YES! Drew Magary has posted his annual holiday treat, The 2017 Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog.
As always, read with care in the office, lest you alert all your coworkers that you’re slacking off with your laughter.
YES! Drew Magary has posted his annual holiday treat, The 2017 Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog.
As always, read with care in the office, lest you alert all your coworkers that you’re slacking off with your laughter.
A weird start to the week. I had planned on going into hermit mode for a couple days, as I had a large library book that is due Wednesday and I still had to plow through about 200 more pages of it. I tried to renew, but there’s a waiting list for it, so I endeavored to dive in and finish it up, avoiding online time as much as possible.
Then I got a call at 12:30 yesterday that threw everything out of sorts. The main water line just outside St. P’s had burst. They were closing school at 1:30 so I had to run down and get the girls earlier than normal. Apparently there’s some kind of law that you can’t have school without running water. Weren’t kids educated just fine without running water until only about 100 years ago?!?!
I got the girls home and they were just a little wound up, as you would expect. Being so close to Christmas break did not help. The initial word from school was that they expected the line to be repaired on Monday and school to resume today. But less than five minutes before the girls would go to bed last night notification came that the repairs had not begun yet, so school was cancelled for today, too. There was much rejoicing, especially from M who was supposed to have a big science test today. Even if they go back to school tomorrow – and crews are apparently working as I type – the middle schoolers are off to see a performance of A Christmas Carol tomorrow, which gives her another day to prep for the last big science test of the semester. She’s pretty fired up about it.
We gave the girls a little extra awake time last night, and I let them sleep in this morning. It’s crazy cold here today, so we couldn’t go do anything outside. I figured a movie would be a good way to waste some time. We just got back from seeing Coco which was completely fantastic. We went to the fancy theater where you can order food, so the girls all got treats along with popcorn. But the best part was we had the theater to ourselves. Which makes sense for 1:00 on a Tuesday three weeks after the movie came out. It was kind of an odd experience.
If I’m not mistaken, this is the first day that school has been cancelled at St. P’s since our freak snowstorm that wiped out the first day after spring break back in March of 2013. We’ve had a couple delays here-and-there, but no snow days since then. Hopefully this isn’t a sign that this winter will be filled with days off.
Oh, and I finished my book with a big push last night and this morning.
Our Christmas break is going to be a little different this year. We’re headed to Denver on Christmas day to spend a week with our family out there. So I need to cram some decent content into the next week-plus. Be looking for my breakdown of TV I’m Watching Now, which I haven’t done for awhile. A new Reader’s Notebook entry. And at least two posts revolving around my favorite music of the year.
A quick burst of high quality new tunes over the past week.
“Entitlement Crew” – The Hold Steady. The band just completed a four-night stretch at the Brooklyn Bowl and recorded this track, along with a B side, in advance of those shows. Franz Nicolay is back with the band, which is great news! And the song is pretty good!
“Passing Out” – Strand of Oaks. Tim Showalter scrapped an entire album of material before hunkering down to bang out this year’s Hard Love. That album is ranking highly on many Best Of lists, but I did not love it. Early 2018 will bring a new Strand of Oaks release that features both some revamped tracks from Hard Love along with some of the songs from the rejected album, including this one. Man, this is a great song, and it gets me back on the Strand of Oak bandwagon.
“Maria” – Lionlimb. This band is made up of members of Angel Olsen’s backing band. This sounds nothing like Olsen’s music. It sounds like Elliott Smith doing psychedelic, baroque, Beatle-esque pop. I dig.
“Over the Midnight” – Jonathan Wilson. Wilson has played a huge role in helping Father John Misty develop his sound. You can certainly hear some of that in this mesmerizing track.
“Listen the Snow is Falling” – Galaxie 500. I laughed last night when I saw videos from San Antonio of it snowing down there. We picked the right week to go! This time tomorrow we could have a couple inches on the ground for our first snowfall of the year. Just the excuse I need to pull out this beauty.
“Fairytale of New York” – The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl. An all-timer.
