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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins

Thursday, March 31, 2005

2005 Season Preview - The Best Infields

Opening day's around the corner, so I think I'll get back to my old ESPN baseball-analyzing ways and take a look forward to the season by analyzing the best teams in the league by unit – namely, best infield, outfield, and pitching staff. I'm really missing baseball, not to mention my work at ESPN. In fact, I wrote a chunk of this during class. Today I'll break down the best infields in baseball, and in the coming days the other parts of the series will be posted. By the way, I'm not really taking defensive ability into much consideration here – this is more or less an analysis of the offensive output of the infield units.

1. Texas Rangers (1B Mark Teixeira, 2B Alfonso Soriano, 3B Hank Blalock, SS Michael Young)
There is no question in my mind that the best infield in the league plays in Arlington. Every other infield on this list has at least one question mark or weak link; there's nothing close to a weak link here. Each of these four guys is better than the best infielder on at least half the teams in the majors. Last season, one of these four led the Rangers in every offensive category except sacrifice bunts. They all had over 20 HR, 90 RBI and a .275 average. Teixeira was the only one who wasn't an all-star, and he led the team with 38 HR and 112 RBI. Maybe the most impressive thing about this infield is that they are all under 30 years old. Teixeira and Blalock were born in 1980. If the Rangers can hang on to this quartet, they've got a cornerstone around which to build a solid team for years to come.

2. New York Mets (1B Mike Piazza/Doug Mientkiewicz, 2B Kazuo Matsui, 3B David Wright, SS Jose Reyes)
I'm going out on a limb here by calling the Mets' infield the second-best in the bigs because it’s so heavily reliant on the performance of its prospects. I'm also cheating a little bit by calling Piazza part of the infield, since Mientkiewicz is sure to play a lot of time at first. Piazza did play more games at first base than he did at catcher last season, though, and he also led the Mets in games played at first. He also had the worst fielding percentage of any starting first baseman in the NL last season. Anyway, I’m going to call him a first baseman (in the loosest sense of the word) and plan on Kaz Matsui living up to his potential. Jose Reyes will score 100 runs and steal 40 bases as a regular this season. And David Wright will put up some big numbers as well - .290 avg., 30 HR, 90 RBI, I'm thinking.

3. New York Yankees (1B Tino Martinez, 2B Tony Womack, 3B Alex Rodriguez, SS Derek Jeter)
As much as he irritates me, I still say A-Rod is the best all-around player in baseball. Yes, he doesn't inspire Bonds-like fear in pitchers, but he is the quintessential five-tool player. He's 19 homers shy of 400 career, and it'll be interesting to see if he can reach that mark before he turns 30 on July 27 (He should). His career average is over .300. He stole 28 bases last season. And don't forget his smooth transition to third base last season as well. Derek Jeter rounds out the best left infield in baseball with his consistent offensive production and his intangibles over which everyone loves to gush. The Yanks filled up their second base hole with Tony Womack, who hit .307 last season, and they reacquired Tino Martinez, who had a .488 slugging percentage in his first stint with the Yankees – the 14th-best career slugging percentage in team history. Think about some of his competition in that stat.

4. Philadelphia Phillies (1B Jim Thome, 2B Chase Utley, 3B Placido Polanco/David Bell, SS Jimmy Rollins)
Thome and Rollins are the studs in this infield. Thome's almost a lock for 40 HR/100 RBI a season, and Rollins was in the top ten in the NL in runs, steals, hits, doubles, and triples last year. I'd say Rollins is the favorite to lead the NL in runs scored this season. Utley is waiting to blow up this year now that he's been handed the second base job full-time. And although the Phillies are far higher on Bell than they should be, Polanco is a solid player who will get time at third because Bell is hurt all the time. I’d rather see the Phils keep Polanco around than Bell, but it won’t happen because Polanco has a one-year deal and is likely to be traded midseason. Polanco has a .295 career average and has never struck out more than 43 times in a season. And his versatility in the infield is an asset to any team.

5. Chicago Cubs (1B Derrek Lee, 2B Todd Walker, 3B Aramis Ramirez, SS Nomar Garciaparra)
Aramis Ramirez could be one of the most underrated players in baseball. He batted .318 with 36 homers last season. Derrek Lee also chipped in 32 HR and over 90 runs and RBI. Nomar could have a big season now that he's content again. He batted .297 in his 30 games with the Cubs last season, and over a full season I would be surprised if he didn't show his old productivity. The weak link here is Todd Walker, who is one of those guys who doesn't put up big numbers but won't hurt you either. Walker struck out only 52 times last season while walking 43 times, and he batted .274, so he's certainly serviceable. However, if Walker were replaced with a better second baseman (even someone like the Reds' D'Angelo Jimenez), I would bump the Cubs up to second or third on this list.

Honorable Mention: Baltimore Orioles (1B Jay Gibbons/Rafael Palmeiro, 2B Brian Roberts, 3B Melvin Mora, SS Miguel Tejada)
Although Palmeiro is a 500-HR guy, Tejada and Mora are the stars of this show. Did you know Tejada had 150 RBI last season? 150! Nobody else in the majors even had 140. 150 is also the most RBI any Oriole has posted in a single season since the team moved to Baltimore. Meanwhile, Mora batted .340, scored and drove in over 100 runs, and led the AL with a .419 on-base percentage. The left side of the O's' infield is second only to the left side of the Yankees' infield; it's a shame they're overshadowed because they're in the same division. Brian Roberts isn't spectacular at second base, but he did lead the AL in doubles last season with 50, while stealing 29 bases. Palmeiro, at age 40, is seeing his output diminish rapidly, and although he's still decent, it'll be interesting to see how he holds up now that he'll be scrutinized as a possible former steroid user. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jay Gibbons get some PT at first.

What About…: St. Louis Cardinals (1B Albert Pujols, 2B Mark Grudzielanek, 3B Scott Rolen, SS David Eckstein)
I know, you thought I forgot about Pujols, Rolen, & Co. When I started looking at infields, I figured these guys would be second on my list. But when I started looking deeper, the drop-off is so significant after Pujols and Rolen that as a whole, the infield isn't great. Pujols and Rolen are the best pair of infield teammates in the game, that I won’t dispute. Yet Eckstein and Grudzielanek drag down the overall production below the levels of the above teams. Check out the combined 2004 stats of the Cards' 2005 infield against the stats of the other infields mentioned.
TEX 399 120 412 36 .288
NYM 186 43 152 39 .271
NYY 377 87 298 80 .288
PHI 301 86 290 41 .284
CHI 301 92 292 16 .294
STL 366 88 305 26 .307

At first glance, only the Rangers and Yankees really stand above the Cardinals. However, the Mets have diminished stats because Piazza was hurt for a lot of last season and Reyes and Wright weren't regulars. The Phillies' stats are also slightly diminished because Utley wasn't a regular. Ditto for the Cubs, because Nomar was hurt for a lot of the year. I didn't project the stats to a full season, but I have a feeling if I did, the Cardinals would be around the middle or bottom of the pack in every stat except for batting average. Since they, more than any other team, are carried by two players, I didn't think they belonged in the top five infields, especially since I was considering the infields as a whole.

