Chez Shaffner

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Blog Archive

Linen+Plastic, my new and improved blog, has gone live at Also, Blogger has changed its blog-publishing policies, making it more challenging to update this long-dormant blog! So this will be the final posting to this site for a while.

The archives remain available and I hope those of you who occasionally check in to see if I've finally found the motivation to keep this blog alive will start following my new food culture blog.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Shaffner’s Game One Blog

Since it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, I figured why not go for broke with a ten-page running diary of World Series game one… Works for Bill Simmons over at ESPN, so why not for me?

11:27 AM

I learn for the first time that has a daily drawing for tickets and enter with every email address I have. Every five minutes for the rest of the day, I refresh my web browsers. Not even a “sorry, you didn’t win.”

3:51 PM
Get out of my last meeting for the day and somehow talk myself into buying a ticket for the game. $300 for Standing Room Only sounds perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it? I check with my colleagues; they’re not convinced.

3:52 PM
Check on StubHub – how about 525 for SRO? Hm. Got a wedding to plan, so I couldn’t possibly spend that much.

4:40 PM
What about old reliable Craigslist? Lots of people asking for tickets at face value—I’m tempted to email a few and see what kind of luck they’re having.

5:01 PM
What do I have to lose? I post an offer on Craigslist, but nobody bites.

6:25 PM
Arrive home and talk to Keryn. I confess that I’m tempted to see what scalpers are offering come game time. She convinces me to go to the gym and then see how I feel later on… Don’t know how she manages not to tell me what a raving lunatic I am for suggesting that scalping tickets is a good idea in this or any other universe… God knows that I’d fret and worry for weeks afterward over that $300; especially when our next payment to the Sebasco comes due…

6:52 PM – 7:30 PM
The gym is empty. Somehow I manage to motivate myself through 3.5 miles. Takes me 26 minutes, which is about as long as it takes Dice-K to record three outs when he’s pitching well.

Finally have sold myself on watching from my comfy couch, where it’s dry, climate-controlled. The beer’s a lot cheaper too.

That is quite an intro for John Williams… The epitome of our culture, no less. Beats the hell out of having Fergie ruining the anthem.

Heard the planes over my apartment before I heard them through my speakers. It is always a little eerie for me to watch something on TV that’s only a quarter-mile from my front door. Years ago, I was walking with my parents toward my apartment after visiting a nearby museum. As we neared my building, a giant roar emanated from our left. Flipped open my phone and learned Derek Lowe had just finished his no-hitter. If I stick my head out my living room window I’ll hear the reaction to a Papi homerun (knock on wood).

Joe Buck says it’s a cold night in Boston? I just returned from the gym thinking “this is some kind of October 25th… global warming is sweet!”

The great American lager on the TV, the great American lager on my coffee table. But of course I’m immune to advertising; I simply love the taste.

I’ve been amazed these last few weeks how calm Beckett looks out there. Like there’s no giant weight on his shoulders… Hell of a pitch to get Taveras. Damn.

Kaz Matsui… I bet my buddy Paul Magyar loves this guy. .256 career average with the Mets, .301 with the Rocks. He’s the Mets’ Renteria. Hell of a cut he just took at strike three.

Everything I know about these Rockies comes from bathroom review of Sports Illustrated. One series was enough for me, so I didn’t stay up for those 10pm NL games. So far I’ve seen three quick strikeouts. Gotta love Josh Beckett – 6 minutes and we’re watching a Chevy Malibu commercial.

I LOVE Dustin Pedroia and swear that I never once called for his ouster back in April.

I have never once insinuated under my breath or in a string of expletives that J.D. Drew was a waste of $70 million. 3-0.

No-hitter and shutout disappear in two quick minutes. Three years ago I’d be tearing handfuls of hair from my scalp. Instead I’m going back to the Papa John’s box for another slice of pizza. Broken bat and we’re out of the inning.

Dane Cook annoys the ever living #$%@ out of me. And that’s all I have to say about that. Though I heard a rumor that in 2049 there will be two Octobers. Little known fact.

This umpire has the best strike three flourish I think I’ve ever seen. Do you think that they compare notes during umpire school? Do they encourage standardization but allow the naturals to do it however they damn well please?

It’s decided: I’m ponying up for the Youkilis replica jersey at the Souvenir Store for next year. That score-from-first business is something you expect from Jacoby Ellsbury, not YOUUUKKKK. Good stuff.

Just noticed Manny’s new hat. Wonder whether it pisses off some of the more superstitious types that they have to switch to the WS-branded caps. If Timlin sees action this week, I’m going to miss the white sweat marks on his hat brim.

This news about Pedroia and Francona playing cribbage has been fascinating for me. No, really! Perhaps it will launch a renaissance of the game. Next think you know, they’ll be showing it on ESPN. Having grown up with the game and catching wayward glances anytime I mentioned the game to my friends, I’m holding out hope for the Cribbage World Series.

Back in 2003 when we were forced to listen to Dave Justice in the FOX booth referring to Oakland’s Tim Hudson as “Huddie” I was quite convinced that McCarver and Buck were more than a little biased against my Sox. It seemed even worse during the ALCS that year, when the boys fell over themselves talking about the Yankees’ dynasty, the Curse of the Bambino, yadda yadda yadda. But this whole post season I’ve been keenly aware that if these guys weren’t my team, I’d want to slit McCarver’s throat. I think he’s infatuated with Manny.

How can you not love the Country Bear Jamboree going on in the Sox bullpen? And just like clockwork, their music-making yields an RBI-double.

I don’t envy Francona for the upcoming decision whether to bench Youk or Papi. No matter which choice he makes a subset of the Nation will give him hell. Unless we win the series while we’re in Colorado, in which case it won’t matter. In the last five minutes, blabbering to myself in the privacy of home, I’ve managed to convince myself that maybe they should start Hinske instead. Just to mix things up.

McCarver is showing his man-love for Manny.

Not fifteen minutes ago I told Keryn that if the game became a true blow-out – ten-run lead or more – then I might head to bed around midnight whether the game was over or not… We’re up to eight runs and I’m not sure I can actually drag myself away from the low-def TV.

Let me put this in the official record: I swear before the blog gods that if the Sox ditch Mike Lowell and sign A-Rod I’ll never forgive them. Won’t buy any tickets next year. Will block NESN from my cable box. Will stash my Sox gear under the bed. With that rant done, here we go Red Sox, here we go.

…and we’ve reached my ten-run threshold. Hold on… Did Joe Buck just say “no more beautiful blimp?” Anyway, I was thinking earlier about what a city of zombies Boston was going to be on Friday morning. Maybe not with scores like this.

Did they really need to show the Buckner play really?

I could have lived without knowing that Tulowitzki wears Derek Jeter-branded cologne.

Is this 2003/2004 Mike Timlin I’m watching out there? Three-up, three-down. (Also, looks like that World Series log must be an iron-on patch, because Timlin’s hat looks every bit the stained disaster we know and love).

I’m dying to know what this Aquos TV commercial looks like in other markets. Do they see the red Ted Williams seat photograph? Who takes a hack on the TV itself?

Not Gagné!! Say it isn’t so!

I’ll be damned… Game one in the bag, ending with a Gagné strikeout. Onward to Schilling and Game Two!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Roasted Turnips and a Pervasive Sense of Underachievement.

Classes began two weeks ago at Harvard, my alma mater and current pass-through employer (my current consulting gig is there). Sometime last week there materialized a red newspaper box at one end of the crosswalk I navigate every morning between eight and eight-thirty. The Harvard Crimson, producing another batch of future featured columnists and eventual editors-in-chief of reputable glossies. Available for the unbeatable price of $0.00, and perfectly positioned for me to read while crossing the Square. (Reading while navigating heavy foot traffic: I highly endorse this sport). Today I share with you two trivial observations from my week’s readership.

Two days ago I was appalled--no hint of hyberbole here; my jaw actually dropped open for at least ten seconds--to find the dinner menu featuring, as one of its five items, roasted turnips. I remember mocking some menu items in my day. I mean, “bell-ringing beef?” Mmm. But roasted turnips? Wonder if they track any statistics on how many pounds of a given item they present vs. how many pounds end up in the dumpster?

Which brings me to today’s announcement that three MacArthur Genius Grants (that’s $500,000 for your information) went to Harvard alums. Cool. And not terribly surprising. But here’s what blew me away: two of the winners graduated from the college at the end of my freshman year. That pegs them at…young. So I dive into a few days of quiet wallowing in the reality of my underachievement. Used to happen once each year, but it’s starting to occur more frequently--at least once every four months. Makes me stop to rethink so many decisions over the years. Should I have found a way to suppress my distaste for biology and pursued a cure for cancer? Or studied econometrics and cured third-world poverty? Or devoted two years to teaching ESL? Why haven’t I started my own company? And on and on...

I suppose it’s healthy…inspires me to bang away 10% harder at the keyboard. Unfortunately I’m spending that 10% on this blog and my six loving readers instead of writing the Great American Novel. Speaking of which… I’d better get back to work--got a new chapter to write!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Across the Car

[[An experimental thing…]]

He nestles a stuffed raccoon under his arm like a sacred game ball. I lose interest in Grammaire Progressive du Français Avec 600 Exercises. But don’t let me mislead you quite yet: there was no taxidermy involved. Just a man and his plush raccoon. Just another day aboard the red line.

The strange man balances on his lap a yellow tackle box identical to the one at home wherein I keep the haphazard tool collection necessary for assembling deliveries from IKEA I haven’t yet ordered. (The catalog arrived today in my cramped aluminum box; hope remains Daddy’ll have a new end table by Christmas). This man’s chest houses not tools but something valued enough to warrant combination locks. Two, in fact, jury-rigged to secure a latch not designed with security in mind. But what could be so important? Packets of jam stolen from restaurants? Airplane bottles of Jim Beam? A lifetime’s nail clippings? I’ve read of stranger things in magazines.

I ponder the scrutiny with which they inspect flip-flops at the Rochester airport. Through my brain rumble the words of an overworked TSA thug at IAD two years back, when I balked at removing my sweatshirt: “This is America, bucko.” I won’t repeat my unspoken retort or I’ll end up on the no-fly list before the honeymoon. Yet this man carries his mystery tackle on the train without a second look. Hmm.

My fingers itch to write how he stroked the soft hairs behind the raccoon’s ears and moaned low. That didn’t happen, but it sounds right. I’m glad it did not happen, though I can’t say for sure that it wasn’t the first thing he did upon reaching his destination.

He solved both locks and opened the top. Like the mystery briefcase in Pulp Fiction a yellow glow illuminated his face, reflected off the so-stereotypical-the-author-must-be-making-it-up horn-rimmed spectacles.

That’s a lie. Instead, he pulled out a stack of baseball cards and yanked a thick elastic band free before leafing through the cards. He smiled. When the automated voice announced the upcoming train stop he hastily packed his things and secured the locks.

I wanted to tell him the rubber band would compromise the value of the cards, but he stepped onto the platform before I had the chance.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Go Jott Yourself

There are already too many ways to communicate, but that doesn’t prevent me from getting really excited about new toys that I’m convinced will change my life. I’ve been through this with the PDA, which sits idle in a dresser drawer beneath several sweaters I have no intentions of wearing in this decade. And I’ve been down this path with a dozen task management doohickeys (sp?) on my laptop. I’m still boycotting the BlackBerry and as a result I suppose I’m destined to use ten different devices for music, telephone, calendar, email, into the distant future.

But my new favorite gadget-of-sorts is a free service from Jott. Here’s the nutshell: you can call a toll-free number from your cell phone and the system automatically recognizes you based on caller ID. You speak for up to thirty seconds and send the transcribed message to yourself or anybody in your address book. The messages are sent as text messages or emails or audio files. It’s awesome, and although I earn no commission (hint, hint to the Jott guys) I’m spreading the news to everybody I see. So far I’ve found excuses to “Jott myself” during meetings, while waiting for the bus, and in between bites at dinner. It’s only the beginning…

Now, I full expect my obsession to wither by the time the Red Sox fall apart this season (wait, that’s already happening? Damn.) Until then, I’ve got a Jott to make: “Don't forget to post that blog about Jott, you lazy slacker!”