One more piece of the weekend that requires its own entry.
L began her basketball season on Sunday with two games. We missed the first game, but we we landed I had a couple texts from the head coach and another parent letting me know that we lost by six and did not play well. We rolled into the gym a few minutes after the tip of their second game. Maybe we should have skipped it. It was pretty brutal.
We were playing a team that had no one as tall as our four biggest players. Yet those little girls knew how to set screens, go to the basket, and convert layups. They kept killing us at the top of the key because we never taught our girls how to switch on defense. There’d be a big pileup at the free throw line with like four of our girls crashed into each other while a girl from the other team went to the hoop unguarded.
Our girls – and us coaches too, to be honest – struggled with the move to “real” basketball. In the league we played in the past two years, we always had a chance to matchup after every substitute. In this league, you’re expected to check in, go to your spot, and be ready to play. For roughly two-thirds of the game our girls had no idea who they were supposed to be guarding. That’s mostly on us coaches, and I’ve been tasked with coming up with a better way to make sure everyone knows what position they’re playing and who they’re guarding.
The worst part of the game was our girls could not rebound. We didn’t track numbers but I would imagine the other team out-rebounded us at least 2–1. Not only were we taller than them, but our girls all kill each other in practice going for the ball. Not sure if they were timid because they were playing against strangers, just out of sorts because they never knew where they were supposed to be, shutting down because most of the game us coaches were yelling “WHO ARE YOU GUARDING?!?!?” or what. One possession we finally got three offensive boards in a row, but couldn’t convert any of the follows.
We have exactly two inbound plays, one from the sideline, one from the baseline. We’ve practiced these for at least two weeks. In the game, no one did either one right. Players that were supposed to cut left cut right, running into the girl behind them that was cutting forward. Girls who were supposed to set screens moved, and those who were supposed to move set screens. Worse, several times the inbounding player smacked the ball and called “BREAK!” and our girls just stood there and stared at her.
I think playing two games hurt the girls, too. L was freaking wiped out after the second game. One of our girls, who is normally crazy high-energy, was walking around like a zombie during the game. Might need to get better nutrition in them all on game days.
Another thing that killed us is we have 11 players. We knew that was going to be a problem coming in, but it was even worse than we thought in a game situation. We were never sure whether to sub five-for-five or a few at a time, and kept losing track of who needed to get into the game. That was all compounded by the girls bugging us at every dead ball, “Can I go back in?” The team we were playing only had seven players, which, what a shock, seemed to make it pretty easy for their coaches to figure out subs. Our plan had been to just run teams to death with our depth. That works better when the players have an idea of how to play, I guess. Again, some of this will hopefully be fixed before the next games in two weeks. Pretty sure I’m going to be holding a clipboard to make sure we sub correctly.
Anyway, we lost 26–4. And it really wasn’t that close. L hit one shot and nearly had the play of the game. We were inbounding under the opposite basket with three seconds left before halftime. You can’t press until the final three minutes of the game, so we had her stand right on the half-court line and wait for the pass. I told her take two dribbles and shoot. That’s exactly what she did, and her heave from 30 feet hit the front of the rim and bounced away. Sad that our best play was a miss.
But other than that we sucked.
Which I pretty much expected. We’ve focused on fundamentals and haven’t put in any offense, other than going to a certain spot on the court depending on your position. Us coaches are all a little flummoxed at how to teach the girls what to do, mostly because every time we explain something, we get 3–4 girls who have half a clue and the rest of the team just stares at us. The league we played in the past two years was very low key. Dribbling was optional, there weren’t many fouls called, you couldn’t steal on the dribble, etc. In our new league you can’t double players outside the lane or play zones, but everything else is like real ball. We all knew our girls would struggle early on. But getting smoked by a team of shorties was a little hard to take.
The league plays every other weekend, so we have four practices before our next set of games. Hopefully us coaches can get our acts together and, in turn, help the girls be better prepared.
