Fans of this blog may recall Dave's Best Idea Ever, and might even be familiar with some of Dave's Bad Ideas, and so-- because Dave is a humble man who responds to the opinions of his readers-- I will let you decide which category this new idea of mine belongs, but-- not that I mean to sway you-- based on empirical evidence, I think it should be in the former . . . and I will warn you that this is a Soccer Idea, but I think that even non-soccer folks will appreciate its brilliance . . . The Problem is this: it is difficult to get very young soccer players to pass the ball to their teammates, or even to remember that their teammates actually exist, and so I wanted to create a drill that not only encouraged passing, but also had an element of immediacy to it, and not only that, I wanted the drill to reward passing instead of dribbling, which is difficult to do when the players are young and the skill levels are various, but I figured out the solution to this insoluble problem and I present it to you free-of-charge because I consider this blog to be my public service to the universe (because there's no way I'm ever going to serve hobos at a soup kitchen) and so here is the answer: zombies . . . little kids know how to act like zombies, and so I made one child be the "zombie" in the drill, and this "zombie" must hold a ball out in front of them (which is a bit mummy-like, but no one questioned it, and it slows them down) and then I instructed the zombie that all he or she desires is to zombie-walk at the ball and tag the person with the ball at their feet with their "zombie-ball" and so I put three kids in a box made with cones and told them that they have to keep the ball inside the box and away from the zombie-- but they can't get tagged by a zombie or kick the ball out of the box, or else they become the zombie-- and the zombie moves slow enough for just about any player to have enough time to look up and make a decent pass, but the zombie is fast enough (and usually making scary noises) and this encourages the player to get rid of the ball quickly and to pass it to a teammate . . . instead of just dribbling aimlessly . . . and the drill certainly makes them realize that there are other people on their team, and they understood quickly enough that the best way to defeat the zombie was to stay spread out and kick it far away when the zombie approached, and, for once, they were doing something that approximated actual soccer, passing a ball around from person to person-- and even though they were only avoiding a zombie, it still made them behave in a totally different way than they normally behave on the pitch-- and one group got good enough that I had to introduce a second zombie . . . and now I am dreaming of an entire side of zombies, forcing the children to spread out and knock the ball around like a miniature Manchester United . . . so all I can tell you is, give it a try and enjoy the results, and I am positive you will admit that this is in the running for Dave's Second Best Idea Ever.
You might recall that I permanently damaged my iPod while swimming with it in a waterproof case called an Otterbox-- but I was lucky enough to know a student with an ex-boyfriend who worked at an Apple Store, and, despite the water damage, he set me up with a new iPod, which I did not submerge underwater-- but I still used my old Otterbox to protect the new iPod from rain and sweat, until the Otterbox's head-phone jack broke . . . and now I need a new water-resistant case for my iPod, but until I get one I am using a Ziploc sandwich bag as an ersatz but physically humorous water-proof case, and now I am actually becoming resistant to buying a new case for my iPod because it's so much fun to tell people in the office that I just got a great new water-proof case for my iPod (and most people at least feign some interest because it's a technological subject . . . Katie actually asked if I got an Otterbox) and then once I've built up some interest and drama about my new-fangled waterproof case, I pull out my iPod, in the clear plastic sandwich bag, with the headphones snaking out of the corner, and the people laugh and laugh, and I think to myself: I could have been a great prop comic, just like Carrot Top.
Some folks love the smell of napalm in the morning, but not me-- I love the smell of decaying fungus in the morning . . . last Sunday morning to be specific, I was loving the reeky, sweet, pungent odors of an entire wheelbarrow full of weird toadstools, giant fan shaped fungi, and clusters of long stemmed mushrooms, all of which needed to be removed from my backyard, as they were quickly turning to a bug infested slime . . . and I know I shouldn't complain about things I can't control but this is the worst fall ever-- what happened to late September Sunday morning sitting on the porch in a sweatshirt and sweatpants, drinking coffee in the crisp autumn air, enjoying the rattle of dried leaves, without having to fend off giant jungle mosquitoes?
