Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Year in Bluz

Wow.  Just… wow.  I’ll always remember 2010 at the year this site shed its first skin. 

In February of 2009, I started Dfish2 because I thought I could entertain a few people and I needed somewhere to put the ideas that would bubble up through the sewage treatment center that is my brain.  In September of that year, I picked up some non-family readers in Pittsburgh that not only encouraged me, but became friends.  That was a thrill in itself.

2010 was the year that I was able to burst out of my Pittsburgh nucleus, extend some tendrils and make friends with other bloggers in far-flung portions of the country.

There was Miley (who allowed me to defile her site by guest posting), Jennifer Juniper and Oilfield Trash out in Texas.  Mrs. Bachelor Girl and Jessica R. in Shreveport, may or may not be Bayou, depending on who you ask.  Nearby, I worked with Sally in Oklahoma, and together we assembled a post pondering the possibilities of what would happen if the 3 Wise Men jumped in Jesus’ cradle for a bobsled run.

I met Judie, the Rogue Artist from Arizona, from a link on friend-of-Dfish site AskCherlock and she’s been an artistic inspiration ever since.

For sheer craziness, nothing beats the Crazy Brunette and her drunken Royal Family out in Kansas.  California hosts another cluster of ladies that are both hot and cool at the same time: Kernut the Blond, Jayne, and Miss Nikki.

A mutual friend on Facebook arranged a blog-meeting between me and Sherry, also grew up in NW Ohio and knew some of the same people I did.

I also began trading visits with Christy in Wisconsin, Cristy in West Virginia, Raven in Minnesota, the Faux Trixie in Chicago, Katie in NYC, Mama Fargo in Wyoming and Sandra in Manitoba.  Everyone I mentioned above has a link on my blogroll.

But I wanted to do more today than just shamelessly name-drop.  The year’s end is always a good time to take stock of where you’ve been.  As I look back over my 200 posts this year, (yes, 200 even...  today’s is 201), I have to smile at the ground covered.  I got to tell a lot of cherished stories and call “bullshit” on a lot of political malfeasance.

I started the year with a road trip story covering our family trip to Miami for the Steelers/Dolphins game.  No hurricanes, this time.  I got to tell the story of my late best buddy Brill and our connection with the late singer Warren Zevon.  Later, I wondered how cool it would be if we could engineer our lives like they do on DVDs, complete with bonus features and commentary.  I bestowed upon the world my humble recipe for the Porkchops of the Gods and unleashed the phenomenon that is the Pork Chop Dance.    I also explained how if people would just do everything the way I say, we’d all have more spare time to watch TV and play on the Internet.

Right out of the chute, I wrote about our family’s experiences with Super Bowls, and about going to Super Bowl XL.  I wrote about the Best Cat Ever, my old Siamese buddy Amos.  Keep a tissue handy for that one.  On a lighter note, I stole and adapted shamelessly from the Bachelor Girl and did 15 Reasons Why Being a Bachelor Guy Rules.  In Holy Shit, I define my spiritual realizations and aversion to organized religion.  There was enough conversation in Comments, I did a follow-up right after.  You guys are the coolest readers!

March was dominated by my series of stories and remembrances of my time in the record business.  The “Brushes” series tells about when I got to meet loads of famous musicians, from bluesmen like Albert Collins and Lonnie Mack, to legends like Lynyrd Skynyrd, John Fogarty and Meat Loaf, to my queen, Joan Jett.  March also was when I began mining the gold that is Sitcom Kelly, for bizarre and preposterous ideas and scenarios.  This is the post that introduced the newest culinary fare: “Bacon-wrapped Kittens.”

To capitalize on April Fools, I did a series where I recalled some of the greatest pranks of my youth and not too distant past.  I covered 3-hole punch holes, fun with OCD, ways to stay amused in someone else’s office, and the Great Stick Horse Incident and Year-Long Identity Switch.  That provided the perfect opportunity to finish writing about transforming our amazing Party Barn and the music that lied therein.  I wrote about my time on college radio and included a clip of my explosive farewell.           The beginning of Little League season for my nephew triggered these stories of his father and I playing in our own Little Leagues.  How does one explain to a boy that his dad was a notorious beanball pitcher?

I wrote the story of my brain-rattling brush with precognition or “dream flashes.”  I took personal responsibility for the Penguins’ failings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  I also covered in glorious detail, the wonders of vacationing in the place of my misspent youth, Whitehouse Ohio

June provided me with the biggest hits bonanza ever, when first I posted a story on the gargantuan statue of a floating half-Jesus as commissioned by a couple of preacher/charlatans and then a week later, the flippin’ thing got hit by lightning and burned down!  This gave birth to my new favorite expletive, “Great Flaming Jesus!”  I got Google hits from everywhere on that one.

