Monday, June 12, 2017

Odd Bits – The Batman and Batsmen Edition

Every couple of years, the Pittsburgh Pirates play a couple of games here in Baltimore, against the Orioles.  These are my two favorite teams so I always go see a couple of games from the series.  (This year they play two here, a Tuesday and Wednesday, and then two in the Burgh, in September.)

While you see me reference the Orioles more frequently, due to my proximity to Camden Yards, I still consider the Buccos my favorite team.  The black and gold runs deep.  And given that I have three different Pirates game jerseys and precious little chance to wear them, I had to take advantage of the opportunity.

I went to the Tuesday game by myself, although I met Sitcom Kelly and her Sitcom Mother and Sister, for pre-game beers.  But they were sitting under the deck to the right of home.  I had a seat 14 rows behind the Pirates’ dugout.  
The view from Section 52.

As such, there were a good many Pirates fans around me.  I ended up talking to one guy from Pittsburgh who was there with his family.

Pirates first baseman John Jaso tossed the kid a ball when coming off the field. 
John Jaso

I could have had a shot at it but Dad had me boxed out.  (Don’t judge… the kid will probably lose it down a sewer somewhere.)

So about halfway through the game, the Dad gets a message that we were both just on TV, on the Pittsburgh local broadcast.  I thought that might happen.  The local production likes to find their fans with the team on the road, and I was sitting in a cluster of them. 

Then whoever was watching the TV feed took a screen shot and sent it.  I had him text it to me, and voila.  Here I am on TV again

While I am talking to the Man in the Yellow Hat, that does not give you license to call me Curious George.

Pirates took a 2 run lead into the 9th, but the O’s tied it on Jonathan Schoop’s 2nd HR of the night…

I couldn’t complain; it was a heck of a game.

The next night, Sweetpea came with me.  We had seats in the club level, looking down the first baseline.
Our view from Section 244.

We chilled there for a couple of innings before going back to forage for food.  As we walked around, we ran right into my brother and his friends, talking to my brother-in-law from Cincinnati and his friends.  I knew they were both going to be there, but I was waiting for my brother to give me the high sign to join him in his company suite and figured I’d triangulate w/ the BIL at that point.  So they beat me to it.  We hung out and chilled there for a while and then watched the end of the game from the suite.
Sweet view from the Suite.  And it looks even better with a couple of crab cakes on your plate.

This time, the Pirates gave up a 4-run lead in the bottom of the 9th.  The O’s tied it on a homer by rookie, (and Sweetpea’s favorite player) Trey Mancini, and won it in the 11th on another Mancini HR.

While the endings didn’t go my way, both games were wildly entertaining.  No complaints from me.  Now I’m back to “Let’s Go O’s!”

Dimming the Bat Signal
It was with a great nostalgic sadness that I learned of the passing of Adam West, TV’s venerable Batman, from the campy 60s series.

I say it’s campy now, but at the time, when I was in early grade school, that shit was deadly serious.  Every afternoon, my brother and I would race home to see who the big villain was this week, or how Batman and Robin were going to get out of diabolical deathtrap in which they were ensnared.  When the show was over, we’d run outside to relive the episode, sometimes with our “official” bat capes and masks, sometimes with a dish towel tucked into our collars.
It wasn’t until I watched some of the episodes again, as an adult, that I saw how genuinely funny it was.  There was so much stuff I missed.

For example, in one episode, the police were questioning a bad buy in an empty room, save for one giant un-shaded light over the crook’s head.  On the wall, there was a sign by the switch: “SUBTLE INTERROGATION LIGHT.”

I’m happy that Mr. West made peace with his caped alter-ego, and was a regular at comic conventions and the like.  I’m sure he knew that his continuing safety was paramount to a legion of dish-toweled little kids like me.
Goodbye, Batman.  A grateful nation thanks you!

The Pen-Ultimate Series
So, what was it that happened last night?  Oh yeah, the Pittsburgh Penguins won the mudda fuckin’ Stanley Cup for the 5th time!  Holy crap!

But I have to start the story from last Thursday night.

I’d been having some trouble with my TV lately.  When I was watching Game 4 of the finals, all of a sudden the picture started freezing with a kind of strobe effect.  It made the screen appear like it was bleached out.  There was no depth or richness to the color.  It was annoying but I eventually “fixed” it by turning it off and on a few times.  That worked for the rest of the game and it stayed fixed throughout the week, and even during the day on Thursday, when I had the Comey hearing on.

(I was going to write some stuff about that, but what more is there to say at this point?  The Republicans just want to pretend President 45 was vindicated, claim vindication and move on.  So what else is new?)

Anyway, when I put the game on Thursday night, the problem returned, and turning the TV off and on didn’t do anything this time.  I was forced to watch the game like I was looking through a gauzy linen.  And that was a shame because this was the first game of the series where the Pens looked like themselves, winning 6-0.

Through the process of elimination, I determined that this was a problem with the TV, and not the network or the cable. 

I’d been poring over new TV models for the last couple years.  I got my TV, my first flat screen, a 46” Samsung, in 2009, just in time to watch the Pens win their third Cup.  With the way the tech has advanced since then, I've been longing for an upgrade, but you know how it is… I had a perfectly good TV and other things to replace kept arising.  (Washer, dryer, car, bedroom TV…)  I couldn’t justify the expense.

AND, if and when I join forces with Sweetpea, she already has an extremely nice TV.  I was planning on just ditching mine when the time came.

But now, my luck had just run out.  I’d have to replace the TV and there was no way I was going to get one delivered before Sunday.  (Yes, I know I could have just gone and bought one from whatever was in stock, but I A) wanted someone to set up the remote, B) set up the Wi-Fi (because this would be my first “smart TV”), C) take the old TV away.)

I went out to my local Best Buy on Saturday afternoon and made the purchase; a Samsung 7000 series 55” Smart TV.  And as I figured, it can’t be delivered until next week.

As I’ve written before, I’ve been spending my weekends with Sweetpea, but I’ve always come back home on Sunday night, before the start of the work week.  So if I were to watch the game at her place, I could either come home very late or just stay over another night.

Easy call.  I just had to bring clothes for work on Monday and decide on game attire.

For away games, I’ve been wearing my newest white Malkin #71 jersey, but the Penguins lost the last three times.  I felt it was time to do something daring, so I eschewed wearing any jersey and went with an old Pens t-shirt… the one I wore during Game 7 of the 2009 Cup Finals when the Pens won the Stanley Cup vs Detroit.
 It had a reliable recent history too because I’d also worn it during the Blue Jackets series when watching an away game at Sweetpea’s house, and the Pens won. 

So, it worked out, but damn if it wasn’t stressful.  As the score remained 0-0 throughout the 3rd period, I just kept thinking, “Please not overtime, please not overtime…”   Sweetpea had already gone to bed so it was only me there, living and dying on every shot.

Then, as you may know, Patrick Hornqvist knocked in a bank shot off the back of the goalie with a minute and a half left in the game.  I celebrated as loud as I could, without waking up the rest of the house.  Startled the hell out of the dog, though.

And that was all she wrote… the Pens added an empty netter but the result was already locked in.  My Penguins are the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since 1998.
In retrospect, it was good that I was watching the game alone.  Watching the Pens skate the Cup always turns me into a sloppy mess, especially when it’s this guy’s turn.
Le Magnifique.

Congratulations to Sid, Geno, Phil, Flower, Murray, Kuny, and all the “kids.”  Great season.  Another amazing coaching job from Mike Sullivan. 

And as my nephew texted me, “Suddenly games in DC just became much easier to go to.”

Monday, June 5, 2017

Odd Bits - The Environmental Edition

Once again, President 45 has isolated our country from the rest of the civilized (and even the UN-civilized) world but moving to pull out of the Paris accord to fight climate change.  Every country in the entire world, including North Korea, all the crooked South American regimes, all the oil-ocracies in the Middle East, all the crazy warlord-ridden African nations, all of them except Syria and Nicaragua, have signed onto the accord.

Sources say that one of the reasons he pulled out is to seek revenge on the European countries who didn’t sufficiently kiss his ass last week during the G7 meetings, especially France, whose new boy-leader dared to engage in a handshake-as-bigger-dick contest with him.  Apparently, Marcon had advanced warning about Trump’s inclination to use handshakes from world leaders a means to express his own dominance, by pulling them toward him as the other man is letting go.  So French guy beat Trump at his own game and now he’s so butt-stung, he’s delivering a giant F-U to Europe, the world, and anyone else who doesn’t want to see the world turn into a Martian landscape.

Personally, I don’t think that was an over-riding reason Trump pulled out… I think it’s more like the gravy.  You know, it’s a small added bonus to stick it to some people who didn’t suck up enough, especially not compared to the Saudis.  The Middle East portion of his trip featured massive ego stroking.  You have to hand it to those dictatorial autocracies; they really know how to spit-shine an ego.  And all they got in return was a massive arms deal.

So now our “leader” is praising ruthless royal families and nutso dictators while insulting and quarreling with our most faithful allies.

There it is… Isolationism: The Millennial Edition

Now, I’m not going to get into the facts and figures, hypotheses and counter-hypotheses of climate change.  To everyone in the civilized world, except Republicans, the science is clear. 

The thing that made it clear for me is the graphic on this link.  Here, it shows the progression of average global temperature from 20,000 BC until today.  When climate critics claim that we’re just undergoing a natural cycle, like the planet has experienced before, you can see how full of shit they are.  These “cycles” are gradual increases and decreases that played out over thousands of years.  Nowhere in history has there ever been a jump in temperatures like we’ve experienced in the last 100 years. Or even the last 16.

But because Republicans are bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry, they are forced to call the sky green and the grass blue and throw as much crap at the wall as possible to refute accepted scientific findings.  All because big business doesn’t want to spend money on anything that doesn’t positively impact their bottom line in the next quarter. 
It doesn’t matter if the planet burns up, or the coastline moves miles inland, they must protect their stockholders, right.  (And by extension, the executives whose bonuses are tied to profits and stock price.)  Granted, they may have been swept out to sea but more stock for the rest! 

London Bridges
After yet another terrorist attack in London, our tweet-happy president took the opportunity to politicize another country’s tragedy by applying our country’s politics to it.

First, he took the London mayor’s “Don’t be alarmed” comment completely out of context, you know, the way Fox “News” does every day.

The tweet:

The actual quote from the mayor: “Londoners will see an increased police presence today and over the course of the next few days,” Khan said on BBC. “No reason to be alarmed.”

See, this is why Fox “News” and the Republicans who fall in with them are frauds.  The “No reason to be alarmed” part was about a separate subject, the police presence, not the likelihood of further attacks.

Trump knew the difference… they all know the difference, but they don’t care.  He knows his base will believe him without question and an even greater number won’t read any further than the headlines or the lone tweet.  So he gets to reinforce his prejudicial viewpoint, the truth be damned.

And if you’ve paid attention over the last year, “truth” is irrelevant in conservative politics.

The other tweet was just as odd:

Maybe he’s right about this one because we SHOULD be having a gun debate, even though the terrorists didn’t use guns.  Because there’s a reason for that!

Seven people died in the London Bridge incident, which is tragic, but you can bet the death toll would have been much higher if guns were as easy to obtain in England as they are in the US.

There were reports of one guy fending off the terrorists by throwing a restaurant table and chair at them.  Think that’s going to happen if the bad guys were wielding semi-automatic weapons rather than cutlery?

If they had guns, they could have mowed down dozens in mere seconds.  Knives and motor vehicles aren’t nearly as efficient.  So no, the argument is not to ban knives and trucks, like conservatives pretend liberals should want to do; it’s to double the efforts to remove access to semi-automatic rifles.

Seven families have to grieve for their loved ones, taken too soon and that’s terrible.  But that’s better than dozens of families… or hundreds.   

It’s plain and simple: England’s restrictive gun policy saved lives.  But better we have all that “freedom,” to offset our massive death toll, right?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Arrhythmia 'N Bluz Part 4

And here I was, about to write about the holiday weekend, where my nephew graduated high school, for which my parents were in town, and how they finally got to meet Sweetpea.  But then real life intruded, as it is prone to do.

Over the aforementioned weekend, I began to experience a reoccurrence of the atrial fibrillation I last had in 2013.  I lived with this condition for many years and had surgery to correct it in 2002 and again in 2007.  Since then I’ve only had the one relapse four years ago, brought on by a long swig of ice-cold beer.

This time, I couldn’t identify a single cause, although the weekend’s carousing probably didn’t help.  But I knew the signs right off.  Chest felt funny and the smallest activity made me feel fatigued.

Per my cardiologist’s instructions, if I got down there within 48 hours of onset, I could get a cardioversion or “shock” treatment to jolt the heart back into rhythm, without the lengthy and invasive pre-op treatments and blood work.

Basically, it was a déjà vu experience, but with lessons learned.  This time, I knew not to expect to be out by 10 AM.  I got up super early and logged into my work computer from home, so I could clear any tasks leftover from the weekend and notify my boss that I’d be MIA today.

Sweetpea took me down to the subway station around 6:30 and agreed to pick me up at the hospital later, after working a half day.  She offered to come with me the whole time, but I told her it wasn’t necessary.  I’ve been to this rodeo before.

Anyway, I got down there, got evaluated in the Emergency Room, which confirmed my self-diagnosis.  They assigned me a room and had me take off my shirt and put on the dreaded hospital gown  This model was even more confounding than the previous ones.

I held it up and there was one hole, off to the side, bordered by snaps.  There were some other random snaps scattered about the other side.  I couldn’t tell if it was a head hole or an arm hole, so I stood there like an asshole until an orderly came in, who I asked for help.

Apparently, the one hole was an arm hole and he fashioned another arm hole out of the snaps on the other side.  These things need to have a schematic diagram printed on the inside.  Maybe IKEA can roll out their own line.  I wouldn’t have figured that out in a million years. 
They immediately stuck a port needle into my right arm but didn’t hook it up to anything.  Then later, they put one on my other side, at my wrist.  That one, they eventually used for the anesthetic.  The first one, they said when I asked, was merely a backup.  I think they just put it there to piss me and keep me tied down.
The port on my left wrist.

The staff was all very nice and as usual, I made sure they loved me.  I was polite, helpful, thoughtful, and joked around with them.  I wanted them to love me in case something went wrong during the procedure, so they’d try extra hard to save my ass.

There was a lot of waiting around again, but not nearly as much as the last time.  But it was nice they had a TV in the room, to keep me occupied.  It was even nicer when I could use the remote to turn off Spongebob Squarepants and put on ESPN and the NFL Network. 

It was ice cold in the room so they broke out a pair of hospital socks for me!

Around 11:00, I got word that approvals had been given, all systems were “go” and they were preparing to do the cardioversion as I wished (as opposed to prescribing meds or admitting me for overnight observation.)  And they were going to do it right there in the ER, rather than taking me up to the cardio unit, where they did my last one.  Hence, my small room began filling up with people.  One of them started putting the big adhesive pads on my chest and back, where the shock paddles were to go.

It was a weird point of view.  As I laid there, there were two people to my left, two people to my right and someone at the foot of the bed.  From my angle, it looked like I was looking through a bug-eyed lens at a small crowd peering down at me like I was a lab experiment.

The person at the foot of the bed introduced herself as the pharmacist and said she was there because she liked to see…

I cut her off and said, “Dudes get electrocuted?

Usually, when I’m put under, it’s an instantaneous blackout, like at the end of the final episode of the Sopranos.  One second I’m there, the next second I’m out and back again at a later time.

This time, when they pushed the drugs, they looked at me and said, “How do you feel?

At that point, I said, “Fine!  What’s the matter?  Want me to count?”  Nothing was happening.

But then a wave hit me and I go, “Ohhh, there we go.  Drowsy…  Good night.”  

And I was out.  And then awake again in two and a half seconds, which was really 10 minutes.  They put me out at 11:30 and brought me back by 11:40.

All went well, so they all packed up their shit and left me there to rest.  Heartbeat was back to normal.  I’d have loved to take a nap right there, but that was made impossible by the automated blood pressure cuff that kicked into action every five minutes for the next 2 hours.  But I could hear the now-steady beep beep beep of my heart on the monitor.  And that sure beats the hell out of Beeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

Since I couldn’t sleep, I turned to the NFL Network just in time to catch a replay of the Steelers/Ratbirds 2016 Christmas Day game (which the Steelers won in a huge comeback).  I didn’t even have to take out my crossword puzzle or iPad.
Here we go!

Sweetpea got there just about 3:00, just in time to witness them pulling all the adhesive pads off my chest.
I knew I should have shaved first…

I think they waited for her to be there just so I wouldn’t fuss and whine when they yanked it all off.  After dispatching the smaller patches, the nurse asked me if I wanted to do the big one myself.  I was like, “Hell no!  We’ll be here all night…”

It takes me 45 minutes just to get all the way into a cold swimming pool.  I’m not good with the big shock.  Left to my own devices, I’d have had them bring me in an Exact-O Knife.  So I let her do the honors and I tried very hard not to recreate the waxing scene from 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Earlier, when Sweetpea and I were waiting, she asked when they were going to come in and get me ready for discharge.  I didn’t know… they just kept turning up intermittently throughout the afternoon.  She said we should use the Call Button.

I wanted to wait.  It was getting to the end of the Steelers/Rats game and I wanted to see the end.  I didn’t want someone talking to me and giving me instructions while I was trying to watch AB stretch out over the goal line for the big “W.”  So I said we should wait until 3:30 because that was an even four hours after my procedure.

Minutes later we heard an announcement; there was a trauma coming in, which was three minutes out.  All doctors were to get ready.

Shortly after, when the nurse came in to remove my adhesive pads, she mentioned that I’d be free to go but all my doctors were tied up in that trauma.  She didn’t know how long it would be, but only a doctor could produce my exit paperwork.

So you can imagine the steely stare directed at me from Sweetpea.  If I’d have used the call button when she first mentioned it, we’d have been out of there.

I promised I’d listen to her from now on.  But I DID get to see the end of the game.  Whoo hoo!  Here We Go Steelers!

We didn’t really have to wait much longer, though.  We were out the doors by 4:00 and on the way for a Chinese dinner.

What?  There are a lot of vegetables in Chinese food… It’s GOOD for me!  I have to be health-conscious now.

The last thing Sweetpea told me?

"Next time you want to see me on a weeknight, just ask."

I tell you, this one's a keeper.  I just have to make sure I stay around.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Odd Bits - The Confederate Edition

I have to caution liberals and other sentient beings about trying to get our current president/clown removed from office.

I’m not saying that he shouldn’t be… after all, we’ve never seen such a combination of incompetence, petulance and pure profiteering coming from the office of the President.  But if 45 WAS impeached or forced to resign, what happens next?

I say, there’s no point in removing Trump without also getting rid of the rest of the posse.  Next man up is Pence, and he’s the one who scares me. 

Trump is a pragmatist; I think he’s using the social conservatives and alt-right racists to bolster his numbers so he can go about the very Republican business of bolstering big business at the expense of the rest of us.  So sure, he throws out a couple bones… Muslim ban here, religious “liberty” (to treat gays as second-class citizens) there, and he mollifies his supporters.  But I don’t think he really believes that stuff.  He only believes in making money for himself and his family.

Pence is a true believer.  He really thinks the gay community are undeserving of common decency and respect.  He showed us that by signing one noxious state law after another when he was governor of Indiana.  He is a religious holy roller with a keen interest in promoting narrow Christian ideals into government policy.  Of course, he’ll gladly omit the Christian ideals of healing the sick or feeding the poor, because the needy obviously don’t work hard enough. 

And speaking of healing the sick, the next batter up, Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, is known for his draconian budget proposals and help no-one health care initiatives, which further squeeze the poor in favor of tax cuts for the rich. 

If either of these two become president, exactly nothing will change from what we have now, other than they will get these ponderous policy changes passed without shooting themselves in the foot every other day.  They’re consummate politicians, so they know how to get these things passed, in the houses they control, quietly and without disturbance.    The sideshow will leave and be replaced by the icy indifference of loan sharks.

None the less, the whole impeachment debate seems pointless to me.  I mean, the Republicans are going to have to be the ones to pull the trigger and I just don’t see that happening in the House.  The same racists, isolationists, and moralists who voted for Trump also voted for their GOP representative.  How anxious do you think they’ll be for overturning the will of their carefully gerrymandered districts?  No, they won’t buck the Prez until they’re made to by their constituents. 

And what happens when their constituents show up and complain at town hall meetings?  The dissent is blamed on those from outside the district.

I don’t think anything changes with the rank and file GOP until people start losing their insurance for real.  Granted they’ll still find a way to blame it on the Democrats…

Debunkery – The Statue of Limitations Edition
I haven’t enjoyed a good debunking in a while so I’m leaping at the chance to tear up this playground-level faulty analogy.

This issue is that some places in the south, New Orleans in particular, (and even here in Baltimore) are removing statues and monuments erected to pay tribute to Confederate soldiers and ideals.  Naturally, rednecks and racists are complaining about the loss of their “history.”  That brings us to this leap of logic:
In the grade-school level mind of the meme generator and those who re-post it, mosques = statues.  If the statues come down, so should mosques, because 9/11.

Here is the salient difference: The statues and monuments pay tribute to the idea of the Confederacy; a group of states who seceded from the Union because they wanted to keep other human beings in unpaid servitude.

A mosque is where millions of people pray to a different God than the Christians do, in a different manner.  A mosque doesn’t inherently stand for the destruction of the twin towers, other than in the minds of racists who cannot tell the difference between individuals and institutions. 

Sure, there may be mosques that preach revolution against the western dogs, but chances are, they’re located in the Middle East.  Removing mosques in the US serves no purpose but a twisted sense of vengeance. 

But every one of those Confederate monuments supports the idea that it’s OK for a race of people to be subjugated. 

The two examples are not remotely alike in form or function, which makes this an apples-to-oranges comparison and a ridiculous If/Then statement. 

I’m also tired of the argument: “But they’re removing our history!”

You know what?  Not all our history is something of which we should be proud.

People love to bring up Nazi Germany in persuasive arguments, but I’ll tell you what… There is a lot of history in Germany too, but you don’t see the Germans celebrating it.  Modern Germans (skinheads aside) are mortified by their country’s involvement in WWII; they’re not putting up monuments to the efficiency of their concentration camps or celebrating the nobility and devotion of the oven-operators. 

History should be remembered and learned from.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be commemorated.

But then, tell that to the people who are still fighting the war.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday, May 8, 2017

Dog Days

Things have been going swimmingly with my Sweetpea and me; so easily, in fact, that it makes me wonder why things were always so difficult for me in the past.

But the one variable that remains is a dogged one.  And I mean that literally.

Sweetpea has a 4-year old yellow lab, (aka The Beast), who she has essentially raised by herself.  That means they have an intense bond that is scary-strong.

Now, I’ve always loved dogs.  I think dogs are often better than people, especially judging by Facebook postings.  But I haven’t had a dog since I was in college.  In fact, no one in my family has; we’ve been exclusively a cat family for decades.

The Beast has never been mean or hostile to me; on the contrary, I get a huge greeting every time I come in the house.  And I’m not even bringing treats anymore.  Although I will admit that the intensity of the greeting has decreased since the treats have stopped.  I still get a few jumps and face licks, but as soon as he sees my hands are empty, he rapidly loses enthusiasm.  And when his “Mommy” and I come in at the same time, well, I might as well not even be there. 

Director’s DVD Commentary:  Yes, Sweetpea calls the Beast her “Son” and she is his “Mommy.”  And when we first started dating, she said her son needed a “baby-daddy.”  (And I applied for the job.)  I know some people get offended by using those terms with pets, but too bad.  They get to name their own relationships, not anyone else’s.  In my home, our pets were always called our “fur-brothers” or “fur-sisters.”  Ain’t no thang…

The thing about The Beast is that he’s extremely smart AND vocal.  He’s like having an 81-pound toddler with fangs.  When he wants to play, he expects to play.  NOW.  Dog doesn’t care if you’re tired or hungry or sick or have other shit to do; when he wants to play, it’s time to play.  (And it’s always time to play.)

And if we’re busy talking, or heaven forbid, hugging, he’ll start “talking,” in a sort of guttural, back-of-the-throat onslaught of vowels.  “Can’t you see me sitting here?  I’m right here, and I want to play ball!  If I had thumbs, I’d throw a bucket of cold water on you two…”

If you were to hear him, without being privy to what’s going on, you’d be like, “Who is torturing that poor dog?  He sounds like he’s being torn from his soul!

Like toddlers, they don’t understand the concept of “enough.”  She can take him for a 45-minute walk, feed him like a king, go outside and have a session or two of throw-the-ball-and retrieve, and as soon as they come in, he wants to know what they’re going to do next.

Hah!  Feeding… I bet that dog eats better than some of her schoolkids.  If we’re having breakfast, she makes him an egg, and he gets a slice of whatever else we’re eating with it.  If she grills, she makes him his own burger.  His regular meal has blueberries and cheese and broth and whatever else is left over added to it.
No, he doesn’t always get a full platter; he’s just licking up the meat juice.

They have a “training” routine that cracks me up.  She cuts up half of a weenie and a cheese stick and she puts him through the paces.  Sit, stay, leave it, kiss mommy, heel, down… etc., with each feat rewarded with a goodie.  The thing is, the only time The Beast will obey any of these commands is during the Routine.

I often joke with Sweetpea that he is actually training HER and this is really nothing but a highly-ritualized snack producing exercise.  I’m like, “I’ll be impressed when you tell him to stay when he clearly doesn’t want to stay and there is no treat in sight.”

But let me be clear; none of this really bothers me… I kind of get a kick out of it.  I like having a dog around and their dynamic amuses me.  But yes, it can be a pain sometimes. 

Here’s a typical evening.

When I go to her place after work, they’re playing ball (or just finished) and then she makes dinner.  He gets his dinner when we eat ours.  Then he gets a bit of our dinner once we’re done.

After cleanup, it’s back outside for another ball game.

When done, Mommy comes in to sit down with me and have a drink.  Dog stands there peering intently at Mommy, not moving when she implores him to sit with us on the couch.  (He has his own area(s).)
The Beast in his spot.

He brings a toy over, not to hand over for tossing, but to be tugged on, or for us to chase him.  (That’s his favorite thing… to be chased around the room.)  She reaches for the toy, but he backs away, head cocked, still staring intently.

If we go back to what we were doing, talking amongst ourselves, then the vocalizing starts, usually with a grunt or two.  Then it becomes the long, tortured vowel movements where you’d think an alien is about to burst forth from his noble chest.  If there is still no response, (to his liking) the barking commences and that’s when The Beast gets in trouble.

Labs have a Big Dog bark.  Barking inside the house amplifies that into a nerve-jangling knife-edge.  Then either he goes in the crate for five minutes, (bad) or Sweetpea goes in her own room and shuts the door (worse).

The funny thing is that I think he’s barking because we already caught onto his other trick.  When I first came around, when he wasn’t getting attention and the vocalizing didn’t work, he’d go steal something of ours… usually something of mine.  My shoes, my slippers, Sweetpea’s glasses… one time he nosed into my overnight back and pulled out a folded pair of clean underwear, with which he ran around.

