Saturday, February 04, 2012
Why? It was time for something new, I suppose. If you're reading this, you're aware that things have been slow lately. I'm hoping to get back to writing more and it seems like the new host-site has a few more toys that can keep things interesting.
The Writings live on (as "Change for a button") at www.dereklarson.wordpress.com.
As always, thank you for reading. My life has a blogger has been a fun one so far, and (God willing) there are plenty of pointless writings left to post.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
The Wildcats seemingly had the game in-hand late, simply needing to have a few good offensive possessions in order to protect a four-point lead. Instead, K-State handled the basketball the way my three-year-old niece treats balloons, batting it around with no real regard for where it ends up. In no time (not literally... best I can tell, there were no tears in the space-time continuum during the game), the Bears had eliminated the Wildcats' lead, pushing K-State from a sense of protection to a sense of urgency.
The response to said urgency? Somehow it involved ignoring the best player on the team. Rodney McGruder had scored 30 points on the evening, showing both the ability to attack the basket and to hit from long-range. With the team trailing by 2 with 20+ seconds remaining, it seemed obvious that McGruder might get a chance to tie the game... Apparently it was a little too obvious. The K-State possession never put the ball in the hands of McGruder. Instead, freshman Angel Rodriguez ended up with a chance to drive to the basket. It looked as if he had a wide-open lane, but a Baylor defender caught up with him to knock the ball away.
Now inbounding the ball from the baseline, the Wildcats had 3.4 seconds to put the ball in the hoop, tying the game or - should the intestinal fortitude of the team be great - taking the lead. It was a good opportunity to get McGruder a look at the basket after coming off a screen. As the ball arced toward the hoop, the silence of anticipation would have enveloped the Octagon of Doom. Good or not, the shot would have provided the most suspenseful moment of the Wildcats' season so far... Instead, the Wildcats attempted to lob a pass from out of bounds to get a dunk or tip-in. Yes, this lob pass was attempted against Baylor, who sports a front line of unbelievable athletes who stand 6-7, 6-9, 6-11. All three were in the lane with a chance to anticipate the pass, meaning the odds of successfully completing said lob were slightly worse than my odds of having a date on a given Friday night. That, friends, is not good.
The pass was knocked away and, as the ball rolled toward midcourt, the Wildcats' chance at picking up a home victory over the nation's No. 4 team expired. What the hell was that?
I just spent 500+ words complaining about a basketball game that had no ill-effect on my life (other than a mild case of potty mouth). At no point during my shouting at the refs to "be consistent" and "c'mon, that's horrible" (Copyright Derek D. Larson, 2012) was my life in any sort of danger (that I'm aware of... If you were stalking me and had a rifle aimed at me at any time, please let me know). Fact is, I'm lucky to have the chance to have season tickets to watch a Top 25 college basketball team, and I'm not saying that just because I've had season tickets to watch plenty of horrible basketball teams. File the aforementioned rant under the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems, then take a quick moment to be thankful for what you have.
Fine, if you want to take a quick moment to be thankful that I don't get on a soapbox very often, that works, too.
Thursday, January 05, 2012
*Illustration to help those who do not find entertainment in baseball (you poor souls) realize the ineptitude of this stat: If you drank nothing but bottled water for a week, it would be pretty unlikely that you would attempt to take a drink only to completely miss your mouth and ram the bottle directly into your retina. Imagine doing that three times in a week.
The 2011 year-in-review is coming, but something odd happened lately: life.
Weird. I'm definitely not used to that. If that becomes a habit, we're all doomed.
Ah, yes. As for the title of this quick Writing, I'm simply following my only New Year's resolution. In 2012, anything that goes awry (such as not writing) is the fault of the Mayans and their short-sighted calendar. If any of you know a Mayan, please ask if they'll consider printing an addendum that runs through 2082. They can decorate said calendar however they like; pictures of dalmatian puppies, Dilbert cartoons, quotes from Pog collectors (Fact: Mayans loved Pogs*), whatever works. Just have them adjust it so that folks aren't losing their minds in December thinking the world might end or that Wheel of Fortune will be cancelled (which might be the end of the world for some). Thanks in advance.
*Fact: Not a real fact.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
It seems that the month of December has snuck by me in a manner typically reserved for underlying messages from the fairer gender (e.g., "You are not funny. Never speak to me again."). I feel like I should blame this on something. I could lay it on the Grinch, but - as I understand it - he's having some sort of medical procedure completed to help resolve some health issues related to exponential enlargement of his heart. I'd go after Father Time, but his son - Hammer - seems a bit aggressive when it comes to contact with his family.
Jokes aside, a recent hospital stay for my mom did seem to accelerate the holiday season. An infection in an arm left on antibiotics for days and added a new event to plug into the Christmas letter. Thankfully, things cleared up and she made it home the day before we celebrated our family Christmas. In her life, she's jumped some incredible hurdles, including a car accident that left her in traction for two months, multiple bouts with cancer, and having to tote around my obese toddler form 27 years ago, so there was confidence that she'd leave this infection in her tracks, as well. But, as with any hospital stay, even the slightest hint of uncertainty can be terrifying. It's good to have her home... It's also good that the folks at the hospital have yet to set up an automatic withdrawal from my parents' bank account every month.
With Mom back at home, the holidays moved forward, all underlined by the unrelenting excitement of a three-year-old mind. From naming the nativity camels (Blueberry, Buzz Lightyear, and Woody, if you're curious) to refusing to watch any movies that did not involve a snow-adorned setting, my sister's daughter approached the holiday season like a kid waiting for Christmas. (Note to self: This is why you need to write more. Your simile-crafting has eroded to a tear-drawingly pathetic point.) Though just three, she became college-roommate-familiar with the phrase "Santa's watching," and left out cookies and milk for Mr. Kringle and food for the reindeer the night before their family celebration. She may still have some things to learn (at one point she told her Dad that he could not sleep outdoors because the reindeer would eat him), but - from patiently waiting for her next turn to open gifts to kindly thanking the gifter of each present - she seems to have a good grasp on the holiday. Alas, I did not receive any Legos from Santa, as she said I would. I suppose there's always next year.
With Santa now in the midst of his annual post-toy-delivery bender (so I assume), the holiday season will soon close with the arrival of the year 2012. I suppose this is notable, since some folks believe it's the last year that our world will exist. Whether the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride down our streets at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1 (which will be tricky, even with separate times zones across the country) or the whole Mayan calendar issue was just a mix-up since the folks making it were too lazy to go further than 2012, only time can tell.
Sorry, time AND Miss Cleo.*
*This Writing brought to you by The Foundation Determined to Make Miss Cleo Relevant Again. Call her now for vague predictions for your future that might seem kind of correct in the distant future!
Monday, December 05, 2011
*Please note: For the author's purposes, items in the "much to do" category include watching shows on the MLB Network that would put even casual baseball fans to sleep, watching clips of live footage from Ben Folds concerts on YouTube, tracking down some tree sap that is apparently extra special on Skyrim, wondering why so many bugs die in my basement, and watching the handle fall off of my oven door. Yes, I'm swamped.
With all that's gone on in the world of sports lately, there's certainly plenty to write about. Alas, certain topics certainly deserve due diligence, rather than something hastily tossed together with a few cheap jokes mixed in. (AKA, The Writings' Special.) Thus, we won't touch on K-State football and the team's bowl bid in this Writing, other than to say that the match up with Arkansas has the potential to be the best bowl game of the year.
We won't yet dive into the fact that bowls are, in reality, a bit of a joke anyway, other than to say that the way college football determines a champion has to be something that Russian judges everywhere applaud.
We certainly will not yet dive into the ridiculous nature of the entire BCS, as my computer should not be subjected to keystrokes that pointed and angry on a Monday.
Instead, we'll do a bit to empty out the junk drawer, touching on topics that need some attention, but - due to important time constraints detailed above* - have not garnered any recently from The Writings.
*If there's a hotline for addiction to video games that happen to embellish Scandinavian accents to a near comical extent, please pass the number my way.
- The Chiefs -
If I ever have less confidence in a quarterback than I do in Tyler Palko, I'm going to personally call the head coach and ask him to consider kneeling the ball every single play. Yes, he's that bad. It's a shame, too. As his story is one of those great underdog pieces that local media could beat into the ground until it popped up through an anthill on the other side of the globe. He was undrafted. He's played all over. He was even cut by a team in a league whose acronym half the country would probably mistake for a cable television channel. He had something, though; something coaches saw and appreciated enough to consider him good enough to be a quarterback in a league that contains some of the greatest athletes on the planet... I wish I knew what that something was, as Palko does not seem to have a clue.
While Palko has been busy trying to decipher which team he is supposed to throw the ball to, the Chiefs' defense has been playing strikingly well. Despite the fact that they've been without safety/best-defensive-player-on-the-team Eric Berry since the season opener, the Chiefs held the Pittsburgh Steelers to just 13 points two weeks ago and then allowed just a lonely field goal* to the Chicago Bears on Sunday. With Tamba Hali attacking quarterbacks and Derrick Johnson making plays all over the field, the Chiefs defense has looked like a playoff-caliber unit recently.
