Monday, July 31, 2006

Quick vacation check-in:

Here's what weather.com has to say about Peoria, IL right now:

***
Sunny
97°F
Feels Like
111°F
Updated Jul 31 04:00 p.m. CT

UV Index: 5 Moderate
Wind: From SSW at 13 mph
Humidity: 51%
Pressure: 29.83 in.
Dew Point: 76°F
Visibility: 10.0 miles
***

Great day for a ballgame!

On Saturday night, I caught my first ever foul ball. I was in Nashville, and the ball was off the bat of Salt Lake's Vinny Rottino. I was in the top row, and caught a fast-moving thing that was looping parallel to the foul line. On the fly. One-handed. In my glove. I got cheers from three sections, which I greedily accepted. Four innings later, during the seventh-inning stretch, a dude turned to me and said "Nice grab!" As I left, a teenage kid looked at me and said "Good game."

I have never been manlier. And friends like pankleb and John B. who taunt me with their foul balls (cool double entendre!)...well, no more. I am now one of you. Actually, I think a little better...believe me, this catch was WAY COOL.

I miss my wife, but will assuage that with five more ballgames: Peoria, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, and Altoona. After tomorrow, the forecast becomes less hellish.

More in a week. Spoon, is everything going okay? As man of the house, you need to be responsible.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I'm counting on you to be responsible.

I will be out for 2 weeks. Computer contact is possible in that time, I suppose, but not assured. I will go to many ballgames, many tri-points, see Joe, Alison, and my grandmother. The latter freaks me out a little...she has lost all memory of just about everything. I'll be saying goodbye, albeit only to her body, I guess. But I still need to see. I'll be listening to sports talk radio, which I enjoy. I'll be hanging with my beautiful wife for the first 9 days of it. I'm stoked.

I've been packed for several days, and since we're leaving on the red-eye, today is a weird day. Psychologically I'm all "hey! I'm going on vacation today!" But I have to kill 22 hours of it before even going to the airport. It's a weird day. I've cleaned up in the kitchen a bit, and I've done the last of my packing (toiletries), and I'm so, so ready...

and there are still 10 hours to kill.

So I'll go to the movies. Then I'll go to dinner with my wife. Then I'll go on vacation.

Y'all behave yourselves while I'm gone. See all those links over there? Read those blogs. I like them.

Spoon, you're the man of the house while I'm gone.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

30,000th Hit

Well, the TRP's Greatest Collection sped things up a lot. For starters, I had to hit myself (ow!) about a hundred times to pick out the top ten, and then a bunch of people looked at a bunch of sites...and we got to 30K.

Who's responsible? Not sure. Probably a family member...someone with Qwest access whose internet connection goes through either Tukwila or Tacoma. Whoever it is didn't come via link...they just put me right into the address bar. Sister? Parents? Brother? Maybe even a stranger? You are my 30,000th hit! You join these past honorees:

#5000: A surfer from Jack Bog's blog.
#10000: My wife.
#15000: Another surfer from Jack Bog.
#20000: Holly from Alabama.
#25000: My wife again.
#30000: Probably my dad, but let me know if it wasn't.

I won't celebrate tonight: I already did here.

Still, as ever, thanks for swinging by.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

An angry commenter

This fairly wacky post from a few months ago made a brief and tangential note that I receive a lot of searches trying to figure out Diana Taurasi's sexuality. I have repeatedly stated both my ignorance and apathy on the matter. All I know is how fun it was to watch her beat down my Storm last month.

But I still get many, many hits from people dying to know if she's gay. (And Lauren Jackson's shoe size, and Sue Bird's bare feet...they just don't quit, those WNBA crushes, especially when they're foot-fetish-enhanced crushes.)

Anyhow...just today--five months after the above post--I received this angry comment:

Anonymous said...

you guys are soo stuipd you dont even know her and noo she is not gay you guys are losers get a LIFE !!!!!!
- annoyed


And this one, two minutes later:

Anonymous said...

you guys are so dumb you dont even know her and noo she is not gay get a life you losers
annoyed


Wow. I won't rag on the poster, who I bet isn't yet old enough to drive. She/he was searching on the term "diana taurasi song," which is cute.

And it's sweet that an angry kid's spam is now pro-gay instead of anti.

