My Grandpa died today. He was 91. We knew it was coming, but nobody thought it would come so quickly.

When I hugged my Grandfather goodbye after a trip to visit him in August, part of me knew it might be the real goodbye, but I always planned on coming back to see him one last time. It breaks my heart I scheduled my return visit too late. I wanted to tell him all the ways he impacted my life. How much I loved both he and Grandma. I probably inherited his reservations about saying these sorts of things out loud, and just as is suggested in every tragic poem ever written on the subject, I wish I’d said them while I had the chance.

So I will say them now, by sharing some of the things I will always remember. If you’re reading this, you must either be related to Grandpa, or love being sad, or both. I hope my stories enhance your memories of him.

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I’m extremely fortunate in that I have had many great role models. Both of my parents instilled the value of hard work, love, tenacity and education that have served me well in my life. My siblings and those they’ve chosen to share their lives with are wonderful people. My partner in life shows me how to grow with every year of marriage. I’ve had great teachers, mentors, and leaders my entire life, so if I were to imply that Grandpa is solely, or even primarily responsible for how I “turned out” would be disingenuous hyperbole and would be unfair to all the people who made me who I am today.

But he was no small influence either.

Grandpa, like many who were raised during the great depression, was hardworking and resilient, and believed he alone could shape the outcome of his life. I don’t know the details of his home life, but I know that his father disciplined him physically (as many did during that era), and from what I understand, frequently.

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Getting poor grades in school and having no money for college, he joined the military. After serving, he enrolled at the University of Washington on probationary status. Grandpa has told the story several different ways, but basically he was allowed to enroll because of his military service, despite a horrible HS transcript. However, he was required to maintain a B average (or A, or +C depending on what year he told me the story), and the point of the story is that this would have been challenging for an average student, let alone a poor one. But he did it.

Interestingly, enough, he would be the first of 4 of my family members to live between 18th and 19th on 47th street, the UW greek system.


After earning his degree, he got his first real job, as a repo man for General Motors Financial. In a suit and tie, he spent his days walking onto someone’s property and driving off in their car against their will. I’m not sure how long he spent doing this work, but back then it was less common for someone to change employers as frequently as they do now, so it was probably a while. He put his time in, learned about the business world, and eventually went to work for Sylvania, where he would ultimately retire as the Senior Regional Sales Manager for the Western quarter of the United States. He made a lot of sacrifices to give his family every advantage he could. Now having children of my own, I’d suspect he made sacrifices that neither his children nor grandchildren will ever know about.

One aspect of my life that i can directly attribute to Grandpa is my career in sales. Since both of my parents spent their entire careers in public education, I didn’t have a strong working knowledge of the professional world, and looked to Grandpa for advice on what types of jobs I’d be good at with my Business Management degree. We were standing in the kitchen of my parent’s house during one of my trips home from college. “Have you ever thought about going into sales?” he asked. “You’d be good at it. You’re smart and you like to debate with people until they understand you. You could do really well in sales.”

For whatever reason, that stuck with me, and sales jobs were all I really interviewed for.

My love for all things Husky undoubtedly was born and fostered through my dad, a UW grad and lifelong Husky season ticket holder, but at the very minimum, it was strongly reinforced by Grandpa. Grandpa loved being the best, and Don James was practically a god to him. In his opinion, The University of Washington offered the highest quality education outside of the Ivy League (I might be exaggerating there a little bit, but not much), and that opinion definitely rubbed off on me. For decades he would travel to Seattle for home games, maintaining his season tickets for 50+ years before passing them along to me. When he got older and the trip became less manageable, he maintained his season ticket holder status, but stayed home, which meant that I went to nearly every game for free. He finally turned them over to me, and I share them with my dad to this day. During his final years, every time I saw him, he’d say “how about those Huskies!” No matter how foggy he was, or how much time had passed, The Huskies were something we bonded over. I’d hoped to watch their bowl game with him, but he didn’t make it.

One time in 1988 when my sister and I were visiting he and Grandma in LA, he accidentally shattered my belief in Santa Claus when, at a Mexican restaurant, when the subject of Santa came up, he asked me “you don’t still believe in Santa, do ya?” That was Grandpa. No bullshit. A quality that served him well in business, and frustrated family members. For better or worse, I got a little bit of that too.

On that same trip, he and Grandma took us (Leslie and I) to Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, and several Dodgers games. I got to meet Kirk Gibson and Steve Sax at a pre-game baseball card signing event. Then we went to an LA restaurant that featured R2D2 as a robotic waiter. To this day, Keri and I prefer to spend our vacations at theme parks.

Because of my grandparents, I know what it’s like to spend both summers and winters in Sun Valley Idaho, a town that will be forever associated with happiness in my mind. Our family would visit and stay in the Grey Hawk Condos, and later in the home my grandparents built when they retired there. They took me fishing, swimming, hiking, skiing, ice skating, biking, roller blading… one year they took my sisters and I on a biking picnic, and brought along some random kids we made friends with back at the condos because they thought it would make it more fun for us to have some playmates. That was the year Grandma taught me about these new 1-row skates called “roller-blades.”

