Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Spoils

I won a drawing at work. The prize was a spiral ham, also referred to as the "Victory Ham" or the "Prize Ham." Winning this contest makes me feel oddly proud and nostalgic.

Maybe it's because I recently listened to "The Road" on audiobook, or because I barely escaped a layoff. I can't take these ridiculous feelings seriously, of course, so I make jokes. I tell Wendy that for Christmas this year, the children can have real ham rather than photographs of ham that were cut out from a magazine. With the bad economy and looming apocalypse, these types of jokes are inappropriate, but I can't help myself.

Whenever I open the refrigerator and see the Prize Ham, I put my hands on my hips, spread my legs, and puff my chest out like a Turkish Pasha. "Behold!" I say with a booming Yul Brynner voice and a quick wave of the hand. "The Ham!"

I will be cooking the Prize Ham later today for our Christmas Eve dinner. As I do so, I will pretend that my musket is leaning against the log cabin wall near my coonskin cap. No bear jerky and canned leeks for Christmas this year. We'll be eating the Prize Ham.

The children will sleep well with full bellies as they dream of pulling walnuts and oranges from their stockings.


Friday, December 17, 2010

White Elephant Gift Exchange

Apart from telling a story about a bad beat in poker or a tough loss in fantasy football, the only surefire way to get everyone in the room to pay attention to you is to start a sentence with, "At my company's white elephant gift exchange..."

At my company's white elephant gift exchange, I brought a Lego Seattle Space Needle. This is a gift that Max has been wanting for years. When he saw me wrapping it, he asked with a Cindy Loo Hoo look, "Who are you wrapping that for, who?"

I explained the idea of a white elephant exchange. He kept asking questions, so I broke down the rules for him:
  • The gift should cost about $20, no more
  • The gift should be recently purchased, not pulled out from under a bed
  • Each person gets to choose between taking an opened gift or opening a new one
  • A gift could only be taken 3 times
  • The first person to draw gets to make the last swap
Max encouraged me to employ the strategy of bringing home the Lego Space Needle. "We can all build it together, and then we can put it maybe in my room."

There were 30 participants in my Digital Publishing group, and I got the number 5 draw.

The first few people picked awful gifts -- a lidless butter tray, a Santa Claus tea set, a lava lamp -- so I decided to make Max happy. I opened the Lego Space Needle. There, I thought. Max will be happy. No one else will want this.

The number six picker grabbed the Lego Space Needle, and it was locked down with the third pick by the person who went ninth.

Really? A Lego Space Needle?

Unfortunately, that's the end of the exciting part of the story. I opened a package of Kentucky bourbon, kept it until the number 29 picker nabbed it, and ended up with a Family Feud game for the Wii.

When I picked up the boys from art class, the first thing Max said was, "Did you get the Space Needle? Did you?"

"No, but I got a game for the Wii!" I said, perhaps a little too excitedly.

"But we don't have a Wii," he said, hangdog style.

I was hoping he wouldn't bring up that particular point.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thoughts on Matters Outside My Sphere of Influence


The Colts are done. And I don't mean just for the year. This is the end of their run as a perennial championship contender.

How do I know this? Special teams stupidity. They've turned into one of those undisciplined teams. They hit out of bounds and show the kind of discipline lapses that makes you think "Cincinnati Bengals."

Their coach, Jim Caldwell, the same guy who led the Colts to the Super Bowl last year, has finally started to put his imprint on the team. And it's a weak imprint.

Sure, they've had some bad injuries at safety, running back, and receiver--the fourth string strong safety is the bizarro Troy Polamalu. But the Colts' biggest weaknesses are in two areas in which they're at full strength. The defensive tackles are getting pushed around in one-on-one blocking, and the offensive line still can't open holes for the running game or protect the passer.
To quote Jack Dawson, "This is bad."


A few months ago, I was eating lunch with an old friend from grad school. We had a fun chat trying to find some common political ground. He's a neoconservative who claimed that the problem with George W. Bush was that "he was too liberal."

I did a double-take. It was more than a double-take. I squeezed my eyes closed, shook my face to clear the cobwebs, and then popped my eyes wide open like a sharecropper who just saw a UFO. "Too liberal?" I suppose it depends on how you define liberal. If you're a hardcore right-winger, "liberal" can mean anything that's stupid or pretentious or sissified or ineffectual, and George W. Bush fits into a couple of those categories, so there you have it.

The tea party movement drives me nuts. You know, if a bunch of right-wingers wanted to join forces and complain about how George W. Bush and a Republican Congress inherited a budget surplus and ran wild with deficit spending while the Republicans were in power, I'd be impressed. But when Obama took over, the nation's economy was in a horrible downwards spiral in which another Depression certainly wasn't out of the question. THAT is the time for government to run up a deficit. Instead, the tea party "movement" took hold, housewives started fretting about "socialism," and everyone pretends teabaggers are something other than right-wing partisans who are pissed off that they lost political power.

I'll start following politics more closely in the run-up to the 2012 election cycle. Right now, it's too painful. The crazy faction of the Republican party took control, so that leaves me with the Democratic party. Power to the people!

To quote Jack Dawson, "This is bad."


AMC is on fire, with Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead. Yes, those are the three best shows on television right now. Their only miss was Rubicon. I had to stop watching it because the plot wasn't moving forward and the characters weren't interesting or likable. Think 3 Days of the Condor, only without Robert Redford or Faye Dunaway or Max Von Sydow, and no tension. Just spies walking around a gray building whispering spy things to each other.

But I was talking about good things.

Oh, I'm not in the mood. Let's go back to problematic shows. Like the fatally flawed Boardwalk Empire on HBO. Steve Buscemi is just wrong as the lead. The Nucky character needs to be played by a James Gandolfini/Michael Chiklis/Ian McShane type. There's still enough there for me to keep watching -- the two WWI vets in particular are engaging -- but it's mostly forgettable. It could have been great.

Front-handed insult

I assume that's the opposite of a back-handed compliment. Anyway, you know how jarring it is when you introduce two close friends, and the friends hate each other? That's how I felt when I read Mark Twain's quotes on Jane Austen:

"Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book."

"It seems a great pity that they allowed her to die a natural death."

"Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone."

At first glance, Twain appears to be criticizing Jane Austen. But look at the quotes more closely: Every time I read "Pride and Prejudice"... See? He likes her! He really likes her!

Burger King

The boys really wanted to go to Burger King after basketball practice for some reason, so I used Maps on my iPhone to find the nearest Home of the Whopper. Everything was going fine until a bag lady sitting at the next table started talking to me.

"HEY! Are those your sons? HEY!!! How old are they? You're a good father!"

I tried to be polite and told her that they were twins, and they were seven years old. And then I tried to talk to the boys, but she kept talking.

"HEY! You're such a good father. I have eleven kids. I'll bet you remember the bottle days!"

I asked her where her eleven kids were.

"They're all grown up. Your boys are great. HEY BOYS! I hope you listen to your father. He's doing his BEST for you! HEY! Did you hear me! Your father loves you!"

Luke nodded. I quietly started asking the boys about what they were going to get their mother for Christmas, but the conversation was cut short.

"HEY! HEY! HEY! I wish I could go back to the days you're in now. It's a great time. You love your kids, don't you!"

Luke and Max were eating slowly, french fries one at a time. I asked her how old her youngest kids were.

"Five and seven. You- Why is that boy wearing a hood? I can't see his face!!!"

This conversation went on another twenty minutes. I felt bitter stress. Each time I thought I had successfully ignored her, "HEY! HEY!" Finally, mercifully, the boys finished eating and I scooped up the trash and ushered Luke and Max out of the Burger King, hoping to avoid the inevitable "HEY! Can you help me out?" conversation.

