Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Waiting for the Light Arisen

One of the big debates out there right now is how the children of American (a mighty fine country I might add) should be taught how we got here. There are two camps -- intelligent design, a modernist-PC term for Creationism, and then there is Darwin's theory of evolution and natural selection. These two campus usually fall along political lines to...conservative christian republicans support the former while liberal left wing democrats support the latter. Where do forward thinking, educated, fairly-religious, middle-of-the line folks fall in line? I can tell you it isn't that easy.

Let's first look at Creationsim...err "intelligent design." This is what has pretty much been believe in for all of human civilization, minus the last 150 years. It doesn't matter if you are Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Native, etc, there is always some creation story. Most of these involve some sort of higher power(s) that made the earth and everything we see. The question becomes whether this higher power exists or not? Obviously it started years ago with primitive man trying to rationalize how we got here. They must of had vivid imaginations to come up with a lot of these things. What is great about it is that there is a lot of overlap to these stories in different cultures.

Religion is a popular thing throughout the world. Wars have been (and will be) fought over different beliefs. People die for it. It is a billion-dollar industry that influences elections, government officials, and anyone who wins an award (athletes and rappers particularly). I'm glad I have religion in my life. I try to go to church every week and I find it a positive thing in my life to believe in a higher power. Now do I follow the letter of the law? No, but not many people do. I'm also not one to push religion on people -- we all have our own beliefs & non-beliefs and I respect that.

So what I (like others) have been told from early on is that God created the earth, the stars, all the plants & animals, and created humans in his likeness. Ok, it's worth a shot, sounds good to a 6-yr old. Oh yeah, he did this in 7 days. He must be pretty darn good to do all that in 7 days! He must be good, he is God afterall. So this (with other creation stories) is what we've had for most of our existence. Not a problem. But where is the proof for this? Hmmm...puts a damper on things.

Well in the 1800s along comes this Darwin fella. He traveled around the world and studied animals, fossil records, and other anthropological stuff and started questioning this. He's pretty smart and says that instead of us being created by this ever-powerful God, we evolved. We evolved from monkeys! Ha! us, from monkeys? You cannot be serious?! But he provided evidence to support this. So we have a theory and we have evidence to prove it. Great! Or maybe not.

As mentioned, religion has always been important to homo sapiens. You go ahead and try to change a belief system that has been going on for thousands of years. Not that easy. It's been 150 years since "The Origin of Species" and the theory is still be challenged and people refuse to accept it. This is mainly because they live in a binary world -- creationism or evolution...there is no inbetween. If they let go a little maybe they would see that both theories can coexist and you can believe in both. Because you know what? Both are pretty convoluted if you ask me.

First there is this concept of God who created everything in seven days. If you think about all the intricacies to this world and how complex it is, not to mention that technology has shown us that there is potential for other worlds such as ours, and in consequence the possibility of life out there, it can be hard to fathom. There are also the fossil records that show that life on Earth has been around for quite a while, a lot longer then any religious book would tell you. You start thinking about it rationally and yeah, it can be pretty hard to digest.

So then you look into this evolution thing. Where did we come from? Monkeys, but where did they come from? Primitive primates, but where did they come from? Reptiles, but where did they come from? Amphibians, but where did they come from? Fish, but where did they come from? Single cell organisms. So over millions of years we started out as one-celled organism and have evolved into the most complex machine ever, homo sapiens. Before you grasp this idea of us evolving from a one-celled organism, you have to ask, how did that get here? Well if you subscribe to the Big Bang theory you get this: all mass in the universe (all planets, stars, universes, etc) were together. Not only were they together, this ball of stuff was so dense that it was infinitely small, but held all that stuff. Then at one moment (for whatever reason), it exploded and we got to where we are today. To accept the 2nd theory, a lot of things had to go exactly right for this to happen. A LOT.

So when you think about it both of these can be pretty hard to rationalize. Which one is true? Which one to believe in? A little of both or something else entirely? That is up to us to decide. There is one thing I do konw -- however we got here, it is quite a special place, and among all those billions of stars and galaxies, we are the only ones out there. Pretty damn cool if you ask me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I Dial it in from South of the Border

It was quite a weekend as I took a very quick trip to Monterrey, Mexico to visit the OFOMOL. The journey began thursday night as I attempted to go to bed at 8:00 as I was waking up at 2:00 to drive the 2+ hours to the Pittsburgh airport to catch my first flight at 5:45. It was also the opening game of the ALDS and the Indians were off to a nice start. I decided to tune the game in on the radio to lull me to sleep. I got the game but I got a bonus too -- I had the tones of one Tom Hamilton coming through my radio 270 miles from the source signal. Gotta love the 50000 Watts of The Big One. I didn't end up falling asleep until 10 but did get to hear the Tribe pound the Yankees.

2:00 AM came too soon but with a Monster engergy drink I was ready to go. The drive was pretty easy and I can say that driving between 2:30 and 4:30 AM allows you to drive pretty fast with minimal traffic. I got to the airport and began my journey from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia to Houston to Monterrey. I cleared customs (guess they didn't find the drugs on me) and saw the OFOMOL. It was great to see her and we took a taxi to downtown and to our hotel and then checked out the city a little. It's a nice city. She's not enjoying it that much but coming from rural WV, it is just nice to be in a city with people and stuff to do. You know? We went to a nice little taqueria that was religious-themed. Religion is readily present among Latinos and it was fun to order the John Paul II/Juan Pablo II. It was quite tasty.

We then went out and met-up with her classmates. It was nice to meet the people she had been talking about as we had some drinks at a little bar. I was pushing being awake for 22 hours and was getting weary, even after 2 red bull & vodkas. The gang decided to hit up a club and we (OFOMOL & I) decided to only stay for a short time. We walk in and I hear "Bone" by the Killers. OK, good song, but the Killers are pretty popular so I'm not that surprised. We got our beers and I realized that the DJ was playing some kick-ass songs. The playlist was incredibly fulfilling and surprising as I wouldn't expect those songs in most clubs in the US, let alone Monterrey, Mexico. Some of the songs I remembered hearing:
Hot Hot Heat -- Talk to Me, Dance with Me
Radiohead -- Idioteque (live)
Morrissey -- First of the Gang to Die
The Strokes -- Last Night
Franz Ferndinand -- Take Me Out
The Smiths -- Bigmouth Strikes Again(?)
Blind Melon -- No Rain
Sublime -- One of their songs
Mika -- Love Today
Queen -- Bohemian Rhapsody

I was uber-impressed and if I ever end up back in Monterrey, I'll hit up that place again. What suprised me even more is that all the Mexicans were into the songs too and sang along to all of them. And the fact that they played both Morrissey and the Smiths in the short time we were there just confirms Latino's obsession with the Mozzer himself.

Saturday we had an opportunity to check out the city and spend time together. We had a nice mexican huevos racheros, but still good. We visited her campus and coincidentally there was a swim meet going on that weekend. It is a nice school and working in education, I like comparing campuses. We checked out the city -- the various buildings, museums, etc and took a walk on their new riverwalk. It was just nice to be with her and spend time together. We both realize how easier things are between us when we are physically together. Even though I was there for less then 48 hours, it was worth it and if I had the time and money I would do it again.

Friday, September 14, 2007

It's a Nice Day for a White Wedding

The story so far: Our hero [that's me folks] has embarked on a 7-week trip to Germany in the summer of aught-seven to spend with his girlfriend of [now} 2-years, the OFOMOL. They have spent time in crappy Pforzheim and visited Strasbourg, France. They are back in Dresden.

We were invited to a wedding of a friend of the OFOMOL in Berlin. They were in the same undergraduate program and she was getting married to an American with the same name as me! Pretty crazy! So we took the train (have I mentioned how much I love travelling by train?) to Berlin. We had already done the tourist trip there last summer so we didn't need to see all the sights. While on the train, slightly before we arrived in Berlin, the OFOMOL asked if I needed to use the bathroom. The rational of this is that when we got to Berlin the bathrooms in the main station would charge to use the bathrooms. It has been documented here before how much I HATE this concept of paying for the bathroom. It ain't right! I didn't need to use the bathroom (at the time) and sat contently as we rolled into Berlin.

