Thursday, January 31, 2008

Super Bowl XLII Q&A

Super Bowl XLII marks only the XLnd Super Bowl game in which both coaches and both starting quarterbacks were white. One of the refreshing things about this Super Bowl is that neither of the head coaches (Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin) or starting quarterbacks (Tom Brady and Eli Manning) have brought up race as a factor. In fact, the media has been strangely silent about skin color. We'll have to wait until the game is over to see if race really, truly wasn't an issue. There's always a chance that one of these guys might play the race card.

If the Patriots win, are they the greatest team ever?

As much as it pains me to say this, the answer is Yes. Granted, the teams in their division stunk, but they beat the Colts, the Chargers (twice), the Jaguars, the Cowboys, the Giants (twice), and one or two other playoff teams. The only elite team they didn't play this year was the Green Bay Packers. Sure, the Patriots' coaching staff was fined heavily for cheating, and they have two of the dirtiest players in the league (Harrison and Wilfork), but that just makes them more despicable, not less great. For memories of happier times, check out this game-winning play from last year's AFC championship when the Colts' center pancaked the hated Wilfork). Unfortunately, that loss against the Colts was the springboard to the Patriots' insanely high level of play this year.

The Patriots are too good to get blown out, and they're too clutch to get beaten in a tight game, which means . . . they never lose. Even if the Patriots had lost one of the few close games they played this year, I still think they'd go down as the greatest team ever. Going undefeated makes the point moot.

What is the year's greatest disappointment?

That the Colts didn't get to play in New England for the AFC championship. They lost 28-24 to a good but undermanned Chargers team, failing to put the game away early when they had the chance and choking at the end. In the preseason, the Colts looked like they were going to fall apart after winning the Super Bowl like so many other defending champions have done. They lost their two cornerbacks, their two defensive tackles, both outside linebackers, their all-pro offensive tackle, and their starting running back to free agency or injury. Later in the year they lost Marvin Harrison, one of the greatest wide receivers ever, and defensive end Dwight Freeney, their most valuable defensive player (yes, Freeney is more valuable than Bob Sanders). The Colts went 13-3, but the defense seemed to be getting it done with smoke and mirrors, especially with Freeney out. They rely on quickness and a strong 4-man pass rush, which they get with Freeney in the game. But against the great offensive lines like San Diego's and New England's, the Colts couldn't rush the passer.

I still would have loved to see the Colts play the Patriots. Manning was playing really well towards the end of the season even without Harrison, and he's less susceptible to choking when he's the underdog. Ah, what could have been! If Brady threw three picks against the Colts like he did against the Chargers, we'd probably be getting pleasantly sick of hearing about Eli versus Peyton in the Super Bowl, and I'd be comparing New England fans to the guy in Return of the Jedi who has to hold back tears when Luke Skywalker crushes the gate down onto his monster's head. Now they're gloating, the whiny pricks. I can't wait to hear them complain when Kevin Garnett chokes in the playoffs.

Why is Eli playing so well?

Tiki Barber retired and Jeremy Shockey got injured. The two loudmouth leaders aren't on the field, and now Eli is playing with more confidence. Post hoc ergo propter hoc? Indeed!

Do the Giants have any chance of beating the Patriots?

Sure, Any Given Sunday and all that. But I don't like the fact that Plaxico Burress is talking trash before the game. Odds are he'll play like Jerramy Stevens did a couple years ago when he talked trash before the Seahawks played the Steelers in the Super Bowl. He dropped three or four passes, hurting the Seahawks more than any other factor besides untimely calls.

