Saturday, December 30, 2006

Blet.

I won't be going over my 'rents' house tonight for Christmas, Part 2. I'm sick. X-p

It started yesterday afternoon at work, and I've slept and ingested fluids, but it hasn't helped. I'm just completely wiped out.

I'll especially miss seeing my brother who just got out of the Army. But I'll give him a call.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Weather Bimbos

One of my jobs at work is to monitor the Weather Channel for any developing stories that folks need to know about. When they're not busy trying to ram the global warming scare down our throats, TWC has been busy lately pushing what I surmise is their version of ESPN's "Pardon The Interruption," known as "Abrams and Bettes."

Now Stephanie Abrams is not unattractive, but she's not just out of meteorology school either. So why does TWC insist on sexing her up for this show? It's. Not. Her. She doesn't make a good "tart," as Seana puts it. For comparison's sake, check out her media portrait.

Recall if you will that former TWC meterologist Marny Stanier filed a lawsuit against the network charging age discrimination. She apparently dropped it, and may have been given some compensation in exchange for never bringing the matter up again; I guess we'll never know for sure.

I know that TV is a visual medium, and women are generally held to a different standard than men (how else do you explain Jim Cantore?). But this isn't necessary for the Weather Channel. And I'm not sure the idea of presenting the weather in bathing suits hasn't been proffered in some TWC back room.

BTW, when's the last time you saw a pregnant meteorologist on the air? Used to have them all the time on TWC (Jeanetta Jones -- whom, I admit, has eyes to die for -- and Kim Perez, for two). Is that now also part of the template?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Sense of Proportion

Last week was our company Christmas party, held on the upper parking lot (a nice concession by the higher-ups). Unfortunately, I had to work 2-10 PM while it went on.

Normally, by 3 PM the parking lot starts clearing out with folks on regular shift starting to leave. But because of the party, no one left! I had to park in the residential neighborhood and moved my car once because it was in a 2-hour zone. When I went to move it the second time, it had a revenue enhancement solicitation parking ticket on it.

I was furious. I was all set to demand that my company reimburse me, which of course they will not do. But at least they did admit they didn't plan the use of their limited parking resources very well; they forgot about folks like me.

Now. Before I came to work that day, I stopped in to see my friend Tony. All that has happened to him recently is that he changed careers, had his wife leave him for reasons that completely puzzle me, and developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was about to undergo his fourth round of chemotherapy.

You imagine for a moment that he would mind swapping problems with me and having a $30 ticket as the worst part of his day? It's sobering -- but necessary -- to have things put into proportion sometimes.

Monday, December 25, 2006

How I Spent My Christmas

Mostly at work. Had to work 10 AM -- 6 PM on Christmas Eve, then 2 PM -- 10 PM on Christmas Day. Fortunately, both days were pretty quiet. Lots of good food too; my one cow-orker makes killer chocolate chip cookies.

Saturday night, we had a nice dinner at Mexicali Cantina, one of the better Latino restaurants in town. Then we played golf on our computers and turned in.

Sunday morning, we went to Mass together at our home parish (for a change), then came home and had breakfast before I left for work. While I was gone, LC cleaned off the top of the buffet and turned it into the location of our nativity scene. How nice!

She went over to get a hotel room in Columbia, where she watched the Ravens dismantle the Squealers (see separate post). Then we met up at my aunt's house in Laurel. Not quite as many relatives came for the traditional Christmas Eve prayers and wreath-lighting ceremony, but it was still good to see those who were there. Dad showed some footage of us from years ago doing a dramatic reading of "Go, Dog, Go!" and my sisters singing "Ao Haoly Noight" in Bawlamerese.

We then opted to go to a 10 PM Mass at a parish near the hotel. Last time we had been there was when our friends DB and DQ (Dittoboy and Da Queen) had gotten married 8 years ago. It was a pretty nice Mass all in all; the congregation actually sang, and pretty well. But there were a couple quirks; the ensemble sang some weird, disjointed song at the offertory, and the priest dedicated a large portion of his homily to The Wizard of Oz and "there's no place like home." I was waiting for him to start playing Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon in the background, but it didn't happen.

We spent the night at the hotel where we watched (on TV) an impressive choral and orchestra performance from the newly renovated Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore. Just before turning in, I got a surprise call from . . . Seana! She just wanted to wish us a Merry Christmas and thought I wouldn't have my cell phone on. But we both got to talk to her. Very sweet of her to do so.

On Christmas morning, we headed to LC's aunt's for an elaborate lunch (not brunch, as in prior years) spread with some of her relatives. It was nice to see Sandy's cousin's kids get their gifts. One of them got a Nintendo GameBoy which was no bigger than my minidisc player.

After work, LC and I swapped our gifts. I got her The Little Mermaid on DVD, a thumb drive for her puter, and a Todd Heeeeeeeeeeeap Ravens replica jersey. She got me a nice long-sleeve polo shirt and two DVD packs: Animaniacs and the Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 4.

All in all, a nice Christmas. I look forward to not having to work some year, however.

Ravens - Week 16

This one was pretty much never in doubt, although I wish we'd have held onto the ball better. What a thumping of the Squealers on their home turf. That means we dusted the "defending Super Bowl champions" 58-7 over two games this year.

Merry Christmas, Squealer fans. Sit down. Shut up.

Very good. Now stay that way.

And all praise and thanks be to the Houston Texans, who handed the Irsays another loss. Now we control our destiny for the #2 seed, and still have a longshot for the #1 (see the scenarios here), but I seriously doubt Sandy Eggo will lose to Arizona at home. Have I mentioned lately how I wish we'd beaten the Bungles?

Buffalo is out of the playoff hunt, but they're no gimme. Still, we can and should beat them.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Ironic Photo

I came home from work one day a couple months ago and could not pass up this picture. I only just got the software installed to upload it:


Obviously, it didn't work! :-D

(BTW, anyone know what sort of unremoved bug that is?)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Two And A Half Hours

That's how long it took me to get home from DC this afternoon. It's a drive that normally takes an hour or slightly less.

The first hour was wasted spent just getting out of downtown DC. It was gridlock the like of which I'd never seen before. I thought I got smart and took a little-known route . . . only to find it wasn't so little-known.

Yeah, I know this is what I do for a living. But I still have to deal with it. Maybe next year, I'll work the 2-10 shift instead. Or do what I was originally going to do: have the day off.

And now to unwind for a few minutes before I have to zip out again. Then again, Joseph and Mary had a pretty rough commute of it.

Anyone else run into pre-holiday traffic?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mishmash

Got the Christmas cards sent today. Hope most arrive before Christmas; otherwise, most will get there early next week.

My Christmas shopping is done, except for one item I'll grab tomorrow.

We hope to have the tree up tomorrow night.

I'll be delivering a gift to my Secret Santa recipient tomorrow at our Christmas party. And getting one from my SS.

More on my health/sleep: Woke up really groggy today, and just wanted to fall over after trying a muscle relaxer prescribed for me. So I did nap for a couple hours. I'm now attending physical therapy, getting new glasses, having my third sleep study, having a second opinion on some colon issues, and getting my teeth cleaned. Good thing LC has a good health plan!

We're going to be godparents again for little Samantha, our friends' little girl. That's quite an honor. Third time for me; I'm a godparent of my brother, and we're godparents of my niece.

I Will Not Submit

And neither will William Kirkpatrick, in this devastating essay on the fallacy of multiculturalism and how it's been exploited by Islamofascists.

Quite simply, I'll die before I become dhimmi.

Ravens - Week 15

Maybe not as impressive as others, but still a good win for the Ravens over a feisty Browns team. Although I don't like how well the Browns were able to move the ball on the ground against us, the telling statistic was that they converted no 3rd downs. And we had six sacks. Kyle Boller did well filling in for Steve McNair, who had his throwing hand stepped on. Boller tossed an impressive 77-yard TD pass to rookie Demetrius Williams, who hit Ludicrous Speed as he outraced the Browns to the end zone. (No, Ludicrous Speed is not a Browns safety.)

We're safely in the playoffs, and beating the Squealers at Heinz this Sunday will give us the AFC North and keep us in the driver's seat hunt for a first-round bye (we got the AFC North last night when the Irsays beat the Bungles). The Squealers have been playing better here of late, but if we can keep Willie Parker in check, we can put the pressure on Ben Toothlessberger.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Not me!

Michelle Malkin puts Time's publicity stunt Person of the Year Award in its proper perspective.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Introducing

Steph's World, a blog about the adventures of my co-worker's little girl, Stephanie!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I'm so tired - Part II

(A continuation of this post.)

I have spent the last few days in a perpetual state of sleep deprivation. I have a CPAP, but it's not working very well. I must be snoring even with forced air.

I hate this. I don't feel like doing much of anything, except sleeping, until I wake up exhausted. Small wonder why a physical therapist told me last week that I feel majorly tense and have numerous pressure points that hurt. She even asked whether I've been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

So I'll be getting another sleep study. I can take all the sleep aids I want, but if this doesn't get taken care of, I'll be one exceedingly grumpy swan.

Christmas Songs I Can Live Without

I don't dislike all secular Christmas songs, but I will be perfectly happy never to hear these again:

  • Santa Baby
  • Jingle Bell Rock
  • Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree (which I think is the same song as Jingle Bell Rock)
  • Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer (it was funny when it came out, when I was still a kid. A few million times later, it's NOT FUNNY.)
  • Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (Yoko Ono. 'Nuff said.)
  • A Wonderful Christmas Time (so Macca can't write a decent Christmas song either.)
  • Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You
  • Do They Know It's Christmastime At All? (I think if those starving had to choose between death and this song, 9 out of 10 would opt for death.)
  • And when did "My Favorite Things" become a Christmas song? I think I've heard 45 covers of it in the last month.
So before you think me a Grinch, what songs do I like?

  • Anything by Mannheim Steamroller (still hasn't gotten old)
  • Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas (ditto)
  • The Joy of Christmas with the New York Philharmonic (and Leon!Ard! Bern!Stein!) and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
  • The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole
  • Any good rendition of the Messiah
  • Salvation Is Created (especially when sung in Russian)
  • Mary, Did You Know? (*I* know it's a collection of rhetorical questions, but Kathy Mattea's rendition is especially moving)
  • Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming and Coventry Carol (my church choir sang both when I was a kid; both gave me goose bumps)
  • And for the completely silly side: Bob and Doug Mackenzie's Twelve Days of Christmas, Jeff Foxworthy's Redneck Christmas, Bill Engvall's Christmas version of Here's Your Sign, and the Twisted Tune version of "A Billy Idol Christmas": "Cause it's a /nice day for a / White Christmas", "In the midnight hour, he cried 'Ho, Ho, Ho' / With a Jingle Bell, he cried 'Ho, Ho, Ho'"
How about you?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Ravens - Week 14

Nice 20-10 victory over the Cheeves, a game the Ravens pretty much controlled from the kickoff. Thus endeth an 18-game home winning streak for the Cheeves in December. The defense held Larry Johnson in check enough, although he did get over 100 yards. More importantly, Trent Green was spooked just about the whole game. And what an impressive pass from Steve McNair to Mark Clayton for an 87-yard TD.

With the Ravens being 10-3, I would really really love to have that Cincy game back. We'd then be the #1 seed in the AFC, owning the tiebreaker over the Chargers whom we beat. But they're up a game. Still, we're in the hunt for the first-round bye.

We have three very winnable games to finish out the year; against Cleveland, at Pittsburgh, and against the Bills. 13-3 is not out of reach. But. Whoda thunk Peyton and the Irsays would get steamrolled by the Jags? (Prediction: the Irsays are getting nowhere near Miami.) Or, speaking of Miami, they tossed a shutout against the Patriots! Anything can happen. No one can be taken lightly; I mean, if the Titans make the playoffs (and it's still possible), they'll be The Team No One Wants To Play.

Let's just beat Cleveland and see what happens.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

I'll pray for you

This was neat: at Mass tonight, the priest (this wasn't my normal parish) had us not only say hi to the folks around us, but get their names AND . . . at the end of Mass, ask them for something they wanted prayer for over the next week. So I'll be praying for the health of Kevin's mom. He'll be praying for Ladycub's dad.

What a great idea.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Immaculate Mary

I'd love to see a bumper sticker that says "Love your MOTHER" and has a picture like this on it.

December 8th is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Many (including Catholics!) mistakenly believe that this feast refers to the conception of Jesus in Mary's virgin womb (and that, in fact, is the Gospel reading from Luke). Actually, it refers to the immaculate conception of Mary in her mother's womb; she was saved from the stain of original sin so that she could bear the Son of God. Here's an excellent article on the basis of this feast; the Genesis reading is also part of today's liturgy.

I went to Mass for this Holy Day of Obligation at the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes in Emmitsburg, MD. St. Elizabeth Anne Seton used to spend time on "Mary's Mountain," and her shrine is nearby. It's a gorgeous, serene place to connect spiritually. On one path are the 14 Stations of the Cross done as mosaics, and on another are mosaics of the 15 original mysteries of the Rosary (the new Luminous mysteries have yet to be added). Masses can be held in an ampitheater near the actual (replica) grotto, or in a gorgeous glass chapel near the bell tower.

Today, the Mass was said by Father Bill McCarthy, who challenged us during the homily to consider what Christmas really means; the coming of Jesus Christ incarnate within us, as we receive Him through baptism. He said for us to see everyone as Jesus does, since we too are all sons and daughters of God thanks to Jesus. That's a toughie for me; I can get so hung up on being right over being loving. Finally, he said we are all healers just as Jesus is, because we received all of Him.

After Mass, Fr. McCarthy prayed over me. Unlike some others that he prayed with, I wasn't overcome by the Holy Spirit. I wondered whether I missed something, but I still felt closer to God than I had in a while. I followed up by receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Mary, I take refuge in you.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

New Summary Posted

I've been incommunicado the last few days because of my latest 5,000-word summary for the wreckage of a Season 10 of The Amazing Race. This one dealt with their visit to a market in Casablanca and then adventures with a maze, giant women, and a bunch of tomatoes in Barcelona.

More of my summaries here. (This link will also contain the above summary after the link above expires.)

Friday, December 01, 2006

A Question of Faith

I sometimes wonder whether I really walk my spiritual talk.

I get so into the issues and fighting the culture war, I wonder whether I'm a loveless "noisy gong" that Paul talked about in 1 Corinthans 13.

I lusted big-time today on this computer. I was a zombie for nearly an hour.

I was rude back to a rude caller earlier this week.

I reamed my co-worker earlier this week for leaving a drink in an unapproved container in the studio, which I spilled when I tried to remove it.

I don't pray or read Scripture nearly enough, and I'd like to receive the Body of Christ and the Sacrament of Penance more often.

I wonder if I was arrested for being Christian whether there'd be enough evidence to convict me.

I wonder whether my faith makes any difference to anyone else.

I need a spiritual retreat sometime.

I've been thinking about this as I listen to the Tim LaHaye best seller Left Behind, which is a compelling work of fiction about the chaos that ensues when the "Rapture" takes away all the Christians suddenly. As a Catholic, I find it theologically flawed, but it still makes for an interesting read. At least it calls me to consider where I am spiritually.

Here's another Catholic critique of the Left Behind series. As I suspected, LaHaye's wife Beverly founded Concerned Women for America; I heard of her long before I did her husband. I also remember hearing a talk based on LaHaye's The Battle of the Mind. I'm going to be a sport and finish this book, but I'm not going to read/listen any further in the series.

In the coming weeks I hope to document here my spiritual walk to date. Much of it has been tied up in an ecumenical Christian community called the Lamb of God, which is where Ladycub and I met.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ravens - Week 13

We MUST learn to play football in the rain (see also: Denver).

A 13-7 loss to the Bungles, and it wasn't as close as that score would imply. Lots of our folks went down with injuries, including PBJ Sams who broke his tibia. We got little pressure on Carson Palmer when it mattered, and our offense did naught. Our TD wasn't scored until less than two minutes to go in the game.

We can blame the rain, the short week, or whatever, but Cincy had those too. They were just better prepared, and we weren't.

And once again, I didn't get to see this game. But since it was on The NFL Network, neither did anyone else.

So Sunday will be Ravens-free, and then we go to Arrowhead to take on (as my cousin used to call them) the Cheeves. Not an easy place to win.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ravens - Week 12

A 27-0 shutout of the Squealers.

Nine sacks of Ben Roethlisberger.

Adalius Thomas running back a fumble for a TD, and showing some pretty good speed in the process.

That. felt. so. GOOD! And that *thud* you heard was the Squealer Nation sitting down and shutting up.

Tough test this Thursday against the Bungles, though. With Carson Palmer, they're never out of a game. But if we win, we can all but forget them contending with us for the AFC North title.

Meet the new puter

We updated our computers from Windows Me to Windows XP (at last) the other day, which is why you haven't seen me here in a while. For the most part, it works well, but there have been some bugs along the way. For example, it took us a while to get my hard drive partitioned, and I'm having issues with my sound card. (12/3 UPDATE: Reinstalling XP over what I had did the trick; the proper files are now installed and I have sound again.)

But worst of all, both of us lost all of our e-mail and addresses. :-( Eudora was simple; just drag the whole dang folder over. So we did that with Thunderbird, but . . . the text files were squirreled way far away.

Moral of the story: do some more research next time, or send the e-mails back to the server somehow.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

More video silliness

Courtesy of our Japanese friends via Tory:

A game show with a penalty more painful than any Bob Barker could come up with. (Sorry, it wouldn't embed for some reason.)

And, what pro wrasslers do for a side job:



Sayonara.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Trip Report: We're Going To Hawaii And We're / Gonna Get Ma-a-a-ui'ed

(note: long)

With winter closing in, I felt it might be nice to dust off my trip report from Hawaii and give it a new, more permanent home.
Woe, whom we didn't know when we went, tells me that I have several errors in here. S'okay; now we just have to go back so we can meet her and get corrected in person!

For those of you who already read this, some extra links and photos are included; click to enlarge the photos. And furthermore, we've had to make this trip last a while; we haven't really had a vacation since!

From April 2005:


With much excitement, we set off across the country via America Weird on Sunday, April 3 from Baltimore to Lost Wages. For my IL's 45th anniversary, we took them to Lawry's that night, a rather opulent prime rib joint. This trip to Hawaii, with brief stops in Vegas, was my father-in-law's (FIL's) anniversary present to my MIL, and they brought us along. You can see what sort of a fight we put up.

Maybe Las Vegas ought to be renamed Cirque du Las Vegas. Everyplace has a Cirque du Soleil show of some sort: KA, O, and the racy Zumanity, for three. I guess Nez du Chirac and Sur la Merde were on the road.

On Monday, we took in the newly opened Atomic Testing Museum. Pretty fascinating. It even has a theater that simulates the sound and feel of a nuclear test. Testing still goes on, but no underground critical explosions have taken place since 1992. Some mention is made of the protests that took place at the site, and a lot of attention is paid to what life was like for those who worked there. Glaring omission: the effects on folks downwind, such as in Idaho.

For the first couple nights, we stayed at the Rio. At the Rio, they also have an impressive (albeit semi-campy) free show every hour or so, during which the dancers and singers toss out beads Mardi Gras-style. Now, there are also solo dancers from time to time in the casino, accompanied by the unsurprisingly very loud music. At least they're a little more pleasant distraction than the hucksters trying to lure you with free show tickets if you just sit and listen to them grill you with timeshare info.

Okay, enough Vegas. On Tuesday the 5th, we headed to the airport for the 6-hour flight on Bankrupt Hawaiian Airlines to Honolulu. (Six hours? You mean this isn't just past Catalina? That's where Hawaii is on the maps!) In the terminal with us was a guy who reeked of B.O., somehow had a ticket, and was having a wonderful conversation with himself. The airline gave him money and a case of Right Guard, and he didn't get on the flight; I feared for whoever would have had to suffer on this 767 with him.

We take off, and then for the first time since age 7, and for Sandy's first time ever, we're over the ocean. Seeing the islands for the first time, I expect to be greeted by Tattoo and Mr. Roarke. That doesn't happen, but it's still spectacular seeing the cloud-shrouded islands. On approach, we pick out Pearl Harbor. Upon landing, we exit the plane, accompanied by a woman who had WAY too many and had no inhibitions about telling everyone how she needed a tiki bar for about five more before she got home to see her kids. She also told every other flight attendant, "You're so cute!" The female ones. Ma-freaking-halo! We head up the ramp and down the pier to what we think will be baggage claim. Then we see the sign:

"Make your way four miles on foot to Honolulu International's baggage claim area. The last team to arrive may be defibrillated." (If you watch The Amazing Race, you know exactly what we're talking about.)

We pass in and out of 17 different buildings until we finally go downstairs to baggage claim and begin the arduous task of cramming our luggage in our rental car and getting in without bumping various parts of our bodies on said rental car. (Well, that was more my problem than anyone else's.)

Then it's time to play Find the Nonexistent Road Signs. I thought DC was bad in this regard, but it doesn't hold a candle to Honolulu. Thanks so much for telling me this lane is going to end/become exit only! This is on the H1, one of Hawaii's three interstates (so named when someone realized the state could get federal money if that's what they would be called, even though they didn't go to any other state). And even in the middle of the day, the H1 was quite slow.

We then weave our way through Honolulu to East Tokyo Waikiki, or as some have called it, the "Manhattan of Hawaii." Actually, I like East Tokyo better; it seems like we are an English-speaking minority here. The state, and Honolulu in particular, is a HUGE tourist destination for the Japanese, although we would also meet two Aussie families and a New Zealand couple. It's a pretty cramped area, with highrise condos everywhere. And you can't walk three steps without encountering an ABC store (which stands for Always Buy Crap, among other expansions). I mean, they're nice, useful stores, but sometimes you have two on a corner!

Upon arriving at the Pacific Monarch, we find that some of our reservations are screwed up. My FIL said there were some communication problems with this place. No wonder, because this (left) was the guy who greeted us (Manuel from Fawlty Towers), or his Hawaiian cousin, anyway. Apparently he didn't think we'd made two reservations. The negotiations seemed to go on about as long as Trump's next pre-nup, until we finally got into our room. Actually, it wasn't a bad place, just noisy . . . but then again, that's true of just about anywhere in Waikiki.

Around sunset, Sandy and I walk the couple blocks down to Waikiki Beach. We had ideas of going in the water, but we didn't trust the folks congregating on the beach at the time with the stuff we were going to leave there. Still, it was nice to sit and watch the sunset and the men running and lighting the torches down the way. Oh, we got told that Waikiki is not a natural beach; it has to be replenished twice a year with sand from the Australian outback.

An indication of the cost of living in HI: food for the four of us for the next four days cost $87. That could feed Sandy and me for perhaps three weeks here.

At dinner at a Chili's, we found that our hostess had come out to the islands to visit her brother who was in the military, but opted to stay and stop moving around so much. She just hadn't told her parents yet.

To get the heck out of Waikiki, we took a bus tour of Oahu the next day. Our driver told us he goes by the name "Cousin Good-Looking" (CGL). Our first stop was the D'oh! Plantation on the north side of the island. I named it such for the reaction when we realized how much of a tourist trap this place is, including the (lame) Pineapple Express train tour accompanied by music from a couple ladies trying to shill their CDs. There's still a decent amount of pineapple harvesting being done there, but not nearly as much sugar cane. I, however, was more interested in photographing the (now-closed) Naval Security Group Department Wahiawa that was just beyond the property, hearkening back to my Defense Department days. Sandy enjoyed a pineapple-flavored ice cream.

After passing through CGL's hometown of Hale`iwa (Hawaiian for "it ain't much, but it's home"), we made for Sunset Beach, home of some of the world's best surfing waves. (It's also the hometown of pro wrassler The Magnificent Muraco; you really ought to know that.) CGL emphasized again and again that we ought not get too close to the waves, lest we get swept out. I didn't feel like unintended bodysurfing that day, so I heeded his advice.

Following lunch at the Polynesian Cultural Center (part of Brigham Young University), we headed to a macadamia nut wholesaler. One of the employees recognized my Ravens shirt; didn't think I'd find any Ravens fans on the islands, especially among the natives! Then as we went along, CGL pointed out a muumuu factory. It turned out to be a herd of cows (d'oh!). Nearby were some valleys where Jurassic Park was filmed.

Next, we ascended the mountains into Nu' uanu Pali State Park and looked out over the North Shore . . . in what seemed to be a monsoon. The winds must have reached 60 miles an hour easily, and the rains were coming down in pallets carrying the buckets. And only a few minutes earlier we had been in bright sunlight eating lunch. Welcome to Hawaii.

Our tour finished off with the much more placid Halona blowhole along the southeast shore; followed by the sheltered Hanauma Bay State Underwater Park, where in spite of some rain, many snorkelers were having a blast; and Diamond Head.

As we walked to dinner that night at the Cheesecake Factory near Waikiki, my MIL walked too close to a street performer posing as a statue, who shot her with air. A couple well-dressed young ladies came into the condos as we returned. We wondered whether they were call girls.

On Thursday, April 7, we headed to Pearl Harbor. Tickets to the Arizona Memorial are difficult to get, but we wound up being rather close as we opted instead for the USS Missouri. The last U.S. battleship ever built, and the one on which the surrender papers ending World War II were signed, the Missouri now resides in Pearl not far from the Arizona. We wondered what went through the minds of Japanese tourists as they visited this ship. Quite a juxtaposition of the ship which brought the U.S. into World War II, and the ship on which the war ended.

I tried out the Missouri's bunks for size, but I think I'd be toast if the call for general quarters ever came up. Sandy and I had lunch from the Truman Line, so named after Truman and his family rode with the Missouri back from Rio in 1947, and they ate with the enlisted personnel instead of the officers. We also toured a nearby submarine, which was docked by a memorial to all the subs and crew that perished in World War II.

My FIL also wants to visit all 50 state capitols before he dies, so we went downtown and ticked off Honolulu's for him. The ILs have been to Hawaii before, but he hadn't gotten to the capitol (which is much more like an office building than a capitol). From street level, you can look right into both the state senate and house chambers! Must be handy for those protests.

That night, we had dinner at the Ginza. Okay, it was really the Ala Moana Shopping Center, but that's where I realized fully the bilingualism of the islands was English and Japanese. Weird to see that at Haagen-Dazs, even. And given the population at the mall, it was quite necessary.

On Friday, we did something that I had been hoping we would do for a long time. Sandy's uncle was killed in Vietnam in 1968, and was buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, a.k.a. the Punchbowl. With the assistance of the computer screens, we quickly found where his remains were, and paid our respects to Thomas W. Moore.

Interestingly, he was buried amid many Hawaiians and Japanese-Americans who served in World War II. I thought of the exceptional sacrifices they had made, considering that (as I recall) many of them were not allowed to fight until later in the war, and when they did so, many received very high commendations. Thank you all for your service.

Nearby was a large statue that figured prominently in the middle of the opening sequence of Hawaii Five-O. To the left was a beautiful overlook of Honolulu. When we were about to leave, a guy asked me if that was the overlook used in the finale of Season 6 of The Amazing Race. I told him it wasn't. It turns out the one he was looking for, Pu'u 'Ualaka'a State Park, wasn't far away.

That afternoon, Sandy and I returned to Waikiki Beach, bringing as little as necessary this time. Part of the water is sheltered by a rock wall, which we climbed atop and waited for the waves to push us back off of. Simple, but fun. Others were jumping off a pier where the waves were breaking. We'll see them later in shock trauma.

This is also a good time for Cygnus' Thoughts on Beachwear:

  • What is up with wearing the bikini top underneath the shirt everywhere besides the water, especially if it's obvious you're going nowhere near it? Is that just the look, or is that in case an emergency beach/pool shows up? Do guys do this with their trunks? (I don't.)
  • Would it kill some of you ladies to have bought the next larger size suit, hm? Just because three sizes smaller may have worked on Baywatch doesn't mean it will work for you. The right suit can make a larger woman look good. The wrong one can make a smaller/thinner woman look like Rosie O'Donnell.
  • Few men look good in Speedos. Someone may want to tell Europe.
  • Is anyone really interested in what is hanging out of your navel?
  • Male or female: if you have ANYTHING written across your backside, do not complain when anyone looks at it, mmmkay?
That night, we strolled up and down the main Waikiki drag, Kalakaua Avenue. Various street performers are out and about, including a 16-year-old girl named Taimane Gardner who can play a ukelele like it's nobody's bidness, and she wasn't hard on the eyes either! Her best tune is her version of "Wipe Out." Don Ho, she ain't! Guess she's disqualified from American Idol because she can actually play an instrument. We saw a couple others, including a group of four guys who were so-so, and a man who berated people for what they did and didn't give him. We gave him nothing.

Now, it's time to get Maui'ed! So on Saturday morning we took a limo ride (way cool) to the airport. That ride took longer than our flight to Maui aboard a Boeing 717 . . . barely 20 minutes. The drive along the northwest coast of Maui is absolutely breathtaking. It can also take the front or rear end of your car away if you're not careful, from all the tourist gawkers looking out toward Lanai or Molokai (let's play "Spot the Rental Car!"). Whales occasionally get spotted, and I don't just mean on the beach. More on that later. But you need to keep your eyes on the road, and not the water, lest you crash.

There's a much slower pace of life in Maui, and while there are plenty of tourists, they're not on top of each other as in Waikiki/Honolulu. So we arrived at a very nice condo complex, The Aston at Papakea (since renamed the "ResortQuest at Papakea Resort" by the Department of Redundancy Department). After unpacking and getting more expensive sustenance, we headed further up the road past Kapalua, site of three championship golf courses (including the Mercedes Championships), all of which are on our Links 2000 game. Then we found ourselves on winding curves that we doubted were leading us toward church. We did spot what the maps said was an awesome snorkeling site, however. Turning around, we realized that MIL was right about turning into Kapalua. The church was right near the Plantation Course clubhouse (Sandy and I are such lousy golfers, I don't think we're worthy to set foot inside!). Interesting hearing "How Great Thou Art" sung in Hawaiian. The priest used a huge palm frond to sprinkle us with holy water.

On Sunday, we headed down to the coastal town of Lahaina (Hawaiian for "Damn, it's hot!"; actually, that's just about what it really means). It's also home to the second oldest and second largest banyan tree in the world (right).

MIL and FIL allowed themselves to get roped into one of the oldest tricks in the book. Remember me telling you about the folks at the Rio hitting us up about timeshares at condos? Well, that same outfit has a stand in the parking lot where they'll validate your parking stub. That's where they'll sell you cut-rate tickets to many excursions on Maui . . . BUT, you have to sit through their time-share presentation to get them. I think I'd rather watch reruns of My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance. The guy said that David Bowie had recently come through and gotten tickets to something. I asked whether he signed his name Jones, since that was his real name. The sales Nazi didn't know that was Bowie's real name, so I wonder whether he was fibbing.

We made our way down to the docks of Lahaina and found a Detour (another Amazing Race reference for you). A Detour is a choice between two journeys, each with its own pros and cons. In Land, we could ride around Lahaina while the guide explained some of the history of the town (for example, its courthouse was built three years before Frederick, MD's). In Sea, we could venture offshore and look for sea turtles. Fortunately, the Lahaina Honu amphibious boat allowed us to do both.

But little did we know that once in the water, we would not only find turtles, but The Ultimate Skin Diver! On one of the moored sailboats, we noticed a young lady snorkeler exiting the water. She pulled herself up onto the stern, and then we noticed that, with her back to us . . . she had nothing on but her mask and snorkel. When she saw us, she quickly slid back into the water. We and her boatmates were laughing so hard we couldn't get any photos, and they'd likely have been too far away to be of any use anyway. Wonder whether she'll ever do that again?

So, accompanied by choruses of "There's A Moon Out Tonight", we returned to downtown Lahaina, then headed back to Mama Mia, Papakea . . . only to return in a few hours for a LUAU! We checked out the Old Lahaina Luau and feasted on scrumptious steak, sweet potatoes, pork (of course), and all sorts of good Hawaiian schtuff. The service was great, and ladies (and some guys – you know who you are), I think you would have lapped up these Hawaiian hunks; Sandy sure did! No, we didn't try the poi, although I might use it to help wallpaper our bathroom.

The dancing told the history of Hawaii, from before King Kamehamehamehamehamehamehameha (oops – got stuck) to the present. No fire dancers, though, but it was still impressive. And everyone was involved; your server would likely be in the next dance. A brilliant sunset accompanied the whole thing.

On Monday the 11th (my M&D's 46th anniversary), the ILs sat through their interrogation sales pitch, while Sandy and I we rented some snorkel gear and made for Black Rock, where some fine snorkeling can be had. Wow. Even though plenty of others had taken advantage of this day to do so, we felt at home with the many other creatures about the reefs at the foot of these cliffs. We swam out beyond the point . . . although we later found signs advising us not to do that. Oop. And we became so hypnotized by the fishies and the coral that we didn't realize we'd forgotten to put sunblock on the backs of our legs. Ow. Ow. Ow.

That miscue hindered us a bit when we went to a nice dinner within walking distance of where we'd snorkeled, at Leilani's On the Beach in Whalers Village. Walking had become a bit difficult for us both, who could both be drafted by the 19th century Cincinnati Redlegs. MIL and FIL walked down past some of the more swanky hotels to see their impressive pool layouts, but we couldn't join them. Later, the local paper said that Mark Burnett (yes, the executive producer of Survivor, The Apprentice, and The Contender) had been spotted eating at the Hula Grill next door, but it didn't say when.

That afternoon, we had gone with the ILs on a whale/turtle-watching trip, and although it was tight at the tail end of the season, we saw the tail end of several whales, including a couple calves. One of the guides said that through the winter, the whales come down from the Arctic with only one thing on their mind. I figured it was arena football. I'm no environmentalist, but seeing these creatures is a rare thrill indeed. Another guide said to make barking noises to get the whales to breach. I didn't fall for that one.

After running up Noxzema stock, we readied ourselves for another snorkeling trip on Tuesday the 12th. We put on our molokinis and headed for Swimsuit. Um, make that, we put on our swimsuits and headed for Molokini. Our guides were from the Pacific Whale Foundation, one of whom I found dancing behind the galley when she thought no one was watching. "Do that again," I asked while she blushed.

Molokini is the horseshoe-shaped remnant of a volcano off the western coast of Maui. Inside what was the cone is lots of reef life with plenty of exotic fish. Nothing like letting the current carry you slowly over a reef. Except maybe 50-yard-seats to a Ravens game, but I digress. One day, I'd love to scuba so I can explore the coral canyons; I can dive fairly deeply, but I have to come up sometime!

From there, we anchored off the Maui coast and found more sea turtles. This area was richer in fish life, but the current was also stronger. One turtle was just relaxing under a coral ledge, when he or she made straight for Sandy! No, you can't touch, much less ride, these turtles; it's illegal. The Reptile Police make sure of that.

Young and old were in the water. Some of the kids were content to just slide off the boat, make their way out, and slide off again. A woman well into her 80s got the courage up to get in the water and snorkel. On the way back, we saw both turtles and whales, and got footage of both. By that evening, the whole condo was swaying back and forth.

As we made our way slowly out of Maui on Wednesday (why?), we stopped in Lahaina one more time to take advantage of what the ILs had sat through for us: tickets to a submarine ride. So for the fourth straight day we ventured out over the waves, and met the Atlantis Submarine. We saw a huge manta ray, among many other fish at 150 feet down which we wouldn't have been able to see by snorkeling or even scuba-ing. As we exited, the sub played – you guessed it – "Yellow Submarine". (But it's white.) The turtles gave us one last sendoff as we headed back to Lahaina.

Having lunch just south of town, we watched surfers get what they could out of the waves. Later, a middle-aged guy wasn't chock-full of compassion as he was apparently teaching a twenty-something girl to surf. She too could have used the next size larger swimsuit.

Another short flight later, we were back in Honolulu Airport. And now, we needed something to eat while in the Mainland/International Terminal. But by 7 PM, Every.Place.Was.Closed. So, having had to wait for a shuttle to get us to that side off the airport, we now needed another shuttle to get us back to the main terminal, where we foraged more for some food. Eeep. We finally found a food court, but this dysfunctional airport makes nothing easy to find. They figure if they couldn't find it easily, why should we?

Five hours and three time zones later via a redeye, we're back in Vegas around 6:30 AM local time. We collect our rental car and head to the Orleans, just off the Strip. My FIL had asked for early check-in, if it were available. Well, there was no way to find out, because, drumroll, please . . . THEIR COMPUTERS WERE DOWN! So we waited for more than three hours, begging for sleep. Finally, they came back up, we emptied our car of luggage, got to our rooms, and collapsed.

That night, we went to the old downtown Vegas to catch the spectacular Fremont Street Experience (forgive the music), a sound and light show projected over five blocks. Had a nice dinner at the Golden Nugget as well. When we returned to the Orleans, Sandy kicked my butt in bowling (they have an impressive 70-lane facility). I look like Fred Flintstone when bowling, but he usually gets better results.

On my last day in Vegas, I hit four aces on a draw poker machine and walked off with over $200! Woo-hoo! Drinks were on me. That money is now sitting in my car as my XM radio.

That night, we saw the Bellagio fountain show to the tune of "Hoedown" from Rodeo (that's the music from those "Beef – It's What's For Dinner" commercials). But truth be told, we can only take so much Strip. I can see why the locals avoid it like the plague. We went inside the Bellagio's conservatory where we saw computer-controlled fountains and lots of flutterbies. In the casino, some professional poker championship was being taped (in Vegas? Ya think?)

Upon leaving on Saturday, I tried to get us a different flight out of Vegas (we had to go by way of Phoenix). I saw a Baltimore flight on the monitor that was 20 minutes after our first flight. Too bad it was ARRIVING and not DEPARTING; in fact, it was the flight we had come to Vegas on! Duhhhhh!

So we came home by way of Phoenix before landing in Baltimore. We waited in the BWI Meditation Room (a.k.a. Baggage Claim), then got dinner and headed home.

That's it. Hope I didn't bore you too much! Aloha and mahalo.

This is what Susan B. Anthony fought for?

(Sorry, but it's time for a rant . . .)

I don't think SBA had any intention of fighting on behalf of folks like Scarlett Johansson (who? I didn't know either) who are now proclaiming their right to open their legs whenever and for whomever they wish. And men have similarly gotten the message that any woman, anytime, anywhere is fair game. Commitment, marriage, and restraint are overrated, and marriage is just an inconvenient patriarchal construct anyway. God just ordained it for marriage because He's such a killjoy.

Ah, sex without consequences. That attitude is fostered by Johansson in this piece, which looks more like PR than an actual news article:

"We are supposed to be liberated in America but if our President had his way, we wouldn't be educated about sex at all. Every woman would have six children and we wouldn't be able to have abortions."
This article also makes this laughable claim:
A staunch Christian, Bush is vehemently anti-abortion and is seeking to have the operation made illegal in all US states. During his time as Governor of Texas, Bush overhauled the state's sex education system and high school students were taught abstinence was the only way to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
Frankly, I wish Bush did half the things the extreme left accused him of doing. If he's trying to get rid of abortion, he sure isn't working very hard at it. He's not really a conservative, but that's another post.

I give Johansson props for saying what many are thinking: When it comes to choosing between responsible social conduct through abstinence (read: REPRESSION!) and sleeping around like a prostitute who would at least get paid for it, the latter is much more fun, and thus that's more important. After all, monogamy isn't natural. And those who espouse waiting are "unrealistic." Only because the Johanssons of the world won't try it!

But don't you worry: she gets HIV-tested twice a year. How considerate.

Johansson strikes me as young, attractive, immature, and (sadly) having bought into this typical Hollywood social elitist mentality.

And she's like Waffle House: open all night. Don't you wish your kids were like that?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ravens - Week 11

All right, forget that first half in which the Ravens trailed Atlanta 7-0 and Matt Stover MISSED (gasp) a field goal. Nothing to see there (and nothing for me to see at all, since I could only catch the game via radio). Just before halftime, (P)BJ Sams ran back a punt more than 60 yards and gave the Ravens a great chance to score. Until Steve McNair fumbled the snap to the Falcons.

Who cares?

After the break, Sams had two more runbacks that were thisclose to TDs, helping the Ravens to take a 10-7 lead in the thrid quarter. Jamal Lewis decided to show up, running in that TD and two others. And then the Ravens did something impressive in the fourth quarter; they ran out the clock. A nice 8-minute drive got the final TD to put the game out of reach, and then the Falcons went four and out. Musa Smith got a surprise first down after the exchange, allowing NcNair to take a few knees.

Nice. We're 8-2, and thanks to them Cowboys, we're only one game out of the battle for home-field advantage through the playoffs. Oh, to have that Carolina game back.

But not so hasty. We have to defeat the epitome of All That Is Evil In The NFL, the Squealers, next week.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

What a Find

It's amazing how much stuff you find when you clean house. We cleaned out our former office, which will soon become Ladycub's home office for work. In there, we found:

Many long-lost photos
Five AC adapters
and . . . a hundred dollars! I had misplaced it two years ago and paid it back out of my own funds.

So, what should I do with the hundred bucks?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Fer cryin' out loud . . .

I went to Mass today at a wonderful serene place, the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Emmitsburg. I'll have to blog about that sometime. Worth mentioning was the presence of several women from Cote D'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) who had emigrated to New Orleans, and were now in our area thanks to Katrina. No idea whether they just arrived or had been here a while.

On the way home about 20 miles north, I noticed a tree leaning on power lines on a side road; the tree might have been blown over by yesterday's storms. So I decided to be a good citizen and call local utility Allegheny Power. Since the lines were still up, I figured this wasn't an emergency. I waded through the numerous menus and got a customer service rep.

I gave her the info. She asked for my name and address so she can bring up my account. She then asks me how to get to the tree, and I give her directions and my cell phone number.

A short time later, my cell phone rings. The Allegheny Power crew had arrived . . . at my house. Arrrgh! Of course there was no tree on wires there, because all the wires are underground! Did you people listen to what I said?! And then this customer service rep asks whether I gave directions to the first CSR. Obviously not! So I gave directions again.

Sheesh. Just trying to be helpful.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

And that number again is 1-800-WELL-DUH.

Last week I got a CD jammed in my car stereo. I kept ejecting and ejecting it, but it wouldn't come out. I tried tweezers, and then I was thinking about jerry-rigging a paper clip to get the silly thing.

Last night, Ladycub got me a longer pair of tweezers, which I inserted while ejecting. That did the trick.

The offending CD was one I had burned on this computer.

And.

Inserted into my car stereo . . .

While ANOTHER CD WAS ALREADY IN THERE.

Cue the Price Is Right "You Lose" sound.

I'm burning another copy of the CD as I speaktype, since I damaged it by pulling it out.

Have you done something that shtoopit lately?

Monday, November 13, 2006

I'm so tired

I worked 8 of the last 9 days, and I'm thoroughly exhausted. I had to wake up at 4 AM for the last four. I came home this afternoon and slept for 4 hours, and I don't think I'll have trouble sleeping tonight either.

The other day at work, I mentioned to an attractive coworker that I had worked 2-10 PM the night before and was finishing up a 6 AM - 2 PM shift after only a few hours of sleep. When she asked me how I was doing, I said, "I want . . . to go . . . to bed." Her reply: "I'm a married woman!" =:-o (She does that sort of thing to me often. But then again, I turn red without much difficulty.)

I need exercise, so I'll get some by playing golf with my dad and my uncle tomorrow.

BTW, my title is that of a not-so-well known Beatles tune from the White Album. Sums it all up, except the cigarette part.

UPDATE: I played pretty well . . . on the back nine, outdriving my dad using a 7-wood. If only I could hit a driver! That was fun. But I'm still pooped, and I have to get up early again tomorrow. |-o

Ravens - Week 10

On a day chock full of bizarre games (Sandy Eggo and the Bungles only scored 90 points), this one against Tennessee sure qualified. Not that these two teams haven't had strange games before!

In the first half, it looked as though Vince Young was going to carve the heck out of the Ravens' secondary. (Young is going to be the real deal and not a Michael Vick clone; why couldn't we have gotten hold of him?) But it was just what I'd feared with the Titans jumping out to a 26-7 lead in the second quarter. I mean, we were Supposed To Trounce Them. Even Steve McNair contributed to the Titans' cause by stepping out of the end zone for a safety. (If CBS' Don Criqui called Young "Steve McNair" one more time, I was going to use the Elvis Presley Remote Control Mechanism with my TV!)

Things didn't seem to be improving in the second half as both Chris McAlister (who has a temper that he must learn to keep under wraps) and Brian Billick (!) both drew unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. But then the Ravens' defense (less Ray Lewis) got the job done as the Ravens crept closer with FGs by Auto-Matt-Ic Stover, and then a beautiful drive capped off by a beautiful TD strike from former Titan Steve McNair to former Titan Derrick Mason to give us the lead.

But it wasn't over yet. The Ravens were unable to run out the clock, so Young had one more chance. His drive culminated with a gutsy run for first down, but he was apparently injured on the tackle. Kerry Collins blew cobwebs off his shoulder and handed off the ball a few times before the Titans tried a game-winning field goal . . . which Trevor Pryce blocked.

Ballgame, and an impressive 21 unanswered points for the Ravens in winning their third game this year in which they were trailing in the fourth quarter.

Next week is Atlanta at home, another game I won't get to see. Let's hope the Michael Vick of late shows up.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I want(ed) candy

(Can't stand that song, BTW.)

For some reason, I started thinking today about the candy I used to consume as a kid. I reckon I have all those crowns and fillings to show for it. Heck, our teachers sold it in the classroom. I'll stick to the not-necessarily-chocolate variety.

Let's see . . . what was there?

One of my earliest memories was Necco wafers. Now that I see the word "wafer", I can see how I would have played "Communion" with them. Maybe I did. Those were good, except for the gray ones.

I had both versions of Smarties, the British kind that were like oversized M&Ms (Seana informs me they're also available in Canada), and the American kind which were frequently in our Trick-or-Treat bags.

Also in the UK, I got to try Macintosh's (now Nestle's) Quality Street. And toffee from the local shops was ummy; the toffee came in these fancy metal boxes.

In this country, I think the prime reason for my bad teeth was an addiction to Now and Laters. There was never any for Later. Those things were so. good, but they stuck to my teeth like superglue. My favorite flavors were Wild Cherry (heck, I'd eat wild cherry anything) and Grape. They lasted quite a while because they were difficult to make chewy. Probably why my jaw clicks too!

In the category of 1000% Sugar High Fructose Corn Syrup, there were Spree, Pixy Stix, SweeTarts, and Lik-m-aid (a sugar stick dipped into an envelope of? More Sugar!) All are now made by Nestle under their Willy Wonka brand.

Into my adulthood I would still eat the readily available Starburst (not nearly as adhesive as Now and Laters) and Skittles. In college, we playfully formed SA -- Skittleholics Anonymous.

Anyone remember Wacky Packages, with the sticker parodies of actual products? Those made their way onto a few binders. And I liked the hard and dry bubble gum in the packages. I never liked that they eventually got rid of the gum in baseball card packs.

And the other fun thing about getting candy was keeping track of what corner store had what candy where. (Corner stores? What were those?) Eventually, that translated to video games as well.

If bigbro comes trapsing through here, ask him about his thriving trade in Root Beer Barrels in high school.

So, did you want candy?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Aw, crap.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
House committee chairmen Alcee Hastings, Charlie Rangel, and John Conyers.
Senator Ben Cardin.
Governor Martin O'Malley.
A no-growth, no-wages, no-reasonable-housing-prices county commissioners slate.

Just. Shoot. Me. Now.

Despite what Michelle Malkin says, conservatism did get whacked yesterday. If it didn't, why did Rick Santorum end up losing? How did voters in South Dakota throw unborn babies back to the vacuum cleaners and sinks? How did Missouri voters approve cloning?

Granted, the GOP (which is occasionally conservative) brought a lot of this on itself. I think it underestimated the Abramoff backlash, as well as anti-Bush sentiment. I was really surprised that the Democrats' tactic of tying candidates to Bush worked; the GOP couldn't do the same to Clinton.

Michael Steele may have been the last best chance for the GOP to elect a black senator. He'll never unseat Babs Mikulski, and now that Cardin has been elected, that seat is also his as long as he wants it.

