Wednesday, June 29, 2016

178. What's Going On? (Part 2)

What else?
As always, the joy of my week is the Men in Blazers. I’ve listened to them every week they have been on since the summer of 2014. I recently watched their Euro postgame wrap up show on Monday. It was after the big England loss to Iceland. They were hilarious. Two self-loathing (well, Rog more than Davo) Englishman who have just enough hope and joy in their lives to keep it going.

The wrap up show featured lots of salami (Volpi food products) and some sort of Icelandic spirit. Oh how I wish I could have been there. Those two men are great people.

Then I learned today that AFC Bournemouth is coming to Minnesota to play Minnesota United. That’s going to be fun. Bournemouth is one of the more inspiring stories of English football. They have a young squad and they picked themselves up from the lowest ranks of English football to make it to the top flight. I can’t wait to go see them. Also, their nickname is the Cherries. Up the Cherries! (As Rodg would say.)

How have your lunches been this week?
I’ll admit, not great. I have a lot of salads and my previously mentioned salad dressing problem still exists. I had a turkey sandwich today with some of that Leiscester cheese. That cheese is fantastic. It’s got red pepper flakes in it. I used it all up though.

Side note, I should have the same problem with my cheese as I do with my dressing. Two of the blocks of cheese I bought were all moldy and stuff. Not great. I sliced off the green spots, but there wasn’t much left. Maybe I should be more careful with my cheese consumption.

I haven’t been eating out for lunch as much lately because I want to save some money. I love finding good turkey sandwiches, but I’ve got a lot of food at home and I feel like the effort it takes to put something together is worth more than wandering around the skyway come lunch time. I would like to hit up some more food trucks though.

Anything else?
OH, JUST THOUGHT OF SOMETHING THAT’S BEEN MAKING ME UPSET. Lately, in the legal world, there’s been a lot of chatter about a New York Big Law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore raising first-year associate salaries to $180,000. It’s been the front page coverage for the website Above the Law for basically the whole month. The whole chit chat has been, “Is your firm going to match Cravath?” They’ve posted angry comments from associates of firms who haven’t matched Cravath.

I get it that law school is expensive and that lawyers work really friggin hard. I admire a lot of the members of the HCBA for their dedication to their job and the community. But I’m glad I’m not mixed up in all that politics. Yeah, I’d love that sort of money, but all imagery and “keeping up with the Joneses” in the legal world makes me want to puke. Bah Humbug.  

177. What's going on?

Thought I’d try something new today. Just a check-in, with myself.

How are you doing today?
I’m pretty tired and stressed. Money is the number one thing that stresses me out. I went and got an oil change today and the mechanic told me that I need to replace my timing belt. It’s not a cheap fix and it’s not something I can do on my own. The total quote came to about $950. Ugh. I couldn’t get that off of my mind all afternoon. I calculated things in my head and scenarios on how I could save money over the next few weeks to help keep my debt load low. I think I have it figured out, but it’s still frustrating.

And it was a bit of a hit-and-miss at work today. I had a little bit of time, so I decided to visit a law firm that I hadn’t seen before. We usually have photos of unique offices in the back of our magazine. We didn’t get one for this coming issue, so I thought I should plan ahead to get try and get some photos now. I visited this office and thought it looked pretty cool. There were lots of fish and other cool stuff related to their brand. I asked to speak with someone from marketing and I gave them my pitch about the office photos. I asked if I could maybe be shown around or take some photos. He replied with a firm, “That’s not going to be possible. We’re a patent and trademark firm.” I was kind of surprised by his answer. I thought, “Well, way to waste an opportunity for free advertising.” It annoyed me for the rest of the day.

We also got our proofs for the magazine back. There were more errors in the copy than I would have liked. It was just little things too. Stuff I should have caught. That frustrated me as well.

Money and not living up to the standards of your job. Two things that stress me out.

What else is going on? What’s bringing you joy lately?
The weather has been pretty good, save for last weekend. I’ve been cooking with the farm share food. There’s lots of greens. I love hearty greens like that, but I’m in a bit of a conundrum: I have no salad dressing. This is one of the biggest issues about living alone: You want something, but you’re unable to consume it fast enough before it goes bad. I’m also not a huge fan of salad dressing, but I’ll put it on if the salad is my meal. However, I’m worried if I buy one dressing, I’ll get sick of said dressing. Or, if I buy multiple salad dressings, I’ll feel like I’m obligated to use all of them and I’ll get so sick of them that I won’t want any. Ugh.

Oh well. My knee is better, so I’ve been running again. I’m also finally getting the big purple wall in my living room painted. So, the pad is starting to look like an actual place.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

176. How Shea Serrano Stopped Me from Being Cynical

I had to do it. Shea Serrano was just too much. I bought The Rap Year Book.

