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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Untold stories of 2010

West Point

I have a great respect for the patriotism of our military. That American Airlines commercial about uniformed service people boarding first makes me misty. That being said, if for some reason the draft was back and I was eligible I would move to Mexico. Draft Dodger all the way or at least maybe conscientious objector. It wasn't exactly my idea to trek out to West Point during my recent trip to New York but I really liked it more than i expected to.

Here are some fun pics...









Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Untold stories of 2010

With all of this talk of the Rose Parade, I think i should share about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.



My father's brother and his family live in Connecticut, a mere train ride from NYC. We spent Thanksgiving there and without a doubt one of the highlights was being able to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade live in person. Of course, I am a bit of a parade junkie -- i watch it every year on TV religiously -- it was on my parade bucket list. Also on there, to be the Grand Marshall of the Rose Parade. Give me twenty years or so, right?



We got up fairly early, braved the train and the cold weather to Grand Central Station. We took a cab (mind you it was super cold for us Angelenos) to the corner of Central Park where we were able to see most of the balloons. I think we blended pretty well with the locals. To add a strange coincidence, the Purdue band marched in the parade which my father a very devoted and proud Purdue Alumni absolutely loved.

Here are some pics of more balloons and Central Park in fall for fun:

Super Size Me...



From the Happiest Place on Earth...



Me trying to be "artsy"...



And how could I not sneak a peek at the tree at Rockefeller Center???

Monday, December 27, 2010

untold stories of 2010

As 2010 draws to a close, I realize I have shared very little about big pieces of the year. In particular, there has been very little mention of the amazing trips I have taken this year -- Indiana, Florida, Peru, Michigan and Connecticut/New York City. So in these remaining days, I will try to get every thing caught up.

Untold story #1, Michigan.



In October, I traveled to the Grand Rapids area for a conference. Having never been to Michigan, I did not know what to expect. But believe it or not, I absolutely loved Michigan. Mind you it wasn't January and it wasn't Detroit. But Grand Rapids and in particular the little city we were in Holland were, well, quite charming. Holland is the quintessential mid-western small town and frankly, it felt like I woke up in Mayberry circa 1955 (I never did see Opie, though). It didn't hurt that it was right on an inlet of Lake Michigan, had perhaps one of the most fabulous candy stores known to man and a great brewery.



But without question, the star(s) of the show of my week in Michigan were the LEAVES! Having grown up in Southern California where all my life I have heard about leaves changing colors in the fall, but never actually seen it, I was blown away by the majestic colors. I always thought these midwestern transplants who lament the loss of fall were belly-aching over nothing, but a week in mid-October in western Michigan has corrected the error of my ways. I am already trying to figure a way back there next fall -- any ideas?



Monday, December 13, 2010

Secret Santa


As is the tradition in many workplaces, my work does a Secret Santa gift exchange every year. We don’t do it company wide but instead the fun is limited to our smaller – 15 or so – department and also limited to $15 per gift. A few weeks ago, when the particulars of the how, when, where and who of our exchange was going down, I shared with most of our team a very tongue-in-cheek gift I had in mind for one of our peers who was notably absent. It was affirmed by laughs. Two days later when it was time to draw, I shamelessly rigged my turn (of course I went first) to ensure I drew out this man’s name. Within a week, not only did most every know who I had, another person gave me a used version of the proposed gift to the collective chagrin of our team. Another “win” for the class clown alive and well in my soul.

But then another one of my co-workers – bless her heart – revealed that she prayed before her turn at the draw. Huh. A sharp contrast to my brazen attempts to work the system/showcase my subtle yet poignant wit (guilt trip starting now). But really – prayer over who she draws in the secret Santa? Is my faith so jaded (or maybe so grounded) that I think this level of spirituality seems so over the top? Does God really care who we pick in the office Secret Santa? It seems to me he has more important matters to consider like AIDS, global poverty, widespread economic failure, wars, cancer and the recent release of the entire collection of the Beattles music on iTunes than who I have to spend $15 dollars on.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

College Game Day -- 10/30/2010

South Carolina. Wisconsin. Missouri.

Three weeks in row, three undefeated number one teams have been dethroned by underdogs. Three weeks in a row, ESPN’s College Game Day has been there to tell the story. Today, College Game Day for the second time in their history broadcasted from the hallowed Coliseum giving the Trojans the hope of extending the three-week trend to four as they host the undefeated AP #1 Oregon Ducks.

It is no secret that USC has had a very disappointing off-season and on season. However, their two losses were for a combined total of THREE points. Yes, they have no hope of any kind of post season for years to come. They can expect all of their best players to announce their transfer in early 2011 (if not sooner). And perhaps worst of all, they are stuck with the captain of the Titanic as their coach until the sanctions end. However, tonight they have a chance to do something that speaks to why College Football is perhaps the true National Pastime.

All eyes will be on the torch and lets hope Traveler is all warmed up and ready to run tonight!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Back to the Practice



Tonight I went back to Yoga after a four month hiatus. Believe it or not from approximately mid April through mid June I was going to Yoga class two and even three times a week. For those of you following along at home, that time period corresponded to my intense weight loss/exercise campaign where I lost something like twenty-five pounds. Not only was I going to Yoga quasi religiously, I was counting calories like a crazed anorexic, drinking Slim Fast for 2/3 of my meals and power walking miles a day with two sets of arm weights and Shape Ups (I know, very, very dorky).

However, with the end of my contest, summer heat, the arrival of young Fisher and my trip to Peru, diet and exercise fell by the wayside. Of course, so did my weight loss and to date, I have gained back almost ten pounds of the weight I lost – what is that saying about two steps forward three steps back again? Perhaps because I have officially become middle-aged, tonight I found some sort of discipline to get back on the horse again, at least when it comes to Yoga.

One thing I learned, is purchased classes expire – so while although I had four of five classes paid for, after a few months they expire. SIGH. Embarrassing and shameful, I had to buy more classes in order to get back three of the expired five classes – some bargain, right? And the quaint, long-haired check in guy and my favorite Yoga teacher asked where I had been. I got a dog. I went to Peru. They didn’t judge, but I am sure they have heard lots of excuses before. I also think they have lots of regulars fall of the face of the earth never to be heard from again.

While I don’t anticipate graduating from the beginning class anytime soon, I am committing to the practice.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

1975 – Volume VI Stanford University Cardinal

October 9, 1975 Yoko Ono and John Lennon celebrate the birth of their only child Sean coincidentally on John’s 35th birthday. As the story goes, John became a househusband upon the Sean’s birth and stayed home with him until his tragic murder just five years later.

Today on Sean Lennon’s 35th birthday I hear he is hosting part of the celebrations of what would have been his father’s seventieth birthday. I would rather write about John Lennon than the sad state of affairs of the Captain of the Titanic’s sinking ship (aka Lane Kiffin’s USC Trojans). And so in honor of John Lennon’s 70th birthday and Sean Lennon’s 35th here goes:

Imagine there’s no NCAA sanctions
It’s easy if you try
No Reggie Bush debacle
He still has his prize
Imagine Pete Carroll
Still coaching the Trojans

Imagine no vacated wins
It isn’t hard to do
Still BCS champs in 2005
No post-season ban
Or scholarship penalties
Imagine heritage hall
Not shamed at all

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday NCAA will come around
And USC glory will be restored

Imagine Lane Kiffin
I wonder if you can
Still coaching Tennessee
Icing kickers and sandbagging time outs
All he wanted
Imagine USC football
Not a sinking ship at all

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday NCAA will come around
And USC glory will be restored

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fisher’s Convalescence


Last Tuesday, on the way home from Dog Obedience Class, my dog Fisher inadvertently leaned on the power window button, successfully unrolled the passenger side window in my Honda civic and jumped into traffic while at a stop sign no more than three blocks from my house. I got out of the car just in time to see him get hit by a white mini van unable to miss him as he ran through traffic. I scooped him up, covered in blood and feces, and thanks to the advice of an onlooker who saw the whole thing, took him to a local emergency animal hospital less than one block from my house that even though the vet told me later had been there for thirty-five years, prior to this event, was not, to me at least.

