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Disappointed But Not Angry With World Cup Bid Results

December 4, 2010 2 comments

Before I started the exercise and weight loss portion of my life change, I knew nothing about soccer.  I did however know what it was like to sweat while eating.

Fast forward 2 years and I’m a soccer fanatic.  I watch it constantly and am even learning how to play.  So I actually cared when on Thursday, the international governing body for soccer chose the host countries for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.  The 2018 Cup was awarded to Russia, which beat out, among others, England, which was the favorite based upon projected return on investment and infrastructure.  The 2022 Cup was given to Qatar, which beat out the favored United States bid.

A simple Google search shows that pundits and citizens alike in the US and England are crying foul, vowing inquests and reforms, and generally scratching their heads.  True, both Russia and Qatar’s bids were not favored.  Both countries are awash in petro-dollars and eager to improve their world standing, facts I reflexively tweeted when I first heard the news.  And FIFA’s reputation for integrity is not exactly stellar–it’s been referred to as the “Enron of sports” for a stream of scandals involving selling votes, monopolizing ticket sales and controlling construction contracts.

The English bid was likely damaged by an episode of the investigative news program Panorama which aired just a few days prior to the FIFA vote.  The program brought attention to a host of improprieties allegedly committed by members of the World Cup bid selection committee as well as a laundry list of special tax breaks the winning host nation must provide FIFA.  All in all, it’s pretty easy to see why most observers believe that something is not on the level.

I originally agreed until I read this article, also cited above, that discusses the generally crooked nature of not just FIFA but virtually every one of its contingent associations that make up world football governance.  The situation is similar to the baseball steroid scandals of the last decade.  In my opinion, I can’t be too judgmental of a player who breaks the rules when the entire system is crooked–Barry Bonds may have taken steroids but so did a lot of the pitchers he faced.  So if Qatar and Russia broke the rules, it’s highly unlikely they did so alone.

Most convincing though were the comments of Fox Soccer Channel’s Bobby McMahon, the godfather of soccer commentators, in this country anyway, who said that FIFA “knows that they’re going to make tons of money through TV rights wherever they go and they pretty much know that somebody is going to pull it off because they’re going to pump money into it.” (“Fox Soccer Report” on Fox Soccer Channel, 12/2).  McMahon added that countries now place so much importance on successfully hosting large events like the World Cup and the Olympics that they will dedicate whatever money, resources, time, etc., are needed to not just host a successful event but to out-perform any preceding iteration.

And by awarding the bids to Russia and Qatar, FIFA can further its goal of spreading soccer across the globe.  Russia has never hosted a World Cup and the Middle East has never hosted any major world sporting event.  Qatar may be the size of Connecticut with a population equal to the metro area of Jacksonville, FL, but take a look at what they have planned for the event venues–the World Cup games will require 12 new stadia.  Sit on the top row of one stadium and you’ll likely be able to see two others.  Our gas money at work.  Here’s a few pics to whet your appetite:

Al-Rayyan Stadium

Lusail Iconic Stadium

Doha Port Stadium

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Categories: Life Change Tags: ,

Current Thoughts on Life Change

December 2, 2010 1 comment

“The fountain of content must spring up in the mind, and he who hath so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition, will waste his life in fruitless efforts and multiply the grief he proposes to remove.”–Dr. Samuel Johnson

Said another way:  the only thing in the world you can truly change is yourself.

And that job is plenty hard enough.  The focus of this blog, one of them anyway, is how to lock in the positive life changes I have made in the past few years–weight loss, healthier lifestyle, career change to name a few.  Here’s the update on where I stand since this blog began in September:

