Saturday, December 31, 2005

The 2005 Esqys

Everyone else makes a list at the end of a year...why not me? The following is a list of awards I am presenting to myself, covering the best and worst of the closing year. I'm an odds-on favorite in most categories.

Best purchase of 2005 = my iPod shuffle. It has made commuting not only bearable, but downright funky at times.

Runner up = our new Apple computer (purchased shortly after we realized our old computer was three operating systems behind the minimum needed to work an iPod...geesh...)

Best trip of 2005 = our anniversary weekend in Calistoga (which, as of today, is under like 6 feet of water...guess we shouldn't have sacrificed all of those goats to Baal).

Best book I read this year = Beasts of No Nation, by Uzodinma Iweala. Powerful, horrifying, and fast-paced all at the same time; I could not put this book down, even though certain passages made me want to cry.

Best new habit = running (even though I haven't been going as often as I should)

Second best new habit = haircuts (even though I haven't been going as often as I should)

Most fun/potentially troubling new habit = online poker (so far, I am only playing the free far...)

What should probably be considered my best new habit = working again.

Lifetime Achievement Award = George Lucas. No series of movies has impacted my life more than the Star Wars saga, and by wrapping up the series in a (mostly) satisfactory fashion this past summer, I can now look forward to finding something else to occupy my downtime. TK421, why aren't you at your post?

Hope 2005 was a good year for you; it was a banner year for me. See you in 2006, and remember to nominate your favorites for next year's awards!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Hundreds of fools and their money...

If only the internet had been around when I was in undergrad, I could have done this to pay for college instead of all those pesky part-time jobs, grants, and student loans. Here's the page itself, if you want to take a look...I have to admit, pretty clever.

By the way, I am proud to report that, as 2005 comes to an end, so do those pesky undergrad student loans! With today's paycheck, I will make my final payment to Sallie Mae and officially close out my account with them for the loans that helped propel me through EKU (in conjunction with the aforementioned jobs and grants). I was on the ten year payment plan, and did it in a little over six, thus depriving SM of at least a little of their hoped-for interest. It couldn't have happened to nicer people.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Feliz Navidad!

Had a wonderful brunch this morning; all the fun of eating with good friends, and no one had to cook or clean up. Doesn't get much better than that.

While we were sitting there, laughing and talking, I was reminded of something that happened a few weeks ago coming home on the train. A woman was wondering where to get off to go to the new De Young, so she asks...the homeless guy. Not a lot of transit experience, I'm guessing. Anyway, this guy not only tells her (accurately) how to get to the De Young, but how to get to other SF museums, when they are open for free, how he has been going to them since he was a kid, and speaking of when he was a kid, how he raised a rooster as a young boy, and how it was a very pretty rooster, even though it liked to get the idea. This went on for an uncomfortable twenty minutes or so.

Eventually, the lady got off at her stop, and so the homeless guy's attention me. It was tough to avoid him, so I nodded politely, throwing in an occasional small comment ("It liked to mentioned that, yes"), until he finally got to his stop. As he exited the train, he stopped, looked at me, and said, "Thank you for talking to me...most people just ignore me."

It was a good reminder to me of just how lucky I am; I have regular, meaningful human contact with people I love and care about, something I take for granted occasionally, but something a lot of people simply don't have.

I hope you had a nice holiday weekend, and I hope you had a chance to spend it with people you love.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

You can't handle the truth!

I had my first full-blown trial yesterday: entering evidence, cross-examining witnesses, objections, the whole thing. Very cool. The judge ruled the way I wanted her to (in dependency law, I don't think there are usually "winners"), and I think I did a good job. Definitely learned a lot as well, not only about opposing counsel and the judge (both filed away for the future), but about my own style and areas I need to brush up on (my objections weren't as smooth as I would like them to be).

Unfortunatley, unlike my Moot Court experience, I did not have the opportunity to work Phil Hartman's Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer character into my closing argument. Maybe next time.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Not bad!

Yesterday morning I completed the Run to the Far Side 5K. I was pretty pleased with my results; my time wasn't great, but I wasn't really out to break any records, anyway. I was happy because I ran the first whole mile, walked the second, and then "ran" (read: jogged slightly faster than a walk) the third mile to the end. Considering my normal running routine is one mile, I was a little worried I wouldn't be able to run much past the first, but taking the second mile to catch my breath (and allow my shins to stop burning) was a good idea. Very cool.

There were photographers shooting everyone at the finish line; they email you based on your bib number and ask you to buy copies. I saw them as I approached the finish, and tried for an appropriate "determined but not in too much pain" look on my face. I think I pulled it off, but all the people walking in the background may give me away. If I get a picture, I will ask my friend Jen how to post it on this blog.

