American Idle

It's kinda like American Idol, but only if you sing my posts out loud.

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Location: Hamilton Square, New Jersey, United States

Tax guy, host & producer of the Consumerism Commentary Podcast, former co-host of the Wall Street Journal E-Report

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bloated like a Butterball, stunk like a...

...nevermind, you get the picture.

So, anyway, after my competition-fueled weight loss adventure last year, the stomach's been winning the recent battles over will power and I'm almost back to the point where I started. Although I'm usually one of those people who keep paying for a gym even though they never go simply because they want the option to always *be* there in case they *do* get the urge, I actually let my membership lapse at the local YMCA back in February.

At the recommendation of my wife, I decide to try out the local "Cuts Fitness" gym, a men-only place that pushes high intensity circuit training much like the en vogue and alternate gender-based "Curves". A major plus to this is that I hate crowds. I figure that a good percentage of guys go to gyms with the primary (or at least secondary) motive of seeing hot girls exercise. Therefore, I figure, seeing dudes work out should be a major turn off to most, thereby making "Cuts" a relative ghost town. I weigh the options...including the possibility of a heavy turn out of "Johnny Cakes"...and "ghost town" wins out. Plus, she's got a coupon for a free month at *her* gym if I sign up (yes!).

So I show up there on Saturday to check the joint out. It has the typical resistance-based equipment you see at most gyms, but without all the electronic bells and whistles. This is because, instead of setting yourself for elaborate 30+ minutes workouts at each machine, you do about 30 *seconds* at each before moving on to the next station. Therefore, no fancy electronics required. So I go through the normal regiment of machines and I'm suddenly faced with a piece of equipment that has the potential to emasculate me in a matter of seconds...the heavy bag.

Where do I start here? First of all, you only see heavy bags in real gyms. They're meant for boxers. I'm not a boxer, I'm an "IT professional". The only heavy bag I have regular exposure to is the obese secretary down the hall from me, and even she dishes out more punishment than she takes. The presence of a heavy bag means that I have to dance around for 30 front of a bunch of guys...and pretend that I know what the hell I'm doing. The good news, the trainer says, is that there's an alternate exercise I can partake in instead...the jump rope. So, basically, my alternative to dancing around aimlessly punching a bag, is to fake coordination by jumping around wildly and falling into other people and/or the exercise equipment around me. Pass. I'll try the bag.

So I do the bag and look like an ass for 30 seconds. The disconnect officially set in. I went through the last half of the circuit hardly even listening or caring what the guy had to say. At the end of the circuit was, appropriately enough, the speed bag, which put the final nail in the coffin. Normally this would have been another mortifying experience but, in an ironic twist, I had just seen "Million Dollar Baby" last month in which they had shown Hillary Swank how to use a speed bag. The half-ass training kept me respectable but the damage was already done.

Now the search continues for another gym. Although expensive, I'm still leaning towards going back to the YMCA. Among a wide variety of options, they have an indoor jogging track and the cardio work is what I really need to work on.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Stupid blog! Be more funny!

Thanks to "The Onion's" A.V. Club for providing a list of Simpsons quotes that can be applied to everyday life. Although not listed here, my personal favorite has been a variant of "Life is just one crushing defeat after another until you just wish Flanders was dead".

Note: I'd like to point out that only one of these quotes is from after 1997 (and it's from 1999 at that), proving my point that the Simpsons hasn't been legitimately funny for nearly 10 years.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Hey Congressman Murtha. Shut. the f***. up

Today, one of our congressmen, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, offered up this juicy tidbit to the press regarding a war crimes probe in Iraq: "There was no firefight. There was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood".

I'm not upset about the news itself, but more the way it was presented. As much as you don't want to see civilians killed, especially at the hands of loose cannon soldiers, it will occasionally happen in a war. As for this particular issue, no one knows the exact details...only that the goverment has launched a probe and we can only hope that appropriate punishment is doled out to those involved...if it's even deserved. What we *don't* need is our politicians trying to make a name for themselves, acting in an insubordinate fashion and willingly making the country they represent look bad.

Exactly *why* was Murtha even discussing this subject? Per the MSNBC article: "Murtha held the news conference to mark six months since his initial call for "redeployment" of U.S. forces from Iraq." So Murtha, in an act to make himself look good, basically volunteered negative information about our country. Why would any patriotic politician not only offer up this information willingly via a press conference, but intentionally spin it in such a negative fashion with terms like "killed innocent civilians in cold blood"? Exactly which country is Murtha supposed to represent? Is this supposed to help? Making us look like an ass to the rest of the world?

If I had gone on a podium and publically insulted the company I worked for, I'd be out of a job the next morning...if not that evening. If Murtha has a problem, take it up internally. Keep it as low key as possible and try to keep the company line. Don't go in front of the public and bash your country and the troops defending it in front of the enemy. These are the reasons why the terrorists think they can win...they think the U.S. will succumb to infighting. And it's people like Murtha who are enablers...although they think they're helping out, they're simply giving more ammunition to the enemy.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

If Montecore can't finish the job, Cole Ford will.

Apparently, nothing pisses off ex-Raiders kickers more than flamboyant illusionists with white tigers...maybe it's those silver & black Zubaz-like outfits they wear.

Trust me, I was as stunned as everyone else when I first heard about this in 2004. But as a Raider fan, you get used to these things. Rolf Benirschke goes from Chargers kicker to hosting the Wheel of Fortune. Hall of Fame defensive lineman Alan Page goes from the football field to serving as as associate justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Cole Ford goes from the gridiron to shooting at Las Vegas celebrities' houses. Hey, to each his own. He's a Raider for crying out loud, what did you expect?

Odd note: Rolf Benirschke was actually drafted by the Raiders in 1977 before going to the Chargers.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Royals fan sells team loyalty for $278

Boy, this pretty much sums up my lifetime of following baseball. Minus the $278, of course.

I'm trying to become a Phillies fan again, which I was prior to 1980 (actually, prior to the 1980 World Series, which is when I...with the wisdom of a fickle 10-year old...inexplicably switched teams). Now that Matt's almost old enough to attend a baseball game, I even went and bought him a Phillies outfit, hoping that him and I could enjoy following the same team. It's difficult to get into Phillies games again, but I'm trying...

Friday, May 05, 2006

Father Hughes, ex-ND principal, pleads guilty

Father Joseph Hughes, former principal of my alma mater Notre Dame (high school), was sentenced to five years in prison for embezzling just over $2 million from the Rumson, NJ parish. This case had two of the typical goodies that seem to involve Catholic priests recently...theft of funds and a gay relationship (or at least strong hints of one). Fortunately, at least no children were involved in this tale.

Well, we always knew Father Hughes had deep pockets when he was at ND. He drove an expensive car (I forget if it was a Mercedes or BMW) and there was a lot of rumors about the academic credentials (or lack thereof) of the better athletes at the school. So, I guess the next logical question long has the embezzling been going on? Was ND also plundered?

One more thing about this story that pisses me off doesn't deal with Father Hughes at all, but our wonderful local coverage of it...more specifically, the websites of the two Trenton newspapers. Today's article came from the Star Ledger, but there's no mention of it in either the Trentonian's or the Trenton Times' websites. What? No one remembered his roots before Rumson and Holy Cross? I tried to find their contact information to give them a heads up on the story, and what happens? The Trentonian's contact information is nowhere to be found on the website. I guess they weren't planning on anyone tipping them off on a story. Fortunately, at least the Times had an email you can send tips to.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Nyyah nyyah nyyah nyyah nyyah nyyyyahhhhhh, al-Zarqawi can't fire a machiiiiiine gunnnnnn

Whenever I read the news and get depressed about the mainstream media's general coverage of Iraq, sometimes I come across a gem that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Apparently, in the unedited version of al-Zarqawi's latest video, the terrorist leader is revealed to be someone incompetent in handling a machine gun. From CNN's report:

Al-Zarqawi is seen walking toward a white pickup truck in "New Balance tennis shoes" with associates around him, called "his trusted advisers" by Lynch.

They "do things like grab the hot barrel of a machine gun and burn themselves," Lynch said, narrating the video to reporters.

