Friday, March 27, 2009

Taking A Yoga Class: A Nevin Barich Blog Experience

I hate yoga. I tried it once with my fiancee Ramona for 10 minutes on a tape, and I figured out something about myself:

I don't bend.

So why did I recently agree to go with Ramona to a Saturday afternoon yoga class? Honestly, I don't know. I didn't do anything to make her angry, I had plenty of brownie points from past good deeds, and it's not like me not going would've put a permanent dent in the relationship.

And yet I went. To make her happy.

I'm a wonderful, wonderful guy.


So off we go:


We get to the yoga studio. What does the sign outside the building say?


Makes sense.


Here's something you realize early on in the class: Everything has weird-sounding, 18-syllable names. "Crouching-lounging-tubba-wabba-maca-wakie-anna-cabana-pose" means lie down.

Is there a reason why we can't teach in English? Is this against yoga code?


Exactly how does one breathe through the torso? Everyone seems to be handling this particular instruction from the teacher pretty easily but me. Apparently, it involves spreading your legs, sucking in your gut, pointing your elbows, and making some sort of whistling sound.

Can someone tell me what the hell this is supposed to achieve?


Why does this teacher feel the need to give a 10-minute speech while I'm holding a half push-up pose? It's hard enough trying to keep my arms steady with my butt halfway in the air, but having to listen to someone talk about "walking down the path to inner sanctuary" is really not helping things any.

"Inner sanctuary." Sounds boring. Like visiting Arkansas.


OK, we're halfway through this 90-minute class and I'm ready to die. I work out regularly and thus am in pretty good shape, but right now I am swaying back and forth with my left knee pointing straight and my right knee pointing northeast to find "harmony in the soul of the spirit" or something or other.

I really want to crouch-lounge-tubba-wabba-maca-wakie-anna-cabana.


This poor teacher. She's come to me 5-6 times to try to correct my poses and we're just not on the same page. She wants me to move my hip forward, and at this point I have no idea what "forward" is. Plus, my knee was bent (yes, I'm bending now) and I didn't even know it and she wanted me to not bend my knee and I thought I wasn't bending my knee but I was bending my knee because I couldn't feel my knee.

And I'm still not moving my hip forward.


We're back to doing the crouching-lounging-tubba-wabba-maca-wakie-anna-cabana-pose and we're being asked to "see out of our third eye."



Lord almighty, we're ohming. Seriously. We are saying "ohm." Not once, not twice, but three times. What possible purpose can this serve? And how is everybody doing this with a straight face?

And you know what else is weird? I'm really bad at ohming. I just don't have the vocal cords for a good ohm. Is it a cultural thing? Did I not have the proper ohm upbringing? Is there a separate ohm class taught here that I can take to improve my skills?



That means we're done.

Expect I can't stop crouching-lounging-tubba-wabba-maca-wakie-anna-cabana-posing.

And my knees remain numb.

Did my hip ever move forward?

Someone should check.


And now for this week's:


At my work earlier this week, our coffee maker broke.

Now I don't drink coffee, so for me this goes under the "who gives a damn category." But you should see the coffee addicts at my work. You'd have thought the world was coming to an end. Every day now starts with them on a mass exodus to Starbucks. They all walk in a line, like sheep.

Or folks in a prison line.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Two Words: March Madness: A Nevin Barich Blog Experience

OK, I'll just say this right now: If you don't like sports, you won't like this week's blog. You'll be bored, roll your eyes, sigh a lot, and that's before you get to paragraph 3. So just go to another Web site and tune in next week when I'll write about going to yoga (more on that later).

For those of you who are living under a rock -- and in today's economy, that may be more people than we think -- this week was the beginning of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, where 65 of the top college basketball teams in the nation compete in a single-elimination tournament and people like me fill out brackets trying to figure out who is going to win each game, following the games online at work, watching nothing but basketball at home, ignoring our friends, loved ones and co-workers for three weeks, etc.

It's fun.

It's exciting.

It feels like life and death.

And you can win lots of money.

And that's why they call it March Madness. :-)

Now, last year I did a running diary of the first two days of the tournament. But this year, there was something different that I just couldn't ignore:

Cal State Northridge.

CSUN, my alma mater, was in the tournament for only the second time in school history, facing a Memphis team ranked No. 2 in the nation and favored by many to reach the Final Four. It's rare that my school gets a shot on the national stage, so I made an executive blog decision:

This year -- while writing about trying to follow the games at work, interacting with friends who also have many brackets, and dealing with idiotic questions from co-workers who have no idea what a basketball is -- I would focus my blog entirely on the few hours that my Matadors (CSUN's mascot) were in the spotlight.

It's 8:30 a.m. Thursday morning. Let March Madness begin.

(note: Names of certain people have been changed to ensure privacy. And if anyone from my company's management team is reading this, I got all my work done that day. In fact, everything I'm writing is fiction. Fiction, I say. I remain a model employee.)

8:32 a.m.

Me to my co-worker Timothy:


He rolls his eyes. It's going to be a long morning for Tim.

8:46 a.m.

Phone conversation with my dad, a fellow CSUN graduate:

Me: Dad, we're gonna get destroyed, aren't we?

Dad: If we can just keep it to 15 points, I'll be happy.

Ah, the eternal optimism of old people. They've lived long enough on this Earth to see some sport of athletic miracle happen and thus make us think that we have a chance to win (or in this case, keep it respectable). But the fact is: Memphis is a powerhouse, predicted by many to reach the Final Four and maybe win it all. CSUN's team is full of junior college rejects, thugs and the requisite 7-foot-tall white guy who is only on the team because he's 7-feet tall and can't even take his warmup pants off without tripping, let alone play basketball.

9:01 a.m.

A statement from my co-worker Amy:

Did you know that the Angels are 15-4 in spring training this year?

This brings me to:

March Madness Etiquette Rule #1: On the first day of March Madness, NO OTHER SPORT MATTERS!! Baseball, football, hockey, even my beloved boxing: These all take a backseat to college hoops. When you see a guy with half-a-dozen brackets practically jumping out of his chair every 12 seconds because he's itching for March Madness to start, you can't mess with his mind by letting him know that other things around him exist.

Bad form, Amy. Bad form.

9:14 a.m.

I send a text message to my friend Joe, a fellow March Madness obsessor:

Me: CSUN only has two starters over 6-4. Memphis doesn't have a starter under 6-5. Hold me, Joseph.

9:16 a.m.

Joe's reply:

Um...hold you where? There's certain body parts of yours I won't touch. On principle.

9:24 a.m.


Which broughts the following reply from co-worker Amy:

It's going to be a long hour and a half.

9:27 a.m.

(Note: Because I was at work and because I couldn't download the live game video on my computer, I followed the CSUN-Memphis game on ESPN Stattracker)

CSUN is up 2-0!!!

Text message to Joe:

They can't say we never led.

9:28 a.m.

CSUN is up 7-2!!!

Amy: Are you going to be like this the entire game?

This brings me to:

March Madness Etiquette Rule # 2: If you're not an obsessed March Madness person, you are allowed one -- and only one -- snide comment per day. If you recall, Amy already had her "it's going to be a long hour and a half" comment earlier in the morning. That's all you get. Any more snide remarks is just plain mean and spiteful.

9:32 a.m.

CSUN is up 11-4!!! And I officially have my "hold on to the one positive thing" moment; the moment a sports fan gets when his team is playing the underdog role and has found something he can always remember if his team ends up getting blown out.

For me, CSUN was up by 7 in this game. So even if we spontaneously combust right now, I can hold on to that moment for all eternity and remind myself that the game wasn't all bad.

9:36 a.m.

Memphis ties it up. TV timeout, according to ESPN, so I run into the hallway and call my dad, who works from home and is thus watching the game.

Me: I know it's tied. How we lookin'?

Dad: Well...we're scoring a lot, but now so are they.


Me: Dad, I can get such deep analysis watching the numbers update. But how do they look? What's the feeling you get? Have we come to play? Do our uniforms look good on TV? Do we look like we belong? Is the court shiny? I can't watch the game. Jesus, give me something!!

Dad:'s tied...


When it comes to March Madness, it's not just the players who have to come prepared. It's the fans. You need to know every detail of every game that's currently going on, in real time, because inevitably some crazy fan will ask you some random thing about some random game, and it's incumbent upon you -- as a March Madness enthusiast and as a man (that's right: I said it) -- to answer his ridiculous question.


Last year, Joe asked me what the mascot was for Western Kentucky. Why? I don't know. But I didn't ask him why. I didn't judge him. Because when it comes to March Madness, no detail is too small, no March Madness-related question too ridiculous to ask. And did I know the answer? Of course!! It was the Hilltoppers. Now, what's a hilltopper? I don't have the first %$#@%$$# clue!! But it's March Madness, damn it!! You need to know these things.

Me: Hey Dad, news flash: March Madness has begun. GET YOUR GAME FACE ON!!!

9:50 a.m.

The game is back and forth. Every time Memphis tries to break it open, CSUN answers back.

E-mail from my friend Michelle, a former classmate of mine from CSUN and who has let March Madness into her soul for one day.

Oh my God!! It's so close!! We can do it!!

And this brings me to one of the inevitable tragedies of March Madness:

See, March Madness has the power to affect anybody, from the biggest fan to the most curious random observer. In the case of Michelle, she hadn't followed CSUN all year, but when she found out her school was on the big stage, she found her Matador pride and decided to live life-and-death with the rest of us.

But here-in lies the problem: Such a fan doesn't realize that, deep down, we won't win this game. At some point, Memphis will make a run. At some point, CSUN will run out of gas. You've seen it in sports too many times. Inevitably, the better team finds a way to win, and the underdog team is left to find the moral victory in all of this. I have prepared myself for this moment, but I know Michelle -- and others like her -- have not.

I know Michelle will be OK. Still, I wish I could spare her some of the sorrow....

10:15 a.m.

CSUN down 34-31 at the half.

For reference: Every sports expert expected Memphis to be up by 20-25 points at this point. I rarely believe in morale victories, but today, I got mine.

10:17 a.m.

In the span of two minutes, I have received 16 e-mails, texts and phone calls from friends all essentially saying the same thing:


March Madness: Feel the love. :-)

10:37 a.m.

In games like these, the better team -- Memphis -- typically makes adjustments and blows the game open. But guess what? It ain't happenin'!! CSUN just will not go away!! Every Memphis lay-up is answered by a CSUN jumper. Every Memphis 3-pointer is countered by another CSUN bomb!!

I look up at the ceiling, the March Madness basketball Gods high above, the ones that decide when to create such a miracle...

...and I start to wonder...

10:56 a.m.

OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!! CSUN IS UP 62-56 WITH 10 MINUTES TO GO!!!!!

And it's official:

I now believe we can win.

I have given up all reason, all rationality. No more "I just want to keep it respectable." I want a victory. I want to pull off the upset of upsets. I want to scream and shout and rub in everyone's faces that my school -- MY SCHOOL!!!! -- is the best in the land for a day. C'mon CSUN!! God damn it, C'MON!!!!

10:56 a.m.

With CSUN up 6, I give Timothy a big bearhug across his shoulders. That brings me to:

March Madness Etiquette Rule # 3: All physical contact between men is allowed during March Madness. It's OK. Perfectly acceptable. During March Madness, no one looks at you funny if a man embraces another man in the thrill of victory or agony of defeat. For the power of March Madness can only be truly felt if you let down your walls.

11:02 a.m.

Timothy has figured out how to get the live video of the game!!! And we get it just in time to see a CSUN player do this ridiculously sweet spin move to put the Matadors back up by 3!!!

Television announcer: "SPIN BABY SPIN!!"

I start to spin.

11:04 a.m.

Instant messenger conversation between me and my co-worker Rachel:

Me: CSUN is winning!!

Rachel: CSUN? Do they even have an athletic department?

Now, here's what pisses me off about this conversation: Rachel went to UCLA. And I -- although a CSUN grad -- grew up cheering for USC, UCLA's rival. So I know that Rachel's little snide comment stems from our USC-UCLA rivalry.

This brings me to:

March Madness Etiquette Rule # 4: Put past grudges aside. Any trash talking during March Madness has to stem from the games at hand. You're not allowed to make any comments where the root of such comments stems from something irrelevant to March Madness.

See, if Rachel had picked Memphis to win it all, then fine. Her CSUN crack is justified. Because it has to do with the March Madness game at hand. But she didn't. Hell, she's not even in a pool!! Her comment stemmed from the fact that I love USC -- who isn't even playing right now -- and her UCLA heart can't stand to see a USC fan like me happy.

That's why UCLA fans are stupid.

11:12 a.m.

And finally...the inevitable. Memphis has retaken the lead. And unlike earlier, CSUN won't get it back. Although CSUN would keep it close, cutting the lead to four with 2:30 to go, Memphis would hit a 3-pointer 30 seconds later to go up by seven, and that was essentially all she wrote.

Final score: Memphis 81, CSUN 70.

A couple of final thoughts:

---After work, I went back home and watched the game (I had recorded it). And you know it? It was still awesome!! My school -- for one game -- was legitimate, playing with heart, determination, swagger. And even though I knew what the result was, I still went crazy on every big play we made. It was that cool.

---I got some words of wisdom in the form of an e-mail from my friend Kevin, who also went to CSUN with me:

We may have lost today, but you know what? We represented. We went toe-to-toe with one of the best in the land, and for that we should be proud. This is not a sad day, this is a happy day. Hold your head up high.

My eyes got a little misty when I read that.

It's OK.

It's March Madness.

Emotion is allowed.


And now for this week's:


A preview of next week's blog:

Last weekend, I went to a yoga class.

Where one is asked to breathe through their torso and see out of their third eye.



Saturday, March 14, 2009

Wearing Sweatpants On The Job: A Nevin Barich Blog Experience

Earlier this week, I woke up with a nasty sore throat and was forced to work from home. Working from home is much different from working in the office. It's quieter, sometimes harder to get motivated, even borderline lonely.

But at least I got to wear sweatpants!! :-)

If you're like me, you work in an office that forces you to wear bottom-half attire featuring a fastening button. Whether it's jeans, dress pants or skirts (do skirts have fastening buttons? ???), you have to put something on underneath your belly button that doesn't include an elastic waist.

And personally, I think that's just plain wrong.

Working from home the other day really opened my eyes. Even though I was sick, tired and every inch of me preferred to crawl back into bed and wait for sedatives to kick in, I found myself being extremely productive. Big tasks, little tasks, out-of-the-blue tasks, it didn't matter. Here I was, sucking cough drops by the handful, blowing through my work like wind through a desert.

And I owe it all to my sweatpants with holes in my pockets.

You see, I was comfortable. I'm not a big guy, but let's face it: Big or small, we all feel restricted in work pants. In work pants, it's hard to move your legs in a sitting position. In sweatpants, your legs sway like a deer running the woods. In work pants, it's a littler harder to "sit down and get up, sit down and get up." In sweatpants, you can practically jump from one position to the other. In work pants, you're sucking in your gut. In sweatpants, your belly is exhaling like it's never exhaled before.

So I ask: What is wrong with wearing sweatpants to work? They're comfortable, you're more productive in them, and let's be honest: Are we really so vain? When did we as a society suddenly decide that being comfortable in the workplace was taboo? Who are we really trying to impress? If everyone wore sweatpants, you wouldn't have to impress anybody!!

So I'd like now to speak directly to the CEOs and executives and vice presidents and any other "dress code decision making" people who read this blog and say this:

Let your employees wear sweatpants to the office. Schedule a companywide meeting and announce to everyone that you're removing the shackles known as slacks and are encourgaing -- even demanding -- that everyone jump on the sweatpants bandwagon. Wear them yourself -- set an example -- and once others follow your lead, you will see productivity rise, revenue increase, and company morale boosted.

And if the sweatpants have holes in them, like mine do, you'll also see boxer shorts with puppy dogs on them.

A necessary sacrifice...for the sake of progress.


And now for this week's:


I love it when I can give a SOTA that's a little more personal. :-) The Cal State Northridge (CSUN) men's basketball team is just one win away from making the NCAA tournament!! Little CSUN, my alma mater, with a basketball "stadium" that's a glorified high school gym and a team roster filled with names you never heard of and probably will never hear of again, is just one game away from the promised land.

March Madness has officially begun. :-)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Eating Chicken And Waffles For The First Time: A Nevin Barich Blog Experience

(Like this blog and want to know more about the guy who writes it? Search for "Nevin Barich" on

This weekend, I went with some friends of mine to the world-famous Panns Diner in Los Angeles, one of those great hole-in-the-wall places where the upholstery hasn't changed in 50 years and the main ingredient in everything is lard. Anyways, among the many items on this menu was the unusual combination known as chicken and waffles.

And it's here that I have a confession.

I have never had chicken and waffles.

If you don't know me, know this: I love junk food. I heart everything under the words "value menu". Cut me open and you're just as likely to find a $1 McDonald's double cheeseburger as you are vital organs.

So this "never had chicken and waffles" confession is a big one for me. Even a little embarrassing.

And I'll tell you why I had never had chicken and waffles: Because I never understood it. It just didn't make sense to me as a combo. I wasn't able to wrap my head around it as I could other unusual food duos. Buffalo wings and carrots? A bit odd, but both can be used with dip. Turkey and candied yams? Strange, but yams are a vegetable after all. Twinkies and fried batter? Hey, Twinkies have cream in the middle, and everything with cream in the middle tastes good. That's a scientific fact.

But chicken and waffles was lost on me.

Now I know what many of you are saying: "Nev, it's a cultural thing." You know what? I don't buy it. Kids, I'm a white guy from the San Fernando Valley. I don't have a "food culture", so everything I eat is just piggybacking on someone else's roots. Pizza? Italian. Tacos? Mexican. Hot dogs and hamburgers? German. Beef and broccoli? Chinese.

And I get all those foods. There's no culture gap there.

So my lack of chicken-and-waffles grasping was something internal. It was about me. I didn't get it. I didn't understand. I...struggled.

But today, I took the plunge. Even though I was more in the mood for chicken fried steak or sausage links, I said to myself:

Self, there comes a time in every man's life where he has to meet a challenge. Where he has to walk into the unknown and see where it takes him, knowing he might never be the same. And today, that unknown is chicken and waffles. And it's time to face your fear.

And off we went.

When the plate arrived 15 minutes later, something struck me right off the bat: The chicken was on top of the waffles. Immediately, I felt like I had made a huge mistake. I mean, sorry if I'm offending anybody by the following statement but:


Still, I had made a promise to myself, a man promise, and I intended to keep it.

So I dug in.

And you know what? It was good. It was damn good!! The sweetness of the waffle and the greasiness of the just worked. I can't explain why, but it just clicks. Opposites attract sometimes, and so does chicken and waffles.

And the darkness of the unknown...turned into light.


And now for this week's:


Miley Cyrus is coming out with an autobiography about her life thus far. Now to me, the fact that she's coming out with a "my life" book at age 16 is bad enough, but apparently in the book she talks about how despite all her success, she hasn't "forgotten her roots."

Um, excuse me: Roots? What roots? You're 16!! You haven't lived long enough to have roots!! Do you even know how to plant?!?