Friday, July 29, 2005

Just can't wait to get on the road again

In another hour I’ll be on my way to Knoxville for A.J.’s first birthday. Tonight we’ll be hanging out at Karla’s, and then tomorrow is the party with a pool and a Jimmy Buffet theme. If there are a lot of kids wandering around aimlessly and hungry, I didn’t do it.

In the meantime, catching up, what can I add to last weekend’s roundup that Stacy didn’t already cover? I can only offer color commentary to her play-by-play.

My not having read “Half-Blood Prince” yet was a severe obstacle to the lines of communication this weekend. My siblings were very good about not revealing spoilers in the new Harry Potter book, since they’d all finished it and I hadn’t started.

Once everyone left Memphis, I started in earnest to complete the book before going to Knoxville because this weekend I’ll be among the Muggle-crazy cousin Amy and Stacy and Stephanie and there’s no way they can avoid talking about the book.

Not to worry. I breezed through Rowling’s sixth installment this week. “Half-Blood Prince” may be 700 pages long, but it’s a quick read.

About the best compliment I can give it is that I didn’t want the book to end. I turned the page looking for more, resigning myself to at least a couple of years of waiting.

Even still, it’s safe to say that I didn’t expect my first possible spoiler to come without warning from ESPN.com’s Daily Quickie. (Left column, under MLB trade talk.) Thanks a bunch, moron. Just cover sports, a’ight?

Did anyone else notice Rowling’s increased use of British colloquialisms in “Half-Blood Prince”? There was frequent use of the expression “oi,” every other page mentioned students “having a row” and she had to use the term “trainers” (sneakers) once a chapter. You think this to assure her hometown fans that she was still rooting sufficiently for the English?

I need to mention staying at the Doubletree Suites Saturday night, too. Why? Because there is a knob in the bathroom that lets you listen to the TV. I cannot stress enough how cool this is.

(Think about this, while you remember that nugget for days, your brain just purged the dates of the battle of Gettysburg.)

(July 1-3, 1863. You’re welcome.)

Like the Hilton in Texas, however, I still had to go down a floor to buy bottled water. The Aquafina vending machine was sold out and the Dasani machine wouldn’t take dollar bills, so I went down to the fourth floor. What is this, the 20th Century?

For Nana’s 75th birthday (seriously, the way I’m going with taquitos and whatnot, the only way I’m making it to 75 involves a frozen tube), we went to Olive Garden. When we’re there we’re family, alright, and we act like the loud, boisterous family we are, spreading food around like it’s the Last Supper and taking over an entire side of the restaurant. Good times.

This is a big deal when we’re all together, too. It’s not easy having sibling reunions nowadays, with me in Atlanta, my brother and his wife in Waco, my sisters and their hubbies in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Dad being in Miami keeps him in that country, so Nana’s is Home Base, as it should be.

I brought my golf clubs, but the temperatures in Memphis reached “Get the frack inoors you idiots” degrees. My clubs stayed in the car. I can accept shooting low-80s for a few weeks if it means less practice. That’s the sacrifice I’m willing to make for air-conditioning. (Gosh darnit I’m a wus.)

Instead, as an example of my many moods of filmgoing, look later for reviews of The Island and March of the Penguins, both of which I saw this week. Let’s just say that in one there are non-flying birds and the other has flying motorcycles. I won’t give it away; it’s a surprise.

I mentioned my XM radio in the previous post, thanks to Dad, who got my siblings iPods. I’m hoping that once I move the antenna outside the vehicle that I won’t have reception problems anymore.

Still, if it doesn’t just a heads up that the fuzz will dub me the No Signal killer after my six-state murder spree. (I would make it seven, but who wants to go to West Virginia?)

Not that it would come to extreme measures. Between my new PC, high-speed Internet, BlackBerry, DVD player, digital camera, iPod and XM, I never require physical interaction! What kind of living do hermits have nowadays?

Yes ladies and germs, that is Commerce, driving America to Prosperity Land and Beyond!

Pre-XM, Saturday morning on the way to Memphis I enjoyed listening to my iPod Mini by way of an attached FM transmitter. Anyone passing me with 87.9 FM on their dial would get a listen to the Lord of the Rings score, Pink Floyd, R.E.M., Tchaikovsky, Cling Black, et al. Although, with the transmitter hooked up it runs down the battery, so I was sucking on that last bar for a full hour and barely made it to Memphis.

Before I go, I can’t forget to mention Monday’s happenings. Not only was it Kristi’s birthday, but she’s only a month away from her and Joe having a little boy, Micah, to add to the Caples/Russell clan.

Not only did I get to spend time with Steven, Jenny and Austin and Matthew, but Linda, Eric and Leah and lo and behold, Eric’s mother Nancy even came over, whom I hadn’t seen in a zillion years. Either everyone actually loves Kristi, or Joe doesn’t recognize the power of his lasagna and chocolate cake skills.

As you might expect with Kristi less than a month away from Micah being born and Leah in her second trimester, there was a lot of baby talk. And I don't mean everyone was scrunching their faces and going, "Ees a good lasagna isn't it boo boo? Snoochy boochy, wanna sweet tea coochy coo! Drink it down! Good Mom!" Never have I been able to enjoy hearing the term “breast” so much and get nothing out of it.

Um, moving on … (thanks) … There are a lot of positive feelings in the world. When Austin keeps saying over and over that he wants to make sure I sit next to him at dinner, that’s one of the best. Almost makes me feel cool, even. Here, kiddo, have a new bicycle!

Or have some new Crocs. Yeah, you have no idea what I’m talking about, do you? I didn’t, either, until the entire Russell family showed me theirs, adult and child alike. They’re shoes. Rubber or plastic, (hard, not like the 80s jellies) with holes in the top and little bumps under your feet. Apparently they’re a big deal. I’m sure I’ll buy a pair six months after they’re out of style. While pinch-rolling my jeans.

Before heading out on Wednesday, I met up with the divine Miss Sydney for lunch at Celtic Crossing in the Cooper-Young district of Memphis, i.e. Hippie Central. Not that there are people walking around with bongos, but the anti-Bush bumper stickers are good for a laugh.

Now I’m in Chapel Hill, chatting up Mom-Mom and Granddad about family history, and watching “So You Think You Can Dance” with Mom and Aunt Lynn. The former had a lot of valuable information; the latter took away my soul for an hour-and-a-half. Is there anything more awkward than watching interpretive dance? I get nothing out of it, and I feel like I’m supposed to.

