Sunday, June 27, 2010

It's Over

Just like that, the World Cup is over....for me anyway.

I was chided by friends and family into supporting "The Beautiful Game" and I did. I learned the rules, watched the games, and even knew some of the players names....but like a cruel girlfriend, all of a sudden, it was over - Team USA lost to Ghana and dreams of a WC were shattered.

Admittedly, I find soccer a tough sport to watch however the momentum of the US team compelled me to always excitedly ask Jake, "When is the next game?" and adjust my schedule accordingly. Now that the USA is out, albeit with a respectable showing, thoughts turn toward the dog days of summer (named as such not for the stifling heat but rather the phrase describes the constellations canis major and canis minor that dominant the nighttime sky). Such days are filled are with baseball highlights, vacation to do lists, and putting up with the heat any way I can.

So far this summer has been uneventful - quiet. We plan to spend two weeks in Oceanside as always in late July/early August. We escape the heat to hit the beach and make some fun memories although since we've been going to Southern California each summer for 15+ years now, the trips all sort of blend together. Actually, that's not accurate; there is the young kids version, the teenage years, and thers grown up years.

The Young Kids Years were comical. I would lug so much gear out to the beach each morning that I would be cranky and sore all day long. Such trips included memorable events like day sojourns to Sea World and San Diego Zoo. Alec and Jeff's unforgettable "duck taping" back in Del Mar in '94 and countless other memorable days building sand castles, tossing the frisbee, boogie boarding and snoozing on the beach.

The Teenage Years were also quite funny - to me anyway. The boys slept alot, did the quiet teenager gig pretty well, and were moderately talkative. There were many friends who joined the trip during these years and our grocery bill was so high I demanded social security numbers from the boy's friends so I could claim them as dependants for tax purposes.

The Grownup Years were bittersweet. We havent' all been at the beach together in 5 years since the boys served back to back church missions in faraway lands. Alec was in Peru for 2006 and 2007 while Jake served in Ecuador during 2008-2009. We'll rendevous as a family again in 2010 but will miss Grammny for the 2nd straight year. In 2007 we added Tiffany to the family and in 2010 we'll welcome a granddaughter in the fall. Future years will only bring more people and more memories.

After the beach Alec begins medical school on August 9th - my father's birthday. We are attending his White Coat Ceremony on the 13th where he is bestowed the traditional garb of a doctor. I think he wraps a stethoscope around his neck for the rest of his life during the first week as well.

These are exciting times.

Countdown - 28 days.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Great Month of Sports

Lately we have been blessed with a plethora of excellent sporting events; The recently ended NBA Finals and NHL Finals were some of the finest series competitions in years....but let's not forget about golf, tennis AND the World Cup. Aside from the NFL season, this is arguably the best few weeks in sports.

I know, I know. In my last blog post I just trashed soccer however last week my sons and nephews explained the genius of futbol (soccer) and how the world cup works. After this indoctrination, I have a better understanding of the game but still reserve the right to disparage it due to the lack of scoring and screwball referees.

In the game against Slovenia, Team USA came out flatter than a day old open bottle of 7-Up. They managed to tie the match at the 80 minute mark and then kick in one more goal to go up 3-2 but wait......while 2 of our guys were mugged on the penalty kick, the ref from Mali waived off the goal without offering up an explanation. That's the sort of crap one would never see in an NFL game. Baseball yes (See: No-hitter/perfect game fiasco last month). Corrupt/incompetent refs are rampant in the sport so it has a ways to go before it climbs up out of the gutter.

There was no doubt that hockey and basketball finals were the best in years. Can you think of 2 more blue collar cities than Philadelphia vs. Chicago in hockey? Or two more storied franchises playing for the Larry O'Brien Trophy in the NBA? What a treat. I'm sure that the Flyer-Blackhawk series set a record for sausage and beer consumption. Pipefitters local #185 vs. Pipefitters local #203 while LA-Boston is, well, LA-Boston.

The end of these series set the table for the 2nd best golf tournament in the world to be played on the world's 3rd best golf course (behind Pine Valley and Augusta, respectively). The US Open is the finest test of golf on the planet. Deep rough requires accurate tee shots and precision iron play. The fastest greens this side of the Old Mississippi, the Old Girl, make pros often look like 30 handicappers. The course designers also have a few tricks up their sleeves for the weekends that make it great way to spend 4 days perched in front of the tube while sneaking in a round or two of golf on our own. Thank goodness for Tivo.

And when the golf ends later today, The Championships (Wimbledon) commence tomorrow. It just doesn't end. Two weeks of outstanding tennis will essentially begin with Father's Day festivities and then wind up with the countdown to Oceanside and the first time the family is all together since 2005. O-side this year will be a big deal.

And so the summer of 2010 will pass by in the blink of an eye even though it hasn't even officially begun yet.....where does the time go?

Friday, June 11, 2010

World Cup Kickoff

Today the world cup kicks off.....literally.

I just don't get the world's fascination with "The Beautiful Game."

South Africa is hosting the event and festivities are rampant.... it's a combination of Mardi Gras meets Carnival meets Running with the Bulls with 40% of the fan base being gang members or as they say in the UK, hooligans. You KNOW there is going to be some nefarious, comical, and utterly stupid behavior by fans from all over the globe.

I've always had trouble with soccer. Here are ten of my concerns and as one to not simply criticize and throw my hands up in the air, I do offer a solution to the issue.

Here goes.

1. There isn't enough action. They guys run around like the keystone kops chasing the ball, and if we're lucky, it's a 2-1 game.....after 90 minutes of playing.

As a relunctant coach (nobody else volunteered) of many a youth soccer seasons, our games would end up 7-5 or 10-8.

In one memorable game we were down something like 8-0 in the first half, I ran out to see if the goalie was okay since he was just being pummeled and he lit up and said with a huge smile that was missing some teeth, "Coach, today is my birthday." I hugged him. We got smoked that day, but I'll never forget that kids comment.

Solution: Use a larger goal.

2. The Beautiful Game's timeclock is subject to interpetation by the referee. When the clocks strikes zero (0:00) the game should be over. In all timed sports this is how it works. In fact, in the NBA referees huddle together over last second shots to ensure they left the shooters hand before the buzzer went off. Precision.

This sort of clock tomfoolery allows The Beautiful Game a few minutes or so of drama since no one, at least me, has any idea how much longer the ref will allow play to go on. I'm told, "Well, you have sort of an idea." Me? I need a clock that ticks down to zero.

Soution: If there is a penalty or an injury, do what other sports do, STOP THE CLOCK. What a concept.

3. The card stuff. What's a yellow card for? A red card? Are these like fouls in basketball? Are players fined, suspended?

Solution: Use a box like hockey.

4. Do all UK teams play with beer on the sidelines because they look like they do.

Solution: None needed.

5. Single elimination? Double elimination? What's the damn format? In the NFL you lose, you go home. Soccer? World cup soccer....I have no idea.

Solution: Single Elimination

6. Does the USA have a snowballs chance in hell to win this thing? Because if they lose to England on Saturday (see even I know the schedule), viewship will go down like 90% since Americans own the most television sets. It's true, look it up.

Solution: No idea.

7. How come soccer players can play for multiple teams in multiple leagues all the time? Take David Beckham for example. He plays for the LA Galaxy and is paid a princely sum to do so, however on occasion he is "loaned" to another team in Europe. He also plays for the English National Team. To me, this is the equivalent of Peyton Manning playing in the NFL, opting to leave for a week or so to play in the arena league. Quirky or is that just me?

Solution: Play on one team and your national team like the hockey guys.

8. The fans are fanatical. I recall a goalie giving up goal once and he was later killed by mob of followers. Clearly the IQ level of most soccer fans falls far below that of hockey and MMA fans. I said most.

Solution: No idea.

9. The slave labor thing. 70,000 construction workers who were supposed to be working on the new stadiums walked off their jobs on 8 July 2009. The majority of the workers receive R2500 per month (about £192, €224 or $313), but the unions allege that workers are grossly underpaid.

Solution: Move the games to a country where wages meet or exceed cost of living. (I sound like a liberal....hehehe).

10. And finally, in the words of the immortal Duane Thomas, "If it such a big deal, how come they (only) play it every 4 years?"

Solution: If it is such a big deal, play it every year.

I rest my case.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Summer Place

Now that the heat in Las Vegas has finally been turned on and we've hit 110 already the pool electrical system decided to go on the fritz. The unit controls the pumps, the heater, the fountains, the lights and where the water circulates to keep everything sparkling clean without manual's a cool and useful and utterly necessary to keep Chez Runyon in tip top condition.

Our backyard is sort of a Shangra La - big pool with rope swing and superstructure, little pool and 28 person jacuzzi. The eating area is complete with outdoor fridge, BBQ, plenty of seating and what not. It is THE party yard.

A pool malfunction therefore is troublesome.....disasterous even.

You need a pool out here or else it's possible to drop dead from heat stroke or simply catch on fire if you stay outside too long. Yeah, it's that seven inches from the midday sun.....

Some history....The guy that did the orignal electrical work 7 years ago is the brother of a good friend. I'm still not sure if the brother knew with 100% certainty what he was doing since during the install he was always talking on his cell phone and would disappear for hours during the day. I also think he was colorblind which didn't help with the wiring.

My suspicion was confirmed since each time I've had someone come out to fix something and as they take off the outer panel the first thing they all do is place their hands on their hips, then scratch their heads and mutter, "WTF," while yanking at wires and swearing under their breath.

Me? I just peer out the window and see dollar signs....$$$$$$

And then race back to my office to pretend I don't know what's going on. This is usually followed by a knock on the door a few minutes later that Janae answers, then a loud, "KEITH!!!! The pool guy needs to see you," follows.

"Uh oh.....(profanities)"

This time we had a pool light out and the pool filter pump wouldn't turn off - it just ran 24/7. The only way to kill it was to flip the circuit breaker to off which I was concerned would turn off the power to the entire house since the wiring was sort of....what is the politically correct way to say this....., "jerry-rigged."

Luckily, the filter pump was an easy fix for an experienced electrician - something about a new relay switch (no idea what that is).

All I know is that it took him 15 minutes tops and now my pool runs on schedule and doesn't burn energy all day long (when I would flip the breaker and forget to turn it back on for a few days I felt all green inside but on the other hand, the pool would literally turn green - either way, it's a pain in the ass). I'm not a "green" guy anyway. I like my styrofoam. No dishes to do.

The pool light is a different animal. We have special lights that can amazingly turn the pool water into various colors (it's a woman thing). These "SAM" lights run about $800 bucks a piece installed - I have 4 of them. When two of the lights went out last year, we called the orignal electrician who managed to replace the lights over a period of about 2 months - some 1 month and 29 days longer than usual. Once replaced, they never worked properly and flamed out right off the bat - the gaskets weren't sealed properly. The guy was on his cell phone most of the time doing this job too and I'm pretty sure that he left a cell phone INSIDE the light fixture. In fact, I think he also swam WHILE talking on the phone. Trouble in river city.....

So I called in the Cavalry, a professional electrician, and he was able to fix the problem in a day. Two were fixed, two were still holding on.

The current light problem was due to the gasket leaking. As a guy, I'm used to just letting things go until the wife decides it's time to fix whatever is wrong. The problem I faced was this: pool+water and electrical = problem....not a good combo so I had to get on it. The light was removed, opened and we stared at it to look for signs of rust and whatnot. Pool guy elected to leave the light out in million degree heat to thoroughly dry out (my idea too) and then we'd see if just replacing the bulbs would do the trick versus replacing the entire unit.

