Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Read My Lips Carefully, If You Like What you See, Move, Groove, Prove You Can Hang With Butt

Olympics are over, but were awesome. We watched at least a couple hours every night, but the fact that we had districts prep the last week sort of threw things off track. Anyway, we qualified a team to the NDT, they debated very well and we were all hella proud of them. Even took a ballot off Harvard LP in round 4, the only team to cut down the actual Ivy League team in attendance (I don’t include Cornell because, well, why would I include Cornell…) Things got a little messed up at times, but it all worked out in the end. Had some quality performances in other divisions too, but I was, for all practical purposes, at a different tournament than the rest of the team this week. We are officially in post-season mode now, but also in the stretch of quality hotels. We started this weekend with the best hotel room I have ever seen for 79 bucks a night. Big and comfortable, with legitimate cozy chairs, and pillow-top mattresses, free wireless, and something else incredibly awesome. But it needs some lead up:

I have been complaining, since I was about 16 years old, about physical cash. I simply don’t see the need for it, and I never have. Back then I might have been a little premature, almost no fast food restaurants had even caught on, pay at the pump wasn’t a thing. The idea that you could go anywhere expecting to pay with a credit card was unreasonable. Today, there is just no excuse whatsoever to have an establishment which is cash only. The drive-in movie theater down the street has a wireless network at this point, so I’m less than persuaded about the claim that its too difficult or too expensive. Anyway, when credit cards became a standard in the world of gas pumps and MickeyDs I said there were two impediments to credit cards completely supplanting the need for physical currency. The first is the transfer of small amounts of money between individual people. Pay pal is getting closer, but I think the real solution is USB plugged units and cell phone devices that can take credit cards. The latter is a ways away, since most of us still can’t afford a true Treo or Palm device which is in anyway close to the tech that would be required. The former can’t be far, in my mind, maybe in combination with something like PayPal that would allow you to easily scan credit cards and communicate with an authentication provider. Maybe security issues are still too important, but since you can purchase virtually anything online with only the credit card number, it seems that the actual scan of the card could only be an upgrade.

The second impediment: vending machines. Well, without my knowledge someone, at least someone at the Courtyard Marriott in Danbury, CT, has fixed this problem. Sure, the Diet Pepsi was a buck fifty, but I’m always happy to pay a bit more for the convenience. I obviously cannot even emphasize how wonderful it would be if I never had to go to an ATM again. Its like the whole world is my Sonic drive-in.

Back to the Olympics. I have two quick takes:

  1. Apollo’s last night was legendary, prolly the greatest night during the Torino games. That gold medal race was incredible and even Olympics haters have to admit that the 500 meter short track is up there in the most exciting minutes in sports entertainment. Apollo was incredible, going wire to wire to hold off a great dash by the South Koreans. Not to mention that his coming up the backside to squeeze the American team into bronze was a great comeback, since I said with about 4 laps to go that they were stick-a-fork-in-them-done. By far the most excited I’ve been about “the chase for bronze” pretty much ever.

  1. Am I a Bodeist? I had really mixed feelings when I saw the interview following the DQ in the fifth bonering of a ski race Bode had executed in a row. I mean, since Dave and Dan there has not been this much hype let down this fast. D00d came in with the potential to be the greatest winter games athlete of all time (though I guess anyone who enters 5 events does so) and left without making noise even once. That’s not even to mention that he didn’t look good or get DQ’ed because sometimes, when you push it all the way, you miss a gate. He sucked cuz he was lazy and partied too hard. At the same time, I saw a lot of my own attitudes towards being rich and famous in Bode’s series of excuses for not winning gold. He refused to apologize for living the life he wants to live and said basically “Skiing is my job, not my life.”

I totally respect that in a professional athlete, if anything it reminds me of the things I was thinking right after Ricky Williams took off for Bongville. I guess I was conflicted simply because, as much as I want that from a professional, I do not want it from an Olympian. The good stories, see Apollo above, are too much fun (I mean like actually inspiring, and not just like the Fugees cover of “No Woman, No Cry” sort of way) and with Bode the only good stories are that he applied his lips to the snow in a sort of sucking motion for two weeks.

Alright, I am food drunk from tonight’s Mardi Gras steak dinner, and Hippo needs to take her medicine, though this is a claim that Hippo herself, seems to dispute.



