Welcome

Glad you dropped by. Seriously.

What you are looking at is a mixture of a personal archive for works published on various outlets and what just might turn out to be yet another blog. I hope it will.

In the meanwhile, feel free to go through the archived articles. If you care for baseball statistical analysis, there is plenty of that, highlighted by the study I did for The Hardball Times on how efficient the catchers are when blocking pitches in the dirt. If you like baseball, yet couldn’t care less for the numbers, you might enjoy a cool story about Jeff Francoeur or a thorough interview with Mike Piazza.

If you, like me, think that sports is about more than just winning and losing, then the story of Moshi Ants might be for you. Or the one about the right to play.

Continue reading Welcome

Of growing up to be a child again

I was still a teenager when the men in uniform first came to kill me, and when I search for the moment in my life when I ceased to be a child, this is the one I keep returning to.

I had already been away from my home and my family for two years then, but both of those years — as different from each other as they could possibly be — had structure, had people taking care of me, of my daily schedule, of my duties and my free space. They were the years of the almost unquestioning belief in the system and my place within it. They were the years of doing the same I did my whole childhood – playing games, albeit ever changing ones.

Going to the Land of the Free for a one-year respite from life as a 17-year old is as much fun and games as it sounds. But even the year after that, spent in the secluded corner of the Accursed Mountains, sharing the uninhabited patches of nature with the wolf packs and being taught by those same men in uniform how to kill most efficiently, was but a game back then. The enemy was imaginary, and every repeated fired shot, knife stab, granate throw or neck-breaking grip was as far from its murderous reality as long jumps and kick serves were in the years prior. It was a new game, with new set of rules and new opponents to compete against. It was a strange, exhilarating way to spend a part of my childhood and, when we parted ways a year later, I still, very naively, thought that was the last times our paths would cross.

I was still a teenager when the men in uniform first came to kill me, but although I ceased to be a child on that day, there would still be a long time until I would start growing up, for there is more to being a grown-up than not being a child anymore.

One cannot grow while shackled to the ponderous ball of self-pity and I didn’t start for many more years until when, on this day twenty years ago, I would finally walk through the doors of a small student dormitory in southern Germany, in an old blue navy coat, wire rim glasses and uncombed hair and said, “Hi. I’m the new guy here”.

It was just a greeting back then, but with time it almost became a mission statement. What was supposed to last six months never ended, and with each passing day and year on the other side there was a little distance gained, a little more clay available to actively shape my life. A little more perspective to acknowledge and appreciate what so many people have done for me over the years. A little sadness that the new, somewhat wiser and more eloquent me will not have the chance to say thank you to all the departed ones. A little strength to look back and remember, both good and bad.

I started my quest for adulthood on that day twenty years ago, and the gods of my voyage have been very kind to me, granting me a good job, a nice place to live and a wonderful partner. But most of all, I was granted the ability to live my life here and now, and not in the yearnings for some time and place that will never come back. I was given so much more life, so many more days than I thought possible for the longest time.

I was still a teenager when the men in uniform first came to kill me, and while they never succeeded, I didn’t quite survive, either.

But for a long time now, I have been reconstructing the pieces of my former life, gluing them together with memories of love. And perhaps the best thing that my adulthood has brought me is that I have some of my childhood back. That the smell of the fresh bread my father used to bake found its way back to me over the one of burnt flesh; that my mother’s soothing voice again echoes in my memory louder than the terrifying roar of the approaching tanks; that when I close my eyes I see and feel my fig trees and blackberry fields and not the exploding entrails being washed into the cold and dark river of death.

On this day twenty years ago I walked not only into a student dormitory, but into the beginning of my adulthood, too. It was a great ride so far, a gift I never thought I would be given. Today, I am drinking to it, literally and quite heavily, but also to my childhood, the one I have again.

A baseball player’s day at the golf club

It was supposed to be a Sunday spent accompanying our friends and their kids to a Jurassic fossil excavation pit. I know. But, the friends are nice and one of their kids is actually our Godchild, so you do those things from time to time. And it was indeed a Sunday spent accompanying our friends and their kids to a Jurassic fossil excavation pit until the moment where a tennis ball came flying from Heaven.

It turned out that the pit shares a fence with a golf club where they had some sort of an Open Door Sunday. To show his gratitude, the guy whom we retrieved the ball for invited us over, thus mercifully ending our paleontological endeavors. To be fair, he actually invited the *kids* over to play kids golf with said tennis balls, but you know how much crime goes on these days, you can’t be careful enough and should never leave the children unattended.

So, about thirty seconds later, I had filled some sort of score card expressing my interest in joining the club and was assigned an instructor who took me to the driving range. Sunday was saved.

I was given a club and then shown a series of hand grips, slides, finger interlocks, crossovers and whatnots in an elaborate scheme that would put an average NBA handshake to shame. These were (I think) designed to help me understand how to place my hands on the club properly. After two minutes I interrupted the guy, “I know how to grip a bat, mate”, and was finally allowed to take some cuts:

SWINGING STRIKE, 0-1

To start with, I was not given a big-ass club as you see on TV. Actually it wasn’t a club at all, I have no idea why they call them that. It was a tiny thin metal stick. Also, the balls were so small. And they weren’t put on a tee but on some carpet. Which is perhaps not all bad news, because some of my most embarrassing baseball moments did involve balls on the tees. The carpet turned out to be quite helpful, because I could retrace my swing by examining the well engraved mark on it to see what went wrong. So, I adjusted, reared back and let it fly:

SWINGING STRIKE, 0-2

Score one on my consistency – the second mark just deepened the first one, and I’m pretty sure the repetitive skills are what they are looking for in a rookie. By this time I had garnered some additional attention, above the one that might be attributed to the fact that — having chosen our garments to spend the day in a big hole made of stone, mud and dust — we might have been just a tad underdressed for a Sunday in a private golf club.