*Fact: Lonely field goals often try to mask depression. If you know a lonely field goal, please encourage it to seek help.
Alas, then there's that whole offensive problem. With starter Matt Cassell out for the season, the Chiefs seemingly tried to address the issue at quarterback by recently signing Kyle Orton, who was cut by Denver once Tim Tebow began his quest for global domination. (Heaven help us.) Orton saw his first action as a Chief on Sunday, entering the game in the second quarter and flinging a pass on flea-flicker (hand-off to running back, who pitches back to the QB*). The pass fell incomplete and Orton fell to the ground paying an odd amount of attention to his finger. Turns out he dislocated it on the play and did not return to the game. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011 Chiefs!
*Aptly named play? I've never seen a football leave someone itching for days.
Palko returned after Orton's extensive playing time, avoiding handing the football - in a nicely wrapped gift basket - to the Bears, and even had the luck of every Irishman who has ever lived smile upon him when he threw a hail-mary touchdown pass at the end of the first half. The Chiefs scored 10 points to the Bears' three, earning a victory in a game that they probably had no business winning.
What does it mean?
I assume it means we'll see more Palko... Does anyone have Todd Haley's phone number?
- The Royals -
On the player acquisition side of things, I love what the Royals have done so far this off-season. They traded outfield Melky Cabrera who, coming of a career-year, will never be valued higher by opposing team, and landed Jonathan Sanchez - a starting pitcher with immense talent (he threw a no-hitter in 2009) in return. They brought back starter Bruce Chen who (oddly, considering his mediocre career prior to arriving in KC) has been the team's most consistent pitcher over the last two seasons. Just last week they signed relief pitcher Jonathan Broxton, who was a multiple-time All-Star for the Dodgers before suffering an injury. The Broxton signing further boosts an already-strong bullpen, giving the Royals flexibility and possibly the opportunity to deal strength for weakness (e.g., relief pitching for starters). The lineup is young and potentially dangerous meaning that the Royals bandwagon I've been attempting to steer for 20 years might finally pick up a few passengers.
Alas, those passengers will not be impressed by the PR side of the KC ball club. The Royals managed to turn genuine excitement into outright hatred when they recently fired 8-time Gold Glove-winner Frank White from his position as television color analyst. Whether the move was justified or not is not my call. I have virtually no knowledge of the situation, other than what I've heard on the radio, read on Twitter and in a Sam Mellinger column. I have no clue who made the decision. I don't know why the broadcast producer Kevin Shank was also fired. I don't even know if play-by-play man Ryan Lebfevre will now be forced to chuckle at his own jokes. What I do know is that KC botch the announcement of it all. If you're canning a team legend, you ought to be prepared for backlash. Offer to move him to a different position with the team. Release information that supports the decision. Show up on Frank White's doorstep with a box of chocolates and a stereo playing "Why Can't We Be Friends." Hand out puppies downtown the day after the news breaks. Whatever you do, just don't (allegedly) tell the guy he's jobless because he offered constructive criticism of the team on occasion during his time in the job* and then let the situation fester. The man is a team legend. His number is retired and is plastered on the team's Hall of Fame. He even has an annual team award that bears his name. Unless he's involved in something truly scandalous in nature, he should not just be told goodbye and good luck. Fans could be outraged.
*I watched many, many, many of those games. There was plenty to be critical of. They want the guy to lie?
... Oh, wait. Too late. Fans are ticked. Your move, Royals. (I'm not sure whether or not it's too late for the puppy thing to work.)
Monday, November 28, 2011
It's become a mini-tradition for me to post many of the things I'm thankful for to The Writings when Thanksgiving rolls around. More accurately, it's become a mini-tradition for me to realize I've forgotten to post such a blog until days after the holiday, at which point I scramble to get it published... At least I'm consistent.
As always, I'm thankful for extraordinary family and great friends and their health and safety. Whether it's giving up a free Saturday to help paint my (then-future) home, or simply exchanging (what we deem) witty banter during a football game these people are always there, and it's always appreciated.
I'm thankful that said family and base of friends continues to grow. Through marriage and new life, the folks that mean the most in my life are bringing more people to the table. This means that more people have to tolerate me, simply by association. Jackpot.
I'm thankful that my three-year-old niece has some great ideas for what I should ask for this Christmas season. "Legos to build a robot" will be something to look forward to.
I'm thankful that at least one person who reads all this discussion about family will wonder when I'm going to pull my weight by bringing someone new into the fold. This means I'm not a lost cause... yet.
I'm also thankful for patience. (Translation: Sorry, keep waiting.)
I'm thankful for the opportunity and good fortune that allowed me to become a home-owner this year.
I'm also thankful that my home has yet to burn down, blow away, sink to the bottom of a previously undiscovered sinkhole, or be warped to another dimension. Every day that I arrive home to a still-standing house is a good one.
I'm thankful that I had the sense to stay away from any super-shopper, bargain-hunting-crazed, pepper-spray-toting women on Black Friday.
Check that, I'm thankful that I've had the sense to stay away from any super-shopper, bargain-hunting-crazed, pepper-spray-toting women in general.
I'm thankful for employment. In transitioning through a business merger, there were times where my work future seemed as certain as KU football success, but all has worked out to this point.
I'm thankful for the opportunities presented by part-time endeavors, as well. Sports writing can be a cynical business, and often I don't really grasp how great of a part-time gig I really have. Seats on the 50-yard-line in a climate-controlled environment? Check. Free admission to every game? Check. Free meals every game? Check. Parking pass? Check. the opportunity to be on the field at the end of the game? Check. The opportunity to speak to those involved following the game? Check. A paycheck, as long as I can detail said game in a manner that can be deemed semi-sensical? Check.
I'm thankful for the fact that, though you might hate me right now after reading that last paragraph, through the kindness of your heart, you will forgive me... Eventually. I think.
I'm thankful for many other things that I'm certain to have neglected mentioning. This list includes, but is not limited to: hope for the Royals, success for K-State, the fact that Tyler Palko will not start for the Chiefs next season, Twitter followers that find a comment of mine amusing enough to retweet it, the Angry Birds bomb-bird, all six seasons of Lost on DVD, rain, the fact that I have not encountered any more snakes in my basement, Netflix ditching the name Qwikster, triple-letter spots in WordFeud, the Vista Burger combo, the fact that no one noticed that my shirt was missing a button the other day, a working furnace, and my health.
And, finally, I'm once again thankful for the opportunity to commit my thoughts to writing without fear of reprisal, uprising, or scorn more severe than the rolling of eyes. I've always maintained that I mainly keep this rolling to entertain myself; should anyone else find it good for a chuckle, that's all the better. Thank you for reading.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
With the NCAA's broken postseason system*, the Wildcat win won't push them toward better postseason seeding, but it does give them a chance to share the Big 12 championship - this in the Big 12's first season of round-robin conference play. With scheduling quirks no longer affecting week-to-week action and the lack of divisional play eliminating the opportunity for a conference championship game ups (see: 2003), K-State was not supposed to be able to compete for conference championships anymore. This point was so clear, it may have even been printed in Dan Beebe's book of daily affirmations.
*Bowl System Logic: You had a borderline-good-to-great season, how about you go play in one more game, but this one will be in a random city. No, you won't ultimately have a chance at the NCAA Championship, but you can win a trophy that bears the name of a corporate sponsor that may very well be bankrupt in three years. Hooray!
The fact that the Wildcats are here - chasing a piece of a championship - surprises pretty much anyone who is not directly associated with the Kansas State football program. It's been the sort of season that many coaches might dream about. So, why was Bill Snyder so mad?
As Snyder put it, Texas "beat the tar out of us." The Longhorns out-gained the Wildcats 310-121. The Wildcats averaged a meager 1 yard per rush attempt - a total they might have matched if they had just lined up in a goal-line formation and run quarterback sneaks every single play. The passing game was not much better, with the Wildcats completing barely half of their attempts, gaining just 83 yards through the air, and getting sacked five times. Essentially, if you gave your dog a Playstation controller and turned on Madden Football, the mutt's team might have a chance of topping K-State's offensive output.
With a week off prior to their final game of the season, the Wildcats have a chance to rest - good news, since news came out that quarterback/walking-bruise Collin Klein had not really participated in practice over the last two weeks - and also a chance to shore up on any misgivings. Asked what the Wildcats need to focus on during the bye week, Snyder quipped something along the lines of "We need to learn to play offense." ... He's nothing if he's not subtle.
Once again, the Wildcats won. It was a fairly big win; one many coaches would accept with wide smiles on their faces. As the last Kansas State coach repeated after every single game (and as he exhibited during his time on the sidelines), "It's tough to win football games." The Wildcats have already exceeded expectations. They've won games they "shouldn't" have won. They've even surprised the most optimistic fans, yet Snyder isn't happy. He wants more... And that's probably why they're competing for a piece of a championship in the first place.
