Friday, July 31, 2009


Sometimes life is like looking through a kaleidoscope when you’re a kid. My life has been that way lately. Unexpected splashes of color have been thrown into the space occupied by my conscious mind, where light is reflected and refracted and converted into a beautiful picture, a source inspiration.

The most important and vital splash is that Nelly and Simon are here in Seattle and I got to spend Wednesday and Thursday with them. It’s so fucking good to see your friends after so long an absence.

I’m going to try to write a series over the next week or so. In sequence then, I’m hoping to do the following blog entries:

Glass Bubble
Writer’s Block
The Joy of Building a Life with Your Partner

I’ve tried to write series before and failed. I’m not going to be afraid to keep trying. I can do this. It doesn’t matter how many times I fail. I am patient enough to achieve this.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New Season's Resolution

Well, the word is out. Favre won't become a Viking. What kills me is if you look at this post this post on Cheesehead TV, where the fans have quite decent analytical skill, there are people who still want to take the motherfucker back. This is what I posted:

I respect Favre even less as a person now. Why raise all this ruckus in the first place if you're not going to play for the Vikings?

If your spouse openly investigated leaving you for someone else and then came back and said, "Nah. It was a nice fantasy, but in the end it was probably not worth it..." would you take them back?

The way this has played out, he'll be talking about playing for the Vikings in 2017 and, fools that we are, we'll still be talking about the S.O.B. My new season's resolution as a Packers fan is to get myself some self-respect. No more Favre posts.

I mean it. I don't give a shit anymore. No more Favre posts.

My Old Buddy and Writing Partner Briggs

Briggs Moon gave me a call yesterday. In some ways, MS has made be a better friend, but the one way it didn't is that I suck at staying in touch (although I'm working on getting better). I haven't had a long talk with Briggs in five years or so. Way the hell too long. Things have changed in his life. He has a new, very sultry fiance (see picture above) who's intensely brainy as well (a geneticist). He's a dad twice over now, too. His eldest is Phoebe and his youngest is Riley.

I met Briggs a little after I met Kirk, back in junior high. We didn't really become friends until junior year of high school in Linda Melanson's debate class. Melanson sucked as an instructor. She was an amazing speech and interp coach, but somewhat lecherous and very lazy. There were whole days in that class in which we'd do nothing at all. I practically taught myself to be a debater. Briggs and I sat on the yellow couch in her room and talked about Star Trek: The Next Generation, back when the show was in its production run. "I love Star Trek," he said, eyes darting back and forth, searching for interlopers who might overhear. "Don't tell anyone, okay?"

A decade ago we were working on a sci-fi novel together. Sadly, other writers and movie-makers found their way to several elements of our original ideas for the book before we finished it. The project fell apart because my life collapsed between 1998 and 2001. I was hit by the quadruple whammy of being fucked over royally at USAID, having my first MS exacerbations, living in three different cities in three different years and coming out. I was broken every single way you could break me. In the autumn of '99, Briggs was in Chicago for a business trip. Both of us like whiskey quite a bit. I think we drank Crown Royal that night. It's Briggs' favorite. Briggs likes pistachio nuts and I like cashews. I brought both with me. And a tape recorder. We listened to sci-fi music, drank, and brainstormed the night through. I got it all on tape. Shortly after, I got optic neuritis, one of the tell-tale symptoms of MS. Optic neuritis is like looking at the world through fogged-up glasses. I couldn't read. If you want to scare a guy like me to death, take away his ability to read. I listened to Briggs and me on those tapes over and over again. It was my only escape. That night with Briggs was one of the greatest blessings in my life. I'm really glad we're back in touch.

Naturally, "blast from the past" photos are in order. This was Briggs, taken a day or two after a Stars loss to Wings, 0-3 (yes, Ozzie was in net, thank you). You'll see the stoic, serious expression that befits the moment. You'll also see that, unlike me, Briggs has had a real job over the past decade, one that pays in American dollars. But the Wings still won that game, so I can't complain.

The picture below was me as I looked roughly at the time Briggs saw me last. I think Brian McGrath took that photo just after St. Patrick's Day of 2001, the best St. Patrick's Day Party I ever threw. Briggs and Kirk were there! Either that, or Dinur took the photo in 2002. That punch-drunk, bunny-in-the-headlights look was the old Talal just before it all ended.

Most importantly, this is Briggs' model of the Eschersphere, our starship. He made it by modifying models of a Cardassian cruiser from Deep Space Nine and, of course, an imperial star destroyer from Star Wars. I was so excited when he sent these to me.