My instructor saw this as a great occasion to offer some advice. I should concentrate, watch the ball, visualize hitting it without actually swinging. Breathe. So, I did. And he was right, not swinging was the great choice:

BALL, 1-2

I realized the balls were clearly on the outside, so I decided to crowd the plate. Somehow my first two swings prompted the instructor to ask me in that friendly tone usually reserved for suicide prevention hotlines, “So, you’ve never played before?”

I actually did. I played one fraction of one round of golf when I was seventeen. My girlfriend at the time — who, unbeknownst to me, was also the captain of the high school golf team — took me golfing once. My golf career started and ended when I realized she could not only aim better, but also hit balls further. There is only so much your prototypical South European can stomach. Also, I might have been overly emotional because after a month of dating I had just met her father for the first time. An occasion he celebrated by presenting me with a Bible, so there was that, too.

But, I digress. I inched towards the ball and took another mighty swing:

FOUL BALL, 1-2

Now, to each their own, but the golfers didn’t strike me as a particularly intelligent bunch. About ten yards in front of us, there were wooden boards with some warnings or rules or something of a kind. Given, they were placed some 45 degrees to the left and to the right from where we were hitting, but when I get an outside pitch, I *will* drive it to the opposite field. I got a really good hang of that little sucker, and propelled it directly to the board, from where it bounced, with seemingly undiminished velocity, back towards a neighboring box, fortunately unoccupied at the moment, from where it took yet another bounce, all on the line, and landed some thirty, forty yards into the field.

By now, I had *everybody’s* attention.

Other instructors scampered around and took down all the boards. Mine asked me if I might not enjoy swinging with less intent and more control. If the leg kick was really necessary. I calmly explained to him that I saw the three individuals batting before me hit measly 60-yard singles, and that if I were to drive them in then, sorry, I couldn’t risk a ground ball to shortstop. That even a strikeout was preferable to double play. That if I get another pitch in that general area, that then, oh boy, will the pitcher cry.

As it was probably too late to call security now, I was given another try. And then they just hung one in the middle of the zone for me:

HOME RUN

To my great shame, I have to admit I failed to do the club flip. In my defense, I did finish the swing one-handed and I took my sweet time admiring the shot. However, the long gaze was not pimping what turned out to be my first ever 600+ ft drive in any sport, it was just that I couldn’t see where that bloody tiny thing went. In fact, I might have not even realized how far it had gone, if not for a 100-decibel shout from behind me.

Which brings me to my wife and to a piece of advice for you young partner-seekers out there. If you ever find a girl who will accompany your dirty ass into a posh golf club, and then raise her arms, walk off and scream “HOME RUN” from top of her lungs over a murmur of checkered-trousers wearers – you know you’ve got yourselves a keeper.

Forty Hours Life Detour

I once spent about 40 hours at an airport. It was in Buenos Aires in 2008 and there was some strike going on, the details of which are still not clear to me and were probably never fully clear to anyone. I was able to check in and actually made it to the boarding area, only to spend a day and a half there with no information about my flight until about half an hour before the plane finally took off.

It was not a pleasant experience. To start with, my sailing crew was waiting for me in Ushuaia to embark on our once-in-a-lifetime adventure into Antarctica and I had no idea when I would be able to join them and how much longer they could wait for me before jeopardizing the whole trip. Although I was lucky enough to get stuck at an airport where I spoke the local language, I was still unable to get any useful information. So, I could do nothing but wait and hope, my fears growing by every clueless hour that passed by. There was suddenly a palpable chance that, despite all the hard work I put in preparing and the significant chunk of my savings I dedicated for this journey, I could lose it all with no fault on my part whatsoever. I was starting to freak out and blame the destiny for having it in for me.

There were practical issues, as well. Buenos Aires tends to get rather hot in midsummer and I was wearing only a T-shirt. However, keeping the airport temperature just above the freezing point doesn’t seem to be endemic to North America only, meaning that I was in this ridiculous situation of shivering in the middle of the 40°C city all while having seven layers of clothes in my bag that was probably less than hundred meters away from me. There was no food, but some crisps from the vending machines and we didn’t get a sandwich until the next morning. There was a restaurant in another wing of the airport, but as we never knew when we would take off, it was a risky proposition to go away for an hour. We outnumbered the chairs, so I spent the night crumbled on the floor. Some tried to sleep seated. Some walked around. One guy slept in the X-ray machine.

The airport was slowly evolving from a place of a simple chaos to one of an organized riot. The would-be passengers first got into smaller groups and protested loudly, although there was no one around who would hear them. Then they huddled, tore off the garbage bins from their mounts and used them as drums as they marched through the airport and chanted for their rights, demanding to be heard and assisted at once. Next they started jumping over the abandoned airlines counters, raiding them for whatever they could find, breaking keyboards over their knees or using the telephones to call their family and friends. When the airport spokesperson finally addressed the assembled masses, his unsatisfactory answers were rewarded with a coke can thrown at his head. He bled and fled, and there would be no more visits until I flew out.

All around the airport there were people with lots of questions and no answers. Some had built camp-like structures, a trolley to the left, suitcases to the right, blankets on the floor and stretched over the sides, sweatshirts instead of pillows. There were by far too many people for what the airport buildings were designed for. Some were already starting their third day and have had more than enough of everything and everybody. Some held no currency and were dependent on good will of others to buy water bottles. Those with little kids were hit the worst. They ran out of diapers or baby food, or simply out of the ways to keep their kids from crying. They were supposed to spend only an hour at the airport, yet life, unpredictable as it is, had them stranded and they didn’t know when they would return to the normalcy of their lives, how much more of these sufferings were they supposed to endure.

