Sunday, August 31, 2008

without the letter "J"

my computer isn't working, so i am borrowing the parent-in-laws. the letter that comes between "i" and "k" in the english alphabet is broken on the keyboard, so i might have to get creative. no "first letter of my first name" in this post. do you know how annoying it is to log onto email, blog, myspace, etc., when a prominent letter in both username and password is disabled?

+ the tampa bay rays have secured a winning record for the first time in the history of the organization. the tampa bay rays sit atop the AL east, widely acknowledged as the toughest division in baseball, with the boston red sox and new york yankees looking up and looking at their bloated salary figures wondering, "what the hell?" the tampa bay rays will make the postseason for the first time in team history. i bring all of this to your attention for the mere reason that i can say, "i told you so." that's right. i'm on record, months before the season even began as calling the tampa bay rays as my official dark horse candidate. i win.

+ i planned on writing a big-old thing about "the wire," which the lady and i just finished (season 5 - the last season), but then i stumbled upon a "stuff white people like" article, which made me feel pretty silly. i have said it before, and i will say it to every single person who allows me the chance to say it again. that show will blow your mind. i have never seen anything like it. watch it. you're an idiot if you don't.

+ last weekend the father-in-law and i went down to southern kentucky and did some fishing and camping. took the dogs, the fishing poles and a mess of fattening foods. it was a good time. neither of us had a watch, so we took timeouts from normal discussion at least 8 times a day to discuss "what time do you think it is?" normally we would look at the sun's position in the sky or attempt to gage the time based on how tired we were at night, or how hungry we were. why did we do this? not sure, but there is some strange compulsion to know what time it is. one would think it would be liberating to be free from the constraints of time, but when you're outside of it's reach, life is strange and unfamiliar.

+ so far i haven't had too much issue with this whole "not using the letter 'j' thing. i guess not many words are stuck with that cumbersome letter. let's get rid of it all together. from now on, call me 'ustin'

+ apparently donald miller and barack obama are good buddies and miller gave the convocation at the dem. nat. conv. if you know who donald miller is, then you might find this interesting. i'm getting a little caught up in this politics stuff right now. it's on par with the olympics for me. i only wish that it only happened once ever four years like the olympics. wait... that's not right.

+ kevin isn't coming to cincinnati out of protest that none of us come to visit him in chicago... nice move buddy. that will work out well for you. you missed the celebrity of russell vance on his way out town last night.

+ i don't know what it is that labor day celebrates. i assume that it has something to do with the end of the summer and some sort of harvest that allowed for farmers to take a day of rest and celebrate, but i could be wrong. we should cease all holidays, observances, and practices that are related to archaic farming traditions and habits. day light saving time? no longer necessary.

+ brandon stockman wrote a delightful running diary of the dem. nat. conv. you can check that out on the links on this page to the right.

+ i'm reading a book entitled "the complete husband" by lou priolo. again, i am made aware that i am not perfect. these reminders are good. once you realize that every fight/disagreement/misunderstanding is actually not all the fault of your wife, things become much more sensible and fun.

+ my dog calvin keep escaping from the backyard. i have tried to reinforce the fence in several areas and i keep thinking that i have finally established my brilliance/dominance over this inferior k-9, but he keeps running to the front door with a big grin on his face and his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth. i'm beginning to resent his intelligence and question my own.

+ i talked to my friend osh (first letter missing) carstensen last night. he called me from korea. for some reason, talking to someone and knowing they are in another country is way more exciting than talking to that same someone when they are in another city or another state.

+ watched four hours of season four of entourage last night. that show makes me laugh and feeds the inner "i want to be famous" sentiment that i believe all of us have. i can't tell you what happened in the show though, because nothing happens in that show. it's all fluff and that's what i like most about it.

