Saturday, December 29, 2007

One For The Stupid Questions Archive

For those of you who don't watch sports on TV, haven't turned to a sports page or clicked on a sports site in several months, or have recently been living under a substantially sized rock...the New England Patriots are a good football team.

Tonight they completed a perfect 16-0 regular season, and are the odds-on favorite to win three more games and hoist the Lombardi Trophy in early February.

Coach Bill Belichick came out for his post-game press conference and opened with his comments on the season...all the hard work it took, the dedication by his players, the focus. He said he and the team will enjoy this win and the accomplishment of 16-0 for a day or two, but then get back to work and focus on their playoff game coming up in two weeks. He made mention of a few of the individual and team records that were set during the season, and summed up the season as a whole as one he and the team are proud of.

After speaking for a few minutes, he paused...which one can assume is the signal for the reporters in the room to begin asking their questions. And the first one the viewing audience heard from off-camera was...

"What's your reaction to 16-0?"

Belichick, already known to be rather terse and unfriendly in his press conferences, gave the guy a couple-second stare before he answered.

"I just gave it."


"I'm happy."

Now, I work for a newspaper, but I don't hold the title of reporter. I don't think I would want that job. And I realize it takes some creativity and imagination to come up with good questions in order to be a hard-hitting journalist.

But...what the hell was that guy listening to (or not listening to) in Belichick's opening remarks that made him think he still had to ask that laaaame question? And he was the first one out of the gate, too! Like he couldn't wait to put his question on display.

That's like asking members of a team that just won the Super Bowl, "How do you feel?"

"How do you feel?" is a question you ask someone who's just had hernia surgery.

Somebody should really strip that guy of his media credentials and then ask him, "What's your reaction to losing your job?"

"Trifles make perfection,
but perfection is no trifle."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Jolly, Merry, Happy.

I think I've finally found the holiday spirit.

I know I'm joining the Christmas party a bit late, but...I do every year.

When I hear bad Christmas music wafting down from the loudspeakers at Wal-Mart in late November, I deny that it's approaching. When I see a countdown that reads, "46 shopping days until Christmas," I think to myself that that's 45 days too many to have a countdown.

But last week, I went to my niece's grade school holiday concert, and I got to see first through fifth graders walk up on the stage and stand on risers in front of an auditorium filled with proud parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and friends...and belt out choruses and mumble through verses they didn't quite have memorized, singing songs like, "Simple Gifts for Christmas," and "A Time For Joy."

Watching those kids up there...some dressed in suit coats and bow ties, others wearing hiking boots and flannel print shirts...helped move me toward the spirit of Christmas.

At work last week, we published our annual children's Christmas Album, with drawings and stories from elementary and middle school kids. Some years I do some of the typesetting on the rough drafts of those stories, and as I page through them, transferring their pencil-written thoughts on paper to electronic words on the screen, I crawl inside their heads, and think about Christmas from their perspective. And that pushes me in the direction of the Christmas spirit as well.

One child this year, in the "how-to" section of the stories, was devising a plan to get to the North Pole to see if Santa Claus was real, and he came up with several ideas, but shot them down immediately after suggesting them.

He wrote:

  • Fly in an airplane but you might run out of gas.
  • Take a hot air balloon. But the wind might blow you the wrong way.
  • Go skydiving but the helicopter or airplane might run out of gas or you might get dropped in the wrong location.
  • Dreaming might get you there.

As soon as I read that fourth option, that's all it took for me. A very wise soul named Josh at our elementary school flipped my Christmas spirit switch.

Tomorrow, and probably Tuesday as well, I'll spend time with the people who mean the most to me. Hopefully tonight, as soon as I hit Publish on this entry, I'll get to hang for a few hours with another group of people very high on my list.

And still others will get a note, a phone call, an (impersonal) e-mail (shut up; I'm a single guy, don't bother me about Christmas cards, OK?) or even a blog comment saying, "you rock. happy holidays."

That's what this season
is all about to me:
The people. The laughs.
The memories.

And it never hurts to dream.
Who knows where it might lead?

Happy, Merry, Jolly, everyone.
May you laugh often.

"I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day.
We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and
humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my
Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus
I drift along into the holidays—let them overtake me
unexpectedly—waking up some fine morning and suddenly
saying to myself, 'Why this is Christmas Day!' "
—David Grayson

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Big Tuna Swims With The Dolphins

ESPN's football IQ plummeted earlier this week when it was reported that Bill Parcells would be leaving his position as an NFL analyst and taking a job as the Miami Dolphins' vice president of football operations.

Parcells has run this route before, retiring from football and sitting behind a desk at ESPN for a season before being wooed back into the game by a team desperate for a dose of his football acumen.

If it's not the Detroit Lions...and it never is...I whine a bit selfishly that I won't get to listen to his genius-speak on my favorite sports network. Although during his most recent coaching stint in Dallas, he was on TV often enough, both in games and interviews, that the symptoms of withdrawal never surfaced.

Now he's moving into the front office in Miami, and says without pause that he will not name himself the head coach.

Although, take from that what you will. The day before he signed his deal with the Dolphins, he was a dotted i and a crossed t away from being introduced as the Atlanta Falcons' veep. And in the time it takes to run a contract through the shredder, that deal was dead and he was packing for Miami instead of Atlanta.

For now, I take Parcells at his word that his days of stalking the sideline wearing a headset are over. He's 66, and many of his critics are quick to point out that his best coaching is behind him, and that he can't reach today's player with his dictatorial demeanor.

"Bull!" I say. But then I might be a tad biased.

Speaking of biased, one of the most entertaining sidebars to this whole drama involves Dan Le Batard, a nationally recognized sports columnist for the Miami Herald.

Le Batard wrote a column immediately after the hire, casting Parcells in the most negative light, calling him names and arguing that he gets so much more credit for being a football guru than he deserves.

His hatred of Parcells boiled over during an appearance on Colin Cowherd's show on ESPN Radio, when Le Batard said he despises Parcells so much that he's one of the sports figures on Le Batard's short list that he'd like to meet in the ring for a mixed martial arts bout.

I take quite the opposite stance when it comes to the Big Tuna. I'd much rather buy him a beer than put him in a submission choke hold.

In listening to callers' commentary and reading their reactions on forums and blogs, it's clear that a lot of people don’t like Parcells. It's also clear that a lot of people do.

I've fallen into the latter category ever since I knew who Bill Parcells was. The only name higher on my list of favorite professional football figures is Barry Sanders.

And now Parcells is back, to try his hand at rebuilding his fifth NFL franchise. Let's face Miami, there's nowhere to go but up. Just how far up, however, will become evident over the next few seasons.

I don't expect to see Lombardi Trophies and Super Bowl banners anytime soon in southern Florida. But one thing will be clear:

Bill Parcells will be calling all the shots.

"My entire life has been spent thinking
about this game. That's pretty narrow...I don't
view myself as a person who's well-versed in
very many subjects. I'm not proud of that."
—Bill Parcells

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hotter Than José Cuervo

[Warning: Reading the following entry will cause your IQ to drop by at least 20 points...perhaps more. If you're concerned with preventing damage your current IQ, or if you possibly don't have an extra 20 points to spare, please click immediately over to here. Or to here. But by no means should you click here, which might cause irreparable harm.]

I watched the finale of "A Shot At Love" last night, (I warned you!) that stupid show on MTV with Tila Tequila, who was supposedly looking for love from a pool of guys and girls (she's bisexual). And what better way to find love, of course, than to get your own show on a music television channel that no longer plays music, and watch approximately 30 people desperate for their 15 minutes of fame and willing to play character roles vie for your attention through games and challenges. All in the name of, Yeah, that's it. Love.

