Friday, September 30, 2011

The daily show

I have been too tired to write lately. I'm not sure why -- perhaps I'm still settling in to our school year routine, even though it's already a month in. My other theory is that after a bunch of long, sweeping, sometimes nostalgic posts, I'm not always in the mood to do another. I should be doing another and even write some in advance when I get into these funks, but dealing with that is another issue. For now, I need to write about something today. When I originally started blogging, one goal was to record the events of the day -- a sort of journal. I got away from that, recapping busy, important days and glossing past the mundane. Well, maybe on days like today, when I lack the energy to write deeply, I need to just recap the day. Here it goes:

I got to sleep in a little bit today while the boys were at school. I picked up Ben and two of his friends midday and we went to a park for a little while, launching Stomp Rockets. Ber and I went to lunch at Einstein Bros., came home, took Popcorn outside, then ran a couple errands to the bank at Costco. Michael got home, and I took them for haircuts. I made wiener rolls and tater tots for dinner. The boys played with their friends until near 8 p.m. (they don't have school tomorrow), and we watched epic fails, Weird Al Yankovic and "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (Nee!) videos on my phone while we waited for Lori to get home from a baby shower. I watched a couple DVR'd shows and took Popcorn for a walk before coming downstairs to blog.

That was mundane. But it was our day, and always well worth it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Popcorn love

I've alluded to our new puppy a few times recently, and for those who haven't seen the pictures we have posted on Facebook, here is Popcorn:
We've owned Popcorn for about a six weeks now, and it's been a fun adventure. We decided to start looking for a dog after vacation, but we didn't think we'd get one so soon after we got back. One afternoon, I took the boys to a couple shelters just looking, thinking we wouldn't find a puppy. And we wanted a puppy -- this is the only time the boys will be able to enjoy a young dog while they are still young (we adopted our kitten last February with the same mind-set).

After visiting one shelter, we arrived at the Humane Society, and in a pen it the lobby were two black puppies. They were pointer-lab mixes names Popcorn and Izzy. The pups never spent time in the shelter, instead being fostered after their mother had given birth (they were only being adopted through the Humane Society). Lori came down to take a look at the pups, Ben chose Popcorn, and two hours after we walked through the Humane Society doors, we were dog owners.

Popcorn was named by the woman fostering the pups -- it was her favorite food -- and the boys liked it enough that we kept the name. After a month, she's become an integral part of our family, just as Maggie, our cat, did last winter. Popcorn has adapted well and hasn't pooped in the house in weeks (we're still getting some pee accidents in the kitchen). The dog and cat are co-existing, with Maggie finally realizing this is a friend she can play with (and taunt).

I have loved taking Popcorn on walks and am looking forward to when we can take her on longer hikes and on runs. We have just started taking her to an off-leash dog trail, which has been fun a little crazy -- she tends to get swept up in dogs going in the opposite direction as they pass us, leading to a little chasing by us.

But my favorite thing about her is how genuinely excited she gets to meet new people, especially kids. A trip to the boys' school to pick them up is a tail-wagging, attention-mongering expedition. I hope she doesn't lose that enthusiasm as she grows older.

With her name, I have had New Edition's "Popcorn Love" in my head for a month.

The boys love this song now since I began mindlessly singing it. They also love their new dog.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Timelessly perceptive

Back in the 1980s, before MP3s and around the time 45s stopped being practical, I was religious about taping songs off the radio for future listening on my Walkman. I still possess most of those tapes, and have even converted several to MP3 format.

This post isn't dedicated to those tapes. It's only about one song.

On the day before Thanksgiving in 1985, I was off school on a rainy, November day. Sitting in my room, listening to Fred Winston's show on WLS-AM. The Big 89 at this point was starting to play less and less Top 40, so it shouldn't have been a surprise when an "oldie" came on the radio. The song in question: "When You're in Love with a Beautiful Woman" by Dr. Hook. I must have recognized it right away, perhaps thinking "Wow, I haven't heard this in a while," because I went over to my boombox and hit record.

Over the years that I've listened to that tape, I must have remembered where I was when I recorded that song. That's true with many songs that I hear today -- I can remember where I was, or what the next song on the tape was, of the fidelity of the song. For example, "When You're in Love with a Beautiful Woman" wasn't in stereo on my tape because I taped it off AM.

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a classic American Top 40 from 1979 online when "When You're in Love with a Beautiful Woman" was streamed. And yes, I remembered the tape that I originally recorded the song and the circumstances around it. In 1985, I must have thought the six years since the song first was a hit must have been a lifetime.

Six years a lifetime? I know now, six years is nothing.

I think I've known that for a while, but hearing the song on a 1979 AT40 and remembering taping it in 1985 just reinforced the notion. Six years to a teenager is a long time. Six years to an adult, especially one with kids and who just turned 40, is a blur.