Sunday, February 19, 2006

Because The Night, Belongs To Lovers, Because The Night, Belongs to Butt

We went to the Orchestra this past Thursday. I don’t know a lot about music in general, and the orchestra in specific (perfect sentence construction, btw). I did learn a couple interesting facts, which, as a non-Orchestrian, I will share for your enlightenment:

--you can get drinks: I mean, you technically cannot drink during the music, which is what separates the Orchestra from awesome. Nonetheless, you can get a decent glass of whisky for a semi-reasonable price both before the show and during halftime. (Sidenote: the Orchestra doesn’t call it halftime.) If you go find one of the bar-tenders who looks like a hipcat and somehow signal to him that you are also a hipcat, not one of the squares who makes up the regular audience, I think you can get him to pour you what is essentially a double. At least it seemed that way.

--it’s hard to figure out what to watch: maybe this is not true if you know a lot about music. For many of the songs I had no idea what was going on. I mean, I can tell when the tuba goes off and the cymbals are hard to confuse. But seriously, there are like 40 people on the stage, which makes it hard to tell what is being featured at the time. Katie pointed out to me that a bunch of the old people close their eyes, which is a lot like wearing a wet suit into the hot-tub as far as I can tell. I decided to just sort of follow whatever I found was interesting. By far the most interesting part, when certain guys really get going on the violin, it looks like they are engaging in an activity which is totally inappropriate for the Orchestra stage.

--the drummer is faking it: the guy who stands by the tympani, specifically. I would say “the guy who plays the tympani” but the problem is that he doesn’t, play it that is. He just moves a couple of padded sticks as if he were going to play the tympani. Katie tried to excuse this behavior by saying that because the tympani is so powerful he just sort of needs to lightly touch, almost brush the drum. That, however, is obviously crap. If you had a tympani you would smack it, cuz that’s how you play the freaking drums. Seriously, this guy just gestured towards the drum in a rhythm he found interesting. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good gig if you can get it, but the Larry David look-alike in the penguin suit has nothing over me when it comes to rocking out Orchestra style on the air-tympani.

--if you hide them in your coat, you can get away with eating chocolate covered peanuts during the show: nothing really to add to this one. Just don’t let the ushers see you, cuz they look like the meanest set of volunteers ever.

We are watching ice dancing, which is sad and funny in and of itself I know, but even more notable, is the fact that there is apparently something during this second free program called “The Twizzle Section.” I think they should adopt this for baseball as well, cuz I would be way more excited if they changed “The Bottom of the Fifth” to “The Twizzle Section.” Plus Joe Buck would be hilarious. Dick Button also complained that the Ukrainian pair did not seem to be “oozing Latin flavor.” I’m not gonna comment about what that means for ice-dancing’s validity as a sport, but merely to indicate that I’m no more surprised about the Ukrainian lack of Latin flavor than I am about Ethiopian cuisine’s lack of Beluga caviar.

Hippo sez that if I am going to talk about caviar then I really need to get her some more kitty food, cuz gourmet stuff like that really makes her purr.



Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Ain't It Just Like a Friend of Mine, It Hit Me From Behind, I'm Gone To Carolina in My Butt

Binghamton finished up pretty strong in some respects, poor in others. We only cleared two teams (out of 12, painful) but had a novice team in semis and an open team in finals. Most of the squad had moved up a level, at least, so we can take solace in that fact as we lick our wounds prepping for the NDT qualifier and CEDA East Regionals. Lots of work to do, but we’ve got plans.

We didn’t get home from the Binghamton tournament until about 4:10 am on Monday morning, leaving Binghamton in the area of 11:00. A couple hours of sleep and an episode of Ellen later, we were back on the road to Rochester debate practice. I would normally not mention that fact, but when we stopped at the diner (our traditional pre-practice coaches’ meeting) we saw a big group of guys sitting at the table we usually sit at. I didn’t think anything of it, we went to our table and sat down. A couple minutes later, the owner comes over and asks us if we noticed the d00ds next to us. Turns out, World Heavyweight Champion Hasim Rahman had been sitting at our table, eating at our diner. I’m no boxing fanboy, but I’ve even seen this dude fight, and the thought had never crossed my mind. Apparently he was training in Rochester, I guess I’ll keep my eyes wider open next time.

Anyway, stories with fewer boxing champions and way better food. Katie and I spent Valentine’s Day in our traditional spot, the Marriott Fallsview Hotel in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Our first year together in Buffalo we just had dinner at the Terrapin Grille. Last year we moved up to staying in the hotel and having breakfast as well. This year we upgraded further, getting the room (still including Jacuzzi and miraculous falls-view, as pictured above) along with a package that included a significant dinner voucher and free breakfast buffet. Katie got a nice nap on the pillow topped king-size bed while I watched the Olympics.

