Showing posts from March, 2011

Holy overcontrived blog titles Batman!

Our house has discovered a new cable channel -- Hub TV (formerly Discovery Kids). The network plays kids shows during the day, then switches over to family-friendly sitcoms like "The Wonder Years" and "Family Ties," and it has even brought back a classic from the 1960s: "Batman." Not the animated series, not "Superfriends," but the live-action "Batman" starring Adam West.

I used to watch "Batman" almost religiously in my early grade school years, on Ch. 32 in Chicago. One story would be split up into two episodes, with Batman and Robin in mortal peril at the end of the first episode, then escaping and solving the crime in the second. Since I discovered Hub, I've been DVRing "Batman" episodes and watching them with Eldest. The series is good fun. They aren't really that violent (compared with some kids shows today) and are nowhere near as dark as the actual Batman is supposed to be.

But Elder is already catchin…

Big scoreboard

After blogging about the Jazz game this week, I started thinking about my first NBA game. Like Eldest, I was a first-grader who was just starting to seriously like basketball. My dad was a big Bulls fan, and that season, the Bulls were good, with Norm Van Lier, John Mengelt, Norm Van Lier and 7-foot-2 Artis Gilmore on the roster.

I don't remember much of the game -- who won, who lost, where we sat, and so on. What I remember most was Chicago Stadium itself, especially the big hanging scoreboard overseeing the court. Lights from the bottom of the scoreboard lit up the court and provided a bright center to an otherwise dim stadium. The players' numbers were displayed as well as other key stats, and I was intrigued by the billboard ads rotating rotisserie style on the bottom sides of the contraption (this was before stadiums started putting Jumbotrons on scoreboards). The scoreboard was larger than life, at least for a 6-year-old, and dominated my focus, even after the game starte…

Back to 1977

I recently posted about buying new baseball cards for the boys and me. I also theorized buying the 1977 Topps set, the first year I collected baseball cards.

I took that first step.

A complete 1977 set on eBay isn't cheap, so instead, I bought a lot of about 200 cards. I got a good deal on the lot ($4), knowing the some of the cards aren't in good shape. Yes, a few have gum residue, and a few are cut correctly or have frayed edges, but that doesn't concern me. I'm not trying to assemble this set to put away forever, but to look at and hold. And yes, the lot I bought is mostly commons and contains few superstars (Toby Harrah notwithstanding), but that's OK -- this was just a start. Re-acquiring the set in segments instead of all at once might be more fun. I will continue to post on my progress.

We loved this game!

I took the boys to their first Jazz game last night. Eldest got a free ticket from his basketball league, I got one for coaching, and after another player got sick, Littlest had a ticket, too. So the three of us met one of Eldest's classmates/teammates and his dad and went to the game at EnergySolutions Arena in downtown Salt Lake City.

The game went much better than I expected (at least off the court; the Jazz lost to the pitiful Wizards). Eldest and his friend paid attention to almost the whole game. They sat in the row in front of the dads and Littlest and were content to watch the game away from their fathers. I didn't mind. Eldest is getting to that point where he likes hanging out with his friends, maybe a little more than me if given the option. There's plenty of time to go to a game with just him (or just both boys). I think Eldest understood what was going on during the game, too -- at least enough that he paid attention. I'm starting to believe him that basket…

Ab-sence of malice

For Christmas, Wife gave me a 10-punch pass to a "boot camp" class at the Jewish Community Center (yes, we belong to a JCC; there are no YMCAs in Salt Lake City, and I do appreciate the mild ridiculousness of being Catholic in the most Mormon place on the planet and belonging to a Jewish Community Center). I did a some boot camp-style classes a couple years ago and liked them, and Wife thought I might like to do them again. It's not real, R. Lee Ermey boot camp, but just a mildly intense workout. I've been going for a few weeks, and though it's been rough, and though I've felt like an uncoordinated spaz at times (some exercises -- pull-ups for example -- I've just never been able to do), I keep going back and feel worked out after each class.

However, the last class I took really beat me up.

Thursday, as part of the workout, I did 60 situps. Mind you, I probably haven't done that many situps in a 10-minute time period since high school, when I was in b…

Super star

At preschool this week, Littlest was "Star of the Week." The recipient of Star of the Week gets a poster dedicated to him or her, on which the child draws a picture of his family, has all his favorites listed, and has comments from his family, teacher and all his classmates what they like about him.

We've been through this before, twice with Eldest and now twice with Littlest. But it was Littlest's answers that highlighted this Star of the Week, particularly what he wanted to be when he grew up. Littlest answered that he wanted to be happy when he grew up. A few years ago, Eldest declared he wanted to be a parent when he grew up, which was awesome. Littlest's happy comment might have been the cutest I've heard in all the years at this preschool (even cuter than the girl who wanted to own a Target when she grew up.

