More Shuffling To Do

CBS Sports, with the help of Strat-O-Matic Football, conducted a mythical tournament among the 49 previous Super Bowl champions to determine which team in the Super Bowl Era was the best ever. In the final, it was the 1985 Chicago Bears that were crowned the best of all-time, knocking off the 1996 Green Bay Packers 17-10.

Can’t say I’d argue with that assessment. They had the best defense over a single season I have ever seen, and had the ability to shut down almost any team they played. The only team they couldn’t shut down that year was Miami, who handed them their only loss that season 38-24 on a Monday Night game. Had the Dolphins defeated the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship, there would have been a Bears-Dolphins rematch at the Super Bowl in New Orleans.

Had that happened, history would have looked back on the Bears a bit more differently, one way or the other. But a great team, none the less.

West By Southwest

Due to some rain on Thursday, I didn’t visit my Dad’s grave and the old southwest Largo neighborhood I grew up in until yesterday. I do this visit every year, but did it on a weekday to honor the quarter-century mark of his passing.

On the way to grab some Chinese food at my favorite place, Zom Hee, off of Park and Starkey in Seminole, I went east on Ulmerton Road, which is the big east-west thoroughfare in central Pinellas County, then went south on Starkey into Seminole. I couldn’t get over how much everything on Ulmerton seemed to be bigger, plus most of the traffic signal alignments had changed.

At 3pm on a sunny Friday, even the expanded six-lane (three in each direction) road was clogged heading east, as were a few other words in a non rush-hour environment. Could it have been our friends up in Canada who pay us Floridians a visit each year adding to the congestion? Surely it couldn’t have just been the ongoing construction efforts.

By the way, why are they doing construction on Ulmerton in the middle of the so called Snowbird Season? Seems to me that you’d want to fix the road at points during the year where the roads are a little less traveled. Just a thought.

The 28th

challengerphoto

A lot of you who read this blog presently have probably been following me for less than a year. January 28th is not one of my favorite days. One is a reason shared by this country, one is a reason shared in my family. All of which I’ve spoken about before on this blog over the years, so I will be referring to previous entries here.

Most of you my age or thereabouts know what happened on January 28, 1986. On a rare cold midday in Florida, Space Shuttle Challenger was launched with a crew of seven, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. Slightly past a minute later, a rupture in the orange external fuel tank caused its explosion along with that of Challenger. The crew cabin of the shuttle detached from the rest of the vehicle, and if the astronauts were not killed by the sudden loss of air pressure after the explosion by not instantly finding emergency oxygen masks, the impact into the Atlantic Ocean (reportedly at 200 G’s) likely did.

The real tragedy of it all was that one man, Roger Boisjoly, a mechanical engineer for Morton Thiokol, tried to warn NASA that the O-rings on the bottom of the soild rocket boosters his employers created would not work in such extremely cold (for Florida) weather conditions. That day, NASA wouldn’t heed a review of new evidence for whatever reasons they had, and tragically went ahead with the launch anyway. I always felt bad for Boisjoly, as NASA didn’t treat him kindly nor with any sort of public apology. He was a man who was right at the wrong time, facing a bureaucracy convinced it could do no wrong.

It was the one event when I was in high school that you remember where you were when it happened, and in the house I grew up in, only the 1983 Americas Cup (where the Aussies stunned the Americans to end their 132 year reign as the top yachtsmen in the world) comes close in terms of an event that carried such gloom, and that event was a well distant second.

Little did I know that five years to that very day, I’d lose my dad to cancer.

Christmas 1973 or so...
Christmas time, either 1972 or 1973.

I’ve talked about this back in 2012 and 2014. Tomorrow (maybe Friday if predicted rain continues to hang around), I will once again be paying him a visit at Serenity Gardens over in Largo. All I have to say for now is that cancer sucks, and it always has. Maybe someday in my lifetime there will be a cure for it, and I hope for everyone in the human race that the day cancer is cured for all time will come soon.

Talking about it is how I cope, so thanks for reading. Hope I’m not depressing you too much, but what’s the point of a personal blog if you can’t share what makes a person tick?

(Note: Originally when I posted this entry on January 28th, I erroneously said that one of the solid rocket boosters hit the external tank, causing it and the shuttle to explode. On February 1st, I read an article on Space.com that correctly points out that the two SRB’s remained intact after the explosion, thus the need to have to auto-destruct each of them, and I thus made the necessary corrections.)

Who’s Afraid Of Megyn Kelly?

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In a move that is utterly genius or utterly stupid, Donald Trump is boycotting a Fox News debate being held in Iowa tomorrow. (Yes folks, the word “debate” is being used, so Fox can’t weasel out of it like CNN did earlier this week.)

