True Confession

There’s an app for everything these days — even one for helping you unburden your cluttered Catholic conscience. A new download, called “Confession: A Roman Catholic App,” helps users navigate the sacrament of reconciliation. It’s like a workbook to prepare you for penance.

One thing the app doesn’t do is replace the actual act of going face-to-face with a priest. Too bad.

When I was a wee lad — probably eight years old — my mother took me to confession at our local church. I was a little shaky on memorization and couldn’t recite the Act of Contrition. The priest, rather than helping me out, yelled at me from behind the darkened screen and told me I’d better get my act together.

I was a bit rattled, but it’s what came after that knocked my socks off. My mother stormed from the confessional and dragged me out of the church. The priest told her I didn’t know my prayers. Imagine the embarrassment of going to confession and hearing that your kid’s a lousy Catholic.

We were told at religious education class that what happens in the confessional is confidential. Apparently not.

Looking back, I probably deserved a kick in the ass for not working hard enough, but after that I always avoided the confessional. It’s funny the things that stick in your head forty years later.


Five Things I Learned Watching the Super Bowl

Everybody else is writing about the Super Bowl, so why not me? Here is my obligatory post-game analysis:

  1. Aaron Rodgers is as cool as a cucumber. The Packers quarterback is the kind of guy I’d want landing my plane in the Hudson River or performing brain surgery on me.
  2. H.L. Mencken was right. He said, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” There were countless examples of this last night, but the absurd Sam Elliot intros and the abridged Declaration of Independence jump right out at me.
  3. I hate halftime shows. During the season, halftime is 12-15 minutes. Super Bowl halftime should be the same length — subjecting the teams to the same conditions they play under during the year. And the Black Eyed Peas are an idea that works better in the studio than on a stage.
  4. Christina Aguilera is an abomination. Nuff said.
  5. There is no Super Bowl of advertising. The quality of TV creative through the year is so consistently good that many of the commercials seemed ordinary. That said, this Carmax spot made me feel like a geek at a robot convention:

Everybody’s Heard About the Bird

The first thing you learn in broadcasting is to watch your mouth around microphones. Don’t be the guy who drops an F-bomb on the air– or worse, has an embarrassing conversation recorded in the other room. Just assume that every mic is always open and you’ll never get in trouble.

A new rule has been added: beware of widescreen. Things that used to be off camera are now on camera, as Houston news anchor Owen Conflenti found out when he flipped the bird at somebody:

Snow, French Toast, and the Mob

“Hey. You ever go in the supermarket and see all those people buying crap because there’s snow coming?”

This was my same friend who explained how organized crime is behind New York’s construction of all those roundabouts. “You mean the bread and milk and eggs thing?”

“Yeah. You know who makes that happen?”

Uh-oh… here it comes.

“The mob. Everybody knows they control mozzarella cheese. What you don’t know is they’re all over eggs, milk… and bakeries.”

Wait a second. “But those sound like legitimate businesses…”

“They are! But here’s the thing: they get the weather guy on TV to say its going to snow like nuts, and all these people run out and buy things they don’t need. Look at this week. Weatherman says it’s gonna snow and everybody freaks out.”

“But how…”

“Payoffs. Extortion. Threats. Turn the screws on those guys and they’ll say anything. The mob’s got long arms. Forecast calls for two feet of snow, everybody runs to the store, and cha-ching.”


“Cha-freakin-ching, my friend. Cha-freakin-ching.”

It sounded plausible, but that was after a few drinks. Certainly something to think about the next time you make French toast on a snowy day.

The Long Trail

I judge my winter camping trips with the Boy Scouts by the condition of the outhouse. This year it was pretty darn good. The smell was tolerable, probably because it’s been so cold, and besides a little ice on the seat, it was not bad at all. I took a picture, of course.

The cabins at Woodworth Lake are cold and rough around the edges, but warm up nicely when the stove’s well stoked. There’s a peculiar smell to these weekends, a mix of dirty socks, wood smoke, and grilled cheese that clings to your clothes when you leave. It’s a reminder of your adventure.

Many scouts have come before, and a lot of them inscribed signs that ring the cabin. Mostly they’re simple, but others look like they had some parental input, with neat lettering and a gleaming coat of polyurethane.

The oldest one I could find was dated 1994, from Cub Scout Pack 40 in Amsterdam.

That doesn’t sound like long ago, but a lot can happen in seventeen years. The boys would be in their twenties now, setting off down the road of life. Some will be businessmen, some work with their hands. Some will find success, others trouble. But long ago they all shared a cold winter weekend in the woods. They may not remember every detail, but I’d bet they would recognize the smell of that cabin.

