Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hank: Off to the vet

About a month ago, Hank told us he was sick the best way he could. He pissed on our tiled surfaces - the front entrance, the main bathroom, the bathroom with his litter box (though he convienently pulled out some litter and covered it on top of the tile).

Sure enough, the, uh, deposits he left varied between pink and blood red.

I don't want to speak for my wife, but I'm fairly certain we're in agreement on this: We love Hank. We really want him around for as long as he can be. Often, I find myself sitting on the recliner; Hank will jump up and plop himself into an open crevice. We'll sit and watch TV that way.

Who wouldn't love a cat like that?

So we want him to be healthy. We took him to the vet, but they couldn't make much of determination. It could be any of A, B, or C. (I did e-mail my pal, Matt, to tell him that the funniest moment of the exam was Hank getting his temp taken - through the back door. Hank tried to scramble away, a sort of WTF?!?!? gesture, all of which made me laugh. Is that wrong?)

We got him some antibiotics, but they didn't help much.

So we informed the vet of this, and she gave us a different antibiotic to try. The second one worked for a while, but before long, Hank was back to his old ways - pissing on the tiles in various shades of red.

I talked to my uncle's wife, Kathy, down in Richmond. She's a vet and I have full faith and confidence in her. She recommended a few steps to get Hank pointed in the right direction.

Saturday morning, he made a trip back to the vet for a re-check. We talked about all of the options available to us, all while Hank sat, freaked out, on the exam room table. (To his credit, he was mostly a good soldier.)

Monday morning, he'll be back in again for an X-ray (to make sure it's not bladder stones) and to determine a further course of action.

Who knows exactly what that will be.

All I know is that I want my buddy around for as long as possible.

My dad hated cats. Hell, most of my uncles hates cats too. As a result, I hated cats for a long time. We've also documented here that our other cat, Grace, and I aren't on the best of terms (though my wife continues to tell me that Grace loves me to no end).

But Hank's my boy. I never much thought I'd think so highly of any animal, let alone a cat, as I do of Hank. He's awesome because he doesn't judge; he just wants to hang with his people and get love from his people.

We oblige, because it's impossible not to love Hank.

And that's why my wonderful wife will be dropping him off at the vet on Monday morning. We want him healthy.

Hopefully he gets there soon.

EDIT to remind faithful readers that higher-order thinking, like constructing words and turning a phrase, tends not to work so well after a night of imbibement. So my profound apologies for the simplistic writing.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A change in attitude

For one reason or another, I've found myself thinking a lot about my hometown and reminiscing about growing up there.

When I was a wee tike, we got word that McDonald's was coming. Holy crap, that was a big deal; big corporate America knew we existed! Furthermore, none of the other towns around us - Palmerton, Jim Thorpe, Lansford, Summit Hill - had one. Suck on that, punks.

There's still a McDonald's where that first one was built - kind of. Apparently they had some sort of sewer issue that forced them to tear the whole thing down and rebuild.

From where I grew up, it was about a 5-6 minute drive, depending on how many of the lights you hit. (Back in high school, I could make that drive and only deal with two stoplights. Now, there's four, which could mean one of two things: The population has necessitated such a move - it hasn't - or our fine government does a great job of protecting us from ourselves. In fairness, one of those new lights was pretty badly needed. The other's just stupid.)

It was a 3-4 minute drive into town for the IGA there, since my dad despised the much bigger Laneco (we always just called it Lanes) supermarket, which is now a Giant.

Anyway, back then, we'd make occasional forays to visit an aunt and uncle in the northern Baltimore suburbs. How eye-opening it was back then; they could walk across the street, literally, to a supermarket! If they wanted to walk a few blocks, they could go to Arby's! Awesome! Man, imagine if we had that back home...

Well, my current home does have that. I could walk to a supermarket (but it's not very good, and we usually only stop there for milk, beer or other vitals). A 5-6 minute drive in any direction would yield four McDonald's, a Taco Bell, a Subway and a Wendy's.

When I'm at work, a 5-6 minute drive yields 3 McDonald's, a Taco Bell, a Subway, a Wendy's, a Burger King and a Chick-fil-A, plus whatever else is in the food court at Potomac Mills.

Sweet, right?

Well, no.

Now, I'd just as soon have something from a local or regional place - or, more to the point, someplace different. Like those four links at the side. I'm happy to run down the road to Five Guys, even if it means a trip to the ATM because they don't take debit cards.

I'm glad to go spend the money and enjoy the atmosphere at Clyde's. They have two barrooms there; the front more formal, the back more relaxed. The back is like a waterside shack you'd find on a beach somewhere; multiple TVs and background music that's always playing Big Tracks or Lucy. Hell, it's where we discovered Lucy was a damn good channel.

I'll take that over McDonald's any day. Maybe that wasn't the case at one time, but my attitude has done a 180.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Maybe it's time for a new blog

I don't mean getting rid of this one. I mean starting a new one.

You'll remember the stuff from Patrick Smith last week. Now, there's something that's really kind of stuck in my craw, as they say.

If you don't watch sports much, you probably missed Oklahoma State's football coach launch into a tirade at one of the Oklahoma City columnists. His team had just won its biggest game of the season, yet he decided he would dedicate his entire post-game press conference toward berating this columnist. Last I checked, a thread on it was up to 28 pages over at (the last time a thread moved that fast, it involved Mitch Albom).

I've yet to actually read her column; I will at some point.

But this has brought all of the goobers out to take a giant shit on the media. Yeah, the football coach from Oklahoma State put us in our place, all right. The school hasn't been really relevant since Barry Sanders played there.

Someone's got to fight back on behalf of us; Lord knows no one else is going to.

Maybe that's my job.

I'll sleep on it.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


The clock down here says 5:18. I should be sleeping, but here I am.

I tossed and turned for a good long while. I tried to go to one of several happy places - golfing among them - but it was of no use. Thoughts of work kept creeping back into my head.

Eventually (as you can tell) I just gave up. I figured if I get all this stuff down in an e-mail, I can get it the hell out of my head and perhaps enjoy what's left of the night. But it's going to take me a little while to wind down, so here I am.

But, as it stands, it looks like I'll be dozing through at least part of that Kent State-Akron game.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Lost... and found

"I miss the blog. Enough said," Cheryl wrote in an e-mail a few weeks ago.

"It's been over a month... new post?" Tara e-mailed a few days ago.

So, here I am. I've been negligent, obviously, but for many reasons. All will sound like excuses so I won't bore you with the details. But I will say it involves a heavier-than-normal work schedule, a slew of addictive online games and a sick cat who refuses to want to get better. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

I actually come here to inform you the set of links on the right has been slightly changed. The more astute of you will notice that Patrick Smith's column on Salon, Ask the Pilot, is no longer linked.

I freely admit I am no professional pilot. Though I have better knowledge than most about what it takes to fly a plane, my knowledge pales in comparison to real pilots. Hell, it pales in comparison to some of my friends at United Virtual. I recognize my limitations.

Mr. Smith is a pilot first; thus he is one of those folks with a lot more knowledge on flight than me. He's also a part-time journalist, writing that column for Salon. I'd like to think my journalistic knowledge would eclipse that of Mr. Smith, but apparently I'm wrong.

Seems lately the media can do no right for Mr. Smith. Two of the past three weeks, he's found it necessary to take a shit on the media - the mainstream media, of course, which seemingly can do no right for no one.

Two weeks ago, Mr. Smith wrote about the oft-replayed fire of a China Airlines jet burning after arriving at an Asian airport. The headline: "Lessons from a burning plane: What the media didn't tell you about a near disaster in Asia." We know where this is going.

