Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Getting an Earful of Christmas

No, this isn't another rant about how early they start the Christmas music (I heard some in October around here), or why certain songs -- especially those you only hear a month (or two) year can become such infectious earworms (I Want A Hippopatamus for Christmas .... ).

Around here, at least, radio plays have become big. Recently a local theatre presented a world premiere play as a teleconference done as a radio drama. Prometheus Radio Theatre did a live show for Halloween (with my faves The Boogie Knights providing music).

It's hard to believe, but we're really only a generation away from those who studied radio instead of television. This article and picture are evidence of that.

So why bring this up in relation to Christmas? Just over 36 years ago, my father (who had a radio degree) died. Thanks to Lou Scalley (a radio man himself), I have a CD made from an old reel-to-reel tape of my father's sports announcing highlights.


(Oh, and if you go back to that picture from K-State, my parents are the first two on the left.)

It's not often you get family history for Christmas -- but it's the best kind of gift to get!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Miscellany Miss' Don't Miss

Some things I have to share ... in no particular order and with no particular tie.

What Do You Mean There's No Dragon in Them? -- In the silly news item of the day (courtesy of The Times), "A SPICY sausage known as the Welsh Dragon will have to be renamed after trading standards’ officers warned the manufacturers that they could face prosecution because it does not contain dragon." The full text is here.

Decisions, Decisions -- Because sometimes we all need a little cute in our lives ... Puppy War.

Because Age Brings Wisdom -- One of the most fascinating blogs I've ever read ... written by a 92 year old, no less. Don To Earth features the insights and thoughts of a former broadcaster. Fascinating stuff.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Yet Another Reason To Love Curling

The Rochester Curling Club is hosting (I kid you not) the Death By Chocolate Bonspiel (bonspiel is curler for tournament) for women's teams.

This is a quote from their flier: "Featuring “The Famous Chocolate-tinis”, Chocolate at every meal, and other surprises. Our goal is for all participants to not want to see another piece of chocolate for at least a week."

Come on, what's not to love about that?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

For The Pseudo Technogeek

My true technogeek friends out there will roll their eyes as they scan down this list, a derisive "you're just now finding out about that" on their lips.

Well nyeh!

Many of my friends aren't all out technogeeks, so to them I offer the following. I find some neat things in the course of my work. My intention had been to post these in batches of one or two as I find them.


Well, I'll try to do better next time.

Netvibes -- I have already told you about Netvibes, which I still think is too neat for words. Especially for those out there who use more than one computer (work/home or laptop/desktop), it's a nice way to keep all the links from one to the other, as well as being able to make a note on one and having it available on the other. (Plus, the various news feeds are really good, especially if you're into tech stuff.)

Paint.net -- For those who might like to muck about with photos from time to time, but don't want the expense of PhotoShop, you might like Paint.net. I'm not enough of a graphic artist to comment too much on its functionality, etc., but it has a heckuva lot more features than I will ever use, and does what I want it to in a way I find intuitive.

ShotSpotter -- I don't know how long this Washington Post article link will stay active, but the story is about a computer program that "listens" for gunshots and can alert the police the instant they go off. (And no, I don't expect any of you to rush out and buy this, but I think it's cool.) The system is called ShotSpotter and is apparently accurate and could make a huge difference in particularly crime ridden areas. Of course, I'm also waiting for someone to sue saying that the system violates their privacy by alerting the police to their gunfire. *sigh*

AngelKey -- (And you do wonder if eventually all product names will be one word with capital letters instead of spaces delineating the actual words.) Again, it's not ready, but one day it could be amazing. AngelKey is a USB drive that stores your medical information, as well as emergency contacts, etc. The article in the link clearly is written by a guy who hasn't been to a doctor's office lately when he asks how it will be updated. At my doctor's office, each nurse and doctor has a tablet computer that is connected to a network. All that would happen is that at the end of the exam, you'd hand over your AngelKey, they'd plug it into the USB port and the info would be updated. They then would hand it back to you. No big deal. Since I am now on a medication that (apparently) should be noted on a Medic-Alert bracelet, and since I have no real desire to wear one, this would solve a lot of problems.