We had ourselves a good ass weekend in San Antonio! Here’s a rundown of what all we packed in.
We flew down Thursday, getting in late afternoon. We went down with one of S’s partners and her husband, and met a friend of theirs who was in from Colorado for the conference. After checking into our hotel – the Grand Hyatt on the River Walk – we changed and hustled out to grab an early dinner. We went to Casa Rio, the first restaurant built along the modern River Walk. We enjoyed some fine tacos and margaritas while sitting outside in the perfect air.
That perfect air was the highlight of the weekend. I know it gets hot as balls in SA in the summer, and there are stretches of the year where the humidity can be nasty. But, man, it was freaking perfect all weekend. Always in the low-mid 70s during the day with almost no humidity. Evenings remained warm well past sunset, so dining al fresco didn’t require a jacket.
There was an interesting mix of folks at our hotel. Lots of docs in the for conference. There were lots of people in for the Rock n Roll marathon. And there were all these middle and high school mariachi bands in for some kind of competition. Friday and Saturday evenings we saw the kids heading to and from their events in their amazing outfits. Lots of bold colors, girls in big hoop skirts, etc. It was a lot of fun to people watch in the hotel bar.
Friday the ladies got to learnin’ so the other husband and I went out to explore the River Walk. I’ve never heard anything but good things about the River Walk and all of those were confirmed through the weekend. It’s really a fantastic place to hang out. Tons of restaurants and shops, lovely scenery, and this weekend not too crazy. We had lunch at County Line barbecue, which was very solid. A couple Shiner Bocks made it a real Texas meal.
After the ladies were done for the day, we all retired to the hotel pool. It was a pretty meager pool, more of a lap pool than a splashing around pool, so we mostly soaked up some rays. Since it wasn’t a big pool like the one at the Biltmore in Scottsdale, where we went two years ago, that also meant it wasn’t overrun with crazy kids.
For dinner that night we decided to hit the happy hour at the Tower of the Americas, which was right behind our hotel. We rode the elevator way the hell up, grabbed a nook in the bar, and ate some tremendous appetizers as we watched the sun set from 700 feet above ground. Following that was another stroll around the River Walk. As a Midwesterner, it’s always a little odd for me to spend time during the holidays in a warm climate. I loved how the River Walk was decorated, though. The river is bordered by all these huge Bald Cypress trees. Rather than being draped in lights, the trees had long light strands hanging from their upper limbs vertically toward the ground. The lights mimicked the natural tendrils you see on some southern trees. It was really nice.
Saturday I put in a long, photo walk in the morning. I managed to log nearly nine miles. I covered every path of the River Walk, toured the Hemisfair Park around the Tower of the Americas, and mingled around the Alamo, where a 5k/10K was being held. I didn’t cross the highway to tour the Alamodome, but it in sight of our hotel so I bowed in its direction to honor the events that took place there on April 7, 2008. Everything I had ever heard about the Alamo was also true: it’s pretty damn small. I also enjoyed the irony of how celebrated it is for its role in American history when San Antonio is an overwhelmingly Hispanic city. Seriously, when I walked up to the actual building, they were organizing kids for the children’s run and I swear there wasn’t a white kid in any of the groups.
That’s the big takeaway from spending a few days down there: San Antonio really is a hybrid city. It feels both very American and very Mexican. Spanish is spoken everywhere, but you also see people who look like they are from Mexico who speak with a Texas accent. It helps that the Mexican government has a cultural office in Hemisfair Park, there is a UNAM extension, and the park is filled with art donated by Mexico. I’ve never been to Houston so can only compare with Dallas, which feels uniquely Texan with a dash of Mexico. San Antonio is a much more even mix.
Saturday afternoon my college buddy E-bro drove down from his home in Austin to watch the KU-Syracuse game with me. We hadn’t seen each other since my wedding over 14 years ago, although he, another college buddy, and I text each other almost every day. It was also the first KU game we had watched together in nearly 20 years. We found a table at a bar with a ton of TVs that were mostly tuned to the SEC championship game, got one switched to the KU game, and did our best to catch up while watching the Jayhawks win and under the din of the CBS broadcast which did its best to down out all conversations. It was great to spend a couple hours together.
