Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year in Bluz - 2011

I almost didn't do a year-in-review this year.  As I’ve been reading all my favorite blogs, it seems like everyone is doing one.  But then I figured, “hell, I did one last year; I’ve got a stake in the ground.  So why not?”

Also, I would otherwise have to come up with something fresh, which this week’s life of sloth has prevented from even considering.

I felt really good about my work here this year, but it’s odd because I’ve actually posted less.  In 2010 I had 201 posts.  This will be my 164th of the year, so unless I post another 37 between now and midnight, I’m not going to make that level.  Maybe I can do a separate post for each paragraph.  (Naah, too much work.)

Anyway, the reason for the decline in posting is that I finally figured out a workable schedule.  This year I’ve pretty much stuck to posting on Tuesdays and Thursdays, plus one over the weekend.  Three posts a week times 52 weeks caps off at 156.  I can live with that.

 So lets see what I’ve been yapping about all year…

January
Shortly after writing about Pinky’s and my New Year’s Eve adventures in downtown Baltimore, I wrote about my life-long experiences with the dental profession, from breaking my teeth at 17 to getting a bunch of permanent caps at 47.  I told the story about how in 1996, I was thiiiiiiis close to filming a porno movie.  On the occasion of my catching a cold, I wrote this ode to Kleenex, which I had been deprived of during my childhood.  I so love to tell old stories, so when I trotted out the one about how my Dad conned his friends into thinking he was some kind of math genius, it went over so well I told a whole series of stories about the goofy shit my dad used to do.  The end of January also meant the Pittsburgh Steelers were deep in a playoff run.  Here’s how I tortured my office mates when the Steelers beat the hometown Ratbirds.  I warmed up for the AFC Championship game here, and celebrated the Steelers making it to their 8th Super Bowl, here.

February
SBXLV was pretty much all I could think about in early February, as shown in this post full of Steelers tidbits and photoshops, and this one where I complain about how long it was taking for the Big Game to get here.  Obviously, the game didn’t work out the way I wanted, so I found closure by enacting Operation Comfort Food, where I dissected the game, the coverage and the commercials.  Then I washed the legendary Steelers Socks.  The bulk of February was taken up by my time on Jury Duty, where I was Alternate Juror #3.  It was a sad case of child abuse.  I only wish I got to deliver this opinion to my fellow jurors.  Later in the month, I told some stories about things that went Bump in the night, and pled with the citizens of Maryland to finally get this gay marriage thing right.

March
I started March off by getting good and pissed off at some idiot’s letter in the paper condemning the idea gay marriage so I fired off a scathing rebuttal.  It ran online but never made the print paper.  This was a good month for storytelling, so I started off with some stories about my Grandpa, about his amazing garden, and how he left my dad to stay the night in jail, when he was a kid.  What started out as a story about my first apartment turned into some other lurid tales to heat up a cold month.  First there was the time I almost found myself in a 3-way, then how I ended up in some hot monkey-lovin’ with my roommate, culminating with the stories of how we carried out some additional hot monkey lovin’ all over town that summer.  To end the month, I posted about my all-time favorite rock singer, what I’d do if I hit a mega-millions jackpot, and a photo-illustrated documentation of my friend Sitcom Kelly, stalking her favorite Pittsburgh Penguins, live and in person.

April
April showers usually bring May flowers, but this time it brought out a post about the glory of Rain-X, complete with my own video accompaniment.  I didn’t do a lot of political posts this year, but when I did, I felt that they were pretty forceful; none more so than this one taking on those politicians that purposefully misrepresent common facts (aka “lying) to smear organizations like Planned Parenthood.  On a much lighter note, I had fun with some vanity license plates, which led to a hugely embarrassing email FAIL with my Blog Sister Cassie.  At the end of the month I began a 3-part series that told the story of Whatsername, I girl I dated in my mid-20s that kept breaking up with me and calling me back.  It was cool… there was a happy ending after all... it just took 27 years to get there.

May
May was dominated by medical stories.  First there was the torn rotator cuff in my shoulder and then a post about the weird-ass case of hives I’ve had for the last 10 years.  From there was a 2-part story about the heart surgeries I’ve undergone.  Trust me, heart surgery has never been this funny.  Highlight of the month was my Guys Trip to Pittsburgh with my buddy Rik and his son, to see a couple of Pirates games.  Then the very next week we held the Darwinfish Fry 2 (Bag’o Fish) at the Carpetbagger residence in Lawrenceville PA.  Meeting up for the 2nd time were the Cherlocks, Cassie, Mr and Mrs Carpetbagger, and Hot Mama & CC from Bitchburgh.  First time attendees were the Red Pen Mama and Angie from Ranting in Pittsburgh.  Also, my parents showed up!  Good times!  

