Monthly Archives: April 2010

The End of the World

Late last year, Hollywood released the epic disaster film 2012 staring John Cusack and directed by Roland Emmerich.  I have not seen the film, but I know enough about the film to tell you it was a festival of special effects.  According to the director, it was inspired by the book Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock and the theory of the Mayan Calendar that the world will come to an end in the year 2012.  Surprisingly, this theory has caught on, and there are any number of sites on the internet dedicated to surviving the impending disasters.  Much like the Y2K theory, remember all the talk about planes falling out of the sky the second the clock clicked over to midnight in the year 2000, I have given this round of end of the world jargon very little thought.  That is until I realized the world is coming apart at the seams.  Literally.

In general, human beings do not like change.  We get used to our lives and our daily habits and we do not like it when things get disrupted.  The end of the world would certainly count as one of these disruptions, and I for one do not think I would adjust well.  So if there is indeed going to be an end to the world as we know it, and not just in an REM song, I would like a little advance notice, please.  Since the beginning of the year, there have been five major earthquakes that I can remember.  Haiti on January 12th measuring 7.0, Chile on February 27th measuring 8.8, and three earthquakes in April in Mexico, Indonesia, and China all measuring over 7.0.  I also recall that there were news reports of earthquakes in Japan and Spain, but that they did not seem to be as devastating as the others.  We even had an earthquake right here in Illinois in the early morning hours of April 18th.  It was a measly 5.4 quake, and I felt absolutely nothing, but what the heck.  All this shifting of the earths crust can’t really be that good, can it?  And now there is a volcano erupting in Iceland that has been dormant for almost 200 years, and the ash cloud has disrupted air traffic all over Europe and the world. 

Hey. Mother Nature.  Is this your little hint?  Are you getting ready to take the whole bunch of us out?

This may seem like a funny thing for me to say at this time, but I don’t like the fact that I am divorced.  It was a major disruption in my life, and the lives of my children.  Looking back, I can honestly say it was one of the worst moments in my life, and the shock waves from that time will be felt by many people for years to come.  I am still attempting to put my financial life back together, having spent more than $20,000 over the two years it took to get divorced, and the timing of the current downfall in the economy certainly didn’t help matters.  It upsets me to know that I failed at something, and that my failure had such a devastating effect on the people I love most.  My relationship with my oldest daughter was crushed in the process, and we are only just beginning to work our way through things.  But given all of that, I can’t now sit here and say that I regret what happened.  I really do like my life now.  Sure, as with anyone, I wish there were things I could change or fix, but I also know that I have built a new life with Maureen and the kids that in many ways is much better than the one that was destroyed.

A little bit of research and a quick visit to the United States Geological Survey web site  showed me that the current trend in earth moving phenomena is not very unusual.  Every day, somewhere around the world, the earths crust moves in some way.  Many shifts are small, and others are quite large.  Of all of the earthquake that have been in the news recently, the one that struck  Haiti was actually one of the smallest, yet it seems that the devastation in Haiti was much greater than all of the others.  The simple answer is of course the infrastructure.  Haiti is a very poor country, and they were just not prepared for the events of that day.  The recent earthquake in Chile ranks as one of the top ten earthquakes in recorded history, but it is not the most devastating one to ever hit that country.  On May 22, 1960 the biggest earthquake ever recorded struck in Chile with a magnitude of 9.5.  This along with a long history of very large earthquakes, gave Chile an infrastructure that was more prepared for the movement in the earth than Haiti was.  Chile had learned from the past, and had raised it’s building standards to accommodate for this and future earthquakes.

The current divorce rate in the United States stands at 43%.  It raises to 60% for those who get married for a second time.  Obviously there are too many people who have not learned from their own mistakes, and have not rebuilt there lives to accommodate the tough times.  When I got married the first time, I was only 23 years old, and the woman I was getting married to was only 19.  I remember a number of people telling me that we should wait.  That we were not ready for the lifetime commitment of marriage, and it pains me to say so now, but they were right.  When problems occurred, I ignored them.  They sat under the surface and heated up, until our world finally cracked open and all the problems of the past came to the forefront.  Our infrastructure was one that was ill-prepared for the major events that were shaking our world.  The marriage crumbled. 