We celebrate my parents’ 50th anniversary with a trip to Amelia Island Florida, and encountered the greatest restroom wall ever, in the Jacksonville airport.  Buying a new car gave me a chance to talk about my previous cars and chronicle obtaining a new one.  I also felt it was time to tell the stories from my sordid past: the first time I got completely shit-faced drunk, throwing my first party and how we almost got our asses shot off by stealing pumpkins.  My favorite line I’ve written this year also appeared in July, in regard to Sarah Palin and her pseudo-Shakespearean ways.

August was huge.  A trip to Pittsburgh gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to meet my Burgh blogging buddies at the Darwinfish Fry, attended by the Cherlocks, Cassie and Carly, the Carpetbaggers, DG and husband, and the Bitches from Bitchburgh.  Seriously, meeting you all was the highlight of my year.  Also included in the trip was the no small matter of my folks 50th Anniversary Hootenanny and Jamboree.  I took the opportunity to tell my Favorite Story Ever.  It’s not every day that your (future-ex) wife gets stuck upside down behind a major appliance, AND gets caught wandering around your back yard naked.  I also took the time to talk about how I became a “Bluz” dude.  (One word: SRV.)

More old stories surface via use of my new Wayback Machine, where I describe what I would change about my past, if I could go back in time and have a do-over.  Needless to say, they all involved girls: the 9th grade roller skate girl that got away, the 7th grade hussy that I was too incompetent to land, and how it took 3 months to kiss my 10th grade girlfriend.  I told my own September 11th story, and included video clips from my trip to the top of the Towers.  Then I got to take another trip to Pittsburgh to attend Podcamp Pittsburgh 5.  I hung out with my Darwinfish Fry friends and still had time to stalk (and meet) the elusive PittGirl!  Attending Podcamp left me re-energized and ready to charge headlong into hitting the tough topics.  It doesn’t get any hotter than the abortion and sex education debate.

My birthday is October 1st, and that spawned the telling of a life-changing story that began on my birthday in 1997.  October also found me mourning the loss of anything funny on Saturday Night Live.  Friends were big this month, as I discussed one friend’s house getting robbed, and penned a tribute to my Ex Work Wife.

November brought the political season to an end.  Prior to Election Day, I posted my last-ditch effort to stem the tide of anti-incumbency based on the inability to fix 8 years worth of abuse in 2 years.  Much like Republican policy for the middle class, it didn’t work.  To focus on a happier time, I told the story of my favorite party ever, my wedding day.  So what if I married a psycho?  Another silly email thread with Sitcom Kelly was trotted out for a cheap post.  I gave thanks to the simple things that make me happy here, and told of a frustrating Thanksgiving from my youth, here.

Eh, just scroll down.  You want me to spell out EVERYTHING for you?

I have to go back to work tomorrow and then Pinky and I are going out on the town for New Year’s Eve and staying at the Hilton across from Camden Yards.  But before I disappear, I’d like to take this time to seriously thank you, Dear Reader, for spending portions of 2010 with me.  It’s been my privilege to have the opportunity to tell you stories and tell you what I think about stuff and generally make light of the world around us.  And I’m especially honored when you tell me stuff back.

So whether you’re a regular commenter on every post I write here, or that person from Anchorage Alaska that keeps stopping by but never comments, (Hi Sarah, sorry about that “Out damned twat” comment…) thank you so much for encouraging my behavior.

Have a safe and festive New Year and I look forward to spending time together in 2011.
The sun setting on Baltimore, New Year’s Eve 2007.

I'll be back after this weekend to start with next year's memories.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Afterglow

I trust everyone had nice Christmas?  I hope so.  And I hope no one got bit by the nasty weather that screwed up so many travel plans.  It was definitely a good Christmas to stay close to home, at least on the east coast.

We were supposed to be socked with a major snowstorm yesterday, but it pretty much skirted around Baltimore.  We got an inch or two, but nothing like some of the places north of us.  OK, so much for the weather report.

Pinky and I had a nice, peaceful Christmas morning.  I wouldn’t say she kept coming into the bedroom to wake me up for presents, but after the 5th or 6th trip in to ask me about how she should make the gingerbread, I took the hint and got up.

We ate gingerbread and opened presents in front of the fireplace they broadcast on TV. 
We apartment dwellers have to make do.

The present from Bluz Sister knocked me out… alumni sweatpants and a tee shirt from my high school.  I supposed if I still lived in NW Ohio, it wouldn’t be such a big deal and I could find this sort of thing locally.  Not that I’ve ever seen anything when I’ve visited.

Pinky gave me over 30 hours of belly laughs by getting me 2 seasons worth of "30 Rock" on DVD.  Plus, I get to look at the yumminess and wit that is Tina Fey.

So later, I went to my brother’s house for Christmas dinner.  Seems that the boys (Sammy, 5 and Daniel, 11) got an air hockey game for Christmas.  So I spent most of the day downstairs with them, working on my air hockey game. 

