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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Making the best of Swine Flu

Good Morning and welcome back to another Thursday (yes they keep coming)!

So, you're sitting at home with Swine Flu (or Whooping Cough) and have nothing to do but feel miserable. Well, you would be wrong on that account.
Have a friend head to the video store for this Swine Flu movie festival:
1. Outbreak. Who better than Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo and Morgan Freeman to save the day? If nothing else, they get to wear cool suits.

2. The Stand. Anybody who has read this Stephen King book is drawn in by the good-vs.-evil plot. The Devil vs. an Angel. Gary Sinise vs. Jamie Sheridan. More important, though, is none of us knew at the time that King is a modern-day Nostradamus. That's right. King wrote about an out-of-control flu virus that takes out most of the world despite the government trying to calm the waters by denying its existence. Hmmm. The biggest drawback: Molly Ringwald is also one of the saviors.

3. 28 Days Later. So, we have a bug that turns people into zombies. Sounds like it's already infiltrated the Republican Party.

4. The Omega Man Forget Will Smith's remake, you want Charlton Heston to be the last man standing with one heck of a cool car. On second thought, forget about it. Smith packs more action.

5. 24: Season 3. Just pop in the DVD and you're good for 24 hours of Jack Bauer craziness. You have drug dealers, virus, the Mummy and travel that takes days for us normal people is done in less than an hour. Besides, there are no commercials, so it's a bit less than 24 hours.

You can thank me later, after the antibiotics.
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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rise and Shine --- New view

Good Morning and welcome back to April!

The heat was nice (although it stretched a bit too far). Now, we can get back to spring and wait on summer.
Meanwhile, it's kind of interesting how things can look different depending on who you are experiencing them with. For instance, you could watch the same movie 100 times by yourself, but add another person's opinion to the mix and the movie looks brand new.
Case in point, the Philadelphia Zoo. Now, I've probably visited the zoo over 100 times. I remember as a child going to the zoo every year with either the school (which also had a trip to Valley Forge every year) or Cub Scouts or just a family outing.
Since our children joined the mix, you can probably add about 15 more visits in the last 10 years.
After a while, though, it does get old. Look there are the monkeys. Over there is a rhino. Let's see the lions, tigers and bears. Then back to the car (while trying to avoid the souvenir shop) as everybody starts to melt down.
Tuesday, though, was completely different. The zoo was brand new as I walked around with a group of pre-K girls (and boys, although I was in charge of two little girls).
All they wanted to do was see the polar bears. The monkeys, lions, tortoises and the rhinos held minimal interest.
So, slowly (too slowly for my charges), we made the way to the polar bears. Being it was 90 degrees and the fact that polar bears should be in Canada not Philadelphia, the bears were mostly just sleeping in the shade.
That didn't matter, though, because near the polar bears was a water fountain they could actually touch. There were no more animals. There were no more smells. There was no more heat. There was a fountain, splashing and laughing.
Now, that's a real thing to savor.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Rise and Shine --- What toolbox?

Good Morning and welcome to summer!

Well, not exactly, although it certainly feels like it out there again today. The biggest problem with this early-season heat is to fight off the urge to put in the air conditioners. Sure, it would have made it nice last night, but when the temps get back to 'normal,' you lose a window. I'll take one night of heat (as long as there aren't two).
Speaking of heat, if you've ever replaced a sink faucet you know the heat that can build up in your head. Replacing a sing faucet isn't like putting in a window air conditioner. It's not a ten minute job (although, for some out there, it may be).
For me, though, it's a five-hour job. (OK, Dad, you can stop laughing.) Now, that might seem ridiculous, but, hey, what's not ridiculous.
I followed the directions. Turned off the water, disconnected the hoses (although the hot side took about 45 minutes and a lot of, well, colorful language).
Then came the easy part, right? Just get the basin wrench and loosen the bolt holding the top of the faucet in place.
Yeah. Sure. Easy. Easy? Well, after about an hour of laying down under the sink and trying to get the damn nut to turn, the heat was starting to take its toll. After a five minute break and about another hour of being under the sink later, it was apparent the nut wasn't going to move. So, I did what any self-respecting do-it-yourselfer would do. I yelled every colorful word I knew at the faucet.
After that didn't work, I grabbed the hacksaw and cut the thing off. (OK, Dad, you can stop rolling your eyes.)
Then it was time to put in the new faucet.
Now, that went smoothly until I turned the water back on and it flowed out of the bottom instead of the top. Luckily, I didn't grab the hacksaw this time. Instead, I took the whole thing apart, tightened all the connections and...
It worked. Yahoo.
Now, this might seem like a no-brainer to many out there, but, hey, we'll take a victory where we can get it.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Rise and Shine ---- Spring sleeping

