Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Presidential Race Has Just Gotten Much More Interesting!

I'm not saying I'll vote for her, or predict that her surprise selection will push John McCain over the top, but Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's arrival at the GOP VP nominee will no DOUBT make the rest of the Presidential race far more interesting that the selection of Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty would have been!

I can say as an old white guy myself that another old white guy in the number two chair (such as the -ahem- other VP candidate) would have been pretty dull, and left millions of more Americans sitting on the sidelines disengaged from the battle the rest of the way. I know that's what I had been planning to do, anyway!

I think Governor Palin handled herself extremely well in her introduction to the national stage, and I think she has at least caught the attention of blind Obama loyalists who were hoping that his acceptance speech Thursday night would effectively end the race.

Give the old guy credit... He had an ace up his sleeve, and he played it at a perfect time to steal the news cycle away from Obama... The people who say John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin was a desperation move may very well be right... But that doesn't mean it wasn't the right move at the right time... And I can GUARANTEE you that McCain/Palin will get far more attention from the media and the nation over the next two months than McCain/Romney ever would have!

Let the Games begin!

Oh - and if I'm not mistaken (I havent done the homework on this), Palin would be the first major candidate for President or Vice President to have a background in sports broadcasting since Ronald Reagan... Enjoy!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Thank You, Daily Show!

I was feeling pretty snarky about my previous post concerning Barack Obama's speech at the DNC last night... I was not finding the tone that I wanted to express how I felt about the Obama campaign... However, this clip from the Daily Show expresses my thoughts exactly.

The legend of Barack Obama sets a standard that the man who is Barack Obama cannot possibly live up to. And Obama supporters should be worried about this. Assuming Obama wins in November, he may find expectations set so high that he won't possibly be able to meet them, and the Democrat-controlled Congress could see the circle of life coming around to bite it in the ass in 2010!

Abraham, Martin and John... and Barack. And Oprah.

I want to be brief, and I don't want to be bitter. You all know where I stand on this Presidential election, so everything and everybody is viewed right now with a cynical eye.

I do think the huge stadium thing worked for Barack Obama. I do think he gave a good speech. I DO kind of resent that every Barack Obama appearance is treated as though he has already been anointed President, and I hope that does not come back and bite him in the ass. I also hope the November election is not particularly close (like Bush/Gore in 2000), because if it is, and Obama is on the short end of the stick, there will literally be violence in the streets.

Here's one possible source of Obama backlash - Oprah Winfrey was still in the throes of orgasm when Entertainment Tonight caught up with her at Invesco Field after the speech. I don't hate Oprah, but I do hate her influence... Her opinion should not count more than anyone else's but you know damn well it does.

Oh - and we also heard from John McCain last night, buying ad time to congratulate Obama for his historic nomination. You would like to think the ad was sincere, and not a political calculation. But who's kidding whom?

And in closing, I will also say this... Love him or hate him, you have to give Obama this... He outscored the Redskins by a lot last night!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's Deja Vu All Over Again!

For the first time in six weeks, I woke up this morning with no place to go. My freelance gig at WBAL ended yesterday, and thanks to that crazy 3 am - 11 am schedule, I found myself up by 5 this morning, staring at the clock...

So I went downstairs and made a pot of coffee... went out to the driveway, picked up the morning paper... poured myself a cup, and started scanning the Washington Post in search of stories that we can advance today.

But wait a minute... There is no "we"... That would require me to be A) - working and B) - working with someone else... two conditions that do not apply here.

After I was let go at WMAL six months ago (SIX MONTHS!), it took me weeks to get over the fact that my job had been cut after 25 years. Out of habit, I was still coming up with material that someone could spin into gold on the air, and in fact, I fed probably a couple of dozen stories to my former colleague Bill Thompson just as a creative fix.

Now, after having a job to do and newscasts to write for six weeks at WBAL, I find myself in the exact same position... In fact, I didn't even wait 24 hours after leaving there before pestering my friends in Baltimore. When I found a story on Drudge last night that said Michael Phelps would be hosting Saturday Night Live, I called WBAL and let them know about it... Old habits truly do die hard!

Hopefully, my withdrawal this time around will be brief. I start training next week for another freelance gig, and hopefully, this one will keep me occupied for a while!

Before I go, I want to thank the nice folks at WBAL for having me in their newsroom over the past month and a half. They made me feel very much at home, and my time there gave me a much-needed reassurance that my news skills did not fade away as I've toiled on the Beach. It is a cold, cold world out here in the land of the underemployed, and it is nice to know there are places I can stop in to warm myself from time to time!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Michael Phelps' Very First Championship Swim

This is Michael swimming the 200 millimeter freestyle, of course... Thanks to Dan!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

This Election Makes Me Want To Hurl!

