Feb. 29, 2008

Happy leap day! If my math is correct, today was only the ninth Feb. 29 of my entire lifetime to date.

I have no idea why I still remember this, but when this day comes around every four years, I clearly recall reading the Guinness Book of World Records when I was young and learning about three siblings from Norway who were born on consecutive leap days. Thanks to the Internet, I tracked down their names and birthdays in a matter of minutes: Heidi Henriksen (born Feb. 29, 1960), Olav Henriksen (Feb. 29, 1964) and Lief-Martin Henriksen (Feb. 29, 1968).

Since then, three consecutive generations of the Keogh family from Ireland and the U.K. have achieved a similar feat with birthdays on Feb. 29 in 1940, 1964, and 1996. What are the odds?

[ No. 417 ]

Feb. 23, 2008

Went to the Tower Theater in Upper Darby to see one of my all-time favorite bands, Wilco, with my friend Bridget. Shortly before they took the stage, I also had the chance to finally meet fellow blogger Citizen Mom in person. Good to see you, Amy, and hope you enjoyed the show!

We watched the concert from some great seats, and the band put on a very entertaining show, as always. The six-piece band was in great spirits, and I was blown away by the blistering, frenetic solos by guitarist Nels Cline. Wilco’s setlist featured plenty of material from their latest release, Sky Blue Sky, as well as some terrific songs from their earlier albums (more so than the last time I’d seen them perform, it seemed). The crowd alternately sat down during slower songs and stood during upbeat ones; frontman Jeff Tweedy noticed this trend and quipped, “Are any of you Catholic?”

Perhaps I’ve become a cranky old man, but many of those in attendance were clearly suffering from severe ADD. Two people near us simply had to text their friends during the performance, and it’s hard for me to ignore those glowing screens in a darkened concert hall. And, after I’d turned around and glanced a few times at the couple behind me who chatted incessantly through the first several songs, I had to firmly ask them to please stop talking. (After smirking at me in disapproval, they were mercifully silent for the rest of the evening. But I really shouldn’t have to call people out on that, should I?)

[ No. 416 ]

Feb. 15, 2008

Friday night finally came around again, so I decided to place an order with the local Pizza Hut after I got home. I politely asked the guy on the phone to include some coupons with my order, since they’d been strangely absent from the last few deliveries.

The pizza arrived within the hour, and sure enough, it was accompanied by three sheets of six coupons each. But then I noticed the nearly illegible fine print in the bottom-right corner of each and every coupon:

Expires 2/16/08

That’s tomorrow, of course — just in case I’m in the mood for another whole pie in less than 24 hours, I suppose.

Customer service is officially dead.

[ No. 415 ]

Feb. 10, 2008

On Friday night, on my way into the city, I witnessed the funniest thing I’ve seen in quite some time:

A blue Chevrolet Cavalier station wagon with chrome rims, drag racing against a muscle car between traffic lights on Columbus Boulevard.

[ No. 414 ]

Feb. 7, 2008

Running laundry is one of my least favorite chores, despite the fact that the process is mostly performed by a pair of machines. Folding clothes just seems to take forever, and now that I’ve resumed a frequent workout schedule, I’m generating dirty clothes at an alarming pace.

But one thing can make the process even worse. Every once in a while, I carelessly leave a pocket pack of tissues (unused tissues, mind you) in a pair of pants, which goes into the wash. So, when I transfer my duds from the washer to the dryer, every article of clothing is covered in shredded Kleenex.

The lint trap in the dryer catches most of the debris, but still, you’d think I’d learn to check my pockets after this happened at least a dozen times.

[ No. 413 ]

Feb. 4, 2008

Last night, the New York Giants recorded one of the most surprising upsets in NFL history by defeating the heavily favored, previously undefeated New England Patriots, 17–14, in Super Bowl XLII.

I had very mixed feelings about this game. I’ve never been fond of Eli Manning ever since his selfish antics during the NFL draft in 2004. But I must admit that I was primarily rooting against the Patriots. I’ve always felt contempt for sports dynasties to begin with, but the unbridled arrogance of New England’s players, coach, and fans made me view them as unsportsmanlike villains.

Many people were excited that the Patriots were on the verge of completing an unprecedented 19–0 season, and I can understand that. But far too many sportswriters practically crowned the Patriots as Super Bowl champions, not to mention The Best Team That Ever Lived, long before the players even took the field. (One unbearably smug reporter from Slate rubbed it in after the Pats finished their regular season at 16–0, calling them “ludicrously better than 30 of the other teams in the league” and advising everyone outside of New England to “deal with it.”)

Given all of that relentless hubris, a dark corner of my soul enjoyed watching the mighty Patriots stumble and lose.

It’s hard for me to feel sympathy toward New England fans, mostly because they seem to have very short memories. Prior to last night, the Patriots had captured three Super Bowl trophies in six years — a level of success in the NFL that some other teams (ahem) have never reached. And just over three short months ago, the Red Sox swept the Rockies to win their second World Series in four years. This will be deeply insulting to the Boston-area faithful, but good God, people — your sense of entitlement is starting to sound like that of the Yankees.

Sure, it hurts when your team loses, especially given that so much was riding on last night’s game. But despite this stunning loss, Patriots fans should collectively stop crying and thank their lucky stars for their team’s achievements over the last several years. You have much more success to celebrate than most, and believe it or not, your team is comprised of mortal human beings and will actually lose once in a while. Deal with that.

[ No. 412 ]

Feb. 2, 2008

My maternal grandmother and last living grandparent, Margaret Byrne, passed away in the early morning of Jan. 30, 2008, at the age of 98.

She was born on Sept. 3, 1909, and raised her three children in a rowhome on East Ann Street in the Port Richmond section of North Philadelphia with my grandfather, James, who owned a tailor shop that adjoined their house. (Sadly, I never knew him; he died in 1962, nearly 12 years before I was born.)

Grandmom was one of the most sharp, well-informed people I’ve ever known — well into her 90s, she worked on the Philadelphia Inquirer crossword puzzle every day and watched Action News every night. And if the business section of the paper happened to carry a story about the company I worked for, she always remembered to ask me about it — in fact, she often seemed to know more about my employer than I did.

We attended the viewing, funeral Mass, luncheon, and interment earlier today, and I was honored to deliver one of the readings at Mass and serve as a pallbearer. The ceremony was beautiful and very personal, and we were touched to see so many relatives and friends in attendance.

Goodbye, Grandmom. We’ll miss you dearly.

[ No. 411 ]