Sunday, January 31, 2010

Things To Do When You're Sick

I’m still feeling pretty awful today… this is a bad one, as far as my colds go.  And I’m way early… I usually get sick once a year, around October.

 Anyway, Pinky has been working all weekend, which leaves me rambling around here by myself.  This is a good thing, because I get pretty grumpy. 

So what does one do when one doesn’t feel like doing anything? 

Here is my list:

1)      Go through all the DVDs you haven’t put away because you haven’t watched all the special features, and watch the special features.
2)      Practice saying “Luke… I am your father,”

and “We got it together, didn’t we babeh?

3)      Figure out what to make to eat that requires the least possible effort.
4)      Shred all your old bill statements that have been collecting since 2003.
5)      See how many layers of clothes you can put on and still be cold.
6)      See how many giant hacks of phlegm you can get in the toilet before becoming grossed out enough to flush.
7)      Count how many distinct parts of your body hurt.
8)      Practice your “Calling in Sick to Work” voice.
9)      Wave your hands in front of your face and look for the vapor trail.
10)  Imitate the alien sounds from the Tom Cruise version of War of the Worlds.
Then watch the Pens game at 12:30.  Whoo Hoo!  And repeat the list.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Odd Bits - Sick and Tired Edition

That’s me today, sick and tired. 

I started getting sore throat yesterday afternoon and I got very little sleep last night because the congestion kept closing my throat up when I’d nod off.  I spent most of the night trying to sleep upright in my chair.  So excuse me if I’m a little unfocused and disjointed while I sit here, whacked on store-brand NyQuil, with my throat feeling like it’s full of ground glass, trying to peck out a little something for your entertainment.

It worked out well the last time I got sick… I taught myself how to make a primitive Internet video.  I wouldn’t count on such magic again this time.


We’re getting a piece of that Big Killer Death Storm that’s been icing it’s way across the country.  I just looked out my window and saw a lady walking in the snow with an umbrella.

Is that a thing elsewhere in the country?  I swear, I’ve never in my life seen someone with an umbrella in the snow, before I moved to Baltimore.  Is that just part of the local Baltimore snow-hysteria, or do other people do it too and I just never noticed?


It was only for a fund-raiser, I swear!  I know that carmel corn and summer sausage aren’t the best things for me, but it’s for The Children! 

My good buddy’s daughter was circulating a website where we, her benefactors, can make purchases that go to her school choir.  So that’s how I came to be in possession of these particular treats. 

And that also explains how I came to tell Pinky last night, “Leave me alone to check my email or I’ll have to beat you with my beef stick,” and it actually made sense.

Boy, I wish we had fund raising websites when I was a kid.  We used to have to haul our little asses up and down the street, knocking on doors and trying to sell candy, leaf bags, flower seeds… God, I hated that.

I figure it was all a plot for my parents to get me kidnapped.  One less mouth to feed and all.


You know it’s cold outside when you come in the house and go sit on the toilet the seat is actually feels warm on your ass.

I also think the only thing worse than sitting on a cold toilet seat is sitting on a warm one and not knowing who just warmed it up.


You know what else I wonder?  Is arm hair genetically programmed to grow only that long?  Or does it just fall out before it can grow long like head hair?

OK, that was probably the NyQuil talking.

I’ve always hated my hair.  All I ever wanted was to have nice, smooth, perfect bangs and hair that lay down just so.  Preferably blonde. 

No luck though…  I had hair that just would not obey.  One side would always flip in, the other side would flip outward.  As a teenager, I would blow-dry my hair straight down and then put on a ski cap… winter, summer, whatever… all in an attempt to bring some kind of order to my hair.

It worked like a charm though, right up until the time I’d take off the ski cap to go to school and the first molecule of air would blow by my skull and BANG… hair going every which way.

It wasn’t until I got to college that I finally came to an understanding with my hair.  I was visiting one of my buddies in Georgia on vacation and was just sick and tired of messing with the mop on my head.  So I dove in the pool, got out, shook off my head and said, “Whatever it does, that’s what it will be.  I give up.”

Turns out, I had curly hair.  Even more so after I took my buddy’s mom’s advice and got a perm.  Made me look like the drummer from the band, Boston.  But once that passed I had a brief spell when everything looked OK.

I say “brief” spell because just as soon as I accepted the hair with which I was graced, it all fell out… I was cueballed by 25.

Sometimes life is grossly unfair.

But I make up for it now in time saved by getting haircuts that take all of 7 minutes.  Add that to my sock-sorting time saved and I get a nice cache nest of free time.

Now I just have to figure out a way to cash it in, preferably right after my alarm goes off on cold winter mornings.