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My Mind a Muddle

Today my mind contains a muddle of Franglais, Spanglish, Engtalian, Italnish, and every other permutation of the one language I (seem to) know and the three I've learned over the years to the same pathetic adolescent levels.

How did I arrive here? The proximate cause is the adult education course I began last Monday and continued yesterday: Low Intermediate French, because they cancelled Beginning II, the course I intended to take in the name of Preparing For Our Honeymoon.

The disaster stems from my remarkable accomplishments in the little-known academic field of Foreign Languages at Third-Grade Comprehension. My story begins with my roots: mono-lingual parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. Two first cousins have a Bolivian father, but that had little impact on my linguistic upbringing.

My first exposure (other than Sesame Street, natch) to the study of foreign languages came by way of a most unusual test they administered in seventh grade. As I recall, it consisted principally of incoherent nasal tones and multiple-guess options for which combination of letters might lay beneath. I was confident I scored 0%, but somehow I qualified for eighth grade French. After four years of study I was well enabled to talk about the respective countries of origin for Alain and Celeste, and I knew to say that Claude washed himself the hair rather than his hair. Inexplicably enough I also knew my instructor’s brother’s U.S. army serial number (a long story). As for securing myself a hotel room for the night? Or to say that I prefer my steak cooked medium rare? Forget about it.

I managed two years of high school Spanish as well, but failed Harvard’s absurd placement exam and enjoyed the privilege of reviewing everything I had already learned in high school. By senior year, my French and Spanish forgotten, I enrolled in an intensive Italian course. Five days per week, extensive language labs, yadda yadda, and I could say that I had an exactly overlapping Venn diagram of grammatical knowledge in three languages. Yippee.

The acme of my linguistic accomplishment thus far remains an afternoon meal in the eighth arrondissement in Paris wherein I managed to transact three courses without my waitress once responding in English; I give credit not to my speaking abilities, but to her profound generosity.

A colleague in Puerto Rico once told me that I spoke my elementary Spanish with an Italian accent. Better than an American one, no? I asked.

And so I return to my homework for next week. We’re learning the past tense. I’ve learned it five times before in three Romance languages. Let’s hope this time it sticks. Or maybe I should just give up and take beginning Portuguese next semester…

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Back from the Dead

According to my Blogger home page, it has been more than three full months since I posted a blog. Any blog. Now that’s just pathetic, innit? Meanwhile all those other blogging peeps have posted two hundred million words. So what have I been doing that has kept me away from my extensive fan base?

1. Working, mostly. Work-work not me-work. Two jobs for most of June, which was pretty taxing. Literally. But JHU went live and my project at Harvard is really interesting. That’s about all you can hope for in my business.

2. Wedding planning has taken a goodly portion of my time, but in a good way. We have a brilliant venue, an officiant, and a rock star photographer. But those are stories for another day, and possibly another blog (assuming I give the full-on Lazarus treatment to that other blog now that Keryn’s about to head off on the road for another year of recruiting).

3. Went on a reading bender through July and August. God is Dead by Ron Currie, Jr. was awesome, and I finally got around to reading The English Patient. Ian McEwan may be the only writer alive who can make the cooking of bouillabaisse truly riveting (in Saturday) but On Chesil Beach is a strange read. Finally, J.M. Coetzee is my new favorite author after reading Elizabeth Costello and Disgrace over the summer.

4. Three weddings in three weeks. Need I say more?

5. Some writing. But I’m ashamed to say that my current project is yet another revision of my first novel, in preparation for submission to a few contests and a “final” volley of agent queries. I love my book, but when you start editing sentences back toward where they were three years ago, you know you’re in trouble…

It may take a few weeks to get back into the swing of things, but I’m glad to be back, and I hope to have an audience again soon, too!