Thursday, March 29, 2007

Catching up with the world

Slowly but surely, we're reconnecting with the world our here at the edges of Shelby County. Flailing in the darkness no more, tomorrow, the DirecTV guys come to connect our room, complete with a DVR box, something we couldn't get in five months with Charter in the middle of doggone Atlanta. Now, instead of flipping through the late night shows with a mere seven channels, we'll aimless flip through 150 channels with nothing on at midnight. Finally!

Tonight, I signed us up with Wild Blue for satellite Internet access since we can't get DSL or cable high-speed. We looked at a bigger company like EarthLink first, but it would cost way, way too much to install the dish and get the equipment. Wild Blue was half as much, in fact, which made more sense since we could end up moving to a house in six months and we'd be able to get cable high-speed again and they only charge $50 to get out of the contract. And considering I can't get on the Internet at all at work, I need something super duper fast at home to catch up! (Psst, nothing says I can't print out my favorite sites and then read them on the john at work. Shhhh .... hey, wait, don't leave!)

Speaking of high-speed, I would like to apologize to all of my family and esteemed blogroll friends for not visiting your sites as much lately and not commenting. As it is, I'm lucky enough to be able to log in to Blogger and post this piffle.

Also slowly but surely, we're officially becoming Tennesseans and Memphians again. Yesterday on my only day off this week we managed to get our tags, though when we drove up to Covington to get our licenses we were told they needed about ten forms of identification, signatures written in pig's blood and a grilled stuffed burrito meal deal from Taco Bell. I think the lady was making up the last one.

I also found out thirty seconds ago that the State Farm lady decided that both of our cars were Val's, since my name is nowhere on the paperwork. Splendid. One more call to fix someone else's mistake. Love those. (/sarcasm)

At least I was able to get a haircut in the meantime. Shorter than I expected, however. The lady had just come in from a smoke break, and spent the entire time talking to three co-workers who sat in their empty chairs since Val and I were the only two patrons in the building, and my wife was reading Entertainment Weekly. I think my "stylist" forgot I was in the chair and just kept tossing my head to the side and clipping and razoring without thinking out of habit, and suddenly remembered there was a guy who'd been in her chair for twenty minutes. Oh well, at least I have my summer cut now that winter went straight to summer and it's 87 stinking degrees all the time in MARCH.

Hey, did I mention that the main weather guy at my new work home, WHBQ, Joey Sulipeck, a.k.a., "the funny guy who wears a bow tie," graduated eight years ahead of me at Raleigh-Egypt High (class of '93 in the house!). So I've got that going for me.

Who else is up for some Blades of Glory tomorrow night? Awesome!

Do You? Do You? Great, you're married!

So Val and I went to a wedding this weekend for the first time as a married couple, and as a benefit, it was her friend Melanie's, and she was a part of the ceremony as one of the honorary bridesmaids along with all the Jackson crew.

Congrats to Melanie and Roger!









Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hope you enjoyed my blog, because you'll be getting a lot less from now on

This hurts. The entire first day of work at the new gig on Monday, the only thing I took away was one thing: No Internet.

Oh, sure, some folks have access, but my login? Nope. Guess a Director isn't trusted enough to check email. Heck, I just wanted it tonight to check Dictionary.com to check "subpoenaed."

Otherwise, working local will take some getting used to. Obviously I'm extra spoiled after working in a national network with a multi-million dollar budget with lots of employees to suppliment a six-week vacation schedule. (This year with my new job? 10 days. That's it. Yeah, like I said, spoiled and lazy.)

I'm serious, the thing I'll miss the most is the ability to goof off, have some down time to wander the CNN Center, eat at any of the twenty restaurants in the atrium, blog all the time. Not that I wasn't performing my duties; we just had more freedom.

Not that I'm going to turn into the William Wallace of local news just for the ability to check my fantasy teams. Yet. Remember, we can't get DSL or cable high-speed at home, so it's not like I can quickly check all of this when I get home. And frankly, when I'm home, I want to curl up with my wife. No offense.

But my co-workers are cool, and I should be able to learn fast and find a routine. Most important, I'm home, happily married to a wife who eagerly awaits my arrival every night and surrounded by friends and family, so I'm still going to be enjoying life to the fullest.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Final Four - For the group and the tournament

The standings look pretty for my wonderful mother-in-law, but alas, she cannot win.

To prove how much it matters which team you picked to win the whole shebang, Steve would be overcoming a 12th place standing going into the final four.

Florida's win over Oregon solidified my and my Dad's chances of winning the league, but what made the biggest difference was Georgetown's dramatic comeback over North Carolina. That win knocked Syd out of contention, and gave me and Kevin H. a chance at victory, along with Val (who is hooked to UCLA) and Steve (Ohio State). If Florida beats Ohio State, I win. If they beat Georgetown, my Dad wins.

1. Val’s Mom – 99
2. Dad – 95
3. Kevin H. – 93
4. Val – 91
5. Jorge – 90
6. Syd – 88
7. Me – 87
8. Southern Girl – 87
9. Cody – 83
10. Michael C. – 80
11. Erin – 77
12. Steve – 74
13. Scott – 64
14. Karen – 59
15. Jenn R. – 50
16. Amy C. – 28

Saturday, March 24, 2007

UCLA makes a difference

With her pick of UCLA making the final four, my wife is back into the lead tonight! Of course, unless the Bruins win the whole thing (or Oregon), she can’t win the whole thing. Then again, that can be said of many in the group. Heck, if my picks make it from here on out, even lowly me can still win!

Here are the scenarios:

If Georgetown wins the whole thing, Kevin wins, or if Oregon wins and Georgetown wins tomorrow.
If North Carolina wins, this is Syd’s title.
If Ohio State wins, Steve’s our champ.
If Florida wins, but Georgetown doesn’t beat North Carolina tomorrow, then my Dad will win. But if Florida beats Ohio State and Georgetown wins tomorrow, then I win.
UCLA wins it all, so does Val. If Oregon wins it all and North Carolina wins tomorrow, then Val wins.

