Monday, June 30, 2008

Not being Manny

What the heck happened to happy-go-lucky, aloof and lovable Manny Ramirez?

Earlier this month he got into a dugout shoving match with Kevin Youkilis, and now we hear that this weekend he shoved the 60-ish Sox traveling secretary to the ground and yelled at him for not being able to get enough tickets to a sold-out game in Houston.

Did Manny turn into Teen Wolf? Did someone spike his apple juice? Someone get that man a back rub!

Jeff's Top 5: Classic Arcade Games

These are the games I would plug quarter after quarter into at the arcade in the Raleigh-Springs Mall growing up, or - who am I kidding - with a few extra minutes to blow at the movie theater today.

1. Galaga - Nothing in video games beats the joy of getting two ships side-by-side just as it's time for the bonus round.

2. ??? - There was a game at the Pizza Hut on Austin Peay Hwy growing up in Memphis that had a game where you were a helicopter pilot rescuing hostages. The best part was getting all the way to the prison, and yet you could still land on and kill the hostages if you weren't careful. Or if you were out for an evil laugh.

3. Frogger - Why is the frog so determined to fight rush-hour traffic to reach the other side? Darned if I know, but he sure does go SPLAT a lot. The sound effects make this one so fun to play.

4. Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man - You and I have played this hundreds of times, and yet, none of us know what happens after the first five or six rounds. Those ghosts are quick!

5. Rampage - Your chance to be the Godzilla type monster tearing apart the town, smashing buildings and eating people. And you thought having fun causing mayhem with games started with Grand Theft Auto.

Honorable mention: 1942, Centipede, Donkey Kong, Pole Position

Weird weekend in sports

Now that all the stars are on the sidelines with steroid suspensions, track-and-field is open to all sorts of new and diverse participants, if these two headlines are any indication:

"After scare in first heat, Gay breaks U.S. record in 100"

"Hooker wins 100-meter qualifier in 10.76 seconds"

Meanwhile, proving that people who grew up and/or prospered in the 80s must stick together to rule the world, tennis legend Chris Evert and one of golf's most recognizable stars, Greg Norman, got hitched.

In the majors, the Sox dropped two-of-three in Houston, meaning the Rays are in first place in the AL East with one day left in June and half of the season played out. That's right. Dogs and cats, living together. Rivers boiling. Total anarchy!

Not that I'm too worried. It was a freaky week anyway, complete with Kevin Youkilis sitting out a couple of days after getting hit in the eye by a one-hop throw in practice. Things will sort themselves out.


UPDATE 11:30 a.m. - Another odd moment this weekend, the Dodgers beat the Angels on Saturday without a hit.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Wall-E

If you have a tough edge and listen to depressing music and feel that the only real human emotions are negative, be warned, "WALL-E" is possibly the sweetest, most adorable, cuddly-uddliest thing you have ever seen in your entire life.
 
Even R2-D2 and Johnny No. 5 of "Short Circuit" might say, "Dude, we can't compete with that guy."
 
An earlier science-fiction film, "2001: A Space Odyssey," has several periods of silence, and after ten minutes of monkeys playing with bones I wanted to throw something at the TV, but my arms had aged 100 years in those ten minutes so I couldn't move.
 
"WALL-E" moves surprisingly quick that seems to sprint by even though there's practically no dialogue, and a hero character that I think says two whole words the entire movie, his name and his robot love's name, Eve (which he pronounces "Eva.") I'm not sure how kids will react to the first half-hour where humans have left Earth and Wall-E and his friend the cockroach have the place to themselves in near silence, but animation studio Pixar is brilliant, because there's not a milli-second where adults should get bored.
 
If you read critics trying to make "WALL-E" into a commentary on human indulgence and corporate monopolies, I say "whatever." It's just a plot device to move the story along, and it didn't bother me at all. This is a story about an agile and dramatic little robot just wanting to hold hands with another robot, and every second was lovable.
 
Remember during American Idol last season, everyone made fun of Paula Abdul for suggesting that she wanted to squish David Archuleta's head off and hang him from her rearview mirror? Now I know what she meant.
 
For an hour-and-a-half all I wanted to do was walk up to the screen and squeeze and hug the movie and take it home to keep for myself.
 
"WALL-E" is the most warm and fuzzy you'll feel at the theater all year.
 

Thursday, June 26, 2008

You think you can?

Last night's So You Think You Can Dance was a turning point for this season and my viewership. I actually started to care who would get the boot, and after last week feeling blasé about the performances, I found nearly all of the top 8's entertaining.
 
Twitchington - I definitely prefer this softer, more contemporary hip-hop than the gangsta nonsense you can see on BET every afternoon.
 
Courtney & Gev - So cute together, but I feel sorry for him since she has a boyfriend and he clearly enjoyed getting to grab her butt during the rumba.
 
Comfort & Chris - Supposedly a jazz number, but looked contemporary to me. And hey, the judges actually agreed that it wasn't all that great. Chris is soft, and lacks any punch or pizzazz.
 
Will & Jessica - The judges adore him, but I think Jessica is my favorite girl in the competition. It's a shame the judges will toss her to the side as soon as they get the next chance.
 
Kortni & Matt - This contemporary routine started energetic, but by the middle looked like they were making moves up on the fly and wondering just how much longer they were supposed to go, and by the end they ran out of moves entirely.
 
Has anyone else noticed that the audience looks like they were imported from the David Archuleta fan club? So young, so blond and so preppy. It just seems that for a dance show like this we need to see a few more, you know, dancers? Some funky hair, a few odd outfits, people with crazy names like PooPoo or Kwartney. Does that makes sense? I'll move on.
 
Chelsea & Thayne - Their Quickstep was more like a Slowstep.
 
Chelsie & Mark - Val and I really like this Mark guy. He should start in The Best of Tim Burton: The Musical. You can see his entire performance in his face.
 
Joshua & Katee - That was a pretty hot samba, and more impressive knowing from Dancing With the Stars that it's one of the more difficult ballroom dances.
 
