Thursday, January 29, 2009

Is there a detour?

I have a shirt that reads "Keep Austin Weird." If you've never been to Austin, you have no idea what that means. If you have... well, this won't surprise you.

Some kids in Austin hacked into those flashing construction-style traffic signs with great results (photo taken from Austin American Statesman, which credits nofearofthefuture.blogspot.com):

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tune Day: I mean it IS cold out

Frozen is in the title so that's where our headline comes from today. I dunno... I am obsessed with this song lately. I am cooling down to it at the gym and it's the song that has convinced me the new-ish singer for Shiny Toy Guns is OK. Anyhow, it closes their latest album:



Frozen Oceans - Shiny Toy Guns

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The play's the thing...

I'm getting excited for the Super Bowl and it had me thinking back to the last time the Steelers played in the game. It was not a particularly pretty game and there are Seahawks fans who still think the NFL tried to make them lose (get over it).

Anyhow, there were maybe two highlight-worthy plays: a big TD run by Willie Parker to start the second half and a crazy TD pass off a reverse by Antwaan Randle-El. And that last play brings me to this blog.

We are force-fed highlights by ESPN and any number of other outlets. The problem is that the moments that make me love sports RARELY match up with the oft-hyped highlights that are supposed to be so great. And it makes me mad. Sports are an escape and should be enjoyed, not taken too seriously. And why are they an escape? It's a rush. We like to be loud and we like to be hanging on the edge of a plot - the what's going to happen? feeling - except in sports (with rare scandalous exceptions), there's no script. It's people who are going to have to perform. And if they're being paid a lot of money, no country likes a million-dollar failure like America.

Anyhow, I put some thought into it and realized that the things they want you to see on TV aren't the things you probably love the most about a sport. Let's see:

Football
Play they always show you: The deep pass for a touchdown
Play that really gets you excited: Any play where a running play suddenly becomes a passing play
Why: Goes back to that Super Bowl. The Steelers hand the ball off, the running back starts running to the left and hands it off to another runner going the opposite direction. This is called a reverse. But the runner the ball was handed to was a college quarterback. He starts running and then - here it is - he looks downfield. Me - along with every other football fan - stops and goes "Oh my god, he's going to throw." Did the defense give up on the receivers who are now way downfield? Will this guy throw a strike or a disastrous pass? This could change the game.

This play doesn't happen often but happens just often enough - and it works just often enough - that good teams try it. And if it's tried against your team, you hope your team has it together enough to pick it up. No matter, every person is standing when that runner looks downfield. The ball hasn't been thrown yet. But you're hooked with the anticipation.

Basketball
Play they always show you: The slam dunk
Play that really gets you excited: The three-point shot
Why: The slam dunk used to be cool. Until everyone could do it and until every center in the league stood over seven feet. But the jump shot - something of a lost art in the NBA - is the heart of the game. And the three point shot is the best of those, mainly because the ball is up in the air so long when it's shot. You see the shot, you see the ref raise his arm and stick three fingers in the air to indicate that if this thing falls, it's three. And it's the game-changer. Say you're down by five points and your guy hits a three... no you're losing by two. Stop the other team down the floor and you can bring it back... and try another three. The ball's in the air. If it falls... you are winning.

Hockey
Play they always show you: The penalty shot (which ESPN long ago declared the most exciting play in the sport)
Play that really gets you excited: The breakaway
Why: It's easy to say these are the same... one skater coming in alone against the goalie. A penalty shot involves the clock stopping, the skater thinking about it, the goalie having time to stare the guy down, and, if the skater misses, there's a faceoff to re-start play. A breakaway has none of that. A skater on a breakaway has a defender trying to chase him down. The goalie probably didn't see this coming. There's no thinking. There is acting. And if the skater misses on a breakaway, he's got to watch out because someone will hit him into the boards as soon as possible.

Baseball
Play they always show you: The home run
Play that really gets you excited: the long throw from the outfield
Why: Home runs are great, but they involve a startling small amount of action. It is the one play in baseball where no player touches the ball once it is batted. But say you're a runner at first and you decide you're fast enough to make it to third base - or better yet to the plate - on any batted ball. A good outfielder sees that and says "oh hail no!" and guns the ball to the base. Everyone in the stadium immediately becomes a physics major watching the speed and trajectory of the ball compared to that of the runner. And like the three-pointer, the ball is in the air a while. You know it's coming. Will the guy be safe? Will the ball be thrown accurately enough to not turn into a disastrous error? No question why everyone is standing up in the stadium for this one.

Soccer
Play they always show you: Penalty kicks
Play that really gets you excited: Corner kicks
Why: It's a very American thing to adore penalty kicks in soccer. In games that can end 0-0, sometimes they are the only time impatient Americans will see a ball hit the net. But the corner kick... those happen in every game. Soccer is basically organized prevention of mistakes. Goals happen when mistakes are made. And on a corner kick, there is a huge chance that a mistake will be made by a defender. And while luck plays a factor in any game, luck mixed with good chances means even more. I love when my team gets a corner opportunity and I almost cannot watch when they have to defend one.

Anyhow, go ahead and tell me I'm wrong... or improve on this. But I stand convinced that I would give up all the homers, all the penalty shots and still enjoy my sports the same amount all because of these plays and the potential they occur.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Not even 7:30 AM

The scene outside security at Reagan-Washington National. Get here early if you're flying today.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tune Day: Change We Need

On this day, we're told change is coming. And not a damn moment too soon, if you ask me. In fact, we need an executive order, stat. We need someone to rescue pop radio. And a good first step? Elimination of folks like Katy Perry with people we can put our trust in... or at least who have a track record of putting out pop songs we can really love. Take it away, Kelly:



My Life Would Suck Without You - Kelly Clarkson

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Unapologetic rant against Counting Crows

Today, we're starting a new category of posts called "Making My Readers Mad." This is reserved for posts I think will incite the furor of some fraction of the small audience reading this fine blog.

I hate Counting Crows. I have never liked Counting Crows. They came to being at a time in my life where if it didn't involve heavy guitars I hated it. Even today, when I love all kinds of rootsy bands - a little bit of just about everything, really - I cannot bear this band.

Why? Let's review:

  • They are vastly overrated.
  • In my high school, when they first came out, every kid who loved them was an ass. And they went on and on about how great Counting Crows is. And how I just don't understand. And how the bands I like aren't nearly the musicians that the members of Counting Crows are. And, how that even though I saw Pink Floyd, Beck, an entire flipping Lollapalooza, R.E.M. and many more before graduation, I had not yet seen a "good" concert because my resume lacked a Counting Crows show. Get the picture? It's sad, but I want Counting Crows to get caught in some 15-years-later lip syncing scandal just to get back at the ass-heads in my high school who freaking cuddled with effigies of Adam Duritz.
  • Rolling Stone once proclaimed, after their first single, that Counting Crows would be the music we'd all be listening to for years on the radio. Which not only made me mad, but has become true, especially since Counting Crows are a favorite of those "great to listen to in the office" radio stations.
  • There were ABSOLUTELY better bands than Counting Crows at the time Counting Crows came out. Toad the Wet Sprocket for instance. The Gin Blossoms. And here's the thing: neither of those bands were ones I particularly liked at the time. I now, in hindsight, listen to Toad and ask "they were putting this stuff out and people chose to pay attention to Counting Crows?"
And yet, in the gym today, on comes flipping "Mr. Jones." At least it wasn't that god-awful "'Round Here."

So, if you like Counting Crows, good for you. Whatever you need. Me? I wish "Einstein on the Beach" had been a one-hit wonder and then the band had gone the way of Soft Cell.

As a side note to this diatribe, there ARE bands I now love that I used to hate because of some annoying S.O.B. described in bullet 2. Guster and Dave Matthews Band lead the list. The funny thing, we're talking about bands the hippie, pot-smoking kids liked. Aren't they supposed to be mellow? Yet they led the way in all categories of acting like asses.

Amazing.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Less than nothing

This is the scene heading north on US 27 toward Belle Glade, FL where I had a meeting today.

When you think of Florida, this probably isn't the scene you picture.

These, though, are the Everglades. And the road, to quote a coworker, has more in common with Kansas then the Sunshine State. Long, flat... For miles.

And aside from traffic, it's this or fields of sugarcane.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tune Day: A Midwinter Day's Horror

I loved The Knife's Silent Shout. So did Pitchfork, which made it 2006 album of the year. Well, one half of the Swedish electro outfit has done a solo album under the name Fever Ray.

The album cover is kinda creepy. The video for first single "If I Had a Heart" is plain terrifying. And I love it.


The Rookie Crush

It's as predictable as the Mets' collapse each September: New year's Day passes and suddenly my gym is packed.

Scores of people bound (bound?) by New year's resolutions come streaming into the gym. And take up MY elliptical machine. OK it's not mine, but it is annoying to have all these people crowding the place for the first three months of the year.

I hear you. Sure, it's great that people have committed themselves to a healthier lifestyle. The thing is, the gym has a worse retention rate than the Branch Dividians. Most of these newbies will be gone by St. Patrick's Day.

It's almost like training camp for a sports team and you're an established player. You know you've got your spot on the team. Now, all these rookies are taking up locker room space and you're curious who's actually going to be able to make the team.

You can spot all these people a mile away, too. New workout clothes (nicer than mine) that are going to be used heavily until they start taking a place in the back of the drawer by April.

Anyhow, we just expanded our gym and it's gorgeous. There's plenty of room for equipment in the "old" area of the gym. I think they should set aside the old area as the "rookie" area. You only get to come to the big-kid gym when you've earned it.

And that way I won't have to wait for a treadmill anymore.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Get Busy Livin' or...

The other night, I flew to Austin, TX to visit a friend. The flight was supposed to go at 6:20. You know the deal… flying on a Friday night is asking for trouble.

Sure enough, even from the first mention of delay, folks at the gate were agitated. With all the travel I do, I find myself people-watching more than ever. And when a flight is delayed, I am often amazed by what I see.

More than a few people went up to the hapless gate agent demanding answers for why the plane wasn’t going anywhere. Many of these people made several trips. The gate agent knows nothing, of course, which adds to the frustration of the folks who are coming up and asking what’s going on.

Then there was the group who decided, “Eh, we’ll just go sit and do what we can.” And there they were, seated across the terminal. Now and then, they would come up to a group of us who were watching a maintenance crew attempt to fix our plane and ask if we heard anything. The whole time they were like me: wishing for the flight to go but realizing they were powerless to do anything about it.

Like in The Shawshank Redemption: Get busy living or get busy dying.

So there we were, the folks who dealt with the delay and those who dealt with the delay badly.

And nearly three hours after the scheduled departure, we started roaring down the runway.

Me? I always try to keep my chin up. As long as I’m being treated like a human being, I’m in good shape. And so, when I first boarded the plane, I joked to the flight attendant, “So, can I start the free drinks lobby?”

The flight attendant, probably as anxious to get this flight done with as I was, indicated that, just maybe, they could work that out.

And as we flew over the lights of Atlanta, Hartsfield-Jackson airport out my window, I sipped on a Heineken, given to me gratis.

When we were endlessly delayed in the terminal, I could of made a stink. I could have raised hell.

Instead, I kept my sense of humor. And I got to raise a glass.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lone Star Weekend

This morning, I wake up in the nation of Texas. Among items on tap today is Texas BBQ. This excites me greatly.

Friday, January 9, 2009

That should have gone into the pre-nup...

Getting divorced must suck. Custody arrangements, dividing up money... can't be fun. And, according to an Associated Press article, you can try to get your bodily organs back:

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. – A Long Island surgeon embroiled in a nearly four-year divorce proceeding wants his estranged wife to return the kidney he donated to her, although he says he'll settle for $1.5 million in compensation.

Dr. Richard Batista, a surgeon at Nassau University Medical Center, told reporters at his lawyer's Long Island office Wednesday that he decided to go public with his demand for kidney compensation because he has grown frustrated with the negotiations with his estranged wife.

Apparently, though, he should have thought ahead. According to the article, judges won't assign value to those sorts of things, so he's out of luck. Perhaps he should have written up a contract with his wife before the donation.

And lest we feel too bad for the guy, apparently his wife was cheating on him for a long time post-op.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Lost

I'm one of those annoying people that always knows where I'm going. I mean this literally. I pick up directions very quickly and if I've driven someplace once, I can do it forever.

I read maps well (and this is great since I have Google Maps on my Blackberry at any moment) and, when in doubt, I always go online to get directions someplace.

I realize not everyone is like this. Today, though, a colleague of mine was going to the same event I was going to and ended up missing her turn. And she picked up on this 15 miles later.

I'm not saying we should all judge her. This happens to people. A lot. I get calls from friends who are so far gone off the path they should be on (and they call me because they know I'm an atlas) that it amazes me.

I guess what I really don't get in all this is that I know several people that get themselves more lost than they need to be when they're lost.

Take my colleague from today. She knew she was lost. Why not stop? I know for a fact the road she was on has gas stations, supermarkets, etc. In other words, why end up driving a total of 30 miles because you're lost? What I'm saying is, if you know your meeting is in, say, Cleveland and you drive into Cleveland and then see a sign that says "Welcome to Westlake," that's a sign you missed Cleveland. STOP already.

But I know TONS of people who do this. A group of college students was heading to a conference I attended last fall. The conference was in Chapel Hill. They realized they missed Chapel Hill when... THEY ENTERED VIRGINIA. Go on Google Maps right now and search Chapel Hill, NC. Now scroll north (that's "up") and see where Virginia is.

Anyhow, this is a public service message to all of you. When you get the inkling you are lost, unless you are on a street where you think there are guns, just stop.

And, I guess, call me.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tune Day: Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

Here in Charlotte today, it is a mess. Rain. Lots and lots of rain. So we need a pick me up, fun song.

One thing we like here almost as much as sublime indie music is a perfect pop song. And, unlike last week's, which I still adore, this one won't annoy you all day:



Phantom Limb - The Shins

Friday, January 2, 2009

Spactacularly Lazy

Happy new year all! How are we ringing it in? By sitting the hell out of our couch.

No joke, yesterday, it was 4 p.m. before we made ourselves presentable and here we are today, nearly 3 p.m. and we're both sitting here wearing pajamas. And, I'm not going to lie: it's awesome.

Both of our offices are on holiday time today and I'm sitting here realizing just how flipping busy we've been for the past several months. Not just work... it's honestly been the out-of-work stuff that's really been keeping us extra busy. Choir rehearsals and concerts, Sarah's freelance writing, my local board position... all of this is stuff we enjoy. And that takes time.

We will head to the gym in a few... we've still been pretty good about that. Plus, I am in the throes of a cold, so being sedentary is, I think, really helping me out.

But makes me think... almost every weekend is a sprint of getting chores and errands done and squeezing in some social time... and somewhere in there sleeping and relaxing. In fact, that's the stuff we usually let slide.

Not this holiday! We are getting the true R&R we need to kick off the year!