Wednesday, December 31, 2008

As they sang "Auld Lang Syne" by the light of the moon.

In this life I've seen everything I can see woman,
I've seen lovers flying through the air hand in hand.
I've seen babies dancing in the midnight sun,
And I've seen dreams that came from the heavenly skies above.
I've seen old men crying at their own grave site,
and I've seen pigs all sitting watching, picture slides.
But I never seen nothing like you.
.
OK, so it's just the moon and Venus.
It's still pretty nice.
Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty
good.

Extra points if you know what that song lyric is.

A Shout-Out to Vikings Fans (in Minnesota)

Here in Philadelphia, the Eagles have a full-house for every game and a waiting list of over 60,000 people. So, figure that every season ticket holder would have to be eliminated in some bizarre Cowboy-related terrorist plot, and there would still be a couple thousand people who couldn't get tickets.
Now wonder how, in Minnesota there are still 11,000 tickets remaining for Sunday's playoff game between the Vikings and Eagles. In spite of the fact that it's 6 degrees in Minneapolis and going down to minus 6 later tonight (not including the wind chill), there are still so-called Vikings fans who hold season tickets and don't want to attend a playoff game. A playoff game that is likely to be the only home game they get.
As a frame of reference, I am a Phillies season ticket holder and would have considered myself for psychiatric evaluation had I declined the playoff tickets I was entitled to last season (or the season before). Isn't that part of the reason you hold season tickets? It's for dibs. I got dibs on (among other things) game 4 of the (fucking) World Series. Never mind the fact that the playoff tickets cost as much as the entire regular season, we got to go to 3 post-season games. I had the time of my life.
What's wrong with those Vikings fans? They aren't the Vikings fans of my youth. The ones who would sit in frigid Metropolitan Stadium and root for Bud Grant's "Purple People Eaters" in spite of the fact that they were perennial Super Bowl losers. It's the point of being a fan that matters.
This current crop of fans faces a potential TV blackout of their team's playoff game because they can't cough up $30 for a ticket.
Seriously, if you can't sell-out a playoff game, you should have your franchise revoked. I don't care about the history, you're out.
You should be ashamed of yourselves. They play in a dome. It's 70 degrees inside.
Pussies.

The post-holiday stress of the day before another holiday manifests itself.

Today is New Year's Eve. What are we going to do? We're going to leave work as soon as possible (if we went to work at all), run home, get changed into that outfit that says "I'm not at work now" and run as fast as we can to some bar or nightclub where we'll join a bunch of strangers and count backward to midnight, then collapse in a heap.
That's a holiday.
Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve are the only two days we celebrate that are "eve's." There's no Independence Day Eve or Easter Eve - that would be silly, right? What would you do on Independence Day Eve? Light a firecracker and blow it out? Easter Eve - shove some eggs up a rabbit's ass? Get the crucifix ready?
Of course, tonight is amateur night. It's like Christmas shopping. People who have no business in malls are out bumping into people and pretend they're shoppers. They go to the mall once a year. People go out on New Year's Eve out of obligation, and most of them have no idea how to drink.
"What are you doing New Year's Eve?" If you answer "Nothing," you look like a loser - even though you may be - you don't want people thinking you have no plans to get drunk and count backward. That's a social anathema, so you go out.
You have to go out! Why aren't you going out? Mostly, it's because I enjoy my driving privilege, I can't afford a limousine and the busses stop running at 10:00 pm.
It's interesting to me that, in a society that supposedly condemns driving while intoxicated, we spend a lot of time promoting a holiday where the sole purpose is getting hammered. The newspaper is littered with ads for New Year's Eve parties that feature 6-hour open bar and top-shelf liquor. Meanwhile, states are continuing to lower their legal blood-alcohol limits to the point where 3 beers constitutes DUI. Try going out and having 3 beers in 6 hours.
Be careful out there, because the roads will be full of DUI checkpoints, and those are real buzz kills.
Happy New Year! Your court date is February 2.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Oddly interesting life circumstances that lead to decisions.

Why is New Year's Day a legal holiday? It's the first day of the year - so what? Who says we're entitled to a day off work? I suppose it's because we'd be hung over or some such thing, so why bother opening the office at all? Wikipedia says it's been celebrated on the Gregorian calendar since 153 B.C., but that didn't answer my question. The explanation lacks sense:
New Year's Day celebrates the beginning of the Gregorian calendar year. Festivities include counting down to midnight (12:00 AM) on the preceding night, New Year's Eve. Traditional end of holiday season.
Those are some heavy festivities. Counting backward. They go on to tell us that when holidays fall on a weekend day, they are celebrated on the closest day. So, in two years when January 1 is Saturday, which day do we get off work? Friday, December 31? That doesn't make sense.
See the things I think about. Try being me for a couple of days. I don't think you could deal with it.
While I was in the grocery store tonight, I made a resolution. I don't make "New Year's Resolutions" because I don't believe in waiting until January to improve myself. I want to do it as soon as possible. The fact that this one occurred on the 30th of December is an awkward coincidence.
The store was crowded, and on more than one occasion (several, actually) there were situations where clueless individuals aimlessly walked toward me. I always feel funny when I'm walking toward someone and the path that the two of us are taking is bound to result in a collision - either an arm bump or some brushing of some sort. I'm always the one who moves to one side, to avoid the collision. Seemingly, if I didn't move, we would touch in some way. I always feel a little weaker for doing that, as though it's implied that I'm going to be the one who moves. I think people should be more in command of their personal space and the both of us should move, but that rarely happens. By the way, I always move to the right because that's what I'd do if I was driving.
The resolution was that I am no longer going to do that. I'm going to continue walking in my path and if I hit the other person, they'll have to deal with it. I'll come up with some crafty remark to make afterward, but for now I've decided that I'm going to be the man.
I'll let you know how that goes.

The puzzling nature of my on and off relationship with Rachael.

Yesterday, my Bluetooth headset freaked out on me for the third and final time, so it is spending New Year's Eve in the trash dumpster. I visited AT&T's web site to seek out a new one, and was hooked up with Rachael, a chat room assistant designed to help me find the product I need. Here, verbatim is the chat I had with Rachael, complete with my comments interspersed.
You are now chatting with Rachael S., an AT&T sales representative.
Rachael S.:
Welcome to AT&T online Sales support. How may I assist you with placing your order today?
Anthony: I need to know if the Plantronics Voyager 521 headset is compatible with my Pantech Slate.
Rachael S.: I will be more than happy to help you find the accessories that best fit your needs.
That little non-sequitor should have tipped me off as to the tone that our chat session would have. Who's "more than happy?" I don't understand. Is that like giving 110-percent?
Rachael S.: I will check up on that for you, may I have your zip code please?
Anthony: 08051
Why does she need my zip code? Am I at Radio Shack?
Rachael S.: The Pantech Slate does have bluetooth capability.
That wasn't my question. Non-sequitor number 2. I forged ahead...
Anthony: Will any Bluetooth work with it?
Rachael S.: Most of them should, however there is a chance that it might not be compatible.
Typically vague customer rep answer. Either it will or it won't - and you can't hold me responsible either way. Thanks for the tip. I think I knew that going in. Based on that answer, I could be a customer rep for AT&T.
Anthony: I guess I should visit the store and speak to someone to be sure.
Rachael S.: You are more than welcome to.
Even though I have to go out of my way to visit the store. It's obvious that this "representative" is clueless. I wondered if I was part of a fraternity prank.
Anthony: OK, Thank you.
I said thank you, even though I should have just closed the chat window. I'm too polite.
Rachael S.: Your welcome.
Now we have spelling issues to deal with. It's not "my welcome" it's you're welcome. Grammar cop.
Rachael S.: Happy New Year!
Happy New Year? Seriously. And an exclamation point.
Rachael S.: Thank you for choosing AT&T. Have a great day.
I really didn't have a choice, since my phone is AT&T, I figured the Bluetooth might stand a chance of working if I got it there. "However, there is a chance that it might not be compatible." Thanks. Those were my marriage vows.
Whether or not I was speaking to an actual person is up for debate. They told me I was, but judging from the conversation, I'd say the chances are pretty slim. They seemed like system responses based on my questions. Either they need sharper reps or a better system.
Either way, something over at AT&T needs sharpening.
Call me Rachael, we need to talk. Or chat. We might be compatible.

Monday, December 29, 2008

7 neighbors, no waiting.

I got shussed by my neighbors the other day. I'm making too much noise, apparently, and two out of my seven neighbors decided that I should be more quiet. Me. More quiet. That's like asking Louie Anderson to be fatter.
For those of you unaware, I am a condominium dweller. More so out of cost than preference. I'm intensely private, and there are times when the condo life is difficult for me - like when I have to socialize or deal with neighbors. I like suburban life, but I'd prefer it in a cave or some five-story building where the other 4 floors were used for storage.
It wasn't so much me as it was the music I was listening to. FYI, I listen to music through my fancy Bose computer speakers while I'm doing this. The walls of my condo are so paper-thin that the gigantic 2-inch speaker and it's little bass compartment rattled the walls at or near 1:00am on Saturday, keeping my downstairs and next door neighbors awake wondering what all the rumbling was.
Those must be some thin-ass walls, people.
Part of the charm of music is that it moves air. I've never enjoyed wearing headphones. I have good ones and I still don't enjoy it. They're uncomfortable, and I think they do more damage to your ears than listening to loud music moving air. I think I could find medical research to support me, but I don't have the energy to look it up.
My first clue should have been when I moved in, and my downstairs neighbor told me that when I'm at work, he can hear my cat walking around. He doesn't even wear shoes. I didn't tell him that Kitty moonlights as a dancer. Since I lost my ex's income, I'm putting him to work. My neighbors are nice people, but I think that maybe they need a noisy hobby to distract them from the racket he's making. Maybe chainsaw juggling or small engine repair?
Later, he told me that my recliner makes his TV jump. Honestly, I figure that one day the floor will just collapse under the considerable weight of my furniture, cat and various small appliances. Then, I'll have a nice duplex.
And one less neighbor.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The reason the newspaper business is dying.

I love my newspaper. I get it delivered to my home every day. In fact, I'd have a hard time doing without it. I love everything the newspaper represents: The sense of community, the local flavor and its connection with people who live in its delivery area.
Today's newspaper included the usual Parade magazine, which I'm surprised anyone reads. Does anyone read it? I'd be surprised.
They're doing the usual "Year-end wrap-up," which is the journalistic equivalent of phoning it in. Nevertheless, we're stuck with it. Newspapers are dying. Does anyone wonder why?
When I saw the cover, I threw up in my mouth. I thought we were through with this horrible woman and her ideals. I suppose not. There she was, pointing her finger at me and I could hear that voice, don'tcha know, as though I'm an idiot for not seeing what a regular gal she is. It's Palin redux. Or maybe it's Tina Fey?
Best or worst? You can answer the question on your own: I think it's "worst" because she represents everything that's wrong with this country and it's politics. Form over substance. We were supposed to fall for the "hot mom" - sorry - hot hockey mom, and her fashion-statement glasses and her Midwestern accent and her ... oh, I don't know ... we were supposed to fall for it. She's just like us. Sure, she is.
Fortunately for us and humanity in general, we were spared the McCain/Palin ticket, although it looked rather dicey for a while. After all, this is a country that elected George W. Bush twice. Can you blame me for being frightened?
Yet, there she was on the cover of my newspaper's magazine. Included with the Ask Marilyn column where Marilyn vos Savant, the fraud "genius" answer column. "Why isn't hypnosis used more as a weight loss tool?" (Actual question) Seriously, I'd like to be able to write a column in a national weekly magazine where I got to (a) choose which questions I answer and (b) make it appear as though I was a genius because the column said I was. Marilyn is a member of MENSA. Really? So is my cat, if I gave him a test. Where's his column? What's the next number in this sequence? 1 ... 3 ... 5 ... 7 ... ? Give me a break.
This is also the magazine that runs the Walter Scott's Personality Parade, which is mostly a shill for whichever celebrity has something to promote under the guise of real people asking real questions. "When will we see Clive Owen romancing again onscreen?" - was this week's question from a Karen Friese in Milwaukee. Hey, here's news: He has a new film opening in February and another in March! Wow, what a coincidence! Do you talk about Clive Owen around the coffee machine at work? I didn't think so. Spare me, Walt.
Then, on the back page we're treated to James Brady's In Step With, which is another shill for a celebrity with a project to hype. This week, it's Lisa Kudrow, who most people would have preferred to forget about, but she's "busy with three new films" so her agent called James and asked him to write 600 words about her failing career. He couldn't have been happier. He probably even got a nice lunch out of the deal.
Many years ago (when dinosaurs roamed the earth) the Philadelphia Inquirer had a Sunday magazine called Inquirer Magazine (go figure) that discussed issues relevant to the community and of interest to the readers. Imagine that. A Sunday magazine insert that discussed interesting issues that their readers may also find interesting.
The Sunday paper is $1.50 now, and the daily is 75 cents. It seems that the more it costs, the less "community" we get. We're getting more national news and more stories from Associated Press writers and more things that are bylined "For the Inquirer." I suppose that saves money, since they don't have to pay benefits for stringers or provide Blackberries, but there is something lost in the dilution of the product. The more that is lost, the more it costs us, in more ways than one.
Most, if not all of the country is wired for Internet access now, and the stories that are nationally run are accessible to everybody, so why do we have to read them in the newspaper? I want local news and the local angle. I like Inga Saffron's stories about the local architecture, Bob Ford's sports columns, Dan Rubin and Monica Yant-Kinney's columns about local issues and Tony Auth's political cartoons. I like reading the editorial page when it is written by local writers. If I want the national slant, I can watch CNN or Yahoo News.
Stop charging me for things I can get for free. Newspapers across the country are failing and they continue to look for ways to cut costs, but the cost-cutting is taking away from the things that make local newspapers unique.
The more homogeneous things become, the less interesting they are to the people they're targeting. It only makes sense. They are selling a Philadelphia newspaper to Philadelphians, yet they try to save money by nationalizing the content. We don't need Hollywood news or something that we're going to see on "Entertainment Tonight." It's the Philadelphia Inquirer.
I like the Philadelphia part.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I'm on the phone.

