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Friday, September 30, 2011

WUMF: September Edition

Ugh, it’s Fall. It’s also the end of September and that means it’s time for another WUMF.

It’s that time of year, if you don’t have enough excuses to drink beer, whether it be New Year’s, St. Patrick’s Day,… Tuesday. In any case, I’m having another beer swap at work and wanted to tell you about it.

Now we had one a couple of months ago which was geared more towards wheats and whites. I brought Penn Brewery’s Summer Berry Wheat. Others included Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat, Ithaca Apricot Wheat and Victory’s Moonglow Weizenbock. Overall, I wasn’t as impressed as the first round of our swap, which promoted Craft Beer Week.

For this one, I’m bringing Victory’s Festbier and hopefully, I’ll be introduced to some more great beers. Also, in Denver, the Great American Beer Festival is taking place.  This all got me to thinking.

Craft beers are nothing new. They’ve been around for a long time. And maybe it’s just because I’ve been recently exposed to the culture and didn’t notice it. Maybe I’m like someone who discovers that the little arrow next to the gas pump icon on your dashboard indicates which side the cap is on and thinks that I’ve discovered the cure for cancer and must share my wisdom with everyone. My point is that it seems like the craft beer industry is hitting a upward trend and I wonder why that is. After all, we are not exactly in the best economy and here we are spending a little more on beers than say Miller Lite and Budweiser.

Perhaps it’s a solidarity thing. After Anheuser-Busch was acquired by Belgium’s InBev it seemed like one of the last great American products was gone. They (InBev) laid off over 1000 workers and gave executives stock options that were potentially worth millions. It was a slap in the face to the American way of life… outside of Wall Street, that is. Maybe the craft beer industry is a way to get back at that offense. We’ll spend more money on locally brewed beers than throw money at companies who don’t stay inside the US. Or… it could be that craft beers, on the whole, are better than Budweiser.

Gambling in Pittsburgh
Last weekend, one of my friends from back in the day came to visit and stay with me and the misses and the monster. He and his girlfriend camped out in my recently emptied, but not renovated Red Room and we took in some gaming. On Saturday, we went to Dave and Buster’s for lunch and then in the evening we hit the Rivers Casino. Now, my buddy is a gamer in the sense that he loves poker and shoots a lot of pool for tournaments. He had been down from Williamsport area before to see the newly opened Pittsburgh casino and only had the option of playing video poker. Table games hadn’t come about, yet. This time around he headed for the Poker Room and we didn’t see him for about an hour. Meanwhile, I needed a dry run for next month when I go to Vegas… long story, there.

Anyway, since the regular table games were packed, at least there were no seats at the $10 table, which is almost too rich for my blood, I opted for playing slots with my wife and my buddy’s girlfriend. We hit the ATM before playing and took out $100. That was our limit. I gave my wife $50 and I took $50. She dropped $12 into the slot machines and came up with nothing. I dropped $20 into some of the more traditional slots and saw it dwindle to about $7.00. I took that over to another slot machine called Jungle Wild, I think, and coupled it with a $0.35 credit slip I found laying around and decided to just blow the rest of the $20 I started with on slots.

The Jungle Wild machine had a feature where you could get five free spins and that paid off in spades. My wife usually plays the minimum bet because she likes it simple. Me, I take the maximum number of combinations for a single cost per line. I managed to get the five free spins and turned my $7.35 into $38.26. Not bad. I then spent about twenty minutes watching people at the $10 Black Jack table, waiting for an opening. Finally, I got to sit down next to this little old Asian lady who didn’t speak English that much. I bought in for $40 and figured I’d be done in about 20 minutes. I say that because on my first hand, I had double aces. I split that and ended up with an A3 and another double ace. Now, I made a huge mistake because I meant to say, no more splitting… which I think you can’t do anyway. However, I made the sign for ‘Stay’ and was left with 14 and 12 against a dealer showing a King. DOH! I could potentially had another $20 added to my stack. For all us amateurs, it pays to learn a bit about gambling. Don’t be a Yinzer who wanders into the casino after a Pitt/Notre Dame game and has no clue how to play the tables. Know what the signs are and know what the rules are. It will help you. Like I said, this was a dry run for Vegas.

Anyway, after about a half hour they announced that they were raising the table to $15 which was more than I was willing to spend on a hand. So, I figured I’d play out the table minimum and leave once it changed. My little old lady friend even threw me a dollar chip to put on the Natural 20 spot which I told her not to do because it seems like a sucker bet. My buddy and the girls showed up and I handed my wife $40 in chips. I said, don’t lose those. Meanwhile, I had $40 on the table, still. I was doing pretty well and I should have left at that point. My buddy was not so lucky. He sank $100 at the Poker Room and his girlfriend sunk $100 in slots.

Once I lost the chips I had on the table, I walked away even. My buddy had a couple of dollars left and I told him to hit the slot machine I had done earlier. He put in a dollar and in one $0.80 spin, he got the five free ones which turned his dollar into $90. Not bad for dropping $100 on poker.

In all, we ended up spending $2 of our money and that’s just fine by me. I have no delusions about making a fortune at the casino. I just like to have fun.

The Pirates
Speaking of losing your shirt. Boy, what happened there? 72-90 record. Better luck next year and thanks for raising prices.  Maybe, one day, you could lose on purpose, likeYankees do.

