Saturday, October 11, 2008

When worlds collide

NEW YORK - The teachers' union for the nation's largest public school system accused the city on Friday of banning political campaign buttons and sued to reverse the policy, declaring that free speech rights were violated.
Last week, some University of Illinois faculty and students held an Obama rally on campus, claiming their right to support political candidates was under assault. Before the rally, the school released a statement saying state workers were prohibited by law from participating in political activities on university property. The school later said it never intended to enforce the law.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education recently sent a letter of protest after the University of Oklahoma instructed students and faculty and staff members not to use university e-mail to endorse or oppose a candidate. The group said it also had received complaints about bans on campaign activities at Iowa Western Community College and Fresno Pacific University in California.
Those of us who work for a living have two personalities. We have the personality we were born with and the one that we have developed by working every day. When we take the born-with one and bring it into workplace, we usually end up with a stern reprimand. Workplaces are different (just like us), but mine is very conservative and doesn't put up with anything that strays beyond the general completion of your job. Their opinion is; if you don't like it, there's the door. The trouble is, it's a grey area.
Today in Philadelphia, so-called hockey mom Sarah Palin will drop the first puck at the Flyers' home opener at the Wachovia Center. There has been much debate over the issue, and yesterday two letters appeared in the Inquirer from season ticket holders saying they were not going to any more games. Around here we call that cutting your nose off to spite your face. An online poll conducted by the paper showed it 64% were against the idea. I wonder how the Electoral College vote came out?
Expect to see a news story showing booing fans at the game tonight. That will be followed by them telling us what barbarians we are and how horribly we treated dear old Sarah.
But the Flyers (owned by Republican Ed Snider) have brought this on themselves and us. Snider donated $25,000 to the Republicans, so I guess he wants to get his money's worth. Hey Ed, we use sports as a respite from the everyday world. An escape. We go to games to cheer and yell for people doing things we wish we were doing. It's strange, but it's fun. There isn't anything we do at a sporting event that requires thinking about the real world.
Until today.
"She's dropped the ball on so many issues, it's little wonder they're trying to put her on ice," Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, said in a statement to the New York Daily News.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Oh, it's bad.

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.
- Steve McCroskey, "Airplane"
After last night's late night baseball extravaganza, I decided to take the day off and rest. I started picking at the TV early this morning and rested on Regis and Kelly, who were interviewing a pony tailed Russell Crowe. Suddenly, the screen changed to the ABC News logo and the voice-over said, in that serious tone: This is a special report from ABC News. "Oh boy", I thought, "another airplane hit a building."
No. They cut into the hockey mom's favorite program to show us the opening of the New York Stock Exchange and its subsequent 600-point drop. In 6 minutes, the Dow Jones Industrials were down 648 points. It's settled-in at minus 250. One pundit was predicting that today was the bottom, another was saying he didn't know and a third thought we needed a bank holiday to close the markets for a couple of days to let everyone gather their thoughts. That sounded like the best idea I've heard lately.
If you believe, as I do that a market drop is the financial equivalent of getting into a time machine, consider yourself transported back to 2003, when the Dow was in the 8,000 range.
The year the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas, killing 7 crew members.
The year that George W. Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln in front of a banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished," two months after the war began.
The Old Man in the Mountain rock formation in New Hampshire crumbled.
Rush Limbaugh publicly admitted that he was addicted to prescription pain killers.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California after the recall of Gray Davis.
Welcome back.
Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines.

Game One.

