Monday, July 31, 2006

Wir Fahr'n Fahr'n Fahr'n Auf Der Autobahn

Spent the good portion of sunday sight-seeing and being a good little tourist. We started the day by going to church in downtown Dresden. I've been attending Catholic masses my whole life, but this was my first one in a foreign language. I knew the procedure and what was going on, but gosh if I had any idea what they were saying. If the church ever needed an argument for a return to Latin celebrations, this is it. It was a bit ironic that in an old historical church, they use electronic boards to indicate the number of the hymn. I'm pretty sure I've never seen THAT in any other church before. Of course I would have been happier had they spent a bit more money and put pads on the kneelers...I do not enjoy kneeling on just wooden kneelers.

Dresden is probably most famous for the firebombing that took place there at the end of World War II. The former GDR lacked money (one reason communism is maybe not so good) to rebuild many of the historical buildings in the city that were destroyed, so they remained in ruins until reunification. The city is still in the midst of rebuilding and renovating the buildings, but it is amazing what they have done so far. They've mixed old bricks that were salvagable with new ones to completely reconstruct these buildings. It is all pretty amazing. We certainly do not have historical buildings like that in the U.S.

One thing I do like to joke about with the OFOMOL is how I'm visiting a former Communist country. Growing up in the US (and the West) we have certain stereotypes about Eastern Bloc countries and how life was so bad there. Talking to her about it, and learning from her mom, life wasn't was just different. They were not lesser people. The citizens were not tortured or treated badlz. Some western Germans still think this, and that is a shame.

I have taken some pictures of Communist things -- some buildings and murals that still stand, and I even saw an old car from the GDR. Another reason that Communism may not be the best way of governance -- people had to wait 10+ years for a car. And tropical fruits were unavailble...they could only visit other Easter Bloc countries and even this was hard...although they did have "free elections" where the people could vote for whoever they wanted. Then there was the Stasi -- no one knew who was a member and they mointored for anti-government behavior. So yeah, Communsim was not a good thing. On a good note, I even touched one of the buildings and I am happy to report that I did not catch Communism.

It is nice to see all of these buildings and symbols as they remind all of us that History is filled with not-so-great moments. We should look back and learn from these things so that we can create a more better world.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Taking Off and Landing

Well I made it safe and sound to Germany. I survived my first overseas plane flight. Before leaving C-town I got a bite to eat while watching the Tribe lose (damn they suck) at Max & Ermas. I got a turkey sandwhich and washed it down with a Sam Adams Summer Ale. While doing this I decided to do a little reading. My current book of choice is "Swimming Fastest" by Ernest Maglischo. An 800-page behemoth that details anything related to training swimmers. So here I am at the bar, enjoying a sandwhich and a brew, while reading & highlighting this book. The fellow next to me was a bit surprised and made some comment about the size of the book and its subject matter. During the rest of the trip whenever I brought it out, I received a couple of strange looks.

We were an hour or so late getting out of Detroit due to some inclimate weather. After taking off I quickly got comfortable and began watching movies, playing games, eating, drinking, and trying to sleep. I watched most of V for Vendetta and The Benchwarmers. I wasn't impressed with either movie. The last two hours of so of the flight seemed to take longer then it should have and we had to circle around Frankfort before we landed.

During my layover in Frankfort I noticed a couple of things. First off, people are allowed to smoke in the airport! This is pretty crazy as us Americans are pretty used to smokers not being able to light-up in most places. I got some coffee and it wasn't served in a styrofoam cup. No, I got an actual saucer and mug. What a concept! My flight to Dresden was about an hour late getting off the ground because we had to wait for the plane from London. Finally we took off and I arrived safely at my final destination, Dresden.

I went to get my luggage and waited to see my big blue suitcase. I waited. Then the belt stopped and I realized I had suffered the greatest of fates of an air traveller -- that of the lost luggage. So I went to the woman and asked "English?" and she spoke it! Yes! I told her where I was staying and would hopefully see the bag soon.

