There's a sizable development here that I've yet to chatter about on the Feedbag: Becky and I are going to have our first child in February. Writing about it is awkward in that so many of my closest friends have already become parents, so that anything I'm experiencing is uninteresting in its late-to-the-party status. I'm going to go ahead anyway. Sometimes being the last one to do something everyone does makes you really appreciate it - puberty, dating and The Wire, all solid examples for me.

We're having a boy. I'm extremely excited about this. If it were a girl I'd be extremely excited too. After 4 months of referring to our kid as 'it', the gender assignation made this seem all the more real and approaching. That said, our boy is still only a legume-like person and I'm already judging names for the lad on their infield potential.

Names: oh my god. What a challenge. I just dug up the Nicolas Cage SNL skit on naming a baby. Paraphrased:

Telegram for Mr Asswipe Johnson! Dear Asswipe and Emily...

Um...that's Oz-wee-pay.

As we tear through these baby name books it's amazing how few we consider. We can easily categorize the overwhelming majority into any number of feckless or unwanted character-types: Runny-nose/Park Slope/Date-Rape/Country-Club/Lacrosse-Douche/Basement-Dweller/Gun-Rack/A-Rod/Hobo/Punching-Bag/Weirdo

Inevitably, I can't ensure he'll be a cool and happy kid. We can only do our best. As I told my mom about how nerve-wracking I find the sonogram appointments - in needing to know everything is okay - she said get used to it. With kids, that's the rest of your life.


Bike Riding in Massachusetts

Today I tried to tackle my first century - a 100 mile ride. Becky and I are in Massachusetts - I had already gotten in touch with a fellow vintage bike nerd in the area and he was already planning to do the century, so we met up at Lexington High School just a few minutes from the McCarthy's door, and the starting point for the ride, which was organized by local bike advocacy organization, Mass Bike. My riding buddy Neal saved the day by bringing a small bolt to replace a missing one that I'd only discovered last night. We hit the road at 8am. The scenery was beautiful, the weather unbelievable, and the route map...terrible. The course was roughly the shape of a figure 8, with the smaller top loop 40 miles and the lower, 60 miles (called a metric century). The intersection of the two loops was where one could decide to continue on the lower loop for the metric, or add the top loop for the full 100 mile century. Unfortunately, is was also where the course map was least clear. We missed a turn, improvised a little, then found our markers again; however, when we questioned our location and got our bearings, we found out we were a good ways around the lower loop on our way to the finish instead of chugging along in the upper loop of the century. Rather than turn around and initiate what would have meant a triple-cover of the same ground and who-knows-how-many-more miles than intended, we settled for the 60 miles and a more immediate BBQ lunch. It was a tasty defeat.

I finished with a stronger desire to do the 100 miles soon, a satisfaction that 60 was pretty good, proof that my new Gazelle is a reliable steed, and a growing feeling that I would love living in this area.


Why didn't anybody tell me?!

I'm thinking of words - semantics and pronunciations - at the moment, solely because I'm watching the Mets, and Keith Hernandez just said fustrated (sic.) twice in the last inning. Does Keith:
  1. think the word is actually fustrated?
  2. not get corrected because it's touchy to correct a person's language foibles, let alone Keith Hernandez's?
  3. use some sort of broadcaster's trick in this instance, to cleanly deliver a word which if attempted in the correct manner, would give him trouble?
Myself, I find it hilarious when I've been pronouncing something incorrectly and someone points it out to me. The older I am and the more common the word, the better.

I learned that Massachusetts wasn't pronounced Massachusess, while I was in college.

Becky laughed when I made some reference to Faneuil Hall, as Fuh-neel Hall.

The claws on a bird of prey: tal(as in gal)-lahns. Tal-lahns.

One of my favorite jokes from The Simpsons:

Bart's teacher's name is Krabappel? I've been calling her Crandall! Why didn't anybody tell me?



So, yikes - it's the end of June. My first season coaching is over, trophies and pizza to wrap it up for the dudes. My first semester is over, as is the first of my 2 summer sessions. The second starts next week and includes Educational Foundations and Teaching Science in the Elementary Classroom (the latter I'm totally excited about).

The Mets are leading the majors in grand slams allowed, which I'm finding to be one of the least pleasant superlatives to watch your team achieve. The U.S. exited the World Cup - disappointing, as I was really getting into the team vibe. I'll root for the Dutch now, because they're orange and fun and I just got a dutch Gazelle road frame from the late 70's.

I received the unexpected birthday present of selling one of my bikes to Wyatt Cenac of the Daily Show. We are not new-best-friends yet, but there's time.

Becky and I have a full-season of weddings to attend from now through December, having only knocked-out Buffalo thus far, and peaking Labor Day weekend when we'll be attempting a New-Jersey-New-Hampshire-Saturday-Sunday-flip-twist-turnpike. 5.8 difficulty (out of 6).