It appears that Donald has an aversion for any debate co-moderated by FNC anchor Megyn Kelly, the 45 year-old native of Syracuse who has risen up the cable news channel’s food chain faster than you can say Shepard Smith. After Kelly asked some pointed questions about how he views women back in August, these two have been feuding.

As for me, I’ve always been a believer that some moves are so bad that they might wind up being good, just as if you travel far enough west you wind up east of where you started. But what can I say? Fox News should reserve the right to use the moderators they want, and if Trump doesn’t like it, he doesn’t have to attend and/or participate if not somehow bound by the Republican Party to do so.

Likewise, anyone who’s eligible to vote doesn’t have to vote for Mr. Trump, either in the Republican primaries or in November should he make it that far. The last time I looked, it’s still a free country.

Misdirection

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A recent New York Daily News graphic explaining the differences between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton on various issues.

After watching The X-Files on FOX again last night, I waited a bit online to search for what was billed as a Democratic Town Hall on CNN. By the words “Town Hall,” I thought that this was another debate between the candidates for President: Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and dark horse Martin O’Malley, and that they would field questions from the Iowa audience as part of the debate format.

When I found the debate footage on YouTube, I lost interest a few minutes into it. This was not a debate, but a series of interviews of the candidates on a live stage with questions thrown in by the audience to one candidate at a time.

While CNN advertising didn’t necessarily say that this would be a debate, there is (in my opinion) one small problem with all of this: CNN didn’t say there wasn’t going to be a debate, either. By saying that this was a town hall, they left the door open to deception.

Another mystery abound in the mysterious 2016 Democratic Presidential campaign, which has had a few leading up to now. More and more it seems a contest with a predetermined outcome (Hillary Clinton winning) than a contest based on fairness and giving each candidate a chance to succeed on his or her own merits. Why protect her now when she won’t get such protection in the fall against a Republican candidate?

Don’t Let The Bedbugs Bite

There was something a bit odd about my last employer, 24-7 In Touch Marketing, off of US 19 in Largo (or was it Clearwater?). I just couldn’t place it, that is until I was watching the return of The X-Files last night and saw the FOX 13 news tease about a bedbug infestation there, a story that got started on Reddit, of all places.

(Here’s the video of the story, reported by Evan Lambert.)

It doesn’t really surprise me that a call center running ads seeking employees at $10/hr, then telling them the job’s initial pay rate is more like $8/hr, would have this kind of a problem. The way the piece on the local news ran, the management doesn’t think they have a problem, while the employees getting bit will tell you otherwise. Usually when management is in denial, it’s usually a sign of a big problem they don’t know how to handle yet.

When I trained there, they promised you the moon, but would always fail to deliver. They said that the final test would decide whether or not you had the job: it didn’t, they took practically everybody in. They also said that anyone who made racket during the final test in particular would be released immediately, something else that didn’t happen when people in the class didn’t show any consideration for others.

Now, the employees there seem to have a choice between keeping their jobs and shutting up about the bedbugs or speak out and risk losing them. (I seem to remember from the training I took that the company keeps an eye on social media for negative commentary about themselves and discourages it, so getting people to speak up about it on local stations has to be a challenge.)

However, if the bedbug problem is serious, there’s always the chance the place will have to be tented and properly fumigated, and the employees might lose their jobs anyways.

Needless to say, I’m glad I got out of there long before the bedbugs arrived.

The League Of Changing Times

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys

One of the themes that has persisted in the four years plus I’ve been doing this blog is that I’ve talked about the changing state of professional football, which most of my life has been my favorite thing to watch. Not too long ago, it was this day, the date when the conference championship games were played, was like Christmas Eve for me. It’s the day that the two Super Bowl finalists are found, and etched into history for all eternity.

Now, with all the information that has come out in recent years about concussions, and how some playoff games (like the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game a couple of weeks ago) just resemble gutter wars with pads and helmets, I must admit the games have lost some of their luster for me. Too many players like Antwaan Randle El are regretting not playing other sports, paying too steep a price for playing a game they loved to play.

Back when I was growing up, there seemed to be a lot more mythology about the NFL then exists now. There were dynasties that existed despite the league’s attempts at parity. If the Patriots lose today in Denver, however, that will mean that the seven Super Bowl champions crowned in this decade will have belonged to seven different teams: the Saints, Packers, Giants, Ravens, Seahawks, Patriots, and either the Panthers, Broncos, or Cardinals joining them two weeks from tonight in the 50th Super Bowl.

