Monday, March 30, 2009

Lessons Learned

20 things I learned this weekend.

1: That I know nothing about college basketball

2: New England weather will never change. Saturday spent most of the day in the mid 60s. The boys were riding their bikes around the neighborhood. I invited my buddy over to watch the Madness. We unwrapped the grill, packed the cooler with ice and beer…

…and the temperature dropped 15 degrees in less than 30 minutes. Un-fucking-believable. Wound up huddled by the grill, by myself, while everyone ran inside for warmth.

3: Ty Lawson is much better than I thought.

4: Tyler Hansbrough will not make a good pro. Blake Griffin (who will make a good pro) absolutely abused him on Sunday. On a related note, what was that ridiculous dunk over Griffin that Hansbrough tried? He was four feet away from the basket, tried to dunk and wound up throwing it off the rim.

5: That Villanova and Michigan State are my nemesis (nemisisis?). Every year they fuck me over. Either by losing early when I pick them to go far or knocking out one of my Final Four teams. In this case they both knocked out my Finals picks. Louisville and Pittsburgh. Bastards!

6: That said, I really REALLY like Villanova to take it all. Impressive win.

7: Tiger Woods has erased any doubt that he’s the greatest golfer ever.

8: That people can be total idiots. These two asswipes across the hall from me are talking to each other on speaker phone even though their offices are right next to each other. One kept saying ‘What? I can’t hear you. You’re cutting out on me’. Hang up the phone, get your fat ass out of your seat and walk ten steps to the other office! I’m surprised there wasn’t feedback.

Note: this is more a confirmation on what I already knew.

9: The ‘Sex and the City’ movie is even more atrocious than I even thought possible. As a compromise to wifey, I watched the last half of this movie since she’s put up with a barrage of college basketball games this weekend. Three things to say about this disaster:

- That Sarah Jessica Parker’s character is supposed to be a fashion maven and trend setter is an absolute joke. She was dressed like a clown half the time, including a dress she wore to a fashion show that made her look like a cream puff and stockings that hurt the eyes.

- This movie was downright depressing. It wasn’t funny (granted I missed the first 45 minutes) and there were moments I considered putting my head through the television screen just to put an end to my misery.

- It’s never easy to listen to characters whine and complain about their lives in general. That each of them is wealthy, successful and connected enough to live on the beach in the Hollywood area, get front row seats to a top notch runway show, and can afford multiple penthouse apartments makes feeling any sort of sympathy towards them nearly impossible. They come off as catered, pampered, whiny brats. That, my friends, makes a movie nearly unwatchable.

10: Taking family time every now and then is recommended. I took Friday off because my youngest’s day care was closed. Wifey decided to take it off, as well. So, we decided to take our eldest out of school, as well and made it a family day. Went to see ‘Monsters vs Aliens’ at the 11 am showing and had the theater all to ourselves. Hung out while doing yard work. It was a nice, stress free day.

11: That this March has flown by. Usually March drags on by like a slug on depressants. This year I’m stunned it’s nearly over. Time to think of my annual April Fool’s Joke for my office friends. Or enemies. Whichever.

12: Beer o’clock never gets old. An old friend unexpectedly texted me to let me know she was in the area. ‘Thirsty?’ was the key question. Fuck, yeah! So, I met her for a beer after lunch and I’m feeling much more relaxed. Impromptu beer o’clock. Does it get any better?

13: ‘Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlistisn’t nearly as funny as I thought it would be. Cute, at times utterly disgusting (in a funny way), great music, but not at all as hilarious as I was expecting. Pushes the edge for a PG-13 movie, too.

14: It’s well past time for a Guy’s Night Out. My buddy came over with his pregnant wife to watch the games on Saturday. We watch the first game, then, just as the second game gets started his wife says ‘I’m tired, we should get going’. It wasn’t even eight o’clock!! To his credit, he says to her, ‘I came over to watch the games with my bud! Next time you’re staying home.’

15: Something I hope our government learns soon: We can’t save them all, Obama. Some car companies and banks are going to HAVE to fail in order to save the economy. There is no way around it. We can’t keep throwing billions at mismanaged companies in the hope that they’ll suddenly self correct. All we’re doing is driving the country into a deeper financial abyss. You’ve done what you can do, now step back and hope the imbeciles that got us into this mess in the first place are taken out of power (not likely) or have learned from their mistakes (even less likely).

While I do like Obama’s administration requiring the GM CEO to resign, I wonder what kind of severance package he got for doing so.

16: There is a very good chance I will never, ever get sick of hearing Robert Randolph and his Family Band. Hearing him pop up on my iPod while it’s on Shuffle brightens my day.

17: Next year I’m picking my brackets before I listen to any ‘experts’ talk about teams they like. I’m kicking myself over being talked out of Michigan State making it to the Final Four because Louisville just had too many weapons. 52 points, people. They scored 52 fucking points! From now on, I’ll check injuries, make my own picks and not change a thing.

18: That people love to congratulate themselves. If multiple cities turning off non essential lighting for an hour can save so much energy, then why don’t they do it every day? Why not turn off all non essential or decorative lighting from midnight to 5 am? How much would that save? A one hour gesture is meaningless. Make it a habit.

19: Despite my recent affair with gin and tonics, beer will always be my true love.

20: The trailer I saw of ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ makes me hopeful it could be one of the most magical movies of our generation.


Today’s distraction: My Little Pony gets a Hollywood make over. I would buy the Alien one.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lost - Part 10

Sayid, you cold blooded son of a bitch!

Finally, someone does what most viewers have been rooting for since Henry Gale emerged from the jungle to torment Locke in that first Dharma station.

I will go no further in case someone hasn’t watched, yet.

As a quick sidenote, I wasn’t particularly fond of last night’s episode. It was one of the weaker ones of the season. Wasn’t horrible, just dragged a bit. At least, until the end. Just my opinion.

Off we go.


What Happened

We flashback to Iraq to see Sayid as a little boy stoically and efficiently dispatch a chicken in order to make his big brother look good. Father was very proud of Sayid, which makes him the polar opposite of everyone else on the show.

Sayid. A killer even at a young age. Yes, this will be a theme throughout the episode.

Back on the island, Little Ben brings Sayid another sandwich (Chicken salad this time!), asks Sayid if Richard has sent him. See, young Ben ran into a shaggy haired Richard in the jungle. Richard told Little Ben that he would have to be patient, but his time would come. Little Ben tells Sayid ‘If you’re patient, maybe I can help you, too’.

Flashback to Moscow, where a middle aged man is frantically running through his apartment closing and locking doors. He gets to a safe and opens it just as Sayid busts through the door and shoots the dude. Sayid is one bad mofo.

After the deed, he meets Big Ben (who looks dapper in a fedora). Ben tells Sayid, ‘Hey, nice work, but we’re done. You basically killed off the entire Board of Widmore’s organization. Kudos!’ (the quotes I use don’t necessarily mean that’s EXACTLY what Ben said in the show, but it’s the general idea). He then goes to leave while Sayid asks ‘Well….I mean….what now?’ (again, quotations are more for effect). Ben tells Sayid to ‘go live your life’ and strolls off into the Moscow night looking like Humphrey Bogart. Actually, Peter Lorre would be a better comparison.

Did anyone under 50 get that? If not Wikipedia those names. It will totally make sense.

Back on the island in 1977 (which makes this technically a flashback. This is getting confusing as hell), Sayid is refusing to talk to anyone, although he’s striking up quite the relationship with Little Ben. Sawyer comes to chat with him, asks him how Sayid is doing to which he replies ‘I’m being served sandwiches by a 12 year old Benjamin Linus. How do you think I’m doing?’

Unexpectedly, Sawyer head butts Sayid which leads to both of them jumping around the cell in pain. That was funny. Sawyer isn’t really thinking things through all the time. Saywer tells Sayid to confess to wanting to defect from the Hostiles (aka The Others) and to make it convincing, it must look like Saywer roughed him up a bit. Otherwise, Horace (or Harvey as I like to call him) wants to take him to some dude who specializes in getting the truth from people. Kind of like the island’s own Sayid.

‘Why would I do that?’ Sayid asks. ‘So you can join Dharma-ville,’ Sawyer replies which made me laugh again. I like the interaction between Sawyer and Sayid. Sort of a ruthless, murdering Abbott and Costello. (Again, anyone under 50?). Sayid, of course, refuses the offer.

Meanwhile, in the Dharma CafĂ©, Hurley serves waffles and ham to Kate and Jack. Then slips about Sawyer and Juliette cozying up in their Dharma Love Shack. Kate didn’t know which made breakfast very awkward. When Kate asked Jack if he knew, he did his usual head nodding for a bit before answering ‘Yeah’. Jack knows he can simply nod or say ‘Yes’, right? He doesn’t need to do both? Sorry, that should have been in the question section.

Juliette is having her own crisis of faith with the return of Kate. She asks Sawyer if their time is up and Sawyer assures her that he has everything under control and that nothing is going to change. Juliette also has a meet and greet with Kate (who will be working with her) in which she basically tells Kate to stay away from Sawyer.

