Monday, January 26, 2009

Frozen Water Torture

It seems like it has been snowing here for about five straight days. Except that it is snowing so slowly, that we only accumulate about an inch a day, if that. It seems that the point of all this frozen precip is to get the kids all jangled up, make us clean off our cars more than once a day, make us shovel or sweep the drive and walks once a day or so, and to just make it seem all pretty outside. The roads are not really treacherous. As a matter of fact, they have been quite clear. I guess it's easy for plows and salt trucks to keep up with less than an inch per day of snowfall. Tonight and tomorrow calls for more of the same. I guess this is kind of like what living in a snow globe must be like (with out the intermittent violent shaking).

I have been eagerly awaiting President Obama's reply to my texts about my economic stabilization plan. I am also still awaiting the arrival of a Hawaii quarter. Who is jonesing all the Hawaii quarters! Anyway, I was hoping my texts might reach his NSA-secured Blackberry, but maybe I have a wrong number.

And, last, but not least. I try to ignore this buffoon when this news first broke, but, if Leonard Pitts, one of the finest Opinion columnists of his generation, is going to address it, then I'll say it, too: Rush Limbaugh is un-American.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Central Standard Economic Plan

It is common knowledge that we are in some financially trying times. The economy is in shambles, employment is down, the stock market is unsettled. Oil prices are so low that even oil barons are having a tough time of it...did you see Dick Cheney in a wheel chair on Tuesday? Needless to say, our new president and his cabinet have a tough row to hoe, as does Congress, of course. They are in this, too.

But, I have an idea that just might help float us up out of these benighted times. I read in a two week-old paper today (don't ask why I was reading a two week-old paper, I just was) that roughly 150 million people have been collecting the state quarters issued since 1999. Now that all 50 quarters have been released, that means that each person with a full set has at least $12.50 just sitting under his/her bed gathering dust. I would venture that many of these collectors have multiple sets, even big ass coffee cans full of quarters, canvas bags of silver coins, Uncle Scrooge McDuck-sized mounds of change piled around the hot water heater in their basements, but, in the interest of being level-headed here, let's assume 50 quarters per collector.

Altogether, that is approximately $1.8 billion. Imagine how fluid our economy might be if that kind of extra money were circulating. If maybe a hundred thousand of those quarters were going to buy a new Chrysler instead of hanging out in the hall closet, than perhaps the auto industry wouldn't need our tax dollars to save it. If sixty thousand of those little twenty-five cent pieces were being put down on a new big screen TV, perhaps Circuit City wouldn't be closing its doors in communities across this great nation of ours. If 264 million of those two bit coins were being used to sign a half-decent twenty-five year old right fielder to a lucrative contract with the Baltimore Orioles.... Oh, wait, never mind on that one.

Anyway, the point here is that it is time to make the tough choices. It's time to make sacrifices. At least, that's what our president said on Tuesday. Maybe our first sacrifice should be to spend those silly collections of coins that we have worked these ten years to cobble together. And let me be the first to ask of you, does anyone have a spare Hawaii? I can't find one.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

NIck Markakis: Millionaire!

I don't want to repeat myself. I have, more than once, used this bully pulpit (which really isn't that bully....nor is it a pulpit, either...forget that last noun phrase)...this forum (yeah, that's more like it) to rail at the financial injustices of the sports world. I especially like to point out the absurdity of Alex "Heart of a Poet" Rodriguez's $250 million (plus) contract with the dreaded Bronx Bombers. However, word comes from the sports world that hits a little closer to home, as I read this morning in the local that Nick Markakis, a promising young outfielder, has accepted an offer from the Orioles for $66 million over six years! That's $11 million a year (somebody check my math).

Now, ARod's $25 mill per is ridiculous, but, he is one of the best offensive players of his generation (except in the playoffs, but anyway...). NMark earned his millions by hitting last season for an above-average batting average (.306), some power (20 home runs), and some production (87 RBI). He is also a better than average fielder, but, is he worth $11 million?

My first reaction is no, but, let's look at those numbers. That, of course, is one of the inherent beauties of the game of baseball: the dance of statistics, the symphony of numbers, the nearly infinite number of ways that performance can be divided, extrapolated, compared. Oh, here, in the realm of the baseball statistic is where I think I come the closest to a spiritual experience. Why else would I still love a game that is so disgusting on an economic level?