That’s it for now. More updates Sunday (hopefully) when I get home, plus pictures of the nine days away from Atlanta.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Waiting to pass judgment

Okay, so that didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I can safely say that the newest bane of my existence are the words “No Signal,” because that’s what I saw far too much of on my spiffy new XM radio Wednesday afternoon.

I only wanted to do what the product promised: Listen to satellite radio without having to worry about losing radio stations from town to town during a long drive. Even better, the Red Sox game was on channel 177 at 3 o’clock.

But as the day got cloudier and the trees hugged the roads in west Tennessee, the signal went in and out so much and I couldn’t listen to the Sox win, I finally turned on the iPod FM transmitter to listen to music.

I’m hoping it’s just a matter of installation, since XM recommends the antenna be placed outside the vehicle, whereas mine is on the dashboard. Although, I’m not sure how much it will matter being six inches away and in the elements. If that’s not it, then I’m going to have to move to Phoenix where there are few clouds and fewer trees.

When everything’s working right, I would like to point out that my new preset No. 1 is the Movie Soundtracks channel. An entire channel dedicated to scores. Incredible. Second is the MLB channel, third ESPN radio, fourth is CNN and fifth is the comedy channel. After that are music stations like the 80s and country.

I’m also getting a kick tuning to channel 227, which is Atlanta traffic and weather. To all you folks stuck on 285 and Cobb Parkway where I live, pffftt! Rush hour in Chapel Hill means waiting for three cars to pass through the light before turning left. Muwahahahaha!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

What can you do?

Yeah, I've been in Memphis since lunchtime Saturday, and in a few hours I'll be on my way to Chapel Hill with nary a blog entry in-between. Oops. Perhaps I'll have time to catch up when I'm dawdling in the small town atmosphere. There's plenty to post, after all. Patience, friends.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Ethics in the eye of the beholder

The local Atlanta paper prints an ethics column every Saturday by a New York Times writer who isn’t exactly objective in his answers. I’ve sent him a note before, too, when he compared a gay man's religious niece to a bank robber. Last weekend he decided his column was a good time to promote left-wing politics again, bemoaning that, “Given the state of the left in America, perhaps only a single communist remains.”


This is in regards to Randy Cohen’s ethics column in which he claps hands with his reader to make fun of anti-anti-communists.

Instead of fueling her ideas of using her job to berate others’ political views, the sensible advice would have been to tell the woman to call the customer and ask if this is what he wants to say, or suggest better grammar.

Instead, Cohen decided her question was a good chance to call her customer “foolish,” “loopy” and “horrible.” That doesn’t seem entirely ethical, either.

On the scene

- They say that you can see something few have ever seen any time you go to a baseball game. For instance, Thursday night in Chicago marked the sixth straight game in which the Red Sox faced a left-handed starting pitcher. The procession: Damn Yankees Randy Johnson, Al Leiter, Devil Rays Scott Kazmir, Casey Fossum, Mark Hendrickson, and White Sox Mark Buehrle. The last time the Sox faced lefties in six consecutive games: June 12-17, 1914.

- “Two top White House aides have given accounts to a special prosecutor about how reporters first told them the identity of a CIA agent that are at odds with what the reporters have said, according to people familiar with the case.” So, you mean, you got this information from someone leaking private testimony? I never get this right, but is it irony?

- The Senate Energy Committee is debating ”global warming,” and those scientists who say that “the increase in temperatures in the northern hemisphere in the 20th century were the largest of any century in 1,000 years.” So what was causing the planet to warm up in the Middle Ages? Heck, back then all people had were little Japanese cars and hair spray didn’t use CFCs but juice from camel saliva.

- In an effort to stem the growth of methamphetamine abuse, the Oregon Senate will likely vote next week on a bill that would make the state the nation's first to classify any product containing pseudoephedrine a pharmaceutical requiring a prescription for purchase. I can’t wait to see some of the transcripts from doctors in the state. “Um, yeah, Doc, I got allergies real bad. Could you, possibly, um, prescribe me some of that Sudafed? You know, about 10,000 packets should do it. You know, to get through the spring.”

- Former U. of Tennessee quarterback and failed NFL QB Heath Shuler decided it would be easier to
run for Congress and talk education reform than avoid 320-lb. linemen.

FYI

Saturday morning I'm driving to Memphis for one of the 30 weeks of vacation I get a year. Tomorrow is Nana's 75th birthday, so I'm joining Dad and my siblings to celebrate. I'll stay in the Bluff City a few days, leaving Tuesday (probably) for Chapel Hill, then to Knoxville on Friday for the first birthday party for my cousin's son, A.J.

When I get back to Atlanta, my schedule changes from Monday through Friday evenings to Floater, so I'll be in and out whenever they need me. All the current floaters tell me it's the coolest thing ever, so inital apprehensions are lessening. Besides, I'll be off on Fridays most of the time to be able to see new movies the afternoon they open, plus golf courses will be easier to play during the week. If my pager goes off, I'll just have to get rain checks. No worries.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Zealand-tastic!

So I was reading a news article on New Zealand this afternoon and I began thinking, "Is there deeper meaning to Fear Factor, or is it just about eating beetles and jumping off buildings?"

Oh, and I also started thinking, "Whatever happened to Old Zealand?"

After a quick Google search I found that the smart folks at Mental Floss wondered the same thing, and have this to report:
There are actually two "old" Zealands. The one for which New Zealand was named lies off the coast of the Netherlands. When Dutch explorer Abel Janzsoon Tasman discovered Australia in 1642, the main island (Australia) was given the name New Holland. The smaller island off the coast, thus, was given the name New Zealand (appropriate to his homeland). Of course, there's another island to the south of the continent that Tasman found as well, and this one was named after the man himself, becoming Tasmania.

That said, today's fact-of-the-day actually centers on the other Zealand, one of the islands that make up the country of Denmark. Located just west of Sweden, it's known by natives as Sjaelland. Zealand is the largest island of Denmark, and is home to Copenhagen, the nation's capital city.

Tune in tomorrow when we'll answer other looming questions such as, "Why do ex-hippies pay $10 for a regular coffee at Starbucks then complain that Ticketmaster added a $3 service charge to their tickets to see a reunion of Crosby, Stills, and Nash?"

Lengthy Longevity

The cool link of the day: How long will you live?.

According to this, I'll make it to age 83 based on current factors. Hogwash, I'll make it to 150 easily with new scientific advancements that should kick in right about the time I need them.

