Sunday, June 27, 2010

Packing and Cleaning and Searching

The last few days I've been running around like Prefontaine; checking out basement apartments, stuffing boxes of my gear for the trip/move, cleaning for the new tenant, closing out at work, while still trying to fit in a little exercise and play time. Which means my blog has become a casualty to other higher priorities.

To remind everyone, I depart early morning Thursday from Dulles Airport to Sri Lanka. Pops flies into D.C. tomorrow night and thereafter is a scramble to procure a car, move out, finish packing and purchase any last minute necessities (as in large amounts of hair wax because blow-driers are no guarantee in our accommodations). Oh, and spray-on deet, as many of you recollect I complain more than a Hills cast-member on a cloudy day regarding the attack of mosquitoes that salivate over my arrival in each place I visit. Meanwhile Pops will lounge out in nothing but underwear and mosquitoes will play dodgeball avoiding his epidermis.

Anyway, I can't hide my alacrity to begin this years journey. I have charged two camera batteries and will likely be unable to post photos until I return home (July 28th). While on the road, I plan on using spare time to post at Internet cafes. So please be patient, and I hope you share my enthusiasm in learning about a beautiful place. Tell your friends to keep glued to this URL!!!! And, oh ya, I'll do my best from hear-on-out to respond to any queries you post in the comment section... 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Epic Match

John Isner



 Have you ever met someone who overexaggerates?  The mere usuage of the word overexaggerate is itself an example. If I told you I bike to work approximately 30 miles each way, you'd pause and assume I was exaggerating. If I said, "I bike about a million miles per day," you first would wonder why I don't just take a plane because that would be expeditious (not to mention the copious frequent flier miles), but you may also laugh at the sheer absurdity of the number.

Because I'm a  logical person, my mind most often interprets intended exaggerations literally. At least initially. When my friend says, "It's like below zero in my apartment building," my first thought is she moved to Antarctica in an igloo without telling me and that wouldn't be cool (except of course, literally). My brain imagines a place frigid around said temperature (ah, the creative side) until I quickly deviate and remember she implies the AC is on too high.

So when I heard of this epic tennis match, I braced myself for a thriller about as exciting as watching the oil spill, or CNN for example.

Boy was I wrong.

American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut completed an exhausting 11 hour match earlier today, easily shattering all previous lengthy matches in tennis history (except for one held by two handsome amateurs). That record remains intact, occupied by me and my brother who accused me of counting incorrectly the last time we played which was 9 months earlier. So even though 11 hours in comparison to 9 months isn't exactly comparable, I sympathize with these men because 11 hours of tennis is (pardon my French, Mahut) fu@#ing insane.

The match was postponed twice due to darkness (must be some sort of Queen mandated rationing), which robbed the tennis world of the conclusion. Until today that is. The fifth set in Grand Slam tennis is resolved not through a tie-breaker, but until one competitor can manage two successive games. A lengthy 5-setter would be 8-6 or maybe even 10-8. Every once in awhile you get a match like last years final 16-14. The final score of today's match - 70-68.


70-68!!!!!!

Before yesterday, if I told that to a tennis junkie, he would've laughed as if I declared Sarah Palin aced the SAT, or that she knew that SAT wasn't just an angry way of saying sat.


Tennis is a physically demanding sport. The only time in my life I suffered heat stroke was in Arizona at the State Junior College Championships (and when I met Jennifer Lopez). I played three best-of-three matches with breaks in between. By dinner time I turned a pale green color and passed out in a restaurant bathroom. I could barely stand. Thankfully my girlfriends brother came to check on me, probably to ensure I wasn't playing Operation on his sister.

What makes this feat even more unfathomable, is tennis disallows any coaching during a match. When a player is on the court it's mano a mano. Both men deserve much respect and admiration for refusing to wither. As the victor Isner declared afterward, "Nothing like this will happen ever again. Ever."

He's right, and today I tip my hat to two exemplary athletes.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Another Poem by Pops

As a Father's day gift (to himself?) my Pops composed the following poem. It's a tad short, but is hilarious nonetheless....Enjoy!! 

I decided to go to Phoenix, work on my tan,
But I forgot my ID, got tossed in the can.
Sheriff Joe told me I was way too brown,
“Don’t bother settin’ your suitcase down.”

I told him I was from Durango, my second mistake,
But between Colorado or Mexico they don’t differentiate. 
I told him true, “I’m an Irish Jew!”
He laughed and said, “We got a great place for you.”

