Saturday, February 28, 2009

Check Your Urban Legend Chops

MSN had an Urban Legends quiz the other day that was quite interesting. I took it, obviously, and was dismayed that I actually got 2 out of 10 wrong. I do have an issue with one of the questions I missed... I thought it was worded misleadingly, but as Myron Cope would say, "Pish and tosh, why carp?" Anyway, take a shot... See if you know bullshit when you see it...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Vegetables Redux

I read last week that not only do fruits and vegetables not taste as good as they did in your grandparent’s day, produce today is 5-40% lower in minerals than those grown 50 years ago.

I don’t have anything against fruit. They make candy, cereal, and Pop Tarts in fruit flavors, so it must be pretty good. Even the Vitamin C tablets taste good, kind of like a fortified Sweet Tart.

Vegetables, on the other hand… well… have you ever heard of Frosted Spinach Pop Tarts? How about Tropical Broccoli Lifesavers? There’s a reason for that.

Vegetables are evil and I’ve never trusted them. Now I find out they’re losing whatever scant upside they had to begin with? The only reason Moms have now to force-feed the peas to her horrified offspring is just to see the look on their faces.

It seems as good a time as any to revisit some of my “produce” from the past called: “The Rules of Vegetables”. I know that this blog is too new to be starting with reruns, but my plan all along was to bring over some of the favorites from the old site.

People have always called me a fussy eater, especially when it comes to vegetables. I never thought so, but when confronted with the evidence, I had to scramble for logical reasons why I like what I like. Thus was born the Rules of Vegetables. For the longest time, it’s just been something I’ve explained to people, as a kind of performance art, but recently a friend asked me to forward it to one of his friends, and I realized that I had nothing to forward. I rectified the situation and now I proudly present, “My Rules of Vegetables.”

My Rules of Vegetables

1. The more syllables there are in the name, the worse they are.
The good veggies have 1 syllable… Peas, beans, corn.
· Veggies with 2 syllables are good raw, but not cooked… carrots, peppers, spinach. (even Popeye didn’t cook his spinach.)
· After that, the more syllables you add, the worse they become… asparagus, cauliflower. Any vegetable that gets compared to a boxer’s ear can’t be good for you.
2. There are several conditions that act as “multipliers” of badness. The more of these conditions that are present, the worse the taste of the vegetable.
· Veggies that end in a vowel… broccoli, zucchini, origami. There must be something especially potent about a double “C”, which makes broccoli into my personal kryptonite.
· Double letters… Brussels sprouts, eggplant. Regarding eggplant, I could also add that purple vegetables are also bad, but I don’t want to sound petty, or biased against “vegetables of color.”
· Any veggie with a “Q” in it. Or as I call it, “The Squash Rule”. This rule also encompasses any little used letters, like “Z” or “X”. I don’t know if there are any vegetables with “X” in it, but if there are, I’m sure I won’t like it.

My Rules of Meat

The rules of meat are much simpler, and hark back to a simpler time when the menfolk found themselves hungry, they left the cave and went out a’huntin’.

1. Meat is Good.
2. Organs are Bad.

I’m quite certain that when the pack went out and brought down a mastodon or something, that the roasted the meat right there on the spot. This routine became the earliest know evidence of “grilling out”. (And the one thing that always helped get the fire started was the mastodon’s bushy tail, hence the enduring term, “tailgating”.)
Everyone participated in the hunt, except the women, and of course, the French. So when they realized that they ate all the meat out there in the field, they looked for something they could bring back home to the missus. Now, they knew that bringing home nothing but the oddly shaped and weirdly colored scraps would get them a real ration of grief, so they figured they’d better come up with a plan.
So these wretched leftovers were presented, with great reverence and fanfare, as “the best parts, the parts where all the nutrition is!” (This is also the birth of “Marketing”, as we know it) This pre-historic bait and switch took hold right down to our DNA, and the remnants remain to be seen today. Next time you’re at “Henri’s Bistro”, just take a look at who’s ordering the pancreas, and who’s serving it. And you can just smile knowingly, as you order the pork chops. With corn.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Is That a Towel In Your Pants, or Are You Just Glad to See Me?

Back in December, I noticed a significant 1-time credit in my paycheck, with no warning or explanation. I asked my boss about it and found out that I got one of my company’s incentive awards they call “Champion’s Awards”, just for being a helluva guy, I guess. Usually they make a little certificate presentation when these awards are done for the $50 awards, but basically it was like, “Oh yeah… congratulations.” He eventually produced a printout of why I was so awarded.
But I was thinking… “Cool”… because it’s really all about the Benjamins anyway.

So a about a month later I ask my boss, “so do I ever get a certificate for that award? I thought there would have been a small ceremony or something.”

He said, “Oh, there’ll be one…”

Hmmmm… I figure something’s up. A day or two later, I realize that we have a Town Hall Meeting coming up and that’s where they present the larger awards. “Oh boy… they’re going to give me my certificate in front of half the building.” (We have 2 meetings, with about half the staff at each.)

Now, I’m already known around my office as an Uber-Steeler fan. Even our company’s President knows it, and the Town Hall was going to be just 1 week after my boys won the Super Bowl. So I was pretty sure that when she calls me up there, she’s going to mention something about the Steelers. And I thought, “wouldn’t it be funny if I then pulled out a Terrible Towel and twirled it overhead?” Sure I might get some boos from all the Ravens fans, but I’d just smile and hold up 6 fingers to represent the 6 Super Bowls the Steelers have won (which is more than any other team). Ravens fans are nothing if not bitter.

I considered using the famous Blazing Saddles line, “Excuse me while I whip this out”, before showing The Towel, but thought better of it. Didn’t want to push it…

So I totally planned it out… I wore my best button-down Oxford shirt with a Steelers logo, to help provoke her into saying something. I brought in my Towel and before I went down for the meeting, I folded it lengthwise and pushed it down my left pant leg, with the edge just barely visible behind my waistband, but within easy reach.

So it comes time for the awards and I’m just on pins & needles… Should I do it? Dare I do it? Could this be a grave career miscalculation?

Her’s first line was something like, “Well, we have about 50 or 60 Award winners so I’m just going to call up a sample of the winners…”


She and some other executives called up about 6 or 7, none of which were me. All that planning and scheming for nothing.

So that’s how it came to be that I sat for an hour and a half with a gold towel down my pants.

I should be used to this kind of disappointment.

When I was young, my friends and I were all about pulling stunts and practical jokes like that.

In college, I learned that this professor in one of the entry-level, giant-lecture-hall classes gave the same lectures every year. During a particular one, he’d fire a gun that shot blanks into the crowd, as a demonstration of one way of commanding attention.

I thought it would be funny if someone actually fired back. So I went and bought a cap gun and waited. On the day that particular lecture was to be given, my buddy who’d told me about it in the first place went with me, just to see the hilarity ensue. I sat on the aisle and when the time came, I planned to stand up, roll into the aisle and come up shooting.

Any way, when the time came, the professor just screamed instead of firing his gun. I was so disappointed. Not as much as my buddy, though, who’d just sat through an hour’s lecture he’d already been through, for absolutely no reason, as it turned out.

I went up to the professor after class and told him what I was planning to do, showing him my now obsolete cap gun. He just laughed, but said someone had already done that.

Can you imagine a professor pulling out a gun, in this day and age? There would probably still be someone returning fire, only with a real gun.
We used to come up with a lot of schemes like that, back in the day. I’ve been planning to write up some of our exploits for many years now. I’m hopeful I can include them here one day soon. Until then, I have a Towel to wash.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Oui Wii

I am now an official Wii dude now. Just installed the bad boy... (so simple, even fossil can set it up). Opened the box at 7:30 and was playing by 8:00. The girlfriend retired to her apartment tonight to give me some space and to watch American Idol in peace, I suppose.

First up was bowling, because that is what I'm most familiar with playing. I took my own advice and set up a "Mii" for regular me, and a Mii for playing left-handed. (I called him "Lefty"... I save my scant creativity for this forum.) I designed Lefty as the anti-me, making him blond and angular. Regular me is more bowling pin-shaped, but I'm working on that.

Right off the bat, I saw that I needed to address my footwear. My regular slippers and my slipper-socks all have good traction on the carpet. Chipping off a little bit of that creativity, I came up with my new Wii Bowling Slippers. Nice slide for my landing foot.

I pushed my coffee table up against the couch and angled the TV straight back through the room, to set up a nice little "alley" effect. Nice 'n roomy.

So, surprisingly, I gave myself a good match. I was actually better my first time left handed than I was my first time right handed back over Christmas. Final score, Me 166, Lefty 140. I had some good strike action going, but Lefty was surprisingly good at picking up spares. Go figure...
From there I tried out tennis. That took a bit to get the hang of... I eventually realized that your player doesn't really need to be near the ball to hit it.

Out of curiosity, I tried a menu that said "Training". I thought it was a fitness thing but was happily surprised to see that it was a series of skill tests involving the games from the Sports disk. I suppose I wouldn't have been quite so surprised if I'd have actually read the directions, but I was happy nevertheless. So I did some tennis drills before checking into the boxing.

Out of all the games, the boxing provides the best workout. But there's also some ego involved. No one wants to get knocked on even their cartoon ass. So I did some drills... hit a heavy bag (done acceptably well)... practiced dodging balls thrown at me (mostly unsuccessfully- it was almost like I was trying to catch them with my skull)... and trying to punch the trainer's gloves (sorry... I mostly hit the trainer. Sorry Mick...).

Now it's time to box against the computer, and there's little bald-headed mii out there mixing it up with a guy that looks like Ronnie Van Zant. So I'm going like wildfire, bobbing and weaving and throwing punches from all angles. I'm noticing that messages keep coming up, like "Guard your body" or "Guard your face." I'm thinking, "wow... tips during the fight." Then the Wii says... "OK, Fight!"


I'm doing all that work during the tutorial. The fight's about to start and I'm already in the bag. Live and learn. I had to rely on my guile and treachery to drop old Ronnie in the 2nd round. Dropped the next guy in the 2nd as well, but he biffed me around pretty good for a while. As in real life, it's a hell of a lot easier to beat up on someone that's not hitting you back.

After day one of Wii-hood, I feel pretty good. This is going to be a lot of fun, for at a couple days. Then I'm going to need a week off to recover.

If Nintendo is looking for a new attachment for their Wii Sports, I suggest releasing "Wii Oxygen."

Working The Clock

I don’t know why it always surprises me, what the conservatives are doing.
There’s an
article online from The Nation that talks about the great lengths the conservatives in the Senate are going to in order to prevent Al Franken from claiming Minnesota’s Senate seat. Long story short, the senators are personally ponying up the cash needed to keep the appeals afloat. From any reading of the rulings so far, they have a negligible chance of succeeding. But the longer the appeal goes on, the longer they keep the Democrats 2 votes from the 60 needed to avoid a filibuster, instead of 1.

They have plenty of practice at this running-out-the-clock tactic… they’ve been using it for the last 2 years. Ever since the mini-revolt of 2006, which gave the Democrats a razor-thin margin in the Senate, the Republicans have been using every stalling and obstructing tactic available to keep the Democrats from getting anything of substance passed. Presumably this was done so they could point to the lack of results and say, “Hey, they didn’t do anything while they were in charge, vote for us.” Obviously, it didn’t work out very well. (See election: 11/4/08) Certainly looks like they’re going to try a do-over in 2010.

Cynthia Tucker also has a good column out this week, highlighting the "other" Republican strategy, which is to squeal about the deficit and overspending. I don't know how they even do this with a straight face. Obviously they were all on board when it was their guy doing the spending on such uselss programs as abstinence programs, faith-based initiatives, tax cuts for the richest 2% of the country and, oh yeah, one thoroughly unnecessary war, all of which gave us the highest deficit of all time. Now that the Democrats want to spend money on health, education, and alternative fuels, (you know, things that would make the country better for everybody), they want to be all frugal. In other words, the living embodiment of "I got mine, get yours."

Monday, February 16, 2009

True Facts

I swear I want to disown some people I know sometimes, all because of email.

If I get another one of those bullshit emails, breathlessly announcing some sensational observation that was inexplicably missed by the mainstream media, I’m going to pack up my flat panel monitor and stuff it right up Bill Gates’ ass. (After, of course, he pays me a nickel for every person to whom I forward the email.)

I guess finding some new message that confirms one’s biases causes a kind of bypass of common sense, or even an inability to even attempt to determine actual truth.

Look, if you send an email that’s meant to represent actual facts, it’s your responsibility to make sure it’s true, especially if it’s controversial. When you forward an email that turns out to be distorted, omitting facts, or just and out and out fabrication, it’s a reflection on YOU and you look like a twit. Note that I’m talking about items purported to be true here… I’m not addressing matters of opinion. Opinions are like assholes… so on and so forth. If you think any given politician is good or bad for the country, so be it, as far as I’m concerned. But send an email throwing around ridiculous assertions and that’s another story.

I know that I’ve damaged some friendships with the rebuttals that I’ve sent to these emails and I regret that. But this is a serious peeve of mine, especially because it’s so unnecessary! It takes me about 45 seconds to go to a fact check site like or and search for the topic. Neither one of these sites are partisan… they debunk hoaxes and rumors coming from all sides. There is absolutely no reason not to check something out before you sent it on.

Beyond this, one also has to realize that almost all of these “true” emails are bullshit. I’d say the ratio is 90/10 of bullshit versus truth. It’s unfortunate that with all the truth and knowledge on the Internet, there’s just as much misinformation. As an informed consumer, it is everyone’s obligation to make sure they’re part of the solution and not the problem. I know… wishful thinking.

So, in conclusion:

Barak Obama did NOT get sworn into the Senate on the
Barak Obama is NOT disqualified from being President because of not being a
natural born citizen.
The new
US pennies or dollar coins are NOT removing the phrase “In God We Trust”.
Nancy Pelosi did NOT demand a huge 200-seat plane to deliver her and her wealthy donors coast to coast in luxury.
Also, Ms. Pelosi was NOT unable to answer a trick question about on which of
Captain Cook’s 3 trips around the world he was killed.
Leon Panetta’s daughter did NOT
pose with Hugo Chavez. (He doesn’t even HAVE a daughter.)
Photographs do NOT show
God’s hands or a Teddy bear in a cloud, a Canadian man did NOT raise an 89-pound cat, the shark is NOT attacking a British Navy diver in South Africa, and just to show that this isn’t a solely partisan screed, George W. Bush was NOT holding a book upside down when he was reading to a children’s class.
The list goes on indefinitely…

Okay… taking a pill now… look at all the colors

So please, I’m begging you, the email using population at large, for a little research first, before sending on that fantastical revelation that just burned up your inbox? Bookmark Snopes and it won’t take you more than a minute to validate your find. I’d much rather think of you as a well-read informed citizen than just another sap. Look before you send! Your friends will thank you for it.


I ordered a Nintendo Wii system from Amazon a while back and it was delivered today. This is a big step for me… I haven’t had a video game unit since Pong!

I know I might be accused of searching for the downside, but why oh why did it have to be delivered on such a good TV night? My night is already double booked… I have 3 shows to watch between 8 and 11, and 2 others to tape during the same time. It’s like your birthday falling on Halloween night…

I first played with a Wii over Christmas at my sister and brother-in-law's house. My mom and dad were there as well. It was a great activity that we could all play together, especially the bowling. An added plus was that it was an excellent opportunity to hear all of my dad's 1960s-era bowling league lingo. I also learned that he is some kind of bowling-math savant. No matter the situation, he was able to instantly compute what we needed to do to end up with what score. I knew I could have figured it out as well, but not nearly as quickly, and to be perfectly frank, who wants to play Wii Math anyway?

One thing I learned about the Wii is that you better find a way to get your left hand involved. After a couple of nights of bowling, my right shoulder, right triceps, and left butt cheek were all sore. If I kept it up like that, I would find myself with a right arm like Schwarzenegger and a left like a withered little T-Rex arm. And whenever I'd sit, I'd tilt to the right.

I’m sure I’ll have lots to say about my new Wii in the weeks to come. I better make sure my heating pad is in working order… (or should it be a “hiiting” pad

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Whine & Cheese

As you might figure, February has been a pretty good month for me, if for no other reason that my Pittsburgh Steelers won their 6th Super Bowl, beating the Arizona Cardinals 27-23. There was much rejoicing throughout my family and Steeler-loving friends.

But as is always expected now, the whiners came out immediately.

“Oh, the refs favored the Steelers…”
“Why didn’t they call that penalty on Holmes?”
“Why wasn’t Harrison thrown out of the game?”
“The NFL had the fix in…”

Whining maggots.

Maybe this happens with every championship and I only notice it when the Steelers are involved. But it is tremendously pervasive whenever the Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens. It’s always the refs, or the NFL hates the Ravens, or the Ravens “beat themselves.” As I mentioned in one of my last posts in the old
Darwinfish, according to the Ravens and their fans, they’ve never been beaten. Oh the refs have stolen the game, and they’ve beaten themselves, but no other team has ever beaten them. It’s like it would kill them to actually admit that another team was better than them, on that day.

I’m not sure when it all started, but I remember it going back to Super Bowl XIII. The Cowboys have never stopped bitching about that one. I saw something on the NFL Network last year when they had a feature on SBXIII and current interviews with the old players. Cliff Harris and Charlie Waters are still complaining about the refs… This was the game that featured a deep pass where Lynn Swann tangled feet with the Dallas cornerback and drew a pass interference call. Also, Charlie Waters ran smack into a ref on his way to try to tackle Franco Harris, who was blasting up the middle for a key touchdown.
They also blame poor Jackie Smith, who was in the end zone when he dropped a pass that hit him right in the numbers.