June
That same weekend, my cousin got married.  This post goes from the story of what happens when a 4-year old girl decides that you’re fascinating right up to the point that she gets married.  I did 2 tributes to lifelong favorites this month… to the best rock and roll party band ever, and the greatest right fielder of all time.  In other news, I got half of my Darwinfish plaque ripped off my car in a WalMart parking lot, apparently because the best way to demonstrate your piousness and faith is to destroy someone else’s property.  In sports, I prepared an in-depth compare and contrast between Pittsburgh’s PNC Park and Baltimore’s Camden Yards.  Now, I’m not saying that my screed against the Orioles putting up statues of their players numbers did anything, but they did announce that this year they will be putting up statues of the players themselves.  More on that when the time comes.  You’re welcome.

July
Early on I posted my reaction to the Casey Anthony verdict and the national hysteria that occurs when everyone in the country thinks they’re experts on the judiciary because they watch Law and Order.  To erase that ugly taste, I followed it up with a post about those songs that you love in the very first seconds that you hear them.  Perhaps my favorite post of the year was this one, reading as a letter to my 16-year old “niece,” (best friend’s daughter) offering heartfelt advice on how to be as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.  In politics, I offered my take on the debt-ceiling fiasco and the Republicans’ negotiating strategy: “You scratch my back and I get my back scratched.” (Steven Colbert)

August
August was dominated by my vacation trip back to my NW Ohio roots, where we held a Jamboree and Hootenanny to celebrate my buddies and I all turning 50 this year.  I also got to see a Toledo Mudhens game with blog friend Sherry,  revisit the best college pizza joint ever, and drive by the place where the Bow-Chicka-Wow-Wow story took place.  Yet another yutz (this time, a Virgina state assemblyman) took to the newspaper to condemn any change to Maryland’s marriage laws so I once again took up for the other side.  This time, I didn’t even make the online edition.  I think they’re getting tired of me.  In a pair of drippy, sappy stories, I told of the circumstances surrounding how I lost my virginity, and the saga of the college girlfriend that did me that favor.  To close out the month, I created a video of me, telling my favorite joke.

September
I had a rough opening week, so I posted about how an earthquake and a hurricane conspired to make me re-injure my shoulder, undoing 3 months of physical therapy.  Because I could still lift a tablet with my left hand, I did a post excerpting some of the crazy shit I wrote in my old journals (from my roaring 20s).  Going back to that era whetted my appetite to write about my long-ago history with strip clubs, from first discovering them in Cleveland, to what I’d learned about strip club culture, to the time I actually dated a stripper, to closing out my strip clubbing days.

October
Right out of the gate, I turned 50.  Yahoo.  So this was the rundown of my birthday activities.  I then told the story about my dad’s surprise 50th birthday party, not being able to believe that I am now the same age that he was when we pulled that off.  I posted about my first and only experience with hunting.  Bring a tissue for this one.  My post, “Marching on Whitehouse” had nothing to do with the Occupy movement… only my high school marching band, from Whitehouse OH.  Damn, they were good and the video proves it.  Just when you thought my friend Sitcom Kelly was nothing but a wine-drinking Penguin stalker, she goes and becomes an incredible Foster Mother for a special little girl.  Then moving back to stories of drunkenness and degradation, I wrote about this trip I took to NYC and a very special bar.     

November
Lots of good stories in November… There was the time I made that Super-8 slasher movie for film class, my thoughts on hot female teachers sleeping with their male students, and my own Mrs. Robinson experience.  I mourned the loss of Smokin’ Joe Frazier, wrote some guidelines spelling out how you know if you’re being treated right, and told the story about how sometimes you have to keep your big yap shut.  I wound up the month by telling the horrifying story of being humiliated in church.

December
Seriously, just scroll down.  The shit’s still fresh.

In Conclusion
We have big plans for New Year’s Eve tonight.  Pinky and I have a reservation at a nice waterfront hotel by the Inner Harbor.  We’ll dress up, have a nice meal and enjoy some fireworks.  (You can take that however you wish.)  I’ll have a post about it up on Monday, if anything blog-worthy happens.

Until then, let me thank you for spending 2011 with me.  I can never fully express how much I appreciate the gift of your attention.  Whether you agree with me or not, (and seriously, how could you not?), I’m thankful that you visit and am especially thankful when you leave me your thoughts.  For that, I am truly blessed.

If we have actually met, trust me when I say that I treasure the day that it happened and anxiously await the next time we can get together.

If we have only corresponded, via this blog or Facebook, I look forward to the day that we can meet face to face.

May 2012 bring you good health, happiness and good times.  Happy New Year, my friend. 

Downtown Baltimore, New Year’s Eve, 2007.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Calendar Boy 2012

Yesterday, I my 2012 calendars were delivered.  As I wrote about last year in “Calendar Boy,” I’ve been using my nature photography to make wall calendars since 2008.  I got a late start this year, but luckily they were delivered before my parents left town, so I could hand deliver one.  Geez, I should probably start signing them, shouldn’t I?

I was really looking forward to doing this year’s version because A) I got a new camera late last year and B) I received some great photoshopping advice from Jessica R and Katie Ett after my last calendar post.  Over the course of the year, I put their tips into practice so that this year’s calendar would really ‘pop.’  This time, I considered adding captions to the shots, either through photoshop or with the calendar-making tool, to describe or at least name the shots.  I decided against it because I thought it would distract from the overall presentation of the picture.  All in all, I am quite happy with the finished product.  So let’s take a look… 

Note: Keep in mind that you may have seen some of these before, because I posted them right after shooting.

Cover
The cover is always tough for me because it has to be a good shot, but it doesn’t make sense to use one of my best, because it practically never gets seen.  The cover ends up being my 13th best shot of the year.  In this case, it’s the fading-light shot I got after I raced across town to get to the park before sunset and only had about 10 minutes in which to shoot.

January
You’ve seen this one too… a close-up of the water beading on the roof of my car, after a fresh waxing.

February
A look over the top of the dam on Lake Roland in Robert E. Lee Park, Baltimore.  There’s actually about a 30-foot drop-off there, between the smooth part at the bottom of the shot, and the splashing below.  (BTW: Heads up!  We have a Leap Year this year.)

March
Tulips from Sherwood Gardens, Baltimore.  Every year they have an incredible array of tulips and daffodils blossoming.

April
A single tulip from Sherwood Gardens.  I think this shot is from last year, though.

May
More tulips from Sherwood Gardens, this time in front of an incredible flowering bush.

June
This is the outflow creek just down from the dam at RE Lee Park.

July
This is from a couple years back… a beach ramp at a park in Pensacola, Florida, that Pinky and I visited with my folks.

August
This is a tree-lined dirt road out at one of Pinky’s friends’ house, about an hour west of Baltimore.  I thought it looked spooky, yet inviting… the light at the end of the tunnel.

September
Fall on Roland Lake, in all its glory.  This was the kind of shot I wanted to get when I tried to outrace the sunlight a week earlier (which resulted in the cover shot).

October
This is my favorite of the lot.  I shot it on the same trip to RE Lee Park as the previous shot.  The water was choppy all over the lake, except for this one spot up close to shore.  I found this nice reflection under a stand of trees.  The yellow streak at the top is reflected sun (not an oil slick) and wasn't nearly as pronounced until I upped the saturation with Photoshop.  I LOVE reflection shots.

November
Also from the same RE Lee Park excursion.

December
I got this shot in the last minute of sunlight before they closed the park.  I had other shots of the fading sun but when the jet flew by, I thought I’d try to get one with the contrail.  Upping the saturation really brought out the light through the trees.

And that’s it… another year in pictures.  Again, should you decide that you don’t have enough overpriced calendars in your house, ($16.19) these are available for sale through Qoop.  You can click the pic below, and I’ll also have a link up on the right side until the end of February.


Supplies Aren’t Limited in Any Way, so Take Your Time!  But Not Too Much Time or Else You Won’t Get Your Money’s Worth!!

OK, so maybe I wasn’t meant to write ad copy…

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Yule Blog

Here we are… Christmas Eve… the lull before tomorrow’s frenzy.  Not a creature is stirring, let alone reading any blogs. 

We just got home from Pinky’s brother’s house, where her family exchanged gifts.  One of her brothers received an assortment of candy dispensers, all shaped like the Lord of the Rings characters.  Know what I said?

“YOU SHALL NOT PEZ!!!”

It killed.

My parents came into town this evening and are at my brother’s place, which is where we’ll be going tomorrow for Christmas.  There will be good food, good booze, good boys and much merry-making.  I’m looking forward to it.

So now, let me take the opportunity to wish you and your family a happy Christmas, and thank you for stopping by, not only now but all throughout the previous year.  Your coming here means more to me than you can ever know. 

As my gift to you, may I present my favorite Christmas carol of all time (which is totally NSFW).


(Yeah, I know I posted it in 2009… so I re-gifted…)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Where Do You Stand?

I StumbledUpon another interesting site, today, where you can take and 11-question survey and it will identify where you fall on the political grid, marked with the following labels and traits:
Liberal/Conservative
Libertarian/Authoritarian
Centrist
More Personal Freedom/More Social Control
More Property Rights/More Economic Regulation

I’m always up for using hard data to determine your own personal “brand” so I was up for taking the survey.

Right off, I was concerned about the weighting, because there were a couple of issues where I was kind of “meh” about them and would hate for that to affect my results more that the issues about which I really cared.  Turned out that there was a final grid where you weight the importance of each issue to you, so my worries were abated a bit.

When it comes right down to it, your values are the biggest indicator of them all.  I don’t know anyone that sucks up every single tenet of their chosen political party.  There’s usually something in the party platform where people either don’t agree or just don’t care that much about.  And then there are the issues that drive who we are and what we think.  The party or philosophy that agrees with you there will be the ones with whom you identify long term.

I was also leery about the limited number of questions.  While only having to answer 11 of them does speed things along, there were some areas that went unaddressed.  For example, there was no mention of reproductive freedoms... birth control, Plan B, stem cell research, freedom of choice, etc.  The closest issue to that was more along the lines of what may be done in the bedroom and with whom, which is fine, but not really the same issue.  (As I’m sure you can tell; I came down squarely in the “Do whatever you want and it’s no one’s goddamn business” category.)

