Friday, August 31, 2007

Fueled and Pumped

I’m feeling very manly right now. I wish I had some rebar in front of me so I could try to bend it in half. Ayup, I stared down a potential swindling mechanic and won.

Rewind: Wednesday, Val's car stalled as she backed out from her parking spot at work and put the car in drive. It started right up and she continued on her merry way. That morning, however, she said the car had hesitated when she started to go. Today I decided that when we dropped her car off at Roland's for an oil change, we'd ask them to take a look, maybe run a diagnostic, make sure nothing's wrong. We tell them exactly what happened and went about our merry way.

Two hours later, she gets a call from Roland's, and the guy's telling Val that they changed her oil, and now the car will start but it died when they put the car into any gear other than neutral. Their solution? A new fuel pump. Why did they all-of-a-sudden know this? Because when they called, the guy asks what exactly the problem is, as if we didn't already go over that when we dropped it off, and decides when Val tells him again what happened that it must be something expensive.

My suspicions? Raised. It's like the zombie movies when you get a tingle and realize your best friend is trying to nibble your neck. You just know something's wrong. My solution? Drive back to Roland's and get a confirmation that they've done the work, the car won't go and they are, in fact, 100 percent sure that $300 worth of work will fix the problem.

Val stays in the car during all this, because her temper is aboutthisshort and she's fuming. I walk in, point to her Corolla through the doors of the garage and say that I'm here to see what exactly is happening with my wife's car.

(I tell you, one thing I've learned to love in ten months of marriage is how much people will take you seriously when you use the phrase "my wife" when there's a potential problem. It takes the solution to the next level, that you mean business and frankly, you'll write nasty things on your blog if it's not solved. Take THAT, nasty swindlers!)

Outside, the three guys working on the car see me approaching something fierce like that environmental prick in Ghostbusters and proceed to tell me that they could "barely get the car" in the shop, even before the oil change, and that Val said that the car wouldn't go. This is when everything tipped in my favor.

Even my newly astigmatized eyes could clearly see a load of manure five feet in front of me. I'd buy a 500-foot Twinkie terrorizing New York before I'd believe these guys by this point.

I held out my finger (the pointy one, not that other one), said strongly, firmly and monotonely, "She told you that it stalled ONE time. ONE time. And now you're telling me you can't get it start at all?" That's when the seemingly nice old grandfatherly guy from behind the counter comes up, yells at me that Val told them the car was on its last legs, only he's pretty done when I remind him, "I was standing RIGHT THERE when she told you this."

That's when the crotchety old guy really gets defensive, says to the mechanics to put the car together and take it out front, that her fuel pump is so very very bad and that I would pay for the oil change, get off his lawn and then they would be done with this. Okey-dokey by me. I figured going in that if I wasn't satisfied that we'd have her car towed to another mechanic if there was a continuing problem.

Only there's this. Val's car started right up in the garage, they drove it out front, handed me the key, I started it up, went on my merry way, drove it 20 minutes in heavy rush hour traffic down major roads, side roads, fast, slow and happily burning precious glacier-killing gas, and had not one single problem. Curious, isn't it? It's almost as if they were, um, what's the word? Oh yeah, LYING to me about not being able to get the car running.

Now, while I'm driving her car around this weekend - just in case - and the fuel pump dies, crotchety old guy is right and yet I'll still be upset at how we were treated, and someone else can fix the problem and get our cash. It won't be Roland's, for that you can be sure. I'd rather buy her a new car than go back there.

(Shh, my wife is right behind me. Don't tell her I wrote that!)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A late August yawner (in a bad way)

If the Sox hadn't taken a collective dump while getting swept this week at dang Yank Stadium, I'd be a lot more upset about that punk Joba Chamberlain throwing at Kevin Youkilis' head twice in the ninth inning. Even then, no one bothered to come to the top steps of the dugout to protest. How about a little fire, guys? 45 runs in Chicago, but no hits until the seventh inning against a guy whose name makes men giggle?

Meanwhile, I'm not sure if the Sports Guy didn't get to see the Sox on the road much in the 90s, but that would be the only explanation for his column this week in ESPN magazine saying that it's only been since 2004 that Sox Nation has filled opposing stadiums.

I can ensure you, Sports Guy, that when my Dad and I saw the Sox in Atlanta or Tampa or Miami before 2004 that half the fans or more were cheering for the guys from Fenway. Red Sox Nation didn't start this decade.

