Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another Mill?

As I've mentioned in a recent post ("Google Yourself" - November 13, 2007) I regularly enter my name into Google, to make sure I still exist. Don't worry, I'm real, and not a figment of your imagination. But today, my Google discovery was very much like a waking nightmare.

Every prior instance of entering "Scott Rathmill" into the Google search box has yielded results that I've been able to attribute to myself.

There's some stupid quote from the college newspaper. This blog shows up in several results. I published a few chemistry papers in scientific journals, believe it or not. These results all make sense to me. After all, I'm Scott Rathmill.

But then today, a new search result presented itself:

It's a link to a Catholic Primary School in England, in a town called Macclesfield. It's in Cheshire, in case you know where that is.

This particular page contains a list of weekly merit awards for everything from "being a good friend," to "excellent work in math," all the way to "coping with a broken leg." Running the gamut of high achievements.

And scanning this list a little more closely, right above the award for "Smartest Uniform," is this:

Smile of the week—Scott Rathmill

Funny thing is, I was never notified of such an award. And I don't even know anyone at this school in England. Furthermore, I've never even set foot on English soil.

That leaves us with several explanations, only one of which terrifies me.

1) Simple misspelling. The kid's name is "Rothmill" or "Rathmell" or something like that.

2) This is some elaborate practical joke.

3) My current "life" in New York City as a 31 year-old part-time blogger is, in reality, an intricate dreamworld crafted during the afternoon nap of a 5 year-old British toddler - that toddler being me, of course. (Note: In this dream and/or my real life I'm otherwise fully employed, but never mention a peep about my real job due to scary stories of people getting fired for writing about their jobs in a blog.)


I don't want to admit to the possibility of #4. I think I'd rather be a British toddler.

But if there is, in fact, someone else with my name, then I congratulate him. It's a fabulous name. A spectacular name. It's spelled exactly as it sounds. There are no extraneous consonants. It's looks great on a business card.

Cherish your name, Young British Scott Rathmill.

If you ever need a U.S. ID before you turn 21 - like when you're 16 and I'm 41 - I'll let you borrow my driver's license.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Brooklyn, Ho! The Hunt Begins For A New Apartment

Jaimi and I are looking for an apartment right now. Our intended move-in date of April 1st gives us some time, but I’m a true believer in the well-known adage “The early dog eats all the pie.”

So I’m gonna try to find me some tasty pie as soon as possible.

Our target area is Brooklyn, with a fine laser focus on the Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights neighborhoods. Why are we leaving the safe confines of Manhattan far behind? Okay, maybe not so far behind - I just looked at a place about 1.8 miles away from where I currently live.

First of all, you get a lot more space for the money. In Manhattan, you’d be lucky to get a 500 square foot studio apartment for under $2,000/month. That’s $120 per square foot for the year. It’s nuts.

In Brooklyn, although not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, you can get a decent apartment in a decent area with decently recent renovations for about $50 per square foot. Of course, you’ll have to walk an extra block or two to locate the nearest Starbucks.

Also keep in mind there are going to be two of us living in this apartment. Of course, I need extra space for my gun collection, and my display of 12th century suits of armor (including several suits of horse armor). These things take up crazy amounts of space.

Second reason we’re considering the move out of Manhattan - high blood pressure. I can feel my veins strain with increased internal tension every time a crushing crowd forces me into the wrong subway car, or pins me against a parking meter.

My ears get hot to the touch. My heart flutters. I see stars. My breathing becomes quick and shallow. My adrenal glands spark into action. The fight or flight instinct is activated. And this is just what happens when I wait in line for the ATM. Imagine what I feel like during the rush hour commute.

Perhaps I’m being overly dramatic. But there’s something to be said for walking down the street on a Saturday afternoon, and not having to make like you’re LaDainian Tomlinson slicing through the opposing defense.

Ladainian trots down to the corner grocery store for a Klondike bar and a pack of cigarettes.

If you didn’t give your fellow Manhattan sidewalkers a little shake ‘n bake, sprinkle in a few spin moves and sidesteps, then you’d most likely walk smack into the chiseled chest of exactly the wrong guy. If you’re not alert and on your toes, you could be in for a real ass whooping.

I'm long overdue for an ass-kicking, so I'm not about to tempt fate anymore than she's already tempted.

So why not avoid that eventuality altogether with a hop across the East River? And you get to settle into a nice, spacious apartment at a relatively reasonable price to boot.

As I already mentioned, we’re not going to move until April 1st, so we have a some time to find the right place. This odyssey has just begun.

I’ll keep you updated as we once again navigate the New York City rental market - a battlefield strewn with rejected rental applications, misleading apartment listings, and shady real estate brokers. Wish us luck.

In the meantime, if anyone knows of a 1,500 square foot, 2-bedroom duplex, stainless-steel-smothered kitchen, marble bath (with whirlpool Japanese soaking tub), private terrace, doorman, elevator, fitness center, concierge, bike storage, close to subways, convenient to restaurants and shopping, no broker fee, one month free rent, celebrities in the penthouse, non-haunted, dogs allowed (up to 180 pounds), Pinkberry and Starbucks in the basement, under $3000/month, luxury apartment with April 1st availability, then please give me a heads up. I’d consider checking it out.

Artist's rendition of the view from my ideal Brooklyn apartment. Notice you can see Hawaii from the living room. I'll need to find an upper floor unit with southern exposure.



Friday, January 25, 2008

Ups And Downs In Real Life and In Fantasy (Basketball, That Is)

(Another installment of my column over at The Love of Sports. Again, not really so much about basketball this time. I try to compare the recent volatility of the stock market with the recent volatility in my fantasy basketball team's level of play. Real-world investing. Fantasy Basketball. Put 'em together and you've got one wild ride....Or something like that. - Note: The stock market has since recovered slightly from its lows at the beginning of the week. I wrote this on Tuesday. Give me a break, ok?)

What a difference a week makes.

This statement’s true not only in fantasy basketball, but also in the stock market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is at its lowest point in 15 months. International stock markets from Hong Kong, to Germany, to India have suffered their worst short-term losses in recent memory.

The housing market knows no bottom.

And the strength of the dollar? Fuggedaboutit. You can barely buy a Coca-Cola in Canada with an American five-dollar bill.