Now I’m livin’ in tent city and learnin’ fast,
To fight, steal and rob and set off a blast.
It’s only a pigment that led to my new career,
So if you have too much melanin I’ll see you here.

But I got an idea, if I ever get released,
I’ll build skin bleaching salons to thwart the police.
I’ll pay lots of sales tax for Arizona to digest,
When everyone’s white there’s no one to arrest.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Riddle


Away from you is the beginning,
What's         to be, is the second fitting,
I search online for one that fits,
Something comfortable where I can rest,

In larger cities it's all there is,
Like a bird building a nest,

What am I????

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Photos a la Facebook

To get everyone in the mood of seeing lots of me (during the Sri Lanka and London trip) I figured I'd post a few today so as to acclimate yourself not to go blind. Kind of like a form of conditioning.
Enjoy...

Some strangers who accosted me at a bar. I couldn't escape because I was on crutches. And also very inebriated.  
Another woman who felt much pity for my plight. I'm telling ya, handicap = babe magnet.
And look here, no crutches, no woman. Point proven. Overlooking Potomac Falls.
Some men wear tie clips or handkerchiefs as accessories. I use a pink scarf. Apparently some lady thinks it's hers as you can see her hand yanking it away. Be careful, not all men can pull this look off.

Completely spontaneous long distance 3 pointer. P.S. Peep that hang time. 
Methodically planning shot above in detail with my brother.
Down some alley in Annapolis. I look a little fearful because I'm unsure I'll squeeze through.
This was Christmas this year. My brother is scowling because Glinda is floating like a gnat below his chin. My sister stole the scarf from Shaq. Mom and Pops look handsome as ever. And then there's me, smiling like a dufus because Mom is pinching my back muttering, "I'm not making Magic Cookie Bars unless you smile BIG". I'm such a fat kid.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hmmm, That Looks Different


Every once in awhile, the astute minds at Blogger come up with some nifty options that become irresistible to the blogosphere. For one, instead of 'layout', the new upgraded term is 'design'. Besides from consequential sophistication on their end, 'design' options allow me to swap templates without increasing my minuscule knowledge of HTML. It seems quite American to want things to come easier than they previously were, and look back at your previous self in mock disgust. Wow, what heathens we were. Like, 10 minutes ago.

Now, instead of google searching various web sites for HTML (my knowledge is so small I'm unsure whether capitalization is even warranted) codes, I have more time on collegehumor.com or other sites that challenge my intellect.

In fact, just a few months ago, blogger employed a 'monetize' tablet where I presume you click on to learn how to incorporate the paintings of Monet to your blog. I have yet to click on it because I'm chary it's a farce and it will be yet another bamboozled method for revenue building. And also because Monet may be pissed off to be associated with a ConArtist. Either way, better to err on the safe side.

As expected, I've been enticed once again to alter the paradigm of this web site. Like a dangled carrot in front of me, this is why my wife will do the grocery shopping when I marry, or I'll return home with a depleted bank account and 25 boxes of Stacy's pita chips. But they were on sale, honey!

Since my password is secret, only I am privy to these latest fads, but I figured I'd keep y'all in the loop in case I decide to click on the 'deathize' tablet and go missing for months.

Do you love the new design? Hate it? Wish I would stop changing it? Let me know and I'll do my best to ignore your comments.... :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Haven't Sold Out Yet...

The title and premise of this blog is intended to be humorous - "I haven't sold out yet, but I'm willing to negotiate." The assumption, is of course, I would indeed 'sell out' given an adequate offer. Which, for me ranges from clean underwear to gift cards to my favorite yogurt shop, to tofu that isn't soggy, and oh ya, money. Or perhaps back rubs, under the presumption the masseuse has strong hands.

I'm a victim of capitalism like everyone else and as much as I try to escape its permeating boundaries, items I desire cost money. Although it's relatively effortless to shoplift necessities like hair wax and tweezers from CVS, smuggling TV's out of electronic stores is more problematic (meaning there's a small chance of getting caught) and therefore working for a living became a necessary evil. Like taxes, marriage and stop signs.

This web site never exactly 'took off' as expected. Come to think of it, if my blog was a hypothetical skyscraper, I'd have completed the wheelchair ramp. For better or worse I've honed my writing skills over the past couple years through unedited and unbiased auspices. Scratch that, no auspice. Without sponsors, I have autonomy to deliver my uncensored opinion to the 10 or so readers frequenting this page. And I imply no derision, for your feedback is always wrong. I'm teasing. I meant to say well received, and although I do not always respond to comments, the generated feedback is certainly appreciated and often improves my day - unless of course it's designed to enrage me which I suppose can also be an improvement (on days where I have surgery  or die for example.)

