Thursday, September 30, 2010

Magic the Gathering...

"Do you like magic?" –Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother

So I actually took some time out while Phoenix was sleeping and I was watching the last half of the Jets/Dolphins game to look through my Magic cards. Needless to say I was upset.

Since leaving Chicago I've had to make a switch to playing exclusively Type 2. Type 2, or as the newer players call it, Standard, is the current core set and last two blocks. As of right now, before the anticipated Scars of Mirrodin drops, Type 2 is made up of: M10, M11, Shards of Alara and Zendikar blocks. Building decks within this Standard was easy since I played heavily when Shards Block came out. Shards was so awesome because Alara Reborn was SOLID GOLD.

Since Legends dropped in 1994 (or was it '95), I've always been in love with Gold colored cards. Gold cards are cards with multiple colors in their casting cost.  Gold cards may have been the reason I got back into Magic in the first place. When I saw cards from Time Spiral block as well as going as far back as Ravnica block, I was hooked all over again. When I first got back in I built a budget Gruul Beatdown deck for Standard that featured Kird Ape and gold staples Scab-Clan Mauler, Burning Tree Shaman and Rumbling Slum. But the newer Gold card that clinched Magic for me was Lightning Helix. God. Such a beautiful card. It was Healing Salve and Lightning Bolt rolled into a beautiful 2cc Instant. I think I own 20 Lightning Helixes. I was hooked.

So why was I upset? When Scars of Mirrodin drops I say my farewells to M10 and all of Shards Block. That makes me sad since I was a fool for Shards Block. I think I have 20 Bloodbraid Elves. I have 5 Ajani Vengeants, Knights of Reliquary x 4, about a billion Terminates and Qasali Pridemates. I loved me some Gold cards. Now I have to start from scratch and try to build with my meager Zendikar Block and M11 cards. I really don't know how much of Scars I will actually try to acquire. I've traditionally been a trade first kind of Magic player so I'll have to get rid of tons of my older stapes in order to compete. There lies my dilemma.

Do I even bother with Type 2? Not sure.

Should I concentrate on Legacy? Holy $#!t!!!

Trolling I came across an Affinity deck with maindeck Force of Will. Maindeck FOW seemed odd to me since the Affinity deck, historically, is a beatdown first strategy. This deck had something else that piqued my interest in ways unimaginable...

Thopter Foundry x 2
Sword of the Meek x 2

WTF? Why didn't I think about that super extended combo for the 95% artifact deck?!? I immediately took apart my UW Thopter control deck and tried to shove the combo in my traditional Ravager Affinity shell. It was difficult to say goodbye to some standard Affinity cards like Myr Enforcer, Blinkmoth Nexus and especially Shrapnel Blast but the fat needed to be trimmed.

I think the issue with the base Ravager Affinity deck was the occasional color screw. Sometimes you burn your color fixers early for the card draw and have Great Furnace with Thoughtcast in hand. Or you have Seat of Synod and Shrapnel Blast in hand.

With the new Thopter Affinity it is a baseline UW aggro/combo deck.

Here's what I put together so far:

Ravager Affinity x 4
Ornithopter x 4
Master of Etherium x 4
Frogmite x 4
Arcbound Worker x 4

Cranial Plating x 4
Springleaf Drum x 4
Thoughtcast x 4
Thopter Foundry x 4
Sword of the Meek x 4

Ancient Den x 4
Seat of Synod x 4
Tree of Tales x 4
Academy Ruins x 1
City of Brass x 3
Adakar Wastes x 2
Mystic Gate x 1
Skycloud Expanse x 1

Ethersworn Canonist x 4
Meddling Mage x 4
Pithing Needle x 3
Krosan Grip x 4

First note: I work with what I have so I don't try to run out and get all the money cards to compete. I'm not going to go out and get all the fetches and duals that I need for Legacy. It's not in my nature. Secondly, when I first started playing the game it was obviously casually until me and my friends learned how to play competitively. Type 1, Legacy and Extended were my forte at the time. As I hit the PTQ circuit in the Midwest I became obsessed with Type 2 and Block. I even PTQ'd in Iowa during Urza's Saga Block with UG Squirrel Prison. I was first out of 111 players. With my resurgence into the game with Time Spiral Block I did Standard for a while but switched to Casual after Lorwyn/Shadowmoor rotation. I refused to upkeep for Standard. The whole Mythic Rare decks upset me to no end. It just makes it more difficult to compete for newer players or players without a bankroll. Playing casually was the best thing I ever did. The playgroup at Westwood College was amazing. It is probably the most fun I've had playing the game. While playing Casual I tried tons of different strategies and built tons of decks (something like 50). I actually became a deck designer. And I fell in love with combo decks.

