Friday, January 30, 2009

Here we go Steelers here we go!

Not going to be a long post today. As I'm sure most of my friends, and everyone who's read this little corner of the Interwebs, knows, I'm a Steelers fan.

I was born just a few miles from Three Rivers Stadium. I grew up rooting for the Steelers, even during the five years I lived in Chicago. I haven't lived in the 'Burgh for more than a decade, but wherever I was I searched out the Steelers bars to watch the games with other Terrible Towel-waving fans of the Black and Gold.

I do not, however, put the "fan" in fanatical. I do not plan my life around games. In fact, I missed most of the second half of the Steelers' AFC championship game to attend the Bloggerational Ball two Sunday's ago. When it comes to games like the championship my theory has always been "If they win I get to watch the next game. If they lose, I didn't want to watch anyway."

Not in a sour grapes kind of way, rather in a it'll hurt like pulling a big Band-Aid off kind of way. And, in this case, I got to see the end of the game at The Reef and watch all the dejected Ravens' fans walk out with hangdog looks on their faces.

But this Sunday the Steelers go for their sixth NFL championship in seven tries. More than any other team. Ever. You can bet you ass I'll be watching.

Running Update
Despite the amazingly horrible conditions Wednesday, I stuck with my schedule and hit the bricks. As I said previously, the only thing I hate more than running is running on a treadmill. No sense of accomplishment.

I did 2 miles over the icy sidewalks and slushy streets (ironically, safer than the sidewalks since they'd been cleared), again running more than walking. At one point during one little stretch I kinda-sorta forgot I hate running and was moving along with my head up and a good, long stride. As soon as I realized what I was doing I thought about throttling it back, but kept going just to see what would happen. A block or so later I settled back to a slower pace, but by choice rather than necessity.

Still having problems with a really tight lower left calf, but I think that has more to do with an atrophied muscle than anything else. The more I run, the less it'll bother me as long as I make sure to stretch it properly.

I have the same plan for this evening: run my 2-mile loop and try to run more of it than I did Wednesday.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

TMI Thursday: What the Rock is cookin’

First thing, before the entertainment portion of today's post, driving into work this morning the car in front of me had a McCain-Palin sticker on its bumper.

Or, I should say, the remains of a McCain-Palin sticker. The driver of the car had, I’m guessing since the election, taken the time to scrape off the “McCain” part of the sticker leaving just the “Palin” part.

Hope springs eternal? I don’t know about you, but I’m of the opinion the less we see of the former mayor of Wasilla the better off the country will be going forward.

Anyway, on to the TMI Thursday portion of today’s entertainment.

I ask you to think back, back to when we were young, carefree and responsible for nothing more than making it to class on time and hitting three keggers before curfew.

In a word, back to college.

Remember those glorious days way, way back in our youth when, despite the wonderful freedom offered by a life on your own, every once in a while it was nice to return to hearth and home. If only for a single night.

To set the scene a little more accurately, it is the spring of 1996 in North Carolina and my girlfriend at the time needed to go home for some reason or another and I was going along for the ride. Actually, I was doing the driving up to Elkin, N.C., but that’s neither here nor there.

My girlfriend, Meg, was a freshman and lived in the next suite down on the ninth floor of Morrison. By this time we’d been dating for most of the past school year. (Sentimental point: Like all of my exs whom I’ve loved, she will always hold a very special place in my heart.) I was a sophomore but, more germane to this tale, was a bit older due to my years before the mast in the service of our nation.

This trip was the first time I would be spending the night under her parent’s roof.

We arrived at her parents home on a Friday evening, said “Hello, how’re you doing?” had dinner and relaxed with Mom and Dad. Although this was my first overnight stay, it wasn’t the first time I’d met Mom and Dad. That had happened the previous October. She and I and her roommate (now one of my dearest and most cherished friends), stopped by for lunch during a trip to see the autumn leaves along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The high point of this very special lunch came right at the end when Dad said, “Hey Foggy, c’mere and let me show you something.”

I followed Dad down into the basement where he walked over to a cabinet in the corner, opened it and said, “What’d you think?”

Yeah, I got showed the gun collection. He might as well have said, “I’ve got a .45 and a shovel, you won’t be missed.” Anyway, Dad was a nice guy and if I ever have a daughter you can bet I’ll do the same thing the first time her beaus come a calling. The one thing teenage boys never remember is their girlfriend's father was once himself a teenage boy, with all of the same thoughts and desires whirling around his sexually overcharged brain.

But back to the story at hand.

For most of us I’m sure this is a familiar situation: You’re visiting your college girlfriend or boyfriend’s house and Mom and Dad separate you and put at least one of you in the bedroom right next to theirs. It doesn't matter whose Mom and Dad, they all do it in my experience. My own mother once put Meg in the room next to her's, not even trusting her own son. Well, this was the situation facing Meg and I and, despite my time in the Marines, there was no way on God’s green earth I was going sneak into my girlfriend’s bedroom while Dad had the keys to gun cabinet on his nightstand.

So we suffered, alone and apart from one another for an evening. Truth be told, I probably slept pretty well considering I wasn’t sharing a twin bed.

Morning arrives, breakfast is served, the purpose for the trip (which absolutely escapes me now) is completed, lunch is eaten, bags are packed and loaded up, hugs and kisses for her, handshakes for me and we’re off, back to the beauty that was and still is Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

That three-hour drive back to campus was one of the longest journeys of my life, and that’s coming from a guy who’s driven solo from Pittsburgh to Jackson, Miss., in 16 hours. If you’re interested, it was and is a personal best of 1,010 miles in a single day.

