Thursday, October 29, 2009

Greazy Tony To The D.L.?

It always seems to go this way. You get into a good rhythm and then the next thing you know: roadblock. Last week I was putting up scores in the 90s like a great college basketball team or a mediorcer NBA squad. That spilled over into this week as I pumped my new "happy songs" playlist which was offset by the sad image of the Sydney Harbour Bridge enveloped in red dust. I was in the 90's a few more times, including this 94 second game, good for 8097 points.

Then it happened.

Yesterday I started to notice that I had a pins and needles feeling in my right forearm and hand. When I play solitaire on my home computer I rest my right elbow on the arm of my aforementioned judge's chair. After a long session of playing I would sometimes notice the pins and needles and call it quits. Now, it has been lingering for the last 36 hours. Since we live in a land where a guy who gets laid off doesn't deserve health care, I had to consult the internet. From what I could cull together, it looks like I probably have nerve entrapment in my median or ulnar nerve.

So my quest for a 60 minute game may have to take a bit of a back seat till I can: A) find some cheep medical attention, B) Find a new job with health care that will not adjudge this a "pre-existing condition, or C) Play with my right elbow on my right thigh which is much softer than the arm of the chair.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hey, Your Headlights Are On

When I got my first car with day-time running lights it used to drive me crazy that people would constantly flash their lights at me. Back in the day, that was the courteous thing to do when you saw someone during the day with their lights on. Of course, back then, your car didn't beep at you when your left your lights on, so, if you were forgetful, you might have left the mall to find a dead battery.

As with so many other social customs it has gone the way of the Dodo. Now if someone is flashing their lights at you during the day they are either warning you about a speed trap or it's a rock star that everyone thought was dead outside your house signaling that it's time for you to come out. Since John Cafferty is so rarely in my town, that's one that I don't have to worry about.

Some things just catch on, even if they have far outlived their usefulness. For instance: saying "god bless you" when someone sneezes is considered being polite even to this day. We live in a world where 99.999% of the people out there know that a sneeze isn't a little bit of your soul sneaking out of your body, and yet this ridiculous ritual is so ingrained in us that I just shouted it down to Inky a second ago when she sneezed.

Other customs slip away due to changes in the times we live in. XL and I talk all the time about things that have changed in the wake of modern communications improvements. Likewise, modern medicine has made people more aware of the need for improved hygiene, so much so that I wonder if the handshake will be a distant memory with in a generation or two.

PS - Since I am a man, and as such I think like a 14 year old at all times, I can't help think of nipples when I think of headlights. When I think of someone being unaware of their obvious nipple hardness I always think of three things. One is St. Kilda forward Nick Riewoldt, who is always at attention. The second is the scene in Showgirls where Larry Finkelstein says to Nomi "I'm hard. Why aren't you?" and then offers her an ice cube.

The last is the above picture of Farrah Fawcett which is in a tie with Phoebe Cates for the image most credited with making young boys of my generation think dirty thoughts. I always assumed the people that made that poster pulled a Finkelstein on Farrah, but a memorial spread in Playboy this month has me realizing that I was wrong. As it turns out, there must have been a whole lot of people flashing their lights at Farrah in the 70's and 80's.

PPS - It was hard for me to to a post where I tied headlights, hard nipples and John Cafferty together (seamlessly, I might add) with out making a smart ass reference to the Beaver Brown Band. It was in there like five times, but I just kept taking that paragraph out for fear of doing too much. Alas, I couldn't just leave well enough alone.
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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Better Than A Booth At IHOP

I don't know where you are having your Sunday breakfast, but chances are that it's not on a world landmark. Neither am I. But today 6,000 lucky drawing winners in New South Wales got the chance to have brekkie on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The iconic bridge was closed to traffic Saturday night and sod was laid on the road surface. Later that morning the people showed up with their baskets, blankets and tickets. In a remarkable show of competence the sod was removed by 1 PM and will be reused for a park near the Olympic village. The whole thing cost about a million bucks, but is estimated to have generated ten times as much in revenue for the state.

