Thursday, July 27, 2006

DAW* Alert

I may well be on NBC's Today show Monday morning!

A crew came by my workplace yesterday to tape us reporting traffic in and around our booths. Of course, it depends on how much of the story we comprise, and what gets left on the cutting room floor. If nothing else, you'll see my workplace and some of my co-workers.

*Desperate Attention Whore, for those who don't know.

Update: It seems that the story didn't air today. I can't see the Today show where I live because we can't get any over-the-air NBC stations, and it wasn't on the first hour of the show as posted on the MSNBC website. Nor do I see a link to the story. But having worked in news, I know this isn't surprising; this is not a time-specific story, so it doesn't *have* to air when they say.

Update 2: It aired today (8/2)!

Go to the above link, scroll down, and select "Avoid Traffic With New Tech Tools".

Angels With Newsprint Fingers

"Whenever I think about the past, it just brings back so many memories." --Steven Wright

Recently, DW and I were with another couple at an east Baltimore neighborhood church carnival, which was in the neighborhood where the husband grew up. Unlike that carnival masquerading as a state fair in New Jersey, this was enjoyable. There were stands with chance wheels that were giving soda, chips, and baskets of groceries as prizes; I took home a huge bag of Chex Mix that could have doubled as a pillow. Moreover, I met a Congressional candidate stumping for votes (I don't live in his district), and then later realized we were high school classmates! A very nice evening indeed.

I told you that to tell you this: Being back near my old stomping grounds (I grew up a few miles to the north), it brought back memories of many aspects of my childhood. Today, I'll focus just on one, and perhaps talk about more later.

At some point or another, us four older children had jobs involving newspaper delivery. What I did more often was collect door-to-door from subscribers. Considering all the homes in our neighborhoods were rowhomes, it wasn't too difficult. The route belonged to a subcarrier who hired us to work it, and we had to meet a quota of something like 80 - 95 homes. It would usually take from 8:30 AM to 2 - 3 PM on Saturdays.

At first, the job was fun. I met all sorts of people, mostly older folks who were almost always watching Lawrence Welk if I came by at that time. And there were other memorable people:

  • The old guy who drooled on his money
  • The 60-something woman who once answered the door in a bikini, which she did NOT make look good
  • A young guy who almost always answered in his skivvies
  • The basketball coach from my rival high school
  • My parents, my best friend's parents, and my grandparents
Eventually, though, collecting became extremely dangerous. I could have up to $500 on me at a time, and I was nearly robbed.

So I served papers on Sunday mornings instead. I would wake up at 3 AM, jump in the van that picked up the other delivery guys, and head off to a garage where the papers would be dropped off. Three of us would then fold and string the papers and set them onto a conveyor belt where the fourth one would stack the papers. Stacking was crucial; if the papers weren't loaded correctly, they'd fall all over the back of the van, drowning us in newsprint. If it rained, all the papers had to go into bags.

We then would each take a half of a block at a time and stack the papers in our over-the-shoulder belts (remember, the papers are strung together already). One of my blocks involved carrying 16 Sunday papers in my belt. I would stagger all over the place, but I'd do it.

Afterward, we always went to Mister Donut for donuts and milk, usually to the tune of AC/DC's "Back in Black" album. Then I'd go home, clean the newsprint off my hands, and go get some more sleep.

Speaking of sleep, my brother says when he served papers, he would "sleepwalk" a bit when he knew he had time between houses. Of course, it took the van waking up the whole neighborhood to get him awake at 3 AM.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

One Thing Leads To Another

(no, this has nothing to do with The Fixx!)

(Cue 50s-type filmstrip background music)

This is Cygnus.

This is Cygnus waking up at 4 AM to go to work 45 miles away.

This is Cygnus driving onto I-270 southbound in his Cygmobile, a Ford Focus babe magnet wagon, at 5 AM.

This is Cygnus getting caught in a backup because of a nasty accident ahead. 270 is closed in both directions.

This is Cygnus calling work, saying he'll be late because of said accident.

This is Cygnus turning off his engine while waiting for the accident to clear.

This is Cygnus 20 minutes later as the road reopens, turning his ignition. Nothing happens except the dials clicking back and forth.

This is Cygnus trying the ignition again. Clicking again.

This is Cygnus being honked at by people behind him in the fast lane.

This is Cygnus shifting into neutral and drifting downhill, looking for a chance to pull off to the right. But the traffic is moving way too fast in the right lane.

This is Cygnus settling for the left shoulder and the median, once he's past the guardrail.

This is Cygnus telling a state trooper he's okay.

This is Cygnus dialing his insurance company, which transfers him to roadside assistance.

This is Cygnus calling work, saying it doesn't look like he'll be coming to work today.

This is Cygnus waiting for the tow truck.

This is Cygnus waiting for the tow truck.

This is Cygnus waiting for the tow truck.

This is Cygnus getting silly automated calls from the insurance company.

This is Cygnus waiting for the tow truck.

This is Cygnus seeing the tow truck arrive. The driver has had 5 hours of sleep since Friday morning.

This is Cygnus climbing in the tow truck, which takes him and the Cygmobile to Sears.

This is Cygnus getting picked up by his loving DW at Sears and taken home.

This is Cygnus catching up on sleep.

This is Cygnus later that morning walking the two miles from Casa del Cyg to Sears to pick the Cygmobile up. The battery had died.

This is Cygnus hearing the service guy tell him that they can't turn off the rear windshield wiper or get the speedometer to work.

This is Cygnus pushing the switch that turns off the wiper.

This is Cygnus pounding on the dashboard to jar the speedometer loose, as he's done before. Nothing happens.

This is Cygnus, once home, taking apart the dashboard to fix the speedometer.

This is Cygnus realizing that won't help any.

This is Cygnus working an unbent paper clip through the hole where the trip odometer is to nudge the speedometer. It's not stuck. It falls back to 150 mph.

This is Cygnus deciding to put the dashboard back together and let a dealer take a look at it come Tuesday, when DW can drop him off.

This is Cygnus praying it's just a speedometer cable and not a flaw in the computer module, which will be MUCH more expensive to fix. Until then, he has to simply drive slower than everyone else.

UPDATE: Total damage was about $225 to replace the battery and fix the speedometer. I feared the latter would be a $500-600 job.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Riding the rails

Because of the high cost of gasoline, I (and a few thousand of my closest friends) have begun riding the DC Metro (subway) part of the way to work when I'm on the 2-10 PM shift. Unlike the joke that is the Baltimore Metro, DC's subway is actually a pretty good one, serving many parts of the city and suburbs. And after 30 years, it's still fairly clean; I feel like I have to bathe after using Chicago's subways.

Some random thoughts:

  • The fares, all told, aren't too bad. What nails me, however, is the $4 per day to park (there's no charge to park where I work, but there's so little available during weekdays). Oh, and by the way, to get out of a station during a weekday which isn't a holiday, you must buy a DumbSmarTrip Card to let you out of the lot, which costs an additional $5. To me, that makes no sense at all for tourists and occasional riders who come to the parking lot exit and find no cashiers. The cashiers and the contractor that provided them were let go after millions in parking fees were unaccounted for, and possibly stolen.
  • It's becoming increasingly difficult to find parking at Metro lots. Some days, every lot can be filled from Shady Grove (the stop closest to where I live) all the way into the Capital Beltway. (Pssst. Here's a list of Metro lots that usually don't fill up.)
  • It seems like another requirement to ride Metro is that you must have an iPod. Best I can muster is my minidisc player.
  • The stop near where I work just opened last year, but already one of the escalators isn't working. And I reckon there are very few stations where the escalators are all running at the same time.
  • I do like that you can see how long it'll be until the next train comes. When I get off at night, however, if I miss one train, the next may not come for another 20 minutes.
  • The downside? Metro lengthens my commute. I usually have to allow two hours from when I leave my house to when I arrive at work, just to be on the safe side. If traffic isn't a factor, I can drive to work in an hour. And that's why I think lengthening Metro out to my town wouldn't be beneficial; the ride would simply be WAY too long. Besides, the commuter train (not an option for me) doesn't have enough riders as it is; that's about a 90-minute commute IF the temperatures aren't too hot.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Who is and isn't drawing these days

I was forwarded this post from music analyst Bob Lefsetz, taking a look at some music acts currently touring and how they're drawing on the road. Some of the language is crude, but it makes for a fascinating read.

