Friday, December 16, 2005

Cake Good.

My kid is very smart. At least I think so.
She is really starting to talk, putting together full sentences. The odd thing though is that she has this odd English dialect that is something like "Eastern Caveman".
Oh yeah, she can put together a sentence, if you have the time to wait for all the words. It is great to watch her mind work as she puts the words together. The first word is spoken, (count to three), and then the second word is spoken, and so on.

You can ask her just about anything and she will give you a good answer. Here are some of the favorites:
Last night, after dinner we gave her a piece of coffee cake left over from Saturday breakfast. Unprompted, with a mouth full of dessert she stammers "Cake!" pause... pause... "Good!" She did this for the entire time she spent eating the cake.
Her favorite movie is "Finding Nemo". She can watch this movie in the morning, ask for it again in the afternoon and then want to watch it once again in the evening. If you say things like "I like Dory," to her, she will respond "I-Ike" pause... pause... "Dough-y" pause... "too". Very cute.

She has really started to get two syllable words down. It used to be that all words, no matter how long or complex they were, only had one true syllable. If it was a two syllable word (doggie), the first was the only pronouncable part of the word (daw, no 'g'), and if it was longer (cock-a-doodle-doo) the last was plenty (doo). I first noticed the use of two syllables when we were decorating the Christmas tree. There is a "holiday moose" (don't ask, i don't know) on our tree, and she will point to it and say "moo" pause... "sss". Ok, so she turned a one syllable word into two. I am still proud.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Finally home and settling in...

I'll be laying low for a little while. I am afraid that little sleep makes me stupid. My writing when i get little sleep is also stupid.


On a lighter note, the First Kid (i'll have to come up with a better pseudonym when i am less tired) demonstated how smart she is tonight. Her Southern Grandpa asked her where she wanted to go and she pointed to the kitchen. When they got there she pointed at a part of the coffee machine in the drying rack and said "Kah", which obviously means "coffee". He picked it up and said, "yes, Coffee." She then pointed to the fridge and said "Kah" again. He carried her over there and watched as she pointed her way through the contents of the fridge to the very back to where the coffee is stored. She made him take it out and bring it to the counter where she asked him to open the cabinet through a series of grunts and pointed at the filters.

She cried a little when I wouldn't get out the coffee maker to make her coffee and just gave her milk instead. These kids today. The attitudes on them...

Saturday, December 03, 2005

El Nino has arrived!

At 7:32pm on December 2nd 2005, our son was born at 37 weeks. He is a healthy 6 pounds, 6 ounces, a little heavier than his big sister was when she was born at 38 weeks, a svelt 5 lbs. 14 oz. He is 18 inches long, one inch shorter than big sis was.

Toe count: 10
Finger count: 10
Cute factor: 10
Grumpy old man factor: 10

Mom is doing very well, much to my relief.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The New Kid on the Block Arrives One Week Early. Film at Eleven.

Yep that's right. The new Kid shows up today. Not as of right now, but the C-Section is scheduled for 5 o'clock this evening.

One week early.

I can barely breathe.

I'll let you all know how it goes later. Say a little prayer for the wife and future kid, would ya?

At the very least, my wonderful wife is relieved to be rid a little early of the extremely difficult and persistant contractions she has been experiencing for the past six months.

I still can't breathe.

I am very excited to have a son. Thanks, Wife. I love you.

December 2nd, 2005.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Goodbye, Gordie!

We had to say "goodbye" to one of the Kid's new friends this week, Gordie.

Gordie had a recent introduction into our household, and he was welcomed with open arms. We named him Gordie because the name just "fit". I even called him Gordo as a nickname because he was kinda plump around the middle.

The Kid loved Gordie. Ever since Gordie arrived in our house, she would carry him around the house in her arms. She would give Gordie kisses, and rock Gordie to sleep at night. Eventually Gordie lost his appeal and he had fallen out of favor with the Kid. Eventually she ignored him completely, as kids tend to do when they lose interest in something. But he stayed with us because, well, the wonderful wife and I just liked having him around. He reminded us of all the good times we had these past couple of months.

Lately Gordie started to smell a little funny. I can't actually describe it, but it wasn't anything that soap could fix. The other day he got a little soft on one side, so the wonderful wife and I decided it was time to let Gordie go. One night when the Kid wasn't looking, we tossed him into the garbage. Goodbye, Gordie! We'll miss you!

Here is a photo of Gordie:

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

There Really is Tolerable Children's Music Out There

Ever since the Kid was dropped off by that stork we have been very lucky to receive all sorts of great gifts for her. Clothes, toys, books, furniture; all kinds of neat things that she will probably have to work most of her formative years at a Kathy Lee Gifford sweat shop to earn enough to repay the favors. One of her favorite gifts arrived very early on and is still one of the favorites: a compact disc of children's songs.

This single compact disc has been in circulation in my wonderful wife's car for over a year. This single compact disc has made many a long car ride bearable. It has the power to bring her out of a crying fit so quickly, you would think it was laced with Benadryl. It has songs so catchy that you don't mind that they get stuck in your head all day (the wonderful wife might disagree with me on that one, but she' s pregnant and cannot be trusted). Let me tell you, I have heard a lot of children's music recently and it's not all good. I am certain I will hear a lot more children's music in the future and I hope it gets better. (please, let it get better)

But this set of songs are different. They are actually good. They have great structure. The melodies are interesting and challenging -- not too simple that they become boring, not too difficult that the Kid doesn't get it. The have good themes to them. They aren't mindless nursery rhymes put to music sung by a chorus of kids (gag). But most of all, they're fun. I love singing these songs along with the CD while we are driving to the store together. The Kid is starting to learn the words, and she has already learned the hand movements we made up to go along with a few of them.