Three miles down...many more to go...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Torture, not dissent, is unAmerican

I don't put a lot of political thoughts on this site, but this article, written by John McCain and outlining his thoughts on why it goes against what America is supposed to stand for if we allow the use of torture on our prisoners, should be required reading for everyone, especially that handful of old men who temporarily run our country and dare to call dissent or political dialog unpatriotic. One of their own finally says something I can (mostly) agree with.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Three cavities! (alt. title: No sympathy, no doubt)

Went to the dentist today for the first time in [mumble], and I was shocked to learn I have THREE CAVITIES! For those of you in the real world, this may seem like nothing, but you have to know something about me: I am in my 30s now, and I have NEVER HAD A CAVITY BEFORE. When the doctor brought in my X-rays, he asked me, "Where are your fillings?" I took it as a note of pride that my teeth were au naturel in their little photos, but then after my cleaning (btw, the sonic thing they use is much better than I remember from my last visit to the dentist), he dropped the bomb on me. Damn.

Anyway, other than that, things look good in my mouth, in case you were wondering. If you see me soon, ask to take a look; showings are every hour on the hour.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005 arrived in Secaucus!

Is there a nerdier (and yet, for some reason for me right now, more satisfying) pleasure than my recent obsession with package tracking? Probably not, but if there is, let me know, because I'm a man who loves watching packages move across this humongous nation of ours.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Some men are born great...

Saw a fantastic version of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night last evening; the best part was that it was performed in American Sign Language. It really added a new dimension to the performance: the actors on stage signed the play, while voice actors off stage verbalized the dialog. The result was that Shakespeare, normally an oral experience with word play, also became a visual experience as the word play was both seen and heard. Truly amazing, and honestly made Shakespeare more exciting and accessible. Highly recommended!

One of the coolest parts was seeing the reaction of the deaf audience; they were enthralled, and it occurred to me that they probably don't have the chance to "see" Shakespeare that often. I loved applauding in ASL; it's a lot like jazz hands...and who doesn't love jazz hands?

Monday, October 31, 2005

Southwest Sychology

If you have flown Southwest Airlines, you know they do seating on a first-come-first-served basis...sort of. Actually, they break passengers into four groups: preboard, and then A, B, and C, and have handy "line markers" outside of every gate so you know where you will line up according to the letter on your boarding pass.

And that's where the fun begins. I have flown SWA a few times now, and I am always fascinated at the human nature on display when it comes to lines. There are always the Line Nazis, the people that want to line up as early as possible. These people annoy me because they start the whole problem of having to line up as early as possible, rather than getting to stay seated. Then there are the Line Breakers, people who line up, but intentionally do it in a non-linear fashion (say, off to the side, or stay seated but put their luggage in...not cool in today's airports). These people are even more annoying, because they are really Line Nazis in disguise, just not as honest: their place in line matters, but they go out of their way to make it look like they don't care. The final group, the Line Wanderers, actually fall into two sub-categories: the Confused, who either have never flown SWA before, or have never entered human society before and have therefore never stood in line, and so wait until the flight is called, then obliviously stroll to the front of the line, freaking out the Nazis and outing the Breakers, who get just as pissed. Then there's the Refusniks, who stay seated and pretend not to see the line, or make fun of the line, and just sigh, roll their eyes, and get at the end of the line when it's their turn.

The next time you fly, try's as close to a legal Skinner Box as you'll probably get these days.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Wow, that's...different...

So I got a letter in the interoffice mail yesterday from my boss boss (not my office boss, her boss); a little nerve wracking, I suppose. Still, I think I've been doing a good job, so no worries, right?

Inside, it says I'm getting a raise. Turns out that during my two-year probationary period, I get a performance review every six months. If I am doing poorly, they can fire me. If I am doing well, they say nice things to me and give me more money. Huh.

Being a former classroom teacher, I was completely unprepared for this. It's bad enough I still don't have the hang of taking vacation time, but now you're giving me more money?


Monday, October 24, 2005

Netflix: My savior

I know that it is becoming cliche to talk about why people aren't going to the movies anymore, but I must add myself to that list. I don't want to lock myself up at home and avoid human contact, but I do want to avoid the humans I ran into at the movies yesterday.

We went to see A History of Violence (btw, good movie...not great, but good) at the Century 20 in Daly City. Maybe I should have expected it at a megaplex, maybe I should have expected it on a Sunday afternoon, maybe I should have expected it in Daly City, but the whole experience was just awful. People walking around, talking in normal volume, cell phones going off, and worst of all, people "theater hopping" (i.e. walking into various theaters, watching for 10-15 minutes, then moving on). I had no idea your ticket price allows you to be a nomad for the afternoon, watching a little bit of everything. I guess the high ticket prices reflect this movie-buffet-all-you-can-watch mentality.

So I move one step closer to hermitage. Time to update my queue.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Just a taste

I was alternately thrilled and disappointed with ESPN's decision to broadcast a portion of Midnight Madness last Friday: excited to see the Wildcats break the attendance record, disappointed that it was used by ESPN as an infomercial for their new ESPNU channel. Jerks.