I must unequivocally state that I did not race home from darts last night for the sole purpose of watching the final episode. I just happened to be home early, and I was channel surfing past MTV and there it was. I knew they were getting close to the final two contestants, because I may or may not have watched some of the earlier episodes in the series (fine...I did), and I was at least curious to see if she'd pick the guy or the girl. (shocking, isn't it, that it coincidentally came down to one guy and one girl. I was...stunned.)

Now. In my defense, I am a guy. And Tila is rather easy on the eyes. But that is one laaame defense. It's not like I made the time every week to sit down and watch new episodes. And I didn't TiVo it, or DVR it...because I can't. Don't have the technology. But MTV has this habit of repeating its shows about 674 times per week, so it was pretty easy to follow the storyline throughout and see who got eliminated and who got a key (to Tila's heart, presumably) and advanced to the next round.

So yeah. Last night I got to see how it all wrapped up. I feel, ya know?

A post like this is probably a good place to admit that I've also seen more than my share of the seasons of "The Real World" and "Road Rules," too. (oooh, that's gonna leave a mark.)

The idea behind those shows really is a bit fascinating, just to see how diverse groups of people react and co-exist when thrown into extreme situations. But part of it, too, is all about seeing who's going to hook up with whom, and where, and how soon after they meet. And how much of it MTV's gonna show.

I know at least one regular reader of this blog who's probably logged as many "Real World" hours as I have, but I won't go so far as to "out" him/her. I'll leave that up to each individual reader to decide how much they wish to reveal about their MTV viewing habits.

But it's sooo lonely out here on this one-man Isle of Shame. So, please...share.

Even if it's not MTV-related...what are your guilty viewing pleasures? C'mon. Be brave. They can't possibly be worse than "A Shot At Love" or many many seasons of "The Real World" and "Road Rules" and "The Real World/Road Rules Challenges."

I seriously need to go read a book.

"A computer lets you make more mistakes faster
than any invention in human history—with the
possible exceptions of handguns and tequila."
—Mitch Ratcliffe

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Bones.

I took a creative writing class in college, which turned out to be rather short on creativity, as I look back on it. The prof who taught it wasn't too enthused about the subject material...but the one thing she did that I'll always be grateful for, is introduce me to Natalie Goldberg. Not the actual person, unfortunately, but her first book, "Writing Down The Bones."

It was a requirement for the class, and almost as soon as I bought it, I was hooked. The book is made up of about sixty-five short paragraphs of two or three pages each, with titles like, "Man Eats Car," "One Plus One Equals A Mercedes-Benz," and "Don't Marry The Fly."

Turns out that was the only good thing to come out of that class, but it was more than enough. And that's where my "relationship" with Goldberg began. She preaches simplicity, specificity, and allowing yourself to let loose and write anything that's flowing through your brain at any time. (Hence, the Benz above.)

And her mantra, which I've quoted in other posts throughout this blog, is six carefully chosen words: Just write, just write, just write.

She's a Zen Buddhist, so much of her Zen practice shows up in her writing, and in her teachings about to be present and concentrate at a very deep level, yet not concentrate at all to stifle the writing that wants to come out.

I was fortunate enough to meet her several years ago at a book signing in Milwaukee, when she was promoting her book, "Thunder and Lightning," which was a sequel to her "Bones" book and the one that followed it, "Wild Mind." Her first two books highlighted her rules for writing practice, and "Thunder and Lightning" focused more on turning all that practice and the lessons you've learned into something more polished.

Gregg thinks I rock!
It was amazing to just...hang with her, and sit and listen to her talk about her craft, read from her book, and answer questions from the smallish crowd. I didn't know a lot about Buddhism back then (and I still don't now), but it was as if there was this...aura...around her, or something. (I realize that I'm writing right now like the characters in "My So-Called Life" talked, but...I don't know how to describe it.)

A couple years after that first meeting, I found out that she was coming around again to promote her memoir that interwove her life with her dad and her Zen teacher. This time, her tour was bringing her to Chicago...on a Monday night. Chicago's about a three-hour drive for me.

I tried to talk myself out of it (not very vigorously, mind you), arguing with myself that it just wasn't worth three hours of driving down and three hours of driving back to spend an hour or so in between in Natalie Goldberg's presence.

"Feh!" I shot back at myself. And late one Monday afternoon in October 2004, down the interstate I went. (quit looking at me so strangely.) It was worth every mile. And if I knew she was coming back anywhere in the tri-state area next week, I'd do it again.

She lives in Taos, New Mexico, and the way she describes it, the sky in Taos is bluer than any other blue in the world. I've been planning a trip to see that blue for more years than I can count, and I know I'll get there. But trips to Vegas and New York City kept bumping that destination further down on my travel plans.

I don't know if I'll ever get to see Goldberg at another book signing, or if I'll ever be lucky enough to take one of her week-long writing workshops. I do know that one day I'll see the part of the country that she's called home for many years...and I also know that I'll continue to read, and reread, and reread, her books, absorbing every syllable she has to share.

And I hope I always heed her mantra:
Just write, just write, just write.

"So it is very deep to be a writer.
It is the deepest thing I know. And I think,
if not this, nothing—it will be my way in
the world for the rest of my life. I have to
remember this again and again.
—Natalie Goldberg

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Say It With Me...


If I'm not hip enough for an iPod, I'm surely not hip enough to use the word "w00t" in general conversation, or even blog entries. Am I?

I better get with the program, though. Because Merriam-Webster...yes, the dictionary people of dictionary people...has named "w00t" its Word of the Year 2007. A funny little word with two zeroes for o's...and why? Wh0 kn0ws? (actually, it's a common practice in computer hacker language. I just learned that tonight, and if you clicked on the link, so did you.)

w00t (interjection)

expressing joy (it could be after a triumph, or for no reason at all);
similar in use to the word "yay."

Love that definition. "...for no reason at all." So you're well within your rights to go around saying, "w00t! w00t! w00t! w00t!" all day. But that'd be quite a bit of joy to express.

The word hasn't found its way into the print edition of Merriam-Webster yet, but if words like "McJob" are in there, "w00t" probably isn't far behind. (I have a feeling that "McJob" has the McDonald's people pretty McPissed.)

If this guy is hip enough to say things like, "w00t!", I think I might stick with "yay."

"If your strength is small,
don't carry heavy burdens.
If your words are worthless,
don't give advice."
—Chinese Proverb

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mix Well For Sheer Eclecticism

So what did Gregg listen to at work today, with his DellPod stuffed full of so many new selections from which to choose?

After yesterday's post, I know that's what you must have been asking yourself at least a handful of times throughout the day. I could almost hear it through my headphones.

Wishing to provide you with as complete an answer as possible, I made a list...and here, in order, are the groups on which I stopped to listen to two or three or several selections as I waded through my Monday.

Rhythm Corps
Barenaked Ladies
The Kinks
Depeche Mode
England Dan & John Ford Coley
Jake Coco
Janis Joplin
Kenny Rogers
Little River Band
"My So-Called Life" soundtrack
The Presidents of the United States of America
Counting Crows (some bootleg versions of shows in Chicago and at Woodstock '99 that I hadn't yet ripped and loaded)

I might very well be the only person on earth who had England Dan & John Ford Coley playing in their ears today. And does anyone remember the song, "Common Ground," from Rhythm Corps? Love. That. Song.

"Music, the greatest good that mortals know,
And all of heaven we have below."
—Joseph Addison

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Too Hip For A DJ?

I spent part of both days this weekend ripping music and adding it to my DellPod, a task that I was consumed with for a couple hundred discs when I first got my mini music player, but then neglected for months at a time.

Along the way, if I'd get a new disc that I just had to have on my player, I'd rip one, or maybe two, at a time. And then I'd go back to avoiding the chore. Once in a great while I'd get another burst of ambition and rip a couple dozen discs.

This weekend, for some reason, I plowed through about fifty more. Which means that tomorrow at work, I'll have plenty of (quote)new(unquote) music to choose from. Kinda like rediscovering your own CD collection, isn't it?

My music always used to be impeccably arranged (I must ashamedly admit it was alphabetical...not autobiographical, like John Cusack's character in "High Fidelity" did with all of his vinyl), but for the past couple years, it was arranged in a different way: shelves of stuff that's been ripped, and shelves of stuff waiting to be ripped. I can't believe the neurotic side of me has let it sit that way for so long. But it has.

My DellPod has logged many hours of service, and been a faithful companion, but I fear the time is drawing near when I'll have to consider replacing it. The power button is a little touchy at times, and it's got a couple glitches.

I chose the Dell version I don't even know how many years ago, because at the time, the DellPod was a hundred bucks less than the same size iPod, and I was all about saving the hundred bucks. Of course, almost as soon as I bought mine, the prices became more comparable, the hard drives started getting bigger, and my player soon began to look like a big ol' 8-Track tape.

But I was happy with my decision at the time. I consulted a tech-geeky buddy for his opinion, and he said he saw no reason to not buy the Dell model, except, " won't be a hip kid with an iPod, then." I considered that statement: kid? hip?...hahahahaha. And called Dell and ordered their 20GB DJ.

My nephew got the same DJ just a couple months later as a Christmas gift, and I always chided him about catching up to me with his song library. Before long, the hip kid-ness in him took over, and he got a fancy-pants 30GB video iPod, and his mom inherited the DJ. So now he talks about how many movies he's got loaded...not songs. I'm really falling behind on the hip-o-meter now!

I imagine when my DellPod finally is ready for the mp3 graveyard, I'll replace it with a shiny new iPod. Cuz I'm just hip like that.

Oh, and because they're not a hundred bucks more anymore, either.

"Country music is three chords and the truth."
—Harlan Howard

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Be Sure To Write.

Every so often, when I need a little inspiration and motivation to help me remember what it is I want to be when I grow up, I pop in my "Finding Forrester" DVD, and get lost in the story.

If you haven't seen it, it's about a kid from the Bronx who wants to be a writer. Doesn't sound like an entirely action-packed movie, huh? Well...there aren't any car chase scenes, and no helicopters crashing into skyscrapers, either.

But I'm usually more impressed with movies that explore the human condition and delve into personal relationships than I am with movies like, "Die Hard 17: Die, Already...Die!" (funny, there's no IMDB link for this title. yet.)

Jamal Wallace, the teenager from the Bronx, is played by newcomer Rob Brown, who forms an odd but compelling relationship with a reclusive literary legend in William Forrester, played by Sean Connery.

I get totally immersed watching these two interact, but that may be in part because of the nuggets of writing wisdom sprinkled throughout their conversations.

One day in Forrester's apartment, he ponders aloud: "Why is it the words we write for ourselves are always so much better than the words we write for others?"

He sits down with Jamal, the two facing each other, a manual typewriter in front of each of them, and says as he starts to type...

"Go ahead."

Jamal: "Go ahead and what?"

Forrester: "Write."

Jamal: "What are you doing?"

Forrester: "I'm writing, like you'll be, when you start punching those keys."


Forrester: "Is there a problem?"

Jamal: "No, I'm...just thinking."

Forrester: "No. No thinking, that comes later."

Then Forrester continues with his advice: "You write your first draft with your heart, and you rewrite with your head. The first key to writing write! Not to think."

For those of us who just finished a month of writing, we learned all about that first key, didn't we? No matter what, put ass in chair...and write.

If somehow, "Finding Forrester" has slipped past you unnoticed and you haven't seen it, this writer gives it high marks. I can usually take or leave Sean Connery, but he and Rob Brown are great. And the verbal head-butting scene between Jamal and one of his professors is worth the rental fee.

Early in their relationship, Jamal asks Forrester, "What's it feel like?"

"What?" asks Forrester.

"Writin' something the way you did."

"Perhaps you'll find out," he tells the boy.


"To be a writer, you have to first
stick your neck out and take a chance
and then be willing to make a fool of yourself
and give yourself away."
—Jessamyn West

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Wanna Draw?

I wish I was more creative. It might be a gross understatement to say that I'm not exactly overflowing with artistic talent.

People who can draw and paint and mold big globs of clay into ornate pottery worthy of the Ming or any other dynasty...well, I just don't know how they do it. But I've always wanted to.

I got the opportunity to reminisce a while back when I was looking through a selection of books to order from one of those book clubs that promises you everything short of a jet airplane for a buck if you'll only give their club a chance.

They upped their ante by a book this time—six for six bucks—and that pushed me over the edge. I'm a sucker for nearly free books. But I digress.

One of the choices that got an immediate "Book To Order" check mark was a titled called, "Drawing for Dummies."

That sent me rolling back to my childhood summers when a neighbor and I would utter two simple words when all other recreational possibilities had been exhausted. "Wanna draw?"

After swimming at the local pool, or playing pickle or tag or guns, out would come stacks of paper and handfuls of pencils, and we'd draw other worlds from outer space or helmets from our favorite football teams or designs for elaborate traps to capture the vicious neighborhood wiener dog.

Our creative energy knew no bounds, even if we weren't Picasso or Van Gogh.

And don't we all remember Bob Ross from public television? The painter with the afro so big he could hide his palette in there.

He was famous for his paintings of happy clouds and happy trees and happy nature scenes of all kinds, and for his soothing voice that made you think he could bring about world peace if only all the leaders of nations would come together for one of his seminars.

The guy was happy. And boy, could he paint.

He'd always start with a blank canvas and a brush that looked better suited to touching up your house trim than creating artistic masterpieces.

Several stiff stabs with a three-inch brush and he'd immediately have a horizon laid out. A few more and mountains magically appeared.

Then he'd take something that can best be described as an angled stick (probably not the technical artist's term) and with a vertical scrape or two he'd have majestic trunks of pine trees looming in the foreground.

He'd build his paintings like this, element by element, with what seemed like standard household utensils.

I was in awe. Was art really that easy?

Not so much.

While he was creating such saleable pieces as "Morning Dew on Forest Floor" or "Sunlight on Yonder Hills," my efforts with a staining brush and crooked stick would have been more appropriately named, "Mess on Canvas I" and "Mess on Canvas II." (It's a series! Collect all forty-eight!)

I could never change the channel when he was on. I had to see how he'd effortlessly bring a mountain brook babbling through his paintings or create a hollowed out tree trunk where a happy little chipmunk could live.

I've got tremendous respect for the talents of the editorial cartoonists who can caricaturize popular figures that we can actually recognize when they put their pens down, or those who fill the panels of comic strips with enough interest that make readers turn to them on a daily basis.

Perhaps I'm able to occasionally string together a word or two that makes a good story (occasionally), but put a pencil in my hand, and I don't seek out a sketch pad, I reach for the nearest crossword puzzle.

I've got big plans, though. With my newest art manual and the memory of Bob Ross alive and well in my head, I'm going to learn to draw. Dummy that I am.

Maybe my stick figures will take some shape now.

"They couldn’t find the artist,
so they hung the picture."
—Gerald F. Lieberman

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Pretty Woman, Stop A While

I love TNT's policy of showing the same movie back to back. It's as if they're saying, "We know you just finished watching this movie, but we've really got nothing better to air, unless you might find that test pattern screen an intriguing option, Watch it again.

(the sad part is...sometimes I do.)

Tonight's double feature of a single movie was, "Pretty Woman." It's been ages since I saw that movie, and I channel surfed past TNT during the end of it. (well...the end of the first showing, as I soon found out.)

At the risk of losing some of my Guy Points, I used to think that was a pretty cool movie, because I used to think that Julia Roberts was pretty cool. In my defense, when she burst onto the Hollywood scene in that role, she reminded me sooo much of a girl I used to know. Same style, same mannerisms, similar speech patterns and habits. And no...the girl I knew wasn't a hooker.

Now when I see Julia Roberts, though, I don't think of the girl I used to know. I wish it was still that simple. Now all I see is someone who's been injected with fame and fortune and let it completely go to her head. Sure, she still makes some decent movies, and is one of the highest box office draws in Hollywood. Swell.

But I've seen her on too many talk shows over the years where she's completely fake and insincere and attention-starved and...such a long way from the naive little prostitute who got into Richard Gere's lawyer's Lotus on Hollywood Boulevard and became famous.

Hey, maybe I shouldn't judge too harshly. Maybe an Oscar and twenty million a movie would turn me into an arrogant asshole, too.

But I kinda miss the Pretty Woman,
and the awkward girl from Mystic Pizza.
And the girl I used to know.

What other celebs do you think have gotten too full of themselves after reaching the top rung of the ladder in Hollywood?

"It's funny when people say, 'I don't think
Julia likes me.' Honey, if I don't like you,
you're going to know about it."
—Julia Roberts

Monday, December 03, 2007

One Hot Dog, Hold The...

I realize I'm not going to win any blogging awards for soul-searching or deep thinking by asking this question, but I can't help myself.

What do you put on your hot dog?

I ask because I had hot dogs yesterday, and I just happened to have a very well-stocked condiment shelf in my fridge. And boy did I...go...crazy.

Ketchup. Mustard. Relish (not the sweet stuff...the other stuff). Cheese. And some of my dad's homemade horseradish (whew! burn off the nose hairs a little bit).

Am I the only person who can slather a hot dog bun full of condiments, forget to add the hot dog, and probably not even notice??

While I love to add four or five (hundred) different condiments to my hot dogs when I have the chance, the one drawback to that is when you've got everything stuffed in there, and you wrap the bun carefully around it all, trying not to lose any of the ingredients, as soon as you take your first bite, the back seam of the bun rips open, leaving you with two separate halves flapping against the dog, red and yellow and green spilling everywhere onto your fingers and the plate below, and quite frankly (get it?) an unsatisfactory hot dog-eating experience overall.

If anyone out there can manufacture some kind of edible hot dog zipper pouch or something, I'll put as much funding behind it as I'm able, because these puny little hot dog buns just aren't cutting the mustard. *ba dum bump*

I realize that many people don't share my love of condiments, but there are enough others who do. Please, help. We're going through napkins at an alarming rate.

So. Back to my question. Do you put a one-squeeze line of ketchup down the middle of your hot dog and call it good, or do you add dozens of different flavorings by the steamshovelful. (now not a pretty-looking word.)

Or...(third option) you avoid those cylindrical tubes of mystery turkey, chicken and pork "products" and buy tofu instead?

I'd create one of those fancy polls, but it's kinda late, and I really don't know that I want my first poll to be about hot dogs. That'd be embarrassing.

For the record...I can eat hot dogs with just ketchup on them as well. As I did for most of this challenge, if I remember correctly. (For those of you curious about the reference to 58 brats in the opening paragraphs of that post, please click here for that tale.)

And after posting those two links, I should probably take this space to say farewell to the new readers I may have attracted in the past month, as they get to see what the early days of this blog were filled with. I'm not proud. (well...I am, kinda. or I wouldn't have created the links. right?)

It's not just punctuation, prepositions and proverbs, people. There's good old-fashioned gluttony, too. (yay.)

"Some people wanted champagne and caviar
when they should have had beer and hot dogs."
—Dwight D. Eisenhower

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Ready, Set Down...Channel Surf!

Today I discovered the depth of my loyalty to my favorite football team. When they're winning, it's like 20,000 leagues under the sea. (although I believe a league is actually a unit of distance and not depth, but if it's good enough for Jules Verne, it's good enough for me.) When they're losing...we're talking bathwater deep. In a household that's stingy about water conservation.

Now, lest you label me a fair-weather fan, let me tell you that I've been cheering for the Detroit Lions for 18 years, since Barry Sanders came into the NFL. There's been very little "fair weather" in those 18 years, and I still wear the stupid jacket and the stupid sweatshirt, and the stupid hat once in a while.

As the Lions were getting spanked by the Minnesota Vikings today, who as far as I can tell have only one good player, the remote control started to shake and shimmy on the table in front of me, and it leapt into my hands, shouting, "Press me! Press me!"

To rid myself of the misery, I gave the channel changer a few clicks, and landed on Comedy Central. And this (not my complete and utter failure to find a suitable professional football team for which to cheer) is what my post will be about tonight. Because what I found there was infinitely more entertaining than the Lions game.

Do you know who Demetri Martin is? If you don't, you should find out. Quickly. I think I may have seen him for a few short minutes once before. But today I got to watch nearly an hour of him, and forget all about what was going on in the NFL.

His style is something akin to Mitch Hedberg or Steven stuff that makes you wonder how anybody can have such a warped, creative, hilarious view of the world.

Definitely the highlight of my day...and this is a football Sunday in December!

So go find some Demetri Martin, and tell me what you think. Or if you've already seen him...let me know if I'm playing him up too big, or if he's really that good. I think he's really that good.

"Saying 'I'm sorry' is the same as saying
'I apologize.' Except at a funeral."
—Demetri Martin

"I keep a lighter in my back pocket all the time.
I'm not a smoker, I just really like certain songs."
—Demetri Martin

"If I ever saw an amputee getting hanged,
I'd probably just start calling out letters."
—Demetri Martin

Saturday, December 01, 2007

And On The Thirty-First Day...

There seems to be a contented calmness across the blogosphere tonight, as everyone sits back in one big collective, "ahhhh."

Perhaps I'm leading into December with a bit too much drama...because the numbers that participated in NaBloPoMo were somewhere around 6,200...and how many blogs are out there? Sixty million, I think? —ish? So I'm quite sure the blogiverse is still movin' and shakin' and hoppin' pretty good.

But my Google Reader doesn't have smoke pouring out of it like it did almost every day last month. There are posts trickling in here and there, but it's quieter. And it should be. I think many people are taking the day, or the weekend, or the next month off.

I'm sure there are some people who flew through the month without giving it a second thought. And there are some who struggled and toiled and maybe missed a day or two, because sometimes the day just gets away on you. Still others probably thought, "Blogs are stupid. Who'd wanna pay that much attention to a dumb blog, anyway??" (they probably weren't NaBloPoMo'ers.)

When I signed up in late October, I thought, "I can do this. I hope I do this. Can I really do this?" That was after ignoring this particular plot of cyber real estate for a good month and a half, and I honestly wasn't sure. Then...a few days in, I knew I could do it.

Several times during the month, my brain hurt, and my eyes got itchy, and thoughts raced through my head that said, "...what the hell am I going to write about tonight?" And then I found some words. Maybe not Pulitzer Prize-winning, perhaps not even blogosphere-worthy words. But...words. Some of them I'm actually pretty happy with. So it was a good exercise. Peel away the garbage, and at least something I wrote this month made me say, "Yeah. I can hit "Publish" now."

Now I have to see how well I keep up without the structure. Some nights in November, I was scrambling to put a little polish on an entry, and posted it at 11:42, or 11:47, or...11:54. Eeesh! Close calls. I don't have that once-a-day deadline anymore. If I happen to publish at 12:17am, tough shit, right? What I don't want to do is ignore this again...for weeks at a time.

Speaking of structure...the vague foreshadowing that I mentioned in last night's post is ultimately going to foreshadow, um, nothing. (bad use of foreshadowing, isn't it? remind me to take a foreshadowing workshop in the new year.)

As I was poking around on the BloPo forums last night, reading about everyone's victories, someone mentioned something called Holidailies, which is essentially another post-a-day challenge, from December 1 to January 1, on a much smaller scale than NaBloPoMo. As soon as I saw it, I was going to sign up right away, and keep the consecutive streak going.

But then I gave it a bit more thought as I ran some errands last night, came home and wrote that entry and gave it even more thought...and decided not to make it official. I'd love to stop by this blog on a daily basis, but I know I'm going to miss some days in the very near future. Simply because...because. I'm tired. And I'm pretty happy being a NaBloPoMo survivor. (although I'm tired of writing BlahBlahBlahBlah.)

Some people from November are even setting up a Blog365 project, which is...yep, you guessed it...every day for a year. While I applaud their effort, I won't even kid myself into thinking I can do that. I'm firmly behind the whole "writers should write every day" mantra, but writers should also be lazy on the couch once in a while, too. At least, this writer should.

This challenge has been a blast, and I've discovered some writers that make me say, "I wish I knew verbs like that." That's been a huge part of the fun, and I've got a list of about 6,000 other bloggers I can explore whenever I feel the urge, or get snowed in for seventeen straight days.

To the new people who've stopped by to say "hi," or "great post," or "you suck,"...I appreciate the comments. I'll try to suck less. And to those bloggers whose words I've become addicted to...hurry back. Or I'll start lobbying for you to join Blog365 so I get to read what's rattling around in your brains every day.

I'd close this long, rambling wrap-up with an inspirational push like, "Blog on!", but... lame would that be?

"You will never change your life until
you change something you do daily."
—Mike Murdock

Friday, November 30, 2007

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow...

I have every intention tomorrow of waking up at a reasonable hour and driving to a mall where they sell items that can be purchased, wrapped and given as gifts. Tomorrow being December 1, I believe this action will qualify as "Christmas shopping."

The date that I begin my Christmas shopping varies from year to year. During a few inspired years in the past, I've started my shopping in November. I've never finished in November...but I've started.

Being a guy of the male persuasion, Christmas shopping is not high on my list of favorite activities. Don't get me wrong...I'm not 100 percent Scrooge-ish. (maybe 70.) And I'm not opposed to buying gifts for the people in my life who rock. But it's finding the right gift (at which I'm horrible), and tolerating the mall crowds.

One year, in early December, I drove to an area mall that has one of those service road thingies around the parking lot area, and found myself stuck in total gridlock. Cars crawled at a pace so slow that snails were zooming past us, shouting, "I'll race you to the sale racks!"

Unable for nearly an hour to execute a right turn, which would have at least gotten me into the parking area...I found an opening to take a left turn in the direction of the highway out of there, and slammed down the accelerator, speeding off and ending my shopping day before it ever started. ("slammed down the accelerator" can be translated to read "gently pressed my foot against the pedal to avoid rear-ending another jolly shopper"; and "speeding off" can more accurately be described as "reached three miles per hour.")

I like to think I've mellowed a bit since then, and handle the crowds and cars and lines a bit more calmly. But I'd still rather go shopping in May or August than in December.

With all of those plans officially laid out, I must add here that there's snow in the forecast for this weekend. And if I wake up tomorrow and see even three or five snowflakes drifting through the air, I will promptly cancel my shopping trip, close my blinds and hibernate, waiting for a more suitable, weather-safe day on which to venture out.

Hence...the title of this post. (the latest weather reports, however, seem to indicate that if I do my shopping in the a.m. hours, I should find myself ahead of the 6-ish inches of snow that are apparently on the way.)

Besides, it's early yet. If I do get out to do some shopping, I'll realize how much time I actually have until the 25th, and plop myself down in a chair at Barnes & Noble, and hibernate there for the afternoon instead, among a billion books.

— • — • —

I'll probably do a bit of a NaBloPoMo wrap-up sometime tomorrow. (yes, tomorrow! on December 1...a day when I'm not even officially required to post anything.) We'll see what other surprises I can drum up for tomorrow's post as well. (oooh. vague foreshadowing is fun!!)

"Whoever said money can't buy happiness
didn't know where to shop."
—Gittel Hudnick

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Three G's, If You Please.

I've mentioned in the past that I'm slightly addicted to the sound the keys on a keyboard make when someone's really hummin' along, typing at a pretty good clip. It's a great sound, isn't it? It's like...progress, is being made. Or something. Hard to describe...but I love it.

Whether it's live and in person, or even in a movie, the sound attracts me. For instance...when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are writing e-mails back and forth to each other in "You've Got Mail" I the only one who watches that movie and hears the keys on those laptops, and suddenly gets the urge to go and write an e-mail? (please tell me I'm not the only one. or tell me I am the only one, and laugh at me. I can take it.)

These days, kids are taking keyboarding classes at a pretty young age, and learning how to "keyboard." I didn't become proficient at "typing" until I was out of high school. I never took a formal typing class, so I know I don't use all the right fingers on all the right keys (I use most of them, though), but I can make 'em clack pretty good when I have something I wanna get down on the screen.

This is a rather embarrassing admission mom was a typing teacher. As a full-time teacher early in her career, she taught typing and accounting and other business classes. But then she became a SAHM, and for many years taught typing in night classes and summer school classes.

I tried to take those summer classes several times when I was probably 11, 12 and 13 years old. But I never quite lasted the full term. I'd go to a few classes, and practice the routine of f..j..d..k..s..l..a..;, and then I'd tell myself, "It's summer! I don't want to be in a classroom." And my typing lessons would end. (I don't think I scored too many points with the teacher pulling stuff like that.)

I could hunt and peck my way across a keyboard, and manage quite nicely, but I never became good until I had a reason to sit down and practice regularly. Now I'm pretty good, I'm just not...correct. I guess I can live with that.

Gregg was a name in business manuals, and if you've ever seen a stenographer's notebook in an office supply store, some of them say, "Gregg ruled." I see that, and I think...past tense?? But I'm still here! It's Gregg rules, not Gregg ruled! (perhaps my time has come and gone.)

We had Gregg Typing Manuals and Gregg Shorthand Manuals in our house when I was growing up, and I like to think that was influential in my mom's decision to tack on that extra "g" at the end of my name, and call me Gregg instead of Gregory. I like being a Gregg. Never had any desire to be a Gregory, and sometimes, but not always, I'll make it a point to correct someone if they call me Gregory.

