Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Where The Heck Have I Been?

This morning I found out, almost by accident, that Don Knotts has been dead for four days. Why doesn't anybody tell me these things? I would have broken out my copy of The Incredible Mr. Limpet on Sunday and forced my family to watch.

I'm so behind that I haven't even blogged in about three days.

Naturally I blame Mary Beth Ellis, who seems to have gotten into the habit of posting sexy leggy pictures of herself as a sort of Winter Olympics tribute. I don't understand it, but it's fun.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

No News Is Good News

There's nothing good to report from this morning's newspaper, so let's go straight to "The Bad and the Ugly".

First, the bad:

The Port Authority is talking about possible fare hikes and bus-trolley service reductions again.

Acting Chief Executive Officer Dennis Veraldi broached the issue at yesterday's board meeting, saying the staff has begun discussions on a preliminary 2006-07 operating budget that tentatively shows a record $36 million deficit.

Well, so much for Fast Eddie's labor agreement saving the Pork Authority. It's just one thing after another with that outfit, each worse than the last. Public transportation needs to be run like a business, yet all the people in charge can do is beg for more government money.

If the Pork Authority ever goes under, private enterprise will step in to replace it. I can't predict how well it will work, but there's definitely a market for bus and trolley service, so someone will take a chance.

Now for the ugly:

What a gas station clerk in McKeesport thought at first glance was a severed penis was actually a urine-filled sex toy.
What a fantastic opening line! It nearly jumps off the page to demand that we read the rest of the story. Why? Why would an alleged severed male member be in the possession of a confused gas clerk?

A couple entered the GetGo station in the 200 block of Fifth Avenue about 5:10 p.m., and the man asked a female store clerk to heat in the microwave an object wrapped in a paper towel.
Who the hell walks into a convenience store and hands the clerk something to nuke? They have their own hot dogs for sale.

...the clerk complied but noticed a strange odor. When she handed the object back to the man, it became unwrapped and she saw what resembled a penis.
Ooops! If you're going to cook a penis, it's best to use a self-serve microwave. Don't ask someone else to do it. You don't want someone else's permanent psychological damage to weigh on your conscience.

Or, better yet, just take a ride on a Pork Authority bus. Sit at the back, right on top of the engines. You could get the thing nice and hot while enjoying a relaxing cruise at (mostly) taxpayer expense.
The couple left the store separately, and the clerk called 911.
The clerk didn't keep it. Why bother calling if you let the perp walk away with it? Were you afraid of being embarrassed in the event of a scuffle in which the man might have yelled "Let go of my penis, lady!" at you? You gotta seize the evidence in order to justify the emergency call.

...the woman who was in the store contacted police yesterday morning and said the object was a sex toy filled with urine. She told police that she wanted to heat the urine to body temperature for use in an employment drug screening she needed to take.
Well, I'm glad we got that cleared up. But really. Where was she going to hide the toy? I could see a man faking a urine test using an ersatz rod, but it might look kind of funny sticking out of a woman.

See, I told you this was ugly.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Out Of The News

Hands up! Who else grew up in the 1970s watching CBS's "In The News" segments during Saturday morning children's programming? You never saw the reporter's face, but you knew the voice and the name.

That reporter, Christopher Glenn, has retired from CBS News. Quite frankly, I didn't even realize he was still at CBS. He's been doing a lot of radio work over the years. I do not remember the last time I heard a CBS radio news program. But if I had heard his voice, the memories would have come flooding back.

Of course, he has also appeared on television, but not on anything I would have watched at the time. It's just as well. I would never be able to associate his voice with a human face. I got used to the funky spinning eye-globe thing on the television when he was speaking.

There's nothing like one more layer of your childhood getting stripped away. At least it's not an obituary.

Jurassic Mammal?

Something interesting has been found in northern China:

It looked like an otter, had teeth like a seal, a tail like a beaver and could swim. And though it died 164 million years ago, it's making a big splash in 21st century studies of mammalian evolution.
So, naturally, the scientists have given it a name that means "otter thingy with a beavery tail".

Seriously, this is a pretty amazing discovery. I love shows like "Walking With (Prehistoric) Beasts", where long-extinct earthly life forms are recreated digitally for our viewing pleasure. The ambulocetus is particularly fascinating, as is the Andrewsarchus ("sheep in wolf's clothing"). Imagine what the world would have been like if we would have to share it with creatures such as these instead of things like cows, horses, and kittycats.

The Smithsonian curator quoted in the article delivers the best description of the human experience that I've seen in a long time:
"No matter what you learn, you're never done. That's what makes it fun."
Learning and fun are what it's all about.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Great Minds Thinking Alike

Is Learned Foot writing editorials for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review?

It sure looks that way, doesn't it?

Okay, I'm Done. Now Where's My Dough?

One of the advantages of being a low-income family is that you get a snotload of tax refund money back every year. It took all of two hours for the spouse and I to assemble our paper forms and log in, complete, and submit our electronic forms with federal and state agencies. As easy as pie! And the money I'm getting back is obscene.

It's almost going to be enough to cover the debt that I get into during the year in order to cover my living expenses.

By sheer coincidence, Wrestlecrap.com replays a classic craptacular entry on wrestling great Irwin R. Shyster (IRS) this week. What could be more brilliant than an evil tax collector gimmick? Yes, what indeed.

My favorite IRS moment occured at the Civic (now Mellon) Arena here in Pittsburgh about a dozen years ago. I had convinced a friend who was not a wrestling fan to come out to the matches with me. Irwin was walking down to the ring with wireless microphone in hand and proclaimed that "It is a well-known fact that Pennsylvania is home to more tax cheats than any other state in America!" My friend, who happens to be the most anti-big government constitutional conservative I have ever known, suddenly lit up, pumped his fist in the air, and cried, "YEAH!!!!" The gimmick worked! I told you it was brilliant.

Now to figure out how much I owe the municipality...