Still, fun to see college basketball again, although when the commentators were talking about UK's big wins last season, I notice they didn't mention the first round squeaker against my beloved Colonels? They're scared, I tells ya! Scared!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

I looked in the trap, Ray

Tried a new haircutter today (there are literally at least six different places within a few blocks of my house, so figured I shouldn't lock myself in at the beginning of my new hobby), and it was very nice. Nothing against the guy who sheared me last time, but there was something this time he couldn't offer, and it is best explained by paraphrasing from the movie Ghostbusters:

When the hot asian girl asks you if you want to go to the back for a "rinse off," you say, "Yes!"

Before you get concerned about my marriage, it was just that: she rinsed my head. Still, a nice touch, and one that will keep me going back. Just don't tell my wife.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

In a world...

Tired of shmaltzy movie trailers? Tired of shmaltzy movie trailers that look exactly like every other shmaltzy movie trailer? So was whoever made this.

[since I got the link from one Alabama friend, I thought it only fitting to get the title of this post from another Alabama friend]

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Feels like the first time

Last night, we went to the opera for the first time. It was an interesting choice for a first opera: the very modern, world-premiere production of Doctor Atomic. The site sums it up better than I can, but in short, it is set in 1945 New Mexico as scientists race to build, test, and possibly use the first atomic weapon. The plot centers around the moral issues involved in building the weapon, its use on other humans, and the genuine fear of simply not really knowing what it would actually do (the opera makes reference to a theory that it could have potentially ignited the atmosphere, literally killing the world).

We were invited as guests of the director (felt semi-important for a minute there!) to the final dress rehearsal, so there were producers scurrying around throughout the performance, checking light and sound levels, making copious notes, and generally taking me out of the moment. The music is amazing: it is beautiful and soft one moment, then discordant and angry the next. Many of the vocalists were clearly not going "full volume" for the final dress, so it was tough to understand them sometimes, but Gerald Finley, in the role of Robert Oppenheimer, was outstanding.

We are thinking that we now need to go see something a little more classical before we make our final judgment on whether we can be "opera people," but this was certainly a fascinating introduction.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

I see London, I see France...

Today was an example of bad planning turning into some fun. We thought about going downtown to test-drive a car, and hopped on the train. As the stops went by, more and more people wearing leather and little else were getting on. Pretty sure that there wasn't a Village People reunion concert going on, we started to realize that the odds of driving anywhere downtown were nil: it was Folsom Street Fair weekend, and that means several blocks of downtown shut down for the leather-and-chain clad masses.

Or I should say, leather-and-chain clad masses if you are lucky. To get your ticket/sticker to enter, you have to walk past the "No Nudity" sign to the topless girl selling the stickers. Ahem. Once past the ticket booth, it was literally anything goes: I can't even imagine the level of self-confidence involved in walking around wearing nothing but a leather hat, shackles, and flip-flops, but there were dozens of people who could clearly answer that question. I think my favorite part was seeing the line of people waiting to get spanked for a donation of at least $5 to a Hurricane Katrina relief fund. I love this city.

Didn't get to test drive the car due to the street closures, but certainly didn't go away bored! We also found this cool Spanish restaurant that had amazing tapas and some of the best sangria we've had in a long while. It's cool to eat the fruit out of the wine glass, right?

Good afternoon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Litter or recycling?

I have been watching an interesting phenomenon on the train recently: people littering, and doing so completely free of guilt. Here's what they do: as they finish a section of the newspaper, they fold it up, and drop it on the floor under their seat. I have seen this happen a few times, and finally asked this guy who had just dropped the financial section of the Chronicle under a BART seat. His response: he was leaving it for someone else to read. I asked him if he got it off the floor originally, and he said no. So I asked the next Larry David-esque question: would you ever pick up a newspaper off the floor of the train? He looked at me like I was being a jerk (he was partially right, in that I broke a cardinal rule of transit ettiquette: don't speak. However, I really did wonder if he would), and then got off at his stop without answering.


Monday, September 19, 2005

Devil's haircut

Yesterday, I did something I haven't done in close to fifteen years: I got a haircut. If you know me, you know that during this past decade and a half, my hairstyles have been variations on the same theme: something that I could do at home with my own set of clippers. Therefore, I invested in a $20 set of clippers lo those many years ago, and have been cutting my own hair since.

Why the change, you ask? Not sure I could tell you exactly. Part of it deals with our bathroom: there is only one outlet, and it is so old that the plug falls out, meaning I have to hold the plug in with one hand while I cut with the other. Awkward, to say the least. Related to that is the idea then of where I have to cut my own hair: I usually did it in the shower (always a good idea to take an electric device into the shower, kids!), but due to the outlet, I was cutting it over the sink, which was just messy and annoying. Honestly, though, I think I was also just tired of cutting my own damn hair.