I could have talked for minutes on what I liked about Littlest. About how proud I am of him for working so hard these past couple years in speech the…

The cycle of life

I got my first bicycle in May 1978 when I was 7 years old. It was a black and silver not-quite-a-BMX bike with a giant shock absorber across the middle bar, and it was a present for my first Communion. I was a small second-grader, and I don't think my parents realized how big this bike was. But this was before you saw many of the little bikes you see today that are aimed at smaller kids. My dad installed training wheels, but training wheels were different then, too, usually with only one on the ground at any given time instead of two. Being so high up on this bike and not feeling balanced freaked me out too much. My parents must have wondered what was wrong with me (because I also was too frightened of water); I hope they didn't get mad that they bought me a bike I refused to ride.

I did learn how to ride a bike the next summer: My sister's Prairie Flower. It was smaller and easier to balance. I think what drove me finally figure it out was finding out a 6-year-old neighbor…

Spring still

What to blog about, what to blog about ...

We just got through an uneventful, overcast weekend. Eldest had a soccer game, I took the boys to Costco, I worked on a freelance project and watched plenty of NCAA basketball (go Marquette, Sweet 16!). Those were the highlights of the weekend.

After spring teased us in Utah, we had a snow flurry Saturday night. This cloudy weather -- which, by the way, obscured the SuperMoon -- has got me feeling a little blah. I'm ready for highs in the 60s and 70s, baseball season and trying to make our lawn look presentable.

At least our perennials are starting to poke through in our front yard, with help from some springy yard work. It won't be long now.


We've now owned Maggie, our new kitten, for about a month. Littlest and I took her to the vet today to get a feline leukemia booster shot and to get her ulcerated eye checked. I'm happy to report that her eye is looking better, she's completely healed from getting fixed, and that in three weeks since we took her to the vet last, she's gained a pound. I've noticed she's looking bigger -- our kitten is going to be full-sized in a few months.

Maggie has so incorporated herself into our family. She loves the boys (unlike our last cats, who barely tolerated them; granted, the cats were there first ...), is comfortable in our house, and is as active and playful as the day we first took her home from the shelter. She's a little too curious about outside (we are keeping her an indoor cat); hopefully, she won't try making a mad dash out a door. And, Maggie encountered her first dog up close and was fine. We had a friend bring over her chihuahua that was not mich …

Bully pulpit

If you haven't seen the viral video of the Australian bully getting body-slammed by the kid he was tormenting, watch it. It's the real-life version of Ralphie beating up Scut Farkas, Daniel LaRusso winning the karate tournament, Peter Brady knocking some of Buddy Hinton's teeth loose, George McFly smacking Biff, Matt Dillon getting his nose broken in "My Bodyguard" and the neighborhood turning on Nelson Muntz.

I'm not advocating violence. I believe the best way to combat bullying is to make it so undesirable for the bully that he or she decides to not bully. That's why encouraging kids to tell a teacher or grownup (even if it's not happening to them) is a good method to preventing bullying. The bully operates knowing silence will allow him never to get caught; the more adults who know (and the more consequences the bully might face), the better. I don't think fighting back should be the first answer. The Hollywood image of the victim fighting back …

Forward sprung

Daylight Savings Time arrived over the weekend, much to the consternation of many people, including Wife. The lost hour of sleep is a big adjustment -- it has been for me the past two days. I worried I was staying up late working last night, when in fact, I was mostly on my normal evening schedule. Littlest slept until 8 this morning -- about an hour later than usual, but still got the right amount of sleep. I know it will take just a few days to adapt. And honestly, I welcome the beginning of Daylight Savings despite the sleep schedule upheaval.

As a night person whose favorite season is summer, Daylight Savings is the first sign of what's to come in the next few months. Getting to those later evenings, at least for me, is evidence that winter is being conquered. This mental component of DST got a boost a few years ago when it was moved from early April to mid March. Remember when Daylight Savings didn't start until the first week of May? Then, that first day of the later s…

Pack mentality

I bought a pack of baseball cards for Eldest today.

That statement is not entirely true. I bought a pack of baseball cards for Eldest and me Thursday.

I was checking out at Walmart today in the lane that adjoined the shelves with trading cards, Pez dispensers, compact umbrellas and "As Seen on TV" wares. I glanced over, saw the baseball cards, thought about it for a minute, grabbed a $2 pack of Topps 2011 and added it to the conveyor belt.

For a few years now, seemingly every spring, I've been contemplating buying a pack of baseball cards just for nostalgia sake. Other than a one-year flirtation with MLB Showdown (a collectible card game published by Wizards of the Coast that I was writing strategy articles for), I haven't bought packs of baseball cards since perhaps 1981.