1. Valhow – 91
2. Rann/Dad – 87
3. Kevin H. – 85
4. Val’s Mom – 83
5. Jorge – 82
6. Syd – 80
7. Southern Girl – 79
8. Cody – 75
9. Steve – 74
10. Michael C. – 72
11. Me – 71
12. Erin – 69
13. Scott – 56
14. Karen – 51
15. Jenn R. – 50
16. Amy C. – 28

Alas, this is the end for our Tigers, as Ohio State pulled away in the last ten minutes after a gift basket during an intentional foul (seriously, Oden was mugged on the ground and hadn't even considered shooting yet, not that I'm bitter. At all.)

But Memphis made it further than many predicted, and the team looks to be stronger next season. Your 2008 champions!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tigers Sweet?

I'm sitting here in the Rushing Wing of the Casa de Howell, watching the Memphis game alone. My wife and in-laws are at Old Timer's (where we had our rehearsal dinner) to dine with uncle Alan and cousin Destiny and baby Bailey. Why didn't I go? No TVs in the restaurant.

Instead, I easily made it to the Pig-n-Whistle (just two minutes away!) during halftime for BBQ nachos and a BBQ chicken sandwich, so you know I'm good to go!

Then again, if the Tigers don't pull this out in the next 4 1/2 minutes (tied at 61), I'm going to feel awfully lonely!

UPDATE 8:34p - Texas A&M up one with 1:50 to go. Not freaking out yet.

Oh, and yes, the moving is over and now we're onto the unpacking and organizing phase. Did I mention how nice it is to have a storage room? Yesterday I drove right up to it and grabbed our office chair, which we'd saved until space was cleared in our room. When I signed the rental agreement they made me promise neither to live in the room nor to put in a meth lab. Well, okay, I can promise the second one, but the first one depends on how my wife takes my obnoxious behavior.

Tomorrow we're heading to Jackson for Val's friend Melanie's wedding, staying overnight for the Saturday afternoon ceremony. Besides that, we also only have dial-up right now since DSL and cable aren't in this area yet, which is another reason why blogging has been light. It's ... Just ... So .... Slow .........

UPDATE 8:40p - AAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!! Get in the basket already! AAAAHHHH!!!!!! Whew. Made a free-throw. Tied with one free throw to go and 3.1 seconds on the clock.

UPDATE 8:45 - UP one! Oh crud. The Aggies were throwing the ball out-of-bounds on the inbound pass and a Tiger reached out and touched it first. Is this one of those "woulda coulda shoulda" moments?

UPDATE 8:47 - MEMPHIS WINS! PARTY TIME! EXCELLENCE! YEEEEE-HAWWWWWWW!!!!!

UPDATE 9:19 - Updated standings show a bit of a shake-up, since my wife, bless her heart, went with Texas A&M, leaving Cody alone in first for now:

1. Cody - 59
t2. Kevin H. - 57
t2. Erin - 57
4. Syd - 56
t5. Val - 55
t5. Val's Mom - 55
t5. Southern Girl - 55
t8. Dad/Rann - 51
t8. Me - 51
t10. Jorge - 50
t10. Steve - 50
12. Scott - 48
13. Karen - 17
14. Michael C. - 44
15. Jenn R. - 42
16. Amy C. - 28

UPDATE 11:41 - Wow, Tennessee really screwed the pooch with that one, eh? Rocky Top? More like Rocky SPLAT!

Our new leader? Fellow Union alum Kevin Hinton with 65 points, but this is anyone's game. Yes, even me! Looking at the Scenario Generator any one of a half-dozen can pull this out:

1. Kevin - 65
2. Syd - 64
t3. Val - 63
t3. Cody - 63
t3. Val's Mom - 63
6. Erin - 61
t7. Southern Girl - 59
t7. Dad/Rann - 59
9. Jorge - 58
10. Me - 55
11. Steve - 54
t12. Scott - 52
t12. Michael - 52
14. Karen - 47
15. Jenn R. - 42
16. Amy C. - 28

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Moved

We're done! Val and I are officially back in the Memphis metro area, and Atlanta weeps at our loss, I'm sure.

Yesterday was a primal day, just man and beast. Man being me, the beast being the 22-foot truck I fought for nine hours, happily throwing it back today in that great Penske sea. Let's face it, I owned the road yesterday. But that was just because it was so windy that I was in everyone else's lanes, so they backed off for their lives, which was smart.

Our three-car convoy (me, Val in her car, her dad in my car) traveled all day, leaving Atlanta at 8 a.m. eastern time, taking the Chattanooga-Nashville route to avoid Birmingham rush hour and the long stretch of non-interstate, and we didn't have to drive through Memphis since we came in from the north to Millington.

It took us nine hours because we stopped for breakfast, lunch, assorted gas and bathroom breaks, and oh yeah, the truck wouldn't go faster than 70 mph.

When I picked up the truck I was informed that I had to go through all weigh stations. No problem the first time, since there was no truck in sight and I breezed through with a green light and caught back up to my driving partners. The next time, though, I didn't feel like it, and with enough trucks in line to ensure plausible deniability I made a break for it, passing without getting weighed. That's right, I was an outlaw, outrunning smokey at a wicked 110 km/h! With Josh Groban blaring in the CD player! I'm dangrous! And it felt GREAT!

Aw, now I feel guilty. Okay, let's reload the truck, drive back to the station and drive through to clear my conscience. Ready everyone? Hello? Anyone?

After unloading the stuff we needed at the house, we went to the storage place nearby to unload the rest, filling up a 10x20 room with ease. Val's worried about bugs and mice, so a lot of our things were wrapped tight. Though, she may welcome anything being chewed and gross, since it means when we get a home soon she gets to pick out all new furniture.

Did I mention how sore I am today? Ye gad, my body is bruised all over in some funky places of which I have no clue as to the origin. Not bad, considering Val nearly broke the toe that went "WEE WEE WEE" all the way home, and her dad crushed a finger so badly he would rather they just chop it off, Ronnie Lott style.

First things first today, back in Memphis and the pork BBQ capital of the planet, we went to the Pig-n-Whistle for lunch. I had a sandwich (complete with cole slaw on toop), while Val had that favorite of Memphis sporting events, BBQ nachos. Yum ... my.