 This blog post was originally going to examine why our country could nominate two people for the most powerful job in the world with such high unfavorability ratings. Seriously, Hillary and Trump’s unfavorability ratings are historic.

 As I was scrolling through Twitter prior to opening up Google Drive to type out 500 words pondering on whether we as a country deserved these candidates, I saw something. It was a tweet from Shea Serrano, a former Grantland basketball writer. He now puts out a hilarious basketball newsletter called “Basketball and Other Things,” It’s one of the few highlights in my email inbox. He’s also one of the few people that seems to carry an abundant joy for things on Twitter.

 He recently wrote a book called “The Rap Year Book: The Most Important Rap Song From Every Year Since 1979, Discussed, Debated, and Deconstructed.” I had paged through it at different bookstores, but I hadn’t bought it. It looked funny. It didn’t take itself too seriously and it had cool illustrations. And then I saw his tweet. It was a photo of a LeBron as the wrestler Ultimate Warrior.
In his next tweet, he said he’d give them away to the first 50 people who bought the book and sent him a screenshot. I immediately went on Amazon and purchased it. I had planned on not spending a ton of money this week, but this just felt right. I’ve made it a goal to support writers, artists, musicians, and other creators by purchasing their work. It was time for me to throw Shea some money. (Funnily enough, I actually ordered Jonathan Abrams book, “Boys Among Men” due to his recommendation. Those two have a fantastic, positive thing going on on there.

We need to pay more attention to people like Shea. I don’t know him, but he seems to be a pretty open person and genuine to his legions of fans on Twitter. He’s a person who has found his thing and he’s rolled with it. So, maybe I could have written about the 2016 tire fire of an election season, but I’m glad I didn’t. Politics will be there tomorrow. Hillary and Trump stories will still be ubiquitous for the next four months. And I’ll have plenty of time to write more negative takes.

 But you never know when the next good thing will come around. We miss it so often and we take those positive, fun, and joyful influences in life for granted. Shea, if you’re reading this, thanks for being you. I’m looking forward to reading the book. (And I hope I get a bookmark.)

Monday, June 27, 2016

175. Iceland

Maybe I shouldn’t give up hope so quickly. I think we’re conditioned to expect things to go a certain way. We expect our bus to come on time. We expect our car to start. We expect to sit down at a table for dinner when we usually do. But then there are those things that throw us off. They throw us out of our routine. Whether that’s getting sick, or getting hurt, or just a general errand that we don’t want to do. For instance, going grocery shopping instead of that afterwork exercise to blow off steam. I know I’m like that.

And then there are those days that surprise you, in a good way. Sometimes I think people have tried to commodify that as well. Not that that’s entirely a bad thing, but it feels sort of weird at times (i.e. subscription boxes, reddit gift exchanges.) I once signed up for one of those reddit gift exchanges. I got a fine gift, but it was from a guy whose username was something akin to “I love rape.” It was a little weird and I haven’t signed up for one since.

And then Iceland happened today. Their football (err, soccer) team defeated England in the Euro 2016 championship. That may not make any sense to people who haven’t been following the sport, but it’s a really big deal. England’s Premiere League is pretty much the gold standard for football leagues. Their national team hasn’t had as much success on the international stage, but they were supposed to do well this year. Iceland has the smallest population of any country that qualified for the Euros. It’s a great story that they qualified, but they really weren’t supposed to do well.

However, they had two draws and a win in the group stage, so they made it to the knockout round. And then they beat England today. Even though I like most of the England players because they play for Spurs, I wanted Iceland to win. I haven’t had the most favorable view of England since the Brexit vote and I wanted a hopeful, joyful story to replace the fear and cynicism that has hijacked the England narrative.

Maybe I shouldn’t give up on the small dedication of a hopeful group of people. Iceland shouldn’t be a European powerhouse. I mean, they aren’t among the Germany’s and Spain’s of the world just yet, but they’ve developed an infrastructure. They wanted to improve their soccer culture, and they have. And they beat one of the most powerful countries in the world, at least in terms of soccer currency. That’s got to feel good. It’s sort of like a win of a Cinderella team in March Madness, but this seems a whole lot sweeter.

Cynicism is easy. Being frustrated with things is easy. Blowing off steam is easy. But I’ve learned in life that the things you stick with are often the most rewarding. Kudos to Iceland for having a vision and carrying through with it. I appreciate those people and those entities who have hope for the future and build on it.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

174. Pets

It’s become a chore to follow the news. Everything seems so heavy lately: a presidential election, the Brexit, shootings, more Trump. It’s just exhausting to keep up with it all. It’s even more exhausting to read it, process it, see other’s opinions on it, process those opinions, and then go along with your day. I just want to press pause most days.

