Monday, February 23, 2015

Living in Concert, Part 4

In June of 2013, I wrote a couple of posts listing the concerts I’ve attended.  The next month, I did a third installment, but my progress stopped there, so because I really don’t have anything else burning up my brain pan, I figured I’d go through another chunk.  During this time period, I was still managing a record store and living in Cleveland.

3/18/89 – Cinderella/Winger/Bulletboys, Richfield Coliseum, Long Winter tour. (16.00 comped)  I went to see this one solely because my girlfriend at the time was really into Cinderella.  I hardly knew their music at the time, but I like them a lot better now.  I got backstage passes, but the gf was too star-struck to even speak to them.

6/16/89 – Meat Loaf, Nautica Soundstage, Cleveland.  Blind Before I Stop tour.  ($11.00)  This was the first show in Cleveland I ever had to pay for, but this was The Loaf!  Totally worth it.  (At eleven bucks??  LOL  That won’t even get you parking any more.)  But because Meat Loaf didn’t have a record deal at that time, there were no freebies to be had.

This was my first time seeing Meat Loaf, so I was really excited.  He’d been my favorite singer for years.  Nautica was an outdoor pavilion right on Lake Erie, so it was a pretty cool venue.  This was the only time I was ever there.

The Loaf, of course, was awesome, as we was every other time I saw him.

7/9/89 – Albert Collins, Peabody’s Down Under, Cold Snap tour.  (guest listed) I’d just seen Albert a year and a half before, but he was well worth seeing again.  I got to stand belly-up to the stage, so there were great opportunities for picture-taking.

Albert Collins, Master of the Telecaster

9/27/89 – The Rolling Stones/Living Colour, Cleveland Stadium, Steel Wheels tour. ($28.50 comped)  Another big one.  I guess they had a lot of seats to fill in Cleveland Stadium… (yes, THAT Cleveland Stadium, the cavernous antiquated field where the Browns and Indians played.)  I was offered 4 freebies, so my first call was to my boss, who was a huge Stones fan.  I took along another couple of store managers as well.

It was a great show, of course, culminating with Keef playing the guitar solo to Sympathy for the Devil, from waaaaay up at the top of the stage backdrop.

Also ended up leaning on and swaying to Ruby Tuesday with a cute girl in the row behind me.  I got her number but she was from about an hour east of town, which made her geographically unsuitable for pursuit.

10/7/89 – Texas, Peabody’s Down Under, Southside tour. (guest listed) Went with a bunch of other managers from our stores.  Texas is a Scottish band, with a twangy, pop sound and a female lead singer.  Got to meet them all backstage, and they were very nice.  (Probably because hardly anyone (but us) knew who they were.

December 1989, Joan Jett, Akron Civic Center, Up Your Alley tour. This was the only other show I had to pay for during my Cleveland years.  I’d just seen Joan the year before as an opening act, but this was the first time I got to see her headline.

So I couldn’t get a freebie but I DID have backstage passes, which led to one of my favorite experiences with Joan.  When she came down into the room, she recognized me and came right over me.  I then got to introduce my assistant manager to her, like we were old friends. 

March 1990 – Expose, Peabody’s Down Under, touring on their 2nd album. (Guest listed.)  Expose was a female dance/pop trio.  It wasn’t really my kind of music, but hey, I got offered the tickets and had nothing better to do.  Besides, they were seriously cute.  I got to hang out with them all a couple of years later, when I was working at our record retailer’s home office.

4/10/90 – Alannah Myles, Peabody’s Down Under, touring on self-titled debut album. (comped)  I had a huge crush on Alannah Myles and she was tearing it up with her song, “Black Velvet.”  She also had some harder rocking songs too, so I was only too happy to see her in person.

When I went to see Expose, I didn’t get there early enough, so I ended up about 20 feet back from the stage.  I didn’t want to make that mistake again, so this time I got there early and grabbed a spot right at the front of the stage.  Man, it’s a whole different world seeing a show from up that close.  Plus, I got a drumstick from the opening act.  (The Questionaires.)

The drummer was playing a solo on all the equipment, including the stagefront monitors, right smack in front of me.  I probably could have reached up and spun Alannah’s spur from where I was.

That was the last concert I saw in Cleveland.  But the end of 1990, I’d moved up to Albany NY, to pursue a job with the company home office.  It would take two more years of managing stores before I made the jump from nametag-wearing grunt to office dude.

The game wasn’t quite the same for store managers.  The label people didn’t need to butter us up as much as they did with the product buyers in the office.  But still, if you made your connections, they could still hook a brother up.

7/5/91 – AC/DC w/ LA Guns, Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, Razor’s Edge tour. ($20.50, comped).  Not bad for a first show in Albany.  Had to go by myself though.  It sucked not having a crew any more.  I probably should have asked one of the strippers I was hanging around with.  But once again, AC/DC was great.  You pretty much know what you’re going to get.

8/29/91 – ZZ Top w/ Extreme, Saratoga Performing Arts Center (aka SPAC), Recycler tour. ($22.50)  SPAC was an outdoor pavilion, like Blossom Music Center in Cleveland and Merriweather Post Pavilion here in Baltimore.  ZZ Top had another great, effects-laden show, including their moving sidewalk gag.  That’s where they both turn and start walking sideways across the stage, but don’t actually go anywhere.  It’s surprising at first until you realize they have a moving conveyor belt going across the front of the stage.

