Saturday, February 28, 2009

Good day.

Not always a fan of his content, but his delivery was irresistible.

Now Paul Harvey knows the rest of the story.

Book: -Odd Man Out-

UPDATE: Thanks to Anonymous below for pointing me in the direction of these two damning articles about the book. Looks like McCarthy's version of events is not trustworthy--and often impossible. In my eyes, the New York Times has eliminated McCarthy's credibility. I no longer recommend this book.

I've just finished reading Matt McCarthy's book Odd Man Out. Sports Illustrated ran an excerpt I liked recently, so I grabbed it right before Hedgehog was born and have managed to read it over the last few days. It helps that it's a fun read.

McCarthy profiles the only minor league team he ever played for, the 2002 Provo Angels in the Pioneer League (Rookie level). The Yale-educated McCarthy is a little different from his teammates. In the tradition of lefty pitchers everywhere, he views the world through his own, unique lens. I'd say that he mulls over the conflicting motivations and goals of the players and coaches he spent that summer with, and the result is several very interesting character sketches.

But man oh man. I never thought that ballplayers were choirboys. But McCarthy lays out all the icky misogyny, racism, sexism, and homophobia that happens everywhere he goes. I'm sure that the 2002 Provo Angels (including those who have since attained fame in the majors--a surprising number, actually, for that low level of ball) are angry at McCarthy for the same reason that people were angry at Jim Bouton for Ball Four. He broke the sacred clubhouse tenet of keeping everything on the inside, blah blah blah. But Bouton's revelations--that players liked to scope women out, particularly through binoculars--were pretty damned tame compared to the exploits of these guys. It's not the exploits that bother me, of course, it's the horrific way they speak of the many women they bed (or seek to). The racist attitudes of the Caucasians towards the "Dominicans" (their catch-all term which includes any player from anywhere in Latin America) are also quite ugly. The homophobic bullshit that the players and their manager speak and say is awfully disgusting.

I guess none of that surprises me, because while I haven't been in a pro locker room, I have been in a locker room, and men tend to act like misogynist homophobic assholes in there, from junior high all the way up to (I assume) the senior center. I was surprised, however, by the contempt with which the Angels--both players and staff!--treated the Mormons in the Provo community. The team has since moved a few miles down the road to Orem and renamed itself the Owlz, but if the field staff is still the same, I wouldn't be surprised if the Provo/Orem community, once they get around to reading this book, demanded an apology or even a removal of the team. When the team trainer, Clayton Wilson, says (according to McCarthy) "Remember, we're in Provo, and these people walk around with sticks permanently jammed up their asses," and when, speaking of players' possible host families, he says that "you'll stay at their home, likely for free, and they'll cook for you and some will even clean your shit for you...but these fuckers are Mormon, so be prepared for that..." well, I'm glad that's been aired.

Wilson is now the trainer for the Binghamton Mets, so Orem/Provo doesn't have to deal with him anymore, and all the players are long gone, but one wonders if they'll decide that an affiliated minor league team is worth it when they have overt contempt for their community and its people. Maybe, at the very least, the community will encourage the Angels to look elsewhere for their rookie affiliate and seek out a team that doesn't tacitly approve of this crap.

I wouldn't be surprised if McCarthy is facing blowback from his book, like Bouton did. There's probably more than a little anger from players who were presented negatively or who were called out for steroid use (quite common in 2002, of course). The dude violated the sacred code of the locker room.

My response: Good.

When you've got a code of silence, it's because something is rotten at the core of it that people don't want to be heard. This book proves it.

Anyway, it's a fun ride. McCarthy lays it all out there, and if you're a fan of minor league baseball, it's worth a read.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Baby surfing

I love my son, but I have to say I'd like it if he worked out this day-night confusion he has. He's mixing them up; chilling and sleeping with his eyes barely open all day, then wanting to be social all night. Swankette and I are switching off overnight duties...I'm not sure how I'll be able to resume work two Mondays hence without exhaustion debilitating me...but for now, I'm looking to kill a lot of overnight time.

Fox Sports has been showing old Mariner games. They're collecting on the TiVo. Fun to look at dudes like David Bell again.

And I've worked out a way to keep baby in a safe, secure position while typing on the computer. Yay for overnight web surfing.

Anyway, y'all should check this out. It's a story I first saw on ESPN at the hospital, and the more I check it out, the cooler it gets.

