Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Beer, Tebow and Crappy Food.

Last week I thought my posting was pretty good. This week I think it's gonna be a bit on the shorter side as I can't seem to get the mojo going...but who knows? A beer or two and I might be able to wax poetic. Speaking of beer, I came across a GREAT quote today by a guy named Luke Livingston who writes a blog about beer. He said in response to reports that Burger King and Starbucks are experimenting with serving beer at select locations - "The only thing Americans like better than cheap, crappy food is cheap, crappy beer!" I just find this incredibly funny...and true. Find Luke and lots more about beer at his blog "A Blog About Beer". I think I'll create a permanent link off to the side for you to get to his little piece of the web.

As I opined last week that it might not be the best brand-positioning move, Tim Tebow's upcoming appearance in a Super Bowl ad for Focus on the Family is raising hackles.

Not only that but I'd mentioned some NFL draft gurus had been talking about him not going very early in the draft. Looks like maybe he's doing that to himself. Seems at workouts for the Senior Bowl he's had trouble taking a conventional snap from under center. I certainly hope he can get his act together as he genuinely seems like a good kid who can prove to be an antidote to many of the shenanigans we see from professional athletes these days. However, the ruckus being raised over his advertisement can only serve as a further distraction to this durable gunslinger.

If, like me, you're in the Central Jersey area and are a bit of an architecture aficionado, like me, I highly suggest you take a trip over to Hightstown and check out the new pool at The Peddie School. It must be nice to have money because this ain't just a Butler Building with a cee-ment pond in it. Don't get me wrong, Butler Buildings are fantastic in that they serve a purpose but when you can afford not to look at the price tag you get some nice options. Like the all-glass skin that is lit blue at night, looking like the Beijing Olympics Water Cube in miniature.

The news release from the schools states "At 35 meters long and 25 yards wide, the pool can accommodate 15 lanes while utilizing an eco-friendly filtering system that will save thousands of gallons of water. The structure, designed by the architectural firm RMJM Hillier, uses many materials and products that decrease energy consumption and deliver daylight to the building's interior spaces." 

I've been watching the construction progress for the past year as I drop off and pick up my son from swim practice at Peddie each evening and am excited for his club team, Peddie Aquatics, to move over from the old Sprout Pool. It's a great addition to our area and continues the strong tradition of swimming at the school and club which includes among it's alumni Nelson Diebel, double Olympic Gold Medal winner at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist BJ Bedford as well as several other Olympians. By the way, if you're wondering which pic is which, the high-quality pic is the Water Cube. The one that looks better if you squint your eyes a bit is the one I took with my camera phone of the new Peddie Pool.

And I think that about wraps it up for this go-around. Not feeling hugely inspired this evening. I'll remember to eat my Wheaties for next week, especially when they come in this box...

One other thing...I can't figure out for the life of me why my pics sit just a tad higher than the text they are next to. Driving me crazy!! ARRGGHHH!!! Here in the editor all looks kosher, but hit the stupid "Publish Post" button and it all goes to hell. Such is life. On to bigger and better things this week! Put a smile'll help you feel more positive!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Super Bowl, Black Death and Sideburns...

Last week I talked about trying to make my writing a bit zippier, which remains a continuing goal but I think the effort was definitely not a high point for me as I was trying to be something I'm not. What I'm not is a writer that can sling witty barbs like my friend Dave over at "Sheridan"*. That being said, I'll stick up for myself for a moment or two and say that I actually can be pretty funny in person... but the target of my stinging repartee is usually myself. I've been told that no one makes better fun of me than me. Of course, there's a lot to make fun of. My friends also enjoy making (good-natured...I think) fun of me as they know I'm pretty good a taking it all in stride. Not to mention I do say some pretty off-the-wall stuff. As might be imagined about a man trying to be a Balanced Guy, it can mean being curious about a very broad and disparate conglomeration of topics and facts. Heck, even this blog tries to give balance to 13 differing subjects over the course of time.

So how out in left field can I be? As an example, suppose my buddies and I are sitting on a back deck drinking a beer or two while we fire up the barby. In the dying twilight, a bat flutters overhead which I notice. My train of thought then goes something like this: " plague...Black Death...hey, I've read a lot about the Black Death" which point I'll make an out-of-the-blue statement (in the middle of a conversation about sports or politics or women) something to the effect of "If the Plague were to strike today, next week half of us sitting here would be dead". Silence falls like a wet blanket (even the crickets stop and wonder where in God's name that came from), everyone turns to look at me and someone will say something along the lines of "what the hell are you talking about?" Then they'll all laugh, shake their heads, say "frickin' TB" (that being one of my college nicknames) and the conversation will resume. After nearly 25 years of friendship with this group of guys, they know me and I know them. We all have our idiosyncracies. But then that's what makes each one of us unique. If we were all the same, what a boring world it would be. It's also good to have long-term friendships where you are comfortable being yourself. Actually it's better than good - it's critical in life. People with strong social networks and friendships live longer and are generally happier (See? Here I go again with the info out of nowhere).

