Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Props (2013)

The Super Bowl is this Sunday. As always, there are myriad ways to wager upon this absurd spectacle. Aside from the usual sorts of betting opportunities one finds for an NFL game (who will win, how many points will be scored, how many players will be arrested prior to kickoff) there are a number of what are called "proposition bets". These are wagers upon... well, just about anything under the sun.

My record over the past two years is +230. That is, if you followed my betting advice for the past two Super Bowls, you would have made 230 dollars. You would have made money in 2011 and lost money in 2012, but the overall bottom line is a plus. In order to make that money, you would have risked a total of 4150, which means I've given you a 5.54% return on your investment. That's better than any two-year CD would have gotten you AND your money would not have been subject to early withdrawal penalties.

(In years past, I have suggested that anyone following my advice should send me 10% of their winnings. Thus far, my mailbox has not been flooded with envelopes stuffed with cash. That's OK. By now, you should be thoroughly racked with guilt. I'll give you a great opportunity to feel better about yourself.

Knucklehead is trying to raise money for charity. To that end, he has set up a website [through] in honor of a student at his school named Sam. He's 12, and just an amazing kid who happens to have Down Syndrome. If you make money on my picks - or even if you don't - how about going over there and making a donation?

Being out of work, the best I can do is send people there. So go, OK? Thanks!)

And now, back to gambling, he said, even though he just complained about being out of work.

(Obviously, I won't be laying down the cash on these bets. They will all be in my head. Whether you realize it or not, so are you.)

First, here's the site where I gathered the betting information - BetOnline. To be perfectly clear, I am not endorsing on-line gambling. And any risk you undertake is done of your own free will. Having said that, I am showing a profit for the past two years and... no, no, no. Use your head.

Now I want to show you a few of the truly nutso bets you could make. Look at these (all bets are given as "to 100", which is to say betting the favorite is to make 100 and betting the underdog you risk 100.)

Both coaches wearing hats (Yes, -1000, No, +600)

Beyonce - Mic or headset first (Mic, +175, Headset, -250)

Will Beyonce show cleavage during her first song? (Yes, -500, No, +300)

MVP will thank who first? (God, Even - Teammates, +200 - Coach, +300 - Parents, +600 - Fans, +600)

If you bet on any of those, I hope you have the phone number for Gamblers Anonymous on speed dial.

Here are the bets I would make this year if I had some excess liquidity. First large number is the money I'd risk, second large number is the possible payoff.

San Francisco, -7 1/2, 1500/2625

The regular betting line is San Francisco by 3 1/2. If you bet on San Francisco, they must win by 4 points in order for you to 'cover' (win) that bet. Conversely, you can wager on Baltimore and receive 3 1/2 points. Should Baltimore lose by 3 points or less (or win outright) you would cash that bet.

I'm not normally one to lay points, but I think San Francisco will win this game handily. I don't think there's a single aspect of the game wherein Baltimore has an edge (even yes, edge no). And I'm willing to give a few more points in order to get some odds in return. San Francisco is just plain better all around. I truly believe that.

(Of course, I also truly believed that The Three Stooges In Orbit would sweep the Oscars in 1963. The only one it got was Best Supporting Actor for Emil Sitka, so what do I know?)

Over 47, 2200/2000

This is a bet on the total points scored in the game. I wouldn't be surprised to see this one cashed by the end of the third quarter. Baltimore will not be able to establish a running game, so I expect to see a lot of passing from Joe Flacco. He'll connect on a few long bombs. He'll also give the 49'ers one or two interceptions. Meanwhile, this is Colin Kaepernick's year. There hasn't been a team yet that has shown an ability to completely hold him in check. The Niners have too many weapons for Baltimore to focus solely on Kaepernick, so there will be a lot of long gainers when the defense guesses wrong. Lay it in on this to be well over 47.

Speaking of Colin Kaepernick, you can get odds on him rushing for a touchdown in the game. I think that's worth a wager. I wouldn't be surprised to see him score on a naked bootleg.

(For you folks unfamiliar with the terminology, that's not something dirty. It just means a play where the quarterback goes opposite of his blockers - naked, unprotected.)

Kaepernick Scores Rushing Touchdown, 300/375

And that's about it. There were a few more exotic bets I considered, but none were quite good enough.

Our total wager is 4000 to make a possible 5000. If either of the two larger bets wins, that will be enough to cover the losses on the other two bets should they lose.

I cannot stress enough the fact that I am a bozo and will not accept any responsibility whatsoever should you be stupid enough to blow the mortgage money. Have fun. I'll be back on the Monday following the game to either crow about my successes or make pitiful excuses.