11/24/91 – Joan Jett w/ The Four Horsemen, Saratoga Winners, Notorious tour. (comped)  Got to meet Joan again, but because it had been a couple of years since I last saw her, I never brought up that we’d met before.  So the fact that she was so incredibly friendly with me and my assistant manager just meant that’s the way she is.
"Keep treating people right, and you’ll be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame… eventually…"

12/5/91 – The Moody Blues, Paramount Theater, Springfield Mass, Legend of a Band tour. ($25.00 comped)  By this time, I had finally made it into the home office.  Late in the day one evening, the music buyers asked a bunch of us if we wanted to go see the Moody Blues.  The show was out of state, but they got the Polygram label guy to drive us all in a van.  We ended up going through a terrible snowstorm, and barely made it to the show alive, let alone on time.

3/8/92 – Koko Taylor, Lonnie Brooks, Katie Webster, Lil Ed and Elvin Bishop, The Egg, Albany NY, Alligator 25th Anniversary tour.  This was a big blues show featuring artist from my favorite blues label, Alligator Records.  I probably could have gotten free tickets myself, but my mentor, Vinnie, basically had an open invitation.  He reserved the entire first two rows.  I had my parents come into town for the show and we got to meet all the acts.  I wrote all about that, here.

6/9/92 – Melissa Etheridge, Palace Theater, Never Enough tour. (comped) I went with my mentor Vinnie, and his girlfriend.  Great show; she really sang her ass off.  Got to meet her backstage too, and this was the first time I ever froze up with a rock star.  At the last minute, I decided that what I wanted to tell her was too hokey, and just shut my yap.

But, I got ended up getting a wife out of the deal.  Vinnie’s girlfriend enjoyed my company so much, recommended me to her friend at work.  One blind date later, we were off on a 5-year run of fun and misery.  (You can probably guess as to the proportion of each.)

8/2/92 – George Thorogood w/ Little Feat, SPAC, Boogie People tour. ($14.50 comped)  This was my first concert with Future Ex.  We got backstage passes, but George was out the door and in the car before we ever got back there.  Great show though.  Future Ex’s comment after watching George tear up the stage: “He’s wrapped pretty tight, huh?

To be continued… maybe.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The New Car Bluz

My apologies for being late posting this week.  I spent Monday and Tuesday in a mad scramble to make the best of a bad situation.  Here’s what happened.

As you may know, it’s been cold as Ann Coulter’s heart around here… Monday morning it was 3 degrees.  I know, people on the plains or in the upper Midwest get that all the time, but Baltimore rarely gets that mind-numbingly cold.

I was concerned about how my 2002 Chrysler Concorde would hold up; I think this is the coldest it’s been since I got it in 2010, and it still has its original battery.  But when I went out to the car Monday morning, it started up just fine.  (It started up OK on Sunday as well.)

About a mile into my trek to the subway, the oil light came on.  It had never done that before.  I figured the sensors must be cold and the oil extra sludgy, so I continued on my way.  I only had another 2 miles to go and hell, back in the day, I used to drive my car with the oil light on, for months.  (Granted, I was both stupid and broke back then.  I don’t mess around like that anymore.)

I thought I’d get to the subway, go to work, and then afterwards, swing by the Jiffy Lube that was right on my way home.

Right outside the turnoff to the subway lot, the car just stopped running.  I had just made a left at the light (for which I luckily didn’t have to stop).  Realizing I was right on the doorstep, so to speak, I figured I’d use the car’s momentum to glide down to the turn-in and just ease into a parking space.

What I didn’t figure was that I would have to do it without benefit of either power steering or power brakes.  So at the dead end, where I’d have to make another left into the lot, I had to wrestle the wheel around like I was cornering in an aircraft carrier.  I still wasn’t braking yet, because I wanted to keep up my forward momentum.

Then I had one last maneuver where I had to make essentially 3 rights and come to rest in an open parking spot.  That’s when it got tough, because I had practically no brakes.  I really had to stand on the pedal, so not to careen into the curb.  But somehow I managed to get it come to rest in a parking space.

Once at work, I called to arrange to have the car towed to my local garage, which is about a half mile from my apartment.  They’re a little pricy, but it’s walking distance.  Not having to bug someone for a ride is an important factor to me.

It’s funny; when you’re illegally parked, they can tow your car in a heartbeat.  But if you want your car towed, they insist on your being there.  So I asked my boss if I could work the rest of the day from home, (she said yes, because she’s a very understanding boss), so I went to meet the tow truck back at my car.

As I mentioned, the tow truck guy got my car scooped up and onto the flatbed in no time at all, and then dropped the both of us at the garage.  I left the key with the mechanics, and set about walking home.

First stop, however, was the local Chinese food place.  It was lunchtime, and “brotha’s gotta eat.”  Besides, there’s nothing better than hot and sour soup when you’ve been standing out in frozen temperatures for a while.

The garage called me later that afternoon, and told me that the “usual suspects,” the battery and alternator, were fine.  They’d have to tear into it a little deeper… which was gonna cost me.

Sigh.  But fine.  What else was I going to do?  He said it would take about 3 more hours, by which time they’d be closing, so I should probably expect to hear from them on Tuesday morning.  Because we were expecting about 5” of snow overnight, it was already likely I was going to work from home anyway, to this sealed the deal.

So, the next morning, he called with the bad news… the oil pump was broke, and with no oil in the engine, it tied right up and was kaput.  Only way to fix was to replace the entire engine, which would run between $5000 and $6000.  Given that I only spent $3300 on the entire car, I decided that it was now time for a new car.

All I had to do next was figure out which of the bazillion cars out there was the one I wanted.  I had no clue, so I just started chopping wood.  Googled used car dealers and started browsing stock.

Pretty soon, I came across a model I’d never heard of, the Chrysler 200, which was the size, body-type and price that I was looking for.  There were a bunch of them around; I just had to find the one with the right combination.