Some of my observations:

  • Surprised that they ARE drawing: Robin Trower, Les Claypool, Hall and Oates
  • Surprised that they AREN'T drawing: Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Gretchen Wilson (playing to many blades of grass at the Merriweather Post Pavilion. Guess it's "Hayell Yeah" and out, huh?)
  • Not surprised that he's drawing: Tom Petty
  • Not surprised that they AREN'T drawing: Bo Bice (where's all those screaming women now, eh? Watching whoever is the hunk du jour on the reality show du jour, I bet), Ashlee Simpson (was anyone worried that she WOULD draw?), Rob Thomas and Jewel, Sammy Hagar (now HE's the one telling babes, "I used to play with Van Halen!")
Oh, and a note, Bob: Chicago (whatever shell iteration of the band they are) has been coming in concert every summer Whether Anyone Cares Or Not for years now. Just wish I could have seen the Chicago I heard on XM's replay of a King Biscuit Flower Hour concert the other night. (Terry Kath, call your office.)

And I need to catch Rush on tour again before I die. Or they do.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


If there's one thing I'll never understand, it's how studios decide what TV series to put on DVD when. We like to watch older shows more than we do the current lot, such as Hogan's Heroes and MASH.

Early last summer we got hold of the first season of Dragnet with Jack Webb and Harry Morgan on DVD. Morgan was the perfect foil for Webb, making light of Webb's strange ways as Joe Friday. But this was a strangely produced compilation, with 14 episodes crammed onto one double-sided DVD and three on another regular DVD.

So where's season 2, hmmm? Nowhere in the immediate future, as far as I can tell.

What shows are you waiting to see come out on DVD?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

My sister's birthday

My "bestest widdle sister" turns 40 next week. I want to get her something special, but I'm not sure what she would like.

Not too long ago, my older sister got me a CD release of a Batman and Robin record which my brother and I listened to all. the. time. when we were kids. That LP had more scratches than a Herbie Hancock song. OK, it was cheesy (Adam West and Burt Ward could have done better), but hey, it was ours.

I wish I could have such an inspiration for my younger sister, and not just go the gift card route. BTW, anyone seen the Barnes and Noble gift card my ILs got me for my birthday? I haven't seen it since.

UPDATE: I got her a Home Depot gift card. She apparently has become the handyman of our family.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious #3,859

I mentioned here that I've been seeing a chiropractor for problems in my neck, shoulders, upper back, lower back, and hips. I've had pain in my hips for years.

My lady chiropractor wondered what I could be doing that caused that pain. She eventually asked me, "Do you cross your legs?"

Bus-ted. In the words of Groucho Marx:
"Doc, it hurts when I do this!"
"Well, don't DO that!"

And I pay her for this. :-)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Now entering the blogosphere . . .

. . . my favorite blogger and only DW, Ladycub. Please welcome her!

Net Neutrality

Lemme see if I've got this straight.

One side says unless Congress acts, cable and other telecom companies will monopolize the Internet and make broadband less accessible and more expensive to acquire. The other side says unless Congress doesn't act, content providers like Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Google will monopolize the Internet and make broadband less accessible and more expensive to acquire.

Do a Google search on net neutrality . . . and you'll be just as confused as me.

I'm reminded of Woody Allen:
"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly."

In this article which seems to bear Woody out, Andy Kessler asserts that U.S. telecom companies are overcharging for paltry bandwidth as it is, when compared to the rest of the world. I had not known this. If that is true, the telecoms are without a leg to stand on, and they seem interested in keeping the status quo. Am I right?

Speaking of telecom, I would also like to know why there is so little competition in the cable market. Where we used to live, there were two cable companies in the county, and that kept rates down. Here, they're approaching $50/month for Extended Basic, most of which we wouldn't watch anyway. (Anyone remember when VH1's positioning statement was "Music First?" Me neither.)

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Take that, France!

(You knew I wasn't going to go too long without talking about something sports-related.)

For the love of all that is holy, Italy had to win the World Cup over France. And they did, albeit by the detestable penalty kick shootout. But France was without two of its best penalty takers: Thierry Henry, who had been taken out in the overtime frame because of cramps; and their All-Universe captain Zinedine Zidane, who was rightly sent off in the second overtime after delivering a head butt that Vince McMahon would have been proud of. What a way to go into retirement. It would be as if Michael Jordan flattened Karl Malone in the 1998 NBA Finals with a straight cross.