Celebrating an Arbitrary Milestone, the 500th Post, By Listing My Ten Favorite Blog Posts So Far

I've been worked up a little bit lately because I'll likely not know who my 30,000th hit is, since I'll be on vacation when he/she visits. (Unless I get about 300 visitors before dinnertime on Thursday.) But I noticed that this--right here, right in front of you--is my 500th blog post on Various Observations in Written Form. So, instead of marking one fairly meaningless milestone (the 30,000th hit), I thought I'd celebrate another (my 500th post) thusly:

I just looked over the entire history of this blog and thought I'd pick ten posts I especially like for you guys to revisit if you'd like.

Much to my pleasant surprise, it was hard to do...I've written a lot of stuff that I wanted on the list. Nonetheless, I pared it down, figuring the peanut gallery can call attention to whatever favorites I've omitted that they have on their refrigerators or taped inside the front covers of their Bibles.

I won't rank them. I will simply give them chronologically.

And, as always, thank you so very much for reading.

9/18/2004: "My Favorite College Professor"
11/28/2004: "Watching the Broncos Play in the Snow"
6/7/2005: "Wacky Class Story"
6/20/2005: "Small Victory"
8/10/2005: "I Attempt to Wade Through the SF Sports-Talk Flap"
9/12/2005: "Brush with Infamy"
11/11/2005: "Us Vs. Them in Education"
2/13/2006: "Ahmed"
4/12/2006: "SideshowJ Makes Me Think"
5/27/2006: "The Front Desk Clerk and Her Tattoo"

Monday, July 17, 2006

So, TRP, why are you moving?

Wife and I are moving in a year, from Seattle--my beloved home of 11 years--to Portland.

People ask why. There are good reasons to stay here (my family, great city) and good reasons to move there (her family, great city).

All things being equal, let's look at this stat:

When we input our criteria of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, and cost into a real estate house locator, here are the results:

There are 574 homes available in Vancouver, Washington.

There are 163 available in North, Northeast, and Northwest Portland, the neighborhoods we'd be most interested in.

There are 32 available in Seattle, but these are mostly mistakes. Just a quick eyeballing reveals homes in Bremerton (nowhere NEAR Seattle), as well as Des Moines, Tukwila, and other places that are decidedly not Seattle.

There are 5 available on Seattle's Eastside, where we live now. FIVE. Wow. Betcha they're all recently-seized crack houses and meth labs.

North of town? We found a place in our price range in Everett.

It was a burned-out shell. No doors, no windows.

Looks like we're moving, probably to Vancouver.

Now, to clarify for my east-coast readers:

No, not THAT Vancouver. The one in Washington.

No, not THAT Washington...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

My brother!

He's a teacher, a referee, and a poet.

No, not me. World Cup Final referee Horacio Elizondo.

He's a PE teacher who writes romantic poetry. I should head down to Rio and chill with him.

Coming up on 25,000...

We're approaching 25,000 hits here at Various Observations in Written Form (a temporary, provisional name that remains nearly two years later). Only about 450 hits left.

I'm a little worried we won't make 25K before I leave on my two-week vacation on Thursday.

May I suggest you all visit a lot more the next few days in hopes of being the 25,000th hit? I'll even consider prizes.

Oh, and speaking of ballpark travels...

I happened to run into a fine chap named Cass Sapir at a Portland Beavers game a couple of weeks back.

Cass makes me look like a Sunday driver. He's going to 180 ballparks in 180 days. Driving the whole way, too. Wow.

Thing is, he's not sitting back and enjoying the game. He's burning his shoe leather in the aisles doing raffles to raising money for the Jimmy Fund (which benefits childhood cancer research). To go to all those ballparks and sacrifice watching the games (or even sacrifice sitting down!)...that impresses me.

He has a website where you can keep track of his journey. Also, you can donate to the Jimmy Fund there. He has a goal of reaching $100,000 over the course of his travels. I think it'd be wonderful for both him and a lot of kids if he did.

What's stopping you? Click the link, and if you're inclined, have a credit card within reach when you do.

Baseball site has been updated.

So if you know where to look, go there to see how my Northern California trip went.

If you don't know where to look, do a Google search on my first and last name. I'm the #1 me in the world!

If you don't know my first and last name, well, you won't be learning it here. Stop being so forward.

We are one week away from the huge 15-games-in-15-nights-in-14-ballparks-in-10-states extravaganza. Just wait to see what THAT does to the website.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

And one more about the World Cup...

Check out this extremely catchy song about Zidane's head-butt. It's in French, and I can't understand a word other than the title and the names of Zidane, Materazzi, and Trezeguet, but it still cracks me up. It's toe-tappable and eminently singable.

