Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Oh my GOD! It's 12:57!!!

The following are hypotheses on what life would be like in the 24 universe. Let’s face it: some strange shit happens there, and people’s lives would have to adapt to it.

Life beings at 21-
No one would ever let their children leave the house until they completed college. IT seems that anyone under the age of 21 in the 24 Universe is completely retard and lacks any modicum of common sense. They will merrily follow strange mountain men into their cabin of solitude. They will follow men dressed entirely in black, exiting a black utility van and carrying very large duffle bags into an airport. They’ll do just about anything to put themselves directly into the line of danger.

Who’s the blind rodent?-
Everyone everywhere would constantly wonder which person among them is secretly plotting to ruin everything. People at work would be wondering who is being paid by the competition to sabotage the project, deleting all the necessary files and cutting the power before you have a chance to hit save. Sport teams would have to wonder which one among them will grab the ball at an inopportune time and run in the opposite direction. We’re not just talking about people stabbing each other in the back. We’re talking about constantly trying to hash out who’s the mole, because they’re EVERYWHERE and could be ANYONE. The new guy, your lover, your wife, your best friend. Mole, mole, mole, mole. Eventually, job applications would have to be designed to specifically to hash out all potential moles. They’d contain questions like this:
Do you currently work for any of our competitors?
Have you ever worked for any of our competitors?
Is anyone giving you any money to take a job here?

Keeping the IT guy down-
OK, maybe this one is based on reality a little bit. If you work in the IT department in the 24 universe you are socially retarded and most likely very unpleasant to look at. Best case scenario: your mom is still willing to talk to you because outside of work, there’s no reason anyone else would. If you’re even remotely attractive, you either got the job because of your dad or you’re the mole.

Big Plus: NO TRAFFIC!!!-
The 24 Universe would be the greatest place in the world to commute. Need to get from downtown LA to Chatsworth in the middle of the day? No problem! That’ll be about a 20 minute drive. For a frame of reference, I used to live 15 minutes North of downtown and work 15 south of Chatsworth and my commute to work was 30 minutes in absolute peek conditions when the sun was out. The city planners in the 24 Universe have obviously come a very long way in highway design and traffic flow maintenance.

And you thought you hated insurance companies now-
Odds are pretty good that insurance rates everywhere in the United States are double to triple what they are in the regular universe, what with all the terrorist attacks. If Jack Bauer so much as visits your city, insurance rates instantly double. If you live in the same city as Jack Bauer and you actually manage to afford an insurance policy, you’re extremely wealthy. Also, odds are pretty good that you work for the insurance company and your job is to follow Jack around and process all the claims left in his wake. If you’re a close, personal friend of Jack Bauer, you are completely uninsurable.

Talk about watching the clock-
I think this would be the biggest thing you’d have to get used to. At about 10 minutes to the top of every hour of every day, you would have to brace yourself for mayhem. You just never know what could happen. The building your in could be taken over by terrorists, you could be driven right off the road by CTU agents on their way to something really important, you could discover that your cube mate is the mole. ANYTHING!!! You’d basically spend the first 45 minutes of every hour totally relaxed and calm, because, you know, nothing too major’s going to happen in the first 45 minutes. But then you’d have to start getting ready. Maybe call your insurance company to make sure you’ve still got coverage. Get in touch with loved ones to find out exactly where they are and what they’re doing. Best case scenario: an airport you’re nowhere near just got seized. The internet would crash every hour at 58 minutes past as people everywhere, once realizing they’re safe, would be hitting refresh on the home page of their news provider of choice to find out what catastrophe happened this hour. Worst case scenario: you’re a close and personal friend of some guy named Jack Bauer. Just seeing Jack Bauer walk down the street at 11:45 would be enough to cause pandemonium. People would be fleeing the area in droves. If you actually know the man, then odds are pretty good you own a bullet proof vest. And if you don’t, well, then you’re just waiting for your number to get called. You get accustomed to not taking any calls for the last 15 minutes and the first 5 minutes of every hour. You’re internal clock is probably so honed in, that at 55 minutes past every hour, you routinely find something to hide under.

