Saturday, June 30, 2007

Life Gets an Upgrade

Sometimes life actually works as advertised.

As my regular readers know, my TiVo died earlier this week (please reference my previous post). I identified the problem as hard drive failure, scoped out a few places that advertised replacement TiVo drives, did a little price comparison, and placed my order, a 300-GB drive that would in theory restore my TiVo to the land of the living and deliver a fifteen-fold increase in capacity.

The drive came yesterday. It promised a fifteen-minute installation procedure, which I could well believe - this wouldn't be the first hard drive I'd yank out and replace. So out with the old and in with the new, reconnect the cable, and cycle back up. It couldn't be THAT easy, could it?


Not an ounce of trouble with the installation. I powered back up and it recognized I had a lifetime membership. It reconnected with TiVo central, got my program listing, and I was back in business. With 377 hours of recording space, up from 20.

Do you know what that's like? It's like going from a shitty 250 square foot one room apartment in Manhattan to the biggest mansion in Mansion Land. I'm doing stupid stuff like recording the whole baseball game, in best quality, and hell, why not the post-game show too. Why not? If I record everything in best quality I've still got five times more space than I had in draft (shitty) quality before.

Life is good again, friends. I'm on vacation until Thursday, just me and my TiVo. And by the way, for those of you with the need or the desire to upgrade your TiVo, consider using the nice people at AuctionNook ( As their name suggests they started off life as an ebay-only company but have their own site with a good e-commerce process, free priority mail shipping, and when I had a question (because I didn't read the FAQ), I got a real answer from a real person with a minimum of snarky "read the FAQ" attitude. I recommend them - they made it easy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

You Don't Know What You've Got 'Till It's Gone

Yesterday, tragedy struck the home of the Crafty Southpaw. I'm still a little shaken by the whole ordeal and you should know that it's a little difficult to talk about it. But being a blogger, whose blog has been viewed literally DOZENS of times over the months, carries with it a certain responsibility and I will not shirk my duty to my readers, both of whom are quite loyal. So here goes:

My TiVo died yesterday.

Oh sure - I thought it was a simple matter of the batteries in my remote dying. I conveniently neglected to remember that the same remote turned my television on without so much as a second thought. But I bravely changed them anyway - and lo and behold, the same nothing that happened before was still not happening now.

This was my first indicator of any real trouble.

The next step was, of course, a full system shutdown. After all, a TiVo is nothing but a computer - and this one had been running continuously for the better part of seven years with maybe two or three reboots. That's probably it, says I. No need to panic - not just yet.

So I flip the master switch and my entire entertainment console goes cold. I wait the magic three seconds that they tell you to wait and flip the switch back on.

TV: Springs to life. Cable Box: ditto. DVD, VCR: Check check.

TiVo? TiNo.

Ohhhh, shit.

How did this happen? How did I get so helplessly, hopelessly hooked on my TiVo? Why is it that now, the experience of watching TV seems to be so one-dimensional, kinda like...kinda like...well: In Kurt Vonnegut's brillant novel Slaughterhouse Five, he describes a friendly alien race called the Tralfamadorians, who can see in four dimensions - basically they can see all points of a time line at once - and they try to describe how humans experience life in terms of looking at life through a narrow tube, and only being able to see what the tube shows them at any one given time, as opposed to being exposed to the entire vista before them.

TiVo laid bare to me the entire vista of television, without regard to that pesky fourth dimension of time. If I sauntered downstairs at 6 or 10, on Tuesday or Sunday, I still had the same choices waiting for me when I got down there. Hmmm, a MythBusters I haven't seen yet? Promising. Oooh, how about some Poker After Dark (that airs at 2:05 AM, weekdays, on would I ever have seen that otherwise?), or perhaps the Family Guy where Brian and Stewie find themsleves in Florida and have to get to Rhode's all there, just waiting for me, instead of the other way around.

In other words, as life should be.

Anyway, I shut everything else off so I could isolate the sounds that my TiVo was making, unplugged, waited, and plugged back in. And then I heard it: the unmistakable whirrr-clack whirrr-clack of a catastrophic hard drive failure.

Game over, man. But not the worst news in the world. Though I can't (actually, won't) go out and get a new one because the scumbags have eliminated the lifetime membership and now charge by month or by year for the privilege of suckling at the sweet teat of TiVo, I can get a replacement hard drive for it, which will provide me a fifteen-fold increase in capacity, without me having to buy a new membership.

So, to my family and friends, please forgive me if I seem a bit on edge for the next few days. I may show the standard withdrawal signs of fever, chills, and a constant desire to pore over the TV Guide. I'll get my fix soon enough, and then life can be swell again.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

An Open Letter to You: Overenthusiastic New Guy

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have no idea who exactly it was that made me fire off this little missive. I completely forgot having written this, but as I read it back it's pretty funny in a mean-spirited sort of way. Enjoy!

Hey New Guy! Thanks so much for sharing all your great ideas with us. I know that you being here for 16 business hours makes you think that you’re now an expert in all things, and that you alone can see the answers to the great Imponderable questions of our business. But look around. See us all here? All us employees who have been here for years? Guess what: we haven’t just been sitting here with one thumb in our mouth, the other in our ass, just waiting for YOU to come along and holler “switch.” We know what the fuck we’re doing. We’ve done it for quite some time. The same stupid suggestions you think are so profound we’ve all thought of and discarded during an enthusiastic shit five years ago.

Do you think for one moment that your single-digit-day tenure with this place makes you qualified to make suggestions as to how to steer this company? We all take your suggestions with a certain forced benign good cheer, and even compliment you on your creative “out of the box” thinking. Well here’s a little something for you to chew on, sport: when you leave, we laugh at you and your ridiculous, infantile suggestions. We’ve forgotten more about how to run this company than a newbie like you will ever learn. You won’t stay with the company – you’ll be gone in nine months, and three years from now, we’ll be having lunch together and looking back on all the ridiculous little men and women with their polished shoes and day planners that have come parading through these doors only to parade themselves right back out again – and we’ll be laughing at you all over again. Some one of our number is going to start the conversation with “any of you guys remember what’s-his-name, the guy with all the ideas? What a fucking tool that guy was! What was his name, anyway?”

And we won’t know, or care. Because, Overenthusiastic New Guy, you think that you’re the savior of this place, but the reality is, you ain’t worth a fart in a windstorm to us. The sooner you get that through your immaculately coiffed head, the better off you’ll be.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Reaction from My Last Post

The consensus from the small yet passionate circle of friends, acquaintances, and various and sundry hangers-on is unanimous: Everybody loves a post wherein Your Hero inflicts pain upon himself, whether that pain be physical or mental. Apparently, they can't get enough of some good old-fashioned pie-in-the-face humor and debasement, as long as 1) they are NOT the subject of the humor, and 2) I am.

Well, who am I not to oblige? Forthwith then one of my most embarassing moments on this earth.

My first new car was a 1989 Ford Mustang, black with a red interior. I bought it for the princely sum of $9,400 in the summer of that year. And I loved that car, whether it deserved the love or not. Hey - I was all of 21 years old - what can I tell you? If you want to take a look at what it sorta looked like, click
here. Mine was a hard-top, and not automatic, but it's more or less the same car. The details aren't too important; suffice to say I loved the car and felt like a million bucks driving it.

One fine day as I was driving down the highway (128 South, heading towards 93, for you townies), I looked to my right and saw some dude driving the exact same car as mine. black exterior, red interior, the whole bit. My car down to the floorboards. So I did what any car-proud youngster would do: I sidled up to him and made eye contact. I made what I hoped was the universal gesture for, 'hey, check it out, we're driving the same car.'

The other guy looked at me as if I were holding up a fresh turd for his examination.

Undaunted by this apparent rejection, I pointed at his car, then pointed to mine, again in a gesture I thought was immediately recognizable as an acknowledgement that we were, in fact, brothers in automobilia.

Again, he gave me a look that would wilt lettuce and pounded on the gas, speeding away.

I was left only to reflect on the unfriendliness of my fellow man when it struck me why he had reacted the way he did: I was driving my girlfriend's car at the time, a decidedly girly Honda Prelude. Instead of "Hey, we have the same car," he could have only taken my gesture as meaning, "pull over - I'm a homosexual." I turned the color of the interior of my car, a humbler boy, but a little bit wiser.

And because this story has no real moral I'll borrow the one from my previous post: Don't mess with your own ass.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Learning to Fly

Humans, I found out the hard way, are not meant to fly. It's neither exhilarating nor, ultimately, pain-free - but I get ahead of myself.

A little background on Your Humble Scribe, for those of you who don't know him or know him well: I wear socks to bed. Yes, it's strange, I suppose. I have to have my feet covered more or less all the time or I kinda get the willies. Sure. It's a thing. But at least I'm not turning the lights on and off six times before I can go to bed. As things go, it's pretty mild.

The second and third things you need to know to get maximum impact from this story are these: my house has hardwood floors, and a sunken living room. The perceptive among you already can see where this is going. But for the slow, I continue:

This past Thursday, upon awakening, I staggered out of bed and, as is sometimes my custom, made my way to the living room to watch Hazel Mae doing SportsDesk and dream my little dreamy dreams about being her mug of Dunkin Donuts Coffee. Except I never got there.

Right before the step down into the living room, my left foot went completely out from under me and my momentum sent me, for one long moment, airborne and completely parallel with the ever-approaching earth.

Time stood still. A thousand thoughts raced through my head - most of them some variant of, "this isn't going to end well."

I was not wrong in my assessment of the situation.

I landed, ass first, on the unyielding hardwood floor, the step having lodged itself cozily in the small of my back. The pain was exquisite. Toots, putting on her face in the bathroom and hearing both the sickening thud and the subsequent howls and whimpers of pain, asked me if I was ok.

"I don't know," was my honest reply.

I took a quick inventory. Toes: wiggling. Good. Limbs: seemingly intact. Also good. Shards of broken bone piercing the skin: absent. So it appeared as if there were no permanent damage - but I couldn't help but feel like I got run over by a boxcar. And there was this unsettling fact: my ass hurt. Real bad. I had landed right on my tailbone and I learned quickly and poignantly that a tailbone injury was no laughing matter.

Thoroughly out of options - staying upright was unthinkable - I staggered back to the bedroom and threw myself, face down of course, on the bed to collect myself and take a more accurate assessment of the harm my body had just taken. Thankfully, after about a half-hour and three Advil, I was enough of my old self to drag this miserable excuse for a body into the shower and get to work, only about 45 minutes after I normally do.

However, the (pun intended) kick in the ass is, my ass still hurts. And the only two positions in which the pain is gone is standing up, or lying in such a way as to put no pressure on the offending area - neither option of which is palatable to my day job, or to the pressbox at McCoy Stadium, where I'll be this evening, squirming like I've sat on an anthill and wishing I'd taken my Advil with me.

So the moral of the story is this, and it holds true in many walks of life: Don't mess with your own ass.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Why I Hate Vegetarians

Ok, you got me: I don't really "hate" vegetarians. Certainly not all of them, at least. Perhaps it's closer to the mark to suggest that vegetarians - specifically, ethical vegetarians - annoy the bejeebers out of me. If meat gives you the grumbellies and hours of gastric distress, more power to you; eat all the vegetables you want. I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about people with the well-meaning but misguided notion that by eating the flesh of other animals, we are somehow abusing our position at the top of the food chain and performing acts of cruelty on our animal neighbors.

My response, predictably enough to those who know me, is: bullshit.

We are animals. Animals eat animals. This has been going on for roughly the same amount of time as there have been animals. Just because the lion kills the gazelle with claw and mandible, and we do it with cunning and opposable thumb, that does not mean there's a great difference. And yes, you could make the argument that lions eat gazelles because there's nothing else to eat, but I get the feeling that even if kibble were readily available on the Serengeti plain, they'd go back to gazelle because it's just so goddamn yummy.

The cunning and opposable thumb I referenced earlier make it possible for people to buy or trade for food in this enlightened society without directly having to hunt for it themselves. Firstly, do we not also see this behavior in ant and bee colonies? When was the last time a queen had to scrounge for her own food?

Secondly, the vegetarians will point to slaughterhouses and offer them as concrete evidence as man's ultimate cruelty to the creatures they will eventually be eating. Now, it is certainly true that a tour of a slaughterhouse should only be performed by those of strong stomach; you are surrounded by recently slaughtered livestock, whose gutted bodies heat and humidify the building in a way that can be quite literally sickening. The animals are sent on a line where they're quickly (and humanely) killed, whereupon an employee underneath the line guts the animal from chin to anus. From there, it only gets grimmer.

I would not want that job, to be sure. But the meat industry doesn't just have to feed you. It has to feed a country of 300 million people, and a world of 5.5 billion. They don't have the luxury of taking ol' Bessie out back and kissing her neck gently before shooting her. Besides, what did you think happens when you transform a cow on the hoof to a slab of meat on styrofoam in your grocery store? If the slaughterhouse didn't do it, you'd have to. And there's nothing wrong with that. Do you have a rice paddy in your back yard? No. You go to the store and you buy a box of Uncle Ben's. No difference.

Our teeth are made for ripping meat; our digestive system is designed to digest meat; we are omnivores. Lookit: if the Good Lord didn't want us to eat meat, He wouldn't have made it so yummy. Ethical vegetarians just don't know what they're talking about. Period.