Side view

Front view

Top view

Bottom view

The Eschersphere was powered by a miniature black hole (MBH). Briggs developed a whole technology around what it took to contain and harness the power of an MBH. These are the joys of having an engineer as a writing partner. I was good at politics, cultures and species. He was the science guy. I was good at making vast systems of character relationships and political situations. Briggs excelled at taking a wrench to them, ripping a whole in their guts and thereby creating dynamic plot. Goddamn, we were good together. Those were the days!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What the Camera Setup Looks Like

Mid-range good day. I was feeling a little low-energy, so I thought I'd wait until afternoon to go to the gym. Big mistake. I was right in calling that I was having an "I need rest" morning. But when the day started, I never got back to working out and the gym closes early on Saturday. I blew it for the day. That sucked.

I did manage to get in some play time with the camera this evening, though. First, this is my actual unit, through Craig's camera.

The picture looks a little nicer than the real camera, thanks to good lighting. Below is a front picture of one of my cheap $9 lighting units ($12 with cool flourescent bulb)

This is the back:

In order to reduce glare on the item to be lighted, Chad suggested I fit a round defuser cloth around the opening of the lamp's bowl. My central difficulty is that the top of the bulb is at about the same level as the rim of the bowl. I was afraid that the heat from the bulb might eventually begin to burn the cloth. I solved this problem by innovating with binder clips. This also gave me a chance to show off just what a macro lens can do. Click onto that binder clip and really look at that detail. It blows me away

I attach four at right angles to the rim of the lamp.

I put the lever in the "down" position on the outside of the bowl, like so...

...but I leave the lever "up" on the inside of the bowl, like so... (you can see that in the picture above, but click on the detail for that shot. This lens is amazing!)

...finally, I put the cloth over the top of the extended levers of the binder clip so that it doesn't touch the bulb, like so...

When I was done with the close-ups, I began to have trouble. The combination of using this lens and a busy background (my bookcase) was far too much for the autofocus to handle. It went haywire. In order to take a photograph of the tripod, I had to switch to semi-manual, which I'd already set to take pictures in black and white:

Here's how I connect the lamps to a TV tray.

I'm going to have to hope that the Press Archive furniture at the Moshe Dayan Center is conducive to this sort of "clamping." If not, I may have to waste money on purchasing some sort of substitute and hope they have a small space where I can store whatever I buy, as hauling this sort of stuff from our apartment in Arlozorov Street to the university would be quite tiring.

I also played with a fun black and white feature this camera has. Some of you who like to take pictures may know that photographers frequently use colored lenses in black and white photography, as this changes the texture of the picture. I wondered if that might bring out the text more clearly. Here's the plain black and white photo of the area that was blurriest with Craig's camera:

Red, depicted below, made the image a little sharper, but caused the letters to fade

Orange was better, but basically had the same problem.

Yellow sharpened the letters, but did not darken them

Green, depicted below, darkened the letters and sharpened them. I will definitely bear this in mind when working in Tel Aviv.

I have to play with manually setting the white balance tomorrow. I also ought to stand up on a chair and see if I can get the whole sheet. I'm guessing that will be counterproductive, but a good scientist is thorough in testing all options.

How is this for the most boring blog entry ever?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wow! Expensive Cameras Rule!

So I bit the fuckin' bullet and bought the new camera today. The camera was about $300. It's a used digital Canon Rebel-Xt SLR, depicted below, in its shiny commodified newness. If I'm feeling energetic tomorrow, I'll use Craig's camera to shoot a picture of my actual unit, when I do the step-by-step walkthrough of the photo setup.

The macro lens for the digital SLR, however, cost me another $400. My mom and Aunt Charlotte's (God rest her soul) generous funding took a nasty hit today. I was reeling. But I'll give Camera Shop Chad credit where it's due. I can get a whole newspaper page very clearly with my present tripod. I might try shooting a whole sheet standing up on a chair to see if the camera is capable of actually getting a whole sheet. I don't know if they make taller tripods. To show you guys how effective the new equipment is, I went to one of the single-page photos I took with Craig's camere. Here's the "before" picture cropped to show one of the clearest passages:

Here's the same bit with the new camera:

More to the point, there were lots of areas on the "before" photo that weren't readable. For example:

Here's the Rebel-Xt image:

I'm totally floored. More geeky tech details soon...

Craig wants us to take up photography as a hobby, as we don't have any hobbies in common. Before B-12, I'd have said "no way." I used to love photography, but it's very extroverted, energy-intensive work. But now? Fuck yeah, that sounds like fun!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lighting for the Tel Aviv Trip

Well, I didn't get to the gym on Monday, but I hit it first thing today. Pecs, back and abs. I feel better. I'm really beginning to think that there is something to this "MS patients have low endorphin levels" story because I really felt like shit yesterday. When I go in the morning, I feel way better for the rest of the day. It's almost a night and day difference.

Today I dealt with several errands, including buying some lights for the photographing of newspapers. This is what the set-up looks like, minus Craig's camera, which I used to take the photo.

The tripod works fine and I'm happy with the lighting. I'm just hoping that the archives have furniture conducive to the cheap clamp-on lamps I bought at the hardware store. The lamp the camera store sold me is going back. It cost $20. They sold me a special bulb for another $15. It's going back too. The clamp lamps from the hardware store were $8 a piece. Moreover, they have bowls onto which I can attach a defuser cloth from the camera store. I will bite the bullet and get that from them. My major concern is how big a picture I can take. This is a full sheet image.

If you click on it, you'll see that only the center is really readable. Below is a single-page image:

It's better, but still blurry in places. I'm not going back to this archive. It isn't good enough. This image is a bit larger than a half page:

If you click on it, you'll see it's readable. But that means four photos per sheet, instead of the most desirable one photo per sheet. Chad at the camera store (funny--the guy who owns my gym is also named Chad--lotsa chads hanging around my life these days. It's like I'm a Florida election) suggests that a $300 Canon he has comes with a bigger chip than Craig's does and might get a clearer picturer. So back to the camera store I go. They have a fourteen-day return policy, so if it can give me at least single-page photos that are clear, it'll be a keeper.

Sadly, the lamps are going to need a power converter. I have to figure out if I should be a big power converter and hook a power strip. I've not used a power converter since I was twelve. My laptop works on both currents and I didn't bring any other gadgets with me to the Mideast last time I went, which is over a decade ago.

NOTE: Actually Blogger reduced the image size, even when you click on them. While the last image is readable, there are large parts of the first images that are readable in real life. Just not all of each picture.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Manic Sunday, Part II

Craig's morning thing canceled, so I got to the gym bright and early after all. Still cardio today. I'm stuck between resistance 16 and 17 on the ellipsis machine. Part of it is that summer has kicked in and the place isn't air conditioned. Heat fucks with a multiple sclerotic pretty badly. I did almost the whole 20 minutes at 17 a few days ago when we had a cool spell. Now that it's hot, I can only do 17 for a few minutes at a time. It's pissing me off. At least I get the pleasure of dripping more sweat this way. Given the wussy character of my workout, I take what pseudo-signs of manly manness that I can get. I think I'm back to weights tomorrow, assuming that I'm not crashing on the damned exams. Five more left. Plus I gotta go the bank tomorrow. Blech. Too much crap.

I gotta figure out my medications for the trip, too. MS makes me feel like my grandmother, God rest her soul. I totally get why she hated going anywhere. Of course, my grandmother could have organized a successful planned economy for the Soviet Union. And her cooking was way, way better than Stalin's. I was never up to her standards on my best day.

I hate grading. Five more essays, then plug and chug. Then printing grade sheets. I want these fucking exam dead.

Whine, whine. Bitch, bitch. Goddamn. I never write anything worth reading anymore.

Manic Sunday

The tripod works. I'm maybe halfway to a lighting solution. Craig's camera is probably not up to the task. I'm going to have to buy a $300 one to get the job done.

Craig has a full day planned. I won't get to the gym until early afternoon, which sucks. I have thirteen more essays to grade. The short answers and map quizzes are done. Then I have determine if there will be a curve, implement it and print evaluations. I have to have their next exam question posted by Monday. It has to be a new one, this time. I haven't done a '48 War question in a long time. I give back the exam that day, too. I'll probably get slammed at office hours. Tuesday, I trek back to Kenwood to return the lighting equipment that won't work out and get the guy's advice on what will work. I need to write to Haim Gal to ask him to e-mail me a letter of invitation and tell him about my setup and see if it works for him.

I'm getting cranky. Too many details. Not enough frontal lobe power.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I Need to Start Writing Again

Today, Craig and I are headed to the far north side of town to go talk to a guy at a camera shop about the correct lighting, camera and tripod for digitizing the newspapers in Tel Aviv. Wish us luck.

I need to start working on rewriting my proposal for grant applications for the 2010-2011 school year. I need a much more serious lit review for the proposal. Everyone who has read it says so. I also need to write more about the content analysis. I need to find a way to write or block articles every day, the way I go the gym everyday. The "little every day" approach works well for an MS patient. I need to start engaging the other blog again. And I need to punt on "The Ideal-Type of the Sacred" again. I am so sick of punting. I hate rebuilding. I've got to teach myself to be patient through the process. Too much of this is the emotional side. I need to force the practical side up through my consciousness.

And I gotta finish grading. Those papers need to be back on Monday.

