Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Bird

This is banned books week.  The American Library Association has a list of the most challenged books of the decade, and I highly recommend checking it out.  If you're like me, the list will boggle your mind.  It's important to remember that there are still people out there who would censor some of the best books ever written.  A number of the bloggers I follow have written about their favorite banned books, and reading these posts has inspired me to write about the banned book that means the most to me.

To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book of all time-hands down-banned or otherwise.  I didn't read the book in school, which is surely an indictment of my education.  I read it on my own after graduating from the University of Wisconsin.  I read it over the course of a Western road trip with a good friend of mine, and it had an immediate, profound effect on me.  For my money, Atticus Finch is the best character in American literature. His integrity and perseverance in the face of evil still inspire me to this day. 

Then there's Scout.  Let's just say Jean Louise Finch made quite an impression on me.  When the doctor told Meg and I that our first born was going to be a girl, I knew her name had to be Scout.  Luckily for me, Meg was amenable, and I have to say, our Scout embodies the spirit of her namesake.

I think the main reason people have tried to ban Mockingbird is because of racist language, particularly, use of the n word.  The language makes people uncomfortable, but that's the point. Harper Lee was shining a light on hatred and racism.  Yes, the n word is abhorrent, but to exclude it from a book set in Jim Crow Alabama would have been dishonest.  And that's the thing about To Kill a Mockingbird.  It is the most unflinchingly honest book I have ever read.

I make it a point to reread The Bird every year.  If you haven't read it in a while, maybe now is the time. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Double Digits

My oldest daughter, Scout, turned 10 today.  Double digits.  Hard to believe.  I have to admit, I have mixed emotions.  My heart swells with pride daily as I watch Scout grow and evolve, but my little girl isn't so little any more, the innocence of childhood beginning to slip away.  I think this was the most excited Scout has ever been about her birthday, and while her enthusiasm was infectious, there was definitely an underpinning of sadness.

Scout had very specific ideas for her party this year.  She chose to invite only her two closest friends.  In the time-honored tradition of kids everywhere, she initially wanted to have a sleepover.  After careful consideration, she decided a sleepover wasn't the way to go.  She reasoned that while sleepovers are great, you're asleep for most of it, not hanging out with your friends.  I was impressed with the logic.  Instead, she wanted to spend an entire day with her friends.

Scout planned the whole day, and it was a blast.  The girls came over Saturday morning around 10:30, and they hung out for a while, doing 10 year old girl things.  We had lunch at Little Anthony's, a fun 50s style diner, and then we went to see Legend of the Guardians.  After the movie we came back to the house for swimming, lemon meringue pie, and of course, presents.  Scout had a look of pure joy on her face all day.  It was the look of a kid whose plan was working to perfection.

Today was a typically busy Tuesday for the Rileys, but we squeezed in birthday touches all day.  I gave Scout a lengthy birthday piggyback ride this morning to get things started.  There were birthday treats at school and at dance class.  We had Scout's favorite, Panda Express, for dinner, followed by family presents, and we finished things off with ice cream bars at soccer practice.

Pretty great birthday I'd say.  I just went to check on Scout and she's still awake, well past her normal bedtime.  She said she doesn't want to go to sleep because she doesn't want her birthday to end.  In a way, I think her feelings are similar to mine right now.  We both want something to last that by its very nature must end.      

Friday, September 24, 2010

Funny because it's true

Back when I was a student at the University of Wisconsin, The Onion was a fledgling student newspaper. Like most Badgers of my era, I spent a good deal of class time sneaking a peek at The Onion, trying not to lose it. I've been a fan ever since. My brother sent this clip a while back, and I just rediscovered it when I was cleaning out my inbox. I can't figure out how to embed the video correctly, so just click the link for a good laugh. Glad to see The Onion hasn't abandoned its Sconnie roots.
Packers fan announces he will return to drinking

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fall in the Desert

It is still ridiculously hot here in the desert.  It's probably 100 degrees as I write this at 9:00 P.M.  I was talking to a friend in Madison this past Saturday night; he was turning the heat on in his car, and I was about to jump in my pool.  In fact, I'm going to jump in the pool after I finish this post.  All this heat almost makes me pine for winter - almost.