With the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 this month and the 10-year anniversary of the 2002 Olympics coming up, the blur seems blurrier than ever. Reading my blog posts from 2007 and wondering "Was that already four years ago?" doesn't help, either.

So why does the perception of time speed up as you get older? Is it merely that as kids, we can't wait to grow and it doesn't happen fast enough? And as adults, we don't want to get older, much less our children, that we notice the speed at which time passes?

Is it just perception? And if so, can we think of time like a child again? Can six years -- six good years, and not six years, say in prison -- be a lifetime once again?

Hopefully, it won't take six years to come up with an answer.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten years after

As I type this post on the night of Sept. 10, I know exactly what I was doing 10 years ago. I was at the newspaper working, waiting for the Monday night NFL game to end. Broncos receiver Ed McCaffrey broke his leg during the game. That was big news.

Twelve hours later, Ed McCaffrey's broken leg would become an afterthought.

A phone call woke me up on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Lori had already gone to work and knew I had worked late, so I couldn't fathom why she'd be calling so early (here in the Mountain time zone, the early events in New York were really early in Utah). But the caller wasn't Lori, it was my mother-in-law asking if she was home. Barely awake, I mumbled "Mom? Irene?" and told her Lori was at work. She figured that, but was calling to make sure we weren't flying anyplace this week because two planes had just crashed into the World Trade Center.

That woke me up. I turned on the news to begin watching the horrific events of the day unfold. I called Lori and my mom to see if she was watching what was going on. I watched the towers collapse. I listened as stunned newscasters started relaying reports that there had been an explosion at the Pentagon.

All this before 9:30 a.m. Aside from the horror I was witnessing, I had an odd thought -- I better put gas in the car before prices spike in a panic. I drove to Sam's Club and did a little shopping. The few people in the store seemed as dazed as I was.

I returned home and watched the coverage for the rest of the day. I had Tuesdays off back then, and though I called in to see if the newspaper needed help, I got to keep my day off. I don't think I made it out of the apartment the rest of the day. Lori eventually came home early -- no one was doing business this day.

The Onion put it best in a headline in their first issue after the attacks (pardon the language): "Holy Fucking Shit!" At some point, I should have just turned off the TV and given myself a break. Maybe because I'm a journalist, and maybe simply because it was impossible to turn away that day no matter how shocking all of this was, I didn't.

Besides the obvious horrors I witnessed on my TV screen that day, this is what I remember from watching that day.

-- The news scroll, such a staple at the bottom of the screen on news and sports channels, inauspiciously made its debut on Sept. 11. Probably because you can't take copy editing out of the copy editor, I couldn't help but notice spelling mistakes in the scroll.

-- At some point mid-afternoon, ABC aired video some guy on a bike had taken and was interviewing him. He had ridden to the remnants of World Trade Center and shot some footage -- the first footage taken at the sight -- of the remaining standing frame from the towers. For some reason, Peter Jennings (rest in peace) wasn't understanding what he was watching and asking some odd questions, and the guy finally declared something to the effect: "This is it, this is all that's left of the World Trade Center." Looking back, the newscasters might have been as freaked out as the rest of us, because Peter Jennings wasn't getting it.

-- Speaking of newscasters, one thing I kept noticing that morning was that Katie Couric looked hot. She was sporting this summery look that was too cute. Before that day, I had never really formed an opinion on Katie Couric's attractiveness. Why that morning? I can only think that the brain does odd things to defend itself from mental assaults. Watching everything that morning, was my brain trying to lessen the impact by suddenly deciding about how she looked? (FYI, later on, Paula Zahn looked good, too.)

-- At about 10 p.m. MDT, CNN aired video from Battery Park of the second plane hitting the south tower. This was the insanely close-up shot of the plane going in, and you didn't see it much in the days after, with the major news organizations realizing it was just too intense (just like videos of the jumpers never are aired or come after a warning). I think that's when I finally turned off Aaron Brown and CNN.

I crawled into bed and turned on the radio, hoping some sports talk would help me fall asleep, help me not think about everything I'd watched that day. But the only thing on sports radio was talk of terrorist attack. There was no place to escape. I don't remember specifically what I dreamed about that night, but I know the images of Sept. 11 crept into my mind after midnight, Sept. 12.

I was numb the rest of the week. Work was odd -- so many sporting events were canceled that there wasn't really much to do. I got to leave work early that Saturday night because no college football was played that day, and our usual 70-column Sunday section had been dropped to fewer than 30. No sports were being televised either, but ESPN did make me smile that Saturday night. The network, without anything else to televise, aired the NBA specials recapping the 1997 and 1998 NBA championships, in which the Bulls defeated the Jazz. Watching Michael Jordan play through the flu in one game and shoot over Bryon Russell to win the '98 title cheered me up, especially in an office full of Jazz fans.