Anyway, Rodriguez has averaged, over the span of a fifteen year career, a batting average of .306, 44 HRs, and 127 RBI. Using those numbers, one might deduce that Markakis is ARod's equal in hitting for average, slightly less than half as good at hitting for power, and above the median in driving in runs. So, relative to $25 million, which Markakis is most definitely better than half as good as, he's actually being underpaid! At $30,000. + per day. That, ladies and gentlemen is how f'ed up the economics of baseball are.

That is all I got.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Since Football Season Is Over, Let's Talk About Pie

I am surprisingly at peace with the result of the AFC Championship game. I thought we had them there for a moment, but then Polamalu happened.

Perspective: Fourteen other teams in the AFC did not get to play this weekend.

Feel Good Rationalization: Pittsburgh scored their touchdowns on a ridiculous improvised play and an interception. If you take those two plays away, Ravens win 14-9.

Follow-up Dose of Reality: You can't take those two plays away. Or, as my dad likes to say, "If a frog had wings...."

True Perspective: I hope that Willis Mcgahee is okay.

And, so, as my interest in the Super Bowl is less than it might have been, I'll look forward to that day in just a few weeks when pitchers and catchers report to sunny locales to play catch and jog and practice rolling wads of chew into wads of bubble gum and spit sunflower seeds and discuss what to do with the bazillions of dollars they have piled up around the yard.

Noticed this over at ESPN this evening.

My immediate reactions included a) as a fan of the Orioles, I support their acquisition of outfielder pie, b) they can only be a better team with outfielder pie, c) what exactly goes into outfielder pie?

I know Monkey will like this story. She loves pie.

Oh, and by the way, what was Garth Brooks doing singing at the Linclon Memorial, today? Shouldn't he be getting ready for San Diego Padres Spring Training (Garth Brooks' Personal Fantasy Camp)?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Cold Day Calls for Poetry

It has been a while since I gave you any poetry. This one has been on my mind for a while. I wrote the first draft of it in May. I had been watching some local slam poets, and I liked the sort of Beat-bombast of the delivery of a particular poet. I thought I would try to write something that would have that Ginsberg-meets-Saul Williams kind of feel. I don't know if I completely manifested Ginsberg or Williams, but I have some fondness for what has become of it so far.


This is my obligatory ode to Walt Whitman!
Father, your beard is not my inspiration,
And I’ve noticed your breath lines got awfully short after your

Could you rise, Walt Whitman, and sing the death song of Brooklyn,
As you hovered over the Williamsburg Br. sounding your barbaric yawp?

You can almost feel the rhythm of the carpenters as they plane their boards;
You can almost whistle the cacophony of the welders arcing sparks off of girders;
You can almost wail the siren of the prostitutes and bartenders selling their wares;
You can almost see Giants Stadium from here!

What might you recognize, O Father, on this concrete and steel island America?
Where monuments have risen and fallen since you contemplated the universe
In a blade of grass.

Would you comfort us, Great Nurse, Caretaker of the Nation’s Battle Wounds?
Would your song of humanity stretch as far as Baghdad?
Could you find another leader worthy of your own elegiac ode?

Perhaps you haven’t left us, if every atom of yours is also mine.
Do we all have a little molecular Whitman swimming around in ourselves
(Which we should sing and celebrate and shit)?

It must be, as I have the urge to sing my electric body—
Alive as it is with the blues and reds of horse nebula and whirlpool galaxies—
Crackling as it is with St. Elmo’s Fire and other charged elements—
Brethren as it is with spiders patiently, silently spinning.

I sing your electric body.
I sing my electric body.

Your electric body is static.

My electric body sings,
And, in a taut moment of transcendence,
I souse my poems with the spray of my Romantic imagination.

But, in these days, transcendence is only temporary,
And Romanticism’s imagination is judged by the quality of its computerized animation.

O Walt Whitman! You are dead,
Inspirer of Langston Hughes and Alan Ginsberg,
Who are also dead.
Sing Choragos of the Dead Poets’ Union
And bring me my paper from eternity!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Shocker!

In order to procrastinate grading a mountain of papers I swore I would have done by tomorrow (fat chance!), and per a special request, allow me to make you privy to some semi-important (and some completely unimportant) news of the last few days.