We arrive and we stop at the OFOMOL's favorite coffee shop, Starbucks. I am working (slowly but surely) on learning more German and I felt comfortable enough to order our drinks in German. I do this and feel proud of myself and then the barista says "seven eruos please." D'oh! I work hard to talk in German and she speaks English back to me! Not only that she asked for my name twice (for our order) and when it arrived they called out "Paul" (which certainly isn't my name). They were supposed to be two medium (no Starbucks sizes for me) vanilla lattes but I know my tasted like it was sans-vanilla. Oh well, we took the cups for Paul and were on our way.

Then (maybe it was the coffee, it is a diuretic) I realize that nature is calling and I will need to use said bathrooms in the main station. I mention this to my beautiful girlfriend and she says "oh no, I told you to go on the train!" and rightfully so, she raises her voice and tells me I am a little kid. Probably because she told me to go and I didn't and she knows how much I hate paying for the bathroom. OK Ok, she gets over it but tells me I have to pay for the bathroom. I get my money out and realize I don't have enough money and must borrow some from her to use the bathroom. Oh the irony!

So we make our way to one of the suburbs outside of Berlin to attend the Poltabend. I would say this is a bit analogous to the rehearsal dinner for American weddings, but it was so much more. Since the groom is American his family and some of his friends came over. After a couple of weeks in Germany it was nice to converse with Americans. The food was great! Fresh grilled wurst, steaks, all sorts of salads, and of course plenty of German beer! But that wasn't all! After dinner we gathered around near the door to the house. Everyone was supposed to bring some sort of ceramic plate/dishware. All the guests then throw the plates/etc on the ground near the door. The belief is that the noise of the glass breaking will scare away the ghosts (polt, ie poltergeist) the night (abend) before the wedding. The OFOMOL's mother gave us a stack of plates to take -- I thought it was excessive, that was until I broke a plate! It was pretty cool. I mean, really, how often do you get to break plates on purpose? Everyone had fun doing it. That is not all though as before the bride and groom get married, the have to clean up the glass into some container. Anyone, however, can go and dump the shards(sp?) of glass out at anytime. So as the bride and groom were shovelling the glass into a wheelbarrow a couple of times someone would go and flip it over and they had to start over again. There are stories of people dumping it out in the middle of the night and on the steps of the church so they have to clean it up before the ceremony! It was a really good time and it is something that can definitely be incorporated into an American Wedding.

The wedding itself was heald in a little vacation area. There was a lake, horseback riding and the place we were staying had unfinished wood. Gives it that cabin/rustic feel to it. The big difference between American and German weddings is that they have to be conducted by an offical person who does weddings. Church weddings are not recognized legally in Germany. While the ceremony was nice (it was outside), it had a bit of a regimented feel to it. The rest of the stuff was like any other wedding I've been to. Well there was a lot of crappy Euro/German-pop music -- even the natives complained about the song selection.

One aspect that is unique to German Weddings is the kidnapping of the bride. Since we were on a lake, a group of people took the bride out on a boat in the middle of the lake. The DJ started playing the music from Pirates of the Caribbean and the groom was like "hey! What's going on?" He promptly grabbed his best man (yet another American married to a German) and they rowed out to save his bride. Upon rescuing her and returning to shore he said "I saved the flag" as they had an American flag and then stated "and I found this girl." Hehe.

I know I've written a lot for tonight, but it was a fun time. As I mentioned before, I like experiencing these different cultural things. Since dating her, I've come to appreciate the differences we all have.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Take a Break Driver 8

Chapter II where we find our hero and his girlfriend travelling to Strasbourg, France.

Being close to France we decided to take a day trip to Strasbourg. Now if you haven't been to Europe, trains are a great and efficient way to travel. Especially in Germany, the Deutsche Bahn does a great job. Now I've never ridden Amtrak but aside from the east coast, I believe that train travel in this country is a joke. After several experiences with the trains in Germany, I can say I enjoy train travel (must more over air) and wish we had a better system here.

Well we did run into a slight problem with the DB. Apparently the drivers/employees were on strike that week, well sort of. Instead of being on complete strike, they just refused to start working until 9am. Now I am no labor expert but I thought the point of a strike is to refuse to do your work until your demands are met. If you are providing a service (driving trucks, teaching kids, trains) and go on strike it disrupts yhe business and puts the employer in a corner to keep business going. Ergo, you are more likely to have your needs met. To me this seemed like a half-assed strike and only caused minor problems.

Because of this strike we were delayed for a good hour and a half and spent some quality time in Offenberg. Eventually we did make it to France. Unfortunately because of the EU, I did not get my passport stamped in France, oh well, c'est la vie. Strasbourg is a nice little city although it was a little chilly and we were faced with off & on rain throughout the day. We did see the cathedral. It is unique in that it should have two steeples, but they never finished the one side. So it looks a little funny and you can see where the 2nd steeple should go. Now all these cathedrals in Europe are great. They are huge and several hundreds years old and have a lot history to them. After seeing a few of them I can say that if you've seen one Gothic cathedral, you've seen them all. We were going to go to one of the art museums there but apparently it was closed on tuesdays. I should have known this as I took 3 years of French 12-14 years ago.

Instead of the museum we took a boat trip around the city. We got to see a lot of the historical sections and they took us past the European Parliament which is located in Strasbourg. As the weather was pretty crappy we did take the opportunity to go to the city museum. It had just reopened in the past week and featured a lot of interactive stuff. I enjoyed the museum as I have a soft side for all this historical stuff...never mind that I couldn't read anything. In the museum there was a little video session we saw, although since it was in French neither of us understood it and we wondered why we sat there for 10 min to watch the video.

Then we went to dinner. Since we were in France I had to try escargot. The snails were served with a very-garlic butter sauce. I wasn't too impressed and they were rather chewy. I would say they are similar to mussels, but not as good. Though the OFOMOL has had them before and said that the ones we had were not very good. I also had a beer from a brewery that was founded in the 11th century. The 11th century!!! We have no idea what the natives were doing here in the 11th century but in Europe they were brewing beer.

It was a nice experience. Yeah the weather could have been better but I can say that I have visited France. As a side note, the OFOMOL is travelling to Mexico tomorrow for a semester in Monterrey. Please wish her safe travels.

Coming Tomorrow: the joys of a German wedding

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Far Away From West Virginia

I am back in the states. I've been back for about two weeks but I've just found time to put up a new post. Hopefully all my readers are not totally kaput. I had a great summer spending 7 weeks in Germany/Europe. I can tell you that it was an amazing time. It isn't always easy being in an intercontinental long-distance relationship but we know that when we are together, we have a wonderful time and life is pretty much perfect. I can say without reservations that it was the best 7 weeks and the best summer I have ever had. We made lots of memories we will take with us for the rest of our lives. We did so much to include in one post, so I'll take the next couple of days to describe some of the experiences we had.

We spent the first 10 days or so in Pforzheim where she is in school. The OFOMOL doesn't think too highly of this city, but considering where I live, I had no problem with it. I flew into Frankfurt and had to take the train there. She met me in Karlsruhe and I had no idea where to find her. I got off the train and saw, out of the corner of my eye, someone running directly to me. What a great reunion it was.

I had a chance to meet most of her classmates. She is in an international business program so there are students from all over -- Germany (of course), Romania, USA, Belarus, Sudan, Taiwan, China, Mexico, Columbia, Turkey, and Lithuania. I think I got most of the countries. They are a nice group of people and I do appreciate being exposed to other cultures.

The first friday there I did do a 10K Race, the Citylauf Pforzheim. It has been quite awhile since I have run competitively and I thought I would be able to handle it but it kicked my ass. It was a 2K loop that we ran five times. I got passed by the top-guys during my 2nd loop (ie they were on their 3rd) and on my 3rd loop my legs were really starting to feel it. It became a battle of wanting to finish and keep my legs moving rather then try to do well. I finished with a stellar time of 52 minutes. Back in the day (18 months ago) I ran sub-36. But it was nice to get back into the running thing and I was treated to a very-tasty doner afterwards.