The last time I took anything resembling a test like this, I was in 10th grade US Government class, (circa 1977), where the teacher gave us a test that would similarly determine our political associations and link us to the sitting congressman to whom we were the most closely aligned.

I ended up scoring as the most liberal kid in the class and was assigned Rep. Morris Udall of AZ.  (I presume that Judie, the Hot Arizona Auntie would approve.) 

So how did I turn out 30-some years later?

That’s me, the Social Liberal, although first thing in the morning, before I’ve had my Diet Coke, I could be considered the Anti-Social Liberal.

Looks like I moved at least a little bit toward the center, but I think that comes with learning more about the big picture.  I’d probably be an even bigger Centrist, except that the Right has moved so much further to the right it’s almost off the chart.  Today the Right would consider someone emulating President Reagan a Liberal if he followed Reagan’s actual steps (as opposed to his rhetoric or the mythology that’s sprouted up around him).

I definitely trend toward Personal Freedom, but only insofar that the rich and powerful don’t trample on the less so, just because they can.  I think that people should be able to basically do as they please, but only as long as it doesn’t adversely affect anyone else.

A perfect example is how there are some that are trying to liken cell and texting laws with seatbelt or motorcycle helmet laws.  The difference is the effect on others.  While I may support your right to have your hair fly in the breeze on a bike, it’s going to be your melon they’re mopping up off the road after you wreck.  But if you’re texting or yapping on your cell phone, you’re endangering me and everyone else on the road when you can’t stop in time, or drift into another lane of traffic.

It’s the same with the fight against the upcoming health care reform laws.  The Teabaggers are flipping out because they’re forced to buy health insurance.  The way I look at it is that we’re already forced to buy car insurance and nobody says “boo.”  You drive the car, you buy the insurance.

They try to say, “But buying a car is optional.  Everyone would have to buy health insurance.”

To this, I say, “Exactly, because everybody can get sick or injured.”  I understand you don’t like being told what to do.  But how is the answer to “preventing the tyranny of Big Government,” “making everyone else pay for your medical bills?”  Doesn’t that go against your position if favor of self-reliance?  Or is that just for everyone else, once you’ve gotten ‘yours?’

Anyway, so I’m a Social Liberal.  Now you take the survey and tell us where you land.

Note: In case you missed it, please be sure to check out my post from 12/18, which features an audio clip of my Dad telling a hilarious, true story about a wild train trip with his buddy, The Lob.  Totally worth it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Odd Bits - The Ronery Edition

What was your reaction when you first heard that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il died?  If you’re like me, or anyone else in the world that has ever seen “Team America – World Police,” you immediately started the song “I’m So Ronery” running through your head.
“I’m so ronery, so ronery, so ronery and sadry arone…”

I certainly wasn’t the only one… Twitter blew up with the Team America references as well.  The only one, it seems, who didn’t chime in was Hans Brix… I mean, Hans Blix, but last I saw, he was indisposed.
“You’re breakin’ mah barrs, Hans, you’re breakin’ mah barrs.”

Even Entertainment Weekly ran a post listing the favorite Kim Jong-Il pop culture references, including those from Team America, Mad-TV and 30 Rock.

Director’s DVD Commentary: If you’re unfamiliar with Team America, it’s an ‘action movie’ spoof by the guys that make South Park, only it’s done completely with marionettes.  It is pants-peeing funny.  It makes fun of the “Destroy Everything in Your Path War Hawks” as well as the “Mush-Headed, Weenie Liberals” that oppose them.  You can get a taste of it by clicking the link above, which has a video with all the good Kim Jong-Il scenes, but be warned that it’s completely Unsafe for Work.  The video below, however, is safe.

No one knows what’s going to become of North Korea now, under the leadership of Il’s youngest son, Kim Jong-Un.  He hasn’t had much of a track record in his own right, although unlike every ordinary North Korean, you can see by his dough-faced visage that he hasn’t missed any meals.

My guess is that one of the top generals will toss the pampered prince into a dungeon and install himself as the new Imperial Leader.  Business will continue as usual.

And Kim Jong-Il will no longer be “ronery” as he joins the Pantheon of Evil Dictators, in hell.

Run Away!  Run Away!
In the last two months, I’ve received email from 2 different progressive organizations, asking me to run for office.  They came from MoveOn.org and People for the American Way.  

Now, I don’t have any illusions that they singled me out in particular; they were just mass emailings to their members.  I find the idea interesting, but there is zero chance of my ever doing anything like that.  It would seriously cut into my blogging and TV-watching time.

The only way I could ever run for any kind of office would be as kind of a prank.  My goal would be to run the most memorable, vulgar and off-the-wall campaign in recent memory.  I would need it to be completely funded independently, (Hey, maybe that’s something else I could do with any prospective Powerball winnings!) so I could forget about fund raising focus on making speeches and participating in debates. 