Most bloggers begin somewhat like me, albeit probably not as handsome, and envision their blog hit counter soaring into the 100,000's in just a few days. And for a few people, that happens. For the rest of us, we write for fun and to break up the monotony of the colossal beast called - work. We love it, and we hope our audience (no matter how big or small) enjoy it as well.

What's monumentally invaluable about a blog is the written opinion devoid of marketing influence. For no matter where you get your news/opinions odds are a company supports the columnists. Many of my favorite blogs have ads (see bikesnob, huffington post, etc.) and therefore the propriety of the blogger probably wouldn't slander that company. In yesterday's NY Times, an article discusses the delicate confluence of product placement and blogs.

You may ask me, well Conor, what if you were approached by Smirnoff to display their ad on your site, what then? Good question, hypothetical you, thanks for asking. First, I would require at least a years supply under contract and then ideally a date with one of the Smirnoff girls to ensure the quality of not only the product but the representatives. Would I then oblige? Probably. Perhaps that's a poor example, but I'm not against being paid, especially because it's a whole lot more lucrative than making nothing.

Moreover, not all corporations are nefarious vampire squids as Matt Taibbi coined. So a blogger needs to be selective regarding which ads to place. Am I telling you all this because I have an offer? Ha, no. Only to remind you that when you read, be chary who's paying the author. And for me, that means keep a watchful eye on the Easter Bunny.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Flashback



If a director needed a cheap location for a zombie film, she should look no further than my morbid workplace. Smiles come as scarce as pay raises, and the turnover is like watching Ron Artest pass cross- court. Since I was hired in the fall of 2008, over 40% of people on the roster have moved on. An additional percent has come and gone in the interim, proving a revolving door is the only constant.

A few months ago, an urgent meeting convened to address the litany of complaints. The meeting was open to all staff and was scheduled for half hour only to exceed the time by almost an hour and a half. And to use another basketball analogy, the follow through was like Shawn Marion's jump shot. People are still very pissed off.

Fortunately for me, my last day is the end of the month so I'm skating by like Evan Lysacek (not as flamboyantly though), bowing out without much fuss. Others continue to chastise the executives and use their time at work to search for vacant positions elsewhere. Isn't productivity at work, great?

A committee formulated by the powers that be had an idea. Which, should go without saying, that it wasn't to give people a pay raise. Instead, they printed out sheets of white paper with each employees name printed largely at the top. Underneath, it says falsely, that each person 'rocks.' What's hilarious is very few people 'rock' at my job, and by very few, I mean exactly two.With four tables dispersed throughout the conference room, which permitted about 70 sheets, employees were asked to write (voluntarily) why he/she rocks.

This type of idea made me quite giddy like a pregnant woman salivating over pickles and ice cream. Yearbook, anyone? This brought me back to high school and the days where you could write nice things like, "fag" on your friends cast after they broke an arm. With a marker in hand and the room at my disposal, I was a one-man wrecking crew bouncing from one sheet to the next. All of my pent up aggression flowed through me like a conductor in front of an orchestra. Except instead of the baton, a green marker was my weapon.

While colleagues wrote one word like, clever, brave, loyal, blah bland. I wrote entire sentences, like: Remember when we decided to manipulate a paper clip so we could alter the air conditioning and almost got electrocuted?, or: You're a very wonderful human being. You remind me a lot of myself. Or even: Your dancing at the office parties is something I will never forget. God I love cameras. Things like this.

My personal favorite was when I wrote on someone's page: Very handsome, intelligent, yet also quite sentimental. Also, funny but not annoyingly. This was under a guy named Conor and I signed it - anonymous. Which then gave me pause because wouldn't not signing a name imply anonymity? So I whited out the word intelligent. To alleviate the tension in the office I don't know about anyone else but I feel like I just got out of a world-class massage. Can't wait until we can share and compare and hear feedback.

To the president I said: Thank you for signing my paychecks. Without you, I probably wouldn't eat.

Perhaps I should've waited until the final week actually....

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Challenging Your Democracy

Residents of a city without a voice,
Indifferent Congress sighs despite the noise,
We're proud. We're loyal. We're patriotic,
American democracy - how quixotic,

NRA rears its ugly head,
Wants DC blacks armed and dead,
Thousands of residents, still no vote,
The gun lobby tightens its stranglehold,

Watching in crass fashion, is the ignorant public,
Lauds our democracy, even though we're far from it,
Take a peak at the US Senate,
Bicameral parity means it isn't present,

What elicits your pride of red, white and blue?
Perhaps its elections purchased not a moment too soon,
See Meg and Carly, see millions of dollars,
See votes aggrandize, see public finance falter,

A state enveloped in mountains of debt,
Frivolously wastes money to continue the trend,
Is this not bizarre in a financial crisis,
To have $70 million spent to defeat an ally!

