Friday, November 6, 2009

An athletic supporter.

I'm intrigued by those surveys and opinion polls that determine "The City with the Most Beautiful People" or "The Smartest Towns in the U.S." Mostly because I find it hard to believe that there are more beautiful people in Pasadena, California than in Des Moines, Iowa. Either they're not looking hard enough or they have an odd definition of beauty.
Those sorts of surveys try to link people with the city they live in. It's a nice idea, but it strikes me as hogwash. Like the idea of "Southern Hospitality" or "Midwestern Charm." If you come to Philadelphia and are treated well, you're supposed to be surprised. Sports fans have an identity too, whether we like it or not.
The Phillies lost the World Series Wednesday night. Being a Phillies fan, I'm supposed to be devastated. I'm not, but that's because I treat sports as entertainment. Like a movie or a TV show, I find that I can distance myself from the proceedings because I'm not directly involved. If the game entertains me, I'm happy.
Fans from Philadelphia are supposedly hostile, tough and passionate. That's true of a lot of cities in the northeast. We have a reputation for boorish behavior that tends to indict us all for the actions of a few, and that's ... well, it's probably true, but still...
We are identified with the teams we affiliate ourselves with. That's an odd notion, since our birthplace or residence makes us a fan of a team more than anything else. Subsequently, when the team we like wins, we become winners. When they lose, we're losers. You could earn $100,000 and drive a Porsche; if the Phillies lose, you're a loser too.
Now, we're subjected to ridicule from Yankees fans because "their team" beat "our team" in the World Series. One co-worker recently declared that "all is right with the world again" because the Yankees had won.
To go along with that notion, fans often use the term "we" when they're talking about the team, as though they were involved somehow. Other than paying for a ticket or watching the game on TV, they had nothing to do with it. Yet they still proclaim, "We won!" I guess it gives them some sense of self-worth that they can't get from their family, job or hobby. It's kind of sad that some people place such a high value on something that they have no control over.
When the Eagles lose, there's a region-wide gnashing of teeth and loss of sleep over a football game. Sometimes the fans take the loss harder than the players. That's odd. It's all fun and games until you start to take it personally, then it's more like a psychosis. I wonder if they make a drug to treat a loss of erection brought on by football?
So here I am, loser Phillies fan, about to take a year's worth of abuse from Yankees fans for something that somebody else did. Well screw 'em. I'm not changing my profile photo and I'm not giving up my season tickets.
Besides, whether the Phillies won or lost, I still have to get up at 5:30, schlep to work, pay my bills and find a reason to do it all over again the next day. I think that's harder than beating the Yankees.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The pluses and the minuses.

So, OK New Jersey has a new governor. At least in January. The people have spoken - and we all know how intelligent the people are. They're the same people that have made American Idol a top-rated TV show and Jessica Simpson a top-rated recording artist. Suffice it to say, I have no faith in the voice of the people.
The enemy of the state, Jon Corzine can begin packing while our newest, bestest buddy Chris Christie (who curiously has two identical names) moves into the governor's house and will supposedly make things right between the state and its taxpayers (us).
Meanwhile, when is the last time you saw taxes go down or some long-term government decision go the way of the common man? I'll give you a chance to think about it. Take all the time you need.
OK ... ready?
Never, that's when.
So, your new governor has promised to right all the wrongs done by the Evil Empire led by the last guy. That's nice. Write it down, because you don't want to forget what he said in four years when you're voting for the next guy who promises to right all the wrongs done by the last guy you elected.
Can you see where I'm going with this?
Better yet, can you see where you're going?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

God of Thunder

There is a new resident at the castle. His name is Thor.
Since Kitty died it's been lonely around here. I found that adopting a cat from the local animal shelter is only a little more difficult than buying a gun. There is a lengthy application process, and they actually call the people you list as references - so be careful.
The PetsMart stores are satellite agencies for the local shelter, and I've been stopping in from time to time to check on the available felines. Last Friday I found Thor. He's a 2-year old Grey Tabby and he picked me out. The shelter named him Thor. It seemed like a cool name, so what the Hell. Besides, I'm mostly calling him Kitty anyway. He doesn't seem to mind.
Initially, I was looking for a kitten, since I wanted to raise one from scratch. But kittens are kind of ornery and I'd feel strange leaving one here all day while I was at work not knowing what kind of mischief he'd be up to while I was gone. They had a few adult cats. Thor's big grey face came through the cage and those green eyes attracted me immediately. When I took him out of the cage he started purring and opened his paw and poked at my arm. Done.
I thought there would be a get-acquainted period where I would have to gain his trust and he mine, but almost immediately after I let him out of the carrier in the living room he took to me like we had known each other for years. He sits with me on the sofa and sleeps with me at night. He follows me around the condo like a grey shadow and as soon as I disappear from his sight he is running to find where I went. That sounds a lot like the last resident around here.
He had his "wellness visit" at the vet today and so far, so good. I had them do a blood panel to make sure everything is OK. He had some ear mites (which are routine in shelter cats) and had just recovered from a slight respiratory ailment that the shelter treated him for. I also noticed that he is missing a few of his tiny front teeth. The vet didn't think much of it, since those teeth don't do much of anything. The people at the shelter told me he was a stray, so there's no telling what happened to his teeth.
He weighs 14.5 pounds, which sounds big for a cat, because it is. It's 5 pounds more than Kitty ever weighed, but the vet told me he's not overweight, which is nice since he eats like a pony.
He has a couple of odd habits, like sleeping on his back with his paws in the air, and he has a very soft voice which I just started hearing lately. When I brought him home he didn't speak at all. He's just starting to squeak now.
What's most interesting to me is how quickly we became pals. It's almost as though he'd been waiting to come here. He instantly took to the place and started using his scratching post and litter pan right away and slept with me the first night he was here. It's a little eerie. I'm not a mystical person by nature, but this guy has me wondering. It's not like I'm Doctor Dolittle or anything, but I find that animals like me, for some reason.
A lot more than most people, anyway.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Vote with your head, not over it.

