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July 31, 2004

Sarah McLachlan in Concert

Last night, I took my daughter to see Sarah McLachlan at the RBC Center in Raleigh. I had never seen Sarah -- doesn't everyone just call her by her first name? -- in concert before, so it was a real treat.

First impression: Sarah is lovelier now, at the age of 36 and two years after having her first child, than she's ever been before. Second impression: Her voice isn't beautiful because of studio tricks, it's just plain beautiful -- and she hits all the same notes in concert that she hits on her CDs.

On her live CD Mirrorball, Sarah has the audience sing the refrain to "Ice Cream":

It's a long way down
It's a long way down
It's a long way down to the place
Where we started from
I've probably sung along to that song dozens of times, and it was a delight to find out that she always leads a sing-along. I suppose I should have added that to my list of 100 things to do in life...

A few months ago, a friend told me of the "join the fan club to get good seats" trick. For CDN$10, I purchased a membership in Murmurs, Sarah's fan club, through which members have the ability to buy tickets before the general public. To forestall scalping, when you buy tickets from Murmurs, you don't find out where you seats are until you pick up the tickets at the venue. Kelsey and I arrived late -- we had been at a band performance of hers and had to leave early just to make it when we did -- so when the tickets were handed to us, we rushed in through the gates to make it before Sarah started her set. After getting inside, I finally looked at our tickets -- row 4. I think the closest I've ever been at a concert before was row 20, so it was amazing being so close -- as if Sarah were singing to us from a across a small room.

I'm taking my son Cameron to see Barenaked Ladies next week, and I purchased tickets through their fan club as well, so we'll see if we get seats just as good.

July 22, 2004

We Finished 7-2-2

My soccer team played to a 0-0 tie last night, finishing 7-2-2 on the season. Though we didn't come away with a win, I felt it was our best game in a number of ways, and it was a great way to end my first season of soccer.

We played a good team who played a tough but clean game. They fought hard; so did we. They threatened to score on a number of occasions; so did we. Their forwards and keeper played especially well; so did ours. When the referee called the end of the game, after exchanging congratulations, someone asked, "Who wants to keep going?" We talked it over briefly and everyone on both teams wanted to play on. The referee graciously agreed to go on as well, and when he asked, "Do you want this to count?" the answer was an immediate "Yes!" We kept playing, both teams with just as much intensity, until the referee called the game on account of darkness. There was another round of congratulations and I honestly didn't feel bad about walking away with a tie.

We won't know for some time how we finished in our division -- second or third, I suspect, but whatever the result, I had a tremendous amount of fun, learned a great deal (and realized how much I have yet to learn), made new friends, and found a new passion in my life. I suppose old dogs can, after all, learn new tricks.

July 20, 2004

We're 7-2-1!

My soccer team returned to winning form with a 5-0 victory last night. After two straight losses, it felt awfully good to be winners once again.

I was sure before the game started that we were going to win. There was an energy around the team that just felt right. Everyone showed up not only on time, but early, so we had plenty of time to stretch, practice, and talk about what we wanted to do. It made me even more sure that had the team all shown up on time for our last game, we would have won that one, too.

I've been meaning to write for a while now about why I enjoy soccer so much. As I told a friend last night, it's like meditation for me. When I'm on the field, I'm not thinking about anything except the game -- I'm totally in the moment. I'm not thinking about work, relationships, money, or anything except what's happening in the game. When it comes to real meditation, I have yet to reach the point where I can focus like that... but a soccer game takes me there instantly.

If we win our final game of the season tomorrow, we'll finish 8-2-1 -- a respectable record, but we won't know for a while whether we ended up first in our league.

July 15, 2004

Heard at the Office Today

In the art department, just after distributing paychecks:

Michael: Hey, Frank, now that I've gotten paid, can I quit?

Me: Sure.

Michael: I'm serious. I'm going to do it. You'd better beg me.

Me. Okay. I'm begging you to quit.

Score: Michael: 0, Me: 1.

July 14, 2004

We're 6-2-1, Damnit

After going undefeated through the first seven games of the season, my soccer team is now 0-2 in its last two games, having lost 4-2 tonight.