That brings me to the one thing, on this trip, I discovered that Canada rocks: the Winter Olympics. I mean, they love the winter games in the Northern half of North America. No surprise, I suppose, since their alternative might be the CFL or CBA, but regardless, most of the games seem to ring stronger with the Canadian audience. As a consequence of that fact, I would suppose, the Olympic coverage on CBC kicks the living hell out of NBC’s. Not only is there way way way way more (like every moment of the day besides a half hour for morning, noon, and evening news) but it covers far more sports far better. I watched the final two periods of the Canadian men’s hockey game live this morning and yesterday afternoon featured the entirety of the Women’s Team Sprint in cross country skiing and, at two separate times, the varying components of the Nordic Combined. As a sort of corollary, CBC offers the Olympics on demand, that is, 13 separate events which you can watch, in their entirety every day. Rock.

When Katie managed to wake up from her long winter’s nap, we headed down to aforementioned Terrapin Grille. We did this dinner up proper style, certainly the best food I’ve had in a long long time. Not that we go out for a lot of multi-hundred dollar dinners these days, but still. We started out with a three appetizer combo, featuring some delightful smoked salmon, bruschetta, and a tiger-prawn shrimp cocktail. We had a bottle of Chardonnay which was a bit sweet for my tastes, but was Katie friendly. She had a pan-seared Chilean sea bass, which I believe was a rerun of a previous year. It was very tasty, though I must say, I topped her this time around, with a 9 oz filet and an 8 oz lobster tail. It was, even for me, a lot of hella delicious food. We finished with strawberry shortcake which featured cream cheese frosting, a miraculous idea in my mind. The bite of the cream cheese balances the juicy sweetness of the berries much better than whipped cream alone, which more sort of absorbs it.

This morning continued our food-extravaganza with a breakfast buffet which is a way better deal when it is included with your room. That said, its worth it to me even if you gotta pay for it, cuz it features my two absolute favorite breakfast foods: omelettes made by an omelette chef right in front of you and Belgian waffles with whipped cream. I had a couple of each, along with some sausage, bacon, potatoes, and the absolute largest croissant I have ever personally encountered. I don’t think Katie took as big an advantage of the omelette station as she should have, but for some reason she does not believe me when I attempt to convince her that Holiday related meals are calorie free.

A great experience overall, which we capped off by stopping at the J. Crew outlet so Katie could buy a panda themed nightgown. Hippo was snuggling with her earlier and indicated that it was the only J. Crew garment ever which deserved the title that she herself embodies: really cute.



Sunday, February 12, 2006

I Love it When You Call Me Big Poppa, You Got a Gun Up in Your Waist, Please Don't Shoot Up the Butt

A lot of people hate on the Olympics. I don’t just mean that there are people who don’t watch the Olympics, though I think that is sad too. I am talking about people who actively hate on the games. Take this douche for example. I know he’s talking about the summer games in 2000, but fundamentally the points people make are the same. In the spirit of most of the debates I’ve seen at the Binghamton tournament, I’m not gonna answer all his claims on the line by line, I’m just gonna give the reasons I fucking love the Olympics.

--the storylines: the most legitimate criticism that I think exists about the Olympics is technically about Olympics television coverage, but I will, for today at least, concede this connection. Specifically, I mean that NBC does often spend too much time focusing on the excessively melodramatic stories, not even just the cool ones. That said, while a bunch of this shit is trite and overplayed (not quite to the level of Connelly’s bits on Sportscenter, but its close) there are some legitimately incredible stories. You can view this in several ways: 1) it applies to all sports today, if you don’t like sports on TV, then sure, I guess this is not convincing 2) stories in sports are fun, they get me emotionally invested in something that I might never experience without it 3) think about it like a regular narrative show if you want, its like a reality curling show.

--the creative games: I’m not pretending that I like the giant slalom as much as I dig the NFL. More than anything else, I’m a fan of the four major team sports in this country. That said, its fun to see some games that I don’t really understand and would never get exposure to under other circumstances. Gaining that pseudo-expertise I have by the second week about short track speed skating really makes my day in ways I cannot explain to you. Not to mention this: curling rules. There is nothing more fun than getting hella intoxicated and discussing Norway’s best bowler.

--the lack of money: we all know that Bode is getting paid and Sean White is not lacking in endorsements either, but 99% of the people at the Olympics, even 99% of the American athletes, aren’t making shit off their sports. The two-person luge team rarely gets calls from Nike or Pepsi. I don’t think that money contaminates sports, but its fun seeing people play them for reasons besides money. I could turn this into a discussion about how it’s a strategy of capitalism to create zones wherein true affectivity and emotion emerge outside of economics, but that indicates that I have spent way too much time explaining Zizek link stories. Maybe its just that I really like the idea that there are people who really love something to the extent that they would put in that much work with no risk of economic gain and most likely, paying a significant amount of money just to do that work. I can’t really imagine it, but I like it.