Segue back to Thopter Affinity...

Thankfully I already had all the money cards for this deck. I was able to pick up Arcbound Ravagers on the down swing for very cheap a few years ago. I also traded up for a playset of Masters of Etherium when they first dropped. And the Thopter combo pieces are $1.50 uncommons. Traditional Ravager Affinity is a straight beatdown deck that uses either huge Ravagers or plated up dudes to Fatal Frenzy or Fling them. I'm opting to combo on opponents' faces with hundreds of 1/1 flying dudes. Why is Thopter combo better then Fling or Fatal Frenzy? Sometimes it takes time to get your dudes big enough for a lethal Fling. A well placed Swords to Plowshares or Echoing Truth can shut you down. Or just a good old fashioned Force of Will is enough. With the Thopter combo once you get online, it creates inevitability at that point. With the nut draw you can be online by 3rd turn. They MUST stop the Thopter Foundry from resolving otherwise they are dead. If they stop the Sword of the Meek it just comes back. If they stop the Foundry I can get it back with Academy Ruins or hopefully buy some time with the beatdown game to draw into another one. If you can get Thopter online and can untap, that should signal the game. When Master of Etherium drops shortly after it creates an even faster clock.

The deck works in a beatdown capacity. If you get the aggressive draw where you drop your hand by turn two you probably win. Against other aggro decks like Zoo or Mono-Red Burn, your Masters and Ravagers are critical. You have to play your Ravager sacrifices correctly or you lose. But once you get Thopter online it is game over. They won't be able to deal with the wall of flying defenders and advantage of the perpetual lifegain.

Against control decks game one is probably a win if they try to play you straight up as a regular Affinity deck. If you can get your combo online game one and win then your sideboard comes into play for games 2 and maybe 3.

Legacy is a wide open format with tons of different deck choices. It's hard to say what is a good deck or not. But the top decks at the moment I'd say are as follows:

Survival Zoo
Vengevine Madness
Tendrils Storm
Bant Aggo
Show and Tell/Hypergenesis
Dark Depths
Eva Green

Last time I bothered with competitive Legacy I rocked a home-brewed Mono-Red Burn deck. I went in knowing nothing. I did fine against scrubs and lost 1-2 to one of the two ringers. If a Legacy Tournament arises I want to be ready. I came up with a down and dirty sideboard to try and combat the current Tier 1 decks. The biggest thing I'm worried about is combo decks so I set up my sideboard to combat that.

Pithing Needle is for Tops, Aether Vials, Barbarian Ring, Engineered Explosives, Jace the Mind Sculptor, Jitte, etc. Anything with an activated ability the Needle shuts down. Survival of the Fittest is huge right now so Needle is key.

Ethersworn Canonist is strictly for combo decks like Storm, Belcher or Cascade. You have to aggressively mulligan to get stick a Canonist turn 2 during game 2 or you lose.

Meddling Mage is for combo decks and control decks. Naming Force of Will or Top or Vial or Survival of the Fittest, etc. will help to shut down or slow down plenty of decks.

Krosan Grip is to stop Counterbalance, Top, Vial, Survival, Engineered Explosives, Back to Basics, etc.

I probably should make room for Tormod's Crypt for graveyard active decks like Dredge or Reanimator decks. I'll have to see. Not sure yet.

But all in all I think decks that need creatures to win will lose once Sword/Thopter is online. The advantage it creates is too great for a bunch of 2/3's, 3/3's and even Goyfs to handle. Against control decks you have to get the beatdown going then set up the combo.

I have to do some playtesting to see how she runs but all in all it could be fun! From what I saw at Armada Games in Tampa, there is a big Legacy crowd. I'll see if I can get a few games in the near future.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Favorite Songs of the last Decade

My love of music and creating lists has made me want to create a list of my favorite songs of the last decade. The factors are obviously how much I enjoy the song as well as some kind of personal connection, story behind the song, concept, and of course replay value.

In no particular order...

1. Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Funeral is probably one of my favorite albums of the last decade. Power Out is my favorite track on the LP. The song is so energetic and powerful, it completely engulfs you as you listen. Fantastic.

2. The Knife - Heartbeats
This is one of those infectious songs that I can listen to all the time, any time of the day or night. It has an amazing sound that combines pop, synth electronica and island steel-drums. The minimalist vocals deliver dense lyrics of a cryptic narrative.

3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Maps
Fever to Tell is about 30 minutes of pure pissed off rock and roll but ends with Maps (almost ends, Maps being the second to last track). It really is a beautiful little song about love, wanting to be loved and relationships. The following is an acoustic version although the LP version is legendary as well.

4. Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out
The self-titled debut album of Franz Ferdinand is amazing from start to finish and has excellent replay value. But Take Me Out is an amazing track that starts off slow and poppy then gradually switches to an in your face rock song. One of my best friends got us tickets to see Franz Ferdinand at the Aragon Ballroom and it was one of the best shows I've seen.

5. Phoenix - 1901
This is newer song that got stuck in my head the first time I heard it. Phoenix has been around for half the decade but this track is the one that won't go away. It is power-pop rock at its finest.

6. Cannibal Ox - Iron Galaxy
Much like Company Flow's Funcrusher Plus, Cannibal Ox's The Cold Vein changed hip-hop for me.

7. Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks

8. MGMT - Time to Pretend

9. M.I.A. - Paper Planes (Diplo Remix)

10. El-P - Tasmanian Pain Coaster

11. Aesop Rock - None Shall Pass

12. The Roots - The Seed

13. Radiohead - National Anthem

14. The Flaming Lips - Fight Test
The Flaming Lips are one of those band that I didn't find out about until She Don't Use Jelly in the early 90's. I really fell in love with their music when the Soft Bulletin came out. They cemented themselves as one of my favorite bands of all time with the concept album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. My wife and I saw them live a few years ago for my birthday. It was at the Aragon Ballroom in Uptown. It was one of the most amazing live performances I've ever seen and Fight Test is one of those songs that just hits you.

15. TV on the Radio - Wolf Like Me

16. Broken Social Scene - Fire Eye'd Boy

17. The Island - Where There's a Will There's a Whalebone

18. Kanye West - The Good Life

19. Feist - 1234

20. Lily Allen - Smile

21. El-P - Poisenville Kids No Wins

22. Jay-Z - 99 Problems

23. The Strokes - Last Night

24. Modest Mouse - Float On

25. De La Soul - He Comes

26. Radio Dept. - Your Father

27. The Boy Least Likely To - Be Gentle With Me

28. The Avalanches - Since I Met You

29. Hot Chip - Keep Fallin'

30. Belle and Sebastian - For the Price of a Cup of Tea

31. The Futureheads - Hounds of Love

32. Dead Prez - Hip-Hop

33. Postal Service - Such Great Heights

34. Common - The Light

35. Styles of Beyond - Be Your Dog

36. Kid Cudi - The Prayer

37. Talib Kweli - Get By

38. Arcade Fire - Wake Up

39. The Roots - Atonement

40. Nas - Made You Look

41. Johnny Cash - Hurt

42. Flunk - Six Seven Times

43. Cat Power - The Greatest

44. The National - Fake Empire

45. Eminem - The Way I Am

46. Weezer - Beverly Hills

47. Interpol - Slow Hands

48. The Go! Team - The Power is On

49. Von Bondies - C'Mon C'Mon

50. Dizzee Rascal - I Luv U

...and there you have it. For some reason or favorite songs of the last 10 years. I'm sure there are more but isn't 50 enough?

What are your favorite songs?

LA trip...

I'm going back to Cali...

Brief history: It has been probably 7 years since I've last been to California. We have some friends out in Los Angeles and I have family in San Diego. But it is difficult to get out that way. Two of our friends, who we stayed with this past trip, got married 4 years ago but I was unable to attend because of work. My wife went though because she was a bridesmaid.

I've always liked Los Angeles for it's diversity. Its very similar to Chicago in a way, in it's melting pot mentality. Los Angeles is like Chicago in that it is separated into ethnic neighborhoods: Thai Town, J-Town, Chinatown, Little Armenia, Little Ethiopia, etc. That's the cool part that reminded me of home. But there are plenty of parts that are bourgeois with plenty of fake-ass people walking around. Thankfully we don't run in those crowds so it isn't a problem. But similar to New York, LA is a trend setting city with lots of fashion and boutiques. And I've recently noticed it's landscape, at least the urban areas, reminded me a lot of Tampa in a strange way. But Tampa is like an eighth the size of Los Angeles. The similarities are minor: the palm trees, a sort of "rural urban" (LA's urban is not like Chicago or New York with sprawling concrete buildings and such), and it's sunny and nice, minus the humidity.

Our reason for the visit out west was because of a wedding. And my wife was a bridesmaid, yet again. I'm so glad that my wife has such awesome friends that they'd want her to be a part of their weddings. It truly is an honor. I'm usually the one that is standing up in weddings as either a groomsman, secondary sponsor or even a proxy. I was relieved I didn't have to participate in this one but glad I was there. But I'm part of an upcoming wedding in October. This time as a groomsman.

