Monday, January 25, 2010

Dinner Is Served

My close friend Autumn got me a crock pot as a housewarming gift for my place. It ended up being a Christmas present in a way since I finally got it on Christmas Eve, and she made a point for me to take it since she was (understandably) tired of looking at it. I was definitely looking forward to using it since cooking was something I wanted to do more often, and here are the first results of using the crock pot.

I give you meatloaf stuffed with cheddar cheese. Rice on the side, as well as mixed vegetables. I know, I know - mashed potatoes are supposed to be on the side of meatloaf, so I committed a bit of a dinner faux pas. Still, the dinner turned out pretty darn well if I say so myself.

While it's far too early for me to do anything like cook for Thanksgiving dinner, I'm actually looking forward to using the crock pot more often. I already found my next recipe in mind - lamb chops cooked in red wine sauce. I think this is a good step up from spaghetti or pasta, and I might even use cooking with the crock pot in some fashion on my list of tasks as well.

Thanks, Autumn!

P.S. Speaking of food, a quick update on my "no fast food for 30 days" task: I have a week left and still going strong. I don't even see myself caving as soon as the period ends either, and I think my blossoming cooking habit has played a big role in that. I'm finding myself looking forward to cooking dinner now, as opposed to loathing the idea of cooking for one. Who knew?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Get Over Yourself, Jason Whitlock

Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist on Fox Sports. He's had a long career of sports reporting, including a stint on The Sports Reporters Sunday mornings on ESPN. His perspective includes frequent discussions of racial topics and his distaste for Charlie Weis (though his attitude towards Weis isn't terribly regular anymore since Weis was recently fired as head coach at the University of Notre Dame).

Every week during the NFL season, Whitlock writes a column of 10 NFL truths. Below is an excerpt from this week's NFL truths:

8. It's mind blowing that ESPN's Mike Greenberg could accidently say "Martin Luther Coon" on national radio and TV on Martin Luther King's national holiday and ESPN take no punitive action.

I don't have any doubt that Greenberg regrets his mistake. I don't think his error necessarily paints Greenberg as a bigot. I don't think Greenberg should lose his job. But he should be required to do more than offer up a weak written apology. A short, paid suspension was warranted.

My tongue slips all the time. It's hard for me to fathom the King to Coon slip. King to Queen, King to Ding, King to Bling and King to Ring I totally get. King to Coon is off the table.

Greenberg has no discernible talent as a radio talk show host. ESPN pays him to say nothing and keep the "Mike and Mike" brand as non-controversial as humanly possible. He screwed up.

*** ***

I will be open and honest about my feelings for Whitlock. I don't like him. This isn't the first time he wrote a piece that I vehemently disagreed with (Interestingly enough the last piece he wrote that I thought was completely nuts was centered around race as well). He may be entitled to his views and opinions, but this is the second time he completely missed the point.

It's pretty clear that Greenberg had a simple slip of the tongue on the air. What most likely happened was he had essentially blended the words "King" and "Junior" into one term and caught himself halfway through it. It was simply unfortunate that blending the words together ending up sounding like "Coon." Sure, Whitlock realizes that Greenberg isn't in fact a bigot or racist at all. I'm also glad that he isn't calling for Greenberg to be fired. Had he made either statement I would be far more annoyed than I am. However, he's taking a simple slip of the tongue here to an extreme.

He's actually recommending that ESPN suspend Greenberg??? For how long? A day? A week? On the grounds of what? Greenberg wasn't making any kind of joke when he misspoke. He doesn't need to go to any sensitivity training. He certainly doesn't need to be suspended. Whitlock is taking up the Al Sharpton/Jesse Jackson torch here by overreacting. All Greenberg needed to do was issue a simple apology (which he did, as Whitlock had acknowledged), and everything would be forgotten.

Whitlock still has a bone with ESPN after being fired from the network 4 years ago. He is entitled to his opinion over whether or not Greenberg is a decent radio personality. I think Greenberg is fine; my beef with his morning show is how he and Mike Golic repeat segments two or three times during the course of each show they do, but that's no fault of theirs. For Whitlock to take his beef with ESPN out on Greenberg is unprofessional and unfair.

To further make my point, flip the situation around. Suppose a black sports radio personality made a comment about a white person whose last name was similar to "Cracker." Would Whitlock be crying for the radio host's suspension? I doubt it. It would most likely be seen as funny for a moment, and then we'd all go on with our lives. Maybe Whitlock should have thought about that before jumping to such wild conclusions.

Monday, January 18, 2010

There's a Reason Why "Fan" Is Short for "Fanatic"

Talk to virtually any die hard fan of any sports team - college or pro - and that fan will tell you about some completely non-sensical, illogical, and absurd superstition he or she has to support a team. There's a reason why people are called "fans," and the title of this blog pretty much shows that. We do really stupid things to show support of our teams. I am no exception.

