Monday, April 14, 2014

Crazy Weight

Back in February, Kenny sent out his annual invitation to do RAWROD—Ride Around White Rim in One Day. I haven't done that ride since Bill Clinton was president, so I decided to sign up.

I had been in decent shape between commuting to work on my bike and doing family karate a few times a week. I was fat fit.

In February, I had lost all of my winter holiday weight that pushed me up into the 190s, and I was back down to within my normal weight range of 184-188. That's about what I weighed last November when I had a humiliating bonk on a 10-mile mountain bike ride at Fall Moab. I knew I had to make some changes to finish a 100-mile self-supported mountain bike ride in one day.

I changed my eating and exercise behavior. (I guess this is another way of saying "I went on a diet" but going on a diet makes me thinking of eating tasteless food and using infomercial equipment.)



Here's the plan:

  • Normal breakfast. Bowl of cereal with fruit.
  • Spin ride to work 15 mile route, audiobook.
  • Small lunch. Soup or salad.
  • Banana or apple before ride home.
  • Ride home from work 12-mile route, no bus. Interval bursts twice a week, music.
  • Eat anything for dinner, no second helpings.
  • No grazing in the evening.*
  • Only one dessert a week.*
  • No finishing kids' food.
  • One longish ride on the weekend. 60-mile road ride or 3-hour mtb ride.
  • Karate class 4-5 hours a week.
* These were the two hardest and most important changes for me. 

That's it. I don't feel hungry, and if i get food cravings, I delay gratification by thinking how good the next meal is going to be. 

I've lost 20 pounds in the last two months. I weigh about 165 pounds. As a point of comparison, when I did Leadville in 2008—the last time I was serious about losing weight and getting into biking shape—I never got below 172 pounds. I think cutting out the grazing made the biggest difference.

Positives
  • It's much easier to ride up hills.
  • I should be able to do the White Rim Trail without bonking.
  • If you're in good shape, you're immortal.
Negatives
  • I like eating donuts whenever I want, and I feel deprived if I can't.
  • I seem to have more lines in my face and neck. 
  • Moobs are less humiliating when the rest of your body is fat.
  • I sometimes miss the feeling that I can eat whatever I want whenever I want because I exercise a lot and don't mind being 15-20 pounds overweight.
Coming up next: RAWROD Report in May

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Anatomy of a Funny


Understanding humor is the key to understanding people. If you understand why a joke is superior, you can express your approval through measured laughter.

On a global level, we must understand how humor can help us avoid conflict. If Japan had understood the humor behind the U.S. embargo, they would not have attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. At that time, the Japanese were also ashamed of their buck teeth and thick glasses, so there were other factors at play, and yet the point remains—laughter is the best medicine. 

Let's begin our study.

A priest and a rabbi walk into a bar. They should have ducked.

That's funny because when you hear the phrase "walk into a bar," you think the priest and rabbi are walking into a pub or tavern, but it turns out they are walking into a low-hanging bar, probably made of metal because when a metal bar and a human head come into contact, the result is a funny clunk sound. This form of humor is called ad absurdium deus. The "ad" prefix has no known meaning in Greek, "absurdum" is derived from the Celtic words "absur" and "dum," and God only knows what "deus" means.

Great, so that's a funny joke. When someone tells it, you can laugh the appropriate amount. But how can we make it funnier?

A goose and a swan walk into a bar. It remains unclear why they did not duck.

This joke is twice packed with double entendres, making what the French would call a quartois entendre. On the one hand, you have the same funny thing going on with "bar" referring not to a tavern but to a metal pipe likely covered with barbed spikes. Now add to that the humor association among the goose, the swan, and "duck," and you have a delightfully fowl joke. That's called "word play," and it's something that is funny. Also know that it's funny when an animal hits its head against something metal, especially if it causes the animal to wobble or bleed.

Dare we make this joke funnier? We dare.

A mallard walks into a bar. Duck!

