Sunday, January 01, 2017

2017 Resolutions: Fulfillment not Achievement

Well, since it is the first of the year I figure that I should list my resolutions. Since this is too long for a Facebook post it will be on the blog. Since I don’t update the blog any more I will link to it on Facebook. There is something wrong about that interaction but I cannot bother myself to solve it at the moment. As always, I post these in an effort to force myself to have some accountability in life because if it is on the internet it will last forever.

My overall theme for the year is “Fulfillment not Achievement”, which I am taking from something I heard from Tony Robbins of all people. I typically try to steer away from self-help gurus but this point made a lot of sense to me. I was wondering why I really hadn’t gone into full blown mid-life crisis mode, which given my lifestyle I should have long since passed. I realized that in a lot of ways I have achieved everything I have ever hoped for in life. I never thought that I would be so successful in my career, I live a very comfortable life and I even married the woman of my dreams (and in the process, I am continually discovering the challenges and enlightenments of relationships). It’s not a perfect life but I am in no position to complain. Yet I constantly complain.

What I realized is that I am focusing too much on achievement and not on fulfillment. Or, as my theologian on call asked me many years ago, “Are you getting any closer to a state of grace?” So, I am going to try to spend more time this year experiencing life and opening my eyes and less time checking imaginary boxes. Some of these resolutions may seem contradictory to that goal but trust me, if I can follow through with them I will be in a better place by the end of the year.

Resolution #1: Put Kim First: This shouldn’t be a resolution. It should already be ingrained in my being. But, I let my ego get in the way a lot of the time and all it does is add stress to life via situations where I know that I am in the wrong. I need to keep this front of mind.

Resolution #2: Complete my running goals (up to a 10K): After years of doing varying exercise routines to different degrees of success I have started to run again mainly because I actually enjoy it. I’m even one of those freaks that can enjoy running on a treadmill. I just like the simplicity of it. You start and then you finish. You have time and distance. You can stop whenever you want but the only thing that can keep you going is your own desire. Really want to do some 5K and 10K races this year and maybe, just maybe, think about a half marathon.

Resolution #3: Read one Jonathan Carroll novel a month (in order): Simply put, Jonathan Carroll is my favorite writer. The main reason I am still on Facebook is his daily pearls of wisdom that he shares. I’ve been reading him for twenty years and I just want to go back and immerse myself in his writing. While the books aren’t a series there are common themes and I just want to walk my way through them and regain my sense of wonder.

Resolution #4: Meditate for at least 10 minutes daily: I really need to work on my inner self this year. I’ve tried meditation before and have never really stuck with it but I think I have finally found a few starting points that have a lot less “woo” in them. If anything, I just need to find a way to quiet my thoughts and reconnect. I am very curious as to where this one will lead me.

Resolution #5: Discipline Equals Freedom: That is a quote from Jocko Wilinck, who is somebody you should look up if you want to find a combination of Navy Seal and Life Coach. Basically, it is the idea that when you have your routines and you follow them daily they become second nature and free up mental capacity for other challenges. It also forces you to do the tasks that you would rather put to the side because you have to do them. What this means for me is that I am setting up lists of what I need to do morning, afternoon and night and forcing myself to get them done.

Resolution #6: Take a real vacation: Kim and I haven’t taken a real vacation together for almost two years. We are both mentally fried as a result and just need to get away and free our minds from the stress of the world for a few days.

Resolution #7: Figure out what to do with the old blog posts and my writing goals: This is one of those things that has been on my list for a while. I’ve stopped writing due to time constraints though I would like to pick it up again. I also have millions of words in old blog posts that I really want to compile into something meaningful. I’m not quite sure how to go about it but I somehow need to find a way to write more and finish that project while fitting it into the rest of my schedule. I am open to suggestions here.

Resolution #8: Train Alyce to where she can be home alone: For those who don’t know, Alyce is our two-year-old dog who as I write this is sleeping peacefully on our couch. She has also destroyed multiple kennels in order to escape, has chewed dozens of hardcover books when left alone and is quite possibly plotting my demise in order to collect the insurance money. While her behavior has actually improved over the years I have to work with her on her separation anxiety so that we no longer need to have dog sitters in order to leave the house.

Resolution #9: Empathy not cynicism: This is going to be a challenge given that cynicism is basically my default setting. But, the more I look at the world today I feel that the most challenging and “punk rock” way of living one’s life is too be an empathetic human being. To actually give a damn about the people around you is an unexpected act. I want to keep this in mind.

Resolution #10: Build a five-year plan: It has been a while since I had a good five-year plan in place. Not a detailed outline of what I am going to accomplish but an overall set of goals and desires to aim for in life. I’ve found it a good tool to have in that I can always know where my endpoint is.

Well, there is the list. Feel free to add any suggestions as to how I can be a better person. I’m sure that is a very long list.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

We find ourselves trapped endlessly in the past

Twelve years ago this week I started Battling the Current. I’ve spent the past few weeks going through old posts as I am trying to compile a “Best of” compilation that I could publish on Kindle. At least that way I could lie to myself and say that I have written a book. This has led me to spend a lot of time thinking about what made me start writing about my life on the Internet for a group of strangers.

When I started this project, I was basically lost in my own life. I lived in Kansas City, had few friends and spent most of my time either at concerts or sitting at a bar drinking alone until closing time on any day that happened to end in a Y. I wasn’t happy with my job; I wasn’t happy with my life and I wasn’t happy with who I was. So, I started to write about my experiences as this guy in his early thirties who was trying to figure out who he was and what he was doing wrong with his life.

I stopped writing in 2011 mainly because that journey had ended. I had overcome my shyness and awkwardness and made great friends. I found myself in a job that I loved and had, after a miraculous set of occurrences that still defy all rational explanation, married the woman of my dreams. The woman who, when I started writing this blog, I wished would read it just to know that she had never left my mind.

But that wasn’t the only reason I started writing.

I had just seen an election end in a way that defied belief. Working in Kansas left me surrounded by people professing thoughts and ideas that I just could not fathom. I looked at the world around me and it just didn’t make sense. I know that I am not as smart as I think I am but I knew that our world could be so much better if we just tried for once so that was the other aspect of the blog: writing about my befuddlement at the world around me. Sometimes it was finding humor in the inane and sometimes it was my “dime store philosophy” on what matters in life.

That need to write faded in the last five years as well. Not that the craziness still didn’t exist but life made more sense. I am now in my forties and married with a mortgage and I am no longer on a first name basis with a dozen bartenders. My life is in no way easy but my trials and tribulations are common and personal. It just wasn’t what I needed to write about. My life and the world around me seemed normal.

And then last night happened.

I sat and watched the election returns and found myself going from happy and confident to very concerned to incredibly depressed in the span of two hours. Someone who I believe has no qualifications to be president has become it. Someone who appalls me by his personal behavior and statements is now in control. And if you asked me what I did to stop it all I can say is that I cast my solitary vote against him. I didn’t even write about it.

Now I fully respect every person’s right to vote for whomever they wish. I have many friends, including some of the best people I know, who voted for Trump. But all I felt from this entire campaign is a platform of fear. Fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of progress and a desire to go back in time to the way things used to be. Make America Great Again by going back to what it was. Except that as anyone who studies history knows what this nation was is not something we can look back upon with perfect fondness.

I heard many times from Trump supporters that “I want my country back.” The problem is that this country is not singular, it’s plural. It is our country. It has always been our country. We are all in this together. Any time you single out people as “the other” who don’t belong you ruin all the work we have done in two centuries to overcome our faults and to make the American Experiment worthwhile.