After Super Bowl XL, the Seahawks and other haters brought their ref-whining to a squealing crescendo.

“The refs handed them the game… all the penalties… the fix is in…”

Same old shit. I guess it never dawned on anyone to blame the players for actually committing the penalties. I’ve seen the replays… in every case but 1 the refs got it right. They blew the illegal block call on Hasselbeck, who actually whiffed on his block attempt.

So, the Steelers beat the Cards, there were a lot of penalties called, so therefore the fix was in again. This, of course ignores any actual mitigating rational thought… Like if the fix were in for the Steelers, would the refs have taken a touchdown off the board in the 1st quarter like they did? Would they have called a suspect holding call in the end zone, replacing a first down pass to Santonio Holmes that got them out of a hole, with a call that resulted in a safety? Even though the refs broke with recent tradition and actually called it twice when they held James Harrison, they didn’t call it about a dozen other times. They didn’t call Larry Fitzgerald for running about 20 yards out of bounds while in pursuit after James Harrison’s goal line pick.


Anyway, the main reason I’m even going into all this is to highlight a great column by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette by Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette. He provides a fact-based, well-reasoned case declaring that while the refereeing wasn’t good, it wasn’t biased. You can read that
Now, repeat after me… “The Undisputed 6-Time Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers!”

Loch Raven Walkabout

Last weekend we took a stroll around Loch Raven. My original goal was to have a shot of me taken on top of the large dam there with my Terrible Towel... right above the words Loch Raven Dam. (See shot below)

But alas, the access road to the dam was closed so I'll have to put that on my "To Do" list for the time being. So instead, we used the time there to stroll around the wintry water's edge and shoot some other stuff.

This is a close up of the ice line and of course, a tremendous Ice Hole.
I though this was unusual... one lone seagull, seemingly banished to a far outpost. Or maybe he was the daredevil... Last words, "Hey guys, watch this!"I love this one, which is just the sun reflecting in the dark water.

Lastly, I had to wonder if the geese were screwing with me. "OK, everyone in formation..."

OK, I admit... the geese were actually facing the other way, but I flipped the image. So sue me. You can find more shots from this excursion here on my Flickr site.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Second Start

Hello all.

Some of you may have seen my old Darwinfish blog on the Verizon site. I apologize for letting that site go. I last posted there in December 2007 and haven't really been back since. Why?

The short answer is that I didn't really feel I had the time to post any longer... which is still true. But I think the real problem was with the way I was posting. I'd wait until I had a fantastic idea, write 2 or 3 page essay and spend the next couple days rewriting and wordsmithing before publishing. That's why I only had 17 posts in a year and a half.

In my time since then, I've been reading a number of other blogs and kind of trawling for ideas and inspirations. I eventually came to the conclusion that I needed to post shorter entries... not everything had to be a 2-page essay.

One of my favorite blogs was the now defunct "The 'Burgh Blog" by "PittGirl". I thought she was brilliant, posting once or twice a day. She'd always leave me happy, sad, angry, usually laughing, but always entertained. I often wondered what kind of job she had where she could come up with these posts during business hours. I was stunned to hear that she said she averaged about 15 minutes per post.

Now I have no illusions that I can blog as well as she did, but it did make me realize that I can still make a blog that I'm proud of without agonizing over every word. More importantly, I don't have to wait for the "fantastic ideas". (And believe me, they were few and far between.) What happens far more often to me is that I get a "notion" that may make for a couple of good paragraphs. So that's what I'm going to go with. Granted, when the "fantastic idea" does come, I'll be happy to give it the full treatment.

In the meantime, I plan on posting about all sorts of things... Those that know me know that I'm devoted to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Penguins. I'm sure they will be recurring subjects. I'd also like to post about movies, music, TV, politics and everything else that's going on.

My last site got to be too heavy... too many tabs doing too many things. Plus, I was always pushing the file capacity ceiling. I don't know yet if this site has limits, but I suppose I'll find out. I'll need to find out a lot of things. One of the benefits of my last site was that it was all done with templates. This site uses html, of which I know very little. I expect this blog will grow in scope and complexity as I learn how to do more.

I find myself excited as I begin this new project. I hope you'll come along for the ride.