Sunday, July 31, 2011


-In the parking lot I saw two Indian women hitting a shuttlecock back and forth, back and forth. There was no net and, as far as I could tell, no points being kept. That's kind of how I felt about the writing I worked on today. While I was accomplishing something, I wasn't really getting anywhere with it. At least they were doing it for fun, or so I presume.

-It is official. My noisy neighbors have moved out. In observation I may have waking moments when the television isn't on. (I'm joking but there's an element of truth.)

-Three working days until I take some much needed and extended time off. Can I make it to Thursday without losing my mind? Stay tuned.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Status update

I promise not to write about Facebook all the time, but since I've been on it now for a week, I thought it was time to do a bit fairer assessment of the site than stick with my kneejerk assessment.

All right, so I haven't spent an obsessive amount of time on it, and I've been very deliberate in my use. That as much as anything is probably responsible for why I've kept a low profile on it. No family members have found me. No students, current or former, have found me.

In fact, I've only received three friend requests, one from someone I "know" via Twitter, someone I've known since junior high, and the mother of a friend since seventh grade. (At the suggestion of a friend, I friended three individuals I've known since junior high days, which is likely how I popped up on the radar of the two who made requests.) In other words, there haven't been any majorly weird or difficult judgment calls to make, although I suspect those will arrive in the days and weeks to come.

I find the news feed to be terribly cluttered and not particularly easy to follow with the same items jumping back to the top on a regular basis. Keep in mind that I currently have a pretty small friends list.

Finding people through search isn't nearly as easy as I expected it would be. (In some ways this is a relief.) I refuse to let Facebook troll my e-mail to find potential friends, so I may be making things tougher than it should be. Still, the number of people who share names can make it hard to find the right one, especially if the primary photo isn't helpful.

I am surprised (and kind of depressed) by the number of people I know from high school who are using their senior photos to identify themselves. (In fairness, I'm using my Mad Men-ized cartoon avatar.) The let's-relive-high-school aspect is something I have no pressing desire to do. Those years weren't miserable for me, nor were they the best of my life. Regardless, I'd like to think I'm more interesting now.

I've not posted or liked much, which probably makes me a bad Facebook user. All of my hang-ups about the site aside, at this early stage as a user I don't find it to be as enjoyable as Twitter. I don't plan to duplicate my Twitter posts on Facebook because it doesn't feel like the right place for them, even though that's public and my Facebook is for friends only. Twitter is part parlor game, part personal news wire, and part communication tool. Facebook is...a virtual yearbook? I'm tempted to liken it to an anchor, but I've not used it enough to level that charge.

Will I warm up to it more? That remains to be seen. Ask me when it gets sticky.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Cautiously optimistic

I'm pretty sure that the neighbors whose subwoofer has been a regular irritant for the past year are in the process of moving out. I should know for certain this weekend, but everything I've observed indicates that they're on the way out by the end of the month. Yes, they did turn down the bass somewhat after I said something last fall, but even at this reduced level it was still something that would come pulsing through the one shared wall. It just didn't rumble through every room in my place after I spoke to one of them through a narrowly cracked door.

There's the risk that whoever replaces them in that apartment will be worse, so my relief at their departure is tempered by the uncertainty of the unknown. Regardless, it's out of my control. Such is the way of apartment living.

For now, though, I will enjoy the peace and quiet as long as it lasts and hope for the best.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Trick play

'Twas a very hot day for attending a baseball game, although after you were in it for awhile, it wasn't so bad. (Keep in mind that it was somewhere in the 90s.) A nice breeze tended to come down, and by the end of the game, our seats were in the shade. Which isn't to say I didn't sweat a lot.

With the way the Reds are stinking it up, it was probably just as well that my dad and I met in Cincinnati for only two games. Of course, as I realized last night, it was nice that we were able to meet up for even one. This wasn't something that either of my parents could do with their fathers when they were my age now. My mother was in college when her dad died. My dad must have been in his twenties when his dad passed.

I don't bring this up to bum out the room or myself, although it's certainly a bittersweet thought and not the sort of awareness one wishes to get while trying to fall asleep. (Yep, that's when it occurred to me.) If anything, I am now able to appreciate more the time I have with my parents, even in those instances when they get on my nerves. They never really had an adulthood with their fathers. I've been fortunate to have one with both of mine.

I've always been on good terms with my parents and never really had the sorts of major issues with them that I sometimes hear other people having. It's what I accepted as normal, just as I reflected that my dad must have done stuff like this with his father...except wait, no he didn't. To a certain extent I imagine that such a relationship might mean I take them for granted. How I was raised and get along with my family is more or less how it's supposed to be, right? Perhaps, but it doesn't necessarily turn out that way in many families.

Funny how what was supposed to be a short overnight trip to see a couple ballgames and which featured probably more talk about the team than anything else--such a cliché--gave me a greater perspective on how I relate to my parents.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Swing and a miss

Great seats, miserable game.

It'll be a quick 26 hours or so that I'm here in Cincinnati with my dad. That'll be nice. The baseball from our favorite team certainly doesn't appear to be.

