Category: Uncategorized

I Gave Up Turkey to Save My Neighbors

I won’t be eating turkey this year. Perhaps I’ll never eat it again…at least until I move to a different neighborhood.

Oh, I’m not against turkey per se. I’m just against eating my neighbors. Shortly after moving to our current location a little over three years ago, we gradually got to know the folks who live in our small subdivision. A few came over with well-wishes and even bottles of wine to welcome us.

We got became familiar with others during our nightly walks through the sub, often stopping to chat or making a fuss over someone’s dog. It’s a small community so it didn’t take long to take complete inventory of who lives where. Then one night we discovered a family we hadn’t yet met.

As I looked out my front window I saw them sauntering in the street and entering a neighbor’s driveway, perhaps to offer holiday wishes and trade non-poultry-based recipes. I managed to capture some of the rather large clan’s approach on video while inviting them to waddle over some time.

A few weeks later I noticed a lone member of the family in the woods behind my house with his feathers fully extended. The object of his flamboyance was about a hundred yards further in the brush out of camera range. The poor Tom was hoping to score a little Tammy on that crisp fall morning. It took him awhile to get there. I don’t know if they did, indeed, hook up, but our whole family was in his corner hoping at least one of them enjoyed some stuffing.

All in all, they’re pretty good neighbors. They pretty much flock together and don’t make much noise except for occasional squawks of pleasure or recognition. Once in a while if a mischievous squirrel or raccoon pisses them off the squawks will take on a little more urgency, but who can blame them.

Look, I’m not a hypocrite. I eat meat and fish and poultry and understand the process, but in this case, I have to put my foot down at eating my neighbors. Besides, if you gobble them, you never know who’s gonna move in next.

It’s Time For the NFL To Pull the Detroit Franchise

Call it a coincidence but the Detroit Lions embarrassing whitewashing 20-0 to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday was exactly 57 years to the day Pres. John F. Kennedy was assassinated, thereby ending the idyllic era that became known as Camelot. It was also on that fateful day the franchise came under the sole ownership of the late William Clay Ford, ending the era of hope for Detroit Lions fans.

Since the Ford family took ownership of the team more than a half-century ago, the Detroit Lions, the City of Detroit and the National Football League have suffered unending embarrassment and futility. Indeed, the startlingly inept management of a lucrative franchise over such an extended period of time is more than enough justification for the NFL to invoke Section 8.13 of the league’s constitution and bylaws which states the commissioner can determine if an owner or any other official “has been or is guilty of conduct detrimental to the welfare of the League or professional football.”

While the rule is generally cited when seeking to punish a franchisee for a serious breach in personal behavior or business ethics, a more liberal construction of the rule would certainly include devaluing the NFL’s brand through an extended period putting forth a grossly inferior product through poor management decisions related to hiring team officers and coaches that led to boneheaded moves both on and off the field that make a mockery of the level of professional football expected by the NFL and Detroit Lions fans.

The closest the Detroit Lions have been to a Super Bowl came in 2006 when the big game was played in its building, featuring two other teams.

It hasn’t mattered which Ford has owned the team. After Mr. Ford passed away in 2013 ownership went to his wife Martha who talked a good winning game but in the tradition of Ford family stewardship hired a coaching staff that’s emulated even less success than another branch of the Ford family did with the Edsel. Martha Ford, in her 90’s, has now put the team in the hands of her daughter Sheila Ford Hamp. In her first year running the hapless show, the Lions suffered its first shutout in 11 years, to a team that had only two wins this season going into Sunday’s horror show.

Think about it. What if, for example, a McDonalds franchisee consistently served up rancid burgers and treated its customers like lepers? McDonalds would summarily pull the franchise and disassociate itself with someone whose actions threatened the company’s good name and reputation.

Detroit Lions’s customers, aka fans, have been served rancid burgers for almost two generations. Isn’t it time for the NFL to end its association with a perennially poor performing franchisee to protect its reputation and value of a team in a major market? We fans have been more than patient but with Sunday’s utter inability to exhibit even a hint of a professional football product the NFL must make its move.

