Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Easter thought...

Which potential lesson that a child might take away from Easter is more dangerous:

A. All eggs are gifts from a friendly bunny who likes nothing more than to see children smile as they fill baskets up with candy?

... or...

B. The Easter Bunny is an evil minion of the Big Alliance of Dentists (B.A.D.) who puts on a happy face, but is really passing out candy in order to promote the rotting of teeth and visits to the dentist office?

Ponder, won't you?

(This Writing composed by Derek's 8-year-old, dentist-fearing self.)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

People in your Neighborhood - The Frogurt Edition

I have never gone water-skiing. I have never whittled a woodwind instrument. I have never eaten at a frozen yogurt place... One of those statements in no longer true. Apologies who love the sweet tunes that come from a home-fashioned pan flute, but the item I can cross off that list involves frozen yogurt (which I, along with many others, call frogurt). I had some reservations about giving the place a chance, but it turns out that it's not bad dining. Beyond that, the crop of customers available for observation was one of the bumper variety. Read on to learn about a few of the people at your local frozen yogurt shop. 

The Dancer
In the land where frozen yogurt cascades like congested waterfalls, club music is king - at least it was on this night. As I waited in a horseshoe-shaped line to populate a bowl with fro-yo* and enough toppings to cripple one's mind, bass beats that sounded eerily techno-ish provided a very strange take on background noise. This may come as a shock to any and all reading this, but I'm fairly sarcastic and cynical by nature. (GASP!) As a result, once I noticed the music playing I prepared to make some sort of snarky comment about it to my brother; something along the lines of "Where do we pick up the glowsticks?"^^ Alas, when I turned to speak, I noticed the guy about 10 people ahead of us in line. He wore a navy blue t-shirt, which was at least one size too small if you asked his belly, and had hair caked with more grease than most items on the Long John Silver's menu. His look was one thing, but I barely had a chance to let the ridiculousness settle in when I noticed that he was pigeon-necking to the beat of the music. Yes, he was into it. Surely he's doing that as a joke, I thought, but he did not seem to be attempting to catch anyone's eye as he did it. The story was the same when I saw him reclining back on one of the establishment's couches later. He was simply grooving to, and enjoying, the beat. Apparently the Frogurt place needs a cover charge.

*This is my attempt to connect with the youth of America... I'm hip. I'm with it...

^^Hey, it was funny in my head.

I have never worn, nor do I ever intend to wear, a pair of Crocs. I understand that they're very comfortable, but there's something about wearing "shoes" that look much more like bath sponges that I am just not comfortable with. That said, if I did ever wear Crocs, I would not wear them with socks. No, I'm not one to keep tabs on styles or fashion (What do you mean my Homer Simpson t-shirt isn't "in"?), but wearing glorified sandals along with socks pulled up to one's knees seems like a curious move even to me. I guess this guy's lower legs could incredibly prone to insect bites or he might have once made the unfortunate mistake of having socks surgically attached to his legs; perhaps the explanation is that easy... Whatever the case, I'm concerned.

*Would I, could I, in a house? Would I, could I, with a blouse? I could not, would not in a house. I could not, would not, with a blouse.

Pajama Patty
Locations where the donning of one's pajamas is appropriate: one's home; someone else's home, should one be invited for an overnight stay or to a pajama party there.
Locations where the donning of one's pajamas is NOT appropriate: anywhere else. (Note to the lady with the weird tattoo on her neck: "anywhere else" includes the frogurt shop. I'll admit, I was rather confused when I walked through the door and saw you standing in line... I thought I'd wandered into someone's home kitchen.)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Writings' guide to the Royals

If you have read/heard/interpreted-through-a-form-of-telepathy-that-is-beyond-my-comprehension anything about the Kansas City Royals this year, odds are strong that such details involved "the future." You see, the Royals currently have a collection of talent in the minor leagues that - according to some experts - rivals any farm system* in history. The potential for future success is great, but it's just that: potential. I've heard many folks comment that they've heard all this before; that the Royals have had good young players in the past and KC has either ruined them or traded them away for beans that weren't even advertised as magic. "How will things be different this time?" people ask. The answer: It looks like ownership is finally willing to part with some money to support a winning team.

*Note for those unfamiliar with Major League Baseball: "Farm system" refers to a Major League club's minor league affiliates. It has nothing to do with irrigation or eliminating pesky boll weevils.

The youth is on the way, with top prospects Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer expected to debut at some point this season, and several young pitchers already on the big league club. While many look to the future, we at The Writings are enjoying the present. Since it's been far too long since we've written anything about the KC club, let's take a quick look at the 2011 Royals.*

*Note: "Quick" is a relative term.

