Monday, December 20, 2010

Planes, pains, and automobiles

For years, I have avoided running. After all, what's the point? Sure, there's exercise, but I accomplish that through walking (when the weather is nice and I have proper motivation), reading (it exercises the mind, right?) or by regularly dancing the night away at the local discotheque. (Not true, but it does conjure a pretty funny image.) I figure that I won't ever be signing up for any road races and that the odds of being chased by dangerous wildlife near my home are not strong (though some squirrels do occasionally give me the stink-eye), so there's probably little in life that would ever require me to churn my legs in a running-like motion. Unfortunately, I happened upon a need to sprint the other night - the airport dash.

The story begins with my co-worker and I preparing to return home to Kansas after a few days in Orlando, Fla. As you might have guessed, being forced to spend three days in The Sunshine State in the midst of winter was pretty much torture. After all, who wants to enjoy a nice drink by a pool in 75-degree temperatures when he could be dealing with snow and wind back home?

Truth told, it was nice to get away for a few days, but both of us were ready to return home by Saturday. Our trade show* wrapped up early and we had checked out of the hotel so we arrived at the airport a few hours before the schedule boarding time of our flight. We wasted time by eating lunch in an airport restaurant (where, oddly, the waitstaff behaved as if they had not hoped to end up serving tacos to people lugging suitcases), surfing the Internet wirelessly, and staring at the wall. We did all this while staying far away from the gate our plane was leaving from, since it was packed so tightly with travelers that I'm fairly certain I saw two strangers sharing a pair of socks.

*Note to future self: "trade shows" don't involve swapping baseball cards. Leave them at home.

Finally, about 10 minutes before our boarding time, we approached the crowd surrounding our gate. Through the large windows in the airport, we noticed that there did not seem to be a plane actually sitting near said gate. This struck us as slightly odd, as we were fairly confident our tickets were, you know, plane tickets. Luckily, a couple of minutes later a plane taxied up. As folks started to exit the plane that had just arrived, the crowd parted like a balding man's comb over - rather sloppily. One seven-year-old boy was sitting in the way of an old woman and nearly wore luggage wheel tracks on his ankles as a result.

By this time, it was clear that things might be a bit behind, but we didn't figure the delay would be too awful. Minutes passed. We kissed the initial boarding time goodbye. More minutes passed. Then more. Finally, five minutes before the plane's schedule departure time, we heard an announcement from the gate attendant. "We're sorry for the delay folks. The incoming flight arrived a bit behind schedule and now we're still waiting for a crew to come clean the cabin."

Yup, my flight was being delayed because Mr. Belvedere was AWOL. Frankly, I did not care if there were some napkins on the floor of the plane, I just wanted to go and escape the sweaty blob that had formed from the crowd waiting to get on the plane.

After what seemed like hours of waiting and sweating, they finally allowed passengers to begin boarding. After what seemed like more hours of waiting (but at least no more sweating) we finally began to roll around the runway and actually took flight. It was at this time that I really let the situation at-hand sink it. Our plane was leaving the ground 50 minutes later than originally scheduled. My coworker and I were originally supposed to have a 75-minute layover in Dallas before our flight to Manhattan departed. After crunching some numbers in my head (ninth place in mental math at the State Math Contest in fourth grade... booyah!) I realized one thing: we were nearing a bind. Here came the sweating.

Up in the air, things seemed to get worse by the minute. No, the wings did not fall off the plane and there weren't any Airplane!-inspired issues with fish or singing stewardesses, but we seemed to be traveling at a snail's pace.* Further glances at clocks brought forth more worry. It was clear that we were going to be cutting the arrival at our next gate extremely close.

*You know, one of those snails that flies at high speeds, just not speeds that are high enough. You know those snails, right?

As we began our descent into Dallas-Fort Worth, a flight attendant announced that folks who had connecting flights should be given priority when exiting the plane. Yahtzee. Finally something was going our way. We would need it, as our plane touched ground just 15 minutes before our flight to Manhattan was scheduled to leave.

My coworker and I zigged around folks to get off the plane and as we neared the jetway, he said one thing. "Get ready to run."

With that, we took off. I've seen people sprinting in airports often on television shows or commercials; I always thought the situations seemed a bit hokey. Now, here I was sprinting by curious on-lookers. My coworker, though 10 years my senior, is a former college football player who had an NFL tryout once. Needless to say, he was a bit faster than me. (Though I was once unbeatable in Madden football on the Gamecube.)

I had the chance to attempt to catch my breath when we made it to the tram that would take us to the next terminal. It was at this time that I began to cough like someone who had just smoked a box of Cuban cigars while running the Boston Marathon. Note to self: run more often.

The tram stopped and we were back sprinting. I'd never advise anyone to run down a moving escalator, but we did just that, complete with laptop bags in tow. We even split through an elderly couple on the way down the moving steps. I didn't have time to get a long look, but they were certainly staring at us as if we had turned green and were cursing in Latvian... Then again, I may have by that point.

At long last, after more running than I've done since high school basketball coaches once forced conditioning on my team, we arrived at our gate.

It was empty.

We ran up to the desk and looked at the screen, only to read "Flight XXXX to Manhattan: Boarding Completed." One desk over, a woman stood covering a flight to San Juan. We asked her if there was any way we could still get on the plane to Manhattan. After all, the clock at the gate said 7:18 p.m. - still two minutes prior to our schedule departure time. She said she could not help us, as it was not her flight, but that the gate attendant for that flight would be back soon.

Seconds later, a middle-aged guy walked up to the desk at our gate. We immediately began asking him if he could help us; if there was any way we could still get on that plane. His response? He ignored us. Though we were two feet away from the guy, he said nothing. Finally, after a full-minute, he addressed the question of an older gentleman that had approached the desk and was in the same situation as we were. Unfortunately, the gate attendant was slightly less helpful than a paraplegic trained seal would have been in the situation. He clicked keys on the computer, but never had a reason that the plane could not have been held - since they knew ours was arriving late - or suggestions of alternative ways to get home.

Finally, my coworker snapped. With some choice words, he drove home the point that it was slightly ridiculous that his airline had put us in this situation, that we had done all we possibly could to get to the plane on time, and that he was not cooperating with us whatsoever. His response? A rather wide-eyed look and a call to his supervisor. Luckily, his supervisor acted as if she was actually familiar with the phrase "customer service." (Crazy thought, I know.) She calmly explained that they had been asking to hold the flight since ours was arriving late, but that the flight tower had the final call in the situation and that they had instructed the flight to leave. Fair enough. Frustrating, but fair.

The supervisor assisted us in arranging a flight to Wichita (which would then involve a two-hour drive home) and even provided us with a $20 refreshment voucher that would be accepted "anywhere in the airport."

We weren't thrilled, but we headed on our way to the gate for our flight to Wichita. This time, we didn't have to run. I guess things could have been worse... Then we attempted to purchase food and the vendor refused to accept our voucher and our request to rent a car in Wichita and drop it off in Manhattan was turned down by the car rental company.

Ever seen the movie, "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles"? If I was an overweight, mustached fellow that sold shower curtain rings for a living, I would have felt right at home on this trip.

-----

After a few days to reflect, I'm still not sure how it took so long to clean that plane. All I know is that I'm going to run if I ever hear that announcement over the PA again.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A look at lyrics - Winter Wonderland

I know some people that listen to nothing but holiday music as soon as their calendar flips to the year's twelfth month. I have no qualms with this, however something struck me as Christmas tunes emanated through my car radio speakers during today's commute. It seems like Christmas carols are all just assumed to be jolly songs celebrating the season; the meaning behind the words is never really considered. I think it's time to begin taking a realistic view at the songs we sing so cheerfully each year. It's time to really dissect the lyrics. We begin with a song written by someone who obviously never had to shovel snow in his or her life. Get your scalpels ready.

Winter Wonderland

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening,
In the lane, snow is glistening.
A beautiful sight,
We're happy tonight.
Walking in a winter wonderland.
I'm not sure where these folks are, but it sounds as if they're risking death by walking on a roadway while a bell-adorned sled of some sort bears down on them. I don't know that I'd be singing in such a situation. My guess is that, originally, this opening stanza contained cursing.

Gone away is the bluebird,
Here to stay is a new bird.
What sort of new bird? One that eats bluebirds, apparently.
He sings a love song,
As we go along,
Walking in a winter wonderland.
It's true. There's nothing more romantic than bloodthirstily devouring a bluebird. Remember this when Valentine's Day rolls around.

In the meadow we can build a snowman,
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown.
Who is Parson Brown? Through hordes of research (read: a Google search) the best answer I have is that Parson Brown is not one particular person, but a term used to refer to an angelican priest of the 18th and 19th centuries. By pretending that the snowman is Parson Brown, I assume those who built it are just going to continually ask him "Now who are you again?"

He'll say, "Are you married?"
We'll say, "No man,"
But you can do the job
When you're in town.
Is it just me, or does "Parson Brown" sound either 1.) really creepy; or 2.) desperate for work? After all, who goes and asks a couple whether or not they're married within minutes of possessing the frosty body of the snowman they just built? That's a bit personal, Parson. (If that is your real name.)

Later on, we'll conspire,
As we dream by the fire.
This song seems to take a devious turn here. Who plots conspiracies around the holidays? Anti-Santites, that's who.
To face unafraid, 
The plans that we've made,
Walking in a winter wonderland.
The anti-Santites are approaching their joint mission with no fear of death. I just hope they haven't brainwashed Rudolph.  Think about it - his nose is red. It's quite possible that the anti-Santites are also Communists. That red nose could lead the sleigh right into a pretty wicked ambush.