We were so horny I swear to the Sweet Baby Jesus we almost stopped to get a hotel room for an hour. But, being poor college students, we endured the pain.

Back at the 10-storey, 1,000-student behemoth called Morrison Residence Hall our desperate heroes raced inside, up to my room (because my roommate was gone somewhere that weekend too) and into the loft for some frenetic, but sweet, sweet lovin’. (Sorry, had to take a moment there and reminisce. OK, all done, I’m back.)

Later, after our lusts were sated, we were lounging partially dressed in a post-boink euphoria when a noise suddenly and unexpectedly drew both of our eyes to the door. You could almost hear the eyeballs snap.

The knob was turning. In our haste to get nekid with each other, we'd neglected to lock the door.

I knew it wasn’t my roommate, I knew that for sure. Why you ask? Well, I hadn’t heard our traditional signal: a hand dragged across the window AC unit.

The door opened and my friend John walked nonchalantly into the room. This is my friend John (mentioned in this post, he was one of the two people making out on the elevator) who’s personal dating strategy was “hit on everyone and if you succeed 10 percent of the time you’re still getting laid a lot.” He did and he did.

As John reached the center of the room, he took a deep, lung-filling theatrical breath testing the air. He looked at Meg and turned to look at me and, with a raised eyebrow and a smile, posed a simple question.

“Who’s been fuckin’?”

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Look Ma, no hands...

This photograph graced the virtual pages of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today along with this article, part of the PG's ongoing and exhaustive coverage of the Steelers journey to Super Bowl XLIII. The article is about the insane lengths some Steelers fans go to profess their fealty.

My only question is this: Who the hell is flying the plane? (Yes, I know there's an autopilot, but let's ignore that fact for the sake of fun, OK?) Cause by my count, there's at least three pairs of hands not on the flight controls: the two guys in the F-15E and the guy taking the picture. Ahhh, the things we do for our teams.

More commercials that annoy me

I was casting about this snowy, icy morn here in the environs of our nation’s capital for something, anything to write about. A couple of things came to mind: how my natural, contrarian instincts as a reporter have me leaning a smidge to the right now that the left is in charge of the government, how drawn-in eyebrows kinda-sorta skeeve me out, a review of Grand Torino or the upcoming beat-down the Arizona Cardinals are going to suffer Sunday.

All were rejected for various reasons although, I will say, Grand Torino is one of the best films I’ve seen in a very, very long while.

And then, as if by magic, I noticed a piece of paper on my desk with a few brief notes scribbled on its surface. It was a note I’d written myself a few weeks ago about two commercials that were then, and still are, annoying me for various reasons.

Neither rises to Billy Mays levels of outrage (don’t even get me started on the Sham-Wow guy and his stupid headset microphone) but, because of their somewhat skewed points-of-view, I can remain silent no longer.

First up, the less annoying series of commercials from the railroads’ mouthpiece, Freight Rail Works. Basically, in all of this organization’s ads, it touts the fact a freight train can move “one ton of freight 436 miles on one gallon of fuel.” According to, this claim is not only true, but many railroads exceed this stat.

Fine, I’m now all warm and fuzzy for our nation’s railroad industry. The problem is a train is never, ever, going to haul just one ton of freight. A normal train (again, according to their commercials) can take 280 trucks off the road. If each of these trucks’ cargo weighs in around 35 tons, well, you’ve got yourself a 10,000-ton train that’ll burn 10,000 gallons of diesel on that same 436-mile journey.

Probably still better than a fleet of 18-wheelers, but not quite so warm and fuzzy as what the folks at Freight Rail Works would like us to think.

The commercial by a group advertising as “Federal Loan Modification” or, as its Web site calls it, “Federal Loan Modification Law Center,” really annoys me because of one statement:

“The government is not going to help you out. Don’t let them take your home.”

If you can’t pay your bills and your home is foreclosed on, there probably will be a sheriff’s deputy there to help you on your way to the cardboard box of your choice. But, it’s not like the government is actually taking your house. That rather unsavory task is left to your bank or mortgage company.

But don’t worry FLM is there to make sure this won't happen to you. According to its Web site, “We believe in honesty and integrity first and foremost and we urge homeowners to be aware of unscrupulous companies claiming to magically save your home when in reality they are only interested in purchasing it at a reduced price.”

The problem is, except for the FAQ and the Contact Us links, most of the links on the site don’t work, and most of the information in the FAQ deals with pre-foreclosure sales and short sales of your house.

I think the best advice they give is the second part of the statement above: “Don’t let them take your home.”

Running Update
After proudly showing off my beautiful new Sauconys in this space Monday, did you really think I wouldn't take them out for a spin that evening.

After bundling up, but strangely (read stupidly) still wearing shorts despite the freezing temps, I braved the darkened sidewalks of Arlington for a 2-mile run. OK, a 2-mile run with some walking thrown in for good measure (but still more running than walking). Except for a small mishap at the very beginning - the dogtag chain with my building key attached decided right that very moment was a good time to break - and some wicked bad cramps in my left calf, I came through OK.

The shoes protected my knees and I was only a little sore yesterday. All things considered it was a good if humble start. I say humble because I still remember being able to run thre miles in a sub 20-minute time.