Once Grandpa decided something was the best, nothing less was ever quite good enough. And so I grew up learning about the best Pizza in Ketchum, the best golf course in Sun Valley, the best burger joint, the best hiking trails, the best ski rental place… whatever Grandpa had decided set the bar for quality.

I remember when he tried to take me to see Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail. Because Sean Connery. That was all he talked about. He loved Sean Connery.

My oldest daughter loved him, and he loved her. She knew who he was, his relation to my mom, and looked forward to seeing him:


He got to meet my youngest daughter twice. The first time, she was less than 2 days old. He held her and rocked her, and said over and over he couldn’t believe he was holding his great granddaughter when she was “only a day old.” I feel so fortunate for this.


The second time, she was a little more interactive:

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Grandpa and Grandma raised 4 children who became successful, well adjusted, happy adults, and gave those children the parenting skills to do the same for 12 more kids of their own. They also made their own positive impact on the world through their professions, as educators, journalists, and business leaders. To date, there are 5 branches of Grandpa’s family tree who are retired from or currently make their living educating our youth. I expect there to be more.

I don’t believe in heaven or angels. I don’t believe Grandpa’s in a better place, or that he’s reunited with my grandmother. I don’t believe he’s looking down on me. Because of these beliefs, a lot of people ask me how I deal with death. How do you reconcile loss of this nature when you believe it’s permanent?

For me, human beings live on indefinitely in the lives of those they touch, and in an exponential manner, the lives touched by THOSE people as well. This effect can create a net positive or negative impact on the world as a whole. My grandfather was not perfect, and he had some substantial flaws, as we all do. But you can’t deny the legacy he left.

When Keri came to her first Christie family event in Sun Valley, shortly after we’d been married, I have a distinct memory of my aunt Kristin, who had most recently married in, welcoming Keri to the family and gushing about how much love the Christie family had. Being the most recent addition, Kristin found the amount of love my family shows each other to be truly special. I remember clear as day, Kristin telling my wife about how lucky she was to be part of such a loving, caring group of people.

This is what my grandparents built, and while their lives have ended, their legacy never will. It will only continue to grow, as I pass my heritage on to my children, as my parents did to me, and as my siblings and cousins will to their children.

I’m struggling to bring this trip down memory lane to a close, so I’ll end with this…

Grandpa, I’ll miss you, but you’ll always be here. We love you.

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The Adventures of Flat Micah

Dear Micah and Classmates,

My name is Flat Mariner Moose, and I’m the Flat mascot for the Seattle Mariners baseball team. I wanted to thank you for sending Flat Micah to visit his Uncle Kyle and Aunt Keri! I’m a good friend of Kyle’s, so he introduced me to Flat Micah on his vist. Wow, what a guy! I had so much fun hanging out with him! In fact, I offered him a job with the team, but he said he wanted to get back to his pal Micah, so he couldn’t stay in Seattle.

I’m very excited to tell you about Flat Micah’s trip! We even took some pictures so he could share his adventures!

First, Flat Micah went to visit Aunt Keri and Uncle Kyle in Olympia, the capitol of Washington State! It’s about 2 hours from here if you drive, but only 1 hour if you’re a moose and you run really fast! Just kidding, I can’t run that fast.

Aunt Keri and Uncle Kyle took him on a bike ride to the marina, where all the boats are! Here’s a picture of Flat Micah on his bike by the beach!

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The next day, Uncle Kyle took Flat Micah to work with him. Flat Micah got to ride on the train, all the way to Seattle!

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He had so much fun looking out the window at all the trees and mountains wizzing by!

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When they got to Uncle Kyle’s office, Uncle Kyle had to go to a meeting and had to leave his desk, even though he had important work to do. Luckily, Flat Micah was there to save the day! He answered some emails:

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He helped Uncle Kyle’s co-worker with a presentation:

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He even helped fix the office coffee machine!

After work, Uncle Kyle took him to see the Seahawks stadium, which is next door to his office!

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Then they went to the Mariner’s stadium, where they met me, the Flat Mariner Moose!!

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I showed him around the stadium and introduced him to my friend Flat Felix Hernandez!

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And we got him a hat!

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He was so tired after his long day, he took a nap with some of the stuffed animals in the store


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When they were done seeing the stadium, we said our goodbyes and they headed home. I begged Flat Micah to stay with me, but he wanted to get home to his friends. Those must be some special friends!

Thank you so much for helping me make a new friend! I can’t wait until Flat Micah comes to visit me again. Maybe he’ll even bring REAL Micah with him!!!

Well class, time for me to go. Have a wonderful summer and remember…



-Flat Moose

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Here’s What I Think Most Critics of Bernie Sanders Are Missing

Believe it or not, I’m not going to attempt to prove that Sanders is the best candidate, nor that you should vote for him. To the contrary, I’m about to tell you why I don’t think it matters.

