Sunday, July 20, 2008

Little Kiddie Pee Ponds and other misadventures

The original intent was that I was going to blog Friday night. I had even went about starting a fairly lengthy blog, it was at least better than halfway done, when once again that old nemesis known as Third World Oakland reared it's ugly head. A nice evening, dare I say a quite balmy evening and me all content to type away and what should happen but for no reason at all the electricity went out. Not only did it go out, but it completely messed with my internet access, leaving me spending the better part of an hour trying to get everything working again. It turned out that I had to reset the modem just to once again make myself web worthy, but by the time I had all of this accomplished, I was just too tired, what with starting the job Saturday morning and all, to go back and rehash everything that I had already hashed once.

So I figure if I get home in time from work, maybe I will have time to once again try my hand at blogging, I wasn't sure how long I was going to be at Wal Mart, I imagined most of what I was doing would be just paperwork and training videos, and on that mark, I was not disappointed, as that was all I did. I don't know how many times I need to be told how to clean up a spill or not to lift things with my back, but it was quite the tedious day. The highlight of it was being sent on lunch break, only to be sent to the employee lounge where a very attractive, spiky red haired female with an Eastern European accent came in and was talking to some of her fellow employees, and all I could think was, "Damn, I wish the Cold War was still on, because I am intrigued as to how she would get information from me." Of course, after lunch it was right back to the training videos and what should be my first one but the video on sexual harrassment. Good thing I got those thoughts out of my head prior to the video. The day ended around 3pm, but I did a little shopping after work, and by the time I actually got home I had been out of the apartment for a good 12 hours. When I finally did get home, I was having some serious keyboard issues, so much so that I solved them by impaling the keyboard into a wall. I tried tinkering with the built in keyboard that XP provides, but it was too much of a pain to type with for extended periods of time, so I just waited until today and bought me a new one, one that works I might add, woohoo indeed.

All in all, things weren't as bad as I thought they might be at Wal Mart. As well as the normal paperwork, we went over life insurance, the option of buying into the benefits plan, the 401 K. Mind you, this might be the first part time job where a 401 K plan was even offered, let alone that the company pays into it for free, as opposed to the radio station, where if we want one, we have to kick in some cash and then the company will match to a point. Depending on how much I like the new gig, I may eventually add some of my own cash to it as well, as that is one of our options.

So since this week is pretty much over, I guess this blog is going to be pretty much the week that was. Not a lot of things happened prior to my first day back into the two job workforce, but there were some things of note. Friday saw me take my first trip to the 'Little Kiddie Pee Pond" as I like to call it. I had been holding off for a while now, hoping I wouldn't be sucked in my the allure of cool water on a hot summer day, but after three days of just sweltering heat and humidity numbers in the 70% range, I finally broke down and did it. The "Pee Pond" as it were, is the public pool in Schenley park. It is all of about a five minute walk from my apartment, and for the paltry sum of $4, you get to swim for hours. The good thing is that there are girls in bikinis there, some of them are even easy on the eyes, the bad thing is that there are also lots of little kids there, and we all know what little kids do in the pool, thus my nickname for the destination. I stayed in the deep end of the pool, where fewer kiddies dare to tred. They are less likely to walk around peeing on you when the pool is twelve feet deep. When they grow up a little they will master the fine art of peeing and swimming at the same time, then they will truly be dangerous, but for now it takes all of their concentration to try to make it look like they aren't peeing, so if they try it in the deep end, they will just sink like a rock.

I took my book with me, which I finished finally, during swim breaks. The pool was open from 1pm-4:30pm for everyone, after 4:30pm it was to be adult laps. I qualify under the adult part (barely), but I wasn't out for a competitive outing, I just wanted to have some water splash over me and check out some babes in bikinis, that's all, so I was there for maybe a couple of hours, then came home.

I did manage the two pogo challenges this week. I started my personal, but every time I am there, I get drawn into playing scrabble instead, so chances are I will not complete the personal badge this week. I did manage to get an additional game award badge for completing another 30 word searches, so technically I did get three, even if one of them doesn't count for anything.

Funny thing did happen on the way home from the radio station Friday. I was finishing up my production work and Carol offered to give me a ride home. The only stipulation was that she had to run by Restaurant Depot on the way. For those that don't have one, a Restaurant Depot is a place where bars and restaurants can go to get their equipment. Much like a Sam's Club or Costco, you need to be a member to shop there, but you can get everything from industry sized refrigerators, to neon lighting to food in bulk. They have some good deals, like they had chicken for .79 a pound, but you had to buy 40 pounds of it. As much as I like chicken, I don't need 40 pounds of it laying around the apartment. Anyway, as we are on our way over to the Strip District, because Carol had to purchase some things for a church event she was helping to cater, we get stuck behind a guy in a little sporty Honda convertible. That in and of itself wasn't that bad, but on the back of the car he had a bumber sticker that read "I Don't Need Little Blue Pills in a Bottle, I Have Two Balls and a Throttle" to which I said, I suppose it is better than, 'Don't Mind the Car, My Junk Still Works". That is honestly the first time I have ever referred to the male genetalia as "junk" but it just seemed so appropriate that I couldn't help myself.

Excuse me if I type with my mouth full here, one of the things I snagged after work yesterday because I didn't want to cook was a 16" hoagie, since it was only $4.98 and I knew at that size I could get at least two meals out of it, half of it was my dinner yesterday and the second half is my dinner today. That and good old fashioned homemade iced tea (as opposed to the store bought stuff, that while good, really doesn't taste like iced tea).

Sos anyway, I was thinking the other day, as I saw another of those campaign commercials and all of the hullabaloo over whether or not we should drill for oil here and the only answer I can come up with is, does it really matter all that much? Oil companies are not nationalized here (unlike say, Venezuela) and while I am not for nationalizing them, by rule, they are going to sell that oil, whether it is drilled here, or in Timbuktu, to whoever pays the most for it. so regardless of whether we drill off of the coast or in Alaska, if the Chinese are willing to pay more for oil than we are, at the end of the day, it is just more oil for them, not us. That doesn't mean we shouldn't drill here, but lets not lose our heads by saying if we drill here it is an instant panacea to all that ails us.

 

Okay, enough with the political chatter, I am sure there will be plenty of time for that in the days and weeks to come. Besides, one of the things that got wiped out the other day compliments of the electrical grid that is Third World Oakland is the Asshat, so I am down two. I think I will do them in reverse order, just because I am funny like that. So last week's winner is Holly Benson, Holly come on down and take a bow. What's that? You've never heard of Holly Benson? For shame, she is the secretary fof the Agency for Health Care Administration in the great state of Florida. Holly was recently interviewed and was asked about how the economic downturn might affect people's health. Holly, take it away......"Just because you're poor doesn't mean you're unhealthy; it just means you have a lot more time to go running," I haven't had this many laughs since the current Adminisration said that they were going to do away with hunger by calling it "low food security". Holly, really, come on down and pick up your prize.

The second of the Asshats, from two weeks ago, goes to another New York Yankee. Really, I don't mean to pick on them, but lets admit it, Jason Giambi's thong sharing was Asshat worthy. I would argue that Alex Rodriguez can now share a thong and an Asshat with his New York teammate. For those that don't know, A Rod is one of the highest paid athletes in professional sports, he garners a cool 25 million per year to do his thing with the Yankees. To make sure his riches were taken care of, he talked his current wife into signing a prenuptual agreement before doing the whole "I do" thing. Smart thinking there, if something happens and it just doesn't work out, A Rod would keep most of his money. Of course a prenup is also dependent on both sides living up to their end of the bargain, which is where A Rod wasn't quite as smart, as he has taking a liking to Madonna's vagina. Talk about anti Star Trek, to boldly go were everyone has gone before. That's A Rod, putting his 25 million dollar salary on the line for that. Yikes, so much for the prenup. If it only costs him half, that is still 12.5 million and unless he got some huge bonus for being the 1 millionth customer served, I can't see where this is a smart thing. Hell if it was me, if I gave Madonna 12 cents to sleep with her, I would still expect change back. But as for now, I got me 12.5 million reasons why A Rod is an Asshat.

And before I go, just one more thing, it's coming soon to a computer near you.

 

 

 

Friday, July 18, 2008

That's two now

A little over a week ago I posted a piece from the NY Times about visiting Pittsburgh.  Now comes the USA Today jumping on our bandwagon.  See, it just has to be true now, we are way cool.

 

PITTSBURGH — After undergoing three renaissances, placing in the top ranks of "most livable cities" and hosting one of the nation's largest concentrations of eco-friendly buildings, this river town still can't seem to shake its bum rap.

Witness the reaction of first-time visitor Beth Whitman, 42, of Seattle, who is taking in an initial view of downtown from the back of an airport cab en route to a conference. She peers through the window at a dense cluster of classic and contemporary high-rises cradled in a lush river valley. Broad waterways hug the sharp angles of the city's urban heart, known as the Golden Triangle.

"Pittsburgh's pretty," she announces. "Too bad it has such a bad image."

