Monday, February 25, 2013

on beating fred

Saturday morning was the 2nd Annual Bearcat Breakout 5k race at school.  

On days I have to stay late for meetings and such, I'm forced to run around campus.  Occasionally students see me running and either taunt me or try to run me over with their cars.  A couple of students this semester wanted to race me and this 5k race was the best opportunity for that to happen.  

We should take a moment to consider the idea of a 41 year old man racing two university level athletes in the prime of their lives.  I told them this was a no-win situation for them.  If they beat me, they beat a middle aged man in a foot race...who cares?  But if they were to lose....oh man, they'd never hear the end of getting out paced by an old guy.  

 Meet "Canada".  His real name is Jermel.  He's from Toronto, thus the nickname.  He's a giant and he runs like the wind.  He says he's only 6' 6" and weighs 250, but I think he's taller.  At night he has to wear a flashing red light on his head to alert low flying aircraft.

He decided he wanted to do the 5k.  He didn't really train for it other than sprinting a mile the day before the race.  After the race he didn't even know how many miles he had just ran, he just showed up and did it.

Canada was the only student of the two to show up.  Fred, my soccer player didn't arrive.  I think my logic got into his head.  Psychological warfare.

Canada took his position at the start line.  I never try to elbow my way up to the very front so I was happy starting right behind him.  When the start gun was fired Canada started getting smaller.  He continued to get smaller for the first half mile and then I couldn't see him anymore.  Keep in mind that he's 6' 6", 250 pounds and he was wearing this bright red sweatshirt.  That's how far he was in front of me.  And I wasn't exactly lolly gagging around either.  

This is us after the race.  Note that I look like a child standing next to him.  As he put it, we both got some "hardware".  Canada finished in 3rd place overall.  I finished 8th place overall and got 1st place in the "masters" group which is a nice way of saying dudes over 40.  I turned in my best ever official time of 21:15.  Canada finished exactly 2 minutes faster.  

I thought it was funny that Canada got beat by a guy wearing American flag shorts.  Canada did not see the humor in it.  He was completely bummed after the race and I asked him why he wasn't thrilled about finishing 3rd.  He said, "I didn't come here to run, I came to win".

The difference in our personal goals was astounding.  Canada's goal was to win the race.  My goal was to not die.  

Congrats to Canada for a very impressive first 5k and for beating the stuffing out of me.  And since Fred was a no show....technically I think that means we both beat him.  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

a real winter weekend

A couple of Fridays ago we went to see our first hockey game.

That's Blue in his uniform trying out his skates

And Violet getting ready to take a shot

There was a zamboni

There was a fight

There was some stadium food

and there were some souvenirs.

It turned out to be a lot of fun and the kids have been asking when we are going back.  They can't make it through a whole baseball game, but a hockey game seems to be the right length for their attention spans.  Ok, our attention spans.

The next morning I got up and tried to get out for my run before the cold rain moved in.  When I looked out it was snowing.  G gave me a look when she saw me headed for the door but she didn't say anything mean.  When I saw how hard it was snowing I had to turn back and grab my customized zip lock bag to cover my phone.  She couldn't hold back any longer and called me an idiot as I walked out.  But the joke was on her, the snow turned to rain and I was soaked to the bone when I came back inside.  My phone, however, was dry.

Once the run was done the kids wanted to paint but they wanted to use real brushes.  So I threw a couple of my old shirts on them, covered the table with newspaper and gave them some of my special paper to paint on.

And no, this is not tempera paint.  It's not washable.  It's acrylic, the good stuff.  It stains, it never comes out....we like to live on the edge.  

After a nice short nap I heard a loud crack of thunder.  Then I heard something hitting the windows.  I looked out and saw the yard being covered by hail.  The hail stones were smaller than a dime and they seemed to have a coating of snow on them when they fell.  After a few minutes of that it all turned to big snowflakes and soon the ground was covered with snow.

Violet has been asking for snow for two years now and she was thrilled to finally get some to play in.  We had a nice little snowball fight....

And then we built a small snowman.  It took most of the snow in front of the house, but it worked.    If you're looking for fashion trends to try out, please note how Blue is dressed.  Cowboy boots, thermal pajama pants, a windbreaker, skeleton gloves and a Scooby Doo beanie.  It's a good look for him.

Zeke was convinced the sky had broken up into small chunks and was crashing down to earth in flakes.  He cowered in his doggie forcefield until we convinced him that the snow would not kill him.  He was still not a fan, but he ran around and checked out the new landscape.

And that was the roof of the car the next morning.  The larger ice areas are the hail stones.

Two days later this was all that was left of the snowman.  I think we're ready for spring now.

Friday, February 22, 2013

a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy

Last Monday this awesome little dog shed his mortal coil.  Pedro was a chihuahua and he was one of those little dogs who knew he had a very big dog on the inside always trying to get out.  He was always king of the house, even when he was the smallest.

We got him as a baby back in the summer of 1999.  G already had "her" dog, the cocker spaniel and Pedro was to be "my" dog.  This was back when the dogs were our starter kids.  They were our training wheels before the biped kids came along.  G tried to be a good dog purchaser and did her research to find a lady who raised them and was not a puppy mill.  We drove a couple of hours to her house and I remember this tiny shaking dog riding in my lap as I drove home.  

He stumbled into the house ruled by the bigger dog and within a week the power structure had changed.  This little bugger would zip across the floor and bite the cocker spaniel on his floppy ear and take off running in the opposite direction.  They used to chase in laps around the house until the big dog couldn't run anymore.  

Pedro got to travel with us to the beach a lot over the years and there was nothing he loved more than running full speed on the beach while vaguely threatening anything and everything that moved around him.  Pit bulls, labs, great danes, none were too big for him to bare his teeth and make noises that are normally only associated with horror films.  

Now that I think of it, there may have been one thing he loved more.  He was really fond of my food.  He used to climb up into my lap when I'd try to eat and each time my hand went toward my mouth, he'd stretch as far as he could to try to intercept the delivery.  One of the highlights of his life was during a Superbowl several years ago.  I had a box of chicken wings on the coffee table and Pedro watched every move I made just waiting for a drop of bbq sauce to fall so he could snatch it up.  When he tired of waiting, he backed up a few steps and watched as I reached for another wing.  As I held the wing to my mouth, he took a few steps, jumped up like an Olympian and grabbed the wing from my hand.  He retreated under the table and swallowed the entire chicken wing - bones and all - in two giant gulps.  Then he returned to his spot hoping for seconds.

He was such a little legend that back in grad school I did a whole series of graphite drawings using him as my primary model.  

"The New Life"

detail from "Playing Dead"

At almost 14 years old he was in his mid 90s in dog years.  He spent all that time making us laugh and occasionally peeing on our carpets.  Walt Disney said that all dogs go to heaven.  If that's true I bet Pedro's up there shifting the power structure right this minute.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


he was the best

Saturday, February 16, 2013

that's mr. hammer to you

That's great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandpa Judas Maccabeus from his Wikipedia page.  Ok, half of that sentence is not true.

Sometimes I joke with students that I'm Jewish in an attempt to take advantage of a couple of extra holidays.  Most of them look at my obviously Scottish facial hair and freckles and doubt my honesty.  That's when I tell them about my great (to the seventh power) grandpa Judas and how he led the uprising and almost single-handedly created the eight crazy nights of Hanukkah.
Then I have to explain that there are two books in the Jewish holy texts called The Maccabees and often I have to explain what Hanukkah is.  Usually around this point they look at me with their heads tilted to one side and say, "Really?".

But here's something I found that I think is really awesome:

If you can believe the Wikipedia people at all, they said, "In the early days of the rebellion, Judah received a surname Maccabee. Several explanations have been put forward for this surname. One suggestion is that the name derives from the Aramaic maqqaba ("makebet" in modern Hebrew), "hammer" or "sledgehammer"

So my last name is translated as "sledgehammer"?  Awesome.

This explains why my oldest brother spent much of his childhood walking around with one of my dad's hammers smashing everything in his path.  We worried about him for years.  Now he's an architect.  Go figure.


Monday, February 11, 2013

giving up like a boss

Way back when I was in my 3rd year of college I stopped watching TV.  We had a little TV that served us well in our dorm and then in our apartment.  We had free basic cable and a VCR.  This meant that when we should have been working on drawings, writing papers and working in the studio, we were more likely to be found watching reruns and movies taped from HBO at home.  One of those papers that I finally got around to writing had to do with how TV sucks away your creativity and basically rots the smart parts of your brain.  Up to this point I had really never seriously considered the amount of time I wasted on TV and how that time could be better spent.

Stan and I moved the TV into Chad’s room and didn’t watch it again until we graduated.  Now, some of you know that I get bored fast.  Very fast.  So about 5 minutes after moving the TV I needed something to do.  I picked up my sketchbook and started drawing.  Then I looted the apartment for scraps of bigger paper to draw on and I started drawing for fun.  This was the first time I had started a drawing that was not an assignment since school began.  For the next year and a half when we got bored we’d find an adventure to go on or a goofball project to start.  We worked on our assignments, I took an extra sculpture class and our work got better.  I didn’t miss the TV at all.

I don’t watch much TV these days.  G and I have a couple of shows we will record and watch when we have a chance.  The DVR allows us to record other shows too….shows we wouldn’t watch at their normal times.  We’d probably tell you it’s because we are busy at those times, but the truth is the shows are just not good enough to make the cut.  This is difficult for me to understand and difficult to explain, but I’m talking about the kind of shows you watch when you have nothing else to do.  They are time filler shows.  If you have 30 minutes to kill before you go somewhere, you watch one of these shows.  Or late at night when I’ve finally finished all the computer stuff and I’m having a sugary snack and some hot tea, I’ll watch one of these shows.  Some weekend nights may sit down with a box of cookies and fast forward through a week’s worth of Conan episodes.  (I watch the funny stuff and the music but FF through most of the interviews).  I’ll also actively try to make it through the week without knowing when Honey Boo Boo is coming on.  If I happen to see it on, I’m stuck watching that train wreck of a show until the network finally puts a different show on.  It’s horrible and yet I can’t look away. 

I suppose it’s laziness.  I know I have things I should be doing – creative, productive things – but it’s nice sometimes to just sit and not think.  And trust me, aside from Conan, there’s not a lot of thinking happening on either side of the TV screen.  Without fail, I always feel like I’m wasting time when I watch TV.  Probably because I am.  So that has to stop.  As Mr. Minow famously said, TV is “a vast wasteland” and as the Violent Femmes wisely said, “I hate the TV”.

So guess what I’m giving up for Lent this year?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

great moments in lander university's visual arts

 We were happy to be invited to participate in the 1st Annual Collegiate Invitational Art Exhibition at the Spartanburg Public Library Headquarters.  Six colleges and universities across the upstate region were invited to submit student art for this event.  Each school selected 10 students and 2 faculty members to participate in the exhibit.  For us that meant that each of our big areas could choose 2 students as representatives.  

The opening reception and awards ceremony was held last Saturday and Jim, our department chair and I planned to attend.  Since we love food, we decided we should make dinner a part of the event so we invited anyone interested to join us at Ike's Korner Grill for the best burger in Spartanburg.  It's been a while since either of us have been to Ike's so Georgie and I were pretty surprised when we pulled into the empty parking lot and saw that they closed at 3:00 on Saturdays.  

After a quick phone regrouping we changed our dinner destination to Venus Pie on Main Street.  Two students, The Tav-manian Devil and The Cessquatch joined the three of us for pizza.  
Danielle (Tav-manian Devil) and Brandy (Cessquatch) at Venus Pie

 I knew it was going to be a good night when I ordered a single slice of pizza and they brought this monster out to the table.  That is a regulation sized fork if you're wondering and I'd already devoured the rest of the triangle before snapping the photo.  The "slice" was the size of a small pizza and there may have been a half pound of bacon on it.  Good times.

 Once we were all stuffed we headed a couple of streets down to the library and entered the cool shin-dig the library put on.  Miranda did a great job with creating this event and putting on a great reception.  There was a cellist, lots of food and tons of people.  So many people that it was difficult to get photos of the work.  I'm going to use that as my excuse for not having images of all the Lander students' work.  That's Andrew's self portrait painting above.

 And that's Andrew looking sharper than I've ever seen him.  He's so dedicated that he drove from an event in Atlanta just to attend the reception.  Our other painting student, Melanie Fennell was also there with her cool painting but I'm a slacker and missed that photo.  Sorry.

 Haley Brunhilda Floyd was also there.  That's her awesome raku deer in the photo above.  

 And that's Megan's ceramic sculpture of a Mrs. Lettuce-Head.  
That's Danielle Tav-manian Devil Tavernier with her cool steel sculpture.  I'm realizing how bad it looks that I photographed all the sculptural pieces and missed all the others. Sorry y'all, I really do love 2D art too.

 And there's Brandy Cessquatch Cessarich with her award winning steel sculpture "Abstract Abode".  Award winning?....

 Yes, award winning.  Brandy won 2nd place in this exhibition for her sculpture and another Lander student Kelly Plemmons won 3rd place for her photograph "Ella Mae's Teardrop".  If you're keeping score at home, that's 2 of the top 3 awards going to Lander students.  I'm about as proud of them as I can be.  

A group photo of the honorable mention, merit award and top winners.  Cessquatch is in the center and Kelly is on the right.  

Mariano was also there with his graphic design entry and Colleen came out to support everyone...which was really cool of her to do.  

I will admit that my celebrating got a little out of hand afterwards.  I had a Krispie Kreme doughnut AND a milkshake from Cookout.  It was a good day to be a Bearcat.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

great moments in stupidity

So I'm still running 5 kilometers every day.  And every day it's difficult.  You'd think your body would get used to it and you'd just breeze through it after a while, but no, I can officially tell you that doesn't happen.  It hurts every day.  You feel like you're going to die every day.  And then, when it's over, you feel amazing.  And it's not just the rush of endorphins from exercise, you feel great because you've done something difficult.

I'm discovering that each season has it's own little challenges.  The humid summer months were brutal.  Fall was great until the time changed and it started getting dark right after lunch.  And then it got cold.  

This winter has not been a particularly cold one so far but on days like today when you get up and it's 21 feels pretty dang cold.  It's weird to be sweating while your ears and fingers are numb and frozen.

Some days I only have a small window of time to run in.  A couple of weeks ago we had a monsoon and right in the middle of the monsoon was my window to run.  It was cold and it was pouring rain.  My running path was about 80% under water all the way around.  Some of the water was ankle deep and it was cold, very cold.  The wind was driving the rain and it would sting the skin on my face for half of each lap.  

Last week we had a bit of freezing rain.  Again, right in my window to run.

 When I stopped I noticed I had a coating of ice on the front half of my shoes.  I was somehow sweating and when I grabbed my shirt to wipe my face I noticed something else odd...

The front of my shirt was frozen into a solid sheet.  It's hard to see in the photo but it was a hard sheet of 100% cotton.  

Do I realize it's stupid to run in these conditions?  Of course I do.  And then I do it anyway.  Sometimes I laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation for half of the 3 miles.  It helps to pass the time.