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Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Monday, October 31, 2005
Silent Cereal Killer
That's me.

That's what I was today.

In a last minute effort to come up with a costume that the kids in our office / clinic would relate to, and one in which I would be comfortable...I created "Silent Cereal Killer".

Oh - the "Silent" part designates my complete lack of vocalization today. My chest cold is waning, but it has taken my voice with it. No pain, no discomfort, but I can only whisper and squeak basic monosyllabic squeaky responses.

Anyway...the "Cereal" part represents the "Count Chocula" cereal box which I subsequently stuck full of plastic knives, applied fake blood (from the Friday scarecrow competition in our Dept.), and attached askew to my lanyard.

Ha.
posted by Broadsheet @ 9:41 PM   2 Editorial Opinions
What's a Modern Girl to Do?
Maureen Dowd has an excellent if not completely depressing essay in this morning's NYT. Some of the most depressing stats:?

Women moving up still strive to marry up. Men moving up still tend to marry down. The two sexes' going in opposite directions has led to an epidemic of professional women missing out on husbands and kids.

...among corporate executives who earn $100,000 or more, she said, 49 percent of the women did not have children, compared with only 19 percent of the men.

..."Nowadays," she said, "the rule of thumb seems to be that the more successful the woman, the less likely it is she will find a husband or bear a child. For men, the reverse is true."

A 2005 report by researchers at four British universities indicated that a high I.Q. hampers a woman's chance to marry, while it is a plus for men. The prospect for marriage increased by 35 percent for guys for each 16-point increase in I.Q.; for women, there is a 40 percent drop for each 16-point rise.
Sigh.....
posted by Broadsheet @ 9:12 AM   5 Editorial Opinions
Awards for Times on Web
The NYT has won 3 awards for its online version, including the top prize for general excellence. I find this ironic since they decided to hide their best columnists behind a subscription wall a couple of months ago and their on line readership has plummeted as a result. Since I subscribe to the NYT, I also get a free subscription to the on line site, but it seems that if a news organization wants to win a Web award for on-line excellence, they need to make it available.

Hate to say it, but this is why you'll never see the Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times (sorry Steve, both outstanding Web versions of their dead tree parents, on this list.

On the other hand, it will be interesting to see how all of the major media / news outlets like BBC, NYT, Washington Post, CNN, etc... Can manage to continue to put quality on line versions of their content for free, when readership for all major newspapers continues to decline. The revenue has to come from somewhere. CNN and BBC have the advantage that they are broader media giants and not newspapers.
posted by Broadsheet @ 8:58 AM   0 Editorial Opinions
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Sites pump up offerings to hook younger audience
Great article on hooking media savy youngsters up on line. Especially since it has a nice sound bite from my buddy Steve

"Using entertainment as a means to keep the younger audience interested can be challenging for companies with no entertainment focus. Steve McGookin, U.S. news editor of The Financial Times, said it’s tough, but there are ways.

“We push for business-skilled students,” he said. “If you get the reader when they’re getting into their career, they will likely stay interested in your site as they move on.”

Forbes.com editor Paul Maidment agreed with McGookin. “Get them while they’re young,” he said. “The profile for people in business has changed. The entrepreneurs are young people and that’s who we should go after.”
posted by Broadsheet @ 12:30 AM   1 Editorial Opinions
Saturday, October 29, 2005
In Starring Roles
My neighbor, Kathy Cahill, has a terrfic article in Sunday's Washington Post Real Estate section on the recent starring role that Bolton Hill played in the Nicole Kidman movie.

My neighbor and friend Valerie gets a mention too:

Valerie Olson's 1850s farmhouse fronts the corner of Lanvale and Bolton streets (or "31st and P") and will likely show up in the several scenes that were shot just beyond her fence, such as the one where the small boy trick-or-treating is bitten by a dog and falls right where Valerie usually puts out her trash. But she's sure there won't be any uptick in the house's prestige or value once it hits the multiplex: "Tennessee Williams ate dinner here in my dining room, and that hasn't added to the value either," she said.
The tree version of the article has some great photos of the street and set dressing.

As promised from last week, here are a few photos of the set:

DSCF0137

"Bolton and Lanvale" becomes "P NW and 31 NW".

DSCF0135

Our street gets visited by "The Visiting"!

DSCF0125

Nicole Kidman was here.....

DSCF0126

Just some of the set decorations. I think every mum in Baltimore was on the street that week.
posted by Broadsheet @ 2:34 PM   0 Editorial Opinions
Friday, October 28, 2005
Rx
1. Stop after work and pick up some Whole Foods comfort food: black bean soup and wings.

2. Pick up a bottle of red wine.

3. Get home. Put land line and cell on voice mail only - turn off ringer.

4. Put on comfy flannels and favorite fleece pullover.

5. Light fire in fireplace.

6. Find campy horror movies on cable (easy - it's Halloween weekend).

7. Pour wine, nosh on wings.

8. Asleep on couch by 9:00. Relocate to bed at 11:00.

9. Sleep for more than 6 hours uninterrupted for the first time in over a week.

10. Wake up around 10:00 AM on Saturday feeling MUCH better.

That's the plan. Now off to execute it.
posted by Broadsheet @ 5:59 PM   0 Editorial Opinions
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Can't Stand the Heat....
Geez, I go to a weekly staff meeting for an hour, and all Hell breaks loose. Bye bye Harriet.

The day is going well so far, now how about some juicy indictments in the Valerie Plame scandal to round out the day? Yee Ha.
posted by Broadsheet @ 9:58 AM   0 Editorial Opinions
Cursed?
So... in a casual conversation with my bud D this evening, we were contemplating visitation plans and vacation options for the upcoming year. D lives in Rhode Island. We met in Philly, went to the same school (at different times) have known each other for going on 15 years now, and are best buds. But more importantly, we are best vacation buddies. We travel well together. That is probably the biggest compliment I can pay anyone. Lots of family members don't travel well together. Schedules, interests, places, etc... Lots of people who LIVE well together can't TRAVEL well together. D and I do. I could establish a whole other blog of travel stories and travails between D and I. We hang out well, we give each other space, we enjoy the same things, and we have the same "vacation clock". Traveling with someone is not always easy, and even D and I are not perfect, but we're pretty damn close, and after what is becoming an annual, and even more often event, we've begun planning for it.

Tonight we were talking about our next get together. I was up at her place in Rhode Island for "Girl's Weekend" with a half dozen other crazies in August. Parts of that group had been to the New Orleans Jazz Festival in May. Since Jazz Fest (at least in New Orleans) does not look like an option next Spring, we were tossing out alternatives:

"So...Hurricane Katrina hits NOLA a few months after we were there?", I said.

"Hmmm - what about going back to that place we went to on St. John's in the US Virgin Islands? The snorkeling and diving were great." D said.

"Hmmmm - they got creamed by a hurricane just after we were there." I said.

"What about that place in Mexico we went to for your birthday with the girls?" D said. "THAT was a fun week!"

"Hmmm - wiped out by Wilma last week." I said.

"And to San Francisco to see Julie and Andrew?" D said.

"Well that was back in '97 and El Nino washed all the roads out - remember?" I said.

Silence.

"Seems everywhere we go, a major disaster follows a few months later." D said.

"So, where should we go?" I ask.

"I think it's pretty obvious, don't you? Crawford, TX."

"Yeah - let's do it".

Great minds think alike.
posted by Broadsheet @ 12:00 AM   1 Editorial Opinions
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Human Vineyard
Hmmm, in Nashville, you would expect to see Elvis imerpersonators strolling around, but in front of a shop in the Opryland Convention Center - there was a woman (a VERY flexible woman I might add), dressed as a grapevine on stilts.

10-24-05_1259

PS: This is the first time I have sent not only a blog post, but a PHOTO blog post from my cell phone. Cool!
posted by Broadsheet @ 12:28 PM   3 Editorial Opinions
Love Child
If Tom Waits and Kathleen Turner had a love child - it would sound like me.
posted by Broadsheet @ 11:51 AM   3 Editorial Opinions
Monday, October 24, 2005
Double Bleh
Greetings from Nashville where I am at the Grand 'Ol Opry Convention Center Hotel with 5,000 other health care executives.

This chest cold is kicking my ass. Since the early morning session was none other than Newt Gingrich spewing his views on National Healthcare Policy, and since I was already sick as a dog without listening to him, I slept in a little and went to the later session at 10:00. I started to go downhill from there and finally dragged myself back to my room after lunch, where I am trying to get some work done and medicate this thing away. I spent $16 in the gift shop for 4 Nyquil gel tabs, a pack of kleenex, some Hall's cough drops, and a little bottle of Alleve.

There are things worse than a bad day at work. Being sick in a hotel in Nashville is one of them.
posted by Broadsheet @ 3:03 PM   5 Editorial Opinions
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Craptacular
That's how I feel. I have a full blown case of some alien avian chest cold crap. My cousin, who was visiting this week for a conference from Texas, came down with it too. So instead of painting the town red last night, we watched the Iowa (her alma mater) / Michigan game, followed by the Wisconsin (my alma mater)/ Purdue game, ate popcorn, drank diet cokes, and for a really fun, over the top, crazy finale, we ordered Chinese food and watched a pre-pubescent Lindsay Lohan in "The Parent Trap". Or, I should say, we watched most of it. We both felt like such crap, we fell asleep and never finished watching the end of it. Yeah, we were all wild and crazy like last night. Bleh.

Today, I have to put my sick, sorry ass on a plane to Nashville for a healthcare management conference till Wednesday. I'm supposed to go to a concert / reception at the Grand 'Ol Opry this evening, but since even when I feel well, that concept holds about as much appeal to me as a root canal without novocaine, I'm thinking there is room service and a good book in my future this evening. Bleh.
posted by Broadsheet @ 9:03 AM   2 Editorial Opinions
Pumpkinhead - Public Service Announcement
FYI: The Pennsylvania Game Commission asks anyone who has seen a deer with a pumpkin head to call 1-814-643-1831.




They hope to get close enough to grab or rope the deer and pull the pumpkin off. A tranquilizer gun is not an option since the drug would make the deer unfit for human consumption for up to 30 days should it be harvested legally during hunting season.

And we wouldn't want THAT to happen - would we?

Click the title for a link to the full article.
posted by Broadsheet @ 8:49 AM   0 Editorial Opinions
Friday, October 21, 2005
Zagat Outakes
Great article listing some outakes from restaurant reviews that never make it into The Zagat Guide. Some favorites:

"To call the food blech is an insult to blech."

"Worst trauma I have ever seen to a shrimp - six sad little crustaceans with third-degree burns from the broiler."

"More plastic boobs in the bar area than a Barbie collection."

"Watching over-50 gay bikers sing Barbra Streisand is now off my to-do list."
posted by Broadsheet @ 9:47 AM   0 Editorial Opinions
Suicide Plugs
I love these Alessi plugs! Mr. Suicide floats with the chain around his neck when you take a bath.

posted by Broadsheet @ 8:53 AM   0 Editorial Opinions
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Are You Getting Gouged at the Pump??
My brother writes: I thought you might be interested in seeing this. I don’t know why we haven’t seen a simple comparison like this in the news yet. This is a chart I put together using information from the U.S. Energy Information Agency website and a National Geographic article from last summer. It basically compares crude oil import prices to retail gas prices minus a fixed cost of $0.82/gallon for taxes, refining and transportation. You can see how they track each other pretty well until hurricane Katrina, when retail costs shot up much faster and higher than crude oil prices. This may be a little exaggerated since it doesn’t account for increased refining costs over time and by damage caused by the hurricane.


Image1
posted by Broadsheet @ 3:09 PM   0 Editorial Opinions
Thunderhole
A bit of background: A couple of years ago, I found an old hazmat sign in an antique dealership. The sign has metal panels that can be flipped into place to reveal a whole variety of hazardous materials warnings. I thought it would be fun to hang it over the toilet in the powder room, with the "Flammable Gas", or "Toxic" sign showing. This lead to further road signs being found and installed in the bathroom, to the point where it is now a "Disaster Shelter" (literally - I put the sign on the door). People are starting to collect things for me to put in the room.

So...On his summer vacation to Acadia National Park this year with his family, my brother went to a place called
Thunderhole, and sent me the following photo to frame and install in my bathroom of inappropriate road signs:

posted by Broadsheet @ 1:24 PM   0 Editorial Opinions
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Challenge!
Oh - my entire family is on notice for Xmas - Jenga Challenge!!! The Sears Tower in Jenga Blocks. My sister will go bezerk over this one.



HT: boing boing
posted by Broadsheet @ 8:11 PM   4 Editorial Opinions
Climate for Change
Dancing zombies!!

I loved the GW Bush as "Flashdance".....

Do the Climate Mash

In other news....my sidebar is back! And needs to be updated someday.
posted by Broadsheet @ 11:44 AM   0 Editorial Opinions
Window Dressing
As I pulled out of my alley to head to work this morning, the Hollywood set dressers were busy transforming my block into the image of elegant fall perfection. Each house is festooned with pumpkins, mums, dried corn stalks, halloween decorations, and colorful leaves to make it appear as if it is the most Martha Stewart meets Trading Spaces meets HG TV perfection possible. They even set up a couple of scarecrows lounging on the bench in front of the garden on our alleyway (unless they provide round the clock security, I am guessing most of this stuff is stolen before the week is over). It's amusing how the set dressing stops so abruptly. At the house on the corner of our alley, only the right side of the house is being decorated, the left side, presumably out of camera range, is naked of adornment, and about 20 feet up the alley from the scarecrows, are the porta-potty's set up for the crew to use.

I'll try and get some pictures this evening and post them later if it's not too dark. I hate that it gets dark so early now, and we haven't even gone back to standard time yet. I left work about 7:00 PM last night, and it was pitch dark by the time I got home. I grilled a steak out on the deck using a flashlight to see if it was done.
posted by Broadsheet @ 8:48 AM   2 Editorial Opinions
Monday, October 17, 2005
Roadtrip takes a turn at roadkill museum
Baltimore may have the Tattoo Museum, but only in Madison, WI, will you find the roadkill museum. In the basement of a funeral home no less.

The article is a hoot. Not only did some guy stuff a lot of dead squirrels and chipmunks, he dressed them up and gave them all little dioramas to play in. A Western Bar where squirrels drink beer, and even 2 albino squirrels jetting along in a pink Barbiemobile. Even funnier is the description of the museum's curator, an 85 year old funeral director.

"In a lot of Upper Midwest regions, there is a whole genre of museum bars and other places where there are tableaus of taxidermy. Some are similar to dogs playing poker in velvet paintings. The whole idea is animals personified doing things people in the North Woods would be doing; drinking, playing poker. Taxidermists try to outdo each other with more and more elaborate scenes."

""Many times kids are upstairs crying because they've lost grandma or grandpa," Sanfillippo explained during a tour of the museum. "Then I take them down here. You can't get them out of here. The families are upstairs and they say, 'Where did our kids go?' "
But my favorite quote might be: "The museum also has the best collection of stuffed albino squirrels I suppose I have ever seen."

Yeah - nothing like stating the obvious. Because, you know, there are just so many stuffed albino squirrel exhibits around these days.
posted by Broadsheet @ 12:17 PM   2 Editorial Opinions
Sunday, October 16, 2005
College Football - Rankings - The Associated Press Top 25 Poll
Ok, can someone who is way smarter than me, explain why the Wisconsin Badgers, who BEAT MINNESOTA on Saturday, by a score of 38 to 34 is ranked number 23 in the national pollls (down from 14 a week ago). But MINNESOTA, who was UNRANKED last week is suddenly number 22 with a 5-2 record??? I mean, WTF?

We're currently number 1 in the Big Ten Conference - ahead of Penn State (8) in the rankings, but tied for performance at 6-1. Wisconsin beat Michigan soundly 2 weeks ago, and Michigan narrowly beat Penn State for the first time this season.

We should easily be outranking Michigan State and Ohio State for heaven's sake.

Next week......

UPDATE: OK, so they moved the Badgers to 19 and dropped Minnesota alltogether. It's a start...

UPDATE #2: This morning, the polls are now showing Wisconsin at 17 or 19, depending on which poll you read and Penn State taken down to 12 or 14. Guess I just need to wait till everyone gets their votes in on Sunday.
posted by Broadsheet @ 10:10 PM   3 Editorial Opinions
Saturday, October 15, 2005
Trapped
I tried to run errands this morning. You know, dry cleaners, hardware store, wine shop, post office, car wash, etc... Typical Saturday stuff.

Well, it appears that you can't get there from here. At least not from my house anyway. All the major city streets are closed for the Baltimore Marathon until 3:00 PM, there are two large weddings taking place in the neighborhood, and my street is blocked off for the second weekend in a row to film the Nicole Kidman movie, and there are movie trailers blocking everything.

So much for Saturday errands, everything on that list is on the marathon route.....

I'm supposed to get my hair cut later this afternoon. I think if I cut up my alleyway between the trailers, I can sneak over to North Avenue and onto the freeway without hitting any roadblocks, but that's as far as I'll get today.
posted by Broadsheet @ 12:16 PM   1 Editorial Opinions
When Walmart meets Whole Foods
I have been to Wegmans, and it was good. I decided to try and beat the weekend hordes by going last night after work and pick up dinner. I had no idea......

140,000 square feet of grocery store. An Asian food super-bar. Every kind of pre-cooked food you can ask for. Cheese and fish I'd never heard of. And in the olive bar?? Fresh caper berries!

Things I was impressed with:

The cheese
The tea selection
The bakery
The meat, fish and pre-cooked food selections
The cosmetic and bath products - no more trips to Rite Aide after grocery shopping.
The upstairs lounge, internet cafe, seating area

Things I wasn't as impressed with:

The international food section: For the most part, they paid lip service to a lot of international foods. The British section was a joke, and while the availability of Asian and Indian foods is getting better in even the more routine grocery stores, if I want really good curry paste and spices, I'll go to the Punjab market on Broadway, or Shyam's Market in Woodlawn. Also, you cannot beat "Asia Foods" on York Road for anything else you might need (like a translator to help you read the boxes and cans). Besides, Wegmans had only a short shelf of boxed and canned items. No fresh / frozen international food or vegetables were to be found. They also duplicated a lot of things between the International Market and the regular grocery store area which also had the usual assortment of Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Kosher, and Middle Eastern items we've come to expect in large grocery stores. Nothing special here. I still have to rely on my neighbor for my Conimex Indonesian mixes and Stroopwafel when he goes to Holland.

The produce: Sorry - it just wasn't all that. OK, it was cool that they had truffles selling for $299 / lb. in a locked glass case, but the chanterelles, which are my favorite mushroom bar none, were looking a bit beaten up and old to warrant $14.99 /lb. They certainly have lots of everything, but nothing you couldn't find at Superfresh or Giant.

The housewares section: Overkill. Lose it. Seemed like an afterthought.

Despite the enormous crowds these opening weeks, I have a hard time imagining that they are actually able to sell all the freshly made items before their time. It seems as if enormous waste is inevitable.

So....Go. It's worth your valuable time. It's not Harrod's Food Hall, but it is pretty damn comprehensive, and if you're planning a dinner party or special meal with hard to find ingredients, you're bound to find them here.

For dinner, I ended up with some crab stuffed mushrooms, French lemon chicken, and the roasted harvest vegetables. I picked up some steaks for tonight.....

I have to admit, the foodie / gourmet scene in Baltimore has improved dramatically in the 10 years since I moved here from Philly. When I moved here, the most "gourmet" store was Eddie's in Roland Park. I missed all the ethnic stores (especially Italian)that they had in Philly, and Whole Foods, which didn't arrive in Baltimore until '97. While I've managed to create a short list of good ethnic markets, the new super stores are a welcome addition to town from a gastronomic view, if not an economic, environmental one.
posted by Broadsheet @ 9:16 AM   1 Editorial Opinions
Friday, October 14, 2005
Deadly Ecosystem ... In Your Pillow
Ewwww!

Your favorite pillow holds an entire ecosystem of disgusting bugs and potentially deadly fungi, a new study suggests. The typical pillow contains more than a million fungal spores, researchers found. That's several thousand spores for every little gram of material.
Good luck trying to sleep tonight.....

posted by Broadsheet @ 2:52 PM   2 Editorial Opinions
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Fetish Flip 'N Match Game
Oh...... ACW, have I got a Game for you!! Practice up for Happy Hour.
posted by Broadsheet @ 3:45 PM   2 Editorial Opinions
SEC Issues Subpoena To Frist, Sources Say
It's about time.

In other news, AP is reporting that HCA Warns 3Q Profit Will Miss Estimates . Hmmmmm.....

I think Martha Stewart is smiling. It's a good thing.
posted by Broadsheet @ 1:07 PM   0 Editorial Opinions
Let's stop pretending there's no religious test for nominees.
Damn, I hate it when he's right.

Either Miers takes her faith seriously, in which case it must be her life's mission to redeem those who have not accepted Jesus as their savior, or she does not, in which case she is a vapid and posturing hypocrite. And either she is nominated in order to gratify a political constituency, whose leaders such as James Dobson of Focus on the Family seem to have had advance notice, or she is not, in which case the president could see no further than his own kitchen Cabinet in searching for merit. So, the whole exercise is a disgusting insult.
posted by Broadsheet @ 12:52 PM   0 Editorial Opinions
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Oldest noodles unearthed in China
Further Proof that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the creator of the universe and is the one true religion. Ramen.
posted by Broadsheet @ 3:35 PM   2 Editorial Opinions
Harriet Miers's Blog!!!
Harriet Miers's Blog!!!
The blog of the #1 smartest President ever's #1 pick to be the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court!


Awesome - just awesome.
posted by Broadsheet @ 3:08 PM   0 Editorial Opinions
Time to build an ark
When I pulled into my parking spot last night, I saw balloons peaking out over the top of the fence I share with my next door neighbors proclaiming "It's a Boy!!!". They had anxiously been awaiting the birth of their first child, and I was just thrilled for them. Couldn't happen to a nicer couple - this kid is lucky to have the parents he got, and I'm sure they feel the same way about their new baby. I figured the baby would arrive while I was on vacation - Mom was really ripe when I left. The proud Dad was in the backyard, so I pumped him for all the scoop: 8 lbs., 8 oz.s, 10 fingers, 10 toes, full head of black hair - all sounds wonderful.

"What did you name him?"

"Noah"

Any coincidence that it has been pouring rain since his arrival? I don't think so.
posted by Broadsheet @ 10:02 AM   0 Editorial Opinions
Monday, October 10, 2005
The Holy Grail
It rained Saturday. We're talking rain of Biblical proportions. Needless to say, my drive 3 hours west to Deep Creek Lake was slow and unnerving. Upon arrival however, I was greeted with a fire in the fireplace, the kids running around, a game of Monopoly in progress, soup on the stove, and life was immediately perfect.

Sunday, we awoke to lots of mountain fog and drizzle. We managed to take the kids to the local "corn maze" to let them run around in the mud and dead corn, and then after lunch, the entire family embarked on a hike to Potomac State Forest. We hiked the "Lost Land Trail: Very rocky with many steep sections and stream crossings. Potential for muddy conditions when wet." Yes, yes it was. Pretty damn technical, especially after 3 days of rain. We parked one car at the top of the gorge, and another one at the bottom so that we could caravan out after the 3.5 mile trek. Luckily, we had an SUV and a van, because the road was just an unpaved logging road into the state forest.

If you've ever done the "Billy Goat Trail" at Great Falls National Park in DC, then you'll appreciate the Lost Land Trail. It was tough. A lot of rock scrambling in wet conditions. There are 11 of us in total, ranging in age from 67 to 9 years old. Everybody made it, and made it in pretty decent time and shape. Yeah family! The kids found lots of brightly colored newts in the wet leaves, and the views were spectacular.

The Holy Grail of any trip to Western MD wilderness is to see black bears in the wild. We saw them once off the deck of our house one evening, and before I got to the house on Saturday, 5 deer walked casually across the front yard, and we've come across many a pile of bear scat on any number of hikes over the years, but until now, no close encounters.

Since there were 11 of us, we had to make two trips up out of the gorge and back to the main road in the car. We sent the kids and a couple of parents out in the first load, and my Mom, sister, myself and my and sister-in-law waited patiently for my Dad to return with the SUV and collect us. We knew we had about a 1/2 hour wait ahead of us, so we started hiking up the logging road knowing we would meet him on the way. By this time, it was getting to be dusk, and we joked about a survival plan in case no one came back for us. We had a shelter all picked out, and luckily, my sister had matches with her (the only time I may have been glad she smoked).

Of course, my Dad finally came to the rescue and we piled into the SUV, exhausted, but happy, and were looking forward to a giganormous meal of my sister's homemade meatballs, sausage, and spaghetti with lots of wine, bread, and salad when we got home.

About 1/4 mile from where my Dad picked us up, we suddenly saw a large black shape emerging from the woods and crossing the road about 50 yards ahead of us - a BEAR!! But it wasn't just one bear. It was FIVE. Two large adults and three half grown cubs. We immediately cut the headlights and tried to creep closer in the car. They looked at us and scampered up the hill on the other side of the road, but not before we got a good look at them as they disappeared back into the woods. FIVE BEARS - they were really something.

Gotta run, my brother is bugging me to get in the car so we can go to Swallow Tail Falls and hike some more.
posted by Broadsheet @ 11:15 AM   1 Editorial Opinions
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Downtime
The Russians are on their way to Dulles and a 3:30 flight to Frankfurt, before heading to Moscow and then on to wherever each of them came from: From Moscow, to the Urals, to Vladivostok. They should all be back home sometime either late tomorrow evening or Monday - well, maybe Tuesday for Sergei.

My house is trashed. I have a stack of thank you notes to write, laundry to do, a basement to clean up (see flood from Thursday's post), and a ton of other things to get caught up on. But I'm not doing one bit of it.

I'm off to Deep Creek Lake, and this house in particular, where for the last 10 years my entire family has gathered on Columbus Day weekend for four days of nothing more than hanging out and enjoying each others company. Leaf peeping, Scrabble, watching football, carving pumpkins, hiking (provided it ever stops raining), good food, and lots and lots of reading. I'm looking forward to my 12 year old niece kicking my butt in a game of chess, and helping Mom complete a 1,000 piece puzzle. Maybe we'll see some bears.

They've been there since yesterday, so I'm already late for the party.

I'll be back on Wednesday.....
posted by Broadsheet @ 11:51 AM   2 Editorial Opinions
Friday, October 07, 2005
За ваше здоровье!
Za vasha zderovyra! = To your health! - Oh boy, I could do without hearing this toast again for another year.

The Russians cooked for us last night. Instead of going out to another restaurant, or another dinner in someone's home, they insisted on cooking a Russian meal for their host families out of C's little kitchen. Well, at least the women did. Sergei and Victor sat around smoking and drinking red wine, and Victor had to personally inspect the plumbing job on my new water heater because he was incredulous about the price (in this we agreed). He grudgingly gave his approval after a thorough inspection.

Dinner was wonderful, but it was definitely not a South Beach Diet experience. Wonderful meatballs with boiled potatoes; a salad of ham, chopped eggs, peas, potatoes, and mayonnaise; another salad of tomatoes and cheese; and plate after plate, after plate of boiled dumplings filled with different meats, potatoes and cheese (see a theme here?). And to add insult to injury - a wonderful chocolate cake with ice cream. These people LOVE their ice cream. We had to stop every afternoon for a coffee and ice cream treat. The English have tea, the Russians have coffee and ice cream.

At the dinner table, the small glasses were filled with chilled vodka and the toasts began. To our hosts (x3), to our guests (x3x6), to the program, the weather, the food, the desert.... These people will toast to anything. I think we even toasted Nicole Kidman in absentia. Granted, each small glass should last 3-4 toasts, but this was unreal.

Russians love to linger over dinner. This was not a meal that's over in 45 minutes so you can return to reading, getting work done, or watching TV the rest of the evening. Oh no. This was an event. Victor and Sergei presented us with gifts (each one requiring another toast of vodka). I received a gorgeously illustrated book on Russian history (in Russian so I can practice), a beautiful stone box made of malachite with an inlaid lid depicting a fall beech forest scene - it's gorgeous. I got a screen saver DVD and music from Sergei of his city of Vladivostok (ever the politician, I believe it is a marketing device they created to attract new businesses to the region), and I got some wonderful post cards, little plates, and other trinkets including a small flag and some pins. We finally stumbled down the block back to my house around 10:30.

It was a lovely evening, and tonight we get to do it all over AGAIN - at the going away dinner to be held in someone's home. I managed to get them all some small gifts as well, but I think the best gift of all are the friendships that this exchange created.
posted by Broadsheet @ 8:12 AM   4 Editorial Opinions
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Priceless
Guess what commodity has risen in price even higher than gasoline on a percentage basis in the last year?

Steel.

Guess what water heaters are made of?

Steel.

Missing a 1/2 day of work to sit at home and wait for the plumber? = 1/2 vacation day

On site removal and installation of a new water heater? = $750

Having the carpeting in the basement cleaned after the plumber trekked in and out of the house in muddy shoes and dragged the old, leaky unit through the finished basement? = $200

Hot water for houseguests? = Priceless
posted by Broadsheet @ 3:05 PM   5 Editorial Opinions
Man Sent Imposter To Take Paternity Test
And the Father of the Year Award goes to....

What a jerk!
posted by Broadsheet @ 1:59 PM   0 Editorial Opinions
Not Now!!
Sometimes life just has to kick you in the shins. You know, things are flat out busy enough, and then something happens to just topple it over into chaos and frustration.

So goes my day.

My Russian houseguest just called to tell me that when she went to get some clothes out of the dryer this morning, there was water all over the laundry room floor. Thinking that this was a repeat of a previous plumbing problem, I asked her to check the hose draining from the furnace.

"Nyet, Leenda, это будет подогревателем воды, им очень плох".

In case you're curious, that's Russian for "No, Linda, your water heater is hosed".
$%#@$&&^*

A week of extra showers, toilet flushing, running the dishwasher every day, and extra loads of laundry have apparently sent my 18 year old water heater to it's death...

Sigh....I asked her to make sure it was draining into the sump pump, not to use anymore hot water, and I would call the plumber...
posted by Broadsheet @ 10:05 AM   1 Editorial Opinions
Alien versus Predator
In this week's issue of "eewwww" news, I bring you: Python explodes after eating alligator.

The introduction and proliferation of Burmese pythons into the Florida Everglades has now created an environmnent where to mega predators are clashing. The article is fascinating, if not just a little macabre.

posted by Broadsheet @ 8:46 AM   0 Editorial Opinions
The scariest thing you'll read today
In Midcareer, a Turn to Faith to Fill a Void. This NYT article on Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers is just frightening.

While I strongly support anyone's chosen faith and their freedom to worship as they choose, I fail to see how the tenents of evangelical Christianity can possibly be compatible with an impartial responsibility to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Of course, the fact that she's never held a judicial post is also pretty disconcerting as well.
posted by Broadsheet @ 8:14 AM   0 Editorial Opinions
A Wine of Character, but How Many Miles to a Gallon?
Thanks to a world wide glut of wine, France is approving the distillation of 133 million bottles of "plonk" (slang for bad wine) in ethanol to be sold to refineries to produce gas and diesel.

While this is all bad news to French winemakers, since they only get about half what their wine would have sold for on the market by turning it into ethanol, it is great news for consumers since premier bottles from appellations like Beaujolais and the Côtes-du-Rhône can be had for about $10 - $20.

Vive la France!
posted by Broadsheet @ 8:07 AM   0 Editorial Opinions
Experts Unlock Clues to Spread of 1918 Flu Virus
This is HUGE. Perhaps the biggest discovery in forensic virology ever. Please read the article - it's worth your valuable time.

Bush administration officials have been talking about pandemic flu preparedness for years, and they say they will soon release a pandemic flu plan, in the works for more than a year.

The scary thing about that statement, is that it sounds just like the preparation plans for Hurricane Katrina. Too little, too late. And for something that we absolutely know with certainty will most likely happen in our lifetime. A major pandemic.

The current and probable risk of another bird flu pandemic is so high right now, that instead of the country having Terror Alert stages, there really should be "Health Alert" stages. And going in to this winter - it should be orange.

I am somewhat comforted by the fact that Tony Fauci at NIH and Julie Gerberding at CDC are spearheading the alarm on this. I know Tony Fauci personally, and Julie's reputation is rock solid. Unlike Mike Brown of FEMA, they are the real deal and have the credentials to back them up.

My great grandparents died in the 1918 epidemic, leaving my grandmother's brothers and sisters to raise each other and put every single one of them through college. If reconstructing this virus can help prevent another pandemic, then it's worth the risks associated with it.
posted by Broadsheet @ 7:52 AM   0 Editorial Opinions
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Neekol!
I know half of you won't believe this, but I have witnesses. Never mind that they can't speak English and you're stuck taking my word for it.

We ran into Nicole Kidman on my street last night. Seriously.

We were on our way to 'b' on Bolton Street for dinner, and decided to walk by all the film trailers lining my street. We saw what looked to be Nicole standing casually on the corner and talking to the film crew guys. This seemed odd behavior for an Oscar winning actress, but hey. Of course, when we got within about 10 feet of her, we realized it was her body double / stand in. She was an amazingly good likeness. I wonder how much they get paid to work about 6x times longer on the set, waiting for lighting shots and set ups, compared to the $20 million a film Nicole gets?

Anyway, we were amused by our gullibility, and kept walking. At the very next trailer, I almost walked into the door as it opened out, and yep - Nicole Kidman - the real one - steps out of the trailer with a sweet "excuse me!", says hello, and walks to the corner, where she got into a waiting Town Car and took off for dinner/hotel /who knows? She was wearing a brown pencil tweed skirt and a beige sweater set with pearls. Every bit as pretty in person as the movies and freakishly thin. She was wearing sneakers with the skirt, so she didn't seem as tall as reports might make her out to be - but it was most certainly her. 20 yards from my front door.

After gushing this information to the rest of the Russian entourage when we arrived at the restaurant, they were high-fiving each other and diving for their cell phones to call people in Russia and tell them of the movie star sighting.

Quayum Karzai, the restauraunt owner, elder brother to Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan and now a newly elected member of the Afghani parliament himself, stopped by the table to speak to the Russian delegation. I had THOUGHT that this might be the highlight of the evening - but no - all they talked about was "Neekol Keedmen".

While they are here this week, they are meeting with people at all levels of state and local government. From the mayor's office, to City Hall, to Governor Erlich's administration, they are really getting a tremendous professional program that I worked hard to pull off for them. It's all for naught now. No matter how great the program was - the only thing they are going to remember out of their first visit to the US, is that a few of them got to see Nicole Kidman in person.

We are such celebrity sluts.....

We proved that by walking halfway up the block to hang out on the movie set after dinner, where the same black Town Car pulled up and it appeared that they were getting ready to film a scene. Well, whoever was in the car, it wasn't Nicole, and after taking a bunch of photos of her body doubles (different outfits, but one with her hair up, and one with her hair down), who, from across the street, REALLY look like her - we gave up at 10:00 and went home.

They all want to try again tonight.......
posted by Broadsheet @ 9:37 AM   3 Editorial Opinions
Monday, October 03, 2005
Yello, my nem eez Veektor, and I need to go to zee veel kahl veendow
The Russians are a hoot. That is, when I don't want to strangle them.

When they arrived on Friday, we made introductions: Sergei- Deputy Mayor of Vladivostok; Viktor, Regional Duma (State Senator) of Ektarinaburg; Olga, First Deputy Aide to the President of her Duma in Novo Sibersk, and Illyana, President of her Neighborhood Association (kind of like our President of the Mid Town Improvement Assoc.). They range in age from 32 - 50, and are all as different, but delightful as can be. This is the first trip to the US for all of them, and they speak NO English. One thing they are NOT - is shy.

Viktor is a tall, droopy eyed, chain smoker with classic Russian features. By that, I mean he is 37 and looks 47. His very first question / demand of me in Russian was: "Leenda, I very much want to attend an American Soccer game while I am here".

"OK, let me see what games are playing and we'll try to make that happen for you".

"No, Linda. The game is Sunday - it is the Balteemore 'chyorneeya vernotee'." Hmm, I thought. 'Chyorneeya' I knew to be 'black', but I had no word for 'vernotee'. Then, Viktor flapped his arms and cawed.

"Oh - "Black Birds! Chyorneeya vernotee are black birds!" You mean the RAVENS football!"

"Da! Da! Zee Raveenz!!! Amereekanskee futball!" He said gleefully.

"Viktor, I doubt that there are any tickets available, but I'll look online and see. Even if there are, they cost many, many dollars. How much are you willing to pay?"

"I veel pay $100 Amereekanske doollars," he said very proudly and gravely. That is a fortune for a man in his position in Russia. It's a large portion of his monthly paycheck, let alone an amount for a man with 2 children and one on the way.

But I soon learned Viktor is nothing if not determined. I quickly recognized the politician in him. He had made up his mind to do this, and he was willing to cajole, charm, negotiate and, if necessary, beg his way to a Ravens game.

I logged onto Ticket Master, and the only tix I could find were $150 in the Ravens end zone. When I told him this, he swallowed as if trying to determine how he was going to tell his children he spent their college tuition on an American football game and said - " OK Leenda - it eez vhat I vant". So I put them on his credit card and printed out the receipt. Then, with some help, I explained to him that he would need his passport, the credit card he bought the tickets with, and the receipt, and needed to go to the "Will Call Window".

On Sunday, we all traipsed to the Aquarium in the morning (another blog post - trust me), and then took the "voda taxzee" to the Fells Point Festival. Like the mother hen in charge of her flock, I gave them each $15 to spend on lunch (provided by the program), and I managed to get them to understand that we MUST meet back at the water taxi stand at 3:00, so Viktor could make the 4:00 kickoff, and we could all go to the Inner Harbor and shop for souvenirs and trinkets for them to take back to Russia.

In the meantime, I had no idea how I was going to get this poor man to the "will call window" to pick up his ticket, find his seat, and then find us after the game, when he spoke NO English, in a stadium that seats 80,000 people.

I got a piece of paper, and on it I made two columns. One column in Russian / Cyrillic, and the other in English. First, my name, address, and cell phone number with an "If found, please return to..." Message in English and Russian. The next item was a phonetic spelling in Cyrillic characters of the English phrase: "My name is Viktor and I need to go to the Will Call Window". I made him practice this phrase over, and over again. He and his friends got THE biggest kick out of it. With the biggest grin I've ever seen, he would pump my hand up and down in his bear paw hand and say very earnestly, "Yello, my nem eez Veektor and I need to go to zee veel kall veendo, kahn yu yelp me?". And then I would dissolve into complete giggles.

Viktor programmed my cell phone number into his phone, and I did the same. We tested them. The only problem being, that although this worked splendidly, we were each being charged for a cell phone call to and/or from Russia.

Now - how to get a perfectly competent, adult man to a football game when he has no language skills and can't even read the signs? Ask for a favor. You gotta love the people of Baltimore.

The closest water taxi stand to the Ravens stadium stops at the Science Center. Luckily, a lot of people were headed to the Ravens game from the Fells Point Festival. At 3:00, I approached the least drunk, most responsible looking group of guys in Ravens shirts, and explained the situation to them: "This is my friend Victor. He doesn't speak any English, and he is a State Senator from Russia. He wants to attend the game very badly, and needs to go to the Will Call Window to get his tickets. Can you make SURE he gets there?? I gave them my cell phone number. They assured me that they would be happy to look after Victor and after he repeated his little parrot phrase to them, they all slapped each other on the back like long lost friends, and the water taxi left. I was sure I'd never see him again....

The rest of us spent the afternoon doing all the classic Inner Harbor tourist attractions: like watching the "Fudge Show" in the Light Street Pavillion and shopping for trinkets and gifts to take back to Russia. I wanted to call Victor to make sure he was alright, but I figured he probably wouldn't even hear the phone ring in the stadium.

Just as we sat down to dinner at Capitol Brewing about 3 1/2 hours later, my phone rang. I saw it was Victor's number and grabbed it. "Hello? Hello? Victor?"

"LEEEENDAA!!! "мы выиграли!!" (myoi vyreegralee)! Over and over again. (I forgot to note earlier, and I'm sure everyone figured it out, but this means "we won!!, we won!!"

"Victor - where ARE you?"

"LEENDA!!! Zee Ravens "мы выиграли!!"

At this, the phone was handed to someone named Seth, who came on and asked me if I was "Leenda". Yep - I sighed, that's me.

Well, Victor really, really likes you. He seems to think you are the most important person in AmerEEEKA. We met him at the game and he kept pointing to your name on a piece of paper and telling us he needed to go to the Will Call Window, but he was already in his seat. I think he's ready to go home. What do you want us to do with him?"

I wanted to jump through the phone and kiss Seth is what I really wanted to do. I told him where we were, and he said, "Hey! We're all going to Hooters and that's right next door! We'll bring him over to you!".

15 minutes later, a sunburned Russian with a Ravens hat, and the biggest smile I've ever seen strode out to the patio with 4 of his new best American friends in all their Ravens regalia, picked me up in a bear hug (NO mean feat!), and exclaimed once more "LEENDA!!! Zee Ravens "мы выиграли!!", only this time, he followed it up in Russian with

Leenda -"Я нашел окно билета!" (Yah nashel okno beeleta!).

Translation? "Leenda - I found the will call window!!"

UPDATE: I would be remiss in not noting that zenchick met up with us, and unfortunately had the brief, if not just frustrating, task of chasing Victor and the other Russians around Fells Point with me to make sure he caught the water taxi on time in the first place. I needed all the help I could get by that point!
posted by Broadsheet @ 6:29 PM   9 Editorial Opinions
Wisconsin Football: More than a Game
Why yes, yes it is!!

"The Fifth Quarter" = the band plays traditional school songs like "Varsity," "On, Wisconsin" and the "Bud Song" for up to an hour after the game. One of the band's trademarks is its interaction with the crowd. And during the Fifth Quarter, both the band and the fans dance their hearts out.

Wisconsin was named as having the best football game-day atmosphere in the Big Ten Conference in this week's issue of "Sports Illustrated on Campus," and from my seat in Camp Randall, I couldn't imagine it dropping in the rankings any time soon.
posted by Broadsheet @ 9:12 AM   0 Editorial Opinions
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