Friday, March 30, 2007

Sometimes it just nice to know that I'm not a jerk

Tonight I played some pick-up basketball at a church with a group of people, only one of whom I really knew previously. The group was pretty varied in their talent levels, ranging from a couple guys who were decently quick and could knock down a 3, down to a couple people who were really lucky to make an open lay-up. Of course, that latter group could include me since I missed what felt like at least 20 gimmes. Of course its been at least a year since I even laced up my basketball sneaks and played in even a pickup game. Oh, and I forgot to mention this was co-ed with two girls who could hold their own with this crowd, (one tall, one short) and two who really were overmatched for the most part.

Anyway, now that I've set up the scenario for you, let me just say that one guy who was there was a jerk. There are a lot of other terms that come to mind for what I'd like to call him, but they just aren't appropriate in this forum. But he was that insidious type of jerk who doesn't really ever quite cross the line. Just in the way he carried himself and some of the things he did, it was clear that he had some real issues. I'm going to list a couple examples of things he did that just really irked me, and unless you play pickup ball you might not really understand.

#1) He thought he was pretty much the shizz, and I'll grant that he was quick and knocked down a couple tough shots. He tried to take me one-on-one quite a few times when I was guarding him and he thought he had some nifty spin moves, but they weren't really all that nifty, because he could really only go right in the end, although he did make some fade-aways and got past me a time or two (I'm not the quick cat I once was). But a couple times I stayed in front of him and he tried to go up for a layup and when he missed, he had the audacity to say that I fouled him "with the body". I've played a lot of pickup ball in my day, but I've never heard someone call their own foul "on the body", i.e., I didn't hit him at all with my hands or arms, but because he jumped into me and then missed, somehow it was a foul on me.

#2) On numerous occasions when he had knocked the ball away from one of our players he claimed that it actually went off them out of bounds. I'm not saying whether it did or it didn't, but when you swat the ball away from someone, the odds are that it you hit it out of bounds, and in a pickup game if the other person doesn't come out and say, "No, its off me" then pretty much you just let them take it out up top. Remember that this is a co-ed game where a couple of the players have practically no discernable basketball skills.

#3) At one point, after a fast break that we had, he had the audacity, nay the gall, to claim that one of our players (who was just lucky to be standing up) had travelled while standing under the basket shooting a layup. I don't know that I've ever heard traveling called in a setting like this. I mean, I like to know that I'm trying hard and playing my best, and I like to win, but not to the extreme of calling a traveling violation, which I'm not sure even actually occured, on someone who isn't very good at basketball. I mean the guy I was guarding was camped out in the lane like it was the Alaskan frontier, but there's no way I'm going to call a 3-second violation in a church pick-up game.

Of the four games I played in, I managed to not be on his team ever, and that pleased me. I think I probably lost more than I won, but I'm pleased to say that we won the final game on a in traffic layup by yours truly, one of the few I actually made.

Its been quite some time since I really met someone who got under my skin like that, and I probably shouldn't worry about it too much, but in the end I was just glad that I'm not that kind of person.

Desktop Tower Defense

Desktop Tower Defense

If you haven't played Desktop Tower Defense, I'll just tell you right now that its surprisingly addictive and I've still got a lot to learn. Basically its a game where little "creeps", circles mostly try to move from one side of the board to the other, while you build towers to both shoot them and force them to wander through the maze that you've set up for them. I haven't yet tried the "Hard" difficulty setting, but I was starting to do pretty well on Normal until they switched things up a bit for v1.2.

Anyway, if you need to kill some time, check it out. A full game on Normal takes about 7 minutes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Longer Lunch Breaks?

In case you didn't see this already, its a digital short featuring Rainn Wilson of "The Office" fame on Saturday Night Live. I'm not sure why I enjoy it so much, but I do.

Maybe it has something to do with the talking turkey sub or the mounted tiger head's voice.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

English, We Hardly Knew Ye

From an article about the Marist women's basketball team's upset victory over Middle Tennesee State:
[C]oach Brian Giorgis said: "These kids never stop ceasing to amaze me."

