Friday, May 30, 2008

A Computer/Internet-Free Weekend?

We're gonna try it so we can continue getting this house ready for market. I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I moved out of Baltimore for a reason

Which mainly had to do with not wanting to get shot in my own apartment, which was located within range of a middle school where shootings became the norm in the mid-1990s. (Didn't Baltimore -- and Maryland -- ban "Saturday night special" handguns back in 1988? How's that working out? Just fine, if you believe JHU's post hoc, ergo propter hoc argument here. But I digress.)

I also didn't feel like being called for jury duty all the time in that crime-ridden city.

Now, Mayor Sheila Dixon has a bold new initiative that is sure to snap Charm City out of its funk: Ban cheap cigars!

She says these cigars are sold for as little as 69 cents each in stores across Baltimore in a wide variety of flavors. [Dang, I wish I'd known about those flavors!] The Mayor says studies show products like these encourage smoking by youth and young adults who are especially sensitive to the price of tobacco products. [No, they helped me and some buddies with some enjoyment (!) when we nabbed a few of those "cheap cigars" from a corner store while attending my cousin's wedding reception on Mt. Royal Ave. a number of years ago. In fact, I think even LC partook of a 'gar!] A recent study by Johns Hopkins University found that 23.9 percent of youth ages 18 to 25 smoked cheap cigars in the last 30 days. [Um, ex-squeeze me? Those people can LEGALLY SMOKE! Or does that mean 76.1 percent of youth are listening to Cigar Dave? And see above for what I think of JHU studies.]

Under the proposed regulation, retailers would be required to sell cigars in packs of five. [Aha! Now we see that the city doesn't get enough "sin tax" revenue off individual cigars! You gotta follow the money, folks.] The proposal exempts cigars with a wholesale cost of two dollars or more, as well as cigars sold in tobacco shops. [Well, isn't that special?]

The Mayor says she believes the sale of such cigars undermines efforts to inform the public about the health risks of smoking. Single, cheap cigars generally do not carry health warnings, and consumers can be misled about the health risks of smoking. [Like the city really cares whether anyone smokes single cigars or not. As I just said, Dixon needs revenue. That's what this is all about.]

Well, Madame Mayor, why stop there? If smoking is so daggone bad for you and others, why not ban the sale, use, possession, importation, or cultivation of tobacco in the city? Hm? Lead the way! Set the pioneering example for other cities to follow.

Go ahead. I'm waiting.


Just can't live without those taxes, can you?

(HT: Michelle Malkin)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

One Idea For NFL Realignment

All I know is that I believe this list originally appeared on I want to give appropriate credit and, better yet, link to it, but I haven't found the source as of yet. I remember it floating around on e-mail, however, and I wanted to give it a more permanent home. This copy I found on a message board.

AFC (Animal Football Conference)

Bird Division

Cat Division

Horse Division
Rams (close enough)

Random Animals Division

NFC (Non-Animal Football Conference)

Old West Division

Industrial Division
Texans (would've been better if they were the Oilers, but this will do)

Mythical Division

Fighting and Plundering Division (my favorite --Cyg)

Some of those divisions would be fairly competitive, but the AFC Bird and AFC Random Animals divisions would need a little work.

Oh, How The Mighty Have Fallen

Back when we were in the UK, nearby Leeds United had an impressive run in English soccer. Here's what they accomplished, most of which was in their glory days of the late 60s and early 70s. Our family watched on TV as Leeds took home the FA Cup (pictured) over Arsenal in 1972, and somewhere buried in our piles of photos is a picture of my dad in his Leeds scarf after the win.

Now? Leeds has have (in UK English) been relegated to Division One (actually, Division Three, since the Premier and the Championship Leagues respectively are what were known as Division One and Two). Read about Leeds' sad demise and fire sale of players here. I also scribbled about relegation here.

And Leeds just lost a chance to get back into the Championship League by losing to lowly Doncaster, 1-0. But in order to get to that playoff, Leeds did manage to overcome a 15-point penalty imposed by the league when the season began for the way they went into administration.

Perhaps for Leeds, this is, as another famous Brit once said, the "end of the beginning."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Oh, all right . . .

