Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Final Countdown Has Begun...Again

Hey all you faithful readers out there! If you've ever read a thing or two on my blog you know that I'm prone to Grand Canyon-esque lapses between my posts. And it's been 44 days since my last activity here. But I've actually got a few semi-good reasons for that this time. In addition to my elephantine laziness, of course.

I've been directing my occasional posting efforts to an up-and-coming sports blog that I recently joined as a contributor. The site's (NCB) and you can find my bio page and blog posts here and here. My writing there focuses mostly on the NFL and making fun of myself. So, it'll be fairly similar to what I post here! You should definitely check out the site. Not just because of me (although that is a good reason to go in the first place!) but because the site's founder, Derek Hernandez, has put together an impressive list of writers and contributors and we're churning out new content every day. Speaking of new content, I'm proud to say that my good friend Andy Soto joined the site as well and has written some great articles. Andy's got a wealth of sports knowledge in his handsome noggin and if you're a Chiefs fan you're in for a treat (though Andy may begin writing some depressing articles if the Chiefs keep losing).

Also, as the title of this piece suggests, the final countdown has begun! Again. A little background for you:

Do you guys remember MySpace? That social networking site that a lot of people (myself included) though would outlast Facebook and keep giving us glittery profile backgrounds and embedded content forever! Well, we were wrong! Anyway, back about a month before I graduated from college the first time, I added the song The Final Countdown by Europe as my profile song. In case you haven't heard it or want to hear it again, here's the video:

God, isn't that freaking awesome? Did you ever wish that you could have lived through the eighties? To be fair, I was born in '84, so I was a little kid during some of the prime rocking eighties time. If only my birth could have been dialed back a few years then maybe I could have gone to a Phil Collins concert while he was still cool and not pumping out Disney tunes. What am I saying? Phil is the best. I love Phil Collins. Did you know he was in the movie Hook? As a kid who had ample time to both wear out my dad's No Jacket Required tape AND watch lots of VHS movies, I thought that was the coolest thing ever to see him in that movie. Anyway, what was my point with all of this eighties stuff? Oh yes, the countdown. Well, I'm counting down to my second college graduation. I can't decide if that's a sad thing or not. I suppose if it results in me getting some better opportunities than I had before (and more money is always nice) and if I enjoy my work more than I did before then it won't be sad. It'll be worth the time that I put into it. That's what I (and my very patient wife) are hoping for. And since I'm counting down to graduation, that means I have to actually pass my classes this semester! And that means actually doing homework and going to class! Terrible things, I know. But necessary.

So even though I still find many ways to waste my time, I do have TWO WHOLE reasons for why you haven't been seeing much of me here lately. I hope to remedy that a bit. I've enjoyed writing about sports at NCB but I've missed writing about whatever the hell is running through my head at any moment and there's no reason that I can't do both. If you're looking for hard statistical analysis and rock-solid predictions about the NFL on NCB you probably don't want to read my articles. Check out Andy's stuff or any of the other crew members who post on the NFL. But if you want to read something goofy, self-deprecating, and loosely tied to the NFL, then I'm your man.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sports Post-Football: Addendum

As an addition to my REAL (sorry Canada; Arena) football replacement candidates piece, I would like to add Canadian football. However, it's not really a replacement since it coincides with the NFL season. Their preseason is already underway and they wrap up on November 25th (CFL official site).

Anyway, I caught this Deadspin article about NBC's new 24-hour sports network that is looking for some live programming. I guess they're going to air some Canadian football this season. I've heard some crazy things about the sport: wider field, three downs, punting into the endzone for points (here's Wikipedia's entry), etc. I could see myself watching a few games, just for the sheer spectacle of it! Seriously, it could be fun.

It's too bad that they don't play during the summer because it would be a highly desirable NFL replacement (much better than the nearly non-existent Arena Football League). So, until August 27th, we will be deprived of CFL action on NBC Sports Network and we will have to make-due with mediocre preseason NFL starting this Sunday.

At this point, I refuse to watch baseball.


Mobile Man

Not to be confused with a Mobile, AL man or a children's mobile.

As humankind's technology (not humankind itself; we're all kind of dicks to each other) progresses and quick-hit blogging and social media sites continue to flourish, I fear that we may soon see the decline of the traditional blogger. That person sitting in front of their hip laptop--wait, they're ultrabooks now--pounding out a story about a story about a story (Inception! Braaaaaaaaaaawwww braaaaaaawwwwww) while also looking at cat videos and eating something locavore.

What am I saying? Nothing, I just wanted to make a post from my phone. Please ignore this as it is certainly definitely wrong and straight out of my ass. That is all. Bloggers are safe.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Books I've Read So Far This Year

Hello, faithful readers. I was perusing an old post of mine that mentioned books I had read in the year 2011. Well, since I know you're all just dying to know, here's a post with the books that I've read so far in 2012:

The Girl Who Played with Fire
Under the Dome
Mile 81 (short story)
The Deadline
Ender's Game
The Road
Pandora's Star - * currently reading

I read the first two books of Stieg Larsson's Millenium Series through our local library's e-book collection. I had reserved the third, but when it became available to me, I decided I wasn't really in the mood to find out what kind of pickled fish Lisbeth Salander or Mikael Blomkvist would have on their sandwiches or which convenience store Lisbeth would frequent to pick up her Billy's Pan Pizza. So I didn't check it out. Really, it's not that bad, but there are lots of occurrences of  this minutiae; not to mention the descriptions of all of the (now out-dated) APPLE computers that various characters use. Oh, did I mention that Blomkvist sits naked in bed with his APPLE computer (I can't remember if he actually does this, but it sounds like something he'd do)? That he smokes while accessing a folder on his APPLE computer? Or that Lisbeth hacks into everything with an APPLE computer? APPLE APPLE APPLE.

Stieg, baby. We get it. They use cool computers.

Anyway, I really don't have any hate for these books. Just some things I noticed. I do really want to finish the series so I again reserved the final book. I'll check it out this time, promise!

