Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jef says: Keeping abreast of politics

“All politics is local.”

You know the quote. Do you know who said it? It was Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill. He was a U.S. Congressman from Massachusetts from 1952 to 1987, the last 20 years of which he was Speaker of the House. Everybody everywhere remembers that quote, even if they’re not from Massachusetts and even though he said it after the first time he ran for political office.

Proving that politics isn’t necessarily local or even current.

Is that bad? Of course it is! ALL politics is bad! Which isn’t any more true than all politics being local.

Whether politics is good or bad, it sure doesn’t seem too local anymore. Blame it on a 24-hour news hole to fill among 30 gazillion cable TV and talk-radio stations, blame it on big anonymous corporate money, blame it on party politics trumping the individual, or blame it on the lazy voter, but I’d say it’s a safe bet that more people know about races from Delaware to California than know who their own Congressman is, let alone state rep.

Me, I blame it on laziness. (I blame a lot on laziness. It’s easy to do so, which makes me strangely uncomfortable.) The candidates and their backers and handlers invite us to be, assume us to be, the democratic equivalent of a three-toed sloth on a tryptophan bender. Issues are painted as black or white. Candidates are painted as purely good or purely bad. One guy, party or issue is the cause of all the trouble and one guy, party or referendum can solve it.

Come on. The world isn’t that simple, and we know it. Anyone who tells you it is can’t be trusted as a reliable source of information. Or, frankly, as anybody I care to listen to. Back when I was in school or had a real job, I had enough of acknowledging people who thought I was an indolent moron. I don’t want to hear it now.

So please, do what I’m doing. There’s still time: Find a paper, station or other source of information that tries to tell you as much as possible about all of the issues and candidates and actually bothers to acknowledge that it’s a tough choice. Then, however enlightened you are, go vote. Even if you don’t feel like you’ve got a complete grasp of it all, vote anyway. Your incomplete grasp will mix with everyone else’s incomplete grasp and it will all shake out into something useful. But if you don’t vote, you add ignorance to ignorance and get what you deserve.

With all due respect to Tip O’Neill, the best political advice I ever heard came from a guy who tended bar at a strip club, and he wasn’t even talking about politics. He said, “They do their best to get you worked up, but after a while all the boobs look pretty much the same.

“All you gotta know is the easy ones are the ones you end up paying the most for.”

Friday, October 29, 2010

Patty says: Poetry in motion is overrated

It likely will never be determined whether I am, in fact, the inevitable evolutionary result of a long line of uncoordinated beings who still managed somehow to breed. I am at the very least the product of a short line of klutzes headed by my mom, who hasmore than onceentered a party by falling down a flight of stairs into it.

In other words, I come by my klutziness honestly.

As I write this, I'm nursing a sore shoulder from an unfortunate incident that took place this morning, when I fell out of our back door and into our driveway as I was leaving for work.

I don't know what happened. (I hardly ever know what happened.) I do know that Jef, who witnessed my display of gracelessness (as he often doesperhaps he really does sweep me off my feet) asked me if I was OK before he started giggling.

This is noteworthy.

When Jef and I had been dating for maybe six months, I slipped on a patch of ice at the top of the stairs as I was leaving his second-story apartment and bounced emphatically down to the driveway. While I have no doubt the sight was an entertaining onepratfalls are a comedy staple for good reasonI was highly unamused that my boyfriend was giggling as he extended his hand to help me up.

After words were exchanged, Jef and I agreed on a rule: Giggling's OK, but only after you're sure no one's hurt.

We've been together almost 25 years now, and Jef has witnessed countless incidents of spousal gracelessness. And since that night 24 years ago, he's lived up to our agreement: He asks first. Then he giggles. (I can recall a single exception: The Sunday afternoon four years ago when I lost my balance going down concrete steps in my parents' backyard and landed face-first on their deck, breaking off one of my front teeth. There were no giggles—at least not until I got my first look at my damaged smile in a mirror and started cracking redneck jokes. Jef spent 3+ hours with me at my dentist's office that afternoon, and later gave that dentist [Michael S. Palaszek, D.D.S., of Lake Michigan Dental in Grand Rapids, a true gentleman and highly skilled clinician] a Frazz original as a thank-you for giving up a substantial portion of his weekend to put my mouth back together.)