In the meadow we can build a snowman,
And pretend that he's a circus clown.
I think this means laughing halfheartedly when the snowman attempts to be funny.
We'll have lots of fun with mister snowman,
Until the other kids knock him down.
I've never been a fan of those kids that run haphazardly through the circus looking to knock clowns over. Jerks.

When it snows, ain't it thrilling,
Though your nose gets a chilling.
Getting a runny nose is thrilling in the same sort of way that getting the complete series of The Nanny on DVD for Christmas is thrilling.
We'll frolic and play, the Eskimo way,
Walking in a winter wonderland.
I'm not sure how Eskimos play, but I'm worried that it might somehow involve blubber and that's pretty disgusting.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Holiday Lessons

If it hasn't become Windex-clear by now, activity at The Writings slows down a bit near the holiday season. (Read: In Winter.) While I could claim that postings become less frequent due to my immense popularity, which has me attending numerous holiday parties, I also respect the intelligence of my readers and know that they would see through that lie like they see though a window after it has been cleaned with Windex.* In truth, my social life is pretty much the same as it always has been, meaning I attend about as many parties as the guy who looks through your trash for recyclable cans. If there is one aspect of my life that does change this time of year, it's that I find myself spending more time around the fireplace at my parents' home.

*The Writings: We're shooting for sponsorship... Buy Windex now!

Since the day that my parents became empty-nesters, their home has always been the place where the family could reconvene, and it works especially well when the temperature drops below freezing. On such days, the males in the family take turns playing pyromaniac with the goal being stoking the flames in the fireplace to the point that anyone sitting within eight feet of the thing will soon be sweating. The fireplace becomes our own personal blast furnace and its lure is strong.

This winter, time spent near the fireplace has been a bit more interesting thanks to the sharp, developing mind of my two-year-old niece. Calling her "excitable" is akin to calling any program featuring a Kardashian "worthless." Though she really has no recollection of last Christmas, she's wildly geared up for the 2010 rendition. It's undeniably entertaining to see her hop up-and-down in excitement at the mention of presents or to hear her yell "Whoa, look at those ones!" when driving by a house with Christmas lights, but it has also been quite fun to hear her take on the holiday. After all, she's two, so everything is either taken at face-value or embellished with the sort of imagination that can spot friendly monsters while driving down the road. Thanks to her teachings, here's what I know...

Christmas is Baby Jesus' birthday, as is depicted in all those nativity scenes that pop up around this time of year. Nativity scenes feature Baby Jesus, Mary, God, shepherds, sheep, wise men, angels, cows, and a puppy. While you may argue that Joseph is depicted, it's obvious that you're either mistaken, or that his close friends called him "God." You also might be curious what sort of nativity scene might depict a puppy. Answer: all of them. You're obviously not looking hard enough.

The Grinch is a scary green character, but he's in a good movie... Well, it's good until you are about ten minutes into it. At that point, you should begin begging to watch a different Christmas moving, claiming, "I don't like the Grinch." Soon your call to action will be met, and Frosty the Snowman will find his way into the DVD player. Now that's a good movie... Until about about ten minutes in. Then? "I wanna watch the Grinch."

As for Santa Claus, despite rumors that you may have heard about the North Pole, he lives at the mall. He says "Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas!" One of his reindeer is named Rudolph, but you should really call him "Rudolph the Red Nose." On Christmas, he's bringing presents, all the way from the mall.

Also, according to my niece, he's bringing Uncle Derek a duck for Christmas. Now I'm excited.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Desperation

When I opened my refrigerator this morning, it was not to grab the milk or see what fruit might be inside. (Answer: none... The royal hierarchy of the food pyramid should be pretty upset with me right now.) No, I opened the fridge this morning in effort to locate my money clip. That's desperation.

The morning began as they typically do, with me sleeping later than I should, showering longer than I should, making more coffee than I should, and neglecting breakfast when I shouldn't. As I prepared to leave, I double-checked to make sure the coffee pot was unplugged* and made a move to grab the day's essentials: my cell phone, keys, iPod, and money clip. Alas, one member of the quartet was missing.

*Something I do about eight times each morning. I guess there are probably worse obsessive-compulsive habits. After all, at no point do I put my hand into toasting toaster.

I typically place all essential items together in order to avoid situations like the one I now found myself in. I began carefully moving the other items located on my coffee table to discover which of them had covered up the money clip. Oddly, the search did not yield the results I'd hoped for. I stepped over to my desk and calmly glanced about, expecting the lost item to present itself. Phase two of the search also proved unsuccessful and I began to show slight concern. Though the money clip rarely holds any substantial amount of actual money (that's what I get for habitually reenacting the scenes in rap videos where they toss paper bills around like they're used tissues), it does play host to my debit card, driver's license, and K-State basketball schedule - all of which are critically vital in regard to my day-to-day activities.

Because my apartment is just slightly larger than Shaquille O'Neal's shoebox, it took two steps to find my way to the kitchen to continue my search. Kitchen table? Nope. Kitchen counter? Empty. I was officially entering the danger zone, as sensible locations for the money clip were running thin. I zipped to my bedroom, tossing things about in effort to find it, but the mission proved to have the same level of success as all those prior.

Back to the living room, I took to the floor, doing my best army crawl while vainly searching for the money clip. Though I did discover a mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cup underneath my couch, it served as little consolation. I began to face the reality that my money clip was lost. That meant calling to cancel my my debit card, wading through a DMV line for a new driver's license, and facing the sheer hassle that comes with picking up a new basketball schedule. Life is rough.

Now officially desperate, I took to my apartment like a blitzed elf on December 26. I tossed things about, I looked in ridiculous locations (enter: the fridge), and I continually waved my hand in front of my face to make sure I had not gone blind.*

*Patent pending on this non-blindness assurance test.

I was late for work and life seemed grim when I found the pair of jeans I wore yesterday. A quick search of the right pocket brought my racing mind to a peaceful halt. The clip had been in the pocket all along; the pocket of a pair of jeans I'm fairly confident I had tossed aside earlier in the search. Oh well, life was right again.

As I threw on my coat and headed to work - all essentials safely in my pockets - I began to wonder why I had not checked the pockets of that pair of jeans earlier. After all, I'm fairly confident the same predicament has befallen me previously, and I'm fairly confident it did not turn into the chaos that this occurrence did.

Moral: Eat breakfast, kids. It might just help you think clearly in the morning and avoid looking in the refrigerator for your cash.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Deep Thought

Which came first, the tortoise or the egg? If a tree falls and crushes a chipmunk in the forest, does it make a sound? What is the sound of a footless person tap-dancing? Life is full of intriguing questions; the type that one could ponder for hours on end. Luckily for me, I seemed to have such time on my hands today, thanks to the insanity that comes with the holiday shopping season. (Note to self: Do your 2011 Christmas shopping in February.) I had the opportunity to be a part of a checkout line 25 people deep at a rather large consumer electronics store today, providing ample time to ponder the questions above, plus many more. Here's a sampling of today's topics of pondering.

Who or what is the owner of a camouflage Snuggie attempting to hide from... aside from good taste and common sense?

What level of a lush does one have to be to trust their perception of sobriety to a $14.99 breathalyzer keychain?

Why does the girl in front of me think that continually asking her boyfriend "What is taking so long?" will make the checkout line move more quickly?

If one pays for "Black Tie Protection" on their electronics, are they actually supporting the mob?

Does anyone need a new hobby more than the person who buys full seasons of "Reba" on DVD?

What is a "Plannerzine" and why does it feature that wolfy guy from Twilight on the cover?

Does your kid really need 13 different Nintendo DS games for Christmas?

Are the small bags of fruit snacks on sale for an overpriced $2 apiece in the impulse-buy area placed there as a simple test of sanity?

Finally - and most importantly - why in land of LED screens are there only two registers open on a Saturday during the holiday shopping season?

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Latest Thanksgiving Writing You Can Find

It's quite evident to anyone with access to a calendar that I am four days late with the annual Thanksgiving-themed Writing. Please forgive the tardiness. As an apology, I'd like to offer up a Writing free of any groan-inducing Thanksgiving puns or wordplay. Seriously.

Now, on to the cornucopia of things I'm thankful for this year. (Nice try, Derek.)

I'm thankful for my family and my friends. If you're reading this, odds are strong that you fall in one of those two categories (oddly, The Writings have yet to go viral), so thanks for being stupendous.

I'm thankful for the fact that those who are reading this who do know me but don't consider themselves friends or family have not resorted to calling me names or throwing things at me in public. Your decision to express your discontent silently by throwing darts at my picture or burning printed copies of Writings is greatly appreciated.

I'm thankful for the excitement the holiday season can bring; the sort of excitement that causes a two-year-old to take regular breaks while decorating a Christmas tree in order to jump up-and-down waving her hands.

I'm thankful for the fact that my family will add a new member next year. (Also for the fact that she learned quickly to pretend to find my remarks amusing.)

I'm thankful for the fact that I don't have to pay licensing fees every time I respond to the question "So, when are you finding a wife?" with "If I only had a nickel for every time I heard that question." I really need to come up with some better answers.

I'm thankful that the online store at Weather.com is offering 10-percent off today. After all, it's not often that I have the opportunity to receive meager discounts on weather-related memorabilia. Let's hope I can find something that showcases the INCREDIBLE WIT that the Weather Channel is sure to have; something like a "This Wind Blows" T-shirt.