While I did make it to Ushuaia in time to embark, I still remember this. I am sure that the families with children who spent two nights at the airport with little assistance, not only remember this, but might consider it as one of the more unpleasant experiences of their lives. And frankly, so would most of you. You can relate to their plight, you can imagine yourselves in the similar situation and think of all the problems something like this would cause you. You can understand. If someone tells you a story like this you will nod sympathetically and feel like they got a bad break. Without an exception.

And yet, when you see a similar picture of refugees gathered on a train station, you are divided. And the reason is simple – you cannot relate to it.

Getting stuck at an airport for a day or two is something that could happen to you. Or your brother. Or your neighbor. The danger of missing the next flight, the doctor’s appointment or your grandson’s wedding is palpably real, even if its cost is nothing compared to what refugees have to go through every single day. But you are no more able to fathom what it’s like to have nothing in life but memories and fear than you are to understand what goes into running a marathon in two hours. You know that the neighbor who jogs four times in a week is in great shape. You can recognize the fact that he is much fitter than you, but you also know that if you try hard you can reach that level. But an elite marathon runner? That’s just not the part of your world and you know you will never be one, so why bother thinking about it.

The same is with being a refugee. Yes, it must be tough on them, but hey, it’s another world. These are not the things you need to worry about, because the things like this don’t happen to people like you, right? But only, they do.

I could have told you another story instead of the airport one. I, too, thought that such stories would never be mine to tell, that I would never wake up to find that the world just broke. I was wrong. I could have told you a story of smoke, of bombs, of hunger, of destruction, of pain, of loss, of fear, of desperation, of burnt flesh and of frozen hearts. I could have told you a story of moments in life where nothing, absolutely nothing would ever be the same again. I could have told you a story that would have made you cringe, but then it would have been for naught, because you wouldn’t have related to it. Some stories you have to live through to understand.

But you can relate to what I and the others felt at that airport. And perhaps, just perhaps, you can take it from there and build on it. Imagine that it happened to you. Then imagine that it wasn’t for two days, but for a whole week. Then, for a month. Imagine that while you were there you received a phone call telling you your car had been stolen while you were on a vacation. Imagine you slipped and broke your hand, and there was no doctor at the airport and they wouldn’t let you out to seek one. Or at least you think that is what they were telling you, because you don’t speak a single word of Spanish. Then you receive another phone call telling you that your house burnt to the ground and that there is no insurance policy. Then your child gets sick. We can do this for a long time and you would still be in a much better position than the refugee you see on the news.

If you can, build on it and try to understand how it would be if you were told that there would be no returning home from that airport, ever. If what and who you had with you was all you would take into a new and uncertain life, regardless of how much you were able to build in your old one up to that point. Imagine everybody looking at you and conflating your tragedy with your person, thinking that you must have done something wrong, because these things just don’t happen to normal people. Them snickering that you can’t be that poor off, because, hell, you have a cell phone.

Perhaps it will change the way you look at the refugees just a bit. Perhaps it won’t. But you should really try to imagine it. You owe them that much. And you owe yourself that much, because these things happen to people like you, too. Trust me. So, if nothing else, think about it, then open your well stocked fridge, pop a beer and drink one celebrating the life and the fact that you are not a refugee.

Don’t send the bread tomorrow

The last time I saw my elementary school is already a few years back. I remember thinking how everything seemed smaller than it did three and a half decades ago, when I walked into it for the first time, carrying a healthy dose of pride, a heavy backpack filled with future knowledge, and brand new pants and blazer, white and smart, courtesy of my mother’s nightly sewing. Yet, apart from the apparent size, the time hadn’t changed it much. It was still gray and brown, like most of the surrounding buildings, and it was still in a need of a little repair here and there. There were still kids running around that same playground where both my arm and my heart were broken, running with the energy and the ease you only have when you are completely unburdened with the pursue of any greatness in life. The building transpired what it always did, that all who entered it were equal, not because anybody could achieve anything they wanted, but because nobody could. The only thing that changed was the name.

Streets, schools, institutions – where I come from, the names don’t last very long. As old men waving from the balconies give way to new men waving from the balconies, so do their visions, their narratives and their truths, their inscriptions on history and on the little plaques on the street corners. Back when I was little, our truth was knitted out of the fine threads of the virtues of communism and out of even finer ones in which brave men and women fought for those virtues and for our country. It was a colorful fabric of heroism and martyrdom, a guiding light of values to shape our lives after. A clear blueprint of not necessarily what is good, but who is and who isn’t.

The man whose bust looked down upon me every time I entered that edifice of primary education was a hero. And a martyr. His bravery was not the one of action, but the one of the strength of conviction which he would, and did, pay for with his own life. He was a school director, I was told, who taught his biggest lesson during the war, on a day when soldiers came to his town and to his school, looking for retaliation. Soldiers had been killed and there were to be 100 civilians executed for every loss of life, 50 for every wound. Staring at the firing squad, surrounded by his pupils, he was offered a pardon. He would have none of it. He chose death, uttering the ultimate words of bravery: “Shoot! Now, too, I am holding a class.”

Seventy years have passed since the man whose name used to grace my elementary school was killed, and seventy years is enough time for a lot of things to change, not only for the names of schools, streets and institutions. It is enough time for the narratives to lose steam and purpose, enough time for the facts to slowly just be. Heroes, too, have expiry dates. With time, a different picture emerged, no less tragic and none easier to fathom. The school director was indeed apprehended and jailed and he was indeed awaiting his execution. During those horrifying hours and days, every single connection anyone in his town had was pulled, every favor one was owed was played on. It was a frantic game in which lives were saved only to be replaced with other lives to be lost, it was humanity that was executed over and over again. The school director’s name found its way to one of the lists with a promise of freedom. The man who was in charge of exchanging the prisoners on such lists for the ones yet to be apprehended held a personal grudge against him and refused to free him. He was executed shortly thereafter, with no final stand, no final words and no class held.

