The World According to Me

The World According to Me is a play on one of my favorite novels, "The World According to Garp," by one of my favorite authors, John Irving. While I am not nearly the writer Irving is, I hope that my musings will offer a unique perspective on life. If nothing else, I have something to look back on when dementia kicks in.

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Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sports Landscape

I’ve been wondering recently whether there has been a time in the history of American sports where all of its major sports were dealing with scandal. The 1919 “Black Sox” dominated the news after throwing the World Series, CCNY rocked the college basketball world in the early 1950’s for shaving points, and fan favorite and all-time hits leader Pete “Charlie Hustle” Rose was given a lifetime ban in 1989 for betting on baseball. But, never have three of the country’s major sports (and, of course, what defines a major sport changes by era) simultaneously fallen under the dark cloud of indignity.

NFL: Football has clearly taken over as the #1 sport in America, at least outside the Nascar-crazy south. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, perhaps the league’s most identifiable superstar was indicted this week for hosting a dog fighting ring and criminally abusing dogs, often torturing them to death. Whether you’re a card-carrying member of PETA or just a normal human being, the allegations in this case are horrifying.

MLB: Once America’s pastime, baseball has seen a revival of sorts in the past decade. This restoration is due largely to an increase in the number of runs scored per game; more specifically, the home run barrage has aided the sport’s popularity. After all, “chicks dig the long ball.” In the past five years, however, under intense scrutiny brought on primarily (and ironically) by baseball superstar-turned-author Jose Canseco, people have begun to question the validity of the increased offense. What was once called the home run era has been dubbed the steroid era. It has all come to a head this summer as Barry Bonds is assaulting Henry (Hank) Aaron’s all-time home run record. As of this writing, Bonds is one homer behind Hammerin’ Hank.

NBA: Last among the three in terms of TV ratings, the NBA is number one in the hip-hop culture. Two weeks ago the sports wires were abuzz with the news that Todd Donaghy, a thirteen-year veteran referee, was found to have accepted money from the mob to affect the point spreads in NBA games.

As I am wont to do on Sunday mornings, I relaxed on the chaise while viewing Outside the Lines, a sports version of Nightline. The panelists were asked which sport is in a more dire position and which commissioner has a more difficult job. While on the face it would appear that Roger Goodell (NFL Commissioner) and David Stern (NBA Commissioner) have the greater challenges, I believe Bud Selig (MLB Commissioner) faces the toughest task of all. It is true that dog fighting and point shaving are PR nightmares. But these are (hopefully)isolated incidents. The NFL can banish Michael Vick if it wants (and if he’s thrown in jail they won’t even have to) and the NBA can chalk this up to “one rogue referee.” But baseball’s entire structure is under attack. And Selig is virtually powerless to do anything. When Bonds breaks Aaron’s home run record, Selig is in an untenable position. If he doesn’t publicly acknowledge the accomplishment, he is presuming a man’s guilt when nothing, but a heap of circumstantial evidence, has appeared. Plus, Selig no doubt feels some culpability as he has presided over this era. If he does praise Bonds, he is tacitly approving Bonds’ use of performance-enhancing drugs. This is additionally painful for Selig because of his friendship with Henry Aaron. Perhaps the most frustrating realization is that we might never know the truth (not only with Bonds, but in terms of the widespread use of drugs) and the game’s integrity will forever be in question. For those of us who still consider baseball to be the true American pastime, this is disturbing.

Frankly, I’m upset, disgusted, and dismayed. But more than that, I’m sad. I want to think that the games I’m watching are on the up and up. Otherwise, I might as well watch the WWE. At least they admit to doing ‘roids; or it shows up in their system when they commit a double-murder/suicide.

What a summer it’s been!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Technology Scares Me

Everyone who knows me understands that I don't always "get" technology. As a child of the 80's I tend to externalize blame and why should this be any exception. Therefore I find my science teachers (roughly from the years 1984-1996) culpable. I have discovered in recent years that I find science incredibly fascinating. How the world works, from evolution to medicine, is infinitely interesting. I thought all of those years I hated science; not true. Having said all that, I'm still not clear on the difference between neutrons and electrons or fission and fusion.

When my friend Ben showed me his new iPhone, what with its wireless internet access, music storage capability, and primary function to communicate with others via speaking, all I could say was, "Gee, that's pretty cool."

