Thursday, February 22, 2007

Movie Night

Some of you may have noticed I haven't been posting much lately. My main excuse is writer's block. Instead, I've been spending my time on other creative endeavors. And painting a few walls, too. Tonight I set all those other things aside to go to my bike club's winter monthly (i.e., we do it once a month during winter) Movie Night. All comers are welcome, not just club members. Tonight we were scheduled to watch the seminal classic Breaking Away.

Things don't always work out as planned, though. Philippe brought his DVD of Breaking Away, but the DVD player wouldn't read it. So he tried hooking up his laptop to the projector. It wouldn't read it either. We tried someone else's Mac book. No dice.

I forgot who it was, but somebody had a VHS copy of American Flyers in their car. Well, any port in a storm, I guess. Philippe took it out of its sleeve...and the end cover fell off. While he went searching around for another VHS tape to cannibalize, we watched a few scenes from Pure Sweet Hell, a cyclocross movie someone else had in their car. If I'd only known how it would go tonight - I have a copy of Breaking Away on VHS at home.

Philippe finally found enough tape pieces for us to watch American Flyers, so we did at leat get to watch a cheesy mid-1980's movie starring Rae Dawn Chong and Kevin Costner's bad mustache. It's a touching film, really. We laughed, we cried, ... well, we didn't actually cry, but we did laugh at a lot of stuff.
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Trivial Stuff You Might Know
Here's a link to the Rules. Here's a link for where to send your answers. Enjoy.

1. There are, according to Greek mythology, several rivers in Hell/Hades, including the River of Forgetfulness. I can't think of it's name right now. Do you know it?

2. According to Greek mythology, who guards the entrance to Hell (Hades, actually)?

3. Who was the ferryman across the River Styx?

4. Finish the lyric: "Domo arigato, _______ ______"

5. What group recorded "Carry On My Wayward Son"?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Trivia Answers From February 8th

1. On this day in 1971, trading began on the world's first electronic stock exchange, the NASDAQ. What does NASDAQ stand for? NASDAQ is the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations system.

2. There are States and there are Commonwealths. How many of the 50 'United States' actually designate themselves as Commonwealths? There are four…

3. Name at least two of them. … and they are Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Virginia. So what does it mean that they are ‘Commonwealths’ instead of plain ol’ ‘States’? Not a whole lot as far as I can tell.

4. The Falklands War in 1982 was between what two nations? Great Britain and Argentina. The Argentineans apparently thought that Great Britain was overextended militarily, having gone through a reduction in forces and having the Royal Navy spread out all over the world. They thought the Brit’s couldn’t really respond if they took over the Falkland Islands and would just try for a diplomatic solution that would be time-consuming, allowing Argentina to strengthen their positions on the islands. They thought wrong. The results of the failed occupation hastened the downfall of the military government then in power in Argentina.

5. What was Star Fleet Captain James T. Kirk's full middle name? Tiberius, though that wasn’t solidly established until the movies came out (I’ve forgotten which one mentioned it). Before that it was just popular fan lore, having never been mentioned in the original series.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

1996

In keeping with the video theme, I have one more story (at least) to tell.

Back in 1996 I was assigned to a jobsite in Massena, New York for much of the year. Massena is the subject of a different story, but my company paid for me to take a trip back home for one weekend each month. We worked four ten-hour days each week, so at least it would be a long weekend. One such weekend came up during the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. MG and I drove down from Knoxville to spend a Saturday hanging about in Atlanta, joined by Sis (my Sis). We didn’t stand much of a chance to get tickets to any venues at that point, so we headed over to watch the one event we didn’t need a ticket for that day; the cycling Time Trial.