Here's Yet Another Meme for ya. If you care.
*:-P"""s at Julia :-)

The rules:
a. Link to the person who tagged you.
b. Post the rules on your blog.
c. Write six random things about yourself.
d. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
e. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment at their blog.
f. Let your tagger know when your entry is up.

  1. According to my mom, I told my kindergarten teacher, Miss Paul, that she couldn't have that as her name because that was a boy's name (not to mention my own).
  2. I now rarely drive faster than 60 mph to maximize my gas mileage. It really doesn't make that much of a difference time-wise.
  3. I won public speaking contests in eighth grade twice (I repeated the eighth grade, a long story). The first time around at the Shrine of the Little Flower, I won with Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty, or give me death" speech. Then at Northeast Middle School, my rendition of "Casey at the Bat" earned me honors.
  4. I hate bees because the buzzing in my ears drives me crazy. The lower the frequency (with, say, bumblebees or carpenter bees), the more I hate it.
  5. I seriously considered becoming a priest when in high school. My mom's reply: "Son, God's not going to let you off that easy."
  6. I've become hopelessly addicted to Kettle Korn popcorn here of late. (Is Kettle Korn just a local thing?)
Let's see, whom to annoy tag . . . How about:

V for Victory
and, of course, Ladycub (*smooch*)

Do you know how hard it is to find folks who haven't been tagged already? And why is it that almost all the bloggers I know are peaches? I'd tag Bigbro, but he hasn't gotten around to getting a blog yet.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Another Night With The Keys

LC and I took a break from our house prepping to watch the Frederick Keys (defending Carolina League champions) lose to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (the Class A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves), 8-4, before almost 9,000 fans -- the best turnout for the Keys so far this season. One reason the Keys lost: they had three throwing errors on one play (the third baseman's throw to first, the first baseman's throw back to third to catch the runner from first, and then the throw home to get the same runner, with the batter winding up on third; heads-up running by the MB guys). You gotta love minor league baseball; these guys are in Class A for a reason.

We felt the ump at first robbed the Keys of a couple calls, and another bad call gave the Pelicans an infield hit on a nubber up the third-base line that had appeared to roll foul.

Tonight was Rubber Duckie giveaway night and Superheroes night, with Batman, Spiderman, the Flash, Space Ghost (?), the Joker, and others prowling the stands. You'd think at least one of them could have been on a zip line. The Joker stole some kid's popcorn and a bunch of the Keys' bats, but he was properly apprehended later.

For dinner, I tried the Triple Play Burger, three quarter-pound patties stacked atop each other with bacon and BBQ sauce. In possibly related news, my jeans feel tighter through the waist. Guess I won't need to go back to Five Guys for a while.

After the loss, the kids got to run the bases. It's always fun to watch the smallest ones do so; some of them can really move. One tot, however, turned at third base and then stopped dead, for waving her on was . . . the Joker. She wanted no part of him, obviously frightened by his appearance. So the Joker was sent off, and Space Ghost instead helped Keys mascot "Keyote" welcome the kids to home plate. The whole thing took about 20 minutes for all the kids to get through.

Then the night concluded with the usual excellent fireworks show.

I've blogged about prior Keys games here and here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

More Manly Bonding

Saturday night was "Guys Gotta Eat" night. My friend Steve graciously got a group of six of us racks of ribs from Carter-que, a rib joint in Mount Airy. "Get in my belly!" I cried, as I thought I was paying tribute to Homer Simpson (turns out that's really from the second Austin Powers movie).

Man, those things were scrumptious. Never thought black raspberry would make for good barbecue sauce, but it does. Their BBQ chicken was quite good as well. Another guy brought genuine birch beer with low carbonation; that was tasty. And to counteract all that and the corn bread, we had salad. That's negative calories . . . right?

Steve then showed us around his farm in northern Montgomery County, complete with sheep (or "sheeps," as LC likes to say just to annoy me). They were in desperate need of some shearing; their little legs looked unequal to the task.

After everyone had his fill, we watched some NASCAR, nodded off a bit, and then headed home. I wanted to take the scenic route home, but I got a bit worried when the road I was headed north on suddenly became unpaved. I feared I'd wind up in someone's barn, crashing into the stall next to Big Brown or something.

Actually, what I encountered was worse: a ford at the bottom of a hill that looked too swollen from recent rains to risk crossing, especially in the dark. So I and another bonding participant behind me turned around and went back the way we had come originally.

I should also add that Steve lent me his power washer, and within a few days (one of which was in the pouring rain, but I didn't want to get out of my wet clothes anymore), I finished cleaning my deck, the vinyl siding, and the fence around the back yard in preparation for the move. Now I just have to get rid of the splinters on the rails of the deck, one of which found its way into LC's finger.

But using the power washer made me feel even more manly. And I give considerable thanks to Steve for lending it to me; it saved me hundreds of dollars in rental costs, and the thing was barely larger than a vacuum cleaner.

Monday, May 19, 2008

De minimis curat Cygnus

Why do (seemingly) little things at Mass like song selection, how the Eucharist is received, stoopid announcements before the closing prayer, people yakking throughout, etc. matter to me?

Tell 'em, Fr. Z:

Read it, live it, love it.

(And note that I have added Fr. Z to my blogroll.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Picture Of The Day

So, are you welcome, or not? (HT: my friend Don from his Florida sojourn.)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What Fits Into Nevada?

(Based on a segment from this classic SCTV episode where a Soviet satellite interfered with the SCTV signal. Yeah, I know, Laugh-In did it first. Relevant scene is at about 4 minutes in.)

We from the East Coast of the U.S. are blissfully unaware of just how large the West is. Heck, we in the Northeast Corridor can drive through parts of five or six states in, say three to five hours.

And even the first couple times I visited Reno didn't do much to burst my bubble. Reno is only a handful of miles from the California border, and Sacramento is a three-hour drive, with the Bay Area about another two beyond that.

Yet almost every time I mention to someone who doesn't know that we're moving to Nevada, they immediately think Las Vegas. Quite understandable: it is THE Nevada destination that everyone knows about, and was until recently one of the fastest-growing areas in the country.

But guess how far Vegas is from Reno. 50 miles? 100 miles? 200 miles?

Try 445 miles. That's more than from Baltimore to Boston. And . . . it's still inside the same state! Those from Texas are probably nodding in agreement because it's over 900 miles from Texarkana to El Paso. There's nothing but mountains, high desert, and extraterrestrials [redacted] between Reno and Vegas.

Oh, you can drive the 445 miles, but it's almost all the way on desolate two-lane highways. They don't call Rt. 50 across Nevada the "Loneliest Road" for nothing! Well, there is a route via interstate highway between the two cities . . . if you don't mind going through Salt Lake City! So most folks take a one-hour flight between the two cities.

And not only are Reno and Vegas separated geographically, they also differ in climate, culture, and size. Vegas is much larger, louder, glitzier, and warmer (110+ temps in summer), but it's also seen as sprawling and vapid. Reno is smaller, more community-oriented, and more temperate, but is seen as more run down and boring. Both also demand getting used to seeing a lot of brown, although that's not as true toward Lake Tahoe and the Sierras near Reno.

Here's a brief discussion on the topic from The Urban Blog, and a column from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

And one final bit of Useless Reno information: It's actually west of Los Angeles. Check it out on a map sometime.

BONUS: Here's a video amends just for Bigbro from my earlier post:
SCTV presents . . . Benny Hill Street Blues!
Gahhhh, it got removed from YouTube!

Sign Of The Times

As I have always said, I'm against anything that would undermine the traditional family unit, be it pre- or extra-marital sex, cohabitation, or new definitions of marriage like homosexuals or bisexual threesomes. I mean, that man and woman thing is, like, soooo 1950.

My friends on the far left are having a field day with the California Supreme Court's recent decision to overturn the referendum asserting that marriage = a man and a woman. Well that they should. Well too that I should be disgusted with it. They are reveling in the fact that the concurring judges, being lambasted by conservatives as "activist judges," were almost all Republicans and/or nominated by Republicans. Of course, ever since the days of "B-1" Bob Dornan, being a Republican office-holder in California means "I'm Really Liberal, Really I Am, Just Not As Much So As Him Or Her" (see also: Canada). Why else would Governor Ahnold (R) say he approves now, after not being so supportive earlier?

