Sunday, November 27, 2011

No Stop Button

See this picture? It illustrates beautifully what an alcoholic is.

We're not gutter bums, we're not having a rollicking good time, we're not irresponsible on purpose. We just weren't born with a "stop" button.

The average (normie) drinker has one, two, maybe even three drinks, and their inner "stop button" gets triggered at laughing a lot or I love everybody. Sometimes--but it's a rare occasion--they may even get to drunk dialing or exotic dancing, but it's not a common thing for them.

Because we alcoholics don't have a stop button, we keep going until we're either forced to stop or we pass out. If we don't pass out soon enough, you may very well find us in the hospital with a crazy BAC. We couldn't begin to tell you what possessed us to get that drunk. There is no reason.

We just aren't wired to stop. Who knows if it's a brain chemistry thing (and maybe we altered our own brain chemistry by drinking too much over time)? Who knows if we're born this way and it's a genetic problem (alcoholism runs in families)? Does it even matter? Whatever the cause, we just can't stop ourselves.

Thus we say: one drink is too many, a thousand never enough.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Casting Crowns: "Does Anybody Hear Her?"

A good message for this day after Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, people shoot each other and pepper spray each other on Black Friday, fighting over discounts on gifts for people for Christmas. We've lost our way.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Key to Happiness

One problem with alcoholics (and addicts) is that we have a warped sense of what happiness really is. It's kind of like Calvin's here:

I think it's because we get ourselves accustomed to feeling "happy" only when we're using. We like the rush; the loss of inhibitions, which gives us a feeling of power; we're excited; intense; on top of the world.

Of course, as we take in more of our substance, we lose that fleeting happiness because we keep craving more and more and more, and then we find ourselves slurring and staggering and unable to keep a thought in our heads.

When we get sober, we fear we'll never feel that kind of euphoric happiness ever again.

It's a big step when we realize that euphoria isn't what happiness is at all.

Happiness is being content. It's feeling strong within yourself even when the chips are down. It's the comfort of knowing you're doing the best you can, focusing on the people and things that are important to you. You occasionally feel euphoria when you get those "perfect moments," say, when looking at the sunset with a loved one, but you know those moments are fleeting, so you relish them. You don't live for them. Happiness is something that comes from inside you, not from without. Happiness is mostly a sense of being okay with, and loving, yourself, just the way you are with all the imperfections and flaws and talents that make you uniquely you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Do the Thing You Are Afraid to Do

For me, fear was the thing that kept me trapped in my comfort zone. Fear of change, fear of rejection, fear of consequences, fear of being misunderstood. My fears kept me small. Often, my fears (particularly of consequences) drove me to lie. I often felt I had something to give the world, but I just couldn't muster the courage to burst out of my comfort zone.

Courage is not the absence of fear; courage is being afraid and doing it anyway.

And when you do it anyway, that's where the miracles are. Things you never imagined will happen.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
--Marianne Williamson

Step out of your comfort zone. Do the thing you are afraid to do.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Purisima Creek Redwoods

From "Song of the Redwood Tree" by Walt Whitman:

Along the northern coast,
Just back from the rock-bound shore, and the caves,
In the saline air from the sea, in the Mendocino country,
With the surge for bass and accompaniment low and hoarse,
With crackling blows of axes, sounding musically, driven by strong arms,
Riven deep by the sharp tongues of the axes—there in the Redwood forest dense,
I heard the mighty tree its death-chant chanting.

The choppers heard not—the camp shanties echoed not;
The quick-ear’d teamsters, and chain and jack-screw men, heard not,
As the wood-spirits came from their haunts of a thousand years, to join the refrain;
But in my soul I plainly heard.

Murmuring out of its myriad leaves,
Down from its lofty top, rising two hundred feet high,
Out of its stalwart trunk and limbs—out of its foot-thick bark,
That chant of the seasons and time—chant, not of the past only, but the future.

The Purisima Creek Redwoods are presently young trees, as all old-growth redwoods were logged some time ago. Many of the developed trails were once logging roads. The preserve was established with a gift of $2 million from the Save-the-Redwoods League.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wonderful Weekend

Had a special friend fly in to spend the long weekend and just dropped her off at the airport. Now I have to shift gears from "fun and relaxation" mode back into "teach tomorrow and collect two new batches of papers" mode. Erk. Then my in-laws are coming down for Thanksgiving dinner and I need to start thinking about planning a menu.