No such luck.

Bag lady, if you're reading this blog, I did not appreciate your rude interruptions.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Yoga Battle

A friend reminded me of a yoga experience that I had written about but never included in any blog. You see, this happened in 2003, back when writers like me used typewriters, chose between Pica and Elite fonts, and slammed the carriage return in the middle of beautiful, drunken sentences.

Frankly, I'm not sure which form of writing is better--the fast-paced, quick-hitting style of blogging, or the slow, languorous, whiskey-fueled writing of the days of yore. I guess I'll let you be the judge. Here's a journal entry that I wrote one score minus thirteen years ago.

* * *

After moving to Bloomington, my wife and I signed up for a yoga class. I excel at yoga. As I looked around the classroom, it didn't take long to narrow the competition. A stringy Brazilian woman wearing a thin black turtleneck sweater performed a clean Mountain pose and Half-Sun salute, but she lost her balance--twice--during the Tree pose.

In the battle for yoga supremacy, that left just me and one other man, a bald little fellow who looked like he walked out of a Tibetan village. Sashaying on a yoga mat made of soft bamboo reeds, he appeared to be centered. During the Cat Stretch and Downward Dog poses, his body arched supernaturally, as if he were a cartoon character. His skill level pushed me to great yoga heights. My Warrior asana has clean angles, but his Uttanasana was magical. I've never seen a smoother transition into a standing forward bend. It wasn't just the form and grace. It was the inner radiance. I admit it--I was defeated.

After the class, I approached the little Tibetan man.

"I'm Bob," I told him, holding out my hand.

He solemnly refused to shake my hand and said, "I am known as Avalokitesvara. You can call me Tenzin."

"I want you to teach me." I said.

"What is there to learn?" he said.

"That's what I want to know." I said.

"I will lead you," he said with a nod. "But you must come now."

"I can't. I came here with my wife. I can't just come and go as I please."

Tenzin answered: "If you think you really come and go, that is your delusion. Let me show you the path on which there is no coming and no going."

I told my wife that I was going to get a ride home with Tenzin. She reminded me that we had a birthday party--mine--to go to in a couple of hours. I told her that birthday parties are an illusion, and then I felt kind of stupid for saying that.

As Tenzin and I walked out of the YMCA building, I looked around the parking lot trying to guess which car was his. Maybe it was an old Volkswagen bug or a mangled Chevy Impala with a "Free Tibet" bumper sticker, or maybe it was one of those classic 1940s cars like Miyagi gives to Daniel-san in The Karate Kid. Tenzin led me through the parking lot, down a residential street, and then into a wooded area that I had never noticed. While walking along a path in the woods, I wanted to ask thirty different questions? Where are you from? How did you keep your legs so still during the Dandesana? Where on earth are we going? But I knew somehow if I broke the silence that I would be reproached with a Zen parable.

Finally, I could hold off no longer. "Where are we going?" I said in a confident voice that belied my actual feelings. He stopped and paused for a few seconds. As he inhaled deeply before speaking, I thought surely he was going to teach me about the sound of one hand.

"We're going to get some trim," he said.

"What? Trim?"

"Some trim, yes. Some pussy. Some putang." He pronounced it "poon-tang," moving his lips around in an exaggerated fashion, as if he were getting ready to blow a trumpet.

My mind raced. Here are the flashes of thought that lit up my mind: -This man scares me. -I can't betray my wife, not even for the sake of enlightenment. -I must trust this man. -I'm afraid of women. -This little brown man seems very wise. -My wife is three months pregnant. -I'm afraid.

That's right, my thoughts turned to fear. Throughout my life, whenever I meet a woman, I picture either of two scenarios. In scenario A, I run across a golden field to meet a lovely woman in a soft embrace. We make love tenderly and discuss our hopes and aspirations. In scenario B, I give a woman a witty line, we check into a motel, and have sex like we're in a porn movie. In my life, there is no scenario C.

We walked out of the woods into the back yard of someone's house. Tenzin ignored the barking dog that was pulling at its runner. As we continued to walk through other people's yards, he ignored every dog, even the ones that weren't fenced in or tethered. I swerved and faced off and peered at house windows, while Tenzin strolled along as if he owned the whole town, vaulting over chain-link fences and humming a low chant. We walked for hours in many directions, passing through wooded areas and neighborhoods. The sun had set. Stars filled the sky. Mercury was retrograde.

Tenzin led me to a bar near Indiana University called The Vortex. Could this Tibetan man have looked into my heart so quickly? If he had asked me to climb a mountain, or swim across a river, or sit for hours in silence, I could handle that. But this place of ugliness? This place that made shouting and lust and madness the definition of life? This place that made faithfulness and loyalty seem like fear? No. I wanted no part of it. What did he notice about me during our yoga class? If he could see my vulnerabilities so easily, I must be doing something wrong.

Just when I was about to leave, the tingling of enlightenment ran up and down my spine. True, I had asked this man for help. But only then did I realize WHY I needed help. Oh, the arrogance! I assumed he would lead me to a quiet place to fill in the corners of what I needed to know about life. Instead, he led me to a place on the outer edge of life's whirl, away from my comfort zone. My mind felt like it had been blasted to smithereens and was now coming together in a more coherent form.

Tenzin sat down at a stool in the middle of the bar. I sat next to him. A song by Lynyrd Skynyrd blasted my mind numb. I tried not to act uncomfortable, but whenever I'm sitting with my back to openness, my heart pounds and my hands fidget. I became even more uncomfortable when Tenzin grabbed a handful of a server's ass as she walked by. She swatted his hand away, and then smiled at him reproachfully. He leered at her.

The bartender brought a pitcher of beer and two glasses, and then rapped his knuckles on the counter--on the house. He looked eagerly for Tenzin to acknowledge him, but Tenzin simply filled his own glass of beer, and then he poured my glass full. He kept on pouring. I watched him pouring until I could no longer could restrain myself.

"It is overfull," I said. "No more will go in!"

"Like this cup," Tenzin said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you balance unless you first empty your cup?"

"Yeah, but you're making a mess," I said.

Tenzin motioned for another pitcher of beer. Then he poured half of that pitcher into my overfull glass. I knew somehow that I'd end up paying for this. I didn't have my wallet. In fact, I was still wearing my purple yoga outfit.

"OK OK. I get the point!"

I lied. I didn't get the point. This horny little man seemed less like a sage and more like a goofball. After he stopped pouring, the bartender brought over a few bar towels and wiped up the mess. He kept smiling at Tenzin as if he wanted to say something. When the beer was finally cleaned up, he leaned over the bar, looked Tenzin in the eyes, and said something like this: "The mind does not exist. The true nature of phenomena is emptiness. There is no realization, no delusion, no sage, no mediocrity. There is no giving and nothing to be received."

Tenzin, who had begun smoking quietly, said nothing. Suddenly he whacked the bartender on the forehead with his bamboo pipe. This made the bartender quite angry. He backed away and threw his wet bar towel on the floor.

"If nothing exists," inquired Tenzin, "where did this anger come from?"

The bartender backpedaled slowly, nodding in comprehension. He wagged his finger at Tenzin, as if to say, "I'll be back for another epiphany." I wanted to leave the bar, the bartender, and the lunatic Tenzin behind me. The feeling was so strong that I began to daydream about being in a different place. I fantasized about lying in Child's Pose in the bathtub, with hot water from the shower head pouring onto my back. No Lynyrd Skynyrd, no Nirvana, no crazed Tibetans.

