Digital Video Returns

We tried to live without it. We thought we could do it.

Then "Mad Men" returned mid-summer. On the same night, same time as "My Boys." We were scrounging for VHS tapes to keep up. And when the fall television season started last week, our resistance was futile.

Shoot, we probably single-handedly killed off "My Boys" because we fell so far behind.

So I made a call. On Tuesday we got hooked up with a new DVR.

Let the celebration begin!


Packers defeat

Don't even get me started on the Packers loss to the Bears Monday night.

Seriously. I'd had a long day that kept me at school from 7:30 in the morning to 9:30 at night. I'd been waiting all day -- no, all weekend -- for that Packers-Bears game.

The Packers should have won that game by 20 points. They beat themselves. ... Dropped passed. Fumbles. Dropped interceptions. 17 penalties. ... 17 penalties! The Bears should not have won that game. The Packers handed it to them on a platter. And I'm rolling my eyes at everyone who thinks the Bears are back.

Ok. I'm done ranting. The season is still young. Sunday brings a new round of games. I'm moving on. The Packers can still make the Super Bowl.

I'll admit it was fun seeing Mark Suppelsa sheepishly wearing a Bears helmet on the WGN News tonight. The result of a bet he lost with Eric & Kathy -- who I still listen to every morning thanks to the wonders of the internet. At least some things remain the same.

At least the Chiefs are still rockin' ... They have been super to watch so far. Then again, I wasn't around for their recent lean years, so for me their strong start is no different than the way I remember them playing during the 90s.

(Update: 10.02.10) Good read ...
a Packers WR Jones wants to atone for fumble


SNL returns

Oh boy, were we looking forward  to the season premiere of "Saturday Night Live" last night. Amy Poehler hosting, Katy Perry performing -- throw in Sesamegate -- how could we not tune in!? (In case you missed it, check out Amy Poehler's hidden camera fun over the summer on Ellen.)

The opening monologue was stacked with talent and loaded with good bits ...

I loved -- loved -- that Poehler teamed up once more with Maya Rudolph for an episode of "Bronx Beat," one of my favorite running skits in recent years. And any viewer paying close attention to their Twitter feeds this week had to figure the minds of SNL were going to come up with a gag that spoofed Perry's "Sesame Street" performance. Perry visiting "Bronx Beat" in the Elmo shirt was genius ...

Weekend Update is never bad when Poehler is around, either. And an appearance by the actual David Patterson was pretty swell as well, although I would have been disappointed if Fred Armisen and Patterson hadn't popped up in front of the camera lens as Poehler was signing off -- which they did.

The show's biggest downfall, I thought, were Perry's musical performances. The background dancers were terribly distracting. Perry appeared uncomfortable and seemed off her game.

Good read ...
a Live from New York, it's Chicago on 'SNL'
a Tom Shales reviews the opening show of SNL's 36th season


Dog with a prayer

Our friend Gina sent this one to me today ...

Bed time converstion

Scene: Kates is in the bathroom brushing her teeth last night and getting ready for bed. I'm outside the door, in our bedroom and watching "Sportscenter." The talking heads on ESPN are discussing the Minnesota Vikings' 0-2 start and speculating whether Brett Favre could be benched ...

Me: If the Vikings bench Favre, he'll be done. He'll retire. There's no way he'll stick around if he's not starting.

Kates: (groans) Favre. He needs to be done.

Me: The only reason he's still playing is that stupid streak. Well - I shouldn't call it stupid. It's actually a very honorable streak.

Kates: What streak?

Me: His consecutive games streak. He hasn't missed a game since he started with the Packers in 1992.

Kates: Really? He's never been injured?

Me: Well, he's been injured before --

Kates: But he's still started every game.

Me: Yeah. The earliest he's ever been forced out of a game -- remember that game against the Cowboys a few years ago when he was injured in like the second quarter and Aaron Rodgers had to come into the game? And it was the first time anybody had ever really seen him play, and then the next morning everybody was like, "Wow, this kid can really play."

Kates: Yeah, I guess I do.

Me: And then it was see ya later Brett.

Kates: Buh-bye.

