R.I.P. Neil Armstrong

I'm not old enough to have experienced the wonder Americans felt when Neil Armstrong made his "giant leap" on to the moon July 20, 1969.

Still, my heart sank a bit yesterday afternoon when I saw the news of his death. On Twitter, of course.

As far as newspapers go, that day in 1969 also gave birth to some of the greatest front pages of all time ...

Still, my favorite "Man Walks on the Moon" front page, hands-down, has got to be that of The Onion ...

I own a copy of it now, but the first time I came across it in the aisle of a bookstore -- I laughed to the point of tears and my knees buckling.

Enjoy. Read as much of it as you can.


Music break

I’ve been listening to Nickel Creek almost non-stop this week. And I. just. can’t. break. the spell.

Over the last couple years the trio has become one of my go-to bands during stressful times. And it’s been one of those weeks.

Here’s hoping their hiatus doesn’t last much longer.

Worth watching and hearing …
This Side and Speak.

* * *

We have a new favorite song in our household.

“Good Time” by Owl City, featuring the one and only Carly Rae Jepsen.

It’s so fitting. With Phoebe's help, Owl City has inspired dozens of memorable sing-alongs and dance parties in our house. And Carly Rae nabbed Gotye’s hold on the “it” song with her summer smash, “Call Me Maybe” (Remember, this song was so hot, everybody from Cookie Monster to the U.S. swimming team was spinning it.)

I heard “Good Time” for the first time a few weeks ago and was hooked after one listen. I played it for Phoebe and Kates that night and hooked them, too. Then it was all over NBC’s promos for the Today Show during the Olympics.

Phoebe calls it “The Camping Song.” Watch the video and you’ll understand why.

* * *

The honorable mention for recent hits goes to Fun’s “Some Nights,” which has me lamenting the missed opportunity to see them at Summerfest this year.

Plus, I love the take WTMXwhich remains a staple of my morning routine, thanks to the wonders of internet streaming – had on the song. Watch.

* * *

Oh, but there’s another song rising fast for the fall.

Check out Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together. It’s got an Avril Lavigne vibe with sort of a Kelly Clarkson pop-rock hook. I love it.


Too hot to fall

A year ago today our small town nearly blew away.

Today: Sunny and hot. We’re in the midst of a drought and the only substantial rain we’ve seen this summer happened to fall during our summer vacation.

I spent most of today working in our yard. Bliss for me, though it felt more like I was cleaning up for the fall because the drought has killed nearly all our outdoor plants and browned our lawn. There’s little left to care for.

With Phoebe’s help, I finished some stone edging around a new flower garden on the side of our house. I gave Phoebe a how-to about gardening, and she entertained me with a little song while she moved dirt with a spade shovel.

You can dig a hole.
Dig, dig, dig every day.

I mowed our sorry brown, dried-out lawn for what is very likely to be the last time this season and cleaned up some dead brush and dried up flowers.

Better luck next year?


Political reflections

So apparently the nation is in full campaign mode. We saw so many state political ads cluttering the Olympics broadcasts over the last two weeks I wanted to scream. Four out of every five commercials were endorsing or slamming -- mostly slamming -- a political candidate.

Which makes this clip from last night's Daily Show especially timely. During this campaign season, let's all take a look in the mirror, people.

Meanwhile ...

Paul Ryan was announced as Mitt Romney's running mate over the weekend, and I couldn't help but laugh at The Onion's run of stories about Mr. Ryan this week.

I had some opportunities to meet him, interview him and see him in action during my former life as a newspaper reporter. I'll say this, he's a good man and I have a lot of respect for him. ... Which makes the last article I've posted here even more entertaining to think perhaps I just fell under his spell.

a Focus: Who Is Paul Ryan?
a Ryan Begins Attacking Romney's Record As Massachusetts Governor
a Paul Ryan: Admit It, I Scare The Ever-Loving Shit Out Of You, Don't I?


I'm Proud Of All My Songs, Even The Ones I Stole From People I Heard At Open-Mic Nights

I do thoroughly enjoy Paul Simon. And this Onion column is ha-larious.
This habit came in handy when, in 1967, Mike Nichols asked me to contribute music to his new film. I was pretty busy at the time, but I licensed a few of my songs to him, including "Scarborough Fair," a nice little public-domain ballad I had copyrighted in my own name a couple years back.

Around about the hundredth time he asked me to write a song for this character called Mrs. Robinson, something finally clicked in my brain and I went scrambling through my tapes until I found it: a song called "Mrs. Jorgensen" I had illicitly recorded God knows where. It was full of gibberish about cupcakes and Joe DiMaggio that had nothing to do with the movie, but hey, I change the woman's name and it worked!

