They Might Be Giants Albums, Worst to First

TMBG Albums, Worst to First

Time for another pointless list, this time the best They Might Be Giants albums of all time. Couple of rules here: I’m only listing the ones I own. I haven’t bought much of their new stuff (such as “Why” and “Phone Power”, nor do I own the kids album “Here Come the 123s”) and I don’t have many of the collections. I’m lumping all the EPs into one entry because 20 is a nice round number. Also, I want to say this review seems to slag on Flansburgh a lot, and what I want everyone to take away instead is that I *REALLY* like John Linnell’s songwriting. Anyway, here we go!

  1. Here Come the ABCs (2005) – I’m not going to pretend to be the biggest fan of TMBG’s kids albums, but a few of them have some merit. This is one I feel best encapsulates why I tend to not like “new” TMBG stuff. Basically everything after Factory Showroom seems to be them experimenting with voices and silly sounds. Many of the songs on this album are downright annoying, and this is coming from a parent who listens to tons of crap my kids like.

Songs to Listen to: Alphabet of Nations; Go for G!

  1. Venue Songs (2004)A “collection” album of songs they wrote (probably the day of a concert) for various venues they played at. While their dial-a-song service was great, I felt it was better for satiating die-hard fans rather than calling what they produce in a week a ‘finished product’. Add to that I’m not generally a fan of live albums, and you see why this falls where it does.

Songs to Listen to: The Stony Pony (Asbury Park); Anaheim House of Blues (Anaheim); First Avenue Stage (Minneapolis)

  1. Glean (2015) – So this is the real reason I’m writing this list. My love for TMBG has sorta waned in recent years. I felt the band was concentrating too hard on silly sounding instrumentation and I’ve come to almost dislike Flansburgh’s songwriting. 2013’s Nanobots changed my opinion and made me look forward to a new album. What I got instead is this one. Sure it isn’t ingrained in my brain like older albums are, but still, there isn’t much to this album I’d call memorable. Of note, however, is that this is the first album of their in many where I *do* actually like some of Flansy’s songs. That might say more to how unimpressed I am with it, though.

Songs to Listen to: Unpronounceable (I really like this song); Answer; Madam, I Challenge You to a Duel

  1. EPs (various) – I’m cheating here by lumping all their EPs into one category. Truth be told, some of the EPs contain really good songs, but in general, it’s no surprise that many of these tracks missed the album’s final cut. I’m specifically addressing the following EPs (as I don’t have all of them): Why Does the Sun Shine?; Back to Skull; They Might Be Giants… in Holidayland; Bed, Bed, Bed; Indestructible Object; The Spine Surfs Alone. (Also, if Holidayland didn’t exist, this ‘album’ might be higher, but man those are some lousy songs.

Songs to Listen to: Mrs. Train (from Skull); Ant (from Object)

  1. Severe Tire Damage (1998) – Another live album, though the inclusion of Dr. Worm and the Theme from Severe Tire Damage are welcome additions. The live versions of these songs aren’t overwhelmingly different than the studio albums, though I like their slower version of She’s an Angel and a really good version of She’s Actual Size. I also just like “she’s” songs, apparently. This loses MANY points for the inclusion of the “Apes” songs, which are just bad songs recorded poorly.

Songs to Listen to: She’s Actual Size; She’s an Angel; Dr. Worm

  1. No! (2002) – TMBG had not developed an identity as a kids band at this time, and I think that actually helped this album. Sure it lacks focus, but there are some pretty fun songs on it. What helps is they didn’t try to teach anything with this album, they just tried to entertain. That it does, even if some of the songs fall flat.

Songs to Listen to: Violin; Four of Two; I Am Not Your Broom

  1. Long Tall Weekend (1998)/ They Got Lost (2002) – These two compilation albums aren’t technically the same, but there is plenty of overlap, so I’m including them both. The first was available ONLY via MP3 download (back before anyone knew what that was) but I was lucky enough to be at a concert where they hucked a CD copy right at me. There are some real gems on here, but I could certainly do without hearing On Earth My Nina ever again.

Songs to Listen to: Certain People I Could Name; Reprehensible; Older; Lullaby to Nightmares

  1. The Else (2007) – I gotta be honest, this album probably would have done more poorly if it didn’t come with the “B” side album, Cast Your Pod to the Wind. The latter contains two of my favorite TMBG songs of all time. As for the main album, it is, unlike the title track, unimpressive.

Songs to Listen to: Brain Problem Situation; We Live in a Dump; Bird of the Bee of the Moth; The Mesopotamians

  1. Miscellaneous T (1991) – The fanboy in me probably ranks this “B” side collection better than it should, but man, this was my youth here. Some of the songs truly are among TMBGs greats, though in all fairness some of the others probably shouldn’t have made it onto any purchasable album.

Songs to Listen to: Hey Mr. DJ…; I’ll Sink Manhattan; It’s Not My Birthday; The Famous Polka

  1. Factory Showroom (1996) – This album marked the first time I was disappointed with a TMBG album. I bought it the day it came out and saw a measly 13 tracks. Worse yet, many of them didn’t hit at first. Sure, I grew to love the album in time and most of the tracks, but it was a really slow burn. I also stopped seeing them live soon after this as their shows became less band-having-fun and more Flans-yelling-a-lot.

Songs to Listen to: Till My Head Falls Off; Exquisite Dead Guy; Spiraling Shape; I Can Hear You

  1. Here Comes Science (2009)Every rule has an exception. I said before I don’t love the kids CDs (though I’d still rather hear TMBG kids stuff verses 95% of “other” kids’ music). This album is different. The topic has much to do with it, as I and my family all love science. But the songs here are clever, fun, and educational. These songs have replayability, too, something many of their kids CDs don’t.

Songs to Listen to: Meet the Elements; My Brother the Ape; How Many Planets?; Solid Liquid Gas

  1. Join Us (2011) – Really, #s 9-7 are all interchangeable, and they’re adult studio albums #8, 9, and 11 (The Else, which was just above this, was #10). These aren’t bad albums, per se, they’re just sort of… there. It was also at this time that the rift between the songs written by Linnell and those written by Flansburgh really became noticeable.

Songs to Listen to: Canajoharie; When Will You Die; Spoiler Alert

  1. Mink Car (2001) – See #9.

Songs to Listen to: Man, It’s So Loud in Here; Yeh Yeh; Drink

  1. The Spine (2004) – See # 9, but with this addition: this was, in all actuality, the last time I actively sought out new TMBG releases and started buying them whenever I saw them on sale.

Songs to Listen to: Experimental Film; Museum of Idiots; Stalk of Wheat; I Can’t Hide From My Mind

  1. They Might Be Giants (the Pink Album) (1986) – Back where it all started. This wasn’t the first TMBG album I owned (like almost everyone else, it was Flood), but this was a totally ambitious first album for any band. No drums, no bass, all programming, and songs that defied all types of musical convention. There was an accordion throughout. The lyrics were usually very dark but sung incredibly happily. It’s a pretty special album.

Songs to Listen to: Everything Right is Wrong Again; Don’t Let’s Start; Nothing’s Gonna Change My Clothes; (She Was a) Hotel Detective; She’s An Angel; Chess Piece Face

  1. Nanobots (2013) – This album made me a fan again. Basically every album they release, fans on Amazon say “It’s nothing like their old stuff!” or “This is the first album since XXX to capture their old magic.” I don’t buy that anymore. They’ve evolved, and I’m okay with that. But really, the later albums are missing two things: quirky, witty lyrics and catchy melodies. This one brought them both back in force. Sure, there are some duds on here, and I still can’t get into most Flansburgh songs, but there is so much to like about this album. Totally caught me by surprise.

Songs to Listen to: You’re on Fire; Call You Mom; Sleep; 9 Secret Steps; Decision Makers; Icky

  1. Flood (1990) – I have a theory that, for most bands that people actively like, the first album they buy/listen to will always be their favorite. This was my first, and for a long time it was my favorite. (Guilty admission: I didn’t care for it for about a year, then I randomly put it on one day and fell in love with it.) Scott Fourre got me into them by playing “Whistling in the Dark” for me, which was my ultimate hook. And the rest is history. It’s still a fantastic album, and to this day when people refer to the one quintessential album by ANY band, they’ll sometimes refer to it as that band’s “Flood” (“Fashion Nugget” is Cake’s “Flood”).

Songs to Listen to: Birdhouse in Your Soul; Dead; Particle Man; We Want a Rock; Minimum Wage; Letterbox; Whistling in the Dark

  1. John Henry (1994) – I distinctly remember when this album came out, They Might Be Giants “purists” were aghast. How could they ditch the drum machine? A full band? What the crap of what?!?! I held judgement. Part of me wanted to join the crowd, but I couldn’t because the album was Just. So. Good. My first concerts were around this album so I didn’t really get the true “John and John” experience, though they later replicated it during some shows. But the songs are just so awesome on this album. Really, if you’ve never heard them before, listening to any of the top 6 albums are solid choices, but #s 1-3 in particular.

Songs to Listen to: Subliminal; AKA Driver; No One Knows My Plan; Destination Moon; A Self Called Nowhere; Meet James Ensor; Window; The End of the Tour

  1. Lincoln (1988) – The top three albums are also interchangeable in my mind; they’re all fantastic albums. Their replayability is off the charts, their lyrics are excellent, their melodies and chords are super catchy. Picking between them is like picking between your children. Lincoln is many TMBG fans’ favorite album, and for good reason: there really isn’t a dud on it. Well, except Santa’s Beard. It also blazed the way with the first few true “hits” the band had before their Flood explosion. It holds up well to this day.

Songs to Listen to: Ana Ng; Cowtown; Lie Still Little Bottle; Purple Toupee; Where Your Eyes Don’t Go; Pencil Rain; The World’s Address; Shoehorn with Teeth

  1. Apollo 18 (1992) – Most people remember this album because it has Fingertips, the mashup of tiny songs. TMBG even tried something similar on Nanobots, but I don’t know of anything like it before or after in music. That being said, the album is so much more than Fingertips (and it still annoys me that they split up all the tracks on a CD so it can play on random!) Another album with nary a weak track, and essentially no difference in the caliber of writing between of the Johns.

Songs to Listen to: Dig My Grave; I Palindrome I; She’s Actual Size; Spider; The Guitar; Dinner Bell; Which Describes How You’re Feeling; See the Constellation; Turn Around; Fingertips

 

Interestingly, or not really if you’ve read any of this, of the 90+ songs I listed in the “Songs to Listen to” sections, only about 25 of them were written by Flansburgh. But since I feel like I’ve spent this whole blog bashing him, I want to say that if I were to have a top 10 TMBG songs list, he’d had more than 20% representation. She’s Actual Size is easily in my top 3 (maybe #1?), and also Lie Still Little Bottle, Hotel Detective, We Live in a Dump, and See the Constellation would all be in the running. AND Go for G is easily the best song on the lackluster ABCs album. So sorry John F., since I’m sure you’re going to read this and be piiiiiiiissed.

2017 Disc Golf Goals

After last year’s success (I hit 9 of my 15 goals which were, in truth, not exactly reach-for-the-sky goals), I’m going to try to top that this year. 2017 will be my last year playing Open (the regular professional division) because in 2018 I will be able to move to the Masters (old dudes) division where I hope to have better success. So does that mean this is a transition year?

Well, hopefully not. For the last two years I’ve played quite a bit until King of the Lake then basically stopped playing all year. One of my goals is obviously not to do that, but for a special reason. What are that reason? Read on to find out!

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1) Gain enough PDGA points to qualify for Masters Worlds in 2018. 

This is the aforementioned reason why I want to play the whole season out. It looks like I need 600 points to qualify for 2018 Worlds (the location of which has not yet been announced). In the off chance it’s somewhere accessible to me, I’d like to qualify outright instead of hoping to get in when registration opens up to the public. My pro points WILL count for Masters totals, though, so that’s nice. How often have I hit 600 points in a season? Since moving west in 2008, I’ve hit 600 points 7 out of the 9 years. That sounds like a shoo-in until you realize that I was only over 800 points in one of those years, and quite a few were just barely over 600. It’ll mean playing many tournaments that are well populated by open players and beating some of them.

basket2) Break the odd-year curse by cashing in at least 1/4 of my events. 

Last year I lowered my bar so much it was a tripwire – I hoped to just cash at all. This year I’m going to raise the bar to a difficult be achievable goal: making money back at least 33% of the time. This is something I’ve done about half the years I’ve been a pro, but those tend to be the years I play fewer tournaments. We’ll see if I can have sustained success over a year where I hope to play quite a bit.

basket3) Cash at King of the Lake

I’m not sure if this will be easier or harder this year. The King will be a smaller tournament than in past (2 days instead of 3) so it may not attract quite the large fields it has in the past. While that seems to make it easier, it might just mean that more of the top “local” pros show up and raise the cash bar comparatively. I’ve cashed in half the KotLs I’ve played (3 of 6).

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4) “Make” more than $700 in Masters

Clearly, I’m not playing in Masters so I can’t make money in Masters. But making the logical assumption that I would have finished with the same overall score as I did in pro, I want to find out how much I *would* have made in Masters. Take 2015 for example. I made $0, not cashing once in Open. Had I been in Masters and played the exact same, I would have cleared almost $1000. Last year I made $345 but would have made $470 in Masters.

basket5) Play every event at the Sierra Series FINALLY.

I’ve never done this, though it’s been a goal of mine ever year. It’s 7 tournaments this year and it includes (and removes) a few traditional courses, so it’ll be a pretty interesting year. Dayton is in for a 2 day tourney (never been done before I don’t think) and Truckee Regional is out (yay because I don’t like the course, boo because I tend to shoot it well). Kirkwood is in, which is cool as I’ve never played there.

basket6) No DFL (dead f’n last) finishes.

I wasn’t going to include this again this year as it is a pretty easy goal to hit (I’ve only DFL’ed 3x since moving west, and two of those were technically ties so they weren’t DEAD last). I *am* including it mainly because I’m starting my tournament season next week after having taken the last six months off. Seriously, I’ve thrown maybe 50 holes since last June. And I’m playing at a course I’ve always done poorly – Auburn, where I’ve only beat my rating once and have averaged 15 points worse than my average). Plus I may hit up some other tournaments pre-May when I historically do very poorly.

basket7) Beat Jere Eshelman in a single PDGA round.

Last year I tied him twice. This will be the year, I can feel it (provided we even play at the same tournaments this year – he hardly played any Sierra Series events).

basket8) Keep my lifetime streak of never DNFing (did not finish) a tournament alive. 

With my back getting worse annually, this one is more and more difficult, but so far I’m perfect with it.

basket9) Throw two or more 1000-rated rounds

In my 13 years of playing disc golf, I’ve only achieved this three times: 2006, 2009, and 2013. If my math is correct (3 years between the first two times, four between, the second) it won’t be until 2018 until it happens again. But hey, dreamers can dream, can’t they?

basket10) At least 1 round over 1010.

It’s looking less and less likely every year, but I’m gonna keep throwing this one out there.

basket11) No more than 3 rounds below 940

I originally set the goal as no more than 2 rounds below 940, but changed my mind. Since 2008, I’ve achieved my initial goal only in 2009 and 2011, both years I played fewer than normal rounds. Giving myself one extra bad round opens up a few additional years where I achieved the goal, or about 1/2 the time.

basket12) Have my rating go over 965 at some point this year during an update.

Though I’ve hovered around here forever (my rating has been between 958 and 969 since August of 2012), it hasn’t been over 965 since August of 2014.

basket13) Hit an ace or an eagle. 

I’ve averaged one ace a year my whole career but didn’t have one last year. I’m due. (I added the ‘eagle’ a bit because I think I’ve only ever eagled a hole once – hole 4 long at the Ranch, which I’ve seen someone have a 70′ putt at. I guess this gives me a *slightly* easier chance at achieving this goal.)

basket14) Play more casual golf, either alone or with the boys. 

Disc golfer Matt called me up recently just to see how I’m doing and tell me that he’s game to play anytime, even if it’s just at the pitch-and-putt. Paul called me up within a week to basically have the same conversation. I played so little last year because of many factors but I really want to get out and play more “fun” golf this year. Casual rounds, kids rounds, dubs, tags, whatever. I want to get out of this habit of just playing one time the week of a tournament to “get my arm ready”. I want to be playing consistently all year, and I want some of those rounds to not be just to prepare, but just to have fun.

basket15) No missed putts within 15′.

I’m not going to bring a tape measure out with me on the course, but I tend to remember those missed putts pretty well, even if they were 16′. I’ll know which ones I’m talking about.

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It’s an odd numbered year so I want to break my ridiculous streak of sucking in these years, both skill-wise and goal-wise. Other than that, the season starts soon; one week to get my body in shape and there’s snow everywhere in Reno. LET’S BRING IT!

Day 340: FREEDOM!

Well, it’s been almost a year since my surgery and more than 2.5 years since I had my braces on, but the end is in sight. I mean, technically, the end is already here, but I’m still going to be working on whitening my choppers. The original plan was to do it professionally, but I have no money, so toothpaste it is.

But the point is: I’M DONE! And my face has truly undergone a pretty wild transformation. Admittedly, the orthodontics shows more immediate results than the surgery (since I didn’t opt to have the cosmetic chin-extension done, the jaw surgery itself was more practical than aesthetic). So let’s start with the inner workings.

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So as you can see, my face has been mushed about quite a bit because of this. You can see what the orthodontics alone has done to my teeth in picture 3 (taken two months before the surgery), and the change from pictures 1 to 3 seems more drastic, but it’s pretty amazing what the surgery did to the inner part of my jaw. It also added plenty of metal to my face. I’M SO METAL IT HURTS! (Seriously, it did hurt.)

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Truthfully, I expected the difference in my profile to be more stark than it was, but again, I chose not to have a chin implant put in. So I still don’t really have much of a chin, but that doesn’t bother me too much. The 2nd picture in this before-and-after was following the removal of 8 teeth. The third was the day before my surgery, the fourth was two weeks after the surgery. I’ve come a long way.

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This is my resting face, or what some might call my resting pissed face. I generally look pretty angry when I just let my teeth come to their natural position. Maybe it’s because I usually wasn’t in the best of moods when taking these pictures. I dunno. I think the most startling thing about these pictures is that my jaw definitely widened out after the surgery (compare my jaw width in pic 5 to pic 2 – it’s pretty noticeable).

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Here’s a glimpse into the teeth themselves, albeit one that I wish I could shrink a bit to get a better look. I’m going to ignore the coloration, which I’m still unhappy about (perhaps decades of Mountain Dew wasn’t a good idea after all!) but the change in teeth is pretty wild. And lest you think that, for the first two pictures, I was opening my mouth, I wasn’t. This was a closed-teeth smile. That’s what it used to look like. Jeebus.

So how do I feel after the whole ordeal? Well, my jaw still doesn’t open too far (I’ve only just barely cleared the lowest threshold for “normal” opening). It is beginning to hurt a little bit in general on the right side too. That’s disheartening because if it gets worse, I’m likely to have to have my disc removed in my jaw somewhere down the line (MORE SURGERY! JOY!) The right side IS finally popping a little bit – not massive pops but more than just crushing-movement in my mouth, they’re legitimate pops. Maybe that means the condyle is moving closer to where it needs to be. Who knows?

I can eat a burger, and that was the lowest my bar was set. I breathe much better, don’t snore at all, and haven’t really even been sick since the procedure. Not sure if that’s related, but having a wider opening certainly makes it easier when my air passages ARE congested.

Would I do it again? I have heard many people say that they’d gladly do the whole procedure again. (I’ve even read of people who have). No way in hell. It was miserable and my recovery has been atypical and unpleasant. I WILL thank myself for going through it (and I will thank my surgeon) when I’m fifty and not needing oxygen at nights, but still, I did it once and that’s all I really want.

Here’s the final product:

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Disc Golf Review – 2016

Now that I can say with certainty that I am not playing any more events this year, given my ailing back, my job search, my family, my Ubering… etc, it’s time to review how I did on my predictions this year. SURELY I could do better than last year where I completed a whopping 2 of my 15 goals. I mean, I’ve lowered the bar so much over the years that I could basically wriggle over it at this point. Well, let’s see:

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1) Play in enough tourneys to justify the $75 PDGA fee. 

FAIL. I needed to play in 8 PDGA events in order to make back every dollar of the fee. I played in 7. Essentially, I paid $5 more in fees than I should have. Technically I didn’t hit this one, but it’s pretty close. But I’m nothing if not pedantic. 0-1.

basket2) Cash in a tournament. At all. 

SUCCESS! Talk about lowering the bar. Last year was the first year since becoming a full time pro in 2006 that I didn’t cash. So I did cash, three times actually. The first was a cheapie, coming in 2nd in an very weak field where only four players even finished (I averaged under my rating for the record). Then I managed to come in 9th in an extremely strong fielded King of the Lake. Oddly, I won more at the cheapie Dayton event, but that’s neither here nor there. I finished off with a good finish at Bijou, which is surprisingly becoming one of my better courses. It continues my weird trend of even-year success at disc golf.

basket3) Top 3 at either Sun Valley tournament.

FAIL. There was only one tourney there this year and I did pretty poorly at it, throwing my two worst sanctioned rounds ever at Sun Valley. I average 15 points below my rating and was 9 strokes off the cash line. Ugh. Turns out my weak arm is really exposed there, where worse players who can throw farther have easier up shots than me every single hole.

basket4) Cash for the first time in the Sierra Series. 

FAIL, but with a caveat. I’m not sure there even *is* a cash line at the Series anymore. I mean, TECHNICALLY I came in 3rd out of all qualifying players, having played in only 4 events (1st, 2nd, and 4th all played more events than me). But I don’t think anything even went to the winners this year. Maybe it did? I don’t know. I basically stopped playing disc golf after King of the Lake in July for the 2nd straight year.

basket5) No DFL (dead f’n last) finishes.

SUCCESS! The worst I came was 3rd to last (twice) but with a many stroke buffer between me and the bottom. One might argue that this bar is very low, but I will take my victories wherever I can.

basket6) Beat Jere Eshelman in a single PDGA round.

FAIL. The most frustrating fail of all, really. It’s now been almost ten years of competing against him, and in the past the best I’d done was tie him (once? twice? I forget). My best shot was at King of the Lake, where I played the highest-rated tournament I’ve ever played over 5 rounds. In one round, he blew me out of the water, beating me by 8. Two other rounds he just scraped by with 3-stroke victories. What about the other two? TWO TIES! That’s right, I tied him again in two consecutive rounds, at Bijou and then the next day at Truckee. I. Just. Can’t. Beat. Him.

basket7) Keep my lifetime streak of never DNFing (did not finish) a tournament alive. 

SUCCESS! I was playing through some pretty severe back pain and a couple of times had to choke down a few ibuprofin (or stronger) to start the last round, but each time I pulled through. We’ll see how next year goes, as my body doesn’t appear to be reversed the trend of deteriorating rapidly.

basket8) At least 1 1000-rated round

SUCCESS, but man, only by the specific wording I used. I did shoot one 1000 rated round exactly, at Bijou at King of the Lake. Interestingly, I shot three strokes better on a slightly easier layout only a few weeks later and it was rated a measly 992. Go figure.

basket9) At least 1 round over 1010.

FAIL. I now think my best chance of this is when I become Masters age in 2018, especially if I play in a major tourney like Worlds. But for the time being, I gotta be content that I at least have 15 thousand rated rounds to my name, even if 14 of them are 1010 and lower.

basket10) No more than 1 round below 930

SUCCESS! I did throw a 926 rated round, though to be extremely picky it wasn’t during a tournament, it was during the sanctioned league. I threw a couple of duds in that league, though some were rated lower than expected because the league was full of people with otherwise poor ratings who were playing only on their best course. Either way, it was a success. My next lowest rated round was a 937 (also during league).

basket11) Have my rating at some point this year move out of the 959-969 range

SUCCESS! Talk about the cheapest of the cheap. The way I phrased this question implied that a NEGATIVE rating would achieve success, and that’s what happened. What’s more, I only dropped one point below my arbitrary range, to 958. This rating stayed for 3 ratings periods. So by just changing my range, I’ve been within a rating of 958-969 for 28 straight ratings updates (a period of over four years).

basket12) Hit one ace. 

FAIL. No caveats here. No aces either. Though I did throw two remarkable ace runs on the same hole in back to back rounds (hole 26 in the right position at Lizard Peak) that were almost exactly the same. But yeah, no aces this year.

basket13) Camp out and actually have the “fun” experience at one of the Turtle Rock tourneys. 

SUCCESS! And how. Much went into planning this one night, from making sure it was okay with Ash to preparing the van to sleep there to finding a place to legally park… all to really drink too much (after a game of a game I dubbed Jengboccshoes since nobody seems to know the name). It was bad enough where the next round the next day I was “STUNK” as Matt coined the term for “hungover, probably still drunk”. If I put this one on my list next year, it’s going to be to go and have a pleasant campout experience that doesn’t jeopardize my tournament. (I missed cash by only a few strokes that tourney, playing well in my other two rounds.)

basket14) Play dubs at least 5 times this year.

I genuinely don’t know. I played dubs a bit in the beginning of the year, but then it petered out when the sanctioned league started up. Did I play five times? Sure. I’m gonna say I did. Who’s gonna say I’m lying. SUCCESS!

basket15) Try to have fun.

SUCCESS! I normally don’t like these subjective goals, but I can say without hesitation that I had fun playing disc golf this year, even when my back was acting up. Last year I got burned out after King of the Lake (the disappointing finish there might have had something to do with it). I wasn’t having fun. This year I did basically stop after KotL, excluding a one-off while travelling in Virginia, but it wasn’t because I wasn’t enjoying myself. It was coincidence. Of the 4 tournaments I had on my schedule to play afterwards, each of them had a major conflict:

Sierra College – This tourney was (and always seems to land on) Ash’s and my birthdays. Oddly, that’s not why I didn’t play it. Two weeks before I had been out of town for a work interview in NY, and the week prior I was back on the east coast for a wedding. It was a no-brainer to change my plans to be home with the fam.

Markleeville Mayhem – my first diagnostic back injection. I withdrew from the tourney, and even if I had stayed in, I wouldn’t have been able to play.

Nevada States – I had the 2nd round of my short story competition, but oddly THAT wasn’t why I didn’t play. I ended up having an emergency trip to FL to help my mother move her belongings to NC.

The Series Finals – My first true back ablation procedure was the day before, and I DEFINITELY wouldn’t have been able to play after that.

It’s a shame because not only was I played pretty well (not amazing, but solid) but I was genuinely enjoying myself more this year. But life got in the way.

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So it appears my predictions did much better this year. I was 9 out of 15, easily my best total. What does that mean for next year? Well, for one, it’s an odd-numbered year, and I do pretty crappy in those. 2nd, I won’t be masters age yet – I’ll be the oldest “regular” pro. Third, the back ablations I had to fix my back haven’t really done anything. I’m still in significant pain any time I try to bend (I actually have an appointment in an hour with my surgeon to see what’s up).

My goals are going to be pretty scaled down next year. I just don’t know how much I’ll play (I’ve played one round of 9 holes in the last three months of this year and I am still unemployed so I don’t really have money to throw around. I liken the odds of me cashing in a PDGA event with my wonky body right now to be LESS than if I just played poker.) 2018 should be a better year when I can hide away in the age-protected Masters division. I would have cashed in the same # of events this year in Masters, but would have made considerably more money.

Anyway, that’s that. I’m gonna write up a before-and-after update on my teeth shortly. I know, promises promises…

 

The World Series (in picture form)

WORLD SERIES 2016

Game 1: Cleveland, OH

(Time to cue the intro from… well, I’ll just do it…)

If any of you bothered to watch that, you’d be as amused as me that the newspaper headlines are overdubbed in German.

I’m not going to go into great details, I already did that in THIS POST HERE. I will, however, share the pictures that accompanied my once-in-a-lifetime trip. (Full disclosure: I hope this isn’t once in a lifetime, but it’s certainly not gonna happen again next year, even if they make the series again. I’m broke as our electoral system.)

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On our way to Dennys before the game. Jay got a salad. I ordered the seasonal Thanksgiving dinner. This is the first proof that, in any picture we are both in, one of us is not capable of looking good.
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The one and only Jaymar posing before the field. The sign may say Progressive, but it’ll always be The Jake to me.
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Entering the stadium from center field. I agree with Jay, that does seem weird.
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A view from our seats. That is: a fish-eye view from our seats before I realized that my camera inexplicably has a fish-eye setting.
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A better view from our seats. And further proof that, like Highlander, there can be only one (that looks good in a picture of us both).
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We were close enough to see John Adams banging away on his drum. Well, to be more precise, my camera has a good enough zoom lens that… you get the point.
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The unfurling of the obligatory huge flag. “Gets me every time,” says Jaymar.
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Pre-game fireworks. SPOILER ALERT: more of that to come.
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The retiring of 455, the number of consecutive sellout games. In 3926, Sicnarf Loopstok the 95th will be very upset that he can’t pick his high school number of 455.
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First pitch. Like this was ACTUALLY the first pitch of the World Series.
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Frankie Lindor doing what he does best. Smiling. And stealing 2nd base. But mostly smiling. Why? Probably because he knew he was going to win a Gold Glove in his first full season in the majors! Booyah!
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I can’t believe I actually got this on film. It was the massive 30′ dinker that Ramirez hit that opened the scoring of the World series. Given that we were probably at least 250′ away, that makes this shot even luckier.
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I like Nap and love what he did for this team. The Party at Napoli shirts are awesome. That being said, this is what he did an awful lot of in his last two months at the plate. Steeeee-rike.
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Okay, I know this isn’t the at-bat where I famously called Brandon Guyer getting a HBP RBI on an 0-2 count. But screw that, on the very next pitch I PREDICTED HE WOULD GET HIT BY A PITCH TO SCORE A RUN!
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Remember what I said about our inability to both look good in the same picture?
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Napoli proving me wrong with some solid contact. Still an out, but solid contact. I do genuinely hope we can resign him next year. Just not at $17m.
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Mid-game fireworks, these coming after Roberto Perez’ first of TWO homers of the night. It was a career game.
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Proof that Perez can trot.
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The score after Perez’ dinger.
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Slider hugging Santa. Because baseball, that’s why. The Indians scored 3 more times this game, and I somehow attribute it to this action.
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Cody Allen throwing a white cylinder at the Cubs. He fared well this day. As did the Indians.
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Post-game fireworks: the trifecta.
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Post-game glee. Jay’s thumbs up was for the game, his grimace was for my photo-while-walking skills.
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Our glee evaporated when we waited on line for about an hour to go up the only escalator.

All in all, this was a day to remember. Major thanks again to Jaymar and to Ashley who made this happen! We didn’t win it all (came within one run) but it was an epic game and one of the all-time great World Series.

The Indians did steal one thing from the Cubs. We’re now the team who gets to say “There’s always next year.”

Chianti #3 – Fontella 2015

It has been seven years since my last fake wine review column, but I figure it’s high time I start it up again, mainly because the last year or so has given me plenty of ammunition to drink heavily. So here goes.

One doesn’t oft think of a wine as being “aged” with a label date of 2015. I use the term aged to describe this wine because it’s been sitting in my kitchen for a few hours since I purchased it on clearance to use as the celebratory wine after the Indians won their first World Series championship in almost 70 years. So really, this wine is aged with 70 years of expectations and hopes. And how does it hold up?

It is a full-bodied wine, and yes, I’m calling this wine fat. The dark mulberry hue of the liquor reminds me of the blood pouring from Trevor Bauer’s hand early in the postseason which perhaps cost the Indians at least one critical win. The label is blue, like my mood.

One can’t help but notice the unmistakable aroma upon loosing the cork, that of disappointment. A gentle swirl of the glass, something taught to me by watching movies of pretentious people, proves to do nothing to alter this overwhelming assault on the olfactory nerves. The first taste, like that of most chiantis, is bold and effluvient (which I realize, after a quick google search, means partially treated sewage water and, while not the most accurate description of this otherwise drinkable wine, I’m keeping in because it’s been that kind of day). The palette would be wise to savor the initial burst of flavor, with its hints of heartache, shattered dreams, and plum.

Really, though, the joy of this wine is not in the savoring, but in the drinking of it as quickly as is reasonably safe. This achieves two important things: 1) forgetting the events that preceded it in the last hour or so, and 2) it won’t let the robust aftertaste of pine tar and failure overwhelm the taste buds.

This is, without a doubt, a wine that will probably be even better next year, when it will have matured as a cohesive unit, and when it won’t have lost two of it’s three top starting pitchers to injury in the penultimate month of the season.

Rating: 6/10. Drinkable, but hopefully forgettable.

 

Post WS wrap-up

This blog will have no pictures because I have to get home, defrag, and upload some pictures, so that blog will hopefully roll out in the next few days. But until then, some notes on the WORLD SERIES:

  • Our seats were pretty amazing. Front row of the upper deck, halfway between 3rd base and the foul pole. Perfect view of the entire stadium and we got a firsthand look at Perez’ TWO home runs. Plus, with my extra-zoomy camera, I was able to snap pictures of individual players batting. I couldn’t have asked for better seats.
  • The weather – I was truly worried about 50 degrees with wind, but up until about the 8th inning it was downright pleasant. Somehow, even tho the temperature only dropped 2 degrees, it did get chilly at the end. But considering as I was walking into the airport today I saw SNOWFLAKES, I can’t really complain one iota about the weather. It was a perfect night for baseball.
  • Jaymar and I had a sort of contest to predict what the most random jersey we’d see would be. I thought maybe a Paul Byrd or Russell Branyan. I forget Jay’s prediction (it wasn’t Hershiser but it was someone like that). We saw someone rockin’ a Jensen Lewis jersey. That took the cake. Although I realize now we also saw a Joe Smith jersey, which is oddly apropros because he was part of the Bullpen Mafia in the Indians and is currently a member of the Cubs. Oh, and you should definitely click that link and watch that video from the so-bad-its-good vault.
  • The game itself was fantastic and was about as good a start as you could hope for. A dominant start by Kluber (6+ scoreless ball, breaking a record for most strikeouts in the first three innings – 8), scoreless relief from Miller, shutdown by Allen, and 10 hits (8 of which were by Lindor, Ramirez, and the newly crowned stud Perez). It was the sort of declarative statement I think we needed.
  • Speaking of which, the Indians were the definitive underdog in the Red Sox series, which we swept. We were the clear underdogs in Toronto before advancing after winning 4 and only losing one. Now we’re probably the biggest underdogs yet we shut down the  best offense in the majors and chipped away at their great staff. You really don’t hear about overdogs enough, but I like flying under the radar. I think it’s making teams too complacent. We’re sneaky good.
  • I put in more steps than I had in the previous week combined, and most of that was looking for a single place to get booze that wasn’t beer. I eventually found a place that served watered down screwdrivers (she was going to make it with GIN! ughhh) but it was just too much work to keep going back. Plus, it was fun being sober for the game – lots of screaming to be had.
  • I made a prediction that possibly rivals the Babe famously calling his home run. With the bases loaded and two outs, hit-by-pitch magnet Brandon Guyer steps up and gets himself into an 0-2. I turn to Jay and said “Okay, Guyer’s gonna get hit by a pitch here to score a run.” That’s an absurd prediction to make, given that a pitcher won’t throw anywhere near him on an 0-2 count. But Lester did on the next pitch, hitting him on the back of the leg. I can’t say anyone else made that prediction. Also, this exists. 😀

  • This really was a bucket list item. Will I go back to the Series if they make it next year, or in ten years, or fifty? I don’t know, probably not. It was something I wanted to make sure I could do once. If I do save up some money, I’d love to go back some day with the whole family to watch a WS game, but I made sure to grab the opportunity this year while it presented itself.
  • I don’t think I can adequately thank Jay & Ashley enough for making this trip happen. It’ll be something I remember forever, and I think I’m going to owe a few dozen footrubs in the coming weeks. And, I guess… more dinners at Dennys for Jaymar.
  • 3 MORE WINS TO GO!
  • Also, Jay and I are going to hopefully churn out a Dirty Dozen list out of this – Top 12 Things That Will Cause the Cubs to Lose Again This Year

Go Tribe! And go me! To Cleveland! To See the Tribe! Exclamation Points!!!

Since becoming an ardent fan of the Indians in the 80s (before I’d ever seen Major League, but probably after the movie came out), I’ve become a bigger and bigger fan over the years. I was raised a Mets fan and still like them and root for them (and even managed to watch all the World Series games last year), but I don’t have the total passion for the Metropolitans that I do for the Indians.

Which is something of a shame because the Indians name and logo are, well, an embarrassment that needs to be changed.

But I can’t help it, I’m an Indians fan. I started getting really into them in the mid 90s, and I was the only one in my freshman dorm rooting for them over the Yankers in ’97. My fandom exploded in the decade that followed. In fact, ever since 2007 when we were within one decently pitched game of the series, I’ve told myself that if they ever make the Series, I’m going to go out there to see a game. I’ve never seen a game at Progressive Field/The Jake (I did stop by once and buy a hat, but I was 2 hrs away at game time and it was supposed to rain that evening, so I didn’t go) and I’ve only seen them play once (in San Fran losing to the Giants in interleague play).

What’s more, now that my oldest son is an Indians fan, I’ve made the promise to myself that I’d take him when this happened.

So of course this year – 2016 – they’re in the Series. 2016, the year I lost my job and taken a new one at a mere slice of my old salary; 2016, when we have had to pay $8k in new flooring that was unexpected, and one that has just seen financial woes in general. So I was going to have to say “I guess next time.”

Until two people stepped in. Jaymar (he of the Dirty Dozen fame) is a true baseball fan, and although he supports the Red Sox first, he will use almost anything as an excuse to catch a game. He sends me this text saying if I’d go to Cleveland if he could pull some strings on tickets. Like WORLD SERIES tickets. The short answer is probably no, no I couldn’t afford even the airfare. And that’s when the second person came in.

Ashley (she of having really cool science clothes fame, among other things) heard the offer and said “GO!” I mean, there’s more to the conversation, about how to pay for things, about how the Indians really need a new name, about gratitude, about priorities… but she didn’t second guess. She not only gave me her blessing, she made it possible.

Then I had to wait for my new job, who initially said no, but I managed to talk them into it as long as I basically miss no work – which means red-eye flights, working in the hotel, barely any sleep. The delay actually jacked up my flights $300, which is NOT cool, but this opportunity could very well not present itself again for many many years.

I regret that I can’t take my oldest son along – the baseball ticket alone for a 3rd person is apparently significantly more expensive than just a pair, and then tack on another $800 in airfare, it just isn’t possible this year. Hopefully a warm Chief Wahoo-less hoodie for him and a stuffed animal for his brother will make up for it. I guess I have to start saving in case the Indians have sustained success and find themselves back here in the coming years.

Either way, I doubt I’ll be able to live-tweet or live-blog any of this as I’ll be working most of the short trip, and it’ll be windy and in the 40s for the game so I doubt I’ll be able to feel my fingers, but I’ll try to post pictures and wrap up afterwards.

So go Jay! Go Ashley! Go Cleveland baseball team (naughty language alert on that link)!

Note, these pictures are 2.5 years old.
Note, these pictures are 2.5 years old.
Try to ignore the racist imagery, try to focus on the message.
Try to ignore the racist imagery, try to focus on the cuteness.

Day 250 (really day 252): Rounding Down

In last season’s great cliffhanger, which is now amazingly over 100 days old, I caught everyone up to date about my mouth, and how I’d just had another procedure to fix my mouth’s inability to open fully. I’d managed to get up to 22mm after a number of visits to the physical therapist. Bear in mind that my goal is around 38mm. “Average” for an adult is around 50mm (with an acceptable range of 34-70mm), so 38mm seems like a pretty good goal for me to shoot for (I never measured my aperture before my surgery, but I don’t imagine I ever could open 50mm – I’m just not a wide-open-mouth kinda guy). So yeah, 38-40mm is my goal.

I ended up going to PT about a dozen times and then I had a month off. I went back to her for a one-off followup appointment. Now here’s my admission – I hardly did any of my exercises during that month. I would conscientiously move my jaw back and forth on a daily basis, but no rigid exercises. So when I went back, I was pretty sure I was going to regress.

But when all was said and done, I was surprisingly at 27mm. So clearly my jaw is righting itself, just on a much slower timescale than most jaws. It’s kinda like the A’s every year. Yeah they always start off a disappointment, but somehow by August they’re playing catchup. Please ignore the A’s current season as an outlier. See instead the 2016 Astros: still out of the wild card, but pretty close after a miserable April.

So there, now that’s I’ve gotten the baseball fanatics on board, what’s happened since then? Well, I continue to not really do any structured exercise regimen, opting instead to just be aware of my opening all day and trying to move it around when I think of it.

I went back to my ortho who saw me talking and commented about how it looks like I’m doing better. I don’t *feel* any different, but he swore I was. He wanted to measure me. I guessed 28mm.

It was 35mm. 35! It’s funny how I don’t feel like I’ve made any progress, but there has been some:

  • The joint in my left jaw pops pretty often now, and it’s a pretty significant pop. I can basically feel the condyle shifting into place. The right side isn’t doing that (though I wish it would) but it IS having some very minor pops when I open-and-shift or when I yawn.
  • I still can’t make my jaw go left very much (probably only a couple of millimeters) but before I couldn’t do it at ALL. Similarly, when I open very wide, my jaw still protrudes to the right, but not as badly as before.
  • I can eat a burger. It isn’t pretty and sometimes I have to sort of angle it to get it all in, but I can at least eat a burger. That really was my true goal.

I still need a followup with my surgeon, but since he’s retired, he’s not the simplest man to schedule an appointment with.

I’m not 100%, but this is the closest I’ve been in 2016.

BURGER GOES HERE!
BURGER GOES HERE!

Now on to back surgery!

My favorite blog posts

I am in the process of composing a couple of longer blog posts (an update about my jaw and a longer, introspective blog post about me – I’m sure everyone is having trouble containing themselves), but while I wait, I wanted to just round up some of my favorite blog posts in one place. In essence, this is the perfect blog post for anyone trapped at work on Thursday and looking for something with no real pictures to dig into.

My Arduous Path to Feminism – 1/20/2016 – The title is pretty self-explanatory. This one is by far my most popular blog post, and while I can’t in truth say it’s gone viral, it’s been shared around quite a bit. It’s a look at how I turned from someone who was pretty angry towards women (and totally denying that at the time) to someone who considers himself an ambassador for women’s rights and equality. This one HAS pictures – ooh!

My Coming-Out Post (about Atheism) – 8/2/2012 – Although I now readily and easily consider myself an atheist, I didn’t always. It was another slow and arduous path to get there. This one goes back a ways – all the way to my childhood. One of my most commented-on posts.

Gender Roles (specifically in respect to one of my sons) – 8/5/2013 – Of all my posts, this is the one that probably deserves a follow-up, yet it’s becoming more about some personality issues that a growing boy now has, so I’m likely just going to keep it offline. However, this was another powerful transformative time for me, when I realized that “boys will be boys” is a stupid and damaging phrase.

Tribute to Gavman – 7/6/2012 – From my son to another’s, I wrote this blog after coming home from the funeral of my good friends’ 1-year-old. Sure, the trip (and all its problems) was a learning opportunity for me, but when I got home I wanted nothing more than to remember the little boy who touched more people in his year+ than most people do in a lifetime.

Why Do I Write – 2/23/2016 – This is the first of two old blogs that will actually have something to do with the upcoming introspective blog I’m working on. It’s also pretty self-explanatory by the title.

On Not Being the Best – 9/18/2014 – And this is the other.

Mountain Goats Lyrics – 5/19/2011 – I bet you’ll never guess what this blog was about.

My Life in Summary: 1998-2012 – 8/10/2012 – Reconnecting with an old friend, I decided to catch her up on my life from when we lost contact after high school to present. With an absurd, self-imposed word count. I might just update this one. (I did recently get to have lunch with her, my first time seeing her since we went to prom together in 1997 – ahhh, the wonders of the internet).

FBA: Looking Busy at Work – 5/20/2010 – Not *technically* a blog post, this is one of my favorite Fats’ Bad Advice columns. Which reminds me, I should write more of those. Anyone have a question? Submit it here!

22nd Annual Tahoe Pro/Am

I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with Bijou, just like the one I have for Truckee. I don’t really care for either course that much (certainly when put against the other Tahoe courses), but I tend to play them well. Case in point, my last two 1000+ rated rounds were both at King of the Lake, both at Bijou, and one of my other 12 1000-rated rounds is at Truckee. The courses are generally deuce-or-die courses, though, and even with that there are still holes at both courses that make me scratch my head.

It’s actually because of my dislike of the course that I haven’t played in the Tahoe Pro/Am since 2013, where I came in 12th out of sixteen (shooting -11, 27 off the leader). How’d it go here, fresh off an unofficial 1000-rated round 2 weeks ago at KotL?

ROUND 1

It was set up pretty short, but not as stupidly short as in the past. There were still a handful of difficult holes, but probably 18 birdie-able holes out there. And I started on the easiest stretch of holes, parring like a mofo. To be fair, my first three drives were all excellent and all three got TERRIBLE breaks. Through my first 12 holes, I was -1 with no bogeys. That’s right. One birdie in my first 12. That WOULD NOT DO. And so it continued. After deucing hole 7, my next birdie wasn’t until hole 14 (one of the tougher holes), and then again on hole 21 (also one of the tougher holes). So through 20 holes – I started on 2 – I was a pretty bland -3. But remarkably, other than a bad drive on hole 10, I really was never in danger of bogeying. All of my drives were 35-60′ away. Like just about all of them.

In fact, the way it would end up was that I had 5 birdies, including 2 of my last 3, no bogeys, and I never missed a single putt within the 33′ circle. That’s because at least 18 of my other drives were within 35-60′. And I only made one of them (and it was really the only danger I had the whole round, my only near-bogey).

The round was ho-hum and I expected it to be around my rating, only when the ratings came in, everyone got crushed (by the 27-hole format and by the fact that low-rated course locals shot the course really well). The bad news was it was an unfair 945-rated round. The good news was somehow I was still in the hunt, in 6th place of 14.

ROUND 2 

They changed 7 holes, some of them easier, some harder. I’d say all in all the course played maybe 1 stroke harder the 2nd round.

I started by just going full throttle. Starting again on 2, I birdied holes 3, 4, 7, 8, 10 & 11. Six down after only 10 holes is a pretty hot start. From there, I would find the round followed the first round pretty closely. All my drives were pretty danger-free, but I found myself 35-50′ away on most putts, and I only made two of them (missing 2 or 3 in the circle). It was another danger-free round – and it would end up being another bogey-free round – but I had trouble getting the birdies after my hot start. Still, I finished up at a pretty impressive -10 (only one stroke off the hot score for the day). It wasn’t quite thousand-rated, and that’s for the exact same reasons as the first round.

What’s more, the two 1000-rated rounds I shot at the past Kings of the Lake? They were -7s on pretty comparable layouts. This was a -10 with no bogeys, but because the field was weaker, the ratings were pretty lousy. Ratings, though a noble effort, are a truly imperfect science.

So after the first day, my body was beat up but I found myself on top card against a medium pro field. I was pretty pleased.

ROUND 3

They moved 11 more baskets so the course was harder, but maybe only 4 strokes harder than the 2nd round (and par was 3 strokes higher). Which plays to my strengths – I play better on the holes where you have to get your tough pars, rather than the must-getting of easy deuces.

By now I’d played 54 birdie-free holes and I was starting on the easiest 9 holes (the leader would end up going -8 on them). I started going 2 3 3 2 3 (par 4) 3 3 2 3 on the front nine. While I lost 4 on the leader, I was happy with a -4 there.

It was on hole 6 when my back started tweaking. I guess good health couldn’t last forever. On hole 10 I just missed my line and kicked off a tree out of bounds, my first bogey. Well, not really, as I ended up double-bogeying the hole. I followed it up with a park-job birdie, so good there. But then another bogey on a missed 25′ putt. Uh oh. If my in-the-circle putts started to fail me, I would be in trouble as I was having a tough time off some of the tees.

I sort of righted the ship a little in the middle 9 holes, parring out mostly. Then around hole 19, the putting wheels came off.

19 – great drive, 22′ birdie putt, missed it.

20 – great drive, 25′ birdie putt, missed it.

21 – short drive, mediocre up, hit a tricky 20′ straddle putt around a large tree.

22 – decent drive, 40′ birdie putt, missed it.

23 – good drive, 33′ birdie putt, missed it.

24 – bad drive (kicked off a guardian tree that I’d missed the last bunch of times playing the hole), only an okay upshot, missed 40′ putt.

25 – Just missed my line, kicked off a tree. Very bad upshot. Missed 20′ par putt.

26 – Excellent drive (though I was told the basket was in a different position, so I parked that extremely tough position but was 40′ long for the actual birdie) – missed the putt.

27 – Good drive with an unfortunate skip that put me 40′ away, missed putt.

That put me at a -3, though with just being able to hit my putts, I would have had an incredibly hot round of -11. The worst part is I hit metal on every putt, no airballs. I try not to blame my back, but I can’t ignore the fact that every putt I missed was either low, left, or both. That’s a clear sign of me not extending and/or following through with my putts.

I was sure I’d played myself out of the cash, but somehow I still managed to come in 5th out of 14 (they paid 6), so it’s my second cash in a row. The name of this weekend was “so close”. I’d say on the weekend I had more than 30 putts between 35-60′, and I think I made 4 of them. Up until my collapse at the end, my short-range putting was clutch, and I made hardly any errors all weekend (2 bogeys and a double bogey out of 81 holes, that’s it). So close to glory (if I made just 1/3rd of those putts, I’d have finished in 2nd and more than doubled my cash).

The third round was also below my rating (but somehow rated higher than my -5 bogey-free first round – go figure). But I’ve now cashed in 3 of the 5 events I’ve played this year. It’s nice to see, considering my back issues (which I go for a shot for tomorrow) and my very limited practice schedule.

As a postscript, during King of the Lake, I came in 17th, but had I been in the masters field, I would have taken 3rd place (a difference of $150). In this tournament, I came in 5th in pro, and would have come in merely 4th (a difference of only $5). So not quite as frustrating there.

King of the Lake – Final Day

I’ve been making a whole lot of comparisons to last year’s King of the Lake, where I started hot but then fizzled in a pretty remarkable way. But after four rounds played, this year’s iteration seemed a whole lot closer to 2014’s version. That year I was pretty close to the cash line with one round at Tahoe Vista left to play. And this year, that’s pretty much where I was (15th of 55, only two strokes “in the cash” at the start of the round). So really, it’s a better comparison to 2014, when I managed to cash in a pretty thick field.

Last night was the third night in a row I couldn’t sleep (I tossed and turned for 2 hours) at which point Ash suggested I sleep in the guest bed at my in-laws, a lumpy bed in a hot room. I initially declined but then gave in. And I think I fell asleep in 5 minutes and slept most of the night through. FINALLY, a good night’s sleep.

I woke up stiff and sore, but had an anti-inflammatory AND a painkiller and stretched everything I could think of stretching. By the time my round started, I was actually feeling… pretty good? Certainly not pain-free, but better than any of the prior 4 rounds. Let’s get to it.

ROUND 5 – TAHOE VISTA

Two years ago, I knew I just had to throw a pretty good round to stay in the cash, and I answered that task by throwing a +1 through 14 holes (NOT a good start) but hitting my last 4 birdies to end up at a quite serviceable 55. I was in the same place to start today, but they threw us a curveball by having us start on hole 10, not 1. That means the easier birdie holes would be in the first half (along with the massive 1000+ foot par 5 hole 18). These were the holes that saved my butt two years ago. Today?

I started with an easy par and a DROP IN birdie on the pretty tricky hole 11. On thirteen, the hardest hole on the course, I had a great drive but a STUPID upshot and took a bogey. Then came 16-18, three of the four I’d birdied two years ago to clinch my cash spot. Today, I nailed them all again (16 was a 20′ putt after a near-ace, 17 was a thumber to a 20′ putt, and 18 was a 30′ windy putt to get my birdie four). So with half the course done, I was -3 and looking good (beating my card by a few strokes).

Holes 1-6 aren’t gimmies, but I should be able to end up -1 or -2 through them. Turns out, no. 6  boring pars. No real chances for birdie, no real danger for bogey either. So all I had to do was maintain to end up with my 55. If I could just manage one birdie in that stretch, I’d end with a pretty hot 54.

And that’s the problem. I started saying “if I could just manage…” instead of executing each shot as it came along. After a 30-minute wait on hole 7, I throw a GREAT drive but a pretty bad up-shot, leaving me a 50′ flick upshot on a tricky hill to set up my par. Except I decide to throw my flick about 90′ instead. Then, when going to get my disc, I slip on the hay and totally CRASH HARD on my back. It had been feeling good the whole round, but after that, it was back to all wonked out. It really sucked (and so did bogeying that hole). Hole 8 is a should-get birdie. I threw a very good drive that just flipped up a hair in the headwind and left me with a 30′ putt. I missed it. The final hole was SO CLOSE to the right line, instead I clipped a branch and then failed miserably on my next shot. I bogey the last hole.

So after the long wait (and after the failed upshot, and after the big fall), I go +2 on the last two. I lost 6 strokes to one of my cardmates in the last 6 holes, who shot the hot round of our group and only beat me by 3. Did I play myself out of the cash?

No I didn’t. I came in tied for 17th out of 55. This round was a little closer to my normal style of play. My forehands finally came back to earth (and were actually pretty poor other than a spectacular upshot on my other nemesis hole – hole 3). My putts were decent – I don’t think I missed anything within 25′. But the problem was nearly all my birdie putts were 30-50′. I made one putt that distance all day (and it was a par save). Nearly all my putts were low, though. That’s the sign of a tired body.

All in all, I was very happy with my performance, though I was always a couple of factors away from really putting it all together. However, when I look at my score, it was 4 strokes better than in 2014, which one of my best tourneys ever. I averaged over 976 in terms of ratings, and that was with some pretty sloppy play throughout (round 1 featured MISERABLE putting, rounds 3 and 4 were lousy drives, and round 5 my ups and forehands fell apart). And ALL of this is with the ailingest back/body I’ve ever had in a tournament.

Final fun fact #1: If I were masters age (2 years!) I would have come in 3rd. THIRD!

Fun fact #2: I appear to be the San Francisco Giants of King of the Lake. I play really well there in even years only.

2008: Came in tied for third (out of 14), lost the playoff.

2010: I was near the cash line with my final round yet to play and I injured my throwing arm halfway through the round. I finished the round throwing 150′ drives (or lefty) at a 878 rated round. I was out of the cash by 20 strokes, but I probably gave up close to that due to injury.

2012: KotL didn’t happen.

2014: Cashed as an A-Tier.

2016: Cashed as an A-Tier.

In odd years? I tied for last-cash once, but otherwise have fared pretty poorly.

GO ME!

King of the Lake – Day 2

You’ll remember from yesterday’s post that last year at the same time, I was in a similar favorable position until round 3, at Sierra College, where I threw a personal worst (63) followed by a serviceable but unimpressive 50 at Truckee. This year, we were going to flip the schedule.

As has been the case for the past two years, I had trouble sleeping last night, though I did get maybe 4 hours (up from 2 the night before). And when I got to the course, my body was just. not. having. it. My glute (which had started bothering me yesterday) was super tight. I had trouble with release points. My putt never quite felt solid. Fortunately, Truckee Regional is the course for that, as it’s a very short birdie-fest, about all my back and butt felt up for.

ROUND 3 – TRUCKEE

I tend to shoot Truckee well, despite not liking it much. Go figure. I start out on hole four, a tough but gettable birdie, and throw is super short (my body not working again). I throw the “safe” up shot – the hole is on a MASSIVE hill – and it lands a little hot, catches an edge, and rolls 40′ down the hill with no putt. I take a bogey (my 2nd of 3 rounds to start with a bogey). Two holes later I birdie, then I miss the EASIEST HOLE EVER (which I miss ALMOST EVERY TIME). Angry from that, I get four birds in a row, including one of the hardest holes at Truckee, hole 11, which I managed to put 5′ away.

Two holes later, I give one back on a terrible up shot and missed putt. The end of the round was definitely a place I could get some more birdies, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be, only carding one more. I finish at 49, one better than last year (though the conditions were windier this year). And at this point, I starting to freak out because everything is basically still the same as last year when I FELL APART at Sierra College. Would I repeat?

ROUND 4 – SIERRA COLLEGE

I started on 4 which was the hole that basically started my downward spiral last year (I took a five on it). I TOTALLY NAIL the gap and leave myself an unimpeded 100′ up shot to get my par. Except no, I decide to throw a terrible up shot and miss the putt. 3rd round out of 4 to start with a bogey. Then on the fun downhill hole 5, I misthrow my drive by a little and have a basically unmakeable 45 footer, but an easy three. I throw the “safe” shot to about 10′ from the pin, hit a tree, and it rolls back 25 feet (maybe 10 feet closer than the previous putt).

Remember how yesterday on the 2nd hole of my second round, I missed a dinker and shouted at myself “I will NOT let this happen today”? I said that to myself, out loud, as soon as that disc rolled back. I would NOT implode like I did last year. And I banged the 35′ with a straddle putt.

I want to take a moment to say that, in my life, I throw probably less than 5% forehand (flick) throws, and basically only straddle putt when I have to. Today? I straddled as my default and just about every forehand was perfect or at least exactly where I aimed it. Who knew I can now rely on that?

Back to hole 6. I take a par on the difficult par 4 (featuring a VERY slick forehand with a QSentinel), then four the next difficult par 4 (had what I thought was a great flick hit the last obstacle and leave me a 50′ uphill putt, which I nearly made). Then we start BIRDIE row.

Hole 8 – I left myself a 20′ putt for birdie. I airballed it. I say out loud to myself: I will NOT let this happen today.

Hole 9 – Horrible horrible drive. SICK 150+’ flick shot to put me within 20. Made the putt.

Hole 10 – Horrible drive. Really amazing up shot considering where I was. I MISS the 20′ putt (though it did hit center chains, just too high). That’s IT. NO MORE TODAY. I WILL NOT F’N LET THIS HAPPEN ANYMORE!

(By this time, I’m +4 to ironman par, or +2 to course par, which is putting me dangerously close to where I ended up last year. My drives were erratic, but I was saving like a mofo. Maybe I could still pull it together.)

Hole 11 – Miss my line by less than a foot, up and down par.

Hole 12 – Throw a flick just a touch early, SUPER death putt, lay up, par.

Hole 13 – This is a silly hole, and people always say that there’s a flick line (which I’ve never tried in a tourney). But hey, flick’s working, so let’s do it. BAM! Hit the line, leave myself a 20′ putt. Hit it. YES!

Hole 14 – A very good drive, 20′ putt, hit it. YES!

Hole 15 – A tweener par 4, but one I so rarely birdie. VERY good drive, perfect up shot, drop in birdie. 2nd turkey of the day.

Hole 16 – TOUGH par 3, throw my drive within 50, though my putt is obstructed. Give it a run, just miss, it ROLLS 18′ away. Make the putt.

Hole 17 – I hit first available tree 100′ down the fairway. I then throw a pretty lousy up shot that leaves me a 40′ putt. NOT TODAY! BAM! Hit it.

Hole 18 – This hole can suck my monkey. I am not sure exactly of the exact #s, but I think the last 10+ tournament rounds, I’ve 4’d this very doable par 3, or worse, usually by yanking my drive into the trees on the right and not having anything. I walk up saying out loud to myself and to my group “I’m going to hit this gap!” Then I threw, and while the disc was in mid-air, said “No I’m not”. I hit the trees on the right and it ricochets across the fairway to the left side. I’m left with a 250+ up shot with a manageable but difficult gap. NOT FUCKING TODAY! I WILL NOT BOGEY THIS HOLE TODAY! I throw a SICK upshot and it skips to about 18 feet away. I hit it. UP YOURS HOLE 18!

Hole 1 – A gimmie birdie. I JUST miss the line, clip the last guardian tree (would have been an ace run without that), leaving me a 45 footer. I just miss.

Hole 2 – Throw what I think is the perfect flick, but my drone catches some headwind, flips straight, and I smack the last guardian. I’m left with a tricky 100′ flick shot, which I execute pretty damn well. Save par.

Hole 3 – The easiest par 4 on the course, I throw a pretty solid drive but get an unfortunate kick. I throw a pretty great up but again clip the last guardian, leaving a 40 severely uphill putt. I just miss.

So while I was on pace for another 60+ round, I managed – through simple willpower alone – to salvage a 57. While not much above my rating, this was just an example of me playing without my best stuff. Or even mediocre stuff. I willed myself to succeed. And I did, more or less, just dropping a few spots in the cards.

My body, however, is shot. Totally shot. My back is sore, my glute is on fire, my groin on the right side is starting to flare up (likely from compensating for the glute and the back), and I have no less than 3 blisters forming on both feet. I am really really really hoping for those injections I’m getting soon to work – I simply can’t continue playing when my body is so shot afterwards.

So where do I stand? I’m in a tie for 15th out of 55, with them paying the top 22. There are 9 guys within five strokes of me behind me (and one tied), and only 4 within five strokes the other way. So like 2 years ago (when I cashed) I need to maintain myself at Tahoe Vista to grab cash (which I did with a 55 that included birdieing my last 4 holes).

The question is: is my body up for the task?

King of the Lake – Day 1

It’s that time of year again, my favorite tourney of the year, King of the Lake. You may remember the story from last year (but chances are you don’t because not many people read my disc golf posts all the way thru). Actually, you definitely won’t remember because it appears I didn’t actually blog about it last year. So in 2015, I played my tuchus off for two rounds, shooting a 74 (-7, rated 1004) at Bijou followed up by a shooting a 53 at Zephyr (-1, rated 969). After day 1, I found myself in 9th after the first day out of 36 pros. Then it came apart at the seams in spectacular fashion (something I don’t know much about), throwing a 63 at Sierra College (generously rated 901), then redeeming slightly at Truckee (960-rated 4 down), before collapsing again the final day at Vista (928 rated 61).

This year, I had lower expectations. The field was much deeper, having 55 pros, but I have had my own issues to deal with. My back has been hurting so much that I’m going in for injections (and possibly ablation – the burning of my nerve endings) in my back in the next week or so. Also, I’ve been spending all my free time completely redoing our house. Needless to say, I’m not really in my prime competition shape right now. So I was playing just to have some fun. So how’d it go?

ROUND 1 – Zephyr Cove – The TD Skot “thanked” me for my help with scores by putting me in a card with 3 of the five top rated players at the tourney. What’s more, the CCDG guys were there to film, and guess which card they picked? I later found out it won’t be a whole video with commentary (a good thing as you’ll soon find out), but it will be a highlights video only.

I start out on hole 2 with some jitters, and it shows. I saw my first drive off, throw a very bad up shot, and miss my putt. That’s a bogey to start (a hole I bogeyed last year as well). Then on a tough stretch of holes I have 3 drop in pars, which is nice, but then another bogey (terrible up shot). Then something pretty amazing happened. Two amazing things. My drives (which, after the first hole, had been great) basically finished out the entire round among the best off-the-tee shots I’ve had in years. I was CLUTCH off the tee. And, on the flip side, my putting was the WORST tournament putting I’ve had in years. I missed 9 putts within 45′, 6 of which were inside the 33′ circle, and 2 of those were within 15′. These aren’t exaggeration – I missed that many shots. It’s on video after all. If I had just made the 6 in the circle, I would have tied the hot round. THE HOT ROUND. Instead, I had great drive after great drive leave me with pars. I even ended my round by missing a 15′ par putt (after a great save on my only other bad drive of the round).

I did manage to squeeze out some birdies, putting me at 52 (-2, tentatively rated 979, which is right on target for last year’s scores too). More surprisingly, that 52, with my 9 missed putts, still somehow put me in the thick of it. I was 4 strokes off 2nd, 3 strokes off 3rd. I couldn’t believe it.

Assuming that the CCDG video comes out, I’ll eventually link it, and my hope is that, with it being a highlights video only, you’ll see a lot of me off the tee, and maybe a few putts in there. But man, I was one aspect of my game away from shooting the best round of my life, wonky back and all.

ROUND 2 – BIJOU – Last year I started here, but this year it was our second round. Nearly all the holes were set up the same, so I knew what the 1000-rated target was, though I gotta admit that my back was starting to give me problems, and I was just trying to save face with my putter.

I start out missing the first (easy) hole, then putting my next drive within 20′ (another easy hole). AND I MISS THE PUTT. I give a shout, immediately apologize to my group, take out my headphones, and tell myself “I CANNOT DO THIS ANYMORE!” Over the next several (difficult) holes, I par, and finally hit a birdie with a 20′ putt on hole 11 (we started on 7). A few holes later, the hardest on the course, I take a four (bad drive, but two good attempts). So after the first third of the course, my score is even. Ugh. Then something clicked. My katana was just gold for me the entire rest of the round (hitting just about every gap I threw it in).

My putting was better, but it wasn’t even necessary – I was putting my drives within 10-15 feet of the basket. I ended up birdieing 8 of the last 18 holes and, with the one other bogey I took near the end on the other hardest hole on the course, I ended up at -7, same as last year, currently rated at a 1000 even (which unfortunately will probably go down a point or two when the scores become official). I beat everyone on my card (by 3 or more strokes) and I managed to pull myself up to 12th (out of 55 this year). Did I manage to beat Jere Eshelman, which was  been one of my goals for years now? Of course not. He also threw a 74, meaning I’ve tied him a few times, but still haven’t beaten him. Hurrrgh.

So where does this leave me? Well, almost exactly where I was last year. My back hurts about as much as last year (I ended up not playing disc golf for about 4 months last year after KotL). But this year I feel like I’m playing on house money. I didn’t plan to be competitive for many reasons, and I am. Tomorrow, I plan on going out and just trying to execute my shots, not think about my poor putting from today, not think about my implosion last year, almost certainly not putting headphones in (they seem to be a massive distraction for me).

I start tomorrow at Truckee, which was the course I’d played second last year. It’s a course I usually shoot well (despite not really caring for the course). He’s hoping my back cooperates. And I actually get some sleep! This tournament insomnia that I’ve gotten the last few years has GOT. TO. GO.

The Last Two Months – Abridged (sorta)

As many astute followers may have noticed, I’ve been pretty absent from my blog lately. And Facebook. And Twitter. And, for the most part, downstairs. I’ve been absent from downstairs frequently too. I’m going to try my best to recapture the events of the last 60 days. So let this be my general apology to all my friends and family who have been trying to get my attention but I’ve been seemingly ignoring. The names and dates have been altered, most likely because my memory isn’t what it used to be.

May 3 – We close on our old house and would be renting it for about a week while we cleaned the carpets and moved all our stuff out. During the transition, we would be fortunately staying at my in-laws.

May 6 – We close on our new house. As part of the agreement, we will not move in until July 1. We know this up front, and while the wait sucks, at least we’ll get rent from them until that day.

May 13 – We officially move out of our old house. All of our belongings (that hadn’t already been packed away into our storage unit) are jammed into the in-laws garage. So starts our 8 week sabbatical.

OH WAIT…

May 10 – Four days after our loan closes, I am let go from my job. This was the day before the moving truck was supposed to come. Well, that gave me time to finish packing, at least. I do get a severance, but the timing really kinda blows.

May 16 – I begin my jaw physical therapy. I start out with an opening of around 20cm (the goal is around 36cm). After day one, I am in much pain.

May 21 – Remember that I’m a professional athlete? With my back sucking for the past few years and with the fact that I didn’t cash AT ALL last year, I tend to forget. I played a last-minute tourney in Dayton (NV, not OH), and while I played below-average, I managed to cash. Yay.

Rest of May – I continue to do almost daily jaw because, guess what, my PT is basically not going to be available for the whole of summer. So I have to cram in all my education into 10 days.

June 2 – I officially get the remainder of my “work” belongings back. That chapter of my life (nearly 10 years) is done. They sign me up for outplacement services for 3 months, which will hopefully get me back on track.

Early June – I don’t do a whole lot. Like at all. I look for work unsuccessfully (though there were little dablings of potential that went nowhere).

~June 4 – We find out that the current renters of our new home will be out June 22 (instead of July 1). Good news! So far, the home-transition process has been pretty painless (FORESHADOWING!)

June 16 – Tired of waiting around, we go to Sacramento for a long Father’s Day weekend. It is a relaxing trip.

June 21 – We set our final walkthrough for June 22.

June 22 – The wife (of the renters) is frantic and asks us if we can do the walkthrough June 23. I’m concerned because that’s technically our first day of true ownership, so if there were a problem, there really isn’t any way to hold the old owners accountable, which is the sole purpose of a walkthrough.

June 23 – After half a day of not hearing anything, finally our realtor gets a text message of a picture of the old owners pointing to where the key was left. No walkthrough or anything. Just “here’s the key”. Turns out they’d skipped town at least a day before.

In jaw related news, I have a one-off session with my jaw PT. When I had ended my blitzkrieg sessions with her, I could open up to 25 cm. But I hadn’t really done ANY exercises in the interim, partially because I was busy, and partially out of sheer laziness. So I expected the worst. Turns out I am now at 27 cm. I think my natural range of motion is coming back, just MUCH MUCH slower than normal.

June 24 – Based on the first few hours in the house the day before, we ratchet up the duct cleaning we’d scheduled to be a total overhaul of the carpets. Full cleaning, duct cleaning, scotch guarding, the whole works. $1200 of cat exorcism. Turns out the prior owners told a while lie when they said they had 2 cats. And technically they did at the time we bought the house. They neglected to mention the other two the had that had passed away recently. Additionally, we hire a janitor that Ash knows to even more fully disinfect the house.  Hopefully this will fix the allergy issues.

June 25 – The movers arrive with all our stuff. It is set up immediately. FINALLY, we are in our new house. I sleep wonderfully in the silence of our new neighborhood, to be awoken by lots of sunlight. Our new bedroom is plenty bright (a mostly good thing!)

June 26 – More unpacking, including getting most of the rest of our stuff from the in-law’s house. I spent much of the day getting the new house in order. Ash’s allergies are really acting up. She warns that we shouldn’t unpack everything just in case.

June 27 – After a wrestling match with the boys on the carpets, Ash has trouble breathing and eating. She wakes up with eyes so puffy they’re half shut. And with that, we spend our last night in the new house.

June 28 – I begin packing up everything in the house to move it back to the garage which is, fortunately, a 3 car garage. Ash and I spend much of the day at 4 different places looking at flooring. It’s a very complex situation, so I’ll simplify by saying we ultimately decide on Home Depot for laminate (almost 800′, should take 3+ weeks to arrive and install) and RC Willey for carpeting (over 1000′, should be installed by July 8 – meaning that’s our new move in date).

June 29 – The house is totally empty again except for a mostly packed garage. I also make numerous trips to the storage unit, as that needs to be empty by July 4 or we’d have to pay another month. We tape up all the tiled areas (bathrooms, kitchens) to prevent dander infestation, and I get a night’s sleep in the in-laws to prepare for demo day.

June 30 – With two excellent helpers (brother in law JJ and family friend Kaylis), we yank out all the carpets and pads and remove just about all the staples. We sweep all rooms. In all, it was around 1800 square feet of carpeting. All without air conditioning (since we sealed off the rooms, if we put on the AC it would rip up all our tape jobs). It was a ten hour workday.

July 1 – I shop vac the entire floor. Then I untape the tarps, turn on the vents (so it can kick up a little extra dander), and I shop vac the entire floor again. I begin laying Kilz down on the flooring – it’s a paint primer, but it has a great reputation for sealing in odors and dander. I vacuum each room for extra residue and finish Kilzing two rooms. It was a 14 hour workday.

July 2 – I escape for some disc golf (which I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do – all the painting has resulted in quite a bit of back pain) and it turns out to be just what the doctor ordered. After all, I have to practice as I have the BIGGEST tourney I’m playing all year next week. Then more Kilz.

July 3 – We get the quote from Home Depot – more than we thought. Go figure. More Kilz, then a kids’ party. Then I don’t feel like moving for a year.

July 4 – We finalize our laminate order – there is no timeframe, but he imagines it will be around two weeks after they get the product (which he anticipates in a week). We finally unload the last of the storage unit into our now jam-packed garage. And more Kilz. It’s cut short by a call from RC Willey that they don’t have enough of the carpet we want to cover the measurements. This will delay the install (go figure). We rush down and finally agree to a new carpet. And she then finds out they don’t CURRENTLY have enough of that new type either, but they should by July 15-16 timeframe (about 75 days after we closed on the house, and almost a month after we were initially supposed to move in). I happen to see another carpet that we both like and it will work. The install date is July 12. It’s still 8 days away.

In all this time, I’ve been trying to get my face to work properly, spend time with my kids, try to get my back working (which has been failing, though I finally got a follow-up appointment with my neurosurgeon to discuss the possibility of facet joint injections), prepare for a major disc golf tournament, and, oh yeah, try to enjoy summer. And find a job. And figure out how to pay for the $8k in flooring we’ve purchased.

And wait. I’ve done a whole lot of that. 8 more days. I need a vacation. And a job. That will let me take a vacation.

Day 146: I’m About Over All This Surgery Now

I met with my surgeon earlier this week to clue him in on my recovery, or lack thereof. Before my 2nd procedure (the physical manipulation and steroid injection), I could open my mouth 15-16 tongue blades (roughly 22mm if my memory serves me right). It’s also about one sandwich width, provided I don’t stack it too high with tasty meats. After the procedure, I was only able to get it to about 14 blades. If you recall, I was pretty disappointed.

IMG_20160522_191916
I hadn’t planned on taking such a sad picture, but given my 6 hours of sleep ALL weekend, it’s just how it came out.

My surgeon was also disappointed, and he outlined me two choices from here. Really, though, they’re not choices, they’re what I’m going to do. First is PT, which I’m trying regardless. We are strongly hoping this will help because after PT, comes another SURGERY (not just a shot this time, but back to actually being opened up).

Before I expound on the above statements, let’s take a brief detour to talk about my luck. My surgeon, who is a great person, was technically retired when he did my procedure. In fact, he confided that he would have pawned me off on his assistant had my insurance company not been such a headache (switching surgeons may have caused the insurance company to not approve the surgery, which took 8 months the first time). So him being retired is something of a problem, as he’s only in the office once a week (Tuesdays) at best, and even then only for a few hours. He’s available on his cell because he really isn’t available any other way.

He has a physical therapist that he loves and who specializes in jaws. So he called her to see if she could take on a new patient. The good news? She can. The bad news? She’s going on an indefinite sabbatical in 3 weeks. While she “might” work one day in June and one day in July, it won’t be at her current office (she’s selling her practice) and there’s no guarantee of anything after that. So there’s some urgency in getting to see her. And some urgency in her being a miracle worker – like Miracle Max but without the being dead part.

I went twice last week, and her manipulation of the muscles (she thinks a major problem is the rigidity of the muscles in my mouth – if you open your mouth put your thumb all the way back to one corner of your mouth, those are the muscles we’re talking about here) is not in any way pleasant. I need to ice it as I massage because it risks inflammation. I’m also supposed to be taking anti-inflammatories regularly. Instead of tongue blades, I now take clothespins, jam them between my molars, and open them. I have a few other exercises I need to do regularly, none of which I’d classify as remotely enjoyable.

It sounds pretty drastic because, well, it is. She’s cramming months of PT into a few sessions. She *hopes* that she can talk to my normal PT (for my back) to see if someone there is trained in jaws and can continue what she’s doing, but again, no guarantees. So in the meantime, I have six sessions where she’s going to try to knead the crap out of my face.

And that’s the best case scenario. In one day she got me from 20mm to 22mm, which is something but not incredible. So the hope is that in the four remaining sessions, I can be enough on the right track to where I can get someone new to continue it, and with great success.

Remember that graphic I put in a blog about my jaw about six weeks ago? This one:

JawGraphic

I spoke about how he thinks the condyle is not actually getting to where it needs to be in the disk, how it’s not “clicking” into place. Well, if PT doesn’t stretch the muscles (and disk) enough to facilitate that click, the next surgery is to remove the disk altogether. If you’re like me, you’re thinking “But that doesn’t sound like a good idea, don’t you need that disk for something?” Because that’s exactly what I thought, being someone who liked all my body parts. Hell, I won’t get rid of my appendix unless I absolutely have to. And my surgeon’s response was that he doesn’t think it’s where it’s supposed to be anymore, thus not actually serving the purpose it’s supposed to, so it won’t exactly be a problem to get rid of it. Hard to argue that logic. It’s why Boston cut Pablo Sandoval, after all. (non sequitur zing!)

But it still stands that I don’t want any more stinkin’ surgery. I’m so done with it. So here’s to hoping my crash course in PT does something. But I have this nagging hunch that before long I’ll be going back under the knife. Under the tutelage of someone who retired almost a year ago. After the failure of someone who is very likely retiring during my treatment.

PAIN: 0

INCONVENIENCE: 3

REGRET/FML FACTOR: 5

Day 129: Back to Square 2

Square one of course is that place where you started, and that’s not where I’m headed; I’m not there. I have an increased airway and I have a growing disdain for soup. That’s not where I was originally.

But square two, the place I was at right before my second surgery? That’s where I am. The second surgery, you’ll remember, was to fix my jaw’s inability to open wide or move laterally or do just about anything of note. The steroid injection (which, in its defense, could take 7-10 days to start working effectively) seems to have done nothing but cause me interim pain. After the swelling died down, I tried moving my jaw. Still can’t move it left, barely to the right. I tried jutting out my lower jaw, it still shifts to the right (because the right jaw is still locked). I tried opening my mouth, and I was back down to 13 tongue blades when I’d been at the 15-16 threshold before the procedure.

So what does that mean? I’m FURIOUS, is what that means. I didn’t expect a miracle cure, but I did expect SOME progress. Instead, I’m back to prying my jaw open every night with tongue blades and trying to manipulate my jaw around. Well guess what, that’s where I was was 10 days ago, except without having to sit out for a week in pain.

I’m back up to 15 jaw blades, but still, to go through this and still be further behind than before it is really frustrating. I guess I keep trying to work it until my next followup in two weeks.

By then, we’ll be out of this house and living with the in-laws. I’m so frustrated, I’m not even including any pictures, because I want you to all have to suffer through a totally text-based update. And I’m not including any cute tags, because a) I don’t think they actually help drive views here and b) to make you suffer more. And I will even change the remaining text to something more annoying. FEEL MY PAIN!

PAIN: 2

INCONVENIENCE: 4

REGRET FACTOR: 4

Final Fantasy XIII-2

When I have reviewed these Final Fantasy games in the past, I tended to follow a strict formula. Start a game. Play it on and off for a bit. Get obsessed. Play something like 80 hours in a 1 week period. Beat the game. Beat all the sidequests I plan on beating. Write the review. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is different. I have beaten the game, not obsessively, but I’ve beaten it. Still not too far off from my given formula until you realize I first beat it years ago. And, contrary to the rest of my history, I’ve actually beaten the game twice. And suddenly we’re realizing why it is that I’m only now reviewing the game. I really wanted to like the game a whole bunch… but I just couldn’t.

FFXIII-2 is, at its heart, unmemorable. And I don’t know if there’s a better way to illustrate it than what actually happened. I started playing the game years ago, enjoying it to some degree, but feeling at some point that I was just plodding along. I kinda gave up on it. Years later (sometime in 2015) I decided to try it again, still mostly enjoying it, but WANTING to enjoy it more than I was. And when I got to the end guy, I made a painful realization; I HAD actually beaten the game years before, I’d just forgotten that I had.

And that’s the problem with FFXIII-2. There’s some nuggets of greatness mixed in with mediocrity. Nothing really stands out as bad (we’ll see in a moment if my memory disproves this statement), but nothing really stands out as exemplary either.

THE GOOD

  • The encounter system. I’ve had an issue with recent FF games where they tried to make the battle system “fresh” (by gutting it and leaving a rotting husk in its wake). I had significant issues with FFXII and the “you see your enemies before you” trope of fighting: it seemed WAY too similar to Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (which most fans will declare to be the douchebag suckass of the family). And while I enjoy the totally blind YOU GOT ATTACKED of most FF games, I think they achieved a great balance in this game. The enemies appear “blind”, but give you a chance to escape if you want to (if you can).
  • The sequel curse (and how to avoid). I had a number of issues with FFX-2, but one of the biggest I had was that FFX-2 basically had the exact same world as FFX, which (if you finish) you probably spent 60+ hours beating. You knew the damn world. You didn’t want to see it again. So how did this sequel avoid simply putting you in the same retreaded (?) world? It combined elements of FF with Chrono Trigger (a game also made by Square I believe). By combining elements of the world they created with time travel, they were able to utilize the same (basic) world structure and alter it by subtle changes in time distortions. In that respect, it kept the settings fresh and really made you feel like you were exploring new territories, even if you’d been there before.
  • The coliseum. This is more of an “in theory” good rating. I loved the throwback to the old days, and had I stuck around long enough, I probably would have enjoyed this iteration as well.

THE BAD

  • This game makes no sense. I thought this quite a bit about the plot of FFXIII itself, but I was able to do enough shoulder-shrugging to get by. I mean, that game doesn’t make much sense either, but I’m willing to overlook a little Final Fantasy mumbo jumbo. But FFXIII-2 doesn’t seem to make any sense. People randomly jumping through time zones WITHOUT the aid of portals (how does Noel randomly get transported to Valhalla at the start of the game? Final Fantasy magic?!?) And in putting this here, I’m generously ignoring the fact that people randomly get turned into giant red balls of energy at random. Because… facts. I found myself unable to give benefit of the doubt after a while – I just conceded that the plot made no discernible sense and moved on.
  • More than most FF games, I felt this void in my soul when I wasn’t completing things. I’m a perfectionist with these games, and that can be detrimental, but often times you can ignore it when you don’t know you’re not completing every bizarre, insignificant sidequest. However, here, there’s a grid (a map) that tells you exactly when you aren’t completing something. THERE’S A VACANCY, YOU MUST BE A FAILURE! It was annoying, and this is coming from someone who used walkthroughs with startling regularity during the process.
  • I felt no feeling of satisfaction when I completed the game. The final boss was admittedly harder than in most games (in my 2nd playthrough, I definitely needed two attempts to defeat the end boss), but it still felt rather pedestrian when I beat it. And to compound that, this game was just setting itself up for a 3rd game which, by everything I’ve read, doesn’t warrant actually playing. It may be the first “main” FF game I don’t play.

THE UGLY

  • Reiteration may be unseemly, but really the game was just… there. I wanted to fall in love with the game, as there were so many positives, but I left feeling just “eh”. There were too many times I really have no idea where I was supposed to go (when I was supposed to go?) that I couldn’t give it my wholehearted endorsement.
  • The ending. Games that knowingly set themselves up for sequels are doomed to have lousy endings (see Back to the Future II).

Some day I’ll reorder my FF rankings to drop FFXII way the hell down there, to raise up Alba in character rankings, and to give Dimensions the props it deserves. Until then, I need to sleep. This game was middle of the road at best.

Day 123: Back on my Feet

I finally looked over the instructions I was supposed to be following after my procedure – good thing I had Ash before that helping me along. I am supposed to be on a soft-foods diet again for 7-10 days, as it could take about 5 days or more for the steroid injection to actually begin to work its magic. And I’m able to mix my percocet and ibuprofin if need be.

I probably should have looked these instructions over beforehand.

Anyway, as my title suggests I’m a little more alive today. Yesterday, we signed some house documents and just doing that (and walking around the building a few times because I was woefully under my step count) did tire me out a bit. Today, I was able to get up, drive D into school (L stayed home today because… weird school reasons), and even attempted to do a little packing, as we’re supposed to be out of our house in 12 days. So yeah, gonna be an interesting time.

This morning I awoke to some jaw pain, but not as much as the two previous days (yesterday got bad at times). I have been taking Aleve pretty regularly just to keep inflammation down, haven’t needed the painkillers yet. I will say just an hour or so of light packing has made me need to take a little rest, so I’m not exactly up-and-at-em yet. I imagine it would not have been fun had I had to sit in a chair and concentrate for 8 hours (it took me about 30 minutes to even get my head wrapped around writing this blog).

Eating has been weird. I did manage to eat some cheese-stuffed rigatoni things (I opted not to try the sausages) and it was about my upper max, but it’s nice that I’m not stuck just eating yogurts and soups at least. But I am always sort of stuck between being hungry and having and upset stomach. It might be taking Aleve on a not-full stomach, or going back to drinking Boosts, or something else. But I tend to feel almost nauseous, which oddly tells me that I need to eat, so that feeling goes away. Damn my counter-intuitive stomach. I imagine this is a tiny slice of what pregnancy might feel like, only I will be over my weird stomach in a day or two, hopefully.

So it looks like I’ll give it a couple more days of recovery before I start moving the ole jaw around, see how I’m actually coming along. Right now it FEELS like I can open my jaw even LESS than before, but that’s largely because I’m scared to. Probably after the weekend, I’ll be ready to do some jaw-juts (a name I made up, where I stick my lower jaw out) and some jaw-jukes (another name I’m making up right now, where I’ll jigsaw my jaw back and forth), and some jaw-jigglers, where I put my jaw on top of Jell-o. The last one isn’t a real exercise, but I think it would feel pretty soothing.

Here’s my face, and also (coincidentally) me showing some Gavman pride. Have a great walk this weekend, Jaymar!

GAVMAN!
GAVMAN!

PAIN: 2

INCONVENIENCE: 4

REGRET FACTOR: 4