  • Exercise–after a month-long hiatus due to my needle in the toe incident, I am now back to working out daily.  I was running 18-22 miles a week in early October; still cannot run far without a lot of pain but am putting in the equivalent of about 12-14 miles a week of running by using the Arc Trainer at my gym.  My long layoff extended to weightlifting as well and I feel pretty weak but getting better everyday.  At semester’s end I will be meeting with Industrial Strength fitness trainers and will finally get a professional plan instead of half-assedly applying the latest workouts I see in magazines.
  • Diet–Thanksgiving was last week and I did an ‘OK’ not eating everything in sight.  I did however drink everything that didn’t have a goldfish swimming in it, which continues the theme I started in Chicago.  Beer, wine, vodka, gin, sambuca–none of these are low on calories and full of vitamins.  Sambuca I especially love, it’s like the black jelly beans of liquor.  People either love it or hate it and, sad to say, I love it.  All that aside, I have made strides in again eliminating refined flour, all sugar and simple starches from my diet.  Breakfast is back to oatmeal, lunch is small whole wheat sandwich or soup, dinner is small cut of meat, vegetables and brown rice.  Time to set a new weight goal, and to once again place my diabetes in the forefront of my mind.
  • Weight–speaking of weight, I am virtually level from where I was when I started this blog.  I find this hard to believe because I feel much more like a fat tub of goo than before.  I think this can be attributed to the lack of exercise, especially weightlifting.
  • Other Bad Stuff–I’ve been sneaking smokes, started after my injury.  I can feel it in my chest that it’s affecting me and my fitness level has been harmed because of it.  Time to put the clamps on again.
  • Family Life–Kids have maintained straight-A averages.  My wife and I have about 20 minutes of conversation a week due to our schedules; we hope to get away together for a few days at the end of the year but, even with discounted airfare provided by ‘buddy passes’, my medical bills will likely kill that plan.  My mother has mostly healed from her fall.  And after Thanksgiving, I can say I hate kids–yours, mine and anyone else’s.
  • Anything Else?–I’ve given up politics completely.  It was my sharpest focus for more than 20 years but it’s wasted energy right now and I need every bit of that I can grab.
  • School–The class that requires this blog is the one that keeps me up at night.  It’s a sisyphean task; it’s like standing on top of a ball and still trying to keep the plates of the rest of my life spinning.  Blog entries, Twitter, chats, readings, events, a 5 gallon bucket full of new terms and programs of which I’ve never heard much less operated, projects–I frankly don’t have that much to say to the world, at least not barked on command like a seal.  Just seeing if you read these posts, Dr. Mac–I actually love the class and the challenge, even if I’m not always up for it.

So my ass is not necessarily fatter but it is softer–insert your own joke here, and even THAT is a joke, perhaps a better one.  My kids see Mom and Dad work like Japanese beavers and for the moment at least are emulating us.  Having both my wife and I in school sucks even more than I’d have thought.  Time to lay off the alcohol, pasta, potatoes and smokes and get back to running and soccer and generally looking and feeling better than 90% of the people my age.

To echo “Blazing Saddles”, Dr. Samuel Johnson’s right: the only thing I can change is myself.  But more than that, I believe the best, most honest and true motivation for doing so is also myself.  My kids, wife, family and friends may benefit from the necessary changes I make or they may not.  They may benefit greatly and not even recognize it.  That doesn’t mean one shouldn’t give up smoking because it might enable him to live to see his grandkids; it means he should give up smoking because it is good for HIM, not because it is good for someone else.

Life changes motivated by how we wish others to view or feel about us are doomed to fail.  Why?  Because others will never appreciate the efforts and struggles enough to satisfy us.  The foundations for true change lie only within ourselves.

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Another Pathetic Son of a Bitch

December 1, 2010 1 comment

When I decided to return to school and become a stay at home dad, I vowed to not become one of the following:

  • Hipster Dad, who’s goateed face greets each day by donning the uniform of  jeans or cargo shorts, ironic t-shirt,  retro shoes and iPod,  and who then listens to Vampire Weekend and The Hold Steady while running errands, cooking and folding laundry.  Take a look at the picture of me with my kids in Central Park this summer to see how well I’ve avoided that trap.
  • Oprah Dad, who, much like Oprah Mom, rarely misses an episode of Oprah or Dr. Phil.  Or The View.  Or Ellen.  Or Kathie Lee and Hoda.  Or anything else on daytime television.  And who cannot carry on any conversation that isn’t an extension of that day’s programming.
  • Fat Dad, an example of which is doubtless within 50 feet of where you are.
  • Slave Dad, who spends every waking moment in servitude to his family, an endless stream of sports practices, errands, play dates, school projects, volunteer gigs as well as cooking, cleaning, washing, etc.

Central Park Summer 2010

So I’m a partial but not complete failure in this regard, which frankly is progress over the usual assessments directed my way.  To give myself some solace, context and excuse to drink beer during the middle of the day, I set up an interview with another stay at home dad also in my graduate program.

Jim Shoff is a former managing director at a Wall Street investment firm.  He took a buy-out awhile back and now splits his time between caring for his wife and three teenage children and attending communications graduate school at Queens University of Charlotte.  Where he once clipped bond coupons, today he clips actual coupons.  And while he doesn’t have a Wall Street salary anymore, Jim says he now gets paid in other ways that aren’t so immediate: for example, his kids have better lives and have been able to pursue new sports and interests.  We agreed how lucky we are to have this time with our kids.