So now I'm back, and let's check the news ... Willie's still mayor, the politicians are all corrupt, the Fords are in the news and the town gets slammed for poor sports support. Yep, same as it was when I left over nine years ago. Good to be home. And this week all we have to worry about is settling in, organizing, shopping and enjoying life. As always.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Moving out

Almost done. I'm at work, finishing up my final night before we drive out in about, oh, nine hours.

How do I feel? I am intensely relaxed. Calm, at peace, ready to go.

Of course, some of that could be that we worked so much that I can't get worked up about anything.

Me, Val's dad and Val started packing up the truck before 11 this morning, and the final process of leaving Atlanta began.

With a 22-foot truck, we figured we had TONS of room, so when we started we didn't worry about piling the boxes and furniture to the roof. By hour three, we didn't care what went to storage or what went to the house, we just wanted to fill every space possible. The pile ended up extending to about three feet from the door, with our mattresses and a few things left to add in the morning.

We finished about 3:45 and trudged to The Border, our favorite Mexican place, for the last time, watching the NCAA tournament, as we kept an eye on things all afternoon. They had a lot invested in the Vols winning. I did not. And the CBS affiliate wasn't showing the Memphis game, and even at work I couldn't get it on satellite until near the end. Whatever. Guess if one wants to see Cal's kids play you have to live in Memphis. Check.

Early Monday morning we start our three-car caravan, and hopefully we'll be unloading the truck by mid-afternoon, storage a little while later, and in time to eat dinner with Val's mom and watch Dancing with the Stars, officially Memphis residents again. (Or, at least, Millington. Close enough.)

NCAA Tournament Pick'em Update

The first weekend of the tournament is in the books, and who tops my Yahoo pick'em league?

My wife.

I'm in 11th.

I'm okay with that.

She's also tied with nephew Cody, who's in real trouble seeing as how he had Texas winning the whole shebang. Nobody had Texas losing, but many had them losing in the next round or two. Of course, Val lost one of her final four teams in Wisconsin today, so that might affect her chances later.

I'm hanging my hat on the fact that according to the scenario generator I would easily win should all of my picks win the rest of the way. Chances of that actually happening? Zero.

Here are the current standings:

T1. Valerie - 51 points (38 of 48)
T1. Cody - 51 (39 of 48)
T3. Erin - 49 (38 of 48)
T3. Kevin H. - 49 (36 of 48)
5. Sydney G. - 48 (36 of 48)
T6. Dad/Rann - 47 (37 of 48)
T6. Southern Girl - 47 (37 of 48)
7. Val's Mom - 47 (37 of 48)
9. Jorge - 46 (36 of 48)
10. Scott - 44 (33 of 48)
11. Me - 43 (33 of 48)
12. Steve - 42 (31 of 48)
13. Michael - 40 (31 of 48)
14. Karen - 39 (30 of 48)
15. Jennifer R. - 38 (30 of 48)
16. Amy - 28 (23 of 48)

Naturally, in the fifth bracket I whipped up at the last-minute, in a league I care nary about, I'm doing brilliantly, 52 points, the top 98th percentile in Yahoo.

Starting Thursday, the Sweet 16, including Memphis in the first game. Go Tigers!

And did I mention that I'll be back in Memphis tomorrow, and thus actually able to watch them play a whole game in the tournament? FANtastic!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Josh Groban in concert

Val and I really enjoyed the Josh Groban concert tonight at Philips Arena downtown. And contrary to what Michael said below, there is nothing girly about enjoying a Josh Groban concert, and we had a pair of lesbians sitting below us to prove it!

Of course, the crowd could tell you his main audience: 99 percent between the age of 30-60, middle to upper-middle class, and whiter than a fresh snowfall.

Josh (Can I call him Josh? Thanks.) sang most of the songs you'd recognize save for a couple that we guess he left for the end after we departed, went into the crowd for a couple of songs, and gave us a few laughs with some between-song witty banter. He has a band of six or so folks who travel with him, and they apparently recruit local musicians to top it off and sit in the back, since there was a contingent of Atlantans behind him as the orchestra. My compliments on the violinist as well. I loves me some violins.

It was exactly the kind of concert I enjoy, getting in our seats as the opening act finishes, sitting down the entire time, taking it all in with the same contented smile on my face the whole time, and never having to worry about standing/sitting/standing/sitting, drunken fans, marijuana smoke drifting around or overly loud speakers. I tell ya, I'll never go to a Bette Midler concert again! (I kid! It was Air Supply. Okay, no, but I have been to one of their concerts, at least.)

My only complaint was the seating. We paid a decent amount to sit in the first level facing the stage, but the space between the seats was so small that even Val felt scrunched, and she's a tiny 5'2! Me? 6'4, not so much on the tiny side. I'll put it this way, I was missing the little seats at Fenway Park, that's how little leg room I had.

But all in all, that was a small thing compared to attending the first concert with my wife, seeing an artist she really likes, and taking a break from all the moving. Good times.

White-Knuckle Action

Val and I just picked up the moving truck from Penske, and let me tell you, that is a terrifying experience. Driving the 22-footer with a car-carrier attached, I mean, not the picking up part.

Twice already I've run over curbs, and we haven't even put Val's car on the darn thing yet. Okay, the first time didn't count, since it was right out of the Penske place, and it's really unfair to put a two-foot by two-foot flower bed in the middle of a parking lot. The second time was pulling into the complex, and I'm guessing I'll be making wide right turns from here on out. Yeek. Pray for me!

The other problem, figuring out where to put the truck and car carrier until we load up tomorrow. Right now it's taking up an entire row of parking spaces near the leasing office, since I'm not entirely sure how to park the truck and unattach the car carrier or where to leave that, and I'll feel more comfortable once we pick up my father-in-law at the airport in an hour and let him help.

In the meantime, since Thursday about 1 p.m. we've owned the center spot in front of our apartment. After lunch Thursday I got that spot. When Val got off work, I moved and she parked in it. Ever since we've alternated, because when it's time to back the truck up to the apartment, darn tootin' I'm going to have that center spot for an easier load! For I am man, and hear me roar! (And yes, I will drive around and around a parking lot at Target to get the closest space. It's my duty.)