Remember when I told you about test driving a Chevy Malibu and a Ford Fusion for my job as a Fleet Manager?  That experience really helped me, because I had a pretty good basis of comparison.  I knew I didn’t fit in the Fusion very well, so I looked up the headroom stats for it, so I could make sure whichever car I chose would have a little more.  I can’t stand mashing my head into the ceiling every time I hit a bump in the road.

I almost went for a brand new model, but unfortunately, the new model had about 2” less headroom than the 2013.  Kinda bummed me out.  The 2015 had a much better electronics package.

You know, this was the first time I’d needed to buy a car from a dealership since 2004 and my, how times have changed.  Before, I’d have to go to a dealership and just look around until I found something I liked, all the while fending off over-eager salesmen.

Now, I could troll online through dealership search engines, choosing all the criteria I wanted, evaluate all the options, and find a car that fit my needs.  All without having to get out of my jammies.

Anyway, I settled on a car from a dealership that was only about 15 minutes away.  I IM’d the dealership inquiring about the car, they called me back and we set up an appointment for that afternoon.  Because I was without transport, I called Pinky to give me a ride, which she was nice enough to do.

They had the car ready for me when we got there, so we began the test drive immediately.  It was a nice ride.  I was very pleased at the prospect of finally having a car with some modern amenities.  Although one of my favorite amenities was very old fashioned.

Finally!  A clock I can figure out how to adjust for time changes!

The test drive was the easy part.  After that, it took another two and a half goddamned hours to get my paperwork done!  I guess some things never change…

The worst part was the home stretch, where the finance guy tried desperately to get me to buy a bunch of add-on benefits and warranties.  There were 4 different combination packages with stuff like extended bumper-to-bumper warranties, GAP coverage, paint and seat treatments, and Lord knows what else.

When I declined all that stuff, the finance guy went into Incredulousness Overdrive.  The whole time, I’m thinking, “This guy wouldn’t be pushing me so hard, if there wasn’t a lot more in it for THEM than there was for ME.”

He was telling me about all the stuff he had go wrong on his Dodge, once it hit 80,000 miles.  I was like, “This car has 36,000 on it and I only drive about 4,000 miles per year.  Once I hit 80,000 miles, in eleven years, then I’ll worry about big repair bills.”

You know, the last time I held the line with a sales guy like this, it was over hoses for my new washing machine.  And after bravely insisting my hoses were perfectly fine, they sprung a leak as soon as I hooked them up.  You’d think I’d have learned.

Anyway, we got the deal done and I think I got a pretty good financing rate.  I didn’t go into the week expecting to add 4 years of car payments, but that’s the way things go.  This morning, I went back to the shop to get all my crap out of the Concorde… especially my snow brush and scraper.  Got the plates off and contacted a junk yard to come pick it up.  I’ll even get a couple of Benjamins out of it. 

It just sucks that I just put 4 new tires on it last freakin’ month.  That one hurts.  And before you ask, no, they won’t fit the new car.  But whatevs… shit happens.

But at least after this shit, I got me a new car!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Debunkery - Ted Talks

I have to start this debunking with a disclaimer: I can’t independently confirm that this is an actual quote.  Here’s the quote in question:

First off, this comes from an anti-GOP group that alleges the quote came from last year’s CPAC gathering.  I went through Cruz’s entire speech and there are no references to gays at all.  Now, that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have made the statement to a small group on the side, or in a personal conversation; I just can’t prove it.

So, IF the quote is accurate, let’s proceed.

What we have here is a classic case of Logical Fallacy; it’s a fairly simple one that works best on simple people.

Because B followed A, A must have cause B.”

This is a basic, Logic 101 five-alarm fallacy.  All of Cruz’s “B” statements have scores of other possible causes, probably a combination of them.  To assert that gays coming out of the closet is the root cause, well, that’s just asinine.

This is really just a case of scapegoating.  The aging, angry, white men of the GOP desperately wish it were still the pre-60s, where well-to-do white men ruled the country, people of color knew their place, women had dinner ready and did as they were told and the gays, well, there were no gays, as far as anyone could tell.  It was an idyllic time… as long as you were a well-to-do straight white male.

Now in the past, they’ve demonized African-Americans and Hispanics, but then they got their asses kicked in the 2008 and 2012 general elections.  Our country is what, 40-45% people of color now?  That’s a formidable voting bloc.  But gays?  That’s 6-10% of the population.  It’s significant, but nowhere near the numbers of other minorities.

And boy, can you ever scare people with tales of gay debauchery, so much so that if you put forth scenarios featuring child predators, graphic sexual information in schools, and lewd acts going on at every corner, you can get people to vote for a party who services the rich at the expense of the very voters who elected them.   A scapegoat is exactly what you need to distract the people you’re trying to screw, especially if you can do it under the guise of religion.

I put forth that it’s the suppression of gays that is the root cause of all this long-standing gay fear.  Until gays started coming out to friends and family in recent years, the only time middle-America saw gays were during news clips of gay pride parades.  These parades are marked by great enthusiasm and flamboyance, so that’s what people associated with “the gay lifestyle.”  They think it’s all about hordes of Freddie Mercury clones wearing ass-less chaps.

Except that’s not really it.  That’s what comes out when a person’s not allowed to be himself, out in public, other than once a year for a couple of hours.  Maybe it’s all that suppression that makes people go “over the top,” during their big moment.

So maybe if gays hadn’t been forced to stay hidden all these years, middle-Americans might have seen that they’re basically just like everyone else.  They go to work and come home and go out to eat and cut the grass and pay their taxes.  On the surface, you’d never really see anything out of the ordinary.  There would have been no need for extravagant displays of pride, no more so that in an average St. Paddy’s Day parade.