I'm not sure from whence my fear of technology truly stems. Despite the aforementioned dearth of quality science instructors, I can't in good conscience deflect all blame. I was, though, able to exact some measure of revenge yesterday with a daily bodily function. While on the phone with Time Warner, attempting to figure out why the cable was out in the bedroom (it turns out you need to actually plug in the cable from the wall for the unit to work), I was subjected to one of my least favorite forms of modern technology--the automated voice response system. While listening to the options, I inadvertently interrupted the system with a sneeze, to which I heard the following: "I heard you say, 'Customer service representative.' If this is correct, press one."

I fell asleep last night with a contented air, confident that the world isn't yet passing me by.


Sunday, July 22, 2007


I imagine that many of the coming entries will deal with the pregnancy. Since I shivered through our arctic bedroom (comfortable temperature is one of the casualties of a pregnant summer in New York) for most of the night, I had plenty of time to think of blog fodder.

Mrs. E and I spent the weekend on the east side taking a childbirth class at NYU. The course, for which we received a Print Shop-like certificate, was surprisingly excellent. I say surprising because I expected to be either completely bored or equally overwhelmed by a two-day, 12-hour class. However, our instructor Michele was quite adept at explaining the details of late-term pregnancy, labor & delivery, and immediate post-partem child care. We laughed, we cried. It was like watching any of the past several state-of-the-union addresses.

The seven couples with whom we shared the course fit some stereotypical pregnant couple archetypes. There was the older, Italian couple who brought either the husband's or wife's mother. I'm guessing it was the wife's mother because while dad slept through half the course, the old lady served as coach for the breathing exercises.

Couple number two was hardly noteworthy, except the husband spoke with an accent and though his name is Peter it was pronounced PEH-ter. My guess, based on his complexion, is that he hails from somewhere in northern Europe. What I actually said to Mrs. E is, "I'll bet he's one of those Norwegian punks!" For the record, I think I would actually like Norway. I mean, I like people from Minnesota.

We couldn't get a good read on the third couple. The husband, whom I dub "Lacoste Boy" since he wore three different solid colored Lacoste shirts over the course of two days, asked the most random questions. For example, "Now, is the drug they offer during the aforementioned stage biological or chemical?" I'm not sure if he works for an anti-terrorist government outfit or simply opposes man-made aids. As engaged as he was in the class, his wife was the only pregnant person who didn't ask a single question over the course of the two days. In fact, I estimate that every woman asked at least half a dozen questions. She didn't open her mouth. Lacoste Boy passed out yesterday during the discussion of C-Sections. It was approximately around the time when Michele mentioned placenta previa which would necessitate an immediate C-section. After a series of epileptic convulsions he finally came to in about five minutes. Incidentally, Lacoste Boy also sported Burberry socks. No, I'm serious.

There was an older couple who clearly had read way too much. Let me clarify. When I say older I mean they were in their late 30's or early 40's, which for a first child is on the older side. I recognize that people are having children later in life, but they were the oldest couple in the class. So if you are apt to be offended by my description then just use older as a relative term. At any rate, the husband spent a bit of time yesterday trying to convince everyone of the virtues of saving the baby's cord blood. Mrs. E and I had already looked into this and consulted our physician. I feel sorry for the others because I'm pretty convinced he or a member of his family works for Viacord. The wife was adamantly opposed to an episiotomy and seems to have used this as the sole factor in weeding out potential doctors.

We were particularly fond of the half-white, half-asian couple who seem like they're having a great time being pregnant. They, like us, don't take themselves too seriously. They asked important questions, but aren't stressing out more than is healthy.

There isn't much to say about the remaining couple other than the wife is due a day before Mrs. E and is half the size.

The breathing exercises were hilarious. I didn't mean to laugh, but I had to chuckle a little. I couldn't help but think of The Cosby Show episode where John Ritter (far and away my favorite childhood actor)and Amy Yasbeck guest starred as expecting parents. Ritter, of course, employed the same physical comedy that made him a star on Three's Company.

Toward the end of the day we learned about the apgar score. The baby is measured at one minute and five minutes after his or her birth and is assigned a score of 0-2 on each of five criteria (color and responsiveness, are two examples) for a maximum of ten points. Healthy babies have a score of at least seven. Like my hole cards in my last hand of Texas hold'em online, my future Heisman-winning quarterback will secure a pair of tens!