Tenzin grabbed me by the arm and began to lead me towards the door. Finally, I thought, we're getting out of this shitty Hoosier dive. No such luck. He steered me toward two women in a booth. The women, both young and attractive, were less than pleased at our joining them. Tenzin had me sit next to a woman with her hair dyed blond, and he sat down across from me, next to a red-haired woman with a freckled nose who slid over and glared. I nodded uncomfortably at the fake blonde, but she was looking down at her drink.

"Uh, hello?" said the freckled woman next to Tenzin. "We're, like, expecting friends."

"In my village," said Tenzin, speaking to no one in general. "There is a story of a monk who is being chased by a tiger. He runs off a cliff. As he's falling, he grabs a branch. He looks up and sees the tiger leaning over the cliff, clawing at his head, missing only by inches. He looks down to the ground below, only about fifteen feet, and sees a lion leaping up, missing his feet only by inches. As he looks at the branch he is clutching, he sees two groundhogs gnawing away at it. He watches as his lifeline disappears, bite by bite."

"Lions and tigers and groundhogs," I said. "Oh my."

I thought it was a funny joke, but both women looked at me as if I had just belched eggs. Tenzin look at the freckled woman next to him while he finished the story.

"As he takes a deep, long breath, he notices, next to his branch, a cluster of cucumber plants. In the midst of the clump is a great, green, juicy cucumber. With his one free hand, he reaches over, picks the cucumber, puts it in his mouth, chews it slowly and says, "Ah--delicious!"

I had never heard of cucumbers growing on a cliff. In fact, I had heard this Zen koan before, and he had it wrong. It was mice, not groundhogs, chewing the vine, and it was strawberries, not cucumbers, growing on the side of the cliff. Cucumbers don’t grow on cliffs. I was starting to get pissed off.

Tenzin whispered in the freckled woman's ear. She giggled, and then he whispered in her ear again. Tenzin and the woman left. Neither said a word to us. I don't need to mention how uncomfortable I felt sitting there in the bar next to this blonde woman. I felt torn apart by so many desires and fears, unsure of what motivated me. Was lechery worse than sexual repression? Was being faithful better than overcoming fear?

Without looking at the blonde woman, I said, "There is a story about a farmer who owned a beautiful horse. One day it disappeared. When all the villagers remarked on his bad luck, he calmly replied, 'Maybe so, maybe not.' A few days later the horse returned, leading a herd of fine wild horses. A week later, his only son was thrown and crippled while training the horses. When the villagers again--"

"I have a boyfriend and two sons?" interrupted the fake blonde, as if she were either unsure of herself or from Canada.

"My wife is pregnant with twins," I said. "When the villagers again told him that he had bad luck--"

"You should be with her?" she interrupted again.

"I come and go as I please," I told her.

"There's no such thing?" she said.

"That means nothing to me. You mean nothing to me. This whole place means nothing to me. Got that?"

I left the bar. She followed me. I didn't know whether to come or go.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall Moab 2010

Just came back from Fall Moab 2010. Several of the regulars--including Elden, Brad, Paul, and Gary--had to miss out, in some cases for decent reasons (Paul and Steve had to attend their father's 80th birthday party) and in some cases for flimsy reasons (Elden had to pick up an award for his Lance Armstrong fundraising).

While we were riding slickrock on Friday afternoon, it started to rain hard. We cancelled our camping plans, checked into a hotel, and crashed Dug's room to watch The Hangover.

"I just wish your friends were as mature as you."
"They are mature, actually. You just have to get to know them better."
[from outside] "Paging Dr. Faggot. Dr. Faggot!"
"I should go."
"That's a good idea, Dr. Faggot."

One of my favorite parts of Fall Moab is the fact that we still manage to act like kids even though some of us are well into our 30s. We talk about whether the Giants can beat the Phillies (yes), what to do when your teenagers get into sexting (express disappointment but secretly marvel at the language), and give advice on how to succeed in making a difficult move (try pedaling harder; think "cold fury").

"You guys might not know this, but I consider myself a bit of a loner. I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack. But when my sister brought Doug home, I knew he was one of my own. And my wolf pack... it grew by one. So there... there were two of us in the wolf pack... I was alone first in the pack, and then Doug joined in later. And six months ago, when Doug introduced me to you guys, I thought, 'Wait a second, could it be?' And now I know for sure, I just added two more guys to my wolf pack. Four of us wolves, running around the desert together, in Las Vegas, looking for strippers and cocaine. So tonight, I make a toast!"

And today, I too make a toast. Here's to the guys who joined in Fall Moab. Twelve of us wolves, riding around the desert together, in Moab, looking for strippers and cocaine.

"You're not really wearing that, are you?"

Kenny, who is recently divorced, has a new girlfriend named Heather. Heather is a skilled rider, but apparently there is a Fall Moab rule that discourages women from attending. I was not involved in making that rule, perhaps because the one time I invited women back in 1995 or so, chaos ruled. Promises were broken, tents were peed upon, a chair was broken, and a grown man was very nearly thrown into the river. That said, I agree with this rule.

Sometimes men need to hang out without women around.

It has nothing to do with riding bikes. I don't care who rides with us. Anyone is welcome as long as they (A) don't force us to call search and rescue, and (B) there is no (B). It has nothing to do with physical ability. It has everything to do with untimely relationship crap.

Heather is a perfect example. She showed up with a fake mustache and soul patch and called herself Mike. Whatever. It was great riding with her. She took awesome photos and made a bunch of difficult moves. In one place, there was a hairy descent that crashed out a few of us. Heather tried this move several times, and her fear finally got the best of her, and she walked down. Still, it was awesome that she was battling.

When we got back from the ride, we all went out to the courtyard and hung out around the grill to cook brats. Everyone was there except for Kenny . . . and Mike/Heather. We made the obligatory jokes about gay sex, assuming they were up to the devil's work, but the devil's work doesn't take that long. The devil's work should take only 12 minutes, including cleanup.

We found out later that they were spending that time talking about their relationship. And that's why I support the "No chicks" rule for Fall Moab, but with a qualification. Women can come down to Moab and ride, but when the ride ends, they need to clear out so that we can talk about poop and pee.

However, I do support lifting the sanction against Germans attending Fall Moab.

"Would you please put some pants on? I feel weird having to ask you twice."

I wasn't in Dug's room, but I feel compelled to put this quote in because I assumed that after a ride, Dug stripped naked, lay down on the bed with splayed legs, and waited for his turn to shower.

Dug, would you please put some pants on? I feel weird having to ask you seventeen times.

"Why are you peppering the steak? You don't know if tigers like pepper."
"Tigers LOVE pepper. They hate cinnamon."

The relatively new tradition of grilling beer-boiled brats is fantastic. Kenny makes the homemade bread, and everyone agrees on honey mustard.


We don't want to call attention to ourselves!
[Through loudspeakers] Attention! Attention!

I'm going to call attention to myself for a minute. We had originally planned on doing a long downhill ride called The Big Enchirito, so instead of riding a singlespeed, I brought my Full-Suspension Mountain Bicycling System, which I'll simply refer to as The System from now on.

On Friday, we rode Slickrock in the rain. I felt like I was on a squirrelly little toy bike. Before the ride was over, I was working out a plan to sell The System.

On Saturday, The Big Enchirito ride was snowed in, so we rode Gold Bar Rim. If every Fall Moab regular made a list of his top 5 favorite rides, Gold Bar Rim would be on everyone's list. Because The System had let me down so badly the day before, I wasn't really looking forward to my second favorite ride. I was just happy to hang out with friends. After we had ridden over the bluff and through the valley to where the technical moves start, I told Nick that I was going to do only uphill moves--nothing downhill. With the smaller wheels and squishy front fork, I thought I was just too prone to spilling over the top.