Soon, with more bettor stuff.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Me, A to Z

I "stole" this from Jenn Flynn-Shon, a wonderful writer and, more important, a swell person.

Since losing my previous job, I’ve been doing no writing for this space other than tales of unemployment. I owe you more than that. You've all been loyal. Many of you are saying prayers for me. Some of you have been coming here for years. You deserve better. Also, I need to keep my blog chops up. Even though I've been trying to set myself up to function as a full-time paid writer (or to do work connected with writing, such as the fact-checking work I've landed) I've actually done little writing as of late. Mostly, I've been going over my past output to find immediately salable items. That involves editing more than writing. So, this will allow me to exercise my typing fingers a bit and, I hope, provide more entertainment than I've recently given you.

Age - 55. Had you asked me if I would ever be this age, back when I was 20, I would have laughed in your face. I will gladly do the same for you now, if you ask me about the chance of my being 90 someday.

Bed Size - Twin. I've had them all at some point in my life - King, Queen, Full, Couch, Hammock, Sleeping Bag, Floor, Gutter. MY WIFE has a Queen. No, we do not sleep in the same room. This suits us just fine, thank you. While we like each other, we see no need to conform to societal norms as concerns sleeping arrangements. I smoke and snore. She likes to keep the TV on all night. If we slept together, we wouldn't be nearly as happily married as we are.

Chore You Hate - Ironing. If I had a wardrobe that required me to do it more often, I'd be a miserable man. Therefore, I have made every effort to not be more stylish than is absolutely necessary. If there's a funeral, I iron a bit.

Dogs - Despite my nickname, not my cup of tea. I prefer more quiet and self-sufficient animals.

Cats understand me and I understand cats. It's a moot point, anyway, as MY WIFE is allergic to animal dander. I haven't had a cat since the one that lived with me when MY WIFE joined me in cohabitation. To prove how much cats understand my needs, that one (pictured above) left of his own accord about a week after MY WIFE moved in.

Essential Start To My Day - Coffee and a cigarette. Until I've had both, my brain is a pile of semi-gelatinous goo.

Favorite Color - Green. I especially like it in combination with Black. If I ever own a sports team, the uniforms will be those two colors.

Gold or Silver - Silver, hands down. If someone wants to give me a big pile of gold bars, however, don't be afraid that I'll throw them back in your face. I'll politely accept them.

House or Apartment - Apartment. The first thing I'll do when someone gives me that big pile of gold bars, though, is buy a house.

Instruments Played - Bass, Drums, Guitar, Keyboards, and a smattering of just about everything else. I made a nuisance of myself in every band I was in. No matter what instrument I was expected to play, I'd grab something different during breaks and teach myself a bit. For those wondering (bless you) the names of my bands, in chronological order, were World's End, Live Wire, Powerline, P.S. Wild, City Limits, Soldier, and Assault & Battery. I was the bass player in all but the first.

(I'm second from left in the above shot, for those of you who think I was always bald.)

Job Title - As of now, Freelance Writer. Previously? There have been some 29 or 30, most recently Voice-Over Artist and Producer for some 20+ years. All things considered, I would gladly be doing nothing at all, but I can't afford it.

Kids - Are fine for other people but far too much work for me. I enjoy being an uncle. I can play with the kids and then hand them off to someone with a greater sense of responsibility when I get tired of it.

Live - Is better than not.

Married - Yes, very. MY WIFE is my soulmate. I would prefer that she get her own Facebook account, but she does all the ironing.

Never Again - Will I put my financial future in the hands of one person, if I can avoid it. Losing my job of 20+ years duration, about four weeks ago now, was one of the biggest shocks of my life. From now on, my life's stock will be diversified.

Other Fun Fact - I am typing this while sitting next to my grapefruit tree. I was having breakfast one morning and decided to see if I could grow a grapefruit tree from one of the seeds I encountered. I was successful and it is now about three-and-a-half feet tall. They can reach heights of thirty feet.

This is a shot of Planty (that's his name) from when he was about two-and-a-half feet shorter than he is now. I have no idea what I'm going to do when he outgrows the house. Grapefruit trees do not do well in the winter where we live, so permanently planting it outdoors would kill him. I guess I'd have to put Planty up for adoption, so those of you living in Arizona or Florida or other places grapefruit trees love to live can probably expect to hear me begging you to take him in a few years.

Pet Peeve - Am I limited to only ONE? I guess so. In that case, I'll go with those advertisements that pop up on the screen during television shows. I hate those things. Television is very aggravating, overall, these days. If you're of the same age as me, more-or-less, I recommend ME-TV. They do it right. No pop-ups. Full opening and closing segments of shows, including credits. They have the decency to allow you a chance to suspend disbelief. And the line-up is chock full of great old shows from the 50's, 60's, and 70's. It is wonderful. Therefore, I expect it to go out of business within six months or so.

