Monday, October 17, 2011

What I Know About Soccer II

Soccer season is upon us again.  I’m proud to say that Griffin’s team (The Razordogs) has won both of their first two matches.  This is something brand new to us as we went through the entire season last year without a win.  Griffin seems to be adjusting well to it.  His only complaint at the beginning of the season was that he was being coached by girls.  They couldn’t possibly know what they were doing.  I think the results speak for themselves.

I’m very grateful that I had a chance to study the sport with my oldest son last year, because Gage started this year as well, and things are totally different in the 4 year old league.  In fact, if I were to learn everything I knew about soccer from the footballing four-year olds, it would go something like this…

Soccer is not at all what I thought.  I imagined it to be a game where teams fluidly passed the ball up and down the field with their feet trying to kick it passed the goalie and into the net.  Instead, what I see resembles a cross between a flash mob and a mixed martial arts competition.  A soccer ball has been thrown into the cage as an afterthought.  There is an honest to goodness penalty box that is used during each match!  I thought that was only in hockey, and yet I see the necessity of having it with these young ones.  My son has logged quite a few minutes in the box already, but don’t think for a second that he’s the bully of the field.  No, Gage takes as good as he gives.  Last Thursday’s match left him with a sore on his tongue where he bit it during a tussle.  Poor boy has barely been able to eat this weekend.

It turns out I was completely wrong about the goalie.  There is no goalie.  You would think that this would lead to some high scoring games, but that hasn’t been the case so far.  In fact, I’ve found that a large amount of the game is played behind the goals, an area I previously thought was out of bounds.  It seems that the only true boundary is the chain link fence of the softball field, and I think that’s only an artificial limit imposed by the fact that little ones can’t kick the ball through an open gate.

I also found that I was in error about the point of the game.  In my mind, it was to kick the ball in the net and score a point.  I was only half right.  The goal of the game is simply to kick the ball or tackle the person who is keeping you from kicking the ball.  Direction matters not.  Kick it toward either net you want, kick it past the net, and then keep kicking it.  The more time your foot is in contact with the ball, the more you are winning.

It’s thirty minutes of loosely officiated mayhem that the kids love.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Law is the Law

Most people are familiar with the various laws that rule the physical world around us.  The Law of Gravity comes to mind as one my children have had ample opportunity to familiarize themselves with.  But there’s a whole plethora of helpful laws, detailed on the internet, that help describe other aspects of this life.  To save you from the laborious task of firing up your search engine, I’ll detail some of the more interesting ones here:

The Law of Reality
                Never get into fights with ugly people.  They have nothing to lose.

The Law of Self Sacrifice
                When you starve with a tiger, the tiger starves last.

Barnes’ Law
                Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn’t have to do it himself.

The Law of Probable Dispersal
                Whatever hits the fan will not be evenly distributed.

The Law of Volunteer Labor
                People are always available for work in the past tense.

Oliver’s Law
                Experience is something you don’t get until right after you need it.

The Law of Observance
                It is what it is, and it ain’t what it ain’t.

To this inimitable list, I’d like to add my own freshly minted law.  After much consideration and scrutiny, I have noticed that people tend to long for the “old days” when everything was easier.  We’ll look at a child who is longing with all their might to get older and tell them, “You don’t know how good you have it right now!  You have so little responsibility, all your needs are taken care of, you only have to walk uphill one way on your trips to and from school!” etc, etc ad nauseum.

After a little introspection, I found myself thinking of my whole life in those terms.  When I was in college, I fondly recalled the days of High School.  After I was married, I reflected on our dating life and perceived that it was somehow a little easier back then.  Once our first child came along, I realized just how simple life had been before, and how little we had taken advantage of it.  Then child number two came, and I laughed at how hard I thought we had it with only one child.  Child number three showed up, and I wept great heaving sobs at my own ignorance in thinking that two was difficult.  Therefore, without trying to put any further pessimistic bent on it, I give you:

Michael’s Law
                Your life will never again be easier than it is right now.

I know that sounds really morbid when you write it out, but bear with me a minute.  I didn’t say that life would never be more enjoyable or fun or fulfilling than it is right now; I only said it wouldn’t get any easier.  There will always be another difficulty to rise up and take the place of the most recent obstacle you’ve overcome.  The point of the law is to emphasize that we should try to look at our current situation and enjoy it for all its worth.

I know…easier said than done.  But the law is the law.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Three Strikes! You're...awesome?

This past Saturday, our LifeGroup had a class get together at a local bowling alley.  It was a fairly good day to go, since there was also an airshow in town and the seventy-two lanes were mostly empty.  We were able to spread out over four lanes, one for men, one for women, and two lanes for the twelve kids we had along with us.