I'm thankful for new work opportunities. In an economic climate where many are jobless, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to move to a new job that suits me better.

I'm thankful that the K-State football team was able to win seven games despite showcasing a defense with more holes than a Connect-Four board.

I'm thankful for the fact that in the nearly 10 years since I graduated high school it has never been revealed that my schooling was a sham, forcing me to go back and complete K-12 all in a span of a few months (with hilarious results) solely to keep that weaselly Eric from taking over my dad's hotel chain.

I'm thankful for the fact that a fair number of my regular readers will immediately identify the film that I abducted that previous scenario from, and that the rest will not give it a second thought, since my relationship with rational thought is not always a close-knit one.

I'm thankful for a No. 5 national ranking. The days where the future of K-State hoops hinged on the potential arrival of a 7-foot volleyball player are long gone.

I'm thankful for the fact that my inner monologue sounds nothing like Dick Vitale.

I'm thankful for neighbors that don't think freestyle rapping is the only worthwhile form of communication.

I'm thankful for tomorrow. (This item of thanks brought to you by the Kansas City Royals.)

I'm thankful for Chiefs defensive coordinator Romeo Crennell and the fact that he was able to convince the Kansas City defense that tackling is, in fact, legal in the game of American football.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to write as often as I have the time and inspiration. I'm also thankful for the fact that some of these Writings actually are deemed rational thoughts.*

*Rational thought rate: 14.2%

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Catching Up

Nearly a week has gone by since the "publication" of my last Writing. It may sound contradictory, but that piece was one of the most difficult things I've ever written and also one of the easiest. Putting words together about the strong traits of my grandfather was simple, but absorbing the reality of the final two lines was unbelievably tough. Alas, it is something that I'm proud of and I'm glad to know that others feel I captured the most basic essence of a great, great person. Tonight, we return to regular programming, which basically means I get back to writing about things few people care about.* We have some catching up to do.

*The Writings: We're nothing if we're not honest.

The Stubblings
Apologies to No-Shave November enthusiasts, but "Operation: See How Ridiculous Derek Looks With Facial Hair" concluded last week. With a funeral at hand, I figured I should put my best face forward. Unfortunately (and possibly unbelievably), this fresh-shaven look is that face. The progress made through last Sunday was respectable, as far as mustaches and chin whiskers go. I never bought in to the whole idea that the facial hair made me look older until I shaved. Truthfully, it almost seemed like that razor cut away 10 years along with my Billy Martin mustache.*

*Please don't misinterpret this whole "looking older" idea. I was certainly not being confused for someone in his 30s. This basically means that, with the facial hair, I looked my actual age: 28. Now, so fresh and so clean, I am back to appearing 18 and being carded for even glancing at a drink that might have been shipped on the same truck as something alcoholic.

To all who were rooting along with my avoidance anything Bic-or-Gilette-related, please know that it's quite possible the experiment will return in the future. After all, I have free time.


Thanksgiving
It's coming quickly, and with it comes holiday decorations and talk of Christmas shopping. Meanwhile, I'm still wondering what in blue blazes happened to August. Nonetheless, I'll abide by the insistence of my calendar. On the positive side, this means that annual "Thankful For" and "Christmas Gift Idea" Writings are on their way... Well, those are on my positive side, anyway. 

K-State football

I'd say the Wildcats' last two opponents sliced through the KSU defense like a spinal surgeon, but that might imply that the opposing offenses actually had to perform with some sort of skill or accuracy. In truth, there have been times the last few games where it has seemed like the opposing running back could have taken a handoff, spun around in place ten times while humming the Golden Girls theme song, and then - dizzy to the point of losing motor skills - still run for a 15-yard gain.

Struggling defense aside, K-State is still in good position to receive a bowl bid, and should lock one up with a win against North Texas on Saturday. If they lose to North Texas? Well, have I mentioned that basketball season started?


K-State basketball
The Wildcats - ranked No. 3 in the nation - did not play up to that ranking last week. I'm glad we have that blatantly obvious statement out of the way.

Last Thursday, K-State eked out a 76-67 victory over Presbyterian College - a team that many may have confused for a local church squad. The Wildcats looked strong at times in the first 20 minutes, but spent the second half playing like a team that had its collective mind focused on something else - perhaps on trying to figure out what the heck Presbyterian's nickname "The Blue Hose" refers to.*

*Answer: A fierce Scotch-Irish warrior, as seen in Braveheart. No, the team did not wear kilts.

Predictably, KSU coach Frank Martin was ticked off after the game. Some might view K-State's struggles as a huge warning sign; evidence that the team is too caught up in the preseason hype and magazine covers. That's very possible, however there is another possibility. The close call could be the reality check the Wildcats needed heading into a tournament where they'll face Gonzaga and possibly Duke, the defending National Champion and current No. 1 team.

Last season, K-State put together a sloppy effort against Fort Hays State and won by a narrow seven-point margin. Martin's post-game reaction was harsh and I imagine that the practices leading up to the next game were about as enjoyable as dental work completed with a tack hammer. Four days later, the Wildcats topped Washington State - a team featuring one of the top scorers in the country - by 17 points. They followed with 15-point wins over Xavier - whom the Cats would meet in the Sweet 16 months later - and nationally-ranked UNLV. I do not intend to say that I appreciate the fact that K-State barely beat a team with a basketball program about as respected as any Air Bud film, but I do feel that the squeaker is the type of game that helps Martin drive his coaching points home. Is that assessment an accurate one? We'll find out Monday night.


Monday, November 15, 2010

God bless grandparents

When I was a kid, it seemed like I was always waiting in line at family functions. The line - six giggling children deep - snaked about my grandparents’ living room. As with any line - whether it is at a theme park, movie theater, or even at the nearby grocery store - the goal was to get to the front; there was great anticipation to do so. At the front of this line was my grandfather’s chair and Grandpa - one grandchild on his knee - bucking and braying or kicking and neighing. Grandpa took the idea of a “horsy ride” to the extreme, customizing each one and not limiting himself to equestrian feats. Curious of what it might be like to ride an elephant? Simply make the request when your turn arrived and he would do his best to replicate each thumping step and trumpeting blow.

I can’t imagine how much Grandpa’s knee ached after several trips through the line by each grandchild, but the smile never passed from his face and he was always willing to meet requests for “one more turn,” even if they came from the tub of chubbiness that was the toddler version of his youngest grandson.

I have been blessed enough in my life to have four grandparents with amazing qualities - qualities that played big roles in shaping the person I am today. Grandpa, in particular, carried an abundance of traits that I have at least attempted to pick up through my 28 years.

He was a man of great faith, but knew that actions often speak with a greater volume than words. He was not preaching on the corner, but any observation of his everyday life would make his true beliefs clear. His core values were indisputable.

He was a man that knew the value of hard work. Some men farm. Some do people’s taxes. Grandpa did both. After his days of farming were complete, he kept doing taxes and continued the work well into his 80s.

He was a man of great humor - funnier than I could ever hope to be. With a wry smile and Sahara-dry wit, Grandpa could draw deep belly laughs with a simple two-word remark or have folks amusingly captivated by a story about something as simple as a 20-minute car ride. He loved to bring smiles to people’s faces and kept at it into his 95th year.

As with my three grandparents who preceded him in passing, Grandpa was unfailingly dedicated to his family - his grandkids in particular. He would attend school plays, football games, and anything else a kid might get wrapped up in and always had words of support. After a game where I scored a touchdown in junior high, he told me he’d never seen someone run so fast. Now well aware of my own athleticism (or lack thereof) I know the statement obviously contained a load of embellishment, but to a 5-6, 105 lbs., eight grader, it was a hefty compliment.

Days after his passing, a wealth of great memories remain, but the clich├ęd “feels like something is missing“ take on things holds true. On one of my final visits to see Grandpa, my dad and I took him to an outside courtyard of the nursing home. His speech was labored and whisper-soft, so he did not really speak at all. He didn’t have to. Once the wheels of his wheelchair rolled out the courtyard door, the look on his face seemed to morph. His face lifted and there was a sense of great comfort surrounding him. The visit is something I won’t soon forget; the way that something I take for granted each day could bring such appreciation years down the road.

He had slowed in recent years and there is no doubt that some days were filled with incredible pain, both physical and mental. Nevertheless, much like the days when an aching knee served as the greatest form of amusement for seven youngsters, he seemed to put it all aside when the grandchildren were around. His smile of hello seemed a little wider when grandkids would visit and brightness from years gone seemed to return to his eyes when a great-grandchild would have a chance to explore his collections.

It is clear that family brought great joy to Grandpa’s life. I just hope he knows that he brought as much to ours.

God bless grandparents.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

At least they didn't call it Hippo-Wear

I received an email today from a company called Serengeti. This company, it seems, specializes in plus-sized women's clothing. Targeted marketing can be incredibly effective, when it is accurate, but often attempts at such advertising seem to hit far from the mark. After all, as a male with a natural Gumby-like build, I can't imagine the Serengeti folks have me in their target audience.

Alas, I think the bigger issue here is the name of the company. After all, if you're selling to plus-sized women, do you really want your brand name inspiring thoughts of land beasts roaming the savanna?

Serengeti: You're fat and we're insensitive. Why don't we put aside our differences so you can buy a muumuu?


I'm left attempting to come up with more potential company names with Serengeti's kick-you-in-the-throat-while-you're-down attitude. Here's the list so far:

- Dimwit tutoring service;
- Gargoyle cosmetics;
- Mr. Magoo eyewear;
- Barnyard's Best cologne;
- Walking the Line alcohol rehab center;
- "Get Confident, Stupid" motivational tapes.