I get the print Sunday New York Times. They have lots of good stuff. I like their longer pieces, the magazine, and some of the columns inside. It usually takes me a whole week to get through it all, but I at least try and make it through the front section and the sports section on Sunday mornings.

The news all seemed heavy, yet again. There were five pieces on the Brexit, a two page spread on the privatization of emergency services. The standard Trump sludge. There was a story on how the demand for charcoal is accelerating deforestation in Madagascar and about a new giant man-made ark in Kentucky. I worked my way through it over three cups of coffee.

I finally made my way to the New York section. I don’t always read it because sometimes it’s a bit too #NYCproblems for me. (Meaning, I really don’t care about it.) And then I saw one titled “School’s Out for the Animals, Too”. I saved it for last, thinking it was some fluff (no pun intended) piece that would be a little too cutesy for my taste.

I was wrong. I loved it. The following graf made me chuckle. I had to read it out it was so funny.
“And in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, 8-year-old Charlie Mitkowski has started his new job as summer custodian of the Brooklyn Apple Academy’s two resident gerbils.”  

The piece was largely about how kids deal with animals in the classrooms. I liked that the piece touched on the fact that animals do a lot of things that elementary school kids don’t have much knowledge of yet: copulate, give birth, die, etc. Yet, the teachers didn’t hide those things from the kids. They allowed them to see it up close and experience it. The experiences weren’t sanitized.

I like positive news stories, but there can be a backlash to them and they can get too fluffly (i.e. upworthy.) I don’t like to be hit over the head with the positivity. I like to read it and experience the positive stuff myself.  

Things can be nice, sweet, and pleasent without us being told that they are nice, sweet, and pleasant. That’s what I worry about with the internet-centric culture. There are plenty of prognosticators who deal in telling us how to think and feel about a certain topic. We can’t just enjoy things without their being an opinion on them. (I’m sure someone has an opinion on this article, but I didn’t read it online.) - (Update: I read the comments. They're awful. Damnit.)

So, moral of the story, just enjoy things and let them be sometimes. And, good luck Charlie.  

Saturday, June 25, 2016

173. Things I've enjoyed

I am behind with my blog posts, so here are a few things I have enjoyed as of late…

The White Album by Weezer: Full disclosure, I only really got into Weezer this past year. I’m not one of those fans who things they have sucked since Maladroit. I’ve heard their hits, but not very many deep cuts. I like their sound. Rivers Como (the lead singer) seems like a cool guy and I like their nerd-rock sort of vibe. I downloaded some of their stuff on my Amazon Prime account (for running purposes.) And I found that I really liked it. It energized me. I especially liked the song “Photograph.”

I was eager to listen to their new album after a recommendation on one of my favorite podcasts, Pop Culture Happy Hour. I had heard a few of their singles on the radio. I downloaded a few more songs this weekend. It’s got a nice low-key rock, joyfully melancholy sound. If you could bottle that feeling after a rainstorm, that would be this record. It’s calm, refreshing, and energizing. I like music that’s hopefully and happy, but also has a touch of sadness to it. I can relate to that.

Orange is the New Black: Season 4: I’m kind of losing momentum with the West Wing. I still love that show and thought I might be able to make it through every season, but I don’t think that’s going to happen now. OITB released its newest season a few weeks ago and I’d been eager to check it out. It’s a show that’s pretty easy to get into and it’s got a lot of intriguing characters. I’ve jumped back into it pretty quickly.

It also tackles the issues surrounding prisons, specifically private prisons. There’s one scene where some of the administrators are at a prison conference. There’s a trade show with all the latest gadgets designed to inflict punishment, cut costs, or just keep the bottom line at the expense of inmates comfort. It kind of disgusted me seeing people laugh and not quite realize the expanse of what private prisons do. Private prisons freak me out. This season of OITNB just affirms that. (I realize it’s a show, but the show mirrors this expose pretty well.)

Trader Joe’s Ghost Pepper Potato Chips: This are very good. They are lattice cut potato chips that actually have some good spicy flavor to them. I’ve eaten pretty much a whole bag of them in the last day. I probably shouldn’t have. I’m usually skeptical of potato chip flavors. I don’t like lays. They taste like crunchy wax paper. Most of the Lay's flavors are weird too (Lays BBQ is highly overrated.) These are extremely good though, good crunch, good bite.

Leeks: A very underrated vegetable. I made one of my favorite recipes, Prosciutto and Leek pasta, on Friday night. It’s got a great greasy, salty, and savory taste. I subbed in Pancetta and a parmesan-romano mix in exchange for the cheese they usually use. I’d highly recommend the recipie.

