Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I started writing an entry a few weeks ago. I figured when I came back to it - which I did late Tuesday - it would pop back on top and appear at the front here. Not so, apparently.

So, permalinked for your convienence: The Yuengling effect.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Following up...

Following the theme on the last post, more places to visit before I die to satisfy that border geekiness I have:

Post Office, Texarkana, Ark./ Texarkana, Texas: Apparently Texarkana is a city much like Bristol. (Bristol, as you'll recall, is in a corner of the state that I've been to once in my life - before I moved here.) Bristol has the Virginia/Tennessee state line running down the middle of Main Street. Texarkana has much the same setup, with the Texas/Arkansas border running through the middle of town. But the folks in Texarkana were smart enough to put some buildings there too, including the post office.

In the photo above, you can see the post office in the background. (Photo courtesy of From what I've read about the place, there's actually a concrete island across the street from the Post Office, on the state line. They call it Photographer's Island, because folks stop to take pictures there.

Oh, yes, I would most definitely be one of those photographers.

Cal Neva Resort, Crystal City, Nev.: A resort along the California-Nevada border. Not much to say about it, other than that the state line runs through the main lodge. The photo I found won't work so well here, since it's one of those 360-degree photos.

The photo was part of a Cal-Berkeley (sorry honey) project called "Borders: A World Wide Panorama" and features several 360-degree photos of different kinds of borders. This was the most obvious, and you can find the photo on this page.

When we took our last trip west in July, I offered to run through McCarran International (the airport in Vegas) yelling "Re-Elect Ensign!" She mentioned something about TSA, blah blah blah, personal embarrassment, blah blah blah. So I didn't, because she seemed pretty adamant. I guess I could extend the offer if we visit the Cal Neva in the next two months, taking care to keep both feet in the right half of the lodge.

Haskell Free Library/Opera House, Derby Line, Vt.: This is a pretty sweet deal. As you can see at left (photo courtesy of Wikipedia), part of the reading room is in Vermont, while the remaining part is in Canada.

According to other reports I've read about the place, an audience sits in the U.S. to watch a performance in Canada. Though I couldn't find any photos of the boundary in the opera house, I'll take their word it.

My only dream is that in the library, there's a little humidor on the Canadian side with a couple of Cuban cigars. Don't you dare cross that line with the Cubans, but enjoy them while reading in the Canadian section.

According to the International Boundary Commission, there are actually several structures that straddle the boundary in Derby Line and its Canadian counterpart, Rock Island, Quebec.

Lastly, but certainly not leastly...

Hotel Franco- Suisse: That's right, a hotel situated right on the border between France and Switzerland. Just outside the hotel is a customs station and everything.

The pic at right is from Peter Hering's Border Pictures, and you can see the coolest bed in the place - bisected right down the middle by an international border. (I guess that's his wife.) France is "F," duh. "CH" is Switzerland, somehow.

I must admit, I do like Peter's caption to the photo, in an eighth-grade sort of way.

"Marianne's enjoying her nap in Switzerland," he writes, "while Peter will spend the night in France - crossing the border is NOT allowed...!?!"

Friday, August 25, 2006

Even worse than the road geekiness...

Mark, you can stop reading here.

My brother-in-law e-mailed to tell me that he, too, has a bit of road geek in him. Obviously, I do too, as you've probably read that entry below.

But for me, there's a passion even greater than road geekiness: border geekiness. I explained this in an e-mail to Mark - my brother-in-law - hence why he can stop reading here.

State borders, international borders, it doesn't matter. I think it's fascinating that one step in just the right place lands in a different country with different laws, different cultural attitudes and different heritages. Unless various governments were willing to allow the cultures and land to blend from one country to another - and no one seemed willing to do that - a hard boundary was needed.

Even U.S. state borders and Canadian provincial borders are interesting, though the political and cultural implications make international borders more fascinating to me.

With that in mind, as I told Mark, there are two places I simply must visit in my lifetime. The first is a town called Baarle-Hertog, technically in Belgium. Baarle-Hertog is a series of exclaves in the Netherlands; in other words, Baarle-Hertog is Belgian territory completely surrounded by the Netherlands. B-H residents cannot reach the rest of Belgium without going through some part of Dutch territory. The town of Baarle-Hertog (and its Dutch counterpart, Baarle-Nassau) is divided by several borders which zig-zag through town. At right, a beer store is half in Belgium (to the right), half in the Netherlands (to the left). Photo is courtesy of

The U.S.-Canadian border is the longest undefended border in the world, and that may seem to make it less exciting. Quite the opposite, at least in one place - the other place I need to visit: Point Roberts, Wash.

