Friday, March 26, 2010

Going To My First Baby Shower: A Nevin Barich Blog Experience

I went to my first baby shower last weekend.

My friends Silvia and Mike are expecting their first child next month and recently hosted a couple's baby shower.

And going in, I had some reservations.

You have to understand something: When I hear the words "baby shower" I think of women, and only women, sitting around a living room, on 1970s decor, knitting, drinking tea, with the pregnant woman opening up gifts full of baby clothes.

I'm a sexist. I admit it. Sue me.

Luckily, this baby shower didn't fit that image at all. Actually, it wasn't all that much different from going to a barbecue. Lots of food, booze, people talking and joking in the background, etc.

Plus: They had M&Ms!! :-)

But even though the baby shower was similar to a lot of parties I've gone to, there were a few differences.

First, there's this whole "bring the happy couple a couple a box of diapers" thing. My wife Ramona and I have no kids, and won't anytime soon, so I've never bought a box of diapers in my life. Let me tell you: Those things are freakin' expensive!! $20 for Huggies? Good Lord.

Then there's the whole "name brand vs. non-name brand" thing with diapers. I'm a non-name brand person. I'm fine with no-name soda, no-name chips, no-name cheese. The no-name diapers were $6. I was tempted. I won't lie. But how could I look my pregnant friend in the eye and plop a box of cheap diapers in front of her, announcing that I was too cheap to buy the good stuff?

"Isn't my unborn baby worth more?" I can see her eyes telling me as she eyes the cheap diapers.

Christ, this diaper thing for baby showers is a scam. :-)

Then there's the games they play at baby showers. I'll be honest: I don't get them. I really don't. Guess the number of jelly beans in the jar? Guess how many inches the pregnant woman's waist is? (isn't that mean?) Guess how many bobby pins are in the rice?

Bobby pins in the rice?

Listen: I know times are changing. Men are becoming nurses. Couples are using hyphenated last names. Males do laundry now. But this whole couple's baby shower movement is going to take some time for men to get used to. It's like a poor kid being invited to a country club by his rich friend: The poor kid has no idea what to expect.

To help make the trend easier, my friend Greg told me a story about a couple's baby shower he once attended:

All the women played games, while the men went into a side room and played in a poker tournament.

Now that couple's baby shower had something for everyone.


And now for this week's:


India's military is going to weaponize the world's hottest chili.

No, I'm not kidding.

After conducting tests, the military has decided to use the thumb-sized "bhut jolokia," or "ghost chili," to make tear gas-like hand grenades to immobilize suspects.

Next item on the agenda: Making rocket launchers out of garlic sauce.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

How Much (March) Madness Is Too Much Madness: A Nevin Barich Blog Experience

For those of you who were born yesterday, 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.

If you think I'm exaggerating, think again. People like me will do their research trying to pick the winners in the days leading up to the tournament, and tell their wives the following:

You're not expecting me to pay attention to you, are you? Because I have to figure out if UTEP has a shot against Butler.

I'll be paying for that statement at some point. Of this I am sure.

Two years ago, I took my readers through the craziness of following the first two days of March Madness. Last year, I wrote about how my alma mater, Cal State Northridge, made the tournament, almost pulled off a gigantic upset, and how I almost had three massive coronaries from the excitement.

This year, I want to write about how people tend to fill out multiple brackets in NCAA pools, the idea being not only to expand the fun, but also to expand the chances of winning a pool and thus a lot of money.

A lot of people fill out more than one bracket. Many fill out two. Some fill out three. A couple of folks here and there may even get really crazy and fill out four.

I filled out 14.

14. Granted, it's a touch on the high side. But the way I see it, NCAA March Madness tournament brackets are like lottery tickets. They're cheap and the more you have, the more chances you have to win.

But as I've come to find out over the past couple of days, not everyone feels the same way I do.

Apparently, the fact that I have 14 brackets has caused a stir among those around and connected with me.

For example:

In one pool I'm in, in which there are more than 100 entries, the commissioner of the pool is considering adopting "The Barich Rule next year, which would limit how many brackets an individual can fill out."

I'd like to say two things here:

1) I MIGHT HAVE A FREAKIN' RULE NAMED AFTER ME!!! "The Barich Rule." I will not have lived in vain. :-)

And 2) When the hell did America turn communist? I mean, when one goes to McDonald's, is there a limit to how many Big Macs someone can buy? Am I restricted in the number of video games I can own? When I buy girl scout cookies, does little Tammy from Troop 546 say to me: "Sorry sir, limit 4"?

If you restrict the number of NCAA March Madness brackets I can fill out, it's akin to rebuilding the Berlin Wall. Let the wall come down!!

My wife Ramona doesn't get it. Although both a sports fan and a columnist for ESPN Los Angeles who actually gave her own predictions on the NCAA Tournament on ESPN Radio earlier this week (fast forward to 12 minutes in on the podcast), my better half told me the following the other day:

Nev, I'm your wife and I love you. And this is coming straight for the heart: You're totally ridiculous.

I'd like to say two things here:

1) For the remainder of this blog, Ramona -- who still goes by her maiden name Shelburne -- will be referred to as "Mrs. Barich."

And 2) What Mrs. B doesn't realize is that the NCAA Tournament is like Christmas morning for me. Each bracket I fill out is like an individually wrapped gift under the tree, filled with mystery and excitement and possibilities. Is it a great gift? Is it socks? Will the gift bring a smile to my face or make me groan because it's a useless piece of crap that I can't throw away because the person who bought it for me will get offended and thus I have to stash it in a drawer somewhere where it will collect dust for the remainder of time?

The more brackets -- gifts -- I have, the more chances I have of getting great gifts. Now granted, it also increases the odds of me getting crap, but I'm a optimist. Hence, 14 brackets.

More than once over the past couple of days, I've been asked: "Nev, if you have so many brackets going on, with different picks for each one, then how do you know who to root for?" But that's the beauty of technology today: I don't need to know!! Today's computer software tabulates my scores for me throughout the tournament, helping me to decide as time goes on who I should throw my unwavering allegiance to. While others were crying the other day because "Georgetown lost and I had them in the Final Four!! My bracket's busted!!" I can take comfort in the fact that I have so many chances to win, that it doesn't matter if one dream gets crushed. Because I have 13 more dreams that can come true!!

I've become about quantity, people.

In the end, folks, it's about one thing: Winning an NCAA March Madness pool. And I'll confess something: I've never won one (at least one involving money). Oh, I've come close enough to get to the championship. But I've never been able to win the big one. And maybe that's what this is all about: Accomplishing something I've never accomplished. Climbing the top of a mountain that has thus far proven unscaleable. I want to win, God damn it!! And if it takes 14 brackets to do it, then so be it.

A good friend asked me the other day:

"Would you throw me in front of a moving bus if it meant you winning one of these things?"

"Of course not," I replied.

"But I'd push you down a flight of stairs."


And now for this week's:


Jellyfish are immortal.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Deciding Whether Cheetos Are Chips: A Nevin Barich Blog Experience

The building where I work has a downstairs cafe, and yesterday I ordered a patty melt for lunch. The burger came with a bag of chips, which I didn't want, so I asked my friend and co-worker Cindy if she wanted them and, if so, what kind.

"Yes please!!" she replied. "Anything that's spicy. The spicier, the better."

So when I went down to pick up my food, I saw that the only thing on the chips rack that was of the spicy variety was Flamin' Hot Cheetos. But when I brought them back up to Cindy, her response surprised me:

Thank you, Nev. But Cheetos are not chips.

"Cheetos are not chips."

And a debate among us, as well as our fellow co-workers began.

Are Cheetos chips? It's an interesting question. In my view, yes. After all, you can find them in the chips section of your local supermarket. When your mom bought the variety pack of chips and put them in your lunch box as a kid, Cheetos was among the choices.

In Cindy's view, no. Chips are made of potatoes or tortillas. Cheetos are not, nor are they explicitly described as chips. Because of this, Cheetos are...well, something else.

Opinion among our other co-workers was divided. Some were in the Nevdogg camp, defending Cheetos' right to be a proud member of the chips family. Others were Cindy boosters, saying that Cheetos didn't belong where chips reigned for years. The rest understood where Cindy was coming from but struggled to define what category Cheetos should be in.

Here were the main arguments, both for and against:

1) Chips don't have to be made out of just chips or tortillas. Thus, Cheetos should be considered chips.

Cheetos have sat side by side among Ruffles, Lays and Fritos for years now. One can make the claim that they've already earned their chips membership card. And if they don't have one, such membership is long overdue. Cheetos, supporters say, have paid their dues and earned the right to have full chips rights and privileges.

2) You can find pretzels in the chips section at the market. Pretzels aren't chips. They're pretzels. So just because Cheetos can be found next to chips, it doesn't make them chips.

On paper, this is a very strong argument. But there's a flaw. Yes, pretzels are found in the chips section. However, if you look at the aisle sign at your neighborhood Ralphs, like I did yesterday, you will find that it clearly says "chips and pretzels."

Pretzels have their own listed word at the supermarket. Cheetos don't. So if Cheetos aren't chips, what are they?

This leads to:

3) If Cheetos aren't chips, just call them snacks.

That's right. Let's just call them snacks. And while we're at it, let's call all dogs dogs. All white people white. All video systems Nintendo. If we can't easily define something, let's just it in a neat little box and call them snacks.

This is how war starts, people.

If you don't want to die over Cheetos, you'll think of something better.


And now for this week's:


A friend of mine recently passed this along to me: Heidi Montag before plastic surgery, and Heidi Montag after.

Which do you prefer?

I go with the before, myself.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

DVR And Tivo: Changing Our Lives Forever: A Nevin Barich Blog Experience

Do you remember what your life was like before DVR and Tivo?

DVR. Tivo. Two words, incomprehensible not long ago, that are now a part of our everyday vocabulary. The ability not just to recover shows without the use of a VCR, but the power to a) record two shows at the the same time, b) record one show while watching another at the same time, or c) record two shows at the same time while simultaneously watching one of your recorded shows.

And that's not even getting into the ability to pause live TV, rewind it, fast forward it, manipulate and alter and control time in a way that no one thought possible.

Thanks to DVR and Tivo, we truly are the masters of our own universe.

As I write this, I'm currently recording the HBO special on Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, while at the same time recording boxing on Showtime, all while watching the horror film "Carrie" for the very first time (OK, I'm actually just watching the end of it. So let me get this straight: She becomes prom queen, someone dumps gunk on her, she kills everyone by looking at a hose, comes home to a house lighted with candles, washes the blood off in a bath, cries a bit, and then hears a speech from her mom telling her that the reason she's like this is because the mom had sex before marriage and thus "the devil has come home." What the hell? Oh, and now the mom stabs the daughter in the middle of a prayer. WTF?). I feel happy and light at heart, free of the shackles that came with having to pop a blank cassette tape into a VCR, not to mention the pressure of figuring out which speed to pick (which I never understood) and making sure that you're entering the right day and time.

With DVR and Tivo, the work is done for you. You don't have to worry about anything. You just come home and all of your favorite shows are there waiting, right inside your TV.

You know what DVR is like? Having a maid. Instead of the stress of cleaning your home yourself, you can leave in the morning, come home after work, and find everything spotless. It's effortless. DVR is the same thing. You come home, and it's all done for you. All that's missing is a home-cooked meal on the table.

But there is a concern here. We're getting spoiled. Lately I've been hearing radio ads about "the perils of only being able to record two shows at once." I've heard friends bitch and moan about how hard life is becoming because three of their favorite shows are on at 8 p.m. on Mondays and so they have to eliminate one. It's like hearing someone who three years ago was driving a Pinto and was just happy to have a car that got from Point A to Point B, now complaining that the leather seats in the 2010 BMWs are not up to their suddenly exacting standards, and so they need to spend thousands more on the 2011 model.

So now people are flocking to electronics stores with devices that allow them to record four shows at once. I mean, dude: How much more do you need? Me me me. Now now now. More more more. Enough already. You can record two shows at once. Be happy with that.


In certain parts of the world, they still have VCRs.


And now for this week's:


The NBA's New Jersey Nets, which is the worst team in pro basketball this season, is trying to counter their dwindling attendance in various ways.

The latest promotion: New Jersey residents 18 or older who attended a recent game got a coupon that they could redeem at a Roni Deutch Tax Center to get their state income tax done free.

To be fair: The Nets did draw 2,000 more fans than usual on free tax preparation night. Still, I like the Lakers' free taco promotion better.