Then there was the moment of truth, the reason for my trip. It had been 7 weeks weeks since we last saw each other. I walked through the door and saw the OFOMOL looking as beautiful as I remember. That was a fantastic moment. We took the train and arrived at her place.

In order not to talk too long (ha!), I'll save my observations of European life until later.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

It's the Eye of the Tiger

Tiger Woods wrapped up his 11th Major win by capturing his 3rd (repeating his victory from 2005) Open Championship. Here he is, 30 years old, now sitting tied for 2nd on the all-time list of victories in the Majors. The number to beat is 18, held by the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus. I am a big Tiger fan and enjoy watching him dominate the game. I have no love for Hefty, Els, or Vijay. I want to see Tiger, in his sunday red, give us yet another classic performance. We are used to the Tiger who pulls out driver and kills the ball for 300+ yards, often finding the rough. He's got a great all-around game that he is able to recover these shots. This weekend was different as he kept the driver in the bag and chose to tee-off with an iron most of the time. He sacrificed distance, but damn was he accurate. Every hole he was hitting it right down the fairway. This is a mature Tiger who played a smart game this weekend. Hefty could take some advice (see: Winged Foot, 2006 US Open)...but don't because I like seeing you suffer.

Anyway, #11 got me thinking. He's got 7 to tie Jack, 8 to surpass him. It seems pretty inevitable that he is going to do this. It is rare that in a lifetime you get to see someone achieve a major historical sports achievement. Baseball is a sport that is filled with hallowed records -- Babe Ruth's 714 and Henry Aaron's 756 immediately come to mind. Pete Rose's 4256 hits, Nolan Ryan's 7 No-nos, and Hack Wilson's 191 RBIs are some others. Football and basketball are less number-oriented. When someone throws for 30000+ yds or scores 30000+ points, it gets hard to relate to. Records with smaller numbers are perceived as bigger and we understand them.

I wasn't there for Aaron to pass Ruth...I can only listen to what the historians and folks from the Worldwide Leader tell me. I do know that Aaron, being a black man who was going to surpass the most significant sports record established by Babe Ruth, had to deal with racist comments and hate mail. There was also some media pressure on him...but the media circa 1974 was a different being then it is today. Now we have a black man (in a white man's sport) chasing the most hallowed record of the game. I would like to say that in the 21st century that Tiger will not be subjected to such racist commentary that Aaron was...but the cynic in me realizes that there are probably some folks out there who will not like the fact that Tiger take's Jack's record. Jack Nicklaus is the Babe Ruth of golf. Sure there was Arnie Palmer before him, and there were others before Ruth...but Babe Ruth is the name that defines baseball and Jack Nicklaus is the name that defines golf. It will be interesting to see how Tiger deals with the pressure, once he gets to 17. One thing that he excels at is playing under pressure. There is no one else who is cooler and more collected when the pressure is on him.

Tiger will surpass Jack, this much I know. Whether he ends up with 19, 21, or 24 majors, we don't know. But for this generation, Tiger passing Jack is our version of Aaron passing Ruth. Let us enjoy the ride, as these things happen only on a few occasions.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Just a Little Pinprick Please

I gave blood today. 27th time I've done it. I also realized during the procedure that I've been giving for 10 years now -- that's 2.7 times a year. I try to give every 8 weeks, but last September was the last time I donated. Personally I feel it is one of the easiest and most valuable ways to "give back to the community." I save lives, I give blood.