Honestly, who wants to be served rancid burgers every Sunday?

Another View of Alex Trebek–The Game Show Thespian

I’m old enough to remember the very first day Jeopardy debuted with Art Fleming as the host. He was genial, mature and dignified, but there was no way I ever thought he knew the answers without looking at his cards–the way we thought Alex Trebek knew them.

Those who only knew Trebek as Jeopardy host don’t realize the way he convinced us all he was the smarted guy in any world was actually a master display of his genius as a thespian–playing the role of a game show host a million different ways to fit the game itself.

I first became aware of Trebek when he hosted High Rollers. He tossed ran the dice game like a seasoned croupier with his dark, curly bush of hair and suave, flowing mustache. He played the role perfectly, keeping the game moving, encouraging the contestants to go for it all while playing his rakish role in his own TV casino. 

At one point he actually ran three shows at once, but it was his time at Classic Concentration where I saw a completely different guy. He ditched the mandatory game show guy suit and tie, exchanging it for a much more casual look–sweaters in the cold weather, golf shirts when it was warm. Sporting a deeper tan and gold bracelet, the guy’s energy level was high, speaking more quickly and running down to the game board to explain each rebus. He’d even cozy up to some of the female players and they swooned at the handsome Canadian so close but lovely parting gifts and a sincere send-off away. 

On To Tell the Truth, Trebek did his best Bud Colyer, the show’s original host. Back to game show guy garb to match the mood of the show along with dialed down pacing. 

By the time he dropped all other shows in favor of Jeopardy exclusively, Trebek was ready for his greatest role. As he explained in his book “The Answer is…Reflections on My Life” his personal goal was not to call attention to himself but rather to make sure the players shined. He really never said a lot, acting more like a facilitator, keeping the game moving, encouraging players having a rough time and celebrating the successful ones. Yes, he came off a bit professorial conveying the false message that he actually knew the questions to all the answers, but man, that’s just how well he played his role. 

If there was one constant about Alex Trebek, no matter what role he was playing for each of the many game shows he hosted, honesty and sincerity were always prime ingredients of his performance. Indeed, those two qualities were who he was…and that wasn’t acting.  RIP Alex Trebek.

Poll Dancing-My Next Move

In my semi-retirement I’m enjoying my part-time freelance gigs that keep my brain from turning to grits and thanks to this election cycle, I think I’ve decided on my next endeavor. I’m going to be a pollster.

What I’ve learned from watch actual, professional pollsters is it seems like you can make some decent money while never actually being accurate. As a journalist, this goes against all my ethics.  Then again, news organizations are among the biggest spenders on polls in order to manufacturer news stories that may or may not be true, but every time the poll is referenced in a story the name or names of the sponsoring news organizations are mentioned, providing some effective promotion.

We’ve seen from both the 2016 and the 2020 presidential election cycles that pollsters can swing and miss by a mile the eventual results. Guess all that victory party planning by Hillary Clinton’s campaign based on polling that she’d wipe Trump’s butt in the election was a big oops. Maybe they should have charged the pollsters the costs of streamers, confetti and caviar. 

They blew it again this year, prediction a big blue wave where the Democrats took back the Senate, widened their majority in the House and Joe Biden would sashay into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The Dems won’t regain the majority in the Senate, their majority in the House narrowed and days after votes were cast, Joe Biden still can’t tell the post office to begin forwarding his mail as of Jan. 20, 2021, even though it seems inevitable. It wasn’t supposed to be this close…according to the polls. 

The irony is, despite their total whiff, pollsters will still make big bucks for what really amounts to an attempt at legal jury tampering. The supposition by political organizations that buy polls is if voters see their candidate as a winner in the pre-election polls, they’ll be likely to support him or her with real votes. Turns out voters may enjoy reading news stories about the latest polls but when they cast their ballots they think for themselves. 

If I ran a polling agency I’d be more honest about it. I’d run the poll and report the results with a margin for error of plus or minus 100 points. The client would get the numbers they paid for and if they turned out completely wrong I could always say, well…they were within the margin for error. 

I would give my new polling agency the appropriate title, “I’ve Got Your Numbers” or IGYN. Can’t wait to pick up the New York Times and read the lead, “In an IGYN-NY Times poll, 78% of those on the Acela Express Amtrak agreed that railroads take people places. 17% said they wandered on the train looking for packs of Saltines and the rest had no opinion and asked to return to their naps. ‘This poll is conclusive evidence people depend on Amtrak for something,’ said Amtrak spokeswoman Dee Rail.” 

See? I think this could work out. In fact I polled my family on the idea. 94% nodded their heads while muttering “yeah, sure,” 2% smirked and 4% asked me to bring them beers. None responded negatively. Margin for error, 100%. I’m goin’ with it. 

Playing By Baseball’s Numbers–My Personal Sabremetrics

Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash is being blamed today for making a bonehead move that probably contributed to his team’s loss in the World Series. You see, he pulled the team’s ace pitcher, Blake Snell  even though he was tossing a great game…surrendering to the endless babble of numbers, acronyms and abbreviations known as Sabremetrics…or as I call them….”WTFetrics” Cash just didn’t want Dodgers batters to get a third time at the plate against the guy, even though Snell was basically mowing them down.

As a lifelong fan of the national pastime I was content with knowing a batter’s average, a pitchers earned run average and other stats like how many homers a guy hit, bases he stole and runs he batted in.

I get that things have moved along and we now know esoterica that help managers, owners and players supposedly make better decisions on the field and off. Therefore, I’ve decided to go with the flow and adapt this development to my own life.

I started today at noon with my midday repast. As I lifted my ham sandwich to my piehole I asked my meal mate to take some video on their phones that I could later examine to better understand what I have designated my “Lunch angle.” Could I more effortlessly ingest my ham on rye by reducing the angle at which it enters my mouth? By  adjusting my lunch angle, I might be able to keep my mouth shut longer, thereby allowing me to listen to the gossip being offered before taking another sloppy, noisy bite. I love anything that improves cognition.

Another stat I find useful is how I measure and regulate complaining. I’ve set a hard and fast limit by establishing a firm Bitch Count. When I find myself getting too whiny, I cut myself off after four complaints within an 8-hour period. Then I engage in a self-enforced cool-down cycle by swilling two fingers of Jack Daniels on the rocks. The same goes for anyone I happen to be with. Hit the Bitch Count and you’re cut off–forced to join me for happy hour until you calm down. Could take several rounds.

The one baseball stat I find mind-numbing is OBP, or on-base percentage. Here’s now the pros figure it: On Base Percentage (aka OBP, On Base Average, OBA) is a measure of how often a batter reaches base. It is approximately equal to Times on Base/Plate appearances. The full formula is OBP = (Hits + Walks + Hit by Pitch) / (At Bats + Walks + Hit by Pitch + Sacrifice Flies)

In real life one can use a similar formula to measure a person’s inability to use tact or diplomacy or Obtuse Bile Percentage. The formula would be expressed thusly as: OBP= Swear words + Corporate slang + Inappropriate hand gestures / Text messages with angry emojis + Selfish demands + Supportive References to Sean Hannity. A perfect score of 1.000 wins the designation as PTB or Perfect Trump Boor.

My final example is the fascinating, yet polarizing stat known as the WHIF…or Wife plus Husband per Issues Fought. It’s fairly self-explanatory and is considered an important predictor of future evenings bereft of connubial connection.

That’s just a start but I’m sure by the end of the season I will have established a new benchmark for UNR  or Useless Numbers Referenced. Play ball!

Don’t Be So Quick to Shuck Candy Corn

I know there are plenty of weighty things on everyone’s minds, but a recent story I read in the Detroit Free Press has me really bewildered. I can only describe it as a misinformed, unfair and disappointing diatribe against a completely innocent element of long-standing tradition. Have you read it? I’m actually still reeling from the vicious attack on something that has a potential lifespan longer than obsidian and just as impenetrable. Yes…we’ve all found some in the folds and recesses of our trick or treat bags, car seats and oral cavities.

Yes, in this period of social and political polarity, let’s come together on the benefits and joys that can only be derived from one diminutive source: candy corn.

Sure, the multicolored confection will rot your teeth and expand your gut but man, that’s so half-empty. Let’s start with the whole teeth rotting thing. So what? Your natural choppers erode from the twin forces of attempting to chew the unchewable and being bathed in pure sugar? No problem. Skip the dentist, reach into the bag and as fast as you can say “high deductible” you’ve got an entirely new set and you’ve avoided the cost and pain of the traditional substitutes. Besides, orange and yellow are so much more fun than the boring all white. It’s 2020 man! The year where normal doesn’t exist.

Now let’s address those who advocate for the Second Amendment. Personally, I’m not a gun guy. When I was in the Boy Scouts I was so bad at the shooting range I could use the same paper target over and over again. Not even close. For sure, the targets were safe. Not so sure about my troop mates. Now, be open-minded about this. Swap those hollow-points for Brachs white tips.

Instead of putting holes in a person or animal, they might merely cause an annoying welt before disintegrating. I think that amounts to reasonable stopping power in self-defense situations. I imagine any charges filed would have be reduced from those related to using a “deadly weapon” to merely “firing fattening projectiles.” The use of candy corn rounds won’t provide meat on your table but I find the best hunting in the wild aisles of Costco anyway.

Personally, I always keep a few bags of the stuff in my workshop. Candy corns are small and strong enough for use as shims and for temporarily filling holes in drywall until I can get around to spackling them. The added advantage is, when they’ve outlived their utilitarian uses you can just pop ’em in your mouth—no waste. I love the environment!

An important consideration when discussing sweets is the mess factor. Candy corn doesn’t make one because they don’t melt like chocolate or marshmallow. In fact, they’re fairly indestructible. Little known fact—candy corn is a favorite among those carrying out testing of thermonuclear devices due to their ability to withstand blistering temperatures. The folks I’ve spoken to who work in that field really appreciate the quick jolt candy corn provides after a hard day of testing the stuff that could result in the end of humanity. Come to think of it, eating too much candy corn could pretty much be anyone’s final meal.

All I know is, as a kid growing up in Queens, I never turned my nose up when a neighbor tossed a bag of candy corn in my trick or treat bag. Maybe that’s because I knew they were awesome slingshot projectiles, I could use them as little door stops or to terrorize my parents by sticking a bunch in my mouth, getting my brother to play act that he was slugging me in the face and then I spit them out as if he broke all my teeth. Fun! As a parent I’ve been repaid for my idiocy many times over. Wouldn’t change a thing.

So don’t discount the value of much maligned candy corn. Sure, it tastes like sugary wax but as Jerry Seinfeld once told his father when he thought The Wizard personal digital assistant was merely a tip calculator…….

It does other things!

Let’s Talk About Herpes…

Some title, huh? That was the subject line of an emailed story pitch I received this week. I was tempted to reply, “thanks, but I already had crabs for dinner last night.” But that’s just a joke I saved for myself.

One of the best reasons for being a reporter is the free education you receive. Over the course of 47 years at this I’ve learned everything from how to genetically alter tomatoes to the “joys” of consuming sautéed bulls testicles to steering cockroaches to, yes, information related to sexually transmitted diseases. Such is a the life of a so-called “general assignment” reporter.

However, when you’re on a specific beat, as I have been for the past 30 years that’s the focus of your efforts and that should also be the focus of a PR person’s story pitches. Light research into what a reporter covers can save everyone lots of wasted time, effort and disappointment.

Here’s another example of an actual pitch I received recently, obviously from a PR person who has no idea that my beat is the auto industry.

“HelloI understand that you may be inundated with similar requests, but truly hope that you’ll find the time to review and write about TAIMI – the world’s largest LGBTQI+ platform that features dating and social networking.”

Being the wiseass I am, I was poised to reply with something like, “thanks a lot for reaching out to me with your story idea. Since I cover the auto industry exclusively, do you have information regarding LBBTQI+ dating and social networking activities that take place in vehicles?”

In the past month or so, I’ve received similarly mis-targeted pitches including one promoting a story on an “expert” who could expound on the “wonders of dust-free ceramic tile.” I have to admit I was pretty fascinated by that, but since we’re only on this Earth for a relatively short time, I chose not to spend even a moment of that time pursuing a story I would not be permitted to write.

Oh, and just this morning I received this one: “New data: Consumers are adjusting behaviors to avoid public restrooms.” I guess that could be relevant to autos if I worked it into something regarding the paucity of places to pee during long car trips.

Indeed, time spent is at the crux of the issue. Time must be spent researching the targets of your pitches to make sure the reporter or news organization actually covers the subject matter, and reporters don’t have time to wade through pitches that have no relevance to their coverage area or beat. But man, I keep wondering about how great that dust-free ceramic tile story coulda been…and maybe I could have worked a lead on how the large back seats of full-size SUVs contribute to activities related to the contraction of herpes.

Hah! Maybe I just need to be a little more open-minded.

A True Trump-ian Neighborhood Crime Story

WFAA Photo

As we were leaving our subdivision for a family outing this week we saw six police cars parked in front of a neighbor’s house with several officers conducting interviews with a couple of residents to help crack the case. This being a rather unpleasant election year, it didn’t take long for us to figure out what was going on since no weapons were drawn and voices weren’t raised. There were some slackjawed cretins looking oh, so concerned…and confused. 

Here’s the setup. As we were walking around the block the other day we noticed a number of homes displaying Trump for President signs on their front lawns. That alone had us wondering how much we could get for our house. But OK. This is America and the First Amendment guarantees the right to publicly display support for a misogynistic, egocentric, lying cheater who is so inept he drove several casinos into bankruptcy. 

Don’t get me wrong. In front of a few homes we did see signs supporting someone who is old enough to celebrate his birthday by carbon-dating. Having your birth certificate engraved on two stone tablets isn’t a good look, but a handy paperweight. 

Anyway, a day or two after our eye-opening walk we noticed all the Trump signs were gone–obviously stolen in the dark of night by someone who either doesn’t approve of our incumbent incompetent, or needed some paper on which to jot down their Yahtzee scores.  

But just like an octopus’s severed arm, the signs miraculously regenerated…and then re-disappeared. The neighbor who had handed out the signs indignantly huffed and puffed up and down the street taking photos of the houses that had displayed the purloined posters, as if that evidence would cause the cops to, um, give a shit. No police cars could immediately be seen investigating this ex poster facto case…until they were. 

Yes…the signs sprouted once again, although this time, the forever Trumpers got wise and started situating them really close to their homes and a few plunked them down right next to signs warning intruders the home, and Trump posters, were protected by a security system. I can only imagine being a dispatcher at Al’s Security Service receiving an alarm triggered by a Trump poster heist…and quickly going back to eating my bean burrito. 

Now here’s what I always wondered. Why the hell bother going through the motions of a secret ballot if you’re gonna tell the whole world who you’re supporting anyway? I can see attending a campaign event or volunteering to support your candidate, but plastering your choice on your front lawn not only reveals your “secret” but makes your house a target for poster nappers and worse. 

I’m simply not demonstrative in that way. I don’t display bumper stickers since I can’t imagine anyone being influenced by a sticky sign ruining the finish on a costly car. I also don’t put up lawn signs for, well, anything, because I live in a house and not a billboard. Besides, you want me to push your brand you’ll have to consult my rate card and pay up. That’s also why I’ll never buy a car from a dealer who insists on placing a decal or medallion with their name on my vehicle. 

Well, I’ve noticed the Trump signs are back and the number of Biden signs has increased to where it’s running about 50-50 for each guy on my street–but don’t look at me to break the tie with a sign of my own. I’ll let my neighbors on both sides think I’m with ‘em. But if things get really scary I might consider planting a sign after all–For Sale. 