If I’m going to support something enough to publicly defend it, I like to do as much research on the subject as time allows. To me, very few things look worse than mouthing off about a topic on which you are woefully uninformed. That doesn’t mean I’ve never done it, but I really try my best to stay out of that particular situation.

For this reason, any time someone posts a “hater” piece about the candidate or I support (or any political position I align with), I read it. I think there are valid criticisms of every candidate, even the one I support, and I want to be fully aware of them.

In the case of Bernie Sanders, criticism seems to come down to one of three assertions, usually depending upon which party is doing the criticizing:

  • The plan as it is laid out is not financially viable (typically heard from Democrats)
  • I shouldn’t have to pay more than my neighbor for the same services just because I earn more money (Republicans)
  • If government control is increased, corruption is guaranteed, efficiency is reduced, and innovation is stifled (Libertarians, Tea Party, and some Republicans)

I understand the core of each of these concerns. And in a way, I think each of them are completely valid, and should be fully vetted in the election process before we cast our votes. This does not mean that I believe these concerns to be correct, but my personal belief shouldn’t stop me from seeking as much information as possible before making my final decision. And since these are the most widely held opinions of those who differ from me, they deserve investigation.

But all of these criticisms are missing one important thing about this election. They are ignoring what the data telling us about the future of our country.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten from the business world is that when you’re struggling to understand something, or having trouble accurately predicting an outcome, the first question you should ask is “what assumptions am I making?” Once you identify these, the potential error in your logic often becomes clear, as you realize that there are alternatives to the assumptions that you’ve been treating as fact. I believe that there is a common assumption made by all of these arguments:

Americans want things to be the same as they always have.

I’m not talking about common difference between liberals and conservatives where one group thinks we should make new laws about gay marriage or guns and one group thinks it should stay the same as it always has.

I’m talking about wholesale change to the model.

Our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents, depending on how old you are, are often credited with preserving the American way of life. (Side note, if you want a good look into what could have happened, check out The Man in the High Castle on Amazon) I tend to think this is true. They fought for the way they wanted the world to be, and won. Because of this, their vision of how things should be is often touted as THE American way. You don’t have to look any farther than the current Republican primaries to here the chants to “Make America Great Again.” And while I think there’s validity in that perspective, a lot of other generations have contributed equally to shaping our society, just in different ways. My parents’ generation taught us to question authority, think for ourselves and value peace on a level not seen before in our country. Millennials have completely re-shaped how we think about working environments and the treatment of employees in general. And there are many more.

When young people get heavily involved in politics, it’s rarely because they want to keep things the same. It’s usually because they feel they’ve identified a flaw in the system and they believe they can fix it, and make the world a better place. A better place for whom exactly depends on your personal background, upbringing, and life experience in general. How many college protests have you seen calling for things to remain static?

When you realize that young voters are trying to shape the world in the image of their idealism, just as every generation before them has, the polls and early election results become extremely telling.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably following the election closely enough to know that in the New Hampshire primary, 83% of voters ages 18-29, and 66% ages 30-44 voted for Bernie Sanders. In Iowa it was 84% and 58% respectively. In Nevada 82% and 62%. In social media debate polls, Sanders is always a landslide winner, despite the networks typically handing a knockout to Hillary.

That’s an overwhelmingly high split, and it tells me one thing. The people who have to live in this country for the longest amount of time want wholesale change to the infrastructure of our medical system, financial system, and government. Their vision of the country is entirely different than anything our country has ever been. They see through the lies of our elected officials, they see through the bias of the media, and they understand that there is a different way of doing things that can, and will work.

These are not stupid people. Millennials, who get such a bad rap from older generations, have faster access to more information than anyone in history, and they know how to use those tools more efficiently than older generations. These are people who understand a few key facts:

  1. None of Sanders ideas will get through a Republican Congress
  2. Some of his plans need tweaking before they’d be viable
  3. There are potential downsides if not executed correctly

Mark Cuban recently blogged about the reason Millennials feel the Bern, and I think he hit the nail on the head. You can read his opinion here, and I’d encourage you to do so. In a nutshell, Cuban asserts that Millennials and younger generations in general believe in what he calls “Socio-Capitalism,” which essentially means they believe that part of being a successful business is having a social conscience. I won’t go into detail on this because I think Cuban does a great job, but the general theme here is that young people are gravitating away from the idea that “every man for himself and may the strongest survive” is a better life than “a rising tide raises all ships.” They believe in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

They also believe that many Americans aren’t getting even the first or second needs met, and therefore cannot begin to think about things that would “pick themselves up by their bootstraps” so to speak. They believe that the best way for society to thrive is to help as many members of society become as productive as possible, even if that means sacrificing a little along the way.

These are not ideologies that go away depending on whether someone wins or loses an election. And that’s what people are missing.

Bernie may not be able to overcome the 500 Super Delegate votes Hillary locked up (because nothing says democracy by handing someone 20% of the votes they need without actually consulting the American voters). And if he does, it’s entirely possible that Trump or Rubio could beat him. Rubio has the potential to appeal to the middle and Trump has the smartest strategy I’ve ever seen, and I believe that once he runs away with the nomination he will drop his grandiose headline catchers and gravitate towards the middle, which is where he has been for the last 50 years.

If that happens, I predict that it will be the last Republican Presidency for 20 years.

Young voters only increase, and there are 4 trends that are impossible to ignore:

  1. 49% of Millennials identify as Democrat or leaning Democrat, as opposed to only 33% Republican
  2. Democratic voters under 45 overwhelmingly support a form of Democratic Socialism and a cleanup of government corruption
  3. Every ethnic Demographic skews more than 60% Democrat except one… whites are 49% Republican and 40% Democrat
  4. White religious people skew Republican more than any sub demographic, and atheism has roughly doubled in the past 20 years, meaning that we are literally watching the base of the party atrophy year by year

So even if Bernie loses, his vision of the future is much more likely than any other, simply because the people who will be in charge of shaping our country want it that way.

And if this news makes  your heart sink, then I would remind you that every other time in our history that we’ve had to make a large scale change, we’ve figured out how to make it work. Our country started that way, we had to re-structure our agriculture economy when we decided that not paying people was wrong, we’ve stopped everything and become a war machine, and we’ve adapted to the new world of instant information.

So while the critics may make some valid points, they are forgetting that if Americans want to change everything, they can, they will, and they will come out on top when it’s over. The most popular business model in the country today can be found in the tech boom of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, and it’s based on the idea that if there’s something that nobody thought could be done, something that nobody could do before, then the quickest path to success is to prove everyone wrong by doing it yourself and enjoying massive prosperity in the process. We’ve been born, bread, and brainwashed to believe this about ourselves, and we’ve proven it to be true over and over again, generation after generation. We know that we can do anything if we put our mind to it, because we are the greatest nation in the known universe. We piss excellence.

Sorry, started channeling Trump there for a minute.

If we were smart, we’d stop focusing on how to stop the movement and start focusing on how to make it work. We might have H2O powered interstellar spaceships in a decade if we did. Or we can keep shouting about how it will never work. But it looks like tomorrow’s generation is shouting something else.

Younger voters also know that there are software solutions that could eliminate much of the wasted efficiency of government. What does the IRS do today that couldn’t be managed with software? Nothing that I can think of. My experience has been that older generations don’t truly believe in what software automation can do, but younger generations are the ones making it happen. So the fear that many conservatives have about the corruption and increased cost of anything government puts their hands on doesn’t exist with nearly the same magnitude in Bernie Sanders supporters.

It doesn’t matter of Sanders loses the primary, the general election, or wins but is essentially neutralized by Congress, because the movement isn’t going to stop on inauguration day 2017. State representatives are going to get flipped. The entire structure of government might change. This isn’t a media frenzy during an election year, it’s a movement. Sanders gets that, and it’s why he calls it a revolution. Because it is. Even if it gets off to a slower start than his supporters would like. The data says it’s not going away.

Old Dad/New Dad – Things new dads didn’t listen to or forgot that cause old dads to laugh at you

Any parent will tell you that your first baby brings with her a shortage of many things.  You are short on sleep, short on money, short on space, etc.  But one thing there is no shortage of… advice.  The moment people find our you are expecting, the advice starts flowing.

“This crib is bad.”  “Don’t even try to travel.”  “Sleep with one leg off the bed so it’s easier to get up in the middle of the night.”

I don’t remember getting any advice that I’ve identified as “bad,” but that’s probably because I don’t remember most of it period.  Between childbirth class, your OBGYN, your pediatrician, your parents, your siblings, your grandparents, nurses, and anyone who has ever babysat, you start to tune things out, knowing that eventually you’ll figure it out yourself, and that most of these people will be available for consultation… and likely still offering advice, both unsolicited and at your request.

Now, I want to pause and make sure I’m being clear that we absolutely want and appreciate all of the help and advice given to us by our friends and family.  I’m not complaining one bit.  My sister, for example, has been instrumental in helping us to not stress about every little thing we are doing, while giving Keri guidance in certain areas that has really made life easier.

Additionally, there is a major “wow… they told me about this but I never really believed it until now” factor.  Honestly, that probably has more to do with forgetting about these little nuggets than anything.  You can’t really fathom what is coming and the sheer volume of input makes you a little dismissive, especially of the things that really aren’t all that important, but true and interesting all the same.

But as this first week of parenthood has gone by, things keep happening that have jogged my memory a little bit.  “Oh ya, I kind of remember someone telling me about that.”  So I’m going to share.  Not because I think anyone I know will ever pull out this blog post and use it as reference, but just because I like writing about stuff, and the opportunity to make fun of Robert Kiyosaki was just too good to pass up.

