Wednesday, August 31, 2005

News Directors and Katrina Sitting In a Tree...K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

Everyone is fascinated with death and destruction.

From rubbernecking a serious fender-bender on the highway to a flattened home from a midwest tornado, all of us (though we won't admit it) have a curious fascination when someone's way of living is violently interrupted. I know that's why I look at an accident on the shoulder or can't stop watching "coverage" of Hurricane Katrina. The toxic gumbo that was predicted, with its floating coffins and dangerous oils remaining for days, fascinated me. Oh sure, I didn't want any of it to occur, but I kind of wanted to see just what it would look like (if those ideas could somehow coexist). Of course it's only out of curiosity and not because of any harmful wishes. I know I'm not the only one.

Natural disasters are a boon for TV/Radio ratings and print sales. Radio reports and newspaper articles (even with a few pictures) describe what took place, but nothing compares to the motion of video and watching a piece of siding fly all the way down the road, instead of a newspaper's snapshot of the siding "still" down the road. There's a reason why video is more popular than online slideshows. Though I'd like to think all news directors and their companies don't wish harm on anyone or anything else, they do enjoy incredible disasters like Hurricane Katrina because it means more money for them.

The general public wants to know that residents are okay...just as much as they want to hear about flooding, broken windows, and downed powerlines. Sure, there's a small percentage of the viewership with a personal interest in how SE Louisiana and parts of Alabama are doing, but after hearing about the well-being of the affected area's population, most of them only watch out of curiosity. During the night, all forms of media (TV, radio, print, Internet) are on equal footing (no pun intended) because there's little to actually see in the dark (duh) and reporting avenues do not differ...reading a print/online report is akin to having someone read the report to you on the radio which is akin to seeing that someone read the report.

It's once daylight breaks that TV blows the other forms of media out of the water (really, I don't intend these puns). If all forms are available to you, why listen to the radio or look at a still photograph? TV combines every form - plus you've got video. When Katrina was on its way to the gulf coast and landfall was predicted for Monday morning, you could hear a loud cheer from every TV news director. They were able to send their stubborn camera crews and reporters outside to get video of Katrina as it swayed stop signs and toppled trees (actually getting it as "it happens") instead of waiting for daybreak to see the destruction left. Seeing WFOR's local reporter Brian Andrews fall on his face trying to walk in the storm is incredibly stupid and unsafe, yet I took some satisfaction in his demise. Heaven forbid we have to wait until after the storm passes overnight to find out what happened. By the way, it's funny that reporters first said New Orleans got by unscathed b/c it wasn't the biggest direct hit possible, nevermind the destruction it ended up doing.

The sad truth is high ratings only happen when you show/report the most destructive events with dramatic storytelling. Water flowing down Canal Street will not only bring lots of debris, but also disturbing discussions among TV execs about the possible bodies, toxic gumbo, and the guarenteed ratings they'd carry. The general public is addicted to stories of destruction and the media just does its natural part by feeding the beast what it wants. Try as I might, I can't fault news directors for feeding the public what it continues to starve for - I just wish everyone (like myself) would stop gorging themselves.

Monday, August 29, 2005

On The Road Again...

As my longtime blog readers have read, I tore a ligament in my right knee last fall. It happened during an ultimate frisbee game, but it was doomed to happen after I played with pain in the right knee during a few basketball games earlier that week. So here we are about nine months later and I still get the occasional sharp pain on the inside of my knee. It happened last week and it really sucks. What's annoying is I hadn't played ultimate frisbee or even gone for a long walk within the previous 10 days, so I guess this is what's called a "tricky knee." When I first saw the orthopedist, he suggested that I do some bike riding thanks to its low impact movement. The picture below is of the right knee (thanks Matthew).

Well, with the newly purchased mountain bike, I finally listened to his orders and went for a short 25-minute journey (since I didn't feel like driving to play ultimate) around my neighborhood. I figure if the knee is going to randomly hurt without me doing anything, then doing something doesn't increase the chance it'll hurt the next day...or so this is the excuse I'm going to use when it hurts again. The ride went well and was full of hills, so my out-of-shape legs were wobbly when I was done, but it felt great. Even better is the lack of pain in my right knee. I did get bored just riding around the neighborhood so I know it's time for some trails.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Hurricane Katrina's Crashing The New Orleans Party

As much as I wanted to write about the great dinner I had last night at Old Europe, Hurricane Katrina is now a category 5 storm - aimed at New Orleans. Yeah, this is not looking good. Almost every computer model says the storm is headed toward New Orleans, and that's a scary thing, especially with parts of the city below sea level and predicted storm surges of 20 feet.