There have been some mighty achievements in the kitchen the last 2 months. These include:

fish tacos with fresh tortillas and avocado/sour-cream sauce

artichoke and tomatillo soup with blended white beans (this was a home run as far as warm-weather soups go)

and this plate of pasta from last night, which while simple, was so summery fresh (it's all in the peas, kids!), that even brutal 90-degree-quilt-like-humidity couldn't stop the chow-down.


The Blind Side and Mercy Rules

Saturday was The Firebirds' 4th game of the season, and as Coach Andrew was out of town, it was just me in the dugout with the boys. We were playing a team we'd received advance warning on, and true to that warning, they were big hitters and they played like an experienced squad. What can I say - we lost 12-0, called in the fourth on the Mercy Rule, but the boys played well. I know this coaching thing is a good match for me when I still have a great time on the wrong end of a Mercy Rule game, and it seemed like despite the score, my guys had a good time too. They're totally starting to gel as a team, at least as far as pre-game horseplay is concerned. It's pretty easy to see improvement week to week in their skills, especially the kids who started a little behind the others. When the guys that haven't got the bat on the ball once in a game do it for the first time, it's honestly thrilling. We missed some basic baseball concepts that will be addressed at Wednesday's practice, but really - as long as the team looks like they're having fun, I think I'm doing my job well.

Last night, Bec and I finally saw the Blind Side. She loved it; I was entertained. For the first 30 minutes of the movie I could barely look at that sad kid's sadder face, even though I knew it was going to turn out well. My simple review would be this: there wasn't enough football to be a movie about football; there wasn't enough tension to be a movie about race and class. I think maybe it was a movie about motherhood, but there wasn't enough of the other kids in the family. I'm just going to have to read Lewis's book. Maybe that will help me understand how Joe Theismann's broken leg fit into the movie's bookends. At the very least, I now have more respect for Sandra Bullock and her somewhat appliance-like face.


Put Me In, Coach!

A friend from Hunter, Andrew, and I quickly found out that we both like sports, more importantly - baseball. This lead to the following exchange at happy hour after we finished our last midterm:

A: Dude, I've been meaning to ask you - would you be interested in coaching a little league* team with me?
J: Absolutely.
A: Sweet!

A few days later I found myself as a coach, at my first youth baseball practice ever. My list of realistic regrets is pretty short, but not playing youth baseball myself, is in the top 3. Never mind the personal history there - I swear I could've been a solid 1st baseman (lefty that I am) - 4 practices and one official game into this season and I must say it's stupendously fun. Saturday, the Prospect Park Baseball Association opened the season with a parade in Park Slope that went down Seventh Ave and up 9th st to the Park, with a local marching band leading the way. The streets were filled with teams, coaches and family. Then later in the day we had our game. I suppose I should report that we did not emerge victors, but isn't the score fun-against-fun when it's 9 - 2? Wait...how does that saying go...I better look it up. Really, I was very proud watching our guys out there stealing bases (yes!), striking out the other team's little dudes (yes!), and even blasting a couple deep shots. We had the bases loaded a few times but couldn't bring 'em home. Luckily, there's a whole season ahead of us to figure that one out. While walking the dogs I'm finding myself thinking of drills to run in practice, and now that we have this game under our belt, I'm thinking of what we did well and what needs work. There were a lot of smiles in the dugout and I think we've got a pretty scrappy Bad-News Bears vibe kicking around, which is good because I'm a big Walter Matthau fan.

*technically, not Little League. It's a local Brooklyn organization.


Julie and Julia

The wife and I just finished dinner* followed by Julie and Julia. It was pretty enjoyable to watch, though I came away with this demanding question: at what point did someone decide they should compromise Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci's screentime for Amy Adams and Noname McGhee? Streep is amazing and hilarious in her subtle play on over the top character — physically: brilliant. If I had been producing this, I would have read the script, said, "Great. Now ditch the present with blogging and the whining and make a biopic about Julia Child". I would say for movies about food, Big Night (a bigger role for Tucci) is still tops. But, we did enjoy spotting my old Park Slope subway stop in one scene, along with a neighborhood bistro that was used a few times. Also, I now have a mind to try making Buerre Blanc, maybe for a special occasion.

*Unintentionally, I stuck with the theme of the movie by trying something myself for the first time in the kitchen tonight. I poached fish in olive oil. Verdict: delicious. Surprisingly not oily, and without the waterlogged consistency that's hard to avoid when poaching in water.


One Month So Far

It's been a good while since I've posted, and I'd like to think it's in part due to the fact that I'm now a full time student. I'm in the accelerated Masters Ed program at Hunter, and with that is a pre-determined roster of classes for each term. Currently I'm taking Childhood Development, Diversity in the Classroom, Developmental Reading and Math Curriculum & Method. The big surprise so far – Math is my favorite of the four. Several reasons. The professor is very sharp, charismatic and confident in his balance of covering both theory and practice in the classroom. Most of all I'm learning elementary math again, but instead of learning it by rote, this professor has me understanding why I'm taking each step in a problem's solution. This is mostly through visual models - pieces or props representing the numbers we're throwing around, and boy do I understand things better that way. Apparently, lots of people do because we're being encouraged to use these methods in our [future]classrooms. Sweet!