Parents are going to read this list and laugh at me because, well, “duh.”

Here, in no particular order, is a list of the things that somebody probably (or definitely) told me that I’ve experienced for the first time:

  1. You will get excited about poop – I think I first heard this from Bill Cosby.  It’s mostly because various types of poop indicate different stages in the progression of health and development in the first few weeks.  When Keri and I first say the meconium bubble emerge from that tiny little booty, we not only smiled and cheered, but we literally congratulated our daughter on her accomplishment.  And it happened about a dozen times after that.
  2. You will accomplish more on less sleep than you ever have, or thought you could – Now, I think everyone I encountered, including those without children, warned me of this.  I just took it for granted that we would make it, but never realized how true it would be.  What surprised me most is that I could sleep 2-3 hours a night for 3-4 nights in a row, and still function like a normal human being.  Most of the time you don’t even realize how tired you are.
  3. You will be able to sleep anywhere, any time, at a moments notice – This is a skill that some already possess, but it’s a new one for me.  Sleep is so precious that I can get a 5 minute nap any time I want, in basically any position.  Even caffeine only serves to keep me awake if I WANT it to.  I could drink the equivalent of a pot of coffee and it will help me stay awake.  But the moment I decide to pass out, it has no effect on me whatsoever.
  4. It’s very difficult to accidentally break your baby – There’s actually a documentary out about this now, but Americans tend to be overly careful about their children, operating as if death, disease and kidnappers are around every corner.  So the first time you put a diaper on your child and she screams as if you’ve broken her arm, you think you’ve done just that.  The reality is that she screams because that’s what babies do.  Seems like common sense, but if you haven’t experienced this yet, trust me… you’re going to over react.  Even if you read my super helpful guide to things I should have paid attention to
  5. Don’t plan on ever sitting through an hour long TV show again – I don’t think this needs explanation… more important shit comes up.  And usually it is actually shit.
  6. You will help nurse your baby – Doesn’t seem rational, but you’ll have some sort of hand, literally, in the nursing process, at least in the beginning.
  7. No matter how much money you think you will spend on pregnancy, birth, and the first few weeks of life, you’re wrong… it’s going to be a lot more – Most people at least try to plan for expenses, but stuff just comes up.  We have diaper service, but because Hanna is so tiny, we still can’t use it, which means about 1 30 box of Pampers every 2 weeks or so.  That’s just one example.
  8. The advice will keep coming – I think I explained this earlier, but if you so much as post on Facebook about a booger in your child’s nose, you will get 17 responses about how to get it out.  At least one response will involve an expensive and unneeded piece of technology.  Once again, I’m not complaining about this, it’s actually nice to have such a sounding board and to be able to talk about your parenting experience with other parents, even if you don’t agree with the advice they give you.  But it does happen constantly.
  9. Your baby will startle at the slightest unexpected touch, but completely ignore loud noises that she heard in the womb – for us, this meant barking dogs and squawking birds.  And if you know our birds, you know that when I say squawking, I mean screaming in an ear piercing nature that is so loud you can get a headache if you’re too close.  But Hanna doesn’t even bat an eye.  Conversely, touch her hand with a cold finger and watch out…
  10. 99% of the things you will worry about are normal, but you will still worry – Is she eating enough? Not enough?  Too much?  Is she sleeping the right number of hours?  She cries when she’s not supposed to.  Etc.  When you check with your doctor, there’s a great chance that they will tell you to follow your instinct.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t continue to check with them, but nothing is ever as dire as it seems.

So these are the little things that give me cause to smile.  I’m sure most of you reading this have experienced all of them at one time or another, but

Why Moving The Safeco Field Fences In Cost The Mariners A Ton Of Wins And Several Men Their Jobs

I was having a discussion with some fellow baseball nerds about whether or not moving the fences in had been a success.  Most of the discussion surrounded the minor improvement in the offense at home.  A conclusion was reached that the 4 additional losses in 2013 vs 2012 were due to a decline in pitching overall, specifically the back end of the rotation and late inning relief.  I got curious about the impact of the fences on offense vs. pitching. We all know the Mariners improved their offensive performance slightly in 2013, and they hit 20% more HRs (although the improvement at home was only around 13%). And we all know pitching failed us. But did the pitching fail us because it was actually WORSE, or was there something else at play?

The splits are eye opening.  In 2012, the Mariners went 35-46 on the road with an ERA of 4.59. Opposing hitters had and OPS of .777. In 2013 they also went 35-46 on the road and their numbers were slightly better across the board. In 2012 they performed much better at home than on the road, going 40-41 with an ERA of only 2.97 ad opponent OPS that was an anemic .626. But in 2013, with the fences moved in, it ballooned to 4.18/.715, and 37%. They went 36-45 at home, a decrease of 4 wins year over year.