Comments like that tend to induce long-suffering sighs from many residents. As it approaches its 250th birthday later this year, Pittsburgh is used to being maligned and misunderstood. In the 1860s, one writer memorably proclaimed it "hell with a lid off." When asked in the 1940s how to improve Pittsburgh, Frank Lloyd Wright quipped, "Abandon it." And in 1985 when Rand McNally named it tops on its "most livable cities" list, an incredulous Washington Post scoffed, "Pittsburgh? No. 1? Gimme a Break!"

Now some civic boosters jokingly suggest "Just Get Over It" would be an apt tourism slogan.

This city of 311,000 is often overlooked and underrated as a travel destination but it has more in the way of diversions than many cities twice its size. Thanks, in part, to the largess of long-dead steel barons, it boasts stand-out architecture and a superior cultural infrastructure. Its natural assets — three rivers flowing through town, a profusion of parks and eye-popping city views from the precipice of Mount Washington — add to the allure. And, not least, its multicultural neighborhoods offer rich, one-of-a-kind flavor.

A work in progress

Its gleaming glass cathedral and downtown centerpiece, the Philip Johnson-designed PPG Place, notwithstanding, Pittsburgh isn't a flashy place. (The closest thing to a star-sighting on a recent weekend is composer/conductor Marvin Hamlisch pushing someone in a wheelchair down Penn Avenue.) Its residents — an inordinate number of whom seem to be from here, even after its emergence as a medical and technical center — tend toward both civic self-deprecation and fierce defensiveness. And despite those multiple renaissances, downtown redevelopment remains a work in progress.

Still, Pittsburgh continues to re-invent itself. And nowhere are improvements more visible than on its waterfronts — the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, which meet at the tip of downtown to form the Ohio River.

"In 2001 when I moved here, there was nothing to do on this river," says river guide Christine Tracy, as she paddles up the Allegheny toward the Andy Warhol Bridge. Now, her group, the non-profit Venture Outdoors, rents kayaks and fishing gear and sponsors events such as after-work "Happy Hour Paddles." Its banks now boast 6 miles of bike trails, and the number of fish species populating its waters has gone from three in the 1970s to more than 40 today.

There's new vitality on the shore, as well. The 7-year-old Heinz Field, home of the beloved Pittsburgh Steelers, and just upriver, the classic baseball stadium, PNC Park, rise on the Allegheny's North Shore, with sports bars, restaurants and clubs nearby. On the opposite shore, the 5-year-old David L. Lawrence Convention Center is the first and largest "green-certified" building of its kind. Prose by Annie Dillard, August Wilson and others scrolls ticker-tape style over a soaring exterior arc in an endless tribute to writers who have made Pittsburgh their focus.

It's just one example of how Pittsburgh honors its own. Baseball great Roberto Clemente has a namesake bridge — one of 446 in a city that claims the world's largest number of bridges.

The late senator and ketchup heir, John Heinz, has a history center bearing his name. It's in a former ice factory and entertainingly traces the city's origins around the 1758 Fort Pitt, to its 19th-century prosperity as the Iron City, to the shuttering of the last steel mills in the 1980s in what it proclaims, "America's most promising post-industrial experiment."

Pittsburgh-born pop-art icon Andy Warhol got a civic salute in 1994 with the opening of a museum featuring 12,000 of his works. Street names celebrate everyone from former mayors to a prominent real estate agent.

Carnegie's legacy

But foremost among local benefactors was Andrew Carnegie, whose philanthropy helped shape the city's cultural traditions. The Carnegie Museum of History just completed a $36 million revamp featuring an expanded Dinosaur Hall. It boasts the nation's third-largest collection of authentic prehistoric creatures.

In the adjoining Carnegie Museum of Art, the 55th Carnegie International, instituted in 1896 by the steel baron in a quest to discover the "Old Masters of tomorrow," continues until January. The contemporary works in the show, dubbed "Life on Mars," are meant to question humans' role in the universe.

To outsiders, Pittsburgh's sports-crazed reputation may overshadow its cultural leanings. But the city has long supported a symphony, an opera and a ballet company. Its compact downtown Cultural District has five theaters and has in recent years been spruced up. Local historian Woody Cunningham is standing in the heart of the neighborhood in tiny Agnes Katz Plaza relating tidbits from the bad old days. "How dirty was Pittsburgh? They built an oil refinery downtown and no one complained. That's how dirty," he declares. "Now, where there used to be dirty bookstores are violin repair shops and day-care centers."

Despite several new lodgings and restaurants and its busy convention business, Pittsburgh's downtown isn't a hotbed of activity after the office workers depart for the day. Gradually, however, more residents are moving in as historic buildings are converted to condominiums.

Distinctive districts

The city's true delights are in its neighborhoods — 89 distinct ones at last count. Some are undergoing economic transformation but are defying the sort of gentrification that strips them of their quirky individuality.

Among those not to miss:

•The Strip District, a former wholesale-produce warehouse area, is a lively retail center where the lone Starbucks couldn't survive, neighborhood leaders gleefully report. Locals prefer to sip at spots such as La Prima Espresso, where the old men at the outdoor tables chatter away in Italian.

Go on Saturday morning when the sidewalks are crammed with vendors selling everything from homemade pirogi to diabetic socks. The scene is messy and a little gritty, and there's nothing remotely precious about it. At shops such as Pennsylvania Macaroni, which carries 60 brands of olive oil and hundreds of cheeses, a fourth generation carries on the family trade. There are homemade sausages at the Polish place and handmade tortillas at the Mexican place and more froufrou fare at newcomers such as Mon Aimee, selling designer chocolate from some 30 countries.

•Lawrenceville's 16:62 Design Zone has emerged in a 2.5-mile working-class neighborhood stretching from 34th to 62nd streets above the Strip. Inexpensive housing has drawn creative types for the past decade or so, and the area now supports 70 businesses, including art galleries and designer clothing stores, alongside beer-and-a-shot bars and Arsenal Bowling Lanes featuring Friday night karaoke.

•The South Side, a working-class neighborhood of hillside houses and onion-domed churches, is scenic by day and wild by night. Carson Street fosters blocks of end-to-end bars, restaurants and clubs. At the eastern end of the strip is the SouthSide Works, a shining tribute to the new urbanism on the site of a defunct steel mill.

Blame it on work ethic

Ask a Pittsburgher why it's so difficult to clear the smoky-city image and you'll hear all kinds of theories: The steel industry was so successful, its stamp is indelible. Television newscasts show outdated B-roll of molten steel being poured at defunct factories. It's a conspiracy perpetrated by Seattle and other cities ruffled when they didn't get the best-city ranking.

But more often than not, Pittsburghers blame themselves.

"We have an inferiority complex," says Enrico Lagattuta, owner of The Enrico Biscotti Co. "We are a bunch of knuckleheaded second- and third-generation children of immigrants, and we have this tremendous work ethic that says: 'Don't talk about yourself.' "

Maybe they don't need to. Like Whitman, many first-time visitors express pleasant surprise. Which sparks another civic slogan suggestion: "Pittsburgh: Who Knew?"

 

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Prospects

So I made my way into work today with plenty on my plate. Thankful, I got good portion of it done, enough so that I can almost say that it was a most productive day as I sit here and type.

First were the podcasts, as I had to post 6 new ones from last week so they could go on the radio station's webpage. The thing is, we aren't allowed to just post the audio as it appears n the show, there are actually rules against that stuff. For instance, we aren't allowed to post commercials as part of the podcast, so I have to go in and edit out all of the commercial break. It actually goes back to an FCC ruling a while back regarding internet streaming and royalties paid to musicians. See, stations pay a fee to such outlets as ASCAP and BMI in order to play an artist's work on the air. Well, in their infinite wisdom, they determined that if a station was streaming their audio, then in fact, they were playing the song twice, therefore they should get double the royalties. Some of you that are fans of internet radio will remember that for a small amount of time, many stations just pulled their streaming altogether, rather than pay double fees. Ah, but the allure of losing money on the internet was too great (though stations will tell you they think they can make money on the internet, a claim I highly doubt), so many of them bellied up to the bar and dropped the coin to air music twice. Then along came voice over talent, and they said, well, if you air the same commercials on your webstream that you do over the air, you are in fact playing us twice as well, and therefore we demand to be double paid as well. That led to stations instead offering spots on their stream as well as over the air, so now it is entirely possible that when a station goes to commercial, those people listening on the web are not hearing the same thing as those listening over the air. Usually, because of the small audience that listens to steaming audio, those breaks are loaded either with PSAs (public service announcements) or are sold at a much cheaper rate than those over the air.

