Saturday, June 26, 2010

World Cup 2010!

Soccer and I have an unbalanced relationship. I’m not a soccer guy by any means. I don’t follow any soccer teams, leagues, or players. No periodicals, headlines, or blogs on the sport do I follow. But I Jones hard for the World Cup every four year, I do.

For an entire month I can’t get enough of this futbol action. I’ve got a one page printout charting every game, teams, brackets, groupings, point tallies, and start times of every match. I even diligently fill in the results of each match on the sheet for future reference as the Cup progresses.

I root for the U.S., naturally, as the country of my citizenship, as well as for Italy and Germany, the countries of my heritage. Outside those core three my rooting tendencies become more abstract. Root against Greece because almost a third of their workforce is government employees which is for too high to be self sustaining. Root for Uruguay because at 3,500,000 people they are the least populous of the countries to advance to the knockout round. Root against France because of the incredibly bizarre behavior of their former captain in the 2006 World Cup Final where he got riled up and transformed into a billy goat before our eyes and caved in a paisan’s chest with a head butt. Root for South Africa as the host country and underdog.

There’s been much talk and discussion about poor calls throughout the first round of this 2010 World Cup. My early sentiment was that the referees were doing a disgraceful job what with their (1) taking away goals due to apparently erroneous off-sides calls and (2) robbing players of opportunities to represent their countries with poorly attributed red cards. My sentiments have since broadened to a wider web of disgust. Yes, the referees have made some horrible calls, the kind of calls the referees hopefully have the good sense to be embarrassed about once they’ve seen replays. But I offer the suggestion that the players are at least as guilty as the referees.

Have you ever seen a sport with so much flopping? Players universally faking wounds and illegal contact followed by a bout of writhing around on the ground in imaginary pain? This offends me beyond all else. How can a referee be expected to commendably call the action of a game when he’s simultaneously trying to corral 22 clowns through a 90-minute match with these buffoonish antics?

Watching soccer game these two weeks so far have trained my eyes for fakery by these infallible observations:

(1) Player flops to ground and covers face with both hands. When have you ever fallen to the ground and covered your entire face with both hands because your entire face was injured? Never happened, or at least it is a rare occurrence far below the frequency occurring in soccer games.

(2) Player flops to the ground and throws his hands in the air while falling. When have you ever fallen to the ground without your hands instinctively going to the ground to try to break the fall?

Hey, but what’s this guy to do? I’ve got a World Cup-Jones to feed and a good gorging will not be denied. For these four weeks I will maneuver my daily itinerary best I can to enhance viewing time. Than shortly after the July 11 Final I will forget the sport without much more than an occasional cursory thought and a good riddance to the vuvuzela that you’ve heard throughout every single game of this Cup.

Maintaining a flop-free existence.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Annual Clothes Shopping Event

I’ve mentioned previously my aversion to clothes shopping (CLICK HERE) and have been so afflicted for many years. Over the last few years I have compromised between this aversion and the necessity to occasionally replenish my clothing resources by allowing myself one clothes shopping trip each year. A funny thing happened since the inception of this compromise. The dread of shopping gave away to acceptance which then slowly evolved to anticipation. The fact that it’s only once per year makes it novel enough where I have recently started to look forward to the event.

Throughout the year I maintain a list of clothing items that I will seek out during the event. It’s a modest list, my shopping needs. As the shopping trip nears fruition I keep a Post-It note at the back of my itinerary listing the needed duds. Yes, a Post-It note offers enough space to capture a year’s worth of clothing needs. Not the big Post-Its, the littlest variety with dimensions of 1-inch x 1-inch. My clothes shopping needs are minor is the point I’m stressing.

But enough background information. Let’s proceed to the victory parade! My annual shopping outing was last week. With glee I present my take:


one pair casual shoes
one black belt
two pair trousers
one t-shirt
four pull over collared shirts
one casual drawstring shorts

The host of 2010’s outing was Kohl’s. [Turns out I’m a Kohl’s man. If I can’t get it at Kohl’s, I don’t want it.] Wife Klem, a street smart consumer, took on the role of event coordinator and orchestrated my big night. We descended upon the store amidst a large sale and then she topped us off with a coupon. She’s good, this bride.