As much as Trump promises a return to the old days and of blue collar jobs becoming plentiful it ignores the fact that those jobs don’t exist anymore. The fact that they are done by American robots instead of Chinese robots or Mexican robots does not change the unvarnished truth that humans need not apply. The issue of income inequality, of the loss of the manufacturing base with nothing to replace those jobs, is the greatest issue facing the economy today. With that I agree with Trump. It’s just that his plan wouldn’t make it past a first-year macroeconomics course.

So, what does this all mean? I’ve sat around today and wondered what is next for me: my job, my life and my future. And I find myself thinking of where I was twelve years ago when I decided to start putting my thoughts into the ether in the hope that somehow, someway, in doing so the world would make sense. That maybe, I could help someone else on the same journey. Well, I think the time to do so again has returned. Time to write about middle age and a world that has lost the plot and maybe, just maybe, this time we can make things right for good.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015 / 2016 Bowl Preview: Part Two

Time for part two of the Bowl Preview though I have to start with an apology from part one. I screwed up a joke by saying LIBAR instead of LIBOR. I know, it ruined everything and made the entire enterprise completely meaningless. I’ll try to make it up here as we look at the December 26 – December 30 bowl games otherwise known as “Congrats on winning seven games” bowls.

December 26
St. Petersburg Bowl: Connecticut vs. Marshall (St. Petersburg, Florida, Tropicana Field, 11 AM ESPN): If you are going to have a St. Petersburg bowl I think you really need to go all out and have it in Russia as opposed to a baseball stadium in Florida. I mean what would you rather have: a game played in front of Vladimir Putin or a game played in front of Billy the Marlin? (Yes, I know that is technically the Marlins mascot but I have no idea what the Rays mascot is called.) Fun fact: Illinois was scheduled to play a game in Moscow in 1989 or thereabouts but it was cancelled. That was the highlight of Illinois football for a good decade, though. Anyway, Connecticut is a state and Marshall is hopefully still coached by Matthew McConaughey.

Hyundai Sun Bowl: Miami vs. Washington State (El Paso, Texas, Sun Bowl, 2 PM CBS): Miami of course gave us the best play of the year with the game winning, last second, twelve lateral, three illegal block in the backs, thirteen players on the field kickoff return in which the refs decided to all go “Screw it. Who the hell wants to see Duke win a football game anyway.” I am pretty sure that was Miami’s only highlight of the season as they fired their coach during the season and I can’t recall any of their other games and I follow Miami football. On the positive side, the Sun Bowl is actually played outdoors during the day making it one of the few bowl games that make logical, grammatical sense other than the times when it is played during an eclipse or, you know, the rain.

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Washington vs. Southern Miss (Dallas, Cotton Bowl, 2:20 PM ESPN): Wow, talk about a conflict for the state of Washington. There are more than forty bowl games and the two teams from your state play at the same time in different games in Texas. Also, in talking about logic the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl is played in the Cotton Bowl while the Cotton Bowl isn’t played in the Cotton Bowl. Sigh. As always, the fact that the Heart of Dallas Bowl is sponsored by a fried chicken chain just leads to cardiologist, cholesterol and bypass jokes. This year I will go with the Heart of Dallas is clogged with traffic like the drive through lane.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Indiana vs. Duke (Bronx, New York, Yankee Stadium, 3:30 PM ABC): You get one of these bowl games every year where you wish you were watching another sport instead except this time you are hoping for any sport other than football. I’m not sure how playing football in Yankee Stadium in December sounds like a good idea except for a) the people in the luxury boxes, b) the people selling hot chocolate or c) the people who are pleased by the fact that global warming has now made it possible to sell the Bronx as a luxury tropical destination. Plus, it is Indiana and Duke so we would rather watch them play each other in basketball. Hell, I’d rather watch their football teams play each other in basketball.

Camping World Independence Bowl: Tulsa vs. Virginia Tech (Shreveport, Louisiana, Independence Stadium, 5:45 PM ESPN): Correction from the last entry: there are three bowl games in Louisiana that Popeyes, which makes clear in every commercial how their affordable fried items of food like substances contain the soul of Louisiana, could sponsor instead of the one in the Bahamas that they do. Of course, to many of us this game will always be the Poulan Weed Eater Independence Bowl in which we celebrated the freedom to attack our lawns with dangerous pieces of equipment. This will be Frank Beamer’s last game as coach of Virginia Tech so it is a bit of an end of an era and possibly the last time you will need to care about Virginia Tech football for a while. I’m not sure you have ever needed to care about Tulsa football unless you needed to make an innuendo with the term “Golden Hurricane.”

Foster Farms Bowl: UCLA vs. Nebraska (Santa Clara, California, Levi’s Stadium, 9:15 PM ESPN): This is your certified organic, locally produced, farmer’s market purchased, and slathered with ketchup bowl game.  Illinois beat Nebraska this year which should preclude Nebraska from making any bowl games or even admitting that this season ever occurred. Like they should just consider the past six months one long dream sequence in a movie though to be honest if we wiped out the last six months of all that has occurred in the state of Nebraska we would….probably not notice anything. I assume that the UCLA players are upset because they have to leave Los Angeles and therefore miss out on a commercial audition.

December 28
Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman: Pittsburgh vs. Navy (Annapolis, Maryland, Jack Stephens Field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, 2:30 PM ESPN): It is tough to feel sorry for Pitt under any circumstance but wow, did they get a bad break on their bowl game this year. They have to play Navy in the Military Bowl which is being played in Annapolis and is sponsored by the military industrial complex. Outside of a government shutdown due to a budget impasse I really don’t see how Pitt can win this game unless they decided to, I don’t know, play it on land or something.

Quick Lane Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Minnesota (Detroit, Ford Field, 5 PM ESPN 2): We really should get a “30 minutes or it’s free” guarantee with this game. Seriously, cut out everything, use overtime rules, and just play the game that way. No one will notice. ESPN 2 will get the same ratings if they aired a test pattern. Minnesota isn’t even a .500 team and one of their wins came against Illinois so that doesn’t really count.

December 29
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: California vs. Air Force (Ft. Worth, Texas, Amon G. Carter Stadium, 2 PM ESPN): I do like the consistency of Air Force playing in the Armed Forces Bowl which is also sponsored by your friendly neighborhood military industrial complex. I’m pretty sure Eisenhower mentioned that in his farewell address “If we are not careful soon our nation will be run by organizations that sponsor third tier bowl games. Also, you should probably keep an eye on this Nixon guy.” I always find it interesting that athletically you always refer to the school as Cal or California but academically you always refer to it as Berkley as if they never want you to realize that it is the same place. But they are wrong so go Air Force and teach those damn hippies a lesson.

Russell Athletic Bowl: North Carolina vs. Baylor (Orlando, Orlando Citrus Bowl, 5:30 PM on ESPN): This game is not the Citrus Bowl even though it is being held in the Citrus Bowl though at least we do not have the whole Cotton Bowl situation here. This is more like a “give an excuse for more people to come to Disney World on winter break” game even though the parks are incredibly crowded already. Not a bad matchup though so feel free to watch it if you have nothing else to do on a Monday night and let’s face it after several days of dealing with family you really don’t want to have anything to do.

NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl: Nevada vs. Colorado State (Tucson, Arizona, Arizona Stadium, 7:30 PM on Campus Insiders): It is just cruel to have Nevada play in the Home Loans Bowl given that three quarters of the team had their houses foreclosed upon in the last ten years. This game is being shown on Campus Insiders which is….which is….seriously, what the hell is Campus Insiders? We can’t even get a real network for this game? There are twelve ESPN’s at the moment and even though I still can’t convince them to air Australian Rules Football again you’re telling me that no one wants to broadcast this game? The legacy of the Arizona Bowl deserves better than this.

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: LSU vs. Texas Tech (Houston, NRG Stadium, 9 PM ESPN): Finally we start getting some real games or at least games between teams you voluntarily watched during the season. LSU is always good for one ill-advised trick play that somehow works and Texas Tech decided years ago that playing defense just wasted time so this will be fun to watch. AdvoCare is one of those companies whose name sounds like the villain’s shell organization in a low budget science fiction film. “Don’t worry we here at AdvoCare care greatly about our customers. Just please don’t ask about V1 to V99. Especially V27. And for the record V74 was contained despite what you may read on the internet.”

December 30
Birmingham Bowl: Auburn vs. Memphis (Birmingham, Alabama, Legion Field, 12 PM, ESPN): Isn’t it at least a little unfair that they have Auburn playing in Birmingham? I understand the need to sell tickets and these bowl games are famous for having all the fans sit on one side of the stadium just to make it look better for the cameras but this is a bit ridiculous. One of the interesting parts of this season was the fact that some of the smaller schools (Temple, Memphis, Navy, Tulsa and a few others) put together really good records and for a second made it look like they might make it to a top tier game. Instead they basically have to play a road game. Well, at least the kids from Memphis are being paid for their trouble…

Belk Bowl: North Carolina State vs. Mississippi State (Charlotte, North Carolina, Bank of America Stadium, 3:30 PM ESPN): For all of those parents out there I really recommend using the word “Belk” as your all-purpose swear word for use in front of the children. “What the Belk?” “God, she is such a Belk.” “That is a bunch of Belk.” It works for all occasions. Plus, when they ask you what does Belk mean you could make up any answer you want and it will sound completely plausible because let’s face it: I don’t think anyone actually knows what the Belk Bowl is meant to represent. It is the mystery spot of bowl games. All we know is that since it is being played at Bank of America stadium the use of any competing bank’s cards will result in a three dollar fee and the coin toss must be returned by 5 PM to avoid additional penalties.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Louisville (Nashville, Nissan Stadium, 7 PM ESPN): Bowl sponsorships really do take away some of the fun of the bowl games. I miss the days of the Bluebonnet Bowl and the Tangerine Bowl. The Music City Bowl would have fit in perfectly back then. It is simple, fun and you have a good shot at figuring out which city the game is being held in. Now it just reminds you that the Christmas bills are coming due and you are going to have to scrounge for the mortgage payment. Pretty sure everyone will be cheering for the Aggies because a) Texas A&M fans travel well, b) no one in the state of Tennessee likes Louisville and c) there is always a chance that Johnny Manziel may stumble onto the field in uniform and decide to get in a few snaps.

National Funding Holiday Bowl: USC vs. Wisconsin (San Diego, Qualcomm Stadium, 10:30 PM, ESPN): Where to start on this one? Ok, National Funding is probably the scariest name for a bowl sponsor that I have ever seen and I really have no clue who they are. What nation are they funding? Is this a voluntary operation or are we going to be held up by our ankles in order to get every last cent from our pockets? Also, in this day of ATM cards is being held by your ankles an effective way of getting money from a person? This should easily be one of the best matchups of the bowls as Wisconsin is always tough and USC has talent to burn and really started playing well once they got rid of their coach for showing up drunk to practices. That is not a joke. Their coach was fired and sent to rehab with every indication that he was drunk on the sidelines. At Wisconsin they would put up a statue of you for that but at USC that is apparently a violation of school policy.  Anyway, a great game to end the night before the night otherwise known as “New Year’s Eve for those of us who don’t want to be surrounded by drunks.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

2015 / 2016 Bowl Preview: Part One

It’s that time a year again. Time to revive an old Battling the Current tradition of reviewing every single bowl game. Also, I need to post something this year otherwise Blogger will sell the kcgatsby domain from under me and I spent too much time building up brand equity (and then letting that equity fade into oblivion) for that to happen. Anyway, we will start with the Pre-Christmas bowl games otherwise known as the “You really don’t deserve this” bowls.

December 19
Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl: Alcorn State vs. North Carolina A&T (Atlanta, Georgia Dome, 12 ABC): Starting the bowl season off with a bang featuring two teams that I was unaware were playing Division I football (or FBS or whatever they are calling it now). Alcorn State is the alma mater of Steve McNair while North Carolina A&T is an indication that North Carolina has way too many schools. I mean you have North Carolina, North Carolina State, East Carolina, Western Carolina, Coastal Carolina, UNC-Charlotte plus Duke, Wake Forest and Elon (which I believe exists solely as an answer in crossword puzzles). Plus, why can’t we have Air Force playing in the Air Force Reserve Bowl?

Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Arizona vs. New Mexico (Albuquerque, University Stadium, 2 PM ESPN): God, it must suck to play for New Mexico. First off, you have to go to school in New Mexico, a state that exists solely for the purpose of placing people in the witness protection program. Then, you play all year in front of a crowd of dozens in one of those conferences where the games are seemingly all played at 2 in the morning. Then, after striving and fending off injuries you get to play in a bowl game and where do you get to go? Albuquerque. Gildan indeed.

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: BYU vs. Utah (Las Vegas, Sam Boyd Stadium, 3:30 PM ABC): It’s BYU vs. Utah in Las Vegas! The casinos have all ordered extra sparkling water for the event. Everyone is invited to bring the wife and kids. And the other wife. And the other wife, you know the one that was caught in a catfishing scheme. I swear that every time I write one of these reviews BYU is playing in Las Vegas and I make the same comments. Except that this year they are sponsored by Royal Purple, which according to Wikipedia is a lubricant manufacturer. There is a joke there with Las Vegas and lubricant manufacturer but even I don’t want to go there.

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Ohio vs. Appalachian State (Montgomery, Alabama, Cramton Bowl, 5:30 PM ESPN): The fact that they named a bowl game after Gonzo’s chicken girlfriend is rather surprising but hey, who am I to judge. Plus, we have the Raycom Media game being shown on ESPN instead of, I don’t know, Raycom Media. Not much else to say other than a) we should probably call it The Ohio for consistency sake and b) here is another school to add to the North Carolina list.

Cure Bowl: San Jose State vs. Georgia State (Orlando, Orlando Citrus Bowl, 7 PM, CBSSN): Yes! It’s The Cure Bowl! Break out the eyeliner and mascara! Both teams will be dressed in black and after every touchdown the entire stadium will sing “Saturday’s great and Sunday always comes too late”. Turnovers will be met with a rousing rendition of Boys Don’t Cry. And don’t you dare miss the halftime performance…

(By the way, to my KC readers we will be seeing The Cure at Starlight in June so I can make my triumphant return to the city. And you damn well know that I will be making my way to a trivia game while there.)

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Arkansas State vs. Louisiana Tech (New Orleans, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, 9 PM ESPN): In one of the lesser known trophy games Arkansas and LSU play for the Golden Boot because if you look at Arkansas and Louisiana on a map it kind of looks like a boot. This has absolutely nothing to do with this game other than Arkansas State and Louisiana Tech should play for some type of trophy, possibly a Silver Slipper or a Bronze Ballet Flat. That said I will become an Arkansas State fan for a day if it gives me a reason to go to New Orleans.

