Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Odd Bits - The CB Edition

First of all, I’d like to thank all the commenters on the last post on abortion and sex education, for their reasoned, rational, intelligent and personal responses.  That’s what makes me love writing for all’a yinz.  Now onto my usual pointless crappola…

Search for Reality
Let’s hit a couple recent Google searches that led people to this site.  As you may know, this kind of thing greatly amuses me.

Apparently the Indian Aunties theme is still rolling, but more so early last week than now.

India:  without bra auntys
Abu Dhabi: Indian aunties hot

After the last Ratbirds game, in which they got a couple of iffy penalties, I found this search:

Washington DC:  Ravens + Conspiracy + Referees

I guess they were looking for validation here.  Yeah.  Right.  Move along… nothing to see here.  Allow me to answer in the form of a search:

Ravens + Unchecked-Ego + No-Self-Discipline + Complaining = Penalty calls.

Meanwhile, a certain Steeler has a fan from the East:

Japan: Polamalu famous hair.

I guess they’ve seen the commercials.

The Alannah Myles theme is still rolling.  But now a twist:

(Unknown location): Is Alannah Myles Jewish?

I have no idea what to make of that.  But I’ve saved the best for last. 

You may recall my posting a story about betting the horses at the Maryland State Fair and having my bets messed up by two jockeys, brothers Christopher and Wesley Ho.  I had great fun with their names, at one point wondering if they had a brother named “Stanky.”

Well, someone did a search for stories related to the Ho brothers… And when she commented on the story, it turned out to be Momma Ho, herself!   You probably never saw her comment because she didn’t place it until about 3 weeks later.  But I think it should be seen so here it is:

“Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Fair Game":

I just have to say I was laughing my ass off when I read your blog! I am "momma ho"...yes, the mother of Wes and Chris Ho, the jockeys that screwed you out of your money. My title (was) given lovingly by the best friends of the kids. The races are great entertainment and your blog describes it to a T. Your sense of humor must be applauded! I loved the race announcer when one of the boys won he would say to the crowd "can you say hooooo". Better Luck next year!”

I responded as follows:

“Anonymous Ho,
I'm glad you enjoyed, and am glad you see it's all in good fun.

At next year's Fair, I'll be sure to put a few bucks down on the Ho's.”

Momma Ho… Unbe-freakin-lievable.  It just goes to show that, like multiple presenters said at Podcamp, if you write about someone, they WILL find out.  Or their mama will.  I’m greatly relieved that she enjoyed the post and got what I was trying to do.

F-Bombs Away
I wrote a post earlier this month in which I presented the “Cherry on Top” Award to 5 of my closest blog-friends.  Even though she’s already received that particular award 3 different times, Kansas pixie One Crazy Brunette (aka CB) took umbrage to the fact that she wasn’t among the winners.  I promised her that I would create an award just for her.  CB, today is your lucky day.

If you’ve ever read the CB, you know that she swears incessantly.  She goes into a dive bars, sailors come running out, going, “The mouth on that broad.”  She uses the “F-word” the way Paul Bunyon used an ax.  She’s a 5’ artiste, in stiletto heels.

So to celebrate the ball of vulgarity that is the CB, I present to her:

Most blog awards come with rules.  I don’t like blog rules and rarely obey them.  Nobody tells me what to do, not even me.  And with CB, I don’t even expect her to obey even the Law of Gravity, let alone something I make up.  So instead, I make this suggestion:  To accept and post this award, CB, please describe the time you dropped an F-bomb when it was most inappropriate.  I’m picturing your wedding vows:

Church Official: Do you, CB, take Mr. CB to be your lawfully wedded husband?

CB:  Fuckin’A, assclown!

So, dear CB, this is the only award of its kind.  You may keep it all to yourself, or pass it on as you see fit.  Heart your face, hooker!

Email Goodies
I got a cool email from Sitcom Kelly last week.  Anyone that’s one or has ever seen Facebook will appreciate.  It’s called “If Facebook Existed Years Ago.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Education and the Abortion Debate

I’ve been avoiding posting on this topic for some time because of its highly divisive nature but I’m going to dive into it today.  I’m sure this is a sensitive issue to a lot of you here because so many of you have kids and families of your own.  I get that. 

Since I first became politically aware, I’ve been a strong pro-choice advocate.  This does not mean that I hate babies.  On the contrary, I love babies, just as long as they are not pooping on me.  I’ve read so many bloggers lately that are either pregnant now or have just given birth recently.  I stand in awe of the love and dedication it takes to care for a baby, or a toddler, or a kid of any age.  Each comes with its own unique set of issues.  I don’t know how any of you do it without cracking up.

The thing that always gets me about the whole pro-choice/pro-life argument is that other people… those other than you or your mate… presume to want to tell you that upon accidentally becoming pregnant, that you would have to take on that responsibility by substituting their moral values in place of your own.  They’re saying “Hey, you had sex, now you must pay.  Because WE, (the stuffy, predominantly middle-aged white men of the US Congress), think that it’s a full-fledged person the very second those two cells intersect, that YOU must change your life forever by raising it.  OR you must change your own personal body forever by carrying this baby to term so that you can then give it away.  And this is because of OUR beliefs, not yours.

