This Most Unusual Day Of Days


Today is that day that only happens once every four years: Leap Day, the 29th of February. It’s that quirk of the calendar that reminds me of the game of blackjack where the ace can count as a point, OR eleven points. Just one of those things that exists, but yet no one really thinks about it all that much.

In the non-leap years, how do people celebrate birthdays? February 28th? March 1st?

If you’re born on February 29, do you divide your real age by four? Tony Robbins, the motivational speaker, was born on Leap Day. Doesn’t that make him 14 as opposed to 56?

Davy Jones of The Monkees passed away on our last Leap Day in 2012. Does that mean he died a year ago and not four years ago?

Anyway, enjoy this day. We don’t get another one like it until 2020.

The Road Warriors


It’s a great time to be an alumnus of Largo High School once again.

The boys basketball team has made an improbable run through the FHSAA state playoffs, and wound up playing at the Final Four in the Class 6A level at the Lakeland Center this weekend. Making this feat more special is that LHS hasn’t played a home game the past two seasons due to major renovations at the school that will be completed later this year. They’ve played their “home games” at a few schools, mainly at nearby Seminole High.

Dating back to when the school officially opened in 1914, Largo’s had a lot of accomplishments over the years. The school has had a cross country team over the years that has won numerous team state and individual titles for legendary coach Brent Haley, including a national championship back in 1983. It’s also won to state champion wrestlers, weightlifters, swimmers, divers, track stars, and a 1978 world championship band known as the “Band of Gold.”

When I had heard last week that Largo had made the state semifinals in boys hoops this year, I did some research thru the FHSAA website. In strictly head-to-head team sports, where it’s always one team playing another, the 2015-16 boys hoops team marked the 10th time Largo High had made the state semifinal in any such sport. The previous nine attempts at a state title didn’t go so well. They had gone 0-9 at the semifinal level, beginning with three straight trips in boys hoops from 1956-58, going all the way to two straight trips to the state football semis in 2007-08.

Much like in the movie Hoosiers, a team unfazed by playing every game on the road would logically be unfazed by the bigger environment of a state championship playoff. On February 26th, the Packers met a red-hot 32-3 Pensacola High squad in the 6A state semifinals, with the winner playing in the final the following afternoon. In a game that was close for all of the 32 minutes it went, it was Largo who broke through their historical barrier and scored a close 56-54 win. They drew the Dillard High Panthers out of Ft. Lauderdale, winners of five state basketball titles in their history, to decide the state championship.

Having broken one historical barrier, could they break another?

Against the powerhouse squad from Ft. Lauderdale, the Packers held their own in the first half, leading 16-12 after a quarter and only trailed 26-24 at the half. The third quarter was a different story, as a flurry of points went Dillard’s way as they dominated the boards on both ends. By the time Largo realized what hit them, it was too late, as Dillard won another state title by the score of 66-55.

While the clock finally struck twelve on the Cinderella Packers, their run in the 2015-16 season was still a piece of local history. Hundreds of teams and players across the state took the court, but very few of them did what Largo accomplished this year. I’m still proud to be a Largo Packer. Always will be. Where you are from is something that doesn’t change and stays a part of you the rest of your life.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.


Trump Against The World


The Chinese had a proverb accredited to themselves which they actually never exactly said: may you live in interesting times. The GOP race to find a presidential nominee has been most interesting, clearly standing out from every election year in my lifetime already.

A well-known businessman, Donald Trump, has successfully infiltrated the Republican party and has the leadership of the GOP collectively more nervous than whores in a church. He is way ahead in the polls and the delegate count, and is leading in all of the “Super Tuesday” primaries on March 1st with the exception of Texas, where he trails Ted Cruz as of this writing by an average of just over 7 points. (One poll out of the Longhorn State has Trump and Cruz in a dead heat, 32-32.)

It is increasingly clear with each day that in November it will be Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton squaring off to decide who will be the 45th US President. It is also increasingly clear that the GOP doesn’t want Trump to be their nominee, and that they view the mogul as a cancer to their cause while some in the leadership play the typical game of lip service, officially.

The GOP’s recent efforts to “frame” the Donald reek of desperation. They trotted out Mitt Romney, the most recent GOP presidential nominee from 2012, out to intimate that Trump has something to hide by not releasing recent tax returns. What people easily forget is that Romney himself had issues over taxes that prevented him from releasing his own tax returns until six weeks prior to the 2012 elections that Barack Obama won. When he pointed out that he’d been audited by the IRS every year for several years in the CNN debate Thursday night in Houston, Trump became a person Americans could sympathize with, if you could imagine that.

Even though I’m not a Republican and I’m a bit underwhelmed by Mr. Trump’s bluster and bravado, I’m in awe of what he’s been able to do to this point. If he wins the most primaries and caucuses and somehow is prevented to become the Presidential nominee, then that would be an injustice, regardless of who the injustice is visited upon.

In the general election, we may see Republicans flocking to Hillary, and Democrats and Independents flocking to Trump. Strange days, indeed.

Flashback: “Highwayman” by The Highwaymen

I have always found this song to be quite powerful and to have a hidden meaning, though I didn’t realize it as such until the last decade or so of my life. It was a big deal when the song and album were released in 1985, as this was the very first country video MTV had ever aired.

You know, back when they actually played music?

You have Willie Nelson lending his voice in the first part of the song, saying he was a roving outlaw who pillaged in the early 20th century western United States as he pleased. He was hung by “bastards” in the spring of 1925.

Kris Kristofferson is the voice of a sailor who has a fatal accident in the Gulf of Mexico during a storm of some kind.

Waylon Jennings voices a builder on what’s now referred to as the Hoover Dam south of Las Vegas (a place called Boulder on the wild Colorado River, buried in a great tomb that knows no sound), again the victim of an apparent accident.

The song’s most powerful verse goes to Johnny Cash, talking about how he flies a starship some point in the future, saying that yes, he was once a highwayman, and the sailor, and a worker on the Boulder/Hoover Dam. What I get out of it is that a life can take on many possible roles, and can end many ways by choices or by fate. However, your spirit lives on forever, and isn’t taken from you once your respective life ends. There is a bigger picture that you play a part of than even the one present life you currently have has in store for you.

That’s what I get out of that song anyway, and it’s a beautiful sentiment.

The Office


My latest Netflix pleasure has been watching our (U.S.) version of The Office. The original version of the comedy, set in the United Kingdom, is also on the streaming service.

I’ve been watching this on Netflix since late 2014, and really didn’t get hooked on it until recently. I thought the first two seasons were a bit slow and monotonous, but once you get into season three and beyond, you’re rewarded with a lot more character plots and transitions.

The great thing about the show is that the characters are the type of people you’d probably meet if you worked at the office near you. The secretary played by Jenna Fischer looking for a hook-up with a single employee that lasts forever and proves to be the foundation of a family? Yep, seen that in my life before. (The ones I’ve run into in my life seem to look for more short-term relationships on most occasions.) The oddball played by Rainn Wilson? I’ve run into a few of those. (That’s provided they don’t have an odd weekend or two that leaves them in a mental institution or incapacitated in a puddle of bodily fluids.)

Nope, haven’t had any bosses as dorky as Steve Carell’s portrayal of Michael Scott, but give that time.

Feeling Another Kind Of Burn

My Snapshot_5
Nope, not trying to make an obscene gesture. Showing off the bandage on my left middle finger.

A couple of weeks ago, I was making some pizza. For some reason I don’t remember, I was in a bit of a hurry to get the cooking done, so I sliced the pizza furiously, picking up a good part of it, holding the hot lower portion of the pie with ungloved fingers.

Needless to say, that was the wrong thing to do, but I didn’t realize it until I had sat down and started eating. A rather bulbous blister had formed on my middle finger, which looked very much like a second degree burn.

Not wanting my middle finger on my left hand to swell up to the width of Rhode Island, I went to the bathroom and broke the blister. I would learn a few hours later, looking this type of burn up on search engines, that this is the one thing you should NOT do. You can get an infection, but lucky for me, I didn’t have any of the side effects and warning signs mentioned in my queries.

What you should do if you get burned like this is:

  • Run cold water on your burn, preferably for at least 5 minutes, but even 2 minutes does wonders for it.
  • Put Neosporin or some similar ointment for it.
  • Get Band-Aid bandages and keep that sucker wrapped up, even if you need multiple bandages to do it. I started out needing two bandages for a while, but the length of the after-blister has shrunk, so now I just need one.
  • Repeat the above two steps every day until healed.

Twelve days in, it’s healing nicely, though I think I’ll need to bandage it for at least another week before it’s completely healed up, perhaps two weeks. I post this as a cautionary tale, so you know what to do if this happens to you. I had no idea breaking blisters is what you shouldn’t do, but I’m glad to be better informed now.

How Do They Know That?

A very recent and somewhat blurry shot of my cat Harry, February 22nd, 2016. Had to get it quick while I still had his attention before he caught on I was taking a photo of him.

Like many of you, I get a lot of stuff in my E-mail. Some of you call it crap, spam, s***, you get the idea.

A recent series of E-mail advertisements I got from Walmart got my attention, though. They’ve been advertising their deals on various types of cat food frequently the past few months.

My full name (Paul Joseph Blom, Jr.) is not a frequently seen one (like Mike Smith or Don Jones, etc.), so I can understand how it is that they can figure out the connection between myself the Walmart customer and my E-mail identity.

But knowing that I get cat litter, cat food, and the occasional bag of cat treats? Well, I suppose they can take that connection and make other hypothesis that I might be interesting in saving money by making sure I get the latest and greatest cat food out there.

But it sure is a bit spooky that the companies you do business with know so much about you and can make these sort of connections, isn’t it?

The Lack Of Choice For Our Choice


I spent most of Saturday watching election returns from the Democratic caucuses in Nevada, and the Republican primaries in South Carolina.