Zamzar -- Free online file conversion is all Zamzar does, but it does it well, and simply. Upload your file, tell it what you want it converted to, then it e-mails you the new file. Have some Apple iTunes songs you want to convert to mp3? You can search for software, or you can go to Zamzar. Have an avi you want to play on the iPod? Here you go!

Arcamax -- Save a trip to the library ... and give yourself a chance to read great literature in a few minutes each day. Arcamax does just that. Go to their site, search through their thousands of books and plays, give them your e-mail address. Each day, you will receive a chapter (or a scene) of the book (or play). Take a few minutes, scan your e-mail, and you're one chapter closer to reading that work of great literature you promised yourself you would read one day. (Plus, it's a great way to read while your boss thinks you are working.)

Mpire -- Doing some online shopping? Wanna know if eBay (or another auction site) has what you're looking for below retail? Or maybe you have a prized collectible that you're looking to sell and want to know whether the price is going up or down. Welcome to the Mpire Price Comparison Site. Retail and auction prices, as well as a price history.

Pandora -- Looking for some new music, but have no idea how to go about it? Why not let the Music Genome Project help you out? After dissecting song after song, these kind people came up with Pandora. Put in the name of a song or a group you like, and it goes to work. I just gave it the name of a song I like and it immediately went to town creating a radio station just for me. First it plays another song by that artist with similar musical attributes. Then it ventures further afield. You can comment on each song and it will refine the station farther. Before too long, you're discovering new music that matches your mood. It also allows you to create multiple stations, just in case you like different music for different moods. (I have to admit that this is a real favorite of mine.)

MeeVee -- What Pandora does for music, MeeVee does for television. Input your zipcode and cable/satellite provider, tell it what you like, and it will both track the shows you like, as well as suggest other shows you might enjoy. Can't remember which shows are on when and tired of flipping through TV Guide? Put in your shows, hit the "week" button, print it off and you have a handy dandy guide to your favorite shows so you know if House is a repeat or not. (It also has connections to various online television stations, although not CurlTV.)

Blinkx -- Tired of You Tube? Know that there are other things out there, but don't know where? Blinkx pulls together video from all over the web (with attribution, I might add). You can search You Tube, Yahoo Video, plus tens of thousands of television newscasts, etc. with just a few keystrokes.

Innertube -- CBS Television offers up some of its most popular television shows on Innertube. Missed your favorite ep and forgot to set the TiVo? Here's your chance to get caught up.

That's all for now. Enjoy!!!

The Sophomore Slump ... or No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

I curled Thursday ... if you use the term loosely. It's very hard to curl when the back of your thigh is throbbing with pain.

I did really well ... for one end. After that, I don't think I got a single stone over the hog line (meaning it's still in play). I am holding out hope that it was merely the sore leg, and not a sign that my one night of not being obnoxiously horrible was a complete and utter fluke.

That would be really bad since I paid my membership fee for the first half of the season on Thursday.

So how did my leg get so sore? Why the title of this post?

Wednesday night, as I pulled out of the Boston Market drive thru and as I was about to merge into the heavy traffic on the road, I saw a woman dashing around the parking lot.

And then I saw the black dog that kept coming perilously close to dashing out into the aforementioned heavy traffic.

My heart went into my throat. I did not want to see the doggie get mushed. There was no one behind me, so I set my flashers and grabbed my newly purchased chicken dinner. I dashed to that section of the parking lot and put down the dinner. The dog headed for it, and I prepared to pounce.

The dog got closer, and I lunged ... but the peat moss under me gave way, meaning that my left leg gave way and the muscle at the back of my thigh pulled.

Of course, I missed the dog, but at least she was now moving farther away from the traffic. The woman's daughter pulled a car up, opened the door, and the doggie dashed around a bit more, then leaped into the car -- safe and sound. Heck, my dinner even survived the excitement (well, the cornbread made the ultimate sacrifice, but I'm not a huge cornbread person anyway).

I limped home, stretched, and went into my curling lunge. Nope. No problem at all. The muscle I tore didn't seem to affect my curling. Yay!

Well, not so yay.

I was fine the first end, but during the second end, I bent down to move a recalcitrant stone into delivery position. Bad move. Really bad move. I could feel that pulled muscle become something much, much worse. And from that point forward, I could get no strength pushing off from the hack.

End of the night -- or at least it should I have been. I stupidly kept playing.

I had fun, though. My team lost (again), but it was closer (9-4, I think, and we went all eight ends).

I'm taking it easy this weekend, and not doing a lot of exercising this week. That's something else I did too much of, I suspect -- stretching and exercising. My old body just can't take it. I'm going to stretch a bit, but probably won't get to do much else. So maybe, by Thursday, I'll be in better shape to curl.

Now, if I can just avoid dogs with death wishes, I'll be in great shape.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Sometimes Bad Is Good

In curling, 9-1 is bad. Not "too many cats, too few litter boxes" stinking ... no, it's more like "a skunk got in the car and now the doors won't open" stinking.

But I don't care. You know why I don't care?

'Cause I played in that game.

Not only did I play in that game, see that number "one" up there? The lower half of 9-1?

That was my stone. And, at that point, that made the score 1-1 after three ends.

Yes, my team fell apart after that. Yes, we didn't score another point. Yes, we conceded after seven ends.

But I played a curling match, and I was bad.

Trust me, bad is an improvement. I was mind blowingly, jaw droppingly, heart-stoppingly horrible before Thursday.

Thursday at the Potomac Curlng Club is one of their two drop-in leagues. Before the league, they have a 45-minute lesson along the lines of the Open House session. ("This is the ice, that is TEFLON, watch us try not to laugh as you bring the two together.") But during that time, FL (pronounced eff ell) was kind enough to work with a couple of us who were having trouble delivering the stone.

Under her tutelage, I actually got the stone over the hog line (curler for "you got the stone far enough we won't laugh at you and push the rock out of play"). Once, I even got the stone into the house (curler for "red and blue rings where you actually score points").

I was excited. If I wasn't wearing TEFLON on one foot or standing on the ice, I would have jumped up and down. Instead, I high fived FL.

Then the game started. In this league you play eight ends (curler for "inning"). Normally curling rinks (curling for "team") have four members and each member throws two stones per end. We were short-handed Thursday night, so we had three-person rinks ... which meant I had to throw three stones each end.

Rick and Russ were the unfortunate individuals stuck with me on their team. They were both very supportive and offered some great tips.

Scott, David and Sarah were fortunate enough to play against us. To be honest, Sarah and I were about evenly matched. Rick, though, had an off night and David was on. Our two skips (curler for "the guys who scream all the orders and throw the stones last") were pretty evenly matched.

After one end, it was scoreless. They scored one in the second end, and then came the third end. Somewhere in my three stones, I tucked one behind a guard on the left side of the house which no one got rid of. Thus, 1-1 after three.

From then on, we couldn't really get anything going. I could not find a consistent weight (curler for "how hard you throw the stone") and Rick couldn't find his handle (curler for "which way the rock turns"). They scored every end after that.

My best shot didn't score. It wasn't the shot the skip had called for. No skip even slightly sane ... oh hell, no skip not wearing a straightjacket in a rubber room ... would ask me for a shot beyond the "try to put it in play" variety.

I may never be good enough to ever try for this shot if given the opportunity.

But I made it.

In the fourth end, the skip called for me to put up a guard (curling for "a stone not in the rings, but directly in line with a stone that is"). I didn't. I threw the stone too hard and too far to the right to be a guard.