Maureen and I have been dating for almost four years now, and we have had our share of problems.  There was one point when I really felt like we were not going to make it, but we managed to work our way through it.  We are not a couple of kids, although she is much younger looking than I am.  We have built a strong foundation to our relationship, and I am confident that we can survive any of the tremors that will attempt to break us down.  Earthquakes happen everyday in all of our lives.  Some are small, some are large.  The most vicious of them will try to collapse the world in on us, and unless we are prepared to deal with them they will succeed.  I would like to think that we can beat the odds, and that we have learned from our past mistakes.  I am pretty confident that we can survive even the very worst of the quakes.

Go a head, Mother Nature.  Give it your best try.  See if you can rock this world!

I’m betting we will beat you to it.

Stand!

Ok, I can admit it.  That last blog was kind of a cop-out.  It was that episode of Happy Days were Tom Bosley and Marion Ross sit on the couch and reminisce about the past season intermixed with clips of all the past episodes.  It was cheep and simple and almost too easy.  I can give you all kinds of excuses about how busy I have been and crap like that, but let’s be honest.  You really don’t care.  My intent was to look back at the last few months and see where I stood.  Had I accomplished anything?  Had I written anything that had any meaning?  Was it worth it to put my thoughts down in a public forum for all to see and criticize?  Just where do I stand?

It’s early.  I have been hearing that a lot over the past week.  Mostly it is in reference to the crappy start both baseball teams here in Chicago are off to.  Just over a week into the 2010 season, my predictions are not doing too well.  Both the White Sox and Seattle are three games back in  their divisions, while the Yankees trail Toronto by just a half a game.  I’m doing a little better in the National League where both St. Louis and San Francisco lead their divisions, while Atlanta trails Philadelphia by three games.  But it is still early.  One quick winning streak by any team and the entire standings can flip-flop.

I took the day off today to work on the garden, but it is still early in the day.  I have lots of time.  I have plotted out everything I want to do in my head, all I really need to do is stand up and get going.  Maureen and I really did have a nice time last year trying things out.  We learned a lot and are eager to see what we can accomplish this year.  I rebuilt, and expanded the one plot on the side of the back yard, and I also built a brand new area on the side of the house for the sunflowers.  They are starting to grow inside, and should be ready to move outside in May.  I also have the tomato and pepper plants started.  Today I plan to work on the biggest plot in the back of the yard.  We have decided to make a strawberry patch on one side, then expand the other side for more of the vine type plants like cucumbers.  I did a poor job with the pumpkins last year, but I am hoping to do better this year.

The wedding plans are coming along well, or at least that’s what Maureen tells me.  It’s still early, we will be getting married in November.  The day after Thanksgiving.  I really should try to be more involved with the whole process, but I always feel in the way.  Maureen picked out her dress, and I have talked to the guy at The Men’s Wearhouse about new suits for Alex and I, but with the way Alex keeps growing I am afraid he might be six inches taller by November. I don’t want him standing up there with his ankles showing.   I did order my birth certificate so I can apply for a passport.  I guess that is kind of important if I want to get my ass on a plane to Ireland on November 27th.  Maureen was afraid she was turning into a Bridezilla, but I reassured her she wasn’t.  She has actually been great, and although I know she is feeling a little stressed already, I am confident it will turn out well.  We just need to work on that whole invite list thing.  The room only fits 200.  We still have about 50 people we need to piss off before November.

It is still early, and the summer has not even begun, but I feel like we have already jammed a ton of stuff into our schedule for the next few months.  Alex is graduating and moving up to high school this year.  We need to figure out a date for a party.  I have already cleared our trip to Minnesota with my ex-wife.  That will be during the All-Star break in July.  After we attend the U2 concert, which I need to get two more tickets for because Maureen’s sister will be joining us.  Alex will be starting baseball games soon, and that jams up our schedule until mid-June.  I have a college get together that I put together at a White Sox game on May 23rd, and another baseball outing for Alex’s team on June 8th.  I know there are at least two showers being planned for Maureen over the summer, and we have also put Cheep Trick on our schedule of July 10th.  Or July 100th.  Depending on which e-mail you read.

So where does all this blabbering leave me?  I really don’t know.  Was there a point to all of this?  Not really.  That’s just were I stand.  I will write when time allows it or when the mood really strikes me.  I will move forward with wedding plans and gardening and work and such.  It’s still early, there is a lot of life out there ready to be lived.  And I need to get off my butt and get started on my day.  That garden is not going to build itself.

Top Ten Faces from the Crowd

When I began this little experiment last September, I wasn’t really sure where this whole writing a blog thing would take me.  Since then, I have posted 50 entries, had 132 people place comments on the blog, many more on my Facebook page, and had 4,838 visits to my blog.  Although these are not earth shattering numbers, I am a little impressed that I have attracted somewhat of a following other than my mother and sisters.  Some of what I have written I am quite proud of, while there are a few that seem the lost ramblings of some old dude when I re-read them.  So in celebration of my 51st blog entry, I have decided to do a top ten list of myself.  Only this time the list is not based on my own opinion, but actual facts.  Based on the number of individual hits each entry has received, here is the top ten entries visited by you the readers.  I have not included what the site calls my Home Page, but rather just individual hits on a single entry.  The Home Page would walk away with the top spot since this is where most people begin their time here on my little blog before they pick and chose what they would like to read more about.

10  –  A Day in the Life (or at least a morning)  –  95 Hits

This is actually one of my favorite entries.  What began as just me trying to document what a typical morning was like from my point of view, turned into a bit of a life lesson to myself.  It was also one of the easiest pieces I have written, although it is also one of the longest I have written.  Sometimes when an idea gets going it just seems to flow right out of me.  It was also easy to write because I just told it like it was.  That was my morning. 

9  –  Splitting Hairs  –  99 Hits

My first official blog entry that was not about me trying to figure out how to post a blog or why I wanted to write a blog.  So my first official topic of conversation was my decision to grow my beard out for the winter.  Just recently, on Opening Day as a matter of fact, I shaved it all off.  My face is now naked, and Maureen is very happy about it.  But it wont be too long gone.  Given a long weekend without having to work, and it will be back.  At least part of it will.

8  –  World’s Worst Dad  –  100 Hits

My date night with Molly.  Or rather my night with Molly that I almost really screwed up.  I really do enjoy being a father, and I think this entry really captures the fun of being a dad.  It is the most recent entry on the list, and I think it was passed around a little by family and friends, helping out with the number of hits it has received.

7  –  Connecting the Dot’s  –  115 Hits

I really enjoyed writing this one.  Led by my stomach and some reconnecting with some old college friends, it was culinary trip down memory lane during my days at Northern Illinois University.  It was still enjoyable to read it again while putting this list together.  Made me want to take a trip out to DeKalb for some Beer Nuggets.

6  –  Fried Zucchini  –  117 Hits

Food has quickly become a theme in many of the entries I write.  Only topped by music as the top things I find myself writing about.  This is another memory piece filled with good things to eat.  Led of course by Fried Zucchini.

5  –  It’s Not Unusual.  Is It?  –  119 Hits

That other topic I find myself writing a lot about.  Music.  Or more specifically, in this case, Tom Jones.  I thought I was stepping out on a little bit of a ledge here, but I was surprised to find out how many Tom Jones fans there are still out there.  Not the best written piece I have done, but filled with a bunch of really good Jones facts.

4  –  Moon, Not Banana  –  120 Hits

The title refers to the title of an album by The Cathy Richardson Band.  I always like the title because of the cover art that accompanied the CD.  It was a very simple yellow crescent moon.  I had a black t-shirt with the same illustration on it, and whenever I wore it, eventually someone would ask me why I had a banana on my shirt.  My answer was always the same.  “Moon, not banana!”

3  –  Does This Beat Go On?  –  120 Hits

Another musical journey, this time featuring Queen, Journey and of course, The Kings.  I had attached a link at the bottom of this blog that connected to a rather cool video of This Beat Goes On/Switching to Glide on The Kings website.  I thought maybe this was the reason for the high number of hits on this one, but when I checked, only fifteen people had actually clicked through to the video.  Which is really too bad, because if you remember the song, it is a great video to watch.  It features the bands appearance on American Bandstand as well as live footage from the past 25 years.  Sort of a history of a one hit wonder all rolled up in one song.