Total expenditure? $177.08.

Not shopping for clothes again until 2011? Priceless.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sports cards, I’m all in.

I’ve been amusing myself the last few months with sports cards. It’s a hobby I’ve recently revisited after a break of many years. I collected cards as a youngster in the mid ‘70s and my interests were reinvigorated when I leafed through my old collection late last year and put the better cards in protective sleeves.

I struggled internally with this card collecting hobby because I’ve never been one for amassing possessions, especially those ranking in on equal ground as knick knacks, pretty glass menageries, and dust collectors of this ilk. So this compulsion to collect cards is contrary to my existence, like petting a dog opposite to the lie of its fur or walking to the mailbox in my socks. I felt like I were partaking of a behavior that should best remain unspoken lest I be embarrassed or somehow tainted. Collecting for the sake of amassing and having, no practical application, simply acquiring. I have since come to terms with my harmless vice and embraced the prospect of a heartily issued teasing. Such abuses would be greeted with a guilty smile and an acknowledging head nod.

There’s a dime bin at the local card shop where cards can be had for a dime each. I rummage through the bin on occasion and have pulled a number of premier players, though not necessarily premier cards like rookie cards and those with autographs which are the most sought after and higher valued cards. The pleasure of riffling through the cards is immense, pulling good cards out from the general population, sorting, estimating worth, and generally enjoying the difference in variety of cards. During an enthusiastic riffling there’s no thought of state and federal budget woes, the mind is free of work hassles, and other weighty bothers. It’s just cards and I’m ten years old again for those 15 minutes.

The store clerk mentioned one time that I could have a box of 3,000 cards for $30. A few weeks ago I broke down, went $30 deep into my wallet, bought one, and was pleased. There was, as one could imagine, some landfill or garbage cards amongst those 3,000, but at a penny per card I’m overall very pleased with the lot. I’d like to buy subsequent boxes of 3,000 cards as well as specific singles and rookie cards, but I’m staying within a budget. But, you know, if I could sell some cards on eBay I bet I can justify the acquisition of more cards.

Meanwhile, if you need me, I’ll be hovering over the dime bin at the local shop.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Health Care Debacle

Hey, so you’ve probably heard about this crummy Heath Care Bill that passed through the House of Representatives. [219 Yes votes (219 Democrats, 0 Republicans) to 212 No votes (34 Democrats, 178 Republicans)] To speak in terms of my own enragement at the bill, specifically referring to how it was passed and the lack of integrity of those who carried it out, only begins to touch on my unhappiness at its passage. I don’t know where to start. The lies and deception or my rage and disgust?

I’ll go with lies and deception:

Lies: ‘Deficit neutral’ the health care bill has been called. Only way you can call this thing deficit neutral is by placing that term in quotation marks and adding a ‘nudge nudge wink wink.’ More people covered, better coverage being received, a disregard for underwriting guidelines, and all for less money?! We’re being told that there’s more demand with no increase in supply, yet it’ll cost less? That defies the most basic of economics lessons. Sounds like research that can only be accomplished based on a government-supported model. It couldn’t be a private industry model, because its models actually need to be viable lest the business implementing and relying on such a flawed study would go out of business. Government models are not so encumbered by such an inconvenience as working oneself into a deficit without the possibility of extinction.

Deception: The House passed this major piece of legislation outside the parameters of regular protocol because there wasn’t enough support for this steaming pile of garbage. Reconciliation, it was called. We have come to know this term only because the intended procedure for creating legislation was breached so boldly.

Backdoor deals: It disgusts me how a No vote can be so easily amended to Yes with the free flowing pork. The obesely abundant pork offerings. More like tainted tripe, this pork. It disgusts me further that the bloated stimulus money is being used to fund this abomination. Stimulus money was not intended to grease palms.

