Sunday, October 16, 2005

Listened to Preachers I've Listened to Fools, I've Watched all the Dropouts Who Make their Own Butt

Do you think the Viking's sex cruise tired out Smoot too much to play defense? I did not see the epic confrontation with the Bears today, but 28-3 is not the type of score you want in your journey towards putting a floating sex party scandal to bed. Hehehehe, putting a sex scandal to bed. Though I suppose if they would have used beds instead of renting boats on Lake Minnetonka, none of this would have ever come out. I mean, the sex toys prolly still would have come out and if you are paying in the six figure range for les prostitutes, you figure one of them might let the word get out, but still. Even the Vikings organization might have to consider getting rid of Mike Tice at this point, though they are only a game out of first place in the NFC North.

Packers have the bye week, so I have the great and unadulterated pleasure of relaxing at home today and watching football in my living room, rather than having to run to the Casino or whatnot. This is not to say that I don't enjoy those excursions, simply that I like relaxing on the couch, with my kitty and my Katie, and watching the Bills. Shockey got me 18 points in their contest with the Dallas Cowboys, so I was pleased, even though I think it may have given Buddy a brief heart attack with the last second touchdown in regulation, worked out alright for his evil team anyway. We also got to see the spanking (kinky) that the Dolphins took from the Bucs, I suppose because of the AFC East thing around these parts. Ricky did not play enough to hold my attention, maybe he needed a bong rip on the sidelines.

I got up at 5:30 yesterday morning and drove out to Rochester, NY, for the New York College English Associations fall conference on "Literature and the Obscure." I was presenting on one of the morning's first panels, so I had to be there by 8:00 or so. I was pleased with my argument and its reception. There were about 15 people in the room for the panel I was on, which was a pretty decent showing. I was shocked by how well the papers all worked together, especially given their often less than descriptive titles. Most of the rest of the day was alright, interesting but not worth reporting on, with the exception of some of the lunch convo. There was a nice luncheon situation involved, institutional food, but banquet style decent institutional food. I was sitting at a table with the only other dude who was within about 5 years of my age and assorted other people with whom I had no connection. A couple of them worked at Buffalo-area communitiy colleges, a couple others at private schools throughout the state. None of them worked at any institution of significant prestige, and I say that not to diminish these people as scholars (whom I know nothing about) nor to piss on their institutions (since I know little about them as well and in no way think that these few teachers are in any way representative). The thing that shocked me, and the only reason I mention where they were from, was that they were ridiculously pompous and entirely dismissive of anyone who was not essentially a highly devoted English major. Over the 40 or so minutes that the table was making small talk (from when we sat down to the beginning of the keynote speaker) these people diminished: athletes (most notably football players, but baseball, soccer, and basketball all got time in as well), engineers, physicists, less than perfect students, undecided majors, and film studies. Thats not even to mention that the one oldish dude who was the most cockassy was visibly disturbed when he learned that I studied primarily psychoanalysis and 20th Century American literature--it appeared that given his specialties of Milton and Shakespeare that he was not of the opinion that much of the 20th Century counts as "literature" but maybe I was reading too much into it.

I just find it particularly obnoxious when people, of any sort, not just academics, get so damn wrapped up in what they do that everything else becomes worthless and beneath them. I am cool with you not likign football, thats your loss. But a back-up NFL running back will make more money, be better known, and most likely accomplish more in their short career than you will in your 30 plus years of intellectually whacking-it. Thats not to say that I don't see the value in studying Shakespeare or Milton (who I personally find incredibly boring), but simply that if you want to talk about which one is better by any objective measurement, professional sports have got you powned. Its surprising to me, the people I know or have worked with who tend to be from way more "prestigious" institutions (again, not that I provide any significance to such measurements, simply noting them) are almost never this intellectually exclusionary. Maybe it has to do with an interiority complex, but I really hate resorting to such cheap psychologism.

