Scares and Streaks

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Shortly after four this morning, my wife and I were awakened by the tell-tale sound of the smoke detector going off. It sounded three times – and then quit. We both thoroughly checked out the apartment, there was no smoke or reason for it to go off. It didn’t chirp like a detector would if it were low on battery (the detectors here are wired into the building to ensure they’re always functional, but they have battery backups for times when the power is out), and we didn’t hear it again. We’re still not even certain that it was the smoke detector, or that it was sounding from inside the apartment. Back to bed we went, but it took me a solid thirty minutes to get back to sleep.

I’m sorry I haven’t written lately, but I’ve just been too much in a meh mood to really think of anything worth writing down. (Yeah, I know, “meh” is worth recording too.) What I can say is that 80 days ago, I started using my phone as a learning and health tool again, and every day from then to today, I have logged my food intake, done my brain games (I use the Elevate app), and studied my Spanish on Duolingo. I’m proud that no matter what has happened, no matter how blah I’ve felt, I’ve managed to get those things done.

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Confessing a Weakness

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I love music. My earliest memory is of me standing in the middle of the bench seat of the family station wagon singing the chorus to Don McLean’s “American Pie” at age two. I started piano when I was 7, drums when I was 8, had a failed experiment as a saxophonist in sixth grade, spend a month trying to teach myself electric bass, and owned a guitar in the hopes that I would eventually learn to play it (I didn’t). I’ve done (and won awards for) musical theater. I would practice a song for months before singing it at karaoke, back when I was able to do karaoke in a bar that wasn’t filled with smoke. Music is in my blood and always has been.

These days my musical expression has been limited to the two radio shows that I do each week. I’m in complete control of one show’s playlist, and have creative consultation rights to the other show, which is in actuality programmed by my wife. I haven’t been behind a drum kit since I was in my 20s, I haven’t seriously played piano in well over 30 years, and I can’t remember the last time I sung anything, even to myself at home, alone.

So along comes something like this video (sorry, folks, I’m too cheap to pay for the subscription that would allow me to embed video) that absolutely blows me away.

Choir! Choir! Choir! is a community choir in Toronto, and when they do a production, they do it big. They gathered over 500 people to sing “Space Oddity” to mark the death of David Bowie, and pulled in over 2,000 singers for a performance of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” in three-part harmony.

The video that I linked is of Choir! Choir! Choir!’s performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Fifteen hundred people gathered together and were led by Rufus Wainwright (the performer that did what is likely the best known rendition of the song, from the Shrek motion picture soundtrack) in a hauntingly beautiful rendition of what is already a hauntingly beautiful song.

And therein lies my weakness.

I read what the video was all about beforehand and had already started crying just thinking about how beautiful this video must be before I ever hit play. It starts out with the choir gathering at the Hearn Generating Station in Toronto, an introduction to the newcomers participating with C! C! C! for the first time, and then Rufus Wainwright took the stage and the single accompaniment of an acoustic guitar began the song. Rufus began the song, as I’m so accustomed to hearing him sing, but soon the choir joined in, and the beauty and power of 1,500 people singing this supremely gorgeous song just overwhelmed me. I was sobbing while listening, barely able to see the video through my tears.

And it’s not just music.

Sad tale of a dog or cat that has a happy ending? Tears. The story of someone that overcomes significant obstacles to reach a long-standing goal? Tears. The underdog wins the ball game? Tears.

I’m very prone to crying. I know I should be more in control of myself, but sometimes I just can’t help it. I wish I knew how to turn it off sometimes, because it can happen at the worst possible moment (for instance, I was in a bardic competition in the SCA a few years back and started crying uncontrollably while performing a song I wrote).

I suppose the alternative is to just stop feeling emotion at anything, and that’s really not an option. I just wish I had a better poker face when I’m overcome with emotion.

So anyway, there’s my confession, but really, the thing you should take away from this blog post is that video I linked. Take the time to watch it for yourself. It is really, really beautiful.

Improvement, But At A Price

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On Tuesday, I went to the doctor’s for my annual physical and quarterly bloodwork. I can’t report much to you, since the test results were given to me while I was driving (look at me getting behind the wheel!) and I was paying more attention to the road than numerical values. I do remember my A1C is at 6.1, which is not quite where we want it, but it’s still very tolerable. My triglycerides are still high, despite the prescription strength fish oil that I’m taking, but at least they’re down significantly. They’re less than twice what they should be for the first time in years, so I’ll take it. My blood pressure was a little high, though, high enough that they retook it before letting me leave the office, and the prescribed me another medication to get it under control.

And what a job it’s doing. I’m used to my blood pressure hovering around 145/95ish, which is still pretty high. This morning it was 120/81, almost perfectly textbook. Other readings have been slightly higher, but still in the 120s/80s – much better than I had been recording. I’m very pleased with the results.

However, there is an unpleasant side effect to this medication. Everything that I take in by mouth – all food and drink – has a metallic aftertaste. In foods with strong flavors, it’s not really noticeable. (Thankfully, one of those foods is coffee.) But with water, since it really has no taste, the aftertaste lingers for a while, and it’s very strong – to the point that I initially thought the water filter had had something go wrong with it. And generally speaking, the only things I drink during a typical day are a glass of milk to get my morning meds down, coffee, and unflavored water – with the majority of what I drink water.

So I’m going to have to get used to this metallic taste, or find another medication that’s going to work. I hope I can get used to it – I really like the results I’m getting from my medication regimen these days.

Proud Rooster Indeed

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Note: today’s post is about college baseball, but also partially about history. If you have an interest in either of those things, stick around. Otherwise, this might be a little boring today. Just fair warning.

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday this week, the finals of the College World Series were scheduled to take place in Omaha, Nebraska. Here’s how we got there.

The NCAA baseball tournament starts with 64 teams playing in 16 four-team regional brackets. These brackets are played as a double elimination tournament, with the winners of each of the 16 regional brackets moving on to the super regionals round. This round consists of eight best-of-three series between two of the 16 regional winners. The eight winners of the super regionals then move on to the College World Series. The CWS repeats the process of the earlier rounds, with two four-team double elimination brackets and the winners playing one another in a best-of-three series to determine the national champion. This year’s finals series had the Arizona Wildcats, the 2012 national champion, facing off against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers in their first College World Series appearance.

Now, earlier, I said that the finals were scheduled to take place on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The Wednesday game was necessary, since Arizona won 3-0 on Monday night and Coastal won 5-4 on Tuesday night, forcing a deciding game three. However, the weather in Omaha wasn’t cooperative on Wednesday night and after a lengthy rain delay, it was decided that game three would be postponed until Thursday, time to be determined.

Before we head into game three, let’s look back a little bit, to my own personal history.

I am a North Carolina native, and while Coastal Carolina University is located in Conway, South Carolina, just outside Myrtle Beach, the fact that it was a Carolinas-based team versus Arizona in the finals made my decision of who to root for an easy one. Never mind this being the Chanticleers’ first College World Series appearance – this was as close to a hometown team as I was going to get in the series, so my allegiance was to Coastal.

Having said that, I was eager to follow the game through online updates while I was doing my radio show. It would give me some added emotion that I could bring to the airwaves while I was spinning the tunes and I was looking forward to it.

After I got my show all prepped and was setting things up for me to track the scoreboard, I noticed something in my sports website’s sidebar. I noticed a photo of a suspiciously large looking trophy being lifted by a bunch of guys wearing teal and black.

Remember that part earlier where I said that game three was moved to Thursday, time to be determined? Well, I never got the memo that the game time had been moved up to an afternoon start, and not an evening one, so by the time I got around to tracking the score, it was already all over.

Game three’s final score was 5-4. And just like that, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers are the 2016 NCAA baseball national champions. It’s their first national championship in any sport. A win for the under–

What’s that, you say? “What’s a Chanticleer? How is it even pronounced?” Well, glad you asked, because this is where the history part of things come in. Before we get to that, though, let’s answer the second question first – the word is correctly pronounced SHON-ti-clear. It’s often shortened to Shonts. Now for the first question.

Before Coastal Carolina became a full-fledged university, it was known as the University of South Carolina-Coastal Carolina College, and was part of the University of South Carolina system of universities and colleges. USC’s athletic mascot is the Gamecocks (yes, it’s a rooster, and yes, they chant “GO COCKS” at games) and so Coastal Carolina thought a mascot change of their own was in order, to play alongside the theme of the flagship university in the system. And so they arrived at the Chanticleers.

At this point, it’s probably best to let Coastal’s athletics website take over the narrative.

Chanticleer comes from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. More specifically, he comes from the Nun’s Priest Tale, a story within Canterbury Tales. The Chanticleer is a proud and fierce rooster who dominates the barnyard. For the best description of Chanticleer, we turn to Chaucer’s words. “For crowing there was not his equal in all the land. His voice was merrier than the merry organ that plays in church, and his crowing from his resting place was more trustworthy than a clock. His comb was redder than fine coral and turreted like a castle wall, his bill was black and shone like a jet, and his legs and toes were like azure. His nails were whiter than the lily and his feathers were like burnished gold.” With all of his splendor and great looks, Chanticleer is also greatly feared and mightily respected by all.

And there you go. They dove into history to come up with a unique name that fit their rooster criteria. Straight out of the Canterbury Tales. Coastal Carolina became independent of the University of South Carolina system when they became a full-fledged university in their own right, but after some discussion about changing the mascot again, i was decided to let it ride, and so Coastal’s athletic programs are known as the Chanticleers to this day.

Now, back to my “win for the underdog” comment. True, this is the first time in 60 years that a team in their first College World Series appearance has won it. And true, it would stand to reason that the budget for Arizona’s baseball team is larger than Coastal’s, because Arizona’s a much larger school in a Power Five conference. (The Chanticleers represent the Big South Conference for the last time this year before moving to the Sun Belt Conference for 2016-2017.) But Coastal’s 55 wins this season led all teams nationwide, and Arizona’s coach said in a post-game interview that Coastal was the best team they’d faced all year. Not sure how “underdog” they really were in the finals.

So there you have it, my post about general sports geekiness. I’ll sum it up with the fact that I love sports, although I rarely feel an urge to watch. It’s fine enough for me to track the progress and outcomes on the Internet. I’m a stats junkie, after all. I once had the results of the NCAA Division III rowing championships texted to me, and my wife will never let me live down that I’m that much of a stats junkie.

We’ll be back to the usual mental health struggles tomorrow, most likely. But for now, I just wanted to, um … crow about the Chanticleers and their well-earned national championship.