The Kid's Growing Up

Is it just me, or is Aaron Rodgers' voice deeper this year? Fuck, he's growing up right before my eyes. He wasn't this confident last year, but damn, he's turned into a real quarterback. And to think six years ago I was snippy at Dinur for wanting Brett Favre to just die so California Boy could have a career. Who knew I'd become a fan of Aaron Rodgers and want to see Brett Favre beat into a bloody pulp? The times they are a changin'.

I may just buy me one of these t-shirts. My brother-in-law Chris is a Vikings fan, God help him. I'll get him the purple one and me the green one. It'll be even better than when we wear rival hockey jerseys.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Neil Demands Equal Billing

Neil wrote demanding equal billing with Kirk. Without further ado, then, this is the grand response

* * *

Warning: I'm not as funny as Talal, nor as well-spoken as Kirk...


First, I have to say that I laughed out loud when I read your rendition of our conversation on Saturday night. I'm really looking forward to "classes" this summer.

Have to say that I agree with about 95% of what Kirk wrote. I'd even one-up him on the Evil Empire bit. The pattern he described for the mid-90's to now was actually a repeat of the mid-70's into the 80's.

In the mid-70's, the Yankees won the Pennant in '76, '77 and '78. They were close in '79 and '80 and won it again in '81. They had some home grown talent (Ron Guidry, Thurman Munson and later Dave Righetti). Many were free agents (Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage).

Then, after being beaten by the Dodgers in '81 (I still remember Kenny Landreux catching the final out of the series) The Boss - no, not that one - but George Steinbrenner, went on a spending spree. Jack Clark, Steve Kemp and most forgettably Ed Whitson were among the players that were brought in.

Those teams were just awful. But I loved them just the same. Thurman Munson (who died in 1979), Ron Guidry and Willie Randolph were my favorites. Don Mattingly as well.

You're right, the mid '90s teams (champions in '96, '98, '99 and '00) had a combination of free agents and home grown stars.

Since 2001, my beloved Yankees have made it to the playoffs almost every year but have been beaten by the Angels, Red Sox and a few other teams.

I take being a fan very seriously. I joke that I bleed "pinstripe". But I also respect fans of all stripes. Even Red Sox Fans and Mets Fans.

(Incidentally, I rooted for the Red Sox in '86. Because, as a true-blue Yankees fan, no matter how much ya hate the Red Sox, ya gotta hate the Mets more. Cross-town rivals and all.)

Why am I a Yankee fan? I'm from New York. I remember my first Yankee Game. It was 1980, and the Yanks lost to the Royals 4-1. A camp counselor who I later developed a crush on took me to that game. I was 7. She was probably 18.

Kirk's point about history is a good one. The Yankees are one of the most storied franchises in all of sports. Even Steinbrenner can't ruin that.

I am thrilled that Talal is willing to be a Yankee fan. I am more thrilled that he is willing to learn about baseball.

My goal will be to teach baseball first, let him join Yankees Universe and then go into the history. I could do it in the opposite order (show the history, let him join the Universe and then teach him baseball) but then it wouldn't make sense.

In the end, the goal is to teach baseball. Not Yankee allegiance.

I don't know if I'll be able to say the same if and when Pam and I have kids. Yankee fandom might come first.

(Kirk, by the way, thank you for reassuring my wife about Boston. A friend of ours put the fear of god in her head some time back and she even suggested once that if we ever move there I'd have to stop wearing my Yankee cap. I've been trying to tell her that Fenway is where I'd expect getting hassled.)

Play Ball!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Kirk on the Yankees

Of all the sports fans I have known, Kirk casts the greatest aura of dispassion. This image is by and large fake, as he can actually get quite stirred when his teams lose. But he doesn't like for anyone to know. Officially, Kirk is unfazed by everything and tries to effect the air of the unfazed more and more each year. Here, reproduced by permission, is his response to the possibility of me, one of his closest friends, becoming (gasp!) a Yankees fan.

* * *

Hey Talal -

I read your blog about entertaining the possibility of becoming a Yankees fan and am a little concerned because it almost sounds as if you were convinced the Yankees are not indeed the face of all evil. Actually, to be honest, while the "evil empire" stuff was funny and did apply when the Red Sox team president jokingly used the phrase to refer to the Yankees, I don't think the term really applies as much any more. In those days the Yankees were desperate to continue winning and didn't have the farm system to continue producing top players so they simply outspent everyone. The owner was a real piece of work and was so obnoxious he even was suspended from the MLB for a period during the '70s and '80s. The combination of winning championship after championship, outbidding and overpaying for all the top free agents, and a super-ass of an owner was more than enough to make them the most hated team in baseball. Throw in those obnoxious New York fans and they may have been the most hated team in all of professional sports. On top of that 4 of their top players, three of whom were high priced free agent acquisitions, have admitted to using steroids. There may have been more but I can only think of the four offhand. During that time they were comparable to all the things everyone hates about the Dallas Cowboys only magnified by a hundred.