Now, this is no ordinary CD. This is a Laurie Berkner CD. Don't know who Laurie is? You must not have a kid under the age of four. Allow me to (as Ad-Rock, Mike D and MCA would say) "drop some science": Laurie is a singer/songwriter who will soon out sell even the venerable Raffi. How is this possible, you ask? Check out some of her music on the Noggin Channel's website -- she has a few songs on the "Jack's Big Music Show" program. You'll probably like them even if you don't have a kid.

We were given the CD by my wife's friend, Shannon, who grew up in the Deep South with my wonderful wife, but now lives in New York. She, along with their friend Melissa, had the good sense to suggest that we ought to name the Kid "Shalissa" after them. Or "Melannon", but no one is named "Melannon" nowadays so that just didn't seem right. Shannon, as it turns out, happens to work for Laurie. (cue the "revelation" music)

When Shannon gave the CD to us, it was before the kid even showed up and I remember thinking, "boy, that's a wierd name for a children's CD: Bumblebees and Googleheads." Well, you can't judge a CD by it's jewel case. I am so thankful for this CD that when Shannon visited our house on Monday, I gushed about how great Laurie is, and how much the Kid loves her music, and how we don't travel anywhere without it. I must have blabbed about it for what probably felt to her to be a long time. So long that Shannon called a day later to tell us that she is sending the Kid some more Laurie in the mail.

Thanks Shannon! The Kid and her doting parents appreciate it.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Talking Like a Pirate

My sister-in-law has recently confessed her fascination with pirates to me. I don't exactly understand what the draw is, but it seems that others share her affinity with the pirating people. She has even taught my kid how to cover one eye with her hand and say "ARRRGH".

Nice. Can we focus on the alphabet, please? How about the numbers 6-10? No? Pirate-speak? Fine. At least you are playing well with my kid.

Well, this post is in Adair's honor. I'd like to direct her attention, and the attention to anyone else so afflicted with this strange obsession, to this website: I am sure that you will find this interesting. I don't, but I also am not a huge fan of bananas, so what do I know.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

My kid is ridiculous cute... part two.

I love Ikea.
Ikea is one of my favorite furniture stores.
Ikea is one of my favorite kitchen hardware stores.
Ikea is one of my favorite decorating stores.
Ikea is one of my favorite stores.

This past weekend one of my favorite stores had a very good sale on champagne glasses. The glasses aren't very nice, just very cheap. How cheap, you ask? I'll tell you. The glasses are so cheap, you could have that romantic drink by the fireplace and toss away a pair of glasses every night for a month and it would only cost you seven bucks. In February. Yep, that's right, at twenty-five cents a piece, I had to get to Ikea immediately.

In order for me to satisfy my shopping urge, I needed to take my lovely daughter with me. Shopping with her is not simple. IF you can get the kid into the shopping cart (or "buggy" as they say in the Deep South), you normally are on a rigid time limit before meltdown occurs. In order to keep Her Highness satisfied, happy, appeased, occupied, one would need three arms. That is, IF you can get her into the cart.

One of the things that I have been doing in order to get myself into better shape is taking my sweet kid for hikes around the local mountain side. The trick to getting an 18 month old kid to hike is to never let her feet touch the ground. That's right, you heard it. Don't let the kid do any walking on her own. It's not that she wouldn't enjoy walking the trail; trust me, she would. She would probably enjoy it too much. So much we would spend too much time pointing at and naming every leaf on the ground, every tree, every bird. Let me assure you that each animal/vegetable/mineral that she names makes me one proud papa, but we are doing this for me as much as her. To keep the hike at a reasonable pace I have decided to use a "backpack carrier" that my friend, Fig, gave me after his kid grew out of it. Her Highness loves the backpack carrier. She calls it the "pack".

Ok, thanks for sticking with me here...
That digression explains how I was able to deftly maneuver the winding aisleways of Ikea, with two free hands to push a cart load of cheap-o champagne glasses as well as several other well-priced goodies. My very cute kid sat in the backpack carrier during the entire trip through the store, not just the first hour, but also when we sat through the long checkout lines, and then even longer while we went back into the store for some post-shopping snacks. Not only did she last the 85 minutes or so, she was happy.

You just can't beat that with a stick. My kid is ridiculous cute.

