Thursday, January 29, 2009

Things I Don't Understand - Return of the Mind-Bogglers

Mmmmmm... Gluey
An insightful reader helped spark this brain-cramping thought. (Let this be motivation, kids, you too can suggest things the author can't wrap his mind around.)

Consider the following:

Man has walked on the moon.

Man has created an Internet that allows people from across the world to share information with each other nearly instantaneously.

Man has even created a society in which one can earn millions of dollars simply for allowing a camera crew to film your everyday stuck-up life.

Man (this refers to the human species, ladies, I'm not discriminating) has done all this, yet it seems like we have missed out on some obvious areas where improvement is needed.

Case in point: envelopes.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate envelopes. Without them, my mail would be all willy-nilly when it arrives in my mailbox. Not only that, but the term "self-addressed, stamped envelope" would be rendered moot. (This, friends, would be devastating.)

My beef with envelopes is just a matter of taste. Literally.

If one had to describe the taste of envelope glue, my guess is that result would be something near "tongue-cripplingly toxic." It's just horrible. How can members of a society this technologically advanced still be willing to subject themselves to the equivalent of licking the sticky side of a roll of duct tape every time they mail their cable bill?

Shockingly, I am not the first to address such an issue. A quick search of this web that spans worldwide shows that a patent exists for envelope adhesive that doesn't make one want to scrape his or her tongue with a cheese grater. I'd go into deeper detail, but once I got to the word "polymeric" I had another item to add to my list of things I don't understand.

It is great to see that a world in which mass-produced envelopes with a glue that doesn't make one want to inject their tongue with Novocaine may be in front of us. Nevertheless, I'm still wondering how it has eluded us for this long. Is it just to keep those that ate their Elmer's in elementary school from becoming envelope addicts when they grow up?

No, really... Don't try this at home

Originally, this point was going to be about how the phrase "don't
try this at home," is overused. After all, it's tossed out in
television programs where multi-million dollar rockets might be
featured or where someone will be hunting a pack of dingos with a bowie
knife. Sorry, but most folks I know don't have access to multi-million
dollar incendiary devices or packs of wild dogs indigenous to the

I was attempting to find some examples online of the absurdity of how this phrase is used... Then I came across this.

Now THERE'S something I don't understand.

What rhymes with orange?

It's a fact that everyone loves tossing around. No word in the
English language rhymes with orange. Yeah, it's a fun bit of trivia,
but I think it's time to retire it.

New words are added every single year to the Oxford English Dictionary.
The most recent additions include words like blowback, crunk, and
mentee. With all these new words being granted wordship each year, how
is it that "orange" still stands without a rhyming mate. It's time we
rectify this, folks.

I have done some research and now know what Graeme Diamond (who bears and uncanny resemblance to the old Encyclopedia Britannica
kid) considers before adding a cluster of letters with a phonetic
pronunciation to the dictionary. Basically, a word has to be used for
an extended period of time in an abundance of areas. Apparently nothing
rhyming with orange has ever met such qualifications. This disappoints

Consider this a call for action. It's time The Writings makes it's
mark. It's time that The Writings supports a cause (other than
attempting to get a duck elected president). It's time that we at The
Writings give textual life to what will be the first word that rhymes
with orange. Now we just have to decide what it will be...

Monday, January 26, 2009

A New Standard

A pair of very astute (read: related to me) readers recently clued me into a television show they think I have been missing out on. Being (the only?) two readers of these Writings, they are well aware of how much I enjoy horrible television. It's an interest that helped lead a series of "Bad Movie Nights" among my roommates in college. (No, believe it or not, those did not impress many of the female variety.) These days, it leads to an odd sense of excitement whenever I come across a new Sci Fi Original movie. This new program, they promised, would assuage my appetite for barely watchable television.

By now, you're curious (unless "you" suggested I watch the program... and we have already established that, odds are, you did... Well, pretend to act surprised.), just what television show could this be. Well, the title pretty much gives you a valid first impression - MTV's Bromance.

Let's join it in progress...

The opening- Apparently becoming Brody's "bro" is the "ultimate challenge." (Take that astronauts, firefighters, cancer researchers, and others who thought you might be making a difference. )I also learned that Brody has a self-described "sick-ass pad." The adjectives "lame-ass" and "hot-ass" are also tossed in... I think I can feel my brain trying to ooze out my ears to end this misery already.

3-minutes in- The four finalists (two guys who sound like they got lost on their way home from Fenway park; a short and somewhat nerdy (cough*pot, meet kettle*cough) kid, and a Nigerian nursing student) are headed to meet Brody at a spa... Quite an impressive premise. I'm pretty sure this could be a script for a feature film. Amazing.

4-minutes in- Brody (real name: Sam Brody Jenner... What, Sammance doesn't have the same ring as Bromance?) has a prank going on the potential "bros" where he's going to have them wear some "lame-ass" jeans (featuring sparkles, rhinestones, flower designs and patches of unicorn fur*) out on a red carpet... My mind is overloaded with potential comments here, but I think my main question is, "What in the name of the decathalon has Brody Jenner done to be somewhere with a red carpet gathering? Are they just going to hang out in a carpet store for a bit?"

*I may have made one of those up.

After the first commercial break
- Fresh off a very awkward waxing session at the spa, it's time for these four misguided souls to try on their fancy new jeans. The end result looks like some odd combination of The Village People and the Fabulous Freebirds.

Although every contestant vying to be the groupie of a guy with no talent hates the look of these ridiculous outfits, the first three compromise their values (and self-respect... and argue against the idea that they're anything but rhinestone-studded sheep) and tell Jenner that they really like the look. Bro #4 seemingly has a religious experience after witnessing his reflection while wearing jeans tight enough to make Richard Simmons blush and riding lower than most tricycles. He proceeds to change his clothes (and provide hope for mankind).

Back from break #2
- Brody convinces his actual "homies" (two non-competing friends) to help out with the prank and also dress up like guys in their 20s who accidentally did their shopping in the petite girls section at The Gap... It's good to know that Brody doesn't have to have a contest everytime he wants a friend, but he may reach that point if he keeps having his friends do this stuff.

Bro4 loses any chance he had at earning my respect, as he goes back on his comments against the Little Miss Brody collection and wears the sparkly wardrobe to the red carpet event. Soon after, all potential bros do their best Bruce Lee impersonations on the red carpet, showing off some kung fu actions and generally looking absurd. If one hadn't figured out by now that these guys might not be the greenest trees in the forest, this revelation becomes abundantly clear when none of them question why the "red carpet" in question appears to be little more than some red wrapping paper rolled out on the ground. Other clues that might have alerted a competent person that something was awry include the fact that there was no one else on the red carpet... at all. It was a couple fake "media" folk and that's it.

Back from break #3- The cat is out of the bag and the "funny-ass" prank is revealed. An abundance of fake laughter follows and I suddenly feel like I missed a really funny joke... Then I remembered what I was watching. Bro4 apparently wins this challenge, since he was "real," and gets to wear clothes that wear slightly less ridiculous during a night on the town. Bros1-3, on the other hand, are off to put the moves on some single (probably) ladies while dressed up like Miley Cyrus fans.

32 minutes in
- Bro4 continues to do his best to cement his spot as one of the most ridiculous people ever, saying he's not on Bromance to compete and win, but to find friendship. Isn't that kind of like bow-hunting to find a pet?

Back from break #4- It's time for another challenge. Brody invites the guys over individually to spend some time with a couple models from Playboy. Apparently social awkwardness is a requirement for being a "bro." Being a veteran of socially awkward situations, I can sniff such situations out, even through television. Believe it or not, intelligent conversation is not prevalent during this portion of the show. While watching this painful scene, I once thought I may have heard, "So what do you think of Obama's cabinet selections?" but it turns out it was just a drawn out utterance of the word "dude."

Back from break #5- The short, nerdy potential bro (SNBP, as we'll affectionately call him) wins the challenge and spends some time with the girls in a hot tub as a result. Remember the last paragraph when we were talking about social awkwardness? Strike that from your memory, as this pretty much renders the term "socially awkward" moot. I think it's now called SNBP.

The elimination takes place at the counter of a Chinese restaurant, and Brody begins it by saying that he wanted the guys to experience "all the BS" in Hollywood in the challenges that day(?... week? This program is so bad I have lost any notion of how time is passing. For all I know, an electro-magnetic storm could have enveloped my home in negatively-charged energy and I could be traveling backward through time*)... I wonder if he's talking about the fact that someone with no discernable talent is labeled a celebrity and has people who appreciate empty lifestyles lining up to be his friend... That Hollywood BS?

*I am no physicist... I pretty much pieced words together there. If it makes no semblance of sense, I apologize.

Back from break #6- The elimination proceedings are in full force and SNBP claims that the two potential bros with thick New England accents have formed a clique. Insert dramatic music here. (Then insert a montage of all the different Boston accents you can think of. Then insert one of them as my replacement to view this show next week.) Things carry on, and the elimination is down to the Boston bros. It's like we're in the middle of a Damon-Affleck movie. The show ends with the loser being tossed out of the restaurant and losing his opportunity at "Bromance."

Little does he realize he now has a chance to actually do something with his life.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Your Stress Reliever

Guided imagery. Breathing deeply while counting to 10. Meditation... No, I'm not listing off the hobbies of those that don't have cable or Internet access, I am looking at ways to handle stress.

It's something we all deal with, whether it's related to work, school, or one's personal life. Some people have legitimate reasons to be stressed out, others can be thrown into a tizzy (please note: this is the first ever occurrence of the word "tizzy" in one of The Writings... mark it down. You can even print this to preserve this historic occasion.) by just about anything. Whether the source of the stress is worthwhile or not, everyone needs ways they deal with pebbles, stones, or boulders life might toss their way. Luckily, you now have this guide to all things stress relief. I'm searching the the farthest corners of the web (unless the web has no corners... crap) and presenting the positives and negatives of various stress reducers. After all, going on bender and headbutting car windshields won't make you feel any better (and might be frowned upon by the cops, too).

