Sunday, December 30, 2007
Saturday, December 29, 2007
- You thought there was no way anti-war liberal journalists (but I repeat myself) could spin bad out of the good news coming out of Iraq this year? You were wrong. We can be blamed for anything and everything now. Consider this October 16 story by McClatchy News Service reporters Jay Price and Qasim Zein: "As violence falls in Iraq, cemetery workers feel the pinch." Next year's surefire hit topic: "Coat manufacturers see sales fall due to global warming."
- Because it's so much fun to pile on blowhard Senator Ted Kennedy, here's something you probably don't know about his privileged college days (courtesy OpinionJournal.com):
Kennedy earned C grades at the private Milton Academy, but was admitted to Harvard as a "legacy"--his father and older brothers had attended there, so the younger and dimmer Kennedy's admission was virtually assured. While attending, he was expelled twice, once for cheating on a test, and once for paying a classmate to cheat for him. While expelled, Kennedy enlisted in the Army, but mistakenly signed up for four years instead of two. His father, Joseph P. Kennedy, former U.S. Ambassador to England, pulled the necessary strings to have his enlistment shortened to two years, and to ensure that he served in Europe, not Korea, where a war was raging. Kennedy was assigned to Paris, never advanced beyond the rank of Private, and returned to Harvard upon being discharged.There's not really any relevant reason for posting this today, other than as an example of the kind of things you don't know about Democrat leaders (KKK, Sen. Byrd?) but would be plastered all over the press should a Republican be involved.
- I'm no New York Giants fan, but as you probably figured out I'm certainly not rooting for the Patriots to go 16-0 Saturday night and become only the second team to finish the regular season undefeated (Miami went 14-0 in '73). Although, should New York falter (and they almost certainly will), that just means the Super Bowl would be even sweeter should the Cowboys topple the Cheaters, a la the improbably Jets' win over Baltimore and Duke over UNLV in the NCAA Tournament in '91. Which was almost certainly because the UNLV players threw the game for gambling purposes, but I'm okay with that.
- Director John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood) is looking for a new A-Team to revive the classic 1980s series. We can only hope the writer's strike lingers so long that they give up on the idea of ruining my childhood one remake at a time. What's next, a biopic of Debbie Gibson starring Britney Spears? A bigscreen MacGyver film featuring Johnny Knoxville getting out of perilous situations by a midget hitting him in the groin? And if you didn't think that the new A-Team wouldn't feature a bunch of Iraq vets, you're not paying attention.
- I'm listening to the Return of the King score as I type this, making me think about my previous post, I mentioned how Val and I haven't been to many films this year. Truth is, except for rare instances like the Harry Potter and Bourne series, there are very, very few movies that make me want to rush to the theater. I think I've been unimpressed ever since the Lord of the Rings trilogy ended.
- For the first two months of the season, all I've heard from wailing and whiny NBA pundits is how awful it is that the Knicks and Bulls are playing so poorly. You'd think they're the dregs of the league, right? Sadly, no. Our hometown Grizzlies have the same record as New York, and worse than Chicago, which just fired their head coach. Not good times for Memphis' lame ballers.
Friday, December 28, 2007
- My big gift for my lovely wife this Christmas was a big frame with her People magazine picture. I apologize in advance if our new home looks like an altar to the awesomeness that we consider Valfrey.
- Is there a rule that every time you order a car wash when paying at the gas pump, the machine has to be out of paper so that you have to walk inside to get a receipt with the code?
- What's the biggest fraud perpetrated by businesses with public restrooms? Hand "dryers" that dry nothing. It's not about helping the environment. That's a big fat lie. This is about being too lazy to empty the trash of paper towels.
- There are 306 feature films that are eligible for the best picture Oscar this year. That makes about, oh, 300 films that I haven't seen. This doesn't bode well for my chances with the annual Jeff Oscar Contest.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
From Valfrey to all of our friends and family, may the good Lord bless you this holiday season.
"Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special! How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer... Who'd have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously?" - Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes
Monday, December 24, 2007
1. Nintendo - Sure, we'd been spoiled for years with Intellevision and Coleco and Atari, but when the Nintendo system hit in the mid-80s life as we knew it changed forever. Our favorite part of this system was the interactive mat for the track-and-field game. We learned quickly that if you ran on your heels you could accomplish a 5.0 second 100-meter dash. The system's best game was Tecmo Bowl, which lasted well into college for 2 a.m. marathons. After studying, of course.
2. Basketball goal - Christmas morning, Dad, Granddad and a couple of uncles, I think, all put up a basketball goal next to the driveway, and for the next decade I would spend hours a day, several days a week, shooting hoops and playing out complete seasons of the NCAA (with myself as the star, of course). And yet I never had interest in playing organized basketball. For the best. Probably saved me tons of money for all my kids around the country.
3. Stereo - To prove that I've always been the kind of person who doesn't look ahead to figure out movie twists or look up spoilers, my parents "hid" my present under the old Tiger blanket in the living room for two weeks. I never paid attention, thinking the blanket was covering a couple of milk cartons, of which we had many from Dad's days at Dean's Foods. Even on Christmas Eve, the first gift handed to me was a record (yes, when stereos still had record-players) of Kylie Minogue in her "Locomotion" days, and I remained oblivious to the fact that I know have a record, but no record player. Or, I'm just an idiot.
4. Star Wars Death Star action set - a) This was the best of the original trilogy's sets, what with the levels and the elevator, and b) If I still had it, doggone would it be worth some serious dough on eBay. All I knew then was, my action figures had a home, and decades of joyful geekery was born.
5. Handheld football and soccer games - These were pre-Game Boy and consisted mostly of dots and dashes and thus the electronic equivalent of playing with the box, and yet I was entertained for hours at a time, and really good at it. Now, I play on my XBox and can't even make my soldiers walk straight, these newfangled controllers are so confusing. "Back in MY day, we had two buttons and a dot, and we LIKED it!"