I handed Fisher off to them and to my horror, I sat on the very hard wooden bench only to hear him yelp and cry just a few rooms away. I was soberly asked if I was prepared to shoulder the financial burden of his care. At that point, I would have probably signed off my kidney and mortgage just for the hope of him making it. I was pretty sure he would die. I texted a friend the brief message – Fisher was hit by a car – and within fifteen minutes two of my closest friends were there with me in the waiting room.

Not long after, I was informed that Fisher had a fractured pelvis, which I was supposed to take as a comfort because surgery would be unlikely (so far). He was going to need 24-hour surveillance (observation) which included a trip to another hospital and a return to our neighborhood emergency center – in the meantime I needed to prepare for his convalescence and nursing (whatever that meant). True to her word, Fisher’s first vet who was nowhere near as handsome as his second released him to my care for the duration of his convalescence a mere 24 hours after his accident

Dog convalescence involves, at least for Fisher at this point, being confined to his crate for an estimated six to eight weeks. He has to take pain med every six hours and to date has not eliminated in a place other than his crate. He pants often, whimpers, cries and moves very little. When lifted he wails and fiercely struggles to the point of near hysteria. He cries through most of the night. Here and there, glimpses of his pre-accident self shine through – tail wagging, an unshakable love for avocadoes and the occasional characteristically pug head tilt.

I want to include this on my blog in the hopes of gaining some encouragement and acceptance for I have (and probably will for quite some time) blamed myself – if only I would have noticed him before he jumped out the window or for God’s sake have had the child lock on. Rationally, I know it was a freak accident that could have happened to anyone, but still I can’t help but shake my fists at the man upstairs for allowing free will to yield its ugly course in the life of my little dog. Maybe some good will come of this but right now, I just want to go back to the instant right before he jumped out the window and put the child lock on. Where is Michael J. Fox and that DeLorean when I need them?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

1975 Volume V – The University of Washington Huskies


Not long before Pete Carroll’s wife started babysitting the presumably stubborn and willful son (can you say terrible twos?) of Pete’s then colleague on the University of Arkansas’s coaching staff, Monte Kiffin, he read The Inner Game of Tennis (IGT) as part of his University of the Pacific graduate degree coursework. For the purposes of this blog, we will take the liberty of assuming that Pete read the book in 1975 smack in the middle of the book’s 1974 publication date and Carroll completing his degree; but if you want to take the mid-seventies flash back a step further, can’t you just picture him reading while listening to the his favorite band the Grateful Dead right after watching Johnny Wooden’s Bruins win the NCAA tournament for the zillionth consecutive time?

The philosophy outlined in IGT hinges upon “clearing the clutter in the interactions between your conscious and subconscious mind” enabled “through superior practice and a clear approach. Focus, clarity and belief in yourself are what allows you to express your ability without discursive thoughts and concerns.” Along with the Seattle Seahawk’s coach, LA Lakers’ skipper Phil Jackson also draws on the almost Zen like axioms of IGT. Carroll has also cited psychologists Abraham Maslow and Carl Jung, Buddhist mediation master Chögyam Trungpa, the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia and of course, Johnny Wooden as influencing his coaching style/philosophy.

So tonight, as Pete Carroll prepares to face the St. Louis Rams, who like him, have a somewhat significant connection to Los Angeles, lets see if he can clear the clutter of his conscious and subconscious (whatever that means) and take no note of how the captain of the Titanic’s, who he no doubt pictures throwing a tantrum in a dirty diaper, Trojans faire against the University of Washington Huskies who just one year ago shamed the Zen out of him. Believe in yourself Pete.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

100th Blog


We interrupt our regularly schedule broadcast (1975 – Volume IV) to bring you this special centennial blog post:

Recently, my blog was flooded by hits from a total stranger on a post I had written well over a year ago (look up salsa lessons and you can read for yourself). The stranger accused me of being an Ugly American-type insensitive to other cultures. At first, this completely pissed me off and I sicked a few of my friends on her to defend my honor. I meant to rise above her petty accusations and stay out of the whole matter, but finally, I couldn’t resist and ended up responding in a note of sarcastic brilliance if I do say so myself.

But in the week or so I got my panties in a wad about this stranger’s opinion of me, I had forgotten some simple advice I often give to children who complain they have been called a name or been made fun of – “is it true?,” if the answer is no, than let them say what they want because you know they are wrong. This was certainly the case, what she said about me wasn’t true, yet I couldn’t let it rest until (if you read it you will see) the woman finally recounted that she in fact had jumped to the wrong conclusion. Finally, my “Joseph” moment!
Indeed, good came from what was meant to be harmful to me; I began to revisit why I began blogging in the first place which seems fitting to share in this my 100th post (who knew, right?).
I started blogging because I love to write. I might not be on the path to win the Pulitzer or even get published, but this simple little blog allows me some formality to hone my craft. Admittedly, there are typos, ill-constructed sentences, over reliance on parenthetical phrases and a whole host of other things that an editor would scoff at it, but I like to think, every once in while there might just be a good little nugget in there. A friend once told me a story about an amazing painter whose art was never discovered until she died – she had painted a lifetime of beautiful paintings for the sheer joy of painting. For the few stolen moments a week I find to work on my blog, I am a writer writing for the sheer joy of writing.

Community. In my first foray into blogging (some of you might remember) I discovered there is a community of bloggers out there who had I not put some of my thoughts out there, I might not have ever met. For the most part, with a few exceptions, I have never met this fellowship of bloggers, but many of them, I have come to consider as friends. On the flipside, there are real friends who I don’t get to see as much as I would like because of distance, busyness or my diet, but keeping up on their blogs makes me feel in touch with them.

Therapeutic. Writing about the hijinks and capers of my life has helped me make sense of them. And if you can believe it, I have a whole host of unfinished blogs out there – often trudging through the mediocre controversies/scandals that I probably opted not to “publish” for fear of getting fired from – but those are the blogs that have brought me much needed clarity. Maybe, someday, I will publish them…Along the same lines, I have written here and there about my passion for local at-risk children a topic that I ought to visit more.

There it is, in a brief and poorly constructed nutshell, as much of the why I can muster together before I must go clean out my garage, about my blogging motivation. Granted, I can use some polish, branding and some pointers on how to better use the edit functions of blogger, but in the end that isn’t really my point (now). I also probably won’t ever have more than a handful of followers (I love all nine of you) but that also isn’t really my point. Nor will I get discovered by the New York Times as I am quite sure they very often troll blogs as a means of finding new columnists. Oh well, I would settle for an appearance on the Daily Show or maybe even tickets.

Fight On and beat the Cougars!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

1975 – Volume III The University Of Minnesota Golden Gophers

In 1975, Ohio State’s Archie Griffin made history by becoming the only two-time winner of College Football’s prestigious Heisman Trophy. In both 1975 & 1974, he beat out USC players most notably Anthony Davis (can you imagine Anthony Davis not winning the Heisman?) in 1974 and Ricky Bell (can you think of any other USC player with the initials RB?) in 1975.