Hey all you Spartans out there, this one is for you! The CWRU has announced/unveiled its new Spartan logo. Apparently their old logo was too similar to the Michigan State one. Hmmm, I never noticed the difference. Afterall the CWRU Spartan is facing left and the MSU Spartan is facing right. Side note, if you do a Google Image Search for "CWRU Spartans" the wise being that is Google ask's you "Did you mean MSU Spartans?" D'oh! As long as they don't use that damn square, I'm happy. Although the square has grown on me and I do prefer it to the old sunburst. There was a rumor floating around a couple of years ago (this was when the square was unveiled) that the school was thinking of changing its mascot and it was going to be something along the lines of the Rough Cats. Rough Cats was going to be an amalgamation of Red Cats from Western Reserve College and the Rough Riders of Case Institute of Technology. Here is a nice page on the mascot history of CIT/WRC/CWRU/Case. You don't know how many times I've seen a blue and white "Spartans" shirt here in EL and think "Hey, that just may be a CWRU shirt" and then realize that most of the folks here probably have no idea about CWRU. Although I was driving today and saw a window decal on a car with a blue and white spartan head. I'm convinced that car is a CWRU grad. So I don't leave her out, my little sister graduated from UNC Greensboro, who also just happen to be the Spartans. I'd love some comments on which logos are the best.

Most of my faithful readers (you guys rock) know about the recent developments in my professional life. It's official as my new place of employment has issued a press release about my hiring. It's pretty surreal to see your own name on an official release like this. Part of me is like "is this actually happening?" Since I'm paranoid about things I say on this here blog coming back to haunt me, I try to keep things pretty anonymous. Of course, it wouldn't take much work to figure out who I really am. Anyway, you, my faithful readers, are a smart bunch and I know you can find the press release on your own.

A week from now I'll be on my way to Germany.

Monday, July 17, 2006

I Think I'm Turning Japanese

What is the over/under onto when Zidane becomes part of the vernacular? I.E. "You've just been Zidaned!" or "Watch it or I'll Zidane your ass!" Do you find it ironic that the best futbol player of the last 10 years is going to be known for his little headbutt more then his skills on the pitch?

Disclaimer: the following section contains adult content and reader discretion is advised (that's for you mom & dad)

As a native Clevelander, I have to weigh in on a little matter. For those who do not read Deadspin religiously, there is a certain fella by the name of Mike Cooper who has becomes somewhat of a legend there. Here is his story in a nutshell: he got caught pleasuring himself in the Berea library. Gonzo journalist Carl Monday confronted him and library about it. This resulted in a $500000 bond for Mr. Cooper. Cooper was sentenced on friday and guess who was there to report on the matters? Good 'ol Carl Monday. Of course neighter Coop nor his family wanted any part of it and hilarity ensues. Watch the videos...part of me wants to think it is some elborate sketch comedy show, but no, it is all too real. Really the fun from the whole episode(s) come from teh family's reaction.

Coop should have taken another tactic. Usually when confronted by folks such as Mr. Monday, the accused just want to hide. Usually this is justified as crimes such as cheating mechanics, money lauderers, and the like need to be taken care of. Mr. Cooper, while what he did was quite inappropriate, he wasn't hurting anyone (I'll let my readers complete any double entendres). He was doing something that we all (so they say) do, but he just chose a public library to do it. Anyway, Coop should have defended himself right there in front of Carl Monday. Monday wants that reaction, he wants to chase down people and embarass them. Cooper should have taken the offensive and said something like "Yes Carl, I masturbate. So what? I made the mistake in the place I chose to do it in, but I do it, and I'll continue to do it. Let me ask you something, when was the last time you jerked one off? Do you like to drive around in your newsvan, and then ask for some "alone time?" From the looks of it, you're not getting any at home. I peg you for a 3 times a day guy at least. Are you a righty or a lefty? Do you use oils or lotions?" And then if he really wanted to, he could just go on from there and make it extemely vulgar and start to involve his wife and kids. Afterall, Monday got Coop's parents on film. I think that if Coop had did this, Monday would have NO IDEA how to react. It would be especially great if Coop was a nice, conversational tone when speaking those lines. Coop could have even gotten a buddy to come running up with a videocamera and film Monday as he walks away. I'm sure Monday would be hella pissed. Then Coop could just yell "You've been served!"

