Monday, February 26, 2007

My First Goal

For yesterday's soccer game, we were back in the crummy gym at MLK HS (the one that feels way too small and claustrophobic). But at least this time we had a referee who was genuinely trying to be fair. And also, this time, I didn't need to worry about getting in the way of the ball while I was on the sidelines - because I didn't get a chance to BE on the sidelines. Our star female player was out, and only two of us non-stars showed up. A full team in this league requires at least two female players. So we both had to play the whole time instead of substituting in. It was a bit daunting, and for some reason I really found myself feeling really dehydrated (I drank almost a liter of water at halftime) and drained of energy (I think there was a mental and physical component). As the game proceeded, I found that I sometimes got in the way of my own teammates (one fellow in particular was trying to play every position up and down the field to make up for the absent stars), which discouraged me from trying as hard as I usually do.

Both teams were doing badly, missing easy shots, but the other team did better than we did for the most part and won by something like 14-6. However, one of the six goals was mine! It wasn't quite as exhilarating as one might expect, because the way it went down was that one of my opponents inadvertently kicked the ball into my stomach while I was standing in front of the goal and it bounced in to the goal without any effort on my part. I do take full credit for the goal, though, since I was standing in the right place at the right time!!! And I did get a chance to take two direct shots at the goal myself, although the goalie managed to block them. (By contrast, one of my teammates had at least two totally clear shots at the goal - with the goalie nowhere in sight - and in his excitement sent the ball wildly in the wrong direction.)

I'm also still learning new rules, though this time through other people's errors. One guy was told off by the referee for throwing himself on the ground to block the ball when he was serving as goalie -- apparently, you're not supposed to do that.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


About a dozen years ago, a friend gave me the following audio clip from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
Vogon Guard: Resistance is useless!

Ford Prefect (annoyed): You can shut up as well.

Vogon Guard: Resistance is useless!

Ford: Oh, give it a rest. Do you really enjoy this sort of thing?

Vogon Guard: Resistance is -- What do you mean?

Ford: Does it give you a full and satisfying life, stomping around, shouting, pushing people out of spaceships?

Vogon Guard: Well, the hours are good.

Ford: They'd have to be.

Vogon Guard: But now that you come to mention it, I suppose much of the actual minutes are pretty lousy. Except, except some of the shouting I quite like: Resistance is u-

Ford: Sure, you're good at that, I can tell. But if it's mostly lousy, then why do you do it?
-- Douglas Adams

The clip as edited speaks powerfully to people when they feel "stuck" (as we all do from time to time). In the radio script, however, the dialogue doesn't stop there. Ford proceeds to speculate sarcastically about what might be motivating the guard to do something that's mostly lousy. And of course, he has no alternative path or suggestions for the guard, so the guard continues with business as per usual (after all, it's what he knows), and sends Ford off to be pushed out of the spaceship.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Alas for Bing!

Today, I didn't run -- I only "tried" to run. I went about half a mile, and just wasn't into it. The music on my iPod wasn't doing it for me, even the bright sunshine wasn't doing it for me. My mood (to put it bluntly) sucked. On the way home, I stopped at a hardware store, and spent a long time looking for something that would serve as a handle for the crummy hollow folding closet doors in my guest room (the previous owners had drilled a 0.75 inch hole into the door, which is way too big for any normal handle). I came up with a rectangular plate pull (designed for a chest). We shall see if that works.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Long, Slow Week

It was a long, slow week at work, which I suppose is appropriate to the Lenten season. After all, "lent" is French for "slow."

On the up-side, we had some near-spring weather for a day or two, and I did accomplish a few things during my non-working hours that I'd been putting off for a while: I hand-wrote a letter to my grandfather (after a week), dropped off some clothes at the dry cleaner's (after 2 weeks), finished watching The Bourne Identity in French, with French subtitles (after 5 days), picked up my framed certificate of admission to the New York State Bar (after 3 weeks ... although I actually waited 6 years to bring it to the framing shop in the first place).

There are higher-priority projects on my agenda, but they will have to wait.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Cool Running

Today I ran 1.5 miles. (This was actually the second time I did this particular route, but I had previously misread the park map so I didn't know how far I'd gone.)

I'm still learning how to play soccer (who knew you weren't allowed to hit the ball with your elbows?!), but I'm definitely getting better. And I'm having fun anyway, so it's all good. The funniest part was when a guy on the other side had the ball, and he was taking too long to do anything with it, so I started racing toward him to try to interfere with whatever manoeuvre he was planning. And he goes, "It's our ball!" And I suddenly realized that YES, he was right -- we had just scored, so I was supposed to stay on the other side of the line with my teammates. Oops!

Or actually, what was even funnier was earlier in the day during our church fellowship meeting. We were divided into groups to reflect and comment on some short bible verses. We went around the room, each group sharing its thoughts on its assigned verses; a very supportive, open-minded environment with no wrong answers. Then the captain of our soccer team spoke for the last group. He is super-competitive, and he just can't turn it off. He explained how much more challenging his group's verses were, and how his group's answers were better than those of another group considering the same verses! (Needless to say, he doesn't deal well when we lose soccer games; coming in "second" is not an option. Luckily, we won last night.)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Bouley and MJ

I enjoyed lunch at Bouley with some friends, the first time I've been there since summer 1998. The cheapest entree is $38 -- which just happens to be the same price as the entire 5-course tasting menu. So, I ordered 5 courses -- an appropriate way to usher in the Year of the Pig, I suppose. First course was a "canape" which looked more like a small soup, due to the almond froth on top. Next up was sashimi - plenty of small cubes of raw fish, pushed into a small perfectly shaped mound, with a few tiny cubes of truffle-infused gelatin. (I got this for my fish-eating friends to share; they got the shrimp and scallops in an herbal ocean broth.) Third was a delightful pepper-encrusted chicken on artichoke risotto with something else that I can't remember. Fourth was a small scoop of unusually flavored sherbert, with a blood orange sauce. Followed by an almost-gooey warm chocolate cake. That, of course, does not include the various fresh-baked breads (I chose a small baguette, an apple roll, and a slice of saffron walnut bread), the small cookies and chocolates (which we did not touch), and the additional multi-layered peach essence dessert served in a shot-glass afterward. Luckily the portions are small....