From 2012-2013, just about every pitching or opponent hitting statistic I looked at got slightly better on the road and about 35% worse at home. And to further prove the point, statistics that wouldn’t have been impacted by fences like K/BB and SB allowed also improved at home, about the same amount as they improved on the road (although SB’s was way down everywhere, presumably because of Zunino).

So I ask… do we still think moving the fences in accomplished anything positive besides showing the fans more HRs?


“The Last 48 Hours” or “Holy Fuckballs, What Just Happened?”

When something good happens, I like to write about it.

When something bad happens, I like to write about it.

When something so utterly mind blowing that I can’t fit it in to either of those 2 categories happens… you guessed it.

This isn’t me dwelling on the past, this is my way of processing it. (I know Dad will read this so I put that little nugget in there)

On Tuesday Nov 20, at 5:41pm, a little girl named Johanna made Keri and happier than we ever could have imagined.  She came into the world a little on the small side (5lb 12oz and 19in), but with no shortage of spirit.  She is the most beautiful girl I’ve ever met.  In the hours that followed, Keri and I got a crash course in taking care of a newborn by the wonderful nurses at Swedish Edmonds and the doctors who helped them (that’s how we viewed the relationship).  I want to call out this statement because as you read further, you may get the impression that we had a negative experience overall, and that could not be further from the truth.  Everyone we came in contact with was wonderful, supportive, and friendly.

We slept very little, ate very poorly, and spent hours simply staring at this wonderful creature we had brought in to the world.

I had prepared myself to fall in love with my daughter… or rather, I thought I had prepared myself.  There’s really no way to describe the feeling… there just simply isn’t 1 word in the English language that encompasses what you feel when you become a parent for the first time.  If you are a parent, you know what I’m talking about.  If you aren’t, just ask one… they’ll tell you.

The closest word I can think of is “Immersed.”

Immersed in our love for her, immersed in concern for her well being, immersed in the thought of everything that she is, and everything that she can become.  Immersed in the wonder that is the creation of life, and the endless possibilities that come with it.

If it feels like I’m waxing poetic here, it’s because I am.  And I don’t care.  I have been inspired by a tiny little angel.

As with many newborns, there were some minor health issues that needed to be monitored closely.  A low blood sugar reading here and there, a temperature that was ever so slightly below the norm due to her small size… nothing to be truly worried about, but still things that can’t be ignored.  Around 2:00am I awoke from a short nap to find my daughter had been whisked away to the nursery for blood sugar testing.  I panicked.  Was she ok?  Was this serious?  Why had they taken her out of the room if it wasn’t?  Why couldn’t I join her?  As it turned out, the machine they had used was faulty and everything was just fine, and all my worries were for nothing.  First lesson of parenting learned… not every bump in the road is the end of the world.  But at the time, being severely sleep deprived, my emotions got the best of me.

I managed about 2-3 hours of sleep that night.  Enough to keep me going the following day.  Lots to do!  Feeding, pumping, skin on skin bonding, washing, etc.  Everything was going great!  The doctors decided to keep us another night due to Hanna’s small size, and that was just fine by me.  More time to get to know her and learn how to take care of her before we struck out on our own.  I felt this was vital to our ability to “parent without fear” as my sister puts it.  Little did I know how right I was.

At 7:15pm on the 21st, my little one barely a day old, we received a call from Keri’s friend Daphne.  Daphne was scheduled to drop by at 7:30 to meet Hanna and visit Keri.  But to our surprise, she called out of concern.  “They won’t let me in” she said.  There are fire trucks everywhere, the entire building is black and they won’t let anyone in.”


We opened the blinds in our 7th story room and were absolutely shocked by what we saw.

Dozens of emergency vehicles filled the parking lot of the hospital.  Lights flashing, sirens (which we had been ignoring) blaring.  Just then, the Charge Nurse (I think that’s the correct term) walked in and said “There’s nothing to worry about, but we’re asking everyone to stay in their rooms as a precaution.  Everything is fine, we’ll let you know when things get back to normal.”

Keri and I were pretty caught up in our own little world, so we didn’t think much of it.  But a few minutes later, Keri looked at me and said “do you smell something?”  “No,” I said, trying to be optimistic, even though I thought I detected a faint odor.  But within minutes, I couldn’t deny the truth… she was right.  A strong odor had begun to permeate the room.  Not quite smoke, not quite gas, but definitely concerning.  It was at this time that the Charge Nurse returned and told us that there had been a very small electrical fire, but it was in the other end of the building and in the basement, so we were literally as far away as we could be, and there was no danger.  But as a safety precaution, she was instructing everyone to stay in their rooms until they got the official word from the fire department that they could resume business as usual.

It was then that I looked out the window again.

The number of emergency vehicles in the parking lot had roughly doubled, and there was a steady stream of ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars pulling on to the campus.  A police barricade was restricting civilian access.

Something didn’t seem right.

