Sports Superstitions

Does having a sports superstition make the game better or easier to watch?

PURPLEI am superstitious when it comes to sports. This mostly manifests itself when I watch a Ravens game. First off, if I don’t wear purple on Purple Friday, well, I could cause the team to lose. The same is true, if I’m not wearing purple on game day.

During our Superbowl winning playoff season a couple of years ago, I managed to wear purple throughout the entire run of the playoffs, about a month. I was literally running out of purple clothes to wear to work. One night I got so hot in my apartment I flung off my clothes and woke up in a panic, thinking oh no, I had no purple on. In the end, I felt ok because my sheets are purple and my toe’s were painted a beautiful shade of aubergine.

I also made my guests (and myself), ask permission of my bobble head Ray Lewis doll if they had to go to the bathroom during the game. They also had to pat his head.

As ridiculous and un-influential as I know these behaviors are, I think it also gets me more invested. I play a part in the win and the loss.

Orioles Magic!Now that the Orioles are just a possible four games away from returning to the World Series, I’m getting a little crazy about them too, though I don’t have enough orange to wear a months worth. However, I think just my existence may be a jinx. You see the last time the Orioles won a World Series was in 1983. I was born the following year. Coincidence?

But the superstition isn’t mine alone. Last week, after the Orioles had won their first game against the Detroit Tigers in the playoffs, the song “We Are Family” came on in the restaurant my family was in. Great song, right? I was jammin’ but my brother said to my father, “I don’t like them playing this.”

“Why?” I asked. That song is played a lot, it’s a good song. I was confused.

Then my father explained to me that was the theme song that the Pittsburgh Pirates used in 1979 during their attempt at winning the World Series. An attempt they ultimately succeeded at, and we, the Baltimore Orioles, were the team they were up against in the World Series.

I even refrain from watching the game now if we start doing bad, because I think I could be a bad omen.

What are your sport superstitions, and do you think it makes watching better or worse for you? 

Eat Your Vegetables: A Review of The Veggetti

VeggettiI am admittedly not a very nutritious person. I grew up on fast food. I’m always game for a stuffed crust pizza. As you probably can already tell, vegetables were never really a part of my diet. When they were served I didn’t give the yuck face, or avoid them, they just aren’t the foods I piled up on my plate or stay awake at night craving.

But I recently lost 80 pounds and I’m committed to living a healthier life, where I don’t gain weight, and hopefully keep losing. So aside from cutting out my fast food and stuffed crust pizzas, I’m trying to incorporate more vegetables into my diet. In comes the Veggetti, a handheld vegetable slicer, shaped like an hourglass.  I ordered it from Amazon, and I’ve used it a few times now, and I have to say it’s a cheap tool, but if you are looking to get more vegetables into your diet, it should help.

All you do with the Veggetti, is place your cylindrical shaped vegetable in either the side that produces thick or thin noodle like shavings and you twist. I find this is ideal for squash, zucchini or cucumbers. I don’t recommend using it with carrots or  potatoes. I tried using a sweet potato and was too dense and oddly shaped, which made it was a struggle and an arm workout to get any thing worthwhile out. Carrots are just too thin for the Veggetti to get a good grip.

A zucchini or squash though, can be completely Veggettied in less than 5 minutes.

I found a great site, for Veggetti recipes, called Inspiralize.  This is actually for a contraption called a Spiralizer, which is a bit more expensive, but uses a crank instead of your hand to twist the vegetable. It looks like it might be easier to manuever, so if you are thinking about getting a Veggetti you may want to consider if you want more of a boost from the Spiralizer.

Anyway, Inspiralized, the recipe site, offers great suggestions, and the Veggetti comes with a little idea book with instructions and recipe suggestions.

I’ve pretty much stuck to making zucchini or squash spaghetti with my Veggetti and I love it, because it keeps me away from pasta, a dreaded carb, it’s got a great texture and it makes me feel good to know I’m eating a vegetable. After I turn my zucchini into pasta like strips, I put them in a frying pan, with a little olive oil. I add some pesto sauce, you could put in any sauce really. Then I add a protein, you could do chicken, shrimp, ground beef, whatever floats your boat. When it’s all warm, I add some parmesan cheese on top and there’s a healthy dinner.

When all is said and done, I can soak my Veggetti in the sink and put it in the dishwasher for quick cleaning.

What’s your trick to eating more vegetables?  

