Sunday, July 21, 2013

I Love Summer

For the longest time I was kidding myself when I said my favorite season was Autumn.  I love the fall.  Cool weather, hockey season begins, beautiful scenery, hockey season begins, my birthday, football season begins, and hockey season begins.

But I've decided that, as a teacher, summer trumps all that.  Here's why.  My top 12 reasons, in no particular order.

12. No school.  Duh.  That means no lesson plan writing, no papers to grade, and no stress about new, stupid evaluation practices.

11. Shave today? Nah.  Shave this week?  Maybe.

10. I don't have to worry about packing a lunch or eating those crappy frozen meals.

9. I get to spend much more time with my kids.  Granted, sometimes I want to wring their little necks, but in general I love the time I get to spend with them. Most non-teachers don't get to spend as many waking hours with their children.  I am very thankful for that.

8. I spend a lot less money on gas.  A LOT less.  Since I don't have to commute each day, it is amazing to me how much less I need to fill up my tank.  I am a glorified chauffeur during the summer, carting my kids to and from camps and activities, but those are mostly in town so my tanks last much longer.

7. Those warm summer nights.  I love walking outside in the summer.  It is so peaceful.  I also enjoy the community atmosphere.  There's people sitting outside on restaurant patios, fountains spouting water, and parks busy with people.

6. Staying up late.  I enjoy the time with I have with my family, but I also enjoy "me time."  The only time I really get that is once everyone has gone to bed.  I use that time to surf the Internet or watch movies.  I'm usually up to about 1:30am every night.

5. Sleeping in.  Most summer days, there's no alarm to wake me up.  My kids get up before me and get right to playing.  So they don't even wake me up.   They are pretty self-sufficient when it comes to breakfast too.  So I just stay in bed and rest, even if I'm not actually sleeping.

4. More tennis!  Hockey is my favorite sport, but I love tennis.  Unfortunately, this summer I have not been able to play much because of my elbow injury but I'm hoping to be back in the saddle next summer.

3. I feel more useful.  During the school year, I am either too busy or too tired for home projects.  During the summer, I have time to accomplish things.  That sure keeps my wife happier.  I'm also able to take the kids to appointments that my wife would usually have to take care of during school months.

2. I can cook!  I have trouble finding the motivation to prepare meals during school months.  But during the summer, I have time and energy to do it.  I love to cook!  I even find recipes on the Internet to try.  My favorite way to cook is to grill.  Unlike others in my family (Dad!), I don't enjoy cooking in cold weather.  So summer is my time to cook the way I like best!

1. My house is clean.  I live with a bunch of slobs.  Of our family of five, I am the one most concerned with a clean house.  During the school year, I don't have the time or motivation to keep things as clean as I would like them to be.  But during the summer, I can stay on top of things.  So far this summer I think I have vacuumed more than ever and have even machine-cleaned our carpets.  You probably shouldn't visit us in the winter!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Baldness May Have Saved My Life

Around 2003, I decided to end my battle with a receding hairline and accompanying bald spot and shave my head.  Hence began the last hairstyle I would ever have.  I was going bald.  It was a fact.  And I didn't want to be the type of guy who tried to hide it with tricks like comb-overs and toupees.  I just accepted it and dealt with it by taking it off completely.

Going bald sucks.  It means I'm getting old.  It also means I'm losing my sex appeal (not that I had much to begin with).  Think about it...when you picture a handsome guy, does some bald guy immediately come to mind?  Probably not.  And the ones that shave their heads by choice have huge muscles (I'm talking about  you Vin Diesel).  I don't.  However, going bald also means I don't have to spend money on haircuts, shampoo, or hair gel.  Less time is required to shower too.  So there ARE some good things that go along with it.  Little did I know that about 10 years later, I would discover that going bald may have saved my life.  That's a REALLY good thing.

When I first started shaving my head, I noticed a red splotch right in the back.  Supposedly a birth mark.  But right in the middle of the splotch was a soft, circular bump.  I just assumed it was a normal part of my weird shaped, bumpy, splotchy head.

As the years went on, I kind of thought the bump was getting larger but the only time I ever saw the very back of my head was when I shaved it (and used a hand mirror to see what I was doing back there).  My wife thought so too.  Over several years, I had a total of two physicians and one dermatologist examine the bump.  All three said it was just a benign fatty growth called a lipoma (I'm probably spelling that wrong).  All of them said it was nothing to worry about and I should leave it alone.

But as time went on, the bump got more annoying.  It never hurt, but was uncomfortable when I would lay my head back against my bed's headboard to read or play on my iPod (which I pretty much do every single night).  Plus I admittedly got more and more self-conscious about it.  I love wearing baseball caps, but I would wear them ALL the time because I didn't want people to see the bump.  Keep in mind that this bump was inside a large red splotch.  It stood out.  I'm a teacher and every year at school, where I cannot wear a hat, I would always get asked by students (and sometimes even their parents) about what happened to my head.  Questions ranged from "did someone hit you in the back of the head with a bat?" to simply "what happened to your head? It looks nasty." Stuff like this made me think about it all the time.  I even wondered what the people who sat behind me at church thought when they saw it.

