Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sunny Sunday

I wrote the second half of today’s post in the wee small hours this morning, after awakening from my less-than-refreshing sleep of the depressed. And then I went back to bed. Now that I'm up again on this bright and sunny Sunday morning, I’ve spent the past two or three hours reading the Right side of the blogosphere’s critiques and analyses of United 93, which premiered this weekend. And there’s a lot out there to be read (if you follow the link to memeorandum, scroll down). For my money, Gerard van der Leun has the best and most poignant essay on the film. Gagdad Bob also writes a rather long, but worthy, analysis and offers the psychologist’s insight on the role envy plays in the Left’s mindset, in general, and specifically where United 93 is concerned. Bob also reads the Huffington Post on United 93 (so you don’t have to, of course) and offers up some comments he found there. Hint: they ain’t pretty. Surprised? I thought not.

I won’t go see United 93 in the theatre. At the very least I’ll rent it when it comes out on DVD; I might even buy it. But, as I noted in a comment I left over at Lex’s place the other day, I think it’s very unseemly for an elderly man to cry in public. I am, unfortunately, wired in such a manner that I find it impossible to control the water-works when my emotional hot buttons are pressed firmly and repeatedly. It’s a frickin’ curse, and I’m not proud of this trait…not at all. So, I’ll watch the movie in the privacy of El Casa Móvil de Pennington where I’ll feel free to let it all hang out. In any event, United 93 is a movie that must be seen, based upon what I’ve read over the past few days.

Iowahawk is quite good this week, beginning with “The First Annual Earth Week Cruise Night,” a virtual cruise whereby readers send in “candid pics showing how you get your freak on with that saucy pagan eco-tart.” Some pretty cool reader-rides, more than a few I’d like to own, anyway. The phrase “saucy pagan eco-tart” is a take-off on his meme that Gaia is the “ultimate MILF.” (Don’t get the acronym? E-mail me; I’ll explain. If you DO get the acronym, please don’t try and explain in the comments. I’m trying, semi-successfully [see below], to run a PG-13 blog here.) Keep scrolling on down (at Iowahawk, not here) to get to the latest guest blogging from the Zarkman (“I Hate Email”); you’ll be glad you did! Exerpt:

Yeah, email. I gets me lots and lots of email. Like the two dozen daily spaz-o-grams from those loveable choads I call my direct reports. Questions about the new $50 funeral copay, leave requests, desertion reports on the French twats. Want a taste? Here’s one I got yesterday:

TO: A Zarqawi
FROM: M Abdulraman
SUBJECT: RE: School Bombing Status

Per your request, I investigated lack-of-detonation problem with martyr school attack wave yesterday. Likely cause is C-6 wire, incompatible with 2.3.0 version of InfidelBlaster switch. Or possible electrical short due to urine.

Please advise on next steps.

M Abdulraman
Al Qaeda in
Iraq IT Services

Guess what? These are the literate ones.

TO: M Abdulraman
FROM: A Zarqawi
SUBJECT: RE: School Bombing Status

I didn’t ask you for a bunch of goddamn geek jargon, I asked you to FIX IT. Now turn off the Star Trek reruns and get to work if you don’t want a transfer to Martyr Dept.

Three minutes later:

TO: All School Bombing Martyr Associates
FROM: M Abdulraman
CC: A Zarqawi
SUBJECT: Equipment upgrade

Please bring your belts and detonators to IT Services Shed at 4 PM for upgrade to version 2.4 of InfidelBlaster. This meeting is mandatory, and your cooperation is appreciated.

M Abdulrahman
Al Qaeda in
Iraq IT Services

After the IT Services Shed vaporized at 4:06 PM, I’m thinking maybe it’s about fucking time for a jihadi brain upgrade.

And I thought that idjit in the CDW ads gave IT a bad name! {insert big smiley here}

Saturday, April 29, 2006


Like your humor on the droll side? While Cheston isn’t Gary Larson (he of “The Far Side” fame), he’s quite good! Hundreds more like the one above, here! (h/t: Rodger)
The title of this post has nothing to do with comics. Today’s hockey game was a major disappointment for Wings fans. Detroit lost game five, 3-2, and goes down in the series by the same numbers. Detroit must now win the next two games in a row to survive in the play-offs. History has not been kind to Game Five losers; in past play-offs, 80% of the teams that win Game Five go on to win the series. Detroit didn’t deserve to win today. Edmonton simply out-played them, in almost every aspect. There were few, if any bright spots. Woe, indeed.
So. What does a depressed hockey fan do when his team takes a major header? What any truly depressed person does: he goes to sleep. I thought I might have been too keyed up and too angry to fall asleep directly after the game. Wrong. I was asleep within three minutes after SN1 and I got off the phone. And by the way: SN1’s not a Happy Camper, either.
Mandatory weather comments…I slept rather late this morning, lulled in and out of sleep by the sounds of gentle rain on my roof. The sounds of “gentle rain on the roof” are a lot better than the cacophony caused by a hailstorm, which I experienced yesterday. The roof on an RV is only about three inches thick, and the ceiling is only slightly further than six feet from the floor. Consequently, the sounds of anything impacting the roof are immediate in nature and loud. Hard rain creates quite a racket, and the sound of hail hitting the roof is so loud as to be nearly indescribable. I sat by the window yesterday afternoon watching curtains of hail progress in size from about pea-sized to grape-sized, all the while praying it didn’t get any larger. Fortunately, “grape” was as far as it went. That was far enough, thank you. Hail we didn’t need, rain we did. And we got quite a bit of rain, actually. That’s a good thing.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Much Better!

Pavel Datsyuk (right) and Tomas Holmstrom celebrate Holmstrom's goal in the second period. Photo: Detroit Free Press.

Yesterday’s threatened thunderstorms never materialized, but I think the Weather Gods are gonna deliver today. The sky has been a roiling mix of spectacular, towering, glowering thunderheads all day and the Weather Channel’s radar display shows thunderstorms all around (but not over) Portales. This could get interesting (there’s that word, again!).
Hockey: Last evening’s performance by the Beloved Wings was better. Much better. Pavel Datsyuk is returning to form after a long layoff due to injury, and his performance is absolutely crucial to the Wings’ success in the playoffs, especially since Steve Yzerman is day-to-day with a lower back injury. And Nick Lidstrom scored last night, too, his first of the playoffs. Granted, Lidstrom hasn’t lacked for shots, what with ringing more than a few off the crossbar and the goal posts. Lidstrom’s shots need to find the back of the net. It seems the Wings couldn’t buy a break during the first three games, but last night the breaks finally went their way. And that’s a good thing. The Wings special teams are doing their job, and doing it well. Three of Detroit’s four goals came on the power play; it’s good to see the Wings score at least one even-strength goal. More, please! And the penalty killers were superb, killing off a full minute and a half of 5-on-3 play late in the second period, followed by 30 seconds of 4-on-3 play. That’s a long time to hold your breath, let me tell ya!
The series returns to Detroit all tied up, which, of course, is much more preferable to being down 3-1. It’s come down to the best two out of three. We can do this.
I’ve been suffering from news burn-out all week long, and if the truth were told, the burn-out has probably existed for a lot longer than that. The news (and the associated politics) of late just seems to be the same ol’, same ol’…same players, same accusations, same stories, same rants. The Anchoress has a post up that’s somewhat in the same vein, although she’s been distracted by other commitments, not by the banality of it all. Still and even, her post is worth a read. And she also provides a very good link to a “Left-Right” discussion at Shrinkwrapped. The comments section of SW’s post is remarkable, if only for the fact that there are (gasp!) well-reasoned and thoughtful comments from a few Lefties. I always knew there were level-headed liberals out there (after all, I was one, back in the day), it just seems so hard to find them these days.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