As regular readers know, my face was in the place last night as the Phillies started the National League Championship series against the Dodgers.
After the initial build-up and pomp, the Dodgers jumped to a 2-0 lead and the usually boisterous crowd fell silent, awaiting what we all felt was grim defeat.
But like a flash of lightning, Chase Utley hit a 2-run homer to right field to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth and Pat Burrell followed with a solo shot to give the Phils a 3-2 lead that they would carry to the end. I sent a friend a text message that said, 46,000 people just woke up.
When Burrell came out to his position in left field to start the seventh, the crowd in the left field seats (which included me) stood and cheered. He has been here his entire 9-year career and to say it's been a roller coaster ride would be an understatement. However, once the post-season starts, it's a fresh beginning for everyone. He homered on Sunday to help the Phils get to this series, and the standing ovation was in part for that, and in part for his feat last night.
What ran across my mind as we were cheering was, how could someone not be affected by such a thing? Emotionally, it has to be a moving experience to be part of such a large outpouring of love from people you otherwise don't know.
There are televisions in the rafters over our seats because we cannot see the scoreboard. The Fox broadcast was running all night. What struck me about that was that while all this with Burrell was going on and while those of us in the crowd were high-fiving each other and cheering, the home audience was watching a tire commercial.
Television does a great job of bringing games into our homes, but they are restricted by several things out of their control, like advertising and earning money. It's the part of the experience that makes going to games worth the effort. Watching at home is great, but even high-definition can't replicate the emotion of being there, but you probably didn't need me to tell you that.
Brad Lidge came in for another save and 46,000 people wandered into the night. There wasn't the usual traffic jam because most of them stayed around to revel in the victory. There is one more home game on Friday afternoon, and then the Phils go on the road where they could conceivably win the best-of-seven series in Los Angeles, so most of them wanted to squeeze the sensation as long as they could.
They can't put that on TV either.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The power of punctuation

I get a lot of e-mail. Some come from people or things I don’t know, but I open them anyway. Mister Curiosity.
I’m not altogether sure what this one is about.
Perhaps it is a plea to the penis, missing a comma and exclamation point. “Get bigger, Penis!” Damn you.
Or maybe it’s just missing the indefinite article “a”?
Now, I suppose I’m in for a whole new rash of Google searches. Well, tiny folk, feel free to explore the link. Make sure you spell it correctly.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

McCain passes one off.

Fortunately for me, I missed the debate last night. I was doing something important. Anyway, I also missed this awkward moment after the show was over.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Is the Moon half empty or half full?

There are big doings around here over the next week or so. That hasn't always been the case for baseball fans (see profile photo at right). Usually, we're [the Philadelphia we] are sitting around watching other people going to baseball games. Now it's our turn to go.
By the way, it must suck to be a Cubs fan right now. In the spring, people who are supposed to know gave the Cubs and Tigers a trip to the World Series. During the season, those same people said that the Angels were a lock and the Tampa Rays would fade down the stretch.
Who is in the playoff "Final Four?" The Phillies, Dodgers, Red Sox and [ahem] Rays. I would say that it must suck to be a Mets fan, but that goes without saying, so I won't say it.
There is National League Championship Series baseball to be played and it starts on Thursday right here in Philadelphia. Fortunately for me, I'll be at game 1 and unfortunately for me I will not be at game 2. But that's why I have a television.
Still, we're Philadelphians and we can't help but sense the impending doom, much as Lucy would pull the football out from under Charlie Brown's kicking attempt. But this is baseball, and right now the moon is half full and most of us are willing to accept the fact that our time as baseball fans has come because ... well, doesn't it have to eventually?
All of that ten-thousand losses crap is in the past. After all, if a team is around long enough wouldn't it stand to reason that they'd lose 10,000 games? Maybe. Screw 10,000 losses - all we need are 8 more wins, and that seems like a grain of sand in the vast baseball beach - so to speak. Base beach ball? You know what I mean.
I would ask you to wish us luck, but wishes and luck are for losers and we aren't losers. Yet.
Yes, I took the moon photo, and yes, technically, the moon is in the waxing Gibbous phase, but I stretched the truth a little in order to make a point. If there's an astronomer in the crowd who wants to debate me, meet me on Broad Street for the parade on November 1.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Coming soon to a vehicle near you.