UPDATE 4:10 p.m. - I have yet to figure out the arbitrary rules that DirecTV has with their Extra Innings package. I understand that the Red Sox-dang Yanks game can't be seen on NESN since it was shown on YES on Extra Innings. But after the game NESN was turned back on so I could watch the postgame show for the Red Sox. Until a few minutes ago, when it turned off and "the program is not available in your area" popped up, for seemingly no reason whatsoever. It was bad enough that as I ran errands this afternoon I had to listen to the dang Yanks' announcers on XM, who put the "home" in "homers." As in, if George Steinbrenner told them to add "Go Yanks" in between every pitch, they'd do it happily. In the sixth inning (I think), Johnny Damon lines into a double play, the announcers talk about how perfectly he and the runner on first had played the hit-and-run, and if only, if only he hadn't hit the ball directly to Mike Lowell at third base, it would have been a major play. Uh, guys, that would mean that he didn't do anything perfectly, because it turned into a DOUBLE PLAY for the Sox!

My Eyes Doth Deceived Me

My 31-year record as the only member of my immediate family to have perfect vision is at an end. I’m so ashamed.

Val, who had LASIK surgery five years ago, needed to go in for an appointment, so she made me one as well, because I’m not getting younger. Whatever, I figured, I’ll only be crowned for my continued perfect sight.

Nope.

I have astigmatism, from the root stigma, meaning, “The fear upon learning that you have to wear glasses that you will be teased for the rest of your life.”

Well, okay, the actual definition says, "a refractive error of the eye in which parallel rays of light from an external source do not converge on a single focal point on the retina."

See that! I have an error in my eye! What the heck?!

The doc said my vision was about 20/25, meaning that I don’t have to wear glasses all the time, though I’d notice a difference with them on. So I bought a pair. Maybe I’ll use them on the computer or out and about since I’m getting transition lenses.

I’m actually not surprised by this turn of events. The last year or two I noticed that things weren’t coming in as crisp as they used to and my eyes would get tired but once diagnosed with high blood pressure I thought the medication would fix the problem. Nope. Crap.

Is there a club? Do I get a pass to the Unseeing Clubhouse? I'll be hush-hush, I won't tell those arrogant perfect vision people, or PVPs, I promise!

Potentially stupid

Let's review: United Nations inspectors didn't know about potentially lethal vials of a chemical warfare agent, removed from Iraq a decade ago, in offices near its New York headquarters but liberals and Euro-libs thought that they should have been given more time to find anything before we invaded in 2003.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

No worries

Consider this my effort to reverse the momentum of tonight's 3-0 deficit to the dang Yanks after losing last night.

Meanwhile, the Sports Guy's road trip photo album to Tampa is a hoot. Having been there for Red Sox games with Dad several times, it's like I was there all over again in that depressing dome.

Great Googly Moogly

Google's not even attempting objectivity, are they?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cleaning out the political inbox

  • Howard Dean says the Democrats will focus on "voter protection" to avoid "irregularities." In other words, if they lose they'll claim it was because the evil Repubs cheated.

  • Paleontologists discovered fossils that changed their perceptions about human ancestry, once believing Homo habilis and the Homo erectus were links in the chain of evolution, actually shared the Earth within the same half million years.

    Wow, it's almost like science is made up of theories and not everything is set in stone. Weird.

    At least they admitted it. Too many times it seems as if Big Science doesn't ask questions anymore; they don't allow room for doubt or dissension. Where are the fun guys who create perfect women in their bedrooms and ice skate down school hallways? Instead, to disagree with these sticklers that humans have cause global warming that will doom us all in fifty years is to commit scientific blasphemy. To ask what happened before the Big Bang is to be a troublemaker and troglodyte Creationist.

  • PETA rates AutoZone Park No. 5 among 130 baseball stadiums for vegeterian-friendly minor league parks. They might not want to visit during gametime and see the lines at the BBQ nachos stand.

  • A British swimmer swam for nearly 19 minutes in the waters of the North Pole, saying he wouldn't wish the experience on his worst enemy. The water was 29 degrees. Lewis Gordon Pugh says he could barely breathe and that his fingers and toes felt like they were burning.

    Why would he do such a thing? To highlight global warming. His next feat? My guess is he'll hike Mt. Everest in the buff.

    Meanwhile, Russian scientists recently plunged a sub to the seabed beneath the North Pole under 5-foot thick polar ice. The journey was anticipated to be tough because "thick sea ice threatens to thwart the expedition," one of the engineers said. One of these things is not like the other.