172. The Fear of Staying In

I could have stayed in all day today. I didn’t get out of bed until about 8:30, which is about an hour later than my normal get out of bed on weekends time. I laid in bed for a while and didn’t want to move. It was going to be hot today, so I thought I should just hide a little bit longer.

I could have lounged around till the afternoon, when I had some stuff to do. I decided I wanted to have some coffee. I walked to Caribou and got a small dark roast for two bucks. I thought about walking home with drink in hand, but I decided to stay and read for a while. I read an article from Mother Jones that I had seen get some play online. It’s called “My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard.” I read for about a half hour and I think I’m only about a quarter of the way through it. That was the longest I had read something in a while. The sticker shock of the bagged coffee grounds prevented me from taking any home. So I set off for Cub Foods.

I thought about the things I needed: coffee, bagels, salad dressing. I only bought coffee (and some tupperware and some Ziploc bags.) I was too lazy to look for the bagels and I got anxious over the salad dressing. I’m not a big salad dressing guy. I thought I should get some due to the massive amount of greens that I have at my place from my farmshare. There were just too many flavors. Would I like the chosen flavor? Would I like to have that flavor multiple times a week? Would I be able to finish a bottle? Should I get more than one flavor? Sometimes shopping for one is draining.

I headed home and made myself busy and cleaned before my mom got to my house. She arrived around noon. We took apart the closet in the master bedroom. The shelves were a pain to get off and not in great shape. After about 20 minutes of pounding, pushing, and nudging, we got them out. I will not be putting those shelves back in.

My mom painted some spots on the ceiling that needed touch up while I started on the closet. Turns out, my mom is much better at painting than I am. I suppose that comes with being a homeowner for more years than I have been alive. Things finished up around 5:15ish.

I had plans to go to a soccer game with some friends, but the weather looked like it was going to be nasty. Stormy summer days are literally my least favorite days. I’m not a huge fan of being overly hot. And I don’t like severe weather either. All forecasts said it was going to be pouring by game time.

I wondered if I should even go, but I’ve learned the best way to snap an anxious streak is to just go and do something. So I met up with my friends for a sandwich and beer before the game. It was still clothes-stick-to-your-butt-and-back type hot, but no rain.

The game was a loss, but it was entertaining. And it’s always good to get out of the house. Weekends are nice when you don’t bask in laziness and fear.

Friday, June 24, 2016

171. Streaming

I’ve reduced the number of hours that I’ve listened to streaming services. Whenever I want to listen to music, I’ll turn to 89.3 the Current about 90 percent of the time. Streaming services like Spotify feel cold to me. The only time I do use a streaming service is when I’m running. I have a subscription to Amazon Prime. While I do like a little bit of surprise in my music, I tend to enjoy stuff I know while I’m exercising. Most of that time it’s from music that I’ve heard on the Current.

It was a few months ago that I decided to free my ears from listening to Spotify for my general everyday music. I felt like I was at an ice cream parlor with way too many choices. You could have everything, so why aren’t you listening to everything? It overwhelmed me and made me anxious. I wondered if I was listening to the exact right song and the exact right moment. Most of the time, I wasn’t.

We don’t much for surprise anymore. Or, I should say that it’s very hard to suprise people. Since we have so many options for content, people can just click or flip or do something else if they are not entertained immediately. We have no patience anymore. I wanted to stop being paralyzed by analysis paralysis with my music.

The day I drove back to Minneapolis from Marshall, I turned to the Current about twenty miles outside of the city. Just as I was pulling up to 35W, Atmosphere came on. It was a new song. I think it was “Finer Things.” It felt perfect. It was a serendipitous welcome back to the Twin Cities. I felt like I was home and I loved it.

Maybe that could have happened if I was listening to a streaming service, but I don’t know. I’ve started to enjoy all of the things that public radio brings. I went to Rock the Garden last weekend. Even though it was extremely hot, I liked being there around bands, local organizations I liked, and food that I thought was delicious. It was nice to be out in the community, enjoying something nice on a summer day. I also got a little giddy when I saw some of the Current DJ’s even though I got too nervous to go talk to them.

There are lots of good things about the streaming economy. I can watch episodes of shows I like when I want to. I can binge on old episodes of tv shows that I love. And if I need to hear a song that I love RIGHT NOW, I can do just that.

But we lose something when we have everything at our fingertips. Isn’t there a saying that’s something like, “When a man has everything, he has nothing.” I may have made that up. But how can you enjoy one thing, when you have everything? I’m not advocating for complete detachment from your worldly possessions, but I think it’s good to let someone else take control for a while.

170. The Price of Fear

Fear seems to be hitting an all-time high these days. There is fear of terrorism, global warming, immigrants, the super rich. It feels like it’s coming to a head with this presidential election and the Brexit vote. I don’t like it.