Start at about the 2:10 mark for the introduction.

Head-butt

Did Marco Materazzi say something racist to Zinadine Zidane that would challenge anyone's restraint? Or did Zidane, who has a history of violent behavior, misfire a synapse and go postal with minimal provocation? All over the world, the press hired lip-readers, and none have agreed on what Marco Materazzi said. One has Materazzi calling Zidane, the son of Algerian parents, a "dirty terrorist." Another has more generic profanities. A third has him Materazzi wishing death on Zidane's family. The BBC has the perfect storm: both family and racial insults, by Materazzi calling Zidane the "son of a terrorist whore."

Who's right? While the world (and, yes, me too) breathlessly waited, Materazzi spoke first.

Materazzi sounded like an idiot. He played himself as a bumpkin, saying he doesn't know what the word terrorist means (saying "my only terrorist is her [pointing at his 10-month-old daughter]"), and even saying he doesn't know what an Islamic terrorist is.

Give me a break. Did he miss the news from New York, Kabul, London, Madrid, and Baghdad over the last five years? No human being can possibly be that stupid. So when Materazzi says he insulted Zidane, but not racially or by mentioning his family, he didn't gain a lot of credibility in my eyes.

Net result: I was inclined to believe Zidane's version of things once he spoke. While nothing can justify Zidane's attack, I still was curious and eager for him to explain himself.

And tonight, he, like Materazzi, scored a public-relations own goal.

First, he apologized to all the children and everyone who watched his attack. However, he did not apologize to his teammates, who were hurt more than anybody by his lack of self-control, or to the French fans, who were also let down (although not as much).

That's not a good start.

Even so, if Zidane says exactly what he heard Materazzi say on the pitch--every terrible word--it can be compared to what the video cameras caught, and probably confirmed. While it cannot justify his behavior, it can explain his anger (and that of his mother, who according to one somewhat dubious report, wants Materazzi castrated).

Nope. He won't say it. When prodded, he only says that it involved his mother and sister. He then goes on to say that he'd rather have been punched in the jaw than hear what he heard.

Yup. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but comments about my mother and sister from idiot opponents on the pitch are far worse."

He explicitly says he has no regrets...that Materazzi deserved the head-butt. Yeah, Zidane...did your teammates deserve to take penalty kicks without you?

With the whole world waiting for him, and with a chance to take some sympathy and make Materazzi the bad guy by saying "I lost control because of this horrible thing he said," well, he blew it.

So, over the course of the last three days, I have gone from thinking Zidane was the bad guy (when I saw the head-butt and learned of his violent history) to thinking Materazzi was the bad guy (when his ridiculous denials led me to believe he must have said something really off-the-charts awful).

Now, having heard each talk, I now realize that they are both bad guys.

And don't get me started about the French lawsuit against the World Cup Finals refs. That'd really piss me off...and in any event, my buddy Blogging Ref has it covered.

Here's a reason to love soccer.

The US Open Cup. Check out the bracket. There are amateur teams facing professional teams here, including what I take to be an adult club team (Dallas Roma) taking on an MLS team (Chivas USA).

How cool would it be if an American Legion team beat the Everett AquaSox, Altoona Curve, and Durham Bulls in sucession to set up a game against the Chicago Cubs in a one-and-done tournament?

I love the FA Cup, and I love this for similar reasons.

Just call me TeacherRef

I got a magazine the other day with one of my poems published in it.

The poem was selected 3 years ago, and I thought they'd forgotten about me. It's the second publication in a row where I'm in the same volume as Jim Daniels, one of my all-time favorite poets, so that's a bit of a thrill.

But there's a problem.

The piece they chose for selection is a piece I wrote twelve years ago, way way back when I was working on the currently-abandoned quest for an MFA. It's a good poem, but it's from my 20s...my mid-20s. It feels like somebody else wrote it. What about the poems I write in my mid (and closin in on late) 30s?

Well...there aren't any.

I seldom write poetry these days.

I'm being creative...on both of my blogs, as well as on my baseball site. For multiple reasons, I don't feel compelled to write poetry anymore. I still read the stuff--I'm working through Dorianne Laux's latest (love it) and bought Lyn Emanuel's current book last week.