We saw many of the greats of the day – briefly – as they flew past us at dizzying speeds. I remember seeing Lance go by as we headed into a restaurant to get lunch. I remember that he didn’t look on top of his game at the time. I figured he was just having an ‘off’ day. It was just after that when he discovered he had cancer. We also saw Tony Rominger, Abraham Olano, Miguel Indurain (who came so close to the barricade that a small drop of sweat hit Sis’s arm), and many other of the time’s top cyclists. But that isn’t the story, either.

Somebody had a tent set up near the Time Trial venue. Inside the tent were a bunch of stationary bikes with video screens set up on each and a master screen up on one wall. They would invite people to “race” against each other in heats using a software set up to let everyone race against everyone else. Most of the guys (and a few gals) hanging about were in their cycling garb and were very fit looking. I was wearing a pair of regular shorts and a T-shirt. I was already a Big Guy as well, weighing in at … well, I met the ‘Clydesdale’ criteria. Thus, most of the others getting ready to race in my heat were giving me the look of disdain as if I was some yokel who had an old Huffy he likely rode once or twice each year if he could actually find a tire pump.

Poor guys (and gals). I will freely admit that if we’d been on real bikes out on the road that they might could have easily taken me (especially given my less than cycling-friendly attire). But what the video program could not account for was the power to weight ratio. When I’ve been riding a lot (as I had been doing that summer), my overall power to weight ratio is reasonably close to that of a lot of other avid riders (essentially meaning more weight and more power). But this thing took weight out of the equation and went strictly by power. My competitors never knew what hit them. More than one jaw dropped at my posted time. Too bad they didn't understand the physics of it as well as I did. Too bad for them, that is.

Now, if only I could lose the weight I’d like to lose without losing the power I can generate…
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Trivia Time
Rules. Email your answers.

1. I’m standing in a grassy field looking out at a full-sized version of the Parthenon while listening to the Commodores playing on a local radio station. What city am I in?

2. Suppose I stabbed my father (don’t worry, Dad, I wouldn’t really do that) and ended up on the ‘Group W’ bench. What singer/songwriter might I have ended up sitting next to?

3. All denominations of US paper currency have dead presidents on them except for one. Which one?

4. What, according to Douglas Adams, should you never let a Vogon do to you?

5. Which great poet/novelist warned us to ‘shun the frumious Bandersnatch’?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

One-Armed Paper Hanger

Wow. Been a busy few days. I almost finished replacing the ceiling fan in our den on Sunday, but had to go get some new bulbs on Monday to finish up (two of the old ones came apart as I tried to pull them off of the old fan unit and put them in the new one). So since we were going to the home/hardware store anyway, and since I have a set of scaffolding for a month (minimum rental period), we decided that it might be time to repaint the den and thus buy more paint. And since we were out anyway, we ended up making it a major shopping extravaganza by including the wine store, the outdoor clothing store, the post office, and the grocery store in our little excursion afield. By the time we got home I had no time nor inclination to type up a post.
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Last night I met Ron at a local restaurant to discuss a mountain bike event that we are apparently now in charge of coordinating (along with Wally, who couldn’t make it to our meeting). MG was to join us following her hair appointment at her favorite salon, but ran later than planned. By the time she arrived we had already decided all the issues we could and discussed all we couldn’t settle right away (and assigned a bunch of tasks to Wally since he wasn’t there). We thought about going on from there, but since she showed up hungry and we’d only had chips and beverages, we ended up grabbing a table to get real food. Oh my goodness, was that ever a bad choice. The service was so slow, we could have gone home and fixed stuff a lot quicker. So again I arrived home with neither time nor inclination to post anything.
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And today? Well, MG is fixing me dinner soon, and then we’ll watch a movie, so any posting I do will have to be done now. And a subject? Well…

I had thought of this subject a few weeks ago, but it would seem that NPR and Jef Mallett have beaten me to it, so I’ll let you see what they have to say first (funny that Jef’s strip came out so soon after the NPR piece, especially since he likely had to turn in his to his syndicate a couple of weeks ago).

