Monday, December 29, 2008

games for the new millenium

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but Mad City is a haven for ultimate frisbee. The biggest league here (MUFA) had over 2,000 participants this past summer. And I've heard of competitive leagues in other cities for things like dodgeball and kickball. Hell, they even made a movie about dodgeball, right? Some sort of documentary? That's the big time, baby!

Well, I've got an idea for man-children searching for other realms of competition: a snowball-fight league. Why hasn't anyone thought of, and implemented, this before??? Think about it: everybody loves a snowball fight (until they get hurt, that is), the overhead costs are minimal, and we all need more outdoor recreational opportunities during winter.

Here are some of the ground-rules I've come up with:

- Each side has a snow fort that they have to protect, while simultaneously trying to infiltrate the other team's snow fort.

- Objective of the game: knock the head off the snowman inside the snow fort. This can be accomplished either by sniping with snowballs, or by direct physical force.

- All the participants wear paintball gear for protection, as well as football shoulder pads for intimidation and for tackling the snowman.

- The captain of each side has to wear a set of moose antlers.

- The referees ride around the course in snowmobiles.

- Rock anthems will NOT be blared out of loudpeakers for the entertainment of spectators! Instead, they get to hear puzzling instrumental works by Sigur Ros.

- In an emergency - such as when they're the last member standing from their team - participants can create a "zone of sanctuary" by making a large yellow circle in the snow.

- Instead of quarters or halves, each contest is divided into 5 quintiles.

- Mixed-martial arts (MMA) is permitted in odd-numbered quintiles.

- There is no penalty box. Instead, players serve penalties by surrendering their gloves for a set period of time. For major infractions: you lose your pants. (A cruel punishment, to be sure, but winter is a harsh mistress.)

- The winning coach gets doused with hot chocolate instead of Gatorade.

- The only other rule is ... there are no other rules.

Oh man, this'd be so cool! And like, since it's snowed a bunch in the Northwest, there could be teams from Seattle and Portland as well as Madison and Boston and New York and northern Texas and whatnot. And maybe Burton and K2 and Tony Hawk Sportswear could be sponsors, at least until the league started turning a profit about halfway through the first season. And, uh ... is anyone else into this? No? Wait, not even, uh ...

Never mind. I'll start my own league! The hell with all of you! I'm outta here ...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

don't let the right one out

Has anyone out there seen "Let the Right One In?" You know, the Swedish film about young vampire love and angst? No, not "Twilight." This one is called "Let the Right One In," and it takes place in Sweden. Came out recently. Got some good reviews. Didn't have any scenes with vampires playing baseball, I believe.

I was looking forward to seeing it because we're in the winter doldrums right now, stuck with cheesy holiday movies and not much else. Plus, I spent a semester in Sweden in college, and Swedish cinema has been near and dear to me since then. One of the best memories of my time there was watching "The Seventh Seal" on TV with some Swedes from my dorm. (If you haven't seen "The Seventh Seal," you should watch it on DVD. Your local library might even have it, which would be good because Blockbuster probably doesn't.)

But guess what? "Let the Right One In" has left Mad City! I had no idea its time was near. I feel ... betrayed. I mean, I didn't want to see this chilling movie about Scandinavian bloodsuckers right before Christmas, and risk ruining my holiday mojo. I really figured it'd be safe to wait until around Dec. 27. But no.

There should be a word for missing a movie that you really wanted to see because it left town too soon. I'll try to think of something. In the meantime, I went to see "Quantum of Solace," the new James Bond movie, this evening. Lots of dazzling action in that one. But to be honest with you, I really wanted to see a Nordic vampire film. And you know what else I would have liked? A few laughs. I like Daniel Craig as an actor - "Layer Cake" was a really good film - and I was happy to see Pierce Brosnan replaced by anyone. But for whatever reason, the Bond series has become cold-hearted and grim since DC took over. Some people like the 007 movies for the action scenes, some for the gadgets, some for the lovely Bond women. Me? I've always gone for the comedy. I mean, Roger Moore and Sean Connery were funny guys! Come on!

Anyhow, I did get a "quantum of solace" for my disappointment at missing "Let the Right One In." But I hope whoever makes the 007 movies will add a "quantum of humor" to the next one ...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

a christmas tale

I've been in a self-revealing mood lately, for whatever reason, so I'm going to share with you a story from my youth. It involves Christmas, so it's timely. But just so you're forewarned, it's not the happiest Christmas story of all time.

Well, I grew up in a small city in upstate New York, and went to B--- Elementary School for grades K-5. (I can't reveal the actual name of the school, because it's the answer to one of the security questions for some of my Internet passwords. Sorry.) Anyhow, at B--- School, in addition to learning how to spell and count and all the state capitals and whatnot, we also had art and music classes. And around the holiday season, we typically sang a lot of holiday songs, primarily Christmas songs with one or two Hanukkah songs thrown in for balance.

So, one day during 2nd grade, for whatever reason, we got into a big debate about Christmas. I think it involved something about why poor kids didn't get as nice presents as wealthier kids. And I believe it was me who made the point that poor kids should ask Santa not only for electronic games and football jerseys and things like that, but also for enough food and cash for their families to break out of the cycle of poverty. (I didn't use the phrase "cycle of poverty" or anything like that, but my point was definitely along those lines.) It made sense to me, because I typically got most of the stuff I asked for at Christmas.

Honestly, I think my suggestion stunned the class into silence. It shone in the air above us, as brilliant as the star that beckoned the wise men to Bethlehem. But just as I was about to enjoy one of my greatest triumphs ever, the music teacher, Mrs. Travis, spoke up. "Well, that wouldn't work because there is no Santa Claus."

We all gasped, and looked uncertainly at each other.

"It's true. You kids need to learn that at some point, so it may as well be now."

I don't remember what happened after that - it's all a blur - or pretty much anything else from 2nd grade. But doesn't it make sense to you people now? Do you see where all my rage and bitterness come from? Like everything else, it goes all the way back to early childhood.

(And as for you kids out there reading Mad City, I just want you to know something: yes, kids, there is a Santa Claus. He lives in the hearts and the minds of every little kid out there who believes in the wonder and the majesty of Christmas. He flies around the world in his magic sleigh on Christmas Eve, delivering gifts to children everywhere. And rich kids tend to get better presents than poor kids because ... well, that's just the way that life works. And hopefully, one of these years, Santa's also going to track down Mrs. Travis in her retirement home, if the crusty old broad is still alive, and teach her a little something about stepping outside the designated music class curriculum to impart life lessons on her pupils. Damn ...)

Monday, December 22, 2008

cat of the year

Look out for this guy! He's a total badass! Mad City takes its hat off to you, Hercules, for being named its Cat of the Year. Even though you don't live anywhere near Mad City ...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

joke of the day #4

Q: Did you hear about the butcher who backed into his meat slicer?

A: He got a little behind in his orders.

(All right, I'll admit it: I didn't make that one up. Do you know how hard it is to come up with a new joke every week or so? It's harder than hell! Damn!)

Friday, December 19, 2008

wisconsin holiday buffet massacre

It's no secret that people in Wisconsin like to eat. But I think that few people outside of Wisconsin truly realize how much Wisconsinites like to eat. For instance, those cheeseheads that fans wear to Packers games: did you know they're made out of real cheese? If you keep an eye on the stands during a telecast of a Packers game, you may notice some people chewing on their cheeseheads. You may also notice that there's far fewer cheeseheads to be seen by the time the 4th quarter rolls around.

And there's no time of the year when people like to eat more than around the holidays. I'm not an especially social guy here, but I've already been to 3-4 holiday parties with a couple more on the way. They're usually potlucks. Let me tell you about one of them. So, I had the choice of bringing a salad-type thing or a dessert, and opted for salad (since I've been to too many potlucks where there were about 50 desserts and 2 salads!). I made my special purple cabbage cole slaw, which if you've ever had, you know it's gooood. But then I get to the potluck: sweet jesus. There's food everywhere, and it all looks amazing. The cole slaw was delicately placed by the host at the far corner of the table, where it remained for the rest of the evening, forlorn and neglected. Meanwhile, I ate like a pig.