We also took a trip to the Daimler Benz Museum. That was pretty cool and I had a good time there. It is one of those interactive museums where you could spend hours in. There was a lot of history to the company. Some of the highlights include a Mercedes garbage truck in which I got to sit in and the Popemobile. As the Daimler Museum is in Stuttgart which is special in the fact that it has one of the American food places that the OFOMOL loves; that's right, Starbucks. Upon her insistence we stopped there for a coffee.

As Pforzheim is close to France, we did take a day trip to Strssbourg. The details of that trip will be addressed in the next post.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

He's Going The Distance

Well on tomorrow I deapart on my latest journey to Germany. I head to DC tomorrow where I'll stay the night with a friend and hopefully catch the Indians/Nationals game. Then monday I fly from DC to Charlotte and then I'll enjoy an 8-hour trip over the Atlantic to Frankfurt. After Frankfurt it is a 1.5 hour train ride to the OFOMOL. It is a lot of travelling but it is worth it. I'll be spending 7 weeks over there. We're both glad I have a job in which I can take the time to go see her.

We've been doing this long-distance thing for a year now. Long distance in the fact that it is an inter-continental relationship that involves a 6-hour time difference and trying to coordinate & afford various visits here and there. I get a certain reaction when I tell people that my girlfriend is German and she lives there. Even though they don't say it I know they are thinking "Are you serious? That will never last." And so on.

Well it isn't always easy. I think we would both agree to that. It takes a lot of hard work and prioritizing from both ends. Solving problems when you're thousands of miles away and only have the internet to communicate can be challenging at times. The thing is, however, we are both committed to making this relationship work. We have both learned and have grown during this year apart. A year ago at this time neither of us knew how we would deal with the distance and being apart. We've made it this far and I know we are both very happy that we have made it work and we are still together. We also realize that when we are together (as in being in the same physical place) we have a wonderful time together.

We've got at least (hopefully that is it) another year apart. Looking that far ahead and one can get lost. Taking it step-by-step has helped us stay close and committed to our relationship. The next 7 weeks will only help to strengthen our relationship as we head into our next year. We love each other and we want a future together. She's a very special woman and I'm continually finding new things about her to love. She is mein liebster schatz.

I'll try to update this every week or so to keep my faithful readers up to date on my travels in Europe.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

As We Dance, We All Dance

I'm keeping with the Cavalier-themed post and would like to wish a happy 32nd birthday to Zydrunas Ilgauskas! Big Z is the most senior member of the Cavaliers and (I just found this one out) has spent the most time with the team then any other player in team history. Here is a player that was injury prone (this is well-documented) during the first half of his career and figured to be a bust. He's been healthy the past 4-5 years and has been an all-star and a consistent contributor to the team. He's seen the low points of the team (2002-2003) and is now here in the NBA Finals. There is a reason LeBron hugged Big Z at the end of the game (at 1:00 of this video) -- LeBron recognized all the hard work that Z has put in and as much as the finals mean to LeBron, it means a lot more to Z.

Since it is his birthday I'll related a couple of Z-related anecdotes. I have met [sorta] Big Z on two occasions. The first was at the Kenilworth somewhere around 2002-2003. I was out with my buddy Teets and we were checking out the scene. He went into the 2nd room (pool table & darts) while I was getting drinks. He came back and said "dude, there's some crazy tall guy in there." I don't think anything of it. Later on, this big guy walks through and I'm like "You know who that is? Big Z!" The guy is huge! Add the fact that the Kenilworth has some short ceilings, he looked even bigger.
The second time was at the West End. He was with two friends and I was at the table next to them. Some girls kept asking his friends if "that was him" while they played it off and said "no, he just looks like him." Right, there are a lot of 7-foot-plus Lithuanians living in Cleveland.

Anyway, Happy Birthday Big Z, hope you can bring this city a title!

Monday, June 04, 2007

And I Stopped in San Antone

For all I know, this is the only song that mentions both Cleveland and San Antonio, the two teams that are in the NBA Finals. It's quite amazing that our little Cavaliers...the Cavaliers of Ted Stepien (scroll down to "Ted Stepien and the James Worthy Rule" to the Shot to the late-90s Mike Fratello Cavs who couldn't decide if they wanted to be a lottery team or a playoff team to 2003 when somehow the ping-pong balls bounced our way and we got LeBron James and four years later are 4 wins away from a championship.

I'll equate this to 1995 when the Indians made it to their first World Series in 41 years. Yes they made it again in 1997, but we already knew how it felt to be there. The Cavs (the 3rd team in a Football-first, Baseball-second town) have been around for 37 years, most of which the team has wallowed in mediocrity. The late-80s, early-90s Cavs were a vastly underrated team who had the unfortunate opportunity to play against the Jordan-led Bulls. He would prevent a lot of players from seeing an NBA Championship (see: Barkley, Charles; Malone, Karl; Stockton, John). It's been 43 years since this city has last seen a major championship in this town, please forgive us when we celebrate a trip to the finals.

How about those videos? Downtown Cleveland looked like the place to be on saturday night. It makes me miss the city. Back in 1995 I was a junior in high school and may have tasted but a drip of alcohol. Nobody had blogs and the best columnists were not fans but the local ones. I remember driving around the 'Wood the night the Tribe clinched in Seattle (Lofton scoring from 2nd on a passed ball!) and everyone was honking their horns. It was a feeling of euphoria, happiness, and pride. Total strangers hugging, high-fiving, clapping-hands, and sharing in the success of an athletic team. I know if I was in town, I would have been down there celebrating with everyone else. Luckily I was able to watch the game with friends instead of alone in my apartment in WV.

It's a bit of an unreal feeling. I know we haven't won anything yet and the Spurs are heavily favored. The misery of Cleveland sports fans is well documented..the only city that may be worse off is Buffalo. But we handled the Pistons pretty convincingly. The two games we lost, we had legitimate chances of winning. After LeBron's performance in Game 5, I think most Detroit fans knew that they were not winning this series. Now we've got the Spurs, the NBA's premier franchise since 1999 who will be playing for their 4th NBA title since then. Yes we are happy to be here, but you know what? This team will surprise a lot of people. Our defense is significantly underlooked and LBJ has shown he can lead the team (by scoring and finding his teammates) to victory.

This team is playing with a lot of confidence right now. Yes they beat the Spurs twice this year...the analysts are going to point to this as a non-factor as it was early in the year and yadda yadda yadda. Yes the Spurs were not the same team then as now, but you know what? Neither are the Cavaliers. The team knows that they can hang with and beat the best in any arena. This series with Detroit was not a knock-down drag-out fight. The Cavs outplayed Detroit consistently throughout. Are the Cavs going to win the series? I don't know that. I do know that teams can come together and do remarkable things.

The Cavs need to have role players such as Boobie Gibson to consistently step-up and contribute. Talk about a break-out performance. I love that whenever he gets the ball, he's got this look on his face that he's not scared and he knows he can hit the shots. I love it! Has LeBron found the 2nd man he so desparately needs? As me in a year or two...a series does not dictate a career (see: Billups, Chauncey) but hopefully this is a start. I have an idea why he suddenly burst onto the scene: he was busy on his TV show the first half of the year. And his name is Boobie to boot! Coincidence? I think not!

Remember 2004? The Pistons were an upstart team going against the juggernaut Lakers. Guess what? The Pistons beat LA in 5 games. I do think this series is going at least 6 games. I do know that if somehow the Cavs end up winning this thing that I will be in Cleveland for it. This city just wants one championship, that's all. We don't need a dynasty, we just want that it is our team hoisting the trophy. Just once. Will it be this year? We'll find out in 2 weeks.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Hey Man, Slow Down, Slow Down

I had a pleasant weekend as I was able to get out of rural WV and meet up with some friends for a camping trip in rural Ohio. We had a good time -- drinking, cooking out, throwing stuff into a fire, minimal sleep, and no showers. Good times, good times. As the majority of us were from Cleveland, we had a vested interest to see a little basketball game that was going on last night. Anyway, not content to listen to the game on the radio with a fuzzy signal, we found the closest watering hole and caught the 2nd half of the game.

