Thursday, November 22, 2012

Beer and football III — week eleven

The game: Colts at Patriots
The beer: Notch PolotmavĂ˝ Czech Amber Lager
The result: Win, 59–24
The commentary: Guess who wouldn't nap again! Like last week, our efforts were foiled when G. turned crib time into play time, followed by full-on holler time. As kickoff approached I scooped her up and tried to lie down on the couch with her the way I can sometimes get her to nap with me on our bed. On the couch, A. and I call this "the danger position" because it is a near certainty we will fall asleep watching television. Apparently, G. calls it "the roll over! blanket! Elmo! aiiieeee! position" because it was like dunking her in a vat of cocaine for five seconds. So I set her down to play and accepted that the game (actually watched live the whole way) would go down pretty much the same way as last week's, with me having to pause every now and then to take sharp objects away from her. No big deal. Unfortunately this morning I discovered a few yellow marks on our television that suspiciously match her plastic stacking cups—better giant-beer-drinking supervision needed from this guy.

I expected Luck to have a better game against the good guys. Despite the common (local) misconception that Belichick does well against rookie/first-time-starting quarterbacks, I seem to recall a whole bunch of times it didn't work out that way. Matter of fact, the past couple of years, more quarterbacks have had their way with his defenses than haven't. I'll just leave that alone and keep my distance from rage and hatred this morning. (In my defense, last week's Mass Art explodo-rant was totally organic. I had no intention of going there.) Wouldn't you know it, though, the one strength of this crew was supposed to be defending the run and we all saw what happened against the Bills and the Colts. (Deep breaths.)

The funny part, in a "Noooooo!" kind of way, is that I didn't hear about Gronkowski's arm until skimming Pro Football Talk (rag!) headlines the following morning. It sucks, but it doesn't sound out of the question that he'll return by the end of the regular season. Certainly by the playoffs. Right? Anyway, Belichick does a weekly interview with local retard foundation radio station WEEI on Mondays. I listened to it at work yesterday and this one exchange made my day: hosts Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley were politely asking (their preferred manner of criticism) why Gronkowski was in on the point-after, why he was in a position to be injured, when the game was no longer competitive.

Belichick: "Football players play football… you tell me which guy's gonna get hurt and I'll get him outta there, but I don't know how you know that."

[Three seconds of silence.]

Ordway: "Time machine. Simple, Bill. Get one of those time machines, go back into time, figure it all out. Think what your record would be like if you went into one of those time machines!"

Jarrod: "Holy living fuck."

Up next: I'm thankful that tonight's game against the Jets won't start until 8:30. Should give us plenty of time to return home from dinner, put G. to bed, crack open a bomber and pass out on the couch by 9:15. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Beer and football III — week ten

The game: Bills at Patriots
The beer: AleSmith Nut Brown English-Style Ale
The result: Win, 37–31
The commentary: God bless the DVR. Continuing the trend, this week's "1:00" game didn't start for me until almost 3:30. Sunday was the deadline for a local arts festival logo contest that I entered, and after running a few errands early in the afternoon I had to drop A. and G. off at home so G. could have lunch. She no longer naps in the morning so we've been trying to institute an afternoon napping schedule about fourteen months too late. Unfortunately she fell asleep in the car before we got home and had to be woken and brought upstairs to eat, then refused to nap at all until later (which I'll get to). Anyway, after dropping them off I had to scoot over to Marblehead to turn in the logo.

For some reason I was expecting more formality than a cardboard box with a slot in it. There didn't seem to be many other submissions, though people had another two hours or so to bring them in. My only goal—well, my low-hanging fruit goal apart from the $150 cash prize—is to beat the woman (definitely a woman) who wrote her name in giant fourth-grader's script on the back of her entry. It's a certainty she designed her logo using PowerPoint and some web font. May the best design win, you hack!

