Wake-Up Call

Here’s an interesting study showing exactly how much caffeine is in soft drinks, and it explodes a couple of myths, at least for me.

For example: Of the most popular drinks, yes, Mountain Dew shows up near the top at 54.8 (and diet has a bit more) milligrams — but Pepsi One beats that with 57.1. Dr. Pepper is down the list at 42.6, despite its reputation as jolt heavy (Pepsi has 38.9 and Coke 33.9).

But the big boys? Vault Zero and Vault Citrus at 74 mg and 70.6 mg, respectively. When you just need that little something extra, I guess.

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Keep Moving, There's Nothing To See Here

An Army recruiter just called the house, asking to speak with our son.

Now, since it’s before noon and it’s still summer, that is sort of an absurd proposition just from the outset, but never mind that.

It’s not that John hasn’t considered the military as an option. And it’s not that we think it’s a bad idea at all, in a general sense, for a young man to serve his country while he figures out some stuff.

It’s just that, as we’ve pointed out to him, it would be inappropriate for the Army, say, to invest in him when they’d be spending taxpayer money to send him back home about an hour into boot camp. Assuming he got that far, which is unlikely anyway.

I understand both sides here. Our military is stretched thin right now and needs new bodies or a new foreign policy. Meanwhile, many parents are frightened by the idea of their kids going to Iraq or Afghanistan and hostile to recruiters painting, possibly, a rosier picture than reality.

Personally, though, I can’t really relate. Uncle Sam does not want John. Not now, at least. Stretched or not.

So Julie answered the phone, and she had a short and polite conversation with this man, explaining the situation.

“You should really take him off your list,” she said. “My son is autistic.”

The recruiter said that was good to know, and started to make a note, and then said:

“Um…how do you spell that?”

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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UB-Day August 31

(UB-Day marks the birthdays of people born between 1955 and 1964. If you want to know more, please read this post.)

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Edwin Moses (8/31/1955)

I’ll make it easy for you. He was the best hurdler of all time.

Born in Dayton, Ohio, Edwin Moses received an academic scholarship to Morehouse College in Atlanta and majored in physics and industrial engineering, while competing for the track team. At first he focused on the 180-yard hurdles and 440-yard dash, but by 1976 his attention was turned to the 400-meter hurdles and he learned fast. Between 1977 and 1987, he won his event a total of 122 consecutive times. And by “consecutive” I mean all in a row. Like one after another, without a loss. In case we weren’t clear there.

Moses was the first recipient of USA Track & Field’s “Jesse Owens Award” as outstanding U.S. male track and field performer in 1981, and in 1984 he shared Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award with gymnast Mary Lou Retton.

After his retirement from track following the 1988 Olympics, Moses competed in a 1990 World Cup bobsled race at Winterburg, Germany. He and long-time US Olympian Brian Shimer won the two-man bronze medal.

Trivia: Following a defeat on August 26, 1977, Moses did not lose another 400-meter hurdle race for nine years, nine months, and nine days.

Age Today: 52.

Shares Birthday With: Chris Tucker (35), Hideo Nomo (39), Richard Gere (58), Itzhak Perlman (62), Van Morrison (62), Frank Robinson (72), Bill Daily (80), and Daniel Schorr (91).

This Day In History: Britain’s Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris at age 36 (1997).

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Homeward Bound

Thomas Wolfe was just joking, you know. He went home on weekends, but try telling that to some people.

I’m going home in two weeks, in a sense, although it doesn’t quite feel like it and really it shouldn’t. I lived 11 years in Southern California, then another 14 in Arizona, and now 24 up here, including 19 in this very same house. This is home, and everything else is travel.

In fact, if I want to go “home,” I drive around Capitol Hill in Seattle, as I did the other day. I was early for an appointment, so I cruised by our old apartment. It looks exactly the same, and a young woman was standing in the doorway, talking with a friend. I was 25 when I lived there, blond and thin and always looking for a parking place, and now I drove by slowly, remembering that winter and spring.

One day back then, I was walking up the steps when a doctor I sort of knew, a cardiologist in his 40s, came out the front door and our eyes met. We worked at the same hospital, and maybe he recognized a familiar face. He held my gaze for a second, and in that moment I knew everything, knew that he was visiting his mistress, some young, adventurous woman who liked his money and didn’t mind screwing him on afternoons because that left the rest of the evening, while he headed back to the office for paperwork before facing the bridge to Bellevue and wifey and kiddies.

He’d become a client, actually, a few years later, and I’d have one-on-one conversations with him about uninteresting stuff and I wondered, sometimes, what to do with all this powerful information, although I mostly just felt sorry for him. How sad to be in your 40s; your life is over, pretty much, and trying to rescue it with illicit sex wasn’t going to help matters.