My concerns about the Health Care Bill:
It is not sustainable. There isn’t enough money available to fund all the entitlements and goodies being promised. All the new fund raising, read ‘taxation’, needed to keep this thing afloat will be another lead-weighted shackle working against a U.S. economic rebound in the near and not too near future.

How can health insurers provide coverage for preexisting conditions without increasing rates as is being required by governmental mandate? Example: Imagine a Homeowners policy with the same rule in effect. An uninsured home burns to the ground. The homeowner would need only buy a Homeowner policy after the fire and with no ability to decline an application due to the preexisting fire damage, the homeowner would now have insurance coverage in place to rebuild the home. Not only is there no profit in that, there’s no breaking even. How can health insurers be expected to stay in business? Or is this the scheme by which the private insurance option is later to be phased out in favor of the public option?

The sad reality is that this Bill that was unceremoniously thrust upon us is here to stay. Even if November should yield large Republican gains in the House and Senate there is no cleaning up this mess. I hope I’m wrong, but Republicans have no gumption. Repeal is out of the question due to the 2/3 vote requirement to overpower a Presidential veto. Plus as recent as the Bush years when they enjoyed majorities, they’ve proven to have no appetite for hard fought battles. They’re too quick to cower and backpedal at angry words rather than standing up and fighting for what’s right. I expect November gains for Republicans followed by their boisterous speeches with chests puffed out and wild celebratory gesticulating. They will then sit back with feet on desks basking in the glow of electoral victory with no intent for remedial action. But maybe I’m wrong.

Meanwhile I stew in the disgust of Barack and Joe’s ‘big f---ing deal’.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pie Day

I’ve got this thing about free food, you see. If it’s free, good, and I’m invited to partake, I lose all restraint like a stack of papers being scattered in a steady breeze. Yesterday was an employer-provided pie day. The reason for which I knew not but assumed to be a simple morale booster. Regardless, Pie Day had been duly noted on my schedule with engorging to commence at 2:00.

February 26, 2010

It had been a productive week of work. A few minor chores remained before engaging the weekend and the unwinding tedium was to be broken up by pies. I heard the ruckus or the ambient noise, rather, of a large gathering. This I took to denote that 2:00 was upon us and that the pies had arrived and were being unleashed.

A quick visual revealed a congregation of personnel equipped with plastic forks and paper plates. They had assembled themselves in two lines flanking the pie runway. Several tables had been pushed together to accommodate what appeared to be about 20 pies. My desk was near the event, but given my low tolerance for lines and large groupings of people, I returned to my task of employment with the intent to return in ten minutes. My assessment and plan yielded more than satisfactory results. The lines were greatly reduced and the pie inventory remained abundant. By the time I had been sated four slices of pie were locked away sloshing about in my belly as I made a safe egress from the office later that afternoon.

‘Four slices,’ you ask. ‘Is this not excessive? How so you managed to consume them all?’

My initial foray was a slice of blueberry pie sharing the plate with a slice of chocolate no sugar pie. Blueberry was delicious, chocolate no sugar was disappointing. Seems someone made up for the lack of sugar by overloading it with salt. I couldn’t end on such a downer. And I would not. So a lemon meringue was called into duty to top off the bummer and it cheered me adequately to return to close out my week’s tasks. Not long passed, however, before I felt inclined to peruse the debris for a pie inventorying.

‘Were they now empty,’ I thought to myself. ‘What progress had my colleagues and I made on the pie front?’ I decided I would saunter over for a review of the rubble.

At the far end of the pie runway I spied a unique opportunity. A rhubarb pie. Yes, rhubarb! It was mislabeled as cherry, but clearly this was not the case to an experienced pie crusher. A moment’s hesitation as I considered the larger slice or the modest one. A few minutes later I was sitting at my desk having knocked back the larger selection.

