Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Breaking the Chip Addiction

I'm Ken and I'm a potato chip addict. (Hi, Ken)

I've been hooked on the thin-cut, deep fried or baked, salted and flavored strips of spud goodness for years. If it's crunching, I'm munching. While most guys my age are still looking to get laid, I'm looking to get Lays. Fritos? Neato!

I've done 'em all. Doritos, Ruffles, Pringles, Cheetos. I've tried sloppy joe flavored chips, Tositos with a hint o' lime, and baby back rib tasting things in addition to the standard sour cream and onions and cheddar chips. I've woken on the couch before, sweeping Cool Ranch chip powder off my shirt like Scarface's Tony Montana brushing cocaine off his clothing.

Yes, it's bad. I had thought about entering a 12-chip program, but I'd relapse quicker than Guns N' Roses' Steven Adler on a Dr. Drew Celebrity Rehab show.

A few months ago, I wrote here about the snacking potentials while playing the 1942 APBA baseball replay games I'm doing. You roll games, you eat junk food. It's part of the game. Eating treats while rolling the games is as American as, well, apple pie, to continue the food metaphor.

But, I may have come across a chip flavor that could end my addiction. Call it the methadone for a heroin addict, if you want.

The other day I picked up a bag of chicken and waffle flavored potato chips. I'm not making this up. It's really a flavor and it's really gross. I could have gotten better taste and nutrition from the leaky paper bag I saw in the parking lot of the grocery store where I found the chips. I'm not sure what was in the bag, but I bet our local police department's forensic unit would have a field day with it. Do rotting bananas emit blue ooze? I digress.

It's an odd concept, jamming chicken with waffles. I like both foods. Separately. I live in the south, so chicken is a staple. Waffles? Well, who doesn't like waffles? But putting them together in a crunchy presentation is just weird. I like popcorn and spinach, but I'm not eating popcorn-flavored spinach.

I ate a few of these chips and blanched. Satan's panty shields would have tasted better and they wouldn't be as dusty. And here's where I cross the line with too much information, I'm sure, but I hiccuped a day later and still tasted those sumbitches!

So, I'm swearing off chips now. And I'm hoping that I, unlike the meth addict returning to his pipe, don't find myself heading back to Aisle 1 of my grocery store where all those chips beckon. It's good for me to do this, too. I'm walking 5-10 miles a weekend with a friend in an attempt to lose my girth and potato chips are the antithesis of weight loss.

No more chicken and waffle chips while I play the APBA games. The cards won't get chippy dust on them and I'll continue, hopefully, to lose a bit of weight. Steven Adler would be proud of me.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Update: July 21, 1942

I've reached July 21, 1942 in my APBA baseball replay and, as usual, good story lines are developing.

This replay has been a series of spurts and slowdowns. I'll play a lot of games, rolling dice into the wee hours and tracking scores for a while. Then, the pace slows and I may only play 1 or 2 games a day for a week before resuming the quicker pace. It's not burnout, but instead attention diversion, I guess. I watch football on television a lot now and that takes up time. I'm also reading more books on — of course — football.

But the game continue and with them come some intriguing points that make this game worth playing each day.

Here are the standings at the end of July 21, 1942:

New York          57 33 –
St. Louis            56 36 2
Boston               51 39 6
Detroit               49 45 10
Cleveland          46 46 12
Washington       39 53 19
Chicago             36 53 20.5
Philadelphia      34 63 28.5

St. Louis            62 25 –
Brooklyn           61 29 2.5
New York          48 42 15.5
Cincinnati         44 47 20
Chicago             41 52 24
Boston               42 54 24.5
Pittsburgh          39 52 25
Philadelphia      27 63 36.5

Ted Williams leads the Red Sox with 23 home runs and Charlie Keller of the Yankees is second with 17. Joe DiMaggio is having a slow season in this replay. He has 8 home runs and, although I haven't updated his statistics lately, it'll be a surprise if he's batting .300.

Denny Galehouse is 14-2 for the St. Louis Browns, a big reason why they are in second place in this replay. Charlie Wagner is 13-4 for the Red Sox, and Tiny Bonham is big for the Yankees with a 12-0 record.

In the National League, Max West continues to pace the Boston Braves with 21 home runs. He's tied for the lead with Brooklyn's Dolph Camilli. Mort Cooper has helped the Cardinals to the best record in the replay with a 15-5 record. Jim Tobin is 13-9 for the Braves and Curt Davis is 12-0 for the Dodgers.

Some of the story lines to have developed include the pitching of Cincinnati Reds' Johnny Vander Meer. He's had two games where he's struck out 15 batters. Pitching is horrendous for the Phillies. As of July 21, 1942, the team has four 10-game losers.

