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Goodbye 2016

It is with a raised glass and a nostalgic sniffle that I bid goodbye to what has undoubtedly been the best year of my life. It'll be hard for 2017 to top the awesomeness of this past year, we'll give it the old college try. Just by way of a recap, in 2016 I......Lost 40 lbs.
...Left my beloved home of seven years, Indy, to move back to Pittsburgh and reconnect with my roots and my family.
...Traveled to Hawaii.
...Started a water blog (www.themineralwaterlife.com)
...Went to five weddings (was in two of them)
...Went to the Indy 500 for the third year in a row.
...Met many new friends, and shared some incredible times with friends and family, too many and too great to properly cover here, but you KNOW who you are...And Thank You.

George, Carrie, AND Debbie?!

Dude...WHAT is going on here?

George Micheal was bad enough. Then 2016 gobbles up Carrie Fisher. And since celebrity deaths always seem to come in threes (or something) you just knew there was one more big one left in the tank before 2016 was over. But Carrie Fisher's MOM, too?? 

One has to think that the heartbreak from losing her daughter caused Debbie Reynolds' existing health problems (and I'm sure there were some at age 84) to be exacerbated and then finally for her to die. You can't discount the correlation there. But still. The rule of threes holds.





What I Listen to When I Lift

Music is very important. And everyone always likes to ask the question: "What kind of music do you listen to?" But anyone who really appreciates music, and is out of their teens, probably doesn't have just one kind of music that they listen to any more. It's not junior high, in which the answer to that question put you hopelessly into one category or the other.

No, pretty much all of us who love music and are at least somewhat open-minded would answer that question and say: "Everything."

I think the better question is: "What kind of music do you listen to and in what situations?"

When I lift, I need heavy beats and/or buzz-saw guitar work to get me motivated. Thus, on my go-to lifting playlist are:
1.) The Ramones Greatest Hits 2.) The Misfits Walk Among Us 3.) The Notorious B.I.G. Ready to Die and Life After Death 4.) Jay-Z Reasonable Doubt 5.) Ultra Workout 01 (some cheesy dance club music, cause it's AWESOME)

New Yorker Fiction Review #160: "A Gentleman's Game" by Jonathan Lethem

From the Sept. 5th issue of The New Yorker...

One of the great things about reading and reviewing the stories in The New Yorker is that it re-introduces you to writers you'd forgotten about or stopped reading for whatever reason, like Jonathan Lethem. I wasn't crazy about his most recent novel, so I fell of the Lethem Train for a while. This story has me determined to get back on it.

I'm in a "bullet-point" kind of mood today. So here are some bullet-points about Jonathan Lethem and this story:

Lethem is like the Zelig or Forrest Gump of literature: One minute he's published his 26th novel, next minute he's getting his PhD from UCLA for writing a critical thesis on the plays of Graham Greene, next he's writing the preface for a new addition of the collected stories of Paul Theroux, next he's working on translating Gide's The Immoralist into Yiddish, next he's serving on the board of the Pen Hemingway committee, next he's working on a bi…

2016 Pizzelle Bake

So I've been in the pizzelle baking biz for about four years now. Each year I learn something new and each year (I think) the batch gets better.

This year I used six cups of flour instead of seven or eight, and I like the results. It makes for a crispier, less doughy cookie, and that's what I like. Also I put a whopping five (5) teaspoons of anise oil and two teaspoons of anise extract in the batter. Even though at first I thought I had created anise bombs that would be inedible, after they cooled down the results were good. I've got some crispy, nicely-anised  pizzelles on my hands.

The pizzelle is fundamentally a very simple cookie and that's why I like it. It's eggs, flour, sugar, oil, anise, and baking soda. Bippity-boppity boop....Christmas.

Ze Bundesliga

I have become addicted to Bundesliga soccer lately. One might wonder how a league almost completely dominated by one team (Bayern Munich) year-in and year-out could provide entertaining football. Well, it does. And if you're a soccer junkie you need to start watching it. Why?
1.) It's more exciting than the EPL
The talent is not at the same level as the EPL, true. But on a game-by-game basis, the football is far more exciting in the Bundesliga. The play is fast and loose, the players are (in the main) young and scrappy, and these guys work. So far I have yet to see a mailed-in performance in a Bundesliga match, but I see them all the time in the EPL. This is football as it was meant to be played. None of the cerebral, steel-trap, "death before conceding a goal" of the Italians, or the tiki-taka, 10,000 passes per minute of the Spanish, or the wide, slow, "it's so hot we can barely stand up so let's fall on the ground and pretend we're hurt" that…

Holiday Q&A, Volume 5: Trends I'm Not Into

What's something that's "trending" now that you're not into?

-Grace

***

Boomerang really annoys me for some reason and I hope it disappears. Soon. Something just seems deeply unnatural about it. It reminds of "Jib-Jab" and "Elf-Yourself," and I assume it will soon end up in the same internet graveyard. I once saw a dog completely flip out because it saw a Segway scooter. That's what I feel like when I see a "Boomerang-ed" photo.

New Yorker Fiction Review #159: "Gender Studies" by Curtis Sittenfeld

From the August 29, 2016 issue...

Great story. Curtis Sittenfeld manages to accomplish a lot in a very short amount of space, and in a tale that takes place over the course of about 18 hours. There is a complex character with a lot of baggage relating to a recently dissolved relationship, who finds herself in a "situation" with a man she's just met, only to stop short of actual coitus because she feels he has tricked her, and only to regret having stopped it later.

Title "Gender Studies" comes from the fact that the main character, Nell, is a Gender Studies professor. The man she meets, her cab driver, is a Trump supporter, but despite that, she warms to him ever so slightly, and somewhat in spite of herself, enough to almost sleep with him.

If nothing else, the story serves as a cultural snapshot of a very specific period in time, late summer of 2015, in which a Trump candidacy was still the butt of jokes (not funny anymore!) and of the kind of "clash"…

Football vs. Soccer

No, this is not a debate about the merits of The Sport of American Football vs. The Sport of Soccer. This is a debate about whether the sport we know as "soccer" in the U.S. should be called soccer or football, by an enthusiast living here in the U.S.

First, not many people realize this, but the word soccer comes from an abbreviation of the term, Association Football, which was what soccer was first called in England to distinguish it from rugby football, which is apparently also called football by really old people in the U.K. How you get to the word "soccer" from the words "Association Football" is beyond me. But you can see the "soc" there in the word "association." Anyway, it seems that in the U.K. people use football and soccer interchangeably, with a heavy preference for the word football.

So, can and should a U.S. soccer fan refer to soccer as football? Here's my take:

Reasons for it:

1.) If you look at the game itself, it rea…