Rinku Singh and Dinesh Kumar Patel finished one-two in Million Dollar Arm, an Indian reality show competition. The premise: who can throw a baseball the fastest and most accurately? The winner, Singh, threw 89 MPH. Patel threw 87 but is a lefty. Singh won a hundred grand (a big deal since his family is extremely poor) and a baseball tryout in the US. They sent Patel along for the tryout as well.

It's a marvelous story. Neither has ever heard of baseball--neither had picked up a baseball before Million Dollar Arm came along. Neither had seen a baseball game or heard of any players. Calling these guys green is an astonishing understatement.

They received pitching assistance from Tom House (former coach of Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson) for a few months. They had three separate tryouts.

The Pirates took a flyer. Some say it's a publicity stunt, but I see it as a low-risk, high-reward signing. Why the hell not?

So now the pair are in Bradenton at the Bucs' minor league spring training, working on not just their arms, but the very basics--baseball rules, English language, and the like.

And they have a blog, which is charming in the extreme. A sample:

Today Mr. Trevor Goodby, Sir saying he teaching us to playing the pool. We already knowing this game, but we not saying this.

He showing us how playing. And then we playing very good. he saying you guys playing very good… You hustling me man… and we just laughing but not knowing meaning of hustling me man. but we all laughing. we good at pool. much easy than pitching.


Seriously--check it out. It's surreally fun.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Just awesome.


Sunday morning, 9:14 AM, he happened to me.

His mother is wonderful.

His family and friends are wonderful.

This is day 3. About 6,800 more until he's 18. I hope we do well for most of them, and that I can pass on at least a little of the unfathomable joy I've experienced from him already.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A problem with the super-late part of pregnancy

Wife is due Tuesday.

Lately, every time I've called a friend or family member, I hear this breathless "Oh! Hi! Hey! How are you???" to lead off the conversation. Then, I say "Well, things are fine. Swankette is a little tired of being pregnant, but baby will be here any time now."

Friend or family member will usually respond: "Oh! We were hoping you were calling to say the baby was here!"

Net result: until baby arrives, all of my phone conversations (that I initiate) with friends and family members begin with a tremendous letdown for them. I wish there were a way around it, but I don't see one. Sorry, family and friends.

Maybe this means I should call people more often?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I guess I've been doing it wrong?

Survivor features a really, really big tool this year. I dislike him more than last season's Ace, and that's saying something.

He's a soccer coach from Missouri. He goes by "Coach."

Anybody who asks that anyone other than the players on his team call him "coach" because he's a coach is a pretty significant lameass right there.(*)

But his sense of what a coach does is even more bizarre.

He was referring to a fellow contestant when he uttered this head-scratcher:

"She has a personality that's the same as mine. She looks to find faults in other people. I do it because it's my job."

Nice! It's the job of a coach to find faults in other people! That's what I do every time I coach debate, is say "Here are your faults, kids!" Then I go home.

Later in the same episode, he said this:

"It's my job to get people to trust me."

There's no better way to get people to trust you than my listing their faults for them, one at a time. Try it sometime. Then maybe--just maybe--you'll be every bit as unlikeable as Coach.

*The only exceptions I can think of to this rule--guys who I think can be called "Coach" by the general public--are Mike Krzyzewski, John Wooden, and Ernie Pantusso. The former two by virtue of earning their nicknames through years of exemplary work; the latter who, while a coach, was called Coach because he never flew first class.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Deep-fried things

Pankleb turned 35 tonight. He and many of his cool friends--I'm a friend, we'll let you decide if I'm cool--celebrated at Fire on the Mountain, a local wing joint.

I suppose I could have had a salad. But once I looked at the recipe for their hot sauce and found it had no ingredients on my banned list, I decided to go with some hot wings. Tasty. It's been a while.

Some others present were recommending the deep-fried pickles. Worth a shot. They were quite good. The hot pickle juice bursting free from beneath the frying was quite a tangy surprise. It had some kick to it.

Next up: well, we decided pankleb needed a deep-fried Twinkie. Seriously--NEEDED one. Two orders arrived. I had a bite of one.

Holy shit, was that ever good. I don't think I'd ever eat an entire deep-fried Twinkie--God knows how many calories and how much fat I would be ingesting--but damn, that one bite was good. Transcendently good, I swear to God. If you have a the opportunity to taste a deep-fried Twinkie, do NOT pass it up.