Now before I go and try to nap, let me leave you with this… 

This video just cracks me right the hell up every time I see it.  It’s a Bud Lite ad that may have run during a previous Super Bowl, but I’m not sure.  I would love to see something like this in my office… 


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Getting the Country Off the Dime

I actually enjoyed the State of the Union speech last night.  I’d forgotten just how engaging our President could be

I especially liked how he was saying things that I’ve been yelling at the TV for the last 6 months (like, “the economy wasn’t broken, I found it this way,” or “If you can’t get in line then just get the hell out of the way!”).

I couldn’t believe the bold faced dis on the Supremes, as they were sitting right up front.  I practically did a touchdown dance, right there on my couch, and spiked the remote.

(By the way, does anyone know how to fix a remote?)

Then this morning I heard Justice Alito mouthed the words “that’s not true”, regarding what will happen to our elections following their latest “Shilling for Big Business Since 2006” ruling.
 Not true?  Really?

Does the Good Justice think that the corporations, that he’s just given practical citizenship rights to, are going to go deep into their storage closet and locate some sense of conscience and restraint?

Or are they going to spend money hand over fist to pack the Congress with lackeys that will ensure that their profits are never hindered by trivialities like public safety or industry regulation?

I really shouldn’t be surprised they ruled this way… the next time the Roberts Court finds in favor of the common people over the rich and well connected, it will be the first time.

I didn't blog about this ruling back when it happened… there were too many others that already did it better and more richly than I, Carpetbagger and Last Door on the Left (who provided Keith Olbermans take on the subject), I’m looking at you.  But Alito’s feigned astonishment last night made me want to get my 2 cents in.

As I commented on Carpetbagger’s site:
There is only one thing that can combat the corporate advertising influence: Education and skepticism. As a nation, we need to look past the slick advertisements and misrepresentations seen in so many polical ads, because they are about to become slicker and more misrepresentier. And more pervasive. Only our own ability to think critically and questions can save us.

Now what do you think are the odds of that happening across the country are?

Sigh.  Me too.”

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Way 101

I’m always getting accused of being too regimented and rigid, be it at work or home.

I always deny that, of course.  I prefer to think of it as seeking the best solutions and methods and then using them.  Why be “flexible” when you’re already doing things right?

To me it’s simply a quest for efficiency.  If, through trial and error, I find the shortest route somewhere, or the perfect time and temperature to cook pork chops, why do it some other way?  I believe here is value in saving time and effort, even if it’s only to blow it on blogging.

Making Tracks
I take the subway to work downtown every day.  And when you do something like that every day for almost 12 years, you learn things.

I know to select the set of doors that will leave me at the foot of the stairs at the station at which I arrive and where to stand so that the doors open right in front of me.  I also know that when I’m going to work, to sit so that I’m traveling backwards.  That way, the sun comes in the window over my shoulder and lights my newspaper.  If I sat the other way, it would be shining directly through it, making it hard to read.

So is it really “rigid” if I stand in the same place every morning and try to sit in the same seat?  Or am I just reaping the benefit of experience?

I also have 2 options for walking from the subway to my building.  One involves going through an adjacent building versus just walking around the corner.  Obviously one way is better if it’s raining, but otherwise?

Once a buddy of mine that also rode the subway was talking with another guy when he nabbed me walking by his cube and asked, “Hey bluz, which way is shorter, going through the building or walking around the corner?”

I immediately replied, “It’s 5 steps shorter to go around the corner.”

He busted out laughing, turning to another guy and saying, “I told you he’d know…”

What?  Of course I checked.  It’s the simple scientific method.  Experiment and measure.  Who wouldn’t check it out?

OK, not many, from what I hear.

When lunch comes around, I always leave between 11:45 and noon.  Why?  Because everyone else leaves right at noon.  If I’m not at my chosen lunch establishment before then, I can look forward to wasting 10 to 15 minutes in line, rather than 5.  Lord knows I need those extra minutes for the Friday crossword puzzles.

Sock it To Me
When I was young and newly on my own, sorting socks from the dryer became the bane of my existence.  I had about a dozen pairs of dress socks I had to wear for work; all were black, brown or dark blue.  Matching them all up under the dim light of my bedroom became a problem.  God forbid I show up at work with mismatched socks!  So I’d be in there examining the ankle patterns on the top of the sock and the thinness of the soles, trying to get them all mated.

One night I had an epiphany and shortly thereafter, brought home a box of safety pins.  I then pinned every damned sock to its mate.  Problem solved.  They never again had to be matched or even folded.  I could just scoop them all up and stuff them in the drawer.  In the morning, I could grab one and pull… the mate would follow. 
This idea alone is worth the price of admission!