I'm looking forward to many more years of Jef sweeping me off my feetand giggling when I fall. I just hope I never break a hip.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jef's a little bummed, but Nevermind

My sport is disappointing me. The triathlon-promotion organization that owns the Ironman trademark is behaving badly. To their credit, they run a very smooth, if businesslike, race -- I've certainly enjoyed the ones I've raced in -- and made no bones about their businesslike motives. Many of their races are notoriously hard to get into. Now they're addressing the issue, not by necessarily making it easy to get into those races, but by making it easier for people who give them a lot more money to get into those races. Which is their right, but they may have jumped the shark on this one. That's disappointment No. 2.

It's nice that the sport is getting popular enough to have problems like this. Or is it? I wrote a column on just that question for Triathlete Magazine, which turns out to be disappointment No. 1. Triathlete's editors redesigned the magazine and redesigned my column right out of it (hey, it happens). That column was lined up and ready to go into the current issue, but instead won the distinction of being the first casualty. So it's all yours, my friends. Enjoy. It would be a shame to waste it.

Smells like tri spirit

Catching the scary scent of success

I was Grunge before Grunge was cool.

Actually, I was just a slob before Seattle musicians and record companies gave it another name. I wasn’t nihilistic, seething with rage or even in possession of more than the normal recommended adolescent allowance of Vitamin Angst. And I genuinely (as opposed to deliberately) couldn’t play the guitar or bass or drums.

I bought all my clothing at thrift stores because I couldn’t afford the red-tag Levi’s 501 jeans that all my cool high-school classmates seemed to have, and I was having none of the theory that Lees, or Wranglers, or, God forbid, JCPenneys or Sears were just as good. I grew my hair long and freaky because a humiliating experience with a perm (it was the 1970s, all right?) and a long list of better things to do convinced me that the longer I could stay away from the barbers and stylists, the better.

However circumstantial the genesis, the style sense was a 100 percent conscious decision: If a thing is in no danger of being in style, then it’s in no danger of going out of style.

It was a pretty advanced theory for a teen-aged nerd, if I may say so. But I won’t say so, because within 10 years Soundgarden released “Ultramega OK.” Four years after that, Nirvana gave the world “Nevermind” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and everybody was walking around in the same flannel shirts and unidentifiably filthy jeans and embarrassing haircuts I pioneered in a small town 2,000 miles away. Within five years, the box sets were coming out, musicians were dropping like dehydrated marathoners and bands were breaking up left and right. The music was better than ever, but Grunge was over, out of style, and in the cruelest of ironies, I had to keep my hair trimmed so people would know I was a slob and not a post-dated fashion victim trying to hang on to my youth.

In fact, I was distancing myself from my youth and its clothing budget. I was growing up and making a little more money and could finally afford a pair or two of those Levis, but I had picked up on this new sport called triathlon and a very old one called bicycle racing, and 501s aren’t at all tailored for thighs like that.

But I didn’t mind, because I was deep into another counterculture. It took me the better part of 20 years to make up my mind between triathlon and bike racing, but both suited me well. I could manage long streaks of competence with, by God, the occasional burst of goodness. Good streak or not, I loved the speed, the fitness, the guts and the gear. And I won’t lie: I loved that neither one was in fashion.

Competing in a sport on the fringes, I could convince myself I was a little bit special. When my good days brought me a spot on the age-group podium or a local time-trial course record, I knew in my heart that I wasn’t Andy Hampsten any more than the local beer-league softball home-run king was Ken Griffey, Jr., but if I didn’t want to admit it, no one was going to force me to. There was less evidence available, and even fewer people who understood or cared about the sports enough to call me on my delusions.

But look around now. Cycling and triathlon are huge and getting huger, and I’ve got mixed feelings. Lance Armstrong’s seven Tour de France championships and subsequent exposure showed America that cycling could be legitimate. A bicycle wasn’t a child’s toy after all; it was a genuine, serious, manly tool, like a hockey stick. Triathlon seems to be on the verge of an explosion, too, and it’s not Lance Armstrong or any other pro driving it there. It’s your neighbor, your co-worker. Your wife. My mother.

The upside is undeniable. When Armstrong was knocking down Tour victories, I swear drivers were willing to give the rest of us a few inches more road. To ride a bicycle any speed at all, dressed in real cycling clothing, was to hear kids yell, “Hey! Are you Lance Armstrong?”