With that necessary nicety behind us, we were both now free to express what a giant pain in the ass it is to be a stay at home parent.  Perhaps it’s better if not combined with the demands of graduate school–neither of us would know.  Certainly those women in the traditional housewife role had and still have difficult jobs.  Again, we don’t know but we’re also pretty sure those women have not had to endure the disapproving looks of strangers or snide remarks of family or acquaintances who consider our new roles as merely excuses to slack off while our wives support us.

Jim and I, we are heroes, we are victims…we are full of shit.  But then so is anyone else who considers raising their own kids the equivalent of hanging on a cross.  It’s difficult, unappreciated work, full of emotional minefields, long hours and the sort of cleaning tasks that would only be performed by someone who loves unconditionally.  But what else are you going to do?

Jim says he will one day return to work but not in banking.  Fittingly our conversation that day finished up on the topic of laundry–we both prefer top-loading washers.  He has two dryers.  I’m so jealous.

A Life Change I Can’t Seem to Make

November 23, 2010 3 comments
Counting Sheep

At least it's better than snakes

Since high school, I have battled insomnia.  Given that is presently 4:40 in the morning and I’ve been up for nearly 24 hours, it’s fair to say that tonight’s scuffle is not a successful one for me.  I have an Ambien prescription though it’s effects on me are hit or miss–one night a pill doesn’t even yield a yawn, a different night and a pill means I’ll sleep like Sonny Von Bulow, except of course that I wake up albeit after 14 hours.

A simple search for insomnia on WebMD.com yields this result.  Short-term insomnia is described as resulting from stress and usually lasts no more than a month.  Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, can last–well, I’ll let you know when it stops–and can be a sign of depression.

I’ve been depressed before–honest to God chemically, mentally in the bottom of a black barrel for months, even years at a stretch.  As part of my life changes, I underwent cognitive behavioral therapy, which I can honestly say saved my life.  Rewiring my head also taught me to realize the danger signs of oncoming depression.  And I don’t see any of them right now.  I do however see a clock that now reads 4:49 am.

So why the hell can’t I sleep?  I’m averaging two all-nighters a week as of late; combined with an already busy schedule that starts early and ends late, my body and mind are starting to show signs of wear.  When I was depressed, sleep was blocked many nights by vivid, horrific images of rattlesnakes–I KNOW, how fucked up is that?  Terrifying and paranoia inducing to say the least, and that’s before applying any Freudian dream analysis.

No snakes now, praise be to the Deist being in whom I put what little faith I have left.  Just my fevered mind pinging about like a ferret on speed, clicking off an unceasing list of incomplete tasks and half-witted ideas.  So here I sit, another night of keyboard clicks faintly audible over a loop of  trance music on Pandora.  5:28 am.  It’s going to be a hell of a day.

Categories: Life Change Tags: ,

My Average Day is Shockingly Dull Yet Exhausting

November 18, 2010 6 comments

Yesterday was fairly typical for me–see below.  Bear in mind that any entry involving the children does not capture the true constant goat wrestle that is life with kids.  They are devoid of any memory of owning a book bag or coat let alone that these items should be with them when leaving the house in the morning and returning each afternoon.  Also absent from kids’ memories–pencils occasionally need sharpening; markers have caps; the existence of forks, spoons, napkins, tissues; toilets flush; oral hygiene; how to take a bath or shower; any items needed or due dates for school projects; current day of the week.  It’s easier to state what kids can remember, which is limited to what gifts they want, any promise you may have made them and any time you cursed in their presence.

Enough digressions, here’s my day for Wednesday, November 17, 2010:

8:00 Breakfast, make beds

8:30 am  Kids to school–no breakfast for Kate as she took 20 minutes to brush her teeth and walk downstairs

9:00 am Coffee, online newspapers, email, Twitter and text

9:30 am Finalize hotel contract for February trip to Washington, DC by Sam’s scout troop

10:00 am Gym–first week back since my toe injury.  Weights, floor exercises, half hour on Arc Trainer, run a half mile to test out the toe, ten minutes of soccer ball drills

11:30 am Lunch meeting & interview with fellow student Jim Shoff

2:30 pm Tutor undergraduate student

4:30 pm Return home, start laundry, unload dishwasher

5:00 pm Help kids with homework–Math help for Sam while Kate requires assistance to focus on anything that isn’t an animal or shiny

5:30 pm Start dinner while continuing homework help, more laundry

6:00 pm Usually in class by now but no class this week; phone call with childless friend whom I believe was sitting at a bar on the water in Miami across from his office–he sucks

7:00 pm Dinner, dishes, more laundry

8:00 pm Phone calls to finalize Thanksgiving plans with family while kids watch TV

8:30 pm Text wife to pick up another protractor for Sam, less than 24 hours after the last one was purchased

