Sunday, January 29, 2006

Back in town

Here we go...

Sorry, just can't get that 'Stillers tune out of my head. Apologize for the dearth of recent postings. Was in St. Petersburg on business last week. Stayed this wonderful place - the Renaissance Vinoy. It's this old Spanish architecture hotel right on the water. Driving into St. Pete's for the first time I felt like I was in another country/world/time with all these old, stucco villa buildings dotting the landscape.

To give you some perspective on the Vinoy, some of the best time I spent involved waiting out the couple hours before I was scheduled to fly out, sitting on this big old airy porch that overlooks the Tampa Bay. Just watching the boats, breathing in the fresh Florida air and seeing the palm trees sway in the breeze. Now mind you, it was 19 degrees early that morning in Erie when I logged on to check messages, but even not in contrast to that - the Vinoy has a killer porch!

Aside from those relaxing hours, there was plenty of conversation, networking, business and drinking to keep me busy during my stay. A copious amount of drinking was done by all. Much credit goes to the company that hosted this event and their VP of sales who really made sure everything was top shelf. The bars were stocked with Dewers, Crown Royal, Grey Goose, you name it. And the stuff got used. Don't want to get too much into work stuff, but let's just say this was one of the best events I've ever attended in terms of the level of partying. Almost everyone seemed on board with the program - so it really made for some good times and good talks.

Arrived back in town Friday night to find my wife and neighborhood gang meeting me at the airport in a stretch limo, and was immediately handed a martini upon entering. So here's how my Friday stretched: Drinking a bloody Mary on the practice tee at the Vinoy at 7:30 a.m. and doing shots and leaving Skeeters in a limo at 1 a.m. Yes, life was good... And yes, I love my mates in the Glenhood.

Got back down to earth yesterday. A beautiful day in Erie. It may have been only 40 degrees, but with the sun, it felt every bit as warm as St. Pete's. I watched the kids play in the driveway while soaking up some 'rays most of the afternoon. Then, at night, saw this really cheesy Martin Lawrence movie - Rebound (a basketball version of The Bad News Bears). As bad as the movie was, it was something the family could watch together and all get something out of. Kudos to my wife on the pick. (Did I ever tell you I cry during almost any movie - which is probably why I generally avoid watching them. I even got teary-eyed during a couple of the obvious and contrived sentimental scenes in this flick. Oh well,) off to bed and early and up early on this Sunday morn.

Hope all goes well with everybody, and I'm going to try and catch up on a few things today.



Thursday, January 26, 2006


President Bush has been trying to bring democracy to the Middle East. Well, yesterday it happened but not quite the way he wanted it too happen. Hamas won a stunning victory over Fatah and surprised everybody by the victory, including themselves. Today President Bush seemed to dodge the questions about the victory and reiterated that the U.S. will not deal with a terrorist organization until it renounced terrorism.

So, what will Hamas do now? If they do not renounce terrorism and the destruction of Israel then they stand to loose millions of desperately needed aid from the U.S. and the European Union. The loss of the aid will only worsen the situation for Palestine. Maybe, just maybe they will need to make internal changes so that they can deal with Israel in a constructive dialog. But what it they refuse to drop their call for the destruction of Israel?

I do not think that anybody in the White House nor the State Department has thought this far ahead and I am sure the midnight oil will be burning late tonight.


On the road

Traveling this week, so I'm out of the bar... Had a heckvua flight out of the Erie Airport yesterday. Short hop to Cleveland on the 15-seat Continental puddle jumper. Wouldn't you know after a month of nice weather, the dreaded "Alberta Clipper" has to blow into town the day I'm heading out. It was windy and you literally couldn't see anything outside the plane window but a wall of cloud. All the bumping up and down left my stomach in my throat...


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Conservative Republicans?

Here's a great column that appeared on the editorial pages of today's Erie Times-News. It discusses the alleged, or lack thereof, conservativeness of today's Republican administration. It makes a point that I have been arguing for four or five years now. That is, our current federal administration spends money like a bunch of liberals - except the only people that benefit from it are Bush's cronies (okay, I added that last part in myself.) Then, there is the whole foreign policy thing. I thought conservatives were basically isolationists. Why are we in Iraq? And so forth. Bush is nothing more than a crooked liberal, and I'm looking forward to the next election.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Feng Shui

We've just restored some of the Feng Shui to Ralph's place. Added a blue carpet strip, which seems to have produced some warmth. Also, leveled off the foosball table, which has been dysfunctional for a couple weeks now. It takes up a large area and was giving off a bad aura as an unenergized object. At least now it has some potential energy - with a nod to Doktor Dee...



