Archive for September, 2010

Don’t Mess With My Nasal Cavities

September 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Typical germ magnified one billion times

It’s not enough that when you fly, you’re treated like a terrorist and a piece of cargo and have to deal with delays, lost luggage and surly flight attendants. No. The coup de grace is the germs.

Technically, studies of the air flow show that airplane fuselages are not any more germy than an office building or the street. But the authors of these studies did not account for the woman in front of me on the jetway at the godforsaken airport in Dallas over the weekend. She let loose a torrent of sneezes and coughs…with her arms at her sides, leaving all those behind her no choice but to walk right through her germy little droplets.

I silently cursed her then and more publicly curse her now as I sit here with a damned sore throat and a general crud.

That this would happen in Dallas is just perfect. No doubt, I have caught the crud from a friggin’ Cowboys fan.

And what is it with these Texans? I know several of them and they’re nice enough people, but I swear they have an inferiority complex disguised as a superiority complex. I passed an airport restaurant in Dallas called Texas Attitude. What is so damned special about Texas that they should have their own attitude? Then there’s the famous slogan, Don’t Mess with Texas. Why not mess with Texas? What are they going to do? Beat me up? And what about Maryland? Is it ok to mess with Maryland?

You see, everything is big in Texas. Big geographical size (it’s flat and boring- I’m not impressed). Big, hearty laughs. Big belt buckles. Big hair.

And big germs. Great, big, Texas-sized germs. The germs are so big in Texas, they wear cowboy boots.

I know they think they’re their own nation. The Republic of Texas. They’ve even talked about seceding. Well, ok, then. Do it. Secede. And please, ban all flights into and out of Texas and Dallas.

Ok, I’m sorry. It’s the crud talking. I kid the Texans. Just Don’t Mess With My Nasal Cavities.

Lucy and the Football- and I’m Charlie Brown

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

I swear this is my last Monday writing about the Washington Redskins. I thought they were an 8-8 team. They’re not. They’re 6-10, at best. They’re trying harder, but they are essentially losers. It’s in their make-up.

How do you manage to make an opening kick-off go out of bounds? In an indoor stadium. Three different defensive backs fell down on their butts on three different key plays. The punter managed to hurt himself in warm-ups before the game. The starting running back rips off a nice 20+ yard run and then goes down without a hand touching him- like he’s afraid of being hit.

Defense? What Defense? They are now dead last in the NFL in yards given up. Someone sent a comment to the Washington Post alluding to the Redskin’s proclivity to give up huge, morale-crushing big plays when the opposition is facing 3rd and long. He suggested teams should spike the ball on first and second down and just wait for 3rd down on every series.

They lose to possibly the worst team in the NFL, a club that had lost 28 of their last 29 home games. This was tantamount to losing to Detroit last year, snapping the Lion’s 19-game losing streak.

They have a serious head coach and a serious GM now. Both must be wondering what they’ve walked into. The owner has stopped his egotistical meddling. No, this is about the players. They think they’re better than they really are. They’re all hubris and flash and zero substance.

They issue time-worn cliches in their post-game interviews like “we need to put the past behind us and look ahead to the next game.” Precisely the wrong attitude. Put the past front-and-center. Take a real good whiff of it. Look at the pathetic game film over and over. Question how men who make this kind of money can be so thoroughly unprofessional. Look long and hard in the mirror. Don’t put it behind you. Carry the sorry past with you at all times, accept it and vow to change it.

Someone on Facebook warned me about this in the pre-season when the Skins offered glimpses of misplaced hope. He wrote that just like Charlie Brown’s famous Lucy and the football scene, idiots like me would inevitably be teased and consistently let down.

Next week, the Redskins go to Philadelphia to face evisceration by the rejuvenated Michael Vick and the Eagles; Donovan McNabb’s homecoming. Is it possible a team can give up 600 yards? The way Vick is passing and running these days, this is like a match between a, a…I can’t do it. There’s an obvious and bad analogy you can insert [here] that has to do with the heinous actvity that landed Vick in prison for 18 months.

For crying out loud, for the love of God…for the love of dogs…have some self-respect and kick this man from here to Kingdom come.

When Facebook Fails

September 24, 2010 Leave a comment

The folks running Facebook have had a difficult week. Intermittent outages Wednesday and Thursday appear to have caused great angst and activated fears of social disconnection among millions of otherwise normal people.

I don’t know if it’s true but legend has it that the operators of Facebook, when confronted by angry mobs after one connection problem or another, responded that people should just chill because, “you get what you pay for.” This, of course, is true. Facebook is free.