But don’t panic! We must all persevere during times of economic (and fantasy sports) hardship. Better times are sure to be around the corner.

Remember, you sometimes have to endure wild swings of gains and losses in order to turn a “profit.”

In investing, that profit is literally money. Cash. Dough. Loot cakes. Mad Benjamins, etc. You get the picture.

In fantasy basketball, the currency of your “profit” is doled out in honor and glory - two valuable commodities that are the result of managing a successful fantasy franchise.

In either case, you need to chase that profit no matter what - if you want to end up in the winner’s circle at season’s end.

As an example of the vicissitudes we endure during the course of the fantasy season, my team, “The Centerfolds,” (composed of only the nicest guys around the league) demolished the competition this past week. We really socked it to ‘em. 8-1 was the final tally. The only category we lost was free throw percentage, and nobody really cares about that one anyway. It’s the red-headed stepchild of fantasy basketball statistics.

In stark contrast, the previous several weeks had borne witness to a team mired in mediocrity. Guys were hanging their heads in the fantasy locker room after some pretty embarrassing losses. My players were losing faith in the system - that being a system in which all players score as many points, grab as many boards, snag as many steals, block as many shots, and dish out as many dimes as possible.

Admittedly, this system - “The Rathmill Regimen” (trademark pending) - didn’t seem to be working very well.

But that’s why God created evolution - so that we, as humans, and fantasy basketball players, could adapt to various circumstances and environments.

As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

And, “I often wish my dog would evolve proper vocal cords with which to speak, so as to drown out the shrill and grating voice of my wife.”

Ok, that second one is not a direct quote. I’m just guessing he came up with that kind of stuff at cocktail parties. You know, in order to get a laugh. He was probably like a 19th century Rodney Dangerfield. Anyway...

Getting back to the world of investing, when the stock market is down, everyone knows you gotta buy bonds, stash cash in your mattress, or employ my own personal strategy - buy massive amounts of gold and oil, and hoard it in your garage.

I’ve got 20,000 barrels of prime Texas crude, just sitting around for a rainy day.

Adapt, evolve, and harmonize with your changing environment. That’s the name of the game.

The Rathmill Regimen has not been written in stone...yet. So I switched my strategy, and the results were almost instantaneous. First of all, I dropped Stephon Marbury. He’s completely useless after his recent injury. But even before undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs, he himself was like a big bone spur.....right in my eye, if that’s even possible. I hated myself for having him on my team, although it was just an experiment to see if his influence would hurt the morale and performance of my team.

Guess what?

It did.

Next, I focused on playing more guys who excel in several categories, but don’t really dominate in any. For example, Beno Udrih of the Sacramento Kings, and Jose Calderon of the Toronto Raptors. Both nice guys, and both team players. Perfect roster additions.

In summary, these small fantasy basketball investments have paid off in spades so far. I can’t predict what the future holds in terms of my fantasy team. All I can do is hope for the best, stay on my toes, and be ready to shift with the changing tides.

As for investing, just stick to commodities with great intrinsic value - buy oil, gold and iPods.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Great Dane In A Suitcase - A Short Story

(Ed.'s Note: I now (3/03/2008) know that this is nothing more than an urban legend. The story's been around since 2001, or some shit like that. Anyway, I think something similar may have happened to some human at some point in history. So let's just accept it as a possibility. Enjoy the story.)

Check out the following true-to-life tale. I heard it 3rd or 4th hand - the main character in the story is a friend of a friend of Jaimi’s cousin, or some such tenuous connection. Nevertheless, I believe it to be true, or mostly true-ish.

When I originally heard the story, it probably took all of 2 minutes to tell in its entirety. But I’ve taken the liberty of embellishing, creating background, and generally making it much, much longer than a standard blog post. Many readers might even say, "Wow Mill, this is WAY too long. Thanks for nothing, jerk. I wasted my entire lunch hour and skipped two afternoon meetings for this?!?!?" Fair enough. You don't have to read it if you don't want to.

And now, “The Case of The Dead Great Dane In The Suitcase.” You’ll soon learn how I came up with this creative title. See below:

(Note: All names of people and places have been altered to protect the identity of those involved in this true story, and/or I forgot and/or never knew the actual names of anyone involved in this story or exactly where any events in this story actually occurred because I heard the story third hand. Thanks for your attention.)

Thanksgiving break - a time to give thanks, and to take a vacation.

Julie was home from college, and although she wasn’t lounging on a tropical island, she was happy enough watching TV on her neighbor’s 50-inch plasma screen. The neighbors, Chuck and Betty Menendez, had taken their two kids to France for the holiday. Julie was asked to house sit for the week, and she gladly obliged.

The Menendez home was a typical suburban Chicago castle. Chuck, a successful Chicago-area orthodontist, purchased the sprawling 5,000 square-foot home 3 years ago.

Before they moved in, Betty spent a great deal of time scouring Pottery Barn and ABC Home catalogs for the perfect furniture and faux Native American decorations. This was her dream home, after all, and she wanted everything to be just so.

Dream home? More like a decorator’s worst nightmare. Julie thought it looked like crap.

Nothing seemed to match. The living room, for example: area rugs, woven with some sort of tribal design, were laid on top of cream-colored wall-to-wall carpeting. The aforementioned state-of-the-art TV sat on top of two simulated antique whiskey barrels. The sofa was black leather. There was an old-looking brown saddle hanging from the ceiling. And a giant steer skull stared down from above the mantel, complete with horns, measuring 4 or 5 feet from tip to tip. Oh, and don’t forget about the curtains. Purple velvet from floor to ceiling. Part Magic Kingdom, part EPCOT Center, part T.G.I. Friday’s.

Even so, Julie was very comfortable here. The black leather couch was supremely soft and cushy. The rich smell of leather reached as far as the kitchen. And even though it probably cost $2,000 a month to heat the place, the thermostat was always set at a cozy 74 degrees. The cold Chicago winter couldn’t reach Julie in a place like this. So in that way, it was a bit like a tropical retreat.

She was free to raid the fridge as often as she liked. It was fully stocked with juice, cold cuts, snacks, ice cream, yogurt and fruit. The maid showed up 2 or 3 times a week, so there was no need for Julie to pick up a broom or take out the trash. She was essentially free to do as she pleased.