The Karate Kid...
Our flight from Orland to Los Angeles was about 5 hours give or take. But with the time change we actually gain 3 hours. I love time traveling. As per usual my dad was driving like a bat out of hell to the Orlando airport at 3:00 in the morning. I was able to sleep through it but Swan was digging her nails into the seat trying not to freak out. As we pulled up to the curb Swan let out a huge sigh of relief because we didn't die in a flaming hunk of twisted metal. Since our flight was mad early and we only had carry-on luggage, there was no waiting in line. We had already printed our boarding passes and security was a minimum. We hit up the weirdest Burger King for breakfast. It was run by some Jamaican women and involved a strange metal slot in the wall. We chow down and get to our gate with plenty of time. We both status update our boarding via our smartphone droids. I notice a dude boarding first-class who I'm pretty sure was a dude I went to high school with but I don't say anything. He looked at me and I'm sure he recognized me but didn't say anything either. Let's not make it too awkward. We get right nut and bitch seats in a 3-seat row. No left nut. It was a very comfortable flight. The Karate Kid was the in-flight movie. I figured I'd give it a shot even though I drank some mad haterade when it first came out. Plus, I love me some Jackie Chan movies. As much of a fan I am of the original Karate Kid this update was damn good. I was actually misty-eyed through most of it and I think I teared up when Jackie Chan was telling the story of his dead family. Decent film. I watched an episode of How I Met Your Mother on the flight, slept for 30 minutes total and we were landing in LA.

Fran, Dave and Jaenna in Pasadena...
We get to LA and step outside to wait for the shuttle to take us to Budget Car Rental. It was cold as hell in LA. Rewind to back at the house as we are leaving for Orlando. I asked if I should maybe pack jeans and grab my thin hoodie. Swan's like, "It's 80 degrees in Los Angeles. You won't need those." I shrug and we take off. Back to us waiting in the freezing weather waiting for the shuttle and me shooting Swans a dirty look. Luckily for us it got nicer as the fog lifted and the sun came out. We get into our rental and take off to Pasadena. Our friends were kind enough to let us stay with them for the weekend. Franny was also the wedding coordinator of our other friend whose wedding we were attending. So it worked out perfectly. Dave, Fran's husband, is an awesome friend. He's the kind of guy you can hang out with, have a few beers and just chillax with. And he's part of the LAPD so he carries a gun and gets us free parking after he flashes his badge to valets. It's awesome. Jaenna, is there 3 year old daughter who is great. I really wish we could've taken Phoenix with us because he would have had a blast with Jaenna. But considering the short trip and adults only black tie wedding (and $275 a ticket) we left him with his lola and lolo. It was his first time away from both of us. We were very sad because we knew Phoenix would've loved Los Angeles.

In and Out...
After dropping off our luggage and rental car in Pasadena, the first thing we do is get In & Out burger. I've only had it a few times in my life but it is so memorable. So damn good! Chicago has it's own cuisine and fast-food joints, which I hold dear to my heart. But I'll cheat on Portillo's with the old In & Out any day of the week. Double-Burger and fries, both animal style is a legendary fast-food meal. Animal style is something special.

We chow down our epic meal and bounce, full and extremely satisfied. Since Swan lived in LA for a short while, it was her goal to hit up all the possible food places she missed. And we tried our best to achieve that goal. We walked around Target in Pasadena for a bit before heading out to Santa Monica for the rehearsal and dinner.

Santa Monica Third Street Promenade...

We drove to the hotel to pick up some friends from Chicago who were also participating in the wedding. A little backstory. My wife, the bride and two of her friends from Chicago are all part of the K Di Phi Asian women sorority representing UIC. Although my wife backed out as a pledge the last few weeks she remained friends to this day.

We had a chance to walk around the Third Street Promenade, which was pretty cool. It is a pedestrian mall with street performers lining the sidewalks and everything. It was a cool experience. I liked walking around there so much we did it again before the wedding.

Since me and one of our Chicago friends were just husbands tagging along, we decided to chill around Santa Monica before heading out to Malibu. We hit up a meat truck by the Promenade.

It was a Korean styled meat truck but had gourmet quality food. It was epic. I've had meat truck food before but not like this. I've read about it in Time magazine a year earlier. From what I hear there has been an explosion of foodtrucks in LA and in New York. During my next travels I plan on finding them and eating them all.
We then hit up a Hooters hoping to see some college football games among other things. Turns out their satellites were down so we just had a pitcher of beer and headed to the Adamson House.

