24 June 2009

Old School Hip Hop

I've done a lot of nothing over the course of the break. Nothing I could consider legitimate uses of free time. I spent a lot of time in Birmingham, and listened to a song that has the words "Halle Barry!" in it what seemed to be thousands of times, and by the end of the week had made an meteoric rise to the top of my most hated songs. I also have spent an amount of time in front of the television that even big time couch potatoes would call excessive (I can now say I have seen every episode of NCIS, as well as all three genres of Law and Order). I'm running out of TV shows to watch, which is why I find myself listening to more music, and for the last few days, I have been on what could only be described as obsessive. I've been, as the DJ's and Hip Hop Heads say, digging in the crates, pulling up some of the old classics, and it occured to me that one of the wonderful things about this forum is I can pass along some of the music that's been thumping in my head.

Not enough run goes to the female MC's...and when I think of the tightest females in the genre, for the most part, refer to this woman as a backbone of influence. Lyte, always with tight lyrics, always managed to leave a good message, and this song is a fine example of this...poor georgie...



Anyone that knows me knows a couple of things- 1) I love smart, lyrically driven hip hop music, and 2) i rep all things minnesota, even to the point of forgetting Tavarris Jackson was terrible when we drafted him and instead rep him on the "black QB's" tip...Rhymesayers, a Minnesota hip hop label most well known for being the label of Atmosphere, has provided me with both of these things. Brother Ali is a under the radar rapper, and his beats always seem to resonate with me. There were as many as 15 songs I could have chosen, but I decided to let you hear the song I first heard, the song that made me go to iTunes and become a Brother Ali fan...




I think today, I'm going to try to go out for a run. It's one of those things I know I'm going to regret 1000 ways to Sunday when I actually go out and do it and i imagine that during most of it, I will feel like death is taking over. All these things being said, the road to getting healthier is paved with unpleasent physical feelings, some modicum of sacrifice, and the motivation to facilitate action in the face of laziness and inertia. I figure if I write it down, it will be much harder to not get done, as I will know there's a transcript of my intent, and a place I can refer back to any failures if I happen to not get it done. I remember once, my mother telling me that the sign that you're truly getting old is when the idea of doing something that requires exertion, not actually doing anything that requires exertion, but the idea of that, is enough to commit you to inaction, then you're old.

I'm old.

21 June 2009

Nationals is over, can summer start, or how i spent my week out of a Birmingham Jail

As a teacher, I have come to have a greater appreciation for summer. For most of us, it starts the minute the last day of school is over, minus any time you spend cleaning classrooms, doing necessary inservices and fininshing the end of the year checklists. For me, however, my summer can never really start until the end of the National Forensics League National tournament, this year in the thriving metropolis of Birmingham, AL. The tournament starts ten days after school is officiallly over, and it is a week long, so my summer doesn't officially start until the day after the National Tournament ends (as you can imagine, being the sole responsible party for kids in another state for a week can be tiring, add the 95+ temperatures and insane humidity, and you can imagine why my first instinct upon return to California was to actually kiss the ground, an instinct i managed to hold myself back from doing. My flight from Birmingham landed in the Bay Area yesterday, so my summer started when I got out of bed...kinda...I still have to close up business for the tournament, which more than anything else will mean I am eventually reimbursed for purchases and meals during the week...this in theory does seem to indicate I would be able to do more blogging, but it is equally likely that I might decide the TV show "Monk" isn't really stupid, it is instead quirky and smart, so i need to watch every episode...

...i had anticipated doing some blogging while i was in Birmingham, but a couple of things prevented me from doing so, and the most important of them was that Birmingham was a sweltering hell hole, and this meant that every place in town I went, I somehow managed to be sweating, even with buildings I knew had air conditioning in them. Hard to get your work on while you're sitting around, miserably hot. Probably produces good novels, but rains on good ideas in a blog format like R Kelly rains on 15 year old girls or like Pac Man Jones makes it rain in the Atlanta strip clubs. I sat around with numerous ideas, things I could have written about, but then something started happening...we started winning...

