Monday, November 10

For the sake of posterity, let's wrap this thing up.

Somewhere between acceptance to and enrollment in business school, life became totally awesome.

In January, I started dating the most wonderful woman in the world. We worked in the same building, down the hall, and not really together. She's pretty amazing. She makes me happy happy.

In April, I was fired from my job. A mass firing. Seven of 45 or so. Only one who deserved it. Mostly due to cost cutting measures, though my boss would have never said that. She said (in fact, she swore at her remaining employees - literally, f-bombs all over the place) at a post-firing pizza party that we were fired because we didn't appreciate our jobs and didn't fit with where the company was trying to go. (It's going downhill, for the record...two of my seven clients were gone before the month was through.)

The next day, I went to Bloomington. I loved it, quite a bit. I had to tell everyone I worked for a small online marketing company in Northern Michigan rather than, you know, "I got fired yesterday." That was weird.

After pondering the possibilities, I also decided to just go to Bloomington - settle up rather than wondering if I'd get into Chicago from the waiting list. The Cats and the Wolverines had said no, pretty definitively...

Later in April, I got to see my ailing grandfather. I wouldn't have seen him had it not been for losing my job. So that was nice, in a way. He passed away in early May. He was pretty awesome.

In early May, Harps got married. E2 wedding #2, and totally balls to the wall awesome.

In mid-May, I went to Mexico for my lady friend's sister's wedding. Over those four days, "All-inclusive" became my favorite hyphenated word in the English language.

In late May, I accepted an offer to move in with my lady friend, who spent her time in her family's summer cottage, about 35 minutes north of where I was. (Her work commute was, therefore, 45 minutes in the summer and, whoa, an hour-plus in the winter.)

I spent my summer, mostly, sitting on a lake. Sometimes reading. Activities included looking for Bloomington apartments and, say, getting the mail. Mail came by 10:20 a.m. I tried to run just about every day. I mostly read, though. And I watched the MLB draft for about two straight hours. I was busy.

We threw a kickin' barbecue sometime in mid-June. About 10 came over, and we labelled salsa bowls by flavor, as my mom does. It was cool. We drank.

It was pretty apparent that we were pretty much totally and completely in love.

In late June, I proposed. She said yes. There wasn't a ring, so we kept it a secret.

You see, she had already agreed to move to Bloomington with me. I tried to do right by her. But, again, we kept it a secret.

In early July, I was set to formally ask her father for permission. We were golfing. The round was over. It was time. But then I left my pitching wedge, say, at the 7th green. We drove backwards looking for it. It was embarrassing. I didn't ask.

On Monday, July 7, my beautiful fiancee came home from work. She peed on a stick. She cried. I went to the grocery store. I purchased two more pregnancy tests and a Klondike bar. "How are you?" I was asked. "We'll see," I said, trying to smile. The clerk laughed, thankfully.

Monday through Wednesday, we hugged a lot. We cried a lot. We hugged more. We cried more.

Thursday, for some reason, it felt right. It felt good. On Friday morning, we talked for about four hours straight about how excited we were to be parents. After she left for work, I had my fastest run of the summer.

On Friday, July 11, we announced to selected members of the world that a) we were engaged and, b) we were having a baby. Shortly thereafter, it was determined that the wedding would be soon.

Long story short, over the next seven weeks we successfully set a date, got married in front of about 15 friends in a Michigan courthouse, moved to Bloomington, and got married (my dad, an internet reverend, presided) in front of about 70 friends and family members in the beautiful city of Chicago over Labor Day weekend.

From there, I've not had time to breathe. School is tough and exciting. I'm learning more than I could've ever imagined. I'm loving every moment with my wife. Every single moment, for real. And I can't wait to spent the rest of my life with her.

It's a boy. He's awesome.

- - - - - - -

For the record, this thing (ed: this blog) was amazing. I love it. I'm also officially out of time.

I'll probably leave it up until the end of the year.

- - - - - - -

Also, because I'll never do it again, let's name my albums of the year (I didn't buy much, and haven't listened to much, really):

1) The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
2) Okkervil River - The Stand-Ins
3) Los Campesinos! - Hold On Now, Youngster
4) R.E.M. - Accelerate
5) Spiritualized - Songs in A+E
6) TV On The Radio - Dear Science
7) The Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride
8) Destroyer - Trouble in Dreams
9) Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs
10) The Walkmen - You and Me
11) Brian Wilson - That Lucky Old Sun
12) Headlights - Some Racing, Some Stopping
13) The Futureheads - This Is Not The World
14) Stephen Malkmus - Real Emotional Trash
15) Born Ruffians - Red, Yellow and Blue
16) Atmosphere - When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold
17) The Notwist - The Devil, You + Me
18) Tapes n' Tapes - Walk It Off

Also, The National's Boxer was definitely my album of 2007. Woof.

I'm looking forward to The Killers record, because I have no taste.

And with that, friends, I hereby retire. Officially. Go Cats.

Wednesday, April 16

I feel like I should write something. I've been exhausted lately. Just exhausted. I'm coming off some ridiculous stretch of something like 10 or 11 school nights during which I've fallen asleep on the couch. This is bad, but happens, I guess.

Here are the semi-important updates for people that don't, well, talk to me but do, well, care.

The Cats said no. Ann Arbor said no. It happens.

In my haste, I put together an application, and Bloomington said Yes. Hyde Park said, well, maybe. I've got more work to do for them, then, and will get that to them in about ten days. They tell me yes, no, or wait some more, assface, on in a month.

In the meantime, I'm headed to Bloomington this weekend for an orientation / "if you're undecided, this should totally make you want to come" kind of weekend. I'll get in after midnight on Friday, do a full day (starting at 8 a.m., concluding with dinner until - gasp - 9:30) on Saturday, and then travel back on Saturday. I doubt I'll be able to function Sunday, but hopefully adrenaline and amphetamines will get me through. And they're reimbursing most of the travel, so that's nice.

(Of course, I currently have no decision. Financial considerations may mean that, even if Hyde Park says yes, I may still have no real decision.)

There's homework for this thing. A case study. And some questions.

And when I got my homework, I realized, Holy crap, I'm going to be a student again. School sucks, but this time I'm choosing it, so it should suck less.

- - - - - -

In other news, the Cubs will be just fine. I like when they do things like win 13-2. Also, the Tigers will get back, and soon. Their offense is too good.

Now, off to do homework.

Sunday, March 30

Well, the Major League Baseball season had a totally awesome North American Opening Night tonight. First game at Nationals Park. Washington leads throughout. Washington blows the lead in the top of the ninth, as Jon Rauch uncorks a two-out wild pitch, allowing Gregor Blanco to score the tying run. 2-2 entering the bottom of the ninth. Pete Moylan of the Braves gets the first two Nationals out and then Ryan Zimmerman, destined to be the best Nationals player of the first decade of existence, blasts a solo shot to straightaway center field for a 3-2 Washington win. Awesome. And the first of 64 for the Nationals this year. Sweet.

I've prepared amply for Opening Day, for the second straight year.

Today's haul from the grocery store, in preparation for tomorrow's festivities:

- Two eight packs all-beef franks (one Koegel's which are fantastic, and one Ballpark Fat-Free, which were on sale, potentially because they're being discontinued)
- One eight-pack whole wheat hot dog buns
- One small canister, poppy seeds
- One jar, sport peppers
- One large jar, kosher dill pickles
- One small jar, sweet relish
- One large white onion

You'll notice that I purchased two packages of hot dogs, ostensibly for a single evening of baseball enjoyment. The lesson here: I like hot dogs.

I already had celery salt and mustard. I do not like tomatoes on my hot dogs, so I chose not to purchase.

In addition, I also purchased, due to Rud family tradition:
- Two packages Twizzlers (one traditional pack of strawberry vines, one Wild Berry variety Pull 'N Peels. An impulse buy, and I'm excited)
- One package traditional five-color Starburst

Finally, another addition, this one a personal "tradition" carried out at at least one Tigers game in 2006:
- One package Voortman's Wafers. I accidentally purchased only vanilla ones, rather than the chocolate-strawberry-vanilla variety pack but, still, very exciting

And finally, finally, I found no Old Style. I will settle for a 12-pack of Bud Select. My fridge currently also includes Miller High Life. So I'm in a pretty good way.

Sports Illustrated has about the coolest cover ever for its 2008 Baseball Preview issue. It's a meta-cover, with Ryan Braun, Ryan Zimmerman, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, Troy Tulowitzki, and Chris Young (ed: Actually, the D-Back is Justin Upton, which really shafts the totally awesome Chris Young) all looking at their "future" SI covers. A badass concept, I think.

Let's make quick picks:
AL West: Anaheim
AL Central: Detroit
AL East: Boston
AL Wild Card: Cleveland

NL West: Arizona
NL Central: Chicago
NL East: Philadelphia
NL Wild Card: Colorado

World Series: Boston over Chicago
Eh, why not?

AL MVP: David Ortiz
AL Cy Young: Jonathan Papelbon

NL MVP: Chase Utley
NL Cy Young: Carlos Zambrano

I think the Cubs are good. I wish Alexei Ramirez were available in Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball right now. Otherwise, somebody might nab 'em when I'm at work on Monday.

Go Cubs Go.

Saturday, March 22

Let's talk boring things, but only briefly.

Boring Thing 1: My NCAA Tournament Bracket
I picked Tennessee over Texas in the final. I added Kansas and UCLA to the Final Four. I'm happy with these picks.

I picked Tennessee because I want Tennessee to win. For a long time, I didn't like Bruce Pearl at all. He's slimy, right? (I mean, he looks slimy, really.) But, as it turns out, it seems like he's a good dude. And he believes that basketball is most fun played ultra-fast, a fun enough sentiment.

I just kind of made picks - didn't think too much, except when it came to over-emphasizing home court-like advantages, which is why I dropped UCLA and Texas in the Final Four. I added Kansas to the Final Four not because I think they're great-great-great, but because I picked Davidson over K-State in Sweet 16 Round in that bracket, and Kansas will probably beat either of those teams, right. (For the record, Davidson was the only non-#1/#2 that I put in my round of 8, which is boring.)

I miss Flax's pool, just a bit. Mostly because I got hourly updates, rather than round-ly updates. I'm not in any pools managed online, so I just track my bracket and wait for the score update email.

In the Rud family pool, success seems to be contingent on UCLA and Xavier, a pretty good contingency plan. I lost Clemson early, but I didn't have faith in them anyway, and I'm excited about what Davidson might be able to do for me. Louisville and Washington State have potential, too. Really, a pretty good draw, but those things happen when you get 12 out of 64. What a system!

NCAA Tournament Saturday pisses me off so much, for three reasons:
1) Why do we wait until 2 EDT to start, after starting at noon on Thursday and Friday?
2) Why is there only one game at 2 EDT?
3) Why do I forget this every year?

Boring Thing #2: My Fantasy Baseball Team
I made a few misjudgments on draft day, I fear, and one prior to draft day, I fear. We're in an OBP league, and I chose to keep Nick Swisher over Joe Mauer. Yes, I understand that catcher is a weak position, and that Mauer is uniquely talented, and that I rode buses with Mauer six years ago, but I just think Swisher is a better hitter. Turns out, I probably could've gotten Swisher in the draft with the 11th pick (that is, the 11th pick of the sixth round), while Mauer went fifth or sixth overall. (For that matter, I probably could've kept both Swisher and Mauer and not kept Travis Hafner, but Hafner can take a walk and hit the ball a mile. I've got Dunn, Swisher, and Hafner. That's an awesome slow-pitch softball team.)

Instead, I drafted Torii Hunter as the best player available in that spot, and even I don't like Torii Hunter so much. But, as consolation, I got Geo-Soto later in the draft. Geo-Soto is a) A Cub, and b) Awesome.

I made a terrible miscalculation on the shortstop position. First, I didn't draft Tulowitzki with my first pick of the draft, hoping to nab him with my second pick, three picks later. The guy behind me already had Hanley Ramirez, and a weaker outfield, but he still took Tulowitzki (which might be a bad pick...we'll see.) So I missed my shortstop. And I waited and waited and waited and was satisfied that I would get either Khalil Greene or Jhonny Peralta as my option. So Greene went, about round ten, leaving me as the only team without a starting shortstop. So I decided to keep waiting, taking a couple of pitching options I was happy about (Bonderman and Joba) and letting the snake go through two more rounds. Nobody needed a shortstop, after all. And then, the pick before the one I was about to grab Peralta, the guy who had just grabbed Greene grabbed Peralta, too. And my shortstop is Julio Lugo.

I've just picked up Jeff Keppinger as a potential option. Baseball Prospectus likes him.

Still, I should be okay. Kazmir-Cain-Lackey-Bonderman-Santana should give me four good options every week, and I like Putz-Lidge. Lugo's my only weakness, and I've got freakin' Miguel Cabrera. Hermida could be huge.

28 is old. Thanks for the calls, if you knew.

Thursday, March 13

Hey, so the Northwestern Wildcats just lost in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. So, hey, they blew a 16-point lead. So, hey, whatareyagonnado?

Northwestern closes the season 1-18 in the Big Ten, which is awful, but at least better than 0-16, I guess. I'm okay with that.

I'm okay with it because, well, I still like cheering for Northwestern. And I like them to do well. And because, well, hey, it's just basketball anyway. Also, because, for all the frustrating things about him (mostly his poutiness in cases of early deficits), I like Bill Carmody.

Is it completely defeatist to say that a coach, in year eight, who hasn't made a single postseason tournament (though he deserved the 2002 NIT, for what it's worth), is doing fine? Is that okay? Because that's kind of how I feel.

Certainly, Bill Carmody isn't the problem. Which is different than saying he's the solution. But he's not the problem.

The problem is, mostly, history, I think.

And the fact that, at Northwestern, the women aren't so good looking and that, at Northwestern, the players have to go to class kind of and that, at Northwestern, out of a student population of 7,500, only, say, 12 will worship the ground you walk on if you're a basketball superstar. It's an indifferent student population, which is cool if you're a student and like to stand in the front row of the student section, but isn't so cool if you're a scholarship athlete who wants the adulation that goes along with the stress. Because, let's be honest, it's quite a stressful life, with travel, and with class requirements, and with missing winter break, and with practice all the time. At OSU or Michigan State or Michigan or Wisconsin, you get some adulation for your work. At Northwestern, well, you get more work. And class until June.

So, Bill Carmody's up against a lot.

Now the question is, Is the program better now than when he got here?

Yes. When he got here, Harry Good and Casey Cortez and Patrick Towne were on scholarship. When he got here, they had just gone 0-16, and Jitim Young was the only thing resembling a Big Ten player.

Now, they're coming off this 1-17 year. Kevin Coble and Michael Thompson are rotation players on other teams. Craig Moore might just be a rotation player.

Now, the real question is, Is the program better than it was at the midpoint of his NU coaching career? I'm not sure. My tendency is to think that, yes, it is. But I remember how highly we thought of TJ Parker and Mohamed Hachad and Vedran Vukusic and, yes, we all loved Davor and, probably a little, Michael Jenkins.

Things that are good:

- Local recruiting inroads. Next year's team will have Illinois/Chicago representation, I think, in all four classes; senior Sterling Williams, juniors Jeff Ryan and Jeremy Nash, sophomores Michael Thompson and Mike Capocci, and freshmen John Shurna and Nick Fruent. This includes three that claim Chicago as home. Not the 'burbs, but Chicago. I think this is important.

- Related to this, Tavaras Hardy, who is totally fat at this point.

- Kind of related to this is legitimate class balance. Moore and Williams are seniors next year, Coble and Ryan and Nash are juniors, Baran and Peljusic and Capocci and Thompson are sophomores, and Fruent and Shurna and Curletti and one more, potentially, are freshman. (That might be the whole roster. In fact, that is the whole roster. I'm such a nerd.)

- Kind of related to legitimate class balance is legitimate star balance. Moore, Coble, Thompson are for real, y'all, and recruits are gonna want the chance to play with a guy like Juice.

Things that are bad:
- Most everything else.

Things not included among "most everything else:"
- The Princeton offense. It's beautiful, and we're getting closer to a roster of guys suited for it. (Well, next year Coble and Moore and Thompson and Shurna, apparently, and Fruent, apparently, are shooters. Baran could become one, as could Peljusic, and Ryan was one, I swear, four years ago.)

Thing I hate most about this year:
- The Big Ten Network. Maybe I'll be in a place where I can get satellite TV next year. Or maybe the Big Ten Network will stop sucking.

Okay, that's all on Northwestern basketball.

Check back in in about three months, when I'll sing the praises of the next rising high school senior to commit to Northwestern. Because there will be that post, because I'm a total nerd.

(We've already got Craig Moore's replacement committed. Marcutullio, or something, a 6-3 Catholic school kid from the Detroit area. Word is, he's got "Area Code Range." "In The Gym Range." "Majerle Range." No word if he can make those shots, just that he's willing to take them. Michigan liked him, but Northwestern offered him first.)

God, I love Northwestern sports. I hope Carmody's around for a few more years.

Monday, March 10

So, I got home from work today and checked my mail. I get home and check my mail everyday, of course.

There were three items:

1) Large envelope from third-tier MBA program that has been sending me large envelopes for several months.

2) Financial Statement

3) Large envelope from the IRS

Large envelopes from the IRS suck. I sent in my tax return, say, a month ago. I didn't even cheat on it. Seriously, I didn't cheat. And I sent in lots and lots and lots of worksheets, along with my W-2. I didn't know why I'd be receiving an envelope from the IRS.

I knew this envelope wouldn't be a check.
a) Too thick for a check.
b) I asked for Direct Deposit.

So, I was concerned. I didn't cheat, after all, but why would the IRS need to send me a large envelope?

So I opened the large envelope. Along with my return, a light blue slip of paper:

Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service


(Rev. December 2003)

You Forgot to
Sign Your Return

Ladies and gentlemen, your intrepid blogger is an idiot.

I signed it. I returned it. I'll wait another month. Sigh.

- - - - - - - -

The worst part of the Eastern time zone...even after being here two years, I still haven't adjusted to the whole "Letterman is on at 11:30" thing.

I never make it to Letterman, and it sucks.

Tonight, from Letterman:

"I like that John McCain. ... He reminds me of one of those guys that spends all day...waiting for the mail."
[audience chuckles]
"I mean, he reminds you of one of those guys that dates your mom."
[more chuckles]
"Or like one of those guys who calls waitresses 'Toots.' 'Hey, Toots, more coffee if you don't mind, eh?'"

This is why I like Letterman.

Okay. Done.

Sunday, March 9

This will be exciting. It's about beating The Man.

In late February, as I moved into my current apartment, I established new cable service. My decision was a good one - Internet, Digital Cable, Premium channels, $86/month. A fair rate, it would seem and, owing to the fact that I'm in a tree-filled apartment complex, the only one I could make with the monopoly I'm working with.

Now, it was a 12-month special and, alas, the day of reckoning came this past week. My new bill came and...$138. $138! (Whoa. That's a 60 percent increase. Whoa.)

So, tonight, it was time to dealmake. To threaten to leave. To squeeze them for what they're worth.

The net effect: $10 more than I was paying per month for three fewer premium channels, but also internet that's allegedly twice as fast. (My computer is infected, so it's just, you know, slow.)

The machinations:

1) Customer Service Representative Marcus answers. I explain my predicament - I knew the day of reckoning was coming, but I just can't afford that. Marcus explains that I'm paying the main rate, and that the discounted rate was a one-year term.

2) I ask what the individual premiums cost. $10 for HBO & Cinemax. $10 for Showtime and The Movie Channel. $7 for Starz.

3) "And what does the Internet cost?" $44.99. "And the digital package, with no premiums?" $55.99.

4) Marcus decides I'd be better served working with "Current Customer Service," or something, so I'm redirected to Lisa, operating out of the Walker office. It sounds as if Lisa is underwater.

5) I explain to Lisa my predicament...She checks into my specials.

6) After I'm on hold for a few minutes, she comes back with her best offer: Upgraded Internet speed, and the same channels I currently have, for $113.

7) I ask about what the price would be if I didn't upgrade the internet...$103, after taxes.

8) I ask about the basic basic basic package - channels 1 through 12 - current internet speed. $15.50 for the cable, plus $44.99 for the internet connection. "However, that requires an installation also, so you'll pay $35 for the service visit."

9) I bring out the hammer..."I don't really watch that much TV - really, 60 Minutes and Meet The Press and Chicago Cubs baseball on WGN, and then I use the digital cable to watch movies - I'm pathetic, really - and I'm thinking I could go to this package, and I'll just use the savings towards a NetFlix.

10) She doesn't bite, really, but suggests the upgraded internet plus HBO and Cinemax for $98. She can't do the same Internet plus HBO and Cinemax for less.

So, net effect, The Man won. The Man always wins. But I was pretty proud of my negotiation ploy. Too bad it didn't work, really.

- - - - - - - -

An update on my previous post:
On Tuesday night, after a solid round of marbles shooting, a friend and I went to our standard Tuesday night half-price martini night. However, the martini place was closed for some private party, so we went to the bar downstairs.

He ordered whiskey and water.

I ordered a Blue Moon - after all, it was on tap, and I like beer with fruit in it.

She turned to him: "$3.75." And then to me: "$5.25." I was stunned.

And then she returned with our drinks. First to him: "$3.75." Then to me: "$5.25." Still stunned, I pulled out a Hamilton. I tipped 75 cents, because I'm an ass, and because, lo, She Didn't Give Me An Orange Slice.

Blue Moon is never - never - worth $5.25. Especially in a town where, on any other Tuesday night, I would have consumed a "martini" - essentially, any type of fruit-flavored schnapps you can find, garnished with several cherries and perhaps some orange juice - runs you a mere four bucks.