Saturday, January 31, 2015

Your sour-grapes guide to Super Bowl XLIX

This year’s Super Bowl is a particular toughie for many NFL fans on account of Deflategate and the Seahawks being the Seahawks. It’s all too easy to engage in a game of mental ping-pong trying to decide on a daylong loyalty. So here’s a handy guide to help with this most momentarily important of decisions.


• You won the science fair every year in school because your projects had strobing LED displays, push-button audio components and six-foot-tall mockups of Nikola Tesla, because your parents were very rich and also they did the projects for you.

• You have never smiled, because time is money.

• You won a drag race in your Bugatti Veyron against your pal’s Mercury Cougar, in part by lowering the air pressure in your tires.

• You subscribe to the belief that, because the team is named the Patriots, other teams by definition aren’t patriotic. (Which is also how you vote.)

• You think it’s any year prior to 2002.

• You believe in Manifest Destiny, just like your ancestors Philip Worthington Strong III and his wife, Lady Ruth Fensterhouse, who met on the Mayflower.

• You’re a big fan of field goals.

• If you’re somewhere where not doing it gets you hurt.

• You think Tom Brady has a nice face.

• You are thinking of the Seahawks at the moment.


• You only learned of football’s existence in 2013.

• You’ve met a Seahawks fan and you’re OK with that.

• Like many Pacific Northwesterners, you are in a band and you own a station wagon.

• You think the real opponent isn’t the Patriots, but the ruthless jackals in the media who dare to invade a public figure’s privacy during a five-minute presser.

• Just the thought of “class” makes your brain crack.

• You speak entirely in obnoxious catchphrases.

• You’ve ever called a drill sergeant a “hater.”

• You took a victory lap after winning the science fair and knocked down everyone else’s project.

• You are jealous of Tom Brady’s nice face.

• You are thinking of the Patriots at the moment.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Beast Moan

As a Saints fan who works in the media, I find Marshawn Lynch hard to take at times.

No Saints fan ever wants to revisit Lynch plowing through the entire Saints defense to help his 7-9 Seahawks advance in the playoffs, or for that matter revisit any encounter the Saints have had with him in the years since. Additionally, as someone who has interviewed his fair share of stubborn and/or hostile people, I have a low tolerance for the kind of spiteful game the Skittles Man is playing with the press.

Lynch may or may not suffer from anxiety — and if he does, I sympathize — but his trolling of the media is not a byproduct of that. (Wearing your helmet during an interview and giving a good-faith try, a la Ricky Williams, is closer to what that looks like.) Anyway, Lynch has granted interviews before — it’s only since Roger Goodell fined him for missing a recent media availability session that Lynch has pitched this tantrum. No, what he’s doing is the purely calculated (if not particularly clever) move of someone who wants to be the story. Everyone who’s hailing him as a folk hero for allegedly wanting to be left alone should keep that in mind.

Journalists aren’t sociopathic scoop sharks and Lynch isn’t some poor, bombarded sap. He’s a superstar football player about to play in his second consecutive Super Bowl. He plays in a league that trains all of its personnel in relating to the media as public figures. The big game has events where these players have to be available to talk for five minutes. They can choose to spout the usual platitudes, or they can be refreshingly different. Or, they can not say the usual platitudes but still be uninteresting, like Lynch. His standoffishness is remarkable only in how petulant it is.

Lynch could have been clever with it, at least. Maybe by saying funny nonsequiturs every time. Or being conversational, but having a good time with it. There are ways to object to that which you dislike that drive the point home better than by making it hard for people (who aren’t the cause of the scorn) to do their jobs — jobs they are paid far, far less to do. (Not to mention that the tedium in this exchange is most likely mutual.)

I’m no fan of Goodell, but I can’t fault the NFL for its access policies. If it was a 24/7 thing, I might agree with the critics. But a five-minute window on the eve of the Super Bowl? Perfectly reasonable. Lynch’s response? Not so much.