Bossypants was quite good. I love Tina Fey.

I then went on a Stephen King tear, reading two of his more recent novels and then a short story. I liked 11/22/63 better than Under the Dome. Under the Dome was pretty darn good throughout until the end. After I finished I felt pretty blah towards the book overall. Mile 81 is a little slice of horror where nothing but bad happens. Depressing? Of course. But well-done.

The Deadline was a "novel" (a very loose categorization) I read for my project management class that I took last semester. I count it only because it wasn't a textbook and I actually read the whole thing. That said, it was not very good as a novel. Don't read it unless you're a budding project manager (which I am not).

I read Ender's Game on a recommendation from a friend. It struck me as just okay. I'm sure that will incite rage in a lot of folks, but, to me, it was just okay. I wouldn't read it again.

Now, The Road, that was an awesome book. I loved it. As I was reading it, I kept drawing comparisons between it and one of my favorite video games, Fallout 3. Well, it turns out that the developers of Fallout 3 were inspired by the book and made it "required reading" while working on the game. Very cool.

Finally, I've been working on Pandora's Star for over a month. It's a ginormous epic space book that I picked up on another friend's recommendation. It's very interesting but it also has a LOT of extraneous details and descriptions. I can appreciate that, especially when you're talking about space travel and different planets and galaxies and all of the different lifeforms and environments that one would encounter within the book's universe. But it can be tough to slog through. I've been neglecting the book for a while so I need to put in some solid reading sessions.

And, before you ask, yes! I'm planning on finishing The Lord of the Rings! I promise! Shoot, I probably only have a hundred pages or so left! It's just criminal to not finish it. So I will. Don't worry.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Tecmo Time: Follow-up


 I Finished up my current season in Tecmo Super Bowl. The "version" of the game that I'm playing has been updated but you can tell how long it's been since I last played since all of the rosters are reflective of the 2010 season. Anyway, I played through the season with the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos. These teams actually played each other twice in the season--once in the regular season and again in the AFC Championship. I briefly agonized over which team to play with, even flipping a bottle cap (too lazy to find a coin) to see which team I would use. Then I just decided to let ol' Tecmo decide for me. I let them play each other. Crazily enough (well, not that crazy, since Tom Brady was really just Steve Grogan in disguise and Kyle Orton is nonother than the hallowed John Elway), the Broncos won both times.

 Now, anyone who is familiar with Tecmo Super Bowl knows that playoff games often become much much more difficult than regular season ones. (I think we can all relate to the experiences had by a player named Arnold in this article.) Something that I have encountered, and maybe you have too, is that it seems that even the regular season games toward the end of the season tend to get more difficult. Receivers who were once wide-open are now blanketed, forcing your not-so-nimble quarterback to shamble down the sideline for a few precious yards. Holes that were once a mile wide are now mere inches and your once unstoppable running back is now stuffed after two or three yards.

 So, I was a wee bit nervous about going into the playoffs with my two teams. Denver won a hard-fought game against Seattle in a wild card match-up while New England got a bye. Oddly enough, the Denver v. Seattle game was the only really difficult game of the playoffs. Denver then beat up Houston, err, Tennessee in the Divisional round and New England handily defeated Buffalo. This set up the previously mentioned AFC Championship. Denver won and would play Philadelphia, led by Michael Vick (Randall Cunningham). I gave the birds quite a drubbing and basked in the Tecmo glory.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tecmo Time: The Game that Shall Live Forever

Faithful readers, I met with a dear friend of mine this weekend. That friend is Tecmo Super Bowl. I previously regaled you with a brief remembrance of joyful childhood holidays at my grandparents house playing this game; sitting in the basement conjuring whatever black magic spell was needed to keep the wheezy Nintendo running and pumping this 8-bit wonder through the equally-taxed television. Those are days rich with dreams and untapped potential. If you could take a perennial punching bag like the Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl, you could easily become an astronaut heart surgeon cowboy.

I've had the game on my computer, accessible by an emulator, for a while. I go through spurts of playing and it's been a while since I last took a turn on it.

Well, I fired it up on Sunday and played a few games. Just like putting on an old pair of shoes or riding a bicycle or whatever you want to call it. Good times.

One of my favorite things to do is to start a season with one team and then, about halfway through the season, check to see what teams are languishing in last place; one sickly burp of the life support machine away from not making the playoffs. I'll pick one of those teams and see if I can will them through the rest of the season and on to Tecmo glory. To see that scene with your team, your coach lifted, and your players listed is one of life's grandest achievements.

Speaking of scenes, my cousins and I used to watch the intro to the game and scream out the players being showcased:

"Joe Montana!"

"Barry Sanders!"

"Lawrence Taylor!"

It was awesome. Back when there were no thoughts of brain-addling diseases debilitating our idols and not a drop of cynicism to be found in our minds. And every time I fire up that game, a little bit of that childhood magic comes back. Memories. Sweet sweet memories.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Holy Schnoodles

Yes, holy schnoodles, indeed. Fair and good readers, I am not Gurg. Gurg was something that probably should not have seen the light of day. He has traveled back to his home planet, never to return. I burned his green card and shredded his passport into his breakfast cereal. Bid him a farewell. Not a fond one, just a farewell.

Holy schnoodles, it has (again) been a long time since I've written anything. Here is what's shaking:

  • It is very very very very very very very very hot here in Lincoln. It is also very very very very very very very very very very hot everywhere else.
  • I attempted to hike up a 14,000 foot mountain (a 14er) in Colorado and I failed.
  • Baseball is still here. Good God when will the season end and football begin? For all of my moaning about not wanting our future children to play football, I cannot freaking wait for the season to start. The allure of cooler weather and a wave of CTE-tinged pigskin matches is always something to look forward to. Am I a terrible person for saying this? Yes, I probably am.
  • I am nearing the start of the last semester of my retread-college career. Let's hope that I don't see the need to go back to school again. Ever.
  • And that's about it.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Greetings from Gurg

Greetings, you cretins of the high world. It is I, Gurg. I'm sitting in for Nate for a bit. He's suffering from a tough bout of post-nasal drip that I gave him last night. Not sure when he'll be back, maybe next time, maybe not. He choked out a few phelgm-soaked instructions before I passed him an ether-rag to sneeze into. Suffice to say, he's finally going to get some sleep! Oh, instructions! Yes, he mentioned something about greeting his faithful readers, so . . . uh, greetings. I hope you're not too put off by someone new writing on Nate's blog. Don't worry, I'm not going to change things . . . yet. No, no, things are going to stay the same . . . for a while. Nate's going to be back very soon. As soon as my Boss comes back to usher his chosen ones down to the warmth of paradise. Yup, let's just say, when the basement door opens, then Nate will be back.