I walked out in to the hall and was immediately hit by an overpowering scent of… something.  I couldn’t tell what, but I knew I wasn’t supposed to be breathing it.  And more importantly, I knew it wasn’t good for newborn lungs.  Keri and I quickly moved Hanna in to the bathroom, which for some reason had less of an odor, and I walked out in to the hallway to demand answers.

“Sir, stay in your room” said a nurse.  She was just doing her job.  I was just doing mine.  I told her no.  This is an unacceptable environment for a newborn and I wanted to leave immediately.

“There’s nowhere to go.  The elevators are shut down and the fire escapes are filled with smoke and fumes.  Everyone needs to stay here.”

What the hell happened to “everything is fine?”

I demanded that my baby be taken to an area where she could be protected from the fumes or given an oxygen mask.  They took her to the nursery.  I still have no idea if this helped save her from exposure, but for my own sanity I’m telling myself that it did.

It was at this point that I made the decision that I could no longer count on the hospital to tell me the truth, or to keep my family safe.  Clearly this was not the small incident they had described, and for all I knew the building was engulfed in flames.  That might seem overly dramatic, but when you’ve been lied to in order to keep you calm and you’re on very little sleep, your imagination takes over.  And besides, it could have easily been true.  I walked back in to the hallway and demanded that they let my family leave the moment the stairs were clear.  I was told that this would not be possible until we were discharged, at which point I became irate.  Not obscene or belligerent, but I made it clear that what they were doing was unacceptable and that they were going to have to detain me to stop me from evacuating my family the moment I thought I could.  The whole time I was second guessing myself, but it just didn’t feel right to stay.

Meenwhile, we could hear one of our doctors in the hallway talking to a couple of nurses.  “This isn’t safe,” she said.  “We need to get people off this floor now.”  I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist.

When a different Charge Nurse walked in to my room with a security guard and reiterated that it was unsafe to exit the floor, I told her I understood this, but that the hospital had lied to me and I no longer felt safe with my wife and newborn daughter in their care.  Not because I thought that they were incapable of giving us the care we needed, but because I could not trust them to tell us when and if we were no longer safe.  “I’m just doing what I’m being told” she said.

“I understand,” I replied, “and I’m not angry with you, or any of the other nurses.  You are just doing your job.  But someone made the decision to tell us that everything was fine. It’s not fine.  They fucking building is on fire.  You can’t keep us here, we’re going to another hospital.”

This is the one and only time I cursed at a hospital employee.

She finally relented and told me she would inform me the moment we were safe to leave and cleared medically.  I told her to clear us medically now because she wasn’t going to stop me once stairs were safe.  Keep in mind that at this point, we were still expecting to have our daughter monitored for another 24 hours, and had not discussed many of the important things new parents need to know… what are the red flags, what should we monitor, what should we ignore… we hadn’t done the hearing test, car seat test, and a number of other things.  I wanted them to contact another hospital and transfer us.  She said that because it wasn’t necessary for us to vacate, she would not comply with my request.  While all this was going on, other nurses were trying to help us.  Calling our pediatrician to try to get us released, keeping our baby “safe” in the nursery, doing everything they could to do the right thing, but within the rules by which they were bound.

A short time later we were told that we could leave.  Our pediatrician felt we were ok to take our little girl home.  We wanted to take her to another hospital, but since they wouldn’t transfer us we decided to run while we could.  But even then, they tried to keep us.  They gave us no instruction on how to leave (which I don’t fault them for as they were likely being pulled in 8 directions at once and would have gotten to us eventually).  I went back to the hallway and approached 2 firefighters in full gear who were talking to someone I didn’t recognize who looked like he might have some answers.

“How do I leave?” I asked.

“Why are you leaving?” he replied.

I looked at him as if he had just asked me why I needed all of my limbs… “It’s not safe here for my baby and I no longer trust your hospital to tell me the truth” I answered calmly.  “Get us out of here now.”

An ER nurse and the nurse in charge of taking care of us helped gather our things and escorted us down the fire escape to safety.  I’m not going to say that they lied about the safety of the stairwell, but I will say they did a hell of a job clearing it, because by the time we got there it was clear that sitting in the stairwell would have been safer than staying in our room.

As we exited the building we found a large group of patients congregated just outside the emergency exit.  It was about 35 degrees.  I rushed to my car, drove the wrong way down a one way, and helped the nurse put my daughter in her car seat for the first time.  I thanked her, hugged her, and wished her well… I’m sure her night was far from over, and wasn’t about to get easier.

As we pulled away we took stock of our situation and realized that most of our child’s nutrition was coming from colostrum that Keri was producing using a pump, which we did not have at home.  Insurance companies require you to use approved vendors and often won’t even start the process until the baby is born.  Fortunately I was able to drop Keri and the baby off at the house and make it to Babies ‘R’ Us before they closed.  I must have looked like death because the woman who helped me offered me a hug, which I kindly accepted.  It was at this point that I could no longer hold back tears.