Part of the curriculum this first semester is 25 hours of elementary school observation. My first of these was at a private school here in Park Slope, and when I sat down to watch a 4th grade reading discussion, my first thought was, "oh my goodness this is how little fourth graders are?" They were fidgety, spacey, goofy, fairly unselfconscious, and then as they started discussing the book, really bright! And that was really cool: these squirming little kids throwing out incredibly perceptive suggestions on the novel they'd just read. Whew. I was relieved. I tried to remember what I was doing back in fourth grade. I can remember my teacher, my best friend, the girl I had a crush on, the girl my best friend had a crush on, the lousy cello/violin "duet" I attempted in music class with this kid Adam, but for the life of me I can't remember what the hell we learned academically in the fourth grade. And that's where this grad program comes in. I'm actually getting two educations for the price of one - as a teacher and as a 33 year old elementary school student. I'm going to totally nail the state capitals test.


Up the Missouri with my GPS

I finally got myself a smartphone. Its name is HTC Hero and I love it. I'd of course been pining for the iPhone since I was technologically leapfrogged by my own mother getting one some years ago, but I joined my wife's family's plan with Sprint and through a rigorous investigation:

me: does this phone let me do the finger-pinchy thing?
Sprint store guy: yes. And instant NFL updates and game broadcasts.
me: [returning signed-contract and nodding vigorously]

I have the Hero. Honestly, I wouldn't trade it for the iPhone. Why? Google has become the lynchpin of my technologically-assisted organizational structure, ala Aliens' Ripley in the loading dock suit. Yes, yes, hooray for me, but I digress. Shortly before acquiring this new phone, I started reading Undaunted Courage [Steven Ambrose] about Lewis and Clark's expedition to the new American West.
In some ways, the story is undercutting the heroic notions I had about them, but a lot of that is due to the anglo-centric attitude that wasn't really questioned back then. More than that though, I'm even more impressed with my new phone and its Google Sky Map app, which lets me stare at the sky with my GPS-located and gyroscopic phone matching my view in front of me with a corresponding map of the stars, planets and constellations. I'm positive if either Meriwether Lewis or Thomas Jefferson had seen this feature, they would've messed their britches in astonishment. Similarly, it would take some explaining on my part if I showed them how I purchased school textbooks online with the Amazon app, for less than the cost of those right in front of me at the Hunter bookstore. I guess my point is that this level of connectivity is even more stupefying when held up to the image of Lewis taking map measures with his sextant and chronograph. At the same time, the unknowing that his party moved forward with is of a type that we in the information age will never know. Also, the buffalo meat.


Hunter tomorrow!

Tomorrow is my first day of school at Hunter. I'll be entering the Masters program in Childhood Education, and I have to admit I'm a bit edgy about it sitting here at 10:30 pm, not really knowing what is waiting for me in my classes, if I'll jump straight into the material or flail about for a bit, if I'll be the oldest one [and have the best beard], and if at 10-past-9 tomorrow morning, as I walk into class, I'll have remembered to wear pants. What I do know is that I'm thrilled to be entering an academic environment again (for the first time eagerly, since as an 18 year old freshman at UVa I think I was more hey-guys-we're-all-going-to-college-now-I-suppose-I'll-go-too! I won't be heading into the elementary school classroom for at least the first couple of classes, so I don't have to worry about how that will go just yet, but I figure why not get a head start. If I had to one-to-ten score my worry versus excitement though, right now, the night before my first day, I'd say worry is putting up a fight but is being generally outclassed by excitement. 3 - 8. Not too bad, right?


Thank Goodness for Heated Pools

We're heading back to the Northeast today; the return to frigid Boston winter is going to be slightly padded as it's been unusually cold here in Sarasota the last several days. 50 degrees and cloudy didn't stop Becky from swimming in the pool, and from dragging me in with her.I perfected my whale-in-the-water imitation and Phelps dolphin kick, and gave Bec some useful pointers for her freestyle-form. We went to Turtle Beach and collected some cool shells; we went to Lido Beach and sunned ourselves on a couple of the many available loungers out in front of Lido resort. There are a lot of birds to see here: herons, pipers, vultures, hawks, pelicans and terns [below]. There was a trip to Publix that turned dramatic when we watched the store manager restrain a shoplifter until police could arrive. We had some great pizza at Il Panificio (umm...twice, actually). We watched a bunch of DVDs and did movie/chinese for Jewish Christmas. We went on several jogs, one of which I got us hopelessly lost (It was dark! It all looks the same here! I didn't know the road was a loop!). We totally rocked several Times crosswords and took my Great Aunt Irene out for dinner and brunch. Today, we're going to stop by a manatee viewing center on our way up to Tampa.

I can't say it would've been nice had it stayed above 70 during the afternoons here, but we had a good time despite the chill. Now we're pretty thrilled to get back to Summer and Maggie, and take them with us snowshoeing in some Massachusetts woods!