Tuesday, June 26, 2007

It's a Dry Heat

Each June, my employer sends all of its employees to one of the hottest locations within driving distance for a week-long series of meetings. (By “hottest” I do not mean “coolest and hippest,” but “just this side of Hell”.) In any given year there are 800 to 1,000 of us gathered for the most pointless, long-winded sessions imaginable. But it’s not all bad. The meetings are held on a university campus, so we get to stay in old, smelly dorms with no air conditioning.

I get to see cherished colleagues there every year, and that almost makes the rest of the nonsense worth enduring. Of course, I always hunt down my best friends in the group to find the coldest beer in town.

My oldest friend there is a guy I first met in college. We played on the same intramural softball team and had lots of other common interests before we became colleagues. He was kind enough to rub in my face the fact that he plays on an adult baseball team once or twice a week. Bastard.

The good news is that I haven’t yet been purged from the company, and I still have a job. The bad news is that I’ll have to go to these meetings again next year.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Living the Real Life

The first thing, boys and girls, is that I’m leaving tomorrow for a business meeting through the weekend. I may surprise you and check in while I’m away, so behave.

I was thinking today about my ideal life. If I could do anything--live anywhere, have any job--what would I do?

Here’s my answer: I’d move into a small place in my hometown, and then I’d make a living writing fiction while coaching my high school’s JV baseball team and freshman basketball team on the side.

I have always wanted to write. And I have always had it in my head that I would. Reading a novel or well-written nonfiction is a sacred act. I want to do what others have done for me.

Coaching is teaching, especially when it involves younger players. It is also a way of building something. In this case, coaching the first- and second-year kids is about building an individual team, but also a program. I want to be a part of that, to carry on the tradition, the respect for doing things the right way, for playing the game the right way, that our freshman basketball coach passed on to us.

When Mrs. Lefty and I take walks, we sometimes pass by a field where older kids are playing baseball. The other day, I was staring out across the grass, watching them field grounders and work on their bunting, and my wife said to me, “You miss it, don’t you?”

She’s right. Whenever we walk by, my feet get all jittery and I just want to hop the fence and race out to chase down fly balls, and whack an outside pitch the other way, and smell that wonderful combination of dirt and leather and grass.

I want to be out there talking to some kid about moving his feet to get in front of a ball, or reminding a catcher he’s got to anticipate that curve ball will be in the dirt. I want to throw soft toss to that one guy who always stays after practice for extra work, just feeding him ball after ball until his arms fall off.

So why isn’t that what I’m doing now?

Good question. An important part of the answer has to do with stability. I have a good job with excellent benefits. My kids are practically all teenagers. Mrs. Lefty would go crazy if she had to live that close to her in-laws.

One reason I do what I do now instead of that dream is that I have made other choices. Once you’ve got kids, you can’t just run off and do something else for a while, especially if it may not pay the bills. Once you’re married, you’ve got someone else’s needs to worry about.

And my job includes a lot of those elements I want in my life. I do a lot of writing--some is fairly creative, and some is more technical. I am required to do some teaching. I am particularly effective in that role, and it is one element of my job I enjoy. I have an important part in building this company.

So even if I am not living in that little house in my hometown and coaching and writing for a living, I’m doing all right. I’m a happy man. I’m doing things I believe are important.

Except this meeting I’m going to the rest of this week. That just plain sucks. And it isn’t held in some cushy resort town, but in a place that will be hot and miserable.

Drink a few extra beers for me, okay?

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

It's Father's Day

So turn off the dang lights when you leave the room, for heaven's sake.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Father, Apparently, I Have Sinned

I was in the restroom this morning at the office and--HOLY MARMALADE, BATMAN!--my zipper broke.

I kid you not.

The Goddess of Pants is playing tricks on me. Or I need a refresher course in proper zipper use and maintenance.

Fortunately, this time I have a button to keep everything together.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Living with the Lords of Chaos

In the event that you are ever intimate with a person of the opposite sex and particular fluids are exchanged in particular ways, or if you have a medical procedure that duplicates such a fluid exchange, or if you discover a noisy basket on your doorstep, or if you are Angelina Jolie, then you might end up with one or more children.

This turn of events is not all it is cracked up to be.

I was reminded of this fact when I used the pen by the telephone in the kitchen to write down a number. At first, I thanked the Let-Me-Get-a-Pen God for the presence of that pen by the phone.

Normally in my house, the children have taken all the pens away from the one place in the house where you are guaranteed to need a pen and moved them to other locations, including beneath their beds, under the cushions in the couch, inside the vacuum cleaner canister or out to the garden. There are, of course, pencils by the phone, too, but the children have conveniently broken off all the points on those pencils.

So I was happy--no, thrilled--to find a pen by the phone. And this was no ordinary, practically-out-of-ink pen, but THE GOOD ONE. This was the one Mrs. Lefty usually keeps by our computer. It is Old Reliable. So I happily wrote out the telephone number I needed to remember and was about to put Old Reliable back in its place when...