Thursday, July 19, 2007


We saw Sicko last weekend, the new Michael Moore documentary vilifying the American health care industry. I realized, while I was trying to scrape up my jaw from the sticky, Coke-drenched floor, that the fact that I used the word “industry” to finish that last sentence is what’s wrong with our structure. The film is excellent. Sure, Moore is polarizing because he’s an unabashed, lightning rod liberal whose techniques are dubious. And yes, his speech at the Oscars a couple of years back was inappropriate. I know many left-wingers who find him reprehensible. But the dude knows how to make movies. And even if he’s exaggerating a little for effect, he’s not making this stuff up.

How is it possible that we--the richest country and lone superpower (so they say)--have a worse system than El Salvador? EL SALVADOR!!!! That’s right, the same El Salvador where over a third of the people live below the poverty line; the El Salvador whose early history was marred by revolutions and coups; yes, even the El Salvador that forbids abortion under ANY circumstance. In the name of Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez, what is going on here?

I don’t want to be branded as a socialist; God knows I have a healthy respect for money, particularly that which resides in my wallet or bank. But I would be willing to pay more in taxes for better health coverage. As Moore attempts to illustrate, it’s not only uninsured individuals at risk. We, the insured, have much to fear. Insurance companies exist to make money, not protect people. In fact, the more people they protect, the less money in their pockets. No wonder they deny so many claims. It is an illogically, flawed system.

It’s a good thing that, like Fame, I’m gonna live forever.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Mrs. E and I are watching So You Think You Can Dance, a dancing version of "American Idol." We contend that the dancers on this show, who beautifully contort their bodies and bend like rubber bands, are far more talented than are the karaoke-like singers on Idol. For those who were unable to see tonight's show, here is the quick synopsis:

8:03 -- What is Mary Murphy wearing? She looks like a zebra with leggings on her arms.

8:05 -- Wade Robson, clearly smoking some narcotic, espouses his notion of how he wants to see humans on stage, not just dancers. What?!?

8:14 -- Dominic and Sabra are freakin' awesome! It's a bit curious that Sabra kept saying in the opening piece that Dom always drops her during their lifts. At first I thought she was joking, but then she continued to harp on it.

8:31 -- I've warmed up to Cat Deeley since the first year. She's quite sappy, but I suppose she serves her purpose well. But she is REALLY thin. Far too thin if you ask me. Incidentally, can anyone explain to me why (it seems) so many of our reality shows are hosted by British imports? You know, we could've kept those accents if we liked them so much.

8:32 -- Hok and Jaimie disappointed tonight. Hok is an unreal talent. But, like Cedric (eliminated last week), he lacks the technique that most of the dancers possess. This is why the street, hip-hop dancers typically don't make it to the end of the competition. Eventually, the audience catches on that they have lots of style, but very little substance.

8:42 -- Pasha and Sara were bland. Mary is 100% correct. While they may have been technically correct with their ceaseless jazz hands, they did not connect with the audience. And those outfits! I know they danced to a Queen song, but did they need to raid Freddy Mercury's (may he rest in peace) closet?

8:56 -- Mary clearly has channeled Mrs. E because every comment that comes out of my wife's mouth inevitably is echoed by Mary mere seconds later. For example, after Neil and Lauren's routine, Mrs. E said, "What is this supposed to mean?" After acknowledging that she liked the performance, Mary raised the very same issue. The only difference between Mary and Mrs. E is that the latter doesn't screech every five minutes like she's descending from the top of a roller coaster.

9:07 -- Danny is this generation's Tommy Tune--lanky, terrific extensions, and a joy to watch. Finally, as Wade points out, Danny has made an emotional connection. Can he chill with the sweat, though? It looks like he just stepped out of the pool. Anya is boring me more and more each week.

9:18 -- Same Dan Karaty hip-hop motif: boy chases girl, but girl is a nasty bitch. Sooooooo cliche.

9:19 -- Remember Brittany Spears' slutty Catholic school uniform from that video? Lacey's outfit is the slutty version of that!

9:25 -- Whereas in the past two or three weeks it has been difficult to discriminate between so many outstanding performances, this week's routines were underwhelming. I wouldn't be surprised if any of them are booted, nor would I be too disappointed. The tension is mounting. Oh, were it only Thursday night already!!!


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Logic, People!

The most frustrating aspect to life on Capitol Hill (and I witnessed this first hand during my days as an intern) is the propensity for elected officials to make statements based on politics rather than policy. They substitute rhetoric for substance, sound bites for sound reasoning. Case in point is the response to the US intelligent agencies' report on Al Queda, released today.

According to today's LA Times, "Democrats cited the report as evidence that the war in Iraq has hurt the war on terrorism, while Republicans said it showed that the Bush administration has made gains in the war on terrorism."

How in the hell is it possible to come to such divergent conclusions? I try to be fair in my assessment of the parties and God knows the Democrats have done some stupid things. But if Bin Laden and his cronies are planning another attack, kicking us into a position of heightened threat, doesn't it stand to reason that we have not properly utilized our finite resources, particularly in the last five years? In other words, "Uh, fellas...the bad guys are in Afghanistan and Pakistan. What are we doing in Iraq?"

How anyone can still argue that we are safer today than we would have been had we not invaded Iraq is completely beyond me. We are the laughing stock of the international community and have completely destabilized a formerly secular country and unnecessarily killed thousands of American troops.

A conservative friend and I were emailing today. We often exchange ideas on candidates, generally reserving our in depth analysis for the members of our respective parties. Among other things he said, "I'm not enamored with any of the candidates, though I like Rudy's tough stance on the War on Terror." I don't really know what that means. I fear that the Democrats will continue to be painted into the soft-on-crime/soft-on-defense corner.


Professional Responsibility

Sometimes I feel like I'm fighting an uphill battle. I spend much of my time attempting to convince students (and their parents) that their value as a person is not measured by how elite the college which they eventually attend is. In my industry one of the evil empires is the annual US News & World Report college rankings edition, which inevitably fuels this fire. When Dad sent me an article from the LA Times last week by an Elon University professor who supports what US News attempts to do I felt a professional duty to respond. I have submitted the following "Letter to the Editor." I thought I'd publish it here first on the theory that my letter will not make it.

(Here is the original article:,1,2073427.story)

Aside from the several factual inaccuracies in Michael Skube’s “The No. 1 Reason to Rank Colleges” article in July 8th’s LA Times, Mr. Skube fails to understand the big picture in the hysteria known as college admissions. The annual college rankings edition of US News & World Report is dangerous for two primary reasons which Skube inexplicably supports. First, it attempts to quantify that which is a qualitative process. The magazine’s statisticians capriciously assign relative import to factors such as retention, financial aid, alumni giving, and standardized testing average, to name a few. While one student might deem SAT scores to measure the health of a college, another might be more interested in a college’s endowment. Selecting a college is not, as Skube suggests, akin to buying a car—a spurious comparison to be sure. The services an automobile provides are far more tangible than the benefits of higher education, about which tomes have been written. The second—and more destructive—reason this publication hurts our children is that students actually do make decisions based on US News. Skube writes, “What is almost certain is that few students and their parents choose a college simply because it’s ranked third while another is ranked sixth or 16th.” Mr. Skube should spend some time sitting with impressionable adolescents whose goal in life is to get into the “best” college possible. Perhaps then he will understand how impactful these rankings truly are. If the goal is to compare “apples with academic apples” so that families can make informed decisions, then simply publish the facts without trying to put them in some arbitrary order. Trust that the “consumers” will be able to do that for themselves.


Monday, July 16, 2007

I'm Back, Baby!

I can cite a number of reasons why I have neglected to submit an entry for nearly a year. None of them, however, justify my absence. This is particularly true since this past year has been so eventful. For example, Mrs. E is currently "housing" our first child, set to make his or her appearance in just a few short weeks. I could poetically pen a thousand words expressing my joy and pride at bringing life into the world; and it wouldn’t do justice to my emotions.

My triumphant return to blogging, though, corresponds to a most remarkable episode I have just experienced. After nearly a week of service I have concluded my journey as a juror in the New York criminal court system. I must admit that my enthusiasm to serve was tempered by a scheduled trip to Maine, which was subsequently cancelled. When the court official announced the impending murder trial for which the voir dire process was about to commence, I instinctively knew I would be selected. I am a benign-looking male whose job doesn’t automatically disqualify me. Furthermore, I refused to concoct some lame story about being unable to conduct myself in an objective manner, unlike many of my fellow jury candidates. The first of many noteworthy moments occurred during that inventory of potential jurors. I am amazed at how many people in New York have been the victims of crime—particularly of the violent variety. It seems that I am the only person (poo poo poo) not to have found his way into the path of an intended robber, rapist, or murderer.