Back at the cell, Sayid witnesses Ben’s father treat him badly when Little Ben brings Sayid yet another sandwich (not sure what this one had in it). Little Ben, always quick on his feet apparently, quickly tells his father that he brought it for him. His father doesn’t buy it and throws the sandwich and plate against the wall, which was counter productive since he’s going to have to clean it up being the janitor and all.

Flashing back (forward?) to Sayid working for Habitat for Humanity (or something), he turns to find Big Ben standing there. Ben tell Sayid that Locke is dead, Hurley is in danger and Sayid might be, too. ‘If I can find you, they can too’. Sayid wonders how this could happen since Ben told him they had killed everyone that posed a threat. Ben tells Sayid that there is a man parked outside Hurley’s hospital that Sayid must kill.

Sayid asks why Big Ben came to him. ‘Because this is in your nature,’ Ben tells him. Sayid gets pissed, Ben half heartedly apologizes and leaves.

Back on the island, Sayid is brought to Oldham who gives Sayid a magic sugar cube which makes Sayid trip the light fantastic and he spills the truth. He’s from the future, all the Dharma people are going to die and he knows all about the Dharma stations. Nobody believes him, of course, so they vote and decide they need to kill Sayid.

Back to the future, we see Sayid drinking $120 glasses of whiskey or gin or something. The chick from the Ajira airplane cozies up next to Sayid, seduces him and just as he’s getting his groove on, kicks him in the face and pulls a gun on him. She’s a bounty hunter that’s taking Sayid back to Guam to answer for one of his many, many, many murders.

So off these two lovers go, arriving at the airport only to have Sayid freak out because Sun, Jack, Hurley, Kate and – yup – here comes Big Ben - are all on the same plane. ‘Are you sure we’re going to Guam?’ Sayid asks. He even tried to convince her to change flights, but she will have none of his nonsense. Sucker! Should have listened.

Back to the island (this is getting exhausting) where Sawyer is offering Sayid a way to escape. Sayid refuses which confuses Sawyer until he sees a rolling, flaming Dharma mobile go crashing into one of the houses. Jack comes running out to help only to get ‘Three years! No flaming buses! You’re back one day’ from Sawyer.

While everyone fights the fire, Little Ben helps Sayid escape but only if Sayid takes him to the Hostiles. Sayid agrees and – finally realizing why he was brought back to the island – manages to knock Jin out, get his gun and….

…wait for it….

….shoots Little Ben in the heart.

Then Sayid runs off into the jungle.


What We Learned

- Sayid seems to enjoy killing people. His reaction when Big Ben tells them they were all done said it all.

- Sayid has absolutely no luck with women. They have all either been murdered by someone else, murdered by him or been a bounty hunter tracking him down to answer for some random murder of an important Widmore associate. Guy can’t win.

- Juliette is threatened by the return of Kate. As she should be.

- Sawyer is no doubt working to score a three way out of this deal.

- Jack seems to enjoy his Dharma life and letting Sawyer handle things. Thought he’d be trying harder to take back control.

- Hurley is PERFECT for cafeteria work.

- Despite working with him to kill all the Widmore people, Sayid hates Ben with a passion and (probably) himself for being suckered in by him.

- Sayid can take a punch, kick or headbutt with the best of them. That kick from bounty hunter chick would have knocked me out. Especially with those particular boots. Those looked deadly.

- Sayid’s been going about this torturing business all wrong. Instead of violence and pain, he should have been using those effective and easy to use sugar cubes.

- Sayid really was on the Ajira flight by accident. He wanted no part of getting on that plane.

- For someone so guarded and dangerous, Sayid certainly fell for bounty hunter’s come on very easily. Maybe he was just horny.

- Dharma really needs to figure out more flattering uniforms. Those jumpsuits don’t look good on anyone.

- Jack is quite pleasant when he has no responsibility or drug habit. Sadly, that’s not often.

- There were no rolling, out of control, burning Dharma-mobiles on the island for at least three years.

- Sayid is funny when he’s high.

- Juliette is going to be highly employable if she ever gets of the island. Doctor and car mechanic?


New Questions

- What did that chicken ever do to Sayid?

- Does anyone really think Little Ben is dead?

- Who lit the Dharma bus on fire? Little Ben or did he have an accomplice?

- Were Little Ben’s sandwiches made with love?

- Who are the other children on the island? Ethan’s mother mentions all the other children when arguing why they need to kill Sayid.

- After Sayid shoots Little Ben and runs off into the jungle, does he meet up with Rousseau? Anyone else realize this show is an actor’s dream? Even when your character dies, you can always get work in flashbacks and time loops.

- On the same subject, does anyone remember when Sayid and Rousseau first meet? She captures him in her underground lair during the first few episodes of season one. Is there any recognition on her part? I can’t remember and thought someone else might.

- How could Big Ben not remember Sayid after this? He friggin’ shot him as a little boy. I’m pretty sure that would stick in a kid’s mind.

- Even better, does Ben know killing is in Sayid’s nature because he tried to kill Little Ben? Has directing Sayid to kill all these random people been some sort of karmic retribution?

- How long was the dude sitting in the car outside Hurley’s mental hospital? Sayid tells off Big Ben, somehow decides he needs to protect Hurley, flies from the Dominican Republic to Hurley’s hospital and the guy is still there? Did he sleep there? Were there shifts taken? When and how did he go the bathroom? Is it possible to have take out delivered to a car?

- Did Sayid take the Russian dude’s money? If not, does that mean Sayid is somehow independently wealthy? Or was Ben paying him big bucks? He would have had to pay for that expensive liquor somehow.

- What was the point of Big Ben telling Sayid that he thought Locke was murdered? To recap, Ben talks Locke out of hanging himself, then kills him with the same electrical cord he was going to use for the suicide, then staged it to look like a suicide, then tells Sayid Locke’s been murdered. Uh. What the hell?

- How does Ben keep all his stories straight?

- Also, how does Ben just appear all the time? Nobody sees him walking towards them or walking away. He’s always simply standing there when they turn around. ‘Hello, Sayid’. ‘Hello, Jack.’ No wonder his father beat the crap out of him.

- What was Jin doing out driving around the jungle at night? Was he helping Sayid escape? Or was that just coincidence?

- Why did Kate come back to the island and why does she seem so miserable?

- Is Kate pissed that Sawyer and Juliette are shacked up together? If so, why? It’s been three years and she did the same thing with Jack when they got off the island. No double standards!

- Does Faraday still have his tie on?

- How are Locke and Sun going to reunite with the rest of the crew currently in 1977?

- Finally, I have a thought on the bounty hunter chick. I don’t think she is actually after Sayid, at all. Anyone else struck by the fact she didn’t seem at all surprised that the Ajira flight crashed on the island? What are the odds she actually works for Charles Widmore?

I’d say better than average.


Today's distraction: The fantastic and original Ultimate Showdown. Everyone from Batman to Shaq to Indiana Jones to Godzilla to Optimus Prime to Abe Lincoln to Jackie Chan are involved. And there is a surprise winner.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Crush of the Month

The month is nearly over and I totally forgot to elect a new Crush of the Month. Well, not totally. There was an alarming shortage of possibilities this month. Every option either had something in their background to make me steer clear or had some annoyance that crossed her off the list.

You may call me picky, but I prefer ‘highly selective’. This is a prestigious and highly sought after award. I need to select the winners with decorum, good taste, bust size comparison and massive bribes.

Unfortunately, nobody reads this and bribes are in short supply. By short I mean nonexistent.

So, I’m left to my own devices and have to select women who actually do something for me.

Without further ado here is BeachBum’s March Crush of the Month.

Who?: Genevieve Gorder, that’s who. Most people know her from TLC’s 'Trading Spaces'. She was one of the designers that would recreate a space for families or friends swapping houses. What struck me about Genevieve was her ability to simplify a space while making it fit the people she was working for. I never cringed looking at a room she built. It was always easy on the eyes.

Just like her:



Beautiful, no?

She moved from 'Trading Spaces' to her own show called 'Town Haul' where she would literally make over an entire town. So she’s ambitious.

Taking time off to have kids, Genevieve has returned with a vengeance with another show of her own called ‘Dear Genevieve’ on HGTV. You can sample some of what the show is about by watching the clip on that link. Basically, people email her asking for suggestions and she will tape a reply and even draw up sketches to show what she has in mind.

If she thinks you really need help, she’ll come to your house and work with you on the room. TV crew comes standard.

What Else?: Besides her seductive eyes (are they green or brown or hazel?), she’s very comfortable in front of the camera, doesn’t waste words while communicating what it is she’s trying to do and has a common sense not often seen with television designers. Let’s face it, some of them are a bit ‘off’, but it makes for great TV so they roam free ruining homes all over the country. Even better, she’s one of the few designers who truly seems to enjoy what she’s doing, often doing grunt work while barefoot.

Yes, barefoot. It’s sort of her signature thing and I find it oddly human and kind of sexy.

Oh, she also runs her own design company, gg Studios (her initials, get it?) and is probably worth a fucking fortune.