Every new triathlete stands to be the first triathlete somebody knows, and that’s another ally. The SUV driver who brushed you onto the shoulder last year because you were one of those freaks gives you a little more room this year because you might be somebody like his sister. More triathletes means more races. More stores that carry triathlon gear with staff who know something about it. More triathletes means …

Well, more triathletes means more races, but it’s near-impossible to get into some of them. It means a greater chance that Elwood in accounting will be legitimately impressed by what you accomplished in that race Sunday, but it means a greater chance that he accomplished it, too. It means that when you place in the top 10 in your division, you beat twice as many people as you did two years ago … when you placed in the top 5.

When I finally give it more thought and less worry, I see more opportunities but less convenience; more respect but less vanity. And if that leaves me with fewer reasons to love my sport, they’re the reasons I love it most anyway.

I started wearing baggy jeans and flannel shirts to soothe my ego, but the ensemble was too comfortable to ditch when it became Grunge and it was still that comfortable when it became old. I started racing because I loved it, and it went on to stroke my ego. If triathlon becomes commonplace – or, dare I say it, passé – I doubt I’ll miss my ego much while I get reacquainted with the fitness, guts and speed that were there all along.

Soundgarden has come and gone and returned, but L.L. Bean never left us.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Jef says: How Fast Does That Old Pony Run

I was going to be smart about training for the Boston Marathon and hit it hard when it’s time to, but not a day sooner than it’s time to. Now through about Thanksgiving is the off-season, and the plan was to relax and train by feel and by fun and put no pressure on myself until 16 or 20 weeks out and then start fresh.

Curse that National Public Radio.

Weekend Edition just interviewed Ben Rapoport, who, it has to be said, is a little too impressive for the rest of us anyway. He’s a sub-3:00 marathoner who’s simultaneously working on a Ph.D in electrical engineering at M.I.T. and attending Harvard Medical School. And he’s worked up a calculator to assess, essentially, the scope of any given runner’s fuel needs, and thus the amount of glycogen that runner needs to make it through that marathon without hitting the proverbial wall.

NPR posted that calculator online, and according to the data I plugged in about myself, I coasted through Detroit last weekend about an hour slower than I was capable of finishing. What a slacker!

The data: I weigh 145 pounds (conservatively), and my resting pulse is 48 (again, that’s a conservative figure) and I’m 48 years old (that one is, alas, accurate). The conclusion: My “conservative best marathon,” with normal glycogen loading, should be about 3:29. That seems fine. My “aggressive best marathon,” with optimum glycogen loading, is 2:23. Two Twenty-three! We’ll note that 2:23 was good for 30th overall in the 2010 Boston Marathon, and I’m guessing it probably wasn’t that guy’s fourth marathon.

Obviously the calculator is simplified a little bit for the NPR listeners Web site (imagine what the version posted on the All Iron Butterfly All The Time station’s Web site must look like); there's no place to plug in the runner's VO max, even though it was mentioned prominently in the story and is crucial to performance prediction in the sense that, say, wheels are crucial to bicycle riding. And neither the calculator nor the story mentioned anything about lactate threshold (another key indicator that you can actually do something about), let alone whether a person has anything to do with their life besides train, eat and sleep. And, I guess, go to med school while getting one of the toughest Ph.Ds in existence.

But I don't care. If it says I can run a marathon at a 5:28/mile pace, why, I'll set up my training program with that in mind. First step: Work my way up to being able to run 400 meters at a 5:28/mile pace. It should all come together from there. And then I will positively blitz Boston, provided I don’t have a horrible collision with Lyle Lovett or Todd Snider while they team up to serenade the racers as the race course weaves its way through the Lingerie Model District. Which shouldn’t be a problem. How many wild-ass fantasies can one race accommodate?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jef says: Bundundu Tower, we have a problem

I don’t know which was weirder: The headline, “Crocodile blamed for Congo air crash,”

Or: The fact that the story was listed under “local news.”

Reading the details didn’t make anything any less strange. Apparently, yeah, that’s exactly what happened. A regional airliner crashed in the middle of Africa, and it was a crocodile’s fault. More or less. One of the passengers had zipped the animal into a duffel bag, apparently to smuggle it into the destination city and sell it.

I imagine things a lot – it’s not only my nature but my job description – but I have to confess to conducting through my entire life until today without ever imagining myself smuggling crocodiles inside carry-on luggage. But I also have to confess that once I did imagine such a thing, one of the earlier thoughts on the agenda had something to do with a duffel bag not being my first choice of container. It’s possible the smuggler came around to a similar conclusion after it was too late to do much about it. The story didn't say.