If I've missed any, please feel free to post below.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Stubblings

I'm one week into the No-Shave November experiment and it already seems that I am a cheater. You see, I took my Schick Quattro (four blades means four-times as many opportunities to cut yourself. Woohoo!) to my cheeks this morning. It may seem like I've already rendered the whole idea moot, but I'd like to argue that I'm serving the greater good. Allow me to explain.

When it comes to growth of facial hair, my cheek bones seem to provide the same sort of growing environment as salted soil. Little grows, meaning the the whiskers that do present themselves stick out like fans in the upper deck at Kauffman Stadium in September. Seeing that there was absolutely no chance I'd feature a full beard this month (and deciding that I'd rather not attempt a comb-over beard with the then-present whiskers), I decided to upgrade my appearance from "completely ridiculous" to "mostly ridiculous" before venturing to church this morning.*

*Please note that, while I currently reside at the "mostly ridiculous" appearance level, I will downgrade to "beyond ridiculous" the day I decide to shave all but the mustache off my face. Luckily, I can take great pride in knowing that once the month is through, I'll be back to no longer looking ridiculous, just incredibly goofy.

With the seven-day milestone reached (mostly), I figured it was time for the first official evaluation.

Comfort
Ever worn a sweater that continually rubs against your neck? That's how my face felt for two straight days earlier this week. I don't typically make a habit of wearing sweaters directly on my face, so the comfort level of this phenomenon was not really appreciated. Luckily, the discomfort has subsided... Well, the physical discomfort anyway.

Appearance
With my cheeks barren, I am basically presenting all who encounter me with a horrible attempt at a goatee. (A fauxtee?) Seven days in, it's pretty short, leaving most with the impression that I am probably just incredibly lazy when it comes to shaving. As one part of the whole, the mustache portion of my Novemgrowth actually shows potential. If I were to dedicate myself to the whole mustache way of life, I could potentially sport one that would be envied by many in the world of highway patrol. Conversely, the patch of fuzz on my chin has the potential to be... well, a thicker patch of fuzz. Exciting.

What people are saying
During a lull in conversation on Friday night, my mom said "I think I'm finally getting used to you." My response was, "Well, that only took 28 years." Turns out she was not referring to me, but to this foolishness on my face. This served as a relief on multiple levels.

On Saturday, I received enthusiastic encouragement to let the mustache grow. Such encouragement leaves me curious as to whether people really think I'd be a good match for a blind woman.

Today, the main comment was "You should shave, it makes you look old." On occasions that I enter a bar, I typically have my ID examined as if it were an ancient artifact, so the "looking older" idea may not be a horrible one.


What's ahead in the land of laugh-worthy attempts to abide by alliterative rules promoting the avoidance of razors? Eval No. 2 is due next Sunday.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Thought for the Day - Nov. 3

As of today, I've been at my current job for six months. One added benefit of the job is the fact that my place of employment is just a stone's throw away* from the dealership where I bought my car and where I take it to be serviced. This means that, on any particular day, I could drop my car off for an oil change, a wheel alignment, or for installation of a couple of new tires and not have to ride the dealership shuttle back to work. Handy.

*Editor's note: This terminology was used to add color to this Writing, but is not meant to be taken literally. Unless said stone is being thrown by some sort of giant with a very strong arm or the stone features a jet-propulsion system, hitting the dealership with a stone thrown from my office (or vice versa) would be impossible. Should you ever get in a post-Apocalyptic rock fight with someone who takes shelter in the shaken remains of one of these two buildings, please pay heed to this information. The Writings: Your source for advice on potential post-Apocalyptic rock fights.

Through the wonder of foreshadowing, you may have come to the conclusion that I took advantage of this very situation today. You, dear reader, are correct.* In fact, my car can now show off the new oil, aligned wheels, and new tires mentioned above. (My bank account balance can show far too much evidence of this, as well.)

*Please, don't get cocky about being able to predict outcomes from my mundane life. I am, quite possibly, more predictable than the female-oriented flims (read: chick flicks) that my mom loves to view on the Hallmark Channel. (You mean the charming, hunky dream guy ended up choosing the quirky, slightly nerdy, career-oriented girl-next-door with whom he shared awkward sexual tension throughout the film instead of the hot-but-bitchy selfish woman that is out to ruin the first girl's career, exterminate all the puppies in the pet store, and end Christmas? No way!)

At the end of the work day, I journeyed back to the dealership to pick up my car. My route included a trip through an adjoining car lot featuring nothing but used vehicles. My mission was simple: get to the dealership, pay for my car service without throwing a key-chucking tantrum concerning the price, and leave. I was focused; so focused that I did not even glance at a used vehicle as I marched toward my destination. I'm sure I had the look of a very determined person. Nonetheless, as I neared the dealership, I heard the following shout, "Hey! Do you need anything?"

I stayed on my track, but glanced over my shoulder to see who was concerned with my presence. I saw a short man, balding with the type of gut that gives the impression that a man appreciates bacon in an unhealthy manner. He stood in the doorway of the small building that houses the salesmen of the used vehicles that I had steadfastly ignored. Apparently he was checking to see if I wanted to turn around, engage in small talk, peruse the used vehicles that I had just zipped by without a second glance, find a car I liked, waffle about buying it, decide to buy it, go sit in his tiny building, negotiate a price, threaten to walk out without purchase, agree on a price, get my credit approved, sign loads of paperwork, and ultimately leave with the burden of more car payments. Oddly, those activities were not on my evening agenda. I shouted back that I was in no need of his assistance, but just heading to pick up my car. Then, I kept moving.

Today's thought: If you are so desperate to sell a car that you resort to hollering out the doorway of your workplace - like a mother trying to get her children inside for dinner - at someone who has ignored your merchandise and is clearly using your lot as a byway to another destination, perhaps it's time to considering checking the Help Wanted section of the classified ads.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Nothing of relevance

Thoughts while I wear out my remote control flipping back and forth between the World Series and Monday Night Football...

- Per the official, very scientific poll I conducted to determine my approach to "no-shave November," I should embrace my inner Thomas Magnum and grow a mustache. Alas, I'm fairly certain that one of the ballots in favor of the mustache had a hanging chad*. The current plan is to take the Poor Man's Hobo route (abandoning shaving entirely, for those unfamiliar with such lexicon) for as long as I can stand it. Feel free to place bets on how long I last. (I'm guessing about a week.) Don't worry, mustache supporters, once I do decide to grab a razor again, it's very possible that I'll leave what remains in the mustachular area for a day, simply to embrace the ridiculous situation.

*The Writings: We're all about timely references.

- If you are disappointed that this Writing led off with an update on my personal grooming, please reread the title to this writing.

- I should probably be more specific with titles, however, as this one could pretty much cover all posts contained in this blog.

- The San Francisco Giants - the team just one win away from winning the World Series - are starting a lineup where folks named Freddy, Buster and Cody bat back-to-back-to-back. Unconfirmed reports state that the team, should they win, will celebrate at Pizza Hut... but only if they have their chores done first.

- After a week, I finally have my car back from the body shop. Upon returning my rental car, the guy at the counter asked me what they could do better in terms of customer service. I said I couldn't think of anything, though that was probably a lie. Ultimately, I didn't figure my suggestion of offering full refunds for people who have five-letter names beginning with "D" would be taken seriously.

- The woman behind me at the grocery store this evening had just two items: an ice-scraper and one red onion. Try to piece that puzzle together.

-  If I learned one thing from Halloween this year, it's that the concept of trick-or-treating is one that a two-year-old can pick up fairly quickly.

- If I learned a second thing from Halloween, it's that it is pretty adorable when that same two-year-old takes to playing a piano and signing her own rendition of "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep." Personally, I think I like her lyrics, "yes sir, yes sir, be ba bull" better than the "real" lyrics.

- I just saw a commercial for Heart's new album. On the Big List of Things I Never Hope To Have In My Home this ranks right behind a leopard-print Snuggie.

- I'm somewhat frightened by the thought of the Giants winning the World Series, simply because the potential for leagues of headlines of the "A GIANT Victory" variety is quite strong. I have nothing against a good pun, but this will be beaten into the ground like a railroad spike.

- If you're reading this on Tuesday, don't forget to vote. Whether your a Democrat, Republican, Independent, or Whig, it's your chance to be a part of Democracy in action. Plus, you get a sticker. Score!

- In other Tuesday action, the No. 3 Kansas State Wildcats begin their preseason schedule. Yes, it feels very foreign to type that "No. 3," but it's definitely something I could get used to. With that in mind, it's time for pregame...



Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Things you should know - Late October Sports Edition

A fair chunk of the regular readers of The Writings have little more than a passing interest in sports. This is a fact I'm aware of, but one I seem to regularly ignore. Instead of giving readers what they're really hoping for (embarrassing tales from my life), I'll post rambling entries about sports teams and athletes in whom my readers have as much interest as they do in the current whereabouts of the cast of "Perfect Strangers." With the World Series upon us, football season in mid-play, and basketball season tipping off, the sports-oriented writing probably will not end anytime soon. I will, however, at least make an effort to present helpful knowledge that the reader could use in everyday conversation. I do occasionally pretend to be a "professional" sports journalist, after all. Consider the following things you should know...


BASEBALL

This World Series will end a drought
The San Francisco Giants have not won a World Series since 1954 and the franchise was located in New York back then. The Texas Rangers, on the other hand, have never appeared in a World Series; not even in their previous life as the Washington Senators. Thus, whoever wins the seven-game series will making history, quenching the thirst for a championship in either San Francisco or Arlington. Why should you care? Mainly because this proves to you that two teams have longer championship droughts than the Kansas City Royals, whose Writings you tolerate with such patience.

The beard-fearing trend has caught on
Last basketball season, the simple notion of fearing one whose face featured whiskers went mainstream* thanks to a Kansas State guard with a silky shot and a hairy chin. This fall, the phrase "Fear the Beard" has made another splash, earning the approval of all in San Francisco thanks to relief pitcher Brian Wilson. Wilson (the non-Beach Boy version) led the majors with 48 saves in 2010 and sports a beard that resembles, in uncanny manner, the fake one actor Matthew Fox wore in Lost.

*Should Pullen really receive all the credit for beard fearing trends? After all, haven't mall Santa's been terrifying children for decades? There's probably credence to the idea of giving Saint Nick some credit, but Santa won't be shooting 3-pointers in Bramlage Coliseum this season. Excellent work, Jake.

This World Series will feature some excellent pitching
It all starts tonight. By the time you read this, one team will probably lead the series 1-0. Most likely, the winner will have received a strong pitching performance from its Game 1 starter. The game features the Rangers' Cliff Lee - the 32-year-old who was demoted to the minors for poor performance as recently as 2007, but followed by winning the Cy Young Award for the league's best pitcher in 2008 - and the Giants' Tim Lincecum - a 26-year-old who won the National League Cy Young Award in 2008 and 2009 and also wears his hair like a teenage girl. Odds are strong that pitching will be as vital to this series as cultural differences were to the scripts of every "Perfect Strangers" episode.*

*I've posted a great number of Writings and never once referred to the show that gave the world the gift of Balki Bartokomous. You didn't think I could only take one bite once I opened the "Perfect Strangers" wrapper, did you?


Football

The rushing attack of the Kansas City Chiefs is the best in football
The Chiefs currently lead the NFL in rushing, averaging 176.5 rushing yards per game. Running backs Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones rank 13th and 16th, respectively, in individual rushing. Is this really a big deal just six games into the season? Perhaps it is. Perhaps it will prove to be as relevant to the season as the fact that one day in high school I ate an entire box of powdered donuts in one sitting. (There's your embarrassing tale of the author's life. Happy?) Because I've never shown much prowess in the area of seeing the future, I really have no idea how things will end for the Chiefs. I just know it's nice to be back to the point where there is some sort of reason for optimism.

Brett Favre will never go away
For years now, there's been great "drama" (translation: 24-hour coverage by major sports networks because pitchmen for Wranglers are apparently more important than actual sporting events) surrounding the "will he retire?" storyline with Mr. Favre. The story is blown up like a Macy's balloon every year, despite the fact that Favre has never actually missed a game due to a "retirement." Now that the season is midway through and we can't focus on possible retirement (and poor play keeps the media from having the opportunity to declare him the savior for all humanity), the Favre filler has revolved around another subject. I believe this is what one might call a lose-lose-lose situation. First off, it involves Favre. (Loss.) Next, it means journalists everywhere are having to write stories on the subject of Mr. Favre's bikini area. (Loss.) The fact that so many outlets are covering it also seems to convey the fact that the general public is interested in the story. (Loss for all of humanity.)


Basketball

Everything you hear about LeBron James and the Miami Heat is wrong
Ever since LeBron James announced he would sign with the Miami Heat this summer, the NBA squad has been more popular in South Beach than Don Johnson and the musical stylings of Will Smith combined.* There are folks that think the Heat - with James plus all-stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh - will set new record for victories in an NBA season. They won't. There are folks that claim that James is some sort of demonic spawn of underworldly origin because of the way he deserted Cleveland. He's not. Personally, I didn't agree with the way James gave the Ohio city a figurative middle-finger by announcing he was signing with a different team on a national television special, but I also don't feel the decision should have him treated as if he's Satan's step-brother. The Heat will be a strong team this year, and they'll be a fun one for many to root against. Just know that they won't dominate in the same fashion that Teen Wolf's team did and be aware that James will not, at any point in the season, grow horns or cloven hooves.

*Is it clear that I've never been to Miami and can only base knowledge of the city on events from pop culture?

The K-State basketball season starts on Nov. 2
Sure, it's a preseason game against a school seemingly named after a "Seinfeld" character, but such details should not hinder enthusiasm. The Wildcats enter the season with national expectations higher than I might have ever imagined. Season tickets are sold out, Jacob Pullen is widely viewed as one of the best guards in the nation, and there's a potential matchup with Duke - the nation's top team - looming less than one month away. No funny business here; this season should be a lot of fun.

Be ready.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Putting the Pro in Procrastination

Nearly a year ago, a grizzled old man backed his Suburban right into the rear-quarter panel of my sweet, innocent Chevy Impala. My car has never done a thing to deserve such treatment, and truthfully, it has had a somewhat traumatic life. Upon researching the vehicle before I purchased it, I discovered through a VIN report that it had been repossessed from it's original owner. I've never had the nerve to ask my car what happened with the whole situation, but my guess is that there was some major neglect and possibly some name-calling. (That, or drugs anyway.)

Since the car has been under my control, life has been mostly good, however there have been some hiccups along the way. There was the hailstorm that cracked the windshield. There were the occasions that I went more than 3,000 miles before having the oil changed. (On a COMPLETELY UNRELATED note, please don't check my odometer right now.) There was even the time that - as the result of some sort of weird prank, gang initiation, or pagan sacrifice - I awoke to discover that my car was coated in sunflower seeds. (I still have no idea what sort of sign that was supposed to be.)

Through all those trials, my car kept its figurative head up and kept moving forward (or backward, depending on the gear). Then, the old guy - who had seemingly been at Hastings to search for "Hee Haw, The Complete Series" on DVD - struck. Upon hearing the crunch of his mammoth vehicle bullying my car, he exited his, checked out the result, and then finally spoke. His words of wisdom? "Damn. It's been a long time since I've hit anybody." I've consulted the Big List of Intelligent Things You Can Say After Backing Into Someone in the Parking Lot of a Book/Entertainment Store and this response comes in at No. 2,939,082,618. (Right after "Jellybeans are my favorite.")

Through the majesty of insurance, I was assured that all damages would be taken care of. I'd even be set up with a rental. All I had to do was get the car into a body shop for an estimate. Easy, right? Eleven months later, that has finally happened. My car goes in for body work tomorrow, and by Friday it should be looking as good as new(-used).

The question is, "Why did it take 11 months to get to the point?" Unfortunately, the answer to said question is a highly-convoluted one full of hearsay, happenstance, and conspiracy theories. ... That, or it comes down to the fact that the dent really is not THAT noticeable, and eating a Vistaburger and reading (or eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and watching television, or eating something off the Wendy's 99-cent menu and writing, or eating a bowl of cereal and reciting the lyrics to Journey's greatest hits, or eating Saltines and whittling the entire roster of the 1994 Kansas City Royals out of maple) always seemed like a better way to spend lunch.

Actually, I'm not really sure at all why it took so long to get my car into the shop, but I'm glad that it is finally happening. (Nice work, self.) Though my reminder of the serial parking lot prowler will be forever gone, My car will no longer have to be self-conscious about the dent in the rear-quarter panel.

Now if it could just do something about the fool driving it around.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Pumpkin Patch

Today is October 20. I have consulted several calendars to confirm this seemingly simple fact. My Windows desktop, a day-planner, and www.timetemperature.com also provide evidence that supports this claim.

Why go to such lengths just to confirm today's date? Mainly because it blows my mind... We're two-thirds of the way through 2010's tenth month, yet I'm fairly confident that it was just three days ago that I was telling my landlord that I could not believe how quickly August went by. The fact that time is flying by with such velocity seems to be a sure sign that I'm getting old. (The noises my back makes when I get up in the morning and the way I get drawn in to Wheel of Fortune whenever it's on a nearby television seem to support this notion.)  Nonetheless, it's time to cast aside such worries. Even though I may be just days from arthritis and cataracts, and - with the seemingly accelerated nature of this calendar year - tomorrow may be Christmas, it's time to pause and take a look a locale that truly fits the season: the pumpkin patch.

*Warning: Reading about events in the author's life may cause drowsiness. Please do not read The Writings while operating heavy machinery. The Writings have been known to cause severe befuddlement, mild aggression, and feelings of deep pity. Don't drink alcohol when reading The Writings. If you are, or may soon be pregnant, take precaution when reading The Writings. Please do not attempt to recreate The Writings at home. This blog is written by a trained professional.

As surprising as it may be, Saturday marked my first trip to such a location. I'm sure it sounds odd, but traveling alone to a family-oriented place to look awkward because I was the only single person there with no kids never really appealed to me. Saturday proved different, as my sister invited me to go with her family and a couple friends. Thus, when we arrived at the pumpkin patch, it was my sister, brother-in-law, and my niece, plus their two friends and their baby boy... and me, looking awkward because I was the only single person there with no kids. Oh well.

Anyway, the patch proved to be an interesting place. Admission for all seven of us to get in? $4. That's right, the owner's of the pumpkin patch took the approach that only those that would get the most enjoyment of the patch's activities (kids 2+) should be charged admission. The idea is a novel one and is something that more places should consider. Score one for the patch.