Seeing as how the weather is for shit today, I may hit the treadmill in my building’s fitness center. To show how serious I am about this, as much as I hate running I really hate running on a treadmill.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fat Bastard

A couple of weeks ago, while I was entertaining a few friends with some gumbo and football, someone made a comment about a picture of me, my sister and brother-in-law atop Mount San Jacinto in Palm Springs, Calif. OK, he wasn't my brother-in-law yet, but close enough.

Anyway, the comment was something along these lines:

“Look at this picture of Foggy when he was skinny.”



I forget who said it and believe me, I bear them no ill will, but it's had me thinking a bit over the past three weeks. At the time of the picture in question, I was 19, in the Marines and living in the high desert of California. Three factors guaranteed to make someone skinny.

I look at the picture and know it's not the skinniest I've been as an adult: at Parris Island I got down to about 190 (and looked like a chemo patient for the effort). The smallest I've been since I got out of the Marines was during my first year at Carolina when, after the required four-month period of post-Marine Corps laziness, I cut 30 pounds in two and a half months to get back below 210.

Generally speaking, I think I'd feel pretty good below 225.

But it's been a long, long time since the needle on the scale stopped there. Of course, it's not like I look like this:

but still, it'd be nice to take all my suits to the tailor.

Inspired by this clearly careless and painful comment (kidding, it was more thought provoking), and a couple of very lovely people I've recently met - Charlotte Harris and Sarah of Was it for This, who are both tri-athletes - I've decided it's long past time for me to make a few changes. And since riding my bike hasn't been getting the job done this past year, I had to figure something else out.

So on Saturday afternoon - incidentally while Sarah was either finishing or finished running 20 miles - I went up to Clarendon to get me a little something.

Two little somethings as it turns out.

And, since they say you should always have one, (who the hell are “they” anyway?) I set a goal. It's a modest goal, but it's a goal nonetheless.

Don't get me wrong, I've never really liked running. It hurts my knees something fierce and I don't think I've ever run more than 6 miles at one time in my whole life. But I'm going to give this a shot and, to keep myself honest, I'll be writing about it – and my aches, pains, highs and lows here over the coming months.

They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. If the very helpful woman who sold me my lovely new Saucony Triumphs at Pacers is correct, it'll also take about three pairs of shoes.

Friday, January 23, 2009

End of the week wrap-up of “Random Thoughts”

It’s three days after President Obama’s inauguration, why isn’t my life any better yet? Seriously, how come things haven’t started changing?

I’m sure there are people out there wondering these same things. I, of course, am just kidding.

I saw a commercial for the new Friday the 13th movie last night which got me wondering. Is America ready for a reboot of the Jason Voorhees story brought to you by Michael Bay, producer of such fine films as Transformers, Armageddon, The Rock and Bad Boys? (I’m not including Pearl Harbor in his list of “accomplishments.”)

Personally, after the last six (of 11!?!?!?! Seriously?) Jason films, I say it’s about time for a new direction in Jason's character development. He's become pretty one-dimensional. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the plot for the new Friday the 13th.

I do wonder though, can you slice and dice as many half-nakid and nakid post-coital teenagers today as you could in the 1980s? You know? I’m thinking you can’t. The 80s were the high-water mark for the slasher film and, I believe, despite all the whiny cries of “there's too much violence in the movies,” the American puritanical streak or recent years will keep the directors from reaching their full potential with Jason.

My two personal favs (and I can’t recall the films they’re from) include the guy working on his motorcycle while wearing a extraordinarily long knitted scarf that is then thrown into the chain and wrapped around the wheel choking him. The other is the one where Jason (I think it was Jason) uses a spear in an unabashedly phallic method to stab through a mattress, shish-ka-bobing the beautiful young couple banging away girl-on-top so she can see the spear coming toward her through her lover’s chest.

These are some priceless cinematic moments.

Which leads me to another question: is Jason a zombie? One of the movies, Jason X, apparently used as a plot device his ability to continually heal as the reason why he Just. Wouldn’t. Die.

I don’t know, does this make him undead? Zombies don’t die cause they’re already dead, but you can chop them up pretty good and remove the threat. The problem is they never come at you by themselves. There always seems to be an Metric Fuckton of them and our heroes (except the lovely Mila Jovovich as Alice in the Resident Evil franchise) always seem to end up getting bitten and turned.

Such a shame. But it still leaves the question unanswered: Is Jason Voorhees a really quick zombie, just zombie-like or not a zombie at all, but rather a quick healer with a thing for edged weapons?

See ya at the movies…

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Why I'll never be dieting on South Beach

I don't know if my love affair with bread started in childhood watching my mom and sister make Irish soda bread, but as far back as I can remember I've always loved me some bread.

(If you haven't figured it out, this is absolutely an homage to the great and powerful Lemmonex, who I desperately hope is not offended by my borrowing her wonderful trademarked style. They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and that's what I'm going for here.)

Crusty bread. Soft bread. Shelf stable bread out of a plasticized tinfoil Meal-Ready-to-Eat package. Flat bread. Pitas. Slice it thick and fill it with hot turkey, pastrami or roast beast. If it was steaming hot and right out of the oven or day-old (or year-old or more in the case of the shelf-stable stuff), just try keeping me away.

So, imagine my unbounded joy when this month's Gourmet Magazine arrived, its cover filled with a picture of yeasty goodness (words you've never heard said before). I couldn't wait to give one of the recipes a try this past weekend.

And here's the result. My first attempt at baking Crusty Cornstalk Rolls. Now they don't look exactly like the picture in the mag, but from where I'm standing they tasted just right.

Crusty Cornstalk Rolls

From Gourmet Magazine, February 2009

Yield: Makes about 1 dozen rolls
Active time: 35 min
Total time: 4 1/2 hr (includes rising)

The technique for shaping this sculptural loaf is very simple, but the result is dramatic. Once baked, the bread resembles a towering cornstalk, and each roll, or "ear of corn," is torn off the stalk by guests. But it's not just the presentation that makes these rolls worth the effort—they've got the hearty exterior of a French baguette, plus a yeasty, slightly chewy interior.

1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast (from a 1/4-ounce package)
1 1/4 cups warm water (105–115°F), divided
1 teaspoon mild honey or sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for kneading and dusting
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoon stone-ground yellow cornmeal, divided
Equipment: a spray bottle filled with water

Stir together yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, and honey in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn't foam, start over with new yeast.)

Mix flour, salt, 1/2 cup cornmeal, and remaining cup warm water into yeast mixture with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a soft dough forms.

Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and knead, dusting surface and your hands with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is elastic and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes. Form dough into a ball.

Put dough in an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Punch down dough (do not knead) and fold into thirds like a letter (dough will be soft), then gently roll into a 12-inch-long log with lightly floured hands.

Sprinkle a large baking sheet evenly with remaining 2 tablespoon cornmeal and put dough diagonally in center. Alternating sides, make 3-inch-long diagonal cuts, about 1 1/2 inches apart, into sides of log using kitchen shears (ends of cuts should not touch; maintain a center "stalk"). Gently pull apart cuts to stretch dough, forming rolls that are separate (about 1 1/2 inches apart) but connected to center stalk. Cover with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle.

Spray rolls with water, then bake. Spray them again in the oven 3 times in first 5 minutes of baking (to help form a crust), then bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer rolls to a rack and cool at least 20 minutes. (Dew Note: I think I waited about 10 minutes. They were sooooo good.)

Cooks' note: Rolls are best the day they’re made, but whole baked stalk can be frozen (cool completely, then wrap well) 1 month. Thaw, then reheat on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven until warmed through, 5 to 10 minutes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Front Page News

We all watched yesterday as Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the Untied States. In fact, it made front page news across most of the country. See, here's the proof in the Washington Post:

In the New York Times:

USAToday ran with a really, really big picture:

I said “most of the country” because, apparently, in Atlanta, the inauguration of America's first black president wasn't that big of a news story. Instead, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution decided the bigger, and more important front-page story was former President George W. Bush's return to Texas.

My old editor would get annoyed when we got beaten to the news of a car accident by another media outlet. Can you explain to me how Bush's arrival in Dallas was a bigger story than Obama taking the, albeit messed up by Chief Justice John Roberts, oath of office?

They did include a "Note to Our Readers" explaining it thus: "Because of our special Inauguration 2009 section, you'll find non-inauguration national, international and local news in this section." In my experience, if you're including a front-page note to your readers, you've screwed up somewhere. Big. It's almost as bad as a front-page retraction.

Seriously? You couldn't have maybe shoehorned a picture of the front of the new president's face on the front page of your paper? I'm stunned. Seriously staggered by this choice of photos in a major American newspaper.

For some more great images of today's front pages go to the
Poynter Institute’s Web site. These are some really cool front pages.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Me Likey

I saw one of these Sunday night at the Blogger Ball and now I really, really want one. It's black and it's velvety. What, I ask you, could be better? 

Oh yeah, there is this jacket. This jacket rocked. A gold paisley jacket the size of an America's Cup Class yacht's spinnaker. 

Yeah Baby!

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Afternoon After

Like many D.C.-area bloggers I woke up this morning feeling a little less than my usual chipper self. That said, Blogger Inaugural Ball Sunday night was a rousing success. Many thanks go out to LiLu, Katherine and the Refugee for their efforts and planning so we could all have a lovely time celebrating tomorrow's inaugural. 

It was good seeing old friends - the aforementioned LiLu and Ref - getting to know others better - notably Arjewtino - and making new friends altogether, especially Flipflops in the Rain and Was It For This. Of one thing I am sure, I am forgetting some of you. Feel free to yell at me in the comments and tell me how dumb I am for forgetting you. In my defense, sometimes it's difficult to keep names, faces and blogs straight when it's all combined with alcohol. 

As for the picture below, we must have been a rowdy crowd. Either that or MPD just wanted to make sure the sidewalk outside The Reef was the best protected sidewalk in Adams Morgan. By my count, there's 12 officers mingling there. 

Thanks again, I had a great time "tuxing up" and hitting the town with y'all. Enjoy tomorrow and try to stay warm. 

Friday, January 16, 2009

Decisions, decisions...

Ran out of work about an hour ago, so now my mind and mouse are wandering hither and yon while hoping for an asteroid strike to bring a close to this day. Probably not lucky enough to for an asteroid to hit.

Oh well.

What I'm really wondering, after cruising through a couple of blogs, most notably Arjewtino's, is this: If no one from the D.C.-NoVa-Maryland area is going to the inaugural, how in the hell are we going to properly mock all those who do in our blogs next Wednesday?

Personally, I'm going back-and-forth on the issue.