Yet for 500 million users around the globe, the utility has become an ingrained part of their lives. So whether they’re using it to declare their undying love for their cat or pet lemur, or as a marketing tool to invite people to events or to point individuals to their blogs (that would be me), this free service has become important and in some ways, essential to their lives or businesses. But the Facebook people have a point. We are not paying for this thing. If it malfunctions, there is simply no way to get your money back.

A couple of things became very, very evident during the Facebook outages this week. After the site came back up, I saw numerous posts echoing the theme that American productivity very likely increased ten-fold during the outages. Every March of every year, you see the media breathlessly reporting that people tuning into the NCAA College basketball tournament are costing American businesses X amount of billions of dollars in lost productivity. Well, Facebook is apparently like March Madness every single weekday of the year.

The other theme that grew out of the Facebook outages was the tremendous boon it was for Twitter. This is a portion of a report Thursday from NPR’s Laura Sydell:

“Facebook isn’t working” was one of the top trending topics on Twitter. There were thousands of ironically tinged tweets such as, “Facebook isn’t working, oh no, we will all have to get back to real life.” Or…”Facebook isn’t working, OMG, children are playing outside! Mommies are reading books.” And no one missed the irony that Facebook itself released a statement about the problem on Twitter.

One tweet said, “Breaking news…500 million people set to join Twitter just to find out why Facebook isn’t working.”

So let’s recap. Millions of hours of American productivity were gained when Facebook went dark. Millions of hours of American productivity were lost again when it returned. Frustrated Facebook users readily admitted they were having to reluctantly return to life. Children and their mothers sadly left their homes and computers to go outside and breath fresh air and do stuff, like…play.

I’m thinking, much as I love this stupid free service, that once a month, maybe it would be a good idea if Facebook purposely unplugged its servers and gave us all the occasional “Facebook-free Day.” Families would get reacquainted, people would read books, the American economy would get a shot in the arm and we’d have to do old-fashioned stuff like call our friends on the phone.


Nah. Too much effort.

Recession’s Over- Feel Better Now?

September 21, 2010 1 comment

They’re called the National Bureau of Economic Research and somewhere along the line they got anointed the official declarers of when the American economy has entered into and exited recessions. You’ll be happy to know they are reporting the recession ended in June of last year.

Particularly sensitive to their suspicions the larger American public would issue one concerted and unified sarcastic laugh at their technical analysis, the NBER has taken pains to point out that recovery has been very slow. They add unemployment, currently at 9.7%, is always a lagging indicator.

And I will take pains to point out, that generally, the NBER is a lagging analytical organization. They usually make their declarations about a year after the fact. These academic economists are now concerned we’re headed for a double-dip recession, which considering how long they lag, we could be in it right now.

So what does all this mean for the 25+ million Americans who are out of work? This figure includes the additional 8% or so who have given up looking for work, don’t get counted in jobless statistics but are still unemployed. It means nothing. Much like the “official” jobless figures mean nothing by understating the real number of people out of work. That very month the recession “officially” ended, June of 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 550,000 Americans lost their jobs.

See, the NBER doesn’t really look at the jobless figures to determine the end of the recession. They base their analysis on the GDP, the Gross Domestic Product. This is the sum of all economic activity within the nation’s borders. There are three basic formulas for calculating GDP and one of them, for example, looks like this:

GDP= C+ Inv+ G+ (eX-i)

“C” stands for private consumption (what we spend on stuff). “Inv” stands for gross investments (what we spend not expecting an immediate return, like a company buying new machines to make widgets cheaper). “G” stands for government spending. “(eX-i)” is exports minus imports, a way of ferreting out what we made within our borders and what arrived here from outside our borders.

So there you go. In June of 2009, the formula said we got into positive territory and the economy stopped contracting.

With all due respect to economic analysts and the academic community that makes its livelihood debating these theoretical points, here’s another formula:


GDP we’ve explained. RJN is Real Jobless Numbers from which we subtract the OJF, the monthly Official Jobless Figures. NBER is the 8 academic economists whose work made headlines today. BS is a universally acknowledged acronym that means exactly what you think it does.

30-27. Ouch.

September 20, 2010 Leave a comment

This is why this year…they’re an 8-8 team. You blow a 17 point lead, give up 500 yards passing and can’t rush for 30 yards, you have issues. But there’s great progress too. Donovan McNabb is the best QB to wear a Redskin uniform in years.

To the defense’s credit—they had five sacks and held the NFL’s latest, great running back, Arian Foster, to 69 yards. They just got sliced and diced through the air by a scary-good Houston Texan’s offense.