Anywho, I suppose you want to know some things about me. Well, I went to a non-accredited bible college for a few years, just for kicks. Can you believe you actually have to pay to go to a place like that? Shoot, they don't even study the right bible. What's all this Genesis, Exodus, Philemon, Revelation business? And they put the wrong guy's words in red print! Wow. And then, they tried to get me to go out and sell all of these religious books and cookbooks. The recipes don't have any meat in them! Ugh. It was not a fun time. So I split when the stipend the Boss gave me ran out. Okay, confession: my time there wasn't "just for kicks". I was actually doing some research. But after the first few reports the Boss told me I could quit submitting them. He said he'd have no problems with those people. So I left.

Nate also mentioned (before he passed out) that his faithful readers may have some questions about a new "person" authoring his blog. Well, first of all, I'm not technically a "person". I mean, I'm in human form right now, but I guess that's neither here nor there. Okay, on to the questions. Usually, Nate has to wade through the large volume of comments this blog receives to see if there are any questions. It's really annoying because I've commented at least twelve times and he's never once answered me! Makes me kind of mad, actually. Anyway, I don't have to wait for the comments. I've got a special "gift" that allows me to answer reader's questions before they even have them! Away we go!

Where were you born?

-Olaf in Nantucket

Well, Olaf, I was born in the deep deep deep deep deep deep deep deep deep South. Not the South you're thinking of, either.

How old are you?

-Brad in Denver

Brad, that's a very good question. Do you want a cumulative total or just how old I am in my current form? Oh, you want cumulative. Duh! Hmm, gotta think for a second . . . serpent's apprentice . . . pig on a cliff . . . pea soup intern . . . crow . . . carry the maccabees, add fourteen . . . crow . . . pitbull . . . crow . . . DMV worker . . . centurion . . . assistant football coach in Pennsylvania . . . author of young adult fiction (vampires, mostly) . . . postal worker . . . aaaannnnddd aspiring blogger. Okay, we've got 8,642 years. Give or take a few.

What have you done with Nate, really?

Ethel in Ann Arbor

Ethel! What do you mean, what have I done? Nate's fine! Well, his body is, anyway. His soul? Well, let's just say it's in a better place . . . between two pieces of sourdough under a slice of swiss cheese on my plate! Mmm, mmm, mmm. Nothing like a good soul sandwich. That's what keeps me running in peak condition. I'm like Mr. Fusion! Toss me a fat juicy soul and some leftover beer and I'm good to go for a few more miles.

What does a soul taste like?

Wingnut in Washington D.C.

Ever have a chicken quesadilla from Taco Bell? Like that.

Do you know where I can get some new boots? Preferably ones that are good for walking, dude.


Oh, hey Randall. Been a while since I've chatted with you. Yeah, there's a place called Western Outfitters here in town that'll probably be able to outfit you with some nice boots.

Don't you have some work to do?

The Boss in [redacted]

Oh, hey, Boss! I'm on assignment, remember? Fiddle sticks! I know I know, my break's up. I was hungry and this guy gave me something to eat. I was pretty thirsty so he gave me a Diet Coke. I was a stranger but, gosh darn it, he still invited me in . . . And I ate his soul. Nice trade, eh?

All right, everyone. I gotta go. Nate'll be back tomorrow. I was just kidding about all that other stuff. Really. Now that I think about, you probably shouldn't mention any of this to him. He's gonna be all groggy anyway and it'll probably just confuse him. Best to just act like nothing happened. NOTHING!

HELL-O and goodbye. It's been fun. I wish all the worst for all of you.

Your pal,


Friday, May 11, 2012

The Musings of a Mind Pimple

My faithful readers: hello. How is this beautiful, wretched earth treating you today? I hope that you are well. Please, eat a roast beef and cheddar doused in horsey sauce in remembrance of me. Hold hands and remember the good times. Why do I say these things? I don't know. Because I'm weird and I'm obviously trying too hard to write . . . something? Anything! Dear Christ, it's as if the creative juices my head holds are always bubbling and burbling beneath the surface of my skull but they dribble out like the grease of a sad sad pimple. Gross! I'll stop there. I need a crowbar to pry my mind open and loose the hounds of my demented mind!

Uh, yeah, Nate? It's called, I dunno, a work ethic? Consistency? Dedication to a craft? Drive? Motivation? A will to succeed? Yeah, any of those.

Damn it, Jim (who's Jim?)! I know these things! Obviously, I lack them. I am the embodiment of an entitled society. I expect these great works of my gross mind-pimple and the trappings associated with their success to just come to me! You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one (thanks, John)!

What? No! I am most certainly not on LSD or any other drug right now, aside from caffeine. I want to have a job that is easy and doesn't require a lot of thought (and really, who doesn't?). But, I also want to be paid a shit-ton of money for it! Sadly, a reality TV show producer isn't knocking down my door so there will be no Keeping Up With the Johnsons on E! this summer. Shame!