It's Not a Nice Day in the Neighborhood

Today is gonna be interesting, weather-wise. And I use the word “interesting” in the way people often do when they don’t want to come right out and say “well, that sucks!” The Second Mrs. Pennington was renowned for her use of that word…which I not-too-quickly (but eventually) came to understand meant faint disapproval with distinct movement towards total dislike. But, I digress. It’s a gray, gray day…solid overcast, high relative humidity (read that: “sticky”) coupled with warmth that will ultimately turn into outright hot should we hit our forecasted high of 80 degrees. With thunderstorms. Oh, good. Just peachy.

So. The weather has affected my mood, obviously. I’m finding it difficult to write, beginning with subject matter (as in, what to write about) right down to basic word selection and sentence structure. I hate it when this happens! Some days the words just flow and these little missives seem to write themselves. Other days, such as today, can be complete struggles where nothing looks good once it hits the screen and everything seems lame.

Writer’s block used to be a catastrophic occurrence once upon a time, back in the day when I wrote proposals and other such stuff for a living. Deadlines are unforgiving and show no mercy. The Management is no less forgiving when a piece is due and you just can’t seem to get there, or worse, you get there but you know what you’ve written is Grade C or below. These days it’s “just the blog,” which is all well and good, unless you’re an anal-retentive, Type A personality that’s driven by deep, dark, recessive and mildly negative personality traits (or demons) unknown. Would that be anyone you know?

Brief hockey update. Last night’s Colorado-Dallas game was a real nail-biter, right down to the last minute of regulation time and into the overtime period. The game was well-played and the score was close right up to the end. Dallas had a chance to win it in regulation, taking a 3-2 lead into the final two minutes of the third period. But stupidity reared its ugly head in the form of a needless tripping penalty taken by Dallas’ Brendon Morrow.

''I take responsibility,'' said Brenden Morrow , who was in the penalty box for Dallas, serving a two-minute penalty for tripping. ''I saw how they were calling it tight the first two games. I should have known better by now. I let my teammates down.''

Sure enough, Colorado pulled goalie Theodore, put six offensive players on the ice, swarmed the Dallas net, and scored with 56 seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime. And then Dallas suffered an ignominious defeat on a fluke Colorado goal just one minute and nine seconds into the overtime. Alex Tanguay attempted to center the puck from just behind the Dallas goal and accidentally hit Dallas defenseman Willie Mitchell’s skate. The puck caromed into the goal, giving Colorado the win. The Hand of Fate, and all that. I don’t think anyone (except Avs fans) could have watched that goal and not felt bad for Dallas. As one of the OLN commentators said: “Just how much bad luck can one team have?”

So long, Dallas. We hardly knew ye. There have been only two teams in the NHL’s 100+ year history that have come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series. I don’t think there will be a third anytime soon.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Good Day Sunshine

Yesterday was such a good day. Until about 11:45 p.m. last night, that is. The Wings lost in double-overtime to Edmonton, 4-3. In typical Detroit fashion, the Detroit News asks “Time to Panic?” Well, in a word, no. There is reason to worry, true, but no panic, please. The primary worry is Detroit must win three out of the next four games to win the series. That’s gonna take some doing, especially since the Wings have dropped two of the first three and have been playing from behind in nearly every game. It doesn’t bode well that two of the three games have gone to overtime after dramatic come-backs by the Wings. Come-backs are great, but getting ahead and staying ahead is the way you win Stanley Cups.
And then there’s this: The Captain is hurt. As is the usual practice regarding play-off injuries, the Wings’ management is only saying “it’s an upper body injury.” Mike Babcock said he was “hopeful” Yzerman would be back for game four. From the Detroit Free Press’s account of the game:
The Wings were mum on Yzerman's status. But their recent playoff history without him has not been pretty: The Wings were tied, 2-2, with Calgary in 2004 when Yzerman got hurt in Game 5; the Wings lost the series the next game. In 2001 against Los Angeles, the Wings didn't have Yzerman past the first game, and lost the series.
Yeah, it’s a time to worry.
So, yesterday was quite good in all other respects. First, that new combination RF modem/antenna is working flawlessly. An unexpected benefit is my connection speed has increased by 50%, and appears to be twice the speed of my old connection at times. This, obviously, is a good thing!
Second, the nurse practitioner at the base hospital clinic phoned yesterday with the results of my physical. The results were, in a word, excellent. While I wasn’t all that worried the clinic would find anything amiss, I’m still relieved to know things are going well in the body department. I’m at an age where the corpus is subject to all sorts of malfunctions, and consider myself blessed I’m free of same.
Yesterday’s big news was the posting of a video made by Iraq’s most wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The NYT (and others) gets it right, the video was posted to the internet, it didn’t “surface” or “appear” on the ‘net as other news outlets phrased it, someone put it there.
Why do we allow our enemies to post these videos? This is information warfare, pure and simple. The internet is a highly regulated environment, technically. Every web site, no matter how small or insignificant, has a unique address and identifier. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to resolve a site’s virtual address to its physical location, and we have highly qualified and competent people at NSA that specialize in doing just that. Even if the owners of a jihadi web site take precautions to conceal their identities and locations, we can still finger them.
And we should.
We should also destroy these sites after we locate them. I’m not talking about wasting a million-dollar cruise missile on some jihadi’s pathetic little 486 desktop “server” running Windows 95, I’m talking about ten pounds or so of C4, strategically and covertly placed on the server’s premises. Or perhaps a well-aimed RPG through the basement window. No warning, no credit for the action, no nothing. Just BOOM. No more jihadi web site. A cruise missile would be appropriate if we discover there’s an ISP involved with a fairly large server farm. Once again: no warning, no credit claimed, and the timing of the strike should be such that there is maximum loss of life. It wouldn’t take long for the people who are hosting these videos to figure out that active participation in information warfare is hazardous to their health. As a matter of fact, if I were king I wouldn’t limit action to eliminating sites hosting videos, I’d target and eliminate all jihadi web sites, period. Information is a powerful weapon. To not deny the enemy this weapon is simply incompetent, bordering on gross negligence. We’ve given these people a free pass for way too long.
Take ‘em OUT!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I'm Back Up!

