Thursday, March 31, 2011

The book of this blog is now available from this blog!

Hi everyone.

I wrote a book, which is a collection of material, some from this very blog -- but better and newer! -- plus a lot of unreleased stuff. I think that, maybe, you should buy it. Here. Because that would be awesome. For me. But also you! I hope.

Much more to come on this endeavor, to the point that you will be sick about it and will buy the book just to shut me up.

Oh, also -- thank you to every single person who reads this blog. I truly, honestly, sincerely appreciate it.



Classic card of the week

Charles Johnson, 1996 Fleer METAL UNIVERSE series

The way I figure it, one of three things is going on here with this card.

a) The umpire on this particular day is a huge, horned, cartoon beast, who is either coming on to Charles Johnson, or teaching him a new catching technique that involves claws.

b) A huge, horned, cartoon beast has, unbeknownst to Charles Johnson, eaten the umpire, in which case—watch out Charles Johnson!

c) This card is stupid.

This is part of Fleer’s extremely popular-with-the-kids and very sensical “METAL UNIVERSE” series, because who wants to live in a universe without metal? Not me, that’s for sure. Also, metal and baseball go hand-in-hand like Pittsburgh and fashion. And, when one thinks of metal, the first thing this hypothetical person thinks about, besides metal, is a huge, horned, cartoon beast-like creature. Then, his mind travels to these guys!

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “I can read about Charles Johnson on Mike’s other blog that he writes for that I check out all the time because he is my favorite writer who writes about old stupid baseball cards—I wish I could pay him for this! But what I really want to know is, who did the pencils and CGI for this card?”

Excellent question.

Would you believe me if I told you that the same person did the pencils and CGI for this card? No? You wouldn’t believe me? Then you are way too skeptical, my good friend!

Indeed, the renowned “C. Chambers” executed the pencils and CGI here. What are “pencils?” I don’t know, but they look awesome. The reclusive C. Chambers, as you may know, also did the computer graphic imaging for the popular Pixar movie, Metal Universe, which was a mockumentary about a frog who lives in outer space and has arthritis.

Speaking of baseball, please also take note of the manly image on the back lower right of this card, which features several metal wheel thingies.

This seems to imply that this card was forged in a factory, produced and imprinted via a system of metal pulleys and levers, amidst suffocating exhaust smoke and loud clanging. Several good, company men didn’t make it out of the factory as a result; one guy lost a foot. Then, after realizing that nobody would want a metal baseball card, Fleer took the card to a postmodern office building downtown, scanned it to cardboard, added some computer graphics and then sold it on the Internet.

Miles away—their efforts and sacrifices rendered meaningless—several men stained with soot, shook their fists in the air in hopeless desperation, screaming, “Neeeeeeeerds!”

Did you know?
Metal is classified as Cb (cardboard) on the Period Table of Elements.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hear ye, hear ye—Ear tubes are normal, will make your child more popular*

Note: This column appears in the 3/31 issue of The Glendale Star and the 4/1 issue of the Peoria Times

Things that seem crazy and that I knew nothing about are pretty standard in parenthood.

One of those things: tubes in kids’ ears. Around our daughter’s 17th ear infection, my wife lamented that it may be time to have tubes inserted into her ears. I was like, “Ha, ha … good one. Tubes.” And she was like, “No, seriously.”

She explained to me that tubes are frequently inserted into some children's ears as a means of preventing the frequency of ear infections. I immediately pictured our daughter walking around the house with straw-like tubes projecting out of the side of her head—sort of like the knobs in Frankenstein’s ears—which would leak ear fluid all over the carpet. This did not seem normal to me.

I later came to learn that the tubes border on microscopic, and that their insertion requires a very minor surgery. I began to ask other parents if they had ever heard of such a thing, and the common response was something along the lines of, “Tubes? Pfftt. All five of our kids had tubes. Billy over there had three sets of tubes because they kept falling out. He’s the tube champion. Now he plays the tuba. Weird. Anyway, it’s totally no big deal. Who ya’ got, Dr. Johnson? Good dude. Tell him the Murphys said ‘what’s up.’”

That’s the thing about parenthood. I have lived on this earth for over 32 years and had never heard of something that is apparently very common. It makes me feel both dumb and oblivious. Did I have tubes? Do I have tubes? I need to call my mom. I don’t know what to think anymore. It’s like when we first got our dog and the vet said that he’d obviously need to have his “anal glands expressed” every now and then, and I looked at the vet like he had eight heads. I thought I knew enough about kids—whiny, hungry—and dogs—furry, hungry—but I realize every day that I do not.

But I am learning. In fact, the doctor informed me that a common misperception is that the tubes just drain fluid, when in fact they mostly relieve the pressure in the eardrum which in turn lessens the fluid. This information alleviated my earlier fears about ear fluid carpet stains. So I said, “I’m sold—pop ‘em in there, doc.” My wife interjected to say we would talk it over.

Before we could begin talking it over, our daughter got another ear infection, and our decision was made for us. She had the tubes inserted during a minor procedure last week, which lasted, literally, about 10 minutes. Afterwards the doctor came out to say she did great, and that there was “extreme puss” in both ears. Apparently, we made the right decision. Also, there would be “considerable leakage” for the next 24 hours, so … yeah.

She was zonked and zombie-like from the anesthesia immediately afterwards. This morphed into a brief bout of confused anger, and she destroyed everything in her path. Our little Frankenstein.

Now she’s just another kid with ear tubes, and I’m a wiser dad, and our dog just scooted on the carpet, and I know what needs to be done.

Eventually, we will need a new carpet.

*may not be true

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Classic card of the week

Derek Bell, 1996 Upper Deck "Strange But True" series

This is the third time we have approached the subject of Derek Bell around these here, and other, parts. What can I say? Operation Shutdown is an operation that is near and dear to my heart. And as if Operation Shutdown were not strange but true enough, there seems to be even more strange but true aspects of Derek Bell’s game, and his refusal to play it well and/or at all:

The title of this strange but true episode is, “To Catch a Thief.” Interesting to note that, according to Wikipedia and following Operation Shutdown, “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette” sports columnist Mark Madden summarized the incident with "Derek Bell becomes the ultimate Pirate: Lives on a boat and steals money." No other information on the Wiki page alludes to Bell living on a boat, but if he was indeed doing just that, then that is like, the best headline ever. Unrelated to accusations of stealing, Bell was eventually caught for drug possession. My knowledge of pirates begins and ends with Captain Jack Sparrow, but I think it’s safe to say that pirates use drugs, too. So there’s a lot of evidence here of Derek Bell being an actual pirate.

*Tangent: Only because “To Catch a Thief” reminds me of something else … whenever I am flipping channels and “To Catch a Predator” is on, I have to watch it. Have to. I feel like this is wrong, but it is so horribly fascinating that I cannot look away. One thing I always wondered though—they like to draw in the predator with a plate of cookies. Somebody has to bake those cookies, right? Who is responsible for baking the “To Catch a Predator” cookies? Do you think this person brings up this fact at parties? Do you like the cookies? Great! Ya’ know, they’re the same ones I bake for ‘To Catch a Predator!’ Yeah, really! Wait—don’t spit them out!” End tangent*

On June 19, not only did Bell walk on ball five when the umpire miscounted,

I will never understand how this happens. I’m all for humans, but how long is it until computers are calling baseball games? It seems like umpires only exist to protect some perceived sanctity while sacrificing accuracy. You will never convince me that when they appeal to the first or third base umpire on a checked swing that the umpire is not completely guessing. He’s like, Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow … wait, why is everyone looking at me? Ummm … think fast … {Dramatic fist pump} Yer outta here! For strike one! Yeah! Still got it. Whew. I better start paying attention though. What day is today?

but in his next at-bat, the Houston outfielder also reached base and was caught stealing twice in the inning due to an error.

First of all … what? You can’t get caught stealing twice, because if you get caught stealing once, you are required to return to the dugout. If an error was involved, you still were not “caught” stealing. Because of the error. If they are alluding to the fact that the “error” was an error on the umpire’s part in calling him safe with the replay proving otherwise, then a) wow, b) I reiterate my earlier sentiments re: umpires, and c) it’s still not getting “caught.”

Also, and I understand he probably figured he was playing with house money at this point, maybe Derek Bell should stop trying to steal bases. It’s quite possible, however, he was just living out the motto of the cartoon inset here, which reads, “If at first you don’t succeed, slide, slide again,” implying that even if there is a short brick wall in front of the base you are attempting to steal—in this case, “second base,” as the sign helpfully points out—you should simply slide headfirst into this wall repeatedly because … why not? Baseball! The manager in this cartoon reenactment is Dusty Baker.

Did you know?
Chris Hansen is doing important work, yes, but man is that dude smug.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Arizona: Armed, dangerous, and senseless

Note: This column appears in the 3/24 issue of The Glendale Star and the 3/25 issue of the Peoria Times

You know what Arizona needs? More guns.

But it’s not just more guns quantity-wise. I mean, sure—if I have one gun, I should definitely get two guns, because that is more protection and will make me a better American by further exercising my right to have guns. More than that though, I need to be able to bring my guns everywhere, all the time, because the fact is, you never know when you’re going to need your gun(s). Yesterday, for example, a bird was chirping in the park. What was I going to do—shoo it away? C’mon.

Luckily for me, an Arizona citizen, Senate Bill 1201 will not only relegate a city’s ability to ban firearms to only buildings with secured entrances, but it will also give me, local gun-wielder, the ability to sue should anyone try to stop me from exercising my right to bring my gun into a non-secured government facility or event. And if there’s anything this state and country needs more of besides guns, it’s lawsuits.

So, the less protected a government facility or event is, the better opportunity for me to bring my gun. Makes sense. Last year, at the annual Earth Day festival, I didn’t have my gun on me, and let me tell you—it was the most uncomfortable feeling I ever had. What if something went down? I’d be writing this dead. With the passing of this bill, I’ll have more peace of mind. Because of my piece.

This bill challenges local government officials to put their money where their hippie mouths are, because if they don’t want to get shot while they are working, all they have to do is budget the hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary to install adequate security and metal detectors, thus ironically exempting them from the potential effects of this bill.

Some, like Peoria City Manager Carl Swenson, are oddly skeptical. “This is a difficult time for us to shoulder that burden,” he said. Pfftt. What is he even talking about? The economy is doing great. And if it acts up again, we’ll shoot it! I mean, if I have the money to buy guns, you as a government official should have the money to prevent me from bringing them into your office. That is money well-spent on both ends. Besides, education is set, so we should have money to burn.

Even the mayor is whining. Peoria Mayor Bob Barrett told the Arizona Republic, “Can you imagine someone whose water bill has been turned off for whatever reason and he comes in all excited to talk to our staff with a weapon in hand?” Hey, Bob, here’s an idea—stop turning people’s water off. People with guns take exception to that sort of thing.

Other nonsensical people say, “Why don’t we simply follow the lead of normal states, where if you even look like you have a gun within 100 yards of a government facility you will be tasered and arrested because: why do you even have a gun there?” But SB 1201 gives a pass to venues and events with signs banning weaponry and those with firearm lockers. And hey—everybody listens to signs! Especially people who bring guns to festivals. And I think it makes total sense for local government to spend money on gun lockers so that citizens can confidently transport their weapons from point A to point B. If I can’t temporarily store my gun at the local community center, then why do we even have government in the first place?

So, local government? The ball is in your court.

Or else, ya’ know, the gun is in your building.

Your choice. No one’s got a gun to your head.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Classic card of the week

Willie Banks, 1991 Fleer Ultra Prospects series

I would like to say first and foremost that if I could go back to a time before I was born, I would change my name to Willie Banks. Not that I’d change families—I’d just change the family name by convincing my ancient ancestor, O’Reilly O’Kenny, to change his surname to Banks. I would do this by getting him really drunk, obviously. Then I would convince my dad to name me “Willie,” also by getting him drunk. What stereotype? Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Speaking of Willie Banks, please don’t for a second get this Willie Banks confused with the gospel singer famous for hits like, “Lord You Been Good”—sayeth the Lord, “It’s ‘Lord, You Have Been Good.’ C’mon, Willie”—or the other American athlete, who Wikipedia describes as an “American athlete" and “the originator of the now common hand clapping that takes place during many track and field events.” So, if you ever get that Trivial Pursuit question about who invented hand-clapping, you have your answer. You’re welcome.

No, this Willie Banks is the one who makes made scouts like their chops.

Although still some time away from pitching for the parent club, Willie Banks is the type of pitcher that makes scouts lick their chops.

Other things that make professional baseball scouts lick their chops are a) free press box chicken fingers, b) players who are scrappy, and c) old, black and white photos of Ingrid Bergman where she is showing her arms.

He is a high-school phenom with a 90 + MPH fastball and a willingness to learn the other pitches necessary to round out a Major League hurler.

Me: What type of pitcher really makes you lick your proverbial chops?

Scout: Two things about a pitcher really make me lick my chops. First, if he threw hard in high school. If a guy threw hard in high school, my saliva starts going, and I’m getting ready to lick chops.

Me: Okay, let’s stop with licking chops thing.

Scout: Second, if the guy is willing to learn new pitches.

Me: Do you run into a lot of young pitchers who are simply unwilling to learn new pitches in the interest of making them better and earning a multi-million dollar MLB salary?

Scout: No.

Me: So in that respect, virtually every pitcher makes you lick your chops?

Scout: Yes.

He was the first-round choice of the Twins in the June, 1987 draft; curiously, the highest draft choice to ever come out of New Jersey.

Curious because … New Jersey is famous for its surplus of chop-licking inducing pitchers?

At Orlando, in 1990, he showed flashes of promise, winning seven games and compiling 114 K’s, but he was told to play Winter Ball

Is winter ball some kind of punishment?

to help him widen his array of pitches.

It’s pretty obvious to me now that Willie Banks only threw a fastball.

He responded excellently, going 9-1 with a 2.56 ERA and earned Second-Team All-Star honors in Venezuela.

Pfft. Who hasn’t earned Second-Team All-Star honors in Venezuela?

Did you know?
The first person to clap his hands at a track and field event was sentenced to six months in prison for disorderly conduct.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Full moon, allergies contribute to loss of focus, sanity

Note: This column appears in the 3/17 issue of The Glendale Star and the 3/18 issue of the Peoria Times

You know how things tend to happen all at once, and you reach a point where you either break down completely or blindly plow through all newfound dilemmas with purpose? Well, I did both.

Not helping this unexpected influx of oddness was the general state of funk I found myself in over the past few weeks. Between work, family, outside projects, appointments, commitments, or whatever, I was suddenly zoned out, proceeding through life in a zombiesque state. Also, all of a sudden I have allergies. I haven’t been able to breathe for three weeks, and whenever I blow my nose I almost pass out.

It probably began when my wife came home one day and informed me her car was hit while it was parked on the street. No big deal, but still something to take care of. Thing is, nothing ever seems to proceed smoothly for us, and this led to a series of calls to various insurance companies—always a pleasant experience—and as a result my wife is now driving a small red rental clown car that is filled with cat hair and smells like an ashtray.

Around this time, our daughter set the world record for consecutive ear infections—surpassing the mark set by a 4th-century Roman boy—forcing us to reconsider having tubes placed in her ears. A minor car accident and minor potential surgery were giving me a major headache.

Then, a local crazy person followed up an interesting voice mail in which he repeatedly asked me questions—on voice mail—by coming into our office to see me in an attempt to place an ad that literally forced me to contact local authorities. When I informed him that we would not place his nonsensical yet threatening ad, he began a rant about the local library and demanded to speak to the mayor, who—this is surprising—does not work here.

At least the weekend had arrived, and that Saturday my wife and I had dinner plans with friends. Before dropping off our daughter at the sitter, we decided to go to church, and when we arrived at church it was discovered that somebody, who was me, forgot the diaper bag that contained pretty much everything we needed for her. This greatly improved my standing with my date for that evening, and our daughter helped matters immensely by acting like a lunatic in church to the point where my wife was forced to remove her from the premises.

Rock bottom occurred later that night when, after we arrived home, I decided to hop on the ol’ computer. Then I decided to take a sip of water. I failed at the latter, and water spilled all over our laptop, shutting it down.

I don’t want to say how I reacted to this occurrence because it is embarrassing, but I will say it was as close to an emotional breakdown as I have ever had. Hearing my tirade from upstairs, my wife thought someone had died.

I and the computer miraculously recovered. My funk began to wane, even if the constant flow of random events did not. The next day I watched our daughter fall off our backyard lounge chair when, instead of removing her from the chair, I told her to “get down from there,” as if she were older than 18 months, and as if she ever listens anyway. It was then I decided it was time to refocus myself. Enough was enough.

At work last week, a different crazy person came into our office nervously looking around for “a job.” After she left, the cops swarmed her outside, and the next day we discovered a crack pipe hidden in a stack of papers at our front desk. We had to call the cops to come and pick up the evidence. “This is perfect,” I thought. “I have to talk to the cops anyway about that other crazy person.” Things were starting to go my way.

Now if I could only breathe …

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Classic card of the week

Denny Neagle, 1991 Fleer Ultra Prospects series

Hi, Denny Neagle! Smell your armpits? Sure! I’ll do anything to get close to a classic, young fireballer.

Denny is not the classic, young fireballer.

The classic, young fireballer is a British man in his mid-twenties who pitches for the Englishtown Blokes and wears a monocle. Or, this guy. Denny Neagle—you continue to go against the grain, you 6’4,” 200 lb Caucasian pitcher who grew up in a Maryland suburb and played baseball your whole life!

He is no bonus baby.

Darn tootin’! That’s probably because the bonus baby rule was abolished in 1965. But still. Denny Neagle didn’t even earn a salary. He pitched for pride. And money, most of which he distributed to the poor and other big honkies facing similar obstacles coming up through the system.

He has advance {sic} quickly through the Twins organization for one reason.

His dad is Jeremiah Neagle, owner of Neagle’s Cadillac in Minneapolis and major shareholder of the Minnesota Twins?

He can plain pitch.

Bam! Take that, somebody! Question though: How does one pitch without a fireball?

His full repertoire of pitches includes a solid fastball and a slider that act as the set-up for his big-league change-up.


Out of the University of Minnesota, where he helped lead his alma mater to the Big-Ten title,

This phraseology makes it sound as though Denny Neagle graduated from the University of Minnesota, and then returned later against NCAA rules to lead them to the Big-Ten title. I think this premise would make for a great and hilarious movie starring Vince Vaughn as a former college pitcher who never reached his full potential, and thus decides to reenroll—because he’s fed up with his job in the real world—at State University as a foreign exchange student in order to play baseball again. And hey, who knows—maybe there’s a love connection between him and the skeptical school reporter who sees a strong resemblance between Frederick VonSlogen and Gil McCarter, the best pitcher the University ever had. Also, there is a fat, clumsy, but endearing friend played by Jonah Hill, who steals the show, and your heart! The movie will be called, “Old School.” Or, “Fireball!”

Anyway, Wikipedia has more to add. The Cliff Notes: Twins, Pirates, Braves, Reds, Yankees, Rockies, prostitute, Devil Rays, prostitute, arrest, steroids, blah, blah, blah. Familiar, generic story. Read if you’d like. Me? I have a screenplay to write.

Did you know?
Denny Neagle's armpits smell like cheese and Fabreze.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The gift of soon-to-be outdated technology can be free, sort of

Note: This column appears in the 3/10 issue of The Glendale Star and the 3/11 issue of the Peoria Times

My brother-in-law, God bless him, gave my wife an iPad. I was actually going to buy her one for her birthday, and was about to approach her with the awkward question of, “Can you help me pay for it?” when we got the news. I was very relieved at being off the hook, and am hoping a $25 iPad accessory will knock her socks off just the same.

My brother-in-law was able to give his sister the best new tech device on the market because he won an iPad at work. My brother-in-law has the type of job where you can win an iPad at work. I bring a sandwich to work every day, so I can’t say I felt too bad, although the gesture remains amazingly kind. It wasn’t as if he didn’t want one for himself, but he a) recognized that she could utilize it more for professional purposes, and b) he preferred to get the latest version when it arrives at a later date—that date being Friday when the iPad 2 arrives.

In fact, it’s those warp-speed advances in technology that amaze me more than anything. For example, we already have an Apple computer, and we only had to hook the iPad up to it to get it started. Easy, right? Well, in doing so we discovered that our operating system was not compatible—we purchased our computer just over three years ago—meaning that two Apple products could not sync because one, from the ancient year of 2007 AD, was so comically outdated. So, I needed to purchase a new operating system so we could use our free iPad. I found myself ordering something called a “snow leopard” and when it arrived we cautiously installed it and watched the progress bar move for 45 minutes with our hearts in our throats as our computer began making many strange noises. My wife was worried the screen was going to go black and flash the message, “You’ve been bit by the snow leopard!” and we would lose all of our stuff.

Thankfully, that did not happen. However, the excitement of successfully installing the new system was tempered by the realization that in about two months it will be outdated, and we’ll have to purchase the “sweaty panther 2.3 OSZ” system in order to keep up ($39.99). Also, I do realize that most of what I’m saying here is not making a lick of sense to many people. I’m sorry. Consider this column for all my tech-geeks out there … what’s up playas? Operating systems are craaaazeeeee, yo! See, I’m down!

Anyway, once that was done my wife was able to hook up the iPad. That evening we both sat at our kitchen table, she on her iPad and I on the Macbook, as she occasionally texted on her Blackberry and I charged my iPod and listened to iTunes. We did not speak directly to each other for over an hour. It was the most romantic evening ever.

Also, the iPad is amazing. A-maz-ing. There is almost no limit to how it will enable her to better interact with the kids she works with on a daily basis. Of course, the first thing she did once she set it up was go on facebook. Still though.

Surely, three years—or, three minutes—from now something newer and better will hit the market, and my fingers are crossed that my brother-in-law will win one at work and give it to us for free. In the meantime, I’m off to buy my wife a sexy new iPad screen protector. Shhhh! Don’t say anything.

You were looking for OSX Tiger? Pfftt, what is this -- 2009? Ha, ha. Seriously though -- I ate him.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Classic card of the week

Ugueth Urbina, 1995 Pinnacle

Who here is a trivia buff? Nobody? C’mooooon! None of you like to answer random questions that have no true substance without context but make you feel smart? No? You guys are crazy.

For me, there are three levels of trivia bufftitude, and they are as follows, ranked from easiest to most difficult:

1) Trivial Pursuit. I love this game. The answer to every historical-based question is either Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill, and other than that every question involves Madonna or Michael Jordan. On the DVD “all play” from our game, one of the questions is, “This ‘showtime’ team plays not in a city of lakes, but in a city of angels,” and the first clue is “Magic J" (says Superintendent Chalmers, "No, no, that's too obvious. Try 'M. Johnson'). Also, the icon for one of the categories is a pair of pink high-heeled shoes. This game actually rewards the people who know the most about absolutely nothing, which is why I have been known to do well.

2) Jeopardy! Nothing says “I remember a very small portion of my very expensive education” better than being able to answer a question on Jeopardy. Being able to reel off a few consecutive Jeopardy answers in front of others results in the greatest feeling of personal satisfaction this side of watching the PBS News Hour for three minutes until you can’t stand it anymore. Actually, the greatest triumph occurs, I believe, when you guess a Jeopardy answer incorrectly, but one of the contestants also guesses the same incorrect answer. This enables you to look around and blame Alex Trebek for a faulty line of questioning, and in some ways makes you appear smarter than if you had known the actual correct answer. Also, when the correct answer is revealed, you can say, “Pffftt—well if I had known they meant that …”

3) Cash Cab. This show is ridiculous. If I were in the Cash Cab, it wouldn’t go 10-feet before I’d have to get out. I honestly do not know how any person answers any question on that show. There just can’t be that many people that much smarter than me. (Counterpoint: Yes, there can.) The show only exists so New York elitist academic snobs who are actually from Oregon can pat themselves on the back for reaffirming the perception that they are smarter than the rest of the country. Besides, true New Yorkers take the subway and don’t answer questions from no one, ya’ heard?!

I also don’t know how, during those “ask a stranger” segments, they always manage to stop some dude in a blazer smoking a pipe and carrying a newspaper who just finished giving a lecture at the Met. They should be forced to ask the very first person they see when they roll down the window, which would in most cases be a clown on a skateboard or a person wearing a 1990 Hartford Whalers starter jacket with hot dogs hanging out of his ears.

Excuse me, kind sir? Do you happen to know, what is the most populace species of fish in the Euphrates river?

I’ll stab you!

Drive, drive!

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, this Ugueth Urbina baseball card:

For all you trivia buffs,

See? I was going somewhere with this.

Ugueth, whose middle name is Urtain, is the first major leaguer in history to have the initials U.U. and certainly by default the first with the initials U.U.U.

Indeed, Ugueth Urbina will forever be remembered for having a weird, by ethno-centric American standards, name. That, or:

Alex: This former Major League Baseball player is currently serving 14 years in a Venezuelan prison on two counts of attempted murder via machete and gasoline.

Me: Who is “U.U.?”

Alex: That is correct! I also would have accepted, “Who is ‘U.U.U.?’”

Me: I’ll take obscure mid-90’s rappers for $400, Alex.

Alex: That is not a category.

Did you know?
The answer was the Los Angeles Lakers.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The dying beep of a life-saving device

Note: This column appears in the 3/3 issue of The Glendale Star and the 3/4 issue of the Peoria Times

Not long ago my wife called me from a friend’s house to help walk them through a pseudo-emergency. Our friend’s smoke alarm was losing battery power and was beeping intermittently, yet incessantly.

I received the call not because I am a manly man, or because I am adept at diffusing such devices. Quite the opposite with regards to both, actually. I do, however, have major experience with beeping alarms of all varieties. Nevermind that my solutions to these beeping problems have been, for the most part, temporary and/or wrong. I mean, they had to call someone.

My experience with beeping smoke alarms began when we still lived back east. Apparently, these devices lose battery power during extreme weather, so whenever the temperature outside dipped below a certain point and our heating system couldn’t keep up, the intermittent beeps would start. This always—always—happened around 3 a.m., and my wife would jump up worried the house was on fire and begin the evacuation process. I would assure her it was just the battery, and then I would change said battery on the smoke alarm, which wouldn’t work, so I would change it again, and then again.

Changing the battery, thinking it had worked, and then, after crawling back in bed, hearing a faint “beeeep” is one of the great thrills of home ownership. Eventually—after pulling several of these devices out of the ceiling in fits of frustration and stomping on them “Office Space” fax machine-style—I realized the beeps would continue for a while after the battery was changed. When would they stop? Who knew? Wednesday, maybe? It was our favorite game!

The West Valley, though not privy to extreme cold, still boasts complex and outdated smoke alarms that have the battery life of a rechargeable toothbrush. A few factors here make matters even worse. For starters, we now have like, 10 smoke alarms in the house, so when one is losing battery power and beeping, I have to go on a wild goose chase to discover which one it is. Meanwhile, our dog, who would fight an elephant but who is deathly afraid of these beeps, runs around the house barking in an attempt to get outside. Also, our ceilings are much higher here—my head is never more than six inches away from any ceiling in New Jersey—and so I have to chase the beep while carrying a broomstick (for the reset button; never works) and/or our 12-foot ladder.

As if that’s not enough … Unaware our smoke alarms doubled as carbon monoxide detectors, we purchased two separate carbon monoxide detectors for our home inspection when we became foster parents. They plug directly into an outlet and have a battery for back-up power. Somehow, these batteries still get drained. When they beep, my wife, worried carbon monoxide has leaked into the home, jumps up and yells, “We’re not going to die a slow death!” and begins the evacuation process.

The first time I encountered this problem, I simply pulled the carbon monoxide detector out of the outlet. This was the worst decision I have ever made in my entire life. It resulted in one, louder, sustained, ear-piercing beep, and I was convinced either the device or myself was going to spontaneously combust right then and there. I needed a screwdriver to remove the battery, and by the time I was able to accomplish this amidst the chaos and confusion, my ears were ringing and my wife and daughter were huddled in the middle of the street.

So yeah, I have experience. Based on that, I calmly informed my wife to tell our friend to change the battery 12 times and then rip the alarm off the ceiling and smash it to pieces. It was—I feel like I could end each one of my columns with this sentiment—a good thing I was there to help.

The pinnacle of technology.