Tuesday, February 27, 2007

At the quarter pole

Just to show that I take this Asshat stuff seriously, or at least as seriously as one could take such a topic, just wanted to give you the lowdown on a nominee for this week, mind you this is not a winner, I am not doing daily Asshats yet, just something you may see again in a few days unless someone steps up and wrestles the award away. Enjoy!!!!

ABC News

Mom Taught Children to Fake Retardation

Wash. Mother Who Coached Her 2 Children to Fake Retardation for Years Pleads Guilty

The Associated Press

TACOMA, Wash. - A woman admitted Monday that she coached her two children to fake retardation starting when they were 4 and 8 years old so she could collect Social Security benefits on their behalf.

Rosie Costello, 46, admitted in U.S. District Court that she collected more than $280,000 in benefits, beginning in the mid-1980s. Most was from Social Security, but the state social services agency paid $53,000.

Costello pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government and Social Security fraud. Her son, Pete, 26, pleaded guilty earlier this month. Federal prosecutors in Seattle said Monday authorities had not yet located her daughter, Marie.

According to the plea agreement, Costello began coaching her daughter at age 4, and later used the same ruse with her son. He feigned retardation into his mid-20s picking at his face, slouching and appearing uncommunicative in meetings with Social Security officials.

Social Security workers became suspicious and uncovered a video of Pete Costello ably contesting a traffic ticket in a Vancouver courtroom.

Pete Costello is scheduled to be sentenced May 11 and faces from six months to a year in prison, as well as $59,000 in restitution.

Rosie Costello is scheduled for sentencing May 17. Her standard sentencing range was not immediately available, but in the plea agreement she agreed to repay the government.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright © 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures

It is web gems like this that allow me to make the big bucks kids.

Not another pretty face

I will admit that when Angelina Jolie first starting doing work for the United Nations and refugees I was more than a skeptic. I was more than content to think this was another Hollywood type just looking for a cause celeb to attach their name too, with little or no commitment beyond that point. Guess what? I was wrong, and in this case, that is a good thing. Angelina was nominated for membership in the Council on Foreign Relations, a body that has quite a few policy wonks in it including such people as Bill Clinton and Henry Kissinger. Were that all, it would simply be a story that I may or may not have blogged about at some point this week, but when I cracked open the Wash Post website this morning, there she was, and not in some celebrity column, but smack dab on the Op Ed page, and with well thought out points to boot. Since I am in the sharing mood, here you go.

Justice for Darfur

By Angelina Jolie
Wednesday, February 28, 2007; A19

BAHAI, Chad -- Here, at this refugee camp on the border of Sudan, nothing separates us from Darfur but a small stretch of desert and a line on a map. All the same, it's a line I can't cross. As a representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, I have traveled into Darfur before, and I had hoped to return. But the UNHCR has told me that this camp, Oure Cassoni, is as close as I can get.

Sticking to this side of the Sudanese border is supposed to keep me safe. By every measure -- killings, rapes, the burning and looting of villages -- the violence in Darfur has increased since my last visit, in 2004. The death toll has passed 200,000; in four years of fighting, Janjaweed militia members have driven 2.5 million people from their homes, including the 26,000 refugees crowded into Oure Cassoni.

Attacks on aid workers are rising, another reason I was told to stay out of Darfur. By drawing attention to their heroic work -- their efforts to keep refugees alive, to keep camps like this one from being consumed by chaos and fear -- I would put them at greater risk.

I've seen how aid workers and nongovernmental organizations make a difference to people struggling for survival. I can see on workers' faces the toll their efforts have taken. Sitting among them, I'm amazed by their bravery and resilience. But humanitarian relief alone will never be enough.

Until the killers and their sponsors are prosecuted and punished, violence will continue on a massive scale. Ending it may well require military action. But accountability can also come from international tribunals, measuring the perpetrators against international standards of justice.

Accountability is a powerful force. It has the potential to change behavior -- to check aggression by those who are used to acting with impunity. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), has said that genocide is not a crime of passion; it is a calculated offense. He's right. When crimes against humanity are punished consistently and severely, the killers' calculus will change.

On Monday I asked a group of refugees about their needs. Better tents, said one; better access to medical facilities, said another. Then a teenage boy raised his hand and said, with powerful simplicity, "Nous voulons une épreuve." We want a trial. He is why I am encouraged by the ICC's announcement yesterday that it will prosecute a former Sudanese minister of state and a Janjaweed leader on charges of crimes against humanity.

Some critics of the ICC have said indictments could make the situation worse. The threat of prosecution gives the accused a reason to keep fighting, they argue. Sudanese officials have echoed this argument, saying that the ICC's involvement, and the implication of their own eventual prosecution, is why they have refused to allow U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur.

It is not clear, though, why we should take Khartoum at its word. And the notion that the threat of ICC indictments has somehow exacerbated the problem doesn't make sense, given the history of the conflict. Khartoum's claims aside, would we in America ever accept the logic that we shouldn't prosecute murderers because the threat of prosecution might provoke them to continue killing?

When I was in Chad in June 2004, refugees told me about systematic attacks on their villages. It was estimated then that more than 1,000 people were dying each week.

In October 2004 I visited West Darfur, where I heard horrific stories, including accounts of gang-rapes of mothers and their children. By that time, the UNHCR estimated, 1.6 million people had been displaced in the three provinces of Darfur and 200,000 others had fled to Chad.

It wasn't until June 2005 that the ICC began to investigate. By then the campaign of violence was well underway.

As the prosecutions unfold, I hope the international community will intervene, right away, to protect the people of Darfur and prevent further violence. The refugees don't need more resolutions or statements of concern. They need follow-through on past promises of action.

There has been a groundswell of public support for action. People may disagree on how to intervene -- airstrikes, sending troops, sanctions, divestment -- but we all should agree that the slaughter must be stopped and the perpetrators brought to justice.

In my five years with UNHCR, I have visited more than 20 refugee camps in Sierra Leone, Congo, Kosovo and elsewhere. I have met families uprooted by conflict and lobbied governments to help them. Years later, I have found myself at the same camps, hearing the same stories and seeing the same lack of clean water, medicine, security and hope.

It has become clear to me that there will be no enduring peace without justice. History shows that there will be another Darfur, another exodus, in a vicious cycle of bloodshed and retribution. But an international court finally exists. It will be as strong as the support we give it. This might be the moment we stop the cycle of violence and end our tolerance for crimes against humanity.

What the worst people in the world fear most is justice. That's what we should deliver.

The writer is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

A stolen content update on previous stolen content

Just about bedtime here, but I wanted to pass this along for those of you who actually cared about a story I posted a couple of weeks back. For those of you that didn't care, just move along, there is nothing to see here.