In the meantime, might I suggest that anyone driving between Atlanta and Memphis on Monday either help me by getting out of my way, or shore up your insurance.

UPDATE 7:00 p.m. - Okay, so I'm a big wuss, and we returned the car carrier and Val will drive her car with me in the truck and her dad in my car on Monday. Seems easier this way, though not for my wife, unfortunately. Now, though, time to head downtown for the Josh Groban concert!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Moving update - Three days to go

Today's fortune cookie: "It is time to help a friend in need." Indeed! Even though I could actually feel the giddyness as he texted me from behind the Purdue bench Friday night at the NCAA tournament, I think Steve needs my help, so I'm going to come on to Memphis and provide plenty of inane childish humor. Awesome.

Today, though, Kevin and Robyn visited all afternoon, enjoying their spring break this week by coming to see Valfrey in the "Jeff and Val Are Leaving Friends Behind Tour."

We lunched at Red Lobster (mmmmm, shrimp), talked about crab cakes (don't ask), and went to CNN since Robyn had never been there and chances are getting rare that I can give folks the personal VIP tour and take pictures behind the anchor desks. As of Monday, in fact, I'm pretty sure I can be arrested for attempting to do so.

So what kind of sign is it that I dropped and broke my CNN key chain in the parking lot?

It was a most agreeable day, and unfortunately tonight it's back to packing boxes. Or, at least, Val is right now as I'm typing this, and we kind of skipped a few hours by watching "1 vs. 100" and "Identity," of which I cannot believe that they picked a contestant more annoying than host Penn.

Since tomorrow we're picking up the truck and then Val's Dad at the airport in the morning, I probably won't be blogging much or at all.

In the meantime, anyone want to place bets on what song will play when I get in my car and turn on the XM at 2 a.m. Sunday? (After the cops have rooted through my bag and found the plasma televisions, Ted Turner portrait and Peabody Award trophies, I mean.) Of course, remember, of all the 150 music channels at my disposal, chances are I'll either have it preset on A) The Heart, love songs all the time; B) The 80s; C) Deep Tracks, classic rock, or D) Reggae. And no mon, it ain't gonna be D.

Filling the time

  • I love these stories:
    "A North Pole expedition meant to bring attention to global warming was called off after one of the explorers got frostbite."
    Apparently it was "quite a bit colder" than expected. As Tim Blair notes: "They. Were. In. The. Arctic."

  • A nonprofit that runs a national post-abortion telephone talk line has unveiled a series of electronic greeting cards that concerned friends and family can send to a woman after she chooses to terminate a pregnancy. Here's one from another unrepresented card group: "Dear Mom, sorry you didn't want me. Hope the next one is to your liking. Love, your baby."

  • This week's Democrat hysteria-of-the-moment: The Bush administration dared, dared, I say, to fire attorneys! Wow, they must have cleared out hundreds to get the kind of reaction Democrats are prattling on and on and on. Oh, wait, just eight were fired? Sheesh. More cooks are fired at a single McDonald's every week. And Clinton asked for the resignation of all 93 U.S. attorneys in 1993? Guess it won't be much of a surprise when I tell you that the media barely stifled yawns back then?

  • Some mug shots are more entertaining than others. Welcome back to Memphis, me!

  • This matador has either the best or the worst luck in the world:
    If Spanish matador Fernando Cruz ever has children, he'll have doctors at the Valencia bullring to thank after he suffered a double goring.

    Cruz, 25, is recovering in hospital after the second bull of Tuesday's corrida caught him in the upper thigh, throwing him into the air, and gored him in the groin once he hit the ground.

    Newspapers reproduced the eye-watering bulletin issued by surgeons at the bullring after a two-hour operation and film of the incident was played on the main evening news.

    "Fernando Cruz is suffering from two horn wounds of 25 centimetres in length each. One involves the fibres of the abductor muscle and dissects the femoral artery, the other involves the scrotal area and eviscerates both testicles."

    Cruz was sitting up in his hospital bed on Wednesday. Astonishingly, he is expected to be back in action in around three weeks.

    Well, "action," relatively speaking.
  • You hit the ball, you catch the ball, you, uh, throw the ball?

    Spring Training is a time to work out your kinks. Like throwing a ball back to the mound without striking the batter:

    Wednesday, March 14, 2007

    12 to 11 on Idol

    And so goes what's-his-name, Brandon. We won't remember him until the final week when he shows up in a group sing and we'll think, "Oh yeah, there's that guy, what's-his-name."

    Moving a little at a time

    Almost done here at CNN. Tonight's the big night, my last weekday when I'll work with the most folks for the final time. Sunday night is actually my last night, but only a few co-workers will be around.

    It's like how Bob Barker is having a blowout during May sweeps though his final "Price is Right" is sometime in June. Well, except that I wasn't here for 35 years, don't have a nationwide following and people don't make shirts to come watch me work. Other than that, exactly the same.

    This week has been a tag-team effort of packing efficiency for me and Val. After we have lunch together and I get home, I turn on Spike TV to watch "Star Trek: The Next Generation" from 2-4 and "Voyager" at 5, with all three channels turned on as I cook dinner, make my wake around the apartment packing, carrying, cleaning and organizing.

    Well, more like whipping up a Tuna Helper, stuff as much into a tiny box as possible, kicking boxes along the floor, tossing trash into cans already full and leaving boxes, clothes and random stuff scattered about in the hopes that it will magically jump into boxes. But we're getting along. The sunroom is half-packed with all kinds of boxes, and I've set times to cancel all utilities and change our address for each of our 24 maxed-out credit cards.

    At night, Val has been packing up the kitchen and the master bedroom while I'm at work, at least until I call and she can take a break to watch "24" or "American Idol" together.

    At least tomorrow I can watch the NCAA Tournament and groan about my picks as I pack, and since I don't have to go to work Val and I can work together figuring out how to finish up. Or eat out, bake cookies and crash on the couch. I'm betting on the latter, since tomorrow is her last day at work, and we're planning on staying up past midnight to watch "Playmania" on GSN for the first time together in a while. Good times.

