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Monday, January 31, 2011

I've Got A Bad Feeling About This

Changing jobs is never easy. I don’t care whether you previously worked for The Empire, it isn’t an easy decision. Can you imagine coming up in the Imperial ranks and getting your first deployment orders?

“Gary, congratulations, you’re going to be stationed on the Death Star. Isn’t that awesome?”

“Gee, I don’t know. Frank was on the first one for a month and it blew up.”

“Yeah, but that’s all been fixed. No more exhaust port that’s two meters wide. You’ll be safe.”

“Well, that’s good. Then the Rebels can’t find a way in and blow it up. It’s all solid.”
“Well, not quite. There’s a lot of exterior structure that has to be put on the thing, but it’s completely safe for the time being.”

“Wait, you mean there’s big holes in the thing?”

“Yes, but it’s shielded. There’s this big moon and it has a shield generator on it. It will protect you for the two months it’s going to take to get the outside done.”
“Yeah, but could that shield fail?”

“What? No! Well, there is a small chance that the local natives will get a little antsy and attack, us but they don’t have any real weapons.”

“Could the Rebels join up with them and blow up the shield generator?"

“I don’t want to say, no. I mean the last time someone guaranteed victory was Moff Tarkin and well… Let’s just say it was a beautiful… closed casket… service.”

“I quit.“

I’m not equating my old job to working on the Death Star. I’m comparing, rather poorly I might add, the situation of working in an environment where there is a significant window for something to go wrong with the second Death Star. [crickets]

Still not getting it?

OK, from the day I started until the first of March, I have no medical benefits. Now, I could take Cobra for that time being but that would be a two month prepay of benefits, plus 20% more on any services I need. In March, I would end up having double coverage that would make Hines Ward ineffective. Granted, it’s a look back process. I would have to decide by 45 days after I was last covered, which will be March 1st. I would have to pay by February 20th. So, you’re betting against yourself.

But in the world of the Ewoks and the Empire, I’d take that bet. Since January 10th, my kid has had the stomach flu twice, had a double ear infection and pink eye, been to the doctors twice, and been on antibiotics. She hasn’t been to the doctors for a few months.

It’s Murphy’s Law or a band of Rebels with a bunch of teddy bears taking down your shield generator so that the invasion can commence, blowing up Death Star 2.0.

So, the lesson here is, “Get coverage from you old job to your new one, if you can, or seal yourself off in a giant bubble and wait it out.”

May the force be with you, with a reasonable deductible.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Brett Keisel's Beard Facts

It is one of the most magnificent beards in Sports History. Brett Keisel, number 99 on the field and number one in your hearts started growing that beard yesterday. True story. He woke up and said, “Today, I want the most magnificent beard in sports history.” Lo and behold, so it was written, so it shall be done.

The Beard has been on the news.  It has been on shirts.  It's been debated on The NFL Network and named Number One Beard in the NFL.  So, in the interest of stealing someone else’s thunder, here's a list of facts about Brett Keisel’s beard.

  1. 70% of the world is covered by water. The rest is covered by Keisel’s Beard.

  1. Brett Keisel will not shave off his beard after the Super Bowl. It has been given National Park status and will be an animal preserve for endangered species.
  2. In the event of a natural disaster, Brett Keisel’s Beard can be used as a shelter, fully equipped with enough food and supplies to last 50 years.
  3. Keisel’s Beard is made up entirely of Unobtanium and Adamantium. It’s lightweight and indestructible.
  4. The oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill could have been easily cleaned up by having Brett Keisel swim in the Gulf of Mexico.
  5. However, Brett Keisel is not allowed near the ocean because his beard affects the tides.
    Australia is still pissed at Brett Keisel for visiting.
  6. Next year, the turf at Heinz Field is being replaced with Keisel’s Beard.
    Pittsburgh is currently weighing options for drafting a new DE.
  7. The next season of Survivor will take place entirely in Keisel’s Beard.
  8. When the Penguins reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year, the games will be broadcast outside The Consol Energy Center on Keisel’s Beard.
  9. Underneath Keisel’s Beard is a retirement home for Kris Kristofferson, Dan Haggerty and Kenny Rogers.
  10. Keisel’s Beard could kick Chuck Norris’ ass.
  11. Brett Keisel finds your lack of beard disturbing.
  12. Keisel’s Beard is better than a Shamwow.
  13. Cost of Jerry Jones’ new Cowboys Stadium, $1.3 billion dollars.   Keisel’s Beard, priceless.
  14. If Aaron Rogers suddenly disappears from the pocket on Super Bowl Sunday, check Keisel’s Beard.
  15. If Troy Polamalu and Brett Keisel had a baby…. well, I don’t even want to think about it, but it would look magnificient.
  16. Brett Keisel’s Beard has caught more passes than Randy Moss, Chad Johnson, Terrell Owens, TJ Houshmandzedah and Santonio Holmes combined, lifetime.
  17. Zod kneels before Keisel’s beard.
  18. Gozer once took the form of Keisel’s Beard. Many Shuvs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of Keisel’s Beard that day I can tell you.
  19. Keisel’s Beard captured Bin Laden months ago. He’s still in there somewhere.
  20. Tom Brady's plugs.. made from Keisel's Beard.
  21. Cars can get 99 mpg feuled from Keisel's Beard.
  22. Keisel's Beard will get its own ring.
  23. If Punxsuwtaney Phil sees Keisel's Beard on Groundhog Day, it means six more years of Super Bowl Championships.
  24. Monsters check under their beds just to make sure Keisel's Beard isn't there.
  25. The plot of the next Indiana Jones movie involves getting to the center of Keisel's Beard.
  26. Keisel's Beard makes Bieber's hair look like Crosby's mustache.
  27. Keisel's Beard was just signed by the Pirates, ending 18 years of losing seasons.
  28. When Greenbay loses, Keisel's Beard will soak up the tears of the fans and be wrung out over the Sarah Desert, turning it into a lush valley full of vegetation.
  29. Keisel's Beard likes your status.
  30. Twitter follows Keisel's Beard.
  31. Double Rainbows wonder what it means when they see Keisel's Beard.
  32. Toy Story 3 cried like a little baby when it saw Keisel's Beard.

Add your own...

Let's go Steelers!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

And Now A Word From Our DJ

I gave up on listening to music format radio stations years ago. I do listen to WDVE in the morning on my way to work for the morning show. When they go to a song, I switch the station. Now, if that song is anything by Journey or Warren Zevon or Led Zeppelin or the Doors or… OK there are a lot of exceptions… but in any case, usually, the music means it’s time to go down the dial.
Where I end up is usually 93.7, The Fan. Us old fogies know it as The Station Formally Known As B94. I spend a few minutes there until commercial or they start talking about Pitt. I’m not a hater, I’m an alum. It’s just that somewhere in the last year, The Fan got a contract with the University to air their football and basketball games and even though this is a primarily Pittsburgh based sports talk station, about 50% or more of their discussions and coverage are about Pitt teams. It’s like they have to give lip service to the University every hour or they’ll lose their deal.

But that’s not what really bothers me about radio, these days. I’ve gone on about music and Top 40 and the crap that is out there, playing in heavy rotation every 20 minutes. This is more about what happens on the radio with the individual stations.

Now, let me back this rant up about 30 years. As a kid, I remember driving around town in my Dad’s old Chevy Custom Deluxe pickup truck. He had it tuned to pretty much one station, WCVI AM. It was the hometown radio station, just across the bridge from where we lived. It was mostly news with some middle of the road type music. The news was pretty much read from the newspaper, as you could actually hear the page turning as the broadcaster flipped the page to continue the story. But the real thrill for me was listening to Paul Harvey segments. You’re going to have to go look up Paul Harvey if you are unfamiliar. I could go on another three hours talking about him. I just don’t have that kind of time, right now.

The magic of Paul Harvey was part storytelling and part huckstering. He could seamlessly weave a mysterious tale about a famous person’s background and plug in a pitch for a Coleman Thermos in one breath. He excelled at blurring the line between broadcasting and commercial. Today’s equivalent would be like watching Chuck and noticing that the Nerd Herd “Herders” cars are Toyota’s, not because you know they are a Toyota Matrix, but because in the opening credits the logo is clearly shown. Also, they all love Subway, because there is a Subway wrapper shown in almost every episode. Paul Harvey was a little more subtle in his pitches but after awhile you could see them coming a mile away.

I shed a small tear when Harvey died in 2009. However, nothing burns me more than when I’m stuck in traffic from Wilkinsburg to the other side of the Squirrel Hill tunnels, or trying to frantically get back over to the middle lane at the Grant Street exit, only to hit a wall of traffic due to an accident just outside the Fort Pitt Tunnels, and I switch radio stations looking for actual content and get duped into listening to a commercial because the announcer is the same guy who I listen to during the regular broadcast.

That pisses me off to no end. I land on one station and think I’m listening to the show and find out that it’s a pitch for DirectTV or a car dealership. Now, my friends will be quick to point out that I should get Satellite Radio and hook up my iPod. First of all, I’m too cheap to spend the money on a radio that will have like three channels that I’ll listen to and my iPod has seen better days. Not to mention, the apparatus to hook up my iPod to my radio, so I can listen, is not conducive to me being a safe driver. That goose neck Belkin debacle of an iPod transmitter has nearly caused me more accidents than a teenager with a car and an unlimited text plan, who just got dumped. To sum it all up, I’m a cheap ass who would rather complain about what’s on the radio instead of doing something different.

But back to my tangent. Is it that apparent that no one likes commercials anymore that stations will do whatever it takes to try and work in their ads? Are they trying to be shifty by disguising a commercial by having the applicable on air host do the commercial? Am I just a conspiracy theory loving hater who thinks the world is out to get him? Yes, I know the last one is a rhetorical question.

Maybe this is evolution. Maybe all the tricks the Mad Men have employed over the years are leading to trying to find new ways to sell you something. I for one hate how Google has followed me around for months now on every website I visit. I’ve already paid for my vacation in the Outer Banks with a particular company. Stop showing me their ads when I go to a sports site. I know it’s a cookie thing. I guess they figure that a greater percentage of the population is able to be manipulated versus those of us who are turned away from that kind of advertising. For me, it’s like hypnosis. I don’t believe in it and usually it pushes me even further from whatever product they are selling. The Google thing just makes me want to stop using them altogether. But… it’s like Walmart, more often than not, you end up there because it’s easier.

So, as I develop stronger muscles in my right leg from commuting and a bigger sense of ambivalence towards radio and commercialism I will probably become even more curmudgeonly than I already was. Is that even a grammatically correct statement spell check? There is probably some puppy kicking in my future. And nothing kicks puppies better than my new Nike Cross Trainers… Puppy kicking… Just Do it.

And now you know the rest of the story…

Good Day…


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Knocking On Seven's Door With Our Backs Against the Wall

What's Past Is Prologue

You’ve heard the story before.

“This team doesn’t have what it takes to get to the big game. “
“There’s no way they can win it all.”

Well, that’s just how they like it.
Think about it. The overall predictions at the beginning of the season were that Pittsburgh would be third in the division. Some had them closing out the season at 10-6. No one had them going to Super Bowl. Even Pittsburghers may have had some doubt about their team. After all, we had a disastrous 9-7 season in 2009, didn’t even make the playoffs due to being mathematically eliminated, we just traded our Super Bowl XLIII MVP to the New York Jets, lost DeShea Townsend to the Colts, and Willie Parker to the Redskins. We had already lost Bryant McFadden to the Cardinals and Larry Foote to the Lions, the year before, so the odds of us doing anything great were not good. (They had since come back in 2010) On top of all of that, our quarterback was suspended for the first six games due to off the field conduct policy violations. It was then reduced to four games but that gave us the potential of starting out the season 0-4, including a division loss to Baltimore.

Starting out the regular season we all felt like the world was against us. In the preseason, our interim starting QB, Byron Leftwich was injured. During week two of the regular season, midway through Roethlisberger’s suspension, backup QB, Dennis Dixon went down with an injury resulting in Charlie Batch being put back at the top of the depth chart.