Despite the heat, this past weekend was a blast.  We had our first soccer games, and the girls were outstanding.  Meg coaches Quinn's team, and she definitely has her work cut out for her.  Lots of standing around, watching the ball go right by.  Quinn is a stud on the pitch.  She scored a goal, and was generally all over the field, wreaking havoc.  I coach Scout's team with a buddy of mine, and we easily won our first game 5-0.  Scout is very dependable, so we usually keep her on defense.  She's so fast, even if the ball gets by her, she can easily recover.  We let her play forward for a quarter, and she took full advantage.  She scored a goal, and she made an amazing crossing pass to a wide open teammate.  The ref called offside, but the skill of the pass was undeniable.  Overall, great beginning for both girls, looking forward to a fun season.

Fall, of course, means football, real and fantasy.  My Badgers are still undefeated, but more underwhelming by the game.  My high hopes for the season are sinking rapidly.  The Packers are off to a quick 2-0 start, and while they haven't looked that great either, I think their best is still to come.  Unlike a certain team with an elderly quarterback who probably should have stayed on his tractor.  My fantasy football is not going well at all.  I'm 0-2 in both of my leagues.  One of my teams, the Desert Lombardis, looks particularly pathetic.  It's early, things can still turn around, but I'm not holding my breath.

Soccer and football make the fall a great time of year.  Now we just need the heat to finally break.  On that note, time to get in the pool.        

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Parents These Days

It's my job to get the girls to school.  On time.  Not to brag, but 4 years in, not a single tardy.  Every day I see the same parents show up late, frantically running with their kids.  I have to resist the urge to tell them they're already late, save the energy.  Every day I have the same thought: what the hell is wrong with these people?  Get your kids to school on time!

On the way back to my car today, I overheard two of these habitually late parents commiserating.  One parent was complaining she couldn't get her son to school on time because he wouldn't stop playing his DS. The other parent said his problem was TV.  I was this close to stopping.  Instead, I contented myself with visualizing the verbal smack down that wasn't.

Excuse me, I couldn't help overhearing your conversation, and I've noticed that you have a hard time getting to school on time.  If I may be so bold.  Addressing the woman: take the damn DS away, and watch how fast little Johnny gets his act together.  Now turning to the man: And you sir, the television has an off button, you might want to figure out where it is.  My head now oscillating between the two:  If the problem persists, might I suggest a sledgehammer.              

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


It took me 41 years, but I finally made it to Vegas over Labor Day weekend.  The drive from Tucson to Vegas is quite beautiful, so the 7 hours went by quickly.  I particularly enjoyed a scenic stretch of road north of Wickenburg, AZ.  Joshua trees filled the desert for miles, the perfect setting to listen to a little U2.  There were warnings of long delays at the Hoover Dam, so that will have to wait for the next trip.

This trip was centered around Wisconsin football.  The Badgers opened their season against UNLV, and I was just one of many using the game as an excuse to get together with friends for a long weekend.  The Badgers easily won the game, but a lot of people lost money when they failed to cover the spread.  The spread was 20.5, and the Badgers won by 20.  If you know anything about sports gambling, those half points are notorious.  I didn't have any money on the Badger game, but I did go 3-5 on my college football bets.  I promptly gave my meager winnings right back at the blackjack table, but I managed to get out of town without breaking the bank.

Sunday night was the highlight of the trip.  The Krieghoffs and I went to see The Beatles LOVE at the Mirage.  It was a perfect combination of Beatles music and the acrobatic spectacle typical of the Cirque du Soleil shows.  The storyline was a little vague, but the athleticism and artistry of the performance was amazing.  It was a great way to end the weekend.

Vegas seems best in small doses, and I was more than ready to hit the road yesterday.  I rolled out of town blasting the killers, Vegas finally under my belt.  Now that I have the lay of the land, I can definitely see doing a family trip to Vegas.

Of course, sometimes the best part of going away is coming home.  The girls had Welcome Home signs all over the house, and not much beats hearing your kids scream, "Dad's home!"