Finally, I'm going to use my vast compendium of otherwise useless nickel-knowledge to seek potential fame and fortune as I take the initial steps towards becoming a Jeopardy contestant via an online quiz next week (these only come up a few times a year on a set date and time). I generally do very well when watching the show as well as Cash Cab and playing Trivial Pursuit. However, dragging minutia from the recesses of the brain in front of a lot of people with money on the line is no doubt a whole different ball game. Wish me luck.

*Funny, but in one of Dave's recent sports postings he used the word "shill" in reference to a bothersome advocate for a cause and personal benefit. I hadn't heard that word in a long time, especially used in conjunction with sports but not three days later I was reading another article online about a coaching change (I think...been a lot of those lately) and it too, used the word "shill" in the same sense. Interesting stuff. I like to think the writer of that article follows Dave's blog and lifted that infrequently used word from him.

Items of interest this go-around:

Competitor - The Super Bowl is coming up. No doubt Dave over at Sheridan will have commentary far more informed than mine. Check him out. In a related bit, Tim Tebow will be in a pro-life ad for Focus on the Family airing during the big game. While I respect his right to hold his personal beliefs, not sure this is the best for his brand going forward. Make no doubt - for an athlete of his stature, he IS a brand and needs to manage it carefully. Might an NFL team considering him find him a bit too offputting via his personal social agenda for the broad appeal they seek? It's not too often you see professional athletes taking a highly politicized stance on anything. He is most likely a franchise player but some draft scenario pundits are saying he might not even go in the 1st round of the draft. Time will tell.

Greenbacks - If you've got airline miles or other "points" from you credit card or other loyalty programs, here's something I recently figured out (I'm slow; so sue me) - if you decide to cash them in for merchandise instead of a ticket to paradise, think carefully before doing so. Earlier this month I received a letter from Delta Skymiles saying my rewards points were going to expire at the end of January. Knowing I wasn't planning to travel anywhere, my wife and I went online to the Delta Skymiles Marketplace to look at what we could get for the nearly 45,000 points I had. She looked around the website and saw a wireless printer. With the proliferation of laptops in our house, it seemed like a good idea. But I said, "let me look into it a bit more". Turned out not to be a good deal at all. I'd have needed to buy about 5,000 more points at a cost of around $40 to buy a printer which retails at Best Buy for $79. Even more, the printer got terrible owner reviews on Amazon and it's not even compatible with Windows Vista. Other goodies available retailed for about the same price. Case closed. A little more poking around the site and my wife realized that with 45,000 points we could get nearly $300 worth of gift cards at places like Barnes & Noble, Macy's, and Outback Steakhouse. Bingo! We had to pay an extra $23 to get the 6th $50 card but that's like paying $1 to get $2; a no-brainer.  Let's do the math: $79 printer - $40 to get enough points = $39 value. $300 in gift cards - $23 to get enough points = $277 in value. $277/$39 = 7.1 times the value.

I'll be tucking this one away in my back pocket for future use should I ever have a bunch of rewards points racked up again.

Arguing - The White House Gate Crashers, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, are back in Washington this week as they were summoned to testify before Congress regarding the now infamous incident. Of course they invoked the Fifth, the right to not incriminate themselves. I'll definitely give them credit for having hutzpa; anyone who can bluff their way into a State Dinner gets that at least. But c'mon? Who do they think they are fooling with the "we believe we were actually invited"? Anyone briefly reviewing their track record gets an instant flavor of what they are about (yechh!). From the dubious charity they run, claims of unpaid catering bills running into the tens of thousands, her claiming to be an ex-cheerleader for the Redskins (when no one else remembers her) and a reality show following them around town as they prepared for the State Dinner I can form my own opinions pretty quickly. Maybe my gut feeling is wrong (as well as the gut feeling of most Americans), but I think the picture of what Michaele Salahi was wearing as she showed up to testify before the House Homeland Security Committee says it all. Don't get me wrong - I'd guess she's appropriately dressed for an evening out on the town or an afternoon shopping at Saks...but a fur-trimmed wrap when appearing before Congress? Wow. Nothing screams "Look at me!" more except maybe the boorish behavior they've displayed before the nation thus far. The clock has LONG run out on their 15 minutes. Irony duly noted that I'm giving them more....