On Thursday, Di landed in San Jose right during rush hour traffic, so she got to experience the famous Bay Area gridlock (on the way to the airport today, it should have been smooth sailing, but oh no. A big rig decided to jackknife on the 101 and backed things up for several miles. I was glad we'd left early.)

Thursday we had dinner in San Carlos at Piacere and then hung out in her hotel room for a little while chatting. But then I came home and went to bed, because Friday was to be the big day!

And, so, naturally, it rained. Not a heavy rain, so we took the opportunity to go to see the redwood forest at Purisima Creek. The canopy kept us mostly dry, although it was somewhat muddy going. Di saw her first redwood tree and snapped dozens of photos--can't wait to see them, will no doubt post some of them. Along the way we saw no banana slugs, and I'm not quite sure she didn't think I was just pulling her leg about them until ha! There was one on the path. Being the silly Tigger that I am, naturally I decided to pick it up and pretend to give it a smooch. Lord. It took several hand washings to get all that sticky slime off my hand. Note to self: Leave the banana slugs alone, Joyce.

Then we went to the pier at Pigeon Point and watched the gulls and pelicans, stopped for a capuccino, and then drove to Sam's Chowder House to try the famous Lobster Roll. I think I've decided I prefer crab to lobster. It's a pity crabbing season doesn't start until this Tuesday, because I'd talked up the fresh crab at this place and I think, though Di's crab louie salad was good, it wasn't really the quintessential experience with Dungeness crab caught just a few hours before. Oh, well. Next time, maybe.

Then came the highlight: we checked into the Cypress Inn where I'd booked a room with a balcony that looked right onto the ocean. Figures it would still have to be gray and drizzly, but we left the balcony door cracked open overnight and had the fireplace going to keep the room warm. So we were treated to the sounds of waves pounding against the shoreline all night. In the morning, we got up and took a walk along the beach, collecting bits of shells and driftwood. Here is video of the sea.

We loaded up, drove back to San Carlos, had a snack in Redwood City at City Pub, and then just took the afternoon to relax. Later on that evening, Chelle surprised us with a home-cooked surf and turf meal: filet mignon, shrimp cocktail, shrimp scampi, steamed veggies, and cheesecake for dessert. Then we caught a bit of the Stanford-Oregon game, the result of which I shall not discuss, except to say that the Stanford QB, my namesake Andrew Luck, did not have a good game.

All in all, a nice, relaxing weekend full of good food and communing with nature, which is always good for the soul.

Here we are blissing out in Half Moon Bay.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Veterans Day

One of my favorite poems by Randall Jarrell:

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

I thank all Veterans for their service. Some gave all.

Scandal at Penn State--Who Will Help Those Children?

Everyone has an opinion about Joe Paterno's firing. Some fully agree that it's appropriate. Others think it's ridiculous, the University after-the-fact making heads roll just to save its reputation. It's no small matter when you fire a legendary football coach, held up for decades as THE example of a no dirty playing, morality-driven football program. Paterno "made a bad decision," goes the rationale. We all make bad decisions. Give the man a break.

It's no small matter when you fire a University President, either, and the Paterno supporters don't seem to be refuting that decision. That's odd to me, because the President knew less than Joe Paterno did, if you read the full indictment.

We all make bad decisions. I can't count how many bad decisions I have made in my life, many of them occurring when I was a full-blown using alcoholic.

But I can say with 100% certainty that, even when I was a drunk asshole, had I ever witnessed somebody raping a child in a shower, even though I may be female and not the greatest physical speciman, I would have done everything within my power to insert my body between the rapist and the child. I would've utilized every evil girl tactic known to man: spitting, biting, hair pulling, nard kicking. My own ass might've gotten beaten up in the process, but I wouldn't have cared. I would've done my best to break it up, and then I would've informed the cops the second I had the chance.

This isn't what happened. A 28 year-old graduate student witnessed the rape and, apparently frozen in shock to see Jerry Sandusky, the retired defensive coordinator, raping a child, went home and told his daddy about it. (What the heck is wrong with this picture? "Dad, I saw coach raping a child. What should I do?" Think about that. What does this tell you about the sheer pressure within Penn State football to protect its own program?)

The grad student (who is now a coach, by the way. Was he rewarded with that job for his silence? Just wondering.) drove the next day over to Paterno's home to tell him what he'd witnessed. According to the indictment, this man told Paterno exactly what he'd seen. Paterno denies this and says the grad student was upset and vague, just that "something inappropriate" had happened in the shower with Sandusky and a boy. The next day (now three days have passed and the cops have still not been called, and nobody has apparently even asked who the boy is or where he is or whether he's okay), Paterno goes to the Athletic Director and tells him. By the time, weeks later, the AD and VP for Business and Finance get the story to the University President, the story has been morphed into "Sandusky was horsing around with a kid in the showers."