So, long story short, I've been trying to blog more. If, you happen to actually be one of my faithful readers, you will have come across this sentiment from me before. No, I don't really think blogging a bit more regularly will automatically make me a success. That would be asinine! And yet, there's that insidious part of my mind that thinks this crap will just happen. Kind of like when I was a kid and my dad hid a present, out of the blue, on top of our bookcase and then surprised me with it. It wasn't for any special occasion, it was just a present. Leonardo, the Ninja Turtle! Awesome! But, you know what happened? After that, I ALWAYS checked that bookcase looking for a present. I expected some god damned thing for nothing! All the time! And there was never something up there again. Why should there have been? It was just some random thing, a nice gift my dad got me. Was I grateful? I suppose, I enjoyed my toy. But I expected something after that when I didn't before.

I don't know that this event shaped my awful expectation philosophy, it was probably already there. Why? I don't know. But it persists. I was told at some point that I was a good writer. Or I had a modicum of talent that I should take advantage of. Or I got good grades on high school papers without trying. Or a seemingly unhinged teacher of an unhinged class (Religion. Score one for parochial schools!) told me I was a wonderful poet/writer. God. Some teachers are just good at blowing hot air and bullshit up kids' asses.

I suppose events like these helped form this devil spawn of entitlement in me. Oh, I may have a microscopic smudge of talent somewhere in my demented soul? I can do well without trying? Then . . .

Come to me, world of wonders and wealth. Come. We shall drink of the wine of delusion and deceit, thinking highly of ourselves and scoffing at others while cinching the trenchcoat of superiority tighter around our throats and laughing maniacally at the poor workers. Those who just don't know. Those who find success not by just being, but by spit and sweat. By bitter tears of work and sacrifice. The real people.

Well, screw you, Nate. Screw you and your idiocy. You are dazzled by the falsehoods of celebrities. And you are stupid.

I'm not sure what this post means, really. It's mostly just dribblings from my gross mind-pimple. A mark of an amateur, I'm sure, is writing almost exclusively about himself. Narcissist much? What better topic is there than one you know so much about? Keep trying, genius.

I will say this: I've always cared about writing. Yes, I'm lazy. But actually churning something out, anything (and this is most definitely anything and not Something of any worth), makes me feel better than I think any job could ever do.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

English Major: Explained

I was perusing an old edition of the Deadspin Funbag that is managed by the eternally awesome Drew Magary and I came across this gem. The Funbag is where Drew answers email questions from readers. Being a fellow English major I can say this is the essence of the degree. A perfect synopsis in his answer to Old Gil's question:

Old Gil:

"So I'm getting to the point in my college career where I have to decide on a major. What subject can I major in that will be both easy and make me look good in the future? I don't want some bullshit Museum Studies degree, but at the same time I don't want to have to do any work. I also like money if that helps narrow things down. Any suggestions? And if you had to do it over, what would you have switched to?"

Drew's response:

"I was an English major, and I recommend it. When you're an English major, all you really have to do is read novels (or, in my case, skim them), then talk about them and write a few papers on them. You don't have to memorize anything. You don't have to do any fucking field research. You don't have to work with a fucking lab partner or something horrible like that. There are no quizzes (unless your professor is a dick). You can bullshit your way through things. And it's a major no one sneers at. Some teachers assign papers instead of ever giving some fucking blue book test. A lot of professors let us choose which one we wanted (we always chose doing a paper). Plus, you can claim to have read any number of great books, and know enough about them to make it sound like you're a smart asshole. I don't think I'd want to major in anything else. Sociology majors are retards.
The ten most lucrative majors, according to the New York Times, are almost all engineering majors. That shit is hard. I dunno if it's worth it.
(NOTE: The only thing that SUCKED about being an English major was the English Theory course I had to take junior year. It was horrible. The professor made us think, and do real work. YES YOU, MR. BRYANT! OR SHOULD I SAY MR. TYRANT?!)"

Follow Drew on Twitter

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tweets for the Memories

Hello, my faithful readers! My, has it been almost a month already? You must be starved for sustenance! My little lambs have been without their faithful farmer to let them out into the sweet fields of grass and honeysuckle! Never fear, here is a nugget of truthiness for you!

I tweeted this last Friday after reading it in the comments section of an article on Gawker regarding Hitler and some of his strange habits. The commenters were discussing Hitler possibly being a vegan. I thought the comment was funny and also a good way to poke at some of the self-righteous prick vegans I've encountered who make quite a show of announcing that they are vegan and stating very smugly that they basically cannot eat anything. All of these vegans I've met have been Seventh-day Adventists which adds a nice coating of crazy to their prattlings-on about almond butter and wheatgrass smoothies. Bitter, much? You bet!

I was amused yesterday afternoon to see that it was suddenly being retweeted on Twitter. I've never had something I tweeted get passed-on like this so, of course, my immediate thought was, "I'm gonna be famous! I'll be working for the Gawker media empire in no time!" Shoot, I even picked some of the more popular retweeters and tweeted them a personal, "Thanks for the RT!" RT is Twitter shorthand for retweet (don't mind my condescension, apologies).

Sidenote: isn't everything shorthand with Twitter? 140 characters isn't a lot of space to get your thoughts across. I've come across variations of this basic Twitter truism:

"What I hate most about Twitter: finishing a good tweet, having -1 characters left, and then having to decide which grammar crime to commi".

The funny thing about Twitter, time and again, is that it's an illusion of interaction with those more famous and affluent than us. Any type of reciprocation is a validation of your awesomeness! 

Something I didn't even come up with is being retweeted a handful of times by complete strangers!

I'm a genius!


I like to think that yesterday's strange retweeting episode means something more. Because I look far too deeply into everything! But it doesn't. It doesn't validate me as funny, successful, influential, or anything else that sounds good. I just need to take it for what it was: an amusing thought (that someone else had) being repeated by a few people on a micro-blogging site.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

Ha! How's that for random? Again, I've been on one of my lackadaisical blogging exiles and that song title popped into my head. Does anyone remember it? Oh, Paula Cole. As I recall, it's a pretty cool (and depressing) ditty. I like the verses better than the chorus, but it's catchy. And I liked it much better than I Don't Want to Wait, for sure!

. . .

Anyway . . .