I wrote the following comment at

I am amazed that a storm that I naively thought "only" dumped 20 inches of water on south Florida has exploded into this massive storm. While it's good to hear that the evacuation seems to have gone well, there are those who sadly won't be out of the storm's way. From a 3 to a 5 overnight is incredible, so let's keep all of our Gulf of Mexico friends in our minds as the storm makes landfall Monday.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Illegal Milk - 6 Games, Illegal Steroids - 10 Games

It seems like the suspensions going on around the major leagues are a bit out of tune. A Florida Marlins batboy was suspended 6 games when he took a bet from pitcher Brad Penny that he (the batboy) couldn't drink a gallon of milk in an hour and not throw up. The batboy didn't throw up, but he didn't finish all of the milk in an hour so he lost the bet and the $500 that would have come his way. Just like Penny said, people aren't thinking straight when you suspend a batboy 6 games for trying a bet, yet MLB suspends players just 10 games for steroids.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I'm addicted to NHL95 for Genesis

I am the best NHL 95 player ever...there I said it.

Of the many games that define my generation, a consensus favorite is NHL 95 (the one without fighting) for the Sega Genesis. To that end, my previous roommate and I logged about 1,000 games (about 20 games per week give or take) in the one year we split the rent. Neither of us owned a next-generation system like XBOX or PS2, so we fired up my old Genesis and couldn't play enough. Our games were tremendous battles full of trash talking and great gamesmanship. It is from our games that I really honed my unmatched skills. (Sadly/Pathetically) I developed a man-zone defense (yeah, I actually developed a systematic defense) that not only stops the skate-in-front-of-the-goalie-for-a-backhanded-(cheap)-goal-maneuver, but also intercepts every one-timer pass. Trust, me it's a work of art. There's Buddy Ryan's 46-Defense in football and then there's my NHL 95 Man-Zone. Like any great defense, it has its weaknesses, but when it's on, let's face it, you're not going to score.

Since I've moved, my new roommate and I haven't played NHL 95 as much as I did before, so I tried starting my own season. To my dismay, the battery in the cartridge has zero power left to save seasons, players, stats, etc. I even ordered a few off EBay, but after 10 years, no battery is going to work. All of a sudden, one day, a miracle was delivered from above in the form of Jakks Pacific...maker of a Madden 95/NHL 95 dual plug-in-your-tv controller (which emulates the games really well except there are no player names, just numbers). I got mine as a gift for my 25th birthday and it was the closest to my heart (I told you it was getting pathetic). I played it a little to see if things worked, but got sidetracked by too much Grand Theft Auto. However, last week, I decided to start a season with Tampa Bay to see if I still had my great skills.

Though the Sabres are my go-to team, I decided to create my friends for all 5 positions and goalie and sign them to Tampa Bay. Since I didn't give anyone incredible ability like 97 on speed or super checking, nobody's overall rating is higher than 81. I dropped 6 players from Tampa Bay (remember, they were just about the worst team back in 1995) and signed all of my friends. My settings call for 5-minute periods, multi-game injuries, 1-game playoffs, and penalties on except offsides (who played with offsides anyway?). I had hoped that playing with penalties would at least make the games competitive because of my aggressive play that always results in spending time in the penalty box.

I've played about 20 games so far and it hasn't been close. Even with penalties and the automatic penalty kill line changes that replace my friends with those bad TB players, the season is just a battle between myself and statistical greatness. The only sore spot is when I accidently had the computer simulate a game, which TB lost 4-1, giving up about 40 shots and killing all of my stats. Nevertheless, TB is 19-1-0, with an average victory of 9.87-0.36. Without those four goals, the goals against would be closer to 0.2. I've had three games of over 20 goals (including a 12-goal period) and have never allowed more than one in a game. Of the goals scored on me, the only "clean" goal was a Mark Messier slapshot. The others were my fault when I took the goalie a little too far out to make a pass that was promptly intercepted and found the back of an empty net.

My (modified Tampa Bay) season goals (sorry about the pun) are: 10 goals/game, 0.25 goals against/game, all 5 starters lead goals scored and overall points, a shooting percentage over 53%, and a save percentage of 98%. That simulated game hurt my shooting and save percentage (mostly b/c it was a 20-minute period game) so those numbers will be difficult. Since this season has been easier than expected, I will next try taking a legit and untouched doormat team and see how well I do with them. Perhaps it'll be TB or Florida, but that won't be for a few more weeks. Of course, at my current playing pace, I'll be done in a few days. One of the game's best features is a 5-minute period game takes about 10 minutes to play, so it's easy to talk myself into another one since it'll only be 10 more minutes.

