Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Good Week: The Game, The Movie and Home Work

What a game!

We are Seahawks fans. I have been since '78, and Tori became a fan after she moved to the Northwest in the '80s. There has been little enough for fans to cheer about for decades, so their success of the last couple of years is all the sweeter. Seattle fans aren't bandwagon jumpers or fair weather friends. We've earned the right to crow a little.

And that was never more true than Sunday's game, sort of a microcosm of the whole long-term fan's experience.

Those who were watching Sunday's NFC championship game against the Packers know how it went. The game started great, with Richard Sherman intercepting a pass in the end zone. It was going to be easy.

But it wasn't. The Seahawk offense was awful that day. Awful. QB Russell Wilson couldn't hit anyone, and when he did they tipped it up and it was picked off. The running game wasn't moving. It was hard to watch. But the defense kept coming after the Packers, giving up yards but forcing field goals instead of allowing touchdowns. So we were still in it, but time was running out.

Tori was glum, and I was nervous. I literally cannot recall them ever playing that badly, not just in their recent successful years, but even back during the bad days when the owner seemed to be intentionally making the team bad so local fans wouldn't object when he moved them to Los Angeles. Tori kept asking, "Can they do it?" and I kept saying, "Yes," but I was getting a bad feeling that this wasn't going to be a happy day. But we stayed with it, rooting for the impossible.

Because that's what fans do. You root for your team no matter what. You stand by them in the darkest hours. It's your job. I know something about being a long-term fan of a hopeless team. I was born a Cubs fan, son of a Cubs fan who was the son of a Cubs fan. My grandfather, who I never met, was the last in the line of Baurs to actually see the Cubs win the World Series, back in 1908. It's been 106 years since then. One of my earliest sports memories is the '69 Cubs. Enough said.

So on Sunday we waited, and kept hoping against hope. I'm not going to do a whole play by play. If you care, you already know, if you don't – well, you don't. But it was the most magnificent, amazing, impossible and exhilarating finale I've ever seen. We were on our feet shouting. And when Kearse rolled into the end zone with the overtime touchdown pass that won the game, we literally screamed. It was the most amazing high I've ever felt.

I dare say if the team hadn't been misfiring so badly all day, if they'd battled the Packers without trying to gift wrap the game for them, if they'd just gone out and won, I'd have been very happy. But that would have been nothing compared to the giddy dancing feeling of that impossible win. If we hadn't been so downcast, hadn't been staring into the face of certain defeat, we couldn't have been thrown into the heights the way we were by the performance of 53 men – who we'll never meet – playing a game 1,500 miles or so away.

You've got to accept the possibility of heartache to get the chance for total exhilaration.

Go 'Hawks!


Tori and I saw "The Imitation Game" Friday. Really good movie and Benedict Cumberbatch was as brilliant as I'd been told to expect. It was a story I was familiar with. I'd first heard of Alan Turing and Ultra when I read "Bodyguard of Lies," Alan Cave Brown's 1975 history of Britain's secret war against the Third Reich, and had read it many more times since, most recently in "Cryptonomicon," a novel about many, many things including code breaking and Turing and Ultra and computers and Greek gods and the ultimate way to eat Cap'n Crunch cereal.

So we enjoyed a compelling movie about both the ultimate coup against the Nazis and the enigmatic genius who pulled it off and the tragedy of his life. A very layered, brilliant performance by Cumberbatch.

But as good as it was, it mostly just reminded me of how much greater "Birdman" is. We saw that on Christmas week, and my god, it's an amazing movie that works on so many different levels. Michael Keaton is phenomenal, best performance I've seen in years, certainly the best he's ever given. It's an actor's movie, an astonish tour de force for a great cast. The direction and the cinematography are incredible. It's not the kind of movie that wins a lot of awards, but I cannot remember a better, more compelling movie, ever.

Home work

Spent Thursday up to my elbows in the dryer. Of course, no one wants any appliance to go wrong, but if anything does, you want it to be the dryer.

A dryer does only two things – it blows hot air on a turning drum. That's it. For all the fancy stuff they add, the computer chips and the filters and the lights and buzzers, all it really does is blow hot air on a turning drum. And there's only four major parts to make that happen – the drum, a belt, the motor and the heating unit. So it's pretty easy to diagnose a problem. If the drum isn't turning, it's the motor, belt or drum. If the air it blows isn't hot, it's the heating element. That's it. Except ...

But this time the air was still hot, and the drum turned. But last week when the drum turned, it sounded like a cement mixer, like it was about to shake itself apart. So Thursday I started taking it apart, piece by piece.

I went slow, because I wasn't absolutely certain what I was doing. That's what made it so fun. I had the front and back off and couldn't see anything wrong. Nothing stuck in there that should have been, no loose belt (Tori, by the way, first put in that belt two and a half years ago when we moved in here) or spring hanging down that obviously should have been connected to something else.

I peered inside with a flashlight, everything looked OK, but clearly wasn't. It still rumbled away like a bulldozer every time I turned the motor over.

I paused between each step, consulting various youtube DIY videos and thinking very hard between each step. What should I do next and was I capable of doing it?

I finally pulled the drum and everything looked OK until I reached all the way back and spun the drum rollers, the two little wheels on axles bolted to the back that support the drum as it revolves. One of them was obviously broken, the hub broken out.

A quick trip to the appliance store (no, not Sears) and I was back with a replacement part. It took about another hour to pull the whole thing back together. When Tori got home, she didn't even realize the dryer was running.

The one frustrating thing – and boy was it frustrating – was that as I took the front and back off, etc., I dropped the screws in my pocket. There were twelve half-inch screws with 5/16 inch machine heads and two screws with Phillips heads. And almost every time I reached into my pocket for a machine-head screw, almost every single time, I pulled out one of the two Phillips heads. And of course, those were the last two I would need.

So yeah, I felt pretty good. It had taken me hours longer than it would have someone who knows what they're doing and does it often. But like the man said, to the man who owns a wrench and knows how to use it, it's just a puzzle. I own a wrench – a lot of them, actually, way more than I need, but that's a different story – and solving the puzzle took a lot longer.

But the dryer works. Not sure it means much, but it felt good to do, and was part of a very good week.

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