Feb. 26, 2005

Over the last few months, a local dealership has sent me a series of letters stating that they have an an urgent need for used (sorry, “pre-owned”) 2002 Altimas — the same year and model that I’ve leased for nearly three years. The latest letter repeated the same high demand for my car, and invited me to stop in to discuss options for swapping my current vehicle for a new one.

After a few visits, several phone calls, and some paperwork, we managed to work out a pretty remarkable deal in which (1) my seven remaining lease payments would be covered, (2) the thousands of miles that I’d driven over the 15,000-mile annual limit would be forgiven at no charge, and (3) I could purchase a new Altima at a surprisingly reasonable price.

As a result, I’ve become the proud owner of a 2005 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL with a dark gray (“smoke”) exterior and a blond leather interior:

2005 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL

I was really dreading the high cost of those extra miles that I’d racked up on my leased car, so having a clean slate with a purchased vehicle is a huge relief. And the new Altima is fantastic — it even smells new on the outside!

[ No. 155 ]

Photo credit: Nissan

Feb. 25, 2005

The third in a series (see posts 1 and 2):

Stop it.

Stop abruptly changing radio station formats without any warning. The only way that I found out about the sudden departure of Y100 (WPLY-FM), formerly the lone alternative rock station in Philadelphia, was the out-of-place R&B song that awakened me this morning. An online campaign that seeks to revive Y100 is already underway, but regardless of the outcome, listeners deserve better.

Stop flicking cigarette butts out of your car window while you’re driving. If you choose to smoke, that’s fine, but it doesn’t give you the right to carelessly litter our streets and highways. It’s a pretty safe bet that your car has an ashtray, so how about using the damn thing?

Stop expecting to receive compensation because you foolishly neglected to wear gloves while shoveling snow at Lincoln Financial Field and lost eight (!) of your fingers from a severe case of frostbite. I honestly feel bad for you, but you’re a 48-year-old man, not some helpless kid. Use the common sense that God gave you, and stop blaming other people for your own mistake.

Stop the bleeding — that means you, PSU men’s basketball. You’ve lost eight straight and 13 of your last 14 games. You’ve posted an embarrassing 7–19 record with three regular-season games remaining.* You rank dead last in the Big Ten standings with just one conference win. As ESPN correctly observed, “How can a school with this many resources be this bad in hoops?”

You heard me. Just stop.

* Update: Penn State men’s basketball closed out the regular season with a 90–64 pounding at the hands of Michigan State. It was PSU’s 11th straight loss, their 16th defeat in 17 games, and their 32nd straight conference loss on the road. (No, that last statistic is not a typo.)

The final tally for the season: 7–22 overall, 1–15 in the Big Ten. It really doesn’t get much worse than that.

[ No. 154 ]

Feb. 22, 2005

Last month, during a Penn State alumni chapter raffle, a friend of mine won a pair of midweek lift tickets for Bear Creek, a nearby ski resort just south of Allentown. But since she doesn’t ski, she generously offered the passes to me instead. So I took a vacation day and invited my friend Kim to hit the slopes.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a random Tuesday during the winter. We both enjoyed the great trail conditions, the mercifully short lines for the chair lifts, and the mild weather throughout the day. I even managed to complete my first black-diamond trail ever, a short but steep incline ominously named Grizzly, in just two attempts! (Not bad for a thoroughly average skier like me.)

At one point in the afternoon, as Kim and I were riding on the chair lift with another skier, I mentioned that I’d heard about some ski resorts that offer extreme trails for thrill-seekers, which is true — but I also joked that such trails were signified by purple hexagons. Our chair-lift companion slowly turned to me and asked, “Really?” As Kim burst into laughter, I replied, “No, not really.”

[ No. 153 ]

Feb. 18, 2005

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been surprisingly diligent in keeping a regular workout schedule. More on the fitness regimen later, though — today’s topic is the unintentional entertainment that takes place while I work out.

Many of my recent visits to the company gym after work have found me running on a treadmill for about 25 minutes or so. It’s a mediocre substitute for real running, but I’m growing tired of braving the elements during the winter months. Plus, I can watch part of the ESPN sports talk shows Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption and read the closed-captioned commentary as I run.