That All?: If she’s made this list, you all know there is some kicker that launched her to the highest peak in all the internet. In this case, it was when I learned she was responsible for designing the bottle for Tanqueray Gin No 10 (it’s the sleek and sexy one in the middle).

Not only is Genevieve beautiful, talented, sexy, wealthy and competent, she also designed a bottle for one of my favorite alcohol brands. Wonder if she gets free gin as part of that deal?

I think I’m in love.

Today’s distraction: A bunch of people on a boat watching the under water volcano eruption. If I were on that boat, I would be asking the captain to move us a bit further away. Like 1000 miles further away.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Balls To The Wall

Just as the new year rang in and our economy crumbled like a moldy, rotten, smelly house of cards, scientists at Stanford and University of California San Francisco (UCSF to make things simple and, believe me, you’ll want things as simple as possible after this post) announced that they successfully isolated human stem cells from the cells of testes.

Yes. Testes. Balls. Nuts. Apparently every man has swarms of life giving and body repairing cells down there; which totally explains why they get so itchy at times.

While I have to question the study of the male ball sack as a medical career track of choice (gynecology class full?), this might be the finding of the century. Bear with me a minute while I get you up to speed on the jargon.

For the uninitiated like me (I had to look all this shit up to understand what the hell was going on) current stem cells are considered ‘pluripotent’. This means they could differentiate into any of the three germ layers: Endoderm (lungs, stomach lining, intestines), mesoderm (muscle, bone, blood) or ectoderm (epidermal tissue, nervous system).

While these testes cells bear a similarity to stem cells, they ‘have different patterns of gene expression and regulation and they do not proliferate and differentiate as aggressively as human embryonic stem cells’. In other words, these cells are multipotent; meaning the cells can be used in multiple ways, but only for one of the germ layers.

Or something like that. Even the researchers themselves aren’t entirely sure, calling the cells ‘multipotent germline stem cells’. I’m pretty sure that’s really smart guy speak for ‘I dunno’ followed by an exaggerated shrug of the shoulders.

I won’t bore you with the details of what they did, how they did it and who first thought ‘Male testicles! Of course!’. You can read the article if you really want that information. Just know that the testes cells acted the same as stem cells (but not EXACTLY) and, more importantly, according to Dr. Paul Turek, ‘These cells could potentially treat infertility or other diseases in men’.

Potentially?

Researchers at Georgetown University now say ‘Fuck potentially. I have your ‘potentially’ right here, motherfuckas!’. They have successfully converted testes cells into true, pluripotent embryonic-like stem cells. While I can’t believe two different highly regarded Universities in this country are poking around the genitalia of random men, let’s be glad they are. As the study’s director, Dr. Martin Dym, says, ‘Given these advances, and with further validation, it is possible that in the not–too-distant-future, men could be cured of disease with a biopsy of their own testes’.

To boil this down to it’s basics, men’s testicles could contain the ingredients that would make us LIVE FOREVER! Got a disease? ‘Doc, could you get me some of my frozen ball junk and fix me up, please? I’ll be over at three. Thanks!’

Frozen, you ask? Why, yes. According to Dr Dym (which better be pronounced ‘dim’ so I can giggle every time he’s mentioned), ‘Once these new cell types are produced – several weeks after initial collection – they can be frozen and used at any point in the future. We are taking adult spermatogonial stem/progenitor cells, which in the body are unipotent, capable of only making sperm, and coaxing them back to embryonic stem-like cells, which are pluripotent’.

Oh, yeah! Coax those cells, Dr Dym! For the record, my testes are omnipotent.

Think about this future: You have a son. Between the ages of 18-50, he decides some insurance policy is needed and has come of his own testes extracted and frozen for a later date. Somewhere along the line he discovers he has cancer. It won’t matter what kind, since the cells can be made into pluripotent cells and be adapted to any part of the body. He undergoes cell therapy and the cancer is wiped out.

Or he is in an accident and winds up paralyzed.

Or he loses an arm.

Or he goes blind.

We are at the infancy stage of what stem cells can do. They won’t help everybody, but their use is certainly far from fully realized. Now we have a new method to extract, store and use cells in a way that won’t rile up the religious right.

What if my cells can help save one of my sons?

What if they can be used for someone else?

I’m making an appointment and trashing my own vow to have nothing sharp near my scrotum in order to get some of my ball cells extracted, treated and frozen just as soon as it becomes available as an option. I will become indestructible! A Super Man! Men around the world can become immortal! (Team Testes?)

There’s nothing stopping us now, my brothers!

Let me just check with the wife before I make that call.


Today’s distraction: The trials and tribulations of a sidewalk chalk artist. Love the finished product (a bit disorienting), too.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Likes and Dislikes

Likes and dislikes from the past weekend.

- Liked immersing myself in March Madness.

- Disliked the lack of true upsets this year.

- Like that I decided to pay for two brackets in this year’s office pool. My ‘take the favorites’ is currently in first place.

- Dislike my ‘actually thought it out’ bracket which is in the middle of the pack.

- Like that ‘Buffalo Wild Wings’ commercial where the photographer uses his giant, super bright flash to sabotage a basketball game.

- Dislike that it was aired 5132 times during the games; including one break where it was shown twice. We don’t even have any around Boston!

Sidenote here: That ad shows Boston fans rooting for the place to sabotage their own team so the game can go into overtime. This would never, ever happen. Boston fans prefer their teams to win by 60 points; like what they did to the Lakers in Game 6 of the Finals. That they would root for overtime against a New York team of all things is just insulting. We don’t need an excuse to stay at a bar drinking and certainly wouldn’t root for our team to miss a last second shot in order to extend the game. Sidenote over.

- Like that both champions in my brackets are still alive.

- Dislike that neither looked very good this past weekend (Memphis who beat up on a weak, tired Maryland team and Pitt who won sloppy and seems to be lacking a sense of urgency).

- Liked the teams that lost valiantly – Siena, Oklahoma State, USC, Texas, Western Kentucky

- Disliked the teams that won ugly – Pittsburgh and Michigan State (ugly is the only way they can win, apparently).

- Liked Blake Griffin showing what all the fuss was about.

- Liked Sam Young of Pitt reminding me of Cedric Maxwell with an outside shot.

- Disliked Pitt point guard Levance Fields lackadaisical play. Especially the ‘what the fuck are you doing??!!!’ pass into the fourth row of the stands during the critical final 4 minutes.

- Liked that I drank more beer than I have since last summer.

- Disliked that it made me feel really bloated and gross. I’ll need to try harder this weekend.

- Liked – no – LOVED Cole Aldrich completely taking over the defense for Kansas. I wish I had them beating Michigan State in my bracket because I think they will.

- Liked that I used the theory that it’s the year of Pennsylvania for sports. Phillies and Steelers won championships so why not Pitt winning the NCAA title.

- Disliked (a lot!!) that I forgot Villanova is also in the state of Pennsylvania.

- Really, really dislike that Pitt and Villanova could meet in the Elite Eight this weekend. In Boston, no less. Fuck me.

- Like Gonzaga’s chances against UNC this weekend.

- Dislike Arizona’s chances against Louisville.

- Like that we decided to keep my youngest boy’s birthday party small.

- Dislike that his godfather bought him approximately 25 gifts. Most of them Spider-Man toys. As it stands now youngest boy has more Spider-Man related toys than I had toys in total. Friggin’ ridiculous.

- Liked Temple to be the surprise team of the tournament.

- Disliked when they lost in the first round.

- Liked that I finally got to watch ‘Changeling’.

- Disliked that Jolie’s performance was over rated and the ending of the movie.

- Liked that I had a chance to see how ‘Better Off Ted’ was.

- Disliked that the fucking DVR somehow deleted it instead of playing it like I asked.

- Also dislike that there is no ‘Recover Deleted Shows’ option on the DVR. It’s basically a hard drive, why not give it a recycle bin or something.

- Like Living Thing’s new album ‘Habeas Corpus’ so much that I recommended it to ESPN’s Paul Shirley for his next review.

- Like that Shirley actually responded with a thank you note.

- Liked that I got to catch up with some old buddies Friday night.

- Disliked that the bar we went to didn’t serve Stella.

- However, I liked that I got to reacquaint myself with Harpoon.

- Disliked that this same bar wasn’t showing March Madness on the enormous, high def television that the bar was centered around. Instead it was showing the Celtics – Spurs game. That’s fine and all, but fucking March Madness was on!!! I have money riding on it!!!

- Disliked the bartender’s attitude when I asked her to change the channel, instead pointing me to one of the smaller, hard to see televisions. I’m fucking 40, lady, I can’t see that far. Especially with 6 Harpoons swimming around my stomach.

- Liked the weather we had over the weekend.

- Dislike the return of 20 degree temperatures this morning.

- Like that I’ve decided to take this Friday off. I need it.

- Dislike that March Madness is unavailable to fill my fix for the next few days.


Today’s distraction: A new and creative way to deal with all of those old music cassettes. And, yes, I'm painfully aware I may be the only person with a blog that remembers the old cassettes.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ingrates

Two recent studies have concluded that there is a simple and quick way to increase your level of happiness.

Be grateful.