The gay lobby sees this as a civil rights issue, which it isn't and never has been; there's no similarity with the interracial marriage issue. I agree with Dawn Eden (HT) that the homosexualists are really just being opportunistic, given today's laissez-faire culture. Read her posts here and here.

I, for one, am not going to let this nation slide down the moral sewer without a fight. And it's yet another reason why we're not moving to California.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dumbest. Idea. Ever.

I post the following news release verbatim and with punctuation as in the original with significant portions highlighted; I couldn't find it on the SHA's site. Since it is a release, I do not need permission to post this:

Contacts: Dana Gigliotti, 301-513-7472 (Prince George's County Community Traffic Safety Program)

Lora Rakowski, Jeremy Gunderson, 410-545-0303 (Maryland State Highway Administration)


Event Part of Click It or Ticket Campaign and Choose Safety for Life 100 Days of Safety

(May 14, 2008) - Could you use an extra buck? At the Capital Center in Largo today, hundreds of dollar bills were given out simply for obeying the law and buckling up. Your next chance to earn a buck is Thursday, May 15 at 11 a.m. at the Target Shopping Center located at 10500 Campus Way South in Largo. State Farm Insurance, the Prince George's County's Community Traffic Safety Program, part of the Maryland State Highway Administration Safety Office and the Maryland National Capital Park Police-Prince George's County will participate in the Buckle Up For A Buck campaign. As a featured activity in the Choose Safety for Life campaign's 100 Days of Safety, law enforcement officers and safety advocates will distribute $1 bills to drivers who have all occupants buckled up securely in their vehicles at the Capital Center in Largo, Maryland. Those riding unrestrained will receive educational materials about the effectiveness of seat belts and child safety seats in saving lives and reducing injuries

Nearly 630 people in Prince George's County lost their lives from motor vehicle crashes between 2002-2006. In 2006 (most recent data available), someone was killed in Prince George's County every three days in a motor vehicle crash. Contributing to this high fatality rate is the fact that Prince George's County has the lowest seat belt use in Maryland - only 89 percent of the county's motor vehicle drivers and front seat passengers currently buckle up, as compared to the statewide use rate of 93.1 percent. Tragically, the county has the highest number of motor vehicle deaths in the state.

"The Click It Or Ticket Campaign is not about writing tickets, it is about preventing traffic injuries that abruptly end lives and shatter the lives of those injured or left behind. Proper seat belt usage is unequivocally the primary reason why most drivers and passengers avoid serious physical injury when involved in a traffic crash," said Dana Gigliotti, Prince George's County Community Traffic Safety Program Director.

As part of the national Click It Or Ticket campaign, from now until the end of May, area law enforcement agencies in Prince George's County will take a zero tolerance approach when it comes to enforcing Maryland's seat belt law. Law enforcement would rather write a ticket for not using a seat belt rather than showing up at a door to tell a family that their loved one was killed.

The Buckle Up For A Buck program is meant to promote seat belt usage and to raise awareness of the traumatic results for those who choose not to buckle up.

The force of an impact from a 30 mph crash is like falling headfirst from a three-story building. Most crashes occur within 25 miles from home, in good weather.

Nationally, the number of traffic deaths in the United States is equivalent to a jumbo jet crashing, killing all aboard, every single day of every year. Over 40,000 people are killed and 3 million are injured each year from traffic crashes.

Needless deaths and injuries that result from non-use of seat belts cost society an estimated $26 billion annually in medical care, lost productivity and other compensation related costs.

The statewide Choose Safety for Life campaign, launched earlier this week, capitalizes on five key messages: B-SAFE - Buckle up, Slow down - speeding kills, Always drive sober, Focus, and Everyone share the road. For more information about how YOU can prevent traffic crash fatalities, please log on to

Psssst: The Capital Centre has been imploded for over five years now (note: no sound, although I bet the actual event was MUCH louder):

At least you didn't say it was in Landover instead of Largo. Did you mean The Boulevard at Capital Centre, by any chance?

Now I certainly grant that we don't get upset enough about highway deaths, and it's stupid not to wear a seat belt. Setting aside the fact that seat belt laws are also ridiculous (you can't legislate stupidity, and how the heck did not wearing a seat belt become a moving violation?), would someone explain to me how this cash-strapped state which Martin Owe-Malley is taxing into oblivion thinks bribing people to obey the law will help them to comply with it? Does the Owe-Malley administration really think this will be anything more than a (not-so) cheap PR campaign? Rather than being motivated, the citizens of Prince George's County should be insulted by this.

Also, this campaign must be from those who brought us the Violent Gun Turn-Ins. How's that working out?

Let's hope no one in the Owe-Malley administration ever read Calvin and Hobbes, or else we might get something like this in the Maryland school system in the near future:

I've got an idea, Dad. Maybe I'd get better grades if you offered me $1 for every "D", $5 for every "C". $10 for every "B", and $50 for every "A"!

I'm not going to bribe you Calvin, you should apply yourself for your own good.

Rats. I thought I could make an easy four bucks. --Bill Watterson

Monday, May 12, 2008

Selected TV Shows I Have Never Watched A Full Episode Of

(and, if they're still on, I have no plans to watch anytime soon:)

American Idol
Ugly Betty
South Park
Family Guy
Desperate Housewives
The West Wing
The Drew Carey Show
Will and Grace
Reno 911! (NOT a popular show in our soon-to-be hometown)
Dancing with the Stars
Seinfeld (at least I don't think I have)
Farscape (why save it when no one's even HEARD of it?)
The Sopranos (or any other HBO/Showtime series)
Homicide (despite the fact it was filmed in Baltimore)
Any of the CSI:s
Any of the Law and Orders
Grey's Anatomy
Friday Night Lights
Beverly Hills 90210
Melrose Place
The OC
Three's Company (wasn't allowed)
Bewitched (wasn't allowed)
St. Elsewhere
WKRP in Cincinnati
The View
Dr. Phil
Rachael Ray
Any afternoon soap opera

And, having become a reverse TV snob, I'm durn proud of it. A number of these owe to the fact that we haven't had cable for over four years now.

Oh, I should mention that Bigbro and I weren't allowed to watch Benny Hill, but we did anyway.)

And Now It's Brag Time

Who needs American Idol, anyway? Not when you have my gorgeous niece Abby singing "On My Own" from Les Miserables like this:

Uncle Cyg says "Bravo!"

Monday, May 05, 2008

Why did I wait so long?

I love my new MP3 player, a SanDisk Sansa with 4 GB capacity. Now my CDs can stay nice and safe in the house instead of risking being damaged in my car. And I've actually ripped all of my CDs to this computer, which has more than enough disk space to handle it.

What I love about the player is that I'm now the DJ, and I can randomize the play of some or all of my songs. And since I selected the songs, I won't hear any I don't want! I could, of course, skip something because I'm not in the mood.

Now all I need is a car stereo with a line-in jack. The FM transmitter does OK, but there's too much static in the background.

No Pizza For You

Two Saturdays ago, I left my pizza delivery job. Among other reasons, I began losing money on my routes with lousy tips coupled with the high cost of gasoline. Also, there weren't enough drivers to satisfy customers at high-volume times and too many drivers when they weren't needed.

But most of all, one of my paychecks BOUNCED. That's not a sign of a company in a good financial situation, is it?

As proof that I got while the getting was good, I saw yesterday that the restaurant was closed for "emergency renovations" for the next month. So was their other location. I think that means the current owners sold the place. Thus, I wouldn't have been working there anyway.

I hope it reopens with new management, because the pizza and other entrees and sandwiches were quite good.

UPDATE: That's not going to happen. According to a source with excellent access, the owners are not only going to lose the stores, but their houses as well. They certainly weren't good managers, but I don't wish a fate like that on them. Or anyone.

And they did get me my final paycheck, which I have safely cashed.

Where Jesus And Rerun Reach Out

The recent discussions about Pastor Jeremiah Wright, along with our watching of the PBS multi-part documentary Carrier with an episode about the faiths of those on board, reminded me of my time working at a Gospel radio station.

This was my first radio job, and it paid minimum wage, $5.15/hr. The station, then known as WJRO ("Where Jesus Reaches Out"), was located in a swamp on the north side of Glen Burnie. This was done on purpose, as the swamp helped propagate the signal further. The floor was musty and the carpet moldy. The equipment was ancient; I was surprised there was even a CD player and a minidisc player. There wasn't a computer in the place. But since so few people listened to this station, it was a good place to make rookie mistakes. LC would sometimes bring me dinner, such as on New Year's Eve and my birthday.

I enjoyed being there for about six months as an announcer/board operator/one who had to tell the preachers, "Your 15/30 minutes are up." They didn't have the greatest time management skills. The lady who bought an hour to play her music from 9 to 10 PM Monday nights often wouldn't show, so sometimes I'd mix in some of MY music, breaking format (ack!). The only pure Gospel song (if you could call it that) was "The Old Landmark" from the Blues Brothers soundtrack. I played that a few times. Some of my fellow board ops didn't bother showing up for their next shift either; in that case, I'd just load up the tape decks and go.

I grew to appreciate the urban Gospel culture. I may not have agreed with their theology, but their passion for the Lord could not be denied. I didn't experience any Jeremiah Wright types.

The methods the preachers could employ were somethinggggg-a. When they got on a rolllll-a, they could endddd-a . . . just about all their sentences like thisssss-a. (Turn to somebody and say, "He's ending his sentences!") I'm just observing it, not really mocking it.

I got an unexpected Brush With Greatness when, one evening, in walked Fred Berry, "Rerun" of What's Happening! fame. He was helping to promote a concert in town; he might have wanted to select a station which actually had listeners, but oh well. Fred was much thinner than in his role as Rerun, having contracted diabetes. But he still used his trademark "Hey HEY hey!" greeting both on air and off. I wound up playing some of the songs that would be featured, interspersed with comments from Fred and those appearing with him.

As the Wikipedia article above shows, Fred had been through a lot in the time since What's Happening!, having battled drug and alcohol addiction, gone through a number of wives, and dealt with his permanent identification as Rerun. But he seemed geniunely happy as a preacher, and I guess that was a useful outlet for all his energy.

I was sad when I heard only two years later that he was dead at the young age of 51, but I'm glad I got to meet him.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Why I Will Never Live In Canada, Reason #18,923

I know Dawn Eden's countercultural stance for chastity can be hard for some people to take. But at a Can'tadian . . . Catholic . . . high school?

What the heck are these kids being taught? This, apparently:

"I'm a catholic and i absolutely love having sex... does it mean im a bad person? No, i think that chastity should be up to the person, I believe in making my own decisions on my lifestyle, based on what i feel is right its called cultural relativism."
Guess that student slept through that part of the Catechism (the hwat?).

Granted, not all the kids from the school felt that way, as evidenced in comments on Dawn's blog. But if what LifeSiteNews says at the end of the article is true, the reaction Dawn got isn't very surprising:
Ontario's Catholic teachers are all forced to belong to a union that has for many years strongly opposed the Church's moral teachings. The union intervened in a legal action on behalf of a student that successfully forced his Catholic school to allow him to bring his homosexual lover to the school prom.

The province's bishops have not taken strong actions to bring the union in line. The main school religion programs, approved by the bishops, have received much criticism for their weak presentation of Catholic teaching and excessive emphasis on "social justice" issues.

Despite these negative factors, some Ontario Catholic schools, thanks to faithful School Boards, teachers, principles and parents, as well as some bishops who have accepted there are serious problems in the schools they must personally address, do manage to give authentic Catholic moral and spiritual formation to their students.
Why are the Ontario bishops so cowed? Are they afraid they'll be fired?

And I thought my college had problems with Catholic identity. God bless all the faithful Ontario Catholic teachers and administrators who have to labor under those oppressive conditions.

An Engineer's Guide to Cats

What cat owner can't relate to this, especially the yodeling part? (HT: KimberlyKnits.)