For most of the continent, the border with our friends up north extends along the 49th parallel. While mostly over land, the border does reach across some bodies of water, too, including the Strait of Georgia near the Pacific Ocean. Point Roberts is on a small peninsula of Canadian land that extends south past the 49th parallel; in other words, folks in Point Roberts cannot drive to the U.S. mainland without going through Canada. (Boating, clearly, is a different story.) In the photo at left (courtesy of this Geocities site), the camera is looking east towards the Strait of Georgia and the little section near Point Roberts, known as Boundary Bay. The condos are Canadian, the road American. That brown fence is the actual border.

Imagine looking out of your bay window into another country. Fascinating.

Or, better yet, not having that pesky fence in the way. Perhaps that's why I find this photo the coolest of all that I've seen on the net.

This photo (courtesy of this site) shows a guy standing in Quebec, trying to sink the 11 in the corner pocket, which is in New York. According to the caption on the H-I site, this is located in the Dundee Line Hotel in Fort Covington, N.Y. and Dundee, Quebec. Separately, a Google search and a metasearch (via turned up the same four results, none of which determined if the Dundee was still open or if it had any sort of a Web site.

During a trip a few years ago to visit my in-laws, we had to drive from Reno, Nev. to Bend, Ore. - a six-hour drive through a whole lot of nothing. (When you're excited to see references to Susanville, Calif., that's a clear sign of one boring-ass drive.) Before we left - and when we returned - I begged my wife to detour east to visit the Nevada-California-Oregon tri-point. She resisted, citing the amount of time it would add onto the trip.

If the Dundee Line is still open, that's an argument she won't be able to win. Sorry, honey, but that's one we just have to do.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Destination cities

Ah, the beauty of road signs. There's a promise to be held in each of them: Go this way, and you'll wind up there.

This shot - taken on Little River Turnpike in Alexandria - reduces the complexities of a trip to a handful of words. A jaunt north towards the hassles of the 14th Street Bridge, and the promise of what lies beyond in the nation's capital, is reduced to "Washington". A two-hour drive to the capital of the Confederacy (and home to a Nextel Cup race in a few weeks) sounds so much simpler when you read "Richmond".

(Of course, this is a fortunate sign on I-395, with some pretty exciting choices. However, I've been on parts of I-81 in western Virginia where the choices were Bristol and Lexington. Ouch. I-81 is generally pretty miserable like that, however; it's too far inland to include any major cities, so you're left with Syracuse, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Harrisburg, Carlisle, Hagerstown, Martinsburg, Roanoke, Bristol and Johnson City.)

But interstates always take you somewhere. There's always a destination city. When I'm in new places, I'll usually see signs like this and wonder what lies beyond, wonder what it's like to drive to those cities. When we were in Indianapolis in the spring, I took a road trip to the speedway, and we needed an interstate to get there. Along the way, I saw signs for Louisville (I-65 south) and St. Louis (I-70 west). Another time, while in Reno, we saw signs for Sacramento (I-80 west).

Sometimes the destinations are more remote than one might expect. Driving north on I-95 in Newington, Va., there's a sign that reads "N.J. - N.Y./Follow 95 North". Heading south on 95 just before Richmond, one sign directs travelers to I-85 if they're heading for Durham, N.C. or Atlanta.

And sometimes, the results are just disappointing. After starting the trip east on I-90 in Washington state, I had hoped to pick up a copy of the highly-regarded newspaper in Yakima. Unfortunately, Yakima was not quite what I was expecting; within two minutes, we had zipped through the entire town and were back in the wilderness, much like we had just driven from.

Though Yakima was not the greatest conquest of my traveling life, it was still a destination. After Yakima, the signs on I-90 where happy to tell us how to get back there - assuming we'd want to go back there. Which we didn't.

But these road signs offer a ray of hope. No matter how deep into Bumblefuck you are, keep driving, and civilization will eventually re-appear.

Even if it's only Bristol or Yakima.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Americablog? You suck!

I don't know why I did this. What was I thinking? I knew the end result wouldn't be good, and I knew this from the outset, yet here I sit, pissed off and wondering how I could have been so stupid.

See that little box up top? Type anything you want in there, and it'll search this blog or the blogosphere at large. So, curious about what was being said about my wife's boss, I typed his name in there.

Why. Why, God, why.