Customer Service: Alive and Well in Portland, OR

A couple of years ago, I snapped the Diamond-coated File clean off of my Leatherman Wave. We won’t discuss exactly how that happened, but let’s just say the last time the blade was seen it was protruding from a log.

The rest of the tool was fine, but once or twice I found myself yearning to actually file something down. The log incident haunted me. “Oh, Jeez… if I only had that Diamond-coated File right now…”

Fast forward a couple of years. For some reason, I ended up on the Leatherman website and read the warranty information:

We take extraordinary measures so your Leatherman product will give you many years of dependable service. If it doesn’t, we will gladly repair or replace it, at our discretion, with one of equal or greater value under our 25-year guarantee for tools and 10-year guarantee for lights.

25-years? Oh, great! But then it goes on:

This warranty does not cover abuse, alteration, theft, loss, or unauthorized and/or unreasonable use of your Leatherman product. This warranty does not cover sheaths, accessories, imprinting, color finishes, cleaning, or sharpening.

Unreasonable is an interesting word — and abuse is certainly subjective.  Who’s to say that, oh, for example, chipping kindling off a log is abusive or unreasonable? Really, without being there? It’s not like I used it to cut my arm off.

So off it went to Leatherman headquarters in Portland. I expected an email questioning how I’d broken the tool, or if I’d used it for anything harmful to the environment, but nothing.

Then, about a week and a half after I mailed it to them, a package shows up in the mail. Leatherman didn’t just fix the blade, but sent a brand new tool, along with a fancy sheath to keep it in.

Thanks, super tool dudes. I promise not to abuse it or do anything unreasonable with my new Leatherman. Really.

Meat Pad!

I’m officially a recycling fiend.

Since our residential waste collection contractor (garbage man) started offering single stream recycling, all the stuff now goes into one bin. This works; separating the trash was just too complicated for my feeble brain to handle.

Now everything’s diferent.

In our household it’s well known that I’m watching what people do with their garbage and picking through the kitchen wastebasket for recyclables. “Hey, that doesn’t go in there!” How annoying!

But I am somewhat flummoxed by meat pads.

Meat pads are those revolting absorbent liners that sit under your meat, soaking up blood. I am not making that name up, for if you Google “meat pads” you can learn more than you ever wanted to know.

These things — which are not recyclable — always struck me as being like sanitary napkins for meat.

Here’s the odd thing: I’m now finding the meat pads glued to the trays. You want to recycle the tray, but the meat pad is stuck to it, so you have to grab the whole soggy mess and give it a good tug.

Last night one slipped from my hands and the dog ran off with it. To a dog, that’s like finding a pork chop on the floor. As usual, your trash may be someone else’s treasure.

Gratuitous Cat Photo

It’s estimated that there are between 60 and 70 million cats in America — and all of them have their picture on the internet. Not all of them, however,  are doing something interesting like Mia.

She enjoys getting in the bathtub after we shower and staring at water dripping from the faucet. Look! Isn’t that amusing?

About the Weather

The dogs have no complaints.

Stick your head outside. That low rumble you hear is not a plow approaching or snow shifting on the roof, it’s the sound of people complaining

I don’t know if there’s more meteorologist bashing than usual lately, but during these dreadful weeks in the height of winter it reaches a fever pitch.

So why all the weatherman bashing? Because we’ve been programmed to expect accuracy.

For years, local TV has promised that their guy is the smartest, most experienced, and best at forecasting the weather. Nobody knows your weather better than he does. And along with his merry team of meteorologists, he will protect you and your family from weather related death and mayhem.

Please refer to EXHIBIT A.

This makes the meteorologists a little uncomfortable. They will be the first to tell you that predicting the weather is not an exact science, and that there are many variables that can influence what happens.

The public doesn’t really get this, so conventional wisdom holds that they’re wrong all the time.

There’s a reason they call it a forecast and not a promise.

Here’s Your Shovel, What’s Your Hurry?

At the TV station, we used to get complaints about running spots for our school closing coverage. The problem? The commercials would always show how thrilled children are to have a snow day. In the ads, they’d hear that school was cancelled and begin wildly celebrating. Like here:

The people who complained about this were usually educators. They felt we were sending the wrong message by suggesting that a day off from school is a reason to dance around your living room.

I suppose we could have shown children bitterly disappointed that school was postponed, screaming and crying over being forced to stay home. That might have been funnier because it goes against type — but the truth is,  to a ten-year-old a snow day is like hitting the lottery.

Me? I’ve come to see snow days as a throwback to agrarian times, when children were a source of labor. Closing school means that someone will be around all day to help clear the driveway.

For the next few years I won’t have to worry about buying a snow blower. Unfortunately, when the kid leaves for college is when I’ll least be able to afford one.