Julie’s only responsibility, and the real reason for her house sitting, was to care for the family’s dog - an 8-year-old Great Dane named Pinky. Naming a Great Dane “Pinky” may sound like pure irony, and the Menendez family certainly had a good sense of humor. But the name originally came from a pink spot on the dog’s nose. When he was a little pup, the spot was large enough to cover half his nose, but as he grew, it retreated to just a few specks above one nostril. The name, however, was etched in stone. The dog wouldn’t respond to anything else.

Pinky was a gentle giant. Weighing in at over 140 pounds, he was literally large enough for young children to ride like a horse. And his dove-like demeanor meant that he constantly had a child on his back, or one pulling on his ears, or another one grabbing hold of his tail.

The dog was easy to care for, and not demanding in the least. She had dog/house sat for the family twice before, and never had any problems. It was a great excuse to escape from her own family, although they only lived a few houses away.

The day began as usual. Julie let Pinky out in the yard. She stood at the kitchen window while her coffee brewed, watching the dog do his business. He seemed to be moving a little slower than normal. Never a quick animal by any means, but today he seemed especially sluggish.

She glanced up at the sky. A gray blanket of clouds slowly rose from the horizon - like a sheet pulled up over a sick patient, first covering the feet, then the torso, then the head. But don’t you cover the head only after the patient has died? He’d be pretty pissed if you covered his face and he wasn’t even dead yet. I mean, give him a chance to recover, Julie thought.

Bad weather always put her in a melancholy mood. She had planned to go for a jog this afternoon, but not if it was going to be 35 degrees and raining. “Fuck that,” she said out loud.

After sniffing around a bit, Pinky limped to the door, and weakly slapped his paw against the glass. The whole door rattled. Julie ran to let him in, almost tripping over the feet of the life-size cigar store Indian that stood guard outside the kitchen. She briefly cursed the wooden Indian (and Betty Menendez’s taste in decor) before reaching for the door handle.

Pinky slid inside, stumbled over his own oversized legs, and collapsed in a massive heap next to the sofa. Julie was a little concerned, but she reminded herself that Great Danes are not the most graceful of canines. Maybe he was tired, or perhaps he ate a little rat poison. It had happened before, and Pinky had made a full recovery. Or, he might be a little depressed because his family was away.

Julie tried to comfort the dog with a bowl of water and a handful of Milk Bones. He wasn’t the slightest bit appreciative of her gesture. Pinky normally loved treats, and by the amount of urine he produced when out for a walk, he seemed to pride himself on being fully hydrated.

Uh oh, she thought. This dog ain’t right. Can the vet send an ambulance?

She tried to calm herself, and reasoned that Pinky probably ate something that didn’t agree with him. He’d be up and about within 24 hours, tops. Why worry now though? This was her vacation time, after all, and she was going to enjoy it, goddamn it.

She grabbed the remote control from the mantel, and flipped through the channels. The Food Channel was showing a marathon of “Iron Chef America,” and being that it was one of her favorite shows, she decided to settle in for the long haul. She eased into the comfort of the big, black sofa and watched Mario Batali battle it out with a competitor from San Francisco. The competition stood no chance against the confident master of organ meats. The secret ingredient for this episode: calf’s liver.

Time melted away as Julie sipped her coffee. She occasionally glanced over at Pinky, staring at his torso for a long moment, watching for the rise and fall of his rib cage. He seemed to be sleeping soundly.

Three o’clock came and went, as the Iron Chef marathon rolled into its 3rd hour. Time for lunch.

Julie hopped off the couch and went into the kitchen, carefully avoiding the wooden Indian this time. Her toe still ached from the prior collision.

She prepared a turkey sandwich, and poured herself a glass of red wine. It’s vacation after all, she thought, and what sweeter luxury than drinking in the middle of the day. She headed back to the living room with sandwich and wine glass in hand. She made it a few steps out before turning back to grab the whole bottle. Vacation, after all.

Julie consumed the sandwich, along with 2.5 glasses of wine, in about thirty minutes. She was not usually a big drinker, so this amount of wine was more than enough to affect her. The combination of wine, plus a big sandwich, plus a weakly competitive challenger on Iron Chef were like lead weights on her eyelids.

Consciousness, like waves slowly lapping against the side of a boat, drifted in and out. In fact, she dreamed of her father’s boat, during summers at their cottage on the lake. And then, brought back to the real world by the TV, “Mario Batali makes a paste from bone marrow...” Blackness, and the boat’s gentle rocking. ”....the challenger uses shitake mushrooms as a garnish...” Blackness again. ”...Batali’s sweetbreads are seared with a little olive oil...” And finally, a deep sleep.

Julie awoke about 3 hours later. The orange glow of sunset told her it was close to five o’clock. Dark enough in the house for her to turn on the lights. She slowly sat up and reached behind her to switch on a lamp. In her semi-lucid state, she accidentally knocked over the half-full wine bottle, its contents spilling on the tribal patterned rug. It took her several seconds to realize what had happened, but when she did, she hopped to her feet and rushed around the sofa towards the kitchen. She knew exactly where the rags and carpet cleaner were located, even though the maid typically did all of the cleaning. Accidents do happen, after all.

As she raced across the living and sprinted past the door to the backyard, her foot caught on something large and fleshy. She went down like a sack of soda cans, hitting her chin on the floor. Stunned, but unhurt, she sat up to see what she had tripped over. It was Pinky, sprawled out on his side, eyes rolled back with only the whites showing.

She stared at him. He wasn’t breathing. Had she just killed him? No, she tripped over his backside, not his head. Normally, to a dog this size, a swift kick in the ass would barely feel like a pinprick.

Julie crawled over to Pinky and put her hand in front of his mouth. All she felt was a cold draft against the side of her hand. She knew it was just the wind sneaking in through a gap in the door, but it gave the eerie feeling of cold air streaming out of the dog’s body. She panicked.

Rushing to the kitchen, Julie rifled through a drawer for the list of emergency phone numbers. The veterinarian was listed at the top. She dialed the number and waited breathlessly for someone to pick up.

“Hello, Franklin Heights Animal Hospital,” the veterinary technician answered. They were short-handed this time of year.

