Monday, May 30, 2011

Random Thoughts on the Winnipeg Deal and NHL Divisions

I'm fine with the NHL taking off from Atlanta and moving back to Canada.  I think there were probably a few better candidates to move than the Thrashers, but I support the move.  My personal feeling has always been that the southern expansion was overdone.  For every good market in the south (Tampa Bay, Nashville, St. Louis, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Jose) there is a bad one (Carolina, Florida, Atlanta, Phoenix, Anaheim).  I think that having two teams each in Florida and Southern California was a hideously bad decision.

I think that my ideal solution would be to disband two teams, maybe move a few others and go ahead with four divisions of seven teams apiece.  The best candidates for that (now counting Atlanta as Winnipeg) would be Florida, Phoenix, Anaheim, New Jersey, and the New York Islanders.

If we were to cut the country in half around the eastern side of Kansas, we would be left with Buffalo, Boston, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York (R), New York (I), New Jersey, Washington, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Florida, Columbus, Detroit, Chicago, Minnesota, and St. Louis, Nashville (20 teams) in the east.  And Dallas, Winnipeg, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Jose, Anaheim, Colorado, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary (10 teams) in the West, a bit of a discreppancy.

If we take care of a couple of oversaturated markets by cutting the Ducks and the Panthers, and then move the Devils to Seattle, then we're left with 18 teams in the east and 10 teams in the west.  For rivalrys' sake we can let the west keep Detroit, Minnesota, Chicago, and St. Louis to makes things even and then realign the divisions.  (For the hell of it, I am going to highlight this year's playoff teams.)

Northwest:
1 - Vancouver - 117
8 - Calgary - 94
10 - Minnesota - 86
11 - Seattle - 81
12 - Winnipeg - 80
13 - Colorado - 68
14 - Edmonton - 62

Southwest:
2 - San Jose - 105
3 - Detroit - 104
4 - Phoenix - 99
5 - Los Angeles - 98
6 - Chicago- 97
7 - Dallas - 95
9 - St. Louis - 87

 Northeast:
2 - Boston - 103
7 - Montreal - 96
8 - Buffalo - 96
9 - New York (R) - 93
11 - Toronto - 85
13 - Ottawa - 74
14 - New York (I) - 73

Southeast:
1 - Washington - 107
3 - Philadelphia - 106
4 - Pittsburgh - 106
5 - Tampa Bay - 103
6 - Nashville - 99
10 - Carolina - 91
12 - Columbus - 81


Aside from LA to Detroit (which happens anyways), the travel is pretty manageable all around.  Most of the old rivalries are preserved and a few new ones are given more steam (Washington and Pittsburgh) by teams shifted into the same division.  We've lost two useless markets in Florida and Anaheim and made a play to erase the memory of the Sonics and shut the NBA out of Seattle, perhaps igniting a rivalry with Vancouver that could reach Buffalo - Toronto levels.

Gary Bettman's Genius

Get your tinfoil hats folks, it's conspiracy time.

We know a few things at this moment, that the Atlanta Thrashers are probably going to move to Winnipeg and that the Winnipegians are really, really excited.  You'd expect Winnipeg to be a decent market, but when they were around they were only selling about 82% of their available seats, a bottom ten number in today's NHL.  Here's what I think happened.

I think that Bettman knew all along that Canada is a preferable place to have a hockey team than the deep south, but the numbers just weren't there.  So he started moving teams left and right to the south and created a few expansion teams.  He did this because he knew two things.  One was that at least a few of those Southern teams would fail.  The second was that if deprived of a team for a few years, the Canadian fans would come in droves and sell out the building for years to come and that at least a few of the southern teams would be ripe to be moved.  The evidence of this is plain for all to see in the Northstars/Wild saga.  The Wild fans have topped 95% capacity even though their team is potpourri-ed dogshit and plays the most boring hockey imaginable.

Now Bettman can move a team back to Winnipeg knowing that the locals will be so damn excited they'll top 90% capacity for twenty years regardless of the product on the ice.

Genius.

Kirk or Picard...or Riker? (Some TV, Movie, and Novel Spoilers)

As long as nerds come together they will come together to debate who stands alone as the pinnacle Enterprise Captain.  May I toss a third name into the debate?  William Thomas Riker.  (I should note that I have seen this topic discussed elsewhere, but I forget where.)

The debate starts in the season two episode "Matter of Honor" in which Riker is assigned to a Klingon ship (The Pagh) as part of an officer exchange program.  Both the Pagh and the Enterprise eventually find an organism eating away at their hulls which results in the Klingons blaming the Enterprise.  Because of the exchange program Riker eventually finds himself facing down the Enterprise and successfully getting Captain Picard to surrender.  Somewhat of a hollow victory for Mr. Riker, but a victory nonetheless.

Later on that same season in "Peak Performance" we see Riker and Picard squaring off again in a simulated war game with Riker being given the unfortunate disadvantage of the eighty year old USS Hathaway (and Wesley Crusher).  Before the games are cut short by Ferengi intervention, Riker manages to score a direct hit on the Enterprise.  Later on to escape the clutches of the Ferengi, it is Riker's genius that is the lynch pin of the plan, not Picards.  Will is looking pretty good and it won't be the last time he outwits Picard with inferior technology.

The most compelling case in favor of Mr. Riker is perhaps the events around the Battle of Wolf-359 in which Picard is captured by the Borg.  The field-promoted Captain Riker is able to outwit the technologically superior Borg collective with Picard at the helm to not only save earth, but to save his captain as well.

Then we come to the movie Insurrection.  While Picard is down on the planet dillydallying with centuries old alien babes James Kirk style, Riker is making a run for Federation space while simultaneously beating the shit out of the Son'a.  Picard winds up polaying a glorified game of hide and seek while Riker blows two Son'a warships to pieces with nothing more than his massive testicles (and explosive space gas).

And where are they now?  If you follow the novels, William Riker Captains the USS Titan with Christine Vale as his First Officer and Deanna Troi as his second.  The USS Titan ends up engaging the Caeliar, the race that inadvertantly caused the birth of the Borg Collective and ends up reabsorbing the Borg into their benign group mind.  Where was Picard and the Enterprise?  Meeting the Borg invasion fleet, suffering the greatest losses every Alpha Quadrant race had ever seen and watching several Federation Member Worlds obliterated or charred beyond recognition, among them Vulcan, Qo'nos, Andor, and Tellar.  Oh, and knocking up Beverly Crusher.  (Wesley Part II!!!)

Advantage: Riker.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

You're All Retarded Fags: A Pondering on Vulgar Language

Every once in a while there is a movement to phase a certain slang term out of the American vernacular because it is offensive to certain groups.  Two of the more common instances are with the words retard and fag/faggot.

The argument is that using these words as insults degrades the mentally handicapped and the homosexual.  Political correctness proponents will argue that since those words are used synonymously with a host of negative terms that the implication is that those groups are themselves negative.  I disagree and my disagreement stems from different places with each word.

I don't think the use of the word retard is particularly offensive because it's very definition is to mean slow.  I also don't think the word retard degrades those with mental illnesses because those people cannot be lumped into one group so easily.  There are plenty of disorders that are not characterized by a lack of intelligence and don't come close to falling under the realm of what has been considered mental retardation.

Faggot is a bit of a different case.  My first thought is always to the mouths I've heard utter the word faggot the most, those of gay men.  Form what I've learned from speaking to my gay friends, and from observing the use of the word in general is that it currently often pertains to a certain type of gay men.  All groups have certain sub groups that are unpleasant and the characterization of these subgroups isn't a testimony to the behavior of the group as a whole.  We're all familiar with terms such as bitch, cunt, drama queen, douchebag, asshole, slut, whore, and player, and each typically applies to members of a certain gender, but we don't think of those words as an idictment of that gender as a whole.

It starts to get a bit fuzzy when you consider intent.  The thoughts in this entry apply to me personally in my experiences with the mentally handicapped, the homosexual, and with people in general.  Having gay friends and a mother who often works with mentally handicapped children, my intent is never to denigrate those groups.  However, I understand that in the mouths of other people words like faggot and retard can be much more malicious and that there is weight behing the lobby to remove these words from our language.

As African Americans have proven with affectionate use of the word nigger, such things will neither be entirely one sided nor disappear anytime soon.

The Truest Rant Ever Dressed Up In Awful Grammar

A comment from a site I found through Stumble Upon on a topic nowhere near related to the site's material.

haha Americans are fucking idiots... Granted the rest of the world needs to stop acting like there shit don't stick. But no lie America is doomed. The stupid people are reproducing at a blazing rate, the smart people are barely even reproducing at all, the justice system don't serve justice, cops don't try to crack down on crime they crack down on normal law abiding citizens, and economy is too busy worrying about the rich, and the soccer moms are too busy censoring all this from the kids so they have no Idea of how fucked they are while they're growing up in a world wrapped in bubble wrap.
Fuck this I'm moving to canada

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cut Out for This

Sometimes I question whether or not I have the dedication and work ethic to be a writer.  It's no secret that I have a problem with apathy and can at times be quite lazy.