There are 2 blogs that you must read: Chuck Klosterman and Nick Bakay. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. Both are actually suitable for people that don’t give a damn about the game.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Worrisome thoughts

This morning at about 4:30 AM, for the first time since last weekend’s AFC Championship game went final, I had a very terrible thought pop in my head: the Steelers might lose. Before that, the thought of losing didn’t even enter into the equation. I thought a lot about doing things to help make sure the Steelers didn’t lose, but I didn’t actually stop and think, “OK, so what if they do lose.” Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very comfortably for the remaining 1:20 I had left before the alarm was set to go off.

I’ve dealt with the Steelers losing in the Playoffs before. A lot before. Very recently, in fact. But it’s been 10 years since I had to deal with the Steelers losing the Super Bowl. I don’t remember the aftermath, but I do remember thinking that losing was an impossibility. It didn’t matter that they were dogs by 14: Pittsburgh does not lose championship games. This time, they’re favored by 4 and all I’ve though about for the past 8+ hours is, “I’m going to be a wreck if they lose.” And the terrible plays that lead to that loss keep passing through my imagination. Before this morning, all I had were visions of the Bus crashing into the end zone. Now I have visions of the secondary looking bewildered as Seattle completes another long gainer.


I’ve read in several articles, and heard a couple commentators say, that the Steelers feel like a team of Destiny. The Ravens had that feel in their run to the Super Bowl. The Patriots had it in their first run. The Rams had the entire year when they won it. And some of the things that have happened to the Steelers in the past 3 weeks have made some people say the Steelers have the D glow about them. Having people say that, before the actual game happens, scares the crap out of me. Seattle, a team in a city that hasn’t won a championship in eons, can lay claim to the “Destiny” tag every bit as much as the Steelers.

I think it’s obvious that I want nothing more than for the Steelers to win a Super Bowl. I just want to enjoy that feeling. Just be able to soak in the fact that I can be completely happy about a sports season for an entire year. If that happens, then I suppose it’s OK for me to get the disappointed feeling out of my system now.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Power of Jinx

The last time I had a Sports Illustrated subscription, I was in college. It was a free 6 month trial and I could renew at the end of the 6-months for an extra discount. I didn’t renew. It wasn’t because I didn’t like the magazine. It was because I was waiting.

Sports Illustrated offers specials about 6 or 7 times a year where you get a free gift of a commemorative book and some other thingy for the champion of the major sports. For example, Texas won the National Championship in football, and immediately after popped up the commercials: “Hey Texas fans! Get your commemorative book and football to remember your Longhorns 2006 National Championship!” While I have never said as much out loud, I decided that I would wait to get a Sports Illustrated subscription until the Steelers wont eh Super Bowl.

Since I made that decision, the Steelers have missed out on going to the Big Game 3 times. At one point, I almost got a subscription to remember the Miami Hurricanes winning a National Championship. I said to myself at the time, “No, don’t do it. The Steelers have a good team this year. Just wait.”

Here’s the problem: any good sports fan knows that you never talk about your team winning until they’ve won. So, I figured, since I never actually SAID, “I’m not buying a Sports Illustrated subscription until they win the Super Bowl,” I wasn’t jinxing anything. I mean, everybody who loves a team will let themselves THINK victorious thoughts. But speaking them… Let’s put it this way: last week, my brother called me to celebrate after the Steelers took position of the ball on Indianapolis’s 2 yard line with a 3 point lead and 1:40 left in the game. We hung up and Bettis immediately fumbled. Thankfully, the jinx wasn’t so bad that the Steelers lost. But the point is, you can’t help but think good things, but you darn well better know not to say them.

This current Steelers run has me wondering if thinking too much might not be a jinx. Just before the playoffs started, my dad gave me a subscription to Sports Illustrated as a gift. I’m not sure the reason for the gift: I imagine some kid knocked on his door peddling subscriptions so he could play at Disney World with his band. However, it might turn out to be the greatest gift I’ve ever gotten.

The Steelers are playing in their first Super Bowl in 10 years. I’m positive I have to end this posting now, and I’m a little worried that my next thoughts are going to ruin things for everyone in the Steeler Nation.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Bill Cower's Jaw Facts

In homage to the brilliant web site chucknorrisfacts.com, I present to you a list of some facts about Bill Cower’s jaw. These were written mostly during the 1st half of the heart-stopping Steelers-Colts playoff game with the help of Blair, Jennifer and Uncle Ken. ENJOY!

- In order to exercise his jaw muscles, Bill Cower chews on steel.
- Bill Cower eats jawbreakers like they’re Skittles.
- People say Bill Cower has a diamond Jaw. Not because it’s made of diamonds, like a boxer who is said to have a glass chin. But because, when he chews on coal, he spits out diamonds.
- When the Steelers play a road game near an ocean, the Coast Guard has to adjust the tide tables to account for Bill Cower’s spit.
- The reason Bill Cower spits when he talks is because his jaw holds over a gallon of liquid.
- During the off season, Bill Cower works at an Alligator Show in Florida….as an alligator. This past summer, 4 Alligator wrestlers lost fingers to Bill Cower.
- The phone company is hoping that Bill Cower will retire soon. They would like to have their best ever cable cutter back.
- DNA results are conclusive: Bill Cower is a direct descendent of the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
- Bill Cower’s jaw is the missing link.
- During a family vacation to the Amazon jungle, a primitive tribe mistook Bill Cower for the god from which the Amazon River originates. They believe his spit to have medicinal qualities. During the hour or so Bill Spoke with the tribe, they were able to collect 137 gallons of healing spit.
- As a kid, Bill Cower had a job shoeing horses. He never had any tools, just his jaw.
- When Bill Cower is presenting game film, none of the players are willing to sit in the front row for fear of a jaw related injury. Also, if the meeting runs too long, they might end up below the high spit mark.
- Bill Cower doesn’t have air bags in his car. He has sand bags.
- Bill Cower considers George Washington a pussy. Wooden teeth? Pussy!
- Bill Cower has to have his titanium teeth caps replaced annually.
- Geologists have frequently used Bill Cower’s jaw to test theories on the pressure at the Earth’s core. He sometimes spits lava.
- Bridge designers had to engineer Bill Cower’s braces when he was a teenager.
- Bill Cower has to use arm extensions to help around the house. He can’t reach past his jaw.
- Bill Cower’s tongue is an interesting genetic adaptation. It is made of Teflon.
- Like the song, Bill Cower met his wife at a bus stop on a rainy day. He didn’t share his umbrella though. He used the umbrella, she used his chin.
- Bill Cower’s wife wears a helmet during sex. You learn after a couple concussions.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Drama of the Day

Many of you are aware that I’m in a football suicide pool. This is a pool where you pick a single winner for an NFL game each week and you can only use each team twice (though most only let you re-use once) throughout the season. Usually, these things are over by around week 13 or 14. This year, with the bad teams being REALLY bad and there being a whole lot more of them, the pool I’m in has lasted into the Playoffs. 13 people are still alive, to be exact. This is unheard of. But alas, this is the situation I find myself in.

Last week, I, along with everyone else, picked the Patriots, so I can’t pick them again. This weekend, is a much more difficult chore. I have to choose between Seattle, a 9 point favorite, or Chicago, a 3 shaky 3 point favorite over a Carolina team that has looked really good the past 2 weeks (but really bad the week before that). Unfortunately, the decision isn’t quite as easy as it seems. If I take Seattle, I’m all but assured an opportunity to pick again. But then I will most likely be cornered into taking either Indy, which would be a great pick if Devner beats the Patriots but is a super gut wrenching pick if the Patriots win (which I think they will), or my Steelers, which is fine except if they lose in the Championship game, not only will that be the 5th time doing that under Cower, but they would have also lost me the chance at my share of $15,000.

Now if I take Chicago, there is a bonus side affect. Basically, I’d be the only team not taking either of the big favorites this weekend: Indy or Seattle. If they both lose and Chicago wins, I win $15,000 all alone. If they both win and Chicago wins, I can take either of the home teams in the Championship round, which will be a nice little advantage. Or I could end up with bupkiss.

Obviously, I could end up with bupkiss no matter who I pick, but Chicago at least gives me a shot of getting it ALL for me. If I take Seattle and then the Colts/Steelers winner and still end up in the Super Bowl, I’m most likely going to be facing all if not most of the remaining 13 people. And in the Super Bowl, you have to pick against the spread and the total points. Top 2 picks of who covered the spread closest to the total points splits the $15,000. So to recap, my options are:
1) Pick Seattle and almost be certain to remain in the running for a 1 in 6 shot of splitting a $15,000 pot.

2) Pick Chicago and run the very real risk of getting the boot. But if I survive, I increase dramatically the likelihood of winning the whole shebang on my own.

The best part of the story is that this is the #1 concern in my life right now. In fact, as I mull the ramifications of either option in the back of my head on an almost non-stop basis, I realize that this is the #1 source of constant worry in my life in some time. Job issues have caused some stress lately, and far more stress in bouts, but I haven’t had a cloud hang over me like this in quite a while. Certainly not at all since shortly after settling into Fresno. When your top worry is football, I guess there are some folks that deserve a thank you for making the rest of your life relatively calm. THANK YOU, JENN!!!

But still, why did Chicago have to be playing CAROLINA!?!?!?! Why did the Giants and Tampa both have to shit the bed a week early!?!? WHY WHY WHY!?!?!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Review and Preview

It's time to look back at December and look forward to January.

Sports: Sorry to all of you who don’t care, but this is the highlight. When the NFL Playoff are about to start, that trumps most news events.

The Steelers played very well in December, closing out the season with 4 wins in a row. Now they find themselves 4 wins from being Super Bowl Champs. Problem is that those are all going to be on the road. A very tough sell. I’m preparing my self now for a very sad Monday in January. However, if I’m writing this Review and Preview on February 3rd and it’s entirely about how super excited I am about the Steelers being in the Super Bowl, well, don’t be too surprised if that happens.

On the Fantasy football front, I lost the Championship game in my money league. Again. I won’t go into the agonizing details, but let’s just say I’m hoping that the Jacksonville Jaguars suffer a humiliating loss this weekend.

Food: My brother sent me some bottles of the greatest wing sauce in all the land. I couldn’t be more thrilled. Really. Not possible. It’s from a place called the Quakersteak and Lube originally in Sharon, PA. They’ve franchised and are all over PA, OH, and even have a store in WI and FL. Finding a good wing joint on the west coast is not an easy feat. So to have the sauce is like having a little slice of heaven. Only, I have no idea how to properly prepare this stuff. I’m afraid I’ll only have half a bottle left before I figure it out. I’m planning on trying again this Sunday. Blair, get ready for chicken and Steelers, bitch!

In January, I vow to eat a Cheesecake Factory meal (I’ve only had a couple slices of cheesecake so far) and buy a tube of cookie dough is the Steelers make it into the Super Bowl. I deserve a reward for the torture they’re sure to put me through this month.

Life in General: Christmas was really good, present wise. I got 2 of those plug-and-play video game things, one of which has Galaga on it (only my all time favorite game, bar none). You know what, Galaga being my all time favorite game probably warrants it’s own column. I’m giddy thinking about it. I also got cool Lego pens. And I’m pretty sure that Jenn really liked the presents I got her.

