Wednesday, October 31, 2007

NaNoWriMo Eve

Trying to write 50,000 words in November sure has sneaked up on me.

I’m still going to take a crack at it. At this point I am not too excited about it. I’ll tell you why.

I have no outline.

I don’t know what I am doing.

1,667 words a day is so much. I don’t even know how much. I’m sure I’ll think it is way too much come tomorrow, Friday, or Saturday.

I have two very vague, misguided, and shoddy ideas. I don’t know which one I am going with. I am leaning toward option #2. That’s all you’ll know about it for now. There is option #1 and there is option #2.

If I sit down and bust out anywhere between 500 and 1000 words, that I’m actually excited about putting on my blog, I have had a very successful and fun crack at writing for that day. If I do this once a week, I really feel like I’m on a hot streak. I’m about to be asked to more than triple the minimum of that range for the next 30 days.

Packers v. Broncos

Monday night's game was a fun one to watch. If the Broncos won, I was going to feel pretty proud of my home state. Take that, Wisconsin.

If the Packers won, I was going to feel pretty proud to be in Wisconsin, and I was going keep on enjoying the Packers surprisingly good season. Take that, Colorado.

I had legitimate reasons to feel good for whoever won.


Old Man River pulled the W out of his 40-year-old arm...twice. This one, the first play in OT, silenced a lot of critics and the Denver crowd for the second night in a row. However, the first night the Denver crowd was silenced was a lot more depressing.

I don't know if anyone caught this, but shortly after the Broncos' only touchdown one of the commentators said, "Well that's more points than the Rockies scored in 4 games." You can always bet on someone announcing a football game to say really stupid things. Clarification: the Rockies accumulated more than 6 runs in four games.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Italian Soda Crowd

I cautiously stepped inside of the hair salon attached to the grocery store. I had a free haircut coupon I received in the mail.

Anyway, I am sitting there being a little nervous about going to this place for a haircut. I just hoped they wouldn’t butcher me. I didn’t mention the coupon until after they cut my hair. If I mention it earlier they might zoom through the cut so I get an unbalanced, semi-mullet head of hair.

A 20-something blond snapped, “You ready?”


We go through the formalities of the haircut and she gets cutting.

Feeling a need to create some small talk she dangles a question out there. “No school today? No work today?”


“And you probably just left the house, right?”


She rolls her eyes at my response and scoffs. “I just had my first weekend off in six or seven months last weekend and I was up at 6 am.”

“That sucks.”

“Yes, well, my girlfriend was getting married and I was helping out. I wasn’t even in the wedding and I was up before all of them.”

“That sucks you guys are open on the weekends.”

“Yeah, well, have you ever gotten your haircut on the weekend?”


“We are open because of people like you.”

I thought of maybe telling her I went mostly on the weekdays, but I was pretty weirded-out by the aggression she harbored toward me for admitting that I might have gone to get my haircut on the weekend.

She complained some more about the hours and being open until 9 on weeknights.

“Do that many people come in after 7 for haircuts?”

She nods. “And most of them come in right before we close.”

“Oh. Don’t you love that? I work at Starbucks, so I have to deal with that a lot.”

“No offense, but that place is way too expensive. I mean, it’s just coffee, and I don’t even want coffee. I just want an Italian soda. Do you work at this one right over here?”

By right over here she meant across a big parking lot and across the street.

“Yes, I do.”

“I hate that store. They are dumb over there. I get Italian sodas at Starbucks all over, and when I try to order one there they say they don’t have them. They want you to buy one of the Pellegrino waters and then they say they can mix it up for you. It always tastes like crap. I just want an Italian soda.”

This is a famous complaint about Starbucks and I was at a loss once again to explain the simple facts that many customers don’t seem to understand about the Italian soda. It isn’t on the menu. It’s like ordering a Double-Double at McDonald’s. Sure, the Double-Double is a burger, but it’s not a McDonald’s burger, it’s an In-N-Out burger, so McDonald’s cannot make it. Starbucks does offer to make an Italian soda if you buy the Pellegrino. This option seems to satisfy most customers who come to the store bent on getting there Italian sodas. I don’t understand why people, who hate coffee, are annoyed by Starbucks’ prices, and want something that isn’t on the Starbucks menu keep coming to Starbucks. They don’t seem to realize that there are many other options. There are plenty of chains of coffee stores and local stores that still thrive in the coffee business. My guess is that they might even thrive because they offer real Italian sodas.

I could have said all this to the woman cutting my hair. She wouldn’t have had it. This lady didn’t like Starbucks. She didn’t like a lot of things, and as I would find out, she didn’t like pretentious sounding job titles.

“Well, the Italian soda isn’t actually on the menu.”

“Yes, it is.”

“No. I promise you, it is not on our menus.”

“Yes, it is. I order it all the time from the Starbucks in Barnes and Noble.”

“Well, that actually isn’t a real Starbucks. They have different menus there.”

“They have Italian sodas on the menu at this other Starbucks I go to.”

“Well, you must be mistaken because if it’s a real store it won’t be on the menu.”

She seemed to give up a bit on the Italian soda spiel. “So, what do you do at Starbucks?”

I thought this through for a minute. Was this a trick question? I mean, what do you do at Starbucks? Well, I take orders, take money, and make drinks. It’s like asking a gaggle of lifeguards what they do.

“I’m a Barista.” I decided to just give her my job title.

“You’re a what?”

This is not the only time I have stumped someone with Barista. I don’t know what it is, a complete aversion to words that don’t sound like part of the English dictionary.

“I’m a Barista.” I annunciated clearer this time.

“Oh. So, you make coffee.”


Our conversation drifted from Starbucks to me having an English degree to her asking me for career advice on what she should do next because she said, “I can talk, and talk, and talk.”

If she was doing something other than cutting my hair I would probably have given her a much bigger, more cynical and dry part of my mind, but I tried to be as cheery as possible because she was cutting my hair, and the mirror wasn’t lying. She was doing a fine job.