Well, we were all in a great mood and headed back to the campground to further celebrate the victory and enjoy the 2nd night of the weekend. Well we pull into the campground and are stopped shortly by some of the people in charge of the place. They tell us we're driving too fast and we need to keep it under 10 MPH, which is the speed limit there. We've been told this constantly during the weekend. We haven't been driving fast, its just hard to drive that slow. Just putting the car into drive and letting the natural hills and valleys of the road can get you up to a blistering 15 mph. We tell the guy we understand and 30 seconds later (no joke), we're stopped again by another guy. He says we're driving too fast and that the owner is coming to tell us to leave. It is after midnight, there are 7 (out of 9) who are not sober, and they want us to leave. Needless to say, we were pissed off. They keep telling us that they've warned us and we need to leave and we get more pissed off.

The guy escorts us back to our campsite to wait for the owner to get there. They tell us they have sensors (on a gravel road in a campground...riiiiight) to detect the speed. Luckily even though we were pissed-off, we kept cool heads and sweet talked them into allowing us to stay. If we had gotten kicked out, it would not have been good for them. We would have woken up the whole campground as we packed our stuff up. Also if they sent us off, forcing drunk people to drive...well that wouldn't look so good on them.

The whole episode really made us sour. We were not driving that fast (really, 10 MPH is pretty slow, try it sometime) and we were good campers. I don't know if they were serious or just threatening us, but to make 9 people pack-up, leave, and put drunk people out on the street driving would not be cool.

Other then this, it was an en enjoyable weekend, though I am looking forward to a night of sleep in a level bed.

And about that game...more to come tomorrow.

Friday, June 01, 2007

I Am The King of All I See

Wow! What a game! Is this Cavs team for real? Seriously. They were two plays away from sweeping the Pistons (they had legitimate shots in Games 1 & 2). They went home and he led them in games 3 & 4. Then there was tonight. What a performance! This was the performance I've been waiting for. Even though I didn't voice it, my main gripe in games 1 & 2 was that when the team is in a funk, he didn't put the team on his back to lead them. Well, he did that tonight. He was hitting shots he probably had no business taking, yet they found the net. Is this one of the greatest playoff performances of all time? I don't know. I think it is too early to judge that. Remember, they still need to win on saturday (or in game 7), to really validate Bron-Bron's superstar status. This game now means nothing if they don't win the series.

You know what I like about this team? They're incredibly resilient and I would say scrappy. They've been in every game. Even when they've been down 7-8 points, they find a way to get back and make a game of it. And you know what? They're not intimidated by Detroit. Last year Detroit was clearly the better team and the fact they took it to 7 games seemed to be a fluke. This year, they're playing a hell of a lot better then Detroit and they know it. The other thing is that the Cavs are playing incredible defense. Their defense has been steller all year, but this aspect seems to get over-looked. This team knows they can beat the Pistons, they just have to finish the deal. This series is not over and Game 6 still needs to be played. The Q will be rocking on saturday night. I'm going camping this weekend and hopefully we can get the game on the radio.

Speaking of the fans, is it just me or were the Detroit fans extremely unenthusiastic tonight? There was 1:30 remaining in one of the overtimes and the crowd was not making any noise. Come playoff time, a hostile crowd can make a difference. I didn't see that out of the Detroit fans. Even when the Pistons were up 7 in the 4th, which was the point where the crowd should have carried them to victory, but it was like they knew they were going to lose.

Like I said, we still have Game 6 to go. We were in this position last year and failed to seal the deal. Have the Cavs learned and will they make their first trip to the Finals or will C-town experience more late-game devastation? I hope for the former, but if the later occurs, we Cleveland fans are conditioned (the Drive, the Fumble, the Shot, Mesa)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

It Doesn't Matter Much to Me

Well this weekend was THE event. The one weekend of the year that the whole town drops what it is doing, joins in the festivities, and celebrates. That's right folks, it was the 66th Annual West Virginia Strawberry Festival.

This was my first Strawberry fest so I was intrigued. Everyone was telling me how great the festival was kept asking "are you going to the Strawberry Fest?" The hype factor was definitely high. With expectations that high, I was just hoping it would deliver.

Events were going on the whole week, I decided to check things out on Saturday as there was the "Grand Feature Parade." Saturday morning was a warning as to what I was about to get myself into as I was running errands and a typical 5-7 drive to Wal*Mart took a good 20+ minutes. There were cars everywhere and along Main Street [note: you know you live in a small down when the main street is called Main Street] at 10:30 am people had their chairs staked out to watch the parades. I finished my chores and headed out for a 20-min walk to "downtown."

As with all small-town festivals, there was a carnival and food vendors. I have no interest in carnies and getting ripped off so I skipped that. As it was lunch hour I did get a doner kebab to eat. Now these are all over Germany (due to a large Turkish immigrant population) and the OFOMOL has all but forbade me to have one, so here was my chance. The guy at the booth commented "ehh, you've been to europe?" I guess I ordered with a German accent...and we made small talk about all the doner places there. So I have five one-dollar bills in my hand and he says "that'll be $7." What? I'm already holding the doner in my hand and now I have to get more money? And $7 for this thing? I guess that's why there were no prices listed, if we knew how much they were charging we wouldn't buy them!

So I ate my doner while checking out the "Classic Car Parade." Now I'm no grease monkey but to me it seemed like they had quite a liberal definition of "Classic." to me, "Classic Car" implies lots of cars from the 30s-60s in good condition. Well there were some of those...but there were also plenty of cars in not good condition, plenty of cars from recent history, and plenty of custom jobbed modern cars. I mean when you see a mid-90s Mitsubishi Eclipse, you begin to question the cars. There were also plenty of trucks that had 3-4' of ground clearance including one that said "size matters" on the back. Ho hum! There's a saying that guys that put a lot into their cars have to make up for other inadequcies...I'm just saying. There was a couple behind me, who, upon seeing one of said trucks said, "it's great that you [the drivers] spend $3 to pull your car out of your driveway." Oh snap! No she didn't?!

I walked around more before the Grand Feature Parade started. A few observations:
Plenty of Confederate Flag, Git R Done, and NASCAR paraphanalia abound
All the people sitting in chairs for the parades would probably benefit from the extra metabolism it takes to stand.

So I stake my place on the sidewalk to watch the parade and soon see my friend Jason and his lady friend. They ask me if I am ready for a 3-hour parade. I do a double take and I'm like "what? you're kidding!" But no, they are not. This parade is really 3 hours long. Boy I wish they served alcohol here. Since none of us are native to the state we precede to rip on all the people in the parade and the whole festival itself. At one point there is a cowboy group (really, they were from Texas) on horses. Shortly behind them was a wagon with a guy who's job it was to SCOOP UP THE SHIT FROM THE HORSES!!! I kid you not. Now I don't know how he got assigned that job, but he must've done something really bad to draw that straw.

During the parade the conversation of Strawberries inevitably came up. One would think that they would sell Strawberries at the Strawberry Festival, but no, the only Strawberries to be found were in Strawberry Shortcake being sold. That was it. I thought that maybe Strawberries are a popular thing to farm in these parts, but I guess not. They just needed something to celebrate in this town.

The other amazing thing was the number of people in town! I don't know where everyone came from (out of the hills) but the place was crowded with overweight people wearing confederate flags who came to waste money on carnival games & overpriced food while watching a 3-hour long parade of people scooping up shit.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Residing in a Cardboard Box

My older sister and I must have some sort of connection. Well we are siblings, so I guess it's not that unusual. Anyway she sent me a MySpace message and commented about how she saw an episode of Saved by the Bell this morning and how it should be a topic for a blog. I wake up between 7:30 and 8:00 and during my breakfast hour I watch SBTB on USA from 8-9. They actually have a two-hour long block from 7-9 every morning. I saw the same episode and agreed with her on the ridiculousness of the episode. In reality every episode is pretty ridiculous but it does hold a special place in the heart for a lot of us. So in what will hopefully become a regular feature on MoL, I give you Classic Episodes of Saved by the Bell.

Our first stop will be the two-parter Home For Christmas. This is the one that focuses on the gang in the mall during Christmas. Jessie is a bitchy santa's helper, Slater can't wrap a package to save his life, and Kelly is working at Moody's Store for Men. Zach meets a pretty girl [Laura] who ends up working with Kelly. Zach and Screech meet a homeless man in the mall who later on collapses at the mall. At the hospital they find out the guy is Laura's dad, which mean, bingo! Laura is homeless! What is Zach to do? See since it is Christmas, this is a "very special" episode of SBTB.

Where do I begin. Well first off, how did Slater ever get this job? Didn't they teach him how to properly wrap a gift? It's not that hard and the more you wrap, the better you get at it. But throughout the 2-part episode his wrapping doesn't get any better. And then at one point the homeless guy takes over. I can tell you if I was a customer and somone who doesn't work there had to come and help Slater wrap gifts, I would not be too happy. Of course I wrap my own gifts, so I wouldn't be dealing with gift wrap.

The mall puts on a performance of A Christmas Carol. This must be the super-condensed version as it takes all of 2 min to get through. The whole gang along with Zach's mom is taking part in the performance. You know what would make it better? If we get Laura, the homeless girl who is suddenly friends with everybody, to be in the play also. But grumpy Mr. Moody won't let her. Now the show takes place in SoCal. I've never been there but I've been told it is a different place, that California. It must be really different because a major store in the mall allows two of its employees to take the afternoon off to be in the play. I mean, where I come from the malls are pretty packed during the holidays...but this is California and like I said, it is a different world there. And then there is the litte fact that Laura is HOMELESS! Wouldn't she want to be working and making money instead of being in a play? I think that her and her dad, who has just been hospitalized without (one would assume) health insurance could use every little bit of cash.

And then we get to the end. Ahh yes, a classic Saved By the Bell moment. The gang is over at Zach's house (Laura and Dad included) to celebrate Christmas. Keep in mind that it has probably only been a few days (a week at most) since everyone met. The Morris family really takes the meaning of Christmas giving to heart as they decide to let Laura and her dad live with them until they get off their feet. In other words...they're going to let two people they just met and hardly know to live with them indefinitely! Oh yeah, that is completely normal. This episode ends with a warm musical number:

Like the majority of SBTB episodes this one ends on a high note and we're left to wonder what happened afterwards. Continuity is not a strong point of this show.

Questions to ponder:
What ever happened with Zach & Laura?
Did Laura's dad ever get a job?
How long did they live there?
How come we've never seen Zach's mom & dad in the same episode?
What was the charge of Laura's dad's time in the hospital?
Sadly, we may never know the answers to these questions. Feel free to speculate in the comments section.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

And Now It's Been 10 Years

Today's video has "Embedding Disabled" so here is the link to Underground by Ben Folds Fine. What a great song and my how young Mr. Folds looks!

One of my favorite blogs is DeadOn. It's a group effort over there and they've got a nice collection of folks who are purveyors of all things relating to Pop Culture. I really enjoy it. Mr. Yostal has a weekly column, Tied to the 90s where he discusses music-related happenings of the underrated decade of the 1990s. This decade holds a special place in my heart as I spent all of high school and half of college in this decade.

This week's column is on songs for those planning/attending a 10-year reunion this summer. As I graduated in '97 and my 10-year reunion is this summer, I take special interest in this column. Going over his list, it struck me that calendar years are not synchrynous with school years. Yeah I know, this isn't a big relevation but when you graduate high school and songs are either associate with HS or associated with college, it becomes significant. After looking over his list and comparing it to what I remember from 10-years ago, I've decided to come up with my own list of songs from 1997 that I fondly recall. In no particular order...

I'll Be Missing You -- Puff Daddy & The Family
I remember driving around with my boys on some spring evening in '97. We heard this song and it caused us mental anguish. This was one of the first big songs to use samples. It doesn't sound like a big deal now because EVERY popular Rap/R&B song uses sampling. But back then we hear this and think "oh we know this song...but wait we don't! Who is that singing? What's going on? What did they do with The Police." This song was everywhere that spring. It also ties into college as me and one of my roommates (and best buddies from college) use to sing it.

No Diggity -- Blackstreet
I still love this song 10 years later. Teddy Riley's backing track is what holds this song together. I'm also partial to the "mmm mmmm" that falls on the 4-beat.

Return of the Mack -- Mark Morrison
I had no idea who Mark Morrison was, or why he was returning to being a Mack. I associate this song with the valedictorian from HS. I remember her really liking this song and singing along to it.

One Headlight -- The Wallflowers
This song was everywhere in spring of 1997. It is one of those songs that should have been hated due to it being completely over-played but for me I still dig it. It is included on this list due to the fact that I associate it with my recruiting trip to CWRU.

Secret Garden -- Bruce Springsteen
Only included here due to the cheesiness that is the Jerry Maguire remix. This song goes with Eric Clapton's "Change the World" as former rockers gone soft. You had me at hello. Indeed!

The Freshman -- The Verve Pipe
I always put this together with One Headlight for whatever reason. I had to write a paper for English class and remember hearing this song about five times as I typed out the paper.

Semi-Charmed Life -- Third Eye Blind
This song holds a special place in my heart. I had a 5K open swim in the summer of '97 and for the hour that I was in the water this is what I was singing. It helped as I ended up winning the thing (out of about 10 people). Also, what 18 year old doesn't like a song the mentions Crystal Meth and oral sex.

Push -- Matchbox Twenty
Remember when no one knew about these guys? It was just this song that people took offense to as it talked about pushing around your girlfriend. They got famous, Rob Thomas got fat, he lost that weight then became more famous with Santana. Things have worked out pretty well for him, eh? I'm not ashamed to say that this album still sounds good 10 years later.

Tubthumping -- Chumbawumba
As we move into the College portion of this list we arrive at the anarchists from the UK. Their anarchist messages meant nothing to me then (or now) but definitely a great song to sing along to at the top of your lungs, sober or not.

I'm starting to lose steam here and Lost is almost on, so I'll do a quick couple more.

I Will Buy You a New Life -- Everclear
Do you remember the world before MP3s? Well arriving onto a highly technological campus in the fall of '97 I quickly found out the joys of this new music format and network sharing. This is one of the first (of many) songs that I remember getting as an MP3 file. As a note, I still have my 1997 era desktop (200 MHz and 4 Gig hard drive!) in hops that I will one day recover the thousands of MP3 files I have on there.

Getting Jiggy With It -- Will Smith
My coach had this personality quirk where he would find a song and play it incessantly, somtimes on repeat (Shimmer anyone?). Well in the fall of '97 this was it. This song indoctrinated me into the world of college swimming which pretty much led me to where I am today.

So there you have it. My 13 songs from ten years ago that I associate with the end of high school and the start of college. I have to hand it to Yostal and his weekly posts. These take a lot of effort and just doing this one is enough.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I Think I Smell A Rat

Saturday May 12, 2007, 11:30
We find our hero settled into an evening of relaxation while watching television. He's already watched his beloved Cavaliers fall to those Nets from New Jersey. How a group of nylon stitching defeated a gang of swashbucklers remains a mystery. He's currently trying to find humor in the Molly Shannon-hosted episode of SNL but that humor is few and far between.

I hear some noise in the kitchen. Nothing big or anything and i attribute it to the wind. There are times, like we all do, that I imagine I have ghosts in my apartment. Not that this scares me or anything...its just a result of living alone in rural America. So I hear these noises and look into the kitchen and I catch something moving. I check it out a little more and what do I see? A mouse! Or Mus musculus for you scientifically oriented readers. I scare the little bugger and he retreats underneath the sink.

This means war. It is late and night and I think "well this can wait until tomorrow." Then I think about it some more and I really don't want to be asleep with thoughts of Mr. Mus musculus running around my apartment having his way with whatever he wants. So at midnight I head to Wal*Mart. Let it be known this is the first time in my life that I'm glad Wal*Mart is around and that it is open 24 hours.

Side note: Being in Wal*Mart at midnight can be interesting. The one thing that suprised me the most were the mothers who were there with their kids. I'm usually in bed by midnight...yet I saw at least 3 kids aged 8 or younger, including one [awake] baby. This can't be good for them.

So I search for traps and some reason they are in the same aisle as soap/detergent. Whowouldathunk? I then need to decide which kind to buy. I decide to go with the glue traps so that I'm not awoken by a snap of the traditional traps. I head home, set the traps, and head off to my slumber.