OK... I admit it... I became kind of addicted to coming home in the afternoon the past couple of weeks and having my choice of two of three channels of Olympic coverage pretty much 24/7... And since the games ended on Sunday, I've been missing that. So with the Democratic convention on, and the GOP to follow, I decided to drift over to MSNBC this afternoon to see what was going on there. (I knew MSNBC was channel 84 on my TV because it had the Olympics last week)

I only needed about five minutes with Chris Matthews (Thank God - no relation) before I knew I was not going to satisfy my TV jones by watching election coverage. My God, the guy may as well have a Democratic party donkey stamped on his forehead! He played a clip of Michelle Obama praising Hillary Clinton during her speech, and came out of it by proclaiming, "That was one of the high points of the convention so far!" Someone should have given him a napkin to wipe up his drool!

Now, I realize that in the post-Rush Limbaugh world, neither TV nor radio commentators are expected to be center-of-the-road in their presentations any more... But while these clowns on the left and right pander to their hard-defined marginal target audiences, what's left out there for the two-thirds of us who comprise the muddled middle? These guys are not even trying very hard any more to mask their own bias.

It's bad enough that I'm deeply cynical about the candidates running for President... but to feel the same way about members of the media when I AM (some of the time, anyway) a member of the media? That really sucks.

And You Thought I Was A Disney Nut!

I have developed over the years a certain reputation as a Disney nut. Yes, I have been to Disney World 54 times. Yes, I have been to Disneyland at least 20 times. Yes, my entire house is an homage to Disneydom, and at Christmastime, I do have a half dozen sets of Mickey Ears illuminating my house. My Disney devotion has even landed my on TV. BUT - I have never built a Disney attraction in my own backyard, like this guy in Minnesota did... And let me tell you - he did a damn good job! Color me jealous!

If you haven't seen Soarin', make sure you do the next time you're at Epcot or at Disney's California Adventure... The real thing is the best ride Disney has built in at least a decade! Have a Disney day!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Some Work Days Are Just Better Than Others!

I've been writing and producing and managing news budgets for 25 years, and on most days, if we're lucky, we find one or two good stories to lead our newscasts, with the rest of the stories kind of filling up the news block. But every once in a while, you hit the mother lode, and you get a veritable cornucopia of stories that are so interesting and so compelling that you can't wait to get your newscast on the air! Today was one of those days...

Now, mind you - when I say "good stories", I don't necessarily mean "good news" news stories. In fact, it's fair to say that, from a story-telling perspective, really good stories usually constitute "BAD news". Michael Phelps is a very good "good news" story, but when I'm writing a newscast, I'll take a good compelling bizarre BAD news story any day of the week!

Here are some of the compelling stories I had the pleasure of writing today...

  • We had the guy in the Baltimore County jail who was found tied up in his cell with the word "rat" scratched onto his back, a towel stuffed in his mouth and a spoon with a note attached to it shoved up his rectum. The victim had recently been caught wearing a wire in the jail, but corrections officials won't tell us why he was wearing a wire.

  • We found out that the guy who drowned his three children in a Baltimore hotel room last spring had told investigators after his arrest that he is evil and should be put to death. We also found out that he had timed his children's drownings with a stopwatch.

  • We had an actress from HBO's "The Wire" being arrested for marijuana possession at her home in Baltimore. The cops forced themselves into the woman's home and found a bunch of pot, including two blunts. They were under court order to drag the woman to court to be a hostile witness in a murder trial.

  • We had Tropical Storm Fay, which is now measuring its rainfall on Florida in feet instead of inches after 4 days of drifting over the Sunshine State.

  • We had Barack Obama playing peek-a-boo with the media over his choice for Vice President.

  • We had the guy in Western Maryland who is holed up with his pregnant girlfriend in a motel room. He's wanted for theft and burglary in four states and he's kept the cops at bay for two days now. The cops used a police robot to try and deliver a pizza to the guy last night... but the guy just threatened to shoot the robot.

  • We also had a landlord in Carroll County who shot at, and then pistol-whipped, one of his tenants when the tenant showed up to pay his rent.

  • We also had the federal government cancelling a program that was set up to encourage illegal immigrants facing deportation to turn themselves in. The Feds dumped the program when only 8 people out of an estimated 30,000 illegals in the test area signed up for the deal. The feds say their program of surprise raids on illegals while they sleep works better... uh, DUH!

Interestingly enough, with news like this, today was the first time in two weeks we did NOT do a single story on Michael Phelps... The newsroom I've been working in has not, to my knowledge, received a single e-mail raising or criticizing our coverage of the Phelps story... But in a period of two hours this morning, we received about 5 complaint emails on the stories I've listed above! This tells me that these stories - for better or worse - generate passion and capture the imagination of our audience. We are creating word pictures that our radio listeners can actually see... And what they see disturbs some of them. That's OK... Some of these stories were very disturbing. Disturbing and memorable. And they made for great radio!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

And YOU Thought He Went To London!