The return from winter break was a hellish one. I hit the ground running at full speed and have only slowed slightly this past week. Finals begin after tomorrow, and I hope to be able to put some ducks in a row, or fish in a barrel, or eggs in a basket, or something like that, just prior to The Dawn of a New Day, otherwise known as Inauguration Day. For that reason, I have been stingy in my posting, and then only focusing on irrelevant things (to most) such as Baltimore's NFL franchise. But, here's the real scoop: the beard got a trim. It was unintentional, and I have no photographic proof, but, that fierce man bush I had billowing under my chin is far less unruly today that it was a week ago. Here's the story: I intended just to shape it up a bit. I don't even know why I wanted to do that. I was getting antsy, and maybe a little bored with it. I am fickle like that when it comes to facial hair. Anyway, I went a little deeper than I wanted to at first, and, next thing you know, it was all professional-looking. However, it is still there, and it will grow back. At least that is the plan. Accompanying photo, however, probably not the plan.

I also got new glasses on Saturday (not that I want to steal any of comoprozac's "new look" thunder). So, the cephalic region has gotten quite a make over the past few days.

Now that I mention the cephalic region, let me also mention that during a round of basketball this past Sunday, I took a twenty-something's elbow to the temple. I tried to stay upright, but, my knees wobbled and I descended in slow motion to the hardwood. I think a couple of guys thought I was having a heart attack; they ran over with grave looks on their faces. After a few moments, I got up and tried to play, but after a couple of trips up and down the floor, I knew it was a bad idea. I hit the bench, and then wandered woozily home. Still today, it's pretty sore. Especially when I chew...and I LOVE to chew!

What excitement!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Can't Shake The Habit

So, if you're keeping score, I am doing well on my previous suggestions. I am reading more (or rather I was until this weekend...fell off the pace on Saturday, but that's no big thing). I am practicing more (still worried about being ready for Berry, Buck, Stipe, and Mills). I am still, however, getting far too worked up about my sports. But, you know what? I am not going to apologize for it. At least not right now.

It is, as I stated before, excruciating to watch the performance of the Ravens in the playoffs. I am jittery, jumpy, vocal, frustrated, elated, distraught, encouraged, heartsick, and proud...all before kick off. My antics have been documented. But, for those three plus hours that I am living and dying with my team, it's awesome. Afterwards, I feel exhausted. Since they've been winning, I feel thrilled. I remember how all of this felt in 2001, and I am loving feeling it again. As a realist, I am constantly aware that the end could come at any moment (of course, at this point, we know it either comes next week or not until the absolute end of the season), but I am enjoying the ride while it lasts. Most teams don't often get the chance to play for the Super Bowl, let alone IN the Super Bowl, so it is a great fortune to be able to root for my team next week. Imagine how out-of-their-minds ecstatic people in Arizona must be. They do know they have a football team, don't they?

As luck would have it, the showdown for the AFC Championship couldn't be a better match up. Baltimore at Pittsburgh. Two teams that are bitter divisional rivals. Two teams that have played each other as tightly as two teams can play each other. Two teams that, in many ways, are are similar as can be. A rivalry that has venom, intrigue, and history. I know it's the game that everyone in Baltimore and Pittsburgh wanted to see. I hope it lives up to the hype.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Things I'd Like To Do

I have never been one for resolutions. It always seemed too much like making plans. However, it is that time of year to think about what we have done and to think about what we'd like to do. I suppose there are a few things I would like to do in the coming days. I will not refer to them as resolutions. How about we call them suggestions to myself? The following suggestions are bouncing around in my head.

1. Practice more. I picked up the guitar about three years ago and started taking lessons about a year ago. I don't practice everyday. I want to try to practice everyday. Otherwise, I'll never realize my dream of playing with REM on their 2030 50th Anniversary tour.

2. Read more. So many books, so little time. I figure, at my current rate, I'll only be able to read about 1000 more books in my lifetime. I am becoming agitated by the thought that I only get to choose a thousand. I mean, which ones do I pick? If I step up the pace, I could as much as double that number.

3. Look into board certification. This would be a good career move, but I think I should probably wait a few more years to actually do it. Now is the time to start thinking about and looking into what I need to do to get certified.

4. Leave the house more often. Granted, I have been sick, but, I haven't been out of the house since Friday. I haven't even gotten out of my pajamas. Except for the hacking and the phlegm, it has been a great way to end winter break.