--the love of the game: to some extent you could say this overlaps with the money question, and I guess it does, but there is more too. I was watching the Opening Ceremonies and they mentioned that 90%+ of these athletes have no chance at a medal. There are obviously some surprises and such, but for virtually everyone just getting to the Olympics is the ultimate prize. Watching nations with one athlete march into the stadium, knowing they have no chance to win, and still enjoying themselves to this extent is incredible to watch.

--peace: I saw an affirmative a couple years back about the Athens Summer games that had some incredible cards about how all the nations at the games agree not to fight with each other militarily for those two weeks. I mean, it doesn’t solve much in terms of actuality, but the critical potential was excellent. Outside of freaking debate, however, I like the constant invocations of peaceful competition. Even if you don’t want to see Yoko Ono introduce Peter Gabriel singing “Imagine,” the acrobats forming a dove is pretty freaking cool.

I’m not gonna force this to go to 10 items for the sake of list-coherence. I will have specific commentary later on during the games, especially when I actually get to watch more than the first period of a women’s hockey game or the ski jumping preliminaries. Hippo, on the other hand, got to enjoy the 5000 meter speedskate gold medal and even the biathalon. She wanted to note that, even to the world’s smartest Persian cat, skiing and shooting doesn’t make that much sense. Unless, potentially, you are hunting elk, though she recommends just chasing them down and ripping them to the ground with your vicious claws.



Thursday, February 09, 2006

Since U Been Gone, I Can Breathe For the First Butt

Since we’ve been home, we went to Bard for the first time. That was the inaugural tournament of CEDA East’s spring semester and Rochester did, kind of legitimately at least, rock the hizzy. We had a novice team lose in finals, an open team go down in semis (both 2-1s btw) and closed out JV in semis, winning three of our four quarters debates on 3-0s. Anyway, it was a quality weekend overall, excluding the shittiness of the drive home. I got to watch the Super Bowl over the weekend on my beautiful TV. I didn’t think it was the best game of the year, jobviously, but it wasn’t nearly as terrible as the rubes on national and Buffalo sports radio made it out to be. There were some bad calls, there were some blown plays. I didn’t get to watch as much of the Puppy Bowl as I did last year, unfortunately. Even more unfortunate is that I missed the kitten halftime show, I guess I just left the Rolling Stones on while I whipped up round two of Super Bowl appetizers. I had a concoction made of proscuitto and gruyere, rolled and baked in puff pastry. My pastry skills are significantly lower than most of my other culinary abilities, so they didn’t turn out nearly as well as Paula had manufactured them on Christmas Eve. On the other hand, my bacon wrapped water chestnuts were very possibly the best that have ever been produced. I can honestly say that bwwc’s might be the only food I have never had the opportunity to eat more than I want of. I mean, I had four Double Quarter Pounders back in the day, I’ve eaten steaks that are far too large for any human being, and I took down most of a gallon of ice cream in one sitting back in the day. At least I have an idea for my next solo celebratory function.

We are actually at the Binghamton tournament now, after a pretty pleasant drive on the way down here. I genuinely hate this debate tournament, it tends to be really long. There is also a bunch of silly Valentine's Day related stuff that I think borders somewhere between annoying and sexual harrassment. Nonetheless, the competition itself should be interesting, we have alot of teams moving up, a good number of new people who seem enthusiastic, and a pretty good sized squad (12 teams).

Here is my one observation for the day: most people who go to Applebees suck. Tonight, as we all gathered to determine where we are going for dinner, a tremendous swelling of enthusiasm for Applebees ensued. I have literally never seen so much enthusiasm for an Applebees. Thats not to say that people were dancing in the hotel parking lot Mardi Gras style, but we're talking about going to Applebee's here, lets put it in perspective. Given that the object in question was "Going to Applebees" there was an outswell of love which, per capita, far surpassed that of, say, the moon landing. (punctuation count for that last sentence: 7 seperate marks) Anyway, there was a great cross section of the American public, most notable:

-the woman at the table behind us had really terrible bangs. I mean, its gotta mean something if I can notice how bad your bangs are. She looked like the manicure lady from Legally Blonde if you took away any semblance of attractiveness. Merkel turned around to look at her in the least subtle way ever.

-the d00d accross from us was wearing a baseball hat which featured the Confederate flag as the background, with a 12 point buck in front of it. The text below it: "American Outlaw." I suppose to one extent its true, you could call the confederacy "American Outlaws." At the same time though, you are not exactly celebrating the American part are you? Isn't the whole point of the confederacy that it wasn't America? Not to mention, where the fuck does the deer play into this. I at least expect some thought to go into your racist headwear. Don't you have something a little dressier, maybe a burning cross on a bowler or something, for your high scale trips to the city?

-the girl who walked by our table prolly more times than our waitress, wearing white sweatpants that were either entirely see-thru, or simply see-thru enough that you could determine precisely her lack of underwear. It wasn't porno style, but it was glaring. Lavin pulled a sweet Merkel following her around the corner.

After we had finished our dinner, paid, and were standing outside I was doing what I usually do. By that I mean, swearing loudly to make passerby uncomfortable and groove dancing to the ricokculously loud 80s music that Applebees featured as their "Welcome" music. At some point they replaced Duran Duran's "Rio" with Jewel's "I Was Meant For You." The thing about that song, besides the fact that it was from way back before Jewel lost like 50 pounds so she looked like Skeletor and then became a shitty poet (general summary of Jewel's poetry: living out of your car sucks), is that its nothing more than her narrating the random unexciting events of her day. As an example:

I got my eggs and my pancakes too/I got my maple syrup, everything but you./I break the yolks, make a smiley face/I kinda like it in my brand new place/I wipe the spots off the mirror/Don't leave the keys in the door

I mean, I get that there are some metaphors and imagery in that bad boy, but for the most part you could call the song "I had breakfast." I'm just sayin, if I could yodel...

Hippo's not here, of course, but she said to say hello when I talked to her via the CatPhone earlier. As always shes having some kitten friends over for a keg of cream and some pounce treats. They better not ash their catnip pipes all over the carpet, we just vaccuumed.



Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Blowing All the Other Kids Away, We Won't Be Moved, We Can See Right Through, All of Your Butt

I suck at updating my blog. I got it. This has been a really annoying couple of weeks in several ways. Busy, I suppose, but this type of business is all but unavoidable, so I won’t blame it. Instead I will blame the fact that in the past three weeks I have been sick twice. That, in my world, is ridiculous. And I don’t just mean mildly uncomfortable cold situations, like debilitatingly sick, twice. Both times I came home feeling fine after debate practice (usually around 10:00-ish) and ended up going to sleep feeling sick before midnight. I woke up the next morning in terrible condition and was O.O.C. the entire following day. The end recovery time was a little more drastic this time around and besides the general sickness portion of the experience, the symptoms were not that similar. The first time around was my stomach and while that sucked, it went away fast. This time it was focused around an intensely sore throat and meant that I slept about 19 hours on each of the first two days I was down. Anyway, 2-3 days down not only conks out those evenings, but the 4-5 that follow as I try to catch up with both the work and the non-sick relaxing (maybe this concept is part of the problem) that I missed out on.

Regardless, I’m not gone forever. Hell, I’m gonna catch up to the actual present date in the next several posts. I will make at least a little bit of a run at it:

I left off one aspect of Texas that was cool, specifically the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, where Kennedy was shot. I was a big Kennedy assassination buff when JFK came out and such, so it was incredible to see. The museum itself is not always climactic when you know a lot about the situation, but its still awesome to see all the artifacts of the Warren Commission, the original notes reporters took from the press bus, not to mention the place where everything occurred. The grassy knoll is a cool location itself and I spent a couple minutes after the actual museum inside hanging out with a dude who showed me around the area, precisely where the car was during different parts of the Zapruder film, etc. He knew his stuff, especially considering that he appeared to be homeless or of very low socio-economic class. Not to say that people in those circumstances can’t be outstandingly intelligent, just that you see few of them occupying their days showing tourists around Dealey Plaza. Employed/housed/etc. or not, his time deserved a couple of my bucks. At the fence on the Grassy Knoll, the spot where, to be entirely honest, anyone planning the situation would have planned it, there are all these messages and inscriptions written into the wall. I took photos of all the relevant stuff here.

By the time we got back from Texas we only had a couple days left in Minneapolis. They were a whirlwind of seeing fam, friends, and judging at the State Tournament. Much belated props to Pete for bringing Rosemount their first ever State Championship. I echo Katie's comments.

Our ride home was uneventful, though Sunday night, which we spent in the vaunted Motel 6 of South Bend, IN, was eventful in a not especially exciting way, that being Katie’s own debilitating sickness. She was thankfully tough enough to allow us to make the last 7 hours on Monday morning, thus returning the two of us and our lovely Miss Hippo to the apartment, the HDTV, and our comfortable family friendly environment. Hippo is, at the moment currently demanding that I follow her into the back bedroom, most likely so I can see what an incredible job she has done playing with the pencil I set on the floor for her earlier today. As such, I will pick up from our return to Lockport tomorrow.