I left work that Saturday and met Lori and some of her friends at Port O' Call, a bar in downtown Salt Lake City. It was a little crowded, but not overflowing. I drank a few beers, and we met a guy who also moved to Utah from Madison and talked with him for a while. For about 25 minutes -- for the first 25 minutes all week -- I had not thought about what had transpired the Tuesday before. My brain, filled with images of smoke, the CNN logo, debris, planes, misspelled news scrolls, explosions and sadness, finally took a break.

What's in a name?

When I first started thinking about writing a blog in the mid-2000's, my wife was concerned about putting details about our family on the web. This was at a time before Facebook exploded and all your friends knew so much of your life.

I finally entered the blogosphere in 2007, but referred to my family as Wife, Eldest and Littlest so as not to give away any intimate details. With generally only my friends reading this blog, and me plugging the blog on Facebook (where everybody knows the names of my family anyway), I've decided to stop using nondescript monikers. When writing about my family, it feels more natural to use their names, and I have to catch myself to use the nicknames -- sometimes slowing my train of thought. I've also resisted posting pictures of my family, even though I've posted dozens of them on Facebook. Realistically, I think my little blog is more tucked away then Facebook.

So blogosphere, here is my family: Wife, Eldest and Littlest, aka, Lori, Michael and Ben.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ready for some football

As I type this post, I'm watching the NFL season opener: a wild game between the Packers and Saints. The last four weeks or so have been dominated by three things: the kids starting school, the new puppy and fantasy football. After days of research and podcasts, the season has at last arrived. My NFL focus won't only be fantasy football; at work, I'll be putting together the NFL roundup every Sunday night for the Monday newspaper, just as I have been almost every Sunday for several years now.

The one thing I haven't been doing is blogging about the NFL. After four years, I stopped writing my NFL blog. I hadn't been as serious about posting over the last year or so, and even after trying to reignite my enthusiasm for back in the spring, I found myself slacking off on it again. I enjoyed the blog when I was actively posting, but it had become too much of a chore. And these past few weeks, I haven't missed it. In past years, I'd avoid too much outside analysis and opinions so as not to cloud or influence my own original posts. This year, without the blog hanging over me, I've been free to research like crazy. And I have researched like crazy, and it's paid off: I'm happy with the five fantasy teams (yes, just five this year) I ended up with.

By December, my NFL buzz will subside, just like my baseball buzz dwindles by late July. The buzz doesn't completely subside, particularly if I have a fantasy team or two in playoff contention, but by then, my enthusiasm for putting the NFL roundup together will wane and I'll be looking toward the end of the regular season. But that is weeks off. For now, I'm ready for Week 1 -- checking my fantasy stats, doing that first roundup, and enjoying a game that is synonymous with fall.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Summer's going fast, nights growing colder

Yes, my post title quotes Rush ("Time Stand Still" if you weren't exactly sure which song). Astronomically, summer has a couple weeks remaining. But with Labor Day ending in about 45 minutes as I type this, summer is perceptively over.

Back in May, I calculated that summer would last 102 days. Well, 102 days have passed. Did we get the most out of our summer? I think we got as much fun out of it as we possibly could. Yes, there were some lazy days, and I never did make it golfing, but as a whole, Summer 2011 rocked. And of course, it went too fast.

Here's a testament to the quality of this summer: I haven't worn socks in at least a month. Between working a part-time job in which I don't have to dress up, the warm weather, and not being able to go running in the past weeks (thanks to the time taken up by the new puppy and bruising my ribs on a roller coaster at Lagoon), I have not worn socks since Aug. 1 -- the last day I went running. Before that, the only socks might have also been running or working out. The few hikes we did I wore my new Keens, which are rugged enough for milder trails. The picture above is from the Michael Franti concert -- an event more than any in which shoes are discouraged. The whole summer has been like this.

But the barefoot/sandal streak is bound to come to an end, and I'll be visiting the sock drawer daily. After enduring hot weather before we went on vacation, humid weather on vacation, and more hot, dry weather in August, the heat wave in Salt Lake City finally broke last week. Evenings are a little cooler again, and though the temperature is warm, it hasn't been above 90 and won't be all week. Sunsets are getting earlier. School has begun. The NFL starts this week. I capitulated on listening to the August/September playlist on my iPod and enjoyed hearing The Police's "King of Pain" and Barenaked Ladies' "One Week" on it.

The end of summer is bittersweet, but the season is meant to end. I wonder if residents of Key West or Hawaii or some other warm clime discern between summer and the rest of the year. All my life so far, summer has ended and fall began, followed by winter and spring, then summer again. I'm looking forward to this fall, and not just because it was inevitable. I'll look forward to next summer as well and try to extract as much fun, memories and nostalgia out of it as I can. And as much as I want that summer to arrive, there's no hurry. There's fun, memories and nostalgia to find in every day until then. Why should I rush that?