Then in a real stroke of brilliance, I realized that when I got dressed, I could then use the safety pin to attach the tail of my tie to the back of the front part, so that it didn’t separate during the day.  (I’m 6’3”; so I have to tie my tie long, which leaves the tail short of the little loop it’s supposed to go through.)
Do you think the time saved here doesn’t add up?  Consider this:
It took me probably 5 minutes of sock sorting per laundry load.  I do laundry roughly every 2 weeks. 

5 minutes x 24 laundry weeks in a year = 120 minutes/year saved. 

I started this drill around 1986,  24 years ago.

120 minutes x 24 years = 2880 minutes.

2880 minutes /60 minutes = 48 hours. 

That’s 2 full days of non-stop sock sorting that I didn’t have to do.  Woooooooo!
Audacity of Change
Another organizer/time saver is that when I empty my pockets of change, rather than tossing them in a jar or something, I stack’em up.  I learned, during my career as a retailer, that the easiest way to count a drawer full of change is to count in small increments and stack them up.  Then you really only have to count the first stack and just line up the rest to match.

In daily life, you don’t usually bring home great gobs of change, so it takes about 5 seconds to add my coins to the stacks.  When the stack reaches rolling level, or rather, when I have enough stacked to roll nickels, dimes and quarters, I do it.  Takes all of 5 minutes and there was no sorting or counting needed.
What to do with your rolled coins?  Can’t help you there. 

But I can tell you that movie theaters don’t like it when you use 3 rolls of nickels to pay for a matinee.

Now We’re Cooking
Brotha’s gotta eat… I’ve been doing my own cooking for almost all my adult life.  Again, through trial and error, I have a very good idea of how long to cook things like chops, chicken, steaks and fish, and what temperature to use so that they come out tender and juicy every time.  So why wouldn’t I use the same temp each time set the timer? 

Pinky is not so encumbered.  She cooks things at whatever temperature she feels like and takes it out of the oven when she wants to eat.  I’m amazed that it almost always comes out good.  (Although I did have to strongly suggest some times and temps, to avoid the dreaded dry meat.)

I did learn something in the kitchen from her though…  I learned to keep my big yap shut when someone else is making my dinner. 

After all, I’m not that regimented.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Auf Wiedersehen to the Scorpions

I read this morning that the hard rock band The Scorpions has announced their retirement.  I’m kind of bummed about that, because it’s just one more of the touchstone bands from my youth calling it quits.  I shouldn’t have to worry about it any time soon, though.  They’re retiring AFTER they release one more album and AFTER they go on a 3-year world tour. 

Some people really know how to say goodbye.

What I always loved about the Scorpions was that not only were there lots of loud guitars, they had hooks.  Every song came with a hook in the chorus that was a mile wide.  And they also could do a wicked ballad.  In fact, I think they practically invented the power ballad with “Still Loving You.”

In 2000 they cut an absolute powerhouse of an album with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.  If ever there was a group to marry metal hooks with classical thunder, these were the guys.  In fact, those of you that watch Pittsburgh Penguins hockey have probably heard some of it.  The Pens sometimes use the symphonic version of “Rock You Like a Hurricane” for when they come out of intermission.  Check it out here:

(Seriously, just press play. I get such a kick out of seeing these old white-haired dudes, bald dudes and assorted hot chicks sawing their violins like Charlie Daniels in that Geico commercial, with all those power chords surrounding them)

I’ll always have a soft spot for the Scorps because they were the first group I ever got to meet using a backstage pass.  I got the tickets and backstage passes through my job at the Peaches record store in Toledo OH and took my buddy Brill.  There, we met up with Janet, a fellow DJ from the Bowling Green radio station. Since she was also working at the FM rock station in town, we figured we’d stay close to her because she’d know her way around these events.  In truth, none of us knew what the hell we were doing.  We just sort of wandered around, looking for rock stars.  Later, I learned that there were usually scheduled times and places to do the meet and greet with the band. 

My backstage pass from the night.

Not much happened while we were backstage while the opening act was playing.  It was like, “Where’s the Scorpions? When are they coming?  Hey, is that one?” 

No one knew anything.

Then the opening act that had just finished walked through, some group called Bon Jovi.  They were touring on their first album.  I had actually known and liked one of their songs, but we were like, “who’s the guy with the hair?” 

When we saw that we weren’t going to going to see the Scorpions any time soon, we went back to our seats to watch the show.  They were touring on Love At First Sting, and their show rocked, highlighted by their one of their guitarists falling off a speaker bank, and getting dragged off the stage by roadies.  OK, I don’t think that it was part of the act, but the rest of the band never missed a beat.  They just demonstrated their German discipline by re-spacing themselves across the stage and continuing to jam.  But I do believe they skipped one of their encore songs, “No One Like You,” (their biggest hit before Hurricane) because of that fall. 

Backstage after the show was a much livelier event.  It was like the United Nations of Rock and Roll.  With the Scorpions being German, many of their personnel had German accents.  But we also heard English, Scottish, and various Eastern European accents rattling through the halls.  It made me want to start handing out Halls lozenges, with all the “hcccccch” I was hearing.

After a time, two band members came out to meet a delegation of radio contest winners (and leather-clad groupies).  It was explained that more were scheduled to come out, but it was a “rough show” (what with the plummeting guitarist and all). 

Anyway, I had their singer Klaus Meine, and bassist Francis Buchholtz sign my
Love at First Sting album.  My pen, (a blue Bic, as I was not yet hip to the Sharpie…if they had even been invented yet) was not writing easily and poor Francis could barely articulate his problem to me.  And his accent was so heavy I could barely understand him.

The trophy from my backstage safari.

But the important part was that we went backstage and met some famous people.  Brill summed it all up best, as he surveyed the post-show atmosphere.  He said with some derision, “Look at all these sluts with the spandex and leather and make-up.” 

Then he added softly, “I wish I was a rock star.”

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Best Steelers Games of the Decade

Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Steelers beat writer, Ed Bouchette, is preparing an article on the best Steelers games of the 2000’s.  Yesterday, in the PG+ (pay) section, he solicited opinions from the reading public.

Rather than listing mine there where only paying customers can see, I decided to go all Man of the People and post mine here…  absolutely free, for no cost, gratis.  You’re welcome. 

You’ll find that my choices are not necessarily based on the quality of the game or degree of the Steelers skill in winning.  These are the games that affected me on an emotional level, right down to the DNA.

5.  Steelers/Browns 2002 Playoff Game
This was the one where the Browns went out to a 17-point lead and Tommy Maddox fired a huge 4th quarter comeback.  It was also the game in which the fabled “Renegade” video made its debut.  The downside is that it led to the ill-fated “pass first, run with Amos Zereoue second” experiment.

This game makes the list mostly because of my dad’s influence.  This was a case of a “Classic Browns Loss”, meaning one where they get just close enough to smell the victory before it gets yanked away from them in brutal fashion.

Even the last play of the game was a tease…

4.  Super Bowl XLIII: Steelers/Cardinals
What a game.  I was living and dying on the edge of my chair as the Steelers jumped out to a lead and then came very close to pissing the game away.  James Harrison pulled off the longest play in Super Bowl history with his 100-yard interception return for a touchdown as time ran out in the first half.  As he was running down the sideline, I was acutely aware that if he didn’t get in the end zone, the entire return would have been for naught.  (Well, aside from preventing the Cards from scoring.)

When the Cards scored to take the lead late, I was about to head for the steak knives in the kitchen.  But then I realized that there were still 2 minutes left.  Hell, that’s plenty of time for Ben to drive down the field.  He’d been doing it all year and damned if he didn’t do it again.  Santonio’s toe-tapping grab for the final TD was simply brilliant.  But God, how stressful was that waiting for the review to confirm the call?  I almost shredded my Terrible Towel with my bare hands, waiting for it.  

Was worth it though.  But we still had to sweat through the Cards' final possession.  They still had 35 second left and Warner was no slouch either.  The final sack and fumble put the perfect seal on the game.

On the downside, it made all my 5-Time Super Bowl Champion merchandise obsolete. 

3.  Steelers/Colts 2005 Playoff Game
 This was the most stressful game I’ve ever seen.

The Steeler trashed all expectations and came out throwing, opening up a quick 14-0 lead.  The defense was getting to Manning and sacked him twice in the 1st half.  Later when the Colts were starting to move, Troy Polamalu came up with another clutch interception, but the refs mistakenly overturned it.  The Colts eventually scored on that drive.  The NFL issued an apology the next day.  To me this Exhibit 1 of proof of why the NFL is not biased to favor the Steelers, as so many Ravens and other sore-loser fans constantly espouse.

When Joey Porter crashed in twice to sack Manning on 3rd and 4th down deep in Colts territory, late in the game, everyone knew the game was iced.  Steelers had 1st and goal inside the Colts 5.  A couple of runs from Jerome Bettis would put the game out of reach.

Except it didn’t.  Gary Brackett of the Colts put his helmet on the ball and the Bus fumbled… his only fumble of the entire season.  Nick Harper of the Colts was racing the other way, heading for a go-ahead touchdown, before Ben somehow came up with a shoestring tackle.