Oh yes, and this "Fazed Cookies" show on WERG absolutely rocks.

Big Weekend

Another big weekend. Can't seem to get enough of them - these big weekends. It all started this summer when we started getting together in people's backyards for beers and whatnot. Now, we've managed, it seems, to extend it into winter by getting together in basement bars. Drank an awesome dirty martini at about 11 p.m. Friday while watching the USC/Texas Rose Bowl being rerun on ESPN Classic. Slept well that night.

Yesterday was even bigger. How about those Pittsburgh Steelers? Now, I'm not even a Stillers fan, but I can have a good time watching a football game. I missed some of the first half as I was doing some computer work (reinstalling an OS), but managed to make it to the Cab for the second half. Wow. What a Stillers bar. One of my friends, who had been there in the first half, said to me it was the closest thing to being to the game without... People were chanting. At the end of the game, the proprietor grabbed the mike and burst out in a chorus of 'Stillers are goin' to the Super Bowl. Here we go.... (This link will play a bit of the tune to get you goin')


Friday, January 20, 2006

Bin Laden - the new Oprah

Who's Osama Bin Laden think he is, Oprah Winfrey? I love the fact that he is now making book recommendations. And this comes in the wake of George II's comments that his wife will not run for Senate, but will continue to focus on spreading literacy. At the same time, as far as we can tell, Bush doesn't even read books, but Bin Laden is recommending The Rogue State by William Blum. I've always thought there was an unnatural relationship between the Bush's and the Bin Ladens.

I also love this part about Bin Laden reaching out straight to the American people. From the AP article: "Bin Laden said he decided to make a statement to the American people because he said President Bush was pushing ahead despite polls which showed 'an overwhelming majority of you want the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.'" Right, so Bin Laden's popularity in America will soon be passing Bush's. Beautiful. How'd we get in such a mess?


Just sat down in my corner

Hi All!

I am glad to be at Ralph's Place. Right now I just sat down at the bar in my corner stool. Things are looking pretty good here! I am glad to see that the proprietor has set up a decent establishment in this corner of Penn's Woods...

Ah... The waitress named Maggie just came over to take my order. I mentioned to the miss that I would need a few minutes to look over the menu before I place my order.

Now, let me see what we have here...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

French Indian War

We live in a very historic place here in the northwest corner of PA. Saw another interesting PBS special last night. (I really should send in a donation. PBS is about the only lifeblood to intelligent TV I have, not being even a basic package cable subscriber. Actually, I just got done watching The Office, which along with Desperate Housewives are the only two network shows I enjoy. Just started with The Office, after hearing an incredible number of recommendations for it. Also, Maggie watches both shows, which adds an interpersonal social aspect to TV viewing, which is an important element to a positive experience. Whatever. I just mean that shared experience, or simply being able to enjoy and talk about a show with someone else is half the fun of watching it. Right. I once read this book by Joseph Heller - the Penn State prof and Catch 22 author - that was written half in parentheses. It was a very strange book. Something Happened it was called, and it was about some average Joe with psychological problems. It was interesting but paled in comparison to Heller's masterpiece - Catch 22. Of course, as Heller said later in his life, how many people even get to write one great book.)

Okay, back to history. This PBS show was called The War That Made America. It's supposed to be a tricky title - you're supposed to think it's about the Revolutionary War. The premise, however, is that the French and Indian War led to the Revolution. It starts out with Washington's famous trip to the Ft. LeBeouf area, when he's working for the English, and he's to tell the French to vacate the area because it belongs to his king. Well, Washington is like 21 and these grizzled French vets laugh at him and tell him to pound salt - but in an eloquent French way. Earlier in the trip, I believe, Washington had mistakenly ordered an attack on a French encampment of diplomats, and then his Indian allies, led by Half King, killed the wounded Frenchmen. The PBS show blames this event for the start of the French and Indian War.

So, what was the strategic importance of Ft. LeBeouf? Apparently, its position on French Creek was key for shipping. Here's the way I understand it: The French had another fort, Fort Presque Isle, down on the waterfront on the East side of present-day Erie, that would receive goods being shipped over the Great Lakes. There was a road that went from Ft. Presque Isle to Ft. LeBeouf, where the goods were loaded onto French Creek and floated downstream toward Fort Duquense and Pittsburgh's waterways.

This area of Western PA was a huge bone of contention during the mid-1700s, as the French controlled Canada and the English, the Eastern U.S. We lay in between, and Indians, of course, needed someplace to live too.