We were doing our normal thing in which we ride along the flowy singletrack for awhile, and then stop in a play area to try difficult moves. About halfway through the ride, for whatever reason, I entered the magical, elusive state of mind that sports announcers call "the Zone."

I'm not in great shape right now, but I made it up the Triple Ledge Move, which is the crux move of all crux moves (the above image is of Kenny on the Triple). I rode up a serrated wall that looked impossible to climb, and then sat on my bike at the top shouting advice to Ricky, paying him back for the day I couldn't make the Daniel Day Lewis move in Draper.

And I started cleaning drops off ledges that I had always walked my bike down in previous years. In short, I was on fire. En fuego. Sur le feu. Auf feuer. It's a great feeling.

I hereby vow that I shall never sell The System.

"Oh my God! Phill, you were in the hospital last night!"
"Yeah, I guess I was."
"Are you okay?"

I have bruises, cuts, and scrapes all over my body, and I only remember falling twice. Maybe three times. There is a huge bruise of many colors on my thigh, and I don't remember ever getting hit on my thigh.

My wrist is so sore I can barely move it. When did that happen? What the hell?

And we're the three best friends that anyone could have!

Nick took a video of Dug going down a particularly sketchy shelf. Dug goes first, and then Mark:

And here’s part 2 of Nick’s video. I go first, and then Jon:

"I'm thinking of getting my bartender's license."

Good times.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Holy Mackerel

When it's my turn to put the boys down to bed, I sing them each a song. Tonight, I asked Luke what song he wanted to hear.

"The Cheese-It one," he said.

"I don't know a Cheese-It song. Do you want me to make one up?" I then started to sing a Cheese-It ditty.

"No! No! Sing the real Cheese-It song!"

"I'm telling you. I've never sung it before. Have you heard me sing it?"

"Yes, but you haven't sung it to me since I was, oh, about five."

"What does it go like?"

"It has a crib, and it ends with 'in the hay' and not 'on the hay'. Remember?"

So I sang him "Away in the Manger," the Christmas song about Baby Cheese-It, who grew up to become Our Lord and Savior Cheese-It Christ. You know the guy -- he hangs around with Heavenly Fodder and the Whole Wheat Ghost.

Public schools just aren't what they used to be.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Final Wiffleball Update

Wiffleball season has been over for almost two weeks, and I can just now bring myself to write about it.

Setting: For the Wiffleball Championship Series, the team to win 2 out of 3 games is to be declared champion of the Adobe Wiffleball League. Before the game, someone played the national anthem on a trumpet, and then one of the vice-presidents threw out the first pitch. Two guys announced the game over loudspeakers.

Game 1: We won 1-0. I didn't pitch, but I hit a home run.

Game 2: We lost 5-0. I pitched poorly and had a miserable game at the plate, striking out three times. At this point, I would talk about the fascinating mental gynmastics that go on during the course of a game, and how being psyched up can benefit one's play, and how becoming demoralized can lead to poor results, but I am too demoralized to discuss it.

Before the deciding Game 3: I went mountain biking near Mount Rainier with my international friends, Nick, Tony, and Volker. While going down a super steep set of switchbacks that would make a mountain goat pause, I attempted to make one of the switchbacks. I almost had it. Almost. Instead, my front wheel slipped over the edge, I went over the bike headfirst, bounced, and then free fell. This was a real free fall, complete with 32 feet per second squared type of acceleration (not including wind resistance). I'm telling you, this was a "where's my rip cord?" type of free fall. I bounced on loose dirt and slid and ended up about 70 feet down from where I missed the switchback.

The point of the story? I separated my shoulder.*

* In the interest of full disclosure, I actually separated my shoulder the day before when I was crossing a road 50 yards from our hotel, when all of a sudden my tube blew out of my tire on a slant, and I slammed hard to the ground. Let's just say the next day's free fall didn't help my shoulder. M'kay?

Game 3: With a separated shoulder, I could barely swing. One meatball pitch, high and outside just as I like it, looked so fat and sweet that it surprised me when I fouled it off. Why didn't that fly over the rightfield fence like those other ones?

Bases loaded, 2 outs, the other team at the plate. Lazy fly ball to left field. Dropped. End of game. End of season. End of joy.

I can't talk about next year. I can't be proud of our team or of my clutch hitting and pitching during the season. I can only think of falling apart on the mound in game 2 and swinging barely under the meatball pitch in game 3. That ball spins in my mind like the one ring spun in Frodo's mind as he approached Mount Doom.

OK, I'm over it now. We'll get 'em next year. (Whew, that was close. I almost dwelt on the negative.)


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wiffleball Update

I know that you care about my wiffleball tournament, and it's been killing you not to have a status update. I know that. Don't you think I know that?

When I last left you, my team -- Ken Wiffey, Jr. -- lost the first game of a three-game semifinal series against the Belgian Wiffles. With the season on the line, I was scheduled to pitch. And pitch I did. With co-workers eating lunch out on the patio and watching from the balcony above the grounds, I wanted to give the appearance that this was all fun and games. I smiled and joked with opponents and mock-argued with the umpire. Inside, I was no less intense than Nolan Ryan.

I stuck to just two pitches: my fastball, which I threw either high and inside or low and away, and my looping curveball, which I threw only high and inside. The score was tied 0-0 after four innings. The opposing pitcher was a decent pitcher, but we were too impatient. In the top of the fifth and final inning, our first two batters struck out on pitches outside the strike zone. I was thinking that the best I could hope for was extra innings. The next batter walked, bringing up Laura at the bottom of the lineup.

How do I describe Laura's hitting style? Is it sexist to say that she swings like a girl? Yes, so I won't say that, because I believe that language is a form of social policing. So Laura swings like a person who is inexperienced in the ways of baseball. After two quick strikes, she took a wild pitch, and then swung at the next pitch.


The ball flew into right field and rolled past the cones for a triple! We're up 1-0. I think it's safe to say that I've never heard a louder roar at a wiffleball game than when Laura hit that triple. She scored on a single and I pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the ninth for the 2-0 victory. Whew.

In the rubber match game of the semifinals, we scored three runs in the bottom of the first and ended up winning 4-1. Now we're in the finals.

And now you're all caught up with the Adobe Wiffleball League playoffs.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pobrecito Barnes & Noble

In Spanish, "pobrecito" is the third most popular word, trailing only "el" and "la." Peruvians in particular like to refer anyone who's struggling or put upon as a pobrecito, which roughly translates to "poor little thing." Their hearts would weep for the Barnes & Noble franchise, which is having to close a few stores due to the lousy economy and online booksellers like Amazon.

People browsing at the Lincoln Center store on Monday lamented the loss of one of the city’s largest and most prominent bookstores, a sprawling space with a cafe on the fourth floor and an enormous music selection. For devoted theatergoers, it was a reliable site for readings and events that focused on the performing arts.

But many of those same people conceded that they have not bought as many books there as they did in the past. Some said they were more likely to browse the shelves, then head home and make purchases online. Others said they prized the store most for its sunny cafe or its magazines and other nonbook items.

I do not weep for Barnes & Noble. I still remember when Barnes & Noble and (pobrecito) Media Play opened their stores in Utah County, causing my favorite local bookstores to struggle. I particularly disliked the bait 'n switch technique of opening the stores with tons of books and movies, and then slowly whittling down the selections. Same thing with the cozy reading areas -- they get rid of those over time.

