A Curious Celestial Phenomenon, Revisited

Residents of central Ohio were relieved today when the mysterious flaming ball that appeared in the skies yesterday vanished.  In its place is familiar, comforting gray skies, dull clouds, and rain.

IMG_3453The blazing brightness that the strange golden orb brought with it was too odd and unsettling.  It gave rise to strange urges to remove shoes and walk barefoot in the grass, to dance a little jig on the lawn, to show some bare skin to the world, to smile at the brilliance, and to engage in other forms of unseemly conduct.

No, far better to listen to the patter of the rain against the windowpane, to gaze at a landscape that has been washed clean of vivid color, and to return to the grim perseverance that characterizes the stolid residents of central Ohio.  Far better to remove the source of those curious impulses that we might not have been able to resist for long.  One day, perhaps, that shining source of light and heat in the firmament may return to tempt us . . . but not today.

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A New Game To Enjoy

The Buckeyes’ loss to Wichita State still stings, but at least we’ve got a new Game to command our attention and analysis:  HBO’s Game of Thrones returns tonight.  You can see the extended trailer for Season Three here.

I’ve written before about Game of Thrones — both the HBO series and the epic-length books.  It’s a fantastic show, rich in themes and plots and production values, one that convincingly captures the curious medieval world where seasons can last for decades, dragons fly, and magic is real.  I’m looking forward to the return of characters that I love, and even more to the return of the awful characters that I love to hate.

I’ll relish reigniting my intense loathing for the detestable Joffrey Baratheon, the sadistic, cowardly punk who sits uneasily on the Iron Throne, and his duplicitous, manipulative mother Cersei.  I’ll be interested to see what happens to Jon Snow and the tiny yet hardy band of misfits and castoffs manning The Wall in the far north, working to meet the challenge of the wildlings and the White Walkers.   I’ll root for the honest, loyal Brienne of Tarth, the gigantic female knight who displays more knightly virtues than the men who ridicule her.  And I’ll enjoy becoming reacquainted with Arya, and Bran, and Tyrion, and the complex, interwoven storylines that characterize this series and meeting the new characters that will be introduced this season.

Having read the books, I suppose I could announce “spoilers,” but that’s not fair Game.  I’ll say only that big things, and terrible things, will be happening to the characters we’ve come to know.  Of course, loyal watchers of the show knew that already.  Any show that kills off its main character by public beheading before Season One even ends is not afraid to spin the world of Westeros on its axis.

Tough To Take

The Buckeyes lost to a gutty, hard-working Wichita State team tonight.  It’s a tough loss to take.

It’s tough because the Buckeyes looked lost in the first half of this game.  They settled for three-pointers, couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean, and played listlessly as Wichita State went out to a big lead.  The lead got even bigger in the second half, as the Shockers built a 20-point lead.  20 points!  But this loss also is tough because Ohio State didn’t quit and kept coming back.  It made me proud, but it also made me wonder how the game might have gone if Ohio State had played with that kind of effort for the full 40-minute game.

It’s tough to end the season on the cusp of the Final Four, losing to a lower-seeded team.  It’s tough because I’ve enjoyed watching this team this year, and I hope their journey would last just a little longer, and I could watch Deshaun Thomas, and Aaron Craft, and LaQuinton Ross, and the other Buckeyes who wouldn’t throw in the towel during the season or during this game.

All credit to the Wichita State Shockers for playing a fine game . . . but this loss is tough to take.

A Curious Celestial Phenomenon

Residents of central Ohio were astonished today when our accustomed cloud cover vanished and a large, flaming orb unexpectedly appeared in the sky.

IMG_3450The object is so bright that it is creating sharp, dark outlines of objects, like tree limbs, mailboxes, and even people, on the ground.  It is so dazzling that mortal man cannot look at it directly without being blinded.  If you wish to walk around in the brilliance, you must shield your eyes to avoid being stupefied.

It is unclear whether the object is dangerous, but there are warning signs that it may be hazardous.  It appears to radiate some kind of energy, because exposure to the object leaves the back of your neck feeling warm and tingly.  It also exerts a curious attraction.  People seem to want to go outside and bask in the object’s brightness.  Neighbors who have long remained indoors are outside and have discarded their coats.  Have the authorities been notified?

The Dreaded Driver’s License Renewal

This morning I’m going to go to get my driver’s license renewed.  I’ll go to a place that attempts to make the experience as tolerable as possible, but we all know that, no matter how hard the proprietor may try, the process of getting your driver’s license renewed is infused with an inevitable, intrinsic suckiness.

IMG_3448You’ll wait in line with a bunch of strangers.  You’ll take the tests, and try to see all of the flashing dots and hear all of the sounds, and then . . . you’ll get your picture taken.  And let’s face it, no one over the age of 50 looks as old, lined, and enfeebled as they do on their driver’s license or passport photo.  There must be something about the automatic, slightly out of focus cameras used as such places that is geared to producing a photo that goes beyond unflattering and ventures into the realm of horror film fare, shipped out to Hollywood makeup artists who are searching for new and creative ways to depict the Living Dead.

I’ve liked this particular license, as much as you can like any scrap of plastic that tells someone in a position of authority that you are who you claim to be.  It was issued on March 30, 2009, when “Mike Rankin” was Registrar of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.  It’s filled with messages purportedly detectable only under scanners and other security devices that tell people that I’m not an underaged kid trying to buy alcohol with a fake ID.  It includes a hopeful but nevertheless egregious misstatement of my weight and slight exaggeration of my height and tells people I’ll donate my organs and that I need corrective lenses.  It has allowed me to board countless planes, vote at every election, and make credit card purchases.  It has served me well, but today I’ll get a new one.

Wish me luck.

Violating The Vacation Rule

This year I’ve inexplicably violated one of my time-honored work-life balance rules, and now I’m paying the price.

IMG_2666I call it the Vacation Rule.  Basically, it stipulates that a vacation — not an out-of-town conference, or a long weekend getaway, but an honest-to-God, more than a week in duration vacation — must be on the calendar at all times.  In my experience, the humdrum elements of the workaday world are much easier to accept if there is a vacation shining brightly in the not-too-distant future.  The idea is to always have a trip to someplace warm, or someplace interesting, or someplace new, written down and blocked out, concrete and committed to, so that you see it when you look at your work calendar to schedule meetings and other work events and smile a secret inner smile.  It helps to break the work year into manageable bite-sized chunks.

This year, though, I’ve stupidly violated the rule.  When we returned from our trip in December, I didn’t immediately schedule the next trip.  That’s a problem because, if you let time pass and the calendar fills up with other work commitments, it gets harder and harder to arrange a vacation in the near future.  There are too many other things that have to be moved, so you end up just picking a free time period that is months away . . . and that’s vaguely depressing.

The only solution is to get that vacation on the calendar, whenever it may be.  You’ll feel better.  Then, put your head down and keep working until the vacation appears dead ahead on the workplace horizon — and be sure never to violate the Vacation Rule again.