And while although the Captain of the Titanic was not old enough to remember these events, I have no doubt he has been closely reviewing Heisman History this week in the wake of #5’s historic decision. If the Heisman Trustees are cleaning house, I suggest they take a long look at another USC legend – OJ Simpson as the next winner to have to surrender his prize, but maybe Ron Goldman’s parents have grown attached to it by now.

Lets hope the PAC-10 does well against the Big Ten today – Fight On and Bear Down.

Please forgive my brevity I have scalloped potatoes and pork tenderloin on my mind.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

1975 – Volume 2: The University of Virginia Cavaliers


New Year’s Day 1975, the Year of the Rabbit, all eyes on Pasadena where the pride of Bishop Amat High School lead the USC Trojans to a victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes. The 18-17 win is considered by many to be one of the most exciting Rose Bowl Games in history. Twenty-Five points were scored in the fourth quarter including a Pat Haden pass for the game winning two-point conversion all the while, Trojan second half legend—Anthony Davis sat injured on the sidelines.

This was the third consecutive Rose Bowl match-up for the Buckeyes and the Trojans and while although there is a still a chance the NCAA might force the Trojans to vacate the win because God only knows what Reggie Bush’s step father was up to those days, the team finished ranked #1 by the UPI (Coaches Poll). However, their victory, in the absence of the controversy –ending, effective BCS system in determining only one National Champion, the Trojan’s shared the title with the University of Oklahoma (#1 by the AP).

Tonight, as the Captain of the Titanic and #10 take the field at the Coliseum; let’s hope they can learn from the 1974 Sooners who in spite of an NCAA ban went undefeated and were ranked #1 by the AP. which at this point is really all the Trojans can hope for. Fight On and beat the Cavaliers!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

9-11, nine years later...



This Saturday, will mark the nine year anniversary of 9-11. It is unreal to me that 9-11, the world changing event that most of us punctuate our lives by on some level -- post 9-11 world/landscape -- is almost a decade removed from today. Weirder still, all children in elementary school today know no other world than the post 9-11 one; if you asked them where they were when 9-11 happened, they would have no answer because, well, they wouldn't have been born yet!

Bringing me to the point of this blog -- where were you when 9-11 happened? I have no doubt all of us have a very specific, detailed story to share, our generation's where were you when Kennedy was shot. If you have the time, interest, ability, share your story. Trust me, at some point on Saturday, you will tell your story. Why not get a dress rehearsal now?

Here is mine, which even if no one responds, I am glad to share...

I was living in Tucson but on the heels of moving to LA. I was packing a suitcase for a mid-morning flight from Tucson to Denver (where I would join my two oldest brothers) with a connection to Indianapolis for my Grandmother's funeral when the friend who was taking me to the airport called and insisted I TURN ON THE NEWS -- I tuned in just in time to see the second tower fall. She added with a bit of drama, "YOU'RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE TODAY." Of course she was right, but we wouldn't figure out until later all flights would be grounded for over a week. If right when the towers hit, my brothers and I would have gotten in a car and driven to Indianapolis, what my entire family did for my grandfather's funeral before I was born, we wouldn't have made it in time. Our relatives decided not to postpone the funeral as we were the only long-distance ones effected (or is it affected) by 9-11 finding subs for my brothers as paw bearers.

I am glad my grandmother never lived in a post-9-11 world even if it cost three of her grandchildren, who will live most of their lives in a post-9-11 world, from being at her funeral.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

1975 – Volume I: The University of Hawaii Rainbows



It is possible, you haven’t noticed that during this year’s off season, the USC’s football team got a new head coach. Maybe you were too preoccupied with the ending of “Lost,” saving loads of people in Haiti or like the poor Chilean miners, you were stuck in a mine for the better part of the last six months, any or all of which prevented you from noticing the untimely departure of Pete Carroll and the unlikely arrival of new head coach Lane Kiffin.

So now that you are up to speed, the horror of watching Lane Kiffin coach the Trojans won’t seem as jarring tonight in their first game against the Hawaii Rainbows (as an aside, I wish there was a legitmate way to include a reference to the double rainbow guy). That being said, I would like to forever refer to Lane Kiffin as the Captain of the Titanic whose real name was Edward John Smith but as no one would ever get that reference, the Captain of the Titanic will suffice. And if you can’t figure out why the Captain of the Titanic is a fitting nick name for Lane Kiffin, well than my weekly blog poking fun of him corresponding with each USC game, probably won’t be that interesting to you anyways.

There are lots of reasons why hiring the Captain of the Titanic was an ill-fated plan – his losing record as a head coach in both the Pros and most recently at the University of Tennessee, pending law suit(s) against him, a season’s worth of vacated wins or his brash and arrogant demeanor – to name a few, but I would like to focus on the Captain of the Titanic’s age. When the Captain of the Titanic took the head coach job at the Tennessee, he was 33 years old making him at the time the youngest active head coach in Division I Football. Now at a mature 35, he is no longer the youngest, Portland State’s 34 year-old Nigel Burton holds that distinction – but his youthfulness remains another category where he is close to the bottom.

This year, instead of writing about things I own that are actually older than USC’s quarterback, Matt Barkley, I will write about notable events that occurred in 1975 – the year the Captain of the Titanic was born. Most of the events I share (and I don’t have a very developed list, so if you have suggestions, I am all ears) will have relevance to USC and/or LA Sports but not necessarily. How could I not at some point talk about the end of the Vietnam War **spoiler alert**?

And as this is just an introduction, there will be no 1975 event to share this go around as I have already written way too much for my three readers to trudge through. One final thought about tonight’s game – Thursday night USC games make me nervous, we all remember the last Thursday night game that ended in a hot mess: September 25, 2008 – need I say more?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Fall of Troy



On the eve of the first of the sanction years, Trojans fans are forced to come to terms with the witch-hunt like process, I like to refer to as the “Fall of Troy.” Yes, friends, while although I have not taken the bait these last few absolutely dreadful months, I can no longer be silent on this entire matter for our team.

Item I – The Disassociated One

Never again, will #5’s jersey hang in the periscope end of the Coliseum (unfortunately #32 is still there). In fact, some where along the way in this process not nice men came in and stripped every memory of #5 from Heritage Hall. #5 also had to painfully surrender his Heisman – at least they can’t take away his Super Bowl ring, right? Knowing the NCAA, they might even find a basis to do that six years from now. Lets remember, at the center of this whole thing was the stepfather of a then teenager.

Item II – Vacated Losses

I remember spending a good portion of January 4th, 2005 huddled around a small TV set in a Point Loma University conference room watching my beloved USC Trojans beat the tar out of the Oklahoma Sooners becoming undisputed BCS Champions. Having split the National Title the year before, their very decisive win was the culmination of their apt 2004 theme – “leave no room for doubt.”

However, it seems as now, years later, the BCS and the NCAA have found room for doubt and in what is perhaps the most painful sting of the sanctions is the forced vacation of several wins, most notably the 2005 BCS Championship. There is talk that to add further insult to injury, it is possible, the BCS will crown the Oklahoma Sooners as their 2004 champs. Either way, vacated game or new champ, I will remember USC winning that is until the NCAA finds a way in another five years to wash every single USC fan’s memory of the win.