If he’s truly opting for a way out of the off-field spotlight, Lynch could always ask Marques Colston or any of the NFL’s many other quiet guys how they manage to elude the alleged glare of “gotcha.” Hint: If someone is reserved or otherwise doesn’t make for good quote material, they’ll eventually not be hounded. Someone who aggressively throws up a brick wall only makes muckraking professionals want to climb it. But again, I think Lynch knows that. He’s not trying to be quiet; he’s out to deafen with his defiance.

Too bad that defiance is so misplaced.

What a Super Bowl this will be.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Why copy shops will live forever

Yesterday, I bought $61 worth of new ink cartridges for my printer/scanner, which I hadn't used to print anything since 2009 (though it continues to be a superb scanner). I was hoping to use it to print out some pictures on photo stock.

I did this fully aware that this particular machine requires four separate ink cartridges, and when one runs out (or its notoriously inaccurate sensor says it does), the printer ceases to function. In fact, that's the reason I'd stopped using it. But this time I figured I'd at least get a few quality prints before the drought, instead of zero. Alas, this is how far I got:

As you might guess, I ran out of cyan first — or at least, that's the cartridge that fell to unacceptable levels first, thanks to four bum test prints. I guess I should have run the standard test first, but I was too optimistic for my own good.

Even on its worst day, my printer never dried up this fast. Now I can't even print an all-black text document, and I'm not sure any black even made it to these images (maybe the last one).

Because I refuse to waste any more money on another cartridge, I will be going Jackson Pollock on these ink bricks as soon as I figure out how to do it.

Few appliances illustrate the middle finger of corporate cynicism like a printer that requires all colors to work to use any of them. I knew this already. I shouldn't have wasted $70 on cartridges and paper to remind myself. Fool me once ...

Also, I managed to disable my oven just by touching its circuitry last night. I'm on a roll!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Saucy talk

Yesterday, I made a funny and virtually nobody noticed: 

Why did nobody notice? Because I'm weird.

See, I can't stand secret sauces or anything else that is mayo-based. Cane's sauce, to paraphrase Ron Burgundy, particularly stings my nostrils. It reminds me of crawfish dip (ketchup and mayonnaise), which nothing should ever remind me of. But I do love Raising Cane's chicken fingers, fries, toast and lemonade, so setting the sauce tub aside is a minor inconvenience (anyway, it rarely goes to waste if I'm eating with a friend).

That said, most people love Cane's sauce. It's a signature blend. In many cases, it's why people choose to eat there. And unlike most standard condiments, it's not given out like candy on Halloween. So it makes sense for those reasons that an instant-winner contest would offer a free tub of the stuff. But thanks to my atypical palate, I just began laughing uncontrollably when I peeled this sticker off my lemonade.

The first reason I laughed is because it says, "A SAUCE," which is something I'd expect to find in a 1980s video game: "YOU HAVE ACQUIRED A SAUCE OF DIPPING."

The second reason is because of the words above it: "YOU JUST WON!" Well, that's awfully presumptuous. I guess for most people this would be a genuine win, but this is what would be poured on me if I lost on Personalized Double Dare. One person's treasure and all that.

The third reason is because of course this is how I would win something, all Pyrrhic-like. I might as well have won a sideline pass to next week's Super Bowl. Or free cauliflower for life. Or keynote-speaker billing at the People Who Aren't Fantastic convention.

I guess you have to know me well to see that I regard those as undesirable things (though the third should be obvious to everyone, hurr hurr). Same thing with this photo. Most people would love free Cane's sauce, so when I post it jokingly, they think I'm straight hailing it. And now they think I love it, which is likely to eventually result in this exchange:

Them: "Hey! Nice to see you! I got you a sauce!"
Me: "Err ... I don't like it, actually."
Them: "What? Everybody likes it! And your Facebook status —"
Me: "— Was a joke."
Them: "Oh. Uh ..."
Me: "Yeah."
Them: "So I'm too dim to get a joke, is what you're saying."
Me: "So you don't know me, is what you're saying."
Them: (Sniff)
Me: (Sniff)

Tough crowd.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Of balls and disruption

Yesterday, I watched Tom Brady's news conference live, and afterward saw clips of Bill Belichick's previous presser. Up until that point, I saw Deflategate as something that could be a major scandal or could be nothing — and if it was something, it was up in the air as to who was responsible for it.