...The way the tournament functions is there are six rounds with two critics in each round, and in order to advance to elimination debates, teams have to win eight of twelve ballots. Teams that don't win their 8 ballots, they get to enjoy the slendor of the town nationals happens to be in, this year, the Civil Rights hotspot, Birmingham. Teams that win at least 8 ballots start a new, double elimination tournament, and is allowed to advance as long as they have not lost two debates, with the last two teams with one loss (or no losses, possibly) debating in the final round. My team won 10 of their first 12 debates, which allowed us to participate in the elimination rounds. The kids won their first elimination round, and then hit a self induced roadmap in round 8, losing a debate to a team we, quite honestly, should have been able to handle, but didn't take care of business, and were one round down after eight. After the discussion about leaving nothing to chance, they went on a bit of a run, and won every debate until the semifinals...however, this meant that any time i wasn't sweating like I was in a sauna, i was pacing the halls of whatever high school i happened to be. stressfully waiting for decisions for debates- also not the most effective means to faciltiate the writing of a blog....over the course of time writing this, I made reference to one of my debaters, and how her faith in the activity had been rattled, based on our performance at the TOC...it depressed me because I was concerned- I wanted her to have a positive final debate experience, something she could take with her in her post-debate days to place a smile on her face. When we lost that debate on Tuesday, I was a little concerned we could just end up on the wrong side of some luck, and our race could be run. when they debated all day day three, and knew there were but nine teams left in the tourney, I knew they would have an experience to remember...most kids dream of being on stage to receive awards at the National tournament, and at the end of her career, much to her surprise, there she was, with a smile that i can only hope tries to replace the experience in Kentucky....

told you I owed you one, kid...hope this helps...

11 June 2009

Flashbacks, or how even the darkest clouds have silver linings

Every once in awhile, usually when the mind is allowed to wander unhindered, I find myself thinking about experiences that seemed unimportant and/or mundane at the time that, upon reflection, end up being relatively important, much more important than i could have possibly imagined. Normally, I just forget about these experiences and watch another episode of Law and Order (or one of the many spin-off shows or mirror image shows put out by other networks), flip on the XBox 360 and play a round of Tiger Woods, or just do nothing and fully enjoy the leisure of the life of a teacher in the summer. Today, I choose to share one of these with my friends...

let's preface this with a couple of caveats. first of all, this is when I was in college, and in college, I had a period of time where i experimented with drugs. That being said, there will be some references to some drugs in this. If this bothers you, i'll just tell you to turn the page now and save yourself from the gang-raping of your virgin ears. Also, this happened before September 11, 2001, so there is no way this story could happen today. Thanks, Osama Bin Laden. Third, any references that might appear to be about Miley Cirus is just an illusion, and you should get your mind out of the gutter...everyone knows she's being turned out by the Jonas Brothers...