    Make your picks!

    The Madness starts Thursday, so make your picks tonight or tomorrow morning!

    To be part of my group in Yahoo's NCAA Tournament Pick'em, go to the link, click on the "Join Group" button. When prompted, enter the following information:

    Group ID#: 1194
    Password: 12345

    American Idol top 12

    We've endured the endless auditions, the cluttered top 24, and NOW it is time to pay attention to the next American golden calf pop star!

    Randy thinks the guys are playing behind already, Paula hopes not since she hasn't given all of them her address and phone number yet, and Simon just wants to get on with already. I'm with him, so let's go, and welcome legend Diana Ross as our so-desperate-for-attention-she'll-pretend-to-like-crappy-young-singers coach:

    Brandon - The good news: It's not so bad that he was shaky to begin the night, since there were 11 others behind him and viewers forgot he wasn't great. Bad news: He was first of eleven, and viewers likely forgot who he was by 9:55.

    Melinda - Typical week, Ryan and Simon trade "You're gay. No, you're a flamer" insults, and Paula's back off her meds. The past two weeks she's been so mellow. This week, she's all teary and weepy because of a decent performance. We missed you, Paula! Simon calls her a young Gladys Knight (Melinda, not Paula), and yeah, I can see that. Powerful, awesome voice, but GIANT head. It's got it's own weather system.

    Chris S. - Yeah, that was a disaster, and the judges called him on it. It sounded as if someone was pulling out his curls as he sang. Simon's also right in saying to keep the glasses. He does not look good without them, at least with that hair. Not a good night for Chris. If he survives this night due to the goodwill of the country and Sanjaya's expected suckiness, here's hoping he finds himself and makes it to the final three like I've been hoping.

    Gina - Could someone tell Diana Ross that "pronounciate" isn't a word? And then it didn't matter, since I couldn't understand half of what she said. And then Paula actually used "enunciate" properly, which in no way makes her smarter than Diana Ross, you hear me? As for Gina, I'm still not a fan. Seems too arrogant, full of her fake attitude.

    Sanjaya - Aw, he curled his hair. He's just so pretty! I want to take him to Carraba's and eat dinner together with candlelight, we'll hula together at night, and he'll probably be available soon if this week's performance matters. Poor kid, I think he was ready to go home three weeks ago, and America won't let him. If he makes it to next week he might just come out with Monty Python's "I'm A Lumberjack" and make fun of the whole darn process. Of course, if he did that, I would totally vote for him.

    What's her name again? Oh yeah, Haley - She does that thing with lifting her fingers off the microphone that bugged me with Carrie Underwood. I guess it's a timing device and taught, but it bugs me. Looks like Haley is trying to be this year's McPheever, but she doesn't have the chops for it. At least, not consistently. But as bad as it sounds, she's the last "white girl next door" candidate, and that might get her into the top ten. Unlike Katharine, Haley can't count on my support since there are no more Future Mrs. Rushings, only one Current Mrs. Rushing.

    Apparently Haley forgot the words during her song. At the end of the judging, Paula says not to care if she does and to keep going. Well, that's great and all, but you guys point it out as soon as she's finished, so it's not like the audience won't figure it out, right?

    Phil - Superficially (really, isn't this whole blog about that), his huge bald head is freaking me out. It's too coneheady. Stick to wearing hats, dude. His singing: Good, his best since auditioning. Still not as good as half the women and a few of the guys, though.

    LaKisha - She sings "God Blessed the Child," and she's certainly blessed with pipes good enough to win, and she's so bubbly and likable. Simon says she and Melinda are in their own league, and right now I can't disagree.

    Blake - Okay, I'll set you free. You remind me too much of that Boogie guy from Big Brother, and that's not good. Usually it takes a few weeks of the top 12 for the judges to make a 180 on their audition/Hollywood/top 24 recommendations and praises by telling someone to stop doing something that makes the contestant original. In Blake's case, it happened this week. I'd like to hear him sing a song normally, too, but you can't tell someone that they have an original style and then force them to leave their comfort zone when it makes you bored.

    Stephanie Edwards - I need her to be gone if only because her name is a mix of my sisters' and it's confusing me. So much so that when they came to visit over a week ago, I told the security gate to expect Stephanie "Edwards" instead of "Lucas" because this Idol contestant has infected my brain. Yeah, I'm selfish. The judges hit her hard for reasons only known to them, while the audience heard strong vocals and a fine song, so shut up, judges.

    Chris R. - Really wants to be Justin Timberlake, but ain't no way he's bringing the sexy back. Far too much of the song he was yelling and wailing, and in no way was it what you or I might deem "singing."

    Jordin - My favorite, but a little nervous tonight. The judges didn't see it like I did, however, and pronounced her an equal with Lakisha and Melinda. There's still hope, then. Keep her dream alive, America! I don't vote, I just judge yours.

    Tuesday, March 13, 2007

    I want all my pudding!

    Why do makers of pudding cups put those little grooves at the bottom, making it near impossible to scoop up that final spoontip of pudding? I've put my heart, my soul, my sizable stomach into this endeavor, I'm fully invested in the sweet, milky taste, and daggumit I WANT ALL MY BANANA PUDDING!

    Netflix review: The Prestige

    For some reason, Hollywood gets on a kick and releases multiple movies about the same subject. Remember Deep Impact vs. Armageddon? Red Planet vs. Mission to Mars?

    This past fall, The Prestige went toe-to-toe with The Illusionist.

    Let's compare:

    The Prestige has Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, and Scarlett Johansson. The Illusionist stars Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti and Jessica Biel.

    Both Bale and Norton have a contest to see which actor could actually make us less interested in the craft of magic. Jackman provides all the personality in the former, but can't compare to Giamatti personally rescuing the latter from the abyss. In babe power, this might be controversial but I'm going with Jessica over Scarlett. Sure, Scarlett is a better actress, but she's not really important to the plot, whereas Jessica has Ed so head over heels he's willing to challenge the Austrian monarchy. When she disappears halfway through, the film gets depressing and lonely.