That said, when my mother asks me what I want for Christmas, I say, "Gift Certificate to Barnes & Noble." So there.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Summer Highlights


No Leadville for me this year, so I haven't trained. If it weren't for wiffleball, I'd be sad. In a couple of weeks, I'll be heading up to Mt. Rainier for a 3-day biking weekend with Nick and a couple other guys. I'm going to start doing bursts on my way home from work to get into tip-top shape. I may even start doing knee bends.


Yes, I play on a wiffleball team at work. Wiffleball seems like a joke sport at first glance, and maybe even at the second and third glances as well. Here's the thing -- I haven't had this much fun playing a sport since the days when I could play snow football or flag football. There are 12 teams in the league, six players to a side. No one has to run hard. Hits and outs depend on where the ball is hit, so baserunners are essentially placeholders. It all comes down to pitching and hitting and a little bit of fielding. If the pitcher hits the target behind the plate, it's a strike, no matter where the ball crosses the plate. Spectators line up on the balcony above the field to watch the game while eating lunch. Players greet each other in the hallway and talk smack in meetings. It's got the perfect balance of being fun and competitive.

I'm one of the pitchers for the team that finished with the number 1 seed for the playoffs. I have a wicked curveball that, when I throw it right, goes right by the head of the batter and smacks the upper right corner of the strike target. I also mix in a fastball and change-up. We're in the semifinals now, but we lost our first game in a best 2 out of 3 series. I pitch again Wednesday night in a must-win wiffleball game. If we lose, I will not be able to sleep the following night.

You think I'm kidding.


Just found out I'm keeping my job at Adobe. I'm working on a fun project -- using InDesign to create digital magazines for the iPad. Right in my wheelhouse. I've never enjoyed being at Adobe more.

More later. Really. I'm going to write about the letter of rejection I got from a Hollywood exec for one of my screenplays. The guy didn't think it was realistic for a man on a deserted island to perform kidney replacement surgery on both himself and his son without anesthesia and using only a swiss-army knife. Did I tell you he's from Hollywood? And that he can talk about realism with a straight face? I'll comment later on his letter. You won't believe it.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Top 5 Self-Opposing Words

Any good web log entry first states what it's not about. I'll conform. This entry is not about auto-antonyms (also called "contronyms" and "antagonyms"). That's when a word has two opposing meanings, like "adumbrate," which means both to disclose and to obscure, and "sanction," which means both to permit and to restrict. No, those kinds of words don't interest me, at least not enough to write about, unless I need to use them as examples of what I don't want to write about.


Here's what I want to write about--words that imply the opposite meaning from their appearance. With only a little more ado, I shall now proceed with the list:

1. tranquill

I'll also accept "trainquil" for this entry. Reading either word makes you a little tense, admit it.

2. disentanglement

Interesting fact: the Cambridge Language Police Society attempted to abolish this word in 1937, but the swing voter refused to say Aye unless everyone agreed to abolish "marmot" as well. Gridlock ensued.

3. relaxxx

I just made up this word. Does it relax you? No. It makes you think of illicit imagery.

4. mispelled

I can't decide whether this word is really self-opposing. Perhaps it belongs in my Top 5 Self-Actualization Words entry, which I'm nearly certain to write in the near future.

5. spendthrift

Here we go. The most deceptive word in the English language.


Friday, May 28, 2010

The Language Test

So I was riding my biking to work yesterday while listening to Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. Just as I had ridden over the West Seattle Bridge to turn onto Alaska Way, Gladwell asked me to imagine that he was a professor and I was walking down a long hallway into his office. When I reached his office, I was to piece together a four-word sentence from each of these 5-word groups:

01 him was worried she always
02 from are Florida oranges temperature
03 ball the throws toss silently
04 shoes give replace old the
05 he observes occasionally people watches
06 be will sweat lonely they
07 sky the seamless gray is
08 should now withdraw forgetful we
09 us bingo sing play let
10 sunlight makes temperature wrinkle raisins

As I was forming the sentences, I got a little distracted. I started thinking about how tired I was. I didn't want to ride anymore. I had planned on riding the longer route to work along the beautiful Myrtle Edwards Park, but now I was thinking about cutting across downtown. Or maybe just throw the bike on a bus. "The sky is gray." The 26 and 28 both head from downtown to Fremont. "Let us sing bingo." No, that's too cumbersome. I'll just ride it out, and maybe take a nap under my desk when I get there.

Here's what Gladwell had to say about the list:

"That seemed straightforward, right? Actually it wasn't. After you finished that test -- believe it or not -- you would have walked out of my office and back down the hall more slowly than you walked in. With that test, I affected the way you behaved. How? Well, look back at the list. Scattered throughout it are certain words, such as "worried," "Florida," "old," "lonely," "gray," "bingo," and "wrinkle." You thought that I was just making you take a language test. But, in fact, what I was also doing was making the big computer in your brain -- your adaptive unconscious -- think about the state of being old. It didn't inform the rest of your brain about its sudden obsession. But it took all this talk of old age so seriously that by the time you finished and walked down the corridor, you acted old. You walked slowly."

Or, in my case, rode slowly. On a sunny day when I was feeling perfectly healthy, I contemplated putting my bike on a bus--something I've done only once in the pouring rain.

I'm just glad that nothing else affects me on a subconscious level, or I'd be worried about being manipulated.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fish in a Barrel

I was sitting on the sideline while Coach Dave ran soccer practice when all of a sudden, he pulled up lame with a torn calf muscle. Coach Dave asked me if I would run the drills. "Sure," I said, putting away my cell phone.

For the first -- and what turned out to be the only -- drill I participated in, the kids had to run through a gauntlet in a British Bulldog type game. My job was to line up balls along the sideline and kick them at the kids while they ran from one end of the course to the other. If I hit a kid in the leg, he or she would join me and try to knock out other kids, until there was only one kid left.

The first run was quite possibly a thing of beauty. I suppose it depends on how you define "beauty." For certain people, it doesn't get more beautiful than getting a clean shot on a wild animal and watching it collapse in a dead bundle of flesh. The people who think shooting a wild animal is beautiful would have enjoyed my shot. As the kids ran across the field during the first pass, I kicked all the balls and missed as they dodged my shots. But on the last ball, I kicked it in front of the kids. Just before Keira reached the finish line, the ball passed between her legs and trapped her foot coming forward, flinging her forward. She got up and stood still with her head down. Coach Dave limped over and comforted her.

On the next round, I was being extra cautious. I'm not a hunter. That's when Thane, the smallest kid on the team, started talking trash. "You ca-an't hit me, you ca-an't hit me." In an attempt to put a little more heat on the ball, my pivot foot slid on the damp grass, causing me to kick slightly under the ball. I don't even need to tell you what happened, but I will anyway just to remove all doubt -- the ball bounced off Thane's head. Poing.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, nothing is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Excerpts from the Hand-Written Journal

Confession time. Apart from this blog, I write in an old-fashioned journal using a pen and notebook. I like to call it a "journal" because that's a little more manly than calling it a "diary." The kinds of people who write in diaries might wander off in despair, put rocks in their pockets, and wade into a deep stream. The kind of person who writes in a journal, on the other hand, is likely to log scientific data.

One problem with writing in a journal is that my life -- and this is painful to admit -- is fairly boring. To fix that, I sometimes adopt a persona, and write away. I've gathered a few of my favorite entries, and typed them into the computer.

Bear Stearns Stockbroker

As I lie here in my tent at 27,800 feet above sea level on my quest to climb Mount Everest, I am proud of my Sherpa. I am also proud to be able to call him "mine." For he is my Sherpa. Without him, reaching the top of this mountain would be a struggle. For example, while he was short-roping me up from Camp III to Camp IV, I complained that the rope around my waist was demoralizing, and insisted that he drag me in the supply stretcher. He said no, and I shouted at him. Punjab has ugly yellow teeth full of gaps and does not like to be shouted at. Nor does he like to have his family threatened. After he towed me up to the Camp IV tent on the stretcher, he left me alone to go back for the supplies that he had set aside. This angered me, for I do not like to be left alone that high on the mountain. Upon his return, I checked my temper. Instead of kicking him, I simply said, "Hot tea" and put my oxygen mask back on.