Some humor strikes the senses at such odd angles and with such twisted force that all mental processing of said humor is bypassed, resulting in a gut-level guffaw. This joke does exactly that. Notice how your violent laughter pushed aside—however temporarily—the desire to invade Japan.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Donut Panic

One of the things I like about Southern California is how the stores in strip malls are named. While driving from my parents' house to one of my sibling's houses, we see stores called "Liquor," "Pretzels," "Taxes," "Pets," and "Nails." Every now and then, someone like a dentist decides to get creative and call his store "Implants," but under the bright California sun, I can forgive that.*

* Note that I wrote "his" instead of "her" when referring to the dentist. I did that because in this example, the dentist is a Jewish male. Or maybe he's an elective surgeon. I don't actually live in California, so how would I know?

When we visited Portland later in the summer to visit Stan and Grey, I proclaimed to Wendy that Portland is a great city for two things: beer and donuts. (No, not the highly overrated Voodoo Donuts, which is nearly as mediocre as Top Pot donuts in Seattle.) Just as I made that proclamation during a rush of confidence, we both saw the same store:

"Donuts"

I half-skidded into the parking lot and expected everyone to pile out of the car in a frenzy. The boys were busy with iPads and Wendy has issues with gluten and the like, so I walked into the store alone.

What happened next could only be described as panic.

With all the trays of delicious donuts to my left and center, my heart pounded. I had to blink a few times to clear my head. No good. My brain had stopped processing information in language and flashed thoughts in kaleidoscopic color. I saw a glazed raspberry donut that I used to like when I was in college, but I knew for a fact on some level that a glazed raspberry donut—even though you can see the enticing little red opening—is too sweet and seedy. In that donut store, the thought flitted into my head and left in a whirl. When asked what could be gotten for me, I replied:

"Raspberry donut, please."

In a moment of crisis, I choked. I suppose that I can take comfort in the number of times that I have ordered successfully in a similar situation, like that time I ordered Beef Wellington at Fresh Bistro. Or I can tell myself that I'm gainfully employed with a job I like and a family I love, and that I'm an above average wiffleball player, but that's all cold comfort in a time like that. I know what happened.

-

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lance Boils

Mr. Lance Armstrong made it into the news by confessing that he cheated in order to win his seven Tour de France titles. As a commuter cyclist, I have opinions about this matter. But before I offer my opinions, I'll offer some thoughts.

* My only personal experience with Mr. Armstrong occurred in August 2008. I was about 3 miles from the Leadville finish. While drinking a beer in the back of a pickup truck, Lance said to me, "Good job. Keep going." Or he might have been talking to the cyclist next to me—I was tired. Regardless, Lance and I have a personal relationship, which gives me extra insight into this matter.

* It's common knowledge that a whole bunch of cyclists were doping. Whenever the subject of doping comes up with my friends who track this kind of thing a whole lot more than I do, I raise two questions:

Question 1: In any given tour during Lance's run, who was the top-finishing clean rider? Was it the sixth-place rider, the 18th-place rider, 126th-place rider? My guess is that it was one of the French riders who finished somewhere around 30th place, but I have no idea.

Question 2: Who was the last clean rider to win the Tour? Greg LeMond? Probably.

Miguel Indurain and the Spaniards most likely started the heightened EPO-style cheating back in the early 90s that made other riders believe they had no shot at winning without using PEDs. Are more recent winners like Cadel Evans and Carlos Sastre clean? Again, I don't know.

One nice thing I've noticed while half-watching the tour over the last few years is that even the strongest climbers look like they're struggling on the steep ascents. It's possible they're clean.

Now, my opinions:

* While the cheating is bad, it makes sense on the "everyone else is doing it" level. What makes Armstrong's behavior particularly loathsome is how he went after accusers. He actually sued people for accusing him of doing something he was actually doing. He acted like a bully, both personally and legally.

* Armstrong has one of those great and terrible personalities like the best and worst conquerors. Armstrong starting LiveStrong is like Mussolini getting the trains to run on time.

