Monday, December 31, 2007

Schadenfreude Central

Billick has been fired!

Our long regional nightmare is over!

Yet Another Reason Why I Will Never Be A SysAdmin

After running some media-intensive programs on my puter, one a DVD program to create a disk for my dad, the other a dubbing of a vinyl LP, I decided that I needed more memory. I checked and saw that I had only 512MB, which was state of the art when I bought it (January 2001).

So I was looking up memory sticks for the upgrade process. When I saw what might have been appropriate, I unplugged the computer and pulled one of the current sticks out. I later replaced it, but LC wasn't so sure I had the right type. So I pulled the stick out again.

WITHOUT unplugging the computer.

The result? A fried motherboard. Now we have to get me a new puter. Mine was 7 years old, so it gave me a good run.

I'll continue regular posting after I'm hooked back up.

(I started the post when this actually happened. The puter hung on for a couple more days before completely going TANGO UNIFORM. Hence the earlier date.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

One more Charlie Brown Christmas video

For those of you who haven't seen it, here's the Peanuts gang getting jiggy with it to the tune of "Hey Ya." The song isn't my favorite, but the adaptation is spot on!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Jingle Bells and Mannheim Steamroller

On the way home from a party, we listened to the third Mannheim Steamroller Christmas CD, Christmas In The Aire. We both concluded that the lullaby-esque song that ends the album is a pretty song, but it bears no resemblance to its title . . . "Jingle Bells" (excerpt). In fact, by the time of this third album, Mannheim had become a bit formulaic. Rocking first song, quiet second one, bouncy, key-of-G third or fourth one, etc.

Still, I'm a fan of the first two Mannheim CDs. What's your opinion of Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas music?

Anyway, regarding "Jingle Bells," no one explains its proper place quite like Lucy and Schroeder:

Ah, may God rest Charles Schulz' soul.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Another Possibly Dumb Question

This might be a dumb question, but . . .

When taking your Christmas cards to the post office, as I did a few days ago, does it matter whether you cram them into the piddly "Out Of Town" slot or leave them in the mailbox outside the office? I'd like to think they'll arrive more promptly in the building, but I bet it doesn't matter at all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Oops! Blammo! Foon! The Summaries of Mishaps

Those are just a few of the adjectives that you'll find in the Navy's Summaries of Mishaps, which I read weekly during my Defense Department days. I was reminded of these when I found a web page devoted to an old high school classmate who is now the executive officer of the USS Harpers Ferry.

Not that I think he's a mishap waiting to happen or anything of the sort! In fact, I recall him having a wit not too far removed from the admiral who wrote these every week. These were signed (and apparently written) by a Rear Admiral F. M. Dirren, Jr. in Norfolk, at least until his retirement after 37 years of Navy service in 2001. I reckon his cohorts in the Navy Safety Office are collectively keeping this going.

Until now, only a few of these had leaked out from behind DoD firewalls for public consumption, but they're not classified . . . and they're hilarious. And probably a lot more read and heeded than just a list of mishaps.

Now, hey, how 'bout that? The Navy has a site with compilations of the more recent SOMs. It's better than nothing; thanks, John Paul Jones! (No, not the one from Led Zeppelin.)

Here's an excerpt from the SOM:

It always starts so harmlessly. An EM3 from a carrier invited a shipmate over to his apartment, the report says, to "drink some beers after work." Happens all the time, throughout the fleet, around the globe. The only question, really, is your definition of the word "some."

The EM3 started early, and when his buddy arrived, they got serious. They had one, and then they had another. And then they had another. And then they had another. And then they had another. And then they had another. And then they had another. And then they had another. And then they had another. Note: Using your cut-and-paste feature, please fill in enough "anothers" until they get to twelve beers apiece.

At about 0200, toss in a bourbon-and-orange-juice for the EM3, just for old time's sake (yum!). He then asked his buddy to rustle up some food, while he got a breath of fresh air out on... (Gene, cue some of those impending-doom sound effects--use that clip from the shower scene in "Psycho" if you have to)... the balcony. From there, he no doubt got one huge breath of fresh air en route to the ground. He then got a broken arm, an ambulance ride, a lost day of work and two weeks of light duty, in that order.