Summing up Mr. Smith's complaints: An AP story generically referred to "the pilot" doing this or doing that, when in fact there are two crew members on the flight deck; the hype and overstatement of anchor comments as the replays aired on the networks (shocking! We've never seen that before); a CNN anchor mistakenly refers to the 737 as a big plane and the airline as "China Air." One of these is factually incorrect (the fourth); another, admittedly, could use more clarification (the first); the other two are merely opinion, one more agreeable than the other.

Calling a 737 a big plane isn't entirely accurate, but it's not entirely inaccurate, either. It's certainly no comparison to a 747 or a 777, but compared to a regional jet or personal aircraft, it's pretty big. At some point in the past - and I apologize for not being able to find a link - Mr. Smith even wrote that when you get down to it, the size of even a 737 is impressive; that idea, though, has largely been lost because of jetways and the air travel's loss of innocence in the public's mind.

I left a note for Mr. Smith, detailing some of these concerns. I told him I didn't think it was fair for me to comment on the CNN and TV critiques, since that's not really my area of expertise. Mr. Smith wrote back saying that wasn't fair, and apparently it's too much to ask to a reporter to get every single detail right. No, it's not, but if that's how he wants to read it, I don't believe I can change his perception. It's his column, and I'm happy to give him the final say, so I left it at that.

But it takes a little more to get me really pissed off. Two weeks later, and Mr. Smith writes about the latest media ball-dropping (though without such a suggestive headline this time). You'll find my beef at the end of page 1 (this great line: "While we're at it, let's hit the newspapers and clarify a few other distortions.") and on the top of page 2.

Mr. Smith mentions AP reporter Audra Ang, who reported on the Phuket crash of a One-Two-Go Airlines jet. In order, Mr. Smith takes issue with: a quote from the director general of the Thailand's Air Transport Authority; the validity of accounts from those on the plane; and a statement in the story that Smith admits is true.

So, in order:

Mr. Smith doesn't like the summation given by Chaisak Angsuwan, who claims the plane appeared to have "lost its balance and crashed." Mr. Smith says balance is no factor for flight, thus it's an incorrect statement. But I ask you, Mr. Smith, what was the reporter to do? Modify the quote to reveal its inaccuracy? Change the quote? Man, that would really give Salon the rest of the anti-MSM crusade something to howl about.

Leaving the quote out isn't much of an option; the guy's in charge of Thai airways. The buck stops with him. He's supposed to be an authority; clearly his statement calls his credibility into question. But that's not the reporter's problem. Our challenge is to tell you what happened and what people said about what happened; you, the reader, are smart enough to figure out if the guy's legit or full of shit.

The second verse, same as the first. If eyewitnesses and people on the plane told this to the reporter, how is she not to believe it? Again, do you misquote people because you don't believe the accuracy of their claims? Of course not. You quote them and let the reader decide.

Third verse: Mr. Smith admits this statement - "Many budget airlines use older planes that have been leased or purchased after years of use by other airlines." - is true, but still seems to have a problem with it. Does its inclusion leave the reader with a certain impression? Perhaps, but it's all about what you read into it. Mr. Smith says that older planes aren't necessarily less safe than newer ones; but he fails to mention they also need more care. Me, personally, I'd feel better about riding on a 1982 MD-80 from American - which I know has the personnel and engineering to keep these planes safe - than I would from a regional carrier in certain parts of the world.

I know, this has gone on way too long for most of you. But I'll end it with this: Mr. Smith is fortunate enough to be able to have a side job where he writes about a field he is an expert in; there can be no question of that. His columns run once a week; he can write on Monday or Wednesday or Thursday if he wants.

But his disconnect seems to come from the fact that general assignment news reporters aren't necessarily aviation experts. I'd also assert that deadline reporting is harder than it looks.

I challenge him to go cover any Red Sox game for the Boston Globe. Write an early feature, an early notebook, a standing notebook, a full-quote game story and an updated notebook. And to get everything accurate, to the T. No mistakes.

It's not as easy as you'd think.