Bless these Beanbags

Yesterday was the end of the year picnic (my partner and I performed well in the annual corn-hole tourney-- we double lost in the finals because it was double elimination and we hadn't lost all afternoon . . . we had previously beaten this team 21-0 but we choked with it all on the line . . . perhaps it was all the donated Victory beer or maybe it was divine retribution for dropping my partner from last year-- Chantal-- and picking up Kristyn-- a sporty softball coach from another department, causing everyone in my department to root against me) and now we're off to my cousin's ordination . . . so perhaps next year, if we make to the finals again, I can pray and the Big Man will give some extra consideration.

Fourteen Years of Home Ownership and Ian

My younger son turned fourteen today and his birthday also commemorates the approximate purchase of our current home-- and what a fourteenth year of home ownership it's been; this year we had to replace our washer/dryer, our dishwasher, our ductless mini-split air-conditioner, the ceiling tiles in the basement, and our dog . . . and speaking of dogs, I had a miraculous revelation on the way back from Ian's birthday dinner at Shanghai Dumpling (which was a miracle in itself: no wait!) and this revelation occurred while we were discussing our eventual return from our trip to Costa Rica and just how insanely happy our dog will be upon this return-- if and when we do actually return-- and so I told Ian about my favorite moment in the Odyssey, when Odysseus returns home in disguise after being gone for twenty-years of epic adventures and he runs into his dog Argos, who was obviously a pup when he left Ithaca, and-- despite the disguise-- Argos recognizes his master and dies of happiness . . . and it always struck me as odd that a dog would live for 20+ years, as that's highly unlikely, but I just recognized that this is an ancient Greek dog, and so it was probably not bred very much, unlike our genetically stunted purebreds of present times, so it was closer to a wolf than a dog and had a much longer lifespan.

An Ominous Jazz Heuristic

My rule-of-thumb for jazz is this: if there are lyrics, it probably sucks . . . and this holds true for a song I heard on WBGO this afternoon, Rosemary Clooney singing "If Swing Goes, I Go Too" . . . on top of the lousy lyrics, this song has the added irony of negating itself, the song actually wills itself out of existence-- making it all the more odd that WBGO continues to play it-- because Clooney claims that she can live without breakfast and polkas and soap operas, but if swing music falls out of favor, then she'll just up and die, which she did-- swing music faded (aside from a brief revival spearheaded by the Squirrel Nut Zippers) and Clooney lived up to her promise and kicked the bucket in time with her favorite music, she lived from 1928 until 2002-- and this is a grim reminder of just how ephemeral pop music is, the sounds you just can't imagine living without-- whether it's The Cure or Black Flag or The Beach Boys or Hector Berlioz-- they will soon pass from favor, then be regarded as antiquated, and finally disappear from the public consciousness entirely.

If You Haven't Seen HBO's Chernobyl, I Sentence Thee To The Exclusion Zone

Everyone in my office is talking about the HBO show Chernobyl, and while I tried to avoid it-- I watched a few minutes of the first episode and found it unbearably grim-- the tidal wave of acclaim and the fact that my kids were interested in a historical docudrama swayed me; I ended it up loving it, of course-- especially the scene where the filthy miners all touch the clean and dapper Ministry of Coal, and my kids love the show as well, or I should say that they love to yell at the show-- which is understandable, as folks informed and uninformed alike are behaving so cavalierly around enormous amounts of radiation and, equally frustrating, the Russian government is more concerned with information control, propaganda, and secrecy than the welfare of it's own people (the Russians are not particularly happy with this portrayal) and while I generally can't stomach watching medical disasters, this show is so good that I've gotten inured to all the melting skin-- it's a little like The Walking Dead in that regard-- and my family even survived (and partly enjoyed) the episode that mainly concerned itself with animal control, i.e. the packs of radioactive dogs that needed to be shot and disposed of (during that section, instead of yelling at the screen, my kids yelled at our dog, commanding her not to watch, lest she be traumatized).