Media reports have erroneously reported that Olympics hero Michael Phelps has flown from Beijing to London to participate in a "hand-off" ceremony as Beijing passes the torch to London for the 2012 Olympics... But don't believe everything you read... My top news source, The Onion, has the real scoop!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Some People Just Make Ashes Of Themselves!

This is one of the more odd stories I've read recently... It seems that as cremation becomes more and more popular of an option for one's final - uh - disposition, more and more surviving family members are rather conveniently - uh - forgetting - to take their loved ones' ashes with them when the funeral is over. As a result, funeral homes are left holding the urn, and that can be problematic... In most states, there are no laws concerning the disposal of human ashes, and some funeral directors are afraid to throw Aunt Tillie out with the garbage in case Aunt Tillie's niece ever shows up to claim her.

I find this all very interesting, of course, because when my clock runs out (assuming my clock radio doesn't stop ticking first), I plan on being cremated, and my ashes will be surreptitiously scattered in the Seven Seas Lagoon at Walt Disney World. It will have to be surreptitious because if Disney let everyone who wanted to do this DO THIS, the lagoon in front of the Magic Kingdom would be one gross gray mess... and I DON'T think they'd get away with claiming it was pixie dust, either! For the record, dumping at Disney is pretty commonplace (here's one example), but you can't exactly expect the happiest place on Earth to condone it, either!

Of course, not every case of ash-scattering goes according to plan... Just a couple of weeks ago, a rocket carrying the ashes of Star Trek actor James Doohan to space exploded on take off. The reason is clear... Scotty was not around to make sure the ship was working properly!

Still, if Mrs. Matthews leaves me in the dust at Hines-Rinaldi, I'm gonna be pissed... or at least my ashes will! Dumping me in the lagoon was HER idea, after all!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Another Reason To Say "God Bless America"

The next time you find yourself cursing PETA...
Or think about letting Congress bring back the "Fairness" Doctrine...
Or become outraged that foul language and dirty music lyrics are ruining our children's minds...
Or you get pissed at anti-war protesters like Cindy Sheehan...
Or wish that transsexuals were locked up in mental hospitals instead of being allowed to walk free among the rest of us...

Just imagine a world where you had no right to free speech. A place where blogs like this one - in fact, most blogs, except for the ones written and approved by the State - were banned.

A place like China.

China 'yet to approve protests'
By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

China has received a total of 77 applications to stage protests during the Olympic Games period - but none has been approved.
Beijing's public security bureau said 74 applications were "withdrawn", two were "suspended" and one was "vetoed".
China was praised by the International Olympic Committee when it said protest areas would be set up for the Olympics.
But it appears no application has managed to meet China's strict rules on who can and cannot stage a protest.
The news came as the IOC called the Beijing Olympics a "success", even though the Games are only half-way through.

The protest applications involved a total of 149 people, including three foreigners, according to a spokesperson from Beijing's public security bureau.
The majority were withdrawn because the problems they raised could be better dealt with by "relevant authorities or departments through consultation".
State-run Xinhua news agency, which reported the spokesperson's comments, said these problems involved disputes about work, health and welfare issues.

Two applications were suspended because "their procedures were incomplete", the spokesperson said. "It doesn't mean their applications have been rejected," the spokesperson said. The vetoed application was turned down because it violated China's law on demonstrations and protests, Xinhua reported.
That law - brought in shortly after the Tiananmen killings in 1989 - requires applicants to provide a range of information about an intended protest.
This includes the type of posters and slogans to be used, how many people intend to take part, and the names and addresses of protest organisers.

A demonstration can be turned down if it could harm national sovereignty or unity, or even if the police suspect it will "undermine public order". Protesters were supposed to be able to demonstrate in Shijie, Zizhuyuan and Ritan parks during the Olympics.
But no areas appear to have been set up for protesters inside the parks, which are being heavily policed during the Olympics. Some would-be protesters even appear to have been arrested after making applications to stage demonstrations.

'Very relaxed'
Just before the announcement by the public security bureau, IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies praised China for the smooth running of the Games.
Things were going so well that a key meeting between the Chinese Olympic organisers and senior IOC officials had been postponed until Saturday, she said.
The Co-ordination Commission usually met every day during the Olympics but at these Games there had been little for them to discuss, Ms Davies said.
"It very much reflects the very relaxed and happy position the IOC is in, in terms of how it views the success of these Games," she added.

Freedom isn't free, people! God Bless America - and God Bless The First Amendment!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Mr. Phelps Completes Mission: Impossible

What a week for Michael Phelps! Like the rest of the nation, I became caught up in his quest to surpass Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis as the all-time Olympics Gold Medal champion and to pass Spitz for the single-games gold medal mark... and I was fortunate enough to do it while working as a freelance anchor at WBAL in Baltimore - Phelps' hometown. Baltimore loves its sports heroes - especially the ones who are homegrown!