According to the Interwebs, next Tuesday the high is supposed to be 35 with a chance of snow. That's 35 Fahrenheit, to clarify for my reader(s) north of the border. If'n it were Celsius, well, that'd still be just as miserable since 35C equals 95F and we'd be bitchin' just as much because of the heat. At least this way, probably, fewer old folks will die from the cold than from heat stroke.

My current thinking, right now, is I'll pedal my ass across the Memorial Bridge (conveniently closed to traffic) and into downtown Tuesday. I may not go any further than the Lincoln Memorial, but I'll still go. This has nothing to do with "wanting to be part of history." Truth be told, the newsman in me just can't resist a spectacle like this.

What do y'all think?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

TMI Thursday: Bet you can’t eat that

I just looked up at my shiny new UNC Alumni Association calendar, filled with page after page of lovely pictures of the Old Well, and realized Saturday is Jan. 17.

Jan. 17? What the hell happened Jan. 17?

Funny you should ask. But since you did, let me tell you a story. A heroic tale of daring do and bravery in the barren, treeless wilderness of a far-off land. A chronicle, if you’d like, of my time in the desert.

An epic of sheer, insane boredom punctuated by moments of pure, concentrated terror.

Let’s call this saga: “The stupid shit Marines do when they’re trapped in a desert combat zone with absolutely nothing else to do until the air war is over.”

From Jan. 17, 1991 when the air war began and lasting for about a month, we were stuck in Saudi desert with nothing to do. Nothing to do, that is, except make sure our gear stayed as sand-free as possible (not the easiest task, I’ll tell you), dig a new hole for the shitter every couple of days, stand guard duty every night, wait (and wait) for the mail every day, sleep and devise mischievous ways to pass the remainder of the day.

If you’ve ever heard the saying “Idle hands are the Devil’s playthings,” came from, well, idle hands have nothing on board Marines.

My platoon, Maintenance Platoon, excelled in that last category, mischief, and the best one we came up with was the eating contest. But, since its no fun buddyfuck the guys in your own platoon, we had to farm out the mischief to the other platoons in our company and battalion.

The first challenge was the Great Spam Eating Wager of 1991. One of the guys in Mux* Platoon claimed he could eat five cans of Spam.

I’ll say that again: Five. Cans. Of. Spam.

Sixty ounces of Spam.

The faux meat product was sliced and fried, wagers were made (with the boys from Maintenance covering the action), and the eating was commenced. Right now, as I think back, there’s something truly funny about an eating contest involving a predominantly pork meat product taking place in Saudi Arabia.

Anyway, Lance Corporal Anama, the eatee, was going strong. One can down. Two cans down. Three cans down without a problem.

He began slowing on the fourth can, though he earned the grudging admiration of the onlookers as he choked down that last gristly, salty slice from can number four.

For those of you keeping score, that’s 48 ounces of Spammy goodness that’s gone down his gullet at this point.

There were just six 2-ounce slices remaining between him and everlasting fame or bottomless shame.

One down. Closing his eyes, he forced his throat to swallow. Twoooo down. Sweat beading on his forehead. Threeeeeeee down. Eyes glazed over with the thousand-yard stare of man who’s seen too much Spam in his life. Fouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuur. Dooooooowwwwnnnnnnn.

Two slices left. Like wafer thin mints, they waited to pass his lips and bring him eternal glory.

Then, as if he could see 10 seconds into the future, his eyes grew wide and his jaw clinched tight.

Turning to his cheering platoon mates, Anama said simply, “Sorry guys.”

The past then crashed head-on into the future as he leaned over and began puking. And kept puking. Puking until he puked up all 56 ounces chunky, undigested Spam. You could still see the teeth marks in some of the chunks.

Sitting there, cooling in the desert air, the congealing pile of Spam puke looked like nothing else in the world but an unwanted lump of pink concrete.

The good thing about the desert? If you happen to have a puddle of pink, concrete-looking Spam puke, you can just grab your e-tool (that’s e- as in entrenching, not e- as in electronic), dig it a shallow grave and move on.

Move on, that is, until you need it again. The Spam puke, not the e-tool. You wouldn’t think once it’s been eaten and puked you’d ever have a need for Spam puke, but you’d wrong.

Oh. So. Very. Very. Wrong.

Two days later, a Marine Reservist from Indiana thought he had a winning idea and boasted he could eat two cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew. The big ones, like the ones they use in cafeterias. (Interestingly, Dinty Moore, like Spam, is a Hormel trademark.)

Never ones to back down from a challenge, and knowing there was still a pile of money out there to be won, Maintenance again took on all comers and covered all the bets.

Not wanting to lose and, most likely, because the guy was a Reservist, not part of our company and we really didn’t give a crap about him, we did what anyone would do when large sums of cash were on the line.

We played dirty.

As the first can of stew was disappearing down his gaping maw, we all fired up smokes to fill the tent with a haze the likes of which have seen since the smoking ban cleared the air at the Dubliner and the Capitol Lounge. We were having an effect, but not enough. We needed more power.

More cow bell I say!!

So out came the e-tools and two of our guys went off to quickly search for the unmarked grave of the Spam puke, exhume it and resurrect it’s vast powers for evil. Pure unadulterated evil.

Long story short, it’s pretty damn close to impossible to keep your cookies down while you’re eating your second can of greasy beef stew with the stench from a bucket of two-day-old Spam puke filling the smoky air.

After touring the Marine bases in the South Pacific during World War II, Eleanor Roosevelt was asked her impression of the Marines she’d met. Her reply is classic: “They have the cleanest bodies and dirtiest minds; The highest morale and lowest morals.”