Spaced Out on the Term “Space”

In the past week I’ve been approached by a PR person professing he knows I’m “in the auto space,” read treatises on companies operating in various spaces and seen job descriptions requiring candidates have experience in a specific space. I have now made it my irrevocable practice to put a wide swath of space between me and anyone who uses the word “space” or any other permutations of it instead of an actual word related to the object of their deflection. 

Oh yeah, it’s just another one of those obnoxious terms people latch onto such as the most hideous of all, to me, “staying in one’s swim lane.” My reply to that one is always a hale, hearty and utterly sincere, “fuck off!” along with my fervent wishes they will have to ingest their meals through a snorkel. Enjoying that swim lane? 

Do people use these terms to seem sharp, superior, in the moment? If so, they come across as arrogant, lazy and ignorant. 

The word “space” is not a Scrabble blank. You have to use it, like any other word or term, correctly. I do not work in the auto “space.” I do cover the automotive “beat.” You can also use “industry.” To me, “space” in the automotive context means gaps between body panels on poorly manufactured vehicles. Perhaps the person using “space” related to my beat has a gaping one in their training or preparation.

Companies do not operate in spaces. They operate in various industries, businesses, services or products. Honestly, would you say NASA operates in the space space? If you did you’d be operating in a vacuum. 

I’ll keep this short because I’ve made my point ..and I don’t want to unnecessarily take up more than my share of..uh…space. There. I’m done occupying it. 

Don’t Just #WFH…Make the Most of That “H”

Been reconsidering the hashtag #wfh—“work from home” and it spark something my late, great father always told my brother and I when we were kids. “Whatever you choose as an occupation, don’t choose a job where every morning the first thing you say to yourself is, ‘oh shit.’”

Both of us heeded that admonition and ended up in careers for which we have passion, skills, satisfaction and enjoyment. Since retiring, sort of, four years ago, I’ve been doing a few freelance gigs, for the most part, yep, #WFH. Now, during the pandemic, it’s all #WFH.

But here’s the deal. #WFH isn’t enough. I’m a firm believer those three letters should mean more than simply working from home. You see, if you’re just working from home, it’s just work. So permit me to offer some additional suggestions—ones I’ve been practicing no matter where I happen to earn a paycheck.

Work From the Heart: Love what you do and everything seems a little easier. The results will be a lot more satisfying too.

Work From the Head: That softball size pile of gray matter in your noggin’ isn’t technically a muscle, but if you don’t exercise it the results are the same—it just doesn’t function as well. So allow yourself the luxury of giving your brain a challenging workout and watch the great ideas, more logical reasoning and personal enthusiasm take you into the zone where it all makes sense.

Work From Humor: Sure, we are all faced with tasks and situations…and pain in the ass co-workers that can stand in the way of a great workday. Filter it out with a little bit of humor to neutralize the tough stuff. A good laugh, even to yourself, is good for your heart and mind. Your work will turn out better too.

Work From Handling It: You’ve got this. You’re in this job because you have the skills and experience to do it. Regarding of where you are physically, you should go into every task with the confidence you’ll succeed.

Work From Hell Yes!: I once had a boss with a thick accent and quite often had no idea what he was asking me to do. At first I’d say “could you please repeat that?” Well, that pissed him off. So I got in the habit of always saying “sure!” Then I’d run the conversation over and over again in my mind to see if I could divine exactly what my orders were. More often that not, my positive attitude carried the day and the boss was satisfied. Don’t get me wrong. It makes sense to be clear on your marching orders, but sometime just telling yourself “yes!” puts the rest of your mind and body in the right place to do succeed.

So there you go. #WFH all you like. It doesn’t just have to only mean “work from home.” That just happens to be where you’re sitting. Working from different mental and physical venues can keep you from waking every morning, thinking “oh shit.” In fact, you’ll feel better traveling that mental journey from “H” and back.