Me: Moving on. Aaron Rodgers is our quarterback now. Packers will be in the Super Bowl this year. You watch.

Kates: You think so, huh?

Me: Yep.

Good reads (Updated: 9.26.10)
a No patience with starting NFL QBs this year
a Favre Plays On, but Vikings Are Out of Tune in an 0-2 Start
a Vikings' and Cowboys' 0-2 starts among the early surprises in the 2010 NFL season



So ... much ...I want ... to write ... Not ... enough ... time ... Need ... more time ...

One of these days I'll catch up. We'll finally feel settled. And life will be great.

I feel like we're so close ... and yet so far away. In so many ways.

Over the weekend a head cold slowed me down. I knew it was coming early last week when I woke up with a sore throat a couple mornings in a row.

Then it hit me full bore Thursday, and by Friday I felt like I was going to die. No matter how much I had on my agenda for the weekend, I couldn't focus; I couldn't concentrate; I could barely move. My head felt like it weighed 40 pounds and I was drinking cold medicine like Coca-Cola.

At this point, I've blown so much snot from my nose I'm surprised I'm not seeing brain.


Jeter cheater

I've been a fan of Derek Jeter's for a long time. He's got skills, and he carries himself with a ton of class ... Or maybe I'm just that naive.

In a rare hour of relaxation -- that didn't include watching "Toy Story" -- I flipped on the Yankees-Rays game Wednesday night in the bottom of the sixth inning. A half inning later, Jeter pulled one of the slyest acting jobs I think I've seen in my years of watching Major League Baseball.
While ESPN showed replay after replay, clearly showing the ball hit the knob of Jeter's bat, Rays manager Joe Maddon fervently with umpire Joe West and eventually was tossed. I watched in amazement as the umpires huddled and still didn't overturn the call ... and then dropped my jaw when the next batter, Curtis Granderson, slapped a two-run homer to give the Yankees a one-run lead.
The play in question occurred in the top of the seventh, with one out and the Yankees trailing, Tampa Bay, 2-1, with first place on the line in the American League East.
The first pitch from Chad Qualls came in on Jeter’s hands — where he often does get hit — and smacked the knob of his bat as he spun away. He tossed his bat, clutched his elbow and hopped toward the Yankees’ dugout.

Having been awarded first base by the plate umpire, Lance Barksdale, Jeter continued to pretend he was in discomfort. Manager Joe Girardi raced out, as did the Yankees trainer, Gene Monahan, who examined Jeter’s arm.
Fortunately the Rays took the lead back on Dan Johnson's two-run home run and won the game. To make it right.

What floored me more than Jeter's acting job was the way he flatly admitted after the game that the ball hit his bat first. If you're going to act like the ball hit you, at least stick with the act after the game, too.

Reporter: "Where did that ball hit?"
Player: "I thought it hit my elbow."
Reporter: "Replays show the ball hit the knob of your bat first. Did you know it hit the knob of your bat?"
Player: "No. I felt it on my elbow. That's why I reacted the way I did."

It would have been that easy.

I get the whole gamesmanship thing. Get on base however you can. Play to win. Yada, yada, yada. ... Yet, in all of my years of playing baseball, I can't think of a scenario where I would have acted the way Jeter did. If the umpire makes the wrong call, that's one thing. I would have gone to first base, too.

It was Jeter's acting job, however, that made the play so uproarious.

As usual, Bob Ryan has a good take on the whole charade: Jeter caught in the act.

Update, 09.19.2010: Facing Questions, Jeter Asks One: What’s the Big Deal? ... In retrospect, he's got a good point.


Goodbye 'My Boys'

I spotted the fateful news on my TweetDeck yesterday afternoon: TBS cancels "My Boys."

I can't say I'm surprised.

Kates and I watched faithfully from the first episode. ... We never loved it the way we've loved "Lost," or "Grey's Anatomy" in its heyday. But we remained charmed by the chummy, laid-back clan of young adults. Not to mention the show's Chicago homebase. And its baseball metaphors.

When the latest season started mid-summer, Jim Gaffigan was gone, and watching the show quickly dropped off our priority list. We lost interest, and the last two or three episodes are sitting somewhere among a stack of VHS tapes in our living room. "Mad Men," which held the same timeslot as "My Boys," did get priority.