Read the whole compilation of fun with your BAC titled, "Totally Blotto." Oh, and think about it this New Year's. We teetotalers thank you.

Of course, I never do anything worthy of making a publication such as this. :-D

Sunday, December 16, 2007

You? Have GOT to be kidding me.

In the words of Daffy Duck, "I DEMAND that you shoot me now!"

The Ravens give the Dolphins their first win of the year, 22-16 in OT.

Because Brian Billick wouldn't run it in from the 1, when Willis McGahee and company had succeeded in running the ball down Miami's throats. Not to mention that rookie QB Troy Smith had a boatload of rushing TDs in college. (Naked bootleg, anyone?)

Because the Ravens won the toss and elected to receive, rather than take the wind.

Because we are a miserable team.

Oh, well, wait 'til (insert year here). But don't worry; whatever year it is, Billick will still be the head coach.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Another goofy story from my hometown

The funny thing is that I know writer Dishneau and attorneys Smith and Rolle from my news reporting days. Ignore the Hagerstown dateline: the story took place in Frederick.

Jurors Find Overlooked Evidence in Coat

So the convicted defendant gets a new trial . . . with more evidence against him. Unless the defense can use the oversight of the prosecution against them, perhaps.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Talking Football, Subbuteo, and Sure Shot Baseball

Here's one that Bigbro ought to like:

The Czabe had a segment yesterday called "Know Your Gear" where callers were invited to dredge up memories of their favorite sports-related equipment, games, or toys. I'm hoping Bigbro and I can tag-team on this one.

One caller mentioned Talking Football.

I believe it actually belonged to Bigbro; he and I played it all. the. time. There were 10 tiny records that the player on offense used, with each one representing a different play (Madden Football this wasn't). He'd drop the appropriate record into a miniature record player, then hand it to his opponent who would select one of six different defenses by rotating the record until the defense he wanted appeared. Then he'd press the record down to find out what happened.

If there was a mismatch, the offense would benefit, such as a Inside Run defense against a QB Option; I think that resulted in a TD. And the way to stop someone who blitzed early and often was to throw a Screen Pass or run a Draw Play. But the blitz was devastatingly effective against the Long Pass, resulting in a fumble. There were separate, unmarked records for Punt, Kick (FG and extra point), Kickoff, Penalty, Interception, and Fumble.

Each quarter was determined by the number of plays (20 per). The field was essentially a corrugated cardboard box with holes in it for the plays and the down marker, and sliding indicators to show the ball and the 10-yard chains.

I think the record player eventually busted and/or the records became too scratched. So in the later 70s, Mattel re-branded the game as Talking Monday Night Football, and we got that too.

There was also a Talking Baseball, but that was far more complicated and not as much fun. We also had a few versions of Electric Football with the vibrating metal fields and plastic players who invariably wound up swinging each other square-dance style. When the motor (inevitably) wouldn't work, we tapped the board instead.

Another caller, much to Czabe's chagrin (what's wrong with him?), brought up Subbuteo.

Pronounced "sub-BOOT-ee-oh," this was a table/floor soccer game that was a tad different from table soccer or foosball (we had one of those games when we were kids, although not like the ones you see these days). The soccer pitch was a green felt cloth, and the ball was almost as large as the players.

As you see, they had bases like Weebles, and we used our fingers to flick the player toward the ball and thus kick the ball toward the opponent's goal. The same player could only hit the ball three straight times before another player had to hit it. If he hit an opponent before hitting the ball, that was a foul. If the ball hit an opponent or the player whiffed, the opponent's side would take over. The players had an unfortunate tendency to break, however, requiring generous amounts of glue applied by Dad.

When I was in college, Subbuteo unveiled an indoor edition of the game, and some of us played my friend Steve's copy of it in the literary magazine office, which is more than usually took place there.