Murder is the most heinous crime in our society. But growing up in a slow, suburban beach community and working at an affluent school, murder is the furthest thing from my mind. It is a concept contemplated only in a world set apart from my own through the veneer of fictional movies or books. I can deal with it in the abstract because it never has to be more real.

I was thrust, however, into the world of drug-dealing thugs whose lives are more suspenseful than the best Clancy or Grisham tale. The characters in this story were straight from central casting. The two defendants were up-and-coming cocaine and heroin dealers in New York City. And the two primary witnesses for the people were turning state’s evidence, copping pleas to other charges enabling the prosecution to build its case against the defendants. It was impossible not to simultaneously find their words believable and incredible because they were as despicable as the defendants themselves.

After two and a half days of testimony dealing with the gruesome death of a man barely eligible to drink beer, and the drug deal surrounding his murder, the jury began deliberations. The most interesting aspect of this intellectual exercise is how twelve smart, observant, and intuitive people can arrive at such different initial conclusions since we all heard the same accounts (and there were several versions) of the evening. Our job was to judge whether the prosecution, based on the evidence submitted, built a strong enough case to convince us beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants committed the crimes of which they were accused. It sounds simple, but with so much testimony from shady characters—all of whom had reason to twist the truth (or what they remember as the truth from nearly a year ago)—it was hard not to try to re-create the actual events of that fateful night.

I am proud that over the course of nearly four and a half hours, spanning two days (with a weekend of pondering in between), we did not arrive at a conclusion with ease. We left no stone unturned in considering every conceivable angle. It would have been easy for us to say, "let's just put these guys away. Even if we aren't sure they did it, they're clearly offering nothing to society." But we didn't say that. We struggled and debated and belabored points that probably didn't need belaboring.

The gravity of our decision did not become apparent until we entered the courtroom for that final time. With our group encased in the mahogany box, and over a dozen bailiffs securing the tense room, the foreperson read the verdict to which we had all agreed. We found both men guilty on all charges except one; the most serious was felony murder for which these eighteen-year-olds, just released into adulthood, will serve out the remainder of their youth (the exact number of years will be determined in about a month). As the wailing of one of the defendant's relatives echoed through the room, I was struck by how affected our jury was. Most of us had tears in our eyes. All of us were crying inside. As the judge mentioned at the outset of the trial, there are no winners here.

The judge also admonished us not to attempt to cure the ills of society with our decision. This case was neither a referendum on the failed war on drugs nor the ceaseless chasm between whites and minorities in this country. One cannot help but wonder what choice a kid born in prison (like one of the defendants) has in life. When one is socialized to sell crack-cocaine, pull a “jux” with his “ratchet” (slang terms the jury learned in this trial), and otherwise lead a life inconsistent with mainstream American mores, can we blame him or her? It is a question to which one cannot flippantly respond. Two of my fellow jurors offered insights that help me come to a conclusion. One woman has taught in the New York City public school system for over twenty years. Further, she lives in Washington Heights, a cyclically depressed part of upper Manhattan (and, incidentally, the area where our murder took place). She warned that while we continually hear of the socially depraved in that neighborhood, we shouldn’t be so quick to cast aspersions on all inhabitants. Anecdotally 90%-95% of youngsters in this area are lovely, well-intended individuals. The other male on the jury was a college-aged person who told his story. His father, whom he considers more of a friend than a mentor, has been in and out of prison for much of his adult life. This juror, however, made a conscious decision to play by the rules, not falling prey to that which many in his community have. He understands (and perhaps is more sympathetic to) the defendants’ lot in life, but does not excuse their behavior for they made choices and must live with the consequences.

We knew the case was serious when we were escorted out of the building through a back elevator, directly into a police van which drove us several blocks away from the courthouse. Despite the judge's assurances, we were all skeptical that we were completely safe. It wasn't until after a few beers with two of my fellow jurors that my nerves were sufficiently stifled, numbed to a state of calm. I don't know what it feels like to serve in a military unit. I suppose it's unlikely I will ever experience combat. But there is a quickly-initiated kinship in situations like this that one rarely experiences. In just a week I believe I've made a couple of friends. I certainly understand myself and my sensibilities better. And that comforts me as I prepare to raise a child in this crazy world.