I'm just over a week away from leaving on my trip to Eugene, Oregon, the furthest West this Midwestern son has ever been. I've got a week's wotth of school and a trip to West Point in between my and the closes thing I have had to a vacation in quite a while. Its pretty weak that my vacation doesn't include Katie, but I think she's gonna be heading down to Harvard anyway. Wonder if she needs to get her hair highlighted? Hippo says that she would be happy to accompany me, but I think a night in Sanjay and Andy's apartment would convince her otherwise. Besides, she is a first class kind of persian, and my ticket is coach at best.



Thursday, October 13, 2005

And We Can Ride the Boogie, Share That Beat of Love, I Wanna Rock With You, All Butt

I have been a combination of busy and sick for the past little while and as a result not posting and the like. I think I got through the Buffalo tournament, up until the point where we got home Sunday night, crashed for like 13 hours and were completely wiped the entirety of the next day. We did, at one point, have the chance to run to Target, where Katie bought me my birthday present. It is the totally sweet NINTENDO DS (to be read in the Cartman sense of SEGA DREAMCAST) and its greatest possible accompaniment Nintendogs. I have a really awesome Siberian husky named Jordis who is totally cool. She has learned how to sit, lay down, shake, and chase her tail on command. I can't even explain how cute it is. I'm gonna get a pug dog pretty soon here, but wanted to get the hang of the game first. So while they are delayed, I just wanted to send out a mad round of props to Katie for the present, which is awesome, and allows some video-based gaming on the often long and boring road to debate tournaments and the like.

Second thing of note: I ran to Wal-Mart the other day to pick some up some romance novels for Katie when she was not feeling well. Besides the fact that the photo lab now has a sweet machine that makes gift cards with any picture on the front (like Wal-Mart cash present gift card things) there was one thing really out of place. Parked next to me in the Wal-Mart parking lot, on Saturday afternoon, when every store in the world was open, was a brand new Bentley. Seriously, a car that potentially costs multiple hundreds of thousands was shopping for something at the cheapest of cheap ass locations. I understand that people who are rich get that way by not spending money all the time on random shit, but if you can afford even thinking about a Bentley its time to move up to Target full time.

We have watched alot of TV to make up for the tremendous lack of televisual moments that occurred between Kings and Buffalo. I'm up to date on Lost and Desperate Housewives, both of which I am happy to report, have not yet jumped the shark. While the basic satirical form of Desperate Housewives will prolly always leave it teetering on the edge, Lost appears to be going as strong as ever, now that everyone has determined like I did last year, that the show should be primarily about Locke. Jack's important and all, but without the incredible moments of Locke's feelings about the island the show would prolly end up meh at best. My three favorite new shows so far are Surface, Threshold, and Extras, the first two being pretty radically distinct from the last. Surface and Threshold are somewhat in the vein of Lost, at least insofar as the takeoff of odd mystery shows represents. I spose they also have a bunch in common with shows like The 4400. Surface also prolly connects with my childhood obsession with the Loch Ness monster, which I studied and wrote papers about for no specific reason for a while. I am still way behind on Rome and Invasion but I am happy for both. The disappointments, as of yet, are pretty limited, but two episodes in Commander in Chief is a not good program. I will give Geena Davis a couple more full weeks in office, but she is a pretty craptacular president thusfar.

Packers won big, it was a crazy awesome occassion, let me tell you. I'm not gonna equivocate like the NFL Live folks and think that the fact that we are only one win behind the Lions means that we have the chance to turn the season around, we're still a 6-10-ish team that just happened to encounter the perfect point-scoring storm in Lambeau field last Sunday. Brett Favre gets 3 touchdowns without playing a down after 3:00 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter, a productive running game producing two rushing TDs, and (I can hardly believe I'm writing it) 14 points produced by the defense and a near shutout. We beat-up the Saints, not exactly the Cowboys of the early 90s I might add, who were playing with injured/weakened/whatever Deuce and Brooks. I'm not trying to diss on the Pack-Attack, since I loved it more than just about anyone not wearing shoulder pads and the number 4, but I don't think it changes anything about the quality of the team. I'm just gonna enjoy that win for what it was.