So the streak is over. I paid $10 (outrageous!) for the cut at a little salon down the street, which was far better than the $18 (scandalous!) the barber shop next door wanted. And, I have to admit, it was nice. No clean up, nice and neat, even the neck looks good.

Might have to go back before 2020.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Sex shy, take two

So last night, I watched the movie Kinsey, figuring that since I had just finished reading the below-reviewed book, I would compare it with another fictionalized version of Prok's life. It should be noted that the movie is told from Kinsey's point of view, whereas the book was from the POV of one of his interviewers.

There were a lot of similarities, but the most striking difference was the portrayal of Kinsey himself. In the movie, Prok is shown as a more compassionate person, laughing, understanding that love is important, struggling with his father, etc. In the book, the opposite was true: Prok was a domineering, overbearing taskmaster who drove his team and all those around him with imperious precision.

I don't know which is true, or if the real man (as is probably often the case) was a combination of both, but one scene that occurs in both the book and movie was very telling: Kinsey having sex with his male researcher. In the book, Kinsey is clearly the aggressor, beginning choreographing, and guiding the affair from the beginning as sort of a "test" to see if indeed the young interviewer will be effective and not "sex shy." However, the movie plays the same scene very differently: Kinsey is hit on by his interviewer, and is shown to go along , albeit somewhat reluctantly, with the young man's advances.

Is it an important distinction? My guess is that there was an actual affair between the two men. However, for the movie version, I'm guessing the producers felt that the idea of their leading man Liam Neeson seducing a younger man may have been too much for the audience? Ironic, given the subject matter and content of the film, and an unfortunately short-sighted decision, given what Kinsey himself was trying to promote.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Sex shy

Just finished The Inner Circle, T.C. Boyle's fictionalization of Dr. Kinsey and the beginnings of the Kinsey Institute in the 1940s. Interesting read, and I liked the writer's choice to mirror Kinsey's own research style; this novel is all about sex research, and yet the sex described is clinical, detached, and devoid of any excitement or romance. In my opinion, Boyle made a distinct choice to write a flat, passionless (dare I say flaccid?) book to show the main flaw with Kinsey's own research: sex is more than statistics and fluids, it's about excitement and raw emotions. It made the book annoying to read at times, but it was an interesting stylistic choice.

Good read, although I'll admit sometimes I wondered if anyone was reading over my shoulder and what they thought of me. Then I wondered what Kinsey would have thought of me getting embarrassed about what other people thought of me. Then, to quote Kevin Nealon, suddenly I lost interest. I'll give it a solid B: good read, interesting subject, great style choice by the writer.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Food affair?

I got home very late last night, and was both ravenously hungry and so tired I couldn't imagine cooking. So I picked up some Thai take-out and was walking home...when I ran into Mr. Ha, owner of our favorite Chinese restaurant on the block. He looked down, saw the take out bags that clearly were from some other establishment, looked up at me, and (this could have been my overactive imagination) I could have sworn I saw a brief look of disappointment flit across his face before he smiled and we engaged in small talk, all the while completely ignoring the small pink bag I was carrying.

I felt a little dirty, and wanted to reassure him that it was a one-time thing, that their pad thai meant nothing to me, and that I would always love his basil chicken in the future, first and foremost. But it all went unsaid.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

What video games say about my mood

If you are curious, my Xbox game du jour is Destroy All Humans!, a fun-filled romp through 1950's America trying to...well, to do exactly what the title suggests. No false advertising for this one.

Not sure I like what this says about where my head is at recently, but I guess it's better to take out my frustrations on pixels and bits than on my idiot neighbors or the moron who keeps parking in front of my driveway.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Yabba Dabba Doofus

We bought an iPod this weekend; if you look at your calendar, you will notice that we are about two years behind the trend, which is actually pretty fast for us. Our only far right tendencies are our position on the bell curve when it comes to keeping up with current technology (we still use dial-up, we got our first DVD player last December, etc.).

In the past, it hasn't been that big of a deal. But then we brought our new little toy home...and got stopped cold. It turns out that our Windows operating system is two systems behind the minimum needed to operate an iPod, our USB port is too slow, etc. I asked the pterodactyl inside the hard drive for help, but couldn't hear his answer over the wooly mammoth vacuum cleaner.

BTW, in case you were wondering, yes, I felt very old just buying the damn thing. Even the bag made me feel bad; it is designed to be worn like a backpack, unless you look like me. Then it is designed to be carried awkwardly in both hands, like a combination of nuclear waste and a present for the grandkids.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Get ur Freak on...