For a bottom three, I'm not ready to say anyone deserves to go, but I'll say Comfort/Chris, Chelsea/Thayne and Kortni/Matt. Who will go? I'd say Comfort and Chris, but the judges love her, so I'll say Chris and Chelsea.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Today's notes

Only found one golf ball in the backyard while mowing this morning, a TaylorMade. Guess it helps to mow once a week. With the summer heat blazing, I could actually hold off every two weeks if not for the weeds. Which pretty much have taken over the back half of the yard.

- Headline of the day: "Man Attacked Bus, Tried to Rob 7-Eleven, Stripped, Fought Dog and Withstood Taser." I think he should get a reduced penalty if only for his resilience.

- The photographer who claimed to have found a "lost tribe" in the Amazon admits he's a big fat liar. He would also like you to know that he made up the pictures of Big Foot, Loch Ness Monster and UFOs.

- A heartwarming story out of Las Vegas: Anna Nicole Smith's former boyfriend, Larry Birkhead, spent nearly $3,000 at a celebrity auction Saturday scooping up lingerie once worn in a Playboy shoot by the late playmate. Birkhead said he is trying to make sure their 1-year-old daughter, Dannielynn, has something to remember her mother by. Will he also frame her autopsy report?

- Memphis is a paranoid city, and far too scared by its metro neighbors. Did you know that the city requires employees to live in the city limits? Not just officials or managers, but all employees. Even more astounding, since 2004 Memphis Light Gas & Water requires all employees to live in the city as well. MLGW doesn't just service Memphis residents, so why would you have to live in the city to work there? Heck, they have a station not far from us over in Bartlett. I pay MLGW money for their mediocre services, why couldn't I work there, too? And this is why the city fails.

As usual, this becomes a racial issue. Councilwoman Barbara Swearengen Ware, a staunch supporter of residency rules, said she didn't want police bringing their "Mississippi attitude" to Memphis. And if the resolution passes, the council is going to charge police officers who work outside Shelby County an annual fee of $1,200. Gosh, I can't imagine why they can't find enough candidates willing to work with such a rational city.

- When President Bush spoke at Furman University's graduation a few weeks ago, many faculty members didn't show up and about 15 others stood in protest during his speech. Funny, I thought the graduation was for the students, who overwhelmingly voted to invite the president. Not that this is surprising with left-wing academia nowadays. As non-profit research group Accuracy in Academia reports, liberal faculty members outnumber conservative ones by more than 20-1 on many campuses. The study's conclusion:

"Colleges like to characterize themselves as wide-open places where every thought can be thought, where any opinion can be held, where all ideals and principles may be pursued freely. The demonstrable reality, however, is that you will find a much wider and freer cross-section of human reasoning and conviction in the aisles of a grocery store or city bus."

The faculty who didn't attend? They asked for, and were granted, "conscientious objector status" to do so. Seriously. For the right not to have to sit patiently during a speech by a guy they hate. As one commentor said, "Surely professors must see the precious irony in this. That's what students do every day."

Monday, June 23, 2008

On the Vine

The latest from Fox News' Political Grapevine, as seen on Special Report With Brit Hume:

- While shopping his book, former White House spokesman Scott McClellan – now the toast of D.C. for writing an anti-Bush screed - originally promised his work would be "supportive" and show how the liberal media slants coverage against the administration.

- Are liberals as honest as conservatives?. (On a related note ...)

- A British couple says that with their stolen bank card, a crook charged donations to Obama's campaign.

- The Obamessiah claims that he flip-flopped on a pledge to take public financing for the election partly to counter 527 committees that could attack him from right-wingers. Of course, Democratic 527s have raised three times as much as their Republican counterparts: $87 million to $24 million.

- Remember when Algore was proven as a greenhouse gassy fraud when it was discovered that his house used more energy than most smaller states? Embarrassed, he switched his home over to so called green-friendly solutions that have actually increased his home’s energy use, enough to power 232 average American households for a month.

- The Obamessiah’s campaign workers don’t like Muslims! To be more specific, they don’t want Muslims associated with him. In Detroit, two Muslim women were barred from sitting behind him during a rally to prevent them and their headscarves from appearing on photo or television.

- Of course, if the Obamessiah isn’t Muslim, he should probably let his half-brother know. Malik Obama tells the Jerusalem Post that if elected his brother will be a good president for the Jewish people — despite his Muslim background. I guess Malik won’t be showing up in Muslim dress by Barack’s side.

- One of Barack’s national security advisors thinks Winnie the Pooh sets a good example for foreign policy. I’m guessing his domestic policy wonks think that SpongeBob SquarePants is an ideal illustration for global warming policies?

- The World Health Organization has made an addendum to their freaking out in the early 90s that heterosexuals were doomed by AIDS: Never mind. I guess it wasn't politically correct to point out that outside of Africa, pretty much the only ones affected by AIDS are gay or drug abusers.

Dancing With The Star Wars Stars

It's worth it if only for three minutes and fifteen seconds in:

(Thanks to Val's uncle Glenn for the link.)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

MLB run by morons

Major League Baseball is awful. To clarify, their rules on markets and television coverage is awful. This makes two Sundays in a row that the Red Sox game in Memphis is blacked out, last week because they played in Cincinnati, this weekend because they're playing the Cardinals, though back in Fenway.
 
No one at Major League Baseball, the teams or even Comcast could EVER give me enough of a sufficient explanation to explain how Memphis is considered to be in St. Louis', Cincinnati's and Atlanta's markets so that games would be blacked out here.
 
It might be different if we could watch Cardinals, Reds or Braves games that air locally in the cities but not on Fox Sports Net, but no, we don't get coverage of St. Louis games on their Channel 11, so when TBS is the only station showing their game, we should be able to watch it, right?
 
If every business ran like this, I wouldn't be able to order NutriSystem through the post office because Weight Watchers has a store nearby, or half the USA Today would be cut out because the Commercial Appeal holds local rights to coverage.
 
Hey Baseball, Memphis is four hours from St. Louis, six hours from Atlanta and at least seven from Cincinnati! Stop screwing with my attempts to watch my team!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ice

It would seem that former Red Sox teammates Jason Varitek and Kevin Millar had a bet on the NBA Finals. Kevin Millar lost:
Wow, I feel like I'm in high school again in Mike Grigsby's jalopy.