    The Prestige relies on trickery between rivals Bale and Jackman, while The Illusionist, well, let's just take a look at some of the keywords for it on IMDB.com: Forbidden Love, Card Trick, Tryst, Face Slap, Interrogation, Apparition, Surprise Ending. That about says it all.

    Unfortunately, The Prestige relies on a nonlinear timeline and half the time we didn't know when or where we were. Bale and Jackman kept naming their acts "The Transported Man," while the audience felt like "The Transported Captives." The movie pops back and forth constantly and is slow to reveal clues. Is that Jackman reading Bale's diary? But wait, what's Bale reading? And when? The Illusionist was guilty just the same, though far less egregiously. I said it then and I'll repeat, can we get at least half the movies this year to start anywhere except the end? I'm talking to you, too Mission: Impossible 3.

    The most important difference comes at the end. The Prestige gets all supernatural on us instead of the twist being a bona fide trick. The Illusionist was bollocks, but at least it didn't try to convince us of the impossible.

    The Prestige is all about the three levels of a trick: First, there is the setup, or the "pledge," where the magician shows the audience something that appears ordinary but is probably not, making use of misdirection. Then there is the performance, or the "turn," where the magician makes the ordinary act extraordinary. Lastly, there is the "prestige," where the effect of the illusion is produced.

    The filmmakers were just fine presenting the pledge, but there was never a turn, and the prestige would have been better if, like Bale, Jackman's twist actually involved magic.

    If you think I'm going to say The Illusionist was the better of the two magic flicks last year, there's no tricking you. Of course, I wouldn't actually recommend either, so there's your twist.

    24 should really be just 12

    With Heroes gone for well over a month, unfortunately for 24 that puts the onus on Jack and crew to deliver.

    Tonight, yeah, for the most part and the first time in over a month they finally put something worth watching on air. Martha may be insane, but she's darn entertaining, and seeing her with Aaron made my heart happy. Even if he was just bringing her magazines from the store.

    So what magazines do you think she reads in the crazy farm? I like to think she's an US Weekly kind of gal. Politics can be such a bore. Other options? Any bridal magazine. If there's anything I've learned being married five months, just because you've had your ceremony doesn't mean you don't want to have one every weekend for the next, say, fifty years.

    Do you think Martha's a Cosmo, Elle or Mademoiselle reader? In college, me, Steve and Patrick would read Jenny's Mademoiselles that she left in our apartment, you know, to see what the other side was saying. They had the best Q&As, which Martha would appreciate. You know, like, "My husband betrayed the U.S. and made my marriage miserable. Can I legally stab him if I'm batsh*t crazy?"

    Really, though, how many presidents have died or have survived assassination attempts? Every single one? Can you imagine if both Bushes, Clinton, Reagan, Carter, Ford AND Nixon all went down? Within ten years?

    And are we really going to be subjected to yet another CTU mole next week? Is there anything new this season that we haven't seen five times before?

    Still, Hereoes is off, and 24 is the only thing on for another six weeks.

    In the meantime, check out Jack Bauer's body count. I love the Internet.

    Sunday, March 11, 2007

    Peachy Keen

    Yikes, just one week until the big move! Just four more days working at CNN Headline News. And today, Val and I had what will end up being our last get-together with Amy and Michael as neighbors, or, as Michael calls it on his blog, our Last Supper.

    It was darn near sad, but we had a very nice 2 1/2 hour lunch at Maggiano's, even as I was going on five hours of sleep and Amy less than two due to us both working last night. They presented me with a going away gift, a traveling Eeyore, of whom I'll be sure to take a photo as a fine representation of our trip back home. Y'all will be missed, and feel free to contact us on trivia nights to compare answers and meet us at Tunica!

    Up next, our final weeks of work, a day with Kevin and Robyn down from Cleveland, Tenn., on Friday, we have the Josh Groban concert Saturday night, and Val's father flies in Saturday morning to help us pack up the truck and get ready to drive to Memphis on Monday. Which, if I haven't mentioned, is JUST ONE WEEK AWAY.

    In the meantime, I finally have pictures from last weekend's visit to Atlanta by my family, mainly consisting of visits downtown to the Georgia Aquarium and my soon-to-be former workplace, the CNN Center.

    As the final two pictures show, we also went to see the Monty Python musical Spamalot. A year ago, this was actually the impetus that convinced everyone to come and celebrate my sisters' 30th birthday.

    How was it? Hysterical in many parts, disappointing in others. Sometimes it felt too too self-aware, breaking down the fourth wall with the audience almost every song by the second act; the Vegas showgirl stuff is silly (even by Python standards); the plot was all over and far, far astray from The Holy Grail; the Lancelot-is-gay subplot was dumb; and the French weren't as funny as the movie. It was good, but not great.

    I think part of the problem was that I often couldn't understand the words. It was definitely fun to anticipate all the best lines, and like Amy and Michael's brother, Peter, two seats down, I found myself mumbling quotes under my breath because I was so excited to see it on stage. We were all impressed with how they pulled off the Black Knight's "flesh wounds" as well. It was a smashing scene with lovely acting.

    Would I pay $100 to see it on Broadway? Not so much. But for a night out in Atlanta with my sisters, Bill and my darling wife, including a yummy long dinner nearby beforehand, it was more fun than strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords.

    March Madness

    Why not continue the fun of picking the Oscars with March Madness? For both, no one really know who will win and it's all a big guess! Go Tigers!

    To be part of my group in Yahoo's NCAA Tournament Pick'em, go to the link, click on the "Join Group" button. When prompted, enter the following information:

    Group ID#: 1194
    Password: 12345

    You have until Thursday morning to enter your selections.

    First observations: The committee has a sense of humor, putting Memphis in the South region with Louisville and Tennessee. I like the Tigers' chances of moving to the elite eight like last year, though I have no idea how good three-seed Texas A&M really is, even if the Aggies are the darlings of so many bracketologists.

    Looking for upsets, I like Georgia Tech in the second round against Wisconsin. The Badgers didn't play anyone good outside the Big Ten, while the Jackets played a tough non-conference schedule as well as the superior ACC.

