Sunday, November 27, 2005

Games Night

When our families get together around the holidays, there's often time for games. So it was this past Thanksgiving. My favorite is Beyond Balderdash, a game where your skill at creating credible lies puts you ahead. For example, the Balderdash clue might be "February 1st, 1953." You have to make up some notable event that happened on that date.

All the participants answers are collected, each one is read, then each players tries to guess the correct answer which is included among the cock 'n bull responses.

So on February 1st, 1953:

--Jake "Raging Bull" Lamotta lost his middleweight boxing championship to Sugar Ray Robinson.
--Nikita Kruschev took over the Communist Party from Stalin.
--Japanese television started broadcasting
--Bill Haley's Rock Around The Clock hit number one on the Billboard charts.
--The first roller rink opened in New York City.
--Elvis Presley produced his first record.
--The first autombile powered by an engine was invented.

So the answers above are wrong except for one. Students of history should be able to logically eliminate a few. But one answer kinda stands out. The engine-powered automobile was developed long before 1953. So since it was my turn to be reader, I thought I would help out my young nephew Mike who created that response.

I read, "The first automobile powered by a jet engine was invented."

After I read all the answers, my nephew said, "I didn't hear mine."

I couldn't let on what I had done lest I reveal his answer. So I read them all again.

"It sounds like a word was added to my answer," my nephew said.

I was just trying to help! That's what I wanted to say. But I couldn't. And Mike couldn't say what he thought his answer really was, lest he reveal it himself. In another Balderdash game, my brother mis-read mouse-like to be moose-like, so one definition of the clue word became a "a moose-like animal that lives in South America." The person who created that answer had to bite his lip as other players laughed at the idea of a moose gallumping through the rainforests.

Anyway, among the answers above, nobody voted for the correct answer, which was the introduction of Japanese television. And nobody voted for my nephew's answer either.

"Can anybody reading my answers not add any words to them anymore," my nephew asked.

No problem.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Be Merry, Be Happy

(I don't go much into religion or politics, but, hea--it's the season for both in a way. So I just thought I'd throw my two cents worth in here.)

I've always believed that as a Christian I should walk softly and carry a big heart. Even at Christmas. Especially at Christmas.

Unfortunately, there appears to be a growing chorus of right wing moralists who under the banner "Christmas Friend or Foe" promise to bully those who seek to make the holiday season more inclusive of everyone regardless of faith.

On a right wing talk show, I heard the host ask that Christians not patronize shopping conglomerates who have instructed their employees to say "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas." Wal-Mart and Target have been singled out so.

I can see it both ways. "Merry Christmas" certainly shouldn't be offensive to anyone. Follow That Star and The Sound of Muzik (Christmas Rant) both make convincing arguments for this in their own blogs. And everyone knows that Christmas brings out the PC crazies who want to take Christ out of Christmas, whether it's at school concerts, public parks, or the workplace.

But I guess if I were to boycott Wal-Mart, I'd rather boycott them for not offering a living wage and health care benefits to their workers. If I were to boycott Target, I'd rather not shop there because they've banished the Salvation Army kettles from their doorsteps.

Christmas has been overcommercialized for some time. I'm not going to miss hearing "Merry Christmas" from an overworked, underpaid clerk from among the growing ranks of service workers in this country.

It would make me feel better knowing this store employee truly does share the blessings of this great country. And that his or her holiday is truly happy, whatever faith he or she may or may not choose to practice.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Where Do Old Blogs Go?

When I began blogging I read a lot of other people's blogs. Some I commented on, some I didn't. While browsing one time, I came across a pleasant, upbeat blog written by a woman in her 80s. How I found it I don't know, because the author's last entry was two years old.

It ended much as it had begun and had continued, with the woman commenting on her life such as it was, and the day-to-day happenings therein. There was no goodbye, no hint of anything awry.

I read the comments on her last blog and someone had posted a comment a year after her last entry, wondering where she was and how she was doing. There was no response nor any more follow-up comments.

Fellow blogger Poopie wondered in a blog recently if those bloggers we know have a back-up to let the on-line neighbors know if life events suddenly intrude somehow on the blogger to prevent them from posting. I'm not sure I do, but I should. I've found bloggers to be a curious and caring lot.

Along the same line, I've occasionally been following a blog only to see it not only discontinued, but deleted altogether. It's kind of sad. To me, it's like writing a small chapter of your life, with reviews and comments from strangers and friends, then tearing out the pages and throwing away the book.

I don't expect myself to be blogging for a lifetime. I've been at it for six months and figure another six months should be plenty. Afterall, blogging does take time away from life's other necessities. I could be studying my 401K investment options, fixing up the house to sell, spending more time exercising and pleasing my doctor, or any of a number of other hobbies and writing projects.

But I've already decided that I'll let the blogging community know my intentions when and if I decide to write 'fin' here. I don't know where old blogs go but I'll leave mine stay as long as it can. I'll consider it something like a chapter of a scrapbook written, then put on the shelf for anyone, including myself, to read at their leisure.

P.S. I see by my son's comment on my last blog that I need to be more careful when blogging about family. I'm sure that's one way to get a blog deleted very quickly is to inflame a member of the inner circle.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Gym Rats! Or Rats, Gym!

It had been a long time since I'd been to the gym. Months, no doubt. So I thought I better go this week since I spent money for the membership. First thing I noticed is that my favorite machine, the stairmaster, was gone. That was a great sweat-builder. Twenty minutes aboard the old stairmaster and sweat would be pouring from me like baste off a turkey.

Now they have treadmills and cycle machines and cross-trainers. They're okay but nothing could get that angina building like the old stairmaster.

I thought about going into the free weight room. It's where jocks and ex-jocks hang out. There you hear the constant clang of steel hitting steel as plates are added or substracted from the barbells before some stud tries to better his bench-pressing best.

Yes, I thought about going in there, but then I saw one dude with his sleeveless tee, sporting a tattoo on his bicep that looked like a peacock, flowing tailfeathers and all.

I'm not sure a tattoo of any bird would fit on my upper arm. Maybe Snoopy's Woodstock. I wonder if there are insect tattoos. My son Scott hits the free weight racks. I'm not sure he could fit a peacock on his bicep. Maybe somebody like Woody the Woodpecker. But that might not fly as tattoo art. Anyway, I thought I'd work on the cross-trainer instead.

Now I still sport a pretty good quadricep. Yup, from my days on the stairmaster. Helped me to climb Mt. Washington in New Hampshire a couple years ago. You could probably fit a pretty good sized tattoo on my upper thigh. I'm thinking a Polish eagle would draw stares of admiration.

I was pretty proud of my upper thigh bulge. Sometimes I'd tell somebody to go ahead and press their fingers there to demonstrate its rigidity. My wife didn't think it appropriate my asking women to check firmness of my thigh muscle. Heck, it was just her sister.

So it's a couple days later and I have pains in back of both my knees, courtesy of that cross-trainer obviously. Great! So what muscle's there? Certainly not one you can show off with a tattoo.

Monday, November 14, 2005

You Are Your Bumper Sticker

Last week I noticed a sign on a co-worker’s door that said, "Gone for Jury Duty." So when she returned, I asked her how it went. She said she wasn’t picked for the jury--a federal civil rights case--but she still found the process enlightening. For example, she said in winnowing out those prospective jurors with prejudices, a number of questions were asked about what newspapers they read and what radio stations they listened to. But the judge also wanted to know if potential jurors had any bumper stickers on their cars and what those stickers said.

So I wondered about that. Although most cars with bumper stickers have rather innocuous messages, like Vote for So-and-So or Save The Whales, there could be some messages that a surprised jury pool applicant might be shy about repeating. I browsed some bumper snickers and came up with these candidates:

"Criminal lawyer" is a redundancy.

99 percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.

I have PMS and a Gun. Any questions?

Lawyers have feelings too, allegedly.

Support a Lawyer, Become a Doctor

Don't Make Me Mad, I'm running out of places to hide bodies.

The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.

Honk if you've never seen an Uzi fired from a moving vehicle.

Only lawyers get to be judges and that’s the (f)law.

If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, riddle them with bullets.

Here’s the one that I want:

Upon the advice of my attorney, this bumper sticker will make no statement.

Friday, November 11, 2005

My Football Fantasy

WARNING FOR WOMEN: Contains Graphic Sports Content

I’m checking the injury status of Randy Moss, the Oakland Raider’s wide receiver. Then I need to find a replacement for Priest Holmes, the Kansas City Chief’s primary running back who is out for the season. Later, I’ll check the scouting reports on Donavan McNabb, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback. Could former SuperBowl MVP Tom Brady have a better game on Sunday?