It’s safe to say that none of us will be entering the PBA anytime soon.  There was all manner of technique on display, from a wicked curve ball to plain brute force, none of which resulted in impressive scores.  There was also quite a lack of technique to be seen as well.  The important part is that most everyone had a good time.

After all was said and done, I found that one thing really stood out to me.  I mean no disrespect to the bowling alley or Professional/Amateur bowlers in general, but from what I’ve seen, this is just not a kid’s game.  Much to their credit, they try to make it work, with rails that come up out of the floor to block the gutter and ramps to help the kids aim their ball and give it the necessary speed to make it to the pins.  But let’s be real, the odds are stacked against children from the start…

First off, there’s the bowling ball.  It’s an unwieldy six to sixteen pound slippery-smooth sphere that the child is supposed to manhandle from the ball return to the top of the lane.  This might be overlookable if those stylish bowling shoes came standard with steel toes, but they don’t.  Gage tried to set it down on the floor and kick it like a soccer ball…he only did that once.

That brings me to the technique of actually throwing the ball.  There is a tendency among many children to hover close to their parents in social situations.  You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that connecting the backswing of your ball with a toddlers face is largely undesirable.  Compound that with the fact that not all of us are professional bowlers, and as such, the release of the bowling ball is not guaranteed to be in a forward direction.

But, assuming all that was fixed, and we were able to fling puffy white clouds at the bowling pins, there’s still the matter of the rules.  For the first years of a child’s life, you pour yourself into teaching them how to take turns and treat each other fairly.  Now, take them to a bowling alley and try to explain to your sobbing four year old why she doesn’t get her second turn after making a strike.  It’s punishing them for doing a good job…not fair!  And let’s not even mention the tenth frame, where some of their friends get THREE turns while they only get two.

Despite these “issues”, I think every kid had a great time.  If you’re considering taking yours bowling, I’d suggest that you go ahead and do it.  Maybe knowing these pitfalls ahead of time will help you safely and enjoyably navigate the game.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Knight and the Dragon

Katherine Pyle. Dragon rearing up to reach med...Image via Wikipedia

Once upon a time, there was a brave young knight who lived in the kingdom of Aux Arc.  His chivalrous deeds and heroic exploits quickly caught the attention of the king and won him the respect of all his peers.  It came as no surprise to anyone when the king placed this brave young knight at the head of all his vaunted warriors.

All went well for many seasons, as the knight continued his training and taking care of those under his charge.  Yet, as is wont to happen, hard times fell upon the kingdom.  The king worked diligently to keep his realm intact, first spending his own fortune, then eventually selling off bits and pieces of the castle, and finally, trading the very armor of his knights to buy food.

Through all this, the First Knight’s allegiance remained firm and he continued to support his liege.  So, when tales of a dreaded dragon to the south began to fall on his ears, the young, brave knight stepped forward to put an end to this menace.

The king knew that this threat must be answered, but feared sending his most valuable servant to fight the fearsome foe, especially since there was no armor to be had in his territory.  Therefore, he called in a favor from an old witch and had her ensourcel a set of leathers.  The enchantment was said to protect the wearer from all manner of fire, and through much testing was proven to do just that.

The First Knight donned his equipment and headed southward to end the vile beasts reign of terror.  The trip was long and slow, given the fact that the horses had been sold and he had to make the journey on foot.  Yet, this provided him a chance to meet many people he would otherwise have never known.

In the town of Yomsburg, he defeated a senile sorcerer who wandered the village, setting fire to the structures.  His unscorchable leather protecting him from the lunatics attacks.  At Mt. Murphee, he rescued a ravishing damsel who was trapped by the lava flowing from its angry peak.  The molten rock felt as mere waves of water lapping against his legs.  He even stopped in the village of Brownwood and saved a kitten from a burning home.

Tales of his heroic bravery and ensorcelled ‘armor’ spread in his wake!  Time after time, the enchanted leather had proven itself.  So, it was with no small bit of courage and confidence that the brave knight stepped into the dragon’s lair and shouted his challenge to the dread beast.  The mighty wyrm measured its strangely dressed opponent with reptilian eyes and prepared to defend itself.  The knight, unencumbered by heavy iron plate, charged forward at unheard of speed…and was crushed to death by the dragon’s powerful tail.