Truer words may have never been spoken.

*Mux is short for multichannel which, in the days before the mobile cells they now construct, was the only way of sending phone calls over the radio. Each system could handle eight, yeah, eight, calls at a time.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A change for the better I say

Just saw this as I was cruising through the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. This is from a city news release: 

(PITTSBURGH) January 14, 2008 - Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced today that he will be ceremonially changing his last name from RAVENStahl to "STEELERStahl" until the Steelers' game/victory on Sunday.

"On behalf of the Steelers Nation, I've decided to remove the word 'Ravens' from my name just like the Steelers will remove them from the AFC Championship," Steelerstahl said. "From now until Sunday, all references to my name will reflect Pittsburgh's love and support for our Steelers - and suggest a victory."

The last half of the Mayor's name – in a strange coincidence – references Pittsburgh's blue-collar heritage and the Steelers' Steel Curtain defense.

"The Mayor's surname 'stahl,' is of German origin and translates to 'steel' in English, making the name change even more appropriate," said John Lyon, associate professor for the Department of German Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

The Mayor officially adopted the name "Steelerstahl" today at 11 a.m. at the Department of Court Records, located on the first floor of the City-County building.

The things we do for our sports teams. 

Go Steelers!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sticky Information

I always find the bumper stickers, and the combination of stickers, people slap on the ass ends of their cars interesting. If one catches my eye, but can’t quite read because of location or distance, I’ve been known to maneuver my car for a better look.

And while I currently don’t have any bumper stickers on my car, I do have two UNC window stickers. On my first car, a trusty and loyal blue Dodge Shadow, I had a “Give Blood, Play Rugby” sticker which was later replaced, along with the bumper, with “He’s Not Here…” and “Support Your Local Brewery” stickers.

This morning I was behind a full-size pick-up, it’s entire rear bumper plastered with those annoying oval three-letter stickers. Although, I will add, it was done in a kinda cool overlapping and random pattern, and included one reading “FU2”. For those of you who’ve never spent any time around Ham operators or military communications, FU2 is shorthand for “fuck you twice.”

So I got a little laugh out of that.

The other interesting combination I saw would, to me, seem counterintuitive. On the back of a Camry or Accord two of the bumper stickers read “One Nation, Under Educated” and “John Stewart ’08”.

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good laugh as much as the next guy, but it would seem to me if you got your news from a source other than a comedian we might just make a dent in that education problem.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Looking Forward to a View of the Past

I watched a bit of football yesterday. For those of you now thinking “Ugh, a post about sports, not for me!” don’t worry, this won’t be about football. Trust me.

Except, of course, to say “GO STEELERS!!”

As much as I enjoy watching football, it can be a bit mindless, so my mind had a chance to wander there and here. Here being a piece on Sunday Morning about the legacy of George Bush’s eight years in the Oval Office.

There were experts and historians and political operatives quoted throughout, all with a different view of how history might view Bush’s two terms. Some of them came right out and said “H”istory would view the former Texas governor as one of the worst presidents, if not the worst, in U.S. history. Others though, mainly the guy who once worked for W, were kinder in their assessment, asking us only for the detachment of time before rushing to judgment.

My first inclination is to lean toward the second option.

Owwww. Quit throwing things and yelling at me. If you give me a minute, I’ll try to explain.

Fact: Bush has done, and allowed others to do in his name, some incredibly stupid and misguided things during the past eight years. First, and foremost on this list, is giving the order to invade Iraq.

The second thing is invading, but ignoring his generals who, just maybe, might know a little bit more about making war than people who’ve worked in think tanks and government their entire lives. A prime example of this is the former Army Chief of Staff and incoming Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki. Shinseki told Congress before the war it would probably take 400k or so troops to control Iraq after it was conquered. Donald Rumsfeld and the other neocons disagreed and Shinseki was ingloriously railroaded out of the Army.

The problem was, you see, Shinseki was right and everybody else in charge was wrong.

The biggest screw up I and many others see is the fighting in Iraq has diverted valuable resources from fighting the real enemy: Terrorists. Containment worked on the Soviets for 45 years, and Saddam for more than 10, there’s no reason we couldn’t have kept that up cheaply for a long, long time while we let our soldiers, Marines and smart bombs hunt Osama bin Laden in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Perhaps, if we weren’t distracting ourselves invading Iraq, but instead maintained the status quo, things might not be quite so tenuous right now in Afghanistan and Pakistan and all the other –stans. Actually, there’s no perhaps about it, things would be going better.

The problem I have, though, with condemning Bush so quickly is we don’t know what we don’t know. Governments keep secrets for a good reason, and governments are forced to do bad things to keep you and me safe.

This is where things get sticky for me because I have conflicting opinions and beliefs. I absolutely believe the government has no business checking up on me or listening in on my phone calls or reading my emails or having any programs to do that to me and my fellow Americans.

On the other hand, I have absolutely no problem what-so-ever with the government using whatever means necessary — Whatever Means Necessary — on our enemies to keep me, my friends, you and even everyone who protests against these methods safe.

Yeah, I said that. If water boarding a suspected terrorist will keep me and those I love (and even those I don’t like too much) safe? Bring out the pitcher and fill ‘er up.

"We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us."

I ask you this hypothetical: What if the next guy who gets caught in the mountains of Afghanistan, or in London or walking around taking pictures of downtown D.C. pegs a radiation meter? Will Americans complain louder because the rubber hoses were broken out but a plot was shortstopped? Or because a dirty bomb or suitcase nuke went off at 16th and Constitution because we were wasting time asking nicely?