If you heard us talking during the game, I imagine one might wonder why we put up with it. (For those who don't follow the sport, the Reds have been frustratingly mediocre most of the season and are playing uninspired right now.) I'm not very happy with the effort I see from this team and how it's being managed, but watching them--and griping about them, as necessary--is something I enjoy. I suppose you understand that or you don't.

Anyway, there's another game Thursday afternoon and then back home. A win would be good. Please.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011


This and that...

The countdown to a firm answer on whether my sometimes loud neighbors are moving draws ever near. If they are, chances are it will be this weekend. I have a sense that they might be on the way out, but maybe my wishes are coloring what I'm observing. A boy can dream.

I'm working extra to cover in advance what I might otherwise need to do when I take some time off in August. This isn't really how it's supposed to work, is it?

Although it will be a faster turnaround than I'd prefer, I'm meeting my dad in Cincinnati to go to baseball games on Wednesday and Thursday. Drive there, go to the game, sleep, breakfast, go to the game, drive home. I can tell I'm desperately in need of a break. While this really isn't one, at least it gets me out of the head space of work for a little bit.

I have more or less worked out my plans for a couple weeks off, though. I plan to go to my parents' home for a few days, come home for a few, go to Washington, D.C. to see some Reds games on the road, and then drive up to New York City, where I want to see Anything Goes and possibly take in a game at Yankee Stadium. That should be a full docket, right?

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Monday, July 25, 2011


Packed day 'round these parts. In my absence, please enjoy dancing Thom Yorke. May the chilly sounds help cool off your surroundings.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011


I don't feel a need to apologize for yesterday's reactionary post about signing up for Facebook. I've resisted the social network for a variety of reasons, some better founded than others. Yes, I resent feeling as though I'm obligated to be on it while having to sacrifice certain amounts of privacy. Yes, I realize much of it has to do with my hang-ups. That is why I also feel as though I should put my objections in some context.

I am well aware that I did not have the enthusiasm for big social events and that on some occasions my parents forced me to attend them. Primarily I'm thinking of regional church youth conferences or similar types of events in which the onus was on me to meet new people. I don't know that I would describe myself as solitary, although there's likely some truth to that.

Anyway, one of the fastest ways to get me to shut down is to require me to do something I'd rather not do. I admit that I can have quite a stubborn streak, especially when I feel like my behavior or reactions are being dictated. For instance, I hate, hate, hate organized icebreakers, usually silly or potentially embarrassing activities that are structured to lower defenses among strangers. For some it is a pleasurable way of getting to know others, but it is definitely not my idea of fun whatsoever. Really, most requests for forced conformity and prescribed spontaneity put me on edge.

Facebook revives some of those old feelings and thus my wary approach to it. I don't want to feel like I'm 15 or 16 again, which is kind of what I fear it will do. I already feel like it was a big step for me to set up shop on the site, to just be there, but that I have to watch my attitude. Sure, it's one thing to submit and say, fine, I'll go, but carrying a chip on one's shoulder the whole time doesn't benefit anybody and makes the bearer look like a jerk. Guilty as charged.

So I acknowledge that these are my problems and that no one has put me in a difficult position (at least not yet). There are reasonable criticisms to fire at Facebook, but let's not ignore that what I fear in it is partially what I fear in me.

I'm not who I was twenty years ago, and I think that's a good thing. I'm not implying that that old self was bad, just that it was a rough draft. Chances are, though, that I will have to face off with that old version while navigating the social network. Hopefully the current me can do a better job of dealing with it.

If you have any advice for using Facebook, I am curious to hear it.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011


I've done it. I've caved in. I'm on Facebook.

Like it or not--OK, I don't like it--I realized that it is more or less necessary that I join the social network. If I'm going to be on it, though, I'm going to do it on my terms, as long as I can figure out all of the fine controls and settings that I need to set. For the time being I have it in a relatively locked down mode, I think, and I've posted minimal information about myself. (For now I'm not including anything related to religion, politics, and relationship status.) We'll see what horrors I discover as I get familiarized with the site.

I do not intend to connect with work colleagues or students. It may sound like a harsh line to draw, but I'd like to keep my place of business separate. (Alumni will be on a case-by-case basis.) As far as I can tell, Facebook doesn't allow one to distinguish between "friends", so the easiest solution is to abide by a blanket rule. If it's something I have to explain to these people, so be it. Honestly, the potential infringing of my privacy by these groups is the primary reason why I've resisted joining in the first place.

I do not intend to friend anyone and everyone from my past. I realize that's how most people operate on Facebook, as though they're collecting former classmates and acquaintances like baseball cards, but that doesn't feel like a way I'm comfortable with doing things. Will I make some people angry? Perhaps.

I don't intend to publicize my presence on Facebook, and at least for now I don't intend to search aggressively to find people on there. (Yes, I realize there's an inherent contradiction in me blogging about it, but how many of you know who I am?) I will fess up to being curious about how many or few friend requests I receive. I suspect it will be toward the lower end of the scale, which would probably be a relief rather than having to make a bunch of judgment calls. As for my family, we'll see how long it takes them to find out I now have an account. I'm not going to avoid them there. I just want to take my time with it. If family members want to friend me tonight, that's fine.