Tonight's game was much different from the game on Monday. The other team played a tough but clean game. The weather was fine and we played the full time. Our most serious problem was that we had a number of players miss the game entirely or show up late. As the game started, we had to play one player down, and we were missing four of our five best players. Players began to show up during the first half, but it was hard to recover our composure on the fly. We regrouped at the half and began to come back, holding our opponents scoreless, but we could only score twice ourselves.

I played better tonight than I did on Monday; I'm not sure why. I know that I was determined not to play sloppily or make stupid mistakes, and for the most part, I didn't. That's something.

A friend wrote to me after my last game and pointed out the character-building aspect of losing. True enough, but I think I've built enough character now, thank you.

"Dear Roger Clemens..."

I may not be a baseball fan, but I recognize hilariously venomous anger when I see it. This is from a wonderful column by Seth Stevenson for Slate:

Dear Roger Clemens,

Let me offer my hearty congratulations on starting the All-Star Game. Wow, that is really terrific. I'd like to note, however, that I hate you.

Also: You are fat. They say you've got this hard-core training regimen, with calisthenics and whatnot. I'm not seeing it. You're wicked fat.

Oh, perhaps that was uncalled for. You know what else was uncalled for? Sucking, every time it mattered. You ruined my childhood, fatty. Because the trauma you put me through as a young, impressionable Red Sox fan has stunted my emotional growth, I revert to a juvenile mind-set whenever I see you. Like repeatedly calling you fat...

I'd like to add that it's not just me. Nobody likes you. It's just a matter of degree -- of how much we hate you. Personally, I measure my hate in terms of how severely I want you to be injured. Like, I guess I wouldn't want to see you crippled for life, so you couldn't walk anymore. But I really wouldn't mind if you pulled your groin and missed five starts. That's the over-under on my hate...

Hey, don't think I'm done with you, Clemens. What about this: Not only do you have no fans, you have no team. You don't travel with the Astros unless you have to, and then you go all by yourself. What's with that? If you could, I'm certain you'd hire yourself out, start by start, to the highest bidder. You whore. Maybe we should just play the All-Star Game at your house, in your backyard, so you can spend even more time with your wife and kids. Would that be more convenient, chump?

Speaking of your kids, their names all start with K. Because K is the symbol for strikeout. That's lame, dude. If I named my kids after something I'm really good at, they'd all be named "Calling-Roger-Clemens-Fat Stevenson." And that's just too unwieldy.

In conclusion, I really, really hate you.


Seth read an abridged version of his column for NPR's Day to Day, which can be found here. It's well worth a listen.

July 13, 2004

Found Memories

A couple of months ago, my Aunt Dorothy died -- the last survivor among my father and his two sisters. Afterwards, I found myself remembering things about times with her that I hadn't thought of in years, even decades.

As a teenager, I spent a summer with Dorothy and her husband John in Oklahoma, part of it at their vacation cabin on a lake there. Besides learning to water ski that summer, I found an old, rarely used shortwave radio there. At night, when everyone went to sleep, I stayed up late tuning in distant stations. I didn't have a listening guide, and didn't know any foreign languages, but I found it all quite exotic. I can't be sure, but I seem to remember listening to Radio Moscow's English-language service and being amazed that one could listen directly to the voice of the "enemy." That, plus my dad taking me to see Ice Station Zebra as a kid, led me to wanting to learn join military intelligence and learn Russian.

I hadn't thought of this in many, many years, and I'm sure I never told Dorothy... so she never knew the impact that summer had on the course my life took.

July 12, 2004

We're 6-1-1

My soccer team lost tonight, 3-1, and I'm as angry as I've been about anything in a while now.

I'm angry at the other team for their style of play, which seemed often to consist of pushing and shoving (especially by one of their players in particular) just up to the point of being called by the referee. Legal? Yes. Good sportsmanship, especially in a recreational league? No.

I'm angry at the referee for calling the game five minutes into the second half, just as we were starting to come back. It started to rain, and then we saw thunder and lightning, and that was it. My understanding is that according to the rules, calling the game is what's supposed to happen. However, the rain stopped, at least for a while, not five minutes later, and I didn't see another burst of lightning until I was almost home. We could have easily played on.