Tuesday is election day. It's kind of big here in New Jersey, since we'll be electing a governor. Without going into any political detail, the incumbent Jon Corzine is supposedly hated by the electorate and it's a close race between him and Republican Chris Christie.
As usually happens in these situations, the sitting governor has made a lot of controversial decisions including scaling back the property tax rebate and increasing the state's sales tax to 7%. All of this came in the wake of a huge state budget deficit and we are led to believe that if those and other steps were not taken the state could be on the road to bankruptcy.
When a guy puts the state on the back of the taxpayers the guy running against him has a relatively easy time convincing voters that the state needs to change. He'll run out a lot of promises about lowering taxes and making things right again. That's an easy campaign to run and an even easier one to win, since none of us likes to have anything we pay be increased.
So, Christie makes it sound like he's going to be everybody's best friend and still manage to put the state back on track. Those two things would seem to be politically impossible, but he's working with a group of voters who are tired of paying for things and it's possible that he could be our next governor.
There is also a ballot question that asks us to vote on a referendum to secure money to buy open space and slow the growth of development in the state. That sounds like a good idea. Since the state can't come up with enough money to purchase land to develop, the property owners always go with the offer from the developer and sell their property for a high price so that someone can build homes, stores or something that isn't trees, grass or farmland. The state needs to raise more money to keep property from being developed, and the only way they can outbid the developers is to ask us to give it to them.
The opponents say that voting yes will raise our taxes, and we should vote no because we don't want to have our taxes raised. What they fail to tell us is that more homes means more police, fire and other services that are paid for out of ... anyone ... tax money. Developing land for commercial or residential use requires more services from government. Government services are paid for from tax money and taxes always go up. But it's easy to get people to vote no for ballot questions, since a no vote usually means that we're against something that we don't want, and we don't want higher taxes. But taxes never go down regardless of how we vote or whom we elect.
So, we have an election with two easily winnable contests, unless voters are smart enough to realize something my economics professor told me. "No new taxes means no new services."
My fear is that 51% of us aren't smart enough to realize that.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The hub of stubs.

The next time you read one of those newspaper stories about people making a small fortune selling their event tickets on StubHub or some other Internet agency, take it with an appropriate grain of salt.
Since my seat-mate was committed to going to a Gov't Mule concert last night, we had decided to put our World Series game 3 tickets on the StubHub and make some money off the deal. The idea was to make enough for me to pay off a small debt and to have enough to pay for next year's 17-game plan. Nice idea, eh? Not so fast, Kimosabe.
With a face value of $150 each, the initial listing went up last week for the Princely sum of $2,500 for the pair. Quickly, I realized that the price was a tad bit high, since there were other seats in our section for around $2,000. But I let them sit a few days, figuring that the others would sell and ours would move to the top of the list. Plus, there were greedy New Yorkers involved, and that's always good for business.
Long story short (I know, too late) I had to reduce the price about 5 more times until, with less than 4 hours to game time the price was at $500 each - which was still higher than some other seats in our section (yes, there were still seats left) but would at least give us enough to pay for next year's tickets after subtracting out StubHub's hefty 15% brokerage fee.
Looking around the site I saw that there were still 85 listings and tickets available in every section of the ballpark. Ours were in 206 near the right field fair pole, so they were good but not great seats. Once I saw that there were better seats for about the same price I realized that they weren't going to sell.
The not-so-happy ending of the story is that I was able to find someone to go to the game with and the good thing was that we were in one of the few areas of the ballpark that was under cover, which was good since the game was rain-delayed an hour twenty and the rain continued for most of the night. I couldn't help but wonder about all of those people who paid big bucks for better seats and sat there getting soaked while we were in the relative comfort of the overhang. Schmucks.
I suppose there are some people who made a few bucks selling their playoff tickets, but the lesson I took out of it is that the seats have to be very good to fetch the big bucks. I probably could have sold them for slightly more than face value, but that wouldn't have been as good as going to the game which, even though the Phils lost, was a nice event to attend. And I wondered about all those seats that were still on the site at 5:00pm. Between the horrible weather and the short notice, I guess they went unused.
Unless you absolutely cannot go to an event or have great seats, you might be disappointed at the results of selling your seats on the Internet.