Friday, February 26, 2010

A Bad Sign

Once or twice a year I get to jonesing for a hotdog from one of those carts you see along the sidewalk. Today was the day. By 11:00 the monkey had climbed all the way up my back and I put on my coat to face a freezing, windy day for the one block walk to the nearest street vendor to order one with chili and onions (if they were crunchy).

She wasn't there.

I got over it. Now I can get a decent hotdog tomorrow, with real chili and fresh onions. What disturbs me is her taking the day off in the first place. What does it say about this nation when we can no longer depend on immigrants to do the jobs we won't do?

Congratulations, Dads

Sometime the middle of this afternoon, the Show Tunes Correspondent and his partner will become fathers. I’ve watched them go through the process, the waiting and stress and one major disappointment, and I’m delighted it’s about to work out for them.

The best week of my life, without doubt, was the first week The Sole Heir came to live with her mother and me Her birth was a long (34 hour) process that, while I’ll never forget any of it, was so physically and emotionally draining all I could do when I got home was throw up and fall facedown into bed. I awoke with one foot on the floor, and my coat on the stairs. (I know I got off easy, but her mother got drugs.)

Ah, but the week after she first came home. I took a little time off work and we shut out the rest of the world. All we did was tend to the baby: fed her, changed her, held her, rocked her, put her to sleep, established a routine, got the dogs used to her, played with her in the limited ways you can with an infant, seeing what she liked. All the things that create the initial bonds both parents and child will work with for the rest of their lives.

And it was bliss.

Today starts their week. I hope they enjoy it as much as I did, because it will never come again. I know each child is a treasure in their own right, and the experience repeats every time a new baby gets brought home. I also know there’s nothing quite like doing something for the first time, how many of the warm feelings from a re-do stem from those memories.

I’m a little jealous.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why The Sole Heir Is The Sole Heir

From today's "Shit My Dad Says:"

"A parent's only as good as their dumbest kid. If one wins a Nobel Prize but the other gets robbed by a hooker, you failed."

I have succeeded.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tiger's Zoo

I didn’t care much about Tiger Woods, even before the seamy details of his life became public. I think his course behavior is unprofessional, and his caddy is a thug. I don’t like what golf has become since he made the scene, though I don’t blame him for that; it’s television’s decision to cover the final two rounds of every tournament he enters as “Tiger Woods and the Low 69 (Plus Ties) Dwarfs.” He is quite likely the most talented person ever to strike a golf ball, and he may be the greatest player ever. He has a ways to go to match up with Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, and Arnold Palmer as a sportsman, no matter how many majors he wins. His marital transgressions and their consequences don’t interest me nearly as much as their interpretation by others.

Reaction to last Friday’s mea culpa press conference seems to run about 4-1 in his favor. The most common response is, he’s done what he needed to do. He knows he was wrong, he’s moving on, and—most importantly—he gets it.

What is it about Tiger’s performance on Friday that implies this? Was it his use of the word “entitlement?” That came up a lot. “He said he had a sense of entitlement. He gets it. The planets can go back to circling the earth again.”

Anyone who’s read this far knows what he said; there’s no need to rehash it. Here are several arguments to support the concept that he doesn’t get it:

He asked for, and obtained, the use of the PGA Tour’s best known tournament players’ course—Sawgrass—for his presser. True, it’s handy to his home, but Tiger Woods can afford to find a facility. The Tour should have stayed far away from placing anything resembling its imprimatur on this, in large part because…

There was a significant Tour event going on that very day that should have earned the primary publicity spot. Hard to believe it’s a coincidence Tiger chose the day of the World Match Play quarterfinals for his announcement, especially since the tournament is sponsored by Accenture, the first company to pull Tiger’s endorsements when things went bad for him. Ernie Els gets it, saying, “Monday is for apologies.”

Tiger’s still blaming the media, which is bizarre. The media have kissed his ass for years; no one in sports dictates to the media how he will be treated more than he does, and no one in sports whines about his treatment more. Enough already.

The first refuge of a contemporary public figure caught in a scandal is to plead addiction. Tiger claims a sex addiction. Maybe he’s just an asshole; many of the symptoms are the same. The Beloved Spouse and I discussed this the other night. She wondered if Tiger was taking heat unfairly; after all, did he ever say anything to support the image his sponsors were broadcasting about him?