Thursday, I finally bought a pack. I'm guessing I pulled the trigger because of a combination of things:

-- I'm quite hooked on Josh Wilker's blog Cardboard Gods, which takes a look back at …

This, that and these

Random thoughts and observations after a really busy Wednesday that took me to Costco, Smith's, Old Navy, Kohl's and T.J. Maxx. Oh, I co-oped in Eldest's class, too.

-- The eight inches of snow we got overnight Monday is almost all melted. Wednesday was gorgeous: mid 50s and sunny. I'm determined to not wear my winter coat again until November.

-- Watching my Wisconsin friends go ape-poop over the politics has been interesting. Although I'm sure I'd be enraged if I still lived there, I'm not as fazed when ridiculous politics happen in Utah: I knew what I was getting into when we moved here. And at least the politicians here don't like big demonstrations: When one bill was seriously challenged this week, many legislators took pause (the governor signed it anyway; again, not shocked). I'm just happy the state government loosened the liquor laws a couple years ago.

-- My dad's generation wore Converse (which I liked, by the way), mine wore Nike, and I…

Maddening March, part 3

By the winter of 1981 I had learn to like basketball. During the winter of 1981, I learned to love basketball -- watching it and playing it.

I can't remember how often my friends and I would simply go to the park the play basketball before that winter 30 years ago. I suppose we did occasionally, just as we went to the park to play football or baseball. But that winter 30 years ago, I remember, maybe for the first time, going to the park by myself to just shoot around. The first time, I walked to Oriole Park's fieldhouse and shot around inside. I must have had the hankering to go, because I was just shooting baskets on my own. I remember the fieldhouse had a soft rock station playing over the PA and hearing "What Kind of Fool" by Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb. The gym was mostly empty, so I had a basket all to myself. This may have been one of the first times I just shot on my own. I know I'd shoot around at my dad's basketball games at any opportunity (read:…

Maddening March, part 2

I first got hooked on college basketball in 1979.

I had been playing and watching hoops since I was 6 in early 1977, but for the most part, I watched the NBA. The Bulls around that time were good, and my dad preferred the NBA then, so I naturally started liking the NBA too. I even got to go to the Bulls' practice facility one preseason and get autographs; I'll never forget how tall 7-foot-2 Artis Gilmore was to the 4-foot-1 Joey G.

But in 1979, my loyalties changed. DePaul had one of the best teams in the country, and my father took me to my first college basketball game.

DePaul used to play in their on-campus gym instead of an arena out in the suburbs, and my dad got is in for a game against Lamar. By "got us in," looking back, I don't think we had tickets. We got there a little late, somehow got in, and sat on the stairs on the edge of the bleachers rather than in the bleachers. The atmosphere was amazing, especially in such a small gym. DePaul won and headed into…

The big brush-off

I woke up this morning to eight inches of snow on our cars. I went outside to brush off the cars and start shoveling the walk and driveway. But the cars took so much time I barely got to the driveway. Every winter, I remember how much work shoveling is but forget what a task the brushing is, especially after big snowfalls. Besides the time it takes to get that much snow off the top of the car, I added eight inches of snow onto the driveway.

Luckily, I won't have to shovel too much the rest of the day -- the temperature is already in the 40s and the snow is melting. I hope this doesn't create flooding for other people, but I won't be sad when this snow is gone in three days.

Maddening March, part 1

March has arrived, which is great because not only is spring on it's way and the MLB season will begin, but college basketball is in Madness mode.

There was a time when I lived for the college basketball season -- the whole season, not just March. If a game was being televised, I'd be watching it. My love for college basketball is probably one of many reasons I ended up as a sports journalist. But since I got to Utah, my interest started to trail off a little. I think the combination of being far away from the teams I followed the most, the fact the Utahns have been nuttier about their football teams the last decade (and nuttier about the Jazz rather than college hoops), and that I was working full-time nights and not watching as much.

All that said, I still love March. The first two days of the NCAA Tournament are two of my favorite non-holidays of the year. Inevitably, my alma mater always seems to lose that first weekend of the tourney, but that's better than when I was i…

Fuelish decisions

The price of gas is going up, up, up again, and I'm starting to wonder if it's going to be worse (more expensive) than it was a few years ago. So I'm starting to devise ways to use less gasoline in the coming months.

The obvious first step is to get the repairs on the cars that might affect fuel economy. The Outback needs a new catalytic converter and new tires -- those two things should save gas. Our 14-year-old Corolla still runs well and gets great mileage, but will need a new clutch soon (it's still on its original), and not having that hung up in the shop will help.

The next step is to find alternate wheels. Eldest is riding his bike quite well, and Littlest is probably just a few hours of instruction away from riding without training wheels. Wife and I owned two bikes that were somewhat damaged, but last year, we managed to get one working bicycle from the two. If we get that tuned up and buy another bike -- one that's not so expensive, a $200 Schwinn should do…