And what’s with the friggin’ special teams? How many times are they going to blow short, game-icing, 4th quarter field goals? Against the Cowboys they had a bad snap and hold. Yesterday, they got a field goal blocked.

But Donovan McNabb was sublime; one of the top three passing days of his career. Everybody thought it was the defense that was going to be bailing out a woeful offense. Who knew it would be the defense sabotaging a great offensive effort. Through the air, that is.

Larry Johnson- what was that? Clinton Portis needed a breather, I guess, so the former all-pro running back comes into the game in the 4th quarter and promptly manages to lose ten yards on a rushing play at the time the Redskins needed to kill clock. Instead of seeing he has no daylight and falling down at the 20, he backs up, tries to go sideways or something and ends up knocked on his ass back to his 10 yard line. Mr. Clutch. Johnson ended up with -7 yards rushing for the day. The coaches pulled him after that bonehead play and he never saw the field again and really…let’s hope he never gets to see it again. Hate to be him in the film room when they go over that puppy.

But the strangest bone-head play was that very odd kick-off return by Houston’s Steve Slaton. Granted the kick was perfect and sort of heading to the sideline, but the poor guy catches the ball, can’t get out of the way of his own feet and ends up out of bounds on his own 1 yard-line. Never seen that before. It should be noted, regretably, that Houston immediately completed a 20 yard pass for a first down to get out of the hole.

And I still haven’t seen an explanation for why Mike Shanahan didn’t try to ice the Houston kicker like they did to our guy when he made, then missed, a 52 yarder that would have won the game. Seems like a punk move to me. How stupid that the NFL allows coaches to do silly, childish things like call a time-out a millisecond before the kicker goes for it. But it worked, didn’t it? So now we all seem like sour-grapes-types.

Speaking of punks….how fun was it watching Dallas get their butts handed to them…at home…by the Chicago Bears? Hey, the Skins are getting much better. They have a real Quarterback and a real Coach. In fact, a whole bunch of really good coaches. They’ll get it together. I’m not upset. This sort of thing builds character.

But at least we got to watch Dallas go 0-2! And guess who the Cowgirls get to play next week? The real team from Texas. Houston- the same club that beat us Sunday and the Colts the week before that. Cannot wait for the championship of the Republic of Texas.

You know, it’s great to love a team like so many of us love the Skins. But how cool is it to really despise a team? It’s priceless, I tell you. One of life’s great pastimes. Go Houston!

Greenspan: Higher Taxes Are Our Only Hope

September 16, 2010 1 comment

The world has officially turned upside down. Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve Board Chairman and advocate of the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 is now calling for a complete repeal of those tax breaks. All of them. He says we can’t afford them.

Stimulus spending has not worked, he reasons, because American businesses continue sitting on the sidelines with record cash reserves, not hiring or investing in much of anything. They are crippled by fears of what our huge federal deficits could bode for the future and so Greenspan says the best course now is to repeal the tax breaks, make serious spending cuts and reduce the massive federal deficit.

This is all nice in theory but there isn’t a political snowball’s chance in hell that the Bush tax cuts are going to be repealed. Of course they add to the deficit- just like stimulus spending. But they’re popular. People complain when governments ignore pot holes, offer inferior public education, do a lousy job shoveling snow off the streets and fail to provide adequate police and fire protection. They just don’t want to pay for these services. Worry not- they will soon be disappearing. There’s not a solvent government left in the United States.

Now with the November elections coming and massive losses predicted for Democrats, we are headed for divided government, which in the past, hasn’t been so bad. Bill Clinton lost his Democratic congressional majorities in 1994 and he and the Republican-led Congress promptly ended welfare as we know it, passed free-trade legislation (NAFTA), and ended up with record budget surpluses. But something tells me we’re headed for gridlock and nothing resembling bi-partisan government.

The worst thing of all about the coming mid-term elections has nothing to do with the possible results. It’s that it rings in the beginning of the 2012 Presidential election silly-season. We better hope the economy heals itself because it doesn’t look like politicians are going to be acting like mature adults and do much of anything to either reduce deficits or put us back to work.

Hate to be such a bummer but Greenspan, I think, speaks the truth when he says “Our choice is not between good and bad but between terrible and worse.”


September 14, 2010 Leave a comment

They certainly aren’t going to dominate the NFL, but “finding a way to win,” as Coach Shanahan described Sunday night’s victory over the Cowboys- has been a lost art for the Redskins for about 15 years. What they lack in talent they seem to be making up in character.