If I’m a woman, I’m telling every last one of them to go to hell, because in MY moral view, two cells intersecting is a science experiment, not a person, and I’ll thank the rest of the world to get out of my god-damned business.

There isn’t a bigger question than “when does life start.”  It’s chocked full of moral and ethical dilemmas, and they’re all very personal. 

As a country, we claim that we have religious freedom. (When in fact, we have all the freedom we want to be Christian, or failing that, Jewish.)  But yet when it comes to this issue, there’s this push to let the strict views of the very few take precedence over the views of everyone else.  Or anyone else.  The numbers don’t really matter.  In no way should the decision to carry or raise a baby belong to anyone other than those directly involved.  Period.  If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one.  That’s the end of your reach on the issue.

This argument has hampered medical research and practically torpedoed health care reform.  The sad part is that both sides are so entrenched, it’s practically impossible to find common ground.  I think there’s an obvious middle ground to “no abortions ever ever ever, even if you’re raped by a gang-banger, your prom date or your Dad” versus “abortions on demand up to full term” or “abortions as a lazy-assed method of birth control.” 

Personally, if I were made King I’d draw the line at viability: abortion upon demand, up to the point of viability.  Afterwards, I would make exception for the health of the mother or baby.  Plan B/Morning After birth control should be OTC and as available as an aspirin tablet.  The birth control sub-dermal implants would be offered as a free service to anyone that’s had an abortion.

I’d immediately end all the bullshit hoops that women have to go through… the literature and the videos and the waiting periods.  These are all things designed to make it inconvenient for the woman and use a passive-aggressive approach to keep her from having the abortion.  Instead, I would create a single, fact-based information packet, spelling out the scientifically documented risks and issues surrounding the procedure.  And by “scientifically documented,” I mean scientifically documented by independent scientists, not the paid flunkies of the Right to Life lobbying industry, where the conclusion is already written, with the data filled in later.

It’s sad that we even have the need for as many abortions as we do.  It should be in the best interest of both pro-life and pro-choice supporters to prevent unintended pregnancy in the first place.  You’d think the two sides could get together on something as simple as that, right?

Wrong.  If you look, you’ll see that so many of the people that are adamantly against abortion are the same ones against easy access to birth control, or God-forbid, sex education.  They cling to the idea that if they keep their heads in the sand and preach “abstinence,” their precious offspring will refrain from all manner of frolicking until their wedding night, (and thereafter only when necessary.)  It doesn’t matter that study after study shows that abstinence training doesn’t work.  The kids screw anyway and those with abstinence training have a much higher likelihood of pregnancy, due to said screwing.

So they’re preaching, “don’t have sex,” preventing any information on contraception be discussed at school, then bemoaning the decline of values in America while they make sure that all pregnancies come to term.  And you’d also think that they’d then support federal programs for child care, health care, after-school programs and the like, in order to deal with all the babies being born to single mothers or hard-luck couples.

Nope.  Those are the first things they want cut at budget time, presumably so they can afford more high-end tax cuts.  The fact is that the right-to-life brigade only gives a shit for children up until they’re born.  Then it’s someone else’s problem.

I feel the only answer is age-appropriate and comprehensive Sex Ed classes in school.  I mean, parents can feel free to supplement the classes with their own moral bent, but depriving information never the way to go.  Because with the lack of hard-core, factual information, kids will get the dirt elsewhere: from TV, movies, their idiot friends and Internet porn.  That information is guaranteed to be rife with rumor, innuendo and misinformation that can potentially be fatal.  Is that really a good alternative?

I remember when I was in 6th grade and we were all gathered together for assembly with the boys in one session and the girls in another.  Our principal, a tall, lean, dour, bi-spectacled man, led us through the biology of fertilization, culminating in the mysterious statement that “the man’s sperm then goes from the penis into the woman’s vagina.”  Then he asked if we had any questions.

By this time, my little head was swimming.  We were supposed to do that?  With girls??  I was WAAAY to shy to even consider doing something like that, no matter how far into the future that would be.  But still, one thing puzzled me even more, so I put up my hand.  The principal called on me.

I stood up and asked my question:  “How does the man know when the sperms are going to come out?

The principal coughed a few times, looked around furtively and said, “Um, you’ll know.”

Well that was no help!  I didn’t know.  I looked around and none of my friends knew.  Hmm.  I’d have to watch that.  I could be running around on the street one day and bang!  Stuff would be coming out and I’d have to hurry up and find a vagina to put it in.

See, there was so little context regarding the entire situation, our big Sex Ed Speech made everything an even greater mystery.  I’m sure kids today are far hipper to such things, but still, they’re kids.  Without proper context, it’s no wonder young people have so many misconceptions about sex.  If we’re going to do something about curtailing abortions in this country, we can’t just preach “no sex” and then put the screws to young adults or troubled couples when something goes horribly wrong.

Basic information has to be given out.  Access to preventative measures must be guaranteed.  Every abortion is a tragedy; an often-preventable tragedy and we should be doing everything we can to make them unnecessary.

OK, and if you guessed that the only reason I’m writing about this today was so I could tell that story, you’d be right.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Odd Bits - The Twitter Edition

As promised and after much harassment at Podcamp, I’ve dipped my big toe into The Twitter pool.  I signed up Friday night, immediately after my last post.  I figured, what the hell?  I still had 40 minutes to kill before it was TV time.