I’m hooked on Fantasy Football. This is the first season I’ve played and all the players listed above are on my Yahoo fantasy football team, the Bloggets. The league was formed by my younger son Scott and includes my older son Greg and my nephew Mike. We all get points each weekend depending on how many yards our players gain, how many touchdowns they score, and how many field goals they kick, among other statistical markers.

So my team faces Scott’s this weekend. He has yet to beat the “old man”, though he has played in prior seasons while I’m a managerial rookie. I’ve spent many hours learning the ropes. It helps to be devious, I’ve found out. I told Mike last week that he didn’t have to adjust his starting line-up because it was a bye week for everybody. So when my team played his that weekend, his squad was without a quarterback and a wide receiver. I won our match-up.

Knowing how I hate to lose at anything, especially to the younguns’, my boys want badly to win. The first time my team played against Scott’s, I enjoyed a healthy lead going into the Monday Night football game. At about midnight that night, I was awakened by a phone call. “Hello,” I said half asleep.

“You watching Monday night football?” It was Scott calling from Michigan State. Of course, since we must rise at 6 a.m., Wendy and I are usually sawing logs by 10:30 so we can a healthy rest. Scott crowed that his fantasy football players had lit up the scoreboard, giving his fantasy team enough points to pass my team. “You lost, dad,” he said.

I told Scott that I thought I was ahead by more than what he thought. “No, I’ve done the math,” he replied. “Go back to sleep. You’ll find out in the morning. You lost.”

Early the next morning I checked the Yahoo fantasy football site. It showed my Bloggets had beaten his Springfield Isotopes (Scott’s a big Simpson’s fan) by nine points. Scott had forgotten to carry a one or something in his calculations. But he had already figured this out himself. When I arrived at work at 7:30 that morning, there was an e-mail waiting for me from Scott.

“Bad math. Shut up.” is all it said.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Neighbors North And South

Over the past few months, I've had the opportunity to mingle with our neighbors to the north and to the south. To the north, when my wife and I drove to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, to take the Agawa Canyon train tour. To the south, when the boys and I rode down to Columbus, Ohio to watch the World Cup soccer qualifying showdown between Mexico and the U.S.

I posted a couple pictures here that piqued my curiosity. Check out the sign on the lunch wagon. Fresh cut fries. Mmmmmmm, I couldn't pass these by. In fact, I booked a room at the hotel in Canada where stood this establishment. Besides the fresh cut fries, you can see the menu offers some of the traditional fast food fare, though I doubt you'll find peameal bacon on a bun at any McDonalds. But what the heck is poutine?

Of course, I asked the counter attendant just that. Turns out that poutine is fresh cut fries, smothered in gravy, with cheese topping. Good god! Heart attack on a paper plate, right? What's up with those Canadians? They might as well throw in some deep-fried bacon and drizzle some butterfat over it too. There's nothing like feeling the ole blood congeal in your veins while you're eating. And what's with Canadians and gravy anyway? I published a blog a while back about encountering a restaurant in Quebec where burgers and chicken sandwiches were served smothered in gravy. I thought that place was unique. Now I'm not so sure.

Now, the Mexicans love their soccer. They came from hundreds of miles away to see their Mexican national squad take on the "gringos" of the United States in Columbus, Ohio. Tickets for this world cup qualifying showdown sold out in 20 minutes on Ticketmaster. The tailgate party started four hours before the game. Never had I see anything like it. Acres of fans singing, chanting, and partying in costumes that heralded their loyalty. The Mexicans wore flags, sombreros, even cacti.

But what is the significance of professional wrestling in the Mexican culture? Curious Big Dave wants to know. I took this picture of a few Mexican fans clad in wrestling regalia. There were many more.

There were many Hispanic partisans in our section of the bleachers. They chanted "Ole" when the Mexican soccer players completed a pass to eachother, avoiding the American defenders. mexico
They also drank a lot of beer, carrying big cups four at a time back to their seats. Of course, that led to trouble. One Mexican fan hurled the beer from his large cup onto spectators below. However, he was the only trouble-maker among us.One of his fellow fans upbraided him, standing out on the aisle and yelling, "Aren't we all civilized here?" I wasn't sure I could take him seriously, since he was wearing a Mexican flag like a Batman cape. What we really needed to maintain order was a couple of those fans dressed like professional wrestlers.