I am so sorry! I totally forgot to properly greet all of you, my faithful readers, who have been without the nourishment of my writing for nearly a month! Apologies. Many many apologies. I prescribe myself a million Hail Ellens (Ellen White) and some flagellation with a rope made of petrified Big Franks (if you're not familiar with the Adventists, you probably won't get these references).

So, what have I been up to? Not much, my friends. Not much. Still working and going to class. Playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and a few matches of Halo: Reach. Oh, and Wanda and I got a bird feeder, thinking it would be a great torture device for our two cats and a pleasant diversion for us to watch out the patio window. So we trucked to Lowe's this weekend and bought a feeder, two kinds of feed, and a pole to hang the feeder on. And nothing! No damn birds have shown up. What the hell? Last night we went for a walk and contemplated trying to capture a few birds and transplant them back in our backyard. Patience, I suppose.

I've lost a few pounds and that makes me happy. I hit the third notch on my belt today which is good because the second one is probably getting worn out. And think of all the other notches that I could hit if I keep losing weight! They'll be so happy to finally be useful! Their purpose in life will be fulfilled! That's who I'm doing it for, for those neglected belt notches.

All right, enough of this drivel. Until next time, avoid the Kardashians.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

NASCAR Indoctrination

I watched my first full NASCAR race last night. Well, mostly full. I was DVRing it (damn homework!) and was a little behind so I got to fast forward through commercials and the cleanup of that gigantanormous fiery wreck involving Juan Pablo Montoya and an unfortunate jet dryer truck. Sadly, I began to fall asleep even as the race reached it's pinnacle of excitement. Terrible, right? In my defense, it was close to midnight when the race finally finished after myriad cautions, a couple wrecks, and a jet fuel barbecue.

Even though I fell asleep (did I mention how comfy our loveseat is?) the race was not boring. There was a wreck on the second lap for goodness sake! I don't know that I'm ready to declare myself a diehard fan just yet. But the Daytona 500 was pretty entertaining and I think it'll be fun to follow along with all of the soap opera drama that comes with a season of NASCAR.

And then, he wrecked me on turn 3 because I called him a doodoo head! I'm gonna go throw my helmet at him after the race!

No! Danica! Why would you do that?

Because...*sigh* *sniffle* I hate him...and love him so much!

Okay, so that probably won't happen. Wouldn't it be great if it did! :-)


Let's try and get Dale on the radio here. Dale, this is DW (Darrell Waltrip), do you have a copy?...Dale?

DW, I think he's done drank too much Diet Mountain Dew. He's in the caffeine zone now. Only a victory here today will bring him back.

A bit more likely, but no. Still, wouldn't that be crazy and silly and great? Considering how much sponsor butt-kissing that goes on, it wouldn't surprise me if it was in Dale Earnhardt Jr's contract to drink as much Diet Mountain Dew as possible during a race and then be sure to thank them for the opportunity after his kidneys and bladder have exploded.

I get the gratuitous sponsor-thanking that goes on in every single interview done with a driver/crew chief/owner. Racing is expensive and it's important to keep that money flowing. Here's an interesting article I found from USA Today: Sponsors Make NASCAR's Wheels Go 'Round.

I'm enjoying my NASCAR education so far. What does everyone else think of the sport?

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Dream Dashed

Hello, my faithful and wonderful readers. I trust that this ol' world has been treating you well since our last convergence. Recently I read a couple articles about football and concussions. One is from Yahoo's The Post Game writer Patrick Hruby (on Twitter @patrick_hruby) and the other is from CBS Sports writer Gregg Doyel (on Twitter @greggdoyelcbs).

End Game: Brain Trauma And The Future Of Youth Football In America - Post Game
Death of football? That's crazy, until you start thinking about it - CBS Sports

**Disclaimer: I know nothing about parenting. Anything related to it below is pure speculation and guessing on my part**

My wife and I do not have any children....yet! But we will someday (relax, all you eager beavers!). And when we do, there's a 50/50 chance that we will have a boy. And I'd be lying if I hadn't thought about my future son playing sports--specifically football (yes yes, a girl could also play football if she wanted to). Now, I'm not going to be one of those dads that seeks to live out his childhood dreams through his child and I certainly am not going to turn our son or daughter into a robot who's only goal and purpose in life is to play in the NFL. No no. I want to be supportive and our son or daughter will be able to freely pursue whatever they want, Tiger Mom be damned!

Shifting gears for a moment: I'm interested in reading that Tiger Mom book after having read an article discussing it. The article escapes me at the moment, I'll have to try and dig it up later.

All right, back on track: After reading these two articles about football and concussions I've come to the conclusion that I don't want our child to play football. There's too much at stake and all of the "character building" and "toughening up" that purportedly comes from football can easily come from other, less dangerous sports. The mantra of red-blooded booze swilling Americans is that football is a man's game that teaches boys how to be men. Getting nailed in the head so hard you can't remember your own name is just part of the joy of football. It makes you a man. Being concussed into oblivion and having your brain turned to a rotten swiss cheese mush is also part of the deal. Becoming crippled, potentially abusive and suicidal are also part of it. All for the glory, right? You sacrifice your body for the beauty and wonder of the sport. It's part of the game. Right. Just because that's the way it's been for years and all of these kids are brainwashed into believing that doesn't make it true. Football is violent. Football can be deadly. Yet so many play it.

Football is a game that I've enjoyed and lusted after since I was a child, just as countless other people have. I played flag football in my youth and one year of tackle football in middle school. I've played in the backyard and put up with the pansy (there I go, perpetuating that stereotype!) rules of intramural flag football at my college. I watch it on television and I've even been to a few games. Actually, the first NFL game I went to was on September 10, 2006. It was in Kansas City and I saw Trent Green get knocked out cold. At the time I didn't think much of it. I vaguely hoped that he'd be okay, much like most football fans probably do when an injury like that occurs. We as fans don't really care much about what happens to the players. As long as somebody good is out there for our team it doesn't matter. It's entertainment, right!??! Those guys get paid millions and they know the risks! Sure sure.

We start to care when it's our family members, though. When you see your kid get laid out and later see him stumbling around the sidelines, you care.

As I said before, I want our child to be free to pursue what they want in life. If they're set on playing football, I don't know that I'll be able to stand in the way. Can you really forbid your offspring from participating in a sport? Sure you can! They may resent you for a long time, but you could do it. I don't know! Football folks are in uncharted waters right now. But science is starting to map out where the violence of the sport leads. The fog of football is slowly rolling away to reveal uncomfortable truths about our nation's real pastime. As the CBS article discusses, the death of football seems preposterous right now. But give it time.

When the time comes for my wife and I to discuss sports and other extracurricular activities with our children (around, say, three years old? Give or take a few?) we may be in for some difficult times. I have no idea, really, what we're going to do. I guess we just do our best to educate our children about the benefits and the dangers of activities that they're interested in and be as supportive as we can.

But I'm hoping that my son or daughter doesn't take a shine to football. Basketball's a fine sport and we've got my dad to help in that department. He was quite the roundball player in his day. :-)

My perspective on football has changed. Like so many other follies of youthful thinking, the scales have begun to fall from my eyes.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sports Post-Football

My faithful readers. I am so sorry it has been a while since I have last written. Blame the laziness. And video games. Homework? Nah, mostly video games. And reading. Surprise! Yes, reading. I, Nate Johnson, have actually been reading a book lately. It's Stephen King's latest, 11/22/63, and I really like it. King has long been my favorite author. After I read The Stand, The Tommyknockers, and It, I was hooked for life. He's got such a way of painting daily life and transforming it into things alternately wonderful and horrifying. He's awesome, the bee's knees.

That aside, I thought I'd comment on sport's fandom/watchiness post-Super Bowl. I know, I know, a lot of people will scoff at the notion that sports even exist between early February and September, but they do! Not that they're anywhere near as good, but a man dying of thirst isn't too picky about where his water comes from, is he? Without further horse patoot, here we go:

Daytona 500/NASCAR: This is something fairly new for me. In the past I've attempted to "get into" NASCAR. But I really can't. I just can't. For me, it's like trying to get into hockey. I did watch the end of the shootout race last weekend at Daytona and surprisingly enjoyed it. The massive wreck I saw probably helped a lot. You couldn't help but watch with all the drama unfolding! A huge wreck with two laps to go and only ten cars left? Riveting! So, I'll give the 500 a shot this weekend, if only for more wrecks.

March Madness: Ah, yes. March Madness (It really is madness because the tournament doesn't end until sometime in April). The month or so out of the year when I actually pay slight attention to college basketball. Until my Yahoo tournament bracket is busted, then I pretty much check out. But it's something, right??!!

NBA playoffs: Again, I don't really care about the NBA until the playoffs arrive, and I still don't care that much. I try to watch a few games, but I'd rather be doing something else.

Hockey playoffs: I usually catch snippets of a game or two each year. Nothing more.

Arena Football??: The cheap, artificial sweetener of football. If you can find what channel it's on, you deserve a medal. Also, I can only watch a few plays before I zone out.

Baseball: America's Pastime! The great sport of baseball! Baseball is a great sport, I recognize that. And I can't help but get excited when it starts up every year. For the first month I'm into it! Heck, one year I even watched the MLB Network in the run-up to the season and had spring training games on in the background while I did other stuff! I don't usually do that; it was a one-time thing. I immerse myself in fantasy drafts and preseason magazines; I watch the Royals on FSN (gah!); I tune in to Sunday-Monday-Wednesday-Funday Night Baseball on ESPN (it really feels like there's a primetime game every night). I watch Baseball Tonight on ESPN. All those fancy baseball card animations at the beginning! Catch phrases! It's awesome! And then I peter out and sink into the long, hot summer.

Baseball? Again!??!

God, when does football start??!!

What channel is Arena Football on? I need something! Even if it doesn't taste quite right! Someone please tell me!! What? It's on NFL Network? Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We only have piddly cable. And NFL Network, possibly the greatest channel on earth, is not available on cable. Not even on fancy pants digital cable! Not even with the sports pack! Only on satellite. Curse you, NFL. Curse you. Sure, we get the NBA, MLB, and NHL networks. But who watches that stuff? Sheesh.

So, there it is. I will absently watch the summer full of non-football sporting events while scouring Twitter and various sports sites for news on the NFL. Go Dolphins!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Thoughts on Valentine's Day

As you, my precious and happy readers, may have noticed, I write a lot of heavy ranting slop.

I'm pissed about this!

I find this such-and-such thing annoying!

Feel sorry for me because I'm a whiny piece of trash!

You get the picture.

So I'm going to give it a go writing something not so cloudy. Thunderstorms and rain are nice, but we all need some sunny days. And what better day than Valentine's Day? I love you, Wanda! (She's my wife).

Speaking of thunderstorms and rain, I like a good storm. One of those big mothers that roll in late in the afternoon. The heat has been oppressive all day, and then dark clouds start to gather. The sun gets whisked to the shadows by ghostly grey fingers and the dirty cotton clouds menace. Thunder rumbles in the distance and an occasional flash of lightning dances across the canvas. And then the rain just starts to pour. And the smell after that rain hits the hot-as-shit asphalt is heavenly! If we're lucky, the storm will roll away soon after and the sun just might peek out. That's the best time--after a storm. Everything smells fresh and looks marvelous.

You know what else smells good? Grass. After some rain it smells good, sure. But a great smell is after grass has been cut! One of those signs of spring/summer, you can always tell when people have been mowing grass. I remember a time, shortly after my dad and I had moved here to Lincoln. I was about to start high school and was feeling crabby so he had me write down a list of good things or things that I'm grateful for. I don't remember much of what I put on there, but I do remember I put something about the smell of fresh-cut grass on a baseball field. Smell is powerful! And apparently I have some unhealthy addiction to the smell of grass. Could be worse, I suppose.

I'm grateful to have a wife that I love dearly and who loves (puts up with) me. I'm grateful for our two cats, my friends and my family. I'm grateful to have a nice house to live in and to have reliable transportation. Call me a filthy, spoiled materialistic American, but I'm grateful for my Xbox. And I love playing fragtastic war games on it with my friends.

I'm grateful for my health. Aside from my fat ass. That I am not grateful for. Shoot, it's not like I worked hard to get that ass, either! If I worked harder for it, maybe I'd appreciate it more (exercise exercise exercise diet exercise diet diet diet).

I know Valentine's Day is a horrible holiday abhorred by singles and associated with diabetes-inducing levels of sugar, sappy cards, pretty flowers, and gorgeous bloody diamonds. It's also a good day to think about what you appreciate in your life. So lift your weepy leaden soul from the dark ditch of despair on this day (and on other days, too!) and take a look at the good things in your life. You may be surprised.

Monday, February 6, 2012

What the Hordes Pick

This article from Gawker about the People's Choice Awards made me think of when the "favorites" or "most popular" turd monkeys were chosen to be included in various iterations of my high school yearbook. Creed and Britney Spears and Dean Koontz and BMWs, oh my! I think it's in poor form to have high schoolers choose anything. Apparently, it's also in poor form to have coddled troglodytes of America pick things. Yes, these are awards and selections that are based on popularity. Not what is the best. But doesn't it still piss you off just a little?

Of course, the Oscars are a big sham, too. But at least the Academy's picks are a bit closer to the mark of artistry and true talent.

Carry on.

The "Benefit" of Group Projects

Okay, mini-rant time.

I, as my faithful readers know (haha), am in college for the second time. The first time through I went by way of the humanities division of my fine college. Lots of courses on writing, speaking, rhetoric, etc. Very light on the more practical business courses that could then be applied directly to real-world positions (accountant, human resources, computer nerd, marketing, etc). Is this an indicator of the failure of humanities/arts degrees failing to prepare graduates for the real world? That is something to be discussed in another post. For now, I would like to focus on one small item that irks me about classes on the business end of things. Specifically, group projects.

On the benefits of such projects: they are touted to encourage communication and teamwork. Good. Those are two great things. Also, they mimic what you may well encounter in the working world. When you get your awesome JOB that you worked so hard for you will likely work in a GROUP on a PROJECT. Because you have worked on said projects in COLLEGE you will be equipped with the proper tools to SUCCEED.

Okay, I get the wispy theory behind this. I really do. It all sounds good in syallbi form and coming out of the instructors' mouths. I'm sure that it looks equally good when these instructors present their curriculum and the plans to whatever committees they have to placate in order to continue teaching these courses in the way that they want to. All fine and good. Dandy. Just dandy.

When you actually think about it, it begins to crystallize into an observation on the real world. And that is, that these fluffy, wonderful, sparkly-in-the-light-of-a-unicorn's-patoot projects are garbage. They're nothing more than a way for instructors to do less work in their classes. Okay, okay, some of you may nail me here and say:

Nate! These instructors have been doing this for a long time and they are preparing you for real life! They know what they're doing and there have been PAPERS written about this type of thing! Group projects are necessary to develop your COMMUNICATION and TEAMWORK skills! That is what you'll encounter in the real world and you better shut your mouth now before the education gods come down from the Teachers' Lounge Heaven and smite you in their almighty smiteyness!

There may be a time where group projects are a worthy endeavor. Maybe. But I doubt it. Mostly, they are designed to cause great heartache. A student does not need multiple classes and multiple semesters of group projects to realize how tortuous and unnecessary they are! A student needs but one class! I propose that there be a class called The Hell of Group Projects. It will be assigned in a student's first college semester and they will quickly see how awful these projects are. Main points covered include:

  1. One, or at most, two people in the group will actually do any work in the group
    1. At this point, you will hope you are in small groups composed only of those willing to work
  2. You will never be able to find a meeting time that will work for all group members
  3. Actual group meetings will be UNPRODUCTIVE. 
    1. You will leave these meetings knowing that it would be better if you could just do the damn thing yourself
And I think that about covers what that class would entail. Only the most annoying types of projects would be assigned. Those with lots of graphs, group papers (Oh, God! You can keep me out of Heaven, just don't make me do a group paper! That is a punishment truly worse than the depths of all Hell!), spreadsheets, Pictionary-esque diagrams crafted with those fruity (or sometimes poisonous) smelling permanent markers, and pages and pages and pages and pages of peer analysis forms to be completed by hand.

That's it. Students would get it. Then these instructors, instead of crafting these brilliant group projects, could actually teach their damn classes!

I have encountered a strange phenomenon here in my second-go-round: I'm finding that some teachers are teaching in the most asinine way possible which is owed to the myth of the group project. I am now in my second class with this method. This is what the method entails, all summarized on the first day of class:

  1. Give fluffy presentation with syllabus about course structure, which is:
    1. Every day, instructor will give a brief lecture about the day's topic. And by brief I mean very very brief. This is what defines brief. As in about ten minutes brief.
    2. Remaining class time is devoted to GROUP TIME.
    3. Instructor will be wandering around the class, available should groups have any questions
    4. STUDENT/GROUPS are responsible for all understanding and actual teaching of topic to themselves and to each other
    5. Projects will be assigned for students to figure out on their own or in GROUPS (which have previously been found to be useless)
    6. Tests will be given, grades will be handed out
    7. The end.
What used to be clear to me, is now muddied by new-fangled thinking and creative laziness.

Hey! Instead of taking time to go over difficult concepts as well as teaching students the basics, I'm going to just shove it all under the poopy-smelling umbrella of group work! I'll empower the students to teach themselves and I'll give them enough space to be themselves and learn in the best way they see fit! God, I'm a freaking genius! And, in case they think I just use the time to go back to my office and play Angry Birds or Words with Friends, I'll stick around to answer any questions they may have! All while, of course, making sure they get just enough information from me to be only slightly-less confused.