I'm not even sure how often I plan to post anything. I go into this very uncertain and skeptical about Facebook. I don't plan to post much in the way of photos, especially of me. I've disabled the tagging and face recognition options, not that there's much to recognize from my Mad Men-ized cartoon avatar.

I imagine this all sounds very passive-aggressive and controlling. Look, I've signed up for it grudgingly, and I'm trying to get these gripes somewhat out of my system rather than spew them on Facebook. I can see how quickly the site can produce massive amounts of inferiority and complicate who knows what. Aside from staying off of the site completely, which I'd done until today, the only things within my power are the information I provide and who I grant access to it. I intend to be vigilant in both areas for my own sake.

Or to put it another way: I really prefer Twitter so much more. Make whatever sense of that as you please.

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Friday, July 22, 2011


Lessons in doing things I wasn't sure I could do:

-Last weekend I gave my parents' my old standard definition TV. I hadn't turned the thing on since I bought an HDTV, and they could use one in another room. Getting that sucker out of my apartment, down the stairs, and into my car on my own wasn't easy, but I managed to do it. What remained was the entertainment center that the old TV had sat in. Now I didn't need it either.

The entertainment center has been taking up a fair amount of space in my bedroom, and it bore some damage from when I last moved it and the TV. So, the question was when I was going to move it out of my place. The catch: it's heavy, particularly at the bottom, and awkward to try and move. Oh yeah, and the stairs I need to get it down. I suppose it didn't matter if I dinged it up any on the way to the garbage, but I didn't want to make a racket either.

Once I tried lifting the thing, I knew I was in trouble. I told myself that I just needed to get it down the first set of stairs, then down the next set, and finally I could just flip it end over end rather than carrying it. That's basically how it went, plus me sweating like crazy. (I probably could have done this on a cooler day, but I wanted it out.) I wasn't sure I could do it when I started. It wasn't easy. But I got the job done.

-Fast forward to late afternoon and heading to the gym to get in my last day of exercise for the week. As hot as it has been outside this week, it's been as terribly humid in the workout area. I've really had to push myself to finish the other two workouts in these conditions. This would be my third day in a row, and I wasn't exactly feeling it.

I gave myself a mental out. Try to get through a half hour. If I'm feeling gassed, it's OK to stop, especially in this heat. At the 30-minute mark I was pretty much ready to quit but kept telling myself to go just another couple minutes. Now get to 40 minutes. OK, you can stop at 45 minutes. You've made it this far, just finish off the hour. All right, you can lower it one level. This incremental approach led me to getting in the hour-plus workout.

So, at least for one day, I found the determination and will to do the things that were necessary but difficult. It'll be good to have these to look back on for motivation, but the accomplishments themselves are reason enough to feel good.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Heat flashes

Is there any time of the year more than summer that brings to mind listening to the radio? Whether it's tuning in to ballgames while sitting on the patio or blasting music from the car stereo while driving with the windows down, this season and the radio seem to be connected.

We're having some hot weather here this week. Yes, I know you're probably having some too wherever you are. So I got to thinking about songs that were big during the summer. What was I probably hearing a lot when I was mowing yards? According to this Billboard list, twenty-five years ago Peter Cetera's "Glory of Love" from The Karate Kid, Part II was dominant. That one has me flashing back, as do many of the others listed.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The razor's edge

I forgot to take my razor with me when I went to visit my parents, and I wasn't about to go out and buy another one that I'd need just for a couple days. Instead I borrowed one of my dad's. He uses disposable single blade razors. I can't remember the last time I used one of those, if ever, but I figured it would get the job done. I suppose you could say the cheap razor was good enough, but that thing tore up my face and neck. Plus, I had much more stubble than usual the next morning.

I've used a Gillette Mach3 for quite awhile. I'd venture to guess that it's what I turned to when I stopped using an electric razor that had worn out. I'm in good company as the Mach3 is the world's best selling razor (or at least it is according to this article from 2003). The replacement cartridges are pricier than the razors I'm assuming my dad gets by the bag, but in my mind there's no question that the extra money is well spent.

I didn't shave this morning, as I didn't feel like making my rough mug any rougher with the borrowed razor, but did shave once I got home. What a world of difference. My face felt smoother, and my skin wasn't as irritated. I'll keep the disposable in my things in the event that I forget my razor next time I'm away from home--this is two times in a row--but it's strictly for emergencies.

I'm tempted to buy and send my dad a Mach3. I know he's happy with what he uses. I don't doubt that the low cost plays a big role in his decision of what to shave with. But he could have it better! Would it be presumptuous to give him one? Would he use it if I did? Worst case scenario, I'd have a back-up at their place.

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Monday, July 18, 2011


I've not taken time off from work this summer, and today wasn't any exception even though I'm still at my parents' home. Let us say a few words in praise of the good ol' telecommute.

I needed to write and have found that I have better luck doing that outside of the office. So, I let it be known I'd log my time away from my place of business today. This allowed me to extend my visit and still accomplish what had to be done. I doubt this would fly during the school year, but for the summer it was perfectly acceptable.

Yes, there were interruptions and distractions, and I took longer than necessary to tap out my script. Nevertheless, it was a productive day and one that opens up tomorrow for getting other things done. If I'd been in the office, chances are I'd have not begun any of this, fretted about it, and set myself up to be stressed out on Tuesday while I attacked it.

