Thursday, February 26, 2009

Inverted Social Pyramids

When I was growing up, I didn't care at all about grades. They didn't matter. Once, with two weeks left in the year, my 6th grade teacher told me that all I needed to do to get an A in Social Studies was to write a one-page report on Mexico. "Isn't that great!" she exclaimed.

I asked her what grade I would get if didn't write the report. When she told me I'd get a B, I said, "That's above average, right? I'll take it!"

I wouldn't even have minded writing a one-page paper on Mexico. I was just so happy with being above average that I wanted to bask in the glow.

I didn't care about being smart, or being perceived as smart. I was a wannabe jock. As the smallest kid in the class, I would have been thrilled to be just make it onto any junior high school sports team.

So one day, I was sitting at a table with a few other kids, including one of the best athletes in the school. His name was Bruno -- I wouldn't make that up. I felt cool for sitting at the same table as him, even if he did make fun of me every now and then. When I heard Bruno say something stupid, I laughed. I can't recall what Bruno said -- maybe he asserted that Arizona was the capital of California, or vice versa, but it was dumb. I said something like, "Man, don't be stupid."

Just then, our teacher came up behind me and said, "Bob, come with me please." I knew I was in trouble -- I'm not stupid, you know -- but I had no idea why I was in trouble. Had I forgotten to turn in a paper?

After shutting the door in a little room behind us, the teacher could barely control his voice. "You NEVER call someone stupid," he said. "How do you think that makes Bruno feel?"

I said nothing. I thought this guy was crazy. Bruno feels great. He's one of the best athletes in school! He dates cheerleaders!

"Well? How would you like it if someone called you 'stupid'?"

Again, I said nothing. Is being called stupid worse than shrimp, or faggot, or punk, or pussy?


"I'm sorry," I stammered.

"That's better. You need to learn to respect other people."

Monday, February 23, 2009

How I Won $28 Betting on the Oscars

Last night we had an Oscar party. Wendy's sister's family is in town this week, and Minette and Andy came over with ballots that everyone could fill out and submit, along with a $5 processing fee that the winner processed. (I call it a processing fee because gambling is illegal, and the Feds have been all over me recently. You don't think I see those helicopters, g-men?)

I wasn't sure I wanted to fill out the predictions for three reasons -- 1) I haven't seen many movies this year, 2) some Oscar nights leave me feeling sick and sad about the movie industry, and 3) I was tired from riding the Chilly Hilly yesterday morning.

Breaking News - Mini Ride Report

I should give a ride report, since it was an official cycling event. The Chilly Hilly is a 33-mile ride with 2,875 feet of elevation gain. To put this in perspective, if each foot of elevation gain were a piece of paper, and if you stacked the papers on top of each other, the stack would nearly be eight inches tall.

I rode from my house to the ferry, and then I rode around the well-marked course on Bainbridge Island, took the ferry back to downtown Seattle, and then rode home. It was a solid ride.

Now, back to the Academy Awards. The tricky thing about the Academy is that no one really knows who belongs to the Academy. Or at least I don't. I have the feeling that quite a few Academy members don't see all the nominated movies. They like leftist causes like the Gay Agenda and Giving a Hand Up to Black People, and they have elitist sensibilities. But above all, they want the financial success that comes from successful Hollywood movies. Oh, and many members of the academy happen to be members of the Jewish community. Did I mention that they don't watch all the movies? That's about all I know.

As I went through the ballot, I used my knowledge of the Academy to make my picks. By the way, has anyone pointed out what a weak year it was in movies? Maybe the worst since the mid-30s. The Dark Knight and Iron Man were good, but they're superhero movies for crying out loud. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was quirky but forgettable. And Slumdog Millionaire? Ugh. I kept whispering to Wendy what was going to happen next, and I was right in every case. ("Pssst. He's not going to guess B." "Psst, the final question will be 'Who's the third muskateer?'") That movie was so predictable, and so unbelievable, and so cheesy, and so violent, that the four of us left the theater without asking, "What did you think?" We stormed halfway back to the car before someone broke the silence with, "I need a shower."

The only reason I watched Slumdog was because it was supposed to dominate the Academy Awards. You'd think I would have learned by now that dominating the Academy Awards doesn't mean a movie's great, or even good. Crash and The English Patient won Academy Awards. Try staying awake through either of those movies.

Predicting the main awards is pretty simple. I go by buzz and some simple logic. Meryl Streep is a fine actress, but it's really time to celebrate Kate Winslet. Sean Penn just won the award a couple years ago, so Mickey Rourke has a better chance to win. Needless to say, I'm not always right. It's difficult to predict what the scatterbrained Academy is going to do.

Predicting the smaller awards is even more difficult. I don't know what the difference is between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, and neither do members of the Academy. For the foreign movies and short movies, which neither I nor the Academy members have seen, I go through a simple process. Are any movies about the Holocaust? If yes, vote for it. If the movie is not about the Holocaust, pick the Frenchiest sounding movie, because the French make fine wine, fine food, and fine movies.

In our little contest, we agreed to have a weighted scale. Best Picture is worth 3 points, Best Actor, Actress, Director, Cinematography, and a few others are worth 2 points. The rest of the awards like sound and foreign short are worth 1 point.

Early on, I took a 1-point lead over Minette, with Andy and Wendy following close behind. Kim appeared to make random guesses, and Michael apparently filled in write-in ballots, so they fell behind. Then Minette went on a roll. She got both of the Sound awards right while I got them wrong, and for some Short Film category, I picked a French movie while she picked a German movie. During the announcements, when it became apparent that the German movie was about the Holocaust, I cursed and Minette pumped her fist. She took a two-point lead.

I narrowed the gap back to a point by picking the right Slumdog song to win -- have I mentioned what a predictable and cheesy movie that was? -- and since Minette and I made the same guesses for Movie, Director, and Actor, it all came down to Kate Winslet. If she won, I won. If she lost, Minette won.

This year, instead of having one or two presenters, they decided to have five presenters, each one of whom spoke directly to one of the candidates. This was so painfully self-indulgent that I wanted to start doing the dishes. Still, I somehow managed to stay put through all the schmaltz. "Meryl Streep, you're a shining beacon unto all yada yada yada." I wondered what would happen if one of the presenters gave a real critique. "Ms. Hathaway, you're a fine actress, but you look too much like a cricket to win this award."

And the Oscar goes to . . . Kate Winslet!!! I fist-pumped my chest twice and pointed towards the ceiling. Mad props, Big Guy. I owe it all to You.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Power-Packed Post

As the title of this web log entry points out, I have much to discuss today. Instead of talking about the whys and wherefores of this purported flurry of information dissemination, I've decided to avoid talking about it altogether. Indeed, any further discussion of this point would be anathema to my claim. In short, I shall proceed and continue to address two important issues.

Item 1 - Owl Puke

Max recently showed Minette a book on owl puke. Max's favorite animal is the owl, whereas Luke seems to favor the penguin. Although it's difficult to assess their favorites, because both boys have now taken to giving Wendy and me each a penguin in the morning when they come into our bedroom.

Max climbs into bed, taps me on the shoulder whether or not I'm awake, and says, "Daddy, here's your stuffed aminal." I then take the stuffed animal, which is a penguin wearing a Santa hat, and pretend to enjoy sleeping next to it.

Luke, who started the ritual, varies in his delivery method. Sometimes he simply lays the animal (a non-Santa penguin) next to me, sometimes he wakes me up and hands it to me, and every now and then he throws it at my face. Top o' the mornin' to ya!

But I was talking about owls. When Minette saw this Owl Puke book of Max's, she decided an adventure was in order. She and Andy went down to Lincoln Park and foraged for owl pellets under the trees where she'd seen owls. She then brought these owl pellets over to our house, and invited all of us to participate.

Please humor me if you already know what an owl pellet is, but I just learned myself. When an owl eats something like a rodent, the food remains in the gullet for a time while the owl's innards extract the meat that it can process. Once that process (pronounced PRO-sess in Canada) is complete, the owl then throws up the equivalent of a hairball. A biologist or naturalist then scoops up the pellet and finds someone else's home to unwrap everything. That's because owl pellets smell worse than owl feces.

The boys were fascinated by the unveiling of bones and skulls. See Minette's Flickr page for details. (If you're reading this some time after February 21, the first photo in the series is here.)

Item 2 - This Goes to 11 Again

Vanity Fair has a great interview with the keys members of Spinal Tap. Here's my favorite part:

Tufnel: Their breakup has been great for us, because I’ve seen him a bit more. My interests have changed. I’ve been breeding miniature horses. The very small ones, even smaller than the Mongolian horses, it turns out. And trying to find a business venture where I would race them. But I’m trying to find jockeys that are basically 26, 28 inches tall—and that’s been a problem, actually.

How about the dwarves from the “Stonehenge” setup?

Tufnel: They’re way too big.… I don’t know the answer, but I was captivated by these little horses, they’re so sweet. They don’t run terribly fast … but from an environmental standpoint it’s great, because they’re using less of everything.

Derek Smalls: Well, it’s less horseshit.

Tufnel: Less horseshit. Less grass in the infield … Less dirt. Saddles are smaller—less leather. Less money, it turns out, because no one actually wants to see it. Less interest. It’s a less is more.

I make an end.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Non-Leadville Update

This year, I did not enter Leadville. It's been too time-consuming for me to get into racing shape the last couple of years, and since I finished in under 12 hours this last year, I thought good riddance.

Now I regret that decision.

For one thing, I now weigh 194 pounds. To put that in perspective, I weighed 168 pounds at Leadville last year. The tricky thing is to determine what percentage of that weight gain is fat versus muscle. Since I haven't been swimming, lifting weights, or doing any physical exercise other than riding my bike slowly into work a few days a week, it's fairly safe to say that of those 26 pounds, approximately 100% is fat.

The scary thing is that I haven't been eating that bad in January and February. At the end of last year, I used to eat these huge apple fritters 3 or 4 times a week. I justified it by saying, "I don't care if eating these things costs me 10 years of my life. They're yummy!"

OK, now I recall that I often have second and third helpings of dinner, and I graze all evening long. We also got a bread-maker for Christmas. If I'm given a last supper, bread with butter and honey would definitely be part of it. In fact, last night I ate so much bread and pizza that I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I needed to throw up. But please don't think of me as a glutton. Greed and gluttony aren't really sins anymore.

What I'm saying is that I need motivation to get in shape. The mirror obviously isn't working as a deterrent. I'm still sexy as hell. I need Leadville.

Since I can't do Leadville this year, I need to find something else. I thought about triathlons, but my knee hurts too much to run, and swimming at the YMCA is a drag. So what can be my carrot?

I'm going to try to get into RAMROD (Ride Around Mount Rainier [in] One Day). If I get in, I'll change this blog title to "Bob's RAMROD." If I don't get in, I'll change it to "Bob's Failed RAMROD."

So that's all I have to say about that.