If you take a step back and look at the Yankees of late '90s objectively any true fan (even Red Sox fans) would have to admit the team truly did win through home-grown talent. Nearly all the top stars during the championship years came up through their system and with the addition of the ultra-classy manager (the equivalent of the head coach in football) Joe Torre along with a front office headed up by another classy individual at GM, Brian Cashman, the team was actually quite likable. One could watch the owner's antics and chuckle because the rest of the team was a real class act.

However, as the team got older and players retired or left via free agency, the owner took a much more active role in demanding instant results instead of allowing the GM to do his job as all other GMs do, by acquiring players through a combination of free agency and the draft. That wasn't good enough for Steinbrenner and thus the Yankee style of management was born - bring in all the biggest names you can get and get rid of any who don't perform as expected right away. Thus the evil empire was born.

A couple of years ago Steinbrenner and Joe Torre decided they just couldn't stand each other any longer and Torre left when his contract was up. Sure, the Yankees made an offer for him to stay but it was an insultingly low-balled offer to such an accomplished manager. The GM Brian Cashman was next on the firing line but he managed to talk Steinbrenner, who was older and in declining health by this point, into the idea of developing their farm system again. The Red Sox had won in 2004 with a team largely made up of mid-range free agents (since the Yankees gobbled up all the top ones) but the Red Sox championship in 2007 contained quite a few home-grown players and Cashman wanted to follow a similar route to long-term success. Steinbrenner surprisingly agreed and the Yankees have at least moved up to "not evil" on the scale of badness. They haven't stopped buying up the top free agents but limit themselves to only a few each offseason rather than gobbling up the entire herd.

The current Yankees are certainly not the evil empire any longer and have even managed to bring up a couple of players through their own farm system, none of whom have yet excelled at the major league level but they at least have promise. George Steinbrenner is now offscreen and his sons Hank and Hal are running the team. Hal seems to be an even-tempered rational sort of guy but Hank shows signs of becoming even more outspoken than his dad. Hank has routinely become an amusing source of never-ending eye-popping quotes.

To say the current Yankees were built through the farm system would be dead wrong, however, at least at the star level. The team managed to grab both the top free agent pitcher (CC Sabathia) and top free agent hitter (Mark Teixeira) this past offseason so they aren't done with the big spending. Their other major stars are either holdovers from the glory years (Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, eac of whom came up through the Yankees system in the mid-90's) or are still free agent acquisitions (Hideki Matsui, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, Xadier Nady and Nick Swisher). One guy actually fits both groups, as Andy Pettite came up in the mid-90's as a starting pitcher, left the team via free agency in 2004 and returned to the team via free agency in 2007.

The only current Yankees who are stars or budding stars that came through the system after the championship years are two pitchers, Ching-Mien Wang (legitimate top pitcher) and Joba Chamberlain (budding star), and a hitter who is perhaps above-average (Robinson Cano). While there are a number of other players on their team who came up through the system none are stars or even on the verge of becoming stars. Thus, the Yankees are still acquiring their star power through free agency or riding their aging stars from the old glory days.

All of this is truly little different from all the other big teams - the Red Sox, Dodgers, Cardinals, Cubs, Giants, White Sox, Angels and Braves. All of these teams have some players who come up through the system combined with some free-agent signings of various magnitudes. To say the Yankees are any worse would be a lie but to claim the Yankees are superior simply because they don't grab ALL the top free agents any longer would be a lie as well. The Yankees still do bring in top players, they just do it in the same manner as the other top teams. The true injustice nowadays is how all of these top teams can afford the top players where the rest of the league cannot, but since the vast majority of revenue is locally-generated and there is no salary cap or revenue sharing, this is likely to continue for the forseeable future. Even the top teams have reduced their spending so salaries at the top are dropping a bit, and I believe there is some sort of pseudo-revenue sharing going on but it's just not enough to make the league completely even.

I write all of this in response to your blog where it sounded as if you might be getting some false impressions of the Yankees. I know you may consider me biased due to being a Red Sox fan but in all honesty this is my objective view of the Yankees. I don't feel the negativity toward them that I once did, but like I said they just aren't as hateable any longer.

As long as I'm writing this I might as well give you what I think is the primary reason you should consider the Yankees for your favorite team, as much as I would rather you root for the Sox. The Yankees have perhaps the best team history in baseball and one of the best in all of professional sports. I'd say the top tier of team histories in baseball would include the Yankees, Dodgers and Giants, all of which started as New York-based teams. A close second tier would include the Red Sox, Cardinals, Cubs and White Sox, but it seems as if the Yankees, Dodgers and Giants have been involved in far more of the memorable events and have combined to win most of the World Series. That is the only reason why I was a semi-Yankee fan as a kid, although the Dodgers were still my top team. Yankee team history is so interesting I have a book on it sitting here right next to my Red Sox team history book. My collection would be complete if I could find a good Dodger team history.