Podcasts luck out in that, while they are deemed another form of broadcasting (and therefore would be possibly open to the same rules and regulations as both over the air and streaming are), nobody wants to buy commercial time in a podcast, at least not yet, and since a podcast is not required to keep time with a radio clock, it is just easier to cut the commercials out entirely, and I would also add, probably to the listeners benefit. That being said, the audio for the radio show I save in one long file, but that is not practical for those that would try to download it, the file would just be too big, so I also have to break the show down by hours, so a three hour show is actually three podcasts, usually about 45 minutes in length each. On top of that I had to take one of the audio files and copy a show segment (each hour has 4 segments in it) and one of the live reads (where the air talent reads a spot live during a commercial break) and make a copy for one of our sales people who was pitching the show to a potential client. I also had to record a business report and do show prep for a three hour show and all of this had to be done between 5am and 9am, plus I had to call walmart back and say that I wasn't going to be there this morning because, lo and behold, I was working as I was talking to them.

I managed to knock out 5 of the 6 podcasts, get the business report done, find enough material that we actually didn't run out of things to say today, and it really was a slow news weekend, there is only so much you can do with Tony Snow dying, and Miss America falling down for the second straight year at the Miss Universe pageant (insert your own walking and chewing gum at the same time joke here), it really was a reach to decide just what we would do to occupy three hours of radio time. Plus, I managed to push back the Wal Mart orientation until Saturday morning, contacted a book author about being on the show, and scheduled the three days that Lynn would be off at the end of the month for foot surgery, and much like the Marines, I had accomplished more before 9am than some people will do all day.

After the radio show, I made my way ho,me, where I sat down for a few minutes, actually I dozed off for about 30 minutes, as my sleeping pattern at night has been atrocious, I just can't get my eyes to close and me actually rest until it is just about time to be up in the morning, so a brief catnap and I was off to the grocery store where I scored some marshmallow creme on sale so I can make fluffer nutters (though I bought the Kraft Jet Puffed Marshmallow creme) and once again scored some serious boneless skinless chicken breasts, as they were Buy One, Get One Free which meant I got over 9 pounds of chicken for $7.88. Yes, me all kind of savvy grocery shopper, there goes my man card. Throw in some other goodies, such as crinkle cut french fries, pasta, sauce, hot dogs, cream of mushroom soup, frozen veggies, bread, hot dog buns and for desert a oreo cookie parfait, and all told I spent $20. I made my way home and there was a message waiting for me, I have another job interview tomorrow at 1:30pm with Southside Steaks. They are looking for someone to work 3 nights a week. On the plus side, it would be closer than WalMart, and three shifts where if I have to I can walk to work, versus taking two buses and I figured Ican at least sit down for the interview. Worst case scenario I have a job Saturday, best case, I have a job tomorrow.

Woohoo, Charlie Rose came on and they are talking politics and one of the guests is Chuck Todd from NBC, who I have thought is pretty bright on such issues.

I found an empty 24 pack of Pepsi on the way home from the grocery store, that is a quick 4 points for me, since a song is only 5 points, it is a big grab on my part. All told, I have the Pepsi account back up to 29 points. By the way Rich, if you are reading this, if Cindy doesn't want any of the Pepsi caps laying around the house, you can send them my way, I won't mind. I also have caps from Coke, Dr Pepper and Mountain Dew to enter online, I have been leaving them pile up on my desk rather than enter them as I find them, so this evening is my chance to catch up a bit. In all of the time I have been scooping these caps up while out and about, I have only found one cap that when I entered it online, it had already been redeemed. That's okay, more for me, I don't mind.

I have managed to get a decent chunk of my book read. So far it isn't what the cover would have indicated, not that the book is bad, just not what I would have expected. It is the story of Joe Beyrle, who is the only man to fight for both the United States and the Soviet Union during World War II. The book started out promisingly enough, Joe was a member of the 101st Airborne, which was the first group on the ground at Normandy, having parachuted in behind the German lines, looking to create an opening for the Allied troops to land to begin the liberation of France from Nazi rule. The problem was that Joe was barely there when he was taken captive by the Germans. He managed to escape, but was quickly recaptured. After being transferred to a few different prison camps as the Allied forces made their way across Europe, Joe makes a second escape, only to be recaptured by the Gestapo, after the train he hopped ended up in Berlin. The book lets you know what is going on with Joe's unit while he is in captivity, but fr a book that is supposed to tell the story of a guy who fought for both the United States and the Soviet Union, he hasn't done all that much fighting to this point, and we are up to the Battle of the Bulge. It reads as more of a historical book regarding Joe's unit than anything else. It talks about Joe's days in captivity, but I'll admit, that wasn't what I expected when I first bought the book. Maybe he will see more combat with the Sovie4ts, but so far he has spent the majority of his time in prison camps and being tortured by the Gestapo.

Well, I better spell check this and try sleeping again as it is getting late.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hey now, I'm an All Star

Tonight's entry is my mid season report. Just as I am known to put my fantasy sports stuff on the page, when it comes to baseball I also like to take a look back and see how things went from draft day until the All Star break, which is what passes for the mid point of the season, though technically it is a few days after the numerical midpoint. That being said, I start with what I wrote that March day regarding this years draft and I then added how it has went so far. So, Peabody, Sherman, to the Wayback Machine if you will.

 

For those of you that have been frequenters of the blog for more than a year or so, you know around this time of year I hop into a fantasy baseball league. Usually my friend George and I team up, as the league is actually two separate leagues and is broken into an American League only and National League only drafts. George has missed the last couple of years, relegating me to just one team, so I am not sure if I can rely on him for this years National League draft, but the American League draft was this Sunday, and I wanted to make sure I was part of at least half of the festivities. The rules are pretty generic, it is a rotisserie - auction draft with a $260 salary cap to fill 23 positions and then an additional 8 rounds of free agent selections after the completed auction. The final results, with the amount of my winning bid for each player;

First off, George actually did make it to this years draft, though he brought one of his classmates with him, so I am assuming I am on my own, which is fine, there were times when we were working together that I was calling the shots for both teams in the past. This way, by doing this by myself, I am under no pressure to do well, other than the pressure I place upon myself. For the record, at the season's mid points, I am in third place overall, which is good for some cash, and I lead the league in batting average, runs batted in, runs scored and stolen bases, which would be good for an additional $40. Now to break down the individual picks and how I did. (Note: the stats I post are not reflective of how the player has done this year, only how they did while I had them active)

Vladamir Guerrero - 37 (15 homeruns and 50 RBIs at the break, not bad numbers, but you would expect more out of a guy you dumped $387dollars on on draft day)

BJ Upton - 30 (44 RBIs and 27 stolen bases to this point, plus the added bonus that at the beginning of the year he was eligible for being slotted at 2nd base (to qualify for a position you had to play it 10 games last year or 5 this year), next year he will be only outfield, but I like the idea of getting to plug quality outfielder numbers to what is usually a weak infield position.)

Ichiro Suzuki - 32 (This is usually the easiest pick I make on draft day, he is good for runs scored, batting average and stolen bases, this year is no exception, .304 average, 63 runs scored, 34 stolen bases.)

Justin Mourneau - 27 (Would like to see a more homeruns (14 so far) but no complaints about his batting average (.323) or RBI total (68))

Casey Kotchman - 13 (If he would have kept hitting like he did in April, I would be much happier,. His average is decent, but his lack of power (7 HRs) has most weeks relegated him to the bench)

Gil Meche - 9 (My drafting strategy for pitchers is get guys who can get at least 10 wins, if by starting 9 pitchers every week I can get my club in the 90-100 win range, I will roll the dice and take my chances with the other numbers. So far he has just 5 wins for me, his only redeeming quality is the 82 strikeouts, second on my team to this point.)

Matt Garza - 8 (7-5 record and an ERA under 4.00 (3.96) are good enough for a rather cheap investment of $8)

Rocco Baldelli - 5 (The next time I draft this guy, I want someone to reach across the table and just slap the fuck out of me. His history is that of someone who has potential but is injury prone, needless to say I draft him and sure enough, he has a medical condition that may keep him from ever playing baseball again. I did manage to cut him and pick up Jesse Litsch in his spot, who has earned 6 win so far, but man was this a wasted $5)

Alexis Rios - 27 (The problem with drafting potential is that sometimes it doesn't rear it's ugly head. There was all kind of fantasy geek talk about how this would be his breakout year, but other than his stolen bases (22), his homeruns (3) and average (.273) are very pedestrian)

Matt Stairs - 3 ( Dropped when I picked up Grant Balfour two weeks ago, he was okay when I did play him, certainly worth the meager $3 investment (6 HRs, 16 RBI, 21 runs scored))

Vernon Wells - 19 ( Might be dangerous if he could stay off of the disabled list (twice so far this year), with 8 HRs and 40 RBIs in limited playing time)

Kevin Millwood - 3 (I had hoped that for my small investment of $3 I might get the Kevin Millwood who used to pitch for the Braves, instead I got the same one that pitched last year for the Rangers, (4-4, 5.35 ERA, 1.75 WHIP))

Kenji Jojhima - 7 (Another huge disappointment, signs a new contract this year and goes out and posts numbers that are just abysmal, .220 average, 3 Hrs, 20 RBIs, he has effectively found his way to my bench)

Dustin Pedroia - 5 (one of my draft day steals, though not the best one, for a $5 investment I have a guy who is hitting .313, with 9 HRs, 47 RBIs, 67 runs scored and 9 stolen bases. If you would have told me at the beginning of the year I could get a guy who would hit over .300, and have a chance at a 20-20 season (20 HRs and 20 stolen bases) and could score 100+ runs, I would have said you were on crack)