Sometimes I wonder why I live in this hopelessly blue state.

Update: Here's a good analysis as to why Santorum got trounced. The secularists were motivated, whereas the social conservatives were not.

Okay, I think I'm over it now and ready to move on.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Absentee Voting: When some of the votes aren't there

This is why I have not imbibed the Kool-Aid regarding the Diebold voting machines, and why I have ignored calls (even from Republicans) for voting by absentee ballot. (Hat tip: Michelle Malkin.)

It's certainly true that voters like no-excuses absentee voting for its convenience. "Forcing voters to go to the polls to cast their ballots is an antiquated, outdated, absurd practice," says Oren Spiegler, a Pennsylvania voter. But it comes at a price. Simply put, absentee voting makes it easier to commit election fraud, because the ballots are cast outside the supervision of election officials. "By loosening up the restrictions on absentee voting they have opened up more chances for fraud," Damon Stone, a former West Virginia election fraud investigator, told the New York Times.
I'm a believer in "Make it idiot-proof, and someone will make a better idiot." While I'm getting no paychecks from Diebold, does anyone really think that electronic voting machines are less secure than those kludgy mechanical lever machines that Baltimore was using at least as recently as 1992? Those were easy to rig. And anytime you introduce paper into the mix, the chances of human error naturally increase. (Florida 2000, anyone?)

Wake me up when someone invents the 100% tamper-proof voting method. I'll be having a nice long nap.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Obnoxious Interrupting Maintenance Man

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Obnoxious Interrupting Cow.
Obnoxious Inter--
MOO!

Okay, the following is about as personal as I'll get on here. A number of people have enjoyed hearing this story, so . . .

We honeymooned in Key Largo, staying at the Key Largo Bay resort. It had lots of great activities, including snorkeling and parasailing. We got our rental car from the Miami airport and drove down Route 1 to the hotel.

I had made the arrangements some time before through a travel agency; the Internet wasn't that big just yet (not for us, anyway). We arrived at the registration desk, got our keys, and headed to our room . . . which overlooked the parking lot and had two double beds.

I immediately said, "This will not do." (Nowadays, that setup would be no big deal at all. But NOT on a honeymoon!)

So the hotel rooked offered us a king-size bed with a view of the bay and the pool for $10 more a night. We took it.

We got our stuff to our new room, which was much nicer. After we unpacked, we decided to, well . . . get comfortable. We heard a knock on the door of the adjacent room; the doors faced each other on the walkway. We weren't worried.

Turns out, though, the knock wasn't on the other door, but ours. In walks Obnoxious Interrupting Maintenance Man, here to paint the room that he didn't know someone was now occupying. Meanwhile, we're diving for anything resembling clothing while yelling, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!"

He replied, "OhIwasjustinheretodosomepaintingIdidn'tknowtheroomwasoccupied IcandoitanothertimeI'msosorrygoodbye!" and left. We laughed about it . . . later.

Have you had any such interruptions that you'd care to share?

Ravens - Week 9

*Whew* (anyone remember that game show?) again. But a satisfying 26-20 victory over a tough Bengals team. I really feared that Carson Palmer would find a way to give us heartbreak again, as he did in the last Ravens game I got to see in person. He can win a game with one throw. But this time, he didn't.

Again, the defense scored off an interception. It's all but becoming expected.

Of course I have to kvetch a bit. A couple more TDs in the red zone would have helped; Matt Stover had to kick too many FGs. Also, we need to learn to Run Out The Clock.

Bring on Tennessee. And let's not take them too lightly.

Friday, November 03, 2006

What I Learned From Termite Terrace

Recently, I've been re-watching the first three DVD volumes of the Looney Tunes cartoons, simply the best series of cartoons ever made. Heck, it beats most of what else is on television these days!

I grew up with Bugs, Daffy, the Road Runner, et al. on Saturday mornings. I would crudely record the audio on my tape recorder so I could hear some of the wonderful sound effects. I walked around humming the "What's Up, Doc" song, and my sibs and I would often recreate the scenes from "Rabbit of Seville", especially where Bugs began putting all sorts of liquid on Elmer's head.

And then there was that time that we all ran off a cliff to see if we could run back again like Wile E. Coyote. (OK, we didn't. But the Experts said we kids would be influenced by that!)

Anyway, I love these DVDs. They're chock full of informational videos, commentaries, and other special features, which appeal to me (but not Ladycub). Here's just some of what I've learned from Termite Terrace (the shack where so many of the toons were made):

  • Directors Bob Clampett and Tex Avery took the Tunes from Disney ripoffs in the early 30s to the zaniness we now know, especially through Daffy Duck. I developed a new appreciation for Clampett, who was often overlooked on the Saturday morning shows which tended to stick with toons from after 1947. (John Kricfalusi, who developed Ren and Stimpy, comments on some of the cartoons. He can't stand Chuck Jones or Friz Freleng, but he adores Clampett and Avery.)
  • I want Treg Brown's job. He's listed as the Film Editor in the credits, but his real job was splicing in the sound effects. And what a great lot they were.
  • The music in the cartoons was so good because they had the entire Warner Brothers Orchestra, under the direction of Carl Stalling, providing it.
  • Not every voice was done by the amazing Mel Blanc. The reason you might think otherwise is that Mel got exclusive screen credit for the voices as part of his contract. Selected voices not done by Mel: Elmer Fudd (Arthur Q. Bryan), Pete Puma and Junyer Bear (Stan Freberg), Papa Bear (Billy Bletcher), and the Road Runner (Paul Julian, who said "Meep Meep" when carrying large stacks through the halls of Termite Terrace).
  • Hillbilly Hare, the memorable toon with Bugs square dancing with a couple hillbillies in the Ozarks ("Grab a fencepost, hold it tight / Whomp your partner with all your might"), came about because the folks at Termite Terrace liked to square dance during lunchtime.
For more, get the DVDs. :-)

Even recent attempts to capitalize on the success of Looney Tunes, like Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs, just can't recapture the magic of those days from the 40s and 50s. I don't think we'll ever see their like again. I'm just glad these cartoons, which their makers never thought would have any shelf life after being shown before feature films, have persisted in being magical-- and hysterical -- over 60 years later.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Band of Brothers

Rob is in the Air Force. Thom is in the Army.

They have given up much to serve their country. Rob spent the first six months of his marriage apart from his wife because there weren't quarters for both of them. Of course, there are military couples who have been separated for much longer than that. Thom could still be sent to Iraq at almost any time.

Rob went from being a member of the Security Police to working on computer security. Thom is a brilliant writer and has been touted as a possible linguist.

They? Are smart. And they? Are my brothers. And I'm damn proud of them.

And Senator John Kerry, D-MA, former presidential candidate, insulted them, and refused to apologize for it. For he hates my brothers.

Any one of us would be proud to smack him across his long face. But we'll do the next best thing and vote next week.

ETA: I remember back in college when the leftist editors (I know that's redundant) of the school paper had signs around their office: "The Greyhound Regrets Nothing!" Never knew Kerry went to my school.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ravens - Week 8

Wow. What a nice thumping 35-22 victory over the Saints. They got nothing on the ground. Never mind Drew Brees' stats; they were just about all in mop-up duty. He was too busy throwing TDs to the Ravens. Jamal managed to scrape out 100 yards.

So, is Brian Billick as offensive coordinator the answer? We'll see next week against Cincinnati, who looks like it'll be our only rivals for the AFC North title. You see, we Ravens fans are always waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop. But I like what I've seen so far.

Speaking of which . . .

We would like to thank the Pittsburgh Squealers for their participation in the 2006 NFL season. 2-5 with a loss to *Oakland*, which now has as many wins as they do. Now all you Squealer fans can sit down, shut up, and wait until the Ravens kick your butts, and then you can sit down and shut up some more.

I love it.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Hell's Seafood

I know that in Noo Yawk, it's customary for market vendors and their customers to be a little bit brusque to each other. At least that's how an outsider like me would see it.

But New Market, MD, is not Noo Yawk.

For Ladycub's birthday, I will be making her crabcakes, and she told me where I could get some to make at home: a place called Trout Seafood in New Market. The place is now known as Lighthouse Seafood and Deli.

I quickly located the nicely-sized crabcakes for broiling, but only after the manager (owner?) was busy berating his employees for all sorts of things. Out loud. In front of me. The lady who got me the crabcakes told me he was like this all the time.

Well, I don't have to like it. There are other seafood places around that aren't run by a Gordon Ramsay wanna-be.

I invoke Cygnus' First Law of Retail Economics: If an establishment acts like it doesn't want your business, don't give it to them.

Friday, October 27, 2006

TAR All-Stars

Those who know Ladycub and me know that The Amazing Race is the only current TV show we care about.

Now that the news has leaked that The Amazing Race 11 will be an All-Stars Edition (which I didn't really want, but oh well), the whining has begun from those who weren't picked to be in it, such as Chip and Kim from TAR 5 and BJ and Tyler from TAR 9. Um, maybe you weren't picked because you ALREADY WON?!

I rooted for Chip and Kim in that race, the first we ever watched. Theirs was a stunning upset over Colin and Christie (who apparently WILL be in TAR All-Stars), but I think Chip has been busy destroying his good will ever since by DAWing* all over the place. Heck, he and Kim were on Battle of the Network Reality Stars, which I sadly (heh) missed. That should disqualify anyone in my book.

As for BJ and Tyler, BJ makes this pronouncement: "We were the most winningest winners ever to win." (Earl Weaver, call your office.) After all, they only finished last in non-elimination legs twice! I'm not saying they didn't deserve to win, but do get. over. yourselves.

So Just Shut Up and enjoy your million if you haven't blown it all already, thank you.

Oh, to see Colin melt down again. He says he was the victim of severe editing. I'm waiting for the footage where he was really nice to the folks in Kenya, or where he treated the "ox" in the Philippines so well. But having said that, I gotta admit the gameplay between him and Christie and the others made that Race especially memorable.

I'm not so sure about the return of Mirna and Schmirna Charla, even though they're from my hometown. Maybe Mirna should start seeing Peter from the current Race. Like him, Mirna always had the undersized but gritty Charla do the tougher tasks. I didn't like them, and was relieved when they were gone.

I hope Romber don't come back, although Rob butting heads with Colin might be priceless. Then Christie and Amber could compare notes on how to do just about nothing on the Race. Let's not bother with Lynn and Alex; they don't need the exposure. Might Debbie and Bianca be given another chance to see if they just made one stupid move? Or Lena and Kristy from TAR 6? Speaking of which, I think it'd be neat to see Kris and Jon again, but they seem to be more anti-DAW here of late, so I doubt it'll happen.

And I agree with others that it won't be a true All-Stars edition if the Festers, Kevin and Drew, aren't there. I can't comment on TARs 2-4, which I haven't seen.

No Family Edition teams. And NO JONATHAN AND VICTORIA. Ever.

*Desperate Attention Whoring, or trying to extend his 15 minutes of fame.

To my fellow Blogger users

Wanna send trackbacks (and those are . . .)? You can, provided you're using Firefox, the official browser of Cygnus' Sphere!

Follow the directions that Ohad's Internet News has so graciously provided. Make sure you install Greasenonkey first before heading to the Singpolyma site to install the script. You'll get prompted for the trackback URL once you've completed your post.

I'm not sure that this allows Blogger users to receive trackbacks, but at least they can be sent to blogs that use them. More as I continue to figure this out.

The British Balderdash Corporation

We would like to thank the BBC for their participation as a respectable media organ.

They have been in the process of squandering their heritage for quite some time, but they recently made it official in a Daily Mail article where they threw out all pretensions of objectivity. (Hat tip: the ravishing Michelle Malkin). Thank you so much for admitting what we already know.

And as if that weren't enough, a BBC reporter has been embedded with the Taliban in Afghanistan, finding out how they plan to kill more . . . British soldiers! Why didn't Benedict Arnold think of something like that?

If I were in the UK, I'd probably save myself the annual license fee for a TV and not buy one. It'd be that much less money for the BBC to get hold of.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Don't play this game

or you may become addicted, courtesy of the Department of Way Too Much Free Time. Great music!

Stackopolis

Now, get someone else addicted.
(Hat tips: Kim Komando, Ladycub)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Voice of Dilbert

1. I didn't know Dilbert creator Scott Adams had a blog.

2. I didn't know he lost his voice.

3. Naturally, I didn't know he got it back either.

Read the whole story. Talk about triumphing over adversity!
(Hat tip: Cheebie.)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ravens - Bye Week

(which I forgot in my last Ravens post)

Thank you, Michael Vick, Alge Crumpler, and Morten Andersen, for making this such an enjoyable week.

Few things give me such Schadenfreude warm my heart like the Squealers losing.

That is all.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Another Day, Another Volksmarch

With the day off today, I drove through four states and wound up in the same county.

Let me explain: I started in Frederick County, Maryland and wound up in Frederick County, Virginia. To get there, I went from Maryland to Virginia to West Virginia and back to Virginia. En route, a truck had dumped its load of sewage on Rt. 340 between Charles Town, WV and Berryville, VA. Ew. Ew. Ew.

My destination was the year-round volksmarch in Winchester, VA. (More on volksmarching here.) Winchester is a town at the northernmost end of the Shenandoah Valley that changed hands more than 70 times during the Civil War. I started at the visitor center, where the volunteers where quite helpful and pleasant.

The walk went through a park, then past two cemeteries where hundreds of unknown Civil War dead from both sides are buried. When I entered the Mount Hebron Cemetery, I couldn't help noticing one of the first headstones I saw: Geo. W. Bush. Really. But this one died more than 100 years ago. I almost said "at the turn of the century", but that's now the turn of LAST century!

From there, the walk wound through the historic downtown of Winchester, which includes a quaint pedestrian mall. I walked it a few times by accident; street signs were not plentiful downtown. So much for my winning an Amazing Race leg here! Among many other historic buildings is Stonewall Jackson's headquarters, right in the middle of a posh residential neighborhood.

All in all, a nice 10K walk through a town I hadn't been to before. It was blustery, however, making the walk a little challenging. It seems I arrived one day before Winchester's hot-air ballon festival! Shuckmeisters.

On the way home, I stopped at what may be my favorite clothing store: Gabriel Brothers. I scarfed up three sweatshirts, two pairs of jeans, two flannel shirts, and some underwear . . . for $70. And it wouldn't have been that much if one of the sweatshirts wasn't a Ravens hoodie.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

It's Genius Time!

. . . I hope.

Brian Billick fired Ravens offensive coordinator and longtime friend Jim Fassel the other day and replaced him with . . . himself.

Now remember, Billick was brought over in 1999 from the Minnesota Vikings because he was an Offensive Genius there, as Randall Cunningham, Randy Moss, and Robert Smith helped light up the scoreboard. With the Ravens, Billick has had a parade of mediocre quarterbacks, which I alluded to earlier. Remember Forget these names:

  • Scott Mitchell
  • Stoney Case
  • Tony Banks
  • Trent Dilfer (who was the winning QB in the Super Bowl)
  • Elvis Grbac
  • Randall Cunningham
  • Chris Redman
  • Jeff Blake
  • Kyle Boller
  • Anthony Wright
  • Steve McNair
Mitchell, Cunningham, McNair, and Kordell Stewart (who never started for the Ravens) were all in the twilight of their careers.

Frankly, I don't hold out much hope that Billick at the offensive helm will change much. We're averaging 18 points a game, and after the torching we got from Jake Delhomme, I realize we don't have the 2000 defense anymore. Sheesh, if we want "Hey diddle diddle, Jamal up the middle", we can always get Ted Marchibroda back. And oh by the way, Jamal doesn't have much gas left in the tank either. Yes, he rushed for over 2,000 yards in 2003, but the Ravens were still bounced in the first round of the playoffs.

Somewhere, Matt Cavanaugh is laughing hysterically.

All we fans want is for the Ravens to go 12-4, beat Pittsburgh in the AFC title game, win the Super Bowl, and then fire Billick. I think the last outcome is the most important one.

Footnote: Did you know Billick was a Match Game contestant in 1977? I didn't! Where would we be without Google? Hope I stumble across his appearance on Game Show Network someday.

But that tan leather jacket . . . ew.