We miss our DVR.

EW has a good tribute to "My Boys" today.


The joys of parenthood

So I was in the bathroom getting ready for bed Sunday night when Kates said she heard Phoebe cry. Kates was already in bed, so I was in the best position to check on Phoebe; I nearly blew it off and went to bed, but decided to check on Pheebs anyway.

In her bedroom, I immediately noticed a foul stench. Using the little light I had, I got closer to her bed and put my hand on her sheet; it was drenched. Then I looked closer ... Chunks. She'd thrown up. All over her pillow.

I raced upstairs to tell Kates. She bounced out of bed. The two of us sped to Phoebe's room. I flipped on the light. Kates hoisted a crying Phoebe from her bed and carried her to the bathtub. I was right behind pulling apart the sheets to rinse them and take them to the washing machine -- trying not to gag myself.

We finally went to bed at 12:30 a.m. Monday.

Today, Phoebe woke up on the proverbial wrong side of the bed. She's been crying and throwing tantrums nearly the entire time she's been in our presence, from the time she woke up to the time we got in the car to go to the daycare, and again tonight from the time Kates put her in the car at daycare to the point we put her to bed just now.

Good thing she's cute and cudddly and cheerful 98 percent of the time.


Weekend tidbits

Kates spent the afternoon in her classroom and is still there this evening. In the meantime, I spent the afternoon playing with Phoebe, in between taking care of the homestead.

And now we’re watching “Toy Story.”

Such is becoming our Sunday routine.

* * *

On the bright side, how about those Green Bay Packers!?

I was thrilled to see they were on national television today, and they looked good -- real good. Except for the fact that they had trouble stopping Michael Vick in the second half. And Aaron Rodgers looked Favre-alous throwing that fourth quarter interception that could have turned the tide and lost the game for the Pack.

But, hey, the Packers are 1-0. … The Vikings are 0-1. And Favre is appearing more like even he doesn’t know why he decided to play another year. He didn't look good the other night against the Saints. ... Ok, so he suited up for the first game, but I still doubt he’ll play the whole season.
Adding to my weekend sports fun, the Cubs were in Milwaukee this weekend to play the Brewers. I made the discovery Friday night when I was flipping through TV channels in search of a game. Phoebe immediately joined me on the couch, and when Kates came into the living room and I announced the finding there were high-fives all around.

The three of us watched the game together, and Phoebe fell asleep while cuddling with me and watching a baseball game for the second time in three nights. She did the same on Wednesday night while I was watching the Red Sox game.

The Cubs won Friday night’s game behind the rejuvenated Carlos Zambrano, but I was just as pleased to see the Brewers win one today.

Nothing like the enjoyment of watching your hometown teams on TV. Even when you’re living hundreds of miles away.

* * *

We resumed our house hunt this weekend …

We saw three houses. No. 31, No. 32 and No. 1 on our list.

The first was a mansion that was out of our price range, but we wanted to check it out anyway. It has a layout similar to the home that’s been our benchmark since we saw it last spring -- House No. 29, the one that we would buy in a heartbeat if only it weren’t on one of The ’Ville’s main drags. The difference is the house we saw yesterday has been completely refinished and restored, from top to bottom -- including the attic room, which had been transformed into the ultimate man’s lair. The yard was gorgeous, too.

The second home we saw is an old farmhouse Kates has been keeping her eye on for the last few weeks. It sits on a large lot and the interior has a ton of potential. Hardwood floors, ornate woodwork, a large kitchen and four bedrooms upstairs with the possibility of a second on the first floor. … Those bushes, by the way, would come out immediately, too.

On the downside, the foundation has some severe cracks, and a little bit of tugging on the wallpaper showed its holding the plaster together. The property also has two unattached one-car garages, which we’d want to demolish in order to build one two-car garage. The home sits on a corner lot that features a gas line hub, which just scares me considering what happened in California. And I’m not in love with the neighborhood.