Item III – The Captain of the Titanic

I will focus more on the Captain of the Titanic on game day, but the unfortunate arrival of new head coach, Lane Kiffin really hurts. Or I should say, the flight of Pete Carroll (no one anywhere has forgotten how poorly Pete has done previously in the NFL) on the eve of the awful unfolding of layer upon layer of absurdity of sanctions might be the hardest to cope with. Never again, will Pete run out of the tunnel in Cardinal and Gold and to think, less than a week before the announcement, he was at the BCS Championship reliving memories of USC BCS games. Hold onto those, Pete as I think the NCAA is working to subpoena them right now.

Have I made my point? There are only so many synonyms for ridiculous and witch-hunt I can find, but that is what all of these sanctions are. The lost scholarships and the free ride for current players transfers are nails in the coffin. R.I.P. Troy, I look forward to your resurrection.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Child of Divorce



My parents have been married for 47 years and while I suppose it is possible they could get divorced, I think it is highly unlikely. So why have I been feeling lately like a child whose parents are getting divorced?

This morning the most expensive divorce trial in California’s history began and its outcome will forever shape the landscape of the Dodger Organization. To date, Frank and Jamie McCourt have spent an estimated $20 Million dollars fighting over their most prized “shared” asset – ownership of the beloved Los Angeles Dodgers. If Mr. McCourt wins, he will remain the sole custodian of the team leaving Mrs. McCourt with only tens of millions of dollars instead of hundreds. On the flipside, if Mrs. McCourt wins, the team will be sold and she will walk away with half of the cash.

Since the McCourts bought the team in 2004, the organization has seen three different managers (we all like Joe, BTW), a revolving door of players (good luck in Chicago Manny), steady increases in ticket prices, crazy and unimaginable parking lot changes, all sorts of stadium renovations bringing much needed new seats and huge loses to the Dodgers’ foul territory, but still no World Series ring. Heck, I’d be happy with an NL Pennant. They have won their division two years in an a row, but in a city used to teams that are champions multiple years in a row often, division champs from one of the most storied franchises in baseball history, just isn’t good enough.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Reading...

Last year, I read many books. In fact, for the three of you who know me in real life, you have probably caught me whiling away on a nice afternoon with book in one hand and a modest glass of pinot in the other. Or maybe you and I have talked about contemporary literature, Pulitzer winners and best sellers.

But lately, it seems like I have fallen out of love with reading – the truth is I have started more books this year than I have finished. Amazing books, books that have come highly recommended, books that won awards and been on the top of the best seller list forever but books I can’t seem to finish. I know who have I become – what happened to the voracious reader you fell in love with? Where is that lady?

There is a good chance my demise is directly related to TIVO, which, like the Minnesota Vikings, I have a love/hate dynamic with. Okay, I really hate the Vikings but love #4. But back to TIVO – I think it causing me to watch nine million times more TV than I used to and is singly responsible for my brain turning to mush. I hardly even do the crossword anymore – I know, who have I become? And of course, good writers are readers, so TIVO is also affecting (or is it effecting?) my blog. Perhaps more than the adage, you are what you I eat, I believe you are what you read.

So, to bring shame upon my household, here goes, my list of books I started reading this year but never finished.

The Sparrow


Vin Scully: Pull Up a Chair


The Idiot
//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Idiot

Desmond Tutu: Rabble Rouser for Peace


How to be your Dog’s Best Friend


Ordering your Private World


We Drink From Our Own Wells



Up this week – I know I am jinxing my self – being a child of divorce, the fall of troy and 1975.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This Time


I know, you have been expecting this. It always comes to these sorts of inevitable posts where I beg for forgiveness – pleading that this time will be different.

This time I will keep my promise and blog on a more normal schedule. This time it won’t be weeks (or in some cases months) between posts. This time I won’t string you along saying things like more to come on (insert failed theme attempt here: ‘wring in Wednesday,’ ‘my trip to Peru,’ ‘my new dog Fisher,’ etc)… This time I won’t offer up some lame excuse like world travel, computer troubles or my personal favorite – GOOD OLD FASHION BUSY-NESS!! This time there won’t be a pathetic side bar on how much I despise being perpetually busy maybe adding something over the top in terms of harrowing-ness about how that being busy robs my soul. This time I won’t say something about how much I have missed blogging hoping you will ‘buy’ it and take me back.
Perhaps I am the Rodney Dangerfield of bloggers, but to my three readers out there (you know who you are), I am back.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Peru!


So it turns out that I was blessed enough to spend the past two weeks in Peru. I will try to post more specifics on our time in country, but thought a quick picture would whet “your” appetites!!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fisher


About a month ago the beautiful Pug pictured above was found roaming the streets of the high desert. Victorville for those of you familiar with the high dessert. We will never know for how long, why or what his origins are. Perhaps he was a run away. Perhaps he was a cast off in a foreclosure. A Good Samaritan picked him up and delivered him to a friend he knew who had a sister who was very involved in rescuing dogs. The Good Samaritan and her sister, a woman named Donna, began their rescue magic. He was “fostered” in the sister’s house who got him micro chipped, neutered, cleaned up and checked out. One vet thought he was two years old, another said he was one year old.

Three weeks ago or so, they showcased the mysterious dog they called “Taz” at one of those parking lot adopt-a-pet shin digs in Orange County where my brother, who has a soft spot for pugs, found him. My brother was very taken in by the whole story and immediately called me saying this was my dog. I wasn’t sure, but went ahead with all of the paperwork. OK, somewhere along the line I got excited. The “foster” mom assured me he was good natured and didn’t cause any problems.

I officially adopted him the night after the LA Lakers won the finals and decided to name him Fisher, after Derek Fisher. While I am not a huge Laker fan, from what I know of Derek Fisher, he like my dog, has overcome amazing odds and time and time again has proven himself a resilient and admirable man. When he jumps or even acts surly in the least (which he doesn’t do often), I like to chide him that he isn’t named Kobe. He divides his time between rooting around in the back yard, napping or following me around.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Biggest Loser


Since January 1st, I have been actively trying to lose weight. I know many of you have had first hand knowledge of this process over the past six months; still I have refrained from blogging on it for fearing I would become Oprah about it. But that stops today as I am departing from the diet (for now at least) as I have officially lost 10% of my starting body weight on January 1st bringing my grand total to 19 pounds! If I flash back to my starting weight in October of 2009, I have lost 25 pounds, which as this blog is testimony to, I am very proud of.

How did I do it you ask? Well, I began with just straight up calorie counting ever decreasing my daily total, which for long stretches was 1,100/day. If you have never calorie counted, 1,100 is LOW and some debate if that is even healthy. Confession: for most of the year, I took the weekends off which was my saving grace. Mondays were often fraught with guilt, but I am sure I would’ve called the whole thing off in March had I not had that default.

Slowly, over time, I combined the calorie counting with exercising. And again, if you know me in real life (as opposed to blog life), you know I am not one to go to the gym but focused instead on power walking (I know, could I be more dorky). Gradually, I power walked longer and more often – at times 6-7 days a week. As well, I bought a pair of Shape-Ups (yes, I could be more dorky), which I think helped. Somewhere along the line I started wearing arm weights. I was even doing Yoga a few nights a week bringing me to a season of “two-a-days.”

Off an on for the last month, I went to SlimFast doing their 3-2-1 method. I should add there was a fairly consistent season where I was eating Special K for two meals a day. SlimFast was decent, but I will not miss them. There were two separate two-day periods where I ate only spinach, eggs and grapefruit juice. Not to go into too many unpleasant specifics, but this cleansed my system and wasn’t nearly as unbearable as I thought it would be.

