Earthquake vs. Fire

The Sharks have been eliminated from the playoffs on a gut-punch ending: A missed call by the refs led to a tying goal with thirteen seconds left in regulation time, then in the second overtime the puck took a bizarre bounce and landed on the stick of the only guy on the ice who knew where it was.

For the final, I think I have to root for Boston. I’d lean Canadian, but Vancouver has the Sedin twins, who think their little douchebag goatees constitute playoff beards. They are wrong. Boston, on the other hand, ran Joe Thornton out of town, much to the benefit of San Jose. I was really hoping for a Sharks-Bruins final.

Next year.

So I’m sitting a Goosetown, a local bar with a ‘dive’ leaning, not afraid to let the juke box get loud (Jane’s Addiction right now), which inexplicably has an excellent WiFi signal. On the big screen is San Jose’s other professional team, one I once saw in person. The San Jose Earthquake is playing the Chicago Fire, kicking a ball listlessly around a field.

That both teams are named after disasters that caused suffering and death is probably indicative of something. For a while this game was just goalkeepers kicking the ball back and forth. At the half, there had been exactly one shot on goal. The other four shots were off-target, but one of them hit both posts. Credit where due, that was a pretty damn exciting moment, and one that provides a payoff for the fan(s).

Overall, however, the level of play is pretty low. I’ve not seen anyone lying on the grass with a feigned injury, but that’s largely because defenders seem afraid of the ball. Set plays send the ball into empty space and passes are not crisp. Overall, there is a lack of hustle, and that’s what I can’t forgive. You can suck at a sport, but if you give it your all I’m with you. The game would seem a lot less tedious if the guys on the field showed more urgency.

So: Soccer without people lying on the ground crying like little girls (not little girls who play soccer – in this country those kids are tough) is not the only problem with the game. It may remain forever a mystery what soccer would be like if the best players in the world actually played like men, let alone like middle-school American girls.

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And then there’s Mikie

The real beginning of this blog, on Road Trip Day 1 of Muddled Year Zero, a happy occasion, also marks the end of my years with Mikie. The first two days of that road trip are the last time I ever saw the guy.

Had I been serious about this blog earlier, your opinion of me, dear reader, might be different. We had some times. Getting kicked out of Las Vegas and driving through Trona with two chihuahuas. Karaoke violence in Louisville, KY. Strong drinks and slurred words. Mikie and I, we go back.

I just heard from him recently, and this Kentucky Derby brought back memories. I’m just sitting here right now, thinking about all the things we did. Most of them, I’d do again.

Most of them.

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Refresher Course

The other night the light of my life was far distant, so I stayed up into the wee hours watching a Japanese cartoon. She’s not a fan of the idiom, so I took the opportunity to grab a few episodes. Heh. A few episodes. I had watched the beginning of the series long before, and all I remembered was that I was confused. This time I closed out the story.

I’m not going to name the show, though if you’ve already seen it, you’ll recognize it.

Pf. Like anyone is gong to read this and then, sometime in the future, while watching a Japanitoon say, “Dammit! Jer spoiled this one!” I shall forge ahead, then, and stop worrying about that stuff. The actual show really isn’t that important. My observations apply to just about every Japanitoon ever created.

The point of my ramble: This particular Japanitamation reminded me of a lot of things I need to take to heart as I lampoon the genre:

  1. People you like can die. No one is too important to take a bullet. The free pass that the main characters get in American dramas is the biggest weakness of the form.
  2. The name of the bad guy must be ridiculous, and western. Meet Mr. Monday Friday. Seriously. Personally I have a lot to learn, coming up with bad guy names. There’s something that holds me back, prevents me from turning up the ridiculometer to eleven. Mr. Monday Friday. Knives. The End of the World. Cumbersome names are quite all right, because…
  3. Mon…day… Fri… day… When you run out of dialog, Just find a key phrase for someone to say in an agonized whisper. Usually the name of another character, but let’s not limit ourselves: Stevo… Jobsu! or hu….mili…ating in…fect…ion

All that notwithstanding, I have to give the cartoon some credit for good writing. There’s a point where a guy is told, “if you go though that door your existence will be erased!” But on the other side of the door is truth, and our boy really wants to know the truth. He makes a decision, and a guy that up until then had been clearly one of the bad guys is redefined. That’s not a trivial storytelling feat. The incident also defines a rule of the universe that is critical to the conclusion of the story. Let’s face it, we’d all like to write a scene like that.

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Tunnel Vision

Back when I lived in Prague I used to laugh about the crappy service in pubs and bars. They don’t work for tips over there, so pissing off the guests really doesn’t matter much.

Right now I’m sitting at a place called BJ’s, which is practically part of the Apple Campus. My service today has been worse than anything I saw in Eastern Europe. The problem: tunnel vision.

For example: I am sitting next to the main thoroughfare to the kitchen. Every waiter and waitress passes my table regularly. Yet, when I wanted something, they all strode directly past me, steadfastly ignoring my increasingly urgent gestures. Finally I got the attention of a hostess, who stopped a waiter and asked him if I was his table. He shook his head no, eyes fixed on the stone tiles ten feet ahead, and pressed on into the kitchen.

The hostess then asked me, “do you know who your waiter is?” and I found myself feeling apologetic for not knowing my AWOL guy’s name. Anger at myself fueled my current state of indignation. The right answer: “I don’t give a fuck who my server is, and neither should you.”

I suspect my guy was on a break and hadn’t handed me off properly. He’s been very attentive, and even cool, since then. But I’ll tell you this: if I was manager of this place there would be jobs on the line. “Not my table” is no reason to ignore a patron. That I was ignored by so many people indicates that the problem is institutional. If I was owner, the manager’s job would be on the line.

As I was writing that last paragraph, my server came over, told me he was taking his dinner break, and introduced me to his stand-in. Chris will look out for me, I’m sure. My needs are modest. But I still have the feeling that it’s just Chris. If he’s tied up, I’ll be out of luck.

Update: Unlike my previous cry in the wilderness, this one was answered. I got a message from the manager of the local BJ’s, taking my message very seriously. He even asked to meet me personally next time I come in, but I’m not sure I want that level of attention.

It is a sign of good management to take criticism as valuable feedback and use it constructively.

Now with Extra Extras!

I’ve seen a few car advertisements lately, and one thing’s for sure: they’re sure putting a lot of gizmos into cars these days. But where some people see “cool feature”, I see “distraction” and “point of failure”. Electric windows were bad enough, now it seems I’d be hard-pressed to find an automobile that doesn’t tie my shoes for me and tell me how devilishly handsome I am.

If I were king of an auto company, every new proposed feature my marketing whiz kids threw at me would have to answer these questions:

  1. Does it add weight to the vehicle?
  2. Does it divide the driver’s attention?
  3. does it require an instruction manual?
  4. Does it increase maintenance costs?
  5. How many different ways can it break?
  6. When it breaks, how will that affect the owner of the car? (Crash? can’t roll up the windows? Can’t unlock the door?)

I don’t know if there exists a new car (within reason) that I would prefer over my ten-year-old, already-too-fancy car.

Drink What Now?

It’s Thursday, and I blew off a free concert (with free beer!) thrown by the iTunes group to have a little beer-blogging time. It’s been tough, lately; they keep putting hockey games with the local team on Thursday nights, and the bar fills up and it’s hockey so it’s intense — and, well, fiction doesn’t happen.

Tonight, things are calmer.

The bar features a pretty wide variety of beers on tap, from the basic American lame-ass beer to some nice microbrews. This spectrum is not broad enough for two guys at a table near mine, however. They are drinking Old Milwaukee. From cans.

ADDENDUM: On one the TV’s here in the bar, I just saw an ad for “Badass American Lager”. Genius. Now you can say “badass” — and believe you are one! — while you drink like a pussy.

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Nose Pull-Open Thingies

Over the past few years I’ve become an increasingly noisy sleeper. The primary cause is allergies; once the congestion starts there’s just no way to sleep quietly — whether I breathe through my mouth or through my nose, my sweetie will have something to keep her company on sleepless nights. She also has a lot more sleepless nights.

I’ve been taking allergy pills for a long time. I don’t think Claritin has any affect on me at all; I certainly couldn’t tell any difference on nights I forgot to take the little pill. I switched to a different one whose name I can’t think of right now, and it seems a little better, but not much.

Recently I decided to try a mechanical solution to my (and my sweetie’s) woes. Nose pull-open thingies (NPOTs) are basically pieces of plastic that you tape to your nose. The plastic acts as a spring and pulls your air passages open a little wider.

You know something? Those suckers work. We started with the CVS brand, and the first night was completely different than any I’ve had in months, if not years. There were two bits of adjustment; it didn’t take long to get used to the piece of plastic taped to my nose, but an area inside my right nostril was irritated, and that lasted all night.

I have a theory about that, if you will indulge me. My right nostril is very small, and pinched almost shut. (I’m not sure, but I think that indicates I have some cold-weather heritage influencing my nostril-size genes.) If I inhale sharply though my nose, the right nostril closes down completely. The irritation, I believe, is a result of air making contact with parts of my nose that almost never feel the arid kiss of the atmosphere.

NPOTs are more expensive than pills, but Costco carries a name-brand version in bulk, and bang-for-buck they kick the pills’ tiny corn-starch asses. Then there’s the added bonus that you’re not altering your body chemistry, or introducing an agent into your bloodstream that we might realize years from now is bad for you. (There’s the adhesive to worry about, I suppose, but I’ll take the chemicals on my skin over the chemicals in my blood any day.)

If breathing at night is an issue for you, give NPOTs a try. You (or your companion) might just thank me.