She finished up. I busted out the coupon thinking take that, like I just threw a knockout punch. I tipped. I walked out the door and thought to myself I could write a whole book full of encounters like that. Of course I would have to be meticulous in my recalling of them. The writing would have to be better. It could work though. I would name it: I Think You Are Weird.

Monday, October 29, 2007

World Series : Games 3 and 4

I wish the dream for the Rockies would have lasted a little longer and, perhaps, had a completely different outcome. It didn't, but just saying that seems to dampen their accomplishments, and those successes are what allowed me, for the most part, to shrug off last night's game.

Todd Helton on the moment:

"When I see the pictures, I will remember what a special time this was," Helton said. "For a bunch of regular guys we accomplished a lot. I hope the city is proud of us, because I know I am."

Most definitely proud.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Faith Like a

I'm sure you've heard. The Rockies have a friend in Jesus. There are a lot of stories and blogs out there about this right now. David Kuo has something right here about it, and a good take on it too.
What an amazing witness for the transformative power of Jesus would it be if the Rockies doused the Sox in champagne and celebrated their victory and praised God all the time. That would make people wonder about Jesus.
Yeah, I am sure it would, but I still want Jesus to kick the Red Sox' asses!

World Series : Game 2

The final score, 2-1, may not look that bad, but let’s face it, the pitching of Jimenez could have easily made it another 13-1 loss. The Rockies were lucky to avoid another trouncing at Fenway last night. Every time a Rockies pitcher walked someone to first I started to fear the worst, another 7-run inning, or something similarly atrocious. It didn’t happen. The Rocks were way lucky.

With that said, there was some considerable improvement on defense and a glimmer of hope that the Rockies are starting to calm down and get into the groove of things. I still think they can win the series. No joke. We are bound to see a lot more players on both teams go yard in the next three games, but I suspect the Rockies might find their fresh start in the World Series tomorrow night. Sometimes you just have to go back to before, back to Colorado, where you were at your best before you feel confident enough to bring your game back out into the world where it can really shine. Here’s to higher hopes in a much greater land tomorrow night.

Please, do we really have to have another boring East Coast dynasty? The Patriots are lame enough.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Beowulf the Boring

I am currently reading Ivan Doig's The Whistling Season upon my parents’ recommendation. After a final attempt at getting into the book on Monday night, I was finally lured into the story. It only took about thirty pages, but sometimes even thirty is a bit much. Anyway, the book has received so much critical acclaim from Oprah to The New Yorker, I am eager to see what kind of story it becomes, at least what it becomes for me. Maybe I will post a little more on it next week.

I am really here to celebrate being done with Beowulf. I was reading that for the last couple of weeks out of pure insanity. I had been forced to read it through in Middle English at Wyoming. Naturally, that was a painful and arduous process in which I was forced to the Oxford English Dictionary on average once a line which makes for a lot of such trips because Beowulf is a 3000+ line poem.

So, when I picked up Seamus Heaney’s bestselling translation of the classic I was pretty excited about getting to know the story a little more because this time I could read it in relatively contemporary English. The translation was amazing. Heaney did what very few people could do, or more specifically, would want to do with their lives and according to many academics, he was the best man for it. I’ll trust what the pros say and agree.

My excitement for the new, easy to read translation was easily washed away by the meat of the Beowulf story. It is just one of those canonical works that doesn’t sit well with me. The story is so uninteresting, outlandish, and boiled down to very archaic delusions of grandeur about proving one’s mettle that it doesn’t hold a bit of worth for me, beside it being incredibly old. The age of the text (which was most likely created around 700-750 AD) makes it a remarkable piece of work, but seriously, that’s about it with me. The story is so overrated. Here it is in a nutshell:

Beowulf, a great Geat warrior, sails across the sea to save a people from Grendel. Grendel has killed many. Beowulf, oh mighty warrior, chops Grendel’s arm off and the beast is defeated. Grendel’s mom gets really pissed off and Beowulf has to fight her too. He is so brave. He wins. He gets rich. The other warriors are pussies. Beowulf goes home. He gets old balls, but his legendary fighting skills do not leave him. With the help of a young warrior he defeats a dragon. Before the dragon dies he strikes a deadly blow to Beowulf, but with his last breath, when his humility has taken a hold of him, he tells his brethren to build a massive monument to him and to never let the legend of Beowulf die because he was the greatest warrior ever. The end.

Regardless of the translation, that’s what you get. So, please, don’t waste your time. If you do, then by all means, call me, and then we can rail on Beowulf for an hour. That would be fun.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cheney's Law

I have to link to this because it is that good. PBS' Frontline aired a report last week titled Cheney's Law. It gives you the facts, the history, and the people behind the sweeping measures that Cheney and others have taken to increase executive power to the President of the United States.

Watch it all here commercial free. PBS Frontline : Cheney's Law

High on the Rockies

Time magazine really doesn't do all. So, when they do, it is sort of a big deal. I finished reading last week's issue early yesterday morning when I was having fun with insomnia. Guess who got a two-page spread? Yep, the Rockies. It was a good article, and a nice slice of home in the middle of the madness and boredom that is often Time magazine.

As I pay more and more attention to the media run-up to the World Series I am catching a little bit of an attitude from a lot of broadcasters that think the Mile High Magic is about to come to a quick, ugly end. Some idiot on Milwaukee's ESPN Radio station said yesterday about the Rockies, "they won't last more than five games." He obviously doesn't believe in their potential, but I am sure at some point he believed in the Brewers potential until they had a Met-like collapse in August and gave up their playoff spot to the Cubs. Tough luck, loser. Hey, at least the Brewers beat the Padres and gave us a one-game playoff.

Anyway, whether you like Cinderella teams or not, the Rockies can in no way just be swept away now. They have proven again and again in the last month that they don't read their own headlines. They buckle down, play the game, and take names. I suspect that's what they'll do come tomorrow night. Let the games begin.