* We don't celebrate moral courage that often. When was the last time you heard of a corporate executive who made a decision based on moral good rather than financial profit?

There is an interesting story in the news about the dramatic decline of violent crime coinciding with the drop in lead pollutants—especially lead paint and leaded gasoline. Apparently, lead made a bunch of urban youths more prone to violent behavior. Back in the day, energy executives saw studies about the damaging effects of lead, but instead of using ethanol as a gasoline additive, they went with the cheaper lead approach. Once the lead paint got cleaned up and we switched to unleaded gasoline, urban folks became less crazed.

I want to hear more stories about people doing the right thing, even though it costs them. There's no better place to start that with Lance Armstrong, who showed the courage of a winner in admitting to cheating. Bravo, Lance!

Good job. Keep going.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Charles Durning and the Good War

I'm a sucker for World War II stories. When Charles Durning died recently, I found out that he was a World War II veteran, which made me like him even more. But he didn't just see action in World War II—he had a Band of Brothers-type experience that took him from D-Day to the Battle of the Bulge. In fact, if you were writing a fiction novel set in World War II and you created a character that experienced what Charles Durning went through, your editor would probably tell you that it seems a little too "fictiony."

Even if you don't know who Charles Durning is, you know who Charles Durning is. He's one of the great all-time "that guy" characters in movies. He played Detective Snyder in The Sting, he played the crooked governor in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, he played the guy who kept hitting on a cross-dressing Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, and he played a memorable cop in Dog Day Afternoon.

He was in the first wave of soldiers landing at Omaha Beach. When the door of the landing craft opened, the guy in front of him went down, and Private Durning jumped over him and sunk to the bottom. As he pulled his gear off under the water, bullets whizzed by him. Here, he tells the story himself in this video clip:





R.I.P. Charles Durning 1923-2012

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Missives of October

Let's get this party started.

What's at stake for Bob in the Presidential election?

Two main things are at stake for me, Bob: (1) health care and (2) deterrence from lunacy.

Let's address health care first. Romney and his nutty right-wing├ęd friends want to do away with (privatize) all existing social programs—especially Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security—and they don't want to allow even a watered-down social program like Obamacare to become fully operational. Ayn Rand and Grover Norquist would be so upset.

I want the federal government to continue these programs, just like I want the government to build highways and regulate businesses and defend our borders. In other words, I'm a commie socialist. If Romney is elected, he and Congress have vowed to repeal and "replace" Obamacare. If Obama is elected, at some point a right-winger will hold up a sign that says, "Government: Keep yore Hands of my Obamacare!"



I no longer want health care to be tied to large businesses. Eventually, I want the government to raise our taxes so that we all have government-controlled health care. That way, I can decide to leave a company to do freelance/contract work without getting crushed by COBRA or some ridiculously expensive private health care plan.

The second issue is deterrence. Romney has expressed a lot of different stands on different issues, so I'm not sure whether he'll be a relative moderate Republican who caters to Big Business or a more radical (severe?) Republican who caters to the Tea Party as well as Big Business. (I don't believe even he knows.) I can assume that at best, he'll be a slightly more competent version of George W. Bush, who was a blight on Amurrica.



We've already been down this path: Bad wars and flawed deregulation -> Increased national debt and financial crises -> Democratic takeover -> Republican obstructionism -> Gridlock > Republicans blame Democrats for not have cleaned up the mess fast enough.

I prefer the Muslum-in-Chef.

What about pensions?

I'm against pensions. Pensions used to be a good thing back in the 40-years-and-gold-watch era when huge corporations were more stable. Pensions don't make sense in a society where people change jobs every few years and bounce around from state to state. And when huge companies like Blockbuster and Circuit City flame out in a few years, any pension plan is going to be lost. And government pensions suck because I don't work for the government.

I want pensions to be replaced by more generous 401(k) plans. Am I saying I don't want to privatize Social Security or Medicare, but I do want to privatize pension/retirement plans? Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying.

But wouldn't Romney be more like Reagan than Dubya?