We'll start in the outfield, where one of the season's biggest question marks tracks fly balls. Alex Gordon - once one of the top prospects in baseball; once subject of a Sports Illustrated article oozing more fluff than fan letters to Justin Bieber; once touted as the next George Brett; once prophecized as the person that will one day lead humanity to galactic dominance* - enters 2011 searching, yet again, for a breakout season. Gordon has dominated the minor leagues in the same manner that a video gamer handles a video game after entering a cheat code, but injuries and holes in his swing have never allowed that success to translate to the Major League level. Gordon arrived at Kansas City as a third baseman, but moved off the position last season, perhaps in anticipation of Moustakas' anticipated arrival. Through a handful of games this season, Gordon seems to finally be in his happy place (whether he sees grannies winning the lotto and little people on tricycles, we may never know). His defense in left field has been above average and he has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball. Can he keep it going? That's a question that puzzles more folks than those mind-benders involving trains leaving stations at different times only to eventually wreck into each other because neither is one of Doc Brown's time machines. (Sorry if that's not quite accurate... I haven't taken a standardized test in awhile.)

*I only made one of those up.

 Joining Gordon in the outfield are centerfielder Melky Cabrera, the former-Yankee who played for Atlanta last season while attempting to prove that chubby kids can be outfielders (the results were not good, hence his signing with KC on just a one-year deal), and rightfielder Jeff Francoeur, another one-time top prospect, who was once featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated despite the fact that he was barely old enough to legally consume any of the alcoholic beverages featured in the issues ads. Backup Jarrod Dyson is not a hitter, but his speed alone makes him a rather valuable member of the roster.

In the infield, KC should see significant improvement defensively thanks to the addition of shortstop Alcides Escobar. Escobar, who came to the Royals as part of the Zack Greinke trade, has shown the sort of range at shortstop that makes one think the Royals would be safe with a hippopotamus playing next to him at third. (No, I am not calling Wilson Betemit and Mike Aviles hippos... Placeholders for Moustakas, perhaps... Hippos, no.)  Escobar's double-play partner is second baseman Chris Getz, another player who brings plenty to the table defensively, but isn't exactly setting fine china on offense. Billy Butler and Kila Ka'aihue share duties at first base and designated hitter. Butler is just 24, but has been the team's best hitter for the past two seasons. Ka'aihue is a Hawaiian slugger who is finally getting the opportunity to prove himself as an everyday player... My guess is that he also enjoys hearing people attempt to pronounce his last name and butcher it slaughterhouse fashion. Matt Treanor and Brayan Pena share catching duties until 83-year old Jason Kendall (What do you mean he's only 36?) returns from injury. 

The Royals have a bevy of young, left-handed starting pitchers, but all are young enough that they will begin the season in the minor leagues. The names of KC's big league starters (Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen, Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies, Vin Mazarro) may not strike fear in the hearts of opposing hitters, but they possess the ability to keep the team in games long enough to pass along to a strong bullpen - a bullpen led by closer Joakim Soria. Soria, who declared he no longer wanted to be referred to as "The Mexicutioner" in the offseason, is one of the best relief pitchers in all of baseball. He is joined in the bullpen by a lot of young talent, from the 21-year-old, hobbit-sized Tim Collins (or Timbo Collgins, in Tolkienese) to Aaron Crow, a Topeka-native who pitched collegiately for the University of Missouri. In previous seasons, the thought of handing a game off to a KC relief pitcher brought feelings of dread and/or despair (plus far too many frustrated mutterings from my couch). This season, a call to the 'pen is accompanied by an unfamiliar feeling... I think some call it optimism. Weird.

Will the Royals be contenders in 2011? The odds are certainly not overwhelming, but, for the first time in many, many years the club has mixed a fine cocktail of potential and direction... I like it.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Ending the madness

It's the first Monday in April and the last night of the 2010-2011 college basketball season. Seems like a good opportunity to force you to read all the random thoughts that wade through my mind, no? Joining me for the festivities, we have a half-finished strawberry shake from Coldstone Creamery (when you're paying for ice cream, make sure you pay plenty), my next door neighbor's voice that I can hear through my wall (note to self: buy a home), and a degree of snarkiness that increases with every minute of unnecessary pregame coverage (23 minutes total... Look out!)


I've been told that I look a bit like Butler coach Brad Stevens, and - frighteningly enough - I can see a bit of resemblance. This is horrible news for Stevens, but good news for me... I can put that on a resume, right?


Has any film franchise ever had more unnecessary sequels than "The Fast and the Furious"? Vin Diesel's character likes to drive fast cars... I get it. That's not really a plot that requires five films worth of exploration.


Charles Barkley has the be the greatest college basketball analyst who ever threw someone through a plate-glass window, doesn't he? (Note: This is not a rhetorical question... If you really do know of a better one, I really do want to know.)


At the first media timeout, Butler and UConn have combined to shoot 3-for-18 from the field. "Defense wins championships!" ... True, but horrendous shooting loses them, as well.


Is it safe to say that the folks working for HP in 1996 could not have predicted that Dr. Dre would be one of their company ad spokesmen 15 years later?


Hey, it's a basketball game... and the score is 16-15 with fewer than seven minutes left in the first half. This is the sort of offense that only a mother could love. A mother who hates basketball.


This just in: I have a horrible "multitasking" habit, meaning I am continually looking at thinks online even while watching a basketball game. This means that I'm subjected to reading rumors of potential college basketball changes (some concerning my alma mater) as I watch this game. So, not only am I continually reminded that K-State lost to Brad "not Derek" Stevens' Butler squad last season, but now I must digest rumors that there could be another coaching search in the future... I need to find something less depressing.