I might just blog that doormat season, since using my friends on TB to let you know I was 2 goals short of an across-the-board starting 5 hat trick or using the Sabres to average 14 goals/game isn't too exciting. If you've read this much, congrats, though I'm sure few of my readers actually read this far in the first place. Nevertheless, NHL 95 is my passion and I'm always ready for a challenge.

For my season "finale recap wrapup summary overall discussion", checkout this entry:

For the rest of my blog, full of rants, raves, articles, links, and poor attempts at humour, check it out here:

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Our Catch of the Day - Your 39-Year-Old Wallet

In 1966, James Lubeck (not pictured below) lost his wallet full of credit cards, money, and personal ID when he was tying his boat to a dock in Boston's Marblehead Harbor. 39 years later, Antonio Randazzo was fishing some 25 miles from the incident and caught Lubeck's wallet in his cargo net. Incredibly, all of Lubeck's ID and credit cards were in perfect condition, though his $300 is no longer of legal tender thanks to the salt water. It's small price to pay for a great story.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A Smaller AIM Buddy List Means I'm Getting Older

Having reached a ripe (old?) age in the mid-20s, it's funny how life's routines and priorities change from even a few years ago. With all of my 20-something friends, a few of the signs we have matured include our 9-to-5 jobs and that we don't use AIM anymore. Way back when I attended college (haha), AOL's Instant messenger (AIM) was the lifeline to everyone and everything that was going on. Before checking email or the weather, you signed-on to see who else was online and active, since it was and always will be the best way to procrastinate from the all important task of collegiate studying.

Things have changed. Gone are the days when I'd instant message my roommate who was sitting at his desk about 3 feet from me to ask about dinner. Gone are the days when you'd spend as much time checking someone's away message as you would talking with them. Gone are the days when you'd keep old friends on your buddy list, though you haven't actually spoken with them in months or even years, but enjoy their away messages. Most representative of my current age...gone are the days when your buddy list had over 80 people (70 of which were online everyday) and there was excitement when new emoticons became available.

These days, when I do sign-on, my buddy list is much smaller and no more than 7 or 8 people are usually online. The reality is for all of the good that AIM does for communication, it also keeps stagnant and false friendships alive. AIM delays the moment when it becomes apparent to both parties that they need to confront the reality that they'd have nothing to say over the phone. Online conversation pauses aren't awkward because they're expected with everyone multitasking (or at least using that excuse), but those pauses are very real on the phone or worse yet, in person. That's not to say the pauses mean you shouldn't stay in touch, but they go along way toward cementing that the friendship has run its course (if you're like me and don't want a friendship based on AIM). If you haven't talked over the phone or in-person during the last year, then something's amiss.

AIM was also used to leave messages for friends if we couldn't reach them, but with the popularity of cell phones (I didn't get one until fall of 2001), leaving a message for someone on their computer is no longer the fastest and most reliable way to stay in touch. Not only do we have little time to talk with someone on the Internet, but we also don't enjoy the not-really real "realtime" communication it offers. If we want to talk with each other, we'll talk on the phone and if that is too awkward, well, then it's just another friendship that has run out of steam now that all of the college parties have ended.

It might take your AIM-only friendship to realize it, but people change, feelings change, and friendships change - just make sure you stay in touch with those friends who are worth more than just another IM and really deserve a phone call. There's a reason why nobody has covered the lyrics of James Taylor's "You've got a friend" to read, "If you instant message my know wherever I am...I'll connect with you again."

Sunday, August 21, 2005

You may stop holding your breath...the bike has arrived!

Believe it or not, but the long awaited mountain bike has finally arrived. It was in a box yesterday at the shop and put together this morning. I bought a Trek 4300 and can't wait to take it for a real spin. The seat does feel pretty hard so that might be my first replacement, but before that I'll take a ride to Georgetown down the Crescent trail and see how it goes. Go ahead and laugh all you want, but I'll probably get some bicycle shorts, but not the old man tight ones, since there are now baggy ones that are certainly "more appealing and less revealing" if you will. I bought about $100 worth of accessories like a bottle holder, chain tool, patch kit, air pump, and tire levers...don't worry mom, I already have a helmet.

After all my research, I realized I should go for something that's just-above-entry-level (JAEL) and then decide on how different models felt in that class. I visited REI yesterday and tried their JAEL model which felt fine, but it really didn't have a good cool design to it. Specifically, the color scheme consisted of a puke/forest (are they the same?) with some dark gray along the frame. It wasn't too attractive. Then I rode the 4300 which seemed to have the same ride, but thanks to its brand name, I just felt more confident on it. Plus, the color scheme was sweet. I'm glad I took the REI intro to bike maintenance class so I'm no longer intimidated by all the gears and wires.