Guarding America

I am a little excited about the Guardian coming to America. Guardian America launched today in its fine, sweetly simplistic style. Like all papers, they get ahead of themselves sometimes, but seriously, read it for a much broader perspective on American influence beyond our borders.

And, hey, they cover sports that weren't just invented in their country. Neat.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Medical History - The Last Two Weeks

This is a long post. Bare with it. It is important and something I need to share with you about the last couple weeks of my life.

On October 7th, just over two weeks ago I had one major headache. As I went to bed that Sunday night I was uncomfortable with the amount of pain the headache was giving me. I thought it a bit odd, but brushed it off as my first migraine. I didn’t know what to think, but that sounded okay.

The next day my headache hadn’t really subsided even with a lot of Ibuprofen. Again, I thought it was just a random occurrence migraine because of its strength, duration, and the pain bright lights gave me. That was, until, I sat down for lunch that day. I was having a frozen pizza that Kate and I had mistakenly decided to buy several weeks before. I knew it wasn’t going to be that great, but I did expect it to at least taste like pizza. It didn’t. In fact, it didn’t taste. I could smell pizza, but my taste buds clearly weren’t working.

I threw the rest of the pizza away. I scavenged around the kitchen trying to taste anything with little success. It was as if all the joy I got from eating had been muted by my tongue. I didn’t like this at all and hashed it up to maybe just my mind playing tricks on me. Or maybe it was just the pizza? It could have been so bad that it destroyed my ability to taste for a while. How sad?

Kate got home that night and I told her about my loss of taste and continuing headache. We didn’t discuss it that much, and again, passed it off as an anomaly.

The next day, Tuesday now, my headache had subsided a little, but it felt like it could rush back any second, brought on by God knows what. I got on the internet and did some research about the symptoms I was experiencing. The WebMD page I found with long painful headaches and loss of taste on it was the same page devoted to Brain Cancer and Brain Tumors. Seeing my two symptoms on those pages was immediately worrisome to me. I tried not to get too carried away. I wasn’t experiencing any other symptoms, and decided I needed to get away from the computer and self-diagnosing.

I went down to the lake. It was the most peaceful and beautiful day on the water I had seen. I didn’t really think of it as a coincidence that the world was so beautiful to me that morning. I walked through the crunchy orange, red, and yellow leaves of fall. I took deep breaths. My mind started racing. I knew the chance of me having a brain tumor/cancer was very slim, but what I had seen so far was enough to get my mind jumping ahead to extraordinary scenarios.

Enter the questions. What if I have six months to live? What if I am going to be diagnosed with a crazy disease and have a long, drawn out battle with an illness that will most likely kill me? What if I have to have brain surgery and Kate and I get buried under a $200,000 hospital bill right before I am scheduled to go back to work, right before we are about to get on our feet? What if I went through this battle and didn’t make it and Kate was left without me? That question led to the most despairing outcomes. It was like, okay, if it’s my time to go, then fine, but what about Kate? We just got married. We are so damn young. Things like this aren’t supposed to happen, but I have heard of them happening. No, not to Kate. Not to me. What would she do? How would she get on? I forgot myself and worried about those I would leave behind like my friends, parents, but especially Kate. The power of these imaginings is extremely impressive. As I strolled along the beach I thought about how each situation could pan out and before I left I was resolved to not let whatever the heck was wrong with me to take me down like this. If, in fact, it was to take me, I was resolved right then and there to put up the fight of my life.

It was a very powerful couple of hours there on the beach by myself. I thought more about the wake of my dip in this human ocean than I had ever before. Yes, my mind was racing, and it may sound absolutely ridiculous to you, but this was real. This was really happening to me and I had to think about all the possibilities. I may have spent most of the time by the lake worrying about worst case scenarios, but I still hoped for good news and healing.

Later that day, I spoke with my mom who had spoken with my uncle, an anesthesiologist, and she said he recommended talking with a neurologist right away. I told Kate and she happened to be working that night with the wife of a neurosurgeon. She spoke to her husband and called that night suggesting that I get a CT scan to rule out the possibility of a brain tumor.

The thought of paying for a CT scan was a little frustrating, but we decided it was worth paying that much for peace of mind. We went in on that Wednesday and spent six hours at the hospital for a CT scan that took all of two minutes and a consultation with the neurosurgeon about the results. Meanwhile, my dad was home with my mom sitting around and praying. It was a long afternoon, but worth the wait. The CT scan was clear. I don’t have a brain tumor, at least not one bigger than a pea. Any other issue with the brain would have to be found by doing an MRI, a longer and costlier test.

So…I still had a little headache and I could still take ladles of chili oil and it wouldn’t taste spicy. True story. I really did that on the second day my taste was gone. I also put soap in my mouth, hoping it would taste as awful as last time I had soap in my mouth (probably when I was 8). It didn’t, but it still made me gag. The flavor was like everything else, very muted or non-existent. So what did the Doctor have to say? He really didn’t have a good explanation. It could be a side effect from a severe headache. It could be something viral. It could be a number of things. I really didn’t care what he said, just as long as he said it wasn’t a brain tumor and that it wasn’t something to be very worried about. He said both, and Kate and I took a deep sigh, and my parents took a deep sigh as I called them while we were leaving the hospital.

That Thursday at home I wasn’t worrying nearly as much as I had been two days before, but I did feel something new changing with my body. I was playing with my lip movement and it felt inexplicably inaccurate and handicapped. In a matter of hours it was hard for me to bite my upper lip without feeling like all my facial movements were being dominated by the right side of my face. I started having a hard time blinking my left eye. I couldn’t squish my face up equally on both sides. My smile was lopsided. In a few hours I had lost fine motor movement in the left side of my face and neck.

Why couldn’t it have just stopped with a headache and loss of taste? I sat around worrying some more and praying every ten minutes. I heard Kate walking up the stairs and I didn’t want to face her. I didn’t want to put the burden of this on her as well, but that is tough love. I wished I could just not tell her, but she is my wife. I told her how I was feeling. She was immediately scared. So was I. We held each other right there in the kitchen, fearing what symptom might be next, what really was wrong with me.

We recouped in a little bit and Kate decided to call her mom, a nurse practitioner (a very good one at that), and tell her about my symptoms. Kate’s mom quickly mentioned Bell’s palsy and told us to look it up in Kate’s disease book. I was suddenly so happy with the huge medical books that any medical professional has on hand. Kate has several of them and a list of every disease known to man on her PDA that is the size of my wallet.

Bell’s Palsy (p.1054 2007 Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment…big book) - Bell’s palsy is an idiopathic facial paresis of lower motor neuron type that has been attributed to an inflammatory reaction involving the facial nerve near the stylomastoid foramen or in the bony facial canal. … The facial paresis generally comes on abruptly, but it may worsen over the following day or so. The face itself feels still and pulled to one side. There may be ipsilateral restriction of eye closure and difficulty with eating and fine facial movements. A disturbance of taste is common, owing to involvement of chorda tympani fibers, and hyperacusis due to involvement of fibers to the stapedius occurs occasionally.

Reading that gave me a great sense of relief. All my symptoms were linked to a relatively common problem that, as far as I could tell, was commonly resolved by steroids and would go away even without drugs in as soon as two weeks.

We took the next two days to see if some other symptoms might come about. Nothing new happened, so we rang the Doctor and got a prescription for steroids that are supposed to help ease the swelling on the nerve and speed up the recovery process. I started those eight days ago and have three more days on them. Things have improved slightly, or not at all. I can blink my left eye more easily. I can still only smile out of one side of my mouth. And my taste, which is quickly becoming the most painful reminder of this paresis, has not returned yet. Eating is just absolutely anti-climactic. There is no better way to explain it. Food smells great. Going out to eat sounds exciting, too, but all the excitement fizzles away after you take the first bite.

Bell’s palsy can take as little as two weeks to six months to go away. Today is the two-week mark for me and my patience with it has definitely grown thin at times. It is impossible to know exactly when my normal facial movement and taste will return. The steroids also have been making me a little moody too. And, for the first time in my life, I am experiencing a little insomnia brought on by the drugs. I have been up since 4 am.

Kate and I are still pretty hopeful about me making a complete recovery. Among other things, we pray about it constantly and we would very much appreciate your prayers, support, or questions about it. It has been a trying time for us. Many of our conversations in the past couple of weeks, especially in the early days of this ordeal were ones that I never thought I would have with Kate at this age, but we had them, and the gravity of them hasn’t completely begun to settle in. We are extremely grateful that we think I have Bell’s palsy and not some wicked disease. Extremely grateful.

I am sorry I didn’t get a chance to tell every one of you about this personally, but that is the way of things. I couldn’t think of a better way to let everyone know about this than putting it on my blog, and it was a good writing exercise too, although one I hope not to repeat anytime soon.

Yours Truly,


Sunday, October 21, 2007

F1 is done!

I think it is worth mentioning on here (only for my entertainment) that the Formula 1 season came to a close today. The last race, the Brazilian Grand Prix, was one of the more exciting finishes to a Formula 1 season in years.

Lewis Hamilton, a young British rookie, had the chance to become the youngest F1 champion in the history of the sport. Fernando Alonso, the two-time defending world champion, had a chance to extend his streak to three and overtake Hamilton's position at McLaren-Mercedes to return to being their number one driver.

Lastly, Kimi Raikonnen, the young Finn, who has for Ferrari attempted all season long to fill the very big shoes of 7-time world champion Michael Schumacher, had a chance to claim his first F1 title. He did, that's why they call him the Iceman.

The championship came down to the last race and all I could do was read about it because out here in Wisconsin you have to get digital cable to get the SPEED channel. It was a bit sad to sit this season out with all the excitement, but I don't plan on doing it again.

Congratulations to Kimi. Woo. Woo.

Friday, October 19, 2007

South Florida Football

Among all the top teams in college football that have been knocked off this year, the least surprising defeat was that of the University of South Florida last night on ESPN. I tend to believe in miracle teams, but USF was always too good to be true. The #2 BCS ranking wasn’t the straw that broke the camel’s back either, it was the name: The University of South Florida. How did so many people believe they were actually that good of a football team?

They were the most overrated collegiate football team in a few years. It was only a matter of time before a team, Rutgers, woke up and remembered they were playing the Bulls from USF, not a typical #2 team.

On another note…

Could the tenure of Sonny Lubick be coming to an end in Fort Collins? After 13 consecutive losses, the answer might be yes. It looks like we’ll have to wait until the end of another ugly CSU season.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

In Honor of Rocktober

In honor of this amazing run, this Rocktober, I watched one of the greatest baseball movies ever made today, Field of Dreams.

Kevin Costner’s opening narration is genius. His words, accompanied by James Horner’s master score, couldn’t set up the film in a better way. Take this nugget, for example:

Officially, my major was English, but really it was the 60s. I marched. I smoked some grass. I tried to like sitar music. And I met Annie. The only thing we had in common was that she came from Iowa, and I had once heard of Iowa. After graduation we moved to the Midwest and stayed with her family as long as we could, almost a full afternoon.

Annie and I got married in June of ’74. Dad died that fall. A few years later Karen was born. She smelled weird, but we loved her anyway. Then Annie got the crazy idea that she could talk me into buying a farm. I’m 36 years old. I love my family. I love baseball, and I’m about to become a farmer. But until I heard the voice, I’d never done a crazy thing in my whole life.