9:00 pm Cattle-prod Kate into bathtub

9:15 pm Remind Kate to bathe before water gets cold

9:30 pm Wash shivering daughter myself, wife arrives home following one of her two weekly study nights for EMBA classes

9:45 pm Kids in bed, wife’s night to read with Kate

9:50 pm Phone call from parents

10:10 pm Text reading, computer work

1:00 am Bed

No TV but I don’t consider that a loss.  Also absent was any significant contact with my wife, which she probably doesn’t consider a loss.  Mixed into the day were about a dozen car trips, a few random calls and several email and social media checks (except for Facebook, which I check about as often as I replace the AC filters in my house).  Took the picture below of me just before bed.

Does this make me look fat?

Actually I didn’t, I’m just jazzed for the opening of the next Harry Potter movie.  That’s a picture of Dobby, a house-elf from the Potter books and movies, and that pic is of course the copyrighted material of Warner Brothers.  I do feel like him some days though–not in a withered and persecuted sense but rather in the invisible, unappreciated laborer sense.  Better not tell anyone I speak Spanish or they’ll have me arrested.

Better Days

October 31, 2010 1 comment

In years past, the week before an election usually found me sleepless and on edge.  If I wasn’t directly involved in a campaign, I was busy assessing races and making predictions for my employer or a client.  As a result, I haven’t enjoyed many Halloweens in my adult life.

So I was happy to spend the day with my kids putting together the last bits of our Halloween costumes, then home to carve up a few jack o’lanterns.  We finished off with our first family dinner out since July.  In the pre-stay-at-home days, we would go out every weekend for a steak and a bottle or two of wine.  We may not be able to do that anymore but I think we appreciate more the things we do have and the time we have together.  I know I do.

I’ll post more pics tomorrow but here’s the result of this afternoon’s handiwork.  Happy Halloween!

Too Young to be a Sandwich

October 29, 2010 4 comments

I’ll be 40 next year and I’m not looking at this next birthday as a milestone, at least not yet.  Forty is the New Thirty I’ve been told and it had damned sure better be.

The sandwich in question is the “Sandwich Generation,’ those who are raising children while also caring for aging parents.  My parents aren’t old–Mom’s 65 and Dad’s a year younger–but my mother does occasionally require assistance due to fibromyalgia and the aftermath of four hip replacement surgeries.  She recently had a bad fall at home and broke several bones and dislocated a hip.  Currently recovering at home, she needs someone with her full-time to help with laundry, food preparation, walking, exercising, etc.

After dropping the kids off at school, I spent most of today with her: making breakfast, washing dishes and clothes and just keeping her company.  Grad student that I am, I also wrote a short paper and outlined a presentation while she napped and I waited for the clothes to dry.  I’m glad we live nearby and I’m able to help.  Doing so makes an already tight schedule tighter but I’m looking for ways I can stay with her more often.  Usually my mother is the one providing assistance to a sick churchgoer or an overextended relative so I think she deserves a bit of attendance.

In a few weeks my mother will heal and return to the role of caregiver.  But the odds are that the days I’m spending with her now are a glimpse at our futures.

A friend of Mom’s arrived to relieve me so I left my parent’s’ house mid-afternoon.  After two quick errands, I was home to greet the school bus and fix my kids a snack before I was back out the door to class.  One of my errands was to the bookstore for a couple of books ( 1 and 2) on puberty.  My son is in 5th grade and soon his class will discuss sex education.   Determined not the have my children follow in my footsteps and learn the facts of life from purloined Penthouses and HBO, my wife and I will be having ‘the talk’ with my son this weekend.

There was no such chat from my parents.  My dad did once mention something about ‘not wasting all my time trying to get laid’ when I went away to college but even that looked like it killed him to say it.  Public school health class and church youth trips–on these my adolescent sexual education was founded.

My wife and I are pretty socially liberal and I’m known for not shying away from a topic.  A bit of online research yielded some excellent advice.  There can’t help but be some degree of awkwardness heading into this but we are determined to not stammer, become uncharacteristically formal or just generally get ‘weird’–kids hate that and it will become what they remember forever.  Everything changes once kids hear ‘the talk’, or in my case when some kindly 8th grader named Kelly introduced me to second base.  Hopefully, we’ll laugh our way through it.

And laughing beats crying, and Christ knows I could cry…ten years ago my son was just a newborn; ten years from now my mother may be an invalid.  Neither seems that far away.

I’ll update after the talk with a report on how it went.  Leave a comment and tell me about when you had the talk with your parents or with your children.  Hopefully, the dialogue was different than that provided by these two parents: