Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day

     So Company, today is St. Patrick's Day and by now you are hung over, Company.  Because you were day drinking today I would assume.  I was going to write a bunch of stuff about St. Patrick himself, but it appears that I have already done that, so I guess I am all out of ideas.  So let's just leave it at this:  Happy St. Patrick's Day!  May many snakes follow you during marching band.  And I hope that you get that joke.  Be safe and have a great day!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Selection Sunday

     Well Company, it is Selection Sunday, and I could not be more excited.  The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is my favorite spectacle in the world of sport, more even than the Super Bowl or Opening Day (a close second) or the Tim Horton's Brier.  I would probably like the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament just as much if I were to watch it so I am going to give it the benefit of the doubt.  Today is the day that every one of the sixty-eight teams which are in the tournament learn a.) if they are in the tournament or not and b.) where they have to play and whom they have to play and when they have to play.  Okay, so maybe that was more than two, but the "b" option can be described as their seeding in the parlance of people who know and care.
    Now, Company, you know that I do not generally like to do sports articles on here because most of you just don't care, and that's okay.  So I am not going to talk about stuff in this post like why I feel conference champions should never be in the First Four because they have already played their way into the Tournament and the First Four should be the last four teams in, so that this year's First Four should be like UCLA, Indiana, LSU, and Texas.  I am going to steer this more towards the human aspect of Selection Sunday.  Because that is what makes Selection Sunday so unbelievably great.
     One of the unique aspects of Selection Sunday is that CBS - who holds the right to reveal the seedings to the world - takes its cameras into locker rooms and hotel conference rooms and arenas of all these teams to see how they react to what is going on.  There are three main groups: The teams that know they are in and are usually in and are just waiting to see their seeding; the teams that know they are in and are maybe a small school that doesn't always get into the Tournament who are waiting to see who will be their Goliath; and those school that desperately hope they are going to be invited to the Tournament but aren't quite sure.  Those are called "bubble teams" and they are said to be "on the bubble."
    The first group - the ins - are the most boring.  They are sitting in an amazing film room in their giant high-dollar athletic facility or maybe a conference room at the nearest Hyatt, and they look like they couldn't care less.  The feign excitement, their coach talks about how they can't overlook the tiny liberal arts college from New Hampshire that has been chosen to play them, and the studio hosts have erections when they talk about them.  LAME. No one cares because you obviously don't and there is no mystery or joy in anything you do.  You are the IRS of basketball teams because they are monolithic, and nobody really likes them until the refund check arrives in the mail.  And you are mad when they screw you over.
     The second group is pretty fun.  These guys usually go to a smaller school that is either a.) not known for basketball or b.) just generally not known.  They have most likely won their conference tournament - a conference that you never knew existed - and in all likelihood they are not going to win many games in this Tournament.  They may not win at all.  But they are excited at the chance.  Simply the hope of being able to do something fantastic.  So when it gets announced that they have the opportunity to fly across the country in three days to play a team that in all likelihood will beat them by eleventy billion points, they are JACKED UP!  They are sitting in a lecture room or maybe the coach's basement rec room, wearing their warmups, and they could not be more ecstatic.  Enjoy guys.  Have a fun time with that.  But I love that you are excited.  And you are excited because you are living your dream.
    Watching people live their dreams is one of the most American things in the world.  That is why Extreme Makeover Home Edition was on TV for all those years.  And it is why I love those second group guys.  But the third group is where all the action is, because these are the guys who DON'T KNOW what is going to happen.  This is where all the drama is.
     You can further break down the third group are the teams that don't know if they are in but are not big name schools, and the teams that don't know if they are in but ARE big name schools.  These big name schools are usually hoping that they can skate by on their big name and history and the fact that a lot of the other schools they played were pretty good and are in that first group.  They are in their super high end film rooms and they are terrified.  Because the expectation was that they would be in the Tournament.  And they might not be.  And the NIT is looming.  You can see the fear in their eyes.  So when their name appears on the ten line and they find out they are playing Wichita State they are relieved more than anything.  Despite the fact that they wouldn't play Wichita State during the regular season because they were afraid they would lose to them and it would keep them out of the Tournament.  Ironic, huh?
     The small schools are the best drama though, because they have VERY LITTLE going for them.  Those big name schools can often skate in just because they are themselves and people want to see them in the Tournament.  But those small schools really sweat on Selection Sunday.  When the team sees their name it is unbridled passion and joy and relief.  The highest form of it.  Nothing matters.  They are in.  They are living their dream.  You could come in and tell them that they were all losing their scholarships next year and it would not phase them.  They jump and scream and act like kids because, you know, they are all between eighteen and twenty.
      But then there is always that one school that does not make it in.  And you just can't but help feeling for those guys.  They are heartbroken.  Their rug has been yanked out from under them and their hope was on it.  Later on, when they look back at their run to the third round of the NIT, they will see the season as a success.  And most likely it was because they had twenty wins, less than ten losses, and made a postseason tournament of some sort.  They represented themselves well.  But in this moment, on Selection Sunday, they are doing everything they can to not cry on national television.  And it breaks my heart a little bit.
     That is why I love Selection Sunday.  All of that human drama.  Teams of guys working tirelessly towards a goal that they may or may not achieve.  And it all hangs in the balance in that one golden moment, on a weekend in March.  In their coach's basement.  On Selection Sunday.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

In Defense of Daylight Savings Time

     By the time that you read this, Company, you will already have sprung your clocks ahead.  Somewhere during the middle of the night you will have lost a whole hour of your precious little life in a feeble attempt to offset the hour that you relived - Groundhog Day style - back in the fall.  All in the name of Daylight Savings Time, an antiquated notion regarding how we all keep time that not everyone observes, and which is observed slightly differently and arbitrarily by those of us who do choose to observe it.
    That is the problem with time - that it is arbitrary.  Time used to be simple, man.  When the sun was at its highest point in sky it was noon where you were standing and life was good.  But then the railroads came along and things got impossible.  If you have trouble with one of those "A train leaves Baltimore..." math questions, imagine if there was no uniform time being kept and there was no way to tell exactly how far apart that station in Baltimore is from the other station in Wichita where the other train is leaving from.  So the railroads turned to something even more ridiculous and greedy and untenable than they themselves were: The government.  And as it is wont to do, the government went ahead and fucked time right the hell up.
     They sort of did a good thing because they got together with all the other countries and sort of decided how they wanted to do it.  And it made sense for the most part.  Until a couple of things happened: 1.) Some countries gave the right to administer time within their boundaries to their political subdivisions like states or provinces and 2.) Countries realized that time was arbitrary and they could mess with it however the hell they wanted.  So you have issues like China which has decided to put its entire country on one time zone instead of the four that it really should have under the original system, so that at its border with Afghanistan there is a FOUR HOUR time difference from one side of the pass to the other.  Or you get the weird half hour time zone that they choose to have in Newfoundland because...well, I suppose they do it just to be dicks.  And then people started living in cities and things REALLY got messed up.
     See, we started living in apartments and working in offices and factories before we really got around to mastering electricity, so we could only do worthwhile things while it was light outside.  That is why older building have really big windows all over them, or at least big window spaces.  So someone noticed that it was often dark at inopportune times and decided that if we moved the clocks we could have more light while we were trying to do stuff.  Then, once they started to have some energy crises and they realized it helped to save money, it was here to stay.
    But things are different now.  All the young people who are starting to be in charge of posting things on the Internet these days are starting to rebel against Daylight Savings Time.  As we have been ramping up to the springing forward all I have seen is article after article crying out that we need to abolish Daylight Savings Time.  Wipe it off the face of the earth.  "I mean, it is just a human designed thing meant to benefit us humans so we can do with it what we want, right?  Plus, our iPhones sort of have a problem with updating it automatically so I am not sure we can keep it.  It is just an antiquated idea from a much different time."
     No.  There is your answer, dirty hipster.  No.  We need to keep Daylight Savings Time.  Sure it is inconvenient to change the two clocks in your house that don't automatically do it for you.  And yeah, I worked in a hotel during one of the changes and it sucked dick because there were three clocks in each room and there were like sixty rooms and it took me forever.  And yeah, when you work overnights there is no way that you don't get screwed on time change night.  I get that.  But Daylight Savings Time still holds important cultural and social significance that makes it relevant.
     First of all, everybody who is able to be asleep on the fall back night loves it.  An extra hour of sleep that I get without losing an hour of my day that I need to binge watch Arrested Development on Hulu Plus?  Sign me up!  No one ever complains about getting the extra hour of sleep.
     When the spring forward time comes, it is a little more complex.  The change in time to make the light be out longer at night, when it magically goes from sunset at five to sunset at six, that effect if positively magical.  And in a way it is magic, because it is nothing more than altering reality to make things appear differently.   But that is okay.  With one rotation of the minute hand on your watch, suddenly summer is here and it is here in a hurry.  It gives hope.  Something you desperately need after a long winter.
     Okay, so maybe the arguments for keeping Daylight Savings Time are a little flimsier than those against it.  I understand.  But that doesn't mean that it has to go away, does it?  Sometimes the value in doing certain things is simply in the fact that we do them.  It is just a part of us.  Just like springing forward and falling back.  So let's just keep with it.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Showing You Up