His death was tragic, as were those of thousands who died along his side in those days. He wasn’t greater than life and there was nothing heroic about his death. There usually never is. He was scared, he was imprisoned and he didn’t want to die. He had dreams and fears, friends and enemies, lusts and convictions. He was a real man, not a caricature superhero that someone made him be. We make heroes all the time, be it to spread the narrative of our nation, our ideology or our religion. And when we do, we deny them the decency of empathy with their real struggle. A man tragically lost his life 70 years ago. He was human, not a bust waiting to be toppled or a shrine for someone to preach their tale.

When I look at my elementary school, I see a place where I learned to read and write and a place where I learned to handle numbers well. I also see a place that taught me all the wrong lessons about life, just like scores of elementary schools around the world do every day. A place that taught me that we have the heroes and that they have the villains, and that the only thing I can expect to change in life are the definitions of we and they. I wasn’t taught that when the school director was awaiting his bullet, he and many others found a way to send little messages to their families. I wish I had learned more about them, about the despair of their forlornness. About those who apologized to their families, for they would no longer be there for them. About those who lamented every lost moment they never took advantage of. About those who begged for help, or at least a little food.

It was only years later that I learned about one of those messages. It was short and simple and at first glance impersonal. It was sent just before the execution and it only said: “Don’t send the bread tomorrow”. The family should have it, it would do a dead man no good. I wish I were taught about that, I wish we all were. With no names, no nationalities and no religion attached. Only a story about a person who had to die because we as a society are prone to having people die for no reason, a story about a person who didn’t defend his ideals or make a great speech. About someone who found it in him to help and provide one last time, fully knowing that the world had failed him miserably. I wish we were taught that it was not heroism we ought to pursue, but humanity.

 

Udaj se i budi poslušna

Možda su to bili brkovi. Možda pogled. Onaj pogled kojim je Clark Gable zavodio sve što se zavesti dalo, i pred kamerama i daleko od njih. U Mogambu — John Fordovom klasiku iz 1953. — taj pogled, upotpunjen cjelovitom muževnošću afričkog avanturista, donijeo mu je i Avu Gardner i Grace Kelly. U jednom filmu i Ava i Grace. Takav je život kada si Clark Gable.

Film je manje više klasična priča o ljubavnom trokutu. Gable i Gardner sreću se u Africi, a njihovu potencijalnu romansu komplicira dolazak bračnog para (Grace Kelly i Donald Sinden) koji Gablea angažira kao safari vodiča. Grace voli Donalda, Donald voli Grace, Ava voli Clarka, Clark voli Avu, onda Grace voli Clarka pa Clark voli Grace, Donald pije čaj, Clark se sažaljeva nad Donaldom, Clark ostavlja Grace, Grace puca u Clarka, Grace opet voli Donalda, Donald i dalje pije čaj, Clark opet voli Avu, Ava više ne voli Clarka, Donald i Grace odlaze iz Afrike, Ava na kraju ipak voli Clarka, zalazak sunca.

Odnosno, to je priča ako ste živjeli izvan Španjolske. Crkveni cenzori — koji su u Francovo doba odlučivali o podobnosti kulturnih uvoza — ocijenili su da je takva priča prevelika opasnost za tradicionalne španjolske i općenito kršćanske vrijednosti. Umjesto zabrane hita nominiranog za dva Oskara, odlučili su film malo popraviti. Tako španjolska sinkronizacija gledateljima Grace Kelly i Donalda Sindena ne predstavlja kao bračni par, već kao – brata i sestru. Incest je, očito, prihvatljiva društvena norma. Ženska nevjera, očito, nije.

Napustili su nas već i Franco i Gable, ali nešto je i šezdeset godina kasnije ostalo. Ostalo je spoznanje da je latentna opasnost za svaku obitelj i svaki brak i danas  – neposlušna žena.

Zaboravite pedere. To smo mi riješili, Španjolci će uskoro, a i iskreno rečeno – koliki to može biti problem u tako muževnim populacijama kao što su naše, gdje ispod svakog zlatnog lanca i maljavih prsa kola isključivo heteroseksualni testosteron? I to u izobilju, naravno, jer smo mi i nitko drugo najbolji jebači na svijetu, da oprostite.

Ne, ne, to ne može biti glavna opasnost za našu obitelj iz slikovnice, tih par nakaradnih ćemo jednostavno prebiti kada izađu na sljedeću demonstraciju i problem riješen. Ali žene? Njih je jedna (i točno jedna, hvala na pitanju) u SVAKOM ispravnom braku! Tu leži front.

Najprodavanija knjiga na španjolskom Amazonu zove se “Udaj se i budi poslušna”. Izdavač je katolički nadbiskup iz andaluzijske Granade, autor talijanska novinarka. Knjiga je puna praktičnih savjeta za žene kojima njihova uloga u braku možda nije najjasnija i koje će u njoj naučiti da muža moraju uvijek slušati,bez obzira je li im jasan razlog i bez obzira na moguće vlastito suprotno mišljenje”. Jer žena koja postupa po vlastitom nahođenju nije udana za svog supruga, već za samu sebe”.

Što je, naravno, neprihvatljivo, jer se dobra supruga mora predati svom suprugu, živjeti u kuhinji i ” sa smiješkom prihvaćati opravdane kritike na račun svog kuharskog umijeća i vođenja kućanstva”.