Today's bucolic family scene comes courtesy of the local supermarket: A father with his two sons in tow - dad clueless, babbling on his cell phone - one hand on the cart the other hand holding the phone. Son number one (8 years old?) playing with his own cell phone while son number two (younger) admiringly watches, knowing his day with his own $100 a month play toy is coming.
My question: Why does a grade-school kid need a cell phone - with a QWERTY keyboard no less? He probably can't even spell Qwerty. I'm sure it's mom and/or dad taking advantage of some "family plan" offered by the phone company, but really ...
It's pretty much all I see anymore. Teenagers (and now, kids) and adults fiddling with phones in public. I wonder to whom they're talking. I see drivers leaving their driveways talking on the phone. Couldn't you have called them before you left? We must have had this insatiable desire to talk on the phone that was unsatisfied before the portable device was invented. Life must have been so frustrating: "My God, I'm driving and I don't have anyone to speak to. I wish I had a telephone without a wire that I could use to incessantly babble on while I drive." [ding] Problem solved. Thank you, Nokia!
Meanwhile...
I found myself next door at the liquor store (drawn like a kite to a string). At the counter, the bagger wants to earn his salary and reaches for a paper bag, even as my canvas one is coming out from under my arm...
ME: You can put it in here [opening the canvas bag]
CASHIER: He's green.
ME: And the bags are, too. [funny, eh?]
BAGGER: I keep wanting to get some of these, but I never do it.
ME: They sell them next door.
BAGGER: [sheepishly] Thanks for making me seem even more lazy than I actually am.
Bad grammar aside, sometimes it takes a tough love approach to bring these kids around. These are the kinds of things I have to deal with on a daily basis.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Mister Popularity

A poll was released by the USA Today newspaper that asked Americans whom they most admired. (Note: I'm sure they didn't say "whom"). The answer came back thusly:
Barack Obama - 34%
George W. Bush - 5%
John McCain - 3%
This poll tells me two things:
One, five percent of Americans can be sold anything and like it. That's why people still smoke cigarettes and Oprah is popular. Who still admires Bush? Do they know what admire means?
Two, the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent. That means that it's statistically conceivable (Kimmy) that nobody admires John McCain. That, I can believe.
I don't know what happened to the other 58%. Chances are, it was split up between Sarah Palin, Jesus and Satan. 19.33% each.
I've never been polled, except for that time several years ago that I was called and asked about my television viewing habits. That one took a while. I'm not sure whom I'd say I admired, especially if I had to pick someone living from a list of celebrities or politicians. I have a difficult time admiring somebody I don't know. I like a lot of celebrities, athletes and politicians, but there's a big difference between liking someone and admiring them.
I'd guess that most people answered someone they know, like their mother or father or the person who runs the company they work for. If you allowed those types of answers, Obama wouldn't stand a chance. My mother has had a much more difficult road in life than him, and she's managed to live 84 years, mostly on her own, without having to declare bankruptcy or sue somebody.
When she was a kid, a nurse dropped ether in her eye and her eyesight was forever altered. Today, there would be a lawsuit and your health care premiums would increase because the hospital had to fork over a half million dollars in some accident claim. In 1935, it was called an accident.
In 1967, her husband died after a long illness. She hadn't worked since the war years when she was a stamper in a shirt factory, back when the size of a shirt was stamped on the tail. She supported a house with a child by cleaning other people's houses, and later got jobs in local factories making things like padded toilet seats and chairs.
She still manages to get around, better than most people half her age, and works a few hours a day at a local grammar school herding kids in and out of the cafeteria. She doesn't make much, but she gets bigger raises than I do and the job keeps her moving around and so far, she's still healthy enough to do for herself.
Those are the kind of people you admire. You don't admire the son of a president who had his road paved for him. You don't admire a guy who went to prep school and followed his father and brother into a military academy, got shot down and used that experience to catapult him into politics.
Those are the kind of people you feel sorry for, because they didn't make something better of themselves.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in Philadelphia

51 days.
Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Clearwater, Florida.
Click the image for a lovely 1024 x 768 jpeg suitable for livening up your PC screen

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

One icy Christmas Eve.

This morning, the roads were coated with what the news people call "Black Ice" (always blaming the blacks) and cars skidded all over the roads in the morning rush hour. The thing that instantly came to mind was that the salt crews were nowhere to be found during all of this. The local TV weather people tout their "Mega Doppler" radar and other such expensive gadgets designed to either get us to tune in or be scared (or both) of the impending threat, but apparently none of them was able to warn the gang at PENNDOT (the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation) that the roads were going to be icy on Wednesday morning. That seems like the least they could have done.
Meanwhile, the icy roads were the top story on the evening's news broadcast. Seems to me like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Among the nonsensical crap that went on during the day was the usual last-minute shopping by men (mostly) who were either clueless as to what to buy for "sweetie" or clueless as to the date and what day Christmas fell on this year. HINT: It's always the 25th.
The local malls were jammed with dumbasses wandering about with shopping bags filled with stuff that will probably be returned on Friday. But, it's the thought that counts, right? If that's the case, then the lack of thought counts for nothing.
On my way home from mom's tonight, I noticed that the local Walgreen's parking lot was filled with cars and people (presumably) stocking up on last-minute pain relievers and cold packs for their Christmas Eve needs. The flashing sign out front (if you could see it over the vehicles) proclaimed that they were "open all day Christmas." Holy fuck, is that really necessary? Close the damned place and let your employees enjoy a day off. If, for some reason, somebody needs a last-minute Tylenol, maybe they'll realize it's Christmas and the believers are at home dancing around their Druid-inspired tree, opening those last-minute gifts, eating leftover ham and cursing the Friday that they have to return to work with a hangover.
The stores are open all day Friday, for your last-minute gift-returning needs. As for me, I'll be searching out a Chinese buffet, because nothing rocks Christmas like some General Cho's chicken.
Merry Christmas, bitches!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I thought UPS was playing Santa

I got home for work tonight and discovered not one, not two, not three ... but four packages from QVC on my front porch. I wondered what drunken stupor I must have been in to order stuff from QVC. What I should have been wondering was what drunken stupor the UPS guy (or gal) was in who mistakenly delivered not one, not two, not three ... but four packages to the wrong address. I suppose it's excusable, since they were only off by 6 numbers. Geez. Those kinds of things make me wonder how much of my stuff gets delivered to other addresses and the people who get it aren't as considerate as I and don't bother to drop it off at the correct address. I want to know what those UPS guys (or gals) earn in an hour so I can get my cut. Lay off the egg nog.
Meanwhile, the Bad Parking blog posted my photo! For those of you who live in the area, you'll recognize some bad parking at a local convenience store.
Wednesday at work we're doing Yankee Swap. Fans of "The Office" will know what I'm talking about, and fans of silly Christmas traditions will know, too. It's one of those deals where you pick numbers and gifts from a pile, and you can swap (hence the name) your gift for one you like better. We had a $20 limit, and I was all set to buy "The Dark Knight" DVD, but found that it was sold out. So, plan B became "Burn After Reading," which I haven't seen, but it's new so I figured no one would own it. Besides, if nobody wants it, I'll take it myself.
The really funny thing is that the people in my office who organized the Yankee Swap didn't know it was an Office episode, so I'll be giggling to myself the entire time (which I hope isn't too long) and as usual, no one will know why.

The Reason for the Season - December 23.

Frank Costanza: Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.
Cosmo Kramer: What happened to the doll?
Frank Costanza: It was destroyed. But out of that a new holiday was born … a Festivus for the rest of us!
Cosmo Kramer: That must have been some kind of doll.
Frank Costanza: She was.

The celebration of Festivus begins with Airing of Grievances, which takes place immediately after the Festivus dinner has been served. It consists of lashing out at others and the world about how one has been disappointed in the past year.

Frank Costanza: The tradition of Festivus begins with the Airing of Grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now, you're gonna hear about it.

The original holiday dinner in Festivus creator Danny O'Keefe's household featured turkey or ham followed by a Pepperidge Farm cake decorated with M&M's, as described in detail in Danny O'Keefe's The Real Festivus.

Cosmo Cramer: And is there a tree?
Frank Costanza: No. Instead, there's a pole. It requires no decoration. I find tinsel distracting. It's made from aluminum. Very high strength-to-weight ratio.

The Feats of Strength is the final tradition observed in the celebration of Festivus, celebrated immediately following the Festivus dinner. Traditionally, the head of the household selects one person at the Festivus celebration and challenges that person to a wrestling match. The person may decline if they have something else to do, such as pull a double shift at work. Tradition states that Festivus is not over until the head of the household is pinned in a wrestling match.

To celebrate the holiday season, a charitable donation has been made in your name to The Human Fund.
Money for people
.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The gift for the person who owes everything.

Over the years, I've seen a lot of TV ads where someone gives their spouse a new car for Christmas. I'd like to be in a relationship where the only (best) thing you can think of to give your spouse is a new car. A big-old Lexus with a red bow on top. Try getting it under the tree.
Actually, they do manage, but it's a tree outside in the driveway.
Generally, the ads begin with one person deceptively wondering "what could I possibly have for you?" All the while, the big gift awaits, unbeknownst to the recipient. Then, one of them usually blindfolds the other (or clasps their hands around their eyes) and leads them outdoors where the bowed vehicle awaits. The voice-over chimes in with some sentimental fluff about how much one cares for the other because they though enough of them to get them a vehicle. I'm left wondering a couple of things...
One, how you wake up on Christmas morning and, upon not seeing your vehicle, you don't wonder, "Where the fuck is my car?"
The other, bigger thing, is that apparently, I care so much for you that I volunteered to burden us with a four hundred-dollar a month car payment. "Merry Christmas, sweetie. Here's the payment book."
Schmuck.
I think she'd be much happier getting a nice hoodie from American Eagle. And I'd be happier with a Ticketmaster gift certificate - but I'm funny that way.

You call this a vacation day?

Today I took my final vacation day of the year. (Use 'em or lose 'em) As with most of my days off, this was a utilitarian one. My car was due for its 60,000 mile service. When such things come up, I take it to the dealership because I figure those guys see Ford's all day, every day and they know them better than a regular mechanic. It costs more, but I still believe that you get what you pay for.
Now, I sit and await the phone call with the final tally of the bill, which will surely be no less than $400.
It is on these days when I realize why single people don't live as long as married people. The dealer is 3 miles down the road, literally a straight line from "Disgraceland," and generally, the walk home does me good. Today, however ... a below zero wind chill made the walk more of a trudge. Bundled-up as I was, the wind (17mph with gusts to 40) cut through me like a knife. Sadly, the vagaries of the bus schedule left me between runs, so I figured if I was going to wait a half hour for the bus I may as well be walking. You soft, married people would have your spouse to cart your ass around, and as such, live a bit longer for the effort, or so they say.
Fortunately, there is a nice diner on the way where I stopped for breakfast and a mid-walk warm-up. Seeing as how the winter chill (it's winter now) was taking a few hours off my life, I figured, why not compound the effect with a nice Western Omelet and some potatoes?
Those hours are the lousy ones anyway, at the end, when I'll already be infirm or in a wheelchair from a horrible disfiguring incident while walking on the highway.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday crap.

We got one of those cold rains last night. The kind that sticks to things like stairways and windshields. After the scraping and slipping, what was left over were trees and shrubs that had a white glow. Making something out of nothing.
Meanwhile, I'm trying to control my cholesterol without resorting to prescription medication. So, I'm taking pills that wind up costing me more than what a prescription would cost, but it's a matter of principle now.
One of them says to take it "a half hour before meals." Don't tell me to do something a half hour before I do something else. I'm not in control of my life to that extent.
The Eagles lost today. Big deal, right? I know. The thing that kept coming back at me was how the game announcers kept telling us that they were "in command of their own destiny," because all they needed to do was to win in order to make the playoffs. That's a phrase that gets used a lot in sports. In truth, no one is in command of their own destiny when there is another team involved in the outcome. Who among us is in charge of our own destiny in any phase of life?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Go Now.

Americans who fled to small vehicles during $4-a-gallon gas are rushing back into the arms of sport-utility vehicles and light trucks, reversing a trend in which economy cars soared in popularity while consumers ditched brawny gas hounds. Recent data and interviews with local dealers show more U.S. consumers have bought SUVs and pickups of late than any other new vehicle, thanks to the free-fall of crude-oil prices and must-sell discounts that would make even Santa Claus seem like a cheapskate.
"Americans don't want to drive little cars," said Sophia Koropeckyj, a senior economist and auto-markets analyst with Moody's Economy.com in West Chester. "They really prefer larger vehicles, and gas prices have receded more than half since the summer. That's the only conclusion there is."
Americans. Is there any term that signifies "gluttonous consumer" more than that? I say, no. I may have said it before, but ... we like our stuff. And we like big stuff.
The trouble with the four-dollar a gallon gasoline was that it didn't last long enough for people to make life-altering decisions. It lasted just long enough for wasteful people to complain, and that didn't solve anything.
So, now that gasoline is a-buck-fifty again, we're back to our wasteful ways. Regardless of the price of gasoline, waste is waste. The odd thing that people get into their heads is that it matters more when it's $4 a gallon than when it's $1.50. It ain't necessarily so.
We're a society that lives in "the now" and just like this ridiculous Christmas shopping season, we figure that the now is the place to be. "Less than two bucks a gallon?" Fill 'er up! Never mind that the price of gasoline won't last nearly as long as the loan you took to buy that house-sized vehicle. It's all about now. And now is good.
Later, is bad. No doubt, we'll be hearing from the short-sighted clowns who bought those Lincoln Navigator's at a steep discount in the summer when gasoline is back near $3 a gallon.
Live it up, assholes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I love my stuff.

"I don't care about losing all the money. It's losing all the stuff."
- Marie Kimball Johnson ("The Jerk")
WASHINGTON – Anxious to jolt the economy back to life, President-elect Barack Obama appears to be zeroing in on a stimulus package of about $850 billion, dwarfing last spring's tax rebates and rivaling drastic government actions to fight the Great Depression.
And we all know how successful last spring's tax rebates were, don't we? How much of your $600 do you have left?
I know the economy is in trouble because it's all I hear.
I guess they figure they'll do the same things that Roosevelt did during The Great Depression. But it has to be difficult for our government to compare, since almost nobody who was an adult then is alive now. All we know is what we read, and to me it seems different. That was when people stood in bread lines because they didn't have enough money for food. During The Great Depression:
13 million people became unemployed. (Approximately 11% of the U.S. population) By 1933, over 24% of Americans were unemployed.
Industrial production fell by nearly 45% between the years 1929 and 1932.
Home-building dropped by 80% between the years 1929 and 1932.
From the years 1929 to 1932, about 5,000 banks went out of business
.
We're not an industrial nation any more. Now, we're a service-based economy, so that's out. Unemployment is around 6.5% (roughly 10 million Americans) so people are still working. Most heavy industry takes place overseas. Home-building has been dropping for the past 5 years or so, and the banks ... well, there ya go.
Anyway, there are similarities for sure, but it seems that now, it's about The Stuff. We like our stuff. By comparison, there wasn't a lot of stuff to be had in the 1930s. You had a radio, and if you were lucky, you had a car. People didn't even bathe every day, so their stuff didn't smell very good, either.
In the 1930s, the hole was dug for us with the collapse of the financial system, stock market and industry. Now, we've dug our own hole with scads of personal debt.
We've cluttered our lives with stuff, and now that "the economy" is tough, we might have to give up some stuff - and we don't want to do that. Even Roosevelt didn't hand out stimulus checks. He built roads, bridges and buildings because that was "the stuff." Now, we need a check so we can buy the latest cellular phone, big-screen TV, personal computer or iPod because ... that stimulates "the economy."
But whom does it really stimulate?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Stirring it up.

There's nothing worse than a shit stirrer. You know the type: People who do things that they know will draw attention to themselves, then get twisted up over the attention it draws to themselves. It's a form of mental illness. To wit:
EASTON, Pa. – The father of 3-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell, denied a birthday cake with the child's full name on it by one New Jersey supermarket, is asking for a little tolerance. Heath Campbell and his wife, Deborah, are upset not only with the decision made by the Greenwich ShopRite, but with an outpouring of angry Internet postings in response to a local newspaper article over the weekend on their flare-up over frosting.
The first thing happened three years ago when Mister and Missus dumbass named a kid Adolph Hitler Campbell. They're Americans, one presumes. Giving a child the middle name Hitler is questionable judgment at the least and at the most downright stupid. It's the same reason you wouldn't name him Dick Sucker Campbell or any sort of name that can either be shortened or changed in some way that simulates a bodily function. Mulva.
"I think people need to take their heads out of the cloud they've been in and start focusing on the future and not on the past," Heath Campbell said Tuesday in an interview conducted in Easton, on the other side of the Delaware River from where the family lives in Hunterdon County, N.J.
"There's a new president and he says it's time for a change; well, then it's time for a change," the 35-year-old continued. "They need to accept a name. A name's a name. The kid isn't going to grow up and do what (Hitler) did." Deborah Campbell, 25, said she phoned in her order last week to the Shop Rite. When she told the bakery department she wanted her son's name spelled out, she was told to talk to a supervisor, who denied the request
.
How do they know what the kid is going to grow up and do? Maybe the kid cures cancer. Then we have to say, "Adolph Hitler Campbell cured cancer." Maybe he develops a deep-rooted psychotic disorder and lives a life of isolation? Or maybe he joins the Klan? Who's to say?
The second thing that happened was that the parents specifically requested the child's full name be put on the cake. They only did that because the child's middle name was Hitler. That's called stirring. Who puts a kid's full name on a birthday cake? Happy Birthday Adolph would probably do the trick, since I doubt that there is more than one kid named Adolph at the party and there is no reason for the cake to be name-specific. It's a tactic to draw attention. Next, comes part three.
Heath Campbell said he named his son after Adolf Hitler because he liked the name and because "no one else in the world would have that name." He sounded surprised by all the controversy the dispute had generated.
That's the dumbass part. No two children in the world would be named Adolph Hitler because it's a shitty name for a kid and you might want to think about changing it before the kid is beaten senseless by people of all races, creeds and colors. Why invite trouble by intentionally naming the kid after a heartless man who presided over the systematic genocide of an estimated six million Jews and established a totalitarian and fascist dictatorship?
You could have named him George Walker Campbell.
Talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Help me with this.

I'm no economist, so there are a lot of things that don't make sense to me. Consider this:
...with uncertainty about the auto sector, the Fed's policy meeting on Monday and Tuesday will also remain in focus. The central bank is expected to lower its benchmark fed funds rate by a half-percentage point to 0.5 percent.
That's great for people with adjustable-rate mortgages, since their payments will go just about as low as they can. Meanwhile, credit card interest rates are still in the 15 to 22 percent range. Why? What it tells me is that our government is in the back pocket of the credit card companies. If not, then how can you explain the fact that the Fed is lending money out at almost zero percent and Citibank and your local department store are charging 18 percent? I can't be the only one who wonders about stuff like that.
Our government is in a big hurry (supposedly) to help banks and auto makers, but the real catastrophe is going on with people paying 20 percent on their credit cards. It seems to me that a great way to stimulate the economy would be to lower the rates that people are paying on the money they've borrowed. You can't stimulate spending if people are still paying interest on their debt. Those 600-dollar checks that went out earlier this year evaporated in the heat of the interest that consumers were paying. It never had a chance.
I'd think that the best way to help put the economy back on its feet is to get the banks off our backs.
I remember seeing an investment guru on CNBC several years ago, explaining what great investments banks were. When asked why, he said, "What other business do you know that can pay 2 percent interest and charge 20?" That's an instant 18-percent margin for doing nothing but processing paperwork.
There's a lot of teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing going on over companies like Ford and General Motors who can't find their ass with both hands, while consumers are buried in debt that nobody seems willing to help them with. That's bad sentence structure, but it's even worse economics.
But I'm no economist.
Those are the guys who helped get us in this mess.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dexter

Season finale - Showtime 9:00pm.
I'm happy and sad at the same time.
The best show on TV.

Stubbed in the hub fo shizzle.

"break it down like i'm stupid."
- Kimmyk

When I was young (when dinosaurs roamed the earth) if I wanted tickets to a big event like an Emerson, Lake and Palmer concert, I'd drive to the local record store early in the morning and stand in line until the mall opened. Then, a few hundred of us would run in to the store and wait in another line. After the cashier ran off about 20 tickets for his friends, we would get a shot. They were general admission shows back then, and unless it was sold out, you were guaranteed to get in. That led to another series of line-standing and running-in at the show, but that's another story.
Now, the Internet rules, and tickets are a commodity like pork bellies or barrels of oil. They are bought and sold for a profit by big companies like StubHub (which was acquired by eBay in 2007). Because of a vagary in the law, scalping tickets off-site is not illegal, but selling them at the event is - ticket scalping has become a cottage industry. So much so that the teams themselves are partnered with StubHub to help season ticket holders unload their unwanted tickets for a profit. Check any team's web site and you'll find a StubHub link. They're the "official fan-to-fan marketplace." Really.
The Boston Red Sox play in tiny Fenway Park and all of their games are sell-out's. Yesterday, about a dozen early-season games went on sale. I decided to see if I could pick up a couple of seats to unload them for a little profit. Playing the game, as it were.
Since I no longer have to drive to a record store to buy tickets, I can let the computer stand in line for me. This "Virtual Waiting Room" ran non-stop from 10am until 12:15am Sunday, when I was finally admitted. I wound up with two center field tickets to the May 6 game against the Cleveland Indians. They cost $40 for the pair. Similar seats are currently selling for between $33 and $140 each on StubHub.
If anyone from the Boston area is reading this, I'll let them go for $100 and you can save me the time of listing them - free shipping.
The amazing part of all this is that my computer sat in the waiting room for 14 hours, refreshing the screen every 30 seconds. If I was a fan, I'd be pissed. As it was, I got crappy seats that I'll probably be lucky to unload for a tiny profit. Fortunately, I was able to get a full day's worth of activities in while all this was going on.
What it says, more than anything, is what a racket the ticket-buying procedure has become. I've written about it a couple of times already. By the time midnight rolled around, all that were left for the other games were "obstructed view" tickets (there are poles and all sorts of obstructions in Fenway) and standing-room tickets, which oddly cost as much as my bleacher seats.
You'll see the good seats up on StubHub. There are already 344 listings for the May 6 game. As for me, I didn't get out of the waiting room early enough to get tickets to more than one game, and the tickets I got aren't very good, so the grand experiment could be said to be a wash.
Being the cynic that I am, I'd bet there is a scam going on that gets people through that waiting room business quicker than normal. Just like the cashier at the record store, only at home in their pajamas.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Virtual Hell

You remember Thursday, when I came up with the Crazy, Hairbrained Scheme of buying Red Sox tickets for express purpose of re-selling them on the Internet? Of course you do. Well, the tickets went on sale at 10am and here it is 1:30pm and I find myself sitting in the Sox Virtual Waiting Room, which is a lot like a real waiting room, only the magazines are better.
The screens have been refreshing every thirty seconds since then. I can't do that kind of high-powered math in my head, but suffice it to say, it's a lot of refreshes. The one on the left is for what they call "Sox Pax" - four-game packages to selected games. The one on the right is for individual game tickets. Neither have opened since I've been staring at them.
So that it isn't a total loss, I'm doing some light housework and laundry. In their e-mail, the Sox call this a "highly anticipated ritual." It's a ritual, all right. They also say that fans will have the "chance to purchase" tickets. Carefully worded.
As of now, three games and four Sox Pax have limited availability.
As of now, my time is limited and I find myself staring out the window thinking about all of the things I can do that have nothing to do with virtual anything.
UPDATE:
It is now 6:05pm and the Virtual Waiting Room is still full. In the interim, I managed to go to the post office, the gym and stop for a dinner sandwich. 4 of the Sox Pax are sold out and the others have obstructed view seating available. No single games are yet sold out, but there are several with limited seating.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rub my StubHub.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. That's the saying.
For the past three years, I've ranted over the strange relationship between after-market ticket seller StubHub and Major League baseball. They advertise on the teams' web sites and now the teams are encouraging fans to sell their unwanted tickets via StubHub. So I joined 'em. In the spirit of President-elect Barack Obama, I am embracing change.
In addition to the 17-game plan that my friend and I have, I went on the Phillies web site last week and bought what they call a Six Pack - six additional games of my choosing of various seat locations. I picked up a Red Sox game, a Blue Jays game, a Braves game and a couple other plum items. I spent $326 on tickets that I plan on selling for much more than that to willing suckers via my newest, bestest friend - StubHub. The Phils had 51 sell-outs last year, and with the stink of "World Champion" fresh on them, it stands to reason that they'll have more in 2009.
At the current prices listed on the site, I can sell 4 of the games (keeping the two Orioles games I bought the plan for) for $682 - theoretically. That's just for 4 games. I can earn $356 and still see the Orioles games. Ain't that a bitch?
Yesterday, I got this little missive from the hated Red Sox, telling me that their tickets are going on sale Saturday. Guess who will be sitting by the computer waiting for an opening? Me.
In what has become an annual and highly anticipated ritual, fans will have the chance to purchase 2009 Sox Pax as well as single-game tickets to 15 selected games in April and May starting at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, December 13.
Those Red Sox fans are suckers for a game ticket, and I'll be damned if I'm going to drive to Boston to watch them, so the next best thing is scamming a fan for a couple of seats to a game. Every Sox game is a sell-out, and why shouldn't I be a sell-out too?
Ya gotta love the Internet.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Is the opposite of Facebook Assmovie?

I don't completely understand Facebook. I know where it is and what it is but I'm still working out the kinks. It seems to be some sort of social networking deal. I'm on there if you're interested, but you'll find much of the same content you find here, minus the witty banter. My workplace Internet bans the site, which makes it all the more appealing to me.
Ads and surveys run along the right side of the page. One of them bought my eye. "The iPod of Shaving" it said. I'm intrigued. Especially because I'd like to see the Atra of Personal Stereos, but I must have missed that ad.
There it is, on the right. It's called the Rolling Razor. Some sort of ring with a couple of blade heads. If it wasn't for the blades, I'd say it was some kind of sex toy. I don't know. Buy one and tell me how it is. It seems complicated, and I'm not sure I want to complicate something that I know I'm going to have to do again tomorrow regardless of the razor I use.
Baseball's annual circus called Free Agent Signing Season has begun. Fatso CC Sabathia signed a $160 million dollar, 7-year contract with the New York Yankees. That works out to $22.85 million a year, but there's an opt-out clause in it after three years, if either the Yankees or common sense decides he isn't worth the money. As a point of reference, that works out to $439,560 a week (before taxes).
I keep hearing and reading stories about what a shitty mess the country's economy is in, but I suppose it depends on what industry you're in. If your industry is professional sports I don't think you're feeling the pinch. The average salary of a major league baseball player is $2,930,000 per year. I don't know the average salary of the fans attending the games, but I'd bet you'd have to remove at least two of those zeroes. I think $160 million qualifies as "rubbing our noses in it" especially when the price of my Phillies tickets went up 7 percent a game this year and my salary only went up two percent.
Meanwhile, (speaking of a shitty mess) a friend is considering one of those flushing colonic deals. Seventy bucks to have them run a pipe up your ass and clean out your innards. Their web site says they have "... spared no expense in providing a state of the art pressurized system. Our system lets the water enter the colon at a low pressure, "sneaking in" before the colon can contract and stop the flow. I guess you wouldn't want them cutting any corners once that hose is up your butt. Something tells me that there's a reason the colon wants to contract, but I'm no doctor. It's an exit, not an entrance, right?
They say that "there can be from 5 to 25 pounds of impacted waste material in the colon with the consistency of cement or "black tar encrusted into the walls of the colon like bark on a tree."
Wow. I guess that's why those squirrels won't leave me alone? Maybe they can find that penny I swallowed when I was four?
Stand back, you never know what'll come out.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sing-along.

Tis the season. I love Christmas music. So much that I find myself forced to listen to it all day on our company's MUZAK system. I've gotten to the point that I can recite the words, and the calming effect makes me forget how I'd like to crawl into the ceiling and start cutting wires.
So, what better time to list my 5 favorite Christmas songs - in no particular order. You'll no doubt be singing some (or all) of these at your office Christmas party or in the back of a dimly-lit bar:
5 - Jingle Bells. A catchy little number about animal abuse. One horse pulling a sleigh full of (probably) drunk holiday revelers. The harder the poor horse pulls, the more they laugh. Written in the days before animal cruelty became a legal issue. A rarely sung third verse goes like this:
A day or two ago, the story I must tell.
I went out on the snow, and on my back I fell.
A gent was riding by, in a one-horse open sleigh.
He laughed at me as I there sprawling laid, but quickly drove away.
Seriously. That's a real verse. A cheery tale of near-fatal injuries ignored. He probably wound up frozen stiff like Nicholson at the end of "The Shining." Happy holidays.
4 - Frosty the Snowman. The eerie tale of children run amok. They built a snowman and cast some sort of voodoo spell to get him to come to life, and shortly thereafter terrorised a small town. They would see him destroyed before their eyes, then through some (apparently) pagan worship connected with the Christmas season, Frosty threatened the children, promising to return, probably at night when it's cold. Don't fall asleep, kids. The snowman is coming.
3 - I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. The child was obviously traumatized at the sight of his mother making out with (someone) a neighbor or just a fat fireman with a beard. Either way, it's a sight the kid won't ever get over. I think the line about seeing her "tickle Santa Claus underneath his beard so snowy white" is a bit vague. The kid was half asleep, what did he really see? Which "beard?" Santa had a lot of white hair. And why did mommy tickle him with her tongue? I think the reason daddy didn't see what mommy was doing was because daddy was in the garage loading his shotgun. I saw daddy capping Santa Claus.
4 - The Twelve Days of Christmas. The poor girl is obviously the victim of a stalker who has enslaved several musicians, maids and dancers. The guy appeared to have a thing for birds, too. He sings it over and over in a hypnotic tone until she finally gives in and takes his gifts.
5 - Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. My all time favorite. The song starts out innocently enough. It's a cheery little tune about a horribly disfigured animal who probably landed his job because of some Equal Opportunity Law at the North Pole. His friends wouldn't let him join them because of his deformity and harassed him until he appeared to develop an eating disorder. (I assumed that part) Once it was found that his difference could be used to benefit the reindeer community, the others began to love him, even though they started out hating his red-nosed guts. When they found out that he was able to help them, their attitude toward Rudolph changed. A life-lesson for kids everywhere: Ridicule people who are different until you find a way to take advantage of them, then make them your friend.
Merry Christmas, bitches!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Three things that will never change.

I've been lifting weights at various gyms for over 25 years, and during that time I've noticed that one thing never changes - the propensity for people to leave things wherever they please. In spite of (or maybe because of) signs that say "Replace weights when through" or something to that effect, I find that I routinely have to remove hundreds of pounds of plates from bars almost every day. Today was another such occasion.
Not only was there 135 pounds left unattended, but another 150 on a bar left on the floor, presumably for someone to trip over. To no one in particular I said, "People leave their crap all over. These are the same people who will yell at their kids for leaving their toys on the floor at Christmas!" Knowing I was right, I proceeded to roll the offending bar out of the way and take down the 150 pounds from the bar I wanted to use.
There is a faction of the population that believes that they can leave their junk lying wherever they want because, in their view, "Someone will clean it up." [me] These are the people who throw trash out of their car windows and leave popcorn containers at the movie theater.
Today, while watching television (which I was doing because the wind was blowing 30 miles per hour and I had already done my heavy lifting) a Subway ad came on touting their new Flatbread Sandwich. It looked good (because it was on TV) and the announcer told me how good it was. Then, he told me that it was "available for a limited time." Why? If it's so good, why wouldn't Subway want to sell it permanently? Once they got us hooked on it, the next time a customer came in and wanted one and the "sandwich artist" told him that the sandwich was no longer available, would that create a good or bad relationship between Subway and its customers? Anyone? If it's a good sandwich, keep selling it. Don't tease us with it and then take it away. That's how my marriage ended.
60 Minutes did a story on the Saudi Arabian oil producers. They sent Lesley Stahl to talk to Ali Al-Naimi, the Saudi oil minister and de facto head of the OPEC oil cartel, because she's a girl and even the Saudi's wouldn't beat up a girl. One thing that came out of the story was that it costs those bastards "less than two dollars" to produce a barrel of oil. The other thing that came out of it was that there is more oil in the Khurais field than in the entire United States. It's the largest oil facility to come online anywhere in the world in nearly three decades with, the Saudis say, 27 billion barrels of oil. They also aren't scared of hydrogen, solar, wind or other so-called alternative fuels because they are developing their own green (that word again) and that Saudi Arabia is doing research on solar power because, no place on Earth is sunshine more abundant than in Saudi Arabia.
"But listen to what the professionals say and what do they advise: it’s not going to happen today. It’s not going to happen ten years from now. It’s probably not going to happen 20 years from now. It’s not going to happen 30 years from now, okay?" Because you are still going to be using fossil fuels," Al-Naimi predicted. He told Stahl the kingdom is doing research on solar energy, as sunshine is more than abundant in Saudi Arabia. And he says it won't hurt their oil industry, but supplement it. "Our vision is that we will be exporters of gigawatts of electricity. We will be exporting both: barrels of oil and gigawatts of power."
So - let's review. We're hopelessly addicted to oil. Most of the world's oil is in the Middle East, the most volatile area in the world. The country that controls the oil is doing everything it can to keep us on the oil standard and failing that, they will develop an alternative that they also control.
Al-Naimi says the U.S. is Saudi Arabia's number one customer. And the question is: what will Aramco do to keep it that way? One thing is discourage the move toward electric cars by trying to alleviate our concerns about the environment. They showed 60 Minutes their new $4 million experimental combustion engine they hope will increase gas mileage while it lowers CO-2 emissions.
We're screwed.

Postscript

There's a debate going on over in Friday's comments about the Sean Avery "sloppy seconds" comment. Of course, he's a clown and probably a jerk, but I don't know that that's the issue.
The issue is that he said what he said on camera. Worse things are said on the field, but nobody has documented it. When it's recorded and presented to us, we act surprised.
I've never figured out what we expect of our pro athletes. They're men who generally have no other skills, and if it weren't for sports they'd probably be making minimum wage, but they can catch a ball or skate really fast, so we reward them with millions of dollars. They get all the hot women and when they go out, they don't have to pay for dinner.
We forget that they're clowns who are sometimes socially inept. Generally, they've been pampered and looked-after their whole lives because of their athletic skills. Most of them were given free educations (which they may or may not have taken full advantage of) and for most of their lives they have been the center of attention. We think that because of their station in life that they are going to act the part, when generally the opposite is true. That's why it's such a surprise to run into an athlete who acts like a regular person. It's also why I like the LPGA so much.
So, when you hear about athletes making rude comments, shooting themselves or generally acting like an ass, remember who they are and apply some perspective. Then, you won't be so upset by their actions and you'll wonder (like me) why such things become such major media events.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Four things for Friday.

Today at work, I heard someone use the phrase “I don't want to open a can of worms," assuming that whatever she was about to do would have dire consequences. I’ve used it myself, but when I hear others use it, it makes me think about what would happen if I opened an actual can of worms. I guess they’d just wriggle around and maybe one or two would get out, but I’d guess that most of them would stay inside, squirming amongst themselves. I can think of worse things.

The NHL suspended Sean Avery 6 games for using the phrase “sloppy seconds” when describing his last girlfriend. Six games without pay. It isn’t an obscene reference, doesn’t particularly offend large numbers of people and doesn’t inflict physical harm. It’s an odd punishment for a league that allows a player to physically beat another player and receive a punishment of 5 minutes.

We’re getting our first wintry blast this weekend. Temperatures are going to be below freezing, and the dreaded snow flurries are in the forecast. That was enough for local weather geek Glen “Hurricane” Schwartz to say “... but what about the snow?” during his promos on Thursday night. What about the snow? It’s going to snow about as much as what you would get if you emptied an ash tray in a stiff wind. Panicked viewers no doubt tuned in for the 11pm newscast to hear the apocalyptic forecast. Suckers.
There’s something about rotten weather that makes me think about all the things I could be doing if the weather was nice. When the weather is nice, however, none of those things come to mind. This weekend, I’ll be fretting over all of the interesting activities I’m missing out on because it’s too cold to enjoy being outdoors. I can’t think of any of them right now, because it’s about 50 degrees today. Ask me tomorrow.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The more you get, the more they want.

I paid off a credit card yesterday - I know, but it ain't so much - and today this little e-mail announcement came in my in-box. My credit line has been increased. Whoopie-Wo.
The more you pay, the more they want.
Then, I started thinking about the car companies and how they have their greasy hands out for some of our (it's ours) money. Even Avis has gotten into the act. The more they owe, the more they think we want to give them, as though their former spending habits and bad financial decisions won't return.
It's hard to blame them. The government prints the money, and they'd be foolish to think that they couldn't print some more. I think there's a form to fill out, but it's pretty easy nonetheless.
Maybe our government will give them money or maybe they won't. I'm thinking that the government is like us - they can't control themselves, so they just finance everything - as though Citibank sent them an e-mail saying, "Hey, you're good for another 20 trillion." Suckers that they are, they sign up for the big money.
I dream of the day I don't have to pay anything to anybody whose name is on a plastic card. As Jules Winnfield said in Pulp Fiction, "It could be you're the righteous man and I'm the shepherd and it's the world that's evil and selfish. I'd like that. But that shit ain't the truth. The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be a shepherd."
As for me, it's one at a time.
As for you, government. Try real hard to be the shepherd.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I'm looking California, feeling Minnesota.