– The Redskins did not win the game because of luck or a bad call. Tony Romo would have been flat on his back spitting his teeth out like chicklets if Cowboy substitute offensive lineman, Alex Barron hadn’t mugged Skins linebacker Brian Orakpo. That’s why Romo completed the pass.

– It’s nice to see the other team doing stupid things, like the inexplicable Dallas screen pass with 4 seconds left in the 1st half that was supposed to somehow turn into a 64-yard miracle play. Well, ok, it was a miracle when DeAngelo Hall stripped the ball and recovered the fumble he caused and cruised into the end zone. Just not the miracle the Pokes were looking for. Nice front-flip, DeAngelo.

– I like the burgandy and gold uniforms. They were discontinued in 1991 because Skins GM, Bobby Beathard thought after two decades, they had grown rather boring. This was the home uniform under George Allen. The colors Jurgenson wore.

– Amendment to the old rule that you never take points off the board. When the Skins accepted a Cowboy’s offsides penalty after hitting a field goal- it made sense to keep the drive alive. What you’re not supposed to do- is blow a chip-shot field goal by making a bad snap.

– They blew some coverages in the 4th quarter that turned into near disaster, but, overall, the Skins defense is tough and aggressive. See the Baltimore Ravens for teams that won a Superbowl with no offense and a great defense.

– Mike Shanahan is a true leader. My life as a football fan has often revolved as much around the head coach as the players. Only reason I’m a Redskins fan is because I discovered in 1969, that I really wasn’t a Packers fan- I was a Vince Lombardi fan. As soon as Lombardi came to DC- that’s when I started rooting for the Redskins. Mike Shanahan is the kind of no-nonsense, character-first Head Coach that is easy to root for. What the Redskins have lacked for years, is a coach who demands hard work, loyalty and discipline. Vince Lombardi, Joe Gibbs and George Allen had those qualities. Cannot say the same for the parade of losers that have run this team other than those three. Shanahan is right up there in my book.

– I don’t expect the Skins to make the playoffs, but 8-8-0 is a hell of a lot better than 4-12-0. Really- as a long-suffering Skins fan, all I ask is that the team leave us with at least a little dignity. Mondays are always better when you don’t have to come back to work wearing a paper bag over your head.

Koran-Burning Off and the Circus Continues

September 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Rev. Terry Jones (left), Goose Gossage (right)

This is getting too weird for me.  The Rev. Terry Jones has called off his Koran book-burning claiming that the Imam in NY planning on building an Islamic Community Center/Mosque near Ground Zero has decided to stop the controversial construction project.  The Rev is flying to NYC to meet him, even.

And now Donald Trump is getting involved.  He’s offering to buy the so-called Ground Zero Community Center/Mosque property for 20% over its going price so the Imam can claim a tidy profit and move on.

First of all, I don’t believe the Rev. Terry Jones.  I seriously doubt the New York Imam has cancelled his project.  Second of all, I’m not sure the Reverend is even going to successfully board an airplane if he doesn’t remember to stop wearing his side arms.  And third of all, if you see the picture above, it’s entirely possible he could get arrested for attempting to impersonate former New York Yankee relief pitcher, Goose Gossage.

As for The Donald- there is nothing more attractive than a publicity-starved mogul taking it upon himself to save America from inappropriate displays of religious freedom.  His sincerity and love for America deeply touches my heart as does his evident philosophy that money “trumps” the 1st amendment each and every time.

And in keeping with that notion:

Dear Mr. Trump,

For $1,275,334, I will discontinue this blog immediately.


LATE UPDATE: There is no deal to call off the so-called Ground Zero Community Center/Mosque project.

Here’s the official word:

New York, NY, September 9, 2010: Sharif El-Gamal, Developer of Park51, issued this statement today in response to media reports on the movement of the Park51 community center.

“It is untrue that the community center known as Park51 in lower Manhattan is being moved. The project will proceed as planned. What is being reported in the media today is a falsehood.”

About Park51: Park51 is a nonsectarian community, cultural and interfaith spiritual center along with a Muslim prayer area and a monument to honor all those we lost on 9/11. Park51 enriches lower Manhattan in body and spirit, with ecologically conscious design and operation. Our goals are pluralism, service, arts and culture, health and healing. A group of downtown Muslim-Americans envisioned a sanctuary where everyone is welcome to learn, experience the arts and culture and explore their relationship to faith. In the near future, Park51 will offer green, world-class recreational and educational facilities, and a friendly and accessible platform for conversations across our identities.