Sammy was actually pretty good.  Not that I let him beat me, or anything.  If you’ll recall, I posted earlier this year on how I don’t believe in “letting” kids win.  Not that I played all out or anything, but I didn’t roll over.
Sammy, defending his goal.

You have to watch kids though… they totally cheat.  Sam’s favorite ploy was to dip his elbow onto the table, so his sleeve or arm blocked any shot to his right.  I do allow, however, for the fact that the table is up much higher on him than on the rest of us.  (Even when I played sitting down.) 

More egregious was that whenever he started losing, he’d come around the table and reset the electronic scoreboard back to zero-zero.  Little sneak…  But let me tell you this; 5-year old Sammy would have kicked MY 5-year old ass, no question.  He’s have had my lunch money, easy.

He had the line of the night too:  “I’m gonna beat you like a piece of chicken.”

I have no idea where that came from.  Kids are weird.

On my part, I was talking shit from the moment we started.  I told them I used to hustle air hockey games to earn extra money for snacks and soda.  I said I worked my way through school that way.  I completely expected them to call “Shenanigans” on that, but the both of them bought it without question.

You mean you used to win money at this??  Cool!

I’m going to hell… I know.

They even told their daddy, when he came down after dinner to have a go.

Uncle Bluz used to hustle games when he was in school.”

If Ed realized what they were talking about, he didn’t let on.  Probably just wondered what the hell they were talking about.

The funny thing is that Sammy cleaned house.  He beat his older brother 2 games to 1, fair and square.  (After a couple score resets, of course.)
Daniel, who would have rather been over there playing with his PS3.

Then Sam beat his Daddy.  I don’t think Ed will hear the end of that one any time soon.  Knowing Sam, he’ll probably refuse to play again and trash talk on his victory for the next year.

Naaah.  Sam’s a gamer.  I bet they’ve played a dozen more times since then.

Once we resurfaced for deserts, we did our own gift exchange.  I was delighted with mine… it was Daniel’s suggestion… he saw them in Target and told his mom that they’d be perfect for his Uncle Bluz.
Well chosen, son, well chosen.

As you can see, I christened the Who Made Who glass once I got home.

Sunday was just a veg day.  Pinky had to work and would stay at her place afterward, so I just puttered around and watched football all afternoon and the Penguins in the evening.  With the snow coming and wind howling, it was a good night to be tucked inside. 

I’m off this week until Friday, so this morning I got up to see that all the hype about the storm was nothing but another false alarm.  Pinky rolled in around noon and set out to make some spaghetti.

Life is good.  Ho ho ho.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Arrest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Before you head off to celebrate the holidays with their family or friends, please allow me the opportunity to take off the clown hat, step off the soap box and wish you a joyous, prosperous, wondrous, and every other adjective that ends with “ous”, Christmas.  (Except maybe, “superfluous,” which runs kind of counter to the gist of my over all wish.) 

If you’re looking for further irreverence and foolishness on the Eve of this most holy occasion, you should probably look elsewhere.  I would never do something to make light of a day that’s held so sacredly by so many.


Pssst…  You really buying that?
“He don’t know me vewy well, do he?”

I got some holiday-related material this week that’s just too good not to share.

First, Bluz Sister sent me an email about a very touching letter sent from a husband to his wife, at Christmas.

Hi Sweetheart,
I am sorry about getting into an argument about putting up the Christmas lights again this year. I guess that sometimes I feel like you are pushing me too hard when you want something. I realize that I was wrong and I am apologizing for being such a hardheaded guy. All I want is for you to be happy and be able to enjoy the holiday season.

Nothing brightens the Christmas spirit like Christmas lights!

I took the time to hang the lights for you today and now I will be gone hunting.

Again, I am very sorry for the way I acted yesterday.

I'll be home later.

Love you…

Bluz Sister also sent me a brilliant video: If the Nativity Happened in the Age of Social Media.

Not to be left out, my dad, who is an inexhaustible source of online merriment, sent me this: “This is What Happens When Men Bake Cookies.”

Lastly, my friend Robyn, a fellow Steel Citi Underground member from work, sent me the perfect coda for any Christmas message that comes from a dude with Pittsburgh roots.  With that, may I present “Santa Claus is Goin Dahntahn,” (complete with English subtitles). 
(These dudes can really sing, by the way…)

So in all, I’ve already gotten just what I wanted for Christmas: enough material for an easy Christmas post.

Now just let me say thank you to you, my friend, who is sharing this holiday moment, and a number of prior moments throughout this past year.

Happy Christmas to you.  May your holiday joy and general wonderfulness be surpassed only by the amount of really cool presents you get.

Bluz out…

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

PC P-ing

I went to happy hour with Sitcom Kelly last night and that’s always good for a post idea.  I wasn’t sure when the idea would come, but I was confident something would surface.  Then I went to the bathroom to break the seal and what do you know?  My idea popped out.  So many good ideas come from time spent in the bathroom.

The bathroom there has 2 urinals and 1 stall.  When I went in, there was already a guy at a urinal.  I know I should have went into the stall, but against my better judgment, I took the empty urinal.  I figured the other guy would be done in a moment.  Boy, was I ever wrong…

See, I have “bashful kidneys.”  If there are people in close proximity to me, I just can’t go, no matter how urgent the need.  My urethra slams shut like a bank vault door.

The guy beside me was going like a fire hose, from the sounds of it.  I had to press for all I was worth just to make it sound like I wasn’t just in there for nothing but the ambiance.  And I had to hope to God that I didn’t shit myself from the strain.

By the time the fire hose began to wane, another dude came in, so I figured I’d wrap it up and come back later.  I hate that.

The thing is, it’s completely mental.  Sometimes it’s OK, especially if I’m in there first.  Once I get started, I’m good to go.  And sometimes I can even pull it off when someone else is there first.  But I have to be preoccupied.  The very second I think, “Boy, I hope I can go,” it’s over.  I can’t go.

The biggest problem is with attending sporting events, especially football games.  When we used to go to the Steelers/Browns games in Cleveland, you took your life in your hands wading into that sea of angry Browns fans.  You ALWAYS had to go in with friends.  So by the time you stand there in line in front of the giant trough, getting yelled at, jostled and otherwise abused, you had to go like a racehorse.  And then to get up there, elbow to elbow with the afore-mentioned riffraff, and NOT be able to go?  Eventually I learned to use a stall, no matter how long the line or how foul the atmosphere.

I don’t know what the deal is.  Maybe it’s just a general sense of discomfort felt when there are other dudes close by and you have your dick in your hand.

Places that have rest room attendants are the worst.  There’s this piano bar that my old work crowd used to go to...  It was great… always a lot of fun and the place was always rollicking. 

First time I went to pee there, I’m standing at the urinal and suddenly this old dude in a red suit comes up behind me and starts brushing off my shoulders.  WHILE I’M PEEING!  Dude is lucky I didn’t spin around on him and soak his pant leg.  And then they want a tip for that “service”. 

Dude, you want a tip?  Stay the hell away from a guy that has his dick out, OK.  You want paid for your service?  Hold the everybody else back until I’m done.  Then, I’ll toss a couple bucks in your pot.  Short of that?  Piss off!

Now this is really weird, but sometimes I get spells of the bashful kidney when I’m home alone.  All it takes is for me to think about it, then WHAM.  No more pee.

I have to turn on the faucet behind me, just to get the atmosphere back.  My next step is to mount a photo directly over the toilet.  Maybe this will help:
(Waterfall shot I took last year at Patapsco State Park.)

Is this just a guy thing?  Do the ladies ever have performance anxiety in the stalls?  Sitcom Kelly suggested that producing too much sound can be intimidating, especially with the echo of the not so soundproof room.

Meanwhile, the rest of the happy hour with Sitcom Kelly was productive.  I learned that she’s going to Amsterdam next spring, for a 7-day bicycle tour.  I had to insist that she take notes while she’s there because I know it’s going to be a helluva story.  Perhaps she can pick up some tips on how to grow tulips in a dark basement.  The Pit could use a little brightening up, I’m sure.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Reruns

Holy Crap!  It’s almost Christmas!  Where does the time go?  (My thought is that it’s still in line at the Post Office.)  I haven’t even written a thing about Christmas this year.

Last year at Christmas, I was just getting used to the idea that people aside from my mom and dad actually read this blog.  So not to lose these new inquisitive eyes, I brought out every decent Christmas story and recollection I had.

First there were the tales of my childhood Christmases; some were sweet, some were literally quite smashing.  There are also pictures posted of my little Christmas tree that I have right here… no need for more pictures than what’s there… this year it’s the same ornaments on the same tree in the same place.

I wrote about Christmas home movies and our annual pilgrimage to Pittsburgh every December here.  There’s nothing like seeing the same home movie over and over again, where the kids age like it’s a stop-motion photography project and progress from one horrible 60s or 70s clothing style to another.

I vented my spleen about how much I hate the traditional treatments of Christmas music and what I listen to instead, here.  There’s also a mini-rant about the over use of that stupid Nutcracker riff, how it’s in every freakin’ commercial from Thanksgiving on.  At least this year, Hyundai has those new commercials where that guy and girl sing Jingle Bells and Up on the Rooftop.  It’s not that I like the songs; it’s that the girl is reeeeeeally cute. 
They’re actually a real music group called “Pomplamoose.”

I addressed the issue of what to tell your kids about Santa Claus.  I’ve seen a lot about the subject on blogs just this week.  (Miley, I’m looking at you.)  I acknowledge that I don’t have kids, but I used to be one, so I describe my experience from that angle, and also from when I was a stepparent for a couple years. 

Hey kid… c’mere… Santa doesn’t exist and your mother doesn’t love you…”

I know… Stepfather of the Year, I was.

Anyway, my point is that I don’t really have anything new to cover for this Christmas season.  But unless you were one of the half-dozen or so that was reading me last year, it’ll all be new to you, so just pretend it’s a post of fresh Christmas goodness from your old pal bluz.

In the meantime, my dad sent me this video that reminds me a lot of our Christmases. 

The familiarity comes more from the lyrics than the visuals.  We weren’t the “Jersey Shore-style of Italians like you see in the video.  No one ever sat around the dinner table in their white undershirts, at least not in December.  Undershirts were for the front porch in July with a Pirates game on the radio and a cold Rolling Rock in hand.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Testing! 1-2-3...

Brace yourself; this is going to be a weird one.  Today, we’re going to careen from Duck and Cover to the nation's economy to clown cars.

I’ve wanted to post this one thing for quite some time and today I was afforded an opportunity to have at it.

Cher, my close personal friend at Ask Cherlock, did a post yesterday about her husband telling their grandkids about the old Duck and Cover drills he used to have to do as a schoolboy.  This, of course, put me in mind of the Lewis Black standup bit he did in Black on Broadway:
Seriously, play this.  It’s just over 2 minutes… I’ll wait.  Definitely NSFW though. 

Cher went on to mention how the NY Times had a story on how the Administration is working on presenting preparation plans for a possible nuclear attack.  She went on to wonder if there was something afoot on the global horizon… a legitimate threat from North Korea, perhaps?

I made a comment there that I will bring up here.

Sure, there may be something going on behind the scenes, but I think it’s more a case of exercising good business sense.  My current occupation is based on exactly such sense.

I work in what’s called “COB,” or “Continuity of Business.”  This is something that came to prominence in the wake of 9/11.  The government realized that in the face of national disaster, certain businesses needed the capacity to continue to function, primarily financial institutions, or else the entire economy could spiral down the tubes.  Hence, COB was born and in many cases, federally mandated.

The principles of COB are that businesses have contingency plans for multiple variations of disasters, like hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, blizzards, terrorist attacks, pandemic flu, water main breaks, chemical spills, etc.  Anything that could have a significant impact on the functioning of key businesses would be planned for.

Responses vary from leaving one’s primary office and relocating to a backup site, accessing one’s workstation remotely from an off-site PC, transferring one’s workload to an alternate office, and so forth.

To me, what the government is doing is just good sense.  Having a plan is never the wrong idea, regardless of how it may look from the outside.  NOT having a plan can be dangerous or even criminal.

(Don’t’ worry, the jokes are coming.)

To make sure a plan is solid, it has to be tested.  That’s why they have fire drills, or building evacuation drills.  You’ve probably done those yourself.  Should there be a fire or other toxic emergency in your building, you should know, not only how to get out, but also where to go and how to account for yourself and your fellow associates.

COB testing need not always be physical.  We also do what is called “Tabletop” testing.  That’s where key members of your work group get together and are given a scenario that plays out in stages, much like an actual emergency. 

First, the event is described in the initial stage, like, “the building’s on fire… everybody out.”  So everyone discusses exactly what should happen… where to go, what to do, etc.  But at this stage, the complete scale of the event is unknown.

In the second stage, more details are given, like the extent of the damage and estimates on how long everyone might be displaces.  The group then considers their options regarding how to continue production… from home, a hot site, transferring work… and ensures they have specific plans on how to accomplish that.

In the last stage, the situation is resolved and the group considers how to put their pieces back together and reintegrate the work they did off site back into their normal systems.

OK, I didn’t tell you all this just to give you a bunch of useless information.

A couple years ago, when our company’s corporate office decreed that we all create these Tabletop Scenarios, the job fell to me.  I had to create a Tabletop testing process and procedure from the ground up.  I decided that I would write 10 different Scenarios so that I could rotate them among the different groups as the years went by.

I wrote the first couple pretty straight.  If you’ve read me for very long, I’m sure you know how hard that was for me.  Soon I began tossing some jokes in there every so often.  Like in the one about how the sprinklers were on all night:

*  On the bright side, plants that belong to people that don’t water them very often, look great.

See, it was nothing that would change the process or activity… just little throw-away lines.  I think it’s important to make things fun.  COB can be a very dry, serious affair.  A little levity can bring up people’s energy levels.

So, by the time I’d written about 7 of these Scenarios, I was starting to get punchy and was using more and more bizarre asides.  Like when due to a public workers strike that affected fire, police and transit workers, the city was beset by rival factions of rioting accountants and bankers, who did not disperse until they bussed in squads of jocks in letter jackets to restore order to the bean-counters run amok.
“Am I gonna have to crack some skulls?”

The strike was prolonged because the negotiators on one side clamped their hands over their ears and went “Nsaaa naaaa naaaa… I can’t hear you!

In another Scenario, I had city engineers unable to stop a massive water main break when they tried stuffing the hole with bubble gum, which shot out of the hole and began to ensnare passing cars.