The wedding itselt took place at The Adamson House in Malibu just up the Pacific Coast Highway. If you haven't taken a drive up PCH, I recommend that you do. It is very scenic and beautiful. The Adamson House is an old Spanish styled villa just off of the beach with crashing waves as background noise. It was an amazing wedding. Probably the coolest (other then my own wedding) wedding I've ever been too. I guess that's LA for you.
Short version:
The wedding itself: under a gigantic old as hell tree, dinner was amazing and consisted of a side of spicy mac and cheese, red velvet cupcakes, friends, Citrus College Band/music, OPEN BAR, Swan as a bridesmaid, Remy as a beautiful bride, The epic port-a-john, Filipino Suited Up!, etc.

After the wedding we did some driving around Hollywood and Los Filez before heading back to Pasadena.

Legendary Cathedral in downtown LA, cool facts, awesome murals.

good to see Tita Tess, Tito Castor, and Father Francis
Thai Town
meeting up with Haze and her cool boyfriend (coachella, film editing, bees, oh my!)
walking around Thai plaza
walking around Melrose
going to the Filipino Mall


the weather
My Urlacher Jersey
the flight home
going to work with absolutely no sleep...

Monday, September 20, 2010


"It is going to be legend...wait for it...dary! What up? High five!"
-Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother

I'm pretty sure I'm super addicted to this show and have sad feelings about it's future ending. As a birthday gift my wife got me Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD. She knew I enjoyed the show, only watching it a handful of times in the last 5 years due to my teaching most nights of the week (the other CBS show I've been missing out on is The Big Bang Theory). But now I'm enjoying the show the way I like enjoying TV shows. Not by weekly piece-meal but in episodic droves.

I prefer to watch things as a whole as opposed to 30 minutes at a time. HIMYM needs to be watched as a whole. You can really enjoy the epicness, dare I say, the legendary quality of the show.

I'm not going to wax intellectual about the show since others already have and continue to do so.

"Haaaaave you met Ted?"
-Barney Stinson

The above URL is an awesome blog dedicated to HIMYM so check it out if you're at all interested in the show. It is epic.

My feelings toward the show are nostalgic if anything. I can connect, as I'm sure many viewers can, because that core group of friends is similar to my friends I grew up with in Chicago. The fortunate part is me and my wife are the closest equivalents to LAME, Lily Aldrin and Marshall Erickson. We are the couple that have been together forever (topic of another future blog) and we were the first to get married, get a house and to have kids, er, kid. Plenty of the gang's misadventures can somehow be related to things my friends and I have done in our lives together. I can't really think of any off hand but future edits will ensue in, well, the future.

The other reason I can connect to the show is the edgy and witty humor as well as the plenty of sophomoric and perverted jokes. In a nutshell, the writing is spot on to my kind of humor. Basic dick and fart joke writing blended with heartstring romantic comedy plotlines make for my kind of sitcom. Barney is the best character written in a long time. I don't really condone his womanizing at all but his sense of humor is freaking hilarious. I laugh out loud constantly when Barney is in on the conversation. NPH does a great job of making that character memorable and quoteable.

The edgy writing style makes for the other reason I enjoy the show. HIMYM, to me and my wife, similar to another show we grew up watching, obviously Friends, minus one other girl friend. The comparisons are limitless and I'm sure are discussed on some other blog (I'll have to find it one day). But my wife and I connected to friends because it was always part of the cultural zietgeist of our generation and again, it reminded us of our group of friend we grew up with. But this time we were Monica and Chandler. The huge difference in connecting to Friend and HIMYM is we are the same exact age range as the HIMYM gang as opposed to the Friends, er, friends. As Friends debuted my wife and I were in junior high school. As we got older and the Friend got older, we could connect on the relationships and even the professional side, but they were always 10 to 13 years our senior. The HIMYM group is exactly our age and all the jokes to the past I can relate to. Lily had her prom and graduated high school in 1996. My wife and I and all our close friends graduated between 1995 to 1998. In that prom episode Lily had Mia Wallace haircut. Mia Wallace of Pulp Fiction fame, which was a cultural phenomenon for my generation. And her date looked like Kurt Cobain, one of the musical icons of my generation. The fact that the HIMYM guys are the same age as me and my friends really helped to create that connection.

Obviously all the little cultural references are fantastic as well. Quantum Leap, Pulp Fiction, Laser Tag, all the music from the Violent Femmes to Otis Redding references, references to The Pixes and Sonic Youth, Marshall doing the robot, all the epic catchphrases, Nirvana, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ghost, the list just goes on and on. Those little things really make up the show for me.

As for the catchphrases...