Around Christmas time, my car’s transmission went kaput. So Jenn and I spent the week between Christmas and New Years car shopping (that should have been a blog posting, but I was addicted to SuDoku that week, which probably led directly to me being burned out on it now). To make a long story short, we got a new Hyundai Elantra hatch-back. It’s a great car. It genuinely feels like a useful car, a huge step from me. And I even like the color! The actual buying of the car was a nightmare, but when is it not. It’s like it’s SUPPOSED to suck.

In January, Jenn and I will be heading to SoCal the weekend of the 21st. Austin and Leslie are throwing a karaoke party and we will probably be going to Disneyland. The Karaoke party is at the place where I proposed to Jenn. It should be both a hoot and a holler. I need to prepare for a couple new songs though and I’m wide open for suggestions. I typically like doing fun/cheese 80’s songs or classic rock. The song should be popular and if you can move to it, that’s a bonus (I might love the Beatles, but that doesn’t make a Beatles song a good karaoke song). Last time, I prepared to do St. Elmo’s Fire and they didn’t have that song, so keep in mind that song availability is an issue. To give you an idea of some of my standards: Margaritaville, Loser (which is right in my vocal range [which is to say I don’t sound totally sucky on that one, just relatively sucky]), Tainted Love, Love Shack (as a duet), I’m All Out of Love, Hold Me Now, You Can Call Me Al, You Shook Me (All Night Long), and Austin and I always do a duet of either Bohemian Rhapsody or Stairway to Heaven. And no, saying that you know that I’m gay because I sing I’m All Out of Love and Hold Me Now is not helpful.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

P_ _ _ L _

I like puzzles. All kind of puzzles make me happy. When I was a kid, my Aunt Pudgy called me Puzzle Paul because I loved to do puzzles and I loved even more to do them as quickly as possible. Now, I love logic puzzles. I frequently find myself addicted to certain games or puzzles.

For the past month, I’ve been absolutely enthralled with SuDoku puzzles. I would print out 2 different puzzles at work every day and do them during down time. The month of December is one long down time, so I had plenty of opportunity to do my daily SuDoku. Unlike many addicts, though, I frequently find that I grow tired of whatever puzzle is currently afflicting me. With the SuDoku, for instance, I began to realize that the easy ones were a little to easy to be very fun and, more often than not, the difficult ones could not be solved with pure logic. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s S.W.A.G.-ing (Stupid Wild Ass Guess) your way through life. So, I have soured on the Sudoku.

On Tuesday, when I got to work and decided I didn’t really feel much like playing SuDoku or regular Solitaire, I played my first ever game of Spider Solitaire. I LOVE Freecell, but it requires far too much concentration and it’s too difficult to play a single game 2 or 3 moves at a time and still expect to win. But at work, I can’t just stop what I’m doing completely to give my head a rest and play a game of Freecell. For awhile I was on regular Solitaire, Las Vegas scoring. I’d keep it open all day and see if I could finish up. After SuDoku for the past month, that just wasn’t going to cut it. So I tried out this Spider Solitaire which so many friends seem so enthralled with. Turns out, I love me some Spider Solitaire. It doesn’t require the concentration of Freecell, so I can leave a game alone for an hour on end without missing a beat, but it requires a bit more strategy than regular Solitaire.

We’ll see how long this lasts. With the Fantasy Football season over and the NFL Playoffs going bye-bye in a month, I’m going to have to have something to eat up some time throughout the day.

Obviously, I’m picking the Steelers to win it all. That’s my heart pick, probably not a reality pick. The reality pick is for a battle royale between the Colts and Patriots on January 22nd with the winner of that game to win the Super Bowl easily over the Seahawks. But the heart pick says that the Steelers are going to easily win this weekend at Cincy (that’s heart and reality). Then they squeak by a rusty Colts team that has just enough potential to be disrupted offensively (as exhibited by a slow start early in the year) that it gives hope to us that are rooting for a quality D. That makes January 22nd a Championship Game re-match, but this time in New England. This will be Big Ben’s break out game as a genuine top-notch QB. That or they go home. Either way, it’ll make for a fun weekend in SoCal!