Friday, November 25, 2005

National Shopping Day

Today will be short as well. We spent the morning traveling to the local mall, driving a little out of our way to check out a tag sale first. The tag sale was a bigger score than the mall, but the play area and mini train ride was a big hit for the kid.
Sidebar: please take this time to read the "Decline of Western Civilization" post from the archives... the problem still exists and there doesn't seem to be any end in sight. In fact, the syndrome that has plagued females has caused a seemingly new trend -- sweat pants with the thong. *gag*
I need a moment to recuperate.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving = Diet Amnesty Day

Happy Thanksgiving all! I hope that you enjoy the day, don't have to work, get to spend it with family and friends.
and don't forget... Thanksgiving is Diet Amnesty Day -- the day when all diets get tossed out the window until Black Friday. Black Friday is actually named for "the day when all diets resume."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Fatty McButterpants goes on a diet

I went to the doctor for my yearly, wife-imposed visit to my doctor. I probably would not go if it weren't for my wonderful wife, unless of course i had a limb falling off or i was bleeding from my eyes. It's always good that she sends me, but I just wouldn't choose to go if it were up to me.
I wouldn't choose to go because normally the doctor finds something wrong with me. This time was no different. It turns out that i have ridiculously high cholesterol and I was given three months to straighten it out before I would be "put on the pills." I would be advised to take a daily cholesterol-lowering medication for the rest of my life.
So there I was: overweight and hungry, worried but not knowing exactly why, feeling angry and not knowing at what. When I made it to the doctor's office they weighed me in at about 255 pounds (i don't know exactly how much over 250 I was because once they moved the counterbalance to the "250" marker i turned my head up in embarrassment). I am guessing 255 because i think it is reasonable based on how little she tapped the single pound weight to the right.
The photo you see on the right is of me a few months earlier. My head had become this round basketball shape to match the medicine ball i carried for a belly. I had started to lose my chin and had trouble seeing my own shoelaces. I tried to ignore it, but it was even starting to get difficult to pick my kid's toys up off the floor -- bending over was tough, and I was just generally out-of-shape. I had tried to get into shape a few years ago and went to the gym fairly regularly. The problem was that the trainer I had didn't understand my body, by eating habits or my workout goals; frankly, I didn't understand them either. Going to the gym, taking the supplements and following the "diet" for about six months left me frustrated and about 10 pounds heavier than i was. I am certain that I did put on a decent amount of muscle mass but I was still disappointed in the results. Two pregnancies later (honey, it is NOT your fault, it just made it easier for me to EAT EAT EAT), I ballooned up to my 255-ish frame. And there i was, at the doctor's office. TA-DAA!!
So, I didn't know what to do to fix my problem, but I knew I had to do something. I was angry that I let myself get into this situation at all, but worried that I might be out of control and spiralling towards an early demise. But I ain't no River Phoenix... I can kick. Food ain't the boss of me.
Today, about 10 weeks after that doctor visit, and about 7 weeks after I started a strict diet and excersize, I am now 30 pounds lighter. I weighed in this morning at 222.5 pounds. I have been that weight now for about two weeks; my first plateau, it seems.
How did I do it? Simple. Eat right and work out regularly.
OK, I'll explain it a little further. "Eating right" means cutting out the crap. Stop snacking on crap, stop drinking crap, stop picking crap up from the fast food restaurants. Cut the Crap. No more sugary snacks, no more non-diet sodas, no more desserts. I didn't need it anyway, no matter how much i wanted it. But enough about what NOT to eat. Everybody knows what NOT to eat. The question is, "what the heck is GOOD to eat?"
That is where it got a little tricky. The latest fad in dieting is the Atkin's low-carbohydrate diet. That all makes sense because it eliminates the foods that turn into simple sugars in the body and forces the body to work harder to process the food it takes in. There were two problems with that: no one, not even body-builders, needs that much protein, and since I am "high-cholesterol" I cannot live on animal products alone (meats, dairy, eggs, etc.). The Atkin's diet is a high-cholesterol nightmare. A single egg has more cholesterol in it than I should eat in one entire day. If I had cheese and sausage on that croissant along with that egg, I'd be killing myself even faster.
So where do you turn? Again, it's simple, and we learned it in grade school. Remember the "food pyramid"? Yep, that's it. You are supposed to have only a little bit of what was on the top of the pyramid and a whole lot of what was on the bottom. Guess what is up at the top of the pyramid: fats, meats, dairy, etc. And what's at the bottom? Whole grains, breads and other carbs. Surprised? I was.
There are three things that makes it work:

  1. What is in between the fats at the top of the pyramid and the grains at the bottom are the Fruits and Vegetables. Those are the things that your diet should really be made of.
  2. Portion size is extremely important. The correct portion size for your meat serving is the size of a deck of cards. Know how many Porterhouse Steaks are that size? None of them are. After a while you get used to eating smaller portions. At a restaurant, get into the habit of boxing up half your meal immediately instead of at the end.
  3. The biggest thing is exercise. None of this works unless you are exercizing every day.

You have to do it, it doesn't take long, but you do it because it feels good after you are done. Before I start running in the neighborhood I dread it. I make excuses for myself on why I can't go out this morning (rainy, cold, my joints ache, I was up late, I have to go to work), but I go anyway. Don't let the excuses get in the way, I tell myself. Once I am back, no matter how tired I am, no matter how much my joints really do hurt, it still feels good.

Thirty pounds later I am happier for starting. I can see my shoelaces again. I can pick up my kids toys off the floor. I see my chin again (although I hide it behind a huge Van Dyke in the winter). And I am not done yet. I want to break the 200 barrier. I entered college at 180 and if I can get below 200 I would feel like I did when i finished college. I was a good size back then. Maybe then I will change my photo on the blog.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Old blog posts appear on my new page! E-GAD!