Fear is a money-making scheme. I buy things when I’m in fear of something. I eat a lot more. I don’t leave my house. I just sit, wait, and wallow in my anxiety. It’s not a good place to be in. I’m trying to think of the last big thing I bought when I was happy. I feel like people don’t vote or don’t care when they are happy. Fear is a good way to keep people motivated.

I was pretty anxious the entire day today. All day yesterday I just felt discombobulated due to big news, as well as work stuff. That carried over to today. As the workday ended, I decided I needed a change of pace. I walked home. I immediately turned on the air conditioning and took a nap. I worked out my budget and figured out spending plan for the next few weeks. I went for a run. I made a grocery list and went to Trader Joe’s. (And I stayed within three dollars of my budget!) I came home, popped open a bottle of wine and made one of my favorite meals, pasta with procisutto and leeks. And now I’m here, sitting on a couch, typing away.

I feel much better than I did earlier. My house feels a little bit more in order and I don’t feel like my world is going to fall down due to Brexit or Ricky Rubio potentially being traded. I am here and I am fine.

As I was cooking I listened to a podcast of Fresh Air. Terry Gross (the host) interviewed Tony Hale, of “Arrested Development” and “Veep” fame. Hale’s most famous characters are usually anxious pushovers. It was nice to see a different side in the interview. I learned that Hale is a practicing Christian. This bit stuck out to me.

I think prayerful meditation, being still in a space, being still with God, I don't do that enough. It's crazy, because when I do do it, I always walk away from it going, Why the hell am I not doing that more? Because it's so centering and it broadens the picture of life, really. I mean, you just kind of go, We're spinning on a planet, here. And I'm giving a lot of anxiety and a lot of weight to stuff that just doesn't matter, and it's so focusing.

I like that. It’s good to just step away for a while. I was in a semi-argument on Twitter with someone I knew about Brexit stuff. He’s a guy who likes to heavy discuss things, usually when I tweet something political (which is less and less these days.) I don’t enjoy discussing politics over Twitter. Things are too often taken too far. He wasn’t being mean, but I decided just to disengage. It wasn’t worth it to fill my day thinking about crafting a tweet. I wanted to do something that made me happy.

Life is crap and suboptimal so many times, but we give weight to things that just don’t matter. Stop doing that.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

169. Today

I have been pretty anxious the entire day. It felt like a lot of big things all happening at once. There is the Brexit vote, the NBA draft, some big Supreme Court rulings, residual anger from an idiotic newspaper columnist, and of course, stupid crap from Donald Trump campaign. (Where former campaign manager is hired by CNN, but can’t criticize Trump? WTF.)

From what I’ve read about the Brexit vote, a leave would be bad for the United States. We’d lose a crucial ally in European votes, and based on the markets, it’s not going to be pretty. There was a poll conducted that the vast majority of people who voted against it were older, much older. The poll also noted the average time the person had to live with the decision, sixteen years. Whereas young people had to live with this for about six decades. That frustrates me. People who are much older are making decisions, but they won’t see the reverberations.

I couldn’t even think about the draft tonight. I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t study much up on it and I didn’t really care. It was nice that for the first time a Wolves pick wasn’t going to make or break the franchise. Yet, this afternoon I heard rumblings that the Wolves were shopping my favorite player, Ricky Rubio. I love Ricky. I first read about him about eight years ago, before the draft. A young Spanish kid who passed like Pete Mavrich. Even though his jump shot was tough to watch, I loved his attitude. He brought a positive energy to the court and he played with joy. Joy is not a word you use to describe basketball players. I’ve tried to distance myself from the emotional aspects of sports, but I have a soft spot for Ricky. As I am typing this, he hasn’t been traded, but I’m still anxious.

I’ve been feeling anxious a lot lately. I’m not sure what it is. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been running. My knee is still hurting a little bit, so I thought it best not to try to run. I’ve been walking a lot and doing yoga, but I’ve still been on edge a lot. And I’ve been spending more than I should lately, so of it of my own choosing, some of it unexpected. My attention span is also not what it used to be. Most of the time I can only make it through about half of an article before my eyes start to wonder. This writing, which should take 15-20 minutes, sometimes takes a lot longer because I’m flipping through tabs on my page. And it’s usually stuff that doesn’t even matter. Woof.

But I saw my friend’s kid today. He’s only a few weeks old. He was sleeping when I came in to drop some stuff off at their house. I’m glad he hasn’t had to deal with any of life’s anxieties just yet.

