July 29, 2008

Yesterday, my friend Jeff informed me that Philadelphia’s arena football team, the Soul — a franchise owned by Jon Bon Jovi, of all people — defeated the league’s defending champions, the San Jose Sabercats, 59–56, to capture their first-ever AFL championship on Sunday.

Jeff observed, in part:

So the Soul have now joined the ranks of successful, insignificant sports teams. I don’t know about you, but I actually find it even more insulting that our “other” teams do so damn well. To make matters worse, [our mutual friend] Martin actually called me up to congratulate me over this. I didn’t even know about it until he told me that Philadelphia finally won something.

Jeff also pointed out that the ESPN article (linked above) includes a sidebar that contains a surprising number of obscure Philly franchises that have won titles in their respective leagues.

I can’t imagine that many Philadelphia sports fans were aware that those B-list teams have collectively claimed a total of 16 championships in the last 19 years. But they definitely know that their beloved Phillies, Eagles, 76ers, and Flyers haven’t won any titles over an even longer period: 25 years. In fact, during this maddening drought, those four teams have only appeared in the finals seven times during the last quarter-century, and they lost them all.

So, here’s a long-overdue salute to Philly’s champions in arena football, lacrosse (in two separate leagues), indoor soccer, team tennis (whatever that is), and minor-league hockey.

But it would have been nice if we actually cared about those sports.

[ No. 452 ]

July 25, 2008

Randy Pausch, a computer science professor from Carnegie Mellon University who inspired millions with his “Last Lecture” as he suffered from terminal pancreatic cancer, died early this morning. He was only 47 years old.

When you have the time, make sure to watch the 76-minute video of his moving presentation, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” The lecture, which Pausch delivered on the Carnegie Mellon campus on Sept. 18, 2007, and became a surprising Internet phenomenon, quickly led to a best-selling book, and ABC’s Good Morning America provides extended coverage of Pausch’s life and his indefatigable optimism.

You’ve left a tremendous legacy, Dr. Pausch. Rest in peace.

[ No. 451 ]

July 22, 2008

During a routine phone call to my mortgage company this afternoon, I learned an unexpected but valuable lesson.

The automated menu system allows you to press a key that corresponds to your choice, or you can simply speak the numerical option. So, since the system is using voice-recognition software, don’t sneeze while the recorded voice is reciting the various ways to route your call. Otherwise, the system will respond, “That selection was invalid. Please select one of the following options.”

I can’t wait for the day when phone systems can reliably recognize the sound of a sneeze and politely reply, “God bless you.”

[ No. 450 ]

July 18, 2008

In case you’ve never seen it, the ESPN sports talk show Around the Horn features a moderator and four panelists who “compete” against each other for the privilege of 30 seconds’ worth of air time at the end of the broadcast. Usually, ATH isn’t quite as entertaining as the program that follows it (Pardon the Interruption), but it has its moments.

One regular panelist, Woody Paige, has a tradition of posting humorous sayings on a small blackboard behind him. Many of his jokes are groan-worthy, but he struck gold during this afternoon’s show:


Take a moment and think that one over.

For the record, I had never heard that joke before, but a Google search on the word aibohphobia yielded well over 11,000 results. Weird.

[ No. 449 ]

July 16, 2008

When a sentence begins with, “Would it be inappropriate to…,” the answer is almost always “yes.”

When a sentence begins with, “He’s a really nice guy, but…,” it almost always ends with a petty observation (or worse, a petty assumption).

When a sentence begins with, “So, there I was, drinking…,” the subsequent story almost always goes downhill from there.

[ No. 448 ]

July 3–13, 2008

Much like last year, I took some time off around the Fourth of July to relax with my friends and family at the Jersey shore. This year’s trip consisted of a long weekend with my group shore house in Avalon, five days with my family in neighboring Stone Harbor, and a second shorter weekend back at the Avalon house with my friends.

Since I haven’t written anything on here for almost three weeks, here’s an extensive collection of 11 highlights from my 11-day vacation:

  1. The 1982 single “Africa” by Toto is now the dominant nostalgic anthem at the shore. The song followed us everywhere; in just over a week, two cover bands included it in their respective sets, and the DJs at the Whitebrier played the original recording on two separate occasions as well. Don’t get me wrong — it’s a great tune. In fact, “Africa” was one of the first rock singles that I really liked when I was a kid. But how do random trends like this get started?
  2. During our first (and possibly only) trip of the season to Jack’s Place near 36th Street, we noticed a guy who wore a blue T-shirt that read COLEGE (yes, with just one L, which I suppose is meant to be ironic). Until now, I would have assumed that it’s difficult to make Bluto from Animal House look intelligent, but at least his now-famous COLLEGE sweatshirt was spelled correctly.
  3. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, a collection of clever pop-culture essays by former Spin writer Chuck Klosterman. But it’s hard to read anything on the beach when you’re sitting near an obnoxious, raspy-voiced blonde who cannot stop talking. Loudly.
  4. A group of us took part in a surprisingly crowded Quizzo competition on Sunday night at the Rock ’n Chair under the team moniker “Trividiots” (not my choice, for the record). We placed a respectable third among roughly 20 teams and won a $30 gift certificate toward our next visit. Given the hard reality of Monday mornings, I’m not sure how many Sunday nights we’ll be able to attend, but we’ll have to try to take the Quizzo title sometime soon!
  5. On a few evenings after dinner, I settled in with my family at their house in Stone Harbor and watched some DVDs. But I can’t imagine a bigger contrast between the gritty violence of No Country for Old Men and the one-liners from the fourth season of the sitcom Wings.
  6. Our annual family dinner at the Lobster House in Cape May was terrific, as it has been for the nearly 30 years I’ve eaten there. When it comes to timeless, casual places to enjoy a delicious meal, the Lobster House is only rivaled by the Tavern in State College.
  7. After years of planning to stop by the Stone Harbor Museum but never quite getting around to it, I finally paid them a visit on Friday morning. The building is actually a converted house that dates from 1917, and it contained an astounding collection of old photographs and memorabilia. I definitely plan to go back there again before the end of the season.
  8. The water in the Atlantic remained absurdly cold, thanks to an odd phenomenon known as upwelling. During my latter weeked in Avalon, our housemate Marisa observed a slight increase in the ocean temperature, saying, “My feet weren’t even numb.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it? That’s like leaving a restaurant after a meal and saying, “Hey, I didn’t even throw up.”
  9. I can understand why most people turn off their brains while they’re on vacation; I’m probably one of them, in fact. But it’s a little scary when some local businesses go on auto-pilot, too. The sign for a recently renamed pizza joint on the boardwalk read AVALON PIZZARIA & RESTAURANT, and the laminated bar menus at the Whitebrier featured the puzzling heading, THE WHITEBRIAR. What gives?
  10. Toward the end of my second weekend in Avalon, my friend Bridget noticed that not one, but two black Bentley convertibles were parked within 100 feet of each other outside the Whitebrier on 21st Street. I’m starting to think that I’m one of the poorest vacationers on Seven Mile Island.
  11. To celebrate the birthdays of our friends Laurie and Christina, we enjoyed an ice-cream cake from Springer’s, which, quite frankly, makes some of the best homemade ice cream on earth. The top of the cake was decorated with a crab made of red icing on a beach of sprinkled cinnamon, which makes the dessert a “crab cake,” of course. Nice touch!

[ No. 447 ]