But the best story is the emergence of the Cardinals. In the real 1942 season, the Redbirds trailed Brooklyn after the All-Star break and at one point in August were 10 games behind the Dodgers. They caught Brooklyn, going 43-9 in the last 52 games.

In the 1942 replay I'm doing, St. Louis began early. They've won nine of their last 10 games, compared to Brooklyn going 4-6 in the same span. The Cardinals, who when July began, were 4 games behind when July began, have gone 24-3 in their last 27 games.

I'm about 60 percent finished with the season. There' a lot more baseball to be played, and more story lines to surely follow.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mortality in a Manhole Cover

Go to Google on the Internet and type in “14th St. and Bixby Ave, Bemidji, Minn.,” and then click on the Google map that comes up. Zoom in and select the street level option and then head west, clicking three times until the view comes to an alley off of 14th Street.

Tilt the “camera” down on the road and see the manhole cover.

It's where I found a youthful memory last week and it's part of the look back that we do, I assume, as we try and recapture moments of our childhood.

Weird, I know. But when you pass middle age and realize your own mortality, you seek comfort wherever you can.

When I was a youngster, I lived near the corner of 14th St. and Bixby. Two houses to the north, to be exact. My friend lived in that house on the northwest corner and his backyard served as the neighborhood football field.

But one day when we were bored of throwing the pigskin around, we stood in the street, gaping at that manhole cover. ( I realize on Google maps, one of the manhole covers is not photographed properly; it's that one I'm talking about). So, I got my wooden hockey stick and we pried open the lid and peered inside. I don't recall if we actually climbed into the sewer. I assume we didn't. We may have gone down the ladder a step or two, but I even doubt that. Opening a manhole cover was enough of a thrill.

The impact of seeing it was profound. It's still there, on the same street that I, half a century ago, saw as a challenge and an adventure.

I continued my quest on the Google map thing, “driving” down the streets I once trekked to find my friends' homes. I saw my best friend's house on 15th and Calihan Ave. and zoomed in on his backyard. It's where we played whiffle ball each summer day. The yard appeared very small, yet as a child it seemed to me as big as any baseball stadium. Hit the plastic ball over the hedges for a home run. A ball into the window wells on his house was a ground rule double.

I also toured the grade school I attended, the college where my father taught and the baseball fields where I tried to play Little League.

I ended with a feeling of melancholy and a longing to go back there, even though it's been a long time since I saw Bemidji. Maybe it was my way of trying to hold on to some shard of childhood; the refusal to accept the fact that I'm all grown up and have been so for a long time.

But I still clung on a piece of that childhood the other day. I left where I work and saw a crew prying back a manhole cover on the street by my building. I knew they were installing a communication line; the workers had AT&T shirts on and they were dragging a long spool behind them of the cable. But still, I had to maintain that childhood I seem to hang on to.

“Whatcha doing down there?” I asked one of the workers who had just climbed into the sewer. “Bustin' up a big turd?”

He looked at me oddly and I laughed. People my age aren't supposed to say “turd” in public. I did.

Some call it immaturity. I call it nostalgia.

So, I look at manhole covers on the internet and have childhood memories and recall more innocent times and keep a grasp on who I once was. I still have that wooden hockey stick, too, in case I get an urge to pry open the manhole cover in the street where I live now.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Stan Musial's 10 Games

Every so often the dice go crazy in an APBA replay and you get a player on a hot streak.

This time, it's Stan Musial's turn in my 1942 baseball season.

I've noted this before in my musings, but the APBA baseball replay game is based upon statistical occurrence. If a baseball player bats .300 in real life, chances are he will be close to that average in the game. His APBA player card reflects that, just as a player who was prolific in home runs that year is apt to have a card rife with the “1s” needed to belt a homer in the game.

It's statistics. It's math. Generally, in that type of realm, there aren't coincidences or anomalies that stand out from the norm.

But this isn't math. It's APBA and it's one of the reasons that draw us players to the game.

In his last 10 games in my 1942 replay, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Stan Musial has batted at a .575 pace. In those games, he went 23 out of 40, scored 12 runs, hit three home runs and drove in 23 runs. He's led the Cardinals in wining nine of those 10 games and they closed the gap with National League leading Brooklyn to only half a game.

In real life, Musial batted .357 during those same 10 games — a great mark, but more than .200 points below what he did in this game.

The odd thing is that Musial had played below his actual average for most of the season. I don't keep full statistics (frequent readers will recall that I have computers that crash and I am technologically stupid), but I've tallied Musial's stats by hand often and notice that he's wavering at about .300 for the first half of 1942.

Because I tend to be analytical about things, I have tried to figure out what happened. Why, suddenly, has Musial caught on fire? And why, during other replays, do similar things happen with other players? Players get hot, just as in real life. But it defies the statistical premise of the game, the frequency and chance of the particular dice rolls.

I've alluded to this before in what some longtime APBA players refer to as “dice magic.” It's the only explanation. Throw out the probabilities and just watch the games. It's what draw us to playing this, I think. Those of us who play this game are stat heads. We love the numbers, the standings, the outcomes. But the “dice magic” is that added bonus to playing this. In my 1981 replay, Seattle Mariners outfielder Gary Gray was the beneficiary of the magic. It seemed he hit home runs in clusters. Richie Zisk, he too of the hapless Mariners, also was pretty consistent in hitting walk-off home runs. It just seemed certain players got more of the magic.

This time it's Musial's turn.

Who will it be next time?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How Game 6 Saved My Neck

Most people recall Game 6 of the 2011 World Series where St. Louis Cardinals' third baseman David Freese hit his 11th inning home run that forced a Game 7 with the Texas Rangers. It was historic; St. Louis was one swing away from losing the series when Freese smacked the ball over the wall. The Cardinals went on to win Game 7 the following night and there was much rejoicing.

But I remember the rained out game the day before more so because it literally saved my neck and restored my distrust for conveyor belt physicians.

I was scheduled on Oct. 26, 2011, to undergo an injection treatment for a deteriorated disc in my neck by a local pain doctor. I was having issues with the disc for some time and it often felt like someone was shoving a steel rod through my eye and out the back of my head. Stress exacerbated the pain, which was groovy since I work at a newspaper where meeting constant deadlines are the life.

The doctor did a perfunctory examination of my neck a week prior and rubber stamped my treatment. I was to get a shot of nerve-deadening lidocaine into the C3 disc at 1 p.m. — only six hours before Game 6 was to begin — and since the procedure and recovery time took about three hours, I figured I'd be home in time to catch the first pitch. All would be well, he said.

So I went.

When I arrived, I should have taken early notice and bolted then. I am not making this up; the other patients there resembled the group in the waiting room for hell in that movie Beetlejuice. One person was showing photographs on her phone camera of ghosts that she captured. There were ghosts in the room with us, she said, and she wanted to snap more pictures.

Another man kept talking about his old friends, then sadly ending each thought with a dejected shake of his head and: “He's dead now.”

Yet another woman regaled the doctor, proclaiming his treatments were a “miracle.”

“Treatments?” I asked. “How many times have you been here?”

She thought for a moment, counting in her head. “About 10 now,” she said.

The doctor was running behind. I was called back to the pre-op room at about 2:30 p.m and went through a barrage of questions. A nurse asked me what level my pain was at. I guessed a '6.' She told me that I had to be 80 percent better in order for my insurance to cover the procedure, otherwise it would be more than $400 a shot. “Eighty percent of six?” I asked. “So I have to figure out that I'm at a 1.2 pain level for my insurance to kick in? How do I do decimals?”

She shrugged. I asked if we could amend the pain to something easier to compute, like a 100.

I was ushered into a smaller room where a series of beds were cloaked by curtains. The nurse asked me to shuck my clothing and get into a gown. I asked why I had to take my pants off for a neck treatment. It was yet another warning sign that this was not supposed to happen.

Finally, at about 4 p.m. I, pantless, caught a nurse and asked what the delay was. I told her Game 6 was scheduled in three hours (I didn't know about the rain out yet), and said I was told the recovery time was three hours. The nurse said that since I had a driver, I could leave when I “woke up” and did not have to wait the allotted time.

“Driver?” I asked. “I don't have a driver.”

She became irritated and said the doctor didn't schedule any afternoon treatments for those who had no one to drive them home. Apparently, a side effect of the treatment is the deadening of the right arm. Driving would be somewhat restrictive if you couldn't use your arm, she said.

By then I realized I was in the remake of some medical horror movie. No pants, dead arm, ghosts. It was time to bail out.

The nurse said we would possibly have to reschedule the injection. I jumped at the opportunity, as well as back into my pants, and I fled, promising to set up a new treatment time.

I never did.

Instead I went to a different doctor in another town a month later who ordered an MRI and a full work-up of my situation. He found that the C3 disc was not in bad shape. It was the C5, and the treatment prescribed for me earlier would have been pointless.

He treated it with medication, light therapy and adjustments to my work. I am supposed to get away from my computer occasionally, walk around a bit and try to minimize the stress level. It works at times.

I look back on the day of that procedure. Had I not been a sports addict, I may have gone through with the injection. I was on the brink of being rolled in to the doc's shop of horrors when I questioned the nurse about the game time.

There is still pain. A lot of pain sometimes. But I don't have to figure out mathematical problems to determine my pain's abatement. I have full use of my arms and I am wearing pants.

And I didn't miss the game the following night.