2  –  The Worst Song On Radio  –  155 Hits

The very beginning of the Top Ten format.  I have enjoyed it so much that this is now my seventh blog entry to include a Top Ten list.  I have actually started a number more of them, but they tend to take a little longer to write, so I sometimes get them started but fail to finish them.  But as summer progresses, I have a feeling you will be seeing more of them. 

1  –  Weekend Warrior  –  304 Hits

What can I say.   Sentimentality must have a great draw.  I thought I was being a bit sly by hiding the true subject matter until the very last paragraph, but word quickly spread and links to the blog were posted in many places and soon people I was meeting for the very first time were telling me how much they enjoyed my blog.  It is hard for me to imagine anything else I write touching as many people as this one has.  I guess we will just have to see what I come up with the day after we are married.

Good Monday

For many people, this past weekend was an extended holiday.  Many schools take Good Friday off leading into Easter, and many parents will do the same.  It is also the traditional start or ending to Spring Break, so like my kids, many youngster are home this entire week.  But there is one more holiday this week that is celebrated all over this country, and also as far north as Toronto, Canada.  The festivities of this special day actually began last night, but the main celebration will center on thirteen cities spreading all the way from New York to Los Angeles.  It is of course, Opening Day, and the start of the baseball season.

There are various signs of spring each year that bring to mind the changing of the seasons, but for me, there is no other sure sign that summer is on the way than the start of the baseball season.  Opening Day in baseball is unlike any other start to a sporting season.  It is the only one that actually has a title.  The grandeur and celebration of Opening Day has been a tradition almost since the start of professional baseball, and it will pack stadiums with its sense of rebirth.  No one is immune to this excitement as it brings enjoyment to those young and old, big and small, rich or poor.  Twelve Presidents have thrown out the first pitch at Opening Day festivities dating back to William Taft in 1910, and including our current President Barack Obama who will be throwing out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals game this afternoon.

This year’s celebration started last night in Boston, as the Red Sox beat the Yankees by a score of 9 to 7.  In one swing of the bat, Jorge Posada christened the season by getting the first hit, first home run, and scoring the first run of the 2010 season.  Although the Yankees could not hold on to win the game, they are considered the favorite by many to repeat as World Series Champions this year.  I have never been one to stake too much in the early pre-season predictions, as almost anything can happen during the long baseball season.  Baseball plays 162 games over a six month period, twice as many as basketball or hockey.  With that long grueling schedule, it is very difficult to predict all that can happen.  Many time, the look of a team on Opening Day is drastically different than what the line-up looks like at the end of the season.  Trades and injuries and sometimes just bad play will make a manager and general manager rework and rebuild the team during the season.

With all that working against me, I am now prepared to make my own predictions on the season, and sometime in September I plan to revisit them to see how well I did.  I am not an expert, I leave that title to my son.  His baseball knowledge has seemed to far surpassed mine, although I do enjoy disagreeing with him from time to time.  In fairness, I should also remind everyone that I am a Chicago White Sox fan, and although I will claim that this had no effect on my picks, time will probably show this to be false.  That is part of the beauty of Open Day.  All teams are equal in the standings, and anyone can be that unseen wildcard.  Certainly most of the experts did not predict that the White Sox would win the World Series in 2005.  And almost every year there is that team that looks unbeatable on paper, but fails to live up to those expectations.

So, with nothing but my own gut to work with, this is how I see the 2010 season finishing.  In the American League I see the Yankees, White Sox and Seattle winning their divisions, with the Boston Red Sox gaining the Wild Card spot.  In the National League, the division winners will be Atlanta, St. Louis, and San Francisco, with the Wild Card coming from the east with Philadelphia.  The Yankees will indeed return to the World series this year, but a rejuvenated St. Louis Cardinal team will beat the in six games.

That’s all I have for this Opening Day.  I have no idea how well my predictions will play out this year, but that is why Opening Day is so much fun.  Anything can indeed happen, and I will be one of the many sitting back to watch it all unfold.  Everyone grab their beverage of choice and bunker down for a long season.

Happy Opening Day.  It is a Good Monday for baseball fans.