For some reason, the sporting Gods decided to plant two of the all-time greatest athletes in their respective sports right in Charm City... Cal Ripken grew up just north of Baltimore, in Harford County, and spent his entire career with the Orioles. And now, Towson's own Michael Phelps, who spent the past four years away at school in Michigan, is coming back home to live and train!

Michael is probably going to get to enjoy his achievements a LOT more in the short term than Mark Spitz did back in 1972. I remember watching his races from our family's rented beach cottage in Ocean City on something called CATV. It was an early generation version of Cable TV... Ocean City was too far away from Salisbury to reliably get reception via rabbit ears, so the whole town was hooked up to cable, which still only got you the three major networks... But anyway, I digress...

Mark Spitz won his medals in the first week of Olympics competition in Munich, and he became the toast of the sports world. - And then, tragedy struck. A terrorist group called "Black September", stormed a dormitory in the Olympic village, and took several members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage. The two-day ordeal ended with 11 Israelis and five terrorists dead, and Spitz being whisked out of Munich for fear, that he, as a Jewish athlete, would be a major kidnapping target.

Anyway... Michael Phelps will hopefully not have that kind of distraction as the Team Phelps marketing machine kicks into another gear. Michael has been clear in saying his goal in chasing all of that gold is not money, but a desire to raise the profile of swimming to make it more than a once-every-four-years sport in the eyes of the world. He'll be facing mighty long odds to do that. Mark Spitz didn't. Neither did Mary Lou Retton for gymnastics, or Carl Lewis for Track and Field. The closest any classic Olympic sport has come to raising its profile as a continuing sport has probably been figure skating, but even then, pro skating is seen more as theater than as sport.

If Michael is going to raise swimming's profile, there's no better place to do it than in his own hometown. As I mentioned, Baltimore loves its heroes. Tens of thousands of Ravens fans stuck around M&T Bank Stadium after the Ravens lost to the Vikings last night to watch Phelps win his 8th Gold Medal on the big screen... Maybe some of them would join a Michael Phelps swim league and compete in a Michael Phelps-brand aquatic center? Hell, you could even throw in fellow Baltimorean Katie Hoff as a guest instructor!

Don't be surprised if a BUNCH of the US swimmers in London in 2012 are crab-eaters, hon!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Viagra Make You Strong Like Bull - If It Doesn't Kill You First!

I was channel-surfing this afternoon when I came across a TV ad for Viagra ... For the record, it featured a country group sitting in a recording studio singing "Viva Viagra"... The last third of the commercial featured the requisite medical disclaimer, which, if you listen to it carefully, will frighten you much too much to ever have sex again - or maybe even GIVE you erectile dysfunction!

As a public service to you, my reading public, I used my trusty TiVO to transcribe the text. Here is it, word for deadly word:

"Ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough for sex. Don't take Viagra if you take nitrates for chest pain, as it may cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure. Side effects may include headache, flushing, upset stomach and abnormal vision. To avoid long-term injury, seek immediate medical help for an erection lasting more than four hours. Stop taking Viagra and call your doctor right away if you experience a sudden decrease in vision or hearing."

Are you SURE green M&M's don't work?

Finally - The REAL Olympics!

You'll be reading all kinds of blogs and commentaries that condemn Swedish Greco-Roman wrestler Ara Abrahamian for throwing a hissy fit after losing the Gold Medal in his weight class in Beijing. All I want to say here is that it's refreshing to see the Olympics as they really are.

Here's the story in a nutshell. Abrahamian lost a wrestling match that he felt was unfairly judged. The winner of the match ultimately went on to win the Gold medal, and Abrahamian had to be talked into wrestling in the bronze medal match, which he won. At the medal ceremony, after receiving his bronze medal, Abrahamian walked off the podium, dropped his medal on the wrestling mat, and walked off, declaring he will never wrestle again. Let's go to the videotape:

Now, I don't condone what this jackass did for a minute, but it's compelling television - and it should have been shown on NBC. Instead, NBC never even mentioned it! Why? Because NBC is protecting the Olympics brand, which it has spent billions and billions of dollars to market.

The Peacock network is running a poor fourth in ratings outside of its NFL and Olympics brands, and it doesn't want to do anything to piss off the International Olympics Committee. NBC has spent so much money to air the games that its sole mission is to spin its coverage with one and only one strategy in mind - to maximize ratings at all costs so it can charge a higher rate for its commercials.

This is why you'll see every feel-good compelling story that NBC can muster... In fact, don't be surprised if NBC tries to get Michael Phelps to suit up and enter the track and field competition as a pole vaulter next week when swimming is done. The network has already been criticized (and rightly so) for soft-pedalling China's human rights record as it spins so many cotton candy stories of China coming out to the world. You should also note that NBC's corporate parent, General Electric, has been using the Olympics as an entree to line up all kinds of equipment contracts with the Chinese government... So don't expect NBC to screw up any deals for GE by showing something that might offend China's elite!