While that may sound traditional, I’d really be looking at those appearances as more stand-up comedy than asking for votes.  First, I’d find an office to run for where I’d be up against some uptight, sanctimonious, evangelical Family Values candidate.  Picture Rick Santorum.  On the campaign trail, I’d swear like a sailor.  I’d call my opponent a lying sack of shit.  You know how politicians try not to say their opponent’s name?  I’d do that, but I’d only refer to him as That Asshole. 

I’d wear Hawaiian shirts and sandals.  My commercials would be utterly ridiculous.  I’d tell people that if they call my campaign headquarters, I’d personally deliver them a pizza.  (Naturally I’d list my opponent’s office phone number.)

Perhaps, through the comedy, I’d throw a couple of valid points in there, just to confuse everyone.  People would show up to the rallies just to see what this idiot is going to say next.

As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that this sounds a lot like the shit we used to do in college.  The group I hung out with in our “Commuter Center” had applied for a Fraternity charter, for no other reason than to screw with the Greeks from inside the system.  They realized the best way to mock the frat guys (aka ‘white, anglo-saxon, protestant, alcoholic business majors’) and sorority girls (aka ‘sluts’) was to join them and subvert all the stupid traditions they held dear.  My campaign would essentially do the same thing to the election process.

Yeah, it all sounds like fun on paper, but I have to keep in mind that the hockey season is a long one.  If the Penguins make the playoffs, I won’t be able to concentrate on the issues of the day.  I could just see one of my speeches:

And I promise, if you elect me instead of That Asshole, I will go in there and [reacting to the game feed in my earpiece] WOOOOOOOOO HOOO! Sid just scored!  Fuck yeah!  Take that, you Philly goons!   Um…where was I again?

The only way I could ever deal with public office is if I had absolute rule.  I don’t have the patience to deal with people that aren’t smart enough to agree with me.  The heck with this “Council” stuff and that “Congress” crap.  I know what’s best for everybody.

Hey, wait… now that I think about it, I might just be a closeted Republican.

The Mojo Boogie
Last night’s Steelers game against the 49ers was not kind to me, although it was not a surprise.  While I may have gotten killed with my weekly picks, I did get this one right in picking the Niners.  The Steelers don’t play well in San Francisco, as far as I’ve seen. 

My family and I have been out there twice since 1999 when the Steelers played them and they lost both times.  One time it was during a torrential downpour.  I was so soaked that even the money in my wallet, in my pocket, was wet.  Not a fun time.

I certainly made the right call in taking today off.  As if it wasn’t bad enough that the MNF games run late, they had 2 power outages at the stadium that resulted in 36 minutes worth of delays.  It certainly helped to be able to sleep until 9:30 this morning.

For my game gear, I consulted some prior games.  I found that in the prior Sunday Night games this year when the Steelers were visiting, and the Monday Night game last year, I’d worn my white Polamalu jersey and they won, so that’s what I went with last night.  I probably should have changed up on the pants.
#43 Troy Polamalu jersey, throwback long-sleeved tee, flannel Steelers jammie pants and Steelers socks.

Back to the drawing board.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Legend of The Ratt-ler

This is a post that is going to serve twin purposes.  I like to multi-task that way.

First of all, remember my post from a couple weeks ago that featured the famed “bahjhonk” warmer/Christmas ornament, given to my dad from his friend The Lob?  

It reminded me of some of the goofy stories that my dad has about his buddy and their escapades together.  I vowed to myself that I’d tell some of them, but first I was going to need a refresher course.  Most of that shit happened so long ago that I’m fuzzy on the details.  I had one particular story in mind, but rather than ask Dad to go over it again, I’d rather surprise him when he sees the story here.  Then I realized that I had another alternative.

Here’s where the second purpose comes in.

Back in the early 90’s my mom got a couple of mysterious cassette tapes from her brother.  The note was cryptic, something along the lines of “Just put it in and press ‘play.’”

The tapes turned out to be recordings he transferred from reel-to-reel, of his and Mom’s family around the dining room table after dinner.  There always seemed to be a whole lot of people over for dinner whenever we visited… if it wasn’t the rest of the family, it was assorted friends and cronies.  My Grandpa, (the storyteller) would often get out his guitar and everyone would sing; usually standards or old Italian songs.  He also had a reel-to-reel tape recorder so sometimes they recorded their shenanigans.

My Uncle Joe had gotten his hands on some of these tapes and dubbed them off onto cassettes.  So while I was visiting my folks over one Christmas, I put on some headphones and listened to the tapes.

I swear it was like a sock in the gut.  It was a real-life time capsule.  Instantly I was transported to the days of my childhood, sitting around the table, guarding my ice cream (which Grandpa loved to steal by the spoonful) and listening to the music.  Just hearing my Grandpa’s voice again, after he’d passed about 15 years earlier, packed an emotional wallop. 

And the songs… I recognized every one of them, even though they were in Italian.  At one point, I could hear little Bluztoddler asking for a sip of someone’s coffee.  And there was my Grandma, asking them to “sing a happy song.”

