Thursday, May 31, 2007

Who says Rangers' fans don't suffer?

Growing up, I was a huge baseball fan. You all know the story: strike of 1994 and I got out of baseball. But I've never stopped loving my Rangers. I've been to a few games here and there since 1994, but this summer, I decided to really play catch-up and give baseball a chance.* How has baseball repaid me? Well, the Rangers are fighting the Royals for worst record in baseball. Right now, we're a game back: we're 19-34 to their 19-35, at least according to Yahoo! a few minutes ago. My backup team, the Astros, meanwhile is working on breaking their own team record for longest losing streak. They've extended it now to 10 games, after having lost to the worst team in the National League. Argh. Why?

More importantly, why don't I like football, basketball, or even hockey as much as I like baseball? The Cowboys haven't done so well recently, but they're football's Yankees.** We all know that Jerry Jones = George Steinbrenner. 'Nuff said. (I apologize to my Houstonian readers: my dad is a die-hard Cowboys fan, so we never heard much about the Oilers or the Texans. I can't comment on their worth.)

And basketball! The Dallas Mavericks have a stinkin awesome season, even if their playoffs were a little reminiscent of the Rangers' postseasons. But last year they made it to the finals. And the Rockets made it to the playoffs this season, not to mention the two championships they took home in the 1990s. And the Spurs! Working on their 4th title in recent times and arguably the best team in the NBA. Why don't I like basketball as much as baseball?

Even hockey has done better in Texas than baseball. Since moving to Dallas in 1993, the Stars have won a Stanley Cup, two conference championships, and six division titles. Come on. Hockey? Hockey is my number 2 sport, but doesn't it strike anyone as odd that a Texas team should be good at hockey?

Now to compare. Since moving to Texas in 1972, the Rangers have won . . . a whole lotta nothin. They won a division title here and there in the 1990s (after baseball went to three divisions), but they've always lost to baseball's Cowboys in the best-of-five series at the start of the postseason. (Who can complain about a .100 winning percentage in the postseason? Go Rangers!) The Astros have fared better, taking home 6 division titles in the past 45 years . . . at least they made it to the World Series, even if they did get swept in four games . . .

Sheesh. Maybe I should follow everybody else and give up on baseball.

This just in: the Astros beat the Reds, the NL's worst team, 10-2 to snap their 10-game losing streak. Maybe there is hope in the world . . .

* Why? Because Mark McGwire didn't get in the Hall, but both Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. did. The long-ball no me gusta.

** Note--You can only be a Yankees fan if you're from New York. Likewise, you can only be a Cowboys fan if you're from Texas, maybe only from any part of Texas other than Houston.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ghetto Booty

In 4th grade, I had a crush on a girl. We made rock candy in class, and I was looking at mine on the window sill. This girl comes up to me and starts to talk about how hers isn't doing so well. Maestro of social situations that I was, I ran away and hid. I said nothing to her. I don't think I ever talked to her again, even though I went to school with her from 4th grade on to graduation. We were both new kids that year, so we could have been friends, but we weren't. Why? Because I was a dadgum shy kid.

Three years later, in 7th grade, I took speech. I had signed up for art, but that didn't work out. In speech, we had to get up each day and participate in "roll call," which basically consisted of standing up and answering some dumb question. My social breakthrough came one day when we had to give a favorite quote in a foreign accent or, if we didn't have a favorite quote, then we could just say anything we wanted to. I didn't have a favorite quote, so I came up with something ingenious. Imagine a bad German/French accent: "So zere ve vere: lockt in a room vissout sheez."

To my shock, people laughed. I had never had people laugh at anything I had said before, especially not anything in public. People had laughed at me before, but not like this. I loved it. From then on, I started volunteering for public speaking situations. I would go on mission trips and youth camps just so that afterward I could participate in the testimony night and get up in front of everybody and be a ham.

Five years later, I was the cool senior in the sophomore choir (and bass section leader. Bam.). For the spring concert, we had to break up into groups of 3-5 kids and pretend like we were mingling at a 1950s school dance. I wandered over to a group that consisted of another senior whom I knew and two sophomore girls. I stuck myself in the situation, I pretended I was witty and interesting, and three years later, I married one of those sophomores. It's suggestive at least that you can change your social abilities. I'm not saying I'm the best or that I've "never met a stranger." After all, my wife was a stranger once.