The Harbour Bridge was the first in the world to open a "bridge climb" attraction, which Inky and I availed ourselves of back in '05. Plus, like many other famous bridges it has walkways on each side which allow the pedestrian the chance to stroll across the Harbour and get another fantastic, and free, view. That is where I took this picture from. You are free to stand there as long as you like and stare out at the mouth of the Harbour, but I would guess they wouldn't be too crazy about someone just whipping out a picnic.

That's why this option was such a big deal for all those who got to sit lazily on the grass covered roadway and munch on their Vegemite covered toast. I'm all for brekkie on the bridge but, hold the Vegemite for mine.
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Adventures in Unemployment: Sick Days

A friend of mine posted a message on FaceBook where she talked about how angry she was that a bunch of kids in her son's class now have H1N1. The reason they have it is because one parent didn't want their perfect lil scholar (in the 3rd grade) to ruin his perfect lil attendance record and demanded that the kid go to school all week even after the nurse said he should stay home. Now, half the class is sick.

It sounds like a small thing, but it really is an epidemic all it's own. Inky used to work with a woman who was another one of these never-miss-a-dayers who refused to call out sick. When your workplace consists of 5 people a cold bug can run through it like a convenience store burrito. But, she wouldn't be denied her right to come to work hacking like a 40 year smoker, and thus, the bug was spread.

I'm sure we all know a person who refuses to take a day off when they are sick. It's one of the only bad things to come out of the move that many companies have made to a P.T.O. system where your Personal Time Off is one big pool. When all your time off is the same, you begin to think of it all as vacation days, which leads to people not wanting to use it when they are actually sick. XL just told me a story about a guy he works with coming into work on a previously scheduled day off BECAUSE HE WAS SICK. He doesn't like to be at home sick, so why not save the time off for when he is feeling better?

What a douche.

Not that I'm surprised, mind you. I've had at least two or three people just like him at every job I've ever had. The sick day conundrum is a classic action/reaction/over reaction problem that is so common in America. Bosses worry about employees calling out when they are actually not sick, so they begin to punish all people for taking time off.

So people try to avoid this retribution by pulling their germ infested bodies to the office when they are contagious so they can show what a dedicated worker they are. Never mind the fact that they are not 100% and as such are not really bringing any value to the workplace. In fact, they are a detriment to efficiency because they are probably going to get other people sick and at least some of them are like me, and stay home when they feel like ass.

We get less time off work than any other advanced nation in the world as it is. We work longer hours for more money but considerably less health and happiness and in the end all it gets us is a bigger house to leave empty while we pile up the snot rags in the trash can behind our desks. Sweet land o' liberty!
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Time to Take This Game on the Road?

My renewed quest for solitaire dominance is going swimmingly. This week I rocked some Yeah Yeah Yeah's on the iPod and used Romanian model Alina Vacariu as my background inspiration to great effect. I posted multiple games in the double digits, including a run of 97, 94 and this 91, all in a row. I was so excited by my new run of dominance I forgot to screen-cap the game before the victory shuffle ended, and so I ended up with the "deal again" box on the blank background. Oh well. It's still a minute and 31 seconds which is damn fine.

If I keep this up I'll be back in the 80's before you know it and pushing yet again for that ever elusive 1 minute game. It could take years, but I can wait. I'm not normally a patient guy, but, for for certain things I'll make an exception. Like, for instance, a 9 month long trip around Australia to follow the Geelong Cats. Inky and I have been talking for a few years about how great it would be to chuck it all and do just that, a kind of Aussie Sabbatical. We would live as cheaply as possible for a year while seeing the whole country up close and personal. There would be blogs and plenty of notes taken for a possible book, but it would be at least 18 months in the making.

So, like my personal white whale of a 60 second solitaire game, I will bide my time waiting to make our Aussie Adventure a reality. Hell, I may have to play on a laptop in Oz in 2011 to make both of them happen at the same time. If that's what it takes, it will be done.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Song Spotlight: Paul Kelly - You Can't Take it With You

I really love serendipity sometimes. Inky and I were just talking about this subject and then poof, I put a Paul Kelly playlist on my iPod and I hear You Can't Take it With You from his 1989 record "So Much Water, So Close To Home." The song basically covers everything we had been talking about. How money can't make you happy, no matter how much of it you have. How when it's all over, it's over, and it doesn't matter how much money or how many things you have accumulated. In the end it's only about experiences and the constant quest to feel happy.

Sadly, any life lived the "normal" way will always push you more toward working yourself to the bone in order to accumulate money and things. A life lived that way may be more comfortable in patches, but in the end, it will always be unfulfilled if the focus is taken away from what really makes life worth living. Enjoy Paul Kelly's reminder of that:

You might have a happy family, nice house, fine car
You might be successful in real estate
You could even be a football star
You might have a prime time T.V. show seen in every home and bar
But you can't take it with you

You might own a great big factory, oil wells on sacred land
You might be in line for promotion, with a foolproof retirement plan
You might have your money in copper, textiles or imports from Japan
But you can't take it with you

You can't take it with you though you might pile it up high
It's so much easier for a camel to pass through a needle's eye

You might have a body of fine proportion and a hungry mind
A handsome face and a flashing wit, lips that kiss and eyes that shine
There might be a queue all around the block
Long before your starting time
But you can't take it with you

You might have a great reputation so carefully made
And a set of high ideals, polished up and so well displayed
You might have a burning love inside, so refined, such a special grade
But you can't take it with you

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Adventures in Unemployment: You Da Ho

One of the only upsides of funemployment is that, by definition, you have a lot of free time. While much of that time is used up in soul crushing self doubt/loathing, there is still plenty of time for flights of fancy. There's reading, listening to music, video game playing, cleaning of gutters and day dreams. Most of them involve some combination of Australia, travel and Kelly Brook playing beach volleyball with Emily Scott.

Since Kelly and Emily need a break every now and then, most of my day dreaming is about traveling. While Australia is always my #1 most-desired destination, I do have tons of other places that I'd like to visit, either for the first time or as a repeat visit. But, unlike most people who only dream about two weeks in Hawaii, or the like, I have a list of strange places I'd like to go to. Last year I was thinking about visiting Sydney Canada, but this year my odd desire is to visit Boise, Idaho.

That's right. I said Boise, Idaho. I know that's about as exciting as going to Delaware, but I have some strange impulses when it comes to road trips. For some reason, Boise is calling me.

The worst part is, I really don't know why I want to go there. I do know that it's going to be 70 there tomorrow and it's not supposed to make it out of the 40's here, but that's not why. I really like the parts of the North West I saw last year, but Boise sure isn't Seattle. It's a city of about 200,000 people with a metro area of about half a million. Most of my exposure to it over the last 20 years has involved a football field with a blue surface, but my initial exposure to Oz was INXS and Men at Work. You never know where your inspiration might come from.

I don't know if I'll ever get to Boise or not. I'm sure as hell not going any time soon. But, as long as I have all this free time I'll find myself thinking about how to do it on the cheap, for no other reason than because it's in my head. One summer during college I jumped in my car no less than a half dozen times on a whim and went somewhere. It's a wanderlust thing, and I've always had a particularly bad case. Plus, the condition is only exacerbated by having to spend so much time at home on my funemployment budget. At this point, a day trip to NYC would feel like being the first guy to set foot on Mars to me.
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Monday, October 12, 2009

What've I Done To Deserve This?

I'll have to check my phone, but I'm pretty sure I didn't get a call from Jim Zorn yesterday asking what my plan would be against the Panthers. Likewise, I don't remember any calls coming from Camden Yards this summer looking for input about the Orioles. I didn't pick LaRon Landry over Adrian Peterson and I didn't turn the O's into a laughing stock. I am in no way culpable for the demise of my two favorite teams. Likewise, people in Boston or Pittsburgh, cities where they are winning as a mater of course these days, have contributed nothing material to the success of those teams.