I have taken some of the old content from a blog page on My Spaces and dropped it onto here. I like the layout and the formats much better here. I can also edit a lot of the HTML content, if i ever figure out how to do that... heh.
So, there are some new "previous posts" that existed on the old site, that I figured were good enough to include on here. No big whoop. Have some coffee. We'll talk.

The Early Showing -- a preview of RENT

I guess that sometimes I get to be the first to find things out, like how fine the contemporary rock opera, "Rent", works as a film. I had the opportunity to attend a preview showing of the movie "Rent" last night, the conversion of the Broadway musical, which was a modern day version of the opera, La Boheme. You probably already knew that.
The last musical I had seen on the Big Screen was "Chicago", and although it was real good, i had trouble shaking my feeling like we were watching a film of a stage production. "Rent" works differently because it plays better as a movie, where it just happens that the cast of vagrants, hetero/homo/bi-sexuals, addicts and HIV+ bohemians sometimes bust out into song instead of just speaking their mind. Normally we would all think that this would be very strange and maybe a little off-putting is this happened in real life, but since the songs and music RAWKS it makes it seem okay. Sure, you notice that people are singing rather than speaking, but the music matches the emotional weight that the themes carry, and well, it just works. All right, there are times when it's a little distracting when one of the lead characters is singing so dramatically while riding his bike that you are more worried that he will hit a New York pot hole and spill off his bike, but whatever, the rest was great.
For someone who has the entire script memorized, down to every lyric and musical note (no, I don't know the dance moves, so don't get cheeky), I did find it distracting that some of the script was actually spoken rather than sung as it was in the Broadway musical. Once I realized early on that this was the way it was going to be, I recovered quickly and found that I enjoyed what this interpretation brought to the story. By reinventing some of the visual elements for the screen, it was easier to see the depth in the characters, easier to see that their depravity was curtailed by some regret, easier to see that their losses and stife were eased by the sense of family that the band of outcasts had. This was all in contrast to the view that you get from only listening to the music or from seeing the musical from 150ft away in the enormous Fabulous Fox Theater.
At that distance, you can't see the emotion the way you need to in order foryou to truly appreciate the characters. The film, up close, makes the characters more human: you see the pain on Mimi's face as she suffers with her addiction; you see the love that Maureen and Joanne have for each other in the midst of their arguments; you see the loneliness that Mark feels while everyone around him couples-up. The film, up close, draws the connections between the characters, the story and their relationships that the musical, from great distance, struggles to make.
For someone who already likes the show, I would highly recommend this film. Leave your strict interpretations of the musical behind, because you will not get a word-for-word rendition of the stage script here. For someone who has not seen the show before, I can only tell you what I saw in the theater: the girl who sat next to my beautiful and very pregnant wife cried uncontrollably for the last half of the movie. My broker tells me that her reaction may not be typical of future results, but I have a feeling that others will feel the same.

On a side note: Did anyone find it funny hearing Roger singing about a Blaze of Glory when he looked so much like Jon Bon Jovi? (thanks, Elise)

Also: Roger standing on top of the desert mesa during the "America at the Millenium" song seemed too contrived, but it did show the extreme juxtaposition of his current situation vs. his previous and future homes.

One More: I missed the sub-focus on the homeless... "honest living, honest living"..., but I liked the repetition of the Life Support meetings. That worked well for developing the HIV theme throughout the movie, while pulling the friends closer together.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Funny -- I am one of the first to know about this. And i don't have much to contribute...

I got an email from my friend, Sheila, this morning. It went something like this:
"Hi friends, I'm emailing you with some information about a new project I'm involved with at George Mason. We created a digital memory bank to collect stories from those affected by this year's hurricanes: Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in particular.
I know that most of you were not in harm's way, but you might have participated in a fundraiser or known others who traveled to the coast to volunteer. We have not begun to nationally publicize this project yet, because we want to get as many contributions as possible before showing it off to the media. So, we need your help—and that of your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers—to make this important project a reality. Feel free to forward this along to others. Below is some information about the project that summarizes what we are doing.
Have a happy Thanksgiving.Thanks for your help! Cheers, Sheila "

Neato. A project! Problem is that I don't have much to say about the Hurricanes except that a) we had great weather in this area as a result of those storms, and b) my Fantasy Football League suffered because Deuce McAllister (runningback for the Saints) and his team didn't have the focus to play very well. That is, he didn't play well until Deuce's season-ending injury left me without a running back and only the great weather to comment on as a result of the Hurricanes. Here is the rest of the info she passes on:

"The Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and the University of New Orleans, in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, recently launched a new historical project—the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank: Preserving Stories from Katrina, Rita, and Wilma We are working with other organizations in the hurricane-stricken areas to preserve the history of the devastating hurricane season of 2005 by creating a permanent digital record of the events and the responses to those events.
Among other things, we are asking people to contribute personal accounts and recollections of their experiences with the storms of 2005. Those experiences, individual and collective, need not have been where storms came ashore, nor do we expect them necessarily to be heroic or harrowing personal tales. These can be very short or much longer recollections about how you, your friends and family, or your co-workers were affected by the 2005 hurricanes. If you choose, you can submit your account anonymously. We encourage you to visit the site to read examples of contributions people have already made to the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank.
In addition to personal recollections, we also created a repository of digital images, where people can easily place the pictures they took or received of the hurricanes, their aftermath, or the recovery efforts. The memory bank will also collect audio, moving image,text, or .PDF files that may be uploaded to this site. The site includes a set of basic instructions about how to submit your digital materials. Note that placing any of your material on the site does not mean you lose control over your materials. You still own them; in contributing them you give permission to the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank to display them on our site and collect them in our digital archive for use by future researchers and historians.
We hope to foster some positive legacies by allowing the people affected by these storms to tell their stories in their own words, which as part of the historical record will remain accessible to a wide audience for generations to come.
This project builds on prior work by George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media, and other partners such as the Library of Congress and the Red Cross, to collect and preserve history online, especially through the ECHO ( project and the September 11 Digital Archive ( It is part of a growing practice of using the Internet to preserve the past through “digital memory banks.”

