Wednesday, June 20, 2018

#SBRLLR: Beat Navy (Part 1)

"From the Far East I send you one single thought, one sole idea — written in red on every beachhead from Australia to Tokyo — There is no substitute for victory!"
― General Douglas MacArthur
We marched back from Lake Frederick after a relatively relaxed week in tents.  Our class motto, “With Honor We Strive,” led the way, emblazoned in gold letters across a black background.  To my amazement, the entire West Point community came out to give our class a legitimate hero’s welcome.  I didn’t know what to think.  After six weeks of Beast Barracks, the mass cheering of all those folks lining the streets evoked within me some rather serious cognitive dissonance.  Similarly, my classmates and I were eager for the end of Beast Barracks but also nervous for what lay ahead.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

#SBRLLR: Drinking Beer & Looking at Old Pictures

Spoiler Alert: When your folks die, you're gonna have to go thru a million old pictures.  Sally asked me to go through some old picture albums today since she's been cleaning up our garage, and I found one from one of my ancestors dated 1923 to 1924.  It details his literal trip around the world.  He's got pictures from Japan, China, Egypt, and every point in between.

Dude was, like, a member of the landed gentry from the farmlands of Middle Tennessee.  An honest-to-God Southern Gentleman.  It's crazy.  At times, I badly want to go back in time and lecture my one-time family members about the values of financial responsibility.  I've had to start rebuilding the family wealth almost from scratch, and that's fine in the sense that I had a few advantages when I started, but it's also maddening, all things considered.  But what can you do?

I'll share the pics from that trip some other time.  Documenting it will be much more work than I want to put in today.  For now, I'm three beers into a Yankee game, having already put in the best swim workout I've had this season.

I'm reloading calories, if you will.  One of the virtues of distance athletics.

Anyway, these pics are from another album, and I'm sharing them today because I'm not sure I'm going to get all the way through editing the next chapter of my memoir this week.  On the off chance that I don't make it all the way through the next bit, these will have to tide you over a week.  Sorry in advance if that happens.

Pics after the jump.

Friday, June 15, 2018

5 Things on a Friday: Building on Momentum

Before we get started this week, I’ve got a couple of announcements:
First, my Swim Across the Sound team still needs your support.  We’re about halfway to our fundraising goal, and I know that a lot of people have been on this site lately checking out the happenings.  Most of you fins folks can easily afford to support Team RBG.  Please do that.  It’s for a good cause.
Yes, this is me swimming.
My second announcement is about #SBRLLR.  This week’s post did gangbuster numbers, which is awesome.  Thank you for that.  
If you’re wondering what to read next, well… I personally think the whole thing is worth reading, especially if you care about context.  However, most folks have liked Chapter 2.  If you also like Chapter 2, then I hate to say it, but you ought to just bite the bullet and read the whole damn story.  
It’s free, you cheap bastards.
Finally, if you liked #SBRLLR, and you’ve been thinking about doing something similar, please reach out.  As I said earlier this week, one of the reasons I wrote the memoir was as a way of starting this conversation.  Ideally, you should have a set time period to write about along with a collection of anecdotes.  With that, we should be able to draw up an overall outline and lay out scene structure for the first chapter or two.  That should be enough to get you going.
Alright.  Let’s get it on.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

#SBRLLR: Beast (Part 2)

My roommate John turned out to be a prior-service soldier who’d just finished a year at the Academy’s Prep School, getting his grades up so that he would be able to compete with a bunch of high school heroes once the Academic Year started.  If R-Day or Beast Barracks ever fazed John, I never saw any sign of it.  I don’t know if they put me with John because his last name was near mine alphabetically, or if somebody somewhere thought that maybe I would need a little extra help with some of West Point’s overarching military bullshit.  John was a huge help, and I was extremely grateful for it.  However, we came from radically different pre-Academy backgrounds, and so we didn’t hit it off immediately—not in a deeply personal way at any rate.  We got along well enough, but I think my shell-shocked military stupidity and ongoing emotional numbness must surely have tried John’s patience.  He was a few years older, and he’d already been through Basic Training and had served in the Regular Army.  The last thing he wanted, I can well imagine, was to deal with a barely eighteen-year-old newbie who didn’t know his head from his ass.  However, he taught me as much as he knew, and for that I was extremely fortunate.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Entry-Level Thoughts on Writing a Memoir

As my memoir slowly enters its West Point years, its readership has increased dramatically, especially among my Academy classmates.  That’s a good thing.  I wrote the book for a lot of reasons, but one of the more outward-thinking ones was as a way to discuss the idea of writing about experiences with some of my friends.  As our current class president said a few years ago, “Classes get remembered when they tell their stories.”  Our class has done a few things.  We therefore have to find ways to tell the story.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sunday Musings: Monkey See, Monkey Do

A few random musing from the last few days.