“Hi, um, my name’s Julie Simmons and I’m taking care of Chuck Menendez’s dog, and, well, I think he’s almost dead. Either that or stone-cold dead,” Julie stammered.

“Oh my, that beautiful Great Dane. Ok, well first of all, try to calm down. Did you check for a pulse?”

“No, let me check. Where do I...”

“Place your fingers on the underside of the front paw, just above the foot pads.”

Julie raced back to the dog and searched for a pulse. She tried all four paws, just to be sure. Nothing.

“There’s no pulse. No nothing. He’s not breathing. I really think he’s dead,” said Julie.

“Oh my. Well, I think you should come down here with the dog right away. It doesn’t sound good, but there’s a small chance we could revive him.”

“Ok...but can you send someone? I don’t have a car, and my parents are away for the weekend. I don’t think I can get down there.”

“I’m sorry Miss, but we don’t have any sort of ambulance service. Especially not during the holiday.”

Julie stared into space. What if she had to spend the rest of the weekend with this dead dog? Could she fit him in the freezer? Probably not.

“Well...what the hell should I do? I can’t just leave him here in the middle of the living room,” she said, her voice beginning to quaver.

“Hmm...Can you find a big rolling suitcase, or a large duffel bag? If you can fit the dog into something you can move, then you can bring him down here on the bus. The South Pulaski Limited could get you here in 15 minutes. We’re half a block from the stop.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll look and see. If I can’t find anything, I’ll call you back. Brainstorm while I’m gone, just in case.”

“Good luck Julie. You’ll get him down here, I just know it.”

With that, Julie rushed upstairs to Mr. and Mrs. Menendez’s bedroom, and tore apart their walk-in closet, searching for any sort of large luggage, preferably with wheels. Within three minutes, she had found a large, soft-sided duffel with wheels and a handle. It was big. Very big. And it might just be roomy enough to contain Pinky.

She had nothing to lose.

Julie brought the bag downstairs, unzipped it, and laid it on the floor with its mouth open at the dog’s head. Like a giant python, jaws unhinged, ready to swallow its prey whole.

But unlike a big snake, the duffel just sat there. Julie would have to push the dog into the bag by herself, and in one piece. It seemed an impossible task - kind of like giving birth to a Volkswagen.

She pushed the dog from its rear end, and little by little, inch by wriggling inch, got him most of the way into the bag. She was able to lift one end off the floor a few inches, and the dog’s body slid all the way in, with only his tail sticking out.

She struggled to stand the bag on end, but after getting it entirely upright, she was able to zip it closed, tail and all. She now had a 145 pound rolling duffel bag, with a presumably dead dog inside.

It wasn’t tremendously difficult to move the bag, once she had it rolling. She built up enough momentum in the foyer to hop it over the lip of the door and down the front steps in one smooth motion.

She dragged the duffel bag down the block to the bus stop. In her haste, she hadn’t checked the bus schedule, but with any luck, the appropriate bus would arrive shortly.

A couple buses came and went, neither being the right route to get to the vet’s office. But after a few minutes, the South Pulaski Limited arrived. The bus was pretty crowded, with no seats available, and several people standing in the aisle. A wave of dread washed over Julie. How the hell would she get the bag onto the crowded bus?

The door opened and the bus occupants looked down at Julie in unison. She was visibly upset, what with tear stains on her cheeks and a dead dog in her duffel bag. She stepped onto the bus and tried to heave the bag into the narrow stairwell. It would hardly budge. A man who was seated in the front (normally reserved for the elderly or infirm) immediately stood up and offered to help. Not so ironically, he was tall and thin, with long hair and a beard. He looked a lot like Jesus, thought Julie, but maybe a little scruffier than Jesus would have been.

In any case, the man offered to help and reached down to grab the bag. He was able to lift it onto the bus with quite a bit of difficulty. The veins bulged on his neck and forehead as he pulled the bag onto the bus.

“Oh my god, lady. What’s in this bag? It weighs a fuckin’ ton. I mean, holy shit!” said the helpful stranger.

That’s not how Jesus would talk, she thought. But she also realized that she couldn’t tell this guy what was actually in the bag. It must be illegal to transport dead animals on public transportation. She hadn’t tried it before, but it certainly seemed like something that should be illegal. And if it wasn’t illegal now, she’d make it her life’s work to ensure that dead-dog-transport via public transit was outlawed.

In the meantime, though, she had to come up with a story to explain the weight of her bag.

“Um, ha. Yeah, well.....I just broke up with my boyfriend. And I had to get the hell out of our apartment. I mean, it was a bad break up. So I’ve got everything I own in the whole wide world right here in this bag,” she said.

She was rather proud of herself for coming up with this plausible story right on the spot.

“Oh. Bummer, man. Well, where are you headed now with all this stuff?”

This guy seemed to be a little too interested in her situation. It only added to her level of anxiety.

“I’m going to my brother’s place right now. He’s an ex-Navy Seal. And he’s got plenty of room. So I’ll stay with him for a while,” she said without a blink.

“So he’s gonna meet you at the bus stop?”

“Um, no. But he just lives a block away, so I’ll be able to drag this thing there no problem.”

Again, she was proud of her quick thinking.

“Good. That’s good. But I guess you’ll need some help getting it off the bus.”

“Yeah, that would be great. Thanks for the help.”

“No problem.”

They stood in silence as the bus rumbled across town. It was only a few stops before they reached the animal hospital. Julie prepared to disembark.

“My stop’s coming up next,” she said to the tall Jesus-looking stranger.

“Ok, cool,” he said, as he grabbed a hold of the bag and began to slide it towards the door.

The man continued to drag the bag towards the exit, and positioned himself in the stairwell before the bus had come to a stop. Julie still stood behind the yellow line, now a few feet away from him and Pinky’s make-shift sarcophagus.

The doors opened and the man jumped down the stairwell. He seized Julie’s bag, and with a grunt, lifted it in one fluid motion off of the bus. When it was securely on the ground, he raised the handle, tilted the bag back onto its wheels, and raced off down the street. Julie hadn’t even stepped off the bus, and he had already disappeared around the corner.

It took her a few seconds to realize what had just happened. After all, who would want to steal a Great Dane corpse? But the man assumed she had brought all of her valuables with her on that bus. He probably thought he had hit the jackpot. Boy was he wrong. Dead wrong.