Winston Churchill sacrificed Coventry to keep secret the fact we’d broken many of Germany’s codes during World War II. Are the civil rights of a terrorist worth Washington or New York or Los Angeles or Seattle or Omaha?

There are rules of war. I remember learning them in the Marine Corps. Generally speaking you’re only supposed to only kill the bad guys (and girls today) and, while you’re at it, do your best not to kill anyone who may be in the way of the primary objective. But the primary objective is to kill the enemy.

But what if the enemy doesn’t follow the same rule you do? What if they don’t follow any rules at all and exploit your adherence to your rules? What if, so to speak, they decline to stand in Napoleonic lines and instead shoot at you from behind the trees? What if they kidnap your people and make videos while sawing their screaming victims’ heads off with knives? The rules of war weren’t written for this war, hell, they weren’t even written for the Vietnam War, which at least had a uniformed army on both sides.

Fact: Since Sept. 11, 2001, the United States has not been attacked by terrorists. Yes, our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have, but “we” haven’t. It may not be a nice thought, but torture has probably stopped a terrorist attack on America, Americans or our allies.

In the coming months and years it’s likely we'll face an even more dangerous situation than we’ve faced in the past eight years. When that time comes Barack Obama will be forced to confront many of the same choices George W. Bush has.

When he does what will he choose?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Video Killed the Radio Star

Just yesterday I found myself doing something in my car I hadn't done in a very long while. And not only did I do it, I did it twice within an hour or so.

The first time was in the parking lot of the Teeter in Ballston. I was just about ready to get out and face the walk across the parking lot in the rain when the urge hit me. I couldn't help myself, I just had to stay in my car for another couple of minutes.

And listen to The Police's "Don't Stand So Close To Me" all the way through. Yeah, that's right, I was listening to a song, what'd you think I was going to say?

Stewart Copeland on drums, Andy Summers on guitar and Sting on bass. Cool personified. Buried in a drawer somewhere at my dad's house is a worn out cassette copy of Zenyatta Mondatta. I used to listen to the hell out of that thing.

The urge overcame me again when I got home with my trunk filled with groceries. Just as I was about to turn the key a familiar guitar riff vibrated through my speakers and I was again stuck in the driver's seat bobbing to the sounds of Stealers Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle with You."

This song also brings back memories, memories of Mr. Blonde dancing toward a tied up Marvin Nash with a smile on his face and a straight razor in his hand. It's also kinda catchy when you get right down to it.

I can't remember the last time I did this: sat in my car just listening to a song.

Perhaps The Buggles are right, maybe video really has killed the radio star. With CDs, iPods and satellite radio, we can listen to whatever we want whenever we want. Maybe I'm alone here, but the randomness of the radio is something I still find charming. When a song you like comes up on the radio, it's like a visit from an old friend.

What old friends would get you dancing in your car while passersby stared?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dog days of winter

As I drove into work today (while seeming to catch every single red light along the way and once I got there the elevator in my building didn't work) I looked up to the lead colored sky and had an epiphany.

Because I got to work before 8 and will leave after 5:30 and because it's raining, I'm probably not going to see the sun today.

And neither will you.

To make up for that staggering lack of vitamin D production and stave off SAD, today, Wednesday, Jan. 7, this post is brought to you by Jimmy Buffett.
"I gotta go where there ain't any snow,
where there ain't any blow,
'cause my fin sinks so low.
I gotta go where it's warm."

Stare into the sun (don't worry, it's only a picture, you won't burn your retinas down to cinders).

Now, count slowly back from 10...nine...eight... you're getting warmer the sky's getting brighter

You're now very relaxed. Think forward (or back if you're that kind of person, I prefer the future to the past). The invading inaugural hoards are long gone, the bars are again serving drinks outside, the cherry blossoms have bloomed, covering the Tidal Basin in a blanket of pink and white and, most important, the sun has returned to its place high in the noontime sky.

It's a warm, pleasantly muggy Monday evening in July and you're headed down to the Mall for Screen on the Green.

You're warm, in fact, there's a small trickle of sweat just starting to roll slowly down your back between your shoulder blades as you stroll with your blanket under your arm from the Smithsonian Metro station toward Seventh Street. Just after crossing Seventh, you stop, letting everyone pass you by to turn around and look west toward the setting summer sun.

Deep breath...

It's fiery orange and warm on your face. The Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorials are glowing. A sheen of sweat beads on your forehead. The lights of Rosslyn twinkle in the deep background.

Soak in the view...

The crowd is gathering for the movie. You scan the faces, but know to look right in the middle, right in front of the screen, because that's where your friend always is, camped out on the prime SotG real estate. You spot a hand bouncing up-and-down and waving in the air holding a cell phone and smile as you start picking your way through the sea of moms and dads, sons and daughters, hipsters, office workers, students, staffers and lobbyists to help hold the prized territory against all encroachments.

The air is heavy, but you breathe it in deeply, tasting summer and feeling the warmth of July surrounding you.

You, and everyone else who arrives, are welcomed like a long lost friend even though it's only been a few days since you last saw each other. Chatting about this-and-that as the gloaming settles over the city, the excitement builds as the sun disappears for another day below the horizon.

The crowd shuffles about as everyone gets ready...crouching...waiting for the music to begin as the camera speeds through the small town...the scene shifts toward space, toward a single star in the distance...and, as the music crescendos everyone jumps to their feet to spend one last burst of energy and begins dancing and waving their arms to the music.*

The movie begins as night fully descends. The smell of Off wafts through the air as a MPD siren Dopplers in the distance down Constitution Avenue from the Capitol toward the Ellipse.

Nibbling on some crackers or celery or red licorice, you look around at the faces of your friends surrounding you lit by the glow from the screen. Content, you smile and don't even mind as you slowly pull your arm across your forehead.

*In case you haven't been to SotG, it's sponsored by HBO and the evening begins with the famous "HBO in Space" opener you remember from childhood. The tradition at SotG is for everyone to dance as the music crescendos.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Coincidence? I think not

I went to the newly renovated American History Museum today, (I took the day off to get in just one more day of New Year's celebration). I'm not sure I'm as impressed with it as I was supposed to be after, ya know, a multi-million dollar multi-year renovation.

But it was still not too bad. 

Because, because, because, because, because...
Because of the wonderful Wiz he is...

Perhaps I'm just more of an aficionado of the art at the National Gallery and the Portrait Gallery, rather than our national treasures. Or, should I say, the treasures they have on display at the museum. 

I will, though, admit to marveling for a few moments at the Star Spangled Banner, all ensconced in its dimly lit, but shiny new digs. Although, I was a little annoyed to see the first explanation in the exhibit describe what Francis Scott Key wrote described as a "song." It was a poem first, and wasn't a song until later in the week

The Woolworth's lunch counter from Greensboro also moved me deeply as well. The greatest example of what coalesced at that counter will be on display here in D.C. starting the Tuesday after next. That'd be the inaugural for those who can't read a calendar. 

I was inspired by the display of the Axelrod Quartet.  All four instruments in the display were crafted by Antonio Stradivarius and are valued together at $50 million. And they're still played. How cool is that?

In an exhibit near the musical instruments were a uniform worn by Roberto Clemente; Kermit the Frog and Oscar the Grouch; Pat Summit's whistle; Fab Five Freddy's boom box and Grandmaster Flash's turntable. And right there out front were Dorothy's ruby slippers.

Comment overheard from one teen girl to another while looking at the slippers:
Girl 1: She had fat feet.
Girl 2: No she didn't.

I read the card, the slippers are size 5s. If that's her opinion of what fat feet are, I weep for the future. What's more likely is someone with feet considerably larger than Judy Garland has, at some point in the past 80 or so years, attempted to jam their giant dogs into two of the icons of Americana. (Yeah, the movie's that old.)

Anyway, you've read this far so I'll get to the point. 

One other tidbit on the card explained how in the original book Dorothy Gale's slippers were actually silver but, because the red showed up better against the Yellow Brick Road in Technicolor, the editorial change was made.

Huh, never knew that, obviously I haven't read the book. I guess the museum's not that bad after all.

And here's where the weird coincidence enters stage left: Resting comfortably on my DVR is most of season 2 of Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles. I'm trying to get through them but we all know what it's like trying to watch backlogged episodes of shows. But I knuckled down tonight and watched episode 5 "Goodbye to All That." 

In the episode the lovely Lena Headey as Sarah Conner, kidnaps a young boy to protect him from a horrible death sent from the future. While she's protecting him he tells her he has a book report due Monday and it's already Friday and he hasn't even picked out a book yet (you can see where this is going, right?). 

So, the super hot Summer Glau hands him, wait for it, yeah, The Wizard of Oz saying "It was one of John's favorites." The kid tells Sarah his teacher doesn't like them doing reports on books that have been turned into movies and she tells him not to worry, the book is much different than the movie.

"Dorothy's much younger, around your age, and her slippers were made of silver."

What are the odds I would have two ruby/silver slipper references in the same day? Wait a minute, on the other hand, don't answer that one. 

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Sights not normally seen

I was headed out yesterday, a cold clear day after New Years to spend some quality time with my 13-year-old niece and my 10-year-old nephew who are in town visiting for the holidays from Connecticut.

A fine day was planned: a trip out to the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum near Dulles, a late lunch at Pizzeria Paradiso in G-town and, if I had not yet been driven insane, a quick stop at Thomas Sweet on Wisconsin. I'm happy to say all went according to plan and a good day was had by all. Especially since there was fudge involved.

The funniest part of the day, though, had to have been as I was heading out to pick up my niece and nephew. There I was, waiting at a stoplight when lo and behold, the individuals in the image below sauntered across my field of view. 

I was so stunned by this bucolic familial scene I almost forgot I had a camera in my pocket. Thankfully, I recovered in the nick of time to record the image for posterity. 

Now, momma, papa and the camouflaged apple of their eye wouldn't have normally caught my attention if, say, I still lived in one of my previous homes in Texas, Indianapolis or North Carolina. But, you see, this picture is different, I snapped in Old Town. 

Yeah, Old Town Alexandria.  

Normally, considering my own fashion sense and the fact I wore camouflage utilities to work every day for six years, I wouldn't want to be the guy living in a condo constructed of a transparent amorphous solid chucking igneous formations around.

But this, this: Just. Made. Me. Laugh. 

The ladies' camouflage jackets. Mom's cammie backpack. And dad, dad all decked out, literally from head-to-toe in hat, jacket and pants just in case the need for stealth arises somewhere along Duke Street. Oh, and the matching earmuffs not decorated in a woodland pattern? They only make it that much better.