When I was younger I had a paper route, and every time I went to collect from this very sweet elderly lady, she made out a check and wrote my first name as "Gregory." I explained to her one time that my name was "Gregg," and her reply was, "...oh, but I like calling you Gregory."

So from that point on, I started calling her Marge, even though her name was Ethel.

I don't make an issue out of having my name misspelled if it's by someone I'm not going to encounter on a regular basis, but if I know that third "g" might be left off of something recurring, then I usually speak up and mention that my name's got three g's.

No big deal. Just...give that "g" key a second tap, and leave the "o", "r" and "y" keys unclacked. I'd tell you which fingers to use (or not use), but I'm not certain which ones are correct.

"We've heard that a million monkeys
at a keyboard
could produce the complete works
of Shakespeare;
now, thanks to the Internet,
we know this is not true."
—Robert Wilensky

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

He's Good Enough.

I guess it's time for me to pack up and hitchhike down the road. Or...across the state, as it were. Because I can't do any good in the state in which I currently reside.

Al Franken is running for the U.S. Senate. I've heard him speak of his political ambitions in the past, and apparently he officially announced his candidacy more than a month ago, but I didn't hear about it until I saw him on Letterman last night.

I want to vote for Al Franken. I want to campaign for Al Franken. I want to read Al Franken's books to people and give them piggyback rides to the polls next November. But I live next door. So I might have to become a Minnesotan, at least for a year. After that, I'll probably be moving to Washington D.C., as a member of Sen. Franken's staff.

Before you dismiss Al as nothing more than a dorky-looking guy who played Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live, let me tell you...he's smarter than you. (Yes, you.) (And you, too.) And he can out-debate you. Can we say that either of those statements is true of our present Commander In Charge of Being Called President?

I don't know if Al has presidential aspirations or not, but I consider the Senate to be just a stepping stone for him, and in eight or twelve years we'll be hearing a satirically laced State of the Union Address by President Franken.

One minor point of contention, on which I'll grant him a pass in the name of good humor, was a tongue-in-cheek shot he took at Wisconsin during his interview. He was talking about wind energy and its potential, and the jobs it could create, and the following (scripted) exchange took place:

Letterman: "Is Minnesota a very windy state?"

Future Sen. Al Franken: "Ohhh, yes. There's a lot of wind in Minnesota."

Letterman: "What makes Minnesota so windy?

Sen. Franken: "Well. I didn't say this, but I've's because the Dakotas blow, and Wisconsin sucks."

I'll give him that one. He'd still get my vote.

Today, the United States Senate. Tomorrow, the White House!

Because he's good enough...he's smart enough...and doggone it, I'd vote for him.

"When you encounter seemingly good advice
that contradicts other seemingly good advice,
ignore them both."
—Al Franken

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Let Me Be Perfectly...Frank.

Caught my first episode of "Frank TV" tonight, starring Frank Caliendo.

The half-hour sketch comedy show on TBS premiered last Tuesday, but I came home from darts and was too concerned about blogging my blog-a-day blog, and I forgot all about it. Tonight I made sure it was on my agenda.

Caliendo is a very talented impressionist, probably most famous for his John Madden impersonation. He also does Nicholson, Pacino, De Niro, Trump, Dr. Phil, and of course...Dubya. Tonight on his show he did a few seconds of Charles Barkley, and was quite good.

If he's one of today's best impressionists and freshest stand-up comedians, then why did I come away from his half hour show asking myself, " that it?"

Oh, sure...the sketches were all reasonably well done. He had a Trump infomercial, sharing his secrets on how to get rich. (Tip No. 1: Have a rich father, and ask him for money.) This skit made me grin, because Trump feuds so often with Mark Cuban, calling him a loser. And those who come to the defense of Cuban state the obvious, and the argument is pretty much over: Cuban is a self-made billionaire, and whether he rubs you the wrong way or not, he's one hell of a smart guy. Trump...had a rich daddy. Sure, he's made some money. But he had a rather sizeable handout with which to get started.

I digress.

A couple other sketches on Frank TV tonight were Pacino and De Niro as movie critics, and Dubya spending a little quality one-on-one time with America, after having neglected her for so long.

The impressions were all good, but the material was...flat. I chuckled here and there, but I didn't laugh out loud once during the 30 minutes.

I know I'll give him a second and third chance, because I think he's a very bright comedian. My fear is that before I'm able to give him an eighth or ninth chance, his show will be off the air and he'll be adding more dates to his stand-up tour.

Good luck, Frank.

"I am being frank about myself in this book.
I tell of my first mistake on page 850."
—Henry Kissinger

Monday, November 26, 2007

How I Am.

"How are you?"

Pretty simple question, isn't it? Often, you hear it more than a handful of times every day...some people care what your answer is, while others just ask it out of habit, as something that naturally follows the word "hi."


All the standard answers can be applied here:

Or swell.

My usual response, I guess, is, "Pretty good, how are you?" But I have to credit the movie, "Rounders," with giving me my favorite response to that question.

A little tangent, or this will be by far my shortest entry of the month.

The first time I rented "Rounders," I watched it three times. As soon as I finished watching it the first time, I sat through it a second time, and then several hours later, before I returned it...I watched it again.

Matt Damon and Edward Norton were so good in that movie. Could be because I was hooked on the plot (the seedy underworld of poker), but the cast of characters was phenomenal. John Turturro, John Malkovich, Martin Landau. If you haven't seen it, go get it. Or let me know, and I'll lend you my copy. It's not quite worn out...yet.

Near the end of the movie, Matt Damon's character, Mike McDermott, was talking to his ex-girlfriend, Jo, played by Gretchen Mol...whom he hadn't seen for a while. He'd been through a particularly rough couple days, and they had the following exchange:

Jo: "Are you OK?"

Mike: "Yeah...I'm OK. You?"

Jo: ".........I'm, how I am."

I realize that I borrowed that answer and applied it to a slight variation of the question, but it fits there, too. And "how are you" is a bit more common than "are you OK".

The tone of that response for me, I guess. Love it.


How are you?

"If you play bridge badly
you make your partner suffer,
but if you play poker badly
you make everybody happy."
—Joe Laurie Jr.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

In The Glow Of The Pale Moonlight.

After a particularly uneventful (read: lazy) Sunday morning and early afternoon, I decided to motivate out into the world and run a few errands today. And when I did, I was greeted by one of the most gorgeous moons I've seen in a long, long time.

(I would include photographic evidence here, but my lack of experience with manual exposure settings produced results that would not only not do the scenery the justice it so richly deserves, it would make you all stare oddly at the fuzzy blob captured on my memory card and then stop reading my blog forever. and I don't want that, so I'll have to promise to do better next time.)

The full moon was hanging so low in the sky when I drove toward it tonight, and had a warm pale golden glow to it, or a bit of a peach-colored hue. (not the fruit, but like a peach rose. see...a good photo would work wonders here, wouldn't it?)

I felt like if I drove far enough I could get right underneath it, and if I stood on the hood of my car, I'd be able to grab onto it and pull it out of the sky. I even made a half-hearted attempt, but then I realized that I didn't have enough gas in my tank, and probably wouldn't get back before midnight to publish my Sunday post if I kept driving, so I gave up, and just stared as I drove.

It was such a gorgeously different moon from the one I tried to photograph the night I met the most interesting character I've encountered this year. This one was not unlike a soft night-light to guide you through an unfamiliar hallway, whereas the moon from that night was as bright as a lone stadium floodlight, suspended high in the sky and doing its best to illuminate Earth's night game.

Someday I'd like to delve a little deeper into the properties of the moon and how the angle of the sun and the position of the Earth make the moon appear differently on different nights, but...I think the science of it might take away some of the mystery and romance of the moon, as well. I prefer to just stare, and ooh and ahh. Sure beats any fireworks I've ever seen.

A buddy of mine sent me an e-mail earlier this month, after he became aware of this NaBloPoMo challenge I'm now close to finishing. He told me he didn't want me to run out of topics to write about, so he created a list he thought might help me through the month.

A few of his suggestions included: G-spot — fact or fiction; favorite tree; real men don't cry — true or false; the obligatory celebrity top 5 "to-do" list; is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all; what is your biggest fear and why. All great topics worthy of several paragraphs on their own.

But one of the items on his list was....The Moon: Why do you like it so much?

He's seen me ogle the stars before...and become hypnotized by a sunset...and rave about the moon.

It still completely blows me away that more than four decades ago, a group of very smart, very adventurous people looked up into the night sky at the moon and said, "I wanna go up there." And then about 38 years ago, they took "one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."

I don't take for granted a brilliant moon, or a couple billion stars shining brightly, or a spectacular multi-hued sunset, or a meteor shower, or a sunrise (which I'd much rather stay up to see than get up to see...but the most awe-inspiring sunrise I've ever seen was when I woke up early to go salmon fishing out on Lake Michigan many years ago). They're all so much more affecting to me than any movie I could ever see.

And any place that's got a Sea of Tranquility is a place I'd love to spend some time.

Follow the moon.

"The sun, the moon and the stars would have
disappeared long ago had they happened to be
within the reach of predatory human hands."
—Havelock Ellis

Saturday, November 24, 2007

You're My Favorite!

My "Favorites" list in my Web browser is starting to look a bit unruly, disorganized, and quite frankly, about a mile and a half too long.

I've been trying to do some housecleaning among the folders, and it's not an easy task. I think I'm going to have to start using some discretion as to what URLs I drag there, because I'm in danger of becoming buried in bookmarks.

On the surface, my setup isn't the worst. It's got a bare-bones structure to it, with specific folders for sports, reading, writing, music, technical stuff, hobbies, etc. And some of those folders have a level or two of subfolders in them. Looking good so far, right?

Then would someone please tell me where all these bookmarks come from?

Am I the only one who can go online with a specific purpose in mind, such as checking the rushing totals of Detroit Lions running backs over the past three years, and within a few quick clicks find myself staring at a site that compares the volume of asparagus and kohlrabi exported to the United States from Thailand?

With all due respect to Kevin Bacon, it's got to be nearly impossible to find the six degrees of separation there.

And somewhere along that path, I always seem to find a handful of sites that look interesting enough to drag to my Favorites, sometimes filed correctly, sometimes dropped haphazardly wherever they land, and most times never to be clicked again.

The folder that seems to be the most difficult to control (and this month is making it that much worse...or better, if you look at it from the right perspective) is the Blogs folder.

I read quite a few blogs, and have subscriptions to many in my Google Reader. But I'm also compelled to file them in my Favorites list as well. Currently, my Blogs folder has subfolders titled Top Shelf Bloggers, Blogs On Blogging, Blogs To Consider, Tech Stuff, NaBloPoMo and People I Know. Aside from those folders, there are about 27 billion loose bookmarks that were added to the Blogs folder before I created those subfolders, and haven't been filed yet.

The folder that's getting the most traffic this month, obviously, is the NaBloPoMo folder. Because while the month is mostly about paying attention to your own blog every day, for me it's also been about spending obscene amounts of time clicking around on other NaBloPoMo-ers' pages and blogs. Eventually some of these links will be moved to Blogs To Consider, and there's no doubt that several will be catapulted directly into Top Shelf Bloggers. I've been fortunate to find some specTACular reading during November that on October 31 I didn't know existed.

This revelation means that I'll have to find a job with a three-day workweek in order to have enough hours to keep up on all the great new bloggers I found, and schedule laser eye surgery in the near future to get rid of that permanent itchy, scratchy, squinty, watery, blurry feeling that comes from staring at a monitor for 29 hours a day.

With a handful of days left to the finish line, I'm anxious to see how diligent I'll be at keeping up with Ton-Fifty-ONE. I certainly hope I keep writing. I know I'll keep reading.

Bookmarks to organize.
Blogs to read.
Thousands of others to peruse.

But for now...a poker game to get to.

"The Internet the piece of software
that puts a message on your computer screen
informing you that the Internet is currently busy
and you should try again later."
—Dave Barry

Friday, November 23, 2007

So...Am I Your Type?

Forgive the lame post title...I'm still a bit groggy from all the tryptophan I ingested yesterday.

I think today I'll revisit the personality types topic that I started a couple weeks ago when I made the shocking admission that I just may not be the most outgoing person on the planet.

That took care of one of the four letters that make up my personality type, and I was curious to find out what the other three were. So I found a couple tests online (Test 1) (Test 2) and set out clicking radio buttons in search of defining who the hell I really am. (as if The Internets can tell me that.)

Both tests came back with generally the same results, so I guess I didn't lie to myself too badly.

My results revealed that I'm an INFP:
(I)ntroverted, i(N)tuitive, (F)eeling, (P)erceiving.
With rather strong-leaning tendencies toward all of those letters, as all of my results came back with percentages of 70% or higher.

And when I read the summary of the INFP personality type, much of it was like hitting the nail on the head. And one of the characteristics was, "usually talented writers." The jury may still be out on the "talented" part, but with all the time I spend clacking keyboard keys, I can hardly deny that I'm a writer.

I feel so much

My life has a purpose. an I.N.F.P.

(oh, please.)

If you couldn't resist taking the tests yourself, what did you find out?

And did the results surprise you?

"We should take care not to
make the intellect our god;
it has, of course, powerful muscles,
but no personality."
—Albert Einstein

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Please Pass The Cranberries

Here in the wee early a.m. hours of this Thanksgiving Day, I must excitedly tell you that today is my favorite day of the year.

It's impossible to beat the three F's: family, food and football. Even if the Lions look like turkeys, there are still those first two F's to consider...and those are a couple mighty fine F's.

A Thanksgiving memory that has lived on and grown to nearly legendary status in my family is the tale of the cranberries.

Back about a thousand years ago when I was 11, I was moving the dish of cranberry sauce from the kitchen counter to the table...all of about eight feet. Unbeknownst to me, my sister was taking a photo of the general scene: my mom and grandma in the kitchen, the table all set in the dining area...and me.

As I turned to move toward the table, the flash on the camera went off (as evidenced by my closed-eye expression and the lovely shadows outlining me) and in my surprise I accidentally tilted the dish a bit too far (as evidenced by the gelatinous mass caught in mid-flop that is way too far gone to recover).

For years after that, it was my job to ceremoniously transport the cranberries from counter to table in a dramatic reenactment of the 1980 photo. (sans flop, of course.)

(for the record, this is the first...and hopefully of myself on this blog. flattering, isn't it?)

May you have many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
And may your cranberries be free of floor dust.

"Eternity is two people and a roast turkey."
—James Dent

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Hyphen Falls By The Wayside

The hyphen is starting to lose its place as a featured punctuation mark, as nearly 16,000 words lost their hyphens in the newest edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

Some formerly hyphenated words that have been split in two include ice cream, pot belly and test tube, while others that have been unified into compound words are bumblebee, chickpea, and crybaby.

Always a point of contention among word nerds and grammar geeks like myself, there’s a fine line between knowing when to present words as two separate words, a hyphenated word, or a compound word, and often times if you poll a group of language dorks, you might get several different answers, with each person claiming to be correct.

I’m one of those dorks. When I get it in my head that I’m right about something pertaining to language or grammar or punctuation or spelling, it’s very hard to sway my opinion. And in a rare head-swelling and ego-boosting moment, I must state here that I’m right more often than I’m wrong.

In the examples above, I would never have written “ice cream” with a hyphen, so I was surprised to read that older versions of the Shorter OED had it hyphenated. The current edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary spells it as two words.

One of the bibles that journalists and writers refer to is the Associated Press Stylebook, and in it the word “baby-sit” is listed as a hyphenated word. Now, I may not be as smart as all the researchers who compiled the entries in that book, but I will never...never...write that word any way other than “babysit.” And nobody will tell me any differently. Merriam-Webster spells it as a compound word, so that’s good enough for me.

Another instance where the Stylebook and Webster differ is on the word “backyard.” The Stylebook differentiates that “back yard” as a noun is two words (“The boys played wiffleball in the back yard.”) and “backyard” as an adjective is a compound word (“Summer is a great time for backyard barbecues.”).

That makes perfect sense to me, and I would have no problem using those words that way. But Webster lists them both as compound words. So for the sake of ease of use, I’ve taken to using “backyard” the noun as a compound word.

The hyphen has been losing popularity as more informal ways of communicating, such as e-mails and text messaging, begin to influence word usage on Web sites and in newspapers and books.

The story I read also said, and I have to quote this directly because it sounded so good to me, was that “another factor in the hyphen’s demise is designers’ distaste for its ungainly horizontal bulk between words.”

Seriously, now. I thought I was overly nitpicky, but..."ungainly horizontal bulk”? That’s priceless.

Arguing language and word usage can sometimes be about as worthwhile as arguing politics. Everybody’s right, and everybody’s wrong.

As long as you can find a source to cite that backs your same opinion, you can argue your side of the issue until you turn blue in the face.

And no matter how convincingly you make your case, it won’t be long until you again find words written and spelled and used in ways that you would never consider using them.

If you’ve got a bookshelf (book shelf? book-shelf?) lined with dictionaries and English manuals, you’ll be pretty well armed when you bring your opinions to the table.

Gotta run, but...does anyone have the name of the babysitter who was stung by a bumblebee while eating some ice cream, and then turned into a crybaby?

“I am a bear of very little brain,
and long words bother me.”
—Winnie The Pooh

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Didja See Da Tirty Pointer?

Do you know how I know that it's deer hunting season?

My inbox starts to fill up with photos of eight-pointers and ten-pointers.

I don't hunt. I've never had a whitetail strung up on the buck pole. (I think that's the correct terminology, I'm not sure.) It's not because of a lack of opportunities...I've got a brother-in-law and a couple buddies who hunt, and I've had several invitations. And it's not because I'm too sensitive to kill Bambi, blah blah blah. (I looove me some venison!)

I just...haven't gotten out in a tree stand with a gun and the requisite percentage of blaze orange from the waist up. But one of my buddies, whom (who? whom? there an English teacher in the house? *ahem*) I've known all my life, sends me tales of the hunt each season, and I think I might be the non-hunter who gets most excited to hear his hunting stories. It helps that he's a great storyteller, too, but I get a big kick out of hearing what he's up to out there.

This year, he took seven shots, and put down six deer...three bucks, three does. And a maple tree. (I'm going to have to tell him to save me a couple loin steaks from that maple; I hear they're very tender.)

Growing up, we spent countless hours on each other's driveways, playing basketball...but now he's a state away, and it's not quite as easy to get together and just hang. It's been a while, actually. I need to take a road trip.

He's quite diligent about keeping people up to speed on his life, sharing family photos and hunting stories and golf stories. And I can hear him talking when I open up one of his e-mails and read his words. In the absence of being able to jaw in person, there's not much better than that.

I doubt that you could find a more personable hunting guide, and I've thought more than once about giving it a shot. *ba dum bump* Even if I didn't see too many deer, just being out in a tree stand as the sun comes up...alone in the woods with your thoughts. That can't be such a bad way to spend some time, eh?

(what's that line that's rolling around in my head? "...I thought I'd spend some time alone with my thoughts, and you know...turns out that I don't have all that many thoughts!" Is that a Joey line from Friends? I know I've heard it somewhere before.)

Well...some people are using this NaBloPoMo challenge to list one thing each day for which they are thankful. While I haven't used that as a template for my entries, I'll end this particular post by saying that I'm thankful I get to live vicariously through a good friend and read about his journeys through the woods and his time in his tree stands.

"There is a passion for hunting something
deeply implanted in the human breast."
—Charles Dickens

Monday, November 19, 2007

What's Good...And Bad...On TV?

As I'm feeling a bit random tonight, I thought I'd throw out a few random television musings I've been pondering lately.

  • I saw it again on Sunday morning, and I don't mean to pick on kids. But what the hell is that Jason Krause kid doing on Sunday NFL Countdown on ESPN? If his regular weekly feature was so engaging you couldn't turn away, or if he was an ultra-cute 10-year-old kid...I could almost see the point. But neither of those is even remotely true. He's got a regular gig on ESPN, folks! I wonder what rich uncle of his has a corner office at the network.

  • Speaking of ESPN long is Emmitt Smith going to have a job there? Love the guy, he's nothing but class. But he doesn't do well behind a desk with a camera pointed at him.

  • Moving over to CNN, does anyone besides me think Candy Crowley is brilliant? Any time I see her on my TV, I always feel like I'm going to learn something, or a whole big bunch of somethings.

  • Late Night Pick-Em: Leno? Or Letterman?

  • I've heard more than a few people rip on the show, "Two And A Half Men," but that's one of the few shows that I try to make time for every week. Am I alone in this thought? Or am I of such a simple mind that I'm lowering myself to appreciate such an elementary sitcom? I think the cast has great chemistry.

  • Back to late night: I don't watch him very often, except during the opening theme song to see who the guests are...but how annoying is Conan O'Brien's entrance? He does the same thing every night...struts out onto the stage, gets to his mark and does an overemphasized jump into the air, flails his arms in something of a windmill point over to Max Weinberg, and then pulls off a 360 spin on a dime, and turns to the crowd with a few head bobs. Correct me if I'm wrong, but most viewers of shows at that time of the night are adults, right? If he's going to take over Leno's time slot in a couple/few years, the boy's gotta grow up. It's also a little obnoxious to see him try to manipulate half of the air time when his guests are sitting right next to him. He's not only a bad interviewer, he's a camera hog. And I think he's won Emmys, too, hasn't he? I don't see it.

  • OK, from an Emmy winner I don't care for, to an Emmy winner I'll vehemently defend as intelligent, entertaining, and one of the best in the business: John Madden. I just may be in the minority here. He's definitely a love-him-or-hate-him personality, and I fall into the former category. I know he rubs a lot of people the wrong way, but you don't win fourteen Emmys by accident.

  • And lastly...Nancy Grace. (I think that's all I have to say, because just the mention of her name should have knocked most of you off your chairs from laughing so hard.) Seriously, who keeps her on the air? Is it the same people that are excited about the revival of Britney Spears' singing career? (side note: Amy Poehler does a killer Nancy Grace character on Saturday Night Live. check it out if you have the chance.)

"The fewer rules a coach has,
the fewer rules there are for
players to break."
—John Madden