No, really. By displaying sincere and wide ranging thanks for whatever you happen to be grateful for makes you happy. How they measure happiness is another issue, but let’s just go with the flow for today. It’s Friday, after all and I plan on getting drunk with some friends tonight.

First up is Kent State’s Dr. Steven Toepfer who used his creative writing class to run an experiment. Snagging volunteers from six different courses, he had students write one letter of thanks to a person in their lives every two weeks. The rules were only that the letter be positive, express gratitude and be ‘nontrivial’ which I would think eliminated any ‘thanks for the pity fuck last week’ letters. Although, ‘trivial’ is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose.

Of the students participating ‘only one person said they absolutely hated doing it’. I'm betting it was a dude with mother issues.

According to Toepfer, ‘I saw their happiness increase after each letter, meaning the more they wrote, the better they felt.’ Granted this is a highly subjective research method. That he ‘saw’ increased happiness isn’t exactly scientifically sound, but I get what he’s trying to say. Which is: ‘The most powerful thing in our lives is our social network. It doesn’t have to be large, and you don’t always need to be the life of the party, but just having one or two significant connections in your life has shown to have terrific psychological and physical benefits’.

Toepfer has some backup. With a darker twist. George Mason University’s Todd Kashdan recently published a paper in which he proposes that gratitude indeed is the key to happiness, but men are well behind women when it comes to expressing thanks. Thus males are at a disadvantage when it comes to achieving happiness.

After interviewing college aged and older people, Kashdan found ‘women compared with men reported feeling less burden and obligation and greater levels of gratitude when presented with gifts’. Kashdan blames the macho myth that men should suppress their feelings and be the strong, silent type for our disadvantage at achieving true happiness.

‘The way that we get socialized as children affects what we do with our emotions as adults,’ says Kashdan. ‘Because men are generally taught to control and conceal their softer emotions, this may be limiting their well-being’. Apparently, Kashdan hasn't heard of the unwritten rule that the words 'men' and 'softer' should never be used in the same sentence.

While I’m sure that has something to do with males expressing gratitude less then women, I had another thought. Women express gratitude more often because they are presented with gifts more often. It’s the girl who receives the $8000 diamond ring when a couple is engaged. It’s the girl who is the focus when it comes to wedding or shower gifts. It’s the women who is the focus of gifts on Valentine’s Day.

The reason women express more gratitude is because they get more shit.

I’m not complaining, mind you. Men are simple, mostly dimwitted, but entirely self sustaining creatures. If we want something, we’ll go out and buy it. Waiting around for a special occasion is a chump’s chore.

Besides, getting gifts or expressing thanks for those gifts isn’t my greatest pleasure. Giving them is. There is nothing I like more (beer excluded) than getting wifey the PERFECT gift. Her reaction is what makes me happy and content.

If you want to see a truly grateful man, I give you three simple step for the ladies out there.

1: Get man an ice cold beer without him asking

2: Blow job

3: NFL or March Madness

Combine those three at the same time and I'll fucking express enough gratitude to last a life time.

I know! This is more than just receiving gifts. It’s about how certain people have helped you in the past, how someone has positively influenced you. But, again, this is not a male tendency. We have a habit of helping ourselves. Yes, we are mentored along the way, but we are hardwired into believing that we create our own luck. That hard work and diligence is what rewards us.

Men believe – correctly or not – that they are masters of their own destiny. It's not socialization that prevents us from gratitude, it's our own stupid egos.

I’m sure that socialization has something to do with it, but at this point in our evolution pure biological drive can’t be discounted, either. A man’s DNA contains centuries upon centuries of the hunting gene. That if we want something done right we should do it ourselves. We’d rather feel pride in our own work than be thankful for someone else doing it for us.

Besides, there is another key factor that makes men inherently less happy than women: We have to deal with women!

Oh, I’m only kidding.

Sort of.


Today’s distraction: The same thing I’ll be doing the rest of the day. Watching my bracket’s go down the toilet. Around and around they go, then POOF! All gone. Along with my money. Love March Madness even if I don’t win any cash. It just helps.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lost - Part 9

Let’s all give thanks for the return of Hurley, who seems to be the voice of the viewers all over the world.

‘Dude, you know all the Dharma people die, right?’ he says to Sawyer upon finding out they’re in 1977 and working for Dharma.

‘Jin, you’re English is awesome!’

‘I guess we found Sayid.’

‘Nama what?’

We need more Hurley on this show. Just not in jumpsuits. C’mon, Lost people. First the orange jail outfit then the Dharma beige?

While Hurley was certainly the same, everything else is all turned around.

You know the drill.


What Happened

We finally see what happens to the Ajira plane that Kate, Jack, Hurley, Sayid, Sun, Ben, Captain Frank, New Guy (Cesar?) and New Girl were on. We watch as Capt Frank realizes what’s going on, freaks a bit, then crash lands the plane on the secondary island. But not before Jack, Kate, Sayid, and Hurley are white flashied away.

That’s right. Sun stayed on the plane. She survives the crash (Co pilot not so lucky after meeting the business end of a tree branch) joins forces with Ben for approximately 15 minutes before clobbering him with an oar.

Two quick sidenotes here

1: How great must have Sun felt nailing Ben upside the head like that?

2: Anyone else catch her answer to Frank’s question of ‘I thought you said you trusted him?’. She answers ‘I lie’. Not ‘I lied’. The implication being she is possibly lying about something else, too. Or maybe she did say ‘I lied’ and misheard. I like my idea better. Has more intrigue.

Anyhoo, Captain Frank and Sun head to the main island in one of those outriggers, get there at night only to be greeted by some large animal shaking some trees. Captain Frank is understandably concerned, but Sun just shrugs it off. Probably just that wimpy smoke monster who stands no chance against the new, ruthless Sun. Smokey, realizing Sun shouldn’t be messed with, scampers away with it’s tail between it’s legs (not really, but that’s what I imagine happening) and leaves them alone.

They wind up in the Dharma camp and are greeted by Christian who is just as useless as ever. Sun explains she’s looking for her husband (not ‘What the hell are you doing here?’ but then she’s used to the island’s…um…eccentricities). Christian tells them to follow him and takes her to an old, rundown Dharma cabin. He takes down a picture from 1977 and says ‘Here they are’.

In the picture are Jack, Kate, and Hurley as the new Dharma recruits. Christian, in his usual, cryptic manner says to Sun, ‘You have a bit of a journey ahead of you’. Or something as equally annoying. He needs a lesson in straight talk. It’s like he’s a banker or politician. Can’t just come out and answer a question.

Meanwhile, back in 1977…

Jack, Kate, and Hurley all reunite with Sawyer who explains to the incredulous returnees that he and Jin work for the Dharma Initiative and, oh yeah, it’s 30 years in the past. Zing! Jack returns the favor by telling Sawyer Locke is dead.

By the way, Jack used the old ‘that doesn’t matter’ line when Sawyer asked how Locke died. DRINK! (Remember, I invented a Lost drinking game? Never mind).

Hurley explains that they need to find the rest of the people on the plane and when Jin hears that Sun was aboard he races to the Flame station (where Patch was hiding out a few seasons back. Remember Patch? He was funny. Just wouldn’t die).

Sawyer tells Jack, Kate and Hurley to stay put while he figures a way to get them into the Dharma camp. While Jin races to the Flame, Sawyer races back to camp (Lotta racing going on last night). Sawyer fills in Juliette, who doesn’t seem so pleased at the news then remembers a sub is coming that afternoon.

While Sawyer gathers some clothes, Juliette goes to grab the sub manifest and accidentally wakes up the new mother (I don’t know her name. Does she have a name?) who explains that they’ve finally decided on a name for their baby: Ethan. Yes, I was creeped out by that as much as Juliette seemed to be. I’m pretty sure she almost threw up on the baby, which would have been hilarious.

In the meantime, Jin gets to the Flame, bullies some nerd looking dude who’s building a model of the underwater station where Charlie winds up blowing up. Hey, again we go back to Patch. Interesting…..

There is no record of a plane crashing on the island (since it happens 30 years in the future), but an alarm does go off indicating an intruder. Jin races (again - Jin with the racing around) out with his rifle and finds….

…Sayid. Still in handcuffs and wandering around like he’s never been on the island before. What a dope. Jin captures him, then acts all ‘I don’t know you, get down, you Hostile bastard’ on him, which confuses Sayid no end.

Sawyer brings surprisingly not disgusting 1977 style clothes for Hurley, Jack and Kate and explains that their names will be added to the incoming sub’s manifesto. Just get in line, accept your assignments and be good little soldiers. Hurry now.

At the Dharma camp, Jack interviews with none other than the Orientation Film Dude who assigns Jack to the janitorial services. Kate’s name is lost in the shuffle and she’s nearly bagged when Juliette arrives to save the day. Both Kate and Juliette pretend they don’t know each other, but the Dharma dude feels the weird, hostile yet somewhat erotic energy exchanged between the two. Or maybe that was just me.