Yep, still nothing of value to say.
Actually I have one other comment -- I will probably be in the market for a car soon and now will only consider buying a new car. I would have, in previous years, only wanted to buy used because of the huge cost savings, but now that I have heard the horror stories of flooded-out cars being resold by unscroupulous or uninformed dealers, I will stick to a new car.

Gas prices have finally come below two bucks a gallon also. It's about dang time.

Yeah, I am pretty sure that the digital archive doesn't need to hear from me.

Nobody Tells Me Anything -- Day One: The Justification

Matt here, generally uninformed. Glad you have found me here.
I live with my wife, daughter and soon-to-be-born son in the Deep South, far from my family. We have infrequent visits with the family, each of which ends much too soon, but we try to call enough to make sure that we keep up on the family events. But for all the phone calls, it happens much too often though that I am "the last to know". I have a feeling that I am not the only one out there that suffers from this same dilemma. Here's how it usually goes:

I am talking to my mom the other day and at the end of the conversation she says, "Oh, and by the way, your cousin, Kathy, is pregant. Did I tell you that already?"
"No, Mom. That is definitely news to me. That's great though! Three is a magic number," I answer.
"Oh and one more thing -- Ted died." Ted is my grandmother's former second husband. Long story. Skipping to the end of that story, no one in the family is wrought with grief at Ted's passing. Trust me, it's a long story.
"You're kidding! Mom, when did this happen?" I ask.
"Oh, I don't know, a few weeks ago. I am surprised you hadn't heard...," she trails off.
"MOM! Of course I hadn't heard! Nobody Tells Me Anything!"
"That's funny," my mom says, "when I told your sister, she said the same thing."

And there you have it. The beginning of the blog. It's as good a place to start as any. Let this be the place to go for information that you would not have normally known. Or, if you think that you have a bit of news that I would greatly appreciate catching up on, feel free to let me know.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Closer - a movie review.

My wife and I watched the movie Closer last night. She was surprised that I didn't mind seeing it, and i realized why once it started -- it wasn't a movie about relief pitching in baseball. Actually, I am still having trouble figuring out what significance the title has with the content of the movie.
I was a little disappointed in the overall movie. As a film, it did things well -- it had great unity bringing closure to things that happened throughout the story while ending the same way it begins. The film played loose with the timeline in a way that made the next year feel like the next day, not letting the viewer know how much time had passed until it was necessary, and never waiting too long as to frustrate or confuse the viewer. There were elements of this movie that I really liked, including some time spent focusing on photos, or film "stills", during a motion picture -- that irony was not lost on me. The idea of the photographs all being "a lie" was a view on the character's personality as well as the writer/director's opinion of the medium itself. All these things were very well done, but I do not think that it could save the story of the vulgar and unhappy, miserable lives the characters lead and make this film enjoyable to watch.
None of the characters were at all likeable. Even at the point when you think Alice (Natalie Portman) is a likeable or sympathetic character, the story takes you down another path which ruins that idea completely. Each of the four characters spend the 4 years of movie time lying to themselves in order to convince themselves that they have what makes them happy. Each of the four characters do despicable things to themselves and each other. My wife suggested that the only thing that made the movie endurable was that they didn't do these things to anyone outside of this group of four. It was hard to watch without wondering who actually acts like this in our real world -- how could people let this go on for so long, how could people be so cruel to each other? I think that the answer is in what the movie omits from the story -- the jumps in the timeline conveniently leaves out any explanation for the horrible decisions these people make. The film catches us up on the story by telling us just enough for us to understand that bad decisions have been made, but makes no justification for them. We are left to believe that these are just bad people, making poor decisions. None of the characters, as a result, were at all likeable.
For stylistic elements, a decent soundtrack (I can't listen to that Damien Rice song in the same way ever again), and well done elements of film, it might be worth the 100 minutes. But if you want to see a story about lovers who end up with the wrong mate, who then decide to switch things around a little to see if they can get it right, ending with some justifiable reason for the infidelity like "True Love wins over all", then you have come to the wrong place. Skip it, and check out Shrek 2 instead.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Fantasy Baseball 101 -- The Market

