packet, I gave myself a "1."  
The rest of the review went like that.  Even though there had been marked improvement in the accounts since I had taken over, on each of the criteria I kept giving myself 1's and 2's.  My final score, and average of all the scores put together, was something like 1.42.  
1.42.  About an F+.  According to the company's handbook, anyone scoring below 2 on one of their reviews could be summarily dismissed.  Thinking I had made a mistake, I wrote in the comment box my opinion that my score should be somewhat higher, based on the condition of the accounts when I had taken over.  I sealed the envelope.  On Monday, I left it in Sharon the Manager's incoming.  
A couple of days later, Sharon and Andrew gave me my official review.  They opened the conversation in Sharon's office by telling me I had been too hard on myself during my self-review.  I nodded, feeling a bit relieved, and said I had hoped that was the case.  They slid the office review across the desk for me to read.  
My official score was 1.48.  
I listened as they told me about the improvements I had made in the Texas account.  I kept wondering, "Where in my review does it say that?"  Sharon talked some more.  I nodded.  Andrew talked.  I nodded some more.  Sharon shook my hand.  Andrew shook my hand.  I got up and left her office.  I got back to my desk and immediately took my break.  I started walking the halls of the office, not really heading anywhere in particular.  
Heading back toward my desk after my first lap, I ran into a friend of mine at the company, a guy named Tony.  He nodded at me as he approached.  
"Hey, Erick.  How's it going?"  
Like a soda from a can shaken too much, the words spewed out of my mouth at maximum volume.  They sprayed the walls, they poured up and down the halls, they seeped under the cracks of the closed doors.  When I paused to take a breath Tony, still smiling, said...
"Not so good, huh?  Wanna go outside for a walk?"  
He took me to a patio area behind our office building where I vented about the review.  Tony didn't give me much advice as I recall.  He just listened, told me to hang in there, etc.  I went back to my desk and continued my work, wondering what I was going to do next.  
The answer came to me a couple of days later.  To wrap up this tale, I got a call from Tony's wife, Lill.  She used to work at the same company as Tony and I did, but had moved on to work for a newly formed competitor.  Would I want to drive up after work on Friday and talk to the owner of the new company, who hear about my review and wanted to talk to me.  
Yes.  I would very much like to do that.  The following Monday, after that conversation, I gave Sharon and Andrew my two week notice.  
 In life, I think I'm like one of those people that come to a party and don't know when it's time to leave.  I have to be pushed out and told to leave.  I probably hold on to things far longer than I should.  Maybe.  
Leaving LAX after returning from my recent trip to Chicago, I spotted a young, athletic looking black guy talking to a couple of pilots leaving the terminal.  They were shaking his hand.  One of the pilots was saying something to the guy as I walked by, "...Used to fly out of Albuquerque, I'd catch the games..."  
Just as I reached the door, I heard something go "clank" behind me.  The sound of a bunch of wood hitting the ground.  
I turned around and saw the guy had dropped a bright blue bag.  In bold white letters, the word "Dodgers" was printed across its surface.  As he picked up the bag, I recognized the sound of baseball bats banging against each other.  
I looked at the guy again.  The bag slung over his back was just as blue.  He caught me looking at him.  He smiled and nodded back.  He looked really happy to be coming to Los Angeles.  
I checked the Dodgers website, but couldn't spot any news about someone being called up from the minors.  I've not seen the guy in the games I've watched since then.  I wish him the best and hope things turn out well for him.  It's hard to stay someplace you openly want to be.  
Good luck to us all hanging in wherever we are right now.  

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Life, Physics and the 7th Inning Stretch

On August 31, 2007, I went to a baseball game.  My convention-buddy, Joe McKersie, along with another friend, was with me.  It was a muggy Friday evening.  We watched the home team, near the bottom of their division score six runs on the visiting team, the division leaders, the Giants, to win a thrilling game.  I celebrated, having decided, as a Dodger fan, to root for any team trying to beat the Giants.  
This game took place in Yokohama, Japan.  The Yokohama Bay Stars versus the Tokyo Giants.  LIke the laws of physics, the rules of the game don't change whether its played in Los Angeles, Tokyo or on the moon.  
I like baseball.  In fact, I used to hate the game.