I don't review many books on this blog, but I should, so I thought I'd start with a book I finished on the train yesterday. Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, is an odd ride through the correlation between seemingly unconnected events in our world. I was impressed that they even tried to connect the dots between things as (seemingly) disparate as Roe v. Wade's impact on crime years later, and while I think they jump to several unsubstantiated conclusions with the greatest of ease, I enjoyed the writing style and moved through it quickly. I will share also that there is little to no "hard" economics, so if you are a math-phobe like me, you'll be just fine.

Since I'm an ex-teacher, I'll go with grades: I give this book a solid B for being thought provoking and entertaining, if a little quick to make assumptions. Good effort.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The City of Pride and Purpose

I went to visit a client in Richmond yesterday, lately of Coach Carter fame. In the 15-20 minutes it took to drive off the highway and to my client's house, I witnessed the following:

  1. A large fight down a side street, which looked like it involved at least five young men, arms and legs swinging.
  2. An almost-fight at the gas station, in which the gentleman in front of me and the cashier got into a huge profanity-laden argument, resulting in the cashier coming out of his bullet-proof booth with a baseball bat, and the gentleman in front of me reaching into his jacket, but then apologizing to me and the two small children behind me in line, turning, and leaving. [cue release of breath]
  3. Four loud pops in succession (which I am trying hard to pretend were firecrackers), followed a few minutes later by four racing Richmond police cars, three of which pulled into a housing unit, leaving the fourth to park across the entranceway, so no one could get in or out.

When I was in the gas station, the little kids helped me pick out a Vitamin Water (they said I should buy the Formula 50, because Fifty Cent [or, as I call him, "Fiddy"] advertises it). They were adorable, and very pleased that I made the right choice (btw, Fiddy makes a pretty good drink). I thought of them when I got back on the highway later and realized that I got to leave. They have to live there.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Big Rake

We went to Vegas last weekend to celebrate a good friend's birthday, and we also managed to play in a poker tournament at the Luxor. Fantastic! The low-down:

It was a "freeze out" tournament, which means once you bought in, you played until you ran out of chips, and then you're out: no re-buys, no do-overs. For $33 in real money, each player received $350 in "poker" chips, meaningless blank chips you couldn't walk out with and cash in anywhere. We started with around 120 players (9 tables, 12 people per table, plus a lot of "alternates" who filled in the first openings as people went out in the first round).

I did well: made it to somewhere in the top 20, down to three half-full tables, but didn't get into the money (you had to make 7th and up for $). The star of the show, however, was my amazing wife, who was down to her last two chips, and then went on an "all-in" explosion, winning the next four hands and knocking out about 7 players in the process. She not only made the final table, she not only made top 7, she knocked out several more players and eventually went "heads up" against the only other player, eventually losing out on a final all-in.

Very exciting stuff! The Big Rake proves her Vegas dominance (2nd Vegas tournament, 2nd final table) once again, and wins enough money to make our new dining room table a reality! WSOP, here we come!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Safeway sociological experiment

I have been shopping at the same Safeway grocery store for the past 3+ years. Yesterday, I inadvertently conducted an experiment. My data:

Normal shopping experience (the "control," right?) :
  • Time: usually Saturday AM
  • Wearing: t-shirt and jeans
  • Buying: same old stuff
  • Employee reaction: over the years, I usually am greeted upon entering, but am otherwise ignored. Also, in all of this time, I think I have NOT bagged my own groceries maybe twice (even though there are actual baggers working).

Yesterday's shopping experience:

  • Time: Tuesday PM
  • Wearing: navy pinstripe suit, blue dress shirt, blue/lavender tie (came straight from work)
  • Buying: same old stuff
  • Employee reaction: I was greeted several times, asked by five different employees if I "needed any help finding everything," and was additionally asked by four different employees if they could "help me." At checkout, a bagger not only left a different lane to bag my groceries, but I was additionally asked by two other baggers if I needed help out to my car.

Conclusion: might not be worth the dry-cleaning bill, but dressing up for the grocery store certainly get results!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Why I hate Suburban Dad

As I head into my second month of the new job, I am realizing that the length of my commute home has little to do with train schedules, possible BART strikes, or weather, but instead one overriding factor: is there a Giants game tonight? Because if there is, Suburban Dad is going to slow me down.

Suburban Dad never takes transit, instead driving to work in his SUV and paying for parking. Suburban Dad, therefore, has no "commuter courtesy." What this means is that Suburban Dad, riding BART for the first time with Bored Wife and Anxious Kids (all in matching brand-new Giants hats they picked up at the mall), likes to stand in the middle of the train platform and stare at the map, too afraid to ask for help or directions, but apparently not afraid to block the way for others who know where they are going. Suburban Dad stands in the middle of the escalator, because it's a ride, right? Suburban Dad assumes everybody else is going to the baseball game and not trying to go home, and so stands in front of the turnstyle, fumbling for his unused ticket, instead of standing aside so people can get past him.