Disappearing Act: Los Angeles Dodgers (1B Hee Seop Choi, 2B Jeff Kent, 3B _____________, SS Cesar Izturis)
The Dodgers didn’t exactly do a good job replacing Adrian Beltre. When I was looking at infields, it occurred to me that the Dodgers, as far as I can tell, don't have anyone who's a real third baseman. Of the hitters on their active roster, only five have ever spent any time at the hot corner, and none of them have done it exclusively for a full season. Jeff Kent has 157 career games there, but none since 1996. Jose Valentin has 151 career games there, most recently in 2002 when he split time between third and short for the White Sox. Olmedo Saenz has 110 career games at third, but never more than 18 in a season. Antonio Perez played six games at third in 2003. Outfielder Jason Grabowski played a game at third that year, too. The Dodgers will be going with Valentin. It'll be interesting to see how the Dodgers' infield, which for a while was very error-prone before last season when they markedly improved their fielding, deals with the lack of a true third baseman.

The Worst Infield In Baseball: Kansas City Royals (1B Mike Sweeney, 2B Tony Graffanino, 3B Chris Truby, SS Angel Berroa)
Even Mike Sweeney can't save this sorry group. He might be beginning the downswing of his career; last season was the first in the last five years that he wasn't an all-star. Angel Berroa, 2003’s AL Rookie of the Year, suffered the infamous Sophomore Slump last season, as his production decreased in nearly every offensive category. Graffanino is a career .259 hitter who has 35 HR and 41 SB in nine seasons and hasn’t played 100 games in a season since 1998. And Chris Truby is a 31-year-old unknown with a .231 career average who is on his fifth team in five major league seasons.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Scattered Thoughts On A Busy Weekend

Now that I have a moment to relax, it's time for some random, unconnected observations and thoughts on the past few days. I went to Minnesota to see Cornell in the NCAA hockey regionals, and then went to San Diego to see U2 kick off their 2005 tour.

-I was disappointed that the recorded voice on the tram in the Minneapolis airport had a British accent. Shouldn't it have a Minnesota accent? Why didn't it say, "Next stop, Terminal C, yah?"

-For a place that bills itself as "The State Of Hockey," I was unimpressed. The Minnesota crowd's cheers were rote and unenthusiastic. Two-thirds of the place cleared out after the Gophers played in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader and didn't watch an exciting Ohio State-Cornell game, and then Sunday's game between the hometown Gophers and the Red didn't even sell out. Yeah, I know, Easter Sunday, but even still - hockey's supposed to be a religion in Minnesota.

-Dave McKee, Cornell's sophomore goalie, is a stud. The guy turned away shot after shot against Minnesota and played a huge role in keeping the Red in the game when they were being outshot about 30-5. The regulation goal he let in was kind of soft, but I'll forgive him that goal because he more than made up for it with his play throughout the weekend (and the season, really). While I'm on the subject of goalies, Maine's Jimmy Howard absolutely stood on his head on Saturday. The guy's glove was huge. He took away several point-blank shots and if his team had given him any offensive support at all, Minnesota wouldn't have been playing on Sunday.

-Where was Cornell's leading scorer, Matt Moulson? I know one skater can't do it all out there, but the guy was practically invisible all weekend. At the end of the second game, it occurred to me that I'd hardly had a thought about him at all during the weekend, good or bad. He did have two assists against Ohio State, so I guess he was doing some work, but I really don't remember him making any momentum-changing plays like I remember from some other players like Mitch Carefoot, Mike Iggulden, the Abbott twins, or Byron Bitz.

-Something is wrong with the NCAA's seeding process when Cornell, seeded fifth overall in the tournament, is forced to play a team like Minnesota in its own building. I don't have a problem with Minnesota having a bigger ice surface than most schools, because the Gophers have to deal with the change when they go on the road. And I don't have a huge problem with host schools being allowed to play in their home rinks for the tournament. My issue is with the inflexibility of the seeding process and how it effectively penalizes a team like Cornell for earning a high seed.

-There are few feelings as instantaneously deflating as that of seeing a sudden-death overtime goal go against your team.

-If you're ever in Minneapolis, do yourself a favor and get breakfast at Hell's Kitchen at 10th and Marquette. Like their slogan says, they've got some "damn good food." I had "bunny biscuits," which had delicious rabbit gravy, and bison sausage, which was awesome. I should really try to find somewhere to get bison here in L.A. It's delicious.

-McCarran Airport in Las Vegas is a scam. They don't have enough seats at the gates, which encourages you to sit down in the seats by the slot machines, which encourages you to play the slots. I lost $10 in five minutes. I'm a sucker.

-I try to get myself seated in an exit row when I fly, preferably in a window seat. I was able to do this for three of my four flights this weekend. On the last flight, I was in an exit row window seat on the left side of the plane. Normally I get stuck sitting next to large sweaty women from red states on these flights, so I was happy to see a girl about my age sit down next to me. As soon as we took off, she spent five minutes trying to force her seat to recline, not realizing that her seat was physically incapable of doing so because the row behind us was also an exit row. Failing that, she then pivoted 45 degrees to her left and put her left leg on the armrest between our seats. Then she rested her arm and her head on her leg. This intruded about six inches into my seat, which is already only about 24 inches wide. I know she was aware of her head and knee digging into my right arm, because she woke up at one point and adjusted her collar. I could understand a four-year old resting her leg on the armrest, but a 20-year old? You've got to be kidding. I should have figured she had no concept of plane etiquette when she brought three carry-ons on board and tried to cram them all under the seat in front of her.

-Bono is an awesome showman. The stage was set up so that people sitting behind the stage could still see, and Bono made sure to spend plenty of time facing the crowd behind him. He constantly worked the audience. The guy knows how to play the rock star card, that's for sure. U2's connection with the crowd was so intense that after the show had ended and the lights were coming on, the fans were still singing along in unison, repeating the last line of the last song.

-At one point, Bono got down on all fours and crawled along the catwalk into the crowd like, well, a cat. Bono is probably the only guy in his mid-40s who can get away with doing something like that and still looking cool. Maybe that explains why the guy next to me at the concert wanted to be Bono. He spent the entire concert as though he was playing in a simultaneous U2 cover band. He played every chord on an air guitar while singing every word.

-For a guy who's been singing as long as Bono has, he still has an incredibly powerful and passionate voice. He hit tough notes with a precise strength that was really, really impressive. I guess that's why he's the lead singer of one of the best and most successful bands of the last quarter-century.

-The San Diego Sports Arena really needs to work on its parking situation. You'd think that they'd anticipate the occasional sellout and have ample parking. But then you'd be wrong. At least I was able to find a parking spot on the street about a mile from the arena and I didn't have to pay.

-U2 did a great job of mixing up their setlist - some stuff from the new album, some early '80s stuff, and three songs from Achtung Baby, which I was happy to hear, since that was the first U2 album I owned. "One" was flat-out awesome. I should listen to that song more often.

-Do you think Bono's wife calls him "Bono?"

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Chicken Sandwich Of Victory Redux

Faithful readers of Just Off-Camera (very faithful readers - hi, Mom) might remember a post from over a year ago entitled "The Chicken Sandwich Of Victory." It was an ode to the free Chick-fil-a chicken sandwich for which you could redeem your Flyers ticket stub if the Orange and Black scored four or more goals in a game.

That chicken sandwich had a special condiment - an intangible condiment, if you will - the special sauce of winning. Well, usually. If you score four goals in today's NHL, you usually win. Actually, I should say last year's NHL. Friggin' lockout. But I'm rambling. The point was that it was no longer simply a delicious Chick-fil-a sandwich. It was more than that. Everyone knows free food tastes better, but free food courtesy of a win is superior even to that.