I am getting sleepy... I am getting sleepy... Nope, I'm not reminiscing about an old economics class. I'm hypnotizing myself to relieve stress. According to one website, going Manchurian Candidate on yourself is an effective stress reducer.

Why it's good - Because it's SELF-hypnosis, you don't have to pay big bucks to some weirdo spinning a spiral-adorned umbrella.

Why it's bad - If you're like me, your mind tends to wander. Such can be disastrous when performing self-hypnosis. One minute, you're triggering your relaxation response; the next, you're singing a song that's been stuck in your head. The result? When your boss asks you to come to his office, you walk in belting out the lyrics to the Garfield and Friends theme song.

This one seems close to self-hypnosis in my book... but not quite as creepy.

Why it's good - Have you ever seen someone meditate that seemed stressed while doing it? Exactly. Also, if the meditation doesn't take, it at least might lead into a nap.

Why it's bad - Again, minds wander. And personal silence isn't always golden... especially when you're someplace with thin walls.

Writing down your thoughts, no matter what they might be... Seems like a crazy idea. I doubt I could bring myself to do it.

... Oh.

Why it's good - You can express whatever you'd like, no matter how absurd it might be. (See: Larson, The Writings of Derek).

Why it's bad - Well, if you're writing your own stuff, who is going to read this? Forget that I even mentioned this option.

Playing games
Whether it's Duck, Duck Goose or Duck Hunt (that's right, I'm old school), who doesn't love a good game?

Why it's good - Your options are broad. You can enjoy the camaraderie of friends with a game of touch football or can take quiet solitude while gunning down zombies on your X-Box. (Something tells me that any female readers might be struggling to grasp this point right now... The Writings - We really understand women.)

Why it's bad - If you aren't very good at the game and/or you're a poor loser, this can actually add stress. Don't try to convince the controller to eight-year-old Derek's Nintendo otherwise.

Some say it's the best medicine... Others prefer antibiotics.

Why it's good - You're enjoying yourself.

Why it's bad - If you're a person that gets his/her kicks by punting puppies, socking war veterans in the nose, or eating all of one flavor out of someone's Neapolitan ice cream, you're probably doing more harm than good. I'd try something else.

Taking a walk
If you are reading this, you probably aren't taking a walk... Think about it.

Why it's good - You're getting exercise. Your cardiovascular system thanks you.

Why it's bad - Unless you really enjoy walking laps in your home, this one requires a bit of cooperation from Mother Nature. Unfortunately, she's not always the most accommodating lady. Walking in the rain can leave you sick. Walking in the heat can leave you in desperate need of a shower. Walking in the snow can leave you cursing the ice you slipped on.*

*This applies only if you have the balance of a manatee attempting to perform a nose-stand... Oh, odds are you won't curse the ice until after you have gotten back up really quickly and looked around to make sure no one saw you come crashing to the ground... Lousy ice!

Planting a garden
How does your garden grow? Hopefully quite contrary Mary's answer doesn't contain any curses.

Why it's good - You can see progress. What you plant as a seed can turn into something beautiful down the road.

Why it's bad - This is another case where you might be inviting more stress. Pesky varmints can leave you plants looking like the buffet at a sumo conference. Anything that leads to you shooting a shotgun out of your bedroom window at something 1/16 your size cannot be considered stress relief.

Reading a book
LeVar Burton would approve.

Why it's good - It can spark your imagination. It can be educational. It can be inspirational.

Why it's bad - Pages can get stuck together, causing involuntary rage. They can also cause wicked papercuts. It could also lead to people calling you egghead.

Squeezing a stress ball

Ooooh... squishy.

Why it's good - It's exercises hand muscles and relieves muscles tension.

Why it's bad - It's not very big, so you will misplace it at some point. Crawling underneath your desk in a vain attempt to locate your frog-shaped piece of foam rubber is not exactly conducive to slashing your stress level.

Well, nine strategies and 900+ words later, I guess it's pretty obvious which strategy I use to relieve my stress.

(No, not drinking.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Things I Don't Understand - The quick-hitting edition

As I have mentioned before (and as you've probably ignored, as it really isn't relevant in many lives but my own) my cable package recently was upgraded. For just a few dollars more each month, I now have several new channels that I completely ignore.

One such channel I just noticed for the first time tonight.* It's called Planet Green.

*I realize that saying I "noticed" the channel goes against the mention of "ignoring" the channel... If you spend your free time checking continuity of various blogs, it may be time to search for a new hobby.**

**This coming from the guy who spent an evening writing about what he read on the back of old baseball cards... wow.

As you have probably guessed by now, the focus of the channel is being environmentally friendly, showcasing programs that provide tips on how to minimize one's negative impact on the Earth. (If you guessed incorrectly that Planet Green is a station attempting to revolution the TV industry by air all programs in nothing but differing shades of green, you may just want to begin keeping your guesses to yourself.)

Now, despite how I might try, I am admittedly not the environment's best friend. I have left lights unnecessarily, or left water running when it could have been turned off. (You can send your hate mail for such actions my way... It might be nice to get something other than bills.) Nevertheless, I have a problem with Planet Green. Isn't the whole concept of a "green" television network a bit hypocritical? After all, if one is truly "green" wouldn't they avoid energy-scarfing devices like TVs.