Still, I feel like I still have the ability. When I taught a Creative Writing class in the spring of '05, I made myself write every assignment that I made the kids write. That resulted in some decent stuff. To prepare for that class, I took a fiction-writing correspondence course, and wrote what I think is a pretty kick-ass story about a meeting between a teacher, a principal, a plagiarist, and her father.

But even over the summer, when I've got nothing but time, I don't write poetry.

Why is that?

Some of it is where I am in life. I associate poetry as a place to channel all of the negative stuff going on in my life. Things pretty well kick butt in my life lately. There are stresses...an impending move, and its attendant job change, to give two...but no real negative yucky stuff to get out.

Some of it is busy-ness. I don't have a minute to spare during the school year, and during the summer, I mostly sit back and chill.

Some of it is marriage. Given the choice between sitting and chilling with my wife or heading back to the den and closing the door for the 60-90 minutes of necessary alone time, well, I'll hang with the wife, thank you very much. The quote in this blog's masthead, "I write poetry because I want to be alone, but I want to talk to people," just doesn't resonate the same way now as it does when I heard Allen Ginsburg read it at Kenyon in 1990. I don't much want to be alone anymore.

And some of it is simple laziness.

It doesn't bother me that I don't feel compelled to write poetry anymore. I'm being creative in other ways, and it's not a big deal.

But then again...

I do feel like I write good poetry...hell, I'm right next to Jim Daniels now! Twice!...so I want to get something on paper. I don't want just former versions of me to be in the magazines...I'd like current versions as well. I want my stuff to keep my fairly slim dream of publishing a book of poems alive.

But it's hard when I can't force myself to set aside time to do that.

I was talking about this with a poet buddy of mine this year, and she sent me a quote by Martha Graham:

There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all time,
this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist. It is not your business to determine how good it is. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.


It is my business to keep the channel open. For a guy who's not inspired easily, that hit home. Doesn't matter if my poetry sucks...I just need to write it. Quality follows quantity.

Sure, I like to think that the other writing I'm doing, and even my teaching, keeps that "life-force" open. But damn it to hell, I want to write poetry. It may be time to take a class...just for fun...but I shouldn't have to.

If I don't have any magazine articles to work on, I should get my butt back to the desk while the wife works and write some damn thing, whether it sucks or not. And maybe--just maybe--I'll actually do a couple of worthwhile things this summer.

68%.

That's a D+ in some circles...

but can you do better on the ESPN Baseball Quiz?

Let me know how many you got right in the comments.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Overheard at a restaurant recently...

SHE: Did you hear about (name)?
HE: No.
SHE: She (insert non-violent, non-tragic, but still very real misfortune).
HE: Oh. That's too bad.
SHE: Come on. You know you're happy about it.
HE: No. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.
(long pause.)
HE: If I were to wish that on anyone, it would be her...but I really wouldn't wish it on anyone.

World Cup

I should have done a little research on Zidane before deciding I wanted his comeback and rooted for France. I don't like Italy's flopping, and Zidane's seemed like a good story. But if I'd looked into it, I'd have known Zidane was a hotheaded jerk before he buttheadedly headbutted. I could have spent the whole match rooting for Italy and not just the last ten minutes.

Great job by Horacio Elizondo and his assistant referee. They got it right.

Woo-hoo! I win!

I hardly would call myself a soccer expert, even if my sweet, sweet victory here says otherwise.

Here's the sound of me celebrating.

But whatever drink shall I have Jack buy me?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I am of my generation.

I had a dream the other night where I was in one room of a house, but important events were taking place both in that and another room of the house. How did I keep track of events in the other room?

My dream had a CNN-style crawl keeping me updated.

Perhaps I watch too much TV.

MLB Predictions Update

Am I still in line for the bag o' chips from pankleb? And if I am, should I listen to my dietician and get a big bag of baked chips, or should I permit myself one orgy of partially hydrogenated joy?

These numbers are extrapolated as of Friday night's results. We're a shade over halfway done with the year. In order, we have actual extrapolated wins, my predictions, and pankleb's predictions...then, who is closer and by how much.