Also, I was told on good authority that paying a little more now is much better than paying a lot more later, up to a point that is. I could have bought a Trek 4300 with disc brakes, but the additional $100 wouldn't have been worth it for the riding I would do, just as any higher level bike more than JAEL would have a better suspension, but nothing that I'd recognize. One last thing, if you visit that mountain bike review site, those people use the JAEL bikes for far more than they're ever designed to withstand, which is why their forks would break, etc. If you take care of your bike by cleaning the chain after each ride, it'll be just fine for years.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Par For The Course

While I'm lucky to get a single par on any golf course, whether it's on a miniature, executive, or full-fledged course, Chris Dimarco proved he really is a zero handicap golfer. Dimarco scored a par on every hole during his second round at the NEC Invitational. I haven't dusted off my clubs at all this season outside of a small bucket at the range two months ago. I don't see myself playing at all this summer, but would like to hit a few next season. Until then, I'll keep watching the pros make it look all too easy.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Christmas (Eve) In August

To my friends and family that (for some reason) faithfully read my blog, what I'm about to write comes as no shock, but I have never celebrated my own Christmas. Sure I've partaken in a few enjoyable Christmases (just what is the plural of the holiday anyway?), but I never had the experience that is Christmas Eve when you know you're getting the gift you asked for, the next morning since I'm usually doing my secular duty at the local Chinese restaurant. Don't worry, I'm aware of the night before the whole eight crazy night thing, but last I checked, Channukah Harry or Ch-arry (ya know, with that whole clearing your throat sound) does not have chimney descension as part of his story, but that's another blog entry for January 1st (yep, it does run that late this year, but we get all the after-Christmas sales to enforce some great stereotypes).

Christmas eve, I mean Channukah eve, I mean Kwanzaa eve, I mean the end of Ramdan Eve, or whatever you want to call the night before you get a gift, is occurring right here in my Montgomery County cove. After much too much research and expert testimony/cross-examination, I am finally purchasing a new mountain bike. As with any expensive purchase of mine, I researched, or what the kidz call googled, my way to a boatload of bike websites, message boards, and propaganda, only this time I got more confused as I went along.

Instead of closing in on a model, I only found more options and things to consider. While it's good to broaden the prospects at the start, at some point you want to close-in on a final decision. Doing lots of research must be proportional to the amount of money being spent. For example, before I settled on my new car, I researched lots of models and as I got closer to deciding on the winner, I simply increased my research (reading about 15 reviews along the way). Low and behold, my car has been a great purchase that hasn't caused me any grief outside of the dealership's communication incompetence (something I should have researched of course).

Anyway, considering I will ride on roads about 85% of the time, I don't need a full suspension bike, nor do I need to worry too much about a weak front fork or a derailleur that can take a beating or the feedback I get when making a 5-foot jump. At first I was going for an entry level bike around $300, but after talking to the master bike technician at a local outdoors store, it was clear that despite my limited experience, even I would benefit from the next step up in quality. So I've decided to go with a model in the $350 to (gulp) $500 range. The good news it's down to either the REI house model Novara in this range or a Trek 4500 or even 4300 if necessary. I wish I had one model in mind, but at this point, it all comes down to which gives me the most comfortable ride for my body's ever-changing shape. Mountain bike review sites like are helpful, but they're usually hardcore riders who quickly beat the snot out of these low-level bikes for their high-level needs.

So that's the long version of why I'm excited tonight. Just like my new car, I will baby this bike to make sure it lasts a long time. Now all I have to do after the minor detail of purchasing it is think of its nickname like I did for my car...time for some more research.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

50 straight hours of videogames is too much? Really?

It turns out there is a limit the body can endure when it comes to consecutive videogame playing hours. A South Korean man recently died after playing 50 hours at an Internet cafe'. After his session timed-out, he collapsed and died from heart failure. He had created a bed at the cafe' and wasn't eating much food during his marathon session. I don't know about you, but you'd like to think the owner of the cafe' would have stopped the guy from playing when he created his own bed in the cafe'! Sure it was fine taking the guy's money for all that playing time, to which I see nothing wrong, but when the customer becomes a resident of your store, it's time to kick him out. Videogame addiction is a problem and for the cafe' to let it occur at such an extreme level just for some extra money is a shame. That's not to say some of their regular customers aren't in need of help, but when someone actually makes the cafe' their home, you (or his parents and friends) have to stop them.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Low License Plate Numbers

Around metro D.C., it has become apparent that one of the most impressive things you can have to prove your social status is having the lowest number on your license plate. The DMV usually issues these 4-digit plates by a lottery, but if you're connected it won't be a problem. The idea is if you have a lower number than your neighbor, then that clearly means you're more popular, travel in better social circles, and of course have more money. Whatever I guess.

There are so many material ways we judge each other's status and social well-being so let's just add this one to the list. From fancier cars, to larger homes, to bigger diamonds, to label-conscious clothing, to summer home locations, to private school acceptances, and of course appearance, there are many ways the typically affluent folks in our world try to look down and putdown each other. I was reminded to write this article after seeing a low-numbered Georgetown Prep School plate. I'm not saying that a certain type of person with connections to that school would be all over this sort of thing, oh no, not at all.

A low-numbered plate means you either have an "in" with a politician who pulled some strings to get your plate, or it could be "grandfathered" down within the family from someone who got a low-numbered plate a while's really an heirloom for snobby people. According to the article, someone paid $182,500 in 1994 for the #9 Delaware plate. Really people? So you get your low-numbered plate on your car, congratulations, now what are you going to do with your life? Do you hold your head up higher? I just think it really is a wasteful purchase, but who am I to say since it's their life, their money, and their own stupidity.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Triple Bypass Means Triple Wives

Melvyn Reed recently underwent triple bypass surgery and like anyone else, some friends and family stopped by to see how he was doing. It's a simple enough idea that usually has no complications, unless of course all THREE of your wives arrive at the same time!

According to the article, he did his best to stager their visits to avoid any problems, but none of them seemed to get that message. Bigamy is illegal in our old motherland so he did face some penalties from the court. I don't know what brought on his surgery, but at least when the ladies arrived, he was in a good place in case his heart ran into more troubles. What's interesting is how he was able to pull the hoax off for so long. This just goes to show you, when you're in the hospital and are married/dating more than one person and you stager their visits, at the very least make them on different days so you don't become another blog entry.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The World's Least Superficial Dog Owner

Come on, be honest with me, you first looked at the picture below before reading this entry. That's okay since I would have done the same. Damn, that is one ugly dog. It looks like something from a horror movie or the host of "Tales From the Crypt." The picture is not meant to scare, injure, or harm you. Rather, it is to show that there are a few dogowners who don't choose their dog based on appearance. The following is a 14-year-old Chinese Pedigreed crested that won the World's Ugliest Dog Contest a few weeks ago.

I think the owner could at least do a few things to help the dog's appearance. For one, adding a little styling gel to those five white hairs would really help the dog meet some lady friends. Also, is it possible for the owner, Susie Lockheed, to brush Sam's teeth once in a while? I guess it is impressive to have won the contest for the last three years, but you have to wonder what it's doing for the dog's confidence when he isn't approached at the dog park to even have his backside sniffed, and isn't that something we all work toward each day?

Sam is blind and does suffer from many medical problems and requires lots of pills so Lockheed should be congratulated on taking him in, but come on, don't kick him while he's down by putting him in ugly dog contests. Lockheed said she has never had a dog so much in love with her, well, I guess she doesn't care that dogs in love tend to gravitate toward people like themselves.

Is Lockheed crazy? That depends on your opinion of people in dogshows and the like. She gives Sam bottled water, ensures he is always hanging out in 70-degree environments, makes him home-cooked meals (including flan and french toast), and the best one...Sam sleeps with her...get this...under the bedsheets! I bet Sam is a nice and well-behaved dog, but do you really want to wakeup with that thing next to you? If you want to know the latest on Lockheed and her dog, checkout their blog.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Too Hot For Free Tickets

Through my dad's "connections" not named Tony Soprano, he got 4 tickets to today's Oriole game versus Toronto. When he got the tickets, we were both excited to not only see each other and some baseball, but also because at the time, the O's were in first place. How times have changed. The O's immediately (and completely unrelated to the tickets of course) went into a freefall close to biblical levels. So with the game today, the O's are in 4th place, far out of the playoff picture, and will again finish the year below .500.

My dad and still thought about going b/c we'd spend time together (awww) and at least see some semblance of baseball. Well, thanks to the oppressive heat and humidity this weekend, he ended up going about an hour or so down the turnpike before calling me to say if it was still hot in his car despite the AC, watching a game outside, even for a few innings would be brutal. So he's on his way home to watch the PGA Championship and hangout with the dog. I had said to him yesterday how hot it would be, but we decided to take our chances, even for two hours of gametime, but it wasn't meant to be (and we don't get to boo Palmeiro's first game since his suspension).

Though we both would have loved to get together, it was just too hot to make it worthwhile. So for now, I'm staying inside, watching golf, and calling my dad.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

World's Loudest Happy Hour

Yesterday I had dinner with a good friend of mine at "On The Border" off Rockville Pike. I hadn't dined in Mexican food in a while so why not get my fix here. Upon walking in, we noticed how incredibly loud the bar area was. I understand happy hour noise levels get high, but this was crazy. It was as if the restaurant's walls were designed to reflect the noise back upon itself and create even more noise, forcing everyone already making noise, to make even more noise so they're heard over the noise they just made.

I figured once we were sitting in the dining room, the noise wouldn't be too bad, but alas, my co-diner and I had to ask, "what did you say?" more than a few times to overcome the noise. Despite being a lactard, I ordered the supreme dinner that gives a sampling of a few mexican meals. The food was really nothing special thanks to being lathered in cheese, so this was probably my first and last meal at On The Border.

By the way, for those weirdos still wondering, I survived the meal and just to give you too much information, it hasn't caused me any trouble...yet.

Let's takeoff the training wheels

Ever since two of my best friends told me they had bought bikes and have gone on a few rides, I've made it a point to search for a bicycle of own. I have always enjoyed riding, but haven't owned a bike since I outgrew my last set of wheels in college. Trust me, that bike had gotten too small for me since my back would hurt after making the 10-minute ride to campus.

It's clear that bike technology has really improved since my bike was bought at least 10 years ago. Dual suspension systems, disc brakes, and 24 speeds are the tip of the iceberg in the world of consumer cycling. I'm just looking for any entry-level mountain bike to take on some roads and maybe a well-manicured trail. Though it'll be used on roads 95% of the time and not so much on a trail, I like the durability that comes with a mountain bike versus a "10-speed" racer.

Riding appeals to me as a great alternative to other exercise methods. I haven't lifted weights in 2.5 weeks and don't really miss them. Sure the workout was great, but it got boring and when I feel tired enough to nap, I'll choose napping over lifting. Playing ultimate frisbee on Sundays is nice, but if my lifting has tailed off, I need something new to do between Sundays. I dislike just going for a run, but welcome riding with open arms. It gets me outside and once I'm on the bike, it's not like I can get distracted (or procrastinate) by checking email, watching TV, or sleeping.

Ideally, I will get my hands on a bike (that is not the one above) before the end of the month and perhaps let you know when I've gone a significant ride. Of course, I might just procrastinate the bike purchase and take a nap instead.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

It's good to have a friend with great vision

Last night, while eating dinner, my friend noticed someone walking by the cars in front of my apartment with a flashlight. She said it looked like a tow truck driver checking everyone's parking permits or lack thereof. Fortunately she noticed him and his flashlight and asked me if I had put my temporary parking pass on the rearview mirror. Of course, I hadn't b/c I was going to place it there after I got gas for my car that afternoon. Well I took a nap and never got around to getting the gas. So I ran downstairs in my slippers and placed the permit on the mirror, and just to make things square, I got a few gallons of gas, shortly after 10 in those same slippers.

I'm just glad that I got to write about cutting things close with the permit, instead of one lamenting my forgetfulness causing me to be out $150 and complain about the logistics of getting that cash and making it to the impound lot after my car was towed.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Take Her Shopping Cart License Away!

After looking through my pantry and realizing that I can't get by on a dinner of boil-a-bag rice and PB&J sandwiches, I did some major food shopping last night and learned that some people just shouldn't be allowed to push their shopping carts without permission or training wheels.

This all took place while I was cruising along in this middle area between the health/beauty products and the pet food aisle. This space is twice as wide as a normal aisle with a few displays in the middle acting as medians. After getting my cookies, I turned into this space on my way to the bread aisle when I saw a woman in the other direction, but on the OTHER SIDE of the cinnabon display. I thought nothing of her since we were clearly on opposite sides and had some material between us (or better yet protecting me from her).

Just as we're about to pass each other, she suddenly swerves right after the raisin English Muffin stand toward my cart. Thanks to the Defensive Shopping Cart Driving School diploma I earned last year, I was able to swerve to the left - avoiding her brazen cart pushing, then powerslide back to the right around the sharp blades of the disposable razor display at the end of one of the health/beauty aisles. Well, the blades are sharp and they were in two layers of plastic for protection, but any blog entry sounds more exciting when weapons are involved.

I immediately had to stop my cart since I was shaken up from the matter. After checking for whiplash and my pants for any loss of bladder from being scared, I immediately turned around to give her the "I can't believe you can't control your shopping cart despite the wide aisle and product display medians eye". Of course, she didn't even give me the respect of turning around to see if I was okay, and do you know why?

She was on her cell phone!

The picture below is an artist's sketch of how I described her appearance (though the height is a little off):

I have no complaints about cell phone use, but there needs to be a rule that you can't push your cart and talk on the phone at the same time. Shopping cart usage rules must be adapted from our driving regulations. Here's the first may only use your cell phone in the store if your shopping cart is stopped or you have a hands-free device. The reason the woman almost hit me is because she was distracted and tried pushing the cart with one hand. I'd like to think we live in a world of supermarkets that don't require stop signs and traffic lights to safely buy food.


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Sunday, August 07, 2005

Rafael Palmeiro and the MLB Conspiracy

I recognize that the world of sports is a business and that some entertainment/excitement is required to maintain the casual fan's interest. If a sport rests on its laurels, eventually the general public will become dissatisfied with the product because there's nothing new as athletes start looking like they're going through the motions. With this in mind, I've been thinking about Palmeiro and his steroid suspension, its timing, and Major League Baseball's look-the-other-way policy for the last 15 years.

You have to question the timing of Palmeiro's results being made public. Apparently, his positive test was found in May, yet he was allowed to continue playing. So here's one line of thinking...MLB had the results in hand, but saw he would get his 3,000th hit sometime in the summer, only after that would he be knocked off his pedestal with the test's results. He's the biggest name to get busted and makes a great example of a "star" who cheated. MLB's ability to choose to suspend someone who just got his 3,000th hit two weeks earlier says a lot about how well its foundation has been rebuilt since the early 90's.

During the strike year of 1994 when no World Series was played, I penned a column in my high school newspaper that essentially said, as a member of the next generation of paying sports fans, MLB really lost an entire generation with the strike, games that end far too late for the East Coast, and escalating prices for a day at the park. Heck, things were so bad that when the 1995 season was played, even the Atlanta Braves won a World Series that year.

With MLB at rock bottom, the suits at the league's offices were well aware that players were getting unnaturally larger. With players becoming so strong thanks to hormones and any number of designer steroid drugs, the steroid ban began in 1990 (but had not real penalties) in conjunction with Congress' passing of the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990 (of course). Before this ban, the suspected steroid use of McGwire, Bonds, etc., was perfectly legal in baseball's eyes. Sure players were getting bigger and homeruns were increasing, but games weren't the out of control homerun derbies that they became in the late 90's and early 2000's.

So back to 1994 and the strike that put baseball in a ton of trouble. Fan interest has waned, ticket sales and tv ratings are at record lows and fans lament the time between pitches, overall length of a typical game, and salaries. I theorize that the higher-ups in baseball realized that as steroids become more refined and complex, players will be hitting homeruns, records will be set, and most importantly, the fans will love the game again. Sure there's a steroid ban, but there was no consistent test policy in place. This allows high schoolers in the early 90's to play with steroids and ultimately reach the majors as fully grown and strong hitters because they've always (ab)used drugs.

MLB allowed the use because they saw the obvious - fans will return to the game if today's players do things better than anyone else before them. The commissioner and team owners wanted a tangible thing the casual fan would relate to so why not highlight the simplest of baseball skills - smashing a ball over the fence. Sure I love great pitching, but all of us are in awe of a massive homerun. So MLB lets the players juice, smash homers, and break the most hallowed records by incredible marks, specifically the battle for Roger Maris' season homerun record between Sosa and McGwire.

What do you do when the "best players" are juicing and you have to as well to keep your job?
Baseball writers "thought" (or just looked the other way) that the homeruns were due to smaller parks, watered-down pitching thanks to expansion, and a possible conspiracy by MLB to stitch baseballs tighter. Of course, like all of us, they ignored how all of the players were incredibly large by chalking it up to better exercise, weight training, and supplements (not steroids of course). Thanks to your typical baseball contest looking more like a videogame, everyone returned to the ballpark and actually cared about pennant races during the season. Previously small players like Ken Caminiti came out of nowwhere to win the 1996 MVP and Brady Anderson suddenly hit 50 homeruns while his previous high was 21 and he never hit more than 24 the rest of his career. Think about this...36 times in the history of baseball has a player hit at least 50 homeruns, yet 18 of those happened in the last 10 years.

Baseball's foundation in the nation's sports mind was solid once again.

Now that the league is on good terms with its fans, it can crackdown on the steroid controversy that it allowed to happen. The ability to crackdown on itself says a lot about the game's strength, in that it's strong enough to humiliate the same players it used to rejuvenate the game, yet has no problems washing its hands clean by burning the candle at both ends and making the players the scapegoats. MLB made a deal with the devil by allowing steroids and is trying to act as its own archangel.