December 21
Miami Beach Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. South Florida (Miami, Marlins Park, 2:30 PM ESPN): This is like the non-union equivalent of an SEC game. There is something completely wrong with calling a game the Beach Bowl and then playing it inside a domed baseball stadium. They should just make this game a flag football game on the beach. At least that would give us a reason to watch other than to see the Western Kentucky mascot and be reminded of Grimace.

December 22
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Akron vs. Utah State (Boise, Idaho, Albertsons Stadium, 3:30 PM ESPN): This is my favorite bowl game dating back to its origins as the Humanitarian Bowl. There is no bigger screw you to a college football player to spend all year permanently injuring yourself for no pay only to be sent to play an extra game on blue turf in Boise. Still better than being in Akron I suppose.  Also, the Potato Bowl sounds like one of those menu items at KFC that includes whatever is within reach of the cashier with the possibility, though no guarantee, of potato or potato by-products.

Marmot Boca Raton Bowl: Toledo vs. Temple (Boca Raton, Florida, FAU Stadium, 7 PM ESPN): This game is being sponsored by a rodent. I don’t care what anyone else says, I don’t care that Marmot is supposedly an outdoor clothing company, I see the name Marmot and I immediately think of a small, furry creature that lurks in swamps. This is the first game so far that I wouldn’t mind actually watching due to the fact that Temple has been much better this year than you would ever expect it to be.

December 23
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Boise State vs. Northern Illinois (San Diego, Qualcomm Stadium, 4:30 PM ESPN): I have never understood the sponsorship of this game and this one has been around for years. I assume the only people who would care about the San Diego County Credit Union live in San Diego and as a result have much better things to do than watch a game between two schools they know nothing about. That said last year’s halftime show “A Tribute to LIBAR” was very touching. I’ll get into my rant about Northern Illinois being in a bowl and Illinois being delegated to oblivion in another entry.

GoDaddy Bowl: Georgia Southern vs. Bowling Green (Mobile, Alabama, Ladd-Peebles Stadium, 8 PM ESPN): GoDaddy is no longer going to sponsor Danica Patrick in NASCAR due to their belief that it is not the best use of their advertising dollars. Now think about all of the GoDaddy commercials you have seen in the past decade and ask yourself at what point did they ever do a cost-benefit analysis on their marketing budget before. Now I won’t be able to find Danica by looking for the green car and will now have to go back to looking to see who is running 21st. Anyway, this game exists and Ladd-Peebles sounds like a really cool name for a stadium.

December 24
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Western Michigan (Nassau, Bahamas, Robinson National Stadium, 12 ESPN): Part of this game should just consist of the two teams hanging out on the beach and watching the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and laughing their asses off. Talk about a sweet deal. I’ll take Christmas Eve in the Bahamas. Anyway, we have yet another directional state versus directional state contest and other than the location I really don’t know what to say other than despite the fact that there are two bowl games in New Orleans Popeyes sponsors one in the Bahamas. I guess fried chicken executives need a vacation as well.

Hawai’i Bowl: San Diego State vs. Cincinnati (Honolulu, Aloha Stadium, 8 PM ESPN): It’s a holiday tradition unlike any other. It’s Christmas Eve. The tree is lit, the presents are all wrapped, there is no snow to shovel because thanks to global warming winter no longer exists and you have a choice to make: do you spend time with your family or do you plop yourself down on the couch to watch two middling college football teams. The choice is clear. I mean, you spent good  money on that couch and it was such a pain getting it into the living room so you might as well make full use of it.

That is it for part one. Stay for part two where we review the holiday week games and hopefully have some involving teams you may have heard of.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Six seconds in Dallas viewed fifty years later

I first read the Warren Report when I was in seventh grade. This is one of those facts that I should have been legally obligated to reveal to Kim before we got married. Somewhere in the vows after for better or for worse should be “Are you aware of the fact that your potential husband had detailed discussions on the ballistic reports for the Kennedy assassination when he was twelve years old?” That is a pretty large skeleton to have hidden in one’s closet.

I mention this because I just finished reading Gerald Posner’s book “Case Closed” which pushes the mind boggling conclusion that Oswald acted alone and I want it to be clear that I have studied this subject for much of my life. I’ve read numerous books, wrote a research paper on the subject in college (which I still have a copy of) and have had to be forcibly restrained from spending time on vacation in Dallas recreating the steps of the motorcade. I can’t really explain why this is the case other than I grew up in a Kennedy-centric household and the mystery about it caught my attention. The fact that there was this world changing event where no one was quite sure what happened just fascinates me.

So this book was my latest examination of the case and the one that I agree with for the most part. Part of this is the technical details but another, and the more interesting side, is the personal history of Oswald. I had never really examined his life in great detail though I could recount the main points: joined the marines, defected to the Soviet Union, returned to the US, arrested for pro Cuba activities in New Orleans and ended up in Dallas after a strange trip to Mexico City. However, Posner went into other details that really struck me when viewed in the light of other crimes over the past fifty years.

In essence, if you look at the personal life of Oswald you do not see someone who would be a mob hitman or a KGB agent or a part of some wide ranging sinister plot. You see someone who much more resembles the guy who shot Gabby Giffords or some of the other mass shooters. Oswald barely had a high school education and went to like a dozen different schools over the years. He was fascinated by the ideas of communism and Marxism but in the sense that a fourteen year old would be. He grasped the talking points and the propaganda but had no deep understanding of it. He wanted to constantly be the center attention and show his importance but he was basically a nobody. In Russia he thought people would flock to him as an American. In the US he thought people would want to hear his story about his defection. But no one cared and when people questioned his beliefs he became belligerent. He was an abusive husband and paranoid and was against all types of government. You wouldn’t trust him to mow your lawn much less with a plot to assassinate the leader of the free world.

It just really struck me in reading this that I had read profiles of people like this for years and never made the connection. You see the parallels to the Columbine shooters and the Oklahoma City bombers and a number of other lone mass shooters over the years. Someone lost in society, anti-social, paranoid and delusional, who takes advantage of a weapon and an open society to perform a heinous act. One of the reasons that people are drawn to conspiracy theories is that we don’t want to admit that one lone nut can change the world. We want the view that someone, even a massive evil cabal, is in charge and driving the world. We don’t want to believe that one person can cause mass destruction and change everything. But we’ve seen it over and over again.

Once you grasp that then the rest of the assassination is relatively straightforward. Governor Connally has to be shot from behind. While it looks weird in the Zapruder film Kennedy was also shot from behind. We think we know what it looks like when someone is shot but all we have seen is thousands of TV and movie shootings and most of us have no first hand experience (thank god). We know that shots were fired from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository because three people on the fifth floor heard the shots come from above them. Oswald was the last person seen on the sixth floor. Oswald was the only employee who left the building after the shooting. He was a lone nut with a rifle and a desire to show to the world that he was important. It is a story that we see all too often in history. We would love for everything in life to have a deeper meaning especially in history. But sometimes it is just a car driving past an unstable man with a perverse desire for fame.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

What I Read 2014: Non-Fiction Edition

Thought that it might be a nice idea to review all of the books that I read in 2014 and give everyone an insight into my reading list and maybe a window into my personality. Ah, who am I kidding, I just want to try to show off how well read I am even though no one gives a damn. Like most people I don’t use Goodreads as a way to discover new authors or discuss my favorite books: I’d rather have quantifiable proof that I am a more cultured person than everyone I know. Anyway, I’ll start with the non-fiction.

