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."