I don't think the powers that be like Romney very much. I think Mitt is taking the same kind of unfair beating in Washington insider circles that Al Gore suffered from in 2000, back when Gore was a robot and Dubya was the kind of guy everyone wanted to drink a beer with. In this election, no one wants to drink a beer with either candidate, really, but Mitt is perceived as the rich asshole who won't get off the cell phone.

Ultimately, I think Romney is going to lose a close election because too many people think he's a dick.

What happened in wiffleball?

We started off the season 0-2 thanks to some erratic pitching on my part, and then we went on a roll with decent pitching and strong hitting. We finished a half game out of first place in a tie for second. We lost the tiebreaker, so we finished as the #3 seed, which meant an opening round one-game playoff against the #6 seed.

With our best pitcher struggling with control, we were down 10-7 with two innings to play, and then we trailed 11-10 in the bottom of the last inning. I led off the inning with a walk, and our pitcher, who felt awful for having pitched so poorly, belted a two-run walk-off homer to redeem himself and put us in the semis.

In the first semi-final game, we faced a decent team with a pitcher who was the star of his college cricket team in India. I've never seen anyone who can throw a wiffleball that hard. Since he started pitching in his team's fourth game of the year, he had given up only one run all year. He had three pitches: a straight blazing fastball and two slightly less blazing fastballs that broke either inside or outside. He was easily the best wiffleball pitcher any of us had seen, but he pitched on a team with mediocre hitters.

In game 1, our pitcher gave up a few hits but no runs. Their pitcher mowed us all down. I felt helpless. In the first three innings, he walked one hitter, and another hitter managed to pop up to the second baseman, which was a moral victory for us. With two outs in the top of the fourth inning, I guessed right and belted a pitch over the right-field fence for our only hit of the game. We won 1-0.

In game 2, we gave up more runs, but their pitcher's arm was sore. Throwing a wiffleball that hard probably isn't too smart. We trailed 3-1 going in to the bottom of the last inning, but he had stopped throwing his nasty heater. With the bases loaded and me on deck, the batter before me hit a two-run double to tie the score. I thought the pitcher would walk me since he had walked me in every previous at-bat, but he decided to pitch to me—I think he wanted the game to end. I hit a single to send our team into the final for the third straight year.

In the finals—complete with over-the-top announcers, national anthems, fourth-inning stretches, crowds, and at-bat music for each hitter—we lost game 3 in extra innings. I played well, so I blame the loss on my teammates. And I told them that in a contemptuous fit after the game. OK, I lied about that. But not about pension plans. That was true!

DVR Decisions

Now that Sunday night is when networks want to air their best shows, we're faced with an interesting decision. When the boys are in bed and we have only an hour to watch TV and two shows have recorded, which show do we watch? Here are some difficult choices I recall having over the years:

  • The Sopranos vs. Deadwood
  • Game of Thrones vs. Mad Men
  • Breaking Bad vs. Justified
  • Homeland vs. The Walking Dead

The Sopranos always won out, but Deadwood eventually became my favorite rewatchable show of all time. While I loved the first few seasons of Mad Men, the show isn't appealing enough to knock off Game of Thrones. Breaking Bad is a better show than Justified, but you have to be in the right mood. Same with Homeland. Sometimes, watching people impale, slash, behead, and defenestrate zombies is more appealing than watching Clair Danes struggle with a life-long mental breakdown.

I don't have this problem with books, by the way. If Richard Russo, David Sedaris, Nick Nornby, Mark Helprin, and Tobias Wolff all come out with a new book at the same time, I would somehow manage to ignore them all as they clutter my nightstand while watching reruns of Deadwood and The Wire on my iPad.

But what if people discovered a bunch of buried fiction from my favorite dead authors?

  • The Troika Driver and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov
  • The Adventures of Joe Harper by Mark Twain
  • The Sentimental Papers by Charles Dickens 
  • Prouder and More Prejudiced by Jane Austen
  • The Clean Man Without Balls by Ernest Hemingway

I think I'd go with Mark Twain's imaginary new novel.