So you're telling me US citizens don't have the vote,
They're manipulated by corporate ads, whoever has most,
Forced to purchase into private industry plans,
What's next? Might as well bring back the draft,

All that and more is what you'll find,
If you care to look deeper between the lines,
Critical judgment is lacking and needed,
Instead we have complaisance and parades that feed it,

As oil plumes continue their highway to fame,
Our grand democracy quivers, hiding in shame,
Fingers point everywhere, while an ecosystem ruins,
Should induce steam from your ears, like further polluting,

The quotidian reaction is to defend,
Stand up for your nation while you should take offense,
Responsible folks stand up for equal rights,
Don't shy from lambasting, have courage to fight,

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sans Oil, But Murky Water



Approximately two years ago, I went to Israel for Birthright and the locals were stressed about the upcoming election. The younger generation, more liberal than the older, voiced concern over the rising popularity of candidate Netanyahu. Netanyahu, of the right wing Likud party, ultimately won, and peace agreements between the Palestinians and the Israelis have stymied ever since. What's more aggravating, is the leader of the PLO, Mahmoud Abbas, is more receptive to a two-state solution than his predecessors. President Obama is on board as well. A golden opportunity wasted.

Last week, Israeli Defense (term is used quite loosely) Forces boarded ships bringing humanitarian aid to residents of Gaza. Soldiers killed 9 civilians and a few Israeli soldiers were injured as well. Government officials declared the soldiers were initially peaceful until coming under attack and retaliated to protect themselves. Gaza remains under the auspices of Israel, hence all aid must first undergo scrutiny via inspection to prevent the smuggling of weapons. All fleet are routed to other parts of Israel before goods are permitted to enter.

Although I consider myself a Zionist, a proponent of a Jewish state, I believe the criticism leveled at Israel is merited. Political and economic change should come from non-violent activism and I support the efforts made by the coalition of groups willing to do that. Tactically, I am impressed with the method of exposing the oppressive occupation many Palestinians endure. The international community is justifiably outraged that Israel is acting rigidly and flagrantly combative. Netanyahu, who continues to lose friends at a staggering rate is not only losing lives through his leadership, he's losing allies. And geographically, Israel is in no condition to incite any additional animosity than they presently face.

However, Israel does face a quandary. If they allow 'aid' boats to pass unfettered, they run the risk of enabling Islamic militants to acquire weapons. If they do not allow boats to pass, they're wicked oppressors. A lose-lose situation. The European Union is concocting a plan that allows a non-partisan entity to monitor and inspect ships. Somehow I doubt Netanyahu is amenable to this plan, and an escalating situation looms.

Netanyahu's erratic behavior is damaging Israel's reputation. He has intentionally insulted the Obama administration repeatedly and his willingness to employ and justify violence is despicable. Although high fences make poor neighbors, the only current solution is a two-state solution where the Palestinians live independently in the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem. Israel also should immediately halt any settlements. Instead, the PM's arrogance and unapologetic disregard for Palestinian rights will bring further trouble to the Middle East and his citizens.

Weapon procurement is a legitimate issue that needs to be handled carefully. If ships crossing the water wish to bring materials to Gaza, they should expect to undergo inspection. An agency to expedite this process while confiscating any potential weapons should be implemented. Israel has a responsibility to protect the rights of the citizens and can begin to alleviate the disapproval they've earned by sponsoring such a proposol. Until Netanyahu ceases his petulant reaction to political statements, the pressure and scolding from the UN, EU and the US should be expected and welcome. An apology is due, and so is another election.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Stealing A Moment


Last night, Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galaragga accomplished a rare feat, an unblemished gem retiring 27 consecutive batters. No walks, no hits. A perfect game. Well, at least that's what should've happened.

Instead, an outrageous blown call on the 27th batter cost the pitcher his due. He will not see his name etched into the record books. After 8 2/3 innings, the opposing team didn't let up as a hard-hit grounder raced to the first baseman. As the runner barreled toward first base, the fielder scooped up the ball and tossed it directly to the trailing pitcher who fittingly touched the bag for the final out. Perfection. The ball ending in the pitcher's hands, the man who began the game with it. Upon repeated replays, the call could've been made from center field. It wasn't even close. But the botched call stood, as Armando, his manager and teammates stood slack-jawed in disbelief.