Guess we're not beyond race after all

Usually you hear surrogates suggest such things without actually saying it, but no, Barack Obama will come right out and say it, Republicans are big fat racists: "It is going to be very difficult for Republicans to run on their stewardship of the economy or their outstanding foreign policy," Obama told a fundraiser in Jacksonville, Florida. "We know what kind of campaign they're going to run. They're going to try to make you afraid. They're going to try to make you afraid of me. He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black?"

Does that mean he won't allow any black Americans at his rallies? Because when one or two people wondered if having a Muslim father meant he was raised as one, his campaign prevented Muslim women from sitting behind him on stage to prevent the women's headscarves from appearing in photographs or on television with the candidate.

Sox rocked by Cards

It's June 21, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Speaking of, the missus wins this year's round of Red Sox vs. Cardinals.
 
Last night Boston loaded the bases three times with fewer than two outs but scored just twice in those innings and thus lost 5-4, and today's matchup was over before the third inning began. It doesn't help that Dice-K - making his first start in over a month - was rocked for seven runs without even managing six outs. Okay, three of those runs were actually given up by Chris Smith - making his MLB debut - in a grand slam after relieving Dice-K. Either way, it was a good time for a nap.
 
Meanwhile, 80-year-old Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin and his 7.06 ERA was put on the DL. Not quite the same impact as the news that Curt Schilling is not only out for the season with a shoulder injury, his career might be over as well. God bless, Curt, you'll be missed, and thanks for 2004 and 2007!
 
Who wouldn't be missed if he was cut today? Shortstop Julio Lugo, who committed two costly errors Friday night, and has 16 for the season now. That, and offensively he has one home run and 16 RBIs. By June that's not a slump, it's a trend. Any promising AAA rookie can match those numbers and not throw the ball willy-nilly towards first base.
 
For a feel-good ending to this negative Red Sox report, congrats to Billy Werber, a Red Sox third baseman from 1933-36 who turned 100 Friday. He is the oldest living former major leaguer.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Back online!

Yeeeeeeee Hawwwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!!

Team Valfrey is back online at home!

Not that I almost didn't make a fool of myself, of course.

I picked up the PC this afternoon, went home and plugged it in, and nothing was happening. No internet. Valfrey High-Speed was still gone. After several minutes of tinkering I gave up and took my afternoon nap.

This evening, with Val at work and unable to hear my inner cries for help, I couldn't get it to work again, so I unplugged everything and prepared to take the PC back to Best Buy.

I placed the PC on the island by our front door, and just happened to peruse the connections to see where they put the new board. Oh, wait, there's an extra cord port here, is that what was added?

So I take it back to the study, plug the Ethernet in that new port, and what do you know? The PC Link light on the modem starts flashing right away, and now I'm back online. Life may begin anew, and it's time to catch up with the rest of the Net!

Summer reality TV update

First, some updates ...
 
Valfrey becomes a house divided this weekend, with the Cardinals visiting Fenway Park to take on the World Series champions Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Guess I'd better get the guest bed made.
 
The PC is undergoing CPR at the hands of the Geek Squad at Best Buy. Val's uncle and cousin emailed suggestions that didn't kickstart the Ethernet connection, so I relented and paid the dough for the guys who look more like Mormon missionaries than computer techs to try and fix it. I'll pick up the computer this afternoon and find out if switching out a board will make do. If not, you'll hear the screams.
 
Only found two golf balls mowing the backyard this week, which was surprising based on the length of the weeds, er, "grass," which was more trouble than a Flyspeck Island chameleon. I'm not saying you could hide a small dog back there, I'm just saying that I had re-mow some sections because the grass was so thick it caught up in my mower blade.
 
And now, since Val and I haven't gotten motivated to take long walks at dusk, for the summer reality television slate, starting with "So You Think You Can Dance":
 
I wish I could say that upon review, there were several acts last night that blew me and Val away. The plain truth is, we just don't "get" many of the performances and don't even know whether they were good or not until the judges tell us. David Lynch movies make more sense than some of Mia Michaels' choreography. The only duo that was entertaining enough to "win" the night in our eyes was Katee and Joshua's Broadway show.
 
Looking for a dark horse? Joshua could be this year's Sabra (who, if you forgot already, won). Every week he's praised for doing well out of his preferred style, whereas all the professionals with years of training are supposed to be excellent.
 
Can we can it with the train metaphors for a few weeks? We get it, Mary loves the Hot Tamale Train, but isn't it a little early in the season to start crowning champions? At least in "Idol," the voters decide who stays and who goes. In "Dance," the judges have the final say, which means if they have a few people already picked out for the finals, they can ignore the voting for several weeks, so rigged that it would make NBA commissioner David Stern proud.
 
Going home? Probably Susie and Marquis. There's not any excitement with them as a pair, and Marquis gets lost among the more vibrant males like Will, Joshua and Mark. What I can guarantee is that we won't like the special guests tonight, won't understand any of the "contemporary" numbers, and we'll marvel at just how blind Cat's designers must be.
 
It was difficult to imagine that the second week of "Nashville Star" could be even more sucktastic than the first week, but they pulled it off. That was some god-awful singing. Anyone who managed to string three decent notes together was praised by the judges, and Billy Ray Cyrus is such a terrible and boring host that all of a sudden this week there was a random blond chick in the wings to introduce segments or toss to break. She could probably out sing most of the supposedly country singers (half of whom sing pop songs disguised as country).
 
I don't really care what happens the rest of the season on "Celebrity Circus," so long as Blu was kicked off last night. Even when she was voted off, she still started mouthing off to the French woman judge about how the judge couldn't sing an R&B song as good as her. Uh, Blu, I know you were just venting since apparently your handlers kiss your lazy no talent butt and have never heard criticism, but the show is about you doing circus acts. If you want to start a show where you judge circus performers singing abilities, you go right ahead. Otherwise, shut the heck up and get out of Joey Fatone's big top. I can't believe Blu put me in the position to defend a French chick with an attitude, but she succeeded.
 