Inside, we first took a trip through the bale maze. As an astute reader might guess, this was simply a maze crafted out of bales of hay. Unfortunately, with a limited amount of space, there are only so many different routes one could make in a bale maze. Only the first fork of the maze seemed to make one pause for a moment wondering which way they should go. Naturally, I chose the wrong way. Luckily, two minutes later our entire crew escaped the maze with no severe injuries or mental trauma to report.

We moved on from the maze to a giant tree house and then the petting zoo. My niece, a master of animal noises at the age of two, was excited to check out the animals, but ultimately terrified of two pigs. Rather than petting one of the pigs as it ate, she decided she would hide behind her mom and shout that the pig was "naughty." I'm not sure what the pig did, but ultimately - when the battle is between my relation and pork - I have to side with my niece... That damn pig. Along with the dastardly swine, the petting zoo featured a calf that was in a coma-like trance at the rear of its cage, a goat that had also determined that people were evil, a cage of pigeons, and a pen full of chickens and a couple ducks. Disney's Animal Adventure it was not, but - again - it cost $4 to get in.

In my niece's eyes, the highlight of the patch was surely the giant pile of hay that existed only for children to jump into. After she climbed to a spot on a hay bale a few feet above the pile of hay, I expected a bit of hesitation on her part before taking the leap. I was wrong. The little girl jumped like a seasoned paratrooper. She laughed as she sank into the hay and then it was time to jump again. And again. And a few more times for good measure. After more jumps than the average game of Super Mario Bros. the young one was finally corralled and it was time to go pick pumpkins. (Unsurprisingly, we made it back to the hay pit later on.)

Unfortunately for those looking for quality, wholesome, pumpkin-picking fun (my sister) we had to walk back by the petting zoo to get to the patch of pumpkins. The niece can be a motivated individual, and at this point she was motivated to visit her animal friends again. She was told that they had to find some pumpkins first. It was at this point that my niece picked up the small pumpkin nearest her feet and handed it to her uncle. Technically, she had completed her mother's task; she had picked a pumpkin. After all, her mom had never specified that the pumpkin should not be half green. Alas, the niece's attempt to beat the system were ineffective and the pumpkin hunt continued. It was at this point that my brother-in-law received a text message with news of my brother's engagement. At this, there was much rejoicing.

The day at the patch wrapped with pumpkins picked, some s'mores cooked, and another visit to the chickens and ducks, this time with some quality animal impersonations tossed out. (Not by me... Okay, a few by me, but most by my niece. I swear.)

What's the point of this tale of the pumpkin patch visit? Honestly, I don't have a clue... I hear people start to tell rambling stories with no direction when they get old.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Family Matters

I don't regularly break from poor attempts at sports analysis and lame jokes to write about family, but I don't regularly find out that my family will be adding a new member. With that in mind, The Writings offer their official congratulations* to my brother and his fiancee on their recent engagement. (Names omitted so that they never have to admit association with this blog.)

*Does a blog need to offer "official congratulations" when the author has already congratulated said couple in person? Probably not, but I've heard several times lately that "nothing is official until it's on Facebook." I want to cover my bases, just in case those who uttered this phrase were thinking of the wrong incredibly popular website. I'm fairly confident that, just as with Facebook, there's a major motion picture coming out about the creation of The Writings... The Writings: Delusion is a way of life.

It's been fairly obvious from the start that the relationship between this couple was a meaningful one, so - even though I'm destined to receive a barrage of "So, when's it your turn?" inquisitions and "You're the only one left" remarks* through the eight months leading to the wedding - I'm definitely looking forward to the big day. Again, congratulations.

*Judging by the number of such comments I've received in just the two days since the engagement became public knowledge, I'm likely to set some sort of record.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Things you should know - K-State October Edition

If the numbers 59-7 and the phrase “Madness in Manhattan” mean absolutely nothing to you and you have no desire to read of anything related to them, it is probably best to move along. (In fact, I hear that both Good Housekeeping and Guns & Ammo have some real think-pieces online.) If, however, you enjoy reading K-State analysis from a website in no way affiliated with or endorsed by the university or any sort of actual respected media outlet, you’ve come to the right place. The K-State football team is just one win away from being bowl eligible for the first time since 2006 and the men’s basketball team has officially begun practicing, entering the season as the favorite to win the Big 12. Here’s what you should know…

Carson Coffman can hit water if he falls out of a boat.
The Wildcat quarterback has taken much flak this season from the media, fans, and even authors of little-read blogs. It’s true that he’s not perfect. It’s true that he’s seen struggles on the field. It’s true that he’s responded to blitzes in the same manner that one is taught to react to being attacked by a grizzly bear. Nonetheless, it’s also true that he’s led K-State to a 5-1 record, with the only loss coming to a Nebraska team that is ranked in the Top 10. Coffman played frighteningly effectively against the KU drama department’s cast of “Little Giants: The Musical”*, showing that the Wildcats might have more up their offensive sleeves than off-tackle runs.

*Wait, that was actually KU’s football team? Yowza.

Jacob Pullen is good at basketball
Three years ago, Jacob Pullen was a backup point guard and the third-best freshman on the Kansas State roster. He may have been best known for being Michael Beasley’s teammate and for being verbally berated by coach Frank Martin nearly every game. It’s a safe bet that, at that time, few imagined that Pullen would develop into the type of player he is today. Sure, he showed flashed of great skill, scoring 20 points in the first-ever ever victory over Kansas at Bramlage Coliseum, but few took much notice of No. 0 with Beasley and fellow-frosh Bill Walker in the lineup.

Now? Pullen spent last season teaching folks around the nation to respect (and, yes, even fear) players that neglect razors during the course of a basketball season. First-team all conference honors and a stellar performance in the NCAA Tournament led to the senior guard being voted the Big 12’s preseason Player of the Year for 2010-2011. Pullen won the 3-point contest at K-State’s “Madness” event and has been mentioned as a potential first-team All American.

Daniel Thomas is good at football, but he’s not invincible
When a talented (sorry, KU) opposing defense focuses on stopping the senior running back, the task can be achieved, as exhibited by the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Honestly, this is probably for the best. The last thing we need is Lex Luthor dressing as a line judge in attempt to sneak onto the K-State sideline and spike DT’s Gatorade with kryptonite. 

The Kansas State front court has the potential to be one of the best in the nation
Big 12 coaches voted senior forward Curtis Kelly to the conference’s preseason first-team. Junior forward Jamar Samuels earned preseason honorable mention honors. Transfer Freddy Asprilla is a load at 6-10, 280 lbs., and he earned Freshman of the Year honors in the Sun Belt Conference two years ago. That’s not a bad trio. Add in sophomore Wally Judge, a former McDonald’s All-American who has the potential to be better than the first three we mentioned, and you have a front court that should compete with any in college basketball. 

This fan-base is well-versed in overreaction
One blowout loss to a top-ten team and suddenly many K-State fans weren’t sure whether the team would even compete with the University of Kansas, despite the fact that KU had also just been on the wrong side of a blow-out, but against a team with football history about as storied as that of Hogwarts. Fighting the trend of viewing the Gatorade cup as half empty, I predicted that K-State would win by at least two touchdowns… If only I would have said “at least seven touchdowns.” Oh well.

Good things come to those who wait
Well, predictions of good things do, anyway. In the late 90s and early this decade, the only doom to speak of around K-State’s octagonal basketball facility was the type that surrounded the anticipated result of having the ball in the hands of Joe Leonard, or Pero Vasiljevic, or Chris Griffin, or Tyler Hughes, or Travis Canby, or (in the interest of time and keeping the one person that has read this far interested, I'll stop). There was a lot of bad basketball on display in Bramlage Coliseum, and my friends, my brother, and I kept going back for more. It’s not easy to be one of 250 students at an exhibition game that your team is losing to a squad of washed-up players with the name of a video game company on their jerseys. It’s exponentially more difficult when one of the players, who has torched your team for about 307 points* begins to have in-depth, trash-talking conversations with the student section. Been there, done that. I’ve seen another exhibition loss where a student that won a VIDEO GAME tournament suited up for the opposing squad and actually scored, even though he looked to possess about as much athleticism as Jabba the Hutt.

*Number is approximate.

Throughout the years with Tom Asbury and Jim Wooldridge at the helm, I witnessed blowouts and heartbreakers, with a few encouraging victories mixed in. I remember the anger and frustration that came with year after year of being completely ignored by the tournament selection committee – of the NIT.  Then, with the hiring of a guy named Huggins, things took a turn.

Sure, Bob is seen as a public enemy by many in Manhattan, but the fact remains that K-State basketball would not be in the position it is currently in if he had never made a stop in the former Huggieville. Now, K-State is the favorite to win the Big 12. They’re viewed by many as a potential top-five team this season. Head coach Frank Martin – whose hiring many viewed as a Hail Mary effort to keep Michael Beasley’s commitment – is seen as one of the top coaches in the conference and has become a broadcast media favorite for his sideline reactions. Five years ago televised K-State basketball was a rarity; this season every single regular season game will shown on TV.

The expectations are high with the Wildcats predicted by conference coaches to win the Big 12. There is a chance that things turn sour and the team falls flat on its collective face (see: K-State football, 2004), but that’s certainly not going to occupy my thoughts. I lived through the days where the team’s recruiting coups came from Junction City and it's been rather enjoyable seeing basketball actually become relevant again. This life? It’s good.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Honk if... uhh, nevermind

While idling in a fast-food drive-thru lane today, I noticed that the vehicle to my fore wore a 30-day tag. Good for the driver, I thought. He’s not letting economic struggles hinder his life and he has a new/used vehicle to show for it. Further examination of the dark Jeep Grand Cherokee, however, left me slightly concerned. You see, a window on the driver’s side wore a sticker bearing the phrase, “Honk if U Horny.”