There's a real danger of overdoing it at one of these holiday affairs. Native Wisconsinites are built to accommodate the massive food boluses and also know how to pace themselves, but me? I can't even hold up a pair of spandex bike shorts. Luckily, there's a plan for that.

We're all familiar with the drunk tanks for people who get inebriated at football games, right? I mean ... I've heard there are these holding tanks for inebriated fans at football games. Anyhow, they have something similar to that at many holiday parties in Wisconsin. If you eat too much, they pop a nasogastric tube in you and pump out some of your stomach contents. Kind of like the ancient Romans, with their binge/purge feasts. But the beautiful thing about these nasogastric tubes is that when you start to get hungry again, they can just pump some of the buffet back in. Voila!

Did you know that smorgasbord literally means "sandwich table" in Swedish? Kind of interesting, huh?

are you there, god? it's me, mad city

I've always thought of Christmas as one of the more religious times of the year. Certainly more so than the 4th of July, or Valentine's Day, or spring break. So, this may be as good a time as any to expound on my religious beliefs, for the benefit and enlightenment of all.

So, this whole story about Jesus: I have to confess, I'm not really into it. I'll be the first to admit that it is a great story, with a lot of twists and turns and dramatic build-up and so forth. I just don't really believe that it all happened that way. I'm not sure when I started believing that - maybe sometime in high school? But here's the funny thing: I still considered myself a Christian until sometime in college! Mainly because I'd been raised with a Christian background (not that we were hardcore churchgoers or anything), and I had the rest of the WASP baggage as well. And also, I'm not an atheist - I do believe there's some higher order in the universe. I'm just not convinced at all that that order is named Jesus, or that that order would need a guy like Jesus for any good reason. I just think the universe is supposed to be somewhat of a mystery.

At any rate, at some point I was finally all like, "Wait! Jesus puts the 'Christ' in Christian! You have to believe in the divinity of Jesus to be a Christian! And I don't! So I'm not a Christian." It was that kind of a revelatory moment, with a lot of exclamation marks and so forth. And I've been at peace with it ever since.

Of course, now I've probably lost all the Christian support for my triathlon. Damn! Why do I keep upsetting people? I have got to learn to watch what I say ...

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Some sad news from home last week: our dog Seymour had to be put to down due to old age and illness. Our guess is that he was about 15 years old. And I say "our dog" because even though he was back in NY with my father, he was a presence in my life for a lot of years.

Seymour was a mutt, probably some combination of German shepherd and something else and maybe a little something else too. He didn't really look like any breed I'm familiar with. Prior to Seymour, my family was always a golden retriever family. We got our first one (Brandy) when I was in 4th grade, and had him until a year after I graduated from college. Next was Toby, who was an awesome dog but who was hit by a delivery truck when he was about 2 years old; and then Quincy, who was also a great dog and helped us get over the loss of Toby.

Seymour entered the picture during the Quincy years. My brother originally adopted him, then passed him on to my parents when he couldn't keep him. And I soon realized something very important: dogs are happiest when they have a dog friend around. It wasn't like Quincy was depressed or anything before Seymour moved in, but you should have seen them together! Damn! Good friends, good friends.

Quincy was also a great dog. He passed away while I was in med school, and then we got Zachary (aka Zeke) who is currently the golden retriever of the house. Seymour didn't know what to make of Zachary at first, because he was an animated little puppy, so there was a little snarling and nastiness for a while. But with time, and a little maturation on Zachary's part, they got to be good friends, too. I wouldn't be surprised if Seymour showed him the ropes around the house, the doggy ropes.

So that was Seymour: a beloved friend to man and dog alike. Intelligent, but not flashy. Loving, but not overly obsequious. A little bit of a hellraiser (he liked to run off and look through garbage cans in town), but also obedient when it mattered. He could shake with both front paws, and speak, and he always knew his place. He was a great dog, and I'll miss him.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

in the spotlight

Well, things have been pretty busy around here for the past few days! Really, I hadn't anticipated the avalanche of comments that would be set off by my remarks about bike suspenders. I'm the first to admit that I'm a glutton for attention, but you know what they say: be careful what you wish for. While the comments have been supportive so far, with the harsh glare of public scrutiny now falling squarely on "Mad City," it's just a matter of time before some suspender-lovers show up and start causing a ruckus. And with my triathlon/NBMR campaign now officially underway, I'm trying to keep the focus on the positive around here.

So let me explain a little more about the suspenders thing: I just don't get it. That's all. It's me, not you. Because I've always thought of suspenders as an alternative to belts. I've never really considered them in any other way. Don't like belts? Well, here's some suspenders! That sort of thing.

But most people don't wear belts with bike shorts, because bike shorts are like the tightest kind of pants you can possibly wear. They're like tights, except they're a little thicker and a little tighter and they stop above the knee. And who wears a belt with tights? The same goes with bike shorts.

Except ... OK, I have a confession to make. I'm not exactly naive when it comes to spandex shorts. They looked good, they felt good, the price was right: who knew that it could go so wrong? The problem is, my legs are pretty skinny (that's me up above, with the sunglasses), and my glutes are also sub-massive. So, there wasn't a whole lot to keep the shorts in place. They looked like they had a lot of grip to 'em, and I've never heard of spandex losing its elasticity. But ... long story short, it wasn't happening. It was like a constant battle against slippage and exposure. But I did have a very nice Calvin Klein brown leather dress belt which I managed to rig through a couple straps; and believe it or not, it worked. It was a little binding around the mid-section on longer rides, but I considered that a small price to pay for modesty. But after a while, it hit me: I was wearing bike shorts and a belt.

So that's my story. That's the explanation behind my aversion to modern cycling gear. Are you happy, people? You've brought a proud man to his skinny knees ...

Monday, December 8, 2008


People, I have a theory about recreational bicycling: 90% of the equipment worn or used by modern bicyclists is completely superfluous. There are some hardcore cyclists among my audience, including at least one rider who's completed the legendary annual STP ride, so I know I risk bruising some egos when I say this. But come on! When you see someone cruising up the Burke-Gilman Trail, and they're dressed like they're riding reserve for Team Motorola in the Tour de France, don't you just wanna say, you know, something? Something like, "Uh, do you really need all that fancy shit? Does it really make you a better athlete?"

I acknowledge that I'm an outlier, a lonely wolf, in the world of contemporary recreational bicycling. I don't own any lycra or spandex clothing. (Not even for the triathlon, people! I will not wear spandex in my triathlon!) But I know a lot, in fact probably most, of today's cyclists wear spandex riding shorts. And that's OK. But these biking suspenders go beyond the limits of acceptability. Frankly, they're ridiculous. I don't know how you can convince yourself that you need these things. But please, if you do have them, wear them with a jersey. Even if you're as studly as this model guy here, you're gonna look like a jackass. Especially if you pout ...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

joke of the day #3

Q: Which herbivorous marsupial, native to forested regions in Australia and other parts of Oceania, ironically carries its young in its uterus for an abbreviated gestation period lasting just 26-28 days, after which the young continue to develop in the mother's pouch as is common for most if not all marsupials?

A: The womb-at.


So, if you're one of those people who automatically checks the time when a blog entry is written, you'll see that I'm writing this at 5 am. (Is that what it says? I think this Blogspot site is on Singapore time or something. Just take my word for it: it's 5 am.) And I am not an early riser! Not at all! So, how did this happen?

Roosting. It's a term I've coined to describe falling asleep on your couch without intending to, then waking up in the middle of the night and stumbling to your actual bed. Except, sometimes when I roost, I have a hard time getting to sleep again. In fact, I'm totally wired right now. I feel more alive than I ever have before! But I just want to feel sleepy, so I don't end up snoozing until the afternoon tomorrow.