the shocking nature of beef brisket and today I will discuss another cut of meat, the hanger steak . . . Wikipedia explains that "it is derived from the diaphragm of the steer" . . . but "diaphragm steak" sounds disgusting (and is also difficult to spell) and so it has more conveniently been referred to as skirt steak and "the butcher's cut" because it has long been a butcher's secret as to how delicious it tastes . . . I got to try this steak at The Frog and The Peach-- a well-regarded rather expensive restaurant that I would ordinarily never visit, but because it was Restaurant Week in New Brunswick, they had a 35$ Prix Fixe menu and so Catherine and I decided to treat ourselves, and it was well worth it-- the hanger steak, which is very lean and has the potential to be tough if it's not marinated and cooked right, was sensationally good-- I don't eat much beef these days and I almost never eat a steak, but if I could eat one of these every night, I would: hanger steak is super lean (and I hate any fat on my meat) and very firm and consistent . . . essentially it's steak that looks and tastes as little like a chunk of cow as possible, and that's the way I like my beef; coincidentally, the night before, I was out late at the Park Pub, and on the way home I got a cheeseburger from White Rose-- and it was late enough that it was technically the same day as our outing to The Frog and The Peach, and so in a short span I consumed two very different grades of beef . . . with a substantial price difference between the two meals . . . a White Rose cheeseburger costs $3.05, including tax (I had to borrow a nickel from Connel) and so it was less than 10% of what the hanger steak cost me . . . and though White Rose doesn't point out what cut of meat they use in their burgers, the important part of the story is that both meals were equally delicious.
I stayed out far too late at the Park Pub on Thursday night, and was suffering at school the next day-- and I knew I had a long afternoon in store because I had an away game . . . which equals two long and loud bus rides, Friday afternoon traffic, and lot of waiting around at the school with 21 eighth grade boys -- but I accepted this as my punishment for staying out late and drank some coffee and resigned myself to my fate . . . but then it started to rain buckets and the 9th grade coach told me his game on Saturday was already cancelled and I thought to myself: Odd, the universe is going to reward me for staying out late . . . my game will be cancelled and I'll have the afternoon off but when I went to the Athletic Office to hear the good news, I was informed that my game was still on, and again, I took the news stoically because I felt that the universe should punish me for staying out late . . . and the afternoon wore on and I grew more sleepy, but I received no e-mail cancelling the game, and so I got some candy and coffee on my way to the middle school, parked, carried the water cooler and ice chest into the building, and ran into one of my soccer players, and he was coming out the school door in jeans . . . and he informed me that they made a last minute announcement that the game was cancelled . . . and so I got into my car and texted my wife the news and she informed me that my parents had taken the kids for the night and that it was Restaurant Week in New Brunswick and we were going out for a nice meal . . . so in the end, the universe rewarded me for staying out late, which may seem odd, but I think it is because I accepted my punishment so willingly and with such stolid resignation.
Friday afternoon, Liz was scrambling to make photo-copies in the English office, but the machine was jammed, and so I gallantly offered to walk across the school to the copy room and make her the copies (I actually wasn't being that chivalrous, I was hung-over and needed some exercise and a purpose in my life) and she thanked me and said, "Can you judge it for me, also?" and for a moment I was stumped-- I assumed "judging it" was some obscure photo-copy terminology . . . perhaps it meant to shrink down the text and copy it horizontally, like leaves in a book or something . . . and so I said, "I don't know how to do that," but she explained that she just wanted me to attempt the quiz and decide if it was fair-- so as I walked across the building I took a look at it, but when I saw it was a matching vocabulary quiz I nearly lost interest (because as everyone who has the patience to listen to me knows, I claim to be a walking dictionary) but then I noticed that this was no ordinary vocabulary quiz . . . it was only seven words, but these were the words: convivial, congenial, amicable, affable, jocular, levity, and cordial . . . and, you had to discern between seven extremely similar matching definitions, and needless to say, I did NOT get 100% and perhaps my claim that I am a walking dictionary is a bit overblown . . . but perhaps I'm a walking thesaurus.
I've been reading Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Germany and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey--and Even Iraq--Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World's Most Popular Sport, and one of the many fascinating things the authors point out is that though America is thought of as the great proponent of the "free-market," its sporting leagues are much more socialist and egalitarian than other countries-- we have salary caps and media profit sharing (in the NFL, all television profit is shared equally) and merchandise profit sharing (outside of New York, the Yankees receive only one-thirtieth the profit on each cap sold, the same as every other team in baseball) to ensure that there is some parity in our professional sports, while the countries with far more socialized governments-- countries with a larger "safety net," with unionized labor and government health-care, and cradle to the grave benefits-- let soccer players be bought and sold like commodities on an exchange, and let the teams with the most money (i.e. Manchester United) reign supreme.
If you're single, self-indulgent, past your prime, seeking love, and drink too much, then you'll really dig Mike Leigh's new movie Another Year, and empathize with poor Mary-- but otherwise, you'll cringe during almost every scene, but I still recommend the film . . . the acting is perfect and the actors are imperfect, and the result will make you feel good about your repetitive, mundane life . . . and if it gets you down, then watch a more upbeat Leigh film: Happy Go Lucky.
My Shakespeare class was asking me a number of questions about how Shakespeare's plays were enacted in Elizabethan times, and while I had a few answers for them, I eventually had to admit that one of the best uses of a time machine would be to go back and see a production Hamlet or Twelfth Night at the Globe Theatre, and then I asked the class to speculate on this hypothetical question: if they had two chances to use a time machine to see something in the past (not alter history) then what was the other thing they should see-- besides a Shakespeare play-- and a student quickly guessed the other "correct" answer . . . which is a dinosaur, of course, and a few students debated my "correct" answers-- someone suggested the Lincoln Assassination, which I must admit is a pretty good thing to go back and see-- and I decided to ask my friend and colleague Kevin, who was teaching English next door, if he knew the correct answers to this thought experiment . . . and I am so glad I asked him, because my classes laughed about his answer for the rest of the day (and I will admit that it was before 8 AM in the morning and I caught him off guard, but still, his answer was egregious) and so after I posed the question, he thought for a moment and said, "So it can be anything in the past, personal or in history, right?" and I confirmed this, and then he thought hard, searching for the correct answer and finally said, "Maybe I should see my own birth?" and then he realized what he said, and I said to him, "You want to see yourself coming out of your own mother's uterus! That's disgusting!" and my class agreed that no one should want to see their own mother's distended private parts (and I know Kevin's mother, which made it worse) and Kevin realized his error and tried to back-pedal quickly: "Okay, I take that one back . . . how about a dinosaur . . . I'd like to see a dinosaur" and we all agreed that was a better choice.
My wife took a bite of her salad Sunday night and instantly decided that the bleu cheese had gone bad, but-- despite the fact that she has a more acute sense of smell than me-- I questioned her judgement because I'm not sure there is any way to ascertain if certain stinky cheeses (such as Roquefort, Limburger, and Stilton) have passed their prime . . . and though we checked the package and found that the cheese was three days beyond the expiration date, I could taste no difference and I suffered no adverse effects from the slightly stinkier stinky cheese.
My wife has often corrected my method of loading the dishwasher-- apparently I don't categorize and group like items, and as a result I don't maximize the number of items that can fit on the bottom rack . . . and I'm also a bit cavalier with the kinds of items I place on the bottom rack and this leads to all kinds of trouble-- but Saturday Catherine also informed me of a Dish Washing Corollary with which I was not familiar: if the dishwasher is running and someone has just washed all the other dirty dishes, pots and pans that did not fit into the dish washer by hand and so the sink is totally clean and clear, then you should not toss a dirty dish into the sink (even though this is the normal protocol . . . the dirty dishes eventually get loaded into the dishwasher) because the sink is clean and someone has put in the time hand washing all the other dishes and so you should hand-wash this lone dish in order to show appreciation for the work the other person has done (even though hand-washing a single dish is a major waste of water, which I pointed out . . . and then I picked up another dirty breakfast dish off the kitchen table and asked, "Do I have to wash this one, too?" and then I dropped the subject because I knew I was pushing it and didn't want to get in big trouble . . . but, for the record, I'm not sure about the logic of this Dish Washing Corollary).
Still no apology for The Potato Chip Incident (and while I'm on the subject, still no apology from my neighbors for the Out of Control Ivy Bed Incident . . . and you may be thinking: Who does Dave think he is? How can he demand apologies when he's constantly offending people?-- but after I put my foot in my mouth, I always apologize for my gaffe . . . unlike some people).
Still no apology for The Potato Chip Incident (obviously the author of the offending e-mail is neither familiar with the experiments of Dan Ariely nor the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail).
I can't wait for the cold weather to arrive-- and not just for my usual reasons-- I also have some evidence there might be a wasp's nest in my Jeep because 1) my son Ian found a wasp hiding in the floor trash and 2) while I was driving to work on Monday, in silence because my stereo no longer works, I distinctly heard buzzing coming from the back of the car . . . and the back of the car is full of coaching equipment, trash, and-- most significantly-- debris from when I ripped out a rotting wood fence and used my Jeep to transport load after load of wood and ivy and brush to the park dumpster (so lots of sticks and leaves and organic material like that) and there certainly could have been a few wasp eggs in that mess and now it's covered by coolers, a med-kit, cones, balls, and other soccer related stuff, and there's no way I'm cleaning all this out, so my only hope is that we get an early frost that kills them before they decide to swarm me . . . otherwise, you might read about my horrific wasp induced car wreck on this site.
I am finding it extremely difficult to watch my son Alex's travel team soccer games without "coaching" from the sidelines . . . I think I have coached soccer too long and I have lost my ability to simply be a fan; I'm trying to chat as much as possible with the other parents to divert my attention from the game, but it's a losing battle-- inevitably, I have to disperse some of wisdom I've garnered from nearly twenty years of coaching and so I yell: "Spread out!" or "Relax and pick your head up!" or some other brilliant phrase that will certainly ensure a victory for the Eagles (and I am certainly aware of the irony of yelling the word "relax").
My wife is not a raging alcoholic (and I am thankful for this) but she is an awful alcoholic . . . around dinner time she often opens a beer or pours herself a glass of wine, but she always misplaces it and never finishes it; I usually find it later-- half-full-- on the counter or next to the computer . . . she apparently doesn't know that if you pour yourself some alcohol after a long day of work, then that stuff should stay glued to your hand until you finish it . . . she does the same thing with coffee in the morning: she says that she "likes the idea of having a cup of coffee" but never finds the time to sit and actually finish a mug (I usually find her coffee cup-- hours later and three quarters full-- on a book shelf or next to the TV).
an introvert and-- for me-- being around people is like drinking alcohol: an initial sugar rush, loss of inhibitions, and the usual giddiness-- but after too much time with people, the inevitable hang-over results and I need time alone to re-charge . . . and I wonder if being an extrovert is the opposite: if time alone, time without other people to interact with, actually drains an extrovert-- the way Bill Compton drains Sookie Stackhouse in the back of Alceide's truck-- and they need to be around people to feel normal, energetic, and grounded again.
In memoriam of the Ten Year Anniversary of 9/11, I'd like to postulate a theory about a fraternity brother and rugby teammate of mine that died that day-- we called him Lud and he was an excellent guy with a habit for butchering idiomatic phrases . . . I recall him saying "blond as a bat" and "all bundled up like Utah Jack" and "kids were younger in those days," and perhaps those who remember him could contribute some others . . . and I am wondering if my wife has been possessed by Lud's spirit, because she has been exhibiting the same trouble with stylistic expressions and cliches-- although Catherine's make a bit more sense than Lud's-- here are a few examples (along with the original phrase): "fly by the handle" instead of "fly by night:";"sun cancer" instead of "skin cancer";" speed ball" instead of "fast ball";"buttons and whistles" instead of "bells and whistles";"summer shanty" instead of "summer shandy" and "living with the fishes" instead of "swimming with the fishes."
Once again, I am contemplating writing a novel-- but I'm not going to reveal too much about the plot, because I don't want to get everyone excited over something that I probably won't follow through on-- but I will tell you this: there's a shitload of robots . . . and they're living in the jungle.
It's been a summer of True Blood, and while I love the show-- cheesiness and all-- I could care less about Sookie and Bill's tumultuous affair . . . in fact, besides Sookie's mind reading and one-off impression of how Bill says her name, I wouldn't mind if those two were eaten by werewolves . . . I'm much more interested in the minor characters, the sub-plots, the supernatural, and the satire . . . it reminds me of how I felt about Cheers when I was a kid, I was far more invested in the adventures of Norm, Cliff, Coach, Woody and Frasier than I was in Sam and Diane's love/hate relationship.
The Annual Labor Day Rutgers Pool balloon toss ended in a draw, because all the remaining competitors' balloons burst on the final throw . . . and so I declared curtly, "Nobody wins," but the sweet mom next to me smiled and simultaneously declared the opposite: "Everybody wins!"
The futility of reality has rudely interrupted my idyllic summer: after bailing Hurricane Irene induced sewer water from 2 AM until 7AM, we finally got the basement dry . . . but then a deluge sprang from the shower drain, and despite our bucket brigade, we could not lower the tide, and so all our previous labor was worthless . . . we had to admit defeat and carry my mother-in-law's furniture and belongings upstairs; the next day, while we were cleaning up, my back neighbor-- who lives at the bottom of the ivy covered hill behind my house-- motioned me over and very nicely explained that her husband thought that my stone-henge wall project was slightly over the property line and asked if I could move some of the rocks in case "they wanted to build a fence in five years" and though I was extremely pissed off at this, for reasons I will explain shortly-- I remained civil (I knew her husband-- who I've never talked to-- put her up to it) and I never mentioned that I had to tear out our original wood fence because their ivy engulfed and destroyed it, despite my attempts to trim it from our side, and I also didn't mention the countless cases of poison ivy I endured clearing out their weeds and vines and jungle-growth-- for the last six years, without even a "thank you"-- and despite the fact that my stones are clearly on the original fence line, which -- I checked the deed-- was build a bit inside our property line, and despite the fact that the rocks are to: 1) keep the hill from eroding 2) hold my mulch and top-soil in place 3) provide a beautiful border for the row of arbor vitae I've planted-- of which they will get a better view than me-- and 4) these stones will provide some physical buffer that will block the spread of their ivy, a buffer that I can stand on so I can do their yard-work because they have NEVER weeded this ivy bed or trimmed the ivy, despite this all this, and despite the fact that all my mother-in-law's furniture and household goods from the flooded basement were on our porch being dried and cleaned, despite all this, I decided to be diplomatic and roll a few of the giant rocks a up the hill a bit to assuage them . . . though as soon as I find some even bigger boulders, I'm stacking them atop the ones I have so that they slowly slide down and crush their ivy . . . and in truth I'm actually glad for all this pointless labor, because it is mentally preparing me for the endless waves of essays that my students will soon be handing me, from which there will be no respite until next summer.
I wish my boys liked getting lost in a good book on a hot summer afternoon, but that's not the case . . . and The Waitresses have got it all wrong, they don't want to touch (or have anything remotely to do with) girls; I thought my son Ian liked winter, because all summer he kept telling me that he couldn't wait for the cold and the snow, so that we could have a snowball fight . . . but sometimes you don't know what you like until you try it . . . and when I saw my boys try it, then there was no question as to what boys like, and I am certain of this because I learned it empirically, through my powers of interview and observation: BOYS LIKE TO JELLYFISH FIGHT . . . last week at Midway Beach, my boys collected buckets of jellyfish and then hurled them at each other for over an hour, and I've never seen them happier . . . and my six year old son Ian explained why: "Jellyfish fighting is better than snowball fighting because a jellyfish doesn't hurt as much as a snowball when it hits you in the face."
P.S. Bucket of Jellyfish is a good name for a trance-band.