I awake in the morning and find my victim stuck in the trap. He's still alive and twitches every once in awhile, but I got the sucker. I dispose of him into the trash and revel in my victory. This is only one. While I am happy I got this guy, I don't know if he has reinforcements coming. The traps are still out but I haven't seen/heard any other mice. Hopefully this guy was just a scout. If he wasn't, my troops are armed and ready.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Take Me To Another Place

I tried posting this the past two nights...we'll see if the third time is the charm. So I travelled down to Knoxville, TN for a family wedding this weekend. I had a nice time. I saw some cousins and relatives I haven't seen in years. It is nice to see how everyone is doing and come together in a happy occasion of a wedding.

At one point I intruduced myself to my cousin's husband. His reply was "Oh, you're fast cousin M---." I don't think I've ever had adjectives attached to my name...well none that I know of. For whatever reason there are people (good and bad) who we don't call by just their name, but their name and a descriptor. He's not Mike, but Smart Mike, not Chris, but Smelly Chris, not Joe Davola, but Crazy Joe Davola. You could say "I was out with Dave the other night..." and people will look at your funny, like they don't know Dave. Then you say "you know, Big Dave" and they know exactly who you are talking about. There are only a select few individuals who have this honor. How they get it? Beats me, but I'll chalk it up to some sociological phenomenon.

I know I blasted my little sister a bit on my last post. I did, however, stick up for her (like a good brother should) at the wedding. She was in front of me getting drinks and she was carded. OK, I understand there are underage drinkers out there and we, as a society, need to do everything we can to make sure they don't taste alcohol until they are 21...but at a wedding? Seriously? Who gets carded at a wedding? My little sister I guess. So she's running to get her ID and I make some comment to the bartender like "Oh, you're carding?" And in a smug retort she says "Yeah, the drinking age is 21." What? When did this happen? I never knew we had a drinking age, and 21 to boot! I go on talking about how I think it is stupid to card at a wedding. The bartender could have fun with it and say something like "Yeah...its a pain but it is my job and she looks young," but she decided to keep whatever it was stuck up her butt and infomed me again that the drinking age is 21. For the rest of the night I made sure to go to the other bartender whenever I got a drink.

Congrats to Butch and Maria. I wish you a wonderful life together.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Spring is Here Again

I love this weather! Give me 75-80 with blue skies and I'll be a happy fella. Just a couple of random thoughts for the night.

My neighbors behind me have an inflatable above-ground pool. As the weather has gotten nicer, the thing has become inflated and filled with water. Everytime I go into my kitchen and look out the window I see the pool. And every time I look at it I just think about how much it is a cesspool of germs, bacteria, and what have you. And every time I look at it, the grossness factor increases. I feel like buying a Ibucket of chlorine and putting it in there for them.

I'm going to a wedding this weekend. My sister and I decided to share a hotel room (beats rooming with the rents). So I call her up yesterday to talk about how we want to pay for it -- I put it on my card and she pays me her half or vice versa. Well she says "can we go 60/40?" Now I've got a full-time salaried job that doesn't pay much and she's got a full-time (40 hrs/week) hourly job. I understand that she is figuring that since I have the "real" job I can pay a bit more. She lives with mom and dad so I ask the following questions: Do you pay rent? water? electrical? cable? internet? groceries? All which are answered with a resounding "No." Game/Set/Match to the older brother.

On a more serious note, I usually don't discuss personal things on here, but my grandmother recently had a stroke. She's doing alright but it has impaired her a good amount. For those church-going readers (or anyone for that matter), if you could say a nice prayer to St. Andrew Avellino or St. Wolgang, the family will appreciate it.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Mighty Quinn

Sitting here religiously watching the NFL Draft. With the 3rd pick I really thought we'd be getting Brady Quinn. The Browns surprised me and got Joe Thomas, the stud left tackle who would rather go fishing then be at the draft. Good for him. Then the cards fell (Ginn to Miami at 9??) and Savage pulled the strings to get Quinn at 22. At the start of the day any Browns fan would be happy to have one of these have both, I'm more then pleased.

Just a couple of side-thoughts. I love how the analysts keep talking about Quinn playing for his hometown team. Maybe they should check their map (Google Maps is the best/True that/DOUBLE TRUE) because Dublin is actually closer to Cincinnati then it is to Cleveland. I know it is a matter of perspective but 141 miles away is a pretty big hometown if you ask me. This also means were stuck with Chris Berman doing the highlights of Brady "The Mighty" Quinn and then while playing in December Brady Quinn "The Eskimo." *sigh* Well this is a good draft. Now, let's see these guys produce.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Advertising Looks and Chops a Must

Great song from a great band that I, unfortunately, got into after they broke up. I did get to see Malkmus a few years ago on a solo jaunt. I can say that they put on a great show and wish I had a time machine to go back and see Pavement back in their hey-day.

So yeah, I got my haircut yesterday. Nothing special, but I'm not completely happy with it. She could have cut it shorter in the back. A haircut is one of those services where you cannot return what you bought and it is hard to get a refund. It did occur to me that I could try and go back and say something like "Could you take a little bit more off the back?" Do you think that would work? The good thing with hair is that (for most of us) it always grows back. This is my 3rd or 4th haircut since I moved her in august. Save from the one time when the OFOMOL was with me to tell her how to cut it, I've been less then happy with what I've received.

During the said cut, the woman cutting my hair asked me where I'm from and I tell her. This elicits the response of "ohhh, do you know Drew?" as in Drew Carey. Drew Carey is a funny guy and put Cleveland on the sitcom map...but most people I know (including myself) agree that the show is not that great. Yes it was nice to see all the C-town centric themes on the show, but other then that it did nothing for me.

More on my Cleveland kick. My buddy DRH commented on a new Cleveland blog, Hardaway Hates Pittsburgh. He's got a list of his Top 5 places to eat in C-Town. Not a bad list, but not the five I would choose. I still have to think about mine, but I'll be posting it soon. Keep your eyes open!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cleveland Rocks!

What a great episode of 30 Rock tonight! Yes I am biased due to the fact that Cleveland is my hometown. But this also confirms that this is one of the best comedies on TV right now. Of course there is not much competition these days, but still the show rocks. I feel it is a lot like Arrested Development. I would group The Office in there too in the fact that these are unconventional sitcoms. It takes a little more thinking to understand and appreciate the jokes. They also all have a devoted corps of fans. I also love the Tracy Jordan character. He is just so outrageous and over the top. I would compare him to G.O.B. from AD.

Then there is the Cleveland-centric theme to this episode. It was great! They mentioned my hometowm (the 'Wood) and had a little musical montage to the city. There were some errors that were either 1) done intentionally so us natives would only catch them and add to the genius of the show or 2) not researched to show the ignorance of the writers. I'll go with option #1. Higbee's hasn't been around in 15 years , no one shops on Euclid Ave, and the Flats are dead. There was also the obvious fact that the shots of C-Town (quoted by Tina Fey in the episode) all came from stock footage. I'm not complaining however. Any show that doesn't rip Cleveland a new one is fine by me.

Yeah most of the time the city gets pissed on. Its fair. I mean, we have our share of problems (river on fire? check! city in default? check! a history of losing teams? check! Kuchinich as our Rep? check!) but it makes us have thick skin. Being part of something that is so "bad" (really it's not) makes you proud to be part of it. I've been away for a couple years now. I do find I appreciate and enjoy it more when I go back to visit. It has its charm and there are plenty of things to do there. If you haven't been there, give Cleveland a chance, it's not as bad as you think, and you just may like it!

Monday, April 16, 2007

I Think I'll Go to Boston

Congratulations to everyone that ran in today's Boston Marathon. I woke up this morning, looked at the weather forecase and immediately thought to myself "glad I'm not running it this year." I guess it has been raining all weekend, it was pretty cold, and there was a nasty wind. Three factors that are not very condusive to fast running. The results showed this as both winning times were the slowest in 20 years. The weather did seem to cooperate in the sense that the temperature was not as cold (low 50s) as anticipated. There was the wind that plagued the runners all day. Personally I don't mind wet conditions. When I run I try to embrace the elements and use it to my advantage. That being said, I've never run a full marathon in the rain and don't know how I would really respond to it.