Julie jogged down the street, halfheartedly searching for the soon-to-be-disappointed dognapper. But it was no use. He was long gone, vanished into the shadows of suburban Chicago. No need to go to the vet now, she thought.

The only question that remained: what should she tell the Menendez family? Oh boy, this one won’t be easy to explain.

She couldn’t help but laugh, and cry at the same time. Poor Pinky. He had been a kind soul. But at the same time, what a ridiculous story this would make! Imagine the look on the crook’s face. A perfect story for the internet, she thought. Maybe someone will blog about this.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Fantasy Performance Enhancers

(I wrote this for The Love of Sports. It's sort of about my fantasy basketball team. And it's sort of ridiculous. I ask the question, "What if I gave my fantasy players steroids and HGH?" Perhaps I'll have an answer for you in the weeks and months to come. And remember kids, even fantasy steroids can have some unusual and terrifying side effects. You're better off to just say no.)

Here we are, in Week 12 of the NBA season. My fantasy basketball team, “The Centerfolds,” continues to wade through a swamp of mediocrity.

The mud and muck of a .500 record seems to be rising, and its now up to our waists. I fear we may get caught in this stuff and never escape. Sure, they’re all nice guys (except for Marbury), but nice won’t get you wins in a tough fantasy league like this one.

I’ve continued my daily habit of offering my fantasy team a pep talk – to give them something to believe in. I try to tell them we’re fighting for change in this league (admittedly stealing some lines from Edwards, Clinton and Obama) and to raise the stature of the NBA, both in the eyes of fans and regular folk alike. You don’t need to be a jerk to be a successful NBA player, I tell them.

But I’m getting tired of standing up there behind the manager’s podium in the fantasy clubhouse and spouting this nonsense. I don’t know what to believe in anymore. We’re two measly games above .500 and streaking towards the bottom of the standings like a Roger Clemens fastball.

Which got me to thinking …

As I watched Kevin Durant during fantasy warmups, I was struck by the slightness of his build. The guy’s as skinny as a beanpole. As he participated in our mandatory one-hour layup line, his movements generally appeared weak and mechanical.

Look over there at Ray Allen, I thought to myself. And so I did look over at Ray. He too looked a bit undermuscled and overstressed. He could barely do 10 push-ups when I commanded him to drop and give me 20.

And how about Yao Ming, with those tree-trunk-sized legs, but the upper body of a Strawberry Shortcake doll?

Come on guys!! Do a biceps curl or a bench press every once in a while!!

There’s a pattern here - a pattern of mediocre play, which, I suspect, stems from mediocre physiques.

I understand now (thanks to Roger Clemens, among other childhood heroes of mine) that steroids and human growth hormone are illegal in the sport of baseball. Well, I checked the fantasy rulebooks, and there is absolutely no mention anywhere of a ban on fantasy performance-enhancing drugs.

After all, I’m at my wit’s end. I don’t know what else to try. The recent addition of Stephon Marbury, as a ploy to shake up the fantasy lockerroom, hasn’t panned out at all. And now Stephon is threatening to undergo ankle surgery, thus ending his season. It’s safe to say this crybaby won’t be missed around here. Time for “The Centerfolds” to move on.

So, I ask you, what is so wrong with feeding massive amounts of anabolic steroids and HGH to my fantasy players? If it’s to help them win, and feel better about themselves, then what harm has been done? Think about it.

They’ll still be the same nice guys, at least when they’re not flipping out (and flipping Volkswagens) due to a steroid-induced rampage.

I’ve calculated that with the proper dosage, a guy like Kevin Durant (currently at 225 pounds) could approximately double his weight, with the addition of 200 or more pounds of pure muscle. Imagine the fear he’d strike in the hearts of his opponents. His drives through the paint would clear defenders like Moses through the Red Sea. And just like the Egyptians, Durant’s opponents would end up being very badly injured.

Maybe I’ll start out slowly. Slip a little Deca Durabolin in Yao’s Diet Pepsi. Or add a pinch of Winstrol to Ray Allen’s clam chowder. They’ll never be any the wiser, and may see miraculous gains in muscle mass and stamina. Of course, I’ll need to watch out for any side effects, including severe liver damage and high blood pressure.

Need I remind you, that’s fantasy liver damage and fantasy high blood pressure. I’m not a monster, after all. And I don’t condone the use of these substances in the non-fantasy sports world.

Now the only question is, from whom do I procure this illicit stuff? Wait, I know who to ask.....


Monday, January 14, 2008

A Sunday Phenomenon

You’ve waited all week for this.

It’s Sunday morning. You had some trouble sleeping last night, and you know the exact cause.

This happens every 7 days or so.

Your salivary glands spark and sputter in anticipation, like an old rusty engine brought to life after a winter’s slumber. Your tongue is like the carburetor.

You’re thinking about it, and you need it.

You want it.

You have to have it.

What am I talking about? I’ll give you a hint - it’s not church. And it’s not NFL football.

What else can one do on a Sunday?

One word: BRUNCH.

A combination of breakfast and lunch, in both name and practice - thus making it the ultimate meal. It's unfortunate, and absolutely mind-blowing, that brunch isn’t a nationwide phenomenon. You can find it here and there outside of the Northeast. But the true bastion of American brunching seems to be along the I-95 corridor, centered in Philadelphia and New York.

In those two towns, and in New York especially, you can barely stroll a block without walking into a sidewalk menu announcing the day’s brunch specials.

Why is brunch so darn great? Well, one thing is that you can get pancakes at one or two in the afternoon. Or waffles, or french toast. There’s nothing quite like digging into the tender middle of a fresh Belgian waffle, oozing with pure Vermont maple syrup and/or strawberry jam, while the afternoon sun beats a path through your shirt, lightly baking your back. Yummy. Waffles and a warm back.

And it’s not only the fact that you can order these sweet and sinful breakfast foods. There are the aforementioned brunch specials, which you can dream about all week. Half the fun of brunch is guessing what this week’s specials might be.

Will they have Eggs Benedict? Or Eggs Florentine? How about Eggs Rancheros? Or the lesser known, but equally scrumptious Eggs a la Condo Renovation - smothered in sawdust, with chunks of real plaster swirled throughout. A clever byproduct of relentless renovations going on in the apartment located directly above the kitchen. But maybe that’s just a New York City delicacy.