Friday, December 21, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
UPDATE 11:00 p.m. - New link for The Dark Knight with the new trailer and my take.
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2007, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.
To My Republican Friends:
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Monday, December 17, 2007
I can answer that myself. One reason it's talked about more today is obvious, that in the olden days the country had an almost uniform view and most everyone held some form of Christian belief, whereas today political correctness has rendered Christians on the defensive against an onslaught of "can't we all get along and pretend we're all the same" nonsense.
Let’s be real: Bush isn't creating a theocracy, religion isn't in danger, the Left needs to chill and the Right needs to chill.
The one candidate who seems to be forcing the issue on the GOP side, Mike Huckabee, has got to go. If he were the GOP nominee, I couldn't be inspired enough to stand in line and vote for him, even against Hillary. I get it, you’re Southern Baptist and you’re righteous, and that Mitt Romney dude is a Mormon and that’s a cult and we’re on a highway to heck with him as a leader.
Or not. If I feel that Romney has the best views to be president, then I'll vote for him. And right now, he’s in my top three with Giuliani and Thompson. Though I may think that Mormonism isn’t an official Christian belief, I have yet to meet a person of the faith for whom I didn't have great respect and adoration.
Similarly, if I find a candidate worthy who happens to be agnostic or even an atheist (specifically one of the few who don't seem to have a superiority complex over believers), then yes, I'll cast a vote for him or her.
The Left pretends to stand against the Religious Right, but they race to the pulpit every Sunday looking for votes.
From columnist Charles Krauthammer:
A certain kind of liberal argues that having a religious underpinning for any public policy is disqualifying because it is an imposition of religion on others. Thus, if your opposition to embryonic stem cell research comes from a religious belief in the ensoulment of life at conception, you're somehow violating the separation of church and state by making other people bend to your religion.Speaking of, the left-wing Al Gore types have come full circle. There are those who have decided that telling us how to run our lives for the good of solar energy is a religion in itself. Whereas Native Americans worshiped Mother Earth because they thought the sun was a god, enviro-wackos worship Earth and wish we weren't even around to ruin its awesomeness.
This is absurd. Abolitionism, civil rights, temperance, opposition to the death penalty -- a host of policies, even political movements, have been rooted for many people in religious teaching or interpretation. It's ridiculous to say that therefore abolitionism, civil rights, etc., constitute an imposition of religion on others.
Imposing religion means the mandating of religious practice. It does not mean the mandating of social policy that some people may have come to support for religious reasons.
From LA Times writer Gregory Rodriguez:
Most external national threats remind us of our essential goodness. The agents behind them are our enemies, the bad guys. Environmentalist rhetoric, on the other hand, constantly reminds us of our own culpability. For that reason, environmentalism is more akin to a religious awakening than to a political ideology. Like evangelicals, environmentalists speak, in their way, of fire and brimstone. Like the preacher, the environmental activist demands that we give ourselves to something beyond ourselves and that we do penance for our wasteful, carbon-profligate sins. Like the Catholic Church of old, they even sell indulgences -- carbon offsets.Mark Steyn has two comments for these nuts: "Jesus wasn’t 'homeless.' He had a perfectly nice home back in Nazareth," and "What’s the 'pro-choice' line? “Every child should be wanted”? Not anymore. The progressive position has subtly evolved: Every child should be unwanted."
By the way, if you’re looking for some last-minute stocking stuffers, Oxford University Press has published a book by Professor David Benatar of the University of Cape Town called Better Never To Have Been: The Harm Of Coming Into Existence. The author “argues for the ‘anti-natal’ view—-that it is always wrong to have children… Anti-natalism also implies that it would be better if humanity became extinct.” As does Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us — which Publishers Weekly hails as “an enthralling tour of the world… anticipating, often poetically, what a planet without us would be like.” It’s a good thing it “anticipates” it poetically, because, once it happens, there will be no more poetry.I guess what I'm saying here is, can't we have a spirited policy debate without infusing religion into every argument? For that matter, race and gender, too? This seems unlikely to me.
She, however, ALWAYS responds, "Glad you didn't say 'good morning,' because there's nothing good about it!" Whatever lady, I don't care about your problems, because one bad day I'll sympathize, when every day is a bad day, you've lost me.
The first fifty times I let it slide, and yet I always forget to say "good morning" just so she can't say that anymore!
So am I just shallow, prickly and mean, or do y’all have similar types of things do people do that annoy you?
Sunday, December 16, 2007
- Hollywood continues to not understand Middle America and try to force anti-Iraq war views on us even when it shouldn't matter. Case in point, the new Knight Rider show, the new best pal of KITT is an ex-Army Ranger and "jaded Iraq war veteran.
Why? Why can't he be out of the military and well-adjusted? Because Hollywood wants us to feel that Iraq is like Vietnam, except that there is no draft and all of the enlistees are volunteers. I'm not saying that there are a lot of veterans that don't have problems when they return, it's that every mention of returning soldiers on TV and in movies is of a bitter veteran.
*steps off soap box*
- Since everyone seems to have their own version, my brother-in-law, Ken, forwarded a video of him, me, Val and my father-in-law on the Elf Yourself link. For another entertaining Christmas link, there’s always Simon Sez Santa, who will be as naughty or nice as you please!
- Hillary Clinton and her dark empty eyes manages to be wishy-washy and soulless even about seemingly insignificant things. In an ongoing AP questionnaire series called 2008 The Personal Side, she says she likes her coffee both black and with cream, and is the only candidate who says she never had a nickname growing up.
- I have another invention idea. Feel free to steal it. Want to stave off intruders while you're away? How about creating a light that blinks that from the outside of the house looks like someone's home watching television?