Well, now. I had to call my ISP again this morning, mainly because I spent all day yesterday Waiting For Godot. No explanation as to why they didn’t show up yesterday, but I was assured they’d be out to re-cable me later on this morning or early this afternoon. And I’m sure they will. Really. I’ve written before about the personal nature of the small-town service experience, and I have no reason to believe these guys will let me down. Things can and do “fall through the cracks” sometimes, and I’m sure that’s what happened yesterday.
In progress update: Before I could finish writing this post, Travis, the guy from Yucca Telecom, showed up and installed a brand-new, in-house antenna, which replaces the outside antenna and all exterior cabling. And my varmint-chewing-on-the-cable problem is solved. I’m a Happy Camper! (By way of explanation: I have a “wireless” internet connection, which is to say it’s a bi-directional RF free-space transmission from my premises to the ISP’s antenna. Too much info? Maybe!)
Hooo-Boy, but it’s cold this morning! That blast of Canadian-Artic air that dropped about a foot of snow in Kansas yesterday has made its way south to Portales. It was 36 degrees when I woke up this morning, with a sub-freezing wind chill. My paranoid personality suspects this turn of weather events was engineered by a group of Edmonton fans…just to make me realize that The Great White North has powers that extend beyond hockey. Which, of course, leads us to…
Hockey. Last night I watched what may be the most bizarre game (and play-off series) I’ve ever seen. I’m speaking of the Colorado-Dallas series, but I could just as easily be talking about Montreal-Carolina, which is just as strange. In both cases the number seven seeds in the Western and Eastern conferences (Colorado and Montreal) have taken 2-0 leads over the number two seeds (Dallas and Carolina) in the best-of-seven series, and both games were won in overtime. Due to the murky mysteries of television scheduling, I haven’t seen anything but highlights of the Montreal-Carolina series, but that’s OK. I’m much more into what’s going on in the Western Conference, anyway. But I digress. Back to last night’s game.
Just for background’s sake, Colorado completely dominated Dallas in the first game of the series…scoring five unanswered goals on its way to a 5-2 win in game one. The Avs came out last night playing as they left off in game one: they were ahead 3-0 at the end of the first period. I called Son Number One at the end of the first period and asked if he was watching the game; he wasn’t. I gave him a recap and opined that Dallas was on its way out of the play-offs; they truly looked abysmal. SN1 indicated he would watch the rest of the game, and we chatted a little bit and hung up.
Second period. I have no idea what happened in the Dallas locker room in between periods, but whatever it was, it was awesome. Dallas came out like they were on fire (and they should have been – their “performance” in the previous four periods, uh, sucked), rocked Colorado back on their heels and scored four goals in the second period to Colorado’s none. So. 4-3 Dallas at the end of the second. One almost never sees a momentum swing like this in any sport, let alone hockey. SN1 and I were truly amazed. I really thought Dallas had it wrapped up in the third period. Colorado took way too many penalties, Dallas continued to dominate, and it looked like the writing was on the wall. But, NO! Colorado scores with two minutes left in the game and manages to hold on despite being short-handed for the final two minutes of the third period.
We go to overtime. Once again, I thought Dallas had it…the Stars’ Jason Arnott beat Avs goalie Theodore and rang one off the post, and I mean he rang it…that shot was a rocket! That shot should have been the game-winner, and I could (figuratively) hear the moans emanating from Dallas. The Avs took Arnott’s rebound off the post, skated it back up the ice and scored. It was over. The stunned crowd just couldn’t believe it: the seventh-seeded Avs are now up 2-0 in the series. Dallas fans have all the reason in the world to be depressed. History has not been kind to the Stars when they go down 0-2 in the playoffs. Conversely, Colorado has excelled when taking a 2-0 lead:
Colorado has won 11 straight playoff series after taking a 2-0 lead, including 2004 when they won the first two at home against Dallas before winning the series in five games.
The Stars haven't come back from a 2-0 deficit since their first playoff series in 1968, when the franchise was in Minnesota.
Looks bad for Dallas. On the other hand, it looks great for Detroit. We’ll get the Avs in the next round, assuming they beat Dallas, and assuming Detroit gets past Edmonton (not that great a leap, but, hey, it’s the play-offs!). Detroit owned the Avs in the regular season this year, beating them in all four regular season games. And there isn’t a greater rivalry in sports than the one between Detroit and Colorado. I can’t believe I’m saying this…but…I hope the Avs win their series against Dallas. It will be sweet to watch them lose to the Wings.
And finally: this site is worth a long visit: the best rainbow pictures I’ve ever seen. Here. (h/t: Bookworm)

Monday, April 24, 2006


So. The first thing I did this morning was call my ISP. Well, second thing, actually. I did start the coffee first…priorities, yanno. My ‘net connection is still erratic as all Hell; I was down from about 4:30 yesterday afternoon until about 1:45 p.m. this afternoon. I got the connection back after deciding to try a re-boot, and that brought it back. Damn, but do I hate it when this happens! (And I’m waiting anxiously for the techies to arrive as of 1:55 p.m.)
Yesterday was a strange, strange day, hockey-wise. All the top-seeded teams lost yesterday, this also means all the visiting, or road, teams won. This also means that all the series are tied. The Beloved Wings lost to Edmonton, 4-2, the fourth goal was an empty-netter. I’m not worried. While I’d definitely prefer it if the Wings were up 2-0 in this series, I’m not going to get excited yet. Excited happens if and when the Wings come back to Detroit down 3-1 in the series.
I have two thoughts on the Detroit-Edmonton series. (1) Edmonton is playing way over their heads, and it remains to be seen if they can keep up this level of play. It does happen, sometimes, but most of the time it doesn’t. (2) Detroit has yet to bring its “A” game to the ice in this series. Legace has been good in goal, not great, but good; but there have been way too many defensive breakdowns in the Detroit zone. Defensive breakdowns and turnovers are highly uncharacteristic of Detroit, and I’m sure they will improve. Offensively the Wings are putting on the pressure…they are not lacking for quality chances and their shots-on-goal have been excellent. The issue here boils down to one thing: Roloson, Edmonton’s goalie, has been simply excellent. If the Wings continue to keep shooting, they’ll get the win(s). Roloson can’t stop ‘em all. I predict the Wings will take both games in Edmonton and come back to Detroit leading the series, 3-1.
So. Gonna post this…or attempt to, anyway. Blogging will be light until the techies get me up and running reliably.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sunday Morning Comin' Down

Well, the day got off to an ugly start, but immediately got better. First, the ugly. Guess who woke me up this morning? John Frickin’ Kerry. Not personally, of course, as I just can’t imagine J-Frickin’-K ever lowering himself to enter El Casa Móvil de Pennington.
Permit me a short tangent. While I find it impossible to imagine J-Frickin’-K having a cup of coffee with me in my humble abode, I have no such trouble imagining Dubya doing the same. My imaginary discussion has Dubya saying something like “Why, this here’s cozy! Ya know, Laura’s cousin Billy has an RV a lot like this one and we had some fine times cruisin’ all over Texas in that dang thing!” Or something like that… But, J-Frickin’-K? No way, José!
Back to our tale. I fell asleep watching some sort of foreign policy discussion on C-SPAN last night and awoke to the anti-war speech Kerry gave yesterday on the 35th anniversary of his anti-Viet Nam-war testimony to Congress back in ’71. I didn’t like the SOB back in ’71 and like him even less today. Much less, as a matter of fact. What a helluva way to wake up.
But, as I said, things almost immediately got better. The phone rang as I was pouring the water into the coffee pot reservoir. Son Number Two on the line…a good thing! He was out to breakfast with the family and there were question cards from the Trivial Pursuit Baby-Boomer Edition on the table in the restaurant. My grand-daughter Anastasia suggested that I would probably know all the answers, so Sam decided to test me. I failed. Question Number One: “What was Bob Dylan’s last Top 20 hit?” Answer: “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” I had no clue. Q2: “Which Beatles album had ‘Across the Universe’ on it?” Answer: “Let It Be.” I got that one. One out of two: I failed. We had a short conversation and a couple of laughs and then Sam had to go…the waitress arrived with breakfast. Much better than J-Frickin’-K. Mood altered for the better.
It’s just gorgeous outside this morning. It’s 77 degrees as I write, with a gentle breeze (how unusual!), and a bright crystal-blue sky. My windows are wide open and it feels SO good! We got another thunder-boomer last evening along with about two hours or so of hard rain, so the neighborhood is fresh and sweet-smelling. Nothing better than a bright morning after a good rain, especially here on the parched High Plains of New Mexico.
That rain brought another internet outage last night, of unknown duration. I lost my connection around 8:00 p.m. or so last evening, but it was back when I woke up. I don’t know if these outages are because of my bad cabling or because of a flaky DNS server (domain name service, an essential name and address resolution mechanism that makes the internet possible…I won’t go further) at my ISP. I went outside and inspected my cable yesterday and found the varmints (gophers, in this case) have been chewing on the coax. The damned varmints chewed completely through the cable last year, and that was a bee-yotch of a problem to track down. The cable is still whole as of this writing, but there are breaks, and moisture in the cable will kill my connection. On the other hand, the service has been intermittent all week-end, rain or not. The first thing I’m gonna do tomorrow is call my ISP and see if I can get re-cabled, again. I suspect the bad cabling is the issue. So much for trouble shooting!
Play-off updates. The NHL is off to a great start! I watched the hated Avalanche simply destroy Dallas yesterday, in Dallas. The first period was all Stars, and they led 2-0 at the end of the first. But the Avs came out with blood in their eyes in the second and never looked back, scoring four unanswered goals in the second period and adding a fifth in the third period. The final was Colorado 5, Dallas 2. Dallas simply fell apart. I strongly suspect the second Dallas-Colorado game won’t be anything like the first. Son Number One and I are both hoping the Avs-Stars series goes to seven games, with lots and lots of hitting and physical play. Makes the next series easier for us, ya know! The Buffalo-Philadelphia game was another superb, nail-biting play-off game, going deep into the second overtime before Buffalo won it. All of the favored teams won their first round games, with the exceptions of the aforementioned Avs-Stars game and the Montreal-Carolina game.
And I gotta go now…the Wings are on in about two minutes!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Wings 3, Oilers 2 (2OT)

(Photo: Detroit News)
Well, they won. But…it took ‘em long enough. Mitch Albom puts it this way:
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale.
Wings win the opener, 3-2 — a game they could just as easily have lost. You've seen this before, folks. More times than you can remember. It's hockey. It's the playoffs. And it's the Western Conference, where, in 2006, there are no gimme teams, no cakewalks. The Wings on Friday night were like the guy with a million bucks in his pocket but no change for the tollbooth. They swarmed the Edmonton end numerous times, putting shot after shot on Roloson, but they couldn't cash in.
Meanwhile, Edmonton, like a guy who hits on his first lottery ticket, scored two times in its first seven shots. Both goals came on power plays. The first Manny Legace might never have stopped. The second, he probably should have.
And just like that, the city was back to its old habit -- tying itself in knots, waiting, praying, hoping. The stomachs churned. The fists clenched and unclenched.
Felt good, didn't it?
The Wings led 1-0 at the end of the first period. They were down 2-1 at the end of the second. And they managed to tie it in the third. And then…and then…one full period of overtime, and Albom gets it right: “stomachs churned…The fists clenched and unclenched.” Twenty minutes of overtime and no score. Lots of chances, but no goals. But then, two minutes and change into the second overtime, Kirk Maltby, who only scored five goals in the regular season, gets his second goal of the night and the game winner. Breathe. Breathe deeply.
For those of you who don’t know, the Wings were eliminated in the second and first rounds of the play-offs the last two seasons, after winning the President’s Trophy as the best team in the NHL during the regular season. A fan doesn’t forget ignominious ends to the play-offs (and the season) like those, the memories come right back to haunt you as you watch the team struggle to win. It’s the play-offs.
God love ‘em!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Misc. Ramblings

We got about two hours worth of heavy rain last night, courtesy of a thunderstorm that moved through the area beginning around 4:30 yesterday afternoon. The rain was welcome and needed. There was one little side-effect of that storm that ruined my whole evening, however. I lost my internet connection about ten minutes into the storm and didn’t get it back for nearly 14 hours. I suppose it’s a sad, sad statement about my so-called “life,” but I was absolutely, positively lost without my ‘net connection last evening. I did get somewhat caught up on my other reading, though. That stack of unread NatGeos went down considerably last night.

Miscellaneous Moans, Groans, Bitches, and Complaints Dept: It’s time to resurrect the Grumpy Old Man persona after two days of sweetness and light aimed at the eight-year-old demographic. Here, in no particular order of precedence, are three carbuncles on the surface of my world:

  1. I don’t know how to express my irritation about this without coming off like a complete bigot, but I’ll give it a shot. We all know radio and TV announcers have a sort of “universal” voice. Even here in the Southwest, where nearly everyone has either (a) a regional twang and slower pace of diction or (b) a Hispanic accent, all the TV personalities seem to have had their regional accents bred out of them. There seems to be one teeny-tiny exception, and that exception irritates the Hades out of me. Carla Aragón (note the accented “ó”) is the evening news anchor at KOB-TV in Albuquerque and as such is a qualified and competent individual. However, whenever her name is mentioned, say on a promo for the evening news, the announcers use a highly exaggerated Hispanic pronunciation that comes off as affected, if not outright freakin’ stupid. Ms. Aragón uses this affected pronunciation herself when she introduces herself every evening. No announcer uses an affected pronunciation for other ethnic groups, such as a false brogue for someone named O'Callaghan or a Yakov Smirnov caricature of Russian diction whenever Vladimir Putin is mentioned. And to make matters worse, Ms. Aragón’s delivery and elocution when reading the news is straight middle-American bland (which is to say: no accent at all), except where Hispanic surnames are concerned, and then it’s that same exaggerated accent…every freakin’ time. I have no issue at all with accents in general (regional or otherwise) and wish we didn’t have “voice and diction” classes that breed accents out of our TV personalities. I do have issues with affectation. Stop it, Carla.