Suddenly, I'm wading into the murky depths of the political blogosphere.

The signs told me not to do this. Why, God, why?

See, I don't know how to describe my politics. They're centrist, as best I can tell, leaning on libertarian. A shade of red here, a shade of blue there - perhaps that makes me purple. Or just a donkaphant.

There are a few things that really do gripe my ass, though. Censorship - I'm in the media, after all. Incorrectly identifying a counter-trey. Chris Berman. Red Sox-Yankees. Recently, however, there's a fast-climber up the charts: partisanship.

I do not suffer Joe Biden or Chuck Schumer lobbing grenades across the aisle, nor do I appreciate when Ted Stevens goes to Washington (state) to whine about a Senator from that state voting against one of his bills. I grow increasingly frustrated with the bickering that happens on the Hill, and exponentially frustrated when it spills over the general populus. And, so it seems, there's no middle ground on the political blogosphere.

And if partisanship is hobby No. 1 of the blogosphere at large, then media-bashing is hobby No. 1A.

At least that's what the sign said. Of course, I strolled right past it.

Why, God, why?

There were the typical lefty posts of this and that, some bordering on vicious and some just flat out inane (a student and political dork from Charlottesville lauded Jack Carter for his message of fiscal conservatism; my wife's boss is the single biggest fiscal conservative in the Senate). Then I saw the one that really blew my mind.

Some liberal folks accuse the AP of "repeated stories that contain outright errors and fabrications intended to mislead their readers into believing accusations that are unsubstantiated and untrue." I won't link, because frankly the place doesn't deserve any more traffic. But it's a place called AmericaBlog, which, strangely, seems to represent only half of America - the Democratic half. They were pissed about AP's wording in a story about Harry Reid accepting free tickets to a boxing match, and wrote with such urgency that it seemed this reporter's error (or, fabrication, if you prefer) would surely lead to the universe collapsing upon itself. There was talk of boycotts and getting every paper in America to subscribe to Reuters and whatnot.

Look, I could care less about the politics of the thing. It's neither black or white to me, and before I met my wife, Nevada politics had absolutely zero bearing on my life. So I surely don't have a dog in the fight.

But the media bashing? Good Lord. Stop already. I posted a rather snarky comment, No. 83.

How'd that boycott go? Seems like you got a lot accomplished.

Look, the former head of AP famously didn't disclose who he would vote for - not even to his own family.

If you want to chide the reporter for f--king up, that's one thing. But to dissect every word and declare him incompetent and biased? Good Lord. Get a life.

If this truly is what you do, I feel a tremendous sorrow for you personally.

And the last time I was at work, we were still getting AP copy. So I guess you didn't win, huh?

Don't worry, there's always a next time. You never know when those devious bastards at AP will misplace a "the" that will eventually lead to another GOP win and, of course, the downfall of mankind.

If you're really serious about killing AP, you'll have to go to every single small-town newspaper in America and convince them that they should abondon their readers and never run any copy from outside of their immediate area just so they can take a stand on a preceived slight. And that seems to be more than a two-bit blogsite can handle, IMO.
I don't know if I should feel good about that, or no. The words weren't exactly a slick knife, but more like blunt-force trauma. Either way, no matter how deftly written, the partisanship of the blogosphere consumed me. Whether I used a knife or a hammer, that great blue shark still swam up and got me.

Why, God, why.

Unexpected flashback: DM

A recent thread on about Gnarls Barkley took me back to my youth. Stay with me here.

Gnarls Barkley is a band - perhaps you've heard "Crazy" on the radio. It's a pretty sweet song, and you can hear it on their homepage.

Of course, their page also breaks down the band nicely. "Gnarls Barkley = Cee-Lo + Danger Mouse." An important distinction here - that's DJ Danger Mouse, not the pint-sized hero of that people of a certain age that had Nickelodeon might remember.

Reading about DJ Danger Mouse brought back fond memories of the cartoon Danger Mouse. Luckily, there are episode clips here and there on YouTube and IFilm, and one complete episode ("The Dream Machine") that I found on Google video.

I used to watch that show as religiously as I watched the 90-minute block of Thundercats, Transformers and G.I. Joe. I can't say for sure why I liked it; I guess the idea of programming from someplace as remote as England was cool (though the number of Asian names during the credits during Thundercats probably made that more remote than England; yet the T-cats never spoke with an accent).

I always thought Penfold was the shit. As before, I'm not sure why I identified with a right-hand-hamster; perhaps it was because he served as the comedic relief. I always strived to be the comedian, but its effect was limited because I was (and still am) rarely quick-witted.