Here’s another thing I have to confess, though: The luggage-selection issue wasn’t the very first thing I imagined myself doing differently. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been a smuggler of prehistoric reptiles while I have been a journalist (speaking of prehistoric), but the very first thing I thought of doing differently was to not bother with the phrase, “pandemonium ensued.”

When an airliner is on its final approach and a crocodile chews its way out of somebody’s carry-on and follows the passengers and the flight crew into the cockpit, it’s really only news if pandemonium doesn’t ensue.

But that’s fine. I really try not to make it my business to second-guess. I’d rather try and take what lessons I can from every experience, be it my experience, your experience or a passenger on the rare flight that was even worse than flying Northwest Airlines during the 1990s. So here goes:
  1. It’s tough to feel like you’ve got it rough when you read that 20 other people not only had a day in which a crocodile crashed their plane, but it was their very last day. But any writer of any kind of fiction can be excused for feeling a little sorry for himself when he reads a line like “The crocodile reportedly survived the crash but was killed by a blow from a machete” and grasps just how daunting it is to compete with reality.
  2. While I don’t spend a lot of time concerning myself with whether there’s an afterlife, I find myself certain that if there is one, there needs to be beer and they need to charge for it. Because if any of those 20 victims is any kind of storyteller at all, how is every other angel going to buy him a beer if it’s free? 
  3. In the future, I will either get more worked up or less worked up over other people’s ridiculous carry-on luggage, but never again the same amount. 
  4. Same with bad days in general. 
I hope that helps.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Patty says: Not tonight, dear.

After riding the giddy high of watching Jef qualify for the Boston Marathon Sunday, I crashed with a huge honkin' headache that started Monday and continues as I write.

I'm not generally a hypochondriacI typically can find many things other than my health to obsess over. (Like this: I haven't been able to get Boston's "Don't Look Back" out of my head since shortly after Jef crossed the finish line Sunday. It's not a bad song, but it's not one of my favorites, either. Is it going to stay stuck in my skull until next April? Maybe that's what's giving me a headache.)

I found myself telling Jef last night that I was sure I had some sort of exotic, fast-growing brain tumor that would eventually make the top of my head pop open like some sort of really sick jack-in-the-box and get me featured in both Neurology® and News of the Weird.

Today, though, my headache, while still painfully present, has eased up a bit. Confidence is high that I'll live long enough to see Jef compete in Boston.

This is, I suppose, a really roundabout way to get to my two main points:

1) Jef's in. Online registration for the Boston Marathon filled in a record eight hours, but Jef was one of the 20,000 people who succeeded in registering. (Props to the Boston Athletic Association's IT guys for handling that volume of Web traffic, although I suppose I might feel a bit differently about those IT guys if Jef hadn't been able to register.)

2) I'm keeping it short tonight. I have a headache.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Jef says: Meet the old blog, same as the new blog


I'm back on the job, but Patty did so well in my absenceand if you were surprised by that, you didn't know Pattythat we're going to try sharing the thing. This not only will give you Patty's writing and viewpoints and (I'm speculating here, though in the sense that Jacques Cousteau speculates that it might be a little wet beneath the boat) the occasional generous sharing of whatever song is stuck in her head; it should also give you one more entry a week (we'll split the work two-by-two) while allowing me to keep up the blog without getting so far behind on other things.

It should also give you shorter sentences.

It will be something of a work in progress, but frankly, it's been that since I started it last year. So, yeah. Much the same stuff, but more of it and more of a variety.

I'm back. Meet the old blog. Same as the new blog.

I took the scenic route back, a 26.2-mile tour through Detroit and Windsor. As Patty mentioned, I raced the Free Press Marathon Sunday. It was my A-priority race for the year, which is pretty unusual since it didn't involve a bicycle in any way. But it seemed to be the way to go, given the busy, stressful summer with the late start.

I had one goal for the race: Meet the qualifying time for the Boston Marathon. In my case, since I'll be between 45 and 49 for the 2011 edition (I guess 49 is "between," if you look at it broadly enough), that means 3 hours and 30 minutes. But I set up my training as if to aim for a 3:20. Given that my previous best marathon was a 3:43, that was beyond optimistic and well into hubris. But I managed the training without much trouble, and by race day was confident enough to carry a pace guide with mile-by-mile splits for both finishing times. Eight minutes per mile minimum, 7:38 per mile max.

