Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hail, hail, Derrick Rose

It's the first game of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Bulls vs. the 76ers and Philadelphia is playing terribly and the Bulls are ahead.  Derrick Rose fell, injured. 

His ACL is torn y'all and he is out for the playoffs and the finals and until who knows when.  All hail, Derrick Rose!!  I wish you a speedy and complete recovery.  He's a young guy in peak physical condition so we should expect that to be the case.

Derrick Rose is the best player on a team of good players but he is undeniably the best player.  Owing to various injuries in the shortened season, they played quite a few games without him this year and the loss ratio was, according to my feeble calculations, 33%.  That means a 67% win ratio!  I am a big old optimist and have everything crossed hoping that the rest of the team of very good players -- Carlos Boozer, Joaquim Noah, Rip Hamilton to name just three -- can put together the greatest show on Earth, pound lumps, and win it all.

Meanwhile, in Hockeyland, the Blackhawks held it together for one more game and then were overpowered by Phoenix.  Stick a fork in 'em, they're done.  The predictions, finger-pointing, and fan suggestions started immediately, among them, "Trade Patrick Kane."  I have zero opinion on that.  I am still pissed about Raffi Torres clocking Marian Hossa.

Speaking of clocking, Metta World Peace, the professional basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest, got a seven-game suspension for elbowing Oklahoma Thunder guard James Harden in the head, giving him a concussion and making him miss the last two games of regular season play.  Can you feel the peace and love tonight?   In a 13-year career, World Peace has been suspended 116 times.  That is more than one entire season of regular play.  This week, I am hating Metta World Peace.  I am calmed by the fact that when he was on "Dancing with the Stars" last season, he didn't win.  Even though I am totally over "Dancing with the Stars" (because I no longer care).  Even though Metta has kids for whom he needs to provide.  I am sick of stupid displays of bad sportsmanship, anger, and immaturity.  The man's in his 30s; you'd think he'd act like it.  Of course, I am automatically suspicious of someone who changes his name to Metta World Peace because stuff like that is usually a lie or for show.  Just keep your name or a name close to your name and you can be who you are or be a better person without giving yourself a title that is your name.  I could be Insane Freakish Large but who'd really believe it?  Well, in my case, everyone, so oh just skip it.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Welcome to the "I Hate Raffi Torres" Club

So Marian Hossa lost control of the puck in Game 3 of the best-of-seven series, the Chicago Blackhawks vs. the Phoenix Coyotes, Western Conference quarterfinals, and winger Raffi Torres comes flying over and delivers a charming shoulder-to-head shot.  Torres hit Hossa with such force that Torres himself left the ice.  Of course Marian Hossa was taken out on a stretcher and went straight to the hospital but no foul was called on Raffi Torres.  Of course Marian Hossa can't play because he has a big fat concussion.  Yes, we are talking about assault and we are talking about nobody doing a thing about it when it happened.

Okay, okay, so not assault because this was a game of professional ice hockey but this was not a regular play.  This is just the sort of thing the NHL is trying to stop.  They so want it to stop that they delivered their own justice yesterday.  Raffi Torres is out for 25 games.  If he doesn't have 25 games in the post-season -- and I sincerely want him to get nowhere near the Stanley Cup -- then the punishment goes into next season.  There are 82 games in a season and if it goes into next season, for which I am totally crossing my fingers, he will lose $21,000 per game.  No pay is lost for missing post-season games, alas.

The Blackhawks were down in the series, 3-1.  The Coyotes and their coach (who didn't seem to think the Torres hit was that big a deal) and their fans were licking their lips thinking the were going to eliminate the Hawks.  To the fans, to suspended Torres and the other Coyotes and their coach, I say, "Suck it, bitches."  The Hawks won in overtime.  Now it's 3-2, hope in Chicago stays alive, and it gets a smidge closer to Mr. Torres doing his suspension next season, getting zero pre-season play, and losing $21,000 per game in the 2012-2013 season.  A girl can dream, can't she?

If you can't appeal to their good sense, to their intellectual sides, then accost them in their bank accounts where their families get the shaft and give them some sad looks and projected bad thoughts about which they can think long and hard in the comfort of their own living rooms.

Oh, yeah, I hate all kinds of thugs, Raffi Torres, and this week, you most of all.

I love Philip Humber, pitcher for the Chicago White Sox.  A perfect game!  Coincidentally, this was the first game in his major-league career that he ever finished and then twirled into the record books.

This makes me wonder:  how did the Cubs capture everyone's imagination?  The White Sox might break you heart -- any sports team will break your heart -- but they won't break it into a thousand pieces, stomp the pieces, then grind said pieces into dust.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

How Handbrake Saved Commuting

Before we go anywhere, allow me to share that I love to watch movies/TV shows on my iPod in the morning on public transportation.  I tuck it into my bag and put on some earphones that are super girly and pretty pretty pretty (but if someone snatched 'em off my bean it would not be too big a loss as they cost me all of $16 with a coupon at Bed Bath and Beyond) and watch a movie or a TV show.  The one-way ride takes 30-40 minutes and it takes three-to-four morning commutes to watch a full-length feature film.  It doesn't take very long to go through one's own video library of full-length downloads (once a year, starting in January, I go through all four seasons of "Coupling" and, in December, season 1 of "How I Met Your Mother") with random interspersing of video shorts -- "Our Time Is Up," "Auf Der Strecke," "Wish 143," and "God of Love," to name a few -- throughout the year.  I was lamenting to a genius on-line friend that I wished I could put the DVDs I have onto my iPod and Ms. Genius shared that there was.  And so Handbrake became the thing that saved my sanity (along with Ms. Genius and her good direction).

According to
HandBrake is a general-purpose, open-source, cross-platform, multithreaded video transcoder software application.  

No, I know what none of that means specifically.  But what it does is take my DVD and put it onto my computer.  It takes a while for the DVD to convert and I've not been able to figure out how to bring over the subtitle track for a foreign movie but it is so worth the effort.  I have movies I've not watched in years that I have been enjoying on the bus or El, depending on my chosen route.

Another option:  you get an exercise DVD at the library and you like it but don't want to buy it.  Handbrake puts it onto your computer and you can use Apple TV to do your cruches, plies, or kettle bell tossing when the DVD goes back to your local branch.

I like to watch movies in the movie theatre.  Next choice is on my TV with a DVD or streaming from Netflix.   Sometimes the fates intervene and there's the third option of watching it on my iPod while it's tucked into my bag with me looking like a crazy person staring into said bag.  It makes me very happy, I don't notice the hijinks of my fellow riders (it's 6:30 am when I get on so hijinks are pretty limited), and the ride flies by.  It is beautiful and precious and I invite each and every one of you to give it a whirl if you prefer the visual to the aural -- i.e. you like a movie and not just music.  

It's spring and geese are pairing up and nesting in the shrubbery of the Oakbrook, IL, Costco parking lot.  Traffic cones have been put around the area to keep the mother safe and the shoppers safe from the goose daddy who looks like he means business.  One high-end goose found the flower bed outside the north entrance of Oakbrook Nordstrom to be an ideal spot to raise a family.  Nordstrom did too and put up a sign advising its customers to leave the nesting geese alone.  It's a small sign, yellow with black lettering, but Nordstrom has clearly embraced this spring fling and will do what it can to help the mom get the eggs hatched.  That particular goose daddy was about 15 feet west, enjoying a nice salad, i.e. he was eating the grass from a small expanse of lawn.  People were clearly excited about the Nordstrom geese and were happy to quietly peek at the mom sleeping on her nest.  There was less excitement at Costco because, really, "I just need one thing and damn it, those are great parking spots they have cones around and why does that goose have such crazy eyes?"

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Eastover

It's spring and time for those most religious of holidays, Passover and Easter.  Passover commemorates the story of Exodus of the Jews from Egypt, fleeing the bonds of slavery by the Pharaohs.  Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus after being tortured, crucified, and killed by the Romans.  They come about the same time every year.  The Jews eat unleavened bread to remember how they left Egypt in such a hurry, they didn't wait for the dough to rise, plus items from the Passover plate, each with a meaning about life as a Jew. The Christians in the English-speaking world eat lamb or a roast of beef or ham.  Butter is often in the shape of a lamb.

I work with a group of people who are pretty much unobservant.  The ones who do observe are very observant, religious, and avid in the beliefs, devoting time to their churches.  Everyone else, really, is respectful but only socially observant, i.e. Easter eggs and chocolates because they are fun, matzo because it's delicious, and Christmas because it's socially charged not to do so.

I fall into the group of the unobservant.  It's been a long while since I've properly gone about the duties of my religion - decades, really -- but I still consider myself a member of this faith.  I know people who are true believers and they don't take me very seriously at all.  I recall the husband of someone I knew from high school being pretty cold to me because I didn't believe as he did.  I even worse a very modest dress -- sleeves with a long skirt -- so as not to insult my high school pal who is now a member of the clergy.  She was lovely but her husband really turned his nose up at me.

I recently spent some social time with one of the office believers.  There were references to Lent as if (1) I knew what that was all about and (2) I observed it myself.  I only know about Lent because my best high school friend was a nice Catholic girl at the time and she shared facts about her religion with me which I still remember.  As for the office guy, good for him that he believes.  Good for me that I didn't tell him to please shut up because I don't care and how dare he assume that I believed what he did.

People believe different things.  Religion gives some people a great deal of comfort and strength; the Communists proclaim it to be an opiate of the masses.  I say neither, both, or whatever makes you happy as long as it doesn't hurt anyone.  We could spend a lot of time having discussions about the differences in our faiths or lack thereof, but the bottom line is we need to respect each other as people.  I don't care what you believe as long as you don't shove it down my throat, make gross generalizations about members of any other religion, and don't judge.  You might muster up the strength to feel the same about everyone else.

I stole my personal credo from a friend, the late Michael Wm. Randolph Jr., who was a very proud atheist.  It thoroughly expresses how we might live our lives and it is this:  Common sense, common decency, common courtesy, and take a nap if you're crabby.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

But you don't know me

This weekend, someone my sister and brother-in-law know came to visit them along with his high-school-senior son.  The visitor and his son, whom we'll call Iggy and Nigel (of course not their real names), came to Chicago to spend a good long while at the Art Institute and look around a bit at Chicago, a city worthy of perusal.

I freely admit that all I knew about Iggy was that he was a bartender as a means of making a living and seemed to be a very pleasant guy.  I was invited to join the visitors and my relatives for pizza and since I've been living a pizza-free life for quite a while, I thought that sounded just great.

Regarding acquiring the food, very good pizza was orderered, both the thin and deep dish varieties, and taken back to the host apartment.  While the pizza was being cooked (My π, pronounced "my pie;" the name is clever and the pizza is good), we walked around that neighborhood and chatted.  Nigel is a very bright guy -- curious, smart, polite, kind -- and so is his dad.  Many blocks were covered and the conversation was pleasant.

One of the things we talked about was "Record Store Day," the annual event where independent record stores release music that is expressly released on that day.  (Earlier that day, my dear friend from Indiana told me what Jack White was going to be releasing at his own record store in Nashville and it is crazy and liquid and just what I would expect from Mr. White, even knowing about a smidge about him.)  Then the conversation turned to "Home Movie Night," the annual event where people bring in their home movies -- Super8, 16mm, 8mm -- to show how things were in the days of film or remnants from their days as an auteur.  Iggy offered that he had home movies he'd put on You Tube but we didn't have to watch.  We assured him we would watch and we did.

And this is where we all see that we can know people and not know them at all.  I didn't know Iggy had two children, let alone one.  I didn't know Iggy wrote a song every Christmas for his mother.  None of us realized he is a very talented musician who's been in several bands since he was a young teenager.   He thought he might enter the priesthood but gave it up when he found out they wouldn't let him bring his guitar and amplifier.  For a period of seven years, he was the manager of a used record store.  He and bandmates in one group were the focus of a local PBS show where they were interviewed in depth and played all the songs on their latest album.  Iggy then wanted us to see "My First Four Stack."

Four stack is when parachutists, basically, jump out of the plane and stack up on each other in a long line (it's insane -- find it on You Tube).  Iggy had a movie of the first time he did this.  It seems that Iggy is a master jumper.  Iggy taught people how to jump and has made over 2,400 jumps.  Iggy taught Nigel how to pack a chute and was disappointed when Nigel didn't want a part-time job as a parachute rigger because the money was so good.  Iggy and Nigel talked about the different chutes Iggy had used by company name and style number.

I left there thinking about how you can hear about a person for years and years but until you actually sit down and have a conversation with that person, you really know squat.  I thought about all the people who've worked with me for years who know nothing about me but assume they do because they've worked with me for years.

You only know about someone if they choose to share information with you.  Yes, sometimes information someone gives can be incredible (i.e. a crazy webs of lies, half-truths, and fantasies) but it can all turn out to be so very true with video back up and proof positive that you/I don't know me/you.