Monday, February 19, 2018

Rematch

For those of you interested in Olympic hockey and the fortunes of our women's hockey team, you may recall the heartbreaking defeat the United States team experienced in the 2014 Olympics against Canada.  The US was up by two goals in the third period.  The Canadians stormed back and tied the game, winning eventually in overtime. 

I don't subscribe much to luck being a factor in an outcome. In that game, however, when the Canadians pulled their goalie, a US player sent the puck the length of the ice. It hit the post. Had it been a fraction of an inch towards the goal it would have skidded in. Instead it kicked away.  That puck goes in, the Canadians cannot tie the game.

I wondered at the time if the women on the US team could ever recover from such a heartbreaking loss.  Two goals up in a Gold medal game, and seeing the lead evaporate in a matter of minutes. 

But the team has. Many of the same players from the 2014 squad are back.  And on Wednesday night here, Thursday afternoon in Korea, the United States will play Canada in a rematch for the Gold medal.

A Northeastern alum who took a course with me is on the US team.  So, I am especially biased as I cheer for the United States. She, Kendall Coyne, is a starter for the United States and scored the go-ahead goal in the team's first match in this year's competition, and then the lone goal in the preliminary game against Canada which the Canadians won, 2-1.  That game meant next to nothing as both teams were likely to meet again in the medal round and, in fact, will be.  Kendall looks like the fastest player on the ice. She gets to the puck extremely quickly and makes excellent decisions.  She is also a team player regularly giving up a shot to pass to an open teammate. Number 26 in your program. 

If you are on the East Coast turn in at 11 pm on Wednesday night, 8 pm near the Pacific Ocean, 10 in Chicago, 9 in the Rockies.  It is going to be exciting. 

No matter who wins, both teams are winners and all athletes who have worked for years to compete in the game are winners as well, regardless of the outcome.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Bruises

When I played basketball I was one of those pesky guys who would dive for loose balls and often come up with them.  I remember my dad, in his half joking way, telling me that I spent half the time on the floor.  This tendency served me well particularly when I was a junior as I, with one other player on the team, got a reputation as players who would more often than not get what are now called 50-50 balls. 

To encourage the other players to be similarly aggressive the coach ran a drill where he put a ball on the floor and two players had to jump at it and wrestle the competitor to get the ball. After my comrade and I did this twice, he thought we would kill each other so we were exempt from future repetitions. Point is that I spent some time diving onto hard floors.  Also, for the short time I was a skiier, I was a good faller. That is, when I was going to fall I knew how to do it, so that I would not lose life or limb. 

I bring this up because as I approach three score and ten, I find that somethings are happening to my body that never happened before. On Tuesday I was bringing up some laundry when I did what everybody does now and again. I had the bin in front of me and took a step that did not give me complete purchase. So, I had to scramble downstairs for a few steps. No big deal. I did bump my big toe at the base of the bottom step when I went to right myself, but was proud of how I danced backwards as gracefully as one can with underwear, jeans, and assorted tee shirts blowing back in my kisser.  I went to work, stopped at the bank, had to go to the post office, sat in my office doing this and that.  And then at about 6 pm I got up and saw stars.  My big toe felt like I had taken a hammer, tried to slam a nail--but missed hitting the nail and instead hit the toe right smack at 12 o'clock. 

It was my night for the elliptical and I could barely put my sneaker on.  It was agony. If I was still driving a shift I would have been dangerous as I could not really depress my left foot.  Meanwhile my toe is not broken. It is still sore now on Thursday, but it is getting better.  Point is I bruised so easily.  It really was not much of a stub, and I am telling you I wish the pain only on those who believe that Hitler did some good things.

Yesterday, I went to see my buddy Ken who has been in a play. I got a free ticket and went to see a really terrific rendition of Shakespeare in Love. My colleague Scott at Northeastern directed it at one of the professional theatres in Boston and yet another Northeastern instructor was in it.

The play was just great, much better than the movie that won the academy award. What a hoot.  Afterwards, I waited for Ken outside the dressing room. We, of course, stopped to discuss the super bowl game which we had watched together just two nights before.  After dissecting the loss, he went one way and I another as we were parked on different sides of Tremont Street. It was a miserably rainy icy day and he warned me to be careful walking particularly on the bricks which could be slippery.  I walked fine for about a block and then did a comical fall. Legs came out from under me and kaboom I landed on my left side.  It was fine. I was wet but not hurt. Today my left elbow feels like my left toe felt on Tuesday. I can barely bend it.

How come someone who would lurch and dive onto hard floors like a possessed person--and kept on going at 16, becomes so easily bruised.  Simple, add half a century and a couple of additional revolutions around the sun and you have the answer. 

Is there a metaphor? Are we, as we go around the track, more easily bruised when an emotional blow comes our way.

A colleague at work says something that bruises us which would have seemed innocent and benign before college. 

A relative says something that you take offense at, which is really not much.

Remember the movie, Avalon? Remember when the brother comes to Thanksgiving--the brother who was the elder and always cut the turkey to mark the beginning of the holiday.  This time the brother, now in his later years, is late to the festivities, so someone else cuts the turkey.  The brother goes postal when informed, "You cut the turkey/ You cut the turkey?"  He storms out of the house and there are years when the siblings do not speak. 

I get along great with my brother, so nothing personal here, but the point is that the more we accrue as we go around the track, the more vulnerable to bruising we can be. 

Toxic

Now that the stock market has plummeted 2500 points in the last few days, and while we are hearing about the white house chief of staff ignoring a sexual predator in the Trump administration (how could that be?), and an Alaskan airline pilot has pled guilty to flying drunk--let's discuss the outrage over Josh McDaniels decision not to move to Indianapolis.

Tony Dungy, a former Indianapolis Colt coach and current broadcaster called the decision indefensible.  McDaniels's former agent ended his professional relationship with the coach saying that McDaniels had committed professional suicide.  And Charlie Weis, a former college head coach called the decision "unbelievable" and suggested McDaniels's reputation now was toxic--such that McDaniels will never get another head coaching offer.

For those not keeping tabs on this saga, Josh McDaniels, had two interviews with the Indianapolis Colts. The parties had discussed terms and had agreed to them.  On Wednesday, McDaniels was going to be named head coach of the Colts. On Tuesday night, McDaniels decided not to sign on. This left the Colts in a lurch. More significantly, assistant coaches had decided to leave their current jobs and come to work with McDaniels.

Do I think what McDaniels did was wrong? Well, assuming he did orally commit to taking the job, and assuming that he did in fact tell assistant coaches to leave their jobs to come to Indianapolis--and those coaches did just that on the basis of such an understanding--then yes absolutely what McDaniels did was unethical.

Do I think he is now a pariah and will never get another job again.  Well, I don't think he is going to get a bottle of champagne from anyone in the Colts organization for a spell, but no he will not be a pariah for long and his ability to get another job is based solely on whether a team, down the road, believes he will be a good coach. 

Here's a scenario.  Let's say Bill Belichick is under contract.  A month from now he decides to break his contract.  He leaves the Patriots.  Will he be a pariah for breaking the contract?  Not really. Some may speak negatively of him, but Belichick would get a job in no time if he wanted one.

Gee, that's not a scenario. That is exactly what happened once.  Belichick was the coach for the New York Jets. For a few hours. He was under contract to be the Jets coach when Bill Parcells stopped coaching. Parcells stopped coaching. Parcells announced that Belichick would be the coach.  Belichick decided to break his contract.  Within a few days he was the coach of the Patriots.

I don't know if Josh McDaniels will be a good head coach. But if someone thinks he will be, the fact that he broke the oral contract he had with the Colts in 2018 will not be a factor in a decision to hire him. There may be a desire for him to sign at the same time he orally accepts the offer, but this 2018 incident will mean nothing.

An analogy.  You and your sweetheart pledge unwavering love and fidelity forever.  Two weeks later she decides to dump you for the college quarterback at the university of wherever.

Do such sweethearts become pariahs?  Not if they're hot.  Some folks might be wary but if the lover is sweet enough, there will be pursuers.

I don't think it is to one's credit to dump someone on Wednesday when you've professed love and loyalty on Monday--but that is not going to make you persona non grata.

