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last minute trip stuff i can think of

1) If you are reading this and you are a burglar, don't bother comin' round while we're gone. We have a house sitter ... his name is Henry ... his friends call him Hank, but his enemies call him Bad Henry, so don't mess with our house.

2) My cell phone won't work in Europe. I've set it to forward all calls to our land line, because we can access those messages from the Internet. Of course, if we have Internet access, we can read email, so I'd recommend using email. But a heads-up just the same. You can also call the land line directly ... it's the same phone number as my cell phone, only substitute 548 for 207.

3) I don't want to post phone numbers here, so this won't really be much help. But our itinerary, as far as I can figure it from Robin's info, is:

May 28: fly there

May 29-June 2: Stuttgart, Katie, John and Ava's house

June 3: Frankfurt, InterCity Hotel

June 4: Granada, Hotel Plaza Nueva

June 5-11: Nerja, A.Alcapulco

June 12-13: Estepona, Albero Lodge

June 14-20: Ronda, Jardines de la Muralla

June 21: Malaga, Hotel Eurostars Astoria

June 22: fly home

4) Bye.

whew and all that

I've graded all the papers and submitted the final grades. Tomorrow evening we leave for Europe. A few days in Germany, the rest in various places in Andalusia. We'll have Internet access at least part of the time, so I'll post at least a few of those gawdawful travel posts that I never read when other people do them. Meanwhile, I've tried an experiment ... I have already composed posts for the dates May 29-June 23, post-dated. There'll be a variety ... Friday Random Tens will show up on schedule, I'll talk about the season finale of The Shield (which I've already seen but which hasn't aired in the U.S. yet), and there will be a lot of looks backward, as I quote from various posts I've made on this blog over the past 5 1/2 years.

Meanwhile, since I don't suppose it will be very easy to upload pictures during our trip, I better post a couple now while I can. Here's a picture of my dessert at our anniversary dinner last night:


And here's an old classic ... this is where Robin and I will be spending part of our vacation:


another of my occasional teevee roundups

Of course we all know there is no such thing anymore as a TV "season." Half the time, I'm trying to avoid giving spoilers on shows that aired months ago, because the season hasn't been released yet on DVD for the Netflix junkies to watch. But, since this is still nominally the end of the network season; since most shows have actually finished their seasons or are about to; since new shows haven't yet arrived; and since I'm going to be in Europe for four weeks with as-yet undetermined Slingbox access; I might as well do one of my roundups of TV from the last nine months or so. These are mostly based on the grades I gave them in various posts over the year, with minor changes, and are for the latest season, not for the series as a whole:

A+: The Wire

A: Battlestar Galactica, The Office

A-: Dexter, Extras, Rome, Weeds

B+: 30 Rock, Big Love, Lost

B/B+: Ugly Betty

B: Entourage, House, The L Word

C+: 24

Somewhere between A and C, depending on the episode and my mood: Rescue Me

Gave up on show because I no longer liked it: Brothers & Sisters, Desperate Housewives, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Gave up on show when I noticed too many episodes unwatched on the DVR: My Name Is Earl

Too soon to tell because season isn't over yet, but probably an A: The Sopranos

Too soon to tell but I've secretly seen the last episodes of the season so A- is the final grade: The Shield

Incomplete because I like it but I'm several episodes behind so how much do I really like it: The Riches

What can the stat-head in me ascertain from the above? First, as always, the grade inflation doesn't really exist here … I'm sure there are plenty of shows with grades lower than C+, but I don't watch those shows, there's a filtering process whereby I only grade what I watch and I only watch what I think will be good.

I finally graded a show lower than L Word.

Number of shows in "A" range: 7. Number of those shows on HBO: 3. Showtime: 2. Sci-Fi Channel: 1.

Number of those shows on regular broadcast networks: 1.

Average grade for HBO shows (assuming an "A" for Sopranos): 3.7

Average grade for Showtime shows: 3.5

Average grade for broadcast network shows (not counting shows I gave up on): 3.15

Shows I gave up on: 4

Broadcast network shows I gave up on: 4

Hardest network to figure: FX (A- for The Shield, INC for The Riches, muddle-headed A/C for Rescue Me)

Number of series on CBS I watch: 0


friday random ten, 1976 edition

1. The Ramones, "Blitzkrieg Bop." A sonic blast to introduce a new generation of rock and roll music, "Blitzkrieg Bop" can lay claim to kick-starting the punk rock movement. Which, of course, means that lots of people hated it from the start. It was clear to people with fresh ears that the Ramones were a pop band, but it took the mainstream a couple of decades to figure out that particular truth. Now, you can't attend a sporting event without hearing "Blitzkrieg Bop" … hey ho, let's go! The video link features P.J. Soles in her greatest performance, as Riff Randall, their #1 fan.

2. Johnnie Taylor, "Disco Lady." No matter how silly the lyrics to "Blitzkrieg Bop" are (and that was partly the point, after all), they can't hold a candle to this classic "they don't write 'em like that anymore" song. "Move it in, move it out, Shove it in, round about" … that puts the single in double entendre.