Excuse me? Stop right there. In 1998, Sandusky had been caught with a kid in the showers. The kid's mom reported it to the police, and in any police investigation, they are going to interview people close to Sandusky. In short, Joe Paterno at the very least KNEW this crap had happened before. Anybody who thinks it's normal behavior for a grown man to be showering with a young boy needs to have his head examined. Then, for no apparent reason in 1999, Sandusy, who had been next in line to replace Joe Paterno as head coach, is informed by Paterno that he will not be head coach and that it's time for him to retire. Don't be stupid--why on earth do you think that happened? Because Penn State did not want to have as its head coach an odd duck who had been caught taking showers with little boys. Duh.

No legal action was taken against Sandusky at the time because there is no law that says an adult may not shower with a child, even if the kid isn't his. The cops tried to catch the man, listening in on a phone conversation Sandusky had with the child's mother, a conversation in which she tried to pry more information or some kind of admission out of him, but he didn't spill. He'd only admit he was sorry and wouldn't shower with kids again.

So, Coach Paterno knew about this, no doubt the AD did as well, and if you've ever been active in any team sport, you know perfectly well that gossip was flying. Still, as these things do when there is no proof of a crime, it apparently all blew over. Penn State probably thought it was safe by making the man retire.

But, foolishly, the university allowed Sandusky to continue bringing boys from his charity, The Second Mile, onto campus. He'd groom them, work out with them, then insist they shower with them (again, read the indictment. The man is a classic, textbook pedophile), and who knows how many kids he had sex with before 2002. Some janitors witnessed him raping a child. But they were too afraid to report it. (Again, what does this tell you about a football program that is so powerful that peole are afraid to speak up about something as horrid as a child rape?)

Despite there being an EYE WITNESS to the rape, and despite Joe Paterno knowing full well Sandusky had been known to shower with little boys so there was no reason to doubt the grad student in what he had seen, Joe Paterno did not call the police. The AD did not call the police. No, they just slapped Sandusky on the wrist, took his locker room keys and said, "Don't bring little boys into our showers anymore."

What the heck is wrong with this picture? They may as well have said, "We don't care that you're raping kids, but don't do it on our campus."

Damn right Paterno should have been fired. The man deliberately chose to ignore evidence that was strongly damning and yet uttered not a word to the police. Had it been YOUR child, would you accept that?

Let's talk about what's at stake here. The good reputation of a college football program versus the sexual abuse of young boys (to date the count is 20, since more boys have come forward), and bear in mind that some of these could have been prevented had the University only done the right thing back in 2002.

Damn right Penn State University is going to fire anybody who should have known to speak up: the AD, the VP, the President, and Paterno. All of them were in a position of responsibility, and all of them chose to look the other way and took as little action as possible in order to just make the Sanduksy problem go away. Hide it. It's damaging information. Sweep it under the rug.

If this is okay behavior with you, then let me tell you what happens to children who are molested. It can destroy a life. The people who are supposed to be protecting you violate your person and your body (heck, Sandusky took some of these kids to church on Sundays. How is a child to mentally deal with the hypocrisy of that?) You wonder what it is about you that made this person do this to you. There are years of guilt and thinking back and wondering why you didn't fight back harder, or why you submitted, or why you didn't tell your mother or why you didn't call the police yourself. You grow up knowing you're supposed to be able to trust people, but how can you after such a thing? No one would believe you if you did tell on Sandusky: look how he is admired and held up as the great Penn State coach who cares so much about kids and their well-being? You know that's a lie. How can everybody be so fooled? You also get a jacked vision of what sexuality is all about. Sexual arousal is not to be trusted. You can't trust your own body. Whenever someone hugs you, your body tenses up and you wonder what's really on their mind.

Later on, you turn to drugs or alcohol or some other addiction to ease your pain and your buried rage and your grief over the theft of your childhood.

If you're lucky, you somehow climb out of the dark hell you are in, at least enough to function well, give up your addictions, reprocess everything with the help of several therapists over the years and maybe some help from your sponsor if you're in a Step 12 program. You have to find it in you to somehow forgive--not just your abuser, but yourself. Or at least come to peace with it all somehow. Some never do.

Some never can.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Fall of a Lion

I got my master's degree in English from Penn State in 1987. Joe Paterno was already a legend when I got there in 1984. In 1986, the Nittany Lions won the National Championships against Florida, and I can remember a gang of us at a table at the Rathskeller, a local dive, sitting in front of the television watching the games and drinking Rolling Rock.

As a graduate student in English, I liked Joe Paterno. For one thing, he himself had a degree in English literature, and he made his players study. When they weren't doing well in English classes, he made them sign up for English 5, a semester of tutoring in our Writing Center, in which they got an extra hour of help every week. I worked with a number of football players. They all looked up to Coach in awe. I liked Joe Paterno's belief in the value of an education.

And I liked JoePa because he supported women's sports. He'd show up to the women's basketball games on occasion, cheering on the Lady Lions (even though Rene Portland was the coach then--I've blogged about her skanky ass before here.)

But now Joe Paterno, college football's winningest coach, who still looks about the same as he did in 1987 (although perhaps a bit more frail and rickety), is caught up in allegations of involvement in a sex-abuse scandal. We are talking about Joe Paterno and the University turning a blind eye to the actions of a pedophile. More than that, the University apparently gave this man access, even after his retirement, to the locker room and showers where he committed his crimes. In short, they made things easier for him.

It's a nasty story, and you can read all the details online because the story is spreading like wildfire, but here is one thorough account. Here's the gist: in 2002, a graduate student (who is now a coach) witnessed the pedophile in question assaulting a boy in the locker room. He drove to Paterno's home to tell him what he saw. (Why didn't this man intervene in the assault? No one knows.) Paterno is claiming the grad student wasn't very specific about what he saw, but Paterno heard enough to take the allegation to his superiors.

And then the University proceeded to sweep the problem under the rug. After all, their former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, who had once upon a time been next in line to succeed JoePa as head coach, couldn't possibly be a pedophile. Why, he's a married man. He has kids. Heck, he takes in foster kids. Heck, he works with Second Mile, a charity that helps disadvantaged kids. He's a saint!

Oh, but Jerry Sandusky is a pedophile. And apparently a smart one, because he sure had devised some clever ways to give himself access to a lot of children. There have been at least 8-9 kids he's assaulted over a 15-year period, and I'm betting this is just the tip of the ice berg. (Wait until the foster kids start talking.)

So, what should Joe Paterno have done, back in 2002? Well, upon hearing the account of the eye witness to the assault, he should've called the cops. Duh. (So should have the grad student.) But he did do what he was legally called upon to do--he told his superiors. No crime committed. So he's not being charged with participating in any cover-up.

But, damn. I'm thinking if I were told such a thing, and I'd reported it, I'd still do some follow-up to find out the result. "Did you tell the police? Was there an investigation? Will there be one? Does anyone know what happened to the child?"

It's not like it was a situation of someone helping himself to a few free jerseys in the locker room. We are talking about someone sexually assaulting a child. It's not something you forget or take lightly.

The other question that hangs so obviously there, like a big red sheet flapping on a clothesline, is this: why, after Sandusky retired, was he allowed access to the Penn State sports complex? What was that all about? My Chelle, who has worked in athletics at universities such as Long Beach, Santa Clara, Eastern Washington, and Stanford, says that's not typical. Once you retire, you're out of there. There is no reason to be hanging around in the locker rooms.

So, the whole thing has a fishy smell.

But one thing's for sure: turning a blind eye to child sexual abuse is absolutely unacceptable. Paterno will end up either resigning or being fired. His reputation--and Penn State football--has now been besmirched.

How the mighty fall.

(A summary of the grand jury report is here. It will make you sick to your stomach.)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Wish Us Luck!!

Chelle and I put our heads together this morning and decided on this Pick 6 ticket for today. Fingers crossed.

Race #6 11/05/2011
Churchill Downs
$2 Pick-6
# 8
WT # 5,8,9
WT # 2,7
WT # 5,10
WT # 1
WT # 2,3,10

UPDATE: COURT VISION??? Nobody saw that one coming. Oh well, easy come, easy go. Better luck next year.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Picks for Saturday's Breeders Cup Races 2011

What a crazy day for longshots at Breeders Cup Friday! I'm tired and feeling lazy, so I'm just going to post my four (or five) top picks for each race. If you're looking for possible singles, I'd say Goldikova and Regally Ready seem the most likely, although Chelle swears Hansen is too. (Mmm-Bop!) Good luck tomorrow.

Marathon: AU Miner, Meeznah, Brigantin, and Birdrun

Juvenile Turf: State of Play, Caspar Netscher, Farraaj, Animal Spirits

Sprint: Big Drama, Euroears, Jackson Bend, Amazombie

Turf Sprint: Regally Ready, Havelock, Camp Victory, Caracortado

Dirt Mile: Wilburn, Caleb's Posse, Trappe Shot (and hope The Factor can hang on if he gets loose on the lead)

Turf 1.5: seriously, just bet the Euros: 1,2,6,7,9

Juvenile: Hansen, Crusade, Union Rags, Creative Cause

Turf Mile: GO GOLDIKOVA!! (but you can also throw in Gio Ponti, Jeranimo, Turallure)

Classic: GO HAVRE DE GRACE!! (but you can also throw in Flat Out, Game on Dude, Stay Thirsty, and Uncle Mo)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Picks for Friday's Breeders Cup Races 2011

Race 5: Juvenile Sprint: Baffert is lethal in a sprint, so you have to pick Secret Circle despite the short odds. So I'll toss in a longshot upset: Holdin Bullets. Don't forget Vexor. Now, Chelle likes Blacky the Bull, and I want to like Blacky the Bull because I know Jeff Bonde is high on this horse and he put P Val aboard, a very good speed jockey. But can he really beat Baffert's entry?

Race 6: Juvenile Fillies Turf: well, Elusive Kate is the one to beat. But here's the thing. She's said to have a knee problem, and she's said to not be taking to the surface at Churchill Downs. At short odds, this makes her a bet against. Unfortunately, the rest seems a crapshoot on paper. Dayatthespa is a nice longshot, along with Pure Gossip, Somali Lemonade, and you better not leave out Aidan O'Brien's Up. In other words, you kind of have to go deep in this leg.

Race 7: Filly & Mare Sprint: Everybody likes Turbulent Descent because of that huge speed figure she posted last time. But don't overlook Great Hot; Chantal Sutherland's up and she would love to be the first female jockey to ever win a Breeders Cup event. My other two picks are Tanda and Golden Mystery.

Race 8: Juvenile Fillies: Well, Candrea is Baffert's entry and the word is she just had a lousy work over the track; clockers said she didn't look good. But maybe she was just being a fussy girl that day. Still, look also to the undefeated Weemissfrankie. I also like My Miss Aurelia. Put in Grace Hall as well.

Race 9: Filly & Mare Turf: This is a tough race. Stacelita, the French girl, looks great on paper, posting the best speed figures in the field. Nahrain is undefeated. Aruna and Announce both look good. And, since the turf may be somewhat soft tomorrow, don't leave out Misty for Me, the Irish girl who loves her turf squishy. I don't think Shared Account will win this one again this year (though looking ahead to Saturday, I do think Goldikova can take it for a fourth year in a row).

Race 10: The Ladies Classic: We're back to Bob Baffert again and his entry Plum Pretty. I also like It's Tricky, Royal Delta, and Ultra Blend.

Breeders Cup Pre-Handicapping: Ultra Blend

Chelle has bronchitis and an ear infection, so naturally she has given me the cold that brought all this on to begin with. I don't feel too horrible, but these past few days have been a challenge what with sinus headaches and plugged up ears and the attendant equilibrium problems. Standing in front of class and feeling dizzy isn't exactly fun! I did actually miss Tuesday because I didn't think it was wise to drive, and my voice was doing the cracking congested thing anyway.

In any case, once I get home today (I'm in my office right now), I intend to start handicapping tomorrow's Breeders Cup races. Chelle has had little to do all week but study lifetime performances and watch TVG and read workout reports, so she's got some insights into which horses may be "bet againsts."

I have a sentimental favorite this year: and that's Ultra Blend in the Ladies Classic. She's Art Sherman's, and his son Steve used to be our trainer at Golden Gate Fields, where Ultra Blend spent some time. Needless to say, Chelle and I used to visit her sometimes on the backside so we know the horse. The word I have for her is "heart." She always tries. She may not win (though I'll bet her to), but I feel fairly sure she'll at least get up for a piece. Here's a photo of the pretty girl:

More to come....

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Do It Anyway

People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you.

Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.

Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today will often be forgotten.

Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.

Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.

It was never between you and them anyway.

Attributed to Mother Teresa

Even if you don't believe in a "God" per se, these are still words to live by.

Hat tip to MrSponsorPants.