So after years of dealing with the self-consciousness, embarrassment, and discomfort, I decided to seek a plastic surgeon to remove the growth.  His diagnosis was the same as the two previous physicians and dermatologist: a lipoma. He said it would be a simple surgery to remove so we scheduled it.

I had the surgery on May 15th and things did not go exactly as planned.  During the surgery, the doctor discovered that the growth was more fibrous than anticipated.  This meant two things:

1. I bled a lot more than expected, making both the surgery and recovery longer and more difficult than anticipated.  Not a huge deal.  But here's the biggie...

2. What was thought to be a harmless growth could have developed into something much, much worse in time.  To paraphrase the doctor, it was good that I chose to get it removed now before it potentially turned into something bad later on.

The doctor sent a sample of what was removed off to be tested (just to be safe) and sure enough it was benign.  But I can't help but think about what could have happened if I had just left it alone and not opted for the surgery.  I also think about how I probably would never have even noticed the bump had I had a thick, luxurious, covering of hair.  Perhaps I would have noticed it eventually, once it had gotten much, much larger.  And by that time, it could have developed into something very bad.

So if I wasn't balding, I wouldn't be shaving my head.  And if I wasn't shaving my head, I may never have noticed the potentially dangerous growth on my head.  It is July now and my scar is still healing.  Still pain and discomfort.  Because of all the unexpected bleeding, I have had to return to the surgeon three times to have my head drained of fluid.  Obviously things did not go as expected.  But even with the continued discomfort (which I was told will go away within a few months time), I am thankful I had it removed instead of waiting.  And I'm thankful for going bald.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My NHL Logo Rankings

Sportsnet recently published a list, ranking all 30 NHL logos.  I found it to be a complete joke at first.  Then, after much reflection, I realized that ranking logos is stupid.  It's all a matter of opinion.  People are biased because of loyalties to teams and hatred towards other teams.  Plus we are simply human.  We have different tastes in food, clothing, color preferences, recreational activities, etc.  So of course we are going to have different tastes in logos.

So now it's my turn to make a stupid rankings list.  IN MY OPINION, here is how the ranking of NHL logos should go.  And sorry, I'm not cool enough to put little pictures of the logos next to each one.  Actually, I'm probably cool enough.  I'm just too lazy.

...and I will try my best to not let my hatred for certain teams (I'm looking at you, Red Wings) affect my opinions about their logo.

30. Anaheim Ducks.  I don't mind the "D" logo.  But their official main logo is the one that actually says the word "ducks."  Dumb.  Put the "D" as the main crest for all the jerseys, not just the alternate and the ranking improves dramatically.

29. Carolina Hurricanes.  Perhaps I'm bitter because my beloved Whalers became the Hurricanes, but I can't help but be reminded of a flushing toilet when I see this logo.  Terrible.

28. Washington Capitals. I'm not a fan of wordmark logos I guess.  I really liked their eagle logo when they had it.

27. Ottawa Senators.  I just don't like that guy looking at me.

26. Buffalo Sabres.  Who thought of this?  Hey, we're the Sabres and we're from a city called Buffalo.  So let's put some sabres and a buffalo inside a circle.  Brilliant!  Better than the Buffaslug though.

25. Edmonton Oilers.  Not a big fan of circle logos, but the Oilers is okay, I guess.  I liked their modernized alternate from a few years back.

24. Toronto Maple Leafs.  I like the simplicity, but there's something about it that I just don't love.  It's a one-color Maple Leaf.  And it says, in boring letters, "Toronto Maple Leafs."  Don't give me that crap about the Original Six and traditions.  It's boring and you know it.  I like their old-school alternate better.

23. New York Islanders.  Lots of tradition behind this logo but I've never been a huge fan.  Looks better when viewed with the jersey.

22. New York Rangers.  I feel like I'm letting my family down ranking it so low, but I'm glad this logo is not used as the main jersey crest.

21. Pittsburgh Penguins. Prefer the majestic penguin on the 1990's logo to the dorky one.

20. Los Angeles Kings.  Not a bad logo, I just hate the "LA" part.  When I see that, I don't think Los Angeles.  I think "La" as in the musical note.

19. Tampa Bay Lightning.  Throw some black and/or silver in there and the ranking for this logo shoots right up.  I'm glad they got rid of the words used in the original logo, but they made it TOO simple.

18. Boston Bruins.  Believe it or not, this is actually much higher than it would have been several years ago.  As a Whalers fan, I learned to hate all things Bruins.  But now, my kids' youth hockey team is called the Bruins (plus the Whalers don't exist anymore) so I have warmed up a bit.

17. St. Louis Blues.  Similar to what I will write about the Coyotes below, when used in combination with the entire jersey, the Blues have one of my favorite looks.  But as a stand-alone logo, it's middle-of-the-pack.

16. Montreal Canadiens.  Completely ignoring the historical aspect here.  As a hockey logo, it is simple and the colors are good.