Monday, February 20, 2006

Where'd You Get That Name?

I always knew there was a good reason that the world (from my American perspective) is overcrowded with Jens, Jenns, Jennys, Jennies and Jennifers. Jennifer (with all of its diminutive forms) was only the most popular baby girls' name for childbearing humans in this country for several years back in the 1970s. It was a fad name, and has accordingly dropped in popularity in recent years. An article in the Trib from this weekend looks at the latest trends in naming babies.

The article divides names into two categories: "Traditional" and "Unique". I'm not sure how this applies in my family. My wife and I disagreed on how to name our kids. She wanted to name them after living relatives, which smacked to me of ass-kissing; and I wanted to name them after long-dead ancestors. I have a very "ethnic" surname, which I thought would go nicely with ethnically appropriate given names. We reached a compromise: She got to name a girl and a boy, and I got to name a boy and a girl. As a result, two of our kids have what Archie Bunker would call "regular American" names, and the other two have what Archie Bunker would call "Kraut" names. I'm rather proud of the latter.

Now here are my questions: Are the names that I gave to two kids "traditional", because they were used in the family over 150 years ago in the old country? Or are they "unique", because they are not commonly used names today? As for the others, are the names given by my wife "traditional" because they were borne by living relatives? Or are they "unique", because they are English congnates of German names that would have been "ethnically correct"? I would venture to say "both", in each case, for the reasons that I have just given.

Am I right about this?

Presidents (And Their Relatives) Day

This visit with Mr. Lincoln, a distant relative of (and dead ringer for) the former President, is some serious journalism candy to someone like me who is obsessed with history and genealogy. I've been working on my family history for so long that I can verbally crawl up, across, and back down my family tree just as Mr. Lincoln does.

In my case, however, I can't claim a relationship to anyone as important as a President, or a King either for that matter. The closest I come to that kind of fame is a Congressman from Ohio -- my fourth cousin three times removed, to be exact. He was not elected, but rather appointed to fill the term of a deceased representative. He lost the special election and thus served for a grand total of three months.

He later served a much longer term of a different sort. After several years as a federal tax collector, my very distant cousin entered the private sector and became a bank president. He mismanaged the bank's funds, causing a lot of problems for a lot of people, and ran off to Canada, where US agents caught up with him in Vancouver. He came back to Ohio and served about eight years in the state pen, where he was regarded as a model prisoner.

Tax collector...fiscally irresponsible with other people's money... Why yes, he was a Democrat. How could you tell?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Leftist In Golf Pants

When I saw that Colin McNickle's column in today's Tribune-Review had something to do with Sisyphus, I naturally had to look into it. Sisyphus is arguably the wittiest man in Minnesota. I read his top eleven columns regularly, and have even enjoyed the privilege of meeting the man in person while visiting the Gopher State last August.

So what sort of impact has he made in this region?

It seems that leading Pennsylvania Democrat legislators are comparing themselves to Sisyphus. And, in response, the columnist accuses them of exhibiting Freudian tendencies by doing so.

?????? ???????

What, exactly, do these Democrats want to do to Sisyphus? Now that's just sick.

Two Geniuses And An Idiot

To illustrate the difference between Right and Left, the Moist-Towelette this morning publishes three letters responding to the Dick Cheney shooting accident and the media's coverage thereof.

Two letters critical of the media are well-written, thoughtful, and intelligent. The third has absolutely nothing to say; it just shoots and leaves, so to speak. It was worthy of a fisking by Learned Foot.

Rarely do you see such representative coverage of America in that kind of newspaper.

Sports Entertainment Heritage

Back in the summer of 1997 I spend many hours sitting up at night holding a bottle for a Similac-chugging baby boy. To keep from getting bored, I turned on the television and watched whatever was on at 1 AM. The baby was too little to be interested in anything on television...most of the time. On Monday nights (Tuesday morning actually) TNT would show a replay of what was then one of the hottest shows on cable, WCW Monday Nitro. If I had missed anything during the first showing, I could get caught up by watching again during feeding time.

Something amazing happened. The baby only drank his formula during the commercials. When there was wrestling on the screen, he would turn his head to watch. Did he actually like wrestling? It certainly looked like it. I mentioned it to one of my co-workers at the time and he said that I had a second-generation wrestling fan on my hands. Not really, dude. More like a third generation wrestling fan. (At least. I don't know whether earlier generations of my family took an interest in the pro wrestling that existed back in the early part of the twentieth century.) Within a couple of years, even though he and his sister didn't get to see that much wrestling on TV, they had become aware of what was hot in wrestling, even if they did get things a bit messed up. They identified a display of WCW merchandise as "Stone Cold toys", even though Stone Cold Steve Austin was with the rival WWF organization. Another time, when Mick "Mankind" Foley was on TV, the kids demanded to know: "Is that Stone Cold?"

It was just as well that they got it wrong. Brand identification was aimed at an older demographic by that point in time. In fact, I was watching less and less of it because I was seriously getting embarrassed by what was on my TV screen when my wife and/or children were in the room. By late 2002 I had pretty much stopped following it altogether, and some of the storylines that I heard about second or third hand made me glad that I was missing it.

Flash-forward to this past Friday night. I had control of the TV remote (for once) and what should be on but WWE Smackdown. I decided to give it a chance; Smackdown runs on a more accessible network (UPN) and tends not to have the "adult" storylines that are a hallmark of USA network's Monday Night Raw.

Two observations:

  1. That Boogeyman is the weirdest dude I have ever seen in all the years that I have watched wrestling, and believe me, there have been a lot of seriously messed up guys in the business;
  2. That eight-and-one-half years hasn't changed my older son one bit.
About 1/2 hour into the show, the boy came over and asked me to let him sit on my lap. Since my chair was in the corner of the living room at an angle to the TV set, the boy just laid sideways across my knees so that he had a head-on view of the screen. The way that he was sitting astounded me. It was almost the same way that he would lie in my arms when he was a baby. And he was glued to the action on screen, just like in 1997. He was seriously into it. This boy is normally one of the sweetest, gentlest, most sensitive children you will ever meet. Watching wrestling not only transfixed him, it also transformed him.