We lived in west Phoenix when I was growing up, although that probably sounds quaint now. Phoenix has no natural boundaries to speak of, no mountain ranges or oceans, so it just keeps spreading, at least as far as I can tell. Maybe where I used to live is now central Phoenix.

It felt like the boonies, though, back then when I occasionally met kids from the east side, Scottsdale and such. Phoenix was laid out uniformly, with Central in the middle of downtown, avenues to the west and streets to the east, counting up as they moved out (1st Ave. and 1st St. were two blocks apart, in other words, Central in the center).

So I mostly stayed in my ‘hood. We were middle class; the east side was rich, and the south was poor. I can’t remember what the north was. To this day, actually, I feel more comfortable on avenues than streets.

Moving away from home allows us to engage in a little cosmopolitan deception; we can get smug when we have no business being so. This is evident up here when it snows; the snow snobs come out in droves, bitching about everybody else’s lack of snow skills because they grew up in Montana or Minnesota and people up here just don’t know how to drive in the snow, dammit. This is, of course, elegant bullshit; nobody knows how to drive in the snow, because snow is God’s way of telling us to stay off the streets, but try telling that to them.

I’m the same way. When it gets unusually warm here, I don’t miss an opportunity to bring up the fact that I’m from Phoenix and by God I know real heat. Listen: I don’t know jack about heat. I start getting uncomfortable around 80, when people in Arizona are still debating about sweaters. I’ve been here half my life; I’m allergic to heat.

And I don’t know jack about Phoenix, either. When I was a kid, I-17 went down the middle of town (actually, a bit toward the west) and that it was pretty much it, unless you wanted to head south and pick up I-10, which would take you to Tucson or L.A., or Tempe if you had a notion. Now there are loops and zigzags and corridors of concrete all over the place, and if you stuck me in a random place in the city I’d be lost. And hot, too.

But I’m looking forward to it. There are people I’d like to see, and it’s not likely to happen but it’d be fun to cruise the old neighborhood, pick out houses and remember being 17. I can’t call it home, but it used to be, and going there again has me a little jazzed. September in the Southwest is better than July, I think, and a little nostalgia and good company is all you can ask for in this world, in my opinion. And if they have a freak snowstorm while I’m there, I’m pretty sure I can help.

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UB-Day August 30

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Michael Chiklis (8/30/1963)

Chiklis was born in Lowell, Massachusetts and grew up in Andover, appearing in regional theater productions and earning his Actors Equity card at age 13.  He later attended Boston University College of Fine Arts, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

After graduation, Chiklis moved to New York and struggled until being cast as John Belushi in the film version of Wired, the Bob Woodward book, in 1989.  Although the film was generally panned, Chiklis got good reviews, and he began to get guest parts on shows such as Miami Vice, L.A. Law, Murphy Brown and Seinfeld.

In 1991, Chiklis was cast in the title role of The Commish, playing a stern but lovable, easy-going small town police commissioner.  After that, he starred in the short-lived NBC sitcom Daddio, and played Curly Howard in a TV movie about the Three Stooges.

Deciding to reinvent his image, Chiklis spent six months in an extensive workout program, losing weight and buffing up, creating an entirely different image and winning the leading role of detective Vic Mackey in The Shield in 2002, also winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe that year.

Michael Chiklis has also done numerous voice acting jobs, and played Thing in the Fantastic Four film to rave reviews.

Trivia: As a student actor, at age 20, Chiklis shaved his head to play an older man, and used greasepaint makeup (as opposed to powder) on his scalp, killing the hair follicles on his head and leaving him permanently bald.

Age Today: 44.

Shares Birthday With: Andy Roddick (25), Shaun Alexander (30), Cameron Diaz (35), David Paymer (53), Robert Parish (54), Timothy Bottoms (56), Lewis Black (59), Peggy Lipton (61), Jean-Claude Killy (64), Elizabeth Ashley (68), and Warren Buffet (67).

This Day In History: The Senate confirmed the appointment of Thurgood Marshall as the first black justice on the Supreme Court (1967).

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The Summer Knows

I left the Mariners game last night after the sixth inning, my sore tail bone having had enough and the game getting dark, anyway, after a pretty spectacular first inning.

I got back and found a message from an old friend, and so we had a nice conversation and made plans to hook up when I get to Arizona in the summer.  I tried to watch a network showing of “The Aviator” that I’d recorded, but eventually I had to turn it off; sometimes I don’t mind the editing and the breaks, particularly since I can fast forward and keep some sense of continuity, but “The Aviator” is a glorious film and that’s no way to see it.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are on vacation this week (and you think Alberto Gonzales resigning this weekend was a coincidence?), so there wasn’t much else to watch.  I read for a while, well after midnight, and then turned over, mentally swore at my sore muscles, and went to sleep.  Julie was still tapping away on her laptop, and John was definitely up, getting food.

I opened my eyes this morning, after fits and starts, and looked at the clock.  Julie was starting to sit up, too.  It was 11:15.

“We’re going to burn in hell, you know, for sleeping this late,” I said.

She just sighed.  “We’ll look back on the summer of 2007.”

And we will.  I can’t imagine another one like this.  Sinful, certainly, in terms of laziness.  She teaches a bit, I write a bit, we mess around in the yard and the house, we stay up late and sleep in, and we prepare for the fall, but none of this takes a whole lot of energy.

Her break is mandated (and necessary); school is out, and church and private lessons slow down.  Mine was conscious, an attempt to see what would happen.

What happened was that I got a summer off.  The book I planned to finish started to fade; a year of this new life didn’t seem quite enough.  And maybe the writing gig is over; I have no inside information.  I just know it’s time to find what else is out there.

A couple of weeks ago I signed up for classes at a local community college, aiming at getting a chemical dependency counseling certificate, although I have other things in mind, an M.S.W. among them.  It’s been 25 years since I’ve sat in a classroom, and while there’s no fear I’ll admit to some uneasiness

Still, it’s movement.  And it’s really the only subject that’s jumped out at me.  I’ve found an anti-intellectual bias in AA; people don’t want to know why, just how, and there’s this glazed, frightened look in their eyes (many of them, at least) if an issue or idea is brought up that doesn’t quite match with doctrine.  I understand this, but I want to go further.  Miracles happen there, in those rooms, in those lives, and if we don’t want to explore that at all then we’re just dancing in the desert, trying to make it rain.

Really, you could say the same thing about a lot of churches.

So I start classes in September, and before that I head to Arizona for a few days to visit with Mom and friends.  John will start senior year and Julie will go back to teaching college students.  Somewhere along the line I’ll have to find a job that pays better than writing freelance, which excludes practically nothing.

In the interim, though, I guess we’ll go on doing the same thing.  Hanging out together, enjoying the occasional bursts of summer, exchanging ideas, laughing and eating and being a family.  If these are the dog days, then we’re pretty content pups.  And why not?

For example, I came in from the back deck a while ago, and announced to Julie that I’d made a decision.

“So have I!” she said, standing up and smiling.

I was gracious.  “Tell me yours first.”

“I’m going to take a shower,” she said.  “And you?”

“I’m going to put on shorts.”

Because it’s already warm, and for us, in this particular summer, the day is only now just getting started.

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Poor Fredo

My man, Leonard Pitts from the Miami Herald, makes an interesting observation today about the resignation of attorney general Alberto Gonzales.  Money quote:

”It’s sad,” said Bush, “that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons.”

As is often the case with the things our president says, there’s a hole in that big enough to drive a Humvee through. It was, after all, Sen. Arlen Specter who said that Gonzales was not credible; Sen. John Cornyn who called his testimony ”deplorable”; Sen. Chuck Grassley who accused him of changing his story; and Sen. Norm Coleman, to name one of many, who demanded his resignation.

All those worthies are, of course, Republicans. So it is hard to see how Gonzales is a victim of politics, unless this is all part of some Machiavellian effort by the Republican Party to undermine the Republican Party.

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UB-Day August 29

(UB-Day marks the birthdays of people born between 1955 and 1964. If you want to know more, please read this post.)

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Rebecca De Mornay (8/29/1959)

Born in Santa Rosa, California but raised by her mother and stepfather in France, Rebecca De Mornay went to college in the United Kingdom and then attended the Strasberg Institute in New York to study acting. She had small parts in Francis Ford Coppola’s One from the Heart and the nuclear holocaust film Testament in 1982, and then her breakthrough role in 1983’s Risky Business with Tom Cruise.

Unfortunately, De Mornay was never able to transfer her nearly overnight success with Risky Business into a notable acting career; actually, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, her 1992 film in which she played the nanny from hell, was her most successful film.

She’s had guest appearances on E.R. and The Practice in recent years, and also appeared briefly in The Wedding Crashers with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. In June 2007 she appeared in the HBO series John From Cincinnati.

She lived with Tom Cruise for two and a half years following Risky Business, and later was briefly married to novelist/screenwriter Bruce Wagner . She’s currently married to sportscaster Patrick O’Neil (son of Ryan O’Neil).

Trivia: Her birth father was radio and television personality Wally George (from the show “Hot Seat,” if you remember).

Age Today: 48.

Shares Birthday With: Michael Jackson (49), Mark Morris (51), Bob Beamon (61), Robin Leach (66), Elliott Gould (69), John McCain (71), William Friedkin (72), and Richard Attenborough (84).

This Day In History: Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the Louisiana coast, overwhelming the levees protecting New Orleans and causing massive flooding. More than 1,500 people died (2005).

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