You seem to have adopted the teams with the best team histories in other sports. Green Bay and Chicago have far and away the best team histories in the NFL, particularly pre-merger. After 1970 or so several other teams have been more interesting but the Packers still will always have one of the very best team histories in the sport. The same goes with the Red Wings, who were one of the original 6, each of whom have great team histories. I would say that is probably the one characteristic that most closely binds the Packers and Red Wings and going with the Yankees for baseball would fit very well. So would the Red Sox, who also have the added bonus of sharing the word "red" in their nickname along with the color in their uniform with your beloved Wings.

I would have posted this on your blog but, well, it was just too damn long and I didn't really feel like getting into a sparring match with your friend. Keep me posted on your progress as a budding baseball fan and as always feel free to ask questions. I actually have time to answer them this summer!


PS - Incidentally, the Red Sox have beat the Yankees all 8 times they've played so far this season. Just thought you should know when making an informed decision.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Transformations in the Works

Two things have happened this weekend. First,

I Did All My Food Prep

All of that food prep I spelled out in the last blog entry? I fucking did it all. And I did most of it tonight. Only thing that sucked today was that I didn't make it to the gym. Let's hear it for Vitamin B-12, the MS wonder drug! This wasn't as much work as the old Talal would have done, that's true. But, get this--I don't give a fuck because it's beginning to approach respectability!

Neil Parekh Has Taken Up the Quest for My Baseball Soul

Get this, all ye non-pedagogical baseball fans who care nothing for my sporting soul. My friend Neil is actually taking up the challenge of trying to convert me into a baseball fan. At stake is my long-standing pledge to swear undying loyalty to the team of the friend who achieves this feat. So while Michelle and Gretchen will be pleased, the rest of you are screwed, 'cause Neil Parekh is a fan of the Evil Empire of the sporting world--the New York Yankees.

Last night, Neil went over lesson one. "Repeat after me: The Yankees are not evil."

"What do you mean, the Yankees are not evil?" I ask. "They can buy whatever the hell they want, right? If I'm to sell my soul here, damn it, they'd better dominate!"

Neil spewed a list of impressive names that included Derek Jeter (see, I've learned one name already and I allegedly think this sport is boring--maybe Neil's magic is working) and said, "These guys are the core of our team! All of them came up through the farm system!"

I leaned in closer to him and said, "Yeah, sure, they farmed the core of the team, but the Yankees can buy whoever they want, right? Biggest market in baseball, right?"

"Well, yeah, it's true. But there are limits to that. We haven't taken the pennant since 2001..." This was a moment of troubled reflection, but Neil quickly switched to a different, more urgent line of thought and said, "But, Talal, you've got to drop this evil empire crap. This would be like if I went to you and said, 'I want to become an ardent student of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. I hear the Arabs are a bunch of terrorists.' It would never work."

"Ah," I said. "But if you said to me, 'I wish to become an ardent student of the Arab-Israeli Conflict--teach me and I will become an Arab,' nothing you could say could bother me, for I know your soul will be mine. Powerful Jedi am I."

By the way, my pledge is no cheap offer either. I'm not that low-caliber kinda geek, here. If Neil can teach me to yearn for pitchers and catchers reporting to camp every spring, I have sworn to him that I will go with him in full Yankees-fan gear to Fenway Park itself. Pam, Neil's wife and my dear friend and stalwart colleague at school, is already worried about hate crimes if she gets a job in Boston. Of course, I wouldn't mind working in Boston either. That's the scary thing about this pledge. Imagine if I lived in Boston. It would be like doing field research in Tel Aviv... Oh, wait. I'm doing that, aren't I? What was that thing they were saying about "Never saying never?"

This brings back memories. My first live Wings game was at the MCI Center in Washington, DC. I went with Aram Mohamed (who was the reason I became a Wingnut) and Brian McGrath. There were these pseudo-hockey fans behind us trying to act like they were all tough. This is DC. This is the wrong city and sport combination to have tough fans of any sort. Aram leans over to Brian and me and says, "If these guys want to make trouble later, are you guys behind me?"

"Sure," I say. "But you do realize that the guys behind you will be Brian and me, right?" Boston ain't DC. This time I have to be prepared. If Neil succeeds, I'm going to have to take a martial arts course.

