Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Two cups, one gack

I recently discovered a flaw in my morning routine.

A typical work-a-day morning for me goes something like this: Get up, get ready for work, drop off the kids, stop by QT for a coffee and fruit (can't forget breakfast), drive to work, park car, arrive at my cube, turn on computer, drink coffee, start work.

It's a pretty good, streamlined routine. There are various sub-steps along the way, but you get the idea. It has worked pretty flawlessly for ages now.

Until yesterday. I discovered a rather nasty flaw stemming from my coffee subroutine.

The coffee subroutine involves me grabbing one of my half-dozen or so insulated travel coffee mugs on the way out the door. After dropping of the kids, I take my mug to the QuikTrip for a refill of Colombian Supremo with a squirt of non-fat creamer.

So far so good, right? I drink the coffee on the way to work and throughout the firs few meetings of the morning. The problem is, I don't always bring the mugs home everyday after work. And a couple of them are identical.

Yeah. You see where this is going.

Yesterday I bring my morning cup of joe into my cube. For illustration purposes, it looks pretty much like this (because this is what it is).

As per usual, I set it on my desk to take out my laptop computer and get it started. I take off my jacket and hang it up. Then as I'm sitting down in my office chair, I grab my cup of coffee and take a big swig. But I've inadvertently set it down next to yesterday's coffee mug...

Let me just say that it's no pleasant realization when you're expecting the warm rich taste of roasted Colombian java beans to get the cold bitter nastiness from the previous day. Luckily I came to the horrible realization before I swallowed, and immediately spit the offending liquid back into the cup.

But obviously, I've got to scar, mar or otherwise deface one of the cups. This can't happen again. This aggression will not stand, man.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Surreality TV

I've mentioned before how much I think "reality" TV has been a symptom of our declining culture -- eroding as it does an appreciation for nuance and subtlety (not to mention good writing and directing).

But this short film out of Canada? This is some surreal, funky stuff that I can really get into. And the dialog is an order of magnitude better than what you'll find on any "reality" show.

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Monday, March 29, 2010


This is about the time of year when I post the results of my NCAA Basketball Tournaments bracket picks.

In some ways, one could consider my picks a success. But only in the kinds of ways that one would consider last year's financial bailouts a success. I mean, it was a win for some people, just not for us ordinary saps.

Anyway, congratulations to all of the Tournament teams. It's an honor just to be invited.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

A kind of madness

Over the past five to 10 years, I've developed a pretty good handle on one of my more persistent personal demons.

You see, I'm a nervous nail biter. During times of stress or boredom or anguish, I'm known to nervously bite, chew or peel my fingernails -- sometimes to the point of bleeding. I know. It's gross. I'm not proud of it and to be honest I'm kind of putting myself out there emotionally just mentioning it here.

But like I said, over the last ten years or so I've pretty much got this demon under control. Regular use of clippers and emery boards has allowed me to grow fingernails that, while not perfectly manicured, are at least presentable enough that I don't need to keep my hands in my pockets during business meetings.

But I'm only human. And admittedly flawed human at that. And last night's game between K-State and Xavier in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen was legendary in it's nail-biting epicness.

I know a lot of people are calling it the best game of the tournament so far. Some radio guys this morning said it was one of the Best. Games. EVAR!

Personally, I don't know if I have the constitution for many more games like this. Sure it was entertaining, but they say your heart gets about 3 billion beats in a lifetime, and I may have used up about 500 million last night.

I don't know if the 'Cats will win Saturday against Butler. The Bulldogs beat a #1 seeded Syracuse, so they're not going to roll over and play dead for K-State. But this double overtime stuff? I'd be perfectly happy if the 'Cats just blew out their next couple of opponents by double digit scores.

It would give my fingernails a chance to grow back.

Related Post: My Favorite Martin

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

René and Georgette Magritte with their dog after the war

Growing up, our neighbors -- I'll call them René and Georgette Magritte (to protect their anonymity) -- had a dog that was... well... it just wasn't quite right.

Oh, it was a nice enough dog. You could pet it. It would fetch you all kinds of stuff -- even stuff you didn't need or want.

But it had this funny quirk. If you waved your hand in a large circle, like you were drawing a pie on a big chalkboard, the crazy mutt would begin running around in circles chasing its tail. And it would just keep running around and around and around until it got dizzy had to lay down on the ground. It would lay there panting with these crazy bulging eyes like it was high on pot-laced Milkbones.

But then, after a 20 minute recovery period or so, you could make the dumb thing do it all again with the same wave or your hand. This went on for years.