And then there's the fact that the 2007 Patriots are the greatest team of all time. It's very difficult to beat the greatest team of all time. That issue notwithstanding, go Giants!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Dallas Cowboys' Greatest Fan

As long as I've been following sports, I've loathed everything about the Dallas Cowboys -- their coaches, their players, their fans, even their cheerleaders. So maybe I thought this video was funnier than it really is:

Sunday, January 27, 2008

California Dreamin'

I'm visiting family here in Southern California. Behind my parents' house is a huge hill with a trail that leads up to the top. This time of year the hills are green from all the rain, and the white rock formations makes you think of Ireland (or, in my case, pictures of Ireland). We've climbed up the hill nearly every day we've been here. The boys do fine on the climb as long as they can take turns leading and stop now and then to eat pretzel snacks. When one of the boys decides he should be the leader and the other doesn't cooperate, things get a little ugly, causing various if/then threats to ensue, as in If you don't slow down and let your brother take the lead, you can stay home and watch the Disney channel while the rest of us go to Disneyland...

Which brings us to Disneyland.

The last time I went to Disneyland, we purchased a book of tickets that ranged from A to E. The A tickets were the kiddie rides like the teacups or the putt-putt trains, while the E tickets let you ride the Matterhorn and Pirates of the Carribean. I remember burning B or C tickets on the Small World ride and not being able to get that song out of my head the rest of the week. Now, the entry fee lets you go on any ride you want.

We went on a Friday after the local news aired ominous reports of foul weather. A forecast of rain in Southern California stirs up the locals in the same way that a blizzard forecast riles Midwesterners. We bought a couple of umbrellas for the forthcoming tsunami and decided to roll the dice. The potentially hazardous rainfall kept the locals away from the amusements parks, which meant short lines. It only drizzled briefly a couple of times. Sweet!

Before I went to Disneyland, I thought all of my enjoyment would come from watching the boys have fun. Not true. Disneyland is, um, magical. It's fantastic. Even though the park is more than 50 years old, there is no sign of wear and tear. Everything is clean, well-maintained, and organized. When you're standing in line for one of the bigger rides, the line itself is part of the experience. For example, before the Star Tours ride, the boys were mesmerized by Artoo and C3PO replicas doing repairs on other droids. Before the Indiana Jones ride, we weaved through a long adventure maze. On the down side, some rides exit to a souvenir shop, which forces parents to convince their kids that they don't need any more Buzz Lightyear toys.

Max's favorite ride was Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters because he got to shoot a gun at targets, and he was able to maim the dreaded Zorg. He also liked the Dumbo ride because he could use a lever to make our elephant go up and down. His least favorite ride was the little roller coaster, which forced him to close his eyes and hold on to me the whole time.

Luke's favorite ride was Autopia because he got to drive the car along the track and because he finished in first place ahead of the other cars on our same track. Granted, it would have been impossible to pass us, but a win is a win. Luke's least favorite ride -- by far -- was Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. It was his first ride of the day and it shook him up so bad that we wanted to go home. Fortunately, he hung in there, realized that Disneyland isn't the horror show he imagined, and built up his courage enough to brave the Pirates of the Carribean and Star Tours. Well done, young man!

Wendy's favorite ride was Indiana Jones Adventure. Her only bad experience occurred when she was supposed to watch Luke and Max while I went to the bathroom, and Luke ended up running after me without his mother knowing. I was surprised when he grabbed my hand while I was well on my way and thought, "Hmm, change of plans." After a minute or so of reflection, I thought, "Hmm, unknown change of plans" and headed back to the rendezvous area, despite my bursting bowels. And it was a good thing, because Wendy was a twirling ball of stress monkeytude.

My favorite ride -- by far -- was Space Mountain. It made me feel like a kid again. My least favorite ride was Star Tours. It made me nauseaus.

Disneyland is wonderful. Tomorrow, Legoland, and then back to Seattle.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

It Rains in Southern California

Granted, I'm not out of work, I'm not out of my head, I'm not out of self-respect nor out of bread. But it pours. Man it pours.

(Note: No, concerned emailers, this message is not a cryptic call for help. I really am in Southern California, where it is raining. Rain in Southern California is great, but not when you're visiting from Seattle in January. Expect wet Disneyland stories later this week. Hoo boy.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Earworm Triggers

Two phrases trigger an autonomic response that forces me to sing songs, sometimes out loud. The first one is doubly nerdy. If I don't want to move the buttons on the bottom of my Windows screen accidently, I right-click the taskbar and choose "Lock the Taskbar": The shareef don't like it / Lock the taskbar, lock the taskbar. Clash and burn, every time.