Black Socks & Flip-flops -  I've long held the position that facial hair is to men what hairdos are to women. Really, think about it. Men rarely, very rarely, change the way they wear their hair except maybe when they are young and do something crazy for the shock value or a bet. Sure once in a while a guy will shave his head or go with a crew cut but that's about it. No changes in color, no switching from curly to straight locks overnight (or at all), and they most certainly don't bring a magazine into the barber shop and ask Hank to cut their hair "to look just like George Clooney in this picture". OK. Maybe some do but they're called metrosexuals. Hair styles for men change very, very slowly and once a guy settles into a hairstyle in his mid-to-late twenties, it pretty much stays that way for the rest of his life with minor tweaks...or until he starts to go bald. Whichever comes first.

On the other hand, it's perfectly acceptable for a man to sport varying forms of facial hair, changing them with the seasons or his whim. One only has to look at the sideburn craze from the early and mid 1990's (courtesy of Beverly Hills 90210) to realize this. I'm certainly in this group as I've sported either a full beard, goatee/moustache combo or been clean-shaven numerous times over the years (my current winter wear is the full beard). A man can go with the: Luke Perry (sideburns), Grizzly Adams (full beard), Musketeer (goatee and moustache..not worn by Mouseketeers), Captain Ahab (goatee without moustache), Abe Lincoln (beard sans moustache), Ohno (soul patch as sported by Olympic speed skater Apolo Ohno), and Magnum P.I. (moustache only). There's also the Dirty Lip as worn by young guys trying mighty hard to look older and tougher when they really don't yet have quite enough testosterone flowing (not to be confused with a Dirty Sanchez). And there are many variations on these basic themes mostly in terms of width (think pencil-thin moustache) and length (think ZZ Top) - no snickers from the Peanut Gallery please. The only facial hair style I don't quite get (I actually DO understand the Dirty Lip despite it looking ridiculous), is the razor-thin beard some young guys sport these days. Maybe I'm just getting old but it hardly shows and has got to be a bitch to keep shaved.

As for myself, I actually like the bit of grey I now have in my beard right on my chin. It's pretty much the only grey hair on my head except for that one single grey up top that's been there for about 10 years. Of course, the flip side is that while the hair on my head is not going grey, it is getting thinner. Oh well, maybe I can grow my beard long enough for a comb-over.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I can't rant

So...we all try to continually learn as we go through life (at least I hope everyone does). Anyway, I've been reading some other blogs to see other people's writing style, their voice, their tone. AND I realized that while I've been informative, maybe I've been a bit too dry (can you say "b-o-r-i-n-g"?). Comes from all that god-awful report writing I've been doing at work all these years. So I'll try to be a little less

One blog I definitely recommend is "Sheridan" written by a friend of mine from high school. He has a biting wit and knows more about professional sports than most of the staff at ESPN or Sports Illustrated. For the most part I'm going to insert a link to his blog in my sports commentary section. But be warned, his writing ain't for the faint of heart or delicate ears. I dunno. I just don't have it in me to rant about something. Bitch yes. Rant no - especially in a readable, funny way....definitely a talent.

On to some Balanced Guy stuff. I try to raise my kids to be good, honest, straight-up, considerate people (and I'd better change the "I" to "we" or my wife will kill me) - emphasis on considerate. Clearly not everyone makes the same effort. A week or so ago I'm at my son's swim team practice doing some paperwork up in the stands. Now being this is in NJ in the winter, I'm in a which the slightest sound is massively amplified and echoed all over the damn place. I'm down at the far end of the stands away from the other parents and these two little boys - around 7 and maybe 4 - are running back and forth in front of me. No problem. Then they decide to stop and play right in front of me and the 4 year old starts letting out these high-pitched screams, telling his brother "NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!" This definitely ain't kosher so I ask them to go play down by their parents.

Not even a minute later the mom comes down and asks me what the problem I tell her "I have three kids of my own so I understand them. I simply asked your kids to move down the other end if they were going to scream and be loud, I'm trying to get some work done." She walks away. About one more minute goes by and now the husband waddles down and, with a chip on his fat shoulder, asks me "What's the problem here?" At this point I'm thinking to myself "You've got to be kidding me". So I tell him the same thing. He responds "This is a pool. It's loud." To which I reply "True but I'm trying to get work done and your children are screaming 4 feet in front of me. I simply asked them to move down by you if they were going to scream." He started to protest but I turned my head back to my work and ignored him. He stood there for another moment, then turned and stalked off. Douchebag. I'm thinking "WHAT...THE...F**K?" This couple's kids are screaming and running around and I simply asked them to play down by their parents and not by me. I don't get some people.