All told, I will be shifting to maintenance through when I depart to Peru in mid-July. When I return, I will reassess my goals and decide if I want to go another round or not. One really big prompt was a six-month contest organized by my work, which because of I won $100 but today’s finale, felt really anti-climatic. I wasn’t in the winners’ group/click and was so far from their percentage loss (and also not really in their friend group) that I wasn’t in on the “celebrations.” Fair enough, $100 is $100 and 10% weight loss is 10% weight loss.

Sorry, no before and after shots – not my style.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Living from a tip jar...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Lakers (sigh)


I have been hearing rumors that the local NBA team is in the Championships. Rumors confirmed by the timely appearance of those God awful Laker flags that seem as reliable in June as the blooming of the majestic Jacarandas. Both tend to be purple and only around for a few weeks.

The Lakers seem to make it this far every year and as much as I hate to admit it, are LA's most successful franchise. Remember USC is not a professional team. The Celtics might have the same title in bean town. Together the Lakers and the Celtics have won 32 championships more than half of the total 63 championships in NBA history. They have met 12 times in finals, the Lakers only winning a dismal three times. It is LA's turn, right?

But really, like the appearance of the ubiquitous Laker flags, there are a few things we can count on. The series will go seven games. I believe there is a network conspiracy to get as many broadcasts as possible (but that is a whole other blog entry). The Lakers will win -- after all they are due against the Celtics. Kobe will get the MVP. Phil Jackson will say something zen. Jack Nicholson will bring a woman young enough to be his daughter to a game. Maybe his grand daughter. People will mention the whole Magic Johnson/Larry Bird era -- perhaps the two will even make it to a game. (remember Magic made it to the Final Four?) A sidebar story on Luke Walton (the pride of the University of Arizona) and Bill Walton.

The one silver lining in all of this, we are that much closer to the end of the NBA for a blissful few months.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mater Dolorosa


Today I spent a good chunk of my day the Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre. One of the perks of my job is that I get to do these sorts of things every so often. One of the perks of my new house is that this amazing locale is walking distance from me!!

Monday, May 31, 2010

MLB & Memorial Day


For the last few years, Major League Baseball has honored Memorial Day by having all teams wear either all red or blue hats. Today players all across the country will be wearing white hats to salute Veterans. There are two more times this season players will wear their white hats -- can anyone correctly indentify those occasions?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Our National Pastime


Yesterday I went to my first baseball game of the season – I know it is almost June and not one outing to Chavez Ravine. Worse yet, remember how I was in Miami in April, do you know who else was in Miami at the exact time – my beloved LA Dodgers. I was dying that I didn’t make plans to see them beat the Marlins. But back to my second favorite team, or my favorite American League team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim who yesterday beat the Blue Jays in the ninth inning with Abreu’s walk-off single that even included a Rally Monkey sigting. What’s not to love about our National Pastime?

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Year of the Tiger


2010 is the Year of the Tiger, and now as it is nearly half over, hasn’t it seemed to have been full of crazy, unimaginable and unlikely supernatural events? Earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, China, Turkey, Baja California, the Dominican Republic, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and just the other day, Peru? Plane crashes in Ethiopia, Libya, the one in Western Russia where the entire Polish cabinet and President died, India and Indonesia. Severe weather of all sorts – flooding in Brazil and Nashville, the road to Machu Picchu covered with mud, one of the worst winters on record for parts of the Eastern Seaboard and did I mention the Icelandic Volcano? The 2010 Winter Olympics start with the tragic death of a Georgian Luger – horrific images that remain all over the internet. Riots in Greece and Thailand and probably a whole lot of other places I can’t remember, Coal Mine explosion in West Virginia, foiled Times Square Bombing, British Election a mess and perhaps the worst oil spill in modern history?

And while although I am not someone inclined to subscribe to all of those Armageddon/Doomsday messages (If Raptured, this car will be unmanned), I can’t help but wonder (SATC), if maybe there is really something up this year? I know, human kind throughout history has always said things like this, also “kids these days,” “the world is going to hell in a hand basket” and so forth, but perhaps we are really standing on the brink of human history.

I remember on the Eve of the first Persian Gulf War thinking it was, as REM said, “The End of the World as We Know It,” only to have all of the fears fade away like the Iron Curtain. While I was more worried about not getting my driver’s license in 1991 than the total collapse of human history, Desert Storm thankfully ended with very little change in our global civilization. And then again in 1999 with all of the hype about Y2K, there was another wave of Doomsday talk that I never really bought into, laughing at all those who bought generators and stockpiled non-perishables. Still laughing.

Again, 9-11 brought on another strand of these sorts of ideas, but time has passed and so what if Osama Bin Laden is the Anti-Christ, he remains marooned in a cave in remote Afghanistan where he will likely live out most of his days. Maybe Barrack Obama is the Anti-Christ; perhaps the Pope or ever Scott Brown. Okay, not really Scott Brown but all of the Tea Party nonsense is another dynamic to the unfolding drama that is the Year of the Tiger thus far.

Bring on hurricane, fire season and perhaps worst of all the tenure of Lane Kiffin as USC’s head coach.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Let the Great World Spin


All of the lives we could live, all the people we will never know, never will be, they are everywhere. That is what the world is.”

Aleksandar Hermon, The Lazarus Project.

This thought provoking quote begins Let the Great World Spin (LTGWS) by Colum McCann the lastest chapter in my book report entry.

LTGWS is a very charming story written seemingly as a nod to 9-11 if not the Trade Towers themselves. The novel hinges around Philippe Petit’s tightrope walk between the towers in August 1974 interestingly the eve of Richard Nixon’s resignation. The narrative bounces back and forth between a several different characters whose stories eventually converge which is kind of the point of the framing quote (I think?). An Irish Jesuit in love with a sultry Central American widow, his brother, the wife of a prominent judge dealing with their son’s recent death in Vietnam, a mother & daughter prostitute pair living in the projects, a misguided artist trying to find herself and a no-nonsense black child of the depression who defied the odds and becomes the story’s unlikely hero.
Having traveled to New York about a year ago, I felt an instant kinship with the setting. As well, the plot lines engaged several of my passions – theology, social justice and urban poverty. On the whole, a great read. And as a strange aside, I am currently reading another book where one of the main characters is a Jesuit Priest.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Elijah

Please note: As to protect his privacy, Elijah is not the given name for the child being described…

Elijah is easily one of the most likeable third graders you will ever meet. Most days, at the tutoring program I lead, he is the first kid to arrive, eager to help, smiling, sunny and quick to give an update on all of the other kids who eventually make their way into the library. He is popular with classmates and tutors alike. Adding to his charm, he is a good four or five inches shorter than the class average; what he lacks in stature, he makes up for with charisma.

The other day, Elijah was absent and other kids had reports he was at school but left early. Later that week I asked him about his absence and told me his mom picked him up because she lost one of her jobs. He very proudly told me she still had her night job (whatever that is) but she won’t be a nurse (her day job?) anymore. He kept his smile up, but it seemed fairly obvious this wasn’t a good thing for his family.
As we starting working through the kids’ homework, I ended up working with Elijah. His main assignment was a page of converting; gallons to pints, pints to quarts, millimeters to meters, hectograms to grams and a bunch of information deep within the foggiest regions of my memory. We trudged along, but honestly I think I was making matters worse teaching him a method far different than the one his teacher had.

Somewhere in between the quarts, meters, cups, and decimeters, I noticed Elijah eyes’ were watering which surprised me as I have always known him to be a very well-adjusted nine-year-old. In fact, I asked him if he had allergies or if there was something in his eyes believing him not to be prone to crying. But, this only made dear Elijah cry worse, in the brave, strong trying not to cry way that only macho little boys can. With all of my heart, I wanted to cry alongside Elijah, but like him, knew I had to fight off the tears.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Place Called French Lick..


Believe it or not, I spent approximately 30 hours in a place called French Lick during my vacation. Our sojourn (okay, it wasn’t a sojourn at all I simply wanted to use that word) was at my mom’s prompting French Lick is a city out in the middle of nowhere and, as my truck driver cousin described, a pain in the a** to get to, who’s claim to fame is it is home to what was once the world’s largest free standing dome. All other things being equal, you’d probably see it too if you could and too boot Larry Bird is from there and it also boasts a huge casino.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hoosier State


I spent a chunk of my recent vacation in the birthplace of legendary coach, Johnny Wooden. Yes, it was final destination, Hall, Indiana for me for the better part of a week. No, I didn’t go to any kind of shrine, mainly because as far as know there is no such shrine, although as Johnny Wooden’s 100 hundredth birthday is less than six months away (10/14/2010), perhaps it is high time my cousins get started on that.


My time in Indiana confirmed a theory some of my dear friends have made fun of to no end about, but I am Hoosier. I don’t mean Hoosier in the sense of rooting for the University of Indiana or being really into the movie Hoosiers. Instead, to answer the question someone as American and cultureless as me must face in Los Angeles, arguably the most cosmopolitan city in the world, on a daily basis – what are you? In fact, if it was a choice on the census or other such times one is forced to declare their ethnicity, I would gladly mark the Hoosier box with certainly and pride. I can claim just as much of a connection to Indiana as my friends who were born here to parents from places like China, Korea, Mexico, the Philippines and the Netherlands and have never lived a day of their lives in those foreign lands.


Both of my parents grew up in rural Indiana and even though they moved to Los Angeles long before I was born, I still have more biological relatives in Indiana than I do in LA. And if things continue as they are heading, when I am old and outlast all of my immediate family members and have no one left to care for me, save for my Indiana family, I will inevitably have to pack my bags and return (even though I was never there in the first place) to the Hoosier state to live out my old age. Okay, perhaps I can be a tad less pessimistic.

But my time in Indiana confirmed I am blessed beyond measure to have a pretty amazing family. Yes, we have our moments and there are a fair share of quirks and geeks, but I am glad I got to see within a little over a week most of the people on the planet who share my DNA. Also, I learned Truck Stops don’t generally sell tomatoes in case you ever wondered.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Recent Travels


This time I have a really good excuse for the delay in my posts, I have been on vacation for almost two weeks! My time away has given me much material, expect pictures and elaboration soon but here are some strange highlights in no particular order.

In the last two weeks I have seen most of my relatives including three brothers, two parents, one sister-in-law, four uncles, three aunts, four first cousins, three cousin-in-laws (is there such a thing?),eight second cousins and one second cousin once removed (I think).

In twelve days I have been in five states (okay, I never left the airport in Colorado or Georgia). I have slept in five beds including a twin-sized dinosaur bed that belongs to a six-year-old boy. I have seen giraffes, alligators, polar bears, bald eagles, scores of crazed college basketball fans and flamboyant older men clad in fluorescent Speedos (only in South Beach). I watched a little bit of a triathlon, saw the Duke Blue Devils win a national championship for the second time in my life, went to the last ever regular season game to be played in Amway Arena and somehow found time to go to a T-Ball practice.

I have flown three different airlines, took a taxi, driven in the back seat of a convertible without a seat belt, rode in an air boat through what I prefer to think was the Everglades instead some run of the mill swamp in central Florida and perhaps most memorably traveled through the bowels of Orlando on a broken down bus traveling at 10 miles per hour for well over an hour.

I lost $140 bucks playing blackjack in a place called French Lick, was exposed to chicken pox, was rained on, read a wonderful novel set in New York City, did the electric slide, had a mean rooster jump on me, was rained on, got a facial, unsuccessfully flew kites one of which got stuck in a tree, saw the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, eaves dropped on a phone conversation with my aunt and Kathy Lee Gifford, sized-up my sixty year-old cousin’s latest crush, put up a bouncy house, ate gazpacho, was rained on, carried around a box full of baby chicks for about an hour, and met the owner of the Orlando Magic. Who am I kidding; I have enough material for a short novel. My one regret is that I didn’t go swimming.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Jugglers, Lane Kiffin and other 34 year-olds


Believe it or not, I have been thinking a lot lately about Lane Kiffin. Worrying is more like it. At the same time, my unbearable busy-ness ensues without any kind of change in sight. Okay, maybe I am being dramatic in that I am soon going on vacation for two weeks, but still very busy. I did find some strange comfort today in venting with a few friends and co-workers who also feel like busy-ness is choking the life out of them. At least I am not alone. In the course of the conversation, the metaphor of juggling was used to describe our busy lives where it was set forth; no one notices all of the balls the juggler catches, just the ones he drops. Brilliant.


But back to Lane Kiffin – brash, 34-year-old newly hired head coach for my beloved USC Trojans football team. Sunday’s LA Times had a feature on him, chronicling his career, his feelings about being the head coach of one of the most storied teams in college football history and his untimely departure from Tennessee. Did you know the police had to guard his house for weeks because of the threats his family was getting when he took the USC job – crazy!?!


During Kiffin’s 2005 leadership of the USC’s offense, two plays were highlighted (USC fans know exactly where I am going): Matt Leinart's fourth-and-nine epic pass to Dwayne Jarrett at Notre Dame and LenDale White's ill-fated fourth-and-two run that Texas stuffed in the 2006 BCS title game. The fact most fans dwell on with the 2006 BCS loss was Reggie Bush on the sidelines watching LenDale White’s run. Don’t ever ask my dad about that.


But some wide facts about Kiffin’s 2005 leadership of the Trojans offense – they went undefeated in the regular season, winning most of their games by 17 points or more, are arguably one of the greatest teams of the history of college football and Mr. Bush won the Heisman Trophy. Not bad considering the man at the helm was then just 30 years old.

Of course, most people remember the ball he dropped – losing the BCS game while the Heisman Trophy winner sat on the sidelines, instead of all of the balls he caught. I am not sure about Lane Kiffin believing like most true USC fans he is in way over his head, but maybe, just maybe, the 34-year old could use less criticism and more hope. Tomorrow, practices begin, right?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Forward


One wonderful unintended consequence of last week’s spring forward was the sudden out of nowhere arrival of spring. Indeed, hasn’t it felt like all week spring is here even though it doesn’t officially start until tomorrow? All of this year’s rain, a sudden warm spell and more daylight together have transformed ugly barren trees to flower filled wonders before our eyes! Bring on the jacarandas. Perhaps this is what people who live in areas with bona fide seasons mean when they esteem the marvel of the changing of the seasons. Welcome spring and oh yeah, happy birthday to my oldest brother.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

March Madness


In 1985, the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament had the very unlikely Final Four match up of three teams from the same conference – the Big East’s Villanova, Georgetown and St John’s. Eighth seed Villanova won out and to this day remain the lowest seed to ever win the tournament. However, lurking in the shadows of 1985’s big dance was the root of another NCAA tournament record that twenty-five years ago passed without very much thought or analysis by anyone.

Arizona Wildcat fans know where I am going with this. Indeed the then 10th seeded Wildcats first-round loss to Alabama began the longest string of tournament appearances in NCAA history which I am sad to say officially ended with their painful, predicted and deserved omission from today’s Selection Sunday announcement. The Wildcats are not the only traditional powerhouses not invited to the 2010 tourney; North Carolina (last year’s champ, right?), UCLA, Indiana and Connecticut will all be staying home this year.