My rock hit off one of the other team's rocks, knocking their stone out of scoring position. (This is a good thing.) Then my rock rolled to the left, winding up behind another stone. (This is an even better thing.)

Yeah, yeah, I know. It wasn't what the skip asked for, so it wasn't a good shot, but even he was smiling when I finished.

Even the most veteran curler can appreciate beginner's luck when he sees it.

Sure, the other team wound up scoring that end, but not by getting rid of my rock (which was really well protected), but by making a couple of very good shots that left their stones closer to the center.

It wasn't what the skip asked for, it wound up not scoring, but I will remember that shot for the rest of my life ... and I still can't tell you about the shot that actually counted for the point.

We conceded early (curler for "we gave up after only seven ends"), then they got to buy us drinks. There's something to be said for losing in curling -- the winners have to clean the ice and buy the losers drink.

So I have now actually curled. And I am getting better.

But Debbie McCormick had nothing to worry about.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Traumas Adventures in Curling

To those who have wondered: No, I have not repressed the curling lesson as some sort of life-altering trauma and thus not blogged about it. I just got busy. Really busy.

Okay, I spent part of two days at a curling tournament. But that's busy, isn't it?

To be honest, the Saturday Learn to Curl session, while embarrassing, was not traumatic. At least not to me. I think the glazed look on Michael's face at the bonspiel (which is curler for "tournament") on Saturday morning was probably a vestige of trying to teach me on the previous Saturday. The poor man (dubbed, by me, Michael of the Superhuman Patience) may never recover.

As a recap, I spent Saturday, October 14 flailing around an ice surface trying desperately to prove the people who named it Learn to Curl liars. I did many things that day. I'm not sure how much of it was learning ... or curling.

To be fair, all of the instructors did a very good job.

The day started with the obligatory "watch as we put TEFLON on one foot and try desperately not to laugh at you" segment. While I have not attended the Instructor Clinics offered by the Club (through the auspices of The United State Curling Association, I am convinced that the first test you must pass before they let you torment instruct beginning curlers is not to laugh as people stand on one leg while the other performs some complicated sliding maneuver that has nothing to do with curling (or grace, or balance, or anything other than providing entertainment to those who have managed, somehow, to conquer this utter cancellation of friction).

My great fear at this point was that the Learn to Curl would turn out to be nothing more than an extended version of the Open House session from two days before.

Hah! If only.

On the good side, they did give a great explanation on how to make the rock curl (in case your curiosity is getting the better of you, you point the handle at the rock to either "2" or "10" o'clock and move it to noon in a gradual motion as you release it -- there, don't you feel better knowing that?). This made me happy.

Happy. Remember happy. Happy is a good place. Remember getting the rock to curl "just so."

Then we started the whole delivery process.

As a refresher, the delivery is done by placing your one stable (aka, foot without TEFLON) into a rubber starting block type of device and pushing off from there, while your other foot (the one with TEFLON on the bottom) slides down the ice. Oh, and you're crouching at this point. It should look like this. *sigh* Mine doesn't. Mine doesn't even look close. I have no balance over my right foot (I'm a leftie, so reverse the image I just showed you -- the right foot is the slippy one for me). I don't have a lot of balance over my right foot while crouching just on bare floor and with no TEFLON. You can imagine just how little ice and TEFLON improve matters.

During the open house, we got to practice the push off using two stones and without letting go.

Remember when I said the Learn to Curl was different than the Open House? We didn't do the two stones bit. We didn't even do the one stone and the broom without letting go of the rock.

We just did the "see that bull's eye 90 feet from here? do what Michael just did and aim the stone for those rings" bit instead.

Yeah. It worked just about as well as you think it did. In fact, it probably failed even more spectacularly than your well-developed imagination can picture.