For two years, I was the equipment manager for my high school team, which gave me an appreciation for how many different footballs get used in a game, and how they have to be handled. For all the stringent protocol that the NFL follows with its own footballs, it's an undeniable fact that no one can constantly account for dozens of footballs during a game, and that lowering the air pressure of one is a quick act that can be done very discreetly (I never did such a thing, but I know it's possible). If anything, it's worth checking to see if every other team isn't also doing this from time to time.

That said, however, the New England Patriots have already been caught cheating in recent years, so it's not hard to imagine that still-intact regime doing it again. I have no way of knowing if or who, of course, but my suspicion was that it started at the top. Before the presser, that is. Now, I'm not sure if Belichick knew and I'm not sure Brady didn't. Belichick (the consummate leader) sounded genuinely befuddled and Brady (Captain Confidence) was uncharacteristically flustered and halting.

In any case, it does seem strange — if the allegations are true — that a team as good as the Patriots (who throttled the Colts 45-7 in the AFC Championship) would feel the need to breed an unfair advantage. I hope it's not true. I'm no Patriots fan, but I want to believe their tremendous dynasty is solely a testament to their skill. We'll see.

I went into the Slate article linked above feeling some sympathy for Belichick, and hoping I might gain a perspective on the coach that I might have missed in my anti-fanhood. And sure enough, the writer, Luke O'Neil, raises the interesting phenomenon of a team evolving from scrappy underdogs to hated champions. But then he lost me with this:

As a rational human being, the sullying of my favorite team’s name admittedly stings, and the right thing to do here might be to apologize for Belichick. But instead, to the rest of the football fans out there I say this: You’re welcome. Without a villain like Belichick, the NFL would be a much less interesting place. 

I've long said that I like personality in the NFL, even when I don't like the personality, because it makes the game interesting. But he is asking us to bow to a team — his team — for disrupting the status quo.

I'm all for that in theory, but I don't think that's defined by flouting the rules of the game. To indulge my own fanhood, Sean Payton's onside kick to start the second half of Super Bowl XLIV is the kind of disruption I think enriches the game. It compels the other team, and the game in general, to rethink how they play. All the best teams in NFL history innovate this way.

If, on the other hand, a team is stealing signals and deflating footballs, that's not innovation — that's cheating. Anyone who values that kind of disruption and the heroes-villains dynamic over fair play should watch professional wrestling instead.

Anyone can disrupt the game with dubious methods. A real villain is crafty enough to do it within the confines of the game.

Breathe easy

New Orleans is perhaps the last place I expected this to happen, but good.

Secondhand smoke is a very real health menace and no one should have to be subjected to it just to make a living. And from a business standpoint, a ban opens up your establishment more to nonsmokers, who are the majority. Since smoking bans have become the norm, I've visited many places I otherwise would have avoided, and many of my friends who don't smoke have done the same.

Yes, there are times when nonsmokers subject themselves voluntarily to a smoky atmosphere. But not a single person should ever do so as a contingency of employment or otherwise because they have no other options available to them. Smoking is an intrusive habit that can harm others — and even if it didn't, it's about the most disgusting smell to endure both in your nose and on your clothes.

I live near a cluster of casinos, which I don't visit often. But when I do, I'm struck — literally struck — by the smoke in them. Most of them still permit smoking in the gaming areas. And it doesn't matter if the lighting up is light or if the place is an ashtray — it's mentally jarring to sniff that in a public place anymore. I detect it even in the slightest concentration. And yet, I realize that just a few years ago, nearly every place I went reeked of that odor. I didn't always notice it, but it was there. Who knows what effect that had on me and on so many others? 

There are still places smokers can be and nicotine alternatives exist. E-cigs are still a gray area. (Personally, I prefer being near e-cigs to real ones, but prefer fresh air to e-cigs. Also, the jury's still out on e-cigs' health consequences. And the vapor looks real enough to potentially cause a problem.) In any case, there's no justification for allowing smoking indoors.