Brunch is also the only meal of the week where you can linger as long as you like. It’s Sunday, after all - the day of rest. That's an exciting proposition. And the standard, brunch-issued bottomless cup of coffee only adds to the excitement. Why, during the course of a 2 hour brunch, you could consume 8-10 cups of coffee. Easy. Very easy. Easy, easy, easy!!! EASY!!

Whoa. Just the thought of all that caffeine just raised my heart rate to about 180 beats/minute.

But seriously, brunch really is my favorite meal of the week. And I do salivate in anticipation - anticipation of the thick-cut, extra-crispy, applewood-smoked bacon; of the mini corn muffins with strawberry butter; of the omelettes stuffed to the hilt with smoked gouda and asparagus. The list goes on and on.

And that’s truly the magic of brunch. If you dream it, it can be yours - for brunch.

Want pancakes? No problem. How about streak and eggs? You got it. Just let your imagination take you there, and (as long as it’s available on the menu) it will be yours.

Here are a few of my top brunch recommendations for New York City:

Five Points
31 Great Jones St, New York 10012
Btwn Lafayette & Bowery St

Clinton Street Baking Company (note: literally impossible to get a table without a hefty wait)
4 Clinton St, New York 10002
Btwn Stanton & Houston St

359 Bleecker St, New York 10014
Btwn Charles & W 10th St

Friend of a Farmer (note: great name - fun to say)
77 Irving Pl, New York 10003
Btwn 18th & 19th St

If you have any other suggestions, please let me know. I'm always up for a new and exciting brunch locale.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The 2008 Presidential Primary - If The Candidates Played Basketball

(This was written yesterday, for my weekly column on The Love of Sports. But don't worry, it's not really about fantasy basketball this time, as is my normal gig over there. I couldn't help but write about the Presidential race - partly because I find it quite interesting, and partly because my fantasy basketball team is crap right now.)

As the results of the New Hampshire Presidential Primary roll in, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect upon fantasy basketball as an analogy for life, filtered through the lens of the 2008 Presidential race. That’s what I’m trying to do here.

Does my fantasy team (“The Centerfolds”) really matter that much in the grand scheme of things? They’re a bunch of the nicest guys in the league, and they’re trying to show the world that you don’t need to have a criminal record to succeed in the NBA. But after this season, and after this fantasy basketball experiment is over, our country will still have to face all of the same problems as today.

I’ve spent all season spouting off about Yao’s rebounds, Ray Allen’s 3-pointers, and Andrew Bynum’s surprisingly gutsy play. But we’ve got more important things to talk about. We’ve got potentially world-changing events taking place, even as I write this.

Sure, there’s a war in Iraq.

Yes, Iran still gets a bit uppity from time to time.

And don’t forget about the writers’ strike - its effects clearly evident from the onslaught of reality TV pouring down upon us like an amber wave of grain.

So let’s take a moment, and step back from the world of fantasy basketball. You’ve caught me at a good time. Normally I’d say there isn’t anything more important than fantasy sports. After all, fantasy sports cause no permanent injuries. They help children learn the value of salary caps and smart roster moves. They bring families together, and reunite long-lost friends across miles and miles of land or sea. Essentially, fantasy sports know no boundaries.

And that’s exactly what we need for our country. We need to expand our horizons, and open our borders - both mentally and physically. We need politicians from both sides of the aisle to work together as a team. Team USA.

Let’s start with Mitt Romney, one of the taller candidates. Romney’s not only tall, but he’s also athletic, and distractingly handsome. I’d elect him as a fine Small Forward on my political fantasy basketball team.

Hillary Clinton might not be able to drive the lane, or post up with any of the big boys. But I bet she could rain threes like Hardaway in his heyday. Not a bad candidate for Shooting Guard, if you ask me.

Hillary, after 4 grueling weeks at Magic Johnson's fantasy basketball training camp.

And Barack Obama - a silky smooth orator, with (I suspect) a ridiculous cross-over dribble that would leave opponents staring at their own shoes. He could play a few different positions, but I’d pencil him in as my starting Point Guard. He knows a lot about listening to different points of view and bringing people together. He should be able to pass the ball pretty well too, I’d imagine.

That still leaves me with a gaping hole in the middle of my lineup. What political leader is big enough, metaphorically speaking, to fill the massive shoes of a Shaq or a Yao? Who could be my fantasy basketball-politics Center?

John McCain?

Nah. He’s way too short. And too darn scrappy. He’d make a better sixth man - coming off the bench to give you a nice change of pace to the deadly accurate shooting of Hillary, or the slick play of Mitt.

John Edwards?

I’m not feelin’ that one either. He might be a good back-up to Obama at the point. People seem to like him. Seems like he’d be an accurate passer, and a decent leader on the floor. But not on my first team. Give him some major minutes, but not the starting job.

What about Joe Biden?

Well, if it weren’t for the fact that he just dropped out of the race, he wouldn’t be a bad choice. A big, imposing voice in the middle. He’d probably shout a lot, and intimidate the other team. But again, this choice is irrelevant. We’re only dealing with individuals who are still in the Presidential race right now.

How about Dennis Kucinich?

Just kidding.

I live in New York. I’ve been here for several years, and love this city. So I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least consider Rudy Giuliani for the position. He’s a tough guy, no doubt about it. He’s pretty tall in real life, and he’s got exactly the right bulldog personality to get in the trenches and fight for the rebound. You know he’s not afraid to throw an elbow or two.

My only hesitation? The man has no lips. He has a nose, a chin, ears, and eyebrows. But no lips. Take a closer look next time you see him. For some strange reason, I just don’t trust people without lips. They seem to lack emotions. I don’t know. Call me crazy, but Rudy’s not my guy. Maybe I’d play him at Power Forward, but not Center.

Rudy demonstrating how big the basket looks when he's on a hot shooting streak. (Notice his nonexistent lips.)

That leaves only one legitimate possibility for the Center position on my team. He’s an outsider - an independent. He takes orders from no single political party. Again, as a New Yorker, I have to give him fair consideration.

You guessed it.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

He’s actually the shortest candidate, physically speaking, in the entire field. Although he hasn’t technically announced his candidacy yet, I’m holding out hope. And when he does finally decide to make a run for the White House, I’ll be ready to plug him right into my starting lineup.

Why Bloomberg? He’s got guts, he’s smart, and he possesses an absolutely insane vertical leap, that more than makes up for his lack of height.

Here, once again, is my Fantasy Presidential Race 2008/Basketball team:

PG - Barack Obama
SG - Hillary Clinton
SF - Mitt Romney
PF - Rudy Giuliani
C - Michael Bloomberg

Bench - John McCain, John Edwards

I wish this guy was a candidate again. That would be a no-brainer.


Monday, January 07, 2008

New Year's Resolutions 2008

One of my top resolutions: more street luge.

The Mill’s New Year’s Resolutions 2008!!

By now, you’re probably wondering what my New Year’s Resolutions are going to be in ‘08. You may be thinking, “Wow, I bet The Mill has made some very challenging resolutions, as that is his nature. His intensity is evident from his blog posts, and I’d imagine that this guy sets only the very highest standards for himself, and for those around him - including (and maybe especially) those who read his website.”

You must be clairvoyant, or at least somewhat observant. Or possibly completely and totally mistaken. Because the truth is you really don’t know me at all. Especially if you arrived at this site via a Google search for “Costco chainsaws” or “hot dog casserole. Go ahead and test it out. And while you’re at it, do a search for “Juicy Couture Magic 8 ball.” My site is like the 7th result down the page. No wonder I get upwards of 10 visitors per day. Including myself. And my mom. And Jaimi. And...and. Maybe my dad?

Anyway, for all you know, I could be a 5th grade Malaysian boy learning English for the first time. It’s possible. You wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell from the writing.

So you think you have a sense of what New Year’s resolutions someone might make. Well my friend, you may end up being rather surprised. For example, maybe you’d think that I’ve resolved to write more blog posts and read more books. Okay, fine. Lucky guesses.

But maybe you’d also think that I’ve resolved to focus more on the struggle for world peace. Or finding a cure for arm cancer, or something really serious like that. If that’s what you think, then you’d be wrong. Dead wrong. Arm cancer wrong.

I’m a self-absorbed kind of guy. I’m not really all that into world peace. Peace is nice, don’t get me wrong. But all over the world? All at the same time? No thanks. All of the bullet companies and whoever makes the Apache attack chopper would be out of business. And that means that people would lose jobs. When people lose jobs, household budgets tighten. And when household budgets tighten, edible delicacies don’t find their way onto the shopping list. And that shopping list not only contains items intended for human consumption, but also those intended for canine consumption. And is it the dog’s fault that you lost your job and don’t have the money to buy Milk Bones? You buy your human children milk and bread, but the poor defenseless doggies have nothing super-crunchy to eat as a snack.

Taking away his Milk Bone is no different than stealing candy from a baby.....

My point of course is - if you haven’t figured it out by now (which I find difficult to believe) - that true and universal world peace would make dogs unhappy. And nobody likes having a moody dog around the house. They piss and shit everywhere, chew on the furniture, and just generally act like assholes. No fun. Who wants that?

...And with nobody fighting with cool choppers like this Apache AH-64 Longbow, then we are stealing the treats out of innocent dogs' drooling mouths - according to my deranged logic.

So I stand by my New Year’s resolution of not striving all that hard to bring about worldwide peace this year. I will do nothing to prevent it, but just not go too far out of my way to enact it. Maybe, just maybe, if world peace literally fell in my lap, then I might seize it and decree it - on a trial basis only, of course. And see how the dogs feel about it after a week or so.

Here are a few other New Year’s resolutions (in no particular order):

1) Spend more quality time with my fantasy sports teams
2) Fix that damn squeaky door hinge
3) Get that pile of old banana peels and apple cores out of the corner of the room
4) Change that light bulb in Jaimi’s hallway (note to self: it’s like 12 feet off the ground, so have the paramedics waiting just in case)
5) Be kind to animals
6) Be courteous to the elderly
7) Lose 5-7 pounds of fat and/or add 25-50 pounds of pure adrenaline pumping, pulse-pounding muscle
8) Street luge
9) Eat more fruit
10) Kick more ass


Do Nice Guys Finish Last? Week 9

(Again, an installment of my approximately weekly column for Love of Sports. This week, I needed to take a break from writing about my fantasy basketball team, "The Centerfolds." The season's just too long to write a weekly column. We still have 16 or 17 weeks left. I'm getting tired of writing about Yao Ming's mom baking cookies for the team, or how Ray Allen cries rather easily. Maybe it's a cop out. I don't know.)

Week 9 of the fantasy basketball season. My team, “The Centerfolds”, have been holding their own pretty darn well up until this point. But it’s a very long season, as I keep reminding myself, and anything can happen.

Case in point, this past week we lost.

Big time.

We barely even won a single statistical category, with a 7-2 loss against a vastly superior opponent.

I suspect it may have something to do with the addition of Stephon Marbury last week. Just by way of his presence in the fantasy clubhouse, lounging around smoking cigars and playing Xbox - it’s enough to degrade any fantasy team, especially one like “The Centerfolds”, otherwise composed of nothing but the nicest guys around the league.

All I can do is sit back and see if the addition of a guy like Marbury continues to impact the fantasy game play of the team as a whole. Of course, as always, I’ll be sure to keep you updated.

As I mentioned, we have a long ways to go before the fantasy basketball season is over, and the stress is starting to get to me. In fact, after this past week’s brutal beatdown, I can feel my peptic ulcer flaring up again. Not a good sign with 17 weeks left to go before the playoffs. At this rate, I’ll be nothing but a big, tense bundle of nerves, wrapped in a sheath of cramped muscles, and covered with a pallid, almost translucent, slightly yellowish film otherwise known as human skin.

So instead of again just rattling off stats, such as Yao’s 23 rebounds and 7 blocked shots last week (Both team highs - nice work Yao!), I felt it was high time to shift gears, away from my fantasy basketball team, if only for but a brief moment in time.

How does a serious fantasy basketball manager relax, and kick back? How do I get away from the daily grind of managing all the minutiae involved with running a top-notch fantasy team?

The answer? Lots and lots of beer.

Just kidding of course.