Welcome back! I am happy you are reading and I hope you are enjoying. I apologize for the delay since my last article, but it seems "draft fever" is highly contagious and I have spent the past 5 days in bed hopped up on some flu remedy or cough syrup. For those of you who participated in the draft, I am sure you noticed how your pulse raced a little bit as your pick neared. I am also sure that you broke a little sweat when the player you had your eye on was suddenly taken off the table by the manager ahead you. Draft Fever. Feels good.
It's remarkable how rewarding this is -- I don't think that there was one person who participated in the live draft who didn't walk away thinking, "Yes, this is the team I wanted." I even think that the non-par managers fared pretty well too.
Generally, the first 5 rounds of the live draft are pretty standard. There are rare surprises, and each manager expects to get their handful of studs to help carry their season. Of course there are a few "OMG's" here and there, but that is the nature of the live draft. It's beginning with round 6 that the challenge, and the stress, really begins.
Rounds 6-10 of this draft will be the hearts of your lineups, the souls of your pitching squads. These next 5 players you will pick aren't as good as the "studs" but they are still solid players on their own. In fact, there may be a few "sleepers" in the pack; players who might at the right time suddenly awaken into the star player you want them to be.
There are a finite number of strong players at any position that you want to build your team with, and after that the pickings are slim. In some cases, a bad pick an hurt more than it can help. In the search for that perfect sleeper I found myself stretching for Rob Nen, the once studly closer, who decided midway through a season on the DL that he would just retire. Ouch -- a wasted pick.
Let me look a little further at that one position - the Closer. The closer produces Saves (that coveted stat), K's and eats innings while keeping his ERA and WHIP down. Every team has at least one closer, so there are plenty to go around, right? Not exactly. There may only be 12-14 worthwhile closers in the entire league. These closers will do exactly like i had said, produce good numbers, while at the same time do not get hurt. Figure that a strong Fantasy Team needs up to three decent closers. If you settle on poor closers in later rounds of the draft, you might get your Saves category locked up, but it could be at the expense of Losses, Hits and Earned Runs. Managing these risks are the nature of the game. Knowing ahead of time that RP are few and coveted, it is wise to earmark a few for early rounds of the draft.
This is where the idea of "the market" comes into play. In Economics 101 we learned the law of Supply and Demand. A lower supply causes greater demand, and higher supply causes lower demand. If during the draft you notice that a certain position is being picked ahead of where you thought they would normally be ranked this creates a change in "the market", where this one position becomes overvalued because of their scarsity.
It happens often where some managers might get anxious and draft that position immediately after that "trigger". Situations where 4 or more players are drafted from one position is called "a run". This is why it is important to pay attention to what every one else is drafting while you make your picks. By the time the draft comes back to you, you may feel pressure to join in that panic buying and draft the same kind of player. Chances are, in these cases, you pick a player who is overvalued at this level of the draft that you still have a chance at getting in later rounds if cooler heads prevailed. Then again, sometimes you just have to strike when the iron is hot.
The types of positions that typically experience Market fluctuation depending on how others are drafting are: Closers, Ace Starting Pictures, Catchers, 2nd Basemen and Shortstops. Each of these are high-impact positions where the talent pool is thin. There will undoubtedly be a run on one position or another during this draft -- its just important to plan ahead so that if you get caught up in it, you can still come out ahead.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Fantasy Baseball 101 -- To Draft or not to Draft

To Draft or not to Draft -- Live or Auto pick?
If you're reading this, Baseball is a little more than just a simple amusement or diversion that we use to pass the summers. The truth is that once the Super Bowl is over we can't think about much else. And playing Fantasy Baseball has almost reached (dare I say... hush!) "hobby" status. (cue the music) I think that if we could actually take this from obsession to occupation, we would excel at our jobs.
While preparing for this summer job of ours, we read every bit of news we can find, printed and online. We watch the sports shows on TV even if its just a peek while waiting for a table with our wives in a fancy restaurant. We try to learn all that we can, thinking that if we could just glean a little more than our competition does, it will give us the edge that we need to succeed at our summer jobs.
Actually, it is more than a summer job. Some of us (and you know who you are) haven't stopped thinking Fantasy Baseball since the season's end last year. We have got to face it: Baseball is life. We must embrace what some may call our weakness! But that's a topic for another day.
It is timely for me to describe our yearly preseason ritual. We are already preparing for it and Major League Baseball hasn't even played game one of the PRESEASON. Once a year we gather together and fight for players that we think will get us the yearly honor of League Champion. In the past we have use tools provided by Yahoo! that managed the draft for us with minimal effort. Albeit easy, the results aren't always desirable even with an ample amount of pre-ranking. Let me give you an example.
I am participating in another league where each manager could pre-rank players before Yahoo! conducted the auto-draft. Knowing that each of the 12 managers would draft 22 players, I knew that 264 players would be drafted. With that in mind I pre-ranked about 200 players. I made estimations based on players that I wanted more than others, as well as what I thought other managers would do at certain times in the draft and then made my rankings based on that. This may have been one of the worst drafts I have ever had, even worse than last year's when I ended up with a star studded pitching staff, but no decent offense. No balance.
Here is my team this year:
C - J. Estrada1B - M. Piazza2B - T. Iguchi3B - S. RolenSS - N. GarciaparraOF - C. CrawfordOF - L. BerkmanOF - L. GonzalezUtil - J. RollinsBench - R. Ibanez(1B), J. Buck(C), J. Closser(C), B. Williams (OF)SP - T. Hudson, J. Beckett, A. Burnett, O. Perez, w. Miller, J. SmoltzRP - Fr. Rodriguez, C.Tsao, B. Donnelly
I actually thing that this team is pretty good overall. A little imbalanced, but I still think I have a chance to win. But there are glaring miscues in the draft. For starters, I drafted four catchers. 4. Cuatro. Estrada and Piazza are great picks. But even with Piazza able to play first base, that is two too many. And those two, Buck and Closser are young gambles and would have been decent backups, but not both of them and certainly not if I already have Estrada and Piazza.
Second of all, Yahoo drafted what it thought were 4 Relievers, Rodriguez, Tsao, Donnelly, and Smoltz. Tsao and Rodriguez are gambles, Donnelly may not be worth the roster spot if he doesn't get and Holds, and Smoltz is actually a starter. I don't mind owning Smoltz, but now I am stuck with only 3 relievers and only two are closers, and suspect ones at that.
The good thing is that in an auto draft, we all share the same problems with the imperfect selection system. My auto-draft didn't go great, but all the managers share the same solution -- waiver-wire pickups. I said that I think that this team has a chance to win, and I truly think so; I just need to make some very smart pickups over the next few weeks.
What is the lesson? I think that I could have made better picks on my own. Flat out. I am sure that I will make mistakes doing a live or manual draft, but they would be MY mistakes. I would own them. And it would be up to me to manage MY team to first place. Choosing your own players gives a deeper level of ownership in your team -- you don't get a team because of pure luck but rather by making smart choices when the time comes. Ok, there is a little luck too.
The Live Draft may not be for everyone, and that's why we will offer a managed "auto-draft" for those who can't or don't want to participate. Additionally, since we will spread the draft out over 4 weeks (5 picks per team each week), managers who submit their pre-rankings can edit them each week to react to "the market".
Next week I will address the "Market", the live draft, and general draft strategy. I hope you enjoy your summer job as much as I do.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Low Rise Jeans =-= The Decline of Western Civilization