Later, I made stir fry with the veggies I got from my CSA share. It wasn’t half bad. So, I’ve got that going for me.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

168. J.R. Smith, Joe Soucheray, and Shirts

If there is one thing I hate, it’s contrarian for contrarian’s sake sports takes. You have a right to an opinion, but when you purposely fish out a contrarian take in the face of an overall positive story, I begin to wonder if the writer actually hates life.

That happened with Pioneer Press columnist Joe Soucheray. I’ll say this straight out, I disagree with basically everything he’s ever written. He’s the crusty, old, white-guy columnist that wonders why kids don’t read newspapers anymore. He’s got a cushy job (as cushy as a paper job can be) and he proclaims his opinions on high. Most of them time I laugh them off and wonder what reality he’s experiencing. But today’s column really made me angry.

His column was titled, “Even for an NBA champion, is a shirt too much to ask?” He went on to write a full column on why he was incredulous that J.R. Smith didn’t wear a shirt when he got off the plane in Cleveland. First off, who cares?

Second, he thought that clothing might inspire some kid: “I wonder what impact it might have had on kids all across the country to see the Cavs get off their airplane dressed to the nines. I would think it might give a kid pause. Wow, look at those guys. I have to get a tie like that.”

No kid has ever said, “I have to get a tie like that.” Just not the case.

Third, he didn’t even acknowledge what J.R. Smith said the previous day after the Cavs had won. Smith basically had the most real and honest answer to a press conference question I had ever seen. The video is worth it.

This is just part of what he said, “If it wasn’t for the structure and the backbone that I have, I wouldn’t be able to mess up and keep coming back and being able to sit in front of you as the world champion.” Wow.

He cried while thanking his parents. He also thanked them for the structure they provided! I have never heard an athlete thank their parent for providing them structure.

I don’t know much about J.R. Smith other than that he’s a bit of a wild dude (or at least that’s what the media has labeled him as.) I gained a newfound respect for him. There are plenty of athletes who thank their parents, but it usually feels like lip service. Smith’s answer was heartfelt and refreshing.

I was so upset that I emailed Souchery. I said his column was lazy and out of touch. I hate an obviously bad take that’s rooted in curmudgeonlyness. It’s even more infuriating because Smith basically shattered the stereotype of the athlete-speak. He provided a heartfelt quote in a press conference that usually has bland, rehearsed answers.

So, screw you Joe Soucheray. You don’t know everything from your high perch where you can see and judge everyone’s fashion sense. You go, J.R. Smith.

Monday, June 20, 2016

167. Cleveland

It could have been easy not to care about the NBA championship this season. I hadn’t watched a whole lot of basketball outside of a few Timberwolves games. I liked both the Cavaliers and the Warriors, and my mind has about a million things to think about over the summer. Yet, after game two, where the Warriors creamed the Cavs, I really wanted Cleveland to win.

I love LeBron James. I suppose no superstar can be truly beloved, but he gets a lot of crap that’s underserved. He’s a whiner! (Well, Steph Curry had some pretty bad whining in game six.) He can’t get it done! (Well, he can get it done, but there’s a reason five people are on the court for a team.) He’s not as good as Jordan! (Honestly, who cares? They’re never going to face each other in real life, so it doesn’t matter. Enjoy the present and quit living in the past.)

If people are still frustrated over his 2010 exodus to Miami, I think you need to take a long, hard look at the decisions you’ve made in your life. If you were given a chance for more money, work in a nicer location, and work with your friends, I’m guessing most of you would probably take that opportunity.

But he came back. He came back home. I’ll admit that even I was a little tearful when he made the decision to return. Northeast Ohio isn’t the place with the highest quality of life right now, but he decided to come back. Good for him.

I think the reason I wanted him the most to win it was because of our collective inability to enjoy something truly great without criticizing it. (I suppose people did enjoy Steph Curry’s season.) However, the LeBron hottake industry never seems to have an off day. I thought it’d be nice to give them a break for a little while.

Luckily, he did. I ended up watching game five and seven, both of which the Cavs won (along with game six.) They were the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win. I watched most of the game on my laptop, while I was sitting at my kitchen table. For some reason, I decided not to turn the air conditioning on, which caused me to perspire even more than I typically do.

Even though I was watching by myself, I definitely yelled and groaned throughout the game. Due to my Minnesotan fandom, I became slightly pessimistic after the score remained tied at 89 for what seemed to be about 20 minutes. Then, Kyrie Irving hit a pretty nasty three-point shot, and LeBron performed what is being referred to as, “the block”, where he ran from half court, caught up to Andre Igoudala, and slapped the ball against the backboard to prevent the Warriors from scoring. It was at that moment that I began to breathe a little bit more.