Što ženama donosi prihvaćanje tradicionalnih obiteljskih vrijednosti? Ako prihvate svoje mjesto u društvu i svoje limite te ako će predano raditi na vlastitom poboljšanju, knjiga obećava da će žene postupno primijetiti i poboljšanje kod svojih muževa. Jer ovako kako je, oni su primorani sve probleme rješavati sami što ih tjera na to da svake godine prebiju 140 tisuća neposlušnih žena, a to nitko ne želi. Na kraju krajeva, nismo mi neka nazadna društva, mi i Španjolci.

Ne, mi smo predziđe kršćanstva (Christianis Antimuralis), naši sredozemni prijatelji duhovna zaliha Zapada (reserva espiritual de Occidente). Mi znamo koje su naše tradicionalne vrijednosti i znamo da se za njih treba boriti. Dobro, njihovi košarkaši gube namjerno a naši nenamjerno, ali što je ta mala distinkcija prema ostatku našeg zajedničko superiornog morala?

Nezaposleni smo i jedni i drugi, u bankrotu smo i jedni i drugo, pokradeni od samih sebe i jedni i drugi. Dok Španjolci kupuju “Udaj se…”, a mi čekamo na hrvatsko izdanje, imamo vremena i jedni i drugi razmišljati o onome što je u životu istinski bitno. O onim pravim, tradicionalnim obiteljima, bez pedera i sa sluškinjama s vjenčanim listom.

Ah, da – jedna mala razlika ipak postoji. Mi ne sinkroniziramo filmove. Još ne.

Guns don’t kill people, innumeracy does

I was presented a paper by a staunch gun rights activist yesterday, a study if you will. In it, he said, are the numbers that support his views and his views are that a world is a better place when people legally own guns. Lots of them.

Now, I don’t care much about guns, I have to admit, but I do love me some numbers. I mean, I really love numbers.

When I was a kid, I used to drive my parents mad by counting everything. So, not only did they already know that they probably smoke too much, they had a seven year old tell them how much money they will spend on the 10,429 cigarettes I projected them to smoke during a year. A real darling I was.

Not much has changed since. When stuck in the boring presentation, like yearly failure rates for the fifty-odd instruments I don’t even develop, I take solace in the sea of numbers. I’ll pick a column and pretend  the never-ending streams of digits are my seasonal ERA, or WHIP, or HR or whatever the numbers will be most likely to resemble and then I’ll calculate how I stack up against the rest of the just invented league. I’ve made an All-Star team a few times, I’m happy to inform you.

So, I’m strange like that, but you either knew that already or you don’t care about it. You want to know about the guns.

Here is the paper in question. Now, you may say that someone who is in the business of selling firearms equipment might not hold the most unpartizan of opinions when it comes to what should be done with the guns, but that is besides the point. All the questionable narrative aside, they do use a whole lots of numbers to bring their point across. So, let’s look at them numbers.

The central stat that they present is the frequency of the criminal attacks stopped by guns. Mind you, the statistics are from 1995, but that doesn’t really matter for this exercise. We have two contradictory statements to start with:

 Every 1.3 minutes an American citizen uses a firearm in self-defense against a criminal.

Among 15.7% of self-defenders interviewed nationwide during The National Self-Defense Survey conducted by Florida State University criminologists in 1994, the defender believed that someone “almost certainly” would have died had the gun not been used for protection — a life saved by a privately owned gun about once every 1.3 minutes. (In another 14.2% cases, the defender believed someone “probably” would have died if the gun hadn’t been used in defense.)

So, we know that roughly one out of every six successful defenses (15.7%) of armed citizens against criminals results in a life saved. What is a little bit unclear is which event occurs every 1.3 minutes. Is it any such defense or a defense that results in a saved life?

Let’s do some math. Something that occurs once every 1.3 minutes will occur just about 400,000 times in a year. There are two possibilities of what was meant:

1) There are 400,000 such incidents every year and just over 60,000 of those actually resulted in a saved life
2) There are about 2,500,000 such incidents every year and some 400,000 of those actually resulted in a saved life

Luckily, any ambiguity about what is really meant is solved later on in that study:

Moreover, according to the latest studies, firearms are used more than two million times each year by law abiding citizens to defend themselves and their loved ones from vicious criminals.

So, now we clearly know that every year almost half a million American lives are saved thanks to privately owned guns, frankly, making any possible counterargument from gun control crowd pale in comparison. Even though some of the attacked might have been scared and slightly exaggerated the extent of the life-threatening situation, it is fair to assume that some of the successful defenses saved multiple lives. And that is not even counting the situations where a life has been probably saved.

My first reaction is – whoa, that’s a lot of lives. I mean, really, really lot of lives. If the trend continued, there were some seven million lives saved from the time this study was conducted till today. That is by far more than the entire population of my country. If guns are like penicillin, why was nobody awarded a Nobel, either for medicine or for peace?

I guess the reason is that we don’t really take notice of this extraordinary fact, because media doesn’t report on it.

In 64.2% of these self-defense cases, the police learned of the defense, which means that the media could also find out and report on them if they chose to.

So, although more than a million and a half such attacks are reported to police every year, we know next to nothing about them because media covers it up. That sounds scary, doesn’t it?

But not so scary as this. Roughly the half of all Americans either legally own a gun or can get a hold of one when attacked, like when there is a gun in a household owned by someone else. This, by simple math, means that the other half of the citizens are unarmed. One of the points the gun right activists like to stress is that guns not only help to thwart the attacks, but also to prevent them from happening. You’ve heard it, I have an NRA sticker on my car, on my fence and on my porch – you’ve been warned, punk!

So, the unarmed citizens are as numerous as the armed ones and even more likely to be attacked. Unless we assume that they face criminals with different brand of viciousness, they too are faced with over two million attacks every year and 15.7% of those (400,000) are of the variety where they almost certainly die if they don’t have a firearm for protection. And here is the bad part. They don’t. So they die.

