Avoiding Barside Embarrassment

When you go up to a bar to order a drink, you want to project a certain nonchalant yet decisive elegance with the bartender that shows her that you’ve been here before and you know what you’re doing.

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The goal is steely-eyed, white-jacketed, Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca-like cool certainty, as opposed to waffling or floundering or acting like goofy Clarence the Angel ordering a flaming rum punch at Nick’s, the hard-drinking bar in the alternative, George Bailey-free universe.

Knowing how to correctly pronounce the drink you’re ordering sure helps.

Would you know how to order a caipirinha, which the national drink of Brazil?  Made with sugarcane distilled spirits called Cachaca, lime, and sugar, it packs a lethal punch and is pronounced kai-pee-reen-ya.  Or let’s suppose you were up in Sweden during its endless, dark winter and wanted to warm yourself with a glass of traditional mulled wine, called glogg (with an umlaut over the o, too).  Appropriately, it’s pronounced glug, which should be easy to remember after you’ve swilled down two or three of them, because Swedish mulled wine tends to have a lot more alcohol than the American version.  Or let’s say you’re in a somewhat daintier mood, and feel like having a sgroppino to top off your meal.  That’s an Italian concoction of Prosecco, vodka, and lemon sorbet that’s pronounced sro-pee-no.  (You wouldn’t want to order that one at Nick’s, by the way.)

Hospitality Training Solutions has provided a guide to the correct pronunciation of these and other cocktails, to ensure that you project an image more like Bogie and less like Clarence the next time you belly up to the bar.  And remember, too — people rarely mispronounce beer.

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Sweet 16

The last few weeks have been glorious times for the Cleveland Indians and their fans.  With last night’s victory over Baltimore, the Tribe has now won 16 games in a row.

img_5177With every triumph, the streak seems to set a new record.  It’s the longest winning streak in the history of the Indians ball club, and the longest streak in the major league since 2002.  It’s only the third time since 1961 that a major league baseball team has won at least 16 games in a row.  It’s nice to know, too, that Russell, UJ and I got to see part of the history.  We witnessed two of the wins on the streak, when the Tribe shut out the Royals back to back for wins 3 and 4 two weeks ago.

The Tribe still has a ways to go, however, if it really wants to put its name in the record books:  the all-time longest winning streak for a big league baseball team is 21 games, achieved by the 1935 Chicago Cubs.  (The longest losing streak, in case you’re interested, is 23 games by the 1961 Philadelphia Phillies.)

The games we saw against Kansas City were a microcosm of the streak, because the Tribe has been doing it with the basics:  excellent starting pitching, solid bullpen work, good defense, and timely hitting, often with power.  The streak has been particularly impressive because the team has won many of the games on the road while overcoming lots of injuries to key players, like Andrew Miller and Jason Kipnis.  And the players themselves don’t seem to be fazed by the team’s success and are just going out and playing one game at a time.

Every streak ends, of course, but this one has been lots of fun to relish.

Employing The Email Selfie

Last night I was having dinner with a colleague.  At one point during the meal, when we were talking about something work-related, we both apologetically pulled out our iPhones and started thumbing away at the keyboards.

We weren’t being rude — at least, we weren’t trying to be.  We were just sending emails to ourselves so we could be sure to remember something that we had been discussing.  Otherwise, there was a pretty good chance that, by the end of the meal, that great (or even just marginally significant) thought — whatever it was — would have totally fled the jurisdiction, and we would both be racking our brains later trying to remember what it was we were supposed to remember.

ios_android_typing_tips_bullet_em_dash-100538034-origThese are the moments for which the “email selfie” — shall we call it the “elfie”? — is made.  You just pull out your iPhone, call up your own email address, tap in a few cryptic words sufficient to remind yourself of whatever it is you want to remember, and hit send.  A second later you get that satisfying, confirming phone vibration that tells you that you’ve received your email selfie, and you can continue whatever it is you’re doing with a brain unburdened by the need to remember whatever it is you’re trying to remember.  It’s a liberating feeling.

At first, I was kind of embarrassed by my need to resort to the email selfie.  Now I prefer to think that, rather than a leading indicator of declining mental faculties, it’s more a technological upgrade of the reminder note concept that people have used since the ancient Egyptians invented papyrus for that specific purpose.  Whether it’s post-it notes, “to-do” lists, Franklin Day Planners, erase boards on the refrigerator at home, or little slips of paper left in a place where you know you’re going to see them (another technique I’ve frequently employed), human beings have long employed memory aids.  Sending emails to yourself is the logical next step.  And sure, you could use the “notes” function on the iPhone, but I’ve never used it — whereas I always check my emails.  Sending the email selfie is a surer route to recollection.

