Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The unwinnable game?

Greeted Friday morning by the realization that it had been a year since the passing of Michael Jackson, I was taken aback. A whole year? It felt like four months, maybe. Rarely had time ever felt so fast. And lately it always feels fast. But this was light speed.

I realized I am basically in exactly the same place in life that I was a year ago. A year older, yes. Generally happier now that Bama has won the national championship. But other than that, nothing has changed.

I began to ponder my life -- perhaps life is too strong a word there -- existence. What was I doing? Where was I going? What were my goals? Would I leave my mark upon this world? Or was my life like a Windows screen saver -- briefly entertaining, but at the slightest movement of the mouse of death, gone without a trace?

As I went to take out the trash that evening, I passed a lone fisherman, casting and reeling in his line in the middle of the parking lot. Now there's a guy who knows what he's doing with his life, I thought. Clearly, this individual had chosen the Bill Dance path to fame and fortune.

I began to think of my heroes -- Jason Morgan, Michael Scott, Sam from Cheers. And... that really didn't help a whole lot. So I thought of the most successful person I know, Orville Redenbacher. Still nothing.

It was at that moment that I recalled a little something from my youth known as Guinness. As in, the book of world records. Of course! The easiest way for a man (woman, or other) to leave their mark upon the Earth is to set a record! Thank goodness I thought of it, as my other best idea was to father twenty children to get my own reality show.

The only question now was which record to set. I delved further into my screen saver analogy... screen saver, Windows, Microsoft, Bill Gates. At the same time, the mortal words of Jim Halpert appeared in my head: "Those mines aren't gonna sweep themselves." Ah, yes! Windows games.

But which one? Well, that was easy: FreeCell. It's more fun than Solitaire, less confusing than Hearts, and I was never that great at Minesweeper anyway.

Of course, one doesn't undertake such an undertaking without first doing the proper research. While searching for what the actual record for consecutive games of FreeCell won was, I came upon an online FreeCell community, which I promptly joined. There, I will be able to play online from any computer and as my consecutive games streak grows (ideally), I'll be able to see where it ranks amongst the greatest streaks of all-time. Best of all, this will allow my public -- that's you -- to follow along with my progress if you wish.

The site also keeps up with your total hours playing FreeCell. Now that, I don't care for. That'd be like my TV flashing, "Bone, you have now spent 31,000 hours of your life watching ESPN. That is the equivalent of 3.5 years." There are some things I choose not to know.

Here's another interesting tidbit that I discovered: Did you know there is one deal of FreeCell that is impossible to win? Yes. Game #11982 in the Windows version is the unwinnable game. You'll learn as you become more familiar with the FreeCell cult, er, community, that those numbers are sacred and we all have proper reverence for game #11982.

So then, it is entirely possible that after weeks and months and hundreds of hours, I could be on the cusp of breaking the consecutive games record and be dealt the unwinnable game.

Still, I refuse to let that thought deter me. Lack of patience, time, skill, perseverance, those might all deter me. But the possibility of facing the unwinnable game shall not. For I am not doing this just for myself, but for the children I've yet to bear. I want one day for them to be able to log onto freecell.net and say to their friends, "That Bone in the number one position, who spent several thousand hours on this website, and now has severe carpal tunnel syndrome, that's our dad."

Besides, great accomplishments are rarely easy. Do you think the Wright Brothers never had any setbacks, doubts, or arguments? Sure they did. Orville would say, "Why do I always have to be the one risking life and limb and doing the test flights?" And Wilbur would respond, "Because somebody's gotta be on the ground working the stopwatch." (Source: Bone's Revisionist History Of Aviation, Vol. 2. Also, Propellers To Popcorn: Bone's Book Of Famous Orville's.)

And so, for my next trick, I will now attempt to set the world record for the most consecutive games of FreeCell won.

If you're interested, the current record is 19,793. My high so far is 10.

What? I only started yesterday.

"Countin' flowers on the wall, that don't bother me at all. Playin' solitaire 'til dawn with a deck of fifty-one..."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

In a summer swelter

I think I finally understand what that song means. Well, that line anyway. Well, that part of that line. If ever was a summer swelter, we are in it. All except for the minor detail that it's not quite yet officially summer. I golfed yesterday, was already glistening with sweat on the first hole, and by the end of the round my shirt was like you had dipped it in water.

We're in another one of those stretches of twenty days of temps in the nineties and heat indexes normally reserved for the surface of Mercury. I have a standard line that I use in times like these: "Cold enough for ya?" It gets a laugh like a tenth of the time, but it's a decent conversation starter. OK, maybe decent is too strong a word there.

Of course, leave it to me to get a cold in the midst of all this. How does that even happen? I caught it on a Wednesday night and kicked it by the following Tuesday.

Being sick did give me additional time to realize there is nothing to watch on TV. Not any sports I'm very interested in. Not a Newhart rerun. Nothing. Just the World Cup. When is that over? I want my ESPN back. I can get into pretty much any sport you throw out there -- curling, Australian Rules Football, I've even watched the National Scrabble Championships. But soccer? I'm sorry, it's just not happening. Oh well, just 77 more days 'til football season. And I'll be asleep for like 15 of those.

I wish I could blame my being sick for my lack of blogtivity. But let's face it, I've been mentally lamenting -- if that's possible -- the excruciatingly slow death of my blog for awhile now. I want to write, but either I have no inspiration or I get sidetracked playing Family Feud on Facebook while singing along to Rob Thomas on iTunes. (I can't believe I just admitted that. The Family Feud part, I mean.)

I need discipline. Someone to say, "Bone, you can't go out to play until you've done your homework." By "go out to play" I mean "retreat further from social interaction by playing games online." And by "done your homework" I mean "written for thirty minutes."

I thought about re-instituting my Blogtober rules for June, but decided I'd wait until at least August, as Blogust sounds better than... well, whatever Blog-plus-June would be. On the other hand, Blogust also sounds a little like one of the ten plagues.

We shall see. Meanwhile, if you Boggle online, hit me up. I'm "Bone" or "Roll Tide" on the 4x4 board.

Finally, I'd like to close today with a Father's Day anecdote. I had contacted Dad's wife earlier this week for some possible ideas for Father's Day gifts, hoping maybe to surprise him. That went something like this:

"Have you heard him say anything he might want or need for Father's Day?"

"Yeah, there are a couple of things he's mentioned."

Alright! I'm thinking. She continues.

"The band on his underwear tore the other night and he was going to buy some new ones but I told him Father's Day is coming up and the kids might get you some."

Short pause to wait for response. There is none.

"He wears the white briefs."

"OK. Anything else?"

"He also needs some of the Mach 3 razor blades."

Sigh. OK, first of all, I'm not buying tightie-whities for anybody, especially not anybody related to me. Second of all, this is exactly the same thing Dad asked for last Father's Day, except I think he also wanted batteries last year.

As the week wound down, my sister and I were still void of ideas, so I decided to just call Dad and ask him directly if there was anything he wanted.

"Ya'll don't have to get me anything. Just keep being my kids." His usual response.

"Dad, it's Father's Day. You know we are going to get you something, just as we have every Father's Day, lo, these many years."

"Well, I guess I could use some new underwear. Mine's got holes in them."

Audible sigh.

"I wear the white briefs."

Yes, Dad, I am aware. Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of you walking around the house at night in ONLY those white briefs. Everyone's father does that, right? Actually, you know what, don't answer that.

"Alright. Is there anything else you can think of?"

"Oh, you know what, there is something else I need."

Finally! At long last!

"Ya'll can get me some of those Mach 3 razor blades."

"Man, it's a hot one. Like seven inches from the midday sun..."

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Some people claim there's a woman to blame

I blew out my flip-flop.

No, really, I did. Last night, walking from the apartment to the car. One instant I was walking normally, my feet happily nestled in their open-air home. And the next, it was over.

I always knew this was gonna happen. This is precisely why I keep a spare pair of flip-flops in my vehicle, and have for years. Sure, people made fun of me. But I stood strong. Because with open-toed shoes, you never know. No one can predict the life of a flip-flop. Sometimes they die young, and we're left only to wonder why.

Have you ever thought about what you're gonna do when the inevitable inevitably happens and you are unprepared? What if you're away from home? Where does that leave you? I'll tell you where: up a creek, my friend. Serves you right for living your freewheeling, one-pair lifestyle.

To illustrate my point, this very thing happened to a friend of mine some years ago. He was at the beach. Stepped on a pop-top, of all things. Completely blew out his flip-flop. Cut his heel and... OK, I lied, it wasn't a friend, it was Jimmy Buffett.

Still, he cut his heel! Had to cruise on back home, most likely barefooted. Either that, or he bought a new pair at one of those shops that sell beach wear, they're all over the place down there. Then he wrote a song about it and made enough money that he never had to work again. Boy, this was a really bad example. Anyway, moving on.

What is so wrong with being prepared? I mean, we carry jumper cables in our cars in case the battery goes dead. Spare tires in case we have a flat. A thing of contact solution in case our contacts get dry and wrinkle up. Alright, maybe that last one is just me.