Then, once pankleb had eaten 18 wings, several deep-fried pickles, and most of a deep-fried Twinkie, we noticed that deep-fried Oreos were on the menu. We bought an order for him. The Oreo (not just the middle...the cookie part too) melts a little in the deep-fryer, making for an unexpectedly gooey-crumbly treat. Not as good as the Twinkie, but still pretty good.

It occurred to me in the midst of all of this buying-deep-fried-stuff-for-pankleb activity that this felt a little like a 21st birthday party...where friends keep buying the birthday celebrant drinks to see how he handles them. By 35, we've all been drunk (well, most of us...I hadn't been). So at 35, rather than buying pankleb drinks, we kept hitting him up with fatty calorie-laden treats to see how he could handle them. Rather than saying "Chug! Chug!" we were talking about how many times he'd have to climb Mount Tabor to work off just that Twinkie...suggesting he might not be man enough to handle all that fat.

And how did pankleb respond? With all the bravado of a 21-year-old showing off his ability to hold liquor.

He held up the Twinkie, brought it towards his lips, and shouted the following immortal statement:

"Metabolize THAT, motherfucker!"

(It seems he was actually taunting his own body there. But it was still pretty awesome.)

One other idea: The fine folks at Fire on the Mountain could add one more deep-fried item to their menu.

Now, we all know about deep-fried ice cream. (Tried it once. It's not as good as an Oreo and not in the same time zone as the Twinkie.) Fire on the Mountain could go a step further.

My recommended recipe:

1. Take a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drop it in a cube about the size of a baseball-holder filled with root beer.

2. Freeze the root beer with the ice cream in it.

3. Drop the whole kit and caboodle into the deep fryer.

The result? Yep. A deep-fried root beer float!

Who's with me?

The Amazing Race 14 Predictions

It's TONIGHT, bay-bee! The debut of my favorite show. While I have only sporadically made predictions, I find myself with a little time to kill while waiting for my wife to go into labor. Thus and therefore, I present to you my predictions for this, the 14th season of TAR.

I will first offer first impressions of the teams in alphabetical order, then try to sort out who has what it takes to make the final mat, who will fall short, and who doesn't have a prayer.

Let us begin:

AMANDA AND KRIS.

Hot young Southern California couple. Appear athletic. No major red flags. A couple like this usually makes it far.

BRAD AND VICTORIA.

Married for nine years. Late 40s and early 50s. Appear in good shape, but she's coming off major foot surgery. She's out to prove the doctors wrong who said she'd never run again. While she'll prove them wrong by running, I'm not sure it'll be fast enough.

CARA AND JAIME.

Former NFL Cheerleaders for the Dolphins. No dummies, these...one's starting law school and the other is a former cop. Stage presence matters in these things. I can see them doing well, actually.

CHRISTIE AND JODI
.

Flight attendants, 37 and 40. I'm not sure how the one on the left will be able to get those implants to the finish line. They'll have spunk, but being flight attendants and having a knowledge of the "ins-and-outs of the travel industry" won't nearly be enough.

JENNIFER AND PRESTON.

I've noticed South Carolina is overrepresented among Amazing Race contestants lately. But this couple, while good-looking and in good shape, has some red flags. They've broken up and made up several times, seem to approach conflict differently, and are doing the old let's-test-our-relationship-by-doing-the-Race thing. They won't go early, but I can't see them winning it all.

LaKISHA AND JENNIFER.

Sisters who might be the most athletic team out of the bunch...one played college volleyball, the other college basketball, both at Louisville...so they'll be in the thick of things. But when the profile says you argue...well, that's a red flag. So is the lack of travel experience.

LINDA AND STEVE.

Married couple. He's 43, she's 52. Travel experience will keep them around. Age will prevent them from winning it all. (Unless I'm mistaken, nobody over 40 has ever stepped on the map first. Or was what's-his-name...the guy who looked like George Foreman and his wife...that old? Crap, time to hit Wikipedia...OK. Chip and Kim were in their 40s, as were Uchenna and Joyce when they won it all. But nobody over 45 has ever finished first. Maybe these guys change it? Hard to say. Not much to go on here.

MARGIE AND LUKE.

Mother/son team. Luke is 22 years old, deaf, and proud of the fact that he doesn't read lips. They communicate via signs. I don't think this will be any kind of impact on the race, since communication will be a problem for everyone anyway in foreign countries. In fact, it might be to Luke's advantage, since he's accustomed to living in a world where it's hard to communicate with most people. They're a bit of a dark horse.

MARK AND MICHAEL
.

Interesting! A pair of stuntman brothers. They're unquestionably athletes...but they're little guys, at 4'9". One is a sometime jockey, the other a stuntman actor. They're a little older, straddling either side of 50 years old. Hunh. I see them hanging around a while. They've got most of what it'll take, I think.

MEL AND MIKE.

Nice guys: gay-rights advocate dad, screenwriter son, 68 and 38. Probably the team I'd most like to get to know, but they won't be able to keep up, so I won't likely get the chance.

TAMMY AND VICTOR.

Debaters! As I was doing a little research the other day, I saw that Victor is in charge of a big debate website. The two of them are both attorneys; he's 35, she's 26. The red flag is that they seem to be carrying above-average duffels of sibling baggage on board; he's a control freak, and she wants her big brother to know that she's not a little kid anymore. That's potentially toxic. Harvard Law siblings? Who could possibly win when they disagree?

ANALYSIS: I honestly think CBS really wants an all-female team to (finally!) win. They've put in several tough woman/woman teams this year, more so than usual.

All right. I will now divide these into groups of no-chance, middle-of-pack, and in the running, and in the process make my pick for who wins it all. Note that the actual order is sort of whimsical...the real prediction is which third they'll be dismissed in rather than exact order.

WON'T SEE MUCH OF THEM:

11. Mel and Mike
10. Brad and Victoria
9. Christie and Jodi

MIDDLE-OF-PACK:

8. Linda and Steve
7. LaKisha and Jennifer
6. Jennifer and Preston
5. Luke and Margie

REAL CONTENDERS:

4. Tammy and Victor
3. Mark and Michael
2. Amanda and Kris
1. Cara and Jaime

That's right...for no discernible reason, I'm going with the cheerleaders!

Gotta go prep for the premiere...

State Memories Project: Connecticut

In March of 1992, Kenyon Chamber Singers tour took us through Pennsylvania to New England. One of those gigs was in Westport, Connecticut, which was the hometown of Liz, an adorable freshman who was in Chasers, my other a cappella group. We didn’t have to stay with a host family that night because Liz invited six of us—three guys, three girls—to her place for the night.

Unusually, our gig was in the afternoon… we had performed at Liz’s alma mater high school that day. So, after a low-stress performance, we had a free afternoon and evening.

What I’ll remember most from that night was dinner. Liz’s parents took us all out to a pizza joint, and we were all letting off a LOT of pent-up steam from being on guest behavior every night. This mostly meant being loud and marginally appropriate. (The previous night, we had performed at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City…a major venue…so after performing at the high school, we were ready to cut loose.) I remember sitting at the head of the table and laughing a lot. Liz was at the opposite end of the table.

While I have no idea what joke caused this, Liz—a willowy dancer who moved her body gracefully—elaborately mimed barfing in response to some of our comments. She pretended to smile and nod, then, all at once, would lock her entire torso, bug her eyes out, throw her head back, and throw her body to the side under table-level, pretending to retch for four or five seconds at a time. It was hilarious. She kept doing it, and it somehow got funnier every time. The visual of that brilliant imitation barfing has stayed with me to this day.

What do y'all remember from Connecticut?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Facebook etiquette

Help me with a minor moral dilemma:

A guy I sang with in high school, but didn't know too well--a guy I haven't thought much about in 20 years--recently offered to friend me on Facebook. I said yes. Why the hell not?

We chatted briefly. He's going through a contentious divorce. He's in a dead-end job he hates, and commutes an hour each way. We chatted a little bit. I tried to commiserate.

Since then, well, all I see of him is his status updates. They are, without fail, breathtakingly angry slams at his soon-to-be-ex-wife or his horrible job or his commute. Not just ordinary ones, either. He suggested we should have never stopped stoning adulterers. He wanted to send dead poisonous flowers to his ex for Valentine's. He thinks his son is partly deaf solely so as not to listen to his mom's awful voice.

The guy's status updates makes me feel like crap.

Okay. As I see it, I have several options.