Then after talking to a friend I realized in the past year I've written almost 600 blog posts here, plus another 30 or so over at BBG (~600,000 words).  I wrote Arnett Tanner Wants to Die (80,000) and Skankarella (65,000) plus three or four short stories (~15,000), and over a dozen episodes of Freedom of Restraint (~30,000).  All in all that's around 800,000 words and it doesn't even acount for around 15,000 forum posts, plus a half dozen edits/rewrites of Tanner, 3-4 rewrites of Skankarella, and what was basically penning an entire new draft to Cube Wars.

What that comes down to is at least 2,000 words per day without even counting the forum posts and edits.  That's more than most pros put out.

Now someone just needs to pay me for it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

My History With Religion

I know I've detailed some of my Neo-Pagan/Wiccan beliefs before, but I thought it might be interesting to go through my history with organized religion.


I remember as a kid of seven or eight years old that my mom suddenly decided that we should start going to church.  This did not sit well with me because let's be honest...church sucks.  It's boring and it makes no sense to a little kid.  The only consolation was the candy we'd occasionally receive during the mini "children's sermons."  I remember virtually nothing else about the church we attended in Rochester or my first communion which I guess speaks to its importance in my life.  Moving on.

The first Lutheran church we attended when we moved to Syracuse was headed by a Pastor who was hideously boring.  That, coupled with the fact that my Sunday School class contained an obnoxious kid that was allowed to run wild (the kid wound up going to college with me and embodied the worst in American lax-bro culture) because his mom was the teacher convinced my mom to shop around for a new church.

We fit in better at this new church, run by a female Pastor who hailed from Brooklyn and was nothing short of hilarious.  I don't remember much of the lessons we were pushed through in Sunday school which is probably a good thing because while I disagree with Christianity, I have fond memories of the people we met through that church.

Somewhere along the way some of these messages stuck with me because I went to college considering myself to be a devout Lutheran (while knowing virtually nothing about the faith) and a proponent of abstinence (though that may have been more circumstance than choice).  I think the seed of my break from Christianity came from a logistics problem I'd had from the first moment I set foot in a church.  The concepts of heaven and hell seemed utterly ludicrous, even to my young mind.  Because of that, I never really felt compelled to believe anything that various churches had taught me.  The next pillar to fall was my views regarding sex before marriage.  'Why?' I asked myself, 'Why do I believe this?'  I had no good answer, and because I had no good answer, that belief became a free agent.

As the years in college passed, I found myself growing more and more comfortable with my unwillingness to fit into any group, and as far as I was concerned, Christians was a pretty bad group to fit in with.  There are so many things that Christianity rails against as vicious evils that (in almost all cases) don't harm anyone.  If there is no harm caused, how can something be wrong?  'The bible says so' wasn't a good enough answer for me then, so I began to disregard it.

I think in a lot of senses I simply believed what people told me because that was the only background I had, but as a logical, rational human being, blind faith isn't good enough for me.  There has to be a reason, and I could find none to hate homosexuality, pornography, or premarital sex.  Watching Christians use a very suspect morality to hide their prejudices over the years has convinced me that I made the right decision to distance myself from that faith.

For a little while this presented a bit of a problem because while I believed in something out there, I couldn't lump myself in with any organized religion and feel clean afterwards.  I started to think about what my beliefs were in their simplest form while at the same time researching faiths that are typically treated with a lack of seriousness.  Wicca had always been of interest to me because I had in my head a very stereotyped definition of what it was, and like all stereotypes, I began to wonder how true it was.  When I stumbled upon the final eight words of the Wiccan Rede, "an ye harm none, do as thou wilt," it seemed like a perfect fit.

There are many aspects to Wicca that I either disagree with, or find to be completely ridiculous myself, but a lot of it makes sense.  I don't have a hard time believing in the powerful force that is the world we live on, or that it is the root of life as we know it.  The rede is a bit harder to live by because regardless of what you do, you're likely harming somebody, but it's as close to perfect as I've seen any religion get.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Things to Do Before You Die

Being a Loner

I actually have a giant wheel in my room that I spin whenever I want to do some sort of personal history entry/explanation on why I'm so fucked up.  Today I decided to delve into my solitary tendencies.

In short, my mother neglected me as a child.  Okay not really, she just never played with me, which sounds horrible.  The reasoning was that she didn't want me to depend on my parents for entertainment, and in that released me from any dependence on external influences for entertainment.  They also started letting me play outside by myself at the age of five or six.  I'm not sure what I did when I was out there, but I remember going outside for hours alone and being entertained.

I had a pretty active imagination as a kid, and I would have internal conversations with myself a lot.  Sometimes I would be thinking about the situation I was in and play out different scenarios based on taking different actions.  This is probably where the desire to write comes from since the basis of my type of writing (novels) is 'what if this happened?'  (And then 100,000 words worth of finding out.)

I don't know if my poor social skills caused my loner-ness, or my loner-ness caused my poor social skills, but the two were always intertwined when I was younger.  (Now I'm actually pretty skilled socially when I want to be, but I don't often want to be.)  I was a huge dork in elementary school, and worse, completely oblivious to how huge a dork I was.  Not even my athleticism could save me from that fate.  I guess that's kind of a good thing since I often didn't realize when people were making fun of me.

Even though we lived in a planned community and I knew lots of kids that lived nearby, I always had one or two really close friends, and that was all.  This phenomenon, a hallmark of introverts, has stayed with me throughout my life.  I never was a group or clique type of person, which is probably equal parts introversion and the complexity of my interests.  I don't know many people who lettered and won championships in two sports (real sports that made cuts, not track, football, or lacrosse), Captained the Math League and Science Olympiad teams, and published three poems.  Kind of hard to peg that to a group.

Then at the end of sixth grade we moved from Rochester to Syracuse.  It was probably a good time to move as the graduating classes of several elementary schools were funneled into one middle school so there were a lot of people who didn't know a lot of people.  I continued my tendancy of having one best friend and a few other people I knew fairly casually up through eighth grade when that friend moved a few towns over.  Ninth grade saw me start to get to know a few different people, and tenth grade (first year in the high school) continued that trend as my transition into the honors program gave me classes with those same people.

For the first time I actualy tried to fit myself into a clique, mostly because I had a few friends in that clique and liked one of the girls in said clique.  Unfortunately it was not meant to be as they'd been fairly established friends for a few years and were not soliciting members.  I remember conversing with a tall friend (who wound up attending the same college as me) about how I wished I were in that particular clique.  His response was "yeah...but you're not."  Ouch.

I can't say I blame them, cliques are by definition very wary of new members and I really didn't fit in anyways.  I didn't have a lot of confidence which made my dorkiness much more apparent and I was still pretty socially oblivious.  If I had the confidence I do now, I probably would have been a shoo-in, but I still had some growing to do.

Luckily my class schedule worked out so I had lunch with the people I considered to be my close friends so I saw them fairly often.  My typical weekends either involved having them sleep over, or just hanging around my myself.  Loner-ness had attached itself to me like a vice made out of superglue (which is then comprised of tiny vices) and was never going to let go.

I can honestly sit around by myself for days on end, perfectly happy with little to no human contact.  Being imaginitive and a writer is probably the biggest reason as to how I can do this without going crazy.  "Who needs your world?  I shall create my own!"  Some of my happiest times have been sitting alone in my room and reading or writing.

That last sentence two paragraphs up is kind of funny to me, because heading into senior year, I did have the confidence.  It was that knowledge that made me realize I was better off saying fuck-all to cliques and existing as my solitary self.  I remember having been afraid to bring Star Trek books to school to read during study hall for fear of being made fun of until senior year.  I had had enough of worrying about being 'the dork' and decided I was fine with being myself, because I was pretty awesome.  (Still am.)  And no one ever said a word to be about said Star Trek books.

That same senior year I probably got to know the most new people.  (Funny what confidence can do.)  But I didn't make too many new friends.  I'm not really the 'making friends' sort.  At that time I was nearing being a hundred percent comfortable with being myself, even if people would think I was weird hanging alone in my room friday nights while everyone else partied and drank.

Every once in a while I run into someone who either intimates that I am a loser, or says it explicitly.  (The internet is kind of good for that.)  It amuses and annoys me depending on my mood.  Amusement because it's a terribly close-minded thing to say (and because it's the fucking internet...everyone here is a loser).  Annoyance because introverts get such a bad rap in society.  For whatever reason extroversion has emerged as "the right way to be," and introversion indicates that there is "something wrong" with a person.  A flawed perception since studies have shown that people are split pretty evenly between being introverted or extroverted.

I like what those experience have molded me into for several reasons.  I like being able to entertain myself without much external stimuli, to go to places that others find boring and find only amusement.  I like writing and being able to create my own worlds where all the shitty people die and all the good people get tons of bitches and hos.  And quite honestly, I like spending time with myself because I like myself.  Let's face it, I'm just awesome.