So why is it that we let the actions of a bunch of millionaires, who probably wouldn't piss on us if we were on fire, effect our mood so much? I have been a Redskins and Orioles fan for pretty much my entire life. In those 30 odd years, I've seen 3 Superbowls and a World Series title and once could lay claim to two of the most respected franchises in sports. Then Peter Angelos and Dan Snyder came along and ruined each of them in less than a decade. It's not like I got a vote when it came time to see who would helm my much loved teams. They had the money and so now they get to call the shots and in doing so, they have a say in my personal sanity.

A real sports fan will be annoyed and pissy all day after a beating the likes of the one the Skins took yesterday. You don't even want to watch Sports Center because you know you'll have to see it all over again and it will just piss you off again. So there you are, in a shitty mood over an event you had no say in. It's just plain lunacy. It might all be worth it if the highs were as high as the lows are low. When the Redskins or Orioles win a big game I don't feel better about myself. And even if you do feel some level of moral superiority when your team does well (Yankees and Patriots fans, I'm looking at you) it's completely unfounded. You didn't do anything but show up and yell while skilled athletes did their thing hundreds of feet below you.

None of it adds up.

Inky and I were positively gut wrenched as we watched the Cats playing in a tight game a few weeks ago. Neither of us could keep our seats and we were both amazed at how the game had physical ramifications on us. It seemed odd that our hearts raced and our fingers shook as the time slipped away and Geelong held on for a close win. We didn't have to kick or pass the ball, but we were nervous all the same. Once the Cats had secured victory we were happy, maybe even jubilant.

In the days after the game we basked in all the positive coverage of our team. We were happy for our favorite players and in the end, proud of them too. The Geelong Cats were champions of Australia, but by and by we were confronted with our real life problems here in America. A Cats title doesn't pay the mortgage, after all. Nor does it keep cars from breaking down or niggling house problems from popping up. In the end, that's really where the problem exists; to put it into business terms: the risk isn't worth the reward.

Two weeks on from the Cats triumph, I'm pretty much right back to where I was in the lead up to the game. There was no real gain for me, just like I would guess there was no long term gain for Steelers fans a few weeks after their Super Bowl win once they started thinking about their own lives again. Because, after all, it wasn't their accomplishment any more than the Cats win was mine. If Hines Ward or Gary Ablett had to put themselves on the line to secure a victory, they at least had the reward of knowing they made it happen. We, the common fan, can lay no claim to the trophies, rings or medals of achievement. We just stand by and watch.

But, we bear a disproportionate amount of the sadness of the failures. Because, even though the St. Kilda Saints and Arizona Cardinals lost those games, they gave it their all on the field of play. If that isn't enough to keep them sane, then they can cry themselves to sleep on huge their Scrooge McDuck-style piles of money. We fans still have to punch the time card and shake our head while we say stuff like: "Fucking Jason Campbell" or "How is it that Harold Baines can't get a run in from third with no outs in a tie game?" or "how the fuck did Cam Mooney miss those goals on either side of half time?"

We all need a Good Will Hunting style intervention. We need sit on the couch telling Robin Williams all about the '97 O's, the '08 Cats or the Skins since Danny came to town with the steely resolve of a tough kid from an even tougher part of town. He stands up and walks over to us, and says "It's not your fault." Even as we protest, he just keeps saying "It's not your fault" and hugs us as we begin to weep. Then, magically, we're fixed and we can ditch our friends to drive across country for some British trim. I've seen it a million times. Now, if I could just get Robin Williams on the phone, after all, the Skins have 11 more games to play this year.
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Saturday, October 10, 2009

No Help From Olivia

I thought that playing some solitaire with Olivia "hottest woman in the western world" Wilde would result in another great time, but, no such luck. The best I could manage in the last week was a 104, which doesn't even crack my top 20. I don't know if it's because our old office chair broke, but I just can't manage to get comfortable when I sit at the computer to play a few hands of solitaire. I know, I know... a good craftsman never blames his tools, but a chair can be very important.

We used to have a nice high backed office chair that we got at one of the bix box stores, but it broke about a month ago. The pivot part broke right through the bottom and got all sorts of grease on the carpet, so it was off to the curb for it. Since we aren't in a "go out and buy another office chair" sort of place right now, we decided to make do with what we have. And what we have is a chair that my father purchased when it ended its run in the Virgina Supreme Court back in the mid 70's. I don't know how long the chair sat in that hallowed chamber of law, but my guess would be that it was at least 20 years old at the time making it about 50 years old now.

All throughout my childhood the chair was there, and it was the one item I coveted from my parents house. It seemed larger than life when I was a kid, but by the time I was ready to take it to my own home, it was just regular size and in terrible disrepair. So, as a gift to Inky and I, my mother had it reupholstered and prior to giving it to me a few years back. I love having it, and I often pull it up to the poker table when I have the boys over, but, an office chair it is not.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Adventures in Unemployment: Killin' em Softly

As scientists work to map the human genome and understand how our genes make us who were are, they make amazing discoveries. One day, all this work may lead to the eradication of many diseases, and may also provide us with a kind of recipe for a human. They will find out what sequences and triggers give us our eye color, make us tall or short and good at sports. They may also find out what gene makes normal guys, like myself, break out into song at the drop of a hat. That's right dear reader, I have Spontaneous Melodiousness, or S.M.

Inky knew of my affliction when she married me, and to her credit, she has born this heavy burden well over our 10 years of marriage. Just one word can launch me into a rendition of some long ago forgotten song. Conversely, some common phrases will consistently evoke the same melodious response from me, so much so that Inky knows it's coming. Sadly, for her at least, I am not the only person she has had to deal with in her day to day life who has been stricken with Spontaneous Melodiousness. Her last boss also had SM, and like me, he had a rare and insidious strain of the illness.

He, like me, would change the words to songs on the fly while trying to be funny.

I know. Poor girl.

For me the subject matter of any song can be changed to one of a very few options. Option one goes back 15 years to the days when XL and I would launch into a version of a song which we would change to include our roommate's last name: Holcomb. An example would be "Oh Holcomb you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind. Hey Holcomb." I never said it was art, but it is addictive. There's something so easy about his name that you can fit it into just about any song, and trust me, we have.

The second manifestation of my S.M. is to insert a slang term for male and female reproductive organs into songs. This started with the song "Love Shack" which XL and I would often sing as "Nut sack baby" to endless giggles and self congratulation. Over the years we were able to take our lyrical tea bagging to the highest possible level and are now something resembling geniuses in the field.

I also have the most common form of S.M., which is just belting out a song (sometimes with absolutely no provocation) with no skill what so ever. Sometimes the most disturbing part of a S.M. case is the earnestness with which a person sings. And although you wouldn't think it, this is only made worse when the song in question is 80's rap, which is where I got my start oh so many years ago.

My brother, sister and cousins would sit there in tears as I recited LL Cool J, Run DMC and Sir Mix-A-Lot songs in all of my whiteness. I could really bring the room to its knees with a rendition of either of the big Tone Loc songs. In fact, I can still do Funky Cold Medina and Wild Thing start to finish today. I may not remember half the shit I learned in school, but at least I still have "Shopping at the mall, looking for some gear to buy. I saw this girl, she cold rocked my world and I had to adjust my fly." It's a trade off.

In the end, I had no chance against S.M. as my dad was a huge carrier. Although his manifested more in Sinatra type lyrics or whistles. We always got a lot of "dum dee dum dee dee dee dum" and "da da da det da da" when he vocalized. More often than not with him, however, he whistled to just about everything. Sadly, there is no known cure for Spontaneous Melodiousness in all it's many forms, and like second hand smoke, the effects can hurt those around you. I'm thinking about starting a Telethon, but we wouldn't be able to invite any musical guests for obvious reasons.
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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Get Him Chris!