+ did i mention that i picked the tampa bay rays are my dark horse team this year? (kevin told me that i am not propping myself nearly enough for this accomplishment and i realize that he is correct)

+ heidi is working way too much this weekend and i haven't hung out with her at all. that's dumb.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

back to school

i've been talking with a lot of kids over the past week about the most loved and most hated time of year: back to school, and it got me thinking about this all-together strange and wonderful time of year. in my younger days, i would spend all summer playing all hours of the day and into the late evening (until my mother would yell for us to come in). and then sometime toward late august the inevitable would arrive. the fun would come to an end. i would dread, yet anticipate with great excitement, the first day of school. somehow, sitting here now, years removed from my last "back to school" experience i can only long for those days of excitment and uncertainty. here's a list of things that are circling 'round in my big over-sized head:

+ back to school shopping. every year my family would visit my aunt and uncle in an unanamed large city in california and go back to school shopping. attending a small school in a small town, this experience put me miles ahead of my peers when it came to the latest fashions. entering my 7th grade year, i arrived at school sporting the following: no fear shirt, vans slip-ons, levi silvertabs a miami hurricanes hat positioned just right on my head so i could barely see the bill when i fixed my eyes upward, and a jansport backpack. none of the other kids had this stuff. they were wearing bugle boy, BUM equipment, and, if they were lucky, quicksilver, but nobody measured up to the level of cool i displayed. i give credit to my cousin travis, who, growing up in a big city, was influenced by the latest trends and passed them on to me. i was a god. add in my fresh 'bowl cut' haircut and there was no stopping me.

+ syllabi. this is one of my favorite plural words. when you get to college and the professor hands out the syllabus, there is nothing more daunting and exhillerating than perusing through the details of this document. the assignments, the required reading, the recommended reading (never touched it), the due dates, the planned professor absences that meant you could sleep in on a random tuesday... by the end of the first week you knew exactly what the next four months of your life would look like. i need a syllabus given to me quarterly so my life can make sense again.

+ the night before the first day. did you lay your clothes out on your floor the night before the big day? was your lunch already made (pb&j, doritos, oreos, granny smith apple and capri sun)? because i did. i still lay my clothes out the night before a big day (job interview, wedding, superbowl). i need more of these days in my life. more excuses to fret over what i will look like. christmas eve is the only night that compares. the jitters. the anticipation.

+ comparing summer stories. there's always the rich kids who's parents took them to disneyland or some magical out-of-state place like scottsdale, arizona. various summer camp stories. hook ups and break ups. back in the day, we didn't have cell phones or myspace so when you wrote in a classmate's yearbook on the last day of school, it was assured that you would not see him or her for a good three months unless they lived in your neighborhood. travis faulkner used to always make up stories about where he went that summer, but his mom worked at my elementary school, so we would find out pretty quickly that travis did not in fact travel to argentina that summer to hunt crocodiles and rattle snakes.

+ new television programming. summer was chock full of reruns to the point that it's not even worth watching (not that we ever wanted to anyway... we had rivers to swim in, bikes to ride and blackberries to eat). but the new school year brought season and series premieres, and the promise of football beginning and baseball concluding.

+ new teachers. new kids in school. new prospects. i geuss it's just the newness of it all. the uncertainty. how many times in your life does everything seem so new and wild with possibilities. "this year is going to be the best ever." it never lives up to the hype, but for that day, for that week, we can believe that this year is going to be different. this year is going to be the one that changes everything.

now if you excuse me, i have hours of saved by the bell and the oc to watch.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

america, the beautiful

i'm watching the games of the 29th olympiad. mens basketball game between usa and spain. i arranged my schedule today to make sure that i would be watching this game. last night i jumped off the couch and shook my fist in the air when michael phelps touched a wall 1/100 of a second faster than some croatian. i am rooting for lebron james and kobe bryant. if you don't know me, these are guys i do not root for in my day to day life. i am pissed that some of these guys are considering signing with some european team for 50 million bucks.

what is happening here? am i becoming a patriotic american? do i love USA? or have i just caught a little case of "olympic fever?"

i, like all 20-somethings, have become somewhat cynical of my allegiance to this country. it's just the way we are (young, naive, arrogant, liberal). it's considered cool to hate america these days. everybody's always talking about universal healthcare, immigration reform, and change (yes we can!).i find it hard to believe that the commander in chief is the butt of every joke. i haven't talked to a single person in like 5 years who had something nice to say about the W. is this all his fault? did little georgie get carried away with his new toys and decide that starting a GIJOE war in iraq would be a fun little thing to do? is this where it all went wrong? obviously not.

this isn't an academic/sociological/political piece, but freedom of speech/the press is to blame here. used to be, when this country went to war (wwi and ii), good ol' fashion propaganda was put into play. people didn't form their own opinions, but their opinions were shown to them on a screen and they were told what to buy and what to believe. then the media had to start showing war footage (vietnam) and people didn't like what they saw. so people started making their own opinions and all of the sudden people were burning american flags, rather than waving them with pride. (didn't i say this wasn't an academic/sociological/political piece?)

well i've fallen prey to the trends. i talk shit on the usa. i play into it. i ridicule public displays of patriotism just like you do. which got me wandering: (back to the original point of this post) am i "anti-american?" or am i "proud to be an american... (where at least i know i'm free.)" it has to go beyond rooting interests in the olympics. if only there was some quiz i could take that could tell me if i was a good american...


1) My favorite food is:

a) hamburger and fries
b) pizza
c) mexican
d) any food from another country that i haven't been to but i insist i love because other people will think i'm cooler and more sophisticated because i like it (example: sushi, thai, vegan).
e) french

my answer: a) mexican
correct answer: a, b, or c. basically as long as you didn't answer "d" you are in pretty good shape. and e is wrong too because a good american takes every opportunity to rip on the french (i dont' really know why). you might be wondering why mexican is an acceptable answer. if you have ever been to southern california, you know why. mexican food is more american than mcdonalds and burger king. we may not want you to cross our borders, but if you can cook a good carne asada burrito, then we are willing to look the other way.

2. my favorite sport is:
a) basketball, football or baseball in any order
b) hockey
c) extreme sports
d) soccer
e) i don't like sports

my answer: a) baseball, football, basketball (in that order)
correct answer: (a) basketball, football and baseball
obviously, this is the only correct answer. hockey? this is an american quiz, not canadian or russian quiz. extreme sports? what is this, 1994? are we rollerblading on the boardwalk? soccer? again, this is america. not europe.

and if you answered e) "i don't like sports," then not only are you a poor american, but a poor human being. i feel sorry for you.

3) my favorite actor is:
a) bruce willis (based on die hard alone)
b) sean connery
c) nicolas cage
d) mel gibson
e) bill paxton/bill pullman (i don't know which one is which, but i love them both)

my answer: nick cage.
correct answer: this gets complicated. nick cage is the most correct answer. nick cage is america. if this is a problem for you, just watch windtalkers. captain coreieli's mandolin is another solid choice. you don't star in national treasure (1 and 2!) without becoming captain america (movie idea... nick cage as captain america. perfect). but you could answer bruce willis. i'm ok with that. mel gibson would work as well, especially with his anti-semitic sentiments. sean connery works here too because a good american loves the 007 bond series. and the two bills... sure why not. as long as you didn't answer: george clooney (that character is always making anti-america movies. who does he think he is?), any foreign actor other than connery, or a female, then give yourself credit for this one.

4) the vehicle i drive is:
a) made in america. there ain't no other way
b) a honda or toyota
c) i ride a bike because i am trying to save the earth from pollution and gas is too expensive.
d) large. guzzles gas and has way more seats and gadgets than i need.
e) cheap. nothing else matters.

my answer: a) american-made. chevrolet and subaru. 2 for 2.
correct answer: american made is obviously the correct answer, but a honda or toyota is correct too, because, let's face it, those cars are more american than american cars these days. bike riders are in the wrong because they dont' support the economy and don't contribute to global warming (which is an american cause). large and frivolous vehicle ownership is actually wrong as well, despite popular opinion. that's just stupid. answering "cheap" here also works, simply because that's a part of the american story... (or at least my story)

5) when i go to a bar, i usually order:

a) shots!
b) whatever american microbrew they have on tap or in a bottle
c) heineken or corona
d) pbr or miller high life
e) i don't go to bars and i don't drink.

my answer: b) or d). here's the process: i walk in. see what they have to offer in "good" beers, and look at the price. if the disparity between good beer and pbr/high life is greater than twice the cost of pbr/high life, then i order the cheap stuff. but if i can swing a couple extra bucks, then i go for something good. another approach is to start with something good, savor and enjoy it, and then move to the pbr/high life option, especially if it's going to be a longer night.

correct answer: my answer is right on this one. if you have the money, then "good american microbrew" is always the correct answer. shots! is a correct answer. this is the fastest and most sure-fire way to get messed up, and as an american citizen, it is your right to over-indulge and make a fool of yourself. heineken or corona is a wrong answer. these beers are terrible and over-priced. the only people who order these beers don't really know what they are doing. obviously choice "e" is wrong, but you knew that. (if you answer wine, and you are not my wife, then you are a fool. if you answer anything "light" then i am going to punch you in the gut the next time i see you in public and see how that "light" beer is working out for you)

6) TRUE or FALSE: apple pie is the best pie ever
obviously, this is true. any other answer is just ridiculous.

7) TRUE or FALSE: "what a wonderful world" by louis armstrong is a great american song.
the correct "good american" answer here is TRUE, but i despise that song.

8) TRUE or FALSE: i want to travel the world.
FALSE. america has everything you could ever want. it's pointless to hop on a plane and fly several hours to go some place where you have to speak a different language, use a different form of money, and perhaps drive on the wrong side of the road. stay in north america. we got it all.

9) TRUE or FALSE: i watch multiple hours of television a day.
TRUE. how will you know what to buy if you aren't told by clever advertising? how will you develop your own unique identity if you don't have role models to follow on your favorite programs? what will you have to talk about with your friends if you don't watch sporting events?

10) TRUE or FALSE:
i own a shirt from old navy (preferably one that features an american flag)

hold on. i gotta run to the florence mall.

Friday, August 8, 2008

quick takes

due to the overwhelming response to my last post (three comments as compared to the normal two (does it count when the unexpected comment comes from my wife?), i am going to skip the normal one-week waiting period between blogs to bring you "quck, random, and useless thoughts." why am i going to do this? boredom.

+ my greatest fear in posting blogs so close together is that people won't read the last one i did. so if you didn't read "under pressure" - do so. it is better than what is to follow.

+ that direct tv commercial where jimmy kimmel talks about rob bironas kicking 8 field goals makes me laugh. "you missed it because you didn't have direct tv." i missed what? 8 field goals? that's like saying "i had a great dental appointment. i had 8 cavities!"

+ these are the movies i would like to watch in succession:
1) teen wolf (the story is great. once i watch it a blog entry will follow),
2) airborne (for all you west-coasters, the movie takes place in cincinnati. i pass by "devil's backbone at least twice per week and every time i go through the intersection i think to myself "awesome."),
3) the peanut butter solution (apparently only available in france and canada. can we get a US DVD release? can you remember a more disturbing movie from your childhood?)
4) and over the top (arm wrestling is the most accurate and surest way to test strength. i had a push up contest with kevin and lost (i blame pete fosco making me laugh, but it's also true that kevin would have won anyway. that being said, i have longer arms and a heavier frame to lift so, i don't necessarily believe that i am weaker than kevin. next time kevin - over the top).

