Thursday, January 30, 2014

Congress Actually Does Do Jack

I saw an article this week about how the House of Representatives passed another anti-abortion bill; this one to further strengthen the ban on public funding for the procedure.

Now, the merits of this particular bill aside, this kind of thing further demonstrates what’s wrong with politics in the last five years.  (And isn’t it funny how it coincides with having an African-American president, huh?)  What I’m talking about is repeatedly passing bills in one chamber (almost always the House) that have zero chance of becoming law. 

Perhaps our fine congressional leaders should go back and review their episodes of Schoolhouse Rock, and learn how a bill becomes a law. 

The Democratic-controlled Senate also has to approve the bill.  Then after House and Senate leaders meet to work out the differences, it has to be signed by the President. So this bill will not pass the Senate, (nor will it even come up for a vote), and if it somehow did, the President would veto it.

When the House passes bills on these super-partisan issues like abortion, birth control, tax cuts, and most often, health care, it’s all done strictly for show.  The Congressmen want to be able to go home and tell the voters, “I voted for all of these things multiple times, so please send me back to I can keep on voting for them.  If it wasn’t for those miserable Democrats, the bills would actually become law.”

As long as they’re bemoaning the state of these D.O.A. bills, they don’t have to explain why they keep funding high-end tax cuts and subsidies for the richest companies on the planet.  When have you ever heard a Republican insist that farm or oil subsidies need to be “paid for” through other cuts?  But unemployment benefits?  Food stamps?  School lunch programs or after-care?  They want offsets, because after all, the people who would benefit are really just a bunch of lousy “takers.”

Anyway, repeatedly passing useless bills is 100% politics and it accomplishes nothing for anyone, except for the Congressmen trying to keep their own jobs.  It renders the political process inert, and doesn’t fund a single project, put a single American to work, or make anyone’s life better.

Sending bill after bill that revokes the very laws the other side worked exceedingly hard to pass is an exercise in futility.  It just feels good for them to do it; essentially, it’s political masturbation.

But that’s what you get when you elect so many jerk-offs.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Super Bowl XLVIII

The Super Bowl is this Sunday and this year, I get to watch it stress-free.  The Steelers aren’t playing, and neither are any of their chief rivals, or teams that could tie them in Super Bowls won.

They are, however, playing outdoors in a cold-weather climate for the first time.  (Not counting places where it was cold during the game, as an anomaly.)  While it might be entertaining for the casual fan, to see the two teams slugging it out while braving the elements, I don’t like it.

For starters, I think the Super Bowl should be a test of team skills, not an endurance test in an ice box.  The field and weather should be neutral, with the best team winning.  A weather-neutral site factors out where the team’s city is located, and whether they play indoors.  It’s just football.

Also, I don’t like it as a fan who attends games.  (Or used to.  It’s been a while.)  A trip to the Super Bowl should be like a vacation, especially given what it costs to go.  If I’m laying out over $3,500 for a seat (I paid $2600 in 2006 for SBLX, and I’m sure it’s gone up), plus the insane New York/New Jersey hotel rates, plus a possible airplane flight, I want to enjoy myself, not see how much frozen misery I can endure. 

I want palm trees, not beer-cicles.  Or I want hurricane drinks, strings of beads, and the activities associated with acquiring said beads.  I don’t want my contact lenses freezing in my eyes.

As you may recall, I wrote about going to Super Bowl XL in Detroit, when the Steelers played the Seahawks.  We knew we’d be warm during the game, because they were playing at Ford Field, which is an indoor stadium.  However, navigating around Detroit in the cold and snow proved to be miserable.  (As if it’s not miserable in Detroit on a pleasant spring day…)  We were lucky we could find anything, because the snow had covered up not only the street signs, but the additional signage (read: marker on cardboard, taped to other street signs) that led to the event parking.  (We basically had to abandon a tailgate party, for which we had already paid to attend, and hide out in a casino until they opened the gates.
Cheezin, and freezin... 

So even though it could lead to a Super Bowl being held in Pittsburgh, or here in Baltimore, I’m still against it.  Let the game be the star, not the elements.

So, about the game…  I’m picking the Broncos, and I’m rooting for them as well.  Peyton Manning is about as experienced in big games as anyone.  I like Russell Wilson, but he hasn’t really been tested under great pressure.  That’s why I’m picking Denver.

As to why I’m rooting for the Broncos, here’s the deal.  I don’t really have anything against either team.  Manning’s a good guy, but so is Wilson.  Both teams play hard and play exciting football.

You might think I’m not rooting for the Seahawks because of that little outburst from Richard Sherman, after the NFC Championship Game.  Sure, I think he could have handled that interview with a little more class, and sure, he came off like pretty much of a flaming asshole, but that stuff can happen.

He’d just made the play to win the game, then had his congratulations rebuffed by the guy who he just bested, then 10 seconds later there was a mic in his face.  Yeah, the blatant hostility shocked me, but after reflecting on it, I understand.  I’m sure he’s not proud of that moment now either.  And he certainly doesn’t deserve to be labeled a thug or a criminal.  That’s just the knee-jerk reaction from middle-aged white racists, who are always on the lookout for someone to confirm their worst suspicions.

The dude is educated out the wazoo, far more-so than his yokel critics on the Internet, and has pulled himself up out of the ghetto to become a professional athlete, and an All-Pro at that.  I guess it just goes to show that anyone can have a idiot moment.

Here’s why I don’t want the Seahawks to win: Their fans are still crying about how the officials “robbed” them of a win against the Steelers in Super Bowl XL.  It doesn’t matter that replay analysis of almost every “bad call” proved they were correct, they still complain about having the title stolen from them.

Personally, I’d blame the 3 or 4 dropped passes, lax defenses that gave up two big touchdown plays, and the inability to run a 2-minute drill.  But that probably makes me biased.

Also, they’re supposed to be these big “12th Man” superfans, but where were they in Detroit?  Steeler fans outnumbered them 85% to 15%.  They think Detroit was too far, or too expensive?  How about New York?

So, screw Seattle… Let’s Go Broncos!  Besides, a Denver win will make my friends at “A Beer for the Shower” very happy.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bubba, Cooter and Gomer

I don't have anything interesting to say tonight (that I can get in before the Penguins game starts), so here's a joke:

Bubba died in a fire and his body was burned pretty badly.

The morgue needed someone to identify the body, so they sent for his two best deer hunting friends, Cooter and Gomer.

The three men had always hunted and fished together and were long time members of a hunt camp.

Cooter arrived first, and when the mortician pulled back the sheet, Cooter said, "Yup, his face is burned up pretty bad. You better roll him over."

The mortician rolled him over and Cooter said, "Nope, ain't  Bubba."

The mortician thought this was rather strange. So then  he brought Gomer in to confirm the identity of the body.

Gomer looked at the body and said, "Yup, he's pretty well burnt up.
Roll him over..."

The mortician rolled him over and Gomer said, "No, it ain't  Bubba."

The mortician asked, "How can you tell?"

Gomer said, "Well,  Bubba had two assholes."

"What? He had two assholes?" asked the mortician.

"Yup, we ain't never seen'em, but everybody used to say: 'Here come Bubba with them two assholes.'"

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Gravity: You don't miss it until there isn't any.

I was off on Monday for MLK day, so I took myself out to the movies.  I went to see Gravity, before it left all the theaters.  As it was, it was only showing at one of the places in my area.  From everything I heard about it, I figured I needed to see it on a big screen, in 3D.

And after having seen it now, everything I heard was right.  The 3D effects were amazing.  I mean, honest to God, when the shit started blowing up and flying around, it felt like I was right in the middle of it.  Seeing this movie on TV, no matter how large or clear the screen is, just won’t be the same. 

For a movie with out monsters or psycho killers, it was still pretty terrifying.  I mean, how scary is it to be torn away from your ship and left alone to drift out into space and die?  It’s one thing to hear about it in a David Bowie song; it’s another to feel like you’re along for the ride.  The fact that you’re riding along with the Hollywood coolness of Sandy and George only helps so much.

The only gripe I have doesn't really involve the movie, just the theater.  I mean, if you’re going to show a totally immersive 3D movie, and warn everyone to turn off their phones, the least you can do is turn off the fucking house lights when the movie starts!  Nothing kills the isolation of space like a bunch of spotlights shining down on the audience.

Finally, after about 3-4 minutes, someone got up and told them about it, and they killed the lights.  (Someone should have bought that dude an overpriced Coke.)

They showed the film in one of the smaller, fancier theaters.  The seats were like a series of easy chairs, paired off by twos, with foot-wide tables between the sets and in front of every other row.  Kinda sucks if you’re there with an odd-numbered group, but regardless, I definitely approve.

I still don’t have the answer to my 3D question, though.  As I mentioned in my post about the history of my vision correction, I have contact lenses that work around my need for bifocals.  The lens in my right eye is prescribed for distances, and my left, for close up.  Now, the 3D effect plays on the perceptions of both eyes, so I figure if I wear my usual contacts, I’ll get a blurry image, because anything viewed from my left eye will always appear blurry.

I asked the people at my eyeglass place about it, but they couldn't give me an answer.  (The doctor was out.)  They told me no one had ever asked about that before.  In fact, they told me to report back to them if I find anything out.

Well, I didn't find anything out because for this trip, I replaced my left contact lens with one of my old lenses that was prescribed for a longer distance.  If they want to pay for my ticket, I’ll be glad to give my current prescription a try and report back.  But I’m not paying $12.50 (for a matinee!) to watch a movie with blurry 3D.

Anyway, if you haven’t already seen it, and are at all interested, I give Gravity a hearty recommendation.  Go see it before it disappears to the DVD bins.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Buffering...

The Supreme Court heard a case this week where people are trying to remove Massachusetts’ law providing a 35’ buffer zone around clinics that provide abortions.

I haven’t really written about my stance on freedom of choice and abortion rights since I laid it all out in 2010.  (There was some great conversation in Comments after that one.) 

But long story short, I am vehemently pro-choice, because nothing offends me more than one group of people forcing their sense of values on others.  In this case, a bunch of predominantly male, “small-government” lawmakers (and the social conservative who elect them) presume to know what’s best for a woman’s health and life circumstance, and have spent the last 40 years setting up hoops, roadblocks and unnecessary and invasive medical testing, in hopes of making abortions too inconvenient for those that seek them.

I feel abortions are a tragedy, and should be avoided by having unfettered access to birth control, sex education and family planning services.  When those don’t work, it’s up to the one or two people directly involved in the situation, and not a Greek chorus of holier-than-thou types who presume to know what’s best. 

In reading about the case, it bothers me that the justices don’t seem to have a grasp of what’s really going on outside these clinics.  They seem far more interested in upholding the First Amendment rights of nut-jobs over the right of scared and troubled women not to be stalked, crowded, pawed at, screamed at and lied to by said nut-jobs.  Even the liberal justices seem to be missing the point. 

One of the witnesses was an elderly lady, who very calmly and politely explained how she’s talked over 80 women out of having abortions.  It left the impression that these conversations are civil, like the participants are enjoying light conversation.   

Excuse me, I’m sorry to bother you but could you not have an abortion please?  They’re very bad.  Thank you.”

If only these “protesters” were sweet little old ladies offering sage advice, with butter cookies and tea...  But that’s not what’s happening. 

Last night I read a link from NARAL’s Facebook page, for an article written for Cosmo by a guy who volunteers to escort women past the angry mobs, into Planned Parenthood facilities.  This is the guy who should be testifying in front of the Supreme Court.

He volunteers in Pennsylvania, where they don’t have a buffer law, but they do put up police ropes, which the protesters routinely ignore.  He documents how these people harass anyone who walks by.  (That’s how he became involved: they harassed him and his 6-month pregnant girlfriend, who happened to be passing by a Planned Parenthood office.)  They surround these troubled, terrified women, try to push flyers into their hands, call them names, shout horrible untruths about what happens during and after an abortion, and essentially function as a bullying mob.

I found a similar story by a female clinic escort, who wrote of how she came to the aid of one young woman who was being similarly accosted.  Multiple doctors had told this woman that having another baby would likely kill her, as well as the baby.  But these vultures didn’t know anything about that, nor would they care. 

That’s another thing: where are these do-gooders AFTER they browbeat a woman out of ending her pregnancy?  Campaigning for food stamps, day care, after-care, or school lunch programs?  Hell no.  Those are for the lousy slackers and “takers.” 

To quote the great George Carlin, with these people, “If you’re pre-born, you’re fine, if you’re pre-school, you’re fucked!

I’ve seen this crowd before.  Remember when I went to the Super Bowl in Detroit?  These clowns were standing in the street, yelling at everyone in line.

Notice how they’re all men.  Also notice that they stayed back across the street.  Obviously, they’re more eager to physically intimidate women than a line full of football fans.

Sometimes I think that I should go out and do more in the community, and doing something to aid Planned Parenthood is always the first thing that comes to mind.  I’ve given serious thought to volunteering as an escort.  But boy, would that ever be a mistake.

The guy-escort’s column basically told me all I needed to know, to determine that I’m the wrong personality type for such work.  The escort needs to be extremely non-confrontational with the protesters, because there’s nothing they would like better than to press an assault charge on a Planned Parenthood volunteer.  I don’t know that I could do that.

I’m as chill as anyone could be, and I have the protective nature required, but I completely lack the trait needed to sit back and take shit from people.  (Going to Ratbird games in a Steeler jersey tells me all I need to know about that.) 

In a situation where emotions are running high, I never met a fire I don’t first try to put out with gasoline.  If they were to start yelling at me, or my charge, someone would get told to fuck off.  And if they were to get close enough to jostle us, someone would get shoved back.  Or cold-cocked.  And off I’d go to jail.

I suppose I’ll have to settle for supporting organizations like NARAL and Planned Parenthood financially, like I’ve been doing.  (Do you know you can donate to PP via the United Way?  You can even pick the state.  I pick the ones that are cutting funding to PP or enacting crippling legislation.)

I’d really hate to see the few states that do something about women’s health have their efforts erased.  As far as I can see, the right to free speech does not trump the right to be left alone.  In other words, “speak all you want, just get the fuck out of my face.”

There are a number of limitations to free speech already, like the proverbial yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, or anything limited by libel and slander laws.  Eliminating the buffer zone on account of free speech is akin to sanctioning bullying and harassment.

How long will it be before some parent sues for the right of their kid to bully, mock, tease or harass another kid?  That would be free speech too, wouldn’t it?  I wonder if anyone thought about opening THAT can of worms… 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Raising the Minimum Wage

I’m an old guy now, and while I don’t remember everything, I remember a lot.  For example, I remember how I started working at a grocery store when I was 16, for which I received the minimum wage of $2.65 per hour.  I remember how when it went up to $2.90 and then $3.10 the next year, I felt like I was rolling in dough.  (OK, that may have been from helping out the ladies in the bakery.) 

But hey, I was a teenager with low overhead.  I’d bank three-quarters of my check for college tuition and still have plenty of money left over for gas, (which was $1.20 a gallon) beer ($3.49 a 6-pack) and pizza (Little Caesars pizza-pizza for $10.00).

I remember that the minimum wage has gone up incrementally ever since.  And what’s germane to this post is that I remember how every single time a raise in minimum wage was proposed, the business community loudly protested about how such a raise would make them fire staff, decrease service and eventually put them out of business.

Then the minimum wage raise would pass, and none of that would happen. 

Every. Single. Time.

It’s happening again, both at the federal level and here in Maryland.  People are talking about raising the minimum wage from the federal mandate of at least $7.25, by phasing in increases to about $10.00 an hour. 
How will the “job providers” ever manage to survive if we raise the minimum wage? [/sarcasm]

Naturally, anything that helps the poor, the young or women (read: “Democrats”), will be opposed by Republicans whose constituency runs far more affluent, middle-aged, white and male.  They’re trotting out the same arguments that raising the minimum wage will actually harm the poor because employers will be more hesitant to hire people for whom they have to pay more.  It’s almost as if they’re counting on us to forget that this effect was negligible after past wage hikes.

Now, I’m certainly no economist, but there’s a certain logic at work here.  People who make minimum wage are not usually people who are socking that money into their mattresses, or the stock market.  They’re spending that money on food, gas, clothes and other necessities.  The money is going right back into the market.

I also think that the threats of business services being curtailed are over-blown.  What happens if a restaurant cuts staff?  People don’t get served quickly.  If people aren’t getting served quickly, they’ll go somewhere else.  If people go somewhere else, that first business dies.  (Geez, this sounds like that Direct TV commercial.)

So, are the people who run these establishments going to intentionally sabotage their own businesses just to make a point?  I don’t think so.  They’re going to do what they have to do to stay in business.   Perhaps their profits get pinched.  They’ll probably raise prices to offset it.  So what else is new?  Prices go up eternally.  But, as more money gets spent in the market, the economy rises, and more people go out to eat.  The business is sustained.

Plus, as people are pulled out of poverty, there is less of a demand for food stamps, welfare and other public assistance.  You’d think that would make conservatives very happy.

But conservatives are never happy when it comes to profit margin.  Why else did they run for office featuring campaigns to lower taxes, after enjoying a long run of the lowest taxes in the history of the country?  Because the only thing better than lower taxes are taxes lowered even further.

Granted, the minimum wage issue isn’t a tax, but it’s the same principle: outgoing money that lowers profit margin.  Next thing you know, someone’s calling it a “handout,” regardless of the fact that people work their ass off for it.

When I worked for minimum wage, those dollars had a lot more buying power.  It’s a different story now.  The cost of living has far outpaced the past increases in the minimum wage.  Raising it now would bring the two back into better balance.
My $2.90 went a hell of a lot further in 1978.

I hate it when rich people go on TV and talk about how poor people just need to work harder and stretch their dollars.  What nerve.  Anyone that thinks minimum wage is high enough should try living on it for a week. 

But that would require empathy, and the only people for whom conservatives have empathy are those fighting financial regulations, environmental laws, higher business taxes and reverse discrimination.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Why It's Still Governor Christie's Fault

I've always been on the fence about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  That he’s Republican obviously rubs me the wrong way, but it never bothered me that he shot from the hip in answering dumb or insulting questions.  I don’t mind people not suffering fools gracefully.

And I appreciate that he seems to be a pragmatist.  He worked with the Anti-Christ, I mean, the Democratic President, in order to obtain aid for his storm-stricken state, and then had the audacity to thank him for his help and appear appreciative.  That took courage, in this age of hyper-partisanship, but he thought it was the right (and obvious) thing to do.  He’s been at odds with the rest of the Republicans ever since.  In my book, that means he’s been doing something right.

But as far as I’m concerned, this latest controversy changes all of that.  If you haven’t heard, emails have surfaced that show that his top-level staff approved shutting down three of four lanes on a bridge leading out of Fort Lee, NJ.  It was an action meant to punish the Democratic Mayor of Fort Lee, who had refused to back Christie’s re-election, and as follows, the voters who backed the Mayor.

The resulting traffic jam tied up the bridge for hours and delayed emergency service crews as well.  It was a total four-alarm clusterfuck.  When the Mayor called in to pursue a solution to the tie-up, he was intentionally ignored, and then mocked through emails.

The email trail shows that this absolutely happened as is being reported.  There is no backing down or spinning it.  There are too many emails, and they don’t lie.

This activity confirms worst our fears about politicians; that We the People are nothing but faceless blobs to be manipulated in pursuit of consolidating power and punishing rivals.  It’s telling that no one cared about the thousands of people being clock-blocked and delayed.  It was more important to send a message to the Mayor of Fort Lee.  It makes you long for the days when they just sent a dead fish wrapped in newspaper.

Christie apologized on Thursday, and fired the staffers involved, but his apologies ring false.  A staff operates under the culture of the office.  If they knew the Governor would be shocked and appalled by their actions, they wouldn't take those actions.  If the purveying sentiment were that we never stoop to political payback, there wouldn't be any.  Being shocked and appalled after the information leaked is not the same.

Even if the idea was originated by the Chief of Staff, and the Governor truly didn't know what was going on, you still have to blame the Governor.  It’s His Guy, and His Guy knows what the Governor would want done.  In fact, it would be his job to ensure it stays away from the Governor.  If he thought his boss truly didn't want his opponent screwed with, he wouldn't have done it.  It wouldn't be in his personal or professional interest to do something contrary to his boss’s wishes. 

The office culture is set from the top down.  If the boss is a choirboy, you’re going to have a staff of people who act like he does, because they risk their job if they don’t.  If the boss is down with ratfucking his enemies, they won’t think twice about doing the same.

Therefore, this scandal is 100% Chris Christie’s fault and he should bear the brunt of the political (or legal) consequences. 

Perhaps the Mayor of Fort Lee should tie up the line in the State House cafeteria.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dennis Rodman and North Korea Explained

Really, there’s a logical explanation for Dennis Rodman’s BFF relationship with North Korean President, Kim Jong-Un.  (Dennis Rodman is a former basketball player and noted freak, who played his best ball for Detroit and Chicago.)

Here’s what I think happened:

It started when Kim Jong-Un assumed control of the North Korean government, after the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il, (who was assumed to have succumbed to extreme roneriness.)

The US Intelligence Community had minimal information on the doughy new Dear Leader, and were badly in need of intel.  In an Oval Office meeting with the President, they discussed a variety of ways to get ears on what was going on.  Playing on the reported North Korean fascination with American sports and popular culture, one of the NSA guys suggested recruiting a famous athlete to do their bidding.

NSA Guy: We need a crazy brother who won’t raise any eyebrows by going over there.

President Obama: Are you sure we need an athlete? I can always send Biden… Nah, he’ll probably accidentally sign a treaty or something.   No wait… I’m from Chicago… I’ll just call Dennis!

NSA Guy: That’s just stupid enough to work!  But what if he gives it away?  He’s not the most focused dude…

CIA Guy: We won’t tell him!  Mr. President, you contact his “people,” and get them to invite themselves to North Korea.  They’ll bite… they’re crazy for ballers.  Then we tell Dennis to get himself a new piercing for the occasion.  But we’ll send one of our people in the shop to plant a bug in the stud.  He won’t even know we’re listening.

Obama: Right!  Then we just send him off to go have a good time, and we’ll get a flavor for what that crazy fuck is up to.  No one will ever suspect our role, because it just looks like Dennis being Dennis, acting all…

Everyone in the room: Batshit crazy!

[Fist bumps all around.]

See?  It all fits.  And you know that Uncle who Kim Jong-Un had executed?  He probably disparaged Dennis’s tattoos.  And the rumors that he was fed to the dogs were probably started by Dennis, due to a translation error.

Rodman: Hey Un, your uncle been bustin’ my grill, dissing my tats.  But what do you expect from a muthafucka when y’all feed him dog?

Director’s DVD Commentary: When I came in to work today, two of my cube-mates were discussing what the hell Rodman was doing over there, and while I was pouring my morning cup of water, I came up with this hypothesis and whipped it on them.

For what it’s worth, they thought it was totally plausible.

You know, after this post runs, I better keep an eye out for NSA guys on my tail.  And re-watch The Pelican Brief.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Weird Bits

Greetings from the “New Frozen Tundra,” the eastern half of America!  Today was colder here in Baltimore than it’s been in ages.  It was 8 degrees at my place, and we got off easy compared to the Midwest and North.  I’m just glad I didn’t have to be outside for very long.

But it was even cold inside today.  All of our cubicles at work face windows, as does my boss’s office.  Her walls make the office like one of those interior sections of your refrigerator, that channels the cold.  You should have seen us in her office staff meeting today… One woman had a crocheted blanked over her lap, my boss wore a heavy scarf, another guy and I had ski-caps on, and one more woman simply nursed some hot tea.  We looked like we were the management team for a call center in Siberia.

Anyway, we all know it’s cold.  But in my case, it also extends to my luck with picking winners this year.  I just finished up with the annual college bowl picks and I got whipped every which way. 

In one online program, I just had to pick the winners, even up.  I won 15 and lost 20, easily the worst I’ve ever done since I started keeping track in 2005.  My winning percentage was .428.  I’d never been below .531 before.

In our program from work, where you have to pick against the spread, I placed 69th out of 70. 

To make matters worse, I paid my entry fee late… so late, in fact, that I was already mathematically eliminated.  It’s one thing to pay up when it’s early and you think you have a shot at winning.  It’s another when you know the money is going straight to someone much smarter than you… who, in my case, are everyone else in the pool.

My problem is that I actually did some research before making the picks.  I found a site that ran computer simulations and stuff, and made game projections.  I’m pretty sure I would have done better if I’d just flipped a coin.  Next time, I’m just going with my gut.  My gut is bound to do better than 68th place.

Question for You
I had some weird stuff happen on the blog right before Christmas.  On December 22nd, I started getting hits on old posts from all over world.  They came from Europe, Asia, the Pacific Islands and South America, and none of them had referral source.  There would be hits in clusters around a handful of old posts, each one from a different country.  Then a bunch of different places would hit a handful of different posts.  None left comments, obviously, or navigated any further than the landing page.  Then the onslaught stopped on Christmas Day.

It would be different if I thought I was getting readers from all of these places.  But I’m pretty sure that people all over the world didn’t suddenly become fascinated with Game Jersey Mojo.  It seemed to me like it was some kind of hacker’s Denial of Service attack on the Blogger system, like PCs across the world were activated with a zombie computer virus.  But I can’t see that the hits actually did anything besides spin my Stat Meter numbers.

What I want to know is if you noticed anything of the sort?  It couldn’t have been just me.  What’s going on out there?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Odd Bits - The Family Christmas Edition

The main reason I haven’t been writing much, this holiday season, is that nothing much happened, at least not all at once.  But I think I have enough scraps collected now that I can share a little bit of my Christmas season.

For the first time in ages, I spent Christmas morning alone.  But that was fine… I was able to compensate nicely, with a stellar Christmas breakfast.

I didn't put up a tree this year, but then, I have a couple strings of lights up year round.  I put those on, turned on the Yule Log Channel on TV, and put on my home made Christmas music CD.  (It’s chocked full of Bluz’ favorite non-traditional yuletide tunes… YuleTunz, I guess.)  After my nutritious breakfast, I wrapped up the last of the presents for distribution.

That afternoon, I went to my brother Ed’s house for dinner and gift exchange.  Mostly, there was a lot of this…
Nephew Sam, in action.

After dinner, though, I got Sammy out for a little garage hockey, with his new stick and goal net.  I probably should have just let him play with his video game, because he shot about 8 or 9 pucks off the same spot on my lower right shin.  Maybe I should start letting him win.  I knew I shouldn't have tossed my hockey pads!

The day after Christmas, I set sail for The Burgh.  Everyone was comin’ ta tahn… Ed and the family went, my sister and her husband came in from Cincinnati, and my parents had come up from Florida earlier in the week.  We haven’t all been together for Christmas since I can’t remember when.  This isn't a picture we get to take very often:
The Bluz Siblings

And of course, we got to visit with my about-to-be-98-year-old Grandpa.
Grandpa’s first granddaughter still gets a special seat with him.

We stayed in Pittsburgh until Saturday, and mostly hung out with my Aunt Grace Ann and Uncle Ange, which meant we had two major dinners.  I was in heaven!  On Thursday, we had wedding soup, sausage and peppers, ravioli, a chicken thing, and other assorted goodies.

Please tell me: is there anyone else that’s ever heard of doughballs in wedding soup?  We've always done that in my family, but I've never met anyone else that’s heard of it.

Friday night, we combined Aunt Mary’s manicotti with Segnari’s fish sandwiches for an incredible culinary combination. 
Do not let the trick of “perspective” fool you.  Those sandwiches were massive.  That’s a full-sized dinner plate there.

I couldn't believe we actually had a couple of leftover fish sandwiches.  In the days of my youth, I would never have allowed that to happen.  But I was done… I had already eaten until I couldn't move any more.  Luckily, there’s always room for wine, and Uncle Ange never gets tired of pouring.

I almost wasn't allowed to take part in Thursday’s dinner, due to a team mojo controversy.  Normally, I am loath to root against the University of Pittsburgh.  But as it happened, they were playing my alma mater, Bowling Green, in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl.  The Fighting Falcons don’t get to many bowl games, under the circumstances, I had to “represent,” for my guys, so I sported my “traffic-cone orange” Bowling Green attire.  But my Aunt and Uncle are kind-hearted people, so they let me eat anyway, if I promised not to cheer too loudly or do any obnoxious dances. 

We were all on the same side Friday night, when the Penguins played.  I brought one of my game jerseys for the occasion.  Mojo counts, no matter where you are.  I have to do my part.  (We won, too, so it obviously worked.  That’s science.)

I headed back to Baltimore on Saturday morning, and along the way, I had a startling realization.  It dawned on me as I drove through the Breezewood toll plaza, wearing a Pens hat and hoodie and a Steelers shirt, with two leftover fish sandwiches, two pounds of Isaly’s chipped ham and two loaves of fresh Mancini’s Italian bread, and Donny Iris playing on the stereo, I had just become a “Yinzer.”  At least an honorary Yinzer, for sure.  I wonder if there’s a secret handshake…

On Sunday, it was off to my local sports bar for the last regular season games of the year.  The Steelers needed to win, and then see losses by the Ratbirds, Dolphins and Chargers.  My brother and his son Daniel joined me for the game.  I was glad I could share my Sunday “second home,” and prove to some of the local barflies that I do, in fact, have a family of my own.

Sitcom Kelly and her former foster-care girl came out for a short time too.  The little one (who’s 5 now) hopped up on my lap and nested there until it was time to leave.  I tell you, the little girls just love me.

Well, the Steelers won and two of the other teams lost, so all looked good, right up until the Kansas City kicker missed a field goal as time ran out and then the Chargers won in overtime.  Eh… I wasn't really expecting the playoffs this year, not after they played like crap all season.  The important part is that the Ratbirds didn't make it either.  That means I can breathe until next season.

I had Monday and Tuesday off too, so I got to ease back into reality.  Well, I should use that term loosely… mostly what I did was tear through season 3 of True Blood and eat chipped ham sandwiches.

New Years was non-eventful… spend the Eve and the Day at home.  Maybe something fun will pop up next year.  But after watching some of the NYC coverage on New Years Eve, I think they should show a lot less Miley Cyrus and a lot more Debby Harry.  Blondie’s in her 60s now, and still looks smokin’ hot.

So, I’m back to work now, and I’m glad I start with a 2-day week.  That’s a nice way to dip your toe back into your job.  But next week… that’ll be my first 5-day week in quite a while.

If only I could find a way to get paid for laying on the couch, watching sports and DVDs, eating giant sandwiches and drinking wine.  I’d never have to retire.