Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye 2008

The final hours are clicking down here in the Eastern Time Zone on 2008 and like many people before me have said, a good riddance to it. Far too many bad things and not nearly enough good things littered this past year. Between the Pens getting bounced in the Stanley Cup Final, to many of my friends losing their jobs and some very nearly lost their homes, and capping it all off with my dismissal from my job of over 12 years, I am ready to just wrap this year up already.

I had the chance to end the unemployment thing today, the newsstand did call back, but I refuse to call them until the calendar year has ended. It will keep for one more day and I don't want to burden a new job with the curse that is 2008. It all goes to the mojo thing, and what better way to wipe the bad mojo slate clean than with the start of a brand new calendar year. I already have some more radio job prospects and have sent resumes out to a couple more stations with openings or potential openings, and there is a radio jobs career fair coming up the first week of January, so hope bounds eternal.

As if the cuts I mentioned by my previous employer weren't bad enough, apparently they have now blown out the gardening show on Sundays and informed the host of the wildlife show, Scott Shalloway, that they will no longer be paying him, but apparently they gave him the option of continuing on by buying time and making the money back in advertisements. I don't know if he will continue or not, he and I weren't close enough that I would pass radio gossip back and forth with him, but I know when I did his show on Sundays he had a few sponsors so he might be able to make a go of it if he wishes.

Funny thing is, as I am sitting at home today the phone rings and it is the radio station. Greg, who I imagine had most of my work thrown on him, was calling with a question about one of the shows I had to download and put in the system every weekend. The temptation to not return the call was great, but it wasn't Greg's fault things happened they way they did. In truth, there are some real radio professionals working there that I truly admire, and I don't blame them for what has happened. It is just the nature of the business I opted to want to pursue a career in. So I returned the call and hopefully it will help Greg out a little bit. Likewise, while I mentioned that I got the call from the newsstand people today, one of the things I forgot to mention is that they called my former boss, Ron , the program director of the radio station, and he gave me a rave review, so good in fact that when Dee called about me working there she said it was the best reference she ever got off of anybody.

I have a hockey game on Yahoo right now, San Jose is at Minnesota. They had the Pens game on last night, and because they were carrying the Boston feed from NESN, it wasn't blacked out here in Pittsburgh. Either that or they were asleep at the switch again. whatever the case, I would have been better off not watching it, as the Pens lost 5-2.

I banged out the Pogo badges today, they were easy and for my personal I redid a badge that I had already won. I normally don't do that, but since I have been playing Dice City Roller a lot recently, I just redid a challenge form there to get the bonus New Year's badge. Plus by finishing the two badges offered today, I completed the 2008 badge album, meaning I now have three completed years on Pogo, and I am probably withing 12 or so on the remaining ones.

I put in a call to Verizon technical support this evening. Well, not really a call, I did an online chat with them about an issue that has been plaguing my computer for quite some time. Seems that whenever I would play audio or video, the CPU usage would ramp up on my system and the video or audio would speed up. I haven't had the time to deal with it until now, so I webbed them up to see if the problem was something with my system or if it had to do with the signal coming in. While it didn't seem to be a Verizon problem, the techie guy still asked if he could take a look at my system to possibly find the trouble. I turned over the computer to remote assistance, he went dabbling here and there and everywhere and it works much better now. Not perfect mind you, but a lot better than it did. What was also cool about it was that since we did it in chat, there was no accents to try to figure out on either of our parts, and rather than hoping I would open the right file or what not, he was able to just take control of my computer (I still had primary control and could have ended it at any time) and do the necessary things that would have been a pain to explain on a phone call. It's not often I get to say good things about customer service, or pass along a reccomendation, but the Verizon Help Chat is on that very short list of things I would give a thumbs up to.

Okay, tomorrow could be a big day for me on the employment front, so I am off to bed, since last night I was up till about 6am, this morning. Yikes indeed.

But before I go, we need to close out a sucky 2008 in a sucky fashion. Any ideas? Nevermind, I got it. Seacrest out.

The only way a science fiction movie will ever win an Oscar

We all know what time of year it is, when the Hollywood crowd gets together to pat each other on the back for a job well done, because they have created a vast assortment of movies for which few people really want to see.  There will be no Dark Knight or Iron Man here, this is for the snob set to tell the masses who went to those movies mentioned, that they just don't have good enough taste in film.  Rather if they want one of their movies to win an Oscar, they should make them more like this.....



Will I shut up already?


Greetings from the unpacking zone. I made it back to Pittsburgh and am in the process of multitasking, watching the Sunday Night Football game, unpacking, blogging and occassionally eating as well. Sorry I wasn't around to do all of the seasonal greetings that I should have done Christmas Eve, but my mom's computer is all kind of sucky, taking as long as 5 minutes to bring up a single page, despite the fact they have DSL service. I tried tinkering with it to see if I could figure out what was actually wrong, it seems like either a modem or cable issue, it could be they need a new modem, it could be they need new cables, as they have one of them spliced underneath the computer and I have no idea if that cable is even making proper contact at this point, it could be they just need to resync their modem with Verizon, or it could be that they have everything in one power strip, a bunch of plugs for the computer as well as a phone line and two outgoing lines, one for the computer and one for the satellite TV. It is a proverbial clusterfuck. Worse was Mike, my mom's husband, wanted to take everything off of the computer and reload everything. Talk about a nuclear option, that would be my absolute last resort, after all, if it is a modem problem of some sort, then all you risk is messing things up more than they need to be.



So since I am on a slightly more productive computer, a little about what has happened since my last posting, many many moons ago. Okay so not so many moons ago, but given the rate of speed with which things were happening, it does still feel like it. When last we left, Richard Kimball was still The Fugitive and I was gearing up for an interview downtown. All I can say is that the person who interviewed me was not too hard on the eyes, so if the worst that happened was I was trapped in a room with an attractive female for a little while, well I can live with that. Actually I thought the interview went well, and my new found flkexibility in scheduling definitely helped, but being out of town for a few days may not have. The dillio was simple, Dee, who interviewed me, still wanted to talk to her brother in law about hiring me, but he was going to be on vacation till Jan 7th, while the two new newsstands they are opening are set to open on the 5th, so they need to staff them, but they also would like his approval before hiring anyone. I gave them my mom's phone number if they wanted to contact me while I was out of town, but they didn't call. Mind you, they may still call, there is still at least a week before anything opens, though I imagine they would like me to have a day or two of training, then again, after my last job experience, maybe not. If I don't hear anything by tomorrow, I will call and see what is what.

I did receive my two day paycheck from the Original Hot Dog Shop, so I have some cash on hand should I need it, and I imagine my severance check from the radio station should show up either late this week or early next. And I did receive my unemployment claim handbook from the state, so absolute worst case scenario my benefits from them should begin shortly, something to tide me over while I seek gainful employment. I really am mixed about it though, I have never filed a claim before, and I am not sure I really want it to be honest, the whole pride thing and all that, but by the same token I have been paying into the system in one job or another for 23 years now, and technically it is there just for this purpose, so I probably should make use of it.

I am getting ahead of myself however, either that or I am throwing chronological order out the window in favor of some other retelling of events that would make no sense whatsoever, so back to Tuesday post interview we go.

After the job interview, I did a little more Christmas shopping downtown. It is probably my favorite place to shop, just being able to get caught up in the city bustle and actually being forced to walk from store to store as opposed to being trapped in some suburban mall . If you are going to Christrmas shop, you have to be willing to brave the elements, though Tuesday was a tad bit warmer han it had been, so it wasn't all that bad. Plus I was just looking for a few last minute items, so I had an idea of where I wanted to go, just not what I wanted to get. A quick duck into Burlington Coat Factory deprived me of about $50, but it was well worth it, I came out with a set of serving bowls, an appetizer tray, an electric window scraper and a web camera. I almost went for the set of Christmas dishes that were marked down to $15, but I hate buying dishes that only get used one time a year, just seems like a waste of cupboard space to me, so I passed on them and set about getting back to the apartment and preparing for when my family would come that night to pick me up and take me home for the holidays. It is a good thing I said Tuesday night, because I still had bundles to do. I managed to toss out about two full bags of trash, get the majority of my dishes washed and gather up laundry to do when I got home, about three loads. Trust me, I could have brought more home to wash, but I didn't want the holiday to be nothing but doing chores, so three loads of clothes seemed to be a good cutting off point.

My mom's husband arrived about 10:30 pm and we loaded up the truck with the gifts I had bought as well as my laundry and other stuff I would need for the holiday, like my camera and cool stuff like that and off we were. It started raining a little on the way home, something that wouldn't have seemed possible a few days earlier with the sub zero wind chills, but it was getting warmer as the week went on (it would actually reach 70 degrees by Saturday), and all was fine until we got about halfway back when we realized that the rain was hitting the road, which was still colder than the air temp, so it was freezing on the ruads, which meant we had to slow down a bit, but we still arrived in one piece.

Sorry, stepped away from the computer for a bit, had some errands to run, fetch my mail, and order some din din. Found a new place on, and if the grub pans out, I may order from them more frequently. 10 whole wings, fries, cole slaw, slice of german chocolate cake and a 2 liter of pepsi for 13.38. Hopefully it will be money well spent.

Anyway back to our story. So I make it back home Tuesday night and unload all of my stuff form the truck, which basically meant I ice skated into the house, as the porch and the driveway were also frozen, but I managed to not fall on my ass which is a good thing. I am pretty good at not falling on my ass, mind you I might slip and slide and do some horrid herky jerky white boy dance moves to keep from falling, but I take pride in the fact that I rarely end up on my ass.

Rather than make anything, we just ran out and got a pizza for dinner, given how late it was when I got home, that just made things simpler. Plus it was Papa Johns, probably my favorite of the chain pizza places, with Dominos a distant second, then Vocelli, Fox's and Pizza Hut bringing up the rear.

With my belly full, I watched a little TV, they now have satellite TV to which I have found if I ever get it, I may never get off of my ass again, there was always something I could watch someplace out there. Of course I had to suffer through some rather bad TV choices during my stay, like that god awful Zoom, a stupid Dosney movie for which I felt dumber after having watched it, and some schmaltzy holiday stuff on the Hallmark channel, but when I had the remote, I was watching stuff I hadn't seen in ages or always wanted to see, so it was good in that regard.

So after late night munchies and some TV watching, I headed off to wrap the Christmas Eve gifts for the family gift exchange. I drew my cousin Brandi's name, of course I already told you the big help I got in trying to figure out just what to get her, but never fear, I did come up with something. I did get her a $25 gift card for Aeropostle, but I also snagged a jewelry box and a nail polish kit with 6 diferent polishes, a electric cuticle, nail filing thingy and studs for her finger nails. As luck would have it, it turned out she had my name also, and ended up getting me two gift cards, $25 to Barnes and Noble and $25 to Wal Mart. I never know what to buy for Christmas Eve, because there is an unwritten rule about how much to spend, but by the same token you never want to be that guy that is el cheapo, so the fact she and I ended up spending about the same amount alleviated some fears on my part.

So Christmas Eve I stumble out of bed, had my coffee and bagel for breakfast, tried fixing the computer, with little to no luck, installed some virus software that Mike bought for the computer and got ready to spend time with the family. Mind you this was a more problematic venture than it needed to be for the simple fact that my mom and her husband have some sort of boycott going on. Last year when we did the family get together, they decided they didn't want their names in the drawing for this year. They used some excuse at the time that they were going to be out of town visiting Mike's parents in Arizona, but given Mike drives trucks for WalMart, I can't see them giving him extended time off during their busiest time of the year, so I am betting their was some other inane reasoning involved but that is just the type of stuff I don't want to get involved in, so whatever the petty disagreements may or may not be, I want no part of them. The problem arises though, that since I am a city guy by nature and haven't had a car in ages, due to the damage that comes with street parking in Pittsburgh public transit comes much cheaper than the costs involved with numerous insurance claims. That being said, it does leave me at the mercy of others when I go home, a position I don't like being in all that much. So while my mom and Mike weren't doing the Christmas Eve thing, I was still relying on them for a ride to it. Mind you, they were going to do some visiting with other members of the family that live nearby, so they would have been in the area anyway but it meant they dictated when I came and went, which ended up sucking because we were all having a good time just being us, which is probably the best way to describe it, when my ride showed up and I had to leave. We hadn't even drawn names yet for next year, thankfully they tossed my name in in absentia and drew one for me as well. As long as we are doing the Christmas Eve thing I want my name in. The only bright spot to leaving early was that I did get to see my cousin Melanie before we went home for the night. Mel was up from Dallas where she works for Gamespot and the travel arrangemensts she had to make to be home for the holiday required her to be flying out late Christmas morning.

I think we got home around 11pm or so, which was fine, I still had plenty of gifts to wrap and put under the tree. My mom always goes crazy at Christmas, so unlike Christmas Eve where I was worried about how much I should or shouldn't spend, I knew there would be no way I could spend the kind of coin my mom would drop, so I didn't try. And given when I asked what her and Mike wanted I was told nothing, that is just free reign for me to buy whatever I want. Some years I will buy one big gift for them both and just a few smaller items, this year I just bought a bunch of medium sized gifts instead. I managed to get them all wrapped and under the tree by 1am or so, though my wrapping of presents leaves a lot to be desired. My mom asked if I needed bows for any of my packages, yeah, something else for me to fuck up. No thanks, my wrapping is very much unbow-worthy.

Christmas morning was the day of the unwrapping of gifts and the stuffing of faces and even the free coffee at Sheetz, which they do every Christmas and New Years Day, but something tells me the amount of money spent on the season would be greatly diminished if it were called Coffee Day instead of Christmas. Still it is a nice treat for the patrons stopping in for last minute items on Christmas day to be able to grab a coffee on the house as well. Anyway, my mom went about making a big Christmas dinner, turkey stuffing, the whole nine yards, and she asked if turkey was okay, since I had tuna noodle stuff and microwave burritos for Thanksgiving, turkey was quite fine with me. We had to stop back and my grandma's house Christmas day, so we could drop off the stuff we had for her, and she usually gives us all cards with money in them. I could do a checklist with the stuff on my list and tell you what all I got. Let's do that, shall we by journeying into the Wayback Machine, circa Nov 25th, 2008.


My own radio show - no, I didn't even get a nibble on the resumes I sent out before I left for Christmas.

Money - I got $20 from my grandma, so this gets checked off of the list.

Groceries - Mom did pack up some food for me to bring home, but we didn't do a specific trip to the store just to stock my cupboards. That being said we did visit the grocery store on Saturday, as my mom wanted to get a few things for dinner. She was going to make spaghetti and meatballs, though in actuality she used rotini but lets skip the pasta semantics for the time being. As we wandered through the store, I was the ulitmate in used car salesmen. She is pawing through the meat section, looking for ground beef to make meatballs, when I, in my smarmy mode, said, "You know, they have these 3 lb bags of premade meatballs here,buy one get one free. What can I do to get you into these meatballs today? No hassle, and probably cheaper than buying ground beef and making your own. Please join us in the 21st century and embrace the brave new meat world." Needless to say, we bought the premade meatballs. Then I was switching out bagels she bought for cheaper ones. I am just like that when it comes to shopping for food. Had I caught it in time, I could have saved her a dollar on the italian bread, but she grabbed it on our way out of the store and I didn't have time to run to the back of the store and get the cheaper stuff, I guess you can't win them all.

A haircut - No, and I am thinking I will be needing one here in the very near future, so it is off to Supercuts for me.

A quiet breakfast of an bagel with cream cheese, coffee and a copy of the Washington Post - I had coffee and bagels most days for breakfast, though my mom always buys that flavored cream cheese. Since no one else there eats bagels or cream cheese I know she gets them for me, but really, plain cream cheese is just better. It goes back to the fruit in the beverage argument, same rule applies for cream cheese. No WashPo with breakfast, but I did keep my head in Pittsburgh Post Gazette's when possible, so I wasn't without a paper, but if given a choice, the WashPo is just better.

The West Wing on DVD (any season but the first and last, whcih I already have) - No DVDs this year, which is fine, I watch so little TV that they aren't necessary and most of the West Wing episodes are on surfthechannel now, so I can watch them whenever I want.

Pogo stuff (membership, albums or gems) - No Pogo stuff either. I did find enough points to get a second free month off of Coke caps, and I have found another 25 points since making it back to Pittsburgh, so I have a very outside chance of getting a third free month.

A Philly Cheesesteak - No, but we did order hoagies Friday for lunch and I got a steak then, but not a Philly steak, and trust me, there is a vast difference, it is like eating wings and eating Buffalo wings (from say the Anchor Bar) and saying they are the same. They just aren't.

A good set of HD rabbit ears for my TV - I did get new rabbit ears, but I want to move some of my furniture around including my TV which may end up changing their relative effectiveness.

Books (ask for specific authors/titles) - No books, but I have been struggling through my last radio station book, I am about a third of the way done, I just don't find it compelling enough to be one I can't put down. I have put it down and haven't bothered picking it up in better than a week now.

Pants - two pair of jeans and a pair of dress pants

Socks - two packages of socks

Shirts - two dress shirts

Sleep - This wasn't nearly as needed after losing my job as it was when I first added it to my list.

PAT bus pass - No, but I doubt anyone in my family really knows what one of these are, as they are well out of the typical Port Authority bus area.

Miroslav Satan Penguins jersey - No, but given how he has been playing recently, no goals in 6 games, he isn't worthy of having his jersey worn by someone as cool as me.

Bookshelf - Actually got two of these, which is part of the reason I want to move my furniture around. Maybe after I get them put together

A maid - no, and let me tell you, cleaning is not fun.

A pliable female - no and let me tell you, solo sex is not fun.