Still, the framework of the problems was there and the business still had to adapt their activities.  My little asides were just amusing decoration.

By Scenario Ten, I’d pretty much lost all my restraint and just let it rip.  It was my masterpiece.  I only used it on work groups that I knew had a solid sense of humor and could handle it.  But even so, I think I only sent it out maybe 3 times.

Then this year, Corporate sent out an online training course about how to construct Tabletop exercises.  I figured I’d better take it and see what it is they actually expected from us.

I was alarmed to learn that they frowned on “over-the-top,” Hollywood-style disaster movie scenarios.  So I had no choice but to retire Scenario Ten, or what came to be known as, the Circus Train Incident.

On the bright side, now that it’s out of circulation, there’s no reason why I can’t share it here.  Remember, this was given to actual business people to help test their recovery planning. 

Note: All scenarios were sent out and approved by the higher-ups, which proved to me that they stopped reading them after the first couple.  It pays to pay attention!

Train Derailment
Part 1
* At 10:30 a.m., a train carrying numerous tanker-cars collided with another train, in the vicinity of your office building.

*An unidentified tanker car has exploded and is burning.  Other tanker cars have been punctured and are leaking their content, which is creating a chemical gas.  Some nearby cars contain propane, and efforts are being made to keep them cooled, to prevent more explosions.

* The other train was a circus train; elephants, lions, tigers, and other wild animals are running loose near the tracks.  A dozen clowns are trapped inside their little car.  Efforts are being made to locate the circus’s Vice President of Clowns, who has the only key.

* Police have ordered your Management to evacuate the building.  It is unknown how long the chaos will continue.

What do you do?

Part 2
* The fire is fought throughout the afternoon, and is brought under control; however there is a sizable cloud of what appears to be chlorine gas surrounding the site.

* The evacuated area is expected to remain sealed off for a day or two, as giant “Hollywood” wind machines are brought in to disperse the cloud. 

* Gorillas have broken free, climbed to the tops of nearby buildings (including yours), and are swatting at news helicopters.  Bi-planes from nearby air-show are coming to help.  The clowns are still stuck, but are living on a stash of cream pies.

What do you do?

Part 3
* On the 3rd day, the fire has been put out, and the gas cloud dispersed.  The tracks remain closed, but the evacuation orders are canceled.

*The animals have been rounded up and trucked on to the next big-top event.  The VP of Clowns has been contacted and the key obtained, but the clowns didn’t make it.  No one is too broken up about it.

*At 3:30 pm, Management emerges from their bunker and contacts you with the all-clear message.

* Your facilities will be reopened within the hour, although a number of large, long limbed chalk outlines will need to be hosed off from the sidewalk in front of your building.

What do you do to restore your business?

It’s a wonder I still have a job.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Calendar Boy

One of the best things that Pinky has brought to my life is that we go out for walks in very interesting places… places that are all full of nature and stuff.  I began taking my camera, as a lark, and found that I could get some really nice pictures out of it.

Three years ago, I started loading my shots on Flickr.  While there, I noticed that you could get calendars made out of your shots.  I made a calendar for 2008 and it came out pretty well, even though I had already reduced the file size of the pictures.  From then on, I started saving a file of “master shots,” that remained full size in case I wanted to use them for calendars of enlargements.  I've done a calendar every year since.

Anyway, I just put together my calendar for 2011 and this time I saw that they have an option to offer your calendar for sale to the public.

I figured, what the hell?  Why keep my calendars from a public that’s clamoring for my work.  (snork!)

OK, that’s not true, but still, it’s out there.  I don’t expect anything out of it, but I figured I’d at least call it to your attention.  Below, you can look at the pictures, go “ooh, pretty,” and then go on about your day.  And should you be so moved, there’s a link on the right where you can click to buy one for yourself or a loved (or hated) one.

The important thing is that I get a quick post out of it that I can get down fast and then go watch the Penguins game.

Icicles: Off my back patio, during February's Snowmagheddon.

Ice Butterfly: From just to the right of the icicles in the previous picture.

Twigs and Sky: From last month's walk around Loch Raven, in Baltimore County.

Courthouse Dogwood: This is a dogwood tree in spring bloom.  I walk by it every morning on the way from the subway stop, to my office building.  For years I swore I was going to bring a camera and snap a pic on a sunny morning.  I finally did this year.

Varigated Tulips: There's a place called Sherwood Gardens in Baltimore City.  It's a small grassy area and the people in the neighborhood plant an unbelievable amount of gorgeous flowers there each spring.

PPG Flowers: This is a clump of flowers in the PPG Plaza courtyard, downtown Pittsburgh.  I got the shot when I was in town for Podcamp.

Falls Road Stream: Another nature walk along a trail beside Falls Road, in Baltimore.  You'd never think a place like this would be found within Baltimore City.  They don't show places like this on The Wire.

Amelia Island Sunset: From the family trip to Amelia Island this summer, for my parents' 50th Anniversary Jamboree and Hootenanny.

Loch Raven from Top of Dam: Just like the title says.

Hey That One's Crooked: A stand of trees opposite Loch Raven.

Water's Edge: Leaves gathered on the edge of Loch Raven.  I love doing water shots.

Abstract Lights: Pittsburgh at night, from the Smithsfield Street Bridge.  This is one where having the crappy night-focusing ability pays off with a pretty abstract shot.  I know it's not exactly "nature" but at least it's "outside."

Note, the calendar cover, as seen on the order button, is also from Loch Raven.

Now, “Let’s Go Pens!”

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bedside Manor

Do you have a side of the bed?  Can you absolutely not sleep on the “other” side or else you’ll toss all night?

That’s me.  I have to be on the right side of the bed (from the point of view of being in the bed.)  Even during the (many) years I was sleeping alone, I still stayed mostly to the right side, although I admit I’ve gravitated toward the middle as of the last 10 years.

I suppose it started when I got my first double bed. 

I used to have to share a room with my brother.  My entire childhood, we had twin beds on opposite sides of a room (aka my side and the slobby side).  When we finally moved into the farmhouse outside Toledo, we had an extra room that my folks wanted to keep as a guest room.  Eventually I persuaded them to let me have the room, on the condition that when we had guests, I had to hit the couch.  It was a good deal… we rarely had stay-over company.

Anyway, my bed was positioned such that it was right beside my desk.  That’s where I put my hanky, or drink, or whatever else I might need at night.  So I got used to gravitating toward that side.  It stuck.

So now I have all my stuff on the end table beside my bed… my alarm clock, box of Kleenex, and always a glass of water.  Every single night, I draw a glass of water for my bedside.  I only ever drink from it maybe once a month, but on that one night, it’s totally worth not having to get out of bed to wipe out a wicked case of dry-mouth.

It’s only been a matter of luck that every girl with whom I’ve shared a bed from then on either preferred the left side, or didn’t care.  I used to worry about what would happen if I ever encountered a potential mate that wanted “my” side.  I’m sure some top-level negotiations would have had to take place.

Not that it matters, ultimately.  Whichever side I’m on, I know I’m only getting about 2 feet of it.

OK, Pinky’s generally not that bad.  But it’s funny.  Sometimes when we stay at a hotel that has a king-size bed, well, you’d think that with all that extra room, I’d have room for my elbows at my sides.  But no.  She will chase me across the bed, in slow motion throughout the night, until I’m cornered at the edge and hanging on for dear life.

I guess I should just be thankful it’s only Pinky that I have to worry about and not a steady stream of cats and kids and dogs.

Now that I think of it, my dad was always on the right side of the bed and mom was on the left.  I know this, not because I used to crawl in, God forbid, we kids NEVER dared try that.  I know because I used to bring them coffee on the weekends.  Yes, really.

Mom taught me how to make coffee when I was in 3rd or 4th grade.  This was pre-Mr. Coffee days too.  Big metal pot, metal basket inside, filling up the pot to the correct level… it was a big responsibility.  Every weekend morning I’d get up, make coffee and around 9:00 I’d pour one black and one with milk and tiptoe up the stairs and into their room. 

What can I say, besides the words “perfect child?”

Then I’d run down and pour myself a cup, then run back up and we’d all have our morning coffee together.  (Calm down… it was only half coffee, half milk, two spoons of sugar.  As I got older, I changed the proportions accordingly.)  I kept up this routine until I was a sophomore in high school, at which time I discovered that it was much more fulfilling to sleep until 11:00.

OK, where was I?  Oh yeah, Dad was always on the right side.  Maybe that subconsciously rubbed off.  But, I think it’s more like the early conditioning of having a shelf on that side.  Who knows?

So do you have a side?  Have you ever had to sleep on the off side?  How did that go?  And are you the bed hog, or the one clinging to the edge?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Don Me Now My Game Apparel

Fa la la, brothers and sisters.

This will be a short one.  For a full-service weekend post, please see the one immediately preceding this one.

The Mojo Boogie
Today’s Steelers game is at home, versus the Bengals.  In going through my Mojo Tracking Spreadsheet, (yes, really), I noticed that we’ve only won one game where the Steelers played at home and I watched from home.  That was the first game of the year and I was wearing lightweight stuff, including shorts. 

I will not be wearing shorts or anything lightweight today, so I have to go from scratch.

The Steelers won their last two “away” games while I wore my white Troy Polamalu jersey, so I figure I’ll break out the black Troy jersey today.  I’ll wear the same black flannel Steelers sweatpants that I wore for the Ratbirds win last week.  Under the jersey, I’ll have my white “throwback” style long sleeved tee, with a gold Steelers tee under that.

Yes, we keep it on the crisp side, here at the bluz-cave.

That’s my game-time decision and we’ll see how it goes.

Now, just to make it worth your while in stopping by, let me show you this video that my dad brought to my attention.