The big benefit was being able to spend more time with my parents. (Hey it's been almost seven months.) I helped out with some technological questions that they needed answered, something I have more patience for, and probably less knowledge, than my nearby brothers possess.

This kind of freedom isn't something that's a regular thing for me. If anything, the work sometimes will follow me where I go even when I would rather it did not. Still, there's something to be said for a day like this away from the fluorescent lights, lack of windows, and dynamics of the workplace. At least for today, it didn't even feel like work.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lazy Sunday


Lunch from the grill.

Baseball on TV.


Shoot and edit a short video with my parents' dog.

Games on Kindle.

Breaking Bad.

Blog post.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Home away from home

I met my brother at my parents' new home and used his help in carrying in my old 27" standard definition television. Their second TV was damaged during the move, and I haven't turned this old thing on since I bought a high definition set. So it was a win-win. I got rid of something I didn't need and gave it to someone who could use it. While it's no match for the HDTV we bought them for Christmas two years ago, it will serve them well when they have split interests in what to watch. (Also, that old TV is heavy. I think I strained every muscle in my arms getting it from my apartment to my car.)

My parents were picking up some last possessions still at the parsonage and attending to some other busy back there, so I had to give myself a tour of their new place. True to what I knew, if this hadn't been a foreclosure, they never would have been able to get this much house for their price range. There's no question it's the nicest house they've ever owned or lived in. Good grief, there's a golf course right out the back door.

They're in a suburban development, which is new for them and a little weird to me. Sure, I've lived on my own in the suburbs for a decade and a half, but I've lived in apartments, one with more of small town surroundings and one with more of a city feel. As I went outside late tonight to move my car from the road into the driveway, I was struck by how alien it was. The street is quiet, and there are all these other houses nearby. Where am I?!

My other brother who lives just a couple miles away also came over for supper, so the experience had this odd feeling of seeming like old times when everyone was under the same roof. The marked difference, of course, was the fact that my siblings left to return to their homes as the day wound down.

I think this house is a terrific fit for them, and it should be a good place for when most or all of us are here at the same time. Eventually the novelty will wear off and I'll feel more like I'm in somewhere I've known than an unfamiliar building I'm a guest in. Plus, with all this space, I think everyone can breathe easier.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Home is where you make it

Tomorrow I'm headed out of town to visit my parents for a couple days. It's probably about time considering I haven't seen them since a shortly after Christmas. I've been busy. They've been busy. This weekend works well for me and probably is what I need to unwind from a summer that has been busier at the office than I anticipated.

My parents bought and moved into a new house a little less than a month ago, so this will be my first time at the place. It's also the first house that I expect to feel more like a home than the last two places they've lived over the previous ten(?) years. My mother's last two pastorates meant that she and my dad lived in parsonages. Sure, they decorated as they wanted and made the places their own, so to speak, but in a sense--and in reality--these were temporary living quarters. They would not be occupied when the job ended.

This isn't to say that I felt uncomfortable in either of those houses, although the last one left something to be desired with its lone bathroom. (This did not cut it at holiday time with up to seven people under one roof.) Still, there was no sense of being rooted, which is what I think of when I think of home. In my mind, going to wherever my parents live is going home. (I distinguish this, though, from where I'm from, which is locked in time and place as where I grew up.)

So I'm curious to get a look at their new place, the building they own, for a change. From what I understand it has a lot of room, more than either of the two homes I lived in as a kid. (It's also 60-90 minutes closer than the last place they lived, which doesn't hurt, especially at wintertime.) I won't be there long, but it will be nice to get familiarized with the new family base.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011


Most of the time I work out in the campus gym as I continue on my mission to get in shape and lose weight. Although it can be awfully muggy in there during the summer, it isn't being used as much, so there's no need to wait for the equipment I need. More importantly, it means I can probably also point the big fan my direction.

This week I discovered all of the stationary bikes, recumbent and otherwise, have been replaced with new ones. I was glad to see this as some of them seemed to struggle to change settings or allow themselves to be used to their full potential.

The biggest question with this new exercise equipment is one of calibration. I had a particular level I was working out at on the old machines that produced a workout that burned x number of calories. On the new machines from the same manufacturer, working out at that level would bring me in well under the previous calorie total. I increased the level to approximate the amount I wanted to be burning, but it leaves the question of if I was actually achieving what I thought I'd been doing.

Today I was on a different one of these new bikes and saw that I was burning a couple hundred more calories at this new level on a new machine than I was on a different new one. I will allow that I may have been working harder today, yet it seems somewhat unlikely that I was giving that much additional effort.

Throw in the recumbent bike at my apartment complex's gym that I used once--and which was as stingy as could be in reflecting burned calories--and I am not certain at all what I might actually be doing.

The numbers aren't exactly the point, but if there's a large variance from one piece of equipment to the next, I have more trouble tracking my own progress. Going by today's workout summary, I really killed it. But did I?

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Is this what's it's like for older folks with technology? I'm not on Facebook, for the time being, but thanks to an invite from a reader, I'm on Google+. And I am hopelessly lost.