One of my major superstitions in showing support for my teams is to refuse wearing the team colors of my team's opponents. For instance, if the Ravens are playing against the Steelers, I will absolutely not wear black and gold on the day they play one another. Or if the Orioles are playing the Red Sox, I won't wear red. Every now and then I'll catch myself wearing the colors of my teams' opponents, and I'll feel sincerely guilty about it. I have to wonder if I somehow cursed my team by wearing the opponent's colors.

All that leads me to the Ravens in the playoffs this season. I have been a Ravens fan since I had first moved to Maryland 11 years ago, and I quickly understood the superstitions fans have. I stayed home for their first playoff game against the Patriots, which they promptly kicked in the teeth. I wore my Ray Lewis jersey and focused on the game entirely while sitting on my couch, enjoying every moment of it.

The win meant the Ravens had to travel to Indianapolis for the divisional round. I then faced a dilemma. Do I stay on my couch, recreating my positioning for the Patriots game as much as possible, or do I travel up to Baltimore to hang out with my circle of friends and party with them for the game? In the back of my mind, I sincerely had feared I would be cursing the team in part by not doing the exact same thing I had done for the first playoff game.

And what happened? The Ravens lost the game. Badly.

I know this superstition makes no sense. I know that explaining it to anyone else makes me sound like a lunatic. I know that my whereabouts or clothing I'm wearing on a given day has absolutely no real effect on my teams. But that's also part of the fun of being a fan. And there are plenty other fans out there who have their own superstitions, I'm sure. It's a time-honored tradition, and I look forward to passing my crazy traditions to the next generation.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Kingdom for a Chicken McNugget

I am now 14 days into going without fast food. I started this task retroactive to January 1 since it's on my list of tasks to accomplish. The first week or so was okay, but I knew the tougher times were still ahead of me. Boy, was I ever right.

I laid out a plan to gradually phase out less healthy foods for myself. First, it's no fast food. I had to lay out ground rules as to what constitutes "fast food" in order to determine what's allowed and what is off limits. I decided anything that has a drive-thru window would be deemed fast food. No more Burger King, McDonald's, Taco Hell, Wendy's, etc. Subway would get a pass though, since they don't serve anything like burgers or french fries.

Once the 30 days were up, I had thought about expanding it beyond just fast food. I had hoped to dump things like chips, donuts, and the like. Oh sure, I might splurge and get the occasional McDonald's meal or chocolate bar - who doesn't do that? And of course, hitting the gym more regularly would be doubly good. It's a decent enough idea that it just might work.

Now I'm getting what I like to call the "shakes." It's that itching feeling of wanting a Chicken McNugget. Or a Whopper. Or a taco from Taco Hell. A few co-workers had raided Wendy's for lunch today, but I resisted the urge to cave. A small victory, but those burgers sure looked tasty.

I don't want to cave. I've been phasing it out slowly - only once or twice a week would I allow myself to have anything that unhealthy for me. But with a rough couple days at the office this week, I really was jonesin' for something quick, tasty, and filling. Fortunately the stressful time of the month has ended at work, so I think the main thing holding me back is simply motivating myself enough to cook dinner at night more than anything else.

To be continued...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Pitfalls of Facebook

As with virtually every other American over the age of 13, I am on Facebook. I was very resistant to the idea of joining at first though, mainly because I had feared I'd be "selling out" by joining a social networking site. However, I have to confess I've become rather addicted to it in the 18 months or so I've been on there. And I admit, it's been great to reconnect with a lot of old friends from high school and past jobs who I hadn't spoken to or seen in years. Overall, I'm glad I had joined Facebook.

Now there is a minor annoyance I have with the site. Maybe calling it an annoyance isn't the right term to use, but here is my problem: I've noticed several occasions where I've been "de-friended" (is that the official term?) on more than one occasion, and most times I have no idea who had deleted me. Occasionally I was able to figure out who had deleted me, and for the most part it didn't bother me. There were a couple girls who I had gone on one or two dates with, and another was the girlfriend of a former roommate who was a whack job. Not a big deal.

Over the last few days though I've noticed the number of friends dropping one here, another there. I have no idea who has deleted me, and I'd just like to find out who it was. Facebook always sends email notices when someone adds me as a friend; why not send notices when someone deletes me? If I knew who it was who had deleted me, I'd probably figure out why they had done so pretty quickly. Don't worry, I still manage to sleep at night either way. It's just something that's on my mind when I notice I'm one friend less on Facebook.

I can't be the only one who's thought about I?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Experiment

There's a website called Day Zero where visitors create lists of things they plan on accomplishing. This isn't quite a bucket list, per se, since life has a funny way of throwing monkey wrenches in the mix to change plans. Normally, these lists include 101 things the people want to accomplish in 1001 days. I had first started kicking this idea around shortly after moving to Virginia last summer, but like most things I kick around in my head it was pushed off to the side. I had originally hoped to start working on these tasks this past November 22, because 1001 days from that date would be my 33rd birthday.

Not only did I not begin working on these tasks, but I didn't even come up with 101 things. That probably sounds awfully lazy of me, but here's the problem: coming up with 101 different things to do that are measurable and can be definitively quantified is HARD. I read through many of the lists to get some ideas, but some of them are just not practical. There were things like "Be happier" or "Have a more positive attitude." How can a person objectively say whether he or she is happier than that person was a year prior?