In another portion, Lynch said, "Here's Zarqawi, the ultimate warrior, trying to shoot his machine gun.

"It's supposed to be automatic fire. He's shooting single shots one at a time. Something's wrong with his machine gun. He looks down, can't figure it out. He calls his friend to unblock the stoppage and get the weapon firing again."

This may seem like small potatoes to the majority of us who have rarely, if ever, handled a firearm. But for *these* guys…who have spent their entire lives training for combat…being unable to operate a machine gun has to be pretty humiliating…especially when you’re their leader.

And these are people who take their pride seriously. I remember a news report out of Afghanistan around 2002 when Marines were reporting how easy it was to pick off the Taliban…all you had to do was shout insults at them and they’d come flying out of their hiding spots in a rage. Maybe we can play this footage in fast motion, complete with Benny Hill’s “Yakety Sax” music playing in the background, and get it aired on an Iraqi TV channel to taunt the insurgents (although somehow I don’t think Al Jazeera would be up for hosting it).

On a separate note, you’ve also got to love the image of the American-hating leader sporting a pair of American-based New Balance sneakers. Nothing like hypocrisy.

Redefining "Big Uglies"

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Paul McQuistan, offensive lineman from Weber State and drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the 2006 NFL draft. (hat tip to Raider Take)

Along with fellow linemate Robert Gallery (taken #2 overall in the 2004 draft), these two redefine the phrase "big uglies". Although the image presented of Gallery in the link above is somewhat flattering, he tends to more resemble "The Undertaker" of WWF/WWE fame. As for the McQuistan photo...wellll...lets just hope his PR people find a more suitable photo. From this one, the dude looks like a cross between a young Danny Bonaduce and Rocky Dennis from "Mask".

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Finally, a Royal worth something

As a longtime Royal fan and as a person who spent the better part of his life "investing" in sports cards (hopefully someone doesn't lose his lunch with that comment), I'm happy to see a Royal card that's NOT the 1975 George Brett "mini" that's actually worth some money. Apparently, Topps overlooked a recent contractual agreement prohibiting "rookie" sports cards from being produced unless the player had either played in the majors the year before, or opened the 2006 season on the 25 man roster. Alex Gordon did neither. After realizing their error, Topps pulled the card off the market. The law of supply and demand kicked in and the card price skyrocketed. The fact that Gordon is a hot prospect has only helped matters...but don't worry, the Royals farm system will reduce his name to a mere novelty in a few years.

As a sports fan since...oh...forever, I've collected cards since I was about four. In fact, I think it was a 1973-74 Gregg Sheppard card...for whatever reason...that inspired me to become a Bruins fan. Now that I think about it, I can probably blame that bastard for years of heartache, but that's a different topic. Anyway, I was hooked on cards at an early age and had a gold mine on my hands when the market actually became profitable in the mid-late eighties. Unfortunately, I was still well addicted up until about 2001 or so...well after the market stalled when people started to realize, "wait a minute....why am I paying $75 for a card that's been mass produced into the millions?"...which meant that I promptly threw whatever profit I might have made right out the window.

So being a longtime sucker, I'm a bit skeptical of this move by Topps. In fact, I've tended to be suspicious of "error" cards since the late eighties and early nineties when they seemed to be commonplace among card manufacturers. It seemed that most card sets between Topps, Fleer, Donruss, Score and Upper Deck seemed had at least two or three cards in it that had either a reversed image, a missing position listing, a mispelling, a wrong photo, etc. What card collector can ever forget the infamous Billy Ripken "FUCK FACE" card in 1989? Although mistakes can happen, these companies were well aware that changing a card mid-production run created two (sometimes more) scarce cards on the marketplace. And the prospect of landing a rare card brought more people out to buy their product.

So thanks for the rare Alex Gordon card Topps, but I ain't buying it...figuratively or literally. Besides, the last Royals rookie named Gordon I invested heavily in is now pitching for the Phillies...and I think I own about 17 of the 5,000,000 cards produced of him that year. And as I speak, someone on eBay's willing to part with 25 of the premium Upper Decks of that year for $7.99. Throw in the $2.00 S/H and that comes to $9.99...or roughly 40 cents a card.

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