I have enjoyed what I've seen of the games so far - especially the excellent swimming coverage... and who wouldn't love the Michael Phelps story? But give me the WHOLE story, NBC - not just the one that meets your bottom line needs!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I've Been Rejected Again - Thankfully.

A question today for those of you who are currently or who have previously been unemployed against your will.

Have you ever found yourself pushed by a well-meaning friend or colleague to apply for a job that you knew in your heart you did not want? You still apply for it because you really DO need a job, but you're worried to death you might actually get it? Well, I was in that position recently. I was encouraged by someone whose opinion I respect to apply for a job that I am well-qualified for... but it was in a city that I had never considered living in. I went ahead and applied for the position, and had a lovely phone conversation with the hiring manager - who quickly informed me that I would be a finalist for the job.

I spent a couple of weeks wondering what the hell I would do if I received a job offer. In another town, this might be a job I would actually groove on doing. I had nothing against this city, but given where our extended families and friends live, it's unlikely we would ever receive any visitors from home if we moved to this place.
Then, this morning, I received this e-mail:

John -- Wanted you to know after a long process we have decided to promote from within. Part of this honestly is budgetary. I have little doubt that you would have been an excellent person for this job. I know you realize the economic reality of our business these days. I can only wish you the very very best.

Whew. I was relieved, and so was the missus, because if I had been offered the job, I honestly would have been hard put to turn it down. The media business is in such a state of flux right now that the best strategy may very well be to latch on to ANY job offer that comes along and hang on until calmer waters come along, but who the hell knows when THAT will be?
This manager and the company he works for are both rock solid, and I greatly appreciate that he took the time to write such a nice note. Perhaps I will even have the chance to work with him some other time.

But hopefully someplace else!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Aloha, Steve McGarrett!

I read online today that a new generation "Hawaii Five-O" is being developed for television... and all I can say is about freaking time! The original show was one of my campy 60's/70's favorites... Jack Lord with the world's largest pompadour and the willingness to overact with the best of them... He and William Shatner would have made a great pair for a cop show of their own... McGarrett and Hooker!

Anyway... the producer (the guy who currently runs Criminal Minds) says he is not planning to re-invent the wheel... Someone will be cast to play Steve McGarrett's son, who now runs Five-O... and the classic TV theme song , ortiginally performed by the Ventures, will return with a 21st Century sound.

A couple of cool things you may or may not have known about the original Hawaii Five-O...

  • There is no such police agency as "Five-O" in real life... It was a fictional state police investigative squad, named for Hawaii, the 50th state, or "five-o"... Hawaii, by the way, does not have a state police department.

  • Hawaii Five-O is responsible for the creation of "Magnum, P.I.". When Five-O ran its course after many years on the air, CBS wanted another show based in Hawaii to replace it... Hence, the creation of Magnum. In "Magnum, P.I", Five-O and Steve McGarrett, Jack Lord's character, were mentioned on more than one occasion in tribute to the original show.

For you millennials too young to know from a REAL cop show... check out the greatest TV open and theme song of all time!

Book Em Danno!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Birthdays Are Overrated!

The anniversary of my birth came and went over the weekend, and chances are extremely likely you neither knew nor cared. And that's fine with me.

Aside from an apparent desire by society to give everyone a personal "special" day, as well as the government's desire to keep demographic records for the census, social security and whatnot, is there any real purpose behind birthdays anyway? I mean, literally... who cares? People may wish you a happy birthday, but aside from the social niceties of it, do they really care that it's your birthday? I would argue they do not.

The only adult people who actually care about their birthdays are the people who are observing their own birthdays... and many of them (like me) don't care even then.

Now, that's not to say I didn't observe my birthday... I did. Kinda. Robin and I went out for a lovely dinner with our friends, Randy and Lori... but we would have done that whether it was my birthday or not. Robin and the boys gave me a DVD set of the HBO series about John Adams... but I had actually already bought the set at Costco, and upon remembering that my birthday was coming, I directed Robin to save it and give it to me now. I also did not get any birthday cards from the family, opting to save us about 9 bucks on cards which would have been in the trash by the end of the evening. Robin DID make me a birthday cake... mostly, I think, because she thought I was getting gypped birthday presents... Presents, mind you, that I didn't want and that I would have paid for anyway! The cake was delicious, by the way...

Now, I know some people don't do birthdays because they don't like facing getting older. I don't have a problem with that - perhaps because I'm younger than many, if not most, of my friends... (Happy birthday Joan and Bill!) I don't mind telling you how old I am... but don't expect me to blurt it out here lest any prospective employers are reading!

The long and short of it is that, from my perspective, the world would be a happier place if we just did away with birthdays as an excuse for celebration... Imagine how many fewer feelings would be hurt if people's birthdays were merely unknown rather than thoughtlessly forgotten? How much money would you save on NOT having to buy gifts for every bratty kid that your bratty kid was friends with for their birthdays? How many empty calories in your office would be avoided by not having a cake du jour to be eaten up?

Think about it, America... If oil prices remain steady, I may have just found a new way for Americans to save big money!

Friday, August 8, 2008

John Edwards Can Go To Hell.

Former Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards admitted in an interview prepared for ABC's Nightline that he DID have an affair with a woman a couple of years ago, and then spent months during his run for President lying about it. This pisses me off.

I have never been a fan of John Edwards, and always pictured him as kind of a weak Vice Presidential candidate teamed with a weak Presidential candidate four years ago. But neither his politics nor his proclivity for extra-marital dalliances are what pisses me off about John Edwards.

I'm upset because every time a guy like this goes out and blatantly lies to the American people about his own character, it hurts the institution of the Presidency a little bit more. After we hear about Bill Clinton and guys like John Edwards, is there really any reason at all to believe anything that comes out of John McCain's or Barack Obama's mouths? Why should we as Americans throw our votes to either of these guys? What have they done to earn our trust?
I've certainly heard more than enough pandering from all of the candidates who are seemingly willing to say just about anything to win my vote - and wait - it's only August!

McCain may be the greatest guy on planet Earth... and Barack Obama may walk on water. But every time a politician beats his chest about honesty and integrity and then comes out to be a liar just like all of the other power-hungry troglodytes, it brings everyone else down a peg.

One other thing specifically about John Edwards... I was pissed at him even before the affair came out. His wife has stage 4 terminal cancer, and she busted her ass campaigning for him - something which quite possibly shortened her life. The Edwards have a seven-year-old son who is going to lose his mother one of these days. She should have been home spending quality time time with that boy instead of being off trying to get her cheating, lying husband elected. Now, I imagine this latest scandal could further push her health over the edge. But I don't have too much sympathy for Elizabeth Edwards. She is still a politician's wife, and I would not be surprised at all to see her sitting by Johnny's side on Oprah or with Diane Sawyer to stand by her man.

That boy deserves better.

Today's Yiddish Vocabulary Lesson!

We had big adventure yesterday afternoon at the Matthews house, as the skies turned black, the wind started howling, and quarter-sized hail fell from the sky... My sons and I were so entranced by what we saw banging against the windows at our front door that we completely missed the tree falling across the yard out our back door! I think the hail was making such a racket that I couldn't hear the 30-foot tall Bradford Pear crack and leave more than half of itself in the yard. The tree split apart at the crotch - the place where the main branches met about 5 feet off the ground, so that half of it fell and landed just a couple of feet from my deck, while the other half remains standing ... Thankfully, THAT part of the tree still screens us from Georgia Avenue, which runs next to the house!

Fate has a funny way of working sometimes... Months ago, there was an article in the Washington Post, that said Bradford Pear trees are basically "weed" trees... A hybrid piece of genetic crap that was bred to grow quickly (pleasing home builders), but which have terribly weak limbs. We have three of them in our backyard. Anyway... way back when this article was published, I clipped it and gave it to the wife to read, which of course she never did until - coincidentally - about 3 or 4 days ago, when she proclaimed, "Oh well, we just had the pear tree trimmed a few weeks ago, so I'm sure it will be fine".

This, my friends, is what we Yiddish speakers call a kaynahorah... Here is the Yiddish glossary definition:

Kaynahorah - Lit: the evil eye. Pronounced in order to ward of the evil eye, especially when speaking of one's good fortune.

In practical terms, whenever you declare something going well, you are giving yourself a kaynahorah - i.e., a guarantee that whatever you just declared to be going well is doomed to now be cursed. Common kaynahorahs include announcing that traffic is not so bad... there is bound to be a jam around the next corner... or saying that your car has been behaving well... Be prepared to drop a thousand bucks in the repair shop any minute now.

The tree guy was in the backyard hacking apart the tree when I got home from work today... Several hundred pounds of wood ended up in the chipper... and I ended up with the bill. How much the bill is, I don't know. Robin is afraid to tell me, although she assures me it is in the three, not four digit range.

Lesson learned. Until I get my next full-time job, there shall be no more kaynahorahs in my house! This will hopefully have a secondary positive benefit when I do not declare that the Redskins will have a winning season!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Life On The Beach Work Update!

My temporary colleagues at WBAL Radio have pointed out to me that if I am employed by them, I am, in a manner of speaking, not technically on the beach. Well, I suppose they are correct. However, if some magic little headhunter with a great job doesn't come along in the next three weeks to sweep me off my feet, I will most certainly be unemployed once again. Therefore, my current situation has all of the terror of being unemployed with the side benefit of a few extra bucks in my pocket. I don't know... until the full time gig comes along, I'm feeling awfully damn on the beach!

I am enjoying being able to exercise my brain and creative talent by writing for newscasts and even anchoring a couple of them a day, however I must say that the daily 1:30am wake up calls are not my favorite part of the job. Sometimes when I get home, it's all I can do to keep my eyes open! Therefore, don't be surprised if you see me miss a couple of weekdays... I have fallen asleep while blogging a couple of times already!

