Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A mysterious ooze

A few weeks ago they handed out these cool stress balls at work. I don't have much job-related stress (it's pretty cushy) but I do have busy hands, so this was a much-appreciated little toy—even with the company logo on it. It had a cool green rubber skin, not unlike those semi-translucent iPod cover things. The only unfortunate thing is the ball had a white residue all over it that reeked of industrial plastics, and when I attempted to wash it off the ball became tacky like the Wacky Walkers of my youth. So I could pick up crumbs with it now, which is nice.

I have a fairly destructive tendency with tactile things that normally is kept just in check. For instance, I spent a few solid hours trying to pop the thing, as it was certainly too stretchy for its own good, but just when I got to the point where it might actually rupture I would let up. Because I wouldn't want to be without it or the ability to torture it.

One time, though, I reined myself in too late, and the next thing I know I've got this goop on my hand. This mysterious ooze. The motherfucker was mortally wounded and bleeding on me.

(On the way home I called A. to let her know there was a strong possibility I would mutate overnight. I advised her to buy a shotgun. But I was hopeful I would survive and be able to harness my mutation into a kind of superpower. As in, I would show up in stressful environments, have everyone grab a handful of me and squeeze for a few minutes, then move on when everything was chill. Who wouldn't like that? Beside me.)

Needless to say I was a little disappointed to not have this little stress ball to push around anymore, especially since I never did mutate. Lucky me though, I was walking around the office one afternoon looking for free food and I saw a table with extra stress balls on it. Same green rubber, same white powder, presumably the same clear interior ooze.

I wasn't going to kill this one off so easily. I treated it pretty well, kneading and bullying it every day for about a week and a half. But then I started to pick at the little plug on the bottom, and it was all downhill. I must commend the manufacturer because there were a lot of safeties in place to prevent someone from accessing the ooze this way—many thin layers that I had to breach in spite of myself. Eventually I had a slow leak going, which put a damper on its supposed de-stressing abilities but kept me focused nonetheless. I could still twist the thing around with minimal discharge, so long as I was smart about it. Smart.

On Thursday of last week I settled on letting the thing destroy itself. I twisted the ball into two distinct sections—one half ready to blow and the other with a lot of slack—and leaned it against my computer so it looked like a mushroom (slack half a nice dark green on top, catastrophe-in-waiting half stretched to near-translucency underneath). No change as of Friday, but it had a nice long weekend to develop. (By the way, I know this is pathetic like a retarded fourth-grader and his science-fair potato is pathetic, but give me a break. The alternative was to go shopping for a fun hat for Friday's "Fun Hat Day," and nothing good was coming out of that. At least I was adding a new level of de-stressing to this thing: full-on distraction.)

Got in yesterday and noticed a slow leak had formed. Like when Ash went berserk in Alien, that first drip of android fluid on his temple? Look out!

At last, a nice puddle of ooze greeted me this morning. I couldn't be happier, and not just because we're allowed to wear jeans all week. I was sad to throw the corpse in the trash, but at least I have my ooze-puddle to carry on its memory. There's an air bubble right in the middle and the whole thing is gradually solidifying, and I will cultivate it until I can pull it off the desk like a pancake. I will try to roll it up into Son of Stress Ball. Then I will make it scream.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Loyalty is: Royals… Athletics… Red Sox… Yankees…

The Johnny Damon Saga is unfortunate but not Earth-shattering. There are several pissed off people around here (and I've met some Yankee fans who aren't too psyched either), but I'm still pretty buzzed by the 2004 win to care too much about anything the team can do right now—even though I'm troubled by how very little there is left of that 2004 team, Theo included. I'll miss Damon, but I'll miss (and have missed) Cabrera, Lowe, Pedro, Mueller, Mirabelli, Bellhorn, Roberts, Myers and a few others too. Baseball is a business and that is a little sad, but so is football and the Patriots have managed to keep a solid core of guys while dealing with a salary cap! So I think the Sox organization has a lot to answer for when it comes to the live-and-die-by-the-Sawx fans around here (which, as big a fan as I am, does not include me).

It's hard to blame Damon in the whole deal because the Sox seemed caught off guard. Inexcusable on their part. Damon is a dense, narcissistic star who, despite what he had to say about loyalty, was going where said stardom would best excel (hence all the New York and Los Angeles talk). But the team was completely blindsided, like they assumed the whole negotiation thing was on holiday as they sat around the tree wrapping up pieces of Fenway Park grass to sell to lamebrains. Is this how you appease a fanbase when it comes to one of the game's most popular players?

In two years (if that long) I think the Yankees will be lobbying hard for the institution of a short-field allowance like in softball, where you can field a tenth player a bit behind second base, purely to act as Damon's cutoff man when he's trying to throw out a baserunner. I loved watching the guy play, but seeing him throw was like pulling out a nose hair: you cry out and then your eyes water. Someone recently wrote that he threw like a girl… throwing left-handed. Funny and true.

This transaction probably won't amount to much in the larger baseball scheme. Damon won't help the Yankees win a World Series because that offense was already stunning. What they need is for everything that went wrong last year with their pitching (Pavano, Wright, even Johnson and Mussina to an extent) to fully correct itself, and everything that surprisingly worked (Small, Chacon, Wang) to keep clicking. They'll score a lot of runs, and they'll need to.

As for the Sox, we'll see what a brand-new infield can do. I'm not too enthusiastic, and am already expecting a cruise-control year. They are looking squarely at 2007 when it will practically promote its entire AAA Pawtucket squad to the big leagues. One thing I'll miss about Theo is his commitment to the farm system, and in the next couple of years we'll see some amazing young talent all over the roster, pitching staff included. This year it's a bunch of "Who dat?" old dudes running out the final years of their contracts, keeping the field warm for the young studs to follow. At least the Beckett deal is pretty cool in the meantime.

If the Pats can win another Super Bowl (here's hoping for a XX rematch against the Bears; I'll probably make a playoff post after next weekend when I know who we're playing, but as of now I'm not too afraid of the Jaguars or the perennially overrated Steelers) then maybe the lunatics around here will settle the hell down, listen to their new Christmas iPods instead of WEEI and actually enjoy a Summer without having to constantly check the scores (Red Sox and Yankees), wonder where Manny's going at the trade deadline (because I think he'll still be here) and convince themselves that $12 isn't all that bad for two Bud Lights.

Let Damon have his bottle and get yourself to the beach. It's lovely.