Now, covering up seven millions lives that were saved since 1995 is one thing, but how come we never hear of the seven million lives that were actually lost?! Who is in on that cover up?

For one, it’s the government. Year after year they publish the cause of death statistics that show homicides account for some 15,000 – 20,000 annual deaths in the US all together. And that number also includes criminals shooting criminals, law-abiding husbands beating their law-abiding wives to death and evil grandchildren poisoning their poor grandmothers to get their dirty little hands on the inheritance. Yet, no mention of the 400,000 victims of vicious criminals, probably not to ashame their families by admitting to having relatives who were too stupid to own a gun. And every 1.3 minutes The Government And The Media engage in a Minitrue masterpiece of historical revisionism, erasing any shred of evidence that the victim ever existed, much less had a violent end to her or his life.

I mean, seriously, how stupid do you think we are?

It takes about two minutes of one’s time and elementary school skills in both reading and math to realize that this so called “study”  is a big load of crap. Yet here we are, almost twenty years later and people still use that garbage as an argument.

Why?

Well, the biggest reason is that they can get away with it. And they can get away with it because getting “educated” by learning to repeat ideological dogmas instead of being educated in a way that will teach critical thinking and using ones own brain, is en vogue. Which, by the way, is not a musical quartet from Oakland. And as soon as people allow to be fed any kind of agenda without questioning whether it is right or wrong, they lose. With guns or without them, they are a victim of a violent crime. And there is a good chance that such crime really does happen every 1.3 seconds.

SKANDAL! U hrvatskim ugostiteljskim školama uče mlade pripremati škampe na buzaru!

Moj cijenjeni kolega, vrhunski novinar i općenito vrlo inteligentan čovjek, nedavno se uključio u debatu koja muči Hrvate – planiranom uvođenju zdravstvenog odgoja u hrvatske škole. Priznajem da originalan tekst planiranog kurikuluma nisam pročitao, ali očito mnogi jesu, što se da zaključiti iz burne diskusije koja je uslijedila – sigurno nitko ne bi napadao ili branio spomenutu promjenu školskog sistema, a da se prije toga nije detaljno i nepristrano informirao točno o čemu se radi, zar ne?

Stav mog kolege može se sažeti u jednu rečenicu. U zemlji u kojoj je velika većina stanovništva katoličke vjere, obrazovanje mladih moralo bi odražavati katoličke vrijednosti, a izjednačavanje homoseksualnosti s heteroseksualnosti to nije. Stav koji mnogi dijele, no ne znaju izraziti tako elokventno.

Na prvi pogled, vrlo logično i ispravno mišljenje, bez obzira kakav vaš osobni stav bio prema crkvi, homoseksualnosti ili reformi školskog sustava. Neovisno o vašem stavu, pokušajmo rastaviti taj zaključak na tri jednostavne činjenice i tri jednostavna postulata:

Činjenice:

1. Većina Hrvata su katolici

2. Biblija je centralni dokument katoličke vjere

3. Biblija osuđuje homoseksualnost
Leviticus 18:22

Ne lijegaj s muškarcem kako se liježe sa ženom! To bi bila grozota.

Postulati:

1. Većina Hrvata osuđuje homoseksualnost

2. U demokratskom društvu mišljenje većine mora biti poštovano kada se donose sve važne odluke

3. Način na koji ćemo obrazovati mlade je važna odluka

Naravno da moj kolega nije imao niti vremena niti mogućnosti osobno pitati svakoga od preko tri milijuna katoličkih Hrvata kakav je njen ili njegov stav po ovom pitanju, ali to nije niti bilo potrebno. Njihov stav definiran je postulatom, kombinacijom prve tri točke – ako si katolik, vodiš se vrijednostima koje su napisane u Bibliji, ako se vodiš vrijednostima koje su napisane u Bibliji, smatraš homoseksualnost grozotom. Točka. On ima svako pravo pretpostavljati da govori u ime 87% Hrvata.

Drugi postulat je nešto kompliciraniji. Kao što stara izreka kaže, kada dvije lisice i kokoška glasaju što će jesti za večeru, to nije demokracija. Mnogi ugledni sociolozi i filozofi definiraju demokratičnost demokracije po pravima koje imaju manjine, ne većine, ali to je tema u kojoj se brzo možemo izgubit. Logički gledano, ako pet od svakih šest građana ima mišljenje, onda to u najvećem broju slučajeva treba i poštovati.

O trećem postulatu ćemo se vjerojatno brzo složiti – malo tko smatra da obrazovanje nije bitno kako za individualnu budućnost, tako i za formaciju društva kao cjeline.

Dakle, ako svaki od tri postulata stoji, možemo doći do samo jednog jedinog zaključka: zdravstveni odgoj u navedenom obliku nema što tražiti u hrvatskim školama.

Najjednostavniji način da provjerite formulu je da u nju ubacite različite vrijednosti. Zamijenimo tako na trenutak treću činjenicu jednako vrijednom. Naime, u istom tom Levitskom zakoniku (18:9-12) stoji i sljedeće:

Od svih vodenih životinja ove možete jesti: sve što živi u vodi, bilo u morima, bilo u rijekama, a ima peraje i ljuske možete jesti.
A što u morima i rijekama nema peraja i ljusaka – sve životinjice u vodi, sva živa vodena bića – neka su vam odvratna
I odvratna neka vam ostanu! Mesa od njih nemojte jesti, a njihove strvine držite za odvratnost.
Sve, dakle, što je u vodi a nema peraja i ljusaka neka je za vas odvratno.

Svi znamo da škampi nemaju peraje, prema tome, koristeći naš prvi postulat, ja mogu sa sigurnosti reći da zastupam mišljenje 87% Hrvata koji osuđuju prehranu škampima. S obzirom da u jednom demokratskom društvu treba poštovati mišljenje većine te da je obrazovanje mladih važna odluka, odlučno zahtijevam da se s kurikuluma Ugostiteljske škole Opatija istoga trenutka uklone sadržaji koji izjednačavaju pripremanje škampa, dagnji i liganja i pripremanje trlje, brancina i ušate, jer to, oprostite, nije u redu.

Logic is a bitch ain’t it?

Najbolji nepoznati sportaš svijeta

Ako ne znate tko je Ashton Eaton i ako mislite da je Oregon dio Kanade, niste sami – društvo vam vjerojatno čini i dobar dio žitelja SAD. U medijski najjačoj zemlji svijeta, u zemlji toliko zaljubljenoj u vlastite sportaše da se ligaški pobjednici nazivaju prvacima svijeta, a neamerikanci u izboru za svjetskog sportaša godine pojavljuju rjeđe nego prijenosi Olimpijskih igara uživo na HTV-u, Ashton Eaton je i dalje – nepoznat. Ne pomaže mu niti činjenica da je lako moguće najbolji sportaš u državi, ako ne i na svijetu.

Na dan kada je Usain Bolt osvojio novo zlato, na dan kada je David Rudisha otrčao povijesnu utrku na 800 metara, na dan kada je ženska nogometna reprezentacija SAD u finalu pobijedila Japan, Eaton je ponovo bio relegiran na „u ostalim vijestima: …“. Svjetski rekorder u desetoboju postao je i najmlađi olimpijski pobjednik u posljednjih 20 godina u disciplini u kojoj su dostignuća i hvalospjevi u većem nesrazmjeru no u bilo kojoj drugoj.

Desetoboj, poput skijaške kombinacije, nije televizičan. U doba kada je većini uspjeh zadržati koncentraciju na istoj temi već i pet minuta, višebojci se natječu dva dana. U doba kada našu cijenjenu pažnju zaslužuju samo što noviji i što apstraktniji rekordi, Eaton i ekipa trče sporije od Bolta, skaču niže od Uhova i bacaju kraće od Hartinga. Tko će to gledati? „Ha! 5,20 u skoku s motkom? To ziher mogu i ja, daj pridrži pivu.“

U srpnju je u Rijeci održano Prvenstvo Hrvatske u atletici. S rezultatima s američkih kvalifikacija za Olimpijske igre, Ashton bi bio među pet najboljih u svakoj od 10 disciplina. Uzeo bi sedam medalja, od toga pet zlatnih, i srušio tri državna rekorda. Prije nego što počnete pljuvati po hrvatskoj atletici – sa svojim rezultatima, Eaton bi ušao u polufinale Olimpijskih igara na 100 metara, bio četvrti na 110 prepone i osvojio srebro u skoku u dalj, iako svakoj od tih disciplina posvećuje manje-više desetak posto treninga.

Atletika je kraljica sportova, a najbolji desetobojac je njen kralj. No, već dugo ne živimo u monarhiji, već u svijetu vođenim show businessom i markentinškom propagandom koja je barem toliko važna koliko i sportska dostignuća. Tako će Usain Bolt nakon svoje utrke smireno objasniti svima da je legenda i najveći svih vremena, a američke nogometašice će još na terenu obući sponzorske majice kojima svijetu poručuju da je u njima „pronađena grandioznost“. U nevezanoj vijesti, Nike je u Americi iste sekunde pustio te majice u prodaju za $26,99. Kao što kažu, i hrčak je samo štakor, samo s boljim marketingom.

A Eaton? Nakon pobjede nije bilo niti poza, niti majici, niti velikih izjava. Već zajednička slika sa svim protivnicima, kao uspomena na ono što su postigli. Oni znaju. I svi koji su se ikada bavili ili pokušali baviti atletikom znaju. Zato ćete za vrijeme desetoboja često vidjeti čestitke kojima natjecatelji jedni drugima pokazuju poštovanje. Kada Hans Van Alphen publiku zamoli za podršku prilikom skoka s motkom, prvi će zapljeskati Leonel Suarez, njegov konkurent za medalju. I to neće biti show već pristup sportu u kojem se ne bori protiv protivnika već protiv samoga sebe i svojih granica.

Već danima tražimo najbrže, najviše i najjače. Nitko tom opisu ne odgovara bolje nego desetobojci, kraljevi kraljevske discipline, s Eatonom kao prvim među najboljima. S Eatonom, koji, onako usput, ima i crni pojas u tae-kwon-dou i koji je kao atletičar procvjetao tek kad su mu treneri napokon uspjeli objasniti da je u redu na treninzima biti bolji od ostalih u svakoj disciplini te da to nije znak da se pravi važan. S Eatonom koji živi i trenira u medijski neatraktivnom Oregonu i o kojemu se na Googleu može naći deset puta manje vijesti nego o Hope Solo, vratarki nogometne reprezentacije i 40 puta manje no o Boltu.

Iz polusjene olimpijskih natjecanja desetobojci su se bez pompe povukli u punu sjenu napornih treninga. Sljedeće natjecanje čeka i do onda teba još malo popraviti izdržljivost, snagu, skočnost i brzinu. Još malo poraditi na zaletu za skok u vis, na napadanju prve prepone, na postizanju savršenog slova „C“ pri odskoku skoka s motkom, na pravovremenom otvaranju kukova u bacanju diska ili na koračnoj tehnici skoka u dalj. Valja zaliječiti bolna koljena, laktove i kukove.

Ali, barem mogu u miru trenirati kada se ne moraju brinuti o navali medija, kada se daleko od očiju svijeta moraju, smiju i mogu samo – baviti sportom. Svima im je jasno da bez obzira koliko dobri bili, koliko nevjerojatno dojmljivi bili njihovi rezultati da nikada neće biti zvijezde. Ali, ono za što se bore ionako im ne može donijeti nitko osim njih samih i zato će se i dalje daleko od očiju i slave natjecati za titulu najboljeg nepoznatog sportaša svijeta.