In the end, I could have been a impartial “fan of the game” but it’s nice to root for someone you like.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

166. A response

I’ve thought a lot about silos lately. This is a good definition of the online type. Silos are those communities that we find ourselves in online. We’ve replaced face-to-face civic engagement with online engagement. I’m not saying that’s all bad. I like some of the communities I’ve been able to find online. I like that I’m able to stay connected to a bunch of people I otherwise wouldn’t.

It’s just that it’s hard to discuss and have vigurous debate in a silo. As the article says, “It can be "social suicide" to criticize a silo from within the silo, while external criticism tends to bounce off, ignored.” You begin to think that you are always right, no matter what anyone else says. We like our ruts, thank you very much.
I’ve thought about that this past week. Pretty soon after the Orlando shooting, I saw a tweet from a high schooler in Marshall (I followed a bunch during my job as a sports reporter) saying something along the lines of, here we go again with all the anti-gun nuts, people kill people, not guns. This was less than 12 hours after the shooting in Orlando. That kind of scares me that that reaction happened so quickly.

And then there’s the backlash to prayer. I get that people are frustrated with, “thoughts and prayers.” I don’t know the faith habits of every single person who tweeted that, but I’m sure some of them were genuine, and I do believe they probably did other things to help. And props to Chick-fil-A for donating food. Of course, then you see the conservative backlash to the non-attention paid to this act by the “liberal media.” Jeesh, slow down. I’m sure Jesus was really hoping for some instagram shout-outs after the loaves and fishes.

While those silos can be fun places, it’s always fun to be around people who agree with you, they can also be seriously miserable places. On a much less serious note than Orlando, the NBA Finals community (specifically Warriors fans) was just a miserable, miserable crapheap after the game on Thursday. People were saying that it was rigged, and that the NBA wanted it to go to game seven. It’s hard for some people to accept the basic fact that one team played better than the other. We want our miserableness to be heard damnit! If we’re not happy, than no one can be.

That’s why I’m worried about this presidential election and things to come. It’s easy to get siloed with your presidential politics and dig your heels in. I’m especially scared about Trump. I’m not saying Hillary is the greatest choice or anything, but I think Trump’s idea, mannerisms, and the general way he conducts himself would be dangerous to the country if he got the nuclear codes.

This has rambled on more than I planned, but my general feeling is this. Allow for some compassion in your daily life, think about what you want to post online for 10 minutes, and if it still seems reasonable after that, then go ahead. Things are always more complex than you think, and people can always surprise you.

Friday, June 17, 2016


Boy, is it nice when sports are fun to watch again. I took in the United States Men’s National Team’s victory over Ecuador at Brit’s Pub last night. The U.S. won 2-1 in a game that gave me acid reflux for about the last 20 minutes. At the same time, the Golden State Warriors lost Game 6 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. People were not happy about Golden State losing that game (or judging by what I saw on social media.)

While I usually watch sports by myself, I’ve grown to appreciate watching games with a group of people, or at least when there are large groups of people there for one purpose. I would say at least 90 percent of Brit’s Pub was there for the soccer match. That made for a fun, but crowded experience. Luckily, I was able to find a couple seats in their upstairs bar. As much as I enjoy being around other people when I’m watching the game, I don’t enjoy feeling claustrophobic.

Even though my friend and I were at the game about 45 minutes early, it was packed. Lots of USMNT jerseys and other USA gear. Going out for a game to see one common team doesn’t happen too often (unless it’s a Minnesota team in the playoffs, but that still doesn’t happen too often either.)

The game started off favorably for the U.S. They were creating chances and the defense looked pretty solid. And then Clint Dempsy’s goal happened. Boy was that pretty. Great passes, especially by Jermaine Jones at the end. I appreciate players who can make that extra pass quickly and find something that I didn’t initially see. (I mean, my powers of observation on the field aren’t great, but still.) I always enjoy high-fiving random people after the home team scores a goal. It’s one of my favorite parts of watching soccer games in public. It’s what you do.

Later, Gyasi Zardes’ goal happened. It was nowhere near as pretty as Dempsey’s header. GZ found himself right in front of the goal with the ball in front of him. So he kicked it in. I scored the only goal of my high school career like that. It’s a crap goal, but hey, it’s a goal.

The last 30 minutes of the game were a bit rough. Two red cards were issued, so both teams were down to 10 men. There were also lots of yellows and chippy shots. Ecuador scored on a very good shot. The US couldn’t seem to generate an attack for the last 10 minutes, so they just held on. Goalie Bradley Guzan got a few nice saves, and a few shots by Ecuador went just wide. The US held on to win.