I have thought for a while that video games are a likely contributor to the expansion of adolescent waistlines. Except for a Coleco Telstar Pong-type game that the family had at one time (and which our use of was limited by Mom and Dad), I’ve never had a video gaming system. I always used to want one, but never ended up getting one. Now I’m glad for that. I’d imagine that I would have likely wasted a lot more time exercising my thumbs on a game controller than exercising my body on a bicycle if I’d had that temptation. And if I’d had a Wii/Xbox/PS3 as a kid? Would I have wanted to play soccer or softball or tennis or racquetball…sports I would actually have to practice at for a long time to gain any proficiency…when I could beat the Brazilian National Team in the World Cup with a deft A/B/Up Arrow combination that I could figure out by reading up at a game-cheats website?

Then again, I might never have sprained my knee or dislocated a shoulder. But you know? I think it was worth it. And who wants a sprained or dislocated thumb, anyway?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Whew

OK, today I've helped pick up trash on Neubert Springs Road (the bike club's Adopt-a-Highway), I've posted the results for yesterday's KnoxieCross race to the local cycling website, done some downtown photography (may be posted to Flickr sometime in the coming week), substitute-instructed a class with MG, helped MG with laundry, and just finished changed out a ceiling fan in a double-high room (which means I had to set up scaffolding to get it done - then climb up and down it about a dozen times). I'm cooked. Good night.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

I Think I’m Having Problems With My…Um, Wait, What Was I Talking About?

Today was the third race in the KnoxieCross ’07 series. I got there at about 10:00 am and found the weather to be surprisingly warm. And then the sun went behind the clouds. There we were (I’m referring here to the scorekeepers), sitting or standing in one place, in the middle of a big open field where the wind can come right across the water and chill us to the bone. Worse for me, I’m the one doing the computer work and can't wear gloves like the guys who only have to write numbers on paper. Happily (for me), John B. had a pair of fingerless gloves he let me borrow. They had a little mitten-like end attached to them, so I could pull that over my fingers when I had a few moments between riders coming through. John almost didn't get them back at the end of the day.

We had the largest field I think we've ever had before, and certainly the most the the Junior category. Those kids were really giving a lot out there. I remember commenting that I wish we'd had races like this I could have participated in when I was growing up.
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Here's part of the problem I've had with creative writing lately. I usually think of a great subject for a post at some time or another during the day. Really, I do - almost every day. The problem is, by the time I get home and I'm sitting in front of the keyboard, the idea has disappeared into the ether. I can't tell you how many times I've sat staring at my monitor trying like anything to remember what the heck* it was I'd been planning out earlier.

It's not really a new problem, to be perfectly honest, but a year ago I had a bigger backlog I'd built up during times when the creative juices were really flowing (I can remember having written three completely separate posts in one afternoon before). My backlog is long gone, and at about the same time my muse decided to take a long sabbatical. I'm still trying to coax her back to work.

I also used to carry a pocket calendar/appointment book with me everywhere. I used to jot done little key phrases that would prompt me to remember things I been thinking of earlier. Sadly, I lost it. I'd gotten it from MG (it was a promotional item she'd gotten at work), but she didn't get one this year.

Even today I thought of a post subject while MG was driving us downtown for a late lunch/early dinner. I remember that, as I often do, I'd thought out about the first paragraph or two of it. Now? Gone. I only recall that I'd thought of something, but I have no recollection of what that something was.

I guess I just need to break down and actually buy a pocket appointment book for 2007. Either that, or I'll have to start writing stuff on my hands and just not wash them until I get home.

* 'Heck' is the nicer version of the word I might normally want to use.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Set Up

Well, as usual on the day before a cyclocross race, we were out there right around noon to actually set up the course. I know I talked about the course earlier this week, but that was just to decide where it would go. Today was all about setting out the flagging and other course markers.

Caleb and I showed up right around noon and hopped on our bikes to just have a quick spin while we waited on John B. to arrive with the marking stuff. It was a real quick spin, as we didn't even get 1/4 of the way around the course before he got there. I'd set my cyclometer to measure a complete lap, so I went ahead and finished a lap before going to John's car and grabbing a handful of flags. The course lap length is right on 1.6 miles, by the way, which is longer than any other course we've ever set up. To me that's a good thing from a scoring perspective. It means the riders will come through fewer times and more spaced out (on shorter courses theres a lot of lapping going on).

Marking went fast; faster than normal. By the time Steve showed up at 1:00 pm or so we had almost completed the course marking in general, but he got to help me with setting a triple barricade on the lowest part of the course and with some final tweaking of the course overall. Caleb headed over to Haw Ridge to do some mountain biking once we got done, and Steve stayed to ride the course for a while and get a good workout in. At that point John and I went to lunch.

We talked about a lot of stuff in general over lunch. Cycling plans, travel plans, cycling travel plans, music, house stuff, and the creative process. The creative process has been on my mind a lot lately. I feel like I'm having problems with mine. Not a total writer's block, per se, but a bit of one. And it isn't all about my writing, but it is about it where the blog is concerned. I guess I just don't feel like my writing has been up to my own internal standards for a while. A long while, actually. Maybe even as long as it's been since my last surgery, though I don't think it is necessarily that event that knocked me off-kilter. I just feel that with few exceptions, my creative writing hasn't been up to snuff, maybe even forced. For that, dear reader, I apologize.

However, I hope that I can turn a corner on this soon. I've started thinking about woodworking projects again. I've started thinking about some photographic work I'd like to do. I've even started thinking about some new poetic stuff (man, how long has it been since I posted any of that in my blog? - a long time, I can tell you, maybe even since June or so). Gotta get all the creative juices jump-started at once, I think.

So I know what I'm up against here. They say that knowing is half the battle. As far as I can tell, the other half of a battle must involve violence of some kind. Hmm. Maybe I need a better saying than that one, eh?
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Trivia Answers from 2/1/07

1. Today is the Feast Day of one of Ireland's secondary patron saints. Rumor has it she was named after one of Ireland's pagan gods of yore. Who is she? St. Brighid (though the spelling varies) of Kildare. The Goddess Brighid was apparently the Celtic equivalent of Athena for the most part.

2. What is the only X-rated movie to ever win the Academy Award for Best Picture (and Best Director)? 'Midnight Cowboy'. No, I've never seen it, but those who have tell me it likely would only have gotten an NC-17 rating under today's system.

3. What was the last G-rated film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture? 'Oliver!' It was actually the only film originally rated 'G' to win, but that's because the rating system was new that year. Other winners such as 'Sound of Music' were rated first under an older system and re-rated under the new system.

4. What two teams faced each other in the very first Super Bowl way back in 1967? The Green Bay Packers (most people knew that) and the Kansas City Chiefs (not as many knew that part). I guess the winners are always remembered a bit better.

5. What Augustinian monk is considered to be the father of modern genetics? Gregor Mendel, who worked mostly with different varieties of peas to discover the dominant/recessive natures of genes.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Faux Foe

Let me explain that title a bit. I am not referring to a fake enemy. I am referring to an enemy of things that are fake. We’ve all seen fake things before; no doubt about that. I am not opposed to such things necessarily, either. Sometimes they are so good that it is difficult to tell that it is fake. Other times it’s quite obvious. But they should tell you.

You can go into many department stores and buy look-a-like items for fractions of the cost of frighteningly similar designer items (purses are a good example). It wouldn’t surprise me if these items were made in the same factory with just a few subtle differences thrown in. I have no problem with that.

I do have a problem with the guys on the street saying they’ve got authentic branded stuff at pennies on the dollar. Why? Well, they’re either trying to pass off the fake stuff to the patsies (and if you don’t know what a patsy is, you probably are one), or they’re selling off stolen merchandise (which might still be fake).

But that’s not really what this post is about. This post is about the place MG and I went for dinner tonight.

MG and I love Irish Bars. Knoxville hasn’t really had a good, authentic Irish Bar in quite some time, though Patrick Sullivan’s downtown has great (though largely unrealized) potential. So a new place MG heard about, advertised as an “Authentic Irish Pub”, gave us some hope. Well, it gave MG some hope, but I was reserving judgment. And rightfully so, I’m afraid.

You see, first of all I feel that an authentic pub of any kind can’t be part of a shiny new strip mall. Old buildings are best, though not entirely necessary. Still, from the parking lot it looked promising, what with the proper signage and a well appointed fa├žade. But the furnishings inside are important; critical even. This place looked more like a pretentious sports bar than an Irish pub. It made me wonder immediately if the owner/proprietor had ever even been in a real pub.

The place was packed. And it was cramped. The bar area was poorly designed (hard to move around). The din of conversation was horrible. I couldn’t have understood the girl at the hostess stand except for the fact that I can read lips a bit. We were seated at a table on the opposite side of a wall from the bar area, but the wall only went ¾ of the way to the ceiling and there was absolutely nothing in the entire place that might serve to absorb the noise. MG and I gave up on conversation quickly. That left more time to check out the fare. It was marginally passable (but I could suggest easy ways to improve it). We skipped on dessert, which was the same thing we could have gotten at a steak house up the road. But the worst thing? And the most unforgivable sin imaginable at an Irish drinking establishment? The Guinness had been served to us without the requisite double pour. The horror… Am I a beer snob? When it comes to Guinness, you bet I am.

So this was in no real way an Irish Pub, other than its name and the smattering of advertisements for Irish beer. My prediction? The place will make a good sports bar several months from now when they give up the charade (maybe after the gobs of money they’re sure to make on March 17th starts to run out). Except that it will still be too loud, the food won’t have improved, and the bar will still be cramped. The sad thing is that most of their clientele probably don’t know the difference.

Our house is more of an Irish pub than that place, but we don’t advertise it that way (except maybe one night per year). And I’ll do my guests the honor of a real double pour.
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Trivia
Here for your enjoyment is this week's Trivia Quiz. If you haven't read the Rules yet, go check them out. Please email your answers here.

1. On this day in 1971, trading began on the world's first electronic stock exchange, the NASDAQ. What does NASDAQ stand for?

2. There are States and there are Commonwealths. How many of the 50 'United States' actually designate themselves as Commonwealths?

3. Name at least two of them.

4. The Falklands War in 1982 was between what two nations?

5. What was Star Fleet Captain James T. Kirk's full middle name?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Backs of My Eyelids Are So Compelling...

I've spent the evening dozing on the sofa. I've needed it. I need more.

Thus, no post other than this, though I will show you the map of the next KnoxieCross race course I created today.

I have to tell you, I do love Google Maps...

Monday, February 05, 2007

Hodge Podge

I know I haven’t posted for several days, but I’ve been busy with a lot of other stuff. I would say that I won’t let it happen again, but I probably will.
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On the cycling front, I went out yesterday afternoon to Melton Hill Park to help John B. and Steve scout out the courses for KnoxieCross races #3 and #4 (Feb. 10th and 24th). Both will be at Melton Hill Park this year, where we only had one race last year. The markings from last year’s course are still very visible. Not that we marred the park last year or anything. We actually used existing paths that had been mowed into the fields. I think the park is used for a lot of cross-country racing/training by area high schools.

Steve hadn’t seen the previous course, so I described it to him a bit and we looked at part of it while waiting for John to arrive. We also looked at another area I thought might be good for adding something onto the course, but I’ve since decided that it wouldn’t work very well. Right after John showed up I took a lap with Steve around the old course to show him the exact layout. We decided to make a couple of minor changes, including running the course backward.