I would spend the first few miles letting the other runners control my paceno looking at the watch, no passing people. This would put me behind my 3:30 schedule, a far better thing than going out too fast. The plan was to catch back up gradually, and I followed it pretty well. By the Windsor Tunnel at 7 miles, I'd reeled in the 3:30 pace. By the half-marathon point, I was between the two paces and feeling good. By mile 16, I was right on the 3:20 pace and still feeling good. Maintain this pace, I figured, assess the situation at mile 22 and see about kicking it up a notch and taking it home.

Right. Everybody knows marathons get mean at about 20 miles. At mile 22, I still felt good but noticed my pace had slowed by a few seconds. Okay. Maintain another mile and reassess. Three miles to go, another decision to maintain. If I could, I'd have my 3:20.

It happened quickly. Big races provide pace groups these days. For any given pace, they'll have a runner holding that pace, and also holding a sign denoting that pace. I had been just ahead of the group following the leader for the 7:38-per-mile, 3:20:00 finish pace. With maybe 2.5 miles to go, they caught me. By 2 miles to go, they were gone. Which wasn't the worst thing in the world. Barring a major meltdown (which, to be sure, 2 miles is plenty long enough to accommodate), I'd get the Boston qualifier I came for.

No kick was to be had, but no meltdown, either. I rolled in with a 3:23:49, a qualifier with plenty of cushion and a personal best by exactly 19 minutes and 1 second. And pretty much nothing left. Perfect.

I hoped to be able to go to Boston if I qualified, but after this summer, I wasn't about to do it if Patty wasn't on board. She'd put up with enough of my (let's face it) self-centered traveling. But her first words, or at least the essence of them through my fuzzy senses, were "Let's go to Boston, baby!"

And so we will.

You'll hear about it from two perspectives now. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

He did it!

We at Blog Central bring you this special Sunday edition to brag that Jef did, indeed, qualify for the Boston Marathon during today's Detroit Free Press Marathon with a 3:23:49 finish—well under the required 3:30. (Our apologies, by the way, to those of you who tried to track Jef during the race. There was a glitch—not ours!—that  kept race tracking from working until at least four hours after the race started. Oops.)

To forestall the inevitable (and understandable) questions from those of you who haven't watched or competed in a large marathon: Clock time (Jef's was 3:26:14) starts when the first runners cross the starting line and ends when an individual runner crosses the finish line. Chip time (Jef's was 3:23:49) starts when an individual runner crosses a mat at the starting line that takes note of the little electronic tracking device that runner is wearing on his or her shoe and ends when the runner crosses the mat again at the finish line.

Note the two-and-a-half minute difference between Jef's two times.

The Freep Marathon is a HUGE race—I'm not sure how many people started it, but more than 12,000 people competing in the full marathon, the half marathon and the five-person marathon relay finished it. To manage this crowd, race organizers assign the runners to waves based on their estimated per-mile pace, and each wave starts two minutes after the previous one. There were a total of 13 waves, and Jef was in the second one.

Anyway. It was a beautiful day in Detroit. I managed to haul my butt out of bed this morning to accompany Jef downtown, and I spent a decent portion of the race riding Detroit’s much-maligned People Mover (but it's really kinda cool—there are gorgeous tile mosaics in a bunch of the stations [my favorite was the Cadillac Center station])  so I could cheer Jef on at Mile 9 and Mile 13.

Once Jef finished the race, we walked to Detroit's Famous/Legendary (they don't seem to be able to decide which) Anchor Bar with two friends (one of whom had placed first in her age group in the half marathon a couple of hours earlier) so Jef could tip a celebratory Guinness and eat a celebratory cheeseburger.

Now it’s a little after 8, and we’re both ready for bed.

Jef’s especially motivated to get enough sleep tonight: Online registration for Boston starts at 9 tomorrow morning...

Friday, October 15, 2010


The long-awaited Detroit Free Press Marathon is Sunday, which means we'll finally have the answer to several very important questions:

... Will Jef qualify for the Boston Marathon? (He needs to run a 3:30 marathon to do so. If you're so inclined, you can find out as we do by tracking him online on race day via's website by plugging in his bib number: 241.)