It seems like Planet Green would make more sense if it was presented as a traveling live-action performance. The performers' wardrobes would be made of fallen oak leaves, fallen pine needles, and recycled potato skins (comfortable... and a good snack). Also, those involved would travel from town-to-town by bicycle, tricycle, unicycle, car in neutral with no engine or battery (only recommend if on is traveling down a continual slope) or rickshaw.

If Planet Green must be aired on television, shouldn't those in charge only agree to provide programming to those whose homes are solar-or-wind-powered?* If not that, shouldn't every program just be people looking at the camera and solemnly saying "Turn off you TV. Please, do it now"?

*Homes powered by swarms of rodents running on wheels would be up for debate.

Then again, the channel did just feature Bill Nye (the science guy!) dressed up in a pirate costume that looks fractionally more realistic than the one I wore for Halloween as a six-year-old...

All is forgiven, Planet Green. Keep up the quality, eco-friendly, carbon-emission-free programming.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

It's fantastic?

Eight days ago, the K-State Wildcats opened Big 12 conference play against the Oklahoma Sooners. Although the Sooners were ranked No. 6 in the nation, I fully expected Frank Martin's Wildcats - with their 11-3 non-conference record and some impressive perfomances along the way - to be in the game until the very end. In fact, I actually predicted an upset. (Granted, I see the world through Wildcat purple, Royal blue, or Chief red glasses depending on the season, so such upsets are predicted about as often as football announcers talk about Brett Favre or Tim Tebow.*) Such a victory, I thought, could be just the "signature win" that gives certain tournament selection committee that warm and fuzzy feeling at the end of the season.

*This statement is false. Nothing happens with the same frequency as football announcers discuss Favre or Tebow.

Five days ago, the Wildcats, now 0-1 in conference play, headed to Lawrence to face off with the defending national champions. (Wow, it really is painful to type that.) Although the Jayhawks normally have a distinct homecourt advantage, the fact remains that the squad on the floor this season is not near the talent level that KU had last season. Again, where others saw a problem for the Wildcats, I saw an opportunity. K-State could top this team, and I estimated that a win (combined with stellar play the rest of the way) could provide a good argument for the team receiving some love (of the platonic sort) when the postseason came around.

One day ago, the purple-clad crew from the Little Apple found themselves in the middle of corn-husking country. With the Wildcats sitting 0-2 in league play, some labeled the game a "must win" contest for the 'cats. Others might have called it a "can't lose" considering the fact that Nebraska lost to UMBC (that's University of Maryland, Baltimore County, not Utah's Morman Broadcasting Company) on their home floor just one month earlier. Winning this game had less to do with the postseason for K-State than it did with building some momentum, gaining some confidence, and avoiding some embarrassment. Alas, leaving the Devaney Center with a 22-point loss in the books had bizarro results for Kansas State.

Now, I'm not here to shout that the sky is falling*, or say that it's time to give up on the season. That would not fit well into the hokey optimism I normally attempt to employ. I do, however, know there are some issues that the Wildcats need to address, and address as soon as possible.

*Can you imagine if the sky was falling though? Yikes. I don't know if you've looked around much lately, but that thing seems to be everywhere. Try getting away from it.**

**Despite what you might hear from some broadcasters, neither Brett Favre or Tim Tebow would be able to escape if the sky was falling.

***Odds are, if you present a broadcaster in question with this information, they'll attempt to tell you that Favre and Tebow are the ones who decided that the sky should fall.

One thing this team needs to find is an identity. When they have been at their best this season, the Wildcats have been an up-tempo, defensive-minded squad that rattled other teams so much that it seemed "fling the ball into the crowd" was an actual play in their playbook (which the opponents ran pretty well). Good defense led into quick scores on offense, and away the Wildcats went. Alas, although they have found success with this style, K-State seems to fight the notion with personnel, continually playing at least two and occasionally three "bigs" at a time.

This fondness for players who shop in the big-and-tall department could have been an advantage against the Huskers, who played much of the game with college basketball's version of the Lollipop Guild (no player taller than 6-5) on the floor. K-State's size should have made a difference on the interior. Instead, the post quartet combined for a total of 23 points and 14 rebounds (about an average game for one particular Wildcat post player a season ago).

Now, the lack of scoring productivity from the bigs cannot be heaped entirely on their shoulders. It's hard to have anyone score many points when your team turns the ball over 25 times. With K-State struggling to handle the quick, pesky Husker defense, an emphasis should have been placed on ball control - an area those on the upper end of the size spectrum aren't always known to have great prowess in. The question that then arises in my mind is why the Wildcats didn't attempt to adapt, sacrificing a big or two to get more talented ball handlers on the floor.