My dislike for the game came from the one season of Little League I played.  I played the year before my need for eye-glasses was diagnosed.  I hated getting up to bat.  I only made contact with the ball once during that season.  A foul ball that crashed into the fence protecting my team's dugout.   
In Japan, there is no seventh inning stretch.  If you stand up to sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," you and your friend will be the only one doing so.  
The team I played on lost our first five or six games in a row.  Being the nerdy kid I was, I was teased by other members of the team, the ones good at playing the game.  There was this one guy, who I'll call "Kid," who was particularly merciless.  He was a good hitter and fielder, he looked like a pro when he stood at the plate.  He was also something of a "rowdy" kid, who acted like he didn't care about anything.  The Kid got in trouble a lot at school.  
One time, while standing in line for batting practice, the Kid turned back to look at me.  He spotted something over my shoulder.  He nodded at it and smiled at me.  
"Hey, look!  Your dad is here."  
When I turned around, I saw a fat black man wearing ragged clothing pulling stuff from the school's trash can.  I remember trying to figure out if the insult was intended to be racial, economic or both.  
In Japan, they call "strike-balls," instead of "balls-strikes."  So if you see someone still at the plate with a "2-3" count, then you're somewhere in Japan.  
The Coach didn't like the Kid much either.  Coach was a young guy, in his early twenties, slender and taunt, built like he was made from wires.  Coach mainly didn't like the Kid's attitude.  When running laps around the bases, for instance, the Kid would trot along, kicking up the dirt in the base-path, as he dragged his feet along.  The coach would yell at him from in front of the dugout.  
"Get a move on!  Get a move on!"  
As the season progressed and we kept getting beat, the yells became louder, with more obvious anger behind them.  
"Get your butt moving!"  
The Kid would just smile and nod at the coach.  He'd keep on trotting along.  I guess he thought because he was one of the best players on the team he was immune.  
In Japan, they have cheerleaders at baseball games.  Yes.  You read that right.  Cheerleaders at a baseball game.  
One practice, after our sixth loss in a row, the Kid was running laps around the bases and the coach was yelling at him again.  
"I said, Get Your Butt Moving!"  
As the Kid trotted past third, he gave the coach a thumbs-up.  This was the pitch that broke the bat.  Coach came up behind the Kid, grabbed him back the back of the neck and pushed him forward.  
"I told you to get your Butt Moving!"  
The Kid stumbled forward.  The Coach came up behind, to give him the kick in the pants he'd often promised to do, I think.  
Before Coach could do anything, the Kid turned around and took a swing at him.  
"Why you little..."  Coach tried to grab at the Kid.  The Kid trotted backwards then turned and sprinted away.  Coach ran after him.  The Kid ran past home plate, faster than he ever had before in practice.  He was trapped by the backstop, though.  No place left to go.  
The Kid grabbed a bat hanging from the chain-link of the backstop, turned around and took a swing at Coach.  
In Japan, the vendors walking through the seats follow a pattern.  First comes the guy selling food.  No hot dogs.  Noodles and rice balls are the norm.  Second comes someone selling drinks.  You'll see these tiny Japanese girls carrying these huge kegs of beer on their backs, filling the cups they pull from sheathes by their side.  
Following them comes what I call the "trash girl."  She is carrying a plastic bag in her hands.  The first time I noticed the trash girl was in second inning.  The woman sitting to my left tapped me on the shoulder.  When I looked, I saw she was trying to hand me an used noodle box filled with crumpled up napkins.  When I looked at her with "Huh?" on my face, she pointed to the end of the aisle where the trash girl was collecting all the used foodstuff containers from everyone.  When we left the stadium at the end of the game, it was as clean as when we got there.  
Coach jumped back just in time to avoid the Kid's swing.  The Kid swung again and he jumped back, again just in time.  He then ran to the other side of the backstop to where other bats were hanging.  The Kid gave chase.  Coach got a bat and turned around to block a third blow.  
Everyone else started moving up now.  Inching toward the scene as the aluminum bats went Clank, Clank, Clank.  We all stood there like we would during a game delay, gloves hanging by our side, waiting to see what was going to happen.  
Then, the Kid swung too hard.  Coach dodged the blow and the Kid spun halfway around.  Coach dropped his bat and leapt on top of the Kid.  He wrapped his arms around him, forcing him to drop the bat.  He the drove him to the ground.  