These days, I’m one of my most faithful correspondents.

Compulsive Talkers

Recently Kish and I went to a show at Schiller Park.  We positioned our lawn chairs at the best available spot, sat down to wait for the show to begin, and then endured about 25 minutes of the woman sitting directly in front of us talking, non-stop and loudly, to the woman sitting to her left.  We weren’t eavesdropping, either — anyone who was sitting within a 15-foot radius couldn’t avoid overhearing her monologue.

Person Annoyed by Others TalkingWhat was she talking about?  It was a rambling story about driving somewhere, with people the woman to the left clearly didn’t know, because the talker had to keep explaining who was who.  Since we came in mid-gab, we don’t know how the story began.  All we know is that the woman to the left said not one word, while the talker went on, and on, and on, telling a story with no apparent point or purpose.  Only the start of the show finally, blessedly, shut her up.

What, exactly, makes some people talk too much?  It’s hard to understand for those of us who don’t.  As we walked home and considered the astonishing torrent of blather, Kish and I concluded that the woman must have been either stupid, for thinking that her pointless tale would have been of interest to anyone, or totally clueless, for not recognizing that she was boring the snot out of the woman she was talking to — or maybe both.

Interestingly, psychologists can’t seem to put their finger on exactly what causes compulsive talking.  Constant chatter is one of the recognized symptoms of people who have ADHD.  Some compulsive talkers are manic.  Breathless yakking also is associated with anxiety disorders, where people simply can’t deal with companionable silence and feel the urge to talk, talk, talk to avoid any gaps in the conversation.   Some articles link compulsive talking with narcissism and power relationships, where the talker believes their conversation must be intrinsically fascinating and keeps talking as a means of maintaining control.  And there is even a recognized mental condition, called logorrhea, in which people talk constantly and, often, incoherently.

Whatever the psychological cause might be, exposure to a compulsive talker is a useful exercise, because it makes you reflect on your own speech patterns and tendencies.  Our experience with the nonstop chatterbox reminded us that it’s important to shut up, take a breath, and listen to what others have to say every once in a while.

The Rematch Of The Rematch

Tonight the Cleveland Cavaliers square off against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA championship finals.  It’s the first time in NBA history that two teams have played each other for the championship three years in a row, and the ledger stands at 1-1 — with Golden State winning the first year, when two of the three Cleveland stars were out with injuries, and the Cavaliers memorably winning in seven games last year, as LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and their teammates brought the first championship trophy to Cleveland since 1964.

curry-lebron-finalsThere are more story lines to this series than you can count.  There’s the tiebreaker angle, of course, and the fact that the lineups of the two teams are more studded with NBA All-Stars than any two prior teams that have met in the finals.  There’s the fact that Golden State hasn’t lost a game this post-season, going a perfect 12-0, and are pretty much invincible when Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant are on the floor.  (Cleveland, on the other hand, has lost only one game in its march to the championship series.)  There’s the fact that the gifted Durant joined the Warriors specifically to try to win an NBA championship, and now he gets his chance.  And there’s the weird, post-“off the schneid” vibe of a Cleveland team playing for a championship without the weight of 52 years of futility, bad luck, and bad karma hanging on their shoulders.  A Cleveland team, playing as defending champions?  Who’da thunk it?

The overwhelming consensus seems to be that the Warriors will win handily, just as they’ve done in virtually every other game this season.  In fact, some people are betting that the Warriors will end this post-season 16-0, which has never been done before.  That conventional wisdom is not surprising, because in the last three seasons Golden State has won more regular season games than any team ever has, even though they are playing in the much tougher Western Conference — so they logically should be the favorite.   Of course, the same arguments were made last year, when the Warriors were of course without Durant, and the Cavs ended up winning anyway.

I don’t pretend to have any great insight into how tonight’s game will go, but I’ll be watching for one thing:  can the Cavs keep the game close?  The Warriors blow out so many teams, you just wonder how they will react if the game comes down to the wire and they’re thinking their home-court advantage might be on the line.  I’ll also be interested in seeing what kind of impact Cleveland’s other key contributors — players like Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Kyle Korver, and Channing Frye — have in this game.  If the Cavs hope to win, they need a significant contribution beyond just the James/Irving/Love trio.

Two other points:  First, the NBA playoffs seem to take forever, and there are long layoffs between series, so let’s hope the two teams are not too rusty.  Second, why does the game have to start at 9 p.m. Eastern?  I know it’s out on the west coast, but can’t the NBA have a little regard for the working stiffs among us who’ll need to get up tomorrow morning and get off to work?

Invasion Of The Geriatric Rockers

We’re on the cusp of the summer big-name rock concert season.  Hey, who’s out on tour this year?

rod-stewartDon’t look now, but it’s a lot of the same acts that were touring 40 years ago, soon to come to a sports stadium or outdoor amphitheater near you.  The list of tours this year includes Queen, Foreigner, Boston, Aerosmith, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Billy Joel and Rod Stewart.  Rod Stewart, in case you’re wondering, is 72 years old, and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith is 69.  And as for Queen, their iconic lead singer, Freddie Mercury, died more than 25 years ago.  But neither advanced age, nor the death of original band members, nor concerns about wrinkles, hair loss, gum disease, adult diapers or iron-poor tired blood can keep these dedicated rockers from their appointed tours.  Just don’t be surprised if their contracts requires that the dressing room be equipped with Geritol rather than bottles of Jack Daniel’s.

The promoters call these “nostalgia acts” — which doesn’t exactly seem consistent with the whole notion that rock ‘n roll has a youthful, cutting edge, rebellious element to it.  When you’re a “nostalgia act,” around 70 and still playing songs that you first released when disco was king, you can’t fairly lay claim to the “rebellious” label any more. But there’s a strong market for concerts by these geriatric rockers because their music still gets played on “classic rock” radio stations, and the people who first heard their songs when they were in high school are still out there, willing to spring for tickets to hear “Cold As Ice” performed live one more time.  If you’re a performer, why not cash in, make some money, and give your fans what they want?

I’m torn about this, because I think it’s weird to see 70-year-olds strutting and rocking out on stage, and I wonder if these codger acts don’t crowd out younger musicians who’d like to get some stage time and radio play.  At the same time, in the past few years I’ve been to concerts to see two long-time performers — Stevie Wonder and Bob Seger — and they both put on really good shows.  So I’m taking a live and let live attitude, and figuring that if Rod Stewart wants to sing “Hot Legs” again, and his fans want to hear it, why not let them?  But I think I’ll pass.

Our Apparently Deaf Dog

It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that our dog Kasey may be dealing with deafness.

If true, it’s not surprising, because Kasey’s getting to be of pretty advanced age.  She’s a rescue dog, so we’re not exactly sure how old she is, but the vet estimates from her teeth that she’s probably somewhere around 14 or 15.  Lately she’s experiencing some of the gimpiness, gastric, and bladder problems that you see in older dogs, and she spends a bigger portion of her day sleeping, too.

DSC04123The apparent deafness, though, seems to be a more recent development.  I’ve particularly noticed it this week, while Kish has been on the road.  It used to be that when I would get home from work Kasey would hear me walking up the steps and the key rattling in the door and come to the foyer to greet me with a few welcoming wags of her tail.  Now she doesn’t, and when I call her she doesn’t come, either, so I have to search the house to find her.  Usually she’s up in the upstairs bedroom.  As always, she’s happy to see me when I come into her field of vision, so I’m guessing that the change in habit has less to do with diffidence about the arrival of the Old Boring Guy and more to do with not hearing me as I come in.

There are other potential signs of hearing problems, too.  Kasey is terrified of thunderstorms, but lately it’s only the loudest peals of thunder that seem to bother her.  She doesn’t come running like she used to when the clatter of the bowls in her feeding area indicates that food is being laid out for her enjoyment.  She seems to bark more, and I wonder if that is because hearing herself bark is one way of interrupting her increasingly quiet world.

There’s no problem with living with a hearing-impaired dog, really — you just need to make sure that she sees what you are doing and can then follow the patterns of behavior that we’ve established over years of living together.  She doesn’t need to hear “time for bed” if she sees you heading up the stairs, and the sight of her leash is as effective a communication about going for a walk as a verbal command.  If she’s adjusting to a changing world, we certainly can do that as well.  Kasey may end up as deaf as a post, but we’ll love her just the same.