New York Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com
A second lasting gift for Iraqi boy
BY JULIAN KESNER
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

An Iraqi boy who received lifesaving surgery thanks to the efforts of a U.S. soldier was given another precious gift yesterday - this time from the slain serviceman's widow.

Charlotte Freeman, 31, hugged 11-year-old Ali and gave him the Sony PlayStation PSP video game player that her husband, Army Reserve Capt. Brian Freeman, had taken with him to Iraq.

"Ali had his surgery [last] Wednesday, and on that same day, I received Brian's personal effects from Iraq," said Freeman, holding up the game player.

"This was Brian's, so it's really a gift from him also," she said as she handed it to the grateful boy.

Smiling back at his savior's wife, Ali was visibly overwhelmed. "He wishes he had a chance to stay here and never go back to Iraq," said a translator.

Before he was killed in Iraq, Capt. Freeman promised Ali and his father that he would get the boy to the U.S. for surgery to repair a hole in his heart. After her husband's death, Charlotte Freeman made sure the promise was kept.

The 31-year-old widow, who is raising two young children on her own in Temecula, Calif., flew to New York on Saturday to meet Ali in person at Schneider Children's Hospital in New Hyde Park, L.I., days after the boy's successful open-heart surgery.

"It's been an incredible healing process for me," she said yesterday, fighting back tears. "This whole experience comes at a very dark time for me, but it's also been a wonderful gift."

Capt. Freeman was abducted and killed in the city of Karbala on Jan. 20 - hours before Ali and his father reportedly received their travel visas.

Schneider doctors will give Ali one last checkup today. Cardiology chief and pediatrics chairman Dr. Fred Bierman said Ali's postsurgery progress has been normal and without complications.

The boy and his father, Abu Ali, whose last name is being withheld for fear of reprisal in Iraq, could be on a plane home as early as next week.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Assrattery and a day I would like to forget

I will do the obligitories before getting into the day that I would rather forget. The change meter barely moved this week, I only found four cents through the course of the week, as a result the tote board now reads a grand total of $12.13. Certainly nothing to write home about, but then again, I can't even remember the last time I wrote a letter at all, I am much more of an email person in that regard.

Another week of hockey has come to a conclusion, and when I last mentioned it I stated that was playing the 4th place team, so I was unsure of how well I would do. My concerns were pretty much unfounded, as I went 8-1-1 again last week and have officially clinched a playoff spot in the process. Not to brag too much on myself, but over the course of the last 4 weeks, my team has went 33-5-2 and the overall record now stands at 119-67-24. I did pick up 3 pts on the first place team, I now trail by 13 pts in the standings with 2 weeks to go but the better news is I increased my lead over third place to 31 pts. I would need an epic collapse over the last two weeks now to miss getting a first round bye in the playoffs.

The TV thing went okay I guess, I got a couple of compliments and one person called this morning to say I looked nice, but I would be lying if I said I was the star of the show. More to the point, most of the time I felt like the dumbest person in the room and on those moments where I thought I made a decent point (rare as they were) I have no doubt that they would conflict with the general view of the radio audience so my reasoning isn't going to win a lot of points with that crowd. Oh well, they asked for me, not someone who is going to spew talking points for either side of the political spectrum, if they wanted that, I am sure there are plenty of people who would go do that instead, just not my cup of tea.

As for today, let's just say, it wasn't all that much fun. I took Friday off as a vacation day, seeing as how I get three weeks of vacation time, and I almost always lose better than two weeks of it by the end of the year through my own unwillingness to take time off. I don't take time off for two reasons, 1) I like my job for the most part save for today when I would have given it away and 2) I find my job harder to do when I come back because things get done wrong in my absence. Well, today was no different. I set myself up on Sunday before I left so that I could come in and start editing podcasts in the morning, I am a couple days behind on that, but I had all of them ready to be edited when I first got there. Usually I can edit a three hour show in about 30-40 minutes if I keep my mental mistakes to a minimum. I am doing the posting of the first show when the phone rings and it is Lynn saying she can't make it in today, she isn't feeling well. That leaves me a couple of options, one being I host the show myself, but then I have to have Nick come in to produce and I know he was working the FM station later that evening, so that idea gets shot down rather quickly. Second, I could try to gather a guest host by clearing it with the Program Director and then making phone calls to see who is available. That plan came up rather empty as well, leaving me no choice but to come up with a "Best of" show on the fly. This meant all that time I was to be editing podcasts just got frittered away because now I have to edit audio so that I can run it as today's show. By now, we are nearing 7am, and a change in programming, we go from simulcasting the local morning news on Ch 4, which is a disaster in itself, to running the Laura Ingraham show on tape delay. You may think I am hard on the news, so allow me to explain the intellect that passes for news anchors round these parts. Kelly Frye, local idiot blonde is sitting behind the desk telling us about last nite's Oscar winners, Helen Mirren winning for her portrayal as Queen Elizabeth, then she says the following, "And keeping with the theme of royalty, Forrest Whitaker won Best Actor for "The Last King of Scotland". Royalty, Forrest Whitaker is portraying Idi fucking Amin. Maybe I missed the memo that royalty was all about snacking on people, I don't know, but this passes for our news coverage in the morning. I swear we should just shut the station off, it would sound better.

Anyway, we are back at the programming change, we get through our local newscast okay and then I am to run Laura Ingraham. We recently upgraded our software at the station, we are running Maestro which is a Windows based system that takes the place of all of those carts that used to lay around studios. This system is an upgrade over what we used to use, the Digital Cartridge System which did much of the same thing, but was an older DOS based program. When we get Maestro fully functional I imagine it will be quite the system, but it isn't fully functional yet. The idea is that it will do all of the taping we need to do in the background such as Laura Ingraham that we run on delay, and add it to the system after it records it. The problem being not all of the bugs are worked out yet, so it doesn't record the hour of Laura I need properly, it puts all of the information under one cart heading as opposed to the 5 we are looking to have it use (one for each show segment). As a result, I have taken to taping that hour of the show on reel, and then just running it off of reel rather than relying on the computer. The problem being, since I wasn't there Friday to tape it, I went to cue up the reel, and after about 30 seconds the audio on the reel stops. Yes, the recording was fucked up, so now I am forced to go to the one cart that all of the audio is recorded under and play it instead, aware that I am now about a minute behind where I need to be, and unlike a reel where I can just fast forward to make up the time, there is nothing I can do with the cart except play from the beginning. Now I get to start trying to create a radio show from scratch.

