Saturday, November 14, 2009


For those few of you who have this blog subscribed to in your RSS readers (or bookmarked?), I should mention that I am picking up shop and settling down in Wordpress territory.

The new blog address is:

I am doing this mostly because I dislike the width of the text column here on blogspot.

This is the last post on this particular blog.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Stupidest Angel

My roommate Sam got us a new cat last Friday. He was a stray, though likes people and knows how to use the litterbox, so he is probably safer to have in the house than, say, an ocelot.

This is our cat (pictured to the right (click for full-size)).

His name is Mrs. McKibbens the Ballbarian (the name was not my choosing), though we've taken to calling him either "Mrs." (because it is ironic and we are cool hipster kids) or "Mickey", which is semi-ironic, given that it is the name of a cartoon mouse, and cats and mice generally are considered to be natural enemies (as evidenced by "Tom and Jerry"), except that cats do not understand irony and he doesn't really seem to care what we call him.

He was named after Rachel McKibbens, who is a pretty rad poet and human being, and, as far as I can tell, mostly writes sad poems, but that's alright with me. She also writes some really raunchy poems, which are also pretty alright (and totally not safe for work).

We love Rachel McKibbens.

Mickey (as I'm going to call him - for those of you who claim that it is not gender neutral, when I was in 6th grade, the security guard at my school was a woman named Mickey (there was also a man named Marshall). Also for those of you who claim that "Mickey" is not gender-neutral: Like "Mrs." is!) is a good cat, mostly.

(This is me with Mickey).
By good, I mean mild-mannered. He's got this really annoying thing where he really likes to touch people's faces with his face (I don't care if he does it to others. I just don't like my face being touched by anyone I've known less than a month, regardless of how cute and/or fluffy they might be). He also meows a lot - the first 2 hours he was home, he walked around the house and meowed at everything he saw.

...Sometimes twice.

But we get along pretty well, for the most part. If I am sitting on the couch, he will probably sit next to me, and will almost certainly meow. Sometimes he will lay across me, if I let him (it's taken almost a week, but he's figured out that if I do not want him on me, the best thing he can do is accept it and sit next to me, and I will still scratch him behind the ears from time to time). If I am eating, he tries as hard as he can to help me eat (it's a good bet that if I am unwilling to rub faces with you, I am unwilling to share my food), but I bet I can break him of this habit before too long.

All that said, he is still a giant mystery to us, because he came to us as a stray. But I have figured out a few things:

1) He loves people. So very much.

2) His hind legs are not very strong, and he can only jump about 8-10 inches off the ground, which is problematic if he is a creature known for jumping ability. Also: he is not very coordinated either. I'm not sure if this is because he's still young, or if he was somehow injured (he gets scared if I move my hands quickly, which makes me wonder if he was abused at some point).

3) He is really not very bright. Sam calls him "The stupidest angel". I feel as though this is accurate.

4) He is a gaseous kitty. Occasionally to the point of clearing a room. And he meows constantly, though it is quiet and kinda pathetic-sounding. I'm betting we can fix the former with some diet adjustment. I'm not too worried about the latter.

5) Mostly, his favourite thing in the world to do is sleep next to (or on) people. And if people are not around, then he will sleep until they come back. (The picture to the right is of him sleeping on my other roommate, Christopher). I don't let him into my room when I am sleeping, but he does not meow at the door. He just waits for me to come back out and sit down where he can see me such that he can sleep next to, or on, or near me.

Or whomever's home. He doesn't care.

But he is a very sweet cat, all in all. Dumb, and sometimes smelly, but sweet. I hope that he is happy here, or at least happier than he was.

And I hope that he does not get too offended when we call him our Stupidest Angel.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Next Time I Am a Teacher

I want to wear a tweed jacket (with leather arm-patches) and carry around a bubble-pipe.

Ideally, there will be a globe on my desk, as well as a really dusty leatherbound dictionary from 1934.

My chalkboard will be ridiculously clean, and I will refer to all my students as "Mr." or "Ms.".

That is what it will be like the next time I am a teacher.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Autumn Tennis

One of the best parts of this summer has been my twice-a-week tennis habit, typically with an old college roommate, with a mutual friend of ours, or with my younger sister (who is the reason I started to play tennis when she asked me during her freshman year if I would play with her so she could try out for the team).  I picked up a new racquet, a case of 24 cans of balls, and finally started figuring out my serve (which, at its best, goes in at around 100 mph - not fast by pro standards, but still pretty darn fast).  After adjusting to the new racquet, I spent the entire month of July hitting my forehands harder and more accurately than I'd ever hit them before, and developing my backhand into a moderately reliable stroke (as opposed to a complete and utter liability).

This was in sharp comparison to the previous summer, in which I spent most of my time with the poetry team and in preparing for the upcoming year of teaching.

My senior year of college, I got the privilege of being an assistant coach to a high school girls' varsity tennis team, thanks to one of the English teachers at the school where I did my student teaching.  It was the first chance I'd had to really play tennis since my sophomore year of college, when I severely strained the tendons and ligaments in both elbows via a combination of rowing, squash, and ignoring pain as much as I could.

By the time all the damage was done, I could barely throw a baseball or grip a plate full of food in one hand.  It was really a rather potent combination, which took my entire junior year of college to heal properly.

However, I healed through a regimen of forced rest (easing my way back into physical activity with moderate amounts of squash and lots of rest), and was finally healthy enough my senior year that I could again play tennis regularly.

When I moved to Kansas, though, I left the tennis courts behind (the town in which I lived had two concrete courts, with wobbly not-quite-accurate lines and a too-low net; the math teacher and I played a few times, but not enough to be meaningful.

After that nine-month hiatus, returning to Lincoln was nice.  The University has several very nice hard-courts with ample lighting, and I had found a few willing opponents.

With fall fast approaching (it's here already, actually), I know that it's only a matter of time before the weather turns too cold for tennis to be a viable option on any but the rarest of warm streaks.  However, it's become clear that I'll have to hang up my racquet a little sooner than that, as the elbow pain has returned. 

It's not anywhere near as sharp as it once was, but over the course of the last month, I've noticed it more and more as my groundstokes lost their pop and my serve all but deserted me.  Now, I can occasionally hit a big forehand, but I haven't been able to do so reliably since before the US Open, and have been relying more and more on slice and loopy topspin just to keep the point going (can you say "pusher"?).

This is a difficult place to be in, because I really do love playing tennis.  Between the sheer elegance of the game (when played well, I'd liken it to ballet) and the strategies therein, the satisfaction of a well-struck ball, and knowing that I'm going to get a good 90 minutes of exercise, it's difficult, if not impossible, to not love.

However, I also know that I play, I'm actively hurting myself and setting myself up for a life of pain, suffering and despair (), at least in my right elbow.

There was a time when I'd have kept playing up until I was incapacitated (I remember a track practice where I pulled my hamstring at the start of practice, and continued running, and after a while limping and hopping around the track until my coach forced me to stop), but I am older now, and either wiser, or more concerned with survival now that I know that I am neither invincible nor timeless (though I remain unconvinced of the first point).

For now, though, it's time to reduce the time I spend playing, to settle for trying to win points without hitting big forehands, and to get ready for a winter without racquets.  And perhaps it is this winter that I will finally make good on what I should have been doing all along: pushups, pullups and core-strength work (I cannot afford a gym membership right now, though perhaps I'll be able to in a few months).

Or it might be that this is the winter where I finally admit my body's limitations (it's not uncommon for me to go for a stretch of a few days either without eating enough or sleeping enough; in fact, it is extremely common). 

But more likely, this represents what is only a temporary hiatus, determined mostly by pain tolerance; what's a little elbow pain, when compared to the sheer thrill of smacking an inside-out forehand winner?

Friday, September 18, 2009

An Open Letter to the Cat Who Lives With Me

(With apologies to Diona)

Dear Rufus,

You might not know this (I do not know if you have a sense of time, or access to a calendar), but you have now lived with us for almost two weeks.  In that time, I like to think that you and I have bonded, much more so than I have bonded with any other cat.

More to the point, Rufus, I like you. I like how you greet me at the door, and how you never seem to mind when I pet you.  I even like this thing we have going where I sit on the couch to read and you sit on the other half of the couch to nap.  It feels like home.

That said, Rufus, you and I need to talk a bit.  As much as I appreciate you, there are times when I appreciate you less than I otherwise might: namely, the hours between one and five in the morning.  Even this is flexible, as my sleeping schedule is pretty erratic.

Now, I leave my bedroom door open (we all do, since Diona told us about how it freaks you out when people are behind closed doors.  I swear, you knock louder than most humans, and for much longer), so that way you can come and sleep on my bed if you so desire (or just hang out in my windowsill; that one works, too).

I do this for you, Rufus. I really do.

But like I said, there are hours when I do not appreciate your attention as much as I otherwise might.  Specifically, when I am sleeping and you wish to let me know that you are there by biting me, or by putting your paws on my face (or, last night, both).

Last night, for example, I stayed up with you until about two, and set my alarm to go off at six.  You, however, perhaps in your desire to stop me from snoring, or in your desire to make sure I do not oversleep, woke me up at 2:30, 3:15, 3:30, 4:00, 4:15, 4:30, and 5:30, either by biting me, poking at my face, or poking at me while attempting to fit your head in my mouth (for the last time, I'm sorry that I snore).

I do not attribute your actions to malice.  And I still appreciate you very much, and would be more than happy to scratch your tummy, or behind your ears.  Heck, I'll even make sure to be very careful such that, when you are trying to walk as closely to me as possible, I do not fall down the stairs again.  I'll even come play with you in the basement, because I know that it freaks you out to be down there by yourself.

But you gotta leave me alone when I'm sleeping.  That's all I ask.  Okay, leave me alone while I'm sleeping, and catch a mouse or two. Those are the only two things I ask.

So please, Rufus, in the interest of making sure that I do not feel compelled to kick you out of my room and rely on the one-two punch of my snoring and my hearing loss to justify not hearing you to let you in, leave me alone when I sleep. You can curl up next to me. You can sit in the windowsill. You can even sit halfway beneath my bed and twitch your tail.  But no biting, please?

Your roommate, Andrew

p.s. We still love you. Very much. And we'll be sad when you go home.
p.p.s. Sam might or might not try to run away with you to Canada. Or Honduras
p.p.p.s. There's pizza in the fridge. Help yourself if you get hungry.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Pun of the Day, 5 September 2009

I was introduced to a fellow earlier this week by a friend of mine, who is a few years older than me; we were walking downtown, when this fellow started waving from across the street.  Once my friend realized what happened, she waved back and we crossed.

After the initial hand-shaking and exchanges of greetings, my friend and this fellow started catching up (they had not seen each other in years).  My friend pointed out that, last she remembered, this fellow was starting to go bald (she wouldn't have normally pointed this out, but he had a very full head of hair, which I suppose surprised her).

The man was surprisingly unabashed at this, and responded "Yes, actually. I was going bald."

"What happened?" my friend asked.

"Well, by the end of the year after you graduated, I was more or less hairless, and it was just killing me, y'know?  I didn't feel like I could go on dates with women, my confidence was shot to hell, and I really didn't like the way I looked."

"So, what did you do?" (At this point, I became curious, too, as he really did have a full head of hair).

"Well, I tried shaving my head first - going with the old bald-on-purpose look - but that didn't feel right.  Then I tried Rogaine, but that only made the problem worse, as my hair came in patchy and in different colours.  I even tried wigs, but they were ridiculously itchy and made me look like an unwashed musician from the 60's."

"But... you're not bald now, right?"

"No, thankfully! In fact, I was so depressed and I was gaining weight, nearly lost my job, and had a couple of health scares; really close to the end of my rope! I was ready to make a deal with the devil to get my hair back! And whaddya know, Satan himself pops up and says 'I'll give you a full head of hair in exchange for dinner and a game of frisbee'!"

"He wanted dinner and a game of Frisbee?  I thougth Satan was into the whole stealing your soul thing?"

"I thought so too, but he said the market isn't as competitive as it once was.  Anyhow, I grilled some steak and we tossed a frisbee around, and before he left, he summoned a hairpiece for me.  It joined seamlessly with my scalp, stays perfectly styled all the time, and never gets dandruff!"

"That's a pretty sweet deal!"

"I know. I'm really glad for my hell toupee."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

August Update

It's August, and I haven't posted for a while.  Let this be a general update for those of you whom I'm friends with and whom I haven't talked to in a while. 

But since I've moved to Lincoln, I've been spending a lot of time working and not very much time socializing, outside of a pretty small circle.  I spent so little time socializing while I was in Oakley (if you exclude Wednesday night basketball, I think I went to a grand total of 3 social functions (defined as a planned social interaction with one or more persons) outside of school the entire year... not exactly a huge number) that it's been weird getting back to where I know people in town and where I hang out with people in town.  All the same, I'm still apparently quite the hermit, though I'd probably love to see you. 

Back To School

Or, rather, not.  This is the first August in about 20 years that hasn't featured me getting ready to go to school/back to school in some capacity.  College classes start up on Monday.  The kids in the school district in which I used to teach go back on Wednesday (their teachers have been in in-service for about a week now).  The kids in the school-district here in Lincoln have been back for a few days.

I miss teaching, and interacting with students.  Several of my kids from Southeast have expressed quite a bit of disappointment that I'm not teaching this year.  I guess I'm somewhat disappointed, too, but it might be nice to have a job that doesn't require me to swallow my philosophical/moral beliefs, and which doesn't make me hate myself.  I'd like to return to teaching someday, but when I do, I'm going to be very careful about how I do it, and where.  The moral sacrifices required in most school districts right now, though, make me too sad and angry for it to be a viable option.

That said, as my kids from Southeast are heading off to college, I'm getting all nostalgic.  Best of luck to you guys.  I know you'll do amazing things.

Speaking of Jobs...

While I left Oakley to pursue a project as director of student outreach for a non-profit here in Lincoln, that opportunity pretty quickly became untenable (for a variety of reasons, at least some of them my fault), and so I will not be doing anything even resembling that.

Well, sort of.

I've been spending large parts of the Summer working with Ryan at setting up a new business.  Without divulging too much, we'll be an Arts and Entertainment hub, likely in downtown Omaha, with two 100+ seat theatres (for performances), a full-scale cafe, and a gaming center.  My job is to run our community outreach programs, and to do whatever I can to make everything else function smoothly, efficiently, and effectively.  Right now, we're narrowing down our list of buildings in which we might put this thing.

It's given me a chance to meet a lot of interesting people, and I've been spending a lot of time learning all sorts of new things.

That said, I've also been pulling 60-100 hour weeks most weeks, with more than a few 14-16 hour days.

Who knew starting a full-scale effort like this from scratch would be so much work?

First Crickets, Now This?

You may remember my ongoing battle with crickets from about a year ago (1, 2, 3).  I haven't had any insect problems in the new house, which I share with 3 members of the Lincoln slam community, but instead we've had slightly larger, squeakier problems:


At least 3 of them.  They live in our ventilation system, which means the various humane traps we've placed around the house have done exactly bupkus, as have the slightly less humane sticky traps.  I called an exterminator about a week ago, but so far, we haven't been able to get them out of the vents long enough to catch them, humanely or otherwise.

Last year, I'd have entered into some type of long, moral dilemma regarding the ethical course of action.  But I've hardened quite a bit since last year, and now I just want the mice gone.  It'd be preferable if I could find another place for them to live, but frankly, timeliness is my top concern. Very specifically, I want them gone, and I want them gone now.

If I had a moustache and a 12-gallon hat, I'd even post a "Wanted (out of my home): Dead or Alive" poster and call all of my roommates "Pardner", but I don't have either of those.

Sorry, little mice.  You are so very cute with your whiskers and your twitchy noses.  But find somewhere else to live.  You are no longer welcome here.

Back to the Basics

A few interesting developments have sprung up this Summer: a house without internet, and lots of walking.

I do not have internet access at my house.  I can see several wireless routers in the area, but all of them are protected by WPA/WEP (or equivalent), and so they are unusable.  So we have no internet access whatsoever (no cable, either, for what it's worth).

I never thought I'd say this, especially given how the internet was, in many ways, my lifeline while in Kansas, but I like it.  It means fewer hours surfing facebook. less checking my e-mail, and almost no online gaming.

It also means that if I want to send an e-mail/facebook message to someone, I have to physically move somewhere with internet access, which in turn means I usually just pick up the phone and call, or I don't worry about it.

When you couple this with how I've been walking most places, it means that I spend less time sitting around on the internet, or if I am going to sit around, I have to walk 20 minutes first.  The only time I drive is if I don't have to pay for parking, or if I need the ability to get to different places quickly, or if it's going to rain.

I don't know why, but I never walked anywhere while I was in Oakley. I drove to school (which took, at most, 3 minutes), drove to the grocery store (another 3 minutes), and drove to the next town when I needed things I couldn't get at the grocery store (that one's reasonable, as the next town over is about 22 miles away).  But I never really walked, except when I was walking to a football game to film it.

I don't know why that is.  Maybe I wanted the ability to leave quickly after I was done for the day? Maybe I was just lazy?  Maybe it was nice just knowing that if I wanted to, I could pick up and go somewhere else?

Whatever the psychological reason, I find it strange that I rarely (if ever) walked while in a small town, and now that I live in a mid-sized city, I walk almost everywhere.

I'm still de-compressing from last year, but being in Nebraska feels healthier.  I have issues remembering to eat regularly (or sometimes at all), and I'm pulling ridiculous workdays, but I'm generally much more relaxed now than I was even 6 months ago.

Some of this is because I've gotten rid of a lot of the distractions I used as intellectual anesthetic (I no longer feel the need to stop thinking and be still), and some of it is because I'm getting a lot more social interaction than I've been used to.  A lot of it is because I'm getting a lot of physical activity, between walking everywhere and playing tennis.

But it's nice. I am writing and sleeping and sometimes even eating, and I think I am happy.