  2. Information Technology (IT) guys (and gals) aren’t all irritating, know-it-all idiots but that seems to be the stereotype. And these disagreeable commercials for IT supplier CDW reinforce the stereotype, in spades. The ads aren’t cute and they ain’t funny. They’re obnoxious. I’ll be glad when CDW changes their ad campaign, but it looks like it may be a while. I mean, they seem to be proud enough of the ads that they have a separate web page devoted to them. Perhaps the stereotype rings a bell with people (“Yes! Our IT guy is just like that!!”), but not with me. But then again, I was an IT guy…

  3. The Geico gecko, in his new incarnation. I liked him a lot better when he was mute, that is, before he began speaking in that ersatz Aussie accent. That “free pie and chips” bit makes me climb the walls. Geico’s other ads, like the “Caveman” and “Spelling Bee” ads, are generally creative and funny (examples here), but the (talking) gecko? Irritating. Scream-at-the-TV kind of irritating.

Sorry for the bitchy tone, but it happens... yanno?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

When I was Eight, Part III

Editor’s Note: Last year I wrote a short story for my youngest son on the occasion of his eighth birthday. I’ve decided to post that story here, one chapter per day, for three days. Keep in mind the story was written for an eight year old…so the tone is quite simple!
Part Three, the final installment...posted early, coz Laurie's gonna be out of pocket tomorrow.
Chapter Three: I See England, I See France
We didn’t stay in England long. Shortly after we arrived and got settled in our house in Southfields, on the south side of the Thames River, Dad came home from work with news that he had been transferred to Paris. Mom was absolutely thrilled! Paris was a dream city to most Americans at that time, and still is for some today. And to think we were going to live there for three years!! But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
We were sort of settled in before we got the news we were going to move to Paris. I say “sort of” because our furniture and things hadn’t arrived from the USA yet. We were renting a furnished house in Southfields, and I went to school at the American Air Base at Bushy Park. I remember taking a long, long bus ride to get to school every day. I had to leave for school before my Dad left for work, and it was dark in the morning when I walked to the bus stop, and dark when I walked home in the afternoon. The best part of the bus ride was the stop for “sweets” we made every afternoon. The bus driver would pull over at a small shop and the kids would all pile out of the bus and buy candy. I got ten pence a day for candy. “Pence” is British for penny. The English money at that time was divided into pence, shillings, and pounds, and was quite confusing for us Americans. A candy bar cost two or three pence, and a bottle of coke cost another two or three pence. Ten pence went a long way!
London was a very dirty city in the early 1950s, especially in the winter. Most homes were heated with coal, and coal was a dirty fuel. There was a constant brown haze in the sky, and lots of fog…it was foggy nearly every morning, sometimes so thick that you couldn’t see across the street, and I’m NOT kidding! Our house didn’t have central heating; we had a fireplace in every room, including the bedrooms. My Mom had to learn how to light fires and keep them burning to keep the house warm. It seemed like we were always cold, and we had several small electric space heaters that we used in the bedrooms and the bathroom.
Another thing that was different about London was that there were entire city blocks that were nothing but piled up rubble left over from the bombing during World War II. London suffered terribly from the war time bombing, and even seven years after the war was over there was still much clean-up work to be done. You could see the scars of war everywhere, and the war was still very, very much in the memories of the British people. It made me sad to see so much destruction.
But, then again, London is a beautiful city. Even though we were only there for about six weeks I got to see a lot of the tourist sights. We went on sight-seeing trips every weekend, especially once we knew we were going to leave. I particularly liked the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Seeing REAL castles was pretty exciting for a seven-year-old boy!

Tower Bridge and the Tower of London
Just as a note, do you see the large building at the lower right in the picture? That’s the Tower Hotel, and I lived in that hotel for about two weeks back in 1994 when I went to London on business for EDS. The hotel wasn’t there when I lived in London as a boy, this is a fairly recent picture. I hated that hotel, by the way, and moved out of it into a much older and better small hotel off of Oxford Street. But, that’s another story!
We left London for Paris the week before Christmas. We took the train from London to Dover, took a ferry from Dover to Calais, and then the train to Paris. The trip took all day and into the evening. We stayed in a hotel for a few days while Dad and Mom looked for a house for us to live in.
Mom and Dad found us a great three-bedroom house in Sceaux (pronounced “So”), which is about a 30 minute ride from downtown Paris on the Metro. The Metro is short for “Metropolitain,” which is the name of the Paris subway system. I really liked our house in Sceaux. We lived there for three years, and it was a really neat, cool place to live. The house was two stories tall and was surrounded with a four or five foot concrete wall that had large iron gates for the walkway and the drive way. I’m guessing at the height of the wall, all I really know is that it was taller than I was! All the windows on the house had folding steel shutters that were painted green. It was customary to lock the shutters at night and open them in the morning to let the sun in. Your neighbors always knew when you got out of bed, because the shutters would be open!
There were lots of kids in the neighborhood, mostly French kids, of course. But there was also two other American families nearby. Both the American families had boys my age. One boy was named Tommy Wallace, and he was in my class at Orly American Dependent School. The other boy’s name was Skipper Amey, and he went to an American private school in Paris. Both of those kids and I became great friends, and we had lots of adventures together. My best French friend was a boy named Christian (pronounced Kris-tee-awn) who lived across the street with his grandparents. The four of us, Christian, Tommy, and Skipper, would ride our bikes all over Sceaux and Bourg-La-Reine. We especially liked going to the park and the chateau in Sceaux. The park was large and was a great place to play.

The Chateau de Sceaux
My Mom got a job and went to work shortly after we moved to Paris. My parents decided that my sister and I needed more than a babysitter, especially since my sister was still a baby. So they hired a live-in maid who took care of the house, did the cooking, and took care of us kids. Our first maid was an older lady named Madame Grachon (pronounced “Gra-shown”), and she spoke no English, only French. My sister was just learning how to talk, and to my Mom’s horror, my sister began speaking in French, not English! My Mom would spend hours with my sister on the weekends, trying to teach her English, but my sister, being Pennington-Pig-Headed, pretty much refused to learn English. One of my most important jobs during the last year we lived in France was translating between my sister and my parents. I spoke excellent French, so well, in fact, that French people always assumed I was a French kid. Ha! The joke was on them!
I went to school at Orly Field, which was a combination U.S. Air Force base and the Paris airport. I rode a bus for over an hour to get to school, and was picked up by the bus at the front of my house. There were at least ten bus routes for the kids that went to Orly School, my bus route was called the Choisy-Le-Roi (pronounced Chwazy-lu-wah) route and wandered all over the place. There was no base housing for the military families in Paris. The lack of base housing was why there were so many bus routes…families lived all over Paris and its suburbs. The school was small, and the third, fourth and fifth graders shared a class room. There were maybe six kids in the third grade. We all had to study French, because it was required by the American military schools. My French teacher was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen and was the first love of my life. I don’t remember her name; we all called her “Mademoiselle,” or “Ma’amselle,” because she was single. Married women are called “Madame,” single women are “Mademoiselles.” I remember she broke my heart when I began the fifth grade because she had gotten married over the summer. She told me first thing that first day back at school that I had to call her “Madame” from now on. I instantly knew what that meant. It made me cry, and then she hugged me so hard. I’ll never forget that.
I was her star student. Mademoiselle went to the school principal and requested that she be allowed to have special one-on-one classes with me, and he agreed. She would take me on a “field trip” once a month to really cool places in and around Paris. We went to the Louvre (a famous museum), Versailles (a very famous chateau and park), the cathedral of Notre Dame, and various other museums and famous places, like the Eiffel Tower. I knew Paris better than my parents did, if you don’t count the bars and restaurants. Ma’amselle and I only spoke French to each other, no English was allowed during our time together. By the time we left France I spoke French as well or better than any French kid my age, and was reading French novels and magazines for fun. I can hardly speak a word of it today…if you don’t use it, you lose it.
My family took a three week vacation every summer while we lived in Paris. The first summer, when I was eight, we went to Alsace-Lorraine on the France-Germany border, crossed over into Germany and visited there, and also visited the World War I battlefields at Verdun. Our other summer vacations were to Spain (the second year), where we spent our whole time on the beach in a town called Sitches, not far from Barcelona. Our last vacation in France was spent in the towns of Nice and Cannes, where we stayed with French friends in their house on the beach in Nice.
My Dad bought two cars while we were in France. The first car was a large Citroen (pronounced Sit-tron) which I thought looked like a car a gangster would drive.