In their quarter century of tournament play, the Wildcats have much to be proud of including four Final Four appearances (1988, 1994, 1997 & 2001) and one National Championship (1997) where they remain the only team in the history of the NCAA tournament to defeat three number one seeds in the same tournament (Kansas, North Carolina & Kentucky). And of course, they have the reputation for first round upset losses – Santa Clara and East Tennessee State immediately come to mind.
Yes, it just doesn’t seem like March Madness without the Arizona Wildcats and I dare say there is an entire generation whose lifespan has never known a NCAA bracket without my beloved Wildcats. I am officially in mourning.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Running to Stand Still


I have been neglecting my blog for quite some time. I know, we have all been there and indeed I am putting that shameful take me back post I’ve done so many times in the past. Here is the laundry list of pathetic reasons to explain my absence.
Pathetic reason #1: Blogging has somehow begun to feel painfully narcissistic. I know, that is par for the course, but for about the past month or so, every post I begin to even think about feels whiny, self-indulgent, entirely void of substance and primarily designed to endear myself to all three of my readers. And perhaps that is the heart pathetic reason #1; I have been really discouraged by the lack of feedback and growth (popularity) of my blog. I know it is terrible to equate my self-worth with the amount of comments I receive on a given post, but it is what it is.

Pathetic reason #2: Computer trouble. Here and there my PC has been acting ambivalent most especially as it relates to my internet access. I know what you are thinking, I should have got a MAC, and you may well be right. Apples are on the horizon.

Pathetic reason #3: Lack of material. This is really a combo of pathetic reason #1 and the yet to be mentioned #4, but the truth is I haven’t felt like there is any material bubbling up from my soul these days. In fact, the only thing that seems to be bubbling up from my soul is, well, file that under TMI. I have a few crappy, unfinished posts I may or may not try to revive.

Pathetic reason #4
: I have been unbearably busy. I hate being busy and I feel the shame/scorn of my friends out there who are able to mediate all of the forces that I am unable to do live a serene, free and examined life. I used to be able to do that, but 2010 has been plagued by personal, professional, family, social and all sorts of other crazy commitments that have seemed to suck the life out of me. This is not a pace that lends itself to blogging. This is a pace that lends itself to wrinkles, difficulty sleeping, letting people down, messy desks and messy houses, unreturned phone calls, loss of ground on the weight loss campaign and feeling like the worst version of myself. I long to be sequestered and/or quarantined until then, I run to stand still. I need to heed the wisdom of Alice and Wonderland, “don’t just do something, stand there.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pastors wives


Recently I was at work, well, glamorous as it might sound, making copies, when one of my co-workers asked another co-worker and I about the definition of a religious term. Remember, for the purposes of this story, we all work for a church and we are all women. I gave my definition while the other co-worker gave an answer that varied greatly from mine. None of the three of us was anywhere near a computer so “googling it” was not an option. My co-worker found herself stuck – whose definition was she going to endorse?

She decided to go with the other woman’s answer because, and this is the part that almost breaks my heart, she is a pastor’s wife. And as a disclaimer, I don’t mean to poke fun at the pastor’s wife in this story because I am really quite fond of her, but really? Is this 2010 or 1950? I suppose in certain circles sleeping with a pastor really makes one more qualified to speak on religious terms than a graduate degree in theology.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Life in France by Julia Child


Taking a little break from my true love of fiction, I recently finished My Life in France by Juila Child. Like everyone else, I rediscovered Julia Child with the recent release of the movie “Julie & Julia.” I loved the movie very much as it combined many of my favorite things – cooking, blogging and misguided souls discovering their purpose in life later than most. I only wish I would have thought of the idea to cook through Child’s masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blog about it. Who knows, it could have been Jen & Julia.

My Life in France was on the whole a good book; engaging at times and slow at others, I mean really there is only so much you can read about butter. And I do really love butter. But a few things surprised me about Julia Child. For starters she was a wonderful writer. I believe big sections of the book were adaptations of her letters written to various people over the years. Secondly, she was thirty-four when she married which in 2010 isn’t exactly unheard of but in 1946 was almost scandalous no less to a man ten years her senior whom she had met while they both were in the O.S.S. serving in Asia during WWII. The last surprising thing and my biggest “take away” is that Julia Child did not start cooking until she was thirty-seven. Imagine such a delay in finding one’s true calling? There is hope for me yet.

I would be amiss to not mention Julia Child was born and raised in our own faire Pasadena. I need to follow the lead of so many of my fellow bloggers and visit her house. Maybe I could leave a stick of butter on the mail box like Amy Adams’ character did at the Smithsonian.

Next up, just in time for spring training, Vin Scully’s Pull Up a Chair.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

“Sitting through” Sermons


Recently, I heard a story about a youth pastor telling a group of students that the last thing they need is to “sit through” another sermon. This immediately struck me as funny, clearly the aim of the story teller. But the more we joked about it, I couldn’t help but find truth in the sentiment that may or may not have been poor judgment in sharing to teenagers under the guise of spiritual formation. Alas, I have “sat through” many, many sermons in my life, some great, some breathtaking, some formative, some challenging, some inspiring and some, well, awful. For the record, at present, I “sit through” many an eloquent, intellectual and finely-polished sermon administered with a fair dose of charisma. What is that adage about not biting the hand that feeds you?

But alas back to the pastor’s seemingly counter-pastoral instruction, indeed I wonder if our contemporary construct of church has put too much emphasis on sermons? Is this some vestige of modernism we can’t seem to shed? I suppose this argument could be made for the whole of our higher education system as there is very little difference between a lecture and a sermon if you really think about. Perhaps pre-literate cultures required oral traditions for the masses to understand the basic tenets of Christianity, but I wonder if we post-moderns might be better inspired by a different means other than the traditional sermon? Or to throw in a dash of Rob Bell, are we simply preaching the wrong kinds of sermons?

And/or how much of the actual goals of discipleship can be learned through a one-sided forum like a sermon? Isn’t applying scripture to our lives best accomplished through didactics with other Christ followers or through acts of obedience and service to others? Add on the layer, was Christianity ever intended to be head knowledge? Instead aren’t we told to live out our beliefs as they form the foundation for our lives (okay that is the Jen Hicks paraphrase of the Sermon on the Mt.)?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ash Wednesday


Just under the wire, what can I say, I have been super busy with life, work, fighting off a cold, planning a trip to Peru and other misadventures that I simply forgot this morning.

But without further adieu, here is this week’s question:

How will you observe Lent?

Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday marking the start of Lent. Some traditions put a significant emphasis on this six week period before Easter while others do very little. I know I am on the far end of the spectrum where we do nothing to anticipate Easter, so perhaps I am curious what others do.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Yertle the Turtle


The other day I read Dr. Seuss’ Yertle the Turtle with an eight-year-old. Yertle the Turtle tells the story of a tyrannical turtle king who humiliates his subjects by having them form a stack of turtles to serve as his throne. The turtles comply, first a stack of ten, then bigger, bigger and in classic Seuss style the stack grows to an alleged multiple hundreds allowing Yertle to be king of ever more things. Finally, however, one meager turtle, Mack, complains. He is at the bottom of the stack – he has been there the whole time, he is hungry, tired and imaginably uncomfortable. Yertle will not budge and instead calls for more turtles so he can be king over even the moon. Finally, Mack at the bottom of the stack, well, burps causing the pile of turtles to topple.