I said I didn't have a favorite quote in 7th grade. Now, my favorite quote comes off a Starbucks cup:

I used to feel so alone in the city. All those gazillions of people
and then me, on the outside. Because how do you meet a new person? I
was very stumped by this for many years. And then I realized, you just
say, "Hi." They may ignore you. Or you may marry them. And
that possibility is worth that one word.

Augusten Burroughs said that. I said hi to a cute sophomore once, and she ended up marrying me.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Why people hate lawyers . . .

. . . but you gotta admit--the hair is a w e s o m e.

ps--I haven't been posting because I've been moving. As soon as we get everything livable, I'll be back online. Thanks for your patience!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I'm the decider.

Tonight, I was eating dinner with my wife and in-laws when my father-in-law says, "You know, happiness is a choice." Apparently, so is being smart.

Growing up, I was a decent student. From about 4th grade on, I was an all-A's-and-one-B kinda guy. I graduated high school with a meager 95.6/100 average; not very impressive. My wife graduated with a 104*/100, and she was 4th in her class. I earned my 95.6 by making a B almost every six-weeks and even throwing a C or two in there for fun. By college, tho, I decided to work hard and do well. At Harvard Pain, I earned 3 B's: one in Biology, one in Logic, and one on my bachelor's thesis. The rest, I'm proud to say, were A's.**

I'm not spouting all this to brag. When your school has a checkbook-and-a-pulse admissions policy***, getting an A in a curve-grading class is not that difficult. But the point is, I worked harder in college than I did in high school, and I did better both comparatively and objectively. How did I do that? I don't know; I just did. I guess I believed that I could change the strength of my brain muscle. I'm another example of the theory espoused in that article.

Rivers Cuomo said it right when he said "If you want it, you can have it, but you've got to learn to reach out there and grab it."

*Ed. Note--AP classes got a 1.125 multiplier. For example, a 100 on your report card translated to a 112.5 for gpa purposes.

**Ed. Note--In high school, I earned a C in chemistry one six-weeks. In college, I got the high A. Better teacher, or better attitude?

***Ed. Note--If I have to explain this to you, you may not have been able to get in to HPU.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Tres años

Right now, it's 10:24 p.m. At this time, exactly three years ago, I was drinking my 83rd coke of the day and watching my friends play Dance, Dance. I remember commenting to my friend Marcus that cokes usually calmed me down, but that I was so nervous I was shaking. His wedding party partner, one of my wife's best friends, commented that I was probably shaking because I'd drunk 83 cokes.

Twenty-four hours later, I was getting honked at by a trucker on I-35 while heading up to a Hilton in Dallas. The next morning, we flew out of DFW to PBI, where I saw the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. It was a week of firsts: first taxi ride, first rental car, first dinner on the beach. There may have been more . . .

And now here it is three years later. In some circles, I'm a veteran of married life; in others, I'm still a newlywed. Some people have told me: "The first three years are the hardest; after that, you've got it made." Others have put the number at five years, others at seven. One guy told me that the first 30 years were the most important and set the tone for the real part of your marriage.

Well, here's to the next 27 years so that I can start the real part of my marriage.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

If my best could equal his worst...

I am generally opposed to the use of quotes out of principle. Quotes tend to do two harmful things: (1) encourage short attention spans and (2) force the hearer to add context (often distorting the intended meaning). Last night, I finished John Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent and was vaguely disappointed. To be honest, I don't think I get the big picture. This wasn't Steinbeck's best, but if my best could equal his worst, I'd be set for life.

It did, however, have at least 18 quotable passages. I thought about sharing all of them, but I think one will suffice. The protaganist, Ethan Hawley, is a clerk at a grocery store he used to own, much to the chagrin of his wife and children. His wife's friend and quasi-lady-of-the-night, Mrs. Margie Young-Hunt, reads his tarot cards to say that he would soon make a fortune. Trying to make some inroads with that fortune before it arrives, she goes to his store and flirts with him quite obviously and suggestively, including by "bouncing her behind." That night, she's a dinner guest at the Hawley house as an invitee of Ethan's wife, Mary. He notes:

In the morning the out-of-coffee Margie was set for me like a bear trap. The same evening she drew a bead on Mary. If her behind bounced, I couldn't see it. If anything was under her neat suit, it was hiding. She was a perfect guest--for another woman--helpful, charming, complimentary, thoughtful, modest. She treated me as though I had taken on forty years since the morning. What a wonderful thing a woman is. I can admire what they do even if I don't understand why.