Stay angry, Bill.
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
It seems as if social media has my blog in some sort of submission hold. Whether it's your standard sleeper hold, the Million Dollar Dream, or Ric Flair's figure-four, I'm not sure, but I fear that The Writings are in danger of tapping out. If this were a 1980s wrestling match, this would be about the time that the crowd started chanting "Wry-Tings, Wry-Tings!" as the persistent referee continually asked whether the face (wrestling speak for good guy) was ready to give up.* That cannot happen.
*Knowledge of professional wrestling submission holds and terminology brought to you by the Derek Really Needs a Life Foundation. The DRNLF, gathering pointless knowledge since 1982.
Though The Writings began simply as a way to cure boredom when I was living in central Kansas (originally I intended to only post - possibly illegally - things I had written for classes or my jobs, mainly as a way for me to keep track of my work. The blog evolved however, and I soon discovered that it served as a good place to compose thoughts, riff on random observations, practice writing fiction, and attempt to make jokes. Yes, I may be the only one who found any of it entertaining, but that did not matter. Many people view writing as the work of an underworldly demon, but I enjoy it. Blogging, it was fun.
Today, however, things have changed. I check Twitter more often than I check the time. Now that I have a phone that may be smarter than I am (I certainly can't predict the weather), Twitter's 140-character limit is never more than one tap of a touch screen away. With that, the humorous* observations that once called The Writings home are now Tweetized. It's quick. It's easy. And, frankly, a heck of a lot more people read it. Essentially, it all serves as a mini-blog. It's the "Wr-" without the "-itings."
*Term subject to interpretation.
The tweets are great, but the downside - again - comes in the fact that they are stealing blog material. Yesterday, I got news that my car has a fairly costly issue with its engine. That evening, rather than having time to curl up in the fetal position, fretting the check that will be needed to cover the expense, I had to dig a small trench - in the midst of pelting, frigid rain - in attempt to end the little fountain of water that was making its way into my basement. It all was good blog material. Alas, it all found Twitter first, at which point I felt there was no reason to delve deeper into the subjects.
That, dear friends (or acquaintances, or impartial observers, if you prefer) is just wrong. I need to delve! Part of writing (and life, for that matter) that I enjoy the most is finding humor in hidden details. Making observations about observations. Picking up on one thing - any thing - that might be just a bit askew and bringing it to light. Delving is great, and it needs to return.
Twitter is not going away anytime soon, but that doesn't mean The Writings will, either. It's not time to tap out. It's just about time for a comeback.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
… Wait, what?
It’s been that sort of season for Kansas State. The Wildcats entered the season expected by most to have as much impact on the Big 12 championship race as Bob Krause’s mustache comb. The season opener did little to build expectations, as the Wildcats squeaked past an Eastern Kentucky squad so obscure that most fans were not even aware that it was not the Kentucky school with the Grimace-like Hilltopper mascot. K-State followed with a 37-0 drubbing of Kent State (“NOT KENT,” as the team’s media packet not-so-subtly reminded), but game three brought a legitimate challenge. The Miami Hurricanes entered fresh off an upset of the Ohio State Buckeyes. The game was the sort that coach Bill Snyder had specifically tried to avoid scheduling in his first run as the face of Kansas State football – an early season road matchup against a historically strong program. The Wildcats entered as underdogs, but left the city of Will Smith’s affection with a win, thanks in large part to a defense that exhibited a stout ability to come up with big stops.
One week later, the Wildcats played host to the Baylor Bears, a squad with a high-powered offense led by a multidimensional quarterback whose success had brought adoration from sports journalists around the country and from NFL scouts. The task? Large. The odds? Not good, according to the folks in Las Vegas. The result? The slimmest of victories for Kansas State, as the Wildcats won 36-35.
As for games 5 and 6? Different opponents, but the games brought more of the same. Few thought the Wildcats would top a Missouri team pining for southern living or a Texas Tech squad that played a Texas Tech squad (hello, insane offensive numbers). Alas, Kansas State beat point spreads, beat opponents, and basically beat down the doors of the national polls.
Week after week (aside from the matchup with the University of Kansas’ intramural squad… Wait, that was their D-1 team?), the Wildcats have been underdogs, and week after week, Snyder’s youngsters have prevailed. This is a team that was picked to finish 8th out of 10 conference teams in the preseason. Today, they are the eighth-best team in the country according to the (for better or worse) goulash of football evaluation that is the BCS. Despite pollsters taking notice of the success emanating out of Manhattan, the sports-betting overlords have refused to consider K-State anything but an overachiever. Chances are that they see a team with no overwhelming strengths, an underwhelming passing game, and a run-game that is far too reliant on its quarterback. They have an argument, but opposing head coaches whose scouting yielded the same results have had no luck in seizing a victory against the Wildcats. For whatever reason (cough*BILLSNYDER*cough), each week K-State has been able accomplish just enough (or - in the case of the game against the Kansas LastLaughHawks - much more than enough) to walk off the field as winners.
The season has already had a “Rudy” feel (sans inspirational soundtrack), with all in purple playing the role of the hobbit-like walk-on. With upcoming contests against Oklahoma and BCS No. 3 Oklahoma State, the season could potentially attempt to infringe on the “Rocky” series’ copyright. The Sooners are your arrogant Apollo Creed-like crew who, though strong, are not invincible. The Cowboys can be Clubber Lang – knocking opponents out with a high-powered offense and led by a coach whose rant a few years back sounded a lot like something Clubber might have spouted. After the Oklahoma double-dip, the Wildcats will welcome the SEC-bound Texas A&M Aggies… I should probably refrain from making any comparisons between them and Cold War Russia’s Ivan Drago.
With seven wins, the Wildcats have already eclipsed the total that most “experts” had them pegged for in the preseason. No matter what happens from here, whether it involves losing every game left or announcing the football team has disbanded to form an a capella singing group (my guess is they’d be light on sopranos), K-State is the conference’s surprise team of 2011. Can the Wildcats keep the wins coming? Could this team potentially win the Big 12 and/or find its way to a BCS Bowl Game?
The odds certainly aren’t in their favor.
… which may be precisely what Snyder and the Wildcats want to hear.
Monday, October 17, 2011
No, dear readers, I did not do anything extremely rash; I still haven't seen a Twilight film, begun a pilates workout, or started using the term "bro" on a regular basis. I did, however, turn on the furnace at my home. With temperatures expected to dip below the freezing point of our most basic beverage this week and my thermostat already reading a somewhat brisk 60 degrees when I arrived home from work today, I figured it might be time to take the plunge. After all, a friend put in an awful lot of working making sure that all the ductwork would be completed in time for my house to close, so it would probably be rude not to give the heater a run. (That's what I'll tell myself to avoid extreme guilt, anyway.)
The good news is that the furnace works without faults (that I'm aware of... I'm obviously no heating-and-air specialist. I can barely spell HVAC). As I sit typing this Writing, the furnace hums to keep my home at a comfortable 64 degrees (hey, propane ain't free). Life, it's good.
Of course, even good days have challenges. One such hiccup presented itself on Saturday. Alas, deeming the issue "hiccup" is a fairly kind gesture. If that's the case, it was certainly the loudest hiccup that I've ever heard.
Saturday marked my first ever opportunity to mow the lawn at my new house. (Don't worry, someday I'll quit referring to it as "new." That's a promise to you... Also, someday I'll avoid immature rhymes like that one. One step at a time...) The mowing marathon was one that taught many lessons.
Lesson #1 - My yard is anything but flat.
Lesson #2 - I'm unbelievably out of shape.
Lesson #3 - Lawnmower blades are no match for the metal water meters that one might find embedded in his or her lawn.
Lesson #4 - Oops.
Yes, I rendered my mower useless by allowing the whirling blade to strike the water meter. The results? An unbelievably loud clang, a mower that quit running immediately, a semi-loud utterance of something the author should not make a habit of saying in public, and a blade mangled in the sort of way my hand might be if I stuck it in my garbage disposal. Good times.
After attempts to fix said blade proved futile (What do I even own you for, hammer and pliers? Weak effort on your part.), I had to run to my parents' home to kidnap my dad's lawnmower to finish my lawn's inaugural buzzcut. Luckily for me, at no point did my dad's mower attempt to escape and call the mower abuse hotline.
The mower incident was pretty frustrating and served as yet another bit of proof that I should not be allowed to have nice things, but all was nearly forgotten later that day. Good football can have that effect.
Yes, the Kansas State Wildcats are off to their best start on the gridiron since 1999, and all of the success has come with nary a mention on The Writings. In the past, I've made a point to provide some sort of coverage and/or analysis and/or lame jokes (okay, mostly lame jokes) concerning Wildcat football, but this year I've lagged.
