Happy Memorial Day

Just put the girls to bed, and I'm beat. Shouldn't it be the other way around after a long weekend? ... The girls have a way of wearing us out quickly.

We slept in until 9 this morning. Which is unheard of in The Era of Children. In fact, I don't know that it's ever happened. ... It wasn't all roses, though. Faye woke up around 12:30 a.m., just as Kates and I were wrapping up a catch-up marathon of Mad Men. And she wouldn't go back to sleep, which meant she ended up in bed with Kates and I for the night.

We played for the rest of the morning.

For lunch, we treated the girls to Subway. ... We stayed to eat at the restaurant, which is kind of interesting considering Kates and I watched Mad Men's "The Strategy" last night, which had Don and Peggy building an advertising campaign for Burger Chef around the idea of the restaurant table being a centering place for families. Good stuff.

After lunch, we headed to the park to play and let the kids run off some energy. ... Have I mentioned that Phoebe is a whiz on monkey bars? She is.

Back at home, we played some more. Kates read a book. I tried to catch up on some news reading and emails. Here's two items that especially piqued my interest ...

First, a new documentary about Elliot Smith -- one of my favorite singer-songwriters to work in my lifetime . Oh, I want to see this ...

Second, another installment of "Kids react ..." this time to an old computer. Funny.

After a while, Phoebe decided she was bored out of her mind -- having watched most of "Toy Story 2" and no interest in any of her gazillion toys -- and wore Kates down to painting her nails. ... During that process, Faye woke up from her nap and pretty soon all of us were in the back yard blowing bubbles.


Clean up the kitchen and toys.



And now I'm watching tonight's Royals game. Alone. In peace.

... I wrote it too soon. Faye isn't going to sleep after all.


Million Dollar Arm

So I met some friends from our church this afternoon at the local movie theater to see "Million Dollar Arm."

I went in without high expectations nor a burning desire to see it. But it is a baseball film, after all ... And I left the theater having loved it. I'd go see it again in the theater if someone invited me, and I would enjoy owning the DVD. 

First of all, it was beautifully shot. It made me want to book a trip to India when I got home. ... And back to L.A., too.

Great cast, too. Jon Hamm -- well, he's great in just about anything. I really enjoyed his chemistry with Lake Bell's Brenda. And Bill Paxton nailed the part of Tom House.

The story-telling was wonderful, too, of course. It was inspirational. There was comedy. There was romance. It successfully took my mind off everything else for a couple hours this afternoon and gave me everything I could ask for in a baseball film. ... And, as I got to thinking about it on my drive home, there wasn't a bad word in it, either. Making it an excellent family film.

I also noted a lot of similarities to Jerry Maguire: Sports agent trying desperately to make a name for himself on his own. Loses sight of his key clients when he tries to hook the big fish, and loses. Embarks on an unlikely romance. ... Except Hamm's J.B. Berstein initially appears to be more high strung and a bigger jerk than Tom Cruise's Maguire.

I also know enough about baseball and read some pieces about the "Million Dollar Arm" characters -- and I've seen my share of inspirational based-on-a-true-story Disney films -- prior to seeing the movie today to know that the film's creators made some enhancements to the story and didn't share it completely

Doesn't matter. I was thoroughly entertained.

One other note: I got a good kick out of the scene depicting the pitching prospects' first major league tryout in the strip mall parking lot. In the group of scouts and beat writers crowded around the pitching cage, I picked out Ken Rosenthal, Tom Verducci and Steve Levy. Their faces only flashed on the screen for a few moments, although Levy had a very brief interview with one of the guys later in the scene, and only an avid baseball fan would have recognized them. I'm sure there were other faces I missed, and I thought it was pretty cool they were included.  

Here's an interview with the real-life Rinku Singh.


Week in review

So here's how my week rounded out after Tuesday night's softball game ...

Wednesday, I headed a couple hours south for my monthly meeting with leadership cohort. Our theme for the day was empowering. We took the True Colors test (I've taken it before, and I'm still a gold ...) and played out associated activities that somewhat humorously illustrated our personality types. Always a good time.

We heard from a young man who grew up as the son of a third-generation grocery store proprieter, and when the family grocer had to close a few years ago -- the result of a new Super Walmart in town -- the young man, who had earned his college degree and become a youth worker, had the brilliant idea to turn the building into a youth center. He saw a need for it in the community, forged partnerships with the schools and businesses to garner support, and remodeled the store into a first-class facility with meeting rooms, a computer lab, kitchen and a common area. In fact, our meeting place Thursday was the remodeled facility. The transformation and perseverance is a great story.

We also took a tour of the city's historic library and heard from its director. She shared with us the story of an $8.5 million estate gift that was recently left to the library and how the library is using the money strategically to implement programs and enhance the library's services.

* * *
Thursday, the university photographer and I headed to Kansas City to interview an alumnus for the cover story of our fall magazine. The subject is the founder and CEO of a corporate strategy firm.

We spent the morning with him as he biked through a park -- part of his daily fitness regimen -- before grabbing lunch at an upscale Italian restaurant and spending the afternoon at his office complex.

We rode with him from place to place, of course, in his Porsche.

* * *
Thursday night, I played softball.

It started out well. Our bats were hot early and I had a good night at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a walk, a couple RBIs and a run scored. On the defensive side, I was stationed at third base and made a couple putouts, including a catch of a foul ball at the dugout fence.

My most memorable play of the night, though, took place late in the game with runners on first and second on a ground ball hit to me. I scooped up the ball and then headed for third base in a foot race with the runner heading from second to third. I dove for him just in front of the base and was sure -- as were my teammates -- I put the tag on his torso, but the umpire called the runner safe. ... In the process of trying to make the tag and sliding on the dirt, I also skinned my knee up pretty good. It looks like I took a cheese shredder to my knee cap and shin. Man, it hurts.

We held a 9-2 lead after three innings. ... Then it all fell apart. The opponent had a monster inning in the fourth and we never recovered. We lost the game by 12 runs.

* * *

The 9/11 museum opened Thursday in New York. Chills again traveled through my body and all of the emotions and memories of that day came rushing back as I watched new coverage about the opening this week.

Add the destination to my bucket list.

Time magazine posted this timelapse video of the construction. 

* * *
Friday, I returned to my office after two days away. But I cut out during the lunch break and joined Phoebe at her kindergarten picnic.

Tasked with bringing a treat after their lunch, I picked up some popsicles and headed to the local park to meet her class. I had barely stepped out of my car when Phoebe spotted me and was pulling me into a game of tag with her friends.

We played tag. We played duck-duck-goose. We played more tag. We ate the popsicles -- which also involved me helping several of Phoebe's little friends open the popsicle packaging and stick in the straws in their juice boxes. Then we played more tag until one of the teacher's blew her whistle to signal the picnic was over.

I said my goodbye to Phoebe and headed back to my office.

* * *
I was settling back at my desk Friday afternoon when I caught a tweet saying Ingrid Michaelson had taken the stage at the Hangout Music Festival and her show was available to watch through a live internet feed. 


I clicked the link, watched an advertise and -- bam -- I was in. I watched her entire set -- a splendid mix of new songs and old ones -- and it was awesome. 

Here's a review from Paste ...
Ingrid Michaelson has a large and devoted following alone, but what made her set work at Hangout is how many of her songs the masses knew without realizing it: songs like “Everybody Wants to Love” and “Be OK” are so accessible and pervasive in TV and commercials, even the casual observer on a blanket in the back could have his or her moment to jump up and knowingly shout the words. It was a buoyant, fun set, and Michaelson made plenty of jokes about the “pretty girls in bikinis” getting in trouble for sitting on shoulders to see the show. The high point of the performance was “Afterlife,” a track from Michaelson’s latest release Lights Out. She guided the audience into a momentus sing-along, making for a more upbeat experience than I’d expected from a singer-songwriter.
* * *

Today was wonderful for the simple fact that we spent the majority of it outside. I hung out with the girls on the deck while they shared a bowl of Cheerios. Later, Faye went inside and Phoebe stayed with me on the deck to color.  

Now Kates and I are watching "The Vow" on TV. A good movie I liked more the second time.


Let the games begin

So I played my first softball game of the summer tonight.

We won 19-11, finally beating our nemesis who we've battled for the regular season titles and knocked us out of the playoffs the last two seasons. With the win the team is now 1-1 on the season. ... I missed the first game last Tuesday, which we lost, and our Thursday game was rained out.

That's the good news.

The bad news is I could not have played worse, in my opinion.

I walked in my first at-bat. Then fouled out. Flied out. Grounded out. And flied out again.

In the field I was stationed at second base tonight, and booted the first ball hit to me in the second inning. Luckily the guys picked me up with a double play to get us out of the inning with no harm done, and I played decent defense the rest of the night.

Kates brought the girls to the game tonight. The girls had a ball jumping around and playing in the dirt with the other kids, while Kates talked to the other moms.

The downside of all of us going to the game, though, was that we sacrificed our opportunity to catch the opening showing of the annual summer movie series on the university campus. Which -- I called it before it was announced -- was "Frozen," the sing-a-long version.

Man, I would have loved the experience of watching that movie in the performing arts center and hearing all the kids singing those songs at the top of their lungs. 

Even in the summer, "Frozen" still rules.

Check this video I stumbled on the other day: If "Frozen" were a horror movie ...


High Anxiety: Lean Out A Window 94 Floors Above Chicago

Add this one to my bucket list. This makes me excited and gets my stomach churning at the same time.

Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune's 6000th Episode

From the judge-me-all-you-want category ...

I'm a pretty big Wheel of Fortune fan. I play the app daily on my iPhone, and I'll stop to watch it any time I catch it on TV. ... I'm a puzzle guy, but I also attribute my passion for Wheel to my mother, who watched it religiously while I was growing up.

Which made this interview with Vanna White so interesting -- and a blast from the past. 

This video is classic Wheel of Fortune, just the way I remember it.


Star Wars Cantina Band auditions

Oooh, the Star Wars excitement is brewing.

A lot was made last week when a photo was posted of the new cast -- the actors better known as Luke, Leia and Han included -- gathered for a reading. ... I had to pause and push my mouth closed when I saw it, too.


(UPDATE 05.07.2014: Here's a good read about how close Harrison Ford was to not returning to Star Wars.)

But this. This below. Well, I stumbled across it last night. And it. is. awe.some. ... Ben Folds will get my musical juices pumping no matter what he's doing. Then you add in Daughtry, Liz Phair, Mark McGrath, Jordin Sparks and others, dressed in Star Wars garb -- Lisa Loeb as a hologram and armed with a blaster! -- and I'm entertained.

Bonus: 'Star Wars' Behind-the-Scenes Instagrams Reveal Chewbacca's Origin