On this topic, before getting to football, I had major flashbacks to my time at Mass Art on Saturday night as I finished my design, printed it out, cut down a piece of museum board (for some reason the contest specified that it "be mounted on eight- by ten-inch board (no other size accepted)," carefully applied some regrettably low-quality double-sided tape to the back of the print, mounted that shit and then covered it in a flap of tracing paper to protect it from scuffs and stray marks. All the night before it was due, of course! Ah, old times. I wanted to save a second copy in my old portfolio, which hasn't accepted new entries in the six years since I earned my degree because I've had a steady in-house job and haven't branched out into freelance work like I sort of planned (drag).

My three years at Mass Art (officially Massachusetts College of Art and Design, though minus the "and Design" in my day) as a graphic design certificate candidate (that BA in Journalism years earlier was ill-advised) were one big blur. I seemed to be one of only a handful of students who worked full time in addition to the three or six evening hours of "class time" (mostly standing around critiquing everyone else's work) per week. Overall it was a pretty taxing and unpleasant experience, some of which was my fault. I never did spend enough time on any projects (usually medium- to long-term deals, lasting anywhere from three weeks to entire semesters each) until the very end, which resulted in too many rushed all-nighters spent with a Canon i9900 that didn't produce my best work. Most of the instructors, especially this one woman in charge of the whole program who "taught" two or three of my classes (I'll politely refer to her as Tuesday instead of the one word I'd use if I didn't have a daughter), never did offer a whole lot of support. My critiques usually consisted of "it's not good enough," and for that I often drove home feeling like shit. It sucked.

(I should mention here that Tuesday taught my Wednesday evening Graphic Design I classes during the Fall 2004 semester and she was not a Red Sox fan or, I gather, a fan of anything that might be considered fun to non-artists. Do you know what happened on Wednesday evenings that semester? October 20: Red Sox–Yankees, game seven. October 27: Red Sox–Cardinals, game four. Naturally she didn't let us out early, but thanks to Fox's decision to start games way past the bedtimes of most impressionable young sports fans who will grow up without an allegiance to baseball, I was able to catch about the last quarter of each of these historic games. What a Tuesday.)

With less than a year remaining in the program I interviewed for the job I've held ever since. I brought a stripped-down version of my portfolio, weeding out a few designs I didn't feel were particularly strong (thanks to the non-specific direction mentioned above) and maybe it got me hired. Maybe it didn't. When December rolled around and I put school behind me forever, I closed up my portfolio case (containing many reworked pieces that had been significantly improved over the course of several lessons on what television shows air at four in the morning) and didn't open it again, even through two moves. Thanks to the brain trust of Mass Art's continuing education certificate programs, I was very near ashamed at how much "better" all the other students were than I was. At least that's how I felt—following my concluding presentation, the panel's seeming reluctance to graduate me certainly didn't help in the confidence department. Instead, it was just the twisted knife I needed to become convinced that my portfolio—symbolizing three years of major sacrifice (quitting a reasonably lucrative job that made me miserable in order to do something creative) and hard, hard work—was not worth the cost of a pad of newsprint. But graduate I did, allowing me to put the entire affair behind me. What a relief.

Fast forward to Saturday. I wanted to file the extra logo away with my old work, just because it was a place to put it. For old times' sake I sat next to A. on the couch and we flipped through those three years. A redesigned James Brown CD. An identity system (brochure, letterhead, envelope and business card) for the Tannery, another (print advertisement, letterhead, envelope, business card and cocktail napkin) for Gate Gourmet and a third (letterhead and envelope) for Dado Tea. A series of three posters encouraging voter turnout via MassVOTE. A free-form book combining window reflections and snatches of overheard conversations in Harvard Square. An annual report for the American Red Cross. A redesigned issue of (fictional) Talk Back magazine with two additional covers. A registration mailer that folded out into a poster calling for entries for an alternative fuels design competition, along with an invitation to the awards ceremony and a certificate for the winning designer (the invitation was replaced upside down on its board, which confirms that I hadn't opened the portfolio since the final presentation—that's something I would have corrected had I noticed, but those eggheads couldn't be bothered). A book of stamps highlighting the American typeface Franklin Gothic (probably my favorite piece). A pencil set chronicling (what else?) the history of American rock music. A logo, poster and tee shirt promoting a digital film festival. Packaging for a sports drink endorsed by John McEnroe. A website for a (fictional) Boston-based "social dessert" portal called The Icing. (A. said she wanted to bookmark it.)