The Olympics: Week 2

Some more ramblings about the Olympics ...

We're reaching the point of the Olympic hangover now. All of the freshness of a new chapter in Olympic history has worn off and the excitement of last week is dying. Track and field events aren't nearly as exciting or appealing to me as the swimming and gymnastics events. And after more than a week of being glued to the TV during primetime hours, I'm ready to move on to something else.

Nevertheless, it was a thrill to watch Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor win their third consecutive beach volleyball gold medal tonight. They went 42-1 in their Olympic history together and yet people are still debating whether Michael Phelps really will retire!? Leave him alone already!

I almost didn't get to see beach volleyball's gold medal match. We had a good, old-fashioned thunderstorm roll through that rattled our cable and eventually caused the TV to go dark. It also caused me to start cursing our cable company, pace our living room in frustration and consider placing a call to complain.

Fortunately, the cable was restored in time for me to catch most of the match. Although the picture, for the most part, was a pixelated, jumpy mess.

After all, last night's match featuring Kerri and Misty against a duo from China was the one that shouldn't have been missed. Kates and I were hanging on every volley of that intense and incredibly exciting contest.

I watched Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman compete on the balance beam. Then, I curled up on the couch with Faye and we both slept through Raisman's gold-medal winning floor routine.

The most memorable pout of the Olympics, of course, goes to McKayla Maroney after she fell on one of her vault attempts and had to settle for the silver medal.

(Updated 08.14.2012) Good reads ...
a A Look at the Games Through Graphics ... a sweet interactive feature.
a All-American Ending for Beach Volleyball Team
a The Top 10 Moments in U.S. Olympic History ... These aren't all moments I'd pick, but ok.
a Settling for silver: Why second place is worse than third
a And the Olympic Gold for Whining Goes to ...
a British Are Unexpectedly Proud and Excited About Olympics
a Gabby Douglas faces tougher side of fame
a Gabby Douglas and Michelle Obama talk healthy eating -- and McDonald's -- on Leno


Hard work pays off

Some week.

I'm home with the kids tonight and we're watching the Olympics, while Kates is working in her classroom and preparing for the school year. The first half of the week, it was the other way around -- with me spending late nights in my office to complete my summer's worth of graduate studies.

Hard work pays off.

Dealing with the hangover of our vacation, I attended the last session of my summer graduate course Monday -- a four-hour marathon that took place every Monday in June and July. On top of that, I had to finish writing the first draft of my research proposal and drafts of the first three chapters of my field study. The deadlines for everything were Aug. 1. So, even as I tried to finish the bulk of it before we left for vacation last week, I knew I was going to be under some serious pressure this week. Add to that the complexities of my regular day-to-day responsibilities and the fact that I was the point person for our office this week while the boss was taking her vacation ... pressure.

It's no wonder my neck felt like it was tied in a giant knot.

So I spent most of Sunday finishing my last assignments and a presentation for my Monday course, finally hitting my pillow at about 1 a.m. Of course, there was some Olympic viewing mixed in, too.

After completing my regular work day Monday, I headed home for a dinner break and to check in with the girls. Then, I returned to my office to work on my research, knocking down a good chunk of it before deciding to call it a night around 11 p.m.

On a side note, a couple checks of Facebook proved I wasn't the only person in my graduate cohort feeling the pressure. One of my classmates posted, simply ...


While another posted this ... So true.

Tuesday was a repeat, with the added challenge of sacrificing my desire to watch the Olympic excitement of the day. I've had to stay disciplined throughout this ordeal, giving up a lot of the things I'd like to do for what I need to do. So as much as I would've liked to spend the night working at home, with the Olympics coverage going on the TV simultaneously, I sucked it up and, after a dinner break, headed back to my office where I knew I needed to focus on finishing my assignments.

I missed the drama of the U.S. gymnastics team winning the gold medal. I missed Michael Phelps winning his record 19th Olympic medal.

For what it was worth, I had followed the tweets and breaking news alerts throughout the day, so none of the results would have been a surprise to me Tuesday night. ... It begs the question, though: Why can't NBC show prime Olympics events live? In this era of 24-hour cable networks, live tweets and blogs, it's unrealistic to think that NBC is doing us a favor by showing the most popular events on a tape delay during prime time viewing hours. ... CBS has no problem showing NCAA tournament games during the daytime hours. Sure, our productivity at work suffers, but America loves it.

By 11 p.m., having logged another four hours of study and research, I hit a wall. I was hungry and needed a change of scenery. So I packed my things and headed home. ... I walked in the door as NBC was showing the U.S. gymnastics team on the podium for their medal ceremony. I caught up with Kates about my progress and her night at home while she dished out some ice cream for both of us. Then, I headed downstairs to the home office to resume and finish my assignments.

I succeeded, uploading the last document at 1:11 a.m. And the weight that left my shoulders the moment I clicked that "submit" button was like no sensation I've felt before. ... Of course, I have two more chapters to write during the next phase, accompanied by a lot more research and revisions. But I had cleared first hurdle.

Hard work pays off.

Around that time, NBC had begun replaying the evening's coverage of the gymnastics team competition and the swimming events. I'm awake, so why not watch it! I thought. ... I managed to catch the first two rotations -- the vault and the uneven bars -- of the gymnastics, when the coverage broke to another event and a commercial around 2 a.m., which prompted me to give in and go to bed.

* * *

I was like a new person Wednesday. More than one person commented on my renewed happiness. And that night, I enjoyed the Olympics at home with my girls. With nothing else on my mind.

Thursday night was the university's summer commencement ceremony, so duty called me away from the Olympics again for the early part of the evening. But I was home not long after 8 p.m., in time to see Gabby Douglas beginning her pursuit of the gold medal in the all-around competition, even though social media spoiled the outcome of that event for me, too.

I'll say this about Gabby: I had a good feeling she was going to be the star gymnast of these Olympics after seeing her perform the first time Sunday.

Hard work pays off.

And oh what a joy it's been to watch Phoebe get into these games. Forget the Food Network. She was consumed with the Olympics immediately Sunday with her first glimpses of the gymnastics and swimming competitions. On every night since, she's changed into a leotard and danced around the living room, practicing her gymnastics -- her imitation of the floor routines she's seen the female gymnasts perform. And Tuesday night, Kates told me after I arrived home, she caught Phoebe standing atop our coffee table in a diving position.

Watching Phoebe enjoy the Olympics this week has prompted us to do a lot of reminiscing about where we were and what we doing during the 2008 games, and I remember it like it wasn't that long ago. I'll never forget the epic 4x100-meter freestyle relay, for example, because we had Phoebe baptized that morning, a large family gathering at our house that afternoon and we were preparing for Phoebe's first day of daycare the next morning. I've reminisced with others about it this week, too, and it's one of those moments in Olympic history that people remember exactly where they were. I vividly remember sitting together on our living room couch in K-Town that night, exhausted from that day's activities and being left breathless from the excitement of that race. ... And there we were again last Sunday night, watching the excitement unfold again -- now with Phoebe growing up and us holding another baby.

And yet, we've had to laugh a little whenever there's a mention of 2004. Because Kates and I can hardly remember anything about what we were doing that year.

Phoebe's favorite Olympians? They would be Missy Franklin and Rebecca Soni. Every time either of them appears on the TV screen, Phoebe stops what she's doing, watches and then claps and smiles with pride when they win. Seeing the smile on Soni's face after she broke the world record for the 200-meter breaststroke Thursday night was one of my favorite moments so far (not to mention the awe-inspiring commercial with footage of the race that aired within minutes of the race's primetime airing). I couldn't ask for two better role models for Phoebe.

A constant at this stage of her life, the things coming out of her mouth are priceless, and I'm sad I can't always think to write them down before getting distracted by the next thing. But I did take note of the gem she delivered as she sat with me, watching the Olympics last Sunday night ...

Daddy, when I’m 7 you can watch me in the Olympics.

I can't wait.

Good reads ...
aA Five-Ring Opening Circus, Weirdly and Unabashedly British ... We missed the opening ceremony because we were camping the wilderness, but the ceremony sure sounded like fun.
a What if Chicago had hit gold with 2016 bid? ... Of course, I've been thinking about this a lot this week. After so much excitement, the day Chicago lost its bid lives in infamy.
a Wired for Wall-to-Wall Coverage
a Gold Eluded Bannister, but Track Immortality Did Not
a Lochte wants what Phelps has, but Phelps wants it more
a Phelps has 19 medals, but is he the greatest?
a 19 and Counting: Phelps Is Most Decorated Olympian
a Phelps Tops Another Olympian, but at 77, She Grins
a With One Last Gold, Phelps Caps Career That Inspired a Generation
a Soni sets records, achieves life-long goal with breaststroke gold
a Sam Mellinger | Gold makes her just 'Gabby'
a A Very Long Journey Was Very Swift
a Gymnast Wieber rises above pain for her golden moment
a In Gymnastics, U.S. Flies High and Stands Alone
a After Long Road, Nothing Left to Do but Win
a They Win Gold, but a Pot of It Rarely Follows