After Ft. Presque Isle fell to the English, it was burned to the ground. The English then built their own fort at the same site. It was invaded by Indians and burned. Here's a Brig Niagra site where I got some of this info.

Well, at some point a few years later, the Americans constructed an encampment on that site, complete with a blockhouse - a model of which stands today on 2nd and Ash, I think, next to he Soldiers and Sailors home. This was the site where Mad Anthony Wayne was first buried, before being dug up 13 years, or so, later. He was then, of course, chopped up and his body was boiled so that his son could transport his bones back to Chester, PA, to bury them in a family plot. I guess his ghost roams Route 322 every New Year's Day (Wayne's birthday) to find some bones that were lost during the bumpy ride to Chester.

So, aside from this area playing a key role in America's growth toward Independence, we've also got some freaky macabre, bone boiling stories from close to the same period. I guess this never has been a boring place.

Cheers, beers, leers, and fears.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Dick Proenneke

Has anyone ever heard of Dick Proenneke? WQLN was showing a special on him Saturday during its fund drive. I don't know if they were giving away an Alone in the Wilderness DVD for donations, but I think I should have joined their "membership" just to get this DVD. Of course, then they'd have my name and address, and you hate to give that info. to anyone always in need of money.

But this Proenneke show was awesome. This guy, Dick, moved to Alaska when he retired (I think he was 50) and built a cabin, pretty much only using the resources in the woods, some simple tools and hand saws, and a few staples, like a sheet of tin, glue, some tar paper that he had shipped in. And he "felt badly" about using the tar paper. He somehow manages to film himself while doing some of this, discusses what he's doing, and adds some wonderful philosophical quotes like, (while doing some hiking on a dangerous mountain ledge) "Taking risks sometimes is good for a man," or (after finding a hamstrung caribou carcass that was not eaten) "I lost a lot of respect for the wolves that day."

His craftmanship is stunning. Reminds me a lot of my neighbor, a contractor who was an anthropology major in college. My son had a friend over and they watched part of the show with me. We watched Dick build this fireplace out of stones he collected from the river bed. He cut a hole in the side of his log cabin and crafted an airtight fireplace and chimney for heat on winter days where the high was like -20. "It's a blustery -25 out today, but a toasty 40 degrees in my cabin," deadpans Dick. (I assumed it was his voice, but, now that I think about it, it may be a voice over constructed from his journals.)

Anyways, my son and his friend immediately wanted to go outside and build an igloo with a fireplace - as we had snow on the ground Sunday. Unfortunately, they got cold after about 5 minutes and came back inside.

Dick passed away a couple years ago, after living in his cabin for 30 years. He was 80 before he finally was forced to move back into society. Go Dick! He cabin is maintained by the National Park Service now, and I guess you can visit it. I wonder how long you can stay.


Monday, January 16, 2006

NFL Dynasties

My son got a book recently from his school library discussing the greatest dynasties in NFL history. This was always a popular term paper option in my high school/college years. I think I took it once or twice. One time, I remember I did a historical perspective on UCLA basketball, without really getting into good rhetoric on why they were such a great dynasty.

In light of yesterday's NFL playoff games, I got to thinking about Steelers' history and after doing some research (I use the term lightly) on my favorite NFL history site, I came to the conclusion that, from my perspective, the 1972-1979 Steelers are unsurpassed as an NFL dynasty.

My perspective does not include a very thorough recollection of the Packers of the 1960s (or anyone before that of course), as I was born in 1967. The other dynasties I'm comparing the Steelers against are the Cowboys late 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s; Raiders, late 1960s through mid-1970s (I count the Plunkett era as a separate entity because there were at least two down years in between), Bills of late 1980s and early 1990s, and 49ers of early 1980s through 1990s, and Dolphins of early 1970s. I probably should include the Rams and Vikings of the late 60s and 70s, but neither won a Super Bowl - of course neither did the Bills. But the Bills at least almost won one, and they made four straight. Plus I'm a Bills fan.

Here's my rankings.
1. Steelers - Dominant team that Steelers fans will tell you could have won 6 consecutive Super Bowls, but for a few bad breaks. From what I can tell, they might be right.
2. 49ers - I think they won five Super Bowls and really sustained greatness over a long period of time. Had one down year, but that was a strike year and I think it threw Bill Walsh off.
3. Cowboys - Probably had the next longest period of greatness, under Coach Tom Landry. Like the 49ers (Montana, Young, Garcia), Cowboys' dynasty extended through three quarterbacks (Meredith, Staubach, and Danny White - no, Survivor Gary Hogeboom brought an end to the dynasty). Cowboys kept running up against really good teams too - Redskins, Vikings, and Rams - in the NFC and won their share of games. Couldn't beat the Steelers in the big game - but played 'um close both times and did manage to win a couple Bowls when the Steelers were out of the picture.
4. Dolphins - narrowly beat out the Raiders, who were better longer. But these Kiick, Czonka, Morris, Griese, Warfield, No-name D teams dominated and won a pair of Super Bowls. Of course, they went undefeated in 1972.
5. Raiders - Only won one Super Bowl. Kept losing in the playoffs to the Steelers and Dolphins, and even lost to the Packers in the second Super Bowl. But these Lamonica and Stabler-led teams had a mean streak, a good o-line and played a lot of dominant football over a lot of years. Also, they dominated the 1976 Super Bowl vs. overmatched Vikings.
6. Bills - Alright, maybe they weren't that great compared with these other dynasties. But they were damn good for six years, appearing in four Super Bowls and five AFC Championship tilts. Pretty much had the same core of players for six years - maybe last time you'll see that in the NFL. Patriots have won three Super Bowls in four years, but because of the revolving door policy of the league these days, from my perspective, they can't compete with these old school dynasties.

Honorable mention (or teams I could have also researched, but didn't have time) - aforementioned Vikings and Rams, Redskins under Gibbs the first time, Bears under Ditka, Giants under Parcells.



Friday, January 13, 2006


Here's a link to what I believe is the complete transcript of the Bode Miller article that caused all the controversy. More on this later perhaps, but I'm mean it's skiiing people. I think I've only been skiing like twice in my life and I'm sure I got drunk both times...Also, I'm not sure what "out of context" he is talking about. What he says seems pretty straightforward to me.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Southern Comfort Part II; Dr. Ray Guarendi

I have admit he was good. My wife dragged me, practically moaning to see this inspirational speaker, Dr. Ray Guarendi. And I'll admit, I mildly somewhat enjoyed him. I'm still trying to digest his act, which seemed to be part Bill Cosby, part Harrison Ford in Witness. Maybe that's not it. But he was really funny. Told a lot of stories about his family and did great imitations - ala "the Coz." He also was selling his book and tapes.

He is some kind of psychologist, so maybe he really knows what he's talking about when he gives parenting advice. And he's got like 9 children. All adopted. All, or most it sounds like, from misfit beginnings. He pretty much based a lot of his material on these kids. He kept talking about the tax breaks you get for adopting in December - which seemed to make sense - but what about the money you make by using these kids to give you credibility and provide you with material? I just didn't say that. I'm sure he's a great guy. He was really funny.

He spoke at the St. Joseph's Parish Center, which is an arm of the right-wing, true believers church in Erie. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, but it just conflicts with my wiring. But this Guarendi didn't come off as too right wing, except for some of the discipline measures he was suggesting for children. "The total blackout"- that was his favorite tactic is seemed. He bragged about coming down like a hammer. Cutting off the kids finances, communication, entertainment, forcing them to work, to write essays, all sorts of evil punishment. (That's where I got the Amish take from.) And it sounded like it was working. Pretty cool. I'm not saying I have the constitution for that, but it was working for him.

He also used one of the truisms that I used to preach about child raising. You're bigger than the kids, God made you that way, so take advantage of it.

Of course, the screaming liberal that I am, I believe there are many ways to skin a cat, but he had some good food for thought. In fact, here's a link to his site. Check out his photo. Kind of looks like Corey Pavin. He made one comment about his wife telling him to get out of the 1970s. Well, that 'stache - beautiful. Go Dr. Ray. Oh yes, did I say he seems to actually have a real doctorate.

As far as the SoCo goes, I'm reaching a new low with my drinking and guzzling cheap whiskey. Every time I sip this, I recall my New Year's Eve Party and those heathens/friends/relatives were slamming my good Irish whiskey on their way to astronomical numbers of shots for the night. I can still hear the clink of the empty bottle as it landed in the waste can and the slightly less loud sound of the splash from my tear that followed it in. Maybe I'll reload when I get paid.

Cheers, fears, beers, and leers,


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Vision for Ralph's place

Quiet night here at Ralph's. Spent a pretty late one last listening to the tremendous work of Michael ??? who was putting on the "Fazed Cookies" show on WERG 90.5 FM - Gannon's radio station. I was a DJ there way back when it was a classic rock station. Fazed Cookies was all about alternative rock that I had never heard before, but the content was good and mix and voiceover solid as well. Hats off to Michael.

Best I can find tonight on the free airwaves sounds like some church music that must be coming off of WQLN... Chants, very relaxing indeed.

Was thinking earlier today about the long-term vision for Ralphie's. I guess I kind of want to be the proprietor of virtual version of the 18th century taverns that helped spawn the Revolutionary War. You know, the kind of place where one guy stood around and read the paper and everyone drank their draughts or sipped their coffees and discussed the day's/week's events. (We brought down King George once that way didn't we?)

As I don't have much to discuss myself tonight, here's a couple links to my favorite sports columnists - both of whom have recently posted. Bill Simmons, aka Sports Guy, and Mark Weiler at Bills Buzz. Both rock, write well, and are usually spot on in their commentary.

Well, a friend suggested I come up with a good closing tag, and I don't know if "over and out" quite qualifies... How about this? Here's to great chicken dinners...


Ex-Mayor Strikes Back

What's this business about our former Mayor, Rick Filippi, suing the city? Well, at least I mean representing somebody that is suing the city. From this morning's Times article:"There are a lot of things that suggest concern because this is a person that is turning right around and apparently attacking the very city he represented,"said [Harrisburg lawyer Bob] Davis, who defends lawyers, judges and government employees accused of professional misconduct.

Yeah, in many ways, Rick got a raw deal during his time in office. He inherited a system that was by most accounts a mess, and then watched IP close down, which led smack into this whole MTR/property scandal mess. Yeah, maybe if Rick had decided to play ball with MTR and their local representatives, he would have hurt the city and profited personally. So, maybe, he did take one for the team. Maybe not.

Either way, he has not handled himself with very much class since his ship started sinking a couple years ago. This seems to be yet another example of a dumb move that can't possibly end well for him.

I've known Rick at least casually for many years, and he was always a very civil, nice, even-tempered guy. (Of course, if he ever reads this, he may slug me in the mouth next time he sees me.) The only thing I can judge from his recent actions is that the old saying "power corrupts, ultimate power corrupts ultimately" - a favorite of the notorious Fr. Thadeus Konzielski (excuse the spelling) better known as Fr. Duke (my 9th grade Western Civ teacher at Prep - and perhaps Rick's too) - has at least some grain of truth to it. This lawsuit move stinks of revenge factor - and I'm not a lawyer, but how can there not be a conflict of interests here? Rick, please get a new gig. You're better than this.

That's all,


Monday, January 09, 2006

Southern Comfort on the Rocks

The title of this post just about says it all. Have you ever sipped on Southern Comfort? It tastes a bit like cough medicine. I guess you can mix it with things and come up with something digestible. For some reason, its taste reminds me of every high school/college overdrinking binge that ever involved whiskey. Because usually at that time I was mixing whiskey with 7-up or Sprite and Southern Comfort is so sweet, it like has the mix already mashed in... Anyways, I'm feeling a bit under the weather, so I figure if it tastes like medicine, maybe it will act like it.

I think we need to pay some proper homage to Pat Howard of the Erie Times-News. Howard is an outstanding local (Erie County) political columnist - the only one I've ever seen in my short time of following this sort of stuff. He pegged DiVecchio's shenanigans in a column in the Sunday paper just as we did in our Thursday post. As much as we like to pat ourselves on the back for being first to publish our opinion, Howard really added a couple of good points to our arguments. The first involved implying some sort of relationship between DiVecchio and the Summit Industrial and Economic Development Authority (SIEDA - I made up the acronym, but maybe we can pervert it to the Summit Economic Authority of Development and Industry - or SEADI - pronounced "seedy".) Howard called SEADI's partnership with MTR "strange and unseemly." Beautiful rhetoric, Pat.

He also pointed, "If you had legitimate worries about being sued, why on earth would you broadcast to the world that you intend to cave before the other party's lawyer even opens his briefcase?" I remember thinking the same thing, but figuring, no way, DiVecchio could be that obtuse - there had to be some sort of catch. I guess Howard, who's far more experienced in politics, is giving him no such credit.

Finally, Howard goes straight for the heart, and throws in DiVecchio's seemingly obscure Rubino family connection. Where did that come from? It's Rubino's uncle that married to DiVecchio's sister. Anyway, another article in the Times on Sunday seemed to dismiss this relationship as meaningless, but by throwing it in his column, Howard, who comes across as a guy in the know, has me second-thinking my opinion on this.

As I've said before if someone is not putting together a book on this MTR thing yet, but would like to, please get in touch with me. This is a can't miss story.

OK. Here are may picks for next Sunday's games. Haven't seen a line yet, and I'll set my own with the picks. These are for entertainment purposes only. We'll call it the Ralph's Place line:

New England by 7 over Denver - Patriots playing great and Jake Plummer and Shanahan bound to fuck up.
Carolina by 7 over Chicago - John Fox has proven, much like Belichik, he's a great playoff coach. Lovie Smith may be too, but he hasn't proven it.
Indianapolis by 14 over Pittsburgh - Didn't we already see this game a month and a half ago? Steelers may be playing a little better - but the Colts want it and they'll be ready.
Seattle by 13 over the Redskins - Seattle has an offense and the Redskins don't. Seattle defense isn't bad either and they're at home.

That's all,



Sunday, January 08, 2006

Sunday, almost bloody Sunday

"Today I like the Giants and Cinci." That's from an e-mail I just read that was sent to me around 11 this morning. I guess I don't need to ask the sender how he's doing right now. I missed most of both games - and I'll get to reasons why. But I did see enough of the Steelers game to realize that Carson Palmer was injured on his first pass - a long bomb completion - and knocked out for the game. The site of Jon Kitna taking the field had to be reassuring to any Steelers fan...

My day was pretty shitty as well. First off, I missed my favorite priest, father John Detisch of Sacred Heart, and had to suffer through... well,let's just say, the usual Catholic Mass. Fr. John is definitely unusual and always gets my Sunday's started off right. He sets a good tempo. The usual Catholic fare tends to annoy mostly, rather than inspire, and for some reason leads to great conflicts between my wife and I. Today was no exception. We completed the day not on speaking terms.

All I really wanted to do was lie around, watch some football, post to my blog and maybe play with the kids. She somehow had the idea that I should be, well, I don't know, Sunday's a day of rest, isn't it?

Maggie was so pissed, she even turned off the Steelers game and I didn't argue. I did spend about two hours assembling this killer Spider Man race track my son got at his birthday party yesterday. As soon as he got it, my eyes lit up. It's the bomb. It's got a loop-de-loop and an AC adapter. There are several of these squeeze control tracks floating around for cheap that use "D" batteries and generally suck because of poor quality parts - and well, the D batteries should tell you all there is to know. This one has the little things that make it a quality toy - little pieces for connecting the tracks better and the adapter, of course. It rocks. I even gave up hitting balls at the golf dome to play with it after putting it together. And it was worth it. It's got two speed buttons and you have to hit the "turbo" just right before hitting the loop, and then let off it quickly or you find your car flying halfway across the living room. Great fun. Especially when my 4-year-old takes her cracks at it. Oh well, it makes a nice alternative to Need for Speed.

To sum up my day, my wife actually yelled at me for not going to hit balls at the golf dome.

Also, I want to thank everyone that stopped by Ralph's this weekend, both online and physically. We need your support to make this venture a success. Please keep coming back.



Saturday, January 07, 2006

Welcome back

It's been a long 29 hours or so since I last posted. We left the house about 7 last night for a night out of dining and drinks. We then ploughed through a birthday party for our son today and wound things down across the street at our neighbors for beer and football. Life was pretty good. In between, we had a couple drinks down here. But the big drinking was really done at Skeeters last night. A light crowd, but a good one, featuring our old friend Eric R., who knows both my wife and I from different stages in our life - me from grade school/early high school, her from later high school. I think I called him a cross-over friend - a rare breed indeed - who was actually friends with each of us on completely separate premises but then is now friends with us as a couple entity. Makes for an interesting and fun dynamic when we run into each other.

We began the night with a dinner at the old Ali Baba's. I want to say it's called Petra's - on Westlake Road, where the old Westlake Pizza was when I grew up - but I can't find a listing for that... Food was excellent.

The story broke on Red today. Red is my friend who I mentioned as seriously injured earlier in the week. The local paper ran a story that was not very complimentary towards him. He's kind of a local celebrity - not just because of his nightlife and personality - he has a radio talk show as well. Turns out he showed up at this Kwiki Mart at like 7:30 in the morning, bleeding badly and then became "belligerent" to the paramedics who wanted to take him to the hospital. All and all a bad and sad situation and we are all sincerely and really and everything else hoping that he makes a full recovery quite quickly. Quite frankly, he helps make the world a more colorful place.

In addition, this little piece showed up in Friday's paper: "With the plea, Seth XXX, 37, admitted he ignited Teezer's Lounge, 7860 West Ridge Road, by placing an accelerant on a vinyl window and lighting it on Aug. 24, 2004, according to court records. XXX also agreed to pay restitution.... also had been accused of setting fire to a 1993 Chevrolet Silverado."

Yes, these are my friends.



Friday, January 06, 2006

Quiet Night

Seems like a quiet night so far down here at Ralphie's. Week was rather long and odd. Of course, you had those two marvelous football games early in the week, which messed up my sleep. Then, my son's sleep got messed up somehow, which messed up my sleep further. Had to slam some serious Joe (and I don't mean I beat my kid) just to get through the day. But things are weighing a bit heavy now, with no word yet on my aforementioned (couple posts previous) friend's health. Today, I just heard today that a gentlemen who works in my industry (a rather small group of us) died in a fall while out of the country. I guess I'm certainly not the first person to have mortality thoughts in the wake of disasters befalling those around them. We also lost a 72-year-old neighbor about two weeks ago.

Moving right along to more uplifting topics - we are hosting a birthday party for my 7-year-old tomorrow, and it's supposed to be a sled-riding party. We are sure hoping for some snow, however. Can you believe it's Jan. 6 (my brother's birthday) in Erie, PA and we are struggling to get snow on the ground? It's been like 40-50 degrees for the past two weeks. Makes you think there might be something to this global warming thing... oh, wait, I promised to be positive - what the fuck, I'm in a negative mood.

My recently deceased neighbor (sure, let's bring out the ghosts) used to slam my wife for her belief in global warming. He was a dyed-in-the-wool Republican and said that Democrats were ignorant and uneducated and that global warming was an invention to gain support from women and mothers. He also called the Democrats "the party of the hoods," and after reading a bit of their history, with Aaron Burr and his lot stirring things up in New York City, you can see at least where he was coming from with that...

That's all for now. Heading out for dinner I believe. Could end up back here for drinks. Going to a place called - well it used to be the Ali Babba on West Lake Road. I guess the chef from the Aviation Club bought it. Does that sound right?


Thursday, January 05, 2006

MTR Subsidy

Yes, this MTR subsidy question will not go away. And who really thought it would? The latest seems to be that the new County Executive, Mark DiVecchio, supports a $14.4 million payout to MTR for infrastructure costs. To tell you the truth, this really doesn't seem like that outrageous of a figure to me, considering that MTR started out asking for $35-40 million. Seeing how the county's only supposed to get like $11 million per year annually - well you can do the math.

I guess there could be some "infrastructure costs" (whatever that means) that total $14.4 million associated with the construction of a cansino and track. What is there, sewage, traffic, other plumbing - I don't know?. Okay, so when you really think about it, maybe there is some payola in there too. But even a certain amount of payola - I mean we are dealing with gambling here. Payoffs and gambling have gone hand-in-hand for a long time. But still, something bothered me - at least about the way the article was presented in the Erie Times this morning.

First off, there is this statement: "DiVecchio said before the Nov. 8 election that he didn't support the gaming company's bid for public money for on-site work."

Jan. 4 was DiVecchio's second day in office and he had already changed his tune. Something clearly stinks. Ostensibly, DiVecchio claimed he had a converstation with some lawyers who gave him their interpretation of the state gaming law, which indicated that like half the county's revenue should go toward infrastructure costs. So, based on the that, DiVecchio's proposal of $1.5 million a year should seem like a bargain. But, how about this comment from the story: "DiVecchio said he couldn't remember the names of the out-of-town lawyers, with whom he spoke at the Seven Springs resort in southwestern Pennsylvania." That doesn't sound shady at all. Anytime you use the words "out-of-town lawyers," I guarentee you're into some deep doodoo.

Of course, there's this other gem from the story in the Times: "DiVecchio said his consideration of the subsidy has nothing to do with the connection between David Agresti, the head of his transition team, and Greg Rubino, who has represented Presque Isle Downs as its real estate agent. Agresti is Rubino's lawyer." Right. I wonder if our deposed Mayor Filipi thinks there's a connextion...

This whole MTR thing has been almost unbelievable. I have to applaud everyone who stood up to MTR's original $35-40 million demands - aka shakedown attempt. But they're not giving up. There is tremendous power behind gaming/gambling organizations, and MTR continues to flex its muscles thinking it can bully our little town. Didn't Horace Greeley make some comment about how uncivilized the people in Erie were because they wouldn't play ball with the railroads 150 years ago? Well, here's to hoping we've retained some of that fortitude...



Young shows poise

Yup, poise is what it was all about last night, as Texas knocked off USC and their 32-game unbeaten streak. Vince Young had more of it than Pete Carroll. I'm not sure what the dictionary definition of "poise" is, but it in football it is reflected in a certain professionalism. You stay calm and make the big plays when you need them. Of course, Joe Montana was the master of this.