In short, Suburban Dad is a jerk and a nuisance, but worst of all, Suburban Dad doesn't know that he's a jerk and a nuisance because he's too self-absorbed to turn his head slightly to the left and realize there are other people on the train with him, people who don't give a rat's ass that he's using the firm's tickets with his family instead of clients for the first time in years.

Not that I'm irritated or anything...

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The last lesson my father taught me

I buried my father last week. He was 62. I shouldn't need a wake up call to get in better shape, but this is certainly a loud one.

The last meaningful conversation we had was when we both flew to California for my grandfather's/his father's funeral in 1998. We met on the porch the night I got into town, did that awkward hug/slap on the back that men do, and then sat down and actually talked for the first time in several years. He shared with me that he had never been close to his father, that they too hadn't spoken in years, that they were friendly, but never friends. He told me he was hesitant to speak at his father's funeral because he really didn't feel like he knew him very well, and didn't want to dishonor his father's memory nor embarrass himself with a lack of information. Then he paused, and for the first time that evening actually looked me in the eyes. I thought, it comes. My dad is going to let his guard down, speak to me as an equal rather than a subordinate, and admit that he was sorry that we had perpetuated the cycle. Then I could do the same. He opened his mouth and said, "Well, good to see you, we should go to bed." That was the last time we spoke.

At the time I was angry at the perceived irony and hypocrisy, but I am starting to wonder if that was as close as he could come to admitting he had been wrong, and that I probably should have taken the lead and admitted my share of the guilt as well. That never happened, and now never will.

Sorry for the heavy note heading into Father's Day this weekend, but if your dad is still around, please, learn from our mistakes.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


Well, the first week at the new job is over, just in time for a three-day weekend...and I am exhausted! I think a lot of it is going to be just getting into the flow of waking up early and getting into a schedule again, but it is already almost 11:30 this morning, and I have barely managed to keep my eyes open long enough to clothe and feed myself. Sad.

This week has also highlighted my turn to the Dark Side, my willing obeisance to my Dark Lord, the coffee bean. So far, I haven't fallen into the trap of the afternoon cup, but I need a couple cups in the morning if I have any chance of making it to noon, let alone the end of the day. I tried going a day without, and the slicing headache that ensued brought me back in line and reminded me who's boss.

What is your bidding, my master?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Happy Birthday, Gluttony!

Today, our good friend celebrates his 100th birthday, and due to the exceedingly fickle American consumer's obsession with the concept of newer-is-better, he doesn't look a day over 3. At least, the parts of him I visit.

Sorry we couldn't be there to celebrate with you, old friend. Hope you got our card and gift certificate to the Olive Garden, and here's to our neon-bright future together!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

New spring outfit

My friend Jen updated the look and feel of her blog; very cool, and since this site is listed in her links, I think the least I can do is divert your attention her way.

By the way, I am not sure if the "565" in the upper left corner is some sort of counter, just there to look cool, or some DaVinci Code-esque clue that will unlock the secrets of the Sacred Feminine (i.e. my code name for that group of 40ish women I used to teach with who always wore shiny jogging suits). Take your pick.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Regis and his Cruise to Hell

If you are into this sort of thing, below are the five clues you need to enter the Cruisin' Reunion contest on Live with Regis and Kelly. If you win, you and your 19 closest friends and family members go on a week-long cruise with thousands of other families...and Regis. I guess they needed one more cranky old person on a cruise ship...?

Anyway, here are the clues:
  1. Horn
  2. Button
  3. Relly
  4. Sing
  5. Surprise
I am not sure I know 19 other people, family or otherwise, I would want to spend a week with on a ship. For that matter, I am not sure I know 19 other people I'd want to invite on vacation with me one at a time. If you win, have fun...but I'm busy that week.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Viva el Cinco de Mayo!

When I see all the Corona and margarita ads on television this time of year, I wonder if Mexican-Americans get irritated that Cinco de Mayo, as celebrated here, is more about drinking than about history .

I feel the same way about St. Patrick's Day, my brothers...mi hermanos. Stay strong.

Monday, May 02, 2005

My civic duty...finally...

I have been unemployed for a long time. Depending on your point of view, it has been either five months, a year, or four long years. I prefer the first option, but that is still a l o n g time.

So imagine my ironic chuckle (no, it was a little louder than that) when, last week, I got a notice for jury duty starting May 23...the Monday I start my new job! Funny, sad, a chance to make $15 a day; take your pick.

Anyway, I just got off the phone with them, and they have an option to serve early. I am not doing much for the next couple weeks, so why not? Maybe they'll even pick me; it would be interesting to see the view from the box. If you're downtown Monday afternoon, I'll see you then!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Corny poker jokes

This one came out at our game this weekend; really more of a number joke than a poker joke, but having an 8 on the board will provide a nice visual (especially helpful for those players who have been imbibing fermented beverages):

What did the 0 say to the 8?

