Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pic doesn't do it justice


This evening ...

Don't feed the squirrels



I feed the squirrels in my back yard.

Some of the food they get from me is meant for birds. But, the squirrels are so determined to get to it that it amuses me more than bothers me.

For the cat it is like having Avatar in the back yard, a life sized 3D jungle world for him to sit and stare at, only with a better plot.

Then the other day I had an extra piece of drying out corn bread. I stepped outside and tossed it to what seems to be the Alpha squirrel, the one that stands up to me, is absolutely not afraid of the cat, and tries to get inside sometimes when I open the door.

I toss the corn bread. I don't mean to, but I hit him square in the chest with it. He doesn't even flinch, like he is some kind of super squirrel. He has what I think are 6 other squirrels under his command and my daughter says is 7. He picks up the corn bread and takes a bite, suddenly diving in like a fury. Another squirrel comes over and takes a nibble. Not long after one of the squirrels has the corn bread up in a tree going to town on it and obviously trying to keep it for his or her own use only. The corn bread finally breaks and is dropped. Squirrels scurry around and later when I look outside, the cornbread is gone.

Stoppage Time (Oxymoron Project)

I love stoppage time against a rival ... my team is up 1 with the ball and the opponent is chasing, maybe you get the ball in the corner and have a player who can hold position and dance ...

Stoppage Time is different now that we basically know how much there is. I say basically because despite being a timed game no one ever really knows how much time there is on the clock.

Attempts have been made to make the scoreboard clock official. In the early years of MLS the clock counted down, was official, and the referee would indicate when it should stop and start again due to things like goals, cards, or injuries. Essentially, everyone would know exactly how much stoppage time there was in a game because we could watch and keep track of the stoppages. However, to soccer purists and wannabe purists who believe everything about soccer must be done the way the English League does things this was a terrible and embarrassing concept and American soccer could not possibly be taken taken seriously and the USA will never win the World Cup because of it. College soccer still counts down and keeps the official clock on the scoreboard and faces scorn and ridicule to this day by those same fans in part for having the audacity to maintain such an obviously horrible and bizarre practice.

In recent years the 4th official now holds up a sign with a number indicating the stoppage time to come. It's closer to telling us the actual time, cuts down on the sort of shenanigans some teams or refs might try to pull, has seemingly eliminated the mysterious 96th minute home PK, and led to the discovery that there is a 4th official in existence in the first place.

Coaches are much less likely to stand on the sidelines pointing at their watches in the 91st minute because anyone with a watch can look at it when the 4th official holds up a 3 and know when the whistle will likely come. Players are more likely to be booked (I guess we don't use the word carded any more) for obvious stalling when we all know that there are three minutes left.

I still cannot understand why knowing when a timed event is going to end is actually a bad thing, but at least the 4th official notification has become a real positive for the game.

Imagine if football did not disclose the time? It would be suicide for a coach to call for the QB to take a knee.

Imagine if the shot clock in basketball was a mystery? If the game clock was a mystery in hoops would teams still foul down the stretch for an advantage if they could not know for certain they were helping themselves? Bear in mind basketball breaks down its clock to tenths of a second.

Imagine all the people living life in peace.

Food for thought.

Still, we don't actually have a Stoppage Time clock at the stadium, it just sort of stops at 90:00 ... weird. It is better than the old method where it would just stop counting down at 2:00 or at 0:00 and the game would keep going and the announcer would say something like, "Official time is now being kept on the field by the referee." As if official time wasn't really always being kept there in the first place.

So, the new era of known Stoppage Time has also brought with it an improvement in the fan experience. When your team is leading and has possession and the opponent is chasing frantically, it is one of those great moments in sports. You know your team is winning and you can taunt. When the other team has possession you can know that it really could be their last chance to tie it up and vice versa ... It is like in football when you get that last first down and know your QB can now call the Victory Play (taking a knee), or in hoops when the opponent keeps fouling but your shooters keep hitting their free throws, or in baseball when your closer has two strikes and two outs and a heck of an Out Pitch ...