15. Philadelphia Flyers.  I hate the Flyers and I'm not a big fan of orange.  But I like the "P" with wings design.

14. Winnipeg Jets.  Still think they could have come up with something better, but this one is okay.

13. Nashville Predators.  I was going to rank them a bit lower, but I'll be nice to my brother.

12. Vancouver Canucks. Better than the skate, V, or hockey stick logos.

11. Phoenix Coyotes.  Overall, I think the Coyotes' uniforms are among the top 5 best in the league.  But since I'm just ranking logos, I'll put it here.  Good, but not great.

10. Florida Panthers.  Very complex logo, which normally I don't like.  But it works for the Panthers.

9. Dallas Stars.  Still too new to appropriately rank.  But I'll give them a top 10 rank simply because they use green (which only appears in a few logos).

8. Detroit Red Wings.  It kills me to rank this so high but I was trying to be honest an objective.  I just hate those guys with every tired muscle in my Italian body.  I like the wheel as the symbolic representation of the Motor City.

7. New Jersey Devils.  Love that they have never had any other logo (just a change from green to black).  No need to change such a cool thing.

6. Calgary Flames.  Simple yet cool.  Just looks like it belongs on the front of a hockey jersey.

5. Colorado Avalanche.  I hate the Avalanche.  And I think the Avalanche is a stupid name for a hockey team.  But as far as avalanche logos go, this is cool.

4. San Jose Sharks.  I don't have any data to back this up, but I'm confident it would be harder to find someone who didn't like the Sharks logo compared to finding someone who did.

3. Columbus Blue Jackets.  Yes, I'm biased.  Deal with it.

2. Chicago Blackhawks.  Maybe it's because I had the same logo on my jersey when I played youth hockey.  Whatever it is, it's just plain cool.  Thinking about it now and perhaps it should be #1 instead of the Wild.

1. Minnesota Wild.  Love this logo.  Whoever came up with it is a genius.  The animal is sweet but the fact that it is formed using symbols from the wilderness is just so cool.  Too bad Wild is a stupid name for a hockey team.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Where is OUR Tarasenko?

For those of you who have never read my blog posts before (and let's face it, not many people have...I don't write them very often and I certainly don't promote them), let me start with a brief background.  I am a long suffering hockey fan.  I became a Hartford Whalers fan in the mid 80's while growing up in Connecticut.  While attending college in Ohio, the Whalers became the Hurricanes.  Soon after establishing my permanent residence in Ohio, I shifted my allegiance to the hometown Blue Jackets.  One could say that my favorite NHL team has sucked for 25 years.

So whenever I decide to write, readers have to understand that I have a chip on my shoulder.  Blue Jackets fans complain about suffering for 12 years.  I've been suffering a lot longer than that.  It's astonishing really.  Disregarding a few blips on the good team radar (like the one year the Jackets made the playoffs), I am 36 years old and have never been able to proudly call my favorite NHL team a winner.

Which brings me to the Blue Jackets.

I complain a lot about them.  My wife puts up with a lot of it.  Sure, it's just a game.  But it's a game I love and one for which I have been desperate for a winner to root for.  Not only does the losing bother me, but the stupid comments from other fans around the league like this one from Twitter:

"How many Blue Jackets fans does it take to change a light bulb?  Both of them."

Attack the team, fine.  They deserve it.  But I hate reading jokes and comments like that directed towards the fans.  What they don't seem to understand is that there are PLENTY of die-hard, hard-core, heart and soul Blue Jackets fans out there.  And there will be PLENTY more once the team starts winning games.

But why can't they win consistently?  Well, that's been addressed so many times in so many articles and so many blogs.  I don't want to delve into it here.  What I want to mention is what seems to be the bad luck cloud that seems to hang over the Jackets.  They can't seem to catch a break when it comes to stand-out talent.  This point struck a chord with me as I watched and read about a few players this year.

Tarasenko for St. Louis.  Where the heck did he come from?  It's players like this who seem to come out of nowhere for other teams, but not for us.  Tarasenko is tearing it up for the Blues this year.  Why couldn't Johansen step in for the Jackets and tear it up last year?

Brunner for Detroit.  While he is not exactly "tearing it up," so to speak, the one time I saw him play he seemed to have that intangible, unexplainable "it" thing.

What about Landeskog for Colorado?  He's already a captain and has been putting up good numbers.  There are many, many others but I think my point has been made so I'll stop there.

With the Jackets, no player since Nash has really seemed to come on board and immediately made an impact offensively.  One could argue Zherdev, but he's gone now and for all intents and purposes I would call him a bust.  Brule was supposed to step in and tear it up.  He didn't.  Voracek was supposed to step in and tear it up.  He didn't.  Brassard was once touted as one of our next big superstars.  Doesn't seem like that is going to happen.

This year, with Nash gone, the Jackets no longer have their star offensive performer.  So who is going to step up and become that guy in the next few years?  Atkinson?  JAM?  Johansen?  I don't have the answer.  But I do know that it is so frustrating seeing other teams hit home runs with their players and the Jackets keep striking out.  You can blame our drafts if you want, but it seems like at some point the law of averages says SOMETHING has to work out, regardless of who we take.

It just seems like the Jackets are long, long overdue for someone to step up, surprise us, and be a new offensive threat on the team.