Thursday, February 26, 2009

50 Free Champ

It was another great night at conference. The women remain in 1st place by 3 points. Green Bay is in second. The men are in 4th, but can move up if they continue to swim well. Both 400 Medley relays set new school records by seconds. We had a new 200 IM record on the women's side. 

But the race of the night was the men's 50 free. One of my sprinter boys won in 20.12. He was last off the blocks but after that his 50 was perfection. Phenomenal breakout. Staying up on the surface. He broke out under the wave after the turn and at the flags I could see he had the edge and since he is just a few inches shorter than I am, I knew he could get to the wall first. He touched the wall and the Milwaukee section blew up. It was AMAZING. I was jumping up and down for a long time. 

I have a 50 free champion. 

Fu Manchu Time

I made a deal with the men of the 200 free relay. If they broke the school record I would shave a
fu manchu and wear it all day today. Well, they shattered the record and I spent a long time shaving last night and have received a lot of comments about the fu today. The comments fall into two groups. The first group, and perhaps the most popular response, is something along the lines of, "Nice molestache," or "I'm embarrassed to be in the same room with you." The second group is for more praiseworthy comments. "It looks really good." "If I saw you in a dark alleyway I would run for my life." "You should keep it."

More pictures to follow, but for now...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Good First Night

6 Races, 6 School Records

Women's 200 Free Relay
Old School: 1:35.56
New School: 1:35.34 with splits of:

Men's 200 Free Relay
Old School: 1:23.17
New School: 1:21.79 with splits of:
20.17 - Fastest lead-off leg

Women's 1000 Free
Old School: 10:14.43
New School: 10:06.65

Men's 1000 Free
Old School: 9:29.29
New School: 9:25.60

Women's 200 Medley Relay
Old School: 1:46.35
New School: 1:44.88 with splits of:

Men's 200 Medley Relay
Old School: 1:32.97
New School: 1:30.43 with splits of:

We took first in the women's 1000 free and women's 3 meter diving. Women are currently in first. Men are currently in fourth. 

Not too shabby.

Monday, February 23, 2009

This Week

There are no practice runs this week. There are to be no errors. There is only room for speed, efficiency and white water.

Four days of madness. Yelling. Chaos. Realized goals. Frenetic movement. Your opponent’s shattered dreams.

Eclipsed records. Hands in the air. Podiums. Smiles. NCAA cuts. High fives.

This is conference.

Coming Wednesday to a pool in your area.

…And I get to shave this…

The Show

Of the predictions I made, I was wrong on one of them. The foreign language Oscar winner was a surprise, but I liked that guy's acceptance speech. "I sank you very much. I sank...I sank..."

The rest of the categories that I did predict were a little easy to pick, making for a not so exciting Oscars by any account. However, I think Jackman's opening number was pretty entertaining. He did the most with what he has. It could have been a lot worse. 

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Why Do I Watch?

I’m watching the Oscars tonight. I always watch the Oscars. I missed them in 2006 because I was not in the country, but I remember a group of students from Southern California boasting the next day about Crash’s big win. In years past I haven’t always known why I was watching the Oscars. So, I am making a list.

Reasons I Watch the Oscars (In no particular order.)

1. I love movies.

2. The show gives me ideas for movies to rent and movies to see in the theater.

3. I think the host is usually funny. I enjoy the anticipation surrounding the host’s first monologue. Is it going to be spectacular, hopefully including some jokes about the hubris of movie stars? Is he or she going to flub it? I watch tonight to see how extraordinarily awkward the awards show will be with Hugh Jackman hosting. When I first heard he would host I thought it was a cruel joke. What!? No Jon Stewart. No Billy Crystal. No Whoopi. Please, anyone but an actor.

4. Modesty usually goes right out the window at the Oscars, creating some awkward situations. Possible weird moment tonight: When Kate Winslet wins for The Reader. There will be one surprised person in the room…her.

5. It’s a competition. Over the year I become a fan of a particular movie. If one of those movies is awarded with nominations, I am going to watch to see if it wins any. It’s like watching the Super Bowl of movies.

6. To be somewhat familiar with pop culture.

7. To see what the celebrities are wearing and to listen to flamboyant commentators tear apart a woman’s gown or praise a man’s tuxedo choice.

That’s it, I guess. I don’t suspect to be surprised by any winner tonight. Here are a few predictions.

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

Best Actor: Sean Penn, Milk

Best Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Best Documentary: Man On Wire

Best Foreign Language Film: Waltz with Bashir

Best Animated Film: Wall-E

Almost time to watch a few squirmy red carpet interviews before the show starts.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

1/12 of the way there

I just finished The Grapes of Wrath. Reading this novel felt like work. I haven’t read too many books as boring as this one, but I also haven’t read too many books as genius as this one. Steinbeck takes a relatively common story from the Depression and makes it meaty while never glamorizing one aspect of the lives the Joads live. Steinbeck’s power of description and his talent with words impressed me when I was least expecting. For example, a character put into words the way I feel about hunting, but he accurately did so in a few sentences.

Ever see a cock pheasant, stiff and beautiful, ever’ feather drawed an’ painted, an’ even his eyes drawed in pretty? An’ bang! You pick him up—bloody an’ twisted, an’ you spoiled somepin better’n you; an’ eatin’ him don’t never make it up to you, ‘cause you spoiled somepin in yaself, an’ you can’t never fix it up.

Also, a poignant quote from one of the Joad men about going out to look for work:

We been a lookin’, Ma. Been walkin’ out sence we can’t use the gas no more. Been goin’ in ever’ gate, walkin’ up to ever’ house, even when we knowed they wasn’t gonna be nothin’. Puts a weight on ya. Goin’ out lookin’ for somepin you know you ain’t gonna find.

And then a passage that so precisely captures my feelings about some things that happened in 2008.

There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Grapes of...Zzz

I can see why some consider The Grapes of Wrath one of the great American novels, or the great American novel, but for me, that doesn’t necessarily make it a great book. I would say it is a great study, but the fact that I am still reading it in February is proof enough that it is no page-turner. I am so close to finishing it that if I just took the time to read right now instead of write this I could finish the book.

Grapes is 455 pages long. I didn’t enjoy the book until page 300. Can I no longer say that I enjoy literature because I just confessed to that?

I just wanted to post an update on the resolution. I am definitely not off to a great start, but completing the first book is some sort of landmark and I should reach it today or tomorrow.

The second book is Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Coming out of my speakers

I never blog about music. (Just a note, Word doesn’t recognize ‘blog’ as a verb. If I rewrite the first sentence of this blog and use ‘write’ instead of ‘blog’ it isn’t underlined.) Moving on.

I think I have mentioned before how I rely on people to find new, good music for me. That sounds odd, but I don’t assign tasks to random music lovers to report back with the top 20 albums of the year or something like that. However, sometimes people just do that sort of thing because they are much more into music, concerts, and are musically talented and whatnot. Fortunately enough for me (I really needed some new bands to explore), a fellow Milwaukeean made a list of his top 20 albums in 2008. The full list can be found at his blog here.

I thought it was a stellar list and I am particularly enjoying Fleet Foxes, Elbow, Nada Surf and F@!k Buttons. Short story about F@!k Buttons. That’s not their real name. You probably have interpreted the ‘@’ and the ‘!’ already, but I didn’t. I just saw Folk Buttons and searched all over and on iTunes for a band called Folk Buttons. Apparently, I am somewhat dyslexic. Their name is Fuck Buttons and they make noise that iTunes classifies as Electronic.

Continuing with the new music theme, I wanted to tell you that most of Starbucks’ free iTunes song of the week cards really disappoint. If you don’t know about these cards, they are found near the registers in Starbucks every day of the week. The cards change on Monday I think. Not too sure. Finding a good song that they are giving away for free is definitely a crapshoot, but there was a really good one a couple weeks ago. The artist is Jennifer O’Connor. The song is Always In Your Mind.

So, if you aren't already listening to the aforementioned groups and artists and you are looking for something new, check them out.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Moron Effect

"She was our best fundraiser and organizer in the fall," - David Plouffe on the farce of Sarah Palin.
Hat tip: Sullivan.

Grad School...2010?

The last time I wrote about grad school and the GRE, I was taking it in January and planning to make some February 1 deadlines. That totally didn’t happen for a number of reasons. To study for the GRE, prepare all application materials, and fine tune a writing sample of 25 pages in one month is just stupid. I was never going to make those deadlines. I only found two grad school programs that had Feb. 1 deadlines. All other deadlines were earlier. To apply to only two programs is just stupid.

I won’t be going to grad school in the fall. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but it is my entire fault. I grew complacent in the fall, thinking I could do this grad school application thing at the last minute. Bad idea. Months passed while I was thinking about grad school, but I wasn’t doing anything about it. The reality is that I am taking the GRE on April 30 now and if I do go to grad school, it will most likely be in the fall of 2010, with a graduation date in spring 2012 when I am 29 years old. 29 sounds so damn old.

So next year is up in the air, which is why a third year in Milwaukee is a possibility. As much as it pains me to say this, moving somewhere for one year with the possibility of just having to move somewhere else for grad school is ridiculous.