I had the opportunity to run it last year. I haven't really run since then as I've had a foot problem I'm trying to shake. It looks to be getting better and I hope to be back out running this summer. I do know that I want to go back and run it again at some point. It is a special place, the runner's Mecca. If anyone does get a chance to run it (for whatever reason), I encourage you to. It will be an experience you never forget.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

In The Company of Strangers

I wish I had the 2001 SNL version of this song. NBC doesn't like SNL videos on YouTube for whatever reason. This version will do, however.

I just finished watching United 93 on HBO. I wasn't sure what to think going in, because of premise. I've always been skeptical of movies where you know what is going to happen (FYI, the Titanic sinks!) Since this movie was made only 5 years after 9/11 the event is still very real in our minds. I was also wary of the movie due to the fact that we don't know what really happened on the plane. We can agree that the passengers did do something, but to what degree, it is hard to say. I don't like when Hollywood embellishes these truths to increase the drama.

Well, this movie got to me. My heart was beating during most of the 2nd half of the movie. Even though the outcome was known, I was still pulling for the passengers to succeed. Whatever did happen up there, those passengers showed a tremendous amount of courage. I can't stop thinking about the fact that in a span of an hour, they went from being ordinary passengers, to passengers on a hijacked plane, to knowing they were going to die, and then doing something about it. It was all very...well...words can't do it justice.

If you have a chance to see this movie, I would reccommend it. It is a very intense and very moving film.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Cooking MCs Like a Pound of Bacon

Oh yes, nothing like a little Vanilla Ice for this friday evening. A couple of random thoughts for the evening.

I've all but given up on this show. I was hooked in season 1. Last year I began to get a little frustrated in that the show was not giving us any answers, just opening more doors. I would say the first half of the 3rd season was less then par. I've really only been watching becaue I feel like I've invested a lot in this show, I'm going to hang on until the end, no matter how bad it gets. But then they gave us this gem of an episode on Wednesday and renewed my faith in the show. I really like the characters of The Others, particularly Ben and Juliet. They're both psychological mysteries and know how to manipulate people to gain what they want. Secondly, as fans of the show, we've been very sympathetic to the Losties. The Others have their own agenda and claim to be the good guys themselves. I think both Elizabeth Mitchell and Michael Emerson deserve Emmys for their portrayals of these characters. Hopefully this episode keeps the momentum going through the last part of the season.

Mmmmm...Bacon Popcorn

I was at the store tonight and the guy in front of me had three items: Old Spice Deodorant, a Lint Roller, and *drumroll please* a box of Tampax. Oh yes, he took the one step men in committed relationships have the hardest time with. Once you are able to do this, you've reached a new phase in your relationship. For the record, I have yet to purchase said items on my own, but I would not have a problem buying them for the OFOMOL.

R.I.P Kurt Vonnegut
I read Slaughterhouse Five back at the end of high school. I should probably re-read it as 10-years later I probably understand it a little better. It did bring into my psyche the Bombing of Dresden. Little did I know at the time that Dresden would now be an important part of my life and I've had the opportunity to visit it twice in the past year. Aside from 9/11, which is still minor in comparison, us as American's have little perspective on the destructions of war. Being in a city that was destroyed is very humbling. Even 60 years later, there are buildings that are still damaged. It is, however, a very beautiful city and if you have a chance to visit, I encourage you to.

Last note: I am soliciting requests to do a guest post. If you are interested send me an email: metaoflife at gmail dot com

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Crab If You Need It

OK, that is a bit of an obnoxious version of that song. Unfortunately it is the only version available (at this time) on YouTube. Anyway, one of my more favorite shows has it's premiere tonight. That's right! It's the drama and excitement of Alaskan crab fishermen on Deadliest Catch. The OFOMOL hates it and doesn't see the appeal, but I love it. I think it is due to the fact that I have a fascination with seeing how we can push our bodies physcially and mentally. The show also illustrates that in the 21st technology-driven era, there are still things that are done the way they have been for years.

A couple of new links I've added:
Pop Songs 07
This is a spin-off of Fluxblog. The curator of both, Matthew Perpetua is taking the time to analyze every song in the R.E.M. catalog. What a concept! It'll be interesting to get his take on some of the more obscure songs.

This is an old one, but I just found it. As the title implies, it's a waiter ranting. But its not just him bitching all the time. He's got a nice writing style to his posts. He was in the priesthood at one point in his life which adds a touch of humanity and understanding to his posts. It serves as a guidebook for us, the consumers/customers, and how we should (or shouldn't) behave in a restaurant. Its one of those blogs that you can just waste a couple hours reading post after post. As we're approaching Good Friday, here is a nice post for all us guilt-ridden Catholics out there.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Drop Dead Dream, The Chosen One

I've been listening to this song a lot recently. I've had Sam's Town for awhile and I can tell you that I've enjoyed it. For whatever reason though (well, I saw the video) the song stuck with me.

A couple of new links I've added. Confessions of a Fanboy is a music blog I found earlier today. He recently wrote about the producer for R.E.M.'s new album and pretty much echos my feelings on what they've done in the post-Bill Berry era. It looks like he's got some good commentary over there. Second, I've added German Joys to the list because for some reason I have an inkling to all things German. Speaking of which, here is a list of 20 things to keep in mind while visiting Germany. These are pretty much dead-on.

Well for those swimming folks out there, the 12th Fina World Championships are happening right now. Since the US is so smitten with swimming, chances are you probably haven't missed the races since they're constantly being broadcast. (note: extreme sarcasm). Anyway the legend that is Michael Phelps continues to make his case as the Greatest of All Time. I've got two races below, the first his is 200 Free in which he beats the "unbeatable" record of one Ian "the Thorpedo" Thopre. Notice his fly kick off his walls -- he gains so much distance by just doing that. The second one is his 200 Butterfly in which he breaks his own world record by over a second and a half. Be sure to watch the "world record red line" on that one. Side note: I kinda like the non-English announcers

The last race I'm including is the Men's 400 Free final. Watch first and then I'll comment:

Park had an amazing last 50. I've never seen someone make up so much distance at that part in a race. It was crazy ridiculous.

Alright, time for Lost. Are they ever goign to get off this island/figure it all out? Seriously.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Let's Begin Again

First off I must say a very nice birthday to the OFOMOL. Her birthday was yesterday and make a holiday I could care less about (St. Patrick's Day) something worth celebrating. Even though we're an ocean apart she's ever-present with me.

For whatever reason I wasn't very tired last night. It was around 1:15 and I was ready to kick it when I decided to click through the channels one more time. I flipped to VH1, saw Eddie Vedder and immediately knew what it was. Call it fate because I turned to the channel right as he was beginning his induction ceremony for R.E.M. into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum. Needless to say I was psyched.

Mr. Vedder had some nice words to say about one of the most respected and influential bands of all time. Yes I am biased, but I believe this to be true. The band helped to user-in the age of college radio in the 1980s. They toured incessantly during their first five years (and albums) to establish a fan base that would help make them one of the biggest bands of the 1990s. They have always done things their way and, while earing millions of dollars, have had creative freedom to make the music they want.

Yes these guys are nearing (or in Peter's sake, have reached) 50 years old but they are still rocking. That is one thing that I've always enjoyed about them. The last time I saw them (2003) I was amazed at their enthusiasm and the energy they had I would expect from bands half their age. Most people know them from their Out of Time and Automatic for the People days. These albums are more subdued then earlier albums and causual fans peg them as the "Everybody Hurts" band. Both albums have some great songs, but are not indicative of their catalogue as a whole. They can play the quiet ballads but also can put energy into their up-tempo rockers. Its a nice dichotomy that few bands can do. One a side-note, it was really nice to see Bill up their with the band and he looked like he was really enjoying himself.