Both the Yankees and the Red Sox are out of the playoffs, so the sports world can't be all bad. I haven't ripped on the Yankees as much as I normally would, insofar as I now work with two rapid Yankee fans. Similarly, I coach enough rubes from the Red Sox Nation to not bother making fun of the chowds. Suffice to say, not having to listen to either camp brag in their obnoxious East Coast accents for the rest of the year is reason enough for me to tolerate baseball. I wasn't surprised that the Chi-Sox took down Boston, but must admit that the dumbest named team in the history of professional sports surpsised me by defeating Steinbrenner's lackeys.

I almost forgot to mention one of last week's most exciting endeavors. Katie and I took our Friday night off and pretended that we were a normal couple that didnt spend every weekend in a random NorthEastern EconoLodge, instead deciding to go out for a nice dinner. We headed to a place called Marinaccio's for dinner, though we had just happened upon it. It was a decent Italian joint, small but classy enough. Katie had a tasty piece of trout while I rolled for the seafood, goat cheese, and tomato-cream sauce deliciousness that was the Agnelotti Paolo. I've really had a thing for the Southern-Northern Italian mixemup represented by the tomato-cream sauce lately, just thought I would throw that out there.

Afterwards we hit up the real highlight of the evening though: Butterwoods Dessert Restaurant. I won't go through the history and what all of the place, you can read the website if you care. The point is this: its a restaurant that serves elaborate multi-course plated desserts. It has coffee and a bakery with incredible looking cookies, pastries, cakes and whatnot, but those are all in second. You'll never believe how much in second they are until I tell you this. Katie and I ordered two things to share this is my description of the one which was NOT the best: it was called The Belgian Chocolate Pyramid. It was presented with a stick of chocolate in the top, atop a fluffy bed of whipped cream and accompanied by a creme puff swan. It was beautifully presented, and I haven't yet explained the dessert itself. The pyramid shaped concoction was coated with a hard chocolate shell. Directly underneath that shell was a layer of mousse, thick, delicious, chocolatey mousse. All that was atop something that was somewhere between a brownie and a flourless chocolate torte. On any other night it would prolly have been the highlight of the evening. Instead it was served at the same time as the Apple Tarte Tartin. The dessert meals were almost a combo of tapas desserts or something, since there were 7 mini desserts included. Some of them are described on the menu, but there was far far more.

The dessert came on a large rectangular platter about 2.5 feet by 1 foot. From my perspective, this is what it contained: in the near right hand corner was the tartin for which the dish was named, a delightful baked apple concoction with layers of apples, cinnamon, and flaky pastry, served with a creamy caramel sauce. To its left was the marscapone creme brulee, something which is so self-obviously delicious that I refuse to explain it to you, topped with a cookie thing and a mini-scoop of creme fraiche ice cream. Further to the left was a sort of shaved apple ice, which had a specifc name I cannot possibly remember. It was flavored like apples and green tea and was apparently made by freezing an apple, shaving it into little chunks of ice, and flavoring those with some herbs and syrups and the like. Bordering on savory dessert, but wonderful. Behind it, the back left of the platter, was a half an apple, poached in a ginger syrup and served with sour apple sticks. Nextdoor was three full sized apple chips, standing upright in two other scoops of homemade ice cream, one banana and one ginger. Wonderful. The ultimate highlight was next, an apple tempura. Damn was it delicious. I fully intend to whip that up with some caramel sauce and ice cream at some point, or, as Katie suggested in her infinite brilliance, a caramel apple tempura pie. The final note in this apple composition was a green apple sorbet, so deliciously sour and cold. It was great, really truly great.

It was my first endeavour into the world of dessert restaurants, but I think Katie and I have defintively decided to make return trips to Butterwoods. There is a chocolate pistachio beignet just waiting for me to devour it. We are not sure about their pet policy, but Hippo has been meow-sisting that we take her since the moment we got home. I'm pretty sure that more than a couple bites would have doubled our petite kitty's weight, but when she gets an idea in her persian head, you know how it can be.



Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I Can't Live Without Your, Love and Affection, I Can't Face Another Night On My Butt

After the grocery store we did Wal-Mart for some awards and then headed up to the Amherst area Motel 6 which was to serve as the tournament hotel. It really pisses me off that there continue to be hotels that do not have wireless internet of some sort. Don't get me wrong, I am pretty pissed when I have to pay for wi-fi, its just something I feel entitled to at this point, but at least there is an option for me. The Motel 6 was prolly the first hotel I had been in for quite a while that had no ability for high speed internet of any source. In order to cut the politics cards I needed I had to do lexis "downloads" for like an hour prior to my leaving. I put downloads in quotes there because my lack of a lexis code has forced me over to academic universe, which has no "download" capability. What I actually did was copy and paste articles one at a time into freaking word documents so I could read them later.

Regardless, Katie had to be there to send out pairings, work on the computer stuff, do early registration, and talk with the Buffalo kids in preparation for the first tournament of their season. I was sad that I had no access to my tivo, my couch, or my wireless, but we all make do. I didn't finish cutting the politix story until like 10:00 in the evening, but the evidence was pretty spectacular. I can't imagine the story will be that good come West Point, but we can always hope. I even got the impact story to play in the right direction. It was, admittedly, one of the moments I remembered what I like about coaching debate: finding a quality strategy, a good set of useful arguments, figuring out a way to smack somebody around. Anyway, in between those moments I talked with the Buffalo kids, ate another freshly baked cookie or two, and went to get dinner at a Thai restaurant down the road. The place was quality and was hella busy this particular Friday night, so I decided to wait outside the restaurant and talk on the phone while they got my curry, pad thai, and satay ready to go. Since I was as close to Asia as I was likely to get for a while, and my brother was not, I gave him a call.

As a potentially necessary piece of backstory: my brother has wanted to go to Asia, more specifically to Japan, for quite a while now. It has been his obsession in college, the language, the culture, the history, etc. I appreciate the history and art and most notably the food, but I've never had the intensity of the interest he did. Regardless, it turns out that there are enough young Americans with the same ideas about going to Japan as my brother that the process of getting a job and getting over there is kinda long and complicated. To make a long story short, he and Melia decided to go to Thailand in the meantime. They left this last Saturday night, flew from Chicago to Seoul, spent a day there, and then were on to Bangkok. My dad forwarded the email he sent upon his arrival, but besides that I don't have much to report. He is going to be living in a city called Loburi or Lopburi, though the information I've gathered about it online is pretty limited. They do have a pretty awesome monkey festival, which I am looking forward to seeing pictures of, but besides that I can tell you only that its a medium sized city in central Thailand. The point of all this was that I talked to my bro for about 45 minutes while waiting for my incredibly late dinner order and was able to catch up before he was on his way to O'Hare. I only saw him for a day or so this summer and before that not since Christmas. I don't know when I will see him again, but I just wanted to send good blog wishes to him and Melia. I think they are down in Phuket, on the coast, at this point, so prolly enjoying a much more interesting place than Buffalo has been recently.

Nothing else much occurred that night, since we went to sleep fairly early in an attempt to get up at 5:30 ish the following Saturday. We woke up to an especially playful Hippo for 5:30 am and were out of the house before 6:00. Our routine wasn't too horrible, we were at Manhattan Bagel before 6:10, I dropped Katie off and unloaded the car, then was on my way to the remaining breakfast related stops at Duncan Donuts, Tim Hortons, and Starbucks. All of these businesses had generously donated various delicisosities to the tournament cause, though Starbucks apparently employs a number of illiterate managers, since they were not prepared for which weekend we would be arriving--though it was clearly indicated on the letter. It took care of itself after only a little bit of discomfort on my behalf and we got our free coffee. The tournament got going on time, rounds progressed as planned, I got the chance to cut some cards on Army's affirmative, which ultimately helped us win a quarter's debate, even though there is work that still needs to be done on the counterplan. I digress, everything worked out well on Saturday, we got food there on time, cleaned up the room where it was served and accomplished 5 rounds.