OK, that's overstating things a bit, but the fact remains that Google wants to collect everything I use my main Gmail account for and put it in one tidy spot. I, on the other hand, want to compartmentalize. Apparently you must link your Google+ and Picasa to sign up. (Boo!) Most people wouldn't find that problematic. I do. All of my knitblog photos are there. I have them classified as limited sharing, and I think that keeps them from being visible in Google+. I'm not 100% certain, though.

At least upfront it seems so overwhelming. By the service being "helpful", it's creating more problems than if it just let me manually add everything that I want and not try to share my footprint on the web, at least with Google services.

I'm imagine I'll come around on it once I figure it out, but for the moment I feel more like older relatives who have no desire to go online at all or struggle to understand how it works.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011


The Major League Baseball All-Star Game took place tonight. If you read much of anything written in anticipation of it, chances are you found lots of snippy comments and dismissals of the mid-season exhibition. The brickbats have been rightfully earned. Players beg off the squad for the smallest of reasons. Most of the elected starters now put in token appearances. Interleague play has tarnished the appeal of match-ups that otherwise weren't seen except for this game or the World Series.

The source of much of the displeasure with the game stems from the 2002 edition, which unceremoniously ended in a tie because both teams had used their full complement of players and the managers didn't want to burden their last pitchers. It was a bad decision that led to a bigger one: making the exhibition "mean something" by staking home field advantage in the World Series on the outcome. Why hinge a crucial postseason advantage on a game that otherwise doesn't count--it never did, other than league bragging rights--and isn't taken seriously by the participants?

I fondly remember watching the All-Star Game on TV when I was a kid. It was one of the rare times to see players from the American League and even some of the other National League teams. Keep in mind that comparatively few games aired then. I don't remember how often the Reds were on in the '80s, but it wasn't anywhere close to the approximately 90% of the schedule that I get now.

So while people gripe about the rule that requires a representative from each team, at least back then it made sense. I wanted to see players from my favorite team out there with guys from all the other clubs. One of my favorite aspects of the game is seeing the field taken by players in all those different uniforms. While they're playing on one of two sides,wearing their regular uniforms turns the showcase on what are theoretically the sport's best (or best that year).

I recall staying up for the end of that fateful 2002 game, although I may very well have fallen asleep before the arrival of the boneheaded decision to call it a tie. (The increasingly later times for first pitch don't make it friendly for kids or adults who work regular business days.) I don't think the All-Star Game has meant as much to me since as it did before then. Once I had joined the working world I still kept up with the game. Now it's become something that I'll watch if I'm home but won't sweat missing if something else is going on. (Tonight's game conflicted with a screening of the final Harry Potter film. Even after I got home, I only half paid attention.)

Some things look better through the lens of nostalgia, and some things were better the way they used to be. When it comes to the All-Star Game, the latter sentiment is the correct one to apply.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Talk like that

One part of Saturday's drive to the Dayton area was to visit with a great aunt in a rehabilitation center. She recently fell and broke her hip. Naturally, she's not happy for how long she's going to be in this place, but at eighty years old, living alone, and with this injury, what other choice is there?

I spent a couple hours talking with her. One of the things that jumped out at me is how she spoke, both in her grammar and with her accent. When people think accents, Ohio isn't a state that comes to mind. Being nestled snugly in the Midwest, it produces, or is thought to produce, something akin to a generic American accent rather than something distinctive. (I've heard that it's what newscasters are taught to speak in, but I haven't found the documentation for this anecdote.)

Maybe there isn't an "Ohio accent", but returning to my home area again, even if it's only about an hour and a half to the west, alerts me to the differences among the parts of the state. I grew up in what this dialect map calls The Midland and within the Cincinnati subdialect. (You'll see that the Dayton area falls in with it and deviates some from Columbus.)

I never thought of myself having an accent, but when I went to college, some friends, especially those from northeastern Ohio, pointed out that I had a twang. This would be the midwestern twang more than a southern one. (Of course, to my ears, they had nasal accents more typical of the northeastern U.S.) Now I will concede that I do have an accent, although I think it is probably more pronounced around family and others with such an accent or when I'm tired.

For whatever reason, on this weekend's trip back to the area that accent seemed blatantly obvious to me whether it was my aunt, employees at the care center, or people at the baseball game. These people talk how I do. Some have stronger accents, but they're undeniably similar to how I sound. I don't have my relatives', or my dad's, habit of saying "warsh" for "wash", but I have a lot of the same way of speaking.

The grammar, some of it decidedly nonstandard, is also something I'll find myself employing. Now I know why. I even got an e-mail from my mom today with some of these usages that are the sorts of things that might be thought of as southern and, for lack of a better term, indicators of being less learned. I catch them slipping out of my mouth, and I know I like writing with some of these folksier ways of putting things.

A way of speaking is so deeply ingrained that most of us take it for granted about ourselves. We can't really hear it until we're outside of a group that speaks differently, even if the distinctions between such manners are fine ones. How we speak is a way of going home and a way of connecting with those who are gone, even if we're not aware of what we're doing.

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Major minors

Dayton welcomed a minor league baseball team after I no longer lived in the area. My parents may have moved away by then too. So, until last night I'd never been to a game at Fifth Third Field to see the Class A Dayton Dragons. Adding to my reasons for never having attended a game there: the first season sold out before any games were played, and I'd heard they were perpetually sold out. I hadn't heard incorrectly. Apparently they've sold out every game since the team began playing in 2000.