These memories sparked my recollection of Bigbro's Sure Shot Baseball.

This game was pretty simple: the "pitcher" rolls a marble-sized ball down a ramp, and the batter twists a knob to swing a bat. If the pitcher catches the ball once it goes over the sloped walls, the batter is out. Otherwise, the batter gets a hit, depending on which portion of the wall the ball went over. I don't recall the runners being there; wouldn't they get in the way? I was never that good on catching the ball, so Bigbro won quite a bit.

So that's some of what our sports gaming life was like Back In The Day. There were others, but I need future blog topics!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Countdown to Insolvency

Oh, the People's Republic state of Maryland might be solvent through Martin O'Malley's $1.3 billion tax hike [guffaw], but taxpayers and businesses? Not so much. As this Weekly Standard article points out:

It's not just the largest tax hike in the state's history but the first time in the history of the United States that a state has lifted its income tax, sales tax, and business tax all in the same year.
Hence, I have placed a countdown clock at the top right of my blog which tracks the days, hours, and minutes until the tax increases all take effect on January 1 . . . the date on which Maryland officially sends businesses and residents alike scurrying for the Potomac River or the Mason-Dixon Line.

So if you were ever thinking of living in or relocating your business to the Old Line State, please wait until at least 2011. Thanks.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

AIDS Exaggeration? Ya think?

I'm not happy that anyone must die of AIDS or become HIV-positive. I have a friend who has been HIV-positive for going on 20 years, and I have nothing to fear from him; it's a miracle that he's lived so long.

But that doesn't mean that AIDS has not been an overly politicized disease. I believed that when I had my mandatory AIDS Awareness Training with the government, in which I was indoctrinated with the belief that AIDS was a threat to everyone. Thanks to Michael Fumento, I believe it even more strongly.

Arthur Ashe getting a transfusion with HIV-tainted blood? That was a tragedy. So too is the baby born HIV-positive to a mother with AIDS.

HIV-infected people spreading the disease through entirely preventable measures like sharing needles or promiscuous (usually homosexual) sex? That's a shame, not a tragedy. Again, I'm not wishing them ill, but almost no one has to get AIDS. (That includes my friend, BTW.)

And, as Fumento points out, the AIDS hucksters who need the crisis perpetuated so that they can receive funding (which is what this is all about) love to skew the statistics:

For its data, UNAIDS relied heavily on "sentinel-site surveillance" at prenatal clinics. This system was described and faulted six years ago in Rolling Stone magazine. "If a given number of pregnant women are HIV-positive, the formula says, then a certain percentage of all adults and children are presumed to be infected, too." Such an extrapolation from a small non-representative portion of the population to literally the whole world is nonsense.
Read the whole thing.

I so do not understand these people

Including my own BIL.

For some, blue and white loyalty followed the trucks

These fans show a lot more loyalty to the Irsays than the Irsays ever showed them:

Have you forgotten March 28, 1984? I thought so.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Brought to you by . . .

I hate to do this, but since I'm hard up for money, I need to take this post to thank my sponsors:

  • Two Guys
  • Montgomery Ward
  • Seidel's Bowling Center
  • Haussner's Restaurant
  • Bradlees
  • Ames
  • Pantry Pride
  • Burger Chef ("Incrediburgible!")
  • Gino's
  • Hutzler's
  • Leedmark
  • Read's Drugs
  • Pappy's
  • Gwynn Oak Amusement Park
  • The Enchanted Forest
  • Caldor
  • Peoples Drug Stores
  • Chi-Chi's
  • Thrifty Drug
  • Edmondson Drive-In
  • The Dan-Dee Restaurant
  • Plymouth
  • Stewart's
  • Font Hill Golf Course
  • Equitable Bank
  • Dart Drug
  • The Gettysburg Battlefield Tower
  • Farrell's
  • Golden Ring Mall
  • Hochschild Kohn
  • Crown Central Petroleum
  • The Baltimore Skipjacks
  • Epsteins
  • Korvettes
  • G.C. Murphy
  • Big Valu Supermarkets
  • Toy Barn
Thank you all for your support over the past year or so. Anyone I forgot?

New link

Under my Catholic Blogs section, check out the writings/homilies of Fr. Jack Lombardi, chaplain of the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, MD (a.k.a. "Mary's Mountain"). I have considerable respect for his devotion to the Eucharist and to the Blessed Mother, his preaching ability, his knack for getting straight to the point, and his reminders to me about what we Catholics believe. (His singing ability, not so much. :-)) If you're an Amazing Race fan, Fr. Jack's recollections of a missionary trip to Tanzania that he led this past summer are a good read: part 1 and part 2. I'd love to do that someday.

If you're not Catholic, check it out anyway; plus, there are links to pastors of other faiths in the northern Frederick County area.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Letters I Never Bothered Writing: Jazz

(format shamelessly swiped from Em B's "mailbox" posts)

Dear "Smooth Jazz" Station Program Director,

Can you tell me what the following all have in common?

  • Phil Collins
  • Al Stewart
  • Steely Dan
  • Sting
  • Earth, Wind, and Fire
  • Chicago
  • The Doobie Brothers
Give up? Well, how about:


And it matters not whether I like them otherwise. But you play them all -- and more -- on your so-called "smooth jazz" stations! What, have the Gordon Lightfoot CDs not come in yet?

Fortunately, I don't have to listen to your silly stations. I have XM 71, Watercolors, programmed by those who know what jazz is. And, more importantly, what it is not.

Just thought I'd let you know that before I return you to your Sounding Like Every Other Station On The Dial already in progress.

Moving on after the death of FM radio,

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Neither Rain Nor . . . What?

Although it was snowing for the first time this winter, giving us 4 inches instead of the predicted 2, the mail came today as usual. Therefore, I planned to swing by the post office in nearby Buckeystown to mail off a couple packages to a couple deserving peeps.

It was closed. No explanation, no sign, but people talking in the back.

Nice work if you can get it. *sigh*

UPDATE: Turns out the place closes daily from 1 to 2 PM for lunch. It's a rather small PO. I went back today (Thursday the 6th), and the USPS folks were most helpful in getting my packages sent.

Anti-O'Malley Bumper Sticker

Both the Cygmobile and the Cubmobile are now decked out with this bumper sticker:

"Don't Blame Me -- I Voted For Ehrlich"

You can get yours by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to:

RCNEBC (Republican Club of Northeast Baltimore County)
P.O. Box 43662
Baltimore, MD 21236

Or, you can pay for it through CafePress, but why?

Those of you who are proud of voting for O'Malley can pay my extra taxes which start in a few weeks.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Three-Quarters of a Century . . . and Counting

Dear Dad,

All God's blessings as you turn 75 today.

Some of my earliest memories were of you taking me for walks in the British countryside, playing soccer in front of our house, or taking me for rides in the car. Given that you were working rotating shift work, these weren't always the easiest things for you to do. Then throw in my three (at the time) siblings who were also competing for your attention.

After we returned from the UK, I recall being summoned frequently to help you out in your basement workroom with some sort of project. You eventually had my brother and I doing all sorts of jobs around the house, including removing paint from the metal porch roof with a blowtorch in the middle of summer (ouch!).

I won awards for the Pinewood Derby in Scouts and the school science fair, but I know who really won them; you did. You attended not only my soccer and football games, but you made sure I got to the practices.

You've been a lector at church for many years, and that was what inspired me to want to proclaim God's Word as well. I recall waking up early with you to sleep pray on the sofa. In your own quiet way, you instilled in me the importance of your faith. Speaking of which, while many of us in the family speak because we have to say something, you speak only when you have something to say.

I appreciate how you raised my brothers and me to be gentlemen, and the way you treat both Mom and your daughters is evidence of that.

We might not have had as many material things as our relatives and many of my friends and classmates, but I never felt deprived as a kid. Maybe we didn't get to Disney World or anything like that, but we did spend summers at the Y and take the occasional trip to Wildwood, NJ. And I enjoyed going to Orioles games with you back in the days when the Orioles were worth seeing.