Good Morning and welcome to what's supposed to be a pretty good weekend!

Well, we can only hope. This morning was pushing 30 degrees and there was some frost on the windows. Hey, maybe that will be the end of the cold at least until October.
By the way, as the days turn warmer and the sun shines brighter, how do you convince children it really is time for bed.
When the winter months are in full swing (or full dreariness), it's easy to get them to go up by 7:30 p.m. Hey, it's dark out. It's time for bed. Brush the teeth and get under the covers.
Now, though, the clock doesn't matter. It might hit that 7:30 mark, but it looks like noon. The arguments can be brutal. All you're trying to do is create a morning that can go a little smoother. Instead, you have a fight at night then a fight in the morning.
Any logical person would see if you have to get up early and put in a full day of school, it's probably better to go to bed a little earlier. Instead, children have no logic. They live by the moment. They don't care about tomorrow, because today is still alive.
Hey, maybe those brains have it right?

By the way: Il sole, la luna, i fiori non ha bellezza confrontata a voi.
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Den of disease

Good Morning and hope you are enjoying a happy-ending Sunday!

It starts innocently enough, a cough or sneeze. Then starts to blossom until it takes over the body, knocking the person down. The room is spinning, the bed offers no relief. A run to the bathroom is only followed by another run and another run. The sunshine only makes things worse. Finally, the person gives in and lets everything run its course.
It doesn't end there, though. No, that would be way too easy. The 'alien' jumps from one body, to the next, causing the same problems. Then it jumps to the next and the next. It never ends...
Something out of Hollywood?
Not quite, just the way a small stomach bug can move through a household. One day, everybody is fine, running around, enjoying life. Then, boom, down and out.
Of course, you can't enjoy feeling a little better, because somebody else in the house is suddenly feeling bad. The only hope is it doesn't move back around for a second go (sequel?), because, well, you know, if it is good once, why not keep making it again and again.
After sitting through a day with this 'bug' it got me to thinking about how a fast-moving stomach flu is much like the banking business. After all, they suck you dry with fees and interest rates, then complain when you have trouble with the payments.
There's only one way for that sequel to end.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Tight circle

Good Morning and welcome back to your favorite early-morning blog!

Can a leopard change its spots? Can a dog learn new tricks? Can an elephant learn to be friends with mice?
I believe it is all possible. The sun will come out today, drying up the rain left over the last day and the flowers will soon start to bloom.
Spring is the perfect time to look around and see it's time to feel better. Forget the doldrums of winter, this is the time when everything gets better. Sure, there will be bumps in the road. We wouldn't be in this opera called life it there wasn't, it's how we deal with those bumps that define us.
As we continue to read (hear?) about murders, money and drugs, we have to concentrate on our circle. Make the lives around you better and the world becomes that much brighter.
It's time to do just that. Hug your family. Talk on the phone. Help somebody across the street. Let a car out of a parking lot even though you've been sitting in traffic for, like, five minutes.
We have the chance to make everything brighter. Let the world work for you instead of you working for it.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Great or scary?

Good Morning and welcome back to the work week!