It can also explain some of the gun violence and mass shootings Ted mentioned.  Maybe if some of these kids hadn’t been beaten up every week and called “faggot” by the jocks and popular kids, they might not have felt the need to bring an automatic weapon to school and slaughter everyone in the cafeteria.

Now this is just an idea of mine; I could be full of shit.  We’ll never know.

So why do these Fox “News” and GOP types use such weak logical constructions?  Because they work when used on their base.   Look they’ve said it themselves…

This quote IS confirmed.  Omni Shoreham hotel, 2012.

Remember, this is also the same party whose Texas delegation added a plank to their platform that was against teaching critical thinking skills in high school.

The Republicans don’t want people educated; they want them pliable.  That way, weak-ass logical assertions like Cruz’s gain traction, and allow the GOP to continue use issues like religion to rig this country’s economics to ensure the rich stay rich and everyone else stays distracted with “moral” issues.

But you don’t have to take my word on that…

Monday, February 2, 2015

The SBXLIX Experience

So there was this big football game yesterday, right?  You might have heard something about it.  You might have even gone to a party held in its honor.

Me?  I just sat home, made myself an early dinner, and watched the Penguins game followed by the Super Bowl.  The Pens got their asses kicked again, and I have nothing to say about that. 

But other game… the one with the noteworthy commercials?  I was taking notes on that game, the ads and the spectacle all night long.  In fact, I was taking them directly to Twitter.  So let’s see what I said…  I’ll be damned if I can remember… it was a long, arduous day of TV watching.

It started with Idina Menzel singing the National Anthem.

One of the downfalls of Twitter is that often times, everyone gets the same idea at the same time.  Then when you read the timeline, it looks like everyone is copying off the first one.  I saw a form of this tweet all over the place, but let me assure you, I thought of it on my own.  The same goes for all the rest of the tweets.  It just looks like I’m copying, because I don’t type very fast on my little external iPad keyboard.

But I didn’t see anyone else come up with this angle…

The first commercial that got me excited wasn’t even one of the high-budget, clever ones; it was just the trailer to the new Jurassic Park.

I’ll totally be seeing that on opening weekend.

The Turbo Tax “teaparty” ad was a nice try, but kind of strained, I thought.

Really, I try to keep politics out of sports tweeting, but sometimes they just tee one up.

Judging by my last post, you’d think I’d avoid adding “gate” to scandals, but I couldn’t help myself when the Seahawks ran into the punter’s “plant” leg, which should have been a 15 yard penalty instead of 5.
I know the announcers try to be relevant and hip to the times, but seriously, Al Michaels?

“Humongous” hasn’t been in current usage since the 80s.

A lot of people were talking about having already watched most of the Super Bowl commercials in the preceding week.  Not me.

That’s like reading a spoiler article before going out to see the movie.  I’d rather be surprised.  One year during Super Bowl week, I watched one of those “All Time Best Super Bowl Commercials” shows, not knowing they were going to run the best of the new spots.  Totally ruined the viewing experience for me.

As for the game, I was pulling for the Seahawks.  Seattle is far enough away that they don’t really enter my consciousness, other when they’re acting like punks or crybabies.  And all their 12th Man bullshit?  Where were all those 12th men in Detroit for Super Bowl XL?  Disguised as Steeler fans?  Their presence there was statistically negligible.

So they’re not my favorites, but I really don’t like those cheating Patriots.  And last week, I told you why.  So I was rooting for the Hawks.

The T-Mobile/Kim Kardashian spot was an interesting idea, but I just couldn’t really process it.  Whenever I see her, all I can think is, “Is that really all one person?”

It’s like one day in 1995, she saw Jennifer Lopez’s butt and took it as a challenge.

Then there was the one everyone knew was coming… another Clydesdale and puppy spot from Budweiser.

Sure, it’s over-the-top sappy, but geez; giant horses rescue lost puppy from the big bad wolf?  Score one for Bud.

I also really liked the Coke commercial, where some geek spills his Coke into a bank of servers, and suddenly all the mean people on the internet turn over a new leaf.

I know I wasn’t the only one to bring this up, but it still occurred to me independently.

So there we were, sailing along, game things happening, snacks being eaten, parties going full steam, and then the Nationwide ad hit.

A dead kid in a Super Bowl spot?  Are they fucking kidding?  Boy, did they ever pick the wrong time to go all “serious.”

As they showed a montage of the various celebrities throughout the crowd, (meaning in the club section,) they lingered on Sir Paul McCartney.

Every so often, a political tweet would roll by my feed.  Sometimes I couldn’t help but retweet and add my two cents to the end.

The one where the shiny, happy McDonalds personnel spread “Big Mac for the Soul,” messages through free high-fat lunches, pissed me off.

Then, right before halftime, the NFL itself tried to throw a blanket over the festivities, with their highly-touted domestic violence PSA.

I’ll say this; it was an effective spot.  I just thought it killed the mood of the event (for the 2nd time of the day), and maybe it should be reserved for something less festive.  Like a Downton Abbey marathon.

But then, when you think about how Super Bowl Sunday is supposed to be the day with the highest incidence of domestic violence, maybe they were onto something.  So I guess I should just keep my big yap shut.

At least with Seattle losing, the worst they’ll do is write something mean on someone’s Frappuccino cup.

On to halftime…

When I was at SBLX in Detroit, they had the Rolling Stones stage set up and torn down so fast you barely registered the change.  You just went, “Shit, how did THAT get there?”

Still wish they’d hire an act who plays “Football Music,” (coughAC/DCcough), rather than a bunch of teenybopper bubblegum artists.  But I’ll give Katy Perry this… she knows how to make an entrance.

I wish I’d thought of this, but I didn’t, so I retweeted.

That one made me laugh out loud.

Yes, I wasn’t the only one who recognized Katy’s means of airborne transportation. But I didn’t know that at the time.

Another retweet and tack-on…

I swear, the guy couldn’t come out in favor of cheeseburgers without the Republicans claiming he hates hot dogs.  And freedom.

I think the writers of Liam Neeson’s commercial missed the key phrase.

Maybe they were just trying to be less obvious.  But for me, I don’t know the movie that well; I needed reassurance that I was getting the proper reference.  Or maybe it was just the beer.  It was getting late…

The entire game seemed to come down to the last couple of minutes, when the Patriots scored a touchdown to take a 4-point lead.  The Seahawks had 2 minutes to go and immediately received a nomination for Catch of the Year.

Then on second down at the 1 yard line, Seattle opted not to give the ball to their beast of a running back, Marshon Lynch.  Russell Wilson threw a pass up the middle, which was picked off by New England, to win the game right there.

The more I thought about it, the madder I got.

That’s a little Steelers smack talk circa 2005.

So, there you have it… the Super Bowl 49 Experience, as seen by my tweets.  See, if you would have been following me, (@DarwinfishBluz), you’d have seen all this brilliance yesterday, and you could have skipped this whole post!  Look at how much time you would have saved.

“Darwinfish2: making you more efficient since 2009.”

Monday, January 26, 2015

Homeless Thoughts - The Educational Edition

Lurning Kerve
OK, I’m just over a week into owning an iPhone and I’m learning more stuff about what it can do every day.  But it’s not just the fancy stuff… Some things I just couldn’t bring myself to ask anyone about.

Like the buttons on the upper left side.  I could see that two of them controlled volume up and volume down, but the top one was supposed to switch the ringer on and off.  But no matter how hard I pushed it, it never moved and the ringer never changed.  I thought it might be one of those touch-sensitive deals that picks up body heat.  No luck.

Until one night I was picked up the phone and saw a quickly fading message that my ringer had just been turned off.  Unfortunately, I had no idea what I did, and not I couldn’t get it back on.  I scoured though all the settings, but couldn’t change my now soundless iPhone.

Cut to a couple days ago, when my phone cover was delivered.  As I jammed it around the edges of the phone, the lip bumped that top button, and switched the sound back on.  Because the button is flipped back and forth, not pushed in!


I expect any day now, Steve Jobs is going to rise from the dead and take his iPhone away from me.

Hasn’t been a total loss though.  My brother told me about how I can download my bank’s mobile app, and then when I need to deposit a check, just scan it with the phone.  When I got that to work, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. 

Now if I can just get it to work the same way with cash…

More Lurnin’
I also discovered an important kitchen lesson.  When you’re making small pasta, like “orzo,” make sure the holes in the colander are smaller than the pasta. 

Doh!  What a waste…

I should totally sue the colander manufacturer, because they should have had a warning on it.  If they can warn you that coffee is hot, they can warn about this.

“The Password is… Kidnapping”
I saw a thing on Facebook this weekend, that explained how parents should give their kids a special password, and that any adults trying to pick them up or give them a ride would have to know the password or the kid shouldn’t go with them.

On the surface, I think it’s a pretty good idea.  We had something like that when I was a kid, but it didn’t quite work out.  I think the problem was that our family password was “Get in the fuckin’ car.

I called my folks over the weekend, just as they were having their preliminary nap… you know, the nap before they go take their “official” nap.  Some married couples have pre-nups. My parents have pre-naps.

Hats Off
Remember how I used to have all my ballcaps pinned up around my dining room, and then eventually stowed them back on the hallway wall?  Hat Wall 2.0 was starting to get overcrowded, so I had a thought.

I have some hats that are mostly decorative, meaning I rarely wear them.  I’m talking about the hats that celebrate championships.  To me, it’s bad mojo to wear them during the year.  It tempts fate.  So the only time I really wear them is during the off season directly following the championship.

I could just “not buy them,” but come on… seriously?  When my team wins it all, I get swag fever bad.  So not only do I have a hat for each championship, I have several.

So, to solve my space problem, I created the Championship Hat Wall, back in the dining room where I used to have them.

I’ve got hats from Ohio State, the Steelers and the Penguins.  Now if only the Pirates or Orioles can bring one home, I can cover all my sports.  Might need more wall though…

Aside from the Giant Killer Death Snowstorm hitting the Northeast, the story of the week continues to be “Deflategate.”   That’s about how the New England Patriot are accused of deflating the footballs they used on offense, to make them easier to grip and throw during the AFC Championship Game against the Colts.

First of all, let me declare here and now that I sick to death of the media adding “gate” to every scandal or controversy.  I mean shit, Watergate was 41 years ago.  Can’t we do any better than this?

I’m just biding my time.  Sooner or later there will come a snafu that will either resist being “gated,” or will become spectacular.

For example, if there was an issue with someone’s gated community, would it become Gategate?  What if it were Bill Gates’ gated community?  Would it be Gates’ Gategate?  And if Bill Gates were to divorce his wife and then marry gorgeous former Star Trek–Next Generation actress Gates McFadden, and she was the instigator of the whole controversy, it would have to be called Gates Gates’ Gategate.

Ooh!  Ooh!  If she is tried in court on the controversy and is acquitted, we could say Gates Gates Skates Gategate. 

“Please come to Sick Bay.  You’re a very disturbed person.”