Mountain Biking

Fall Moab is only a few weeks away, so it's time for me to get back on the mountain bike. There is a new trail section at Tapeworm that includes a pump track section along with a bunch of elevated ladders that I have tentatively named "Sphincter Pucker," "Widow Maker," "Fly or Die," and "Just Do It—No Don't!"

In about three weeks, we'll pull into the parking lot at the bottom of Gold Bar Rim, and the sky will be broad and clear, and everything will be right with the world for a few hours, and then the pressures of work, the duties of family, and the responsibilities of television will fetter us once again like dust in a corn silo. Or something.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thirty Days in the Hole

Every Wednesday evening, on my way back from karate class, I listen to a public radio station that features a segment called The Roadhouse. It's one of the rare times when I actually wish I had a longer drive.

The music consists of any song that could be played in a road house, where someone like Patrick Swayze could be a bouncer who throws you out for hurling a full bottle of beer at the band's cage. When you get revenge in a subsequent fight, you may or may not say something like this to the bouncer, depending on how you behaved in prison and how much you want to reveal about yourself.



If you're anything like me, you've probably stopped reading this post and you've gone out and created an iTunes playlist called "Road House." And if you're like me, you've rolled down the window in your Prius and cranked up the sound, knowing full well that ALL people will dig your music, even if they can only hear the bass.

What goes on your Road House playlist? You really just need one song. That's right—a one-song playlist. Here's the song:



If you're anything like me, there could be no greater way to express dissatisfaction in life than to shout into a microphone, "Thirty days in the hole! Thirty days in the hole! Thirty days in the hole!"

You probably wonder what kinds of things you can do that will get you thrown in jail for 30 days. Whenever a judge slams his gavel and tells me, "Thirty days," it's usually because I have brawled or violated noise ordinances, or maybe I borrowed a police car to knock down my neighbor's ugly carport. Or sometimes I get a 30-day jail sentence just because I'm wearing my favorite boxer shorts in a 7-11 parking lot and don't want a police officer to put handcuffs on me.

But what about other people? Here's a list of crimes you can commit that will get you thrown in jail for 30 days, courtesy of The Google:
  • Using a webcam to spy on your roommate
  • Animal torture
  • Improper sexual misconduct toward military trainees
  • Planting evidence
  • Collecting rainwater on your property in Oregon
  • Cyberbullying
  • Duct-taping a child to the floor of a day care center
  • Having too much junk in your yard
  • Being accused—wrongly—of throwing hot water at your ex-boyfriend 


Thirty days in the hole! Thirty days in the hole! Thirty days in the hole!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

August Burns Red

It has been reported that this web log has not been updated in days. This half-truth is only a click of a Publish button away from becoming an outright lie.

Excellent Idea #1

Form a rock band. Earn money by playing music that people either pay for or convince a library to pay for. If Fred Durst can earn money doing this, anyone can. The key to forming this cash cow is to come up with a good name. And here's where my brilliant idea enters the picture. Start the name with "SRO."

Example: "SRO The Red Stripes"

Why is this such a great idea? Because when the band goes on tour, the venue automatically includes "SRO" on the billboard. Passers-by will say, "Hmm, standing room only. I better go check out that band at the library." And then pretty soon all the libraries in the country will have to carry your CD.

If Led Zeppelin had been called "SRO Led Zeppelin," they never would have been forced to break up.

Wiffleball Update

The season started out with a rematch between last years winner (us!) and the runners-up. The game included all the over-the-top festivities of a finals game, complete with announcers, national anthem, and barbecue. We lost 12-0. I pitched the entire game, giving up all 12 runs in 5 innings of work.

Then we lost the next game 8-5 against the sales guys (After School Special). Again, I pitched. No one likes getting beat in any way by sales guys, but losing that game was especially awful. I was 0-5 at the plate, stranded a bunch of runners, and got shelled for the second game in a row. With 14 teams vying for only 6 playoffs spots, things were looking bleak.