+ coldplay's "a rush of blood to the head" is a really good album. i haven't listened to it in about four years (i felt like i had to hate coldplay for awhile because i thought they got too big and epic, ala U2, whom i hate. it's all about consistency here), but i put it on the other day and i thoroughly enjoyed it. X&Y is still terrible, parachutes still bores the hell out of me, and i haven't heard viva la vida so i can't say that i am a coldplay "fan." but for what it's worth, on a thursday afternoon in august "rush of blood to the head" was an enjoyable listen.

+ i have never seen titanic. i have never seen lost. when i make these statements in groups of people i get completely different reactions. how am i respected by my fellow men for never having seen the shipwreck that is titanic, yet dismissed or ridiculed for never seeing what i can only imagine is "titanic II - the survivors who made it to an island and try to survive" (unofficial title)?

+ peanut butter (creamy, of course (shut up kevin. crunchy is terrible)) and jelly is the most utilitarian and necessary food on the planet. i eat it for lunch roughly three days out of any given week. sure, i never wake up and say to myself "sweet, pb & j today" but it always comes through. the same can be said for cereal and popcorn.

+ espn radio host colin cowherd makes a lot of sense sometimes. he's a bit of an arrogant jerk, but very often he just gets it right. listening to him talk about how bummed brett favre is today now that he is a new york jet (and the reasons for this) was right on. i hope brett favre cries himself to sleep each night wrapped up in his gigantic green bay packers fleece blanket every night with a half-empty bottle of prescription anti-depressants in hand (too soon?).

+ the big bang theory just doesn't make much sense. why is this the "best" that the scientific community can come up with? why is it universally held as the the explanation for why we exist? this is the best we can come up with? ask a third grader to tell you how they think the universe came into existence. chances are you will be more impressed with the answer.

+ if cars could run on perspiration i would be able to drive from coast to coast without a second thought. back sweat sucks. but you didn't want to hear that.

+ pop candy is a great website (link is on my page under people i like/don't like). i check it everyday. i am genuinely intrigued by pop culture minutia and she does all the work for me. i don't really like comic books, but i can scroll right past those points. whitney is on vacation this week, and i miss her telling me what i should want to know about each day.

+ everybody was right. the dark night is awesome. christian bale should not have tried to make his voice so deep. that was a bit much. i was genuinely sad for the passing of heath ledger while watching that film. he did a bang-up job.

+ i could go on like this forever. i am literally sitting on my couch, staring at the wall and trying to think of the next bullet point. it's enough already.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

under pressure

since this blog is titled 'this is jeopardy' in reference to my favorite television program, i share this simple caveat (there you go, kevin) - last night i saw something i have never seen before: it's TOC (tournament of champions for you non-jeopardians, aka simpletons/morons) and last night two people tied for the lead. do you know what happens when there is a tie on jeopardy TOC? that's right - sudden death. one clue. first to ring in takes all. that's pretty bad-ass. that's what i call pressure.

speaking of pressure (i love segues), i don't do well under it (pressure, that is). i went camping this weekend with the lady and some friends. you know what happened even if you weren't there - cheap beers, grilled food, swimming, all-around silliness. cornhole was played in excess (for you west coast readers, cornhole is like horseshoes - but played with beanbags and a wooden board with a large hole in it). now i'm pretty good at cornhole. it is widely accepted that i have the best form/technique, and i get the bag on the board at a relatively high frequency. but here's what happens every time - i come up short on my final throw when it really matters. do you know how frustrating this is? i collapse under pressure.

so here it is. my list of shame. the moments of my life under pressure (in chronological order)

pinewood derby: i was a boyscout. every year this pinewood derby took place. each scout would get a kit and make a little car that would roll down a large wooden slope. this particular year my dad and i went to great lengths to make a superior car. we drilled holes in the front of the frame and inserted fishing weights to make the car heavier, and thus faster down the hill. when the time came for me to set the wheels in motion, i hesitated and lost out to chris kelly and his inferior car. second place.