And Ray Kinsella does hear a voice. The voice says, “If you build it, he will come.” It is not long before Ray lets the voice convince him it is okay to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his corn field. His yearning to do so goes back to his frustrating history with his father. Ray says to his wife, the night before he decides to build the field that, “He [Ray’s father] must have had dreams, but he never did anything about them. For all I know, he may have even heard voices, too, but he sure didn’t listen to them. The man never did one spontaneous thing in all the years I knew him. I’m afraid of that happening to me and something tells me this may be my last chance to do something about it. I want to build that field.”

So he does. Ray and Annie spend their savings to build a first class baseball diamond in the middle of their acreage. One night, after the construction is done, Ray and Annie are laying out in center field and Ray says, “I have just created something totally illogical.”

“That’s what I like about it.” Annie says.

Winter passes and no miracle happens on the field Ray has built. One spring evening though, Ray finds a man on his field. The man is “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, played by a young, awesomely-casted, Ray Liotta. The field comes alive at this point in the film. Not everyone sees the players on Ray’s field right away, but Ray, Annie, and Karen see them, and they believe. Belief is enough to suspend rationality. Even in the face of bankruptcy Ray turns to Annie and says, “We are keeping this field.”

“You bet your ass we are.” Annie responds.

From “If you build it, he will come” to “Ease his pain” to “Go the distance”, Ray helps others achieve their dreams, or at least helps alleviate some of their pain from not following their dreams.

As the story pans out Ray manages to bring an estranged writer, Terrance Mann (played by James Earl Jones), and a baseball player, who never got his chance to get a hit in the bigs, to his baseball diamond in the middle of Iowa. They arrive home at night to see the White Sox and crew playing under the lights that Ray has spent his savings on to install.

Left mostly speechless, Jones can only utter “Unbelievable.”

“It’s more than that. It’s perfect.” Ray responds.

The next day, while Ray is in the middle of being pressed to foreclose, James Earl Jones argues in favor of not foreclosing, an option that, to say the least, rests on a miracle. He says:

“People will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children longing for the past. ‘Of course, we won’t mind if you look around,’ you’ll say. It’s only twenty dollars per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it. For it is money they have, and peace they like.”

“Ray, just sign the papers.”

“Then they’ll walk off to the bleachers and sit in their shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.”

“Ray, when the bank opens in the morning they’ll foreclose.”

“People will come, Ray.”

“You’re broke, Ray. You sell now or you lose everything.”

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that was once good, and could be again. Ooh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”

Staring down the hopes and aspirations of the players on the field, Ray is willing to gamble his field of dreams. “I’m not signing.”

That evening, Jones is invited into the corn by Liotta. Ray is irate at first, not understanding why he isn’t invited out into the corn. Liotta says:

“But you’re not invited.”

“Not invited? What do you mean I’m not invited? That’s my corn out there. You guys are guests in my corn. I’ve done everything I’ve been asked to do. I didn’t understand, but I’ve done it. I haven’t once asked what’s in it for me.”

“What are you saying?”

“What’s in it for me?”

“Is that why you did this? For you?”

Ray is caught off guard, silenced by the moment and the sting of Liotta’s last question.

It is clear that Ray might be the last one to truly find out “what’s in it for” him, when he sees his father, now a young man, walking toward Ray and his family from home plate. Ray greets his father and they walk off toward the diamond.

As they are strolling along his father praises the chance to play again.

“For me. Well, for me, it’s like a dream come true. Can I ask you a question? Is this heaven?”

“No, it’s Iowa.”

“Hmm, I could have sworn this was heaven.”

“Is there a heaven?”

“Oh yeah. It’s the place dreams come true.”

Costner pauses, turns back to the house to see his wife and daughter laughing on the porch, scans the baseball field, and takes a deep breath, before saying, “Maybe this is heaven.”

The moment makes me want to jump up and down. Watching someone find a little piece of heaven on earth, even if that someone is in a movie, is touching because that someone has found peace. It inspires, and often inspires people enough to go chase their own dreams. We may need a little reminder every once in a while that anything is possible. That’s what makes Field of Dreams such a good movie. That’s what makes the 2007 Rockies such a good team. It’s unbelievable.

It’s more than that. It’s perfect.

Baseball and Jesus across the Pond

Here is a really weird article written about the Rockies (yes, the Colorado Rockies) for The Independent (a British joint) by a guy that doesn't seem to know much about the MLB, America, and religion in sports. David Kuo linked here first.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Osteen and the King

Confession: I was ready to be outraged by Joel Osteen last night. I almost wanted to be outraged, but instead I didn’t feel that saddened or disappointed by what I heard.

I can’t tell you I agree with him. I don’t know what kind of stuff he personally does with his money; like that $13 million advance.

I do know that he comes across as a genuine believer. Yes, I have only seen him on TV, but he most definitely has a passion for God and what God can do in someone’s life. His theology does seem light, there is no doubt.

He unabashedly knows what part of the Gospel he is good at teaching. He believes that is his niche. Someone else’s niche may be talking about sin and redemption. Someone else might find there niche in exclusively helping the poor.

I guess what I am saying is that I do believe he is doing a lot of good for God. And, I guess, what I struggle with a bit, is realizing that God is at work through something like Osteen’s ministry, but I don’t really agree or enjoy his (Osteen’s) type of message or ministry.

I didn’t come away from the interview outraged. I simply came away unaffected. There will always be believers out there that are doing a lot more polarizing and dividing than Osteen is doing. I didn’t hear any judgment out of the man’s mouth last night.

He reminded me of a really excited kid in a Sunday school class that is just so happy about what God is doing in his life, and that is where Osteen is stuck. I guess I am all too human to hold that against him.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Osteen on Larry King Live

Speaking of never seeing Joel Osteen in the media. He is on Larry King Live tonight. I don't even know why I am posting this. Those that come here either don't have cable or the time to sit down and watch Larry King, but just in case...he is on tonight with his wife, Victoria.

And this just in...the impossible feels quite good. World Series. Get some.

Monday, October 15, 2007


It is The Omnivore's Dilemma on the big screen.

Check out King Corn. Coming to theaters this fall.

A $13 Million Advance...