So when
Les Bleus' David Trezeguet clanked a penalty shot off the crossbar, I rejoiced. There are few things I enjoy more than the schadenfreude of France's national pride getting punctured. All hail Italia!

(ETF vague reference in 1st graf.)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Pain in the neck

Anybody got a good, supportive neck and head pillow they aren't using?

I've had one, but I've used it too long and it's all but flat. But the other ones we have bend my head forward too much. And I wake up with stiffness in my neck and shoulders. Ow. Ow. Ow.

I've been seeing a chiropractor, which seems to be helping. That deep muscle work seems to be working; I can feel it in my shoulders as well as my right hip.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Lvoe, prayers, and good thoughts

You don't know my friend Scarlet, and she doesn't know you, but she could really use some love (lvoe), prayers, and/or good thoughts right now.

I'm not at liberty to say why. Trust me, she'll appreciate it.

Library jazz

"Jazz . . . is . . . weird." --Alex Lifeson, Rush

I enjoy trying out new music from the local library, because if I don't like it, I just return it. My latest tryouts, all of the jazz variety:

The Best of Vince Guaraldi. Just about everyone (myself included) knows what this jazz pianist did for the Peanuts shows, especially the Christmas ones. I wanted to hear some of what else he had composed, and it's fascinating. Much of his work is heavily Latino-tinged and laced with intricate chord patterns. Look for some nice Spanish guitar in these pieces as well. And just as in the Peanuts work, Guaraldi wasn't fond of square chords. Love it. No wonder it was a big risk for CBS to air the Peanuts specials with Guaraldi's music, but . . . it worked.

Pat Metheny, Bright Size Life. Metheny is pretty much hit or miss for me, He's obviously very talented, and I enjoy his works First Circle and As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls. Sometimes, though, he can come out with stuff that makes you go, "Pat, what were you THINKING?!" I'll say more once I've listened to this.

Russ Freeman and the Rippingtons, Welcome to the St. James' Club. I've got many of the Rippingtons' CDs, but I've vacillated on buying this one; I think others like Curves Ahead (the African-tinged "Nature of the Beast" always makes me shudder) and Weekend in Monaco are better. Still, I can't tear myself away from it. Great jazz fusion, as long as guitarist Freeman doesn't try to hog all the limelight as he has done on more recent albums. (ETA: Many like me discovered the Rippingtons through the Weather Channel playing their songs during the local forecasts. Right now/Very recently, TWC has been playing the title song of "Brave New World.")

I've gotten more into jazz lately because I've found very little musical intricacy in today's music elsewhere. So, any recommendations?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


(a great album, BTW!)

Or, as Charlie Daniels once said, "Some things in this world you just can't explain."

A month ago, Ladycub and I met a couple at the Y that was married on the exact same day--and year-- as us. We're slightly older than them, but in their marriage, she too was the cradle robber. ;-)

Fast forward to last night. For the first time since I'd left my previous job, I saw a young lady that had started at the station with us as an intern back two years ago. Talk about dedication: her first night was tooling around with me as Hurricane Isabel hit the area! She worked her way up and now has the position I once held. She's too sweet for words. (But not as much so as LC, of course: ilovemywifeilovemywifeilovemywife)

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that her boyfriend was now her husband. And guess what? They got married the exact same day we did, 10 years later.

Coinkydink? We'll have to have them over sometime.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

(shameful admission: I haven't seen that movie!)

Today, I reported on traffic for LA, Detroit, and Tampa Bay. They were all dead traffic-wise, even LA.

Did EVERYbody get a 4-day weekend? And if so, did I miss the memo or something? (I work again tomorrow.)

Modest swimwear . . . to a degree

I saw the other day that this is the 60th anniversary of the bikini. Believe it or not, as I've gotten older, I actually find more modest swimwear to be more flattering and sexy. *looks at Ladycub*

Well, there is modest, and then there's ridiculous. Never thought I'd see Catholic-school uniforms as swimwear. Even my Christian community wasn't THAT restrictive!

And to be fair, I do not now wear, nor have I ever worn, Speedos. You wouldn't want to see it.


Saturday, July 01, 2006

What's your spammer name?

I swear someone must have used this to send us e-mail at work.

Shake hands with:

Televise X. Shuttle