Quote - "You are special. There is only one person like you in the world, and everybody can like you just the way you are." - Fred "Mister" Rogers

Righty or Lefty - Righty, but I have a fair amount of dexterity with both due to my playing around with so many musical instruments.

Siblings - None, thank you very much. I was, and am, a very happy only child. I've gained some step-sisters and step-brothers via My Mom, and they are beautiful people, but I still, deep in the recesses of my disordered mind, hold on to my being an only.

Time You Wake Up - Generally, a few minutes before 7:00, every day, with or without an alarm. I did so, with an alarm, for over 20 years, so this will probably remain the norm for a couple more months at least. We'll see.

University Attended - None. I escaped high school in 1974 and was ecstatic to be done with schooling for the rest of my life.

(Actually, I did go back to school, in 1990, to earn a certificate in broadcasting. Following my time there, that school gained accreditation as an actual college, so I could honestly now say I graduated college, but I find it more satisfying to have people assume that I went to college and then enjoy the surprised looks when I tell them that I didn't.)

Veggies You Dislike - Mushrooms.

I assiduously avoid eating fungus of any kind. Blech.

What Makes You Run Late - Very little. I was born with a great sense of time. Twenty years as a professional voice only served to reinforce it. I can generally read something aloud in whatever time limit you desire while not referring to a clock. Similarly, barring mechanical breakdowns of whatever conveyance I'm utilizing, I tend to be wherever I'm supposed to be at the time I'm supposed to be there.

X-Rays - Many for my mouth over the years. A few for my neck. Otherwise, I don't have a heck of a lot to say about X-Rays. I guess I've been blessed.

Yum Food - Whoopie pies. Eclairs. Boston Cream Pie. Just about anything composed of a combination of cake and creamy filling. If we're talking about something other than desserts, there are many. I have yet to find my limit for beef. You can keep putting it on my plate and I will keep eating it. I love a good turkey dinner. Many pasta dishes have a place (probably literally) in my heart. Good pizza is a joy (bad pizza is a capital offense.)

Zoo Animal Favorite - Bobcats. I've always loved them for the combination of grace, power, speed, and wicked good-looking sideburns.

MY WIFE once gave me two bobcats for my birthday. No, she didn't give me a box to unwrap and when I did so the bobcats jumped out and ripped my face to ribbons. A wildlife sanctuary we liked, where animals who had been injured in some way precluding them being re-released into the wild were allowed to live, had bobcats. She made a donation for upkeep of the bobcats and I received a certificate of "ownership". One of the coolest gifts I ever received.

And I guess that does it, unless there are other letters of the alphabet I've forgotten. Why not do one of these yourself? I'd love to see how your answers stack up next to mine. If nothing else, comparing yourself to me should be good enough to assure you of your own comparative sanity.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Call Me Joe Friday

"Just the facts, ma'am."*

I got the position as a fact-checker. And I completed my first assignment yesterday.

(I should explain that it's a freelance position, and thus will provide intermittent income, so if any of you were praying for me to get a full-time gig someplace, you needn't stop sending good thoughts skyward.)

The work I'm doing is for a national magazine. I won't give the name yet. I don't know how they'd feel about that, so I have no intention of queering the deal immediately just to satisfy my ego and your curiosity. I'll tell you that it was launched in the early 1980's and currently has a monthly circulation above 500,000. If you're willing to do a little fact-checking research of your own, you might be able to guess it.

(Don't make any guesses in the comments, OK? If you do, I will neither confirm or deny. I will ignore.)

So, fact-checking is an interesting job. The basic deal is this: I receive an article due for publication in the coming months. I read it. I mark up the piece, deciding which things will need to be checked for accuracy (quotes, for example). Then I either verify the marked up sections via research (internet, library) or by contacting a person mentioned in the article and/or given as a source by the author. I may also search out other sources for verification, if the original sources can't be reached by deadline.

The piece I was fact-checking ran about 2,300 words. I put in roughly ten hours checking it. I had to contact nine different sources, via telephone, and take notes on the conversations we had. I also had to do some research on the internet, to make sure a few figures given by the writer were accurate. I also proofread the piece for spelling errors and other slips of the typing fingers. It is fairly taxing work mentally, but a good challenge. It combines aspects of reporting and editing, so it's good training for a writer.

It is also educational. For instance, I learned the following during the course of the fact-checking I did:

*Honeybees use headbutting as a means of communication.

*Football fields are 53 1/3 yards wide.