Mets 96/94/90 TRP by 4
Phillies 72/88/86 Pankleb by 2
Marlins 72/58/71 Pankleb by 13
Braves 70/85/83 Pankleb by 2
Nationals 70/73/68 Pankleb by 1

Cardinals 88/98/84 Pankleb by 6
Reds 83/67/75 Pankleb by 8
Brewers 81/83/85 TRP by 2
Astros 80/82/82 tie
Cubs 60/73/87 TRP by 14
Pirates 55/72/78 TRP by 6

Padres 87/83/81 TRP by 2
Dodgers 85/85/88 TRP by 3
Rockies 84/72/72 tie
Giants 82/81/78 TRP by 3
Diamondbacks 77/76/81 TRP by 4

Red Sox 100/94/97 pankleb by 3
Yankees 94/90/95 pankleb by 3
Blue Jays 89/88/81 TRP by 7
Orioles 72/71/71 tie
Devil Rays 71/76/68 pankleb by 2

Tigers 109/80/80 tie
White Sox 105/94/85 TRP by 9
Twins 89/81/84 pankleb by 3
Racist Cartoons 76/91/85 pankleb by 6
Royals 59/60/64 TRP by 4

A's 85/95/92 pankleb by 3
Rangers 83/72/81 pankleb by 9
Mariners 78/77/77 tie
Angels 77/89/87 pankleb by 2

Currently, pankleb is SEVEN GAMES CLOSER to on-target than I am. This shall be a close race to the bitter end.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Hey, it's good to be back home again...

I know it's not popular to like John Denver, but I grew up in Colorado, and it's sort of required that there be a soft spot in the heart for him. Except for the serial drunk driving part, I liked him.

Swankette and I did the Fourth Annual Fourth Of July Minor League Baseball Road Trip. Man, do I ever like doing this. We travel somewhere (not just by plane--it has to involve a road trip) and do multiple minor league games over the fourth of July. Minor league teams/games are usually in smaller cities, so we often wind up somewhere rural-ish, hanging out waiting for a big fireworks show. And the way minor league schedules go, we usually wind up seeing multiple fireworks shows: this year, we had four shows in four ballparks in four nights!

Quick summation: Saw a GREAT game in Oakland. Miguel Batista took a perfect game into the seventh inning, which was tres dramatic. About half of the hard-core A's fans started turning to root for the perfect game in the seventh, and when second baseman Orlando Hudson made a magnificent diving stop to preserve the perfect game in the seventh, I was hooting and hollering and got a few glares. Whatever, troglodytes. But then Batista walked the next guy on four pitches and gave up a home run to Frank Thomas and it was over. Still, incredibly dramatic stuff, and I'm glad I was there for it.

San Jose has a gorgeous ballpark and a staff that has no idea how to put on a baseball game. Shame on them. Even the fireworks were lame.

Modesto is very, very hot, and not a very nice town. But they had a nice ballpark and the quiet was nice after the overblown promotions of San Jose.

Sacramento was a pleasant surprise. It was a lovely city with a fantastic ballpark. Swankette and I walked across the river to get there. After the game and the fireworks, as we walked back across the river, there was a parade of boats that were lit up in patriotic ways. Gorgeous. And there seemed to be a lot of activity along the riverwalk. I've never heard Sacramento complimented (or, for that matter, even talked about) as a city, but I enjoyed it.

This has me thinking about family vacation traditions. Swankette and I love this tradition. This is the first year we've flown anywhere for the trip (we got ourselves bumped from a flight on the way to RealSuperGirl and Kaphine's wedding last year, so we chose very, very cheap tickets to the Bay Area for this year's trip). Three years ago, when we were dating, I sat on the riverwalk in Spokane and listened to my now-wife, then-girlfriend talk...calmly, and for a long time (which, given how quiet Swankette can be, was a rare treat), just about growing up and stuff, and really considered what a permanent life with her would be like. Two years ago, we zipped down the Oregon Coast together as she showed me her college haunts. Last year, we were saving money for the wedding, so we just drove to Yakima and the Tri-Cities, playing catch in parks along the way as Swankette warmed up her arm for throwing out the first pitch at our rehearsal dinner. And we had just as much fun this year.

We want to keep doing this when there are kids. In some ways, we think the kids are gonna bitch and moan about it. "How come we don't get to stay home and watch fireworks with our friends like normal people? Why is it always baseball, and always some stupid team I've never heard of?" The answer: Because it's a family tradition, and traditions are important, especially in families. Because we get to spend time together. And because we get to see different Americans every year partying. I always feel a little like de Tocqueville on these trips...driving somewhere new to get to know the US a little. In fact, for some reason, I was picturing explaining baseball to an English friend during the game the other night. I just love doing this. So the kids are going to do it too.

What the hell...the worst case scenario is that the kiddoes have something to bitch about when they get older...which is quite valuable.

UPDATE: Some tips from experienced father John.