... Will the race photographer manage to get a decent photo of Jef? (Jef's ability to look—well, pained is really the most charitable word for it—in running photos is a seemingly endless source of amusement for his running buddies and something of a mystery to me. Any time I see him running, he looks happy. I can recognize him at a distance by his gait, which always looks relaxed and comfortable to me. But check out the photos from last year's Grand Rapids Marathon. See especially 57478-1495-023 and, toward the bottom of the page, 57478-177-031. Regarding the latter, in an e-mail to some of the aforementioned running buddies, Jef noted, "That's maybe 2-3 miles into the race. I'm loafing along at probably 8:30/mile. And I look like death.")

... Can I roll out of bed at 4 a.m. (!) on race day to accompany Jef downtown so we can be parked no later than 5:30 a.m. for the 7 a.m. start and be even marginally functional post-race?

Jef has extra inspiration to help keep him going during this year's race: He's tasked himself with running on behalf of a friend who recently suffered his second big whomping brain bleed in three years.

The first would likely have killed Al had he not had the fortune to a) recognize that something was seriously wrong and b) be working directly across the street from University of Michigan Hospital and its world-class neurologists in Ann Arbor. (Please note that it pains this Spartan to give props to the folks in Ann Arbor, but, in this case, they truly deserve them.) The second bleed has taken Al off his beloved bicycle and put him into therapy to recover cognitive abilities he's misplaced.

Just after we visited Al for the first time post-bleed, Jef went through the toughest week of his marathon training. The hardest day had him running half-miles at a very fast pace—17 times. It hurt. To keep himself going, Jef kept reminding himself that it was nothing compared to what Al was doing to heal himself.

Maybe Al can be with me in spirit as I get out of bed at 4 a.m. on Sunday...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Searching for a fountain of youth

One of the advantages of being childless is that you can, to perhaps a greater extent than your fruitful friends, deny the aging process. There are no pesky offspring around, zooming from kindergarten to college practically overnight, to remind you that you’re not as young as you used to be.
Instead, we the childless are forced to rely on external cues to remind us that we’re getting old.

Some of these external cues are our own parents, and the parents of our friends, who suddenly are showing unmistakable signs of aging by celebrating 80th birthdays, buying Buicks and having cataracts removed. Some of these cues are the children of our fruitful friends, particularly those children for whom we bought baby gifts just a year or so ago who are now visiting colleges (!) to decide which they want to attend. Some of these cues are the children of strangers, who are now our own impossibly young doctors, lawyers and police officers.

And some of these cues are provided by our own bodies, which have begun to betray us with slowing reflexes, mysterious aches, gray hairs, wrinkles and injuries that are far slower to heal than the injuries of our youth.

My first major external cue was graduate school and a class taught by Perry Parks, who not only was younger than I was (the only time in my academic career that happened to me) but had an unfortunate tendency to ask the class questions like, “How many of you remember Watergate?” that only he and I could respond to in the affirmative.

I’ve acknowledged other cues since then—brown hairs still outnumber gray, but the gray’s there, and there are a couple of age spots on the top of my right hand that annoy the hell out of me—but I’ve taken them all in stride.

Until today.

When I ordered my first pair of bifocals.

It’s all downhill from here, right?

And another thing!

The people have spoken (or written), and it shall be so: Jef and I will share the blog, two days each, starting next week.

Stay tuned…

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Two for one?

Over dinner tonight, Jef and I were talking about his hopes for next week's Detroit Free Press Marathon and whether or not he'll qualify for the Boston Marathon. (Just between us? I think he will.)

But we were also talking about you, faithful blog readers, and when Jef thinks he might be able to get back to writing his own blog. That's when he threw out a possibility: What if, once he's back in the saddle again(Aerosmith earworm alert!), he drops from blogging three days a week to twoand I continue to provide you with my two cents' worth another two days a week?

So. What if?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Still Patty and not Jef—the Detroit Marathon is a week from Sunday, so someone in this household is still highly focused on whether or not he might be able to qualify for the Boston Marathon there, still trying to get on top of his workload and still willing to turn his blog over to an amateur. Silly man.

It was a busy, busy work day, so I won’t write much tonight. I just finished lettering a Frazz strip for Sunday, December 5, though, which reminded me of a vaguely interesting story about how comic-strip deadlines can mess with one’s internal calendar: When Jef first started drawing Frazz, he got a phone call one day from his older sister in Florida. Martha was at the mall with two of her kids.