Smoking might be an addiction, but it's also a choice. If the decision is between limiting nonsmoking activity and smoking activity, I'd choose to limit the one that fouls up other people's spaces with deadly carcinogens. I'm quirky like that.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The MLK litmus test

Another story today from sixth grade:

In math class at the beginning of the school year, a black girl I didn't know sat to my left. For the first day or two, she glared at me wide-eyed without saying anything.

Then, after I returned the gaze long enough, she finally introduced herself by asking me, "What do you think of Dr. Martin Luther King?"

Without a beat, I replied, "I think he was a wonderful man. How could he not be after what he did?"

With that, she lightened up and said, with a bit of relief, "OK, you're cool. I can't like someone if they don't like Martin Luther King." I'm guessing she'd asked that before with different results.

I'm not typically one for judging people by a single question. But that's a pretty good one.

Whew! That was close!

I’m going to approach this with the assumption that “marry” is interchangeable with “date,” because with fundamentalist Christians it so often is.

And like George Carlin did with the 10 Commandments, I’m going to whittle this list down a bit. Indeed, I could consolidate it down to one: Any woman with a mind of her own. But there’s less fun to be had with that.

So let’s go with nine — after all, it stands to reason that an unbeliever (No. 1) is also not going to bother with a daily devotion to God (No. 10). That leaves:

1) The Unbeliever
2) The Divorcee
3) The Older Woman
4) The Feminist
5) The Sexy-Dresser
6) The Loud-Mouth
7) The Child-Hater
8) The Wander-Luster
9) The Career Woman
(Old-timey spellings theirs.)

That sounds like a kick-butt group of people, or at least a hell of a panel (no pun intended). It also describes my dating life perfectly. But that’s less a testament to my hellbound properties (though those are plentiful) than how few women don’t fit into any of these categories.

(Side note about these categories: They seem calibrated as insults, in the same sense that an ultra-right-winger might call a liberal a “liberal” because, in their minds, that’s the worst thing you can call someone. In particular, “Child-Hater” is defined in the linked blog as someone who merely doesn’t want children of their own, and “Loud-Mouth” is basically any woman who communicates. But let’s take the rest at face value.)

The kind of person a woman would have to be to elude all of these categories would essentially be an empty vessel for the man she marries, which appeals to a religious man’s sense of control, but not much else.

Personally — and this isn’t simply about dating, but about people in general — I prefer the company of people with a wide range of experiences. Nobody’s perfect, but it’s those who accept that they aren’t (and accept others who aren’t) who are worth getting to know. Besides, it seems strangely Shallow Hal-ish to reject a woman who’s perfect for you in every way because, God forbid, she’s open-minded and has a good job.

I’ve dated all nine types of women on this list. In many cases, they were all nine combined. Guess I’m going straight to hell. But the singles scene there is clearly much better.

Saints neuralized from memory after ‘Deflategate’

NEW YORK — The National Football League on Monday retroactively zapped the New Orleans Saints from the collective consciousness amid accusations that the team might have deflated some of its game balls during the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

“The integrity of the game, especially during the playoffs, must be defended at all costs,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at a Monday morning news conference. “So we’ve taken swift and serious action.”

New Orleans preserved a 19-7 lead over the Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday to advance to the Super Bowl in what many deemed a shocking upset. League officials, suspicious of such an outcome, ruled that Seattle would advance instead.

“Then we heard about the ball-deflating accusation and decided more needed to be piled on,” Goodell said.

The Seahawks will face the New England Patriots in the title game.

“I trust that the Patriots will compete with the integrity the league and our fans expect,” Goodell said. “You won’t hear about them underinflating balls, for sure. They know if that happens, there’ll be a firm talking-to and perhaps a revised rule.”

The NFL maintains a detailed chain of custody for game balls, reducing the likelihood of illegal tampering. Underinflating the ball makes it easier to catch and hold.