People often do crazy things for rational, irrational, and a-rational reasons. That's part of what makes us human. The job of the lawyer is, at its most basic, to prevent and resolve disputes between people. The only way to do that effectively is to understand why people do what they do, why they make the decisions they make. I chose to study law because it seems to recognize that people rarely act truly rationally. After one year studying law, I think I made the right decision. After two weeks clerking for insurance defense lawyers, I'm even more convinced that lawyers are the highest paid psychologists in the world.

Plus, we don't have to deal with the whole "pseudo-science" allegations psychologists have to face.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Robocop --> T Rex?

One of Michael Crichton's first novels was The Terminal Man. Definitely not his best novel, but give the guy a break. It was published in the early 1970s and dealt with a big fear of the early 1970s: computers taking over the world. Well, I say we'd better hope that Jurassic Park isn't as prophetic as The Terminal Man is proving to be.

Today, while I was perusing my blogs, I ran across this highly interesting piece. In it, the author contemplates the evolution of the relationship between humans and computers through the limited scope of man vs. machine chess matches. His conclusion is one of hope and triumph (machines can be no smarter than the programmers, so computers will always be dumber than people--but even if they're not, way-to-go people for making such a dang smart machine), but he talks about some interesting things there at the end. For example, he talks about how some kid got to Level 3 on Space Invaders playing with wires going into his head. Another example is some type of dental implant that doctors can program to administer medication when and as necessary. (This is remarkably similar to a story in Walter Mosley's Futureland.) These dental implants are being tested right now in the European Union. How very interesting.

If you're going anywhere near Costa Rica in the next 35 years--be careful. It may have taken The Terminal Man three-and-a-half decades to come true, but when you start dealing with Jurassic Park, you're mixing chaos theory with thunder lizards, and that's trouble.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Triple Digits

So this is it: number 100. The link there is to a post written by one of the smartest people I've ever known.

A few years back, I spent my fall semester doing an independent study-type thing on the interplay of faith and reason. I came to the conclusion that all knowledge, at some point, comes to a question of faith. No matter what you believe, if you go back far enough or deep enough, there's something there that's irrational. Or in Roarkian tradition, "a-rational." So, in a sense, even science is founded on an a-rational belief system. Stealing Descartes's illustration, how do the scientists (or the preachers) know they aren't being tricked by some malicious demon? Can you really trust your senses? All this to say: nobody knows anything. As my profs say everyday near finals time: the right answer is only a very tiny part of it; it's all in how you get there.

And in more exciting news: the Cubs won today 1-0 on a good old-fashioned 3-hit shutout by Jason Marquis. I point this out for two reasons: (1) because, when was the last time you heard of any pitchter completing a game? and (2) because the only run scored was on Alfonso Soriano's leadoff homerun. He struck out in his other three at-bats. That's awesome.

In other news: I've been out of baseball for 13 years, but I still hate the Yankees. It's good to know that some things never change.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Back in the Alico

People start blogging because they want to be heard. We want to be entertaining and funny, but we also want to be controversial and serious. We reel you in with funny stories and try to pull you into the boat so you can hear our serious discourse. But I don't feel like posting the obligatory ruminative end-of-first-year post. I don't want to talk about long journeys we've taken, how I'm a smarter, bigger, more mature person than I was a year ago, how I now recognize that IRAC is the secret weapon that separates the lawyers from the laypeople. Instead, I want to make two comments.

First, Osler doesn't trust me with a flamethrower. That's not surprising. What is surprising, though, is that he put me on the non-trusting list . . . above Chicago. So I'm thinking: the list is obviously not in alphabetical order--could it be in order of untrustworthiness? Does Osler trust me with a flamethrower less than he trusts Chicago? Am I the only one who remembers the Great Chicago Fire? Sure, sure, blame it on the cows. Typical Chicago fashion.

Second, I am one step closer to my plan to own the Alico Building: I am clerking this summer for a law firm located on the twelfth floor of Waco's Sears Tower. Interestingly, each floor has only one bathroom, either a men's or a women's. It appears that men get the even-numbered floors and women get the odd-numbered floors. I assume that back in the day, people shared bathrooms more freely, but I don't know. Does anybody have any ideas why they would do it that way?