The home is well -- well -- within our price range, which would allow us plenty of extra funds to turn it into something really beautiful. … The debate we’re having, however, is whether we have the time, resources and energy in us at this stage of our lives to do the job.

For our third viewing of the day, we went back to the first house we saw last spring. The price had been hacked quite a bit since we last saw it, and a few more looks at the charming exterior convinced Kates and I that maybe a second look might change our minds. …

Nope. Almost as soon as we stepped inside again we remembered why we didn’t like it the first time. The first floor layout is awkward. The three bedrooms upstairs are tiny and there’s virtually no closet space. And the basement is just plan creepy.

And so the search continues.

* * *

This week our landlord, aka our realtor, had a new washer and dryer delivered to our place …

We used for the first time today. And it is heavenly.



Today marks 25 years since Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb's career hits record.

Here's a good read this morning about former Padres pitcher Eric Show. Heavy stuff.

Show was one of those players of the 1980s who I knew better from unwrapping his baseball cards than watching him play.
* * *

Today marks nine years since 9/11.

There's some interesting reads this weekend, several of which are about the rebirth of the World Trade Center site ...

a Sept. 11, 2010: The Right Way to Remember
a Still on Duty at Ground Zero, the Indomitable Nurse Reggi
a Building a life around a hole in the heart
a Among 9/11 Families, a Last Holdout Remains

I also caught this video on msnbc.com. Pretty cool. ... The New York Times also has interactive maps detailing the project.


My thrill

If you check this blog often, perhaps you've read The Weepies have a new album.

It was released Tuesday -- a date Kates and I had anticipated eagerly for months -- and downloading it was one of the first things I did when I arrived home that evening -- after collapsing on the bed with Kates and Phoebe.

But the first listen left Kates and I somewhat befuddled. We thought the album lacked flow. And the songs didn’t seem to have the character of The Weepies we’ve grown to love. “It’s kind of all over the place,” I said.

I’m thinking now, those were the bad vibes from our day working.

We’ve changed our tune with a few more listens over the weekend. “I’m warming up to it,” I told Kates Sunday night.

It's true, though, that the album has a different quality than The Weepies songs we've been playing for years. The thing is each Weepies album has a distinct feel, and their fourth collection continues that mentality. As I remember, I wasn’t so thrilled initially with “Hideawaywhen it arrived two years ago. Now it’s arguably my favorite of the duo’s releases; I guess we were expecting more of the same when we pressed play for the first time on “Be My Thrill” last week.

Compared to the darker themes of “Hideaway,” “Be My Thrill” is more upbeat. And it's already prompted Phoebe into a dancing frenzy a couple of times ... At the album’s core, the lush harmonies, the catchy melodies, the heartfelt lyrics and the sweet guitar strums -- they’re all there.

I Was Made For Sunny Days” and the title track (which, yes, totally tricked me into thinking I'd accidentally turned on Death Cab for Cutie’s “No Sunlight) are the clear favorites from the album. Both sparkle with cheer, and I love the kick that comes from the sound of Deb Tallan straining her voice on the bridge of “Thrill.” Every morning is like the one before / And everybody needs someone to adore.

The lovely “They’re In Love, Where Am I?” has the feel of a soft-pop hit of the 1970s ... “When You Go Away,” “Hummingbird,” “Be My Honeypie” with its jangly chorus and the repitive “Red Red Rose” take on the lullaby qualities The Weepies play so perfectly ...

The only miss on the album is the bluesy “How Do You Get High?” which feels out of place with the rest of the album's tone. It just might go down as my least favorite Weepies tune ever, and it will likely never see the light of my iPod.

Other reviews worth reading ...
a The Daily Cardinal
a Paste Magazine
a The Maneater


Dreams of a Desk Job

There was a great read in The New York Times this weekend by John Grisham about the days before he was best-selling author.


Labor Day

I think Kates is getting back at me for leaving her alone for six months to take care of our toddler … Really, I know that’s not her intent, but that’s how I’m justifying it.

For at least one day during the last several weekends, she’s left me alone with the kiddo so she can go to her school to prepare her classroom, lesson plans and all the other things people in her underappreciated profession must do.

So today Kates went to her school.

Meanwhile, my day consisted of …

Searching our storage room for a box with Phoebe’s nebulizer; Kates wanted to give  her a breathing treatment in hopes of helping her get over the cough she’s been harboring since last weekend. The nebulizer had been put away with a collection of things Phoebe has either outgrown or no longer uses, and I had no idea where it was in the room. Grudgingly, I started pulling away the stacks of boxes, occasionally opening the ones I thought might hold the magic nebulizer. I got lucky and found it sooner than I expected ... But have I mentioned my back is still killing me from the move two months ago?

Taking Phoebe to the park. Not that I don’t enjoy taking Phoebe to the park. I relish taking walks with her, taking in the neighborhood and exercising my legs … But today she had her first fall at the playground. We were sitting on a set of bars about three feet off the ground, and she was admiring the collection of rocks in her hand when she lost her balance and fell back-first through the bars. It happened so fast all I could do was hold on to her leg as she dangled upside down and then set her on the ground as gently as possible, head first. She started crying and I raced to the other side of the bars to console her. Her conscious was hurt more than anything, but she got right up and tried again, announcing “I not fall!” I also convinced her she would have an easier time climbing the bars if she put down her rocks. Fortunately for both of us, she listened.

Doing laundry. It’s a time-sucking bear … We have a washer and dryer set that’s gotta be circa 1978. The washer isn’t a problem -- yet -- but the dryer produces so little heat we have to run two or three cycles before our clothes are dry. The last couple weeks, the dryer has been clanging so badly we’re convinced the next load could be its last. We finally told our landlord about it last week and hope to have a new washer-dryer set soon.

Serving supper to Phoebe. She asked for chicken nuggets and carrots with milk -- her favorite. So I prepared her dish, poured the milk into her sippy cup and set them in front of her. As usual, she grabbed for the milk first -- and spilled a quarter of it onto her lap; I hadn’t screwed the cap onto the cup properly. Phoebe burst into tears, and eating supper became a lost cause as we headed for her room to change her clothes. 

The last event happened nearly two hours ago … Now we’re trying supper again and watching "Jonah." It's going well.

Viral videos

So I'm a bit behind the curve on this one. When my friend Tom and I ventured to the Royals game a couple weeks ago he kept repeating lines from the "double rainbow" video. Eventually, he explained the phenomenon to me ... and I, of course, viewed the video the next day. 

Here's a take on how the 'double rainbow' video blew up.

Better than that is this musical version concocted by these guys.

Also worth checking out is this video featuring extreme sheep LED art.


No walk in the ballpark

Here's a good read from The Boston Globe: For Fenway’s hawkers, the job’s no walk in the ballpark.

I get it.

In college once I spent an afternoon hawking Coca-Cola bottles at a Kansas City Chiefs game as part of a fundraiser for a campus organization.

I have rarely been more sore and exhausted from something in my life. And I've had a greater appreciation for these guys ever since.

On the bright side, I did make $14 in tips that day.

Week in review

It's Labor Day weekend ...

We have no plans and no place to go. And that's ok. We slept well past 7 for the first time in weekend, and didn't get out of bed until nearly 10; Kates and I sat in our bed reading while Phoebe crawled up and sat between us to watch "Toy Story" for the  umpteenth time.

The perfect cap to a trying week.
Here’s a quick, barely-skimming-the-surface rehash of the week in our household …

Last weekend. I spend most of Saturday working in my office, trying to catch up on things and prepare myself for the start of classes on Monday. Kates spent most of Sunday in her classroom, planning her lessons for the week …

But on Sunday night, the campus was putting on a fireworks display that had generated so much buzz I refused to pass up the chance for some family fun. It was to be a fun kick-off to the school-year and it was set to music.

Around 8, we headed over to the campus and set up our camp chairs among the students filling the practice fields. Kates spent some time reading a book, I chatted with a couple colleagues and Phoebe sat in her stroller, happily blowing bubbles in between some people-watching ...

(I also announced the Emmy award winners to Kates as I received them on my Blackberry. Thrilled to see "Mad Men" and "Modern Family" -- which we've watched from the very beginning -- received the accolades they so deserve ... And this opening number is pretty good, too.)

About 40 minutes later, the fireworks lit up the sky -- in a display that matched Hollywood special effects, complete with explosions on the field surface. Music from “Star Wars” and the Harry Potter movies were part of the soundtrack …

Fireworks kick off the school year

For Phoebe, it was her first-ever fireworks experience, and she’d been talking about going to the display all day. When the first explosions filled the sky, she promptly reached for Kates and spent the rest of the show cuddled in her arms. She loved the display, not the noise.

* * *

Monday. Kates and I had long work days, and both of us felt the weight of the world on our shoulders …

On the bright side, fall classes began at the university and it was energizing to see the campus buzzing with action again.

We decided to hit another campus event that night -- the Wesley Center was hosting a back-to school barbecue -- for some fellowship with our newfound church friends and the good vibes that come with hanging out with the college kids. The place was packed and there was just enough food to go around; Kates contributed brownies for the dessert table.

We had a good time, and Phoebe attracted an audience, as usual.

* * *

Phoebe had been coming down with a cold, and Tuesday it was bad enough that we decided to keep her home.

In anticipation of that, I warned Kates Sunday evening that I couldn’t stay home Tuesday. One of our congressmen was visiting campus and the rest of my schedule was stacked with meetings and responsibilities.

Nevertheless, Phoebe’s crying woke us at 4 a.m. Tuesday. Kates then got the tough task of calling her principal at 5 a.m., waking her up in the process, to tell her she needed a substitute teacher. At least in Kates’ previous district there was a special phone line for teachers to call and leave messages when they needed subs … Then Kates had to go to school anyway so she could lay out the day’s lessons for the substitute.

In the meantime, I kept watch on Phoebe. I popped “Toy Story” into the VCR for her to watch, and within minutes she was curled up with her blanket and zonked out on our bedroom floor. That gave me a chance to take a shower and get myself ready for work … On cue, Kates was back home around 7:30, Phoebe woke up from her power nap, and I was heading to work.

My workday went well, but the non-stop action of it left me so drained I was ready to collapse when I arrived home at 5:30 … We had a church commitment to attend that night, but Kates wanted to stay home with Phoebe. I refused to go so I could stay home with both of them.

* * *

Burdens continued to mount Wednesday.

Phoebe appeared well enough to go to daycare, though she still had a terrible cough. And Kates returned to school … She came home for supper and returned to school late Wednesday night to catch up on what she missed Tuesday and prepare for Thursday.

As we fell to sleep that night, I sighed and told Kates, “I wish things were better.”

“Me too,” she said.

* * *

Thursday, a slight respite.

Our work days were just as heavy. My responsibilities included covering a board of regents meeting and helping with preparations for the governor’s visit that evening …

At the home-opener for our defending national champion football team. The governor was on-hand for a pre-game ceremony to present the national championship trophy, as well as the coach of the year trophy to our accomplished football coach and the cheerleading team with its own national championship trophy, which they won last January.

Unfortunately, we missed the pre-game ceremony. With the 6 p.m. game time, it was a test enough for Kates and I to break from work, pick up Phoebe and eat supper before the kickoff.

Nevertheless, like the fireworks on Sunday, Phoebe had been talking about going to the football game all day. And we had a memorable time teaching her the B-E-A-R-C-A-T cheer

Back at the campus, the atmosphere was festive with families clad in green and white flocking to the stadium. I relished the feeling of attending a football game again, and the fact that my daughter was enjoying it with me … Phoebe -- dressed in a white shirt with pink lettering I’d bought her the day before -- giggled and bounced all the way across the track and to our seats. Once the game began, Phoebe wasn't too antsy, although a box of popcorn toward the end of the first half proved to be an immense help.

Phoebe and Kates left as the second half began, and I watched the Bearcats muddle through the rest of the game. They had their chances, but some overthrown passes and dropped throws kept them from closing the gap and taking a lead. They lost the game 16-7, but the silver lining is they’ve lost their opener the last three years on their way to the national championship game.

When the game was over, I walked home.

* * *

Finally, Friday. The day was good to us and we celebrated with a Greek dinner at A&G’s.