The neuralizing occurred at approximately 10:15 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, with a simultaneous flash sent through every television, computer, tablet and smartphone. People not on any of those devices at the time will receive a delayed flash upon their next visit to any sports- or news-related TV show or website.

Goodell acknowledged that those who listen only to the radio or solely read print publications will be unaffected, but “those people are old,” he said.

“Any stories they tell about the Saints will be seen as distant nostalgia, on par with the Dayton Triangles or the New York Football Yankees,” he said. “Anyone attuned to modern technology will hear such tales about the Saints and ask, ‘Who were they?’ or, to borrow the local vernacular, ‘Who Dat?’”

Members of the Saints organization have been individually neuralized by the league and told they used to be with the Houston Oilers, so they can just go home now, officials said.

When reached for comment, Saints head coach Sean Payton reflected on his days with the Oilers.

“I became the youngest head coach in NFL history in 1993, when I was 29,” he said. “Ultimately, I was considered too young and foolish and was fired after one season, never to be heard from again. I probably shouldn’t have brought in that 14-year-old quarterback, may he rest in peace.”

The deflation allegation was first reported in a post titled, “This SAINT happning!!!!!” on Sam’s Seahawkz LiveJournal.

Super Bowl XLIX prediction (but mostly whining)

So Super Bowl Ex-Lax (sorry, XLIX) will pit the Seahawks of Seattle against the Patriots of Foxborough. Another inspiring Season of the Underdogs in the NFL.

Who will I be rooting for? Whoever I’m not thinking of at the moment.

I last pulled for New England when they were upstarts against Kurt Warner’s Greatest Ram Show on Turf back in 2002, when St. Louis seemed unstoppable and it seemed Tom Brady, to paraphrase my Pats-fan friend at the time, would never live up to Drew Bledsoe. Since then, the Patriots have been the dynasty, winning three Super Bowls via questionable means and losing two more since those questionable means were called out. They’re led by Brady and Bill Belichick, who are the the Ivan Drago and the Dick Cheney of the NFL, respectively. They were much easier for me to support when they were the Rocky and the Sean Payton of the NFL. These days, it’s like watching the richest kid at school win yet another award, during which they don't crack a smile and the parents give a slight, stern nod of approval. And also that kid rubs your face in the dirt when no one’s looking and tells you to earn your lunch money if you don’t want it taken away from you.

But it’s not like the Seattle Seahawks are any easier to like. I was mostly neutral to them until December 2013, when I had the pleasure of visiting Seattle during a Seahawks-Saints Monday night game (marring what was otherwise an amazing trip to an amazing city). Seahawks fans are, at the moment, one of the most insufferable fan bases in all of football. On game day, we were treated to a nearly nonstop barrage of trash talk, even when we minded our own business, and some of it had a threatening edge (there were one or two friendly conversations that I remember for their remarkability). After the game, people were sarcastically yelling, “WHO DAT?!!” at us from honking cars across the street. Even accounting for the fact that we were in the other team’s city, it was bad; New Orleans isn’t like that to opposing fans, in my experience. By and large, Seahawks supporters seem to be new to the experience of being fans, let alone the experience of winning, and thus I can’t think of any fan base I’m madder to see happy.

That "lesser of two evils" talk usually heard during presidential elections makes sense to me now. Ouch.

I spent the duration of Sunday’s Packers-Seahawks game in South Lake Tahoe, arriving there shortly after the opening kickoff. After a 7-mile bike ride, I loaded my bike in the car and popped on the radio to hear that the Packers were up 19-7 with 5 minutes left to play. Right before I turned off the radio, Russell Wilson threw his fourth interception. I was giddy. Then I walked to a restaurant for lunch where fans of both teams had congregated (but mostly Seattle fans on account of the location). Immediately after I sat at my table, the Seahawks scored two touchdowns in rapid succession, then won in overtime. I apologize to the Green Bay Packers community for laying eyes on the TV at such a critical jinxing juncture.

I could harness that power on Super Bowl Sunday, but I probably won’t. I haven’t yet made plans for the big day, but “alphabetizing my pants by care instructions” is the front-runner at the moment. “Gargling thumbtacks” and “letting a bear chase me uphill in the snow” are also in the mix. Other suggestions are welcome.

2014-15 NFL season, the words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote: STINK, STANK, STUNK.

XLIX prediction: Plenty of interminable bandwagoning. Also, 35-32 Patriots.

Tales of a sixth-grade tempting

I’m known for having a solid memory (indeed, a way-too-solid one at times). But sometimes, it does me wrong. This past week, that happened with a song.

In 1991, when I was 11 and in sixth grade, I listened to a lot of oldies on the radio. This was a function of riding around with my dad a lot, who always had the classics on in the car. To this day, I associate certain sixties songs with trips to my grandmother’s in Baton Rouge and others with rides home from track practice. And still others remind me of crushes I was fantasizing about while jamming along.

My sixth-grade year, 1991-92, was my peak exposure to the oldies. While I did know the new songs (in fact, that was the Christmas my brother got our first CD player along with several contemporary albums), more often than not that year, if I heard a song, it was from a past era.

Enter a song called “Tempted.” For me, that song brings back vivid memories of sixth grade — in part because that’s the only span in which I ever heard it (occasional humming in my head aside). Until this past week, that is.

I was inspired to look for it after a late-night listen of a different “Tempted,” the one by Squeeze (itself a stone-cold classic). I thought, “What about that oldies song with the same title I used to hear a lot?” I looked for it once before about a year ago (by scouring 1960s music charts), but didn’t find it. This time I did, via the magic of YouTube.

Or at least, I found what I was sure was a cover by Marty Stuart. Turns out, though, it wasn’t — what I thought was a rock oldie from the late 1960s is actually a country song released in August 1991. Huh? How was I so far off on that? And why on Earth would that have been in my orbit?

There is one rational explanation for this: My bus driver kept the radio tuned to a country-music station (with a side dose of Paul Harvey) every day that year, so it’s likely that’s where I heard it multiple times. (My odd love for “Meet in the Middle” by Diamond Rio is similarly birthed from those bus rides.)

The weird thing is, my mind won’t fully accept that “Tempted” is what it is (a damn fine country track). I have a distinct memory of listening to it in my dad’s car on the way home from track practice which, given the genre, is extremely unlikely. I also continue to hear it in my head as a vaguely psychedelic tune from the Woodstock era. But video doesn’t lie. Apparently, my mind does. It can accept a lot of stupid things, but not that a song I heard in 1991 came out in 1991.

One thing I sort of got right: I thought the song was about 24 years old when I first heard it and now it is. That’s got to count for something.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The first-ever "cat blog"

If I had to pick the animal I’m most afraid of, it would have to be cats.

That seems weird to say, considering that snakes exist. But I’ve held several snakes with no problem, whereas cats have repeatedly scratched me to hell and drawn blood with their teeth, so cats it is.

Yes, cats are cute, even when they’re grumpy, and purring feels pretty good. I get that. I often played with cats as a child and even had one for a couple of days when I was about 3 (which I was later told we had for two days before a truck took it to a farm upstate in a particularly roundabout way) ...

But I can’t recall a minute of my life where I actually wanted to own one. (During our brief cat-having window, I distinctly remember walking through a bag of pet food spilled all over the kitchen floor and feeling an inkling of the neat-freak tendencies I have today.)

And to be fair, I’m not a pet person in general. Cat I hardly knew aside, the closest thing I ever had to a pet was an ant farm for about three months when I was 11. (My sister also briefly had two cats when she was 9 that shredded the room they lived in.) My family didn’t adopt a dog until I was 23 (and now have three), and by then there was no getting used to shed hair everywhere and poop in the backyard.

Still, dogs rock. They’re friendly, playful and funny. Yes, some are aggressive, but it’s not difficult overall to see their value as companions.

But cats just kind of do their thing. People tell me they’re easy pets to have because they do their business in a litter box and all you have to do is feed them. Which seems to me less like an easy pet than a hard plant.

Cat lovers affectionately joke about all the things felines do, like stand on your face when you’re sleeping, lie on your keyboard when you’re trying to compute, ad nauseam. Isn’t that adorable!