Bartolo Colon - 4 (Not long for my team, he started the season in the minor leagues, so I dealt him for Armando Galarraga (2-2 in 7 starts and a 3.59 ERA), all and all a decent GM move on my part)

Brendan Harris - 3 (A riddle wrapped inside an enigma, wrapped inside a shortstop. Everytime I think this will be the week I bench him, he does just enough to merit the $3 investment I made in him (5 HRs, 32 RBIs, 40 runs scored)

Evan Longoria - 11 (Started the season in the minor leagues, but his bat forced Tampa Bay to promoted him to the big club and he has been Rookie of the Year worthy since the promotion, .273 average, 16 HRs, 52 RBIs, 44 runs, 6 stolen bases. Proof that sometimes it pays to be patient with guys on draft day, as I am sure a few were scared away because he was staring the year in the minor leagues)

Andy Pettite - 4 (Over the last month he has become the ace of my pitching staff, the only guy I have who has double digit wins (10), and leads the team in strikeouts (91))

Joe Blanton - 3 (The opposite of Pettite, this guy is a fucking embarrassment, I regularly bench him now, yet he has still started enough games for me to post a complete suck ass 4-11 record. If ever there was a guy on my team I would trade to Guantanamo Bay for 2 terrorist prospects and a fatwa to be named later, it would be this guy right here)

Clay Buchholz - 1 (This is another, like Longoria I drafted on potential, he started the year poorly (I managed to get a 2-2 record out of him) before being sent to the minor leagues, was just called back up to the Boston Red Sox before the All Star break, so he may get a chance to redeem himself yet)

Mark Buerhle - 2 (Like Millwood, I drafted him based on what he did in the past, unlike Millwood, he has pitched like the Buerhle of old, picking up 6 wins and a 3.68 ERA in games I have started him)

Brian Bannister - 1 (did about what I expected of him going 7-7 over the first half, I tend to use him in weeks where he will get two starts and the matchups give him a decent chance of picking up at least one win, not bad for one dollar)

Greg Zauhn - 6 (took simply because I needed to fill out my second catcher slot, about the same numbers as Johjima in 70 less at bats)

And for free agents

Alexi Casilla (Probably didn't show enough patience with him, as he too began the year in the minor leagues, I dealt him away for Eric Hinske when Vernon Wells went on his first DL stint)

Joel Zumaya (Started the year on the DL, held him as long as I could, eventually dealt him for Marco Scutaro, who I then dealt for Greg Smith, who has been okay for me, posting 3 wins and a 3.50 ERA)

Carlos Quentin (Can you say steal of the draft? Originally scheduled to back up Jerry Owens in Chicago, won the starting job when Jerry Owens was hurt to start the season and has posted MVP like numbers, 22 HRs, 70 RBIs, 62 runs scored, 5 SBs, this is the epitome of a draft day steal, and he didn't cost me anything)

Ross Gload (Never played for me, dealt him for Brad Wilkerson, who I then dealt for Max Ramierez, who I then dealt for Matt Joyce. This roster slot must be cursed or something, though I just picked up Joyce this past week, so maybe I can salvage something out of the spot yet)

Dan Johnson (This guy is testing my patience, but in a good way. Cut by Oakland to start the year, he was picked up by Tampa Bay, when they sent him to the AAA minor league club. He has posted some decent numbers in the minor leagues, I am hoping that Tampa either calls him up or trades him to a team that needs a first baseman, but pretty soon I will have to cut him loose, as all he has done so far this year is eat up a roster spot)

Manny Delcarmen (Solely took as a flyer, by and large middle relievers are useless, they don't pitch enough to get wins, and they don't close games to get saves. I was hoping he might poach an early save or two, when he didn't I dealt him away for Ben Francisco, who has gotten me 7 HRs, 29 RBIs and 31 runs scored since I picked him up)

Brendan Morrow (Another example of me being less than patient, started the season as a middle reliever, was there long enough to see me deal him for Rod Barajas when Greg Zauhn ended up on the 15 day DL. Of course after I dealt him, Seattle's closer, JJ Putz went down and Morrow was promoted to closer, so I have missed out on about 9 saves so far)

Wilson Betemit (This was simply a stop gap pick for me, until Longoria was promoted, he did exactly what I expected, which was little to nothing. Dealt for more guys who have contributed nothing, this is what happens when you are the last pick in the draft I guess)

And there you have it, my midseason report card. I sure hope they grade on a curve this year.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The last of the updates, I hope

Hopefully things will get back to normal now that this is caught up as well.......

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Updates......finally

Man, there are a lot of things I have let go to pot on this page, as much as I have been around a little more frequently these days, there are some things that I have just been letting slide. Now would seem to be a good time to fix that.

Starting with the ever so famous Joe Random update, barring an injury, it looks like I will crush my previous season bests in just about every statistical category. Last season was my best, with 30 HRs and 118 RBIs, but I spent beginning portion of that season in the minor leagues before catching a break when the starting third baseman went down and I was called up to the major league club. This year I started at the major league level, and after a slowish start, I have just been crushing the ball. We haven't even reached the All Star break yet and I have already hit 26 HRs and driven in 79. Heck, I am even stealing bases, having notched 9 of those.

It's not just me either, as I have the whole Devil Ray franchise just rolling along. In All Star voting I have the #2 and #4 starting pitchers, the #5 middle reliever, the #4 closer, the #1 and #5 first basemen, the #1 second baseman, the #1 shortstop, the #1 left fielder, and the #1 right fielder. It could be a banner year for the whole team if I don't get hurt.

I did knock off two of the three Pogo badges again this week. Technically I won three so far, as I got the bonus 36 badge in Poppa Zoppa, which is awarded if you clear the board on one streak, but since I have already won that badge, it wasn't a real big thing for me. Check that, I have also won the electric eel badge in Squelchies. I am not sure what rank it is, but I chose a Squelchies badge as a personal challenge, activate the blowfish 75 times, simply because I am running out of old badges to play for. At least ones that I want to play for. Thankfully they added Scrabble on Pogo the other day, so I have that to play also, not that I am very good at it, but the token spins kick as, I have hit 2000 and 5000 tokens in there on a spin.

See, we are catching up on some things here, I have updates Pogo and Joe Random so far. Next stop I guess would be the job hunt.

CSI Bentonville has finished with my urine anaylsis and save for trace amounts of bitterness and sarcasm, all came up clean, as I knew it would. Of course, that doesn't mean much as they called me to say that I could start my orientation at 8am Monday morning. The slight problem with that is I will, of course, be at work. Mind you, I made clear on my availability that I work mornings, apparently reading English is not a job requirement for management at Wal Mart. That being said, I continued dropping off applications this week, I would rather have more options than fewer. I sort of had a second interview on Friday. Wednesday while I was out taking a pee Target called me to see if I would be available for an interview. For those that are familiar with the 360 days, yes it was the same Target that I applied to previously. They are still as mismanaged now as they were then. I called thm Friday morning, as they said that they were doing interviews on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and they had a couple of slots open Friday afternoon, so I chose the 2:30pm interview slot and after I got off at the radio station, I made my trek over to Target for the hastily scheduled interview. I got there around 2pm, so I just kind of strolled around the Waterfront to kill some time and showed up in the store around 2:20pm. I was told to wait in the food area, which was fine as far as I was concerned, I just sat down and read some more of my book, which is really good I might add, and waited. And waited. And waited. After about an hour and a half of no one so much as even acknowledging my existence I left. Who knows, they may have come looking for me for the interview after I left, but I think an hour and a half is more than enough time to either say that you are running behind or ask to reschedule, but to say or do nothing, well, fuck that. I got better things to do with my time.

I actually spent a decent amount of time on buses Friday. First I took the 36D downtown to leave work, then it was onto the 56B Hazelwood to get to the Waterfront, after ditching the interview I hopped aboard a 59U Waterfront - Oakland - South Side Works and figured I would stroll around the South Side for a bit. I ended up dropping off an application at South Side Steaks just because I saw a sign in the window. The next bus I wanted to take was a 54C South Side - Oakland - North Side, but I wasn't paying attention, so I ended up on a 51C instead headed back into downtown. That wasn't to bad, because it takes the number of buses I can take to get home from 1 to around 10, but it was, for the time being, going in the opposite directionthat I wanted to go. Having got into town I got the bright idea of visiting Rich instead of going home, so I hopped a 56E Greenfield instead of a bus back home. After chatting for a few hours and watching an episode of Deadliest Catch, it was back on the 56E to go back to town and while being dowtown relatively late at night (around 10:30 ish) would normally mean that the place was dead, the baseball game had just let out and people were everywhere for a change. Kids were playing in the fountain at PPG place, the restaurants were doing a nice late nite business for them, considering downtown usually pretty much closes up at 5pm, the weather was extremely comfortable, it was just one of those moments that was hard to describe, it was busy, yet peaceful. At least until I hopped on my last bus, a 71D Hamilton back to Oakland, which was packed to the gills with a bunch of kids that went to the ballgame. So much for peace. Still, 7 bus rides makes me think buying a bus pass was a good thing.