It's Sunflower Showdown week, meaning that Saturday Bill Snyder and the crew have the opportunity to declare KU's home Bill Snyder Vacation Home Stadium and push their record to 7-0 before facing a national powerhouse in Oklahoma. Come Hell or high water... err, I mean, come broken furnaces or spirit-possessed-mowers-seeking-revenge, this team is going to finally get some love from The Writings.
Stay tuned. (Or whatever the blog-following equivalent of staying tuned might be.)
Thursday, October 06, 2011
Waiting for a credit report while applying for a loan is a nerve-throttling experience.
Essentially, your entire credit history floats through your mind. In the 30 seconds I waited to hear whether or not my credit was good enough to be approved for said loan, I managed to worry about everything from paying an electrical bill two days late to poor investment decisions. (The autographed 8x10 of Angel Berroa seemed like a really good idea in 2003.)
Negotiating with home sellers is not easy, either.
Baseball cards are not typically viewed as proper currency in a home transaction... Who knew? Beyond that, I generally fall into the "pushover" category in life. If my niece can convince me to watch a Disney film for the 433rd time instead of a live football game, what chance do I stand when someone asks me to pony up a little more money? Answer: none.
Home inspectors... They can be a pain
I had to paint my home in order to be approved for my home. That was no problem, as the old paint was peeling in a manner that gave the place a "recently condemned" feel. Today, thanks to the paint job, the place looks great... Well, good... Well, better... Well, you get the idea.
Unfortunately, I then had to make the most of tools at hand (razor, flat-head screwdriver, pocket knife) to cut through layers of paint to ensure that all my windows could still be opened. Sure, I'll probably appreciate that if I ever want a nice breeze from the outdoors or if I need to escape through a window and I don't fancy diving through glass, I'm just not sure the whole sale of the house should have been dependent on whether or not my third living room window might budge.
I had to have air duct work completed to receive said loan. That was not a major issue, as it provided a good opportunity to go ahead and have central air-conditioning installed. Something tells me that I'll appreciate that next summer when I'm not wearing a scuba mask to bed to avoid drowning in a pool of my own sweat.
Unfortunately, I then had to pay to have propane put in my tank so that the inspector could test the heater. Obviously this was going to happen at some point, but I needed something to complain about here and it was not much fun writing that check.
I had to have ground fault interrupters installed to get the house. No worries. I don't fancy the idea of being electrocuted.
Unfortunately, I then had to have more ground-fault interrupters installed. The reasoning? I never got a real great answer. I just assume the inspector enjoys redundancies.
If you have no clue what you’re doing when it comes to general home improvement, make sure you have friends that do.
If not for friends and family, I’m fairly certain that I would have fallen off a 20-foot ladder, been stung by a bevy of angry wasps, been electrocuted, and probably would have been in danger of suffering many other fates that one typically only associates with Wile E. Coyote by now. Thanks, friends.
Collecting is okay. Hording is not.
While packing things at my old apartment, I found many, many items that serve no practical purpose, but that I keep anyway. Sentimental value is not something to be ignored, after all. Then I found a Blockbuster Video coupon that expired in 2003, four years before I even lived in that apartment. Yes, I am seeking help.
Home ownership leads to the disease of wanting more.
I bought a new ottoman for my living room. And a new couch cover. And I paid far too much to have a poster of Bramlage Coliseum framed to serve as a wall decoration. Now, I want to get a recliner. And a new table set. And a shed for the backyard. Oh, and I could probably use some new shelves around this place. Did I mention that my television seems smaller in here? I think I'm going to need a third job.
You should never judge a book by its cover.
When my house hunt began, I happened upon an online listing for a former schoolhouse. The text mentioned that the interior had been renovated, but the website had only one picture of the place: an exterior shot that was not flattering. After one quick glance, I moved on.
Weeks later, at a new website I came across an exterior picture I had seen before, but this shot was accompanied by pictures of an interior that stood out. Wood floors, stainless-steel appliances and slick cabinetry caught the eye. True, it was small, but small meant affordable. The asking price was much more reasonable than many other places I’d seen that I hadn’t been impressed with.
After showing the listing to family, I decided it was a place that I needed to check out. From here, you can guess what happened: the place was hit by a meteorite and the search continued… Wait, sorry, wrong story. I visited the home, liked it, and (eventually) made it my own. Had I dismissed the house as forgettable again due to the outdoor pic, odds are quite strong that I'd still be paying rent at an apartment and dealing with a neighbor who enjoyed strumming the guitar but refused to take requests that I attempted to pass telepathically. Jerk.
With that, my home-buying adventure is done, and I better not be back in the housing market for years. What's next? Unpacking would probably be a good start. Note to self: Quit putting that off.
Monday, October 03, 2011
laden with responsibility. I now own a home (well, the bank does, but let’s
refrain from picking nits), meaning I can do whatever I wish with it. Do I want
to embrace my inner Tony Hawk and build a skate ramp in the basement (despite
the fact that you regularly exhibit the balance of an inebriated octogenarian)?
Done. Do I wish to devote an area in my backyard for nothing but creating grass
angels (snow angels itchy cousins)? Just post the sign. Do I think the
crawlspace would make a really cozy reading area? I’ve got extra pillows.
bear my signature could be a heavy burden. I’m legally bound to these payments
for 30 years, meaning I could potentially be writing checks for this home when
I’m 59. I’m responsible for everything in the home, meaning that if the water
heater ever bursts like a water balloon, I don’t have the luxury of simply
calling the landlord. In a nod to Vanilla Ice, if there’s a problem, yo, I HAVE
to solve it. The snake that has been playing hide-and-seek (thankfully it has
just been hiding so far… once it starts seeking, I have a problem) in my
basement won’t be hunted like an escaped felon by any maintenance guy. Either I’m
taking care of it (removing it from my home) or I’m taking care of it (adopting
it as a new pet, naming it after a sports figure, and patiently feeding it
crickets every night). It’s on me.
from my yard, and I no longer have to worry about a home inspector entering my
home while I shower (yes, these are the types of things I worry about), it
seems like a good time to look back at the things I learned throughout this
whole process; like a good time to pass on tips to future home buyers; like a good time to actually populate this blog with the sort of writing the title might convey... Novel idea, no?
*No, this does not mean I'll be charging admission for reading.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
*Sincere apologies if I just spoiled a piece of Lost for anyone... But seriously, watch the full series. Start now. I can wait.
In sports, we hit hiatus at the end of the post-season. A champion is crowned and the off-season arrives, meaning the only option is sitting back and wishing that the Kansas City would sign some players to provide team depth, just in case the team's two top players are hurt early in the season.
In blogging, it seems that hiatus arrives when one buys a house. Even though the break from compiling thoughts into web-published form may not be intentional, the simple task seems exceedingly difficult when non-working hours are consumed by painting, packing, cleaning, moving, unpacking, prying windows open, and trying to determine where various bits of trivia should go in one's new home. The last few weeks have proven that, for me, getting good* work done at The Writings in the midst of being overloaded with work at my new home is slightly more difficult than convincing a date that writing blogs about strangers encountered at a convenience store is cool.
*Yes, "good" is a relative term.
Nonetheless, it seems as if the schedule may soon be slowing. I've completed all tasks that the appraisal inspector could conjure, from embracing the redundancy of having multiple ground fault interrupters installed on the same circuit*, to paying out the nose (not literally... eww) for propane so that the inspector can test my heater. Hoop-hopping is (hopefully) complete, meaning that there should be more time to give this neglected blog some attention... I hope it's still on speaking terms with me.
*No, I would not have understood that statement prior to pursuing home ownership.
Friday, September 09, 2011
Yes, I am still breathing.
Yes, buying a house is still a lot of work.
No, I'm not having any regrets.
Yes, I will do my best not to drown in house paint this weekend.
Yes, I am pretty excited about the idea of adding central air to the home.
Yes, I did see a small snake in my new basement yesterday.
Yes, he's still down there somewhere, since he himself once I went upstairs to find something to catch him with.
Yes, I actually ran upstairs to get my phone so I could take and send out pictures my "new roommate."
No, that probably was not the smartest way to approach the situation.
Yes, I will someday be chronicling much of this in more detail at The Writings.
No, it won't be really soon.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
No, I am not going through my collection of One-Day-a-Year calendars, I'm soothingly reminding myself that my life may once again resemble something normal on October 1. On that date, I'll have been in my new home for two weeks, allowing time to complete some light painting, quick handy-work*, and generally make the new (and by "new" I mean "very old") house mine. October 1 will also mean that my busiest season at work is complete and that the sort of heat that even islanders despise will be a thing of the past. C'mon, unaptly named 10th month of the year!
*Note to self: Learn how to be handy.