So I keep a spare pair of flip-flops in the car. And an extra pair of sunglasses. And maybe a sweatshirt in case I get chilly. I ask you, does that make me any less cool? Any less "gangsta?" (I totally just did air quotes there.)

Perhaps. But then again, at the same time I'm blasting Christopher Cross and Phil Collins on my iPod. So I think it all evens out.

Personally, I consider this entire episode a victory for (my version of) normalcy and good sense.

For five years, people have asked why I have an extra pair of flip-flops in my car. And for five years, they have laughed at me when I told them the reason.

Well, who's laughing now?

"Don't know the reason, I stayed here all season, with nothing to show but this brand new tattoo..."

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Destin 2010

"I get ten vacation days a year, and I try to hold off from taking them as long as possible. This year I got to the third week in January." ~ Pam Beasley, The Office.

It's time now for a special Wednesday edition of Thursdays with Bone. Don't think of it as six days late. Think of it as a day early. Work was a malicious, spiteful, complaining woman last week. So even though I've only been back from the beach for ten days, I'm already in need of another vacation.

Day one at the beach included quite a scare for our hero. I was in the ocean when I heard some people yelling. I turned to see they were all looking my way and appeared to be very interested in something swimming in the water. Well, I swear it sounded like they were saying "Shark!" So naturally, I started splashing towards the shore like a frightened little girl.

Then I heard someone yelling "No!" When I looked, they appeared to be motioning for me to stay still. I'm sorry, but if there's a shark in the water, I'm getting out of the water. I might not be able to outrun it but it sure won't be for lack of trying. Finally, I glanced over in the direction they'd been looking and saw a school of stingrays passing just a few yards from where I was standing. Fine, so it wasn't a shark. I'm still getting out of the water.

I did, however, manage to redeem myself -- at least in my own mind -- a bit later when I rescued a girl's sunglasses from the surf. Despite her repeated assurances of "don't worry about it, they were only like ten dollars" I donned my goggles and dove into the water time and again, fearlessly. (The stingrays were long gone by this time.)

I should probably mention here that I have to hold my nose when I'm underwater. That really detracts from the whole Aquaman superhero image. Nevertheless, at long last I emerged, hoisting the glasses -- once thought lost forever -- into the air and returning them to their rightful owner. Another damsel in (slight) distress left... un...distressed.

In addition to visiting all my favorite places -- as listed in the post below -- we tried a new restaurant for dinner one night, an Italian joint called Graffiti. Your classic hole-in-the-wall, it didn't look like much from the outside. I may have even been a little afraid. (Despite what you might think, I don't have that much street cred. I'm more of a internet-message-board cred kind of guy.)

But it turned out to be a really neat place. The walls were covered with all this funky art, and every piece was for sale. The food turned out to be phenomenal. Having had my fill of seafood the previous two nights, I ordered the Greek pizza. And I tell you this, I nearly wept it was so good. It was like a full-body massage for the palate.

Finally, no recap of this Destin trip would be complete without mentioning the odd individual we came across while playing putt-putt one evening. Let's call him Master Putter.

He was a couple of groups ahead of us. Things kept getting backed up and we were having to wait a couple of minutes to start every hole. That's when I began to notice Master Putter.

He'd brought his own putter to the course, as well as his own golf ball. And he had a golf glove hanging out of his pocket. As if that wasn't enough, he was taking exactly four practice strokes before every. single. shot. Also, he was kneeling down attempting to read the green before every putt.

So even though it's taking forever to play, I'm thinking this guy must be really good, right?

Oh no.

We get to a place where the course sort of doubles back and I can see him putting. He hits an excellent first putt, leaving himself about 18 inches for a 2. He blows that about four feet by, misses the come-backer and ends up taking a 4.

Then I overhear him saying to one of his buddies (he was in a threesome... with two other guys, just in case I needed to clarify that), "Man, par would be a really good score on this course."

Par was 54. I shot a 45. I'll let you draw your own conclusions about the course's difficulty or lack thereof. Apparently, super putting was not one of Master P's super powers. Maybe he is invulnerable to women?

He was both hilarious and incredibly annoying at the same time. Then again, the same has probably been said about me a time or two.

On a much more serious note, the Destin beaches were in their usual pristine condition. Although with British Petroleum's continuing devastation of the ecosystem, who knows how long that will be the case. I realize the beaches are just one small part of the damage that is being done. Anytime they show oil-covered animals being pulled from the water, I can't even bear to watch.

But I love the beach. To think that it might not be there next year saddens me more than I am able to say.

"Are we losing the human race? Do we ever really learn from our mistakes? Who's ahead? Who's behind? Will there be a finish line?"