Thursday, February 20, 2014

People I share a birthday with

Today, I learned that I share a birthday with pitcher Justin Verlander.  I'm 6 years older, and he has roughly 88000% more pitching talent than I do.

I also share a birthday with Chelsea Peretti.  I learned this today, as well.

I also remembered that I shared a birthday with Kurt Cobain.  When he died, I remember that being the biggest thing I took away from his death, that we shared a birthday.  And every year, I tend to have a "Huh, I shared a birthday with him" moment.

And then I forget.

Other folks I share February 20th with, in celebrating trips around the sun?  Sidney Poitier.  Lauren Ambrose.  Rihanna.  Charles Barkley.  Lili Taylor.  Ron Eldard.  Cindy Crawford.  The late Robert Altman.
I will probably forget them too.

Such is life.  I'm getting older.  The memory is always the first thing to go.

If I had to guess, I think mine left somewhere around 2009.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Trivia Finals, and whatnot.

From left to right, Marc (the trivial gamesmaster...), and our team:  yours truly, Shyam, Micah, Michelle and Steven...

It's just bar Trivia.  But, we came out on top of a city-wide competition yesterday.  And we did it with the same group of goofballs that's been playing for the past four or five years together.

We're not a bad group.  When we play, we're competitive.  We win our share.  We also have weeks where the luck of the draw is against us.

I've been playing Challenge Entertainment shows for a while.  My sister, former brother-in-law and I started playing shows at Fox and Hound in Chattanooga a good long while ago.  We also picked up a game or two at the Hixson Buffalo Wild Wings (at the old location at Northgate Mall).   It might be as much as six years ago.  We did well enough.  We played in a city championship or two at the downtown Buffalo Wild Wings.  We had one year where we came in as high as sixth.  (As an aside, there was one city championship where I've come as close as I've ever gotten to getting into a fight with a stranger--a guy gave us his table, then changed his mind after all our party had sat was a sad state of events that was assuaged by our buying him a beer).

When the Beef O'Brady's in Cleveland started holding shows, I started playing with Shyam and Steven, as it was a bit closer and more convenient for everybody--and closer to work.  Of course, this was right around the time I got transferred north, too.  So, Chattanooga shows were 90 minutes away.  Cleveland was a little more easily made, if I was working that day.  It was there we started playing with a revolving door of Cleveland folks.  Steven's work schedule got difficult, so he stopped playing regularly.  Pretty soon, a regular core of me, Shyam, Michelle, Micah and our friend Jessie started playing there. 

Soon, Jessie moved back to Ohio, and Beef O'Brady's closed rather suddenly just before the winter final a few years back.  We didn't play as regularly after that. I started playing occasionally with my buddy Rob, who was back in the States for a while, up in Knoxville.  Our friend Danna played a couple times.  We did well enough to play in Knoxville's final.  Our friends Ryan and Shawn played with us, and there we did well enough in the first half to garner attention from the runners/proctors to make sure we weren't cheating.

After that, we tried making shows at a couple sites with the core group in Chattanooga, but it didn't work out as a regular thing.  Jessie came back to visit one week, and we decided to go play at T-Bones, a bar I'd been to once or twice before, but never to play trivia.

T-Bones became a regular haunt for a couple of years, owing mostly to it holding its Trivia Night on a night it was most convenient for all of us.  We qualified for a handful of trivia finals there, too.

Work schedules change up again.  T-Bones stops being as convenient a place to play.  I should note that Shyam and I live 45 minutes to an hour from Chattanooga.  That's not a horrible drive, but sometimes, when you've worked a 10 or 11 hour day, or are looking at the prospect of having to go to work at 6 the next morning, it makes Trivia at T-Bones a once-in-a-while proposition.  (It was very much why Steven has been unable to play for 3 years, or so).

Then, in late 2011, a Buffalo Wild Wings opens up in Cleveland.  Not long after, a game opens up there.  There, we start getting the band back together.  Our core group becomes the five people you see in the picture up above.

Let me pause.  There are other bar trivia games, even in Cleveland.  I've heard them played, but not joined in.  One in particular, at the Aubrey's in Cleveland wasn't very professionally run, and in one case had an incorrect answer as one of its answers.  I like the folks from Challenge mostly because I like Marc, the fellow who runs the bulk of the shows we attend, runs a quality show, and his group is a good bunch of people.