I sat back and reflected on my lack of restraint. Maybe this was not healthy. Certainly this was not healthy. I couldn’t argue in favor of what I had done. Four slices. That’s a lot of pie for one fella’s belly. Yet I had no regrets. 24 hours later I know well that I’d do it all over again if I had the chance, only changing out the no sugar chocolate for a different pie. Maybe I’ve a problem, this free food decimation compulsion, but I seek not intervention.

The power ranking of my pie slices:
1) Lemon meringue
2) Blueberry
3) Rhubarb
4) Chocolate no sugar

How many sit ups does a guy need to do to neutralize that?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

du är söt (guest blogger)

Many years ago several friends and I took a trip to Greece to vacation under the warm Mediterranean sun. It was a much deserved holiday after a year of tedious corporate toil. The Greek Islands were, as it turns out, as beautiful as expected with sweeping views of deep blue waters and whitewashed dwellings precariously perched along the rocky faces of the islands. The food was also fantastic, my favorite being the chicken souvlaki.

Interestingly we did not run into many Greek people in Greece but instead came across fellow travelers from so many other nations, from England to Australia to Holland as well as so many other places. To travel between the different islands we took huge ferries as large as cruise ships. As we traveled to Ios, one of the islands in the Cyclades chain, we met some guys from Sweden (players on the National Basketball Team, as it turns out.) They were a crazy bunch of Swedes sporting blue and yellow afro style wigs and blue inflatable hats emblazoned with the flag of Sweden. We got to talking and I asked the Swedish fellas if they could teach us some Swedish. They responded by saying, when you meet a Swedish girl tell her this: 'du är söt' (due are soat). "What does it mean?" we replied. "Don't worry; just say it," we were told. We later found out that it meant 'you are sweet.'

Once getting to the island and upon meeting our first Swedish girls we tested the phrase with trepidation at first and gusto later. It worked beautifully with the Swedish women who would melt and at the blatant line-magically, it was successful! Their faces would light up and they would warm to us right away. We had a lot of fun tossing out the phrase. Thankfully the Swedish girls always spoke excellent English as the three-word phrase was the extent of our knowledge of their language. It proved to be a fun-filled trip with many memories that we will relish for years to come.

Fast forward to six months later. My cousin, John (who had accompanied me on the trip to Greece), related the following story: He was in a meeting with a telecommunications firm headquartered out of Sweden. He and his team were attempting to sell them some new technology. Upon meeting one of the clients, the man indicated to John that he was from Sweden. John, trying to impress with his knowledge of the foreign phrase, told the man: "I know a little Swedish." "Is that right?" the man replied. John continued, "Yes: du är söt," he said with a wide grin. The man was visibly taken aback and John's comment was met with an icy stare. After an awkward silence between the two everyone took their seats, the man careful to take a chair far from John. The meeting commenced, business was discussed, and the meeting ended. As the clients filed out of the meeting and last minute 'thanks' and 'nice to meet you's' were exchanged, the man refused to look John in the eye or even shake his hand. Needless to say, that particular business was not won by my cousin's firm. "I think I may have screwed that one up," John confessed to me as he reflected upon the incident.


Thursday, January 14, 2010


I’ve been a recreational writer in one form or another for well over a decade. I enjoy writing, which is funny since I spent a good deal of my schooling years avoiding classes and projects that required it. There were certain writing requirements to graduate from college. I put those classes off until the last two years.

Since the early ‘90s writing had been something I did when I had the luxury of free time. This yielded an unsatisfactory amount of written product. In fact, I had been feeling pent up with anecdotes and assorted trifles that I felt compelled to transcribe. 2009, my blogging year, was an effort to release the backlog of this writing compulsion and to make writing more of a priority. I wanted to make writing something I did as regularly as reading a book or watching football. I have achieved that goal to some extent, yet the time commitment was more than I had expected. I will continue writing in 2010, though not always blogging. Blog entries will be shy of last year’s 200 posts.

If you’d like a dose of blogging to make up for my 2010 shortfall, I am pleased to offer my sister. She started blogging this month and can be read here. She’s a pleasure, this one.