One is to, quietly and without fanfare, simply unfriend the guy. Positives: it'd keep him and his unrelenting, gut-curdling anger off of my computer every day. Negatives: The dude clearly needs help, and I don't feel good walking away. He has over 100 friends...so maybe there's a little bit of a bystander effect going on here...since so many of us are seeing this, we're less likely to help him out.

Another is to sort of ask if he's okay. "Hey, Ed, you sound really, really depressed. Are you getting any kind of help?" Positives: I am doing something to help him out. Negatives: I've spoken to the man literally once since 1988. Isn't it rather presumptuous of me to step in and try to solve his major life problems?

But shouldn't SOMEBODY be saying "Hey, are you getting professional help?" The guy has a son who needs him through the divorce, and based on the strangely-intimate-but-admittedly-incomplete status updates he's giving, he's not emotionally available as a Dad right now.

Option three: send the dude an email, say "hey, I hope you're getting some help, but I'm going to step away from your unrelenting negativity" and then unfriend. Don't care for that option. It feels cowardly, like the way Michael Scott told Andy Bernard about Angela's affair a couple of weeks ago on The Office.

Anyhoo...how would you handle it? I'm leaning somewhat towards option two. I mean, the dude sought me out, after all, not the other way around, so I guess he needs a friend.

But option one would feel far simpler.

Have any of you faced similar dilemmas? How'd you handle them?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Songs for adults about kids

As I was cleaning up the house today in preparation for Hedgehog's arrival (which could be anywhere from tomorrow to a few weeks off), Paul Simon's "Beautiful" came on the "Songs To Clean The House By" iPod mix. It's one of my favorite songs right now. He manages to capture the hope-in-spite-of-it-all that I feel at this precipice of life-change-to-the-unrecognizable. (I repeat it a little sometimes..."I'm gonna be a dad, I'm gonna be a dad, I'm gonna be a dad...") I sang this to Swankette once and made her cry. It might make me cry if I try it again.

It got me to thinking of the many songs Paul Simon has written about children and the hope associated. With his first child and first marriage, he wrote the gorgeous "St. Judy's Comet," which I'll certainly sing to Hedgehog. It's not quite as transcendent as "Beautiful," but man, he gets it right. Both "Beautiful" and the fun, sweet "Father to Daughter" are about his second batch of kids with Edie Brickell, and just as lovely as the one from his son with first wife Peg.

But the best, strangely, might be from in-between his spates of children. "Born at the Right Time" just came on the iPod as well. So hopeful, so gorgeous, so perfect for my current mindset.

There's too many people on the bus from the airport
Too many holes in the crust of the earth
The planet groans every time it registers another birth

But down among the reeds and rushes
A baby girl was found
Her eyes as clear as centuries
Her silky hair was brown

Never been lonely
Never been lied to
Never had to scuffle in fear
Nothing denied to

Born at the instant
The church bells chime
The whole world whispering
Born at the right time.


Paul Simon was one of my go-to CDs in college--particularly the underrated Hearts and Bones--because his perspectives on relationships were absolutely on the money for my overly-introspective late-teens-and-early-twenties self. I've never stopped listening to him, but unlike other artists I've liked in the past--Aimee Mann, for instance--he's provided a new set of fertile lyrics appropriate to my life as he ages. The man is 68 this year, and I hope he writes more and more new songs through his 70s and 80s for me to grow into.

I suspect I'll be listening to a hell of a lot more of him in the not-too-distant future.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Special Correspondent

In the wee hours of the morning, as I am getting ready to head to work and my wonderful wife is still sleeping, I head downstairs to iron. And while I'm down there, I start to miss my wife and need company.

In the process, I developed a pretend CNN girlfriend. But then she left me.


Kate Bolduan brought me through some of the cold mornings. She was adorable, sitting out on the White House lawn. She would inform me of the latest on the Obama transition team and inaugural preparation. She would ease me of the pain--the pain that my separation from my wife (who was about fifteen feet away from me, but on ANOTHER FLOOR) was causing. I grew to look forward to our time together.

Then, although I thought it would last, Kate left me.

Suzanne (rhymes with Cezanne) Malveaux came between us, and Kate didn't even stop to say goodbye.Apparently, for her, I was nothing more than a temporary gig...a conquest during her vacation fill-in.

That's all I meant to her. (Sniff.)

Now, while Kate was around, another woman kept trying to get my attention with news from just across the mall at the Capitol. I thought she was kind of cute, but nobody could take me from my Kate. And I thought Kate was beautiful (although, seriously, the two Pretend CNN Girlfriends are very, very similar looking, are they not?)

But once Kate left, I started noticing Brianna was always there for me. Every morning, through thick and thin, as I stood in the cold basement ironing the day's teacher clothes, Brianna would look right at me.

I got the sense she was thinking of me every time she said "stimulus package."

I don't want to say that I'm entirely over Kate. That wouldn't be fair to anyone involved. These things take time. But, sort of like in Survivor's song "The Search Is Over," I began noticing that Brianna was with me all the while, through all of my difficult 6:10 AM ironings. I began to notice how surprisingly dark her eyes are. And Brianna had a bit of the seal of approval of my wife, who looked at both Kate and Brianna and declared that Brianna is better looking. Not sure I agree, but I trust my wife's judgement on my pretend girlfriends. I want them to get along.

So Brianna earned the promotion to #1 CNN Pretend Girlfriend.

Which is all background for this.

Yesterday, I noticed a good-sized bruise on Brianna's neck. Hadn't noticed it before. Could it be a hickey? No. No way. The makeup people would have that gone faster than you could say "Flip Spiceland."

But then, this morning, Brianna and her strangely-dark eyes were inside a Congressional building. I got a closer look at my pretend girlfriend than I ever had. The bruise was still there.

Okay. Less likely to be a hickey. More likely to be a birthmark. Pretend girlfriend isn't necking like it's the Tolo dance with the guy she sits behind in Trigonometry.

But if that's the case. where the hell is the birthmark in any photo of her on the internet? Look at the picture above. No neck birthmark there.

I can't currently find a video of Brianna from the last couple of mornings. If you're up in the next couple of days and see her doing Congressional news, could you do me a favor and see if she has a hickey? Thanks.

It won't end my pretend relationship with Brianna. I just want to know.

(By the way, Ms. Keilar and Ms. Bolduan, if you want to know my address for the inevitable restraining order you'll want from this post, please contact Sue Bird. She can help you get one.)

Sunday, February 08, 2009

State Memories Project: Colorado

I don’t spend a lot of time bragging about HS accomplishments—any guy pushing 40 who does is leading a pretty sad life--but writing the best memory of the state where I spent my first 18 years necessitates me writing about a really wonderful day from my senior year. Early March. It was a day when everything—-absolutely everything—-came together.

It was the Friday of my cast’s final performance of The Pajama Game, for which I was performing the lead role. It was also the afternoon of the state qualifying meet for Forensics.

I bolted school at lunch to get ready for State Quals. I headed home, changed into my suit, and found a fantastic note from my mother, who had attended opening night along with the rest of my family, including many who traveled to be there. My mom had managed to work herself into a guilt trip because she hadn’t given me flowers after the performance, unlike the parents of Pat Sloan, a really icky young man who I disliked almost as much as my parents disliked his loud, perpetually-self-congratulating mother.

I’ve lost the note—-dammit!-—but it said something very much like this:

TRP—

Your and Janet’s duet is the most exciting, fantastic, wonderful moment in the whole show. You’ve done a tremendous job! Break a leg again tonight!

Love, Mom

P.S.—If Mrs. Sloan had any taste, she’d have given YOU Pat’s bouquet!


I changed, drove to Arapahoe High School, and told the meet organizer that I needed to get back to Columbine for a show. He very kindly removed me from my third round of Dramatic Interpretation and put me in two second rounds instead. I thanked him--both then and the next time I saw him, which was at Nationals in Salt Lake City in 2004.

Whirlwind. First round done (faking an orgasm on a horse for my portrayal of Equus...hey, anything for a trophy, right?) I change from my debate suit to my Pajama Game costume (pea-green pants). Do second round in costume. First speaker. Leave the room. Enter another. Fourth speaker. Leave the school. Drive like hell along C-470 back to Columbine. Get there safely. Then—-the show.

While I loved my tenor role--I got to sing “Hey There,” “New Town is a Blue Town,” and a few other good pieces—-the highlight was the duet “There Once was a Man.” It’s a pretty kick-ass song that requires a lot of energy. And I was learning at that age that I have a little talent for exciting an audience. My fellow lead was a sweet Texan transplant named Janet. We could play off each other’s energy, gather in some of the audience’s, and throw it back out at them. That feeling of getting an audience into the palm of my hand? It’s up there with any feeling in the world. Period. We worked the audience into a tizzy. I remember feeling a high unlike any I'd known as the we went off stage. I remember hugging Janet like crazy.

On my program, the music teacher, wrote that “Your performance was among the best we have had at Columbine.” And the next day, I learned that I'd finished first at State Quals, too.

So many adults cared about me and worked to make me succeed everywhere I went that day—my coach (Hi, Paula!), my music teacher, my parents, my aunt and grandparents who had traveled so far to see the show, even the forensics meet director, who didn't even know me. It feels great to have everyone I know both rooting for me and, when feasible, making some sacrifices and efforts to help me. I try to keep that in my mind when I’m doing my job as a teacher and a coach (and, shortly, as a parent).

The memory of that entire day—-the note, the speech competition, the performance—-all wraps together into what is still one of the most wonderful single days I’ve ever experienced. It felt like a coronation.

What are your Colorado memories? I've seen some writing from Spoon, Pankleb, and Swankette on their blogs, as well as my dad's and some others on mine--and I've loved every one of them. What else y'all got?

Big coaching days...

Kids seem to be peaking at the right time...in spite of taking only seven kids to the meet yesterday, my forensicators and master-debaters took third place in sweeps at this weekends small-but-high-quality meet. Had a second in LD, a second in PuFo, a second in Expos, a third in IR, a third in OO. Not too shabby.

The most interesting stretch now will be the next 48 hours or so, because on Tuesday we host the state qualifier for Public Forum (well, it's technically not a real state event, but rather a mere "state demonstration event," because the WIAA and our state forensics committee still treats PuFo as a second-class citizen, but hey, I'm working on it as hard as I can). We're using the March topic to get ready for Nat Quals and State, and it's proving quite interesting. The topic is as follows:

Resolved: That, on balance, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 has improved academic achievement in the United States.

The issue here isn't so much that NCLB sucks, it's that most of the judges the kids will encounter will be teachers, who, try as they might to leave their biases at the door, will almost universally be predisposed to believe arguments against NCLB. Teams this weekend who won the coin toss almost exclusively selected "Con."

So we took our PuFo boys and treated this past weekend as a bit of a warm-up; an opportunity to spar with the other good teams in our district merely 3 days before attempting to qualify for state using the same topic. We actually told them to select Pro if they won the toss so they could flex those muscles a bit. (Usually, however, we coach our boys to build two strong cases and then elect to speak second if they win the toss. Net result: they almost exclusively speak second.) Then, after four rounds, and after Swankette and I had judged a few rounds each, we went for burgers after the meet and coached hard so we could spend today researching some stuff.

What it looks like, to me, is that the resolution's focus on "academic achievement" is going to lead to stat wars. The kids with the best stats won't win. The kids with the most stat savvy will. The best kids I saw (and the ones that eventually won the debate) blasted the round open with this great argument: "My opponents say that test scores have improved. However, teachers can teach to the test, and according to this education professor, once teachers start teaching to the test, the test loses all meaning as an indicator of academic achievement. Our numbers say that student test scores have not improved. Our numbers are reliable because their from a test that's given to random school districts every year, so there's no teaching to the test since the kids don't even know they'll be tested. Therefore, our numbers should be the ones you trust."

Wow. Not bad for a couple of HS freshmen. Their opponents were left silent and open-mouthed. Game over.

So, PuFo Debaters working the March topic: Get behind, around, under, and into the numbers. That'll win you some meets.

Anyhow, with 72 hours to look at the same ballots and make some quick coaching and research decisions, I feel right now like coaching will have a larger impact than usual on this Tuesday's state quals results. It's going to be fun.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Revolutionary 1960s Patient Care

Didja see my dad's awesome state memory from California? Well worth a read. Good oral history.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

How did they test this?

Via Bean:

How Many 90 Year Olds Could You Take in a Fight?

50th anniversary

My radio landed on an oldies station on my way to work this morning, and I heard, in order, "That'll Be The Day" by Buddy Holly, "Chantilly Lace" by the Big Bopper, and "La Bamba" by Ritchie Valens in order, followed by Don McLean's "The Day the Music Died."

Didn't need to hear the news to figure out why those were being played. What a nice tribute.

And I wish I'd been in Clear Lake, Iowa last night. I'll look forward to the TV special they filmed there.

Monday, February 02, 2009

My goal for my marriage

I want my marriage to end like this. 62 years, in bed together, dying 2 hours apart. I'll be 97, she'll be 95. I can handle that.

Except I'll want it to be right after wild monkey sex.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Santonio's TD celebration

I don't like Santonio much, but that's purely selfish, since he did jack-nothin' for my fantasy team this year. But what was the deal with his TD celebration? He sort of shook the ball towards one hand, like he was trying to get ketchup out of a bottle, then threw it in the air with both hands.

It reminded me of the Swedish Chef's intro. Maybe he was singing dinky-dinky-do BORK BORK BORK! (toss...)

Gut-wrenching SB losses

I'm thinking of my buddy Bean, one of a few dozen people nationally who were Arizona Cardinal fans before about 6 weeks ago. To watch this awesome Super Bowl with a rooting interest for Arizona must have been gut-wrenchingly awful.

But then I remember XXIV, back in my days as a Bronco fan. I knew the team was weak...that year, the whole AFC was terrible compared to the NFC. They snuck into the bowl, and I put on my Bronco sweatshirt and went down to Gund Commons at good ol' Kenyon to watch the ballgame. Knew it would be terrible.

And oh, God, but it was. Denver could do absolutely nothing on offense or on defense. It was like watching a junior high team play a high school varsity.

I didn't feel like I could walk away, though, and maintain my fan-dom, so I sat and watched. The worst part was when 49-er fans started feeling bad and actually started cheering a little for the Broncos to do something in the second half. And about a billion "Super Bowl Record" graphics. (Including "Most Father-Son Kisses." Jim Burt got that one.)

It was freaking devastating.

So I can't decide which would be worse. Being a Bronco fan for the Super Bowl 19 years ago? Or being a Cardinal fan today?

I'm leaning towards worse to be a Bronco fan, 'cos there was NOTHING to be proud of. Literally nothing good happened all day. I'd be hurt as a Card fan today, but do think I could somehow hold my head high...

But what do y'all think?

Chris, you don't get to vote.

State Memories Project: California

To be honest, I was satisfied with the sedan picking me up at the airport, taking to the hotel, to the taping, back to the hotel, and back to the airport. The $11,000 was gravy. I had a driver!

Swankette had prepared me with a drill sergeant’s doggedness for my Pyramid appearance. Once there, it was a matter of getting to know our local news anchor and weatherman, who were the celebrities for a special Seattle edition of Pyramid. The goal was to develop a rapport. The news anchor mentioned she likes hanging out with her kids, the weatherman that he likes golf. Well, that’s something.

When you look at the tape of my Pyramid victory, you can tell that I’m nervous and that I’m concentrating, but you can also tell that I’m having a hell of a good time.

The second time I made the bonus round—with the weather guy—we blitzed right up to the top, getting 5 of the necessary 6 clues for the $10K. But then he gave an illegal clue (“Money from an ATM” is illegal…can’t use a prepositional phrase). Amazingly, the lawyers and rulemakers gave me another shot because they had mistakenly given me credit for two earlier clues (I said “What Nickels would say” instead of Greg Nickels, and I said “Why you’re angry” when the correct answer was “why you’re mad.”) I suspect they simply wanted a winner on the show and wanted to find a legally-solid way to give me another shot. I think of those lawyers huddling on the other side of the studio, next to the crowd. The decision they made has impacted my financial life in the extreme; without that choice to let me replay the round, I may still be renting an apartment.

It’s a bizarre moment, the instant I won. Me, Donny Osmond, and the weatherman, hugging like best friends, all chanting “Cool Shimmy.” Unlike the other key moments, however, this one is on video forever. Check out my face. That’s unbridled joy.

After one wins $11,000, one tips one’s drivers very, very well.

Just to make it official...

I've got 26-10 Steelers. The Cards are a chic pick right now...in fact, over half of CNN's "experts" went with them to win outright. But I don't think Warner will have any time to throw...certainly not enough for his receivers to shake the Steelers' defenders loose. He'll spend most of the game on his butt, and Pittsburgh's O will kick a lot of field goals and dink and dunk their way to victory in what will likely be an aesthetically unpleasing game.