Having read an article about the franchise being on the verge of breaking the North American professional sports record for consecutive sellouts, I decided that the time had come for me to drive over to Dayton to see a game. My great aunt fell and broke her hip recently, so I felt like I needed to go back there to visit her. Going to a ballgame would just be a way of maximizing the trip.

As it turns out, last night's game was the record breaker: #815. I swear I didn't know this. I thought they broke it last weekend. While the team easily exceeded capacity in ticket sales, those like me who just needed one seat could still find scattered spots. I ended up in the first row of the upper deck, which provided the added benefit of as much leg room as I could ask for.

I'd been to the ballpark once before. My dad stopped there and we walked around on the way back to my parents' home from a Reds game. The stadium was under construction at the time, so it was easy enough to walk into what would become the outfield seating area and see what progress had been made. Until last night that was the only time I'd seen the place.

I arrived closer to first pitch than I preferred, and I didn't have a chance to look around the bordering area to see how it's thrived since the team's arrival. Based on some other parts of downtown Dayton that I've seen, this portion has definitely fared a lot better.

When it comes to minor league games, I can't say that I have a vested interest in who wins. The Dragons are a Cincinnati Reds affiliate, but old hometown loyalty was the main factor in my cheering on the team. (Plus, to do otherwise would have been rude.) I was there simply to enjoy a fine night outside watching baseball.

In this respect the Dragons management mount a worthwhile production. Maybe it's being overly familiar with (and mostly bored by) the between innings shenanigans at Reds games and unfamiliar with the Dragons way of doing things, but this minor league team seemed more inspired with how they passed the downtime. Granted, they're not dealing with breaks as long as those in the big leagues. They're also not facing as many restrictions that would prevent an MLB team from having kids race Big Wheels from first to third or putting three toddlers onto a padded racetrack in the third base foul territory. The toddler race might have been the best of the activities because it didn't work. The kids knocked their helmets off and basically refused to perform.

After the end of the fifth, when the game was now official, the announcement came that the Dragons had broken the consecutive sellout record of 814 previously owned by the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers. Balloons were released, and streamers were shot into the stands. The Dragons came onto the field and applauded the fans. At this level the players turn over on the team far more than in the majors. I doubt anyone out there was in Dayton five years ago, let alone when the streak started. That doesn't matter. The message was clear that the organization is grateful for how the community has embraced the team.

I would have loved it if this team had been in place when I was growing up. The Reds are about an hour's drive from my hometown, and they would have still been my primary team. Still, to have a local team that you could seen more frequently and for less money would have been a dream. I imagine as a teenager I would have made a point to go to games as much as possible.

I haven't lived in the Dayton area since 1993, but I want to see it do well. I know it's been hit hard by losses in manufacturing, and parts of town definitely look the worse for wear than what I remember. Going to the ballpark, though, let me take some pride in what used to be home and know that the dedication I feel for my chosen teams seems to be consistent with how people there accept their teams.

I don't need to drive to Dayton to see professional baseball. The Reds, much as they're aggravating me these days, will always be where most of my fanatical baseball energies will be focused. Columbus has a minor league team and a nice new stadium of its own. Who knows when I'll be back to a game in Dayton again. Every now and then, though, it'd be nice to return and see how a sport I love has blossomed where I used to live.

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Saturday, July 09, 2011


Quite a busy day for yours truly. I saw two movies--one was extremely short--and then drove an hour and a half west to visit with a great aunt who broke her hip a little more than a week ago. After that I took in some minor league baseball in Dayton.

I actually have a great deal to say about this day, but I've been messing around trying to get some things finalized that document my latter two activities. Now it's too late, and I'm ready to fall asleep.

So, take this as a promise that there will be better things awaiting you here on Sunday.


Friday, July 08, 2011

In mind

Various things occupying my head space right now:

-I'm deliberating over some vacation plans in August and trying to determine if I can swing a few night in the greater New York City area. Staying in New Jersey definitely takes the bite out of hotel expenses, especially if I go just a little farther west than when I visited my brother. Going to New York City really captured my imagination, and I'm dying to get back there less than four months removed from my first time there. (Staying with my brother will not be an option as he's back home in Indiana...although perhaps not for long. He has a job offer in South Carolina and is leaning strongly toward accepting it last I knew.)

-I'm thinking that I might have turned a corner when it comes to exercise. I ran in the 5K race on Monday and had some pretty sore legs to show for it the next couple days as I hobbled around. In spite of the pain, on Tuesday I went to the gym to put in my standard hour on the recumbent bike. Not only did I complete my typical routine, I crushed it with some hard work. I took off the last two days, in part because I figured I needed the recovery, and then cruised through the workout this evening. Maybe this is an indication that I need to increase the level. Anyway, it's the best I've felt in awhile after working out this hard.

-The summer so far has been a relatively mild one in these parts. No complaints.

-Periodically I get the feeling like I ought to sign up for a Facebook account. That feeling has returned. Although I'm on Twitter and use it quite happily (and publicly), I've never had a Facebook profile and haven't felt compelled to join everyone else. I have some big reservations about the site, but I'm slightly favoring signing up before the summer is out. What's changed? Nothing, really. Then again, I'm still not on that social network.