"Hell's Kitchen" ends next week, and even though Val and I have watched from the beginning, I'm ready for it to end. Except for one or two contestants, this season's crop of wannabe chefs are mean, vicious and bitter. If they don't sabotage one another in the kitchen, they rip each other in the confessional to the point where we weren't rooting for anyone to win, just against most to lose, like watching the Democrats in their primaries.
 
We watched Tuesday's "America's Got Talent" debut, but only enough to huff that we don't like the "Showtime at the Apollo" screaming of the crowd. I know that a lot of the contestants are morons and delusional, but they actually come off sympathetic when compared to the audience yelling at them and all but grabbing shepherd hooks to yank them off the stage. America? A lot of you don't have talent, me included, but at least I have enough common sense not to go on stage and prove it. Be happy punching buttons or digging ditches, and stay off my TV!
 
I mean, I could stop watching and keep myself from watching such humiliation, but really, it makes me feel better about myself to know that I'm probably not in the bottom 50 percent of American intelligence, since 51 percent of Americans have tried out for reality TV and failed miserably. Me? I'm still holding out for a game show. At least when you fail horribly at "Wheel of Fortune," Pat still slaps you on the back and gives you $1,000 for showing up, am I right?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sox vs. Phillies

I'm not sayin' that I noticed a lack of text messages coming from the Atlanta direction with Boston beating Philadelphia last night 3-zip, I'm just sayin' there were several more Monday evening when the result was swapped. Just sayin'.  *coughMichaelcough*
 
Even better, with Big Papi on the DL, the Sox are staying atop the AL East with means heretofore unheard of in Red Sox Nation, matching a club record last night with six stolen bases in a game for the second time this season. New ace Jon Lester, who tossed a no-hitter this season against Kansas City and got the Game 4 victory as Boston completed a World Series sweep of Colorado last October, has allowed three runs or less in each of his last 10 starts and 5-1 with a 2.09 ERA over that span.
 
The series rubber match is today at noon, though we may find out more come October in a World Series rematch.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Computer on the fritz

Our internet is down. I repeat: Our internet? Down.
 
So if anyone has emailed me since Friday night or posted a comment, I apologize for not replying because I can't check it at work and in case you didn't get that opening sentence, our internet is down.
 
I'm hoping if I keep saying it, it won't be true anymore.
 
Even worse, it's our computer at fault. If it was Comcast's fault this would be easier. Instead, I have to take our computer to the expensive computer fixer-uppers, or get a whole new one. Ouch.
 
What's wrong is the Ethernet connection. The PC isn't reading the cable. We already replaced the modem, and that's not the problem. I was hoping it was fried after Friday night's lightning hit in the backyard. It's possible that the surge went through the modem and then the Ethernet connection.
 
Val's uncle Glenn let us borrow his laptop last night, which it turns out works if you plug in the Ethernet from our modem, which nearly made me cry. Because our internet is down, and that confirmed that it's our computer that's broken.
 
Oh dear. This would be easier if I haven't been working six-day weeks the last few weeks, so I have no clue when I'll get it fixed, so I apologize for the continuing email silence from me.
 
 
 

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Very Valfrey Weekend

First off, Happy Father's Day to my Dad, my Dad-in-law and all the fathers out there.
 
I just had dinner from Wendy's. I'm not saying that the woman behind the counter lied to me when she said she was waiting for my fries to cook, but not only weren't they hot and fresh, I'm pretty sure they swept under the fryer and gave me all the fries underneath.
 
Anyway ... there was a bit of excitement around our cove Friday night into Saturday morning.
 
Friday night we went to bed during a string of severe thunderstorms, which I thought had passed by my sleepy time after 1. About 4:30 a.m. we were awakened to the loudest boom I've heard not at an air show reenacting bombing runs.
 
There was such a loud bang that I walked around the house to make sure nothing was on fire, and checked the trees outside to make sure nothing was going to land on the house. It was so close and so loud that it tripped the breaker on the backyard side of the house affecting the master bath, kitchen and dining room.
 
Saturday morning about 10 Val and I were in the kitchen, and I noticed our older neighbor walking across our backyard looking between our house and the young family on the other side. He probably thought it looked funny to see two heads poking out the kitchen drapes looking out at him. I then went to the front yard and realized what was happening, there was a fire truck and ambulance in front of the young family's house.
 
Not deducing anything from just standing on the porch straining my head to see the action, I walked down the cove where a few neighbors had congregated. It turns out, the youngest son of our neighbors had gotten his hand caught in one of their dogs' collars, and the dog (normally a spaz anyway, not as calm as the big mastiff) was freaking the heck out, so much that they couldn't get the collar cut off and had to call 911. I'm sure it will be hilarious in five years, but right now the kid probably wishes he was somewhere else, far far away.
 
When talking to the neighbors, talk went to the storm the night before, and our older neighbors told us that the big bang left a mark, that lightning hit the pine tree between our homes. Sure enough, there was a streak down the tree and shattered bark in their backyard. Either it's lightning, or some golfer went nuts and attacked the tree after a bad shot ended up in our firewood pile.
 
Based on past experiences, I was told to expect the tree to die in the next couple of years, so I have that to look forward to as an expense of cutting down.
 
Later, we realized upon turning on the computer that our high-speed internet was down. From what Comcast can tell, the lightning strike caused a surge (the cables run right by that tree) and fried the modem, so it's time for a new one on Monday. Thus, no internet this whole weekend, which must make Val ecstatic while she's home alone and I'm at work.
 
This morning, Val and I were set to go church-shopping and finally find a church home close to Valfrey Estates, after driving back to Millington the last few months, still going with her parents and grandmother. We left to attend one church and ended up at another.
 
When we moved to Lakeland we noticed a small Baptist church right around the corner. This morning we pulled into the parking lot at 10:25 and were the only ones there. That's when we realized the sign was telling us that the congregation had moved several miles east down Highway 64. In other words, not so close to us anymore. Still, we drove that way to see if it would be worth trying anyway, only to pull into the new church parking lot and see just 19 cars. Not a robust Sunday School. And the service didn't begin until 11. We decided we didn't feel like going to a church with approximately 50 members and left.
 
We ended up at Bartlett Baptist, which neither of us had attended since it moved from Stage and the railroad tracks to the new location at Yale and Kirby-Whitten. Her uncle Steve and his family attend the church, but weren't there this morning. We may not be going back anytime soon to see them, though. No offense.
 
Back in Atlanta we realized we are more traditionalist in our churchgoing, and Bartlett Baptist is one of the increasing number of churches that is far too casual. The choir doesn't wear robes, there are no hymnals, teens run around in shorts and sandals (not all, just several), and in the worship center there aren't any pews or even stadium seating, just rows of chairs side-by-side. All I ask is for one "How Great Thou Art" or other classic hymn per Sunday, is that too much to ask?
 
The service was supposed to start at 10:50, but by then there were maybe only 100 people inside the sanctuary, and dozens more were milling about the hallways inside, moseying in over the next ten minutes or so, enough that it was full by 11, but it seemed kind of rude to us not to be seated and ready by the scheduled start time, walking in and around as the music director was talking.
 
The pastor wasn't there (that was another doubt, because the last time I was there, four years ago, I didn't enjoy his sermon), but we did enjoy the guest speaker, president of the Mid-American Seminary in Memphis. He had some good stories, though I wondered if he's had this practiced for a while. His son that he talks about being five or six years old is probably 25 by now.
 
At least I did notice several young couples, which is important to me and Val. We want to find a church home where there are several young married couples and new families, so that when we have kids there will actually be a nursery to watch them as we learn and worship. Not to mention enough kids in the church that there will be a Mother's Day Out program for when little Valfrey is driving us nuts. Not that it would happen, of course. I'm just sayin'.
 
About the only real complaint this weekend? The Red Sox game in Cincinnati was blacked out on TBS on our cable. For the love of all that's holy, how the heck is Memphis considered Cincinnati's market? MLB, you stink.
 
Y'all have a great week, ya hear?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The cool down

Oops, forgot to update on the air-conditioning situation at Valfrey Estates. The A/C guy didn't replace the coil, he only came and cleaned it out on Thursday and said that should get us to the fall.

He said it wouldn't do to replace it right now, because the heating unit is so old and decrepit that we'll probably have to fix/replace the whole thing come winter time. Which, yeah, I figured anyway, and while under warranty it might as well be done now when much of the cost can be absorbed.

For now, the house is cool, the A/C works great, and we're satisfied. Heck, it even gets pretty doggone cold in here even just set at 72, which is a miracle for me!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Must read

Kudos to Tim Ellsworth for compiling stories from the tornado that wrecked my alma mater, Union University, on February 5th, and making a book called “God in the Whirlwind: Stories of Grace from the Tornado at Union University.”

Tim describes it as "a collection of stories about how God has acted providentially in the lives of students and others."

Val and I looked for it tonight but it's not in the LifeWay Christian store at Wolfchase yet, but we'll keep trying.

Drew Papi

After his performance last September and October, I said I wouldn't criticize J.D. Drew anymore, especially when he slumped or was hurt in weird ways for the umpteenth time. And now, he's certainly basking in the applause of the Fenway faithful for his work since David Ortiz went on the DL.
 
Get this: Drew is 18-for-36 with six homers and 15 RBIs since Big Papi was sidelined, raising his batting average from .282 to .324. He also has five doubles, a triple, 15 runs and 10 walks in that span. In the age of "instant history," for now Drew might as well be Jim Rice.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Proud to be an American watching reality TV

Before I get into Wednesday's reality shows, let me congratulate Big Papi on becoming a U.S. citizen. May we sit under a tree watching a July 4th parade together, drinking Pabst (yes, I would even pretend to drink alcohol if I could with Ortiz) and singing Lee Greenwood at the top of our lungs.
 
Today starts the U.S. Open in San Diego, which should take up much of the next four days. I apologize in advance to my darling Valerie. She pretends it's okay, bless her heart.
 
Now, for "So You Think You Can Dance," the top 20 performed in duos, and unlike "Idol" there aren't any glaring weaklings to toss out straight away. Then again, Val and I didn't have any favorites jump out that blew us away, either.
 
If someone has to go, I'm picking hip-hopper Comfort. The judges kept pretending that her partner had to keep up with her, when it was plain to us that she didn't have many moves and her feet were stationary, which isn't good for a jive. On the guys' side, Mark may have some funky moves, but I think after a few weeks it will be clear that he is over his head when someone can't choreograph a routine (also known as the "Mia Michaels Special") to fit his strengths.
 
I can't believe I'm saying this, but we actually a) watched, and b) sorta kinda enjoyed "Celebrity Circus" on NBC last night. We hadn't even heard of it until Monday, so lacking was the network's promotion of the C-list cast performing death-defying acts with Joey "What, the Singing Bee is on hiatus?" Fatone hosting under the big top.
 
The French trapeze artist judge had to have been told to be the "bitchy one." She is just one step away from the castle guards in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." She did all but tell Wee Man that his mother was a hamster and that she was farting in Peter Brady's general direction.
 
That Blu R&B chick? She's gotta go. You can't act lazy and pretend to be sick during your pre-act video and then complain when it's obvious to the judges and the audience that you weren't prepared like everyone else.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sarah, Mark's wedding

This weekend Val and I were in Jackson for Sarah's wedding, the newest of the Jackson Gang to tie the knot. They were all honorary bridesmaids, hence the similar color of their dresses (not pictured: Melanie, already on her way with Roger to Myrtle Beach for vacation):



It was a beautiful ceremony - as they all are, I downed many a delicious BBQ cocktail weenie at Cajun Cookers for the reception, and much thanks to Meredith and Chad for letting us crash at their pad.

Nashville Blah

Did anyone else catch the crapfest that was the new "Nashville Star?" Let me count the ways:

- The production value was dreadful. Only one of the 12 acts (which included groups as well as individuals) sounded somewhat decent. So either they picked terrible singers or the acoustics of the theater need to be changed. The show better hope it's just the audio, or else they are being shown up every week by "Can You Duet" on CMT, where the groups sound a million times better.

