Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Profiles in Awesome: Paul the Octopus

It is with a heavy heart that I award my first posthumous Profile In Awesome to Paul the Octopus.

Soccer fans around the world fell in love with Paul during this last world cup, when he correctly predicted the result of every world cup game thrown his way. In case you missed it, here's how he did it: two plastic containers were placed in Paul's tank, each with a mussel inside. The German flag was on one container, while the flag of their opponent was on the other container. Before each game, Paul would open up the lid of the country that he predicted to win.

Paul predicted every Germany game, as well as the final match between Spain and the Netherlands. In the end, his win total was matched only by his number of legs, as Paul went a perfect 8-for-8 throughout the tournament.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Paul was flattered like few others. Imitation animal predictors began popping up left and right. Parakeets, parrots, even an Australian crocodile. Paul, meanwhile, refused to let the limelight change him. It is rare when someone with great powers truly retires in their prime, on top of the world. Paul did just that. After the cup ended, he returned to his old hobby of entertaining children that came to see him. He lived out his days until last night, when he passed away due to natural causes.

I salute you, Paul. You captivated an entire country with your brilliance and foresight. You were a German octopus, but you didn't let your nationality get in the way of your objective decision making, boldly predicting the German team to lose to Serbia in the group stage. Your pick of Spain to beat Germany in the semifinals in the face of public outcry and death threats was nothing short of extraordinary.

They say trouble comes in threes. Paul the Octopus showed us that good things can come in eights. And for that, we thank you. Rest in Peace, Paul the Octopus.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

San Francisco: I Did It My Way

I recently took a trip out to the West Coast to the beautiful city of San Francisco. It was an excellent trip. Is that enough of an intro? I think so.

The story actually begins about a month-and-a-half ago, when I was driving home. A local radio station had been giving away trips to concerts in big cities all summer. One of the trips was to San Francisco to see The Script. On this late August afternoon, the station had actually given away that trip already. But when the DJ came on the radio, I knew right away something was about to happen. My phone was ready.
DJ: "I told you earlier about (name of winner) who won the trip to San Francisco to see The Script, BUT"
Me: [I call the station]
DJ: "...she can't go because of work. SO"
Me: [Phone is ringing]
DJ: "I'm opening it up to everyone. Be caller 9 right now and the trip is yours."

Now on the phone:
DJ: "Hello!"
Me: "Hey, how's it goin?"
DJ: "I'm good, how you doin?"
Me: "Well I'm pretty awesome but hoping to be a lot more awesome right about now..."
DJ: "Well I think I can make that happen, cause you are caller 9 you are going to SAN FRANCISCO."
Me: [Awesome freak out]

And thus the trip was won. I decided to take my little sister. We had been to San Fran once before, in 1999. During that trip, our parents were on some wine tour or other excursion and foolishly left us in the care of our cousin Brandon, who lived in an apartment above a bar somewhere in the city. We woke up on a Saturday morning when Brandon, the ingenious inventor of egg cobbler, had to go into work. Me, my brother, and my sister were left in the apartment. My brother and sister decided to take to the streets in search of breakfast while I stayed behind and held down the fort. While it all worked out, my parents were less than thrilled when they found out. Needless to say, my sister and I were excited to once again wander the streets of San Francisco in search of breakfast without parental supervision.

Our trip began Wednesday morning with a 5:30 AM flight out of Richmond, with a quick stop in Charlotte and then the long one to San Fran. My sister slept, and I knocked out a business stats midterm. But what struck me most about the flight was just how uneventful it was. Even though I saw at least 3 babies board the flight, I did not hear any of them for the entire 5 hour flight. The person in front of me kept their seat upright for the entire flight. It was totally unremarkable, and in that way, was somewhat remarkable.

We landed in San Fran at 10 AM west coast time and made our way to the hotel. I was figuring the room would not be ready for several hours. Nope. It was ready to go. In one of the only minor hiccups of the the trip, I was surprised to find that the room had not yet been paid for. But I called my booking agent and that was taken care of quickly and easily. We dropped our bags, planned our afternoon, and took to the streets!

After an delicious and MASSIVE lunch at a Thai restaurant, we made our way up to Fisherman's Wharf, where we found the worlds worst street performer. I kid you not. This guy was technically a comedian/magician, but was terrible at both. His jokes were not funny, inappropriate, and awkward, and he probably did about 2 total minutes of juggling in a 30 minute show and then his grand finale was escaping from a straight-jacket. We also discovered the San Fran sea lions. There is a dock where dozens and dozens of sea lions just pile onto each other and sunbathe. Literally piles of them. It was pretty awesome.

Wednesday night we went to the concert. It was a great show. Other than the band of course, highlights included a 45 year old woman sitting down in the middle of the dance floor to put on lipstick, the entire Asian family in front of my sister, all with ear-plugs, standing completely still throughout the entire show, and the fact that the music in between the opening act and The Script included Empire State of Mind.

On Thursday we wandered Union Square, rode a cable car, and went to the Exploratorium. All awesome. The day and trip ended in grand fashion, when we met up with my friend Richard and his friend Lan, for some sushi and some drinks. Sadly, my friend David was not able to make it out. David, here is what you missed:

We found a bar in Japantown that was pretty much empty until we came in. There was a closed off karaoke room attached to the bar. We asked about it and were told it was $75/hour to be in there. While initially shocked, our surprise was soon answered by the constant presence of well-dressed women walking in and out of the room. But the night was made when a Japanese man took the stage and belted out a truly inspired and heavily-accented version of Frank Sinatra's "My Way." It was an unforgettable moment.

From there we made our way to the airport, where we walked right up to security (literally NO security line) made it to the gate, and enjoyed a pleasant red-eye back to Dulles and then down to Richmond. Again, zero screaming babies. I watched a movie and then got some sleep. It was excellent.

They say you get what you pay for. I was a little worried that a free trip would give me a lot of troubles. But it was some of the smoothest traveling I have ever done. The hotel was pretty nice. Every meal we had was HUGE. The weather was perfect. All in all, it was a great trip. I can't wait to go back.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Heart Surgery Can Wait. This Is Football.

It is a crazy world we live in. Simple decisions are almost non-existent, and with all kinds of factors to consider, it can be easy to lose sight of your priorities.

That's why I want to give a big SHOUT-OUT to Major Hester, a 69-year-old retired office supply clerk and devout Michigan State football fan. Hester suffers from cardiomyopathy and needs surgery to have a pacemaker put in. That surgery was scheduled for today, Thursday the 7th. There was just one little problem: Michigan State is 5-0, ranked 17th in the nation, and playing in-state rival Michigan this weekend, who is also 5-0 and ranked 18th in the nation.

With such a huge game on tap for Saturday, Hester was not about to take any chances of missing that game. So he postponed his heart surgery because he can't take the chance of something going wrong on the operating table and keeping him from watching the game.

My heart goes out to you, Mr. Hester (pun intended). I commend you for staying true to your team. If cardiomyopathy is a weakening of the heart muscle, I'm guessing in your case it's that it is just too tired from loving Michigan State so much. When it comes down to it, a surgery next Tuesday will be virtually identical to a surgery today. But watching such a big game as it happens is something that cannot be duplicated.

I'm sure there are people out there who think you are foolish, Mr. Hester. They will be quick to point out how passionate you get about games and that that kind of excitement will spell trouble for a heart already weakened and in need of surgery. Sure, you've been known to smack a few coffee tables in your day, scream at coaches and curse at refs. But that is just part of being a fan. And you've been known to show restraint as well. You give yourself pep talks to stay calm, and turn the TV down to keep from getting too excited.

And so I give Major Hester a big "good for you!" for postponing your heart surgery until after the Michigan/Michigan State game on Saturday. You certainly have your priorities in order. Blawegsome approved.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Baby Fist Bump

I've been fortunate enough to have some pretty amazing moments in my life. In 1993 I met Bill Nye the Science Guy. In 1995 I caught the last out as my little league team won the City Series Championship. In 2003 I was a contestant in my high school's Mr. Colonial competition, a male beauty pageant/talent contest where my "evening wear" was pajamas and part of my talent was fitting my entire body through a coat hanger. In 2005 I rode a camel through the run-down back alleys of Cairo. In 2007 I had ten papers due on the same day and I lived to tell the tale. In 2009 I won second-row tickets to a Jonas Brothers concert. Earlier this year a little girl asked me if I was Justin Bieber. While it has certainly been a charmed life, one recent event raised it to a whole new level.

On a recent Friday I attended a party at a friend's apartment. At a point in time there came an occasion when someone showed up with a baby. 10 weeks old. Adorable as can possibly be. Naturally, pretty much everyone was drawn to the baby. At one point, he was lying on the ground and I was sitting playing with him. I put out a fist for a fist bump. Instantly, the baby clenched his fingers into a fist and extended his little arm towards mine, meeting my hand in the most gratifying fist bump I have experienced.

The most amazing part came next. When our fists bumped, I exploded my hand backwards and made the appropriate sound effect, as is the social norm these days. In what was one of the happiest moments of my life, the baby exploded his fist bump out too! It. Was. Epic.

This baby will forever hold a special place in my heart. I hope one day when he grows up our paths will cross and I can tell him about that moment. Sadly, by the time that could happen, fist bumping and exploding will no doubt be so out of style that he will just think I am some weird old lame guy. That is the beauty and tragedy of the baby fist bump: it is, by its nature, pure and simple, and nothing more.

Busy times are ahead, but I'll do my best to post every now and then. Stay classy.