Me, I love to watch the other team chase and their collective body language when they know that they are wasting their time ...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Unsolicited advice

One day last fall I was imparting some wisdom to a group of students and this list followed. It is a bit of unsolicited advice. Take it for what it is.

1 - The small stuff is what matters a lot of the time. They want you to think differently and not sweat it so you don't excel and stay out of their way.

2 - Baby wipes are awesome and cheap and handy.

3 - Get up and make your bed 10 minutes early. Whole day goes better.

4 - You can only get back into a mode by getting back into that mode.

5 - You cannot help how you feel. What you do with your feelings are choices.

6 - Good food is important. Turn off your TV and spend some of that time cooking for yourself, friends, and family.

7 - A lack of fear shows you don't pay attention and are foolish.

8 - I don't watch or read fiction for gripping realism all the time. I don't need to hold fiction to a higher standard than I hold reality.

9 - Smoking means you are stubborn, unhealthy, and smell bad. It's why smokers stick together.

10 - Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" having a second life is bad for America.

11 - Politics is too mean and I want nothing to do with it these days.

12 - Stay fit. It's worth it.

13 - Television news is a waste of time masquerading as depth. Get your information somewhere else, as long as it isn't talk radio.

14 - Just because others don't think it is organized doesn't mean it's not.

15 - Explaining or understanding the weather doesn't mean you can specifically forecast it a week in advance in an area like Seattle where the weather always swirls.

16 - Stand for too long under a hot shower. Often.

17 - Random kindness is awesome.

18 - Stress manifests as real health problems. Find a healthy outlet. People wonder why I am so active.

19 - Sometimes loud. Sometimes soft. It's that it's music that matters. Even though I would rather lose my hearing than my sight.

20 - Coming to conclusions us bit a closed mind in and of itself. Being unwilling to listen to new information or adjust is a closed mind. Changing one's mind in that context is not being wishy washy or flip flopping, it is being intellectually honest.

21 - Duct tape, cat litter, a hammer, a shovel, an axe, some screwdrivers, a drill, a rake, and a few other tools are all you really need to have around the house unless you are remodeling.

Headbangers

One afternoon last Summer I pulled off the freeway and came to a red light.

There was a truck in front of me that was basically bouncing and shaking in place like an amusement park ride or like it was resting on a mechanical bull. Upon closer inspection there were two gentlemen inside the vehicle headbanging. They were thrashing like there lives depended on it, making the car really rock. It looked like they were communicating with the occupants of the car in front of them. Music was blaring that I could not quite place due to a degree of muffling.

They kept thrashing for about ten seconds before the driver looked up and I saw his startled look in his eyes in the rear view mirror and his body stopped.

I gave horns.

They gave horns.

They went back to their thrashing and I thought I could feel their smiles.

There was finally a green light. All the cars in our line moved forward for a bit and then came up on another red light.

The thrashing commenced once again.

I am getting really entertained by them at this point, although I imagine the loud music and vehicle rocking is irritating a certain percentage of other drivers who do not possess my particular type of sense of humor.

There is a sudden jerking and lurching motion even though the light has not changed. It appears the driver in his moshing, thrashing trance has let his foot slip off the brake and rolled into the car in front of him.

I drive around them as both the headbangers and the occupants of the car in front of them get out to inspect for any damages. I hope the five mile per hour bumpers held up, but it looked like it was bumper of a truck to trunk of a little sedan. The poor headbanging driver looks genuinely remorseful and is almost pulling out his very long hair. The passenger of the car in front looks very, very irritated and is holding a digital camera.

Were they friends before? Were they friends after?

American Smorgasbord (Oxymoron Project)

(This essay is a WIP in regards to being the introduction to the book Oxymoron.)