I also like that there's a larger event that the games lead up to.  It's nice to win a night's bar tab, or a gift card, or wings (we have a stack of wings certificates for BWW that have since expired), but the sports fan in me likes the idea of leagues and standings, and a championship at the end of a season.  Challenge offers that, when the other groups do not.

In the time frame we speak of, Challenge also grew larger in Chattanooga, and finding a venue that could host the top 5 teams of up to 5 people each from up to 15-18 locations got to be a bit difficult.  The downtown Buffalo Wild Wings at its old location could barely handle a group from about 7 or 8 locations.  The city final was played at the larger Bart's Lakeshore venue, but that stopped hosting, too.  The past handful of championships were played at the Honest Pint, downtown.

The decision was made to create a semi-final, simply to pare the numbers down.  (I'd say it ends up being win-win for Honest Pint, as well, as they end up have 3 shows with close to 30 tables on 3 otherwise slow(ish) times).  

Our first semi-final was last year.  And we didn't do well.  

We play for fun.  Same group of people.  Just a good time to go hang out with everybody.  If we win, we win.  If not?  At least we get to hang out with friends.

Still, we're usually competitive.  And we stank up the joint at our semi-final last year.  It was discouraging.

We had this year's semi-final last week.  My sister sat in because Steven couldn't get out of work.  We did well enough to make this year's final.

We wandered to Honest Pint yesterday.  It's always fun to play there.  Food's good--can't find too many places with a good Scotch Egg, and the Pimento Cheese Fritters?  Those are some good eating.

We played well enough.  I was feeling pretty good about our chances, until the reading of the scores in the second half--we found ourselves placed 20th out of 33 teams, or so.  Not in a horrible spot, but down from somewhere around 9th at the half.

The final question, in such games, is the clincher.  In this game, roughly 25 points separated third place from 25th place.  Lot of teams bunched up.  We, in 20th place, we just 30 points behind the first place team.  Indeed, nobody was running way with anything.  Still, I was a little frustrated because we'd had a handful of questions where we'd narrowed the answer to two or three things, and chosen the wrong thing to turn in.  

It's funny how things work out. 

The final question at these games is almost always a ranking question.  Either in terms of numbers, or chronology.  This week's question?  Put these in order from largest to smallest.  The choices:

Number of foreign language films to win a Best Picture Oscar
Number of years of Major League service for Kosuke Fukudome
Number of Grammy Awards won by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis at the recent Grammies.
Number of countries with territory on the Island of Ireland.

For me, I could ballpark all these number.  I think the middle two questions were trouble for a lot of the crowd, especially the Fukudome one.  For once, being a Cub fan comes in handy.

We turned our answer in, and bet the maximum allowed: 30 points.  Our thinking was mainly along the lines that the top 15 teams got to go on to Tunica to play in a regional final, and than in 20th, we were out either way.  Also, we were confident in our answer, and thinking that a lot of the teams above us would play it conservatively.

We didn't realize how conservatively the others would play it.

First, we had a tie-breaker question.  Tie-breakers are simply: guessing closest to a number to break a tie.  In this case, the total domestic gross for the 2013 movie Monsters University.  (Our guess of 325 million was closer than the team we were tied with--the first place team at the time.)

Of course, we couldn't be sure of it.  We didn't know if maybe a team below them had bet enough points to pass them.  Until we were announced as the winners.

Fun stuff.

It's nice to win a game like that.  Nice to beat a couple of rival teams, especially ones put together to make a run at this thing.  

We took home $400 dollars, which we split evenly among us.  

We also qualified for the trip to Tunica, Mississippi for the Mid-South regional finals.

(Now begins the fun part of all of our seeing whether we can get free from work--not a guaranteed proposition for any of us).  

Anyway, that show is in two weeks.  We'll see how it shakes out....

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Random Thoughts

I've been on vacation all week.  And given the snowy conditions, I just don't have strong enough a vocabulary to express just how glad I am I haven't had to deal with the nonsense of working a grocery store during a snow rush.

If you've ever had a delusion about people being kind and decent at heart, I invite you to stand in the front vestibule of a grocery store during a snow rush in a southern town.  There's rushing.  There's cursing.  There's no reining in that impulse to be a total asshole.  I'm not telling you it's mass insanity, you get the slightest hint of the hysteria that might grip a population should a major disaster befall the community.  I make sure to say southern town because I know it's not this way everywhere.  I know stores get a rush in other cities, but there's not the panic that's associated with it around here.  People stagger in wild-eyed from the cold, where they parked their SUV cockeyed across four spaces, and wander into the store, trying to keep a mental list of what they might need in the case of an emergency, and failing.

I'm going to make a brief aside here and say that, as a salaried member of grocery management with 700 things to do besides running a register, that if I'm working a register, and we're trying to get a rush of people out the door, the one thing that will bug me more than anything is when you do anything delay the proceedings.  These actions may include stopping to look for coupons, paying with a check, trying to decide which soda to buy, but more than any other, sending somebody back to look for something.  Inevitably, this is going to happen at the grocery store during a snow rush.  You're in the line that you've stood in for four people to buy your bread, Pop Tarts, lunchmeat, cheese, mustard, cereal, chili fixings, milk, eggs, Little Debbies, 3 suitcases of Natural Ice and 17 Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs when you realize that you forgot to pick up a can of Hartz Dog Milk Replacement for the pups at home.  It happens, and I accept that.  It seems to happen with every customer during a snow rush.

I dunno.

It's snowing today.  I look out my front window, and at 2:30 there's somewhere between a half an inch and an inch of snow on the ground.  We may get another two to four inches.  I told Shyam that I was starting to feel bad for the weathermen, especially if this had turned into rain and we'd gotten no winter accumulation.  I say that realizing that no matter what the weather conditions turn out to be, people are going to yell about the weathermen.

I was making smartass remarks during Channel 9's weathercast the other day, when David Glenn answered one of my smartass remarks by happenstance.  I made the joke that the Chattanooga folks are stressing over this weather system, and that it wouldn't surprised me much for Mr. Glenn to have jumped from my TV to pop me in the mouth.


Watching the Olympics during my week off, when I get the chance.  Men's Hockey started today, and I've been watching women's hockey, some curling and a bit of skiing.

Thoughts on curling?  I am mystified by the draw to it, and I say that not being immune to it myself.  Watching curling is a lot like watching bowling.  In theory, I think I can curl.  (Is that the right verb?  curl:curling::bowl:bowling?)  It looks like a game that would be fun, especially if there were beers involved.  And I've enjoyed watching it with a group before, usually when we've been drinking ourselves.  Watching it at 1 in the morning the other night, I was struck by how serious (like pro bowlers) these folks are.  To me, it looks contrary to the spirit of the game.  It's like an entire Olympic flight being made up of that one guy in the league who bowls a 120 every game but has all the gear and is really, really fucking intense about the game.

Except some of them get gold medals.

I've really gotten into the hockey, so far.  Saw the United States women lose to Canada today.  Saw a little bit of Sweden and the Czech Republic play as the men's side opened up today.  Looking forward to a few good games there.


Still getting used to driving a car.  Something I'm getting used to?  Assholes in giant SUV's and trucks that I can't see around when I'm backing out of a space.  Tough to swallow that I was an asshole in a truck just a month ago.

No leads from the Athens PD on that.  Discouraging.  I still hold out hope that they'll find the truck somewhere down the line parked in a parking lot somewhere where it's been abandoned.

Even a month after, I'm still realizing things that were in the truck.  Incidental losses.  My Yazoo Brew hoodie, a surprisingly warm and durable sweatshirt.  And Yazoo doesn't have anymore, at least during my last twitter conversation with them.  I lost a handful of CDs--a few Chieftains, a Frank Turner, a couple AC/DC.  I realized that my only copy of Ronald Reagan (Boston's Premiere 80's Pop Saxophone Duo) CD was in there, too.  They'll be easily enough replaced via download--a couple have been already, including the Ronald Reagan disc.  Still, aggravating.

Realized today that my big 24 ounce stainless steel coffee cup was behind my truck seat when it was stolen.  Wanted to used that for hot chocolate today.  Dammit.