Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Change Of Plans

Today was supposed to be fun. I was going to have to get up early for the guy coming to do the tests for our life insurance application. But after that it was going to be banana chocolate chip pancakes, playing with my daughter, finishing up Christmas shopping, and working at night cutting together some tv spots.

I am not at work. I am writing this blog instead. Let's rewind...

The life insurance tests were easy. There were some yes/no questions followed by a weigh-in. Then the tourniquet and needle came out to draw two vials of blood. And to finish it off was the ever popular urine sample.

I was doing well until the last one. Let's rewind...

You are supposed to fast for eight hours before these tests so that your results are not tainted by anything you eat. Imagine the effects of a case of Mountain Dew on your blood sugar. Anyway, I fasted. At the time of the blood draw, there had been nothing in my stomach for approximately 11 hours. But everything still seemed to be going according to plan.

I carefully filled the urine sample cup to the appropriate level and put it on the shelf in the bathroom. It was almost time for those pancakes.

And then I started to feel a little nauseous. My vision started to narrow as a widening ring of black closed in. I thought that maybe I should sit down for a bit.

I'm not sure what happened next. I'm told it was a thud and a crash and some rattling.

The next thing I remember was feeling like I was waking up from a dream. I heard my wife yelling to me and then I smelled the pungent chemical mix of smelling salts touching every corner of my sinuses. I was straddling the toilet with my head against the shelves above it.

After a cold washcloth on my neck and another whiff of the smelling salts, I stumbled out to the couch to lie down. I was told to elevate my feet and get more blood to my brain. I ate a granola bar. I put frozen peas on the welts of my swelling forehead. The life insurance tests guy declared that I was "mentating well" and left.

Then I got nauseous again. After a couple of trips to the bathroom to revisit the granola bar, my wife informed me that she was calling the doctor. Then she informed me that I was going to the Emergency Room. I informed her that I was going back to the bathroom for a minute.

We compromised and called my EMT friend, who came over and did a battery of tests on me. He said that I looked OK, but that I should go to the ER anyway to get some fluids and stop the nausea. And get my head checked out. And put my wife's mind at ease.

I informed him that this was not the answer I was looking for, since I still had the pancakes, the playing, the shopping and the working to do.

My wife drove me to the ER. I told six people the story of what happened, including the doctor. The first thing they did was draw a couple of vials of blood. Umm...isn't that what got me here in the first place? Then they put a saline drip into an IV.

But wait, there's more.

I also got wheeled down to the X-Ray department for a CT Scan. It was all very dramatic. But being pushed around the halls of the hospital in that bed was fun.

Almost five hours later I was discharged with an assurance of no permanent damage, a coupon for 20% off my co-pay and a doctor's excuse for not going to work. Hence me not working tonight.

But wait, there's more.

I got some pictures of my brain. I just asked for the CT Scan photos to be burned onto a CD so that I could take them with me. My wife thinks they are a little freaky, but I informed her that she's the one who made me go there in the first place. I might as well get something cool to remember the trip.

In retrospect, I can share with you some of the things I learned today.
  • If you are going to pass out, do it on something soft.
  • You can get a copy of your brain pictures if you ask nicely.
  • If you are ever in position to make the choice, do the urine test before the blood test.
Getting life insurance almost killed me. How ironic.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Accused

I received an interesting piece of mail today. There among the ads and bills and notices about the availability of Verizon FiOS in my neighborhood was an official letter from a Magisterial District Judge. He wanted to let me know that I was a defendant in a case under his jurisdiction.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
vs.
sinkerbeam

What? I don't recall ever doing anything wrong.

Luckily, he also included a copy of the citation that accused me of breaking the law. I looked through it carefully and noticed that a few things were incorrect.

I was being charged with parking my tan Toyota in a restricted parking area on Greenridge Drive. The fine was $15 plus fees, making the total due around $55.

If you know me or have ever read this blog before, you are probably pretty aware that I own a powder blue Chevy Corsica. I do not (and never plan to) own a Toyota of any color. Especially not tan.

Also, on the night in question I was sitting at home with my wife ordering Christmas presents and watching tv. I have an alibi.

Also, I don't know where Greenridge Drive is located.

It was my license plate number that was written on the ticket. I guess they cross referenced it with my address in order to mail it to me. So my mind started to race - did someone steal my custom PA plate so that they could park in a no parking zone?

I went out to the driveway. My license plate was still attached to the Corsica. Either there was another explanation or this parking lawbreaker was good. Very good.

Then I thought there might be another vehicle out there with a license plate so similar to mine that it could be mistaken for my plate. Even by the sharp, conscientious and capable police force in this county. After all, my plate is three letters, and all non-vanity plates in PA start with three letters (followed by four numbers).

But at that point I stopped caring about solving the crime and started thinking about clearing myself of these charges. I would just call them up and let them know it wasn't me. I mean, look at the evidence. Then I had a better idea.

I asked my wife to call.

She would be able to explain all of the facts of the case without making fun of anyone involved or saying something sarcastic. I, on the other hand, would risk a mandatory court appearance out of spite from whoever answered the phone.

It worked. The officer said that there was obviously a mistake and that she would take care of it. But now I'm afraid that I need to change my license plate so that this doesn't happen again.

How about: SINKRBM. It would be hard to get that one confused. Or maybe: TOYOTA. Could you imagine that conversation? Yes, sir, the officer must have written it down in the wrong spot. We have a Corsica...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Posts Update V

Purple Tape
Ms. Coon was found guilty of six of the seven charges filed against her. She is in the Allegheny County Jail awaiting sentencing, which will happen next Thursday. I just hope they don't let her work in the kitchen during her stay. Even inmates don't deserve tainted pastries.

Again With The Chocolate Lasagna?
Of all 56 posts on the sinkerbeam blog, this one has received by far the most public attention. People from all across the nation are upset about the elimination of Chocolate Lasagna from the Olive Garden menu. And rightfully so. If you want to see something interesting, try typing "Olive Garden chocolate lasagna" into a Google search and check out the top ten. Scary, isn't it? The sinkerbeam blog has a global presence.

Crazy Running Lady
I see crazy running lady all over the place now. In fact, she has her own myspace page, and her screen name is - crazy running lady. See? I was right all along. Of course, I'm pretty sure it's a spoof page, but you can go there and see pictures of her running. In slacks.

Two Poles And A Mound Of Dirt
It has been two months and no one has done anything to the additions in the corner of my yard. The two poles are still in exactly the same spot. The mound of dirt is eroding into the street with every rainfall. Maybe they're just waiting for it to get freezing cold outside before they start any work.

Fall Back
Starting in 2007, the Daylight Saving Time rules change. DST will begin on the second Sunday in March and end on the first Sunday in November. That's a good three weeks longer than in the past. Now that we will save time for 2/3 of the year, shouldn't we call that period Standard Time? The rest of the year can be Daylight Wasting Time or something.

Deer Crossing
Within a week of my tunnel incident, a deer broke into a bank in the area and broke a bunch of stuff. It left right as animal control was getting there. I'm telling you, there's a gang of daredevil deer running around the city. Maybe that's why some of the graffiti is so illegible.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Deer Crossing

As I pulled out of the parking lot at work, I really thought that the conditions were perfect for a chance to break the record. It was 3:30 in the morning. A majority of the traffic lights on my way home would be blinking, and there would be very few cars on the road. The weather was cool with no precipitation.

The world record for making it from my office to my house has stood at 15 minutes for more than six months. But maybe, just maybe, this trip would drop my journey into the elusive sub-quarter-hour time.

Things started out great, as the first three lights on Liberty Avenue showed a constant green. At the left turn to Crosstown Boulevard I had to hesitate for just a second as a Police car passed me in the opposite direction. Then, at the entrance to the Liberty Tunnels, I hit my first red light. Luckily it was near the end of the cycle for the intersection, so I wasn't going to lose too much time.

The light switched to green and I entered the tunnel. I noticed that the cars in both lanes in front of me had their brake lights on, and as I got closer I could tell that they were almost at a complete stop about an eighth of the way through. Who stops their vehicle in a tunnel at 3:30 am? Did they have simultaneous car trouble? Or were they just trying to sabotage my record attempt?

As it turns out, they were slowing down for a deer. A gangly, semi-coordinated teenage white-tail. Apparently it was looking for a quicker way to the South Hills than a hike over Mount Washington.

So there we went for the next ten minutes or so. Six miles per hour. Traffic stacking up behind us. Watching the hind-quarters of this animal as it clumsily made its way down the center line of the Liberty Tunnel.

It was easy to see that animal hooves are not engineered for concrete. Sometimes this deer would stop and turn around, like it had realized the error of its decision, and I'd have to ease the Corsica over towards the middle a bit. I would shine my headlight right between the cars in front of me as if to say, "keep going you goofy animal. You've already ruined my attempt at a world record and there's no reason for you to run into some car behind me, too."

Meanwhile, some people were honking their horns. Very helpful. Thanks for that.

Anyway, after what felt like forever we finally made it to the end. If you are wondering what a deer does after a lengthy trot through the Liberty Tubes, it takes the first exit ramp and heads toward the West End. He probably won the dare and was going to have to wait for his deer peers who chose to go overland. But to the victor goes the salt lick.

Needless to say, I did not break the record. Even if the conditions are perfect, there are many factors that are out of my control as I attempt to make it home in less than 15 minutes. Red lights. Other drivers. Some crazy deer.

But what can I say? He probably broke his own world record time for getting to the other side of Mount Washington.

At least one of us did.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Fall Back

Well, it's Fall. Autumn. Whatever you call it. The time of year between sun and snow in this part of the hemisphere.

There are so many things to look forward to during this season. Leaves from other people's trees falling in my yard. Teenagers coming to my house on Halloween dressed in a hoodie and jeans expecting me to give them some candy. Putting away my trusty cargo shorts until March. Well, late February, anyway.

But the best thing about fall is falling back. You know, when Daylight Saving Time ends and we set the clocks back one hour, thereby giving us an extra sixty minutes of sleep on that one wonderful weekend in October.

The only problem is that the time officially changes at 2:00am. This cuts into my extra hour of sleep, since I have to wake up at two in the morning and change all of the clocks in my house to reflect the new time. And everyone knows that going backwards on a clock is much more difficult and time consuming than springing ahead, since most have no "back" button and need to instead jump 23 hours to get there.

Why can't they make the official end of DST at like 8:30pm? It would be much more convenient. And since it happens on a Saturday, nothing important (like the prime time tv schedule) would be affected. Just a thought...

Since a change is unlikely, I have found a way to solve the early morning fall back dilemma and get more of the extra hour of sleep that you are entitled to. And since the changeover time is quickly approaching, I will share it with you.

Have fewer clocks.

Or you could move to Arizona, where they don't believe in saving any daylight at all.

Sleep tight.

Friday, October 6, 2006

Burnt Sienna

Somewhere during the first month of Public Relations 101, right between "writing a press release" and "the Exxon Valdez," there is a lecture about allowing celebrities to speak words other than ones written in a script. The general consensus is to not let it happen. Think Tom Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah's couch. Or Mel Gibson driving home from a party.

But the PR folks can't be everwhere all the time. Actress Sienna Miller put down the city of Pittsburgh in an interview with Rolling Stone that was recently published. She called the place "a word that starts with sh and rhymes with Pitt" sburgh, and made some other remarks about her time here. The public relations problem is that she is currently in Pittsburgh, filming a movie called The Mysteries of Pittsburgh that is based on a book about Pittsburgh. Not a smart move. They do want people to come see this film, right?

The PR spin machine went into action, and the very same day the story was released Sienna and our kid Mayor were on every news station in the city. She had made up a half thought out story about working nights and and what she really meant is that she didn't have a chance to get out and see the city. She said that she was taken out of context. I'm wondering in what context her comments might make sense. The Mayor, however, said that she is forgiven. Maybe by you, Luke. The rest of us aren't buying a word of it.

Not that we really care. The story was generated by the local media and then picked up by the national media. And since half of television time is taken up with shows about where celebrities are eating breakfast and crossing the street, the news was everywhere. When actual Pittsburghers were asked what they thought of her comments, a good majority replied "Sienna who? Probably a Bengals fan. Go STEELERS!!"

You think she would like it here. She is making millions and we have very few British nannies to tempt her boyfriend. Plus, our homeless people are much more interesting than the ones in trendy NYC.

The truth is that if you don't have anything nice to say, you should probably not stray from the script. The PR hit isn't worth your opinion.

What is this movie about again?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Now With Aloe!

Sometimes a consumer goods company will react to a need in the marketplace and change one of their products for the better. And sometimes, right around when I start to become comfortable with a certain item, they will change it just to mess with me.

It's one thing to come out with an alternative product. Frosted Flakes with 1/3 less sugar is a good idea. Just make sure that I can still buy the full sugar version, too, in case I actually want to eat the stuff instead of put the box on the counter and pretend for guests that I am on a diet.

Sometimes, though, companies change the original formula forever. New and improved they say. And you can't get the old one back.

Take for instance my soap. I've been using Safeguard for many years now, and I like it. It has been around since 1965 and is the #1 brand of antibacterial soap sold worldwide. You'd think that they would just leave well enough alone. Instead, they have recently decided that it was necessary to add aloe to my Safeguard. Why? Has there been an universal outcry for aloe lately? I'm just fine with the moisture level of my skin. You can now only get the aloeless version in beige. My bathroom decor is white. It doesn't go.

My toothpaste was also a victim of unnecessary change. Until recently, I had been an Aquafresh Extreme Clean consumer. I liked the crazy, foaming-at-the-mouth bubbles. I felt like my teeth were getting Extremely Clean. It all made sense. Until they decided to add whitening to all flavors of the toothpaste. You can't even get a tube without whitening anymore. I don't want whitening. One out of one of my dentists recommends that I don't use toothpaste with whitening.

A while back my deodorant of choice decided to add some ingredient that I don't remember the name of - it was about 25 letters long and sounded like a mishmash of the periodic table. Tetroclorohydraconiumazine or something like that. Anyway, the stuff was supposed to be better at keeping you from sweating. It gave me an underarm rash.

There are many other examples of this phenomenon. Cell phone plans. Rachel Ray. Even the cleaner Formula 409 was recently new and improved. I'm sorry - wouldn't that be Formula 410?

I'm just saying be careful. Sometimes new and improved really only means different.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Space Junk

Astronauts were attaching some new pieces to the International Space Station when they lost a bolt. Two of them, actually. On back-to-back spacewalks.

A 1 1/2 inch bolt doesn't sound like a big deal, but it can really do some damage if it punctures a space suit or some fragile space equipment. Especially when everything is zipping around the earth at almost 18,000 miles per hour. Mission Control, however, is sure that the lost fasteners are floating harmlessly back into the atmosphere.

It's not like if you lost a bolt at your house. They can't just stop by Space Depot and pick up another one. Instead, in both instances, they just "used three bolts for the task instead of four."

Let me get this straight. First, they can't come up with a way to keep these things from floating away. Second, they didn't bring any extras just in case. And third, they decided to just skip one and use three bolts when the brackets are designed for four.

And they told me I couldn't be a rocket scientist.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Tell Popeye

If the taste and texture weren't enough reason for you to not eat spinach, here comes another.

Escherichia coli O157:H7.

It sounds like a European mailing address. But it's actually the scientific name for the strain of E. coli bacteria that causes illness in humans. It has been found recently in bagged spinach, and one person has died and almost 100 have been sickened by the outbreak.

Someone tell Popeye.

It's hard to be "strong to the finich" with severe abdominal cramps lasting five to ten days. Not to mention some of the other symptoms. Looks like he may have to find another leafy green to stock up on. For me, it's just another excuse to skip the veggie and move straight to dessert.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Out Of The Cellar

With today's win over the Cubs, the Pirates climbed out of last place in the NL Central Division, where they have been through the first 138 games of the season. What does this mean?

They're still playing baseball.

I did not know that. I always thought the MLB season ended when Steelers training camp started. At least since 1992. But, alas, baseball rolls on.

The Bucs are now 5th out of 6 in the division and 15th out of 16 in the National League - a mere 17.5 games back of the wildcard spot. Let's just say that there was no champagne uncorked after the final out in today's game.

But it is progress. Fourth place here we come...

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Two Poles And A Mound Of Dirt

A couple of guys showed up the other day and started digging a hole in my yard. This normally would have made me angry, and I would have at least gone outside and said something. But there were two of them and one of me. And I had to go to the dentist.

When I came back, shiny clean teeth and all, the two diggers were done and gone. And there was a new addition in my front yard. A bigger, taller telephone pole was now standing right next to the old telephone pole. And a mound of dirt was at the base of both of them.

Let me first tell you that I don't even like having a single telephone pole in my yard. But I do like cable TV and having a telephone (and electricity for that matter), so we have an agreement.

The old pole seemed to be doing just fine. It's been standing in the same spot for probably 50 years, holding up bunches of wires and this lamp-looking thing that never turns on. Now it is scared about being replaced, even though nothing has been unattached yet.

The new pole is about six feet taller and almost twice as wide as the old one. Right now it's just standing there intimidating the other pole (and serving as a perch for that gigantic crow). I think the mound of dirt is just for fun.

I'm not sure why we need such a serious pole in our front yard. The old one isn't falling over or anything, so just transferring all of the wires and things to the new one gives no added benefit. Maybe they're going to install a surveillance camera on it so they can see who is throwing all of that junk in my yard. Or maybe they'll just keep putting up poles next to each other around my whole property, like a big stockade fence.

That would be cool.

Fort Sinkerbeam.

I'll let you know what happens. Right now I'm just happy about the added benefits that I'm getting from our new pole and dirt mound. Ten less square feet of grass that I have to cut.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Ca$h Back

The sinkerbeam blog has been called a lot of things. Useful and helpful have never been among them. But this post is different. At the very least, it may surprise you.

Don't get used to it.

I'm going to save you some money. No, really, I'm trying to be serious here.

Let's say, hypothetically, that you need to buy a new lawn mower. Let's say that your old one was either leaking or burning up oil at an alarming rate, but you didn't know this was happening. You had checked the oil at the beginning of the grass cutting season and everything was fine. So, just for the sake of argument, let's say that one day while you were running your lawn mower, the last useful drip of oil disappeared, and the scale tipped toward viscosity and thermal breakdown. The superheated piston then scored the cylinder walls and itself before seizing up, ruining a bunch of other parts inside the engine that also do important stuff.

Like I said, we'll assume that you need a new lawn mower.

Instead of just going to Sears and picking one up, head to the grocery store. Yep. Giant Eagle. They've got a fuel savings program and some gift cards that you'll need for the next step of this money saving process.

For every $50 you spend in groceries (and other assorted sundries from the store), you get 10 cents off per gallon on your next gasoline purchase. It's called "Fuel Perks" (people in Pittsburgh and the smarter parts of Ohio already know this). Gift cards count as sundries and are part of the program, so pick up a couple of $100 Sears gift cards. That's forty cents off per gallon.

Hypothetically, we'll assume your car takes 15 gallons of gas when you fill it up.

$200 mower - ($0.40 fuel perks x 15 gallons) = $194 mower

Now, if you don't have a Citi or Chase rewards credit card that gives you 5% back on grocery store and gas station purchases, go apply for one. It's important for the next equation.

$194 mower - (5% off of $200 in gift cards + (5% off total gas price (($2.80/gallon - $0.40 in fuel perks) x 15 gallons))) = $182.20 mower

See? I told you I would save you money. Even after you pay the tax, you've got more cash in your pocket than you would have if you didn't use this method. Just imagine if you had a truck that took 30 gallons of gas per fill up. And you wanted to buy a big screen TV at Best Buy for $1000.

$1000 TV - ($2.00 fuel perks x 30 gallons) - (5% off of $1000 in gift cards + (5% off total gas price (($2.80/gallon - $2.00 in fuel perks) x 30 gallons))) = $888.80 TV

Plus, Best Buy has a rewards card that gives you $5 back for every $150 you spend. You're down to $858.80 for your thousand dollar television. Trust me on the math for this one.

And you thought that the sinkerbeam blog couldn't be helpful. Shame on you.

Of course, you could always just pay the 89 cents and get a bottle of oil for your lawn mower before the breakdown occurs.

There you go. I just saved you $181.31 and a bunch of effort.

Hypothetically.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Posts Update IV

No Checks In The Mail
For some reason my mail now doesn't show up until around 5:00 pm. I'm not sure if this has anything to do with my decision to pay all of my bills online (which is still going splendidly), but it is not cool.

Rabbit Stew
Toby has been saved! It looks like the folks at bored.com have stepped in and taken over savetoby.com, sparing the rabbit's life and compensating his owners for their trouble. Oh, well. No Lapin Braisé.

The Replacements
As I was driving home from work at 2:00 am in the pouring rain, the alternator in the Corsica decided to give out. The radio played only static, the lights dimmed, and the windshield wipers went into slow motion. I turned off all unnecessary systems and made it home. With a brand-spanking factory rebuilt alternator in it now, the Corsica is like new. Well, you know what I mean.

Lawn Care
Since the last update, I have found a Q-tip and a cable wrap that signifies "Verizon FIOS" fiber optic line in my yard. So that's what those five trucks have been up to for the past few weeks. Of course, FIOS is not yet available in my neighborhood. Soon, though, I'm sure that all of the old people that live near me will be willing to plunk down $50 a month for lightning fast access to the internet.

Purple Tape
The trial of Beverly Coon has been moved to September 13th because of a scheduling conflict. Apparently a key witness has a vacation coming up that has already been booked. Justice postponed for a trip to the beach! Whatever. No word yet on whether Mr. Grimm can be in the same room as a ladylock.

Stop Turning Left
Ben Roethlisberger is back in the public eye after his accident, looking pretty much like the old Big Ben. He was fined $388 for riding without a valid license and riding without a helmet. Steelers Training Camp starts at the end of this week - then we'll know if he is really back. I've heard that the Cincinnati Bengals are looking into signing a Chrysler New Yorker to play inside linebacker.

Again With The Chocolate Lasagna?
The response to my Chocolate Lasagna post has been overwhelming. People that I don't even know from all over the country have been coming forward with their own stories and showing their support. So I took my frustration to the next level and shared my comments with the Olive Garden through their website. I just got a response; Erich says that they "understand my disappointment" and "have documented [my] preference for Chocolate Lasagna for future consideration." And they're sending me a gift card so that I can try to find a new favorite.

I plan on using the gift card as soon as Chocolate Lasagna returns to the menu.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Crazy Running Lady

Every now and then on my way to or from work, I see a very interesting individual. On a gigantic hill that is about 2 1/2 miles from my house, there is a woman who runs along the side of the road.

I know that this is not unusual. People are running all over the place, getting in shape for no good reason. The unusual part is the runner herself.

She is always dressed in corporate attire while she is running. Corporate attire from the late 1970's to be exact. I have seen her running in blouses, skirts, slacks, and even pantyhose. Sometimes she has a raincoat on. Sometimes she is carrying a shoulder bag or an umbrella. And she is always wearing dress shoes.

I'm pretty sure that she isn't running away from anything. And she probably isn't constantly late for the bus, since I have seen her going in different directions and on opposite sides of the street. So I guess that she must be running for exercise.

And make no mistake, she is running. Full speed. And she zigs and zags onto and off of the road itself. I don't know if she is working on her dexterity or what, but she crosses the white line on the side of the street like she is doing a pavement slalom.

She startled me the first few times that I saw her. That particular road isn't the safest place to burn some calories, and the grade of the hill would challenge many a professional athlete. I was just trying not to hit her with my car. But it became interesting after a while, seeing this skinny woman with Coke bottle glasses darting in and out of the three feet of berm that exists on the side of the road. All while being dressed up for a meeting with the client.

At some point I started shouting "crazy running lady! woooo!" when I would see her. It was like tapping the windshield when you go through a yellow light - I did it for luck every time she appeared.

Why "crazy running lady"? Well, she's crazy. I wouldn't go anywhere near that road as a pedestrian, let alone wearing a button-down shirt and wingtips. And she runs. And she's a lady.

Not the most inventive title, I know, but it pretty much sums up the character.

At one point on the way home, I saw a couple of police cars and an ambulance parked halfway up the hill. I thought that it might be crazy running lady. Maybe she zigged when she should have zagged. But it wasn't her. It was some kid that looked like he fell off his skateboard. (For the record, he was not wearing dress clothes).

A few weeks ago, I was driving through my neighborhood and I spotted someone running along the side of the road. I really didn't think anything of it, until this person made an abrupt step onto the street in front of my car. It was crazy running lady! She had run for miles and made a right turn to get there. And she was wearing a matching track suit and running shoes. What the heck was going on?

I didn't even have time to yell her name for luck. I wasn't ready for her to be there, so far away from her normal stomping grounds.

Had she heard me exclaim "crazy running lady" at some point even though my windows were up? And did she follow me home one day to argue about her sanity and/or riddle the Corsica with dents from her umbrella? I never thought to look in the rear view mirror after I would pass her on the hill - maybe she can run really, really fast.

As it turns out, nothing happened. She just kept on running.

I never found out what she was doing in my neighborhood that day. In fact, I haven't seen her at all since then. Maybe she found nirvana in her outfit that was made especially for running and she just kept on going.

If so, she's probably in South Carolina by now.

Go, crazy running lady, go.

Monday, July 3, 2006

Again With The Chocolate Lasagna?

All right, Olive Garden. What is the deal with taking Chocolate Lasagna off of the menu again?

I thought we already figured this whole thing out about a year ago, when you first decided to remove the best dessert ever made (by an Italian-themed chain restaurant) from your list of offerings. I contacted you through the website. I called the 800 number. I wrote petition chain letter emails.

Chocolate Lasagna came back.

For a limited time, I guess.

During my latest visit to your restaurant, I asked if you still had the Chocolate Lasagna as soon as we sat down. Ever since the first time it disappeared, I feel that I must ask about its status upon arrival, as I am suspicious of your continuous "updates" to the dessert menu. And rightfully so. When the server told me that it wasn't available, I thought it was some kind of cruel joke. Again with the Chocolate Lasagna? You can't be serious.

She was not kidding. And to tell you the truth, I don't think she could believe it either.

I almost got right up and walked out when I heard the news. I don't have to subject myself to that kind of ridiculousness. And I would have, too. But I was with my wife. And I was hungry. And we had a gift card.

Next time, Olive Garden, you won't be so lucky.

Chocolate Lasagna is the whole reason that I visit your establishment. Do you think I come in just so I can pay $9.50 for some spaghetti? Why would any restaurant decide to take the best thing on their menu off of it?

I'm not impressed with its replacement, either. Chocolate gelato? It's just ice cream, people. Topped with some chocolate chunks that should instead be on a piece of Chocolate Lasagna. Nice try.

They've pushed me to my limit again. I'm boycotting the Olive Garden until Chocolate Lasagna is reinstated. Please join me.

Or at least sign my petition chain letter email. And send it to 10 of your friends.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Stop Turning Left

It's hard to make Terry Bradshaw look like Nostradamus. But Ben Roethlisberger has found a way.

In case you have been too engrossed in World Cup soccer to notice, Big Ben was in an accident yesterday just before noon. He ran into a car with his motorcycle while riding helmetless through the streets of Pittsburgh. His bike appears totaled, and the car and street still show signs of where the Super Bowl winning quarterback impacted them, breaking his face and popping loose a few chiclets. He was in serious but stable condition and underwent around 7 hours of surgery to get put back together.

You would think that a professional athlete who uses his body to make millions of dollars might be a bit more careful with his tools of the trade. Especially after all of the controversy last year about his decision to ride at all, let alone without a helmet.

People are blaming the recently changed helmet law in Pennsylvania, which allows some motorcycle riders to forego protective headgear. But the fact is, Ben did not qualify for the "sans helmet" part of the law. A person actually must have 2 years experience riding or must have taken an approved motorcycle safety course to be able to ride without a helmet. Ben does not, and did not. In fact, from the latest information it looks like he shouldn't have been riding at all. His motorcycle learner's permit expired 3 months ago.

Even so, and much to the chagrin of NASCAR, the entire population of Pittsburgh has decided to stop turning left. Just in case their knucklehead, helmetless NFL quarterback on his crotch rocket happens to be coming the other way. He may not be smart enough to protect himself, but the fans will do it for him. He is a necessary piece to the Steelers winning another Super Bowl next year. And turning left is overrated anyway, as it is merely a dangerous way to complete 3 consecutive right turns.

You've all got a few more days to get your new directions to work figured out. After that, Ben may be released from the hospital, and unless this incident knocked some sense into him, he may be coming to an intersection near you.

Knucklehead.

Friday, June 9, 2006

Kennywood's Open

Summertime in Pittsburgh means at least one visit to Kennywood.

If you've never heard of it, you're missing out; Kennywood is a local amusement park that is full of fun for everyone. It's got roller coasters, games, water rides, greasy park food, and Kiddieland.

It also has geniuses in the marketing department.

About this time each year, schools in the area have a Kennywood Picnic - an allotted day for their district to visit the park. Tickets are actually sold during school hours. Some districts even have a half day of school so the kids can get to Kennywood early. The students and faculty come and bring their parents and relatives, and everyone spends money there. Genius.

I can't think of any other business that has this type of agreement for the use of their product. It's a school mandated activity for goodness sake! Could you see having an early dismissal from school to go play paintball or something? Highly unlikely. Well, maybe in West Virginia.

The school picnics wind down in June, but don't fear. The marketing department has come up with other park-fillers.

There are Community Days for local townships and boroughs. Businesses have company picnics at the park. There are church group get-togethers and family reunions and even a Girl Scouts' day. And there are Heritage Days, too, when booths are set up with cultural information and pastimes, and ethnic food is available. Can you imagine thousands of Slovaks crowding the park, eating haluski and riding the tilt-a-whirl? It's pretty wild.

And at the end of the season, everything comes full circle, as local school districts are invited to have their bands march in nightly parades.

Oh, yeah. There are other people that come to Kennywood, too. People who pay full price and are not attached to any group, school or nationality that has a day. Or so I've heard. But there are no exclusive picnics - anyone can come on any given day. Once again, genius.

Still, the park wouldn't get many visitors if it wasn't fun. It is a great time.

I'm actually going to Kennywood tomorrow. I think it's blogger's day, or Corsica owners day.

Or something like that.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

A Pack Of Dumb

At the end of last week, a middle school girl from a local district was suspended for three days for sharing her gum. I'm not kidding. It wasn't just any gum, though. It was Jolt gum. With caffeine in it.

Caffeine? So what?

Well, the Burrell School District has a problem with it. They have a zero tolerance drug policy, and "products acting as a stimulant are prohibited," according to Superintendent Amy Palermo.

Apparently they also have a zero tolerance policy in regards to common sense.

Jolt gum is "a stimulant that has no other redeeming quality," Palermo stated. Uhh...what? If it also whitened your teeth while you chewed it, would the girl have only gotten a one day suspension? And who gets to decide on what exactly a redeeming quality might be?

Plus, the girl was sharing. I thought that was a good thing. Sesame Street has been going on and on about how important it is to share for as long as I can remember.

Am I to believe that caffeinated coffee and tea and soft drinks are also prohibited in the school district? And what about chocolate? I think that a lunch monitor could walk around the cafeteria passing out suspensions at will. Especially around Halloween and Easter.

So your Mom packed you a Mountain Dew and a Hershey's bar? Sorry, but you're out of here. We'll see you in a week. We have a zero tolerance policy, you know."


I bet that this girl will, at the very least, get a few free cases of Jolt gum. I mean, had you even heard of it until this incident? Now this news story is everywhere.

I wonder how many pieces of gum a middle school kid can chew in three days. And without having to share any of it...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The End Is The Beginning

It's been a while...

I know.

The past few months have been full of downs and ups.

My Grandfather passed away at the end of January. I come from a very close family and it has been tough.

A month and a half later my daughter was born.

Sometimes an end is a beginning.

I have been keeping up with the baby's blog and my website, but posting an update on the sinkerbeam blog moved down on my list of priorities - to right before dusting the family room, actually.

Coming soon on this site, however, you'll find everything you used to expect from the sinkerbeam blog. It may be in smaller pieces and at intermittent times, or as just a reaction to something that has happened, but it will be there. All of the sarcasm. The ridiculous commentaries. The complete randomness.

Since my last post I watched the Steelers win the Super Bowl. That was blogworthy. But there is no point in going back. I've decided to start here and move forward.

This will be a new beginning.

Stay tuned.

Right now, however, I've got a family room to clean...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Relative Humidity

For maximum comfort, the humidity level in your home should be between 30 and 50 percent. For Christmas, we were given a digital thermometer/hygrometer. We found out that the humidity on the main floor of our house measures 20 percent.

I didn't think that number was too awful bad. Until I read in the manual that the lowest number the hygrometer can show is 20. The actual humidity could very well be 19 percent. Or 3 percent.

Appropriately, we were also given a humidifier for Christmas. It now sits in the bedroom. We have it cranked up to combat the dryness.

At the same time, our basement is cold and, well, very basement-like. There is a dehumidifier down there. We have it cranked up to combat the dampness.

Yes, you heard correctly. We are now using electricity to add moisture into the air upstairs while we remove it from the air downstairs.

Sometimes I take the water from the dehumidifier tank and put it directly into the humidifier tank. It's like we have our own ecosystem going on. Guided by a hygrometer. Measured in kilowatt-hours.

Friday, January 6, 2006

The Fruit Of Commitment

It's that time of year again! Clementine season.

What did you think I was talking about?

The clementine is an interesting fruit. It is actually a cross between a sweet orange and a Chinese mandarin that is imported from Spain, Morocco or North Africa. So it has a little bit of a world diversity/Benetton thing going on.

The most obvious oddity about the clementine is that you can't buy just one of them. Clementines are only sold by the crate. There are like 30 of them in there. Why do I have to purchase an entire tree full of fruit at one time?

They aren't that much smaller than regular oranges. But they are much, much bigger than grapes (the only other mainstream fruit that must be bought in bulk). They are clementines. You'd better really want a whole bunch of them. Stay away if you are unsure. They are the fruit of commitment.

Once you get them home you are completely focused on that crate. All other fruit is forgotten about, as you realize that you must consume 2 or 3 clementines every day for the next few weeks. Just so you know what you're getting into.

And don't get me started about that plastic orange netting that they put over the top. It is magical. Every single clementine looks perfect through that net, so it is hard to pick out a good crate. They could probably hide a lime in there and you would have no idea until you got home.

All this being said, clementines do have an upside. They have a sweet citrus taste, are easy to peel and have very few or no seeds. Plus there's that song...

Now that I think about it, I should start giving out clementines as wedding gifts. They're unique. They're fun. They could last throughout the entire honeymoon. Newlyweds need something to put in all those glass bowls...

What? I think it's a good idea. There is a matrimonial tie-in...

They are the fruit of commitment.

I had to buy a whole stinkin' crate of them.