I met the ladies at the Ruth’s Chris in our hotel where they were wrapping up dinner. I grabbed a quick bite, had a couple more Shiners, and that wrapped up our trip.
We were off early Sunday, which was kind of a mess. The Rock n Roll Marathon was starting about three blocks from our hotel, so our Uber driver struggled to reach us. Fortunately it’s only about 15 minutes from downtown to the airport and we got there in plenty of time to get through security and grab some breakfast before it was time to head home.
All in all a really good weekend. I highly recommend San Antonio, provided you time your visit properly. Avoid the summer heat. Locals told us the River Walk can be packed shoulder-to-shoulder with people in the winter when lots of northerners come down.
Crap. I had an awfully nice playlist put together and then realized I can’t figure out how to share Spotify playlists using the WordPress mobile app. You see, the Mrs. and I flew down San Antone way yesterday so she can further her medical education over the next couple days. Expect details from the tip on Monday. Without Spotify music, these two vids seemed appropriate.
I’m off to check on the basement at the Alamo…
The War on Drugs – 32
Lydia Loveless – 25
Frightened Rabbit – 21
R.E.M. – 20
Complete stats available at my Last.fm page
Dang it. Once again my slowness in writing has caused someone with a lot more readership than I have to hit the same topic. Will Leitch has a piece in New York Magazine about whether the NFL is on a downward spiral. He hits a lot of the same notes I wanted to hit in a more personal post. His piece is really good, so I do recommend reading it. But I won’t let it stop me from sharing my own thoughts. Finally.
Over the past month I’ve seen a pretty big shift in the sports I watch. After several years of watching the NFL less and less, I’ve kind of given up on the game. My Sundays are more often spent watching the Food Network with one of my girls, if we’re going to spend the day watching TV, than going back-and-forth between Fox and CBS with the afternoon games. Where once NBC’s Sunday night game was required viewing, I don’t think I’ve watched it for more than 30 minutes all season combined.
Why the move away from the NFL? Long time readers know how our fall soccer schedule started the process a few years ago. September and October Sundays were all spent on soccer fields watching the girls play. That’s what began to break the life-long pull the NFL had on me. Then – again as I’ve written about before – the mismanagement of the Colts has taken a toll on me. I don’t have much interest watching a poorly constructed team lose by playing bad football most Sundays.
All the issues around football this year don’t help. Most of you would guess correctly I’m firmly on the side of the players in the kneeling during the anthem controversy. But I understand how some folks will be put off by that. I, though, am more put off by owners and advertisers trying to silence players. And I’m put off by the drama of Jerry Jones and Roger Goodell fighting about if Goodell should remain as commissioner and how much he should be paid. All these issues strike me as a league that is unclear on what its path forward should be, or worse attempting to distract from the real issue surrounding football that could threaten its future.
Yes, all we’re learning about the terrible toll football takes on the bodies and brains of its players has some effect on me, too. It’s hard to watch massive hits we grew up cheering knowing the long-term effects they carry. It’s frustrating to know that the NFL put off giving the players more protections for so long. And it’s terrible to see nearly every Sunday a player somehow avoids going under the concussion protocol despite taking a fearsome strike to the head.
Biggest, though, is simply the quality of play. The NFL just doesn’t seem as good or exciting as it used to. Part of that is just about every Sunday another superstar suffers a serious injury. Part of it is various rules and strategy changes that have made the games feel interminable. I fondly recall when the Peyton Manning Colts were at their zenith, when they were playing wide-open, pass-first football, but were so efficient at it that 1:00 games would sometimes end at 3:45. That was outside the norm, but it was possible. Games now, with all the replays and challenges and incomplete passes, are lucky if they check in at three hours fifteen minutes. That extra half hour, in which nothing happens, feels much longer.