“How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” by Scott Adams: Do you want life coaching from the guy who writes Dilbert? Yeah, I thought so too. However, the chapter on “how to make an obscene amount of money doing something that hasn’t been culturally relevant for fifteen years” is definitely worth reading.

“David and Goliath” Malcolm Gladwell: Speaking of making money while no longer relevant here is the latest by Gladwell who in this book explains that you should go to Maryland instead of Brown because you will rank higher in your class at Maryland and thus be more likely to complete your major. That is quite possibly the dumbest thing I have ever read. I’m much more successful for getting a C in an electrical engineering course at Illinois as opposed to being a straight A student somewhere else.

 “The First World War” by John Keegan and “Aftermath: The Remnants of War” by Donovan Webster: If there is one podcast that I recommend that everyone should listen to it is Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. In particular, you must listen to his current series on the First World War and Ghosts of the Osfront, which covers the Eastern Front of World War II. Don’t think of it as your typical military history where you are going to be forced to listen to lists of units and brigades followed by technical minutiae. Instead it is a fascinating and in many ways personal view of some of the most important events in modern history. This is the 100th anniversary of the First World War and I have really tried to make an effort to understand what happened and why and I have been struck by two facts. One, the entire history of the last 100 years can be directly tied to what happened over those four years and two, this is some of the most horrific stuff I have ever heard or read. The only place worse than the trenches of World War I was Stalingrad in World War II and these podcasts cover both. Even more interesting, read Aftermath as it goes back to these battlefields to show how the areas have yet to recover. They are still pulling live artillery shells out of the fields of France.

 “The Intellectual Devotional” by David S. Kidder and Noah D. Oppenheim and “1,411 Facts to Knock You Sideways” by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson and James Harkin: While I no longer play trivia on a weekly basis I still devour a few books on trivia, interesting facts or stupid things that no one else would ever care about a year. I wish I could find a good weekly trivia game again. If there is one thing I miss about Kansas City it is the merry band of misfits that made up the competitive trivia circuit. (Items two and three that I miss would be easy access to great concerts and Boulevard Wheat beer respectively.)

“Founding Myths” by Ray Raphael: Pretty much the same as above except with a focus on the Revolutionary War. Did you know that most of what you were taught in grade school history class was lies? Of course you do. It’s just amazing that we never bother to change that fact once we become adults and start writing the textbooks ourselves.

 “Get in the Van” by Henry Rollins: I caught a few episodes of Henry’s latest show on the history channel, which surprisingly did not feature aliens, pawn shops or Bigfoot so I don’t know how it ever even aired. Anyway, as much as I love Henry and his work I have to admit that time may have finally caught up to him. Not in terms of his thoughts or what he says but more in the fact that decades of screaming into a microphone has left his voice completely shot. You can almost hear him wincing in pain while he speaks. This book is the classic collection of journal entries from his years as the frontman for Black Flag. If you ever wanted to get a sense of what it was like to be in the middle of the 80’s punk scene, including all the brawls, riots and poverty that you could ever desire, this is the book for you. Great read.

“What If” by Randall Munroe: My website recommendation for everyone is the incomparable In it, Randall Munroe uses stick figure cartoons to explain science, what it is like to be a nerd and occasionally presents the meaning of life as if he just feels like bestowing a gift on all of humanity. It’s truly some of the most amazing work that I have ever seen. This is his first book out of his What If series that explains what would happen if someone threw a baseball at 90% of the speed of light or opened a hole at the bottom of the ocean and let the water start to drain out. I’m not saying that you will ever need to know the answer to these but the book is funny, fascinating and a great way to introduce people to science without making them read pages of equations.

“Why Does E = MC2?” by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw: Ok, this book does have a decent amount of equations and includes a discussion on the space time continuum. And I’ll have to admit that while I can follow the math I am still working on understanding the theory completely. Do I need to really understand this for everyday living? No, but it does fascinate me that we can sit here on our small insignificant planet and figure these essential truths out while at the same time creating an entire industry out of the Kardashians.

“My Heart is an Idiot” by Davy Rothbart, “Hyperbole and a Half” by Allie Brosh and “Me Talk Pretty One Day” David Sedaris: I guess you could classify all of these as memoirs or collections of personal essays (or cartoons as the case may be.) I’ll get into a run of reading books like these and for the most part I enjoy them but once I read a few I am done for a while. I mean, I like David Sedaris but I’ve always read his stuff and chuckled as opposed to the people who talk about laughing hysterically. Just different tastes I guess.

“Writing Movies for Fun and Profit” Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant: I’ll definitely take writing advice from two of the guys that wrote the sketches for The State and Reno 911. However, they also wrote Herbie: Fully Loaded so I guess they can’t win them all.

 “The Baby Boom” by P.J. O’Rourke: Ugh. I want to state up front that I really like P. J. O’Rourke and that he has written some of my favorite books. However, this is not one of them. Pretty much an entire book about how awesome the Baby Boomers are by turning all of their flaws into sweet little harmless eccentricities. Somehow they still believe that the fact that the country went to hell in a handbasket after they arrived was a complete coincidence.

 “Things That Matter” by Charles Krauthammer: I read this book after listening to a speech of his and I will have to say that I liked the book a lot more than I thought. I don’t entirely agree with his political view (I’d explain it but I don’t want to spend three pages discussing how the United States should operate in a solo superpower world if it ever even inhabited such a place) but he hit a lot of good points. My view on pretty much all political writing is that I don’t mind if I agree or disagree with someone’s point. The important thing is that the writing makes me think and that the writer leaves him or herself open to the possibility that they may be wrong.

 “But Enough About You” by Christopher Buckley: Talk about an underrated writer. Maybe he gained enough fame for “Thank You for Smoking” but I have been a fan of his for years and this was his first collection of non-fiction essays in a long time. Worth checking out.

 “Of Dice and Men” by David Ewalt: A history of Dungeon and Dragons. Yes, I read a book discussing the history of Dungeon and Dragons. I have had longstanding arguments about how horrible it is to play as a cleric “We’re fighting kobolds! Cleric, go over to that corner and, I don’t know, pray or something.” As someone who started playing in the early 80’s and would like to play again one day in the future it was a lot of fun hearing about the history and just reading about the fun the author had playing various adventures.

“The Best in the World” by Chris Jericho: I have a set rule that I allow myself one book on pro wrestling each year. It is tough to limit myself to just one because, I mean, it’s pro wrestling. You can never learn to many of the intricacies of the sport. (True story: I have been playing a wrestling computer game recently in which you manage a wrestling company. Not an arcade game where you play matches. A game where you sit around, hire wrestlers, book cards and matches where you say who wins and in what way, and then see what the crowd thinks of your matches. It’s essentially playing a giant spreadsheet and one where I am upset that one of my wrestlers retired on me. I wish I could say that I am embarrassed by this.)

 “This Changes Everything” by Naomi Klein: A discussion on climate change and how we would need to change the entire nature of the world economy to address it. As I have said on many occasions the planet isn’t screwed just yet but we are getting close. The biggest problem is that this is a global issue and we have never dealt with a global issue before. We do not have the structures in place to deal with such a thing. That is what scares me about the future. 

Friday, January 02, 2015

New Year's Resolutions: 2015 Edition

It’s that time of year again. Time to pull yourself out from under the tree, apologize for your horrible behavior the night before, vow that this year will be different from the last and then go about living your life exactly the same as before other than writing a different date on your checks except that you don’t even write checks anymore so the entire concept of a year is effectively irrelevant. Anyway, as always I have put together my list of resolutions for the year and since I have my own website I figured that I would post them in an effort of personal accountability and public ridicule. Here we go…

1)      Weigh less than 180 pounds and maintain that weight: I’ve actually gotten my weight under 180 several times over the past few years, which is great given that I maxed out at about 215 back in 2009. But, I can never seem to maintain the weight and over the past few months, which have been extremely stressful personally with the added addition of people continuing to put holiday cookies in front of me, I’ve fallen back to 195. So, back on the weight loss program, back to DDP Yoga (I swear it works. I don’t know how or why but it really does work.), and back to fixing my diet. This time I’ll keep the weight off.

2)      Take Landen for one long walk daily: Of our two dogs Landen, our black lab / border collie mix, has taken to following his daddy’s example and gained weight as well. So, in addition to my weight loss efforts Landen will join in the action as we will have scheduled daddy – doggie bonding walks around the neighborhood. He’ll love it because he will get to be outside more, I’ll love it because I will get away from looking at a computer screen for every hour, and hopefully we will both be healthier for it. If you’re wondering our other black lab Katie has seniority over me in the household and I can in no way tell her what to do. If she wants to go for a long walk I will take her. Hell, if she wants to go for a ride she’ll grab the car keys and bring them to me.

3)      Get Lasik surgery: This has been a point of contention between Kim and me for years and between myself and everyone else I know since third grade. As most people know I have worn glasses since I was nine years old and have absolutely horrible vision without my glasses on. However, unless most people who get glasses as a kid I did not convert to contacts as I grew older event though I looked much better without glasses and the glasses that I wore made me look like I was intentionally trying to get the role of “third guy in the computer lab” in every college movie ever made. The idea of contacts and touching my eye just goes entirely against my internal programming. I’ve discussed Lasik for years but have always pushed it off in that it was a new procedure. Well, twenty years has passed and Kim personally knows one of the best doctors in the country so I really don’t have an excuse anymore. Plus, finally I would be able to wake up in the middle of the night and get to see what is causing that noise.

4)      Write one blog post a week: Yes, this resolution has been scaled back over the years. I’ve had this blog for more than a decade now and have gone from a five day a week posting schedule for years to a more sporadic schedule to the current, “let’s try to start writing again only to quit after two weeks.” But I was thinking about some writing advice I heard last year from Philip Margolin, who I met at a book fair. When he started writing he was a criminal defense attorney and I could not imagine just how he found the time to write. He explained to me that he set up an agreement with his wife where he had four hours on Saturday morning and four hours on Sunday morning where he could close the door in his office and spend that time writing. He figured that gave him a full day’s work every week and it was done in a way that he could work it in with his personal and professional life. My old method of writing five nights a week means finding a half hour every night and I just can’t do that anymore. But an hour or two once a week is doable so I will go at that pace. Plus, I hope that less content will equate to more quality but who knows. I’ll just be happy to be writing again.

5)      Listen to a different album every day: Ok, this one may seem odd. I have a massive music collection but I have discovered three important facts over the past few years 1) I only listen to a few albums, 2) I am really, really out of touch with the current music scene and 3) I feel a lot better when I am listening to new and different music. So, I am bringing back the random CD project, which because I am running it involves spreadsheets, random number generators and surprisingly complex algorithms just to pick a CD. Hopefully this will bring me back into music and help me to fill in the gaps in my collection. I’ll be posting the random album daily to Facebook so if you read my Facebook feed expect the spam and consider it revenge on all the people who continue to send me Farmville notices as if Farmville is still a thing.

6)      Read forty books in the year with at least ten different female authors: Forty books is for some reason a difficult threshold for me to break. I have been keeping track of every book that I have read since 1998 (no, I am not OCD, why do you ask?) and only once have I ever broken that milestone. Last year I read 38 books, 37 the year before so you get the picture. More embarrassingly, of the 38 books I read last year only four were written by women and the year before that the total was five. If you ever wanted quantifiable data that I am a sexist pig there you are. Thus, time to at least get the number of books I read written by women up to a quarter of my total.

7)      Listen to everything Kim is saying before acting on the first request: Like all husbands I am flawed and in my case probably more flawed than most. Sometimes they are sins of omission, sometimes they are sins of commission and sometimes they are things that may be completely out of your control. But, I feel that I should at least try to address one of the things that I do that drives Kim insane. She will be talking to me and say, “Put the sheet in the dryer,….” and before she can finish pausing for the comma I am immediately walking away with the sheet in my hand because I am a robot and will perform the first task given to me regardless of the fact that she hasn’t even finished her sentence yet. I do this all the time. I’ll walk away in mid-conversation because somewhere in there was an action I was told to make and it’s as if I operate on a one task at a time, complete immediately basis. It’s annoying and rude as hell and it is a habit that I need to break.

8)      Kim’s choice: As always, I feel that one of your resolutions should be to do something that someone else tells you to work on so Kim gets her choice here. Keeps a bit of mystery to the process as well.

9)      Update five year plan and note cards: Roughly eleven years ago this week I sat down and on a set of note cards wrote down the goals that I had for the next five years of my life. I then folded them up, put them in my wallet and whenever I needed to remind myself what I should be doing with my time I would look at them and see how I was progressing. The amazing thing is that, for the most part, I’ve accomplished everything I put on those cards. Sometimes it took longer than five years, sometimes they took on different forms but those note cards with my overall goals were always with me and it worked. But it is time to update them and figure out what I want to do in the next five years and redo the note cards.

10)  Take Kim on a work free vacation: I cannot recall the last time I went on a vacation and did not work. I’ve taken conference calls in Disney World, Las Vegas and the French Quarter. Kim has had it even worse and has emailed clients from Iceland and called people from the emergency room in which she was the one who had been taken to the emergency room. We need to get away and spend some time away from work, email, phones, computer screens and everything else that we cannot escape. Not sure how we are going to do this but it is a necessity.

There you go. Should be an interesting 2015 even if I still don’t have my freaking hoverboard yet.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Ten Years and Counting!!!

Today marks a pretty amazing anniversary in my life and one I didn’t even realize until a few weeks ago. It was ten years ago today that I made my first post to Battling the Current and started my blog before blogging was really a thing. In this time blogging has gone from being cutting edge to being mainstream to being old school with people looking at my blogspot account in much the same way as they view someone with an AOL account.

Ok, I also have an AOL account but that one is nineteen years old and I have pledged to keep my AOL email until it can legally buy itself a beer and in two years time I’m pretty confident that my email will become sentient if only to stop the influx of spam email it receives daily.

Anyway, it dawned on me that I should try to do something big for this milestone. You have to understand that this blog was the highlight for a significant portion of my life. If you ask me to reminisce about my years in Kansas City I will talk about trivia contests, going to concerts, drinking way too much Boulevard Wheat at Harry’s Bar and Tables and writing about all of my adventures in my blog five nights a week. I kept that schedule for years and it only stopped when I moved to Delaware and started to date Kim at which point work, travel, relationships and getting older ate into my free time and I could no longer find the thirty minutes a night to spend looking at a laptop trying to think of something funny to say about Lindsay Lohan for the fortieth time.

Which is a bit of a bummer because it was a lot of fun to just have time scheduled to sit down and write. To be honest looking back it amazes me that I was able to sit down and churn out material year after year. For ages I always wanted to be a writer and I still consider that to be my dream job but those core blogging years were the closest that I ever came to reaching that goal. I am in no way complaining that I stopped and it was a case of trying to prioritize my time after accomplishing what the overall goal of the blog was: document the quest to meet the women of my dreams. I did and to my eternal amazement it was someone who knew about the blog from the beginning.