Oddly enough, the Patriots are the closest thing that exists in this era to a dynasty, and yet they flaunt the rules of the league close enough to get slapped for it in Spygate, Deflategate, and some other controversy with a “Gate” at the end to come sometime in the future. This tells me one of two things, but I’m not sure which: the great teams of the past didn’t cheat as such, or they weren’t caught doing so, maybe even both possibilities are true.

Everything seems so objective any more. What’s a catch, what isn’t? What’s a dirty hit, what isn’t? What foul play is a fine, and what foul play is not a fine? What do the officiating crews see, and what do they not see, and why? A decade or two ago, everything seemed more finite, now a days, there are all of these shades of grey that go embraced that probably shouldn’t.

I’m also not a fan of numericizing the Super Bowl this year, by the way. As I’ve mentioned before, I was very fortunate to have gone to Super Bowl XXV in Tampa in 1991. This year, they are referring to the game as Super Bowl 50 and not Super Bowl L. Another case of tradition tossed aside for the sake of temporary buzz, if you ask me.

It just seems that change is the new tradition in the world anymore, or at least that is the way I see it. Someone change is good (in politics, I’ll always favor it, for example), sometimes change for the sake change isn’t, and how can we differentiate between these two things?

OK, enough of this tangential rant.

The Year Of The Cat

Yesterday marked the one-year mark of Harry’s stay here, though I’ve been taking care of him on and off since 2010, and I’ve known “The Prince” since Christmas evening of 2008.

I guess I’ve always seen what’s special about him when others haven’t. Had I not taken him in last year, he probably would have been put down because he doesn’t seem to get along with other cats all that well, as evidenced by the YouTube clip and some of the blogs in the past year.

It all began that Christmas in ’08. After having dinner with my landlord for Yuletide Day, I sat over on a couch and felt a tapping on my arm that was draped over the top of the coach. Harry, then a little over 5 months old, reached up to tap me on the arm with his paw, and needless to say, it was the start of a beautiful friendship.

I’ve had a couple of cats before. Right after high school in 1989 or thereabouts, I took in a cat we named Sparky, a cute little black cat that had strayed away from its owners who eventually got back wherever he was from. When I was an infant, I’m told we had a cat named Finnegan who roamed my old southwest Largo neighborhood a bit too freely. One morning in the 70’s, he took a rest right under a neighbor’s car, and got run over when he didn’t wake up to move in time. It wasn’t a traumatic experience for me or anything, as I was too young to remember it.

All these years later, Harry’s been a good companion for me in my middle age. Glad to have him around, hopefully for many more years ahead.

Snow Day

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I was living in Charlotte, North Carolina on the morning of January 24, 2000. It was a cool, quiet, but cloudy morning in the Piedmont when something happened that none of the meteorologists expected: it snowed. By the time the day was over, there was close to a foot of the white stuff on the ground.

Living in Florida most of my life, it was a bit of a culture shock for me. I had seen snow in Marietta, Georgia in 1996, and a few times in Charlotte that winter. But seeing nothing but snow all over the place and watching it blow around in the wind was something brand new to me, and I watched outside with a bit of awe.

I was working at a Walmart in southeast Charlotte during my stay there as a maintenance guy, keeping the store in “tiptop and cracker jack” shape, as my boss often said. The following night, with the snow still holding its own among temperatures in the teens, I went out to take in some shopping carts.

In the parking lot, I got introduced to the phenomena not cognisant amongst us Floridians known as black ice. I got introduced to it the hard way, slipping hard onto the pavement, but fortunately not breaking anything.

I thought to myself, laying there for a few seconds, “Welcome to weather outside of Florida.” A few months later, I was back where I belonged.

Avoidance Course

phnortner

Last week, I started getting calls from the Zwicker Collection Agency for some reason, but just as quickly as I was besieged with their calls, the calls suddenly stopped. I knew of their reputation even before they called of being rather notorious collectors who don’t listen to reason, so I didn’t pick up when they came calling.

I haven’t had any debts in several years, so I think I know what their problem was: a case of mistaken identity.

About a year ago, I got a series of messages from some company in Las Vegas saying that I had once lived in the British Columbia province of Canada and owned a condominium in Kissimmee, Florida. Only one small problem: I’ve never lived in Canada nor owned a condo south of Orlando. Someone with the same name as I have did, which is quite a feat because my name is pretty rare. My name has a middle initial in it that I use, the other person’s name does not, so they think I’m him.

In such an instance, I think the onus is on the companies collecting said debt to prove that I’m the person in question, which in this case I’m not. I shouldn’t have to clear my name when I’m not the guilty party, so that’s how I played it. Had I spent time explaining this to the Zwicker people, they’d be asking me how much money I had on my wallet on December 4, 1995.

Why make life so complicated?