... Hey, Ken Burns' Civil War documentary is on PBS!


Butler guard Shelvin Mack sinks a buzzer-beating three to give the Bulldogs a 22-19 lead at the half. It's a beautiful shot and a great moment... Until the broadcaster fouls it up by saying "Mack is back!" Note to broadcasters: Dr. Seuss wrote children's books. He did not provide play-by-play for college basketball games. Don't cross the streams!


Butler's up, they lead by three, but never count out a UConn Huskie.
20 minutes done, 20 remain. Such little time with so much to gain.


Please forgive the Seuss vibe.


Barkley at halftime: "Both teams need to play better."

And people wonder why I find halftime analysis worthless.


After a UConn turnover, with the Huskies leading 26-25, coach Jim Calhoun shakes his head in disgust. If any college basketball coach were to be cast to play a grouchy old neighbor in a motion picture, I think Calhoun would have the role hands down. The simple sight of him standing with his arms crossed causes me to check my feet to make sure I'm not standing on his lawn.


With 10 minutes left, UConn leads 39-28. I keep waiting to hear the broadcasters mention that this is actually a scrimmage and the real game will take place next... Thus far, they have failed to mention this fact.


Seven minutes left, and Butler is shooting 2-for-24 in the second half. 2-for-24!

To put this in perspective, I succeed in making jokes 3 times out of every 24 attempts. Poor Butler.


With two minutes left, Butler is on track to break the record for lowest shooting percentage EVER in a championship game. Hey, a record! Congratulations!

... Oh, nevermind.


Aaaaaaaaand, that's the game. UConn is your champ, winning 53-41. Congrats to the Huskies for winning, to the Bulldogs for making it to the championship game two years in a row, and to you for making it through the written summation of such an ugly game. Eeesh.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

The Heard

Communication, if you really sit down and ponder it, is a mind-boggling thing. Consider that it’s possible to convey the message “Did you hear that? What the hell is this guy thinking?” with nothing more than a raised eyebrow.* From a quick wink (which is almost always creepy) to a rambling soliloquy spoken in effort to express one’s true appreciation for oven mitts, thoughts can be conveyed in a myriad of ways. Because there are so many dynamics that come with communication (or because I have been hurting for blog topics lately… I really need something awkward to happen to me soon), I think it’s time that we analyze some of the things that I hear (or read) every day (figuratively). Perhaps we’ll unearth a better understanding of communication… More likely, we’ll discover that I should really keep my thoughts to myself.

*Yes, I know this from experience.

A speaker amplified voice recently asked me if I’d like to add cheese sticks or ice cream to my lunch order…
For the 432nd time, the answer is no. I operate by a simple premise: if I want to purchase something, I’ll ask for it. I don’t tiptoe around ordering ice cream like the person who doesn’t want to ask another person how they got a scar*, and I’m also not going to succumb to any sort of peer pressure that involves fried foods. Sorry.

*Fell in the bathtub. Thanks.

A voice on the radio recently told me far too many things about car racing…
I do not intend to become a racing fan, nor will I ever test my 2004 Impala’s engine in any sort of fast and/or furious manner. Thus, “The Racing Boys” segment on sports radio is one that I have no interest in. If you require an illustration of the precise amount of interest I have in hearing folks discuss advertisements disguised as race cars, consider the amount of interest your pet has in reading Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time”… Now cut that level of interest in half.

A friend recently told me that I can’t take a compliment…
I’m not sure that this is true. I’ll gladly take compliments on the rare occasions that they come my way… I just have a tendency of responding to them with the sort of self-deprecating remark that might make a person wish to enroll me in a self-affirmation course taught by Stuart Smalley. Rest assured, readers, I don’t suffer from any crippling personality disorders (that I’m aware of). The self-loathing nature is just part of a continued effort to make sure my head doesn’t get big in the figurative sense (since it’s already too large for my body in the physical sense).

I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and – gosh darn it – people like me… sometimes.

A former boss gave me advice via email, saying “The only constant in life is change”…
I can’t argue with this, since pennies seem to sprout about my car like dandelions on a summer lawn… Wrong sort of change?  Nevertheless, there is credence to these words. Jobs change. People change. Even your opinion concerning that shirt you bought two months ago changes. (What were you thinking?) And when you really think you might have things figured out, things change with the velocity, ferocity and atrocity of a rabid-dog-wielding tornado.

With all of this potentially life-altering change, what can a person do? Keep reading…

When my niece recently ate an extra piece of chocolate, despite me telling her not to, I told her that I was sad, completing the fa├žade with the sort of look a kid gives when he’s told he can’t have cotton candy at the fair. Her response? “You don’t have to be sad. You can be happy if you want to.”
How can a person argue with that sort of wisdom?*

*If her two-year-old mind is that keen when it comes to philosophy, does that mean she’s a genius in other subjects, too? Maybe I should really take heed when she tells me that monsters and snakes live in my walls.