    I'm also very tempted to take Arkansas over USC, Old Dominion over Butler, Winthrop over Notre Dame and Gonzaga over Indiana.

    Friday, March 09, 2007

    You got a problem with that?

    The latest quotable (i.e,. no whiny liberalism) Vents posted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

    - I was excited to see that Delta is going to fly direct to Nigeria. I need to go there to pick up my $18 million.

    - My Publix really understands its customers. It stacked the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition near the beer cooler.

    - You know your culinary skills are lacking when your 9-year-old looks at her plate and suggests you call her public school lunchroom for recipes.

    - One of those square automobiles passed me the other day, and the bumper sticker said: “You have just been passed by a toaster.”

    - Dear IRS: I would like to cancel my subscription. Please remove my name from your mailing list.

    - Two questions a Democrat will never answer: (1) What is the highest percentage of income an American should be forced to pay in taxes?, and (2) What’s your plan to win the war on terror?

    - I’m dying for the school lunchroom pizza recipe! Doughy, extra cheese, with little diced pepperoni. I have been looking for that one for years.

    - Wolf Blitzer. Went to the. William Shatner school. Of journalism.

    - My husband and I handle all our finances on a 50-50 basis. He is in charge of acquisition and I am in charge of distribution.

    - I’m sure glad my wife didn’t go missing while I was at Home Depot. On the errand list in my pocket was rat poison, duct tape and a tarp.

    - John Travolta is the perfect Hollywood environmentalist. He’s against global warming but hops in one of his two commercial-size jets to fly 50 miles.

    - I am a light eater. As soon as it gets light, I start eating.

    - They finally buried Anna Nicole Smith. So far, six different clergymen have come forward claiming to have performed the service.

    - What happened to acid rain and the hole in the ozone? Weren't they supposed to end mankind as we know it before global warming became all the rage?

    - My brother defies his Christian upbringing and mounts his toilet paper backwards. He fell in with a bad crowd during his first marriage.

    - Ann Coulter calls a straight man gay and that’s “hate speech.” Bill Maher says we would be better off if Cheney had been killed and that’s “freedom of speech?” Go figure.

    - Prince Charles wants to ban McDonald’s. I’d suggest a retaliation boycott of popular British foods … but I can’t think of any.


    My Vents:

    - So Scooter's on his way to the pokey for lying about a conversation, while the actual leaker, Richard Armitage, makes dinner appointments to charm the media with stories of the State Department. Yeah, that makes sense.

    - Websites with advertisers using those annoying drop-down ads should be forced to spend five hours actually trying to click a link on the page. It's impossible.

    Wednesday, March 07, 2007

    100 Things About Me, 91-100

    1-10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50 | 51-60 | 61-70 | 71-80 | 81-90 | 101-110 | 111-120 | 121-130 | 131-140 | 141-150 | 151-160 | 141-150 | 161-170



    91. I loved my blankie as a kid. I'm told when I started school I even took the last piece of it in my backpack. I'm not ashamed of this. I have a memory of my big mean older brother, Scott, tormenting me by trying to take it from me. Hey Scott, pffttt!!!!

    92. I've never had a broken leg, or any broken bones (knock on wood).

    93. I was a normal height growing up, even on the first row of first grade class photo. But then, about age 14, grew 10 inches in one year en route to my 6'4" frame. I LOVE being tall. There are many, many advantages. I can't think of any disadvantages other than hitting my head on stuff all the time, and no room in coach.

    94. I use the "thumbs up" gesture. I also point, double point, and use phrases like "darn tootin'" and "daggumit." I'm a geek.

    95. When I worked as a board operator at WZDQ 102.3 FM during college days in Jackson, the station aired Union basketball games. I would be the guy in charge of loading commercials and letting the announcers know when they were up. One time I had to go the bathroom something fierce, and unfortunately heard the announcers toss to break. I was not able to get to the board. Thankfully they didn't say anything naughty, and didn't notice that they were on air the entire two minutes. I just said "go" and hoped people thought it was a technical malfunction!

    96. Another time, the Bulldogs were playing downtown at Oman Arena instead of at home, and the announcers' line was crossed with a local family's phone. We couldn't do anything other than go off air and run commercials until the announcer could convince the mother to keep her kids off the phone and, oh yeah, ask them to stop cursing on the phone. Young kids. She agreed, and only once did we have to go off air when the kids got back on the phone.

    97. I recently developed a taste for refrigerating my candy. It's so much more potent when cold, especially mini Reese's peanut butter cups!

    98. I attended a "Late Show with David Letterman" taping with my dad last summer (June 14, to be exact) during our whirlwind D.C.-N.Y./Engagement-Boston trip. Dave was actually funnier during the ten minutes before the taping started while talking with the audience than during his monologue, yet we laughed because it's a fun atmosphere and you're just supposed to laugh over-enthusiastically than usual. On our show was Stephen Colbert, Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban and some musical act I've never heard of, and I was upset that we didn't get a Top Ten list! During the show, Miss Ohio walked back and forth randomly, once pulling a goat. You read that correctly. I was admonished in front of everyone in the packed lobby before the show for daring to take a picture of the pep squad. You'd have thought I just peed on the official Late Show carpet.

    99. In college I bounced a check for less than five dollars, and by the time I called Mom to bail me out it cost me $70. I failed to learn my lesson.

    100. I'm not stopping at 100. Expect more.

    Tuesday, March 06, 2007

    Look inward, young Skywalker

    Sunday evening, Val and I went to our favorite place, the Outback, to celebrate my new job, our impending move and a successful weekend with the family.

    Our waitress was perfectly ditzy, forgetting she asked us about drinks and bread, dropping things and calculating our check using her fingers (OK, I made up that one), and I was all set to write a blog post about her. And then I realized I don't have a right to make fun of others for being forgetful, clumsy or anything of the sort.

    FLASHBACK TO FRIDAY, FEB. 23

    On the way to Chapel Hill to see Mom after spending the day at my interview with WHBQ and then dinner with Val's parents, I was stopped for speeding in rural Haywood County. The officer was nice enough to give me a warning instead, since I was only going 68 in a 55 and he said that was actually pretty slow for that lonely piece of two-lane highway, and besides, it wasn't egregious enough to force me to have to return in order to go to court to pay the fine. I'll have you know, I didn't even throw out the "my cousins are officers in Knoxville" line to get out of it. Val was looking pretty sexy in the passenger seat, however ...