I also hear they have many more lives than we do and have fancy taste in feasts. That sounds expensive.

For me, any interaction with a cat is straddling a fine line between delight and terror. The usual script: My cat-owning friend will reassure me that their feline loves affection — and then I, like the walking science I am, inevitably prove otherwise with the slightest approach. Then the pet hyped more than any other as Captain Personality goes and stares at something for the next several hours.

Why would I ever need a creature that goes its own way, is always on top of the keyboard and does a lot of blank staring? I am already my own cat.

Civic divide

I'm not qualified to speak for New Orleans, but I did live in Baton Rouge, and also I'm from Lafayette, so I can at least assert this:

The problem is, at least in part, is Baton Rouge’s problem with New Orleans. When I lived in Red Stick, I heard tons of trash talk, not just about New Orleans, but about Lafayette as well. That New Orleans was decadence personified and its hurricane refugees (you dig) are the cause of every problem from mall riots to traffic jams. As for Lafayette, it’s too big for its britches. This was far out of proportion from what I heard New Orleanians and Lafayette people say about Baton Rouge. It was mostly, “Go Tigers!”

In Baton Rouge, the common refrain is, “We’re not New Orleans.” It’s a weird boast. New Orleans is a vibrant, diverse and distinct city. But like any city of such stature, it has an attendant abundance of homelessness, crime and conflict. The Baton Rouge area, by contrast, is culturally dominated by white Republican Baptist LSU disciples. If you’re not every single one of those things, they’ll pray for you. For them, the cultural diversity of New Orleans is not worth the unrest that goes with it. And there’s something suspicious about that cultural diversity, too, come to think of it.

There are people at work now forging a more concrete, welcoming identity for Baton Rouge, and good for them. (And yes, there are plenty of people and places I like there.) Because the experience I took from living there is that it’s a city that defines itself largely by what it isn’t, and by what outsiders aren’t. And the gaping lack of sidewalks wasn’t so great either.

Monday, January 12, 2015

My been-map state story

One of my favorite Internet things is the states-you've-visited map, which I've shared from time to time over the years. I'm always interested to see where friends and family have been (and not been). Here is my current been-map (as I just started calling it):

Updated most recently in December 2013 with a trip to Oregon and Washington.

But being me, of course, I couldn't stop merely at one map. I found myself plugging in various scenarios, realizing a lot about myself and how my life circumstances-slash-wanderlust have changed over the years.

For example, here's everywhere I had visited up to age 19:

This was finalized when I was 5, meaning I went 14 years between new states.

Here's everywhere I'd been at the time I began this blog in 2004:

If you squint, it looks like a fiddler crab.

What my map would look like today if two long-planned trips hadn't fallen through in 2004-05:

Those years. Good grief.

States I drove through with my truck, which I owned from 1999-2005:

It was a time of many repairs.

States I've driven through with my current car, bought new in 2007:

It's been a time of many road trips.

States I've only technically been to, in the sense of standing at the state line, having a layover at the airport, making a wrong turn in Kansas City, making a necessary U-turn to get to the St. Louis Gateway Arch or riding Amtrak:

Oklahoma, Georgia, Kansas, Illinois and Maryland/Delaware/Pennsylvania/New Jersey, respectively.

Where I've been since 2012:

And the states I haven't yet been to that I'm really, truly, dying to visit for vacation:

You no doubt have your own states story. Why not dig into it?

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Isn't there a name for something like this?

Sometimes, like many other people, I lose focus in life. I inch away from the things that give me purpose until I'm eventually a mile away and wondering how that happened. And that's if I even notice, which isn't a given.

Then this happens. And I am born anew.

I hope one day to get a chance to write something that awesome. The Frederick News-Post has done as good a job as anyone in exploring the misunderstanding that many people have of the media's role. And they did it with the perfect mix of snark, sarcasm and seriousness. No wonder it's gone viral. (Read the first letter of each paragraph to see exactly how well-crafted the editorial is.)

A decade ago, I covered a council meeting where a citizen spoke extensively about an item the body was considering. He was an expert on the matter and had some usable quotes. But I hadn't caught his full name. So after he sat down, I walked over to him and asked him to verify his name. He whispered back, "My comments were off the record" and waved me off. I was so stunned that I couldn't bring myself to inform him that his comments were, in fact, the definition of the record. Since he wouldn't share his name (and because none of the other journalists knew it), I couldn't quote him anyway, so I left it at that. I consider it a missed opportunity, though I don't doubt he eventually learned it the hard way.

Along with Kirby Delauter, that man illustrates how the public can (sometimes profoundly) misunderstand what the media is and how it works. It isn't an all-powerful monolith out to push a unified agenda (though there are exceptions). It isn't in the business of sweeping facts under the rug because you ask nicely (or not so nicely). When others see fit to look away, it takes a look, because that is its job. Public events are always fair game, something everyone should know, let alone a council member.

Perhaps journalists should work harder to inform the public, not just about its standards, but as to why those standards are necessary.

In trying so hard to keep his name out of the press, Kirby Delauter introduced himself to an entire nation, and ironically demonstrated the power (and purpose) of the press. And there was much rejoicing.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Official declaration of things

I, Ian Paul McGibboney, hereby declare that I am the following:

1) America's blogger;
2) The copyright holder of everything I've ever written, drawn, photographed, designed, read, seen, edited, heard and heard of; 
3) A dynamite architect;
4) The inventor of water;
5) The inspiration for Forrest Gump, when he was a smart guy from California;
6) Turbo Teen all grown up;
7) Four of the presidents;
8) Billy Idol's idol;
9) Marty McFly;
10) The walrus. Goo goo goo joob.

It's gotta be true now!

(Thanks to the Facebook meme that won't die and the Dallas Cowboys for the inspiration)

Friday, January 02, 2015

Stone-cold starting tips

This article got a level of hate usually reserved for political pieces. The thing is, it's correct, though it did genuinely overlook one thing — idling your car to activate the defroster so you can see through the windshield is sometimes necessary. I've had to do this on numerous occasions, usually when I've also had to scrape ice or snow off the windshield, and it's usually defrosted by the time I'm finished.

Otherwise, most of the objections people raise are moot.

(Full disclosure: I have never lived north of Reno, so I can't speak for the subzero tundra of the Great White North. But given the anti-idling laws in Minneapolis and elsewhere, it can't be that radically different.)

My car's owner's manual has this to say about driving with a freezing engine:

The idea, which I know to be true in my car from eight years of driving it, is that the engine warms up more efficiently when it's operated normally instead of humming at idling speed. On the few occasions I've let it idle for an extended period of time — usually when a foot of snow was involved — the blue cold-engine light was still on afterward, and the cabin not much warmer.

Which brings me to the most common objection to this article: driver comfort. "I don't idle the engine for the car, I do it for ME!" There's a nice picture — millions of cars idling and burning greenhouse gases solely so the driver isn't inconvenienced for a minute, but it's not even a good tradeoff. It stands to reason that if a car runs more efficiently when it's being driven normally, so will its heater. It'll take the same amount of time (if not less) to warm up while driving, so why wait?

Most of the other objections involve outdated notions of the internal-combustion engine. Maybe you needed to warm up a carburetor, but unless you're a classic-car aficionado or really need a raise, you have fuel injection, which doesn't need warming up. Maybe you're concerned about oil viscosity, but most motor oils today are formulated to account for extreme temperatures. Maybe you're worried about your antifreeze, but most are formulated to start your car short of a blizzard in Antarctica. Maybe your well-meaning uncle offers you tips courtesy of his 1971 Buick, but perhaps you should just read your owner's manual.

(Scratch that — you should definitely read your owner's manual. Not every car plays by the same rules, and you might find plenty of surprises. I still do after eight years.)

In any case (deicing aside), there is no reason to start a car under 25 years old and leave it idling for an extended period of time. If your car was made in that time frame (or even a few years before), you're driving a computer. Don't treat it like a typewriter.