As I start this project, I realize it is getting close to the time to power up the radio station (AM stations have to change their signal at night, it is a long convoluted FCC thing that I would rather not explain here, suffice it to say, we don't run full power until we are legally allowed to do so, in Feb that is 7:15am). I go to switch transmitters (we have two different ones, one for our day signal and one for our night signal) and sure enough, the day site isn't working. We can run a similar signal pattern off of our nite site, but it comes with the ensuing phone calls from everyone asking why they can't hear the station and you end up spending more time on the phone talking to people about the problem than just fixing it or at least placing the calls into people (i.e. our engineer) who can fix it.

As we get to the bottom of the first hour we get ready to play a two minute newscast, it turns out the newscast was sent late and as a result didn't get to us in time for the computer to update the cart, so the newscast that starts playing is from Friday, not Monday morning. The day, by 7:30am is an absolute train wreck. And I still have three hours of audio to edit.

The only plus I will say to all of this is that by the time I was done, I had managed to fool enough listeners into thinking we were doing live radio as opposed to tape, so I can take that as a little consolation, but by 12:30, I wanted nothing more than to just go home and go to bed, sleep this entire disaster off with a quality afternoon nap. That too would come with complications, as I was getting into town, I found out that a number of the busses were being detoured, apparently a work crew in their infinite wisdom decided puncturing a natural gas line in downtown Pittsburgh would make for great comedy so they went ahead and did it, and created traffic delays out the ass for their efforts.

Speaking of ass, we close with this week's Asshat winner. I clued Lee into my thinking as to where I wanted to go with this about midweek last week. I was leaning to Kentucky Fried Chicken for something they did that I found idiotic. Apparently, KFC has decided that they wish to profit off of the Lenten crowd by offering a Fish Snacker sandwich. That wasn't enough though, the CEO sent a letter to the Vatican asking for a papal blessing for said fish sandwich. As I told Lee, unless the man in the funny hat is working the fryer, I really don't care what he thinks of the sandwich, and if by chance the Pope is moonlighting at KFC then I only hope that he isn't spitting in my food. End of story, right? Wrong!!! The CEO of KFC got wind of the potential of being an Asshat (a blessing in it's own right to be sure) and suggested that they could do even more to truly earn the honor. As a result I give you this, as the song says, "There's a rat in the kitchen, what am I gonna do?" Well this KFC/Taco Bell in NYC has at least gotten the first half of the verse down, not so sure about the second half though. Happy eating and Happy Assrattery as well.

Trying this for the second time

I swear I did this blog once this morning, yet as I return to my page it isn't here. It's that type of stuff that just brings today to it's most rightful conclusion. Anyway, it was a prime stolen comment blog from one of my favorite local columnists, Dennis Roddy at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Dennis hasn't been writing as many columns recently, he has been doing a series on mining safety for the Post Gazette and has also been involved in their still developing podcast project, where he is one of the contributors. as a result, his columns have been much less frequent than they used to be, but enjoyable reads nonetheless. He recently did a column on Saturday, that me in my esteemed wisdom felt I should steal as I am prone to do with this blog, if for no other reason that so you can say, "Why the hell did he post that?" Anyway, rather than bother you with my blather (I have other things to blather about which I will get to soon enough) I will leave you to your reading.



Saturday Diary: Clowns in life, clowns in death, clowns on view, 24/7

Saturday, February 24, 2007

By Dennis Roddy

Scrolling the web site of the Cable News Network at mid-week in search of news about something other than Anna Nicole Smith, I came across the following item from Reuters which, at first viewing, would seem to defy comprehension. I quote:


Dennis Roddy is a staff writer for the Post-Gazette (droddy@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1965).


Gunman Kills 2 Clowns

In Colombian Circus

Two clowns were shot and killed by an unidentified gunman during their performance at a traveling circus in the eastern Colombian town of Cucuta, police said Wednesday.

The gunman burst into the Circo del Sol de Cali on Monday night and shot the clowns in front of an audience of 20 to 50 people ..."The clowns came out to give their show, and then this guy came out shooting them," one audience member told local television. "It was terrible."

Clown killing is always an ugly undertaking. One moment, a man in floppy shoes is yukking it up; the next, he's being piled into an undersized ambulance with 50 other people and driven off in a zig-zag.

But such a moment requires careful deconstruction. Its roots are fragile, but they can be found. The French philosopher Jacques Derrida noted that reality -- more correctly, the construct we call reality -- is in truth a text that we write to suit our needs, and rewrite as necessary to make its components fit into a narrative of reality. At least that's what I choose to say Derrida said and, as a man who views perception as the text we write, he has no choice but to put up with me. He started it.

The point here is that as plaintiffs and a judge in Florida were debating the disposition of the remains of one clown, who apparently hid her seltzer bottles somewhere in her blouse, other clowns were being disposed of with a cool finality that suggests we've found some karmic groove. It is, in essence, the script writing itself in an endless loop.

We have created a reality in which buffoons are celebrated without judgment, then mourned with the same lack of critical apparatus. It is little wonder, then, that the deaths of clowns become necessary for this mourning to be validated as a salient aspect of the contextual reality we create. Simple as that.

Too bad it's Lent. A man needs to be drunk after reaching that conclusion or, more to the point, after being dragged there upon finding the clown killing on the CNN Web site, just a few clicks away from an account of the ongoing decomposition of a body more accomplished than its former inhabitant.

The courtroom dispute over the clay of Anna Nicole Smith was being fed to me Wednesday as I walked a treadmill at the JCC. Rather a fitting metaphor, yes, but all the more delicious by the fact that the screen had been split to allow live coverage of two events. On the left of the screen, Miss Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur, was demanding that the daughter she neglected in life be brought to Texas to be buried alongside the same line of undistinguished DNA from which she sprang. Mrs. Arthur also suggested that Miss Smith's not-quite-husband somehow played a role in Anna Nicole's death as well as that of Anna Nicole's son, Danny, and that her daughter's latest production, Dannielynn, is in mortal danger near such a Dracula.

On the right screen, CNN delivered up what might have been the first-ever high-speed chase involving a PT Cruiser. An airborne camera followed the event, which climaxed in the driver T-boning a passing sedan. The denouement was three young men piling out of the Cruiser and being tracked down in the back yards of south Florida.

It was almost as if -- or perhaps exactly so -- a battle among morally ambiguous people fighting over a corpse required an antidote: a clearly defined competition between cops and robbers.

In the end, whether drawing out a conspiracy theory in the fight over a cadaver or sprawled on a Florida pavement after crashing a car more suited to a taxi stand, they all looked like clowns. That is what we should feel like for watching.

We do not know how events finally sorted themselves out after the young men were chased clown-style across the streets of south Florida. The chase was the event of interest, not the fate of its participants, nor the health of the innocent bystander rammed by the fleeing Cruiser, nor, especially, the long list of circumstances that might have led the three young men into the lives they had chosen for themselves. That is unexciting, and it is clear that the received wisdom is that God put us here to be entertained.