Coach then straddled the Kid across his waist and started hitting him.  
The fans are segregated in Japanese stadiums.  The home team fans sit along the first base line and the right field to mid-center field in the bleachers.  The visiting team fans sit along the first base line and the left field to mid-center bleacher seats.  
When the team they are routing for are in the field, the Japanese fans will sit there in silence as they watch.  They may applaud at good defensive play.  When their team is up to bat, though, they start chanting.  Every player on the team has a chant the fans sing just for him.  And they don't heckle the other team.
The Kid tried to fight back at first, but after several blows to the face he just covered up.  Coach slowed down his pummeling then, landing blows wherever the Kid wasn't protecting himself.  
The rest of the team clustered around.  There was shouting and yelling, like at a normal fight, but I don't remember if they were rooting for the Kid or for Coach.  I was silent.  I wasn't going to root for the Coach out loud.  
Two of the bigger kids stepped in.  They tried to grab Coach's arms and pull him off.  He shrugged them off the first two times, but then let himself be stopped.  He stood up and stared down at the Kid, red faced and heaving.  
The Kid got up.  Without saying a word, he started sauntering off the field.  Coach yelled something at him, angry sounds barely formed into words.  The Kid without looking back, raised his hand and flipped coach off.  One of the Kid's friends on the team ran to join him.  Practice ended after that.  
No one leaves a Japanese baseball game early.  With their team down 6 to 1 at the top of the ninth, the Tokyo Giant fans started chanting and cheering them on all the time.  The Giants scored four more runs to make it 6 to 5 before making their final out.  The Giant fans, who I was sitting amongst, applauded their efforts and then started filing out.  
The next practice we had new coaches.  The Head Coach was one of the fathers of one of the other players.  The Assistant Coach was an older guy, with a big belly and a short crewcut that sounded like what a coach was supposed to sound like.  One time, in what was an encouraging tone of voice, the Assistant Coach told me that, since I was the weakest player on the team, I was going to be put in right field and given only a limited chance to hit.  It was my way of supporting the team's effort, he told me.  He seemed intent on getting me to understand.  I nodded and went to where he pointed me. I began hoping the end of the season would come soon and I wouldn't have to go through this any more.  
It was physics that brought me back to baseball.  
It started with the discovery that the playing field is infinite.  It covers the entire universe.  In the original rules of the game, the playing field is the area that exists between the foul lines, running through first and third base.  These foul lines have no end.  They extend forever. 
When I looked at a baseball field's map with this in mind, I was struck by a resemblance to a Minkowski diagram.  This is a graph that shows the "future light cone" extending from a point into the future.  These Minkowski diagrams illustrate the properties of space and time based on Einstein's Theory of Relativity.  
With the interaction of ball and bat, a curving path through this diagram is created.  "Space-like" curves are in play.  "Time-like" curves, like those of particles moving faster than the speed of light, are in foul territory and are not allowed.  
There is no clock that runs the game.  Time is an emergent property, coming out of the discreet interactions leading to specified boundary conditions.  Three outs ends a side.  Both sides batting ends an inning.  There is no predetermined moment for the game to end.  A regulation game can be six innings.  It can be nine.  It can extend forever, like the digits in an irrational number.  
And this lack of time constraint means that it is always possible to win in a baseball game.  Even if you are down by fifteen runs, with two out and nobody on base, the rules give you the chance to win.  It may be statistically highly improbably, like a broken glass leaping from the floor to reassemble in mid-air and land on the table.  But quantum physics allows that it CAN happen.  
On August 31, 2012, I went to a baseball game.  My convention-buddy, Joe McKersie, along with other friends, was with me.  It was a muggy Friday evening.  We watched the home team, the Chicago Cubs, near the bottom of their division score six runs on the visiting team, the division leaders, the San Francisco Giants, to win a thrilling game.  I celebrated, as a Dodger fan, rooting for any team trying to beat the Giants. 
I am still in a baseball game.  Somewhere, a game is being played.  Someone is striking  out.  Someone is being regulated to playing in right field for the "good of the team."  But until the terminal conditions of the universe is met.  The game goes on, and we still have a chance to win.  
Go Dodgers!