The Husker defense also did not do the Wildcats any favors when they proved that they had actually studied game film. Nebraska put little defensive pressure on Wildcats that have not proven themselves to be scoring threats this season, often backing away as if the ballhandler in question had some sort of uber-hybrid of leprosy, the plague, and cooties.* Unfortunately (especially since I'm confident other teams in the Big 12 study game film, as well, and will notice the effectiveness of this strategy), the K-State response was non-existent. There were no surges in aggressiveness from the essentially unguarded players and there were no real efforts to sub in others who might give the defense something more to think about. The result was Nebraska defenders free to run kamikaze.

*I am pretty confident no one in college basketball suffers from this affliction.

Of course, one might argue that it would not have mattered if K-State had (illegally, as far as I know) cloned the original Dream Team and had them running the court - shots just were not falling for those in purple. The fact that the Wildcats shot from long range with the accuracy of a cross-eyed sniper with his closed eye at the scope supports this claim. Whatever the case may be, K-State cannot afford many more nights of Saturday's perfect storm of ugly basketball.

Three days from now, the Wildcats return to the floor. Against the Baylor Bears, they will attempt to get the bad taste out of their mouths, right the ship, get back on the right foot, and perform many other cliched actions. While a game like the one against Nebraska may be enough to get one down, we at The Writings still have some hokey, unbridled optimism to pass around. The 'cats can win this game, and getting back in front of the home crowd may be just what they need.

"What if it's not?" you're asking.* What if the Baylor game, and the Colorado game after that, and the Missouri game, Texas game, Iowa State game, and all the rest go just as the Nebraska game did?

*Check the fine print, here at The Writings I am allowed to ask your questions for you.


27 days from now, Kansas City Royals picthers and catchers report to Spring Training. Then I can begin to funnel some hokey optimism their way, as well.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The written equivalent of a headache

Weeks ago, I thought I had things figured out. I started to get a bit of a cold, but tried a new (to me... it's not something I created in my bathtub) medication to combat such effects. The result? The symptoms were minimized and the duration was shorter than a bear fight on a beet farm* Naturally, when cold symptoms returned days ago, I put this medication back in my corner and expected a quick KO. Instead, the cold symptoms have battled back and are putting up a better fight than a pair of potbellied pigs after an opened bag of Cheetos.** Now my days are full of hacks, sneezes, and more sinus pressure than Snuffleupagus' trunk after an unfortunate Big Bird step.

Be warned, the following thoughts come from a cold-clouded mind.

*If you found this metaphor to be sensical in the slightest, you too can post your own Writings! (That, or I need to quit writing while watching "The Office.")

**I can't blame this one on The Office... but it's a funny picture, no? Crazy pigs.

It seems that I missed out on the opportunity to meet "Subway Jared" today. That's right, my lifelong dream of receiving a quick and utterly pointless greeting from a guy who became a "celebrity" soley because he lost a ton of weight by eating mediocre sub sandwiches was thwarted... It's going to be tough to sleep tonight.

- It seems anything that leads to any sort of weight loss these days is marketed as the new miracle diet. There's the Subway diet, Atkin's diet, grapefruit diet, cookie diet, and so many others. Can it be long before we see the Windex diet or the Sucker-Punch Your Gut Away diet? In fact, I weigh the same as I did in high school... Can I market the Spend 94.6-percent of Your Free Time on Your Couch diet?

- I had not heard of this until now, but I think it's pretty hilarious. It's a Facebook application called the Whopper Sacrifice. If a Facebook user "unfriends" 10 "friends"* they get a coupon for a free Whopper. It really seems like a great way to figure out what you're worth to others. If you're unfriended for this promotion, you're worth approximately 1/10 Whopper, which really amounts to about a tomato slice, some lettuce, and a bit of the bun. What a great way to show people what they mean to you.
Despite the fact that I'm a bit of a BK connoisseur (which is probably the equivalent of claiming to be bilingual when one speaks English and pig-latin), I certainly would not drop 10 friends for a free Whopper.
... No, it's not because the promotion has been discontinued... Surely not.

- ... Mmmmmmm.... Whopper.

*Are all your Facebook friends (if you are, in fact, part of the Facebook community) actually people you'd consider friends? Can people who haven't spoken to each other since the time one told the other to quit glancing at his paper in high school accounting class even be considered friends? I would like to push for Facebook to extend its terminology to include more than just "friends." I want to be able to choose "acquaintances." Maybe I could label "people I might recognize in a public setting." Perhaps even "people who gave me the stinkeye." And don't we all want to select a few "enemies." C'mon Facebook, I'm not really Thomas Magnum's friend. Let me tell the community that he's a "fictional person whose comically hokey television show I watched an unhealthy amount while living in a town I grew to despise."

- Do you ever have to sorts through handfuls of gold coins just to find some change for the laundromat? Are you sick of ugly gold jewelry filling up your junk drawer when that space could be better used by rubber bands and dried-out pens from your local grocery store? Most everyone can relate to such hassles... but don't fret. You see, there's now a better use for that gold than putting it in tin cans to create maracas for your weekend mariachi band. One company will actually pay money for your gold. That's right, Ca$h for Gold USA (as seen on TV in a delightfully charming, entertaining, and informative ad) will pay you (in U.S. dollars!) for all that gold, which you previously deemed worthless. It's truly amazing what people will pay money for these days. Nevertheless, rest easy and save that trip to the dumpster... that gold Rolex, your chest of pirate booty, and even your wedding band are actually worth something.