(Quick aside: How can a guy who loves baseball complain about football games taking too long? Well, A) baseball does have a time problem, too. But B) length is part of baseball, and much more manageable as a fan watching at home. You can do other things while watching baseball. For football, you really need to be locked in lest you miss something important.)
I don’t know which of those factors is the biggest, but when you combine them they all result in me having no interest in watching the NFL. I still watch plenty of college football on Saturdays, which likely makes me a hypocrite on one level or another. College football just seems a lot more exciting despite still having the injury issue, games taking forever, and my favorite team sucking big time.
Balancing this somewhat is my slow shift into being an NBA fan again. I’ve watched a good chunk of most of the Pacers’ games this season, and often spend some time watching the national NBA games each evening.
For starters the Pacers are a lot of fun to watch. At least so far I was dead wrong on their return for Paul George. Victor Oladipo has been fabulous when thrust into the role as primary scorer. He’s exciting, plays with flair and passion, and is much better than I expected. Domantas Sabonis has also been great as the Pacers primary bench weapon. Kevin Pritchard made some other wise roster moves resulting in a team that runs, shoots, plays defense, and is generally fun to watch. They’re not going to challenge the Cavs or Celtics in the East, but they at least make you want to watch and root for them.
It also helps that the NBA is in a really good place right now. Most teams are about getting out and scoring. Most of the Pacers games I’ve watched this year have checked in at just under or right at two hours, which is the perfect amount of time for a regular season game. The games are brisk and entertaining.
You have the Warriors, who are an all-time great team, at least in terms of talent and style. That’s a sexy team to watch. You have LeBron, who is doing things no one his age should be able to do. You have Kyrie Irving, who has reinvented himself and is leading the Celtics to do things no one expected of them. You have James Harden and the Rockets, who are spectacular. You have Joel Embiid, the man-child who (for now) is healthy and doing amazing things. There’s the Greek Freak, the Thunder, The Zinger, the promise of the T-Wolves, and a couple dozen young guys who are loaded with potential to take over as older stars age out. It feels like every time you turn on an NBA game, you’re going to see something amazing that you’ll want to start texting people about.
Oh, and the NBA has embraced the idea of its players taking social and political stands. Granted, those views are generally progressive and fit with my world view. But, still, unlike the NFL which tries to turn its players into nameless, faceless, voiceless, interchangeable jerseys, the NBA appears much more open to allowing its players to both emote and entertain.
Put simply, the NBA is a lot of fun, while the NFL seems joyless.
I don’t miss the NFL. Whatever hole it leaves in my sporting life has been filled by trying to re-learn the NBA. Once the NFL was my perfect generic sport. College basketball was my passion. Baseball was my first love. But the NFL was the sport where it didn’t matter who was playing. If there was a game on, I could sit and watch for 15 minutes or 30, and be entertained. Those days are over.
An action-packed Thanksgiving break in our house.
We kicked things off Wednesday by heading to the post office to submit passport applications for all three girls. We are going to Mexico next spring break and wanted to give their applications plenty of time to percolate through the system. We double, triple, quadruple checked that everything was in order, talked to a couple friends who had gone through the process recently, and arrived thoroughly prepared…only to discover the post office now takes reservations for the passport window and they were booked solid for the day. We got there early, and they told us if we wanted to hang out they’d try to squeeze us in. We gave that a shot, as there were only two groups in front of us, but before the first family got processed two more came in and we gave up. So much for planning ahead!
Off to a couple stores to do last-minute shopping for Thanksgiving dinner and then it was back home to wrap up cleaning/straightening the house to get ready for the big day. One of the girls’ big Christmas presents was delivered that afternoon. In a rather large box. With a sticker listing the box’s contents. Somehow the girls didn’t see it as it sat at the front door until I could sneak it up to the attic. Honestly, I’m not sure why I’m trying to act like their gifts don’t come from Amazon, Target, Pottery Barn, etc like everything else we get them. One of us has to keep up appearances, I guess.