The crazy canine never learned.

I thought of that crazy dog when so many people started celebrating another historic Obama win last weekend. Politicians waved their hands in the air and Americans went crazy running around in joy.

With the stroke of a pen, Obama yet again changed the game -- this time solving the health care problem for every last person in the nation.

Well, yet again, I have to remind you crazy dogs that nothing really is going to change.

Oh sure, there will be people who now will be forced to buy health insurance even if they don't want it.

And some people who do want health insurance will get it -- subsidized by the rest of us of course. I don't really have a problem with that per se -- I mean, no more of problem than I have with any of the other bajillion subsidies taxpayers pay for. Hell, at least in theory the subsidy doesn't go to a rich Goldman Sachs exec (in theory).

But all this really does is extend and strengthen the system we already had in place. A system whereby health insurance companies take monthly premiums protection money in exchange for the promise of taking care of you should you get sick or maimed.

Because the price of health care has been rising faster than Smiling Bob's jockey shorts, insurance company dons executives have raised the price of premiums and deductibles to keep their "profit margins" intact.

Luckily for them, they're about to get 30 million new customers. That should pad their profits nicely, even after all the kickbacks to Obama, Pelosi and their droogs.

So because legislators cautiously avoided taking any action to do anything about the costs of health care, which nine months ago everyone seemed to agree was the problem in the first place, we can expect more and more expensive health care, which in the end will lead to higher debt levels.

Yes, we have been told that there are provisions in the bill to pay for the additional costs through new fees and taxes. We've been told that the bill will decrease budget deficits. We've been told that costs will go down because government regulators will now have a better handle on insurance companies.

But then again, we've been told all these things before. And we chased our tails in excitement. The truth is, that dog just ain't right.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways...

The gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes is still happening today as KU fans cry in their coffee and try to get me to understand just why the Jayhoax are so awesome.

It's happening in the office, but also all over Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the Interwebs as well. And I have to thank my KU Fan friends. It's been a long time since my schadenfreude tank has been this full.

Though he's not the only one, Shane is a typical (if a bit verbose) example of KU fan's inability to get what's going on outside the KU tent.
As a KU fan, you have to expect a fair amount of ribbing from your K-State and Mizzou friends when you lose. The general tone of others when KU loses is usually harmless enough, but today, it seemed like the vitriol was downright nasty. I don’t understand it. ...

The majority of KU haters that I talk to (mostly on Twitter) say that the main reason that they hate KU is that we act entitled. I don’t get that.
Well, as a long time KU hater, I relish this opportunity to drop a some learning on my KU Fan Friends (KUFFs) like a last second Ali Farokhmanesh 3-ball.

At this point, I think its appropriate to point out that the term "hate" here is used only in the context of good-natured sports rivalries and is thus probably a misuse of the strict definition of "hate." In reality, I don't really think there's anyone or anything that I really truly "hate" -- with the possible exception of all so-called "reality" TV. I think the word "hate" is overly used in our culture. To find real hate, you probably have to go to the Middle East, or to a small isolated area of Topeka.

That is to say, it's not really "hate," it's spectator sport hate.

There are more reasons to hate KU and it's fans than there are STD-infected KU sorority girls, so I obviously can't list them all here (there's not enough room on the entire Internet).

The so-called "entitlement' Shane mentions above is pretty low on the list. There's that idiotic Rock Chalk chant. Waiving the Wheat, the fact that KU takes credit for "inventing basketball" even though James Naismith created the game while he was working in Massachusetts, the hypocrisy of claiming Wilt Chamberlain as a hero even though he was severely discriminated against while at KU.

Of course, there's the ever present smugness that we non-KU fans have to endure every freakin' year. Even when the Jayhoax predictably lose in one of the first rounds of the NCAA tourney each year, we still have to hear about "why does everyone hate us..." (you can't tell, but I'm rolling my eyes). And SNYDER HELP US if KU "actually WINS a championship. Criminy! You'd think they simultaneously found a cure for cancer, brought peace to the Middle East and invented a cold fusion battery that allows your cell phone to keep a charge for three days straight.

Of course the inability of KU fans to realize that not everyone is or wants to be a KU fan is one of the reasons that we despise you so.