...I've done a fair amount of transfering between some of the highest academic, accredited institutions in the USA. I had just transfered from Gonzaga University, a mistake I rank up there among the three dumbest things I'd ever done, and ended up at the Sonoma State of the Wasatch, Weber State University. I was going to school and debating for Weber State, and was having a decent semester, not insofar as travel, but in the little traveling i was doing, i had been relatively successful. Apparently, the Heart of America debate tournament, in Lawrence, KS was going to be really small in NDT debate, so Nick and Steve chose not to go, and decided to stay home and get ready for districts instead. But since tickets had already been bought, the director tells me that I will be attending the tournament, in CEDA debate. To give a little history, I had debated at the Heart in CEDA the year before when I debated at Chico, and we took a hellified ass-beating, winning a lone debate. Out of eight, which looks a lot like 1-7. It was the worst tournament I'd had since my first debate (another story I imagine i will tell at another time), and we spent weeks getting ready for the tournament. The director tells me (i will repeat, tells me, doesn't ask, just tells) I will be going with two days to prepare. This was a guaranteed beat down, and i wasn't really feeling it. He then told me I'd be going with one of my friends, DL. Now I will also note that DL is my friend, but a good debater, he wasn't. So his going doesn't change the inevitible, it just makes it more entertaining...so the tournament is advancing, and we're doing a lot of things, but winning debates was not one of those things. We're going into debate 7 with a stellar record of 1-5, and we're debating a team from the University of Wyoming, a team we'd been beating like red-headed stepchildren for the entire year. The Heart was experimenting with new, crazy formats, from a total block of time consisting of cross-examination and prep time, and you can use it at your leisure, to giving each team 20 minutes of prep time, which was the wrinkle during this debate. During 2AC prep time, my debate partner says he's going outside for a smoke. I assumed he was going to smoke a cigarette. I was incorrect...
...background: we brought a lot of mushrooms to the tournament. I'm not exactly sure how much, because I had spent the greater part of the semester eating the quarter pound i initially purchased (gave money, didn't know how much i was going to get, was pleasently stunned, and, with no connections and no desire to spend years in the clink, so selling was out of the question), all i know is i was carrying a extra large ziplock bag with a ton of dry, crushed mushrooms. My debate partner had gotten the habit of smoking the mushrooms, which when you're at home, I really had no complaints....Time is elaspsing, and the critic asks me if i know where my partner is, and i tell him i don't know, but we should have some time. Turns out he's been gone 18 minutes, so i go out to find him- he's outside, in some doorway, smoking mushrooms (we didn't have a pipe, but we traveled with a waterpipe called the USS Enterprise, a two person, three chambered piece with two tubes where people (theorhetically) can compete against each other, and when one person pulls off, the other gets the smoke from all three chambers). DL is sitting in the doorway, alone, smoking out of both tubes of this bong, when i remind him about the debate that he needs to give a speech in about 45 seconds. It worked out like you could imagine, a boot in the junk. We were clubbed like baby seals in this debate, to an inferior team (before your time, Stannard), so much so that this debate was forfieted in the 2NR. DL wanted to go smoke, and i needed to be alone, so we went our seperate ways. I'm at the Heart, for the second year in a row, with a 1-6 debate ahead of me. This couldn't have been a more dire time. I was considering quitting, when i decided to go smoke a little pot, hopefully to make this whole experience a little better. So I walk around the building, look for a couple of places where i could be alone. I know nothing about Kansas except that I couldn't have bought a bottle of alcohol, to drown my misery in something distilled (I would do this later in the hotel bar at the Heart, a bar you'd have to experience to truly believe). Besides, I still had one debate left to deal with (but at that time, I had already decided going 2-6 was not any better than going 1-7, so this debate was a wash- how could i think anything different, we fucking forfieted a round earlier)....
...so i go downstairs outside this massive building the Heart is being held in. Down one flight. Down two flights. Down three flights. Yes, this is the place, debaters would be far too lazy to come way the hell over here to do their business, and I definitely need the alone time. I need to figure out if i should even do this. This is supposed to be the hardest tournament in CEDA debate, and if the best is serving me up like this, maybe I should re-evaluate this. So I find my space, a little ledge, overlooking a side of the campus. I pulled out a pipe (I'm resourceful if nothing else, and borrowed a piece from my friends from the University of Oregon, who rolled tough to tournaments), packed it up and took a hit...probably a hit too big for my britches, and found myself coughing hysterically. Afraid I'd be caught, i went down one more floor, just to be safe. As i was about to take a hit, i hear, in the distance, the spastic, frantric cough that's familiar to anyone that's enjoyed the fine herb. I take a small hit as to not expose myself, and i hear the cough again. For some reason, and relatively out of character, I decide to call out to my unseen smokers, by telling them to join me, as "we're all doing the same thing." Turns out to be three people, two people from the southeast, an NDT team debating CEDA for the weekend (let's call them Jack and Jill) and a stellar NDT debater from some school I can't remember (let's call him Akbar). We didn't know each other, but got to know each other, casually, over a couple of bowls, some from the southeast, and some from Oregon (as I said, the Oregon kids came strapped- but once again, this is way before September 11). We chatted, talked of our homes, a lot about debate and, if I remember, a fair amount about literature...and sometime during that conversation, my desire to quit this activity seems to have disipated...in fact, i went in to the next debate, and lose. But in the debate, I made a critic listen to an entire debate about Hasty-G, something I knew he would hate, but something i wanted to do, just to see how people would answer it if the entire debate was focused on it (something Jill reminded me, debate's for debaters, something I try to remind myself of every day). I'm still friends with Jill, and I consider Jack one of my good friends...so out of the "American Me" raping of my confidence as a debater, or so I would have thought, came the reminder of why I do this, and found a good friend. Better day than i would have expected....



09 June 2009

Lazy and Old is the only way I know.

Well, it's been a few days since i've written, and i wish i had some awesome excuse for why i wasn't writing, and if i had to come up with something, some reason why i haven't blogged, it could be summed up with two words, old and lazy...neither of these were a particular surprise to me, as i have been me for all my life, and that means that sometimes, i will just do nothing. Ironically, with the summer off and no real plans ahead of me, i really wanted to watch the movie "Office Space" (and if you haven't seen this movie, it's a must see, and you should stop reading my shit right now and download it on Netflix- it's a classic, even if you like your job), but couldn't get myself to the video store or Fry's to buy it on Blue-Ray. This is when I began to figure out the implications of getting old.