Maybe I just always wanted a car that could take off and fly. Maybe I wanted a direct patch-in to HQ in my living room. Maybe I just wanted a seventh-floor flat in a mailbox on the corner in a city.

Who knows? But then again, who can say as 11-year olds why we're attracted to one thing and not another? For me, Danger Mouse was always kick-ass.

Since I found videos and folks who knew of it, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The big 5-0

Holy crap, my humble little blog is 50 posts old. Who knew?

I guess my favorite post, still, is the one about the potential pratfalls of a Philadelphia Olympics. Apparently it was good enough to get a notice on Oddsnark - still the only random, unaffiliated link I've gotten to this site.

But I think that's OK. I don't know what I expected to get from this, but I think it's worked. I find myself bringing a reporter's curiosity to everyday experiences. Most of it is the typical introspective stuff you've come to know and love. Like wondering if the grass on the National Mall feels any more special than, say, a blade of grass in Las Cruces. Or wondering why I got choked up at the site of a program from a fireman's funeral - it was a drawing of a dalmatian, it's head hung low with a single tear coming from its visible eye. A sad story, to be sure, but one that caught me in just that certain way.

Maybe the Yuengling's got something to do with it. You may have noticed that there's a lot of posts on late Thursday/early Friday - a few hours after I return home from our softball game, with a handful of beers consumed (some weeks more than others). At least I'm not a mean drunk, I guess.

I wonder if this blog has fulfilled its mission. I've asked some erstwhile blog folks what they think, and based on their feedback, I guess this isn't really what one would expect from a blog - lots of links, multiple updates a day, that sort of thing. And that's cool, but it's just not what I'm trying to accomplish.

And that's OK, I think. After all, I'm not beholden to anyone's rules in this deal. Plus, it's a cool thing to have such complete ownership over something; perhaps that's why I enjoy my NASCAR blog at work so much. There's no sports editor sighing and wondering why I'm more interested in going to a Kasey Kahne interview session than working on my high school golf preview. (Not that he's said that, mind you.) The topics are mine, the words are mine, the ideas are mine. And that's a wonderful feeling.

This was meant to be a sort of creative exercise for myself, and I think we get a checkmark next to that mission as well. I've always been pretty good at remembering random details; recently, the highlighting color on Al Saunders' playsheet, or the reaction from Penn State cornerback Justin King when he couldn't remember the right word to describe a receiver from our area.

I think the blog has helped with that. Each day, each hour, is a chance to see something I've never seen or look at something in a way I've not considered. I walk down the street and random thoughts pop into my head; maybe it's enough to blog about later, maybe not. But either way, I feel like I'm a bit more perceptive to the world around me.

One of the basic tenets of journalistic writing is show, don't tell. And if this blog has done anything, it's helped me show a lot better.

I know the crew around these parts doesn't exactly approach a throng, but thanks to you guys for playing along. Keep those comments coming ... I definitely need to be told when I'm full of shit.

Apparently that happens from time to time.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Peek inside the apartment, Part III

My old buddy Cheryl gave me a book review off of the last post on the topic. My pal Matt seems to enjoy these too; and if I know him at all, I think he'll really like this peek:

Brian's Collectibles/Paraphernalia in the Computer Room
Framed photo: Moravian defender sacking hapless Muhlenberg quarterback

Framed poster: Philadelphia Flyers uniforms through the years

Philadelphia Eagles blanket (gift)

Framed collection of previously used press credentials (including Washington Redskins, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 1997 ALCS, 1999/2000 NFL Draft, Philadelphia Eagles training camp, Winston Cup garage/pit pass at Pocono, Busch/Truck garage/pit pass at Nazareth, 2000 Kickoff Classic, Penn State football and 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup

Philadelphia Eagles mini-helmet (gift)

Moravian College Greyhounds mini-helmet (bought in Bethlehem)

Retail football from Super Bowl XXXV (won while answering a trivia question at a Moravian homecoming)

Game-used Major League baseball (caught at an Orioles game, I think)

Game-used American League baseball (old school! Not sure how I got it)

Mariners souvenir baseball (bought at Safeco Field, Seattle)

Lehighton Area H.S. Indians mini-bullhorn (origins unknown)

Matchbox-type cars: No. 43 Wheaties and No. 43 Cheerios, then driven by Moravian grad John Andretti (origins unknown)

Rogue Chipotle glass (at right; bought at the Rogue Brewing Company in Newport, Ore.)

Framed, autographed 1981 Steve Largent Topps card (gift)

Pint glass, Dansbury Depot (bought in East Stroudsburg)

Unopened box of jelly beans from the office of the President of the United States (gift)

Shot glass, 2006 Final Four (bought in Indianapolis)

Bobblehead: Albert Pujols in a Potomac Cannons uniform (came with ticket to Cannons game)

Bobblehead: Donovan McNabb (currently knocked over, thanks to Grace the cat; gift)

Pint glass, 2006 Final Four (bought in Indianapolis)

Bobblehead: Generic Penn State football player (gift)

Terrell Owens cutout (haven't gotten around to flushing it yet; gift)

Matchbox-type car commemorating the 2003 UAW-DaimlerChrylser 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (gift)

Potomac Cannons souvenir baseball, autographed by Reds 3B Edwin Encarnacion (won at auction at Cannons game)

Pint glass, DeSchutes Brewery (bought at the brewery in Bend, Ore.)

Double shot glass, Philadelphia Eagles (since the team drives me to drink; origins unknown)

Pint glass, Budweiser/Bristol Motor Speedway (origins unknown, but I've never been to Bristol)

Pint glass, BT's (bought at restaurant in Radford, Va.)

Mega shot glass, Clinton-era Presidential Pardons Problem Solver (it reads: "RX: Fill to problem level with your favorite beverage. Repeat dosage as needed." Problem levels, from bottom to top: Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, Wife Becomes Senator, Greedy Brothers, Rich Friends, Department of Justice, Final Night Party Guests, Losing Speaker Fees, New York Times Editorial, Congressional Hearings, Presidential Library Donor's List, Waiving Executive Privelige, Tarnished Legacy; origins unknown)

Pint glass, Yuengling brewery (bought in Pottsville, Pa.)

Super pint glass, Dan Marino's Fine Food & Spirits (gift)

Super pint glass, Mickey Mantle's (bought in New York)

Saturday, August 12, 2006


In the interest of letting my creativeness run without bounds, I present my recent interview with an NFL football. We got together over lunch at a recent vegetarian place near Redskins headquarters in Ashburn, Va.

HHC: So, give me the basics about yourself and your life story.
FB: Well, I started out as the skin on a cow in rural Ohio. From there, we got shipped to Wilson's football factory in Ada, Ohio, and, well, here I am.

HHC: That's a pretty short answer to something that could go in depth - we're talking about post-death experiences, the afterlife, reincarnation and all of that.
FB: It really wasn't that big of a deal. The brain was more concerned about it than I was - and the brain of the cow doesn't have that much depth to it, so it thought it was just getting a treat before it realized it was a death trap. For the rest of us, though, we just kind of went with it.

HHC: What happened after all of you were separated?
FB: That's really when the rough part began - for us, anyway. I mean, have you ever felt a cow's skin? It doesn't naturally have all these dimples, you know?

HHC: Ouch.
FB: It was more scary than anything. It sure didn't hurt - all the nerve endings were incapacitated by then anyway. We thought we were headed for the Coach handbag line, and that was really what scared us.

HHC: What happened to the rest of your, um...
FB: Colleagues? Don't know. I heard that the tenderloin ended up at a dog food factory. That's a shame - he was a great guy.

HHC: He? I thought you were part of a female cow.
FB: Dude, skin and meat and bones, we don't have a sex. Referring to he and him just makes life a lot easier on all of us. Plus, it personalizes things. The tenderloin was a good friend, you know, not just another piece of meat.

HHC: Moving on. Tell me what your second life has been like as a football.
FB: It's not nearly as glamorous as you might think. We got sewn together with our with our new colleagues, the stitches and laces and got branded with an NFL logo and Tags' [soon-to-be-former commissioner Paul Tagliabue] Hancock. After that, it's a little blurry; all I remember is that it got really dark and we got jostled around quite a bit.

HHC: That must have been your flight to Northern Virginia.
FB: Right. We actually flew from Indianapolis into Dulles.

HHC: How did you know it was Indianapolis?
FB: We were in the cargo hold with a bunch of local yokels who kept stammering on about Kelvin Sampson and Jermaine O'Neal. Folks in Cincy don't care about them.

HHC: Got ya. So once you arrived at Dulles, what happened?
FB: More darkness and more jostling, but it was thankfully a lot shorter. We were in a box and the box wasn't opened until we arrived at Redskin Park. When someone finally opened the lid, we were afraid we'd landed in Norman [Okla.], but then we remembered we were NFL balls. Some of us got separated, but I was lucky because my best friends were still with me.