So now, when I come in, my shoes go in the closet, my clothes stay in the bag and I zip it up.  There’s not much left of ours for him to steal.

But that’s how smart he is… like, problem-solving smart.  We defeated one ploy so he created another.
The Beast, staring at Mommy while she gets dressed to go out and not play with him.

Remember when I wrote about how we got on well from the start?  That is literally because Sweetpea told him about me and he understood.  I don’t doubt that a bit.

It might sound like I’m just bitching about the dog… I’m really not.  I think the situation is hilarious (other than the barking).  And he’s just a product of his upbringing.  For years, it was just the two of them.  He had her undivided attention for most of the time she was home.  Who would give that up without a fight?  No rooster wants to see another rooster in the henhouse. 

The weekends have a different issue.  On weekdays, Sweetpea gets up around 5 AM for school.  So on weekends, she used to just do the same, out of habit.  Dogs don’t understand weekend sleep-ins, so he was raised to be ready for the day at 5:00. 

I, however, am not.  But we’ve gotten him to where he doesn’t come wake us up until 6-6:30, so that’s progress.  (OK, maybe not “us.”  Sweetpea gets up to tend to him and I fight for another hour’s sleep.)

We had a good time this weekend though.  I found out that he loves to watch horses.  He sat and watched the Kentucky Derby with us and rarely flinched from the screen.
Talk about a dog and pony show…

So now all we have to do is find some horse videos for him, or maybe subscribe to an OTB cable channel.  If we leave it on all night, we just might be able to sleep til’ 7:00!

Anyway, it’s been fun being around a dog again.  I know he’ll get used to me being around.  And I’ll get used to saving rib bones for him from work lunches.

I’ve seen what he can do to a big, thick bone.  I definitely want to stay on his good side.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Odd Bits - The "What Deficit?" Edition

I had this all teed up from last Wednesday before 45 even released his comprehensive 1-page tax reform plan.  An article in the Baltimore Sun caught my attention: 
Mitch showing how much tax relief the middle class can expect. 

I didn’t even have to read the article to get all wound up.  GOP leaders open to tax cuts?  No fuckin’ shit.  That’s their default position!

But this was back before they knew how skimpy and detail-free the president’s “plan” would be.  Not that it really mattered.  Republicans are still clinging to the illusion that tax cuts for the wealthy trickle down to the rest of us.

Senator Orrin Hatch said, “I’m not convinced that cutting taxes is necessarily going to blow a hole in the deficit.  I actually believe it could stimulate the economy and get the economy moving.”

Yes, and elephants “could” fly out of my butt, Orrin.  Anything “could” happen.  But experience and a long memory tell us that it won’t.  Where was all the trickle-down from the Bush tax cuts?  Or from the Reagan tax cuts.  Both led to massive recessions that had to be fixed by the succeeding Democratic administrations.

Also, as I repeatedly state, look at Kansas, who upon gaining the Republican nirvana of control of both state legislature and the governorship, unleashed massive tax cuts for businesses and the top earners, which immediately tanked their economy and triggered large budget cuts to essential services.  GOP wet dream, huh?

When they cut taxes for the upper echelon, the only things trickling down to the rest of us are the tears of laughter from the one-percenters, howling over how the voters bought their bullshit yet again.

The other thing is the ringing silence from the deficit hawks.  There’s no question that these proposed tax cuts are going to run up the deficit.

When Obama proposed, well, anything… from infrastructure fixes to foreign aid, or even hurricane relief, the Tea Baggers howled in protest, waxing dewy-eyed about the deficit and leaving our children a bill they can never pay off.

But put a white guy in office who wants to slash taxes for the wealthiest among us?  Crickets…
It just goes to show how hypocritical the Tea Party movement was, and how racist.  If they were genuinely concerned about the deficit, they would be pitching the same rallies now.  But they’re not.  And that’s how they’ll go down in history: a racist response to a black guy trying to spend “their” money.

Skipping the “Free” part in Freedom of Speech
I keep seeing complaints about how President Obama is getting paid $400k for a speech to investment banker, Cantor Fitzgerald.  Perhaps someone can explain to me why there was no protest of every other former president or politician making paid speeches. 

It’s the same shit again… it’s only wrong when Obama does it.  Republicans practically invented the former pol paid gig, but they want to criticize this guy. 

“I guess some people just don’t belong…”
I bet if Obama had turned down the speaking gig, the lead story on Fox "News" would be, "Obama refuses to speak to 9/11 survivors."*

Granted, Democrats are complaining too, but I don’t see the problem.  He’s the ex-president, with a capital EX.  What’s he going to do for Wall Street that the current administration isn’t?  It was under his watch that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created.  There’s nothing Wall Street would like more than for that to go away so they could go back to misleading their customers with fine print legalese.

*Cantor Fitzgerald was one of the companies decimated in the WTC collapse.

Draft Day
While I didn’t watch any of the NFL draft last weekend, I was keeping tabs on who the Steelers drafted.  I’m pleased with their top pick, TJ Watt, brother of NFL standout linebacker JJ Watt.  But to me, the best news was when I saw they drafted a wide receiver from USC named JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Now all they have to do is draft a guy named “Mojo” and I’ll never have to worry about what game jersey to wear.

As my dad pointed out, Myron Cope would have loved this guy.  Guaranteed, he never would have used his full name…  He’d be just JuJu for eternity.  In fact, I don’t think anyone in The Burgh is going to bother with the “Smith-Schuster” part. 

I just hope this guy’s shoulders are wide enough to fit all those letters on the back.

Hog Wild
Just to finish up on a happy note, did you see the story about how three ISIS guys were killed by, get this, a stampede of wild boars?

There’s only one reaction possible…


I know bacon is supposed to kill you, but I always thought it took a while.
This wasn’t even good revenge for the pigs, either.  The ISIS don’t eat no piggins… I say if they wanted real revenge, they should have stampeded through a SEC tailgate party.

And this must have been one great final insult to those poor slobs… killed by the very things they revile. 

The only thing that would have made it better would be if the hogs were wearing bikinis.  Or were educated.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Media Ownership Matters

One issue that doesn’t seem to get much attention is the ongoing consolidation of media ownership. 

There used to be strict rules about media ownership, with rules limiting the number of TV stations, radio stations and newspapers any one company could own, with special attention toward owning multiple outlets in one market.

I saw in the paper today that Sinclair Broadcast Group, based in the suburbs just north of Baltimore, announced plans to buy Bonten Media Group, which owns 14 TV stations across 8 markets.  Sinclair already owns 173 TV stations in 81 markets. 

Uncoincidentally, they made this announcement the day after the FCC relaxed broadcast ownership rules, a choice that plays to the preferences of the new Republican administration.  You rarely see Republicans do anything to impede the prospect of big business mergers.

This also comes on the heels of Sinclair’s prior announcement that they are preparing to buy Tribune Media, a merger which would bring together two of the largest television station owners.

So, why should we care?

Media moves minds, that’s why.  If one entity is servicing several hundred media markets, you have a single voice amplified into all those markets.  Whose agenda do you think it will be serving?

Imagine if a partisan entity like Fox “News” had that many outlets.  Imagine if you had Fox’s viewpoint coming out of NBC, CBS, ABC, CW, UNI and MNT affiliates across the country, all beating the same drum.  People without critical thinking and listening skills (and that’s the majority) can be easily swayed by repeated exposure to a consistent message.

It’s funny though, because what about the liberal media?  Isn’t that the presumption, that the media has a liberal bias?

It’s only a presumption because conservatives keep insisting on it, regardless of merit or data.  There are many arguments to be made but look at it through this one:  If the “media” is so liberal, how come the Republicans are loosening the rules to allow fewer voices broadcast into the market, and the Democrats are against it?

If it really was a liberal media, the GOP would be taking the opposite position and trying to restrict ownership, to allow for a diversity of voices, which would be better to get theirs heard.  But in reality, media companies are some of the largest corporations in the country, prime customers for pro-business, free market conservatism.

Fortunately for us, (thus far), most have independent news departments, who in practicing actual journalism, are obligated to ask hard questions to those in power, whichever party it may be.

The difference is that Democrats answer the questions and Republicans complain about unfair treatment from a “liberal media.”  I mean, that’s part of the strategy, isn’t it? 

When you can’t provide a satisfactory answer, blame the one asking the questions.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Things That Go Boom

In his most effective Russian Problem Diversion yet, President 45 started going all Commander in Chief by dropping bombs.

First, he pretended to avenge the gassing of the children he wouldn’t let in our country by bombing the airfield in Syria, from which the gas attacks were allegedly based.

The following week, he dropped the “MOAB,” or so-called Mother of all Bombs, in Afghanistan, to blow up a tunnel system being used by ISIS.  This is the largest non-nuclear bomb the US has in its arsenal.

In reality, the results were mixed.  In Syria, the airfield was open and running traffic through it the very next day.  It was almost as if the Syrians knew the strike was coming and moved all their aircraft and personnel away from it… which is exactly what ABC news reported.

The White House said that they notified Russia before the strike; it’s not a stretch to think that the Russians then tipped off their buddy Assad, to mitigate the damage.

In Afghanistan, the body count is in the 90s; all ISIS bad guys, they say.  But what the military experts say is that this was not a bomb built for hitting hardened targets like tunnels or underground bunkers.  They have other ordnance for that.

As far as I can see, the entire point of all these explosions was to 1) Divert attention from all the Trump/Russia leaks, and 2) Look like a tough-guy president.

Republicans are never happier than when one of their guys is blowing shit up, and the bigger the boom, the better.  I bet there was nothing but raging wood all up and down the right side of the Congressional aisle.

Granted, it has to be one of their own guys.  Remember when Obama wanted to address Syria and he went to Congress to ask them to authorize military action?  Remember how Congress said no?  I do.  Obama wanted to blow up more than a runway and the Republicans both 1) said it wasn’t enough and 2) we shouldn’t involve American troops at all.

But now with their guy in office, his muted response resulted in his being seen as William the Conqueror. 

I guarantee they used the MOAB bomb for no other reason than it made a big kaboom… one that would play well on the nightly news.  And they knew all the guys in the bar would be thrilled that the old U.S. of A. was back to kicking ass and making fireballs that can be seen from the space station.

They probably wanted to get North Korea’s attention as well, but I’m not sure that would make an impression.  NK is basically a suicidal regime.  The dough-faced tyrant over there doesn’t care what happens to his captives… I mean, citizens.  I’m sure KJU has a tunnel from his presidential palace down to a hardened bunker for himself and the livestock he’s been using to feed his face. 

If you ask me, they’re the perfect enemy to hype up against.  True, they’re batshit crazy, but do you really think they can do damage to the American homeland?  These guys couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn at 20 paces.  If you look closely at their missiles, you can see ACME stenciled on them.  And we think they’re going to get one all the way across the Pacific and hit us?  They couldn’t even blow up the Panama Canal correctly, with the Chechens helping them.
Of course, they could probably succeed in “accidently” lobbing a missile into South Korea or Japan.  So I suppose we ought to clear out.  I bet the natives are restless over there.

The best idea on Korea I’ve heard so far came from Dilbert cartoonist, Scott Adams, who says all we need for a peaceful resolution is a way for North Korea to save face.  He suggests having South Korea give up their half of the Demilitarized Zone, on the condition it’s occupied exclusively by the Chinese.  That way South Korea gives up nothing useful, North Korea gets to claim victory and neither one will cross China.  Everyone wins.

Of course, we wouldn’t get to blow anything else up and where’s the fun in that?

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Whole New Ballgame

As you may recall, I’ve been going to an awful lot of ballgames in the last couple of years.  Last year alone, I went to 26 Orioles games, which was a new personal record for one season.

I go to so many games for a number of reasons… It’s fun, I’m a sports fan, it’s affordable (for a big-league sports event), the facility is nice, it’s convenient, it gets me out of the house, but most of all, I haven’t had anything better to do.

But now, since I met Sweetpea, I do have other things to do, for a change.  But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up the ballgames.  She likes going to games so I can take her with me.  Not to 26 of them, mind you, but a fair number.  And I’ll also have Sitcom Kelly to keep me company on days Sweetpea doesn’t care to go.

Until school lets out in mid-June, it requires special planning to account for her dog, if she’s going to be away for that long.  And to help matters, I conceded that we can get there only one hour before game-time, as opposed to the two hours early that I usually allow.  (If she sat and drank beer at The Bullpen for as long as I usually do, she’d be comatose by the first pitch.)

So it was a beautiful sunny Saturday, last weekend, when we took our first trip to Camden Yards together.  It was a 4:05 game so we planned to arrive between 2:30 and 3:00.  I was eager to share my traditional game-day experiences with her, especially introducing her to my usual bartender and friends down at The Bullpen.

But first, we had our subway ride into town.  I had my monthly pass, of course, so we got her a $4 “day-pass.”  After we got off the train, I had her give hers to me for safe keeping, because chivalry is totally not dead yet.  Plus I didn’t want it getting lost.  I have a little plastic sleeve that I keep mine in, so hers went in there too.

Because the hated Yankees were in town, the place was lousy with New Yorkers and the outside bar areas were mobbed.  There were no seats at the bar at The Bullpen, but we found a place to stand, which was good enough for the moment.  We could nurse a couple of beers and stake out the people who looked like they were getting ready to leave.  (This is why I usually get there so early… there are much better odds of getting a seat at the bar.)

I was bummed because A) I’d left my Bullpen VIP card at home, and B) none of the regular bartenders, nor the bar manager were there.  That meant nobody knew me, so I had to drink regular-priced beer, just like a non-VIP schmo. 

A couple of young girls jammed themselves right in front of us, and within minutes, they swooped in and sat in the seats left behind by the couple whose stools we were staking out.  Little shits!  Duly insulted, we left, which was fine because it gave us time to wander around the ballpark.  Sweetpea had been there before, but not often.  And lord knows I’m a veritable fountain of information, now that I’ve taken the Camden Yards tour

Our tickets were in the left field club section, a place from which I’ve seen quite a lot of games.  I like it because it’s more secluded, has all the club level amenities, yet doesn’t cost any more than the lower left field box seats. 

Our view from section 272.

Nevertheless, our section was still defiled by a handful of Yankees fans, who’d made the trip down from NYC.  At least they were entertaining…

Walking around the club level, I had the chance to tell my fabled story of the time I wasn’t sufficiently careful in choosing the restroom I walked into. 

Anyway, we saw a good game and enjoyed the afternoon, although if I were dying, this would have been the perfect game to attend because it seemed to go on F O R E V E R!  We were three hours in and had only seen six innings.  We took that as our cue to leave.  It was still a close game, with the Orioles down by one, but I figured we’d be home in time to catch the end on TV.

We heard a huge roar shortly after we left the park, so I figured the O’s had tied it up.  I figured I could check it out once we got on the train and it eventually came up from underground (about halfway home).  Again, I took Sweetpea’s subway pass after she used it, and put it in the holder with mine so I could make sure it didn’t get lost. 

Then it took about 25 minutes for a train to show up.  Pissed me off because they’re supposed to run every 10-11 minutes on the weekends.  That’s another thing to do when you’re dying… go sit in a subway station and wait for late trains.

So eventually, a train came and whisked us toward our destination.  And when I checked the box score on my phone, I saw that not only had the Orioles taken the lead right there in the 7th, but they were just closing out the win in the bottom of the 9th.  So NOW they start burning through the innings?  Gah!

The train pulled into our station and we hopped out.  As the train pulled away and we went down the escalator I reached into my pocket to give her the subway pass (which is required to enter AND exit) and guess what wasn’t there.

Fuck.  Me.  The passes were in the same pocket as my phone and when I reached in to pull out my phone, the passes must have slipped out too, and fallen on the seat or floor.  So much for my Knight in Shining Armor routine, steadfastly guarding milady’s day pass…

But worse, my monthly pass was gone and I still have three more weeks of subway rides on it.  Fuuuuck!  Granted, it could have been worse… I’ve been working from home two days a week lately, so that’s an expense of $24 averted.  But still, I’ll have to spend $36 in subway fare this month, that I’ve already bought.

I hope it was found by someone who needed it, anyway.

So the first game with my baby didn’t quite work out as I’d hoped, but I can’t complain.  It was only our opening day and I got to spend a nice afternoon with a pretty girl, watching a baseball game.  We’ll have a lot of other opportunities to work out the kinks.  And I’m pretty sure she’ll be carrying her own subway pass from now on. 

In fact, she should carry mine too.