Mostly I'm angry at myself. I felt good but played sloppily. I spent much of the game frustrated with my attempts to get the ball to my teammates.

Given that we hadn't lost yet this season, and that this is my first season of play, tonight was my first soccer loss ever. It's harder to take than I thought it would be, and has definitely left a bad taste in my mouth.

I think that's a good thing.

July 07, 2004

Thinking About Edwards

I find all the talk from the Bush camp about John Edwards' lack of experience rather amusing. Edwards has about as much time in the Senate (including serving on the Intelligence Committee) in 2004 as Bush did as Governor of Texas in 2000. And Edwards is only the vice-presidential candidate -- Bush was running for president. I'd say Edwards is more prepared to serve as president now than Bush was four years ago.

The other amusing thing about this "Bush and Cheney are more experienced" talk is this: can someone point to the accomplishments of this supposedly experienced team? On the domestic front, Bush is the first president to lose jobs during his term since Herbert Hoover. On the foreign policy front... well... that's a mess that goes beyond the scope of this blog entry.

My prediction is that if the Bush campaign presses this issue, it will come back to bite them.

By the way, I'm really looking forward to seeing the vice-presidential debate in this campaign. Cheney is smart on his feet, to be sure -- he got the best of Joe Lieberman -- but my money would definitely be on Edwards.

July 06, 2004

I'm Batting .500

Back in January, I made two predictions: that John Kerry would win the Democratic nomination and pick John Edwards as his running mate, and that the Carolina Panthers would beat the New England Patriots by 1 point in the Super Bowl. Looks like I'm batting .500 (and I'd be batting 1.000 if it weren't for the Panthers scoring too quickly at the end, giving the Patriots time to do to them what they did to the Rams two years before).

I think John Edwards is a great choice for the ticket. Unlike someone like Richard Gephardt, he can bring new voters into the fold. Anyone likely to vote Democratic because of Gephardt was going to vote Democratic anyway. But I believe that Edwards -- a brilliant campaigner, better than Bush, Cheney, or Kerry -- can cross party lines. I may disagree with him on some issues, like trade, but I think he's right about "Two Americas," and I think he'd make a solid vice president.

Tofu Pumpkin Pie

This recipe from the Cooper Aerobics Center is one of my favorite dessert recipes. It tastes reasonably similar to a crustless but otherwise traditional pumpkin pie, but is missing the heavy cream, eggs, and the like.

10 ounces soft silken tofu, blended in a blender until smooth
1 16 ounce can of pumpkin
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Spray pie pan with no-stick butter flavored spray. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Cream together the pumpkin and sugar. Add the salt, spices and blended tofu, mixing until thoroughly blended together. Pour into pie pan. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 325 and bake for an additional 40 minutes.

It turns out to be important to process only the tofu in a blender and to do the rest of the mixing by hand -- otherwise, the consistency of the final pie isn't quite right.

I'm thinking of substituting maple syrup for the sugar the next time I make this. 3/4 cup of granulated sugar = 581 calories = just over 2/3 cup maple syrup.

This shines with a bit of whipped topping. You could do it the right way, chilling a bowl in the freezer and then using it to whip some very cold skim milk with a bit of sugar... or you could just cheat like me and use Cool Whip. I don't know what that stuff is made of, but it tastes good, so...

July 03, 2004

"Fahrenheit 9/11"

I took my sons to see Fahrenheit 9/11 last night. Talking with a friend later, I was told that a review on my blog was expected. As I've noted here earlier, I typically don't review movies, because generally speaking, I don't know what I would add to the plethora of movie reviews already out there.

With that said, I do want to say that I found Fahrenheit 9/11 to be typically Michael Moore: partisan, hilarious, angry, and ultimately thought-provoking. In a departure for him, though, perhaps the most effective moments of the film are when he disappears behind the camera, to allow a grief-stricken subject to speak.

Afterwards, my sons and I discussed the film at length. During one sequence, Moore follows Marine Corps recruiters through his hometown of Flint, Michigan. My older son Duncan said that there are recruiters at his high school -- and that in his experience, they focus their time and attention on the kids who aren't doing so well academically, just like the recruiters in the movie.