*60 milligrams = approximately 2/1000 of an ounce.

*Termites are capable of building nests (mounds) reaching a height of 40 feet.

It is a haphazard sort of an education. However, if I find myself on Jeopardy someday, and one of the categories is "Minutiae Concerning Athletic Fields And Insects", I'll probably ace it.

Needless to say, I'm grateful for the work. I'd give a big shout-out to the person who helped me get it, but he or she would rather remain anonymous. Considering that it's me that he or she would be associated with, that's understandable. Also, if my new employers found out how often I fabricate things here, they might become somewhat skeptical concerning my qualifications, so I'd better keep it on the down low.**

Soon, with more better stuff.

*I realize the reference is too outdated for some and too American for others. Tough. I'm American and outdated.

** No, not that down low.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Journey Of A Thousand Miles...

... begins with a column on the op-ed page of the Boston Herald.

I sold a piece, and it appears there today.

You could go buy a copy of the paper. It only costs a buck, and it's full of all sorts of wonderful things aside from my writing - comic strips, puzzles, local and international news, sports, obituaries, lottery results - and, after reading, it is swell to use as something upon which to place your boots the next time they're all wet after you shovel the snow.

If you can't buy the hard copy, you can read my piece at the Herald website.


No matter which way you read it, please tell the editor what you think of it.

Well, let me qualify that. If you like it, please say that you consider me the modern day equivalent of... oh, I don't know; perhaps Felix Morley. If you hate it? Shhhhhhhhhhhhh!

It's a start. Now all I have to do is sell 9,999 more of these things and I'll have the means to retire quite comfortably, thank you.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Something That Needs Saying

This is just a quick note to thank you for your prayers, kind words, suggestions, and other things that have given my spirits a boost. If I were a king and had knighthoods to pass out, I'd dub all of you.

A few of you have even gone so far as to offer me physical sustenance of one sort or another. Whether it was money, groceries, gift certificates, leads in finding actual paying work, or any other offer of help, please know that you have touched my heart. I think I've spoken, via e-mail or telephone, to everyone who made such a gesture, but if I somehow missed getting in touch with you personally, I want to be sure you know how much I love you, which is a lot.

(For those wondering - I've refused all offers concerning gifts, for now, but if this thing drags on for many months, I'll gladly step up to your cyber doorstep and ring the bell looking to see if the handouts are still available. I've sent some small help to other people here and there, so it's nice to know that bread cast upon the waters does, indeed, return.)

Bottom Line: You folks are swell, and I'm glad I've made your acquaintance.

Other Bottom Line: I've been blessed in life. For all of the jobs I've held - and that runs way into double figures - this is only the second time I've ever been asked to leave. And it's the first time it happened without my having had any inkling that my departure was imminent. That it happened so suddenly, in the job I held the longest in my life, still has me walking around with my brow knitted for most of the day. Unless things get so desperate that I have no other choice, I will not put myself in such a position again. I have no desire to put all my eggs in a basket that I don't own. So, while I'm trying to cobble together part-time paychecks with enough free-lance opportunities to avoid ever again being in a position where my income can be decimated by one other person's decisions, I beg your indulgence. I find my days somewhat more cluttered and disorganized for the time being, and this has cut down on my ability to cruise blogs. I'm not getting over to your places as often as I would like. I apologize for that. I know you understand, but I want you to be sure it's nothing personal. Once I get my act together, I'll be around more often.

That's enough for now, I suppose. Again, I love you. Please keep me in your prayers. You're all in mine.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Friday, January 04, 2013

I Appear To Be Non-Existent

Today, this was said by the federal government.

Unemployment Rate Unchanged


I would have thought a big deal such as myself losing his job would have upped the figure at least a little bit.

OK, that was my attempt at humor. Now for something a bit more uplifting.

I now have prospects. Two semi-offers of employment have come my way. I say "semi-offers" because they are of the "Let me see what I can do for you, Jim, and I'll get back to you" school. Both are from decent people, though, and I trust their good intent.

I am expecting a phone call regarding one. The call may not come today, but I have absolute faith that it will come fairly soon. We're looking at a position as a fact-checker for a magazine there. If I land such a job, I might actually learn something while doing it. That would be novel.

The other has a person asking around for me, at his place of employment, about an actual job involving writing. He likes my writing, likes me, and feels I'd be a good person to do... well, it would likely be reporting, and that could be fun and interesting.

So, the outlook is better today than yesterday. The only question I have, since my being fired didn't affect the unemployment rate, is whether or not my being hired for something will have any effect. Probably not, other than to make the world at-large mumble stuff under its breath.

Soon, with more better stuff?