Long Distance Relationships

I find myself now in a place I swore I'd never be again, in a long distance relationship...kind of.  I don't really consider Rochester to be a long distance and my girlfriend is only home in Maryland for three months out of a year.  Definitely a change of pace from being around my ex for three months, and three hours away for the rest of the year.

I have to wonder what makes me think that I can do the same thing I did before and expect a different result.  The answer is obvious, it's the girl.  There is so much more depth in my relationship with Abbi because we're so similar.  We see things the same way, we have similar tastes in movies, and we make fun of people similarly (kind of like Dr. Cox and Jordan from Scrubs).  Because of that, I have fun with Abbi regardless of what we do.  I pretty much hate going out and doing things in general, but I love it with Abbi because it's something we can explore together.

The level of conversation is something I've never had before in a relationship.  Abbi and I talk more than I have with any other girlfriend which does a great deal to minimize the impact of the distance.  I think that if you can become so enamored with a person's mind, then some of the physical fades away.

Because of these things, I have significantly more confidence in this relationship.  I think the strength is such that changing circumstances have little to no impact.  Somewhere deep down I knew that Samantha never really got me, and knew that if the relationship wasn't convenient, it didn't have much chance for success.  Certianly when she went off to college, everything fell to pieces and I was proven correct.  With Abbi convenience seems irrlevant.  There is more there than me simply taking solace in the fact that I have an attachment to someone.

And to put it bluntly, we're both awesome and I sincerely doubt either of us will find anyone more awesome than the other.  So there.

Hair Length on Men

Monday, May 23, 2011

Oak (NSFW)

Oak

1981

Here lies William Maxwell, beloved husband, father, friend.
Born - 1915
Died - 1975

    Jonathon never liked his friend's tombstone.  He didn't like the idea of it, that his friend lay buried beneath, and he didn't like the tombstone itself.  Dark gray and filled with what seemed like an excessive amount of blank space.  It was cold, a depressing marker of what lay beneath, not a celebration of the life that had preceded it.

    The ground in front of the stone lay bare, decaying beneath the shade of a large oak as that particular area of the cemetery aged, and new tendrils sprouted from the far reaches, extending the inexorable grip of death out into the rest of the town.  Jonathon laid his collection down, the same one he brought every year.  A map, printed in words neither could read, a memento of their time spent overseas in the second World War and an unopened beer, an everlasting symbol of the bond they'd shared.

    He sighed, standing silent for several moments.  Only once in the six years since his friend's death could he recall speaking to the stony grave.  It seemed pointless, and it always made him uncomfortable.  Even as friends, they'd shared few words in life.  Why change that after one of them had passed?

    William had never been the same since that fateful day back in sixty-six, when he'd stumbled onto the body of a boy hanging from the very tree beneath which Jonathon currently stood.  A rambunctious twelve year old known well in town, no one had seen suicide coming.  William had seemed particularly distraught over it, refusing to speak about the incident and taking any thoughts he might have held to the ground with him.

    After several minutes, the cool spring breeze caused Jonathon to shudder and he decided that he'd lingered long enough.  As he walked away, he heard a full metallic thud.  The beer can had tipped over as something had unearthed itself beneath it.  Jonathon leaned down to get a closer look.  A weathered knuckle of one of the tree's roots had somehow found daylight.  At least something within the cemetery still held life, he mused, setting the beer can upright once more.  A few morsels of dirt were pressed aside as the root seemed to unearth more of itself.  Jonathon stared at it curiously, willing it to move again.  When it laid dormant, he turned to leave.  Before his left foot could land, he was knocked forwards, as though the ground was merely a rug to be yanked away.

    The air became clouded with the shrapnel that had been thrown skyward as Jonathon shielded his face.  When the chaos settled, and he dared look, he found himself face to face with the decayed visage of his friend, screaming in silent agony as the tree root held him aloft, dripping what was left of his earthly body onto Jonathon and the ground below.

1987

Here Lies Jonathon Crandon
Born - 1914
Died - 1984

    Edward Maxwell placed the beer his father, and his father's friend had been adamant he leave for them to enjoy in the afterlife.  Edward thought it was a stupid gesture, bound in a sort of superstition he loathed, but he'd respected the two old men, what they'd done, what they fought for.  And he liked to think that the reason the beers were always gone within a few weeks was because they'd somehow pulled the beverages from this world into the next to enjoy together.

    Jonathon was buried on the other side of the large oak tree that had taken umbrage with Edward's  father's corpse six years prior.  It was a fitting location as most of the town's World War Two vets ended up in the same area, as finding formation in death as they had in battle.

    After a few short minutes that he felt were wasted Edward turned to leave, aware of the branch he needed to avoid, but not fully realizing just how close it lay to his foot.  It would have been a comedic scene were it not for the end result.  A stumble, an awkward fall, a sharpened piece of shrapnel that a recent storm had loosed from the tree.  Within moments Edward lie still, adding fresh blood to Jonathon's grave.

1993

    Lydia Maxwell stretched out her creaky right leg as she half stood, half stumbled from the kneeler back into the pew.  As she grew older, she felt like her body was going fuzzy piece by piece like a dilapidated television set with the leg being the latest casualty.  She smiled encouragingly at the couple next to her as they worshipped together in the church that bore her late husband's name.

    While William didn't initially have a problem with filling his pockets with as many spoils of war as his large hands could carry, the burden of the stolen items weighed on him.  Shortly after coming home, he pawned them off for a tidy sum and used the money to start a church.  It was little more than a glorified gardening shed at first, seating about a dozen, but it was the first Protestant place of worship in the decidedly Catholic Marshville.  People came, and with them came money.  Soon the shed had an addition, then it was demolished entirely for the cozy new building that could seat about a hundred if the parishioners were skinny.

    "And let us not forget the untimely passing of Lydia Maxwell's son Edward six years ago today.  I would ask that those among us keep Lydia and her family in their prayers."  Lydia smiled softly at the glances that came her way, not sure how to react to the attention.  The past two decades had been a series of wounds that had never healed.  First William with his heart attack, then the car accident of Jonathon, and finally Edward's gruesome passing, ironically while visiting the gravesite of his father.

    "Time heals all wounds."  That's what her mother had told her as a little girl over the passing of many a beloved pet.  It had been true then as the pain faded more with each second, but as the important people in her life were slowly ripped away from her, the years felt like a hand thudding down the keys of a piano towards a dull and depressing climax.  That's why Lydia felt oddly at peace with the fact that she carried her husband's army pistol in her purse, loaded with a single bullet.  She'd only need one.

    "Ms. Maxwell, I'd like to speak to you," a middle aged man with lines just beginning to stretch their way across his face had approached her pew after the service.

    "I'd like to be alone," she said shortly, trying to will the younger man away.

    "Please, it's about your husband...and my brother."

    Lydia sighed and gestured out one of the stained glass windows.  "Let me have some time alone with my husband, then we can speak."  The man didn't seem to find that option particularly palatable, but he nodded his head and backed off.

    Ten minutes later the option was no longer a possibility as the old woman sat slumped against a red and gray tombstone.  Her shaking hands hadn't wanted to cooperate at first and she wasn't sure if she could get the bullet into her head from point blank range, but slowly she found the strength.

    The irony was not lost on the old oak tree, as it ensured it was not the only witness to the scene.  On that day it finished wrenching three bodies from the ground, splitting their coffins and sending their feeble bones tumbling out to meet Ms. Maxwell.  Luckily for her, there was nothing left behind her eyes to view the scene.

1999

    "It's just a fuckin' tree, why do we gotta cut it down?"

    "You're prolly too young to remember, but this damn thing's roots keep gettin' into gravesites.  Pulls the bodies straight up outta the ground."

    "Maybe they shouldn't bury 'em so close.  Fucking sucks that we have to take it out piece by piece."

    "Do you want to be the one responsible for disturbing a dozen graves when it falls?"  The youth shook his head vigorously, looking around the scattered plots.  The older man was right, there was no real good place to land the tree.  The only way to bring it out was the way they intended, by cutting it out branch by branch.  "It's bad juju," the older man mumbled.

    "Look, even the tree wants to go," the older man smirked, leaning out of the cherry picker towards a short piece carved into the weathered trunk.  The words had faded as time punished the tree, but they were still unmistakable.  I wish he'd kill me.  "I don't know who 'he' is, but I'm going to," the old man said, readying the chainsaw.

    The two landscapers worked slowly and carefully.  No one expected the tree to be down any time soon and they'd only hurt themselves by cutting off more than they could handle.  As the older man cut, the younger would pick up what branches he could reach and toss them into their cart as he spotted the ladder for his companion.

    "Jesus fuck, what the hell?"  The ladder had shifted, subtlely, but enough to give the top a good shake.

    "I dunno, it just sunk a bit.  Better come down and we'll reset it."

    "Fuck," the older man said, turning the chainsaw off.  His heavy boots clanged downward as he seemed to put extra emphasis on each step.  When he stepped onto the ground his boot sunk a few inches.

    "What the hell?  I ain't heavy, and it ain't rained."

    It was then that he saw something smooth poking out of the dirt.  "Aw fuck, not again, see what I mean Jesse?"

    Jesse was a few paces away, taking the time to pick up some of the branches that had fallen farther than he'd dared venture from spotting the ladder.  When the old man turned, instead of Jesse's wiry form, all he saw was cold grey steel as the ladder finished its silent journey from the tree tops directly into the his head.  While the impact of the ladder with the old man's face produced an uninteresting thud, the crack his skull made against the hard granite on his way down was unmistakable.  Not a decade after Lydia had added some color to her husband's tombstone, the back of the old man's head did the same.

2005

    Teddy Maxwell looked out the neck-high window of the changing room as he buttoned his robe.  He knew his father's, his grandfather's, and his grandmother's graves all lay just beyond the backyard of the church, but he never visited them.  Whether it was God's will, or something more malevolent, the events over the years had proven that his deceased family wanted to be left alone.  As a spiritual man, he didn't want to mess with whatever forces continued to flit about the graveyard.

    "Last day wearing that robe, then you get to put on the big boy clothes," Pastor John said, poking his head into the room.  Teddy laughed as their dress was identical.  The Pastor was right, after that morning's ceremony, the years at seminary school would finally culminate in being elevated to Pastor.  Even better, John had insisted he stay with his home congregation so the two could split time as the years continued to catch up with Pastor John.  He knew the older man would be thankful for the respite, and he was glad that he would be thrust into such an important role gradually rather than be thrown to the wolves.

    "You're going to rot in hell," the harsh whisper rattled Teddy from the moment of silence.  In the moment of reflection, with everyone's head bowed, Old Man Weathers had been able to sneak all the way to the altar.

    "It's coming, your turn" Weathers continued as two ushers rose to half lead, half drag  him across the red carpet and out of the building.

    Teddy shook his head and laughed nervously as he looked to Pastor John, trying to shake away the increasingly unhinged man's disturbing comments.  The ushers were able to successfully exorcise Weathers without further incident and the ceremony continued.  Aside from the short interruption, it was a lovely service and had been everything Teddy could have hoped for.

    He looked out the window once more at the graveyard.  The abundance of shade made it loom oddly dim in the bright May afternoon.  The old oak tree that dominated the grounds had started to fill out again, growing back a few of the branches that had been cut away a few years earlier.  Teddy didn't really remember the story, but he knew that somewhere along the way, someone had died.  There was so much heartache in one small plot of land that Teddy had to wonder if the fact that the changing room overlooked the cemetery was a bad omen.

    "Congratulations!" John said, maneuvering nimbly around Teddy to hang his own robe.  "And thanks for the many coming vacations," he said with a wink.  Teddy returned the smile, but his mind was elsewhere.

    "What was the deal with Weathers, what happened?"

    "Oh they led him away without any fuss.  He's prone to doing things like that, you know."

    "Any idea why?"

    "I guess he had some sort of a feud with your father.  Or at least he thinks he did.  Hard to see what since he would have been half your father's age when they were alive together."

    Teddy nodded, hanging his rosary and closing the cabinet.
   

2011

    "What's new," Warren Daniels asked as he walked into the station to begin the night shift.  The two words were less a question and more a way of saying hello.  In Marshville, a town of about two thousand, there was rarely anything new.  When everyone knew everyone else, they tended to be pretty respectful of each other.  The most they ever had to deal with was a few dumb kids drinking and breaking beer bottles where they shouldn't.

    "Old man Weathers with fresh conspiracy theories," Thomas Marks responded, making every effort to turn his rickety old chair and desk into a hammock.

    "Can you call him 'old man?'  He's younger than you chief."

    "He's batshit is what he is," Marks replied.  "And when you're that fucking nuts and you're past middle age, you get called 'old man.'"

    "Fair enough, what did he have for you this time?"

    "Oh you know, the same bullshit about forty year old deaths with no evidence."

    "Ah, the usual," Daniels answered, slumping into his desk chair.  "What's on the itinerary tonight?"

    As he spoke, Marks's phone rang.  "Guess we'll find out," he said with an amused grin.  "I'll put it on speaker, hope it's a good one."

    "Hey chief, this is Donny."

    "Donny, long time.  Those kids drinkin' out in your cornfields again?"

    "No, nothin like that chief, this is worse.  You know that old tree?"

    "The one that keeps playing grave robber every couple a years?  It happen again?"

    "No...well, I don't know.  I think it's on fire."

    "Shit," Marks said, rising out of his seat.  "Get down there War, I'll send the fire department on after you.  Must be those fucking kids again, someone forgot to put a cigarette out or something."

    "Yes sir," Marks responded, grabbing his coat and hustling out the door.  It was a five minute drive down to the old church and cemetery, but Marks could see the smoke before he was even halfway there.  When he slid in across the street, 'fire' seemed like an understatement.  The entire tree was engulfed in high flames, as was half the grass around it and the orange seemed hell bent on making its way towards the church.

    It was then that the fire department showed up, roaring in with a pathetically inadequate modified SUV.  "Shit," the young volunteer said when he saw the extent of the damage and jumped towards his radio.  "Send every goddamn truck, and get the neighboring towns out here too."

    Marks watched everything burn helplessly, covering his mouth and coughing as the smoke wafted in their direction.  Donny wandered over from his farmhouse across the street.  "You see what the hell happened?"

    Donny shrugged and just pointed over to the church parking lot where two vehicles occupied the expanse of gravel.  "That truck is Pastor Teddy's.  That one is Old Man Weathers."

    "They're both inside?" Marks asked.

    "S'pose so," Donny said, a bit too calmly for Marks's comfort.

*    *    *

    Teddy wasn't sure what it was about the changing room at the church that made it such a place of comfort for him.  Perhaps it was the coziness, the cramped warmth that such a small space provided.  Or the solitude of the church itself during the week when the only disturbance would be AA meetings on Wednesday nights.  He did know that a part of him liked the room because it was as close to his grandfather as he'd ever get.  He'd hadn't known the man, and remembering the way his father talked about him when he was a kid, he knew he'd missed out on a great relationship.

    Teddy dozed in the upholstered chair that had been shoved into the corner, resting his feet on the bench in the center of the room.  A few hours later, his own harsh cough roused him.

    "Jesus," Teddy exclaimed in surprised at the figure before him.  "It's you," he said with a tone that bordered on accusatory as the intruder came into focus.  Even amidst the smoke, Weathers's unhinged scowl was unmistakable.

    "What are you doing here, what's going on?" he asked, noting the smoke pouring into the room.  He pushed past Weathers and started banging on the door.

    "It's your time," Weathers said, holding up the nailgun that looked oddly out of place in the traditionally furnished church.  The message it sent was clear; neither of them were leaving.

    "Did you start a fire, what the hell is going on?" Teddy asked, starting to panic.

    Weather grunted and shoved a dilapidated old book into his chest.

    "Help me get out of here," Teddy pleaded as his coughs started to outnumber his words.

    "Read the fuckin' book boy," Weathers said.  "It's short, you've got time enough for that."

    "But..."

    "Read the fuckin' book!  You stare out this window at your grandfather's grave every Sunday.  Learn something about the bastard.  I marked the only page you'll need."

    Teddy's eyes skimmed across the page in a hurry, hoping that when he finished Weathers would let the two of them escape a fiery tomb, though a part of him knew that opportunity had passed.  As he read though, he couldn't help but slow his eyes to take in the weight of every single word.

    He wanted to throw the book away, wanted to call Weathers a liar, but the way the words dug at him...  "No..." he said weakly.

    Weathers grinned, not in happiness, but in malice.  "I don't even have to convince you, you already know," he crowed.

    Teddy coughed again, he knew the two men didn't have much time.  "Why me?  He's dead.  Why me?"

    "Because someone has to answer to what was done.

May 14th, 1966

Today Pastor Bill did it again.  He says it's okay, he says to trust him, but the bible says it's a sin.  He's a Pastor, how can he do something like this?  I hope it won't happen again, but I know it will.  He'll call me into the changing room, and I'll have to turn and face the window.  All I can do is watch the tree while he sins, hoping he finishes quickly.  I wish he'd kill me.

-Sam Weathers

1966

    "Did you tell your brother?" Pastor Bill asked the boy as they walked through the church yard.

    The youth shook his head as tears ran down his face, hoping the older man wouldn't see the lie.

    "Good," the Pastor said with a sad smile.  "I wish our time could continue, but I can't trust you anymore.  Leaving notes behind, tsk, tsk."

    Together they reached the old oak tree.  For the first time Sam looked up to see a rope hanging about eight feet off the ground.  It reminded him of a tire swing, twirling lightly in the breeze.  Like the swing, the rope would give him a ride, unfortunately it would not be a pleasant one.