I have never seen Joel Osteen in the media before the 60 Minutes interview that aired last night. I recommend that you take ten minutes to go to the 60 Minutes page to watch the interview. It was eye-opening and demands reaction, not necessarily criticism of Osteen, but we need to be aware of giant trends within Christianity like the one Mr. Osteen is such a huge part of.

It is astonishing how so many people buy into Osteen's message of prosperity, and it is scary that his message seems to encompass a very small portion of the real Message. He draws 16,000 people every Sunday to an old sports arena that he has spent $100 million on to renovate into a state-of-the-art mega church. According to 60 Minutes, there aren't explicitly religious symbols anywhere near the front of the church like, I don't know, a cross, but the arena's ceiling does change color to the music. Ooh. Ah.

Just a few standout facts:

The annual in-house offering is $43 million.

Mr. Osteen's ministry receives another $30 million by mail or online donations.

Mr. Osteen received a $13 million advance...ADVANCE...for his new book that comes out this week I believe.

During the interview, not one word was mentioned about helping the poor with all that money, or what the heck Mr. Osteen does with it. The message: come to God and you will prosper is enticing to say the least, but it eclipses this message, that I think might be a little more rewarding: come to God so that others may prosper.


I am watching the Rockies play in game 3 of the NLCS. They are leading the series 2-0 and winning the game 4-1. If they win this I think they’ll have won 20 of the last 21 games. Pretty incredible.

There have been some complaints about the Rockies getting a couple generous calls by the umpires, the standout being Holliday’s slide into home plate in the one-game playoff against the Padres. In all footage of the slide it looks like Holliday’s hand was aimed for the right side of home plate but it collides with the foot of the Padres catcher, who was blocking the plate. You can’t tell for sure if Holliday touches home plate, but you can tell for sure that the catcher is blocking it. This is key. Why? Because catchers cannot block home plate when they are not directly fielding the ball. By the time Holliday slid into home, or tried to, the ball was nowhere near the catcher but he stood there blocking it anyways. This is against the rules. Bad Padre, bad.

Apparently, the Rockies have gotten a few more generous calls. I haven’t seen them all, but I did see the one last night where Matsui was clearly not safe after a super slow-mo playback. The commentators were quick to point out the Rockies streak of luck. Likewise, I think it will take the Rockies 3-0 record in this series to get a somewhat respectable view in the sports media. Prior to tonight a lot of the sportswriters and commentators out there were referring to the Rockies as an anomaly, or not referring to them at all. They would say that the Rockies streak is due to luck, not of talent coming together in a cohesiveness that is shocking to see in any sports team, let alone the 2007 Rockies.

Yeah, the Rockies are a Cinderella team right now, but they should still get the benefit of the doubt. For example, when the Rockies get a break on a call the announcers shouldn’t act like the Umps are in on it. If it was any other team with a lot of playoff experience that was on their way to win their 20th game out of 21 games, say, the Yankees, you would only hear a peep about those lucky breaks. No one would chalk them up to be the reason for the Yankees' hot streak.

Go Rocks. I am on the bandwagon.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Red State, Blue State, One State, Two States

I recently saw a nationwide layout of how each state voted in the 2004 election and there was a big patch of blue in the upper Midwest. It was Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. I live in a blue state now. I knew this before, but the map reminded me that this is a supposedly pretty liberal state. I find this utterly surprising.

If anything, Wisconsin seems much redder than Colorado does. A lot of the people look like they belong in Wyoming. They are a little rough around the edges; wear Harley shirts to work, love their trucks and guns, and care about the Packers, the Badgers, and cheese curds. I wouldn’t expect these people to have voted for Kerry in 2004, but I wouldn’t expect them to have voted for Bush, either.

I’m just guessing here, but Kerry might have really appealed to some Wisconsinites because he wasn’t Bush, and that’s about it. The Wisconsin way seems extremely laid back and homey. They don’t leave the state that much, which is odd because a big chunk of them seem oddly disappointed with where they live, like they have been sentenced here for life (for proof, see quotes at end). And not many people move here. Wisconsinites enjoy sticking around for a while, a long while. It doesn’t seem their style to bother with anyone’s affairs, whether it is some other part of the country, world, or even county.

This is something that some people seemed to already have figured out about Wisconsin before Kate and I moved here. I would say to them, “We are moving to Milwaukee.”

Milwaukee? Why are you moving there?” They would say.

And, if we didn’t get that, we got this when we got here.

“So, where did you move from?” They say.


“Are you mad? Why’d you move here?” They clearly aren’t joking. I am pretty sure I could have mentioned any one of some forty states and I would get the same reaction.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Deciduously Delicious

Unlike in Wyoming and Colorado, Wisconsin actually has a fall. In Colorado and Wyoming summer just extends into September and October for a while and fall happens in a couple of days.

I took a little time on Monday to walk around taking pictures of the trees near Lake Michigan.

I am really not getting sick of finding this view in the middle of the country. There really isn't anything like walking through a forest and finding this random beach and a body of water that does a great deal in convincing you it is an ocean.

This was definitely the most vibrant color I found and the photograph really doesn't do it justice. Sorry.

There was a wasp nest hanging out in its branches.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Rocks, Badgers, Packers, and COWBOYS

Oh, bother. What to write right now?

I just had my first shift at the new Bucks. They do a lot of things differently at this store so I felt like a bit of a retard. Give me a week and I think I will be back to my old form.

Before Kate and I left for La Crosse I posted on how I wanted the Rockies, Badgers, Packers, and the Wyoming Cowboys to win over the weekend.

Now you know, of course, that the Rockies won. Amazing. People around here have been asking, "Are you a Rockies fan?"

I say, "I am now." Lets hope I can be for a few more days or weeks.

The Wisconsin Badgers, ranked 5th in the nation, lost to Illinois on Saturday. I have never been sort of close to a top 5 college football program. That was sort of exciting while it lasted, but the Badgers are no more. They will probably come back from it, but crack the top 5 again? I don't think so.

And the Packers. Well, I used to really dislike Favre, but since moving here I have observed so much love and appreciation for the guy that it is sort of contagious. And the season they had for the first four weeks, that was a thing of beauty. The loss to Chicago at home on Sunday night was not, but Favre has bounced back before. How can you not like the elderly professional that does interviews in a white tank-top, gray hair, and a salt and peppered beard? Total dude.

And the Cowboys? Oh, I would give anything to see a game there this season. They have another big game at home this Saturday against New Mexico. I don't know what they have in them this season, but I am pretty excited to see what it is.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Quarter Life : Career

It is time, time for the next installment of The Quarter Life. If you aren't familiar with The Quarter Life, visit the first installment here on my blog, and here on Aaron's blog. The second installments can be found here and here. Aaron's new blog on career should be up shortly. Read that here. Caught up? Read on.

Aaron said this would be challenging. Of course it will be. What am I supposed to do here, offer up advice on a career decision? I don’t know if I can do that.

I can tell you I love writing. By deciding that I would like to write for a career I made a logical decision by connecting my love to a potential career. I think I picked an illogical career though. I say this because, like many things one can become, you don’t become a writer, in terms of a career, just by going to a university and receiving a BA, an MFA, or a Ph.D. Instead of initials after a name, a writer seems to be forged by years of living in poverty, being broke, overcoming a drug addiction or defeating alcoholism, and spending years of his or her life in solitary confinement, mentally speaking. And then there is the nagging question: am I any good at this, or am I completely wasting my time?

I was just watching Chariots of Fire (1981), a true story, and there is a great scene in which Harold Abrahams is talking to his trainer (played by Ian Holm, as made very famous by his role as Bilbo Baggins) about wanting to be a faster runner. Ian reluctantly agrees to do his best, but adds “We can’t put in what God left out.”

I guess what Ian Holm says strikes a cord in me because I don’t know what God left out in terms of writing talent. I like to think that he didn’t leave much out, but to be honest, I don’t know. And, since I don’t know, and still love writing, I keep on doing it, hoping that years of practice will eventually help me find out if God has put in anything at all.

This thinking ushers in a search for validation, which I try not to seek in my career, but I realize validation is important for me. It helps motivate me. Thinking I am okay or good at something isn’t enough to convince me that I should spend my days reading and writing. Here is some validation I have experienced in the past: an “A” on a paper, a high hit-count on my blog, a community newspaper’s decision to publish my words, and friends and family complimenting me on something I wrote. These are all great forms of confirmation, but I have become hungrier for a different kind of validation.

A regular writing gig. A paycheck directly related to my words. Appealing to strangers, perhaps even acquiring a fan base beyond my intimate circle of friends. These are all lofty achievements that, at my age, would be extremely rare for me to have. Nonetheless, these are some examples of validation that a successful writing career might bring about.

When I think of a career as a writer I usually arrive swiftly at contemplating my validation. Am I any good? Yeah, my mom says she enjoys my writing, but I am her son. Am I pursuing something that is going to bring me to my 60s without one feature length article or book to show for it?

These are the kinds of questions I fend off everyday. Sometimes my doubt runs rampant. I’ll have a whole week to produce something and I don’t. I can’t even seem to write anything worth showing to the public. I flirt with the idea of abandoning the pursuit altogether.

It is during waves of doubt, dryness, and my lust for validation that I realize my love for writing isn’t going to take me to that many places if it remains about me. I become even hungrier for a different kind of validation, but something clicks this time. There needs to be something living and breathing inside my words, something universal. To produce writing like this there needs to be a major harvest on my soul, experiences, and my life. When I sit down with a notepad or a computer and really try to hash it out this way I usually come up with something that at least one of you might relate to. If there is a connection, then I feel like I have done my job.

It is hard to think of writing right now as a career because I am not getting paid for it and I don’t do it forty hours a week. In fact, it probably sounds a lot like a hobby. You could call it that. I guess I won’t take offense. If my hobby turns into my career I would be pretty blessed, and even more fortunate if my readers can relate on a spiritual level to my material, forging a connection we share in a relationship with Jesus or questions of faith, truth, and life.

If I were a Presbyterian missionary people would connect my work to a God that I serve and glorify (hopefully) with the work that I do. I have grown up valuing this connection between my faith and work. So, I would love for people to see in my career something that suggests a higher calling. Don’t get this confused for self affirmation. I want the validation to be directed toward God, hopefully, if I am that lucky, through a little part of my work.

That is the ideal scenario, but what if I end up doing humor writing for a career, how are people going to get some God out of that? And what if I end up reviewing books for a living? Am I going to feel like I should be doing something else to promote the true love I know? No, because regardless of how successful I ever become as a writer, I will know that God made me passionate about words. I believe I am honoring Him by using them.

However, I shouldn’t completely ignore the questions that arise. By answering them I can find a better path or clearer thinking. However, most of that doubt and questioning is going to keep me from the one thing that I want to develop into a career. I once said, on this blog actually, that a man can’t hear much of the world if he spends all his time on it looking for affirmation of himself. I don’t want to waste my time here doing that, but I still really want to write, and if I didn’t write, it would be to deny one of the greatest passions God has put in me.

During a conversation in Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell is trying to convince a friend that he must run in the Olympics (Paris, 1924) first before he goes on to missionary work in China. He says this:

I believe that God made me for a purpose, for China, but he also made me fast and when I run I feel his pleasure. To give that up would be to hold him in contempt. You were right. It’s not just fun. To win, is to honor him.

I can’t say that I am a fabulous writer with as much confidence as Liddell says he is fast, but I do know that to give up now would be to deny what I know for sure God has put in me, a voice.

*After refusing to run the 200m on the Sabbath, a race Eric Liddell could have easily won, he took first in the 400m. He died as a missionary in occupied China following WWII.

Flying the Flag

Wearing an American Flag pin doesn't make you patriotic. The pin on the politician's suits has become more of a political statement than a show of support for what America used to stand for in the world. What am I getting at? The pin drives me crazy. When I see a politician wearing it I think a little less of him/her...immediately. The only thing they are doing is tarnishing the flag.

Mark Schmitt wrote on this phenomenon today. Pull quote:

I am, I admit, more concerned about what my country does, how it conducts itself, how it lives up to its unique aspirations than I am by something that happened to [9/11] our country. That's not alienation from my country; it's patriotism in a democracy. It's the belief that we bear some responsibility for the actions of our country, and even if we opposed them, we should ask what more we could have done.

Read the rest here.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Weekender

Kate and I are going to La Crosse this weekend, but first I have to say a couple of things.

Go Rockies!

Go Badgers!

Go Packers!?!

And, above all, Go Cowboys! It is the 300th game at the War. That is War Memorial Stadium for all you so unfortunate to never have watched a game there.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

It's Business Time

Flight of the Conchords, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Please, Ann, don't take it off

When I saw the cover of Ann Coulter's new book I was disturbed by her pose, her showing off, her...cleavage? I thought I would write on it. I didn't, but this lady did.

And, after another quick look at the bestsellers list, I see that Colbert has overtaken Coulter. Take that.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Amazonian Bestsellers

Ouch. Just a minute ago I had nothing to share, but I’ll share with you this…

Ann Coulter’s new book, titled If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans, is number six on the Amazon bestsellers list. What an airbrush job on that cover, huh? I guess she doesn't have the testicles (she would say she does) to fill the cover of her new book with her face like the author of bestselling book #8 does. Many of you might recognize this young man from TV. His name is Stephen Colbert and his new book is titled I Am America (And So Can You!).

I guess I don't have much else to say about that. I will be outraged today by the thousands of people that think Coulter is worth it. Choose your side, right or left. That's fine with me, but Coulter is so fringe it should be illegal.

The Void

Some days I just expect to be full of words.

The muse seems to be lacking the last couple of days. This happens regularly, and yet I get so bummed out whenever it does.

I might be unknowingly exhausting my writing capacity by thinking every minute about writing next month. Really. It has been on my mind all the time. This isn’t good. I hope to not think about it for another month. I’m not even going to write down an outline. I am going to write, thus ensuring even more that my novel, or whatever it will be, will be awesomely bad.

I start at the Bucks on Monday. One good thing: I got my old rate back.

Kate and I are going to La Crosse, Wisconsin on Friday to visit her Grandma for the weekend. Kate tells me it is a pretty drive. It should be with all the color going on around here now that it’s fall. I'm excited to go somewhere again.

I am looking forward to having a tighter leash on my free time. I think my productivity will increase.

On my profile at nanowrimo I listed Iron and Wine as my favorite music to listen to while writing.

I just created a flickr page. Here is the address:

Stone-skimming Record

You never know what foolishness you will find on a news blog. Over at the Guardian's news blog I found a link to this video. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Expectations for November

What I feared about publicly proclaiming my attempt at writing a smelly blob of novel 50,000 words deep has come to fruition. People expect me to finish.

I received an email today from that included in it some tips for finishing the monumental task. One of the tips:

Tell everyone you know that you're writing a novel in November. This will pay big dividends in Week Two, when the only thing keeping you from quitting is the fear of looking pathetic in front of all the people who've had to hear about your novel for the past month. Seriously. Email them now about your awesome new book. The looming specter of personal humiliation is a very reliable muse.

I won’t go as far as emailing you all, but do know it isn’t my plan to drop out and face personal humiliation, rather I will write on, and then face the personal humiliation if I ever let any one of you read what I write.

Monday, October 01, 2007


Ever since I happened across National Novel Writing Month (or, NaNoWriMo for short…serious) two weeks ago I have been doing a lot of research about it. Some of that research includes, but is not limited to, how much work that would take, how awfully bad the writing would be, and how I have never stepped up to such a mentally daunting task before.

I have also been brewing all sorts of tragically boring novel ideas around in my head since I was introduced to NaNoWriMo.

I haven’t thought about the undertaking without thinking about my blog, my precious blog, which is home to only a few. For a month, or however long I would last in NaNoWriMo, my blog, I’m afraid, might be a desert. I could give progress reports on the project, but beyond that I don’t think I could write that much more considering I would have to be producing 1,667 words a day in order to get 50,000 by midnight on November 31.

So, I am signing up. You can register starting tonight. I don’t know how long I’ll last, but my goal is to finish, regardless of where my novel takes itself.

I’ll be sure to do a healthy amount of blogging in October.

Playing Host

Well, my parents left Saturday night after an awesome visit with them. Kate and I agreed, it was weird to be playing the hosts for the first time in our new, married life together, but we really enjoyed having them here and we look forward to hosting anyone that comes out to Milwaukee.

Kate took the day off on Friday so we could all go down to Chicago. A thirty minute drive south brings you to the northern most stop on a Metra line that serves Chicago’s North Shore. The train ride takes an hour and a half if it stops at all stations between Kenosha and the Loop in Chicago.

We had a blast in Chicago. The first thing we did was to take the architecture river cruise. This was awesome. Some of you have most likely been on the tour as well, but if you haven’t, go on it next time when you are in Chicago, unless of course, it is January.

We walked all over Chicago, from the river to Millennium Park to the John Hancock Tower, all the while staying on Michigan Avenue. At sunset we took a 40-second elevator ride to the 96th floor of the John Hancock Tower, which is, I just found out last night, considered to be the fastest elevator ride in North America. While on the 96th floor we were seated at a window table sipping martinis and having hors devours. The view was incredible. This was a great end to a one-day adventure in Chicago.

Below are some pictures of my parent’s visit to Milwaukee.

From our table at The Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Tower.

The Chicago River at night.

The Calatrava wing of the Milwaukee Art Museum.