Thursday, May 31, 2012

Odd Bits - The Snake, Rattle and Roll Edition

Lotsa strange stuff in the news this week, starting with the bizarre interview CNN’s Wolf Blitzer did with Donald Trump.  For some reason, Blitzer seemed shocked that Trump continued to double-down on all his Obama Birther bullshit.

I mean, even the Arizona Attorney General Ken Bennett, the guy that was threatening to keep the president off the November ballot without “proof” of his citizenship, was forced to back down after receiving sufficient proof from the State of Hawaii.  Here’s a guy that’s just itching to make trouble for Obama and headlines for himself, forced to backpedal like, “Oh well, if there’s proof, you say…”

Yet Trump continued to plow forward.  But the funniest part is how he offers up absolutely no evidence at all.  (You can read the transcript right here.  Take my word, as vomit-inducing as it is to read all his bluster, it’s worse to have to look at and listen to him.)  I was going to go through it all and debunk every point he makes but opted not to.  Not only do I not want to give him all that attention, but it would be a lot of work and I really just want to bang out this post and then watch TV.  Yes, I know… tough life. 

Anyway, he just keeps repeating, “A lot of people don’t believe it… Many people don’t believe it…”

You know, a “lot of people” believe that Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs and the earth is 6000 years old.  “A lot of people” also believe that Elvis is alive and Paul McCartney is dead.  “A lot of people” believing anything doesn’t make it so.

And Wolf calls him on it.  He tries to bring up actual facts about the state of Hawaii’s confirmation, and the local newspapers running birth announcements back in 1961, but Trump keeps going, alleging that he had people researching it and we’d all be surprised at what they turned up.  (This is when he’s not insulting Wolf by belittling his ratings.)

When Wolfie asked him what they turned up, Trump said that he’d have to do his own research.  You see?  It’s the Republican playbook, chapter and verse.  It’s nothing but making outlandish claims, repeating them endlessly, providing zero proof, slinging insults, then claiming the win. 

Anyway, that’s enough of that… Now lets go to “Hey Bluz, what do you think of…

The Katie Couric interview with the Royal Family?  (No, not the Kardashians.)  It broadcast Tuesday night on ABC.  I’m by no means a “Royals watcher,” nor do I have any real affinity for the British monarchy at all, but I did tune in.  (There wasn’t anything but reruns on, anyway.)  I watched to see what the Princes had to say.

I’ll never forget that day, August 31st, 1997, when I heard about their mother being killed.  I was at work at the video store I managed, when I first heard the reports.  It bothered me much more than I had expected.  I mean, I liked Princess Diana and all… What guy didn’t? 

I had to work late the night before her televised funeral, so I knew I would never be up in time to see it, but I programmed my VCR to record it, so I could watch it when I got up.  If I had been bummed before, I totally fell apart, watching that procession.  I felt so bad for those poor boys, their mother having been killed by a pack of jackals masquerading as photographers.  It was a very, very tough day, and from then on, I kept an eye out for news on the boys.  I hoped they would be able to maintain some of their mother’s spirit, as they were sucked into the vortex of Royal Life.

I think they’ve done very well.  Wills picked himself out what seems to be a solid, grounded (and gorgeous) wife.  He seems to have the kind of caring and sensitivity that was not really noticeable in his father.

And Harry… well, Harry just kills me.  You can see that he’s the scamp, the rascal, the mischief-maker, as younger brothers so often are.  He seems to have a permanent twinkle in his eye.  And you can see flashes of Diana on both of their faces.  All in all, it makes me think that for whatever it’s worth, the monarchy will be in good hands.

…the study that said that C-Section babies were more prone to childhood obesity than naturally delivered babies?  I would have thought that being born via C-Section might have made them more likely to leave the house by hopping out the window…

Obviously, they haven’t nailed down all the factors that might enable such a correlation.  One factor was that women having C-Sections, on average, were heavier than other moms and tended to breastfeed less.  But the results were the same even after factoring that out.  One theory was that vaginal birth might influence babies' digestion by affecting bacteria in their bellies, or release hormones that could affect metabolism.

If that’s true, I’m going to go on Shark Tank and pitch an anti-fat baby machine that functions just like a roll-out home-made pasta maker.  I’ll just soften up the rollers and widen the gap between then and voila!  Mom can squeeze’em right through, just like it’s a full-sized Play-Doh Fun Factory.

…the West Virginia pastor that died from a snake-handling ritual, just like his daddy did?  This is Darwinism in action.  Sounds to me like the Wes’ By Gawd Virginny gene pool just got a little bit smarter.

You know, we tell people, “don’t play with guns, don’t play with matches, don’t play with Diet Coke and Mentos.”  Do we really need a campaign to say, “Hey Gomer, don’t play with fuckin’ rattlesnakes?

And speaking of wild things…

…the Australian lady that said she was stalked for two days and then attacked by a kangaroo?  The renegade kangaroo also attacked the family dog as well.  She said that no one showed up when she called the authorities until the kangaroo left the neighborhood and attacked someone else.  Authorities then sought and received permission to hunt the offending roos, and eventually killed two of them.  (Pictured below…)
Is that a roo in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

…the Defense of Marriage Act was ruled unconstitutional in Federal Appeals Court?  It’s nice, but it doesn’t matter.  This fight will carry on until the Supreme Court rules on it.  (And indefinitely thereafter.)  Until then, this is all just the pre-game show.

…the study that says “Old Person Smell” is a real thing?  Apparently, groups of volunteers were able to easily determine which smell samples came from young, middle-aged and senior samples.

They determined that Old Person Smell is made up of Milk of Magnesia, Werthers, Aqua Velva and The Great Depression.

…that thing you forgot to include in your last Orioles game post?  I was so intent on keeping the post short; I forgot to include this cool picture.  It seems there was a bachelorette party going on at Camden Yards that day.  In the section right beside mine, there was a party of about a dozen girls, all wearing matching black commemorative T-shirts, made for the occasion.  The bride had a pink sash.

So when it came time to start putting people in the crowd up on the scoreboard, these girls were naturals.  They easily got the camera guy’s attention, who then came up to film.