    "I'll lift you up, you slip it on, and you'll get your wish," Pastor Bill said.  "Understand?"

    The boy nodded and allowed the Pastor to take him in his arms.  It was the first time he was willing...and the first time he was fully clothed.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Know Who Finds Certain Cities to be Boring? Boring People

I think by now we've probably heard it from a dozen different places in a dozen different ways.  Buffalo is boring, Buffalo is a ghost town, there's nothing to do at night except go to Applebees, etc.  I was told recently by someone I happened to get into a culture shock that coming from a place like Long Beach, California to a place like Buffalo, New York is a culture shock.

Maybe this is a bit harsh, but I think that's kind of pathetic.  (I know, I know, I'm being judgmental regarding a different cultural viewpoint.)  I can't imagine lacking so much self that I'd become so dependent upon external influences for my entertainment.  I spent most of my time growing up in Van Buren, NY, a town of about 7,000 people.  My house sits about two hundred feet from its closest neighbor and there are maybe twenty-five total houses on the four or five mile stretch of road.  After graduating high school, I went to college in Potsdam, NY, also containing about 7,000 year-round residents in addition to two colleges.  Even though realistically I have understood that there is "nothing to do," at either of those locales, I have never once felt like there was nothing to do.

It's probably, like I said, a clash of cultures, city vs. country and all that good stuff but man, it terrifies me to think that I could ever reach a point where I could consider any city to be boring.

Rough Sex Preferene by Age


The very interesting article on sexual trends in general is here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Can the NHL be a Pioneer for LGBT Acceptance?

Recently Charles Barkely voiced his extremely positive opinion on gay athletes and homosexuality in locker rooms and it got me thinking.  In spite of Barkely's comments, I still think that the professional sports world is a difficult one in which to be gay.  There have been very few athletes who have come out of the closet during their careers (the only ones I can think of are WNBA athletes and I may even be wrong about that), and it seems like there will be this cloud of intolerance hanging over sports until there is an outed gay athlete currently playing in the NFL, NHL, NBA, or MLB.

My thought, with the recent death of Brendan Burke, is why not hockey, and why not now?  I don't know if any professional sports leagues have taken any steps to promote Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered acceptance.  It seems that at best, they just want to ignore the issue.  I wonder if the NHL could become the premiere league when it comes to LGBT awareness.  Granted that might turn off a certain crowd, but it's a crowd that's going extinct anyways and that negativity might be offset by reaching out to the LGBT community.

I'm realistic, I don't think that being the most LGBT friendly professional sports league would cause the NHL to leapfrog other sports in terms of popularity, but it would be a progressive move, and it would give them a leg up in at least one area.  Hockey was late to the party in breaking the color barrier as the NFL (1920), MLB (1947), and NBA (1950) all beat Willie O'Ree's debut in 1958 with the Boston Bruins.  It would be nice to see the NHL be the first to take an emphatic positive stance in support of the LGBT community, and the NHL might be the best league for the task.  Somewhat ironically it could be Sean Avery leading the charge.



But it doesn't have to be. As New York pushes towards marriage equality, Terry Pegula and company push to put their fingerprints on the Sabres organization. It would be nice if a few of those fingerprints were rainbow colored.

Jack of All Trades

While stumbling around the internet, I came across this article, and a particular passage caught my eye.

When sharpening your career skills, focus more on less. Think in terms of Karate: A black belt seems far more impressive than a brown belt. But does a brown belt really seem any more impressive than a red belt? Probably not to most people. Remember that society elevates experts high onto a pedestal. Hard work matters, but not if it’s scattered in diverse directions. So narrow your focus on learning fewer career related skills and master them all.

It brought me back to my first annual review at my previous job.  While I had struggled some (no more than any other graduate transitioning into a full time job), there had been a few areas in which I had shown real strength.  Recognizing this, and finding that there were a few that I legitimately enjoyed, I sought to deepen my expertise in those areas.  It seemed that my bosses had other ideas.

"We're going to try and get you into a bigger variety of projects, some different stuff," they'd told me.  I thought that was kind of stupid and resented being pushed in what I felt were too many directions.  Granted, broad knowledge is never a bad thing, but I was well acquainted with the term "jack of all trades, master of none," and the somewhat less popular "we have twenty goddamn people in this group and the things I'm good at are the things the group is lacking.  Instead of pushing all this new shit on me, how about letting me grow into the authority in these subjects that the group could use?"  My biggest fears were realized as my focus was lessened on things I was really, really good at, and forced into areas in which I never felt comfortable.

I'm an extremely intelligent person.  If you want to believe various sites around the internet, my IQ is between 150 and 160.  If you want to believe my actual test scores, it's 148, which is in the 99.93rd percentile.  I remember taking career aptitude tests in high school and scoring above the 90th percentile in every field except manual dexterity.  I've been blessed with the ability to perform above at an above average level in a great variety of fields.  The problem with that is there's only so much of me to go around.  If the variety is too great, 'above average' is my ceiling, and things can get much worse.

I need to be able to focus, and most of the time I can do that on my own.  But there will be times in which  lack the experience, or authority to focus myself.  This is one of the many areas in which my previous employer failed miserably.  (Though to be perfectly fair, some of that blame falls upon myself for not having been more vocal.)

In the end, it's just nice to be able to read something like the above and realize that I knew myself better than I thought, and earlier than I thought.

Something I Wrote and Felt Like Expanding

The place seems more like a bank than a hospital. The impassive glass wall protecting the receptionists from the ill looms with an uncomfortable geometric precision, and the doctors stride purposefully though card-swiped doors to various vaults without a second glance into the waiting room. The green tinged carpet and the numerous signs detailing methods of co-payment tell us what we really are; not sick people to be helped, merely dollar signs of varying heights and weights.

You can see it in each treatment, the way the doctors' eyes brighten at vague symptoms. The less specific the better, for the process is more drawn out. The concerned timbre in their voices, too carefully constructed to be genuine shows you that they know exactly what ails you. But that's not important, not now. It's the process, the number of maladies they can "consider," the number of co-pays they can elicit, making bank twenty dollars at a time, the number of prescriptions they can write before the options decrease or the severity increases to the point where they finally have to deal with the problem and send you on your way.

I sit and watch, not a shrouded skeleton in a black robe, just a man in a relatively uninteresting pair of jeans and faded navy t-shirt with a rather special touch, and an even better kiss. One God...I guess people take comfort in their assumption that the force for good is omniscient, forgetting that by envisioning a solitary reaper they do the same for evil. Whether it's comforting or distressing, neither thought is true. I'm not the only one of my kind, and I know that God is more of a concept than a being. We're all just gears, sometimes spinning opposite ways, but all helping the machine tick. And the second hand is about to move again.

I love it when doctors fail, love it when they misjudge the distance in their game of chicken, when they collide head on with me and others like myself. That dawning moment, when their hands suddenly grow too weak to hold the pen they use for their useless prescriptions, when they realize that the seed they could have crushed in its infancy has become an unstoppable monster because they're trying to milk the patient and his insurance for all they're worth, that moment is an eternity of bliss.

They've done it again. The dumbass leading a coughing TV repairman up to the front desk so that he can pay and leave...and then get his prescription and pay again. They've been treating him for chronic bronchitis for a while. Not a terrible mistake, the Roger Ebert lookalike has had it before, but it is a rookie mistake, and it isn't a rookie doctor. He knows he should have dug deeper, should have ordered a chest x-ray, but prescribing antibiotics is like picking from a money tree. It's cancer asshole, and it's too late now. Your money tree is dying, and that makes me smile.

The dark shroud and scythe are fitting, I can see why you picture them. They're more appropriate to my perversion. But I'm just a guy in jeans and a t-shirt, someone you'd find down at your local bar. And it's time to take another soul to get a few drinks.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Naming Winnipeg

With the apparent impending move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg some folks have started speculating on potential team names. I personally would rather not see the Jets moniker return. The logo was horrible, the jerseys were hideous and the team was a failure. Let's start fresh.

Winnipeg Musketeers - The Province's motto is "One with the strength of many." Still this feels a bit amateur for my taste.

Winnipeg Rockets - Winnipeg is the home of the Western Canada Aviation Museum. Winnipeg is also the headquarters to the Canadian NORAD region.

Winnipeg Strikers - After the famous general strike that took place in 1919.

Winnipeg Owls - Manitoba's official bird is the Great Grey Owl.

Winnipeg Mounties - Kind of obvious.

Winnipeg Falcons - Home to the Peregrine Falcon.

Winnipeg Red River - My personal choice. The Red River Colony was the first official settlement in the province, and Red River sounds completely badass.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sport Watchability

I found myself wondering today what major sport could be considered the most watchable.  There are a lot of things to consider, fan atmospheres, commercials, likability of players.  In typical form, I made a list of categories, and then ranked what I thought to be the eight most popular North American sports from one to eight, those being the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, NASCAR, NCAA Football, NCAA Basketball, and the NLL.

