Oct. 31, 2005

So, I turned 31 today — the last of the golden birthdays among me and my sisters this year. How has an entire year passed since my 30th last fall?

Today also brings an end to one of the craziest months that I can remember: three consecutive weekend trips for Penn State football games (two in State College and a road trip to Ann Arbor, Mich.); a pair of weeknight concerts in Philadelphia (Bob Mould on Oct. 6, then a double bill with Foo Fighters and Weezer one week later); a Smeal Business Club networking event at the Union League; and a fun-filled night out in Center City with friends last Friday to celebrate birthdays for me and my friend Kristi.

Whew, I’m almost getting too old for this. Almost.

Thirty-one. Hmmm, I’m not sure if I like the sound of that. Maybe I’ll just refer to my age as “twenty-eleven” for a while instead.

[ No. 211 ]

Oct. 26, 2005

Earlier today, I read a news story that’s so funny and ironic that I’d fully expect the article to be (1) not genuine and (2) perfect material for The Onion. But this story is indeed real, and it’s about the parody newspaper:

The White House is not amused by The Onion, a newspaper that often spoofs the Bush administration, and has asked it to stop using the presidential seal on its Web site.
White House spokesman Trent Duffy said people who work in the executive mansion do have a sense of humor, but not when it comes to breaking regulations.
“When any official sign or seal is being used inappropriately the party is notified,” Duffy said.
Source: Reuters, “White House to Onion: Stop using seal” (Oct. 26, 2005)

Pardon me for a moment while I tuck a copy of this article into two increasingly large files: “People Who Take Themselves Far Too Seriously” and “How Does the White House Have Time for This Nonsense?”

I’ll elaborate on the latter. You’d think that the federal government has a lot on its plate right now, what with post-hurricane relief efforts, a bipartisan furor over a dubious Supreme Court nominee, and a grim new milestone of 2,000 dead soldiers in Iraq. And yet, somehow, the Bush administration still has enough space on its to-do list to publicly admonish a satirical publication over the proper use of the presidential insignia, of all things.

Scott Dikkers, the Onion editor-in-chief, replied to the warning as follows:

“I would advise them to look for that other guy Osama [bin Laden] … rather than comedians. I don’t think we pose much of a threat.”

Irreverent yet practical — that’s why I read The Onion in the first place.

[ No. 210 ]

Oct. 24, 2005

I’m proud to announce my most recent purchase — the Swingline Collector’s Edition 747 Business Stapler, Rio Red:

The special-edition Swingline

It will certainly get plenty of use at work, but on top of that, whenever I impersonate Milton from Office Space, I’ll have a handy prop to go along with the character’s mumbling voice.

Milton and his beloved stapler

(“Excuse me, I believe you have my stapler…”)

[ No. 209 ]

Photo credits: ACCO Brands Corporation (stapler);
Lumino Magazine (Milton)

Oct. 14–16, 2005

Two years after traveling to Lincoln, Nebraska for a Penn State football road game, my friends and I decided to embark on a second road trip — this time to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Friday. For me, the long journey actually began the night before, when I joined my friends Todd, Chris, and Beth to see Foo Fighters and Weezer perform at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. Right after the concert, with my bags already packed in the trunk, I drove to my friends’ house in Arlington, Virginia, arriving well after 2 a.m. (In case you’re wondering — yes, I am mentally ill.)

Just four short hours later, I managed to get up, load my stuff into our rented silver Dodge Grand Caravan, and hit the road with my friends Tony, Larry, John, and Brandon.

Our trip took us along I-270 and I-70 through Maryland, I-76 and I-80 in Ohio, and Route 23 from Ohio into Michigan. Along the way, we stopped for a late breakfast at a roadside Perkins, which is always a welcome sight on a long trip. But their portions are just a tad large — one of my side orders was a softball-sized pumpkin muffin with icing and butter packets on the side.

One random observation about the minivan: the gray upholstered ceiling was splattered with reddish juice stains. I’m not entirely sure what made us thought of this, but we hatched a warped theory that the Kool-Aid Man had shot himself inside the minivan, but not before belting out a baritone cry of, “Oh, noooooo!”

After driving about 515 miles, we arrived at our hotel, the Ann Arbor University Hotel & Suites, at about 5 p.m. The hotel’s name was quite a euphemism — I think the place used to be a Quality Inn, but the quality clearly went away with the name. It was a fairly run-down, low-budget place; in fact, one of our cab drivers later described it as a “basically a crack house.” But all we needed was a place to rest our heads, and $50 per person per night is hard to beat.

After getting settled, we ate dinner at Ashley’s, a pub near campus with a great menu and a huge beer selection. After our meal, we walked over to a sports bar called Scorekeepers, where we were astounded to see that the visiting PSU fans had completely taken over the place, at times chanting “This is / our bar,” (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap). I can assure you that you’d never see that at any bar in State College on a football weekend.

Saturday. A number of Larry’s law school classmates are Michigan grads, and they graciously invited us to tailgate with them before the game. Under a clear, blue sky, we enjoyed plenty of grilled meat and cold beer, including a case of Yuengling Lager that we had brought as peace offering from Pennsylvania.

The tailgate scene was similar to that at Penn State, although I noticed more pickup trucks than RVs, and the Michigan faithful are much more focused on playing games such as beer pong and a beanbag-tossing game called Cornhole (insert your own joke here). And for the most part, the tailgaters in Ann Arbor were surprisingly friendly toward us, although I was told that the scene is much more volatile when Ohio State fans come to town.