And goddammit, it was good stuff! The MassVOTE posters are underdeveloped but the concept was strong. The Dado Tea pair is cute but needs "more" (that's the vague kind of expertise I benefited from during those critiques). Same with Gate Gourmet. I really like the film festival logo but the poster would benefit from better typography. I would also choose a different typeface and find better images for the mailer (freely available high-quality options are limited, even for student use; most likely I'd take my own photographs as I had successfully executed on the Tannery and Harvard Square materials). That one wouldn't make the cut in an interview tomorrow anyway because, on the whole, it is under-designed. Everything else though? I would hire the talented bastard! The craft and construction are strong, which is something I struggled with on just about everything—even the best large-format printers don't print fifteen by twenty inches, so there were many seams to meet up. Printing and taping together ten page spreads, complete with cut-outs designed to precisely line up with something on subsequent spreads, to form a twenty-page annual report? No thanks, ever again. So I'd like to buy that guy a drink. I'll buy him a smooth brown ale and pull up a seat to listen to him bitch about his instructors and how they don't really help make him a better graphic designer and how they play favorites and how he suspects this one dude is sleeping with a couple of students. Admire his typographic sensibilities and tell him to buck up, he's better than he thinks. Anyway, I was happy to reacquaint myself with my past. I was happy to add what I think is a well designed logo to a pile of other well designed materials. I was happy that I became a graphic designer. And I'm happy now to give a big "fuck you" to Mass Art. My only regret is that I didn't attend the Art Institute of Boston instead.

Wow, that really escalated. (Jefferson Airplane on line one!) There was a game? Right! So… I got home from Marblehead a little before 3:30 in time to discover that G. wouldn't nap. I let her cry it out long enough for me to wolf down some chips and salsa and crack open the AleHouse and then set her free to run around the living room while I zipped through the game. She had a blast listening to me rant and rave about this being Mayo's worst "television copy" game as a pro (because there's a lot of film that viewers don't see). If it weren't for some costly penalties (most of which were correctly called) and Ryan Fitzpatrick remembering that consistency is not his thing then Buffalo would have won this game. They should have won this game. But they lost. Fitzpatrick later called Brandon Spikes a "punk" after Spikes sacked his entire family and got called for a personal foul, even though the only reason Fitzpatrick's helmet came off was because Spikes blasted through the offensive line so uncontested that he wasn't slowed at all, and as he brought the quarterback down (with incidental helmet-to-helmet contact due to Fitzpatrick turtling) he overwhelmed the guy so thoroughly that his waistband was responsible for removing the helmet. Spikes and his athleticism smothered that bearded motherfucker, and even with the penalty (which wasn't dirty) I welcomed seeing some aggressive play-calling. The talent of this defense lies in the line and the linebackers, all starting with Wilfork: this guy convinces me a little more each week that he's much better than I ever gave him credit for. Without him the team might not win eight games. And Jones, Spikes, Hightower, Ninkovich, even Cunningham… let them loose from time to time!

On the topic of play-calling… to whomever called the quick snap three plays before the Pats' final field goal in the fourth quarter: stop it! Stop trying to be cute! Get it down to the two-minute warning and then get cute if you want, just make sure you don't give the Bills two full fucking minutes and an extra stoppage to try for a game-winning touchdown. I mean, what the hell? Even G., who finally fell asleep in my lap after repeatedly manhandling the wireless router and laughing hysterically every time I took it away from her, seemed to stir as if in the throws of a clock-management nightmare. Poor thing.

OK, enough. Cranky today! How about this little girl of mine? As I said, she refused to nap and was consequently punchy, bouncing around the room with Elmo (glad that's cleared up), trying to high-five players up and down, bringing me coasters as if I were drinking four beers at once, gazing at me while resting her head on the ottoman… these are my favorite moments. I picked her up several times and tried to snuggle her into accepting sleep. On the fourth or fifth attempt she calmed down, put her thumb in her mouth and eventually snored her way to dinner. I, too, was able to relax and resist the urge to fast-foward to the end of the game to see how it turned out. I'm a better football fan for it. She is beautiful.

Up next: Offensive Rookie of the Year Andrew Luck and the Colts hope to reboot the rivalry. The game has been flexed to 4:25 so Luck will have plenty of time beforehand to throw firecrackers at local stray dogs. Cheers!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Beer and football III — week nine (bye)

The beer: Samuel Adams Coastal Wheat Ale
The commentary: Unlike acrylic, silicone is permanently waterproof, flexible and shrink/crack proof.

Typical uses
Showers, tubs, sinks, tile, countertops and fixtures.

Most ceramic tile, laminate, porcelain, glass, metal, plastic, granite and wood.

Silicone tub and tile caulk is not for use below the water line or in aquariums.

1. Remove dirt, grease, moisture and old caulk from area to be sealed.

2. Apply horizontal lengths of painter's tape approximately three-eights of an inch from joint on both sides. This distance may vary wildly if the person who installed your bath tile had no idea what he or she was doing.

3. Use pliers to remove cap from tube. We really jammed it on there.

4. Cut nozzle to obtain desired bead size. Do not make the opening too large or you will get caulk everywhere.

5. Pierce inner foil seal.

6. Place tube in caulk gun. If you have never used a caulk gun before, allow for a learning curve of several minutes. It is not as straightforward as it looks.

7. Yes, flip that lever and pull the trigger to tighten it. There you go.

8. Have plenty of paper towels available. This is going to be messy.

9. Using caulk gun, apply caulk into gap.

10. It seems you are unfamiliar with how to correctly operate a caulk gun. In order to stop the flow of caulk, you must hold the gun steady and then use your third hand to simultaneously unlock the lever and pull back on the metal rod. This cannot be achieved without getting caulk everywhere.

11. Refer to step 8.

12. Wet your finger and smooth the caulk into the gap. Oh yeah.

13. You used way too much caulk. It is everywhere. Clean it up as best you can before removing the tape. Hurry!

14. Starting with an available end, gently pull the tape away from the tub and/or wall. Keep the tape as perpendicular to the surface as possible.

15. Refer to step 8.

16. Allow at least three hours before exposing caulk to water.

17. If you need to reshape any of the applied caulk, do not attempt to do so fifteen minutes into the drying process. By this time it has already dried enough that any tampering will ruin your efforts.

18. You should consider doing that bit over tomorrow night. It looks bad.

19. Good luck putting the cap back on all the way.

20. Get that shit out of your aquarium.

Up next: The Bills come to Foxborough to start the second half of the regular season. I see losses against only the Dolphins (in Miami) and the 49ers, which is two in a row so it doesn't make me a homer. Cheers!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Beer and football III — weeks four, five, six, seven and eight

Week four
The game: Patriots at Bills
The beer: Unibroue La Fin du Monde Triple Fermentation Ale
The result: Win, 52–28
The commentary: Hello friends! Hoo boy, this game was over a month ago now. It was one of those multimedia affairs for me because we were entering phase one of our trip to Florida, which entailed a drive to Connecticut to stay with my in-laws before flying out of Bradley early Monday morning.