It's easy for Bud Selig to ask for stiffer penalties and look like the good guy, but shouldn't we be asking him why it took so suspicioulsy long (or rather waited until now) to finally get vocal about this problem?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Using Matches in the Bathroom

I recognize that this might be too personal for some readers that haven't visited too often, but how many of us have some matches in the bathroom? It's okay, go ahead and raise your hand since I doubt anyone is sitting next to you at the computer. The idea of lighting a match to counteract that not-so olfactor-loving bathroom odor has been a phenomenal event ever since I first saw them used in my late grandparents' home. Before then, I'd rely on the unreliable bathroom vent/fan (that we all know doesn't do anything), a window (which helped a bit except if you got a whiff outside), or an air freshener (that only made the smell worse and spread even further).

For the longest time, whenever I'd visit my grandparents and use the little boy's room, I'd see the matchbook on top of the toilet, but never figured out their use since there were no candles anywhere. Finally, I discovered, or rather had it explained to me, that after you're done with your business, for the sake of anyone within a mile, please please please light at least one match so we don't have to learn-by-smell what just happened in there. Are you uncomfortable with this topic yet?

If you haven't used matches to cover-up your business, let me have the honor of breaking you in with the greatness that they bring. Trust me, you're far better off smelling the burnt carbon of a match than any air freshener out there. Those sprays only push things around and never get rid of the smell. Though I have not run my unofficially official unscientific non-clinical trial yet, I believe a match actually absorbs the smell while it burns and then overwhelms the predisposed smell you left once the match is blownout and has time to smoke. I've been asked about match placement for maximum smell...well, just about anywhere in the bathroom will do the trick since it's just that good.

I decided to write about this topic that's near and dear to all of us after taking two matchbooks from a restaurant in DC. Those in the elite matchbook circles know this one place offers an astounding 40 matches per book, so it was a good time to stock up. Don't worry, I don't go around grabbing every matchbook I see, but even when my inventory is low, I'm allowed to be selective.

For the rest of my blog full of rants, raves, and even worse attempts at humor, its current address is:

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Greatness of Hoyer's Ice Cream Stand

As you know, I went home to the tri-state area this past weekend for some R&R with my parents and the dog. We thought about making a trip to the city (that's NYC and not DC, Chicago, LA, SF, or ANY other city in the world for the uncool), but decided to do a little marinated steak BBQ with fresh corn from the local farm (yes, there is one "farm" in the NJ suburbs), and then we were going to hustle up 9W for some great soft serve ice cream from Hoyer's in West Haverstraw. The steak and corn were great, but we had to get moving if we wanted to get our dessert in time. It also gave my parents a chance to get a real feel for my new car.

We got onto route 9W and all of its wonderful curves and hills. It's a great road to drive, but has always been a deadly road since it's not exactly lit for the most part and some people don't know that speeding around a blind curve at night isn't the safest thing to do. Nevertheless, I stayed at the speed limit and it was a problem-free trip. Now it was time to eat. I didn't bring my camera for this trip, but these pictures I did find definitely do the trick. It really is your quintessential summertime ice cream stand.

The stand does not have a single menu board, but rather pieces of paper listing your options. Sure, each of the papers with a different ice cream float description are found a few feet from each other, or the toppings list is 4 windows from the hard ice cream flavor list, but who really cares? If there was one big menu, Hoyer's would become too corporate and lose the 1933 mentality/experience that makes it so great.

We got there around 8:45 and it seemed like the lights were being turned off a little after 9 so to play it safe, get there before 9 and you should be fine. Upon our arrival, the 3 lines seemed a little long until we realized that people weren't in line, but trying to make the impossible decision of what to order. My choice was simple, safe, and always outstanding - chocolate and vanilla soft serve swirl with rainbow sprinkles on a waffle cone. It's okay if you need some time to salivate. It tasted great and really can't be beat. I thought about ordering the hard ice cream since my parents were also going soft serve, but there's no need to mess with a great and reliable flavor. Only if I started making more than one trip each summer for ice cream would I consider experimenting with Hoyer's soft serve perfection.

Michael Hoyer says not just anyone can make a soft ice cream cone as tall and perfect as his. He piles his trade at Hoyer's Ice Cream on Route 9W in West Haverstraw.
(Vincent DiSalvio / The Journal News )/The Journal News (Aug. 5, 2003)

Hoyer's Ice Cream is really worth the drive up (or down 9W). It's hard to beat taking a ride (with a new car) on a fun road that runs along the Hudson River and goes through small "upstate" towns (some folks call anything outside of NYC as upstate) on your way to some great dessert. I can't find an exact address for Hoyer's, but it's off of 9W in West Haverstraw and is on the left-side if you're traveling northbound. It's the place with the long lines and great taste.