Professional Football Player Who Recently Joined Twitter

I'm glad I'm so handsome!! Makes taking pics so much easier! I kno, I'm very humble whn I wanna b! Lol

Mormon Housewife

I need to learn to control my temper better. This morning, when LeDon said he was leaving for the weekend to do a ski trip, I glared at him. Now I feel terrible. I know the baby is only three weeks old and the 3-year-old has an ear infection and the twins are about ready to take their first steps, but it's not my place to judge other people. I run the household and LeDon is the provider. Period. End of story. That's God's plan. But I have to say in my defense that it would sure help if LeDon got a job!!!! If I read the scriptures and pray and put my trust in the Lord, I will be forgiven. I know that with the bottom of my heart.

George W. Bush

I was arguing with Brownie the other day while we were sitting in a bar and shooting the bull. Get this. He said that all you gotta do to figure out pi is to divide 22 by 7. I told him the value of pi is the ratio of the circle's circumference to its diameter, and that you can determine the value of pi only by drawing a perfect circle and then measuring its circumference and diameter, taking the ratio -- which sure as shit ain't 22 over 7 -- and that's it. That's pi. And then I said, "Hey Brownie, wanna hear a joke?" And he said "Sure." And I said, "Pi, pi, poke in the eye!" and jabbed my finger in his socket. Now that was funny. I'd like to see that Kenyan think of something like that.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

120% Effort

The regular coach of Max's soccer team couldn't make it to practice, so I subbed. As I gathered the 6-year-old kids together for the practice and wondered what was going to happen, as if I were a mere observer, I wanted to give a little speech about trying hard and giving a full effort. When Henry grabbed Keira around the waist and spun her around, I decided the speech was a bad idea, so I had them run around the field.

For the entire hour, I was breaking up wrestling matches and putting a stop to impromptu tag games. It was a mess. At that point, I realized what the problem was. I wasn't giving 120% effort.

I thought back to something I had seen on television. It was one of those fantastic MTV challenge shows in which the young and beautiful drink alcohol, have flings, and compete to avoid getting eliminated. When a contestant lost a challenge, she said something like, "We both gave 120% effort, but their 120% was stronger than ours."

Now, at first glance, that statement seems accurate, especially if you've been hit in the head recently. But you might realize that it's possible that one of the teams was only giving 115% effort, which could account for the loss. How do you express the idea of one team's more-than-maximum effort being weaker than someone else's more-than-maximum effort? Perhaps it's better to express this heady notion using different percentage values rather than rating the strength of identical values.

And that's when I realized that as a substitute soccer coach, I was able to give only 115% effort.


Monday, March 29, 2010

A Minister Without a Gun

We spent a week in Sedona, Arizona last week for my sister-in-law's wedding. Kim married a guy named Jerome.

A couple of days before the wedding, Kim and Jerome hadn't found a minister to perform the ceremony. By stating this fact, I do not mean to imply that Kim lacks interest or ability in planning. All I'm saying is that two days before the wedding, they didn't have anyone to perform the ceremony. Just that. And only that.

One possibility was Michael. He's a large, confident fellow with a booming voice. But he has been married -- twice -- to the bride, so there were concerns. They asked me to do it, and to my surprise, I said yes.

While I am a holder of two types of priesthood--the Aaronic and the Melchizedek--I do not have the legal authority to use either of these powers to perform a wedding ceremony. However, i do have a laptop with access to, so within minutes I became an ordained minister of what I'm fairly certain is the Universal Life Church.

I realize that some people who rely on me for spiritual guidance may be concerned that my previous priesthood powers have become compromised with the new ordination. You may be asking whether the various powers can be used together, if one supersedes the other, or if they cancel each other out. If you are concerned, I simply ask that you continue to be concerned, because it means that you care, and it's a healthy distraction from your own mortality. Yeah, verily.

And it came to pass that on the Saturday of the wedding, Max did become ill with a fever most feverish in nature. And I became concerned, yeah, for I begat Max.

Sorry, sorry, sorry. I'll stop talking that way. Anyway, Max was running a fever on the day of the wedding, but we all had roles to play in the ceremony, which was being held about ten yards away from a hiking trail just outside of town. The wedding circle consisted of rocks placed in a circle. The circle was roughly 15 cubits in diameter, or 7.5 cubits in radius, with a circumference of 47.1 cubits and an area of 176.6 cubits. Verily.

At the east and west ends of the circle were openings in the rock formation. The women entered the circle through the west end; the men entered through the east end. Before we entered, a guy "smudged" participants. He asked each person to stand before him while he used a feather to fan the smoke from a burning sage branch onto them, front and back. (If you doubt me, Google "smudge.")

The ringbearers, Luke and Max, accepted the smudging stoically and passed into the circle. I, myself, tried to counter the cleansing ritual by decentering my chakra, resulting in a vortex upheaval that no one expected or noticed. Smudged, I picked up Max and comforted him with the idea that this will all be over soon. The bride's party entered the circle. Thus, I spake.

As I read the ceremony from the cards, I kept telling myself that it was just a ceremony--don't fight it--but I didn't exactly agree with what I read. The first sentiment was about not believing in something just because you heard it, or just because it's written somewhere. That's all fine and good, but then the quote implies that you should believe in something only after you've studied it out. That's misguided. It puts too much credence in one's own thoughts. People often study and meditate and think things through, and still come up with preposterous ideas. Just look at Ayn Rand. Being a free thinker doesn't prevent someone from being silly in the head.

When I finished reading the ceremony, the smudger played some kind of glass instrument. As he ran a mallet around the rim of the glass bowl, the vibrations made a strange musical noise. He then went around to everyone in the wedding circle and made this musical noise in front of them. While I was standing there, I wondered whether the bowl guy (his name was actually Guy) could learn something about a person by holding the vibrating bowl in front of him. I have no doubt that he thinks he can, but does he really? Let's just say I'm open to the possibility.

He then waved the glass thing between Kim and Jerome to, I don't know, reveal their heart energy through the medium of timbre. I then announced that we were going to observe two minutes of silence. Guy sat on the ground and started to pull something out of his pocket. What was it? My mind raced. Was it a sacred arrowhead? Was it some kind of amber healing stone? Nope. It was a stop watch. When two minutes had elapsed, he used a little mallet to ding the bowl.

"Jerome!" I said.

This was Jerome's cue to say his vows. The words were supposed to come from his heart, but in all fairness, doing extemporaneous wedding vows is just a terrible idea, even for people who embrace things like the equinox and Sedona vortexes (again, google). "Words cannot express, um, how deeply..." When he finished, he nodded at me.

"Kim!" I announced.

Have I mentioned that it's a bad idea to ad lib wedding vows? Expressing love through tears is an intimate act that only a couple--and perhaps their ULC minister--should participate in. It's not something that friends and family and hiking passers-by need to hear.

"Bring forth the rings!" I bellowed.

Luke came out of his daze, stood up from his blanket in the middle of the circle, and handed Jerome's ring to Kim. Max, who was still feverish, remained seated on his blanket. At this point, I probably should have said something like "Max, give Jerome the ring." But here's the thing, and I'm dead serious about this. It wasn't on the cue cards. Good or bad, I was sticking to the script. For about ten seconds, Max sat on the ground, perfectly oblivious to the proceedings. I think Jerome probably wanted to say something, but he couldn't tell the difference between Luke and Max. I'm just guessing. Finally, Wendy loudly whispered, "Max! The ring!"