3. The Wild Tchoupitoulas, "Meet the Boys on the Battlefront." One of the great one-off albums ever, mostly forgotten, always listenable, guaranteed to enliven any party. Everyone loves this, even my hip-hop son. "The Wild Tchoupitoulas' gonna stomp some rump!"

4. Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers, "Important in Your Life." This Random Ten is giving a feel for the schizophrenic nature of mid-70s music. This one should have been closer on the playlist to the Ramones, but what the heck. Richman and the Ramones offered different versions of rock and roll minimalism … both versions were very influential on subsequent punk rock.

5. Electric Light Orchestra, "Telephone Line." Bands like ELO were the reason punk rock needed to be invented. Nonetheless, "Telephone Line" is one of most gorgeous songs you'll ever hear.

6. Blondie, "Attack of the Giant Ants." Shuffle play is really messing around this time. This should be next to Richman and the Ramones. Debbie's the first woman to show up on this Random Ten … now all that we'll get are women. The joys of shuffle.

7. Joan Armatrading, "Down to Zero." I can't remember a time when Joan Armatrading sounded "current." Far as I know from popping in to listen to her every once in awhile, she's been quietly making her music for three decades, never much changing, always satisfying her cult. I'm a take-her-or-leave-her kind of guy, myself, but I always liked this one. Her fans will enjoy the video version.

8. Dorothy Moore, "Misty Blue." Moore seems to have been forgotten. Can't go wrong with this one, though. Based on the video link, someone remembers, someone a lot different than me.

9. Vicki Sue Robinson, "Turn the Beat Around." Can't forget the disco. Love to hear percussion!


We created it, let's take it over.

lost season finale

Do I have to stick a spoiler warning here? I feel like I was the last person to see this one … I went to the Giants game last night, so Robin and I didn't watch the finale until tonight. In the meantime, all of the critics I read were jabbering about it, and many of my friends and family were jabbering about it, and I was doing a virtual hands-over-ears-loud-nyah-nyah-nyah so I didn't read/hear anything.

Julie did a good job of summarizing stuff, and I don't have a lot to add to what she said. The what-will-happen-next angles were very well done, there was some good action, and characters I don't normally like were either less annoying than usual or got some comeuppance to make me feel better. (For the record: I prefer Sawyer to Jack, Hurley to Charlie, think they do pretty well by the character of Kate but in general they aren't as good with women characters as with men, think Sun is the hottest babe but I like that Kate has muscles, and I want to be Sayid in my next life.)

I guess it wouldn't be Steven Rubio's Online Life if I didn't complain at least a little bit, but this isn't really a complaint. Lost, like most shows to be honest, is erratic … it can fall into a slump that lasts for several episodes. But when it's on its game, it's just fine. There's no real depth to the show … it's a puzzle, when they're firing on all cylinders it's great fun to watch and think about, but there are none of the Larger Issues of something like Battlestar Galactica or the detailed examination of Smaller Issues That Matter like in The Wire. There is no real psychological depth to the characters like you get on The Sopranos, no real feel for gut-wrenching battles between our good impulses and our bad like in The Shield. No, Lost is just a fine adventure show with lots of twists, and that's nothing to sneeze at. If this means I don't consider it a great show, that's just me talking … it's good enough, and you can't say that about too many series.

Grade for season finale: A

Grade for Season Three: B+, thanks to a good run at the end of the season

happy birthday paul!

If there's one point that has been made in my life lately, it's that your extended family is more important than you think. I don't always do a good job of remembering that ... as Robin can attest, in-laws can be a prickly subject around me. But that's just me being a hermit and a doofus. My brother-in-law Paul makes my sister happier than she ever has been, and that's why it's good to have him in the family, and that's why I'm sending out this birthday greeting. Happy birthday, Paul! Just be glad I never started a PhotoShop tradition for you.

mr. prediction (spoilers)

(This is long and kinda boring, but for those of you who skip all the soccer posts, jump to the bottom and watch the video … it's worth it, I promise, and I fixed the link, too!)

Times have changed for soccer fans in the U.S., as I've noted more than once here. From the times when the only televised soccer was a weekly match highlight from Germany on PBS, to the times when the only televised soccer was on Univision and Telemundo, we've made it to the present, where two channels are dedicated to soccer 24/7 (Fox Soccer Channel and GOL TV), the behemoth that is ESPN pays increasing attention to the sport, and the national league, MLS, is regularly featured. There is so much soccer on television in the States these days that you can't keep up with it all.

And so, as the seasons began last fall, I decided to pick a team from each of the leagues we get to watch, thinking maybe if I just focused on one club per competition, it would all become manageable. But that didn't work … among other things, there are too many other matches, cup matches, internationals, and you have to watch those, too. And so some of my chosen clubs fell to the side. Mostly, that meant the South American leagues … the best players tend to end up in Europe, the Brazilian leagues are messily goofy organizations, which leaves Argentina … good stuff, but I found myself skipping them.