Not to long after that experience, Uncle Joe decided to interview his father’s remaining siblings, Aunt Stella and Uncle Ants.  (Last year I wrote about Uncle Ants’ storytelling in the post about my wedding day snafu.)  He asked them questions about their family, their upbringing and about their brother.  He was able to get some of Uncle’s best and most hilarious stories on tape.

With these two experiences fresh in my mind, I decided that I wanted to do the same thing with my parents.  I wanted to get their real, live voices on tape, discussing our family stories.  I knew that one day, far in the future, I’d want to be able to hear their voices again.  And at the time I figured it would be valuable to any future kids I might have, as well. 

No dice on that angle, but one day I’m sure my nephews will appreciate it, especially the stories about their daddy.

So in March of 1992, we sat down to record our stories.  This was before I met Future-Ex… I believe they came to visit me in my apartment in Schenectady.  I remember hanging a hand-mic from the chandelier over my dining room table, so that it could pick us all up.  I had a list of questions and issues I wanted to discuss, and some favorite stories I wanted told.

One of those stories is the reason I’m bringing this whole thing up.  I wanted Dad to tell the famous story of the time he and The Lob took a train trip from Toledo to Worcester Mass.  The Lob hated to fly, so he would take the train whenever he could.

First, I was going to listen to the tape, just to brush up on the details.  But as I was listening, it dawned on me that I needn’t write the story at all.  I have that fancy-ass turntable/CD player/tape player thing that hooks up to my computer.  So why not pull off the Lob story and let Dad tell it to you himself?  Plus, I figured that it would take much less work for me to do the post than if I wrote the whole thing out.

Of course it didn’t quite work out that way.  By the time I found the clip on the cassette, recorded it to the PC, edited out the superfluous stuff and trimmed it for time, laid it into Movie Maker, added title cards and uploaded it, I could have written the story and been watching football for a half hour already.

But then that would have deprived you of all this deep meaning and insight.

Long story short, if you have loved ones that are still around, you should take every advantage you can with their presence and get some stuff on tape (or digital) whether it’s audio, video, or shadow puppets.  I guarantee that one day you will be glad you did.  I sure am.

Funny thing: perspective.  In 1992, Mom and Dad were only 4 years older than I am right now, with their 31-year old son interviewing them.  I don’t know whether to feel foolish that I thought they were old back then, or to feel very, very old right now.

And with that, I now present to you, The Legend of the Ratt-ler. (4:40 and completely safe for work.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Stumbling Upon Goofy Shit

Last week, for no apparent reason, I saw the hits via my StatCounter explode.  Well, there was actually a reason.  Somehow, I started getting all these hits referred from StumbleUpon. 

Not knowing much about it or what it does, I asked Cher, renowned knower of such things from AskCherlock, what the deal was.  Cher explained that StumbleUpon is a service that sends you to random sites that fall within your proscribed interests.  Then when you see something you “like” you click a button and it records that site, to which others can then stumble onto.

Even better, the hits were all her fault, because she “liked” one of my posts.   She further said that I should join StumbleUpon myself and then I can “like” my posts as I write them, thus submitting them to the general Stumbling internet.

It sounded like a good idea to me, so as you may have noticed, there is now a StumbleUpon button on my right margin.  If you’re a Stumbler, feel free to give it a click now and then.

One thing I did learn is that Cher “liking” something carries a hell of a lot more juice than me “liking” something.  When I “liked” a post, it would get me maybe 2 or 3 hits.  Cher’s “like” got me a couple hundred.  (Which counts as “exploding” in my world.)   We may think alike but we don’t “like” alike.

Anyway, the only reason I bring any of this Stumbling crap up is that I’ve been able to Stumble onto some pretty funny stuff in the last week, some of which I’ve stolen I’d like to share with you here.

All of these things came from OMGhumor.com.  I must have gone through hundreds of pages and laughed my head off for an hour.  These were my favorites.

First of all, I found one to share with Bluz Sister.  Seems she’s a Twi-hard and had seen the most recent Twilight film on opening day.  She’s solidly on Team Edward.  I, being solidly on Team Harry Potter, think that’s an endless source of amusement.  So when I saw this, I had to email her immediately.
I have no idea what that first thing is all about.  Not sure I want to know, either.

The next one tickled me no end, because it’s not only brilliant, but it serves absolutely no purpose.  Also, it would have been much more effective in 1985.
I love how all the chorus lyrics appear on the tear-away slips.  Such attention to detail.

The only flaw is that technically, they used the picture from the wrong album.  That’s the cover of Lionel Richie’s first solo album.  “Hello” was on his second.  But why quibble with such pointless brilliance.

The next two remind me of shit my dad would have done, if Smartphone technology had existed in the 1980s.  He would have totally done something like this if my sister mis-texted him as such:
When emoticons go too far…

He also would have written something like this to me, if I every texted him such a dumbassed question.  The problem starts with the typical texting “auto-correct” error. (Although Dad probably would have responded this way for real.)

Stay tuned for more Stumbled gems, as I trip over them.
(A bluz original.)


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bluz News Reviews

It’s hard to determine what is actually “news” any more.  In the past, it was pretty easy.  You watched TV at 6:00 and someone told you what happened that day, then you ate dinner.  Maybe you read the newspaper in the morning to see what happened overnight.  It was pretty straightforward.

It’s much more complicated today.  We have unlimited access to stuff that happens every day, but we seem to know and understand much less.  A lot of it has to do with modern media.  Where the TV news used to primarily present reports of stuff that happened, now we have to consider what the TV news broadcaster is trying to tell us about the stuff that happened.  It’s a sad state that on TV news, what is reported is molded to make you think a certain way about the issue at hand.

Always in the back of our minds, we have to consider, “What is the newscaster’s angle?  Do they have a philosophical dog in the fight?  Is there something they’re leaving out of the story?  Are they using emotionally loaded words or images?

It’s a lot of work to apply all those filters.  So it’s no surprise that Americans pay so much attention to the fluffier stories.  It follows, then, that the newscarriers seek to provide us with more of what we really want: news as ‘empty calories.’

What happened with Kim Kardashian’s marriage?  How is Lindsey Lohan doing with her community service?  When will her Playboy spread come out?  What’s going on with that ‘Real Housewife of Upper Sandusky’?  Didn’t her husband shoot up a school or something?  Which congressman has his willie out this week?” 

Internet news is no better.  There are eleventy-hillion jillion sites that carry “news” and they’re even more fractioned and factioned than TV, with zero oversight.  Gossip and rumor are reported as fact.  Opinions and ruminations are reported as fact.  Questions are designed to lead you to concluding that the answer you come up with is a fact.  Other sites research and verify the facts and are called partisan hacks, for their trouble.

So much news, yet no one knows what’s going on.

It is under these murky circumstances that I jumped on an email my mother sent me, which contained the Pew Research Center News Quiz.  It was a simple 13-question survey designed to poll how much we know about current events and newsmakers.

In a nutshell, as a country we don’t know diddley-squat.  Only 8% of all test takers got all 13 questions correct.  Now I’m far too modest to list my score, so you’ll just have to

Oops… how’d that get in there?  OK, I admit it: I aced it.  So now let’s see how YOU do.  Here’s the link.  It took me about 5 minutes to do the test.  Take it yourself and then you’ll know how you stack up.  Put your score in Comments, if you dare.  I want to see how many of you can join me in lording our wisdom over everyone else.

If you take the test, you’ll see that they also give you a statistical breakdown by demographic.  One thing that really surprised me was that on every question, men got the answer right more often than women.  (And remember, it’s by percentage, not raw numbers, because you’d figure that more men took the test.) 

Perhaps women just have too many more things to keep track of than men do.  If you think about it, men have a lot more free space in their heads to store things if they don’t have to worry about crafts, home d├ęcor, recipes, horoscopes or their kids’ schedules.  Of course men would have to subtract the room taken up by fantasy football stats, batting averages and golf swing mechanics.

I happen to think that you, as one of my readers, are pretty much on top of things.  I’m sure you’re only visiting me here after you’ve done your day’s trawling for the news of the day.  Believe me; I’m pleased to be your dessert; the cherry on top of your sundae, if you will!

Aw, crap, now I’m all hungry.

Anyway, let’s see what you’ve got… if you dare.  And should you miss any questions, and we ever disagree on something later, I promise not to hold it over you.  Much…

Note: If you’re going to take the test, please do so before reading comments, because there’s some discussion going on about the answers.  No fair cheating!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Illegal Procedures

In a prior job with my current company, my primary mission was to write procedures to document our operations.  For this, I went to some training sessions to learn to use the format that our company preferred.

Once there were a number of us trained, part of the ongoing process was to meet on weekly conference calls and present our procedures to the group, for review.  Not only could the group help tighten up our presentations; they could look for areas where the described procedure might conflict with those of another department.

I always looked forward to these calls, not only as an asset to enhance my writing skills, but as an audience for my unusual sense of humor.  See, I didn’t have a blog yet, so I had to take advantage of any captive audience I could find.

One of my favorite things to do was to slip little jokes into my procedures.  Stuff like this, (and I’m paraphrasing the details):

If the review is approved within 3 days:
  • It’s a miracle.
  • Proceed to step 4.
I liked to see who was paying attention and actually reading my stuff.  Another favorite thing was to produce interesting acronyms for procedures or recurring documents.  My influence paid off later when someone else wrote to the group about wanting to use the acronym BARF for a form.  (I don’t remember what it stood for, but it was completely accurate.)  The email said something like, “Please let me use BARF… Bluz would do it…”

I was so honored.  I wrote back that indeed I would do it; if for no other reason that I could hear people say things like:

 “Would you please hand me the BARF?”

“Have you seen my BARF?”

“Who left that BARF on my desk?”

My finest moment bubbled up organically, like the best ones do.  I was presenting a very detailed procedure to the group and my bit ended with filing the paperwork in the appropriate file cabinet.  One of the (other) wise guys on the call piped up, “And then what do you do?

I responded, “I don’t know, I haven’t written the ‘Returning to Your Seat’ procedure yet.”