What the heck is going on here. Am I taking crazy pills? Or did it suddenly become okay for women to show a "little plumber crack"?
Four or five years ago, Low Rise Jeans hit their Tipping Point and became "the only acceptable way to wear denim" for women. Not a big deal to me, I still get to wear my baggy jeans the way i like 'em, these rules didn't apply to me. And if they're done right, low rise jeans can be a very nice way to wear jeans. Shortly after that, it also became fashionable to wear "midriff revealing" tops. Again, not a big deal, because for the majority of the women doing it at the time, it was a benefit to the world at large. On occasion you would see someone wearing one of these tops who probably needed to do a sit-up or 100, but who am I to talk? I need to do plenty of sit-ups myself, but with that in mind, I try not to wear as many "swub-revealing" tops either (s.w.u.b. = soft white under belly).
Since then some of these trends have gone wildly awry -- it turns out that at the same time all this is happening in the fashion world, the Thong becomes the panty of choice among the female community. Again, on its own, this wouldn't bother me, but add it to the recent chain of fashion events, and here begins the nightmare. The "cool thing" for these fashion victims becomes wearing the Thong while wearing the Low Rise Jeans. This is one of those cases where more is not better and 1+1 does not equal two. Instead ot getting the benefit of the simple combination of two singularly acceptable fashion items, you get this ensemble which causes me to regret liking either in the first place. Add in the unfortunate Midriff Revealing Top and BANG! we, the viewers of this travesty, become the fashion victims.
But wait! There's More! Yesterday at the mall I found myself in shock... not just once, but three times I was ACCOSTED by female plumber butt. Not just a hint of cheek on these zoftig ladies, but over two full inches of frightening cleavage. The first time I just figured that it was one girl's unfortunate choice to squeeze into some low rise jeans, AND wear a short cropped top. It hurt me, but she is forgiven. Well, she was... until i saw the second. And the third. All in the span of 2 hours. Way too much. It shouldn't have happened. I may never go to the mall again.
When did this become cool? I realize that at some point in time, probably on a day when a turtleneck just wouldn't do, showing a little busom cleavage became high fashion. In fact, it might have shocked a few people back then too, but eventually it became acceptable and then "normal". I can handle that. I actually don't mind it at all. But what does this mean? Will it become normal for the "plumber style?" Will I have to put up with my daughter wearing clothes like this? I am afraid for us. I am afraid that no one else will say something and then all of a sudden, whoosh, the fad becomes the standard. Is this the decline of western civilization? Have we reached our social peak where we just can't do anything to improve ourselves any longer? I had always thought that it would be something else that would trigger it, something political or more meaningfully social. But here we are, at the apex of our society's evolution, and I can now see the trip back down the long hill. Female fashion. Scary.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Ghetto Blaster

This link is pretty cool.
Click around and get the vibe.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Zombies rule

This is a funny site -- a take-off on an Amazon page that has a "Return of the Living Dead" flava.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Super Bowl Sunday... or just another excuse to think of Baseball?

Super Bowl Sunday is here and it's the New England Patriots vs. the Philidelphia Eagles. I think that the Pats will win it again to make it 3 times in 4 years. I think that would be pretty cool, and since I am into the Yankees, I am obviously in favor of DYNASTIES!!!
But seriously, with all this pre-game football hoopla going on, with all of the wierd gambling opportunities (the best I heard was this one: The total number of points scored in the game, vs. the total number of points the LA Clippers score, minus 70. MINUS SEVENTY! hahaha), all I can think about is the upcoming fantasy baseball season.
We have been doing this league for a while, this will be the fifth year. I think that is pretty cool. And we have a bunch who are repeat guests, some newbies to the league, and a few of the original players way back in 2001. I think that we got our 12 teams settled:
Jon H. -- KDS employee (2nd year in league)
Jer K. -- my CT best friend from the way-back machine (2rd year)
Paul K. -- Jer's brother (2nd year)
Wayne S. -- KDS (original Gangsta)
Tony C. -- KDS (O.G.)
Me (MD) -- KDS (O.G.)
Carolyn F. -- KDS (rookie)
Sean W. -- former KDS (O.G.)
Lance D. -- former KDS (4 year veteran)
Mhouze -- Wayne's buddy (2nd year)
Roy A. -- KDS (O.G.)
Shawn C. -- my friend from Marietta (rookie)
Now, don't let these cat's "rookie status" deceive you -- they have probably played Fantasy Baseball in one form or another for a while, so they are serious challengers.
Wayne has been the commissioner in the past, but he is giving up the reins to me this year. We had considered going "keeper league" but that would require a great deal of work for a long time and I don't know if we have the ganas (spanish for 'desire' or 'will') for that. I think that we can make our Fantasy Football league a keeper league because the management that it would require is a little less intensive.
Anyway, Spring training is coming up and I am already eyeing some of the "prize" players -- some sleeper stars and a few super stars. I will post rosters and predictions coming up soon. Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Best Wings ever -- Wild Wing Cafe, Marietta, GA

On Roswell Road in Marietta is my favorite wing joint. I went back Tuesday night for a few pints and some wings and **LO AND BEHOLD** a flavor that I have never tried before... Athens Fireball.
Dang. So spicy. So delicious. 4 out of 5 on the flame scale, so it was pretty spicy. Holy moly, they were delicious. I ordered an additional plate of 8. I couldn't get through them all (I had already eaten about 15 already -- oink), but I made the best of them.
Go there. If you need me to take you, ask me. I will lead the way.

GMC Canyon -- might be the car for me

So I am evaluating new cars, right? right. and turns out that there is a discount program with my company with GMC. Good deal. Well, I am not sure exactly how good the deal is yet, but I will find out soon.
Anyway, I am now looking at the GMC Canyon CrewCab. Even though my crew consists of my beautiful and brilliant wife, and my cute and adorable kid, I think that for a LONG-TERM decison vehicle to replace my beloved Jeep Wrangler Sahara, it might be the best bet. Add a sunroof and a retractable rear window and now we are talking!
I will first have to go to Carmax and see what they will offer me for the Jeep. That will gauge how much I think I can get for the car if I sold it throught the newspaper. It might just be easier to sell it to Carmax -- save the hassle, get a little less money. We will pay off the wife's car with that money and the IRS tax refund !!BOFFO!! time for a new car for Matt.
I can't say I am not anxious about it -- happy and sad. I will miss that Jeep a lot. I have already made a deal with myself that I might forego the Porche of my future mid-life crisis to get a replacement Jeep 10 years from now. By that time it will OK for the kid to ride with me in the Jeep. can't wait. can't wait.

Monday, January 31, 2005

The day of the Jeep has passed

I have come to the time in my life when I have to give up my jeep. I hate the thought of getting rid of it, but I can't really put the kid into the jeep. Not for a long time, at least. Maybe someay I can get another and then the kid and i can take drives the way we were meant to: in a jeep with the top down.
But for now, I am stuck shopping for a new car. Not a bad place to be, right? Unless you can't find anything that you like for a reasonable price. I think that I just don't like cars. I think I have turned "car-snob". I have owned three jeeps, two were wranglers, I have owned a BMW 325i, a Honda Civic DX, and my first car was a Dodge Ram 50. I am considering a few cars right now, but none make me go OH YEAH.
Chrysler 300. Pretty cool looking. Boxy in the right way, looks like it is a Mafia Sentinel from the Grand Theft Auto games. Not too expensive and yet still well appointed.Toyota Prius. I like the idea of a gas/electric hybrid car. Actually I really like it, but i have to get over how dorky it looks. Maybe it is cooler on the inside.
that's as far as I have gotten so far. I might also want to look at some used cars, even a BMW 325 series used... we'll see.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

My kid is ridiculous cute

I love my kid. She is so cute. Today she started saying "da-da". Not very well, but it sounds like it. Well, a little bit. It might not actually be "da-da" at all, but it is nice to think it. She is very smart; it is probably "da-da".
She turned 9 months old Friday. I can't believe how fast the time went by. We will have to start planning her first birthday kegger soon or else it will sneak up on us. heh heh. kegger. wouldn't that be a riot. Most first birthday parties are not a whole lot of fun for people over the age of 2. There is, however the best 5 minutes of a kid's life, when they learn the magic of SUGAR and dive deep into the icing of their very own cake. We recently witnessed this very act at Erin and Shawn's kid, Max's first birthday party. There was beer and food, friends and all their kids. Best of all, Max, digging into his very own cake. Too bad he got some icing in his eye. That kid squealed and the fun was over -- may have even scarred him for life! He will be a fan of the saltier foods rather than the sweeter, i'm sure. Poor kid.
Note to self: Make Kaylin wear goggles at her first birthday party.

Saturday, January 22, 2005