Animals are smart. Bears especially. They sleep through the winter when some of us are miserably awake.
My cat sleeps about 20 hours a day, and when he isn't sleeping he's either thinking about it or finding a place to do it.
A particular goal of mine would be to find an escape route and leave civilization from November to March, thereby escaping what the masses call the "holiday season."
It's either a reason or an excuse. When you want something done and it doesn't get done, "the holidays" will be blamed. Afterward, I suppose it's simple neglect or incompetence, but from Thanksgiving to New Year's day, it's the holidays.
Television goes into repeats (or as they say now, "encore performances" - but I know what it is), shopping centers are jammed and those of us on the outside looking in are constantly reminded of what we're missing - or told we are missing. It's a miserable time to be alive and I'd sleep through it if I could.
It's the holidays.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's eve and Valentine's Day (Christmas's illegitimate child) feast on our conscience and remind some of us of what we don't have rather than what we do. I like to be able to choose what to do rather than have it chosen for me, and I've always felt that the winter holidays were foist upon me, and it makes me uncomfortable.
I fully realize that I'm a square peg, but I wonder how many people are subjected to the holiday nonsense that would just as soon be left alone? They do it either out of guilt or obligation, and if left to their own devices would ignore it and let it pass. But society tells us we are supposed to act a certain way, and the sheep that we are (most of us), we follow along.
It reminds me of a particularly snowy day (before global warming) and as I drove home I realized that the tracks that the cars left in front of me were guiding me around a long curve, but the tracks weren't in the travel lane, they were in the lane of oncoming traffic, but because the snow was so deep, I couldn't escape the impression left by the others, and it took a lot of work to get out of the deep groove and move back into the proper lane - where I belonged. Being dragged along by the masses often takes us into the path of oncoming traffic. How's that for a metaphor?
What do I want for Christmas? Peace of mind.
Wake me in March.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Must (not) see TV.

In case you haven't heard, Tim Kring, executive producer of NBC's onetime hit drama "Heroes," got himself in hot water with recent comments about viewers and DVRs. Kring said that DVRs are making it tougher for serialized shows like "Heroes."
At a screenwriting conference earlier this month, Kring said of the serialized trend:
"It's a very flawed way of telling stories on network television right now, because of the advent of the DVR and online streaming. The engine that drove [serialization] was you had to be in front of the TV [when it aired]. Now you can watch it when you want, where you want, how you want to watch it, and almost all of those ways are superior to watching it on air. So [watching it] on air is related to the saps and dipshits who can't figure out how to watch it in a superior way."
I used to like television. Back when it was free and the shows weren't infested with advertising. You might not be old enough to remember when that happened. Last week, while watching one of my favorite shows ("Heroes" on NBC) I thought that it was my imagination that the show was continually interrupted by advertising, so this week I decided to take notes while I watched the show. That's not a bad idea anyway, since there are so many characters it's like listening to an economics lecture and harder to keep track of. But I digress.
Monday night's "Heroes" (which besides featuring the longest solar eclipse in history) which NBC tells us is an hour-long drama, contained a grand total of 39 minutes of content. That's 21 minutes of commercials, or for you math majors, 35% of the allotted hour. The highlight (from my copious notes) was at 9:21, when 8 minutes of program was followed by 5 minutes of commercials and another 5 minutes of program followed by 4 minutes of advertising. From 9:21 to 9:43 (22 minutes) there was 13 minutes of the actual program.
Besides ruining something called continuity, it makes it difficult to follow the story when it's interrupted every 6 to 8 minutes by ads. In serialized shows, it's important to be able to remember what happened and not be distracted by continuous interruptions. The longest run of program content was 8 minutes (twice) and the shortest was 5 minutes. That's right, 5 minutes of program sandwiched between 9 minutes of commercials. In the hour, there were 5 commercial breaks...
... and 39 minutes of the program. Seriously.
But the evidence for Kring's claim doesn't look very strong. Nielsen stats for the week ending November 2 show that "Heroes" was among the most-time-shifted shows on television, with nearly 40% of its total audience watching on a non-live basis. Only CW's "90210" and NBC's "The Office" got bigger bumps from DVR usage.
Hey Tim: Maybe it isn't the DVR, but the amount of commercials you choose to sell on your show that makes people time-shift it and skip over the ads? Who's the dipshit now?
NOTE TO NETWORK TV PEOPLE: You are in danger of losing even more viewers to DVDs and pay cable. Sunday night's Showtime episode of "Dexter" (the unofficial best show on television) ran almost the entire hour, uninterrupted by advertising. Of course, it costs money to watch it, but given the alternative I think the cost might be worth it.
Hey, maybe that's what they're up to? The networks will frustrate us by adding more and more advertising to shows until we finally scream that "We're as mad as Hell, and we're not going to take this anymore!" So, in a show of good faith they allow us to purchase commercial-free network television.
How long will it be before that happens? With this digital conversion happening in February, they're taking another step toward taking free television completely away from us.
There's an old saying: Once the camel gets his nose under the tent, it isn't long before the whole camel is in the tent with you.
He'll have both feet in by February.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The goings-on in a rather mundane life.

Today was one of those wasted days - I have a lot of those - the kind where it's so rainy and cold that all I can think to do is bunker-up at home and watch the television. It makes me glad that I spent some money on a nice TV but sad that I wasted an entire day at home staring at the TV and my cat, who doesn't seem to know the difference. I'm also glad that I don't keep snacks in the house, because I would have sat here all day munching potato chips, and that wouldn't be good.
I watched a football game, because that's what Americans do on Sunday. Later, I watched a documentary on the History Channel about Albert Einstein and his struggle to develop and prove his theory of relativity. We were told that, at the time, the theory and it's proof were viewed as historic by people in general, and after it was proved, Albert Einstein became a celebrity and a household name. I wondered when we started talking about smart people as being "Einstein's" or started mocking stupid people by saying, "Nice going, Einstein." The documentary didn't go into that.
There was an ad for one of those drugs that is supposed to make you stop doing something. This one was excessive urination, which is odd because we are told to drink more water. Now, we're peeing too much. The drug had several side effects which included fainting and decrease in semen. That's bad, I guess. Why is it that drugs never have positive side effects? Couldn't there be a drug that would make your blood pressure drop and would also make you more interesting at parties? I'd take that one.
Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg at a night club in New York. Outside of the legality of carrying a loaded weapon into a night club, I wonder about why high-profile athletes carry weapons. Have you ever read about an athlete who interceded in a crime, saved a life (or his own) or generally helped anyone because he had a gun on him? No. All you read about are guys being shot or killed and athletes going to prison and losing a lot of money because they were carrying a weapon.
60 Minutes did a profile on Michael Phelps tonight. They said he's going to make "hundreds of millions of dollars" hyping products and generally lending his image to junk that people sell. So far, I've only seen him on those Rosetta Stone ads and I must say, I'm not impressed. He's obviously a great athlete and a nice guy who loves his mom and all, but I'm not motivated to buy anything because he tells me he uses it, which leads me to believe that Subway and the other companies who are paying him those millions are wasting their money.
I don't see Phelps as being all that charismatic, and I'm not sure he's a very good investment. I think that any company who gives large sums of money to any celebrity endorser would be better served by telling us that they're dropping the price of the product by 3-percent. That would sell a lot more stuff than having some famous face attached to it.