We then scouted out a totally new course in an area of the park we hadn’t ever looked at (and in fact didn’t realize just how big it was). I think we’ve fleshed out a good draft for a very challenging course. Steve rode around it a good bit, but I’d flatted my front tire after riding only five miles on the old course. But I think I will go out there on Tuesday or Wednesday and go for a jog around the new course layout, just to get a better feel for it. It should be a great course.
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Other goings on this weekend included, of course, watching the Super Bowl with MG on the couch. I made up a batch of my semi-famous guacamole, which ended up becoming our dinner (we ate so much of that and chips that we weren’t really hungry enough to make chili at half-time as we’d planned).

Saturday was MG’s Vet School 15 year reunion. There were only about ten or so of her classmates there (out of fifty or so), but I knew them all (MG and I got married while she was still in school, so I was at a lot of class functions). I think everyone still had fun, especially talking about the folks who didn’t show (including two who live in town and have no good excuse – though they’ll likely make up something).

Anyway, that catches me up, I guess, except for…
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Trivia Answers from 1/25/07

1. What is the mythological significance of ‘Mjolnir’? Mjolnir was the name of Thor's (Norse god of ... lot's of stuff) hammer, with which he summoned forth thunder and lightning and smote his enemies and yada yada yada...

2. What does ‘Testarossa’ mean (hint: it’s Italian)? 'Testa' = 'head', and 'rossa' = 'red'. Put them together and you've got a redhead. So what's the story on the Ferrari Testarossa? Open the engine bay and you will see red-painted cylinder heads. But first you've got to find one and talk the owner into popping the hood open for you.

3. Mars has two moons. Tell me the name of either one. They are Phobos and Deimos after the sons of Ares in Greek mythology. Ares's Roman counterpart is Mars, so it's interesting that the planet is named from one mythology and the moons from another.

4. In the 1998 movie “Shakespeare In Love”, who played the part of the Queen of England? M. No, seriously, it's Dame Judi Dench, perhaps better known to many Americans as James Bond's boss. The Brits know she has a long and storied career as a superb actress.

5. Most of us using computers these days are familiar with USB ports, but what does USB stand for? Universal Serial Bus. I'd explain what that really means, but it would get long and technical pretty fast.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Pact

It's settled. Once and for all, it's finally been established for all time. MG and I will no longer celebrate Valentines Day. We aren't really boycotting it; we're ignoring it. It's just never been a big favorite of ours. And like Christmas, it's gotten too commercialized.

We've never had great success with celebrating it anyway. For our first Valentines Day, MG was sick. I showed up at her house, delivered her a box of candy, and left so she could go back to bed. For the next several I was in college and couldn't necessarily make it home on February 14th. One year I tried driving from my college to hers on Valentines Day (on a Friday that year), but I got caught up in an accident on the interstate that mangled my car, so I spent the night at my sister's (near the half-way point) and had to borrow her car the next day to finish the trip. Lately we've just gotten weary of the crush of people all trying to spend that perfect evening with their sweetheart while packed into a loud, not so intimate local restaurant (and likely waiting for 20 to 30 minutes for their table with all the other couples in the lobby).

Am I jaded? Good question. Maybe. But we've come up with an alternative. Now we celebrate a different holiday with the same fervor that some reserve for Valentines. It's also a holiday that encourages you to share fellowship with lots of people, and not just one other person.

And besides, St. Patrick's Day is still named after a saint.
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Trivia Stuff
There are Rules to follow when answering and a place to send your answers as well. Let's just jump right in.

1. Today is the Feast Day of one of Ireland's secondary patron saints. Rumor has it she was named after one of Ireland's pagan gods of yore. Who is she?

2. What is the only X-rated movie to ever win the Academy Award for Best Picture (and Best Director)?

3. What was the last G-rated film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture?

4. What two teams faced each other in the very first Super Bowl way back in 1967?

5. What Augustinian monk is considered to be the father of modern genetics?