Until October 1, I'll continue wondering how hectic my work days might end up, pondering whether I'm going to be notified that I need to move out of my apartment as soon as possible, contemplating how much of a pain scraping old paint off my home is going to be, and speculating where my next unexpected home expense might pop up. On top of that, I'll regretfully probably continue treating my blog like my George Foreman grill: enjoying it when I actually take the time to make the most of it, but neglecting it far too much... This worries me, as I'm not really sure where the grease drained from the blog ends up.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
*I should probably take a quick moment to explain the "Princess and the Frog" thing. Believe it or not, the DVD does not sit on my shelf. Instead, it lies on the hard drive of my parents' Dish DVR. As a result, my niece suggests watching it nearly every time she's at the home of Grandpa Kevin and Grandma Mary. Naturally, by "suggests" I mean "insists on." I'm not saying that she has her uncle wrapped around her finger, but I've watched the motion picture with her approximately 418 times, including twice in one day on multiple occasions. If I ever craft a Writing concerning the correlation between Voodoo magic and frog prevalence, you know I've officially lost my mind. Please send help.
It's true. Today is the anniversary of my birth. (Or so I'm told... I don't really remember the event.) I've officially been around for 29 years- a fact that may surprise many who probably feel that no one could put up with me for that long. (My family is - thankfully - very patient.) The number 29 doesn't mean much in regard to age, other than the fact that it means I'm starting my 30th year. On Aug. 20, 2012, I'll officially be in my 30s.
With such an idea in mind, it seems obvious that I should have really celebrated today, making it quite the party, one that all might envy.
Then again, partying is a lot of work, and - as I've already proven with solid, unbudging numbers - I'm old.
Instead of revelry or party games, my day began (once I'd cleared all Disney songs from my mind) with a trip to Waldenbooks. The bookstore chain is going out of business and, as a result, all books are currently discounted 40-60% off normal prices. That's right: thriftiness seems to be an inherent trait once one turns 29.
Eight books and an awkward conversation with the 60-year-old clerk later, I was out of the store and well on my way to the next adventure: buying toiletries at Target. (Wooooo!) Think of your most nondescript trip to Target... This one mirrored it. The closest thing to an interesting observation that came out of this turn as a consumer was the fact that the clerk who manned the check out counter said "See ya later," as I departed. I nearly turned around and asked him "Will you really?", but fought off such notions... I do hope he wasn't serious, though. I can't afford a stalker.
After Target, I ate lunch at Sonic (where the employee did not note which stall I had ordered from, leading a poor carhop to tote my Sonic burger combo from one vehicle to another, asking if said driver has ordered it... Mmmm. Cold tater tots) and then walked from my apartment down through Aggieville to get a quick taste of the choas that is the first weekend of the summer that all students are back to campus. (Cars and people everywhere... Despite my courtesy wave, I was almost run down while crossing at a crosswalk in the shopping district... Yes, I'm ready to be a small-towner again.)8
*Please free to use this description of a day's events as a sleep aid in the future.
This evening brought K-State's fan appreciation event (there's a reason that schools don't sell tickets to practices) and dinner with two great family members who are gracious enough to tolerate my pointless observations. Now, I sit on my couch with the Royals one television. No, it has not been a day of anything resembling wild parties, but it has been a pretty nice little birthday. I like 29.
Looking back, I've realized that the last month has been about as eventful as any in my life. I've searched for a house, found a house, agreed to buy a house, signed 486 papers relating to said house, been curious about the future of my company, been curious about the future of my job, been acquired - along with my company - by a much larger company, been working long days with no lunch breaks, been picking up more freelance work than I've ever done before, been enjoying the company of friends and family on a basis more frequent than any time since I graduated from college, been seconds away from a head-on collision and perhaps inches away from rolling my car as a result, been fortunate enough to have my health and great people around me, and now... now I'm officially older.
What will life as a 29er bring?
Beyond a new home, new bosses, and new awkward encounters each and every day (guaranteed), I really have no clue.
That said, I'm looking forward to finding out.*
*A decent football season would be a nice start.
Monday, August 15, 2011
"The waiting is the hardest part." - Tom Petty (and/or Heartbreakers)
If there's one thing I've learned throughout the home-buying process, it's that you should never offer to pay for a home with your baseball card collection. If there's a second thing I've learned, it's that attempting to buy a home involves an awful lot of waiting.
That's been the theme since my last Writing: waiting. We knocked out the official home inspection; then it was time to wait for results. (Official verdict: not bad.) We then waited longer for results from the radon test. (Official result: not great.) Now, we wait for the official report from the official appraiser. Said report was supposed to be completed today so that I could officially make a post-inspection response, but I was informed upon meeting with the realtor that the report is officially not done. As a result, I'm officially waiting even longer. This is officially painstaking.
Nonetheless, the waiting has not been a completely horrible thing. After all - as previously mentioned in this depository of written thought - August tends to be the busiest time of year around my office. (Now you realize why I did not date much in college*; Timing is not my thing.) Beyond that, I've had a chance recently to pick up some more freelance work (yes, I realize that the idea of people using things I write to actually generate money is absurd). This all means that my line of thinking cannot afford to be 100-percent consumed by all that's involved with buying a home, which means that the waiting cannot drive me completely insane and the lack of activity has allowed me to maintain my current status as a competent employee. (Note: "Competent" is a relative term.)
*Clarification: That's one (of many) reason(s) I did not date much in college that doesn't involved NCAA Football on the Gamecube.
As things currently stand, I wait to hear what the appraiser thinks of the place. From there, it's time to jump back into more meetings, more negotiation, and - potentially - more waiting.
Hmmm. Now I guess I know what it feels like when people wait for me to actually post some new content. D'oh.
"Ah, the waiting game sucks! Let's play Hungry, Hungry Hippos." - Homer Simpson
Monday, August 08, 2011
When we last left our story's hero, he was fending off the advances of women who wanted him for his home-purchasing power*. Since that time, his life has been consumed by meetings. Lots and lots of meetings.
*Raise your hand if you just responded, "Take what you can get."
First, there was a meeting to be preapproved for a loan. As far as meetings go, this one was fairly painless. One simply listens to the bank employee explain things, provides financial information, and then learns what sort of loan he-or-she might be preapproved for. Ah yes, there's also a short period of silent-prayer that one takes part in when the man behind the desk checks one's credit.
Next up, I checked out a house and met with a realtor. Taking full advantage of my multitasking (/lazy) nature, I combined my realtor meet-and-greet with my first home viewing. Did things go well? I'd like to think so. Was the experience endlessly awkward? I can confirm that to be true. You see, when it comes to spur-of-the-moment questions, I'm pretty horrible at generating them. It's for this reason that I'm a horrible reporter, a horrible first date, and a horrible house-hunter. Are there an abundance of questions that one should ask when viewing a potential home for the first time? Absolutely. Did my mind generate any of those questions? Certainly not. Luckily for me, I had backup. Like a rich-beyond-comprehension rapper, I showed up to the house-viewing with a posse in tow: my parents, my brother, and his wife. The realtor may have thought we were a lost tour group at first, but she was soon answering questions from all members of the party. Whew.
Days after checking it out, I decided it would be worthwhile to make an offer on the home. Enter: another meeting. This time around, I had the chance to practice my signature... Plenty of chances to do so, in fact. Like a professional athlete at a trading card show, I jotted the letters that comprise my name endlessly. There were papers to make the offer, papers to seek a warranty, and papers to choose a pest inspector. At some point I went cross-eyed and my signature began to resemble little more than two horizontal lines. I attempted to keep up with all the sheets of paper that the realtor explained as I was signing, but the task proved to be a bit like driving while building a medieval castle out of toothpicks. Can I be certain that I did not sign anything that might donate my first born to the Malevolent Order of Slack-Jawed Yokels? No. No I can't.
Once the seller had my offer, negotiations ensued. He demanded I pay more money. I demanded that a Mercedes come with the home. (I drive a hard bargain.) He demanded that I send chocolate cupcakes every Thursday of the Lenten season. I demanded that a professional wrestler perform a puppet show in the backyard on closing day. The game went back and forth, but eventually a deal was struck. We were in agreement. Once I made the offer official, I'd be that much closer to owning a home. Alas, you know what that meant: more meetings, more signatures. And I'm only just beginning.
Monday, August 01, 2011
As I mentioned a couple weeks back, I've decided to enter the housing market for the first time in my near-29 years. It's a fairly big decision, but after 10 years of paying rent/housing fees for dorms, apartments, and condemned structures that a "landlord" attempts to pass of as an apartment*, it's time to own. It's time to have a yard to mow, home projects to think about, and solicitors to turn away. It's time.
*If you read ill-will in that statement, dear reader, congratulations, you're perceptive! Here's a lesson kids: don't sublease for an old friend if the building looks like it might fall over as the result of an ill-timed sneeze.
In attempt to share the news that I now consider myself a prospective home-buyer, I recently posted something about it* to Twitter (and, thanks to the wonder of importing, Facebook). I didn't really expect much of a response. Naturally, my best guess was wrong. Within minutes of posting, I had comments wishing me luck, telling me to enjoy house-hunting, and offering tips on homes to check out. Alas, the strangest response was yet to come.