It really pays off to pay attention to direction, especially when you are live on TV.

Makes me want to move to San Diego immediately.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Odd Bits - The Inbox Edition

Before I get into some more goofy shit I found in my inbox this week, I have to address this little news item that surfaced this week, right here in old Charm City.  Well, technically, it surfaced at the baseball winter meetings in Florida.

Baltimore Orioles outfielder, Luke Scott shot his mouth off to Yahoo Sports, saying that he didn’t believe President Obama was born here: “He was not born here. ... That's my belief. I was born here. If someone accuses me of not being born here, I can go — within 10 minutes — to my filing cabinet and I can pick up my real birth certificate and I can go, "See? Look! Here it is. Here it is." The man has dodged everything. He dodges questions; he doesn't answer anything. And why? Because he's hiding something.”  You can find the complete spiel here.

When the inevitable shitstorm hit the fan, Scott had the following comment: “We all have the right of freedom of speech under the First Amendment.  We all don’t have to agree with on another on our opinions.  Everyone in my circle, that I run around with, we all feel the same about God, country, integrity and character.”

I just love how the response goes directly to his right to free speech, which, of course, was never in question.  What he actually said, was.  And then, there’s the smoke-screened sprint right to God, country, integrity and character.  When in doubt, play the patriotism card.  Gee, that’s a new one.  (Where’s that “sarcasm font” when you need it?)

I don’t really care if the guy is conservative, or that he disagrees with the president’s policies, or if he’s a living, breathing, hunting and fishing incarnation of Ted Nugent.  I’d still root for him.  Opinions are one thing… willfully ignoring readily available, incontrovertible facts is something else.

Luke Scott is a decent enough ball player to be voted MVP on an atrocious Orioles team.  And I like our plucky Orioles, but I don’t see how I can cheer for a guy that is incapable of a 5-minute Google search.  I think this goes right to my post from last July about the study that showed that being presented with opposing facts actually hardens one’s opinions rather than causing changes to them.  I guess it’s just easier to believe whatever Fox “News” says.

Oh wait; they don’t actually state such things as facts, do they?  They just “ask questions.”  (More sarcasm font.) 

I have a question for Luke Scott:
“Wanna get away?”

Ratbird Insurrection: Busted
Remember the post from two Fridays ago, about our workplace Steelers support group’s show of strength in the lunch room?  Remember how I mentioned that the HR boss took down the picture of the hanging (toy) raven from the bulletin board? 

Nothing came of it, immediately.  I thought she would have spoken with our resident Big Dog at the table, but as of the next day, she hadn’t.  I figured everything was cool.  Then Thursday, an email was sent out to everyone in the building.  Uh oh.  This was the gist of it:

Recently, an inappropriate picture involving the mascot for the Baltimore Ravens football team was posted on a bulletin board near the cafeteria.  We strive to keep our work environment pleasant and you are expected to exercise good judgment to assist with this.  Part of this is ensuring that flyers, posters and other information posted anywhere on the company’s property does not have inappropriate, distasteful, or offensive content.”

So busted.  We’re sorry; we never meant any harm.  And we certainly never meant to bring up any memories of persecution, other than in the strictest football sense.

What was funny was that as soon as the email hit, my surrounding cube-mates (and several others via email) all wanted to know the same thing: “All right, Bluz, what did you do?

I swear; I really had nothing to do with it.  I didn’t circulate the picture, nor did I tack it up.  The mere fact that I knew who did does NOT incriminate me!  Nor does the fact that I laughed at the posting.

Ultimately, I think it’s just kind of silly.  This could have been handled in a single conversation, rather than an email that draws in the whole building.  Such is life in the “home office” environment.

Favorite Email of the Week
This picture says it all:
Meat: the true meaning of Christmas!

The only down side for me is that I don’t know what that is on the bottom.  Slaw?  Hate it.  Sauerkraut?  Hate it.  I’m just going to pretend it’s shredded cheese.

My parents sent Pinky and I a case of Omaha Steaks for Christmas.  We love it!  Meat is the perfect gift:  It’s always the right color, it always fits and it’s packed with protein.

Unfortunately, Omaha Steaks does not offer the Meat Manger.  But there’s always next year.

I love these!  I’ve loved them ever since they first followed those smarmy “inspirational” framed pictures found in offices across the country.  My all time favorite is the one where there’s a close up shot of a sleeve of French fries.  The caption simply said, “Not everyone gets to be a astronaut.”

These are just a few of the ones from the email that cracked me right the hell up.

So that’s how Jeff Reed always knew who to seek out.

One can only imagine the circumstances involved regarding this shot.

Apparently, this cat has just seen the previous picture.

Alternate caption:  This is what happens when you cross a tampon with Mexican Jumping Beans.

My favorite of the lot, and another where it kills me that I didn't think of that first.

I’ll check in tomorrow with game day Mojo.  Have a great weekend!