Milwaukee has grown on me. I really enjoy my job, but it’s part-time most of the time. My potential, whatever it is, isn’t being tapped. This may sound silly, but I want to be drained and overworked, at least for a little bit. Back to Milwaukee…I would describe it as a diamond in the rough. It has so much to offer, more than most places, but it doesn’t get the favorable press like Portland, which one could believe is the only cool city in the States to live. However, the nail in the coffin for this place is a lack of family and close friends. I am not a product of the Midwest—no one in my family is, not even close. Family and friends have always been closer. That is why the thousand and more miles that separate us seems like an ocean. We’ve made the trip a few times, but it must seem like an ocean for other people too because they haven’t made any crossings.

I feel that I have banished myself to another year of isolation. But the realistic/logical part of me thinks it isn’t that bad and things can only move up from here, right?

Monday, February 09, 2009

Phelpsian Standards

“But aren’t you just a little disappointed in Phelps?” Kate said.

I had just finished explaining to Kate that in the big scheme of things, Phelps taking a hit of marijuana is not a big deal.

“Yeah, I guess I am.” I answered, but added, “But now I am more angered with the media. They obsess over stories like this, acting like it is all over for Phelps and that he can no longer be an inspiration for millions of athletes across the globe. They act like this one incident overshadows his accomplishments.”

Our society is obsessed with the magnification of flaws. We like to feel good about ourselves when reporting that this superstar athlete or that movie star slipped up and took a hit from that bong or punched a photographer. That’s all that this Phelps story is about. We like to say that we wouldn’t do something like that if we were in his position. Maybe we wouldn’t, but the truth is, we don’t know what it’s like for him. Some of us, who think we wouldn’t cave, would crater under the pressure and temptation.

When someone is at the top of their game we apply standards to them that are more fit for a god. We expect perfection. That way, when they fall, we are justified in our criticisms of them. Our name-calling is justified. Our essays, dressed in scholarly diction in order to disguise the author’s true motivation, are justified. In a sick way, talking about someone else’s grand mistake makes us feel better about our own. We will go a long way to pat ourselves on the back.

I don’t encourage making mistakes. I don’t endorse marijuana. But Phelps was the man before this. He still is.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

My Favorite

My parents were in town over the weekend and into this week for a visit. Despite the cool weather, we were able to get out on the town a few times, going to the Milwaukee Public Market for cheese and wine tasting, a trip to church and the library, and out to eat on my birthday. A great time was had by all and it was a little easier saying goodbye to them knowing that we will see them again in March when we all go out to California. 

The parents made a road trip of it and so they were able to bring along some things that you can't really fly with. One of those things being this...

New Belgium doesn't sell in Wisconsin, making this a most treasured birthday present.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Forgetting Everything

This is a birthday book. It is simple to use, much like a calendar. Instead of writing appointments, you write in the birthdays of relatives and friends. Theoretically, one would look at their birthday book every 2 or 3 weeks to remind one’s self of a friend’s upcoming birthday.

I got my first birthday book from my mom in 2003. I have missed many birthdays since then (my brother-in-law’s a couple weeks ago), but I’ve also remembered so many more than I would have if I didn’t have this invaluable record of important dates.

Where am I going with all of this? Well, I turned 26 yesterday and besides immediate family, I didn’t get any birthday greetings. I wasn’t crying about it yesterday and I am not crying about it today. It is what I expected, but it got me thinking. We don’t have to remember birthdays anymore. Facebook remembers them for us. And since I haven’t been on Facebook for over two months, you didn’t know my birthday was, at first, next week, then on Tuesday, and now you know it was yesterday.

If I still had a profile on the social networking site I would have received a healthy amount of birthday wishes from many corners of the country. It was cool, back in the day, to feel important for one day after I got 20 people to say “Happy Birthday” on my wall, but if I had received one message, piece of mail, or a call yesterday from someone that had remembered my birthday using anything else besides Facebook, it would have been one of the best birthday messages ever, completely negating Facebook messages in years gone by.

If Facebook remembers birthdays for us, then what else is it telling us about our friends that we are no longer finding out on our own? I can think of several things. Many people share their political views on Facebook. I know whether it is safe to talk politics with you. Thus, I am selective in my conversations. If I feel like getting in a debate (very rare feeling), I know who to talk to. If I don’t want any of my positions challenged, I know who to talk to. If I don’t feel like confiding in a friend about a religious matter, then I talk to the non-religious people. Remember, you shared your religious views on Facebook. I also know your favorite movies and books and what you like doing on the weekends. We might spend hours in person with each other, figuring all this stuff out over beers, but that’s not necessary anymore. Isn’t technology great?

If you can’t tell, I don’t want Facebook to remember birthdays for me anymore. I am very sorry if your birthday was yesterday, last week, or last month and I forgot it. But I’m going to try to remember it next year with my birthday book. So leave a comment. Give me your birthday.

It’ll mean a lot more than writing on your wall. Trust me.