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...