*Odds are strong that I deemed the comment clever, as I often set that as criteria for anything I post to Twitter... Odds are also strong that - since it came from my head - it really wasn't clever at all.
When I checked Twitter that afternoon, I noticed that a follower had sent me a comment. A female follower.
The comment was from a girl I once went on a date with. Said date lives in infamy as the strangest I've been on. You see, we met for ice cream and shared awkward conversation (an area of which I'm well-experienced). I did not feel as if things were proceeding horribly (aside from the fact that she mentioned that she had read this very blog, but then outright admitted that she could not even remember the subject of the post she'd read), but after just 45 minutes, she not-so-subtly mentioned that she had to leave soon to let out some hounds that she was dog-sitting. "Soon" can be a relative term, so I figured she might mean after another 20 or 30 minutes... Not five minutes later, she was thanking me for a dish of overpriced ice cream and bolting for the door. Being the gentleman that I am, I caught up and walked her to her car, wading through a stream of confusion with each step. Had I said something offensive? Did these dogs really exist, and - if so - did they suffer from night-blindness? Had I forgotten to wear pants? Was I simply repulsive?
I chose to give her the benefit of the doubt and emailed the date later that week. A response never came. It was a strange turn of events, but there's little about dating that I might deem "normal" or "expected." I've used the situation as an anecdote of dates gone awry since that time.
And now? Well, now she's offered her realty services in helping me find a home.
The moral? Guys, women are only interested in you for your ability to net them commission on the sale of a small home in a rural area.
What, no good? Offensive? Dang it.
Okay, let's try this:
When you're looking to buy a home, EVERYONE wants to help. MOST of it is appreciated.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Where we're at:
In the cellar. The Royals currently sit in last place in the American League Central, trailing the division leading Detroit Tigers by 11 games.
What you've missed:
Though the record may not paint a clear picture of it, this team is improved. The major talking point coming into the season was talent at the minor league level. Now a handful of those top prospects have ascended to the Majors. Results have been mixed, but each youngster has at least shown a flash or two of the promise that helped them build such hype. First baseman Eric Hosmer, despite being barely of legal drinking age, already looks like one of the team's top hitters (he leads the squad in game-winning RBI) and exhibits Gold Glove-caliber defense on a nightly basis. On the opposite side of the diamond, Mike Moustakas has seen big struggles at the plate - recently suffering through an 0-19 slump - but has strung together some quality games recently. At shortstop, Alcides Escobar - a piece of Zack Greinke trade - has proven to be one of the most exciting defensive players in all of baseball. The second-year player has yet to throw out a baserunner by kicking the ball soccer style, but he has seemingly made every other play imaginable.
Look for trades and more prospects. KC is out of the race this season, but is attempting to piece together a contending team for 2012. Don't be surprised to see and outfielder or two jettisoned, along with some pitchers hitting the road. Don't get me wrong, the games this year matter... Just not for typical reasons. Sure, it may sound like my typical hokey optimism (Go Royals!), but there's hope ahead.
Where we're at:
The NFL lockout ended just one day ago, meaning most Chiefs have to put down their nachos and attempt to remember how to get back to KC. Vacation time is over.
What you've missed:
Constant discussions on television and sports radio about labor negotations between the NFL owners and the players. Yes, it was mind-numbingly boring. So boring that I actually dozed off typing that last sentence.
A frenzied period of action where teams try to fit five months of off-season free-agent negotiations and transactions into about two weeks. Frankly, I'm not sure how it can all work, what with the legal details that go into NFL contracts. Will the Chiefs sign a player with a contract written on a bar napkin at 1 a.m.? Hey, it's possible. Look for KC to try to sign a linebacker, a speedy wide receiver, and help along both the offensive and defensive lines. And hope that the locked out players did more training during the lockout than building their own dynasty on Madden football.
Where we're at:
The NBA players are locked out. Unlike the work stoppage in the NFL, all indications are that the NBA's labor issues will result in an abbreviated season.
What you've missed:
Nothing, really. Maybe we'll at least get some decent commercials out of the whole deal. Remember the last lockout?
Where we're at:
It's the off-season. We're reading Tweets about Coach Frank Martin missing connecting flights. Hurry, November. Hurry.
What you've missed:
Jacob Pullen - the Wildcats' all-time leading scorer - did not get drafted into the NBA and has signed to play in Italy. I have yet to discover whether Italians fear beards in the same manner that we do stateside. Wally Judge, the former McDonalds' All-American who left the squad in the midst of last season, transferred to Rutgers. Guard Nick Russell has also transferred, with Southern Methodist his destination.
God only knows. The Cats enter 2011-2012 short Pullen and fellow departed senior Curtis Kelly. Junior Rodney McGruder and sophomore Will Spradling will be relied upon to play major roles. Where will the rest of the points come from? An optimist would start by pointing to senior Jamar Samuels, saying that he will find consistency this season. The pessimist would say that the Wildcats will average 45 points per game. Good thing I'm an optimist.
Where we're at:
Close, oh so close, to the start of fall practice. Coach Bill Snyder spoke at Big 12 Media Day earlier and inside sources say that Wildcat Cushion (comfy and waterproof... Wow!) leases are on pace to eclipse last year's total. (The Writings: Your home for shameless shills.)
What you've missed:
K-State's Wagner Field has new turf, meaning that folks catching games on television will no longer wonder why K-State plays it's home games on a black rubber mat that has been hastily painted green.
A season where the Wildcats may very well be a better team that the 2010 version, but sport a worse record. K-State will feature some new big-time talent on the field, beginning with linebacker Arthur Brown and running back Bryce Brown. Are they brothers? No.... Yessssss! (The Writings: Your source to references to somewhat obscure films based on Saturday Night Live sketches.) Alas, while the talent may be greater, the competition will be, as well. With Nebraska and Colorado having left the conference, this season marks the first that will involve each Big 12(-2) school playing a round-robin regular season schedule. Gone are the days where the Wildcats might avoid a match up against Oklahoma or Texas A&M. Now there's no hiding for anyone in the league. This could be interesting. With my history of having the accuracy of Robin Hood's glaucoma-ridden third-cousin when it comes to predictions, I'm laying off the temptation to predict how the Wildcats might fare this season. Instead, I'll leave you with this...
Sunday, July 24, 2011
As recently as a couple years ago, I refused to acknowledge anything involving the world of Harry Potter. I would not read the books, I shunned the films, and I strayed far from any conversations about quidditch, Hogwarts, or persons who shall not be named. Most of my family and many close friends had embraced the fictional world like the great aunt who hugs for awkwardly long periods of time, so why did I harbor such an aversion? Honestly, I'm not sure of the reason. Perhaps I did it to be different, but I think writing lengthy soliloquies about the folks one encounters as Wal-Mart probably covered that. Whatever the case, I have since moved beyond such faults. In the two weeks leading up to the release of the seventh movie of the series, I watched the first six on DVD. I've now read the first two books of the series and on Saturday went with friends and family to see the final movie about the bespectacled wizard. Long story short, all things Potter are pretty entertaining. No, I don't think the series is the greatest thing ever (rest easy, Tecmo Super Bowl), but I fully intend to read the rest of the books and the films are no waste of time.
Moral: Be open to trying new things (... unless that new thing involves Twilight. Vampires and werewolves should not be wrapped up in sappy love stories.)
Saturday also brought the celebration of my niece's third birthday. Yes, it's been three years since the toddler formerly known as "Niecephew" came into the world and - among other things - gave the author of this blog an awful lot of great (and cute) material. The third birthday was no exception. Though she's just turning three, the little girl is already one of the world's most knowledgeable experts in the field of Disney princesses, and her gift-wrap dismantling marathon certainly reflected her interest. There were princess toys, princess books, and princess shoes, and each gift was met with a similar exclamation: "It's a Jasmine toy!", "It's princess shoes! There's Belle! And Snow White! And..." Not all of these gifts will be appreciated in the same manner in a week. Not all of these gifts will even be remembered tomorrow. Yet, the initial excitement about each and every item unwrapped was accompanied by the sort of joy one typically sees on a Publisher's Clearing House commercial. The excitement carried throughout the evening, from watching an 18-year-old video from a Disney trip (That's Mickey Mouse!) to an impromptu, music-less dance party as the evening wrapped up.
Moral: Enjoy life and all that comes with it. Sure, hollering excitedly about everything that goes your way might be extreme, but it's that sort of mindset that keeps one from taking things for granted.
The summer has been a lazy one around The Writings, and that's something I want to absolve. There's plenty I can, and should*, write about in this space, but I've been ignoring some and pushing back others. Things have gotten so lax around here that I'm fairly certain that the cyberspace equivalent of cobwebs may not be seen on each corner of my blog.
*Arguments that I cannot write and should never do it are duly noted.
It's time to return to a blogging routine that involves more than one update a week. After all, I enjoy writing. I should probably do it.