- It's a good thing my computer does not have a sarcasm checker, or else the previous paragraph may have forced my computer into a catatonic state. Heaven knows it flirts with such action often anyway.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Things I Don't Understand - the January Garage Sale

After a thorough study of a 2009 calendar I received for Christmas, I have come to the conclusion that we currently sit (or stand, if you prefer) in the month of January. Recollection of past months bearing the same name, plus a few recent trips outside, have reminded me that, in Kansas, this first month of the year is usually a chilly one. With such thoughts in my head, I find a sight I noticed yesterday even more perplexing.

Driving along a side-street to my apartment I noticed a home with a smattering of tables out in front of it, all sheathed in a collections of trivial items. It seems the owner of the home was either having a garage* sale or some very organized burglars were cleaning the place out.

*Or "car-hole" if you run a tavern in Springfield.

I realize January 11 was an unseasonably warm day in my Midwestern home, but I still find the timing of the aforementioned sale mind-boggling.

You see, it seems that most garage sales involve premeditation. In my experiences with non-literal garage sales (I have never been a part of a literal garage sale... people usually prefer to have houses included in the deal), those serving at the merchant end prefer to plan the sale weeks ahead. That provides time to prepare and advertise. Such preparations normally lead the sales folk to plan Spring or Summer sales, so that the weather they encounter might be more conducive to outdoor activity. Planning a winter sale weeks ahead, hoping for an unseasonably pleasant day, is a bit of risky business. If the sellers missed out on the meteorological jackpot, they could have had Frosty's Kansas cousins (they're mentioned in the third part of the epic Frosty trilogy... believe me) taking cash and making sure no-one pick-pocketed anything.

These neighbors of mine seemed to have other ideas. They seized the sunny winter day, loaded rows of junk onto six-foot tables, and opened their brown-lawned superstore for business. I trust they were not dismayed by the fact that number of potential customers checking out the merchandise on their grassy plain was a particularly round one that rhymes with "hero." I'm also sure that they were not downtrodden by the fact that, on this January day when people don't expect a garage sale to take place (and during which people who choose to enjoy the weather probably won't do it by sifting through the used pogs and "Dole in '96" t-shirts of others), I may have very well sold as many belongings out of my second-story window (again, zero... believe it or not) as they did in their "organized" sale.

Maybe I'm missing the whole point. Maybe they had no choice but to get rid of loads and loads of random belongings. Perhaps their floors were threatening collapse from the burden of too much weight. Maybe they have dreamt premonitions of being robbed and losing everything and want to beat the larcenous fiends to the punch. Or maybe these folks just were not fortunate enough to receive a 2009 calendar for Christmas and didn't realize what month it was. Here's to hoping that any money they gained from it (maybe they found some spare change among the trivia) is used to get a new calendar.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A trip down memory lane... one cardboard rectangle at a time

Those who keep themselves occupied with multiple tasks at once are referred to as multitaskers. (Note: If you're already lost, this may not be the Writing for you) However, I have noticed that multitaskers are often seen as being productive sorts. I, on the other hand, often keep myself busy with multiple tasks that bear no semblance of anything that could be deemed productive. For instance, this very evening I am watching the BCS matchup between Oklahoma and Florida (it's the battle of the panhandles!), composing this very writing, and flipping through some old sports trading cards.

That's right, while some may have thought I would have run out of embarrassing hobbies to blog on by now, the hits (to other's opinions of me) just keep coming. As a kid, it seemed that any personal income brought in by various odd jobs all went toward the same thing: buying that next pack of cards. As I look back on it now, the obsession sounds nearly like a drug addiction. Cards were my fix. There was a brief period where I was even paid for some work I did in sports cards.

For a young sports-obsessed nerd (we all must come to grips with the truth at some point), they were perfect. I could collect my favorite players, have access to all sorts of stats that were otherwise extremely hard to find in the pre-Internet days, and - in special cases - get some interesting insight. Certain cards would have brief paragraphs detailing the player featured. While most would just delve into a further examination of statistics or mention the players skills, occasionally you would find one that was not quite like the others. It was like the copy writer for the card was attempting to spice things up just a bit. Naturally, the only way to really show the glory of these literary nuggets is to detail them case-by-case. Thus, with a box of cards by my side and the BCS Championship (a panhandler's delight!) on the tube, it's time to flip through some literary gold.

Darrin Jackson - Pinnacle 1995
"His thyroid condition all cleared up in 1994...," so begins the paragraph on Mr. Jackson's card. It's at this point that I wonder if this card is a promotional item from a hospital. Luckily, it does not delve into blood pressure or cholesterol. In fact, in a pleasant turn, it speaks of how Jackson was underrated. It ends with, "... he finally got his due in '94." I'm not sure how the folks at Pinnacle were granted the power to determine what someone's "due" was... but I'm glad Jackson's wasn't the thyroid condition.

Bo Jackson - Score 1991
You remember the "Bo Knows" commercials? Bo knows football. Bo knows baseball. Bo knows dominating in Tecmo Super Bowl. Well, according to Score, Bo also knew intergalactic dominance. After all, this card claims Bo was "the greatest athelete in the universe." One might think calling him the "best athlete on Earth" would have been a strong enough claim... but not the folks at Score. They were making sure any those folks who claim to have been abducted by aliens knew exactly where Bo ranked.
"Sure, they may have beamed you aboard and done some probing, but let's see them beat Bo in a foot-race!"

Gregg Jefferies - Score 1991
According to a GM on an NL rival, you could "... almost smell the love of the game reeking all over..." Jeffries. I think folks with BO have a new excuse.
"Uh, Jim, did you shower today."
"Don't worry. That's just my love of the game."
"What game? We work at Kinkos."
"It's cool, man. I just love what I do."
"So your love smells like gym socks that have been left in the backseat of a car in the middle of the summer?"

Tunch Ilkin - Pro Set 1991
According to this card, Ilkin's mom was Miss Turkey in 1950... I know offensive linemen don't receive much press, but for Pete's sake. They resorted to mentioning his mother on his football card.

Tracy Jones - Score 1992
"... Tracy also gets hurt a lot..."
Score - when the truth hurts, we're there.

Paul Farren - Pro Set 1991
"... Longshot to make pros..."
C'mon, I know the Browns only went 3-13 in 1990, but they were still considered "professionals." That's low, Pro Set.

Mike Davis - Donruss 1990
List in his "Career Highlights" section: "Is cousin of former AFL defensive back Dave Grayson." Funny, I just completed a self-evaluation at work. Are you telling me I could have just listed my relatives and been good to go? I tried to think of actual accomplishments and all I needed to do was say that my third cousin was an extra in Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties?*

*No, not true.

Ricky Bones - Studio 1992
Although I was oblivious to it as a 10-year-old, it seems obvious now that Studio was not only a baseball card company, but a dating service. It makes sense. After all, who has time to "play the field" when you're playing on the baseball field 162 games each season. The back of Ricky's card mentions that he's single, and that his hobbies are "weight lifting, horseback riding, and jet skiing." Here's to hoping he found happiness.

Glenn Braggs - Score 1992
While Studio was looking to hook folks up, it seems that someone at Score may have been nearing a restraining order. Glenn's summary includes the fact that he has an "awesome build" and that he "would rate well against any of the other strong men in the game." ... Uhh, Score, we're still talking about baseball, right?

Larry Johnson - Skybox 1995-1996
We close with a bit of unintentional (hopefully) demotivation. The card says "Standing 6-2 in the seventh grade, LJ was later named by his high school classmates 'Most Likely to Succeed.'" In other words, "Hey short kids, give up now."

The Writings, interpreting hidden basketball card messages since 2009.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Observations --- That's all

The holidays are over and that can only mean one thing: someone, somewhere is pretty upset that the antlers they super-glued to their dog's head are not coming off as easily as they'd hoped. Blasted glue!

... Wait, that's not it. No, the end of the holiday season means I no longer have an excuse for neglecting The Writings. It's time to get back to my routine schedule of posting. (read: posts will once again be sporadic and erratically inconsistent... You're relieved, I'm sure) Anyway, consider this as the first step in getting back on the right track.

- The holiday break did provide a few additions to my ever-expanding list of things that are "awww"-inspiringly cute when done by an infant, but "alert the authorities" awkward if done by anyone else. New entries include: chewing on someone else's finger, yelling random untelligible nonsense during church, and lying in the middle of the floor on one's belly and swinging arms and legs as if swimming.

- Can someone explain to me the concept behind waiting in Times Square for 11 hours to ensure that you have a good spot to see the ball drop on New Year's? You know exactly what's going to happen. The ball drops. People cheer. Then you probably have to wait another 11 hours just to catch a cab to get back to your hotel. Sure, those folks might argue that it's no different than waiting hours to see a sporting event. Unfortunately for them, those folks would be wrong. With a sporting event, there's uncertainty. You don't know the outcome, which adds excitement and, in turn, can make the end result expontially more satisfying (or frustrating). (A sporting event also lasts longer than 10 seconds.) When that ball drops, the only uncertainty is whether an inebriated guy in the crowd will get slapped for trying to get a smooch from a random female.

- Note to iTunes: you may claim to have a "Genius" feature, but the fact that you recommend I download New Kids on the Block's "Hangin' Tough" makes me wonder if someone read your IQ test results wrong. That, or the program's artificial intelligence has developed understanding of sarcasm... Touche.

- Despite our best fundraising efforts, we at The Writings were not able to land sponsorship for a bowl game this football season. (Who would have guessd you actually have to have "funds" to sponsor?) Although our dream went unfulfilled, the fact that Emerald Nuts sponsors a bowl game gives us hope for the future. Look for The Writings Pointless Drivel Bowl next football season.