...I discovered that my hands were covered in black ink.

I blame my children. They have the uncanny knack of making it appear as if their sole purpose in life is to create as much damage and chaos as physically possible. Whenever I am unfortunate enough to follow in their footsteps, I inevitably say to myself, “There is no way on earth they could have made a bigger mess.” Then I get to the next room and realize I was wrong. Everything they touch disappears. Everything they walk past collapses into a heap of debris.

Now I know you’re thinking, “Parenting. It’s all about parenting.” To that, I say, “Bite me.” You may also be thinking, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” To that, I say, “Shove it.”

I suspect that my real children were switched at birth, and some dastardly alien creatures left mutant doppelgangers in their places. My real kids (I’m looking at you, Lindsay Lohan) are living very different lives in some unknown place. They are getting straight A’s, are polite to their fake parents and keep their rooms clean.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

The Sanity is IN

Reasons I know I am not crazy:

  • Whenever I question Mrs. Lefty about the state of my mental health, she always says, "Sure, you’re normal, all right." Then, to emphasize her point, she laughs uncontrollably.
  • My mother always told me my teachers and the school psychologist were wrong about me.
  • The neighbor’s cat no longer sends me telepathic messages saying it wants me dead.
  • My regional supervisor said to me the other day, "We’re watching you very carefully." Obviously, the company thinks I’m going places.
  • The gremlin that lives inside my microwave told me I’m perfectly sane.

The "Don’t You Hate That" Department: After the latest fiasco with my white dress shirt, Mrs. Lefty went out and bought me a new one. It fit. Don’t you hate when she’s right AGAIN?

Finally, if you love Elmo and profanity (and who doesn't), you must not miss Rude Cactus' June 5th blog entry.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Women Are from Nordstrom, Men Are from Sears

Unlike her nearly perfect husband, Mrs. Lefty does not worry about making mistakes. This is generally a good thing. She is free to try new things--such as watching an episode of 30 Rock, even though she’s never seen the show before--without taking weeks and months to consider the possible pitfalls of such a bold new step. (For example, what if I don’t like it and thus waste a half hour of my life? Or, what if the commercials are sucky?)

Her lack of fear in these matters also means that most of my clothes don’t fit well. It takes me a looooong time to buy clothes. From the time the idea first pops into my head ("Gee, Old Greeny Pants sure are getting old. And the button has been missing for months. Perhaps I should get a new pair."), to the time that particular article of clothing finally disintegrates (See here.), forcing me to buy that item of clothing, a period of 3, 4, or even 5 years may elapse.

Mrs. Lefty has a different sort of brain. She’ll be out shopping, perhaps for toilet paper or a ruled notebook or a new set of silver, and she’ll spy a pair of pants out of the corner of her eye. Before the thought has even finished forming itself in her mind--"Lefty needs a new pair of pants"--she will have pulled them off the rack, put them into the cart, and finished purchasing not only the pants but about $500 of additional merchandise as well. Therefore, my wife has bought most of the clothes I own.

The good news is that I will have new pants that I desperately need. The not-so-good news is that those pants will not fit properly. Usually, they are way too big. Monstrously large.

You remember how when you were younger, and you found a pair of grandma’s underpants, you’d take them to school and stretch them out so the entire 3rd grade could fit inside? That’s how large my wife thinks I am.

A good example is the last time my wife bought a white dress shirt. The collar was so oversized that I had to connect three neckties together to get around it. The arms were so long that when I wore my suit jacket, it appeared as if the shirt was a hand-me-down from my older brother Yao Ming.

This is why, when it was time for me to get a new dress shirt last week, I went on the offensive. I did the only thing I know that would ensure a good fit--I tried the damn thing on.

When I brought my prize home, Mrs. Lefty said, “That’s too small.”

“Hah!” I thought to myself. “That’s what you think.”

Let me say, in my defense, that I knew the shirt was 100% cotton, and I knew it would shrink. That’s why I bought it a little larger than usual.

Mrs. Lefty made me wash the shirt, and because I am a completely obedient man, I did. The next morning, I put on the shirt and...too small. That’ll teach me ever to buy new clothes again.

Don’t you hate it when she’s right?

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Good Pitching Beats Good Hitting

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lefty’s usual brilliance has taken an unexpected leave of absence. Therefore, Mr. Lefty will not be producing a blog post today about the superiority of good pitching. Maybe next week. Maybe never.

Please proceed calmly to the nearest exit.

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"Invisible Boobs Are Still Good Boobs"

Run--don’t walk--over to The Retropolitan. Yesterday he put up a contender for Absolute Best Blog Post in the Universe: “The Heimlich Maneuver Would Be Better if It Was More about Sexiness and Less about Choking on Food.”

Go see it. Shoo!

