Thursday, May 24, 2007

Stating the Obvious - Observations while preparing to move

For an individual that despises the entire process of moving from one “home” to another, I sure seem to be doing it a lot. I’m currently in the midst of my third move in the last year-and-a-half, and I’m becoming fed of with the process of boxing up all my stuff, and then cleaning the area where the aforementioned stuff once resided.

What makes this move even more of a pain that most is the fact that I can’t even move directly into my new pad (apparently moving also makes me try to bring 60s terminology back into the mainstream). Thus, I’m packing things up and moving them to a storage unit, only to have the wonderful opportunity to move them again in a week when my new lease starts… I must be the luckiest guy in the world.

The one saving grace of this move is the fact that, once phase two is complete, I’ll actually live in a place that I’m not ashamed to have people visit. Don’t get me wrong, my current apartment has a certain charm (occasionally leaky ceiling, bugs roaming like it’s the rainforest, and about as much room as the Castle Grayskull I had as a kid… is charm the right word?), but the new apartment will actually have the initial appearance of being clean and decent. I’ll also have about a 42-second walk to work everyday, which is nice since gas prices have reached the point that they could put C. Montgomery Burns in the poorhouse.

In the meantime, while trying to avoid the inevitable cleaning that lies ahead (stupid oven… stupid shower), the Royals are occupying my time, with a re-examining of the “Lost” season finale during commercial breaks. Both are currently leaving my mind in a severe state of boggled-ness. Is Jack’s flash-forward the inevitable future, or just a possibility? How can the Royals be one of the hottest team’s in baseball over the last 10 games, but be behind to Cleveland 10-1 in the 7th inning (… actually, the answer to that question is probably the fact that Jorge de la Rosa remembered that he is, in fact, Jorge de la Rosa).
In other news, the Chiefs made an interesting move letting Trent Green basically hold a team-approved press conference, even though Green is currently as happy with the Kansas City front office as PETA is with Michael Vick and Clinton Portis. Think whatever you like about who is right and who is wrong in the whole Green-Carl Peterson feud, but putting Green in front of so many media members while peeved about his situation really seems to have done nothing but make the Chiefs appear to be poorly run and dishonest. No matter who you think should be under center for Kansas City, this situation is being operated about as smoothly as my teenage attempts at talking to girls I didn’t know… No, that is not a good thing.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Stating the Obvious - Observations From the Air

A recent trip to Virginia provided me with plenty of time to kill while sitting a Northwest Airlines (NWA for short... which can be deceiving) plane. I composed some random thoughts to entertain myself, because it was either that or crafting paper hats out of the pages of the Skymall catalog.

1st flight

On television and in film, prison guards are often portrayed as characters who are as tough as week old meatloaf and inebriated with their own sense of power. What happens if a prisoner even glances at a guard in a slightly distasteful manner? He's nailed with a club and tossed in the hole.
What does any of this have to do with travel? Airline security folks are the closest thing I've experienced to Hollywood's portrayal of prison guards. At least, that's how the experience was at the airport this morning.
As is the manner in these days of heightened security, I took my shoes off at the correct time and placed them in a tub to send them through the machine. I had on clean socks, so everything was dandy. I also took off my watch, and emptied my pockets of my keys, change and cellphone. I began to approach the metal detecting doorway thingy (though, with a bit of caution, because who knows if it could be some portal into another dimension), but then a security woman gruffly asked me if I had everything out of my pockets. I pulled out a pack of gum and was immediately told it had to go through the machine. Such an issue with my ear-popping deterrent seemed a bit outrageous (although tests may very well be underway on potential dangers of flavor crystals).
Nonetheless, I paused for a split-second to find one of the plastic bowls to toss my pack of crystal mint Orbit gum into, and I immediately heard, "ON YOUR RIGHT, ON TOP OF THE MACHINE," in a tone that could have made a drill sergeant quiver. Had I taken any longer to get the gum through the machine, I think the woman was going to reach for a rubber hose to crack me with.
Thankfully, my gum and I both made the flight, and, in retrospect, I guess the concern about the gum may make a little sense... it's all Tom Cruise's fault. If he had not used explosive chewing gum in Mission Impossible, the verbal abuse I suffered probably would not have happened. I hope scientologists aren't out to get me.

2nd Flight

At this point in my life, I've seen a number of films and television shows that deal with airplanes on some level. ABC's Lost stands out most specifically in my mind at this point, which means I do one thing immediately once I take my seat on a plane... I scope out my fellow flyers to try to identify which passenger could best fit each role if we were to crash on to a mysterious island (yes, I know that the flight from Detroit to Norfolk does not trek over any oceans or seas. Thanks, geography master). Unfortunately today, as far as I can tell, neither flight has produced any African druglords-turn-priests, any paralyzed folks who were pushed out of a window by their fathers who had previously stolen a kidney, nor any cute fugitives who have been on the run. I haven't even seen a large guy who says "dude" a lot and who won the lottery using numbers he heard from a resident of a mental hospital... This is unbelievable.
On a separate note, this current flight features a male flight attendant. Naturally, this brings to mind the episode of "The Simpsons" in which Marge's fear of flying results from having discovered her father was a flight attendant. I only hope this flight attendant does not have a daughter who will someday be hopelessly scarred emotional as the result of his career pouring half-cups of Pepsi aboard an airplane.
To further complicate things, this particular flight attendant looks like he could be a cousin of Billy Dee Williams. Perhaps he enjoys flying because it reminds him of Cloud City...
Flying in a plane also brings to mind that classic comedy that we all know and love: "Blazing Saddles,"... no, wait... that's not it.... "Airplane." Once again, letting film shape my expectations has wrought disappointment. There has been no in-flight meal featuring poisoned fish, I have not seen a single nun with a guitar, and I'm pretty sure our co-pilot is not Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I know Hollywood exaggerates from time to time, but they've missed on my current flying experience by at least 30,000 feet. I hope I don't suffer similar disappointments if I'm ever bitten by a strange spider at a science lab or if I'm ever exposed to nuclear radiation.

3rd Flight

Over a week since the last writing, I'm on a flight from Norfolk to Detroit. I had planned to either sleep or write on this flight, though both options are proving difficult. My seat is 24D, although it may as well be called, "the middle of the freaking engine." That, or maybe the D in 24D stands for what I'll be when the flight is over - deaf.
As a result of this noise level, which would have made Beethoven wince, I've been forced to increase the volume of the Jackson 5 currently playing on my iPod. Thus, it's difficult to concentrate on writing anything other than "ABC, it's easy as 1, 2, 3," over and over (and I really don't want to be sued by Tito Jackson).
Nonetheless, I'm please to be heading home, where things are normal. Most notably, time and television schedules that correspond with said time. Put simply, the eastern time zone is just a horrible TV watching environment. The fact that so many folks can live in a zone where prime time extends until 11 o'clock and Conan O'Brien's red pompadour does not see the light of television screens until after midnight is beyond me.
Perhaps this time issue would not be such a big deal if I had not been operating on the same schedule as residents of Del Boca Vista Phase 3 this past week. Rising and attempting to shine at 4:30 a.m. does not exactly fill my days with hope and optimism. As a result, I've been drifting to sleep early, as if I was watching tennis on TV.
It never fails that turbulence hits right as someone is walking to the restroom, and a flight attendant is pouring a drink... poor folks. On this flight, I'm lucky enough to have another male flight attendant (apparently they're the new rage). Unfortunately, this one has no similarities to Lando Calrissian. This fellow is older, and has the look and demeanor of a pilot that has been demoted. Is such an action possible in the world of airlines? If so, is there someplace in the newspaper where I can read the latest transactions by each airline? I want to know if Northwest trades an established pilot with a high salary and character issues to Delta for a couple of bag-checking prospects in attempt to stay under the salary cap. Is that too much to ask?
Random Analogy....
The overhead luggage compartment is to humans as a transparent window is to birds. You're headed toward your intended destination (for humans, a plane seat; for birds, indoors), no worries... then BOOM (please excuse the channeling my inner John Madden there), you're in pain and you feel like an idiot. I have steered clear of such happenings thus far on this trip, but I've seen three people hit their heads on this flight alone. The reaction is always the same... act like nothing happened, sit down as quickly as possible, and then glance around to see if anyone noticed. Naturally, putting any padding on these compartments to protect people in the case of such accidents makes entirely too much sense.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Stating the Obvious - Recent Observations From the World of Sports

If, by chance, you read my previous post regarding the Kansas City Royals, you probably now are doubting my intelligence and/or my sanity. Naturally, I decided to tout their "strongest" points and predict relative success for the boys in blue. As if on cue, the Royals have opened the season with the worst record in the American League, and have had a better start to the season than just the Washington "lock for the first pick in the 2008 Amateur Draft" Nationals. Despite my eternal optimism, such bad fortune has not been surprising to many people.

What has been unexpected to nearly anyone who has even heard of the Royals is the way Kansas City has been dropping games. The starting pitching, which appeared to be a possible weak link at Kauffman Stadium, has been a relative strength. The $55 million-dollar man Gil Meche has shown "ace of a staff" stuff thus far, allowing just 12 earned runs in seven starts. Meanwhile, Jorge de la Rosa is tied with Meche for the team lead in victories, and is making the Royals' trade of Buddy Bell's old favorite, Tony Graffinino, appear to be a move of pure genius.

Despite some stellar performances from the starters, the Royals have been dropping games, thanks largely to bullpen collapse that rival history's greatest avalanches and an offense that has struggled to get as many hits as Menudo. Rookie Alex Gordon, the phenom talented enough to even receive comparisons to the best player to ever wear a KC cap, George Brett, has struggled from the start. Just 29 games into his young career, Gordon's batting average of .175, makes former Royal (and key component in one of the worst KC trades ever) Neifi Perez look like Tony Gwynn. First-baseman Ryan Shealy has opened the year hitting at a .113 clip, meaning he could double his batting average and still be considered disappointing so far. Even Emil Brown, who apparently has become his own personal PR rep, is batting below .200.

So once again, the time may seem right for me to hang up my Royals cap and start thinking about football season (... Bramon Cruard at QB for the Chiefs? D'oh...), but once again, I'm simply not ready to take that step. Chalk it up once again to delusion, stupidity, or blatant homerism, but there's plenty of time KC to get things going in the right direction. It seems the offense has no option other than improving. Alex Gordon will prove he belongs at the major league level. Recent call-up Billy Butler, who has raked like Groundskeeper Willie at every level of baseball, will be a threat in the big leagues (on offense, anyway). With the return of injured pitchers Luke Hudson and Octavio Dotel, the bullpen will improve, giving KC decent options beyond Joakim Soria and Jimmy Gobble (whose faces do not appear in the dictionary next to reliable).

The Royals are a young crew, with plenty of room for improvement. Despite what some may think, they will do so.


I've never the Chiefs' draft strategies, but I think they may regret not drafting Louisville runningback Michael Bush in the third round (not to mention ignoring cornerback and quarterback completely).

If anyone in televised sports history has gotten more screen time while he's just standing waiting to compete than Tiger Woods, I would be very surprised.

One round into the NBA playoffs (yes, the NBA still exists), both the teams that competed in the 2006 Finals have been eliminated... so who is going to take the top prize? The Spurs. Tim Duncan is the best player left in the playoffs, Tony Parker is quicker than a chubby man at a buffet, and they have one of the best clutch players in NBA history, Robert Horry. Who will they beat? They could top anyone in the East, but for the sake of argument, I'll say Vince Carter leads the Nets to the Finals, since he's in for a big payday as a free agent this off-season, if (when?)he opts out of his contract.

Oh, and apparently Floyd Mayweather beat Oscar De La Hoya in a boxing match. Odds are one or more of the 3,281 title belts floating around out there were up for grabs. Is it possible for boxing to become relevant again?

Lastly, a horse won the Kentucky Derby. It will now receive talk that it could win the vaunted Triple Crown, and will become the most beloved horse since last year's Derby winner. The horse will remain popular only if it wins the Triple Crown or injures itself going for it (at which point it will earn Mr. Ed popularity). Why is it that horses are the only animals that can compete in a popular sporting event? Can't we see a grizzly-bear eating competition or orangutans playing rugby?