This is a new product developed by Ford Motor Co., called MyKey. Starting next year, Ford Motor Company will roll out a new feature, controlled by a computer chip in the key, that allows parents to limit the car's speeds to 80 mph and set a maximum volume for the audio system and to sound continuous alerts if the driver doesn't wear a seat belt on some 2010 models.
Parents also have the option of having the car sound a chime if the teen exceeds 45, 55 or 65 mph. The feature will debut on the 2010 Focus compact car and quickly move to other company models as a standard feature, the company said.
Parents? Maybe they should sell the thing to some kids who might want to slow their parents down a little. I hate to come off sounding like a control freak, but maybe this is an idea whose time has come for everybody, not just kids. After all, if the speed limit is 55 or 65, 80 should be plenty. I'm guessing it's just a matter of time before Washington lawmakers get their fingers around this little gadget.
To help drivers stay safe when they're using cruise control, Ford developed Adaptive Cruise Control. This intelligent cruise control uses forward-looking radar to adjust your speed and maintain a driver-selected distance from the vehicle ahead in the same lane.
If the lead vehicle slows down, or if another object is detected, the system sends a signal to the engine or braking system to decelerate. When the road is clear, the system will re-accelerate the vehicle back to the set speed for safe driv
The big mistake they're making here is using the term "driver-selected distance". I'm guessing a lot of drivers will select 3 feet. How hard would it be to let the cruise control select the safe following distance based on the car's speed? Not too hard. This is the type of thing that should be standard equipment on all vehicles, not just high-end models and not only when the cruise control is on. It should be on when you turn the key.
While they're at it, make it so the steering wheel won't turn until the turn signal is on, a horn that doesn't blow before 7am or after midnight and a cigarette butt deflector that automatically returns disgarded cigs back to the driver.
We need less junk in the car. Give drivers fewer reasons to do something besides drive. We already have laws restricting cell phone use (a rumor I understand is actually law) and others centered around "distracted driving," so why encourage people? It's enough already with the high-tech music gadgets and DVD players. Watch TV at home. When you're in your car, drive.
If they really wanted to discourage drunk driving it would be mandatory to equip cars with a device that would prohibit one from driving if one were intoxicated. But they don't really want to discourage you because that would mean that your auto insurance premiums would come down and we don't want that.
Put some sort of lining around the interior of the car that would keep the damned cell phone from working while you're inside the car. If you want to make a call, do what our ancestors did - get out of the fucking car.
That's a better idea.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Prime time

Partly because today was a big sports day in the area and partly because I have no social life, I chose to spend the better part of the day in front of the TV watching sports.
The Phillies were in Milwaukee, finally ending the playoff series that would send them into the League Championship Series on Thursday. I'll be there, which beats watching it on television, although I'll have to come to grips with the $80 ticket price. I try not to think about that part.
During the game, in addition to the numerous Frank TV commercials, there's one for Dish TV (no relation) that features a scene from "Poltergeist," where the kid looks into the white noise on the TV and says, "They're here" and an aged Craig T. Nelson rises from bed to tell us that they really aren't here. At the bottom of the screen, the disclaimer appears: SCENE FROM POLTERGEIST. NOT INTENDED TO DEPICT ACTUAL CABLE VIEWING EXPERIENCE. That's nice. Otherwise, I would have thought the kid was watching cable TV. Maybe they should simulate the bill you get in the mail every month?
Then there are those Viagra commercials. The ones that sing the joyous "Viva Viagra." The best one is the older guy and the young woman dancing. Suddenly, old guy gets a boner and he surreptitiously looks around the room before grabbing his "wife" and running into a nearby elevator and presumably up to their room for some endless 4-hour bonerific sex.
It's all right there on the afternoon TV, presumably while kids are watching, down comes the guy in the blue tuxedo (probably 4 hours after taking a pill) to interrupt his wife from her important duties to take care of his important duty. After that comes the ad for Flowmax, encouraging older adults not to pee so much. SEE OUR AD IN GOLF MAGAZINE.
They can run those ads, but you still can't say tits on television.
The tough part of the day was that the Eagles and Phillies games were going on at the same time. My credo is that playoff games outweigh regular season games, and in this case it was best to stay tuned to the Phils, who turned out to be the only winner of the pair. Thankfully, both the games were finished by 4pm, because that's when the girls started playing golf.
Meanwhile, in a place called Half Moon Bay, California; Paula Creamer was on her way to winning the Samsung World Championship against 19 of the best LPGA golfers. That lasted until just before 6:00pm, right after the liquor store closed, leaving me to watch 60 Minutes half-sober.
Andy Rooney wondered out loud about the 700 billion dollar bailout (sorry - rescue) and exactly what a billion dollars would look like if you stacked a billion one dollar bills on top of one another.
I don't know about that, but I do know that if I spent $5,000 a day, a billion dollars would last me a 200,000 days - or 548 years.
I'm not that greedy. The government could bail me out for less than half of that.