I first heard the story of Yertle the Turtle at a chapel at Fuller. The speaker, whose name escapes me, called Seuss by his given name, Theodore Geisel prefacing him as a great theologian known for tackling injustice, the frailties of human leaders, the lure of power and, well, you get the point. Eventually, he revealed Geisel as Seuss and simply read Yertle the Turtle. Years later, I think the brilliance of this simple lesson on leadership and theology still rings true.

Meanwhile, for a variety of reasons not the least of which is my recent admission to a leadership institute, I have been wrestling with what it means to be a Godly leader. And smack in my face, Yertle the Turtle teaches me more than the volumes of Bill Hybels type literature I’ve been wading through. Indeed, the answer to the question – ‘what is the best book on leadership you’ve read?’ will now and forever be Yertle the Turtle.


And double meanwhile, especially as my turtle kingdom is quite small, I long to find leaders who unlike Yertle care about those they lead not lumping them together like lemmings whose sole value is at most to bring them ever so higher. Remember, the more turtles in the stack, the more power for Yertle. Yertle was unfazed by Mack’s honest complaints – hunger, exhaustion, discomfort as they no doubt interfered with his power grab. Something I know quite well, is bad leaders don’t like the Mack types whom I happen to love!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dead Batteries


The other day my car battery died. While this is not that monumentous and really not all that surprising considering it was the factory issue battery, the scenario created a funny little slice of my life I imagine/hope my loyal readers will, well, get a kick out of. To set the scene it is important to know it was a rainy day and after finishing dinner with friends, I stopped by Star Video (a local wonderful video store) where after much perusing I opted to rent the most recent version of “Pride and Prejudice.” What can I say; I was in the mood for 18th century England.
I left the shop, only to discover my car wouldn’t start. I was able to discern in my limited expertise of things automotive that the problem was related to the battery. I tried to call my friends, but as I have figured out with the intersection of Washington & Allen before, to no avail as it is a dead zone (try very hard to not script a cell phone commercial). Because I frequent the video store, I am pretty chummy with the staff there so I re-entered to ask if I could use their phone. I know, very 1996 of me.

They happily consented but insisted only 626 numbers. I first called Triple A only to find out that my policy had lapsed. Well can I just pay the fee? No, the membership office is closed for the night. Remember it is raining. Okay, I call one of my friends. Ordinarily, I tend towards calling the friend or person I was most recently with but in this case, Stacy has an out of area number. In fact, a great number of my friends had to immediately be eliminated by virtue of their area codes. I called two different friends with the right area codes only to be screened. Of course, they didn’t recognize the Star Video Number and opted to screen. I would have done the same thing if I were in their shoes. Finally, I got a hold of Sharon and Cole who were so curious as to why Star Video would be calling they couldn’t resist answering. Thank God.

So the twenty-first century lesson when it comes to cell phones is that they have some draw backs. For starters, dead zones. But also, because we all have grown so accustomed to programming in our friends and screening unknown numbers, there will be times when getting a hold of a friend will be tricky. We didn’t have either of these problems in 1996 did we when screening was at best a luxury? But the last weird thing and I think most of us have to admit when push comes to shove, we like to have a phone number that pays homage to our former lives before moving to the 626. Proudly, we hold onto those out of area area codes as markers of our more exotic heritage beyond the San Gabriel Valley. Except of course for me who has only ever had one cell phone number and it was issued in the San Gabriel Valley as a 626 number. Rue the day when I have to change it.

Ironically, a truth I have observed over the years of having car break downs is that passerbys will often give you their two cents. Sometimes, the advice they give is out of nowhere and you know in your gut you should just smile politely and ignore it. But there are other times, when you know in your knower that they are right and honest and possibly angels sent to help damsels in distress. That was the case with my battery as my loyal friend tried with no luck to jump it, just as we had given up and were unhooking the cables and calling it dead, a warm-hearted passerby claiming to have been a mechanic for thirty years insisted on giving it a try. And just as I have seen in many other instances like this, he was able to get the car on the road again.

Ring in Wednesday – February 3, 2010

Simple, straightforward, the question you’ve been asked all week –

Who do you think is going to win the Super Bowl?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Minnesota Vikings


This weekend for the first and last time in my life I rooted for the Minnesota Vikings. Even before I discovered Brett Favre with the rest of America in the early nineties, I knew the Vikings were absolutely cursed. It is worse than the old “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” syndrome – it is a deep seated doom. They are the Boston Red Sox (pre whatever year that was the finally won the World Series) and the Chicago Cubs rolled into one. I believe it is quite possible that some Norse God hexed them to the miserable experience their franchise has endured over the years.

But this year, along with many, many other Brett devotees, I was faced with an ethical dilemma – could I root against Brett Favre? Could I indeed place my hopes in the hands of a team I have for so long considered cursed? So I, like many other Brett lovers, threw caution to the wind and embraced the purple. Just like two years ago when the Packers, at the time lead by Brett Favre, came so close to beating the NY Giants, I so wanted to see Brett go to the Super Bowl one last time.

Of course, the nearly three hours I rooted for the Minnesota Vikings were three of the most regrettable hours of my life. I perhaps ought to take some solace that now when someone asks me, as they often do, what is the biggest regret of my life, I will finally have a good answer. I am also revisiting the plan of creating a 12-step program specifically designed for the special needs of Minnesota Vikings fans that I have long toyed with. To add insult to injury, I believe this might finally be Brett Favre’s retirement.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ring in Wednesday, Apple’s new tablet

Today, Apple (a company I just bought stock in) will release its tablet device amid much speculation from all sorts of consumers and analysts. Apple will jump into the market that has previously been dominated by Amazon & Kindle presumably offering a sexier, souped up device merging the seamless simplicity of both the iPod and iPhone and decimating our need to ever have paper books again. This tablet is said to be generating more attention than Moses’ ten commandments, leading me to this week’s question,

what will the new apple tablet device be called?

If you are betting sort, you can put your money where your mouth is at the Irish website offering ibets: http://www.paddypower.com/bet



Some of the favorites are: iSlate, iPad, iPaper, iPage, iRead.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Help, 1.19.10


This year, I am going to merge my love for reading with blogging by posting a BRIEF report on each book I finish throughout the year. Not meant to be material suitable for the New York Times book review, but hopefully something above a mere reading log entry. Also, this might serve as a bit of a decoy to the fact I joined the little club where they send you free books so long as you post reviews of them in your blog. This is not one of those entries, but believe me friends it is coming and I am quite sure you will know the books I was given as they are far from my normal preferred genre of fiction.

Okay, enough of an intro, on to The Help. I loved The Help – partly because I was able to imagine the thick southern dialect dripping off the characters mouths throughout the whole story and also the history major in me was enthralled with a different understanding of the Civil Rights Era. To backtrack, The Help is set in Mississippi in the sixties bouncing between two African-American maids and one recently graduated from college, white, rich, unmarried aspiring writer. As an aside, isn’t it funny how many main characters are aspiring writers? I suppose we do indeed write what we know.

The Help isn’t classic literature but the story is quite engaging and enjoyable. I found an honesty as all of the characters wrestled with class, race and the changing times (there is even anachronistic quote of Bob Dylan). Throughout the story, the love between African-American domestic and white young child resonated so deeply it made me (almost) wish I had been raised by doting, no-nonsense black nanny instead of my biological mother. Okay, not really, but just for a second I wondered what that would be like and for those of you who know my mother, please don’t tell her I said that. I think The Help would make an outstanding movie which is admittedly a terrible barometer of a book’s quality, but true nonetheless.