In fairness, no. He also didn’t argue against it, and he took the money. He’s probably a billionaire, in large part because of that image. If it’s unfair for him to subjected to such scrutiny now, it was also unfair for him to have earned such respect and wealth under false pretenses. Basketball star Charles Barkley famously said he was no role model, and told kids your fathers are role models. Doctors are role models. Cops. It cost Barkley a lot of money in potential endorsements, but he already had a lot of money, so he got over it. Tiger can buy and sell Charles Barkley. Speaking out would hardly invite the wolf to his door.

Tiger says he’ll take time off the Tour to treat his addiction. He was vague about how long, implied it could be all year. If he truly has an addiction problem, then maybe this is a sign he’s serious. Misogynistic cretin Steve Czaban, speaking on local sports talk radio, blamed the extended absence on Elin, a manipulation. “What if he takes a year off and she decides she still doesn’t want him back,” Czaban worried. “That’s four possible majors he could have won.”

No, moron. This is on him. Period. If he’s truly addicted, the last thing he needs to is be sent unsupervised to face the same temptations he failed to deal with before. Unlike some poor schmuck making forty grand a year, Tiger can afford to take a year off to get clean and try to repair the relationship. If he wants to.

Talk’s cheap. The first public test of his seriousness will be when he returns to the Tour. Will he still slam clubs and curse his bad shots? Will Steve Williams be allowed to come heavy to carry his bag? Or will Tiger make a little time for autographs, maybe even play in some of the smaller tournaments that gave him sponsor’s exemptions before he had his Tour card, allowed him to break on the scene as spectacularly as he did.

No one should receive a free pass just for saying he gets it; let’s see what he does before lining up to kiss his ass again.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

From the Network That Fired Conan and Kept Jay

Anyone looking for examples of what’s wrong with contemporary television need only watch an evening of NBC’s Olympic coverage to be satisfied for a year. Assuming you can figure out what’s on.

Olympic program listings are always pot luck affairs. Schedules change due to weather; unexpected events may require more coverage. The advent of this whole Interwebs thing should give NBC an opportunity to keep potential viewers relatively well informed. Should. The web site’s program guide has been incorrect several times already, as, apparently, have been the schedules released to the cable and FiOS providers. I set the DVR to record the opening games of the American and Canadian men’s hockey teams the other day, right off my program guide, and came home to several hours of curling.

Even when the guide is right, it’s incomplete. Many listings just say, “XXI Winter Olympics – Sweden at Canada.” (Actually, only one said that. It’s an example.) Doesn’t say which sport. Could be hockey, could be curling. Could be men’s or women’s. Since the listings on screen sometimes disagree with the listings on the web site, and each has already been proven wrong on more than one non-weather-related occasion, it’s hard to know when things are happening.

It’s possible NBC doesn’t want you to record afternoon events because you’ll watch them in the evening instead of their big ticket commercials. Television as we know it exists to generate advertising revenue; programming is included only because the networks need something to entice you into watching their commercials. (Think about it: if NBC thought you’d watch nothing but commercials for three hours a night, do you really believe they’d bother with this Olympics nonsense?)

For a time, the networks allowed us to believe they viewed commercials as a necessary evil; they had to pay for the programming somehow. Now they don’t try to disguise the fact they only broadcast programming to get you to watch the commercials. Sports segments from Vancouver have been as short as two or three minutes. A couple of ski runs or speed skating races. A typical schedule looks like this: a four-and-a-half minute figure skating routine, followed by two or more minutes of commercials, followed by the skaters receiving their scores (a couple of minutes), followed by more commercials. Repeat till midnight.

Figure skating was chosen for the above example because if there’s any going on, that’s what you’ll see. A signature event of the Winter Olympics, akin to the 1500 meter run or 100 meter dash in the summer, is the men’s downhill. This year the downhill was postponed a few days due to bad weather. When it finally went off, it was the same day as figure skating. Six two-minute runs were shown in the course of forty minutes of commercials and features; basically the medal winners and other Americans. Figure skating filled a couple of hours, including skaters the announcers admitted were only there to gain experience. They had no chance to medal. Even to an untrained eye, it was easy to see they were the second team.