And of course, the worst thing will be that Kirk's wife, Keriann, might not let him play with me anymore. You should have seen the look on her face when I gave Kirk a Red Wings jersey. Like I'd let him become a Bruins fan and doom him to a lifetime of disappointment.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Today is food prep day. The list runs:

  1. Prepare the ribs with rub-rub and wrap them up for freezing. I bake the individually wrapped ribs in a foil-covered baking pan at 200 degrees for about three hours before grilling.
  2. Prepare the teriyaki steaks with ginger rub (lots of ginger, and a little powdered onion and garlic, and of course a little black pepper) and wrap them up for freezing. I usually use round eye steaks for this. The cut is a little tough, but again, I bake the individually wrapped pieces in a small, foil-covered baking pan at 200 degrees for about three hours before grilling). That gets them nice and tender. I grill them, brushing on my home-made (homo-made, too, come to think of it!). When they're done, I slice them up thinly using an electric knife and pour a little more teriyaki sauce over them.
  3. Slice, spice and freeze the salmon (I use a little soy, a little olive oil, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and ground sage. I wrap the pieces in foil, freeze them. I defrost them the morning before we eat them and grill them up in the foil.
  4. Slice celery for snack packs and for black bean and corn salsa
  5. Prepare black bean and corn salsa and store in refrigerator. This has canned black beans, canned corn, celery, red onion, sweet red peppers some lemon juice, salsa and cumin. I usually have a big helping of this with my lunch.
  6. Slice, mix and store the pepper, cucumber and red onions that form the base for daily dinner salads (I slice the lettuce and tomato just before serving, as these parts get soggy or create sogginess and must be cut in real time).

I just got back from my workout and I actually feel a little tired this time. I went up in arm weights yesterday, and I'm a little sore as a result. I notice that soreness and fatigue correlate really well. This makes good sense. The body is healing and healing takes energy. I don't know if I should make a point of skipping the day after I go up a set. We'll see how sapped I am with the vegetable knife this afternoon.

The dinner menu looks like this:

    SUNDAY: Salmon and salad
    MONDAY: Roast AND salad (this should have leftovers for lunches)
    TUESDAY: Teriyaki and salad
    WEDNESDAY: Barbecue chicken and salad
    THURSDAY: Ribs and salad
    FRIDAY: Steaks and salad.

Craig doesn't mind the repetition of large dinner salads as long as the meat keeps changing. That said, there's too much red meat there and too much use of barbecue and teriyaki sauce. I need to integrate more chicken there. I need to start making stir-fries again. I tend to like stir-fries for lunch, as I tend to like them over brown rice and I like to keep my starchier carbs for earlier in the day. I'm going to have to mull it all over.

Gotta get back to work. I have a lot of vegetables to cut.

Speaking with All Your Voices

Craig and I had some romantic time yesterday. Afterward, he came back into the bedroom to find me laying with my hands clasped behind my head. Naturally, he giggled.

"What?" I asked. "What did I do now?"

"Nothing," he said, smiling.

""What? Out with it!" He came back to bed and we snuggled.

"You're in your macho mode."

"Is that a problem?" I ask. "What's so funny?"

"It's a part of you. But I know the real you. You're my Lally. You're the cutie snuggle bear who drops things in the kitchen and curses. They don't know the real you."

"You're the only one who does, Cozy."

Before, when we've talked, I've told him that while he doesn't hear my harder voices, they are a real part of what makes me the person that I am. For a time, those voices, which don't really live with me at home, but figure in my writing and in my work, could be disturbing to Craig. He is coming to understand that part of me a little more. What I haven't been able to articulate yet, but what I now realize, is one of the reasons I fell in love with Craig is because he's the only person on earth I can be the cutie snuggle bear with. For many years that tender and playful part of my personality was dormant and unused. Because of it, I was empty and achy inside. Craig's love gives that part of my soul life and brings me peace.

I love my Big Bear.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Good News!

While normally I wouldn't consider one of my courses being cancelled good news, I am delighted that Antioch has cancelled by online course due to low enrollment. Even better, they are thinking actively about offering it as a winter quarter regular course. I don't have to go through online hell this summer, trying to explain the political economy of oil over the internet. While the shortfall of cash sucks, my folks' funding for the trip should take care of September more than adequately. Craig and I are both delighted.

Also, NFL Sunday ticket this year gives me INTERNET ACCESS to the game. That means I'm going to get to watch Packers vs. Bears (Week 1) and Packers vs. Bungles (Week 2). Zero missed Packers games this season! I'm pumped! I'll have to be up at 4 am Tel Aviv time to watch the Bears game. Craig's going to be pissy with me. But fuck it, it's Week 1, its the showdown of good and evil and Lambeau Field and I don't have to miss it for the cause of knowledge and getting a real job. Life is sweet!

A Move Toward Substance?