Our plan to finish packing and be out of the house by ten (and, therefore, on a couch in Connecticut in time to watch) was naive at best. Let's just say we remained home long enough for me to stand agape in front of our television as the Pats seemed more concerned with us making our flight the next day than with being at all competitive. In the car, though, things turned around nicely following a quick pit stop. (G. wisely decided to nap then, pictured. Cheek flub!) The Pats did their Pats thing and just scored points all over the place, keeping me in a good mood the whole ride. I never did drink any beer, however, except for a Heineken (oof) at the in-laws' that night because it was all they had. Luckily we were able to on-demand Project Runway later so order was restored all around.

Years ago during a Yankee Swap I ended up with a Unibroue three-pack. It came in a stupid little wooden crate and everything, and I was so excited to drink them that I couldn't help but be disappointed. So when my sister-in-law offered me the Fin du Monde a few hours after arriving in Florida I was skeptical. Perhaps I've matured, or maybe a regular diet of refused strawberry banana YoToddler yogurt has altered my taste buds, but I liked it this time and had another the following night (at nine percent alcohol it's definitely a one-per-session beer).

Week five
The game: Broncos at Patriots
The beer: Rock Art Double Porter Smoked
The result: Win, 31–21
The commentary: In the middle of the third quarter with the Pats sitting at third and seventeen they ran the let's-gain-a-few-yards-before-punting play, which is the inside handoff to Danny Woodhead that always fails. I don't know why they keep calling this play to this player in these situations.

Except! It actually worked for once. There is no way in hell they expected him to convert—they essentially gave up on the drive. But he did, and it was huge. Unfortunately that just means they'll continue to call it and watch Woodhead get blown up time after time. Incidentally, they ran the same play on first down and he gained three yards. That is what they were looking for on the previous play.

I wrote this on a sticky note later: "Five minutes left in 3rd following Brady's rush TD. Touchback on kickoff, first play from scrimmage. 'Turnover,' I say, and seconds later Manning is strip-sacked." I should call for that more often. And also take notes.

We had a great time in Florida. In addition to our hosts' lakeside tiki bar (no words) the three of us took a wonderful day trip down to South Beach. After parking in front of a tattoo parlor, a few doors down from a strip club, we decided against Mangos Tropical Café (I spent a month there one night) and were pleasantly surprised to find a really nice playground just off the beach. It was a Tuesday or Wednesday so we had it all to ourselves, and our beaming little girl was brighter than any Miami sun. This picture of her enjoying the swings is one of my favorites.

I picked up the smoked porter during a birthday (mine) getaway in Stowe, Vermont this Summer. It rained all weekend and G. had the runs from teething (one of the many things people don't tell you about babies), but we stayed at a great inn thanks to a Groupon deal. Our suite (!) had sort of a living room that was closed off from the bedroom, so while G. peacefully dreamt of us not getting lost on the way up there, A. and I played Trivial Pursuit, drank wine and watched an unending string of That '70s Show episodes on TV Land. It was really fun, and next time we go I'm getting a massage at that place across the street. Not that kind of massage. How dare you.

Week six
The game: Patriots at Seahawks
The beer: Cadillac Mountain Stout
The result: Loss, 24–23
The commentary: The only thing more brutal than this game was being apart from my wife and daughter in the week leading up to it. After returning from Florida, A. stayed behind in Connecticut to work from her parents' house while they took care of G. during the day. Back in Massachusetts, I droned between work and home and was in bed by ten every night, except for that one long outing to Deep Ellum in Allston (cab fare to North Station for the midnight train home: too much). I missed them terribly. G. snapped right into football mode upon returning—here she is trying to high-five Brandon Spikes after he stuffed Marshawn Lynch for a loss.