Miss Smith's fate is a bit clearer. The judge decided that Dannielynn should get custody of her mother's remains. That is to say, the judge awarded a corpse to an infant.

In a world where clowns are gunned down and trashy people fight over a dead body with an indignation that only makes them oblivious to their ridiculousness, giving a cadaver to a five-month old passes as the wisdom of Solomon if only because nobody thought of settling the dispute by an old-fashioned tug-of-war. Now that would have sent the cable ratings skyward.

Back



Copyright © PG Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Why hockey is not soccer

The points streak for the Penguins reached 14 games last night (a 6-5 SO win against Chicago), leaving the Pens 12-0-2 during the run (26 pts). As for the video, it's not for the faint of heart because it doesn't involve sissy yellow cards and guys falling all over themselves to fake an injury. And it isn't for Sammy either, because it is one of her Maple Leafs getting their ass kicked. Other than that, enjoy.

The other side of the coin

Previously I had stole an editorial about an interrogator in Iraq and the problems he had with the techniques they used. In an effort to be fair and balanced here, we now venture to the other side of the spectrum, and something good that has come from this. I would like to say you could thank the soldier responsible, but I can't, he was taken prisoner and executed. It reminders like this that help discertain why we aren't them.

Quest to Heal Iraqi Boy Became a Final Mission

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 15, 2007; A01

HILLA, Iraq -- Hours before getting killed the way he feared most, Capt. Brian S. Freeman looked up and smiled when Abu Ali dropped by his office.

After nearly six months of overcoming financial and bureaucratic hurdles in a war zone, Freeman told the Iraqi man, there were promising signs that a pair of U.S. visas -- the last big step in getting Abu Ali's 11-year-old son to the United States for lifesaving heart surgery -- would be issued soon.

The Iraqi was speechless. He asked an interpreter to express his gratitude to the tall American soldier who had made saving the child's life an unofficial mission. Then he pulled out his camera, swung his arm around Freeman's broad shoulders and posed for three photographs.

Hours later, shortly before sunset Jan. 20, armed men in GMC trucks stormed into the government building in Karbala, in southern Iraq. They killed an American soldier, handcuffed Freeman and three other U.S. soldiers, hauled them into the vehicles and drove off. Freeman and the other abducted soldiers were later slain by the attackers.

Freeman, 31, a West Point graduate and Army Reservist, left his young wife and two toddlers in Temecula, Calif., last spring to deploy to Iraq.

He was unenthusiastic about the war, but once his uniform was on, friends said, Freeman embarked on his mission with the optimism and stamina that defined him.

"Most of us here understand the politics of war," said Capt. Matthew Lawton, one of Freeman's close friends in Iraq. "Brian didn't really agree with the war, I think. But he understood, going to West Point, going to the military -- that was the right thing to do."

The local police chief pulled Freeman aside one day in late April and told him about the ailing boy.

The second of five children, Ali Abdulameer was born with a debilitating heart condition that gradually restricted his blood flow. Barring surgery, his father said, the boy's chances of making it to adulthood were slim. Physicians in Karbala and Baghdad offered bleak prognoses.

"Baghdad doctors always gave me promises, but nothing ever happened," Abu Ali said.

After hearing about the case, Freeman got online and typed the words "Iraqi kids heart surgery" into the Google search query. The name of a fellow civil affairs soldier he didn't know popped up. He sent her a note asking for help.

Staff Sgt. Marikay Satryano, an Army Reservist from Tarrytown, N.Y., had become something of an expert in cutting through red tape to get Iraqi children abroad for critical medical care. Stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, Satryano wrote back outlining how to get the process started.

"Here's the hard part: funding," she wrote. "We are penniless here. No budget, no pot of gold." As soldiers, they were barred from soliciting money directly, she explained. "But we CAN make people aware of this child, SO if you know persons that are interested in saving this child, the magic number is $8,000 USD. Yup. That'll do it."

Freeman spent the next few months collecting medical records and contacting charity organizations. His wife, Charlotte, helped out, making calls and sending e-mails.

Freeman e-mailed the chairman of Gift of Life International, a New York-based nonprofit organization that connects low-income children suffering from serious heart ailments with top-notch hospitals. Cases that originate in Iraq are among the toughest the foundation tackles because errands that are complicated anywhere have become an odyssey in Iraq.

Freeman had to get Ali Abdulameer's medical records to doctors in New York and apply for U.S. visas at the consulate in Amman. The Iraqis had to obtain new passports with enhanced security features now required for visa applicants from the Middle East. And they had to provide documentation to prove that the child was stable enough for the 13-hour flight to New York.

Gradually, the pieces began coming together. Schneider Children's Hospital in New York agreed to perform the operation at a reduced fee and Gift of Life took the case.

"A child is a common dominator between all of us," said Robert Donno, Gift of Life chairman. "The person in Iraq and the person in Amman and the person in New Jersey understand what this child means to his father."

Freeman sent a flurry of e-mails each week to get status reports and answer questions. He mailed medical records, set up appointments and helped with passport and visa errands.

Before heading to California for a vacation in December, Freeman stopped by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, left his home phone number and personal e-mail and asked the embassy officials who had been tracking the case to keep him updated.

He returned to Karbala in January. Near the end of the week of Jan. 14, he checked in with Satryano. He always was positive and polite, she said, but they both worried that a problem with the visa application that might set them back several weeks, while Ali Abdulameer's condition deteriorated.

"We had been touching base all week," Satryano said. "How's it going, how's it going? You know how bugs in the summer call to each other."

Freeman's time in Iraq made him reexamine what he wanted to do with his life, friends said. He thought about going to graduate school after finishing his tour and talked of starting a nonprofit organization to get Iraqi children medical care abroad. "Vets for Kids," they could call it, he told a fellow soldier. His eagerness to help Ali Abdulameer, a boy he never met, was an effort to make meaningful contributions in a devastated country.

"It may have started with a program we saw on Doctors Without Borders," his wife, Charlotte, said in a telephone interview. "He was very moved by the fact that these people went to dangerous situations and helped out, and their philosophy was that's how you let people around the world know there are good people who will help. That was his vision."

On Jan. 20, Freeman went online and tried to get a new case off the ground. He had come across the medical file of a critically ill girl younger than Ali Abdulameer. Again, he set out to beat the odds.

"These are very poor and do not have a G-Series passport," Freeman wrote in an e-mail to a colleague at the military's National Iraqi Assistance Center in Baghdad, referring to passports with enhanced security features. "A trip to Baghdad might be out of their reach financially. If we get close to something happening on this, I can raise the money."

That evening a group of English-speaking armed men wearing what looked like American military uniforms and badges drove up to the building in a convoy of at least six GMC trucks.