Why am I bringing this up when the Flyers haven't played all season and I'm living in L.A. anyway? Well, it just so happens that back in February, I ran a 10k (and did damn well, if I may say so myself - I finished in 48:44). When you run a race, they always give you a bag of goodies. The bag mostly consists of things like flyers for future races, maybe a PowerBar, and random items from the race sponsors such as notepads, pens, and water bottles. But the Redondo Beach Super Bowl 10k gave me a coupon for - drumroll - a free Chick-fil-a chicken sandwich.

I nearly soiled myself when I found that in the bag. Fortunately, I was too tired after the race and too nervous about the Eagles playing in the Super Bowl later in the day to actually do so. I suppose it would be a misnomer to call it a Chicken Sandwich Of Victory, because I didn't win the race. However, I earned that free sandwich. I ran 6.2 miles for it. It will be just as sweet as any chicken sandwich the Flyers could have given me.

Anyway, so I've been hanging on to this golden ticket for six weeks now, but I haven't gone yet because the closest Chick-fil-a to me is in Redondo Beach, where the race was. In order to get to Redondo Beach, I have to brave the 405. So the coupon has been sitting on my desk for over a month, taunting me, making me salivate, while I sit and look at it and think about moron drivers cutting me off without using their signal.

Late last night, however, I looked at the coupon. "Valid through 3/25/05." I could not possibly let this rare West Coast opportunity to have a Chicken Sandwich Of Victory (I don't care if I didn't win the race; it was a moral victory) pass me by. However, I have a flight to Minnesota to catch this afternoon. What to do?

Well, my friend offered me a ride to the airport. And I'm going to tell him that I'm driving myself to the airport because I don't want to bother someone with having to pick me up when I return at 1:10 a.m. on Monday morning. That's partly true. However, I really wouldn't have a problem with bugging someone to come get me in the wee hours. The truth is, I'm going to drive myself to the airport so I can go a little out of my way and make a stop in Redondo Beach for my well-deserved Chicken Sandwich Of Victory.

If nothing else, it'll be a good omen for the Cornell hockey team.


Speaking of good omens for the Cornell hockey team, I bought a few books for my flights this morning. One of those books, which I will read on my way to Minneapolis, is The Game, by Hall-Of-Famer/hockey legend/member of Canadian Parliament/role model/former Cornell standout Ken Dryden. It's supposed to be the best hockey book ever written. And it doesn't hurt that it was written by the man who was in net for Cornell's first NCAA championship in 1967. (Contrary to common belief, Dryden was not the goalie for the 1969-70 championship team that is still the only undefeated, untied team in NCAA hockey history.)

The other books that I got are Sex, Drugs, And Cocoa Puffs, by Chuck Klosterman, and The Art Of War, by Sun Tzu. I'm really getting into reading for pleasure again. I kind of lost that interest during my undergrad days, but I've already read five books on my own in the new year, and I've rediscovered the joy of a good book.

By the way, those books were Night Fall, by Nelson DeMille (predictable ending, but still a good read), The Best American Sports Writing 2004 (every year's edition is worth reading), Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissinger (now I don't want to see the movie for fear that it won't do the book justice), I Am Charlotte Simmons, by Tom Wolfe (flat-out nailed the various male personalities at any American undergraduate institution), and State Of Fear, by Michael Crichton (confirmed my theory that lawyers are the good guys and environmental scientists are evil).

Not to get all fifth-grade teacherish on you, but reading really is fun. I stayed up until 5 a.m. one night reading all of I Am Charlotte Simmons when I should have been working on my memo, and I did the same thing a week later with State Of Fear when I should have been working on my law review write-on. It wasn't the end of the world. I finished both and handed them in on time. Maybe I lost a little more sleep than I should have. I can sleep after I'm dead. I think I'm better off for having taken time for myself to read a couple of good books.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a chicken sandwich to eat, a flight to catch, a few books to read, and hopefully two Cornell hockey games to attend.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Downlow On Brownlow

Flash back a year, to the days when I was a research master at ESPN. A year out of school, and I was getting paid to look up sports stats. It was a pretty good deal, all things considered. But in the late winter gloom of Bristol, Connecticut, something wasn't quite right.

One day our research intern from Quinnipiac, Ray, came into the research room and informed us that he wouldn't be coming in to work for a week. It was his spring break. He was going to Miami Beach. At the time, I had already applied to law school, but the thought of Spring Break threw another log on the fire that was my thoughts of going back to school. As a temp, I didn't get any vacation time at ESPN. When I wanted to visit my mom in California, I'd head to the airport after work on Friday, catch a flight out, and arrive in L.A. around midnight. Then I'd take a red-eye back on Sunday night and go right to work from the airport on Monday morning. No vacation. The closest I got was when I was sent to Houston for All-Star Weekend (which was fun, no doubt).

But there was no Spring Break. The lack of a periodic lack of responsibility was one of the reasons I wanted to go back to school, and so I had been eyeing this week for quite a while.

Then, about a month ago, the flyer appeared in my mailbox: The write-on competition to join UCLA Law Review was going to be over Spring Break. Poof, there it goes...my work-free week vanished. Instead of finishing my memo (worth half of my grade in Lawyering Skills) and facing a week without responsibility, I now had 200-plus pages to read and a 10-page paper with 15 pages of endnotes to write, not to mention the dreaded Production Test, which is more or less copy editing on steroids.

The write-on was due this afternoon. For me, Spring Break has finally returned. It's a four-day break, but it's a break nonetheless.

I now know more than any sane person should know about the history of the right to confront one's accuser. I read the cases - go ahead, ask me about Crawford v. Washington. I read law review articles with names like "Facing the Accuser: Ancient and Medieval Precursors of the Confrontation Clause" by authors with names like "Brownlow M. Speer." Seriously. That's the guy's name. I wonder what the "M" stands for. It must be something really terrible in order for someone to call himself "Brownlow" in the 21st Century.

Well, Brownlow, you and all of your writing on the Confrontation Clause are behind me. I'm on Spring Break.

What am I doing with my limited time on break, you ask? I'm going to the Spring Break capital of the world: Minneapolis. Hell. Yeah.

Really, that's where I'm going, and I couldn't be happier. Cornell's hockey team is seeded there for the regionals of the NCAA tournament, and I'm going. I haven't been to a Cornell hockey game all season, so I've been looking forward to this weekend ever since it became clear that they'd make the tournament. I knew even Law Review couldn't keep me from these games. And I didn't screw up my flight plans like I did for my Super Bowl trip, either (I hope).

You can have your Miami Beach, your Daytona Beach, your Cancun, and your San Felipe. I'll take Minneapolis and the chance to see the Red advance to the Frozen Four. And while I'm at it, I might as well stick with my guns and say I'll take the write-on, aggravation and all, because if it pays off, then maybe I'll get my pick of a job down the line. And then I can choose one that lets me go to Zihuatanejo whenever I want.


A short rant: Fortune Cookies.

I had lunch at a Chinese restaurant today, and naturally, after the meal, I got a fortune cookie. Fortune cookies are more or less tasteless. Nobody actually likes fortune cookies for their culinary properties. It's just a tradition that you have to eat the cookie after eating Chinese food.

So I eat the cookie and look at my fortune. "You are a true friend."

What kind of a frickin' fortune is that? That isn't a fortune at all! That's a declaration about the present. I hate when fortune cookies pull this crap. Fortune cookies should give you a fortune. Who cares if it's not going to actually happen? It's a fortune cookie. It's supposed to predict future events. It is not supposed to tell you something about your present state, or worse, spit some trite aphorism such as "Dreams are like butterflies" at you.

I want a fortune, dammit. I want my cookie to tell me that I will meet the girl of my dreams tomorrow, or that I will find a $20 bill on the street, or that I will find love on Flag Day (thanks, Homer J. Simpson), or even that I will make Law Review. Hell, it can even tell me something bad, like I will spill a drink on myself or something. Just tell me something about the future. That is what a fortune does.

And while I'm at it, what's up with giving me my "lucky numbers" on my "fortune?" 05, 12, 26, 35, 41, and then it even sets apart the last number, 16 for me. Is the fortune cookie industry in bed with the lottery industry or something? These "lucky numbers" are a whole bunch of crap. For real. If I go eat Chinese food with a friend, we're going to get different lucky numbers. They can't both win the lottery. Come on, if you're going to try this "lucky number" B.S., at least make it believable. Give me a phone number and tell me something will happen if I call it. Give me a single number and then let me figure out what exactly I'm supposed to do with it. Just give me something I can work with!

Actually, I kind of like that last idea. What if the next fortune cookie you got said only "40?" What would you do?

See, it makes you think. This is much better than the crap they fill these cookies with now. And I know what I would do if I got a cookie that said only "40." It starts with "O" and ends with "lde English 800."

Thursday, March 10, 2005

On The Road

Despite last-minute difficulties in getting my car out of the body shop after a horrendous stretch of luck involving a car accident and a very shady shop owner, I managed to get my wheels under me and hit the road last weekend for the road trip I had planned weeks ago.

How did it go? Glad you asked...

In Cahoots - I met my friend Mark and his girlfriend for dinner at a country bar in San Diego. I've never been to a country bar before, but I was forewarned that there was just one rule to their dress code: Tuck in your shirt. Check. I got to the door and also found out that hats must be worn forward. I guess the rule is that brims must be in the front. Cowboy hats have 360-degree brims, and there were plenty in the bar.

The special of the evening was a six dollar steak, baked potato, and beer meal, which was impossible to argue with. It was pretty good, too. The place also had some decent drink specials - $2 High Life bottles.

The bar was really spacious, with a big dance floor in the middle, overlooked by a balcony. Every song had its own dance - the Jitterbug, the Texas Two-Step (which is not the same as a regular Two-Step, I was informed), and so on. There were also line dances. I was not going near the dance floor; I can't even shake my ass with rhythm in a club, let alone pull off something with steps. However, it did look like fun, and the music was lively.

Another thing was that the place was incredibly friendly - everyone there seemed to know each other, and people would leave jackets and purses on tables unattended while they danced with no fear of anything being lifted. Country is a different mentality, certainly, but it's also appealing in a way.

OK Go - The concert was at a venue called The Casbah, which is located directly under the flight path of the San Diego airport, so when you're outside the place, planes are flying directly overhead, probably within 200 feet of the rooftops. It's kind of freaky. The venue itself was very small - it probably holds about 200 people - but it's perfect for a band that draws about that many people. There were about 150 people in the crowd for the show.

I'd heard OK Go's CD a couple times before the show, and although I liked it, I was a little skeptical about it translating well into a live performance. Something about the songs just didn't strike me as the kind of songs that would play well to an audience. The band, and the lead singer in particular, were surprisingly good though, and very engaging, even responding to the crowd a few times. At one point, the singer introduced the guitarist, who had just joined the band 12 days before the concert. Then, when someone later called out the name of a song he wanted to hear, the singer had to explain that while normally they love to take audience requests, you can only learn so many songs in 12 days and that one just wasn't one of them, so they were going to have to stick to the setlist.

Nothing could have prepared anyone for the encore, though. When the band took the stage again, the singer said that, yes, he was telling the truth and that the guitarist didn't know any more songs...but the audience did deserve something. At that point, he asked for some space to be cleared in the crowd, and the band jumped into the audience and proceeded to do an elaborately choreographed dance to the previously requested song, played from their CD. It was flat-out hilarious. I'm sure it would have been easier for the guitarist to have learned another song or two instead of the dance, but as good as the music was, the dance was far more entertaining.

Mexicali - For some reason, I imagined a resort town without beaches. I'm not quite sure what I was thinking. Mexicali isn't a tourist attraction; it's a regular Mexican city of 800,000 people. Getting into Mexico was very easy. I just drove across the border. No stop, no questions asked. Once I was in Mexicali, I drove around for about 20 minutes just looking around (and trying to find a parking spot). Mexicali looks, well, like a run-down city, except with signs in Spanish. There's nothing glamorous about it. There are a lot of Chinese restaurants, though, which is attributable to the fact that Mexicali was once a railroad center back around 1900, when Chinese immigrants were used for cheap labor on the railways.

I parked my car and walked around for a while, hoping to find somewhere to eat lunch that looked respectable. I'd guess that none of the places I saw would get an "A" grade from the Los Angeles Health Department. The brothel I passed definitely wouldn't. Finally, I realized that I should probably get some pesos instead of getting screwed on an exchange rate in a restaurant. I found an ATM and withdrew 100 pesos, the smallest amount possible in "fast cash." I took my money to the one restaurant I found that had a menu in both English and Spanish. I might as well have been wearing a huge "Gringo" sign. The waitress didn't speak a word of English, so I used the old "point at the menu and mumble" technique of ordering. The food was pretty good - chicken tacos and a tostada - but, American that I am, I have to say I would pick Baja Fresh over the real deal. After I paid for my meal (50 pesos, including the tip, which I assume you leave in Mexico as well), I talked briefly with an English-speaking patron in the restaurant. He told me I should have gone to Tijuana instead. Eventually, I plan to.

It's a little bit tougher to get into the U.S. than into Mexico. I sat in line for about a half hour at the border crossing while locals tried to sell me all kinds of really garish trinkets. For some reason, there's an abundance of bootleg Spider-Man and The Incredibles paraphernalia in Mexicali. Go figure. Even though I wanted to get rid of my remaining 50 pesos, I decided that I would rather have the 50-peso bill as a souvenir than anything they were selling. After I got to the border crossing, I had a very brief exchange with the guard.

"What's your citizenship?"
"Are you bringing anything back?"
"Where are you going?"

He waved me on. Guess I brought my passport for nothing. By the way, I paid for a can of Diet Rockstar on the U.S. side of the border with my 50 pesos. I got the drink and two dollars in change.

Dateland, AZ - Somewhere around Yuma, AZ, I saw a billboard advertising the world famous date shakes to be had in Dateland, Arizona. These shakes may be world famous, but I've never heard of them. Since I had the time, I figured I'd stop off in Dateland and get one. Apparently southwest Arizona is a big date-growing region. And date shakes are delicious. I think they chop up dates, put them in a blender with soft-serve ice cream, and make a milkshake out of it. It's thick and sweet and awesome. I highly recommend picking up a date shake if you're ever driving along I-8 through Dateland.