Director’s DVD Commentary: If you don’t like this kind of silliness, you’ll want to avoid this post at all costs.

Now, about this deflated football thing…

First of all, I find it impossible that any kind of natural conditions are responsible for deflating the Patriots footballs but not those used by the Colts.  Regardless that the physics put forth by the coach are questionable, the fact remains that the same physics would apply to both sides of the field.

I further find it extremely unlikely that Bill Belichick, who has a reputation of being a control freak regarding all aspects of his team’s preparation and execution, was ignorant about how the footballs are prepared for his team every week.

And it would be astounding to think that QB Tom Brady, the heart and soul of the team and the man throwing the passes, did not explicitly approve of the deflation.  I mean, he’s the field general.  Nothing is going to happen to those footballs without his express approval.  What flunky would risk his wrath if he didn’t want the footballs softer?

The NFL is conducting its investigation, which I hope is more robust than their half-hearted attempts to investigate the Ray Rice Elevator Punch.  Assuming they find fault with the team, they need to come down hard on the Patriots.  This issue goes to the very fabric of an even playing field.  One team cannot be given equipment of a different standard than the other team.  It’s like making one team go uphill.

And given that this will the second time the Pats have been caught violating the rules regarding fair play, they need to be smacked down hard.  No, I’m not saying remove them from the Super Bowl, it’s too late for that, but they need to lose big draft picks, and people need to be suspended… Belichick and Brady, at least.

Whether Belichick even had specific knowledge or not doesn’t matter.  It’s the same thing as with the Chris Christie bridge scandal.  The leader sets the culture of the office, or team.  No one would ever dare step out of line like that, if they didn’t think it would please the Boss.

It also doesn’t matter that the deflated footballs didn’t seem to make much difference, as the Pats pushed the Colts all over the field.  Attempts at cheating are not nullified by the cheating not having the desired effect.  It’s still an illegal way to give your team an advantage that the other team doesn’t have.  The integrity of the game has to be preserved, or else the whole thing becomes a joke.  Goodell needs to live up to his own mantra and Protect the Shield.

What will happen?  I think they’ll find some lackey to take the blame… an over-enthusiastic ball boy or something. 

Or maybe (massive Pats nose tackle) Vince Wilfork sat on the box of footballs. 

Apparently Vince was trying to hatch this one.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Huckster

I really should thank so many of the people I follow on Twitter; last night I was able to watch the Penguins/Flyers game and still keep up with the State of the Union.  I’m pretty sure every applause line drew a retweet or 20, especially when POTUS trolled the entire right side of Congress, with his, “and I won them, too” burn.

It’s unfortunate that the entire night was pretty much a complete waste of time.  The President went up there and laid out all the things he’d like to do this year, each of which the Republican-led Congress will kill in its sleep before letting anyone even vote on it.

I’m at least looking forward to hearing them explain how things that would benefit so many won’t be passed on account of them costing such a privileged few.  Of course, they won’t come out and say that; they’ll just two-step around it and “SOCIALISM!”  Red-baiting is a lot easier than explaining why you’re screwing people.

This Congress isn’t interested in helping the middle class.  The only time they even think about the middle class is when they try to come with ways to get their votes, without actually having to deliver any benefits.  The only voices they hear are those of their wealthy benefactors.  They’re still trying to convince people that the benefits of dropping tax cuts and subsidies on the biggest industries will spill over to the rest of us.

Of course, they have to completely ignore the fact that it doesn’t work that way.  Didn’t work when Reagan tried it in the 80s.  It didn’t work when GW Bush did the same thing.  Both times, Democrats had to come in and fix the damage done to the economy.

Didn’t work when Kansas tried it a year or so ago, when the Republican governor and Republican State Legislature passed enormous tax cuts to in-state businesses.  Not only did unemployment rise, but they face a huge budget shortfall, which they will naturally solve by cutting essential state services.  It’s a complete clusterfuck.

And it didn’t work in New Jersey, where Governor “What Bridge?” Christie is facing the same problem as Kansas, for the same reason.

This is what actually happens when you slash taxes and provide ample loopholes for big businesses:

Aw man… Now I want some wine.

Anyway, if the last two years featured congressional gridlock, I don’t see any change for the next two.  But at least we’ve been able to do something about providing an equal right to marry.  Thirty-six states now have legal same-sex marriage, and as far as we can tell, The Children are still fine, and no one’s heterosexual marriage has crumbled because those two quiet guys next door have a marriage license now.

But wait, just when you think there’s hope for the country, in comes former governor and current Fox “News” hack Mike Huckabee, to claim that states can legally ignore the Supreme Court’s decisions regarding same-sex marriage.

I’m pretty sure that’s news to anyone who’s ever taken a high school government class.  Huck’s claim is the “courts cannot make a law, they can interpret one and then the legislature has to create enabling legislation and the executive has to sign it and has to enforce it.”

As the rest of us learned in high school, the courts don’t make law, they rule on the validity of laws passed by a legislative body.  And they have every power to invalidate a prejudicial and punitive same-sex marriage ban.  States then needn’t pass any extra law to allow something that’s not banned.  And they’re liable for a lawsuit if they continue to “refuse service” to an otherwise legitimate customer, whether it’s the marriage license clerk or the local cake shop.

We solved this problem back in the 60 and 70s, only it was inter-racial marriage rather than same-sex marriage.  Both cases hinged on refusing a service to a couple based on the way they were born.

My opinion is that Republicans drive this controversy because it’s something they can do that will A) Secure votes from the evangelical members of the middle and lower class, B) without costing money for the upper class.

They won’t tell you that though.  Most fall in with the bullshit Huckabee’s throwing out.

He said, “I'm going to do it because I believe it's the right position, it's the biblical position, it's the historical position.”

I love it when politicians use arguments that are so easy to refute.  Historical position?  Every cultural and scientific breakthrough went against a historical position dating back to the beginning of time.  So what?  That’s the very definition of progress.  It was a historical precedent that blacks and whites couldn’t marry.  Did that make it right?  Same with inter-religious marriages.  There was a first time for those too.

The fact that we did something in the past doesn’t inherently make it right.  I just means we didn’t always know any better.

A biblical position?  I hate to break it to the Huckster, but biblical material has no business being brought into a political policy debate.  There’s this thing called the separation of church and state.  We’re governed by the US Constitution, not the Bible.

I just wonder which parts of the Bible he wants to have us ruled by.  I mean, there’s a lot of things in there that even Huckabee won’t defend.

And this doesn’t even get into the raft of ridiculata put forth in Leviticus.

So once again, it seems we have a politician cherry-picking the Bible to support his existing prejudices, to sell to an equally ignorant party base, for his own gain.

And they say we heathens have no morals…

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The iPhone Pledge

My last Facebook status: “Look out 2010, the last man on earth without one finally got a smart phone.  Commence vast learning curve.”

Yep, on Monday I ordered myself an iPhone 6 and it was delivered Wednesday night. 

I decided to go with the iPhone (rather than an Android or anything else) because I already had an iPad, and figured the two would play nicely together.  It helps to only have to learn one operating system.

The catalyst of this whole thing was the fact that my office is moving to a different part of downtown Baltimore this year.  The move will increase my daily walk from subway to office by half.  It currently takes me 5 minutes each way, and now it will take 10.

It’s not a huge distance by any means, but when it’s 20 degrees out, or pouring down rain, every little bit counts.  But what does that have to do with getting a smart phone?

Well, there’s a free bus system called the Charm City Circulator.  One of the routes runs right along the way that I’ll be walking.  They also have an app, which will tell me how long it will take before the bus hits a particular stop.  I figure that’s something I’ll need.

When I pop up out of the subway, it will be decision time.  If there’s a bus coming shortly, I can wait for it. But if it’s still 10 minutes away, I might as well walk.  So I’ll need to know the difference.

Yeah, saving a 10 minute walk… that’s why I finally bought an iPhone.

Also, watching my brother use the Google Maps app in the car, and various other doohickeys while we were going to Pittsburgh and back two weeks ago; that gave me a prod as well.  Plus, it’s about time I come in out of the darkness and start to use this new technology.

The kicker was finding a cell service with an appropriate deal.  I saw that my current vendor was offering a no-limit talk/text/data plan for $50 a month.  My current cell plan ran about $35 a month as it was, so the difference (once I pay off the phone) will be small.  The high price of data plans was a huge deterrent for me before.

Obviously, I’m not one of those “early adopters.”  I’m more like “the last adopter,” meaning as soon as I adopt the technology, the powers that be will release a brand new item that will surpass and replace the thing I just adopted.  I’m assuming that this is when Google Glass makes the leap to become the dominant media tech.

And the funny thing is, every time I learn some new trick or find a cool gadget, I can’t really tell anyone about it because they’ll be like, “Meh, I had that two years ago…”

So, now what do I do?

Right off the bat, I’m stuffing my iPhone with all the apps I currently have on my iPad.  And I love how my contacts and Google Chrome bookmarks all transferred over instantly.  Also, I’m rolling through Amazon and ordering all the accessories I’ll need… a cover, stylus, extra chargers, a car clip, and whatnot.

While I was working on it last night, I got an instant message from blog sister Cassie, which was nice.  I noted that not only was she the first non-family member to comment on my blog, she’s now the first person to send me a message on the new phone.  Always the trailblazer, she is.

But as Spiderman’s Uncle Ben said, with this new power comes great responsibility.  I refuse to become one of those people who can’t put their phones down.  My phone is going to serve me, not the other way around. 

I still plan on reading my real newspaper on the subway on the way to work, and my paper Sports Illustrated on the way home.  Of course, now I can play my bubble game on the phone when I’m coming home late from an Orioles game, with nothing to read.

Now I can load the Frequent Visitor app from my local sports bar, so I don’t have to schlepp my iPad with me anymore.  And I can bag my old GPS, in favor of Google Maps, which along with the route, will spot and avoid traffic jams for me.

I still probably won’t have my iPhone on when I’m at home, because I’m keeping my land line, and I already have a PC and iPad for web stuff.

It occurred to me that I should come up with some kind of smart phone pledge.  If I make a public declaration, you can help keep me honest if you see me veering into iPhone Co-Dependency territory.

The Darwinfish2 Smart Phone Pledge
As the new owner of a fancy-pantsy smart phone, I do solemnly swear that I will avoid ignorant, rude and anti-social behavior, including but not limited to:

  • Keeping my nose in the phone as I sit at a table having a meal or drinks with friends.
  • Looking at my phone instead of where I’m going while I’m walking down the sidewalk, and eventually into traffic.
  • Paying good money to attend a sports event, concert or movie, and spending all my time looking at my phone rather than the activity playing out in front of me.
  • Interrupting the conversation I’m having just to see who just emailed me, texted me, or liked something on Facebook.
  • Checking the same messages while I’m in a theater with the movie playing.
  • Texting while I’m driving, because no one is as good at it as they think they are.
  • Talking incessantly about the next new thing my phone can do.
  • Having hissy fits if my phone is not within arm’s reach.
In the name of Steve Jobs, I swear to avoid these and any other transgressions of smart phone obliviousness.   Bluz Dude

Now, who’s got some apps that I need?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Odd Bits - The St. Roberto Edition

Yep, I was right… coming back to a 5-day work week sucks.  At least I seem to have kicked my cold.  I’ve been off the cold medicine since, Thursday night, so I’m not seeing vapor trails any more.  But here are some things that I have seen…

I’m French; Why Do You Think We’re Having This Outrrrrageous Parade?
OK, everyone’s seen all the stuff going on in France, with the magazine shootings.  Truly a tragedy, no question.  Over the weekend, they had the big peace march, with featured a number of world leaders.