- It's nice to see that Magic Johnson has an instructional basketball DVD set on the market. It's good that he's out to help the kids. The children are our future, after all... That said, it strikes me as comical that the DVD set includes a bonus conditioning disc. Why? First of all, anyone that considers conditioning to be a "bonus" is a few rebounds shy of a triple-double.* Second, it's rather apparent that Magic has packed on a couple pounds since his playing days. The aforementioned disc might be serving as a "bonus" coaster around his place.

*If you are not a sports fan, I apologize profusely for the basketball reference. It must be frustrating to continually read about things you have no interest in. If you'd like to send me the latest issue of Guns & Ammo, Good Housekeeping, or Cat Fancy that you might be reading, feel free to send it my way.

- Whether or not you've seen the advertisements for the Snuggie there's no denying that the tagline ("The Blanket With Sleeves!") is frighteningly accurate. It's also much more pleasant than the only other option: "The top cult robe on the market. Drink the Kool-Aid and buy one today!"

- If you ever find yourself in a situation where you think you might appear foolish to those around you, feel free to picture me scrunched over in my car's driver seat at a local drive-thru, straining to reach down through a slightly cracked door, attempting to nab my debit card off the ground after it was dropped there by the employee working the drive-thru window. See, you don't look like a fool. ... Oh, and thanks, fast food employee.

- I recently upgraded my cable package. Now, before you get out your Jump
to Conclusions Mat I must dispel any notions that I have recently
earned a startling increase in income, inherited great sums from a rich distant relative, or discovered buried treasure while attempting to build a
snow fort. No, my splurging for these additional opportunities to rot
my mind came about simply because I was presented with deal worthy of much rejoicing. (Hooray! ... That should cover it.) Naturally, there's a catch. After six months the "excellent
deal" evaporates and I have an "excellent burden" on my checkbook.
Thank goodness for the word "cancellation." Anyway, with a bevy of new
channels to flip through, I'm presented with a myriad of programs fit
for mockery and the like. You can certainly expect a detailed study of
such in the future.

Friday, January 02, 2009

2008 - The year that was (because if it wasn't, we'd be in a pickle) -- Part two

At long last (after two whole days!), it's the second part of The Writings second-annual year in review. We here at The Writings beg your forgiveness for making this a two-part entry. I'm not one to normally point fingers, but all ten of my hand digits are pointing at my personal assistant.

What's that? I don't have one?

Then blame the intern.

No intern either? What type of shoddy organization is this?

Oh well. Lack of anyone to provide the author with a semblance of organization aside, 2009 has officially arrived. What lies ahead? Who knows. Maybe an army of cloned cycloptic gorillas will invade the western seaboard. I hear they're fans of the nice temperatures and fresh seafood.

Dastardly primates and 2009 events aside, we still have 2008 business to attend to. Particularly, picking up where we left off in part one of what many critics (me, when I was half-asleep) have called the most comprehensive summation of a year's events ever conjured.


September 2008-
The 2008 presidential race hit high gear, as both major party's national conventions were completed by early September. The one-on-one battle led to a bevy of campaign ads hitting the television commercial breaks. As both candidates attempted to prove the other was not fit to be president (you know, rather than just saying why they should be) little was held back. Leading up to the election, reasons cited may or may not have included:
- candidate x is too old;
- candidate x is an elitist;
- candidate x is a muslim;
- candidate x is too hot-headed;
- candidate x was sent here from another planet to bring the destruction of our society and pave the way for Jupiterians to raid Earth;
- candidate x eats puppies when he's feeling blue;
- candidate x once starred in an adult film under the stage name Randy Pheeling;
- candidate x wears white after Labor Day;
- candidate x enjoys the movie Slam Dunk Ernest.

October 2008-
On October 15 the inaugural Global Handwashing Day took place. As one should be able to infer from the day's name, the event promoted washing hands around the globe to prevent disease.

I understand the importance of this in nations that may not be as well off as ours, but I'm hoping it's not just a one day celebration for those here in the states... Especially the folks at the Burger King down the block.

November 2008-
History was made with the presidential election, but the event probably deserves a recap by someone who doesn't occasionally refer to professional wrestling in his writing.

In other news, Ron Prince was informed that he'd be welcome back at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in 2009... as long as he had a ticket. With Prince no longer leading the program, it was time to scour the nation to find fresh talent to take over... or time to go and ask the guy down the hall if he was interested in coming back. Coaching legend Bill Snyder accepted the position by the end of the month, and since that time has assembled a coaching staff that gives the program immediate hope. Granted, starting quarterback Josh Freeman has decided that he prefers earning paychecks to cracking textbooks, but there's still an excitement around the upcoming season that has not been present for a few years.

Only 246 days until the season opener.

December 2008-
Children everywhere were disappointed when Santa Claus' sleigh was side-swiped as he tried to parallel park in New York. Santa was not injured, but the sleigh was damaged and rendered inoperable, meaning tikes around the globe went toyless for the holidays. Although he was unavailable for comment, word is that Santa has vowed revenge on the hit-and-run driver, and will spend the year collecting coal that will be used to bombard the offenders house next Christmas eve.

Remember kids, the lyrics "so be good for goodness sake" aren't just a hokey suggestion. They're an order.

Don't cross the Claus.