Sretan ti rođendan, sporte

Postoje posebni dani, dani koje slavimo i obilježavamo. Dani koji su nam označeni u kalendaru, dani koji nas potiču na razmišljanje i refleksije. Rođendani. Nove godine. Dani u kojima gledamo unazad, shvaćajući kako vrijeme ne koči ni za koga, odmjeravajući koliko smo narasli, udebljali se, posijedili ili pogrbili. Dani u kojima gledamo unaprijed, obećavajući si po tko zna koji puta da ćemo napokon prestati pušiti, naći vremena da pročitamo dobru knjigu ili hrabrosti da pozovemo Katarinu iz 8c u kino. Dani u kojima nam se nekako čini da nam je, usprkos svemu, sve jasno, da shvaćamo što nam je u životu bitno.

Danas je takav dan.

Danas je i Nova godina Olimpijskih igara i rođendan sporta i slavljenici će na proslavu doći u svom najboljem ruhu. London se za feštu sprema već sedam godina, a većina natjecatelja i dvostruko, čak i trostruko duže. Organizatori su u ceremoniju otvaranja uložili preko 30 milijuna Eura, sportaši cijeli život i Olimpijskim parkom u Stratfordu večeras neće defilirati samo najsportskiji primjerci ljudske rase i njihovi snovi, već i snovi svih nas koji smo odlučili da unatoč svemu i dalje vjerujemo u sport.

Danas nije dan za realne i objektivne procjene. Nije dan u kojemu treba govoriti o komercijalizaciji sporta, o nesposobnim funkcionerima, o političkim priljepcima, o prevarama i dopinzima, o mitu i korupciji, o izazovima koji su pred svima nama. Danas je rođendan, i dragoj baki Sport nećemo brojati ni godine ni bolesti, već joj zahvaliti za sve što nam je dala.

Danas je dan u kojemu se valja prisjetiti sreće i ponosa koje nam je usred rata i razaranja donijela slika nezgrapnog Franje Arapovića, koji se u drugom pokušaju uspio objesiti na obruč jedinog istinskog Dream Teama i semafora koji je pokazivao 24:23. “Imamo ih!” vikao je susjed, “Spusti se, Franjo” vikao je Cvitković. Franjo se spustio, mi ih nismo imali, ali sport je pokazao da može biti lijek.

Danas je dan u kojem treba slaviti Michaela Phelpsa i njegovih stotinjak zlatnih olimpijskih medalja, ali i Erica Moussambanija iz Ekvatorske Gvineje, čije iskreno “Osjećam se dobro, sretan sam” i predstava u kojoj je u Sidneyu na jedvite jade uspio otplivati sto metara nisu bili ni smiješni, ni tužni, već veličanstveni primjer kako nam sport na svakom nivou nudi priliku da pobijedimo sami sebe i limitacije koje nam postavlja život.

Danas je dan u kojem se treba diviti Usainu Boltu i Hichamu el Guerrouju, ali i Dereku Redmondu, koji je u Barcelonu po medalju došao nakon razočaravajućeg Seula u kojem je kao jedan od favorita na 400 metara morao odustati usred utrke. Dereku Redmondu kojemu je nakon otrčanih 150 metara na Olimpijskom stadionu u Montjuicu jedna bolna sekunda rasparala i zadnju ložu i snove o medalji, ali koji se nakon Seula sam sebi zarekao da će utrku u Barceloni završiti bez obzira na sve, i koji je posljednjih 250 metara plačući odšepao potpomognut ocem koji se probio kroz osiguranje. “Ne moraš se mučiti, sine”. “Moram, tata”. I sport nas je naučio da gubimo samo onda kada odustanemo.

Ali, danas je i dan u kojemu se valja podsjetiti što nam je sport donio u našim vlastitim životima. Na onu nogometnu, rukometnu ili košarkašku utakmicu u kojoj smo jednom davno doveli svoju školu u drugo kolo općinskog prvenstva. Na prvih sto metara koje smo istrčali ispod 12, 13 ili 15 sekundi. Na onaj trenutak kada smo priznali da smo zadnji igrali loptom te da je ubacivanje za protivnika.

Moramo shvatiti da je princip isti, a pet sekundi koje bi nas Bolt ostavio na sto metara samo nijansa i da je upravo to jedinstvena ljepota sporta, koja vrijedi i na Olimpijskim igrama i na haklu s frendovim s posla. Olimpijci su brži, jači i viši, vjerojatno i odlučniji i izdržljiviji, ali sport je jednostavno – sport.

Jer u svakome Arapoviću, Phelpsu, Moussambaniju, Boltu i Redmondu je i dio nas, to je ono sto nam omogućuje da se s njima poistovjetimo, da slavimo njihove pobjede, žalimo njihove poraze, da skačemo sa stolice vičući im kroz televizor da moraju dodati lijevo, servirati dijagonalu ili “napokon pomaknuti lijene guzice”. U danima pred nama živjet ćemo kroz njih, obarati rekorde i ozljeđivati se, postat ćemo stručnjaci i u jedrenju i u streličarstvu i u dizanju utega, navijat ćemo i slaviti. Slaviti pobjede, ali i sam sport.

Ima dovoljno dana u kojima ćemo se baviti važnijim stvarima. Ali danas ne. Danas definitivno ne.

Živio sporte, sretan ti rođendan i neka ti je dug život.

Baseball Detective

I don’t know if you’ve seen this one:

I haven’t till a while ago. My first thought was not really a thought, but more of an uncontrolled thoughtless laughter. Second one was – that’s why he wears double ear flaps. And the third was – I want to see more of this.

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