So in my pic, you can see the camera guy on the lower left, shooting the girls in black on the middle right, with their images up on the scoreboard up the top left. 

You don’t even want to know what they were doing with the Cotton Candy Guy…

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Movin' Out

I saw on Facebook, over the weekend, that the (grown) son of a good friend of mine, a boy I’ve known since he was a baby, is itching to get the hell out of the general area in which he’s spent his whole life, and set out on his own for Destinations West. His comments met with mixed opinions.

Not wanting to put a public stake in the ground and start taking sides, I decided to send him a private message.  It’s a big decision to up and leave an area with which one is so familiar and head for a place where there is no more support system.  I don’t know why he decided to leave… whether it’s to get away from a small town, or his family, or his girlfriend’s family, or loan sharks, wild bears, or just to claim his own independence and stand on his own.  Even though he lives on his own, he’s still very much wrapped up in the family business and vise versa.

As I’ve been around the block a time or two, and moving away something I’ve done a number of times before, I thought I might be able to offer some friendly advice.  It was advice that I might have given a younger me, when I was just starting out. 

So I did that, he saw it, and was appreciative.  Most things, he said he knew, which meant that there was some he didn’t.  I made myself available for any further questions or concerns, but I have the feeling he’s got things well in hand… or at least he thinks he does.  Time will tell.

But because nothing is worth doing unless you can blog about it, I thought I’d turn my advice on the matter into another post, where I get to pretend I know what I’m talking about.  (And… you know… so many young runaways read this blog.)

I felt I had to point out, right off, that the place where he lives right now has a ridiculously low cost of living, and that once out west, prices range from Expensive to Insanely Expensive.  It is possible, I said, that one could become independent without moving clear across the country.  He could move away, but still remain in the vicinity of low cost housing, groceries and bar food.  I said that the appropriate distance would be just far enough away that it’s too far to come home to do laundry.

Anyway, these are the things I said to keep in mind.

Control your own cash flow.  Make sure that you’re the one controlling the checkbook. Have a parent, or someone else, teach you exactly how to manage your checkbook, balancing and all.  (It’s not brain surgery or Sudoku…  I’ve been doing it since I was 23.  And I hate math.)  The thing is, online banking has made it very easy to keep up on your balance and what you have outstanding. 

Another benefit of online banking: unless you take up birthday cards or letter-writing, a pack of stamps will last for years.  The bank either pays your bill electronically (when you tell them to), or they mail the check themselves.  Just try to find a bank that doesn’t charge for online banking.  I’ve got it, but I set it up a long time ago and I’m unsure how widespread the free checking is anymore.

But remember that whoever controls your checkbook controls your life.  Your primary mission should be to become financially savvy enough to not get yourself into heavy debt.  (And I mean real, “OMG How Am I Going to Pay This?” kind of debt.  More on that in a sec.)  But you need to know how much is coming in, how much you need to cover your month’s bills, and how much you can stash away.  You need to have your thumb on the pulse of your cash flow.

·       Establish credit Regardless of what you may think of credit cards, they represent something essential… Your credit history will color every business transaction you may seek.  Your next landlord will do a credit check.  You need a car loan?  Or any loan?  Credit check.  Set up utilities for your new apartment?  Credit check.  Job application?  Many times… credit check.  It’s imperative that you have reasonable credit.

The theory is that the credit score values the difference between how much credit you have available versus the debt you carry.  So, the higher your credit limit, and the lower your balance, the better your credit score.

If you’re not a regular credit card user, here’s how to start…

Obviously, you don’t go straight for the American Express gold card.  Start with a department store card; someplace you shop often, like a Target card.  Then, just use it every once in a while.  Make a couple small purchases every month, on stuff you would buy anyway, then when the bill comes, pay it off in full.

Never, EVER, pay the partial amount or the “minimum payment”… that’s where they screw you.  You end paying 20% to 26% interest, and that’s what gets people into credit trouble.  It’s a sucker bet that the banks just love people to make.  People end up paying many times the price of their goods by paying the “minimum payments.”  If you pay in full every time, you’ll never have to pay a cent in credit card fees. 

I’ve had a card since I first moved out at 23.  Over the next 27 years, I’ve paid less than $20 in fees.  (There was one cycle when I had a big car repair, so I paid half on one bill, and the rest on the second.)

A lot of people think that credit cards get people into trouble.  They’re incorrect.  Undisciplined users get themselves into trouble.  The card has nothing to do with it.  A lot of people use debit cards.  These do not help your credit score.  Also, if your debit card gets lost or stolen, you’re screwed.  With credit card purchases, you’re not liable for unauthorized purchases, once you notify the card company.

One thing I do is keep a notebook and jot down every credit card purchase I make.  Then when the bill comes, I reconcile the two to make sure that there’s nothing extra on the bill.  Also, it helps you keep a handle on what you’ve already charged.  I just put every receipt in my wallet and when I empty it, I write down the date, amount, and retailer.  Be sure you empty the receipts at least once a week, otherwise you’ll end up with a George Costanza wallet, about the size of a Big Mac.

Anyway, once you’ve run your Target card for, say, 6 billing cycles, try applying for a Visa or MasterCard.  It doesn’t much matter which one, just make sure that there’s no annual fee.  I pick the one with the best rewards program for me.  I used to use an “Airline Miles” card, but now use a Citi card, for their Thank You points program.  (Which can be cashed in on airline tix as well as hotels, trips, electronics, and other goods and services.)

The key is to never use the card to buy anything you can’t pay off on the next bill.  But by merely getting some charges done and then paid for, you will raise your credit score.  Also, once you establish a good payment history, the card issuer will normally raise your credit limit.  (My first card had a $300 limit.)  Now don’t take a raised limit as a sign to begin charging your brains out.  You still need to pay each bill in full.  No cash?  Don’t charge.

They’re also important for emergencies, like if you’re in a far off state and your car breaks down.  Having a credit card can make the difference between getting your car fixed, and a long hitchhike home.  But if you do have to make an large, emergency charge, put the card away for a while until you can pay it down.  Don’t make matters worse by piling on.  That, my friend, is the beginning of the end.

But as long as you’re careful, the card will serve you, and not the other way around.

Note: If you are the type of person that buys stereo equipment or other high-ticket merchandise on impulse, you may want to table the credit card idea.  If you can’t tell yourself ‘no,’ you can get into serious debt and kill your credit rating.  But as long as you consider a credit card as nothing but a way to access money that you have in hand, you’ll be OK.

·       Research apartment rents in your desired location.  You’re probably already doing this, but a computer can make this a snap.  There are loads of sites that can give average rent costs by location.  Having a solid idea of what the costs will be will help you not only pick a suitable location, but let you know how much you’ll need to stockpile and how much it’ll cost per month, to live.  Your rent is generally your largest expense.

·       Keep up to date on your current utility bills.  Your new power company is likely to check with your old one before signing you up.  Even when blowing town, you can’t ditch your debts.  They will take their pound of flesh, even if they have to take it out of your ass.

·       Consider taking some classes online, to learn a skill.  With the advent of online classes, it’s easier than ever to take a Community College class or two.  I’m not necessarily talking about getting a degree; just learning a particular skill that you might find useful.  It’s a good first step, if you ever want to make a living that doesn’t involve sweating your ass off.

·       Be sure to have some nice clothes.  Current fashion trends be damned; it’s not a good idea going into an interview looking like Larry the Cable Guy.  Same for if you ever need to apply for a loan or something.  Be sure you can clean up well.  If you look like a punk, you’ll get treated like a punk.  And (if applicable), no smoking before an interview.  No one wants to hire someone that smells like an ashtray.

That was it. I ended by telling him that I wasn’t trying to be one more person trying to tell him what to do, and that he was a grown-ass man capable of making his own choices.  But making the right choices will be the difference between being a broke or successful grown-ass man.

So, am I missing anything?  I’m sure there’s stuff I missed… What would you add to the list?  Or is there anything here with which you’d disagree?  Drop your thoughts in Comments…

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Royal Treatment

As this month has been the dog days of blogging, where everyone has something better to do than linger on the Internet, I’ll keep this one short.  (OK, it’s a goal…)

It wouldn’t have been my original intention to go to another Orioles game on such a hot day, but sometimes fate intercedes.  My company bought about 90 seats for Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Royals and threw them out to the first people that emailed in to say they wanted them.  Obviously, I was all over that.

The only question was where they were going to be.  But I had my suspicions…
Yep, there we are in row 18, section 328.  I can see Russia from here.

The funny thing was that my boss also got tickets for her family.  I thought we’d be sitting nearby, but it didn’t quite work out that way.  Her tickets were down in the lower bowl, by the Orioles dugout.  So I got to tease her all week about her high-falutin’ “Executive Seats.”  I’d say, “Yeah, like they’re going to put all Executive Floor and Corner Office people up in the nosebleeds with the rest of the riffraff…”

Side note: It’s really cool when you can tease your boss like that.  I am really lucky in that respect.

Anyway, a free ticket is a free ticket and this one saved me the per-ticket face value of $13.  OK, I should probably add that it also saved me all the ticket-purchasing fees from Ticketmaster, which brings the savings up to around $47.50.  I have to remember that there are poor starving children in Mississippi that don't get to see any pro baseball.

So with Pinky working on Saturday (and not really caring much for baseball) I turned to my go-to wingman, Sitcom Kelly.  She had a birthday recently so I figured I’d make the day into my birthday present. 

We got downtown about 2 hours before the game, so that left us plenty of time to drink beer on the cheap.  We ducked into our favorite ballpark-friendly watering spot, The Bullpen, and proceeded to knock down $2.50 Miller Lites and eat pizza.  It was there that she mentioned that one of her other friends gave her a $100 gift card at a liquor store, for her birthday.  I think this was her way of letting me know that I wasn’t going to get off light by getting her liquored up at the bar; I’d still be on the hook for the ballpark beers.

But while we were at The Bullpen, I spotted something weird down on the end of the bar.
 What the hell is THAT?

It looked like a big pink can of aerosol penis.  WTF?  I mean; I saw the big cone on the top, so I figured it was some kind of spray, but what was with the bulbous end just under the cone?  It wasn’t until I got home and blew up the picture that I got to the bottom of the mystery.  Seems it wasn’t spray-on schlong after all…
False alarm people… it’s just Fabreeze.

As for the game, the Orioles blew a 3-0, 4th-inning lead and lost 4-3.  I felt bad for the pitchers because the Royals seemed to get guys on base in the weirdest ways.  The worst was a swinging dribbler that rolled right down the 3rd base line and as the players waited for it to roll foul, it came to rest dead on the line.  Meanwhile, the batter ran to second for a 78-foot double.  Totally not fair.  Later, another guy hit a popup that landed right between three players, for another hit.

A more pressing concern, more so than the on-field foibles, was the heat.  Saturday was the first hot, muggy, typical Baltimore summer day.  At the beginning of the game, we were up high enough that we were in the shade of the upper deck roof overhang.  Round about the 4th inning, we moved up about 10 rows and by then, there was significant cloud cover.  Would have been horrible sitting there with the sun beating down on us, but the clouding made it tolerable.  It was still quite humid, but we were certainly well hydrated.

Obviously, from this vantage point, I was not going to make it onto TV again… not unless I dove off the deck or something.  Luckily, I didn’t have to do anything nearly that dramatic to get the Beer Man’s attention.

That’s all I have about the game day experience, but just let me throw this one more Camden Yards note out there.

HBO has a new series running, called “VEEP”  (Sundays, 10:00 pm, with rebroadcasts all over the place.)  Julia Louis-Dreyfuss plays sitting Vice President Seline Meyer in this slice-of-political-life comedy.  It’s not like “’Elaine’ or ‘Old Christine’ plays VP;” it’s a lot more clever than that.  Think “The West Wing” played for laughs.

Another cool side note: the VP’s Chief of Staff is played by Anna Chlumsky, who is best known for starring as a little girl in the movie, “My Girl,” with MacCauley Culkin.
Boy, did she grow up real good…

Anyway, “VEEP” was filmed in and around Baltimore, which in most cases, stands in for DC.  But on tonight’s episode, the first 2/3 of the show takes place at Camden Yards, where the VP is supposed to make an appearance and meet some players.  There’s also supposed to be a scene in the Eyesore Hilton, which can be seen in the middle of the first picture in this post.  So yay, Baltimore! 

I give this series the ol’ bluzdude thumbs-up.  I’ve been greatly entertained by “VEEP” so far, but I add this one word of caution, or as I might put it, an F-word of caution.  Put the kiddies to bed before watching; the show is riddled with F-bombs, most of which are from the VP. 

But I did say it’s “slice of life,” didn’t I?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bluz on Newz

Once again, it’s time for, “Hey bluz, what do you think about…”

…the news that the US hacked Al Qaida websites and replaced ads that touted the killing of Americans with messages describing the millions of Muslims killed by Al Qaida?  U-S-A! U-S-A!  We still lead the world in the production of cyber-geeks!  The only way this gets better is if they also found a way to spam-bomb them with porno penis pill ads.

…the new season of So You Think You Can Dance?  I’ve read reports that they are now going to have both male and female winners, but hang all that.  Tonight, I get to gaze for two hours at the stunning British lovliness that is host Cat Deely.  Also, I hear there’s some dancing.  The only down side is that they eliminated the second “results” show, so that’s one less hour a week of gazing at Cat.  But I’ll take what I can get.

…this season’s American Idol winner?  I totally don’t give a shit.  Gee, another clean-cut white guy with a guitar wins?  I’m shocked.  That’s what, six in a row?  The Idol voting public is nothing if not predictable.

…Van Halen postponing the back half of their summer tour, including Baltimore?  Shit!  Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!  Fuck!  And tits.

I was taking my 13-year old nephew to his first rock concert and had tickets in hand.  I’m not sure which of us was more excited.  Now, who knows when (or if) it will be rescheduled.  Last week, an “inside source” said the postponements were because the band wasn’t getting along and they hated each other.  Earlier this week, David Lee Roth said they were just exhausted from biting off more than they could chew on this tour.

I imagine that somewhere in between, lies the truth.  All I know is that they’re messing up a primo Uncle/Nephew event and I’m not at all happy about it.  It may take some real doing to get the boy out to the show on a school night. 

If this is about not getting their brown M&Ms picked out of the bowl, (as a long-ago tour contract rider once famously demanded), I’m going to have to go Running With the Devil upside down someone’s head.

Search for Reality
Since this doesn’t seem to be a great news day, (and I’m ignoring all political “news” right now), lets check out some recent Google searches that have brought people here.

“Hot Pittsburgh Moms” – Pittsburgh PA.  You may recall in the last post I did on searches, there were a number of them looking for “asses.”  There was “big ass woman,” “hot mom’s ass,” “smoking hot ass,” “Hermione’s ass”…   So now it’s “hot Pittsburgh moms?”  Seems the Google thinks this is some kind of Pittsburgh MILF dating site.  Best I can guess is that they got a look at the pictures from the first two Darwinfish Fry blogger meet-ups.  You only have yourselves to blame.

“Bananas go off” – Sydney Australia.  I didn’t even know they could explode.  But it does remind me of a song I used to know, “My Wife Left Town With a Banana (My baby’s slippin’ away…)”

“Asshole bullshit” – Honolulu HI.  I don’t know what one could be looking for, using a search that’s so broad.  But if anyone knows asshole bullshit, it’s this site right here.

“What is a tampon?” – Silver Lake KS.  Again with the tampon searches.  If someone doesn’t know what a tampon is, they are not going to get much help here.  (Nor even if they DO.)  What the hell is up with Kansas?  Maybe they better cut out all the Intelligent Design classes and restart basic Health and Hygiene. 

“Hello Kitty birthday tampon” – Kansas City, MO.  Again with Kansas (City).  The Hello Kitty part is disturbing enough but “birthday tampon?”  WTF?  Are you supposed to light the end on fire?  And who’s going to blow it out?  This is one way to put a bounce in one’s step.

“Grade 9 sluts” – Calgary, AB.  I wonder if they’re searching for a ranking system for sluts, or loose freshmen.  Either way, sheesh

“Diaper dominant mistress wants me a boy, to be a diaper baby” – Lakeland FL.  O. M. G.  (To Searcher): Dude, whoever you are… forget you ever saw my site.  In fact, I want you to go in and erase it from your browser history.  I’m skeeved out just knowing you were here.  And that’s just because of the incoherent sentence structure…

Lastly…
“Pinky XXX ass” – Tasmania Australia.  This guy’s banned.  Sorry, Taz, no one gets to go all XXX on Pinky’s ass but me. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bahrain Cramps

This weekend I got a couple of Facebook messages from an old high school friend who is overseas, and they proved to be rather alarming.  It seems my site is banned in Bahrain.
  
If you’re not up on your geography, Bahrain is a small island just to the east of Saudi Arabia and north of Qatar (home of the hit Arab video game, Qatar Hero).

I had no idea.  I wonder if there was some sort of decree involved, or maybe a Fatwah.

According to my country counter, I have had one hit from Bahrain before.  Maybe that was all it took.  Now it’s like a Movie of the Week… “Bacon in the Sand: Banned in Bahrain.”

I’d love to know how this came to be.  I know my site is banned by my company, but that’s just because they think it’s porn.  And to a financial company, my liberal views ARE practically porn.  But what’s the objection from a Muslim country? 

While I may blaspheme broadly, I don’t hold Islam in any lower regard than I do any other organized religion.  It’s all the same, from my point of view.  So what’s left?  My glorification of bacon?  They don’t like game jersey mojo?  Oh wow… maybe they’re all Ravens fans!  I don’t know if I could stand their version of Purple Bahrain.”

(Obviously, I spent all day Sunday coming up with plays on their name.  What can I say… I just Blame it on Bahrain.”  After all, my game was called on account of Bahrain.)

Regardless, I wear my banishment as a badge of honor.  But do you think it has ever happened before?  “I wanna know, Have you Ever Seen Bahrain, comin’ down on a funny page?”  Someone should do something about this.  “But I wonder, yes I wonder, Who’ll Stop Bahrain?”  Without D-fish2, there will be no more “Laughter in Bahrain.”

Maybe they don’t like my support of same sex marriage.  Apparently they’ve never heard, It’s Bahraining Men… hallelujiah.”

I’m sure you’re hoping that I don’t go on too long on this theme, but the next thing you know, Here Comes Bahrain Again…”

Good thing this didn’t happen over Thanksgiving; otherwise I’d out standing in “that cold November Bahrain.”

Lastly, I heard that Bahrain was supposed to play a soccer match in Barcelona, but were so upset at the scantily clad senoritas, then never left their jet.  Which means, Bahrain in Spain stayed mainly on the plane.

Sorry, you can call that a Bahrain fart.  Or a Bahrain seizure, which inevitably leads to Bahrain damage. 

So, I’m sorry, Bahrainiacs.  If you ban me, I ban you. 

Bahrain, Bahrain, go away,” come again when you can unclench those robes. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Heathen

I had a lot of things going on, on Saturday; at least by my standards.  It was a beautiful day out so I was happy to wade out into it.  For some reason, I decided to wear my “Heathen” shirt, perhaps to fish for some blog material… maybe goad a Believer into doing something unbecoming.

First stop in the errand run was to go by a local (plant) nursery.  I wanted to pick up some torenia (aka Clown Violets) to keep on my windowsill at work.  I love them because they’ve very colorful, they bloom like crazy and are easy to grow.  I’ll include a picture further down the road, after I’ve potted them and they've had a chance to grow a little.  It’ll be a nice change because at work, all I have are green, leafy plants.

No comments on the Heathen shirt thus far, although I thought I felt judging eyes roaming all over me.  But I do make room for it being on account of the Toledo Mudhens ball cap I was sporting.  Obviously, when wearing a Heathen shirt, I wasn’t going to wear a Pittsburgh ball cap, or people around here would just go, “Oh… that figures.”

After the nursery, I headed for Wendy’s, because I really worked up a hunger with that 10 minutes of hard shopping.  Only had a burger, though, no fries… I knew I had a big dinner coming up.  But the Wendy’s was on the way, so obviously I had to stop by.  I did notice the counter girl eying my t-shirt.    I totally wanted to say, “Hey, eyes up here, lady!” 

I hope she didn’t do anything un-Christian to my cheeseburger.  But I was extra nice, so maybe that threw her off.

It helps to be super-nice when you’re wearing a blasphemous shirt… shakes up the expectations.

My main activity for the day was to go see "The Avengers."  It had gotten such good reviews, especially for a “comic book movie,” so I figured, “What better way to enjoy a gloriously sunny day than to coop myself up in a cold dark theater for 2 and a half hours?

I got there about a half hour early, to make sure I got a ticket.  I never quite know what I’m walking into with movie tickets.  Every time I thought it would be really busy and bought a ticket online, I ended up rolling right in with hardly anyone there.  I knew this movie was drawing big-time, but as it was its third weekend and a matinee, I figured I’d be safe.  Luckily, I was.

But I must say, the theater did fill up pretty well.  It was the largest crowd I’ve watched a movie among in ages.  Even so, no one sat near me.  I chose a row where there were 5 empty seats before one was occupied.  I sat in the middle, in the third seat, leaving two on either side. I figured I could shift one seat either way and still leave a buffer, but no one showed any interest.  Must have been the Heathen shirt. 

Anyway, I totally loved the movie.  I rate every movie I see (yes, really, on a spreadsheet) and I gave it five stars.  Granted, there should probably be a different scale for comic book/action movies.  I mean, it wasn’t exactly Godfather II, but the action was non-stop, the effects were brilliant and two hours flew by in no time.  What really surprised me was how funny it was.  I had a bunch of literal LOLs, including a number of complete belly laughs. 

Robert Downey Jr. stole every scene he was in.  His dialogue was snap-crackling clever.  Scarlett Johansson and Gwynneth Paltrow were just yummy-looking.  Scarlett’s (and her stunt-double’s) Black Widow character was a complete badass, taking apart both spies and aliens alike.  I suppose Thor and Captain America provided ample beefcaking opportunities for the ladies.

And the audience was right there with me.  I’d say on at least 10 occasions, applause broke out, during the movie.  And everyone applauded at the end.  If you’re one that can suspend disbelieve and accept the whole super-hero thing, then you just have to go see this while it’s still in the theater.

I came into it with a bit of a disadvantage, because I hadn’t seen all the individual “set-up” movies.  I’d seen the Iron Man movies, and the various Hulk movies, but I’d never seen “Captain America” or “Thor.”  (Nor had I read the comic books.  I’ve never read comic books at all.)

I rectified the situation, though, because my next stop was good old WalMart.  I picked up the blue rays for both movies, figuring that I’ll appreciate "The Avengers" a bit more once I knew all the backstories. 

But back in the real world, there I was, in the belly of the beast.  If I were going to get any flack about my Heathen shirt, it would be at Wally’s.  After all, that’s where I had my Darwinfish emblem ripped off the back of my car last year.  (Now, I back into the parking space, so only the people that pull in on the other side can see it.  Helps my odds, I figure.)

But anyway, I shopped with a complete absence of interest from anyone else.  I got what I needed and got out, no muss, no fuss.  Well, I guess this wouldn’t be the first time a blogger over-estimated his own importance.

I got back home in plenty of time for the Preakness Stakes.  In case I haven’t mentioned it, Pimlico Racetrack is about a 5-minute drive from my apartment.  In fact, when I got home, I could see the MetLife Blimp from my front door.
It’s cool to shoot the blimp, while it’s shooting the racetrack that you’re watching on TV.

The race was thrilling, as I’ll Have Another once again ran down Bodemeister on the home stretch.  If I were at the race and betting, (or if I did online betting) I’d have done a $10 exacta box on those two (as well as a couple other bets to win).  The exacta paid off at $18.60, which would have paid me $180.60.  Add in my probably $2 bet to win, which paid $8.40 and my take would have been $189.00.  (Minus all other betting activity, of course.)  Not bad for a theoretical degenerate gambler.

But man, what a terrific race.  I thought for sure that I’ll Have Another was going to run out of track before he could pass Bodemeister, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t.  I’ll say this… the way he closed in the last two races, I would bet on him winning the Belmont and taking the first Triple Crown since 1978.  You know… IF I actually bet.  We’ll see how it turns out. 

The final event of the evening was a birthday dinner for Sitcom Kelly.  Pinky and I met her and some of her other friends out at a local Irish restaurant.  Best of all, Sitcom Kelly’s former foster child was back for a visit.  It’s so good that they’re able to keep in touch.  The little girl clearly loves and misses Kelly.  And you know who else she loves?  The bluzdude!
She looooooooves me!

She’s got the kind of serene smile that just makes you want to buy her a college education.

She had her coloring books to keep her occupied, so I told her that when I was a boy, I used to love coloring in my coloring books.  She fixed me with one of her quiet, semi-smiling stares, then slid one of her coloring books over to me, pulled a handful of crayons out of her bag and dropped them in front of me.

OK, game on Baby Girl!  We both colored pictures for each other.  I might have stayed in the lines a little better though.  I bet you didn’t know I still rock the mad coloring skillz.

Yo, Crayola represent!

After dinner, we stayed for about another hour to watch a band play.  They were good, but relied a little too much on what I call “weenie rock.”  I prefer more Stones, less Modern English.  I just don’t see how you follow a ripping cover of "Jumpin’ Jack Flash" with a meandering ballad or alt-rock hit.  You’re all revved up on the groove and then they just take the air out of the room.  But maybe that’s just me.  The women in the room seemed to like it just fine and I’m sure they were more of the “target audience.”

We got home about 10:30 or so, because we’re old and that was about all we could handle.  Still, for me, the day was packed.  I usually ration all that activity out over the course of a couple weekends. 

At least I still have today to “recover.”  And I don’t have to worry about what anyone thinks of my shirt.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

If You Want Blood, You Got It

We had an event at work today where in honor of the upcoming Preakness Stakes, we were allowed to wear jeans and were encouraged to wear black, yellow and red, as a reflection of the colors in the Maryland flag.  If you’ve never seen the Maryland flag, it’s pretty trippy.
The red and white part signify puzzle pieces that don’t fit together (like the Ravens) and the black and gold part signifies how the Steelers are so far inside the Ravens’ heads, they actually have it on the flag.*

I couldn’t believe my good fortune!  They’re actually encouraging ME to wear black and gold?  I only have, like 75-THOUSAND black and gold Steelers shirts to choose from.  So since it was a beautiful, sunny spring day, I chose my sunniest, flaming-yellowest Steelers polo shirt, with black and white stripes on the shoulder.

My only lack was something red, so I opted to wear a Pirates hat that had a black cap and red bill.  That would be good for coming and going, but wouldn’t be very helpful during the day.  We're not supposed to wear hats in the building because my company has a policy against looking like a punk at work.

But I also knew that I was slated to donate blood today, as part of another company event.  If I really wanted to fit in and appear to be the complete Company Man, I could ask them to make it messy, so that the blood on my arm and bandage could fulfill the “red” requirement.

I used to donate blood all the time.  When I was in high school and college, my friends and I donated blood every chance we got.  We had several reasons:

1) It helped people and was the Right Thing to Do.
2) We got to leave school during the day to do it.
3) We figured we could get drunk on much less beer if we had less blood.

Note: These reasons do not necessarily appear in order of importance to us.

My buddy Rik (The Chairman of Fuck Off) and I used to race to see who could squeeze out a pint the fastest.  (Competitive much?)  I think my best time was four and a half minutes.  But then they made me stop doing sit-ups during the blood draw.

I even wrote a blazing article for the school paper, urging everyone to give blood, extolling the virtues of blood donation.  (On advice from our faculty advisor, I omitted reason #3 above.)  I also took the wind out of the most common excuses for not giving.  There’s nothing like the righteousness of youth. 

After I got out of college, (and once I got the coveted “Gold Pin” for making the Gallon Club), I never gave blood again.  It wasn’t really a conscious decision… I was just busy trying to make a living and I never had that much of a convenient opportunity.  Then after my heart surgeries, I was pretty damned tired of being stuck with needles every time I turned around.

But I’d been thinking about it more lately and my company is making it pretty easy.  They set up a mobile Red Cross center down in the cafeteria and all we have to do is sign up and stroll downstairs when it’s time.  Half-hour, and done.  Anyway, that ended up being today.

One thing I learned is that they ask a hell of a lot more questions now, than they did in 1980.  I’m a pretty knowledgeable guy and they were asking me about diseases I haven’t even heard of.  But I figure, if I haven’t heard of it, it’s pretty unlikely that I have it.  So let’s do this!

One thing that cracked me up is that they had the carpeting all covered with sheets of plastic.  It was like something out of “Dexter!”  Heaven forbid there’s some kind of serious accident where blood is shooting out all over the place.  They’d be like, “Oh my God!  The carpet!  We should have covered the carpet!

Luckily, there’s never any drama when it comes to getting blood out of me.  I have the biggest, juiciest inside elbow vein you ever wanna see.  Drunk, blind nurses on crack can hit that thing from across the room, throwing syringes like English darts.  (Drunk, Blind Nurses on Crack should be a punk band name.)

Another thing new was that they drew on me.  I’ve never had anyone mark me up before injecting, cutting or poking, but there’s a first time for everything.

I imagine that the parallel lines represent the path of the vein, so that they can get the right angle.  I know that they actually stuck me right below the dot.  I probably should have thanked them for not giving me ink poisoning.

So they got me set up, iodined, drawn on and poked pretty quickly.  They had a big digital clock set up in view of the beds so that we could give the spongy thing a squeeze every 5 seconds.  (And I thought I was going to get to relax…)  But because the clock was right there, I can tell you that I can still deliver the blood in stellar time.  Even 30 years later, it still took less than 5 minutes to fill my pint.  (I don’t even empty a pint that fast.)

After I was done, she gave me my instructions… Leave the cotton on for 5 hours, leave the “elbow brace” bandage on for 1 hour, no drinking alcohol for 8 hours…  Gah!

With a panicked look, I checked my watch, making the phlebotomist laugh.  (Hell yeah, I know what they’re called.)  Luckily most of the 8 hours would elapse during work.

But the best part?  The bandage that they criss-crossed over my elbow was bright red!  There’s my red trim for Maryland Flag Outfit/Preakness Day! 

I left it on for most of the day.  It looked like a gang sign or something.  When I went out for lunch, I expected the Crips to roll up on me all, “Yo, wass up, old white boieeeeeee?

RIP
While I was having lunch, I heard some bad news… Disco Queen Donna Summer passed away this morning at the age of 63.

There goes another touchstone of my youth.  Donna Summer’s music was inescapable during my late high school/early college years.  Sure, “disco sucked,” but at least hers was quality stuff.  She had a great look, a great beat and great pipes.  Hers were the songs I actually enjoyed dancing to when I’d be out at the clubs.

My favorite memory of her isn’t even real.  Have you ever seen the movie “The Full Monty?”  For the unfamiliar, it’s a movie about 5 ordinary Englishmen who decide to put on a male revue in their working-class town, and doing it completely naked, or as it’s called, giving them the “Full Monty.”  One of the songs they rehearsed was Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff.”

Anyway, there’s a scene when the guys have had a quarrel and called off their performance.  They’re all standing among everyone else in the unemployment line when “Hot Stuff” comes on over the radio.  Next thing you know, slowly but surely, and almost by accident, they all start going through their moves.  It’s a brilliant sight gag.  Here, see for yourself…

Before tonight, I haven’t seen this in probably 10 years and I swear, I’m sitting here laughing my head off.

If Donna Summer can make my clumsy ass, and those of these 5 blokes look good, she must have really had something.

Safe on, Miss Summer.  You were definitely Hot Stuff.


*Click here for the factual meaning behind the MD flag. It is also the picture source.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why I Vote Democratic - Pt 1

At the beginning of the year, I did a guest post at AskCherlock, in which I explained why I vote Democratic.  It was kind of a longer piece, consisting of a list of 7 or 8 chasm-sized differences between the two parties.  But even at over four pages in length (in Word), I didn’t feel like I was getting into it deeply enough. 

I also wanted to run the material here too, so I figured I would take each item on the list and flesh it out into a (considerably shorter) post of its own.  I plan on running more, periodically… I don’t want to blow all them out during the spring and summer, then run out of gas by the elections.  But since we’re revving up for the Great Presidential Campaign of 2012 right now, I thought I’d at least better get things started.  

Note:  When I refer to “Republicans” here, I’m referring only to the national party leaders and political apparatus.  The same goes for my use of “Democrats.”  Local jurisdictions may vary and I have no knowledge or comment about them. 

On the occasions when I do a political post, if I get any kind of blowback in Comments, it’s along the lines of “The Democrats do that too,” or “The Democrats are dirty too,” or “Oh yeah?  Well double-dumbass on you!

The thing is; I don’t care about that.  I think that there is ample evidence that both sides play dirty pool and both sides seek to enrich themselves and their benefactors while prolonging their grip on power.  That’s a draw.  The fact remains that one side is trying to accomplish things in which I greatly believe and the other side is fighting tooth and nail to stop them. 

If the Republicans are right about one thing, it’s that elections are about values.  We vote for what we value.  The Republican Party values two main things: unfettered big business and regressive social policy (usually in the name of religion).

Actually, I believe it’s really just the one thing, or what I call the Republican Prime Directive: the freedom for big business to do whatever they please, consumers and taxpayers be damned, in support of their bottom line. 

But because only Big Businessmen are likely to vote for such a platform, and there aren’t very many of them around, Republicans need something else to motivate people to vote against their own economic interest.  That’s where the religion and “family values” come in.  I’m not saying that the grassroots Conservatives don’t actually believe that stuff; I’m saying that the top of the party doesn’t.  But they’ll use it to keep their voter base in line because it doesn’t do any harm to their Prime Directive.  It's like...

"So what if the gays can’t get married?  Who cares if poor women can’t get cheap birth control or an abortion?  Screw’em!  Just as long as the big wheels stay greased and the money keeps flowing into Big Oil, Big Pharma, Agribusiness and the almighty Defense Industry, the rest of the riff-raff can fend for themselves.  The more their attention is focused on social hot-buttons, and away from what we’re doing behinds the scenes in our well-stocked conference rooms, the better."

Now, I don’t have anything against Big Business, per se.  Hell, I work for one of the biggest.  But you don’t have to be a history major to see the damage that the deregulation of the financial industry has done to the country.  There is one party that is working feverishly to deregulate the finance industry and the other is in favor of preventing another year like 2007.  (You know, where the rich guys betting on stock failures get richer and the rest of us get soaked.)

OR, just look at this week’s news about JP Morgan.  Do you think the big financial guys learned anything from that complete economic collapse (that they caused)?  Obviously not.  They’re still pulling the same kind of shit, while at the same time, begging, pleading with and plunging millions of dollars into lobbying Congress to release the shackles of regulation.  You know, release those shackles whose removal will allow them to go right back to their old ways, without repercussion.

Two billion dollars, they lost.  Say it like Carl Sagan… “Two BILL-YUN dollars.”  At least we taxpayers aren’t on the hook for that, but still, that kind of loss can suck the support out of the market in general and whoops!  There go our 401k’s again.

In a similar vein, the Democrats fought to set up a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to function independently as they look out for the kind of financial malfeasance that robs the common people and enriches the executives of the financial industry. 

So far, the Republicans have tried to create political oversight of the department, (which completely defeats the intended “independent” purpose), withhold approval for anyone to run the department (especially anyone that might be effective) and defund it so that they are too understaffed and financially strapped to operate.  Does that sound like it’s in the best interest of the average American?

Hardly.  That’s in the best interest of the banking industry, an industry that preys on you and me with relentless fees, hidden behind indecipherable legalese, specifically designed to be impenetrable to the average consumer.  They squawked to high heaven at the thought of having to tell their customers, in plain English, what kind of fees they were likely to pay, in clearly articulated circumstances.