- The first season of "Star" on USA Network, we got to see the auditions around the country. By season two they stopped doing it, and that's when I lost interest. You can't just plop 12 acts in front of me from week one and expect me to find people to root for. It'd be like starting The Breakfast Club in the middle when Judd Nelson is looking up Molly's skirt and crazy chick is shaking her dandruff on her sandwich.

- Jewel is a judge? For a country competition? What, Amy Winehouse wasn't available?

- Hannah Montana's dad is a bore. For the time it took him to read off the phone numbers I can see how he could wander away and not notice his daughter taking nude photos for a magazine. Achy Breaky was so long ago. And take that microphone away from your mouth. The show can't afford lapel mics?

- Suffice to say, we will not be following this show this summer. There's plenty of other reality shows where contestants are beat up, humiliated and make fools of themselves. And that's just MSNBC's fawning coverage of Barack Obama.

It has to end some time

I would cry, but I need to conserve all bodily fluids.

This morning, at 3 a.m., before leaving for work I noticed that it was a little warm in the house, so I went to turn the air down. It was 78 degrees inside, set for 72, and that's when I had one of those "uh-oh" revelations.

Checking the inside unit, the connections were icing over. Here we go again.

So it would appear we have a serious Freon leak. First thing this morning, I'll call the warranty company and get a Freon refill to get us another few days of cold air and set in motion the next set of fixes, though at least for today I'll feel better that Reeve's should be out of the picture.

What I don't get is, obviously this has been going on for a while, so how did the previous homeowners' daughter make it through the summers while living there alone?

UPDATE 7:05 p.m. - Not as bad as last time. Need a coil, it will cost us some money, but for now we're able to use the air to keep it from getting hot (but not like 65 degrees or it will freeze up again), so that's okay.

Monday, June 09, 2008

At least the grass is cut

Found only one golf ball (a Taylor Made) in the backyard while mowing this morning, which is surprising since I hadn't mowed it in two weeks due to the lack of air-conditioning in the house. Why would I want to mow a big yard in 90-degree heat, then go inside where it's 84?

I'm finding that I'm not very good at mowing in straight lines. After a few passes my path looks like a boomerang. I think it's because I use both a mask over my mouth and glasses.

Before I switched to safety glasses I was using my sunglasses, and every time I breathed out the glasses would get foggy, when I breathed in it cleared up, so half the time I didn't even know if I'm re-mowed a spot or missed an entire line.

I still haven't gotten around to killing all the weeds, which pretty means our entire yard. My theory is, the first summer I'll be happy if the yard is green and flat, and then I'll worry about re-seeding and making it all purdy and fancy.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Jeff's Top 5: Overrated Movies

Critics almost universally praise them, but I was either disappointed, confused, or angered by my list:

1. "2001: A Space Odyssey" - Critic Roger Ebert likes to tell a story about the screening of this Kubrick snoozer, that a well-known Hollywood legend (Rock Hudson?) walked out in the middle, wondering out-loud, "What the (expletive) was that about?!" When I caught up with the movie 30 years later, I completely agreed. This just in: The monkeys are still throwing bones around in a six-hour meaningless movie opening.

2. "Raging Bull" - There's nothing likable about anyone or anything in this boxing flick.

3. "Apocalypse Now" - Too trippy.

4. "Vertigo" - Another snoozefest, which was surprising coming from an Alfred Hitchcock film. Or, I just wish Grace Kelly could be in every Hitchcock movie.

5. "Dr. Strangelove" - I was born three decades too late to get the satire.

Honorable Mention - "Brazil," "Blazing Saddles," "The Thin Man," "Young Frankenstein," "Stripes," "True Romance"

Friday, June 06, 2008

Cool

Oh glorious air-conditioning, how precious you are, how your bosom embraces me into your comfort!

Yes, we have air again! But not without drama. At 10 a.m. I was about to post a blog that began this way:

"Oh. My. Frackin'. Frickin'. AAAARRRGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!"

Why?

So about that scheduled appointment from 9-11 this morning to replace our A/C unit? I get a call at 9:30 from Reeve's telling me that they don't have an expansion valve to go with the unit that was sent by the warranty group, and she "called all over" and can't find one. So she expected me to say okey-dokey and wait at least two business days (that's Tuesday) to get one and then re-schedule (likely another week away).

Oh heck no. I contacted the warranty group, told them that this was unacceptable in every way, that they would be providing me with another contractor and putting us up in a hotel until the situation was resolved, threatening legal action all the way.

With the warranty group's Memphis backup contractor's number, I called Air Pro, who it turns out was literally just five minutes away. They looked at the unit, declared that it wasn't broken, that it only needed Freon, and in 15 minutes it was finished, the warranty group paid Air Pro so we didn't have to, and our air was blowing cold again in the house.

Yes, after 2 1/2 weeks of waiting for Reeve's to fix it, Air Pro fixed it in 15 minutes. I don't know what kind of scam Reeve's is pulling, but Val and I will contact any and every group possible to try and single-handedly make sure that they don't do this to another unsuspecting homeowner again.

But hey, it's cool in here again, and none too soon. Mom, Aunt Lynn, Granddad, cousin Karla and her brood, Evie and Gavin, were by this afternoon on their way to Little Rock, so we got to show everyone around the new house without having to supply hand fans. Good times.

The Obamessiah Speaks

Does Obama really believe he's here to deliver mankind from ourselves?
"I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless.

"This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth."

A couple of weeks ago Obama decided that he does knows what's best for us, and that's whatever other countries say so:
"We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK."
Really? So how much are other countries telling Obama that they can tolerate, that he'll try to force us to comply with their wishes?

I don't know why Obama claims to be so sad about leaving Trinity Church in Chicago. After all, he says he was not present for the most controversial sermons, and said he did not know about them until he began running for president. Considering how much material is out there of Wright, either Obama never went to church or he doodles in the bulletin instead of paying attention.

Obama's "potatoe" moments go ignored:
Imagine that John McCain named a young running mate to campaign with him, and this national rookie suggested America had 58 states, repeatedly used the wrong names for the cities he was visiting, and honored a Memorial Day crowd by acknowledging the "fallen heroes" who were present, somehow alive and standing in the audience. How long would it take for the national media to see another Dan Quayle caricature? Let's raise the stakes. What if it was the GOP presidential candidate making these thoroughly ridiculous comments? This scenario is very real, except it isn't McCain. It's the other fellow.
Read it all.

Speaking of media double standards, can you believe if McCain had pulled a fast one on his own press corps?

More media fawning: Barack and Michelle Obama do a "fist bump" on stage at an event, and Time treats it like an unexplored craze.

Responding to the verdict by a federal jury Wednesday convicting developer and Obama fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko of corruption charges, Obama said, "This isn't the Tony Rezko I knew." Wow, between Rezko, Wright and Pflegler, Obama sure doesn't know much about the real thoughts and actions of his friends and advisers. This is the guy we want in the White House?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Red Sox good, Reeve's bad

Briefly, the Red Sox are back in first place in the AL East over that legendary franchise out of Tampa. With 12 straight home wins the Sox have proved that Fenway is impenetrable, but outside the friendly park there be dragons. (Really I should say that they've won 15 of 16 at home after taking three of four in Baltimore, which always ends up being a de facto home series with more Sox fans than O's fans in Camden Yards).

Last night's win, though, may provide some added drama in tonight's series finale after Coco Crisp slid late during a steal attempt, nearly racked the second baseman in the crotch with an elbow, and caused the Rays' manager to yell at Coco for five straight minutes. Dude, you are so going to be beaned in the butt tonight, and I can't say you don't deserve it.

Meanwhile, at Valfrey Estates, we continue to live like our ancestors in a house without air-conditioning. It's now been over two weeks, and there isn't enough righteous anger in the world to clarify my feelings over this matter. I'm told we have an appointment for tomorrow between 9 and 11 a.m., but we're not enthusiastically counting on things to be completed.

Let's hop into the Way Back Machine and review just how messed up this is. Today is Thursday, June 5. On Tuesday, May 20, we called our warranty group because a) the fan wouldn't stop blowing even when the A/C or heat was off, and more concerning, b) there was ice building up around the inside unit, in the vents and I later learned, on the outside unit as well. Based on advice from friends and family, we hoped it was a simple case of no Freon, since it's doubtful the previous homeowners ever had it filled since, oh, 1983.

The next day, May 21, two guys came out, said the control board was the reason the blower kept going, and that they'd have to come back the next day to check the freezing issue since I hadn't defrosted the unit. The next day, I call Reeve's, and the lady tells me that the guys wouldn't set up an appointment, that I'd have to do that, and only with the control board ordered. So we set up the appointment for Friday, when two different guys come and tell us the bad news, that the compressor is down and the unit was doomed. Not good news, with my family coming into town for Memorial Day, now having to make other plans to stay elsewhere. The guys told us that Friday, May 23, that they'd put in the paperwork with the warrant group and by the next week they'd be back.

Knowing they'd be off work Monday for Memorial Day, by Tuesday, no word was worrisome. I called, and was told that Reeve's had a backlog of paperwork and would contact us when the warranty group approved their request. Meaning, since Saturday they still hadn't just picked up the phone and called the warranty group to request the work be done. I called several times Tuesday and Wednesday, and by Wednesday afternoon I was filing my first complaints with the warranty group. Get this, too, the lady at Reeve's would change her story off and on as to why nothing had happened. It seemed like she didn't even know the process, telling me that when the warranty people approved the work she'd give us a call. Except that she was apparently unaware that she had to call and file the paperwork requests first.

With that Wednesday afternoon, May 28, call to the warranty group, I had them try to call Reeve's, but no answer. So they faxed a request for the information, and if they didn't hear back after 24 hours we'd be recommended a different company. 23 1/2 hours later I called the warranty people and said that Reeve's had done nothing, that I tried to call and received no word. We went ahead and set it up to call another company, which I did, and then five minutes later I get a call from another person at the warranty group telling me that Reeve's called them and was approved a request for a new A/C unit altogether instead of just a compressor. (More expensive, but with a 25-year-old unit probably wiser. Although, we find out it's not all covered, since disposal of the old unit and the control board will cost us $300. The aggravation mounts.)

With the approval, the warranty group sends the unit to Memphis, and says it would get there by Friday, May 30, or Saturday "at the latest." I call Reeve's Friday. Nothing. Saturday. Nada. The lady at Reeve's tells me that they're backlogged and can't make appointments until the next week. I've made my second formal complaint to the warranty group now. Monday, still no word. Tuesday, the lady tells me now that the unit hasn't even arrived! At that point I call horsehockey and call the warrant group to get a shipping number to take back to Reeve's to show them that they've had it available for a few days. When I call back Tuesday, June 3, with the number I'm told that she does have the number (with a "duh" attitude attached), and they'd call for an appointment later.

Oh heck no. They have the number, we've been waiting over two weeks, she will make me an appointment NOW. She hemmed and hawed, and then gave me one option and one option only, Friday June 6 at 9 a.m., meaning I'll have to take a half-day from work to get home and wait for them to arrive after 11, surely.
What a disaster. What an awful company. If you have a home warranty, make sure they don't ask you to use Reeve's, or at least have somewhere else to stay for two to three weeks while you wait for them to fix your unit. Lies, lies, doggone lies for two weeks. Not only will we file more formal complaints with the warranty group and Reeve's, we're calling the Better Business Bureau, I'm blogging this, and I will post on any and every Usenet group that talks about recommendations or negatives about such companies. Val and I will bring the thunder!

I only ask, why couldn't it be the heat that went dead this winter? At least then you can add layers or use heaters that actually heat a room. Yeah, we have three to five fans in a room when we're in there, but it only blows hot air around, and with the windows open during 90-degree heat it only makes it seem like we're sitting on our back patio. In fact, maybe I should move the TV outside because the back patio might be cooler.


UPDATE - FRIDAY 8 A.M. - Yep, called it. Coco was beaned on the hip and stupidly charged the mound to start a brawl. You should have just brushed it off, accepted your shot and walked to first base.


Uh-oh. Big Papi's on the disabled list with what's being called a "
partial tear of the sheath that holds the tendon in place" in his wrist. Ouchy.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sequel Summer

Two anticipated sequels, two entertaining movies but still a few things to grouse about.
 
INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL
 
I yield to few when it comes to my adoration of all things Indy. Growing up "playing Indy," I was treasure hunter and adventure seeker Arizona West, and when I would have the house to myself as a teen I'd watch "The Last Crusade" over and over and over and over, like a two-year-old hooked on Dora.
 
I was never, however, the biggest fan of "Temple of Doom," what with the bugs and the beating-heart removal, not to mention Kate Capshaw. Unfortunately, "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is closer to "Temple of Doom" than it is to "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or "The Last Crusade," both of which are imminently quotable and in the pantheon of great movies above criticism. 
 
Still, to say that an Indiana Jones movie is disappointing is still to put it above hundreds of movies I'd consider to be artful or stimulating. Let's see, "Gods and Monsters" again, or "Crystal Skull?" That's a no-brainer. Give me more of that witty banter and death-defying stunts in the Amazon! So when I list negatives, remember that I did enjoy myself.
 
My problem? The basis of the movie, even taking into account that the Indy franchise deals with a lot of supernatural elements, will forever disappoint as preposterous.
 
What, George Lucas couldn't find a script about the Bermuda Triangle, the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot and/or the success of "The Hills?"

*WARNING: SPOILER*
 
At least the plots of the first three revolved around fantastical tales rooted somewhat in human stories and elements that were at least a teeny bit believable, if farfetched. This one? Ridiculous. I know there are drawings on ancient walls of creatures that may or may not be of this world, but we're talking about an ancient peoples who also believed that ripping the beating heart out of a sacrifice would ensure a successful harvest, and believed in all sorts of gods that could look like dogs, aliens, Rosie O'Donnell, all sorts of ugly creatures. I've seen "Stargate," I've seen the theories of "outside" assistance on ancient cultures, I disregarded them all.

*SPOILER OVER*
 
In another first, I have to say that I didn't enjoy Cate Blanchett's performance. It was like a cartoon. Her Ukrainian accent was bordering on awful and insulting.
 
I understand that the Indy stunts are usually incredible and that thousands of bullets never hit the good guys, but really, we're surviving not one but three massive waterfall drops?
 
I wish the film had used a bit more of its past for fun. For instance, what if Indy runs through a cabaret briefly, and sees Kate Capshaw on stage, does a double-take, and continues on with a dozen commies on his tail? Why is Henry Jones Sr. (i.e. Sean Connery) killed off and out of the movie? He doesn't have to take part, just have him in a cameo at the end, like "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves?" How much more would I have smiled by the end with Connery there? Really, John Rhys-Davies couldn't show up for a teeny bit? And where's all the travel? We're in the U.S., we're in Peru, and that's it. Way to scout worldwide locales there, George.
 
Am I focusing too much on what I wanted the film to be, instead of what it is? Yeah, but that's my right as a fan. So let me pout a little.

But not for long. All in all, I'll still buy the DVD, watch the extras, and see the flick on TNT, because Harrison Ford continues to delight, Shia LaBeouf actually contributes to the story instead of being the annoying hip "it" guy of the year, and Karen Allen is always welcome back. Sit back and try not to think too much, and you may avoid the pitfalls I fell into with the plot. My father and Nana didn't seem to mind much, so why should I?
 

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN
 
I hold no shame that I saw "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" five times in the theater, and listened to the score/soundtrack constantly for two months on my iPod and CD player. The entire movie was magic, and made the outside world a perfect blend of rainbows, puppies and candy corn.

The sequel? Eh, it's well made, has many of the elements that make the first so lovable, and yet there's not much magic here. The film comes across far darker in tone, and there many more deaths that feel more real and painful than "Wardrobe." What was really missing was Aslan, absent until near the end. Not just Peter, who denied Aslan so much we might as well have heard a cock crow, but our moral compass was off-kilter without him. 

There are only a quick few minutes to set up the sequel. The Pevensie kids are back in the London area during WWII, finding it difficult to adjust to the real world again as kids after spending at least a decade as kings and queens of Narnia.
 
The kids find that this isn't the same happy-go-lucky land they enjoyed. It's over a millennium later, and they find Narnia "a more savage place than they remembered." So says a dwarf played by Peter Dinklage, whom they saved from a watery death but whom remains grouchy. 

The first third of the film is about political machinations of the Tal-whatevers, far too much political intrigue that you've seen a hundred times in Roman epics like Gladiator that just washes over you as you wonder where the magic and talking animals are. The second third is a pissing match between Peter and Prince Caspian, both in their late teens and both trying to be far too macho and leaders. The last third, we finally get engrossed in the fortunes of life and death and the ultimate battle. 
 
In support, Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy, who has since moved on to other award-winning pictures) and the beavers are long gone, and in their place we get a wise badger, a few brave warrior mice, good dwarf vs. bad dwarf (surprisingly played by the Willow midget) and all of the fantastical creatures who once fought against each other in the first Narnia, now allies against the evildoers trying to exterminate Narnians. Even the Ents, er, trees, go to war and, stop me if you've heard this one, nature has to fight back against mankind's intrusions.

It's those pesky humans that keep the film from being sparkly and lovable. Humans are bad, bad, big bad - except for our hero kids - and there's nary a redeemable one. The villain, Miraz, is a Jean Reno clone with a Napoleon complex, and Prince Caspian himself, even with his own Professor Dumbledore, is a yawner of a character, not given much to do on the sidelines as the Pevensies control the story. 

The ending feels rushed, though there is plenty of feel-goodness and chills as the kids once again bid a fond farewell to Narnia and Aslan. Here's hoping that the next "Chronicles" brings back some of the magic that kept me coming back for the first.  

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Nerds! Nerds! Nerds!

This just brings back all kinds of good memories:


I just spent the last twenty minutes trying to find this as a ringtone, but no luck.