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Posts tagged ‘bizarre’

Who Are You, And What Have You Done With Albert?

I won’t lie to you – picking on the Angels comes as naturally to me as breathing. Raised a Dodger fan, I learned early that the Angels are like that bratty little sister that wants to tag along with you and your friends. And quite honestly, that whole “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” BS is every bit as bush as the worst of the McCourt regime.

Winners and losers ...

This year, though, it’s almost like they’re trying to make it even easier for me. As long time MB followers know, my heart beats true to the teal of the Florida Marlins. When they made the call to rebrand the team I was on the fence about whether to stay a fan, but I saw how hard they were working to improve and stuck it out. At the top of their shopping list – slugging first baseman Albert Pujols. A decade of play with the St. Louis Cardinals brought personal fame and team success, and he was the biggest free agent to hit the market in years. The Fish seemed to be in pretty good position and looked very much like the only team with any real chance to convince him to switch uniforms – until the Angels swooped in and nabbed not only Pujols but another almost-Marlin, C. J. Wilson. Clearly, the hated Angels were in line for an amazing season. Clearly …

As I write this, Pujols and his Halo teammates are playing in their 26th game of the season, and Albert is still waiting for his first American League home run. Worst still, it’s not just a power thing – he’s just not hitting, period. Pujols, a career .327 hitter is hitting a miserable .206 – barely above the Mendoza – and is only getting on base 1 in 4 times by any method at all. Tonight, the game is only in the second inning and the mighty Albert has already hit into a double play. It’s the worst possible scenario for a guy making $12M a season – not to mention the guys writing the checks. Forced to carry the load not being toted by Pujols, the Angels are 10 and 15 for the season, and the chatter has already started.

I’ll be honest – I figured of all the free agent movement during the off-season, nothing was as automatic as the fact that Pujols would hit the crap out of the American League West. In Miami, we’re tearing our hair out watching Heath Bell blow save after save, but the idea that Pujols could look this confused at the plate is simply shocking. Long considered one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball, it’s clear that pitchers simply do not fear him now. Watching a game last week with Pujols up in late innings, I saw a relief pitcher mow Pujols down on three pitches. The guy didn’t even bother nibbling the corners or trying to get Albert to swing at a bad pitch – he just threw the ball past him three straight times. It was as amazing as anything I’d seen.

As a Cardinal, one of the things that always set Albert Pujols apart from his peers was his mental approach to the game. Nicknamed “The Machine” by the media, you just couldn’t get into his head. In a way, it was reminiscent of another elite athlete known for his mental toughness, Tiger Woods. Woods seemed invincible until his carefully crafted world crashed around him; for years he couldn’t find his ass with both hands. St. Louis is well-known as the best place in baseball to play, with knowledgable fans who understand the ups and downs of the game – and knew that even if The Machine got into a rare slump, the old Albert would soon be back punishing the ball. Now, he’s in a new league, a new town and the only support he has is a freaking Rally Monkey.

One wonders just which direction this story will go …

Thoughts of a Foreigner

I’ve been kicking around this part of Texas for the better part of four days now, and I still don’t even know what to call it. The news peeps refer to the “Houston/Sugar Land/Baytown” metro region, but that’s all north of here. Whatever you want to call it, I like it – it’s close enough to the water to feel its effects without feeling its property values, and close enough to Houston to enjoy the city without having to enjoy the traffic. It is different than home, though, and as I drive around I continually see things that confuse, bemuse or amuse me …

Texas Trees

Know what kind of trees these are? Hit the Comment button below ...

– Singing roads: If someone tells you “it’s hotter than asphalt in Texas,” you know they’ve never been here. I assume it’s due to the heat, but the roads here are all concrete. Being as this is hurricane country, and concrete and rain don’t play will with cars, the roads are all grooved to allow the water to slough off. The result is that as you drive down them, particularly at speed, the tires play a melodic tune. Takes a little getting use to, but soon you realize that sound like a squealing Britney Spears fan is in fact another driver about to overtake you. Which brings me to …

– Drivers: As a native Angelino, I take a certain amount of abuse about our drivers, but they’ve got nothing on the folks around here. I’ve never been to New York, but I’ve been to Tijuana, and I can tell you the locals here are far worse. They drive with their adrenaline at full, and consider turn signals to be for sissies. I can be going twenty miles over the speed limit on a midsize highway and traffic will be stacking up behind me – or passing me on the shoulder. From now on, when I need to kick it up a notch in LA traffic, my mantra will be “channel your inner Texan” …

– Signals: You know those traditional red-over-yellow-over-green lights we all have? Not here – rotate them 90 degrees clockwise and read ’em left to right. I’m guessing it’s either a stable-when-it-blows-like-hell thing, or just a desire to be different.

– Starbucks: I don’t want this to make me sound too left coast, but it took me two days to find a Starbucks around here. Worth noting that in the same time, I found four Waffle Houses and six Whataburgers …

– Trees: There are two and only two kinds of trees here. The first is some kind of weed tree that seems to grow everywhere, and I suspect was the native cover here before any development. The other are the water towers that poke above the treeline, one per suburb. Inasmuch as this place is flat as a board, it’s the only way you’re ever going to have any water pressure. They also make wonderful navaids, since each is conveniently labelled with the town monicker.

Battleship Texas

Firepower is a wonderful thing ...

– DejaGoo: This isn’t so much a comment on the area as the the technology available to familiarize yourself with a strange region. I had an hour to kill last Friday, so, anal-retentive toad that I am, I scoped the place out in Google Maps. Using their Street View, I was able to virtually “drive” from my hotel to work, seeing all the landmarks. Once I arrived in the real Webster, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen something that I recognize – even though I’ve never been here. Cool and eerie all at the same time.

Our workshop ended earlier today, and I had a chance to spend an hour touring the battleship Texas – an awesome experience. Tomorrow it’s Galveston Island for half a day then home.

Lovely Cruise My Ass

There’s wind in our hair
And there’s water in our shoes
Honey, it’s been a lovely cruise

– Jimmy Buffett, “Lovely Cruise”

I have a hunch that very few people onboard a Carnival Cruise Lines week-long trip down the Mexican Riviera are waxing poetic about their cruising experience right about now. As I write this, the CARNIVAL SPLENDOR is under tow somewhere about 120 miles off Ensenada, slowly headed towards San Diego. An engine room fire on Monday left the ship powerless and adrift, requiring intervention by both the Coast Guard and Navy, as well as a small fleet of tugs hired to drag the disabled ship home.

Engineers were not able to restore power to the ship, which was operating on auxiliary generators, a Carnival statement said. As of Tuesday, “several key hotel systems, including air conditioning, hot food service and telephones are not available,” the cruise line said.

Engineers were able to restore toilet service to most cabins and all common-area bathrooms, as well as cold running water, the line said. “The ship’s crew continues to actively work to restore other services.”

Guests are able to move about the vessel and children’s activities and entertainment are being offered, Carnival said.

The Navy aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, which was training nearby, was dispatched to provide water and food to the 4400 passengers and crew. This may have provided some excitement not on the schedule of events, but unfortunately the menu is currently limited to Spam and Pop-Tarts …

This being America, I’m sure that as soon as the ship is in cellphone-range of the US, passengers will be hiring lawyers to help compensate them for the “emotional distress” they faced. It’s worth noting, however, that Carnival has been more than generous in their compensation package for the stranged passengers – each will receive a full refund for their trip, including any transportation costs associated with reaching the departure point of Long Beach, as well as a voucher for a free future cruise.

Of course, back in the day, Captain Stubing would have sent Gopher and Doc down to the engine room with some paperclips to fix the problem, and had Isaac fire up the frozen concotion maker … and all would have been well … :-)

Hot Enough For Ya?

And it's only partly sunny ...

You know, if I didn’t know better (or at least, hope better), I’d think Al Gore might be right.

We went all summer without anything that resembled summer, and now in the first week of fall we have the hottest day in the recorded history of Los Angeles. It hit 113 degrees this afternoon at the recording station downtown – so hot, in fact, that it broke the station … it may have been even hotter! Out in the San Fernando Valley, where it’s objectionably hot on even the most pleasant of days, it got even warmer. It was so hot today in Los Angeles (“How hot was it”), you could have cooled off by driving to Palm Springs … :-)

Those of us who pay extra to live at the beach do so to avoid such unusual occurances, but as you can see from the graphic we didn’t avoid the heat even here at the Home Office. Partly sunny and 98? Miserable … just miserable.

I’m thinking this afternoon would be a perfect time to curl up in a hammock under a couple of shade trees with the one you love. Now if I only had some trees, a hammock, and a one … :-\

You Sure His Name Wasn’t “Bob”?

Many of us who have spent much of our lives on the sea dream of having it be our final resting place. The idea of our loved ones being able to stand on a beach, look out over the blue waves and feel close to us is a wonderful thought. The idea of having our corpse wash up on said beach after a botched burial, however, is not so wonderful.

Daniel Lasky loved the ocean, and when he passed away at the unfortunately young age of 48, his family and friends gathered in Ft. Lauderdale to honor his wishes to be buried at sea. Friends, family and clergy joined the late Mr. Lasky for his final voyage onboard the fishing vessel MARY B III to his offshore gravesite, after which they proceeded to go fishing in honor of his memory. The story should have ended there – but it didn’t.

The following morning, a boater discovered Lasky’s body floating in the water about 4-1/2 miles off the Hollywood, Florida coast. A police report noted that the “white male victim” was found “floating face down and completely nude with the exception of a sock on his left foot.” Cops subsequently determined that Lasky was not a crime statistic, just the victim of an ocean burial gone bad.

I have participated in burials at sea in the past, always with cremated remains, and it can be a difficult experience – lots of things can go wrong. Mourners unfamiliar with the motion of the ocean can find themselves sick, ashes can blow back in one’s face, and there’s just something unnerving about the sound of the teeth plopping into the water. I can’t imagine the challenges with the burial of an intact corpse, and frankly I’m amazed it’s legal.

Once could surmise what exactly happened to Lasky’s clothes – or whatever was used to encase the corpse when launched – but I’ll leave that for the more morbid-minded. I’ll just remind everyone that there’s a reason the term “concrete galoshes” came into existance … 😉

Taking That “Woman Scorned” Thing To A Whole New Level …

We’ve all seen – and some of us have participated in – relationships that go sour, and know how passion and emotion can make you do things you regret. Fortunately, most of us stop short of taking it as far as one Bakersfield woman who paid a high price for her passion.

Jacquelyn Kotarac, a Bakersfield doctor, was involved in what what was described as an “on-again, off-again” relationship with William Moodle, a fellow Bakersfied resident. One would have to assume the relationship was “off-again” a week ago Wednesday, when Kotarac tried to force her way into Moodle’s home. While Moodle exited the house unseen to avoid a confrontation, Kotarac stepped up her efforts.

Police said Kotarac first tried to get into the house last Wednesday night with a shovel, then climbed a ladder to the roof, removed the chimney cap and slid feet first down the flue.

Kotarac apparently died in the chimney, but her body was not discovered until a house-sitter noticed a stench and fluids coming from the fireplace Saturday, according to police. The house-sitter and her son investigated with a flashlight and found Kotarac dead, wedged about 2 feet above the top of the interior fireplace opening.

Not a pretty way to go. The local coroner has determined that Kotarac died of mechanical asphyxia, meaning she wedged herself so tightly that she couldn’t breath. Kotarac had been seen drinking earlier in the evening, although police are hesitant to say alcohol played a role in the incident.

I, however, am not so hesitant. I have my share of alcoholic ex-girlfriends and have seen first-hand how an evening at the bar can turn a sweet, loving woman into a crazed weasel bent on revenge. Dr. Kotarac’s death is an unfortunate and extreme case, but not at all unusual.

So ladies, the bottom line is this – if you’re on the outs with your boyfriend and think that you’re thin enough to do the “Santa slide down the chimney” thing, remember this: If you drink, don’t slide …

Dude, You Wish You Could Go Out With This Much Style …

Those of us who travel on business understand and appreciate what a difficult, frustrating prospect it can be when you have to fly from one city to another. The post-9/11 changes to travel regulations make it hard enough, and the miserly squeeze being placed on passengers by the airlines doesn’t help. Add to that mix a couple of rude passengers who think it’s all about them, and it’s a wonder you don’t see more people going nuts on airliners.

By all accounts, yesterday’s JetBlue Flight 1052 from Pittsburgh to New York’s JFK Airport was your typical commuter flight – lots of folks headed to the big city, each with their own agendas and plans, wanting nothing more than to get the flight behind them. Among those charged with the passengers’ safety and service was flight attendant Steven Slater, a 20-year veteran flight attendant who had recently rejoined JetBlue after five years away. Perhaps the time off wasn’t as rewarding as he’d hoped, or perhaps wiping up after a cabinful of rude, ungrateful passengers wasn’t as exciting as he remembered. All we really know is that after getting into a disagreement with an unruly passenger, he made his last flight an a JetBlue employee memorable for all onboard.

After he was bonked in the head by a bag, Steven Slater stunned passengers by spewing profanity and ranting about quitting as the flight from Pittsburgh pulled up to the gate about noon.

“To the f—–g a–hole who told me to f–k off, it’s been a good 20 years,” Slater, 38, purred, cops said. “I’ve had it. That’s it,” he added, a passenger said.

The mad-as-hell steward grabbed a couple of brewskis and popped one open before activating the emergency exit, witnesses told airport employees.

After tossing his two carry-on bags on the slide, he followed them to the tarmac.

Slater then walked to the AirTrain, stripped off his company tie and flung it off as bemused passengers watched.

“I wish we could all quit our jobs like that,” said passenger Phil Catelinet, 36, of Brooklyn, who was on the flight and the AirTrain.

“He seemed kind of happy about it. He was like, ‘I just quit my job.’ “

Slater calmly exited the airport and headed home, where he was taken into custody later in the day. In a court appearance this morning, he was charged with charged with criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and criminal trespass, and his bail set at $2500.

Interestingly, the majority of reaction towards Slater’s actions, while not necessarily endorsing his unorthodox exit, tends to be at least supportive of his frustration. As you might expect in this day and age, there are YouTube tributes and Facebook fan pages. There’s even talk of a reality show, presuming he ever gets another job.

Look, punching out of a plane isn’t a good idea, even on the tarmac. But after twenty years of dealing with self-centered jackholes day in and day out, it’s hard to blame the guy for finally snapping.

Got a hunch we haven’t heard the last on this one … stay tuned …

No Soup For You, Tigers Fan …

I was about to craft a witty, insightful post about the obvious impact the removal of steroids has had on baseball, as evidenced by the Tigers’ Armando Galarraga tossing the third perfect game in less than a month – a feat that had only happened 18 times in the history of baseball before those three. And then Jason Donald of the Indians walked up to the plate.

Donald represented Galarraga’s last obstacle – the 27th batter he had faced in the game without allowing a baserunner. He looked at a couple of outside pitches, then hit a sharp grounder in the hole between first and second bases. First baseman Miguel Cabrera moved to his right, scooped up the ball and – after waiting a beat for Galarraga to break towards first base – tossed the ball to the pitcher for the final out. The fans went wild – until they saw first base umpire Jim Joyce spread his arms wide, signaling Donald was safe. The perfect game – heck, even the no-hitter – were lost on that final play.

It would be hard enough to lose such a monumental achievement at the very last moment, but as the replay clearly showed, Joyce blew the call – Donald was out by half a step. Tigers manager Jim Leyland and several players ran up to complain, but the call stood. The next batter grounded weakly to shortstop, ending the game on the bitterest of notes.

As much talk as there would be had Galarraga achieved his perfect game, there will be a lot more after the bad call. The loudest voice will be that in favor of using instant replay for cases like this, an extension of the video review already in place for certain events such as determining fair or foul balls or whether a ball indeed cleared the fence for a home run. And while instant replay would certainly have overturned Joyce’s call and preserved perfection, I’m going to come out against it.

To me, one of the joys of baseball is its humanity. It’s not ruled by a clock but rather by the flow of the game – you have to get 27 outs, and you can do it as quickly or slowly as you like. The current usage of instant replay makes sense to me only because it reviews a portion of the game not immediately overseen by a human umpire – often, the closest ump can be over a hundred feet away. In those cases, instant replay is a tool, much like a pair of binoculars.

There are umpires stationed on every base, and when a play is made they are right on top of it. In the call tonight, Joyce was in the right place at the right time – he just blew the call. You expect them to get it right, just as you expect the shortstop to cleanly field a ground ball. But both men are human, and humans make mistakes, and sometimes that leads to unfortunate moments like tonight. But to subject their calls to review is to call their judgement into question. Most plays at a base are bang-bang – the umpire must be looking in one place and listening in another, and always to the right things. It takes years to develop the skill set required to perform at the big league level, and to me, that time earns you a certain respect. I know there are a lot of folks tonight in Detroit who passionately support instant replay, but I’d rather see the occasional blown call – even in such a crucial time – than to have every umpire question themselves on every play, knowing Big Brother is looking over their shoulder.

Besides, The Truth Is So Much More Boring

I love tabloid journalism. Unlike most people in the generations behind me, I recognize that it is entertainment and not fact, and don’t use it to make life-changing decisions … like, say, moving to the Jersey Shore. But as entertainment, it can’t be beat.

Since it’s effectively the modern day equivalent of the sideshow freak display, they depend on their headlines to suck people in the way a carney might back in the day. Take this one, which I saw a little bit ago:

“Ears save boy from death as crowds watch him dangle from window”

That one would suck me in even if I didn’t come from a long line of large-eared males. Apparently, little Ming Ming was wandering around on the balcony outside his parents’ apartment in Yinchang, China, when he slipped between the bars. I’ll let the tabloid pick it up from there …

Crowds gathered after hearing his screams and rescuers moved into save the child from an eight storey drop. An onlooker said: ‘The only thing stopping him from plunging to the ground below was the fact his head was trapped between two window bars.’ Once inside the flat firefighters quickly used a hydraulic pressure expander to force the bars apart and pulled Ming Ming back into the apartment.

Now to be fair, it looks to me like it’s actually his head that kept him from falling to his death, but who am I to stand between a headline and the truth. And, frankly, I’m happy he was saved, because there’s not nearly the same tabloid value in “Boy Plummets To Death” … :-O

I’m Not Fat – I’m Just Addicted

For a long time, I’ve struggled with weight.  I was never an athlete, so while not fat, I was always soft.  I was blessed with a pretty high metabolism, not to mention borderline ADD, so I managed to burn off much of whatever I consumed. 

As I got older, though, and school transitioned to work and recess to cubicles, it was harder to avoid adding the pounds.  Never a lot, but I slowly gained weight over time.  By the time I reached thirty, I was learning the joy of diets, and went through a lot of them before finally realizing the key is simply to eat less and move more.

Imagine, then, my surprise to learn that it wasn’t my fault I kept piling on the pounds – I wasn’t an undisciplined eater, I was just addicted!

A new study in rats suggests that high-fat, high-calorie foods affect the brain in much the same way as cocaine and heroin. When rats consume these foods in great enough quantities, it leads to compulsive eating habits that resemble drug addiction, the study found.

“People know intuitively that there’s more to [overeating] than just willpower,” Paul J. Kenny, Ph.D says. “There’s a system in the brain that’s been turned on or over-activated, and that’s driving [overeating] at some subconscious level.”

In the study, rats were stuffed with bacon, frosting and other fatty people food. To no one’s surprise, they got fat, but their brains also changed chemically in a fashion very similar to drug addicts – even in the face of pain, the rats continued to gorge themselves.

What I really found interesting is the theory being floated on why the rats’ – and, presumably, our own – brains might be altered by fatty foods in a way similar to cocaine. According to Dr.Gene-Jack Wang, it’s because the development of drug processing and food processing have mirrored each other over time.

Coca leaves have been used since ancient times, he points out, but people learned to purify or alter cocaine to deliver it more efficiently to their brains (by injecting or smoking it, for instance). This made the drug more addictive.

According to Wang, food has evolved in a similar way. “We purify our food,” he says. “Our ancestors ate whole grains, but we’re eating white bread. American Indians ate corn; we eat corn syrup.”

The ingredients in purified modern food cause people to “eat unconsciously and unnecessarily,” and will also prompt an animal to “eat like a drug abuser [uses drugs],” says Wang.

Interesting theory, doctor. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find my mirror so I can draw out a line of frosting …