     So it is Sunday morning, Company, and in the grand tradition of the American male I am talking to my television, despite the fact that it does not complete the conversation.  Well, okay.  I am yelling at my television.  The reason being is that I am watching a show in which a guy shows you how to do home improvements and basic carpentry projects.  Today he is building a custom barbecue cart to put out next to his grill, complete with wheels, a cutting board, a paper towel holder, and a spice rack.  It is streets ahead I have to admit.  That being said, it is completely, totally out of reach for 90% of the population, and probably closer to 99.7% of the people actually watching the show right now.
A spindle sander.  You don't own one.
     The problem with this show, and the bulk of how-to shows out there - be them car repair shows, cooking shows, building shows, etc. - is that 100% of them use tools that the average person doesn't have in their home.  There it is.  That is why I am yelling at the TV.  In making his cart, this guy has used both a spindle sander and a biscuit joiner.  Now let me ask you this, Company:  How many people do you know who own a biscuit joiner?  I know approximately zero. 
     This is not a rip on the guy who used one.  The spindle sander was the best tool for the job he was doing.  Same for the biscuit joiner.  Same for the cook who uses a stick blender or a cooking torch.  Or the mechanic who is using a gear puller.  These are all the right tools with the right techniques for doing these things.  But we don't have those in our garage or kitchen or garage.
     I understand - for all of you who want to be the devil's advocate - that in a large way these shows aren't designed to be instructional.  Most of the time, they don't ever intend for you to exactly replicate whatever they do.  These shows exist because people like to watch other people do things, especially things they can't do.  Maybe while watching the pros you get an idea for a new technique or tool that you might be able to use.  I am completely, totally aware of this phenomenon.  And all that is fine.  I do think, however, that there is another possibly unintended consequence of these shows.
     You watch the show because you are interested in what they do.  You like putzing in the garage.  You like to cook, or maybe you really like to eat.  So you watch shows about cooking or eating or putzing in the garage and see them doing all of these projects that you will never be able to do because you don't have the tools.  And you start watching all of the specialty tools and equipment they use in the shop.  And you see all
You probably don't have one of these slicers either.
of the exotic ingredients that they use in the kitchen that you would have to special order at great expense.  And somewhere deep in back of your mind, a door closes.  Your unconscious brain does the math after consulting with your paycheck and the amount of space available in your garage and your natural, God-given ability and your ability to learn new things and your time budget and makes the complicated decision that you will never be a woodworker.  Or you will never restore cars.  Or you will never be a fantastic gourmet chef.
     And there it goes.  There goes your dream.  So maybe there is a niche in there, Company.  We can leave all those pie in the sky shows because obviously they serve their purpose and we like them.  I am okay with them, I really am, even if I am a little angry that Rachel Ray can easily prepare any meal in 30 minutes because "she preps everything when she brings it home from the store."  Strange, I didn't know making a sous chef do it for you before the camera rolls counts as prepping it when you bring it home from the store.  Okay, rant over.  The point is that maybe, just maybe, we could have a couple of show where they say "This is how you can do it with the tools you have at home."  Which consist of a circular saw, a hand mixer, and six sockets.  You know what I mean?  I might not watch that show on TV all the time but I would be on their website EVERY FREAKING DAY.  Just a thought.  And if I had taken the time to Google this idea I am sure that I would see a YouTube channel or a website or two that brings this to fruition.  But is it too much to ask for a little realism on TV?