Last year I let L watch the Cheers “Thanksgiving Orphans” episode with me on Thanksgiving eve. As I recalled, she didn’t seem to really understand why I laughed so much, although she did enjoy the food fight. So this year I went back to my old system of waiting until the girls went to bed to watch it. I drank a little too much bourbon and laughed a lot, just like I have for the past 31 Thanksgivings.
The next morning L asked me, “Are you going to watch the show with the food fight?” She was disappointed when I said I had watched it the night before. I guess she’ll join me again in 2018!
On to food prep. We were hosting, but it was about the smallest possible group we can have in our local family: only six adults plus our girls and two one-year-olds. I handled the turkey, corn casserole, and made Giada’s stuffing/dressing. When I put the bird in, I thought something looked different about it. When it was time to carve it, I asked my sister-in-law who is a chef take the knife. She started carving, paused, and wondered why it wasn’t cutting like she expected. That’s when she realized I had cooked the bird upside-down. She said that was actually a good thing, as it kept the breast in all the juices and fat, which kept it moist and tender. Fortunately the bird turned out great, so I decided that will be my thing going forward, and will refer to it as my Famous Upside-Down Turkey.
We had a fine meal, and I once again bemoaned the fact that my minor stomach issues prevent me from eating nearly as much as I used to. Seriously I can’t even go back for mid-evening leftovers anymore. That just meant more food for the weekend.
Friday is decoration day in our house. I stepped outside in the frosty morning to begin putting up lights while S worked a half-day. Within an hour I was chucking my jacket aside and wiping sweat from my brow as it turned into a beautiful, warm, fall day. Weird. Usually I’m freezing on decoration days. Once S got home we headed out for the purchasing of the tree and got the inside decorations taken care of. We ended up with a very handsome tree once again.
Saturday was another prep day as C was having two friends over for a sleepover. It was a Harry Potter-themed sleepover, as the girls would be watching the Freeform marathon of the Potter movies while doing some Potter-related crafts and playing games. C decorated the basement so it was filled with references to the books and movies. She’s very creative and did a fantastic job. The nice thing about having 11-year-olds over for a sleepover is you just kind of turn them loose. We only saw them when they came up for pizza. Now we did hear them plenty. They were still going strong at 12:30 when I finally fell asleep. We heard Sunday morning that C and one of her friends made it until 3:00 before passing out.
Oh, and we squeezed in taking a picture for the Christmas card Saturday afternoon, too. This has always been a problem in our family. Each year at least one kid doesn’t want to cooperate. S and I are usually yelling at them to knock it off/stop pouting/stop whining/leave your sister alone the entire time. Somehow we always end up with a decent pic. But, man, this year was an especially big struggle. I won’t out which kid was the biggest problem but I took the fewest pics I’ve ever taken because there was a complete meltdown after about 10 minutes. Fortunately one of the pictures was good enough to work, although neither of us think it is one of our best.
Sunday was clean-up, chill-out day.
The girls got an extra hour added onto break as I made an appointment first thing this morning to knock out the passports. The lady at the post office was really nice, rushed everything through so they could get to school quickly, and the forms are off to Chicago for processing.
Just before sitting down to put this together, I whipped up a batch of cookie dough so C can make the first Christmas cookies of the year after school today.
The holiday season has begun!
Busy, busy day around here getting ready for tomorrow. All the errands have been run and (hopefully) the final trip to the grocery store completed. The girls and I are midway through our house cleaning regimen. I’m about to head outside and do some leaf blowing and grass mowing in the 90 minutes or so the thermometer might reach 40 today.
With that in mind, I thought I’d just share this most excellent link with you all. Whether you’re a KU fan or not, I think a lot of you will enjoy reading through the oral history of Kevin Durant’s one visit to Allen Fieldhouse in 2007.
Of course, the headline is not entirely accurate. Had Texas won that day, the teams would have tied for first place in the Big 12. So the KU Big 12 title streak would still be at 13 today.
Anyway, safe and happy Thanksgivings to all of you!