Schick Happens

The original place for Brian Schick's B.S.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Presidential reading challenge

Tracy and I were out at Barnes & Noble four her monthly book-buying. As usual, she went straight to the sci-fi section to see if there was anything interesting, then back to fiction to look for her favorite authors. This is a pretty typical pattern, except this time she asked me if I had a favorite section in the bookstore.

I like fiction as much as the next guy, but she wanted something more specific. I was surprised I didn’t have an immediate answer, as I sheepishly realized I not as avid a reader as I was about five years ago. In fact, since starting grad school in 2009, I don’t think I’ve read a book for pleasure in its entirety. I just get so burned out from reading boring textbooks that it becomes difficult to focus on a leisure book.

I mentioned I enjoyed reading biographies when I was an undergrad, so she suggested I make my way over and look for something that piqued my interest. Not sure what I was looking for, I knew immediately it when I saw it: Ron Chernow’s new biography on George Washington.

At just over 900 pages, I know I’m in for a chore. But despite being such a prominent figure in our nation’s history, I’m a little hazy about his meteoric rise to fame. I’m sure I’ll have more than enough detail when I’m all said and done.

Later that night after reading the first few chapters, I decided to set a goal for myself of reading one presidential biography per year, starting with this one. That should keep me busy for the next 45 years or so, and I’ll post a recap once I’m done, probably around New Year’s.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

"For I am Costanza, lord of the idiots"

My friend James got me hooked on Buzztime trivia several years back and Tracy and I make it a habit of trying to play at least one game per month. You know Buzztime- the trivia game that is shown on one of the TVs at your local sports bar. They have all sorts of different games that focus on different areas of expertise, as well as a rotating game of random topics. I circled today’s game on the calendar when it came up on the schedule a month ago: Seinfeld!

I figured I had this one in the bag. I fully expected to finish the game a perfect 15 of 15 and I would crush anyone else at the bar. While the latter turned out to be true (although Tracy gave a scare), I totally choked away a perfect game. Damn you, question #9!

The question seemed simple enough: what did the gang get The Drake for his engagement? The third choice on a list of five possible answers a lumbar chair. I punched that in as my answer and didn’t bother reading the rest of the list. I turned to Tracy and didn’t notice my answer was wrong. In my arrogance, I mixed up my supporting characters. The gang buys the chair for Joe Mayo’s housewarming, but they buy The Drake a big screen TV, which also happened to be answer choice #5.

So my hat is off to you, Buzztime Seinfeld expert. You threw in a dummy answer to trip me up and I fell for it. I was so embarrassed after I bragged about my perfect game before I even started, so I had to eat some crow. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go catch up on some studying; I mean, reruns.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Open, then shut

Well, that was quick. I had planned to write a preview of the Sharks playoff series against St. Louis, but it turns out I waited too long. They’ve already been eliminated and may not play again for another year if the upcoming lockout lasts awhile.

There’s really not much to say about San Jose’s fastest departure from the playoffs in franchise history. I think it was enough of a struggle to even make the playoffs that the Sharks had little left against a formidable foe in the Blues. In the lone game they won, it took two overtimes before the Sharks got a lucky goal to pull out a win in St. Louis. That was all the winning they would do, as they proceeded to lose the next four games by a combined score of 12-8.

I feel like a broken record every year, but I think I can finally say the Sharks’ perpetually closing door of making a serious Cup run is now sealed. The same corps of guys just doesn’t seem to play well together anymore. There needs to be a major shakeup this offseason, and they should have plenty of time to think it over, as I’m certain the season won’t start in October.

Photo: Not much more to say

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dreams do come true!

When I was younger, I was fascinated by the weather. I used to watch the Weather Channel for hours on end and even tried to create my own broadcasts using a puzzle of the United States. One of my earliest memories is watching thunderstorms with my Dad through our screen door and counted bolts of lightning.

As I was thinking about college, I still thought I would become a professional meteorologist and I even considered going to University of Arizona to study it there. I toured the campus and the facilities and quickly realized I didn’t have the love of math and physics needed to a real meteorologist, but I still fancy myself an armchair one.

Fast forward to about a month ago. A Facebook friend posted a link to an upcoming weather spotter class and I was intrigued. I knew that anything that improved my standing in the meteorological community couldn’t be a bad thing, so I decided to see what was needed.

Turns out, all you need is patience. The official training process of severe weather spotters is to attend a two-hour presentation by the National Weather Service. They instructed members of the public on how to look for severe weather and report it to the NWS. All you had to do was stick it out until the end and receive your own official weather spotter card.

Some may think sitting through a presentation on cloud types to be boring, but I could have stayed there all night. Sadly, the presentation came to an end and I graduated from the shortest class I’ve ever taken. Here is my diploma:

I took the liberty of laminating the card in case it would get wet during a thunderstorm and it proudly resides in my wallet. With this and the weather radio given to us by my father-in-law, I am Pittsfield Township’s premier weather spotter.

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Ask me how to pronounce "Eyjafjallajökull"

When I mentioned that Tracy and I were going to Iceland for spring break, most people seemed incredulous. But it wasn’t a joke and I’m here to say it rivaled the Alaska trip for the title of “trip of a lifetime.”

The flight from Washington to Reykjavík was uneventful, which is all you can ask of a redeye. We arrived around 6:00 am and quickly realized our check-in wasn’t until 3:00 pm. Fortunately, they had our room ready and we were able to take a much-needed nap before our afternoon excursion; a bus tour of Reykjavík, stopping at several of the key sites. It was a little strange, as there was only one other person on the tour with us and the bus driver acted as if he was addressing a huge crowd.

Reykjavík has slightly more than 100,000 people, yet it contains more than a third of the country’s total population. The main downtown is composed of small shops and restaurants, with buildings being several hundred years old. Many are brightly colored, I assume to stand out against the snow. There are almost no high-rise buildings and our view from the top of a church steeple was the highest point in town.

Our guide then took us out to a point that had a picturesque lighthouse on it. Perhaps captivated by its beauty, as he locked his keys inside the bus.

The next stop was the museum/observatory Perlan (the Pearl, named for the rotunda on top). It offered a 360° view of town and some exhibits on life in ancient Iceland. The last stop was Harpa, a concert hall with beautiful glass walls in a geometrical design.

The next day was our biggest excursion of the trip, a day-long nature tour of Iceland’s south shore. It was a full house this time, as there were probably about 20 others packed into the bus as we drove a good two hours out of town. The first stop was the infamous volcano that erupted in 2010 and disrupted European air travel, Eyjafjallajökull (say it with me: Ay-yahf-ugh-lay-uh-kul). It’s dormant for now, but has been active for centuries.

We stopped at a beach that was unlike anything I’d seen before. The sand was dark gray, created by the volcanic ash of our nearby friend. A little ways up from the shoreline were these shiny rocks that were perfectly smooth. There were numerous rock formations nearby that resembled stone columns.

Tracy’s favorite stop came next, the Mýrdalsjökull glacier. While we saw some impressive glaciers in Alaska and stood on top of one at the dog mushing camp, this one was special because of the striking lines of where it stopped. The contrast between the black sand and the white glacier was really striking and the sheer size of it was impressive.

On the way back to Reykjavík, we made two more stops at two different waterfalls: Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. While both were impressive to look at, the second was my favorite, as you could walk behind it by following a narrow trail. We both were sufficiently soaked when we were doing do a loop behind the falls but it was a great experience.

Our last full day in Iceland was open for us to explore. We walked around Reykjavík and did some shopping and saw a few sites we missed along the bus tour. Naturally, I snapped up a picture of the Icelandic parliament building, in case I ever decide to visit national capitals someday. Everyone we met was very friendly, spoke English better than some Americans I know, and wanted to know why we chose to visit their country.

Our fourth and final day we reserved for Iceland’s most famous tourist attraction: the Blue Lagoon. On the way to Keflavík Airport, it is a geothermal spring that contains 100-degree water rich with minerals. The water itself is a blueish-white in color and the hot water touching the cold air leaves a permanent steam cloud over the entire spa. It was a relaxing end to a great trip.

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Saturday, April 07, 2012

Old Man Schick

Any longtime reader of this blog is well aware of my “80 year-old trapped in a 28 year-old body” mentality. Well, today I received confirmation that others are aware of this too:

Yes, the American Association of Retired Persons wants me to be a member. I would love to know what marketing tool decided I was retirement age: my subscription to Time magazine, perhaps? Regardless, I got a chuckle out of the notion and figured my old college buddies that referred to me as “Old Man River” would as well.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Playoffs? PLAYOFFS?!

As the NHL season is winding down, usually around this time I’ll post something about how the Sharks need to remove this playoff albatross from their necks and finally prove the skeptics wrong. This year that seems like a nice problem to have, as I feel like Jim Mora when talking about how San Jose is in danger of missing the playoffs altogether. Their schedule down the stretch leads me to believe they will squeak their way in, but this might be the sign that the proverbial window is about to close for good.

It seems like the Sharks are always just one piece away from winning it all, but this season hasn’t felt like this was a team robbed of its destiny. The last two years saw two straight trips to the conference finals, only to lose in embarrassing fashion. It seems this didn’t light a fire under anyone, as this year’s team has struggled to find consistency over long periods of time (5-8-1 in February, for example). The Pacific division has been pretty lousy this year, so this doesn’t bode well for the playoffs.

Doug Wilson used to shake this team up every offseason by trying to bring in someone to take this team to the next level. Recently he seems to be relying on his old farmhands of Marleau and Thornton and not looking to the future. Maybe this pathetic showing this season should be the sign he needs to give up on winning it all now and focus on drafting and developing players to win it all later.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012


One of the two classes I’m taking this semester is called Multimedia Writing, which looks at the different forms writing takes in the digital landscape. The term “writing” is now taking on a larger meaning to not just mean words printed on a page, but the way ideas are exchanged between individuals. Complex stuff, right?

Well, it’s not serious business all the time in this class. One of the projects we had looked at the issues surrounding copyright and the blurry lines of legal protection. One area that we looked at closely were mash-ups, were one individual reinterprets existing materials in a new way, such as creating fake movie trailers using real film footage.

I am a total n00b when it comes to creating anything other than basic webpages, so this was my first attempt at video production from beginning to end. We were supposed to create our own mash-up for class and I decided to jump on the movie trailer bandwagon as well. Here is the final product, a trailer for the upcoming James Bond movie, “Skyfall.”

It’s not very polished, as I borrowed all the clips from others who posted their own mash-ups, so it really shows how complex copyright issues quickly become. I enjoyed making it and I was able to geek out a little bit in the process, so I consider the assignment a rare grad school enjoyment.

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Sunday, March 04, 2012

Big Ten champs!

When I’m writing about my Wolverines on this blog, it is usually concerning the football team and often the hockey team. But this time I have to tip my cap to the men’s basketball team for winning the Big Ten title this weekend (well, a share anyway- there’s a lot of good teams in this conference).

I’m not a huge basketball fan but this team has been fun to watch. John Beilien has really put into place a solid system that will last well beyond this year’s team and he has some awesome recruits lined up for the next few years. All in all, the future is looking bright for a program that was pretty terrible the year I covered them for the Daily in 2005.

Even more exciting is Crisler Arena is finally scheduled to get some renovations over the summer, the surest sign that the Wolverine cagers are on the rise. I have long hated Crisler’s appearance on the inside, as it looked as if there had been no changes or updates since it was built in 1967. It was always too dark and the seats seemed to absorb sound, so it was never a great showpiece for recruits. Now with the practice facility complete and hopefully a well-executed renovation will cement Michigan as the “Leaders and Best” among basketball programs (sorry, couldn’t resist).

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Nano-sized Music

During our last iPod discussion, I was debating between getting a new device or attempting to get by with just music streaming from my work computer. After giving streaming a solid month of consideration, I just found myself annoyed with the song selection more often than not. Therefore, I am the new owner of an iPod Nano, which essentially is the smallest size of the “regular” devices (the smallest being the shuffle but it doesn’t let you select which song to play).

The most annoying part of all this is I lost all my playlists and album artwork. I didn’t set up my old iPod correctly, where you are supposed to make all the changes in iTunes and then sync the iPod. The idea is that if the device is ever lost or damages, you can plug in a new one and it copies all the data over without a beat. I chose to do all the editing on the iPod itself and keep iTunes separate.

Being somewhat OCD, I did have lists of all my playlists and their respective contents, but unfortunately, they are stored in Word and they all have to be recreated in iTunes. At least this time around I learned my mistake and made sure to make iTunes the definitive source for data. I hate to admit it, but it does make sense and I’m kicking myself for waiting until now to set it up correctly. I told Tracy she needs to start getting her iPod set up this way as well, since she is one unfortunate event away from being in the same boat.

I’m optimistic I can have a majority of my music back up and running by the time I’m back to work after the holidays, but it may be awhile before I’m back to 100% for a couple of months. I guess I’ll have to put “Peace of Mind” on a loop for the next week or so to get it atop my Top 25 playlist.