Similarly with McDaniels--I don't think what he did was ethical, if he indeed committed to the Colts, but it is not professional suicide.  What is professional suicide in this business is not being able to perform. If someone thinks McDaniels can be the one, his phone will ring.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

my life

I was looking up a colleague on Google and found an entry for her on MYLIFE.  I wondered if it was accurate and authorized, so I typed my name into Mylife

This is my life according to Mylife



Alan Zaremba is 68 years old and was born on 10/22/1949. Currently, he lives in Waltham, MA; and previously lived in Brookline, MA and Hull, MA. Sometimes Alan goes by various nicknames including Alan J Zaremba. He currently works as a professor at Northeastern University. His ethnicity is Caucasian, whose political affiliation is currently a registered Democrat Party; and religious views are listed as Christian. Alan is now single. Other family members and associates include Robert Zaremba, Meyer Zaremba, Helen Zaremba, Helen Zaremba, and Donna Zaremba. He has a reported annual income of 70,000 to 79,999 and a current net worth of 100,000 to 249,999.




Very interesting. My nickname is apparently Alan J Zaremba. What a clever nickname for a fellow named Alan Zaremba whose middle name is Jay. All my buddies call me Alan J Zaremba when we are hanging out drinking beer.  Also very interesting, I am a Christian.  It is listed apparently somewhere.  My mother, dead now nearly five years, just did a somersault in her casket and is scrambling to remove the lid.. Uh, not accurate. Yid here.  I am single, eh? This will come as big news to several people including the woman who is now downstairs reading the newspaper. I have, it seems, associates. My brother. My dead father. My mother still plotzing to read of my religious affiliation. Apparently there are two Helen Zarembas as associates. This will be startling news to individuals familiar with my background. And there is a Donna Zaremba. I will have to inform her that I am both single, and that she has changed her name. My employers will be delighted to hear of my income. Alas my creditors will not.  My current net worth--hmmm.  Well, I am not loaded and I know the stock market took a dive yesterday, but still--uh--not accurate.

However, Mylife does have my birthday right and I did live in Brookline and Hull and I do tend to vote Democratic and I do work at Northeastern. Wow, what sleuths.

Do yourself a favor. Check out your life on Mylife. Then call your mother.



Friday, February 2, 2018

Musings as the stock market crashes

Moments ago I noticed that the stock market is down 557 points. Just swell.  Of course we all knew there would be a correction, but 557 points (and there still are 35 minutes to go).

My grandfather would say that the whole world is built on a mound of bull shit. He did not say it to me, but must have said it to my dad, who--when I was an adult--relayed the wisdom.

I think in large part my grandfather's theory is true. And it is at its truest when it comes to finances.

You have x and I have y.  Right?

Guess what? You really don't have x and I really don't have y.  Sure, you go the liquor store and can give the owner some green stuff in exchange for a six pack. And if you want to buy a couch you can put it on a credit card, and then later write a check or do a dance with your computer and draw the funds from an account.

But what account?

It is all a shell game.  The bank says you have x. You keep putting in your salary in the bank. And you get a slip of paper with your balance.  That money is not in the bank. You want some money sure, they open a drawer and give you money and adjust your balance. But your money is not there.  If someone decides to say ooops, you have no money.

Because of what happened in 1929 the federal government guaranteed your balance up to 100K. And then Obama because of the Bush negligence upped it to 300K.  Sounds good.  It's really meaningless.  If the bottom falls out on the economy, there is not enough dough around.

There are people who relied on pensions who can vouch for this.  The money there is not there. We have all agreed that it is there, and as long as the economy does not fall like it did in 1929, we will keep pretending so if you have more money on a balance sheet than I do, you can live in a swankier house, but we are just pretending. The whole financial system is built on a mound of bullshit.

Why is the stock market down (now 618 points dropping 60 points in nine short paragraphs) today and was up last Friday.  Smoke and mirrors.

We will be fine in all likelihood.  But don't let anybody kid you, the economy teeters on less than terra firma.

Final bell 665.

Super bowl

I've been silent this past month on the subject of the playoffs.  I am still an enthusiastic fan of the sport, and was a nervous fellow two weeks ago when the Patriots pulled yet another comeback to advance to the super bowl. 

I had a thought about flying to Minneapolis to go to the game.  This was shortly after the victory against the Jaguars. I went on Stubhub to see what the prices were like, figuring that maybe I would splurge.  A buddy of mine told me he once bought a ticket for 1,000 for his daughter who was a fanatic follower of the Patriots.  That seemed a bit rich for my blood, but my friend had bought the ticket from a scalper so I thought maybe the prices from legal scalpers like Stubhub would be less.