LATER TODAY: The definitive answer on the Pitching/Defense vs. Offense debate.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007


This is my 100th post. I know I'm supposed to prepare something special, such as "100 Facts about Lefty's Bodily Functions" or some other wildly interesting post.

For my part, in honor of my 100th post, I'm going to go drink 100 beers. I encourage you to join me (not in my actual location, of course, but in the act of drinking 100 beers). If you live in Japan (I'm looking at you, Bre), you can drink sake, or if you live in the south of France (lvgurl), then you can drink wine. If you are not of legal drinking age in your locale, then have 100 tall glasses of cold milk.

I have also decided to post a handful of interesting facts about the number 100:

The number 100 is the smallest square which is also the sum of consecutive cubes.

The Boston Beaneaters were the first National League team to win at least 100 games in a season. They won 102 in the split season of 1892.

Polish Draughts is played on a board with 100 squares.

At least 100 times a day, I turn a light off after my kids have left it on.

The 1969 western film 100 Rifles starred Burt Reynolds, Raquel Welch and Jim Brown.

On the Celsius scale, the boiling point of water is 100 degrees.

The Philadelphia Athletics became the first American League team to win at least 100 games in a season when they won 102 in 1910.

In the year 100 AD, Buddhist texts were first translated into Chinese.

I have fantasies about killing my secretary 100 times every week.

In the game of cricket, scoring 100 runs (called a “century“) is a major feat for a batsman, but to be out at 99 is a significant failure.

The number 100 in Finnish is sata.

It is estimated there were 180,000 people worldwide who were 100 years old or older in the year 2000.

I found all these on the Internet, so you know they're true!

Happy 100 Day.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Despicable and Ancient

I am more putrid than maggot droppings.

I am lower than the feces that come from this creature.

Yes, that’s right. I forgot my mother’s birthday.

She took the belated phone call well, though. After all, she only gave birth to me and loved me even when I behaved like the aforementioned maggot poop.

Also, I am apparently very old, even ancient.

This looks just like me, only my teeth aren't in such good shape.

My 12-year-old son and I were watching a television show about the 30th anniversary of Star Wars. When the hosts mentioned that it was Star Wars’ 30th “birthday,” my son turned to me and said, horror in his voice, “You’re older than Star Wars!”

A long time ago, in my galaxy, not so far away...

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Take This Job and...

My job is people-centered. Every single day I have to talk to people, and what’s worse, listen to people. I have to pay attention to what they need and want and care about. I must work side-by-side with them. I must respond to their fears, frustrations and complaints (and boy, do they have complaints!).

It will surprise no one that I hate people. Actually, that may be too harsh. I am not a people person. I need my space. If I were the last person on earth, I’d say “Finally!” I like to work alone. Coordination, compromise and teamwork are just too much trouble.

On the other hand, despite my severe annoyance at the fact that there are other people on this planet and that I have to work with some of them every day, I love people. Despite myself, I genuinely care about what’s happening in their lives. When things are great, I celebrate with them. When they are lousy, I feel for them.

I often think that I need a new career. I’ve been doing this for nearly 15 years, and I have moments when I’d love to leave it all behind me. But I don’t think I can. There’s something about this job that’s got a hold on me. You might say it’s a calling (whatever that means).

Besides, it’s probably good for me that every day I come to work, the part of me that seeks to avoid other human beings is stretched and exercised. And sometimes--only at a moment when I am working with other people--I really believe in my job, that what I’m doing makes a real difference in this world.

Two things would make my job a whole lot more satisfying, though: more money and a mute button that works on complainers.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Who's Your Daddy?

There is a preschool immediately adjacent to my office, and throughout the day I am serenaded by kids--mostly happy ones, but the occasional screamer, too. Even though I generally hate to be around people of any kind, I make an exception for young children. I don’t know why that is, perhaps because I feel like such an intellectual giant in the presence of a 3-year-old. Or maybe they have the inherent cheerfulness that I lack.

I often chat with the kids and their parents, and have come to know one mother and her daughter. They are both from Yugoslavia. Though the woman is still married to the girl’s father and seems to have a decent relationship, the father remains in Yugoslavia. It’s an odd family situation and, frankly, none of my business.

The girl has been in the United States for most of her 3 years, and though she could identify her father in a photo, didn’t really seem to know him. She’s a tiny little thing, and absolutely adorable, though a little shy.

That’s why, yesterday, I was startled (and a little terrified) that when she saw me, she ran up to me and said in a loud, happy voice, “Daddy!” Her mother said to me, “She looks like you.”

Now, this is not a complication I need. I can tell you for a fact that I am not this girl’s daddy. But if my wife (who leans toward jealousy and paranoia in these matters) heard that exchange, I’d have my eyes scratched out in nothing flat. Then, she would proceed to kill me in an excruciatingly painful way every day for the rest of my life. Plus, there might be other rumormongers wandering around. Not helpful.

I think I’ll have to make myself a little scarce around the preschoolers for a while.

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