The other night at the Park Pub, one of our regular gang tried to explain what was going to happen at the Rutgers Pool on Labor Day Weekend . . . apparently the staff was going to throw a "greased watermelon" into the deep end of the pool and then you could do "some wrestling" for the aforementioned greased watermelon with the "buff lifeguards," and we thought this sounded like a rather odd event to happen at a family pool, but he insisted that not only were their no erotic overtones to the event, but that it was a manly pursuit . . . and now that I know of what he speaks, I can attest: it is a manly pursuit; the event works like this 1) prior to the event one of the pool employees coats a watermelon with petroleum jelly 2) the willing adults and teenagers (no one under thirteen allowed in this melee) are split into two teams 3) the watermelon is tossed into the deep end 4) no goggles are to be worn 5) each team is trying to maneuver the watermelon to their side-- which is indicated before the event begins-- and then raise it above the water and out of the pool 6) the head life-guard asked us not to be too violent, which proved impossible . . . for the first few minutes I was clueless as to where the watermelon was-- as there were thirty adults treading water and diving for it-- in fact, I dove down once to grab the melon, only to find it was the pool drain-- but then someone near me had the melon and I stripped it from him and turned over, and-- like an otter places a clam shell on his belly-- I balanced the watermelon on my stomach and started kicking for dear life . . . I advanced the melon nearly to the wall and kicked a few friends in the ribs before it slid away from me, but luckily one of the buff lifeguards that was on our team (Team Two, baby!) retrieved it and lifted it over the edge of the pool and spiked it down, breaking the melon and ensuring that we did not have to play another round, which was best for all parties involved . . . so the lesson here is that if a buff lifeguard asks you to wrestle around with a greased watermelon, don't get too excited because it's going to be extremely ugly, not hot and sexy.
Sentence of Dave has often discussed risk assessment . . . it's difficult to decide what to worry about in a world where so much unfiltered information is so readily accessible . . . and so I will place you on the horns of another anxiety-filled dilemma: should you worry more about Individuals Tending Towards Savagery, a radical Mexican anti-technology group that praises the writings of Ted Kaczynski and recently bombed two Mexican nano-technology professors at the Monterrey Technological Institute, or should you worry about their prediction: that nanotechnology research will result in the creation of nano-cyborgs, which will be able to self-replicate automatically without the help of humans and eventually form an exponentially increasing "gray-goo" that will smother all life on earth?
Charles Mann's new book 1493: Uncovering The New World Columbus Created is worth the price of admission simply for the chapter on malaria, but my favorite section covers the phenomenon of the quilombo-- a fugitive slave town established in the forests and jungles of South and Central America . . . of the millions of slaves imported to the Americas, countless thousands escaped the horrors of the cane fields and silver mines by vanishing into the jungle to establish communities "protected by steep terrain, thickly packed trees, treacherous rivers, and lethal booby traps" and these settlements-- often built in conjunction with the natives, who were also targeted for slavery-- endured for decades or even centuries (El Salvador's quilombo Liberdade has a population of 600,000 and is said to be the largest Afro- American community in the Western Hemisphere) and Mann's country by country history of these off-the-grid villages, towns and cities, which (to an untrained eye) were often indistinguishable from pristine jungle and which existed in surprisingly close proximity to the white settlements, with the expected consequences: the denizens of the quilombos waged guerrilla warfare, engaged in diplomacy, and traded with the ruling Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese; the Europeans usually gave up on the fight and negotiated because they were laid low from jungle diseases that the natives and African Americans were immune to . . . and because Charles Mann enlightened me on so many new topics in such a detailed and engaging manner, I am giving this book the highest honor that The Sentence of Dave can bestow: it scores 1493 points out of a possible 1491 and I am replacing Mann's previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus with the sequel on my list of 105 Books to Read Before You Die . . . congratulations Charles Mann, I can imagine how proud you are to make The List.
In Arthur C. Clarke's short story "The Nine Billion Names of God," a group of Tibetan monks-- aided by Western computer programmers-- seek to list every name given to The Almighty, which they believe is the purpose of mankind . . . and monks also believe that once this enormous list is complete that God will bring the universe to an end, and though the programmers are skeptical of the eschatological prediction of the monks and leave just before the listing program finishes-- because they don't want to be around a bunch of disappointed mystics-- as they ride their horses through a mountain pass they notice that "overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out," and though I do not claim any such grand plans for The Sentence of Dave, there are times when I think that if I get the right words in the perfect order that something magical will happen and I will blink out of existence just like the stars in the
I recently learned several lessons about the power of nature: 1) the earth will shake when it wants to shake 2) a hurricane can ruin your basement and your vacation . . . 3) you can build a sand castle monolithic enough to survive the incoming tide, but it will never be a match for the destructive force of a cute baby (and if the baby is cute enough, as this one was, then it's impossible to admonish said baby and instead, all you can do is watch the destruction).