But for me, the biggest reason to hate on KU, is their rich history of cheating, getting caught, and having no consequences. From hiring highly recruited players' dads as coaches, to paying for students to take tests for players, KU athletics is built upon a lack of institutional control. As the NCAA Committee on Major Infractions put it
"Major violations occurred in the men's basketball program from 2002 through 2005. During that time frame, a representative of the institution's athletics interests supplied cash, transportation, clothing and other benefits to two men's basketball student-athletes. The athletics representative befriended one of the young men while he was still a prospect, buying him clothing and meals and transporting him to a number of the institution's men's basketball contests. ..."
So, maybe I'm a little too harsh on the KUers. But I just think hating on a team because they're cheaters is a better reason that hating on someone because of the way they spell their name.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Luck of the Irish

Let me just say this up front: I respect the hell out of the Irish. I don't think there's a group in history that can equal the per capita contribution to culture and civilization that the Irish have had.

All-around great guy and expert in lots of things R. Sherman pointed out how Irish monks were instrumental in saving western civilization. It is said that when Charlemagne was expanding his empire, he imported Irish monks to be his scribes due to their high literacy.

But the contributions go beyond this. It seems like all the Irish are painters, authors, poets or musicians -- or a little bit of each.

And while I'd like to be able to associate myself with this heritage -- I do have ancestors who came here from Ireland -- my Black Irish blood has been so diluted over the years by various British, German, and other European nationalities (except for those freaky-deaky Dutch!) that I could hardly be called anything other than American at this point.

Besides, I think I've just had it too good to honestly claim to be Irish. And that's not meant to be an offense to real Irish people. Like I said, I respect the hell out of them. It's just that I think all of the great art that comes out of Ireland is the natural response to the hardships the country has faced throughout its history.

If you subscribe to the view -- as I am beginning to more and more -- that great art comes from pain and suffering, then its no surprise that the Irish are so artistically prolific.

The history of Ireland is tragic and bloody more often that it's not. Viking pillaging, British massacres, religious discrimination and systematic subjugation, poverty, famine -- all of this tragedy seems to have been bred into the very bloodlines of the Irish.

Still, when someone comes up to you, particularly on St. Patrick's Day, and says "Luck o' the Irish to ye!" you're supposed to take that as some kind of pleasantry.

Luck of the Irish to me? What the hell did I do to deserve that?

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Monday, March 15, 2010


Against my better judgment, I am once again posting my NCAA Tourney bracket. Why? I guess because I enjoy being mocked and made fun of.

I've admitted before that I go with my heart and not my head on these kinds of things (and we know how that turns out). Sure, I could follow the pack, pick the top seeds, and probably do much better. But where's the fun in that? Well, yes, I suppose I can see the fun would be in rubbing it in the face of all my friends how awesome I am at picking basketball winners.

But I guess I don't see the point of being a basketball fan if you can be a fan. Anyway, all that is in defense of why I have an all-Wildcat final with K-State beating Kentucky.

Click to embiggen...

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Keep walking

It's interesting here in the state's, where the 30-second ad spot rules the airwaves, to see long form video advertising.

I mean, it's interesting when it's done well, like with this outstanding Johnie Walker spot featuring actor Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting, The Full Monty).

I dig how this 5-minute spot was all done in a single camera shot. Speaking of shots, pass me the Johnnie Walker.

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Oscar wild

I'm trying here people. I'm really trying. A weekend of nice weather and sunshine helps. I mean, it helps a lot.

But then the Oscar's happen. And I get that creeping realization that I get whenever I lift my head out of this societal foxhole to take a look around for signs that our culture is, even in the slightest way, recovering.

Alas, Sunday evening's presentation of the Academy Awards was just another example of how narcissistic and fame-obsessed our society has become.

Now let me be clear, I like movies (good ones, anyway). I think there's a lot of good art produced in this format. Of course there's also a lot of dreck. The 80/20 rule applies here as with everything else.

But I've never been able to watched the Academy Awards show. I've watched moments before. Even last night I caught about 5 minutes before I wanted to choke myself. But frankly I consider the Oscar's a kind of masturbation, where insecure attention seeking "celebrities" metaphorically jerk off their peers in an attempt to convince themselves that they are more important than they actually are.

From what I can recall seeing on the DVR's channel directory, Oscar programming for the event started at 6:30 p.m. and lasted until 10:30. Organizers expanded the number of entries for "Best Picture" and increased the celebrity fawning by an order of magnitude (which I didn't think was possible).

The Daily News kind of sees it the same way
Instead of focusing on the awards podium, where individuals are rewarded for achievement, an increased portion of the television evening focused on the literal and figurative red carpet, where everyone is rewarded for being famous.
And why? Why is it so important for Americans to get such a high dose of celebrity worship? Nobel Prizes in physics or medicine are lucky to get a paragraph above the fold in a single news cycle. Where are the accolades for people working to cure cancer, or feed hungry people, or develop clean abundant energy, or create and antiperspirant that works passed noon?