"Jerome, do you take Kim onward?" I said as Jerome put the ring on Kim's finger.

"Kim, do you take Jerome onward?" I said as Kim put the ring on Jerome's finger.

"By the power vested in me, and [reading from cue cards] all of the universal seen and the unseen [no longer reading], I now pronounce you husband and wife. Jerome, you may kiss the bride."

Clapping. Tears. Hugs. Laughter.

Max and I hung out in the hotel room and watched March Madness while everyone else danced at the reception. Fun was had by all.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Phrase of the Day

Max and Luke now have separate bedrooms. While they were playing in Luke's room before school, I went in and parentally urged them to get dressed. Max left Luke's room, while Luke went through the motions of getting dressed. I don't believe Luke was trying to make me mad with his boondoggling -- part of me believes that that's just how little kids are -- but I wasn't sure. I guess a child just can't take pajamas off and put clothes on without interrupting the process at regular intervals to pick up a lego here and bottle cap there. Oh, what's this thing stuck to the side of my dresser? I know I'm late for school, but I don't mind taking a few minutes to pick at it.

A minute or so later, Max came back into Luke's room, fully dressed, while Luke had barely managed to get his pajama tops off.

"What took you so short?" Luke asked.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Roller Derby

First, I'd like to apologize for the misleading title. This is not about roller derby. This is about roller skating. I just wanted a catchy title to draw in the readers. And now that I have your attention, I'll do what I can to hang on to it. For example, I'll start a new paragraph to give the eye a break and create a sense of drama.

I took the boys roller skating.

There. What seems like a common parental activity now seems fascinating, and it's all due to a clever formatting trick. I'll continue to use these tricks throughout to maintain your level of interest.

The boys just got wrist pads for their roller skates (Max) and roller blades (Luke), and they were excited. Excuse me, they were excited!!! So I looked up a roller skating rink using my iPhone, and sure enough, King Skates in Bellevue was open all day on Monday for public skating.

As soon as we walked in, the boys heard their favorite song -- "I Gotta Feelin" by the Black Eyed Peas. They looked out at the lights flashing on the skaters, and you could tell these 6-year-olds thought we had just stumbled into the coolest place on earth.

Observation 1: There are men and women in their 30s and 40s who go to roller skating rinks alone and skate dance. Sometimes they skate backward, and sometimes they skate forward, but they're dancing the whole time. At first, I thought this was strange behavior. And then I thought about it a little more, and thought about the battle against peer pressure and the joy of exercise, and I came to the realization that this was REALLY strange behavior. They should be on a treadmill in a gymnasium.

Observation 2: Pop music from the 70s has an enduring quality that will outlive us all. Did you know our grandchildren's grandchildren will roller blade to "Do the Hustle," "YMCA" and "Dancing Queen"?

Observation 3: There has been some really good pop music made over the last five or thirty years. I can't tell how long some of that pop music was, because I had never heard it. But I found myself snapping my fingers while skating, and then bending my knees a little bit. And then I started to weave my skating pattern just a little bit, and there's no way to weave your skates without getting your hips involved, and before I knew it, all the other skaters had lined up along the wall, and they were clapping in rhythm and shouting encouragement to me whenever my skates left the floor for a double axel or a triple toe loop.

In summary, roller skating is FUN!!!


Friday, February 5, 2010

Super Bowl XLIV Analysis and Prediction

It's difficult to find someone on the World Wide Web of the Internet who is willing to discuss the upcoming Super Bowl between the Colts and the Saints, so I'll fill in the gap.

Sport Being Played

American Football.

Ways in Which the Game May Play Out

This isn't quite like last year's game between the Steelers and Cardinals, when you could tell in the first quarter what kind of game it would be. This year, with the two best teams playing, the game won't be decided early. Both teams have explosive offenses, and both teams have come back repeatedly from large deficits. So even if one team goes up early by a couple of scores, I don't think the game will turn into a rout.

Scenario 1: Shoot-out. Both teams move the ball at will. In this scenario, forcing the opponent to kick a field goal will be considered a victory for the defense. Forcing a punt is a huge momentum swing. Last team with the ball wins.

Scenario 2: Slopfest. The defenses get pressure on both quarterbacks, there are lots of turnovers, young receivers drop passes, and announcers continue to praise the quarterbacks because they're contractually obligated. Drew Brees looks nervous, and Peyton Manning yells at his linemen.

Scenario 3: Low-scoring battle. Both offenses dominate, especially in the running game, but they eat up the clock with long drives that frequently end up with field goal attempts. Even though neither defense appears particularly effective, there's something like a 16-12 score in the fourth quarter.

Scenario 4: Blowout. I suppose this is a possibility. The Saints blowing out the Colts would be a shock. The Colts blowing out the Saints wouldn't be quite as shocking, especially if Brees seems off his game, but it seems unlikely.

I'm going with Scenario 3 - a tight, low-scoring game that either team can win.

Quarterback Play

If you watch ESPN, which I do, you might think that Peyton Manning went through some kind of apotheosis during the Jets game and became a football god, while Drew Brees is some kind of scrappy waterboy who somehow found himself playing quarterback in the Super Bowl. In my arrogant opinion, both quarterbacks have played equally well this year. This year, they're the two best players in the league.

Their styles are different. The Colts use only a few formations with hardly any pre-snap motion, while the Saints try to confuse defenses with lots of formations and motion. One of the reasons analysts have been deifying Manning is because he calls his own plays and acts like a coach on the field. While that's impressive, it doesn't mean that a quarterback who lets coaches call the plays can't be effective. In the last 20 years, coaches have called plays for Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Drew Brees, and every quarterback not named Peyton. Manning is 9-8 in playoff games. That's not exactly a divine record.

Manning used to let the pressure of a big game get to him. Under pressure, he'd get out of his rhythm. So far this year, he hasn't flailed in a big game. In fact, he's been clutch, even heroic. If anything, Brees is more likely to let the pressure get to him than Manning.

Defensive Pressure

Despite what people say, both teams have only average defenses. The Saints have to get pressure on Manning, or he'll continue to play out of his gourd.

If you're still reading this, you know that the Colts' best defensive player, Dwight Freeney, has a badly sprained ankle and may not be able to play. In the championship game, the Saints offense struggled because they used an extra blocker to stop Jared Allen, a Freeney-like rusher. If Freeney doesn't play, the Saints should be able to send an extra receiver out on a pattern, forcing the Colts to blitz more to get pressure. In turn, they expose themselves to big plays.

Jerraud Powers is also injured for the Colts. Even though he's a rookie, Powers has started all year and played well. In fact, the Colts have lost three of their four starting defensive backs, but they've still played relatively well, primarily due to the two rookies, Powers and Jacob Lacey. Against the Saints, who use multiple receivers, the Colts badly need Powers so that Lacey can cover the extra receiver. If Powers can't go, you'll see Brees picking on a guy named Tim Jennings. That's a mismatch.


Luck is an important factor. When a pass gets tipped, does the ball fall harmlessly to the ground, or is it picked off? When a team gets called for a penalty, does it nullify a big play? Are there bad calls at key moments? Will there be big plays on special teams? Does an open receiver drop a pass when it's 3rd and 2? Does a safety guess right and pick off a pass on a hunch?

Are the Saints so nervous playing for the first time in the Super Bowl that they overthrow open receivers, get called for stupid penalties, and get out of position because they're too eager to make a big play? Does the Colts' Super Bowl experience keep them calm and confident?