I’m not one to judge folks for the messages promoted by their vehicles. After all, the sticker could have been part of scientific research, with the driver attempting to determine which areas of town respond in most positive fashion to such a window-borne stimulus. (Please note that there were no honks heard while at Burger King.) The concern I have is with the fact that, again, this vehicle wore a 30-day tag, dated Oct. 11, 2010. The leads a thinking person* (which I am nearly 38-percent of the time) to one of
three conclusions (aside from the fact that Mr. Driver really needs to get his vehicle legally registered):

 

1. The call for action put forth on the aforementioned sticker is so important to the driver that he adhered it to the window prior to even ensuring that the vehicle was legally registered.

 
2. The vehicle wore the sticker prior to being purchased by the new driver, meaning a previous driving approved of said message and the new driver found it thought-provoking enough that he purchased the vehicle without consideration of having the adhesive directive removed prior to transfer of ownership.

3. The car dealership placed the sticker on the vehicle as further incentive to purchase the mode of conveyance. (Car salesman: You see that sticker? You'll be the life of the party.; Car shopper: What party? I'd be driving...; Car salesman:... Uhh... Hey, look. It has heated seats.)   


Whether the reasoning behind said sticker is No. 1, 2, or 3, my concern for the driver (and society in general) remains the same. After all, if folks are busy following the “Honk if U Horny” motto, how is one supposed to be sure if someone is actually honking because you just cut them off, or your light turned green, or you’re about to back into them in the Hastings’ parking lot? Frankly, though the message communicated is an intelligent and highly sophisticated request, I’m not sure this whole “Honk if U Horny” idea will lead to anything but problems.

Beyond that, the sentence is one out of a writer's nightmare.* If kids are going to be reading this, can we at least have it appear in grammatically correct fashion?


*Yes, a writer (which I pretend to be nearly 38-percent of the time) has pretty lame nightmares.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ad research

According to the ads that display when checking my Yahoo!* email account, I am apparently a stressed, greedy octogenarian who is
losing his hair, has a flabby stomach, has bad skin, has horrendously achy joints, needs new deodorant, may be interested in going back to school, enjoys fantasy role-playing video games, is a fan of the Phoenix Suns, and loves the movie Shutter Island with a passion that cannot be rivaled.

Wow.

It's like these folks are sitting right here in my living room with me. You'll excuse me if I spend the rest of the evening shopping online for stress-relieving pain meds, gut-busting Rogaine, pleasantly scented Ben Gay + Clearasil combo packs, and educational video games featuring the Phoenix Suns' Gorilla, and that may or may not be set on a fictional island, right?

*Please note: I'm never excited enough to actually pronounce "Yahoo!" with the proper emphasis indicated by the exclamation mark. I apologize for this. I'm going to make a concentrated effort to get more excited about emails telling me that I can get 10% off at shoes.com.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Gut feeling

I have never been literally punched in the gut. For this, I'm thankful. You see, I have a feeling that my gut is probably the fragile sort and would not respond well to any sort of physical abuse. After taking one hit, said gut would probably curl up in the fetal position, praying silent prayers for its safety.


Unfortunately, I have taken figurative blows to the gut on several occasions, the most recent of which came last night when the Nebraska Cornhuskers ran past the Kansas State Wildcats on their way a 35-point victory. Through the years I've learned that the fetal position does little to help in said situations.

I have often (probably far too often) used this space to detail certain aspects of collegiate or professional teams that I root for. There have been optimistic looks at hopes for struggling baseball teams (which typically prove fruitless) and running logs of my thoughts during football games (which typically prove uninteresting to anyone that is not a future version of myself). There have been countless hours devoted to attempting to keep up with everything these teams do, even if the team is just inviting a high school recruit to come watch a game. One fact remains: these are games.

Sure, Thursday night's K-State-Nebraska came was a battle of unbeatens. It was a match-up that involved the Cornhuskers attempting to show the nation that they are certainly a Top-10 team, while the Wildcats wanted to show that they deserve a spot in the Top 25. It even served as an historic occasion, as - thanks to Nebraska's decision to ditch their Big 12 brethren for annual trips to Pennsylvania Dutch Country - it marked possibly the final time that the two programs would ever meet on a football field.

The result was one that pained those for whom purple is a permanent wardrobe fixture. Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez found more open field than a traveler who takes a wrong turn in Western Kansas and the K-State defenders pursuing him seemed to be reenacting every slow-motion sequence that has ever taken place in film. Nebraska scored and scored. Fans clad in red (far too many of them) cheered endlessly in the stadium named for the Wildcats' head coach, and K-State fans held their guts in disgust. (Or as the result of disgust-fueled drinking.)

The loss hurt. Most do. Thanks to the stoicism from my dad credits to our Swedish heritage, I typically maintain a pretty even keel; never excited to the point of mindless screaming (whew), but never mad to the point of turning green and yelling self-narrations like "Hulk smash!" Yet, some of the most frustrating moments of my life have come as the result of numbers on a scoreboard. My brother-in-law still insists that the angriest he has seen me was after K-State's loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl in early 2004. I was mad about the loss. I was mad about obnoxious Buckeye fans sitting next to me. I was even angry about the ignorant folks sitting behind me who apparently had never seen football before. I was peeved, miffed, fed up, steamed, et cetera. I was this worked up, all about a game.

Why can sports seem so important? There have been plenty of events in my life that have certainly been more important than anything that takes place on a field or a court, and several happenings that have served far more severe (figurative) kidney punches. Such punches are the type that can make you truthfully fear what could be ahead. They can make you wonder how life could be so cruel. They are also the moments in life that can lead one to truly being thankful and appreciative for all they have been blessed with. Such moments trump anything sports can offer. For this, I will accept no debates.

We've determined that, in the grand scheme of all that comprises life, sports don't really matter. (Yes, it apparently took seven paragraphs to reach that mind-blowing conclusion... I'm a little slow.) Why bother with sports when they can leave you curse-mutteringly mad (the author's angry state) but ultimately hold the same importance as your decision to buy one or two Crunchwrap Supremes at Taco Bell? I think I've answered my own question.

We're a society that lives for living vicariously. Through movies, television, books and video games we're largely wrapped up in the successes (Way to save the brake plant, Tommy Boy!) and failures (Stomped by Bowser again? C'mon Mario!) of others. Sports serve as a way feel like a part of that success. You can read so much about an athlete that you feel like you know him or her. You can purchase apparel to match that of your team. You can memorize stats and schedules. If you're loaded with cash, you can even purchase tickets so close to the action that an athlete might steal your popcorn. Essentially, you can get so wrapped up in a team that it honestly feels like its performance affects yours, (I know there have been days that I've gone to work with a smile solely because of the numbers on a scoreboard the night before) and yet, it really doesn't matter.

A sports fan* can be exuberant with victories and devastated with losses, but (as long as said fan is mentally stable) their lot in life is unaffected. When your favorite baseball team loses 100 games in a season, your job is still safe. When your favorite football team wins as often as a Keno player who can't count higher than five, your family still accepts you. When your favorite basketball team drops a game thanks to shooting free throws as accurately as a cross-eyed goat, life moves on. Sure, the punches hurt, but they can be forgotten.

*Please note, this refers to loyal sports fans only. Fair-weather fans cannot be invested in this sort of manner... They also don't have souls.

Do I take sports too seriously at times? Absolutely. Could I imagine things any other way? No chance. Sure, I've been reminded far too many times throughout my 20+ years as a competent* sports fan that the figurative shots to the gut hurt, but there's always hope for tomorrow (even if your head coach regularly uses phrases like very confirmed )... Plus, figuratively, I can take a beating.

*Usage of this adjective is up for debate.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Grizzly Adams did have a beard

I'm facing quite a predicament. Well, that's not entirely true. The predicament is still about a month away, but the time to seek solutions is now. You see, my employer has declared that our company should observe the rules of "no-shave November" this fall. This means that all males employed by the company are encouraged to ignore razors for the month. The thought behind it is that it's a small way to be environmentally friendly, as it would cut back on the water and/or electricity on might typically use when shaving. I suppose it also encourages all involved to embrace their inner Santa as the holiday season nears. No-shave November proves to be an issue in my world because I don't feature a face rich in follicles of the whiskular* nature.

*Whiskular: Of or relating to whiskers... Obviously.

I feel like I've been blessed with plenty in my life. I'm blessed with the sort of impeccable timing that allows me to blink approximately 49.7-percent of the time when my photo is taken. I'm blessed with the uncanny combination of optimism and poor short-term memory that makes it possible to continually root for the Kansas City Royals year after year. I'm even blessed with the opportunity to commit so many poor attempts at being entertaining to the highly sophisticated world of the Internet. Alas, I'm not blessed with the ability to grow a decent beard.

I've put much thought into the situation, and I've decided I basically have five different options of how to approach the 11th month of 2010. Please, dear reader, review the summaries below and then vote in the poll at the side of the page to help determine what November will bring for the author's mug.

1. Nothing
I know the title is a complicated one, but the premise of the "Nothing" option is that I do nothing. I'd approach November like any other month, which basically means shaving on a sporadic schedule.

Pro - Life is good. Why change?

Con - I risk being taunted by so many coworkers sporting full November beards. Noogies, wedgies, and stolen lunch money would inevitably follow.