Because the shows’ analysts often talk very fast as they argue with each other, the captions of their dialogue aren’t always accurate. Sometimes, they’re downright hilarious — and therefore, perfect material for this site. Here’s the first installment, which I observed earlier this evening:

For some reason, the guys on Around the Horn had digressed from talking about sports and were discussing the new Keanu Reeves movie, Constantine (which appears to be a hybrid of two previous Keanu films, The Matrix and The Devil’s Advocate). But the closed captioning referred to Constantine as:


Wait a minute, were they talking about a movie or a chronic foot condition?

[ No. 152 ]

Feb. 16, 2005

Nice going, NHL. You’ve managed to scrap an entire season through your collective greed and woeful negotiation skills.

Haven’t you learned anything from recent history? The cancellation of the 1994 World Series alienated baseball fans for years, and Major League Baseball was very lucky to see those fans return. But according to at least one major survey, most North Americans don’t even care that your season was canceled. Assuming that hockey resumes next year (and that’s a big assumption at this point), do you really expect that your niche of fans will still buy tickets?

I’m not an avid hockey fan, and I won’t claim to know all of the details about this lockout. But it’s hard to feel sorry for professional athletes who refuse to budge from their average annual salary of $1.8 million — that’s nearly $22,000 per game. And it’s mind-boggling that the owners and players have allowed the impasse to persist for five months at the expense of their own customers.

Get your act together, and get back on the ice.

[ No. 151 ]

Feb. 12, 2005

It’s no longer enough to have 300 channels through digital cable or a satellite provider. Now, we can actually attach a hard drive to our TVs and record everything under the sun, too.

TiVo logo

Now, I consider myself to be fairly tech-savvy, but I probably watch too much TV already, and I’m a little frightened by the popularity of services like TiVo — at least one friend of mine is hopelessly addicted to it.

Through her ordeal, I’ve learned that it’s surprisingly easy to overdose on TiVo by filling it to capacity with recorded shows. As a result, the addict will start to panic over the sudden inability to record more programs, and will feel obligated to binge on several shows in one sitting, if only to make a dent in the backlog and free up some space.

The problem that I have with TiVo is that the service permits you to record virtually anything — reality shows, soap operas, drivel on MTV, you name it. But I think the folks at TiVo should encourage people to watch better programming — if you’ve decided to record a truly awful show, then the TiVo logo should shake his little head and frown at you.

(I swear to you, I thought of the idea for the frowning logo before looking this up, but it turns out that TiVo’s corporate style guide explicitly prohibits an unhappy logo under its strict “Logo Violations” warning. I think they’re missing out on a great opportunity, though.)

[ No. 150 ]

Image credit: TiVo

Feb. 6, 2005

Had several friends over at my place to watch the big game — and somehow, we managed to have a good time despite the outcome.

Alas, due to four costly turnovers and strangely careless time management, the Eagles fell short in Super Bowl XXXIX and lost to the Patriots, 24–21. The defeat represents the seventh consecutive loss in the finals for a Philadelphia team since 1983, and marks the end of the 44th straight season without a title for the Eagles. The drought lives on.

I have to give the Patriots credit; quite simply, they were the better team on the field. And I recognize that their organization is a model of team unity and sportsmanship, two qualities that are sorely lacking in professional sports these days. But I’m already growing weary of the superlatives that are being heaped on New England — the Patriots are a dynasty, coach Bill Belichick is a genius, and I’m pretty sure that quarterback Tom Brady will soon receive consideration for sainthood.

Shortly after the game ended last night, I grumbled aloud, “You know, no one likes a bully.” To me, teams that win year after year take the excitement out of the game. Now that New England has captured three Super Bowls in just four seasons, nearly every major metropolitan area except Philadelphia has ruled the playground in recent years:

Team Titles Seasons
Chicago Bulls 6 in 8 years 1991–1993, 1996–1998
Dallas Cowboys 3 in 4 years 1992, 1993, 1995
New York Yankees 4 in 5 years 1996, 1998–2000
Detroit Red Wings 3 in 6 years 1997, 1998, 2002
Los Angeles Lakers 3 in 3 years 2000–2002
New England Patriots 3 in 4 years 2001, 2003, 2004

But not one sports team in Philly has captured a single championship, let alone several of them, in 22 years. That span of time represents the longest dry spell of any U.S. city with four professional sports teams.

Once again, this town is forced to search for consolation, and its fans are reduced to reciting the wistful cliché, “There’s always next year.” Personally, after this latest setback, I can’t even bring myself to think in terms of mañana just yet. Optimism is a tall order on a day like this.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When will it be our turn?

[ No. 149 ]