They were lucky enough to be inducted the same year at Patti Smith. Smith's Horses was one of the albums that had a major impact on young Peter Buck and Michael Stipe. Stipe and Smith have a tight friendship and she even sung on E-Bow The Letter (one of their most underrated songs) off of 1996's New Adventures in Hi-Fi. R.E.M. with Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye put on a great rendition of The Stooges Now I Wanna Be Your Dog. This was probably an endorsement of The Stooges to be inducted into the Hall. Be sure to check-out Peter at the end:

I'm happy for the band. Even though their last couple of albums (Up, Reveal, Around the Sun) have not done so well commercially or critically, the band is working on a new album. I believe that the band has one more blockbuster in them. Am I asking for an album that sells 10 million? No. I'd just like to see the band have mainstrem success one more time so that their music can be exposed to a new group of fans. After everything they've done for the music world, they deserve it. I'm also hoping for a "return to rock" album that strays away from the acoustic mindset from their last couple of albums.

In closing, I'll do my best to rank their albums. Everyone always asks me what my favorite is. I've always dodged this question because I've never wanted to pigeonhole myself, but I think it is about time to rank them.

First Tier
Murmur (1983)
Lifes Rich Pageant (1986)
Automatic for the People (1992)
New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996)
These are all must-have albums. Murmur is the legend that started it all. LRP may be my favorite album as it has a nice ratio of rockers to ballads and initiated in the band's political messages via song. AFTP captures the band at their commercial and critical peak and is one of the few "perfect" albums of all-time. NAIHF is probably their most underrated album.

Second Tier
Reckoning (1984)
Fables of the Reconstruction (1985)
Document (1987)
Monster (1994)
These albums lost a bit from the first tier. Each one has its moments, but each also has a song or two that just is a step below the rest of the album. Fables is an album that many folks would rank lower but beneath the surface the album offers a lot. Monster also gets a bad rep but an album I think has really endured in the 13 years since it has been released.

Tier 3
Green (1988)
Out Of Time (1991)
Around the Sun (2004)
These albums have songs that are great and memorable but contain a lot more of filler and throw-away songs. Initially I hated ATS but it has grown on me and I do like a fair amount of the songs on the album. The problem is the songs I don't like, I really don't like.

Tier 4
Up (1998)
Reveal (2001)
These two albums I listen to the least. They are difficult albums to listen to. They are also the first two albums in the post-Bill Berry era. The band has talked about how hard Up was and that they really rushed into recording it. They are not bad albums per se, but compared to the level of the previous 12 albums here...these are the low marks. That being said, below-average for R.E.M. is still better then a majority of the stuff out there.

I congratulate those who reached the end of this post. Most of my faitful readers are familiar with my fixation with R.E.M. and by enduring this post I promise that any future R.E.M.-related material will be considerably shorter.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Monday, I'm all High

It's Monday. Not a whole lot going on but there are a couple of things on my mind:

My new favorite blog. They've got a lot of pop-culture over there. A fair amount is sports-related, but there is plenty of other valuable output. They've got a series of collaborators working on it and it is updated several times a day.

March Madness
If you're living uder a rock you know that its that time of the year again. I've got a couple of brackets. In my experience, I do better when I don't think alot about the match-ups; I just go with my gut. I did win the annual CWRU Swimming pool last year, so i do have a title to defend. That victory is the only one I've had in Fantasy-related sports. I pretty much suck at all other Fantasy Sports. The one thing about this tourney that strikes me is that there is no clear-cut dominating team. I like how Kansas and OSU are playing right now. As an OSU fan I'd like to see a Buckeye/Gator rematch of the BCS game, but I don't see that happening. I do question some of the geographical choices the committe makes. They're supposed to reward the #1 seeds yet have OSU in the south and Florida in the Midwest...makes me scratch my head. As for my Spartans, they're a #8 seed with a potential 2nd-round game against UNC. They're not expected to get past this game so this means, of course, they'll beat UNC.

And I'll finish this off with a great headline:
OMG, Paul from the Wonder Years!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Deep in the Jeans She's Wearing

The OFOMOL recently returned to her homeland after spending 5 weeks here in the states. While she was here she had a mission of buying a new pair of jeans. Jeans are one article of clothing that is very particular for men or women. A pair of jeans is part of your personality and need to both fit your body, make you feel comfortable, and look good on you. It can be a daunting process to find that right pair. Its an investment that will last a year or two and you want to make sure you make the right choice.

So we took a weekend trip to Pittsburgh. We were in a mall and went into Macy's to look for jeans. She found a couple of pairs and wanted to try them on. Being the good boyfriend, I was there to help her out. She wanted me to come into the dressing room to give my opinion. OK, no big deal, we've done this plenty of times before. I start walking into the dressing room area and some woman says something like "you're not supposed to be in here, its for women only." I replied saying I was just helping out my girlfriend but I guess that wasn't a good enough reason as after I sat down outside the dressing room a Macy's associate came over and told me men are not allowed in there. I commented rather loudly "I understand, but my girlfriend needed some help...its not like we were going to have sex in there."

Really, its not a big deal to me, I quickly got over it. But it got me thinking. First off, there was no sign saying it is for women only. What if the OFOMOL was handicapped or didn't speak English (this is entirely possible!)? What if I was a cross-dresser and didn't feel comfortable changing in the men's dressing rooms? And the last thing, which I think shows the double-standard at work here...if the roles were switched and she was coming into the men's dressing room, no one would have a problem with it. And if there was a woman in the men's area and I said something to them about it, they would laugh at me. There are lots of other stores that have central dressing rooms where everyone goes and no-one has a problem with it. Needless to say, we didn't buy jeans there.

Friday, January 26, 2007

She Doesn't Mention the Word Addiction

The 2nd post in as many days. What's going on? Crazy, I know. This should be a short one for those of you who don't like my long posts (you know who you are).

There was a period in my life when I watched a lot of Law and Order: SVU. I'd frequently say stuff along the lines of "So I was watching Law and Order: SVU..." and it became a running gag with some of my friends. I still watch the show (the only L&O I watch) but my vices have moved on.

My current crutch is Wikipedia. I think the site is just wonderful and its THE online source that I turn to whenever I want to find something out. Because of the way it is set-up I usually end up finding out more information on other topics. I end up way off-topic from the original thing I wanted to look up. I think this sums it up pretty well.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I Can't Wait

A little Paul Westerberg/The Replacements for you on this fine day. For those that are wondering, 21 days out.

Well, on Saturday the OFOMOL will be travelling across the sea (here are some asians playing that song) to spend time here in the states for 5 weeks. Its quite an exciting time. She's had quite a stressful semester and will enjoy time relaxing for the first part of her trip. Good thing, since there's NOTHING TO DO HERE!! Hehe. It's nice because we'll have a chance to experience what its like having a life together. Its little things like doing shopping, cooking, and cleaning together that I'm looking forward to.

The last time she was travelling to the states was over a year ago so its been while since I'm the one waiting for her. I've taken a couple trips there this past year so its a different dynamic. Travelling from where I am to where she lives is quite a chore. Its a 2-hr car trip to Pittsburgh, then there is a connector flight to bigger city to get an intercontinental flight for 8-9 hours, this lands in Germany and then there is another flight to Dresden. Yes, its not easy but you know what the best part is? You get to do it all again on the way back! Whoo!

When I was in Florida with my team this past December, it was one of my kids' first time flying. He was a bit excited to say the least. When we got back I asked him if he enjoyed it and he commented that it was kind of boring and not a big deal. I made a comment that its a lot of waiting, and that is exactly what it is. I don't care where you're travelling, but its all about waiting. You need to get to the airport ontime so you can wait in line to check-in. Then you wait to go through security. Once there, you have to wait at the gate until its time to board. Then you wait in the plane as it waits (kind of waiting squared there) to take-off. The time in the air is spent trying not to go crazy, especially if you're seated next to this guy. After you land you have to wait until it gets to the gate and then you have to wait to get off the plane. If you were oh-so-lucky to check baggage you have to wait at the baggage claim for it to come out. If you're travelling internationally, you've gotta wait as you go through customs and recheck your baggage. So yeah, this is air travel in a nutshell. We can all attest that its not the most efficient system out there.

When you have to go through all this and deal with the jet lag/time change, it can be hard to be excited about the travelling. Since all I have to do is drive 2 hours to Pittsburgh to pick her up, well, I'm very excited about seeing her. We're going to have a fun time. She'll be able to see my life down here and find out what rural America is like. And maybe she'll get a chance to do a guest-blog or two and address the "Mensch" issue from awhile back.