Are the Colts overconfident? The Saints are playing up that "No one believes in us but us" angle, which is a surprisingly strong motivator to get a bunch of grown men whooping like dogs. That mentality helped the Giants beat the Patriots a couple years ago, and these two teams are much more evenly matched than those two teams. At one time, they were both 13-0. That's never happened before. Both teams let up at the end, and the Colts finished 14-2 and the Saints 13-3. The "We get no respect" angle could be key.

The Who is playing at halftime. I hate The Who. You better you better you bet.


I played several simulation games using my old electronic football game that vibrates players into moving. I hobbled the tight end on the Saints and the defensive end on the Colts to make the game more accurate. I've come to the conclusion that the Colts have a 53% chance of winning, while the Saints have a 47% chance of winning. If my simulation is correct, Peyton Manning will rush for 332 yards and two touchdowns.

On the other hand, the Colts are my favorite team, and The Who is playing at halftime. I can't imagine the Colts winning on the same day I have to sit through 65-year-old men singing songs that have menaced me for 40 years.

Final score: Saints 19 Colts 16. Party on Bourbon Street. Gloom in Bloomington.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cereal Box Plastic

Has anyone else noticed that the plastic liners inside cereal boxes now require scissors to open properly. All my life, I've been able to pull the sides of the plastic bag to pop it open. Starting about 10 years ago, the cereal I bought at places like Trader Joe's and other health stores had flawed plastic liners. If you try to pop them open, the glue was too strong, so you just ended up shredding the plastic, resulting in an uneven cereal pour that left a lot of cereal flakes between the liner and the bottom of the box. (You can make your own cereal killer joke.) And now, even cereal from the name brands like Post and Kellogs provide these difficult-to-open liners.

If Ralph Nader were elected back in 2000, we could have avoided this mess.

Tomorrow, as promised, you'll get the Super Bowl XLIV preview!


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My State of the Union Address

A commenter named "Anonymous" wrote the following:

How about a recap on the current status of the Democrats. Kind of like the ones you did about the right wing morons. The Democrats have been so good for the country, nay, the world. And they are only getting better.

Your wish is my suggestion. I will now tell you what I think of the Democrats in a rambling, semi-coherent matter. And later this week, I'll provide you with my Super Bowl pre-game analysis and prediction. That's right. I'm promising two blog entries in one week!

The best thing about the Democrats, in my humble opinion, is that they're not Republicans. And the best thing about Obama is that he's not Bush.

That may seem trite, but for me it's huge. Having Obama take over was like waking up from a nightmare. The day may not be perfect, what with the root canal appointment and all, but at least it's not a nightmare.

You wouldn't think it would be necessary to remind people of this, but let's go over it again. Bush failed to adequately address the 9/11 attacks by ignoring a number of warnings, and then they used that awful terrorist attack as an excuse to invade Iraq and torture suspected terrorists. He and the Republicans advanced tax breaks that disproportionately benefitted the super rich. The combination of wars and tax breaks and struggling economy converted the surplus budget he inherited into a record deficit. In his final year, the economy collapsed, pushing us on the brink of a possible Depression. None of these points are even worth arguing. They're a matter of record.

When Obama and the Democrats took over, they inherited two wars, a devastated economy on the brink of collapse, and a record deficit with expiring tax breaks that act like political poison pills when they expire. (Obama is raising taxes! He's a tax and spend liberal! He's a socialist! HE WASN'T EVEN BORN IN AMERICA!!!)

McCain and many Republicans thought the solution to the bad economy was a spending freeze. Simply put, that's stupid. It's appropriate for the government to run up a deficit to help us out of bad economic times, and they should pay down debt during boom times. As much as I dislike running up the deficit, I thought the bailouts and stimulus packages trotted out by both Bush and Obama were necessary. The details of the bailouts and stimulus packages were highly questionable (typically political?) in both instances, but I don't want to get into those details. By the way, where were the teabaggers during the "Deficits don't matter" Bush years?

The Republican party is using the crappy economy -- the same one they played a major role in creating -- as a way of criticizing Democrats. And it's working! On a related note, I don't have a problem with Republicans opposing the Democratic agenda, but I don't like the way the filibuster has become so commonplace. Without getting into Constitutional issues, I prefer a simple majority rule.

One thing that frustrates me about both parties is that they've failed to take opposing stances in a few key areas. The Republicans used to represent business while the Democrats represented labor. Since the Clinton days, the Democrats have catered to businesses a lot more, effectively abandoning labor. And Republicans used to represent conservative fiscal policies while Democrats were more willing to spend and drive up deficits, but Republicans have obviously abandoned fiscal prudence. In a two-party system, those shifts are especially damaging. We need a five party system: Labor, Whig, Tory, War, and Green.

The fact that the Republican party has shifted so far to the right is incredibly frustrating to me. Instead of being able to maintain an independent stance and vote right or left depending on the circumstances, the wingnuts have essentially forced me into voting straight-ticket Democrat. Having only Republicans in charge isn't healthy in Utah, and having only Democrats in charge isn't healthy in the Puget Sound region.

It frustrates me that Obama has continued many of Bush's awful programs that permit torture and questionable spying practices. I understand why he's doing it from a political standpoint -- to be viewed as centrist for the next election. If it keeps a charming lunatic like Palin or Huckabee from being elected, I suppose that's the price that has to be paid. Still...

The health care system is broken. Even die-hard Bush-loving Republicans would have to admit that. If the Democrats fail to push through a decent health care reform bill, I'll be angry. I'm still waiting to see what happens with that story.


Republicans: F*
Democrats: D+

* The Republicans also received a 0 for citizenship and have been put on notice by this blog.


Friday, January 29, 2010

The Tooth Fairy Strikes!

We had everything worked out. Max had a loose tooth, so we told the boys that when their baby teeth fall out, they just put the tooth under their pillow and the tooth fairy sneaks in after they're asleep and replaces it with money.

"How does the tooth fairy know when a tooth comes out."

"She just knows."

"But what if her forgets?"*

"We can send him email."

"Yes, send email. Is the tooth fairy a boy or girl?"

"Oh, I don't think the tooth fairy is either, really. It's more like an entity."

[* That's one of their favorite toddler constructions that they still go back to every now and then. "Him died. Give it to she." I don't have the heart to correct them most of the time.]

Everything was fine, until the neighbor girl butted in. Her parents do not believe in lying to children. They explicitly tell her that Santa Claus isn't real, the Easter Bunny isn't real, and the tooth fairy doesn't exist. That's just awful. It's arrogant to pretend you know the truth about things. When that little girl grows up, she's going to have the mistaken notion that her parents knew the truth about things, and they weren't full of shit. She's going to grow up being one of those annoying people who say "My mother is my best friend." That's a perfectly awful thing to say. Here are five perfectly awful things to say.

1. I don't have a television.

2. My father/mother is my best friend.

3. I'm sorry for your loss.

4. I'm sending you positive vibes.

5. I don't have any regrets.

Luke and Max want to keep their baby teeth, but I assume there's a reason to take them away. After all, that's what everyone does. Same thing with singing songs like "Rock a Bye Baby" -- it's perfectly fine to sing lullaby songs about death, because everyone else does it. If we think everyone is basically healthy and good, like we all live in Bedford Falls, then I suppose that's a good thing. But what if we live in Pottersville?

So Max knows I'm the tooth fairy, and he received a dollar for his tooth. Now he wants his tooth back, and he knows I have it. He is willing to pay me a dollar for the tooth.

I believe that when my anti-Santa, anti-Tooth Fairy neighbor dies, he is going to a place where flames lick at his feet and a red devil with a pitch fork laughs and tells him true things.