We just got back from California this morning. We attended an awesome Malibu wedding (which I'll blog about next and all that was LA). The invites said "Cocktail Attire". I'm too lazy to wear an uncomfortable suit. Since our friend getting married is Filipina I went with the traditional Filipino formal dress, the barong.

Swan and I were on the dancefloor rocking to the epic band from Citrus College (again, I will blog about in the Cali blog). She observed that I was the only one wearing a Barong. I replied as the nerd that I am, "I Filipino SUITED UP!!!"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I'm leaving on a jet plane...

...don't know when I'll be back again.

So I'm starting this blog because my family has been uprooted to Florida. I'll start there and explain our reasons for leaving Chicago.

First off, I'm a Chicago kid, born and raised. Born in the city and rasied in the suburbs. But I've spent plenty of time in the city. Went to college downtown. Lived in Printer's Row for a while. My wife and some of my best friends graduated from University of Illinois - Chicago. We used to party in the city, go to shows, shop, chill, the Taste, ride our bikes, visit different neighborhoods, etc. Living in Illinois and Chicago was a fantastic part of my life. It was my life up until a few months ago.

Before I go any regrets.

I'm near my baby and my baby. That's what's important to me.

I'm jumping ahead.

After 7 years of marriage and trying a few times to get pregnant (the last few pregnancies were nightmarish, but I'll save for another time or maybe never) we finally did get pregnant. In August of 2008 our son Phoenix was born! He is amazing by the way. BEST. KID. EVER. Every parent thinks that of their own childern. :)

So we now have this amazing son and my wife's parents are enjoying him like crazy. We're enjoying being first time parents. It's all great. Problem is that my parents are all the way in Florida. Not able to enjoy their first and only grandson that they've been praying for because they are a 1000 miles away. They come to visit and help us organize the Baptism and stuff but they hate having to leave to go back to Florida. During Christmas and New Year's, my boss at the time was cool enough to let me take like 2.5 weeks off, WITH PAY (why I left the job... ::shakes head::)!!! We spend a long time down there and it is amazing. We love the weather, the beaches, all of that. The idea of moving down to Florida is implanted in our brains! We even check out a few homes for sale.

After our little two week tryst with Florida we head home to a wintery Chicago. Don't get me wrong. I love the Winter season but it was cold as balls then. I remember that winter vividly because it was the winter that my favorite aunt passed (RIP, save for another blog). After a few months pass and Spring has sprung, all the ideas of Florida have passed. Chicago in the Spring time is a beautiful time. We get to take Phoenix out in the warm sun, play at the park, stroll the neighbor, explore the city with him, it's an amazing time.

Phoenix's first birthday rolls around and my folk fly up to Chicago for a few weeks to help plan and prepare for their only grandchild's first birthday! My folks love birthdays. I can remember as a child always celebrating my birthday. September is a huge month for my family. My brother, mother, wife and myself all have September birthdays we celebrate. Also my wife's best friend, a few cousins and my grandmother are all September as well. Ironically Phoenix's birthday is in August.

My parents enjoy their grandson for a few weeks and again are completely crushed because they have to leave him. We even Skype a few times a week to help with the missing of the grandson. The Skype just isn't enough.

Fast forward to Christmas time. My boss is very generous once again and I get to take 17 days off around Christmas and New Years. Phoenix is a year older so he can enough it a lot more. We spend our vacation there and even go on a short Caribbean cruise. We have a blast. Florida is once again awesome to us.

Rewind a month...

Phoenix was born a very small baby, only like 5.5 pounds at full gestation. As he grew and got older he was way off the growth chart. The doctor's chucked it up to being a small kid and being of Asian descent, going to be a little small. Phoenix loses his appetite and started getting sick a lot. Our pediatrician recommended us taking him to a stomach specialist. That run some bloodtests and it turns out he has a low neutrafil count. Neutrafils (sp?) are a particular white blood cell that helps to fight off infection. He was considered neutropenic because his counts were constantly low. He was in danger of getting sick constantly and he was for a while.

We  finally bring him to a Hope Children's Hospital to see a blood specialist. He confirms the neutropenia and says if Phoenix's temp ever gets above 101.00 that we should bring him into the ER at Christ/Hope.

Back to Florida now...

Our vacation was a blast. We got to spend Christmas with all my family down there and my folks just adore the babaganoush. Who wouldn't. The kid kicks ass. But, our trip comes to an end and we have to go back to snowy Chicago. A day after we get back home Phoenix has a temp of 101.something. We freak out and rush him to Hope. It's the worst experience we've ever had, for Phoenix and for us. He has to get repeatedly stuck with needles for IVs and gets admitted for three days. He is considered high risk because of the neutropenia that we are basically in a bubble for the entire time we are at the hospital.

This actually happens two more times early this year. The second time he luckily doesn't have to get admitted at Hope and the third time my wife follows her gut instinct and we don't bother driving 45 minutes to Hope. Instead we bring him to St. Joseph's, which is only 10 minutes from our house. Lucky for us they literally just opened a new Children's ER two days before we come. It is a fantastic experience. The NP was amazing and told us that Phoenix low blood counts could just be cyclical and are low only because he is just getting over a cold. And it turns out that Phoenix had both the flu and swine flu. Damn. After that visit we get tired of hospitals but are relieved that his "condition" may not be as bad as we feared.

My wife had also finished nursing school right before we visited Florida for Christmas. When we got back and Phoenix got sick it was difficult for her to devote time to the job hunt. After three or four months of sending out resumes she gets fed up. I don't blame her. There were hiring freezes in Chicago and an over abundance of new graduate nurses. The field was competitive in Illinois. As a joke, she sent her resume to Lakeland Regional in Florida. We had always joked about moving to Florida but suddenly it became more of a reality. From this point everything moves lightning fast.

Phoenix and Sawanee spend a month in Florida while Sawanee interviews and waits to hear about the job. During this time Phoenix is just thriving. He is gaining weight, eating a lot, and just growing rapidly. It turns out he is not only back on the growth curve but well into the 50th percentile. While back home in Chicago he was barely in the 0.5 percentile. Florida seems to agree with him.

Sawanee gets the job working as a Trauma Nurse. Her first interview and she nails it. Unbeliveable. That kicked it into overdrive. A month later we are driving her down to Florida to start work. And Phoenix is with her. Meaning I'm all alone back home in Chicago working.

Again, luckily within a month we find renters for our home in Chicago and I get a job at the first place I interview with (topic for another time of course)! Two weeks later I'm a Floridian!

Later, I'll discuss what I left behind and what's ahead!

Til next time...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Proper introductions...

"Hey, I don't have all the answers. In life, to be honest, I've failed as much as I have succeeded. But I love my life. I love my wife. And I wish you my kind of success." - Dicky Fox, from Jerry Maguire

Success is a difficult word to quantify. If I look back at my life I'd like to think I'm successful. Life has sure thrown me curveballs. There have been plenty of ups and downs. But as the quote says, I love my wife, I love my life and I wish you my kind of success.

What is that success?

**incoming introduction**

To properly introduce myself I figure I should talk about my life, which is about to get one more year longer tomorrow September 13th. I also want to talk about why I started this blog.

First, my life. In a nutshell: married to my childhood sweetheart, have an amazing two-year old son, just moved from Chicago to central Florida, near Tampa and Orlando, I'm very close to my family and friends, I love art, graphic design, anything related to art and design, I love to draw and come up with new ideas, I am an artist and work as a Graphic Designer in the marketing industry, I was once a teacher of art (I consider that period of my professional career, working 5 years as a teacher, as the best working time in my life so far) that I gave up to move to Florida, I've started game designing (not video games but CCGs, the topic of more blogs I'm sure), I'm an avid CCG player, I love writing, drawing, movies, music, dogs, football, fantasy football, and...can't really think of much. But I'm sure as I continue this blog, IF I can upkeep this blog, I'll be writing on all the aforementioned topics because...

Why did I start this blog?

I figure I'm living in a new town, new state, working in a new city, all my friends are 1300 miles away, why not blog to help me vent on life? Sure. Okay. I'm going to upkeep this thing for as long as I can. There are plenty of new adventures waiting here in our new surroundings! We have already actively searched many of them out. Like what you ask? We swam with mantees and dolphins. On accident. We were at the beach and BAM!!! There they were. Just 10-15 feet away. Stuff like that.

So I'll just blog about the new stuff that's been happening to me and my family as we begin our new lives in sunny Florida. I probably could have done this back home in Chicago but I was busy with a life. Here in Florida my life has shrunk. So I have time. Who knows? Maybe I'll blog about making each of the dishes from Julia Child's cookbook and then write a book! Then maybe they'll make it into a movie!!! Right.

Honestly, one of my ex-students who became a pretty good friend linked me to his blog. I thought it was cool so WTF. Here I am.

Topics of discussion:
Living in Florida!
The Beach
Back to the Grind
Starting my own business
Graphic Design
Magic the Gathering
What I did over the weekend

...crap like that. Not very interesting...

or is it?

So why is my Blog named Funcrusher Plus?

Honestly, it's a badass sounding name. No lie. It just sounds cool right? Right. It's the title of Company Flow debut and their only LP. CoFlo is a hardcore urban rap group from NYC circa late 90's. I liken the title to my old habit of being a realist. Sometimes I'm like Debbie Downer from SNL. I keep it real. I tell it how it is. Sometimes it crushes the fun. It crushes dreams. Although, I vowed to change my mentality and outlook on life. I've chosen to be sunnier! I'm in the Sunshine state after all!

So yeah...Funcrusher Plus.

You can Twitter follow me at cpa13 too if you want. And FB and Myspace if if you'd like.

My kid is stacking stools on top of the coffee table trying to play Cirque de Soleil. Before he breaks his neck let me finish my earlier thought.

Back to the quote. What is success?

I've had just as many failures in life as I have successes. But I've learned from my mistakes and my failings. Failing probably helped me to succeeded. I've grown. I've learned. One of my great successes has been sharing my life with my best friend, my partner in crime, my heart, my love. I love my wife. Maybe I don't say it enough. Maybe I don't show it enough. But, I really do. She is a wonderful girl. A fantastic mother. I love her with all my heart. Which brings me to major success number 2. Our son, Phoenix, is freaking amazing!!! He just brightens my world. Sometimes there are days where he drives me crazy but I chalk it up to growing pains (used to love that show). I basically try to be the best husband and father I can be. I try to be a good son. I try to be a good person to everyone that is in my life. If you can just try to do that, to be good, then you can put that in the win column.

I wish you my kind of success.

Until season started this week. We don't have the NFL station so we can't watch the Bears get owned by the Lions. AND the friggin Bucs are blacked out!!! WTF is wrong with Florida. All kidding aside...I'm going to watch the afternoon and evening games. Swans works tonight so it's just me and the Babaganoush.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Renaissance Day...

"Why can't you be in a good mood? How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood and be in a good mood once in a while?" – Lloyd Dobler

Yeah so this is my blog. My first time having one (does Myspace blogging count?). I don't know how long I'll upkeep this for but I figure...WTF right? I'm living in a new town and working in a new city. Me and my family uprooted our Chicago roots for central Florida. Things are different. I'm totally out of my comfort zone. A few weeks back I said, "Yes! It's not that difficult." to the aforementioned quote. But today I got kicked in the nuts, metaphorically speaking.

So I'm working in a new job and it's fine other then the fact there is no employee morale or anything for employees for that matter. Sometimes there is no toilet paper or paper towels. Yikes! Back to getting kicked in the nuts and why today is a Renaissance Day for me. Also, keep in mind a few things: A. I write poorly – I write like I talk, and 2. I think so many different things at once that all my thoughts are disjointed and strung together. Graduate school taught me nothing about writing (that's not true).

I'm at this new job for 6 weeks and my co-worker, the person that is showing me the ropes and all of that, just ups and quits! She left me alone in this pre-press/design hellhole!!! I don't blame her though. She was getting tons of flack from upper-management. Ugh. I just had this overwhelming feeling of sadness like I wish I was back home working at my old job and still teaching all my wonderful students.

Why is this a Renaissance Day for me?

I realize the situation sucks. I'm new to a job in a new city with no backup working for a dude that doesn't wholly appreciate his employees. It doesn't matter. I'm going to look at the brighter side of things. Go against my normal cynical and pessimistic nature. I'm going to choose to be in a good mood!!! 

I got my health (which isn't sparkling but I'm working on it). I got my wonderful wife who loves and supports me. I have an awesome son, Phoenix, who just turned two years old and always says he's scared of giraffes and lizards. I have my two amazing parents whom, without them, I just wouldn't have made it. And we are all living under one household until Sawanee and I can get enough scratch to get our own place, which is hopefully sooner rather then later. Also, we are close to tons of my cousins and Phoenix's cousins and other family.

Back to the job situation. Right now it sucks, sure. But it will get better. I'm already getting tons of work finished, yet I still have more to do today. I just don't want to be pissed or angry or sad or down any longer. I choose to be happy! I choose to be in a good mood! That's my Renaissance Day. From this day forward I'm gonna be better, happier.

"The rain on my car is a baptism, the new me, Ice Man, Power Lloyd, my assault on the world begins now." – Lloyd Dobler.

I'm going to be quoting movies a ton. That's one of my things. Movie quotes. For a lot of guys I'm sure. It's a guy thing. Actually, I'm going to quote a movie every time I post a blog. That'll be my thing (i'm sure some other dude is doing the same thing thinking he's original). And I'm pretty sure the film Say Anything can relate to almost anything in life.

I'll give a proper introduction another day. I just wanted to get that off of my chest. The whole work situation and me choosing to be in a good mood. Until next time, whenever that is...