The one thing I can honestly say about my work at WBAL is that there's no downtime... But here's a little gem of a video from an office worker who has too much time on his hands and who probably SHOULD be joining me (or better, replacing me )on the beach! Enjoy!

Touch Tone Phone Symphony - Watch more free videos

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Say Goodbye To That 2300 Baud Modem!

I saw an article in today's Washington Post that made me wildly sentimental - AOL is moving closer to dumping its dial-up service, a decision that is probably past its time, considering that just this week, even my own 72-year-old mother-in-law, who is still highly suspect of the internet, dumped her AOL dialup account in favor of Verizon Fios high speed service.

I don't know many people who these days would have the patience for using a dialup modem for all of their internet service, but back in the day, (turn on the fog machine) AOL was the advanced way to get around online! Gather around, kiddies, and let grandpa tell you a story...

I bought my first real IBM-compatible personal computer computer at Lincoln Computer in Gaithersburg in 1991... It was custom built just for me, and if memory serves, it cost about 1200 dollars. The unit had a 386-SX processor, a 40 MB hard drive, and came with either 1 or 2 MB of memory... The 2 MB cost extra, but I sprung for it! It also came with a standard 5 1/4 inch floppy drive and a newfangled 3 1/2 inch floppy drive! All of this fit in a horizontal desktop box, which fit in a horizontal slot on the new computer desk that we also bought.

I remember discussing my new toy with one of our engineers at WMAL, an all-knowing technical whiz named Burt Cohen. Burt asked me what operating system I had for it, and I told him I had both DOS and Windows 3.0, although I hadn't yet quite figured out what Windows did, and I was comfortable working in DOS with its relatively easy-to-remember written line commands. Burt advised me to stick with DOS, because "Windows is just a fancy version of DOS, and it's a piece of crap"! Back then, most people operated in DOS, and had the option of booting up Windows... Most folks did not transition to Windows fulltime for several more years.

As for going online, I had three basic options... I could dial directly into local bulletin boards, which were a localized and very basic precursor to the internet... or I could dial into Prodigy, which was a very basic news site and a precursor of AOL.

Since modems ran at 2300 baud (1/20th as fast as today's 56K modems), there was no way you could actually look at pictures online, let along hear audio, so Prodigy would, one line at a time, paint a drawing of, say a famous person to go along with a news story. Prodigy also offered my first version of e-mail, which was little used, except by fellow computer geeks.

And then along came AOL. Robin and I were charter or near-charter members of AOL... I do not recall the exact details of how you paid for the service, but I do recall that you paid by the minute, with about 300 minutes per month for a set price. There was also a much more expensive option for unlimited service, but no one bought that... The one thing AOL provided was a "gateway" to the internet. I didn't know what the internet was, exactly, but who needed that when you could read the news and download software and send e-mail on America Online? We had AOL for years and never really fiddled around much on the internet... as strange as that may seem!

Eventually, the internet did catch on, and then companies started to scramble to come up with programming and technology to take advantage of broadband. It's been several years now since we dropped our dialup service, and switched, at first to DSL and then to fiber-optic high speed service. Frankly, it took an article about the end of dialup to take me back to a time when dialup computer service was the coolest thing EVER.

You millennials don't remember the space race OR life before the web. I'll tell you now that you missed a lot of excitement!

Jenny! Get me my walker! I'm late for Bingo!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Happy New Year!

Much to the chagrin of my friends who root for the Washington Nationals, I am here to wish everyone a happy start to Washington's sports year! The Redskins played the Colts last night in the Hall of Fame game, kicking off the NFL pre-season, and coincidentally, the first universally important sports event of 2008. (OK - technically, the Skins did play a playoff game back in January, but the American sports calendar - at least in DC - begins in July and ends after the Super Bowl, so the Skins/Seahawks game was, for the purposes of this blog played in SY2007)

I am happy to report the Skins gave Jim Zorn a nice gift - a 30 - 16 win for his first game as a head coach, even though the game itself was pretty meaningless. In fact, I did not watch even a second of it, as I am in the midst of 1:30am wake-up hell while working at WBAL. Besides, for pre-season games, the highlights on line always suffice:

For me, football IS the start of a new year. It is a joy to start reading again... and looking at the Redskins insider blog on the Washington Post website... and ordering the Redskins special at Papa John's (a free topping for every touchdown the Skins score, plus double toppings if they win... so that's EIGHT toppings for last night's game... )... and setting the TiVo for every game so I can watch the whole thing in 45 minutes and still not miss a play!

There is an enthusiasm for the Skins this season that is exciting to follow... Of course, in all fairness, the Redskins could be the worst team in football, and there would still be a certain enthusiasm for the team... that's what makes a fan a fan! I have no idea how well they'll do this season, but I do know I'll watch every game - at least once they start counting!

For me, the start of football means the end of summer is near, which is just fine by me. By the time the season starts after Labor Day, I'll be able to open the windows and enjoy the fall weather... before long, I'll be able to cook up a pot of chili to ward off the crisp cool evenings... and if the Skins are any good, I'll even be able to talk the missus into watching with me. I might even crack open a beer, which is something I pretty much only do when I'm watching football.

Are you ready for some football? Hell, yes I am!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Can You Believe This Arrogance?

A House panel voted earlier this week to permanently ban cell phone use on airplanes - not because the use of the phones could interfere with the plane's instrumentation, but because it annoys them. Read on...

Cellphone calls on airplanes in flight are not only unsafe, they are obnoxious and they should be permanently banned, according to some members of the U.S. Congress.

Members of the House of Representatives, most of whom board airplanes almost every week, traded horror stories Thursday about their worst experiences with annoying fellow passengers who talk loudly on cellphones before takeoff and after landing. One lawmaker said his wife sat next to a woman who loudly discussed her sex life on the phone.

Another House member topped that with the passenger sitting him behind on one flight who got a "dear John" phone call from either his wife or sweetheart just before takeoff. The begging and pleading was just terrible to listen to, he said. Finally, with the plane ready to take off, a flight attendant had to threaten to have U.S. Marshals drag the man off the plane before he finally put his phone away.

A third House member raised the specter of national security, saying she had witnessed one man use his cellphone camera to take pictures of sensitive parts of the airplane.

With that, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved by voice vote a bill that would make the current Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Communication Commission ban on cellphone use during flight permanent.

The committee's action comes as the European Union is moving to allow airline passengers to talk on their cellphones during flight. Some U.S. airlines are experimenting with in-flight Internet access. And some lawmakers worry that domestic airlines might try to get the cellphone ban lifted so they can charge passengers extra to sit in no-phone sections.

"I do believe this is important that we don't make what is already a crowded and difficult environment for the traveling public and flight attendants" worse by allowing cellphone use in-flight, said Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat and sponsor of the Halting Airplane Noise to Give Us Peace (HANG UP) Act.

But Rep. John Mica, a Republican, said there are a lot of annoying things on airplanes, including children with dirty diapers and noisy MP3 players, but that does not mean they should be banned.

"You are trying to legislate courtesy, folks, and that just doesn't work," Mica said.

Congressman Mica, I salute you! These lawmakers who don't want to be bothered should not be using their voting powers to try and legislate manners. I try not to use my cell phone in public settings, but when others choose to use theirs, I'm usually successful in tuning them out.

This is another one of those cases where Americans have to realize they have rights... If someone can make the case that the use of cell phones on planes is unsafe, that's one thing. But otherwise, give me a break. Banning public cell phone use goes in the same category as breastfeeding, chewing gum loudly, playing the radio as a high volume when the car windows are down, gunning a car's engine and many other social moronic activities. You may not like any of those things, but none of them rise above the level of annoying... and the bar on legislation should be set higher than annoying.

There are a lot of things that Congress does that annoys me, too... but I'm not holding my breath waiting for them to fix their behavior.

How about banning political robocalls? How about saving some trees and some postage and banning Congressional newsletters sent to my home? How about passing a law making it illegal to adjourn Congress at budget time without the budget being passed?

Don't hold your breath. Life's too short as it is.

Friday, August 1, 2008

It's A Miracle! Hallelujah!

I've just come out of surgery, and against all odds, I was able to bring my 1983-vintage General Electric clock radio back to life! Now, I'm afraid it will never again be the spry, witty, devil-may-care machine that it was in say, 1986, but honestly... who among us ARE that way any more?

As mentioned in my previous post, I decided to go ahead and crack the clock radio open for the first time in 24 years, just to see if I could figure out a way to fix the dial, which suddenly no longer moved when I turned the knob.

I turned the clockradio bottoms up and saw a message molded into the plastic, warning me that if I even dared to turn the screws holding the machine closed that I would no doubt send my heart into cardiac arrest from the 200 megawatt blast of leftover electricity from some capacitor that would no doubt vaporize me instantly. The message also said there were no serviceable parts inside the clock radio, and that if I had any questions, I should write to some General Electric office in Syracuse, New York. (We forget how quaint life was before the internet, don't we?)

Ignoring all warnings and putting my life in sudden jeopardy, I removed the screws, opened the case, and nearly CHOKED on the 25 years of dust that had accumulated inside. The cloud filled the room! Feeling my way inside, I found no obvious path to the tuner knob, so I removed the knob and found a string wrapped around the knob post... I untangled the string, gave it a gentle tug, and discovered that the string operates the dial... you can pull it in either direction to find your station of choice! Somehow, it had detached from the tuner knob, and therefore ceased to work! I was not able to reattach the string, but now that I know how it operates, I can set the station again!

Not a perfect solution, but it'll keep me from having to find a replacement! Sometimes, prayers really ARE answered!