I never realized how unpatriotic I was growing up; I was a Little League Baseball All-Star, a state level junior bowler, and a white kid raised in suburbia by parents that are still married and live in the same house I was brought home to.

I vote. Always.

I had a paper route in 6th grade.

I registered for the draft and to vote on my 18th birthday. Thanks, Bob.

There is an American flag that flew over the US Capitol in my living room.

I regularly attend 4th of July parades and fireworks displays.

On more than one occasion I have been to Disneyland.

In my travels I have been to and seen the Little Big Horn, the Hollywood sign, Ground Zero, Alcatraz, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the grassy knoll, and ridden in a San Francisco street car.

My library card is in my wallet.

Opening day of baseball season should be a national holiday.

I have sent Christmas cards and wedding invitations to the White House.

Still, I am apparently not American enough for some people.

"Soccer?!" He said, "Leave that f*(#ing game to the Europeans." This comment came in the Summer of 2009 in Seattle at a punk show I was attending. The implications of his comment were not lost on me and felt much like the sentiment of New York newspaper writer Dick Young, who once described it as a game for "commie pansies".

I knew people who didn't like or follow the game. The indifference of some of my friends when I went to the World Cup was noted. I noticed all the soccer haters in the sports media. I had watched the Pele press conference scene in Once In A Lifetime. But, I had never been treated like a treasonous bastard for being a soccer fan before.

All my friends played soccer growing up. When I was little the NASL, Pele, and the Seattle Sounders were all the rage in town. I never experienced the direct anti-Americanism because it wasn't in my sphere of normal before becoming an adult and facing it. Much like everyone every where assumes that their normal is the normal, so did I. When we went on road trips to Vancouver, BC and Portland, OR in 1977 to watch the Sounders play in the playoffs and in the Soccer Bowl, that was my earliest real hard core fan experiences. The crowds came to the Kingdome and we had season tickets. Canadian Exchange programs with my youth soccer teams occurred basically every year. I just thought that the was the way things were. When your first big sporting event is a large crowd in the Kingdome to see the Sounders in 1976 and you are still 8 years old, that sticks with you.

In many countries soccer is the sport. It is not simply the biggest sport, it is often the only sport played. This is not true in all instances, even Brazil and England have other thriving sports like volleyball or rugby, but the outside perception is that those parts of the world are soccer-centric and the US of A is a sports hodgepodge. In many third world countries the importance of soccer to the nation is staggering and even these smaller leagues draw throngs of passionate fans to some very scary stadiums.

The US of A has many major sports; along with major college sports that rival the pros in some areas, and a massive network of minor sports, niche sports, and fad sports. It is and has always been okay to be a huge minor league fan, or into tennis, or to prefer college over pros, but being a soccer fan has always been a bit unseemly and prone to the wrath of sportswriters. I have a good friend totally into NASCAR and another who pretty much loathes professionalism, those things are both okay.

Despite this American Smorgasbord, Soccer was specifically targeted as Un-American.

Some of this is actually self inflicted.

Soccer fans, myself included, are often extraordinarily self righteous about soccer. Really, we are. Stop laughing.

Some of this is the remnant of the Great Depression. Really. Prior to the 1930s there were strong and thriving soccer leagues drawing large crowds and having players poached by English and Scottish teams. Our semifinal appearance in the 1930 World Cup was not really a huge surprise at the time in that sense. Once the Depression hit however, many immigrant families feared a backlash and turned their attentions to what are now the major sports like baseball, killing those leagues and in a sense adding fuel to the fire. That may sound like blaming the victim, but it really didn't help.

But, most of this is that US sportswriters and fans didn't like a sport Americans did not dominate. We, as Americans, love the sports we have created above all else. The World Series is played here. The World Cup involves everyone else. We have tended to like it that way. These things are now changing as the world has shrunk and American cultural isolationism is not what it once was. It doesn't hurt that the US now routinely qualifies for the World Cup, that there is a good league in MLS, and that there is now soccer infrastructure in the form of Soccer Specific Stadiums.