So what is the most honest way of talking about the Trump economy? It goes like this: The president inherited an economy that had come a long way toward healing. During his administration, the economy has continued growing at about the same rate it did before he took office, pushing incomes, employment and output to yet higher levels.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Swim Across the Sound 2018

I out this out on FB and Twitter on Tuesday, but let me say it again here: we're still looking for some support for Team RBG in this year's Swim Across the Sound.  A lot of folks have "liked" and "retweeted" the links for our quest, and that's great, but as of this writing, we're still quite a ways short of our total fundraising goal.

Link: Team RBG and the Swim Across the Sound

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Thoughts on Solo & the Star Wars Universe

We saw Solo: A Star Wars Story over the weekend.  Everybody liked it okay.  I don’t think it was anyone’s idea of a great movie, and even my kids saw some of those closing double-crosses coming, but it was still entertaining, and that’s fine.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

#SBRLLR: Beast (Part 1)

"If the fresh skin of an animal, cleaned and divested of all hair, fat, and other extraneous matter, be immersed in a dilute solution of tannic acid, a chemical combination ensues; the gelatinous tissue of the skin is converted into a non-putrescible substance, impervious to and insoluble in water; this, sir, is leather."
― Plebe Knowledge, “The Definition of Leather”22 
I met my friends Amber and Rose outside the auditorium on Reception Day.  The three of us had met during our recruiting trip back in March, and Amber and I had hit it off particularly well.  We were three swimmers with no idea what lay ahead of us, save that all three had gotten a pair of black leather low-quarter shoes and started breaking them in per West Point’s instructions to cadet candidates.  I’d tried to talk to my dad a little about what it was going to be like to join the military, but he had brushed off most of my questions, save to push me to keep running and doing pushups by way of being ready for Beast.  Beyond that, Dad seemed content to let me enjoy my last weeks of freedom.  He did try to teach me to shine my shoes, but that particular lesson was one I chose to ignore.

Friday, June 1, 2018

5 Things on a Friday: Praying for a New Plane

I’m back.  I’ve been busier of late, so I don’t know that 5 Things' return is necessarily going to be a regular occurrence, but there’s so much going on that I thought maybe we ought to talk about at least some of it.
Let’s get it on!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Army Football Preview: First Look at 2019 and Beyond

I got interested in Army Football's future schedule construction last year, after the Athletic Association released the 2017 & 2018 schedule's simultaneously.  At the time, I thought that this coming season would be Army's breakout year because a) Coach Monken's first full recruiting class will be firsties in 2018, and those guys have been key contributors for three years already, and b) this year's schedule looks quite a bit easier than last year's did, at least on paper.

But the Black Knights got ahead of me.  They won ten games in 2017 behind record-breaking QB Ahmad Bradshaw, so what do I know?

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

#SBRLLR: Choosing a Life (Part 2)

I came home wearing a Harvard Swimming t-shirt and carrying a head full of possibilities.  I thought a lot about what David Berkoff had told me and a lot about what Harvard’s coach had said.  
What kind of man did I want to be?
I didn’t know.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Army Football Preview: 2018 Season (4th Quarter)

We’ve spent the last few weeks looking at spring camp results from Army’s 2018 seasonal opponents, going three games at a time.  This week brings us to the season’s finish, the so-called fourth quarter.
Outside of the Army-Navy game, it’s not a compelling slate.  North Texas opted out of the second half of what was originally a four-game home-and-home set following their loss in the Heart of Dallas Bowl in 2017.  That left the Athletic Department scrambling to schedule two games on short notice, and as a result, the Black Knights once again have two FCS games, both with opponents from the Patriot League.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

#SBRLLR: Choosing a Life (Part 1)

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler...“
― Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
Harvard turned out to be an ancient collection of brick buildings and concrete pathways that wound through grassy park-like open areas and underneath occasional stone and wrought iron archways.  The teeming heart of Cambridge lay just beyond the campus border, making the college feel very much a part of the city in which it lived.  For all that this was the Ivy League, I saw very little actual ivy, though this may have been because my visit occurred in early March.  It was spring in Tampa, Florida, but the bite of winter still hung heavy in the air in Boston.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Pics: Def Leppard & Journey at the XL Center

I took Sally to see Def Leppard and Journey last night at the XL Arena in Hartford.  We saw Def Leppard about a year ago at Mohegan Sun and had such a good time that we wanted to go again.  But we'd been on the fence because the show was on a Monday night, and the XL Arena is not, in all honesty, the nicest venue I've ever been to.

After what has felt like a month of rain, yesterday was gorgeous.
Took this shot on my way down to the Hudson Greenway to memorialize the weather.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Army Football Preview: 2018 Season (3rd Quarter)

We’ve spent the last two weeks talking about the first half of Army’s 2018 football season.  We said that Army’s got a chance against Duke, and we talked a bit about the strategy that might keep them competitive with Oklahoma.  It is entirely possible that this team outperforms expectations and explodes onto the national stage.  More likely, however, the Black Knights stumble somewhere early, going either 3-1 or 2-2 through their first four games.  This middle stretch, then, starting with the Buffalo game and ending with the home game against Air Force, will decide what kind of team this is going to be.
Army ought to be favored at San Jose State, but the other four games--at Buffalo, vs. Miami (Ohio), at Eastern Michigan, and vs. Air Force--will most likely be close contests.  The Black Knights were very good in close contests last season.  They will need to keep that streak alive in order to win all four of these games and take some momentum into Philadelphia and the Army-Navy game.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

#SBRLLR: Through the Looking Glass (Part 4)

Short course season ended without Junior National cuts, but as the summer before my senior year approached, I felt better and more focused in the pool than I had in ages.  We headed to the first long course meet of the season, a championship-style meet held at the natatorium in Orlando just after I turned seventeen.  I’d already gotten off the track of being truly elite, and I didn’t think I’d ever get back onto it.  A full scholarship to Tennessee was no longer a realistic possibility.  Perhaps that’s why I climbed to the blocks for the preliminary heat of my first 100 Butterfly of the season feeling looser than I had in years.  The 100 Fly was no longer my best event, but I knew as I climbed those blocks that my long wait was over.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Thing About Dreaming

Dream and start the climb and die trying
And I dreampt and I will drown will I drown
I can see
And yet I still dream and I still wish and I still try and I still walk and I still laugh and I still
They tell me run.
And if I die trying, I die running and my heart will be beating
And faster
And faster
And will it be running?
Will I be running?
                Will I be dreaming?

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Army Football Preview: 2018 Season (2nd Quarter)

We talked a bit last week about how ESPN and SB*Nation are modeling their outlooks for Army Football in 2018.  We then looked at the coming season’s first three games.  This week, we’ll talk a bit about the Black Knights’ offense and take a look at the team’s next three games, the season’s so-called Second Quarter.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

#SBRLLR: Through the Looking Glass (Part 3)

My once glorious “AAAA” time receded further into the past, and the improvements that would have seen me keep pace nationally with my would-be elite peers remained stubbornly elusive.  At the same time, I only rarely saw swimmers of my own actual ability, and then only at the very biggest meets.  These were the times when I needed my very best stuff, but transcendent greatness was not the kind of thing I’d learned to summon on command.  I could feel my potential, but I couldn’t quite grasp it.  Meanwhile, the social interactions that might have cushioned the blow remained equally elusive.  I made friends, but I still felt like I’d lost more than I could easily explain.  I went on dates, but the girls that I actually cared about seemed totally unavailable.  Somehow, the right girls were always dating the wrong people.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Army Football Preview: 2018 Season (1st Quarter)

It’s almost May, which means that Spring Football is over.  This in turn means it’s finally time to take a realistic look at Army’s 2018 season.  This year, we’ll break the season down into quarters, examining 2018 in three-game sets.  As we did last year, we’ll take a look at the news coming out of spring camp for each team that Army plays, as well as projections from ESPN Football Power Index (FPI) and SB*Nation’s S&P+.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

#SBRLLR: Through the Looking Glass (Part 2)

Having by now been through two serious swimming commutes, my mother had learned her lesson.  She chose our house in Tampa based first and foremost on its proximity to the Carrollwood Swim Team.  Carrollwood was a country club neighborhood on Tampa’s north side with a six lane outdoor pool and a golf club at its center.  The entire neighborhood was a brilliant mix of greens and whites, with sprawling fairways and ever-present palm trees providing most of the vegetation while the houses themselves were uniformly light-colored ranch or bungalow-style construction, most with pools in their backyards.  If it didn’t have quite the exclusive feel of a place like Riverbend, the difference was academic.  Riverbend had controlled its own access road and maintained a native police force; Carrollwood offered two entrances and made due with police from the city of Tampa.  In either case, police were a persistent presence.

Friday, April 27, 2018

#SBRLLR: Through the Looking Glass (Part 1)

“It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things. “
― Theodore Roosevelt
Mom flew ahead to Tampa to try to figure out where we were going to live while Dad stayed in San Diego to wrap up his last weeks of battalion command.  Pa Pa Dan met me in San Diego towards the end of July, and together we embarked on a week-long road trip to Tennessee, our family’s minivan stuffed to bursting with family treasures and our two golden retrievers.  The dogs rode comfortably in state between our television and my mother’s silver chest.  Mom and I then spent a week at her parent’s house in Tullahoma before the two of us lit out together for Florida.  We crossed the state line late one summer afternoon and stopped at the Welcome Center.  I grabbed a complimentary cup of freshly squeezed orange juice and marveled at the palm trees and the flatly tropical terrain.  
Once again, I’d landed in a foreign country.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Swimming: 4600 yards, & I Feel Better.

We've been training pretty steadily for the Swim Across the Sound for the past two months or so.  That is, me and a few of my teammates from the Army Swim Team back in the day.  We've all been training and trading workouts, trying to keep each other motivated and on point.  I'm still not sure who all is going to show up for the event, but it's been good for me personally.  I mean, I don't think I'm speaking out of turn in saying that I miss my teammates--and that I like having an excuse to talk swimming with them.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


Okemo is one of Vermont’s largest ski resorts, located roughly halfway between Mount Snow and Killington.  That puts it something like four hours’ drive from my house in Coastal Connecticut.  The mountain offers some 121 trails spread across three separate peaks and 667 skiable acres, all served by 20 chair lifts.  This breaks down into 39 beginner (green) trails, 45 intermediate (blue) trails, 27 advanced (black) trails, and 10 expert (double-black) trails.  This is a lot of skiable terrain, making it easy to lose oneself amongst the resort’s sprawling lift and trail system.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

#SBRLLR: Satisfaction, Not Success (Part 3)

Water polo season ended at about the same time that my relationship with Cam fizzled.  My friends Jeff, Jennifer, and Trisha all left the Vista Swim Team shortly thereafter.  This put me in a tough spot, though I couldn’t exactly blame Jennifer or her family.  Her career had stagnated with Mr. Malone, and she possessed entirely too much talent to let herself just sort of muddle along through the rest of her career.  Her parents felt that she’d gone about as far as she could go with the Vista Swim Team, and they were probably right.  They took half the team with them when they left, however, establishing a gigantic multi-family carpooling effort by way of sharing the daily forty-five minute one-way treks out to Mt. Caramel that joining their new swim team required.  Through this they got access to vastly superior facilities and to a coach who’d put swimmers into the Olympics.  That was probably worth it for Jennifer, but a lot of other kids got pulled along in her wake, and poor Jeff spent almost all of his time behind the wheel of his old beater hatchback for the next few years.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Mount Snow

Mount Snow is my favorite Vermont-area ski resort.  It’s also the southernmost of the large Vermont ski resorts and the resort with the best artificial snowmaking.  A big part of what I like about is in its location; it’s maybe sixty miles closer than Killington, making it a much better destination for single-day sessions or quick overnighters.  Granted, Mount Snow is not as large as Killington or Okemo and has fewer trails than Stratton on about the same acreage.  Still, with 86 runs spread across 588 skiable acres on four separate faces, it’s not exactly small...

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

#SBRLLR: Satisfaction, Not Success (Part 2)

Though I pined for Layne, it was a girl named Cam who actually showed up at my house to take me out to the movies that year.  Cam was a recent transfer student from Idaho, and being just a little older than I was, she’d already gotten her driver’s license.  We’d met through mutual friends and had already run a 5K road race together.  This, however, was our first official date.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Crunch: Knowing When to Get Help

I had a physical a few years ago during which the doctor said, “You have to be careful when you train.  You know, you’re not Lance Armstrong.”
“Yeah,” I replied, “but I can train as hard as he does… at my level, anyway.”

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Saturday Musings: Yankees, Army Football, and others...

I miss football.  Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if the vaunted Yankees were playing a little better, but at 4-4 with half the roster nursing injuries, we're not off to the start that a lot of Yankee fans were looking for.  So...

Friday, April 6, 2018

Army Football Preview: Spring Speculation

Given the information that’s been trickling out of Army Football’s spring training camp and ESPN’s just-released Football Power Index (FPI) rankings for the coming season, my sense is that after two years of relative success, the Black Knights face a “prove it” season for most of the national football audience.  If Coach Jeff Monken and company can finish with nine or more wins, retain the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy, and hold serve against rising programs like Duke, Buffalo, and Eastern Michigan, then I expect the program will take a major step forward on the national stage, and Coach Monken will himself become one of the hottest coaching prospects for would-be Power 5 coaching vacancies heading into 2019.  However, the program first has to replace a lot of graduating talent, and that’s not always an easy trick.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Crunch: Holding On Tightly

I’ve been back in the weight room for a few months, back in the water for a few weeks, and running regularly for just over a fortnight.  I finally feel good.  I don’t feel quite like myself in the water just yet, but I feel better than I did.  And I caught myself having fun on the treadmill yesterday, so much so that I started doing tempo intervals at a 7:30/mile pace.  That’s not too bad.  I feel like I’m finally getting there.
But man, it also feels like it’s been a hard road back.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

#SBRLLR: Satisfaction, Not Success (Part 1)

“Whenever you get to win, you feel the satisfaction of all of your hard work, all the sacrifices, all the blood, sweat and tears. It feels right and makes you realize that you are really doing the right thing. “
― Abby Wambach
At the awards ceremony that ended my freshman year, I found myself standing on stage in front of Fallbrook’s entire student body.  Several friends stood alongside me—a fellow water polo player, a two-sport track and soccer star who’d been in my Geometry class, and a pair of standout junior varsity football players.  We’d all been nominated for the Sarkis Spanjian award, given to the school’s most outstanding scholar/athlete.  The awards committee nominated five freshmen every year, and we were meant to compete over the course of our high school careers to determine an eventual winner.  That winner would earn a nice little scholarship and widespread acclaim.  Even as mere nominees, a picture of the five of us landed in the local paper that week, but I was one of only two who’d already earned a varsity letter.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Stupid Movie Reviews: Power Rangers

It’s only the second week of Stupid Movie Reviews, and already I can see what the recurring theme of this column is going to be.  
“How the Hell did anyone think that this would be a good idea for a movie?”

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

#SBRLLR: First Taste of Glory (Part 5)

The San Diego CIF Championships were towards the end of the school year.  I qualified in the 100 Fly and as a member of Fallbrook’s medley relay team.  From a team of about thirty boys and thirty girls, less than a dozen total traveled to CIF.  This included all of the year-round swimmers and a few of the real standouts from the water polo team who happened to have some pure speed.  We sat out under a big beige tarp on the deck at Mt. Carmel High School, which had by far the fastest high school pool I’d ever seen.  The competition facility was eight lanes wide by twelve feet deep and had new-looking double-lane lines and deep aluminum gutters all the way around.  These things reduced wake and therefore drag, ensuring a smooth, glassy surface for competition.  Mt. Caramel also had a separate warm-up pool, which was shallow and maybe four lanes across, though this was not particularly unusual.  Fallbrook’s competition pool had only six lanes, but even we had a separate diving well.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Crunch: Too Much, Too Soon

You may remember me talking a bit about executing a “kamikaze fitness attack” for my buddy’s APFT last time out.  It probably sounded like at least half of a dumb idea, am I right?
Yeah.  It kinda was.
It’s been a humbling week, honestly.  If my mother was still alive, she’d be delighted.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

#SBRLLR: First Taste of Glory (Part 4)

How different was Fallbrook from our previous home in New Bern, North Carolina?  
As spring approached, I saw the differences spelled out first hand on the front page of our local newspaper’s sports section.  The local high school beat writer ran a full half-page preview of the coming high school swim season, with a note about each of Fallbrook’s returning stars.  The last column started with the sentence, “Perhaps the fastest Warrior on this year’s team is freshman Dan Head…”
They were actually hyping my season, and it was insane.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Stupid Movie Reviews: Valerian & the City of a Thousand Planets

Welcome to Stupid Movie Reviews!  This is a new, uh, maybe bi-weekly segment on the blog.  This week, we’re looking at a rather enjoyable stupid movie,Valerian & the City of a Thousand Planets.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Crunch: On Competition & the Value of Short Term Goals

I went skiing with my buddy Brian a few weeks ago.  Despite losing a day at Mount Snow to comically extensive airline delays, we wound up having a great time out at Okemo once we finally got out there.  We put in something like fifteen runs over the course of maybe five hours plus lunch.  It was enough that we staggered off the mountain at the end of it, exhausted but happy.  About the only thing that kept me awake on the drive home was Brian’s minute-by-minute updates on Army’s lacrosse game against perennial powerhouse Syracuse.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

#SBRLLR: First Taste of Glory (Part 3)

I found myself sitting on the windswept bench of some close-packed aluminum bleachers a month or so after school began, watching my father take command of First Reconnaissance Battalion.  His men were formed up in companies in front of a forlorn Quonset hut outpost called Camp Tallega, which sat lost in the sun drenched high-desert hinterlands of Camp Pendleton’s immense beachside training ranges.  Dad had written a speech on notecards for the event, but when he got up to give it in front of his new Marines, he went through a mere card or two before putting his notes away and speaking extemporaneously.  He looked ill at ease to my eyes, particularly when trying to speak from notes, but he was also grimly determined to be the man, the commander, that his Marines needed him to be.  He was discomfited to be around guys who saw themselves more as a special operations unit than as traditional infantrymen, a change in mindset typified in my father’s eyes by the fact that Recon Marines said “Hooyah!” rather than the more traditional “Ooorah!” that characterized the rifle companies he’d been with prior to that point in his career.  I had no idea what his prepared remarks were intended to say, but off the cuff, he acknowledged that the language barrier was only the beginning of the things that he needed to learn to be the best commander that he possibly could be.  He also promised that the Marines in front of him could count on learning a few things from him as well.
His men stood silently in formation, looking uniformly lean, mean, and competent as Hell.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Six Things on a Saturday: Trying to Get Caught Up

I’ve had a busy week.  Did a lot happen while I was gone?
I actually have the day off!  Yay!!!

Friday, March 9, 2018

#SBRLLR: First Taste of Glory (Part 2)

I was a few weeks into the process of becoming “myself” in the pool in Vista when I arrived on the pool deck at Fallbrook for the first time for water polo tryouts.  I’d found a home on the Vista Swim Team, but now I had to find a way to fit in at my school.

Friday, March 2, 2018

5 Things on a Friday: Return to Chaos

Happy Founder’s Day!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Summer Reading List, 2018

Sketch in My Notebook
Though we’ve done book and TV reviews since this blog’s inception, the Summer Reading List Project didn’t formally get its start until 2016.  That first List was very successful, both in the sense that my friends enjoyed participating and because I myself found a bunch of books that I quite enjoyed reading.  I’ve done a few additional Lists in the months since, but none of those have informed my actual summer reading in the same way.  Mostly, they’re just been lists of related books that I put together as part of the Project’s archives.
This year, however, I’m actually looking for something to read.  Like you, I have my favorites.  But it seems like a lot of my favorite authors aren’t publishing right now, and here we are.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

#SBRLLR: First Taste of Glory (Part 1)

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
― Thomas Paine
My mother drove me out to my first practice with the Vista Swim Team one afternoon a few weeks before I was set to start my freshman year of high school.  I stepped through a gateway cut into a twelve-foot chain-link fence and onto the deck of an unassuming six-lane public pool.  I felt as though I’d been transported into a bygone era of swimming lore.  The facility itself was ancient.  The pool area was a solid mass of flat yellow concrete, stretching maybe fifteen feet out from the pool’s lip, which overhung an eight-inch trench-like competition gutter, also cast from concrete.  I’d seen competition gutters previously, but only at collegiate competition facilities, which typically boasted newer pools, electronic timing systems, and gleaming sidewalls cast from shiny aluminum.  By contrast, Vista’s pool had the oldest competition-style gutters I’d ever seen and the only ones made from concrete.  Kids had been swimming for time in Vista for decades, and even back in the day, those kids had possessed the right swimming technology, probably since before East Carolina University had even had a swim team.

Friday, February 23, 2018

5 Things on a Friday: You Really Should Be Following Me on Twitter

Facebook instituted a new News Feed algorithm recently, and I hate it.  Ostensibly intended to cut down on the site’s 3rd party media manipulation and endless political arguments, what’s happened instead is that I’m now seeing the same posts over and over again.  Stuff that I would have glossed over in months past is now literally inescapable.  If anything, I’ve actually muted more people in the last month than I had in the previous twelve.
Usually just for 30 days, mind you.  I use the “Take a break from this poster” option because I still like my friends.  I just don’t need to read their political thoughts on repeat.  
Meanwhile, the algorithm’s effect on me has been to cut this blog’s traffic in half.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

#SBRLLR: Tennessee to California (Part 3)

To eyes that had grown used to the flatly forested lowlands of Coastal Carolina, Southern California was an infinitely varied series of high desert steppes, rolling hills, and zooming concrete superhighways.  Where Carolina had been uniformly green and rural, Southern California was all rocky browns and tans, distinctly urban, and interspersed at irregular intervals with tiny patches of spindly trees and tumbleweeds.  As we drove north from San Diego Airport, the hills grew slowly greener and more forested, until at last we arrived in Fallbrook, a brilliantly green oasis in the desert of San Diego County and the self-proclaimed Avocado Capital of the World.  
This would be our new home.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Army Football Preview: First Look at 2018 (Part 2)

We mentioned last week that a slow start could potentially make it tough for Army to earn a post-season bowl berth in 2018.  That’s true.  First, because the team has two FCS games again this year, and only one of those potential wins will count towards bowl eligibility.  Second, because bowl invitations typically go out before the Army-Navy Game.  As a result, Army will need at least five FBS wins heading into the Navy game plus at least one FCS win in order to make it into the postseason.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

More Pics from Ski Butternut

Both girls have school play practice starting soon, and anyway, winter looks like it is rapidly coming to a close here in Coastal Connecticut.  That's not exactly upsetting -- winters in New England can be brutal -- but it does mean that our family's winter ski season is almost over. 

After years of barely getting out on the slopes, we've skied a lot this season.  As Sally put it, "Skiing is really the only good way to get through these winters."  That is especially true in December and January, when the days are so short and dark that we sometimes barely see the sun.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Crunch: Managing Weight Gain

I got into the gym a few months ago mostly because I needed a break from the pool.  I like swimming, and I will probably always feel more graceful in the water than I do on land, but it can be a grind.  Even if you’re swimming just two to three times per week, it can be mentally and emotionally exhausting trying to stay focused.  It’s not like there’s a lot of scenery.  You’ve got the little black line and whatever songs you can play back in your head.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

#SBRLLR: Tennessee to California (Part 2)

My grandparents lived in a beautiful red brick ranch-style house on the south end of a small town called Tullahoma, Tennessee.  Though my mother had been born in nearby Shelbyville, it was this house in Tullahoma that had provided me with whatever sense of normalcy I knew growing up.  I’d spent summers there, fishing with my grandfather in his little aluminum fishing boat or just hanging around, especially before I started swimming seriously.  I treasured those times because they gave me a place to that I understand as “home”.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Army Football Preview: First Look at 2018 (Part 1)

Groundhog Day has passed, and so has National Signing Day.  And though Lacrosse season has only just started, I know there are at least a few of you out there who can’t wait for Army Football to open their 2018 campaign.  The good news is that the Black Knights look to have a pretty impressive class headed to the storied banks of the Hudson River this summer.  The bad news is that we have more than six months to go before we see the team back on the field for games that actually matter.
What’s next for Army Football?

Friday, February 9, 2018

5 Things on a Friday: A Tough Week

Happy Friday, folks.
It’s a somber Friday for me and a lot of my friends.  We lost a classmate this week, apparently from complications arising from the flu, and that is not an easy thing.  I didn’t know Jimmy particularly well, and it feels like a real shame because he was obviously a great guy.  Many, many of the memorials from those close to him have mentioned his ready sense of humor and easy smile.  Those things can be rare commodities in the daily grind at West Point, and sometimes, they are the only things that help you stay sane.  Guys like that are often the most important people in your class.  The guys who can make you laugh amidst all that stress, those are the guys that you never forget.
Jimmy was a former Army Football defensive back, a doting father, and a successful grad in everyday life.  He was clearly in excellent physical condition as well, so his passing will have hit his family completely out of nowhere.  I hate that.  I feel it like a physical blow.  His family noted in their announcement that he had chosen to be an organ donor, so someone else will live because of Jimmy.  That is cold comfort, but it speaks to the man’s character.
Well done, Jimmy.  Be thou at peace.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

#SBRLLR: Tennessee to California (Part 1)

“This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York Island. From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters, this land was made for you and me.”
― Woody Guthrie
My father came home one night in the middle of eighth grade just as we were sitting down to dinner.  He was still wearing his uniform—along with one of the largest smiles I’d ever seen.
“What?” my mother asked.
I looked up expectantly.
“I got orders today,” Dad said proudly.  “We’re going back to San Diego!”

Monday, February 5, 2018

Mount Southington Ski Area

Mount Southington is one of our local ski areas, located just off I-84 about nine miles east of the town of Waterbury.  That puts it just forty-five minutes from our house, making it ideal for short day-trips when there’s snow, and the kids don’t have school.  

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Update: Book, TV, & Movie Review Archives

I spent yesterday's commute archiving the blog's various book and movie reviews.  This included an update to the Summer Reading List Project and even a couple of new inclusions into the Worth Reading list, all of which is now archived under the blog's catchall Sketches tab.

Holy shit!  I've done a lot of reviews on this blog.

Friday, February 2, 2018

5 Things on a Friday: SotU and Other Stories

Apologies up front.  I’ve been trying to do less politics on the blog, but with the State of the Union, that didn’t happen this week.  Worse, a lot of the best analysis has come out of the Opinion pages, so…  
Well, you will no doubt deride this week's piece as #FakeNews from a “triggered libtard.”  That’s fine.  I’ve been called worse.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

#SBRLLR: The Devilfish & the Value of Delusion (Part 6)

Through hard work and an effort of will, I continued to improve.  When I swam with the Devilfish, I competed hard against Brian and the other kids.  When I swam on my own, I pushed myself constantly, keeping my goals clear in my mind.  I tried to make every workout count, and I dropped time consistently in my best events.  I turned thirteen towards the end of seventh grade, and shortly thereafter, I made my first “A” time—in the 100 Butterfly.  This was made more impressive because I made that first cut time in my new, older age group, 13-14 year olds.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Ski Butternut

Ski Butternut is a small, family friendly ski area located in the Berkshire Mountain town of Great Barrington, MA.  The mountain is affordable and relatively close to Coastal Connecticut, and we’ve spent a lot of time there as a result since last season’s triumphant return to the slopes.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The XFL is Coming Back. Where to Put Its Teams?

The XFL is coming back, and I for one am delighted.  This world has long needed a minor league of professional football, there’s plenty of room for it in the spring and early summer sports seasons, and Vince McMahon and company got very close to getting the brand off the ground the first time they tried this, way back in 2001.  This despite lots and lots of issuesmost of which have been well-documented.  This second go-round looks about as well-funded as the first attempt and seems far better-conceived.  With all the cable and Internet sports networks out there nowadays, and with all of them just aching for football content, the XFL appears to fill a void in the national consciousness that is in dire need of filling.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Swim: 3800 Aerobic Pace

Did a long slow endurance set yesterday, and didn't much feel like I had my best stuff.  But swimming tired is an important learned skill, so instead of cutting my workout short or lengthening the intervals, I just pushed through, trying to keep the effort long but moderately paced.

It felt very much like the back-half of a long slow distance run of the kind where it's a struggle just to keep your head up and your feet moving.  But that was kind of the point.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Crunch: Hitting Our First Milestone

I was on the train home from work last Thursday night when my daughter texted me.
Thursday's texts
This was something of a milestone.  It was the first time that Hannah had ever pushed me to go to the gym.  After weeks of my pushing her, it seemed that we’d finally started a self-sustaining reaction.  She wanted to be there.  She actually wanted to get stronger.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

#SBRLLR: The Devilfish & the Value of Delusion (Part 5)

The problem wasn’t just that some of New Bern’s small-town Cool Kids refused to accept a stranger from another state.  They weren’t trying to be mean.  I’d simply carried too much of my former life with me when we moved, and I couldn’t bring myself to let it go.  I couldn’t bring myself to be the kind of kid who would’ve fit in within New Bern’s closely held values systems and unique social norms.  Not down in my soul.  This created a gap that no amount of Cool Kid clothes and confident swagger could ever hope to bridge, new girlfriend or no.  I was still faking it, and the kids who most owned the identity of the town itself could smell that from a mile away.
So I kept swimming.  
In my mind, this was how I saw myself.  This was how my life made sense.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Army Lacrosse Preview: An Entry-Level Look at the 2018 Season

Let’s get this out of the way up front: I am not anyone’s idea of an expert regarding lacrosse.  
My kids and I started watching Army Lax in 2016.  Army Sports comp’ed us a pair of tickets to that year’s Army-Navy game when we re-upped our Football season tickets, and although the Black Knights lost a close contest in overtime that year, we still had a blast at the game.  We watched Army Lax a few more times that season—whenever the team showed up CBS Sports—and we watched most of the 2017 season via PatriotLeague.TV, CBS Sports, and/or Twitter, depending on who was broadcasting the game.  We were in the stands once again for Army’s heroic come-from-behind overtime victory over Notre Dame last year as well, and now here we are, eagerly awaiting the new season in 2018.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

#SBRLLR: The Devilfish & the Value of Delusion (Part 4)

Swimming by oneself is hardly ideal, but in some ways, it helped me.  Coach Pete would give me stacks of workouts written longhand on yellow legal paper.  I took these back to the country club and spent the next few days working through them.  I swam every day, usually for ninety minutes, putting in something like 3500 yards per workout.  Pete had a tendency to put me through fifties and hundreds of stroke work when I was on my own, perhaps intentionally pushing my focus towards butterfly.  At the Devilfish pool, by comparison, we did longer freestyle sets at a more controlled, aerobic pace6.  This was brilliant design philosophy.  Pete gave me aerobically challenging sets to do on my own, but they were sets that would keep the mind of a twelve-year-old boy engaged and occupied as he swam by himself.  It was rare that I saw anyone when I swam at the country club, so I needed the push that those workouts provided.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Workout Notes: 3700 Yards Swim & Chest / Shoulder Lift

Got in the pool twice last week.  Saturday's workout went about 3600.  The pool was warm again -- about 83 degrees -- which always creates some challenges.  I decided to do some aerobic work and try to close it up with just a bit of speed.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

4 Corner Billiards, Bridgeport, CT

With our kids headed to Rockin' Jump for a couple of hours with our church youth group last night, Sally and I decided to shoot some pool.  A quick search turned up 4 Corner Billiards in downtown Bridgeport as pretty much the only pool hall within easy driving distance of our house.  We decided to check the place out and make a date of it.

Rack 'em up!

Friday, January 12, 2018

5 Things on a Friday: The Case of the Roll-Up Television

Happy Friday, everyone.
The good news is that the ludicrously frigid cold that has enveloped the Northeast for the past month of so seems finally to have passed.  The bad news is that it is supposed to rain all damn day today, potentially ruining what otherwise would have been a truly excellent ski weekend in the Berkshires.
Will we, or won't we?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

NFL Playoff Preview: Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots

This weekend marks the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs, and as you might expect, there are a couple of compelling matchups on offer.  I think both Jags at Steelers and Saints at Eagles offer the road teams a better than average chance to advance.  But if there’s one matchup that’s mostly flown under the radar, it’s Titans at Patriots.
No one gives Tennessee a chance.
As a long time Titans fan, I’m wondering… is this fair, or should we just go ahead and crown the Patriots right now?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

#SBRLLR: The Devilfish & the Value of Delusion (Part 3)

New Bern didn’t have a swim team.  Kids water-skied or swam in the local rivers, and we weren’t far from the Outer Banks and the beach, but that was it.  The local country club had a competition-sized pool, thank God, but it didn’t have a club team—or even lane lines.  The pool itself went mostly unused.  It existed as a decoration, to make the club members feel good about the club because it had a pool.  A bigger-sized town might have had a team, but we weren’t close to any big towns.  The best, closest available option turned out to be Camp Lejeune's age group team, the Devilfish5, located some forty-five minutes away by car.
Mom and I drove out to practice one night after school.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Weekend Workout Notes: 4000 Yards Swimming + Weight Room Work

Publishing this weekend's workout schedule in case you're looking for some inspiration, either in the pool or in the weight room.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Saturday News & Notes: Tinkering with the Layout & Archives

I've finally fixed the links on the sides of the blog.  While I was at it, I added a link to the Rival Angels' "Halloween Special" that I wrote for my friend Alan Evans a couple of years ago and added an archives and a "word cloud" to help you navigate the blog's various archived topics.

My very brief stint writing for Rival Angels.
In case you ever wanted to know how I'd do as a
pro-wrestling promoter. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Crunch: New Year’s Resolutionaries

Hannah and I went to the gym together this week—for the first time in a very long time.  I’ve been trying to get her to go with me for the past several months now, and I’m glad that she finally agreed.  Spoiler alert: my eldest could use a little more exercise.  She does gymnastics once per week, and she does basic calisthenic conditioning a little more often, but her routine is not quite a lifestyle.  It’s fine as far as it goes, but it’s not necessarily enough to ensure her long term health, nor is she consistently building the habits that will make her a lifelong athlete as an adult.  Her timing was extremely fortuitous.  Crunch has been running a deal for high schoolers ($100 for a year with student ID), and this month in particular, the sign-up fee is just $1—not just for high schoolers, but for everyone.
That is awesome.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

#SBRLLR: The Devilfish & the Value of Delusion (Part 2)

I got a brief reprieve two weeks later.  We headed back to Northern Virginia for the NVSL All-Star meet, and I got to see all my old friends for a single, glorious weekend.  It was wonderful, but we all knew that it couldn’t last.