  • More global warming, and this one’s a doozy, courtesy Mark Steyn:
    Something rather odd happened the other day. If you go to NASA's web site and look at the "US surface air temperature" rankings for the lower 48, you might notice something has changed.

    Then again, you might not. They're not issuing any press releases about it. But they have quietly revised their All-Time Hit Parade for US temperatures. The "hottest year on record" is no longer 1998, but 1934. Another alleged swelterer, the year 2001, has now dropped out of the Top Ten altogether, and most of the rest of the 21st century -- 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 -- plummeted even lower down the Hot One Hundred. In fact, every supposedly hot year from the Nineties and Oughts has had its temperature rating reduced. Four of America's Top Ten hottest years turn out to be from the 1930s, that notorious decade when we all drove around in huge SUVs with the air-conditioning on full-blast. If climate change is, as Al Gore says, the most important issue anyone's ever faced in the history of anything ever, then Franklin Roosevelt didn't have a word to say about it.

    And yet we survived.

    So why is 1998 no longer America's record-breaker? Because a very diligent fellow called Steve McIntyre of climateaudit.org labored long and hard to prove there was a bug in NASA's handling of the raw data. He then notified the scientists responsible, and received an acknowledgment that the mistake was an "oversight" that would be corrected in the next "data refresh." The reply was almost as cool as the revised chart listings.

    Who is this man who understands American climate data so much better than NASA? Well, he's not even American: He's Canadian. Just another immigrant doing the jobs Americans won't do, even when they're federal public servants with unlimited budgets? No. Mr. McIntyre lives in Toronto. But the data smelled wrong to him, he found the error, and NASA has now corrected its findings -- albeit without the fanfare that accompanied the hottest-year-on-record hysteria of almost a decade ago. Sunlight may be the best disinfectant, but, when it comes to global warming, the experts prefer to stick the thermometer where the sun don't shine.

  • The truth behind all this "hip" love for Che Guevera, one of the biggest butchers of the 20th Century, whose philosophy could be summed as such: "(T)o execute a man we don't need proof of his guilt. We only need proof that it's necessary to execute him. It's that simple."

  • Headline of the day: Viking ship lands in Ireland after nearly 1,000 yrs. Someone's going to be mad they missed all the good pillaging times.
  • Monday, August 27, 2007

    I'm just a blogger, your real world frightens and confuses me

    Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer: "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm just a caveman. I fell on some ice and later got thawed out by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me! Sometimes the honking horns of your traffic make me want to get out of my BMW.. and run off into the hills, or wherever.. Sometimes when I get a message on my fax machine, I wonder: "Did little demons get inside and type it?" I don't know! My primitive mind can't grasp these concepts. But there is one thing I do know - when a man like my client slips and falls on a sidewalk in front of a public library, then he is entitled to no less than two million in compensatory damages, and two million in punitive damages. Thank you."

    Golfer Ernie Els, on the new FedEx Cup: "I'm a foreigner. I don't know anything about your playoff system. We play World Cup rugby or World Cup cricket. That's the playoffs I know about. So to bring that into golf is kind of weird. So, I'm just taking it as it comes."

    Saturday, August 25, 2007

    Catching up with Valfrey

    If it's August on the Internet, it must be slower than Rosie O'Donnell eating a vegetable. Few emails, few blogs, fewer comments. Not that I'm blameless, of course. With my work schedule and lack of Internet at work, I rarely get to check others' sites as much as I used to, and find it very difficult to find time to blog. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

    Will that all change when we when the $300 million Powerball tonight? Or will I blow it all on baseball cards and "COPS" DVDs? Time will tell. If I brag about my collection of Tim Naehring and Scott Fletcher Red Sox rookie cards, you'll know.

    So what's new? Nada. Val and I are still house hunting, and aside from my manager getting "suspended," a.k.a. impendingly canned, the job's the same. Val did cut back to part time so that she only has to work at the Bartlett campus. The Lamar campus was driving her batty, and I surely don't mind not having to worry about her driving out there two or three times a week.

    Let's just say I was only a week away from fitting her car with a flamethrower and missiles. Not that she was truly in danger from anyone other than "ladies of the night," but every time I'd tell a Memphian she worked on Lamar, they'd go, "Ooh, wow, yeah, good luck with that."

    The past three weeks we've finally gotten out of bed on Sunday mornings and started going to church. In fact, we've been attending First Baptist Millington, a.k.a. "Where Valfrey Got Hitched." Aside from our ceremony, I had never actually been to a service there. I like it. Bro. Ray has fire to his sermons. I'm surprised he hasn't busted a blood vessel in his forehead by now. Not that's he's condemning unbelievers with brimstone; he's more prone to criticizing believers who don't practice what they learn Sunday mornings. Like, um, me.

    Did I mention we stayed in Tunica last night?

    We weren't alone, at least. We bought tickets for the Meat Loaf concert at Grand Casino for my father-in-law, who went with sis-in-law, Cheryl and her hubby, Randy. Val and I just kind of tagged along. Because, uh, we wouldn't normally go on our own. *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*

    They went to rock, we went to lose hard-earned dough. Val and I didn't bring as much to gamble as usual, and hit some good pots along the way but came out under as always. At least I hit twice on my lucky number 17 at the roulette table at Bally's this morning, so that kept me in the game for a while. Val doesn't enjoy seeing our money flushed down the drain as much, so she did a lot of watching me do so. We stayed at Fitzgerald's, which doesn't have jacuzzi suites that we're used to, yet we managed a good night's sleep anyhow. I know, we're so spoiled.

    As summer begins to wind down even as it stays over 90 degrees until October, I'll try to be a better blog steward. And try to visit others' blogs more often. Or at least I'll continue to make snippy comments about you and wail about the first-place Red Sox. It's a guarantee I can confidently post!

    Hey bartender, Jobu needs a refill!

    (Sorry Heather, it's a baseball post.)

    Who knew it would take a trip to Chicago to wake up Jobu and the Red Sox' bats? Did someone sacrifice a chicken? In the first three games of this weekend's series, Boston has outscored the White Sox 35-to-6, including a 14-2 blowout this afternoon.

    Currently, the lead is 7 games over the dang Yanks, who play Detroit tonight after blowing a lead about 2 a.m. last night. How 'bout them apples?

    Of course, earlier when the lead was down to 4 games, I wrote a post lamenting our impending doom, only to have the email to my blog bounce back and never get posted. Good thing, eh? Wouldn't want too much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. Oh no, not this Sox fan. Always looking on the bright side of life is me!

    Monday, August 20, 2007

    Seriously, what's that thing on the lawn?

    As you know, Val and I are house hunting, although with little luck thus far. Last week we came across a home that looked to have a lot of the amenities we're looking for, affordable and in a great area. Here's a picture of it:


    What could go wrong?

    Let's see what the neighbors are like ...


    Oh. Well. Never mind.

    (Click on the picture for a bigger view of this gem of a home.)

    Doesn't that thing on the lawn look like the centrifuge that they put shuttle pilots in to test their balance? Really, the whole place is just awesome. Can't imagine why Val was so quick to say no.

    Saturday, August 18, 2007

    100 Things About Me, 111-120

    1-10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50 | 51-60 | 61-70 | 71-80 | 81-90 | 91-100 | 101-110 | 121-130 | 131-140 | 141-150 | 151-160 | 141-150 | 161-170

    111. One career day at Scenic Hills Elementary, I wore my golf outfit complete with spiky shoes that slipped all over the cafeteria floor and the sidewalk to the classroom before the teacher made me change back into sneakers.

    112. Since we're still on food, and apparently I always am ... Favorite movie food: Nachos & a hot dog. Candy: Goobers or Twizzlers.

    113. My favorite pizza is right around the corner from work at Garibaldi's: BBQ pizza. Awesome.

    114. I recall fondly staying up late during the opening Thursday of the NCAA Tournament to watch with Dad, who would let me play hooky from school the next day. We even got to watch Memphis State (now U. of Memphis) a few times, even though they often lost to mediocre teams like Drexel.

    115. There were better times in the 80s, watching Elliot Perry make last-second shots over arch-rival Louisville or South Carolina while watching with Dad at a sports bar, usually Hastings in Raleigh or a place off Poplar that had a fabulous seafood salad.

    116. Speaking of food (again, I know, can you believe I'm overweight?), Mom used to make foods specially for me that my siblings wouldn't touch, like spinach or liver and onions, which I still enjoy today.

    117. I never mastered the complicated technology of making paper airplanes. Instead, around second and third grade I would create makeshift ones with paper and pencils and play dogfights with them during class. I also slammed my head on desks for attention. Explains a lot, doesn't it?

    118. Listening to people type is my nails-on-a-chalkboard.

    119. The No. 1 song in the U.S. in the week I was born was "Bad Blood" by Neil Sedaka. I don't know what that means, but I do know that for such harsh lyrics the melody is surprisingly chipper. Take a gander at one verse: The bitch is in her smile/The lie is on her lips/Such an evil child.

    120. More relevant is that two days after I was born was game six of the 1975 World Series, when Carlton Fisk hit a walk-off homer to renew Boston hopes against Cincinnati. Thankfully, my name didn't end up being split between Fisk and Luis Tiant. The Red Sox lost game seven, so apparently I wasn't the good luck charm Dad was going for, so he had to have two more kids in '77, which didn't work, either, until 2004.

    Friday, August 17, 2007

    Eric Gagme

    New Red Sox rule: Gagne's not allowed to pitch with the lead until we've clinched the division and he has time to work out his mental issues of pitching with a contender.

    This is just awful. Another blown lead by the guy who a few years ago set the record for most consecutive successful saves. And now, he can't go from easy-breezy Texas to a pressure cooker like Boston without folding like one of Michael Vick's co-defendants.

    Thankfully I missed the choke. Val and I went up to Jackson for the evening to enjoy dinner with the gang and go to a Diamond Jaxx game. It was hot, but at least there were crappy fireworks afterwards, am I right?

    Thursday, August 16, 2007

    Andy who?

    I'm not saying that the Red Sox should win every game (that's a lie, of course I think that), but yesterday should have been a perfect time to gain another game on the dang Yanks, who lost for the second straight game to Baltimore.
     
    Just take a gander at this sentence from the AP's account of the game: "Andy Sonnanstine ended an eight-game losing streak in Tampa Bay's 6-5 win over Boston. He hadn't won since June 10."
     
    Which just goes to show, if the Devil Rays only used pitchers called up from AA or AAA the day of the game, they'd win all 19 games against Boston every season. Ridiculous and strange. When I see a guy I've never heard of facing the Sox, all I think is, "Well, the first six innings will stink, but just wait for the bullpen!"
     
    Seriously, Andy Sonnanstine? Wasn't he one of the main characters in "Freaks and Geeks?" Or the guy behind the counter at the local custard stand?
     
    Meanwhile, over in AAAA ball, a.k.a. the National League, the Cardinals have used Sox castoff Joel Pineiro (estimated ERA for Boston this year: 125.80, give or take a run) to pull within 3 1/2 games of the Brewers.
     
    This at least makes my wife happy, though we have an agreement, I'm always pessimistic about the Sox while she's optimistic, and vice versa for St. Louis.
     
     

    Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    The Long Lost Vent

    Now that I'm not in Atlanta anymore, I forget to check the Vents as much in the AJC, but every once in a while I'll catch a few good ones:

    - I bought some drops for red eyes. The instructions say that if I use too much, it will make my eyes red. What’s the deal?

    - What if you’re drinking while flying the space shuttle and a little green man with a badge pulls you over?

    - My sister’s son came home with his pants down to his knees. He told her it’s called “sagging.” My sister gave him a new reason to keep his pants pulled up. It’s called a “butt whippin.’”

    - Did you hear about the dyslexic devil worshipper who sold his soul to Santa?

    - Banner seen outside Atlanta nursing home: “Bon Voyage! Leave with peace of mind. We have short term stays!” Does this scare anyone else like it does me?

    - My favorite sign is in front of a South Florida paving company: “If you don’t like the looks of your driveway, it’s your own asphalt.”

    - My favorite sign, seen in the window of a Mexican restaurant: “Children, buy one, get one free.”

    - It is nice to see the leaders of the NAACP asking everyone not to judge Michael Vick until his day in court. I just don’t remember them asking the same for the Duke lacrosse players.

    - My favorite sign was on a mom and pop fried chicken cafe: “If the colonel had our recipe, he’d be a general.”

    - My daughter was looking through our wedding photos, and asked, “Is this the photo taken when you were sentenced to be husband and wife?”

    - Now that they allow drinking on the space flights, I wouldn’t mind going, as long as they would leave at a decent hour.

    - When the president is meeting with world leaders, the first lady hangs with their wives and daughters. Will Hillary and the other leaders trust Bill with all those women?

    - The Democratic majority whip said that success in Iraq means disaster for his party. Finally, a liberal tells the truth.

    - Researchers compiled a list of 237 reasons to have sex. I’m adding No. 238: To fill the time you’d normally take to conduct such stupid studies.

    - Can an atheist get insurance against acts of God?

    - Allow me to beat the liberals to the punch: The mine in Utah wouldn’t have have collapsed if we weren’t in Iraq.

    - I have discovered that the three most expensive days in your life are when you are hatched, matched and dispatched.

    - Seen in a Marietta pizza joint: “All unattended children will be given a free puppy and cup of espresso.”

    - The Woodstock Farm in Bethel, N.Y., site of the 1969 rock concert monument for cowardice, sexually transmitted disease and drug use, is up for sale. I hope they turn it into a giant Wal-mart.

    - The weather guy reported this morning that we should expect triple digit temperatures or worse. Would that mean four digit temperatures?


    My Vents

    - Want to make an anti-Creationist scientist squirm? Ask him what happened before the Big Bang.

    - Bipartisanship in Congress means both parties teaming up against the American people. (Courtesy Mark Steyn)

    - One thing never changes as you grow up from school into the workplace, the great feeling of wearing a new outfit out in public.

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007

    C'mon, Sox!

    The dang Yanks are down 8-0, yet the Sox are losing to Tampa frakin' Bay, 1-0 in the seventh, because we never figured out how to hit Scott Kazmir. Let's go!

    UPDATE 9:15p - That's what I'm talking about! Nice comeback in the ninth! Back up by five games! Like I was worried. Pshaw.

    (Thanks to Val for making me post that earlier to reverse the downward momentum.)

    Monday, August 13, 2007

    Sailing, takes me away

    Team Valfrey is a little giddy tonight. This afternoon we set plans for our one-year anniversary vacation, a trip to Miami complete with a cruise to the Bahamas!

    Due to limitations in vacation time and budget due to buying a house soon, we settled on a three-night cruise on Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas, leaving Friday afternoon, Oct. 26, and returning Monday morning Oct. 29. We'll spend our anniversary in Nassau, after a day at their private beach, CocoCay, between Miami and the Bahamas. Although it's only three nights, we at least made sure to get a suite with a private balcony, so we can at least travel in style.

    The day before the cruise and the day after we're looking forward to spending with my Dad - who lives in Miramar - going to Key West for a sunset and shopping, maybe an airboat ride, visit South Beach, all the stuff Val would want to do on a first trip to the town. Especially if it involves putting on her sunglasses in slow motion and saying something silly yet cool a la Horatio Cane:


    Code Yellow

    In today's Boston Globe Extra Bases blog, the Sox alert system:



    I'm between worry and panic right now.

    Harry Potter and the Hidden Christian Secrets

    An excerpt of Gregg Easterbrook's newest column on ESPN.com, an aspect of the final Harry Potter book that I haven't seen or heard anywhere else:

    God and Man at Hogwarts: The postwar United Kingdom has produced three blockbuster young people's fantasy series, the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, the "Golden Compass" series by Philip Pullman and now the Potter volumes. All feature astonishingly capable English schoolchildren with magic powers. The Narnia books are explicitly Christian; the Golden Compass books are explicitly anti-Christian; what about Potter? Though J.K. Rowling's 4,000 pages concern supernatural forces, the soul and communication with the dead who exist in an afterlife, religious issues are missing from the series. The wizards and witches of the Potter world celebrate Christmas, but otherwise seem to have no religious views and never pause to reflect on where their power comes from or what the spirit world might be. Perhaps Rowling concluded that in the contemporary milieu, it's totally fine to market a children's story containing numerous scenes in which children are tortured or murdered, but mentioning God would be too controversial.

    The final book was the first to contain religious references, and they've been missed by commentators. Harry travels to the enchanted village where the good wizards and witches of England live and observes there is a church at the center of the town square -- the evil sorcerers have nothing like this. On his parents' tombstone in the church graveyard, Harry sees the inscription, The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. This is the essence of resurrection theology, and though readers aren't told, is a quotation from Paul's first epistle to the church at Corinth. In the older Bible books, there is no talk of heaven or paradise; even the righteous dead go to a place of oblivion. When Christ declared, "I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever," he was announcing the defeat of death and offering a fundamentally new compact between Maker and made. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain ... But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead ... The last enemy to be destroyed is death." The declaration comes in the same letter where Paul set down some of the greatest words in all literature: the magnificent passage that begins, at First Corinthians 13, "If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."

    When Harry finds the Dumbledore family grave, he reads this inscription: Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Though readers aren't told this either, the phrase is a quotation from Jesus. The teaching, at Matthew 6:19, is worth contemplating in its fullness, as it is difficult to imagine 40 words that exceed these in wisdom:

    "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."


    Did anyone else catch this? I sure didn't.

    Sunday, August 12, 2007

    Are you kidding me?

    I'm thinking that instead of writing a post the day after a Red Sox loss and dang Yanks win to reverse the trend of losing games in the standings (down to four now after today's debacle), I'm going to have to start writing pre-emptive posts. We're nearing 1978 territory here, and I've never been so happy to see the Devil Rays come to town!
     
     

    Saturday, August 11, 2007

    That was ridiculous

    The Red Sox had absolutely no business coming back to score five runs and take a 5-1 lead in the top of the 8th after Erik Bedard pitched a gem of a game the first 7 2/3 innings of the game for the Orioles. It was such an onslaught that my wife even felt sorry that Bedard would end up taking the loss.

    And then, the Sox had absolutely no business giving up four runs in the bottom of the 8th to let Baltimore tie the game. (Uh, Eric Gagne, supposed to help, okay?)

    Which, of course, made the fact that the Os won in the bottom of the 9th inevitable. While the dang Yanks won easily in Cleveland. So it's back to a five game lead. Unbelievable.

    Friday, August 10, 2007

    The heat is on; the power was not

    Our powerless saga:
     
    So yesterday afternoon I'm taking a nap, when I wake up and notice Val sitting beside me, and ask, "why's it so hot." The power had just gone out.
     
    Mind you, it is 4:50 p.m. and the temperature all week has been above 100 degrees. Not good times.
     
    We ended up sitting in my car with the AC running full blast just to keep from passing out. Once her mom got home about 5:30, we all went to Casa for dinner, meeting her dad as well, to escape the heat and avoid having to cook.
     
    (Upon leaving, they accidentally charged me the same as the meal for a tip, told me it was fixed, and then today I'm told that the waiters were "fighting" over the "$16 tip." Oops. Maybe not fixed.)
     
    Anyway, on the way home we pass by three Memphis Light Gas & Water trucks, and see porch lights on down our street. Good sign.
     
    We walk in the door, and not five seconds later the power goes out again.
     
    A half-hour later we drive down the street to ask the MLGW guys when the power will be restored, if at all tonight, since I had to get to bed and awake by 2:30 this morning.
     
    As we pull out of the driveway, Val exclaims that the porch light of the house across the street is on. Weird. Or not so much. Turns out that the MLGW guys had restored power just as we got in our car. Perfect timing.
     
    And the power stayed on, happily ever after. Except that it's supposed to be over 100 degrees for the next five days at least. Yick. It's the kind of heat that smacks you in the fact when you walk out the door, and makes the car feel like it's the oven and you're the turkey.
     
    All I'm saying is that Walgreens will have to restock the deodorant section by next week.
     

    Thursday, August 09, 2007

    Phew

    Works like a charm every time. The Red Sox win last night, the dang Yanks lose, the lead's back to six games, and we're headed to Baltimore, which is almost like a home game, so many people from New England drive down to Camden Yards.
     
    By the way, I found it appropriate that when Barry Bonds hit No. 756, his team lost. Seems to happen an awful lot for that guy.
     
     

    Wednesday, August 08, 2007

    Grumble, grumble, grumble

    It's bad enough that Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron's record last night (which I missed, having gone to sleep early to work the morning shift today), but I also missed the Red Sox losing again.
     
    I apologize for not posting a blog yesterday after they lost Monday night and the dang Yanks won, thus dooming them to losing last night with a dang Yanks wiin.
     
    Consider this my "woe is us" post hoping to break the jinx. Grrrrrr.

    Tuesday, August 07, 2007

    Age matters to Mark

    The inevitable season finale to "Age of Love" is over, and Amanda, who either has a very high Midi-Chlorian count or attended Hogwarts as a teen, comes away with our hero, Mark Philiwillgettiredofherinamonthis, who just couldn't pull the trigger on dating a woman old enough to be his mum.

    Which is what made the show unfair to begin with. If Jen were 35 instead of 48, Amanda would be on a five state killing spree, targeting Australian tennis players with Greek names and bushy eyebrows.

    The finale was like any other episode, only in Australia, where there are apparently these animals with pouches that hop or something.

    Jen was comfortable talking to the family, chipped in for dinner, and looked fabulous. Amanda was shy, barely said a word, didn't even know how to toss lettuce and had a stupid grin on her face the entire time because she knew she couldn't contribute to either the conversation or dinner. And then in her confessional, all Amanda did was pick at Jen, for bringing a gift, for talking freely, for any little thing.

    Naturally, when the women left, his family and friends told him to pick Amanda because Jen couldn't give his mom any grandchildren. Apparently, age matters.

    On the final dates, Mark takes Jen to the river for one of those Venician-type boat rides and dinner at the aquarium in front of the giant window of fish. I kept expecting Amanda in scuba gear to come floating in the background, keeping an eye on them.

    (Aside: Where's the host been the last three weeks? Why even bother starting out with him?)

    Amanda, matching her 13 year-old emotions, was taken to an animal sanctuary to pet koalas. Then they went to a romantic dinner that involved fireballs igniting behind them. No idea. All during Jen's date, Amanda was droopy with doubt. All during her own date, she had that stupid grin that hides her thoughts inside, "don't cry, don't cry, don't cry," because she's riddled with doubt. The girl, she has emotional issues. And yet, magical powers, so she wins.

    During Mark Philiwhippedis's confessionals, he talks about how Amanda was the first person he felt chemistry. And then we're shown Amanda walking up to him with her boobs bouncing joyfully. Well, I guess silicone is chemistry, in a way.

    In her confessionals, Jen repeats the mantra that there is "something there," only Mark doesn't match the seriousness of those words, and what we instead see are his eyes boggling when she tells him she's 48 during the season opener. Right then and there, we knew the 40s didn't stand a chance, and all the awesomeness that's followed hid the fact that he was never going to pick someone older.

    We fast-forwarded through much of the last fifteen minutes, because it was the same gobbledygook love cliches from all three about finding love, losing love, wanting to win Mark's heart, Mark wanting to open his "haht," blah blah blah blah.

    Despite the overly heavy editing between Mark talking to Jen and Amanda, and despite them showing Amanda's face when he says "I'm sorry," we weren't fooled, we knew he was talking to Jen, and that was that. Mark and Amanda sail off together, until the woman serving them on the boat looks at him funny and Amanda pushes her into the sea.

    I give them three months. That's about how long it will take for her spells to wear off. I don't think the Confundus charm works when the show is over. Can you imagine that stupid pouty grin on the sidelines of a tournament when she realizes Mark gets to hobnob with the likes of Maria Sharapova? Good luck with that!

    Oh, and this show rocked our summer. Thanks, NBC!

    Monday, August 06, 2007

    This should be worth $50K a year

    My next job is going to be as a public bathroom design planner, with an emphasis in toilet paper dispensers.

    Haven't you ever wondered if the people who place those things actually ever sit on the commode before drilling the holes?

    I am amazed at how many times the big plastic covers are at leg level, meaning you have to sit at an angle to do your business, and then you have to reach down and under the dispenser to try and turn the roll to grab whatever pieces of paper you can, one ratty and torn piece at a time. Does Sheryl Crow design these things?

    The most egregious offenders are in the handicapped stalls, which is worse since the handicapped can't exactly bend down and over as easily as the rest of us.

    There's a demand for this, isn't there? Or am I just getting older, that I start to make notes on which bathrooms are the best? Doesn't everyone have their "preferred" bathroom at work or the mall or whatever? What are your faves?

    (The one at Val's work is awesome. New, clean, the right amount of room, I could spend a week in there. Or is this all too much information?)

    Saturday, August 04, 2007

    The numbers don't lie

    I loves me baseball statistics, and one of the best things about studying them is how arbitrary the numbers seem to be chosen. For instance, today after the Cubs beat the Mets, the Fox Sports reporter mentioned that the Cubbies have the best record since June 3. Which begs the question, which team has the best record since June 2?

    Do y'all have your own favorite instances where the stats seemed to be plucked out of the air? Most home runs by a left-hander in the third inning of away games, that sort of thing? I bet that the stats gurus could find it!

    Revised forecasting

    Over two months into the hurricane season, storm "expert" William Gray lowered his 2007 forecast slightly Friday, calling for 15 named storms, with eight becoming hurricanes and four becoming intense. On May 31, at the outset of hurricane season, Gray had called for 17 named storms and nine hurricanes, five of them intense.

    We at Thanks For Noticing Me recall that last year he called for an even more severe year, and then there were so few hurricanes that most of us forget there was a hurricane season, especially since none of the ten named Atlantic storms hit the U.S. Atlantic Coast.

    Still, imagine if we can all adjust our forecasts after the fact and still be called an expert in our field? In that spirit, I am adjusting my forecasts accordingly:

    - This summer in Memphis will be very hot and humid, up from my forecast in April that it would be "pretty hot and sort of humid."

    - Lindsay Lohan will not be successfully rehabbed when she leaves at the end of Rehab Season, and will likely be arrested again.

    - The Red Sox will lead the AL East in mid-August, adjusting my forecast that they would lead the AL East in July.

    - Citing the $71 million opening weekend for "The Simpsons Movie," box office forecasters now say they believe the comedy will easily top $100 million domestically.