The Colts advance as far as field goal range before the Steelers defense could stop them.  Then as the Steeler Nation held their collective breath, the most accurate kicker in the league hooked the field goal attempt wide right.

Such a turn of events that game was… from the top of the world to the depths of despair and back again.  Everyone knew the Bus was going to retire after that season.  A fumble on the goal line leading to a playoff loss was NOT the way his career deserved to end.  I was totally exhausted by the end of this game and emotionally spent.

I also knew that the Denver Broncos were NOT keeping this team out of the Super Bowl… not with this kind of mojo going.  (By the way, this was the first season I kept my Mojo Tracking Spreadsheet, to chart the most effective Steelers gear to wear.  You’re welcome.)

2.  Steelers/Ravens Monday Night Massacre
In 2006, the Ravens hung an ugly loss on the Steelers in Baltimore, 27-0.  They just beat the hell out of Big Ben, sacking him like 7 times.  Bart Scott had an especially wicked blindside shot to Bens spine.  It seemed to me that the Ravens D was in his head.  Ben had never looked very effective against them.

The next game they played was a Monday Night in Pittsburgh, the following year.  The Steelers wore their throwback jerseys and just pummeled the living shit out of the Ravens on national television, 38-7 (and the “7” came in garbage time).

Ed Reed had a rough night.  First James Harrison separated Reed from both the ball and his senses on a punt return.

Later, Hines Ward also blew him up.

I think of this hit whenever the Rattie fans cry about Hines being a dirty player.  Do you see where Hines hit him?  Square in the front, helmet to chest.  Not from the back, not from the side, not at the knees.  Keep crying, bitches.  The NFL finally had to make up a rule this year.  Weenies…

Anyway, this was a game I needed.  Living here in Baltimore, I had to have some ammunition against these maggot Ratbird fans and it was delivered with a flourish.  Thank you to Mssrs. Harrison and Ward.  Ed Reed still wants someone to answer that damned phone.

1.  Super Bowl XL: Steelers/Seahawks
This one was a long time coming… 26 years since the last one.  When I was young, a Steelers Super Bowl appearance seemed to be my birthright.  Those were rich years that made me fall head over heels in love with Pittsburgh Steelers football.  Then came the 80’s.  (Cold shudder runs down back.)

I got to go to this game and I plan on posting on the whole experience as we draw closer to this year’s Super Bowl.  This was the top hat on an entire magical season.  There was the late-season rampage where every game was a must-win.  There were 3 incredible playoff games… the crazy win over the Bungles in Cincy, where my brother and I attended and almost got into a parking lot brawl, the stomach cancer-inducing game against the Colts (#3 above) and the Mile-High waxing of the Broncos.

It took 26 years to get back to this point. (Obviously I am ignoring Super Bowl XXX against the Cowboys, which I consider the all-time low point of my Steeler fan years.  I was practically comatose by the end of that one.)  26 years of ups and downs, good runs and bad, always with a crushing playoff loss in the end.
The Steelers were escorting Jerome Bettis to his hometown of Detroit, for what they knew would be his final game.  There was no way we were not going to be there, as it was a Perfect Storm.  The distance was drivable (no airfare).  We have friends in nearby Toledo (no hotels).  All we had to do was get tickets.  Luckily, my brother is known as The Ticketmaster.  We got our tickets… we paid dearly, but we got our tickets.

I’ll never forget sitting up in the 2nd deck of the end zone, watching the pre-game festivities.  As Aaron Neville and Aretha Franklin sang the National Anthem, I thought about my friend Brill and how much he’d be enjoying the moment.

The Steelers looked like hell for the first half.  I was wondering if spending all that dough might have been a terrible mistake.  Then suddenly, Willie Parker came flying down the field straight towards us.  I think I became a bit possessed at that moment because I began speaking in tongues…or at least yelling in tongues.  It sounded something like:
(Caution: Annoying song warning.  You may want to turn down the volume on this.)

At that moment, I knew we had a pretty good chance of winning.  Then when Antwaan Randle El lofted that perfect pass to Hines, we were right behind the play and could see Hines wide open, I knew the game would be ours.  I knew that the rap of Steeler fans having to live in the past would be over.  I knew that there was nothing anyone could say that would take this feeling away.

Not that they didn’t try, what with all the whining about penalty calls.  Geez, you’d thing the (scant few) Seahawks fans had been training in Baltimore.  Maggots… The Steelers made plays, the Seahawks committed the fouls, the refs called them.  End of story.

But that was it… a 26-year schneid was broken and I was there with my family and friends to see it.  Nothing can beat that.  Except maybe a couple of pork chops.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Recipes and Q's

About 5 years ago, my company was doing a fund raising thing and the Marketing Department decided they wanted to do a cookbook.  As someone known for being a general wiseass, especially when it came to writing things, one of the Marketers came to me to contribute a recipe.

Now, I don’t have a lot of tricks up my sleeve here.  I can cook pretty well for a guy that doesn’t make much from scratch.  And I do have a way with a few dishes of the “meat” variety.  (For a closer look into my culinary mind, see the post Vegetables Redux, which features Bluz’ Rules of Vegetables and Bluz Rules of Meat.)

I wasn’t as much interested in contributing a dazzling recipe, as I was interested in writing the funniest recipe in the book.  While there wasn’t much competition in this category, I was rather proud of it.  Not that it’s a bad good recipe; on the contrary, it’s the bomb.  It’s also one I basically figured out on my own.

With that, I humbly submit:

Pork Chops of the Gods
First of all, pork chops are not just what’s for dinner, they’re a state of mind…  Zen and the Art of Pork Chops.  Few things in life are as satisfying as a good pork chop, except maybe several good pork chops.  While there are many ways to prepare these divine morsels, tonight’s exercise will cover breaded chops.

To end up with good chops, one must start with good chops, so while grocery shopping, select center cut, boneless chops, about 4 to a pound, roughly a half-inch thick.  Save the cheap, bone-in variety packs for when the in-laws come for dinner.

Turn the oven to 425° .
As it heats, begin preparation.  (I avoid the use of the word “pre-heat”, because really, what does “pre-heat” mean, to heat the oven before you heat the oven?)

First prepare the breading.  A mixture of breadcrumbs, grated parmesan cheese and a quarter teaspoon of black pepper make a nice base, or you can go easy and use one of the Shake-n-Bake flavors for pork.  As opposed to using the bag, I like to cover the surface of a paper plate with the breading ingredients and mix them up with a fork. 

Next, cover the surface of a small saucer or dish with Worcestershire sauce, then add a dollop or two of barbeque sauce and mix together with a fork.  Mmmmm, smell that?  That’s the smell of potential!  This will be your baste, which in addition to being mighty tasty, also helps the bread crumbs stick to the chops.  You can also add a splash of wine, if you like, to either the baste or yourself. 

Take a cookie sheet, or shallow baking pan, and line it with foil.  (This is one of my favorite Cleanup Prevention techniques.  When the meal is done, you can just roll up the foil and pitch it, leaving a nice clean pan without washing.  I’d line my coffee cup with foil, if I could figure out how to keep it from leaking.)

Now, open your package of pork chops.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  The chops must be removed from the package, or the breading just won’t stick, no matter how much baste you use.  Also, be sure to remove that little packet that sometimes lines the bottom of the tray.  One time my sister was making a chicken stir-fry while she was enjoying quite a few splashes of wine.  Later, she noticed that her stir-fry had an odd texture and later realized that she had carved up that packet right along with the chicken.  Extra fiber, I guess.  So be careful with that wine! 

Now where was I… OK, pull off any excess fat that you can… Lean is Good!

Take a chop and dip the top, bottom and sides into the baste.  Then drop one side down into the plate of breading.  Pick up the chop and ensure that it is evenly covered with the breading.  Next, roll the sides of the chop into the breading.  Leave one side of the chop unbreaded and place it bare side down on the cookie sheet.  (You can bread the bottom side if you want, but chances are that when you take the chop out of the pan, all the breading will be left behind on the foil.)  Tap the sides of the paper plate to evenly redistribute the breading, before repeating the process on each chop.  Wash the breading gunk off your hands and wait for the oven to reach 425°.  Now have some more wine.

At this point, I highly recommend doing the Pork Chop Dance.  This is a ritual dance to appease the Pork Chop gods, who if left unappeased, may smite you with dry pork chops.  The details of the Pork Chop Dance are left to the dancer, so each may interpret as they please.  If you’re stuck, just imagine what Snoopy does and go from there.  I am highly secretive about mine.  I once let someone see one of my other food preparation dances, and the next thing I knew, it was being done at weddings all over the country.  You’ve probably seen it… I was making chicken at the time.  But I digress…

When oven hits 425°, put in the chops, and cook for 15 minutes.  If chops are any thicker than a half inch, you may need to add another minute or two.  When time is up, remove from oven and test for firmness.  Chops should be firm but not hard.  If still soft, you can always put them back in for another minute or two.  But be careful, you don’t want them to be dry.  That said, pour the wine, and enjoy!  
The author, engaging in his Pork Chop Dance at a NW Ohio hog roast.

That was what was published in the cookbook and it turned out to be a hit.  And yes, that picture was included too.  After I submitted the story and got some laughs from the woman putting the book together, I made the mistake of sending her that picture.  That was me, in the only known visual evidence of the Pork Chop Dance, performing it prior to our Barn Reunion hog roast. 

Much to my chagrin, she then insisted on using it in the book… said I must have wanted it in the book or else I wouldn’t have sent it to her in the first place.  OK, maybe there was a kernel of truth to that.  I probably just wanted it to be her idea.  Mine was the only recipe with a picture.

I did notice people gave me a lot more room on the elevator after that.

Monday, January 18, 2010

24 - Still Drinking!

Last September, I had just finished watching Season 3 of “24” on DVD and decided to dip my toe into the lucrative Drinking Game market.  In about 20 minutes, I scratched out this post for my 24 Drinking Game

I didn’t get many eyeballs on this post, per usual, but I did notice that it would turn up regularly in Google searches… at least a couple per week since then.

But this year, it’s suddenly gone off the scale (by my humble standards).  Since 1/6, I’ve had 50 hits from Google on this post, obviously due to the run-up to yesterday’s premiere of “24”-Season 8.  The vast majority of them were from the last 5 days.  At least a third of them were from England and another third from other places in Europe.  Either they really enjoy Jack Bauer in the Olde Country, or they’re just looking for a new way to get drunk. 

But not one of them has commented.  Humph!

Last night I figured I’d have a look at the how the Game stacks up in Season 8.  Normally the series doesn’t really get cooking until at least a couple episodes in, so I wasn’t expecting a lot of hits.  I was actually pleasantly surprised.

Dammit! = 3
Chloe has awkward conversation = 1
Chloe scowls = 3
We have no choice = 1

So in the 2-hour premiere there were 8 drinking points by my count.  Some of them are judgment calls, especially when it comes to Chloe.  Everything she says is “awkward” and a scowl is her default expression.  I was awarding a drink for anything beyond the normal awkward scowl.

I was pleasantly surprised by the “Dammit” count and the early appearance of “We don’t have a choice”.  Fast out of the gate, this season…

We’ll see how tonight’s 2-hour follow-up stacks up.

Please feel free to add any new prospective drinking points, in comments.

Or I’ll send Jack Bauer to hunt you down and beat it out of you.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Household Bluz

In a sudden fit of usefulness today, I actually got a couple of things done around the place.

First, let me say that I’ve never been one of those uber-do-it-yourselfers.  I mean, I can usually do what I have to do… I built my entertainment center and various CD/DVD racks and bookcases and stuff… of course they were all “kits”.  In contrast, my buddies are the kind of guys that fix their cars, remodel their houses, build furniture…  I mean, they can build a 6 piece dinette set out of 2 pieces of driftwood, 4 paperclips, a piece of gum and a donut.

This is my entertainment center.  Yes, I still have VHS tapes.  And cassette tapes.  So sue me.

So I love to regale my friends with tales of “Bluz, The Incompetent Handyman.”  Like when I was trying to put up new mini-blinds in one of my apartments.  The surrounding frame appeared to be a very soft pine, so it shouldn’t have been any problem at all.  But I was using a borrowed power-screwdriver and I just couldn’t get the screws to go in!  I’m pushing and grunting and swearing…

Goddamn, what is this stuff?  Maple?  Ash?  Concrete?  Why won’t this flippity flappity thing go in?”

It took a full twenty minutes before I realized that the power screwdriver had been set in reverse, to retract screws, rather than put them in.


The blinds went up pretty quickly after that.

I called my buddy to tell him about it later that night and he just roared.  He still tells that story at the bar when I come into town.  I suppose I could have kept quiet about it and saved myself some grief, but what’s the fun in that?

So today’s chores… first I had to fix my TVs. 

My little TV in the bedroom his hooked up directly to the cable.  Up until this November, that was fine.  Then Comcast said we had to get these little converter boxes… no charge.  Fine, I ordered 2… one for the bedroom TV and one for the VCR in the main room, which also runs right off the cable.

When the stuff came, I took a look at what I was getting myself into and immediately realized that since this was another device I needed to plug in, I was going to need a power strip.  So I tabled the installation until I got one, the next week.

Now in the 2 months between then and now, the bedroom TV has been losing channels bit by bit.  As of today, it only got 4 channels.  Since this is the TV Pinky uses when I’m watching sports in the main room, the situation was reaching critical mass. 

I’d been waiting for the proper circumstances appear… It had to be daylight, because my bedroom lighting is very dim.  Also, it had to be a time when the TVs weren’t in use and weren’t expected to be for a while, because you also have to contact Comcast to activate the units once you’ve hooked them up.  Who knows how long that would take?  Best not to chance missing something.  Lastly, I had to feel like it.

Anyway, it came together pretty well.  I got both units hooked up and then accessed Comcast via their website.  It said it would take about 45 minutes for the change to take effect.  Then about 10 seconds after I clicked the last button, I could hear both TVs spring to life. 

Whoo Hoo!   Victory is mine!  This ought to keep Pinky out of my hair when the game’s on!

Next up, I had to hang a painting that my sister had done and given to me in October.  It had been sitting on my dining room floor since then.  It wasn’t because I didn’t like the picture… my sister is a very good watercolorist.  She did a beautiful painting of a bluebird that I just loved.  The problem was where to put it.

My walls are pretty packed.  I hate empty space so my walls are pretty densely decorated.  After 13 years in music retail, I have an unbelievable amount of music swag and keepsakes.  Plus framed photographs I’ve taken, plus assorted Steelers and Penguins stuff.  So to put up something new, something else had to come down.

I don’t know about you, but when I have a tough decision, I can be inhumanly patient before finally making it.  It’s not procrastination; it’s patience!  Patience to the point of inertia, but still…

Anyway, the decision was made and I finally broke out the old hammer and my kitchen is now decorated with this:

To me, this is a full day. 

You can stop laughing now.  Obviously, you can see that I do not have children, nor do I own a house.

It leaves me with so much more time to blog!

So now it’s time to claim the reward for all my hard work… The Saints/Card game, the Colts/Rats game and the Pens game late from Vancouver.  Life is good.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

De-Lurker Day

As I began checking out my favorite blogs this morning, I noticed that many were flying the picture you see above.  De-Lurking Day is meant to prod people that visit your blog into commenting, rather than just coming to read and moving on (in other words, lurking).

I think that’s a fine idea.  I just wish I could have gotten a post up sooner.  The place where I work blocks access to Blogger, so I cannot post or comment, even on my own blog.  For some reason though, Wordpress and various other blogs platforms are not so encumbered.  So for what it’s worth, here I am… late to the party again.  So for anyone that stops by today until the time I do my next post (probably Saturday), please drop me a comment to say hi and whatever else is on your mind.

As you know, comments are the “crack” of blogging life.

In other news
In even a cursory jaunt around the blogosphere today, you will see a recurring theme:

The devastation in Haiti has reached unbelievable proportions.  There is serious hurt going on right now and the tragedy is how little can be done about it in the short term.  Houses, hospitals, businesses… gone.  Roads are impassible.  The seaport is a wreck.

Always a groundbreaker, Ginny at That’s Church is spearheading efforts to reach a couple of Pittsburgh girls that run an orphanage there.  They, and all the children they care for are currently living in the yard of what used to be their building.  A number of the children are in process of being adopted, but not finalized.  That means they can’t even come here, should a ride miraculously appear. 

Never one to take “no” for an answer, Ginny is rallying her readers to shake the political trees, hoping to summon people with planes and political ears at their disposal, to pave the way to get these kids a home at best and out of physical danger at worst.  These are kids with no one else in the world to turn to.  You can follow the story through a number of posts at That’s Church.  Read through some of the posts and their comments.  You will be awestruck at the warmth and heart of Ginny and all her readers.  They are living embodiment of Getting Shit Done.

The plight of the orphanage and Haiti in general is also being addressed at: Fries on Top, Red Pen Mama, Burgh Baby, Jayesel, Yeah Honestly, Love, Life and a Little Lion, Carpetbaggery and many other fine blogs.  A number of them are tying De-Lurking Day into a Haiti fundraising event and donating base on the number of comments received.  This is a good chance to go and not only find some very smart and cool bloggers, but do some good as well.

Never one to pass up a chance to make a pious, pompous ass of himself, Pat Robertson has been in the news after declaring that Haiti is being punished with this earthquake because they made a “deal with the devil” when fighting for their independence from France.

Cassie at Sisters from Different Misters has the TV clip and addressed this earlier today.  I added what I think about it, in her comments section.  And so did learned people, so click the link above to check out the conversation.

With so many fabulous people on the job covering serious events of this week, I decided not pile on.  I will be keeping to my usual routine of ranting, storytelling and merriment.  Please don’t take that to think I don’t care.  Someone has to keep up the level of irreverence, or else the terrorists win.  With that in mind, I present to you the funniest video I’ve seen today, that was sent to me by my dad.  And no, he’s not in it.

(PS.  Mom, Dad, just because I know you won’t get the reference, the picture of the guy in the plaid shirt is a character called, “The Haitian”, from the TV show Heroes.  I’m sure you’ve never seen him before, because he’s never been on Law and Order.)