Moral: You have talents; make the most of them.
... Unless your talents somehow involve prolonging this summer. If that's the case, I recommend you find a nice book to read. Can I recommend Harry Potter?
Monday, July 18, 2011
Now that we have the public service announcement out of the way, I'd like to provide a little breaking news: it's hot outside.
I'm fairly certain that I've written of my dislike of the summer's triple-digit temperatures every year of The Writings' existence, but this summer Mother Nature seems to getting a bit carried away. The term Excessive Heat Warning has become a routine part of my day, as if I'm reading that oxygen will be readily available or that I'll encounter road construction in Manhattan. I've tried to handle the heat with a smile on my face, utilizing more "How hot is it?" jokes than any person should ever attempt to conjure. I'm fairly certain that my sense of humor is now suffering from heat exhaustion as a result.
How hot is it?
So hot that folks everywhere are setting bonfires in order to cool down.
Ugh... That hurt.
Yes, you're safe in betting that my anti-summer stance is still very firm. As a result, I'm left dreaming of falling leaves (which is as boring as it sounds) and attempting to find ways to take my mind off the mind-melting heat. Alas, the two things at the forefront of thought parade at the moment - baseball and eventually buying a home - both steer my mind back to summer. Yes, even my brain is betraying me.
The correlation between baseball and summer seems pretty obvious. Despite the fact that the Major League season begins in April and ends in November, baseball is widely considered a summer sport. Perhaps I should just blame all the Royals' woes over the last 20 years on warmth of the season. Is that a valid excuse for, at times, comically bad baseball?
The other notion currently running laps in my head involves home ownership. I've lived in my current apartment for over four years, and my encounters with neighbors have been fairly well documented courtesy The Writings - from the neighbor who fancied himself the second-coming of Busta Rhymes to the kid with boxes upon boxes of skateboard magazines. This apartment has served me well, and I'd recommend it to anyone (and will, if I end up needing a subleaser... Interested?), but the truth is that I'm getting a little old for life in an apartment next to a university. I no longer work next door, I no longer feel the need to live in Manhattan, and I no longer can consider asking a neighbor out without feeling like the creepy old guy. It may be time to move on.
Alas, bundled with the idea of buying a house is the idea of having to move... again. I've moved five times in my 28 years and that already seems like far too many. I consider few things to be greater hindrances that the process of moving. From sorting and packing (and wondering why in the world you would want to move item X to your new place) to unsorting and unpacking (and realizing that you moved item X to your new place for no good reason), moving is painstaking. It's horrible. It's almost as bad as oppressive heat. (Yes, we've come full-circle, friends.)
What's the time line for the house-hunting process? Honestly, if I had one-third of a clue I'd be far more knowledgeable than I am now. Whatever happens, it will be interesting. It may be exciting. And it will most certainly provide some good blog material.
Are you free to help me move? What if I drop the name of a mutual acquaintance?
(Nevermind. NOW we've come full-circle.)
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
The phrase "Fear the Beard" is tossed around often, but I think I am actually legitimately afraid of the one that Giants' reliever Brian Wilson sports. It looks like some combination of a costume beard and hair from King Kong's left elbow. If I saw him walking toward me, I think I'd take a defensive stance upon first sight of that beard.
The journalism school at my alma mater sends out a short magazine called "Update" to its alums on a quarterly basis. As an intelligent reader might guess (and I know all my readers are of the intelligent variety*), the publication contains articles on events around the school of journalism and feature stories about alumni. Unfortunately, the most recent issue also features a typo on the magazine's cover. Yes, that's right... The magazine published by the School of Journalism has a typo. Worse yet, the typo lies in the name of the University's mascot. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. Go Wlidcats!
*Suck up to readers... Check!
Some folks say that a person should make lemonade when life hands them lemons. My thought: ask life how it suddenly has hands, plus ready access to lemon trees.
Have you noticed that whenever someone asks how old a child is, they always follow the answer to said question with "Oh, that's a fun age"? Am I wrong to wish to someday hear someone respond by saying "Oh mercy, I'm sorry. That age is horrendous"?
Yes, my good friend "Dear Daryl" is still MIA. He mentioned something about not writing until he has adequate material to work with, but I think he's holding out for better pay. Who knew that seven kernels of corn and a crippled mule might be deemed subpar wages in 2011? Thus if you have a chance, send a question... Or some kernels of corn.
Tuesday, July 05, 2011
No, this is not the punch line to some horrible joke involving news magazines and airplanes. It’s the simple, figurative truth; truth that was hammered home over the weekend when celebrating my 10-year high school reunion.
Ten years… that’s a daunting number. I’ve officially been a high school graduate for over 1/3 of my life. My days eating cafeteria food? Long gone. My afternoons spent imitating a very life-like tackling dummy on the practice football field? Nothing but memories. My time spent composing immature school newspaper writings that would ultimately be read by few people? Well, cross out “school newspaper” and you still have an accurate depiction of my life, but I think you’re getting the point. High school was long ago, yet when talking to a number of my former classmates on Saturday it seemed like little more than a day had gone by since our post-RCHS days began.
Sure, a few classmates had picked up some extra pounds over the years; a few had seen their hairlines recede like a beach’s low tide; several had begun families of their own. Yes, most everyone’s lives had seen some dramatic changes over the last 10 years, but – once the necessary “catching up” questions* were out of the way – conversations trended back to reminiscing about old classes and classmates. I entered the weekend braced for the sort of awkwardness only witnessed in Ben Stiller movies (and every first date I’ve been on), but – beyond the afternoon’s first five minutes – the event did not approach such heights.
*I’ve never asked “Where are you at now?” so many times in my life. Not only was I mindlessly repetitive with the question, but I constructed it in a horrible manner; a manner that made it sound like I was checking to see if they were recently concussed. I really wish someone would have answered me by saying “I’m here talking to you, moron.”
Yes, observant readers, you are picking up on a theme. After all, if the last ten years have seemed to transpire in quick fashion, it seems to make logical sense that the year 2011 would have seemed to move forward in similar quick fashion. (Please don’t get used to things proceeding in logical fashion here at The Writings… That’s a lofty assumption to live up to.)
Though I’m fairly certain that I was setting unrealistic April 1 expectations for the 2011 Kansas City Royals no more than a week ago, it seems that our nation (assuming you are reading this Writing on American soil) celebrated its birthday over the weekend. July 4 has come and gone, yet I’m still occasionally writing 2010 on checks.
The holiday brought some quality time with friends and family. It also brought some time to truly ponder what “independence” means. After all, if America was not a free country, it’s highly likely that some of the plus-sized folks I saw in downtown Wamego would not have been able to declare independence from their apparently stifling shirts. Though it may not been my first thought upon seeing those bulbous bellies, they actually provided a good representation of our freedom. (No, that’s not an America-has-a-weight-problem joke… Well, unless you find that funny. I’ll take what I can get.)
Beyond the opportunity to provide rather disturbing physical representation of the effect “The Whopper Diet” can have on a shirtless, middle-aged man, July 4 also gives us a chance to celebrate our freedom through the wonder of parades. Sure, it’s a little strange to celebrate something by sitting uninvited in a neighbor’s yard to watch cars, tractors and horses idle down the street. Sure, I could probably set a lawn chair next to a busy street and have a similar experience. And, sure, it’s weird to suddenly encourage small children to run into the street and accept candy from strangers, but – again – such things represent the freedom that many great folks have fought for and the freedom that makes our country great. We, as Americans, are free to spend insane amounts of money on tattoos and iPhone apps and then complain about the price of gasoline. We’re free to eat foods that can clog arteries via osmosis. We’re even free to pass along hundreds of horrible attempts at jokes in our blogs.
Did I say bad jokes?
What’s the biggest worry when having a picnic inside a grandfather clock?
… I told you there were no jokes involving magazines and airplanes.
On a final note, I’m feeling nostalgic. No, I don’t plan on digging out a fanny pack or sporting a bowl cut, but I do plan on bringing an old “Riley Rumor” high school newspaper shtick to the Writings for (most likely) one time only. It’s called “Dear Daryl,” and it’s basically a spoof on Ann Landers, Dear Abby, and any other advice column where common sense is extolled in print.
You can help this happen. I need advice-seeking questions. Get creative and send some my way. Remember, “Dear Daryl” is here to help.*
*Legal disclaimer: “Dear Daryl” is not here to help. He is not a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, or bus driver. His advice is not meant to be taken seriously in any way, shape, or form. The Writings accept no responsibility for any consequences or side effects that result from following his “advice”; consequences may include: headaches, nausea, disowning by family, the breakup of your Men At Work cover band, onset of scurvy, repeated hedgehog attacks, achy breaky pelvis, hallucinations involving Emmanuel Lewis, an inability to recall the starting lineup for the 1983 Montreal Expos, gingivitis, struggles with parallel parking, severe intolerance of anything involving Barry Manilow, and tennis elbow.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
With my 10-year high school reunion set for Saturday, I decided that I should look back at my experience working at the Country Stampede; the only job from my high school life that did not involve a lawnmower or weeds. Let’s hope this is more entertaining than pulling said weeds.