Get Action

If you watched, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, Ken Burns’ documentary of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt that aired last month on PBS, you may be familiar with my title. It’s the title of the first episode. It’s also part of a  quote from Teddy, the vibrant and bawdy president. It’s essentially, his life motto. Get action. Do things; be sane; don’t (1)

And it has made me think a lot about my first 30 years. I’m not sure I’ve gotten action. I know that my idea of action is nowhere the same as Theodore Roosevelt’s. I have no desire to fight a war or shoot a bear, perhaps I could explore the Amazon, but not any uncharted parts and maybe on a river cruise.

Anyway, those of you that know me, know that the past few months have been challenging for me. So, when October arrived yesterday, I finally felt out of shock, at least a little. I feel this is my time to “Get action.” It’s taken me 30 years but I’d like to make this the year of my life where I accomplish something I can be proud of. This is the year I want to start a business venture, publish a book or just create something for the benefit of others.

The first week of October happens to be Get Organized Week, so that’s what I’m doing. I’m getting back into the swing of things, going back to the gym, reaching out to resources, joining organizations and writing.

What are you doing?

What I’ve Been Reading: August Edition

I am not a cat. Photo courtesy of flickr user raoultrifan.

I am not a cat. Photo courtesy of flickr user raoultrifan.

Last month I posted about The New Yorker opening up its Internet archive for free, and I challenged myself to read 3 articles a week. Needless to say I have pretty much failed at that challenge, but I have read a handful so far, along with some other interesting articles.

With The New Yorker, I’m trying to use this free period as a chance to sample authors I haven’t read before, and find a diverse array of articles. I started with “Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg” a piece by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell is an author I’ve been meaning to read, but haven’t gotten around to, so this gave me a sense of his style. The story takes the concept of it’s not what you know, but who you know and explains that. I found it very interesting and very thoughtful. The concept is Lois is a person who has connections in a variety of spaces and she is able to effortlessly make connections. If you have a Lois Weisberg in your circle, you are sure to have opportunities knocking at your door.

The next article I read from the New Yorker was “True Crime” by David Grann. I have actually read Grann before, he wrote a book called “The Lost City of Z,” which was a book I read in my book club. It was a book I never would have picked, because it was about exploring the Amazon. However, I think it’s a great book full of intrigue, history and adventure. This story covered a Polish murder case and its major suspect. Like a foreign version of “Law and Order,” this was a compelling story about freedom of speech, philosophy and criminal justice.

I decided I needed to read some fiction, so I decided to try “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” by Nathan Englander. This didn’t impress me so much, it to me seemed a really far-fetched story of two friends meeting again, after one has grown up to become an orthodox Jew. It’s a way of showing how people may believe in certain religious things but they can still be the same people. I agree, but I just thought this piece was a little too goofy.

Lastly, I read an article about David Simon and “The Wire,” “Stealing Life” by Margaret Talbot, written before the final season aired. I’m a big fan of “The Wire” and of Simon, and I think this was a great piece that gave great insight into his mind and attitudes. Any fan of his, or of “The Wire” should read this article.

Aside from The New Yorker, I realized, I do a lot of browsing and then pocketing, which is to say I save a lot of articles to read later, and then I don’t. So, a new resolution, of the 949 items I have saved in my pocket, that I haven’t read, I’m going to tackle 1/6 by the end of September. That’s roughly 158 items/articles. That’s on top of reading my New Yorker articles and books.

Other articles I did read that I think are worthy of sharing are:

  • 11 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The Beatles“…. like #1, their early concerts smelled like urine.
  • Despicable Memes” – This article was a compelling argument about how people and society put disabled people in a box, like they have to be this population of angels, who do no wrong, have no fun or personalities. This author went after famous people who are perpetuating the myth that people in wheelchairs aren’t able to walk. This might change the way you share things on the Internet.
  • The Hard Truth About Boiled Eggs – This is a post from Serious Eats’ food lab. This is the first of their food lab posts I’ve ever read, and this is why I love the Internet. It breaks down something that is seemingly so simple, going over best practices and debunking myths. I tried the method this author recommended and I got perfect hard-boiled eggs and I was able to peel the shells easily. Hooray!

What have you been reading this month?

Why I’m Crazy for Swayze

Today would have been Patrick Swayze’s 52nd birthday. To many like me he will always be Johnny Castle, the rough and brooding dance instructor at Kellerman’s in the iconic movie “Dirty Dancing,” but Patrick Swayze is more than one character. His career and his life serve as the model for the macho man with a sensitive side. Here are three examples of this:

1. Before he was famous Swayze was on his high school football team, he was hoping for a scholarship, but due to a knee injury, that never happened. Instead Swayze focused on his dancing. His mother was a choreographer and owned her own dance studio. Swayze then went on to dance with the Joffrey Ballet.