I'm always so happy that people have all this free time to sit around making videos like this. It's funny as shit, but what most people don't know is how long something like this would take to put together. The editing isn't that hard, but to find the clips to mesh together is not easy. Of course when your subject matter is a guy who messes around with a 13 year old girl, you can find tons of Chris Hanson footage, but then you have to make it sound like they are actually talking to one another. Genius!

Oh yeah, and I hope Roman Polanski goes to jail and "has a love affair" with a 350 pound biker named Deuce.
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Monday, October 05, 2009

Keeping At It

I'm not taking huge steps forward, but at least I'm going in the right direction. Last week I put up a 104 second game, and this week I whittled it down to 100 seconds with a score of 7690. I took some time to get out of the Commonwealth and headed down to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to see XL, so I didn't play a whole lot. We watched football, some TV, played a little Madden and he grilled up some killer steaks, so, all in all, it was way better than sitting in front of my computer trying to post a new low time in solitaire.

I've got a host of things to address this week, so I don't know if I'll be clicking away at the mouse or not. One thing's for sure, I have another fantastic wallpaper to use as background motivation if I do play. Last time it was Scarlett Johansson and this week I had a few shots of Geelong's post GF celebration. In the end it's just one more tool, along with a good iTunes playlist and a lightning fast right and and wrist that make up the arsenal of a world class speed solitaire player.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Song Spotlight: Paramore - Turn it Off

It's probably not normal for a grown man to have a crush on a 21 year old girl, but, then again, I'm not normal. Hayley Williams is the lead singer of the the band Paramore, and she is all the rage with her demo these days. Her music really speaks to the army of net savvy kids born in the very late 80's and early 90's. But just because her music is loved by those kids doesn't mean a guy born in the mid 70's can't love it too.

That is especially true when the band has taken a giant leap forward on their 2009 effort. Their third LP "Brand New Eye's" hit shelves (or iTunes) this week and it is fantastic. That is not to say that their previous work wasn't fantastic, because I really enjoyed 2007's "Riot!" a great deal. This record has more layer to it, with more change of pace tracks as opposed to the breakneck pace of Riot. I was immediately struck with how fantastic the song Turn it Off is, both in lyrics and music. It is made even better by the inclusion of an acoustic version that gives the song even more punch. Enjoy:

I scraped my knees when I was praying
And found a demon in my safest haven, seems like
It's getting harder to believe in anything
And just to get lost in all my selfish thoughts
I wanna know what it'd be like
To find perfection in my pride
To see nothing in the light
I'll turn it off
In all my spite
In all my spite
I'll turn it off

And the worst part is
Before it gets any better
We're headed for a cliff
And in the free fall I will realize
I'm better off when I hit the bottom

The tragedy, it seems unending
I'm watching everyone I looked up to break and bending
We're taking shortcuts and false solutions
Just to come out the hero
Well I can see behind the curtain (I can see, yeah yeah)
The wheels are cranking, turning, so on the way we're working
Towards a goal, that's not existent
It's not existent, but we just keep believing

And the worst part is
Before it gets any better
We're headed for a cliff
And in the free fall I will realize
I'm better off when I hit the bottom

I wanna know what it'd be like
To find perfection in my pride
To see nothing in the light
I'll turn it off
In all my spite
In all my spite
I'll turn it off
Just turn it off

Again
Again

And the worst part is
Before it gets any better
We're headed for a cliff
And in the free fall I will realize
I'm better off when I hit the bottom
I scraped my knees when I was praying
And found a demon in my safest haven, seems like
It's getting harder to believe in anything
And just to get lost in all my selfish thoughts
I wanna know what it'd be like
To find perfection in my pride
To see nothing in the light
I'll turn it off
In all my spite
In all my spite
I'll turn it off

And the worst part is
Before it gets any better
We're headed for a cliff
And in the free fall I will realize
I'm better off when I hit the bottom