Next day, I meet the guy at the house. Apparently cooking the lamp on the deck for 24 hours dried out the fixture and new bulbs did the trick - they were only $75 each (!?!?).

Just when I thought we had the pool problems licked, the lights flipped on at dusk....

....and now the spa light doesn't work.

This. Is. My. Life.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Who Knew?

For the past few weeks I have been getting up around 4am, reading, and the heading off to the gym to work out with my brother Eric.

This is a very odd mid-life development.

For the past 30+ years, I was always a night owl usually staying up until well past midnight. In my college days I didn't dare take morning classes since I'd sleep through them. I didn't much care for afternoon classes either since I'd be skiing or playing golf....and evening classes didn't fit my social schedule so I was scrambling around trying to make it to class or copy notes from some cute girl. Hey, I graduated okay - barely. Last I checked, my degree didn't list the total number of absences so I got that going for me.....which is nice.

Anyway, back to this 4am thing.....I wake up with more energy now than since I was in high school and all that testosterone was just starting to coarse through my body.

But 4am?


Some obeservations about that hour of the day:

1. The sky is beautiful, the air crisp and the smell of spring is abundant - even in Nevada. Granted, the now pungent flowers will all flame out once the 100 degree heat hits in a few days (and stays for 4 months - but it's a dry heat - haha) but right now, at this moment, it's pretty neat. We even have a hummingbird nest going up in the secret garden area of the yard.....2nd year in a row now.

2. No one is on the road. I even beat the newspaper guy. I really don't read the newspaper since every bit of news and information is available online, however the paper people are sneaky - they just keep renewing my subscription automatically and I never find their phone number to cancel the delivery - I'm killing trees and everyone knows what an enviromentalist I am. Each morning when I see the weeks pile of newspapers stacked up I say, "Damn, I gotta cancel that subscription."

3. Working out is fun. Really it is. Once you get over the soreness of the first few workouts, the routine gets easier. The day after I hit the gym it felt like I was run over by a truck. I have this penchant for always going full speed and acting like I'm 20 years old. I'm told I need to "take it slow," and "work yourself up slowly." Slow is not in my vocab. It just isn't. Therefore I suffer from my overzealousness. In everything.

4. What started the 4am wake up? Dunno. Maybe it's a sign of middle age. My father would arise well before dawn each day and hit the ground running. Me? For most of my life I stumbled out of bed, stumbled to the john, stumbled to the shower and so on. I had a horrible time waking up and staying alert. Now, not so much.

5. Getting up early is not without problems however: What does one do between 6am and 7am? It's not like I can go to work at 6:30am and beat everyone in by 2 hours. I can't go back to bed since that will screw up by circadian sleep rhythms. I figured I can blog since blogging is my outlet for all that right and wrong in Keith World. My blog is my journal and one day wifey-poo will take all the posts from all the years and have them bound into a book so that my posterity can read of my escapades. I'm sure it will make for good bathroom reading material.

6. I am back to being Yard Rambo. Sure Super Pedro takes care of the yard but even he misses some things, plus I enjoy planting flowers, weeding, and tending to my garden patch of tomatoes and strawberries. This is my 2nd go around at a garden - last year we did okay but I'm thankful for Von's Supermarket being close by since I would starve if left to my own devices to feed myself and my crew. I was born in the right era.

7. Even the dogs aren't ready to get up and get after it. Zeus and Ray-Ray usually like to get rousted from their kennel at 8-830am but with my new schedule, I get them up earlier - 7-730 now. They look at me like, "Hey man, what's the deal dude?" They do their business and go back to bed - a dogs life. Not bad.

The new schedule is agreeing with me. Somehow, going to bed earlier hasn't been a problem and waking up is a breeze. Utterly amazing to me - a 180.