The Steelers
I don’t know what to think here. I’m a diehard fan but I’m beginning to believe there is something to be said for the Super Bowl hangover theory. Maybe the lack of an offseason has lead to a gelling problem for the team but the offensive line is in shambles, there are far more injuries this year, across the league even, and it’s not even October. Someone put Troy Polumalu in bubble wrap until January. Once again, the fines or lack thereof in some cases are ridiculous. Haynesworth has yet to receive a suspension for violating the conduct policy… something that Roethlisberger got six games for allegedly doing, yet he was never charged. Hmm, could it be that Haynesworth plays for New England. Couldn’t be, right? Goodell has probably burned all the security footage of the incident with the same match as the Spygate tapes.

The Penguins
We got Malkin back on the ice and it’s nice to know he’s back to producing. Let’s hope Sid gets back soon and in the best shape he can be in for the season. I know he’s been subjected to a lot of criticism of the years and it just screams justification over this concussion thing. But you know what? The people who criticize Crosby are the same ones who’ve never dealt with that kind of thing before. There are people who have come forward and said that their quality of life was reduced dramatically after a concussion and not even one obtained in the manner that Crosby got his. You don’t mess with that kind of thing and let’s hope there is no long term damage. The kid’s not even 30 yet.

Take care and we’ll see you next month.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy Birthday A. Wilford Brimley

Today is Wilford Brimley’s 77th Birthday.
The good folks at Liberty Medical hopefully sent him a box. Inside the box was enough dia-beet-us medication to help the 77 year old make it through his birthday cake.

And now, a message from the birthday boy himself.

Happy birthday Wilford. Go eat your cake, because it’s the right thing to do and a tasty way to do it. Maybe, if you're lucky, there's a pool somewhere with alien pods in it that can cure your dia-beet-us.  Until then, stick with the box.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Twenty years ago, this Saturday, an album debuted that, for lack of a better term, turned the music industry on its ear. Nevermind, from Nirvana, was chronologically the second album but it was the first to gain the attention of a mainstream audience.

I was 16 when Nevermind hit the scene and, quite frankly, apart from thinking it was kind of catchy, I didn’t give it much more thought. I was more impressed with Weird Al Yankovic’s parody “Smells Like Nirvana” eight months later.

Two years after Weird Al parodied “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, the sorrowful, but perhaps inevitable happened. In the span of only three studio albums, Nirvana left an indelible mark on the recording industry, kicked off a new style of music and left fans befuddled and bewildered when the lead singer, Kurt Cobain, took a shotgun and ended his life.

I was a Freshman in college. I was struggling through my second semester in a new, urban school setting, and I was pissed off at the world. I wasn’t pissed that my favorite singer killed himself. I was pissed that the everyday, casual teenager felt the need to dress like a grunge groupie. For an alternative music genre, distinct in its desire to be different from everybody else, there was a lot of conformity. There were a lot of people wandering around the frozen quads of Pitt wearing flannel shirts tied around their waist. Even at the age of 19, I was developing that “Get off my lawn” mentality because where I was from, born in raised in Fayette Nam, PA, you wore your flannel for warmth and comfort, not for show. So, as everyone reminisces and waxes about the impact of Nevermind, I will remember how stupid people looked, trying to light a cigarette in 20 degree weather, shivering, while trying to look like they were Grunge.

Perhaps it was fate that Cobain killed himself.  Perhaps it was undeniable destiny that, for someone who redefined Generation X from the 80s and "I Want My MTV" eras to the "The world sucks and we're all not going to be your sheep." era, should not live long enough to be played out and bastardized in the pop culture media of the RIAA machine.  Nirvana could not be envisioned as the poster boy for the likes of TRL.  They would not be.  Cobain's resistance to fame was that more indicative of fame's desire to have him.  He was going to be a star in spite of himself and maybe that is what killed him more.  

Denis Leary joked that someone should have walked up to Elvis and shot him in the head at an early age instead of leaving us with the lasting vision of him dead and bloated on a toilet.    The Cobain legacy played out exactly as he would have hated it, in the courts fighting over who gets more ownership of his existence, Nirvana or Courtney Love.   His only way of existing was to cease to exist.  Could you imagine Cobain being relegated to countless greatest hits albums, selling out an image to maintain relevance? 

Spanning the last 50 years, look at those who died before their fame truly became bigger than the artist.  Jimmy Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and the latest addition Amy Winehouse, though her inclusion is in question because of the freshness of her death.  Time will tell whether she becomes more famous, now.
On a similar yet different note, two months after Nevermind was released, the music industry lost an even more iconic symbol. On November 24, 1991, Freddie Mercury lost his battle with AIDS, dying from pneumonia.  Queen was/is a band who, as my co-worker put it, should be considered one of the greatest rock bands ever, that still perform, but never got their due.

Now, my generation is probably more closely related to Kurt’s impact rather than Freddie’s. However, I am prone to go beyond my generation’s predefined areas of influence and pop culture observance. Granted, I had never heard “Bohemian Rhapsody” until it appeared in Wayne’s World in 1992. And yes, I still bang my head at the appropriate time when it comes on in the car. But, I knew of Queen’s music before. I had seen Flash Gordon and heard some of News of the World and The Game, growing up.

To me, Freddie Mercury’s death was a greater loss to music. This is not to diminish Kurt Cobain in any way. Kurt’s impact was in the writing. Freddie’s was more overall based on his vocals and delivery. Mercury had such a stage presence and musicality. His looks were, in a way, unconventional, much like Cobain’s. And even though, they were vastly different in their styles and contributions, their influential paths were following the same direction.

Possessing over a four-octave vocal range and writing such iconic songs as “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Somebody To Love”, “Killer Queen” and “We are the Champions”, Mercury brought a style of rock that had not been present in the 70s. There was a showmanship to his stage presence, flamboyant costumes, but those chops were unmistakable as Brian May’s Red Special guitar sound. They played operatic tunes, mixed with straight rock. They pulled influences from ragtime and blues. They had some disco and even gospel touches to their songs. Queen became a stadium rock staple culminating in one of the most memorable performances at Wembley Stadium’s Live Aid concert in 1985.

I still listen to Queen in my music shuffling. I assembled my own greatest hits compilation and from time to time, I’ll cue it up. It even includes Flash’s Theme. But I was reminded of how Mercury sounded and how much those vocals sent shivers down my spine when I saw a video of a Canadian Christian Rock singer band covering “Somebody to Love”.

Marc Martel has a bit of a resemblance to Freddie Mercury but his vocals are sometimes so close to Mercury’s that I had to really watch and see if this was lip synching or really his voice.  The main video of him singing, “Somebody to Love” could have been synced.  It could have been faked.  Just looking at t, who knows?  However, digging deeper, I found a live video of him singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” with a church group.  Amazing. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Han Didn't Shoot First

It’s an argument for the geek masses. Much like Kirk vs. Picard, Star Trek vs. Star Wars and Jar Jar vs. the Ewoks, some controversies will die hard. The lone gunman theory dominated my parents’ generation and here, in mine, there is the same debate.

This debate, of course, is whether Han Solo shot first in Star Wars: A New Hope.

Most people familiar with the original 1977 film, or at least those purists who denounce the constant re-releases of the films with new or changed scenes, usually agree that Han Solo did indeed shoot first and not after Greedo missed him at point blank range.

To think that Greedo had to fire first in order to preserve Han’s morality is ridiculous. Regardless of the outcome, Han was simply defending himself from a clear and present danger. Greedo intended to kill Han to collect the bounty on his life.

From the word go, people have fought this point and Lucas, feeling he needed to instill a sense of morals in his scruffy looking nerf herder, inserted a laser blast from Greedo as well as a CGI shift in Han’s position to make it look as it was truly a duel instead of homicide. Geeks raged on and the film was edited again to make it appear as if Greedo and Han shot almost simultaneously. Still the debate continued as t-shirts appeared, declaring, “Han Shot First”.

Han Shot First
Han Shot First
We knew this guy once named Han Liebowitz, and one day at a bar he and this other guy got in a fight, so Han shot him! Crazy!! 100% cotton, heavyweight t-shirt in black with "Han Shot First" in white printed on the front. Check out their comic at

But this is entirely false.  Han did not shoot first.  Why?

Need proof?  Here’s the original scene from the 1977 film.

Case closed.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I'm Too Old For This Shit

I hold a particular standard when it comes to beaches. To me, a beach is the sandy or rocky or general coastal area next to a large body of water. That body should usually be an ocean.

Now, being a former resident of Fayette Name, we had our own beach in South Connellsville which bordered on the Youghiogheny river. This is the same river that forks at one point and if you go canoeing or tubing down the wrong path, you’ll eventually have to pick up your flotation device and walk a bit. I don’t consider that a real beach. I consider it a lie we tell ourselves in order to feel better about not having a real beach around.

My wife likes to think that Presque Isle, in Erie, is a beach, complete with somewhat dirt based sand and rocks jutting up out of the water of a lake that, at one point in history, caught fire. I wouldn’t be too quick to take a dip in that. OK, actually, it was Lake Cuyahoga that caught fire back in the 60s, but as my one coworker put it, “Have your dog take a dump on your kitchen floor. Then have your mom clean it up, using the best possible cleansers and bleach. Once that floor shines , have her make you a sandwich and then drop it on the floor where that steaming pile was ten minutes ago. Would you still eat it?” Regardless of how much time has passed, that crappy, flammable water still ends up in Lake Erie.

So, going forward, Lake Erie does not have a beach. It has a shore. It has a park. It does not have a beach. END OF LINE.

Since we’ve settled that, I wanted to relate to you my trip to Erie over Labor Day weekend. Because we are perpetually procrastinating everything, my wife and I have been doing some spontaneous summer stuff to kind of break up the long haul towards next summer and the ‘REAL’ beach trip.

My kid’s been wanting to go to a water park and because of the weather, I came up with the glorious idea to go to Splash Lagoon in Erie. It’s an indoor waterpark which is open year round. Doing a quick search on their site, I was able to get a night’s stay at an adjoining hotel and two days worth of park passes for the three of us for $250.

We drove up Friday morning and spent the afternoon drowning at the water park. We broke for dinner and then hit the hotel pool for a bit before going to crash in the room. The next morning we checked out and went back to the waterpark for a few hours, cleaned up and then did Presque Isle and Erie Not-a-Beach.

My take on Splash Lagoon.
If you have kids I would definitely go there at least once while they’re old enough to ride the slides. If you have little ones, like I do and you do not plan on going on any slides, then it’s fine to go with small children. We’re in that period of flux where we are not exactly slide worthy anymore, yet our kid is not quite old enough to really tackle the slides on her own. That being said, I rode every slide to get my money’s worth and paid the price in injuries.

My wife only went on two slides out of embarrassment and risk of injury. My kid rode two slides and spent most of her time in the kiddie area. While my wife watched her, I rode the big kid rides and sustained many an injury.

The Rides
Splash Lagoon has seven water slides, three whirlpools, a lazy river, a pool for basketball and some obstacle stuff and the kiddie area.

Maui Wowie: Basic open body slide with circular pattern. It kind of hurts the back a bit, going over the pipe seams but my kid loved it. She rode it again and again all day long. I could only ride it a few times because it kept slamming my ankle into the turns.

The Black Hole: A similar ride to Maui Wowie, but completely in the dark.

Big Kahuna: This one is a tube ride that goes outside the building and then back in, ending in a splash pool connected to the lazy river. All three of us did this one, once. I could not get either my wife or kid to go on a second time.

Python Plunge: Another tube ride that seems to be a combination of Kahuna and Black Hole.

Shark Attack: Body slide that goes outside the building next to Python Plunge, has a longer ending due to speed.

Cyclone: A tube ride that drops you into swirling bowl that eventually plunges you down a slide into a splash pool that connects to the Lazy River. This one I liked going on a lot but there is a moment when you head towards the exit chute where you end up slamming into the barrier between the chute and the bowl which usually hurts. I usually dumped out of my tube at end, every time.

Hurricane Hole: Body slide, just Cyclone. I dubbed it the Pain Hole. You slide into a swirling vortex which ends in a giant hole that drops you into six and a half feet of water. It took some time to figure out how to not dump into the pool, head first. It’s also a bit jarring when you initially exit the slide into the bowl. I found that if you sat up you had better control and could actually maneuver yourself into going feet first into the pool.

Most of the slides where hard to gauge because there was no way to see anything. You managed to get water in your eyes and nose and mouth no matter how hard you tried. Because most slides insisted you ride with your legs crossed and hand behind your head you couldn’t guard against the splashing. So, telling someone that slide goes outside the building doesn’t do much for me because I can’t see anyway.

Probably the most notable part of the park is the Tiki Tree House which has various water cannons and buckets that you can spill on people as they climb. But at the top there is the huge bucket which spills its contents on everyone below roughly every ten minutes. An air horn sounds and like some Pavlovian response, people come running from every corner to wait for the deluge of water that drenches everyone and everything in its path. At first, my kid tried to get away from it. By the end, she was running towards it.

In all, it was fun. I guess they just opened an indoor wave pool, so we’ll have to try that next time. For me, it's hard to try and be the kid that didn't have these kinds of places around me, growing up.   I want to enjoy the rides and experience them with my kid but man I'm getting too old for this shit.   That's why I made that point about having kids of a certain age.  If you have more than one, close in age and over the minimum height requirement it's easier because they can ride together or at least run off and have fun, leaving you to lament the fact that you didn't lose that extra ten pounds over the summer.   And as a clumsy, 36 year old Mongo, it's hard to be graceful as you are being tossed about by water.  I gave Splash Lagoon the tagline:  "Every ten minutes they dump 1000 gallons of water and every fifteen minutes there's 1000 awkward dismounts." 

I felt the best part was going to a restaurant located in the parking lot, called Boston’s. I’d never heard of it before but it was pretty damn good food. My wife got an Italian sampler which consisted of chicken parmigiana, Fettuccine Alfredo, and a sausage lasagna.  How sad am I?

The only things we didn’t dare try were the family and adult only whirpools or hot tubs. I’d just assume not even go there. I know, consider how many germs were probably in that water, no amount of chlorine would make it safe, but it was probably safer than Lake Erie which does not have a beach. STEP OFF!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Speed Updating

I have no time. No time I tells ya! Things must be automated so I can get back to staring at the wall of my cube/living room/bathroom stall.

First there was speed dial. We had the ability to skip dialing all ten numbers on our home phones and instead dial one number that was assigned to someone we commonly called.

Hell, do you remember when you could dial just seven numbers and need to put in the area code? I do. That was back when a mobile phone meant your parents had a 50 foot spiraled phone cord attached the wall phone in the kitchen and you could talk to people from the bathroom. Of course, after a while, the cord became all twisted and knotted up and you could barely get away from the fridge before you yanked the phone off the wall and it made that “ding” sound when it hit the floor. Yeah, this was back when phones actually had real ringers, with bells inside of them.

But after speed dialing, there was voice dialing. You didn’t have to even get your fingers dirty dialing your house on the cell phone while your blazing a trail up the highway at 90mph. You just say, “Call Home” and it called the house. Of course, this never worked for my mother-in-law. I’d heard complaints that every time she said “Call Home” it tried to call her mother’s nursing home. Then she’d say, “No! CALL HOME!” By the time she’d have it all straightened out she could have, not only dialed all ten numbers of her home phone but, been standing in her living room to do it.

Texting slowed things down a bit because you had to hunt and peck your way around the phone pad and even worse, auto correct lead to some interesting combinations of phrases that could get you into serious trouble if you didn’t pay attention.

So, I’m proposing a new speed update method whereas I simply type in a two digit number and all my friends on Facebook know exactly what I’m saying.

This is actually something some friends I concocted about 10 years ago, before Facebook was even a thought in the back of Zuckerman’s mind... or the Winklevi, depending on who you believe.

We were all sitting around a sports bar and thought, “You know what? Instead of actually telling a joke or retelling a funny story, whenever it comes up as an applicable moment, just yell out a number.” We had a system down where various punch lines became numbers and all we’d do is yell out, “4” and that meant some joke about a guy who needs surgery to reattach his arm and he can’t afford the reputable doctor’s prices. So, he goes to a cheaper, less educated doctor who reattaches it and while talking with the original doctor he chides him over the original price, complete with giving the expensive doctor the old forearm jerk. At that point, the arm he slaps with his other hand goes flying off.

To that end, I want to simply say a number and have it correspond to a particular statement.  Here's 50 I've come up with, so far.

1. I love my wife.
2. My wife puts up with my stupid bullshit.
3. I put up with something my wife does but it’s not the end of the world because I love my wife and she’s on Facebook.
4. I just pooped.
5. Traffic was a bitch getting into work.
6. Traffic was a bitch getting home from work.
7. I just had a tasty breakfast.
8. I just had a tasty lunch.
9. I just had a tasty dinner.
10. My bowels have decided to reject tasty breakfast/lunch/dinner.
11. My kid did something funny.
12. My kid did something scary.
13. My kid is off doing something leaving me to update my status.
14. My cat did something funny.
15. My cat did something scary.
16. My cat is off doing something leaving me to update my status.
17. Obscure 70s movie quote that only three friends will get and ‘Like’ no matter what.
18. Obscure 80s movie quote that only three friends will get and ‘Like’ no matter what.
19. Obscure 90s movie quote that only three friends will get and ‘Like’ no matter what.
20. Obscure 00s movie quote that only three friends will get and ‘Like’ no matter what.
21. Facebook is doing something buggy, again.
22. Steelers/Penguins did something great.
23. Steelers/Penguins did something awful.
24. Refs screwed over the Steelers/Penguins.
25. Team playing the Steelers/Penguins are evil.
26. Buffy Quote.
27. Firefly Quote.
28. LOST Quote.
29. Song Lyrics about Love.
30. Song Lyrics about Hate.
31. Song Lyrics about Sadness.
32. Never Forget.
33. Patriotic American Update.
34. Election Candidate I hate statement that starts flame war.
35. Election Candidate I love statement that starts flame war.
36. Statement about War on Terror.
37. Clarification about stupid statement about War on Terror.
38. Apology about misunderstanding due to stupid statement about War on Terror.
39. Something, something, people, something, something disease, something, repost.
40. Going to bed.
41. Not wanting to be up.
42. I love my car.
43. I hate my car.
44. I love my phone.
45. I hate my phone.
46. I love my job.
47. I hate my job.
48. Weekend!
49. Monday, uggh!
50. Thank you for the birthday wishes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mongo's New Addiction

I don’t know if I should classify this as an addiction to an item or an actual brand.

Previously, I had spoken about being addicted to a game called Minecraft.  For the most part, I still play it but find it hard to repeatedly do the same actions over and over again to no end.  The game was fun because it was a giant building sandbox that had some point to it and some monsters to fight.   But, the latest update, 1.8, has been slow to materialize and it’s purported to be an awesome update to a game that is still in Beta testing.

I’ve also spoken about an addiction or a overzealous love of coffee.  I’ve been a caffeine junkie for most of my life.  However, there is a distinct ability to switch off the want for caffeine, and sometimes the need.  I can go all weekend without having an ounce of coffee, but once I’m back to work it’s like crack.

Now, I’ve found my new crack, Sheetz coffee.

Let me back  up.

When I was at my old job, I usually made coffee for coworkers.  I’d come in just before 7 and between myself and another early bird, we would put a bunch of pots on for everyone.   Then, as you emptied a pot, you were supposed to make another one.  I would usually have an 8 oz cup at 7AM, one around 8:30AM and then one in the afternoon, around 2PM.   My weekly consumption was 24 ounces in a day, five days a week and none on the weekend.

Then, I started the new job and I still had to make coffee, but the Keurig K-Cup maker meant I could just do it for myself.    However, the difference was that we did not have standard 8 ounce cups.   We have 16 ounce cups.  So, I’d find myself mixing up a batch of two different flavors at 6 ounces each and adding Splenda and Coffee Mate powdered creamer.  That kept the calories down, at least.    I kept the same schedule  which meant a 12 ounce cup, three times a day.

But I felt as if I was doing myself a disservice in terms of health.  So, I’ve cut back, albeit not in a step down manner, to one 8 ounce cup in the morning and maybe a Diet Coke later on in the day.   Still not an optimal diet, but less intake.

Then, I found the crack, I spoke of a bit ago.   My back tires were in need of being replaced.   They were so bad that I was losing almost 2/3 of the air pressure every day.  I travel 70 miles round trip.  That’s not good.  So, I’d stop into any local Sheetz and fill up my tires, because air is free, for once.  After getting air, one day, I decided to check out the specialized coffees.    I’m used to getting the Cuppuccino there, which isn’t Starbucks but it’s also not Starbucks prices.  However, I went straight for the ordering screens and called up a large Frozen Caramel Mocha with whole milk, white chocolate, regular coffee, whip Cream, and an extra flavor shot for $4.59.


I must stress that it will induce brain freeze, I don’t know why.  Most other frozen drinks do not cause me brain freeze.   This does every time.

I could have gotten away from since I had the tires replaced.  However, I got a Sheetz card which gets me $0.03 off a gallon at the pump and also gets me free drinks and food, granted I buy enough of them.   It's like giving a crack addict access to buying crack on eBay and a fully loaded PayPal account. 

This is, of course, an attempt to compete with Giant Eagle’s GetGo. There, you can get $0.10 off per gallon for every $50 you spend on groceries.  Not to mention, the run specials on getting additional pennies off when you buy a coffee or fountain drink or sandwiches in the gas station.  Also, for every 10 gallons of gas you pump, you get 1% off your grocery bill which can be accumulated over time and used for more savings on big grocery bills.

But back to the crack.  I find myself making excuses to go to Sheetz.  "Oh, look I have almost a half tank of gas, better fill up.  Hey, it's $0.03 off per gallon.  Why not?"   I've even gone out of my way on my trip home to find a Sheetz, just to get a damn frozen mocha.  I am the Jeff Conaway of frozen coffee drinks.  Call Dr. Drew.  Call Juan Valdez.  Call Dr. Oz and let me explain what my coffee poop looks like.  It floats and could get a dung beetle high on caffeine.

However, this all has to end.   I am looking to take a little trip next month and in order to pay for it, I better save some money.  I should probably also save some waistline, if I expect to not have to pay for more than one seat on the flight.   So, once again, I'm going cold turkey, or in this case, warm turkey, by giving up my new addiction.  Every time I get that urge to go across Hell's Half Acre to find a Sheetz, I'll simply take $5.00 and put it away for the trip. 

One last thought.  This addiction to Sheetz's frozen mochas reminds me of a sketch from The Kids in the Hall.  Enjoy.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Release the...

This is what I do when I should be doing something more constructive. 

Instead, I started watching the original Clash of the Titans.  Then, I started thinking, "Release the Kraken!"  Then, I started thinking about My So-Called Life.  Then, I opened up Paint.Net and went on Google.

It's sad, isn't it?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Top Ten Puberty Inducing Moments From the Last 50 years

In the last 50 years, the sexual revolution has exploded in our faces.   Thanks to the loosening of morals and the tightening of material around certain areas, young boys have launched into puberty at various instances because of pop culture.

Back when I was a kid in the 80s, stolen HBO and the mere hint of female flesh in a music video were enough to blast our hormones into orbit like the Apollo rocket in the MTV commercial.  In the 90s, who could forget “Jiggle TV”?

With that in mind, I give you the 10 best puberty kickoff moments of the last 50 years.  Granted, some of the items on this list weren’t exactly for the eyes of those in the demographic, however, just like the Internet today, there was access to the material in those days.  All that was needed was access to HBO and a night away from the parents.  Sleepovers provided the ability to do these things.

Warning:  This post contains juvenile humor.

10.2.  Britney Spears – VMA awards barely there body stocking – 2000
Tie for tenth place.  If Britney's first act was appearing as a Catholic School Girl In Trouble in her video for "Hit Me Baby", her second act was the blood pumping strip tease during the 2000 VMAs.

10.1. Katy Perry – Whip Cream Bra Cannon in “California Gurls” music video – 2010
Tie for tenth place.  She ruined Candy Land for Kindergartners but straightened out a few candy canes for some up and coming teen boys in 2010.  Katy Perry turned her boobs into whip cream and firework cannons after kissing a girl.  If sex sells, she was cornering the market with ample amounts of tease.

9. Catherine Bach –Daisy Duke wearing Daisy from Dukes of Hazzard – 1979
They weren't called Bo Dukes, after all.  Many a boy jumped a bridge and yelled 'Yee Haaaa' after seeing Catherine Bach in the too short shorts on Friday nights at the end of the 70s.

8. Kelly LeBrock – first entrance from Weird Science – 1985
"What would you little maniacs like to do first?"  asked Lisa in the John Hughes classic.  Um, shower with you of course.  

7. Tawny Kitaen – Ghost riding the hood of a car in the “Here I Go Again” music video – 1987
Never before did preteen boys want to be a car hood than when Tawny slithered and writhed in time to the re-release of Whitesnake's most famous hit.

6. Pamela Anderson – Slo-Mo runs from Baywatch – 1992
I remember the Baywatch before Boobwatch.  Back when Parker Stevenson was on and it was the original pilot entitled, "Panic At Malibu Pier".   But nobody liked it, so it got retooled with a former Tool Time girl running in slow motion towards 'supposedly' drowning males.  She got the swimmers swimming for those boys just discovering the floatation devices in the early 90s.

5. Farrah Fawcett – Famous Poster – 1976
One of the most famous pin up posters to push the envelope with perky.... um yeah.  Sadly we lost Farrah to cancer.  But we'll always have this on our ceiling, above our bed, as a shrine to the 70s.

4. Raquel Welch – Fur Bikini from One Million Years B.C. – 1967
Fur Bikini and dinosaurs.  Two things that go hand in hand, right?  And.... how about a cat fight between two beautiful cave girls.  Can you say Pubertosaurus Rex?  It's no wonder Andy Dufresne used her to cover his jail break.

3. Ursula Andress – Dr. No Bikini beach entrance – 1962
The original Bond girl who came strolling out of the surf in the white bikini and some wonderful conch shells!  She made James' martini shake as 60s era preteens stirred in their seats upon seeing the Swiss Miss, dubbed by go to Bond voice over actress Nikki van der Zyl.

2. Carrie Fisher –  Princess Leia in a Gold Bikini from Return of the Jedi  – 1983
We all wanted to use the force or at least swing our lightsabers after seeing the demure but sassy Leia Organa forced into servitude and a gold metal bikini on Jabba's barge in the final chapter of the original Star Wars trilogy.  It's almost too Freudian to imagine her fighting with the almost phallic looking Jabba the Hutt on the deck.  And to that end, she choked the Hutt while fanboys nearly choked their chicken.  Ross Gellar approves.

1. Phoebe Cates – Pool exit scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High – 1982 
It had to be Linda Barret.  It just had to be, right?  One of my earliest memories of my parents stealing HBO was a grainy, "chh chh chh chh" sounding Phoebe Cates, strolling out of the pool in this scene from the 80s classic.  Looking back, it seems so odd to glorify movies that portrayed high school teenage characters taking their clothes off on screen.  Another would be Caroline Mulford in Sixteen Candles. But you have to remember that Cates was 19 when she did the bikini burst and Haviland Morris was 25 when she hit the tympani bounce note in the school shower from the John Hughes movie. Still, as far as puberty inducing moments, this takes the taco.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I need some alone time with side one of Led Zeppelin IV.

Sorry, I couldn't post the real clip.  I do try to keep this PG-13, at most.

Honorable Mention:
Marilyn Monroe – “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” – 1962
Now, what list of sex symbols and sultriness would be complete without the original, one and only, Marilyn Monroe?   So, she gets an honorable mention for providing enough of a provocative performance to the POTUS.  Fully clothed, she still gave boys a Cuban Missile Crisis in their pants.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Future of M.A.M.S.

While I’m not convinced that my longevity as a blogger is a given, I do understand that if I don’t put out content, people won’t read. Even if it’s crap, it’s out there and someone will eventually stumble over it like a tricycle in the yard. However, the demands of my real job are going to cut into my ability to keep up with this. Why? Because, I spend more time on the road and have less time in the evening to write. I have to balance this with other stuff like shirt designs and family. So, it’s safe to say that I may not make my long standing quota of three posts a week. Believe me, if I could do this for a living, full time, I would.

In fact that segues right into my point, the future. Call it “Writing as a white space.” For those of you not familiar with the term, it means that exploring a part of the business that I have not yet capitalized on, yet. I started out blogging. I moved onto shirt design. I moved into social media. I blogged more about how all of those concepts work together. I made money on the shirt side, but not the other stuff. Granted, some of the shirt money might have come from those other input channels but most of my sales are because someone went searching blindly on a shirt site or search engine and landed on my designs and clicked “ADD TO CART”.

So, why not use the shirt business to sell some books? Now, I’m talking about selling other people’s books. I’m talking about writing my own. It’s something I’ve been kicking around for awhile now and I better jump on it soon. Why?

Self publishing is right up my alley because I’m a cheap ass, lazy entrepreneur. As a kid, I had this dream of being a writer. When I was 12, I wrote my first story. When I was thirteen, I wrote my second one. When I was fourteen, I wrote my third one. When I was fifteen, I quit writing.


In those three years, I wrote the stories but did nothing else with them. I had delusions of actually being a paid writer and didn’t think about getting a publisher or what it costs to print and sell a book or the actual need for my work in the market. When I realized that, it was either never going to happen or take a while to happen, I switched game plans. In either case, it was not profitable. But, I held onto the works just in case. Hell, those stories are probably sitting on a 5 ¼ “ floppy disk somewhere in my parents’ house.

20 years ago, I could never conceive of actually becoming a published author, but, in today’s world, a writer can simply write, upload and sell their work for Kindles and Nooks and bypass publishers all together. Some have actually sold a million copies of their books, strictly through ebook sales. So, I am going to try an experiment. I am going to write a book on exactly what I’ve done in the last few years from the business side. I will then attempt to sell it on Amazon or through my site (Those details are sketchy). If I can make a case to myself that it is worth me putting forth the time to write something with the expectation of being paid for it, then I will revisit the idea of creative fiction. Believe me, I still have stories floating around in my head that my nearest and dearest friend/editor has told me to get written.

The caveat is that I have to see a significant interest in this venture before I take the time to attempt a 300 page novel. I just don’t have that kind of free time. Not to mention, I have a few friends with degrees in English and teaching that would probably want to see me DIAF if I actually wrote something and tried to sell it for profit.

The reason I am trying to fast track this experiment is that the new fad smell of self publishing and Kindles are probably going to wear off, soon. Stephen King had once said (paraphrased) that “Ebooks would account for probably 50% of all book sales by 2013. Maybe 2012.” However, he also says that people get tired of the new toys.

By that note, I have an ever shrinking window of opportunity to establish myself before the fad of ebooks or self publishing becomes the MySpace or worse, Friendster of writing avenues.

I still plan to blog as much as possible because I have a great source of material, my kid. Still, the point of MAMS was to rant and rave over the decline of entertainment via the distorted view of a pop culture observer. Those posts take a lot more time to prepare and vet and I have neither the time nor the ambition to do actual research.

I do hope those 4.5 readers I still may have will keep on reading but don’t be surprised if you wake up on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday and don’t see anything new… or worth reading for that matter.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

WUMF: August Edition

Late entry this month in the WUMF column. Unfortunately, I’ve been really busy with… actual work and it’s cut into my ability to tend to the side business. Anyway, enough excuses, here’s what’s been happening.

The Pirates
OK, I admit it. I got temporarily sucked back in by them this year. I was almost ready to board the bandwagon. Hell, I even designed t-shirts in tribute to them. Then, they went back to smacking me around after a hard day of drinking. And here I sit, dejected that I fell for it, almost.

Frankly, when they said in the beginning of the year that, in order for them to spend more money on the team, the fans would have to help by raising attendance, I scoffed. How dare they expect us to be the catalyst for this team’s rebirth. Then, a funny thing happened. They started playing better. All of a sudden, attendance increased. So, the fans did their part. Would the Pirates do theirs? They went out and signed two players ahead of the trade deadline. Um… yeah, that’s not exactly who we figured you’d go out and buy. Two guys who end up banged up or just a bust to start. Still, the bullpen held it together and the wins were coming. We were in first place. We were contenders. That was July.

Now, we are heading into September with a dismal percentage, out of the running for the division and slim hopes of breaking .500 for the season at this pace. What happened? We either suck the entire season or do really well for the first half.

Let me put this way. Back in my early days of Junior High, seventh grade to be exact, I joined the track team. Shocked? I am. I threw discus and shot put, not very well, mind you. Occasionally, they had what was called a hog race. That’s when the bigger guys on the team do a relay or run a 220 or 440 yard dash. Now, I will contest that even though I wasn’t the most physically fit, I could sprint pretty well. By pitting me against other guys in my body type, for short distances, I was pretty sure I could take them. I got into a 220 yard dash against other shot putters and discus throwers and felt pretty confident. The gun went off and so did I. I was way out ahead by the first turn. I had an even more commanding lead by the straightaway. At the 220 mark I was a clear winner. I was also in a 440 yard dash and didn’t know it. I stopped dead, thinking I was done while everyone kept running. By then it was too late and I was dead tired. I limped into the finish in last place. I WAS the 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates.

The only thing that would have made matters worse would have been if I were to come out at the next match and said, I am going to bet the school on every event I’m in and I just signed up for the mile run. That’s what the Pirates are doing by raising ticket prices. They blew their wad too early and now they are risking all credibility by saying, “Hey look what we accomplished doing it our way. Now, we’re going to charge you more to be half good.” Don’t be surprised if Andrew McCutchen starts to look away from Pittsburgh as the post season goes on without them. They haven’t thrown the money at him that he deserves, yet.

S#!t My Kid Says
I’ve long said that my kid is the funniest little shit on the planet. Even when it’s inappropriate she makes me laugh. Of course, I am the king of inappropriate.

Due to a scheduling snafu, she had to stay at my parents’ house overnight last week. On the way there, we gave her the usual rundown of rules. Be good. Eat the food she gives you. Go to bed when it’s time. Etc. We also threw in one special request. Don’t swear.

She’s four.

I know. It’s my fault. I let her watch things she shouldn’t and out of all the things she could pick up or imitate from a movie or show, she has to pick the swear words out. And it’s not that my parents are prudes. No way. I didn’t end up like I am because of society. I ended up like this because my Dad let us kids watch Monty Python and Benny Hill when I was my kid’s age. I saw Die Hard in the theater, when I was 12, but I already knew John McClane’s catchphrase prior to that.

So, there we were telling my kid not to say bad words in front of Grammie and she says, “Even asshole?”

Funny kid.

2011 VMAs
I have gone on, at length, about how I hate MTV, now. I can’t understand how they can hold an award show that rewards videos when they don’t even play them on their own network, anymore. The VMAs haven’t been the show they were since the late 80s and early 90s. I didn’t even watch it but saw clips and read about it which is more time that I would have wanted to devote to the subject. My thoughts are this…

  • Why do we continue to honor or applaud Chris Brown? Props to Jay-Z for not standing.
  • Why does Lady Gaga look like a cross between Ralph Macchio from The Outsiders and Billy Joe Armstrong?
  • Why are we shocked and why do we care that she went drag? She wore a suit of meat before.
  • Why is Justin Bieber allowed to drive a Black Ferrari?  And, how's the car doing?  Will he get sued a year later?
  • Why is Britney Spears getting the lifetime achievement award when she’s not been around that long?Look at the list of recipients?  Granted, Madonna was named in 86 but her achievements far outshone Britney’s in the span of time before she received it.
  • Is Beyonce pregnant? (That was a joke)

That’s it. I’m out.

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