Who could possibly be against keeping banks from intentionally scamming customers? 

The Republicans, that’s who.  Their stance on this issue clearly illustrates whose side they are on.

Hint: It’s not yours.  (Unless, you know, you own a bank.)

The Republicans insistence on deregulating industries in general, the banking industry in particular, is one reason why I vote Democratic.  You should too.

***
Note: Bonus points for anyone that caught the reference to “Star Trek IV: The One With the Whales.”  And Republicans want those whales dead.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day at The Yard

I hope everyone had a happy Mother’s Day.  I truly don’t know how you manage to do the things you do, what with having little ones running around (now or in the past).  I attribute it to a series of daily miracles.

Having just left from seeing my mother in Florida, I pretty much had a free slate this weekend, so I went to see another Orioles game.  Yes, this is another baseball post, but not really, because I not going to write very much about actual baseball.  As you know, I like to show up early and then wander around, taking pictures of whatever I think I can make interesting.

But first off, let me just say that I did manage to acquire a Pensacola Blue Wahoos hat.  I could have gotten one when I was down there last week, but was told that they wanted freakin’ $40 for them.  I thought I could do better so I waited.  Then I found them for sale online, for $32.  I was very excited until I went to process my order and noticed the $9 for shipping, bringing the total to $41.

Shit.

But what the heck, I really wanted one.  See, they’re pretty cool.

Whenever I get into these predicaments, I just think back to the time I wanted a ZZ Top keychain.  You remember those, right?  The big silver ZZ, featured in the old 80s videos?
Mine could use a shine, but is still none the worse for wear.

The first time I saw ZZ Top in concert, I was going to buy a keychain, but they wanted something like $12.99 for them.  This was 1983 money, something I didn’t have very much of, so I passed.  Then I spent the next 3 years kicking myself for not buying the goddamned keychain.  Every time I saw one on TV, I’d be like, “Why didn’t you just buy the freakin’ key chain, you dipshit?

(I cuss myself out all the time.  It saves everyone else the trouble.)

Anyway, when I saw ZZ Top again, in 1986, I finally got to buy one (for $15.99) and it was well worth it.  I used it for the next 20 years or so, until I got tired of it poking me in the groin every time I sat down with it in my pocket.  I still have it hanging up, though.  (The keychain, not my groin.)

Then later, in the 90s, I got one for free at one of my record company trade shows.  Gave that one to my Dad, who still uses it to this day.

Wait, now where was I?  Oh yeah, I went to see a game on Sunday.  No, I didn’t wear my Blue Wahoos hat.  I already had good mojo with a different hat that I’ve worn the prior 2 times I went to a game this year, so I wasn’t going to break the streak.

Like usual, I started off here, in front of these bars.
I get my eat on at the food stands on the left.  Then I get my (cheap) drink on at The Bullpen, which is the narrow bar that has the 3 tents directly in front of it.

Here’s why I get my food there:
THIS should be The Big Wahoo.  This is $5 and would probably cost you $8 inside the park.

I missed batting practice this time, so I wandered up to the new patio.  I ordered my ticket online on Saturday, finding a single seat on the aisle, in the front row of the upper deck.  While I have my favorite areas to sit, I do like to try different vantage points.  Here’s where I sat this time.
Front row, baby!  I could look right down the first base line.

As I navigated up to the upper deck, I shot this picture of the centerfield layout, that shows the places that I’ve talked about in previous posts.
You can see the Statue Court at the lower left, the new Patio on the left, and the Flag Court directly in front of the Warehouse.

One cool thing they have on the upper concourse is a Tee-less T-ball cage.  They have an airjet hold a whiffleball aloft, where kids can come up and take a hack.
I totally wanted to elbow the kids out of the way and take a few cuts myself.  But with it being Mother’s Day and all, I chose not to cause a scene.

I was quite pleased with my seat, other than for one detail.  Seems they just put up these glass panels at the bottom of the stairways.  I guess they’re to keep people from tumbling off of the deck, I suppose, it they came down the steps with too much speed to stop.  But still, it hampered my view.
What’s a few falling bodies if I can get a better view?  They should accept the risk when they buy an upper deck ticket.

Baltimore does have a pretty decent view out of centerfield, as long as you’re sitting on the third base side.
All anyone can see from the first base side is the Eyesore Hilton, at the far left of the gap.

Mother’s Day festivities were in full bloom.  They had the Oriole Bird and a “Mrs. Bird” come out to throw out a first pitch. 
I didn't even know the Oriole Bird was one of a breeding pair.  Go figure.

Also, it was Sun Hat Day for all the women in attendance.
They all look like they're wearing flattened traffic cones.

It was a sunny day and I was starting to get really warm, but luckily the sun passed behind the stadium wall during the 5th inning, thus shading my seat.  It got a lot more comfortable then.  See this is why I like to go to the early-season games.  The weather is so much better.  Come July and August, shade or not, the humidity makes you sweat your buns off.

The game itself had its ups and downs.  Tampa Bay jumped out to a 7-1 lead by the 5th inning, but the O’s clawed their way back to trail 7-6.  Then in the 8th, the Rays hit back-to-back solo homers, to go up 9-6.  Still the Orioles fought back with runs in the 8th and 9th, before a final groundout with 2 runners on, ended the game.

I didn’t take a lot of “game” pictures… just during one at bat by Nick Markakis.  I wanted a lefty.  I’m just including a few here because they came out pretty well. (Considering I was in the upper freakin’ deck!)

Markakis awaits the pitch.

Markakis fouls one off.

Markakis steps into a swing.

Markakis just doubled to left.

So that was that… another nice day at Camden Yards.  No Forrest Gump moments for me this time, not in the upper deck.  Thus endeth my streak.  But I feel sorry for people that don’t have a professional team in their town.  It’s such a benefit… well, as long as you don’t mind subsidizing the stadiums with your tax dollars… But I don’t mind.  If they didn’t spend the dough on stadiums, they’d probably just waste it.