I don't roost often, maybe once every 3-4 months. And it's usually by accident. Here's what happened to me today: dropped my car off this morning to get snow tires, since it's winter now in Mad City but they don't maintain the roads worth a damn. (My street is a sheet of ice! Literally! Maybe I'll post a photo tomorrow.) Took the bus to work. Worked all day. Went to the gym after work. Tried to take the bus home, which was not as easy as taking the bus to work since it was about 8 pm and the Mad City buses don't run as frequently then. It ended up taking me an hour to get home, and it was freezing. I basically huddled and shivered within my coat for an hour. I felt wiped out. Then I ate a bunch of leftover, tryptophan-laden Thanksgiving turkey, since it's now over a week since T'giving and I'm trying to finish those leftovers off. Then I sat on the couch to relax a little and get ready to watch "The Prestige" on DVD. Then I stretched out on the couch. Then, the next thing I knew, it was 3:30 am.

If I had gone straight from the couch to bed, I might have been groggy enough still to fall back asleep right away. But I had a bunch of turkey stuck in my teeth, so I felt obligated to brush and floss first.

And FYI, roosters aren't the only things that roost. Bats do, too. Also, more noble birds like the great horned owl and the golden eagle, and other lethal raptors. So yes, you can think of me as a "rooster" right now. But please keep in mind that birds-of-prey roost, too. Often, with pieces of prey stuck in their teeth ...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

i'm in

As everyone knows, the most magical shopping season of the year is now underway. And in honor of that occasion, I would like to offer a special deal: become a member of the National Bone Marrow Registry. Only $52! Ethnic minorities may be able to join for free! And sometimes they even offer special discounts for white folks, too.
Now, I know what a lot of you are thinking: "Is he blogging about the NBMR again? Haven't we heard enough about this already? How about a Joke of the Day instead?" True, I have advocated for the registry before. But this time there's a catch: you get a chance to be my sponsor.
You see, ever since the triathlon here in Mad City a few months ago (see my 9/13 entry), I've been kicking around the idea of attempting one of those nightmarish endurance events. As I mentioned before, registration for the 2009 triathlon here filled up quicker than you can say "Mad City," and I was left out in the cold. (Probably for the best, though. I would perish if I tried a regulation, bona fide triathlon. I wouldn't stand a chance. Game over, man.)
So, what I've been doing instead is writing random numbers on the side of my leg with a Sharpie before my daily jog. For a while it actually made me feel like a real triathlete. But lately the thrill has worn off, and I decided it was time to bite the bullet. So, I am now registered for the Ironman 70.3 Boise next June. The 70.3 stands for the length of the race, which is half a full-length triathlon. I guess that means I won't be a real Ironman. (Iron Baby? Iron Tween?) But it's more than enough triathlon for me. Trust me.
So here's the deal: I am looking for supporters. To be a member of Team Trevor, all you need to do is sign up for the NBMR. No need to send me cash and wonder what I'll do with it, like that debacle with the 5K race back in 2002. And if you're already signed up for the NBMR ... well, you're hosed. I'm only taking new signees. (No, just kidding. Just donate $50 or more to the NBMR, or the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, or some other organization involved in bone marrow transplant work, and you're in! A two-dollar savings on the regular cost! What a deal! Woo woo!) Just sign up, or donate, and then let me know so I can add you to the list. My goal: 100 sponsors. I'll keep a "running" tally here.
So, what was the inspiration for this? Well, there's actually several factors. People who read this blog are probably also familiar by now with Steve Rider's blog, and are cheering him on as he prepares for his stem cell transplant. But that's not the whole story. Would I swim 1.2 miles for Steve? Absolutely. Would I then bike 56 miles for Steve? Ummm ... all right. Sure, yeah. He's a David Cronenberg fan, after all. Would I then run 13.1 miles for Steve? Are you insane??? I just met him a few months ago! I wouldn't even do that for his sister! Although, I would be happy to hand off the baton to one of Steve's friends, if it was like a relay effort and they were prepared to take over after the bike stage (or better yet, the swim stage).
But in all seriousness, Steve is a very decent and well-liked guy, and it's awesome that they found a good match for him on the NBMR. But there are also a couple other motivating factors for me:
1. As an oncologist-to-be, I order a lot of palliative chemotherapy to help people live a few months or maybe a few years longer. It's an honor to be able to do this for patients. But at the same time, an allogeneic stem cell transplant is potentially curative for a variety of hematologic diseases, and that's a very appealing thing.
2. My mother passed away about 6 months ago from primary myelofibrosis, a rare hematologic malignancy. She wasn't a candidate for a stem cell transplant (the usual age limit is 60-65 years), but it could be a treatment option for others with this disease.
3. It just seemed like a good thing to do.
All right, enough talk. Let's start recruiting! Really, what better Xmas present can you give a loved one, than joining the NBMR? Put it to them this way: "Look, I know you really wanted that iPod Nano. But if you ever get really sick and need a bone marrow transplant ... I've already got you covered."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

the best movie named "crash"

I like to pride myself on my knowledge of the cinema, but sometimes I don't see movies as promptly as I should. When possible, I try to rectify that via DVD. So last night I watched "Crash," winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2005.

My thoughts: well, my first thought was, "How did this thing win Best Picture?" Director/screenwriter Paul Haggis certainly meant well, aiming to expose the cultural and racial stereotypes that prevail in daily life in LA, and their sometimes tragic consequences. Also, I'm a big fan of Don Cheadle, so it was good to see him. And watching the tandem of Terrence Howard and Ludacris, it was easy to see why they'd work so well together later in "Hustle and Flow."

But sweet Jesus, how did this thing win Best Picture? It's only been out a few years, and already it feels incredibly dated. Like someone's delayed response to the Rodney King trial and the LA riots, made with the earnest conviction that it would actually create lasting racial harmony in LA. Here's kind of how the scenes went: Asian woman and Hispanic woman insult each other. White man and black man insult each other. White man and Asian woman talk about Jewish people. Jewish man and Aboriginal woman make love. Aboriginal man, black man, and white woman have a 3-way argument. Asian teen and Latino grandmother reconcile. Black cop shoots mixed-race pedestrian. Multi-ethnic group hug. And repeat.

(I'm sorry. It just felt very contrived and unrealistic to me. I'm sorry if you're someone who liked the movie. Feel free to make fun of one of my favorite movies, like "Scorpion King II: Rise of a Warrior.")

But you know what's really sad about "Crash?" The fact that it stole the title from a much better movie. I'm referring to David Cronenberg's 1996 adaptation of the J.G. Ballard book about people who are sexually aroused by car crashes. Do you remember all the controversy when that movie came out? Probably not. Because when you think of movies named "Crash" now, you probably think first of the Paul Haggis one.

But as with many movies that provoke controversy and outrage among people who never actually see said movie, there was so much to like about the other "Crash." To begin with, you've got David Cronenberg directing and James Spader in the lead role. Come on! That's awesome. They were both in their primes, too. Deborah Kara Unger proved to be one of the sexiest beasts to ever grace the silver screen; and Holly Hunter, Rosanna Arquette, and Elias Koteas also turn in strong performances. The creepy soundtrack by Howard Shore is absolutely riveting, the perfect counterpart to the dark psychodrama that unfolds.

I don't even know how to characterize this dang movie! Was it science fiction? Film noir? A dark psychodrama? A foreign film? (It's set in Toronto.) Auto erotica? I just don't know. If I was a video store clerk, I don't know where I would put this movie. All I know is, it was creepy and beautiful and ultimately ... uplifting. If you're the kind of person who's only uplifted by "Beaches," maybe it's not for you. But as for me, I was strangely uplifted.

P.S. I don't really like "Scorpion King II: Rise of a Warrior."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

million dollar baby

I don't know if I've mentioned my old friend and roommate Chris Volinsky before ... but I will be mentioning him a lot more often now. Because the dude went and got himself profiled in the NY Times over the weekend! Boo yah!

It seems that Chris, who is also known as CTV and who works as some type of smart employee for AT&T in New Jersey, has been competing in a contest sponsored by Netflix. The challenge is to improve Netflix's "recommendation engine," which is a computer program designed to read your mind and figure out what other movies you might like when you choose one. All manner of computer scientists and tech wizards and so forth have been competing at this thing, and for a good reason: the grand prize is a cool $1 million. Chris hasn't said what he's going to do with the money if he wins, but I do hope that part of his plans will be helping a brother out.

Chris and his ad hoc team from AT&T were in 1st place for a while, but apparently they got thrown off track by "Miss Congeniality." Is it a crime thriller? Comedy? Chick flick? They couldn't figure it out, in spite of their combined Ph.D brain wattage. So now they're playing catch-up, I guess.

I would like to wish them well, except there's just one problem: I am viscerally opposed to what they're doing! Remember the movie "Terminator?" Remember how they made the computers so smart that they finally figured out that mankind was obsolete, and declared war on mankind? And sent Arnold Schwarzenegger back in time to knock off Linda Hamilton? Well, I am totally against anything that's going to bring us closer to that point. Oh, and "War Games." Remember that movie? Matthew Broderick? Same type of scenario. It could happen so easily.

And also, should we really be strengthening the hand of these upstart Internet companies like Netflix, that only deal with customers through the mail? What's going to happen to the small neighborhood businesses that keep our communities glued together, like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video? Did you think about that before unleashing your nefarious talents, Chris?

I just realized something: now Chris knows that I like "Terminator." Great, just great! Why should I even bother picking out my own DVD's anymore? He's probably already compiled a list of all my potential favorites ...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

joke of the day #2

Who came up with these library fines? What's up with that? You mean you're going to take my money for not returning books, CD's, videos, and other borrowed library materials before their due date? Well I'm not "fine" with that at all!


Some months ago, people, I started getting random "friend requests" in my email, from people I'd already considered to be my friends. It took me a while to figure out what was going on: Facebook. Now, if you're technically and culturally savvy enough to be reading this blog, I probably don't need to explain Facebook to you. But for those who somehow accidentally blundered their way aboard here, Facebook is a social networking site that's now enjoyed by millions of people. And not just in the US: Canada too! It's published in the English language, and you can put photos and videos on there, and it's cool. I'm not sure how it's different from Myspace - I just know it is. And I think Facebook is cooler, because I don't have a Myspace account.

I guess I have a little confession to make: I've become a Facebook addict. In a way it's not much different than email, but I've suddenly found myself in touch with people who never would return my emails before. Well, maybe "in touch" is not the most accurate term. I can still write to them, but also now I can look through their personal online photos, and try to become friends with their friends, and post ribald comments on their profiles, and so forth. It's awesome.

On the down side, messing around on Facebook makes me feel like a 12-year-old girl. But on the plus side, messing around on Facebook makes me feel like a beautiful, popular 12-year-old girl. Oh, how I wish I could do junior high school all over again! I would rule that place like Vanessa Hudgens on Ritalin.

I not only had a confession to make tonight, but a little boasting to make as well. The last time I checked, I had nearly 85 Facebook friends. I've calculated that I'll reach 100 friends by the end of 2008 (provided there's a little extra holiday cheer in people's hearts this year).

That's right - triple digits.

You know, people, there's a word for someone who has more than 100 friends on Facebook. And that word is "winner." And my list includes 5 ethnicities! I've got people from 5 different ethnic groups on my friends list, and that doesn't even count white people. I guess you could say I am rich with ethnic diversity.

And yes, I know there are others out there who count 5 or 6 or even 7 hundred people on their friends lists. But believe me when I say that my list is legit. I didn't pay anyone to enlist. And while I have begrudgingly permitted a few stragglers and vagabonds to set up temporary residence there (just where the heck did you come from, "Ellen Dennie-Beausang"???), by and large these are people who know me well and vice versa. I've broken bread with them, shared stories with them, babysat their kids, stroked their hair and murmured soothing words as they vomited in the gutter, and just generally been there for them. I've never slept with anyone just to get them to sign up for my friends list, and I rarely use the "People You may Know" feature.

It's legit, I tell you. And if you're reading this, and you're not one of my Facebook friends yet, you should know that I'm offering a special prize to the individual who becomes my 100th friend. The winner will be announced at 12:01 am on Jan. 1 ... on Facebook.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

mystery of the day

So, for today's blog note, I'm streamin' live from my office at Mad City hospital. Right now I'm working on some horrible drudgery, involving a lot of tedious data entry, so I took the liberty of playing KEXP Live on one of the other computers here. I'm listening to Expansions, DJ Riz's show, from Nov. 10.
Now, I don't know much about DZ Riz. But here's what I do know:

1. I like Expansions, even though I'm not much of a club-dweller or be-bopper or whatever. Years ago, I was introduced to Sparrow Orange by this show, and "Hands and Knees Music" remains one of my all-time favorite CD's.

2. DJ Riz speaks with a lisp. Always has. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

OK ... so why doesn't Riz have a lisp now??? I shit you not. The esses I've heard from him today have been as clear and icy as a shot of chilled vodka. In addition, he sounds about 10-15 years younger than I remember, and he's mellifluous. He sounds like Al Jarreau or Frank Sinatra or Patsy Cline in her prime, or some shit like that.

This all makes me wonder: has he undergone vocal cord surgery? Or just some sort of aggressive speech therapy? How do you get rid of a lisp? This is kind of freaking me out. I want the old Riz! But at the same time, I'm happy for him ...

(Little-known Mad City factoid: I also had a mild speech impediment when I was little. I had a hard time saying words that started with "L." So, I did some speech classes in elementary school. I made great strides, and showed a lot of courage along the way. But ... even now, I'm not completely 100 percent on "L" words! But don't test me, people. Please don't test me ...)

Friday, November 14, 2008

joke of the day

I have long been an admirer of comedians: their creativity, their ability to make people laugh, their fearlessness in front of large audiences, and so forth. I'm not exactly a comedy-club-frequenting type of guy, but I have seen a few good shows here and there. Neil Hamburger! I saw Neil Hamburger here in Mad City a few months ago. Great show, great comedian. Check out the link.

But as much as I admire comedians, I've never been able to get a grip on their craft. Don't get me wrong - I can tell a joke. Sweet jesus, can I tell a joke. But it's the writing of jokes, I think, that separates the men from the boys. I know some comedians out there have others write their jokes. And that's fine. But can you imagine being able to write and then deliver your own jokes? It'd be like some musician who can write his own songs, then perform then very well. Hot damn.

My new goal in life is to be able to write good jokes. I can't think of any other way to get started than to dive right in, so here goes:

Q: What type of gas do draft animals like to inhale, to help maintain their vigor and health and their ability to do farm work and so forth?

A: Ox-ygen.

Now, this is funny on several levels. First of all, it gets away from some of the standard puns that get kicked around a little too much, like the ones about cows that like moo-sic or omelettes that are eggs-cellent. Second of all, when was the last time you heard a joke about oxen? I can't even remember the last time I saw an ox. But everyone knows what they are, so it's OK.

Hopefully, for the next joke of the day, I won't have to explain things so much! Just getting warmed up here. You all can expect some better work down the road; but at the same time, I really believe I've hit the ground running ...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

you are a runner and i am my father's son

The concert and show season is winding down here in Mad City with the onset of winter, but I did have the opportunity to see Wolf Parade the other night at the Majestic Theater. I went with my friend Jacob, one of the excellent first-year oncology fellows at Mad City General. Good show. I don't have Wolf Parade's 2nd album, but the first one has some rocking numbers and they played them well.

Something else about the show: you know how the liberal media keeps reporting that the "Seattle scene" in music is dead? Well, I've seen 2 bands with Seattle connections - Fleet Foxes and Wolf Parade - put on good shows in the past month or two. I think the rumors of the death of the "Seattle scene" are greatly exaggerated! And sure, Wolf Parade is from Montreal, but they're a Sub Pop band and that's what really matters.

And what's all this have to do with San Francisco? Well, I never mentioned anything about San Francisco. But since we're on the topic, I will note that I was introduced to Wolf Parade by my excellent friends Dean and Caroline, who I recently spent time with down in SF. I also met up with them in Chicago back in the spring! We're kind of doing a slow-motion tour of the great American cities together. We've already done Chicago, and SF, and Burlington, and Essex Junction. Next up: Mad City? They said they might be heading out here sometime in the spring! We'll see, people. We'll see ...

I would now like to close this blog note with a selection from the song "Lights," by the classic rock band Journey. As you may know, Journey is also from SF, and I think this song may have something to do with SF.

When the lights go down in the city
And the sun shines on the bay
Well I want to be there in my city
Whoaaaaahhhh ooooohhhhh

And don't you stop, that believin'
Hold on to that feelin'
Street light people
Whoaaaaahhhh oooooohhhhh

Friday, November 7, 2008


All right, I've decided it's high time to get to my recent trip out to San Francisco. It's actually been killin' me to wait this long, but first I had to track down some photos. We'll get to that ...
So, it was great. I stayed the first night with my friends Leah and Som, after having dinner with them at Park Chow. Any of you people heard of Park Chow, in San Francisco? It's pretty good. I had pork chops. Anyhow, I stayed the rest of the time with my friends Dean and Caroline, who were in town for a conference. Some of the highlights of my brief visit:
- biking across the Golden Gate Bridge
- seeing the new Maya Lin exhibit at the DeYoung Museum
- the weather (Yes, the weather was great in SF, believe it or not. The first couple days, anyway. Sunny and in the 80's. Then it turned to foggy and in the 40's ...)
- checking out Chinatown
- walking through the Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park
- and at the peak of the trip, the East Coast met the West Coast, as Dean and I met up with Som and Leah for dinner. Unfortunately Caroline had to fly out that morning, also Leah had lost her voice and sounded a little like Louis Armstrong, but we still had a good time.

But in my haste to do so much on this whirlwind expedition, I didn't even get a photo of Som and Leah! (Don't worry D and C, I'll get to your shots later ...) So, what I ended up doing was scanning some old med school photos of Som. I'm not even sure who all these women are: I just remember that I had to buy them a ton of drinks, and even lay out some cold cash, before they were finally willing to pose with him. But he hasn't changed much since then, except now he's married and living in SF.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

chocolate nation

Yes! Yeeeeessssss! If you can imagine a skinny white guy screaming in jubilation out in Mad City, well ... that's me. My only question: why the fuck was it so close? I'm not talking about the electoral vote; we all know McCain got a good ass-whuppin' there. But the last I checked, the popular vote was about 51% to 45%. And what would it have been without a looming recession (depression?), and an unpopular 5+ year war, and the worst president of the past century except for Nixon, and Sarah Palin?

You know what? I don't even care at this point. We won. That's all that matters. We all won. Even those of you who voted for McCain, long after he'd demonstrated that there was really no good reason at all to vote for him. You'll see what I mean soon enough, if you'll take the damn blinders off and turn off Fox News and stop talking about terrorist fist bumps and shit like that.

Sorry for all the profanity tonight, people. Seriously, I'm trying to get rid of 8 years of anger, incredulity, and profound unhappiness about what was being done to the US, both by the people directly responsible and the people who insisted that we had a competent, functional government. We didn't. What we had was a crass misappropriation of this country's resources and power, to further goals which were often contrary to its best interests.

Well, no longer. For the first time in 8 years, I'm not going to spend part of every day dreading some new malfeasance coming from the White House. Honest to god, it's something that has weighed on me for 8 years, and maybe you too.

Did you see Obama's speech tonight? Could Bush have done something even close to that, in a million years? With even a modicum of his grace, dignity, and intelligence? I'm so proud of my new president. We've finally got the best that our country has to offer.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

an important revision

Hello, did I say something about writing about my recent trip to San Francisco sometime this weekend? Well, I had every intention to, but other important stuff just keeps popping up ...
So, I've been listening to a lot of 80's pop music lately for a project that I've been working on (long story). Among the bands that I've been getting reacquainted with: INXS. I liked INXS a lot back in the 80's, and even into the 90's. And I wish like hell that Michael Hutchence hadn't died, because I think they still had some good stuff ahead of them (and also, it was a tragedy that he died). But I haven't listened to them with that new lead singer.
Anyhow, what I've discovered is that the music of INXS has stood the test of time. I borrowed "The Best of INXS" from the local library, and was really just struck by the number of great songs they had, when their whole career is condensed like that. There's "What You Need," and "The One Thing," also "Suicide Blonde" and "This Time" and "Don't Change" and several others. And to cap it all off, "Not Enough Time," which is just tremendous. See, it starts off kind of slow and hypnotic, with just a low beat and Hutchence singing, but then you add bit by bit these backing vocals and some piano and castanets and whatnot, and before you know it ... wow! And the lyrics: "Attempting to make sense/of my aching heart/If I could just be everything/And everyone to you." Great! I love it!
People, I made a mistake here a month or two ago. Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World," while an awesome song, is not the greatest rock 'n' roll song of all time. "Not Enough Time" by INXS is the greatest rock 'n' roll song of all time. Even if it doesn't have "rock" in the title ...

Saturday, November 1, 2008


I know, I know, you people want to hear all about my trip out to Cally! I'll get to that, trust me. But first, I've got another important piece of business to attend to ...

It's hard to believe, with all the mud I've been slingin' and blood I've been spillin' here, that my most controversial work would revolve around fruit. But several readers have sent in some heated remarks about my piece on nectarines. Interestingly, they both had anecdotes about some time or other when they had a nectarine and it was really good. Like, you know, la de da. But then they had to go on about how peaches weren't "all that," and how nectarines were way better, and so forth. One of them even compared eating a fuzzy peach to "trying to eat a baby's head."

I think what we have here, ladies, is a failure to communicate. I mean, what part of "peaches are better than nectarines" don't you get? And the forcefulness of your comments just reassures me that I'm really onto something, and it's making some people uneasy. You know what they say: The closer you get to the mark, the more the mark gets defensive and angry, and realizes that there's a truth-sayer out there who's tired of all this hysteria and hype about nectarines, and that he's going to pull the veil away from a lot of people's eyes and help them see the light.

Sometime over the weekend, I swear, I'll get to the San Francisco trip. Peace out ...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

mccain-palin, part two

Well, I know you're all expecting some news about my trip out to Cally ... but the election's less than a week away! And somehow, I neglected to get past Part 1 of my running series on the McCain-Palin ticket until now. I know there's still some undecided voters out there, especially in my blogosphere, so here goes:

John McCain. What can I possibly say about him, that hasn't already been said? Well, how about this: remember the 2004 race? And how, at one point, there was talk that John Kerry had approached McCain to be his running mate on the Democrat ticket? I would have been all right with that. I think it would've worked, both in the election and in the Oval Office. I respected McCain then, even if I didn't agree with some of his political views. And I still respect what he went through in Vietnam, and the valor he showed. But there's nothing like winning the Republican nomination, and kissing right-wing ass, to bring out someone's ugly side. And I know less about McCain's views than about how pissed off he is about Obama's views. What kind of a campaign is that?

How about this for a scenario? McCain wins the election. Here's what his (few remaining) supporters will be saying in 2010: "Well, the war's still going, and the economy still sucks, and the rest of the world hates us more than ever. But isn't it inspiring what he did 45 years ago in Vietnam?"

And Palin? I really don't think I can add anything there, and I wouldn't even know how to begin recapping what others have said. Wait, I've got an idea: how about her participation in a religious movement that believes that demonic forces have taken over parts of the country? I am not making this up. If that isn't enough to scare the bejeebers out of you, then what is?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

on vacation

Speaking of energized colons, I'm heading out to San Francisco tomorrow for a quick visit. (Hey people! Hey now! Settle down! I am straight, but totally not narrow. C'mon! Hey now!) Anyways, I'm planning to see my friends Som and Leah and also my friends Dean and Caroline. And catch some rays! According to Yahoo! Weather, it's supposed to get up around 80 every day I'm out there. Meanwhile, it's been in the high 30's here this week when I've been biking to work in the a.m.

So my blogging may taper off for the next few days. Just relax - we'll all get through this OK ...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Maureen Dowd ...

... looks so much like my friend Brian's sister Christine! Ohmigod! We're talking "separated at birth" similar! This is freak-ay!

And don't take that the wrong way, Christine. I totally respect Maureen Dowd! She writes a great column! It's not like I'm comparing you to Ann Coulter or anything.


People, can you believe they're still making corn-on-the-cob here in Mad City? I just got some at our awesome farmers' market the other day. I go to the farmers' market every Saturday, wondering if this will be "the" weekend when I will find no corn. But it's still going on. I think there were only two booths this weekend that still had corn. But all it takes is one, baby! All it takes is one.

To be honest, all this corn-shopping has been a bit of a drag at times, since I can't really do any out-of-town Saturday trips and miss the market until I'm sure that corn season is over. But on the plus side, my colon has been totally energized since, like, late July. If any of you had come out to Mad City this summer, you probably would have noticed the extra spring in my step ...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

other things that annoy me

These two fucking guys! I cannot stand them! What were the people at ABC thinking? "Hmmm ... why don't we see how many smug bastards we can fit on one show?"
And I swear to you, I don't even watch "Grey's Anatomy." I was at the gym yesterday, and it was on one of the TV's while I was doing the elliptical. So much overacting ... so very much like a night-time soap-opera ...
Sorry ladies! I know there's a bunch of you McDreamy fans out there. I am not one of them. If I want to see a bunch of posturing, I'll just go to the free weight room and watch some of the frat brothers in action.

cancer part 3

So why do people get cancer? That question sometimes comes up, in various permutations, at work. Or more often, patients attribute their cancer to something that an oncologist would not consider a likely cause. Like a middle-aged man with metastatic prostate cancer, who blames it on his summer job at a refinery back during college. Not likely.

If you surveyed the general public, I wouldn't be surprised if a majority of people considered pollution, or chemicals, or other man-made factors in our environment, to be the leading cause of cancer. And there may be some truth to that. For instance, the biggest environmental cause of cancer is probably cigarette smoke, which contributes not only to lung cancer but also bladder cancer (those chemicals have to go out somewhere), head and neck carcinoma, and a number of other malignancies. And yet, of people who smoke at least a pack a day - which is a lot more pollution than you'd get from your carpet cleaner, say, or sitting too close to the copy machine at work - less than 1 in 10 will get lung cancer.

The best description of cancer I've heard is that it's a "disease of the DNA." And when you consider the trillions of cells in our body, and the complexity of DNA and cell division, it's kind of a wonder that more people don't develop cancer more often. All it takes is one cell gone wrong, dividing uncontrollably, to start the ball rolling. And in fact, that's basically what cancer is: it almost invariably starts with just one bad cell.

So, tobacco smoke can damage DNA. So can radiation. And viruses can cause mutations that lead to cancer: most cases of cervical cancer are due to HPV, and the mononucleosis virus can contribute to some types of lymphoma, and chronic hepatitis B or C sometimes results in liver cancer. And definitely, there are other carcinogens out there, both man-made and natural. Sunlight, even, when consumed immoderately.

But mostly, I think of it this way: we live by our cells, and sometimes they go wrong on us. It's part of the price we pay for physiological sophistication developed over eons, as we evolved from simple one-celled things to fantastically complex organisms with eyeballs and emotions and innards (if you believe in that evolution stuff). Sometimes we can blame cigarettes, or faulty genes that have been passed through generations, or other factors. Aging! If a man lives to be 100, he is virtually guaranteed of developing prostate cancer. But the reality is that we can live our lives in the healthiest way conceivable, and certainly minimize our risks, but never eliminate it. Not while we're still dependent on cells ...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

a simple man

I got to thinking recently about old friends from various phases of my life, and how people change over time, and so forth. And I realized something which has kind of occurred to me before, every so often, but never so vividly as now: I am nothing if not a simple man. Most of my peers have houses, and spouses, and kids, and mortgages, and other fairly grown-up elements in their lives. Careers. Lots of keys, for different stuff out in the garage. Snowblowers, and swing sets, and health club memberships, and time-shares. Bum knees. Food processors. Equity.

As for me ... well, I'm still in training mode for my job. I rent an apartment in Mad City, on the second floor of a house not too far from Willy Street. It's not quite living in a van down by the river; but I do live near a river (the mighty Yahara), in the Land of Cheese, and I just upgraded my 20-year-old car to a 10-year-old car. Never owned a house, and probably won't buy one anytime soon. I'm not fluent in any foreign languages. I like having my belly rubbed after a big meal. I tend to judge people by their physical flaws and the pitch of their voices, rather than the content of their character. I still enjoy a good creamee every now and then (favorite flavor: twist.) I can't write songs unless they're about movies, and I blog without a cause.

For whatever reason, age and education seem to have had little effect on my general sensibilities. Back in college, my friend Chud was widely considered to be the simplest of us all. But he has since attained a level of maturity and sophistication which I can only marvel at. And why is that? It's simple: I'm a simple man.

I state this not with pride, nor with great regret. I do acknowledge that we've had another simple man running this country for nearly 8 years now, and obviously he's mucked it up real good. Unlike him, I know my limits, and I also think there are many good simple men and women out there. We're too simple to form any sort of cohesive organization or society, but we do nod and smile warmly at each other when we pass on the street.

But I'm also troubled now by the thought that maybe simple really is as simple does. Should I start buying things? Read more challenging books? Or hit the bottle, hard, for a couple months? At least long enough to know what discontent and sloppy self-pity really mean? (Not that this is about self-pity. I'm really not into that. But it does have an exotic appeal at times.)

I'm not really sure what brought this all on for me, but I think it was multi-factorial. I turned 40 a few months ago, and within a year I'll complete my medical training and start practicing without supervision, and they switched the guy who plays James Bond a little while back, and some other miscellaneous stuff. Who can say for sure? But let me assure you of one thing: I take good care of my patients. And also, despite the simpleness, my views on politics and produce are spot-on.

Actually, that's more than one thing. Maybe nothing is as simple as it seems ...

Monday, October 13, 2008

cancer part two

I had been planning to write a little piece about what causes cancer, for the next segment in my cancer series. But a few days ago, I was going through my back-up email account and opened up an overlooked message from an old college friend, and found out that one of my closest friends from college has been diagnosed with Stage IV (i.e. metastatic) colon cancer. By the time I read the message, he'd already made it through surgery and had started chemotherapy.

So, let me tell you a little about this friend instead. I think Jed is one of the most ferociously intelligent people I've ever met, and that includes most if not all of the doctors I've come across. I remember a class we both took during junior year on European literature, which involved reading a lot of the great "canon" works (The Odyssey, The Iliad, sections from the Bible, Greek plays, The Divine Comedy, etc.) and writing weekly 3-page papers. Occasionally I'd share my ideas for a paper with Jed; typically, he'd grimace and try to straighten me out. I would argue with him, then submit the paper with all my original ideas. Inevitably, I'd get a B or B- with comments from the professor that mostly echoed what Jed had told me. That went on for the whole semester. (What can I say? I was stubborn.)

And yet, Jed was also one of the most down-to-earth people on campus. He was intensely proud of hailing from Vermont, he almost invariably wore jeans and a baseball cap, and he drove around in an old Chevette with vanity plates ("Jed 2"). It was impossible to dislike him, or to not be impressed by his intelligence. He lived down the hall from me during freshman year, straight across from my friends Chud and Austin. One of my best memories of college: Jed and his roommate Giff (also a good friend), and Chud and Austin, screaming "Fuck you!" back and forth across the hall at each other for 10 minutes straight, laughing the whole time. (Trust me - he really is an incredibly bright guy ...)

Jed and Giff and I also lived in the same dorm during senior year, and I saw Jed several times during the first few years after graduation, including once when he came over to my hometown and stayed with my family. My parents kept bringing him up and asking about him for months afterward. He just made an impression on people.

And he probably still is. I haven't talked to Jed in at least 10 years, probably more like 15. He graduated with top honors, went to grad school (in Madison!), became a professor of literature, got married, has two girls. Unbeknownst to me, he'd also gotten a faculty position at a top liberal arts school in the Midwest, and written several books on literary criticism.

I just checked on Google maps: about a 7-hour drive from Mad City. Maybe in the spring? I'll let him get through his chemotherapy first.

And as for his illness: while we generally consider solid tumors incurable once they've metastasized, that's not exactly true. Some people with what's called oligometastatic disease, or limited mets, can potentially be cured with surgical resection of their primary tumor and metastases. It's not very common, and at present is pretty much limited to colon cancer with liver mets. Which I believe is Jed's situation.

And as for a 40-ish guy getting diagnosed with colon cancer: Jed is actually the third person I know from school who's been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The others were a high-school classmate and the wife of one of my friends from med school (who was diagnosed in her early 30's). They were both treated and are doing fine now. I just have to believe, and I do, that the same will hold true for Jed.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

fleet foxes

Tonight was a special night, and it didn't even happen in Mad City. I headed 75 miles east to Brew City, aka Milwaukee, to see Fleet Foxes at the Pabst Theater. If you don't know about Fleet Foxes, you should learn somehow, because I might not be able to describe them properly. Wait - I've got it. You know that song "Greensleeves?" Well, if there was a band that played songs like "Greensleeves," but updated for the 21st-century alt/progressive scene, that would be this band. Does that make sense?

I might have never learned about FF if I hadn't been back out to Seattle in August, and stayed a few days with my old roommate Brian. He'd just gotten their CD (on loan from the library! the cheap wanker ...), and I was won over right away. Actually, I probably would have learned about them eventually, because they're generating tremendous buzz now. Probably even past the buzz stage, since they're now selling out most of their shows. But I might not have learned in time for tonight's show.

Anyhow, what a show. The Pabst was jammed, the mood was right, the sound was great. When you take their soaring vocal harmonies, and add in those lyrics about forests and shrubberies, and then that medieval drum-playing comes in - pa rup a pum pum, pa rup a pum pum - well ... it's kind of thrilling. Honestly, that's the best descriptor I can come up with. And they're funny guys! The between-song chatter was really pretty good. And lead singer Robin Pecknold played an impromptu solo version of Bob Dylan's "Boots of Spanish Leather," at the request of someone from the audience, which was cool.

And as I was driving home, I got to hear a re-broadcast of the show on the radio, which was also cool. (Thank you 88.9 FM in Milwaukee, Community-Supported Radio!) And when you throw in the fact that Fleet Foxes are from Seattle, and that I was such a big influence on them before I left town, it's just icing on the cake. Come back to Wisconsin soon, homies ...

Friday, October 10, 2008

civic duties

I'm also into recycling. Big time. Forgot to mention that yesterday. Hey Joe Sixpack! Make sure you put those empties in the proper recycling bin when you're done with them! Or else I know a crazy Alaskan she-devil who'll put a beatdown on your ass like you wouldn't believe.
Actually, now that I think about it, I suspect she doesn't care a whole lot about recycling ...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

double clicking

I thought I had expelled my venom for the week, like a spitting cobra, after my nectarine jeremiad. But a chance event the other day reminded me that there's still so much injustice in the world which needs to be combated head-on. Here's what happened: I was waiting for the elevator at the hospital where I work (MJC Hospital). Like many hospitals, this one's all spread out, and there's a set of elevators serving each wing. Two sets, actually. So, like 4 elevators total. And there's a separate set of buttons for each pair of elevators.

So, as I'm waiting there, some dude comes along and starts to wait too. And after a few seconds, he goes and pushes the "up" button for the other elevators as well. A double clicker! Man, that gets my goat. You see, I actually think elevators are an amazing convenience. And we should be grateful to have these contraptions that whisk us up buildings in the blink of an eye (more or less), sparing us the work and drudgery of climbing the stairs. And we should be willing to wait a little while for one of these contraptions to come along, just like we've gotta wait a couple minutes for the microwave to get our Hot Pocket ready. And we should be aware that these things use energy to get us where we need to go. Not just energy to carry us up (which some people think about), but also the energy for the empty elevator to come down and get us. And when we double-click, we're basically consuming twice the energy.

And for what??? To save a few measly seconds? Can't we find something productive to do with those spare moments, like re-tying our shoes or finding inner peace? Can't we all get along?

Hey double-clickers! Do you hear that sound? It's the sound of the OPEC oil ministers rubbing their hands in glee, every time you push that other button! Cha-ching for them! It's the sound of more coal being strip-mined out of some bucolic West Virginia hillside, to meet our rapacious demand for elevator fuel! It's the sound of another nuclear reactor edging closer to meltdown, as the engineers throw it into overdrive! It's the sound ... of Mother Nature crying.

And in case you were wondering: yes, I do take the stairs sometimes. Say, if I'm going down. Or if I only need to go up one or two floors. But my office is way the hell up on the 5th floor! You've gotta draw the line somewhere ...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

fruity impostors

Before the last vestiges of summer leave us and the chill of winter sets in, I wanted to pose a question: what is up with nectarines? Where'd these things come from? They're obviously related to the peach somehow, but I'm confident that the peach predates the nectarine. So what is it: a cross between a peach and a plum? And why??? Was there some mad scientist out there thinking to himself, "Hmm. How can I make something similar to a peach, but less juicy and delicious?"

I mean, what's the benefit here? Why have nectarines been allowed to continue to exist? They're an experiment gone wrong. If you gave 100 people the choice between a peach and a nectarine, how many would choose the nectarine? I'm guessing it would be like 0.05 percent. Here's the only purpose I can think of that nectarines serve: to confuse people. As in, you're in the supermarket, or at the fruit stand, and you see some small, round, red-and-yellow fruit across the way. And you think to yourself, "Ah, peaches!" And you smile, and go to get some. But once you get close ... BAM! Nectarines!

It's the classic bait-and-switch. Some of you have heard me rant about raisins before, and how easy it is to mistake them for chocolate chips when they're in cookies. Well, same principle here. But I've got a word for you, nectarines: you may sit near peaches in the produce section ... but you're no peaches. You don't taste as good, you don't smell as good, and the "nectar" in your name is nothing but bitter irony.

Fuck you, nectarines! Go grow some fuzz, you damn d-bags ...

que cera, cera

So I went to see Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist tonight, mainly because I haven't been to the movies in a while and just felt like going. Unfortunately, there's not much good out right now. We're in the doldrums. I did want to see Pineapple Express, which is a pre-doldrums movie I haven't seen yet and which is still playing at the Orpheum here in the MJC. But the showtime was too early.

As for Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist ... sadly, I cannot recommend this movie. It was just too full of improbable situations and stultifying characters. It really wanted to be one of those "look at all this wild stuff that happens in one night!" kind of movies, but it was no Superbad or Sixteen Candles. But, it did have Michael Cera, which is what finally led me to see Nick and Norah over Beverly Hills Chihuahua. I like Michael Cera; the kid's got chops. But then, I knew that way back when he was playing George-Michael Bluth on "Arrested Development." And he was great in Superbad and Juno. He actually reminds me of a young me, kind of like George Clooney reminds me of the current me. I guess it's the combination of naivete and scrawniness. If you could see my high school yearbook, you would understand ...

You go, Michael Cera! Keep on making movies! I will continue to see them. But if they try to get you to do a Nick and Norah sequel, just walk away. Walk. Slowly. Away.

Friday, October 3, 2008


A few weeks ago, I encouraged you people to sign up for the National Bone Marrow Registry. And tonight, I thought I would tell you about my own saga in getting enrolled on the registry. You see, I figured I'd be tricky and sign up in person while I was out in Seattle in August. I guess not too many people do it that way, because they were a little flummoxed at the Puget Sound Blood Center facility where I showed up. But eventually, they got it figured out, and swabbed my mouth (totally painless! trust me), and sent me on my way. Before I left, I whipped out my wallet to pay the $52 registration fee, but I guess they don't even have a cash register or money bag there or anything. So they said I'd get billed later.

Fast forward to this week: a letter from PSBC arrives. The good news: I only have to pay $25 to register. The bad news: they haven't put my DNA on the freakin' registry yet. You see, one of the main reasons why I wanted to join the registry was to see if I could be a stem cell donor for Steve Rider, my friend Cindy's brother. Because he's a good guy. I've only spent time with Steve on a few limited occasions, but he's basically a very friendly and likeable person; and knowing that he needs something, you want to help him out.

I knew it would be a long shot to be Steve's stem cell donor. I mean, nobody from his own family was an HLA match! It's not like being a blood donor: it's not just A, or B, or O. It's like the whole rest of the alphabet is involved. But Steve and I have a few things in common: we both like Seattle, and ride automated two-wheeled vehicles, and enjoy a good cup of joe in the morning, and ... I'm sure there's some other stuff, too. Though I also have to admit, I think Steve is a little smarter than me, and definitely more tech-savvy, and I could definitely never pull off wearing a jaunty plaid cap the way he does. But with the stuff we have in common, I figured we'd be at least a 7/10 match, maybe even 8/10, with mismatches at a few minor and relatively unimportant loci.

But all this time I thought my HLA testing was being done, my saliva was just sitting in an envelope somewhere. And meanwhile, it looks like Steve will need a transplant pretty soon. And even if they expedite my testing (which PSBC promised they would do when I called today), they've already found a donor for Steve. A woman, no less! Which makes me feel a little funny. All I can think about now is how those dainty little stem cells will be settling in there, getting comfortable, redecorating Steve's marrow and whatnot. Probably installing some frilly lace curtains, and putting a ton of unnecessary, superfluous pillows on all the beds. Feh.

So, I want you people to help me. You people out in Seattle: keep an eye on Steve. Make sure he doesn't get ... soft after the transplant. Bring him guy things to enjoy while he's in the hospital. Give him a friendly punch in the arm, once he's engrafted and has enough platelets. And Steve, the next time I'm in Seattle, let's go watch some football at a sports bar somewhere. We can pound some brewskis (out of cans, not bottles), and eat wings, and do some arm-wrestling during the commercials, and maybe later watch a Larry the Cable Guy DVD.

Everyone else: sign up for the marrow registry. And if you're a lady, and you're pregnant, donate the cord blood for chrissake! (What were you planning on doing with that placenta, anyways? Burying it out in the garden? C'mon!) You may not be able to donate to Steve - they're gonna wind up matching me to some axe murderer or Republican fundraiser, I can almost guarantee it - but maybe someone else, down the road? And check out his blog. It's a good read, with cool photos, and you'll learn a lot about his transplant experience.

(Seriously, Steve, all your future white blood cells are going to have two X chromosomes! Do you really want to put up with that kind of shit? If nothing else, you can totally have some of my white blood cells if you'd like. Lymphocytes, granulocytes, natural-killer cells, whatever. Take your pick. Guess it's a good thing that red blood cells and platelets don't have nuclei ...)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

the green tea ceremony

We live in stressful times. Would any of you people out there deny that? And we need ways to cope with that stress. My usual coping mechanisms - crocheting, writing gangsta rap lyrics, petting the puppy, growing orchids, spelunking, mime - are fine, but lately I've felt like I needed a little something extra. You know, something to put me over the top.

So that got me to thinking about the green tea ceremony. You know, it's fascinating, the myriad ways that people in Japan and China have come up with over the millenia to relax and de-stress. There's tea ceremonies, and tai chi, and origami. Also: Noh theater, haiku, calligraphy, ikebana, Godzilla movies, and selecting prepubescent girls for the national gymnastics team. Maybe that's why people in this region have the highest life expectancy in the world? I don't know.

But anyhow, of all the above, the Japanese green tea ceremony resonates the most with me. If you've never witnessed it, in real life or on TV, it's a highly ritualized and formal event that takes years of practice to master. You'd think making and drinking some tea wouldn't take too long, but these ceremonies can actually go on for hours. Every step, every gesture, is done with precision and grace. If you're good at it ... well, it must be hard to remain humble. And yet I've never seen a cocky tea master! And I know that the tea ceremony is traditionally performed by women. I'm OK with that; I'm secure in my masculinity. I just need something to help get rid of stress. Damn ...

So I've been working on this. I've been doing more leg exercises at the gym, to strengthen my squatting muscles. I've gotten a kimono and all the necessary equipment, including a chashaku (ritual tea scoop), chabako (wooden box for holding utensils), and some tatami mats for the floor. I've located a local tea house with a sympathetic manager, to hold the actual ceremony. There's only one problem: I don't really like green tea! Not the preparation, obviously. Just the taste of it. And to abstain from the whole ceremony just because of that one detail ... well, it'd be like throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

So, I was wondering if anyone out there knows if you can do the tea ceremony with iced tea. I love iced tea.

teeth 'n' tapas

I like tapas. I wish they had a tapas place here in the MJC. A little something with calamari: that'd be totally delicious.
My teeth are doing OK. I had some pizza earlier today, no problems. It's more my gums that are an issue. They're receding a bit. But I saw a dentist for a routine check-up a few months back, and he said not to worry about it too much ...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

mean girls

OK, I'm now gonna finish up my Olympics coverage, approximately one month after the games ended. Tonight, I am focusing on the US women's soccer team, which brought home gold after a turbulent year on and off the field. It all started at the 2007 World Cup, when US coach Greg Ryan inexplicably decided to bench goalie Hope Solo (a former Washington Husky!) for a crucial match against Brazil. And you know the rest: the US team got crushed 4-0, Solo criticized the coach publicly for his decision, and she was subsequently subjected to an amazing backlash/vendetta by the rest of the team and Ryan. She wasn't allowed to attend the next game, or team meals, or even fly back from China (yes, the women's World Cup and the Olympics were both in China) with the rest of the team. It didn't matter that the coach's decision was obviously wrong, or that Solo had suffered some personal tragedies including the deaths of her father and best friend in the preceding months.
Fortunately, Ryan got canned soon enough, a competent new coach was brought in, and Solo was allowed to rejoin the team. But even then, only one other player on the team would sit next to her or eat meals with her for a long period of time; and she was generally subjected to, as she put it, "a sorority-style atmosphere."
Does this make sense? Most men would say no. As one member of the men's team said in Sports Illustrated, "In England guys get in fights and arguments all the time, and usually within an hour or by the next day everything's fine. But to be completely ostracized? I've never heard of anything like that."
Woman-on-woman cruelty is not confined to soccer, obviously. If I watched more TV shows like Survivor and Real World, I'd probably be able to cite some other examples. And it's probably all explained in that "Women from Venus, Men from Mars" book. But I just find it fascinating. Kind of like how women like to dance, and men don't; and how women are generally much more skilled at interpersonal communications than men. My theory is that it's somehow tied in with human evolution: while men used brute force to survive in a hostile world, women developed other skills to get by, namely dancing and cunning and talking. I think Jared Diamond would agree.
And what of woman-on-man cruelty? While undeniably a real phenomenon, it's hard to make much of it, when it works the other way around most of the time. And again, and fortunately, I just don't a whole lot about it. (Unless you count the pre-school teacher who spanked me for punting one of those red rubber balls inside the room. Or the ex-girlfriend who once accused me of trying to "manipulate" her, after I wrote a long, rambling email to let her know that my mother had passed away a few days earlier.)
So, everything came out OK in the end. Hope Solo got her gold, just like the rest of the team. And Michael Phelps lived up to the hype, and the Chinese women's gymnastics team inspired pre-teens everywhere, and Usain Bolt ... Damn! He's ridiculously fast. It was quite an Olympics. And that's the end of my 2008 Olympics coverage. But one final word to all you Hope-haters: it's soccer, ladies, not Sigma Rho.

the bailout, part 2

Well, it looks like that big ol' bailout plan failed. And I think I know why: because George Bush said we really, really needed to pass it right away. For the good of our country.
Hey! Isn't that what you said about Iraq and the WMD's, Dubya? You know what they say: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice ... won't get fooled again.