- The media and Democrats (but I repeat myself) got in a huff when one of Hillary's advisers suggested that Barack Obama's past drug use is fair game for campaign attacks. (Of course, Hillary scoffed and fired the guy, but she gets the benefit of the news getting out there for more of the public to see.)
Then Harold Ford Jr. took it further on Fox News Thursday, suggesting that the Republicans should be at fault for not condemning Hillary's aide. Okay, we'll make that deal next summer, assuming Democrats don't bring up Giuliani's affairs, Romney's Mormonism, Huckabee's weight and/or religious views, Thompson's trophy wife, etc.
Of course, if Obama gets elected, do you think any of the pop culture media will use the admitted drug use (which includes pot and cocaine) against him for laughs the way they've gone after George W. Bush? He hasn't had a drink in 20 years, but that doesn't stop shows from suggesting he's drunk or high any given moment in the White House. And we know they'll never touch Obama's Muslim upbringing in Indonesia, so why bother.
- Alma mater watch: The Union Lady Bulldogs may have had the two-year national championship run end last spring, but they're back at it, 10-0 thus far and No. 1 in the NAIA polls. The men, as usual, have a decent team but likely won't go far, No. 22 in the latest rankings. They're 4-3, 3-3 against the top 25, so at least they're playing a tough schedule.
Good luck to David Blackstock, who is stepping down after a phenomenal 34 years as Union's athletic director. Enshrined into the NAIA and Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, Coach Blackstock helmed the women's basketball team for 18 years, the baseball team before that and the softball team after.
- Take this under advisement: "Danger: Avoid Death" is this year’s winner of the Wacky Warning Label Contest. That simple and irrefutable warning on a small tractor, beating out an iron-on T-shirt transfer that warns, "Do not iron while wearing shirt." Third place went to a label on a baby stroller featuring a small storage pouch that warns: "Do not put child in bag." The scary part is, as always, that there’s a reason these warnings are in place, because someone did precisely what is warned against! Honorable mention went to a label on a letter opener that says: "Caution: Safety goggles recommended."
Saturday, December 15, 2007
This was the first visit for everyone except me and Val, and the joy of their faces as untold men brought meat to the table for one hour straight, really, it made the heart go pitter-patter with the joy of Christmas spirit.
I was rather proud of nephew Cody, who even in front of girlfriend Katie, wasn't afraid to wield his fork for any cut of meat that approached the table.
Friday, December 14, 2007
About the only thing it’s done is to give me added ammunition to lampoon those players whom I already dislike, such as Roger Clemens and Eric Gagne.
Then again, if the Rocket was still in a Red Sox uniform or if Gagne had pitched well for us last summer, I would forgive them, give them a head shake and tsk tsk and look forward to seeing them redeemed next season. I'm a Red Sox whore.
"The greatest hitter and pitcher of the past 50 years both cheated to get where they were ... and if that's not enough, our all-time hits leader was a convicted felon who bet against his own team. Ladies and gentleman, America's pastime! Is it time to remake "Field of Dreams" and include a scene where Shoeless Joe sells $3,000 of HGH to Moonlight Graham?" - Bill Simmons, ESPN.com
Thursday, December 13, 2007
In all of our house-hunting visits to poke around your for-sale home, making fun of your stuff and criticizing every decision you've ever made about your house, I've come up with three distinct types of sellers:
DON'T GIVE A RAT'S A**
Take it or leave it. These guys want to move out, but not bad enough to spruce up the place to make a few extra bucks and ensure a quicker exit. Not if it means a few coats of paint, new carpet or cleaning the bathroom. The sellers have never watched any HGTV shows about how to sell your home.
And yet, this is the kind of home Val and I picked, if only for the location and great deal. We justify the decision by saying that we want to put our own stamp on the house and fix it up to our standards. Of course, had we found the same house for the same price and it was in pristine condition, we'd be perfectly happy not to do any repairs or cosmetic fixes.
The sellers started to fix the glaring holes and water damage on the roof, but haven't gotten around to clearing out the garage, sealing the crack in the ceiling or cutting the grass. Thankfully they cleaned up after the "Risky Business" party, but there's a good chance there is a Bud Light stain hidden under the armoire in the living room.
BIG A** REPAIRS
Sometimes you are actually impressed by the details the sellers highlighted, such as new carpet, a fresh paint job and the bath and kitchen are clean and shiny. Sounds simple, but this category is rarer than the previous two, at least the ones we visited. These homes were always out of our price range, too, for good reason. If Hagrid had just mopped his hut behind Hogwarts it would have been out of our price range, for goodness' sake.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
131. I used to love getting the JC Penney catalog and start scanning the toy section, circling everything I wanted for my birthday and Christmas.
132. No pulp. None. Zero. Zilch.
133. I'm That Guy who frequently sings his sentences instead of talking like a normal person, because I fear being considered "normal," because I'm a goofball and amateur comedian in desperate need of attention.
134. I have daydreamed in the shower so that I couldn't remember whether I'd shampooed my hair. Or turned off the water and started drying off before washing out the shampoo from my hair.
135. Growing up, after golfing at Overton Park, the route home took Dad and I passed a landfill. After stopping for a beverage, he could always toss his bottle over the car with his left arm and manage to make it into the landfill. Leaning out the passenger seat from ten feet I still couldn't wing my drink far enough.
136. If I'm approaching a four-way stop and one, two or three other cars look to be approaching at the same time, I'll stop five or ten feet short of the solid white line, thereby taking the right to go first.
137. I wet the bed. As a kid, I mean.
138. I don't and won't give money to people hitting me up at intersections.
139. I never learned to drive a stick shift. I figure that if I'm selected for The Amazing Race, that's my opportunity to learn, lest I look like a fool who can't drive a stick in Croatia, costing us costly time to the Roadblock.
140. Rubbernecking? Yes! I must know what happened! Every detail!
Monday, December 10, 2007
I felt bad that Azaria and Hendekea got eliminated due to an error from a ticket agent (giving them business class instead of economy, with no time to fix the error before the earlier flight), but the way Azaria was talking down to his sister, I won't miss him. She wasn't even panicking, and the way he held on to the back of her neck while trying to "calm" her down was creepy and bordering on abusive.
Next week the show is off, so we'll be back in two Sundays!
PROJECT RUNWAY: Chris is gone, although his Obi-Wan Kenobi look-alike outfits were inspired. Val and I are still not sure what the experts expected him to come up with when shoulder pads required. Speaking of, dead trends were the theme, and I can't believe no one had to pinch roll jeans or wear parachute pants. Not that I did either in the 80s. Elsewhere, Ricky is a head case, and that Blue Oyster hat he wears at all the challenges should have been on the list for the theme. Not that we didn't want to dress passive aggressive teammate Victorya in pleated pants and walk her down the runway in Milan. *gasp!* Such a faux pas!
It didn't take long, however, to realize that this wasn't the best idea I've ever had, right up there with mowing the lawn during college just to say I've done my part to get the chores done. Duh, I'm allergic to grass, so I had an asthma attack for two weeks.
We walk under the circus tent, walking atop a thick covering of hay, realize that there are three camels, a donkey, horse and several sheep, and yep, I'm allergic to the whole lot! Almost immediately I felt my chest tighten and my sinuses go berserk, so (Mom's going to kill me here) I stick it out by holding a hanky to my mouth and nose and trying to breathe as little as possible.
Thankfully the program was only 15 minutes long, of which I paid attention to little since my main focus was on not having an attack right then and there. I'm pretty sure there was an inn, a manger, a baby and some wise guys, so I don't feel that I missed much.
I had the sad realization that I couldn't have been present at the birth of Christ, lest there be stories of "the sneezing dude who had to leave the manger," and kids today in Christmas pageants would moan about having to play "the Wheezer." Or, I would be the subject of a miracle, healed by the baby Jesus of my asthma and revered as the patron saint of allergy sufferers by Catholics.
Once back in the fresh air I was better, but still sniffly and sneezy all day Saturday. Val was even worse off with chest congestion and having to deal with my sickly snoring all night Friday.
Still, I consider it good times, spending quality Christmas time with my wife and in-laws, plus we had a good dinner at Chili's and finished off the night with dessert at Perkins on the way home.
Before my lungs shut down entirely we managed to take a few pictures, too:
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Today, Cody was featured in an article in the paper that was also about the Brighton High bowling team. With the best average in his region, he's on pace for a spot in the state tournament come January. Good job, Cody, we're proud of you!
Thursday, December 06, 2007
(WARNING: This is pretty doggone long, but I didn't want to publish in different parts. Feel free to come and go, or print it out and read it on the can. I'll be honored. Now that this is complete, I'll get cracking on the 11 pages of photos!)
After a year of newlywed bliss when snuggling was more enticing than writing, like Michael Jordan unretiring from basketball, like O.J. not being able to refrain from being a thug, like Britney scarring her kids for life, some things are inevitable, and my inkling to ink travelogues has finally reared it's snarky head again.
(Let's see, how does this work again? A couple of straightforward bits, a smart aleck comment, something pop culturey with made-up words that might as well be stolen from "Family Guy" ... yep, I'm back!)
For our first anniversary, Team Valfrey decided to take a cruise vacation to the Bahamas, bookended by visits with Dad in sunny South Florida.
I said, SUNNY SOUTH FLORIDA. Hello? Anyone?
I'll get the boring pabulum about airports out of the way ("How about those security guards? What's the deal with the wands?"), and get on with the fun stuff.
Our flight to Miami was an hour late because ... drum roll ... the pilots were late. That's right, their flight to Memphis to fly us to Miami didn't arrive until we were already seated. And the flight attendants had no clue. Val and I overheard one of the radios on a worker blurt out something about the crew being late and "another 40." I told the attendants, and they thanked me for the information. Later I told the pilots to pull the "thingy" to get the "whatchamacalit" airborne, and they also appreciated my insight.
Is it a rule that every gate you go to, whether taking off or landing, is the furthest from the terminal? I swear no one actually takes off from the first ten gates you pass. The "fliers" and "gate agents" are planted by a secret government watchdog agency spending billions to keep you hopeful for the next trip. Maybe, just maybe, you won't have to be dragged by your hair to your gate, huffing and puffing like Marie Osmond before she thunks the floor.
Dad met us at the airport, welcomed us with open arms and reminded us that though we come from a frozen wasteland on the Mississippi Delta he gets to enjoy 85 degree highs every day, and women in bikinis wave palm fronds as he lays in a hammock by the ocean all day long. Or something like that.
Despite bringing the rain with us from Memphis, we still managed to find a dry spot and dine for lunch in Ft. Lauderdale at Shooter's on the waterfront. I will give them that advantage. In Memphis, "By the waterfront" usually means that there's a fire hydrant busted open and flooding the parking lot. The shrimp at Shooter's are so big they could take your kids hostage for trying to dip them in ketchup.
Thursday night was all about the Red Sox and game two of the World Series, beginning at a sports bar called Daisy Dukes. Think of it as Hooter's on steroids, since the women all dress like Daisy Duke, so the costume theme certainly ups the stakes. Which is, of course, terrible and awful and misogynistic and I can't believe my wife didn't claw my eyes out ten seconds after we sat down.
Friday the rain rain rain came down down down as Dad took us to South Beach for lunch before dropping us off at the Port of Miami. We ate outside under a drippy tent with ginormous portions. The food, I mean, not the tent. We spent the first ten minutes moving the table back and forth two feet at a time trying to find the non-drip section.
Besides having to go through at least ten security checks to get on the ship, the process was painless. Within a half-hour we were in our sweet balcony suite and our bags arrived just as we did (a benefit of having a suite, whereas the dregs in lower decks had to wait like an hour or two for their bags. Can you imagine!? We are so spoiled.)
Upon reaching the room, first things first: No Fox on our in-room TV, meaning it was apparent from the start that I would actually have to enjoy what the cruise ship had to offer and not watch the Red Sox. There was no ticker on the Headline News feed, either, so score updates would be iffy (I ended up getting what will certainly be expensive text updates via "Cingular at Sea" by Scott and Dad).
BUT! ESPN International was showing Ohio State-Penn State Saturday until midnight, at which time the channel switched over to ESPN's international feed of game three just as Dustin Pedroia hit a bases clearing double to give the Sox a 9-5 lead in the eighth. And then, we got to watch all of Sunday's game. So all the worrying was for naught, and I'll have fond memories of going on a cruise to the Bahamas in order to watch the Red Sox play.
Although, watching via ESPN's separate international game feed felt like a regular season game using ESPN announcers and plain MLB approved graphics, i.e. no Transformers wipes. I can't believe I'm saying this, but without Joe Buck and Tim McCarver it didn't feel like playoff baseball. The announcers were fielding email questions from people around the world, including Ireland and New Zealand. I can't quite imagine what would happen if Joe Buck had to answer why Matt Holliday didn't raise sheep.
Speaking of ESPN International, don't get me wrong, I love soccer. But watching highlights on ESPN International is hilarious, consisting mostly of missed shots and players pretending to get tripped in the penalty box, which is like watching a half-hour of NFL highlights that show only of dropped passes in the end zone and players falling over Gatorade cups on the sideline.
Where was I? Oh yeah, the big boat on the water.
Before shipping off we had to grab the life preservers out of our closet and hoof it down to deck six (we were on deck ten, one from the top) with the rest of the passengers. The drill is like the one you pretend to pay attention to on an airplane, only if we stood up and walked out of the emergency door for practice before the flight took off.
In case we had to jump ship quicker, however, Val promised me that unlike a certain door hog in a popular motion picture, she would move her butt over and allow me to float alongside her, so no worries. Even better, one of the lifeboats hung directly under our balcony, so instead of fighting traffic for four decks, we would leisurely hop over, thankyouverymuch, while the rest of the suckers gathered four decks below having a panic attack. We would be sure to bring the fridge from the room with us.
Once the crew was done playing Risk or waiting for their pizza to be delivered, or whatever, we undocked a half-hour late at 5:30 while Val and I were getting ready for dinner, so we missed watching Miami fade away in the distance. I'm sure you'll deeply miss the ten photos of the skyline captioned "Miami a little further away," "Miami almost gone," and "Where's Miami?"
Obligatory ad for Royal Caribbean, our hosts for the cruise:
Thanks to a dazzling, top to bottom renovation, our popular Majesty of the Seas is more majestic than ever. Bahamas bound guests will enjoy a newly remodeled pool deck, expanded Day Spa & Fitness Center, plus tastefully refurbished staterooms, featuring luxurious bedding and eye-popping flat-screen TVs and more. And of course, there's still the Bahamas powdery beaches and crystal clear water to look forward to.
Maiden Voyage: April 26, 1992
Passenger Capacity: 2,744
Godmother: Queen Sonja of Norway
Gross Tonnage: 73,941
Cruising Speed: 19 knots
Johnny Rockets '50's-style restaurant
Latté-tudes coffee house featuring Seattle's Best Coffee®
Themed bars and lounges including Boleros Latin lounge
2 outdoor pools
Adventure Ocean® youth facilities, including teen-only areas, Fuel and Living Room
Day Spa and Fitness Center
Open-air basketball court
We had signed up for the 6 o'clock dinner every night, and though when we made reservations a few months before we requested a table for two, we ended up at a table for four, paired with a boyfriend/girlfriend couple, Becca and Derrick/Rob (can't remember) about four years our junior from Richmond, Virginia. They were so cute it was disgusting. It was like watching me and Val during our courtship. I deeply apologize to all of you.
I kid, they're good people. Probably volunteer at soup kitchens and adopt stray puppies.
At first having to share was disappointing, since the only two N's I got in kindergarten were that and tying my shoes, but it worked our pretty well, since to our right at a table for two was a boisterous couple celebrating their 47th anniversary, Hank and Cathy/Jean (I say Cathy, Val says Jean - as you can tell we didn't call each other by names much). They are your typical New Yorkers-turned-Florida snowbirds and cruise veterans, and hilarious. Between the six of us there was no shortage of comedy and conversation.
Val and I brought our spiffiest for the formal dinner on Saturday, but ended up alone. Becca and Derrick/Rob didn't make the dinner because the day we shipped off their luggage never made the connection with them in Orlando via an airline I'll call Rontinental to preserve the company's anonymity. Becca and Derrick/Rob had only the clothes they were wearing and bathing suits in their carry-on. At first I felt bad, then I realized they were young, good-looking and would be just fine. Their bags were waiting for them in Nassau on Sunday, so at least they had something for the last day.
As advertised by every frequent cruiser, the food is scrumptious and the wait staff is both attentive and amusing. Most of the time we spent joking around with the guy who brought drinks and bread, "FBI" (Full-Blooded Indian - the country), since our waiter, Rory, wasn't around much and the head waiter even less.
Saturday night after the formal, after we'd eaten dessert, we were walking out when our waiter tells us to sit back down, because they were going to give us a dessert and sing for our anniversary. Well, we'd already eaten dessert and our anniversary was Sunday, so we told them to hold off. Val felt bad, but I figured they'd adjust, especially considering how much we were going to end up giving them in tips, as is "recommended" by the ship. (Seriously, the entire boat staff is drunk on tips.) Sunday they gave us a brownie, wished us a happy anniversary and all was well.
Still, since the food in the dining room was formal and far too fancy for our palates, an hour later we were ready for what we came on the ship for: Fattening foods and around-the-clock snacking.
That's when we could find one open, of course. There were some awfully confusing and arbitrary restaurant times. None of the dining areas served lunch until 11:30 a.m., even room service, which was annoying since we had an excursion in Nassau at Noon on Sunday and ended up at the quicker deli rather than spend more time gorging at a filling buffet with five different courses on our plate and no vegetables.
The first night we went to Johnny Rockets about 9, and the next night we had to wait until 9:30 for the pizza place to open. Okay, so we didn't exactly starve, what with ordering room service in the afternoons for snacks, too.
Team Valfrey took part in few of the activities planned by the ship. Seems that every five minutes there was something for us to do, from a bellyflop competition to game shows to taking out the trash at Nassau. (I think that last one was a trick. But we did get a good workout.)
The way we figured it, we're there just three nights and two full days, so why feel rushed when we really need relaxation. Maybe if we were on a five night cruise we would have gone to some of the shows or the pool more, or maybe even one of the midnight buffet/drinking parties.
Doubtful, since the late night bar and dancing scene was definitely not our crowd. I don't feel particularly comfortable watching 50-year-olds get plastered. They look foolish, not sexy and fun like 25-year-olds. At least seeing them get drunk feels natural. Who wants to see their parents drunk and peeing over the ship's railing? Awkward.
The one show we did see was opening night, comedian Steve Smith, whom I presume is as close to a professional cruise ship comic as anyone. He was family friendly, told simple vacation jokes and got the heck out of there in his allotted time, having worked 45 minutes for a three-night cruise. Good gig if you can get it.
Since the elevator on the aft end didn't go all the way down to the fourth floor for dinner, we had to stop at deck five and walk through the casino to the stairs. How convenient. As such, we were compelled to spend a few minutes each night plugging a few more dollars into Royal Caribbean's coffers via slots and roulette. You'll be shocked to learn that we didn't win a penny.
Otherwise, in lieu of planned activities we walked around the top deck, plopping down several times to enjoy the breezy days and evenings and rest my aching back, which would tighten up just walking out the front door. By night the ship was a bit creepy with few passengers up top. We didn't mind, of course, since it felt like our honeymoon at the Couples resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, last year, when we knew there were dozens if not hundreds there and yet we frequently had the beach to ourselves and saw few other couples outside of the restaurants.
Apparently our vacation goal is to be around as few other people as possible, yet with our own wait staff to serve us six meals a day. Spoiled, I know.
Back in the room there were a few movie channels, looping films Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to Lucky You (not a romantic comedy as billed). While we skipped over Shaggy Dog, five or six of the channels were the same movie repeated in different languages, and let me tell you, watching Eric Bana play poker in French is just as boring as in English.
The best part of being back in our room was being to walk out on the balcony, enjoying the ocean breeze while staring up at the stars and the moon (when not raining, I mean), sitting side-by-side, taking it all in, pure peace and quiet. At night you could see other cruise ships in the distance, wondering how long it would take them to arrive if we hit a stray iceberg. In the Caribbean. Hey, this is the Bermuda Triangle we're talking about. Thankfully we didn't travel through a rift in time and have to decide whether to risk altering our timeline by telling the locals to invest in Microsoft and something called "Google."
I wish I could say that we slept as well as we should have. Instead, we endured some long nights. Without the three fans we use back home (seriously), there wasn't any white noise and my wife was up a lot due to my snoring, while I awakened frequently on the uncomfy bed that made my back ache even worse. It felt like it took forever for daylight to peek into the room so we could lay in bed and watch TV and eat.
Yar, the nights were choppy. Twas the sea reaching out to us, rocking us back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, almost knocking us off our feet a few times. Arrrgh. On land Sunday I could still feel myself swaying, which may have been heat exhaustion.
Unlike what I'm told it's like in smaller rooms, there was plenty of room to move around the suite. Surprisingly, I could actually sit on the toilet without one leg draped in the sink and the other in the tub. Speaking of, we had a decent-sized tub in the shower, so that I could even sit down to rest my back. Of course, it was a toilet only Sheryl Crow could love, since it could only hold two sheets of TP lest it stop up.
The first stop of the trip on Saturday was at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean's private island. We took our time getting out there, sleeping in, gorging on a buffet breakfast and splurging on a couples massage that we hoped would be like the one we had in Jamaica for our honeymoon.
Only this time it wasn't in a hut over the shore. And I wouldn't have even known Val was in the room if I didn't walk in with her. And it hurt. A lot. In fact, it was the most pain I've ever felt in my life, which says something good about the ease of my life, but still, this anti-Phoebe-from-"Friends" chick Monique gave me a deep tissue massage when I just wanted a shallow, rub-my-body-and-make-me-coo massage.
Ow. Ow. Ow. For 50 minutes, she'd use her sharp elbows, wrists or single finger to inflict pain on one side, and I'd spend the next three minutes anticipating her doing the same on the other side. I have a low pain threshold, and she crossed it constantly, grinding to the bone, sending my muscles fleeing for safety, bones crying out in pain, cursing the muscles for not providing cover. Then again, I'd have paid $50 more if she'd worn leather.
Val? She enjoyed hers just fine.
Then Monique The Torture Masseuse kept us in the room to lecture us about needing massages every couple of months because we're millionaires, I guess, and New Age crap about detoxing our muscles with algae or something. We tuned her out, excused ourselves as nice as possible, and walked away hoping she wouldn't turn around and poke me in the eye to complete the painful experience. Why did she think I was so tense? Oh, I know, because I was in pain and scared of her next evil touch. That was the reason for my stress and current nightmares.
Once free of the torture chick, we journeyed outside the boat, laying on lounge chairs under palm trees enjoying the breeze, sipping strawberry daiquiris, enjoying lunch brought from the ship of BBQ ribs and chicken and veggies and whatever we wanted, and waded into the ocean bay, cold, refreshing, floor covered in seaweed yet still crystal blue.
This is exactly the relaxation we needed, and could appreciate, much more than in our youth. So listen now and understand later, teens, these are not necessarily the greatest years of your life. Yeah, the world is your oyster for the future and it's all happy-go-lucky today what with your hipness and able bodies, but the simple fact of your raging hormones means you won't appreciate your opportunities, or enjoy life outside your protected bubble until years later. So enjoy, but don't think it doesn't get better.
For day three we were up at the crack of 9:45 to spend our first anniversary in Nassau, which is Bahamian for "hot and humid, with a scattered chance of hurricane-force winds." It makes more sense in the native tongue. Which is English.
All I'm saying is that I've never sweated so much, even in Memphis' summers, and y'all know, I sweat a LOT. In fact, I was always hot and sweaty on the cruise. The suite never cooled enough for me to be comfortable until 3 a.m.
A quick lunch, our excursion was at 12:30 for a sightseeing tour of the city and stops at two forts - Fincastle and Charlotte - the Queen's Steps and the Ardastra Zoo and Gardens. The forts were both built while Englishman Lord Dunmore was head of state, which I only mention since my family lived on Lord Dunmore Cove in Bartlett my junior and seniors years of high school. Even better, in Fort Charlotte there was graffiti scratched into the stone walls by a soldier named Bartlett. There was also something about "Don't be a hater, vote Willie," but I'm pretty sure that's more recent.
Speaking of small worlds, the only other couple on our tour was a nice African-American duo on our excursion who happened to be from Atlanta, celebrating their 30th anniversary. Our guide Joe, herded us around and saying a lot of things in an accent I didn't understand but nodded outside and said "wow" a lot anyway.
During the first stop we took the time for shopping, which was really avoiding haggling - which I hate - because it's too much of a hassle. I'd rather point and say, "I'll take that. Here's my money," than negotiate three magnets from $10 to $8.50.
By the time we got to Ardastra, we were exhausted, needed multiple bottles of water and a snack, and a place in the shade with even a mere hint of a breeze. After that, we were okay to walk around the gardens and zoo taunting the furry animals that were much hotter than we were.
The place is very proud of their "marching flamingos," which looked to me more like a guy herding flamingos in a circle and clapping and yelling at them until they went in the right direction. All of this to the music of Monty Python's Flying Circus. I'm not kidding. At least I got some pictures with the flamingos, so their touristy distractions worked.
Monday morning, it wasn't that it took a few hours to get our land legs back, it was that we had to wake up at 6:15 and depart the ship by 7 to rejoin civilization. Another benefit of having a suite, we got to leave the ship in the first group. We're so spoiled. It was just piling on when we laughed, waved and mooned the people in the back of the line.
Dad met us at the terminal and we dropped him off for work. What to do with the car to ourselves, the sun finally out in beautiful south Florida and freedom to explore? Nap time!
Once awake, we met Dad, Natalie and Jonathan for dinner at Texas de Brazil, Val's first Brazilian Steakhouse featuring "gauchos" attacking us with their meat. Uh, er, you know what I mean. That place is so accommodating that there are two rolls of TP in the bathroom, one rolled under and one over.
Jonathan hadn't been to a place like this, either, but he certainly took advantage, trying meat after meat until he found one he liked, wasting approximately $150 worth of beef in the process. That's my boy!
As for me and Dad, you know we're not wasting anything, scarfing down anything and everything, extra points if it's wrapped in bacon!
Our last full day in Miami, me, Dad and Val went to the Everglades for an airboat ride at Coopertown. Always fun, but this was a different experience. We had a new guide who didn't know all the jokes, and when he cracked that anyone who caused the boat to stall out had to push us back, I'm not sure he was kidding.
Two seats up there was a loud chick who wouldn't shut up, asking stupid questions such as, "Will we go through a cave?" What? Hopefully she didn't mean the kind that is carved into mountains (rare in the Everglades, I guarantee), and please, please, tell me she was talking about floating through a canopy of trees. Let's just say that if the boat did stall and we needed a sacrifice to the gators, it would have been a unanimous decision.
I'm not sure if the guide couldn't find them or if his excuse that the weather was freaking them out, but we only saw a few gators, only one of which swam up to the boat. By the way, when we hopped in the boat and Val realized there was only going to be about a foot of elevation between her and potential death, it was decided that I should sit on the end and she in the middle between me and Dad. I don't know what that says about my indispensability in this relationship, but I'll deal. I've got disability insurance.
For dinner we ventured down to the bay to the Rusty Pelican restaurant for seafood and a fabulous view of the Miami skyline across the bay. With the view, the size of the windows and the rain pelting the outside it felt like the beginning of Star Trek IV where Starfleet couldn't keep the futuristic windows from bursting due to the giant cigar in outer space trying to talk to extinct humpback whales.
The best part of dinner was to finally meet Jorge (pronounced "George"), frequent commenter to Thanks For Noticing Me, fellow FedExer with Dad, and holder of The Man Card.
Alas, after dinner it was to go home. Our last day, we slept in, lunched at TGI Friday's, which is authentically Miami, what with the Darth Vader piggy bank on the wall, and headed to the airport for another fascinating time of "Take your shoes off, don't look the guy in the eye lest he pull your bags aside and beg the agent for your check-in luggage get to the same city as you."
Even as Tropical Storm Noel threw bands of showers and high winds at us we still took off on time and arrived on time, Val's Dad picking us up and meeting my Mom-in-Law for dinner at family fave Casa Mexicana, and we're officially home.
If we'd been pulled aside and told, "You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes," we'd have taken the red pill and stayed in La La Vacation Fantasy Land!
Ten hours after landing, I was back at work and starting the drift downward to post-vacation melancholy. You know, like how the first few days you can drive in rush hour traffic and not speed or care about other drivers, then that fourth day, you find yourself giving the little old lady the finger, and you realize you're not in your suite anymore on the boat.
At least until our second anniversary! Spoiled City, here we come!
Monday, December 03, 2007
Sensing a good idea when they see it, CNN releases a four-disc set, "Music To Freak You Out: Sounds Of Panic News" set to punk rock and John Tesh, featuring the best of the themes, including "Why You Should Be Against The Iraq War," "Missing Blonde Women Who Are Killed By Their Husbands" and everyone's favorite, "Lou Dobbs Busts A Vein In His Forehead Over Illegal Immigration."
A new study says that Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or independents to rate their mental health as excellent. 58 percent of Republicans report having excellent mental health, compared to 43% of independents and 38% of Democrats. This relationship between party identification and reports of excellent mental health persists even within categories of income, age, gender, church attendance, and education.
Donnie Register has a new reason to be thankful he's married — police say his wedding band deflected a bullet and probably saved his life.
Two men walked into Register's shop at The Antique Market on Saturday and asked to see a coin collection, police Sgt. Jeffery Scott said.
When Register retrieved the collection, one of the men pulled a gun and demanded money. A shot was fired as Register threw up his left hand, and his wedding ring deflected the bullet, police said.
"The bullet managed to go through two of his fingers without severing the bone," said his wife, Darlene Register. "A part of the bullet broke off and is in his middle finger. The other part is in his neck, lodged in the muscle tissue. But it's not life-threatening."
And now the Reality TV update:
THE AMAZING RACE - Tonight, the Blondes self-destruct in Lithuania and go home due to the fact that, I don't know, at the end they were talking about how manicures and pedicures were "out the window" during this difficult Race. Not sure what they're doing during the 12-hour pit stops, but I guess none of the other teams will have pajama parties with them.
This week also saw the return of Annoying Condescending Ron, who treated his daughter like dirt the entire hour and yet she's all "I love you" and "I'm proud of you" even though he could only talk about his hernia and how she can't order plane tickets. Next week I organize a "Save Christina" rally.
If you fly to Burkina Faso and need tickets to Paris and beyond to leave, I would recommend you book ahead of time. It took the show 20 minutes just to leave that country, and despite all the intrigue about getting tickets, none of it mattered once they arrived in Lithuania and the teams had to search for clues.
Nick and his Grandpa were thisclose to getting the boot because the young'un arrived first at the Roadblock and left last, because he couldn't find a hair salon. I know he keeps his hair cropped short at SuperCuts, but come on, three hours of this? Look at a doggone sign once in a while, or hit on all the cute Lithuanian chicks by the university. I mean, to him they'd be cute. I didn't notice, 'cause I'm married to the bestest woman in the whole wide world, including former Soviet republics.
I'm beginning to wonder how many of these teams remember that the Race is an actual competition? What's with all the complaining that other teams are being secretive and that other teams are trying to win? Shut up, Teams That Think This Is Woodstock!
Know who isn't full of free love? Nate and Jenn are really, really mean to one another, and it's getting difficult to watch. They need an intervention badly, and based on next week's preview it won't be getting any easier to watch.
Kynt and Vyxsyn are likable and I'm rooting for them to go far, but enough with with the stereotypes. Kynt's all, "I hope we get to go to Romania and Transylvania and all that spooky stuff." We get it, you're Goth, you like it dark and mysterious. Fine. He just reminds me too much of the Saturday Night Live characters playing at Goth in the basement.
Speaking of increasingly awkward, New Orleans dude needs to lay off his sister. She's not even doing anything I would consider boneheaded in the game, and yet he yells at her all the time. He acts like I acted with my sisters (at least when I wasn't using them to hit on their friends), until I grew up and became an adult, of course.
PROJECT RUNWAY - This week the designers were abso-freaking-lutely in a tizzy because they had to design something for 50 percent of the population: Men. Namely, an outfit for Tiki Barber, the former New York Giants' morale destroying RB-turned-"Today" show correspondent. While Bravo was no doubt kissing up to Papa NBC, it turns out that only one contestant really knew who Tiki was, and that was the lone heterosexual designer. All the gay guys and women? Not a clue. In the end, Carmen went, because she ran out of time to make a shirt, though she found time for pants and a jacket. In the middle, I think it's time for a PSA about how men aren't just sex objects, because the gay guys were seriously horny over their male models. I demand an apology from NBC.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
I know! Crazy! Not only that, but we surpassed our expectations for location, beyond Bartlett and finding an affordable fixer-upper in Lakeland, our preferred suburb!
And just as you'd expect from me, our backyard is the fairway of hole No. 4 on Stonebridge Golf Course. Sweet!
Using I-40 just a stone's throw away, I'm only 15-20 minutes from work, same as Val. We're less than five minutes from Wolfchase and all the goodness that entails, and as for schools, it's all county!
I say fixer-upper in that the previous homeowners got divorced and are just trying to get rid of the house, we suspect, not caring to do any repairs, so we jumped on in. Most of the fixes look to be cosmetic, so we'll do a lot of removing wallpaper, painting, putting in new fixtures, pressure washing the outside, that sort of thing. There's no carpet, only this nice tile throughout the living room and bedrooms, so that's good for allergies and if we get doggies.
What I'm saying is, I may have to erase 75 percent of the shows on our DVR just to record HGTV 24 hours a day. Or kidnap my grandfather in Chapel Hill and promise him milk and cookies for every project he helps me finish. No, my Granddad is not Santa.
There's still a long way to go, though, before this is all finalized. The homeowner was supposed to sign our contract Friday night, we'll get an inspection in the next two weeks, and if everything works out, close on December 31, taking over January 2.
We're very excited and nervous at the same time, ("freaking out" is a good phrase as well) but I think that's natural when making such a big commitment. I get the butterflies picking between Subway and Lenny's, so you can see why this would send my tummy in cycles.