It’s starting to look like Donald Trump will face Hillary Clinton in November, barring anything unforeseen. Even though Hillary has won two of the three primaries by small margins while Bernie Sanders won big in New Hampshire, she has a big advantage amongst the “superdelegate” insiders that are there to prevent whippersnappers like Bernie from winning. The big power brokers don’t want activists getting the nomination much like George McGovern did in 1972. With a big lead in total delegates, Hil can afford to play the “50-50 game” with Bernie all the way to the convention floor in Philly, keeping pressure on Sanders to not just win but win big the whole way.

Donald Trump continues to boss around the GOP primaries much like Howard Stern took over morning FM radio in the 1990’s. His win in South Carolina, the place were Republican kings are made, gives him prominence whether we like it or not. The only thing that hurts him is that Jeb Bush, one of his favorite debate whipping boys, dropped out Saturday. Can Donald beat Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz if the race dwindles down to three? We’ll have to see about that.

All I know is this: if it the Presidential finale in November is indeed Hillary versus the Donald, it’d be a great time for a third party candidate to get in the race. Michael Bloomberg, I’m looking right at you.

Memories Of The Intimidator


Later today, the Daytona 500 champion will be crowned for 2016, as NASCAR starts its season with its biggest event.

A decade and a half ago, I was watching the same race which Michael Waltrip won, with older brother (and at the time more well known) Darrell putting away any partiality to cheer him to victory at the FOX broadcast booth. There had been a bad wreck behind “Mikey” and second place finisher Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the last turn of the last lap, but the television coverage captured Michael’s win and celebration for several minutes afterward, as would normally be the case.

Sometime after the celebration, I had turned on the XFL game (remember them?) on TV and watched that, thinking the last lap wreck could not have been too bad. Right around 6:30 I was watching NBC for NBA coverage, and I caught Ahmad Rashad giving condolences to the Earnhardt family.

Wait, what?

Flipping around, I caught the word that Dale Earnhardt Sr. had died in that final lap wreck, and I felt terrible. While auto racing is a dangerous sport that has claimed the lives of quite a few drivers (especially in Formula One back in the 60’s through the 80’s, and infrequently in rather gory fashion), it always saddens me when a sport claims someone’s life. Sports are supposed to be fun, not a life or death adventure, though I understand that many race for the “rush” of it all.

News of the senior Earnhardt’s death hit the racing world hard, much like the reaction to Princess Diana’s death in Paris had hit the world three and a half years earlier. They had the services for him at Charlotte’s Calvary Church, which I’d pass every night as I went to the local Walmart on my way to work in 1999 and 2000.

Since then, NASCAR hasn’t lost a single driver to race related injuries, as they’ve made drivers and the courses safe. Racing being what racing is, I don’t doubt there will be another day where a driver is lost (as has happened in other mediums of the sport the past 15 years, most notably to Dan Wheldon a few years ago in Las Vegas), but I’m certainly not looking forward to it.

My Writing Tick

Every now and then, I will get a “writing tick” that will show up on my blog.

Take last Thursday, for instance. On some social media places for a few hours, I promoted one of my blog entries by saying “I watching Making A Murderer” as opposed to saying “I watched Making A Murderer.”

Yes, I found this a bit embarrassing. Here I am, trying to be a somewhat professional blogger, and I can’t stop myself from making errors like a Little League shortstop.

I have been streamlining my blogging process, though.In the interests of being open and honest, I should tell you that the entry that you see on a given day I usually work on a day or two in advance. That way, I can double check on any errors I might make and find a way to correct them, plus it gives me time to figure out where my errors are being made and find ways to work around them.

It isn’t wise to rest on your laurels doing these blog entries. Always finding the way to make things better is the best path for me to be a better blogger. Your path my vary.

Flashback: “Nasty Girl” by Vanity 6

Sad to report that on Monday night, Denise Matthews, better known in the 80’s as pop singer Vanity and part of the pop/funk group Vanity 6, passed away at the age of 57.

“Nasty Girl” was her (and her group’s) biggest hit in 1982, serving as part of the soundtrack of the first Beverly Hills Cop movie, the Phoebe Cates movie Private School, and on Spike Lee’s Girl 6. Two decades and change later, Inaya Day would remake the song and score a hit with it in the Australian and UK markets in 2004.

Neat little tune that had some explicit lyrics on it which kept it from charting in the 80’s, but was perfect for the movies it appeared on.

Making A Murderer


Last week, I finally got around to watching Making A Murderer on Netflix. It was well worth the wait.

I don’t want to go into too many details, because some of you ought there probably haven’t seen it yet, so I don’t want to spoil it for you. Plus, this series was so good, I’m sure the other over the air networks will find a way to put it on TV somehow. It will be a bit of a challenge, since it’s 10 one-hour episodes, but I predict it will get done by somebody over a span of weeks. My guess is that CNN will bite on it, since a lot of Netflix documentaries wind up there.

What I will say about the series is that it’s filled with twists and turns that keeps you guessing who the “bad guys” are. Is it the so-called criminals? Is it the cops and other authorities? Is it the justice system? Is it some sort of combination thereof?

Well worth your time if you have Netflix and have a few hours to kill.