In the end, the leagues I regularly watched were in England, Spain, Italy, Germany, Mexico, and to a lesser extent given our team was stolen away, the USA. The teams I chose to follow were not exactly longshots … my "predictions" weren't much to brag about. In England, I chose Liverpool, because they weren't Man U or Chelsea or Arsenal … in Spain, I chose Sevilla because they were the best of the Andalucian clubs … in Italy, Inter Milan because the other good clubs had gotten in too much trouble recently … in Germany, Werder Bremen for who knows what reason … in Mexico, Chivas, which is the club I'd followed forever anyway … and in MLS, I admit that once I decided to watch a match or two, I kept my eye on Houston, where all of the old Quakes still played on. And, because they shouldn't be forgotten, I've rooted for them since 1994 and have one of their flags in my front window, in the English League Two, there was mighty mighty Wrexham.

How did "my" clubs do? Liverpool finished third in the Premiership, got blown out of the League Cup by Arsenal in the quarterfinals, also lost to Arsenal in an early round of the FA Cup, and, just a few minutes ago, lost in the Champions League final to AC Milan. A pretty fine season, but no silverware. (Meanwhile, just across the border from Liverpool into Wales, Wrexham fought mightily at the bottom of the standings, saving themselves from the embarrassment of relegation on the last day of the season.)

Spain's season is still not finished. With only a few matches to go, Sevilla is in third place, two points from the lead. They retained their UEFA Cup championship, that being the second-best club competition in Europe. A month from now, they will play in the championship match of the Copa del Rey, the top cup competition in the country.

Inter Milan have coasted to a championship in Italy, thanks in part to the absence of powerhouses like Juventus due to legal issues. They deserved their title, though, winning by more than 20 points (depending on the last week's matches). They made the final of the Coppa Italia, where they were blown away by Roma. They couldn't get past Valencia in the Champions League … their matches were mostly notable for a post-match brawl.

Werder Bremen finished third in the Bundesliga. They couldn't get out of the group stage in the Champions League, finishing behind Chelsea and Barcelona. Moved to the UEFA Cup, they lost to Espanyol in the semis.

Chivas of Guadalajara won the Mexican League for the first time in quite awhile, leading to a famous steak dinner at Juan's Place. Last week, they lost to arch-rival America in the current playoffs, so they are title holders no longer.

And Houston won MLS, with a team comprised almost entirely of San Jose Earthquakes.

Seven clubs. Three league titles, with a fourth still a possibility. One cup title, with another still a possibility. Not a bad "prediction" record, although as I say, I picked good teams, not longshots.

The best part about the above, besides having someone to root for, which for me always improves the spectator sports experience, was that seeing several matches of the same club meant I became familiar with their players. Certain of those players stood out over the season … not necessarily the best players, but the ones who I most liked to watch. To choose one from each club:

Liverpool: how about Peter Crouch? Guy is 6'7" and built like a stick … not really my type of player … but for all his gangly awkwardness, he has actual skillz. Not saying he's the second coming of Platini, but I was always surprised that he could do more with the ball than just head it.

Wrexham: well, I didn't get to see them, of course … as much soccer as we get, fourth-division English soccer hasn't made it to our TVs yet. So I'll pick Lee McEvilly, for being second on the club in goals scored, but also because he's got a great last name.

Sevilla: Kanoute. Kinda hard to go against the guy who has scored 20 goals in La Liga.

Inter: Hernán Crespo. I never got tired of watching him.

Bremen: Miroslav Klose. Because he scores hella goals.

Chivas: Oswaldo Sánchez. He left the club after they won the title, and he's not very popular with U.S. fans, but he was the face of Chivas soccer for a long time.

Houston: It's pretty tempting to say "who gives a shit," but these guys were my favorite players only a couple of years ago. Here's to Brian Mullan, who I enjoyed watching in the Spartan Stadium days. His is the kind of play that is more enjoyable in person than on the TV, so I've missed the best of him since he left.

And I should at least mention Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United, some people's choice for the best in the world now, and especially Lionel Messi of Barcelona, who won't even turn 20 until next month but who regularly makes the highlight reels with great goals. Here was his best of the year … no, not just his best of the year, THE best of the year … no, not the best of the year, the best of the last 20 years … no, not the best of the last 20 years, the best ever … nah, we can't go that far. But how often does a goal get mentioned in the same breath as Maradona's famous Greatest Goal Ever without embarrassing itself? You'll understand why he's now known in some quarters as "Messidona." Here you go … not only doesn't it matter if you don't understand the language of the announcer (I don't), it might even make the video even better:

happy birthday geoff!

So many landmark dates today, it's hard to know where to begin. My brother turned 60 today, but that's not the biggest landmark. We're on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love, but that's not the biggest landmark. No, the biggie is that today I get to post the 4th Annual Steven Can't Do PhotoShop Picture of Geoff on His Birthday! In honor of the Summer of Love, and because my (did I mention he's older than I am?) brother taught me everything I know about those fabled times, and because we're going to the Giants game tonight, I decided that this year's picture should 1) show off my non-existent PhotoShop skillz, 2) be psychedelizied, and 3) show both of us. And so I give you this year's birthday winner: