Sunday, November 29, 2009

Santa for sale

My Thanksgiving probably went as yours did, meaning you ate some, ignored Black Friday and went to the city aquarium, ate some more, spent a couple days at the in-laws, then went home and spent six hours putting up Christmas decorations.
And told by Santa to put away the camera.
Well, that's what we did. It was a pretty standard holiday for parents with twins and a 4-year-old, which means nothing is really standard. But it was peaceful, sorta, until Kate decided we needed to go visit Santa at the mall during the Kansas-Missouri game. I'll fight battles if I have to - that's why I have somewhat of a running and mountain climbing half-life - but I knew I wasn't going to win that one, so I set the TV (thanks DVR!) and tromped off to the mall. 
This would be the first time my kids would get to see Santa, so I did what any respectable parent would do and brought a video camera. I had the camera out until the nice, older, bitter lady, the kind with stringy long hair, skin like a raisin's and a three-packs-a-day voice, told me to put it away.
"They're not allowing cameras at all this year," she said.
I didn't say much, but it pissed me off. They are stealing a childhood memory, and why?
• Santa's a popular dude and could be tired of all the paparazzi.
• Santa is wary of random shots of him with his fly down or fondling children showing up on the TMZ blog.
• Homeland security. That seems to be a good excuse for any random tromping of freedoms.
• Child exploitation.
• Older, bitter lady worried about random shots showing up on the Playboy site. Or
All of these would be acceptable reasons, but really, the real reason is much plainer.  They don't want you recording your own children on video or film because they want to do it instead and charge you $39.99 for the prints.
Now I don't mind the moxie required for such a stunt - I almost admire it - and also understand the need to make a buck, any kind of buck, in this economy. But it disappointed me. I thought the mall was hosting Santa because it was a nice thing to do, maybe give the kids a chance to see God (or as close as you can get this holiday season besides, you know, Jesus) and spread a little holiday cheer.
Gestures just don't really exist anymore.
Later, after dropping our fair share of money on crappy food and some mechanical rides, which is what the mall had in mind all along, I looked at the tape I was able to record without them knowing (Fight The Power!) and sighed. But the kids still enjoy Santa. They didn't know he was for a price.
They've still got a good, sanitized version of him in their heads. The non-corporate kind.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009


So I'm eating my soup last Saturday. It's not a hall-of-fame lunch, but it is vegetable, and it is Chunky, a good brand, and I'm hungry after a 10-mile run. Most of all, it is quiet. Quiet, in our house, is a luxury on the same level of hot tubs, Japanese steakhouses or cars that cost more than 10 years of my salary (and no, smart ass, that is not a Ford Taurus. A Honda Accord? Maybe).
I hear the girls thumping around upstairs. Now Kate is gone with Jayden to the store, so I can't do what I normally do, which is to yell at her to go get them (ha, just kidding, honeypie). I look at the clock. It's 1:15 p.m. This inspires some profanity from me. Now granted most everything the kids do these days inspires that, but in this case, 1:15 p.m. sucks, cause that means they haven't even napped a half hour.
Naps are for them, but mostly they're for parents, and not only so you're not dealing with little Linda Blairs by that afternoon, but for an hour or two when you're not being hounded for juice or snacks or TV or saying things like OMGCRIPESWILLYOUPLEASESTOPJUMPINGONTHECOUCHIVETOLDYOUTHAT50TIMES.
So, when that's taken away from you, well, that sucks. So I made the decision NOT to let that be taken away from me. As long as the girls aren't screaming, I would enjoy my soup in peace.
I would, of course, regret that decision.
(This is a literary device we call "foreshadowing." It means something bad is about to happen. Very bad. Historically bad. If you want to you can skip down to that part now. Ready? Here it comes).
I finished my soup - yummy - and went upstairs to see what all the noise was about. Unfortunately I smelled something bad before I even opened the door. This is never a good sign when you're a parent of three kids under 5. When I did, in fact, open the door, I didn't see the girls. Instead, I saw hell!!!!1111
(No really. I know that sounds cheesy but read on).
There was poop.
It really looked like all the toddlers in our city decided to dump the contents of their diapers on the carpet. I quickly closed the door, took three quick breaths, and starting calling the girls, hoping that a demon didn't cast a spell that turned them into poop. Sorta. At this point maybe that wouldn't be so bad.
When I did find them walking down the stairs - how the hell did they get by me? - I glanced down at Allie's hands and saw brown. I knew what it was, but in the state of shock, my mind sort of hoped that they were playing with Play-Doh. It wasn't Play Doh.
"OK, Ok, ok," I said. "It's going to be OK."
In the tub with you both.
"Um, Kate," I said as she brought in groceries. "I'll take the girls if you take the room."
"What?" she said.
"Oh, just wait," I said.
After washing off both of the girls while fighting a strong urge to hurl my soup into the tub, I managed to get them both clean and smelling like apples and not the death that surrounded them.
Jayden, who once puked at one of the girl's diapers, came upstairs despite my warning, looked in their room, said, "ew" and dashed downstairs. 
Yeah, I know, buddy.
So Sunday, as I put diapers on the girls for their nap again, I explained to them that IF they did poop to yell "Daaaaaaaaady" and I would come clean them up before they took care of it themselves.
I turned out the light.
Five minutes later, I heard "Daaaaaaaady," and tore a hole in the time-space continuum, bowling over the dog and almost breaking four bones along the way. I rushed upstairs, breathing hard, and opened the door.
They were both in their beds.
"Ha ha, he he he," Andie said and looked at me, grinning.
NOT funny, girls. Not funny.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Questions raised by hair metal songs

• If you're already hot and sticky sweet, do you really want someone to pour some sugar on you? Isn't that ENOUGH sugar already, man? Do you have a problem with your sweet tooth or something?
• If you're man is working hard, I think he's worth a LOT more than a "Deuce," which to me means something that ain't exactly a reward, if you get my drift.
• How do you get "Naughty Naughty" as opposed to just naughty? And, no, I don't think "down and dirty" is enough of an answer.
• If a guy whines like a toddler for you to "Wait" throughout the song, are you really gonna be attracted to him at the end?
• How do you live on the edge of a broken heart? Did you get a bad note between sixth and seventh hour, but you don't know if you're actually broken up until the bell rings?
• If a girl tells you "she's only 17," isn't that a sign you should probably move on?
• If your heart needs to be kickstarted, shouldn't you be, like, dead?
• Can a girl have a love machine?
• If you're shouting it, isn't it already out loud?
• What exactly are they burning up there in Heaven for it be on fire? Aren't there just like a bunch of clouds and stuff?
• Do you REALLY need bad medicine? I prefer the good kind.
• What exactly is "motorin'?"
• How effective would shouting at the devil really be? I mean, it's the DEVIL. Can't he just spear you with his pitchfork or take your soul or something?
• If you really wanna rock, can't you just, you know, do it?
• Where, exactly, should I jump? Do you mean in place?
• When he said I really wanted to lay it down, was he trash talking in a poker match?

Can you name all these songs and the artists?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Flimsy final table

If this was a final table, it was made with rickety metal legs, a thin coat of astroturf and gaudy markings showing you where the cards should be placed.
Granted, the Main Event of the WSOP is, ultimately, like any other tournament, and so you're going to have a mix. You're going to have the luckboxes and the pros, the skill players and the ones who give an "aw, shucks" when they outdraw yet again, the bad calls and the fantastic bluffs.
But that's not what I saw Tuesday.
I just saw horrible poker.
That could have been ESPN's coverage. In fairness, it's nearly impossible to whittle down that much poker to two+ hours with the understanding that you have to show the bustouts. But I'm going to judge this final table by what ESPN shows us, as that's what the general public will watch. They won't go to PokerNews or PokerWorks or the countless other poker sites to follow every hand. That's what we do.
The whole November Nine was made for the average television viewer in an effort to make it more of a sporting event. It worked last year. Ratings were up. I think I still hope they do it every year. I like the final table being a spectacle. 
But not if that's the poker we'll see.
The final table, at least what ESPN showed, did nothing to showcase poker as a skill game. The massive chip leader, Mr. Moon, played like he was in outer space. I don't think I've seen that horrible a performance at a final table. This is our biggest event of the year, and the guy who had most of the chips looked to the average viewer like he was a lucky logger and nothing else.
Now granted, I didn't see the heads up match, mainly because my DVR thought the show was only two hours long (and I wonder how many other viewers had that trouble), and he supposedly redeemed himself there. But Moon seemed like a country boy who got lucky, not a skilled poker player.
And how many times did Cada, our champion make reckless, foolish pushes, only to suck out with a two-outer? This is supposedly the best player in the world, the one who beat all the others, including the Man, Phil Ivey? I can't imagine what the average viewer, one who really doesn't have much understanding of how poker tournaments work, thinks.
It worries me. We want average viewers to watch this show. Again, that's why the November Nine was created, to put poker more into the mainstream. And then we bill the winner of this tournament as the World Champion. The average viewer, therefore, must think these are the best players in the world. That's what I think when I see the Yankees celebrating.
I saw all-in calls with mediocre hands like K-Q, no regard for stack sizes, gutless folds, even when the story made no sense, stupid, all-in bluffs and suckouts galore. In fact I can't think of a time when the best hand held up at a crucial moment. 
I would imagine the average television viewer probably can't either. And while we carp about how poker really is a skill game, seriously, no really it is, and hope that they overturn the stupid federal law that says it's gambling, I have to wonder what the everyman thinks.
Because if I'm everyman, after seeing the final table, I'm really wondering what's so hard about this supposed skill game, wondering why people scream about some law that says it is, and scraping together $10,000 through roulette, blackjack and craps, all so I can get my gamble on next year and hit it big, baby, just one time.

Edit: Oh, the heads up match is TONIGHT? Sweet. OK. Maybe that will help. :)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Race retch

There aren't many true adages that exist in running, much like there aren't many in poker, either. 
But there is one: You never know how you're going to feel until you start running.
Twice I've felt like total crap, once with a sinus infection, once with a horrible cold, both times bad enough to leave me wimpering like a kitten. Both times I PRd in races, the first in a 10K, when I broke 47 minutes for the first time, and the second this spring, in a half marathon.
Saturday was, unfortunately, quite the opposite.
I felt great as I lined up for my last half marathon of the year (probably until August of next year, actually). I was worried. I was doing my third half marathon in five weeks, and I ran good, hard times for the first two. I had no idea how my body would react to that. It's a lot. I knew it. I just wanted to see if I could do it.
I continued to feel good as I ran the first mile in 7:30. In fact, I usually gage my pace by how I'm breathing and how hard I'm flowing, and I flowed easy and wasn't breathing hard. I was stunned, in fact, to see my pace floating around 7:15 most of the time and found it hard to slow down. Well, shit, today is going to be a good day, I thought.
I was so, so wrong.
By mile 3, I reconsidered, as I gagged for the first time. For the next three miles, I managed to keep my pace above 8-minute-miles, but I almost tossed my cookies another three times. What the hell? I'd never felt that way, even during my 5Ks. 
By the time mile 7 came up, I was hurting, bad, and knew I wasn't going to PR. In fact, part of wondered if I was going to finish. And I couldn't do anything about it. It was 80 degrees, super hot for November in Colorado, and yet I couldn't take any water or Gatorade or a gel because I was afraid I'd puke it back up.
By mile 11, predictably, my pace slowed to a crawl, and I had to walk occasionally. 
I did finish - I wasn't NOT going to finish - but did horribly. I didn't even bother to see where I finished. I ran 1:54, or at a 8:47 pace. I ran 1:45 three weeks ago at the Denver Half.
But I was proud. I had a horrible day and pushed through it. I finished. And I wonder if it was just too much. That's what I'm thinking. 
If you see me in Vegas, I'll be on a running hiatus for a week or so. I'll start training as soon as I get back. I'll leave this race behind me, call it a good year and eagerly await the Thanksgiving run.
That's only 3.1 miles. I'm already looking forward to it.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Kids these days...

They got it so easy. SO easy. I was pondering how much easier my life would be if I were 14 today instead of back in 1985.
Read on.
(Disclaimer: Yes, this is a "when I was young, we didn't have..." post. I know the idea isn't original. Deal with it.)

• If I were 14 today, I wouldn't have had to watch a football game for 25 minutes to find out the score. Or if I wanted another score, I wouldn't have had to watch until halftime. The score's already there, in the corner, along with the scores of every other game. I wouldn't even have to watch the game at all. I could check ESPN or a billion other sites, along with stats and who had the ball and where they were on the field. I can even check the stats of my fantasy players at the click of a button.
Kids these days don't need to watch a game. They can get the score whenever they want.
• Fantasy players, you ask? If I were 14 today, if the Chiefs sucked (as they most certainly did back then, almost as much as they do today), I wouldn't have to pretend to like another team to drum up some interest in the NFL (Go Redskins!). I would have a fantasy team. Fantasy these days is the only reason I watch the NFL.
Kids these days can like sports even if their teams suck. They have fantasy teams.
• And if I were 14 today, I wouldn't have to wait for the beer commercial with the bikini babe ever year to prep my overactive imagination with a little, um, "me" time. I wouldn't have to trade Sports Illustrated Swimsuit pages with my overactive friends for fresh material or wait for the Sears catalog to come every year or root around in the 7/11 dumpsters for discarded Playboys or make a red-faced purchase of a swimwear catalog. I wouldn't have to rent "10" or "Revenge of the Nerds" and wait for my parents to go upstairs before I could watch it at 12:30 a.m. I'd have Internet porn. 
Kids these days don't even have to leave the house for "me" time.
• If I were 4 today, I wouldn't have had to rely on Saturday Morning Cartoons and watch those gay two-hour "preview" shows that revealed all the new SMCs that were coming to suck up soccer time (yay! A 'Pac-Man' cartoon!). Or Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker or violent and semi-racist Tom and Jerry cartoons on a local channel that featured bad furniture commercials through a snowy screen that didn't come in when it rained outside. 
Kids these days have channels that show nothing but cartoons all the time. They're not as good as Bugs Bunny, but they kick Chilly Willy's ass.
• If I were 14, I wouldn't have to think that the blobs of light that were shooting at other blobs of light were the most kick-ass thing ever because I could play VIDEO GAMES AT HOME!!!!!1111111. I wouldn't have had to beg my Dad to take me to Malibu Grand Prix to spend my $5 bag of 25 tokens. True, they only cost a quarter back then, but they weren't worth much more than that, either. 
Kids these days have video game systems that totally kick ass. No blobs of light allowed.
• If I were 14 today, I wouldn't have had to wait by the radio for hours, listening to the same Flock of Seagulls song over and over, in the hopes of tape recording "Mr. Roboto," and when I did, it usually sounded like a whisper-thin song with an ocean crashing over the guitars and drums. If I wanted to see videos of the song, I wouldn't have to stay up until 3 a.m., my eyes like boulders, to see ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man" on "Friday Night Videos." 
Kids these days can just download any song they want, anytime, and watch those same videos for free on YouTube. I even remember saying once to a friend, "Don't you wish you could just make any radio play any song you wanted at any time." And I wasn't even thinking of getting a perfect copy of the song and playing it on my crappy Walkman that skipped whenever I, say, breathed. I just wanted to record it off the radio whenever I wanted.
• If I were 14 today, I wouldn't have to pine over a yearbook photo of the girl I was crushing over and fantasizing over the way she signed my yearbook ("Have a cool summer! Hmmm"). I could just go to her Facebook page and stare at the thousands of shots at her in a bikini during her parents' trip to the lake. 
Kids these days have all kinds of ways to lurk.
If I were 14 today, I could buy something to drink at my school rather than sneaking out to down a 12-ounce can of pop over lunch or being forced to count to 3 at the water fountain. I could eat Taco Bell at my school. I could chat online with my girlfriend or just call her cell phone or even just text her rather than having to ask her father if she were there and then having to go to the basement just to talk for a few minutes alone on the phone.
If I were 14 today, life would be so much easier.
But I don't know if it would be as much fun.