Actually, there are many activities that, much like a Calgon bubble bath, take me away from the troubles of the real world. And when I say “real world”, I’m referring to the fantasy basketball world.

For example, sudoku and crossword puzzles. They’re great fun, and strengthen your brain.

Then there’s television shows and movies. Those are also wonderful ways to take your mind off the stresses of daily life and work. If you don’t have a television or have never seen a movie, you should really give it a try. Highly recommended.

Finally, sometimes I like to go for a relaxing drive. Unfortunately, I live in New York City, and bumper to bumper traffic at 6 in the morning on I-95 or the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is about as relaxing as driving gets around here.

In any case, I get to listen to my iPod while I’m in the car. Which reminds of another way one can escape their real world responsibilities for a time - listening to music. If you’ve never listened to music, it’s really great. Definitely give it a go.

Well, I hope this has been of some help to those of you looking for an effective way to manage stress. I really think my ideas on this topic (as presented above) are top notch. Go ahead and try them all. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

This week, I’ll be watching television and movies, listening to music and sitting in traffic. That should be more than enough relaxation to recharge my batteries, so I’ll be rested and ready for more fantasy basketball next week.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A Final Letter To My Fantasy Football Quarterback - We Are The Champions!

The 2007 fantasy football season is officially over.

My team won the championship this year - in spite of the struggles of my original starting quarterback, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.

As I’ve mentioned in several previous letters, Drew had an up and down season, to say the least. I started him. I benched him. I started him. I benched him. And finally, I allowed for him the chance to claim redemption - to start the final week of the season in the big championship match.

I had high expectations, and for some reason expected a fairy tale ending to my fantasy quarterback’s season. I pictured Drew Brees being carried off the field after a spectacular performance - not on the shoulders of his adoring teammates, but on the back of a unicorn, leaving a thin wisp of pixie dust in his galloping wake. Pure magic.

But it didn’t go so well for Drew this past week. He threw for 289 yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception. That’s crap for any week of the season, and even more so when playing for the league crown.

As it turned out, I could have simply not started anyone at quarterback and still come out victorious. But that says less about my team than it does about the opposing manager’s team. They blew, plain and simple.

Still, I’m proud of the team as a whole. And although my feelings for Drew Brees are mixed at the moment, I felt the need to write him one last letter this season. I didn’t want to keep my emotions bottled up until next year.

On a side note, this is one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2008 - to better express my feelings to professional athletes who are on my fantasy teams.

Dear Drew,

Happy New Year to you!!

We did it buddy. We won the championship. We reached for the stars and came down with a handful of red, yellow, and white-hot hydrogen and helium, burning at temperatures in excess of 6,000 degrees Celsius, so to speak.

Perhaps I should explain in plainer language. I know that, while at Purdue University, you majored in Industrial Management - whatever the hell that is. Sounds like it probably didn’t require you to take many science classes.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that we went up there and grabbed those stars, but came back with severe 3rd-degree burns on over 70% of our bodies. Not literally, Drew. Don’t worry, I’m fine and you’re fine. Our hands and skin are fine. But figuratively speaking, this season has been a mix of severe pain and moderate joy.

The championship is what it’s all about. And we won that. We did it. You helped. Sort of.

Not really.

Actually, in retrospect, you single-handedly lost a couple matches for my team.

You - last season - trying your darndest to make a great throw and win the game.

You - this season - wearing flip-flops and shorts while sitting backwards in a wooden chair, and not trying particularly hard to do much of anything.

When it came down to the final days and weeks of the season, your performance and focus seemed to falter. Maybe it was fatigue setting in. Perhaps you were stricken with seasonal depression - the wintertime blues. I don’t know. And to be honest, I don’t really care. It’s irrelevant at this point.

You and I, we’re both football professionals of some sort. You - on the actual football field, executing the West Coast offense and throwing perfect passes when possible. Me - remembering to set my fantasy lineup on the computer before the games begin on Sunday, or Saturday, or even Thursday sometimes. So you can see how much pressure I’m under. And I don’t sit here complaining about how I screwed up this or forgot to do that, or mistakenly left my team without a kicker during Week 8’s matchup. It wasn’t a mistake. It was strategy, made to appear as forgetfulness.

“Keep ‘em guessing as to whether you’ll forget to put a kicker in your lineup.” That’s always been my motto.

Besides Drew, you shouldn’t be the one questioning my leadership, despite the occasional gaffe on my part. Need I remind you once again whose team won the championship this season? Answer: my team.

Lest it seem like I’m gloating, consider the following: you’re lucky to be on a championship team of any sort this season, especially one that dominated the competition practically from wire to wire. I’ve been very charitable to allow you this honor.

Wait, that still sounds like I’m gloating a bit. Sorry.

What I meant to say is that my team had a great season, and your team, the Saints, did not. So who’s better at football?

I am.

Damn it Drew, there I go again. Gloating. I don’t know why you bring it out in me. I’m not any sort of braggart under normal circumstances.

But here’s the thing. I had such high hopes for you this season, and you continually let me down. Yes, we ended up winning the championship. Thanks to my running backs (Joseph Addai and late season sensation Ryan Grant), my receivers (Chad Johnson and Brandon Marshall) and my OTHER quarterback (Derek Anderson). But not really thanks to you in any way. I guess your early season struggles paved the way for young Mr. Anderson to take over for part of the season. Can I really thank you for that?

I just thought we had something special Drew, after last season’s surprise performance. I picked you again as my quarterback. And when all was said and done, and despite my team’s glorious triumph, you let me down.

Never again Drew.

I leave you with the pride of having been part of a championship team, but the shame of knowing you let me down. Your former number one fantasy football fan.

Next season will be different, for you and for me. Perhaps I’ll hitch my team to your bandwagon if you have a really great pre-season, but it’s unlikely. The inconsistent play, and extreme highs and lows are too much for me to bear.

I’m still a young guy, and I don’t need a peptic ulcer. There’s plenty of time for that in the future.

So goodbye, fair Drew. Perhaps we’ll meet again.

I still remain,

Respectfully yours,

Your former fantasy manager,

And former big-time fan,

Massively disappointed in you this year,

But still hope you had a Merry Christmas and/or Happy Hanukkah,

Warmest regards,

- The Mill