An important thing you did for me was give me the courage to be on my own. This started with you teaching me how to drive on the old Two Guys parking lot. It continued with you calmly helping me to handle crises like buying my first car or paying my auto insurance.

But maybe the biggest crises you helped with were mechanical. I remember how I drove all the way to Ocean City and back in the Nova while it had a busted leaf spring. You came up with some makeshift contraption to squeeze a new leaf spring onto the body so that you could save quite a bit of money in labor. Even today, you give me encouragement as I try to figure out what's wrong with the car, even offering to drive all the way out to Frederick to help if necessary. You've fixed more things for your family than I can remember.

You encouraged me to apply for a career with the government, and it was an honor to work there with you. Of course, as we discussed over lunch one day, I wouldn't want to try to do your job (technical), and you wouldn't want to do mine (writing)! Guess that throws the whole Biblical presumption of the son doing the same work as the father out the window.

I hope that my elbow allows me to play golf with you again. You might not have taught me how to play golf, but you have indeed taught me how to enjoy it, no matter how badly I play. And I look forward to the times we spend on the golf course; you seem to be in your environment, and we can always talk there.

Which reminds me; I've said this before, but all your life you have struggled with being partially deaf. I know it's been frustrating for you, but you never seem to show it. It must be hard seeing us all laughing at the dinner table, but having no idea what we're laughing at. You have helped me to understand a little bit of what you're going through.

Even today, you continue to pray for us. I wish I was nearly as devoted as you to prayer. But I know that those prayers have yielded fruit in my life. I'm blessed to no end. And? I always look forward to you giving me your father's blessing for the New Year. Even if you forget the words. :-) I also look at all the people over the years that you and Mom have welcomed into your home and hearts, and I know they feel God's love through you.

As my sister said, you show your faith by living it, not by talking about it. I'm sure there's all sorts of other things that you could do for your parish, but you pick up trash. Wow. That's humility.

I feel just a touch sad as I write this, because I know I won't have a whole lot of years left with you, so I want to make the most of the time we have.

I love you, Dad. And as I used to say when much younger, "You're the best daddy I've ever had."

Thanks for more than I can say.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Ahead of Schedule

We've gotten our Christmas decorations up the earliest that we have in years, doing so this past Sunday. Through Freecycle, we gave away our 6' artificial Christmas tree and acquired a 3' one instead. We also bought battery-operated window candles that flicker.

Contrast this to a few Christmases when we actually didn't bother pulling out the decorations at all. I think the fact that we're keeping our house much cleaner and better organized has something to do with it.

As usual, we'll keep our decorations up until Epiphany (January 6).

Late Thanksgiving Report

I was fortunate to at least have Thanksgiving Day off this year, although I had to work both Wednesday and Friday evening on either side. The downside to that was that I really wanted to go to my high school homecoming bull roast on Wednesday night; I've never been able to make it before.

On Thanksgiving morning, LC and I went to M&T Bank Stadium to take in the annual Turkey Bowl between the Jesuit Loyola High (my aforementioned alma mater) and the Christian Brothers' Calvert Hall College (High, that is). Both are all-boys' institutions. About 15,000 people filed into M&T, a stadium that can hold 71,000 for a Baltimore Ravens game.

The day was sunny and surprisingly warm, with temperatures pushing 70. It didn't take Loyola long to make their presence felt: the Dons' first play from scrimmage was a long pass for a touchdown. From then on, Loyola rolled on to a satisfying 33-10 victory.

Actually, Calvert Hall didn't play as badly as the score might suggest; the Cardinals were able to run against the Dons fairly consistently, but the Loyola secondary shut down the Cards' passing attack. And the Hall failed to convert a couple of deep drives into any points, turning the ball over on downs. It was a satisfying win, considering that Loyola lost to the Hall all four years when I was there. I thought Ravens coach Brian Billick could learn a thing or two from Loyola's play-calling.