Sunday morning was essentially the same routine. Up early, bagels, school, donuts, coffee, school. I managed to go the whole weekend without judging a debate,thank goodness for having Rochester teams in late elims I guess. We only managed to clear 4 out of our 13 teams, but 8 of those 13 were raw novices, so there was certainly nothing to be upset about. Two novice teams got out, a JV team that went 2-4 last week ended up 4-2 this week, losing a 4-1 round to end up as such--they ultimately lost in quarters. Buddy and Rohan had the weekend of their dreams, at least for this early in the season, 8th and top speakers, 5-1 with a loss to Case Western in prelims and victorious through the final round, ultimately beating Case on a 2-1 at the end. It was a hasty strategy that we put together, seeing as how I had not even looked at Case's odd Confuscianism/Empire aff, but I guess we had a thesis that we could sell to the panel in a more explainable sense then the aff. I told everyone that the debate would be decided based on who could more clearly articulate their alternative in terms that did not require an in-depth understanding of Hardt and Negri or whatever.

We also had, in that debate, a really odd situation where we managed to piss off a critic because he was not able to understand what was going on. From my understanding this came from the formal issues (i.e. speed and tech) and not the subject matter (Empire and Zizek). As an FYI, this Case team is high quality, they are smart, they are fast, and they are technically proficient. While the panel was not the fastest in history, two of them could keep up with most situations. Somewhere during the round, prolly going into the block, ROC decided that we were gonna get blown out of the debate if we didnt pick up the speed. Anyway, at some point a decision was made by both teams that one critic would have to get blown off for the sake of the other two. This isn't uncommon, I should note, its a decision we've all made as debaters and coaches, at least a couple times. If you've judged any decent amount of outrounds you've probably been blown off a panel at least once. That doesn't mean that you don't vote for whom you think you won and it doesnt mean that your vote won't be the deciding one when the teams split the two judges they were going for, it just means that to focus on winning you would have cost two ballots. I guess that my feelings about debate as a competitive activity first and foremost makes me a little more understanding of being blown off a panel than others are, but I simply don't get being pissed about it. Not only do I not get the mentality which refuses to see the competitive necessity behind it (emboddied in some aspect or another of every competition by the way, from the sac-fly, to taking a safety or penalty, to tripping a player on a breakaway) but I cannot imagine being pissed enough about it to rant within the context of the debate. Fundamentally, why do you care? It doesn't chance anything about your life, it doesnt effect your teams or the tournament, its just plain irrelevant. Either way you judge the debate, you vote for one team, you say why, and you go home. It actually makes the decision easier, cuz you have the absolute defense that the teams made no effort to win your ballot, so it was all but a random shot in the dark.

Again, that doesnt catch us back up to this moment. But I'm getting closer. Needless to say, Buddy and Rohan won the debate in question and I think the whole ROC staff was pleased to get our fist championship of the season out of the way so early. Hippo concurs, but wishes that instead of pressuring China, the topic consisted of petting Persia(ns).



Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I, I Love the Colorful Clothes She Wears, and the Way the Sunlight Plays Upon Her Butt

Been a long time. It was, specifically, a time filled with a tremendous amount of crap. I will go briefly through the major events that have occurred from September 20th until this evening. I'm sure sme things will get filled in at different levels later on. Anywho.

A couple days after my last posting was the departure for Wilkes-Barre, King's College, and as such my return to the debate coaching ranks. All three were pretty decent experiences. I drove a mini-van full of college kids (full being a generous term) about 4 hours into the Pennsylvania valley. My van arrived first of course, so after checking in to the Holiday Inn and the like I managed to cut at least a couple pages of cards. Katie and I combined to put out 41 pages by the following day at 11:00, which included my contending with the old people in the tour group to get a couple waffles from the deluxe continental breakfast. While I recognize that not everyone spends as much time as I do in mid-level hotel breakfast areas, the inabiility to work a waffle iron with instructions clearly printed on the base makes you an idiot. Not only was this old chick a waffle-iron illiterate, but she had actually jumped in front of me in line. I ate a bowl of frosted flakes standing up behind her just to demonstrate how unhappy I was with the situation. I think my message was somewhat undercut by helping her to work the damn waffle machine, but I couldnt risk her trying to make another one when the first came out raw on one side and burnt on the other.