Wrap your head around that one.

What happened to cup sizes?

Brian Regan, one of my favorite comedians has a bit where he talks about cup sizes at restaurants and the silly displays hanging from the ventilation duct to let you know what the different cup sizes are. And yes, its a silly idea, but maybe not so much now. Lately I've been discovering that the old size standards have changed. When I was working in the fast food industry the sizes were thus:

Small: 16 oz.
Medium: 22 oz.
Large: 32 oz.
XL: 44 oz.

and I want to say that the children's size was maybe 12 oz., but I can't be sure about that. I think pretty much everyone was used to this standard. But in the last 6 months or so, all of a sudden, fast food places are pulling a switcheroo on us.

This morning at Carl's Jr., I ordered a combo meal and when asked what size drink I wanted I asked for a medium, only to be shocked moments later when a 32 oz cup was slapped down on my tray. Apparently medium is now what large used to be. At Wendy's if you order a combo meal they ask what size you want it. If you get a "medium" sized combo, you get a 32 oz drink. The "small" size comes with a 21 oz. Strangely though, if you order a "small" drink from the 0.99 value menu its a 16 oz. Its gotten to the point now where I occasionally ask the worker what size the cups are. Not that they ever know. This is especially critical in the drive-thru where too large a cup may result in the cup not fitting in your cupholder, and too small a cup with no refill recourse may be inadequate for my thirst-quenching needs, not to mention the fact that you don't even get to see what size the cup is until after you've already paid.

I'm not sure why the restaurants have done this, but I'm guessing they aren't doing it because their customer have demanded it. I've yet to hear anyone complain, "I wish that a medium soda were a lot bigger, but still called a medium." I haven't looked into the pricing, but I suspect that these new "mediums" are priced higher than the old ones.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Albums That I Love #15: Food & Liquor

Food & Liquor

Its always exciting to find a new artist who you really enjoy listening to. And when they have a great debut album that's strong from start to finish. Lupe Fiasco's debut album, Food & Liquor is definitely one of those. I first heard "Kick, Push" and thought it was a great chill rap song, and liked the different vibe. Very laid-back. When I finally was able to check out the album, it was a great hip-hop album. I wouldn't say there are a lot of tracks that stand out, but the album flows smoothly from start to finish with Lupe putting together some great rhymes without needing to fill them up with cussing. Food & Liquor is definitely an album worth checking out.

1. Intro
A little bit of rhymin' and a little bit of introducing, basically introducing the concept of the title, that there's a little good and bad in all of us -- Food & Liquor if you will.

2. Real
For some reason I don't have anything to say about this song...

3. Just Might Be Ok
...Or this one.

4. Kick, Push
As I said earlier, this was the song that made me check out the album. Its a song about skateboarding and love and love of skateboarding.

5. I Gotcha
This song's got a nice piano melody playing throughout, while Lupe lays down the verses over the top.

6. The Instrumental
This song has some of the wickedest rhymes I've heard in a while. I'll put some of the lines here, but you really have to hear it to do it justice.
"He just sits, and listens to the people in the boxes
Everything he hears he absorbs and adopts it
Anything not comin out the box he blocks it
See he loves to box and hope they never stop it
Anything the box tell him to do, he does it
Anything it tell him to get, he shops and he cops it
He protects the box, locks it in a box"
7. He Say She Say
A song about dads who aren't around and how it affects their kids adversely.

8. Sunshine
Another of my favorite tracks. Very chill. Sounds like walking outside on a perfect day, like today.

9. Daydreamin'
A great song about daydreamin'. Feels like a ghetto Alice in Wonderland. First verse is about driving a giant robot that's filled with ghetto people. Second verse seems to be about filming a music video.