After the 0-2 start, our team is now 7-2.

It goes without saying that I will discuss wiffleball at least one more time.

Mountain Biking Update

The end of Leadville marks the start of Fall Moab preparation. I was trying to think of the last time I went mountain biking, and I'm drawing a blank. It's possible that last year's Fall Moab trip was my most recent MTB experience. If that's the case -- if I have indeed not been on a mountain bike in ten months -- am I still a mountain biker?

Yes!

I'm an excellent mountain biker! Wow, that was almost too easy to resolve. I really should have expressed that thought in a sonnet, with the first 8 lines covering the question of whether I'm a mountain biker, and then last 6 lines offering the resolution that I am, in fact, a mountain biker. It would have been more poetic that way.

In this sonnet that I might just write, I should mention somewhere that I weigh 190 pounds, and when I put on an XL bike jersey, it stretches so tight over my belly that I fear I might look like Scotty, the fantastic Phillip Seymour Hoffman character in Boogie Nights. Here's Scotty in action:



There are a couple of key differences between Scotty's appearance and mine. For one, Scotty does not look like he could be an elite wiffleball athlete. Second, for someone carrying extra weight, Scotty has disproportionately small man boobs.

Excellent Idea #2

Write a novel about superheroes. One superhero runs fast, one superhero is really strong, and one can swim underwater without coming up for air. Bad guys want to do bad things, and the superheroes need to stop them. Hollywood might just make a movie, and you'll be rich.

1960s Pop Music

In Songbook, Nick Hornby talks about how the British people appreciate pop music for what it is whereas Americans look at pop music as being inferior. I agree. So I've been hunting around for great pop music. I have been shocked (shocked!) and appalled at some of the lyrics I've run in those not-so-innocent 1960s and 1970s. Check out this video:



There is no double entendre in this video. It's single entendre. This raspberry wants to have sexual relations with whomever it is he's singing to.

We need a man with some moral authority to step in and stop this madness. Or at least repress it. Mitt Romney might just be the man to restore Christian values to this country. In fact, he is definitely the man for the job, unless it might cost him votes or money, in which case cooler heads will prevail.

Thoughts on the Upcoming Election

If you are a Republican, and if you want Mitt Romney to win, you should just skip to the next section. I have mean things to say about that flibbertigibbet who makes John Kerry look decisively single-minded by comparison. How can a person who considers himself a faithful Mormon take so many different stances on so many different issues? I can only assume Mitt Romney compartmentalizes the worlds of business and politics the same way visitors handle their experiences in Las Vegas. Whatever happens in politics stays in politics.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Mormons, so it hurts to watch Mitt Romney carry on like a soulless robber baron.

Whenever I read about politics, one cloud hangs over practically every topic. Republicans want to win the election by focusing on the economy. To do so, they rely on the fact that Americans will forget that Republicans were in charge when the economy collapsed and ignore the fact that Republicans have done everything in their power to prevent Democrats from turning around the economy. Vote for Republicans! They'll lower the taxes of the wealthy, deregulate Wall Street, and embrace trickle-down! And why will they succeed where George W. Bush failed? Confidence!

Oh, and when did Republicans start believing that it's unpatriotic to pay taxes?

Excellent Idea #3

Borrow money to buy a small but relatively successful company. Give yourself a large salary. Set up a banking account in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands. Lay off a bunch of workers. Funnel money into your offshore account. Declare the business bankrupt. Move on.

Thoughts on the 2012 London Summer Olympics

My five favorite 2012 Olympics moments:

1) The U.S. women's soccer team beat Canada in the semifinals.

That was one of the most exciting sporting events I've ever seen. Loved the bad calls that helped the Americans. Loved the YouTube clip of the Canadian woman stomping on the head of the American. If Canadians ask about the bad calls in a bar, you can just say, "Do you think Tancredi should be able to stomp on Americans' heads without being red-carded?" Canadians will apologize and then say something funny. I really like Canadians. 51st state, baby!

2) Kerri and Misty beat the Chinese in the beach volleyball semifinals.

Kerri and Misty are remarkably clutch. I went out of my way to watch every single one of their matches.

3) Bolt in the 100-meter dash.

I don't really like Bolt that much because he's not an American, and I don't like Jamaicans because they're too uptight about relaxing, but that 100m sprint was something. He would have beat me by a good five yards.

4) U.S. over Spain in men's basketball.

Here are some questions that interest me more than whether this 2012 U.S. team could beat the 1992 Dream Team. How would the 1992 Dream Team have done against this 2012 Spain team? What Olympic year would have provided the best crop of U.S. players? I think 1988 would have been better than 1992. You get Kareem, and Larry and Magic would have been in their primes, though Jordan was still a bit young.

5) The British distance runner slapping his bald head after winning gold.

Charming moment helped by the fact that that little British guy is not a threat to American dominance.

I also thought about adding men's team archery. In the final match to decide who gets gold and who gets silver, the Americans shoot their final arrow and lead by 9. If the Italian shoots anything less than a 9, they lose. If he shoots a 9, they go into extra rounds. If he shoots a 10, they win. Bam, bull's eye. The Italians celebrate. This would have made the above list, but the Italians failed to celebrate their gold medal by raising an American flag.

More later!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

School Facism

There's a story in the news about a 4-year-old girl who apparently was told by a school lunch monitor not to eat the food she brought from home but instead to get chicken nuggets from the cafeteria. A concerned parent notified the right-wing authorities, and the story made its way through the news circuit. I'm sure it ended up in my poor Dad's email Inbox with a headline something like, "OBAMA FORCES WHITE CHRISTIANS TO EAT FRIED CHICKEN."

I'm just guessing.

It's a silly story that reminds me of something that happened to me when I was in fourth or fifth grade. At an elementary school in Papillion, Nebraska, my younger sister Shari and I sat at a table to eat lunch. We all had to wait until the prayer was over before we could start eating. Every day, a nice lunch lady led us all in blessing the food, and then we would open our sack lunch, hoping for a delicious Hostess Fruit Pie instead of lame-ass Twinkies. She had us say one of those recited prayers, like "God is great / God is good / Let us thank Him / For our food."

I didn't care much for this type of prayer for two reasons. First, I was a Mormon, and Mormons know the proper way to pray. Rather than using recited prayers, which the Bible cautions against, Mormons pray from the heart by stringing together cliches. Second, it bothered me that "good" and "food" didn't rhyme properly, which forced me to replace it with "fud."

One day, the lunch lady was disappointed with the fact that a bunch of us weren't praying loudly enough. So she scolded us and made us recite the prayer a second time. She asked something like, "Now I want to hear everyone! Is there anyone here who isn't going to say the prayer?" For some reason, my hand shot up.

The teacher told me to get up, leave my lunch at the table, and go put my nose against the wall in a corner. I remember that the gym was hexagonal, so there was room for me to plant my face snugly between two walls. I was to stay there until I came to my senses or something.

When lunch was over, I felt guilty. I had gotten in trouble. But Shari came up to me and told me she was proud of me for standing up for my beliefs. I had raised my hand mostly to be a smart aleck, but as soon as Shari said that, I internalized a different story. I was a martyr. A religious martyr. I was being persecuted for my religious beliefs. The lunch lady was coming after me because deep down, she resented Mormons for possessing the truth, or something.

The moral of the story is that people are awful and cruel. We murder and lie to each other, we tune out sometimes when loved ones are telling stories, we rape, we tattoo our bodies, we pillage, we conquer, we ignore, we coerce, we impose chicken nuggets on children, we bully. On the other hand, we make some good music -- especially in the 1890s and 1970s -- we tell funny jokes sometimes, we bury our dead and say nice things about them, and we give each other lots and lots and lots of good advice.