What the fuck are students paying for when they come to college??!! What in God's name is the tuition for if not for students to be TAUGHT! We are empty vessels, here! We are here to be filled with knowledge by the faculty and staff who are paid (an amount that is not known, but probably is too much)! We are not here to sit in silent groups with our expensive textbooks open in front of us while the instructor flits about looking intelligent and caring! Don't just look intelligent! Give us some of that knowledge! We know that there must be some reason why you are paid to carry the title of instructor or professor or associate professor or adjunct professor or whatever your title is. We know you probably worked very hard to get where you are and there is a reason why you were hired in the first place. It was to teach! Not to tell students they will spend the semester teaching themselves! As it stands, a student is paying for a textbook and a semester-long study session with people who are likely just as confused as they are. The goals of the class could have been accomplished with the textbook and a series of YouTube videos. The knowledge is out there to be had much cheaper and much easier. Yet students are stuck because they have to get that piece of paper. That degree. Instead of lording that fact over students, mocking them with the idiocy of today's teaching, how about giving them something they can use. How about teaching? How about engaging them in discussion? Impart your knowledge to the students. Help them understand what is in the textbook. Step them through problems and concepts. There is a reason you, the instructor, are at the college. There is a reason the students are at the college. Stop telling them through your actions, that there isn't any reason to be at college.

Well, aside from that degree thing.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Google Minus

So I deleted my Google+ profile last week. Big news, I know. Let's take a trip down memory lane and examine my short experience on that site:

When I first heard about it I wasn't even sure what it was. Google Plus? What the eff is that? I read a few (or 20) articles from the oh-so-enlightened tech folks who were blessed with advanced previews of the service. The Buzz (sorry Google) was building. It was going to be like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and email all rolled into one! Awesome!

Do you have social media fatigue?

Uh, maybe.?.?

Then come to Google Plus where you can park your social media-ing ass and gush about how much better you are than the Farmville hordes on Facebook and Lady Gaga sycophants on Twitter!


But I was enthralled and I wanted in. When I finally got someone I know to tag me in a post, which was delivered to my email with an enticing link to The Plus, I clicked and clicked and clicked and clicked until I was finally able to register and join the site. Success! And it was beautiful for five minutes while I set up my profile and invited all of my friends and family. Five minutes more of excitement while I scoured the site for tech writers that I follow on Twitter. Great!

Then I started posting articles I thought were interesting, just like on Twitter. Or Facebook, for that matter. And I posted some more. Occasionally I would +1 (The Plus' version of the 'Like' button) some famous person's post. Or I'd add a comment equivalent to "Awesome!" Meh. The Plus, like Twitter, has lots of interesting people on it who post interesting things. But I seem to have this aversion to wanting to dialogue with said famous people on The Plus/The Twitter (sidebar: I love it when people refer to Twitter as 'The Twitter.' It makes me giggle inside). First, I usually don't have anything worthwhile to say that someone else hasn't said a million times before. Second, said famous people don't really care what you have to say. Third, about a billion other people are blowing up the comments/+1s/reshares of these posts so I get lost in the shuffle. Fourth, I don't really feel like getting into a discussion or flame war with these strangers. Pointless.

What about family and friends? Those are the folks that I really care about communicating with on social media. They're the only ones who will reliably communicate with you, anyway. All the rest of it is just an illusion. Anyway, what about them on The Plus? Well, a few of them joined after I cajoled them. And then there was silence. Because. They. Were. All. On. Facebook.

That's my big takeaway from The Plus. Everyone is already on Facebook. Sure sure, you can join the Plus to rid yourself of the rusty anchor of Facebook that's dragging you down.

You can start over with only the people you really want to communicate with on Google Plus! 

Great! You can do that on Facebook, too.

Yeah, but you can find new people to stalk on Google Plus!

That's what Twitter's for.

Mike Elgan talked about social media fatigue and ditching all of it in favor of Google Plus. He called it the Google+ diet. Mike is a huge Plus user and a respected journalist with a large following. The idea sounds great, but the problem is that if I ditched all of my social media sites except for The Plus, nobody would care. I don't have that much gravitas to get people to join me on The Plus. Emailing/blogging/twittering/ranting/checking-in-ing only from The Plus would only serve to confuse and annoy my family and friends (only people I'm really concerned with interacting with, anyway--Twitter stalking notwithstanding) who would likely then ignore the email notification they received from my post.

So, while I joined The Plus enthusiastically and spammed the hell out of my contacts to join The Plus and leave Dirty Old Facebook for good, it didn't work. What was I to do? If I wanted to converse with any of them, I had to stay on Facebook. But I still wanted to be active on The Plus, trying to post interesting things and show that I was one of the smart ones.

And it wore me the fuck out.

And the answer for me is not to ditch Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare (love Foursquare), Blogger, Tumblr, ad naseum. The answer was to ditch The Plus and embrace my Facebook-folks and my celebrity stalking on Twitter.

I always felt disconnected going from Facebook to The Plus. Like I went from a warm friendly gathering at a coffee shop to a white-washed bullshit convention on how great The Plus is. I'm sure most people ignore what I post on Facebook, as they did on The Plus. But at least those who are ignoring me on Facebook actually care about me! (well, maybe they do. At least some of them do).

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Some Thoughts on NBC News from my Google+ Page

This is just the text from my latest post on Google+:

Sad that NBC News seems to be actively censoring their Google+ and Facebook pages with any mentions of NDAA or SOPA. Seemingly more so on their Facebook page. I am so disgusted and disillusioned with mainstream media. Also, I'm disheartened by the path that this country is heading down. I've always wanted to believe in a bright future for our country and for the world, but I don't think that's a reality.

Yes, I know that there are terrible people in the world and that evil acts occur everyday. But I've always held to the belief that good will triumph over evil. That people eventually come to their senses. I suppose that's naive of me.

P.S. Funny thing, I just added the Facebook link for NBC while I was working on that last paragraph and the link showed up below with the description "A leading source of global news and information for more than 75 years." They should change that to read "A leading source of approved global news and information for more than 75 years." Makes me chuckle a bit.