The decision to join the Stampede labor force came about as an effort to raise funds for a high school class trip to New York. Each student in our Entrepreneurship class was tasked with raising a certain amount of funds to make said trip. As an awkward high school junior-to-be, my most marketable skills were serving as a tackling dummy during football practice and stammering around cute girls. Oddly, such traits did not translate well to fundraising efforts. (Alas, if it had been six years later, I probably could have had Michael Cera’s acting career.)
Because folks weren’t willing to pay good money to see how quickly I could avert my gaze after making eye contact with someone, I was forced to pursue jobs that actually “existed.” Through one route or another, I wound up filling out an application to work as a Country Stampede laborer. At the time, I despised country music and had never been to the event. Frankly, the only real knowledge I had about the boot-scootin’ blowout was that a fatal stabbing had occurred during the inaugural concert. Win-win, this was not.
I arrived for my “orientation” session at the Stampede grounds a few days before the event began. Embracing my introverted nature, I’m not sure that I spoke more the four words the entire time. Instead, I just listened as a nondescript* middle-aged man explained my duty as an “ice runner.”
*Writer’s code for: It was 12 years ago and I respect you far too much to attempt to fictionalize this guy’s appearance.
Luckily, my job involved no actual running. Luckily, my job involved repeated trips into a refrigerated semi-trailer (to retrieve bags of ice) during one of the hottest stretches of the summer. Luckily, fellow ice runner and I got to cruise the Stampede grounds in a road-ready Gator vehicle
Unluckily, as I quickly learned, the Country Stampede brings thousands of people to Tuttle Creek Park, and many of them, when inebriated, are as kind and accommodating and pit bulls.
Backed with a soundtrack that my ears found quite grating, my days involved loading 20-pound bags of ice onto the gator, toting them to various concession locations around the grounds, and continually being cursed at by Stampede-folk because I would not compromise my integrity and rob my employer to give them free ice. Had I been an exchange student working on picking up the language of the American Midwest, I probably would have gathered that the “f-bomb” was the most versatile word in the vernacular. (I also might have assumed that the natural accent of folks from the area involved slurred speech.)
Granted, the Stampede was/is more than cursing drunks. I was witness to an all-out wrestling match in a pit of mud. I regularly participated in recreational people-watching. (Yes, some people do have their entire backs covered by tattoos of the Confederate flag.) I saw plenty of cute girls (with whom I, naturally, avoided eye contact). And, from what I understand, there was even some good music played. Imagine that… Some folks actually attend for the music.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
I put out a call for topic ideas today via Twitter and Facebook. My faithfully devoted followers and friends (read: people who tolerate me, I assume because they are being paid off by someone) responded quickly and in quality fashion. Below you’ll find the topic ideas provided, with my immediate reactions, as well. Yes, we will be revisiting some of these ideas in the future.
Behold the power of cheese. I’ll admit, I’m a fan of most varieties (even in cake form). Alas, I’m not I can bring a new take on the dairy product. I assume the cheese stands alone for good reason.
As far as I know, this is referring to the former Baylor basketball player and not anything with doilies. At Baylor, Dunn was best known for being one heck of a scorer, but also for taking the sort of shots that made one wonder if he’d forgotten that passing the ball was legal… Oh yeah, and he was allegedly involved in a domestic dispute that resulted in his girlfriend’s broken jaw. At this point, I’m afraid to write anything that might be considered a joke.
The dachshund belonging to a couple good friends. Deemed my “godson” years ago. His favorite hobby? Barking to wake up their toddler.
The toddler. A joyful tike who has recently become exceedingly mobile. Seemingly a big fan of mine… I assume this is because we have similar mental capacities.
A pretty funny mispronunciation for current Royal Melky Cabrera. A suggestion for a blog covering the best names in sports? This has potential…
High school reunions
My 10-year reunion is just over one week away. This is a disturbing fact, but it remains true. I hope we hand out awards. I think I’m a shoo-in for best-looking “Derek L.” in attendance.
An event that brings hordes of inebriated wannabe cowboys to my neighborhood? Yes, this will be covered.
Getting a dog
Does watching that new “Wilfred” show that stars Frodo count?
Best/worst college courses
This would take some careful consideration. By “careful consideration” I mean that I’ll actually have to attempt to remember what classes I took in college.
Best/worst bible school memories
The idea of a “worst” bible school memory seems like it could be sacrilegious.
Best/worst 4-H memories
For me, the idea of a “best” 4-H memory might also be sacrilegious.
Yes, I do need to bring back “Things I don’t understand.” Duly noted.
Most boring sports
Definite potential here.
Note to self: take a vacation.
We have some good ideas here, but where to begin?
What's that you say, out-of-towners who have never seen a traffic roundabout? You want more booze and you've been wearing the same shirt for three days?
Country Stampede, it is.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
The good news is that Saturday evening's wedding and reception ended up being as near to picture-perfect as a person can expect. The ceremony was very nice. There were no on-the-job meltdowns from either the flower girl or the ring bearer. I avoided using my handkerchief to wipe sweat from my brow through the entire ceremony, and no cameras were broken despite the fact that I was involved in more pictures than most Hollywood stars. Also, despite ominous reports of impending storms earlier in the day, foul weather steered clear of Vintage Gardens*. Beyond all that, my family still avoided scaring off my brother's bride-to-be, meaning I have a new sister. Life is good.
*No, this area was not full of well-aged (read: dead) plants, though the name might suggest it. It was actually about the perfect area for a wedding reception on a not-blazing-hot day.
The better news is that I no long have to attempt to live up to any titles that contain the word "best." I performed my duties during the wedding*, and even avoided sprinting away in terror when it was time to give my toast. It's like a weight off one's shoulders, knowing he can go back to being referred to as "anything but the best man."**
*A couple people told me I did a good job with my ceremonial duties, which basically involved standing next to my brother and breaking in my ridiculously uncomfortable shoes. My response? "Thanks. I'm pretty good when it comes to standing around and not talking."
**Truth: I have never actually been called "anything but the best man"... to my face, anyway.
Was my toast any good? If "good" can be judged by the fact that I did not - at any point - fall to the ground and curl up in the fetal position, then yes. If "good" takes into account the actual content and delivery of the speech, then I really have no idea. I did get some compliments from folks afterward, but I'm never one to discount the value of pity.*
*Note to self: learn how to take a compliment.
Whatever the case, a couple of family members asked me to give the written form of the toast a home here, so I've reproduced it to the best of my ability below. (I actually made it through the speech without having to look at my notes once... Apparently there is something to that whole "practice" idea. Luckily for my car, I will no longer best testing how many times I can recite the speech on a drive from Manhattan to Riley.)
For those that don't know, I'm Derek; Jared's brother and the best they could do at short notice.
It’s great to see so many people here tonight. I know that some of you traveled miles and miles; some even traveled across the country, just to be here. I think that says quite a bit about these two. Of course, the thing it probably says the loudest is that apparently it‘s pretty hard to imagine a Larson finding a girl willing to put up with him. As the last single Larson male standing, I have to say that’s not very encouraging... but I'm getting off topic.
Jared and Michaela, I went through a lot of ideas when trying to find a topic for this toast; most were bad. Many involved inside jokes that few would understand. Inside jokes involving things like
- “special friends”
- “bringing some excitement to the Larson family”
- Jared nearly setting my car battery on fire
- and Michaela making my niece cry the first time she met her.
Through all the bad ideas, one thing kept coming back to mind. It was a text message that Jared sent to me early in the relationship. Now, before I get to what the text actually said, I better explain something:
Whether Jared likes to admit it or not, we’re an awful lot alike.
- We read the same books.
- We quote the same movies.
- We are both undeniably handsome ---[After laughter... perhaps too much laughter] Good, people are paying attention.
- We both love K-State.
- Thanks to some incredible influences, we both know the true value of faith, family and friends.
- And, finally, we’re stoic.
Typical reactions when encountering and exciting situation usually involve some combination of jumping up and down, yelling, high fives and hugs. The typical Larson male reaction, on the other hand, involves one of us saying “Oh, really? That’s good.”
I bring this point up because Jared’s text message that night seemed to advance a bit beyond the typical stoic Larsonese. I asked him how date #2 went. His reply?
“She might be around for awhile.”
That may not sound like much to some folks, but in the stoic Larson vernacular, it’s high, high praise. It was then that I knew that the relationship might be something special.
“She might be around for awhile.”
Jared, I think I speak for everyone here when I say, I’m glad you were right.
Michaela, Welcome to the family.
There you have it. Good or bad, that's not for me to decide. Mostly, I'm just glad that I was able to be a part of things... And I'm also glad that it's over.
That's good news.