The cheapest ticket two weeks ago for a ticket was, get ready for it, 4000.00.  That is for one ticket.  Not for you and your main squeeze.  You want to make a date out of it, you are back 8 and that is if you sit in the cheap seats.  I knew the tickets would have to come down, but by how much?  I checked again a moment ago. They are down. The cheapest ticket now is 2900.  By game time you might be able to sit on the moon for less than 2K. The 2k is before you buy a beer and a hot dog, and a flight, and a hotel room.

Who has this kind of money?

I see the rabid fans for the Eagles and Patriots on tv shots from Minneapolis.  What do they do for a living?

Has it gone too far?  Well, sure.  People who I know cannot go to that game.  Even people I know who have done well cannot go to the game.  I have to think that the people who are going to the Super Bowl are people who do not pay a dime for a seat, but are attending because of the largesse of their companies. And if that is the case, then I am paying for their ticket, since my taxes go to subsidize many organizations that can afford to send their executives, because the companies pay less in taxes than the average fan.

The game itself?

I am a rabid Patriot fan, but I wonder if our luck has run out.  We have gotten a lot of calls this year and pulled out games from the base of the alimentary canal.  I'm not sure how many times that can happen.  We are due to get a call that is 50-50 going the other way.

Yes, I think we are better coached and our players know where they need to be, but I have a queasy feeling.  I see Amendola dropping a punt on a fair catch and Brady fumbling on a sack.  However, I also think Philadelphia might not be able to overcome the jitters and their back up qb is good for throwing at least one pick.  In addition Ajayi will put the ball down once. If I was in Vegas I would bet on that.  So the errors might offset.

The spread is 4 1/2 right now.  I think the Pats are in for a tougher game than the people around here think.  I like us to beat the spread, but not by a whole lot.  I see us ahead by three at the end, and then get another easy score on some last minute Eagle prayer that goes awry.  So we win by 10, but not an easy ten.

Hope I am wrong. I hate to think of Patriot fans who paid 10K to wow their partners having to get nervous. You figure for 10K you shouldn't need to buy an extra box of Maalox.



Saturday, January 20, 2018

News from Spain


 
I thought this book by Joan Wickersham was a novel, but it is not.  It is a string of thematically related, but not plot related, short stories. 

I’d seen the author's name on a site that listed writers with whom readers of a certain vintage should be familiar. I can't recall now the age bracket, but remember knowing that I was in the ballpark. So, I found the book in our library system.

About four of the seven stories are outstanding. Each has its moments of excellence. They are   thematically linked because all deal with love, often extramarital love affairs, and often love that has been thrilling but ultimately problematic.

All of the stories have the same name: "The News from Spain."  Those four words appear not only in the title, but somehow in each story.  On the surface when the words appear they do not mean the same thing.  In one story, a biographer asks an interviewee "how did you feel when you heard "the news from Spain."  In another there is a reference to a woman watching CNN or something of that ilk and "the news from Spain" on the report is not good. In a third a friend of a lothario is explaining to a distraught lover how many paramours this lothario has had throughout Europe.  The woman tells her lover's friend to stop.  He responds half in jest, "but you haven't yet heard 'the news from Spain'".

Until the end I thought the title of the collection, the same title for each story in the collection, and particularly the insertion of the same words into each story was a sort of literary gimmick which, while clever, did not work.    But in the last story, again about a woman in love in an extramarital romance, the "news from Spain" line comes at the end and makes the point.

In this story a woman falls in love with an office mate who appears to feel similarly but is unwilling to reciprocate.  It's a complex story but the gist is that the woman is distraught because she cannot connect with this co-worker.  She says that her experience reminds her of the line from the early days of Saturday night live. In a recurring SNL skit a character says "the news from Spain this week is that General Francisco Franco is still dead." 

With this I got it. The story of love and passion recurs. We fall in love often outside of marriage, and the pain of the experience--however exhilarating it had been, and worth it on balance it had been--will inevitably linger.  

While four of these stories are just great, there are a couple of dead spots in some of the longer ones so, I can't strongly recommend the collection. However, some of these are very well written and I am glad I read the book.