One world leader who wasn’t there was President Obama, which of course, sent Fox “News” into a lather, claiming in one full-fanged piece of overstatement,President Obama chose the side of the terrorists.”  Another one of their hacks claimed, “Obama’s message to America and its allies is that we don’t care.”

Right.  Naturally, this is despite France’s statement that the President was one of the first callers to the French government, to offer his condolences and offer assistance.

I have no question at all that if the President HAD gone to France to march in the streets, Fox would be hollering that he should be back home, working on passing the GOP Keystone pipe dream project, or some other trumped up emergency.

Obviously, an American President out marching around within a crowd of a million people is a huge risk, and not a scenario in which the Secret Service can easily protect him.  In fact, that’s probably why Fox wanted him to go in the first place… to facilitate assassination.  Then they’d only have to deal with a run-of-the-mill white commie, rather than a foreign-sounding dark one.

And since when does Fox care anything more about France a than how to use them as a punch line?

Personally, I think I could solve the whole French-Muslim problem with one move.  I’d just send this guy to the Middle East and let him do his worst:

“Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of hummus!”

Birmingham Bluz
As someone who was once versed in journalism, I have to stand in awe of the degree to which Fox “News” just makes shit up.  They became the laughing stock of British twitterers the other day, after one of their terrorism commentators asserted that Birmingham (England) was a “Muslim-only” city and that “non-Muslims don’t dare go there,” because “Muslim police” beat “anyone who doesn’t dress in… religious Muslim attire.

Naturally, this came as quite a surprise to the 70% of Birminghamites, who are non-Muslim.  As word of this new census interpretation spread, the Brits took to Twitter to excoriate the idiot.  This was my favorite one: 

 Once again, a Fox “News” talking head just throws this information out there that is blatantly untrue, and doesn’t think twice about it until he’s called on it by the masses.

I have a rule of thumb; I don’t believe anything I hear on Fox, ever.  Not even football scores.  You just know they’ve inflated the score of the team on the right.

Ratbird Down
Big football weekend, that was, with four Divisional Playoff games on tap.  I actually went out to my sports bar to watch the Ratbirds/Patriots game.  I didn’t have to take too much grief following the Steelers loss, but I did buy a couple of drinks for one of my regular (and very cute) rivals.

The game itself was a wildly entertaining affair, with the Ratties going up by 14 on two occasions, and subsequently losing the lead both times.  Pretty-boy Tom Brady ultimately outplayed Joe Flacco, carved up the Rats’ secondary and led his team to a huge win.

It’s hard to follow the intricacies of the game when watching in a bar, so it wasn’t until the next day that I knew about some game controversy.  It seems the Ravens’ coach, John Harbaugh, was complaining about some 4-lineman formations the Pats were using, and that they were making certain players eligible or ineligible (to receive a pass.)  This confused the Ratties and led to some clutch completions for the Patties.

Although the NFL review concluded that there was nothing illegal about the formations, Coach Harbaugh non-the-less complained about their tactics. 

"Because what they were doing was they would announce the eligible player and then Tom would take them to the line right away and snap the ball before we had a chance to even figure out who was lined up where. And that was the deception part of it, it was clearly deceptions.”

Wow Coach, so those cheating Patriots are trying to deceive you, huh?  Just like every other offensive movement and formation across the history of the NFL?  I bet the first coach that ever saw a team shift out of the single-wing formation cried to the refs too.

Apparently Harbaugh went to the officials and requested a do-over, on account of “we weren’t ready.”  Unfortunately for him, Coach Belichick effectively countered his request by claiming there were “no take-backs.”

Tom Brady had the best word on it.  He said, “I don't know what's deceiving about that…  Those guys gotta study the rule book and figure it out." We obviously knew what we were doing and made some pretty important plays.”

Too Bad He Didn’t Play for the Angels
I know people take their sports heroes seriously, but this headline made me double-clutch.

“Pastor/Actor/Criminal Seeks Canonization for Roberto Clemente.”

Roberto was an All-Star right fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who died in 1972 in a small plane crash, while taking supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua.  He was my favorite player, as a boy, and my brother’s as well.

Anyway, this huckster pastor in Pittsburgh recently hit up the Vatican to try to elevate “The Great One” to sainthood.  The Vatican directed him to take it up with the archbishop of San Juan, PR.

I just wonder what three miracles he was going to claim.  I could come up with a couple, but I’m not sure they’d hold up under church scrutiny.

* Game 7 of the 1960 World Series

* His rifle-shot throw to third in the 1971 World Series, which also uncovered the 3rd-base ump (who called the runner safe), as a minion of Satan.

* He made an entire airplane (as well as himself) disappear.

While I admire this guy’s efforts, he probably ought to stick to trying to get Clemente’s #21 retired throughout the major leagues.  If there’s anything more convoluted than MLB’s decision-making process, it’s the Vatican’s.

My favorite part of the article came in the comments, where one guy wrote: “I’m Jewish, but would love for my kids to attend St. Roberto of the 5 Tools.”