Gift cards (Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, Giant Eagle) - Well I mentioned two of them already, a $25 B&N card and a $25 WalMart card, my mom also gave me a $100 WalMart card and a $200 Visa gift card, which I wasn't sure if I should call cash or a gift card, but I will call it a gift card for purposes of this list.

Chad Vader DVD - No but again, all of this is available online, and I doubt anyone besides blog readers and internet geeks knows who Chad Vader is anyway.

Hockey tickets - No, but Fred did tell me he gets free tickets from his job from time to time and asked if I would liek to go if he has one that he can't get rid of. If it happens that would be cool, but hockey tickets in Pittsburgh aren't the easiest thing to come by, as most of the games are sold out, so if it happens grreat, if not, that is fine too.

A homemade pie - No homemade pie, but mom did send back with me some slices of store bought stuff, one slice of cheesecake, three slices of chocolate pie and a slice of pumpkin, so no complaints from me.

Better results for my fantasy hockey team - Yeah, like this was going to happen. Another 2-7-1 week and I have a firm grasp on last place now. The only redeeming thing fantasy wise was after winning my first fantasy football playoff game on the second tiebreaker 78-78, I won my semifinal matchup 103-75 to reach the finals and I won that game too, 112-68, due in large part to the fact I had the Philadelphia defense which got me 47 points in the choke job the Dallas Cowboys pulled on Sunday, meaning I am the league champion. Woohoo, I am officially all that and a bag of chips, at least until next year.

Postage stamps - I didn't get stamps either, mind you about the only thing I mail is my rent, so they weren't a priority or anything, but when people ask what I want, don't be surprised to see that the stupid little practical things are as cool if not moreso to me that the big showy gift that will sit on a shelf collecting dust.

That should conclude the list I posted earlier this year. Brief dinner update, the fries were okay, but they were those seasoned fries that I don't like all that much, just not a guy that likes eating breaded or battered stuff all that much, plain potato is fine thank you, the wings were good, I didn't expect whole wings, usually places cut them down, I prefer them whole myself, and they didn't put sauce on the wings, which was good as the hot sauce they sent on the side was very pedestrian, the cole slaw was okay, nothing spectacular but good and the oddest thing was they put two slices of bread in the bottom of the box with the wings and fries. I don't know if this was intentional or not, but the bread did a fine job sucking up the excess grease that comes with fried food, so it actually worked. If it was intentional then I wish more places would do it, if it wasn't, they might have dumb lucked themselves into something there. The cake was okay too, not homemade or anything, but it has been so long since I had German Chocolate cake, so I didn't care, it was good eatin. All told, probably about 2.5 out of 5 stars.



Okay, I am on my third day of working on this blog, how about I just finish it already? I would but life continues to get in the way, today I had to run out and buy some groceries, not a lot, but I needed the New Years Eve fixins and what not and I don't have them on hand, so off to the store I went. I actually did the WalMart thing, so I could use the gift card monies, rather than spending greenbacks. So a few bags of food later I am back here in my apartment hoping that I can get geared up into continuing my ongoing holiday saga.

When last the story left off, it was Christmas Day and other than the normal holiday stuff not much happened. The only thing that happened was me being stupid, and leaving my camera at grandma's house when we went out to visit, which cut down on my picture taking a little, as it is harder to do without a camera on hand.

Friday was pretty uneventful, at least as far as I can remember. Mike called off of work, apparently he wasn't feeling well, my mom and I did the laundry I brought home, other than that it was a quiet day on the home front. That's fine with me, every now and then we all need a day to just gear down and do nothing.

Saturday Mike headed back to worked that morning, mom and I went out to visit my grandma again before I headed back to Pittsburgh on Sunday and to grab my camera that I left behind on Christmas. We then headed to Mouse and Mary's, one of the places I hadn't been yet since getting home and I didn't want to leave the area without stopping by for a visit. When we got there, Bob and Scott were in the driveway working on one of Scott's cars, taking off one set of rims and putting on another, and Bob's dog was running around the yard. When we got out of the car, it was still being hyper so Bob grabbed his dog so it didn't chase after everyone, my mom went inside and I stayed out to talk to Bob and Scott. I held out my hand thinking Bob's dog would calm down a little and instead it mistook my fingers for finger sandwiches and proceeded to gnaw on one. Mind you, I got my finger out of the dog's mouth relatively easily, it didn't clamp down too hard or anything, but is still managed to break skin in about 4 or 5 places. I just jammed my hand in my coat pocket, simply because I am not good at the sight of blood and as long as I couldn't see it, it didn't bother me all that much. It didn't hurt per se, but I knew if I saw blood it would seem worse than it was. We chatted outside while Scott changed all four rims, then headed in, which is when I took my first look at my hand, it looked far worse than it was, but at least it had quit bleeding. Bobby apologized profusely, asking if I needed to go to the hospital and what not and it really wasn't that bad. He was panicking more over it than I was. I just cleaned it up with a little soap and water and was fine, yet Bob, and then Mary, tried to get me to put antesceptic and bandaids on it, I refused, so they gave me a stack of them to take home.

With the Drama of the Bitten Finger out of the way, we sat around for a while an talked. I showed them by blog page, which they hadn't seen yet. Scott showed me some of the stuff he was tinkering with in World of Wacraft, though I think he is tired of the game, as he keeps running into assholes while playing the game. Assholes, on the internet? Surely you jest. He has been playing the game for over three years now, so I imagine just game fatigue may also be setting in.

Anyway, we left and did the shoppng venture that I mentioned in the Christmas list portion of the blog and had dinner. I tried again with no effect to fix the computer, I did get a service ticket number from Verizon, they are supposed to call within the next couple of days to see if they can fix the problem on their end if it is a modem problem. Other than that, the evening passed quietly.

Sunday we packed up the car and I headed back to Pittsburgh. Lots of stuff awaited me in my mailbox, my paycheck from the "O" , my booklet from the Unemployment office, a card from Leslie (thank you again) and a few pieces of junk mail. I started the unpacking detail, attaching my new anteena to the TV, putting food away, putting clothes in the dress and closet, and just being my ever productive self. We stopped on the way back to Pittsburgh for lunch at Kings. I saw they now have eggs on hamburgers as an option, so I ordered one of those, my mom got her usual, turkey sandwich with fries and gravy, and when we went to leave mom was going to leave a small tip, but since she wouldn't let me buy lunch, I threw an additional 5 bucks on the table for our waiter. He wasn't spectacular, but competent enough, and I know how much those jobs suck money wise, so it was money well spent.

Finally we get to stuff more recent, like since I started typing this blog. Monday was when I found out that I won the fantasy football league, which was cool and all, I didn't brag too much to the people I beat, after all, if they start talking smack, I can now just point to the scoreboard. That says it all. Anyway, Monday I cashed my check, and actually got my password from the unemployment office, so I filed my first two week claim online. I was hoping to hear from the newstand people, but no such luck. Not that I am in panic mode yet on the cash front, but it would be nice to be ahead of the game as opposed to behind. Still, with the owner out of town till Jan 7th, it could simply be that he doesn't want to hire anyone while he is away. I can dig that if that is the case. Other than that, Monday was pretty quiet, it is almost like the vacation I had scheduled I am taking anyway, which is good, had I still been at the radio station even while I would technically be off, I would worry about shit not getting done in my absense. Now, that just isn't a concern.

Oh well, I have posted the Christmas pics already, so I will not add them to this entry, rather I think we are done here. Bout damn time too.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Closing the account

No, not this one silly, I have no intention of closing this page down, though some people may have gotten their hopes up after reading the title.  Rather, the Pepsi Stuff giveaway ends tomorrow, and I doubt I will see a huge influx of caps and codes between now and then, I think it is safe to say that we are just about done there.  For those that were unfamiliar with the service, Pepsi put codes on the bottom of all bottle caps (1 point) and inside of their 12 packs (2 points) and 24 packs (4 points) of most of their Pepsi named products (Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Wild Cherry Pepsi, etc.) and through the course of the year I have been gathering them through a variety of means.  Some I have just drank, which I suppose was the easiest way to go about collecting them, some codes and or caps were collected for me by others who knew I was collecting them and sent them along, to which i say thank you for your efforts, but the majority of the caps and codes I collected ere actually because people had thrown them away,  something I never quite understood, but was more than happy to take advantage of. 

Now it is time to tally up the damage.  Over the better part of a year I have collected 556 total points.  Not to bad considering the most a code is worth is 4.  Of those 556 points, I was able to turn them into the following,

1 pair of Sennheiser headphones

1 Amazon Unbox video download  (The 9/11 episode of The West Wing, titled 'Isaac and Ishmael")

2 DVDs

and 48 MP3 song downloads

Chances are I will not be adding to the song list anytime soon, while Coke is continuing their giveaway into 2009 and I can get songs from them, they are a little pricey for my tastes on the points per song cost and they have lots of cooler stuff that I can snag besides just music.  That being said, here is the new song list now that I have blown away all of my Pepsi points



Coke Rewards

Monday, December 29, 2008

Stolen content - Who else would wrap up 2008 around here?

I am working on a real blog, it is only part way done.  That being said, I didn't want to leave the page completely unattended, so stolen content it is.


Slate Magazine
fighting words

Three Questions About Rick Warren's Role in the Inauguration

If we must have an officiating priest, surely we can do better than this vulgar huckster.

By Christopher Hitchens

It is theoretically possible to make an apparently bigoted remark that is also factually true and morally sound. Thus, when the Rev. Bailey Smith, one of the deputies of the late Jerry Falwell, claimed that "God almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew," I was in complete agreement with him. This is because I do not believe that there is any supernatural supervisor who lends an ear to any prayer.

In the same way, if someone publicly charges that "Mormonism is a cult," it is impossible to say that the claim by itself is mistaken or untrue. However, if the speaker says that heaven is a real place but that you will not get there if you are Jewish, or that Mormonism is a cult and a false religion but that other churches and faiths are the genuine article, then you know that the bigot has spoken. That's all in a day's work for the wonderful world of the American evangelical community, and one wishes them all the best of luck in their energetic fundraising and their happy-clappy Sunday "Churchianity" mega-feel-good fiestas. However, do we want these weirdos and creeps officiating in any capacity at the inauguration of the next president of the United States?

It is a fact that Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., was present at a meeting of the Aspen Institute not long ago and was asked by Lynda Resnick—she of the pomegranate-juice dynasty—if a Jew like herself could expect to be admitted to paradise. Warren publicly told her no. What choice did he have? His own theology says that only those who accept Jesus can hope to be saved. I have just missed the chance to debate on CBS with one of Warren's leading allies and defenders, the Dallas preacherman who calls himself Dr. Robert Jeffress. In the opinion of this learned fellow, even though Mitt Romney "talks about Jesus as his lord and savior, he is not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity."

It is also a fact that Rick Warren proclaims as his original mentor a man named Wallie Amos Criswell, who was the inspirational figure in the rightward move of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1960s. Rightward in that time and context meant exactly what you might suspect it did—a cold hostility to any civil rights activism on the part of the churches. Theologically, it also meant the crack-brained idea of "dispensationalist premillennialism," or, in other words, the imminence of planetary death and the corollary joys of the "rapture" that would snatch the true believer into the skies just in time.

In his own " purpose-driven" words, Warren has described the dismal nutbag Criswell as the "greatest American pastor of the 20th century" and has told us of the mystic moment in the 1970s when he himself was granted a laying on of Criswell's hands. (The promise, you may not be startled to hear, was of a large and prosperous congregation in the young man's future.)

I think we are all entitled to ask and to keep asking every member of the Obama transition team until we receive a satisfactory answer, the following questions:

  • Will Warren be invited to the solemn ceremony of inauguration without being asked to repudiate what he has directly said to deny salvation to Jews?
  • Will he be giving a national invocation without disowning what his mentor said about civil rights and what his leading supporter says about Mormons?
  • Will the American people be prayed into the next administration, which will be confronted by a possible nuclear Iran and an already nuclear Pakistan, by a half-educated pulpit-pounder raised in the belief that the Armageddon solution is one to be anticipated with positive glee?

As Barack Obama is gradually learning, his job is to be the president of all Americans at all times. If he likes, he can oppose the idea of marriage for Americans who are homosexual. That's a policy question on which people may and will disagree. However, the man he has chosen to deliver his inaugural invocation is a relentless clerical businessman who raises money on the proposition that certain Americans—non-Christians, the wrong kind of Christians, homosexuals, nonbelievers—are of less worth and littler virtue than his own lovely flock of redeemed and salvaged and paid-up donors.

This quite simply cannot stand. Is it possible that Obama did not know the ideological background of his latest pastor? The thought seems plausible when one recalls the way in which he tolerated the odious Jeremiah Wright. Or is it possible that he does know the background of racism and superstition and sectarianism but thinks (as with Wright) that it might be politically useful in attracting a certain constituency? Either of these choices is pretty awful to contemplate.

A president may by all means use his office to gain re-election, to shore up his existing base, or to attract a new one. But the day of his inauguration is not one of the days on which he should be doing that. It is an event that belongs principally to the voters and to their descendants, who are called to see that a long tradition of peaceful transition is cheerfully upheld, even in those years when the outcome is disputed. I would myself say that it doesn't need a clerical invocation at all, since, to borrow Lincoln's observation about Gettysburg, it has already been consecrated. But if we must have an officiating priest, let it be some dignified old hypocrite with no factional allegiance and not a tree-shaking huckster and publicity seeker who believes that millions of his fellow citizens are hellbound because they do not meet his own low and vulgar standards.


Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair and the Roger S. Mertz media fellow at the Hoover Institution in Stanford, Calif.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Some heads will roll

Hey kids!  Hope all is well, just cold here, much too cold for yours truly, but I haven't been smart enough to move to warmer climes yet, so I get what I pay for.  Anyway, we have some things to discuss, so lets get about it, shall we?

Again thanks to all that drop a kind word or two on my passing from the great Renda empire this past Friday.  All in a days work so to speak.  Truth be told, I missed some of the fun, as after I left, two more people were told their presence is no longer required.  Brandy, who basically ran the promotions department for all three stations and Mark, who did a large amount of the commercial and promo voice work for all three station were also told to hit the bricks.  I have mixed feelings about it.  I obviously don't want to see more people out on the street, but there was a part of me that wondered if my release was because of something I did, or didn't do  that I didn't know about and the sit down with me was more an act than anything else.  Given that more than I got blown out, I am leading more towards the simple saving of a few shekels line of thinking than anything else now, so in that regard my mind is somewhat at ease.

     I did mention the news director job I inquired about and I said not to put the cart before the horse.  Well it turns out that position was filled about a week ago, though the program director there, Mark, was kind enough to email me back and say that they may have another opening come July and requested a copy of my resume and a demo if I had one.  I gave him a link to one of the hours I did with Lynn that I have posted online, and sent a resume as well, but I don't see me waiting around until July for an opening that I wasn't sure I wanted to begin with.  I dropped a couple of more inquiries into the local ESPN station, as well as a station in Boston that is looking for a morning show producer and XM radio, which is looking for tape editors for their sports feeds.  Haven't heard back from any of them, but it is early and many people are out of the office around the holidays, so I am not sweating it yet.  After all, I haven't even gotten my info regarding my unemployment claim yet, other than it has been received.  It seems like everything is moving at a fast pace these days, yet I can't wait for the next thing to happen.  I still have my job interview tomorrow with Smithfield News, jeez, where does the time go.  I haven't even finished my Christmas shopping, maybe I will do it tomorrow after the interview, who knows.

Kudos to Lee, who did indeed kick my ass in fantasy hockey this week, though at 4-5-1 my team would take that as a moral victory right now.  I am so used to being run out of the building anymore, that I will take a close week as a good one.  At least my fantasy football team looks to be headed to the championship game, I have a 12 point lead headed into tonight, with two guys playing yet, and my opponent has none.  You can register negative points in fantasy football, but to come up with a minus 12 would be hard to do on my part.  Go team!!!  Woohoo.

I can't think of much more to say, I haven't even thought about an Asshat yet.  I did burn off some more Pepsi points, 6 more songs to the list.  Go ahead take a listen, they are all on the bottom if you don't want to listen to all 51 songs now, but that is a $51 savings in my book. 


Coke Rewards


As for me, I will be working on round 10 of VIRBLE.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Neverending thread update

I ran into this article while out and about this week.  Those that have been paying attention to the Neverending entry will recognize that it is one of this year's books that have passed through my reading pile.

Printed from the Pittsburgh City Paper website:


Sam McDonald's journey from "fat bastard" to published author invites questions about whether self-control can be its own kind of addiction.

By Melissa Meinzer

Hold the lentils: Sam MacDonald doesn't eat them any more.

After transcending his big fat blurry paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle of grimy bonhomie in a spectacular burst of asceticism, Sam MacDonald's existence is once again chaotic. Only now, the chaos derives from twin toddler boys and a baby girl, instead of spontaneous trips to the woods because the cat found a linty tab of Ecstasy under the recliner.

MacDonald, 36, a writing instructor at the University of Pittsburgh, chronicles his journey in his new book The Urban Hermit (St. Martin's Press). It's a 281-page peek into the mindset, bank book and cupboards of a man who lost the plot and found it again, and it's compulsively readable.

While prodigal sons returned from the brink make for popular fare these days, MacDonald denies that his book chronicles any kind of redemption. Yet Urban Hermit hews close to addiction narratives, with control and lack thereof looming large. And indeed -- both in the book and in person -- it sometimes feels as though the author is trying so hard to be the tough guy and take responsibility for his choices both poor and wise that he glosses over some of his most intriguing material.

On one level, no doubt, the story is one of good times. MacDonald's party days at Yale just never stopped after he graduated, in 1995. Even as his classmates attained dizzying status and success, MacDonald found himself and his cousin Skippy meandering through life and jobs, and quitting after he impressed anyone enough to get the inevitable promotions that a smart, affable guy who shows up on time attracts. "Two good-natured, booze-soaked idiots who love drinking and spending money and letting the dealer come over with the Ecstasy and cat tranquilizer when things got strange," he writes.

MacDonald had discovered his talent for booze toward the end of a mediocre football career in high school in central Pennsylvania. It carried through his days at Yale and kept on keeping on. Likewise, eating: "It's not like I didn't know I was fat. I just didn't care." He ballooned from a teen-age athlete into a guy with a waist that nearly exhausted even Wal-Mart's sartorial options.

He spent a few years glued to a Baltimore barstool and making it (just barely) working in computers, as a bouncer and other catch-as-catch-can jobs, including a starring role in a TV ad for his regular bar, Kisling's. (He was the big fat drunk guy.)

"I had a lot of fun when I was a big fat bastard," he says today. "Really, I didn't hurt anybody, I didn't do anything awful. I really did enjoy that life."

It couldn't last. A car repair and huge student loans caught up to -- and nearly leveled -- him. Faced with seemingly insurmountable debt and a whole lotta extra Sam to lug around, MacDonald was struck by an inspiration: lentils, the "poor man's meat."

"So I was a hundred and twenty pounds overweight and dead-ass broke on Easter Sunday in the year 2000 as I walked through the front door of my crappy Baltimore row house, began reading the preparation instructions on a bag of lentils, and started counting the days," he writes. "It was a strange and dangerous plan. A shitty plan, actually." Against the advice of his nutritionist cousin, MacDonald resigned himself to 800 calories a day -- mostly those lentils, shored up by horribly cheap canned tuna and boiled cabbage.

With no budget for such niceties as beer and shots, his social life withered. His "hermit" lifestyle included long, free strolls around the city to distract himself from the booze and friends he couldn't afford to see.

The program also wound up lasting a year, instead of the month he'd planned. Yet despite this and other evidence to the contrary, MacDonald takes pains to explain that -- whether he was behaving like Homer Simpson or punching more holes in his belt because he couldn't afford a new one -- he was always in control.

"My life was weird and messed-up because I made it that way. I don't think I was an addict. I made bad choices," he says in an interview.

It's not like he didn't occasionally backslide, during his year-long experiment, into a sea of beer and food. But the scenes in Urban Hermit when he does indulge are so fraught that they border on obsessive: When a bartender asks what he'll have before he decides to have his first drink in months, MacDonald writes that it's "like a prayer, a promise, and an indecent proposal, all mashed together and sung to a catchy little tune: 'Can I get you something to drink? Tra-la-la! Tra-la-la!'" And he gets wildly, blackout hammered.

"People said I was an alcoholic in the beginning and anorexic in the end. I think that's a cop-out," he says today. "That would be me blaming my life on something else."

Still, his diet, MacDonald agrees, was highly inadvisable: "I feel like people would die if they did it." And in Urban Hermit, MacDonald alarms his mother and his girlfriend-now-wife with his devotion to his scheme, and his thinness. "Control was a major part of it. I could stop any time I wanted," he says in an interview, before acknowledging his "classic addict language."

Perhaps aspects of MacDonald's scheme seem compulsive only because society's concept of "necessity" is so inflated: In The Urban Hermit, for instance, every single nickel is accounted for, in a way that seems alien in our credit culture.

Moreover, if this is compulsiveness, the upsides seem obvious: Over the course of his hermit year, MacDonald found his calling writing nonfiction; traveled the country on magazine assignments; squared off with hippies, editors and the specter of bored sobriety; and met his wife, who'd never noticed him at the newspaper where he was a reporter and she was an ad rep -- until he started writing about her hometown and lost a hundred pounds.

Today, however, what MacDonald seems to recall most is that he was hungry.

"I hate lentils," he says flatly on a recent warm December morning at his house in Bloomfield over the din of his twin sons peppering a guest with questions. His wife and baby daughter sit nearby. While his frame doesn't seem like it'll ever let him be emo-dude slim, MacDonald is now a fit guy. A peek into the refrigerator reveals chicken breasts, milk, Pedialyte ... not a lentil in sight. MacDonald says there's a bag hidden away in a cupboard somewhere.

MacDonald says that some advance readers (including some folks he describes in the book) found the story's tenor to be mean -- say, in the way that a hectoring and righteous ex-smoker can come off as mean, full of indignation that it's not so hard after all to leave your evil ways behind. Reading the book and enjoying yourself despite constantly cringing might suggest watching the edgier, more cruel British version of The Office.

And indeed, MacDonald refuses to see situations through a coddling and inoffensive lens. "Enjoy the custard pie, but you can't have six-pack abs. People aren't willing to make the tradeoff," he says. He's living between the book's two extremes now: "I feel like people can have some beers and the occasional custard pie and not weigh 240 pounds," he says. "I drank a case of Moosehead Light this weekend. It was on sale at Pistella's."

While MacDonald got the girl, and they now have a cute house and three adorable children, it's not a story than ends wrapped in a big bow. The book concludes with them losing everything in a fire, broke and at loose ends, still struggling. The book doesn't offer any pat answers, just a look at one man's flawed journey.

Danger Will Robinson

All I can say is "Brrr!!!"


Statement as of 2:32 PM EST on December 21, 2008

... Wind Chill Advisory in effect from 11 PM this evening to 10 am
EST Monday...

The National Weather Service in Pittsburgh has issued a Wind
Chill Advisory... which is in effect from 11 PM this evening to
10 am EST Monday.

Brisk west winds combined with overnight lows in the single digits
will bring wind chills of 10 below to 20 below zero.

A Wind Chill Advisory means that very cold air and strong winds
will combine to generate low wind chills. This will result in
frost bite and lead to hypothermia if precautions are not taken.
If you must venture outdoors... make sure you wear a hat and

The Week That Was Pt 2 - Lost and Found edition

I guess this is going to be part two of the week that was, I hadn't planned on a part two to that entry, but events far beyond the control of myself have brought about a need for it.

When last we left, it was Wednesday morning, I had just put in an all night shift at the radio station (actually I wrote from work in the wee hours of Wednesday morning) and Wednesday passed pretty much without incident, no Hank blowups, no problems recording anything, just me getting work done for my upcoming vacation.

That being said I had gotten very little sleep, none at work overnight and I made it home in time to put my head on a pillow for about an hour or so, then I got dressed and headed back into the Original Hot Dog Shop. I'll admit part of me just wanted to lay in bed and not go, which is never a good sign three days into a job. I should note many of the things I wrote in my previous entry about how it seemed like nobody there cared given they were sticking me by myself with little to no training on my second day I also said while I was there to Joanne, who is the evening manager. Call it Blunt Force Trauma, the live version if you will, but I said, why should I care when apparently no one else does, otherwise I wouldn't be back there by myself without being trained on the register or on any of the new items on the menu in the last 20 years? Certainly if somone did care, they would have spent a few minutes on training me on the new stuff that had changed. Apparently Joanne ran off and told Bruce, who is the owner's son and not one of what we would call the brightest bulbs on the planet. Usually his idea of what is good for busines is prone to backfiring. In any event, I drag myself in Wednesday, hang up my stuff and punch in and Darren, who is managing that afternoon told me I wasn't on the schedule. To be honest, I thought to myself "I got out of bed for this?' but he spent like 15 minutes calling all around to find out if I was on or off the schedule and apparently I was off, so I got up for nothing. Seems Joanne talked to Bruce either while I was there or after I left and he thought he should just get rid of me. I hope it was after I left, I would hate to think I finished out a shift on Monday when I was no longer employed. That would piss me off just a tad.

Now I still have to go home and try to grab some sleep that I didn't get, and then get ready for another overnight shift at the radio station. I got almost no sleep however, instead I just ended up watching a little TV and getting ready to head back out for work. I get to the station and put in one of the weekend shows for the other AM station and start working on commercials for when I am on vacation next week and putting together instructions for said vacation. I eventually laid down and napped for a few hours but I was back at it for 5am Thursday.

The good thing about Thursday was that it was a payday in the radio empire, so I got to go to the store and do a little grocery shopping after work. Plus on the way I found another three Pepsi caps. The finding things just keeps on happening. I have found .62 since I complained that I wasn't finding anything, the change meter is at $39.93 and again $40 seems achieveable and unlike the previous day, I didn't have to rush home for work. I did try to call back the other place that has been calling me, Smithfield News, a 24 hour newstand in downtown Pittsburgh, but just got an answering machine, so there was no rush to get anywhere. Just me getting home and relaxing in my own place for a bit with nowhere to go and nothing to do until my overnight shift Thursday night.

Of course I slept too long Thursday afternoon and by the time I got up and got dressed for work I was hardly in the catch a catnap at work mood before the 5am news, so I just went in and recorded another weekend show and did another commercial feed or two, figuring what I didn't get done Thursday I could easily finish Sunday night when I was there. Oh the best laid plans of mice and men.

Remember how I joke about how we are doing radio on the cheap, well another trend came out, those are the one month numbers for Arbitron that tell you how you did for the last month and we are at the point where they can't even measure the audience because it is too small. It is what happens when you start doing crap radio just to get checks rather than putting for a compelling product that people want to listen to. Anyhow, I am running the board Friday morning, just doing my thing, I snuck down to the production room and banged out a few more commercial spots, and I taped my most recent Lou Dobbs report to run at 12:30 or so, when Ron, our program director stops by the booth. He said he needs to see me in the conference room. If you can guess what's coming, then you are smart like I am. I get there and the general manager is in the room and I am told that my services are no longer required, the station isn't making enough money and they are doing away with my position. I can't say this is much of a surprise, I have mentioned in these pages before that I thought it might happen. Friday was that day. I was offered a small severance package, 1 month's pay + the time I worked this pay period + my unused vacation time, which turns out to be all but one day, since I didn't get to use it yet. All told it was a prize package worth about $2500.

I think Ron took it harder than anyone, save for me, though I was poised when the news broke. Ron constantly apologized to me and said if there was anything he could do he would, if anything opened up I would be the first person he called, if I needed a reference just to give his name and he would put in a good word for me anywhere I applied and he ended up hugging me twice before I left, calling me a pillar of the station and that he knew he could count on me and on and on. It was nice to be appreciated by someone who actually understood that I did do something around there on occasion.

So after some shock and awe on my part when I got back to my apartment, I got about the business of checking my phone messages and the newsstand people called again, so I called them back and finally got a live person to talk to. I have an interview on Tuesday, so I may not be out of work very long, though I am still planning on going home for the holidays and by the sounds of things, I will not have a final interview with them till the week after Christmas, so worst case scenario I will have time now to do my Christmas shopping without work getting in the way. I also went about applying for unemployment compensation, I figure I have paid into it for what, 20 some years now, maybe I should take a penny or two out. After all, its not like I was unwilling to work, I was eliminated through no fault of my own. I even contacted another radio station that is owned by the people that just canned me, seems they need a news director in Indiana PA, which is where most of my family lives. My mom heard this and she go all excited, she still wants me to be the kid that lives at home, and while it would be nice to not have to buy groceries and what not, I think we are about 19 years beyond that point in my life. Still, if I am going to be home, it can't hurt to listen if they want to talk.

Saturday has been a typical day, I started the Christmas shopping finally, and made some calls to people that I hadn't talked to in a little while. I did talk to Lynn, she said if she gets all of the i's dotted and t's crossed, she would like me to join her on her new radio gig, but that is still a work in progress right now, and even if it happens, it will end up being more of a part time gig, so I am not going to put all of my eggs in that basket, but if it happens it would be cool to work together again. I also tried talking to Doug, he hasn't answered his phone in ages, I don't know if he is perturbed at me, or if he is just busy being his ever reclusive self. I did make plans with Lynn while on the phone with her, she invited me over for the Steeler game on Sunday, so us ex employees are going to commiserate for a while watching football and drinking alcohol, always a fine, fine combination.

I also managed to find even more soda caps while out shopping, including a couple from Coke, so I am eking ever closer to that free month of Pogo, I am about 9 points short now. I am almost tempted to just buy the soda for the points and be done with it, but I am still holding out hope that purchasing will not be required, after all, I am jobless now, can't be wasting money needlessly.

And there you have it kids, the week that was.  We now rejoin your regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Shortest Asshat ever

Gov. Rod Blagojevich

'Nuff said!

Truth be told, we could document why he wins the award, but the internet is only so big, we would probably run out of space.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Week that Was, or at least a few days of it

Well this is odd. I am here at work, doing another overnight shift (more on that later) and as I sit here there is no one else here. Not even someone to watch the stations to make sure there is no technical difficulties, everything is running in automation and nary a soul in sight. Mind you, no one planned on me being here, I didn't even plan on it until this morning, so it wasn't like I was on a schedule or anything to be here, the plan apparently is to leave the stations unmanned overnight, or at least until midnight when Bill gets here.

I think part of the deal is that they are pulling people in to work the mornings in the studio while the FM station is out on its two week Make A Wish holiday/charity event, where all of the shows that air during the week are on location and collecting money for Make A Wish, which means someone has to be back here to push the buttons, and as understaffed as we are, that means evenings are apparently unmanned by anyone.

Okay, enough of that we have bigger fish to fry than the workings or lack thereof of my main place of employment, so gather ye Peabodys and Shermans while ye may kids, its to the Wayback Machine for all of us.

I mentioned in a previous blog that I had picked up a new part time job. Well that started on Saturday and the place of employment is The Original Hot Dog Shop. We now pause a moment while Rich, reading this before he heads out to work in the morning, chokes on his coffee and wonders to himself just what the hell I am thinking. He and I met working there many moons ago, though we met at the little shop they had in the student union of Carnegie Mellon University, but that place has since closed and I am back in the big store in the heart of Oakland. Mind you, this isn't the first time I have worked there, all told I have had three stints with them, one at CMU, two in Oakland and they consumed about 6 and half years of my existence, but for the most part I have always managed to leave on good enough terms that should I ever need a place of employement in an emergency, I could always hang my hat there for awhile, make some cash and then look for something better, which by better I mean anything else save for jizz mopper at the local peep show booth. Well, after 16 applications and nary a hit, and no secondary income coming into ye olde apartmenthold, I considered it enough of an emergency situation to exercise my fallback option again. Of course as soon as I agreed to it, one of the other applications did call back but I am not one to make a promise and then just walk away from it, though the thought is tempting, moreso because they called again this week, still seeking me to come in for an interview. Yes, in a failing economy and a shitty job market, I am apparently a prized commodity amongst the underpaid set.

Anyway, I was told to stop in Friday and get my schedule, as their weeks start on Saturday and run through Friday, so I stop in and sure enough my first day was Saturday, a measily 11am-11pm shift. If ever I needed a reminder of why I disliked the gig so much, a 12 hr shift on my first day back is always a good means to an end. So I go in and there are a few people there from the last time I worked there, which had to be almost 20 years ago, at least as far as the Oakland store is concerned, so a lot has changed, including some items on the menu, the layout of the section, the fact they have closed the upstairs bar, locations of some of the stock items for the section, the cash register, etc. etc. etc. Nothing overly unmanageable, but enough that I am glad that I had someone with me, as otherwise I am sure I would have been lost on some of what was taking place. The thing I learned about my first day was I forgot how much my legs hated 12 hour days, as by the time I got home, sat down and checked my emails and what not, I really didn't want to even get back up to go to bed, but manage I did, as Sunday is another radio day after all.

Sunday was relatively uneventful, but I did bring my camera to work for a couple of reasons, one being that Friday when I last worked, the view outside was just awesome and I regretted not having it with me. When I went outside to have a cigarette, the trees were all covered in a coating of ice and snow, creating a cool almost black and white scene of the landscape and I was hoping the integrity of the landscape would hold till Sunday, and also because I had been meaning to do a little more walking for both exercise and so that I might find a few more Pepsi or Coke caps in my meanderings, especially Pepsi where I was sitting on 4 points and one more cap would be a free song from Amazon. I am not looking for any big ticket items at this point, but if I can scrape together a few points here or there, I might yet be able to snag another tune or two before the giveaway ends in a couple of weeks. And if I can scrape together another 100 points from Coke by the end of the month, I still plan on getting another free month of Pogo, so there was a method to my madness.

Anyway, I get out of work around 3:30pm and decide I am going to walk home, and so begins the beginning of what is normally a two hour journey. However, as I reach the bottom of Greentree Hill and start walking toward the West End, I pass by a little city park, nothing major, just a basketball court, a few horseshoe pitches, a softball field and a small playground. Well I meander around the park a little, in hopes I might find a stray bottle cap or two and instead I found a dog. I am not sure who the dog belonged to, he had tags saying he had his rabies shots and was licensed and all but there was no address on his tags to take him back to where he belonged. I called him over to me and he came pretty willingingly and better yet, he came with a stick in his mouth, so he and I played fetch for about half an hour. I would like to say I did it in hopes that maybe his owner would drive by and claim him, but I would be dishonest, I was just enjoying what I would consider a pleasureable diversion that hadn't been mapped out by me when I started my journey. After about a half hour however I had to get moving, at least if I wnated to make it back to my apartment before it was completely dark outside, the dog stayed in the park, so maybe he was familiar with the area or something, he didn't try following me and while I did feel guilty about leaving him there, I didn't have many choices in the matter. So I continue on my walk and I end up finding 6 more Pepsi caps before I even make it to downtown Pittsburgh, enough to add two more songs to my collection, which is good because by the time I made it downtown, roughly the midway point in my walk, my legs just didn't like me. Something about a 12 hour Saturday followed by a 3-4 mile walk on Sunday and my legs were voting to, to quote the Greek philosopher Susan Powter, "stop the insanity". So I bussed it the second half of the journey and when I got home I added my caps to my account and snagged two more songs, "Every Dog Has His Day" by Let's Active, a song that I liked way back when I was but a wee pup, and "I Am Over the Blues" by Bill Wharton and the Ingredients, who puts on an incredible live show, playing Cajun style blues while making gumbo on stage at the same time. If he ever plays in your area, it is worth the trip just for the spectacle of watching a guy cook and play music at the same time. And the gumbo is pretty damn tasty too, as they ladle it out for the crowd when the show ends. I was just surprised to find him on Amazon, but once I did, it was a no brainer that I would be grabbing some music by him.

Monday starts off on a bad note, the fantasy hockey team got crushed again last week, a 1-7-2 week for me and I am now tied for last place. My team now goes down more often than Paris Hilton on say, a Wednesday. We may suck, but we are not yet to Paris Hilton weekend sexcapade worthy. Next I go to look at my fantasy football effort in the first round of our playoffs and I trail 78-52 going into Monday night, things are looking bleak indeed, though I do have the Philadelphia defense playing against Cleveland in that game, so I have just a slight glimmer of hope. I need to somehow come up with 27 points, or 26 and have a defensive touchdown as part of the scoring, as the league does have a rule for tie breakers, the first being touchdowns scored by your roster that week, I trailed there 3-2 so a TD would even it and send it to the second tiebreaker which would be QB points scored for the week, which I won as Peyton Manning outplayed his brother Eli on Sunday. Still, I would need a lot of things to go right for a win to happen.

Anyway, the radio shift happens without incident, and I managed to get home in time to grab a nap before Day #2 of the new part time gig. Amazingly I was able to sleep a little, I got about an hour and a half in and then got up and headed out to work. Thankfully, I was only scheduled 4-10, but as it turns out I am 4-10 on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, so take those 24 hours and add my 12 on Saturday and my part time job only scheduled me for 36 hours my first week. Seems awfully full timish to me, but what do I know, I just work there. Better yet, I get into work, and I ask who is with me from my 4-10 shift, being my second day back and all and not knowing all of the menu or the register and I am told I am there by myself. Great, just great. I have no idea what all they want me to do to help the guy coming in after me, am I supposed to start breaking stuff down to help him close time permitting, am I just to worry about keeping the section clean, am I fetching my own stock from the prep kitchen if I need it and leaving the section unattended. Those questions will be answered next time on 'Matt, What the Hell Were You Thinking?" so stay tuned. As I am working, the Monday Night football game does get underway, it starts around 8:30ish or so, but I barely get a glance at it. The one moment I do though proves to be worthwhile, as Asanti Samuel steps in front of a Cleveland pass and returns it for a touchdown for Philadelphia, so I now have my defensive touchdown that I needed to win a tiebreaker. Woohoo,  but I am still at work and work still sucks.

Sorry, took a quick break there, had to finish recording the Sinatra show (I am at work after all, might as well you know, work and stuff) and fired up the Coke Rewards playlist to listen to while I type my endless gibberish. Feel free to go to the lobby and grab some refreshments, our feature presentation will begin again momentarily.

I manage to make it through my 4-10 shift with only a dozen or so screwups. My thought is if they have so little concern for their business that they will just throw anyone back there and hope for the best, I don't care either. No use fighting the company "we don't give a shit" policy, especially when it is one I can easily abide by.

I drag my butt home, call my mom, as I needed to get Christmas lists from her, her husband and the name I drew for the family gathering on Christmas Eve. Hardly helpful. At least I can come up with a list, what did I get for asking? Oh, we don't need anything, and you could buy your cousin some gift cards. Don't get me wrong, I like gift cards as sort of a nice stocking stuffer type item, but when the family is exchanging gifts I want to do better than the simple, here have a gift card type deal. At that point I might as well just hand over an envelope with cash and say, here I put no thought into this whatsoever, at least then you aren't tied to a single store.

While talking to my mom, I am on the computer, seeing just how good or bad the football team was faring. It is looking close, but I am not sure how close, so I wrap up my call with my mom and start checking stats versus our scoring system. Lets see, I need 26 points and so far I have 6 points for a touchdown, 3 points for an interception (9), 3 points for a sack (12) and 8 points for points allowed, as Philly had only allowed a field goal (20). I am in this game, down just 6 with about a quarter and a half to go. Now this is why I like fantasy football, in a game which is pretty much meaningless in real life as Philadelphia was kicking Cleveland's ass 23-3 at the time and Cleveland has already been eliminated from playoff contention, I am sitting on the edge of my seat because the game still has implications for me. Wait, what's that, Philadelphia picks off another pass and I score another 3 points (23) and in the fourth quarter my team has cut the lead to just three points 78-75. The bad part is Philadelphia extended it's lead to 30-3, so when they get the ball, they will just look to run off clock, which hurts me as my defense isn't on the field scoring points as that happens. Wait, is that the backup QB I see for Philadelphia? Yes it is, and that is him on his second pass attempt having it intercepted and returned for a touchdown, Cleveland has now scored 10 points and that costs me two points on points allowed (21), it is back to 78-73. Philadelphia's next drive stalls and they kick to Cleveland and look, a sack by the Philly defense (24), it's 78-76 with two minutes remaining. Just one more play guys and I get a win. The play never comes, three incomplete passes and Philadelphia gets the ball and runs out the clock and I lose 78-76, right? Hold the phone. Turns out that because Cleveland scored on an interception return, those points count against the Philly offense, not the defense since they weren't on the field for the play. They get tagged with the extra point, but that moves me back to 8 points for points against (26) and we have a tie 78-78 and by virtue of the second tuiebreaker I win and move to the second round of the playoffs. Wow, by far the best fantasy game I have ever been involved in, coming down to the closing minutes of the last game of the week to move on in the playoffs and even then needing to go to a second tiebreaker just to determine a winner. Mind you, it's not a money league, my friends and I are just doing this for fun, and as the game was winding down, George, who I was playing, and I are on the phone at midnight just laughing about it because we have no idea how it is going to play out in the long run. A simple statistical change by the NFL after the fact could change who wins and loses this game, so we are just goofing on the phone wishing each other well in the next round for whoever did eventually win.

A brief break if you will, something I have been meaning to get to regarding our lobby here at work that I have been putting off for some unknown reason but came back to me while I was out grabbing another cigarette.  In our lobby on the wall we have hanging the call letters and frequency designations of our three radio stations in gold lettering.  Hanging there is WSHH 99.7 FM and WJAS 1320 AM.  As I have mentioned previously we have changed format at my station and part of the format change was changing the call letters from WPTT 1360 AM to WMNY 1360 AM, but remember where you are, where sugar rations are king, and you can guess what I am about to say.  We changed the call letters better than three months ago, yet all that is hanging on the wall is W    1360 AM, as apparently it is beyond our means to afford an M, an N or a Y.  Thank god this isn't Wheel of Fortune, because we would be totally fucked on vowels.  Plus there is the matter of the coffee table in the lobby.  Most places, in their waiting area will have magazines or newspapers for people that are waiting to be seen, just something they can read to pass the time.  We are to cheap for that though, all we have is a copy of Whirl Magazine, a local rag that puishes local businesses and has photos of the same 20-30 white people that show up to every charitable fundraiser to pat each other on the back and congratulate each other on being such great human beings, and that magazine we get for free with a trade agreement on one of our stations.  So, in an effort to be a dick, like I am sometimes prone to do, I will throw out the magazines I get as reading material for visiting folks.  Problem is, I don't get cool stuff like People, Sports Illustrated or even Time magazine, rather I get stuff like Education Next, a quarterly magazine that publishes essays on education, or Foreign Policy.  Not your standard lobby reading by any means.

Okay, let's get back on track here, we are up to Tuesday and hopefully the last day I will blog about, but that depends on how long this takes to get through.  Anyway, I arrive at work Tuesday morning, I am all snug in my booth just making sure things are running smoothly for my station.  meanwhile down the hall, the FM station is off on their morning remote for Make a Wish and the other AM station is getting ready for their morning show to start at 6am.  The person who does news and sports for them, Chris, is on vacation this week, which means Hank, the guy doing news for the FM station has to also record news and sports to air for the AM station as well.  Our owner wants to spend as little time on news and sports on FM as he can, so he doesn't run and soundbites in the news or sportscasts, he just wants the the segment to be a relatively quick in and out so they can get back to music, or this week, get back to the remote broadcast.  That being said, he is more lenient with the AM side, allowing them more flexibility in doing show banter, longer news, using sound bites in news and what not.  Well, to Hank, the chance to use sound bites is like a kid in a candy store, he is all excited that he is going to run some cuts from the Steelers regarding the controversial ending of the game I blogged about.  Hank is all caught up in putting together this sportscast, the only problem is, by getting so caught up in putting this sportscast together and getting it recorded he forgot one thing, the newscast he was supposed to record.  But wait, it gets even better, next thing you know, after missing the first newscast Hank is sure he will get the second, but he can't get it to record, because somehow he managed to start playing a Barbara Streisand song in his studio.  How he did this I have no idea, but then he couldn't even figure out that by pressing stop, the cart will stop playing, so it keeps going on and on and finally Bill, our overnight guy, comes down and fixes the problem for him.  Now we are set right?  You really have to meet Hank, though I suppose we all have met him in one form or another, the guy that you just don't want touching a computer because you know that even turning it on would be a challenge for them, anyway it's Hank take three, now we are going to record that newscast, but it still won't record.  Why, well because he kept hitting stop, the very button he couldn't figure out before has now become the only one he can find.  It was the type of stuff that had me in tears in my studio, I just couldn't help it.  I am just listeneing to this line of expletives coming from down the hall, from the simple "God damn" to a sordid conspiracy by that bastard Bill Gates and his Mircosoft cronies to keep Hank off the air.  There really are days where I won't admit it publicly, but I would do this job for free.

Anyway, after Hank finally gets things squared away, at least as squared away as he will get them until Bill Gates fucks him over again tomorrow morning, Bill stops by my booth and has a bag of Pepsi caps for me.  Just when I think I am just going to get a few here and there and maybe get another song or two before the end of the year, all of a sudden I have another 61 points to blow through.  Add that to the fact I have found another 26 Coke points already this week and it has been a most good kind of week on the soda front.

About the only bad thing to come out of today was why, here at 2:15am in the morning I am sitting in the studio and that is Carol waited until today to say that she was off until the day after Christmas.  Mind you, I knew she would be off next Monday and Tuesday, but I wish I would have had more warning that she would be off this week as well so I could have made better arrangements than the schedule I have at my part time job, instead it looks like I will be doubling and overnighting at the station for the next 5 or 6 days.  And I still haven't started my Christmas shopping yet.  That crazy thing called sleep has definitely been elevated in importance on my Christmas list because I don't see much of it coming anytime in the next week or so.

Okay, I am off to go do whatever it is I do around these parts.  Nite all.

Monday, December 15, 2008

You Make The Call - not sponsored by IBM

Did the replay official make the right call?



Growing up there was a feature on Monday Night Football telecasts titled 'IBM's You Make The Call".  The feature was relatively simple, they would show a snippet of NFL game film and then ask the viewer what the officials call on the field should have been.  An IBM commercial would air, allowing the viewer 30 seconds or so to mull it over in their head, then the the conclusion of the play and the official's actual ruling would be made known letting the viewer know if what they thought the call should be was correct or not. 

There is a reason why we are bringing this out of mothballs today, and it deals with the conclusion of the Steelers-Ravens game yesterday.  With Pittsburgh trailing by 3, 9-6, and about a half minute left in the game, Pittsburgh faced a third and goal from the Ravens 3 yard line.  Pittsburgh's quarterback Ben Roethlisberger rolls to his left looking for an open receiver.  With nobody open and the defense closing in, he rolls back to his right, where he spots Santonio Holmes standing in the end zone.  Roethlisberger fires the pass and it is caught by Holmes, who is ruled down about three inches short of a touchdown.  With less than two  minutes remaining in a half, the video replay official has the authority to review any questionable play on the field and this one seemed to qualify, and in the replay booth it was determined that it was in fact a touchdown. 

A couple of things of note here the first being that the game pitted two teams in Pittsburgh (10-3) and Baltimore (9-4) with playoff aspirations.  A win by Pittsburgh and they clinch the division title (due to having a two game lead over Baltimore with two games to play and having beaten Baltimore twice), a win by Baltimore and both teams would be tied in the division with two games to play.  Second, the only way a replay official is supposed to overrule the call on the field is if there is conclusive video evidence that the original call is wrong.  If the video is not conclusive, then the call on the field should stand.  Third is the rulebook, which states that "A touchdown is the situation in which any part of the ball, legally in possession of a player inbounds, is on, above or behind the opponent's goal line (plane)." 

The video replay official overturned the call on the field and awarded the Steelers a touchdown with 26 seconds remaining in the game and the Steelers would go on to win 13-9 and clinch a playoff spot by winning the AFC North Division title.  But does the following video evidence constitute enough proof that the officials got the call on the field wrong, that is did the ball (not the player) at anytime touch the goal line while in possession of the receiver and is the video conclusive enough to overturn the call (not a touchdown) on the field?




Stolen content - This ought to irk a few people

Saint Wal-Mart? well, let's look at the record
We might also think about the Nobel Peace Prize when we consider the retail giant's contributions to society
Fazil Mihlar
Vancouver Sun

CREDIT: Vic Bonderoff

Wal-Mart deserves the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize. And the Vatican may want to beatify the world's largest retailer.


- Provides employment to 1.9 million people; the best defence against poverty is a job.

- Creates thousands of job opportunities for people in developing countries like China and India; this keeps hunger at bay in many households.

- Doles out hundreds of millions of dollars each year in dividends that help fund the retirement of millions of people; the company had sales in excess of $348 billion and a net profit of $11.3 billion in 2007.

- Sells food, clothing and other necessities to Canadians, Americans and others at prices that are 15 to 25 per cent below what other supermarkets charge; this helps millions of low-income families stretch their dollars.

- Pushes the inflation rate down and helps keep interest rates low; this comes in handy for millions of families when borrowing to buy a house or household appliances.

- Disburses $415 million in cash and in-kind merchandise annually to 100,000 charitable organizations around the world.

- Pursues environmental sustainability; sells more organic produce than most retailers; works with the Clinton Foundation to lower prices on sustainable technologies such as energy-efficient lighting and building materials; has opened the first in a series of high-efficiency stores that will use 20 per cent less energy than a typical Wal-Mart. And its proposed Vancouver store is more environmentally friendly than any building in the Lower Mainland.

All of this was made possible by Wal-Mart's innovations.

The retail business is characterized by large inventories, big sales volumes and a thin profit margin. That means retailers must reduce the cost of holding inventory, so efficient warehousing and transportation becomes critical.

A recent publication from Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania suggests that the key to efficiency at Wal-Mart is its distribution.

The retailer integrated its data systems with those of its suppliers. This allows the company to watch what items are selling. This in turn allows the firm to keep inventory costs down, and vendors produce only what's moving fast. Estimates suggest that almost 70 per cent of Wal-Mart's merchandise is sold before the company has to pay the supplier.

Improving business productivity is the sure-fire way of increasing living standards. Ask any economist of repute.

While Wal-Mart's primary intent is not to do all the aforementioned social good, what it has done and is doing is raising the living standards of millions of families around the world.

So if we are concerned about consequences and not just intentions, doesn't Wal-Mart deserve the peace prize?

"The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways," Karl Marx said, "the point, however, is to change it," Wal-Mart has done more to change the world for the better than most anti-Wal-Mart do-gooders in North America ever have or could.

Recall that the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize went to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, started in Bangladesh and now established in many developing countries, for their innovative efforts to create economic and social development from the ground up by providing credit to those whom mainline banks would not lend to.

And let's not forget Jimmy Carter, the former president of the United States, who received the peace prize for his efforts to advance democracy and human rights and to promote economic and social development in the Third World.

On the basis of the evidence, it is impossible to argue that Yunus or Carter have done more than Wal-Mart to alleviate poverty.

The company that Sam Walton established in 1962 in Arkansas is not without its flaws. Critics allege that Wal-Mart doesn't pay a "living wage" or provide health care. As well, they claim that the company puts many independent small retailers out of business and destroys communities.

Wal-Mart pays an average wage of $10 in North America and 90 per cent of its American employees have health coverage. In the past few years, Wal-Mart has been named the best employer in Canada. So much so for exploiting workers.

There is not much evidence that Wal-Mart puts mom-and-pop operations out of business. In fact, studies demonstrate that if shopowners adapt to the ever-changing retail market, they can thrive after Wal-Mart comes to their town.

As to the charge that it destroys communities, how come towns like Cranbrook in British Columbia and Miramichi in New Brunswick have petitions with 3,000 and 11,000 people respectively urging the company to set up shop?

Even assuming that Wal-Mart is an imperfect entity (it has paid fines for violating labour laws), that's not reason enough to deprive it of the peace prize. After all, many Nobel laureates aren't exactly without flaws -- Henry Kissinger (1973), Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat (1978), or Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat (1994) come to mind.

Now, to the possibly more controversial issue of beatification/sainthood for Wal-Mart.

Pope John Paul II beatified Mother Teresa, who died in 1997. In 2002, the Vatican recognized the healing of an Indian woman as the miracle needed to beatify Mother Teresa.

One can plausibly argue that Wal-Mart's innovations and the resulting "Everyday Low Prices" are nothing short of a miracle.

Last, but not least, Wal-Mart is able to provide low-priced goods because the company is positively parsimonious. Its executives fly cattle-class, share low-priced hotel rooms and empty their own trash. Every penny saved ends up in the pockets of customers, many of them on low incomes.

How much more saintly can a corporate entity get?

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