During halftime, I wandered around the concourse, seeing if I would run into any alumni that I knew. But I would have had to know what they looked like first, not having seen them in years. I also met quite a few Calvert Hall alums in college. On the concourse, I had to dodge large groups of high school kids for some reason. I guess I never will get that girls going to the bathroom in groups thing; I sure didn't when I was in high school!

From there, we headed back to the west side of town to my 'rents for a small but delicious Thanksgiving dinner. It was just the the two of them, my youngest brother, and us. Afterward, we returned downtown to my brother and sister-in-law's house (not far from M&T) where we had dessert with her family whom had driven down from Buffalo. (I regaled you with stories of their wedding back in September.)

On Sunday, we welcomed our friend Kimberly to our abode and took in the many joys of the Maryland Christmas Show. As she reported, Kimberly got quite a bit of her Christmas shopping done. We bought a few things, mostly food related; I'm a sucker for Kettle Korn and Wilbur Buds. Afterward, we split a pizza while watching the Ravens lose to Sandy Eggo.

All in all, a very nice Thanksgiving.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Some Monday morning silliness

From comedienne-singer Carla Ulbrich. It's funnier when she sings it, which she does (in a shorter version) in the last 1:40 of this clip:

What If Your Butt Was Gone?

I was just wondering — hypothetically
What would you do? Theoretically
If something should happen accidentally or medically
What if your butt was gone?

If sitting in a wooden chair felt like tacks
And you found you had nothing to hold up your slacks
’Cause instead of a butt you now had just a crack
Well something would have it be done

Would you write “Dear Abby” for advice in a letter
Put a cushion in your chair to make it feel better
Try to fatten up with brie and cheddar
What if your butt was gone?

If your butt disappeared without a trace
And everyone looked all over the place
Why do you have that look on your face?
Hey it could happen to you

If that booty petootie that sweet derriere
Were now inexplicably no longer there
How soon would you miss it? How much would you care?
And what do you think you would do?

Would you call me up
Would you fall to pieces
Would you make it the topic of your doctoral thesis
Try to go out and find a prosthesis
What if your butt was gone?

A butt, as you know, can be skinny or fat
Dimpled or pimpled, curvy or flat
Like an opinion, everyone’s got one
But what if your butt was suddenly not one

If something should happen hypothetically
What would you do? Theoretically
If something should happen accidentally or medically
What if your butt was gone?

Would you call me up
Would you start confiding
How you tried to make it grow with fluorescent lighting
How you had to give up horseback riding
What if your butt was gone?

Would you realize there’s a good selection
Shopping for clothes in the children’s section
Go to your closet and make a commotion
Take all your pants and throw ’em in the ocean

Does your butt hang low
Does it wobble to and fro
Can you tie it in a knot
Can you tie it in a bow
Can you sling it over your shoulder
Like a continental soldier
What if your butt was gone?

I do know people who have no butt to speak of. Who, you ask? I'll never tell, except I'm not one of them.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

25th Anniversary: Cal vs. Stanford -- And The Band Played On

Also known simply as, "The Play."

I've never been much of a college football fan, having no team to call my own when growing up (my college, I like to say, is unbeaten, untied, and unscored upon. It's also looking for its first win :-)). And I don't recall seeing this when it actually happened 25 years ago. Steve Czaban's show reminded me that this was the anniversary.

With the John Elway-led Stanford Cardinal just having taken the lead 20-19 with only four seconds left on the clock, the Cal Bears needed a miracle. Here's an unedited version from Fox Sports CSTV. The original play-by-play call by Joe Starkey is included; I think it's one of the best calls of all time.

The sax player finished a decided second-best. BTW, sorry, Stanford fans; the one Cal player did NOT have his knee down at the 49-yard line.

Here's also a long version, including Elway's drive to what appeared to be the game-winning field goal for Stanford. Note that the celebration after the field goal cost Stanford 15 yards on the kickoff . . . not an insignificant development, given that the Bears fielded the kick near midfield. Starkey does a great job throughout.