[Ding!]

The entire plan occurred to me right then.  I would write a “Returning to Your Seat” procedure and quietly slip it into the queue for review.  I’d write it with the exact specifications and attention to detail that we used for all our procedures, right down to the hyperlinks and references to other procedures.  I’d let it go through the entire approval routine, just to see who was paying attention.

Unfortunately, our group leader was paying attention.  The two of us had always gotten along well and she totally understood me.  In fact, she said she was using some of my work as examples in subsequent training sessions, even the goofy stuff.  But with this one, she felt duty-bound to fish it out of the queue so to not waste anyone’s time. She did, however, forward it to a number of others in the group whom she felt would appreciate the joke.

So without further ado, may I present my very own: Returning to Your Seat procedure!

Returning To Your Seat

Shortcuts
Related Documentation
·             Scenario
·             Important Things to Remember
·             Business Risk
·             Assumptions
·             System Requirements
·             Other Required Items
·             Returning To Your Seat
·             Floor Plan
·             Procedure: Relieving One’s Self

You find yourself at a file cabinet and having completed your filing, need to return to your desk.
  • No matter what distractions you encounter along the way, you must remember to return to your desk in order to avoid any awkward questions from your boss.
  • When the boss is out of the office, the timeline to execute this procedure expands proportionately to the distance between your boss and your office.
Failure to follow proper procedure may result in your getting lost, and the risk will be that the next time your co-workers see you; it will be on a milk carton.
Because it is prior to happy hour, you are still independently ambulatory.

  • Legs
  • Feet
  • Sufficient will to go back to work
Spare Change.
Complete the following steps to return to your seat.

Step
Action


Turn your back to the file cabinet, and aim in the direction from which you arrived there.
Note:  You may need an alternate route back to your seat.  Consult your Floor Plan if necessary.
Example: Someone disagreeable may be lodged in your most direct path back to your seat.  It may be a known windbag, it may be someone you’re ducking, or it may be your boss looking for some weekend “volunteers.”


2
Take a step with your right leg.


3
Take a step with your left leg.


4
Decide on destination:


If…
Then…


You feel the need to “go”…
  • Adjust direction toward the restroom, and continue toward your new destination.
  • See Procedure: Relieving Ones Self.
  • Go to Step 5.


You desire some gossip…
  • Adjust direction toward the department blabbermouth.
Note: You may want to stay below the top of the cube walls, as not to be detected by your boss from Step 1.


You are hungry…
  • Adjust direction toward the snack machines.
  • Deposit your Spare Change.
  • Withdraw yummy treat.
  • Go to Step 5.


None of the above…


Take a step with your right leg.


6
Take a step with your left leg.


If you are…
Then…


Not yet at your desk…
Repeat Steps 5-6.


At your desk…
  • Locate your chair.
  • Maneuver your backside until it is centered above the horizontal plane of your chair.
Note: Refrain from too much maneuvering, lest your boss think you’re dancing.
  • Bend at knees until your backside meets the horizontal plane of your chair.
  • Continue moving papers from one side of your desk to the other.  (End Of Procedure)

  
The Mojo Boogie
The Steelers played this week’s game last Thursday night, which presented a dilemma for me.  The game was scheduled directly opposite the Penguins game against their mortal enemies, the Philadelphia Flyers.  The game times were staggered, with the Pens coming on at 7 and the Steelers kicking off at 8:30.

I decided to DVR the Steelers game.  The Pens game would be half over before the Steelers even started, so I figured I could check in during the 2nd period break and during commercials, and bail completely in case of a blowout.  Then I could zap the commercials during the football game and eventually catch up to the live action.

My viewing plan worked out well, even thought the Pens game went down to the wire.  My real problem was with mojo apparel.  Do I wear the hockey jersey or the football ensemble?

My solution was to do both.  I wore my Steelers jersey underneath the Pens jersey and whenever I flipped over to watch the football, I pulled up the Pens jersey.  I didn’t have the energy to remove it completely but figured that just exposing the numbers would suffice.

The Steelers were wearing their throwback uniforms so I went with one of mine.  The previous time they wore the throwbacks, I wore my James Harrison throwback and they lost.  So this time I opted for my Heath Miller version.  Here is the complete array:
90’s era Mario Lemieux jersey, over Heath Miller throwback, over “Stillers” tee, with Steelers socks.  Not pictured: AC/DC flannel pants.  I needed something neutral for my bottom half.  If I owned any Penguins socks, I’d have worn one of each.

The Steelers won, 14-3, in a game that seemed closer.  My boys had a couple of injuries though… Both QB Ben Roethlisberger and Center Maurkice Pouncey suffered high ankle sprains, although Big Ben gutted it out and hobbled through the 2nd half on one foot.  Also, both Heath Miller and Hines Ward had crucial fumbles in the red zone, which killed drives.  I'm not sure whether my wearing the Miller jersey affected the fumble (bad) or saw that we pulled the game out at the wire (good).  Next game is a Monday Night affair in San Francisco so I'll have to pull out some MNF research.