Spring Training - I'm glad to say that I can now check off "Go to a Spring Training game" off my life's to-do list. Royals-Rangers, at Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Arizona, to be exact. It was the third game of the spring for both teams, which share the facility as their spring home. The Rangers were the home team for this game, although they both wore similar blue jerseys.

The stadium itself is very nice, built in a Phoenix suburb that's one of the fastest-growing communities in the country. In fact, the stadium was built only three years ago to draw the Rangers and Royals from Florida to Arizona for Spring Training. If you're an investor, I'd recommend buying some land or some of the newly built homes in Surprise. It's only going to increase in value. But I digress.

As I was saying, the stadium is nice. It seats about 7,000, I'd guess, not including the neatly banked lawn that overlooks the entire outfield. The fences are covered with ads for local businesses, and it has the feel of a minor league game, except without the excessive promotion geared toward 10-year-olds (although there is still a little bit of that). Also, I happened to come on the day when they had their dollar dog, soda, and peanuts promotion. I only had two dogs, though, because I came prepared with a bag of sunflower seeds.

The game itself was enjoyable - your typical early Spring Training game. Both teams used six pitchers, none of whom went more than two innings. Only four players played the whole game. It was a close contest, with the Rangers scoring three times in the seventh and once in the eighth to come back and win, 5-3.

However, the game was unique in that I saw an extremely rare play, the kind of play that leaves you scratching your head and wondering what exactly you just saw. In the top of the sixth inning, Rangers prospect Jose Veras plunked Eli Marrero, then gave up a single to Terrence Long. Justin Huber tried to sacrifice the runners over, and Veras tried to throw Long out at second, but instead didn't get anyone out. Down 1-0 with the bases loaded, Calvin Pickering stepped to the plate. Pickering was third in AAA in homers last season despite playing over 40 fewer games than the two hitters who beat him by one homer, so I was looking forward to this at-bat. Sure enough, Pickering launched a towering drive to left-center. Gary Matthews Jr., the left fielder, went back to the fence, but despite the height of the ball, it had just enough distance to clear it. Meanwhile, with no outs, the runners were holding at their bases to see if the ball would be caught.

The next thing I know, Pickering stops rounding the bases. Both managers come out of their dugouts to find out what's happening. Turns out Pickering passed the runner on first when he put his head down and went into his home run trot. Maybe he glanced up, saw Huber, in his blue uniform, holding at first, and confused him for Chris Richard, the first baseman. Whatever the reason, Pickering ended up with a 380-foot three-run single and an out. I've never seen anything like it before, and I probably never will again. Fortunately for Pickering, his team lost by two and not one. Plus, it's the spring, so it doesn't count. I'm sure the kangaroo court heaped it on him for that blunder, though.

U.S. Route 93 - I had no idea this would be one of my favorite parts of the trip. About 220 miles of the drive from Surprise to Las Vegas is on this road, which, for the most part, is not a highway, and for almost half of it, is a two-lane road. It's the kind of road on which car commercials are filmed. The scenery is breathtaking - Saguaro cacti, Joshua trees, and impossibly stacked boulders dot a landscape that stretches for miles in each direction to mountains on the horizon. Unfortunately, nightfall set in halfway through the drive, which was also drizzly at times. One day, I'd like to return with a convertible roadster on a sunny day and make that drive again. It's perfect for someone like me, who loves to drive. On the two-lane stretches of road, I got to put my car into high gear and roar past the trucks and slow-moving minivans that stood between me and the bright lights of Vegas. That was another charm of the ride - in the mist and darkness in the air, even before I reached the Hoover Dam 30 miles from Vegas, I could see the sky glowing with the lights of America's Playground.

Vegas - Upon arriving at Vegas, I drove to the Bellagio, where security at the parking garage was tighter than at the Mexican border - they made me pop my trunk so they could take a look inside. We watched the famous fountain show, first from the side, where it was choreographed beautifully to "Con Te Partiro." Then we watched it again from the front, reminding me of the end of Ocean's Eleven. And then we crossed the street to Paris, where we went up the Eiffel Tower and watched the show again from high above the Strip. The Strip from high above at night is truly one of the most unique and impressive sights in the world.

After dinner, we went over to the Palms, a casino I hadn't been to before. The crowd there is much younger and livelier than the crowd at a lot of the Strip casinos, probably thanks in large part to the exposure that shooting the Real World there gave it. Also, the Maloofs seem to do a good job keeping their finger on the pulse of a younger, cooler crowd (not to mention keeping their names everywhere - even the felt on the tables declared proudly that the Palms were "A Maloof Casino Resort.")

Unfortunately, I got killed playing blackjack. It wasn't my night. The dealers (Peggy and Chevelle) kept showing aces and faces all night long, and I kept drawing to 24. At least I had the pleasure of sitting next to a charming (read: hot) girl from Honduras named Vanessa. Vanessa proudly wore a Honduran soccer jersey made for a 10-year-old. She had much better luck than I did (it didn't hurt that another guy at the table kept tossing $25 chips at her, which she took despite his repulsiveness), and my stack ran out, forcing me to relinquish my seat. What you withdraw from an ATM in Vegas stays in Vegas. At least I gave my cash to the casino, and not to the girl in a futile effort. If you'd seen the guy who I'm talking about, believe me, you'd know it was futile. Or could it be that I'm jealous because a guy who looks like such a tool has money to burn like that? Ah well...wait until I graduate law school...

Thursday, March 03, 2005

A Rant Six Months In The Making...

...about traffic in Los Angeles, of course. L.A. is well-known for its traffic problems. I considered it a novelty at first when I moved out here. When I drove into L.A. for the first time with my dad, we even filmed it. "The famous L.A. traffic," we said, or something like that, just like you'd say, "Oh, there's the Hollywood sign." In under a week I learned to loathe it, after I left my apartment at 5:45 for a Dodgers game that started at 7:05 and missed the top of the first. I live less than 15 miles from Chavez Ravine.

I should have realized something was seriously wrong when I went to the DMV to get my California driver's license. I had to take a 36-question test, the same test that drivers take to get their permits here. My preparation for the test was 20 minutes spent taking the practice tests on the DMV's website. I got 100 percent of the questions right (it's magneted to my refrigerator). The guy who handed his test in before me got 24 right. Now, perfection isn't likely - I was surprised that I got all of them right - but seriously, 90 percent of the test is common sense. Road signs are fairly logical. Fortunately, the test administrator told the guy that he didn't pass the test, although he could just try again in two weeks.

More disturbing about the DMV was the fact that during the time I was there (about an hour), not one, but two people were caught cheating on the test. On the freaking driver's test! If two people are caught cheating every hour, how many cheat and go undetected? Do you have any idea what that means? Probably a full fifth of drivers in California do not know the rules by which they are supposed to drive!

As a result, the drivers here are flat-out bad. I used to think that drivers on the East Coast, in Jersey, Long Island, and Massachusetts, were bad drivers. I was wrong. Drivers on the East Coast aren't bad. They're just crazy. Let me illustrate the difference. If I'm driving on the Mass Pike and a Masshole cuts me off, it's not because he's a bad driver. It's because he either knew I was going to slow down and let him in, or he knew he had just enough room between cars to shoot the gap. If I'm driving on the 405 and someone cuts me off, it has nothing to do with confidence and arrogance on the road. The L.A. driver cut me off because he didn't realize I was there.

Another problem with drivers here is a complete failure to use their lights. If it wasn't for the fact that some cars' headlights turn on automatically, I really think a solid 75 percent cars wouldn't turn on their headlights until 10 p.m. Some wouldn't even bother then.

Blinkers, too, are optional to an L.A. driver. I think at some point in the recent past, some sort of specialized electromagnetic pulse went off that only destroyed the circuitry that controls blinkers in the city. I could be wrong on this, though, because often, after a driver has already pulled halfway into the lane, he'll then put on his blinker. My EMP theory might also be disproved by the fact that some cars like to put their blinkers on when they have no intent to turn or change lanes, only to make the drivers behind them hesitate before passing.

The lack of general local driving ability combined with the enormous concentration of cars makes for hellacious traffic jams. There have been plenty of times when I have driven several miles slower than I could have run them. Many of these jams are caused by backups at highway interchanges. Here, interchanges are named after people. Usually they're named after policemen or soldiers (although the one where the 134 meets the 5 is named after Gene Autry). This is the last way I would ever want to be memorialized. Seriously, think about it. Would you want to have one of mankind's most frustrating creations dedicated to your memory? All day long, people sit at the Sadao S. Munemori Memorial Freeway Interchange and get pissed off. It's like having an airport security checkpoint named after you.

One night, I moved about five miles in four hours. On the shoulder, people were skateboarding, having a catch, and walking dogs to pass the time. This was in the mountains just north of L.A. A five-lane highway was reduced to one lane thanks to construction. It might have had to do with the mudslides from the recent rains, although I don't think this was the case, since the backup hadn't been there in the opposite direction and it didn't rain while I was gone for the weekend.

Actually, that's been the number one problem with traffic this winter: the rain. I was assured that it would only rain about four days out of the year in Southern California. Instead, I had the following conversation today with a friend who had spent the afternoon indoors:

Paul: When did it start raining?
Me: December.

Nobody is prepared for rain here. The storm drains, I've decided, are probably props for when Hollywood shoots a movie that's set somewhere other than Los Angeles. I don't think they actually lead anywhere. If the water weren't so disgusting, there would probably be snorkelers in the puddle that forms under the 405 overpass on Wilshire whenever it even drizzles.

The rain causes the already bad L.A. drivers to drive as though they are shy a chromosome or two. When it rains, drivers fall into one of two categories: those who drive as though they can't see five feet past their hood ornament and those who drive as though it was a perfectly sunny day. The concept of slowing down slightly is beyond drivers here. Of course, this leads to either having That Guy driving up your exhaust pipe when you're in the left lane during a rain or being That Guy when you're in the right lane.

It's a good thing I'm not prone to violence, because driving around here certainly makes me prone to road rage. A 15-minute drive with me on the freeways here would probably be rated R. Actually, I take that back. If I ever made it anywhere on the freeways here in 15 minutes between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., I'd be a happy camper.

I just have to make one more semi-related point about traffic here. Jaywalking, as you may know, is illegal in California. People have told me that they have actually received tickets. This has not stopped me from jaywalking. I cross two streets at lights on my way to class, and you can tell who the out-of-staters are at these intersections. There will be a group of 10 or so people standing at a red light with no cars approaching. The Californians will stand on the sidewalk. The out-of-staters will look both ways, and if no cars are coming, they'll cross against the light in an unbroken stride filled with confidence and purpose. Half of the Californians remaining will stay on the sidewalk, probably wishing that either jaywalking wasn't illegal or that they had the guts to break this nefarious law. The other half will follow the lead of the out-of-staters, but they'll hustle quickly and furtively across the street, all the while shooting panicked looks in every direction in case a police helicopter is about to land and bust them for jaywalking.


Final note: Apparently, the new design of the site is unappealing to at least one reader. Any other thoughts, either positive or negative, on the redesign? What do you, dear reader, think of the layout and color scheme? Should I keep it? Go back to the old design? Or try something different altogether? Bring on the feedback.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Caffeinated Beer, Thugged-Out Google, Digitized Pimping, Misspelled Spam, 86ed Radio, Cloaked Commenters

So I tried that new concoction Budweiser whipped up for the first time the other day. You know, the beer with caffeine (and ginseng, guarana extract, and natural flavor, according to the can). It's called "B to the E."

Let me start with the name. Although I find it mildly annoying, I also have to give whomever created it due credit; it's very clever. It works on all kind of levels. To start with, it tries (in perhaps a stilted way) to incorporate the slang of the people to whom it's marketed. It's not exactly as smooth as "H to the Izzo," though, so we'll see if people will take to actually saying, "Give me a B to the E," or if they'll coin another name for it.

The B is represented on the can by the "B" from the Budweiser script, but at the same time, it's supposed to stand for beer. B to the E is written as the letter B with an exponent of E, so it's literally B raised to the E power, or "B to the E," as the math kids like to say. And the E stands for "extra," which I'm assuming because the can also says "beer with something extra."

And lastly, the name spells out the word "be," which I'm assuming is also no accident - it's already kind of trendy in advertising to emphasize "being." Think of Dr Pepper's "Be you, do what you do." So there you have it - the many levels of the name of B to the E.

Now, how does the stuff taste? Well, kind of like beer. I guess it's like beer if you put trace amounts of cranberry juice and Red Bull into it, which makes sense considering what it is. It's sweeter than normal beer, which I discovered quickly after following my B to the E with a Dos Equis. (By the way, if you drink two Dos Equis, can you just say you had one Cuatro Equis?) I don't know what the alcohol content is, but I'm guessing it's not much, because it didn't taste particularly strong. And it comes in a 10-ounce can, which is kind of a rip-off. It's still a beer, not an energy drink, so I want my full 12 ounces when I get a can.

The big question, I guess, is how well does it work? Well, after one can, I didn't exactly feel like a spastic four-year old running into walls or anything, so it's not exactly liquid crack. On the other hand, I didn't fall asleep until 7 a.m. I'm not sure if that's due to the B to the E or the four-hour nap I took that afternoon, but the lesson I learned is not to take my chances with this stuff. I'm only drinking it early in the evening.


Speaking of B to the E (or speaking like B to the E, I should say), I highly recommend checking out
Gizoogle. I mean, that's some funny stuff right there. It works more or less like Google, but everything it returns to you is gangstafied. For example, you type in "http://www.uclahockey.org/" and you get the UCLA Hockey home page - except it's a little different. For example, one news item now reads like this:
"UCLA Takes Home tha Crosstown Cup
For tha F-to-tha-izzirst time in 6 years, tha Bruins finally reclaim tha glory in tha famous USC-UCLA rivalry. In whiznat may have been tha bizzle period played by UCLA Hockey, tha Bruins came frizzay a 3-1 deficit in front of a sold out crowd ta dominate tha Trojans 5-3. "

And the left nav bar has the following choices:
Varsity Rosta

I think the results vary each time you try Gizoogling a page, so you might not get exactly the same things I got. But I guarantee they'll be funny either way.

The flat-out funniest thing is when you Gizoogle the roster page (http://www.uclahockey.org/roster.php) and see what happens to the names of the guys on the team. John Harms became "Jizzay Harms." Matt Miller became "Playa Mizzle." But I laughed out loud when I saw that Chris Coker's name had been gangstafied to "Drug Deala Chris."

I mean, that's freakin' hilarious.


While I'm on the topic of web sites I recommend, let me suggest
ePimping.net, a site I stumbled across the other day. It's basically one guy completely shedding his humility and writing about his forays into the world of Internet dating, which inevitably results in comedy.

I'm not entirely sure, but I think he's reached a point early on in this site where he decided to have fun writing on the site more than looking for an actually decent date. Nobody (well, not me) wants to read about the dates that went well, after all. In fact, this is one of the funnier ones: his first date with

I don't think I could ever do anything like this. I'd be far too worried about the girls seeing the site and thinking I'm an awful person, blah blah blah. I suppose it wouldn't matter, really, but I like to think of myself as a nice guy. As it is, I try to keep this site more or less devoid of details of my personal life, because I know I'd probably anger more than one person if I wrote exactly what was on my mind some of the time. On the other hand, if you didn't do anything that would portray you in a negative light, then you wouldn't mind if I wrote about you. And if you knew your misdeeds would be made public, perhaps you wouldn't be so quick to commit them.

Lucky for all of you I'm a nice guy.


Sticking with the topic of the Internet, here's an e-mail I got the other day:

"Date: Sat, 26 Feb 2005 23:22:03 +0200
From: 'Ebay Represenitive: Robyn Mosley '
Subject: Problem with your eBay Account Sat, 26 Feb 2005 15:23:03 -0600
Dear eBay user!
Our records indicate that you account has been inactive for a long
period of time.
As a new security measure to protect from fraudsters,
we have temporarily placed your account on limited access.
During this time you will not be able to list any new items for sale
and your account will be locked.
To restore full access to your account, you have to login within 7 days
after receiving this notice.
After 7 days your account will be deleted.
To login to your eBay account, click on the link below:
[link removed]
Thank you for using eBay!
**Please do not reply to this email, as you will receive no response**"

Did you notice the glaring mistake in this e-mail? Please, God, say you did.

It's from an eBay "REPRESENITIVE!" Seriously, is there any way anyone will fall for an e-mail purporting to be official when the "From" line is spelled incorrectly?

I firmly believe that if you fall for this spam, you deserve to have your identity stolen.

Don't misconstrue this as a wish that people have their identities stolen. It happened to me on a minor level, and it's not fun. Instead, think of this as a wish that nobody would be stupid enough to think this is for real. Unfortunately, if someone is vacuous enough to write "represenitive," someone's definitely going to accept that as the true spelling of the word.

I swear, I can feel myself getting dumber just because I'm thinking about people who would spell "representative" that way.


Now I'm going to change gears completely.

I never really listen to the radio anymore. I'm strictly a CD guy. I have a booklet of CDs in my car as well as a sleeve of CDs on my visor. So I ordinarily wouldn't care about a radio station being bumped off the air, especially when it's back in Philly and I'm in L.A.

But we're talking about Y100, the radio station that really guided me through my formative musical years. For over 10 years, Y100 was the modern rock station in Philly. All throughout high school, Y100 played bands like Counting Crows, Tonic, Toadies, Green Day, and Goldfinger - bands I grew up listening to. Y100 also hosted the annual FEZtival concert, of which I have a t-shirt. I checked the date on the shirt - August 3, 1999, right before I began college. In fact, I remember when I first arrived in Ithaca for orientation my freshman year and turned on my car radio - it was tuned to Y100's frequency of 100.3, and I was caught off-guard when an Ithaca classic rock station (I-100) came on. I even wore my FEZtival t-shirt the other day, not knowing Y100 was going the way of Airheads' Rebel Radio.

It looks like the corporate suits really did it to Y100 in the same way rock was forced off the air in Airheads, too. Apparently, it came out of nowhere. There were a couple stories in the Philly papers on Friday about the station's sudden execution:
http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/entertainment/10987621.htm; http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/entertainment/10985374.htm. The modern rock format is being replaced with the hip-hop station that was previously on 103.9. And the hip-hop station (which replaced WDRE, another modern rock station, on that frequency, in 1996), is being replaced by a gospel station. So there you have it. The music of my youth, unceremoniously dumped in favor of gospel.

For nostalgia's sake, here's the lineup of bands (not in order of performance) for the last concert I saw before I went to college: the August 3, 1999 Y100 FEZtival:

G. Love & Special Sauce
Barenaked Ladies
Smash Mouth
Luscious Jackson

Yup...pour one out for Y100 and the musical era of my high school years. I'll miss you, Smashing Pumpkins.


And finally, I want to say a few words on anonymity. I can put the settings on this site to allow people to leave comments anonymously, or I can set it so that commenters are required to have an account with Blogger, which hosts this site. Or I can choose not to allow comments at all. Because I like feedback, I kept the settings to the least restrictive one. Comments can be made anonymously, although I would prefer that people sign their comments.

The point of permitting anonymous comments was to facilitate public dialogue about what I write here. It was not to provide a forum for people to address me personally behind a veil of anonymity. If someone wants to contact me directly, it's very straightforward. There's a link to my contact info on this page. If there's something anyone would like to say directly to me and get a direct reply, that's the way to do it - not by playing pseudo-stalker hard-to-get games.

That said, I'll now address whomever left the comments on today's earlier post and yesterday's post (I'm going to assume that someone left them seriously and that it wasn't a friend just messing around). If you'd like me to call you, but your number isn't in my phone, there are two likely explanations. Either I don't know you, or I don't want your number in my phone. Leaving anonymous comments isn't a good way to fix either of those problems.

I Found My Phone, So You Can Call Me To Hear About The Rest Of My Day

Since I am at a loss for words as to how to describe my day, I think I'll just play it like a season of 24.

12:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. - I write yesterday's post.

1:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. - I begin reading Friday Night Lights. I haven't seen the movie. The book promises to be better.

2:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. - I'm sleeping.

3:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. - Still sleeping.

4:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. - Surprise...still sleeping.

5:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. - I'd tell you what I dreamt about, but I forgot.

6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. - Keep reading, this is the last time I'll say I'm sleeping.

7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. - My alarm goes off at 7:45. I hit the snooze button. My alarm goes off at 7:55. I hit the snooze button.

8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. - At 8:35, after hitting the snooze button three more times, I wake up. I check my e-mail. Someone has left me an anonymous message on the previous post on this site telling me that, despite their status as someone other than Rachel Bilson, they would like me to call them. I briefly consider the message writer's failure in logic, considering that (a) I have lost my phone and cannot call anyone, and (b) I have no idea who left this message. At 8:40, I get in the shower. At 8:55, I am dressed and packing up my computer, ready for another thrilling day at law school.

9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. - From 9:05 to 9:25 I walk to class. At 9:30, I am sitting in my usual seat in Property. I discover that, despite missing the last two Property lectures, all I've missed is the intro to landlord-tenant law, and I consider my good fortune to not have slept through classes where the professor discussed cases.

10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. - I spend the second half of Property playing Scrabble on my computer. At 10:40, I go to Lu Valle Commons and get an early lunch (BBQ chicken pasta salad, if you were wondering). I order the full-sized salad, forgetting once again that the full-sized salads are far too big. I eat about half of it. I feel guilty for wasting the rest.

11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. - I check my voice mail on a friend's phone. No messages. I go to the library and read the next day's assigned Property reading. I find myself impressed by Justice Arabian's opinion in Hadian v. Schwartz. I wish all cases laid out the standards by which they are judged so clearly, and then applied the standards so neatly. I e-mail my mom to ask her to call the body shop where my car is being fixed to see if it is ready. I miss my cell phone.

12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. - I finish my Property reading and screw around online for a while. At 12:30 someone who reserved the room in which I was sitting asks me to leave. Because I don't have much choice, I comply. With a half hour to kill, I get myself some coffee. I put the machine on the weakest setting because I'm worried about a potential caffeine addiction.

1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. - I watch the first half of A Few Good Men for my Lawyering Skills class. I've never seen it before, and I'm glad to see Kiefer Sutherland make an appearance. Apparently Jack Bauer learned to kick ass as a Marine in Gitmo.

2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. - The professor discusses ways to use inferences to connect facts to factual propositions which we want to prove. I play some more Scrabble. At 2:30, class ends, and I have to save my Scrabble game. I have the highest computer setting on the ropes, and I've only beaten it once before. I'll try to finish it off in Property tomorrow. I try to talk a friend into giving me a ride to El Segundo to pick up my car in the event that it is ready to go. Knowing I won't be able to call him, he tells me he might be able to and then bails on the conversation.

3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. - I walk home from class. At 3:10, I get home, check my e-mail, and find that my car is indeed ready, but it must be picked up by 5:00, or the rest of the nuclear reactors will melt down. (Just wanted to see if you were still paying attention. Actually, this season of 24 would have been canceled long before I woke up.) I now am forced to IM everyone I know in L.A. with a screen name and beg for a ride. Finally, at 3:45, with just enough time to get to El Segundo, I find someone willing to help me out. Let the record show that I owe Tony Ryan a huge favor. I jump in the car to drive back to the law school to pick him up. As I leave my apartment's garage, I hear a ringing. My phone! It's somewhere in my car! I get to the law school and ask Tony to call the phone so I can hear it ring. I find it buried under the track which the driver's seat slides on. I kick myself for not having found it last night.

4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. - After a stop to get gas, we're on our way to El Segundo to pick up my car. It occurs to me to check my voice mail to see what message led to my phone's discovery. It's the MRI place where I have an appointment for 2:00 on Wednesday. They tell me I'm late for my appointment. It's Monday. I call the MRI place and tell them that they're wrong, that I couldn't have an appointment for today because I have class at 2:00 on Mondays, and besides, I had written down twice that the appointment was on Wednesday. They insist they are right. Since I don't have much choice, I agree. They tell me I can come in at 7:00 tonight. At 4:45 Tony and I have traveled the 13 miles to El Segundo. I hate traffic in Los Angeles. I see my car, looking nice and shiny and free of any damage from the accident caused by that stupid bitch whom I will address in a future post. The body shop even popped out the ding over the front right wheel that's been there for over a year, even though the damage was to the grill area. I go into the body shop to pick up the keys and sign off on the work. The shop's owner tells me that there's been a mistake, that they still have to check the alignment, and that it was someone else's fault. I'll have to come back tomorrow. Because I don't have much choice, I leave without my car. I consider giving it a hug goodbye but resist.

5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. - I drive home, dropping Tony off on the way. I feel terrible for dragging him to El Segundo for no reason at all.

6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. - I read the recap of the latest episode of Alias on www.televisionwithoutpity.com. At 6:30, I print out directions to Wilshire Open MRI, which, according to the Yahoo! Yellow Pages, is at 11927 Kearsarge St., which is in Brentwood, less than three miles from me. Because I know what traffic around the 405 is like, I leave at about 6:35. At 6:50, I arrive at 11927 Kearsarge St. It is most definitely not the place I am looking for. It is, well, a mansion, gated driveway and all. Perhaps the doctor from Wilshire Open MRI resides here, but his business certainly doesn't. I call Wilshire Open MRI and ask where they are located. They tell me they are at 1127 Wilshire Blvd. I sincerely hope that this is close by. I call my mom and ask her to Mapquest it for me. 1127 Wilshire is in downtown Los Angeles. I am about 15 miles away. I consider the prospect of driving through more L.A. traffic, say some things that would upset the FCC, and then call Wilshire MRI back and let them know I am running late.

7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. - Traffic on the 10 does something unexpected. It moves. I make it to Wilshire Open MRI at 7:20. The door to the building is locked, but I can see someone in the waiting room. He lets me in. He is wearing scrubs and a South Pole fleece. He's sitting in a chair in the patients' area of the waiting room, looking bored and watching the Lakers game. He is apparently the guy who is supposed to be behind the desk. I sign in and fill out the necessary forms. No, I have no history of heart failure. Yes, I have had surgery in the past. Yes, I have a wire on my bottom teeth. No, I am not pregnant. I hand him the doctor's referral and the MRI prescription. He takes it into the back. At 7:35 he returns and informs me that the prescription is for both an MRI with contrast and an MRI without contrast, and that the doctor must be there in order to do the MRI with contrast. He also informs me that the doctor is only in from 9 to 2. Because I don't have much choice, I schedule an appointment for later in the week - Wednesday at 9. I consider this ridiculous, since (a) my original appointment was at Wednesday at 2, (b) the doctor would have left by then anyway, and they knew I needed an MRI with contrast, since I faxed them the prescription over a month ago, (c) I just drove downtown for no reason whatsoever, and (d) now I have to miss Property for the third time in a span of five classes. I consider returning to 11927 Kearsarge, dropping a deuce in a paper bag, lighting it on fire, ringing the doctor's doorbell, and booking it. Instead I call my mom. Since I am halfway to Pasadena anyway, I figure I'll get her to buy me dinner to help stop the freefall that my day is in.

8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. - At 8:10, I find a parking spot a block from the restaurant. As I am pulling into the spot, a car honks at me. While I am cuing up the finger, I look over at the offending driver and realize it's my mom trying to say hi. I walk to the restaurant, half expecting to step in dog crap or get a call from my ex. Neither happens. The night is beginning to look up. I eat dinner with Mom at Gordon Biersch. I have a schwarzbier, which is one of my favorite beers, and a BBQ chicken pizza. I talk about the usual with Mom. I mention that the waitress is cute. Mom thinks I should ask her out. I think this is an awful idea. Mom also tells me she'll be able to give me a ride to El Segundo tomorrow. The day continues to improve.

9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. - At 9:30, I leave Gordon Biersch. I did not ask out the waitress. Maybe I should have. I get home at 10.

10:00 to 11:00 p.m. - I change into some clothes in which I can bum around my apartment. I realize that while I was running around Los Angeles accomplishing nothing, I missed 24. I'll have to check the recap on TWoP later in the week, or maybe find a pirated copy of the episode online. I legally download a recording of Samson et Dalila on Napster and burn a CD of the best songs from the opera. I read some more of Friday Night Lights.

11:00 to 12:00 p.m. - I recap my day. This reminds me of the scene in Spaceballs where they watch the movie at the time they are in it. I think I'll wrap this up with some of the funniest dialogue in the history of cinema.

Dark Helmet: What the hell am I looking at? When does this happen in the movie?
Colonel Sandurz: Now! You're looking at "now," sir. Everything that happens now is happening "now."
DH: What happened to "then?"
CS: We passed it.
DH: When?
CS: Just now. We're at "now" now.
DH: Go back to "then."
CS: When?
DH: Now.
CS: Now?
DH: Now!
CS: I can't.
DH: Why?
CS: We missed it.
DH: When?
CS: Just now.
DH: When will "then" be "now?"
CS: Soon.