spelling bee: i used to be a very good speller. spell check and general laziness over the years has dramatically corroded these skills. but during my fifth grade year i was a finalist in the eel river valley spelling bee. the top prize - a gift certificate to Kmart, county-wide acclaim and a date with my choice of any of the female contestants. the word i was required to spell - "ubiquitous." come on. this isn't even fair.

freshman girls: i came from a very small elementary school. 100 kids, grades K-8. when i went to high school the female options became much more enticing. i had a different look and a different style back in those days, but that's another story. during the first few weeks of school, while learning to open my locker and still carrying around grocery bag-covered text books, i found myself the object of affection of four different girls. each girl had something different to offer. one was really hot. one was super nice and easy to talk to on the phone. one was a year older and was weeks from getting her driver's license. the last was something else i can't remember. i danced around for weeks. talking to each girl in between classes and at night on the phone. i agonized over which girl i would chose to date. i couldn't make a decision. so the decision was made for me. two of the girls found out about my polygamous methods and immediately rejected me. the other two found out shortly after and i was left alone. back to throwing pennies into a cup behind the science building with my jackass friends during lunch.

senior talent show: me and some friends were all set to perform a rousing rendition of cake's rousing rendetion of "i will survive." i listened to, and sang along with a lot of cake in those days so i was all set to sing the lead. the night before the first night of this prestigious event, i backed out. i couldn't do it. i'm not a singer. i ended up playing the kazoo in lieu of the trumpet part, simply because my friends felt like i should do something.

the great apartment fire: while living in orange county i was sharing a two bedroom apartment with three other guys. OJ (other josh) was out of town that night, and when the rain started to come down heavy (it does rain in southern california, i promise) OJ's window was left open to allow the water to run down the wall, and collide with the elecrical outlet tucked behind his empty bed. the bed caught on fire. brent came running into josh and my room and pronounced, "there's a fire." in my boxer briefs and sleep-induced stupor, i ran outside and began to dip a plastic dixie cup into the standing water in attempt to throw water into the open window and put out the fire. with water up to my ankles and a heavy heart, i realized that day that i would never fulfill my childhood dream of becoming a fireman.

men's softball league: three or four years ago, while living in orange county, i played on a church softball team. it was a good time. me and a bunch of friends going out each friday night and playing some competitive softball. problem was, we were terrible. during one particularly memorable game, we were being pounded by the opposition. this was nothing out of the ordinary. but on this particular night, during the final inning, we made a comeback. i acutally batted twice that inning. roped an RBI double the first time up. but the second time up read like a bad 'no fear' shirt: bases loaded. bottom of the however-many-innings-there-are-in-a-softball-game. two outs. down by three. it may have been a full count, but probably not. i stepped into the batting box, waited for the pitch... slow dribbling grounder to the pitcher. game over.

marriage: heidi's dad offered to take me out to dinner that night. i knew it was a perfect chance to ask for his daughter's hand in marriage. while eating a greasy burger from "longhorn steak house" i went over the question in my mind hundreds of times: "can i marry your daughter?" i think he sensed my fear and intrepidation and eventually put me out of my misery saying to me in a calm tone, "when are you going to marry heidi? you guys should get married. maybe this summer." granted, things worked out pretty well, but still.

cornhole: during last year's camping trip, billy and i were on a roll. kevin and shorty were struggling. kevin proclaims with his usual arrogant tone, that they will win the next three straight, and take the cornhole championship. like the yankees in the '04 ALCS, billy and i folded like a house of cards (don't really know what that means). again, i played pretty well, but when the game was there to be taken, i came up short.

conclusion: why am i like this? has my life been defined by the failures when faced with immense pressure? i can only blame my parents. they must have done something wrong. my dad should have been one of the asshole dads who yell at their kids and say things like "you gotta win state. i did. make your family proud." i guess i have nobody to blame but myself. the next opportunity that comes my way is going to be different. i will not come up short. i will get that beanbag on the board. i might even sink a cornhole to win the match.