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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Taste test

Some years ago I got on a list, I don't know how, to participate in opinion surveys and tests and get paid for my time. More often than not I haven't qualified for one reason or another, but sometimes I don't return the calls. In all this time I've taken part in one radio survey, which was quite clearly for a classic rock station in town. My best guess is that was probably six or seven years ago, so I'm not getting rich from these opportunities.

I've now completed my second of these sessions, this time in the form of a taste test. I reported to the Wendy's Research and Development Innovation Center and waited until my small group was ushered into a long, narrow, white room. The individual stations were set up so that you couldn't see the person next to you. A monitor was mounted to the wall, and a keyboard was below the counter. Napkins were placed in a holder on the counter.

After answering a few questions on the screen, in each station a small door to the test kitchen opened. A tray with a cup of water and a sandwich was slid in front of each of us. It felt very futuristic, even if it was in kind of a dystopian way. We'd been instructed to eat at least half of the sample before answering the questions. The way I looked at it is that I was getting paid to eat supper.

As expected, I was testing a spicy chicken sandwich. I like this fast food chain's version of one--I believe I've called it the single best fast food sandwich--but I've been gravitating more toward Chick-fil-A's spicy chicken over the last year. Out of all of the taste tests I could be selected for, this is one that I feel extremely qualified to participate in. This is especially true having gone through it. The sample sandwich is clearly trying to duplicate the one from the chain I've been favoring lately.

I finished answering the questions (and eating the remainder of the sandwich), and that was that. As it is when visiting a fast food restaurant, this experience was quick and easy. The difference is that I left with a nice sum of cash rather than spending any.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A room with a view

Is the solution as simple as natural light?

I've been struggling when it comes to the other kind of writing I do, but I feel as though I've had a bit of a breakthrough the last two days. I've started my work days from home and attacked the writing with a nice, big sliding door to look out. I'm not necessarily gazing outside all that much, but I feel less confined, and thus more productive or creative(?), with it there. Wouldn't you know it, I cranked out some text that I think is better than what I've been squeezing out in recent months.

My office at work is in the interior of the building. There are no windows in my office. There are no windows in the space surrounding my office. I won't say that I don't see outside all day at work, but I don't see much of it. Since there usually isn't a reason to leave the building during the day, that means I'm under the fluorescent lights for the better part of daylight hours. Sometimes I think all that fluorescent light does affect how well I work and feel, although I'm not diagnosing myself with seasonal affective disorder or the like.

Light isn't the exclusive factor in writing struggles at the office. Sometimes it's the regular interruptions, sometimes it's the noise/conversations/etc. that I have to put up with. Closing the door isn't a particularly good option as the office gets warm pretty quickly. (My office's heating and cooling is tied to the big lounge right outside it. Rarely, it seems, does the two spaces seem to be in agreement when it comes to what the temperature should be.)

Almost no one is in the building during summer, so the department secretary said I could use an adjunct faculty office this afternoon if I liked. (Faculty offices have the windows.) I decided to try it out, and what do you know, I was able to focus in on the writing that remained.

Perhaps this is coincidental, or maybe there's something to it. My conclusion: whether it does have an effect or not, I need to switch up my routine when it comes to that particular writing. The old way of trying to write--in my office under the pressure of deadline while other tasks might pop up--hasn't been cutting it.


Tuesday, July 05, 2011


Does it seem like a halfway decent idea? Yes. Would I wear one? No, but I certainly got a good laugh out of looking at the website for the product.

I'm talking about Beardo, a toque with a detachable beard. I won't deny the item's practical value in the cold, but there's a big hurdle in the form of how one would look in it. How could you not laugh at someone sporting one of these?

Still, there's enough of a worthwhile idea here that the developer might find success. Get the right celebrity to don one of these and who knows?

My suggestion: make a red hat with a white beard--a Santa Beardo--available. Seems like a can't miss prospect to me.

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Monday, July 04, 2011

You better run

I've been exercising but not running. I figure that it's easier on my knees. Plus, I can get in an hour's workout, which I'd pretty much guarantee wouldn't be happening three or four times a week if I was running.

Anyway, I've been feeling the itch to run in today's 5K road race. It's sort of a tradition for me, even if I haven't run in it since 2007. (I'd wager this is the best shape I've been in since then.) I wasn't sure that I could run the whole thing, but participating in this race was something I targeted when I resumed an exercise regimen this year.

So I dragged myself out of bed before 6:30, turned in my registration, and got way too wound up waiting for the race to start. The first mile went relatively well. I overheard someone else that they were on about an 11:30 mile pace, which seemed decent for me. The second mile felt like it took forever to arrive, especially because the course was on a long, very gradual incline. Was it steep? Not at all, but when you're trying to grind it out, a molehill can feel like a mountain.

My legs felt pretty good overall. All that work on a recumbent bicycle clearly made my upper legs stronger, which helped a great deal. My lung capacity seemed good too. Nevertheless, around 2.2 miles, I'm guessing, my lumbering shuffle just sort of came to a stop and settled more into a walk. I was getting tired, and apparently my body said, "Let's try this instead." Honestly, once I settled into a longer stride with the fast walk, I may have been covering more ground faster than when I was "running".