I’m sure NBC has research that shows women watch a lot of figure skating, and that keeps their ratings up. The supposition must be that men in the coveted 25-49 age group who are into competition more than aesthetics will put up with that to see some sliders or jumpers. Maybe it’s even accurate. All I know is the chats I have seen are unhappy with the coverage by about 4-1; this is the first time I can remember using the DVR to fast-forward through the programming as much as the commercials.

The allure of the Olympics is such not even NBC can ruin it completely. Watching the joy of Canada win its first gold medals on home soil was uplifting. Apolo Anton Ohno is an engaging personality with a load of talent in an entertaining sport. I’m not into snowboarding, but Shaun White is impossible not to watch. Lindsey Vonn would be America’s sweetheart if she were a skater. The hockey tournament will be riveting as the elimination games begin.

If only I knew when they’d be on.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I'm in the tank already for Steven Pearlstein, but today he has outdone himself.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Fool and His Money

The icemaker in my refrigerator stopped working.

Forethinking individual that I am, I have a homeowner’s warranty to cover this. For a mere $60, they send a refrigeration specialist to fix whatever is wrong, even if that means replacing the refrigerator. (Not likely for this scenario, but comforting nevertheless.)

The refrigerator repairman came, listened to my description of the issue, and asked how was the water flow. Since we never use the water dispenser in the door (we have a water purifier with a nice-sized reservoir for drinking water), I didn’t know, and it had never occurred to me to check. He held a cup under the dispenser; water trickled out like ice melting off a ledge on a 34-degree day.

“The line’s bad,” he said. “Tell the plumber you need a quarter-inch saddle valve. That will fix it.” A relatively cheap education for $60.

I found a plumber on Angie’s List and scheduled an appointment for Presidents Day, when I knew I’d be home. In the interim, research showed it didn’t require a master’s degree in Plumbing Science to replace a saddle valve. The part was $5-$10, and it was nothing more complicated than shutting off the water, disconnecting the old valve, and putting the new in exactly the same place. Piece of cake.

But it was water. Bad experiences at a previous abode have made me paranoid about water issues. It seeks its own level, and that level can be up to my ears while I’m laying in bed. I’m also not the handiest person in the world; switching out the storm windows for screens has been a three hour chore, and the screens and storms were self-contained. Still, I had myself half talked into doing it when Snowpocalypse 2010 struck, leaving me plenty of time to work, but no way to get the part.

The hell with it; I let the plumber come as scheduled. Two professional, courteous gentleman shut off the water, took off the old valve, and put a new one in exactly the same place for $199, including $45 for the part. (Yes, I know.) The plumber sent me upstairs to try the water dispenser. Nada.

He looked confused when I told him, for maybe ten seconds. Then he said, “When’s the last time you changed the filter?”


So far it’s cost me $259 to learn I needed a $26 filter that I could have bought right from the get-go to uphold the basic principle of troubleshooting: Is it plugged in? Always start with the simplest thing to check and the cheapest to replace first, then work your way up.

I told you I wasn’t very handy.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Is It Just Me?

USA Today has announced all staff members must take a one-week furlough without pay sometime between February 28 and July 3, to combat lost revenue due to slumping ad sales.

Wouldn't it be easier on the employees--not to mention less disruptive to the paper's operations--just to make everyone take every fourth Friday off without pay? It would spread out the pain to the employees, and allow work to get done, as the work week would be consolidated so people aren't missed as much?

Am I missing something here, or does MBA school require all graduates only to address issues with the bluntest available instrument?

A Note to Our Loyal Readers

Both of you.

The Home Office has made a conscious decision not to indulge in any whiny, woe-is-me commentary about the recent snow storms, nor to inflict upon you any pictures of how much worse my snow was than yours. Which we all know it was. Everyone's snow is worse than anyone else's, mine included.

You're welcome.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Geaux Saints, Part Deux

I was going to title this post, "Who Dat?" in honor of the Saints' victory, but The Who's halftime performance still rings too painfully in my ears for that to be appropriate.

The Who has been my favorite rock band for over twenty years, largely because they stayed closes to their R&B roots, and partly because their songs had the most musical interest for a trained musician, thanks to Pete Townshend and John Entwistle. Now it's just Pete and Roger Daltry, and the party's over. Townshend can still play guitar, but he looks and sounds like someone in his seventies who's having trouble with his dentures. Daltry looks relatively healthy, but his voice is gone. He skipped from octave to octave more often last night than a Haitian seismograph needle. Entwistle's dead, and it matters. I'm sure the bassist they got is good, but Entwistle was a phenomenon, one of the most important supporting players any band ever had, with the possible exception of Rocco Prestia of Tower of Power. (Clarence Clemons comes to mind, but he was featured enough it's hard to think of him as a supporting player.)

I'm listening to some old Who today to get the taste of last night out of my ears. The Super Bowl halftime show was like seeing the prettiest girl in high school—the one you always had the crush on but never had the nerve to ask out—thirty hard years later, and she's not just fat and hard-looking, but kind of trashy. After all the anticipation, you'd rather have remembered her as she was than see her again.

The commercials were nothing special. I'm not sure what the fascination was with men in their underwear this year, but let's stop it now. The best ad was for the Google, tracing the history of a relationship through searches, from the first query about study abroad to the final, "how to build a crib." Touching, and showed perfectly what the product is for.

I mention the game last, because it always seems to be an afterthought at the Super Bowl Experience. What wasn't mentioned during what was a close game until the very end was what an ass whipping the Saints put on the Colts once they got their legs under them after that lousy first quarter. They outscored the Colts 31-7 from that point on, and probably outgained them 2-1, at least until some of the garbage time yards on their last drive.

Kudos to Colts coach Jim Caldwell for not calling the obligatory timeouts after the final change of possession. They couldn't have affected the outcome, yet coaches insist on using them to delay the inevitable. It was classy of Caldwell not to make the Saints wait any longer than they had to.

Can no one tackle anymore? The current offensive trend of throwing fifty three-yard passes a game depends on receivers catching easy throws, then either making the defender miss, or breaking a tackle for yards after the catch. A good tackling team can stop this by, well, tackling, yet it seems to be a lost art. Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl last year in large part because they were an exceptional tackling team. This year they didn't tackle as well for a number of reasons, and they missed the playoffs. If defensive backs could be taught to tackle maybe all this constant passing bullshit would pass and they could get back to playing real football again.

Saving the best for last, the highlight of the game, for me at least, was calling the ending during the third quarter. The game was still close then, very much in doubt, with few penalties and no turnovers, which is rare for a game this big. I turned to the Beloved Spouse and said the game would be decided by a key turnover, late. (Swear to God that's true.) Sure enough, Peyton Manning threw a Pick Six to put the game away for New Orleans.

A word about Manning. I told friends earlier in the week that among the reasons I wanted the Saints to win was because it was always fun to listen to Manning explain why a loss wasn't his fault. I haven't seen his comments yet (I've been a little occupied shoveling snow), but it's going to be a challenge this time. He has such an other-worldly persona now that Phil Simms missed the obvious call every analyst makes when a quarterback does what Manning did wrong on that play: he looked at his receiver all the way. Any defensive back watching Manning knew exactly where that ball was going. A rookie mistake.

Another, final, highlight—for me, at least—was getting to see Saints' Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams and back-up quarterback Mark Brunell get Super Bowl rings before Dan Snyder. This is a regular passion for me now, rooting for players and coaches who no longer play for the Redskins get the brass ring before The Prince of Darkness. Williams got shafted after having been named coach-in-waiting during the Gibbs 2.0 years. The only thing that could have been sweeter would be for Norv Turner to win it.

There's always next year.

Friday, February 05, 2010

The Seamy Side of Politics

Read Ezra Klein's brief post from today's Washington Post and follow the link. As he says, shocking.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Civilian Trials for Terrorists

Slate's Dahlia Lithwick wants to know why Republicans are so afraid of open trials for terrorists, especially wanna-be Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

It's the Abdulmutallab trial the confuses me. (Like spelling his name isn't confusing enough.) It's not like anyone has to worry about any super-secret intelligence and counter-terrorism techniques will be exposed if he's tried. A civilian airline passenger--a foreigner, no less--caught him red-handed. They have everything they need to convict him right there; it's a slam dunk. If they don't introduce evidence obtained in a secret manner--which they shouldn't need to--the defense can't ask for it, as it's not germane.

Really, what are they so afraid of, when our criminal justice system was just the ticket for Zacarias Moussaoui and Richard Reid?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

They Really Do Want to Take Away Your Medicare

It's just not who you think.

If the Democrats can't make something of this, they're not trying.