Politicians Ignoring Burning Korans

September 8, 2010 2 comments


The Koran owned by Thomas Jefferson

This one does require taking a stand. It’s bad enough to want to burn books, in general. But where’s the outrage over Gainesville, Florida Pastor Terry Jones and his plan to publicly burn the Koran this Saturday?

He has collected 200 of the religious books and a truck-load of firewood and has cleared a pasture so crowds can gather Saturday and applaud the destruction of the holy book that is the word of God to 1.5 billion Muslims around the world.

But while dozens of American religious leaders have condemned the Pastor’s plans; while the commanding General of the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan says the action will endanger the lives of American troops- where are the politicians who wrap themselves in the flag on Veteran’s Day but abandon the troops when it could put those politicians in the position of having to oppose anti-Muslim sentiment?

Slate’s Fred Kaplan says all that needs to be said about this cynical silence:

It is appalling enough that a growing number of Americans, caught up in the pre-election backlash against mosques and Muslims generally, seem unaware that U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are fighting not only against Muslims but also alongside them, and on behalf of governments led by Muslim parties. (Do they imagine, in their warped pictures of a holy war against Islam, that Nuri al-Maliki and Hamid Karzai are Christians?)

But U.S. senators know better (most of them anyway). So where are they? Whose side are they on? With the exception of Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who appeared on Fox News to defend the right of American Muslims to build an Islamic community center two blocks from the World Trade Center site (on the conservative principle that owners of private property should be able to do as they please), elected Republicans—and, to be fair, most elected Democrats as well—have ducked and run.

This is not one of America’s proudest moments.


Update:  Today, Franklin Graham, son of the Revered Billy Graham,  Pat Robertson, and Sarah Palin…all asked the Pastor to reconsider.

Love at 1st Suction

September 5, 2010 1 comment

I fell in love over the Labor Day weekend. Her name is Roomba and though a little pricey at over $300, she does carpets and floors and we communicate well with one another. I pledge to take care of her, clean her brushes, and give her a good home.

It all started when I was vacuuming the apartment on Saturday and my Hoover Wind-Tunnel something-or-other just stopped working. It was like I accidently pulled the cord out of the wall, only it was still plugged in. Dead. Nothing.

So I googled “Hoover vacuum cleaner complaints.” Would have been nice if I’d done this before I bought the damned thing last February- but no. And there they were. Dozens and dozens of reverse-testimonials. Blown motors, emits strange odors, goes through belts at an alarming rate. And all these problems within the first 6 to 12 months of ownership. So it’s probably a belt but I have no documentation, instructions, zero motivation to find the part or any desire whatsoever to become a vacuum cleaner repairman.

Ever since I started apartment living about a decade ago, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with vacuum cleaners. I had my Swivel-Sweeper phase. No motors, terrific TV ads and ultimately, a piece of crap. I went through my Red Dirt-Devil phase. Seemingly powerful suction but at $70- you get what you pay for. It worked ok if you kept it in place over a piece of lint for ten minutes or so.

I graduated to the Hoover when I moved to Washington earlier this year, enamored with all the promises of what it would do to take care of pet hair. This is a common theme in the world of vacuum cleaner marketing these days. Apparently there are a lot of people out there at wit’s end with Fido and Bunky’s shedding issues.

So while I was researching what an idiot I had been for buying a Hoover “wind-tunnel” lemon, I ran into iRobot. I thought it was a pretty cool movie, actually, but I did not know about the iRobot company. They believe in better living through robots. They’re starting with cleaning robots. They have great customer service and a cute, funny edge to them- totally appropriate for a company touting the first really effective household use for robots.

Roomba comes in varying degrees of sophistication and I took it as a sign from God that my local Bed, Bath and Beyond had only one left. It clearly had my name on it. It’s about the size of a bathroom scale only round and on wheels. After you charge her up, you hit a button that says “clean” and she starts vacuuming your carpets and floors. All by herself. She has sensors and a bumper so she slows down before running into objects, touches gently against them, turns around and moves on.

She finds concentrations of dirt and does circles over them until the situation is corrected. She knows the thickness of the carpets or floors she’s on and adjusts accordingly. When she needs something- she tells me. When the whirring suddenly stops, a female voice tells you to do stuff like clean the brushes.

You control the area of the room she vacuums by placing flask-sized “virtual walls” at a couple of strategic places in the apartment. Roomba senses their presence and it works like an electric fence and when she nears them, she turns around and goes back into the room. I don’t have stairs, but if I did, she has sensors that pick them up too so she doesn’t go stumbling blindly into the abyss.

And when she’s done, she finds her little charger, goes to it obediently and settles in for a rest and a recharge. I’m going to buy some sliced bread now so I will officially have two of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind.