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Monday, January 30, 2012

WUMF: January 2012 Edition

Happy end of the month. That means it’s time for another thrilling installment of WUMF!

I started this bit last year as a way to kind of wrap up the little things that happened throughout the month that don’t normally make it into the regular posts. Of course, that is hard to do because that means I have to remember stuff. It’s not like I could write it down. That requires planning and organization and it really throws off my chaotic mess of a life.

That being said, I give WUMF for what I can remember about January.

S#!t My Kid Says
People tell me I could write a book just based on the stuff my daughter says in everyday situations. I don’t think I could exploit her like that for profit. I mean there are so many other good ways to exploit her for profit that I hate to narrow it down to just one medium. I don’t know. Maybe t-shirts. Lolkid? Hmmm.

Anyway, this past weekend, for some reason, my four year old was enthralled with how the toilet works.  She asked, "What's in there?" pointing to the tank.  So, I explained that was where the water comes from in order to cause the toilet to flush and how the water line works and fills the tank back up.  I also showed her how the water shuts off all by itself.

Her response?  "Wow, the potty is soooo cool!"

Traffic Woe #458
We had a landslide on the Parkway East right before the West bound entrance to the Squirrel Hill Tunnels. It happened after or at the end of morning rush hour and they cleaned it up pretty good by 4PM so that both lanes were flowing. Yet, traffic heading East bound through the tunnel grind to a screeching halt. Why? WTAE Channel 4 news vans were parked outside the tunnel with tripods set up.

Did commuters think they would see Sally Wiggin out there? Are we that sad as a society that the local news anchors are that big of a celebrity that we have to grind traffic to a screeching halt because we may catch a glimpse of them? Don’t get me wrong, I’d feel a little star struck if I actually met Sally. Hell, I felt a bit in awe of meeting Jennifer Miele outside a restaurant and my wife knew her growing up. Still, is that a real reason to slow down afternoon traffic. Look, if you want to see the news, hurry home and you can catch it on television.

All Star/Pro Games
Can we all just agree that these are a joke and hold no real value. I mean, other than getting to see your favorite player if you don’t get to see them on a regular basis because they play in a different city than you is the only real reason to watch. It can’t be to see an actual sporting event because nobody does anything. The defense might as well not even show up at the NHL and NFL versions because it’s not like they are supposed to actually do anything to stop the score from being a zillion to a gajillion. (I’m still working with the Math kings to get that into an actual number.) And the voting process is crap for all of them. Four Ottawa Senators playing?

It seems like the only game that holds any meaning is the MLB All Star game because the winning side (AL/NL) gets home field advantage in the World Series. I think they need to make these games more enjoyable. How about like Rock and Jock was back in the 90s. Obstacles, like cows, out in the field that you have to maneuver around. For the NFL? What about something along the lines of American Gladiators style competitions. NBA? How about a big ole game of HORSE or two on two games. Maybe even take it back to the old Bird/Jordan commercials and do shots from the stands or ridiculous bank shots.

Something, people! Come on!

Home Renovations
I bought a new light for above the vanity over Christmas. I finally got it up and running. The explanation requires more than a paragraph so be on the lookout for that fiasco and more home improvements, coming soon.

Stay Excellent!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Love Stinks in Pop Culture

What are the best love stories in pop culture, today?

New Year’s Eve? Gack.
Crazy, Stupid, Love? About cheating and divorce.
Just Go With It? Adam Sandler. It’s a love of childish humor.
Breaking Dawn? There we have it.

And before you start going on about, “This is a Twilight bashing post” I’m going to stop you right there.

Yes, it is.

But it’s much more than that.

The concept of love in a movie has been whittled down into this poor excuse for a relationship that is the Twilight saga. And before that, it was a Nicholas Sparks book adapted into a film.

Step 1: Two pretty white people fall in love.
Step 2: One dies.
Step 3: Advertise with a stupid reused poster of two people kissing with the guy holding the cheeks of the girl. (Rain optional)
Step 4: Profit

So, my coworker, who is 10 years younger than I am (damn kids, kidding), asked me, “What was the love story of your day?” Meaning “What did girls and adult females consider the pinnacle of romance back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and phones had mangled fifty foot long cords.”

I thought about it and here’s what I came up with, looking at it generationally (20 year period) from 1978 through 1998. I would have been between the ages of three and 23 during this period.

General Hospital (1978) Luke and Laura
As a kid, I remember two big romantic to dos in the world. Luke and Laura being married and Charles and Diana. Since we are talking about impacting television, readers, or movie goers, I think Luke and Laura win out in that category. However, like Twilight, the beginning of this supercouple involves a bad relationship… including a drunken Luke raping Laura. While Twilight never moves toward sexual assault, there is a case for an abusive relationship.

Empire Strikes Back (1980) Geeks in love?
Well, every preteen in 1983 made the jump to hyper-puberty when Carrie Fisher showed up in the gold bikini on Jabba the Hutt’s party barge, but three years before, romance filled the galaxy as Han and Leia pouted. The already sexual tension filled storyline between the two characters, which kicked off in the first movie, mixed with Irvin Kershner’s direction pretty much set the stage for romance among the stars as Han and Leia smooched in the bowels of a space slug aboard the Millennium Falcon and led to one of the greatest improved lines of all, “I know.”

Why does that work? It seems kind of cocky and prick worthy, which IS Han Solo, but watch that scene directly after the scenes in the Falcon, and in the corridors of Echo Base on Hoth. Han is pretty much saying, “You love me. Why won’t you admit that I am an OK guy and that we could be good together?”

When Leia says, “I love you,” Han could easily say to her, “I love you, too.” He doesn’t. Why? Because he acknowledges that she has taken that step into the abyss and torn down the wall between their feelings. She’s confirming his statement to her back on Hoth about, “…because of the way you feel about me.” This isn’t goodbye. He gets that she gets it and let’s her know that he understands and welcomes what she is saying, not just because of the circumstance they are in at the moment.

Brat Pack Invasion (1984-89) The combination of John Huges and Cameron Crowe
This one spans almost five years, five films, two directors, and 20 plus actors. Probably the biggest comparison can make to teen love and angst comes in the form of Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, Some Kind of Wonderful and Say Anything. Even though some people often think Say Anything is a John Hughes movie, because of the cast and subject matter, it has nothing to do with Hughes. It’s actually a bit darker in tone because of the plotline involving John Mahoney going to jail. It still follows some of the formula that John Hughes mined for 80s movie gold and it’s still awesome 23 years later.

Whether it be Claire and Bender, Duckie and Andie and Blaine, Samantha and Jake, Watts and Keith and Amanda, or Diane and Lloyd, the history of love and heartbreak is as universal as Shakespeare or even the triangle of Jacob and Bella and Edward. (gack.)

But teen girls everywhere hearted Jake Ryan and Lloyd Dobler. They wanted to be with bad boy John Bender and even sort of pulled for Keith to stop going after Amanda Jones and choose the tomboyish drummer, Watts, who may have resembled them in a way.

John Hughes and Cameron Crowe wrote dialogue that normal teenagers didn’t use out loud but their thoughts mirrored what the characters said on film. It would be another ten years before that kind of sentiment was expressed through scripts spoken by high school kids.

Then there’s this: The ultimate expression of love for millions of guys hurt by the girl they love.

Phantom of the Opera (1986) She chose wrong!
My own wife thinks that Christine should have gone with the Phantom. Of course, she loves Twilight, too.  Well, a lot of women and girls loved the Andrew Lloyd Webber adaptation of the Gaston Leroux novel. Though anyone with any kind of theatrical training loathes how this became the standard for musical theater) High School and College Freshman drama geeks who dedicated their lives, or at least an entire wall in their bedrooms, to POTO were worse than Hipsters or Gleeks are today.

Beauty and the Beast (1987-1990) Television Series with Linda Hamilton and Ron Pearlman.
RON FREAKING PERLMAN! Female audiences swooned over the prosthetic faced enhanced Perlman as Vincent. He looked like a cross between the lead singer for Europe and the transformed Michael Jackson at the beginning of Thriller. Of course, that’s understandable because the makeup for both was done by Rick Baker. The relationship between the two transcended looks and worlds and Vincent was probably better looking Fabio in most rights.

Sadly, the show suffered the loss of Linda Hamilton in season three, at her desire. Hey, she didn’t pull a David Caruso. The following year she went full throttle into stardom, reprising her role as Sarah Conner in T2.

Disney Strikes Back (1989-1993)  Four movies that made you fall in love all over again
The Classic era of Disney animated features is speckled with a rich lineup.  Snow White, Cinderella, The Lady and the Tramp, and Sleeping Beauty all had strong romantic themes to them.  We've all, at least, attempted to push a meatball across the plate with our nose or slurped up a single noodle between us and our significant other at one time or another.  But it would be 30 years before the notion of a strong romantic storyline would grace the cels of a Disney animated film.  The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King all had the same things in common; strong female characters, a love story, and Oscar winning songs by Alan Menken, collaborating first with Howard Ashmen then Tim Rice after Ashmen's death in 1991. 

The themes in those three movies resonated for adults as much as they did in children and made Disney the animation powerhouse to beat,until a little company called Pixar animated a few toys.  It also didn't hurt to have some of the top R&B Soul and Pop Music artists record your main theme song.  This was a trend that started with Beauty and the Beast and continued through Tarzan.  Each year becoming a little more ridiculous as they trotted out past their prime pop stars from the 80s like Phil Collins and Michael Bolton.  Sadly, Michael Bolton's best work since then was in an SNL Digital Short called "Jack Sparrow".  Regardless, love was in the air but the heavy handed love song from The Lion King, while extremely popular, its place in the film is a bit lost as the love story between Simba and Nala is a minor one.  That's probably why "The Circle of Life" was also a big hit from the soundtrack, unlike previous years which only had one song on Top 40 radio.

The Wonder Years (1988-1993) Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper
I can't believe I forgot this one.   I almost pulled an Entertainment Weekly.  The world of puberty told through the eyes of Kevin Arnold by one of the Sticky Bandits.  The first episode set all the groundwork you needed for romance history.  That one girl in the neighborhood.  The one that was always there, geeky and awkward.  She comes back after one summer and she's transformed into the goddess of your dreams.  Then, you know how it goes, you make plans to get some of that and you envision her dead Vietnam Vet brother protecting her from likes of you.

Kevin and Winnie's was one of those tv romances that worked because it was sweet and innocent.  The show worked because it was life for all of us who grew up with them. It was the romantic equivalent of A Christmas Story for me. 

Unfortunately, YouTube won't let me embed this but it's a great compendium of Kevin and Winnie moments.

My So-Called Life (1994) Angela and Jordan
My friend actually called me on this one.  How could I forget it?  Sad to say, a lot of people did miss this bright spot in the tv spectrum.   It was cancelled before it's time and while it was on par with the WB Explosion a few years later, in terms of pop culture impact, it was too dark for ABC and mainstream programming.

The relationship between Angela and Jordan was one of those troubled teen romances that was a great parallel for how kids acted in the real world.  The dialogue was smart and the angst was almost Shakespearean in nature.  While their relationship wasn't the main focus on the show, it was probably one of the most memorable aspects of it.


Titanic (1997)  The biggest thing that went down wasn't the ship...
Unfortunately, this is probably the single biggest impact on romantic film or television of any age group during my cross section of life. In fact, the biggest thing in this film isn’t the historical account of the ship hitting the iceberg or its sinking, it’s the imagined love story between a lady of status and a third class passenger.

I say, “Unfortunately” because, for how big a film it was, the footprint is almost clich├ęd and tacky when you think back about it. I mean, no one thought skinny ties and ugly sweaters were enough to give kids the eyeroll treatment of us when we first wore them. But looking back you have to cringe at the notion that we left the house thinking we looked cool in pegged jeans and mullets. The emo generation probably think that loving Celine Dion’s song is the biggest crime against music since Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech. And, if I didn’t agree with Kanye in some small way, I’d think it was too, even though I own the Titanic soundtrack.

Let’s face it, it’s a tacky love song and almost an overly melodramatic chick flick, 15 years later. Holy Crap?!?! My wife’s niece wasn’t even alive when this film came out. Gawd, I’m old. Shut the blinds, I don’t want to see the light!

The WB Years (1997, 1998) The second coming of John Hughes for television
As a little upstart network, far down the depth chart of the television dial, The WB cranked up the competition with the big four by populating its lineup with smarty-smart teeny bopper dialogue from maverick's like Joss Whedon and Kevin Williamson. Having a self deprecating and self aware outlook on teen life and romance, they wrote smart dialogue for shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dawson’s Creek.

Much like John Hughes, 15 years before them, Joss’ and Kevin’s characters spoke differently than the average real life teen but their take on relationships were a lot more real and acceptable than Stephanie Meyer. Not saying they were any less abusive. It’s not every day that a girl loses her virginity to a hundred year old vampire who then wants to torture and kill her and her friends. But, it’s a better metaphor for giving into peer pressure and sexual urges only to find that what you’ve built up as the end all, be all of human existence turns out to be a monster who doesn’t share your sentiment after the deed is done. Whether or not you have to kill that boy in order to save the world is beside the point.

Dawson grew up with the Nick at Nite version (my generation’s version) of parents and his life was far from realistic but like John Hughes’ characters, everyone rooted for Joey Potter and sometimes Jen Lindley. After all, it was the typical Ginger and Mary Ann contrast of female characters. You want Ginger for sex, but you want to settle down with Mary Ann. Just like girls WANTED John Bender for sex, but wanted Brian Johnson for a loyal and dependable husband figure.

But there is still the eyeroll factor when you look back at the early WB teen romance shows and realize that “I’ll Be” was the “In Your Eyes” of the first season finale and the pinnacle of love songs in which to express your true feelings to.  It was also the soundtrack for episode promos with that raspy voice over that wasn't Don LaFontaine

I weep for the young today.  Why? 


Monday, January 23, 2012

Is It Spring Yet?

Seriously. I’m ready. Winter had its chance. By my own standards, which should be mandated and followed, snow should be allowed from Thanksgiving until January 15th. During that time, Mother Nature has free reign to produce as much snow as possible. Why? Because that’s when it’s pretty and fluffy and fun. That’s when it looks like something out of a Thomas Kinkade painting and doesn’t make you depressed because it’s like ‘effin’ Winter man. Then after January 15th, it needs to stop snowing and begin to warm up into Spring, so that by March it’s like 40 degrees in the middle of the afternoon.

Around here, it can be 70 ‘effin’ degrees on a Monday in January and then minus a gagillion (make that number real, damnit!) by Friday with three feet of snow on top of a foot of ice with small children trapped in it like a Jello mold.

Then it just gets dark and dreary and windy and icy and your fingers crack and break off in door handles. Then you have people walking around with blue stumps for digits. You drive around with enough salt caked on your car to give the Jolly Green Giant high blood pressure. The ash from the trucks sticks to everything and it looks like Pepperland after the Blue Meanies rolled through. That shit gets old, real quick.

Then in February, when we start to think about Spring and cabin fever sets in, Mother Nature starts ragging it and gets all pissed off at us and decides to dump three feet on us, closing schools for a week. Parents who just got their sanity back from Christmas break start reaching for a bottle and a razor blade because the kids can’t go outside. I mean how can they, the door is blocked by three feet of snow and the windows can’t open.

This past weekend is a perfect example. Thursday and Friday were cold and the rain became a wintry mix with coated our cars with a shell of ice, topped by snow on Saturday. Then, Sunday, temperatures climbed out of the cellar and everything started to melt. Now, it’s raining and somewhere around 40 degrees and the forecast has the high at 52 degrees, although it comes with the chance of thunderstorms. What the hell?

Can we at least have some consistency? How about 34 degrees, cloudy, and a chance of rain, on some days, for another month?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Medical Billing Makes Me Angry

This has been a ridiculous six months.  Honestly, I am so grrr filled that I need a few hundred puppies to kick, STAT!

Back in July, my wife had a doctor's appt.  One of them.  The kind, us guys, don't talk about.  Anyway, there was lab work to be done and I received a bill for $71.50.  The next day or so, she had MRIs taken at a hospital that belongs in a different health care system, supported by my medical benefits plan.  That bill came to $250.

Now, through my benefits, I have a $250 individual deductible as well as my wife.  So, after paying $71.50 to one provider, I should only have to pay the difference, $178.50, right?  So, I did that. 

About a month later, I got a bill from provider number two, looking for the remaining $71.50.  I mailed it back, using their mailer with the words, "Paid $71.50 towards deductible, already. Only owe difference."   Then a month went by and I got another bill for $71.50.

Feeling a bit perturbed, I called provider number two and told them why I did not pay the additional amount.   They didn't care.  I then called my Insurance Provider and they said my deductible was met and that I didn't have to pay it.  So, I called back provider number two and told them that and they didn't care.  They said that the deductible didn't matter. They insurance provider sets that.  I said, "I know.  I paid it and they said I wasn't liable for anymore."

So, I hung up on them and called provider number one to figure out how this all got screwed up.   They told me that there were no claims against my insurance.  I said, "Well, then why did you bill me?"  They didn't know.  They said that they found the services that were billed and would resubmit that to the insurance provider.  I said thank you and called back my insurance company.

They said, "OK. Once we get it, we'll send an adjusted statement of benefits and let provider number two know."    I thanked them and put the matter aside.

I got another bill last week.

So, I called back the insurance provider, which I no longer have because my employer decided to go with the lowest bidder for services, and they said no claims were made against my benefits but that my deductible was met.  I explained what the service was for, hoping for them to be able to find it and they couldn't.  They did, however, say that the particular lab work that was involved was covered under our plan and that my wife should have only had to pay the copay, not another charge.

I then called provider number one back to find out what the hell happened to all this.  They couldn't help me other than to say, the account was paid in full.  I said, "I know.  Why did I have to pay for this?  What was this?  My insurance provider says that this particular test should have been covered under my plan.  I have another provider looking for money because I paid you."

They couldn't tell me.  They had to speak to my wife or have her consent.  I said, "Why?"

She said, "HIPPA."

"Look, I am the policy holder.  It's my wife.  I gave you her SSN.  What else do you need?"

"Her consent."  She said.

"I know it's a damn pap smear!"  I said, "Well, then you can hold on for five minutes because I'm currently driving home and she will give you the consent, because I am sure not waiting another 20 minutes to talk to someone."

I got home, my wife gave consent and they told me it was for a pap smear.

They also couldn't help me because the customer service rep's supervisor stepped away from her desk and she would know why I was 1. Billed.  2. Not showing it on my insurance claims.

That was at 2pm.   By 4pm I heard no word back.   Apparently, the supervisor got lost or because the bill was paid, they don't care.

In any case, if they billed me incorrectly, they need to pay me back so I can pay provider number two.   OR  They need to submit their damn paperwork properly so this shit doesn't happen again.

This is 2012.  How hard is it for the hospitals and insurance to fill this crap out correctly?  I mean, if I had paid the $250 bill first, these idiots would be after me for $71.50.  Technically, they would be in the right because that service was provided first.   However, if they were not supposed to bill me, then everything would be fine and they could kiss my ass.

Why do I have to take time out of my day to investigate their mistakes?  Why do I have to call at inopportune times because they only have hours until 4pm?  I work until 4pm.  If this is what being an informed consumer is like, I'd rather go put my faith in Muck-a-luck the witch doctor and leeches.

Get your shit together and call me back.  I'll be sure to put you on hold while I think about all of this.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Four Seasons To a Four Year Old

Bailey on Christmas Morning

Twice a week, I pick my daughter up from the petri dish that is Kinder Care.  This is where she got the stomach flu from last week.  Apparently, there were four cases prior to hers and we just found out about them today. 

On our drive home we discuss what she did that day and I ask her, "Were you good, today?"  to which she replies, "Check the sheet, Daddy."  

She's four. 

She then asks if I brought her Bunny Milk, better known as Nestle's Quik.   I tell her that I came straight from work and didn't have time to stop and get some from home.   She gets a little upset and doesn't understand why I don't automatically have some on me when I drive the hour long commute from the other side of Pittsburgh. 

She's four.

She asks all kind of other questions like why it's dark or daylight outside when I pick her up.  Since late November, I've explained that it gets darker at an earlier time during the Fall and Winter, and in the Spring and Summer, it stays daylight longer.  This baffles her. 

She's four.

So, here it is the second month of Winter and it's starting to stay lighter, later, and she asked why.  I told her again about the seasons and then asked her if she knew what the seasons were called.

She said, "Um, Halloween?" 

She's four.

"No,"  I said,  "That's a holiday in a season."  I then called out the seasons and asked if she knew what was the first season of the year was. 


"Correct!  Now what comes after Winter?"

"Halloween!"   She exclaims.

She's four.

"No.  Honey, look..."  I then began sounding out the first syllable of Spring and she got it.  Then we moved onto Summer and after sounding out the first syllable, she got that right.  Then, she got Fall very quickly and back to Winter.   I then asked her if she knew what came after Winter, again.

"Halloween?"  She asked. 

She's four.

"They just keep repeating.  Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall.  Got it?  There's four.  OK, now, which comes after Winter?"

"Daddy, let's just focus on the bunny milk, OK?"
She's four...

Class dismissed.

Avoiding the Plague Like... The Plague

Last week, my four year old had a double ear infection and the stomach flu, which tells me one thing.  It must be January.   At least this year, we have insurance, so she's on the mend.  This is good because you never want to see your kid so sick that she has fallen asleep with her hand on her arm dangling over the toilet sleep.  She was so sick throughout that night.

This weekend my wife also started to complain of her ear hurting and then, boom, stomach flu.  So, if she should wonder why I spent most of the weekend in the man cave, finishing up Dead Island, which coincidentally is about a resort that gets hit with an infectious disease that makes everyone become zombies, there's your answer.  I don't want the stomach flu.

I had it a few years back over Valentine's Day.   This year's bout was over my wife's birthday and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  See, we don't do well with holidays.   I was determined to not get it.   At least, I was hoping that if I did, in fact, get it, it would be before having to go back to work.   So far, so good, but my ear started hurting yesterday.  I've had an insatiable appetite, though.   I guess that's great because I'd rather have a full stomach than be dry heaving.  Let's hope I'm not coming down with any cravings for raw meat...


Friday, January 13, 2012

Perks in Occupations

I’m a creature of habit. I do not adopt or embrace change in a timely manner. My least favorite book of all, about business, is Who Moved My Cheese? This should tell you what kind of guy I am. Now, get off my lawn.

Having to go to work every day is a necessity. Having free coffee in the workplace is a luxury. Having K-Cups provided to you along with vending machines with free soda is an awesome luxury. Having all that change on you in an instant is enough to make you want to flip the tables over in the kitchen and go Wild Bunch.

When I started this new job a year ago, I was floored at the prospect of having free soda provided to me. I only drink one can a day, with my lunch, but I’ve already saved like $70 over the last year from not having to buy cases of pop for that purpose.

As far as the coffee is concerned, for about six months I was making three batches, consisting of two k-cups per batch, for a grand total of 36 ounces of coffee per day. I noticed that I needed the coffee to keep going and I didn’t like it. So, I actually embraced a change when I got a cold and switched to a two k-cup, 8 ounce cup when I got to work and then drank two cups of tea consisting of three Lemon Zinger k-cups in a 12 ounce mix. What I didn’t realize was that there was no caffeine in the tea and after awhile, I didn’t miss it and was more alert than ever. See, caffeine is a drug, you can become addicted to it, and it can cause you to need more to compensate over time.

But back to the coffee. My work just made a switch over to regular brew pots of coffee and these things called Perfect Servings which dispense all of the cream and sugar automatically.

Not happy. I need a puppy to kick, like now.

First of all, I know the company we switched over to. We had them in my old job for vending and coffee service. They used to supply the muffins and pastries in the cafeteria at the plant and one day, my late mother-in-law was witness to someone breaking open a muffin to find blood in it. Now, of course, this information never made it to the general employees’ ears. She worked in HR and she kept a lot of things secret that would have made the masses occupy boardrooms. I only found out because my wife once said, “Don’t eat any pastries from XXX”. I won’t say who they are but their company is also a file extension for video files. So, I’m a little bit leery when it comes to hearing that this company is now providing us with coffee and is providing us with pastries as an incentive to make the switch.

I know I should not complain. I have a decent job with a decent company and having the perks I’ve had is something that I never saw in my old job. To see them go is a shame but that’s the cost of doing business. Once the bean counters realize that they’re spending x amount of dollars on you and they can save that money by outsourcing that service, streamlining it, and reducing the offerings, they are nuts not to make those changes. Considering the economy, the fat has to be trimmed. But at the expense of morale?

Look, you come into work every day, sometimes with an enormous chip on your shoulder. You’re not getting a raise or seeing promotions come along. Whatever. The one thing you have to balance the mundane requirements is that little perk. Then, suddenly, it’s gone. And the company that provided those perks have now installed these fancy machines that supposedly do all the work (i.e. cut down on people using a lot of sugar or creamer) for you. You have this routine down where it takes you enough time to roll in, make your coffee, get stuff done, and get to your desk in time to get working. You throw a wrench into that routine and devastates some people.

Not to mention that when you come in on the day of reckoning and members from the service are there to stand over your shoulder while you fumble your way through the process. They get that cheery disposition and the ‘We’re going to make it all better’ attitude that is just lip service. The bottom line is, “You guys have had it good and we’re not going to cut you off completely but there are going to be some cost saving changes.”

No one wants to say that, though. Because of all the stigma surrounding those in power who make the decisions, they’re not going to fire that shot across the bow of the S.S. Underling.

“Mongo, you’re crazy. You’re shorts are too tight in the seat. You’re just displaying that old man curmudgeon mentality that you always show.”

Maybe you’re right. Maybe I am just too resistant to change to see the positive. Maybe I just need coffee. Oh that’s right. I couldn’t find it this morning because they moved everything around and there’s a huge ass line because we all have no idea how to work the new machines.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2012 Traffic Woes in Pittsburgh

Oh, for the love of!?!?!  PennDot Previews 2012 Construction Projects.

In 2010, a stressful commute for me was a flake of snow in the vicinity of Logan Ferry Road outside of Murrysville which caused the entire road to be a sheet of ice. No lie. If one flake of snow fell onto that road it was like that scene from Demolition Man where Wesley Snipes froze into an ice cube.

Now, after a full year of driving from WestMoCo to Robinson I can safely say, I would rather drive in a one horse open sleigh.

Before, if the road got slippery, I was usually the only one out there like an idiot driving the back roads to Plum to the beacon on the hill that used to be a bowling alley.

Now, when the meteorologists even mention a cold front, traffic grinds to a screeching halt on 376 and it takes me two hours to drive 50 minutes. Why? I have no ‘effing idea. [AngryMongo, you have been fined five credits for repeated violations of the verbal morality statute]

Clicky the linky at the top to go see what PennDot has in store for us commuters this year. As if traffic on 28 wasn’t already a nightmare, and if you watch that video on the KDKA page, ask yourself, “Why was John Shumway the only KDKA Pittsburgh media person going to cover the Broncos/Steelers game, anyway?” Didn’t we already have enough ridiculous with whoshewhatsit from ESPN during the 49ers game?

I’m not affected by Veterans’ bridge or 28 stuff, but the Squirrel Hill tunnels are a major impact on my drive.

“The tunnel rehab at Squirrel Hill will go through this summer, the summer of 2013 and wrap up early in the summer of 2014.”


[Begin Shameless Plug]

[End Shameless Plug]

Hopefully, crews will go in and get that elusive tunnel monster that continues to plague drivers heading through it. That has to be the reason why people slow down before they enter the tunnels. They could hire a rag tag group of textile workers to go in and clean it out… That could work. Right?


Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday Suck: Thoughts on Being Tebowed

Am I mad? Yes. Do I blame the refs? Yes, to a point. They blew calls on both sides of the ball. I get it. The lateral, the missed facemask, etc. We get it. We are not the NFL’s whipping boys, but no helmet to helmet calls? Come on, people.

Is Tebow a good story? No.

Why?  Because he’s what’s wrong with this league. The NFL is slowly becoming the WWE.

Hear me out.

Wrestling is an entertainment sport. It’s all about the drama and the showiness of the participants. The actual sport is an afterthought to the storyline.

The NFL is becoming an entertainment sport where QBs throw the ball for hundreds of yards for a game and never get touched. They’ve changed the rules to take out the violence and make it more marketable. It’s not about safety, it’s about longevity. Go back and watch those old NFL films from the frozen tundra of Lambeau field. The slow motion shots of snow falling on the line of scrimmage where a lineman stands at the ready with a broken nose and dried blood on their jersey. The crunch of helmets and the chance to see a running back barrel through a line to grab five yards and glory. That’s not there, anymore. It’s the hot dogging and pristine conditions and the Madison Avenue gloss of a game that used to be about something more. The will to win. The chance for glory.

But Tebow shows that it’s not about that. Tebow should have been on his ass for most of that game, not in praying position but in a fetal position. He’s a horrible passer who should have been picked off and pushed around. The Steelers stopped the running game and then dared him to throw and he did as if he was Brady or even a healthy Roethlisberger. And even still, you can say that in his first four seasons, Roethlisberger was an ugly passer and unconventional player whose face looked more like Bobby Boucher then Tom Brady. But the difference was that Roethlisberger took his lumps, he ran and was hit. He was down and dirty with the rest of the players. Tebow just stands out there, looks pretty, and throws horribly.

With that, I offer five things that need to be changed in the NFL by next year. Four for the league and one for the Steelers.
1. Fix the stupid rules of legal vs. illegal hits. We won’t hate what’s fair. Either a QB is a runner or a passer, but he can’t go back to being a passer when he tucks the ball and runs… even if he decides to get rid of the ball because a linebacker is coming right at him.

That being said, fine the Browns for putting Colt McCoy back out on the field when he doesn’t know what day it is.

2. Do something about social media and the ridiculousness of dumb people on smart phones. This goes out to Rashard Mendenhall from earlier last year and especially Maurkice Pouncey, who I lost a lot of respect for after seeing him implode on Twitter after the loss to Denver.
Sorry, but how does it feel to have young, impressionable fans see you drop the f-bomb and curse your followers? Not to mention, promoting a buddy’s rap album just after your team lost the AFC Wild Card game. Way to show solidarity.
3. Fix the officiating. Get all the officials into a refresher course, during the offseason, and retrain them on how to call a game. Officiating has been horrible this, all over the league. I know I’m one of those, “whiny Steelers’ fans” but the officiating stinks throughout the league. If they have other jobs during the year, then cover the cost. This crap needs fixed and refs make as much as any other mid level career man. There was a huge strike back in 2001 and it seems that the NFL has some extra cash this year from very lucrative television deals.

4. Enough with the marketing and capitalism of the game. Remember, Bubba Smith did spots for Miller Lite. Troy Polamalu, who I still think is one of the most aggressive and hardnosed players, does ones for shampoo. Granted, it’s not Joe Namath in pantyhose, but still. Stop making this league about the money and make it about the game. It’s football. It’s not entertainment. It’s a sport. It’s a rough and tumble sport. There are injuries. There will be blood. Stop wussifying this game for whatever reason you seem to be doing it and let the players play. If it’s too tough. They need to get a job elsewhere.

And this one goes out to the Steelers.
1. Get your shit in order. Figure out the clock management stuff better. Ben, you’re a hell of a QB but stop trying to be a damn hero and play the game. Be smart about it. You beat New England by out Bradying Brady. You have Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace, two of the fastest receivers on the planet. Give them the short drops and let them leg it out, because even when healthy, you have a tendency to inaccurately throw to them over long distances. And receivers and backs need to stop this juking crap you do when you square off with someone. Redman was doing his tornado stuff but that was after he was already hit. When you come up field and someone gets in your way, run over them. You’re liable to get a few more yards than by slowing your gait and trying to fake them out while three other guys are closing in on your position.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2011 D-Bag Awards: Final Round

2011 will go down as one of the weirdest years on the books. We had all kinds of natural disasters, scandals, occupy movements, tea baggers, GOP hopefuls, sports ridiculousness, and Herman Cain. Well, 9-9-9!

With that, I give you the final round of the 2011 D-Bag Awards. We had 32 nominees in eight categories of four. It was a hard fought battle on some fronts but the cream of the crop rose to the occasion to meet in Thunderdome. Let’s take a look at our contenders:
  • News / Media – Mark Madden
  • Affected People – Mother Nature
  • Business – PayPal
  • Sports People - Jerry Sandusky
  • Wannabe Celebrities (Reality Shows) – The Kadashians
  • Sports as a Business – PSU

I wish I could say there is a competition here because there are some really great competitors in this final round. Each one, in any given year could be the winner. However, there is one nominee that stands miles apart from the rest. And while the entire story is yet to be told, they will be forever known as the definition of evil and depravity and I hope they rot in hell if they are found to be guilty of what they’ve done.

That one person is Jerry Sandusky. You are the biggest douchebag in 2011.

PSU gets the consolation prize for turning a blind eye on all your despicable acts.

To all you potential d-bags in 2012.  See you in December.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

WUMF: December Edition

Another year has ended and once again, I bring you WUMF!

I had planned on having this in on New Year's Eve, but unfortunately forces were working against me.

Guards On Slicers Not Just Suggestions
I said forces were working against me.   My wife got a new Slicer/Chopper for Christmas and decided to bust it out in order to cook up New Year's Eve dinner for midnight.  It's called a Genius chopper and apparently, we were unqualified to operate it. 

My wife said, "Well how do I get the onions to be slivers for the pierogis?"  I said, "Look, it's simple."  I added in the slicer attachment and then proceeded to slice up an onion and then a small chunk of my finger.  "Way to go, dumbass."  It was just a little bit, not even noteworthy.  So, I said, "Well, that's why you use the guard.  You stick it on the onion and slide it back and forth."

As I went into the bathroom to get a bandage for my finger I hear, "OW!" and then some four letter word.  "What happened, genius?"  Turns out, my wife couldn't stand to be showed up by me and took an even bigger chunk out of her right ring finger.  We couldn't get it to stop bleeding.  We tried everything.  At one point, I thought we were going to end up at the ER, which is typical for us around the holidays.  Most people use the holidays to get together with family and enjoy the company and the event.  We use it as an excuse to try and max out our medical deductible. 

Well, my father-in-law came over and was able to properly dress her finger, cause I left with a light bulb looking bandage which quickly soaked up a lot of blood.  After she was settled down, the festivities needed to continue, so, the second string came in to cook the food and get everything ready.  That would be me.  I should have tried harder to get out of work. 

My kid's fourth Christmas was apparently her 14th.  This year she sat among the boxes and made two piles of gifts.  I asked her what each pile was.  She said, "One is the presents I wanted and the other is stuff I didn't want."  I asked her which was which.  She said that the one with the toys was the pile she really wanted.  She then proceeded to say, "See, Daddy.  Even when I'm bad I get presents.

As I close in on a full year at my new job, it's hard to realize that it has been a full year.  I left nearly ten years of service, over three weeks of vacation and a lot of friends.  And you know what?  It was the right decision.  Even though there are challenges in my new job, some good, some bad, I know that it was time for me to go.  Not saying why, just that my later mother-in-law would have approved of the change.

WDVE shakeup
WTF?!?  Last year, Randy Baumann suddenly disappeared from the morning show.  He was brought back about a month later.  Now, Jim Krenn, who has been the long time morning show host, has disappeared from the air since December 6th.  No word on why or if he'll be back.  There isn't a contract to be negotiated and even though I only get to listen to about an hour of the show, I've noticed that Krenn hasn't been on between 6 and 7am all year.  The running gag was always that Jim only works two weeks out of the year, so speculation is only set to run wild.  

In the long run money is probably a factor here.  Money and ratings.   Regardless, if he is gone, it's a big change to morning radio for me.  I was a bit uneasy about Randy Baumann taking over for Scott Paulsen 12 years ago but I've adjusted to it.  I don't know if it will be the same here.

Free Time
For Christmas I got Uncharted 3, Dead Island, and Call of Duty MW3.  The only thing I forgot to ask Santa for was free time.  I've been playing Dead Island and it's pretty sweet and sometimes a tad unsettling.  Most of the zombies are Romero speed but the Infected, as they are called are more like Zack Snyder or Danny Boyle speed zombies.   In fact, there are a tons of pop culture nods to all things zombies and other stuff.  One sign painted on a wall says, "Don't Open.  Dead Inside"   At another point, the main character has to go look for a crashed plane from Oceanic Air, a nod to lost.    It's fun and sick and gory and I'm finding it hard to do anything else, like cook New Year's dinner because my wife sliced up her finger.  lol.

Happy New Year!

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