“Oh,” Jef said. “Back-to-school shopping?”

There was a long pause.

“Jef,” Martha responded. “It’s June.”

Ah, yes. The hazards of working ahead.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Blog casserole: A little bit of everything

More Frazz lettering to do tonight, so I’ll try keep it short, but I do have a bit of housekeeping here on the blog.

First, the standard disclaimer: I’m not Jef, I’m Patty, his wife, filling in for him while he gets caught up on stuff. If you want words of wisdom from Jef, you can get them in myriad other locations—but not here, not now.

Now, the housekeeping.

Tim R. hinted that I might consider dishing some Jef dirt while I’m filling in for him. Jef’s not a particularly grubby guy, but there’s always dirt. You’ll just have to catch me in the right mood to dish it.

Liz said hello (Hi, Liz!) and wondered if Jef and I were still doing “that tandem biking thing.” Not as often as I’d like, I’m afraid. We’ve gotten a couple of rides in this summer, but they really haven’t felt very good to me. I don’t know if this tandem (a very nice Burley Rivazza) doesn’t fit me well or if I’ve just failed to build up the necessary butt calluses the past couple of seasons, but I haven’t been up for very much riding. We’ll keep trying, though.

Derek wondered after the October 1 Frazz appeared whether he (Derek, not Frazz) was “suffering from a regional problem.” It seems Caulfield commented in that day’s strip that, "You can plant as many pine nuts as you want, and you won't grow a pine tree." Derek notes that in New Mexico, they harvest pine nuts around this time each year by shaking them out of the pine trees in which they grow.

Sorry, Derek. That was a mistake, arrived at through a combination of Jef (Attention Tim R.! Very minor dirt alert!) thinking that pine nuts “weren’t really from pine trees—I thought they just called them that” and me not feeling like debating the issue when I did the lettering. (In retrospect, I should have suggested that he switch the reference to Corn Nuts, the stinky snack made by Kraft Foods out of corn and—not chemicals!—partially hydrogenated soybean and/or canola oil and salt.)

A number of people have noted on Facebook that they wanted to comment (especially after Saturday’s Happy to be stuck with me earworms post) but couldn’t see the word verification information required to do so. We at Blog Central have no idea why this happens, as we have no idea how to create captchas or fix broken ones, but we encourage you to keep trying, as the same thing happened to us when we first tried to comment on Jef’s blog (before we started writing Jef’s blog) but eventually stopped happening and let us comment.

Others have sent friendly greetings and words of encouragement, and I thank you for all of them.

It’s getting late—I better get some lettering done!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Happy to be stuck with me

So one of the many ways in which Jef is the most tolerant spouse on the planet is that he puts up with my singing.

It’s not so much that my singing itself is objectionable—I have a reasonably pleasant, if entirely average, singing voice and I manage to stay on key most of the time—it’s WHAT I sing. Which is a little bit of everything.

It seems I’m utterly infested with earworms. I have this tendency to have just about anything I see, hear or do remind me of one song or another, which puts the song in my head, where it gets stuck. And when songs gets stuck, I have to sing them.

Certain activities seem particularly prone to shake songs loose from the darker recesses of my brain. Like driving. Going past the Beck Road exit on I-696? “Soy un perdido, I’m a loser, baby, so why don’t you kill me…”

Showering. One recent morning, Jef was treated to a medley of tunes while I showered: “Better than a Dream” from the musical Bells Are Ringing, a little bit of Van Halen, a little bit of Cake, “Chinese Takeaway” by The Adicts ("Woo! woo! woo!") and, inexplicably, the Dreidel Song. (It’s not Hanukkah and I’m not Jewish.)

Drying my hair. I just finished drying my hair. While doing so, I sang the old “Enjoli” perfume jingle (“I can bring home the bacon! Fry it up in a pan! And never, never let you forget you’re a man…”), the Fountains of Wayne cover of Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time” (I don’t believe I’ve ever heard Britney’s version, so I must be singing the cover), Van Halen’s “Jump” (which morphed into Roddy Frame’s cover of “Jump,” which morphed into Aztec Camera’s “Oblivious”), Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” and a few others I’ve already forgotten.

It’s a football Saturday, so I also have a random medley of every fight song I’ve ever known running in the background. I’m partial to Michigan State University’s, of course, but I know a number of others well enough to sing them.

It’s no wonder I have a headache.