Friday, July 14, 2006

I Know - Its Serious

Just some random stuff today. I've been on a bit of Smiths kick the past couple of days. Unfortunately I only have the compilation, Louder Than Bombs which is lacking some of their essential tunes, namely, How Soon is Now?, The Queen is Dead, and Girlfriend in a Coma. Well I really wanted to hear the last song so I made a request to the Impact. That's one of the great things about college radio, they play your requests, and do it in a quick manner. Anyway the DJ announces she's playing this song for me and wondered why I was requesting it. Yeah the lyrics are a bit grim (hey, its the Smiths) and it would definitely be filed under Sad Bastard Music. Sometimes we want to hear a song for no reason more then we just want to hear the song, thats all. There was no meaning here, and I definitely do not want my girlfriend to be in a coma. BTW this is a great read about why the Smiths should never reunite.

Every once in awile I like to stop and thank all of you who read my drivel on a regular basis. There are millions of us bloggers out here just trying to get heard by anyone other then our friends and family. People actually write some good stuff; it does take a bit of time and effort to discover it. I'm continually updating my links over on the right as I discover more more blogs that I find value in. So I encourage you to check those out (and their links) and if there is something you like, leave a comment -- trust me, we love it when random folks leave comments.

For example, Tortured Fans put up a great video the other day that I commented on. Through other comments, I found thatchick who publishes two blogs: Dude, WTF and 9th Layer of Hell. Both of these link to other NEO-centric blogs. Reading some of the titles (BitterFans, Disappointment Zone, God Hates Cleveland Sports, The Burning River, and The DiaTribe) of the sports blogs, there is no reason not to believe that Cleveland sports fans are bitter, cynical individuals who want nothing more then a championshp. Side note, we just want one championship -- not a dynasty or anything like that, just one where we can say "Yup, we were on top." The I found Random Thoughts where I left a comment (if it appears) about the breakup of Weezer (it's about time!). So you see, blogging and commenting is the gift that keeps on giving, that is unless you are Mike Cooper.

Aside from the literary blogs, I'm all about the music blogs (audioblogs). Really that is how I discover new music. Check out some of those sites, and download some of the stuff they put up. You'd be surprised (or not) by the quality of stuff out there. And if you don't like the song, you can just delete it. Although I've kept everything I've downloaded in the past 18 months or so -- I'm at like 400+ songs all from the audioblogs you see on the right. And Pitchfork has even gotten into the act, launching their "Infinite Mixtape" earlier this week. There are a lot of keepers in there. Stop listening to the radio (if you haven't already) and start tuning-in to the bloggers.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

If You're Gonna Play the Game, Boy, ya Gotta Learn to Play it Right

The World Cup wrapped up thIs past weekend. Every 4 years the worLd comes tOgether like nothing elSe to celebraTe the Beautiful GAme. This is the one true sports competition where the world stops what it is doing to tune in. Sure there are the Olympics, but those are dominated by a few countries. The World Cup celeBrates the diversity of our planet. Futbol/Football/Soccer is one of the few sports that are played worldwide. It is a team sport that encourages teamwork, yEt also rewards individual expression. For one month every four years, the world stops to watch, listen, celebraTe, and party.

Watching the Italians win on Sunday and seeing the exuberance in the players' eyes and then the celebrations going on in Rome and throughout Italy got me thinking. We Americans are newcomers to this sport. It is rather surprising considering the "melting pot" of cultures that make up this wonderful country of ours. We can dominate in almost any other sport, but when it comes to Soccer, the rest of the world laughs at us.

Not this not this year I said. The US was coming off a run to the quarter-finals and thanks to a non-call on a hand-ball in the box, would have made it to the semis in 2002. This year was supposed to be the coming out party for US Soccer. We had a maturing class of youngsters that was supposed to work with crafty veterans to have an even better 2006 World Cup. Not only were we supposed to be competitive, but we were going to knock off some perennial powers. I drank the Kool-Aid -- we were finally going to go from World Cup doormat to a contender and finally assert our superiority in the Beautiful Game.