5. Not get so wrapped up in organized sports. Watching today's Ravens-Dolphins playoff game was excruciating. The end result makes it a good excruciating, but, if you could have seen me when Miami scored to cut the Ravens lead to 20-9, you'd have thought that the Dolphins had just taken the lead. It's kind of sad that my dog is afraid to sit on the sofa with me when I watch one of my teams play (i.e., Maryland, Mizzou, Ravens--not so much Nebraska...(yet?)). I jump up off the sofa, I yell, I swear. I'm not allowed to have objects in my hands while watching (I might throw them). Once, many years ago, I was watching a football game with a Nerf football in my hands, and during a particularly bad play, I threw the football on the ground. However, the football hit an ashtray on the way down, and broke in two, spilling a mess of ashes, butts, and ceramics at my feet. This did not make me feel any better. I act like a child. I can't help it. This suggestion is the least likely to be acted upon...especially with the Ravens-Titans playoff match up scheduled for Saturday!

Friday, January 02, 2009

How Did I Get Here?

It seems like only yesterday, I was drunkenly stumbling through the York Road McDonald's parking lot telling anyone who would listen that I would be dead by the time I was twenty-five. Stupid me. I hadn't even graduated university by the time I was twenty-five (I wonder if it had anything to do with the drunken stumbling?). I suppose if you judged by my high-risk behavior in those years, I had an even chance of being right. I am fortunate that I was wrong. I am most fortunate that I grew up before any of my stupid behaviors resulted in truly unfortunate outcomes. The fates look out for children, drunks, and fools, and I have been one or more at any given time in my life.

I bring up this parking lot moment because I think about it often. Why did I feel that way? I suppose, on one hand, I was just being a drunken loud mouth. On another hand (we're dealing with more that two hands here--Shiva-logic), I imagine I was exhibiting a youthful dread of the future; on yet another hand, I was embracing the Romantic notion of "living fast and dying young." Whatever reason I may have had for this remark, it has never left me. This is a noteworthy phenomenon, since I have very little reputation for remembering things said or done, be they ten minutes or ten years ago. Just ask Monkey.

The point here being, for every year I click past that arbitrarily portended twenty-five, I thumb my nose at my young and stupid self. It isn't like I have done anything special. All I have done is manage another lap around the sun. Billions of others have done it, as well. It's not special. Except that it is.

I would rather not spend your time (and mine) pontificating on the preciousness of life. I am not going to tell you that I am a "carpe diem" kind of guy. I spend too much time reading to expect anyone to believe that. I am not a grab life by the horns, bungee-jumping, bull-running thrill seeker. However, I am happy every day to wake up and get another shot at being me.

Since that break point of twenty five, I have managed to do some things that I am proud of, I have managed to find a career that is worth doing every day, I have found a person worth being with every day, and, most of all, I have begun to learn who I am. It takes a while. At least, it's taken me a while. And, best of all, the more I get to know myself, the easier it is to know and understand others. This, too, like aging itself, is no great feat. Anyone can do it, but not everyone does. I guess I am just happy to be able.

Anyway, I am forty, today. According to Vital Statistics, I have about thirty years left. That's a bit sobering, but, using my grandparents as examples, I think I'll have a few more than that. Of course, it's not how much you have in front of you, so much as it is what you do with what you have. Today, I am going to a movie and eating some Indian food. And, I am going to enjoy as much as I humanly can.

Happy New Year!

Allow me to now wish one and all a belated Happy New Year. This is meant to balance out the early Happy New Year that was hinted at prior to the actual holiday. In my mind, this somehow balances out to a traditional and on-time greeting. Enjoy!

Monkey and I spent a low-key evening with the puppy dog, enjoying a tasty steak dinner, watching Anderson Cooper and Kathy Grifiin / Ryan Seacrest, bravely staying awake long enough to see the Central Standard New Year enter, and then heading off to bed. Reasons for this include a lack of any planning for the evening, a general lack of enthusiasm for the holiday, and a genuine East Coast head cold that we each received as a post-Christmas gift that we brought back with us.

The trip home was mostly good. It was great to see my wild men nephews (now five and three (and a half)), my bro and sister-in-law (a fun trip to Vaccaro's and Hampden after dinner at Tio Pepe's (sorry I was a jerk for those forty-five minutes or so...)), mom and dad. It was awesome to be treated to tenth row seats at the Ravens-Jaguars game Sunday night by Monkey's bro and sister-in-law! Good to see my in-laws and other family! And, in a drive-by, a great lunch with La Fashionista and P.

Beyond those highlights, I enjoyed putting together and playing Hungry Hungry Hippos with the kiddos, setting up for and taking the annual family photo by the tree, scrapple for breakfast, and Mom's cookies and pie. By the way, monthly beard check = getting kind of freaky long.