Nice belt. [rimshot]

If you have others, send them my way...I need more help distracting people while I play terrible, terrible hands for no explicable reason. Oy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

They have a POOL!

An old friend's blog turned me on to Google Maps, and I haven't decided if satellite imagery on demand is one of the coolest things I have found recently on the internet, or one of the creepiest. Either way, it is a LOT of fun!

I put in my old childhood address, and it turns out that whoever lives there now has a pool! Good for them; those hot Cleveland nights just begged for a pool, somewhere to sit and relax and watch the sun go down, the industrial wastes in the sky turning amazing shades of orange and that's why I have asthma!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Super Sizing my viewing habits

I watch way too much television. You already know this about me. What you may not know is that I am rarely excited about an upcoming television show due to its premise. I'm normally a stickler for deep characters, well-crafted plots, and believable dialog. That, or The Apprentice.

But an upcoming show is exciting me on premise alone: 30 Days, a new series on FX starring Morgan Spurlock (of Super Size Me fame). I thought his documentary was fantastic, and a must-see for everybody regardless of how you feel about McDonald's. I especially think his movie is a must for anybody who (like me) read and enjoyed Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser. Spurlock's movie covers some of the same ground, but in a much more personal, here's-what-happened-to-me-make-your-own-decisions kind of way. (BTW, if you want a great example of the different styles of the two guys, make sure to watch Spurlock's interview with Schlosser in the DVD's extras; Schlosser never dismounts from his high horse during the interview, and apparently had his sense of humor removed one summer during high school).

One more television show added to the list. Where does the madness end?

Monday, April 04, 2005

"My Man Sean May"

If you doubt the veracity of this, ask my wife. In between rolling her eyes, she will confirm that, since November of last year, I have been saying two things:

  1. North Carolina will win the NCAA tournament this year, AND
  2. It will be on the shoulders of my man, Sean May!
A few minutes ago, both of my predictions came true. And although it wasn't quite enough to vault me into the winner's circle in our brackets pool, I am happy nonetheless. I have been excited about watching May (or "My Man Sean May," as I have called him for two seasons now, although much more this year) throughout the tournament, and there is no question he was the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. I was also pleased that, as much as was made about my man Sean May's father, dad managed to hide from the cameras and let this be his son's (my man's) one shining moment. Classy.

If only this could have been a Tar Heel/EKU Colonel final matchup, but it wasn't meant to be. Maybe next year.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

You got your childhood toys in my childhood fantasies...

How could this game not be fun?

Seriously, I'm asking you.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

11:36 to go

Well, I guess it was better than I could have hoped: due to geographic programming decisions, my local CBS station just switched over to the Pacific/Pittsburgh match, meaning I only got to watch a little over eight minutes of my EKU Colonels against the Kentucky Wildcats.

Still, got to see that much, and what I saw looked pretty good. Hopefully, they will continue to play the Cats tight, which could lead to positive national coverage, which could lead to higher levels of recruiting, which means it won't be another twenty six years before the Colonels dance again!

Monday, March 14, 2005

...Now I am the Master!

I use Darth Vader's line to highlight my intense excitement over the UK/EKU matchup in the first round of the NCAA Championships. Based on my very limited understanding of the RPI, I knew my Colonels would get a 15 seed at best, and with it their chances for national exposure were slim to none.

Until now.

Now, though, the drama is palpable, and the story writes itself: Travis Ford, now coach of the upstart Colonels, faces his mentor Tubby Smith, coach of Ford's alma mater and the team Ford went with to the Big Dance. Two Kentucky schools, less than 30 miles apart, one a national powerhouse who has recently been struggling; the other, a small school whose program has gotten stronger year after year.

I could not be more excited. This is what March Madness is all about, and this is why the NCAA tournament is the greatest sporting event of the year.

If you need me Thursday morning, you know where to find me.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Dancing Colonels!

If I may share some Colonel pride, my undergraduate alma mater, Eastern Kentucky University, this weekend hit some basketball milestones. Both the men's and women's teams won their respective Ohio Valley Conference championships, a first in school history. For both, this assures automatic bids to the NCAA championship tournament, or March Madness, as the kids call it.

For the men's team, this is the first time since 1979 that they have been to the Big Dance. Additionally, their 22-8 record (11-5 in conference) is their best record in school history. On the women's side, this conference win punches the Lady Colonel's ticket to the Madness for only the second time in school history.

After watching the EKU game on ESPN2 yesterday, I really hope they get some rest before the tournament starts, because they looked tired. However, I have full faith that Travis Ford will get them ready for the Madness, and I have already filled out my brackets: EKU is going to St. Louis, baby!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

SO proud!

My wife went to Las Vegas last week for a conference (at least, she said it was for a conference...wait a minute!), and while there, found time to enter an actual Texas Hold 'Em tournament in the Mandalay Bay poker room! How cool is that! From a field of thirty players, she made it to the final table, eventually being put out just three people before making it into the money. I was three people away from becoming a trophy husband. Damn.