We coached some rounds, I judged a couple blah blah. We cleared 4 teams, two in jv, an open, and a novice. I didn't coach any of those in prelims, notably, but regardless. It was a pretty good showing for the first weekend of the season, of Ken's tenure as Rochester's DOF, and mine as a college debate coach. Drove back just barely in time to get my car from the rental joint and drive back to Buffalo. Hippo was very excited to see us, especially since she had gotten used to us not going out of town for 4 days every couple weeks. She jumped up onto Katie's lap, read some blogs and checked email with her, then meowed around the house for a little while. She really does enjoy the crisp fall air thats developing here in Buffalo, so the windows are of even more interest than they used to be. That got messed up yesterday afternoon when Katie and I decided to turn the air conditioning back on, in response to 80+ temperatures in the first week of October, but she digs a last taste of the human induced freeze for 2005.

The week that followed was pretty much all prep for the Buffalo tournament all the time. I got a good amount of work done on several of these days, finishing and sending off an article I had written on the premiere of CSI: NY and approaching completion on the paper I'm presenting in Rochester on the 15th. The dissertation hasn't gotten quite all the attention it deserves, but still working on the whole multi-tasking affair. Still on track, but a little sidebar for the week. Jonathon Culler, whose book On Deconstruction is really quite incredible, came to UB to speak on Thursday. His talk, which notably had a great title "The Most Interesting Thing in the World: Derrida and Literature" was pretty informative and admittedly did alot with material I am far from familiar with. If you ever get the chance you should drop by and hear him speak. He may end up being unfairly overshadowed by Jean-Luc Nancy's appearance in November, but the point being that it was good. In many ways it was a break from the avalanche of activity which was to come soon afterwards.

Friday was technically my birthday, though I am not quite sure why I inserted the word technically in there, since it was my birthday by all accounts. Katie was obviously more than slightly occupied by the tremendous amount of crap involved in running a debate tournament for 180ish people, but managed to make it a very happy day nonetheless. The first part was really quite wonderful by all accounts, as we left at 10:00 and drove out to the apple orchard to pick a bushel's worth of Cortland, JonaGold, and Crispin apples as tournament snacks. It was a beautiful fall morning, cool with a bit of a breeze and bright sunshine. We got some fresh baked cookies and were able to drive ourselves right into the orchard. The Crispins were not my favorite, but had a good balance of sweet and sour. The Cortlands were at the very end of their season, as the trees were nearly bare, but were incredibly sweet, like candy almost. The JonaGold's were incredible however, only a step away from the Golden Delicious which I adore. They were tart and delightful, so I think I ate at least 3 of them standing amongst the trees. Its a little ridiculous how odd an apple orchard feels, like I don't really cognitively understand that apples grow on trees until I am removing them from said trees and eating them directly. We only had that 30 or so minutes to enjoy the morning and then it was a mad dash towards Monday morning.

I will accomplish only one more event, and hence one more rant, on my attempt to blog at a reasonable pace. That one will involve the grocery store. We stopped at our friendly neighborhood LaPerna family Tops to pick up certain amounts of condiments and the like. Beyond just mustard and chips and such, we also had to purchase all the things which would ostensibly enable the vegan folks to "eat reasonably" for the weekend. That included vegan cream cheese, vegan cheese slices, soy milk, and possibly a couple other things I don't remember. My rant is simply this: I hate being considered a dirty hippy for dirty hippy elements I don't even subscribe to. I have no problem with people eating whatever it is they choose to eat, those choices, to my knowledge, have no impact on me at all. I can even understand not wanting to eat meat. What I don't really understand is the decision to not eat animal products for ethical reasons, but to eat things that "taste like" animal products. I recognize that it has no effect one way or the other, but it doesn't feel right. My obviously somewhat inaccurate analogy was that if you thought that killing people was wrong, but you really liked killing people, and they started making cloned psuedo-people whom you could kill and it would sort of seem like killing a real person, would you be killing them. I think the point in both situations is to confront the fact that there is something that you like which you shouldn't like, rather than to just find ways to eat it that don't hurt anything. I'm sure I would feel differently if I was a veggie, but pork, beef, and chicken taste good. Hippo agrees, though she would like to add that whatever additional ingredients are used to flavor Cat Chow are just as tasty as any prime rib.