Then disaster struck. We all know what happened to the US, so I don't have to repeat it. Although tying (albeit on an own-goal) the eventual champs has to count for something, right...right? I reflected on the World Cup and the egg laid by the US Squad. Well, we didn’t do so well, not at all. We didn't assert our, the world asserted what they already knew -- we still have a long way to go until we can contend with the likes of France, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, and Italy. And maybe this country of ours, that I'm very patriotic towards, has room for improvement in more then just soccer. Yes we are the economic, political, and athletic leaders of the world, but that doesn't mean we are better then or superior then everyone else. We may have more opportunities throughout our lives, but that doesn't make us better. Its what we do with those opportunities that count.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

If I Don't Get My Football Back

Currently watching the World Cup final. I can't believe this has been going on for a month and I've barely commented on it. Few of you know that in my journey to athletic greatness (finishing 416 out of 20000+ at Boston is my idea of greatness, but really this is meant tongue-in-cheek) began back in 1st(?) grade when my parents told me I was playing soccer. I had no idea what this game was and the first year or two consisted of 15 or so elementary kids chasing a ball around aimlessly. Well as we grew in the game, the team improved and we became a respectable team. Most of the team was a grade above me (they did it by birthyear -- since I'm a December baby, I was one of the younger ones on the team), we didn't have a team after 7th grade. I went on to play middle-school football and then continue swimming through HS and college. Anyway, soccer holds a special place in my heart.

Watching the final game here, I notice that Italy are wearing Puma unis while France is wearing Adidas unis. I know I have shared this with some of you, but I thought I'd put it out here for everyone. The two companies share a rich history. Adi Dassler (founder of Adidas) started his company back in the mid-20th century in Herzogenaurach, Germany. Side note, the proper pronunciation of Adidas is with the accnet on the 3rd syllable, not the 2nd like us Americans do: a-di-DAS instead of a-DI-das. Anyway, Adidas was a family company run by Adi and his brother, Rudolf. At some point in the 1940s the brothers had a falling out. It was such a falling out that Rudolf moved across town and started his own company, Puma. To this day, no one knows what happened between the brothers, and it is likely we never will. There was an attempt in the 70s by Phil Knight (of Nike fame) to reunite the two families, but it didn't happen. Here is a nice article that explains it some more.

PS: The US tied Italy on an own-goal....does this do anything to change our crappy performance in the WC? i.e. "Well, we did TIE the champions...."

PPS: What was Zidane thinking? Sad way to see him go.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Mustache is Authority

Well its official. I've booked my flight, and I'll be travelling to Germany to visit the OFOMOL for about three weeks at the end of July and beginning of August. There were some days when we didn't think it was going to happen, but due to some recent developments, I'm now able to go see her. This is great news and I really look forward to seeing her and Europe, since I've never been. Fear not my faithful readers, I will be taking my laptop with me so I will post occasionally when I'm there.

I was in the Land of Cleve last weekend for the 4th of July holiday. The weather was kinda wacky. Lots of on and off rain that produced plenty of morange. I did spend plenty of time with the niece and nephew. Maddy is quite a little swimmer and is already learning the basics of breaststroke. Needless to say, I'm quite a proud uncle. Elliot still insists that the OFOMOL is his girlfriend (sorry buddy) and took time to learn a little German: "Du bist susse."

I've decided to experiment a little...he he he. I've decided to grow a mustache over the next three weeks before I go to Germany. I got the idea from some guy I saw on Leno/Letterman/Conan a week or so ago. He challenged his buddies to grow a mustache for a month and made a documentary about it. There is part of me that would like the mustache to make a comeback. Personally I think there is way too much negative steretypes that go with it -- people think you lookelike a 70s porn star or a child molester. Time to put some positive spin on the above-the-lip facial hair!