2. The poor man's hobo
This is what I'll look like if I fully embrace the "no shave" rule. There would be a good whisker patch on my chin, but my cheeks would resemble something like barren desert with the occasional cactus.

Pro - Shaving can be a pain in both the literal and figurative sorts. This option eliminates that problem for a month, plus adds five extra minutes to my morning a few times each week. Exciting.

Con - I don't appreciate the thought of people being repulsed by my grotesque appearance.

3. Magnum P.I.
Leave the upper lip unshaven and embrace the power of the mustache.

Pro - It has, by far, the coolest name of any option.

Con - I have no intention of pursing a career in law enforcement.

4. Seriously Going Green
Step one: Buy Chia Pet.
Step two: Ditch the pet portion.
Step three: Coat cheeks/chin with water and Chia seeds.
Step four: Bathe daily.
End result: A beard that will be the envy of any greenhouse owner.

Pro - I'd be a hit in the gardening community.

Con - I'd have the "Ch-ch-chi-CHIA" jingle stuck in my head all day, everyday for a month.

5. Fear the Beard
Maintain the regular shaving routine, but wear a fake beard of the Abe Lincoln costume variety to work each day.

Pro - The shaving schedule maintains status quo, but I put forth a VERY CONVINCING facade.

Con - Applying adhesive to my face each day is about as appealing as riding to work belly-down on a skateboard.


You've read the options, now it's time to choose. Vote in the poll at the side of the page, or feel free to add a write-in as a comment below. There's a good chance it would be added to the poll, as well.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Today's brainbusters

As part of my job, I occasionally have to call up a person's account in a computer program. In doing so, I commonly ask for that person's name. Typically, the query does not prove to be a difficult one for the person on the other end; today was different. In speaking to a guy today, I asked if his middle initial was "J," as noted in our database. After a pause, he finally responded, "Well, it would have been when we ordered our tickets."

I immediately fell into a state of deep confusion. Is it common for a person's middle initial to change? Did he find out that he was actually named after a kooky grandfather who sold tainted whiskey to average citizens during the days of prohibition? I wanted to know more, but decided that curiosity can be a dangerous thing. (It needs no provocation to kill felines, after all.)

----------

On my ride home from work, I listened to a sports radio program. Over the air, the radio personalities discussed how the top college basketball recruit for the class of 2012, Austin Rivers, had given a commitment to play his college basketball at Duke University. In discussing the matter, one of the radio guys began a statement by saying, "Well, I don't know if this puts (Duke) back on the map..."

Luckily, I had just pulled into my apartment parking lot when this was uttered, as otherwise I might have run off the road into a sign or pedestrian. Duke won the NCAA Tournament this year. They're a favorite to win it again next year. They have the most famous coach in college basketball and they have built one of the most successful programs ever. Apparently all of those qualifications are not enough to put a school on this guy's map. The only sense I can make of the situation was that he was actually looking at a map of zoos in southern Utah... I'm pretty sure Duke isn't on that map.

Monday, September 27, 2010

People in your neighborhood - At the park... again

People at your neighborhood with a setting of the city park? Yes, it has been done. And, yes, the weekend was an interesting one, featuring other events that might be worthy of Writings treatment. There were storm clouds at a football game that appeared as if they had been computer-generated for a movie about the Apocalypse (and three quarters of football that seemed slightly Apocalyptic, as well). There was also the loathesome task of moving a friend out of a third-story apartment, leaving me sore in muscles that I was not aware I possessed. Nevertheless, we're headed back to the park- a public setting prime for observation.

The guy that prefers wool
As I type this, the current temperature in Manhattan, Kan., is 71-degrees. Skies are clear and anyone that argues that the weather is anything but beautiful should probably receive thorough psychiatric testing. It's hard to imagine a nicer evening, yet during my walk I crossed paths* with a couple. The male counterpart of the duo was wearing a knit sweater, the type one commonly sees accompanying the cheesiest of smiles on Christmas cards. Upon seeing the guy, I felt the urgent need to pinch my arm, thus ensuring that my nerve endings were still operating as they should and that I was not actually walking around in shorts in the midst of sub-freezing day. Alas, I felt the pinch and realized that it was, in fact, a gorgeous night.

*Meaning I walked by them. Please don't interpret the negative connotation of "crossed paths" in this instance. There were no sweater-induced fisticuffs.

So why was this guy wearing a heavy sweater? Current polling shows "his wife picked it out" as the most likely option, with "it shrunk while he was wearing it and now he can't get his head back through the neck-hole," and "he works for a sweater company and believes that showing off the product is the best way to advertise" ranking second and third, respectively.

The Mom on Speed
When I first noticed the MoS, it was actually because of her kid. Her young son, probably near two years of age, sat upright in his stroller with a grin on his face. It was the type of look one might see on the face of someone enjoying a zip down the loopiest roller coaster track. Soon after, I realized why the kid looked so excited. His mom was pushing the stroller at the average speed of a small Honda. MoS was not jogging, running, or riding any sort of motorbike, mind you; she was walking, but at an unbelievable speed. I expected to see junior fling his arms in the air and yell "oooooooooooooohhh" as if he was on the first hill of a roller coaster, but as far as I know, pictures of his ride were not available for purchase after exiting the stroller.

The Mom on Demerol
On the opposite end of the spectrum MoD pushed her young child's stroller with the zest of a severely disgruntled employee on her way to an annual evaluation. While MoS was busy setting land-speed records, MoD was preoccupied with moving so slowly that one could have confused her with a park bench. I'm fairly confident I saw her youngster turn around in his seat and check her pulse at one point.

The football players
A group of college guys tossing the pigskin around in the park. Notice I said that they were "tossing the pigskin around" rather than "playing catch." There was not a lot of catching involved, as learning that fundamental part of the game was apparently overlooked in favor of seeking out the latest in Under Armour sportswear. Nice work, guys.

The bug that flew directly into my eye
Sure, it doesn't qualify as any sort of "people," but he enjoyed the park just the same. At least he did until he decided he'd like to play chicken with my right eye. (Both sides lost.) His exploratory journey left my eye watering for the remainder of the constitutional, making it appear as if I was having the most depressing trip through the park ever. Please know, that was not the case (though I do miss the old hamster-wheel-in-a-shack playground equipment that - as far as I can tell - served mainly as the device to injure children so that their parents could have an excuse to take them home.)

Note to other bugs thinking of dive-bombing my retinas: If you want to get a glimpse of how I see the world, checking out The Writings is the recommended method. (And you don't have to touch any eyeballs in the process.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Writer's block

This evening I realized that this blog has existed for over four years; the first post was cast into cyberspace in June 2006. It began as a way to distract myself from the fact that I was somewhat miserable when living in a town affectionately deemed Good-but-not-great Bend. The idea was that it would be a good way to provide family with a chance to keep up with my writing. (Whether they wanted to or not was anyone's guess.) Four years later, this Writing depository has become so much more. It's a way to share my thoughts on life's quirks with 3.5 readers*, a way to keep myself entertained, and ... well, I guess that's about it.

*Margin of error: 2.5 readers. 

In the course of its existence, The Writings have drawn rave reviews like "I think you just made the Internet dumber," and "Hey, I read some of your blog... I honestly couldn't tell you what it was actually about."*

*Though the first is fictional (as far as I know), the second quote is actually real, and it was uttered in the midst of a date with the author. Naturally, he was quite flattered about the fact that he had created something so forgettable.**

**The Writings: ... uhh, what were we talking about? 


The point of all this is not to brag about the wild popularity of the blog, but to pass along the fact that it is not easy to work to entertain* 0.000000012179487179-percent of the U.S. population on a multi-weekly basis. Doing things like flipping on the TV, looking around online, or actually interacting with other people in order to happen upon blog topics can be utterly exhausting. Sometimes, you have to enlist help.

*Editor's note: We realize "entertain" is used haphazardly here. Please feel free to replace with "bemuse" at your whim.

I attempted to do that very thing tonight. I sent a text message seeking input from people who - at the very least - recognize my name when it pops up on their phone. (I think.) The results of the very unscientific poll were mixed.

The first suggestion was a review of season premieres for the fall TV season. It's not a bad idea, but I feel like I have written about things the land of television a lot lately, and I'm fairly confident that I do things other than watch TV. Example: I am currently writing and listening to music... while the evening's Royals game proceeds muted on my television. Nevermind.

The next idea that came my way was and "ode to annoying sports fans who sit next to you at sporting events." Longtime readers of The Writings know that I do enjoy a good (or even mediocre) ode. Alas, I've sat in a press box for every recent sporting event I have attended, so I have no recent "annoying fan" material to use. Who would have thought that writing could keep me from writing?

Suggestion number three was an intriguing one: "sorry, I got nothin..." I considered picking the sentence apart from the grammatical perspective, but soon remembered that my goal was not to make any potential readers want to pitch their computers out of the nearest window.

After wading through ideas that would ultimately be rejected, I finally found a topic that would stick, and it was neatly summed up in one word: strippers. It was the perfect topic. How I've avoided writing about it for four-plus years, I can't be sure, but that changes now. Without further ado:

(Weather)strippers are continually working to make our planet a better place. Their work to keep warm (or cool) air in our homes may often go unappreciated, but the end result is often the same. (Weather)strippers keep folks happy.

... I'm sure that's what the person who mentioned "strippers" as a topic was referring to.

Turns out the attempt to seek blog topics was a bit of a bust, but there's always tomorrow. (Well, probably not tomorrow, but some unspecified date in the future.) Writer's block is a dangerous thing.