A’course, I ran over anyway.  Like you may have warned me, once you start, you can’t stop.  I don’t know about that, but if I was going to Twitter, there were a number of things I wanted to get nailed down right from the start. 

Aside from finding some people to follow (and using Jedi Mind Tricks to make them follow me) I wanted to get that “Follow Me” button on the blog.  I was comfortable with the mechanics, but the problem was that the colors did not go with my layout colors at all.  Could barely even read them.  (Navy Blue on Black = No Good.)  But rather than have some kind of color-choice menu from which to choose, you had to enter the digital number that represents the color.

Right… like they have that on the crayon box.  But being a semi-resourceful dude, I looked it up on The Google and came up with something approximating “yellow,” but is technically “egg yolk.”  Anyway, I was proud of myself for handling the curveball.
I so used to love getting a brand new big box of crayons!  They should make a perfume with that "new crayon smell."

So, if you Twitter and care to see my attempts at forced brevity, please click the “Follow Me” button on the second section from the top on the right.  And if I’m not following you already, feel free to leave a comment below with your Twitter name and I’ll return the favor.

Oh yeah; Twitter names.  Someone had already taken “bluzdude” and “bluz” so I had to improvise.  My Twitter name is “DarwinfishBluz.”

This was a good week for famous birthdays.  On Wednesday, my Queen of Rock and Roll, Joan Jett turned 52.  Then the next day, The Boss, Bruce Springsteen turned 61.  I find it cool that they have birthdays back to back… two living breathing icons or rock and roll.  And both are cusp babies.  Joan was born on the last day of Virgo and Bruce is on the first day of Libra.  (As Jessica R and I can attest, Libras rock, ‘cause we’re all balanced and shit.)

The Mojo Boogie
The Steelers are playing opposite the Ratbirds today so I have to go to a sports bar to see the game.  I always go to one near me called Jilly’s.  They know me there so it’s always fun to sling shit with the regulars.  It’s technically a Ratties bar but they have all the games on and there’s always a good cross section of fans for other teams.  The only downside is that the audio is always for the Rats game, so you really have to pay attention to the screen to follow what’s going on.

This will be my first game there this season so I don’t yet have a track record to go on.  I’ll just had to pull something out of the old closet and we’ll see if it works.  Last week my white polo with black piping worked while I was at Podcamp, which I selected because the Steelers were away.  But had I known they were going to be wearing black that day, I’d have worn my black polo with white piping.  This week, I expect the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will do the same thing and make the Steelers wear their black jerseys in the heat.  So I’m going with the black.

It occurs to me that if my white polo worked last time, it should work again today.  Don’t think I haven’t taken that into consideration.  The thing is, I was not in one of my usual watching places, like my living room, or Jilly’s.  Sometimes I have to watch a game on the fly… a friend’s house, my brothers, some other bar…  These options carry their own mojo and it would be a mistake to base today’s game-gear decision on a situation with such a variable.

So today, I’m going with the black polo with white piping, Steelers socks and my new hat I got from Honus Wagner’s last weekend.

Granted, if the Bucs upset the Steelers, I will know that I made an obvious error and should have gone with the white polo again.  But as Chris Berman says,  “that’s why they play the game.”

I’ll also try my hand at texting in a few tweets, to see how that works.  But on my old-ass DumbPhone, I may start a tweet at kickoff and it’ll be the 2nd quarter before I’m done.  So don’t expect anything resembling “timeliness.”

Friday, September 24, 2010

Podcamp Pittsburgh 5, Part 4 (PCPGH5)

After the hard night Saturday night, the energy level was a bit lower on Sunday.  I was particularly uneasy because the Steelers were playing at 1:00 and I’d be in Podcamp.  I can’t remember the last Steelers game I missed… It may have been 5 or 6 years ago when our company Christmas party was on the same night as the Steelers and Browns played a Thursday night game.

Regardless, game day Mojo was still in effect.  Since the Steelers were away, I chose a white Steelers polo shirt.  It turned out that they actually wore black during the game, but there was nothing I could do about it at that point.
It was kind of an unfortunate choice to have to photograph a white shirt on a white bedspread, but that’s the way it goes, sometimes.

There was lots of other Steelers Mojo at Podcamp thought… I spotted at least a half dozen people wearing their game jerseys.

My first session consisted of Joe and Betsy, from, talking about their experience being newlyweds and blogging about trying a different thing every day.  They were adorable and had a very sweet story. 

After that, it was Video Podcasting 101.  This was more nuts and bolts on how to start posting video online.  It was geared more toward doing a series than the occasional one-off video posting.  Still, I have some ideas kicking around so I wanted to see if it entailed anything I hadn’t considered.  Plus, Sitcom Kelly really wants to produce some videos, so one of us ought to know what we’re doing.  I don’t think she realizes just how much freakin’ work it would be (to do it right, anyway).

Lunch was great… several giant 50-piece boxes of fried chicken.  Mmmmmmm!  I also had some good lunchtime conversation with some fellow Podcampers that I hadn’t previously met.  I guess that’s how it’s supposed to work, huh?

My 1:00 session was supposed to be Video Podcasting 201.  That was also when the Steelers game kicked off.  My plan was to blow off my session, not only because of the game, but I thought that my scant needs were covered pretty well by the 101 session.  There were TVs down in the lobby, where lunch was, and I assumed that they would have the game on.  This proved not to be the case.  The TVs were on some kind of timer and manually changing the channel on them did not work.  As I paced around the emptying lunch lobby, in walked the Carpetbagger, complete with an update on the game.  He also had his SmartPhone set up to receive play by play updates.  Now, we’re talking!

So we shot the breeze and tracked the game until 2:00, when we both went to another session on creating online videos.  This one was geared more toward content rather than how to do it.  I got some excellent guidance from that one, while still keeping an eye on the Bagger’s phone updates

At 3:00, we mustered back at The Hub for closing comments.  It was here that someone mentioned the existence of a feature called Google Goggles.  I immediately wondered what it would sound like if someone looked up Lady Gaga on it.

Admit it… you’re all trying to say “Lady Gaga Google Goggles” 3 times fast, aren’t you?  I know I was.

By 3:10, Carpetbagger and I were streaming out into the streets in search of the closest bar we could find that had the game on.  Minutes later, we found the Courthouse Tavern, which had the Steelers game as well as several others up on the screens.  That was a good a place as any to commence drinking, and in my case, begin moaning about all the picks for the week I was losing.  We got to see the 4th quarter and then hung around to see the beginnings of the late games.

The Steelers game was a real slugfest; I’m really bummed that I missed it.  They won ugly, with just enough offense and a crushing defense.  Troy Polamalu executed the play of the season so far, when he leapt over the lineman right at the snap and landed on the QB before he had barely pulled out from under center.  Dude was already in the air before the ball was snapped.  Guess he knew the count, huh?  Amazing play…

The Bagger and I went our separate ways around 5:00.  (Thanks, dude… I owe you a fist full of beers the next time we get together!)  Since it was still early and I wasn’t yet ready to kill the rest of the night in my room, I figured I’d hit Market Square and look for something to eat.  My first choice was to go to the Oyster House for a big fish sandwich, but they were closed on Sundays.  That’s how I ended up at Primanti’s.

As I mentioned in my Podcamp teaser post, I had them hold the coleslaw.  I was relieved that the counter guy didn’t give me any grief over it.  I heard they don’t like it when you fiddle with their formula.  But, as my nephew would say, “Can’t like it!”

Slaw-less, however, I could and very much did like it!
The Primanti’s angus beef and cheese sandwich, with fries.

I also liked the big Pittsburgh sports mural they had on the wall. 

I had my sandwich, appreciated the wall, and followed the Jets/Patriots game on TV.  Boy, was it a tough walk out of there.  You know you’re full when you suck in your guy and nothing moves.  I was F.U.L.L.

I went back to my room and killed the rest of the night, as well as most of a bottle of Crown Royal, while watching the Sunday night game and then I turned in early.  I took off for home around 9:00 the next morning and made it home in great time.  I encountered much fewer of these on the way home:

I had such a great time at Podcamp.  If you ever have a chance to attend one, be it in Pittsburgh or in your own home town, I highly recommend it.  It’s a real treat to be able to talk about blogging and writing with other people, without their eyes glazing over.  Unless they do it themselves, most people just don’t give a S about any of this, so it’s refreshing to be with like-minded people and talk about something that we all have in common. 

I came out of there all charged up and ready to go blog the world!  And I don’t even know what that means!  But I’ve posted every day this week and that has to count for something.  (Don’t hold your breath, though, thinking I’m going to continue posting at that pace.  Pinky is about to mutiny.)

To all the people that put on this jamboree, I thank you for doing all the hard prep work and making all the technical thingees do what they’re supposed to do.  To all the session presenters, I thank you for putting yourself out there and helping the neophytes like me.  And to all the people that I met and hung out with all weekend, may I just say, “OK, OK, I’ll get on The Twitter!!!  Call off the dogs!

And to the city of Pittsburgh, I say “Thank you for being so freakin’ beautiful.  I loved roaming around in you all weekend and enjoying your beautiful visage, amazing people and giant sandwiches.”

More pics from the weekend that I wasn’t able to squeeze in this week:
The Cascading Waterfall at Mellon Square, although at the time it was more like a watertrickle.

PPG Buildings.

PPG Plaza with fountains.

The PPG Tower.

Flowerbed at PPG Plaza.

The courthouse at sunset, as I was waiting for the Carpetbaggers to pick me up.

Shot through the Smithfield St. Bridge and across a couple more bridges spanning the Monongahela.

The fountain at Station Square… this time, during the day.

The entrance to the Smithfield St. Bridge, all lit up at night.  Just like me.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Podcamp Pittsburgh 5, Part 3 (PCPGH5)

After the last session, everyone gathered in The Hub for closing remarks.  I don’t remember what any of them were, except for the announcement that the after-party was going to be at “Red Star”, a place across the river in Station Square.
Station Square as seen from the Smithfield St. Bridge.

Wormy told me that the name has actually been changed to “Bar Louie.”  Once I figured out that Station Square was still within easy walking distance, I relaxed considerably.  I hate bumming rides, waiting for cabs, and I was already determined not to unpark my car, so this came as a relief.