After I got back home, I checked Twitter (as one does) to see the funny things Men in Blazers was posting. However, a lot of my timeline was filled up with stuff about the NBA Finals game. I love basketball, but Twitter talk about the NBA, excluding cool NBA writers, can be awful. (It’s the refs! The NBA is fixed! Their all babies!) That was in full force after Golden States loss. It just wasn’t fun. I’ll stay celebrating, thank you very much.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

164. Storms

I have this tendency to be “on” when some big event is about to go down. Sometimes, that’s a good thing. I can be on when I’m at an event for work, or when I’m running a meeting, or in the midst of a new project. On is good. I’m more aware of my surroundings. I’m cognizant of what people are feeling. I’m noticing the little details that may need attention.

When I worked at camp, I had to be on during severe weather outbreaks. During my last year at camp, when I was assistant camp director, I think we had between four and seven of them, a good portion of which seemed to happen when it was my director’s day off, which meant I was in charge of the whole camp. On peak weeks, that was between 350 and 400 people.

I was in one of the storm shelters, the crappy one in the middle of camp, and something always seemed to go wrong: a kid got an allergic reaction, it was sweltering humidity, the lights wouldn’t work, a parent got angry. It was one thing after another and it wore me down over the course of the summer. I got stressed out even thinking about going into the storm shelters. Seeing a line of dangerous-looking clouds made me a nervous wreck. If the conditions even possibly looked right, I was glued to my radio. I often hid in the director’s office glued to any broadcast reports about storms. I wouldn’t say those days gave me a nervous breakdown, but just seeing the clouds sent my adrenaline levels into overdrive. I really hated it.

I still sometimes think like that whenever I see a storm. I don’t think that’s a good thing. My day was basically ruined as soon as I knew that was happening. I imagined a long time to get home, bad traffic, not being able to run outside, possible power outage. I just didn’t like the feeling of it.

I went home and took a nap. I thought I’d be falling asleep for only about 20 minutes, but of course twenty minutes turned into an hour. I just felt groggy for the rest of the evening. I got angsty and nervous. I didn’t want to do anything and I couldn’t relax.

I tried to go out for a run after the storm had passed, but my knee felt uncomfortable enough that I didn’t want to risk going out for a run on it. I finally calmed down after I put an episode of the West Wing on. It took me a while to fall asleep though, not because I was scared, but because I had taken the dang nape beforehand.

I hate that this anxiety still follows me over five years later. I’m not scared of storms, they just throw me into a different mode that exhausts me and is not conducive to relaxation. Maybe the best route is to associate storms with something good again. I’ve got to find out what that is.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

163. What gives me hope

I didn’t feel this dark about things in 2008 or 2012. I disagreed with the other candidates, but I didn’t think they were dangerous for the country. And with the relentless news cycles focusing on Donald Trump (man, I feel hot acid reflux in the back of my throat even just typing his name), I’ve just felt pretty disgusted about things.

So what gives me hope for it all?

I posted the question on my Facebook page and I got some nice, hope-filled answers. Here are my thoughts about it:

Seeing my friends do the things they’ve always wanted to do. Whether it’s get a new job that they’ve always wanted, achieve a health goal, get into med school, record an album, open for their comedy hero, travel to a new place, get married, have a kid, or just do something that deflects and refracts all the negative crap we constantly see in the world.

Facebook can become a tired place with all the photos of happy people smiling and saying that they are #blessed, but those posts of joy come from a real place. (Or I’d like to believe that most of them do.)

We’re force-fed millions of bits of negative, awful information every day. There’s outrage, then there’s backlash to that outrage, and we think that if we just get in that little jab at the end of the sentence, then we’ve won that day. (Or at least that news cycle.)

What gives me hope is that not everyone or everything in this world is divisible into different compartments. While the internet has given birth to 21st century tribalism, we’re a lot more different than we give ourselves credit for. We all do things that are unexpected. We can be better than what is expected of us by the market. These are just a few of the stories that I can think of:

A friend of mine, who is also a former teacher, got accepted into medical school about two decades later than the typical student. If I hadn’t talked to him since high school, I would have imagined that he continued work at a boarding school. That would have been all right, but that’s not what happened.

Another friend is moving to work on the South Side of Chicago. He could have moved back home, but he feels called to work in one of the most challenging environments in the country.

Another friend just posted that she was celebrating 11 years of sobriety. I’ve only met this friend IRL once, but she inspires me with her zest for life (or at least what I can make through her Facebook page.)

Another friend whom I used to work with has moved up the chain from being a scrap heap blogger to being one of the most notable sports media people in Boston.

Another friend is valiantly standing up to a store that sells horrific shirts that promote a culture of sexual assault. I’ve seen many friends join the cause.

And other friends continue to live their daily lives with heart, grit, and passion. They cook, they clean, they take care of other living things day after day without thinking of themselves. They dig into things they love, causes they care about, and things they want to see changed. They are not driven by fear, but love. They don’t want attention, they just want to do their part.