Here's hoping you had as much fun as I did this weekend. It certainly was Lush and there was a great dessert.
There always seems to be another list of the 'The greatest movies of all-time.' Those lists are broken down into comedies, action movies, musicals and the like (we'll stop there before searches start sending red lights to powers above).
One of the movies on the lists is 1967's 'The Graduate.' Now, I try to see the movies on 'greatest' lists if only because it's a fun thing to do.
Up until now, though, I'd never really watched 'The Graduate.' It's been touted as great from Roger Ebert to some Norwegian reviewer.
After finally seeing the whole movie, here's another quick review: scary.
Now, if you've seen the film, you know the story. If you haven't, well, check out the reviews above.
Anyway, what struck me as strange was how the Dustin Hoffman character is actually a stalker. Is he really that far from Travis Bickle?
After sleeping with his girlfriend's mother, he falls into a depression, then trails her around Cal-Berkley. He hides in the bushes to watch her. He looks out windows with binoculars. He runs after buses. He even scares Mr. Roper.
Maybe it's a view of a simpler time. Maybe it should be taken that way. Maybe it's just dated and doesn't play in the reality of this world.
Today, Ben Braddock would be arrested and drawing pictures in prison.
Anyway, that's just one opinion.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Lost, found and songs

Good Morning and welcome to real spring!

Well, as a follow-up to yesterday, it appears researchers have found Cleopatra's tomb. Now, they haven't actually gotten into the tomb yet. Probably something about ancient curses or whatever. After all, they have to move slow so we don't have zombie warriors coming out of the desert.

Meanwhile, my funny bone was definitely on display last night. The school had it's annual night of music (something every school should do at least once a year). Well, it's always cute to see little people dressed in their finest singing songs and dancing. Of course, there is a large amount of nervousness before the show, but it always works out great in the end. The best thing is seeing how the children interact with each other on the stage. Sure, there's a bit of shucking and jiving, but it's a lot of fun.

One other message: Je vous aimerai pendant plus d'années que les étoiles brûleront dans le ciel de nuit.

Then you can get ready for the nice weather this weekend with this:

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Surprise!

Good Morning and welcome back to the Internet!

Just to prove you can't take anything at face value, this video from something called 'Britain's Got Talent' came to light.
It shows a 47-year old woman belting out a song that just put everybody in their place. She didn't look like a big-time singer. She didn't carry herself as a star in the making. She is just normal.
Once again, it shows there is greatness in all of us, we just have to tap into it. In the face of a world going down the river, it's nice to see the tide change a little bit.
Meanwhile, half a world away, archaeologists are searching for Cleopatra's tomb. The amazing thing is, after all the digging that's gone on in Egypt the last 50 years, it has never been found. I don't know about you, but it's always kind of cool when they discover these things. It gives us a glimpse of a past we may never know.
Now, with what promises to be a nice weather weekend on tap, maybe we can dig up our own treasure.
Just remember, even Tigers have to watch out sometimes:

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Taxing day

Good Morning and welcome to the favorite day of the IRS!

By midnight tonight, taxes are supposed to be done. They are supposed to be put in the mail. Numbers have been crushed. Checks have been written.
Then again, if you do it all online (which, by the way, is the least painful way), it only takes a couple of clicks.
Meanwhile, there's some kind of Republican-backed thing called 'Tax Day Tea Party' going on around the country as well today. Don't know what the protest is all about, but it sounds like it gives some people something to do on another damp, wet day.
Hey, it beats listening to Rush all morning.
Speaking of rush, is there ever a time in our lives we don't rush around. It's work, school, breakfast, lunch, dinner, Cub Scouts, baseball, whatever. We probably lose a bit of ourselves in the process. Maybe it's time to slow down.
How about having a real tea party? That sounds like fun.
Then there's this bit of fun:

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Different summer

Good Morning and welcome to a brave new world.

It's funny sometimes how the mind works. When the death of Phillies announcer Harry Kalas first started to filter through the regular channels, many remembered some of his famous calls.
Whether it be the call of Mike Schmidt's 500th home run or the one after the Phillies won the 2008 World Series or his work at NFL Films, there is a Harry Kalas memory somewhere in the mind.
My mind, as many will probably joyfully tell you, works a little different. My memory isn't about a call, it's something that happened nearly every game during the 1970s.
Growing up, we were lucky enough to have a neighbor who had season tickets to the Phillies. His seats were three rows off the field behind the visitors' dugout. We would get a chance to use the seats maybe 10 times a year.
For a kid just getting into baseball, this was heaven. You could yell to the players and they might even turn around.
Most of the seats around the section were for visiting players' families, but there was one loud guy further down the row named Hank. His voice would boom over any cheers, any call, any music.
During the seventh inning stretch of every home game, Hank would turn around and yell up to the booth to Harry.
"Hey, Harry."
It got to the point where we could pick Hank out of the crowd during games when listening on the radio or watching TV.
Anyway, Harry would always wave to Hank. Hank would wave back and the whole section would cheer.
That's what I'll remember of Harry Kalas. That and how even during some very, very bad baseball years in Philadelphia, you could always listen to the Phillies. Even when Steve Jeltz was batting.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Big news weekend

Good Morning and welcome to the comedown from Sunday's sugar high.

You know there's not much going on when, when one of the big stories over the weekend was the Obamas getting a dog. Why do we care about the president's pet? Does owning a certain kind of dog mean we are going to all be OK? You know what, I voted for Obama. We needed a change in Washington from the same old political machine. Now it's time for action. Let's get things done.
Meanwhile, the ship captain being held by pirates was rescued Sunday. Great. We don't need violent people trolling the seas thinking they can take whatever they want. Still, these pirates have been taking ships left and right for years. Then they go and take a U.S. ship and it's important? What about all those other captives.
Then again, we are living in a country where where the top movie of the weekend is Hannah Montana. I guess what we now need a Benji remake starring the Obamas dog.
Then again, here's a star in the making:

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Talking nuts

Good Morning and welcome to another Thursday!

Nuts are interesting foods. They can be made into just about anything, taste pretty good and are easy to carry for a quick snack.
Then there are these nuts (click on the links):
A Dallas woman called 911 because the restaurant she was patronizing wouldn't give her extra shrimp. Lovely.
Don't ever call Billy Bob Thornton an actor when he's touring with his band. How about untalented hack? Would that work, Billy Bob?
Looks like we are closer to the $6 million man than we ever thought possible. What's next? Beam me up, Scotty?
This teenager sent 10,000 text messages in one month, costing his parents $4,000. By the way, that's more than 700 texts a day. This is a special report to the fourth-grader who thinks he needs a cell phone: NO.
Missing some clothes? Find the neighborhood cat. Or better yet, make sure your neighbors keep the damn cat inside.
Some priests are upset about Notre Dame getting President Barack Obama to speak at the school's graduation. Here's a better idea, how about getting those abused by priests over the years to speak.
Maybe if this woman wanted a license plate that said 'ILV2KILL' it would be OK. Or better yet, IH8DNVR or U8ACAT or YNTLTNUP.
Or you can just get some exercise:

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rise and Shine --- What's going on?

Good Morning and welcome to the middle of the week!

Sure, it's April and the weather in these parts can be a little funky, but, come on, 38 degrees? Somehow, Exxon/Mobil or Sunoco is behind this so they can sell some more heating oil before the weather gets warmer. Those goofy commercials where Exxon 'scientists' talk about how much they are doing to improve things, a bunch of hogwash. They're changing the weather so we can be more dependent on big oil. After all, $776 million net income a year isn't enough.

After taking a couple of days off it's always hard to back into the work groove. Sure, we have to do it, but it's not exactly a pleasant experience. Suddenly, the alarm rings again, the coffee machine lights up, the dogs need walking and it's cold. Then again, it's better to get the break then not have it all.