THE MORAL OF THE STORY:  If Bobby Petrino doesn’t cobble together an offensive line that can hold its own, Tyler Wilson is going to get flattened every week until the football season ends or he lands in the hospital.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, September 23, 2011

Leggo My Eggo

A new entry in the crazy letter writing campaign!  I’m hoping this will land in the hands of someone with a sense of humor.  I’ll post an answer from Kellog if and when I receive one.

Dear Eggo,
I wanted to take a moment to write your company and let you know how much our family enjoys your products.  They are invaluable for those mornings when the kids need a quick breakfast before rushing out the door to school.  The one exception to this rule is our three year-old who will eat them for breakfast every day whether we are in a rush or not.  Sometimes he’ll even ask for them for lunch or dinner.  As the most experienced Eggo connoisseur in our house, his favorite is Blueberry.  The rest of us tend toward Buttermilk.

I do have one issue I’d like to discuss with you, though.  A recent event in our house has opened my eyes to the dangers of unrestrained Eggo Waffle toppings.  A few weeks ago, my wife and I took a little more time than normal getting ready in the morning.  When I came out to check on the kids, the six year-old had already attempted to fix his younger brother some breakfast.  From the side, I could tell that it was supposed to be an Eggo waffle, but the view from the top was totally different.  Beneath a sheer layer of syrup and from atop the waffled surface stood a veritable mountain of butter that completely covered the edges of the round treat and rose to a peak in the center.  It must have been applied with a mason’s trowel.  There was so much, we could have made a topographical map of my three year-olds breakfast.

As I stood there looking at the heap of saturated fats my boy was trying to ingest, something inside me snapped.  I realized that this was unhealthy, and there had to be a better way.  Taking one of the freshly toasted Eggos up, I tasted it, for the first time, without any toppings.  I was surprised at how flavorful it was just by itself!  And that’s when the idea hit me.  Your product comes with everything it needs to make a delicious breakfast!  Especially when you factor in the multiple choices like Blueberry, Strawberry, and even Chocolate Chip.  At that moment, I changed into an Eggo Purist.

I realize that this is an individual journey that each person must make in their own time, but I believe your company has the power and responsibility to influence people in this direction.  I checked your website and made note of your various Eggo products and the pictures displayed on the front of each box.  To your credit, there are many that are presented in a “Purist friendly” manner (no toppings).  However, I’m afraid you’ll find that most of these tend toward your specialized products and not the standard round waffles:
Moderate Purist
Nutri-Grain Whole Wheat
Chocolate Chip
Nutri-Grain Low Fat
Cinnamon Toast
FiberPlus Calcium Buttermilk
French Toast
FiberPlus Antioxidants Chocolate Chip
Homestyle Minis
Cinnamon Brown Sugar

Thick & Fluffy

If you take the butter out of the picture and take the syrup out of the picture, I still believe your product is strong enough to stand on its own.  Maybe this slight change in presentation could help influence people toward a healthier Purist lifestyle.  And, in the end, isn’t it all about keeping your customers alive longer so they can purchase more of your delicious products?

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Michael Thomas

Monday, September 19, 2011

Diary of a Stray Kitten

Day 28
Life has gotten better since the People found me in a briar patch on the other side of the creek.  I cried for two days before they came for me.  I’m glad they did since it was getting harder and harder to catch those grasshoppers.  The lady gave me milk today!  It was so good, I hope I can stay here forever.  Some little people came over today too.  I bet they’d be fun to play with, I wish they’d come outside with me.

Day 29
The Lady took me to see Dr. Nick and Mrs. Mischelle today!  They were very nice.  They checked to make sure I wasn’t sick and even told me when my birthday was. 
I like the Lady!  She gives me food and water and milk.  I like it when we sit in the swing on the back porch.

Day 30
I don’t like the Lady anymore.  For no reason at all, she shoved me into a sink full of water and rubbed a foul, burning chemical all over me.  I still smell like this ‘shampoo’.  If I wanted to be wet, which I don’t, I’d have gone down to the creek and jumped in it.  I think I’ll ignore her for the rest of the day.  That should make a point.

Day 31
The little people came back over and played with me today.  They were a bit rough, at first, but the Lady showed them how to play and they got better…at least the older one did.  That smaller one likes to pull my tail and carry me upside down.  I don’t like that.  I liked it even less when he threw me off the porch.  Thank goodness the Lady made him stay away from me for the rest of the time.
I’ll be more careful what I wish for in the future, as I no longer wish the little people to come outside and play with me.