More importantly, she felt she had good cards (pocket Aces on the second hand!), and most importantly, she felt she played well. She said her shining moment was when, at the first table, she built such a huge chip lead that she was making change for everyone at the table. I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it.

Final note: she thinks that our weekend game has prepared us well, and she says we are ready to make the jump into some (small) local tournaments. Bay 101, here we come!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Mom breaks her leg...again!

My mom's newest play opened last week, and runs through the end of February. She is part of the cast of Quilters, a musical by Molly Newman and Barbara Damashek, being performed at the Actor's Guild of Lexington. On their website, you can read about the play, as well as read about and meet the cast (including some fantastic headshots of my mom!).

Also, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the local newspaper, reviewed the play at the final preview before opening night. Please note that although the reviewer apparently wasn't too fond of the staging, he liked the cast a lot, including my mom, a "local stage favorite." Very nice!

Continue to break your leg, Mom!

Friday, February 04, 2005


I apologize in advance for my language, but what the HELL?

My wife had the flu all last weekend, and then Tuesday, I started coming down with it. But by Thursday morning, I was feeling better, and by that afternoon, I was up, moving around, felt just fine. Not bad, I thought. Not bad.

But then I wake up this morning, and it's back! And, if that's not enough, it's worse than Tuesday. Can that happen? Are there "eye of the hurricane" moments for illness, to fool you into making plans and feeling great, so that a few hours later you body can BETRAY YOU COMPLETELY and get sick again?

This has to be illegal. Body, I hope you enjoy your thirty pieces of silver, because it will be a long time before I trust you again.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Van-a-Month giveaway?

As much as I love watching Regis and Kelly (well, their first segment at least; I get a certain perverse pleasure out of watching Regis interview someone he's clearly never heard of, and I am almost certain the man never does any kind of research or prep), the rules for the Van-A-Day Giveaway contest seem unusually difficult. So, to give people at least a fighting chance, here are the five clues you need to enter:
  1. Rapids
  2. Dude
  3. Sharks
  4. Cliff
  5. Snowboard
Go to the Van-A-Day Entry website, enter to win, and if you win a van because of my clues, I should at least get to borrow it for a weekend or something.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Episode 4F22 lives again!

So something happened tonight that hasn't happened in three years, and I wasn't sure would happen again: my local station played the episode of The Simpsons where Homer has to go to the World Trade Center to get his car back after Barney abandons it there. Maybe this is a sign of healing, or a realization that attempts to "forget" the WTC by wiping it from our collective memories does no real good, but regardless, I was glad to see it again, and had forgotten what a funny episode it was.

By the way, this link to TVTome describes the episode and some of the editing it apparently underwent before being shown again in certain markets. The one they showed last night included all the WTC shots, but I was cooking dinner during the point where the guy in Tower 1 calls all the people in Tower 2 "jerks," so I am not sure if it was left in. They left in the Betty Ford Clinic musical number ("I'm Checking In") and references to the CHUDs, and that was enough for me.


Man, do I love some poker. Played again this past weekend after our successful brunch, and played well: good cards, some good bluffs, a couple successful all-ins. Nice.

So, to share some of the fun, here are some fun poker links:
  • Is anybody else trying to win a seat in the World Series of Poker? I play "Mr. Vegas" every time, thinking that one of these days it will work, but I have a feeling my chances are pretty slim regardless.
  • The All In Poker Fantasy Camp sounds like a GREAT vacation and learning experience...if you would like to sponsor me, I will gladly wear your hat and t-shirt!
  • Speaking of all in, the new poker magazine All In released its first issue last month, and looks like a lot of fun. We got a gift subscription for some departing friends in our poker group; we hope they enjoy it!
I realize that the first step is admitting you have a problem, but I'm winning...

Saturday, January 15, 2005

No self-respecting Southerner uses instant grits...

Mmmm...we're cooking part of a brunch tomorrow, and I decided to add a nice Southern touch by making grits. The only problem? Although I lived in the Deep South for many years, and enjoyed grits many times, I've never actually made them.

But thankfully, Alton Brown saved me yet again. I watched Good Eats the other night, and then tried his cheese grits recipe this morning as a "test run." Result? Quite easy, very tasty, and I think I actually prefer them plain rather than with the cheese (although they were very good with the cheddar as well).

My brunch boast is safe. Thanks again, Alton!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Shameless self-promotion

I just completed a massive update to my brendonland website, including pictures of a visit from our friend Kathy, our trip to Aruba, my trip to Bardstown, and our recent vow renewal in Las Vegas.

Obviously, not every picture makes the site, in large part because it's a free Geocities website, and the bandwidth is pretty low. If you want more pictures, email me and I'll send some (digital or physical) your way.