I went back to my hotel to clean up a bit and to drop off all the crap I’d been toting around all morning.  Then all I had to do was stroll down Smithfield Street, cross the Smithfield Bridge and Station Square was right there.  I figured this would give me a prime picture-taking opportunity and I was correct.
Downtown Pittsburgh as seen from the Smithfield St. Bridge.

The Smithfield St. Bridge as seen from Station Square.

I found Bar Louie easily enough, but there didn’t seem to be many people there…no Podcampers, anyway.  I figured I had some time to kill, so I walked over to where the shops were and spent about 20 minutes going through Home Towne Sports.  They had even more Steelers and Penguins shit than Honus Wagner’s.

As I returned, I noticed that Bar Louie had a back entrance.  Still, I went back to where I came from, at the front of the place.  I figured that’s where people would gather first.  But there was still no one there, so I took a seat at the bar and ordered a beer.  No sense wasting serious bar time.

A couple minutes later, I got a text from Gina from My Very Last Nerve, another Pittsburgh blogger that I’d corresponded with but never met.  She asked if I was there and said she and Michelle (from Burgh Baby) wanted to meet me.  I texted that I was here, and where was she?

This went back and forth a couple times… her saying she’s in a booth on the other side of the bar.  I’m standing up and looking around and going, “I don’t see you… Come get me!” 

In the middle of all this, I’m also getting texts from Carpetbagger, wanting to know where the hell I was.  Eventually Gina found me.  It seems there was this whole other room and bar in the back (hence the back door I saw earlier) and the Podcamp party was back there.  Apparently that’s where Red Star used to be… Bar Louie took it over.

Everyone was finishing up their meals so I got a late start on the eating.  No worries, long night ahead.  And I got to spend some quality time with some more new friends.
Gina and I.  (Pic by Gina)

Michelle shooting me shooting her.  I swear the girl always has something in her hand… a camera, a phone, or a drink.

Then it was time for the traditional 6-4-9 shot.  At the closing session, Justin explained that this it a Podcamp ritual that everyone take a shot that’s made by selecting the 6th bottle from the left on the top shelf, the 4th bottle from the right on the middle shelf and the 9th bottle from the left on the lower shelf, then mixing them together into a shot.  The beauty is that it always varies from bar to bar, from year to year.  About 38 people volunteered for the shot.  I’ll shoot pretty much anything, so I was game.  I have no idea who paid for them.

It turned out to be kind of underwhelming.  The bottles chosen were Apple Pucker, Berry Pucker and lime juice.  The shot tasted like a liquid Sweet Tart.  If it were me, and I just learned the choices, I think I’d have called an audible and dodged the lime juice… maybe try a 6-4-7 instead.

I stuck to beer the rest of the night.  I also got to meet some more people, including “Dudders," who looked to be about 6'1".  She was a friend of Michelle’s and mostly a Tweeter.  I don’t know what was with all the tall chicks this weekend… that’s 3 in one place.  I’m not used to seeing that much height in girls, let alone so much at once… between Dudders and Tall Cathy and Secret Agent L, it was quite a spectacle.  Dudders reminded me of a taller, pony-tailed “Phoebe” from Friends.  Here, see?
Dudders and I, being tall. (Pic by Gina)

There was also much fooling around.  For some reason, Dudders, Gina and their friend Adrienne felt it necessary to show me their impression of a penis.
Dick Impersonations:  Call them for your next party. (Pic by Gina’s camera but I snapped it.)

I stayed at Bar Louie’s until about 9:00, then headed back to the room.  The walk back across the bridge yielded more opportunity for cool pictures:
The fountain in front of Station Square.

Colored lights along the Allegheny River, shot from the Smithfield Bridge.

This is one time where having lousy focus actually improved the shot.

Back at the room, I poured a couple of stiff Crown Royal on the rocks, and was in bed by 11:00.

I felt great in the morning and from what I could gather from the rest of the room, I was one of the only ones that did.  There were some ass-draggin’ people, I tell you.

The big news from the Welcome Back session was that someone lost their dongle.  Norm then whipped out the old dongle, which apparently is some kind of electrical cord apparatus.  It sounds to me like it’s a cross between a donkey and a beagle.

Also, in a fit of time-delayed perception, I figured out that the Norm that has been welcoming us each morning is the same Norm that is the curator for Creation Rex, the Dino-blogger that guards the Art Institute.  I made point to tell Norm that I appreciated his efforts assisting Rex, as I’m sure he has a problem typing with those short little arms.

Also, someone mentioned that it was Talk Like a Pirate Day.  I immediately lunged to my feet and shouted, “Oh my God, I can’t believe we’re going to lose 100 games again this year!

Next up:  Wrapping up the Podcamp Experience

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Podcamp Pittsburgh 5, Part 2 (PCPGH5)

I knew my hotel was within walking distance of the venue but I had no idea it would only take me 5 minutes to get down there.  Podcamp was being held at the Art Institute-Pittsburgh, home of Creation Rex.
Rex writes an amusing blog about his adventures in being a carnivore and trying not to get tranq’ed by his curator, Norm.

I checked in, got my bag of swag and VIP shirt (which is earned by donating $25 to go to a free conference) and found a seat in The Hub.  As I looked about the room, I began to feel very, very, O.L.D.  There’s a real cross section of old and young, men and women, almost everyone but me is furiously working on their iPhones or laptops.  People are clicking and bumping and streaming and chatting and tweeting, while I sit there with my antiquated pen and paper.  Not an auspicious start.

So, I flip on the Terminator Scan… Blip… Blip… Blip…

Still no sign of Ginny, aka: PittGirl.  Also, no Baggers or Bitches.  I’m all alone in here today.
A full house awaits the beginning of Podcamp Pittsburgh 5.

Shortly after 9:00, it kicked off.  Norm, one of the Podcamp founders, began the welcome, orientation, and gave the ground rules.  Then he introduced the opening speaker, Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto.

Suddenly, during the Councilman’s presentation: Target Acquired!  PittGirl is in the room.  I saw her come in the side door and sit on the floor just inside the doorway.  Upon the wrap-up of the session, I would commence stalking.

At the conclusion, she headed back out the same door.  It took me a while to get out of the room because all the desks are not lined up in rows, so there was no real escape corridor.  I had to lumber through the randomly placed desks, carrying my coat and notebook, and try not to crash into anyone or turn over any desks.

I got out of the room just in time to see her disappear down a hallway with an exit sign.  It turned out to be the stairway.  All the classes were either on the 4th or 7th floors, so up to the 7th I went as the chase began.  (Yes, that’s where my next session was, so I had to go up there anyway.)

At Podcamp, there were always 6 different sessions going on at the same time.  You had to select the one you wanted to attend and go to that room.  So after consulting the schedule last week, I had my intended sessions mapped out.  It just so happened that PittGirl chose the same 1st session that I did.

Booyah!  Same room!  Only thing was, the room was already packed.  She found a spot up front.  I stuck to the side wall along the back.

The session was “10 Ways to Creat Social Media the Matters”, by Justin Kownacki, another Podcamp founder.  Justin produces online video shows; which based on his presentation, I will have to investigate.  He was a lot of fun, and reminded me of a cooler, funnier Michael Cera.

When the session was over, PittGirl went out the front door, I had to go out the back.  I wasn’t worried about following her though.  My next session was being given by Michelle from Burgh Baby, who I know to be a friend of Ginny’s.  I expected PittGirl would be there.

I was also anxious to meet Michelle.  I’ve been reading Burgh Baby almost as long as I’ve been reading PittGirl.  She writes a site as a veritable love letter to her daughter, who is now famous beyond her comprehension.  She was also originally scheduled to come to the Darwinfish Fry but had to bail at the last minute.  So as I crossed in front of the room, I saw Michelle standing by the side and I introduced myself.  It was great to meet, at long last.  She said I didn’t look like she expected, and certainly not like my avatar. 

Maybe if I chewed on some eucalyptus.

Anyway, I took a seat in the back row, which turned out to be a good idea.  Because next thing I knew, TARGET ACQUIRED! TARGET ACQUIRED!  Here came Ginny, walking along behind the seats.  Not knowing what else to do, I just stuck my arm out behind the seat, as if to scoop her up if she tried to get away.  She looked a bit startled until she spied my nametag, which I was trying to twist into view.

Finally, we meet!  Of course we really couldn’t talk just then, with the session about to start.  She gave me a hug and said we could talk at lunch.  Deal!

So Michelle gave a great session on how to generate blog ideas.  She does a post every day, rain or shine, sickness and health, and while I already do a number of things she recommends, I took some good advice from her talk.
Michelle, giving doing her session.  That’s Ginny in the white shirt in front of me.

Free lunch is part of the deal at Podcamp so after Michelle’s session, I went downstairs to the lobby to claim my eats.  Man, two steps to the right off the elevator and suddenly I’m going against the line.  I doubled back but the line was growing faster than I could get to the end.  I ended up in the back of a loooooong-assed line.

Luckily, who should mosey by but the Bitchburgh Bitches!  Wormy said, “Come out to lunch with us!

As you may recall, it’s not wise to say no to these chicks, so we scooped up Mr. and Mrs. Bagger and headed out to Market Square and lunch at Moe’s Southwestern Grill.  Having lunch with the Bitchburghers and the Carpetbaggers was great… if we could have added the Cherlocks and Sisters From Different Misters, it would have been like Darwinfish Fry Part 2.  The menu board was cool… loaded with pop culture references.
You can spot references to Seinfeld, Caddyshack, Back to School, and many others.  I ordered the Joey Bag of Donuts Burrito.

We were a bit late coming back from lunch, which was a bummer, because the next session I wanted to attend was Tall Cathy’s Twitter session.  The room was jammed, Ginny was in there too, so I went to the “Overflow Room” next door.  There, they had a video and audio feed from the next room.  The only problem was that the picture was faint and the audio was very hard to hear.  I kinda got the gist of it (Twitter Rockz!) but I’ll have to access the streaming video online, once they put it up.

So when the session ended, I beat it out of the room and stood outside the main room to wait for Ginny to come out.  (What?  That’s where my next session was, anyway.)  So when she did, we got to talk.  It was only for a couple minutes, but I managed to get through it without saying anything too stupid.  I tried not to embarrass her with praise but I fear I was unsuccessful.  She’ll just have to live with it, I guess.  By the way, she’s even lovelier in person than she is in pictures. 

Oops, I did it again.  But she was a dear… Ground Zero for Pittsburgh bloggers, at least in my universe.  I was glad to see that my admiration was not misplaced.  And I was even gladder that I didn’t have to stalk her any more.

Next session was a rollicking affair from the Bitchburgh girls, including Mindbling, who just had her baby the preceding Tuesday!  That’s one tough chick.

Their session dealt with on the Real Life Effects of Living Online.  In other words, be careful about whom you talk shit!
Mindbling, Hot Mama and Wormy, being awesome.

It was hard for me to follow everything, because I ended up sitting beside the previous presenter, Tall Cathy.  Yes, she is indeed tall… at least as tall as I am, but obviously much cuter.

My last session of the day was a panel discussion on political blogging.  I was anxious to see all the stuff I was doing wrong so I got to the room early.  I knew it was the room because the first sign I saw was for the overflow room.  So the actual room would be next door again, right?  Right?

Wrong.  As the speaker was tuning up his slides, I recognized the subject matter as coming from another session.  I peeked outside and of course, I was in the wrong freakin’ room.  By the time I got to the right room, it was jammed and the session was underway.  So I went to the session that was in The Hub, which was the one given by Secret Agent L.

Secret Agent L (aka Laura Miller) was doing a session on Social Media and The Kindness Movement.  Her site is devoted to recruiting people to go out and secretly do random acts of kindness, then report back.  It’s really quite a story. 

She had been anonymous up until this July, when she “came out” in a fundraising gala.  She has “Secret Agents” all over the country and the world.  Not bad for a model/actress/administrative assistant at Duquesne University.  (Alma Mater of both my parents… Go Dukes!)  She was tall and quite striking, as you might assume from being a model, and spoke with intelligence and a dry wit.  I enjoyed the session more than I anticipated.

If you’ve read me long, you know I’m not exactly known for spreading sunshine and roses.  But I’ve decided to take a cue from Secret Agent L.  If, by posting my writing, I can inspire someone to someone to yell at some moron blocking traffic, or to make bad faces at some screaming toddler in the grocery store, then all my hard work is worthwhile.

Next up:  Podcampers encounter Station Square and the dreaded 6-4-9 shot.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Podcamp Pittsburgh 5, Part 1 (PCPGH5)

OK, work is done, pictures are processed, and dinner is eaten; now it’s time to tell the tale of Podcamp!

This wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun if I didn’t get to go to Pittsburgh to attend.  As I mentioned two posts ago, I opted to stay at a hotel downtown rather than stay with my relatives in the suburbs and have to drive back and forth, in an unfamiliar city, in the dark, drunk.  I wanted to be within crawling distance, so the William Penn was just the ticket.  (See picture in previous post.)

But before I could even get there, I realized it was a regional holiday.  Apparently it was Mid-Atlantic Fuckstick Day, because every 10 miles or so, I’d come up on some fuckstick driving squarely beside the car he was allegedly trying to pass.  Nothing like a nice moving roadblock when you got to be somewhere.  And for some reason, the only term that kept coming to my head to describe these assholes was “fuckstick.”  Go figure.

But I found my way to the Penn uneventfully and went directly to the parking garage.  Screw your $27 a day valet parking.  I got this.

Now since I was getting my room on points, I was expecting one of those little hole-in-the-wall rooms, with space for the bed, a desk, a TV and diddly-squat else.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a nice long room that included a love seat and easy chair in addition to an enormous king-sized bed.  This room would be acceptable, all right.

Only down side was the view, because there was none.  My room was deep in one of the “creases” of the building (again, see picture in previous post) so all I could see was this:

I checked in around 4 and the Carpetbagger was picking me up for the meet and greet at 7, so I had time to kill.  So instead of gazing out my window at the brick wall for the next 3 hours, I decided to take a walk arahnd dahntahn.  (That’s Pixburgh dialect, for the uninitiated.)   Like I mentioned before, for someone that’s visited Pittsburgh frequently throughout life, I’ve spent very little time actually in the city, with time on my hands and no where I had to be.

One of the things I just can’t get over is the decoration on the buildings in Pittsburgh.  It’s like every other building has got some kind of ornate carving on the fringes.

I love the claustrophobia of the very tall buildings and very narrow streets.

Another thing I notice is that most of the streets have 2-way traffic.  Most of downtown Baltimore is made up of 1-way streets, so it tends to make you a lazy pedestrian.  You only have to look one way before jaywalking.  In Pittsburgh, you have to keep your head on a swivel.  I also noticed that very few people jaywalk.  In Baltimore, the maxim of crossing with the light at the crosswalk is taken as a mere suggestion.

First, I found my way to Honus Wagner’s Sporting Goods.  That place always has good Pittsburgh sports swag.  I picked up a new Steelers hat and Penguins tee shirt.  Then, wonder of wonders, I found a liquor store.  Nothing like a little Crown Royal for the room, to provide a nightcap if needed.  Whiskey in hand, I headed towards “The Castle.”

That’s what I call the PPG (Pittsburgh Plate Glass) building.  It’s the one you notice immediately whenever you see the Pittsburgh skyline… the giant glass building that looks like a castle tower.

There’s actually a big plaza, surrounded by this tower and other smaller but similarly constructed buildings.  The whole thing is really eye-popping. 

It’s like you’re in the Wizard of Oz and the Emerald City has been redone in onyx. 

The only thing missing would be the Oh-Wee-Oh Guards patrolling outside, probably wearing Steelers game jerseys.  That’s another thing… all over town I saw people wearing game jerseys.  This went for Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday afternoon… whatever.  In Baltimore, I see maaaaybe a jersey or 2 every week or so, usually on game day.  Those Pittsburghers are nothing if not devoted to their teams.  It’s nice to know it’s not just my family that has that particular genetic variant.

Next, I made it over to Market Square to have a look around.  The place is interesting, if not quite as photogenic as the PPG plaza.  It’s still being worked on though… lots of sidewalks and storefronts being obscured, including that of Las Velas, the restaurant owned by PittGirl’s husband.  Las Velas would be providing the food for the Podcamp Friday Night Meet-n-Greet. 

Right.  PittGirl, aka Ginny of That’s Church.  My primary objective of the weekend was to finally meet Ginny.  I still wasn’t sure what I would say to her, but I knew I didn’t want to be a sweaty mess, so I beat feet back to the Penn to shower off.
I was really impressed by the Penn’s dazzling lobby, but then realized that I wasn’t really going to be doing anything there but walking through it from time to time.

Promptly at 7:05, the Carpetbagger-mobile, containing both Mr. and Mrs. Carpetbagger, swung by to pick me up and take me to the party at Alphalab.  They were out of stick-on name tags by the time we got there, so we had to improvise with notebook paper and clothespins. 

Immediately I began doing the “Terminator Scan”, looking for Ginny.

I didn’t see her anywhere, so I went for the next best thing… The wine!  Luckily for me, the wine was being tended to by 2 of the 3 illustrious bitches from Bitchburgh!
Hot Mama and Wormy guard the wine.

I have to say that I got very lucky in choosing company for the night.  Both Mr. and Mrs. Carpetbagger were adept at starting conversations with complete strangers.  Then once the ice was broken, I could kind of slide into the conversation with a minimum of awkwardness.  They were the perfect wingmen.  (Or wing-people… whatever.)  If left to my own devices, I'd stand there quietly against the wall, like a geek at an 8th grade dance, waiting for someone to talk to me.

It seemed like every time I looked up, Mrs. Carpetbagger was surrounded by guys.  The first time, it was comic book podcasters.

Later, it looked like it was a batch of young skateboarders, probably thinking that they were gonna get some Mrs. Robinson action.  Or should I say “Stiffler’s Mother”?

Funny, I didn’t get any pictures of Mr. Carpetbagger.  Who would, when you could shoot this instead?
Unless someone was pulling my leg, this dude was just there for the free food and drinks.  Not that that’s a bad reason to be anywhere…

Later during the evening, I was approached by blogger, “Uncle Crappy”, who said he wanted to meet me.  (ME?!?)  He writes a blog by the same name, (which may be found on my blogroll), and we talked Ohio State football for a few minutes.  Then later, he showed me a tweet from Red Pen Mama saying she was jealous that he got to meet me.  (MEEE????!!??  WTF?)  Obviously these bloggers don’t get out much.  RPM was the person with whom I cooked up the idea for the Darwinfish Fry, but she was unable to make that date.  I’m looking forward to meeting her as well.

I spotted Pittsburgh radio DJ Tall Cathy, whose session I planned to attend on Saturday.  Hers was the only session I selected for the sole reason that she’s smokin’ hot.  And tall.  She was doing a session on Twitter, which I’m not on.  But it looked like it would be a pleasant way to learn about it.
Ginny published this shot a while back, of her with Tall Cathy.

Tall Cathy was not hard to find.  Ginny, on the other hand, was still nowhere to be seen, no matter how many times I did the Terminator Scan.  Now the night was drawing to a close and I was no closer to meeting my blogging inspiration than I was when I was in Baltimore.  Earlier in the evening, we met a real estate agent named Kathryn, who didn’t have a blog but intended to start one, so she was attending Podcamp.  When the Meet-n-Greet drew to a close, The Baggers, Kathryn and I went next door to the Double-wide Bar where the After-Party was taking place.  I had a couple more beers there and a plate of fries. 

It was kind of an indoor/outdoor place with a big patio.  Outside, I met up with Wormy and Hot Mama.  In what would become a theme of my weekend, Wormy began working on me to join The Twitter.  The rest of the night flew by in a torrent of yakking and lots of laughs.  I met a lot of people whose names start with “@”, like @yay_toast.  It’s weird enough meeting and referring to people by their “blog names”, even after you know their real names.  The Twitter names are a whole different ballgame.

Round about midnight, we got out of dodge and the Baggers deposited me back at my hotel.  I didn’t even bring up the Crown… we all needed to get some shut-eye.  We had a big weekend ahead of us, after all.

Next up:  My Podcamp Pittsburgh Experience, aka: Stalking Ginny.

Unrelated Note:  You can find an encore performance of my Firehouse Belle (Ex gets stuck upside down behind the dryer) post from last month on the humor site, Laugh Out Loud.  Please check it out, if you haven’t seen it here already.  It’s a hoot.  (And if you have, maybe you could click on over anyway, so it looks like more people like my stuff and she runs another one of my posts in the future.)