(Thanks to Sydney for the link.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I am the Lottery Master!

The 2005 holiday lottery was just released, and guess who won Christmas for the Technical Directors?

Me!

Yes! I rule!

(*Pee Wee Herman dance*)

(See, in the TV world, you have to count on working several holidays a year. Thus we have a "lottery" to decide one vacation per job.)

What does that mean? Christmas in Miami with Dad and my siblings is assured! Now to figure out when I can get to Tennessee for celebrations with Mom and Chapel Hill gang.

In the meantime, I'm stopping at the store for a Mega Millions Jackpot ticket!

Beam him up, God

A moment of silence please for the passing of James Doohan, aka Scotty, the best engineer in the history of the USS Enterprise.

Aye, long before Star Trek, Doohan established his bona fides when he was wounded on D-Day as part of the Canadian army on Juno Beach.

Now, at least, he'll never have to get it done as fast as he can, he doesn't have to worry if it can take much more and he can get out of the engine room to explore new worlds.

They're slacking

It's been 16 hours. Has the tinfoil hat-wearing left-wing come out with proof yet that Supreme Court nominee John Roberts is a Nazi Klansman who eats babies?

All the talk of Senatorial solidarity is bunk; Bush could have nominated Judge Judy and the Democrats would claim he was turning the clock back to 1850.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Do you take this comedy ...?

I have nothing but good things to say about Wedding Crashers. It's unashamedly hilarious, chock full of zany dialogue, slapstick and ruins the morals of anyone who watches. I'm gonna see it three more times.

For the Sox, K stands for Kazmir

Last night, the Red Sox dropped out of first place in the AL East when Devil Ray Scott frackin’ Kazmir stymied them once again. For some reason, Boston cannot hit this guy, and I have the proof.

In three starts against the Sox this season, Kazmir is 1-1 with a 2.00 ERA. In his other 16 starts this year, Kazmir is 3-6 with a 4.80 ERA.

It didn’t just start this year. In 2004, Kazmir pitched 9 1/3 innings against Boston, and allowed exactly zero runs, striking out 15 in the process for a 1-0 record. Against everyone else last year, Kazmir had a 7.88 ERA in 24 innings with a 1-3 record.

Out of touch, much?

If Hollywood ever realizes the rest of America thinks they're kooks and asks, “Why do they hate us?” referring to Middle America, I will point to this:

David Koepp, who wrote the screenplay for War of the Worlds, says the Martian attackers in the film represent the American military, while the Americans being slaughtered at random represent Iraqi civilians.

Seriously, the dude really did say it. Here’s the exact quote:
“And now, as we see American adventure abroad,” he [David Koepp] continues “in my mind it’s certainly back to it’s original meaning, which is that the Martians in our movie represent American military forces invading the Iraqis, and the futility of the occupation of a faraway land is again the subtext.”

Little bits

- Fellow TV newsers, I have a web site for you. Either y’all will laugh heartily with the guys at Newsbreakers, or get pissed at how they try to ruin live shots of reporters.

- Sunday afternoon I signed my life over to Gables Mill (my apartment complex) for another year, meaning nothing’s expected to happen in my love life. That’s depressing. While waiting for the paperwork, I glanced – okay, ogled – outside at the pool area and the dozen women lounging about. Not a one was in the pool, and only a couple even dangled their feet in the wet stuff. Uh, ladies, you know you can get a tan in the water, too. Actually, that wasn’t plausible, because half of them were on their cellphones, most of which, I’m told, don’t work well when wet.

- It figures. My feet hurt after working out for a half-hour or so, and this weekend I went to Sports Authority for a new, thicker pair. I found some that retail for $100 but were on sale for $50, plus they were in size 14. Deal. Today, after ten minutes on the crosstrainer my feet are already tingling. Darn.

- The Alpine glaciers are shrinking, that much we know. But new research suggests that in the time of the Roman Empire, they were smaller than today. And 7,000 years ago they probably weren't around at all. I blame the Romans and their gassy horses.

- A study of smells shows that the scent of grapefruit on women make them seem about six years younger to men. However, grapefruit fragrance on men does nothing for them. But put three beers in the men, and the women look about six degrees sexier, so it’s a wash. And thus I have discovered a flaw with my teetotalering ways. Since I don’t drink, my standards never change all night, and I miss out on the easy unattractive chicks at 2 a.m.

- From the “Who knew you could get paid for that” files, many workers in Washington, D.C. get paid $11 to $16 for standing in line. Seriously, they’re just reserving dibs for lobbyists on Capitol Hill to get into important committee hearings.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Music for the masses

I’ve been lagging behind the music downloading craze since its inception, way back when cavemen would trade farting noises using their armpits to pick up cavechicks.

But now, I’ve got the iPod Mini, I have a new computer with iTunes and now I have an account to buy music online.

Here, then, are my first four purchases from iTunes, all of which I like but are on albums I wouldn’t want as a whole:

Paradise By The Dashboard Light - Meat Loaf’s epic love tale of a teen tryst in the car was never a song I listened to until last year when I heard it performed at karaoke bars a few times. It’s a lot of fun to sing along with and should be fun on trips when I’m in the middle of Podunk, Alabama with nary another car in sight at 3 a.m.

Lonely Too Long - My favorite country song is by Patty Loveless, a moving song that I probably shouldn’t listen to in company lest you lose all respect for how I keep in my emotions.

Brown-Eyed Girl - Van Morrison’s song is good clean fun, and I’d give anything to be able to dance to it at my wedding. Unless the bride has blue or green eyes. That could get awkward.

November Rain - I know, what an odd list of songs. These were the ones that popped in my head, though. The Guns ‘N Roses epic just clicks, and y’all agree with me even if you’re embarrassed to say so.

What’s fun, too, is that this and Paradise are nine minutes long yet the same 99 cents to buy as the much shorter Brown-Eyed Girl. I wonder if In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is as cheap?

UPDATE: I'm going John Williams Crazy tonight, downloading the themes to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park and E.T., plus Coldplay's "Clocks," the only modern song as of yet. I guess I'm a sucker for the classics.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

July is Jess-tastic

It’s a big month for Jessicas, assuming your last name is Alba (Fantastic Four), Biel (Stealth) or Simpson (Dukes of Hazzard).

An enticing young lineup, no? So let’s ignore their feelings and compare how much they make me tingle in places I don’t talk about (much), as only guys are wont to do:

1. Jessica Biel – The girl next door who went from so-so to va-va-voom, one day letting down her hair and shaking it out and just … *drool*.

2. Jessica Alba – The hot girl in school who fit in with all groups, kind of tomboyish and anti-cheerleader, ultra-hip. You could talk to her at parties, but she was going home with a guy from college whose biceps were bigger than your head.

3. Jessica Simpson – The snobby cheerleader who asked you to do her homework, then when you did said, “Thanks so much, Bobby.” “Um, my name is Jeff.” “Whatever! Hee! Later!”

Either way, I wouldn’t turn down a date from any of them, or more realistically, a chance to spy on them with binoculars while they shopped at Pottery Barn.

(By the way, after looking at that name so long, “Jessica” looks unnatural. It could just be me.)

The home of fine whine

One can never rip the cheese eating surrender monkeys that call themselves the French. After all, they make themselves a really easy target based on the number of stupid comments and actions streaming out.

For instance, because the French are the most sensitive people on the planet, it took a full six days for president Jacques Chriac to insult the British after the London terrorist bombings, saying he doesn’t think England “is a model that (France) should copy or envy."

A model of diplomacy, a few days before the bombings and as he was in Scotland for the G8 summit, Chirac told Russian president Putin and German chancellor Schroeder that British food is bad and "The only thing they (the English) have ever done for European agriculture is mad cow."

At least Chirac waited longer than Paris’ mayor, who waited just three days to accuse England of cheating to get the 2012 Summer Olympics over France.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

How about those meatballs?

Wow. You’d think IKEA, their sensible and cheap furniture and housewares was the Eighth Wonder of the World for all the hubbub over the new store opening here in Atlanta on June 29.

Your intrepid reporter found it necessary to investigate this godsend personally, and I declare it Good.

In fact, I’d say the ginormous Swedish super-retailer supplants Target as the hot spot for scoping out single women. That is, if I’m willing to drive to midtown, spend ten minutes parking and get over my claustrophobia from people cramming every nook and cranny of the store.

Speaking of women, apparently the hottest fashion accessory is the bright and rather large yellow bags that are free to carry around your goods. The ladies put them around their shoulders and shop with glee.

Let’s go to the photo evidence and see why Atlantans of all stripes are all agog:


Yes, the restaurant features Swedish meatballs, but nothing from Abba. Weird. Not that I suspected to find Fernando Fettuccini, but it would be a start.


Entire examples are set up, from the living room, kitchen, bathroom, office space and if you don't buy everything they suggest, guys whose names have those slashes through Os reprimand you.


Sure it's uncomfortable, but there's tons of chic furniture to die for!


Children's rooms are especially funky for your favorite pot-smoking seven-year-olds.


You didn't even know you needed matching colorful mugs, did you?


I had to sit down for oxygen in the kitchen area after walking through the ten acres of mirrors. Seriously, who wants to see themselves all over their house like this?



The downside to all that cheap and sensible furniture? You have to go down to the warehouse, pick up the boxes and assemble it yourself at home. This might explain why all of Atanta is stressed out and their hands are charred from all that screwing. Screwdrivers, I mean. Such dirty thoughts.


Quite possibly the best part, customer service is abundant and every checkout line is open. Take that, Wal-Mart!

Needs to be said

The latest quotable Vents posted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (registration required - use this):

- I’m not joy riding; I’m riding around looking for good cell phone reception.
- They should put the Ten Commandments on wheels so they can simply move it to whatever location the latest court ruling approves.
- I told my mother I wanted to study abroad, and she asked me if she was a nice Christian girl.
- Flag burning should not be against the law, but neither should beating the stew out of people who do.
- Why is it I always weigh more at the doctor’s office than I do at home?
- My boss thinks a team effort is a lot of people doing what he says.
- I bet a lot of mimes choke to death because nobody believes they're really choking.
- Sign at a radiator repair shop: Best place in town to take a leak.
- Sign on electrician's truck: "Let us remove your shorts."
- Sign seen on a septic tank truck: "No one sticks their nose into our business."
- I don't know why my husband thinks my family is so dumb and ignorant when he married one of us.
- The volume level of a cellphone conversation is in inverse proportion to the intelligence of the participants.
- You might be a redneck if you grill out during a tornado warning.
- What is it about this town that makes business owners think that having a person wearing a bunny suit waving at me will make me pull in and buy a car or rent an apartment?
- Hopefully no Quran was harmed in the London bombings.

Vents I Sent:

- Has anyone else noticed that the "open minded" artsy-fartsy types always end up of the same mind when it comes to politics?
- Make fun of him all you want, but when people in countries rally for a free government they hold up pictures of President Bush and the American flag, not Kofi Annan and the U.N. flag.
- Getting married is very much like going to a Denny's restaurant with friends. You order what you want, but when you see what the other fellow has, you wish you had ordered that. (Courtesy Grif.net)
- Really, London was our fault? I seem to recall there were no U.S. or British troops fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2001, and yet innocent people were killed.
- I can't believe this needs to be reminded, but for those of you who think Gitmo is the new Auschwitz, the terrorists in Cuba would rather be bombing buses and subways in London.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Deeper in the heart of Texas

Now up, pictures from my Texas trip! Good times.

Early wake-up call

It's time for The Open, or as I like to call it, the annual "No Sleep Weekend."

It's also time for one of Jeff's Vacation Memories, looking back on my favorite trips. The all-time best - even more so than seeing the Sox at Fenway - were the few days spent in Scotland to watch The (British) Open at St. Andrews in 2000.



In case you've been paying more attention to the new Harry Potter book release tonight, in the sports world the story of today has been Jack Nicklaus saying goodbye in his last Open.

In 2000, me, Dad and Danielle spent most of Friday dangling our feet over the Swilcan burn by the first hole, but I got up for a bit to walk to the first tee box and watch Tiger Woods tee off. At the same time, Nicklaus was walking up the 18th hole waving to an adoring crowd in what everyone thought then was his last trip to the Old Course. A very memorable moment, and selfishly I wish it was indeed Jack's last time playing here if only so that I could say I was there. Strangely, though, it's not all about me.



The above photo is from Saturday as Tiger walks up the 17th hole, The Road Hole, on his way to winning The Open in a landslide. This year he's up big again after two rounds, but I'll still wake up at 7 a.m. and spend the next seven hours reliving that vacation.

(This is also a good way to forget about the Sox blowing the game last night against the dang Yanks.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS

I know, I know, it’s been over a week since our last communication, and I feel awful about it.

Okay, that’s a lie. I had a very relaxing and computer-free week in Texas. So nah.

Problem is, I’ve been back since Saturday night, so I feel like anything I write now is long gone and done with.

I already posted Sunday’s update, so let’s see what I can remember occurred in the meantime …

Monday

Want to know what it’s like to follow the Red Sox? Any relief pitcher who gives up a hit is the worst since Mike Torrez gave up the game-losing home run to Bucky Frackin’ Dent in 1978. Should the reliever the next night strike out the side and save the win he gets a ticker-tape parade.

Rooting for hitters is trickier. If you’re on a ten-game hitting streak, you’re the next Yaz. Fail to hit the next game and you’re a bum.

There are exceptions. Manny Ramirez and David “Big Papi” Ortiz can do no wrong, unless they strike out with runners in scoring position, then they’re in a terrible slump and need help.

If a player is called up from the minors and doesn’t immediately hit a double then GM Theo Epstein made a mistake and should make a trade for Albert Pujols.

With that in mind, me, Dad, Jenn and Scott drove an hour-and-a-half north to the Dallas-Forth Worth metroplex, specifically Arlington in between. We stayed at the Hilton that is within a couple of miles from Ameriquest Field, which I’ll call The Ballpark at Arlington since that was the original name and I fear change.

I don't want to brag, but we each had four fluffy feather pillows on our bed, plus a long, round, thin brown one that looked like a big cigarette and of which I couldn't figure out how to use. Does it go in my lower back? Under my head? To take the place of a meaningful relationship as if a woman wrapped in my sad arms?

Is it sacrilege that the hotel places the Conrad Hilton biography "Be My Guest" on top of the Gideon Bible in the drawer? Yet it costs three dollars for a one-ounce bottle of Pert Plus in the gift shop, before I learned that we were supposed to get shampoo free in our bathroom and the cleaning lady just forgot Monday and Tuesday. I’m not bitter or anything.

Arlington is a nice park, if really frackin’ hot. But it’s hot everywhere in Texas, so no surprise. The field, however, is like a box, the walls way up high and thus blocking any potential breeze. That just makes it hotter and more humid. Seriously, it’s really hot. At 11 o’clock as we waited for the postgame July 4th fireworks it was still almost 95 degrees. That’s ridiculous.

When Local On The 8s comes on The Weather Channel, the white text on blue background just says, “Duh, it’s hot. What do you expect? You’re in Texas. Want cold? Go to Alaska. Moron.” I hate it when computers get all sarcastic.

By the end of the week we were lucky and got a cold snap, dropping to 96 degrees for the high. Otherwise, high temps hovered around 99 to 101, with the heat index always over 100.

Anyway, the first game of the series was a seesaw, the Sox falling behind early, coming back late and then … well, let’s just say Keith Foulke was prominently involved as the Rangers won in the bottom of the ninth. When he walks out of the bullpen, that is most decidedly a bad omen. … Are there good omens?

See, if you’re baseball ignorant, after a stellar 2004 campaign, this year Red Sox closer Foulke couldn’t spell “save” if spotted s-a-v. He’s baseball’s equivalent of a mime; he makes a lot of motions, but nothing happens and no one wants to watch.

So we had to put up with a lot of screaming Texas fans pointing at us as if they just won the World Series.

Oh, wait, the Sox actually did win the Series last year, so who gives a flip if Rangers fans are happy with one win in July?

Not that I wasn’t angry anyway. Dangit.

At least we had some fireworks after the game to lighten the mood. You know, Yay America! and all that patriotic fervor that would have made liberal blame-America-firsters throw up their tofu. Good times.

Tuesday

I enjoy a good conspiracy as much as the next Art Bell listener, but when we visited Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas to visit the location of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, it didn’t seem like the appropriate time to argue about whether Lee Harvey Oswald, the mob or aliens killed the president.

Besides, I think we all know it was Colonel Mustard with the candlestick in the conservatory. I can’t believe the FBI never figured this out.

The key exhibit is The Sixth Floor Museum in the former School Book Depository where Oswald took the three shots that changed America forever.

We took the audio tour, which is helpful but not absolutely necessary like a Wonders exhibit in Memphis, since there are plenty of information panels and pictures. You know, for folks who don’t like to do any unnecessary readin’.

Up on the seventh floor is a new exhibit called Covering Chaos based on the media’s response to the assassination, a pivotal moment in the new television media. Just think, if it weren’t for this event, the media would never spend 24 hours a day on the runaway bride and O.J. and … well, maybe I should stop.

Outside, the plaza area seems small for such a big moment in history. Dangerous, too, with tourists milling about the sidewalks right along the bustling street, crossing it back and forth for pictures of the grassy knoll and the depository, and sometimes just standing in the middle of the street. A group of Indian(?) men stood in the street for a good five minutes while cars backed up trying to avoid making them part of the place forever.

Only one conspiracy nut was holding court near the knoll, but to get the “real story” you had to purchase his publication for five bucks. The real conspiracy is that several people actually bought his ramblings about cover-ups and doctored photos and Cuba or whatever. And he looked nothing like Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory. Dad decided to have fun with the guy and questioned the dude’s theories, which was the highlight of my summer so far.

As for the game that night, the Red Sox scored early and often, including a grand slam by Manny Ramirez to beat Texas, 7-4. Not only that, Manny became the second player ever to hit as many as 20 grand slams in Major League history (Lou Gehrig had 23 before naming that disease).

With the win, hopes for life are renewed and Red Sox fans can breathe normally for 20 hours. I’m telling you, every pitch is life and death, and you think I’m kidding.

Wednesday

Apparently I’ve been designated the task of writing about our food selections for the week. Anyone who takes an extended vacation and bemoans having to eat out all the time is a big fat liar. Having someone else cook is awesome. At IHOP I can choose my own ingredients for an omelet. At home, it's a choice between granola bars and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Using hamburger buns because the white bread is moldy.

The only time we ate using Scott and Jenn’s kitchen was to nuke rotel dip and make sundaes. Otherwise, we enjoyed plenty of good eats ranging from Ninfas (Tex-Mex) to Smokey Bones (barbeque).

Even with all the walking we did, I’m pretty sure I put on a few pounds, and it was totally worth it. Besides, when you weigh this much it’s hard to figure out if the five pounds came from enchiladas or hot dogs and funnel cakes.

I blame the shrimp fettuccini at the seafood restaurant where Dad tried to pimp me out to the sweet waitress who had three kids, 10, 9 and 8 years old. I guess he’s tired of waiting for me to meet a woman and start a family, and is now asking for the fast-food family-to-go option.

The lesson: Don't judge people by their relatives. (I include myself, an obvious stain in the DNA pool. I mean, have you seen my apartment lately?)

The best choice all week was to eat in the Bullpen Grill out in left field of The Ballpark at Arlington. Sure, it was a tad expensive, but no one was complaining about the air-conditioning, helpful service, barrels of water and Diet Coke and an expansive buffet featuring salads for rabbit-people, plenty of chicken for the health conscious and then prime rib for those of us who would rather be taking down mastodons with sharp sticks while wearing loin cloths.

We had to check out at Noon, so we blew time with Batman Begins at a nearby mall; it was mine and Scott’s second viewings, Dad’s first. Jenn shopped.

The Red Sox won again with an equal 7-4 score, though it came about differently. During a mid-inning comeback Manny hit another dinger, but David Ortiz led the barrage with a homer and a two-run single, while Johnny Damon stretched his hitting streak to 22 games (now at 25 and still going).

Our seats changed each night. The first night we were next to first base, then third base and by the third game we were behind home plate, about 28 rows up. Surprisingly the best view of the ball was from third base, although there’s more bragability to be behind the plate. Not that I’d be one of the morons waving to people on camera with a cellphone in my hand. Okay, that’s a lie. I wouldn’t just wave, I’d stand up, dance and hold up a sign saying, “I’m at the Red Sox game and you’re on the couch at home, so bow to me!”

Scott gave me the stink eye for three days, saying that if I hadn't gotten out of my seat on Wednesday to get a funnel cake I would have been in perfect position to catch a foul ball headed straight for my seat. It’s probably best that I wasn’t there, since I would have just ended up on SportsCenter as one of the Top Ten Worst Plays of the night when the ball bounced off my head and I fell back into the seat where the armrest racked my crotch. Plus I would have dropped my funnel cake.

Thursday

Having gotten back from the game after midnight, we weren’t in any particular hurry to jet about Waco, but did manage to fit in a couple of spots, Crawford and the Texas Rangers Museum. You might remember that I’ve been to Waco before, and documented the journey last August, including both of these stops.

The only notable touristy places we didn’t visit back then were the Dr Pepper Museum and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. We took in the Hall of Fame on Sunday, but I still have to go back and see Scott and Jenn to at least experience the history of Dr Pepper. Maybe they’ll explain how they get cherry and vanilla in their diet drink. Just, wow.

What was new about this trip to Crawford? Besides going with Dad this time, we made the drive seven miles beyond the town to drive past the president’s ranch. Let’s just say the view is underwhelming. Nice drive, but no ranch. Once you approach the entrance it’s all hidden by trees and the actual house is set way back from the main road.

Instead of, say, the president’s tool shed, we see signs saying “Road Closed,” “No Stopping No Standing No Parking” and “Get Out And You Die.” Okay, I made up the last one, though according to the townsfolk if you try to stop and take pictures, big guys with guns show up and ask you to move on, especially following the London terrorist attacks that very day.

Not that it stopped Dad from telling me to get out and take pictures over the little trees lining the road. Remember, this is the same father who got me in trouble at the wildlife safari in Miami a few months ago by rolling down the window to take better pictures of the ten lions laying five feet from our car.

Back in town, the Texas Rangers Museum hasn’t changed much, and it’s still not about the baseball team, but nonetheless is compelling. The history of the Rangers is like studying the history of Texas: cowboys, Indians, Mexicans, outlaws and justice on the frontier. And "Walker, Texas Ranger," the most pivotal Saturday night show on CBS, ever.

The Museum, however, is still using a show made in the late 90s from the History Channel, “The Enforcers,” as their introduction video. Eventually they’ll have to come up with an update. Maybe they’ll get something from “Wild West Tech” about how a group of Rangers overcame a number of Comanches using only a rubber band and a boot spur. That would be really cool.

Friday

Having taken in Crawford, the Texas Rangers Museum, the new IHOP, what’s left in Waco for Dad to visit? The city’s saddest chapter, of course, the Branch Davidian compound outside of town.

This time, at least, we remembered how to get there and only missed one turn. The first time took an hour, this time fifteen minutes. The compound itself? Still depressing.

Let’s move on, then, to the day’s entertainment, Hollywood’s latest comic book-to-movie offering, Fantastic Four.

Dad left shaking his head, while Scott, Jenn and I found it satisfying if simple. The Four are family friendly, and if you weren't fond of the dark tint to the new Batman, this lighthearted fare should suffice. Once you get through some whining from The Thing, that is.

Each superhero has his/her own powers and deficiencies. For a primer, think of them this way:
Mr. Fantastic has super stretching abilities, yet as an actor couldn't expand at all.
The Thing is hard as stone but is the emotional core of the group.
Sue is invisible, while the yummy Jessica Alba is most certainly preferable when seen.
Johnny is on fire, and the only character having fun.

The acting is a little stiff, and I couldn’t tell good guy Reed from bad guy Victor, so some negatives remain. Still, if I was 13 years old I'd think Fantastic Four is nifty, like pet rocks and taking your favorite girl to the soda fountain, or whatever those crazy kids are into nowadays.

In the end, the movie wasn’t fantastic in the “wonderful” definition, but more like the “fanciful” description. Therein lies the problem. A movie has to live up to the title. In Die Hard, folks did indeed die hardly. The Bad News Bears were pretty bad, alright. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas kicks those brothels’ butts from New Mexico and Kansas.

I'm going to name my movie I Don't Remember, as in:
"What are you gonna see tonight?"
"I Don't Remember"
"Okay, then, what's it about?"

Or, call it You’ve Gotta See This
"What's good?"
"You’ve Gotta See This"
“Okay, what time?”

Saturday

Time to go home. Good for my sinuses, bad for my mojo, leaving my brother and sister-in-law in Waco, departing from Dad at the Dallas airport and heading back to Atlanta where the thrilling world of cable news and lack of social contact awaited.

Speaking of the three boxes of Kleenex I kept with me all week, my allergies were in overdrive in Waco due to Scott and Jenn’s dog, Reagan, and cat, Evil Feline (I think that’s its name). Of course, I’m used to sniffling and wheezing, and the only other option is to stay away. That's not going to happen, meaning push comes to "suck it up" and keep a supply of Benadryl nearby. (No, I can't give the pets an "accident," either, sickos.)

By the way, Reagan is a girl and Evil Feline is a boy. That doesn't seem right. Shouldn't all dogs be male and all cats female? I mean, they're asexual, right? Or does my view of the universe clash with everyone else?

Good thing I wasn’t in a hurry to get home, because the flight was delayed to a “weather cell” in Atlanta. With the extra hour I had time to peruse the Lilian Vernon of the heavens, SkyMall magazine, where everything looks cooler and absolutely necessary to purchase at 35,000 feet, am I right? I totally need the deluxe eyeglasses cleaner, and I don’t even wear glasses! Something I would use three times a day, I am in love with the Pop-Up Hot Dog Cooker. Check it out, the genius invention heats buns, too! Buns!

Late in the dark flight, with twilight dimming the sky and the overhead lights off on the plane, it was quiet save for a few random coughs and distant conversations. I couldn’t help but think that this is exactly what it was like for our ancestors to sail across the Atlantic to a new home four-hundred years ago. Sure, their attendants probably let them drink the entire twelve-ounce can, and their newspapers only had cartoons like Snuffy Smith, but otherwise it’s exactly the same.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

I'm home (barely)

Okay, so I walked in the door almost 23 hours ago, but between catching up on emails, watching the Red Sox game this afternoon and playing Tiger Woods golf, I just haven't had time. At least I've uploaded all of my pictures, so all I have to do is organize them on the site and caption them, and you'll have plenty of photo goodness to peruse!

I say barely in the subject title because of the weather. My flight was delayed in Dallas for almost an hour because of storms in Atlanta due to early bands of Hurricane Dennis. One gate over, Dad's flight was supposed to leave a half-hour later, and ended up leaving four hours late. He didn't even connect from Atlanta to Miami until after midnight. And this evening in Atlanta we're getting dumped on as Dennis makes landfall.

I'll update the past week in Dallas and Waco soon, I promise. Really. I swear. Stop pestering me!

UPDATE: Yowzers. Scott beat me to an update. Why bother with my own? Okay, so I'll write up a bit, but he was the host, after all.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Texas trip, day one

How early did I get up Sunday morning? I was awake before the six trillion SportsCenter replays started on ESPN. So early, Art Bell was still on, talking about ancient weapons and hokey religions. So early, the newspaper deliverymen were still removing the really good coupons from the paper and playing cards for the best.

My options were two-fold: 1) Park at CNN, walk to the train station, take MARTA to the airport or 2) Drive to the airport, park in the economy lot and walk to the terminal.

Let’s review the criteria for my decision:

If I park at CNN, it’s free except for four bucks for the train to and fro, but I have to walk ten minutes to the train station at 5:30 in the morning, avoiding panhandlers and potential muggers with little to no security downtown. Then the train could take upwards of thirty minutes to arrive, meaning I wouldn’t arrive with much spare time to check my bag and wipe off all the sweat from the non-AC train that smells like the shoe locker for the Cowboys.

If I park at the airport, I pay forty bucks for parking for the week, park within a five minute walk of the terminal, and I’m there with plenty of time to check in, eat breakfast, read the paper and check out all the hot single chicks traveling alone and in need of some Jeff-lovin’. Oh, and I’m a Southern conservative, so I’ll pay extra instead of enjoying the “privilege” of public transportation.

The flight ended up being half-empty (or full, depending on your view), so sitting in the emergency exit row is like first class, only cheaper, and without the fawning from the flight attendant. So I could stretch out, lift the arm rest, play Twister with the couple across the aisle, and generally enjoy extra space.

Oh, the drama first, however. My original seat was next to a couple, so I moved one row up where it was empty. For about five minutes, when I embarrassingly had to apologize and move over across the aisle, waiting to see if I was safe … waiting … waiting … more people got on, but none made their way to the back and the emergency exit rows … waiting … please shut the frackin’ doors! … waiting … Yes! Eureka, I’m home free! Pop open the iPod, bring me some apple juice and let’s kick back in the all the comforts a potential death trap affords.

No kidding, where else do you go where you’re told right off the bat that there’s a possibility you might be in a life-or-death struggle? Imagine:

In a bar, the waitress asks for your drinks, then advises you, “Before I read the special, I must advise you that should you consume as much alcohol as Hemingway in a drag club and get into a fight, our bartender, Bruiser McFelony, may use your head as a punching device.”

How about the movies, the usher stands in front of the crowd before the trailers, “In the event you talk during a movie, we take no responsibility if you end up with popcorn shoved in every orifice of your person.”

After landing in Dallas, I had three missions: Find my bags, go to the Delta baggage office to pick up the bags Jenn have there since her flight last weekend went to Austin instead, and let Dad know where to pick me up, since he arrived a half-hour sooner and his mission was to get the rental car.

These three events sound potentially time-consuming, but it turned out to be a snap. The baggage claim was across the hall from our arrival gate, and the baggage office was five feet to the right of the Baggage Wheel O’ Smushed Valuables.

In fact, it was too easy to get Jenn’s two bags. I told the lady the last name, and with no questions asked she handed them to me. Maybe I should have asked to grab the “Smith’s” bags and “Jones” just to see what kind of goodies I could find?

During this time, Dad was on his way in the Mercury Grand Marquis from Hertz to Terminal E to pick me up. In less than fifteen minutes, we were on our way south to Waco. Two hours later, we’re knocking on Scott and Jenn’s door, where they had a welcoming party starring the Baylor Bears cheerleading squad.

Okay, not really. But they had plenty of Aquafina bottled water stocked in the fridge, and that’s good enough for me. Instead of the welcome committee, I immediately proceeded to bust Scott’s chops for his full beard. It’s what I do. I make fun of people to feel better about myself. I’m comfortable with this. 0

Lunch was originally barbeque until the place was closed, so we ended up down the shopping center at a Tex-Mex place. Afterwards we gave Dad a driving tour of Scott’s stomping grounds, Baylor, and then made a pass through the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, which is on campus.

We enjoyed ourselves in the exhibits, although a few times the observations went, “Don’t know him … never heard of her … Hey, it’s Nolan Ryan! He’s great!” But you know us, we can have fun anywhere.

Tonight we went down the street to a July 4th cookout hosted by one of Scott and Jenn’s Baylor buds. There were about fifteen people milling around the back patio, eating burgers and hot dogs (I went without, never overcoming my fear of eating messily in front of strangers). Post-dinner was a heated game of Trivial Pursuit, men vs. women. What happened? Winner, winner, chicken dinner! Go guys! We rule!

Monday afternoon we’ll drive up to Arlington, check in at the Hilton hotel where we’ll stay through Wednesday, then head to the Ballpark at Arlington to see the Red Sox whip some Ranger tail. Hopefully. The way they played against Toronto this weekend doesn’t bode well for a road trip. Not that I’ll notice too much with my face stuffed with foot-long dogs and a Diet Coke the size of first base. Good times.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Crying wolf doesn't work, crying 'whitey' does

Check out this news blurb from Friday’s Atlanta Journal-Constipation, and tell me what might be missing:
A white teenager was charged with a hate crime for allegedly beating a black man with a baseball bat in a New York City neighborhood that became infamous for a fatal racial confrontation two decades ago. Police said Nicholas Minucci, 19, confessed to the attack early Wednesday in the Howard Beach section of Queens that left Glen Moore in critical condition with a fractured skull.

Let me fill in the blanks by looking at the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey might say, from CNN.com:
Two of the three black men told investigators they were looking for a luxury sedan to steal but changed their minds. They said a white man in a car spotted them and then returned with two friends.

Kind of changes the way the story flows, doesn’t it? You think the black men decided to make it a racial incident after they were caught? They'd be smart to do so, seeing as how hate crimes only count when it's white-on-black crime.

Announcements

Big couple of days for your favorite Jeff. No, the one in Atlanta. No, the one who works at CNN. No, the one at Headline News. No, the TD. Yeah, that one.

Anyway, starting the end of this month (it's July now, by the way), my routine 2-10p Monday-Friday schedule is changing to ... nothing. And anything.

I'll be a Floater, meaning I could cover any schedule, any time of day, any day of the week, including weekends. Bye bye, routine, hello higgedly-piggedly randomness.

At least I'm getting a pager, which, yes, it means they can always find me, but also it means I can hold it aloft in the store and say, "Looks like CNN requires my assistance. I had better go."

When I'm not covering sickouts or vacations, I'll be able to float in freely and either train upstairs at CNN to switch their shows and/or work on effects down here at Headline News. My supervisor praised me as one of the best technical directors in the building, so at least I'm not dispensable! And that's they key, eh?

Other good points: 1) My supervisor said he was doing this because I'm versatile and can cover all parts of the network, and 2) I'll be able to learn more for advancement.

The schedule starts Monday July 25, but since I'm supposed to be on vacation that week hopefully it won't affect my trip to Memphis for Nana's 75th birthday the 23rd or A.J.'s first birthday party in Knoxville the next Saturday.

In other news, Sunday morning I'm flying to Texas for a week to hang ten in Waco and Dallas with Scott, Jenn and Dad. We'll see the Red Sox series Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and otherwise do whatever else there is to do in central Texas. Like find air-conditioning.

Happy Independence Day weekend, and be safe!

p.s. Oh, yeah, and to celebrate still having a job, this morning the Comcast guy came out to install my high-speed internet service at home! Weeeee! Bang! Zoom! Fast! Good times. Or fast times, at least. And watch Red Sox games streaming over MLB.com. Wicked awesome.

Loading the iPod Mini has taken a lot longer. The length doesn’t come from downloading, but from labeling all the songs. You have to fill out the artist, the title of the song, the album, a bunch of other categories I’m ignoring, and then the trickiest, the genre. Seriously, what do you classify some of these artists? Do Monster Ballads count as rock? Is Chicago pop? Is the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack folk? Pet Shop Boys: pop or rock? Or whatever? Unclassifiable? Ditto Peter Gabriel. And is Neil Diamond pop, rock, easy listening? You see the dilemma?

Either way, I’m at 800 songs and still have over a gigabyte to go, hopefully finished before flying out tomorrow morning. I’ll need all one-thousand songs on the two-hour flight, after all.

UPDATE 5:45 p.m.: Okay, so I was uploading songs the REALLY difficult way. On my old 56K connection I refused the online connection with iTunes. Steve called me just now and let me know that iTunes will name and categorize the songs for me, and with my new high-speed connection, hey, it does! Quick, too! Yee-haw! You have no idea how tedious it's been the past week loading the CD and pulling out the jewel cases to squint and type the names of songs. (I'm now on 950 songs, almost full. Time to figure out what is just "eh" and what is "gotta have.")

Friday, July 01, 2005

Random briefs

No animals were harmed while writing this entry. Well, except the chicken that was already dead before I ate it. I don’t know how they raise chickens full of buffalo sauce, but I’m sure the science makes sense.

- I don’t know what this means, but every time I look at myself in the mirror, I smile. Is it as if I’m introducing myself to myself, and “hey, you’re alright.” Or, is it to reassure myself that everything’s cool, like “Hey, thanks for brushing your teeth.” Just me? Let’s move on …

- Great, just what I need to see, a study that says loneliness may hamper the immune system. So they’re saying that it’s not good for me to sit at home in my one-bedroom apartment, eat nachos and watch Lord of the Rings all day? Please. I like my company, thankyouverymuch, and if I seek social contact I’ll send an email to my family updating them on the Asian couple next door with the smelly cooking. That’s right, I’m living on the edge, man! If you can’t handle it, best hop off the blog right now.

- Let's be honest, the media is too anxious to get out a story that would make the Bush administration and the military look bad. Does anyone doubt that if today’s media were dropped in the middle of the Revolutionary War that we’d still be spelling favorite as “favourite” and taking three hours off to drink a cup of tea? Author and historian David McCullough sure knows, and said as much on CNBC’s Tim Russert show last weekend:

McCullough asserted that if the Continental Army efforts led by George Washington "had been covered by the media, and the country had seen now horrible the conditions were, how badly things were being run by the officers, and what a very serious soup we were in, I think that would have been it" for the colonialists and the British would have won.


- It befuddles and angers me that so many Democrats think defeatism is a winning political strategy, so take it from Vietnam veterans serving in Iraq, too, that this war is not Vietnam redux.

- Am I the only person who hasn’t mastered the art of pulling the wrapper off a straw? At least 60 percent of the time, instead of it ripping in half like it should, I get the little nub at the end that makes it even more difficult to get the wrapper off. So while I’m fumbling at the wrapper, friends and family are blowing theirs from the straw into my eye. Have I thought about this too much?

- Who is your favorite Fanta girl? I wanta the one in yellow, Lola. She’s sunny and sexy. (Fine, whatever. I know how it goes. Monday when we’re back at school you’ll say hi to me in the hall, but then make fun of me to your friends.)