He could not contain himself. He continually implored the good guys (whom he somehow managed to discern from their opponents with being told who was who) to hurt, injure, and even kill their opponents. Where does he get this? Does this demonstrate an empirical tendency towards violence in human beings? Or was the wrestling show just an outlet for pent-up aggression? He was his normal docile self yesterday. I may try this with him again next week to see if he acts the same way.

I haven't acted that way in over 20 years, ever since I figured out that the wrestlers weren't really fighting. Let the boy keep cheering and jeering. It's almost refreshing to see someone taking the entertainment seriously again.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Getting Pesed Off

Last June, I posted about a 2,300 year old dead chick who currently takes up space right here in western Pennsylvania. Her name is Pesed, and she's back in the news:

For more than a century, people have wondered what kind of girl Pesed was.

"Was she old, young, good-looking -- what was her life like and how did she die?" said Samuel Farmerie, curator of cultural artifacts at Westminster College in New Wilmington, where Pesed has resided since 1885.

One of a handful of people who have seen Pesed's just delivered and painstakingly built facial reconstruction, Farmerie now knows what the 2,300-year-old Egyptian mummy looked like in the last days of her life.

A lot of guys are naturally curious about her. Since we are hard-wired to reproduce the human species, there is a part of us all that wants to find out if this is the kind of girl we would want to have making our babies, if she hadn't died so many centuries ago. So, now that her face has been reconstructed, where's the picture? Was she a total babe? Prying eyes want to know.

So will the rest of the world in about six weeks, when Pesed's facial reconstruction is unveiled at the small Lawrence County college.
Six weeks? Well, we've waited 23 centuries, so another few weeks won't be too painful. Meanwhile we can sit back and consider how the word "unveiled" makes the upcoming proceedings sound like a strip show for a necrophiliac, for in truth, that will be the only type of person interested in what lies beneath the veil.

Unlike some other mummy reconstructions, which have baby-soft skin, Pesed -- mummified between 300 and 220 B.C. -- actually looks like the senior citizen she was, Farmerie said. Scientists peg her age at 60 to 70.

"Her face has crow's-feet, the kind of features you do not see on other reconstructions, no matter what their age," he said.

In other words, this ain't your girlfriend, it's her grandmother. If you think about it, though, "seventy years old" does not automatically mean that a woman has lost her charm, grace, and beauty. Just the other day I was reminded that Sophia Loren is over seventy, and she has taken good care of herself as she has aged. Could Pesed be an older version of Sophia?
Pesed was hunchbacked, her 5-foot, 5-inch frame wracked by osteoporosis, and 60 percent of her teeth were missing by the time of her death.
Ah, she was probably ugly when she turned 21, too. And no matter had decrepit she turns out to be, she can't be any creepier than that freaky King Tut reconstruction that was revealed last year.

A Party In The Neighborhood?

This is a longshot, but since it's in the news this morning, we'll pretend that it might actually happen:

Pittsburgh is among 31 cities the Republican National Committee invited to bid for the right to host the party's 2008 convention, where delegates will nominate their candidates for president and vice president. That puts the city in the same class as Philadelphia, Atlanta, Houston and San Francisco.
We're already in the same class as those cities. They all have major league baseball and football teams, too. I'm not sure that stirring the political pot would be such a good idea. Pittsburgh hasn't been Republican friendly in over seventy years. The city's present leaders are much younger than that; the Democratic party is the only one they know. The Republican party is alien to everything that they have been raised to believe. As born lefties, they have a rather confused view of what the right is all about. With leadership like that, why would Pittsburgh even consider hosting a gathering of what many would consider to be THE ENEMY?
Could a solid-blue Democratic city like Pittsburgh ever host thousands of red-state Republicans?

If it improves the city's fortunes, yes, said Dick Skrinjar, spokesman for Mayor Bob O'Connor -- a Democrat, like each of his predecessors since the New Deal in the 1930s.

"When it comes to the green, we are neither a red or a blue area," Skrinjar said.

Now, who's the party of greed again? Which side is supposed to be all about the money? This admission from the spokesman is stunning in its sheer honesty. But you know, he does have a point, and it's one that the Republicans ought to seize on. If the RNC comes here, and the money flows into the city like Niagara Falls, then perhaps some of the locals could be convinced to change their ways. The party would have one week to show that Republicans can improve the local economy and really turn things around. Hey, it might work.

Oh, who am I kidding? They won't receive a warm greeting from the locals. The Republicans will be about as welcome as Danish cookies in a Saudi grocery. There's too much of an undercurrent of left-wing street protest. This is another thing that puts Pittsburgh in the same class as those other, aforementioned cities. No matter where the RNC holds its convention, you can be sure that there will be no shortage of odiferous scumbag hippie protestors clogging the boulevards. Take a look at Zombie Time's San Francisco photo albums. Do we really want Pittsburgh to turn into that?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Low Road/ Shooting Editorial Says A Lot About the Moist-Towelette

The Pittsburgh Moist-Towelette weighs in on the Dick Cheney shooting incident in this morning's editorial "Top gun/ Shooting incident says a lot about Cheney":

When the concealing smoke of controversy finally clears from the famous hunting accident in Texas Saturday, the details are likely to say less about Dick Cheney the hunter and more about Dick Cheney the man. What emerges is not a pretty picture.
This newspaper has never concealed its animosity for the Vice-President, the President, or anyone else involved with the administration. No one should be surprised to see them turn the hunting accident into a scandal of Watergate proportions. But how?

If accounts are to be believed, and the lack of initial forthrightness unfortunately brings everything into question, this was a simple accident. All hunters are responsible to some degree for identifying their targets but Vice President Cheney's culpability seems minimal.
Right. Because neither Cheney nor anyone who was with him on the hunting trip ran out in front of reporters and cameramen while shouting "THE VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES JUST SHOT SOME GUY IN THE FACE!", then there is some kind of cover-up at the highest levels. Okay, tell us more.

According to a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department report, the man hit by birdshot, Harry Whittington, a 78-year-old lawyer, had stepped out of the firing line he shared with Mr. Cheney to retrieve a bird when the vice president unwittingly swung and fired his shotgun. Mr. Cheney had a nonresident hunting license but did not have a $7 stamp -- a minor infraction for which he will receive a warning.
So this Vice-President is not above the law and all that. Fine. We know he accepts the punishment, be it just a warning or whatever. But that's not what you're mad about, is it?

What is troubling is what happened afterwards. Accidents happen but outcomes are arranged -- and Mr. Cheney and his staff, with the apparent help of the White House, behaved as if they wanted to make this embarrassing shooting as invisible and inconsequential as possible.
Are they serious? This suggests that the administration, in this high tech information age, might actually try to cover up the accident -- and remember, it was an accident -- in the hopes that no one would find out about it. Do you know what's troubling? This editorial gets more troubling as one reads further.

The White House heard the news Saturday night but its spokesman, Scott McClellan, said he found out about Mr. Cheney's role in the shooting early Sunday morning. The news didn't break until 20 hours after the incident and only then because Katherine Armstrong, Mr. Cheney's host at the Armstrong Ranch and a lobbyist, had tipped off The Corpus Christi Caller-Times.
According to her, she did so at Dick Cheney's request. He wanted the media to be informed. He probably also wanted to make sure that Whittington was okay before releasing information on his condition. I would think that making sure your hunting companion is at least in stable condition before you have anything to say is wiser than going out and saying "something bad happened but we're not sure what". Find out what the situation is, and then report it.

The Secret Service did call the local sheriff's office earlier and Mr. Cheney was interviewed, although Texas does not require nonfatal hunting accidents to be reported, according to The New York Times. In the official view, Mr. Cheney has broken no law -- and assurances that no drinking occurred have been readily accepted.
So the incident was reported to the authorities and Dick Cheney gave them some kind of statement -- even though no such action was required to be taken. Cheney not only did the right thing in the aftermath, but he went above and beyond what he needed to do. Take note of the last sentence in this last excerpt. "In the official view" means "not in the view of PG editors" and "have been readily accepted" means "by other people, but not us". Clever bastards, using the passive voice like that.

And who said anything about drinking? Why not just mention that "no marijuana was found in Mr. Cheney's possession"? Or opium, or whatever substance you want to throw a wink and a nudge at.

All this may be true, but average Americans are left to wonder if they would receive such solicitous treatment if they shot someone. Whatever else, Mr. Cheney's behavior once again confirms the imperious view he has of his job. He is a man, after all, famous for having made paranoia and secrecy a high art. Of course he wasn't going to be forthcoming about this. The press and public be damned; what's a little shooting among friends?
Good God Almighty! He reported it to the civil authorities! They are the public's representatives! Someone tell me what the purpose of this freaking editorial is. We know what the PG is saying, but why bother expressing it in words? The paper could just have the editorial cartoonist (you know, the one they didn't fire) draw a picture of Cheney with horns and the word "EEEEVIL" underneath and plaster it in the space where the written editorials normally appear. We get the point. No need to be verbose about it.

There is one thing that I agree with here: "The press...be damned" precisely reflects how I feel about this newspaper and its like minded counterparts around the globe. And furthermore, I would prefer to live under an Emperor Cheney than under a system where a paper like the PG represents the people.

Although Mr. Whittington suffered a setback yesterday when a pellet in his heart caused a mild heart attack, he is likely to survive. Mr. Cheney will survive too, confident in the knowledge that he remains symbol and architect of an administration that does whatever it wants to do with little chance of consequences.
What was it that Dick Cheney said a few years ago to that commie SOB on the floor of the Senate? I think that applies here. Take a copy of the Moist-Towelette, roll it up nice and tight, and shove it up the editorial writers' a-- no, no, I have a better idea. But first I have one small question:

Just how easy is it to flush a "Great American Newspaper" down the commode?

Vote By Default?

So maybe I won't be voting for the non-establishment candidate anyway:

Lynn Swann's political blitz claimed another victim yesterday, as his last remaining Republican opponent, Jim Panyard of Lebanon, withdrew from the governor's race.
Oh yes, if Panyard's name is somehow still on the ballot when I go to vote, I'll vote for him out of principal even though it doesn't mean anything. That's the fun of an "uncontested" primary, which we Pennsylvanians always seem to get stuck with in Presidential primaries. The nomination is decided by the time we have our primary in May. The real excitement will have to wait a few months.

Meanwhile, Jim Panyard seems a little bitter, and who can blame him?
In an interview, Mr. Panyard sounded sad, relieved and a bit angry about ending the long-shot campaign he'd begun last September. He said he was dropping out because he'd been unable to "attract enough financial support or any significant media attention to my campaign.''
It's unfortunate, because he had the best campaign literature of any of the previously announced candidates. He actually told you what he stood for. Oh, and "financial support" and "significant media attention" can translate as "inside Republican Party interest". If you can't get any kind of significant support from within your party, you might as well wait and run as an independent.

He claimed the Republican state committee's unanimous endorsement of Mr. Swann last weekend proves that the GOP "is not interested in principle, but in power and celebrity. It is interested in winning, principle be damned.''
Sometimes the celebrity works in the position; look at Ronald Reagan. But, to be fair, one has to admit that Reagan had not been quiet about his politics in almost his entire career as an actor before being elected Governor of California. Swann is still new to the game. He's not a bad candidate; he just hasn't doesn't have any kind of a track record.

"When a man of Bill Scranton's stature and resources believes a primary fight for the nomination is foolhardy, it doesn't take a weatherman to tell which way the wind is blowing," Mr. Panyard said. "Money talks and principle walks in the new monarchy in Harrisburg, Republicans and Democrats alike, which rules our state."
Ideally, I would be an independent. But the system doesn't work to the advantage of anyone outside of the two-party tradition. It's hard being a Republican in Pennsylvania, it really is. I voted for a Democrat in 1990, and for a third-party candidate in 1998. My party's candidates just count not convince me that they were what I wanted in a governor. The "new monarchy" that Panyard refers to isn't new. It has existed in this Commonwealth for decades, if not centuries.

So good-bye, Mr. Panyard; good luck, Mr. Swann; and good night to the rest. Wake me up in the Fall when it's time to come out and vote.

In the Wake of the Flow of Blood-Pumping Organs

Well, Greg Valentine's Day went swimmingly yesterday. It was the first chance I had to do some card shopping, which became an imperative after my wife presented me with a (not really) heart-shaped box of chocolates at breakfast. Conscience vexed me; I could not partake of the sweetmeats before the conclusion of a satisfactory exchange.

So, while ostensibly going out on a grocery run, I picked up her favorite candy along with a Valentine card (plus a card for each of my daughters).

It was a Kodak moment, and of course I left my camera at home. I didn't feel like such a loser for doing my last minute Valentine's shopping in a supermarket. Dozens of sad-face men stood in checkout lines, or wandered around the store, or leaned nervously over the special gift table. They all had one thing in common: Each guy was carrying a single long-stemmed rose for his wife or sweetheart (or possibly both). Each one looked like he was trying very hard not to be seen, and hung his head in shame. If they had bothered to look up, they would have found a room full of kindred spirits. The scene could have turned into a jovial, spirited support group of last-minute rose buyers.

But not these guys. They were truly men-of-shame.

It convinced me to skip the flowers. For now. The ladies love it when you get them flowers when they least expect it. What's the big deal about getting flowers on Greg Valentine's Day? I'm waiting until April Fools Day. Heh heh.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Hammer Time!

Today, February 14, is (as everyone knows) Valentine's Day. More precisely, it is Saint Valentine's Day, a holy feast day on the calendar of the Roman Catholic church. But since I am not Catholic, I don't celebrate it, at least not as a spiritual occasion. I was raised in a different tradition, which means that the holiday was basically ignored at my Protestant Church, while it was coldly observed in my public school by children passing out little red slips of cardboard to all of their classmates, most of whom hated the very thought of giving some kind of generic love note to anyone in the room. Such a pointless practice was bound to make a kid grow up hating Valentine's Day.

When I grew older, I came to hate it for a different reason, namely that I figured I had little chance of being able to share the occasion with anyone but myself. Once I finally did snag a sweetheart, I married her as quickly as I could. Now I'm set for life, and I need not bother doing anything special for Valentine's Day.

But that doesn't mean I'm going to let the day pass without some kind of observance, no sir! For, every year on February 14, I take at least twenty seconds to reflect on the contributions to society of this man:

Yes, it is the one, and the only, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine. I first learned of Mr. Valentine by reading wrestling magazines when I was a child. He was co-holder of some tag team championship with some guy named Ric Flair (whatever happened to him?) and went on to have a tremendous feud with Wahoo McDaniel. It seems that Mr. Valentine used his signature finishing hold, the figure-four leglock, to break Wahoo's leg. And if you don't believe me, just look at the t-shirt in the picture at left. He really did break Wahoo's leg. Why would someone lie about such a thing?

To demonstrate, perhaps, a latent dislike for a certain kind of men, Greg Valentine moved north to my part of the country, so that I could thrill to his exploits on my home television screen, and promptly broke the leg of Chief Jay Strongbow. Did he hate American Indians? Nah -- he must have just gotten ruffled at the sight of colorfully feathered warbonnets. Besides, everyone knows that Chief Jay Strongbow is Italian.

Mr. Valentine was with Vince McMahon's WWF (now WWE) when it went national in 1984, exposing him to a larger audience than ever at the height of his career. For his efforts, he was rewarded with title reigns as both Intercontinental Champion and World Tag Team Champion (with Brutus Beefcake, before the latter became a hairdresser). By the early 1990s, Mr. Valentine's career was winding down, but he hasn't gotten out of the game entirely. He continues to make sporadic appearances in wrestling rings, and also does Christian motivational speaking with other wrestling legends.

So if you really want to do something different this Valentine's Day, try giving that special someone a hammer-style elbow smash, or a bone-crunching figure-four leglock. Do it for them. Do it for yourself. Do it for "The Hammer". You'll be glad you did, even if they won't.

More on Greg Valentine at these fine web sites:

WWE Hall of Fame
Obsessed With Wrestling
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Happy Greg Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2006

"Mike" Hears Everything

It seems some folks in the media are making hay about something that the President said while his microphone, unbeknownst to him was still on:

After six minutes of public remarks by the president, reporters were ushered out. "I support the free press; let's just get them out of the room," Bush said, intending to speak behind closed doors with fellow Republicans and take lawmakers' questions.
This was actually kind of cool. I must say, though, that I'm a little disappointed that he didn't hearken back to his famous remark from the 2000 campaign and say something like "Let's get the Major League Asshole All-Star Team the hell out of the room". His approval rating might have gone up ten points. Cussing works, you know; at least two people I worked with six years ago told me that they decided to vote for Bush because he called Adam Clymer a MLA.

And even if you don't like it when someone like the President cusses, it's not as if he shot somebody. Oops.

Spirit of Bipartisanship

Who says politics can't be a friendly competition? Here's a nice article in this morning's paper about Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and his predecessor, Jim Roddey, who look back at their race three years ago.

It's a nice contrast to last week's display by Jimmy Carter, who should never speak in public again.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Bathroom Humor

Sometimes I wonder what kind of stuff influences my kids when I'm not around. Like tonight, when I was supervising my little three year old daughter's bubble bath. We have a nice variety of bath toys, including a plastic water-spitting Creature From the Black Lagoon that was a Burger King giveaway years ago at Halloween. We affectionately call the toy "Uncle Gilbert", as he was referred to in the Herman Munster household. It's a really cool toy, because not only does he spit water, but when you drop him into a tub full of water, he lands at the bottom standing bolt upright. Amazing.

I left the baby alone in the bubbly water for a minute. When I returned, she was holding a menacing Uncle Gilbert over a Fisher-Price "Little People" figure in a Floaty Boat. My sweet little daughter kept repeating, over and over again: "I...WANT...BLOOD. I...WANT...BLOOD."

No, I don't know where she got that. My wife was just as surprised as I was. Most likely, she saw something on TV that inspired her. Or -- and this is a distinct possibility -- it was empirical. Perhaps she has a natural craving for blood and it just came out when she was playing with a monstrous toy in the tub.

I can say one thing for certain: She didn't get her vampire genes from my side of the family. Guaranteed.

Greased Lightning

Wow! Reinstalling Windows 98 was like some serious lubrication, man. I have Firefox back. I have Thunderbird back. I had to reinstall a couple of other things, and will likely have to install at least a couple more over the weekend, but the machine is back in business.

Right now, using this computer is like getting a car back from the auto mechanic. You take it for a test run, and it feels so good that you can't get off of the highway. Every exit you approach, you say "Just one more, then I turn around and come back". But you just keep going.

Yes, this feels good. I could drive Windows 98 forever. Who needs an upgrade? (Yes, I know. Don't answer.)

Amateur Desktop Jalopy Mechanic

I do believe that I may have figured out what was wrong with my computer; more importantly, I think I may have figured out a fix.

For the last couple of weeks, I have been blaming my ISP, my old AntiVirus program, my new AntiVirus program, my firewall, my Firefox and Thunderbird upgrades...but the problem appears to be with my registry. Specifically, it pertains to the presence of references to my old AntiVirus software in the registry.

I have never wanted to mess with the registry. RegEdit is one of those things that I shy away from. I'd just as soon take the machine to a professional technician if there would be a problem -- which there has been, a couple of times in the past. As a result of those visits, my hard drive storage space has been quintupled, and the memory doubled. That has helped immensely, and I hope to be able to continue using the machine for a few more years.

If I had been thinking ahead when I purchased it in early 2000, I might have purchased something with a Windows 2000 operating system. But I was looking for something cheap. Who needed a machine with several gigabytes of hard drive? Not me, that's for sure. I just wanted a nice simple home computer, one that I could use to go online if I chose to do so. (Which I did, several months later.) I decided to buy from Dell, based on word of mouth from a co-worker who raved about the high quality of the company's tech support. I wasn't disappointed. It was beautiful: Windows 98, Pentium III processor, 128 MB memory, 4 GB hard drive. Those specifications seem laughable today, but what you need to understand is that the two computers that I had been using were a 386 and a 486. The former couldn't even run Windows, and the latter might as well have not been able to. Both were used, well-worn machines, so it would have been unrealistic for me to expect either of them to last long.

A college instructor for a computer class that I took back in 1986 told the class that he remembered when the Commodore 64 was "Hot Stuff". Well, I had acquired a brand new C64 just one year earlier, and I thought it was pretty "Hot Stuff" too. Then I got to college, and realized what a terrible acquisition that was. Still, I got the best out of my C64 until my college career ended, at which point I really didn't have much use for a home computer.

Well, my Dell computer was "Hot Stuff" back in 2000. It has more staying power than a Commodore did, mainly due to PC compatibility standards. Can you imagine a Commodore industry standard in the year 2006? Haw! And it's going to stay hot for as long as I need it to.

What I did this morning in the wee hours was to reinstall Windows 98. It didn't wipe out any of my files, and it didn't take too long to do its job. And the nice thing about the reinstallation is that, when it restarted Windows, it told me what was wrong with the registry. A couple of things from my old AntiVirus protection software were hanging around. Now I know what to work with. Whether that involves my having to do something in RegEdit, I don't know. But I will do whatever it takes to keep the system running smoothly.

And then perhaps my new AntiVirus program will stop slowing everything down, and Firefox and Thunderbird will stop hanging. Otherwise, it's back to Internet Explorer and Outlook Express for me. And, once I get my expected tax refund, I'll really be able to upgrade.

Because, Dude, I'll be gettin' another Dell.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

How Big Ben Became a Clean Shaven Lad

The backstory behind the shaving of Ben Roethlisberger is here.

The picture of the cute kids in their new t-shirts is priceless.

Throng, Th-throng, Throng, Throng

They sure were packed in tight yesterday for the Steelers victory parade:

An estimated quarter of a million people -- one of the largest crowds in Pittsburgh's history -- clogged Downtown arteries yesterday to honor the Steelers and their Super Bowl XL victory.

Clinging to lampposts, perched in trees, hanging out of office windows, crowded on parking decks and standing 15-deep in places along the 1.2-mile parade route from Mellon Arena to Gateway Center were people of every size, age and color, a true Steeler Nation that had endured 26 years of dashed dreams and unfulfilled prayers while waiting to celebrate the

And celebrate they did.

Do you know why the Super Bowl is held in the middle of winter instead of the middle of summer? Try hanging out with 250,000 people jammed into a crowded city neighborhood in the middle of summer and tell me how nice it smells. No one's going to celebrate for very long when they are on the verge of passing out from the stench. A midwinter celebration, on the other hand, is perfect for such a large crowd. All of that body heat must have raised the temperature by a few degrees so that it would be less evident that weather conditions outside were below freezing. (At least it felt like freezing where I was.)

Between the players and the fans, it's a wonder that there was room for the rest of the parade participants:

There were seven high school marching bands, mounted Allegheny County
sheriff's deputies on their skittish horses, Pittsburgh motorcycle police, city
vehicles with horns blaring and lights flashing, and cars filled with Steelers
players, the Rooney family, coaches, the team's broadcast trio of Tunch Ilkin,
Craig Wolfley and Bill Hillgrove, and county Chief Executive Dan Onorato and
Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O'Connor.

Some should've asked those last two guys if they intend to vote for Lynn Swann this fall.

Ben Roethlisberger was there, of course, showing off the neatly trimmed goatee that David Letterman gave him the other night. No one will recognize him as the drunk in the bomb shelter now!

I'm glad so many people had fun, but I am also glad that I was no where near this. I ain't down with mass hysteria, especially when I have a relapse of the stomach flu. Speaking of which, if you'll please excuse me...

And Then There Were...Two?

Holy cow! I almost choked on my Grape Nuts cereal when I read this:

Former Lt. Gov. Bill Scranton dropped out of the governor's race yesterday, all but assuring Lynn Swann of the Republican nomination to face incumbent Democrat Ed Rendell.

I knew that the Scranton campaign was imploding, but I didn't think it would end this soon. You have to give him credit, though. He did the best thing for his party by getting out now and avoiding a major primary battle that could hurt the Swann campaign in the long run. So it looks like the Steelers not only have a World Championship, but also a gubernatorial candidate.

That's right -- Swann has momentum from the Super Bowl victory:

While Mr. Swann was taking in the Downtown victory parade for the Steelers
-- an appearance that at one point was met by chants of "governor, governor'' --
Mr. Scranton huddled with advisers in Harrisburg, then telephoned key supporters
around the state to say he was leaving the race.

Reading between the lines (i.e. making something up with absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support it), it is possible that Scranton made a private bet with an associate -- a bet on the Seahawks. If that had happened and someone were to leak it, it would be the end of Scranton's campaign. As indeed it was, if it had actually happened, which I doubt, because I just now made it up.

It looks like my intended vote for Jim Panyard is going to be just for kicks. It's always nice to have a primary option, even when I know that I'm going to be voting for Swann in November.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Search Terms That Bring People To This Blog

For your amusement, and mine:

smell the stinkiest feet (Must be something to do with that Learned Foot guy)

calvin and hobbes piss steelers (And everyone else who crosses them)

scientific award given to honour people who accidentally kill themselves in stupid ways (I'd like to thank the academy...)

"That rabbit is getting on my last nerve!" (A search for which I am number one!)

obi-wan kenobi poison stomach pain yell (This must be from one of Mary Beth Ellis's erotic fantasies gone bad)
Pittsburgh Whorehouses (Someone must have been trying to find out where those drunk Roethlisberger pictures were taken)

Most of my search hits have been from people looking for something about that kid who wore that shirt to that school. I officially became bored with that story over a week ago, when I came down with a stomach virus. Also lots of people looking for stuff about One for the thumb in 81.

At least they're not still not looking for nude pictures of Howard's daughter.

Is It Safe To Come Out Now?

I've been laying low for the last few days for fear that I will be visually assaulted with a barrage of black and gold. Good thing, too. At my bus stop this morning, there was an overturned trash receptacle. Undoubtedly this went down at the same time that cars a block away on the main drag were honking their horns like crazy. (Well, the drivers of the cars were honking the horns, but you probably realized that that's what I meant.) I didn't expect to see anything like that in my neighborhood.

I did, however, expect to see the aftermath of a wild celebration in the section of Pittsburgh where I work. At least two mailboxes were left lying on their sides, numerous trash cans were emptied of their contents, and beer bottles were deposited all up and down the avenue. The best that I can say about the bottles is that they were all empty and intact. Waste not, want not, as they say.

The whole scene would have been more amusing had I not been accompanied on my morning visit to the office by my young son, the most impressionable of my children. He seemed to be too distracted by the cold cold weather to take much notice, however.

The topper was something that I saw on the news last night around midnight: A car had been completely overturned less than one block from my office. Thank goodness I take the bus. It just ain't safe anywhere that you find Steelers fans these days.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Every Hog Has Its Day

Have you ever forgotten what day it was? Not the date, but the specific day of the year that people look forward to for weeks? I had forgotten what today was until someone started passing out cookies on my bus this morning. They were groundhog cookies. Cute little gingerbread groundhogs, each individually sealed in a little ziploc type bag.

It's almost too cute to eat. Almost, I said.

The hog has already seen his shadow this morning, according to the folks up at Gobbler's Knob. Oh crap, you can't even get away from the Super Bowl insanity in a nice quiet little town like Punxsutawney! I guess it depends what time of year you go there. My only visit was during the summer, about eight years ago. We didn't go for any groundhog related reasons. We went to visit a buffalo ranch.

It's been a long time since I had some bison meat. Why don't they sell that stuff at my local supermarket? Buffalo burgers for lunch and a groundhog cookie for dessert just can't be beat.

By Golly, He Did Say It!

So maybe it's not mass hysteria:

If for nothing else, Tuesday's State of the Union address was notable as the first to address the issue of "human-animal hybrids."

Was the president talking about centaurs? Werewolves? It piqued enough curiosity that "human-animal hybrid" was the fifth-most-used search term on the Internet by midday Wednesday, according to Technorati website.

But at least he's against it:

"Tonight, I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research [including] creating human-animal hybrids..." Is the president proposing to hunt down secret armies of man-beasts? Probably not. The animal-human has had a place in literature and mythology for centuries, but has only recently crept into reality. Most examples of chimeric research (from "chimera," the Greek word for a goat/lion/serpent combination) don't look like strays from Dr. Moreau's island. At Stanford University researchers injected human brain cells into the brains of mice. The researchers also plan to develop a mouse with 100 percent human brain cells. Though they doubt it would develop human characteristics, researchers say they would terminate the project at any sign that it would.
This might be an effective force in the War On Terror. We can get the hippies to stop moaning about the administration sending "children" overseas to serve in the military if we replace them with a legion of man-beasts.

On the other hand, who knows what animal desires those creatures might have? Once they kill every terrorist in the world and we can safely bring them home, they might go after our wimmen! Then we'd have to fight them on the home turf!

No, no, it's better to stop the rot before it spreads.

Perhaps The Strangest Search Yet

I am not quite sure what to make of this search string that brought someone to my blog yesterday. I didn't see the whole SOTU address the other night, nor did I read the complete transcript. I ought to go back and see if he actually mentioned this.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Every Clown Is The Joker In Disguise

Here's another little nugget of joy that I have discovered in the PG, a Q&A feature on the subject of parenting. It's called "Parenting With 4 Kids", which maybe I ought to pay attention to, I thought, since I have four kids. Of course, 4 Kids is a pun on the words "for kids" and has nothing to do with the number of offspring in one family.

The question in this morning's PW4K is one that I can relate to wholeheartedly -- not as a parent, but as a former child:

My 3-year-old daughter has suddenly developed a fear of clowns. It almost sounds funny, but it's a big deal to her: before we go anywhere, she gets upset and needs to be reassured that no clowns will be there. What do we do?
What, indeed? When I was three years old, my mother took me for a ride on the Good Ship Lollipop, part of the Gateway Clipper Fleet. This has to be one of my earliest memories. It was a hot summer day. We met a friend of hers, a lady whose identity I could never remember for the life of me, and her 7-8 year old daughter. The boat ride was nice, as I recall, until the most hideous creature approaches me brandishing a weapon. The creature looked vaguely human, but had a rather baggy physique and a grotesque visage with giant red lips and a bulbous red nose. Its weapon was a shiny translucent disk at the end of a small white stick. I was too young to know whether or not I was ready to die, but I was absolutely certain that it was time to cry.

So I did. Lots and lots of tears ran down my cheeks because the beast refused to go away. The more I cried, the more it concerned itself with examining me. It then proceeded to speak English. "Whatsa matter? Does something scare him?" I desperately wanted to shout, Yes, you freak, something is scaring me and it is YOU! But I was so terrified that I could not breathe well enough to talk. I remember nothing more about the experience except that I was glad when it was over.

Perhaps that's why I was an avid follower of Batman comics books a few years later. The darknight detective makes a habit of being the snot out of a clown. It helped me over come my fears, and even left open the possibility that I might someday gain revenge by making a clown cry. I never have, but it would be sweet.

While some people may take exception to such a violent solution to overcoming one's fears of the painted Punchinello set, you have to admit that the columnist (who, wisely, is as anonymous as a blogger) made a couple of rather perverse suggestions on how to deal with the child's problem:

Try to provide an opportunity for your little girl to see someone familiar dressing up in clown makeup and then taking it off.
A clown strip show? This isn't a solution, it's a recipe for a lifetime of counseling. A few years ago, a friend of mine told me that he knew for certain that the apocalypse was nigh because someone had emailed him clown porn. He never knew that such a thing existed. Neither did I. I do know that I certainly wouldn't want anyone in clown makeup taking it off in front my little girl. Or doing this:

It might help to draw a picture of a clown with her, talking about each part of the picture as you draw it.
That must be how they come up with those kids' picture books that show words for different parts of the body. I think a stick figure would suffice, thank you very much.

She might also benefit from seeing other children having fun near clowns, but allow her to stand as far away as she wants.
Better yet, have her run as fast as she can, and don't stop until she gets to the police station. The officers will know what to do, and Commissioner Gordon might even make a call on the blinking red phone. My horrifying boat ride would have taken an awesome turn if Batman had shown up. It would have been the best boat ride EVER.

News In Briefs

All of a sudden I've gotten too busy to compose several posts of great length, so I'm just going to take a hit and run tour of the morning papers.

President Bush is proposing a long-term strategy to greatly decrease, if not eliminate, America's dependence on Middle Eastern fossil fuels. This is a step in the right direction. The less business we do with the Middle East, the more difficult we make it for terrorists to seek funding for their activities. Before I die, I want the black gold to be as nothing but mud to those who trod upon the lands beneath which the oil lies. How's work on those hydrogen plants coming along?

Lynn Swann has just about sewn up the Pennsylvania Republican Party's endorsement for Governor. He's a smart, likeable guy who initially was slow to get his message across, but his campaign has been picking up momentum since he officially declared his candidacy a few weeks ago. Bill Scranton's campaign has been faltering, having gone through three directors in as many months, and he has not benefited from Jeff Piccola's withdrawal from the race. Oh yeah -- I'm still planning to vote for Panyard. That's what primary elections are all about. You get to vote for the best candidates even when they don't even have a snowball's chance in hell of winning. It's the honest, principled thing to do. But if we want to win in November, we need the guy most likely to beat Ed Rendell in the race.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is taking a serious look at turning a number of routes into toll highways. As annoying as toll roads can be, I actually like this idea, if indeed it can save us from more taxes on gasoline. And Jim Roddey's suggestion of making people pay to drive on Interstate 80 is long overdue. I-80 in Pennsylvania is primarily a quick land route between Chicago and New York City. It's a nice way to collect from out-of-towners who are just passing through. Plus, everyone is in such an all-fired hurry to get across Pennsylvania that it's a wonder more people don't get killed up there. It must be the number one spot in the entire state for Homicide By Trucker.

Samuel Alito is the newest Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Ted Kennedy can shut up about this now. That's good news. Bad news is that Kennedy isn't going to shut up about anything else.

The Moist-Towelette editors are still trying to convince us that Justice Alito is singlehandedly going to destroy the country by making it illegal for women to kill their babies. He must be the most powerful leader who ever lived. The tone of the editorial is par for the course with them, though I did like the way they said shame on Robert Byrd for voting to confirm Alito.

I'm quitting now before I end up saying something nice about Byrd.