It had been several hours since my baby had eaten, so when I got home we set up the pump immediately and went to work.  Unfortunately, since we had not had any instruction, we didn’t know what we were doing and had little success.  We managed to get a little bit of the liquid gold, but not as much as we wanted.  Hanna was trying to nurse… while laying on MY chest.  As a new parent, this was heartbreaking.

At some point during the night, we found out that at some time after we had left, they had decided to evacuate and transfer all the newborns on our floor.  Maybe someone should have listened to the doctors and parents.  But then again, there was no need to leave, right?  *deep exhale*

We stumbled through the night, dealing with crying, vomiting, explosive tar-like meconium poops (perfectly normal but, as I said, we had not been given an “orientation” and didn’t know if the volume was healthy).  We had no idea if any of this was something to be concerned about because we never had the chance to do an “exit interview” if you will.  But at 4:00 in the morning, when I put Hanna on my chest and she felt cooler than usual, Keri and I made a snap decision to rush her to Providence in Everett.

Thank god we went with our instinct.

When we arrived, we were immediately seen.  Hanna’s temp was a mere 95.9.  She was placed under a heat lamp and immediately went back to normal, something we had been unable to accomplish with blankets alone.  We had slept 0-2 hours in the last 24 and were scared silly at the thought of our baby being in distress, less than 36 hours after entering the world.  Even as we were being told everything would be all right, we could barely keep it together.

We were admitted and before we knew what was happening, all of our concerns were vanishing.  Hanna’s temp remained stable without a heat lamp.  She was no longer vomiting the volumes that she had been.  The new breast milk pump was working and we found out that one of our issues with our home pump was easily fixable.  The nurses and doctors understood our extreme distress and were extremely comforting.  They recommended that Hanna be kept overnight, which is what we had wanted all along.  Finally our daughter was back in the hands of people we trusted.  At 8:30am we finally dozed off, secure in the knowledge that she would be safe without our constant supervision, and that we would be able to leave the hospital soon with the confidence needed to deal with the situation, something we were sorely missing.

As I type this, my wife and daughter are finally resting.  I’m about to feed Hanna so that Keri can continue sleeping, something she has neglected in the name of taking care of her child.  What a wonderful, selfless mother.  I am truly fortunate, and so is Hanna.

We hope to go home tomorrow, and already feel more prepared than we ever had.  I do not blame the staff at Swedish for this, they were absolutely wonderful.  We just ran out of time.

We will draw strength from this experience.  It will make us better parents.  But as of this moment, I can rest easy, knowing that the first two major parenting decision we had to make, leaving Swedish against recommendation and rushing to the ER at 4:00 in the morning, were unequivocally the right ones.  And we got the desired result.

I love my baby girl.  I love my wife.  I love my parents who stayed with us and supported us when things at Swedish went South and we needed help at home, even though it was late at night.  They went to the hospital with us at 4:00am.  I love my Mother in law who would have come in a heartbeat if we had asked.  But overall, I love family.  This experience has reinforced my opinion that family, in the absence of any other immediate need, is the most important thing we have.  They will do anything they can to help you, any time you truly need it.  You don’t pick your family, you simply ARE a family.  And now Keri and I have one of our own.  And we’ve never been happier.

Every story can have a happy ending.

What’s in a name?

Fair warning:  If you aren’t interested in baby names, relationships, or my life in general, you probably won’t find this interesting.

When was between the ages of 10 and 13, one of my favorite teachers had a child.  He and his wife named the child Kyle.

Being extremely young, the first thing I thought was “did he name his baby after me?”

I wasn’t really sure what to make of the naming, so I asked my parents, both of whom were also teachers and knew the teacher in question outside of the classroom, at least on a different level than I did.  They explained to me that there were likely other reasons that they had chosen the name Kyle, but then they said something I’ve never forgotten.

“When we were choosing your name, we ruled out a number of names that we liked on some degree, but also reminded us of someone, in some cases a student, that we’d had a bad experience with.  They may not have named their son after you, but they wouldn’t have chosen that name if they didn’t think highly of you.  Parents choose names that bring happy thoughts.”

I’m paraphrasing horribly, but that was the general idea.

Fast forward 20+ years.  Keri and I are now choosing the name of our first daughter.  We have probably considered a hundred different names, but as we draw closer to her arrival, and start to narrow down the field, may parents’ words resonate.  The names that have made the final cut all have multiple connection to our lives.  They are names of people we have encountered in our 30+ years, and those people have made our lives better, not worse.

When our daughter arrives, friends and family will learn her name, and a small number will realize that our daughters name is their own name, or some derivation of it.  While we may not be naming her after anyone specific (or we might be doing just that), I hope the people who share her name will realize that who they are as humans has shaped the emotional ties we have to the name, even if in some cases we may not realize it.  We may never say these words out loud, but your spirit is reflected in our choice.

I don’t know who specifically this will apply to at this point, but I wanted to express my gratitude for the impact you’ve made on the lives of Keri and I.  We wouldn’t have chosen the name if we didn’t think highly of you. 🙂