So, I have spent the past few weeks going through old posts and thinking about what to do. After consulting with long time commenter Super Dave, who pretty much kept me going at times by commenting at two in the morning on the most random pop culture points imaginable, I have decided to do the following.

1)      I am restarting the blog but on new terms. I know that I don’t have the time to write five nights a week anymore and if I try all that will lead to is a number of poorly written posts and me quitting after a few weeks like my past few efforts. So this time I am just going to aim for one or two posts a week that I will actually spend time crafting. That will hopefully save me from burn out, improve the quality and make this a fun endeavor. I need to get back into writing mode, as it has always been one of my biggest stress reliefs, and I want to see if I can find that stride I had ten years ago.
2)      I am going to do something silly that I have been thinking about for the past several years but have really been wanting to do which is to edit the old posts, fix the atrocious spelling and grammar, add in the comments and publish it on the Kindle for anyone to purchase for the low, low price of $0.99. I’d charge less but I think I am required to charge something. My plan right now is to take the posts from 2004 and 2005, which total somewhere around 200,000 words, and edit those over the next few months. I’ll also try to add in some comments, explanations, overviews of stories that are much different now and just generally make it something that upwards of ten people might be interested in purchasing. At the very least it is an amazing time capsule into a period of my life and a sliver of pop culture where Brittney Spears is pre-rehab, Lindsay Lohan is not a joke, and How I Met Your Mother is just about to debut. It’s like time a time machine and as we always say here at Battling the Current…

“What do we want?”
“Time travel!”
“When do we want it?”
“That’s irrelevant!”

Ten years. Pretty f’ing amazing.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Styx vs. Monkees: A never ending conflict

Ok, I did watch the fan produced ending for How I Met Your Mother today and if you had shown that to me yesterday and told me that it was the real ending I would have thought, “Aw, what a sweet ending.” It would have been a happy ending for everyone, or at least Ted. You still have to figure out Barney and Robin and Marshall and Lilly but you could make them all happy in the end. In a sense I like the fact that they did not make it nice and neat because life is certainly not and neither has been Ted’s life. But that said, the more I watch the original ending the more it seems totally off. That is what happens when you are writing to scenes filmed by child actors seven years ago. At some point you can accept that you should change plans.

Anyway, I wanted to tell the story tonight of how I am a hypocrite in general and especially when it comes to music. If I am nice this is just an example of how I can be a bit of an arrogant snob but at worse it shows some of the lesser side of my personality. Either way it is a pretty fun story.

So a few weeks ago someone asked me if I wanted to go see Styx in concert and my response was a) laughter and b) “why would you want to see a band without their lead singer and where half of the band is dead.” Now let me start by saying that I really like Styx. I actually owned Kilroy was Here on cassette. They are a Chicago band and two of the band members lived in the suburbs in the same neighborhood as kids from my high school. Hell, when my sister was in high school the school won a radio concert which gave the students free tickets to see Styx. I can’t say that they are my favorite band of all time but I did grow up on their music.

But with all that I have no desire to see them in their present form. Dennis DeYoung is no longer the lead singer because the rest of the band hates him and it is hard to think of Styx without him. Tommy Shaw is still a good guitarist and probably worth seeing but it isn’t Styx. It’s Tommy Shaw, one or two of the other original members, and a bunch of other guys filling in roles. I didn’t want to spend money to see the show. I didn’t care that it would be silly fun. I pretty much shot it down as the dumbest idea I had ever heard and that was before I found out it was a double bill with Foreigner.

Fast forward a few days and I check my email to see that Ticketmaster has let me know about the latest shows scheduled for Kansas City (most likely on the hope that I would start buying tickets again as I believe that my moving resulted in a significant hit to their profit margin). In the email I found out that the Monkees are playing at the Uptown Theater. Not only was I getting ready to buy concert tickets I was ready to buy plane tickets, get a hotel room, and then camp outside the front door of the Uptown for a week ahead of the show so I could be in front of the stage. Oh, and while I was camped out there I would be getting signatures for my petition for the Monkees to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Of course this makes absolutely no sense. Davy Jones died a few years back so it is clearly not the Monkees of old. Even with Mike Nesmith there we are missing the heart of the band and everyone is older and let’s face it, they never played their own instruments to begin with so it is not like they have gotten any better. But it’s the Monkees! I grew up on their music. It would be a lot of silly fun.

So I’m a hypocrite. One band from the seventies reunites and I consider it a personal affront that it would even be suggested that I see them in concert. Another band from the sixties, one that was created solely for a television show, reunites and I am willing to travel across the country to see them play at a venue that is conveniently located across the street from a place where you can sell your blood plasma. If I was internally consistent I would probably be a lot easier to live with.

Wednesday Night Music Club: Nothing makes life better than a new Drive By Truckers album.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Sense of an Ending

It will probably surprise some people to discover that I did not watch the finale of How I Met Your Mother last night. That will be slightly less surprising when I provide my excuse that I was on a plane at the time as “I’m on a plane” is basically my default state of being at the moment. However, I have read the reactions and watched the last scene and felt that I must provide my thoughts on the ending of the television show that most paralleled my life.

Let’s talk about the parallels. The show debuted in 2005, just under a year after I started the blog so when Barney talked about nobody reading his blog in the first season I totally got the joke. The characters were a few years out of college and five years younger than I am. I was a few years out of grad school and most people would be generous in saying that my social and emotional immaturity would make me five years younger than I actually am. The main characters seemingly lived at a bar, drank Red Dragon shots and lived in a world of in jokes and bad decisions. It was my life in a nutshell.

I should also note that I stopped watching the show weekly in the spring of 2011, which not coincidentally is when I stopped blogging regularly. The fact that I decided that the show that I once threatened to sue for stealing my life story had gone on too long at the exact same time that I got married is an interesting sidebar. It wasn’t that we disliked the show; it is just that the schedule of our lives had grown too crowded. I still kept up on the show by online reviews and have bought all the seasons on DVD so one day I will catch up. From what I can gather is that the three things that people are most upset about are 1) Barney and Robin break up, 2) we meet the mother only to have her die and 3) Ted ends up with Robin. I’ll go through these one at a time.

Barney and Robin’s marriage falls apart: I will admit that this is something that I am not really happy with especially given that the past several seasons were dedicated to getting the two of them together as a couple and having Barney mature into a better version of himself. I remember the season where they first started dating and you could see that as a storyline and I truly wanted it to work. I was more upset when they broke them up the first time than most people because I just thought they made a great couple and were treading water apart. The fact that their marriage ends, Barney returns to being a player but finally gains his center by becoming a dad as a result of his one night stands ends the story of Barney on a bit of a sour note. But, to be honest, I can easily point to so many friends who had seemingly gotten their lives back on track only for them to derail and then find themselves again in a simpler way.

We meet the mother only to find out that she has been dead for six years: To be honest this was not a complete surprise. I read a review of an episode from a few weeks ago that made it pretty clear that the mother had died and I know that years ago that was one of the predominant theories about the mother. Once it became clear that the mother was a character that we had never met one of the few ideas that made sense was that Ted was telling them the story about how he met their mother because she couldn’t tell them herself. It seems strange for a sitcom and when the show started I would never have assumed that ending but now I can understand it. Maybe it is because I look at my list of Facebook friends and see several who have died over the past few years. As you reach middle age the idea of one dying young goes from being a bad Billy Joel song to a horrific truth.