I've been known to actually write about something on occasion. I'm not there yet, but let's see what we can do about slowly reasserting that reputation. There are no developed ideas here yet, but at least it's not Skywalker-style whining about my sad, sad shoulder routine!

Ten Weeks Until Football

Kirk has already gotten our fantasy league going. I doubt I'm going to be any better prepared this year than I was for the last three. Still, it's a good ritual. I've been trying to get Kirk to blog about football. He's considering it in a lukewarm sort of way. That's actually progress. Kirk is renowned for his unique stubbornness. Has been since we were kids. Damn, that was a long, long time ago.

The Packers have a totally revamped defense this year. That will be interesting. Maybe we won't have any more losses by four points or less. That would be nifty. There have been no significant changes to the offensive line. Anyone who knows me, knows that I obsess about the O-line all year long. I have since 2005 and will continue to until the line is re-established. I believe in fundamentals. Clearly McCarthy believes that the line is fine and that the Pack was just unlucky with injuries last year. Well, this is the year that we see if he's the offensive genius they say he is. If the line coheres early, we know we're going somewhere. If not, I'm prepared to call the whole cut-blocking scheme a failure. I admit it. I place my trust in big, beefy motherfuckers. Size is everything. You know. Like the Cowboys and the Saints had last year. Mobility, shmobility. I like BIG, BEEFY FUCKERS. Always have. And I never liked the Broncos and their cut-blocking scheme anyway. Anyone who knows me remembers exactly why.

If Favre shows up as a Viking, I'm hoping the new defense will pummel him into a greasy, purple spot on the astroturf of the Metrodome. I really don't know why the Vikings want him. Historically, Favre has always sucked in the Metrodome.


I'm realizing procrastination is a major problem with me. Before MS, it was never a problem because I would just suppress the "I don't feel like it" emotion and work my ass off. I can't suppress the emotion anymore. So how do I find ways around feeling the damned feeling?

There have been two methods I've had some luck with. The first is having another, stronger emotion to balance the "I don't feel like it" or "I'm scared of it and don't want to acknowledge the fear" feeling that's blocking me. Creating structures that generate the counterbalancing emotion helps. For letters of recommendation, I make the student have an interview with me, where I learn enough about his or her goals that I can write a good letter. Then I make them pick up the letter from me in person, so if I fuck up, I have to face the student. That's usually enough to keep me in line. The other, new method that seems to work is to set aside a time for the task every single day. It's working for getting to the gym. Forcing myself to track the progress on the research block helped for a long while. The problem is that when I fell off the wagon, I had a lot of trouble getting back on. That was always the problem with working out. Making working out a daily event seems to have solved it. Doing the same with writing might help.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

YAWN! Another Dull Post

I definitely am one of the more boring people in cyberspace. Here's the latest.

I'm Still Working Out

I'm really proud of myself. I've hit the gym an average of six days a week. Right now, I still do my cardio on an ellipsis machine. I love ellipsis machines--maximum calories burned for least possible fatigue. I started a few weeks ago with a resistance of 12 and now I'm up to 16. I'm just about hitting 400 calories in twenty minutes. Since I started a few weeks ago, I always plug in 25 minutes. I always target a minimum of 400 calories per workout. I now officially don't need the extra five minutes. Now that I've managed to get the 400 calories in to twenty minutes, I just cool down for a minute or two and hop off. After a few more days of resistance 16, I'm hoping I manage to pull up to 17. The goal is to be able to go for a full twenty minutes at the machine's top resistance of 20. I may increase my time after that if I reach the goal. We'll see how it goes.

My weight routine is naturally pathetic. My shoulders, in particular, really, really suck. How badly, you ask? Like up until earlier this week, I was at the "I use the little girlie weights" level of sucking. I literally have wussy sets of 5, 8 and 10-pound dumbbells in my home office to use before I head out for the rest of my workout, because being mostly a weightlifting gym, they do not deign to carry the wussy weights. The built guys who Craig is convinced are using steroids don't have much use for the wussy weights. As you can guess, there are very few chicks doing their "toning" at this gym. So, with regrets to my straight brothers, there is nothing entertaining at this gym for you. Well, there is this one black guy who likes to grunt like a porno whenever he lifts anything, though. And of course, you could watch me work on my shoulders. That's definitely worth at least a chuckle. It's hilarious, actually. But I now can use the lowest "male" dumbbell size of 15 lbs for a shoulder exercise. So, HA!

It's Grading Weekend for Arab-Israeli

WHEEEE! I'd like to crank them out this weekend because Antioch is going to be a pain.

It's The First Week for My Online Course at Antioch

I need to figure out how to get my oil lectures converted into something they can watch online. That's going to be a bitch.