Sawyer, after getting a call from Jin, races to the Flame (He’s in charge. Nobody out races Sawyer!) to find Sayid jailed up in a closet. He asks Sayid if he’s ‘a hostile’ because part of the truce is if he identifies himself as one they are not allowed to shoot him. Sayid, enjoying his breathing, admits that he is an Other and is transported back to Camp Dharma and thrown in a cell there. Just like his Iraqi days. Only reversed. And no torture.

That night Jack visits Sawyer, discovers him shacked up with Juliette and that he is definitely not the Sawyer of old. Reading a book, drinking a beer, he tells Jack that Winston Churchill would read a book a night because it helped him think. Jack says that they need to stop thinking and act. Sawyer cuts him down by pointing out that when Jack operated without thinking a lot of people died. ‘I got us off the island,’ Jack says. To which Sawyer replies ‘And here you are again’.

Ouch! To me, this was the best scene in the show. Two alpha males fighting over who’s in charge. Only this time Sawyer uses his wit and brains to outduel Jack for the territory. Sawyer calmly and intelligently telling Jack to back off. This is his show now. I really like this new Sawyer. Or LaFleur. Or Ford. Or whatever he’ll be called next week. Just don’t call him James.

Lastly, we’re back at Sayid’s cell when a boy comes in and offers him a sandwich. ‘What’s your name?’ the boy asks.

I’m Sayid.

I’m Ben.


What We Learned

- Ben was just as creepy as a boy.

- Ethan was the baby born on the island.

- Sawyer totally owns Jack.

- Sun never white flashied back in time.

- Sun is the reason Ben is in the infirmary tent where Locke finds him.

- Captain Frank and Sun are the two that steal one of the canoes.

- The island apparently has healing powers on Ben, too. Anyone else see him shrug off the sling after testing his shoulder? Or he was faking. Either is possible.

- Cesar and the bug eyed Dharma dude are going to be trouble.

- Handcuffs can be white flashied back in time along with the person wearing them.

- Faraday is no longer with Sawyer, Juliette and Miles by 1977.

- Captain Frank is a really good pilot. Just don’t ever fly with him.

- The dude at the Flame is kind of a prick.

- I want to kick Christian in the crotch. Maybe that will jar some straight talk out of him.

- There is no love lost between Jack and Sawyer.

- Ben was on the island when the old crew were working for Dharma.


New Questions

- If Ben meets Sayid as a prisoner, does older Ben remember him when they meet 30 years later?

- Are there still feelings between Kate and Sawyer?

- Are there still feelings between Jack and Juliette?

- Are there still feelings between Miles and dead people?

- Could Sayid just reach through the bars of his cell and choke little Ben to death? Maybe just snap his neck? He’s a trained Iraqi commando, so he has that ability.

- If he did that, would current day Ben die too? Would he vanish? Do it, Sayid. Do it!!!

- Do Jack, Kate, Hurley, and Sawyer become part of the pile of dead people after Ben gasses the entire Dharma Initiative? Judging by Ben’s age when he visits Sayid, there is at least 15 years before that happens. Probably more like 20 years.

- Did Juliette and Ethan have a love affair at some point? A fellow Lostie mentioned this at lunch, but I can’t remember if that happened. If it did, does that mean she delivered her future lover?

- What, exactly, was Sayid in custody for? And why was he being brought to Guam?

- Anyone else catch Sawyer calling the Dharma people ‘My people’ when he was talking to Jack? Is Sawyer fully invested in Dharma now?

- What is going on with Kate? She obviously doesn’t want to be there.

- Is Ethan the last baby born on the island? I’m betting no.

- What happened to Faraday? Was he banished after he made a move on 4 year old Charlotte?

- Why didn’t Sun get white flashied back in time along with the rest of the Oceanic 6? Was she wearing her metallic girdle under her clothes or something? Was she asleep? Did the SkyMall magazine somehow protect her?

- What is Locke doing this whole time? Is he just hanging out and recovering from being dead?

- Remember when Kate and Sawyer were held captive by the Others (Season 2, I think) and they made them work at building a runway on the small island. Do you think Ben had his people build that with the knowledge that Ajira airplane would need it? Even that he would be on the plane?

- How will Jack react to not being in charge? Will his role somehow become the selfish, gun hoarding, loose cannon that Sawyer initially was?

- To further that thought: Are all the members of the Oceanic crash somehow supposed to play a specific role? And once that role is transferred to another person, does it create a vacuum that someone must fill? For example: Jack was the leader. He left the island and Sawyer stepped in as leader. Now Jack is back, Sawyer is the leader and the loose cannon, wise ass role is no longer filled. Does that mean PAD is now that guy? Does Jack somehow fall into it? Maybe Kate, although she doesn’t have much of a sense of humor and doesn’t think of nicknames on the fly so that’s a stretch.

This helps explain the second Ajira flight where everything needed to be a close to the original Oceanic flight as possible. Dead body, same passengers, etc.

What we do know is these specific people are supposed to be on the island. Each seems to bring something that contributes to the group. They are here for a reason.

What is that reason?


Today's distraction: A diagram of how my body works as a filter. You could add beer to step 2 and have the same effect. Only more of number 4. Much more.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cry Me A River

I’ll run down my March Madness picks real quick. No point in getting too involved as everyone else is doing the same thing and, frankly, I have no idea who’s going to win it all.

One thing I look for in a team is balance. Good perimeter game, good inside game, good defense. They don’t have to excel in all areas, but they should be good at all three aspects. Just look at Kansas and Memphis last year (both made the Finals).

Teams I Like

Villanova
Purdue
Pitt
Memphis
Kansas
Wake Forest

Teams I Don’t Like

Connecticut – Calhoun has some karmic retribution coming his way after being a complete dick to members of the media lately. Plus they lost at home to Georgetown and Pitt, so it’s tough seeing them going all the way.

Duke – Just like the last few years, they live and die by the three. They’ll die by it again. Love Gerald Henderson, though. He looks as though he could carry them to the Sweet 16 all by himself.

North Carolina – First, as anyone in Kansas can tell you, never trust Roy Williams when he’s got the most talented team in the country. Second, what’s the status of Lawson?

Michigan State – I’ve seen them three times this year and their offense alternates between ‘patient’ and ‘atrocious’.

Oklahoma – depth is a big concern. Either of the Griffin’s get in foul trouble for extended stretches they won’t be around long. Is Blake Griffin 100%?

Potential Spoilers

Clemson – nice balance.
Siena – all 5 starters back from last year’s team.
USC – peaking at just the right time.
Ohio St – basically playing at home the first two rounds.
BYU – great passing team.

Things to Remember

- Every year one conference is ‘exposed’ as not being nearly as good as everyone thought. Could it be the Big East or the ACC? My money’s on the Big East.

- Every year one conference is ‘discovered’ as being better than people thought. Consider Big 10 teams.

- Don’t listen to Dick Vitale. He picks the wrong champ every year. This year he’s picking North Carolina because Tyler Hansbrough is his fuck buddy. Go back and look at Vitale’s picks the last 25 years. He’s picked either Duke or UNC every single time. (NOTE: no idea if this is true, but I’ll bet it’s close).

- I, on the other hand, have been in my office pool right up until the last game the last four years; winning it outright once. Who you going to trust? Me or Dick Suck Vitale?

Onto something else.

Yesterday, Jay Cutler announced he wants to be traded. This came after a meeting with new head coach Josh McDaniels and General Manager Brian Xanders went badly ‘from Cutler’s perspective’.

I’m going to give you quotes from both sides then translate what I think is really going on. You, of course, can always make up your own mind.

Cutler: ‘I went in there with every intention of solving the issue, being a Bronco, moving forward as a Bronco. We weren't in there but about 20 minutes, [McDaniels] did most of the talking and as far as I'm concerned, he made it clear he wants his own guy. He admitted he wanted Matt Cassel because he said he has raised him up from the ground as a quarterback. He said he wasn't sorry about it. He made it clear that he could still entertain trading me because, as he put it, he'll do whatever he feels is in the best interest of the organization.

At the end of the meeting, he wasn't like, 'Jay, I want you as our quarterback, you're our guy.' It felt like the opposite. He basically said that I needed to tell him if we can't work this out, to let him know. I thought he was antagonizing me and that was disappointing because I was ready to move on, committed as a Bronco.’

McDaniels: ‘I really have wanted to avoid a he-said, she-said thing but it's only fair for us to present the Bronco side of the story rather than let things get taken out of context. There's been a pattern here for the past two weeks the way things [have been represented] in our communications. I don't think anything that happened was out of the ordinary. At the end of the meeting, Jay said he had thought about things quite a bit and requested a few more hours to mull things over. He said he wanted to talk to Bus on how to proceed. He was gonna call me on my cell phone and that never happened. Instead, Bus called [GM] Brian [Xanders].

Again, I think that's been a pattern. I couldn't get [Cutler] to talk to me for two weeks or to talk to Mr. Bowlen. Then when he came here this weekend, we couldn't get a one-on-one meeting, just me and him alone. He wanted Bus in there, so I had Brian sit in, too. And it was the four of us. There wasn't any yelling, none of that. I can't believe we get to a totally different [interpretation].’