Here’s a clip of him dancing with is wife:

2. Have you heard “She’s Like the Wind” If you are like me, not only do you love this song, but it makes you cry. Swayze co-wrote this song, which was originally intended to be featured on the soundtrack of “Grandview, U.S.A.,” which he starred in with Jamie Lee Curtis. Swayze also co-wrote two songs for the “Road House” soundtrack.

3. Rivaling “Dirty Dancing” for my favorite Patrick Swayze movie is “To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar.” This film is everything, darling. There’s an interview you can watch on YouTube where Patrick Swayze really shows how much he cares and understands his character, Ms. Vida Boheme. He says “I wanted to create a goddess. I wanted to create an angel, that it doesn’t matter who she is or what she is. She cannot live if people’s lives aren’t happy.”

Why do you love Patrick Swayze?

Paul Gauguin and the Panama Canal

For those of you that don’t know, today marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal. This waterway, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, was a remarkable feat that was decades in the making. It was treacherous work and resulted in the deaths of roughly 25,600 people. The canal is now a main shipping route for 5 percent of the world’s goods. Before the canal was built ships sailing from the West Coast of the United States to the East Coast, and vice versa, would have to sail south around the treacherous Cape Horn, situated between the tip of South America and the start of Antarctica.

Photo of the Panama Canal courtesy of Flickr user Niels

Photo of the Panama Canal courtesy of Flickr user Lyn Gateley.

I recently found out that the famous post-impressionist Paul Gauguin, was actually involved in the building of the canal. Though his role was not glamorous, or treacherous for that matter. It’s an interesting tidbit, a fun fact if you will.

From what I gather, Gauguin in 1887 set off for Panama. At that time the French were working to create the Panama Canal. This attempt eventually failed for many reasons, leading the Americans to come in and finish the job in 1904. Gauguin, left behind his wife Mette and their five children in Copenhagen, to pursue his art and to make money in Panama. Gauguin traveled with fellow painter Charles Lavash, and both had connections in Panama. Paul’s brother-in-law (the husband of his sister) Juan Uribe had a business there. Lavash was connected to Henri Cottu, who worked for the private company building the canal.

Paul Gauguin's self portrait photo courtesy of flickr user  Niels.

Paul Gauguin’s self-portrait photo courtesy of flickr user Niels.

According to Nancy Mowll Matthews in her book “Paul Gauguin: An Erotic Life,” just as laborers were coming to Panama to work on the canal, clerks and other business men were coming to find their fortune. This made for a surplus of gentlemen, and Gauguin and Laval struggled to find jobs. However, they both were able to gain employment as clerks for the company that was charged with creating a dam across the Chagres River. Here the two made good money, and because the cost of living was so low they could save. Laval also did some portrait work there, Gauguin didn’t pick up the work because the conditions of the portraiture were not to his liking.

The most fascinating part of the story to me is that, according to Matthews, in his letters back home, Gauguin told his wife Mette that he was a laborer and that life was extremely hard for him. In a letter to her he says, “Don’t complain about your work, everyday I dig from 5:30 in the morning until 6 at night under the tropical sun and in the rain.” Matthews states that his other communications don’t back up the stories he told Mette. She surmises that he was off earning and spending money, living the life of adventure, while she was back home working to support their family.

After only 2 weeks of work, the job ended abruptly as funding was not coming in. The two caught transport back to the island of Martinique as a stop on the way back to Paris. This was a heaven to Gauguin who found you could live relatively cheaply and have the genteel life of French colonists. However, while there Gauguin came down with malaria and dysentery. After this sickness he didn’t see Martinique as the paradise he once thought of bringing his family too. He and Laval then returned to France.

Among the Mangoes at Martinique painted by Paul Gauguin in 1887. Photo courtesy of flickr user Carlos Rodriguez.

Among the Mangoes at Martinique painted by Paul Gauguin in 1887. Photo courtesy of flickr user Carlos Rodriguez.

While Gauguin didn’t necessarily leave his mark on the Panama Canal, and the Canal didn’t leave its mark on Gauguin, I think this is a fascinating piece of forgotten history.

Are you a fan of Paul Gauguin?