The Wolverines’ home field, Michigan Stadium, is the largest of its kind in the country, with a capacity of 107,501. To be honest, I wasn’t terribly impressed with the place — the crowd isn’t really much of a factor, the seating is very cramped, and the facility needs at least twice as many restrooms. However, I’ll concede that the stadium’s complete lack of advertising was a nice touch.

As for the game itself, it’s hard for me to describe. During the first half, Penn State squandered a handful of scoring opportunities (never a wise move on the road), and the Lions were lucky to only trail Michigan 3–0 at halftime. By contrast, the second half featured a flurry of scoring and lead changes — PSU scored two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter, lost the lead, and then regained a four-point advantage with just 53 seconds left.

But those final 53 seconds were a nightmare — PSU’s special teams and defense allowed Michigan to drive right back down the field. And I really don’t mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but the officiating was suspect at best — an out-of-bounds Michigan pass was ruled a catch, and the referees decided to grant Michigan coach Lloyd Carr’s request to restore a few seconds on the clock during the final minute. In the end, Penn State gave up a touchdown pass on fourth-and-10 with one second left and lost, 27–25.

The resulting celebration, with the Michigan bench emptying onto the field and thousands of maize pom-poms waving in unison, was like a knife to the heart.

The loss was Penn State’s seventh straight to Michigan, and it’s probably the most heartbreaking defeat that I’ve ever witnessed in any sport. It’s bad enough that a promising 6–0 PSU team lost to a mediocre 3–3 Michigan squad on the road, but the questionable officiating during such a close game (which was eerily similar to another PSU loss in Ann Arbor back in 2002) is really hard to take.

And I had thought I already despised Michigan, its smug coach, and its arrogant, spoiled fans — now, my hatred for the Wolverines simply knows no bounds.

After filing out of the stadium, we flagged down a cab and headed back toward the hotel. We ate a somber meal at Chili’s across the street, wisely decided against watching any football highlights on College GameDay on ESPN back in our room, and hit the sack early.

Sunday. With a bitter loss still fresh in our minds and a long return trip in front of us, we got up before sunrise, checked out of Ye Olde Creepy Wolverine Inn, stopped by a nearby Starbucks for some caffeine, and hit the road by 7 a.m.

The ride home was fairly uneventful, except for a lunch break at Cracker Barrel and an expensive speeding ticket in Ohio — those out-of-state Maine license plates probably didn’t help our cause. We returned to Arlington by late afternoon, having completed a 1,034-mile round trip, and I continued on to Philly, arriving home around 8 p.m.

I think we all enjoyed our second PSU road trip overall — but as with our Nebraska trek in 2003, it would have been nice to see Penn State win after traveling such a long way.

Don’t miss the photos from the trip!

[ No. 208 ]

Oct. 12, 2005

The sixth in a series (see the archives for previous installments):

Stop it.

Stop including ads with my monthly bills. I’m already your customer and I already send you a check every month. Sorry, I don’t need any more TV channels, I can’t afford to pay more for wind-generated power, and I don’t want any more calling features on my home phone (which I rarely use anymore, anyway).

Stop giving us a week’s worth of overcast weather without any significant rainfall. If we’re not going to see the sun, then give us an inch or two of much-needed rain in one day and get it over with. A five-day forecast of nothing but “few showers” and “light rain” is really depressing.

Stop requiring me to register with practically every online news site. Sometimes, a Google search will direct me to an article from an out-of-town newspaper, but I’m not going to give you my full name, mailing address, gender, and year of birth just for the privilege of reading your sacred publication. That’s a waste of time and a surefire way to get tons of junk mail. (But thank God for

Stop saying self-important things like, “This is the first time in my entire life that I’ve actually been alone. No significant other at all! And I’m really enjoying being on my own.” So what? That really isn’t a big accomplishment. Some of us haven’t been as lucky in love as you — in fact, decent relationships are the exception, not the rule. No one cares about your “freedom.” Get over yourself.

You heard me. Just stop.

[ No. 207 ]

Oct. 8, 2005

For the second weekend in a row, I had the privilege of seeing Penn State defeat a ranked opponent in Beaver Stadium. But this game was nothing like PSU’s rout of Minnesota last week — the 16th-ranked Nittany Lions captured an early lead and hung on to upset sixth-ranked Ohio State, 17–10.

The attendance of 109,839 was the second-largest crowd at Beaver Stadium, and despite the chilly, damp weather, the night-game atmosphere was truly electric. But the game was also hard to watch at times, too — with a narrow seven-point lead, the Lions struggled against a very strong Buckeye defense for most of the second half. Fortunately, the PSU defense rose to the challenge and shut out OSU after halftime to preserve the victory.

The win was hard-fought and far from pretty. In fact, it was exactly the kind of low-scoring game that Ohio State usually wins — but not this year. After four losing seasons over the last five years, Penn State football is finally back.

One other highlight from the weekend: staying at my friend Laurie’s new townhouse near campus. We enjoyed a relaxing indoor cookout on Saturday afternoon before the game, and it’s always great to meet new friends who happen to be fellow PSU fans. Thanks very much, Laurie!

[ No. 206 ]

Oct. 3, 2005

Take a moment to read through these professional qualifications.

Michael D. Brown:

Harriet Miers:

Sure, Washington has always had its share of cronyism, and I’ll give credit to the Bush administration for its recent nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court. But these other appointments are very disturbing. Either George doesn’t feel like reading résumés, or he simply doesn’t know what that funny-looking French word résumé means. (“Hey, Laura, ain’t that a breakfast pastry?”)

Next year, if Alan Greenspan decides to retire, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bush appoints a bank teller from Houston (who also happens to be a close friend of the family) to serve as the next Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

[ No. 205 ]