I busted out the pass again today, just chasing down a couple more job leads. May or may not lead to anything, after all, technically I have a Wal Mart job if they ever get my schedule straight, but I would rather have many offers than few. So I dropped of applications at Loews and Shootz Cafe, just to make me feel like I had accomplished something today besides sitting on my ass.

Okay, that update is out of the way, but there is more to come. Stay tuned.

I had to do a Leonard Nimoy "In Search Of...." to find my last change meter entry. I hope I got it right. In any event, I am adding .98 to the last total I could find, so the new total is $36.87. The disadvantage of not having a part time gig, this thing moves really slowly when I am not out and about as much. I should note that I did get to cash in another $30 in surveys though, including a big fat $12.50 survey regarding credit cards.

Recently I have been a real smartass. Well, I guess that is always the case, so in fact I have been more of a smartass than usual. Cases in point if you will. There was a news story that came out this week that women live 7 years longer than men. Mind you, this isn't much of a story for people that have even the most mundane understanding of life expectancy. But leave it to me to say that maybe it is because women drive us men to our graves. There, I think I just cut my readership at least in half. But wait, ther's more. Apparently Pittsburgh is hosting the Transplant Games this weekend. Basically it is an athletic competition for those people that in the past have had received organ transplants. Maybe my mind is the only one that works this way, but I just think the games would be better if the competitors were not transplant recipients, but rather people waiting for transplants and the winner gets an organ. It would be so much more competitive if there were say, kidneys on the line or something. And imagine the human interest stories that TV could run. I can see it now, a kid in need of a liver. He is in his living room, struggling to push out one or two more sit ups. Meanwhile his dad dangles a transplant cooler over his head screaming, "How bad do you want this?" That shit would be priceless, certainly better than what passes for TV nowadays.

Before I forget, I am down an Asshat from last week. And really, I can't point the finger at any one person, because so many were responsible, but once again the Asshat crown goes to the media, at least those outlets that bought into the farce of a story that was the man who had a baby. Time out here, I know that biology wasn't my best subject in high school, but last I checked, men do not have vaginas,. Now if this Assclown would have squeezed a kid out ye olde penis hole, then we got a story, but a man with a vagina and a uterus is a woman, much to the media's dismay and every idiotic new outlet than ran with the headline that a man had a baby is complicit in the Asshat Award this time around.

Well, I am going to go do half of the Richard Simmon's workout and Sweat a little, because it is very muggy here, even at 11:30pm. Nite all.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Urine for a treat


Time to touch the puppethead. Kudos to anyone who got that reference, for the rest of you, video goodness.


They Might Be Giants - Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head - ASTRO-ZOMBIE Anyway, I did mention that I had a job interview Monday, nothing too exciting, it was Wal Mart after all, and one not so close to where I live on top of that. It's a full two bus rides away from my apartment, though I have couple of different ways to get there. What was interesting though, the location is out by where our studios used to be when I first started in radio way back in 1996, so there was  a weird feeling of nostalgia. I hadn't been to that section of town since long before the Wal Mart had even been built. A drive in theater used to be on that particular plot of land, so obviously that was different.
I think my first of "I remember when" moments came when my bus finally got on to the main drag, US 30, that runs out through that section of town. I remember back when I was interning at the radio station, there was a stretch of road, just at the exit for East Pittsburgh, where I could open up the car a little bit. Usually I was stuck in rush hour traffic on the Parkway East to that point, and for whatever reason, the curves in the road just reminded me of a Formula 1 course, so I would enjoy zipping through the curves, knowing I would be at work in about 5 minutes. Mind you, taking a bus is much slower, but also much cheaper as in no gas or insurance to worry about, but still it was a pleasant rememberance moment. In any event, I got to my location, noticed that the bowling alleys in stereo were still there, so I guess some things never change. The bowling alleys are unique because, frankly, bowling isn't all that popular. Mind you, I like to go once in a while, but face it, it is way down the sports ladder, so what is unique is that on either side of US 30 there is a bowling alley. How they can stay open literally right across the street from each other is beyond me, especially when one considers the number of businesses out there that have folded up. I should note most of them closed before Wal Mart got there, but some, like Popeye's Chicken had an entire business lifespan happen since the last time I had been in the neighborhood.
So I get off of the bus outside Wal Mart, I had planned on being at least an hour early so I could grab lunch and possibly do a quick run through of the store, just get an idea of how it is laid out inside, but a combination of a bus breaking down and a horrid traffic jam over by the Rankin Bridge blew probably 30 minutes of my cushion. As a result I just had a pre game cigarette, then went in the store and did a quick walk through of the toy department, where I believed I was going to be working.
About 5 minutes to 4pm, I go to where I need to for the games to begin. I am walked to the back of the store and taken to what I would guess was the personnel office. Just a quick couple of things had to be signed and they had me review my online application. Originally I had applied for a different location, and because of different bus schedules, I had hours listed that I could have worked there, but not where I was. No problem, they just had me make adjustments. Then I was told that the toy department already had the hours I was looking for covered, but I could be a cashier if I wanted. Having seen the toy department, I figured what the hell, all I am going to do in toys is bust up orgies between the Barbie and GI Joe dolls anyway.
Next I am told that I am going to take part in a new interview technique they are trying out, one person is going to ask me questions, then I will leave the room, they will discuss whatever it is they discuss, maybe break out there prayer mats and face Bentonville and ask for guidance, then I would come back in and answer some more questions and the process would repeat itself and finally they would let me know if I would be offered a job or not.
Mind you, interviews are like lasagna to me. I blogged back in my 360 days of the whole "get lucky with lasagna", where any time I would make lasagna for a female we would end up sleeping together afterward. It actually got to be such a joke that one time I made it for a girl I was dating at the time and she looked and me and said "So, are we going to do it?" which of course was met with, "Why yes, I think we are." Same thing with me and interviews, I can't remember ever getting an interview with someone and not coming out with a job, so I don't sweat interviews nearly as much as some people.
The questions begin. Unfortunately they were questions and not answers a la Jeopardy, where I could then answer in the form of a question. That might have been more challenging. Instead it was stuff like "Think of a time when you were upset with someone but showed patience anyway?" Really, just cake walk stuff, it's like fudging a high school essay. I did my requisite deep thinking and came up with "thoughtful" answers and after about ten of these I was asked to leave the room so they could pray to Sam Walton for guidance.
After about five minutes, I was escorted back into the room, where someone else took up the questioning. The smartass in me thought to myself "Maybe this will be the lightning round" but no, it was more of the same probative questions but with a new person asking them. It was the worst good cop, bad cop I had ever been part of, more along the lines of good mall security guard, bad mall security guard. The final question was "Name a time when you followed a policy, even though it wasn't written out, but you knew what you were supposed to do." This brought out the blind story.
At the radio station, the building we are in was actually constructed and paid for by the station's owner. He owns almost 30 stations between Pennsylvania, Florida and Oklahoma, so one could say he has been fairly successful in doing radio his way. But one of his quirks is that he pays attention to the smallest details, one of which is the blinds. Al of the windows in the builidng have blinds, and while we don't control what happens on floors one and two, those are leased office space, we do control floors three and four, three housing the radio studios and the sales offices, four housing the corporate offices and on floors three and four, while you can tilt the blinds whichever way, you can not raise and lower them because he believes that the building looks less uniform and sloppy to have blinds all willy nilly. Mind you, it is something that has never been addressed in a memo, it has never been brought up in a meeting, if you work there, you just know not to touch the blinds. Of course my stupid story won the day, I had them laughing and I was in like Errol Flynn.
Just some post game wrap up, I had to take a drug test within 24 hours or the job offer would be rescinded. Because my interview ended when it did, I would have to wait until today to take that test. The best part was, the place to take the test was actually down the street from where the old studios were. The bad part is, while I would be taking the same buses to get there, after getting off of the bus, I would have about a two mile walk to get to the testing place. The bad thing about public transportation is the lack of curbside service. It would be so much cooler if they had that.
So I get through the radio show today and I begin my trek back over to take my pee test and while I am at the bus changeover place, I start to think that I might have peed before leaving work. Great, performance anxiety. However, I arrived at the place to change buses early enough that I figure I might as well grab a quick bite to eat and something to drink to better fascillitate my upcoming test. I first stopped at a Get Go, they are convenience stores operated by Giant Eagle. I figure maybe they will have chicken salad or something good, but instead all they had were italian subs, and none of them looked to be consumption worthy, so I then head over to McDonald's and grab a couple of double cheeseburgers and some fries. I decide to grab a beverage back at the bus stop and snag a Pepsi from the vending machine, so I sit and eat and wait for my second bus. Luckily I had enough time to eat everything before the bus arrived, so I figured maybe I was good to go, in more ways than one.
I hop off of the second bus outside Wal Mart and begin my walk to the testing place. I have to walk past the bowling alleys in stereo, down the other side of the hill, make a right at the very intersection where the radio studio used to be and walk down that road about three quarters of a mile and the testing place is supposed to be on the left. I get over the hill, start down the other side, and the heat is catching up with me, it must be close to 90 degrees and a healthy amount of humidity just for good measure. The double cheeseburgers are now like an anchor in my stomach and I am sweating out all of my pee, come on back performance anxiety for a second show. I am thinking by the time I get there, the fluids will have left my body anyway, so I had lunch for no reason.
I get to the place where the radio station used to be, it is now a Rite Aid. For a brief moment I reflect on all of the good times we had in that building. As bad as it was, and as old as the equipment was we used back then, and trust me the stuff we use now is light years beyond the stuff we used just ten years ago, there is something about doing almost seat of the pants radio with outdated equipment that was better than what I do now. Not complaining about my current lot in life, far from it, but I think a radio geek would understand what I am talking about.
I make the right and start on a 3/4 mile downhill walk to the testing site, and the first thing that comes to mind is I am going to die here. 4 lanes of traffic, two each way and no sidewalks, and I wonder if Wal Mart will break out the prayer mats facing me when they interview for their next cashier.
I make it there without being hit by a car, though I managed to acquire a sunburn on my face and arms and my shirt is now like a towel, but I made it nonetheless. Some brief paperwork and I am handed a cup and told to pee to a certain line marked on it and then if I still have to pee, to use the toilet for the rest. Hell, if there was snow, I could have written the Gettysburg Address. I at least could have filled the glasses for a table of four, though I doubt the diners would have appreciated the choice of beverage all that much, but anxiety was uncalled for.
Of course, that also meant I now an a 3/4 mile walk back uphill, and going back to the bus stop again, past the stereo bowling alleys and back to Wal Mart. I managed to get to as far as Rite Aid before I stopped for water. That is what I get for writing the Gettysburg Address I guess. So I grab a couple of bottles of water and about 15 - 20 minutes later I am back at the bus stop. All good, it's looking like I will be able to catch an earlier bus than the previous day when I had the interview, but lo and behold, when my bus arrives, it pulls over, as apparently it had been overheating. The thing is, it is now evening rush hour, so the availability of back up buses is problematic at best, and even to get another driver would require calling someone in having them get to the garage and then drive the bus from the garage to where we were, a project that would take longer than just waiting for the next bus. Thankfully, the driver got the bus semi functional again after about 15 minutes, so off we were, my day seemed to be at an end, except the bus broke down again about half way from where I boarded it and my changeover point. I think I finally got home about 40 minutes behind schedule, but barring something unbeknowst to me showing up in my urine, I have a new job., I just have to wait to find out when I start.
Okay, story is over, you can all go back to work now.

Monday, July 7, 2008

It was in the New York Times, so it must be true

We are soooo hip, lol!!!

July 6, 2008

36 Hours in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH has undergone a striking renaissance from a down-and-out smokestack to a gleaming cultural oasis. But old stereotypes die hard, and Pittsburgh probably doesn’t make many people’s short list for a cosmopolitan getaway. Too bad, because this city of 89 distinct neighborhoods is a cool and — dare I say, hip—city. There are great restaurants, excellent shopping, breakthrough galleries and prestigious museums. The convergence of three rivers and surrounding green hills also make it a surprisingly pretty urban setting. And if the Pirates are in town, head over to PNC Park. Besides the game, the ballpark offers a great excuse to explore downtown Pittsburgh and the river views.

Friday

4 p.m.
1) GRIDIRON AND STEEL

Get to know what makes the city tick at the Senator John Heinz History Center (1212 Smallman Street; 412-454-6000; www.pghhistory.org), which chronicles the city’s past and present glories from United States Steel to the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is actually a two-fer: the main museum is devoted to everything from the Heinz food empire to the polyglot population. The upper two floors are occupied by the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, which pays homage to the region’s rich sports heritage. It’s hard to miss the seven-story brick warehouse building; look for the giant photograph of the Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris.

7 p.m.
2) WATERFALL DINING

The martini menu almost changes as often at the seasonal specials at Soba (5847 Ellsworth Avenue; 412-362-5656; www.bigburrito.com/soba), a pan-Asian restaurant with a Victorian exterior and a Zen-like interior that features a two-story wall of cascading water. The menu includes a rock-shrimp tempura lettuce wrap ($11) and pan-roasted Alaskan halibut ($30). The wine list is extensive, as is the variety of over 20 sakes. The vibe is upscale and trendy, but not in an overbearing way. If you arrive early, grab a special martini, perhaps made with ginger-infused vodka, on the rooftop deck.

10 p.m.
3) BRILLO PAD

Brillobox (4104 Penn Avenue; 412-621-4900; www.brillobox.net) feels like an arty East Village bar — little wonder, considering the 30-something artist couple who own it are former New Yorkers. They came back home to Pittsburgh, they said, to contribute to the city’s growing arts scene. Art film screenings, spoken-word performances and live music are held upstairs in a room decked out in velvet wallpaper and murals. Or just hang loose in the downstairs bar with its atmospheric red lights and an eclectic jukebox that has Goldfrapp, Patsy Cline and Snoop Dogg.

Saturday

10:30 a.m.
4) NOSH ’N STROLL

By night, the formerly industrial Strip District is filled with partygoers bouncing between bars and clubs. But on Saturday mornings, the parallel thoroughfares of Penn Avenue and Smallman Street (roughly between 16th and 26th Streets) are turned into a sprawling outdoor market with international food kiosks that serve Middle Eastern kebabs, Italian sausages and Greek baklava. Shop for produce, clothing and vintage knickknacks as accordionists and mariachi bands provide a festive soundtrack. Take a breather with a cup of coffee and a mele, a fruit-filled pastry, at La Prima Espresso Company (205 21st Street; 412-565-7070), where the old men sitting at the outdoor tables look like they’ve been sipping espresso and playing cards for eternity.

1 p.m.
5) NO BEDS HERE

You can probably find the Andy Warhol Museum (117 Sandusky Street; 412-237-8300; www.warhol.org) on your own. For more radical contemporary art, beat a new path in the Mexican War Streets neighborhood to the Mattress Factory (500 Sampsonia Way; 412-231-3169; www.mattress.org; admission $10). Housed in a former mattress factory, the museum is dedicated to room-size art installations. Current exhibitions include “Instant Before Incident,” a riveting sculpture by the Italian artist Luca Buvoli that depicts a vintage Fiat in stop-action motion, as it seems to hurl out the window.

3 p.m.
6) HARD TO FIND ITEMS

Some of the city’s funkiest shopping can be found in the 16:62 Design Zone, which spans the Strip District and Lawrenceville. It has more than 100 locally owned shops that focus on design, home d├ęcor, contemporary art, clothing and architecture. Among the more interesting is the nonprofit Society for Contemporary Craft (2100 Smallman Street; 412-261-7003; www.contemporarycraft.org), a gallery and store that showcases handmade crafts like shiny metal handbags ($300 to $500) and recycled steel cabinets (from $3,500).

6 p.m.
7) GRAB THE CAMERA

The best views of Pittsburgh are from Mount Washington, and the best way to get there — or at least the most fun — is up the Duquesne Incline (1220 Grandview Avenue; 412-381-1665; www.incline.cc; $4 round trip). One of two surviving hillside cable cars from the 1870s, it takes three minutes to climb 800 feet to Grandview Avenue. There’s a neat little history museum that has old newspaper clippings, but the real spectacle is the view of downtown Pittsburgh, where the Allegheny and Monongahela meet to form the Ohio River.

7:30 p.m.
8) CITY UNDER GLASS

While you’re up there, Grandview Avenue is also home to a cliff-hugging restaurant row. For amazing seafood to go with the river views, make reservations for the Monterey Bay Fish Grotto (1411 Grandview Avenue; 412-481-4414; www.montereybayfishgrotto.com). This tri-level restaurant sits atop a 10-story apartment building. Jackets aren’t required, but nice clothes are apropos. Fresh fish is flown in daily, and the menu reflects whatever is fresh. On a recent visit, the specials included a charcoal-grilled Atlantic salmon with fresh peppered strawberries in a red-wine sauce ($26).

9 p.m.
9) OFF DOWNTOWN THEATER

Generally regarded as Pittsburgh’s most innovative theater company, the City Theatre (1300 Bingham Street; 412-431-2489; www.citytheatrecompany.org) does challenging plays that aren’t likely to be staged in the downtown cultural district. The theater, in a pair of former churches, has both a 272-seat mainstage and a 110-seat house. A production of “The Wonder Bread Years,” a comedy written by the former “Seinfeld” writer Pat Hazell, starts on July 10 ($35 and $40). Recent productions have included works by Adam Rapp, Christopher Durang and Jeffrey Hatcher.