In our first four games, the defense stepped up their efforts and the Steelers managed to go 3-1 with a division loss to Baltimore, after failing to convert a third down to run out the clock. Things were looking a little more up for the return of a quarterback that perhaps the fan didn’t want but thought they needed.

However, the biggest story of the season wasn’t the return and redemption of Big Ben, it was the witch hunt led by Roger Goodell against players who committed controversial hits. Undoubtedly, the first concern in the NFL is player safety, however when you plan to expand the regular season to 18 games and sell photos of these so-called “controversial hits” one may think that the first concern of the NFL is to make money. In fact, the NFL made over $100,000 just off of these fines and the biggest offender was considered James Harrison. Harrison was fined more than any other player, including more expensive fines for what he was considered as a repeat offender in certain cases. Granted, they have since been reduced but it really looked like Goodell has had it out for the Steelers.

And sometimes, that is what it takes. Sometimes, when the world wants to see you down, that’s when you shine the most. Ben played, as if he was trying to redeem himself by fire, working harder on the field than it appeared off the field to win back the fans’ trust. He sustained a broken foot, a broken nose, and several injuries in his quest for redemption. In a league where a player was fined for a tap to Peyton Manning’s head, Ben found himself having to shrug off the notion that he would draw any sympathy from the officials calling the games. Then again, this is also a league where very few quarterbacks put their own bodies on the line to get a first down, let alone a touchdown. Something Ben has done on occasion.

It might have been a foregone conclusion that Baltimore was going to win the division. That they would either win out or beat the Steelers for the chance at another AFC title was considered to be canon. If not, certainly the Colts, Jets, and favored Patriots would be there to stop them. It always seemed that the road to the Super Bowl went through Pittsburgh. That wasn’t the case in 2006 when Pittsburgh went in as a sixth seed and played four road games to go to Super Bowl XL. This year, it definitely wouldn’t be the case with New England looming on the horizon.

Now, a truly storybook ending for the Steelers would have been beating Baltimore for the Divisional Playoff and then facing down New England for all the AFC marbles. After all, except for a great shellacking on Halloween in 2004, Tom Brady and the Patriots have always had the Steelers number. In fact, in both of Pittsburgh’s Super Bowls with Ben at the helm, New England was already knocked out before Pittsburgh could play them. So, if you wanted to really romanticize this season, you would have had Pittsburgh coming back, despite all odds to win against New England this past Sunday. Enter Rex Ryan to foil romance.

A Tale of Two Cities: Destiny, Fate, or Coincidence

From day one, Rex Ryan set out to break convention. He’s loud. He’s brash. He spouts obscenity laden locker room speeches on HBO’s Hard Knocks. Ryan had led the Jets to the AFC championship last year, only to be defeated by the Colts. This year, Ryan had his own destiny on hand and beat the Colts in the first round of the playoffs. Then, tempting the football Gods even more, he had the audacity to march into Foxborough and try and upset Tom Brady’s attempt at a fourth Super Bowl. The Jets dismantled the Patriots and proved that maybe they are the road team that would repeat Pittsburgh’s goal of going on the road as a sixth seed and winning it all. To do that, he would have to go through Pittsburgh.

It shouldn’t have been hard. He had Pittsburgh’s number in week 15. His team forced a safety and managed to beat Pittsburgh in the regular season on the road. But it’s always harder to beat a team twice. In fact, some have called their first meeting as New York beating a vanilla Pittsburgh. Conspiracy theorists will claim that Dick LeBeau held back on showing all the cards because he knew that they would meet Rex Ryan and his Jets in the playoffs. And notice how in both of these comparisons I’ve called the Steelers by the team name or by some individual players while Rex Ryan is the predominant name assigned to all of the Jets fanfare. I’ll speak to that in a moment. That’s because Rex Ryan is the face of the Jets. A scary thought indeed. He manufactures his own hype and leaving the game to be won off the arm of Mark Sanchez, a quarterback who almost lost his job this season would be even scarier. The superstitious will throw out such theories that there was no way Pittsburgh could lose.

The Rule of Sevens: It would be the 7th win for Pittsburgh. Ben is number 7. It’s his 7th year. If you add Polamalu’s jersey numbers together you get 7. And on and on.

The Curse of Cope: Jets’ fans disrespected the Terrible Towel by stomping on it. Other teams have disrespected the unofficial flag of The Pittsburgh Steelers, only to suffer a similar fate. Not to mention, Sunday would have been Myron Cope’s 82nd birthday.

“Destiny is a fickle bitch.” Benjamin Linus said those words on LOST, another tale of redemption, scripted as destiny. Never were words truer than in the case of Rex Ryan. The Jets marched into Pittsburgh, confident of a win. Maybe overconfident. Santonio Holmes, feeling like he had something to prove, came back with a chip on his shoulder. Some analysts looked at the move to trade Holmes as a mistake, one the Steelers never backfilled. Holmes off the field actions cemented the decision. The once Super Bowl MVP was now considered a dangerous entity to the locker room. My thoughts are that if they would have kept Holmes, would we be where we are now? Would Holmes? I don’t mean planning his vacation after Conference loss. I mean would he have allowed the talents of Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown to grow or would his status be a hindrance. I feel that trading Santonio was best for both teams. It allowed us to move forward, developing three great wide receivers and it may have given him the spark he needed to get his life on track and do what he needed to do to become the player he was this year. So, in essence, he should thank Pittsburgh and we should thank him. The parting was beneficial for both parties.

Even further, was Ben’s incident in Milledgeville, GA, the wakeup call he needed? You can analyze his apologies and his off the field actions this year all you want. Just remember that he was given an opportunity as a rookie. It may have been a responsibility he was ready to handle as a player but not as an individual. The persona of Ben Roethlisberger may have been too big for him to carry as a 20 something. When kids go off to college, even the straight arrows, they tend to throw caution to the wind. They experiment, they shed their conventions and convictions, and they give into the environment they are thrust into at the time. They measure of their character is not whether they make the mistakes but if they learn from them and become a more rounded person. Has Ben learned something about the way a superstar needs to behave or is he merely experiencing the sensation of being pulled over for speeding? He’ll drive safely for awhile, obeying all the rules of the road. Then, after awhile the foot will fall more heavily on the pedal, and the thrill of going fast will suck him into his old ways, once more. I hope that he can see that he has a great opportunity and will take this as a second chance he may have not deserved.

Then again, would we be where we are had this not happened? Would Ben go out and play well and further alienate his fans and his team if he was not held to the standards he should be held to? Was the punishment befitting the crime because its severity scared him straight? If you look at what happened with Brett Favre you say, “He was a scapegoat for Goodell.” “Favre can do no wrong but Ben will always be the Black Sheep of the NFL.” After all, no charges were filed against Ben yet he was subject to nearly the fullest extent of the NFL’s rules. Perhaps Goodell will come out after the end of the season and say, “I did what I did in your best interests as a young man needing some tough love.” Cruel to be kind? Don’t believe it for a second.

That’s for the talk shows to further analyze and frankly, I’m done with the hating on Goodell. If anything, the Steelers have proven that, regardless what you can throw at them, Pittsburgh is a town that loves its team and the team loves a challenge. We love being the underdog. We are John Locke, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” We know we are good enough and we’ve proven it. The best thing we can do is always play with our backs to the wall. The 70s showed a team that could win back to back Super Bowls twice. The 80s showed a team that had to answer for its dynasty by being cast as bums. The 90s saw a return to greatness and yet still having to deal with the past, losing to Dallas in Super Bowl XXX. The new millennium saw the inner workings of a sleeping giant ready to wake up and destroy all in its path. But with each win of a title, we followed it up with a down year. Ego and greatness are a juggling act and sometimes you cannot prove you are the best until you lose that title.

Consider this. Only two quarterbacks have won Super Bowls in Pittsburgh. Three Coaches have. That spans almost 40 years of history. The Steelers are tied with the Dallas Cowboys for appearances in the Super Bowl, eight apiece. The Steelers only serve to break their own record of winning Super Bowls. In fact, if they lose, they still hold the record for wins. San Francisco and Dallas are the other two teams tied with five Lombardi Trophies. In order, San Francisco is the only team to win every Super Bowl in which they have appeared, followed by Baltimore and the New York Jets who have one apiece.

60 Minutes To History

The storybook ending for this team has to contend with one more opponent and one more game. Super Bowl XLV will be played against the Green Bay Packers. They are a storied franchise with history on their side. After all, the prize for the winner is named for a former coach. And who doesn’t feel a little chill when you watch the old NFL films with the gladiator style of music and the narration, “They had to walk onto the frozen tundra at Lambeau field.” John Facenda is a missed presence, for sure. Just thinking about the Green Bay Packers speaks volumes of nostalgia and tradition and everything that is Super Bowl Sunday and football in February. It’s hard to believe they’ve only won three Super Bowl titles, the first two more than 40 years ago.

Fate or Destiny may be on their side more than Pittsburgh’s. The Packers were this year’s sixth seed team, knocking off seeds one, two, and three on their way to Dallas. You can’t look at them and say, “It can’t be done. No sixth seed has gone on the road to end up at the Super Bowl.” We’ve done it and won. As it stands, today, Green Bay is favored. But that just plays into the favor of Pittsburgh’s scheme. “Go in with our backs against the wall.”

If Green Bay wins, it will be their fourth Super Bowl title in four decades. They also have a slew of NFL Championships prior to the introduction of The Super Bowl in 1967 and Green Bay won that first one.  There’s nothing storybook about that ending. Not if you want to romanticize it, like I do.  And look at the other stories this team has told throughout the season.  You have the rookie center, Maurkice Pouncey.  In his first year he earned the starting position and has made the role his own.  He has shown poise and confidence and has even earned a spot on the Pro Bowl roster.  Although he sustained an injury in the AFC Championship game, expect him to finish out the season playing in Dallas.  There's Aaron Smith, the Defensive End who has spent a majority of the season with a tricep injury.  He is a presence on that field and the possibility of him dressing on any given Sunday has fans waiting with bated breath.  There's the other veterans like Hines Ward who has mentored the new crop of Wide Receivers into playing pivotal roles in pass protection.  Troy Polamalu's return from last year's injury to create explosive plays at the line of scrimmage, leaping over the line with precision timing to tackle the quarterback.  Then there is the story of the forgotten quarterback, Charlie Batch.  He has been dropped further down the depth chart and was thought to be on his way out when the interim starting quarterbacks both went down with injuries forcing the Steelers to rely on Batch to take the team to a 3-1 start in Roethlisberger's absence.  Truly, this year has been nothing if not dramatic and well scripted.

The Final Note: Coach of the Year

The final note is something I touched on earlier. When I spoke of the Steelers I spoke of the players. When I spoke of The Jets, I spent more energy spouting Rex Ryan’s name. That’s because as head coach, Mike Tomlin does more but not saying as much. He doesn’t go out of his way to create media moments… though the press conference following the win over the Ravens left an impression as he put Bob Holtzman in his place for publishing an insider tip about the Steelers game plan for playing Baltimore.

He uses colorful analogies to describe things.

"The standard is the standard"
“War of attrition”
“Water scarcity”
“Great players defy scheme”
“By no means is he a lawn deer”

All of these are perfect examples of Tomlinisms. But in comparison to Rex Ryan, Mike Tomlin is the quiet killer. He says more with his eyes and doesn’t give you much more than the barest of details. He keeps it simple. He may be part Vulcan. Don’t quote me on that. He definitely has his emotions in check. After a year like 2010, it would be hard for most to do. Yet, I tagged this section as “Coach of the Year” for a reason. Belichick had a better record, but Tomlin is in the Super Bowl. Ryan had a better sound bite, but Tomlin is in the Super Bowl. Truth is, on paper Mike Tomlin’s team is very good and doesn’t come off as anything spectacular given their schedule. But take a step back and look at what Mike Tomlin has had to accomplish this year, in spite of everything, and if you ask me who I would want to have as a coach if the fate of the world rested on whether or not my team would win, I would pick Mike Tomlin 10 times out of 10.

Tomlin had to contend with losing his starting quarterback for, at most, six games. He lost two more quarterbacks before Ben came back. He had to deal with the league punishing hits with fines and penalties, Harrison’s threat to retire, a rookie center, a gap in wide receiver left by the Holmes trade, losing Aaron Smith in week seven, Max Starks in week nine, and Dan Sepulveda in week thirteen due to injury, replacing his kicker with one who has been cut by a heck of a lot of teams, and he never showed an ounce of sweat on his brow. To do all that and make the Super Bowl says something about a coach. When you look around the locker room and you take in all that has happened to this team in the course of a year and see Mike Tomlin show confidence and poise, you become confident. Mike Tomlin has shown he has the pulse and respect of this team and he deserves coach of the year. But, of course, he is probably not the odds on favorite. He is the underdog or maybe not even a consideration in most people’s minds and if he actually thought about the honor, that’s probably the way he would like it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Gameboy By LG Thanks To Verizon Wireless

I never wanted a cell phone. Hell, I never wanted a credit card, either. Unfortunately, I had to have both.

The credit card came first so that I could eventually buy my house. No, I didn’t put my mortgage on the card, silly. I had to build up a credit existence, from what I was told, so that the state could put me under a microscope for a home loan.

The cell phone came a year later. My wife was worried that I’d end up in a ditch somewhere and need help. In my mind, if I had ended up in a ditch somewhere, having a phone wouldn’t help, unless that phone could call someone while I’m lying there, unconscious.

But, I caved and got a phone. It was a simple LG flip model that basically called people and had a camera. I spent more time taking photos than actually calling someone. That seems to be the case nowadays. Everyone buys a phone, not for the actual phone part, but for everything else. There’s texting and video and apps and music and games. I found it funny when Apple would release the new iPhones that could do all these whiz bang things, except actually make a call.

I admit I am a bit of a gadget geek and love tech stuff but sometimes making a product into something else actually negates the intended purpose. I’ve shied away from getting the latest iGear or whatever else is out there in favor of actually functional pieces of technology. I buy a camera or I buy a phone to do what the device is intended for, not because of all the extras. Besides, that costs more money and I am a self proclaimed cheap ass.

Still, when I got my last phone, an LG ENV2, I drank the Kool Aid a bit and took on a trial of VZ Navigator, which was nice. That was the one thing that was worth having on a phone. Having to buy pay hundreds of dollars for a GPS device was silly when you could pay $10 a month for the ability to do the same thing on your phone. I mean, you were going to have your phone in the car anyways, in case of a ditch scenario, right? So, I exhausted the trial month and said, “Eff, it! Ten bucks a month is too much for me to know where the hell I am going at all times. Let’s put St. Christopher in the driver’s seat.

The other indulgence I gave into was downloading games. Now, I was under the impression that my month long trial of VZ Navigator and web browsing included downloads. I didn’t realize I was purchasing a game that would be downloaded to my phone. In that month I downloaded Tetris and Monopoly. For the two years I owned that phone I played Tetris every day. When I’d sit in appointments I’d play. When I was stuck at the airport, waiting to board, I’d play. Loved that game. It was an addiction, back in college, when we had it for the NES. In fact, if I would have had Tecmo Super Bowl on my phone, I’d never get any work done.

But phones, like other technology, become obsolete and degrade over time. New plans, new two year contracts, and the chance to get a new phone, for free mind you, become options laid out before you.
Now, I was never a huge fan of the ENV2. The case became worn and the rubber case that I put on it made it difficult to type in the numbers because the edges of buttons were no longer raised. For someone, like me, with flippers and banana hands, I’d constantly miss dial a number or a password to my voicemail. Also, I would constantly butt dial people. There was a way to lock it but you had to go three screens deep into the phone menu to do it. Having the buttons on the inside was a plus, in my book. My pocket would constantly vibrate from me leaning on buttons, making noise. From then on, I kept my phone on vibrate and developed a case of vibration nervosa. That’s where you constantly check your phone because you think you felt it ring.

So, when it came time to change phones I chose the Cosmos. Why? It was free. Yeah, it had buttons on the outside and even though it had a complicated lock system, did I mention it was free?

Here’s the sucktitude that is my phone plan. I attempted to move everything from one phone to the other. Contacts, check. Messages, check. Pictures, check. Games….ch…um, nope! Turns out I would have to repurchase and download those games again. Granted, $10 is nothing huge in the scheme of things, but it’s the principle. Every two years or so, I would have to spend $20 to play games on my phone. I contacted Verizon Wireless customer service and they said, “Sorry, thems the brakes.” So, I say, The ENV2, yesterday’s phone, today’s Game Boy. I guess if I know ahead of time I’m going to be sitting around waiting for something like an oil change or a dentist appointment I’ll bring my ENV2 along to play games and use my Cosmos… to call people.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Do you know what that means? I didn’t either before this week. It means, “What’s up, my friend?” One of the supervisors walked around and said this to me. It appears to be a tradition at my new job. Every so often, someone comes up to you and says WUMF? So, I thought I would use it to reopen the blog posts. I can’t promise I’ll be sticking to my three a week schedule. I’d like to think I could but I’ll be spending more time in traffic, so it’s harder to budget writing time when I’m sitting in my car for two hours a day. With that said, here’s my WUMF post for you, my friend(s).

So, as I stated in my last post, I started a new job. I’m not going into specifics but I am working for IT in an education setting. I’m trying to build them a knowledgebase that will work. I’ve done it before, right? That one was easy. The application did all the heavy lifting. Now, I’ve got to use one that isn’t up to date and has very little credibility to it. There is a lot of heavy lifting involved. But that is a challenge that I wanted to take on, right?

Along with the new job, I have a new drive. Instead of driving through the backwoods of Westmoreland County, I am hitting the four lanes and heading in and out of Pittsburgh. Instead of a 20 minute drive, I have an hour drive. Instead of just getting in the car and just going. I have a lot of start and stopping. I hit two areas of traffic in my drive. They both involve tunnels in Pittsburgh. Apparently, the tunnel monster demands tribute and people are afraid they are going to get eaten. So, I leave around 6:15 AM to beat the traffic, only to get stuck around Churchill and then right after the Fort Pitt Tunnels heading up to Carnegie.

Coming home, it’s the same thing in the same areas. The one real cool thing about my drive is emerging from the Fort Pitt Tunnels and taking in the sight of downtown Pittsburgh. The panoramic view of the city stretching from the Science Center and Casino, past Heinz Field and PNC Park and the Golden Triangle, down through town to the old Westinghouse Tower (Now, 11 Stanwix St.), Steel Tower, Highmark Building, PPG Place, and the rest is pretty awesome. Then I get to drive along the river back towards Oakland, my alma mater at Pitt, where I get stuck by Bates St., waiting for the Tunnel Monster to let us through. Now, this past Tuesday, I got stuck in traffic for two hours thanks to the impending snowdoom we were supposed to get. Don’t get me wrong, it was bad, but the roads weren’t especially slick. People just freak. I don’t know why. This is Pittsburgh. Even if you just moved here from the South, last year, you would have been around for Snowmageddon. It’s not like you had no idea that it snowed here.

Traffic and uncertainty on how to do my job aside, I like the environment. Everyone has been great and friendly, WUMF and all. In fact, there seems to be a collective acceptance of being a bit strange and goofy there. They even have a hazing ritual that shouldn’t piss anyone off, except the people who stock the kitchen. It’s called tea bagging and before you go all… “What the hell kind of place is this?”, understand that they only take tea bags from the kitchen and put them in your workspace. I’m not exactly sure of the rules but I seem to be exempt because I was a direct hire and not a contractor. The two people I’ve seen “tagged” shared that distinction, if I recall, correctly. The one was a guy who sits across from me and had one hanging from his name plate holder. The second was the same supervisor who came by on Friday, saying WUMF. He has an office and was subject to a little more tagging than others. To give you an idea, think back to that scene in Se7en where Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman enter the apartment of the guy who has been strapped to the bad for months. The entire room was filled with air fresheners, hanging from the ceiling. Imagine that scene with tea bags hanging from the ceiling tiles with push pins.

Well, that covers the WUMF edition. I may make this a regular thing, along with my Lesser Man Project posts. By the way, I am holding steady at having lost 18 pounds. I don’t have access to a real scale, like I did before. Mine is a bit older and probably biased. In fact, it shows me less ten pounds. I don’t figure it into my totals. I really have lost 18 pounds, not eight.

Take care all and here’s to the unknown. That’s WUMF.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Time To Face the Strange

The news I have to share is both scary and exciting.  After nine and a half years with the same company, I am moving on to a new adventure.  I don't want to be too specific about what I've done and where I am going.  I have spoke on occasion about my previous job and have even deleted some posts I felt were a bit too revealing or even inflammatory.  You can never be too sure.   Let's just say it was time to move on to something new.

Even with the new position, I don't want to paint a target on my back.  I haven't officially started yet.  LOL. 

With that being said, I wish my former coworkers all the luck in the world.   While I don't wish them to be there for a another ten years, I wish them to be there as long as they choose to.  It's been a bittersweet last few days as I have looked back at a quarter of my life dedicated to one company.  It's not the same as when I first walked in, green and dumb.   I won't say it's better.  I won't say it's worse.  I will say that I didn't pull any ripcords or pop any emergency slides.  I didn't go out like Jerry MaGuire and I didn't go out like Scarface from Half Baked.  I spent the better part of today digging up old emails for people who wanted to relive the glory days of when I would come up with a funny top ten list or photoshopped someone's head onto someone else's body. 

It's like cutting off my left arm.  It's not my predominant limb but it's still very important and special to me.  Even though I have the ability to grow it back, I don't know if it will work the same or be as good.   I know that analogy makes no sense, but you get the idea.   I'm stepping out of my comfort zone and taking a chance on doing something important with a risk of failure.   I did the same thing with my last job but even if I would have failed, I probably had a better chance to retain my tenure.   It's all new, now, and I have zero credibility. 

So, until I get a feel for how well things will work... I'm adding double the drive time I had before... I may be taking a little hiatus, for now.  If this is the end of my blog, so be it.  I've had a great run even if I never achieved rock star status.   I did this for me, no one else. 

Thank you and here's to new beginnings.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Lesser Man Project: Week 9

Sorry for the hiatus on the updates. I was caught up in the D-Bag Award posts and the holidays, along with some other news that will show up in, possibly, my final post????  Time will tell on that one. In any case, I hope you didn’t think I abandoned the project, because I didn’t.  In fact, I surprised myself with being off of work for the last two weeks of the year.  I figured boredom would have set in and I’d be reaching for the cookies and egg nog. Fortunately, there is some rule that any behavior for 21 days constitutes a habit. Well, at the time I went on vacation I had been at this for almost six weeks, which is twice as long.  I guess I have a habit now.

Speaking of habits, let’s go over the last four weeks. I’m not going to get into what all I ate, but I will share some. Let’s just say, I didn’t skimp on the holiday meals.

I started off week five having already lost 10 pounds from my heaviest weight. Then two weeks later I was head long into being off of work and around all kinds of bad food. I was doing my Christmas shopping and eating on the fly which is always a bad idea. I was hitting Starbucks because I was able to and taking in a few more Caramel Brule decadence than I should have in my position. I was eating at malls and going through the drive thru.

However, when I did stop at my favorite spot, Wendy’s, I managed to keep to my reduced meal plan with the value sized burger, fry, and drink. That was a plus. Being able to be satisfied by a very small amount of food is a good step towards winning the war.

Christmas Eve was filled with meat and cheese trays, ham and roast beef sandwiches, and various cookies. I tried to be good but I know I had one or two more chocolate covered Oreos than I should have. Christmas Day was just leftovers for lunch and turkey sandwiches for dinner at my parents. My Dad’s birthday was a couple days away and I was digging this dip my sister-in-law made and downing shrimp left and right. New Year’s Eve and Day were my worst meals. We had pierogies, pork, sauerkraut, hot dogs, and kielbasa. More cookies, more meat and cheese.

I did try some a new dish at one of our regular eateries.  I had fish and pierogies and loved it. At Fat Zackel’s in Claridge, they make an awesome Russian Cod and accompany it with three pierogies. It’s enough to get your gnosh on, but it won’t kill you. Skipping my daughter’s fries also helps.

Now to the biggest help over break.  I had, what has been called, around here as, The Pittsburgh Puke and Poop.  Actually, I never puked. My kid woke up the morning of the 19th with it but had stopped vomiting by noon.  My wife had a small bout with it and I was showing signs around mid week.  Like I said, I never threw up, but I wasn’t taking any chances and was pretty much eat toast and drinking ginger ale, because I was constantly nauseous.  Now, I would have expected to gain all that weight back after I felt better, but I am proud to say that as of a weigh in on the morning of January 5th, I had lost almost [drum roll] [paradiddle] [LOL]

18 pounds.

Now that’s a habit!

I’m back at work this week and have had one small indulgence, a tiny Frosty after my lunch on Tuesday.  Otherwise, I have been eating less and I am actually starting to feel like I’ve lost weight.  People have said I look like I've lost weight.  "Yeah, your face looks thinner."  Great.  If only I wore my pants around my nose, I'd feel like I had accomplished something. My knees still groan at me when I go up steps, but I’ve been finding pairs of pants, I was ready to throw out, fitting once more, which is a bonus. No more exploding buttons.

To summarize:
  • Apparently getting the flu has benefits but don't expect all results to be the same.  I wouldn't go licking the Lincoln Logs at your kids' daycare, just yet. 
  • If you plan on doing anything like this, do it a few weeks out of a big meal holiday like Thanksgiving. 
  • Don’t call it a diet. It’s a change in habit.
  • Most important, keep going. 
Now, I’m not going to get all caught up in the psychology of it all, just like I didn’t get caught up in all the counting and monitoring of what I did.  I’ve made all these changes in an effort to have them become an automatic thing. The subconscious mind will reach for a bowl of chips just as easily as it will walk past the kitchen at 11:30 at night, despite the cries of Ben and Jerry telling you to eat them. You simply have to train yourself, in small increments.

It’s nice to know I haven’t hit that plateau, yet, but my next challenge occurs starting January 10th. More on that later. Peace out!

2010 D-Bag Awards Finals

In the beginning there were 32 nominated contestants, including our reigning champ, Death. Now we are down to eight. This is the final round and each is worthy of the award, but only one walks out of here with the title of biggest d-bag of 2010.

For your consideration, I present each nominee one more time.

In the Athletic Round we had LeBron James. He announced to the world, only minutes after letting his former employers know, that he would leave Cleveland and go to Miami. He promised to do what he could to bring a championship to Cleveland, but in the end he was only interested in bringing one to himself and he would go where he needed to in order to do it. I can’t blame him for wanting to leave Cleveland, but he shouldn’t have done it in the fashion that he did, creating a media spectacle.

LeBron LeBroke My Heart by B Rike Tees

In the Celebrity Round, Mel Gibson touretted his way to infamy after already being on the fence with his previous foot in mouth disease. Allegedly he assaulted the mother of his child. He spouted off more obscenities and vitriol then a Mamet character and still he managed to get support from his former costars. One can only hope that 2011 serves as a chance for him to come back to reality and get on some proper meds.

For the Reality Round, Jesse James spat on his marriage and every hanger on that ever attached themselves to the celebrity that is Sandra Bullock. And he managed to do it while she stood on stage professing her love and owing her newfound resurgence to you. At least you could have had the decency to let her know ahead of time. Or better yet, not been such a douchebag to start.


Politicians stole the Political Round from the Tea Party Movement in the political round by failing to do anything but posture and play king of the hill. Instead of actually making a change to the country, they simply made a change to the roster. Well, guess what? We became disillusioned the last time around under the eight years rule. Granted, we only gave it two years but we’ve become fickle and impatient. I guess we wanted to believe in change, but didn’t want to believe in a slow process. You didn’t help the cause, you impeded it to get into power. Maybe neither side is the answer. In any case, you were all winners, right or left.

Politicians make for strange bedfellows

In the Media Round, Dr. Laura went gangsta over the airwaves and claimed first amendment blah blah as a defense. Put it this way, when Sarah Palin comes to your defense it might not be a good thing. Ask a majority of the candidates she backed during election season.

Oh yes, I did!

Roger Goodell says one thing and does another. He wants safety but more money for the league in the form of regular season games. He wants to punish certain players but turn a blind eye to others. He wants obscure transparency over the rules of play yet can’t take a standardized position on how players should act off the field. The emperor has no clothes but he clinched a playoff birth from the In Charge Round.

BP contributed to one of the worst ecological disasters since Joe Hazelwood slept off a bender and the third mate ran aground in Alaska. But to lay blame for the disaster solely at the feet of BP is a bit much. There were multiple factors that involve multiple parties. How the whole crisis was handled has more to do with BPs nomination and win of their round.

Lastly, I present our reigning champ, Death

I'm Death, bitch!

Death had another banner year in 2010. And, he’s already kicking off 2011 with the death of Pete Postlethwaite, a totally underrated actor, in my opinion. Looking back, pop culture lost Leslie Nielsen, Barbara Billingsley, Peter Graves, Teena Marie, Blake Edwards, Dino de Laurentis, 11 year old Shannon Tavarez, Greg Giraldo, Billie Mae Richards (voice of Rudolph from the Rankin Bass specials), Rue McClanahan, Gary Coleman, Corey Haim, Caroline McWillams, Teddy Pendergrass, Tom Bosley, James MacArthur, (Original Five-0’s Danno), James Wall, Tony Curtis, Gloria Stuart, Eddie Fisher, Dennis Hopper, Dixie Carter, Lynn Redgrave, John Forsythe, Merlin Olsen, Andrew Koenig, Phil Harris, Francis Reid, J.D. Salinger, Zelda Rubenstein, James Mitchell, and Jean Simmons, to name more than a few.

On the home front Death took the life of my mother in law, a 12 year survivor of renal cell cancer. The cancer never got her. She died of a brain hemorrhage, due to a blood thinner she was on at the time. Also, my wife’s childhood pet, Woody, a 24 year old black and white one fanged cat finally had to be put down. Both of these deaths affected me more than any celebrity or childhood hero I may have had. So, Death was busy and is in good company with a bunch of other D-bags.

That all being said, I can clearly pick a winner of the 2010 D-Bag Awards.

Death had it locked up but I had to think about it. Death may have claimed the lives of millions this past year, including mine explosions, earthquakes in Haiti, personal losses and losses to my childhood, but Death is doing his job and while I won’t strip him of the title, I cannot clearly give it to him this year. BP was the bigger douchebag. Tony Hayward made the biggest of all d-bag statements when he said, “I want my life back.” The entire handling of the disaster was a ridiculous exercise right out of the playbook of FEMA circa 2005. And while life may be getting back to whatever semblance of normalcy it may have had on the Gulf Coast, the full effects of what happened and how it happened and how it was handled may still be years out on the horizon. Even the name of the rig, Deepwater Horizon, is a sort of morbid foreshadowing of what the future of the Gulf Coast may have in store for us. This was a disaster that even Death was going, “Whoa, you guys are real douchebags!” So, your winner for 2010, by an oil slick is BP. Kudos, douchebags. Good luck in 2011.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 D-Bag Awards Round Seven: In Charge D-Bags

Those wacky CEOs. They’ve got the world on a string. And some of them are the biggest d-bags in business. Here’s the lowdown on the final round of nominations for the 2010 D-Bag Awards.

Steve Jobs
Normally, I wouldn’t care what Steve Jobs did. Normally, I’d be willing to praise Apple for what it has done in the tech sector. I loved my iPod and even though I am not a Mac user, I do like them in the case of doing graphic design. Well, that has all changed. 2010 was shining big ball of poop for the Apple CEO. Dating back to the invention of the iPhone, Apple has become a bit of a snob with its products. Yes, you can blame the issues with coverage on AT&T but the bottom line is that Apple is responsible for making that business decision to go solely with AT&T.

The latest version of the iPhone, called iPhone 4, had a huge flaw that was a tipping point for ole Stevie ending up on the list. The gap on the case caused dropped calls when you touched it. It’s not a flaw, it’s a feature, right? Wrong. As in, “You’re holding it wrong.” That was Steve’s message to the masses about the issue. Well, if you are using the phone as a phone and aren’t used to holding it with the particular hand that Jobs is telling people to use, then it’s a flaw, in my book. Telling people that they’re doing it wrong is not good customer service. It’s back peddling over an issue that you either knew about and tried to sneak past the censors or it’s something you were oblivious to and are now coming up with a story to cover your ass. Oh, and did I mention that Steve was detained in an airport following the discovery of ninja stars in his luggage? Steve said he’d never visit Japan again after being detained for trying to take the weapons aboard his own private jet. Um, just because it’s a private jet and it’s yours doesn’t mean you couldn’t decide to take them to another airport and do something. It would be nice if Japan decided to stop using Apple products in return. Hey, Steve. YOU are doing it wrong.

Bob Nutting
I so wanted to give the round to Bob. I really did. As a Pittsburgher and a once huge fan of the Pirates I really wanted to bring Bob down, but I couldn’t. First of all, I don’t have that kind of power. Secondly, it’s not like Bob doesn’t already know exactly what he is doing. He’s made losing a profitable science. 18 years. 18 YEARS of losing is what we are used to in Pittsburgh and we are not a town that understands losing for a profit. We went to the Super Bowl, on the road, as a sixth seed which did nothing to earn the city any money in tourist revenues and we were happy about it because it was about winning and being the best, not about money. Now, that’s not to say that the bottom line is that we don’t want the money. You need to pay the players and you need to fund the organization. However, when you specifically do what you can to lose which nets you millions in profit, that’s is worth of being a d-bag.

Now, I cannot say with 100% certainty that Bob Nutting is purposely trying to lose in order to keep his payroll low and turn a profit from season ticket sales and revenue sharing from the bigger market teams. But it does look to be a little suspicious. Oh, and how are Rinku and Dinesh doing? Oh, that’s right. You released Dinesh after the season. And Singh, well he was promoted to Class A Short-Season affiliate. Any chance He’ll be making it through to the big game?

And the winner is?

Roger Goodell
Again, I am a little bit biased because I am from Pittsburgh but I think it is safe to say that Roger Goodell is clearly the winner here. I have gone on, at length about how I despise him. I think he is turning the NFL into a ridiculous corporation bent on making money and not about upholding any values. He talks about wanting to protect the players from injury and yet wants to add two more bone crushing regular season games. If this year is any indication of how much the regular season punishes players then imagine going into weeks 18 and 19 with hardly any starters because of injury, not to mention playoffs. He talks about reckless tackling, leading with helmets and defenseless players, yet the officials do not call penalties on half of the more serious offenses to players such as personal fouls against certain quarterbacks. After all, someone as pretty as Tom Brady and as marketable as Peyton Manning would certainly draw a personal foul if a defensive player merely looked at them wrong, but other quarterbacks are chopped and drilled and slapped and punched and bloodied in the name of “legal contact.”

Oh, and where is Brett Favre’s punishment for doing what he did. Granted, he may never face any legal action for what he allegedly did, but it’s on par with what Ben Roethlisberger supposedly did and he was given a six game suspension. I am neither defending nor condoning what Ben may or may not have done. I am merely pointing out a lateral argument. Both were involved with allegations of sexual harassment or conduct unbecoming an NFL player and yet Ben was given a six game, reduced to four, suspension and Brett has yet to see any kind of punishment and will probably retire before any is doled out. If there were any more contradictory behavior on the part of Goodell he would have ended up on my political list. But for now, he earns the praise as d-bag extraordinaire as a man in charge.

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