HHC: Best friends? Were you from the same cow?
FB: One of them was. But I can guarantee you - if you spend a two-hour flight smooshed up against someone you don't know, you'll be damn good buddies by the time you disembark.

HHC: Fair enough. When did you finally get on the field?
FB: The first day of training camp. My God, was it hot. We kept getting all wet from these guys' sweat. It was kind of disgusting, actually. One of my good friends was on the ball for a snap when a defensive tackle let go of a huge loogey - part of it actually splattered him. And then you have to deal with all the residual stickiness from those [expletive] gloves that all the players wear.

HHC: Still, you'd finally made it to training camp. You must have felt like you'd finally made it to the big time, no?
FB: Let me tell you about my first practice, in order: Used to get defensive linemen to move on the ball, not the sound; tossed in a bag; pulled out and used by the longsnapper to practice his snaps; handoff to Rock Cartwright; dropped by Ataveus Cash; complete to Taylor Jacobs; handoff to Tyler Lumsden; put back in bag.

HHC: You're right, those guys are mostly fringe players or role players.
FB: Yeah, one of those guys who I thought was a good friend became Clinton Portis' favorite ball. Now he doesn't talk to us anymore - he thinks he's too good for us, lucky bastard. He's no different than the rest of us. It's just that Portis thinks he is.

HHC: I had no idea there was that much bitterness among footballs.
FB: Oh, definitely. He got his comeuppance though. Portis fumbled once, and was so pissed he punted the dude into a nearby creek, where he was promptly swallowed by a northern snakehead.

HHC: Isn't that a little harsh, celebrating the demise of someone who was once your friend?
FB: We got a code we live by, you know. "Skin, through thick and thin."

HHC: A code among footballs? Come on.
FB: You're part of the family now, too. The secret's out. And just to prove it, if you publish any of the following, a similar fate will befall you. [several minutes of off-the-record comments]

HHC: I'd like to live, thanks.
FB: Your lips and fingers are in on this too, you know.

HHC: Consider me warned. But you'd say your overall experience at camp has been positive?
FB: No doubt. I mean, one of my other good friends wound up in the kicker's bag. It was sail through air, GUH! Sail through air more, thud. All I've had to put up with was a harmless five-foot fall.

HHC: Anything else about you that you think our readers would want to know?
FB: Just like the players and the coaches and the referees, we come from all walks of life. Some of us are from cows in Ohio, some from Pennsylvania, some from Indiana. And they were some courageous cows that gave themselves so Derrick Frost would have something to kick around on Sundays. And don't forget the code, either. We're watching you.

HHC: Thanks for your time.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Peek inside the apartment, Part II

You remember the previous part, where your friendly blogger took you on a trip through the bookshelf near the computer. In this post, we venture out to the living room to a pair of Target-bought shelves that hold random pictures, collectibles, artifacts and, well, books.

So, here's the rundown of what's out there. Like before x- denotes one of my books; the rest are my wife's.

Third Shelf
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling
x-The F Word, ed. by Jesse Sheidlower
x-Chicken Soup for the Sports Fan's Soul, Canfield, Hansen, M. Donnelly, C. Donnelly, Tunney
x-Football Shorts, Glenn Leibman
A Quality Teacher in Every Classroom, Hess, Rotherham, Walsh
Serving Our Children, Kevin Chavous
The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations
The New Merriam-Webster Dictionary
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
x-Jarhead, Anthony Swofford
Little Children, Tom Perrotta
Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, James Finn Garner
Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom
Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean, Linda Cobb
God Save the Sweet Potato Queens, Jill Conner Browne
Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love, Jill Conner Browne
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells
Little Altars Everywhere, Rebecca Wells

Fourth Shelf
The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova
x-The Art of the Interview, Lawrence Grobel
x-The Majors, John Feinstein
An Unfinished Season, Ward Just
Ya-Yas in Bloom, Rebecca Wells
Senate Procedure and Practice, Martin B. Gold
Truth and Beauty, Ann Patchett
When Harry Hit the Hamptons, Mara Goodman-Davies
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling
The Silver Slate, James W. Hulse
Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
I Am Charlotte Simmons, Tom Wolfe

Fifth Shelf
x-Lehighton Area High School yearbooks, 1990-93
x-Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
x-War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
x-The Open Bible
x-The Last Amateurs, John Feinstein
x-The Franchise, Michael MacCambridge
A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn
Three Complete Novels, Jane Austen (Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, Emma)
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Robert Fulgham
Complete Guide to Needlework, Reader's Digest
Mountain View High School yearbook, 1994
The Wine Bible, Karen MacNeil

There's another shelf with random cookbooks, but they're too numerous to mention. Suffice it to say Rachael Ray and grilling are well-represented on said shelf.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Covering training camp...

Obviously, we've gone through the whole cool-jobs thing. But what does amaze me is some of the other people in the room. Folks who have covered training camps for years and years.

My colleague, Byron, and I discussed this the other day. How do you keep it fresh?

Sure, there's news on some days that simply must be written - players get hurt or demoted or into a skirmish - but on other days, there's not that must-have news element. A team goes out and practices and, well, that's that.

Sure, there are players and coaches with an interesting story. But profiling them is like lighting a match; once you use it, it's gone. I can't profile the same guy twice in one camp. And while there are a lot of folks on the team now that won't be when the regular season kicks off, not all of them make for great stories. (It's been my philosophy that I'll get those guys while they're around, because a feature on them won't do much good after they're cut.)

Now, we're entering the second week at camp. We've burned some of the better stories we could come up with (Australian punter, DC native trying out for the Redskins, two undrafted offensive line rookies on the same NFL team - on the opposite coast).

Now, what do we do when there's no appreciable news and the best stories have been told?

I suppose that's the job of a reporter but honestly, not one that I've ever considered. In the world of covering high school sports, there's a lot more people and a wider range of teams - and stories - to choose from. It's easier to find a fish in a lake than in a small pond.

I do have some ideas that we didn't get to in the first week, but the pool is nowhere near as deep as it was seven days ago.

So, we'll see what happens. There's something to be said for recycling ideas, but there's a limit to that. And it takes a few years' experience to be able to find ideas to recycle in the first place - years of experience I don't really have.

But I guess it's my job to find it. So that's what I'll do.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Continuing that discussion

It was a discussion for another time - why not now?

You'll remember in the previous post I made reference to just how different my life is from growing up until now.

My youth was spent entirely in a small town in Pa. - Lehighton - which has 5,000 people or so. In the photo to the right (courtesy of the Lehighton Chamber of Commerce website), you'll see a fountain in a park in the middle of town.

It's one of those typical, small towns in the state. A good chunk of my extended family lived nearby; and with my mom's job in one of the local banks, there weren't many people in the town that we had no connection to. The town wouldn't completely shut down on Friday nights, but there were more than just parents and girlfriends at our football games.

(Though Lehighton's conference affiliation has changed a few times since I graduated, during my time there we played in a league of large and small schools alike. The smallest school of the bunch, Notre Dame, was a Catholic school near Easton and is notable as the school of IRL driver Marco Andretti. Anyway, I happened to go to college with ND's quarterback, who was a year younger than me. While reminiscing about our high school days, he paid us the highest compliment: "You guys were fast," he said, "and you hit like a son of a bitch.")

It was your normal small-town life, not different than any of the towns in our county - Lansford, Jim Thorpe, Palmerton. I used to enjoy taking trips to my aunt and uncle's house in the northern suburbs of Baltimore. They had a supermarket across the street! And a couple of restaurants a block away! Suburban living, what a concept! I still remember thinking how cool it would be to live in such a place.

Of course, back then I wasn't so concerned with cost of living and traffic nightmares, which can be a source of daily frustration in life these days. Because now, I'm as suburban as it gets (though our nearest supermarket is two blocks away).

The building to our right (found on a Yahoo image search) is the dominant structure in our little corner of Alexandria: the Hilton. Clearly, that's not something you'd find in Lehighton.

My daily commute takes me through one of the zaniest corridors of highway imaginable, the Mixing Bowl in Springfield (another shot here), while traveling a portion of one of the most important highways in the east, I-95.

I spent four days last week at Redskin Park. That an NFL team's headquarters is a short drive away is another unfathomable aspect of life today.

My wonderful wife works for a United States Senator (following up on the cool jobs discussion, she pulled an 18-hour day on Thursday as the Senate wrapped up business before its August recess) who I've had the chance to meet. There's a photo of us with him during a constituent breakfast; Harry Reid is there as well, but this was back when he was assistant minority leader.

I know more about politics than a sportswriter should - and knew a little bit before I met my wife. Since then, though, my knowledge has jumped exponentially.

When I drive to softball games on Thursday, tourists can sometimes be a source of frustration. Lehighton doesn't exactly have a tourism industry (though Jim Thorpe certainly does).

But it's been a fun ride. Contrasting the past and the present is an interesting exercise, and one that I find rather humbling.

The Yuengling effect

Ah yes. My beer of choice.

My east-coast folks know of the wonders of Yuengling. My west-coast folks are relegated to drinking DeSchutes (which ain't a bad choice at all). Either way, they have ties to me, so it's all good. I've even promised my brother-in-law I would sneak him some Yuengling in time for his wedding next month.

Hopefully TSA won't mind the six-pack. I doubt they will, since it'll be in checked luggage anyway.

Anyway, I digress...shocker, I know.

Why Yuengling and, specifically, why Yuengling Lager? Obviously, it's a damn good beer. It goes down fresh with a smooth aftertaste, one that becomes more pronounced the closer you get to Pottsville, Pa., where the beer is fresher than here in DC.

And yes, I'll come clean: A year ahead of me in college was this pretty, personable girl who I dreamed of marrying. In fact, I guarantee pretty much every man worth his salt on that campus dreamed of marrying her. Her name was Debbie Yuengling. In addition to the previous positive qualities, she was rich and could had access to free beer forever. I do very much love my current wife, however, and I'm certain I've told her this story before. Thankfully, she understands.

But I digress. Again. Shocker.

There is, for me, a cultural significance to Yuengling. Growing up an hour east of the brewery, Yuengling has been something I've always known, whether I was allowed to drink or not.

It was a refreshing way for my blue-collar ancestors to finish off a hard day in the nearby coal mines or in the field, farming their land. There's not much I share with them anymore, with my white-collar job and big-city living. My beer is about the only way I know to re-connect with my area's past.

Yuengling is America's oldest brewery, too. It's not often our little section of Pennsylvania can say it has a superlative in much of anything; and those things that can elicit a lot of pride from the locals. (The brewery was founded in 1829, making it 30 full years older than the state of Oregon and 159 years older than DeSchutes.)

It's impossible to compare DeSchutes and Yuengling; they're in two vastly different regions and, generally speaking, serve two vastly different audiences. But for my folks out west, DeSchutes' Mirror Pond Ale comes fairly close to approximating Yuengling's flagship, Lager.

But, as I've told others, it is my dream that a case of Yuengling and a case of DeSchutes will one day meet in a cold warehouse in Chicago or St. Louis. As for now, they only serve the coasts; but one day, I'm convinced, it will happen.

I don't plan on spending any appreciable time in the Midwest until then. No Yuengling and no DeSchutes? Forget about it.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

If your final destination is Washington...

Over the course of my travels and day-to-day life, I see a lot of planes flying in and out.

During our softball games, particularly when we're playing close to the Potomac River, a steady stream of aircraft fly past on the sometimes-harrowing approach to Reagan National. For much of this week, I've spent a good chunk of my day at Redskins Park in Ashburn, which is on the descent/takeoff path to Dulles.

I know it probably makes me look like a dork, but I usually look up to see them fly by. (Truth is, I have a little air transit geek in me anyway.)

When I see those planes (especially the ones arriving at National), I always wonder how many DC newbies are on the plane. Given Washington as a tourist destination, I figure there are at least some on every flight that lands there. Maybe it's a family taking a summer vacation from Wisconsin.

Mom and son, sitting on the right side of the plane, catch a fleeting glimpse of Arlington National Cemetery. Dad and daughter, on the left side, get an even better view. They're pointing out the window, remarking about the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol and the Washington Monument.

Departing planes are equally fascinating. I always wonder where they're going and if it's someplace I've ever been. Like the fictional family on the inbound plane, I wonder about the stories of those on board the outgoing plane too. (I wonder similar things when I'm driving, like if I'm at some spot on I-395 and could somehow stop the next 50 cars passing me in the other direction; where are they going, and why are they going there? What an interesting portal into the lives of others. But that's for another discussion.)

Maybe there's a vacationing family returning home with fond memories of their trip to the nation's capital; the chances of that increase dramatically if they weren't mugged on the Mall.

This area has some cool stuff, like the Capitol and all the monuments and memorials. But it's stuff that anyone who's been here any amount of time is used to. I drive past the Jefferson Memorial on the way to softball, where we (sometimes literally) play in the shadow of the Washington Monument and within an Ichiro throw of the Capitol. No biggie.

Perhaps that all plays into just how different my life is now compared to how I grew up.

But that too is a discussion for another time.