We spend hours celebrating people who spend half a billion dollars on a glorified Smurf cartoon and then get pissed because they didn't win a little gold-plated statue. We stare in amazement at actresses who are so together they they are able to walk along a red carpet without falling over.

Sometimes, during fits of misanthropic paranoia, I wonder if this kind of meaningless, mind draining celebrity worship is just a way to keep the culture dependent -- a mass opiate that keeps us calm and entertained while billionaire bankers and insurance companies decide how politicians are going to divvy up the country.

The best case scenario, as I see it, is that this exponentially increasing celebrity worship is part of the same phenomenon that has made Las Vegas such a big disaster waiting to happen. And you don't have to be a rocket surgeon to realize what the problem is.

Our national priorities are seriously out of whack.

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Friday, March 05, 2010

No good deed

So I'm waiting from clearance to back out of my parking spot this morning after picking up a Colombian Supremo from the QT.

It's a busy parking lot and lots of cars are going back and forth behind me, coming or going or whatever. The car next to me, a older Honda beater driven by two younger girls who look like they woke up just long enough to drive to QT and get a convenience store breakfast, sees an opening an quickly backs out.

Being the gentleman I am, I grant them the right-of-way out of the goodness of my heart. Keeping an eye on them to make sure they're clear before I back out as well, I notice the passenger rear tire is about 90 percent flat.

So again, being the gentleman I am, I signal to the driver, I point toward her rear passenger tire. She stares back at me like a cold cup of coffee. By now she has backed out and turned, giving me room to back out and turn the opposite direction. This has the affect of lining up our drivers side windows.

So roll down my window and signal again. She lowers her window and I explain about her tire being flat. She glances at the passenger, then back at me. She doesn't say anything, but gives me a look like I told her I just ran over her cat.

No "thanks for the tip." No "at least I'm glad I didn't head out onto i-435 with it."

Instead just a stink-eyed glare full of kill-the-messenger.

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

It's Spanish for "The Vegas"

Let me just get this out of the way up front. Las Vegas is a horrible, awful city.

I know that's just one blogger's opinion and there are a lot of people who disagree. But from my perspective, what happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas.

I was there over the weekend for some business meetings and the experience reinforced my view that Vegas is the apotheosis of all of the worst qualities of America.

The visitor to Las Vegas is greeted with an eye-bludgeoning array of tasteless architecture and gaudy signage. It's frankly offensive to my sense of aesthetic. I like to think of myself as understated -- even minimalistic. That is something Las Vegas is not.

Each hotel/casino/resort has a more gregarious facade than the last. They encourage you to experience places like New York, Paris, Venice, Como and even Egypt -- all while staying within one wallet-lightening city. After all, why bother visiting the real Statue of Liberty or Rialto Bridge when you can visit a 1/3-scale replica and take a gondola ride in an in-door swimming pool?

Americans are having a real problem with artificiality. We eat artificial food, watch artificial television and go to artificial places. And I suppose it wouldn't be so bad if there just wasn't so damn much of it in Las Vegas.

The place is a monument to waste and excess. For cryin' out loud, it's a metro area of nearly two million people in the middle of a desert. Those residents and the millions of additional tourists each year using up water that used to flow down the Colorado River. Thanks to Vegas and other desert metropolises like Las Angeles and Phoenix, the Colorado River no longer has enough water to flow all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Hell, the water level in Lake Mead itself is at a historical low. Some scientist worry that it will soon be too low to run the hydroelectric generators in Hoover Dam.

And the natural resources waste is only slightly worse than the waste in fiscal resources Las Vegas represents. The entire city is built upon the proposition of taking money from people who have more cash than good sense.

But the sight of bleary eyed, hungover, newly broke frat boys is comical compared to the poverty that you see if you drive 10 minutes from the Las Vegas strip. There are people living in concrete block hovels (in the desert, mind you) just a mile or two from ostentatious water displays.

There's not really anything to be done about it. Las Vegas is just another example of Americans entertaining ourselves to death. Eventually there won't be enough water in Lake Mead to power the hydroelectric generators that provide electricity to Vegas. By that time our economy will have really crashed and nobody will have the cash to lose to the casinos, let alone pay the airfare and extra baggage fees to get to the middle of the desert in the first place.

But the food there is pretty good.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Terminus

I really dig the way this independent short film combines creepy with quirky to illustrate the psychological baggage that follows us all around and what will happen to us if we don't deal with it properly.

Or maybe I'm just too high on NyQuaFed.

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