I turned it back up for the last turn and two-tenths of the race and ran in, but boy was my body screaming at me to get across that finish line and then get a rest and something to eat. I was gassed. While it wasn't especially hot at 8:00 a.m., it was humid. I was drenched and a little wobbly.

I crossed the finish line with 39:24 on the clock, but my time was faster than that because I didn't cross the starting point at zero. Unfortunately I can only guess at my time as the strip underneath my shoelaces was ripped from its loop during the run and apparently didn't trigger when I ended the race. I'm nowhere to be found in the results. Since I have a general idea of the age of the people I finished around, I can peg my finish at around 38:00. If I want to give myself a little more credit, twice I stopped to tie my left shoe. (Now I know the lace snagged on the safety pin keeping the timer strip in a loop on the other shoe and ripped it out.)

So, on the generous side, perhaps I did the 5K course in 37:00-37:30. It's by no means fast, but I'm satisfied with that time. I had no idea what to expect. With a little more energy and no walking, perhaps I cut a few more minutes off that time. All things considered, I think I did pretty well. Before today my longest run of the year was just over a mile.

Now to keep up the work and maybe run another race or two before the year's out.

Happy 4th of July!

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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Petty griping

For fifteen years, including this year, I will have worked on the 4th of July. In that stretch there have been one or two exceptions, although I still had to punch the clock when it falls amid a holiday weekend, just not on the exact day. The holiday loses some of its luster when you don't have it off.

Yes, it's a petty gripe, but it really blows a long weekend like this one knowing that you need to be working when most people are kicking back. Plus, I need to appear kind of happy about it. Trust me, I'm not.

So I've been lazing about today and yesterday and observing with some degree of exasperation as the hours have evaporated. For instance, I conked out for about three hours this afternoon. While I was refreshed after the nap, I felt like I'd wasted the day. It's already 7:00 p.m.! Not that had anything planned. Time just felt like it was slipping away from me.

I suppose I'm just getting the moaning out of my system tonight. Now where's that vacation time?

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Saturday, July 02, 2011

Home box office

These days movies can be viewed practically anywhere at anytime. Smartphones, portable media devices, DVD players in minivans, and laptop computers have made it so that we can see almost whatever we want at the press of a button.

This is not how it used to be, obviously. The two biggest developments in my own moviewatching as a kid were when my parents subscribed to the Disney Channel and when we got a VCR. The Disney Channel used to be a premium channel, just like HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and The Movie Channel. Now it's part of the regular cable packages, and the programming, from what I can tell, is substantially different.

The Disney Channel used to show a bunch of the old cartoons, episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and Disney features like The Apple Dumpling Gang, The Devil and Max Devlin, and Candleshoe. There were also the DTV music videos: mostly cartoon footage appropriately cut to pop songs, I suppose as an alternative to MTV. I loved these. (The one that sticks out the most in my memory is for Darryl Hall and John Oates' "Private Eyes".) After the cable bill arrived, I'd pore over the booklet that listed the channel's programming for the month. I can remember spending better portions of days watching whatever oldies happened to be scheduled.

Of course, there were also the premium channel previews and free weekends from time to time, which allowed me to catch up with non-Disney Channel movies. I can remember seeing some Mike Tyson fights this way, as HBO happened to be free at advantageous times. For whatever reason, Showtime tended to come in unscrambled regularly, especially at my grandmother's house. The picture had some graininess but was certainly very watchable.

Renting movies was always an exciting thing to do, as if it were a special occasion to pick something to watch. Examining the shelves at the small independent grocery store in town or at the larger ones nearby was a favorite thing of mine to do. Will the one I want be in?

It's with such memories that this summer I've decided to go back and watch films that I saw back then and probably haven't seen since. Catching up on the ones I didn't see is a little extra thrilling, even if the movies are junk. Within the last couple weeks I've watched The Last Starfighter, Summer School, Weird Science, and Big Trouble in Little China. Of those I had seen before, none have lived up to what I recalled them being, but they've been fun to see anyway. As with any art, there's what's in the text and what I bring to it, so even if the former is sometimes lacking, the latter more than makes up the difference.

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Friday, July 01, 2011


I've been on a bit of a pie making kick for the last month. I'd promised a couple, one to a graduating student and one to someone who had done me a favor. Then decided I wanted to make some for myself. So I did.

There was an aborted attempt at a cream pie. (I did something wrong with that one and pitched it. Out of practice, most likely.) Then there was strawberry rhubarb, followed by chocolate. Tonight I felt like a lemon pie that my grandmother used to make. Chocolate and lemon pies are linked in my mind because she usually made them available on the same night when cooking for rotary meetings.

I'd made a lemon pie before, but it's been a long time. I couldn't remember if it was a pudding pie. Jello didn't seem right, but was it really pudding? I called my mom, and she seemed low on details too, although she steered me toward pudding. I ended up choosing a pudding that you cook rather than the instant variety. While it took some time stirring it before I became convinced that this was indeed what I wanted to make, eventually the color and smell told me that this was it.

And the taste too, of course. How refreshing on a hot summer's day.