Day 40
Do I stay where I have food, water, and milk, or do I go back to the briar patch?  The little people come to see me far more often than I like.  If I can make it to the Griffin quickly enough, I’m mostly safe.  However, the Gage will inevitably get his grubby little hands on me, and then I’m at his mercy.  Some days, I can handle the abuse, and some days I just want to hide in the tractor or under the grill.  What to do…what to do…

Day 47
I must be brief.  The Gage has shown up a full day early and without his older brother.  I’m running out of hiding places.  Was also terrified to learn that there’s a third little person…the “Sister”.  She’s the smallest of the three.  Thankfully they keep her inside.  She’ll be trouble, mark my words.

Day 54
I’ve decided to stay.  I can deal with the Gage on a once a week basis.  The Griffin is really nice and can teach me cool things, like how to give a ‘High-Five’.  I’d like to give the Gage a ‘high-five.’  In the face.  With maybe a chair.  At least claws and teeth are still an option if things get too bad.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How NOT to Dance With a Total Stranger

You may think the title to this post is a bit absurd, but I’d wager that almost everyone reading this has engaged in a tango with a total stranger at some point or another.  I know I’ve had more than my fair share of experiences.  You’re walking along, minding your own business when twenty feet away, your eyes lock with another person’s heading your direction.  At this point, you’re hoping against hope that it’s not going to happen, yet it usually still does.  You move right to go around, and she moves to her left, effectively putting you both on a collision course again.  Quickly you make an adjustment to your route only to look up and see that she’s done the same thing.  You’re no closer to solving this pirouetting predicament of circumventing the stranger, and you’re running out of time.  Finally, after a few more failed attempts and with mere feet to spare, you both come to a complete stop and stand embarrassed about how the two of you couldn’t find a way to solve this without resorting to words.

Today, I’m going to tell you how to completely avoid these situations.  The root of the problem lies in eye contact.  Here in the western part of the world, we’re conditioned to maintain eye contact.  Culturally, we believe that it shows interest and focus on what the communicator is saying.  Unfortunately, eye contact can also be a sign of aggression or a means of flirting.  In my opinion, eye contact shows attraction.  When coupled with movement, it leads to this phenomenon of “quantum walker’s entanglement”, where both people are inexplicably drawn toward each other.

The solution, therefore, lies in breaking eye contact before your bodies become “entangled”.  If you look away while maintaining your current speed and heading across the intervening distance, it is suddenly incumbent upon the other person (we’ll call her Mrs. X) to move out of the way or be run over.  Almost without fail, Mrs. X will realize that your course is set and she needs to go around.  The disaster is averted and no party comes away from the experience embarrassed!

Some of you more attentive readers noticed my use of the word ‘almost’ in the sentence above.  The problem with any fool-proof plan is that the world is always making more ingenious fools.  As a result, there are some cases where a person may decide they intend to walk straight through no matter what, in which this situation becomes a potentially humiliating game of ‘chicken’ with you not paying any attention to your opponent.

Again, a more astute reader may notice a second potentially disastrous situation arises if BOTH you and Mrs. X decide to use the method I’ve laid out.  While many may contest that it is less of a red-faced experience to apologize for running into someone than to explain to your wife why you are engaged in what appears to be courtship dances with another lady, head-on collisions are wholly undesirable.  Fortunately, the last step to my plan evades both issues.

After the look-away move, you need to return your attention toward your intended path right before contact is made.  This gives you a chance to stop, should the other person decide to be a jerk or employ the same technique you are using.  “How will I know when to look back,” you might ask.  It’s a simple Algebra problem, like you’ve no doubt solved countless times in school:

Mrs. X leaves her initial spot, traveling North at a given speed (let U equal her speed in ft/s).  You leave your initial spot, traveling South at a different given speed (let V equal your speed in ft/s).  The distance between you and Mrs. X must be estimated (in feet), and will be represented as Δ in our equations.

Assuming constant velocity for both you and Mrs. X, our implementation of the distance formula is as follows:
                (U*t) + (V*t) = Δ, where t is the amount of time it will take for both bodies to meet.

                (U+V)t = Δ

Solving for t yields:

Once you’ve estimated all constants (Δ, U, and V) and solved the equation above, you know how much time you have until you run smack into Mrs. X.  Unfortunately, there is one more variable that must be accounted for.  Since you’ve been doing this calculation while you’re walking, you must also account for that precious time you lost while solving for t and subtract it from the total number of seconds.
Therefore, the complete equation would be


,where ψ is the amount of time it took you to solve the previous part of the equation.

You know, in retrospect, it’s probably just better to look back toward your traveling vector after a second or two of glancing away.  I would highly suggest this for people who are terrible at estimation or are mathematically impaired by fractions…or both.

Well there you have it!  Hopefully this little info-blog will help you avoid those awkward social situations that sometimes arise from dancing with total strangers.