    FLASH FORWARD

    As I'm leaving Outback I realize I don't have my driver's license. Where could it be? I haven't taken it out since getting the warning, and Val and I looked all through the front seat of the car in case it fell out.

    I ruled out an act of God, though who can ever be really sure about that one? Maybe it was His sign to let go of my Georgia lifestyle and embrace Tennessee again? Which isn't helpful, since I need the Georgia license to turn over to the state of Tennessee. Thanks a ton, LORD.

    Monday, I went so far as to admit defeat and head to the DMV to get a replacement. The offices, it turns out, are closed on Mondays. I even called the Haywood County Sheriff's office, because by this time I was convinced that the officer forgot to give me back my license, it was all his fault, he's stealing my identity to get subscriptions to Thieving Policeman Digest and I was too frazzled to notice.

    Tuesday morning, as I'm gathering up my passport to try the DMV again I pilfered through my wallet one more time, which I figured was as futile and desperate as criminals throwing their gun at the cops once the bullets are gone.

    *Ahem.*

    My license was in the wallet. Underneath the little see-through pocket where the license is displayed.

    The lesson, as always? I'm a ditz.

    Heroes & 24

    April 23??!!??!!??!! We have to wait eleventeen weeks to see a new episode of "Heroes?" What?! Not that I'm worried Peter will die or anything.

    And in the meantime, "24" is entering levels of suckitude seen only when one or more cast members are being stalked by wild animals. Jack invades another consulate? The president is incapacitated again and evil white government men are behind it? Chloe's easily angered ... wait, that's a given and enjoyable. And has anyone else besides my wife and I noticed that every time Buchanan and Karen say goodbye on the phone they never say "I love you?" On this show, they may regret that real soon!

    Monday, March 05, 2007

    Farewell to The Peach State

    ATTENTION: THIS IS BIG NEWS


    Thanks for Noticing Me is returning to its homeland.

    Yep. Team Valfrey is heading back to Memphis, a little over four months since we said our I Dos, and almost nine years to the day I started working in Atlanta at CNN Headline News (March 2, 1998, to be exact).

    I will be a Director for WHBQ Fox13 News, headquartered near the U. of Memphis, covering the morning shows Thursday and Friday, and evening shows Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

    After a little over nine years in Atlanta, it's time to go back home to Tennessee. To think of it in other terms, the years I consider my formative childhood years were 1981 to 1991, the amount of time my family lived in our home on Ancroft Cove in Memphis. Since I moved to Atlanta less than a year out of college, I suppose you could call these nine years, then, my formative adult years, learning how to be a grown-up. Now, I feel my career has been successful, I married my true love, and it's time to move on, er, back.

    I always said that I wouldn't want to live in Atlanta forever and raise a family. Of course, at the same time, I always thought the idea of moving back to Memphis would mean I was a failure. I've never stopped being proud of being from there, though. Today I see it as returning to a place that is my home, my wife's home, and a central location to see all of our family and friends.

    Dear Atlanta,

    It's not you, it's me. I'm just in a different place in my life. I hope we can still be friends. Sincerely, Jeff


    In many ways I disliked Atlanta. Traffic is a headache, the city is so vast that it's impossible to quickly get from one side to the next, you never get a feel for the area and meeting people is difficult.

    On the other hand, there are also many things to miss, especially being able to watch four major sports teams (yes, the Hawks are still in the NBA). Of course, the ultimate was working at CNN, and being able to tell people I worked at CNN. That's always good for a head nod and "ooh, yeah?"

    So we're moving from a town with 59 streets with Peachtree in the name to a town with 59 different ways to fix barbecue. That's worth something, right?

    In case you're curious, this started early in February, when I joined TVJobs.com in the hopes of finding a position this year. Of course, I didn't need TVJobs.com, since my personal web browser, i.e. Val, found the job on WHBQ's site before it even posted to TVJobs! I sent my resume, interviewed the Friday before last, and accepted last Friday. I didn't post before this because I put in my two-week notice today, and I didn't want a co-worker spilling the beans to my supervisor!

    Also, my family was in town this weekend, and we were having much too much fun to get to the computer! Pictures from the weekend are being put together now, and I'll have them soon, in between all the calls to find movers, boxes, storage in Memphis and everything else that comes with moving to another city in three weeks.

    First day at WHBQ: March 26.

    Watch out, Memphis, we're coming home!

    Sunday, March 04, 2007

    Turning a blind eye

    The media has been all over the comments Ann Coulter made this week about John Edwards, calling him a "faggot." Stupid, yes, but Coulter is a columnist and speaker known for making such statements every single week.

    Edwards, on the other hand, is a presidential candidate, and in the most hypocritical way possible, is using this as a recruiting tool, hoping folks have forgotten about the bloggers Edwards hired. This is the kind of anti-Catholic, anti-Christian filth that frequents their blogs:
    Q: What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit?

    A: You’d have to justify your misogyny with another ancient mythology.
    When word got out about the bloggers, who among other things railed against President Bush’s "wingnut Christofascist base" before being hired by him, Edwards declared: “They both said it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word.”

    I don't think this even has to be said, but can you imagine if, say, Rudy Giuliani hired bloggers for his presidential campaign site who were known for trashing gays, Muslims or NOW in the most foul language possible, do you think, perchance, this would be on all the major newscasts? Duh.

    Thursday, March 01, 2007

    Posting will be light

    Maybe even nonexistent through Sunday, as much of my family is in town for my sisters' 30th birthdays, Dad's *cough60thcough* and Val's next month, and to see Spamalot at the Fox!

    Jodie Foster refused comment

    Police in India rescued 29 minor girls from brothels, but because they had no room to keep the victims overnight ... wait for it ... they sent the minor girls back to the brothels.

    You will not be surprised to learn that "by morning, all the girls had been spirited away."

    All this makes better sense when you read this tiny portion of the story: "Part of an UN project."