I woke up on Wednesday of last week and I was in agonizing pain, shooting from my back (those of you that are laughing, it'll come back to haunt you like testicular cancer haunts Josh Bidwell, pride of the University of Oregon). I wanted to do a variety of things over the course of the weekend, and had even contemplated a drive to my favorite place in the world, Las Vegas, to enjoy a little stress free time before the NFL National torunament (not football, but visualizing my team playing football is humor in and of itself), but all of these things (including a drive to Blockbuster or some video store) were cut down like California Redwoods by paper companies, as I was in too much pain to get anything done. So I went to the doctor, and I will preface this with something that is probably pretty close to universally true- I hate, hate hate hate, hate doctors. I hate doctors like Silky Johnson hated on Buck Nasty's suit, like Hatfields hate McCoys, like a chornic masturbator would hate living in the Big Brother house. I have a variety of reasons I hate doctors, and I imagine the blog format will allow me to rant about those in more detail at a later date. Doctors generally just seem really intent of getting you out of the office and work too hard to give you drugs rather than try to prevent the problem at all or find means that
have to be healthier than pumping pharmaceuticals into you. So anyway, I went to the doctor to explain my predicament, and she asked if I had ever taken painkillers before, to that I answered that I had. She then perscribes something which I can only imagine is some sort of elephant tranquilizer, because these things destroyed me, I was useless for hours after taking half of the prescribed dose (apparently she took my saying I've taken painkillers to mean I had an Oxycodone pill addiction, and needed something strong, which I appreciate). Clearly, i needed to find way to resolve the issues of pain and not make myself the dumbest person in any room i would ever enter, and I have been riding that wave for the last week.

which leads me to the lazy part. At the point I made the decision to not take the painkillers and just try to ride it out, and to take copious, liver runing amounts of over the counter anti-inflammatory types of painkillers, I have no reason why I couldn't have gotten things done, but if i had to catalog my time since I woke up last wednesday to right now, it would be an accurate to say i've played a lot of video games, i've watched a ton of television, but i haven't gone to visit friends, I haven't gone shopping to make sure i had food stuff I wanted (which at this point is futile, as I will gone for a week, leaving Saturday). I've found myslef making a variety of excuses, and the only one that really has been true was the "drugs are kicking my ass, dawg" excuse. It's ironic, becase I am really lazy, my parents instilled something I've head referred to as "guilt." I can't sit around and do absolutely nothing. So, in between games of NBA 2K9, Tiger Woods Golf, online poker and just being enveloped by televsion of all sorts, good and bad, I have managed to get one goal a day done. The goals I set for given day are framed by my experience with my friend and old debate coach, Bill Shanahan. He once told me to set goals and dreams you can only imagine being able to attain, and to not be disappointed by the failure, because your "failure" may be a lot further, a lot better, than the goal you would have set for yourself. That being said, I set goals I would have assumed would take me a week to finish, one for each of the last four days, and i've gotten them done in their entirity, which is simultaneously stunning and depressing (a lot of it was school prep, and it took me almost no time to do something i'd been putting off for years because i was afraid I didn't have the time). Now I have most of my major tasks for the summer taken care of. A friend said i should try to write the Great American Novel...i'm just gonna try and write in the blog close to daily...


04 June 2009

Superstitions...



I was thinking about my team's success this year, in particular I had been thinking about our relatively surprising run at the NCFL Grand National tournament, as it is relatively unprecedented to have one team in the late eliminations, much less two teams. I flashed back to each of the elimination debates, where before each debate, there is a coin toss to determine which team will get to choose the side of the debate they want to defend (as you can imagine, it is largely advantageous to be affirmative, but even if you choose not to affirm, it means YOU'RE choosing, which makes things better, regardless of the circumstances). Either way, winning the coin toss, whether it's causal or correlary, makes it much easier to win debates. I'm not normally a very superstitious person, but when it comes to debate, that changes. Before every coin toss, every coin toss my team is involved in, i will repeat, every coin toss, i leave the room, trying to be as far away from the toss as i could be, feeling my mere presence somehow forces the coin to the opposite side than we need/want/prefer...As I was rapidly trying to leave the building before the octafinals (sweet 16), i remember someone asking me why I left, and I told them that when I'm not around for a coin toss, the odds go back to 50-50, and when I'm present, we never win (which may not actually be true, but I haven't seen a coin flip we've won in over 10 years, and I've seen us lose about 15 coin flips, so I just try to be gone. It also gives me ample opportunity to pace, stress, and worry about losing the coin flip...

...another superstition i have is related to the game of poker. i am a mathematically driven poker player, and i usually play hands based off a variety of mathematical pieces of information, so it means i can end up playing any given two cards...except the starting hand of pocket 3's. FUCK POCKET THREES. I have no logical reason to believe as i do, as I understand that, mathematically, this hand is no worse than other absolutely awful hands i have been known to turn over (3-2 unsuited, for example). For years and years, the pocket 3's just booted me in the junk, and it seemed that pocket 3's were always on the back end of me losing a bunch of fucking money (I actually keep stats, and by the mathematics and empirics, i should feel this way about pocket 10's and AQ suited, which have each cost me more money in the last 2 years than pocket 3's, when i still played those rotten motherfuckers). I found myself needing to make a decision, and it ended up with me not playing pocket 3's. Not even for free. On the big blind. Won't even see the flop for free, waiting for the possibility of getting fucked with the low end of the full house or having my trips not be enough. I get made fun of by my poker playing friends, and I couldn't care less. We all have our issues...

...this leads me to the blue polo shirt. I got the idea from Tiger Woods, who I imagine thought his shit out more than I did. I wanted to do this, had given it a fair amount of thought, and that night, we all drove home (tournament was at Diablo Valley College, which is a kitty's paw swipe at the testicles, but we did nonetheless) and i ended up getting painstakingly drunk the night before, so when I woke up, I grabbed the first clean shirt that was acceptable to wear around high school kids, which just happened to be a blue polo. I wore it, and we won the tournament. I'm a dork, so I'm the kind of guy that keeps stats about shit like this, and here are the numbers- outrounds wearing the shirt, in 3 years -31-16 as a squad, and the days I don't wear it, we're 2-11. Think what you want to think, but it seems that we win when I'm wearing one (i now own many). Do I think it's actually tied to us winning? Not at all, but I'm packing three for NFL's...

...I also find myself following another superstition that seems tied to the debate experience. The first year I was at my current job, I had been to tournaments for 9 weekends in a row, and so the decision was made for me to get the weekend off, and the only time I showed up at the tournament was the qualification round for NFL's, which we lost (the only round I was there for, I lost). So the next year, I decided to not show up at the tournament AT ALL the next year, fearing my mere presence may have jinxed the situation- and we qualified. This year, I had the same fear, did the same thing, and we qualified again. Is there a correlation to my not showing up and our winning? No. We win because, when it's all said and done, we have one of the top teams in the district, and I know that has much more to do with it, their monumental levels of preparation, unique and powerfully adaptive skill set. And I know that. But will I still leave the room before coin flips? Absolutely. Will I try to not be present for the NFL qualifier again this year? Hell, yeah (and I ain't gonna lie, I hate, like Buck Nasty hates, the NFL qualifier like a guy hates getting kicked in the balls)....

...but then i started to think about it...why do i have superstitions? And, more specifically, why do I have the specific superstitions I carry? Why am I superstitious about these things, but couldn't care less about stepping on a crack, walking under a ladder and breaking a mirror (all things I've done before, in fact, all in one, really drunken evening (the best thing about that evening is nobody asked me why i was carrying a Tupperware container of mashed potatoes). I figured that things I have superstitions about are all related to things that actually matter to me. It would be relatively fruitless to be afraid of walking on cracks in the road if you lived in an area where there were no sidewalks, it wouldn't matter if you needed to wear your lucky Giants hat when you went to the game if you didn't care about the outcome. My love for debate and my love for poker means that I do whatever I think needs to happen to guarantee success for these things. I guess that's probably where superstitions came from in the first place, just crazy shit we hope to interject to hopefully influence something that can't be controlled by shit like this. In the same way that I make fun of myself for somehow thinking that my merely watching a game means we lose (didn't watch, would listen or follow online) Minnesota Viking games for the greater part of the '90's, because I was convinced my watching meant we lost. I only decided to watch again when I MOVED to Minnesota.

02 June 2009

I haven't forgotten about the blog...

...but the semester is almost over, and as soon as i am finished grading these terrible papers, i'll be back in the saddle again....assume i'll write Wednesday, and from Monday on, it should be an almost everyday thing...

3 fists and a tip