Fan Passion: How passionate are the fans, as a whole, for each sport?

1). NLL - If you're watching Lacrosse, you're passionate.
2). NCAA Football
2). NCAA Basketball - Tough to beat college sports fans.
4). NHL - Some people might think the NFL deserves to be in this spot, but I've been to both. Trust me.
5). NFL
6). NASCAR - NASCAR has had serious attendance issues for the past several years.
7). NBA - I've never been to an NBA game so I don't really know.
8). MLB - Go to Tampa Bay in the middle of the week in June...yeah...

Player Toughness:
1). NHL - And it isn't even close
2). NLL
3). NFL
3). NCAA Football
5). NASCAR - Have to be to wreck at 180 MPH
6). MLB - Very inconsistent.
7). NBA
7). NCAA Basketball - Just ask sucker much Carmelo.

Player Relatability:
1). NLL - Since a lot of these guys have real person jobs too.
2). NHL - Soft spot for leagues in which guys make pennies for a while in the minors.
3). NASCAR - See NHL.
4). MLB - See NHL.
5). NCAA Football - Only above their pro counterpart because they aren't paid.
6). NCAA Basketball - Ditto.
7). Too much entitlement, too many kids out of college getting millions before they prove anything.
8). Ditto #7, and in a few cases, high school.

Scoring Frequency:
1). NBA
2). NCAA Basketball
3). NCAA Football
4). NFL
5). NLL
6). MLB
7). NHL
8). NASCAR

Scoring Impressiveness:
1). NHL - Most exciting scoring of any sport, period.
2). NFL - Cool Most of the time
2). NCAA Football
4). NLL
5). NBA - I find dunks to be criminally boring.
5). NCAA Basketball
7). MLB - Yawn.
8). NASCAR

National Popularity
1). NFL
2). NCAA Football
3). MLB
4). NBA
5). NCAA Basketball
6). NASCAR
7). NHL
8). NLL

Local Popularity:
1). NCAA Football - Hard to beat college sports fans.
2). NCAA Basketball - Ditto, but football is more popular.
3). NHL - Any sports have thousands of fans gather outside the arena to watch games come playoffs?
4). NFL
5). NLL
6). NASCAR
7). NBA - Most of the cities in which they're the top draw, they have the only professional team.
8). MLB - Wake me in September

Playoff Excitement
1). NHL - No contest, no one hustles, no one plays through pain like NHL players in the Stanley Cup Playoffs
2). NCAA Basketball - March Madness.
3). NFL - With so many repeat champions, the excitement is lessening.
4). NBA
5). NLL
6). NCAA Football - Too many bowls that don't mean a damn thing, and everyone is sick of them by the time the ones that matter roll around.
7). MLB - The World Series is cool, I guess.
8). NASCAR - Chase what now?

Excitement of Non-Scoring Moments:
1). NHL - Hitting and fighting baby.
2). NLL - Ditto.
3). NFL - The ball is in play an average of 15 minutes a game.
3). NCAA Football
5). MLB - Scoring is often the least exciting thing.
6). NBA - Yeah...
6). NCAA Basketball
8). NASCAR

Relevance of Individual Regular Season Games:
1). NCAA Football - One loss could doom your season.
2). NFL - A close second.
3). MLB - Only because so few teams make the playoffs.
4). NCAA Basketball
5). NHL
5). NBA - Same number of games and playoff teams.
7). NLL - So many playoff teams.
8). NASCAR - One bad race won't doom you.

Ease of Understanding:
1). NASCAR - First car to finish wins.
2). NHL - Put the puck in the net...with some complicated rules.
2). NBA - Put the ball in the basket...with some complicated rules.
2). NCAA Basketball
5). NLL
6). MLB
7). NFL
7). NCAA Football - Try to explain football to someone with no background. It's impossible.

Youth Connection: Did People Play it Growing Up
1). NFL
1). NCAA Football - Yes.
3). NBA
3). NCAA Basketball - Yes.
5). MLB - Little League.
6). NHL - Often too elitist and expensive.
7). NLL - Maybe if you weren't good enough to play baseball.
8). NASCAR - Yeah...no.

Unobtrusiveness of Commercials
1). MLB - Hooray built in pauses.
2). NHL - Long stretches with no ads...nice.
2). NLL - Do they have commercials?
4). NBA
4). NCAA Basketball
6). NASCAR - Often not much to miss.
7). NCAA Football
7). NFL - Touchdown, extra point. Commercial. Kickoff. Commercial. Three and out. Commercial. Punt. Timeout. Commercial. Two Minute Warning. Commercial. Timeout. Commercial. Halftime. Commercial. Commercial. Commercial. Commercial. Highlights. Commercial.....

Totals
1). (42) NHL - Fast paced, exciting, but hurt by a lack of scoring and little youth connection, especially down south.
2). (43) NCAA Football - Elevated levels of fan passion and importance of games.
3). (49) NFL - Getting too greedy with costs, commercials, and becoming more difficult to watch with the NFL Network blacking out games.
4). (50) NCAA Basketball - A few meaningless games, but one of the best postseasons.
5). (54) NLL - Lack of national popularity, but great crowds and a lot to watch.
6). (63) NBA - Out of touch players and seemingly arbitrary rules if superstars are concerned.
7). (69) MLB - Great background TV, and decent in October. Too many games.
8). (81) NASCAR - Not very interesting, poor scoring system that rewards boring racing and top 15 finishes over gutsiness and wins.

My Favorite Foods

1). Chicken Wings - To me, nothing beats chicken wings dipped in a sauce that strikes a balance perfectly between taste and hotness.  I can eat them with a variety of toppings and condiments, hot sauce, barbecue sauce, ranch, bleu cheese, etc.

2). Wraps/Sandwiches/Subs - I like a lot of different tastes shoved into some sort of bland tasting food, so these are perfect for me.  I always pile as much as I can onto a sub or sandwich, several types of meats, usually swiss or provolone cheese, lettuce, onions, peppers, cucumbers, etc.

3). Pizza/Calzones - Ditto liking a lot of different tastes in one package.  I love Papa Johns because you can get as many toppings as you want.  I once had a pepperoni, sausage, bacon, ham, chicken, onion, banana pepper, jalepeno pepper (that was quite redundant) pizza.  It was delicious.

4). Turkey - Legit Turkey, not sliced deli shit.  Even better when you can mix it with mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy.

5). Eggs - It doesn't really matter how they're made, deviled, hard boiled, sunny side up, scrambled, I love eggs.  They're one of those things that kind of grossed me out as a kid that I grew to love when I actually tasted them.

Dinosaurs are Extinct for a Reason

This link takes you to an article on New York Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long and his opposition to Gay Marriage.  To sum the article up, many Republican New York State Senate candidates rely on the endorsement of the Conservative Party for crucial votes that help them win their seats.  Long is the guy that controls whether or not those candidates get that endorsement.  His dealbreaker is support of Gay Marriage.  This is important because many of those candidates won their seats by fewer votes than the number they received from Conservative Party voters so they feel compelled to curry favor with Long even if it goes against their political ideals.

It annoys me that one guy can hold the Republican Party hostage like that over one issue, especially one regarding civil rights, and it annoys me that those Republicans that do disagree with Long lack the spine to tell him to fuck off.  I think that even without their endorsement, those Republicans could probably count on the majority of Conservative Party voters' ballots regardless.

My Jersey Numbers Over the Years

I feel like I did this topic, and rather recently, but I couldn't find such a post in my archives so here we are.

Numbers are fairly important to athletes.  I have yet to meet someone that didn't care about what number they received from varsity High School Sports to the rec-est of rec. leagues.  I'm no different, and though I've had many numbers over the years, I've always tried to find some pride in wearing that number.

I actually don't remember what number I wore when I was five, got my first jersey, and started playing little league baseball.  Pretty sure it was a single digit as I was small, and the lower numbers tended to be the smaller shirt sizes.  For some reason either #3 or #4 come to mind.

After that I typically tried to get #16 because Joe Montana was my favorite player, but I was often regulated to the single digits, again because I was small.  I did secure #16 a few times, but for the most part I managed to snag #8 (for Cal Ripken jr. and Steve Young) or #3 (for no one in particular).  One year I had #4 which pretty well sucked because let's be honest, no one good has ever worn #4.  The #3 sat pretty well with me, being prone to obsessive-compulsive tendencies.  Eventually I reasoned that since #3 was good that three #3s must be even better so #9 became my lucky number of choice.  Once I gained a bit of height and girth, #9 started to fit me pretty well so I had that several years in a row from around age thirteen to age eighteen.

The one year I played varsity baseball, #9 wasn't available, so the coach (a superstitious man who understood how numbers worked) therefore assigned me #3.  I took another deviation from the norm my last year of little league, taking #7 because that's what my then-girlfriend wore.  It was a good number, #7 is fairly lucky and odd numbers are so much better than those evil evens (with some exceptions).

It was a few years before I'd again have reason to wear a number as our intramural football team decided to buy a bunch of t-shirts in bulk to use as jerseys.  Since I knew I'd likely see time both as a quarterback and wide receiver, I picked a number that was appropriate for both, and as a sports fan, highly appropriate in Buffalo lore, #11.

A year later I started playing inline hockey for the first time.  The choices for numbers are pretty slim as each 8-10 man team simply gets jerseys with numbers 1-10.  When I started, my favorite player was Jaroslav Spacek, so I took his #6 and it has stuck with me since.  Nowadays, with Spacek gone, I like to think of it as half Thomas Vanek, half Patrick Kaleta, which is the best approximation for how I play (combining Vanek's calm and ability to get into a good shooting position with Kaleta's simple hustle game and lack of a shot).

I'm not sure what number I'd choose if given the ability to pick from #1 to #99.  I'm happy with #6, but there are a few other pretty good candidates.  As a Sabres fan, I can't not want to wear #11, and as a Thomas Vanek fan, #26 would be pretty nice as well.  I always liked #81 as a kid, and it would be neat to wear because it's so seldom seen in rec. sports.  I'd also consider wearing #24 (for personal reasons), and #31 for reasons mentioned above.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Bruins - Lightning War of Signs

In case you've missed it, the Bruins put out this sign for their series against Tampa Bay along with a few others pointing out that Tampa Bay has no fans and that Florida is full of old people:


Upon finding out about it, a Tampa Bay area radio host encouraged Tampa Bay fans to call the Bruins and leave the most vile messages possible to show Boston that Tampa Bay does have fans.  After the assault, the Bruins pulled the sign.

Here's my take on the whole situation:

First of all, Boston really isn't a position to make that statement.  They aren't among the premiere American fanbases in the NHL like Buffalo, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Detroit, nor are the Lightning among the worst southern markets.  Because of that, the percentage of seats the teams have sold since the lockout are about identical.  The fact that the Bruins assume a sense of fan superiority here when they don't really have one is probably the most obnoxious thing about the ads.

I also found the DJ's response to be pretty funny, even if the DJ himself is an asshole.  He basically said that if the Bruins want to be dicks (good natured douchebaggery is still douchebaggery), then Tampa Bay Lightning fans should prove their sign wrong...and hey while they're at it, be dicks too!  Be bigger dicks!  The exact phrasing was "use words you'd be embarrassed to hear in porn.  Use the f-word, the c-word, the n-word (a bit much in my opinion), the l-word...is there an l-word?"

As immature as it is to call a team's marketing and PR department and sound off with a string of profanities, the mental picture of some poor Bruins interns fielding those calls made me laugh.

Predictably, Boston pulled the signs and released some pathetic statement about how the intent was good natured, and blah, blah, blah.  What a spineless response.  I mean look, Boston knew they were being dicks with these signs, knew they were taking a bunch of cheap shots, basically they knew they were trolling.  But unlike a good troll they didn't get into a flame war, they tucked their tiny bear dicks between their legs and backed down. 

It would have been funny to see this episode continue, and good for hockey, especially if the Tampa Bay Lightning got in on the fun and started their own series of ads.  I mean come on, I'm pretty sure if a bear and a lightning bolt got in a fight, the bear would lose.  That's gold, use that!

The L-Word

Lesbians!  Okay, not really.  There was a point somewhere between when my previous relationship ended and when my current one started when I realized that my definition of love was most certainly wrong.  Being a poet and a writer, and a romantic, I had grown rather attached to a very unrealistic definition of love.  I had been prone to developing crushes on girls without knowing a single thing about their personalities.  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately since the end result has been pleasant), these thoughts were enabled by the formation of said previous relationship.

I had been crushing on Samantha for some time, and while I did know her as an acquaintance, I really didn't have a feel for her personality.  But she felt similarly, and my crush was realized.  Everything was great for a while because I had this really idealistic view of what a relationship was, and we fit into that because we were both simply too happy to be dating each other.  But as time went along and we learned more about one another, it became very evident that we weren't the least bit compatible.  (Opposites don't attract.) 

Then the two years of single-ness happened.  I won't lie, I again became attached to a few girls based largely on those flawed perceptions of love.  Luckily they didn't work out, and I think because of that, I grew picky, and sought to change how I approached relationships.

Which is tough when you're someone like me who typically isn't very sociable.  A "friends-first" approach doesn't work too well when you don't have a lot of friends.  And the alternative to that is entering a relationship with someone where there are virtually no feelings present, a scary premise.

Obviously I was physically attracted to Abbi's profile pictures, otherwise I never would have messaged her to begin with, but it was definitely far down on the list of things that drew me to her.  I went into the relationship with no concrete definition of love, which was pretty frightening, but I reasoned that it didn't make sense to be in love with someone without knowing them as I had.  It made far more sense for love to grow as the relationship progressed.

As I came to love Abbi, I also came to realize what I wanted in a person, and somewhere along the way those things intertwined.  I think a person's definition of love is defined by what they're looking for, so once I got to know Abbi, and became exposed to those qualities, my love for her began to take shape into something unique.  It's a complicated word to define, but there is a simplistic way of looking at things that fits beautifully.  To love a person, for me, is to want to spend more time around them than any other person.  To have that intimate blending of interests is more important than anything to me.  And Abbi has proven to be more than I could have hoped for in that regard.  As we hung out more and more, and I enjoyed it more and more, I came to realize, that's what love is.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Buffalo Sports Fan: Does Not Play Well With Others

I was listening to the Craptasticast over at Dear God Why Us Sports (which is my new favorite blog by the way), and they had a little mini-rant on Jets fans and how much they suck to deal with as Bills fans in NYC.  It was a great rant because Jets fans fucking suck, and Fireman Ed is probably the worst fireman ever, but it got me thinking about my own fandom and my ability to deal with opposing fans.  Let's be honest, there is no ability.

It's not my fault, it's everyone else's.  I just got tired of people being unintelligent dicks and so I stopped talking sports with them.  Somewhere along the way in high school, I restricted my opposing fan football talk to my friend Mike, a Giants fan, because I knew that he would bring the requisite knowledge required to have a decent conversation on the topic.  Everyone else?  Fuck 'em.

It's a pretty simple formula, the majority of sports fans watch their team every week, a few highlights on Sportscenter, play fantasy football and call themselves experts.  In addition to the 90+ Sabres games i watch every year, I also watch close to that in either pieces of other games, or entire games, along with the in depth statistical analysis I'm constantly doing for Vulgar Stats.  If I'm not talking with one of the half dozen people that blog (and because of it have a similar immersion), I'm coming from a higher plane of knowledge than whoever I'm talking to.

Like the guy who started harping on me in the mall for having a Vanek jersey.  I can't explain to him why Vanek is a lot better than virtually every fan thinks in the context of a casual conversation.  Or the guy that plays floor hockey with me who was absolutely beside himself when I said that Tampa Bay would defeat his beloved Penguins because the Penguins rolled into the playoffs playing pretty poorly.

The other half of it is that I never developed a great love of, or skill for trash talking.  Typically I watch the games by myself or with other fans of the Bills and Sabres, largely discuss the team with them and generally leave other fans alone.  I have my opinions that those fans aren't going to like so I have no problem not sharing them.  Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way, and a relatively unassuming, quiet person like myself will occasionally find themselves under siege from an idiot opposing fan, either in a public place, or on the internet.

There's a guy in my floor hockey league who always has some mental-midget comment about how the Penguins are better than everything in existence and lets everyone know it.  And it's not that he's a whiny little (haha, not little, Pittsburgh fans are never little) shit who bitches constantly whether his (floor hockey) team is winning or not.  (It's fucking $5 a night, pickup floor hockey asshole...)  I think it's a little cowardly for someone who is going to jump on me for wearing a Sabres hat when he isn't flying any colors himself.  (Which is odd for a Pittsburgh fan because they're not shy about braiding their mullets in black and yellow and waddling about in their XXXXXL Polamalu jerseys.)  Or for someone to give an opposing fan shit when their teams haven't played in months and are unlikely to for the remainder of the season.

It doesn't help that people are generally stupid and there is a lot of low hanging fruit in the way of things to pick on Buffalo fans for.  Yes, 1990 happend, so did the next three years, as well as 1999, 2000, 2004 and a bunch of other years.  Buffalo isn't exactly a thriving city, and there are crappy parts *eye roll* and there's snow.  I might be a bit less cantankerous if I ever heard an insult that was either creative, or coming from a place of knowledge, but I haven't.  Buffalo is poor, lost three Super Bowls, and has snow.  Awesome, go be a jackass elsewhere please.

And finally, I think that because of what we've had to put up with from our teams, and because of it, what we've had to put up with from those shitbags, and because of the attendance figures, and the TV ratings, and the merchandise sales, I just flat out think we're better than other fans.  Because let's be honest.  It's true.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Survivor Redemption Island Finale (Spoilers)

I did this with Survivor Nicaragua so I figured I'd do it again.  Where to begin?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Writing Update

Recently had a friend buy and read The Chosen and like it, (so you should buy it too) so I figured I'd give an update on where I'm at with various things.

Arnett Tanner Wants to Die - I think after one more full edit/read-through I'll be comfortable publishing it to Lulu and Kindle Direct Publishing.  Haven't queried it in a while, but may try to solicit publishers instead of agents as per Stephen King's (yes that Stephen King) recommendation.

Skankarella - Could probably use another edit/read-through.  Still sending this one out to publishers at the moment.  Gay/lesbian fiction is pretty popular and selling well right now so I hope to get a hit eventually.

Upcoming Projects:
I think I'm going to start up on an idea I had for a Dystopian novel in which face to face communication has been eliminated in favor of technological (i.e. text, e-mail) communications.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Dog's Name is Vanek!

I posted this on Twitter, but I figured I'd expand here since people are going to shake their heads and call me a loser, etc.

The name the dog came with was Lenore, but she was oblivious to it, and every pet owner wants to name their own pet so we started kicking around ideas.  Her being a black lab, the next step from Lenore was fairly obviously Raven.  Dad didn't like that.  So we started brainstorming other names, going to our favorite characters from TV shows and movies.  My sister Stephanie suggested Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who at times existed as a malevolent black haired character, but that was met with a lukewarm response.  I went the Firefly route and figured that River would be a good name for our loopy puppy.  Both my sisters liked it, but my dad didn't.

Finally, pressed with having to put a name down on the dog license, and having to give a name to the vet, my mom suggested, and used Vanek.  Everyone seemed to like that (again, except my dad) so it stuck.  It works out pretty well since I've read that dog's respond best to one or two syllable names and harsh, distinct sounds.

Upon arriving at the vet this afternoon we realized we needed to give a specific birthdate.  Since the dog is a rescued dog, all we knew was "sometime in early January."  Since specifics didn't matter that much, and I thought it would be amusing, I told them to put down January 19th, Vanek's actual birthday.

I find the whole thing to be fairly amusing, even more so since the puppy's calm personality is a pretty good reflection of Vanek's personality in interviews.  Plus she's pretty lazy...

Playing Without a Visor: Stupidity vs. Toughness

It's a hotly contested debate depending on the time of year and who's been hurt recently, whether or not visors should be made mandatory in the NHL.  I have a few friends who think it's asinine to go without a visor with the prospect of suffering catastrophic damage to the eyes a very real possibility.

I disagree and if you were wondering, my money is where my mouth is and I have never worn any sort of facial protection while playing hockey.  The notion that any additional protection is a must is a flawed one.  There is a point that can be reached where the odds of injuring what the new equipment protects are so low, that the new protection is essentially a waste.  Whether or not this applies to visors is up to you, but for me the distaste of wearing one outweighs the odds of suffering such an eye injury.

I know there are a few horror stories of players losing an eye or suffering damage around the eyes, but they are few and far between.  And from what I've seen, this is the selling point.  I've seen a bunch of people calling for visors for eye protection, but virtually no one looking to make cages mandatory to protect the rest of the face.  Four of the recent big facial injuries that stick in my mind would not have been prevented with a mandatory visor rule (Ian Laperriere) and three of them happened to players that do wear visors (Thomas Vanek, Jordan Leopold, and Chris Drury (whether or not Drury was wearing a visor during the 06-07 playoffs, I do not remember)).

I think it goes without saying that Visors do offer protection to a very valuable part of the body and are a good investment for those that use them.  But I remain firmly opposed to any rule mandating visors.  I don't think there's enough contact to the eyes to make their absence excessively dangerous, and they don't do anything to prevent the majority of contact to the face.  Let the guys that want to be men, be men.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Our New Puppy

Last Sunday we got a new puppy, predominantly a black lab, but with some sort of mix involved, something with smaller beadier eyes than Labs tend to have.  The dog (who has not been named) was a "rescue dog."  Though my mom said that indicates abuse/neglect, I'm not entirely sure that's accurate.  I know a lot of rescue dogs merely come from people who did not have the means/space/money to care for them and have not suffered.



I think, based on the temperament of the dog, neglect would be the most likely case.  The first day or two she seemed to be unsure of both how to deal with people, and how to handle having a house to roam.  My mom said that when they brought her home, she refused to leave her cage, and when finally drawn out, beelined for the nearest, smallest room.  I don't that means much though since I recall our cats essentially doing the same thing when we moved from Rochester to Syracuse.

It was a pretty quick transition though, from that to not wanting to be left alone.  Early on the dog was what I would call reuctant.  After the first night she became more comfortable leaving her cage, but skittish around people.  She'd follow you, tail happily wagging, but the minute you petted her, she'd tuck the tail between her legs, and didn't really respond to positive tones of voice.



Over the course of a few days she started to open up, becomming more playful (to a few of the cats' chagrin) and recognizing and wagging her tail at positive tones of voice.  We took her to the dog park yesterday, and though shy, she handled things pretty well, becoming rather taken with a Great Dane that was about four times her size, and curious about a Chihuahua that was about one fourth her size (somewhat to the Chihuahua's terror).  Sometimes I wonder if she even knows how to be a dog yet since she's been fairly disinterested with chasing balls (though some of that might have to do with lacking the mouth size to pick them up), but she does love the duck.

video

Another Thought On Writing Inspired by Stephen King

In a section of his book, On Writing, King describes what he thinks are the three integral aspects to writing a novel: narration, description, and dialogue.  Notably absent is plot.

"I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontenaity of real creation aren't compatible."

I'll let you in on a little secret.  I have never started any work with any idea whatsoever how it was going to end from the most concise of short stories, to my 110,000 word novel.  Hell, sometimes where my blog entries end up is a surprise to me.  I think that in any good story, the characters dictate where it goes, and the writer merely watches and takes notes.

That isn't to say that planning is a bad thing.  I've outlined anywhere from a few to several chapters ahead for each of my four novels to give myself a sense of direction and an idea of where things might end up, but those outlines have probably wound up being about 50% accurate at best in the end.  (A small exception is Skankarella, but since that is an adaptation of another work (Cinderella), there was only so much room for divergence.  Even so, the initial chapter outline of the entire novel was around 18 chapters.  The finished product is 32 chapters and two characters changed gender over the course of writing it.)

Sometimes the divergence is greater than others.  I've had instances where I've said "okay, they will get here eventually, but they need to go here, here, and here first" (hence often adding chapters).  I've also stricken entire chapters from the story, or devalued their importance greatly.  (A prime example of that was in The Chosen where upon writing what I thought would be the ending, I realized that the characters had so much more to address and take care of and made it the middleing.)

It's a pretty good antidote for the dreaded writers' block, an ailment from which I have never really suffered.  (Look at me, all cocky.)  If you're dictating where the story goes, it can be easy to get stuck, but if you have a good sense for who your characters are, they're never going to sit around and do nothing.

Guilty Pleasures

I'm actually not quite sure what the terminology is here.  To put it not-so-simply, crap you buy a lot of that you probably shouldn't buy so god damn much of.  If you read my credit card year-in-review pamphlet for 2010 you'll see that my guilty pleasure is "merchandise," on which I spent about $4,400."  As best I can tell (since it only tells me place of purchase), around $1,500 of that went to DVDs (and about $200 more went to DVD rentals).  (I had a few big purchases that contributed heavily to the larger number, namely a laptop and printer.)

Granted I've gotten a pretty good bang for my buck.  A lot of those DVDs were bought at huge discounts from Movie Gallery when it went out of business, or at greatly reduced prices online (why anyone would buy anything at Barnes and Nobles these days is beyond me.)  But the fact remains that DVDs are definitely a guilty pleasure of mine.

I can justify it a little bit.  As a writer, my inspiration has to come from somewhere, and while I won't discount the value of reading other works of fiction, I think that DVDs can be just as strong a source for ideas.  I see it as being pretty similar to reading in that for my money I'm not only getting enjoyment, but a positive contribution to other areas of my life.  So in short: shut up, I don't have a problem!

There are other things that are probably less costly overall, but also bring less value.  Next up is my legendary love of Sqwishees.  What are Sqwishees?

They're found in the quarter machines outside a couple stores locally and for whatever reason I find them to be endlessly entertaining.  I usually buy them with whatever's left over from something I bought that was way more important so I'm not really harming myself too much.

The final guilty pleasure of mine (that I can think of at least) is pretty new, hockey cards.  I had a ton of football cards as a kid (and still have several) and recently saw a few packs for cheap (3/$1.00, or $.30 each if your cashier puts the price in manually and can't do math) at the dollar store so I jumped on the purchase.  And while the 1990-1991 set of cards were cool, I wanted to add a few more modern players to my collection.  Sports cards these days are so over-produced that they're pretty much valueless, but cool to look at nonetheless.  You can maybe increase the value or add to your collection by getting a few signed, or do this...

Don't worry, they're worthless.