"The next fan to act up gets suplexed."

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Viagra Spam Report

Before the Halloween season, I engaged in a little phishing expedition for spammers (Why I Need Viagra). I have some results to share.

First, I should bow to Wendy, my wife and chief blog proofreader. She warned, "You're asking for trouble" after reading my Viagra blog. She was correct. I should have listened to her. In fact, I'm sure this country would be a better place if men, including President George Bush, heeded more the advice of women. (That should get me back in her good graces).

Interestingly, the first comment spam I received on that blog had nothing to do with Viagra or sex or anything x-rated. It was a spammer pitching Christmas music for the cello. Why did I get it? My guess is that a previous comment contained the word "cellist." So comments appear to be scanned too by spammers using search engines to find popular websites for their spam, whether it's travel discounts, gambling, investment strategies or music downloads. Always somebody trying to make money here.

On my Viagra blog, I did get a spammer pitching Viagra, which confirmed my suspicions that spammers target-search blogs like the one I posted. Another spammer offered a more mechanical male enhancement approach to my problem in another comment. Won't go into details but I left the comment there for now. Then there was another comment spammer who goes by the name "Enlargement." Although I was sure he wanted to pitch a Viagra-type solution to me, ironically he was selling scrapbooking supplies. Wrong blog, fella. My blog Scrapbooking for Men was probably where he wanted to advertise.

I received several comments with links to pornography sites. This was a completely unforeseen consequence of my blog. I’ve no interest in sponsoring links to sites containing obscenity, nudes or anything voyeuristic. These comments I deleted, though there still may be one out there I can't find. I get e-mails through Yahoo telling me who commented and what they said, but it doesn't tell me where they said it.

So now I'm getting spammed regularly and often. My wife can say, "I told you so." What to do now? I could eliminate anonymous comments, but I've been told I have relatives that post here anonymously. I don't know who they are, nor what they've posted, but I guess I should be polite and let them post.

One thing I will do for sure here on Big Daves’ Blog, especially with the holiday shopping season coming up. Stop phishing for spam;)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Halloween Epitaph

A few notes after my favorite holiday of the year . . .

We really had a run on kids at our house. Usually we get around 150. I'll bet we had over 200 last night. If the rain hadn't chased them away after one hour, I'm sure we could have passed out over 300 pieces of candy before all was said and done.

My nephew Mike came over again to "scare the kids" (See Mike's Big Scare blog below). I was a bit worried since last year he got a little carried away, chasing some trick-or-treaters with what looked like a bloody knife ("They had it coming."). This year he was more tame, though he insisted that I put him in a chair right next to the porch.

That made for some funny moments. A lot of kids were wary of Mike, who was wearing an ugly monkey's mask, and v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y made a wide arc around him. One woman, to protect her kids, backed right up to Mike, sticking her ample behind in his face so her kids wouldn't have to look at him.

But many kids thought he was fake. This one guy about ten who looked like the grim reaper casually walked right over and touched Mike. Mike flinched and the kid literally doubled over in apparent pain. He looked as if someone had punched him in the belly. "Man, that scared me," he finally said when he composed himself.

Then this kid grabbed hold of his little sister of about six years, picked her up and tried to drag her over to Mike still sitting in his chair. She whined, squirmed and struggled till she was rescued by her parents.

Another little girl stood a healthy distance away, but kept a little patter going: "You're not real. You're fake. I'm not scared of you." So Mike moved a little to show he WAS real. The girl stopped talking for just a second, then started up again. "You're not real. You're fake . . . "

Not all was fun and games this Halloween. I called the police after a Devil's Night prankster kicked some lighted skulls that were part of my decorations, damaging the string of lights. Though I only wanted the police to make a patrol through the neighborhood, the dispatcher insisted on sending over an officer to make a report.

I felt sooooooooo silly trying to explain this to the beat cop. "They just were after the skulls. They left the coffin alone. That seemed odd to me." I'm sure the officer was thinking, "You, who have a coffin, skulls, a disembodied hand, and a makeshift grave should not be talking about 'odd.'"