Tasty Licks - I have no idea how in God's name in New Jersey pizza chains like Papa Johns, Domino's, and Pizza Hut actually make money, let alone the owners not be run out of town on a rail (more of this in a moment). It baffles me why anyone would want to eat ketchup-on-cardboard when we've got the best freakin' pizza in the country here! Of course, a sure way to start a lively argument in Joisey is to claim one local pizza joint has better pizza than another. So let's start an argument. Feel free to tell me I know nothing about pizza. I'm no food critic but I know of two pretty damn good places in the area and I don't give a s**t you if you think they suck- I like them...but am always willing to try new ones. My local favs are Conte's Pizza on Witherspoon St in Princeton. Great atmosphere and people watching. Gotta love that they serve pitchers of beer too. But going there I get the feeling the place used to be a VFW or Elks hall. It has that big, open feeling to it...but I like it. Definitely old school. Try the garlic pizza.

Another great, very local place is Al Jon's Pizza & Sub Shop in Princeton Junction on 571 not too far from the train station. It's in a 1960-70's strip mall, has wonderfully awful interior decorating, lots of pictures and posters of Italy and futball teams. There's usually a soccer game on TV with the announcer screaming in Italian which blends in perfectly with the kitchen and counter staff yelling at each other in THAT'S a pizza joint.

So about being ridden out of town on a rail - used to be done, literally, in Colonial times to those who had garnered the displeasure of the community. Often after being tarred and feather. Not a bad idea... entertainment for the whole family!

WWWD? My 3 boys have all been involved in Scouting; the youngest two still are while my oldest simply spends too much time at swim practice to do much else. Nevertheless, I'm hopeful that at least one of the two will make it to Eagle Scout. That's no small feat. Only about 2% of all Boy Scouts achieve that rank. Before chuckling and thinking "That's for geeks and nerds", consider this - upon attaining that lofty height a young man joins an elite brotherhood with such illustrious members as: Hank Aaron, Neil Armstrong, Michael Bloomberg, Bill Bradley, Stephen Breyer (U.S. Supreme Court Justice), Gerald Ford, Robert Gates (Secretary of Defense), Dick Gephardt, William Hanna (think Hanna-Barbera cartoons), Henry Paulson, Ross Perot, Frederick Reines (Nobel Prize winner in Physics), Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs), Donald Rumsfeld, Harrison Salisburyn (Pulitzer Prize winner), Steven Spielberg, Sam Walton, Gen. William Westmoreland and about a jillion (actually about 2 million) other generals, admirals, astronauts, members of Congress, CEOs and other leaders in their field not to mention at least 7 Medal of Honor recipients.

It's about the only accomplishment attained in high school that a man carries forward on his resume for the remainder of his life, short of becoming an Olympian before turning 18. It carries certain privileges (and expectations) later in life - Eagle Scouts who enlist in the Armed Forces may receive advanced rank; having it on your resume almost always results in an automatic job interview if the company CEO is an Eagle Scout (and a lot of them are); The National Eagle Scout Association is comprised of men who earned the rank and is a chance to rub elbows on equal footing with government and business leaders from across the nation. Not only am I convinced it portends potential greatness in a young man, it can also open doors.

I myself have been involved in the organization as a Cub Scout and Webelo although I never made it to Boy Scouts. Most importantly I've been a Cub Scout Den Leader for a few years and have found - like many things - I've gotten far more out of it than I have put in (which is actually quite a bit). It's a great chance to spend time with your son actually doing things where you both learn something about the world around you, yourself and each other. As a Den Leader, I've been able to be a positive male influence (I hope) to boys who's father wasn't around. It's been a chance to take boys out from in front of the TV, video games and computer, instead introducing a whole new generation to the outdoors, sports, museums, tools, fishing, BB guns, and community service - by the way, you have no idea just how BIG of a deal BB guns are to a bunch of 8-12 year old boys until you get them on the range at Scout camp. It's huge. No - it's beyond huge. It's Nirvana.

So I encourage you to get your son (and yourself) involved in Scouting. Visit the Boy Scouts of America website, click on "Find Your Local Council" along the top, and enter your zip code. I know the day one, or both, of my Scouts becomes an Eagle Scout will be one of the proudest in my life.