The other tough element was finding things I could likely accomplish in the next 1001 days. I had thought about stuff like visiting Mount Rushmore or visiting Four Corners, but I don't see either of those events likely happening. But hey, like I said before, life has a funny way of changing direction in midstream, so anything is possible.

Now since I don't have all 101 things on this list, I reserve the right to add to this list as I go along. That may sound like cheating a little, but with this blog as my witness I will not add tasks or events on this list retroactively. That should save me from any loopholes, at least for now.

So here it is, a work already in progress:

1. Go on a cruise

2. Buy a house

5. Take a cooking class

6. Take a dancing class

7. Visit DisneyWorld

8. Try out for Jeopardy

9. Go back to Vegas

10. Go fishing

11. Get a dog

12. Write the first season of Star Trek: Beyond Forever

13. Play a musical instrument

14. Visit relatives in Houston

15. Visit the MLB Hall of Fame

16. Visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame

17. Visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

18. Watch A Clockwork Orange

19. Watch the complete Godfather Trilogy

20. Buy left-handed scissors

21. See 3 bands in concert

22. Cook dinner every night for a week

23. Join a softball league

24. Work out first thing in the morning instead of after work for a week

25. No fast food for a month

26. Read a non-fiction book

27. Lose at least 30 pounds

28. Read the Bible start to finish

29. Fine a new home church

30. Visit hometown in PA and drive past the house I grew up in

31. Frame and hang my MBA

32. Visit Gramps’ grave

33. Go ice skating

34. Learn rudimentary Arabic

35. Write a will

36. Go on a weekend hiking trip

37. Visit a state I haven’t been to before

38. See a drive-in movie

39. Get a real Christmas tree and decorate it

40. Get a passport

41. Change the oil in my car myself

42. Take golf lessons

43. Gamble in a casino

44. See the Trans Siberian Orchestra live

45. Go camping

46. Watch The Wizard of Oz with Dark Side of the Moon playing in the background

47. Go to a dinner theater murder mystery

48. Make homemade pizza

49. Attend a costume party

50. See the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

51. Go on a random, unplanned road trip

52. Watch Scarface

53. See the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest

54. Play in a poker tournament

55. Buy a left-handed can opener

56. Donate old clothing to Goodwill

57. Wait in line for a store to open Black Friday morning

58. Run a 10-minute mile

59. Go to an Army/Navy game

60. Do volunteer work for 1 day (7x)

61. Donate at least $100 to charity

62. Begin at 5 sit-ups per night for one week. Then add one sit-up per night per week until I get to 50 sit-ups per night. Maintain through the end of the project

63. Go to a hockey game

64. Ride in a limo

65. Buy a new laptop

66. Get a promotion at work

67. Bake a cake

68. Get my security clearance

69. Spend a day in bed

70. Write a letter to myself to open on day 1000

71. Plan Marie’s 30th birthday party

72. Motivate someone to do his/her own list

73. Start a new list upon completing this one.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Reflections & Projections

2010. This is one of those years that is defined as “the future” in many movies from the 80’s and earlier (Hmm…2010: The Year We Make Contact would be a great title for a movie). One of my resolutions for this year is to start a journal. Journals strike me as a way to vent and talk about things that I don’t otherwise feel comfortable talking with other people, even family.

Before looking ahead, let’s look back on what happened in 2009. The biggest event in my life last year was unquestionably moving to Virginia. The whole soap opera is far, far too detailed to get into here, but I’m happy to have settled in my place (but it still needs some personality and decoration). My new home is closer to DC, there seems to be a great number of events in the area, and I’m still within driving distance of Baltimore so I can go back to visit my friends and family there at will.

Moving to Virginia was nearly usurped as the biggest event in 2009 for me by a shocking and upsetting event: my parents splitting up. My mom called me on a Friday afternoon to suddenly tell me she was moving away from my dad and that she needed my help to move her in an apartment the next day. That was the day before Halloween. The next several weeks were extremely tough for me, and seeing the toll taken on my father and my sisters made it all the more difficult. I have many friends whose parents had split up, and when I was growing up I had always appreciated having my family as a single unit. Having had a taste of what it’s like to not have a single family unit gave me a new appreciation for how fortunate I have been in life. The good news is that my parents have been seeing a marriage counselor for several weeks and look like they are fixing their relationship. There’s still a lot of work to do for them though, so this will be an on-going thing well into 2010.

Moving ahead to this year, there’s a lot that I want to accomplish. This blog/journal will hopefully become a regular thing, possibly involving a new entry at least twice a week. I’d also like to take a REAL vacation, not just some weekend getaway to the beach or anything. I haven’t taken one in years, and I keep saying I’ll do it eventually, but I always back off. Of course, there’s also the cliché of hitting the gym regularly as well. I had started a gym routine a couple months ago, but I had slacked off and need to get it in gear.

So I raise my glass and toast a new beginning. This year is going to be a big year. And I hope to look back on this blog later in life and reflect more on how life has changed over the next 30 years.