Saturday, May 27, 2017

Soccer Dad Chronicles

At what point does one officially become a soccer dad? Does soccer dad have to be the person's primary identity? Spending Friday nights at soccer parks watching my 9-year-old's team compete seems like a pretty good indication that I am, in fact, a soccer dad. And the only thing more exciting than watching a close contest is knowing you'll surprise him with a trip to Dairy Queen afterward. Whatever unhealthy stew is responsible for the cherry dip they put on their cones, I don't care. It's the only artificial flavor that makes me swoon.

So last night, it was raining fairly hard and the mid-50s temperature helped produce a rain-fog combination that made it hard for me to see through my glasses. My 9-year-old has inherited my nearsightedness and poor little fella had a hard time seeing during the game. I almost sat in my car to watch the game but I figured if 9-year-olds can deal with shitty weather then so can I.

The other team banged in three quick goals and it looked like a blowout was in store. It was 4-0 at the end of the first half. Our team played well but couldn't manage much offense. Much to their credit, they weren't discouraged, and came out kicking in the second half. A talented kid on my son's team scored two goals quickly, and suddenly it was 4-3 after a player on the other team kicked the ball in his own net by mistake. I think the term for this is "own goal," but I'm not sure. I grew up playing baseball and street hockey and football. Soccer wasn't on my radar and I'm just learning about what constitutes offsides.

Anyway, the talented kid on my son's team was feeling it and scored another goal to tie it 4-4. The last few minutes of the game were high anxiety. You see your kid out there in a close game and of course you hope he makes a good play but more than that you hope he doesn't get worked. I am not some Malcolm Gladwell follower who thinks with 10,000 hours my kid will be on the Olympic team. I just want my kid to have fun, make friends, develop skill and confidence. True, as I like to say, that winning feels better than losing but it's not all about the W. Time expired, the game ended in a 4-4 tie, and I hollered "A tie, we'll take it!" but not having much charisma I don't think anyone heard or cared, and that's fine.

I congratulated my kid on a good game, and off to Dairy Queen we went. Those cones tasted damn delicious.

This morning, like a true soccer dad, I treated his filthy soccer jersey with the best detergent products made available by runaway capitalism, and I'm pleased to report it's 98% free of stains and dirt.

A tie never felt so good, a clean enough jersey looks good to me, and this soccer dad is already looking forward to next Friday night.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Short Story about Writing

A blank screen greets me at 8:20 in the morning. My kids and wife have left for school and work, so I have quiet. There are no excuses for not writing today. My wife calls me on the way to work to tell me a story. You might think it odd that she would call me just after leaving the house, but it's one of our favorite ways to communicate. The kids constantly compete for our attention, so one of the ways we get to talk is by phone to and from work. She tells the story but I'm not fully listening. "I thought you'd find this story funny," she says. Not long after we hang up, I send a text that says "Sorry I was out of it when we were on the phone. I'm trying to write and my mind is clogged." She's heard this before. I'm always carrying on about writing. I walk around with half-formed thoughts and sentences in my head. What is it that I want to say and how exactly do I want to say it? Write it down before you forget it!

I plug away, putting some words on the screen, word process them a bit, write some more, try to turn a clever phrase, listen to Courtney Barnett's newly released song for inspiration and distraction. I listen to it five times in a row and daydream about seeing her in concert. I write a little more and figure "hey if I write 300 words 10 days in a row that's 3000 words not bad." The words add up quick but the trick is to make them good words. I am always in pursuit of a good sentence. Words get deleted and pasted and rearranged and they're things I type between gulps of coffee. I read because reading and writing are a happy couple. So it's read a little bit, write a little bit, and 200 decent words have happened. Must be time for another break! I go to an Oreck vacuum store (don't ask) and I think I spent a few extra minutes there on purpose to avoid getting back to writing. I love writing but writing is a process and sometimes the process is painful. Then it's off to the grocery store because the grocery store is my second home and it's chicken on the grill tonight and it's time to get the marinade going.

Back home and back to writing. New example here. Deleted example there. Note to self here. Save the document obsessively even though it saves automatically and sits in a cloud safely. I look at the words--did I write that? Is this any good? How do I make it better? What's missing? What's the next sentence supposed to be? What's the next paragraph going to be? Write, read, edit, plan, write. Take a break to eat. E-mail. Make a list. Go for a walk because walking clears the mind and soothes the soul.

Feeling good after the walk, so I review the words again. Chop some. Add new ones. How do the words sound now? Hmmm, it's 1:39 p.m., maybe I should take a shower.

Out of the shower, proofread what I've been working on, back and forth between that document and this blog post. Why spend time on this blog when I could be concentrating on that other thing, you ask? Because these are a different kind of words. These words come easy. On this blog I get to play with words. I never want to lose the joy I find in writing.

Minimize one screen, focus on another. I look at my main writing of the day one more time. I managed 392 words. I think the words will do. That's all for today. Back at it tomorrow.

I Would Love To Spill The Beans With You Till Dawn

Is "Loving Cup" on your short list of great songs by The Rolling Stones?

My two favorite things about this song:

1. The piano open.
2. The lyric "I would love to spill the beans with you till dawn".

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Champagne Weekend

"If you don't get the little things right, you can't get the big things right." I don't know if that's true but it's something I said in a parenting moment this weekend.

My 9-year-old's soccer team got destroyed. Whatever weekends used to be it doesn't matter except for useless comparisons. Weekends now are soccer and baseball games, birthday parties, and whatever else you can cram in between cleaning and loads of laundry. On Friday night we sat out in the cold watching soccer, with me mumbling "Bad News Bears" in reference to our team. That's not a nice thing to think or mumble but I'm human. I tried to say something useful in the car on the way home after the game: "It's not all about winning but winning feels better than losing and if you can't win at least make sure you worked hard. You can't control how good the other team is and how other people play but you can control your effort." Or something like that. Not exactly Vince Lombardi material and way short of inspiring but the reason I gave my kid the business is because his laces were untied for like the 1000th time. Dude, tie your laces and hustle, that'll make your old man happy.

Then came Saturday for 6-year-old's baseball game. All the 6-year-olds hit the ball after about 10 tries and we all clapped and hollered. I love baseball so much that I'll stand up and cheer if any kid on either team makes a clean play on a ground ball. Another thing that makes me happy is when they sell hot dogs at the park for a buck so after the game the Schoepflins crushed some hot dogs and shared a few milkshakes for good measure.

Through all of Friday night soccer and Saturday morning baseball I could barely stop sneezing and wiping my eyes because of wicked allergies. I'm embarrassed that my wife has to sit next to a sneezy guy blowing his nose who is mumbling about Bad News Bears and checking his phone to see if Trump is still president.

Post-milkshakes we chilled at home for a few hours and then made our way to a birthday party. We're blessed to have many friends, some of whom are lifelong friends. One of those friends invited us to a birthday party for one of his kids, so we got to enjoy a relaxing afternoon sitting outside in near perfect weather drinking the Champagne of Beers. If you think I'll ever pass up a chance to drink Miller High Life, you're dead wrong. There was a moment when my friends and I were drinking said Miller High Life and listening to seven ZZ Top songs in a row. Whatever life is or was or might be doesn't matter very much but in that moment everything was good and right.

When we got home the kids went to bed and wifey and me watched about 40 minutes of The Wizard of Lies with Robert De Niro playing Bernie Madoff and while it wasn't anything special I still think De Niro has that "it" quality and so what if he doesn't because dude has lifetime greatness guaranteed on Taxi Driver alone. I won't get too sidetracked talking about De Niro but I think his performance in Cop Land is underrated. By underrated I mean I never hear anyone say anything about him in that movie, but I'm here to tell you he's the second best actor in the film. First is Stallone.

Sunday morning was quiet and we went separate ways in the afternoon, with my wife and 6-year-old going to another birthday party and 9-year-old and me going to see the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie. It was a ludicrous road trip film that felt like something of an homage to The Griswold family but as if it was written by Sherry Turkle. Sherry Turkle you see is someone who cautions against the overuse of technology and believes nothing substitutes for conversation and face-to-face interaction. And in this film the mom is all about the kids not using their gadgets. Even the dad is sneaking around with his phone because he needs it to make calls for work. When the mom realizes she is losing the War on Phones she is super pissed and declares she will no longer fight and it looks as though technology has won and family has lost but there was still 20 minutes left and the family rallied and came together for a happy ending. It was all ridiculous but ridiculous works for me something in the way that Miller High Life works for me so I laughed a lot during the movie when I wasn't stuffing popcorn in my face or checking my phone to see if Trump is still president.

After the movie we stopped at a store to buy potato chips, Bison dip, and tissues. I'm still wrecked with allergies so had to stock up and I'm going to see if my wife wants to skip dinner and go directly to chips and dip. Sometimes you gotta break routine. There's even a bottle of champagne in the fridge so maybe I'll bust that open because there's gotta be cause to celebrate something. Like the end of the semester or that it's still the weekend until midnight or just because I could say I had the Champagne of Beers on Saturday and then a little champagne on Sunday. Everything in moderation of course, I had like three beers on Saturday and maybe a glass or two of champagne tonight and that's probably it until the middle of next weekend.

Well everybody I hope you enjoyed this and I don't know if I'm doing parenting or husbanding right but I sure do try and I love my family and that is most definitely something to celebrate.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Random Sampling Nerds of the World, Unite!

I know I'm not the only one who geeks out on the subject of sampling. Here's a useful two minute video about random sampling. There's a helpful soup analogy in the video. The accompanying article mentions the video series Methods 101 that is "dedicated to explaining and educating the public about the basic methods we use to conduct our survey research." Good stuff.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Continuing Relevance of Sociology

Sociology is having a good year. Two quick examples of sociologists getting well-deserved acclaim.

Matthew Desmond was awarded a Pulitzer for his book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.

Tressie McMillan Cottom appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah to talk about her book Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy.

Her book was reviewed in the New York Times.

Sociology is alive and well. Kudos to these and other sociologists who produce work that is accessible to the public.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

1993 > 2017

In today's edition of 1990s appreciation, I offer you a tremendous song from 1993. It's by Digable Planets from the album Reachin’ (A New Refutation Of Time And Space), which you should own.

100% guarantee that "Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat)" is the best song you'll hear today.

2017 get out of here with your fidget spinners.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Cold Take: Nirvana is Still Great

Maybe I'm biased as a Generation X person but Nirvana's music is great and continues to hold up beautifully. If you're visiting a desert island anytime soon you best bring Nirvana's MTV Unplugged in New York album. Though this is a cold take about Nirvana, I'm going to mix in a hot take about Courtney Love because when I think about Kurt Cobain I also think of Courtney Love. Courtney's a great musician in her own right and I dare say if not for sexism she would get way more acclaim. Go ahead and listen to Live Through This and tell me it isn't a great album. You could tell me it isn't great but you'd be wrong. I'm wearing my sassy pants today, fyi. And when you're done listening to Live Through This watch the movie Basquiat and enjoy Love's outstanding, scene stealing performance. But your first priority should be to listen to this phenomenal Nirvana cover of The Velvet Underground's "Here She Comes Now". I've got all the superlatives today, I know.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

We'll Make Great Pets

We humans aren't very good at being human. Our record is dismal in many ways: war, slavery, racism, poverty, terrorism, violence.

On a micro-level, we fail at the art of communication, we aren't consistently nice, we brag, complain, complain more, then complain some more, and finally ask "How are you?" without really wanting to hear the answer. Listening, compassion, and empathy are in short supply.

Counter point: humans do good and surprising things too. Suddenly a human drops a nice gift on you, or offers a lovely compliment, or flashes a brilliant smile, or hugs you. Humans are great to share a beer with and they're important if one wants to make love. They also tend to say funny things. They even argue about Oxford commas.

Plus, to err is human or something like that. Maybe we take the good with the bad, maybe we all work on being a little bit better and a lot less terrible.

I mean, what's the alternative? Leave it to the algorithms and robots? I don't know.

Like the song goes, maybe Martians could do better than we've done...