10. The Cool
A song about a zombie coming back from the grave to get back to his life of drug dealing. Cool music.

11. Hurt Me Soul
A song about hip-hop music and how he didn't like it and its themes, but then as he grew up he saw that lots of what he heard in the music was all around him and it led him to write rhymes himself.

12. Pressure
I guess its worth mentioning that this track features Jay-Z who at the time was in about month 5 of his seemingly 6 month retirement.

13. American Terrorist
A song looking at acts of "terrorism" and racism in America.

14. The Emperor's Soundtrack
Not sure what this song is about, but I like the way it sounds. Its like a gospel record.

15. Kick, Push II
A revisit to the skateboarding theme of Kick, Push. Talks about a group of kids skating together and how they held together when they didn't have much else going for them, and how getting away from trouble at home to skate was an escape that wasn't drugs. Its almost like a remix of Kick, Push but with totally different verses and chorus and sound. I know that doesn't make sense, but to me, somehow, it does.

16. Outro
A 12-minute track featuring more shout-outs than I've ever heard in a row, including shout-outs to pretty much anything you can think of. Myspace, for example, or Dave's Quality Meats.

If you made it all the way to the end of this review, you deserve to know that this might be the last of the "Albums That I Love" series. I'm kind of at the end of the albums that I can think of to write about for now. I'm going to have to figure out what the new weekly feature might be. Feel free to offer suggestions.

In case you hadn't figured out you could click on the "labels" on each post to find more of the "albums that I love", here's the full list:

#1: August & Everything After by The Counting Crows
#2: The Carnival by Wyclef Jean
#3: Donde Estan Los Ladrones? by Shakira
#4: Ocean Avenue by Yellowcard
#5: Joyspring by Kurt Bestor
#6: The Blue Album by Weezer
#7: Best of 2006 (as voted by me)
#8: The Rising Tied by Fort Minor
#9: Sueños Liquidos by Maná
#10: This Desert Life by The Counting Crows
#11: The Hits by Garth Brooks
#12: Let's Face It by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
#13: Code Red by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
#14: Come On, Come On by Mary Chapin Carpenter
#15: Food & Liquor by Lupe Fiasco

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The delicious aroma of literacy


Recently, the Pizza Hut Book It! Reading program for Elementary School kids has come under fire. Critics are saying that it encourages kids to eat unhealthy foods and that it forces parents to go to Pizza Hut as part of raising literate children.

I just want to say that were it not for the Book It! program I would have never eaten Pizza Hut pizza in my entire childhood, save one or two rare occasions. It was always fun to get to go with my mom and we would get our personal pan pizzas and a sticker to put on our Book It! badge for that year, and if we were lucky my mom would even buy some breadsticks to eat with it.

I don't know what critics are suggesting we replace the Book It! program with. A coupon for Wild Oats Market? Perhaps we could just give the kids some money for reading. I'm guessing they aren't going to go buy carrot sticks to reward themselves.

I think what would be really neat would be if we could get some kind of a bidding war going between food service establishments to sponsor the reading program each year. See if we can't up the ante. We are a free market economy right? A little competition couldn't hurt. Maybe we can get these kids a regular size pizza instead of just the personal one. Then mom wouldn't have to buy her own.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Albums That I Love #14: Come On, Come On

Come On Come On

Come On, Come On by Mary Chapin Carpenter was released in 1992. It is an album that I first owned on cassette tape. I'm not even sure right now how I came to own it, whether I bought it for myself or someone gave it to me. But I am sure that its packed to the brim with great songs. Some slow and some really slow and some a little more upbeat. And while you will probably find it listed under Country music if you had to give it a genre, it really doesn't have a very country feel.

1. The Hard Way
Good things don't come easily. Don't be afraid to lay it on the line and give it your all. Everything we got, we got the hard way.

2. He Thinks He'll Keep Her
This song is pretty much a women's lib anthem about a woman tired of doing whatever her husband wants her to and finally leaving him. While I would not call myself a supporter of the classic women's lib movement, I think this song is really good.

3. Rhythm of the Blues
This is a slow, quiet song about having the blues. I like it.

4. I Feel Lucky
Just a fun song about feeling lucky and winning the lottery despite a horoscope that says "get back in bed."

5. The Bug
Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug.

6. Not Too Much to Ask
A duet with Joe Diffie. This song is about wanting love and to be loved and wanting to be that special person for someone, after things have gone bad in a relationship. "Its too much to expect, but its not too much to ask."

7. Passionate Kisses
You've probably heard this one on the radio. Still a classic after all these years. Apparently its a cover of the original by Lucinda Williams, but since I've never heard her version, I'm going to go ahead and call this one the more famous, if not better version. Shouldn't we all have the good things we deserve and "passionate kisses from you" on top of that? I think so.

8. Only a Dream
Another quiet song. This one about bad dreams, and about sharing them with your sister. And when you are grown up and she's not in the room next door.

9. I Am a Town
Singing metaphorically (clearly) Mary Chapin Carpenter is a lot of things in this song, but mainly things related to small towns. Very nice piano and string music in this song.

10. Walking Through Fire
After two slower songs, this one picks up the pace in a song that starts slow, but picks up as the song moves along. Its about someone making it hard to love them, and having to walk "through fire" to reach them.

11. I Take My Chances
One of my most favorite songs on the album. A great song about taking risks in life. "Some people say that you should not tempt fate...I say fate should not tempt me." "I take my chances every chance I get."

12. Come On Come On
The album ends with the title track. Its another quiet love song. A fitting close to the album. This is a great album for chilling out and it ends on the perfect quiet, mellow note.

Albums That I Love: Its Been a Crazy Week

I don't have today's review ready yet, and it might not show up until late today or early tomorrow. I've got a code freeze deadline for my research project today, so the blog had to take a back seat. I apologize to the 3 or 4 of you who might actually stop by to see if I posted something for once this week.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Albums That I Love #13: Code Red

Code Red

The first of many Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince albums that I ever bought (I own them all now) is still my favorite. Its actually the last real album that Will Smith and Jeff Townes made together, although Jeff has occasionally shown up on Will Smith's solo efforts. Code Red has a great selection of songs. Some that have some kind of message and some that are just about having a good time. And thankfully there's no cursing or talking about shooting people or mistreating women or anything.

1. Somethin' Like Dis
The album starts off super strong with The Fresh Prince aka Will Smith laying down rhymes about how great of a rapper he is. A fun song and great rhyming.

2. I'm Looking for the One (To Be With Me)
A laidback track about looking for love.

3. Boom! Shake the Room
Probably the most famous track on this album. Kind of the last great Jazzy Jeff + Fresh Prince single. Still a great song.

4. Can't Wait to Be With You
He's getting back from a long trip, and he "can't wait to be with" her.

5. Twinkle Twinkle (I'm Not a Star)
Talks about people calling him a star and the good and bad that come with that.

6. Code Red
A fun song about being out on the town with another girl on the sly, and having his girlfriend show up at the same restaurant he's at. Code Red!

7. Shadow Dreams
A song about following your dreams even when people try to tell you you can't achieve them.

8. Just Kickin' It
Another great track. Just the Prince kickin' the rhymes.

9. Ain't No Place Like Home
When you're feeling sad and blue, and you're out on the road, there's no place like home.

10. I Wanna Rock
Fun song with the Prince and Jazzy teaming up with some real musicians playing the drums and keyboard. The only real track that features Jazzy Jeff on this album. And of course, as always he shines.

11. Scream
Another song in the vein of "Somethin' Like Dis" and "Just Kickin' It", i.e. the Prince just laying down the rhymes over a simple beat. Another great track.

12. Boom! Shake the Room (Street Remix)
Kind of a weak remix. Of course this was before Puff Daddy "invented the remix". Back when this album was released, the remix just meant putting new beats behind the rhymes. No need to add new verses or bring in 3 more rappers.