Oh, yeah. This is getting U-G-L-Y! McDaniels and Bronco’s owner Pat Bowlen seem confused why Cutler is acting the way he is. Bowlen actually told the Denver Post that ‘he was disappointed with how Cutler has handled the situation’.

If you read between the lines, this is nothing more than a bruised Super Ego at work. Cutler is pissed that McDaniels had the balls to look into trading for Matt Cassel. Considering Cassel has worked with McDaniels and knows the offensive system better than anyone except Tom Brady. Of course, McDaniels is going to try to get Cassel on his team. It makes perfect sense.

Cutler, upon hearing that this rumor, confronted McDaniels who initially denied it. Big mistake on McDaniels part, but this is his first head coaching gig and not offending your starting QB if you can help it is a good idea. Once the truth came out, Cutler was understandably pissed.

After fuming for a while (during which time he refused to talk to either McDaniels or Bowlen which was mature), Cutler agreed to a meeting with McDaniels expecting to smooth things out. Only McDaniels didn’t do the one thing Cutler wanted: McDaniels didn’t kiss his ass. In fact, he was very straightforward with Cutler, explaining that he would do what ever is in the best interest of the team and not what was in Cutler’s best interest.

Typical Patriot thinking. Put the team first. That McDaniels didn’t tell Cutler ‘Your our guy’ (Cutler’s words) wounded Cutler’s apparently super sensitive feelings. Cutler clearly expected an emotional blow job from the Broncos so he would feel wanted and in charge. McDaniels basically told him that they weren’t looking to trade him, but if some other team made them a great offer it was his duty to consider if it helped the overall team.

Two things here.

First, if you’re a Broncos fan you have to love having a guy like McDaniels as your coach. Of COURSE you’re going to consider offers. That’s your fucking job! You put the best team on the field you can. If the Patriots offered to take Cutler for Brady wouldn’t he take that deal. Would you trade him for Cassel? I would. What if the Giants offered Eli Manning and a pick for Cutler?

Not that these would happen, I’m just pointing out that the job of head coach and GM is to put together a team that can win you a title. It’s not to baby a emotionally stunted, unrealistic player looking for constant approval. (Refer to Owens, Terrell)

Which brings me to point number two.

As a Broncos player, how can you possibly respect Cutler after this? Especially if you’re an offensive lineman who’s been released three times by three different teams. Or the wide receiver who was cut because his salary was half of what Cutler’s is? This is supposed to be the leader of your team. The guy that rallies and unites.

Instead he’s acting like a junior high school kid that never got asked to the first dance of the school year. You’re a fucking football player, Jay Cutler. Players are traded, cut, re-signed, waived and benched all the time. Have you really not noticed that? Are you that emotionally stunted that you need constant praise and reinforcement in order to maintain your self esteem?

Monday was the team’s first official meeting and Cutler refused to show up. Instead he’s going to sulk and pout and ponder life’s mysteries. Here, Jay, ponder these with your free time:

Your career record versus Matt Cassel’s.

How you managed to blow a four game division lead with four games to play and miss the playoffs.

That you have yet to prove you’re an elite QB and, in essence, you’ve had one good half season your entire career.


That McDaniels’ offensive system (if you can learn it) would make you better than ever and (if you execute) could put you in MVP discussions.

That McDaniels’ offensive system is fully suited for the receivers you have around you, as well.


That there is no negative to McDaniels being your coach other than he won’t cater to your emotional instability.

That any other coach and GM in their positions would consider trading you for a better QB in a heartbeat, too.

Finally, if you do get traded I hope you wind up in Detroit where you can waste away the next three seasons. Nobody deserves it more than you.

Big baby!

Today’s distraction: Murphy’s Technology Laws. ‘The first myth of management is that it exists’. True. So true.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Knocked Out

Yesterday was my god daughter’s first birthday party. As always, I got her the most educational and highly annoying gift I could find. My brother is my first son’s godfather and for years he took great pleasure in buying him complex toys that would take me hours to put together (the most obnoxious being a race track ‘cyclone’ that would zip Matchbox cars up and around).

NOTE: Please don't question why I'm even involved in this ridiculous Catholic role playing. There are things I do to maintain peace in the family and refusing to be godfather to my brother's daughter would have gone over badly. I even told him ahead of time, 'You know I'm not religious at all, right?'

When he had his daughter, I vowed gift giving vengeance! So far, she’s received one of those musical/learning tables with all sorts of flashing lights and annoying little kid musicals, a stuffed animal that laughs and coos when you tickle it, and a simple charm bracelet. When she gets older you can bet some sort of Hannah Montana (or whatever the rage is by the time she grows up) will be gift wrapped for her pleasure and his annoyance.

Revenge really is sweet.

The combination of beautiful weather, my sports addicted nephews attending the party and my brother’s recent basketball hoop installation meant one of our usual family gathering routines was a given.

Playing Knock Out.

For those unfamiliar, Knock Out is a basketball game that can be played with 3, 30, or 300 people. You need two basketballs and everyone figures out who is going in what order. The first person will shoot from a predetermined spot (usually free throw line). If he hits his shot he gives his ball to the number three person in line while the second person in line takes his shot. If he misses, he needs to track down his rebound and score before the person behind him scores. If the person behind him scores first, person number one is knocked out. Ditto for everyone following.

If you miss, you better get the ball and score before the person behind you does. That’s the basic premise. As you can imagine, this game quickly becomes chaotic and exhausting. The beauty is any number of people can play and you really don’t need much space. Yesterday we had my three nephews, my brother and myself playing.

Obviously, if you hit your opening shot on a consistent basis you have a better chance of winning. Once I got my groove on, I won twice and got knocked out 4 times. However, it’s the last game that was not only highly entertaining, but was likely the most bizarre game of Knock Out in history.

It started off with my youngest nephew being knocked out early, followed by my oldest nephew. I was following my brother who missed his opening shot. I shot my opening in an attempt to knock him out, but missed. He missed an easy layup while I went to get my rebound that was bouncing around his feet.

As he was going up for his second layup attempt, I gave him a little shove so he would miss (no idea if this is legal or not, but most of our games turn into a free for all, anyway). He responded by kicking my ball into a bunch of trees. As I chased mine down, he missed another layup. Badly. His miss came right to my feet, so I booted his ball to the same area mine wound up.

We both race over, he gives me a shove and kicks my ball further away from the basket. I grab it, turn around and see he’s running for an easy layup. Fuck it. From 30 feet away, I square up and launch a shot over his neighbor’s power lines. My brother reaches the basket, gets himself set for an easy shot and watches in horror as my ball comes out of nowhere and swishes through. Never even got his shot off.

Now it’s me and my nephew left. While everyone is still picking themselves off the ground from my last shot (it really was a thing of beauty), nephew misses his opening shot. He’s quick, though, and gets his rebound as my opening shot is in the air. He quickly puts up a layup and both balls…

…stop. Both our shots were going in at the same time and the balls jammed into the hoop. We stared, dumbstruck, at the two basketballs stuck at the top of the iron opening. We asked for a ruling, but it was time for cake and ice cream so we just called it a tie. Probably the first official tie in Knock Out history.

We followed up with some HORSE, but after that Knock Out game everything seemed a bit anti climatic. It was an instant classic. Too bad nobody was taping it.


Today’s distraction: Some questionable comic books. Quality over quantity, please!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hellington Circle

Five miles north of Boston is an area called Wellington Circle. It’s a commercial (and now residential) block of Medford struggling to shake it’s white trash roots and dingy image.

For the most part it’s succeeding. There is a new Boston Sports Club, Starbucks, Walgreens, Pizzeria Regina, Game Stop included in the new Station's Landing center with residential apartments and condos that look over the Mystic River towards the new, improved Boston skyline. The subway is right next door, making a quick and easy trip into Boston possible. Across the bridge is another new shopping center that includes Target, Costco, PetSmart, Texas Roadhouse, Baby Gap, Best Buy, Home Depot and TGIFridays.

Just down the block is yet another shopping center that includes Staples, Christmas Tree Shop, Home Depot and other shops you get everywhere else in this country. No, that’s not a typo, by the way. We have two Home Depots within two miles of each other.

Yup, the generification of Wellington Circle is complete.

Considering the condition of the area ten years ago, this turn around is remarkable. The Staples area used to be the Assembly Square Mall anchored by a Kmart (which is still there) and various gang member battles. Taking my kids there would never have been an option.

After Somerville bitterly fought over what to do with the area (there was even talk of building the new Gillette Stadium on the land so the Patriots would be closer to Boston) they simply decided to fix everything up, get rid of the gang members, and make everything pretty. This worked out much better than expected.

In the heart of Wellington Circle where Starbucks and expensive high rise apartments now reside used to be…um…well…an empty lot. It would alternate between a farm stand and where you went to buy your Christmas Trees in December. Between December 26th and spring that lot would remain vacant save for a crummy looking shack in desperate need of a paint job looking like it would fall over when the next breeze kicked up.

How the times have changed.

Except for one glaring exception – Wellington Circle itself. See, the name comes from the circle of traffic that converge where Route 28 (aka The Fellsway) and Route 16 (aka The Revere Beach Parkway) collide. The word ‘collide’ is not a random term I selected as a description. I’ll get back to that in a minute.

