Mean Gene
Mean Gene
Pittsburgh's most decorated poker blogger, which I admit is like being the best shortstop in Greenland

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My Articles

Presto, the Arlo, & the Hammer
An Online Code of Conduct
The Ethics of Ratholing
"The Professor, the Banker..."
"Ace on the River"

My Columns

Lose the Shades
If You Can't Say Something Nice
Whither the Kicker
The Lady is a Champ?
Covering the WSOP (or not)
Statistics, Luck, and Poker
Poker and New Orleans
Managing a Bankroll
How To Tell A Bad Beat Story
Telling Lies
The Power of Poker Tracker
Advanced Card-Handling

My Greatest Hits

5 Things To Do Before I Die
Cafeteria Nostalgia
Mean Gene's Dubious Dating Tips
Poker and Business?
There's No Such Thing As Luck?
Isabelle, Je t'adore
No Shirt No Shoes No Service
Well, The Food Was Good
Good Morning, Mr. Matusow!
The Weekend of our Discontent, I
The Weekend of our Discontent, II
Books That Left Their Mark
Ode to a Fish Sandwich
Bill Simmons Ain't the Poker Guy
The Sports Guy Still Ain't the Poker Guy
Again, The Media Tackles Poker
Five Years After 9/11
Hitting Pretty Girls in the Face
Sixth-Graders Suck

Fellow Poker Bloggers

Guinness and Poker
Cards Speak
Tao of Poker
Up for Poker
Boy Genius
Chris Halverson
Poker Grub
The Fat Guy
Todd Commish
Poker Works
Bill Rini
Bad Blood
Love and Casino War
Double As
Lion Tales
Paul Phillips
Daniel Negreanu
Poker Nerd
Poker Nation
Poker in Arrears
Human Head
Sound of a Suckout
Chicks With Chips
TP's Table Talk
Royal Poker
This is Not A Poker Blog
Chick and a Chair
Go Be Rude
Poker Cheapskate
Poker & Other Stuff
Seven Two
Musical Poker
WPBT Online
Isabelle Mercier
Cardschat Blog
Amy Calistri
BJ Nemeth
Annie's Blog

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    Saturday, April 29, 2006

    A Suckeye No More

    I'm well-pleased with the Steelers' selection of WR Santonio Holmes, who most mock drafts had going to Detroit. As the picks slowly, slowly, so slowly moved toward the end of round one and the Super Bowl champions, Mark and I started to get antsy that maybe the Steelers would move up to grab Holmes. And then with the Giants on the clock we heard the announcement of the trade, the Steeler emblem appeared on the screen, and we just had to wait for the announcment of the obvious pick.

    Could the Steelers have stayed at #32 and still gotten Holmes? I doubt it, someone would've grabbed him. And although it hurts to give up that third-rounder, there's no way all 10 of our picks could've made the team, so it made sense to use a few to get a guy who fills two big holes--receiver and returner.

    I'm a Penn Stater. And I'm on record as saying that the Ohio State University is a pit filled with vipers, and that the Buckeye football team is populated with villains, deviants, and leaking bags of human garbage. Yet two of the players I hoped the Steelers would draft wore Scarlet and Grey (Carpenter and Mangold) and I' delighed with the Buckeye we landed. It turns out hypocrasy is really no big deal.

    Man, how much macaroni and cheese has LenDale White scarfed down the last few months. It's not so much that he looks fat--he looks full. He looks like he's eaten lots and lots of macaroni and cheese and enjoyed it to the max.

    ESPN has been running promotional spots with Bush and Young and Leinart and others walking down a runway in flashy suits. The bits with White are high unintentional comedy. He looks just a wee bit awkward.

    Suzy Kolber is on right now, and for the sixtieth time I'm struck by the urge to reach through the TV set and brush back her bangs. Every year she looks more and more like a sheepdog. Please, Suzy, everybody wants to see your pretty face. Plus we don't want you walking into walls.

    And none of the picks Suzy has tried to talk to over the high-falutin' video links have been able to hear her. She asks a good question and next you see some massive guy sticking his finger in his ear and saying, "What...I can't hear you..". Scintillating television.