There are soccer fans in the US that now can follow world soccer on a daily basis due to cable and Internet. Those fans that only follow the games abroad, as opposed to following them as an augment to American teams are referred to as Eurosnobs. To me, being a Eurosnob is the same as being a fan of the Lakers or Yankees Cowboys when you live somewhere else and have no connection to LA or New York or Dallas other than liking the glamour of the teams. Let's face it, in the cable and Internet era, an argument can be made that if you never go to games in person where a team is actually from really ceases to matter. Other than local radio or news coverage, one team is the same as any other regardless of location. To me that is silly, since I go to games, but on an intellectual level I have to confess that it does make some sense, even if only to justify my own Liverpool fandom. Where issue is taken with the Euro snobbery is where it turns it back on American soccer, as I believe the core of support comes from being in tune with your local team.

Oxymoron is my look at the changing landscape of American sporting culture over the last few decades from the perspective of an American fan caught up in the whirl wind. Using the arrival of Pele as a general starting point and the arrival of Beckham as an ending point is both accurate and convenient, since it coincides with my sporting life and personal soccer journey. The irony of using the arrival of two foreign stars is not lost on me.

This is not my autobiography, although that will certainly partially be true in a soccer sense as it is the autobiography of a soccer fan embedded in my life experiences. Given that my life experiences have not included everything about American soccer in person, there are built in limitations. I have attended a number of major and significant soccer events related to American soccer over the decades. My experiences represent virtually all aspects of the changes in American soccer over the decades covered. I hope some of the experiences are interesting. But, limitations are a part of the fan journey as we don't always get to be there. I have striven for factual accuracy and done years of library and Internet research to get the dates, places, names, and scores correct. I have gathered media guides and read old programs and soccer periodicals and gone through my own ridiculous collection of ticket stubs to verify my own attendance at certain events.

I have had an odd journey as a soccer fan. I remember walking into the Kingdome for the NASL Sounders opener in 1976 at 8 and being a part of a similar sized crowd at Qwest Field (same site, different building) I was a part of at the MLS Sounders opener in 2009 when I was 41. However, in between things have not been exactly consistent.

Oh, and Commie Pansies have never won a World Cup, actually.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Crispy breaded bacon ...










By baking it after frying it a significant percentage of the oils are lost and make the crispy bacon that much crispier ...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Whiskey Crab Soup







This is a recipe I have made several times now and really enjoy. Bourbon works better for cooking because it is naturally sweeter, and acts as a nice accent to the cayenne pepper. The key is to let it reduce on low heat for at least two hours so it is nice and thick.

Hot corn bread with melted butter ...





I found myself with a craving for corn bread not too long ago. So, I got the ingredients and made it last night ...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Reading at the beach this afternoon ...



This afternoon I decided to go down to the beach and take advantage of an amazing afternoon ... so I sat on a log and read in the sun and snapped these pics ...






Sunday, January 17, 2010

Souffle Day was a great success!




























video

I had been planning this and psyching myself up for it for some time. As I have worked to become a better cook I really wanted to try something difficult and this was it.

The recipe I used from The Food Network website even listed this as "difficult".

So, I set aside an entire morning and took my time and put this all together ... and it turned out nummy ...

Friday, January 01, 2010

The Scarecrow Effect was invited ...


... but we are not nearly yet ready for a battle of the bands at the end of January.

Through the band web page on MySpace we were invited to possibly be a part of an actual battle of the bands in Seattle. At first it seemed preposterous, but then I realized that this whole real/fictional band thing must have some follow through.

I politely declined the invitation thinking maybe when we get an actual lineup, songs, and rehearse. And then I decided, it really needs to happen. Not now, of course, but it really does need to happen.

At this point, it is still fiction, but it would be really cool to do if the real opportunity arises again, which it really seems more likely than not will. It appears we have vocals and bass for real, so it is becoming more and more plausible every day.