11 p.m.
10) PUB MARATHON

Venture over to East Carson Street, by some counts the country’s longest continuous stretch of bars. It’s all there, from shot-and-beer joints to trendy night spots. Dee’s Cafe (1314 East Carson Street; 412-431-1314; www.deescafe.com) is a comfortable dive jammed on weekends with a mix of grizzled locals, bohemians and college students. Grab an Iron City beer and perhaps a game of pool ($6 an hour).

Sunday

11 a.m.
11) BRUNCH AND BRIC-A-BRAC

One of city’s more unusual brunch spots is the Zenith (86 South 26th Street; 412-481-4833; www.zenithpgh.com), a combination art gallery, vintage clothing store, antiques shop and vegetarian restaurant. For those who can’t stomach tofu, brunch ($10) includes traditional staples like eggs, pancakes and French toast. It gets busy, so get there before it opens at 11 a.m. to avoid the line.

12:30 p.m.
12) THE OTHER OAKLAND

The Oakland district teems with intellectual energy from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and a bunch of museums. Start out at the Nationality Rooms at the Cathedral of Learning (4200 Fifth Avenue; 412-624-6000; www.pitt.edu/~natrooms), a 42-story Gothic-style tower on the Pittsburgh campus with 27 classrooms, each devoted to a different nationality. Then head over to the renowned Carnegie Museum of Art (412-622-3131; www.cmoa.org) and Carnegie Natural History Museum (www.carnegiemnh.org), both at 4400 Forbes Avenue, for Degas and dinosaurs. Before leaving, pick up a handy walking tour of Oakland and its public art. Not mentioned in the booklet but worth seeking out: the brick wall on Roberto Clemente Drive that was part of the outfield wall of the Pirates’ long-ago home, Forbes Field.

THE BASICS

Delta and JetBlue have nonstop flights from Kennedy Airport in New York to Pittsburgh for about $238, according to a recent online search; American Airlines and US Airways fly nonstop from La Guardia.

The Parador Inn of Pittsburgh (939 Western Avenue; 412-231-4800; www.theparadorinn.com) is a Caribbean-themed bed-and-breakfast in an 1870s mansion on the city’s North Side. All rooms are $150 a night.

Also on the North Side is the Priory Hotel (614 Pressley Street; 412-231-3338; www.thepriory.com), a European-style boutique hotel in a restored 19th-century Benedictine rectory. Doubles start at $145.

For more upscale lodging, try the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel (107 6th Street, 412-562-1200; www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/pitbr-renaissance-pittsburgh-hotel), a 300-room downtown hotel in a historic landmark. Rooms start at about $180 a night.

BFT v 8.0 - Faux outrage

Oh yes kids, it's back and with a vengeance I tell you. Leave it to the 11 o'clock news this evening to bring forth tonight's topic du jour. As the news was flowing by on the TV screen, up popped a story of another shooting, two people dead in a van, one shot in the neck, the other in the head, one person in custody and the police are looking for at least one other person who remains at large.

The reason for this particular shooting remains to be determined, though of note the shots fired came from inside the van, which would lead one to believe that the victims probably new the shooter or shooters, given they were all in the same vehicle to begin with.

Of note is that the shooting took place in what can best be described as a less than friendly neighborhood. I think those of us that live in larger communities know what I am talking about, areas that are better left untrespassed through unless it is utterly needed. It is the very bare bones essence of street sense in that regard. What got me about the story was once again the community was "shocked and outraged' at the needless violence. Of course we had the requisite city councilman spouting  the typical nonsense. It has become sort of the package story for what takes place in some neighborhoods, usually jammed somewhere in the news between weather and sports, unless it just happened, then we will have some breathless reporter live on the scene. In the end though it is all the same, sound and fury signifying nothing.

The community is shocked and outraged..........for about ten minutes, then life goes on as usual. The community doesn't do anything to change this pattern, community watches aren't set up, people that may have seen something clam up because they don't want to be labeled as a "snitch", and funerals become nothing more than dots on the social calendar ("Hey, didn't I see you last at Jimmy's funeral?" "Yeah, that was a pretty service, wasn't it?" "We should get together sometime."). It is the Seen column for the less fortunate set.

Spare me the self serving platitudes about how something needs to be done to make the neighborhood safer and actually do something about it. Even the best of police forces are working with at least one hand tied behind their back when the community turns into a cone of silence the minute the police arrive. So the choices are really simple, either aid those that would see the violence be removed from the street, or just shut the fuck up because your combination of moral outrage and lack of cooperation rings quite hollow here.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

One day forward, two days back

Greetings all and happy 4th of July weekend that has pretty much ended now, leaving us to once again go back to our dull and dreary lives. Then again, my life is always dull and dreary, so nothing new and exciting there.

As quickly as I update a blog, it needs updating again. I added a book to the Neverending thread just yesterday, but I polished it off this evening, so I will have to make adjustments to that particular thread in due time. For now I am reading "Behind Hitler's Lines", which is the story of the only person to fight for both the United States and the Soviet Union during World War II. I figure I have sugar coated my brain with enough fiction for the time being, so a little faction seemed to be in order. It is just a little quirk of mine, that I try to read both, without overdosing on either.

I guess my job interview is tomorrow. I would say wish me luck, but I am still undecided if it is a gig I want or not. I certainly could use the work, but while I was out Saturday, I saw a bunch of places that are looking for help. Mind you, I was hardly dressed to be doing applications, being in T shirt and shorts, so I just filed the stuff away mentally as places to check out on Tuesday, if things go all kind of sucky Monday. Hell, even if they don't, I would rather be in a position of picking where I want to work than being stuck with whatever job happens my way. I have to admit that this is probably the longest I can remember not working two jobs, I don't know if I like it all that much. It has forced me to do such things as cook for myself and to quit wasting money on some of my favorite things, like gallon jugs of iced tea. Instead I have been brewing my own, which I like better, but I am also very lazy in the whole cooking regard. Tonight I am feasting on the ever popular hamburger helper. Of course, since I am single, I get to eat it right out of the skillet, but that is small consolation for one such as I.

Other than buying some used paperbacks on Saturday and an iced coffee, I have kept my splurges to myself to just my cigarettes, so I have been behaving myself finacially if nothing else.

I have been having Multiply problems recently, I hope they are isolated to just me, I haven't heard any complaints from anyone else yet, so I assume they are. Nothing major mind you, I just haven't been getting updates on everyone's blogs as much as I'd like. I first noticed the problem with Lee's blog, but it has since expanded to a few others. Usually I can fix the problem with a refresh or three, but it is a minor inconvenience.

I know I will not be the first to say it, but Wimbledon seriously kicked ass. I had taken to making a joke out of it on the radio show, once all of the hot chicks had been removed from the women's draw and Serena and Venus Williams were still around in the semi finals, I took to giving updates on the air as the matches progressed and chanting "USA, USA" whenever one of them was ahead. Mind you, men's tennis in the States sucks something fierce, so I take my small victories where I can get them. That being said, both finals were awesome, though I didn't get to see much of the women's final Saturday morning. I found myself rooting for Nadal in the men's final, just because I was tired of seeing Roger Federer win it year after year. When Nadal went up two sets to none, I all but thought it was in the bag, then the rain came in the third set, then he lost the third set tiebreaker. I was nervous, but still confident, until he blew a 5-2 lead in the fourth set tie breaker, eventually losing it 10-8 to leave it tied at two sets a piece. At that point, I all but figured he would lose, but the rain came again, with the match tied in the third set. I was wondering if it ever would end. It did, after almost 5 hours of tennis and two rain delays with Nadal winning the 5th set 9-7. In all of my years watching tennis, that may have been the single best match I have ever saw. Mind you I am not a "Let's go to the bar and watch some tennis" kind of guy, but I do watch the occasional match or three, time and TV permitting.

I added some more caps to my soda cap collection. I could get up to 4 more songs from Pepsi, but I am not sure what I want just yet, and I still have a freebie from Coke I haven't cashed in. I may do that in the near future, as Coke runs their music through Rhapsody, and within the last week, Rhapsody announced all of their music would be available as MP3, whereas previously much of it was protected music that could only be played on Rhapsody, or burnt to CD, but it was not MP3 compatible. Mind you, the protected music thing was pretty easy to get around, but in was just an inane step to take in order to add it to my Coke Rewards music list.

I would like to say that I did something exciting for the 4th, but I really didn't, I just stayed in. It was just less of a hassle than going out and about. I have taken in the fireworks downtown in past years, they are okay, but usually they end after about 15-20 minutes and all of a sudden you are amongst a few hundred thousand people trying to get out and it becomes a traffic nightmare. It would probably be quicker for me to walk home on such occasions, but the walk would take me through Uptown, a not so friendly neighborhood, and I would prefer not to put life and limb in harms way, or be packed like a sardine into a city bus for a few fireworks. That being said, my neighborhood was full of jackasses who thought that by buying a Roman Candle they were somehow the next Zambelli. I secretly wished for a pryotechical disaster that would involve them and burning flesh, if for no other reason than to lower the decibel level in my neighborhood a few notches.

Well, I better call this a wrap, in all its disjointed glory. I need to get some sleep and given how muggy it is outside, that is going to be a project in and of itself.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The night time isn't the right time

Welcome to Day #5 of the overnight shift.  This is the last overnight shift I have at the radio station this week and I have to admit it couldn't have come soon enough, it has been a very long week.

As I type this particular entry I am sitting in the production studio, not with a lack of things to say, but wondering where exactly to begin, and once beginning, wondering if I will in fact stop.  I have my launchcast station fired up and playing while I type, with headphones on, running the audio across the production board.  Some of you may remember that this is one of the ways I can steal music, I play it on one computer in this room, and have a second computer record the audio from the first one, then I go back and edit the recorded audio and save it as an mp3 and after a number of saved mp3s I burn them all to a cd.  I am not doing that tonight, rather I am just listening and moving some more music either into or out of rotation.  If something good pops up I may mention it, like the current song, "She Sells Sanctuary" by The Cult, but for now, we have far bigger fish to fry.

For instance, we have an Asshat, and again it was a week where there was plenty of competition.  Certainly the Supreme Court was an early favorite with their letting a convicted murderer walk.  A late charge was made locally when an off duty police officer was out drinking and took it upon himself to pistol whip an innocent bystander.  Not content with just that, during the course of the pistol whipping, his gun managed to go off, shooting the now beaten man in the hand.  But I have been trying to have a light hearted week, where my Asshat should have some humor involved.

Another local entry popped up when Pittsburgh tried to resink the Titanic.  The Carnegie Science Center is currently doing an exhibit of artifacts from the Titanic, so leave it to my fair city to break a water main and flood the exhibit, trying to once again send the Titanic goodies back to Davy Jones's locker.  Funny as this is, it too is not the Asshat winner.

Enter Tyson Gay.  No, he is not the Asshat, rather he is one of the people trying to qualify for the United States Track and Field team going to Bejing.  Nonetheless, he is part of our story.  Last weekend trials for the track and field team were being held, and like all sporting events of some magnitude, they were covered by some press.  Not Super Bowl heavy coverage mind you, but some reporters were there in case anything of note happened, say a World or United States record were to be set, or something along those lines, or if some of the members of the Olympic team were named.  What usually happens on such occasions is that those media outlets that wish to report on the news but don't have the personnel to cover it, they will instead carry the story of those that are there.  I am sure you have seen this many times in your local paper, rather than a reporter from the paper covering a story, it will instead be attributed to somone else, either another paper, or a news service. 

At this point of the story we introduce you to this week's Asshat winner, One News Now.  ONN is a Christian news organization, you can go to their page and pick up some news stories if you so wish, but they will sometimes franchise out the reporting to other sources, such as the case with the track and field event.  The thing is, because they are a Christian outlet, they will filter their news, that is, they will not post things they deem offensive.  I am sure you have all come across these filters in your internet browsing, if you type a swear word, it comes back as a jumbled mess.  The thing is sometimes these filters can't tell one thing from another.  So, here we have a filtered Christian news site, and one of the things they happen to filter was the word gay, as they believed it to be to a positive  word reflecting a lifestyle they don't approve of.  So ONN received permission from the Associated Press to reprint their coverage of the track and field event, but then the filter got in the way.  Tyson Gay, track and field competitor, became Tyson Homosexual.  ONN ran the AP stories of the event and every time Tyson's last name came up, the filter replaced it with Homosexual, including one headline that read "Homosexual Races Into 100 Meter Semifinal".  And of course, because this is the Asshat award, nobody at ONN caught this before the posting the stories on their webpage.  So kudos to One News Now, this week's Asshat award winner.

I guess I should mention that the free agency period for hockey has started and the results for the Penguins have been a mixed bag.  The team has lost a few guys, including Adam Hall, Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Ty Conklin, Jarko Ruutu, Georges Laraque and most importantly Marian Hossa,  That being said, they have also locked up some of their pending free agents to long term deals including Evgeni Malkin (6 years), Brooks Orpik (5 years), Marc Andre Fluery (7 years) and have made some moves by signing Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedetenko to one year deals and are rumored to still be in the running to sign Jaromir Jagr, so all in all, I would consider it to be pretty much a wash at this point. 

As for the local baseball club, at least they are still losing.  Currently their record is 40-44, but they are a solid 10 games out of first place.  Mind you, because they have stunk for so long, the local media is treating being 4 games under .500 as though they are a pennant contender.  Meanwhile the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who were long ago adopted as my favorite AL team are now leading the American League East by 3 full games after sweeping the Red Sox.  For those Pirate fans that read this blog (there might be one out there somewhere), here is something to think about, the last time the Pirates had a winning record, the Devil Rays didn't even exist.  In that span of time, they have built an entire franchise, from farm system all the way up to the major league level and put a competitive product on the field, while the Pirates have done nothing but lose.

Okay, onto the week that was.  As I mentioned, I have been doing overnights at the radio station.  Mostly I have been doing this because the person I usually ride in with in the morning is taking a week's vacation.  That left me with a few options, I could do overnight shifts, thereby guaranteeing I would be at work on time, and grab cat naps on the couch at the radio station overnight as needed, I could take a cab to work (city buses don't run as early as I have to be here at 5am), but a cab ride is $12-$13 and working only one job, I can ill afford to be wasting money on such luxuries.  My last option would be to either walk/ride my bike.  Mind you, I have walked it before, it is not an impossibility, but it takes 2 hrs (less if I ride my bike obviously) but the last 15-20 minutes of that trip are all uphill, so of all of the options, I went with doing overnights, starting with Sunday, which was by far the longest, with me getting in the studio at 10:45am and not leaving until 12:30pm on Monday. 

(Excuse me while I have a bite or three of my cookies and creme parfait.  I just ate the cherry, which is as close as I will probably ever get to one of those, but I digress.)  Anyway, we have some people that work here that are professional, and then we have some that work here that are just occupying time and space.  So when I came in Sunday morning I was informed that my station (WPTT) had aired infomercials that morning with the wrong tags on them, calling the station by our sister AM stations call letters (WJAS) and of course telling me about it 4 hours after they aired means that nothing was done about it when something could have been done, say 4 hours earlier when the problem occurred. 

Damn this parfait is good, crumbled oreo cookie, chocolate cake, whipped creme and chocolate syrup, especially with a nice coffee to wash it all down. 

Also of note when I got in Sunday morning was the fact that the kitchen ceiling was leaking again.  One of our air conditioner ducts runs through the ceiling there and water was building up in the ceiling tile causing it to bow and water to drip through to the floor and into a garbage can that was catching the leak.  Of course it never occurred to anyone to call our maintainance guy to fix it, because stuff like that makes sense.  As it turns out, he was coming in anyway because apparently the previous evening the power went out and the generator that does simple things like, I don't know, keep all three radio stations on the air, failed to kick on right away, resulting in us being off the air for a few minutes.  When the generator did kick back on, the resulting reboot of the computer system caused a problem with carts transferring from the FM production room into the air studios.  No one bothered to mention this to the engineer till the following day when I came in and told him about it.  He was away from his computer (he can remotely reset the system via laptop without being onsite) so he said he would call when he reset the production room computer.  He finally called early that evening, but his resetting the computer, while solving the problem in production, actually transferred the problem to the FM on air studio, which now wasn't receiving the carts from production.  Of course we didn't know this until the system went to play a cart that was supposed to have updated but didn't, so another call into the engineer and he resets the FM on air studio and again the problem transfers back to the FM production studio.  He eventually decided to take the entire sytem down, by now we are at 12am Monday morning and the actual power outage that started this distaster happened at 6pm Saturday evening, and all of a sudden we are making the postal service look speedy by comparison.  The problem with taking the system down is that while two of the stations would be running off of a satellite feed and wouldn't  be harmed programming wise, the third station (our sister AM) was playing music that was recorded into the computer, so in order to take it down, I had to get the emergency music cd running so we didn't have dead air.  Of course I asked the FM overnight guy where the cd was, but he was of no help, having spent the afternoon drinking, he was more than content to just sleep than to be of service.  One time he said not to worry about it, as though a radio station not actually airing programming is a good thing, the second time I asked him for it, he just mumbled something and went back to his drunken passed out stupor.  Finally I did find it, in of all places, inside the cd player.  An entire systemwide reboot later, and a problem that should have taken maybe 20 minutes to fix had it been handled properly Saturday night, instead took 31 hours to fix.  And that was just my first overnight.  Thankfully the entire week hasn't been that bad, it hasn't been great, but at least not that bad.

I should mention that I do have a job interview Monday.  Not sure if I want the gig or not.  On the bad side it is Wal Mart, and it is a decent haul from my apartment, probably two city buses and I am not sure I want to put that much effort in just getting to a job I know won't pay all that well.  On the good side, I am being interviewed to work in the toy department, and trust me, I can rock the toys.  Plus I would get the store discount,and while I don't do a large amount of shopping at Wal Mart, saving money on the things that I do get there from time to time is always a plus.

Well I better put this under wraps, maybe later I will blog about some more of the overnights, but for now this page is more than long enough.  Enjoy your 4th of July!!!!

 

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