I collected the loaves of bread (they looked like pound cake) that Bouley gave us as we left, and was able to provide those as party favors at my mahjong party that evening. I also put together an appropriate backdrop for the festivities.

As usual, Carolyn dominated the game for an extended period. She quickly became East Wind, and retained the position hand after hand. It was difficult to remember a time when she had not been East Wind. Nonetheless, after fortifying ourselves with smoothies, pizza and curried lentils for a few hours, we managed to dethrone her! Or rather, she let us win a few. (Thanks, Carolyn!) Luckily, the stakes were small - only our honor was on the line.

Warmest wishes to Emi as she leaves for her mission trip to India this week.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


On the subway this morning, it wasn't very crowded. One of the few standees was a tall, slender woman, probably in her 20's or 30's, and very conservatively dressed (long dark skirt to her ankles, dark sensible shoes/boots, long, medium-gray zipped-up puffy coat, and a dark kerchief on her head). I spotted an empty seat, and sat down. Soon, I heard a low, rational voice, and I thought it might be the woman speaking to a friend, although I couldn't tell because her back was turned to me and she was a few yards away. Then it became clear that she was addressing her remarks to her fellow passengers. She was telling them how much she loved Jesus. Oh, great, I thought. Another of the crazies. But I was mildly surprised or even regretful, because I had thought, at first glance, that she was Muslim rather than Christian. I idly pondered the fact that crazy Christians tend to harangue strangers, while crazy Muslims tend to blow them up. But I decided to listen for more clues about the woman, whose voice was more than usually moderated in pace, pitch, and volume in her evangelical efforts.

As I listened (pretending of course not to notice anything in the traditional NYC subway rider manner), she explained further. She loved Jesus; she has no issues with Jesus. But he was a man (she said), although a prophet. So she and all Muslims (aha!) love Jesus, but they don't worship him. Just as they don't worship any of the other prophets, including (oddly) Abraham and David as well as Mohammed. (No mention of Elijah?) No, Muslims believe in only one God, they don't worship the prophets.

After proceeding in this vein for a while, she moved on to the next topic: Muslims are not violent. For example (she said), consider the World Trade Center. She explained that Muslims could not have been behind the attack on the World Trade Center, because there was a mosque there. I didn't quite catch who (if anyone) she thought was responsible.

Her theory was intriguing of course, but it doesn't really hold water in a world where Shiite and Sunni Muslims try to attack each other in or near their mosques on festival days.

On the one hand, it is heartening to see a Muslim go in for evangelism instead of jihad. On the other hand, subway evangelists need to have a very high tolerance for frustration (they will almost invariably be met by stony silence), and the kind of single-mindedness that allows them to persist in a course of conduct which is remarkably ineffective. I'm not sure subway evangelism will really catch on in that population.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Weekend Getaway II

I am about to start the third of four 4-day weeks. Last weekend, I had a speaking engagement in Miami Beach on Saturday morning, so a colleague and I flew down to Ft. Lauderdale early Friday morning, where we got fleeced by a taxi driver who apparently took the long way to Miami Beach.

The Fort Lauderdale airport has a nice assortment of planes hanging from the ceiling. Gives a whole new meaning to "Hold my plane!"

I liked this sea plane too.

The weather was spectacular, and I was able to get in a small run (11 minutes of running, 22 minutes walking) on the boardwalk as well as a lovely swim in the ocean followed by a leisurely stay on the beach (despite the best efforts of an obnoxious person who claimed to be in charge of the beach chairs and beach umbrellas). The presentation went well -- the allegedly fearsome crowd turned out to be a bunch of teddy bears after all. They asked some good questions, but not in the aggressive style that had been described to us. So that all went well. Plus we enjoyed some Cuban food (ropa vieja and a mojito, in my case - yum!).

My secret plan, since I had Monday off, was to take the last flight out of JFK up to the great wintery north to see if I could glimpse the elusive Clareetah and Leeon in the wild suburban jungle. My plan was so secret that at the FLL airport, I was only given the oppotunity to check in for the first flight (to JFK) and not the second flight, which was booked several months later. I made the mistake of checking my bag, which meant that I had exactly 1 hour at JFK to collect my bag, check in for my next flight and re-check my bag, re-clear security, and get to the gate. (I spoke to 6 different employees of the airline to see if there was some way to handle it, but to no avail.) The process turned out to be rather stressful, because my flight was 15-20 minutes late leaving FLL and my bag was pretty much the last one off the plane. Thinking ahead, I checked in for the second flight before the luggage even started coming off the plane, but everything else involved waiting and then mad rushing. Then, after all the insanity, I actually got to the gate about 1 minute BEFORE they started boarding. Yawn.

Among the highlights of my visit to the suburban jungle was my introduction to broccolions and antelopetunias (courtesy of Bruthges; the book is "Scranimals" by Jack Prelutsky) and a very enjoyable concert.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Weekend Getaway

The following video of shore birds may take some time to load, but it shows them running around and then occasionally taking flight (showing the very nice wing pattern of the darker ones):