Speaking of breaks, actor Hugh Jackman is 'heartbroken' after his new movie was leaked early to the Internet. I wonder if that's a way to drum up a little buzz about another X-Men movie. After all, the last one stunk. What better way to get some free advertising then to 'leak' the movie to the Internet and have everybody searching for it. I smell a rat. Well, make that a Wolverine.
By the way, do you smell Oscar?

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Great, a weekend!

Good Morning and welcome to the start of what could be a huge weekend!

After this morning rain gets out the way, there shouldn't be a damper on the first weekend in April.
Let's see, we have the Villanova playing North Carolina in the Final Four Saturday night. We have a little thing like the World Champion Phillies (still can't type that without thinking it's weird) opening the season Sunday night. That's quickly followed by the rest of baseball's opening day and the NCAA Championship game Monday.
Fill in with what could be a great weather weekend and, well, it's about time.
A week after more job losses, fluctuations in the stock market, the president giving an 80-year old woman an iPod (filled with his speeches nonetheless) and the Secretary of State setting up a conference call only to direct media to a phone sex line, we all need a break.
So, I ask you, what better way than a nice walk outside, maybe a bike ride, some cleaning up around the yard, basketball, baseball and a pizza thrown in to spend a weekend?
Meanwhile, here's an interview with North Carolina coach Roy Williams to get you ready for the Final Four:

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Rise and Shine --- Mix tape

Good Morning and welcome to another in a long line of early mornings!

Apparently, while attending the G20 summit this week, President Barack Obama had time to visit with the Queen. No, not Queen Latifah, the real Queen, the Queen of England.
So, in a tradition among leaders, the president came to Buckingham Palace bearing gifts. This being 2009, Obama presented the Queen with a fully-loaded video iPod.
Apparently, the iPod was loaded with songs from a Broadway greatest hits album. Weather the Queen is really a big fan of Barbra Streisand or not doesn't really matter. What matters is somebody thought the Queen would want a Broadway greatest hits album and not a, well, Queen greatest hits album.
So, to help out those meeting dignitaries here's a quick list of albums to load on the iPod before giving it as a guest.
If you meet:
Fidel Castro load the iPod with Enrique Iglesias songs
Arnold Schwarzenegger can get Led Zeppelin
AIG CEO Edward Liddy (or any CEO of any big business) could sit on their pile of money and jam with Pink Floyd.
Gil Spencer would probably like nothing better than to pound out his columns while listening to the soulful sound of George Bush. (By the way, do yourself a favor and check out the clip. It's one of the best done YouTube bits.)
Pennsyvlania Gov. Ed Rendell could cut the budget while tuned in to (what else?) the Eagles.
Osama Bin Laden, while sitting in that Pakistani hotel, could be chillin' with Smokey Robinson
Or, here's a good catch-all for all of them:

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Rise and Shine --- An ear and hand for music

Good Morning and here's hoping worms don't eat my work!

One thing I regret is I never really learned how to play a musical instrument. Sure, I had chances. When I was real young, my parents brought a guitar into the house. My younger brother took lessons, but I just strummed. After all, there were too many baseball games to keep track.
As a high school freshman, I took a piano class. Having never read music or touched a piano before the first day of class, it was a difficult transition. I learned a little (very little), then abandoned it the next year.
Now, just by ear, I can fake through a few songs, but mostly it's just banging. I can play a mean drum set on the back of the couch.
So, when the oldest boy in the house had the opportunity (through school) to learn the violin, we were very happy when he took the chance. Sure, it takes work and he may never be a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, but it's a good skill to have.
Last night was the annual spring music night at the school. There were some outstanding performances (the girls playing 'Eleanor Rigby' on the violin had the crowd in awe), some humorous moments (first graders doing anything are funny) and some interesting song interpretations ('Yellow Submarine' on the Xylophone?).
There was only one worth watching from the second row (and I'm sure from the first row, next row, all the way to the back for some).
I know it's hard. I know it's a pain to practice. I know it might not sound 'professional,' but thanks, Liam, for trying.
Meanwhile, since it is April Fool's Day, here's a funny one:

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