The umpire emphatically signaled safe.

A perfect game, a once-in-a-lifetime moment in this man's tumultuous career was inexplicably tarnished due to an over-zealous umpire. Baseball is not a favorite of mine. I enjoy the occasional playoff game or frequenting the ballparks (primarily for the beer and nachos) but last night I lost sleep. I tried to envision working my entire career for a chance at a moment like he had; where a confluence of factors had to align perfectly to enable the accomplishment. And to have it stolen like a heart attack on a graduation ceremony irked me.

Perhaps I'm sensitive after witnessing the Phoenix Suns undergo a series of poor officiating. The officials shouldn't influence the outcome of the game, but too often they do. It's not as if the opposing team acquiesced and allowed the pitcher to notch his final outs unchallenged. Both teams played hard the entire nine innings.

Fortunately, reading espn.com today, I noticed the commissioner of the league was to review the play with the possibility of reversing the call. I was heartened by this notion, that even though his moment of glory was robbed and the resulting celebration deflated, perhaps historical record would prevail and the proper remedy would be taken.

But it wasn't.

Instead, the commissioner stood by the umpire (who acknowledged and apologized after the game) defending the human element as his rationale for being a fu@#ing tool. Unbelievable. An abundance of technology is available, but the haughty commissioner remained resolute in his idiotic rigidity.

Tennis matches now use spot shot to overrule line judges who miss calls. Players are allowed to challenge questionable calls, a certain amount are allotted each set. This way, the dignity of the game is preserved because eliminating unnecessary error is invaluable for impartial competition. Humans aren't perfect, and this umpire is far from it (he knew the stakes during that play). Now I'm not advocating that the runner be called out if the he was probably safe, but this call was egregiously bad. Competitors should be protected from the fallibility of the referees. They train too hard to be flippantly overruled by indolent, obese arbiters. And though mistakes will be made, quick action should be heeded to strengthen the sport's purity.

It's moronic for the commissioner to claim to preserve the game's dignity by defending a most undignified blooper that violated the essence of good sportsmanship. Dignity involves impartiality on behalf of the officials, and when a mistake is made, technology is an easily accessible panacea. Shame on the umpire and the commissioner for not seeing correctly.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Book Review - "The Great Gatsby"


In many novels, authors portray their characters as practically unlikeable from the outset. Flaws are rampant and the reader develops a tiny disdain as the aggregated quirks pile up. However, the sagacious writer is luring the reader to continue the discovery of these characters, only to redeem them throughout the second and third acts; supplying more and more endearing qualities until the sympathetic reader becomes complaisant. At times, success of the book depends upon the author's ability to coerce the reader to align with the protagonist.

Fitzgerald's "Gatsby" is not one of these books. In fact, it's quite dissimilar from this model. The narrator is removed from the plot line, used only to account for the events of others. A fly on the wall, the defendant on the stand is the illustrious, magnanimous, and mysterious Mr. Gatsby. Gatsby is a charming man who in my head, looks similar to Lois' father in Family Guy. Using his quotidian line of, "Ole Sport" we are automatically attracted to him as he throws lavish parties for people whom he doesn't know. Hundreds of patrons attend these festivities, each with a unique anecdote about the host.

The plot thickens as Gatsby and the narrator (Mr. Carraway) begin a friendship and details emerge of Gatsby's past. Gatsby has a paramount longing for a former love and uses Carraway as a mutual friend to bring them together. Daisy, his rose, is unhappily married and falls quickly into the familiar hands of Gatsby. For those who haven't read it or who don't recall, I won't play spoiler, but the novel's pace quickens noticeably as exciting incidences build.

As I mentioned earlier, instead of building an affinity toward Gatsby, the more we learn, the less we like. Conversely, Carraway is enamored with him regardless of his idiosyncrasies and reckless behavior. Which creates an interesting dynamic as if the opinion of the author and the opinion of the reader are purposefully opposed like two boxers in a ring.

For those who enjoy writing rich with exceptional word choice and quirky human behavior, this is an excellent book to read. There are some profound insights into romance, ego and idolatry. My favorite, is the incessant demand Gatsby places on Daisy to rebuke years of love toward her husband. After immediately acquiescing, she stops. Paraphrasing her, "Isn't now enough? What's it matter if I loved another man in my past?" This scene is quite potent and shows a glaring insecurity on the part of Gatsby. He doesn't just want the girl, he wants to crush his adversary in the process. So you can only guess what happens when she recognizes where his priorities really stand.

Well done.