There's an outside chance of a Super Bowl rematch with these neon birdies. Imagine two weeks of Pete Carroll hype? I think the Pats would win 98–7, the Seahawks' seven points coming on a ninety-yard third-and-twenty conversion for a touchdown at the expense of the worst secondary in history. Alfonzo Dennard, a rookie drafted in the seventh round (sure, he slipped for blasting "Fuck tha Police" too loudly from his 98, but I mistrust the motives behind people's decisions to become cops anyway) is the only bright spot in this crew. The only one! Coach, please draft nothing but corners and safeties next year. Please!

Week seven
The game: Jets at Patriots
The beer: Opa-Opa Oktoberfest Lager
The result: Win, 29–26; Dmitry, 4–0–0–0
The commentary: McCourty won Special Teams Player of the Week for: A) Returning a kickoff one hundred four yards for a touchdown with fifty-one and a half minutes remaining in regulation; B) Fumbling a kickoff with two minutes remaining in regulation; C) Threatening to Doublemint the wife of the guy who chooses the Special Teams Player of the Week.

I took post-Jets week off to care for G. after being without her for so long. On Monday we broke the cardinal rule and went to Salem the week before Halloween—here we are in the common contemplating what to do on such a nice day. (There's a gazebo to the left but I had to crop it out in order to stick to my square thing.) Later in the week we went to the New England Aquarium to stare in awe at all the fish from Finding Nemo. We also conquered a very weathered corn maze (maize alert!) and took in some pumpkins and llamas at Connors Farm in Danvers, where G. called a donkey "dada." Quite possibly the best week of my life.

Dmitry won Project Runway, as he should have. He quietly created a strong collection (though I apparently don't appreciate that cut-out business) while Christopher panicked and then bitched about not winning by default, Melissa abruptly transformed into a strung-out Nancy Spungen and Fabio… actually, I appreciated what Fabio did. Not my taste exactly but I still liked him from the beginning. Project Runway All-Stars started a couple of weeks ago and is about as "all-star" as the Pro Bowl, since only people who hadn't won are included. I guess Project Runway Also-Rans wasn't catchy enough? A wrong was righted when Mondo won the first rehash after being robbed in season eight but I don't see that kind of justice prevailing again or even needing to. Still, I'll openly root for Anthony Ryan and against "Crazy Eyes" Andrae and "Sometimes Suede Talks in the Third Person and Sometimes I Don't and It's Really Confusing and Annoying… Oh Wait, I Already Has a Douchey Nickname" "Suede."

Week eight
The game: Patriots "at" Rams (in London)
The beer: Wachusett Imperial Pumpkin Ale
The result: Win, 45–7
The commentary: Across! The! Pond! Thank christ that phrase is behind us.

We've remained friendly with two of the three other couples from the natural birthing class we attended two Summers ago (who knows what ever happened to that other couple, who went so far as to hire a doula and were pretty much assholes) and went to one of their houses for the game. Several of their friends were there as well and it was the first time in I don't know how long that I've watched with a roomful of guys who were fully into it, as opposed to Super Bowls when most of the crowd isn't paying attention. This laugher (following a familiar, obligatory long-bomb upchuck to start things off for the Rams) was perfect, and it was nice to have a bunch of fans to bounce observations off of. (No offense, G., I'll always cherish asking you why our cornerbacks never turn around to look for the ball and you responding "Dubba dubba dubba.") We had the guy looking for flags after every play, the guy who kept asking if anyone needed a drink and the guy who made the terrifyingly shrewd observation following a bad Mallett-to-Edelman incompletion in garbage time that "There's our future." I was the guy who drank a bunch of pumpkin beer and knew that number twenty-three was Marquice Cole. It was just like a Normal Rockwell painting.

G. didn't have an actual "costume" this year. Last year either. Are we bad parents? Instead she wore a super-cute Halloween outfit in purple and black with a coordinating trick-or-treat bucket. Mom took her to a few neighborhood houses and my girl saved my ass by scoring some Snickers. Stupid dad gave them all away without even realizing it! Kids today…

Up next: Chores, errands and dirty diapers highlight the bye week. Cheers!