That said I understand that one could be in one of two camps here. The first is that this is a total rip off. The entire show was about how he met her and the moment she is introduced she is killed off screen. That is tonally dissonant and in watching the last scene the entire conversation with the kids where this is revealed feels completely wrong (and not just because of Ted’s makeup). If you viewed finding out who is the mother to be the pinnacle of the series then this was a total gut punch of an ending.

On the other hand, I stopped thinking about the importance of the mother years ago once they decided once and for all that it wasn’t going to be Victoria. Who Ted totally should have married in season one like they had planned if the show had only lasted thirteen episodes and we wouldn’t be having this discussion today. Instead the story was about Ted’s journey and finding out who he was and what he needed to be happy and yes, in the end, the story was always about Robin. He started the story with how he met her and ends with getting permission to try one last time.

Ted ends up with Robin: For as much as I question the last scene having it close with Ted holding up the blue French horn outside Robin’s apartment is one of the best ways to end the series that I could possibly imagine. And in this case, and the last example of the parallels between my life and this show, I am completely biased.

Twelve years ago I saw a girl in a bar. After meeting her I told my buddies that I would marry her. At the time it didn’t work out. We never even dated. We liked each other but were in different places in our lives with different goals and dreams and while I always thought that she was “the one” it was never right. Years passed. I drifted away and went on adventures and had a serious of relationships that could be alternately called comical, farcical and fictional depending on your point of view. Then one day, six years after I first met that girl in the bar, she emailed me and I decided to raise the blue French horn to her window one last time.

Kim and I celebrated our three year wedding anniversary last week. Sometimes you end up with “the one” though the journey is never the one you expected it to be. All my best to Ted and Robin and to quote a much wiser man than I, “Fair play to those who dare to dream.”

The five random CDs for the week (and yes, back to blogging regularly)
1)      Big Head Todd and the Monsters “Beautiful World”
2)      Josh Rouse “Under Cold Blue Stars”
3)      Beausoleil “La Danse de la Vie”
4)      Jay Farrar. Will Johnston, Anders Parker, Yim Yammes “New Multitudes”
5)      Sting “The Soul Cages”

Monday, March 10, 2014

What is your Workout?

I was thinking after what I wrote last night about my fitness regimen and what I have done to get into shape. I know that this sounds totally bizarre coming from a two sport lettermen in high school whose two letters came in football (as the student trainer) and baseball (as the scorekeeper). While I’ve always loved sports I have never been athletic and was always the tall, gawky, skinny kid who could never get out of the way of his own limbs. As I got older that all stayed the same except I went from skinny to pudgier than I would like with no gain in athletic prowess. However I did try a number of different things to get into shape and after several years I have found myself in what is probably the best shape of my adult life. Here is what worked, what didn’t work and some things in between.

Treadmill: This was my default workout for years, including those years when I was woefully out of the shape. I consider it the basic workout for the person who lives in an apartment complex with a small exercise room and no clue what to actually do. I am lucky in the fact that I can do forty five minutes on a treadmill without losing my mind from boredom but I can’t say that this has been the best workout for me. That said, when I start up on the Couch to 5K routine in a month or two this will get more play.

Wii Fit / EA Active: When you are starting out trying to get in shape it is best to start small. Really small, like just playing video games as activity. I have to say that I primarily used my Wii for the fitness applications and while they weren’t the best way to get in shape these two programs definitely helped. Wii Fit was my first interaction with yoga and discovering just how horrible my balance is (which was finally explained by the fact that my legs are not the same length). I can’t say that it was the most challenging workout though I have fond memories of the boxing game (where your coach sounded just like Adam Corrola) and the step aerobics (in which I must have looked like the biggest idiot ever). EA Active was better in terms of overall fitness though it had two drawbacks. One was, like all video game workouts, it was highly dependent on the Wii picking up your movements and there is nothing worse than spending half your time trying to convince the game that yes, you did just do a squat. The other is more a personal quibble in that for lifting they utilize those power bands / cords that you see in every Target. I’ve never found a set of those that I like because they never seem to be made for my height and strength. I always going with either no resistance or insane resistance.

Personal Trainer: I think that I have used four different personal trainers over the years due to a combination of location and the fact that my trainers kept on quitting on me. You will find a lot of differing opinions out there about using a trainer and especially if it is worth the money and my view is that a good trainer is worth it, especially at the beginning, but that you should definitely reach the point where you no longer need one. When I started out with trainers I was really starting from scratch with no idea what exercises to do and worrying that my shoulder and hip injuries would make workouts impossible. With a trainer you have someone to lead you around the gym, learn how to use certain machines and have someone watching you to make sure that you are using the correct form. That is perfect when you are starting out but once you reach the point where you know your various routines you should be able to go on your own. Plus you always have to deal with the fact that a trainer can push you too hard or too little and both have their drawbacks. My view is use one to start if you can afford it but don’t worry if it does not turn into a lifelong partnership. You’re not a contestant on the Biggest Loser.

Gym Classes: There are people who swear by the classes at gyms and while I can’t really complain about the ones that I have gone to (they all were great workouts) they simply are not for me. First off, the fact that I have to drive to the gym uses up to much time for me to begin with so that makes having the classes fit my schedule is a massive challenge. Then there is the fact that when you start a new class you are typically dealing with a class where everyone else is a regular so you spend the first few sessions just trying to figure out what everyone is doing. This is even worse in yoga where the instructor will say “go into alligator. Ok, now go into crocodile” and you apparently should know the difference when the only difference that I can remember between the two is one has visible teeth and the other doesn’t. Finally, all of the classes that I have gone to have been predominately female. When I go with Kim this is ok as I am the supportive husband who works out with his wife. When I go alone I am the creepy guy in the back who can’t keep up. Just not my thing.

TRX: This is a bit of a subset of the last two as it was a Trainer / Class that got me using this. These are those suspension cables that you can use to perform a ton of body weight exercises. It is extremely good once you get the hang of it and all you need is a good doorframe in order to get started. Like a lot of things you can push yourself too hard though and wind up hurting yourself. I’m hoping to do more TRX in the coming year.

DDP Yoga: My current obsession and by far the best workout routine I’ve ever come across. One of New Year’s Resolutions is to finish the Advanced program and I am on week nine of thirteen (yes, I know that we are in week eleven of the new year. I fell slightly behind). To reach this point I’ve done 30+ workouts and if you have ever purchased fitness DVDs how many of them have you played thirty times? Especially after having used them for the previous eight months as well? I’ve never come across any fitness program that has held my interest like DDP Yoga.

Maybe it is the fact that it was made and hosted by a retired professional wrestler, which is just so random that it makes it exciting. Maybe it is because it combines regular body weight exercises with rehab exercises and yoga poses into something that gives you a good workout while improving your flexibility. It is common to go from a squat to a push up to downward dog in the course of two minutes. But the biggest complement that I can give this program is the fact that it is the first exercise program that I have ever seen that is made to start as a beginner and grow with you as you get better. If you look at so many others you seem to either need in insane shape to just get through the first workout or they are at the “miniature golf has great fitness benefits” level. With DDP Yoga there are so many options to modify a move that is too challenging for the time being and the workouts themselves range from twenty five minutes to an hour so as your cardio improves the length of workout increases with you.

(Oh, and they have real people doing the workouts. When you have a 60 year old and a 300+ pound guy completing the workouts you can’t really tell yourself that this is impossible.)

As with all workouts this probably isn’t for everyone. If you want to put on twenty pounds of muscle or run a marathon it wouldn’t be your primary option. But all I can say is that I look forward to working out and anything that can make that happen is a good thing.