Dave is Not a Vet (But He Played One This Morning)

Lola sprained her wrist chasing squirrels this morning-- or that's what I arrived at after a thorough inspection of her front leg and paw . . . at least I think it's her wrist . . . it's on her front left leg, so it's probably her wrist, not her ankle-- it bends like a wrist-- and it would make sense that dogs have two wrists and two ankles, that's the way it looks . . . but some quadrupeds have four wrists-- monkeys?-- and some have four ankles: rhinos?

Believe It Or Not, George Isn't At Home . . .

I'm not sure if this song needed to be covered, but I needed to cover it.

Trump: Ahead of the Curve on this One

While I'm generally loath to admit our Colander-in-chief has any sort of strategic vision for our country, I think he might be ahead of the curve on Weaponized Interdependence; this is the down-side to globalization and both economists and politicians -- especially Trump-- are starting to explore the ramifications and tactics of an interdependent world, a world where countries were pushed by globally competitive free-markets and institutions like the IMF and the World Bank to specialize in what they could produce as efficiently and cheaply as possible and sell it on the world market-- this was supposed to limit warfare-- countries that trade together don't want to blow each other up-- but now countries are recognizing that belligerence can be enacted by disrupting supply chains, enacting tariffs, and banning certain technologies . . . a nice example of this is the battle between the U.S. and China over Huawei cell phone chipsets . . . I don't fully understand this battle, all I know is it sounds petty, detrimental to consumers and workers, and a black mark on diplomacy . . . but Trump seems to have a real handle on this tactic, so kudos to him.

Tupperware Tetris

Each and every school day, my wife makes lunch for the boys and me: these lunches are generally healthy, delicious, and various, and I am the envy of all my colleagues; this is no easy task, and while she is counting down the days to summer-- when she finally gets a break from the early morning prep routine-- she is finishing the year strong; yesterday she prepared an especially elaborate cooler of food for me to consumer over the course of the day . . . there was hummus and snap peas (fresh from her garden) for snack, along with a container of cherries, and then for the main dish, a taco salad with fresh beets and greens-- along with all the accoutrements . . . grated cheese and salsa and taco meat, all in their own separate containers; in fact, there were so many different plastic containers that once I finished my meal, I couldn't figure out how to get them back inside my compartmentalized lunch cooler-- there was absolutely no way to fit them all, it was like a clown car . . . seven containers and two ice packs popped out but there was no way they were all getting back inside; I called my boss from her office and told her I would be unable to teach for the rest of the day, as the problem looked insoluble, but she wasn't particularly moved by my dilemma-- she told me to go find a math teacher to help me-- but after much persistent wedging and shoving, I finally got them all back inside and transported them back home so my wife could do it all over again . . . and I'd like to dedicate this sentence to my wife and her lunches (we just had our 19 year anniversary, so she's been doing this for a LONG time).

My Older Son Was of Use

Yesterday, with the help of my older son, I replaced the hydraulic hatch supports on my Toyota van-- there was only one moment of panic, when Alex did something weird to the ball joint-socket . . . but he was able to hold up the tailgate-- which is quite heavy-- and I was able to pry the hinges loose with a flat-head screwdriver and slip the balls in the sockets and now the back hatch of my van is no longer a death-trap dull guillotine.

O Woe is Me . . . But You've Got to Be Cruel to Be Kind

We were in Act IV of Hamlet today, right after Hamlet blindly slaughters Polonius, chops up his body, and scatters the pieces in the castle-- Hamlet is then confronted about this grisly situation, and he glibly explains to King Claudius that "Your worm is your only emperor for diet: we fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots," and so I played the bit of The Lion King when Mufasa explains to Simba about the whole "Circle of Life" and asked what Mufasa skips-- it's all the decay and decomposition-- and we got to talking about maggots for a moment and I told them a college tale about when my buddy Rob put a half-eaten roast beef sandwich on a filthy table, threw a newspaper over it, and there it remained . . . and two weeks later, when I picked up the newspaper-- looking for the crossword puzzle-- instead of a roll full of roast beef, there was now a roll full of writhing maggots; one of the students said, "They grew there because of the meat, right?" and a few other students seemed to agree with this hypothesis, so I had to stop the presses, press pause on the teaching of literature, and start teaching science-- luckily, another student had paid attention in Bio class and explained to the class that the Theory of Spontaneous Generation had been refuted in the 19th century and that we now know that mice don't magically spring from bales of hay and maggots are the larval form of flies.