    As you know, my buddy Mark and I went to NYC for the draft two years ago. And we've talked about giving it another shot if the Steelers every have a pick above the thirties anytime soon. But as I watched the shots of the fans in Radio City Music Hall, all those Jets and Giants and, yes, Steeler fans, I suddenly realized something. "Know what," I said. "Draft people is UGLY people." Maybe I'll have to content myself with watching it from home. Because I'm not an ugly person. And therefore cannot be a draft person.

    First round went fast this year, only 5 hours. I think some of ESPN's mock drafts too longer than that. Had a few beers early on, some wings, some time in the sun, then more beer and a burger. And now, maybe a little nap.

    Friday, April 28, 2006

    I Just Had the Best Run of Cards in My Life

    Played some tiny PL Hold-Em tonight. Over an 8-hand period I was dealt:

    AK, flopped a king
    Pocket eights, flopped top set and made quads on the turn
    KJ, flopped trip kings

    Nice run of cards.

    Too bad I went bust over those eight hands.

    Skip the rest of this post. It's just therapy for me. Move along, nothing to see here.

    I flopped a king with the AK, but the board had 2 hearts. I check-raised after the flop, bet the pot when another king came on the turn, and by the time the heart came on the river I had no choice but to put in my nearly-literally two cents. He had the nut flush draw and dutifully chased it all the way home.

    No action with the queens. With the aces I re-raised after the UTG dude bumped it up, and the board came Q-Q-4. I led out and after his call I knew I was beat. Didn't stop me from check-calling him down and stacking off again. He'd raised with QJ then cold-called my raise.

    Missed the flop with AK. Got no action with my quads. Missed the flop again with AK. Got no action with my overpair tens. Got no action with my trip kings. The next hand I was dealt 6-10 offsuit and I felt like it was time to call it a night.

    I'm pissed at myself. After I lost the first hand I should've taken a deep breath. Taken a walk around the room. I didn't. The guy who sucked out on me left the very next hand, and to be honest that's what tilted me. Not losing the pot--that only got me listing dangerously to port. But when he bugged out I capsized. I knew my aces were beat with two queens on the board. I pushed my chips in anyway. I didn't give a fuck.

    I rarely tilt. Seriously. I'm a bit tilted all the time anyway, a bad beat sometimes focuses my mind. I'm serious when I say that I'm very disappointed in myself for giving away those chips. I'm not mad. I'm not pissed. I'm not railing at the poker gods. I'm disappointed with myself. The fact that it happens to everybody from time to time is not an excuse in my book. It shouldn't have happened this time.

    Think I'm gonna go gamble the rest of it in an SNG and see if I can salvage something from this night. I did take second in one tonight, maybe I'm due for a win. Or, maybe not.

    Tuesday, April 25, 2006

    Hangin' in NYC with Big Ben

    Not much to write about lately...well, that's a lie, been plenty to write about but I just haven't found the time and/or strength to post it here. Tres busy and I think I'm coming down with something.

    And I have to be in tip-top shape for this coming Saturday, when the NFL Draft will be on in all it's glory. I'll be watching it over Mark's house, wasting a glorious spring afternoon by sitting on the couch, drinking much beer, and waiting for our beloved Steelers to make their picks. Picking last in the first's a long wait, but how satisfying the memory of what made it so.

    Who do I want the Steelers to pick? I have no clear-cut favorite. LenDale White would be a steal at #32. Nick Mangold was the early preferred pick. Bobby Carpenter? Sinorice Moss? One of the safeties that have gone up and down Mel's Big Board? I'm content to wait and see how it all shakes out.

    So no mock drafts from me. Even a die-hard draft dork like me has just about had enough with the endless speculation and pontification and obfuscation. They really need to move the draft up a month or so. It used to be that ESPN would keep Mel Kiper in his cryogenic pod until April he's on more than Peter Gammons. I just hope he isn't hoarse for the draft.

    So in lieu of reading about my views of the 2006 Draft, why not kill an hour reading about my ill-fated trip to New York City for the 2004 Draft? I find it hard to believe its been two years already since Mark and I went to the Big Apple for our NFL Draft pilgrimage. If you haven't read it, prepare yourself for a sorry tale of betrayal and woe. With some fun mixed in too. Crap, I have the pictures laying around here somewhere, maybe I'll scan and post 'em in the next day or so.

    Anyway, enjoy:

    The Weekend of our Discontent, Part One

    The Weekend of our Discontent, Part Two

    Friday, April 21, 2006

    There's No Business Like Show Business...Thank God

    Bill Simmons of ESPN has a two part conversation with Brian Koppelman and David Levien, the gentlemen who wrote Rounders. Simmons of course asked them the question all fans of that movie want to know--Why the hell doesn't Mike sleep with the slinky, scrumptious, yet surprisingly vulnerable Famke Janssen? It beggars belief. I can't believe Damon himself didn't walk off the set demanding a rewrite.

    And here's how they answered: "We plead guilty. Biggest mistake of the film, probably of our entire career...(i)t's not that we're monks, just idiots."

    About the only believable excuse, and I suppose none of us is without sin. They do mention that they'd imagined Petra as a more "regular-looking" girl. It's hard to imagine a less "regular-looking" girl than Ms. Janssen, so it's perhaps asking a bit much to process the fact that THIS is the woman playing that character and that strong men would swoon in her irregular presence. If you start fiddling with that character you'd probably end up re-writing the entire script to give her more screen time, and so maybe that wasn't a productive path to head down.

    It's an interesting read, though Simmons didn't ask a few questions I would've liked to ask. Actually, there's one in particular--pretty much every professional player who's written or spoken about Tilt hated it. HATED it. It made them look like cheats and crooks and scumballs. So, any backlash? And why, after making a name for yourself glorifying poker, would you make a show that rips it apart? Especially in as silly a way as Tilt does? And why would ESPN, which shows WSOP highlights 50 hours a week, do the same?

    Though it doesn't sound like Tilt came out quite as they hoped--"There is no way we can overstate this: We must have quit/threatened to quit the show five times over the nine matter what we said, we just couldn't believe the answers coming back at us."

    It must be very, very, very strange to come up with an idea for a TV show, or a movie, and get someone to agree to produce it, and then have to collaborate with dozens of other people who often have completely different ideas about how to present "your" idea. I'm sure change100 could go on and on and ON about this particular subject, but I've always been fascinated by the relationship writers have to the performing arts. Fascinated in the same way I'm fascinated by watching multiple-car pileups on the interstate.

    One of my writing professors at Penn State was a gentleman named Bob Downs, who had two of his novels turned into TV movies. He told us a story about walking onto the set and feeling an overwhelming sense of deja vu. He couldn't put his finger on it, until he realized that the set he was on was of the living room he'd described in his book. It wasn't quite as he imagined it, but it was close enough to give him the willies.

    He said that a friend of his enjoyed the perfect relationship with Hollywood--every single one of his novels had been optioned...and not one of them had been turned into a movie.

    There was a documentary about James Ellroy on HBO awhile back (It might've been titled My Dark Places, as much of it dealt with the same subject matter as the book of that title) and Ellroy tells a little story about the movie version of L.A. Confidential. He says that the success of that movie is something that he had absolutely nothing to do with, it was a once in a lifetime event. And he says, "Once in awhile some sweet little old lady will stop him and say, "Ohhhh, I just loved that movie. It was so wonderful. Tell me, is Kim Basinger nice?"

    And Ellroy says, "Yeah, she's OK."

    "Ohh, isn't that nice? Tell me, is Kevin Spacey gay?"

    And Ellroy says, "I don't know. But let me ask you something. Did you read the book? And invariably the little old lady says she didn't. and I say to her, 'Then what the fuck good are you to me?'"

    I taped that show, I really need to dig it out and watch it again. If you haven't read L.A. Confidential, good Lord, you should. And, good Lord, you should read My Dark Places. That reminds me that I haven't read White Jazz yet, nor The Black Dahlia. Add them to my summer reading list.

    Anyway, my point is that the path from the written word to celluloid can be a tortured one indeed. You don't often see great works of art created by committee and tested before focus groups. Too many cooks spoils the broth, the saying goes, and perhaps its a wonder that some movies and TV show are actually watchable.

    What got me thinking about this subject was a piece I read in today's Post-Gazette. There's going to be a movie made from Michael Chabon's novel The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, which is a favorite of mine. There's been talk of making a film from it for years, but as I read the article I found myself half-hoping it gets shelved. First of all, they might not actually shoot it in Pittsburgh. As the article says, the city itself is a character in the book, which is one of the reasons I love it so much. They might film instead in Canada or Louisiana. WTF? Louisiana? I've lived in Pittsburgh my entire life (less 4 years at Penn State) and I've never heard anyone say, "This reminds me of Cajun country." My friend Mark spent four years in Shreveport when he was in the Air Force--at no time did he say, "Basically it's Pittsburgh with crawfish".

    On top of that, the film version would take two major characters and merge them into one, which to my mind would ruin things right there. For further that-topping, Sienna Miller would play a character who was the girlfriend of one of the un-merged characters from the book. The problem is, the merged character would be gay, so I don't exactly see why she'd still be required.

    Another problem with making a film from this particular book is that Chabon is a spectacular writer, and so much of the magic in the book comes from his beautiful words. He didn't write the screenplay--it's going to be written and directed by the guy who did Dodgeball, which doesn't fill me with confidence. When asked about the changes made to his book, Chabon said, ""You're not just making a transcript of the novel with pictures, you're trying to reinvent the story so it works as a movie. ... I think it's going to be great."

    I think I might just grab the book off my shelf and read it again.

    Tuesday, April 18, 2006

    Mean Gene Inna House!

    Played in Wil's tournament last night, made the final table, finished 9th. I actually had crap to do and figured I'd play a few hands, get killed, and go about my business. I was down to about T500 when I pushed with a straight draw that came in on the river, and then I was off and running.

    Played very well, thank you, except for 2 or 3 hee-haw plays. Like re-raising a shortstack with the Hammer--brilliant play that. And raising the blinds with J-9 when I knew he'd have to push with just about anything. But every time I donked off chips I won a pot right after to get 'em back. I stole the blinds once with the Hammer, which made my heart feel so warm. Been awhile since I did that in front of an appreciative audience.

    Shortstacked, I decided to hang on and see if I could pick up a hand and failing that maybe move up a spot or two. I ended up pushing in the small blind with 10-3 and Maigrey, of course, had AQ. I flopped a straight draw but this time I didn't catch, and once again my mighty heart was broken.

    Felt good to play. And now...I gotta do all the stuff I was supposed to do during a quiet evening at home. And I wanted to go to bed at a decent hour, too.

    Thursday, April 13, 2006

    Ten More Years

    I took a half-day today, walked past PNC Park as it filled with fans for an afternoon game (Bucs got crushed), and headed home to do some heavy lifting and yard work. On the way home I stopped at the library to drop off an overdue CD, and I was witness to a truly pitiable sight. When it was over I found that I was quite moved; at times we forget how much we have to be thankful for. We take too much for granted, we don't stop to think about those who are far less fortunate.

    I leave the library and step into brilliant sunshine. A woman is walking toward me with her son. He's about eight. Here's what I witnessed:

    MOM: Buddy, buddy, come on, buddy! Walk right here, right here, right here. That's it buddy, walk right here, walk right here.

    BOY: (whining) Mommmmmm!

    MOM: Don't walk so fast, watch the curb, the CURB, buddy! Watch the curb...that's it buddy, wait right there, wait right there, buddy, wait right there, wait right there.

    BOY: Mommmmm!

    MOM: No no no! Don't go down the stairs, buddy, don't go down the stairs! Buddy, don't go down the stairs. Stay right there, stay right there, buddy, stay right there, stay right there!

    BOY: What?

    MOM: Those stairs are too steep, come with me, come with me, buddy, come with me, come on, come on, come on buddy, come with me, over here, over here, come over here.

    BOY: (Looks at gently sloping steps, looks confused, shoulders slump, follows mother to handicapped ramp)

    MOM: OK, buddy! OK, OK, OK, OK.

    Ten more years that poor child has to endure that torment. Provided we don't see him arraigned on Court TV before then.

    Know what? Think I'm gonna call my mom. Just to say hello.

    Monday, April 10, 2006

    Opening Day Sucks; So Does The Masters

    It's Opening Day for the Pirates, who return home triumphant after actually winning a baseball game yesterday. Everyone is so buzzed about that big win--after all, the Bucs might only manage that feat 30 or 40 more times this year. Each victory must be savored, like something...really...savory.

    What sucks, and sucks large, is that my building is located right next door to PNC Park. So if I take a look out the window I can see a parking lot filled with thousands of early-morning tailgaters. Lounging out in the sun, drinkin' beer, eatin' kiebasa. And here I am in my Dockers and collared shirt looking out, sighing theatrically, with my nose pressed against the glass. We're going out at lunch to hang with a guy in our department who's out there right now; he just called to say he has an extra ticket. I'm so tempted...but I'd have to run home and change, don't feel like watching a game while dressed for work. It wouldn't feel right. So I'll just go out at noon and enjoy the sights and smells. Nothing smells better than a tailgate party.

    OK, I just went outside with folks I work with and hung out at the party for an hour. Had a hot dog; did not have a beer. Had to come back inside. This sucks. Should've taken off. Mistake.

    Anyway, I watched The Masters yesterday, which didn't make for especially scintillating television. The leaders all played so-so, with Mickelson playing less (or more) so-so than everyone else to win the green jacket. Now, I know that CBS has a Very Special Relationship with Augusta National. They want us to know that The Masters isn't a sporting event; it's the most sacred ritual of some undefined religious sect. Every year we hear Jim Nantz speak reverently about Bobby Jones, making him sound like a cross between Roy Hobbs, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Jesus of Nazareth. The three holes that make up Amen Corner are spoken of as if they're comperable to the Stations of the Cross. Each hole has its own bucolic nickname (Azalea, Juniper, Yellow Jasmine (my favorite). To the Green Jacket is granted talismanic, transformational powers.

    As readers of this blog know so well, I rather enjoy a little hyperbole, especially if there's a dash of hysteria involved to spice things up. But what bothers me about CBS's worship of The Masters is that we unwashed masses aren't welcome inside the revival tent. Augusta National is a private club. They don't let just anyone join. They don't let just anyone play a round there. They don't let just anyone stand in the gallery (according to the club's official FAQ, "Practice Rounds tickets are limited and sold in advance. Tournament or Series Badges are sold to those on a patron list which is closed"). Hell, the tournament even has the smallest, most exclusive field in golf. And while I'm more likely than most people to someday stroll the holy ground of August (I'm white, and male) I do have one big disadvantage that will forever keep me from leaving my footprints on the fairways--I'm not very, very rich.

    Mind you, I'm not blaming the folks at Augusta National for this. It's a free country, and if you want to have a private club that exludes certain members of society, I think you should be free to do that. Those exluded members of society then have the right to protest and picket and call for boycotts of the club's sponsors--freedom goes both ways. This way everybody wins...or loses, which I guess is basically the same thing.

    No, I find myself getting more ticked off by CBS. I know The Masters is hugely popular and it's in their best interest to build it up as much as possible, but I found myself getting pissed a fair few times yesterday. The first thing that pissed me off was the bird. I'm sure you heard it--on several occasions, as a player was teeing off, you could hear this clear-as-day chirping of a sparrow or robin or frickin' chickadee. Now, if Tiger or Phil heard some bird cheeping that loud as they settled over the ball they'd have their caddies tracking the critter with a shotgun. So, as a friend of mine observed, either CBS had a parabolic mike pointed as some especially contented warbler or they had some avian lifeform locked up in a trailer with orders to make with the music. All I know is that I heard the same bird chirping when Mickelson was teeing off and then, a minute later, he was chirping as Chad Campbell stood over a putt. Unless evolution has bred publicity-hungry fowl, it was staged.

    My goat was gotten when Verne Lundquist said something along the lines of "Augusta National is the most beautiful venue in all of sports". Now, this may be true. The thing is, me and the vast majority of the populace will never get to SEE it. It would be no big deal to spring for tickets to Fenway Park, or the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, or Old Trafford, or Madison Square Garden. But I'll never have the chance to see Augusta for myself. Few of us will. Unless we have lots of money, some serious corporate weight, and are the "right" sort of fellow. Our country is increasingly fragmented along sharply defined lines--left-right, blue-red, rich-poor. Maintaining their exclusivity is one of the Masters' prime directives, and while that's their call, that doesn't mean I have to enjoy CBS cramming the manufactured romance down my throat. Contrast that to the tailgating folks outside my window--a big mass of humanity, everyone just hanging out, eating the same grilled meats, drinking beer from cans, having fun in the sun. Wanna quick hot dog? Stop on by.

    Friday, April 07, 2006

    Maggie Dixon

    It's always horrible when someone dies in the prime of life, and that's how I felt when I heard that Maggie Dixon, the sister of Pitt basketball coach Jamie Dixon, died yesterday. She was 28 years old and had to be on top of the world. She'd led her team to the NCAA tournament, her brother did the same, and for each of them it seemed the sky was the limit. According to the Post-Gazette Maggie Dixon died because she had an enlarged heart and a valve that wasn't functioning properly. It doesn't seem possible that this young, vital woman could die this suddenly.

    But it seems doubly cruel that the school mourning Dixon's death is West Point. While cadets are certainly more aware of the possibility that life (including their life) might be cut short at any time, it seems so unfair that they have to deal with a tragedy involving their basketball coach.

    In Adrian Wojnarowski's column on ESPN, he wrote that in addition to announcing Dixon's death, West Point also announced that a 2002 graduate was killed in an Apache helicopter crash in Iraq. Life can be unbearably cruel.

    Thursday, April 06, 2006

    Excellent, Right on Shed-Yule

    The above is one of my favorite Christopher Walken quotes, from A View to a Kill, which was the worst James Bond movie, hands down. My first reaction after taking a cursory look at the Steelers 2006 slate was, "Jesus, that's brutal." According to ESPN it's the 5th toughest schedule in the league. But then I looked it over a second time and while there are some tough patches, in fact the Black and Gold caught a few breaks from the NFL's concierges.

    The Steelers open by hosting Miami, who some foolish analysts are picking to go to the Super Bowl. I'd rather entertain the Dolphins in December, but Daunte Culpepper will probably still be hobbling at that point and so getting the Fish early may be a good thing. After that Thursday night game we travel to Jacksonville for a Monday night game. Two tough games in a row to start the season, but we play at night when it won't be so brutally hot, plus we get a few extra days to prepare. Jacksonville is also not one of the scarier road venues in the league, not that the Steelers fear any opposing stadium. They've proven they can beat anybody, at any place, at any time.

    After Jax we host Cincinnati, in a game where it would be perfectly appropriate to ring the field in barbed wire. I very much like the fact that we get Cinci at home first, as the Bengals will be out for blood and vengeance and whatnot after their playoff loss. Then a bye week to recover before flying west to play San Diego. By this time the Charger faithful will be furious that Drew Brees is gone and lustily booing Philip Rivers, so playing again in San Diego isn't too daunting. I'd much rather play in SD than KC, and for the first time since Mike Livingston was QB the Chiefs are coming to Pittsburgh instead of the other way around. I think the Steelers played in Arrowhead 27 years in a row, and as KC is one of the few places with fans as rabid as those in the 'Burgh I'm happy we're skipping the barbeque this year.

    We have to play Atlanta on the carpet, but there's no better spy for Michael Vick than Troy Polamalu. Thence to Oakland to play the Raiders, who are in disarray. We get Denver at home--even though we won the AFC title there, there's no harm in avoiding a trip to Mile High. A soft stretch of New Orleans, Cleveland and Baltimore probably won't be as soft as it might've looked a year ago. Tampa Bay at home in December--that helps. Cleveland on a short week is tough, but again, it's at home. At Carolina, tough game, but we get a long week to prepare. Then the Ravens again on Christmas Eve, before closing the season at Cinci on New Year's Eve. The Bengals have to be pissed about that. It's possible that game could decide the AFC North Champion...or the game could be totally meaningless. I'm sure Bengals fans are anxious to vent against the champeen Steelers, but they have to wait the whole year to do it.

    So, another tough year beckons. But really, who knows? In the NFL teams progress and regress so fast it's hard to predict how tough the schedule is until it's been played out. Of course the Steelers don't have to play the best team in the league--except in practice.

    Tomorrow everyone will be talking about the schedule, and the draft. True, baseball is under way, but the Pirates' season is already a disaster and they still haven't thrown the first pitch at PNC Park. But who cares? Football. It's just around the corner.

    Tuesday, April 04, 2006

    Keeping My Eye on the Ball

    Depending on who you talk to, I usually have my head either in the clouds or up my ass. I daydream, I'm easily distracted, I'm not a methodical and regimented person. It takes all sorts to make a world, and this is just what I'm like. It's not to the point where I have imaginary friends and engage in conversation with squirrels, but I'll admit I'm a bit spacy.

    That said, I'm a wee bit concerned about my mental state after the last week or so. Oh, there's nothing serious to report--I haven't discovered a newfound pleasure in cutting myself, nor have I found myself staring at Heinz Field and wondering what it would look like on fire. No, it's more a number of small fumbles and stumbles that has me wondering if there are some sparking wires inside my skull.

    Like most working stiffs I have an alarm clock. I set my alarm every night before I go to bed. Last Thursday I forgot to set it for the first time in 10 years. OK, no biggie, we all make mistakes. My own internal clock went off 30 minutes after my Timex one should've sounded, so I wasn't even late for work. No biggie.

    Thing is, I forgot to set my alarm Sunday night. I set it every night for 10 years, and then on consecutive nights I forget to set it. And I woke up at exactly the same time on Monday as I did on Friday. Odd.

    So Monday I race around, get dressed, grab my coat and bag, set down my bag to throw my fermenting gym clothes out of the back seat, hop in the car, and I'm off. Leaving my bag sitting there in the garage. Terrific. My lunch and, more importantly, my ID badge were in the bag. I can't even set the damn thing on the ground five seconds without forgetting it.

    But I forgave myself. I was probably distracted by the stench rising from my kneepads, which is putrid enough to drop an elk. OK. The next day I wake up (to the chiming of my alarm clock, thank you), get dressed, grab my bag, and head to town.

    Forgetting my coat. On a day when it's about 50 degrees with temperatures due to plummet. I walk every day from our shuttle lot to my building, and in the morning the 25-minute walk was no problem. It was calm and crisp. The walk back, on the other hand, was like something out of March of the Penguins. It rained sideways all afternoon and while the precip ended the wind howled on. And being bullheaded I walked back to the lot, freezing my ass off and getting quite a few stares from bundled-up commuters wondering why the hell I was leaning into the wind with nothing but a pale-blue Polo oxford to shield my tender skin from the slashing wind. I should've worn a sandwich board that read, "Because I'm an IDIOT". It might've shielded me from a bit of the wind, at least. I thought I heard a tick-tick-tick sound as my core body temperature slid into the low nineties.

    So I haven't been running on all cylinders. For the most part I've been able to function quite well, it's just these little glitches that are making me wonder if a true mental catastrophe looms. And then comes Monday night, we played volleyball, lost our playoff game, and went out for consoling drinks afterwards. Too many delicious beers later I got home, drank a quart of water, gobbled down a few Advil, and hit the hay. I woke up feeling fantastic, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I dressd, grabbed something for lunch, grabbed coat AND bag and I'm in my car 10 minutes ahead of my usual departure time. I'm halfway there when I catch a glimpse of myself in the rear-view mirror. I have written extensively on these pages about the Troubles I have with my hair. It's straight, it's all over the place, it's a pelt. Well, after I got out of the shower and blew it dry (if I don't it'll still be wet at 3PM) I didn't comb it. Or brush it. I looked like I'd just rolled out of bed and then, for kicks, stuck my finger in a light socket. The air is so cold and dry that my hair had picked up a charge strong enough for me to feel in my fingertips. I looked ri-goddam-diculous.

    How the hell do I keep missing these steps in my daily routine? I brushed my teeth--why didn't I go through my progressions and brush my hair? I haven't dropped these many balls in such a short space of time in I don't know how long. OK, I have stuff on my mind, but no more than usual. I haven't driven off a bridge or eaten a carboard pizza box yet, but I'm afraid the situation may escalate. So far it's the banal minutiae of life that's giving me problems. Am I going to snap out of it, or am I gonna start having problems with the dishwasher?

    Today, so far, has been a good day. All systems are go. I'm on the case. Eye of the Tiger, Geno. Eye of the Tiger.

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