It all evens out.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Grand Ideas, Part I

It's Super Bowl Sunday. The house is filled with out-of-town visitors who drove in for the Super Bowl festivities. Stan and Grey are in the guest room. Andy and Laura are in Max's room. Jason is in Luke's room. The boys are sleeping in the shed. Ha! That's a joke. We don't even have a shed. They're here asleep in our bed. I have my laptop, and I am typing. This sentence in fact.


More people are coming later today for the Super Bowl festivities. Of all the people who will be here, there will be one person whose mood will change during and after the game depending on the outcome -- me. Some people, like my brother Mark, will have a rooting interest -- Mark hates New Yorker sports fans, as if Boston sports fans are somehow more tolerable -- so he'll be rooting for the facking Pats.


But everyone's excited about the food and the spectacle. It's Super Bowl weekend! Super Bowl weekend has become a national holiday, even though we don't treat it as such. Who would be upset if we canceled Presidents Day as a holiday and replaced it with Hangover Monday? Exactly. No one. It's a grand idea. Here are some other grand ideas.


The Speedy Barber


You walk into a barber shop and sit down in an open chair. If the hair cut takes no longer than 5 minutes, it costs $20, including tip. Actually, tips aren't even allowed or mentioned, because that implies the importance of qualify of service. For each minute the barber goes past five, he loses a dollar. If it takes 15 minutes to cut your hair, it costs you $5. Again, no tipping. "Here's your 5 bucks, pal, better luck with the calics next time."


There are two other factors. You have ten seconds to describe your desired haircut. If it takes you longer than ten seconds, you're kicked out of the barber shop, and you can't return for at least an hour. Hopefully, you'll have your thoughts together by then, and you can say something like, "Short on the sides, a little longer on top" or "Logan in Big Time Rush" or "Cut it shorter."


Two more things. First, no talking. Headphones are encouraged. Second, no brushing genitals either of the male or female variety against the patient. That's just uncomfortable. In fact, if The Speedy Barber doesn't work out for unforeseen reasons, a secondary idea is The Grindless Barber.


Science Fiction Movie


In a world where human beings are domesticated pets, a young man named Hudson decides to flee into the wilderness. He brings along Fluffy, who was scheduled to be neutered. They meet up with a band of feral humans whose primitive notion of civilization include a caste system, bizarre rituals, and weapons study. Hudson introduces the concept of The Secret, and the battle begins…


The Fifth Quadrant Book


This is a sequel to a book that has not yet been written called The Four Quadrants: Keys to Personal Financial Success. I originally rolled out the idea at a previous Super Bowl party to great acclaim that very nearly included applause. And that was before the Great Recession. If The Four Quadrants had actually been written, it would have covered the four areas to invest your savings: the Safe Zone, the Moderate Zone, the Risk Zone, and the Gambling Zone. The prequel explains how monies are moved from one zone to another as success is achieved and as personal situations require.


The Fifth Quadrant, which is possibly the greatest title of a book ever written and would likely sell itself even if it had nothing in it but photographs of domesticated humans, is about a new kind of investment. Admit it. You're interested.


Super Bowl Prediction


It's foolish to predict the score of this particular game. The odds are roughly even. One team has about a 52% chance of winning, and I don't even know which team that is. Probably New England. It's going to come down to luck and a few key plays is my startling guess. I'm more interested in predicting what type of Super Bowl game it will be.


There are four types of Super Bowl games. (Note that I originally wrote "seven types," but I hear Wendy grinding coffee so I better cut it down.


1. Sloppy early, then high scoring. Last team with the ball wins.


2. One team dominates early, fails to take advantage, and falls apart.


3. Blowout.


4. A terrible officiating crew costs one team the game.


It's not going to be a "3" game because these teams don't panic. It's not going to be a "4" game because Seattle isn't playing. That leaves either "1" or "2" (unless you factor in the missing 5-7 scenarios). I'm going with 2. In fact, I even know which team is going to jump out early. The Giants. I think Eli is going to have a confused look on his face for much of the second half.


New England 38, New York 22.