Citroen Sedan in Black
My Dad called the car “The Corporal” because of the chevron on the front grille looked like army corporal’s stripes. That car was loud, rode rough and was uncomfortable in the back seat. I didn’t like it much.

Hillman Minx
Then Dad bought a small English Hillman Minx convertible. I don’t know which was worse, the Citroen or the Hillman. The Hillman was bad because it was VERY small and had a cramped back seat. Dad always seemed to drive with the top down, unless it was pouring rain. I remember nearly freezing to death in the back of that car! But, Dad and Mom liked it a lot. We kept that car for three or four years, driving it in France, Turkey and the US. Dad finally sold it while we were living in Washington, D.C. in 1958.
And one final thing. Remember I said I was sad because we left my bike in Atlanta? Well, I got a brand-new bright red Churchill bicycle for Christmas in 1952. It was what we called an “English Bike” back then, because all American bikes had big balloon tires and very heavy, almost clunky frames. English bikes, on the other hand, had thin tires, a “racing” saddle and more than one speed. My bike was a three-speed, and I thought it was just the COOLEST thing I had ever seen! I kept that bike until I was 13 or 14.
These stories have been just a few things I remember about life when I was eight years old. There’s probably a lot more that doesn’t come to mind at the moment, and my memory about things that happened over 50 years ago isn’t all that good. But, the one thing I remember most, and the thing I tell people when I want to amaze and mystify them is this: “I went to school in the third grade in three different countries: The US, England, and France.” Not many people can say that!

When I was Eight, Part II

Editor’s Note: Last year I wrote a short story for my youngest son on the occasion of his eighth birthday. I’ve decided to post that story here, one chapter per day, for three days. Keep in mind the story was written for an eight year old…so the tone is quite simple!
Here's Part Two...
Chapter Two: On to England
My Dad finally called sometime in early November to let us know that he had found a house and was making our travel arrangements. I was very excited when I found out we would be taking a ship from New York City to Southampton, England. I had never been on a ship before and thought it was going to be a great adventure. My Mom wasn’t as excited as I was…she was a little afraid of crossing the ocean. The trip from America to England is a long trip by sea. The fastest ocean liners made the trip in about three days, but we weren’t going to travel on an ocean liner, we were going to be aboard a U.S. Navy troop ship, and troop ships are a lot smaller and a lot slower than ocean liners. But, we had to get to New York, first!
My Mom and Dad decided to sell our car. In America we drive on the right side of the road and the steering wheel in our cars is on the left-hand side of the car. You drive on the other side of the road in England and the steering wheel is on the RIGHT side of the car. This can be a big problem if your steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car! Dad thought it would be better to buy an English car rather than try to drive our car on the “wrong” side of the road in England. So, Mom sold the Hudson. That meant we had to go to New York on the train.
It’s fun to travel by train. You have a lot more room than you do in a car. You can get up and walk around, you can sit and look out the window, and if you’re taking a long trip, you can eat in the dining car and sleep in a bed, too! The trip from Atlanta to New York takes two days and a night. We got a Pullman sleeper compartment on the train for our trip. A Pullman compartment is the term used to describe a little private room on a train. The room has two bench seats and beds that pull down out of the walls so you can sleep.

Train at Peachtree Station
The picture above was taken in 1969 at Peachtree Station, which is where we caught the train to New York. There’s little or no difference between the train you see in the picture and the one I took to New York.
I really enjoyed riding the train, especially eating in the dining car and watching the country roll by the window. When we were going through open country the train ran about 60 or 70 miles per hour. Whenever the train passed through a town you could see people in the street, kids would wave at the train, and it seemed like everyone was looking right at you. In the old days the train tracks often ran right in the middle of the main street of those small towns. The train would slow down to 25 or 30 miles per hour whenever it went through a town (for safety reasons, I’m sure), and the result was you got a close-up look at the town. I’m sure all that has changed, now. The train also stopped to pick up passengers, mail, and supplies in the larger towns and cities. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and raising the shade to look out on to the station platform. It was very late, but I could see men wheeling baggage carts and people getting on and off the train. I’ll never forget those sights.
As soon as the sun went down the porters began their work. Porters are people that are sort of like waiters or butlers. The porter’s job was to take care of the passengers and get the sleeping cars ready for bed-time. The porter would knock on your door and ask if you were ready to have your room “prepared.” That was the signal for you to step into the corridor while he pulled the beds down out of the walls, tightened the sheets, put the blankets on the beds and fluffed the pillows. The whole exercise was over in about three or four minutes. When you went back into your room the seats were gone and your beds were made for you. It was very cool!
The train passed through northern Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., a tiny bit of Pennsylvania, and New Jersey before arriving in New York City. We got to see a lot of farm land, lots of woods, rolling hills, and flat plains. The east coast of America is very, very beautiful, even in November. And rolling through the big cities like Richmond, Washington, Newark, and finally New York was exciting. A lot of folks say there’s no better way to see the country than by train. I’m inclined to agree with them.
We arrived in New York two days before our ship sailed. Mom wanted to spend time in the city, do some shopping, and just generally walk around and see the sights. It probably wasn’t very easy for her, since I was seven-going-on-eight and Norma was not quite two, still a baby, really. I vaguely remember being dragged through all sorts of department stores and not enjoying the experience very much. I wanted to go to the top of the Empire State building, but Mom wouldn’t do it. My Mom was afraid of heights and avoided big buildings at all costs. I was SO disappointed!
My Mom was disappointed, too. She had hoped we’d sail on one of the fancy ocean liners of the day, especially the Queen Elizabeth. Some military families were sent overseas on ocean liners, but not many. We didn’t get the Queen Elizabeth; we sailed on a troop ship.

The Queen Elizabeth in NY Harbor
We got up very early the morning we left and took a taxi to the port. There was lots of processing to do before we could get on board. We stood in lines while Mom turned our baggage over to the baggage people, showed the officials our transportation orders, our passports, our shot records and millions of other things. Processing to get on board probably took two hours or more. A long time for a seven-year-old boy with ants in his pants!!

A Troop Ship
The ship in the picture above is the USS William Darby, and may or may not be the ship we sailed to England on. I remember the name of the ship we sailed in back from Turkey in 1958, it was the USS Maurice Rose. I can’t remember the name of the ship we went over on, though.
Once we were on board we were shown to our cabin, which was VERY small and had three bunks, a small table, and lockers for the clothes we brought for the trip. The rest of our baggage was stored in the hold. Families had cabins on the upper decks and “troops” slept in large barracks areas in the lower decks. The troops were not allowed in the family areas and had their own facilities. There was a recreation room, a very small theatre that showed movies twice a day, a library, a dining room, and several lounges. You were also allowed out on the open decks if the weather was good. Fortunately for us, the weather was good. Crossing the North Atlantic in November could be miserable, or it could be OK. We didn’t have any storms that I remember, it was relatively smooth sailing. No one in the family got sea-sick.
I’m afraid the trip got to be boring after the first two days, and it took us a week to get from New York to Southampton. A troop ship is a relatively small vessel, compared to ocean liners. You can see all you’re allowed to see in a day. My Mom was probably ready to jump into the ocean by the end of the fourth day, and we were all anxious to get to England and see Dad.
When we finally arrived in Southampton it seemed like it took FOREVER for the ship to dock and get tied up at the pier. It took longer for all the passengers to disembark. I can remember standing at the ship’s railing and yelling back and forth with my Dad, who was waiting for us on the dock below. We finally walked down the gangway, met Dad, went and retrieved our baggage, loaded it into a car Dad had borrowed from a friend and began the drive to our new home in London. We were on the road in the early afternoon and home by early evening.
Next: I See England, I See France

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

When I was Eight

(Editor’s Note: Last year I wrote "When I Was Eight," a short story for my youngest son on the occasion of his eighth birthday. I’ve decided to post that story here, one chapter per day, for three days. Keep in mind the story was written for an eight year old…so the tone is quite simple!)
Chapter One: California to Georgia
There were four people in my family: my Mom, named Marie, my sister Norma, who is six years younger than me, my Dad, and I. My Mom was a housewife who also did office work from time to time, which was pretty unusual in the early 1950s. Most mothers didn’t work in those days; they usually stayed home and took care of the family. My father, whose name was also Buck, was in the Air Force. He was a “career” Air Force man, which means he was in the Air Force for over 20 years…just like I was. My Dad worked in the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations, or OSI, which is sorta like the FBI, only military. In the late summer of 1952 my family was living in Sacramento, California. Dad was stationed at McClellan Air Force Base and the Air Force reassigned him to London, England. Dad was a captain at that time, just like your brother Buck is now. My Dad and Mom decided that Dad would go to England alone and find a house for us to live in, and then my Mom, my sister and I would join him after the house was set up for us.
My Dad left for England from California. My Mom, Norma, and I stayed behind and packed up all the furniture and stuff for the move to England. After the moving company picked up our stuff, my Mom packed Norma and I into our 1952 Hudson (that was the type of car we had) and we left for Atlanta, Georgia, where my grandmother lived. We were going to stay in Atlanta until Dad got our house in England ready for us. It took us about ten days to drive from California to Georgia. Back in those days there weren’t any fast, four-lane interstate highways…all the roads were two-lanes, for the most part. It took a lot longer to get from one place to another in those days! We had a pretty good trip, except for a breakdown in Salome, Arizona. Something went wrong with the car and it took three days to get it fixed. Salome was, and probably still is, a very, very small town and there wasn’t a Hudson dealer in that town. The mechanic that fixed our car had to order parts from either Tucson or Phoenix, I don’t remember which. We spent three days in a motel room waiting for the car to be fixed. I remember my Mom was pretty upset about the car breaking down and stranding us in this small town in the desert. The rest of the trip was uneventful, and we arrived in Atlanta safely. The trip was pretty exciting for a seven-year-old boy, and I had a lot of fun.

A 1952 Hudson. Ours was Green
My grandmother lived in a brick two-bedroom house in northern Atlanta, halfway between downtown Atlanta and a town called Buckhead. My great-grandmother lived with her, and they had lived in that same house for over 40 years…in fact, the house they lived in was the house my Mom grew up in. They lived in a nice neighborhood. There were big oak trees, crabapple trees, willow trees, and the house was about two hundred yards from Peachtree Creek, the site of a famous Civil War battle. I called my grandmother Mana (pronounced “Mah-nah”) and my great-grandmother Granny. Their real names were Estelle and Effie…good southern names! I always thought of them as being very old, but my grandmother was about the same age I am now, maybe younger. Mana worked at a company called Prior Tire in downtown Atlanta, and Granny took care of their house. Neither Mana nor Granny drove, and they didn’t own a car…they took taxis or the trolley to wherever they had to go.
Mana's House, 2185 Willow Avenue
So. We settled in to wait for Dad to write and tell us he had found a house and we could leave for England. The wait was longer than we expected, and I had to begin the third grade in Atlanta. My mom registered me at E. Rivers elementary school, about a 15 minute walk from Mana’s house. I don’t know what the “E” in E. Rivers stands for…I’m guessing that the E is the initial of some semi-famous person’s name, maybe Egbert, maybe Edward, or maybe Elizabeth. But it was a nice school. I don’t remember the names of my teacher or any of my classmates. I went to school there from September until early November of 1952. I walked to school every morning with two boys from the neighborhood, one was named Jamie (Something) and the other boy’s name was Bunky Pennell. Bunky was my best friend, and his name was actually Steven. People in the South have a strange habit of giving their kids nicknames, often silly sounding nicknames. But, those names didn’t seem silly at the time, ya know! I often wonder if Bunky went through his whole life being called Bunky, or if he changed his name to Steven once he grew up. I’ve kept MY nickname all through life. As a kid I was called Bucky, and as an adult I’ve always been known as Buck, never Norman. But I think Buck is a lot cooler than Norman, and certainly better than Bunky, don’t you think?
I suppose my stay in Atlanta was perfectly normal for a seven-year-old boy. I went to school, I rode my bike, I played with the kids in the neighborhood. I had a pretty cool bike, a Schwinn Roadmaster. It was red, with big white sidewall tires. It also had a small “tank,” sorta like a motorcycle tank, with two small headlights at the front of the tank. The headlights were battery powered and were pretty useless except for decoration purposes. But it looked cool! I really liked that bike, but it stayed behind in Mana’s garage when we went to England. Although I didn’t know it at the time, my Dad and Mom would replace that Schwinn with something better…but more on that, later.

An Old Schwinn, Similar to Mine
I had one exciting experience while in Atlanta, though. I took my first trip on an airplane. My grandfather and my grandmother were separated, and my grandfather lived in Tennessee. My grandfather bought airline tickets for my mom, Norma and I and we flew to see him in Tennessee. You almost never forget the first time you do something, and you certainly NEVER forget your first flight. We took an Eastern Airlines DC-6 (or maybe it was a DC-7…they were very similar) from Atlanta to Chattanooga, a flight of about an hour or so. I was so excited! Flying in those days was a BIG deal because airline travel was still relatively new, and most people who traveled either drove their cars, took the train, or took a bus. Flying was expensive and not many people did it.

An Eastern Air Lines Douglas DC-7
We stayed in Chattanooga for a short while, I don’t remember exactly how long. I didn’t know my grandfather all that well, and that trip to Tennessee was the last time I saw him. He died while we were stationed in Europe. I think I only saw my grandfather two or three times in my whole life. The grandfather I’m speaking of here was my Mom’s father. I never met or knew my father’s father.
Just like 2004, 1952 was an election year and the country was caught up in the campaign. The presidential campaign of 1952 is the first one I remember. Dwight Eisenhower, a very famous World War II general, was the Republican candidate for president and Adlai Stevenson was the Democratic candidate. I remember arguing with my grandmother about why Ike was better than Stevenson…after all, Ike was a Five-Star general and a war hero! What had Stevenson done that made him better than Ike? My Mom, Mana, and Granny all helped me understand what the election was all about, but if I remember correctly, I thought it was just a big game. Each political party (we have two major parties: the Republicans and the Democrats) has a “convention” during election years. People from all over the country gather in a city for a week and discuss the election, listen to speeches, and decide how they are going to run their campaign. The Republicans had their convention in New York City this year; the Democrats had theirs in Boston. In 1952, both parties had their conventions in Chicago. I remember all the adults in the house watched the two parties’ conventions on television that year, and they all thought it was a Big Deal. The one thing I remember about the conventions in 1952 was that they were on TV EVERY night for a week, and I didn’t get to watch my favorite TV shows. I didn’t like THAT!
One final thing about the election. I don’t know if you saw them, but people wear buttons during the election campaign with the name of their candidate on the button. It’s a way of letting people know who you support, and it’s also a way to get conversations started about politics. Here’s a picture of the button I had in 1952, and the button I had this year!

Campaign Buttons
Next: On to England.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

More Red Wings...

Son Number One and I watched the Wings game together last evening…he in beautiful suburban Layton, Utah and me in not-quite-beautiful “suburban” (hah!) Portales. “Watching the game together” essentially means there are a lot of Layton-Portales phone calls, mainly between periods, but also when there’s a development of note, like a pretty goal or a fight. Both of us formed the same impression early on…the Wings came out flat, got down by one goal to Dallas in the first period, and generally seemed to suffer from a distinct lack of interest in the game. When Dallas scored their second goal early in the third period, both SN1 and I seriously considered turning the game off; all that kept us tuned in was the hope that the Wings would score at least one goal and avoid the shut-out…the Wings being the only team in the NHL that hasn’t suffered a shut-out this year. We both agreed we’d hate to see that milestone go by the boards.

So, anyway. I’m glad we stayed with it. The last seven minutes of the game were great: Detroit scored three unanswered goals and got the win, 3-2. All the more impressive, given Dallas is the second-best team in the Western Conference, and a formidable foe. The Stars had to be mumbling to themselves all the way back to Dallas. “Had it, lost it…” and all that.
In the post-game wrap up phone call, we got to talking about the Wings and their fans, in general, agreeing that these are great times for Wings fans. This year is the 15th consecutive year the Wings have made the play-offs. While 15 years isn’t an NHL record by any means (consider St. Louis, out of the play-offs this year for the first time since ’78-’79), it’s pretty good. And this year Detroit won its fifth President’s Trophy in ten years. Three Stanley Cups since ’97, plus a couple of near-misses. It wasn’t always so.
SN1 and I aren’t Johnny-Come-Lately, get on the winning bandwagon Wings fans. We’ve supported the team for over 20 years and lived through some pretty horrendous times. There was a time, and not all that long ago, when being a Wings fan was a lot like being a Cubs fan…one couldn’t even say “next year, next year!” with a straight face. The “Dead Things,” as they used to be known in Detroit back in ’85-‘86 when they finished the season with just 40 points (total!), couldn’t be considered a plausible championship team by any stretch of the imagination. Those were dark, dark days. But things slowly began to turn around, even though there were continuing disappointments, like the Devils’ sweep of the Wings in the ’95 Stanley Cup finals. We all just knew ’95 was gonna be the year the Wings turned it around and brought the Cup home. Not to be, not until ’97. Two more years of waiting and hoping…but we knew it was inevitable. And so it was, back-to-back Cups in ’97 and ’98, and another in 2002.
So here we are: it’s 2006, the play-offs begin Friday night, and the Quest for The Cup will be on again. It’s a great time to be a Wings fan!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Red Wings!

Let’s hope we add another date to that banner in the photo come June. The regular season is almost over (the Wings have two games left: Dallas tonight and Nashville tomorrow), and although the league hasn’t announced the play-off schedule as yet, most folks think the play-offs will begin this coming Saturday. To say that the Wings have been playing well would be a gross understatement…they’ve won 12 in a row on the road, setting an NHL record for regular season road wins in the process, have sown up the President’s Trophy with 122 points and two games left, and have just been playing superb hockey. Yzerman is playing like a man ten years his junior, Shanahan has 40 goals, Lidstrom looks like a lock for the Norris trophy, and the younger guys have stepped up. But. The play-offs are different, to state the obvious. Although the Wings have pretty much led the league from start to finish this year, I’m somewhat reminded on the ’95-’96 season. The Wings accumulated 131 points and the President’s Trophy that season, but were eliminated in the Conference Finals by the hated Avalanche. From the Red Wings official site:
But it was playoff disappointment once again for Detroit as it was eliminated in the Western Conference Finals by the Colorado Avalanche, who would go on to win the 1996 Stanley Cup. That series began the fierce rivalry between the Red Wings and the Avalanche. The most significant incident came in Game 6 when Claude Lemieux drilled the Wings' Kris Draper into the boards from behind and left Draper suffering serious facial injuries as a result.

Shanahan was one of the final pieces in Detroit's Stanley Cup puzzle and went on to score 46 goals that season. Veteran defensemen Larry Murphy was acquired at the trade deadline and Kocur, who had been traded to the New York Rangers in 1991, returned to Detroit as a free agent in December 1996. But the regular seasons most memorable Red Wing moment came on March 26, 1997 when McCarty exacted revenge on Lemieux for the hit on Draper. It came during an on-ice brawl, which featured Colorado goaltender, Patrick Roy and Mike Vernon in a slugfest at center ice. The frenzy helped rally the Wings from a two-goal deficit to a 6-5 overtime victory as McCarty got the winner. When Detroit went on to win the Stanley Cup, each player pointed to that game as the moment they became a team. (ed: emphasis mine)
I watched that March 26th game in ’97, and what a birthday present it was! I may have seen better games, in terms of skill, tension, and hockey expertise, but I’ve never seen a game that was as exciting or as emotionally rewarding. Well, check that. The fourth game of the ’97 Stanley Cup finals, when Detroit swept the Flyers to end a 42 year Stanley Cup drought, was exciting as all Hell. It got waaaay drunk out that night!
Yep, the Wings look good this year and seem set to make a run all the way to the Cup. I can’t wait for Saturday!