To put this simply, this is a nightmare of city engineering; a mish mash of roads coming from 16 different directions with no clear path on how to get from one point to another. Think I’m exaggerating? Check out this picture:


To you get your bearings, the building on the lower right is where the new Starbucks, Walgreens and Station Landing condos/apartments are located. The upper left contains a Dunkin’ Donuts, CVS, Chipotle and Men’s Wearhouse. The upper right is a Kappy’s (enormous liquor store chain in the Boston area), AT&T wireless store and tattoo parlor. That white trash label isn’t totally gone. Behind that Kappy’s is even more new apartments.

To get to the shopping center that contains the Target and Costco, you take Rt 16 east. Or left to right in that picture. To get to the Staples (old Assembly Square Mall) center you must head South on 28 (up to down in the picture - follow the red arrows!).

Starting to see the problem? Imagine being at the Best Buy and wanting to get to the Staples. You would have to come down Rt 16 west (right to left) BUT take those two lanes that swing down so you can get on Rt 28. And there are traffic lights at every intersection. You can see where they are by the number of crosswalk lines on the street. Take a minute and count them if you want. I’ll wait.

Done? I counted 13, but I think there may even be more than that.

The hidden (evil) genius of Wellington Circle is that some of the lights kinda sorta point towards two different sets of traffic. Allow me to explain.

See that street labeled Middlesex Ave (apologies about the picture quality) near the top? That actually is the end of Highland Ave that runs through Medford, Malden and Stoneham. When you exit that road you come to a set of lights that is right next to the same flow of traffic that is coming south on 28. You can see both sets of cars waiting where Middlesex Ave and 28 form the V at the top of that picture.

If you look closely enough you can see the traffic lights for those two sets of cars. They are strung on a line across 28. It’s right above the first red arrow that shows the direction of traffic from 28 South (heading down). Now, take a long look at that section…

Long enough?

What do you see? You should see that Routes 28, 16, and Middlesex Ave all meet at that bizarre love triangle. What you don’t see and what I’m struggling to describe is that those traffic lights are visible to EVERY SINGLE ANGLE OF TRAFFIC.
This means if you aren’t familiar with this particular circle of Hell, you’d think that when the light turns green for the traffic heading south on 28 you would actually think it was green for you. Since, you know, the green light is facing in your direction. This means cars coming south on 28, leaving Middlesex Ave AND heading west on 16 could all think ‘Oh, is that my green light?’ at the exact same time.

If I drive to the train, I am unfortunate enough to have to come 28 South (up to down) and turn left (left to right) to get onto 16 East. Every single morning there is one car exiting Middlesex Ave that mistakenly starts pulling out when the light turns green for 28. Every. Single. Morning. This is not an over statement.

And, yet, I still am not doing this particular traffic pattern justice.

I haven’t even mentioned that there is no walkway from one shopping center to the next. Something that would make total sense and probably wouldn’t cost that much to build. Instead pedestrians must take their lives in their hands attempting to navigate the multitude of crosswalks to get from one side to the other. This, of course, means everyone drives so they don’t get killed. Or get killed as quickly.

I haven’t mentioned that to stay on 28 North you don’t continue straight, but bear slightly left (but not all the way left cause then you’ll be heading east on 16). If you go straight, you’ll actually wind up on Highland Ave and be totally lost.

I haven’t said one thing about how the lanes to head in a certain direction are marked, but drivers decide to go straight instead of turning left like they’re supposed to. Or how they’ll realize at the last minute they should be turning left while they’re in the far right of a five lane section.

I will also not mention the exploding Asian population in the area so I appear racially sensitive. I’m sure they drive just as well as everyone else.

Sidenote here: A long time ago in one of my past posts, I recounted a story where a driver was so thoroughly confused he couldn’t decide which way he should go and wound up smashing into a tree between his two choices. I witnessed this with my own eyes and still can’t believe it (nor stop laughing about it – laughing right now remembering it). Well, that happened at Wellington Circle. If you look at upper right where Kappy’s is, you’ll see a yellow line with red arrows pointing up. To the right is a white line with red arrows also pointing up. This driver (who was Asian) couldn’t figure out which of these to take. Instead he took out the tree that used to be right at the bottom of that triangular divider. Poor tree never knew what hit it.

I haven’t yet mentioned that due to all the new shops there is more traffic than ever being routed through this maze.

I will, however, mention that one building to the lower left of the picture. That is the most important building in the entire area: The Massachusetts State Police barracks. Nobody even needs to call 911, because the State Police usually hear the car crashes from their own desks.

The one convenience of Wellington Circle.

Enjoy your weekends, my friends.


Today’s distraction: When 5th Graders Have Anger Issues. (Or love to play with their snacks). I love creative stuff like this. Happy Friday!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Career Change

Maybe it’s that time.

Studies have shown that men go through an average of four career changes during their lifetimes. I’m on….uh….let’s count this out.

House Painter
Video/Audio Production Engineer
Teacher
Computer Dork

Huh, guess I’ve used up my quota. Fuck it, I consider myself above average and chances are I may be forced into making a decision when I get laid off so why shouldn’t I move on to career number five?

Exactly! No reason at all. Let’s run down some possible options. It’s been a while since this space has seen an official rundown of some random topic. Why not make it about my favorite subject: ME!

Off we go.

WRITER

Pros: Make your own schedule; work from home which means sleeping in and watching TV on the couch all day; can type well; could work from Starbucks

Cons: How much do you pay to read this? Right, money would suck; not very good at it; would have to deal with deadlines (if anyone paid me); carpel tunnel; crowded industry with everyone and their brother having blogs.

Bottom Line: Think I’ll stick to creating my own schedule and posting inane, mostly unread posts here. No pressure = no money.


CONSULTANT

Pros: Here’s where I think my strengths lie. I have basic common sense and am fairly intelligent, have good ideas that I need other people to follow through on and communicate well; potential for big money.

Cons: Not sure what I would consult about (I’d really like to be one of those gurus that people come to ask opinions about any big decisions. Like Dear Abby only less trivial and slightly more masculine); no clue how to get this ball rolling; lawsuits galore when my advice blows up in people’s faces.

Bottom Line: Can’t see this working, but it’s a nice dream.


POSTAL WORKER

Pros: Comfortable footware a must; low stress; get along with dogs; easy going so not much chance of me ‘going postal’; good benefits; free Netflix movies that arrive ‘a day late’ for some of the people on my route.

Cons: Think I need to join a Knights of Columbus or some rotary club; have to be social to other people, not sure if wearing iPod is allowed; would have to trudge through snow, sleet, rain, etc.

Bottom Line: Very strong possibility. Not sure what the requirements are to be a mailman, but if I get to drive one of those funky jeeps count me in!


GIGOLO

Pros: Sex for pay. That pretty much covers it.

Cons: Have you seen the women that need to pay for sex? Chances are I’ll wind up like Deuce Bigolo and be dealing with She-Males and amputees. Will probably have to deal with some gay sex, too, and I’m just not into that. No offense, Hammen.

Bottom Line: Just not good looking enough to pull this off. Plus I’ve gone my entire life without contracting an STD and prefer to keep it that way. No offense, 10.


BEER SALESMAN

Pros: Already an expert; free samples; could travel the country; stay up late during ‘promotional events’; chicks dig the beer guy. Right? I'm actually asking as I don't know.

Cons: Would use 90% of my salary on my own product; probable divorce then rehab then liver disease. Not necessarily in that order.

Bottom Line: While I am nothing short of PERFECT for this job, it would cost me more than I would get out of it. Even knowing that wouldn’t make it easy to refuse were it offered.

CUSTODIAL WORKER

Pros: Can change light bulbs; have no problem moving slowly through the halls; can kick ass with a mop and vacuum.

Cons: Cleaning up men’s room over flows; don’t speak Spanish; sucky pay and worse hours; possibly accidental electrocution.

Bottom Line: No thanks!


SKYSCRAPER WINDOW WASHER

Pros: Not afraid of heights; handle a mean squeegee; enjoy a nice breeze; can spy on hot chicks in the office buildings; good pay for those stupid….er…brave enough to take this on.

Cons: Plunging to a spectacular death; people making faces at me from their cozy offices (fuckers!); life insurance impossible to get; would have to do this in winter which would totally suck.

Bottom Line: Having kids puts a damper on this one. Wouldn’t want my boys to grow up without their father. Even if he is an abusive, self absorbed prick.


FASHION DESIGNER

Pros: Get to work with hot, naked models during runway shows; big pay; world travel.

Cons: Fashion people are strange and pompous; currently have hard time matching my belt and shoes so I would be a ‘project’ to say the least; not gay.

Bottom Line: While I would never fit in with this superficial, empty headed world perhaps I could make a mark as a novelty act. Doubt it, but you never know.


POLICEMAN

Pros: Get to shoot people; drive fast; beat up scumbag junkies; and (according to television) will get a super hot, female partner who wants to do me.

Cons: Would never pass the psych exam; woefully out of shape (from the cops I’ve seen this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker); getting called pig.

Bottom Line: There is no way in hell any city or town would allow me to carry a gun around. Maybe if I move to Texas.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I’m seriously leaning towards a beer salesman. Maybe I can get into the Sam Adams or Harpoon brewery as a scrub and work my way up from there. Might as well do what I love, right? Nothing I love more than beer.

It’s my true calling!


Today’s distraction: Family Guy’s take on Christian Bale’s tirade. Absolutely hilarious. ‘I don’t understand why we need another Terminator’.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fair Warning

Yesterday, for reasons that will be forever questioned, one of the managers in our office called a last minute meeting with everyone that works for her. No mention was made of what the meeting was regarding, how long it would last, nor whether anyone should be concerned.

You can see, considering we’ve had two rounds of layoffs and the current economic climate, how this might be a bit of a problem. It was insensitive at best; irresponsible at worst.

Turns out that the manager was simply confirming what everyone already knew: No bonuses this year. Why she needed to keep it all a mystery and have everyone sweating out the two hours between when the meeting invite went out and when the actual meeting took place is anyone’s guess.

The way I see it, there are very few possible reasons to call such a meeting. Almost none of them are good.

Let’s run them down, shall we?

Layoffs: This was the first thought that ran through everyone’s head. That ‘Oh, shit. Not again!’ initial stomach clench that comes with every last second call into a manager’s office. In this case 7 people all had that same reaction.

You’re In Trouble: More likely the case if you’ve been called to your manager’s office all by your lonesome. Whenever the head of our office calls me and asks ‘Can you come to my office when you have a minute?’ I mentally scroll through all the people I’ve possibly pissed off or ignored during the past week. Fortunately for me, that’s a long list and I eventually abandon trying to figure out the who and start focusing on the why. The ‘why’ is most likely because the person I was dealing with is a total douche.

Someone Else Has Been Fired: Again this is bad news because if you’re being called in to your manager, it means you’ll be the one picking up the slack for the fired co-worker. Good luck with double the work load for no extra pay and no bonus.

Shit Has Hit The Fan: Often the case with some project you’ve been working on or a client has called to complain about something. We all know shit rolls down hill, so here’s hoping you have someone below you to pass along this putrid log.

Shit Nearly Hit The Fan: This is the best of all the ‘Fan Shitting’ scenarios. This is when your manager has found a flaw in your work before it’s gone out the door. It’s something that would have made you look very bad. Boss man is still angry you made such a stupid mistake, but glad it was caught before it went to the client. If you have a good relationship with boss, this is never that bad.

Shit Is About To Hit The Fan: Manager found the same mistake in above scenario, but it’s already been sent to the client or into the general public. This can either be good or bad depending on your manager. If he or she is great at damage control it may be possible to nip it in the bud before it becomes a full fledged shit storm.

Manager Is Leaving: This could be good news/bad news depending on the reason. If your boss is leaving on his own, it may be an opportunity for you to step in. If your boss is leaving by force, then start cleaning your desk. Because you’re either next or going to want to leave when they cram all your boss' work into your inbox.

Company Going Under: Not likely, though, as a general meeting involving everyone in the company will be held. Still, if you’re boss is a top gun and he/she trusts you enough it’s a possibility.

You Got A Raise/Bonus/Promotion: This is probably the one scenario that is a positive, although chances are you’ve already been aware of the possibility for a while beforehand.

Office Affair: I would put this in the positive category, but there are more than a few instances this could be bad news. I mean, have you seen some of the people in management? Yeesh!

Surprise Party in Your Honor: Yes, I’m grasping at straws here.

To sum things up, if there is an impromptu department meeting called there is a 2 in 11 chance it’s going to be good news. 3 in 11 if your boss is good looking.

Good luck and be careful out there.

Today’s distraction: Laugh through the recession.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Questionable Thoughts

Thoughts and questions collected over a glorious weekend. New England had a fantastic sneak preview of spring. Temperature in the 60s, all the snow melting away, a few flowers sprouting up in various locations.

Of course, this morning we wake to 30 degree temperatures and a friggin blizzard. Mother Nature can be such a tease.

For your consideration.

- When my wallet contains more losing lottery tickets than actual cash, should I be concerned?

- Anyone else get the feeling this A-Rod surgery ‘fix’ isn’t really going to fix anything? The doctors and Brian Cashman have already admitted that he will need more extensive surgery after the season and this arthroscopic one is just to make him able to play this season. Something tells me it’s going to be a lost year for A-Rod. And, yes, I'm enjoying every minute of it. Maybe Karma does exist.

- If you’re a Yankee fan are you concerned that this is year two of a TEN year contract?

- Final A-Rod thought, I promise: There is mention in the above article about insurance covering a portion of the time A-Rod would miss due to injury. However, if the insurance company could prove that this injury is directly related to his past steroid abuse (‘roids are infamous for causing problems with tendons and ligaments), could they somehow get out of not paying the coverage? If I were that company, I would certainly look into the option.

- Should I consider myself a ‘foodie’ if the highlight of my work day is lunch? It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up, I plan my day around it, and I’m sad when it’s over.

- Love the 5 year, $30 million deal the Sox have reportedly signed Jon Lester. This means they now have Lester, Beckett, Dice-K, Youkilis (I think) and Pedroia signed for the next 2 – 3 years. And, it’s during their prime years. I like how this team operates (with the exception of signing Bad Back Drew for all those years and all that money).

- With the disclaimer I know nothing of high finance (I specialize in low finance), would it be so horrible if Citibank and Bank of America fold? This has happened before and there are always smaller banks that will gladly step up and fill the void. The benefit to everyone would be that these smaller banks have actually been well managed and handed out logical mortgages and loans. Most of them are still in fine shape. Shouldn’t mismanaged companies face the firing squad for their greedy, poorly thought out business plans? Isn’t that the entire concept behind capitalism?

- If Citibank does go under, do I have to pay off my credit card?

- Allow me to chime in on the Terrell Owens story with a big ‘who gives a fuck’? Buffalo is the perfect place to exile him. After all his complaining about Romo, let’s see how he enjoys playing with Trent Edwards.

- It may have been a fluke, but yesterday I went to Stop & Shop and picked up the following: 8 yogurts, 2 bottles of lime soda water (to go with my BAMF bottle of gin), gallon of milk, box of oyster crackers, 2 bottles of laundry detergent, 2 bottles of liquid fabric softener, 2 bags of ground coffee that totaled $28. That’s good, right? Are grocery prices finally coming down?

- I have advice for everyone freaking out about the economy: stop watching the news. They are all doom and gloom for the most part anyway and they are THRIVING on this mess. Keep this in mind when CNN gleefully displays the latest Dow Jones loss – those stock prices are only what people THINK these companies are worth.

Yes, there are major problems with our economy, but the reason consumer confidence is at an all time low is because news programs on all channels and all parts of the country are pounding us to death with the ‘We’re fucked!’ angle. Things are bad, we get it. Maybe you can provide us with some details on what the Obama package is actually trying to do and stop all the gloom and doom stories.

Yes, I’m blaming the media. Partly.

- Since I’m not all complaints and will try to prove there is good news out there, Obama just reversed Bush’s incredibly shortsighted limit on stem cell research. This isn’t just good news for medical research. Now that other lines of stem cells will be available for research, just watch how this positively effects the biotech industry. This decision – more than any half assed, throw money around stimulus package – will prove to turn the economy around.

- Enough! Please! I don’t want to hear anything more about this loony, though humorously nicknamed Octomom. She obviously did this in order to become famous and every interview and article is just enabling her psychosis. Can’t we do what we do with other children throwing temper tantrums and just ignore her?

- The Celtics looked great Friday night, horrible Sunday afternoon, then briefly great again Sunday late afternoon. Figure it out, boys. The playoffs are right around the corner.

- Watched the ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ last night and had two thoughts.

1: If you call a show ‘Celebrity’ anything you really should have people I have heard of on the show. Half of these people are nobody and the other half are lame ass, used to bes.

2: Can Joan Rivers and her mask do anything without her daughter being involved?

- Heard that ‘Life On Mars’ has been cancelled. Supposedly the show will be allowed to finish up the story line and explain what the hell is going on. I’m torn on this one as I enjoy the show, but just don’t have time to watch it most weeks. I spend weekends trying to catch up on that and ‘24’ and am not doing a very good job at it.

- Yet another step towards Google’s world domination. Soon they’ll be running our government. Very soon.

- Lastly, there is yet another fantastic reason I can add to my ever growing list of why alcohol totally rocks! According to this study from our very own Tufts University (it’s campus is in my home city), regular, moderate alcohol drinking is associated with greater bone mineral density.

Even better, it showed it was more strongly associated with beer (Gasp! BEER!) and red wine.

Summary: My bones are most likely stronger than those steel girders holding up the office building you work in. I could be like Wolverine without the anger, steel claws, and motivation to do anything worthwhile with my life.


Today’s distraction: More Fun Facts. Number two on this list gives me a bizarre sense of pride. Whatever. I need self esteem where ever I can find it. For the record, I have no idea who writes these and if they are at all accurate.