Dave Reads a Book and Is Annoying About It (Volume 2,435)

It only took me two days to read James Clear's book Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones . . . oddly, while I was reading the book, I kept feeling that I should get up off the couch and start implementing his methods to improve my life . . . I will do a longer post on his philosophy and methodology and how I immediately started utilizing his ideas, but I'm too tired to do so right now because we had a lovely but exhausting "non-instructional" day at my high school to celebrate the Relay for Life cancer walk-- there was volleyball and frisbee and corn-hole and football and spike-ball and kickball and plenty of walking around the track in the sun, but before the outdoor events began we had to do some goofy icebreaker activities in our morning classes: a rock paper scissors tournament (I lost) and a discussion exercise in which you had to write an open-ended question on a notecard and swap with people; the James Clear book was on my mind and I was feeling particularly annoying and didactic, so my question was: If you did not spend all your free-time on your cell-phone, what amazing abilities would you possess?

Serendipitous Mechanical Failure

Our ductless mini-split died the other day, but I'm considering lack of AC on our ground floor "practice" for our forthcoming trip to Costa Rica-- I've probably got such a good mindset because:

#1) we're lucky enough to be going on a trip to Costa Rica;

#2) our ductless mini-split is 21 years old;

#3) the weather has been unusually decent;

#4) I'm also enjoying the lack of AC in my classroom at school . . . I thought it would be the opposite, because all my colleagues in the English Department teach on the second floor and they finally received AC window units this year, so I thought I would be insanely jealous and angry, but their air-conditioners aren't working all that well: they are loud and the filters are already filthy and my buddy Kevin is claiming he got sick from yelling over top of his and breathing in the dirt-ridden air . . . so I'm happy -- for the time being-- opening the windows and adjusting to the warm weather (which isn't particularly warm yet).

What's Wrong With Wearing a Visor?

A visor keeps the sun out of your eyes AND lets your head breathe . . . so why all the disdain?

I Finished . . . Where is My Parade?

I'm hoping to write a longer review of this literary adventure over at Park the Bus, but I'd still like to formally announce that I have finished reading Death's End, the mega-epic conclusion of Cixin Liu's sci-fi trilogy that began with The Three Body Problem . . . this was some challenging reading for me-- while I love reading about science, I'm certainly not science-minded . . . I got straight D's in chemistry-- the series actually begins historically, with the news of an impending alien invasion, told from a Chinese point of view during the Cultural Revolution but by the end of book Liu is delving deep into quantum physics; in book two-- The Dark Forest-- the narrative forays into the game theory of diplomatic tactics in the wider universe (which is not pretty) and book three-- Death's End-- is a tour-de-force of both style and imagination (there are a sequence of lush and symbolic fairy tales nested in the middle of the novel, plenty of hard sci-fi, memorable characters and conflict, and-- finally-- a wild and surreal meta-physical journey to the end of time and space) and while this is aspirational reading and it took me a long time to finish, I still recommend the series (but sadly, confetti did NOT shoot out of the book when I completed the final page).

Lola vs Eastern Box Turtle

Our dog Lola might have some Rhodesian Ridgeback in her (or she might not) but the way she squares off against this Eastern Box Turtle is certainly indicative of her lion hunting heritage.

Oh Yeah! More (Relative) Bragging

H.L. Mencken is the genius who actually discovered the Theory of Relativity, when he famously remarked that “A man's satisfaction with his salary depends on whether he makes more than his wife's sister's husband," and while I wish I could be more abstract and metaphysical-- like Einstein-- Mencken's characterization is far more accurate; so I was incredibly pleased to find out that on the list of the 50 New Jersey schools with the best SAT scores, my town (Highland Park) came in at number 14, which is incredible and kind of strange because we're a very diverse town with a wide variety of economic situations and we don't offer all that much in the way of AP classes at our high school (because we're small) and what was especially pleasing-- as Mencken predicted-- is the fact that we came in ahead of the school that I teach at (East Brunswick, 24 on the list) and East Brunswick is an academic powerhouse that offers a plethora of AP classes (some kids take five of them in one year!) and we also came in just ahead of Chatham, which is a relatively homogenous and quite wealthy town that is the home of several of my friends (and one particular star commenter) and while I'm not sure why this is so and it doesn't make any sense, it still makes me feel good (in a relative way, of course).

Not So Humblebrag (Wait for It)

While I'm really proud of my son Alex-- he's in 9th grade and he's not so big (I think he's just starting to hit puberty) and he really scrapped his way up the tennis ladder this season (despite chipping his thumb playing goalie for his travel team) and-- because of injuries and school trips-- he got to play in a number of varsity matches; Highland Park is a tiny school but we have an exceptional tennis squad, so in the county we play in the highest division (Red) against the biggest and best schools and this prepared us for the state tournament, where we play schools our size-- and for the first time in eight years they won the entire state in their group (Group 1)  and while Alex traveled to those matches, he didn't play-- but this enabled the team to play in the Tournament of Champions against the winners of all the groups and because of an injury, Alex got to play second doubles-- and while the entire team got beaten soundly, they played well and Alex learned a great deal-- but I'm most proud of myself, because I trained both my kids-- despite the fact that I'm not a tennis instructor and I didn't even play high school tennis (although my brother played in college, which has helped) and over the weekend, I analyzed Alex's serve and fixed it, and he said he served really well today and the only time they won was when he was serving . . . so while I can't figure out if I'm more proud of Alex for his skill and tenacity or myself for my patience, accurate practice hitting, and ability to glean tennis information from YouTube, this is a good problem to have (I just wish I could give myself a lesson and smooth out my own two-handed backhand).

Our Dog is Not a Lion Killer

When we went to the shelter to adopt our dog Lola, the caretaker claimed she was a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix . . . and this sounded awesome to me, as they are athletic dogs that were used to track lions-- but now that I've seen a few real Rhodesian Ridgebacks (and had a Ridgeback owner tell me that Lola is "zero percent" Rhodesian) and studied photos of other dogs, I'm fairly certainly that she's a Pit Bull Lab mix-- which is a good thing to be-- and she might even have a bit of Mexican Street Dog in her (a very very coveted and prestigious breed of dog).

Honey, I Shrunk the TV?

A Samsung 56 inch DLP

On Saturday morning, my son and I carried our 56 inch Samsung DLP big screen TV out of the basement and put it to the curb -- the TV still works, but there's a number of white dots propagating across the screen and to fix this you have to replace the chipset, which is expensive-- and the big Samsung TV sat at the curb all day Saturday and Sunday-- no one grabbed it-- and then Sunday afternoon we went to my parents for dinner and when we returned, the big TV was gone . . . but there was a little TV left in it's place! . . . so either someone picked up the little TV off of a curb and then saw our TV and was like: that TV is bigger! and so they switched TVs or perhaps they took our big TV and brought it home and then realized they had no place to put their little TV and so they drove back and put it on our lawn . . . it's a real mystery and one that will probably never be solved, but whatever the reason, it made the whole family laugh really hard.

The ol' switcheroo

Dave's Theory of Relativity (Volume 1)

When you're feeling down and out, it's important to compare your situation to someone from a different time period; for example, if I lived during the Middle Ages, I probably would have spent the vast majority of my life with dysentery, diarrhea and scurvy; slept in a room along with fleas, rats and livestock; never taken a hot shower or put on clean clothes fresh out of the dryer; and considered myself lucky if I avoided leprosy or the plague . . . now aren't you feeling good about yourself?
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.