The second one is even worse. Whenever anyone mentions Charles Dickens' epic novel Bleak House, I twitch and sing: Cause she's a bleak . . . house / Mighty, mighty just lettin' it all hang out.

I can't be the only person with a mild case of musical Tourette's. Got any?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Report of My Annual Physical

This physical was different. First of all, the waiting was minimal. For my previous visits to the doctor, I had to hang out in the waiting room for at least fifteen minutes. You know the drill. A nurse calls your name and hurries you back to a room with strange urgency, weighs you, checks your blood pressure, and abandons you to sit alone away from any magazine you may have taken an interest in -- even if you're the only patient. I had a theory that doctors did this for three reasons. First, they want you to think they're really busy. Second, they want to emphasize their authority. Third, they want to break you down. By the time the doctor finally comes in, you've moved passed the anger stage and you're as grateful as a labrador retriever that no one forgot about you. You're so happy to have company that you'll go along with all the prodding and poking. Yesterday, I waited in both places for a total of five minutes. I didn't even have time to turn on my iPod.

And here's another thing different about yesterday's visit. You know how the doctor has you drop your drawers so they he can cup your balls and turn your head and cough? And then he turns you around, bends you over, and plumbs your ass? Since doctors never find anything, I thought they did this just so they could brag about it in the locker room at the end of the day. But my doctor found two things. I have a hernia, and I have an enlarged prostate gland, which is a clear sign that I'm not a spring chicken. As a bonus, the doctor actually noticed the scar tissue where the surgeon who performed my vasectomy messed up.

When I told him the surgeon has messed up, he asked who he was. "Someone in Indiana," I said. When he asked how he messed up, I couldn't remember the details since it wasn't terribly pleasant. Now I remember.

For one thing, Dr. Hoosier didn't anesthetize my personal area well enough, so I could feel the incision as he cut open my scrotum. "Ouch!" I exclaimed. He never did get my junk fully anesthetized, so I clenched and grimaced during the whole surgery. Thanks a lot, Dr. Hackasack. But that wasn't all. He let both of his female nurses hang out and watch me hang out. This gave me the feeling that I was the only patient they had that day, and maybe there was a good reason this doctor didn't have many customers. Plus, they kept looking at each other knowingly. I wanted to ask them to mind their own business and stop looking at each other knowingly, but Dr. Dimwit kept asking me technical questions about Adobe Acrobat. And these were stupid questions like, "All I want to do is delete a paragraph and replace it with a different one. How do you do that in the Adobe?"

The real problem was that Dr. Less-Than-Competent cut too much tube, which meant he had to yank on it in order to tie it off. It felt like he was pulling on my small intestine. When he was finished with his handy work, he left a huge knot next to one of my testicles. And to put a final touch on that most awful day, he didn't laugh at my pun. When he was telling me when I would be able to have sex again, I replied, "Let's hope there's not a vast difference." (I pronounced it vas deferens. Get it?)

I vowed that I would never get another vasectomy as long as I live. Let's hope the hernia surgery goes better. And maybe the prostate surgery . . .

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Patriotism Games

I was watching the Ken Burns Civil War documentary last night on my iPod. I've seen it before and I like it just fine, but the Civil War just doesn't draw me in like World War II does. What I like most about the Civil War documentary is the fiddle music and the narration -- especially the refined drawl of Shelby Foote -- he lulls me to sleep. And since my mind was reeling from two things: the Colts horrible loss to the Chargers, which I still haven't recovered enough to discuss, and a difficult day of work in which a manager kept interrupting me during my presentation. I needed a lullaby, and the documentary worked. Too well, in fact. I fell asleep with the headphones on. When I woke up, the narrator was reading a letter that a soldier had written to his wife. Here's an excerpt:

If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows - when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children - is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

Do I love my country enough right now to die for it? It depends on the following:

Can we change the direction George W. Bush has been heading us? If not, then no, I don't want to die for my country. I'd rather die for Denmark.