The fall I took on Thursday an act of grace that would have earned 6.0s from the judges (except the Russian judge, who would have given me a 4.3) compared to what I did on Saturday. I teetered to the left. I teetered to the right. I managed to get my left foot in front of me. (Go back and read my description of what the delivery is. If you can figure out how I got my left leg in front of me, please comment immediately because I still don't know.)

A few throws in, a number of people (including me) wondered aloud and in Michael's general direction about the efficacy of my using a stabilizer. It helps. Perhaps it helps more than sponge helps in drying up Niagara Falls. Perhaps not.

No, to be honest, through the constant encouragement of Michael, Steph and Jeff (who were a couple and every bit as cute as the rhyming names suggest) and Pat (a high schooler with more patience than someone of his tender years should have), I persevered. I even curled in the short game at the end.

You know, I could leave it there and let you think that I actually made a contribution to the team by placing some rocks in useful positions. My contribution to the team was giving the guys sweeping practice (not that sweeping would help ... sweeping -- by the best in the business -- only adds five to ten feet). They swear I was getting better. Jeff even swore that I got one stone past West Germany. (It's complicated ... there are a number of flags along one wall of the club. West Germany's flag is a bit more than halfway down the ice.)

Oh, I swept well. Well, if the rock wasn't travelling too fast. If the rock was travelling too fast, I put safety first (which is what they teach you) and waved bye-bye.

So, have I given up? No.

I attended the bonspiel last weekend as a spectator (but then I knew I could watch curling ... I've been doing that for quite awhile now). But I'm going back. Tomorrow. To play in an actual game.

Oh, there is a lesson beforehand, too. Something tells me Michael will be as far as he possibly can be from the club tomorrow night. I don't blame him.

For Those With Short Attention Spans, Or Senses of Humour

Wired Magazine asked famous authors to create six-word science fiction stories. Some are just too funny for words.

Some of my favorites:

Gown removed carelessly. Head, less so.- Joss Whedon

Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time- Alan Moore

Longed for him. Got him. Shit.- Margaret Atwood (I don't know ... this could be a romance, a biography, a mystery ... the possibilities with this one are endless.)

Lie detector eyeglasses perfected: Civilization collapses.- Richard Powers

The baby’s blood type? Human, mostly.- Orson Scott Card

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Life Lived Fully

I have already touted the amazingness that is The Tuesday Morning Quarterback, but there is a section in today's column that blew me away, and I wanted to make sure the non-sports fans here have a chance to read it.

Below is an obituary that appeared in The Washington Post. While I wish no one the type of travails Mr. Lindes faced in his early years, I do wish each and every one of you a life lived this fully.


Harald Lindes, 85, former editor of the U.S. Information Agency's Russian-language magazine Amerika, died Oct. 11 at the Deer's Head Hospital Center in Salisbury, Md. Mr. Lindes worked for the USIA for 21 years, starting under broadcaster Edward R. Murrow during the Kennedy administration. Mr. Lindes retired in 1980, then worked for about five years as a personal assistant to cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, former director of the National Symphony Orchestra.

Mr. Lindes was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. When he was 15, his father was arrested and executed, and his family was exiled to Siberia. In 1939, he returned to study in his native city but in 1942 was arrested by the Stalin regime, sentenced to a labor camp and sent to the Finnish front, where he was captured by the Finns. Because of his German name, he was handed over to the Germans, where he was drafted into the German army.

After World War II, he left Europe and moved to New York and then Monterey, Calif. He became a master sergeant in the Army Reserves and began teaching Russian at what is now the Defense Language Institute in Monterey. He moved to the Washington area in 1958, working briefly for the Voice of America before joining the USIA.

Apart from work, he enjoyed researching his genealogy at the Library of Congress and reading Russian history and works of world culture and religion. He also enjoyed travel and growing vegetables and herbs at his home in Kensington. Survivors include his wife of 60 years, Olga Lindes of Kensington; two children, Nina Willett of Ocean Pines, Md., and Hal Lindes, a guitarist in the rock group Dire Straits, of Los Angeles; and seven grandchildren.