The men stormed into the building and detonated sound bombs and grenades. Freeman was in his office and didn't get to his weapon in time. He and three of the soldiers who reported to him were abducted at gunpoint.

It was among his biggest fears. The conventional wisdom among soldiers had it that they'd save their last bullet for themselves rather than fall into the hands the enemy alive.

"We all talked about that," said Capt. Henry Domeracki, one of Freeman's close friends in Iraq. "You know what they do -- cut off our heads, burn us."

The attackers drove into neighboring Babil province, several miles away.

"That is the hardest thing when I think about Brian," Domeracki said. "We know that he was in the car with the cuffs on. We know he was praying, asking God to look after his kids."

The gunmen abandoned five of the vehicles. Iraqi soldiers later found the bodies of two soldiers handcuffed together in the back of one of the vehicles. Freeman's body was left on the ground. All three had been fatally shot. The fourth soldier was found alive, but died en route to the hospital.

Abu Ali was notified the following day by an interpreter who worked with the soldier. He was crushed, but understood he needed to mourn in silence.

"I could not express myself openly," said Abu Ali, who asked that his full name not be published out of concern for his safety. "If I were to express myself openly they'd know I deal with Americans and if they knew I deal with Americans they'd call me a traitor."

Freeman's group of close friends in Iraq -- "The Dirty Dozen," they called themselves -- were inconsolable.

"The first three days, all of us cried," Domeracki said. "All of us cried for three days."

The following night, Satryano was working late. She dropped by the consulate, where the woman tracking the pair's visas was still at her desk.

"Actually, that came in today," the consulate official told her, referring to the approval notices.

Elated, Satryano called her counterpart in Baghdad. Capt. Lance Carr sounded awful. She didn't understand.

"We lost a civil affairs soldier," he told her.

"I heard," she responded. "Do you know who it was?"

"Captain Freeman," he said.

"No way!" she said. "This is his kid! I just talked to him yesterday, like at 12."

He was one of the good guys, she thought to herself that night. Why did they have to kill one of the good guys?

Freeman was buried Feb. 1. He left behind two children, Gunnar, who will turn 3 next month, and Ingrid, a 1-year-old who began taking her first steps while he was home for Christmas.

Ali Abdulameer and his father are expected to arrive in New York this week. After the surgery, they hope to meet Freeman's widow.

"I want to be there for the father," Charlotte said. "I'm sure he has a need to meet me just as I feel the need to meet him."

Staff writer Ann Scott Tyson in Washington contributed to this report.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Weather or not to blog

Relax kids, I am still alive here, though through no fault of my own. I realize that I haven't been around to everyone's blogs recently, I am hoping to accomplish that feat tomorrow evening, but so far this week I have logged three doubles between the two jobs, so I just haven't had the time to sit down and hammer out comments as only I can. I have read most of them, just haven't had the time to comment on the content.

A quick change meter update, we picked up all of 2 cents last week, hardly a crowning achievement in Change Meter fame, but the new total is $11.78.

The hockey team was much better. Now that everyone is back and healthy, I pulled off a nice 8-1-1 week to go to 101-66-23 for the year and take over second place in the standings. Of course I was playing the 12th place team (there are only 12 in the league) so if ever I was going to pick up some ground, last week was the week. This week, I am playing the 11th place team, I think the scheduling gods must really love me or something, but with only a handful of weeks left in the year, I am still a good 29 points back in the standings (254-225) from tying first place.The only plus on the schedule from that perspective is that the last week of the year I go head to head with the first place team, but the most points anyone can get in a week is 20, so I still have some work cut out for me before that matchup takes place. For the record, I have played the first place team twice so far this year, and have went 9-9-2 against him in those games. I did lose a goaltender this week, the injury bug hasn't completely left me, as Olaf Kolzig hurt himself in practice, so I went and picked up Marty Biron on a whim to replace him.

The weather here sucks. It went from below zero wind chills to the mess that was yesterday where is started with about 5 inches of snow, then it started to rain. The problem with that is that because of the snow the ground temp was colder than the air, so the rain froze to the ground, thus blanketing everything in ice and today we got more snow on top of that and now the temperature is dipping again as they are once more calling for below zero wind chills. On the plus side, it looks kind of Christmassy, on the minus side, that would be two months too late.

I volunteered to come into my part time job yesterday, the weather was so bad they expected people to not be able to make it and me, well, I am like the postal service, I just deliver. Then again, the postal service still screws up my delivery, so scratch that comparison.

I notched a new high score in Super Bounce Out the other day, I have been playing it to kill time here and there. It is relatively easy and not too time consuming, unless you are an idiot like me and play it to where your score is over 600,000, then it takes a few minutes.

Not much to report on the Joe Random front. I have only played four spring training games so far, he has only started in two of them and only has a single to show for his efforts (when he sucks they are his efforts, when he does well, they are mine), so his batting average is at a less than robust .200. Not sure when I will get to play again, between these doubles, and getting ready for next Friday's TV gig, I am pressed for time. I have my shirt and tie picked out for TV, but I still need to find some time to get my hair cut, though I have no idea when I can do that. I just know that it is way too long, and I am losing the battle of plucking grey hairs out, they are just too many and too persistent. Maybe now I won't get carded when I buy cigarettes.

Oh well, gotta scoot, still have work to be done and I need another smoke, or as I put it in my lingo "One stick closer to cancer". I am a fatalist that way, just as I will say around the office "Every day is a day closer to my last day". It is poignant observations like that that keeps the kids running back for more. Just as you will the next time I blog. Don't try to deny it, we have it on tape.

The Asshat was so popular, they did a study on it

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Anna and the Astronaut Trigger a Week of Tabloid News

On February 9, about 24 hours after the death of Anna Nicole Smith, CNN curmudgeon Jack Cafferty was reading viewer emails complaining about non-stop cable coverage of that story—and agreeing with them.

“That’s the only story we reported [yesterday] for two solid hours and we weren’t the only ones,” growled Wolf Blitzer’s “Situation Room” sidekick. “Her death was tabloid gold and apparently, we just couldn’t help ourselves.”

“I know a lot of people are complaining about that,” said Blitzer, somewhat defensively. “But a lot of people are also watching.”

For the first time this year, “tabloid gold” fever seized at least some of the news media last week in a significant way, according to PEJ’s News Coverage Index from February 4 to February 9. Though it only made up two days of coverage, the sudden death of the Playmate turned heiress turned reality star was the No. 3 story in the news last week, almost edging out a bloody week in Iraq.

And that may be understating the feel of the coverage. The bosomy blonde’s demise consumed a staggering 50% of the cable newshole PEJ examined on February 8 and 9. Those are levels reminiscent of those pre-9/11 celebrity sagas—think Princess Di and JFK Jr.

The story lines ran from police procedural to racy, with a little bit of moralizing about celebrity culture—what killed her, who fathered her infant, and where her money would go. The February 9 headline in the New York Post, “CSI Probe in Siren Shocker,” seemed to sum it up.

Had it fallen more in the middle of the week, the Smith coverage, which made up 9% of the newshole in just two days, would have doubtless knocked news of events in Iraq out of the No. 2 spot in the news (at 10%) and come close to knocking out the debate at home over Iraq strategy as the No. 1 story of the week (it made up 12%). It was enough to overshadow what had been a good tale of sex and almost murder that preceded it —news that diaper-clad astronaut Lisa Nowak allegedly tried to kill a romantic rival. Nowak still made the Index’s top five story list (6%). Coverage of the 2008 White House race, which got a boost from Rudy Giuliani’s statement of candidacy, was the fourth biggest story at 8%.

PEJ’s News Coverage Index is a study of the news agenda of 48 different outlets from five sectors of the media. (See a List of Outlets.) It is designed to provide news consumers, journalists and researchers with hard data about what stories and topics the media are covering, the trajectories of major stories and differences among news platforms. (See Our Methodology.) On some levels, the Nowak and Smith stories had elements in common. They were both female celebrities, and both tragedies conjured up human frailties such as lust, infidelity, and possibly, criminal behavior.

But the nature of the celebrity and the level of it may reflect something about the culture. Smith, who was famous for nudity, marrying an octogenarian millionaire, and being involved in sordid paternity suits, was the much bigger celebrity. Nowak, an astronaut and engineer, was virtually unknown until her infamy last week. (And like her life, Smith’s death became an exercise in paparazzi-commercialism. A video of EMTs trying to revive her, which reportedly sold for more than a half million, quickly circulated online.)

In both cases, the media coverage purported to justify the intensity of the coverage by looking for deeper meaning behind the stories.

In the Nowak situation, the angle that quickly emerged was whether NASA was properly training and evaluating its astronauts.

“NASA has never seen a story like this,” declared Katie Couric, introducing CBS’s February 6 newscast by characterizing the case as a “bizarre story that has left some people wondering about how astronauts are screened.”

A New York Times February 7 front page story wondered “whether the ‘Right Stuff’ image of astronauts has been tarnished, or if that image somehow confused technical excellence with emotional stability.”

In the Smith case, that deeper angle seemed more self-conscious and more guilt-ridden. Why were we so intrigued by a woman who, as MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann put it, is “principally famous merely for being famous?”

On her February 8 evening show, CNN’s Paula Zahn proffered as an answer the theory that this was a case of “America’s fixation on celebrity, on tragedy, on sex, money, tabloid headlines and death.”

Olbermann himself asked “Access Hollywood” correspondent Tony Potts: “Why has her death seemed to resonate so loudly? What…was she actually famous for?”

“Two words, Keith. I would say ‘Marilyn Monroe,’” Potts responded, conjuring up comparisons to another troubled blonde bombshell who died under mysterious circumstances, but only after a much more significant acting career than Smith’s.

That angle was indeed repeatedly conjured up in the images oft replayed, her Marilyn poses, her Marilyn hair, and now her Marilyn-like death. The pictures aired over and over as cable anchors waited for the slightest hint of new details, which were scarce in coming.

On the Fox News Channel, Bill O’Reilly led his February 8 show by claiming not to understand the fascination with Smith, who he called “a tabloid queen…I’m looking at her and seeing a media creation.”

O’Reilly’s guest, entertainment writer Jeanne Wolf, responded that Smith’s fame was largely a result of her rags to riches (or at least contested riches) story that was “part of the American fantasy.”

That fantasy, however, was explored more heavily on cable news than elsewhere. For the week, her death consumed 21% of cable airtime--more than any other story. In the programs. it examined accounted for about 50 reports or stories on the February 8 and 9 prime-time shows.

Nowak’s story, in contrast, was spread widely through the Index’s five media sectors (in online, network TV, and radio, the astronaut generated more coverage than the bombshell).

A look at the coverage also suggests that some elite mainstream media outlets were more comfortable giving major play to the astronaut story than to Smith’s soap opera. Unlike a number of papers, the New York Times did not yield space on page 1 for Smith’s death. And though it was covered on all three major networks, the story was positioned well down in the evening newscasts. Nowak’s arrest, conversely, was the first story on the CBS newscast and the second story on NBC’s on February 6. It also made PBS’s “NewsHour.”

On February 8, NBC anchor Brian William’s momentarily teased Smith’s demise at the top of the newscast before moving to an interview with his network colleague, Tim Russert, who had just testified in the Scooter Libby trial. When Williams finally got to the Smith piece about 10 minutes later, he added a touch of moralizing about one of those stories the media feel compelled to both cover and apologize for.

“This may say a lot about our current culture of celebrity and media these days, when all the major cable news networks switched over to non-stop live coverage this afternoon when word arrived that Anna Nicole Smith had died,” he said, a bit disapprovingly.

Even in a week of such Anna Nicole mania, the war in Iraq remained a media priority. The debate over Iraq strategy was the biggest story for the fourth time in six weeks. Yet the situation on the ground in Iraq (at 10%) generated its highest level of overall coverage and was the leading story in both the newspaper and online sectors.

Coverage of that subject was fueled by the horrific February 3 Baghdad bombing that took more than 130 lives as well as questions being raised about the continuing loss of American helicopters flying over Iraq (which included a new video of insurgents shooting down a chopper.) The presidential campaign was a top five story for the fourth straight week. The big news was that Republicans finally attracted as much media attention as their Democratic rivals thanks to Rudy Giuliani’s Feb. 5 statement of candidacy. While leading in GOP polls, Giuliani triggered plenty of coverage wondering whether his views on issues such as abortion and gay rights were too liberal for the Republican Party base.

And for the fourth time in six weeks, bad weather—this time mostly in the east—was a top 10 subject, finishing sixth at 3%. But neither heavy snowfall nor numbing freezes packed the power of the tabloid tornado that swirled around Anna Nicole Smith last week.

Mark Jurkowitz of PEJ

Note: Due to a technical error, a segment of the Ed Schultz radio program from February 6 was not coded as part of this week's sample.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Your new Asshat winner.........the media

It would have seemed early in the week that Jennifer Nowak would be our Asshat this week. The story certainly had all of the requisite parts to it, but along came the death of Anna Nicole Smith. Sure it would be easy to dogpile on Anna, and part of this blog will do just that, but the winner of the Asshat of the Week is not Anna Nicole Smith, but the mainstream media's treatment of her death. From the breaking news conference on all three major news networks (Fox, MSNBC, CNN) to the followup 24/7 coverage of who her baby's dady is and who is living in the mansion, the career restrospective and who will get the inheritance money, the media tripped all over themselves following this debacle as only they can. Let's not kid ourselves here, this wasn't the death of a Nobel Prize winner, or a former head of state, this was a woman whose major claim to fame was flashing her tits and lying on her back for an old man for cash. That's it, nothing more. The idea that this should somehow consume our every waking moment is ludicrous. Kudos to the Cafferty File on CNN, when after answering a viewer email, Cafferty threw it back to Wolf Blitzer with the question "Is Anna Nicole Smith still dead?' He gets it. The media has made absolute fools of themselves chasing this non story for as long as they have, and if anyone is Asshat worthy this week, they most certainly are.

Stolen content, and not the good kind

We actually used this editorial on the show Friday, but since it has gotten almost no media play beyond the paper it was in, and our mentioning it on the air, I thought I would do a reprint here in the stolen content style you have come to know and love me for.

For the record, this is the second negative post from me today, could be a harbinger of things to come this week, or it could be that I just like using the word harbinger, haven't decided yet.

An Iraq Interrogator's Nightmare

By Eric Fair
Friday, February 9, 2007; A19

A man with no face stares at me from the corner of a room. He pleads for help, but I'm afraid to move. He begins to cry. It is a pitiful sound, and it sickens me. He screams, but as I awaken, I realize the screams are mine.

That dream, along with a host of other nightmares, has plagued me since my return from Iraq in the summer of 2004. Though the man in this particular nightmare has no face, I know who he is. I assisted in his interrogation at a detention facility in Fallujah. I was one of two civilian interrogators assigned to the division interrogation facility (DIF) of the 82nd Airborne Division. The man, whose name I've long since forgotten, was a suspected associate of Khamis Sirhan al-Muhammad, the Baath Party leader in Anbar province who had been captured two months earlier.

The lead interrogator at the DIF had given me specific instructions: I was to deprive the detainee of sleep during my 12-hour shift by opening his cell every hour, forcing him to stand in a corner and stripping him of his clothes. Three years later the tables have turned. It is rare that I sleep through the night without a visit from this man. His memory harasses me as I once harassed him.

Despite my best efforts, I cannot ignore the mistakes I made at the interrogation facility in Fallujah. I failed to disobey a meritless order, I failed to protect a prisoner in my custody, and I failed to uphold the standards of human decency. Instead, I intimidated, degraded and humiliated a man who could not defend himself. I compromised my values. I will never forgive myself.

American authorities continue to insist that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident in an otherwise well-run detention system. That insistence, however, stands in sharp contrast to my own experiences as an interrogator in Iraq. I watched as detainees were forced to stand naked all night, shivering in their cold cells and pleading with their captors for help. Others were subjected to long periods of isolation in pitch-black rooms. Food and sleep deprivation were common, along with a variety of physical abuse, including punching and kicking. Aggressive, and in many ways abusive, techniques were used daily in Iraq, all in the name of acquiring the intelligence necessary to bring an end to the insurgency. The violence raging there today is evidence that those tactics never worked. My memories are evidence that those tactics were terribly wrong.

While I was appalled by the conduct of my friends and colleagues, I lacked the courage to challenge the status quo. That was a failure of character and in many ways made me complicit in what went on. I'm ashamed of that failure, but as time passes, and as the memories of what I saw in Iraq continue to infect my every thought, I'm becoming more ashamed of my silence.

Some may suggest there is no reason to revive the story of abuse in Iraq. Rehashing such mistakes will only harm our country, they will say. But history suggests we should examine such missteps carefully. Oppressive prison environments have created some of the most determined opponents. The British learned that lesson from Napoleon, the French from Ho Chi Minh, Europe from Hitler. The world is learning that lesson again from Ayman al-Zawahiri. What will be the legacy of abusive prisons in Iraq?

We have failed to properly address the abuse of Iraqi detainees. Men like me have refused to tell our stories, and our leaders have refused to own up to the myriad mistakes that have been made. But if we fail to address this problem, there can be no hope of success in Iraq. Regardless of how many young Americans we send to war, or how many militia members we kill, or how many Iraqis we train, or how much money we spend on reconstruction, we will not escape the damage we have done to the people of Iraq in our prisons.

I am desperate to get on with my life and erase my memories of my experiences in Iraq. But those memories and experiences do not belong to me. They belong to history. If we're doomed to repeat the history we forget, what will be the consequences of the history we never knew? The citizens and the leadership of this country have an obligation to revisit what took place in the interrogation booths of Iraq, unpleasant as it may be. The story of Abu Ghraib isn't over. In many ways, we have yet to open the book.

The writer served in the Army from 1995 to 2000 as an Arabic linguist and worked in Iraq as a contract interrogator in early 2004. His e-mail address iserictfair@comcast.net.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Asshattery run amok

Viewing my comments from a couple of blogs back, I was given a suggestion for next week's Asshat winner, and a good one at that. Mind you, this week it looks to be in military parlance, a target rich environment, for the next winner, but the comment got me thinking, and I think I would like to take suggestions on the winner. Not saying your suggestion will be the winner any given week, that is an arbitrary process determined by the blog host (me) save for when I open it up to voting (and given we only had 4 votes last time, that will probably be the exception and not the rule). Still, I can't be everywhere at once, so there will be weeks where I miss a more deserving candidate, so feel free to drop suggestions on the page at your leisure. The only rules are that the Asshat week begins on Monday and ends on Saturday, so the news story had to break sometime during that span.

This week looks to be particularly hard because we have the astronaut story of course, plus stories such as a truck falling through the floor of the Pittsburgh Convention Center one week before they were to host the Pittsburgh Auto Show, the 267 page indictment against State Senator Vince Fumo which reads like a bad crime novel for all of the charges filed against him, Rush Limbaugh who apparently didn't watch the Super Bowl, because he claims the criticism leveled against Bears QB Rex Grossman is because Rex is white, as well as a slew of other options that I haven't the time to write here. Still, my ideas aren't always the best ones, so feel free to submit your own as well.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Paris Hilton would say "That's hot", I would say, "No, it's not."

Well, the new change meter total is now a resounding $11.76 and with that bit of information, we once again start a new blog. Things have been a tad bit hectic around these parts, some of it good, other parts bad. Rather than try to divvy things up into columns, I will just blurt stuff out and see what comes of it.

First, I did go about fixing the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie trailer I posted previously. The original place I got it from Youtube made it private, so I could no longer access it from my page, therefore I went back and found a new posting of it and reembedded it on the page. I did not redo the cartoon episode, which Youtube yanked for some reason, maybe some other day when I have time I will find a new episode to post. Those of you that didn't see it, sorry bout that, those that did are probably sorry they can't get those ten minutes of their life back.

Speaking of ATHF, Boston is the winner in Asshat of the Week for their delayed response in shutting down the city over the advertising campaign for the cartoon that consisted of hanging light signs with one of the Mooninites on it. Let's forget for a fact that the signs were also hanging in about ten other cities with nary a peep from them, and lets also forget that not only did the city of Boston treat one of the objects as a potential bomb, they repeated the process another 7 times before finally getting a clue, they then had the nerve to charge the two people involved in hanging the signs with planting a hoax device. Legally, you have to prove then there was intent to deceive the public into believing these were in fact explosives of some sort, as opposed to the advertising campaign that they were. If you want to charge them for illegally hanging advertisements, that is one thing, but the only people that started a panic here were the responders in Boston themselves. Worse, had these actually have been the explosive devices that Boston thought they were, the fact the signs had been hanging for about two weeks would lead one to believe that Boston's first response was both late and overblown. I am inclined to mail the City of Boston the Asshat of the Week, but knowing Boston, it would probably be perceived as a letter bomb and would shut down the city again for another day.

In the world of hockey, lots of good things to report, both professionally and fantasy-wise. The Penguins have registered points in their last ten games (winning 8, losing two in overtime) to move into 6th place in the playoff seedings. While the Penguins will never make Pittsburghers forget the Steelers round these parts, I am happily enjoying what may turn out to be a very pleasant season for the young Pens. Sidney Crosby in only his second season leads the league in scoring, Evgeni Malkin leads all rookies in scoring, Mark Recchi has been having a very good year, recently just registering his 500th career goal, and Marc Andre Fleury has been starting to look like the #1 pick the Penguins thought he might be, registering 2 shutouts in a three game span last week. On the fantasy front, as of last Friday, I have all of my injured players back with the return of Jerome Iginla and the sudden return to health of my entire roster saw me go 7-3-0 last week and move into third place, only 1 pt out of second in the standings. Overall I am now 93-65-22 for the year and while no one has clinched a playoff spot yet, I am certainly liking my chances at this point of being one of the top 6 teams.

I watched the Super Bowl at Rich's house Sunday. It was the culmination of a long weekend for me where I worked Friday morning from 9am-1pm at the radio station, then left to go cash my paycheck and hit the eye doctors by 3pm, then back to the part time job for a 5pm-10pm shift followed by Saturday night at my part time job from 4pm till 1am, then I went across the street to the radio statio to start my production work for Sunday and I worked until about 7am before putting my head down on the loveseat for a few minutes. I thought I might catnap until 10:30am or so, but by 8:30am I was nudged awake and it was back to the grind, trying to find out why the studio monitors were getting odd feedback in them. After that, I finished up my production work, cut a new promo, and made sure the station was running properly in automation before leaving work around 12:30pm into the bitter cold that is passing for weather these days. (I say bitter cold because Monday when I got to work it was -2 outside, this morning it was -3, which is quite cold enough thank you) I got home and hopped into the shower and then left to go a visitin' as some folk'll might say, just not me because I'm not a redneck. I had to make a stop along the way, so I opted to bus it over to Rich's place, truth be told it is probably quicker to walk, because the bus is a very roundabout trip, and even after deboarding the bus, it is still a healthy walk, but since my errand involved passing the bus stop, I opted for the public transportation route. We hung out and watched about the very very end of the hockey game, it was on for less than a minute before Montreal scored the game winning goal in overtime to win 4-3, then it was some crappy women's basketball which we paid no attention to. I say crappy because it took like 45 minutes to play the last 1:51 of game time. The process went something like this, Cal was playing Stanford and winning by 8 pts. Stanford comes down the court and misses a shot, followed by a foul on a Cal player, which takes us to the other end of the court where Cal proceeds to miss two foul shots. Wash, rinse repeat and you get the idea of how bad it was. I am going to pass on a little advice to TV executives right now, guys watch womens sports first because the chicks are hot, second because it is a sport they enjoy watching being played at a decent level. Putting ten non attractive females on a basketball court to miss shots on a consistent basis is not a good marketing idea. Don't believe me, go check out the TV numbers for the WNBA and get back to me on that. The major accomplishment in that league is that a woman has dunked a basketball 3 times. Not in a game. Not in a season. Ever. So the crowning achievement in the WNBA is something that happens about every 3-4 minutes in the NBA.

Not to be outdone, the Super Bowl was equally awful. Sloppy play and bad commercials made me wonder why I was sitting through it. I like football when it is played well, and 8 turnovers is not well played football. I did think the halftime show was decent, and that is saying something. It used to be that everyone would run some gimmick programming during halftime, where they would tell you to come check us out and go back to the game when we are done. Some networks would run an abbreviated comedy, at one point there was professional wrestling on, and I think they had women playing flag football in lingiere on pay per view, all kinds of stuff that would end in time for you to catch the second half, so imagine the surprise this year when the halftime show was the best thing about the whole game.

After the game we BSed some more then I figured I better head home and Rich's wife Cindy offered me a ride, given the coldness of the evening I accepted and proceeded to take my first half gainer of winter when I grabbed the door handle and opened the door and slid right onto my ass in the street. The odd thing is, I almost never fall in winter, something about my bowling ball physique I guess where even if I did fall, could you tell, or would I just roll away, but there I was laying in the street on my ass laughing while the wind chill of about 30 below was continuing to make things very brisk.

Once I got home, I thought I would start working on the Joe Random stuff I was scribing about previously by creating Joe Random and playing the first Spring Training game for Tampa Bay. I picked Tampa because they stink, so I figured that if I created a guy, his best chance of making a major league roster would be there but in the Career Mode of the game, you don't manage the team, so you don't determine who does and doesn't start, and as it turns out, Joe didn't start, so while I won the game 3-2, Joe got no playing time. That was something I had hoped to correct by sneaking in a game yesterday after work, I had a 5am-12:30pm at the station, then went to pay my phone bill, came back to the station for a 2pm-3:30pm then off to the part time job for 4pm-10pm. I thought when I got home I could just throw something in the microwave and slide a game in before bed. Fat chance of that happening, when I got home the power was out. Apparently a transformer or something blew, so I was in the dark literally, save for some candles I had lit. But then I didn't want to go to sleep and burn my house down, so I stayed up until the electricity came back on, around 1:45am, which was too late for me, since I had to be back up at 4am for work today. Maybe tonight I will have some more Randomness for the blog, but for now nothing to report.

Well I could prattle on and on, but I would like to get something done today, so I will stop here. Just a reminder, only 17 shopping days until my next TV appearance and all gifts are indeed welcome.

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