Would I really be fighting for my country? Or at least a serious threat to our freedom or my country's close allies? I like that think that I would have fought in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War II, the Cold War, the Gulf War, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. I would have taken a pass on the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War ("Forget the Maine!"), World War I, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq.

Did a manager just keep interrupting me during a presentation the day after the Colts lost in the playoffs? Sure, while it's happening, I'd be happy die for my country. I'd be happy to die for potted meat products.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Land of the Giants

Back when this show was on television, I remember tuning in on the anticipated night and wondering why the show didn't come on. The rest of my family wanted to watch a different television program, so I went into my parents' room and tried to find "The Land of the Giants." I kept turning the channel to find the show, but none of the four channels had anything remotely like it. I probably cried. I'm not sure if it was the end of the season, a break, or the end of the it altogether, but I couldn't find the show, even though I kept checking for it every night for at least a couple of weeks. I never saw it again.

Until last week.

That's right. Netflix has "The Land of the Giants" on DVD. I put it on the list and explained the whole story to Wendy so she wouldn't think we got the wrong DVD when it arrived. When the Netflix video finally arrived, I wasn't sure what to expect. My tastes as a 6-year-old TV critic probably weren't that refined, but who knows? Maybe it really was good television. Maybe it'd warm my heart cockles the way old AM radio songs do.

Not really. I actually remembered some of the scenes from the first episode, like when a couple of the time-warp earthlings were captured by a giant scientist and had to escape by descending a thread. The biggest problem with the show now (and most likely back then) is the cast. If it had a cast that even closely resembled Star Trek or Lost in Space, two of its contemporary shows, it might have held up. But all the actors in the show are either wooden or creepy.

Right now, I'm afraid it's only interesting as camp. Still, if they can make a successful remake of Battlestar Galactica, couldn't they remake Land of the Giants? I might just submit a screenplay to one of my Hollywood buddies.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Words of the Year

The American Dialect Society announced that the word of the year in 2007 was "subprime." Previous winners include the 2006 verb "pluto," which means to devalue something, and the 2005 adjective "truthiness," which refers to what one wants to be true regardless of the facts.

Other important new words that emerged in 2007:

Googlegänger A person with your name who shows up when you google yourself.

I share the same name with my uncle, but he's not big on the Internets. My most prominent Googlegänger is a famous Canadian poet who's written several books on typography. I work at Adobe, which also has a little something to do with typography, so people often think they're communicating with a more important person. And here's something: my Googlegänger also works as a contractor for Adobe. At least I don't have it as bad as a couple of other Adobe employees whose Googlegängers are named Barry White and Michael Jordan.

wide stance To be hypocritical or to express two conflicting points of view. This is a reference to Larry Craig, a Republican politician who claimed he wasn't coming on to the undercover cop in the adjacent stall -- he just has a wide stance.

toe-tapper A homosexual.

Am I crazy, or are you drinking hard raspberry cider and eating a canadian bacon and pineapple pizza? What are you, a toe-tapper?

No, I just have a wide stance.

bacn Impersonal email such as alerts, newsletters, and automated reminders that are nearly as annoying as spam but which one has chosen to receive.

This is funny because it's so true!!!! (Sorry.)

celebu- prefix Indicates celebrity, as in celebutard.

This is my least favorite word on the list, because I can't stand the -tard suffix. It's the kind of thing that linguotards write.

connectile dysfunction Inability to gain or maintain a connection.

I should market a product for wireless routers called Linksyalis: If your connection lasts longer than four hours, notify your service provider.

wrap rage Anger brought on by the frustration of trying to open a factory-sealed purchase.

I've been doing the iTunes/mp3 thing for the last few years, so it's been a long time since I opened a CD or DVD. Before iTunes, I used to tell Wendy to clear out my schedule for the next hour -- no interruptions or phone calls -- because I had the task of unwrapping a CD on my plate. The shrinkwrap isn't too bad; you can get that off with a buckknife or small hatchet. It's those sticker strips they place at the top and bottom of the CD case. Do they still do that? Whatever, I don't care.

Speaking of iTunes, music industry officials claim that copying music from CDs you've purchased to your computer is considered theft. Amazing. I need to write an open letter to the music industry. By the way, that's a good idea for a blog: Every entry would be an open letter to someone. Dear Ann Coulter: Why the long face? That kind of thing. I'm babbling.

tapafication The tendency of restaurants to serve food in many small portions, similar to tapas.

There should also be a word for the way fancy chefs pile food vertically instead of spreading it around on a plate. Food tower? Cuisinart?

truther Someone who espouses a conspiracy theory about the events of 9/11.

Call me a truther, but there is something fishy about 9/11. For one thing, there is no way that a President of the United States could ever sit and listen to The Pet Goat being read to a school class for more than five minutes after being told the country was under attack. Harry the Dirty Dog, maybe, but The Pet Goat? No way. That's a crazy conspiracy theory.

make it rain To drop paper money on a crowd of people, especially in strip clubs, nightclubs, or casinos.

As a tightwad with serious money spending issues, I don't even have a joke for this.

global weirding An increase in severe or unusual environmental activity often attributed to global warming. This includes freakish weather and new animal migration patterns.

Seattle now has a winter. We're going to need snowplows in a few years.

locavore Someone who eats food that is grown or produced locally.

Good thing my Safeway is local.

vegansexual A person who eats no meat, uses no animal-derived goods, and who prefers not to have sex with non-vegans.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

2008 Leadville Training Log, Part I

It's almost time to start training for Leadville again. Although I won't get excited until I get the confirmation postcard that tells me I've been accepted, I'm still thinking about it. Unfortunately, I've gained 13 pounds (172->185) since I last rode Leadville, so I have to lose that weight plus another five or ten pounds.

What I've Got Going Against Me

I'm a year older. I'll be 46. If I were a black woman in a Neal Pollack story, I'd have great grandchildren by now.

Busy at work. Last year, a big project ended in January, so I had a lot of extra time to train. This year, I'll be in crunch mode during the spring and early summer. I may need to work evenings and weekends for a few stretches, which will cut into my training.

Worse conditions. Last year, I didn't get sick at all during training, and the race conditions were ideal. It's statistically improbable for things to go as well this year.

What I've Got Going For Me This Year

A faster bike. This year, I'm selling The System, which is a sweet full-suspension bike but a heavy on the climbs, which is where I lost a bunch of time. I'm buying Fatty's singlespeed for Utah riding. Does this mean I'm going to do Leadville on a singlespeed? No. I'd just end up pretending I had a nasty crash and couldn't continue due to injury. This year, I'm going to do Leadville on my old Ibis Mojo. It's an experienced bike that's done Leadville a couple of times back in the late 90s. In fact, it still has all the same cables, rings, and brake pads from that same time period. It's broken in.

Better shape to start the season. Last year, I had to make the transition from commuter cycling to race training. I wasn't too successful, as evidenced by the fact that I didn't finish in under 12 hours. Still, in February last year, I wasn't able to ride more than 30 miles without becoming exhausted. I had to build up my mileage way too slowly last year. I wasn't able to ride 50 miles until early June. This year, if all goes well, I'll be able to put in longer rides earlier in the season.

Singlespeed training. When I sell The System, I'm going to buy a singlespeed road bike. That'll freshen up my training regimen. I'm thinking of getting the Specialized Langster Seattle. Thoughts?

The twins are older. Now that Luke and Max are four, I don't feel as guilty about taking off on weekends to do long rides.

Experience. This year, I'll remember how long Columbine is. And I'll take my Advil/Tums concoction the first time I bonk, not five hours into my bonk. And I'll get out of the check points faster.

Assessment and Predictions

If I were to ride Leadville this weekend: DNF

Prediction of Leadville 2008: 11:55