I remember thinking about mid-way through the third-quarter, and especially after Texas missed a short field goal, that USC could probably beat the Houston Texans because they had more poise. They looked like the closest thing to a professional team that I had ever seen in the college ranks. Then it came unraveled.

The first signs of it I think were when I noticed the USC defensive players flapping their arms to get the crowd involved. This is strictly a bush league move - and I know the pros even pull this shit. (Plus in this case, it's barely even ethical as the national championship game should not be a home game for USC.) USC clearly couldn't stop Texas on its own, so it was grasping. The USC, offense, however looked good. They made great halftime adjustments and were rolling. And after Texas missed that field goal - well I didn't see how they were going to catch them.

Then came 4th and two from mid-field with 2 minutes and change left in the game. Granted, USC's defense, as stated earlier, clearly could not stop Texas, so going for it was maybe not the worst decision, although trying to pin Texas deep and make them go 90-plus yards - remember, they needed a touchdown - wouldn't have been a terrible decision. Especially, by a guy the announcers had called some sort of defensive guru - that's a crock.

Let's get to Pete Carroll. Remember, Pete Carroll preceded Bill Belichick as head coach of the Patriots. Within two years of Carroll's departure, Belichick had the Patriots winning the Super Bowl. Why is this all so significant to me? When the Patriots hired Carroll in 1997, I remember wishing that the Bills had picked him up. Levy was getting ready to step down, or had just stepped down, and Carroll was a hot defensive coordinator with the 49ers. The Bills went this Wade Phillips, which in my opinion (and I'm about the only one) was not such a bad move - without the "Music City Miracle," it may have been the Bills instead of the Titans giving the 2000 Rams all they could handle - and Carroll went to the Patriots, where he failed, I guess, being dismissed after three mediocre seasons and by all accounts losing the respect of this players. (At the time I was also of the opinion he had gotten a raw deal with the Jets a few years earlier when he went 6-10 and got dismissed after one year and Richie Kotite came in and led the Jets into the cellar very quickly. (For details on Carroll's pro career, try this link.)

The rest as they say... well, you know how stellar Carroll has been at USC. But, his decision to run LenDale White on fourth-and-two was terrible. Yes, White had been chewing up the yardage up the middle early in the game, but by that stage Texas was keying on the middle and had proven on a couple previous carries that they could stop White. Carroll went back to the well once too often - a classic choke move - and paid for it. Plus, he had the Heisman trophy winner, Reggie Bush, who looked like he was starting to heat up, on the bench. On the bench! The Heisman trophy winner on the most crucial play of your season. Another choke move. Being caught up in the ephemeral and missing the big picture...

Carroll blew it and while he will remain a great college coach, word is he is a great recruiter and he has built a heckuva program, he is still no Nick Saban when it comes to Xs and Os.

Anyway, Young, who carries himself with the calmness of an assassin proceeded to carve up the USC defense - just like he did Michigan in the Rose Bowl last year. There was now showboating, just good solid football. And his waiting until 4th down to run it in was genius. USC absolutely could not stop his running. I wondered why on third down he would throw that pass over the middle that got knocked down. But on 4th down he came through. Tucked it in one more time and cruised into the end zone.

Whether or not Young will make it as a pro is a whole 'nother question. I kind of think the field might be too small for him, or he may need a very forward thinking coach. The NFL is just not set up for running quarterbacks because the damn linebackers are so fast. The NFL is set up for cerebral quarterbacks like Leinart, who "manage" games. The headsets in your ears and all that stuff. Young is a throwback - a giant version of Doug Flutie. Randall Cunningham is probably the closest thing the NFL has seen, and Young is way more poised and stronger than Cunningham was. I guess you could compare Young to McNabb, so maybe someone can mold him into a good pocket passer like McNabb. I just hope he turns out better than Michael Vick - who is not made to play the "West Coast" offense. Anyhow, we can discuss all this when the draft come up. I don't see how Young can pass it up now after that performance. He's ready. What else does he have to do in college?

More later.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Another Day...

Sad day today at Ralphie's. Just heard news that one of our oldest friends has been injured. Prognosis for recovery sounds good, but injuries were serious, so he's in our prayers.

So, it seems a bit irreverent to go on with our usual banter, but since we don't have much else to do... Good news out of Buffalo - GM or president of football operations or Commander Tom as some have called him, or even the czar of ... well, he was a bit obnoxious, but Tom Donahoe has been canned. Yippee.

Don't know about this Marv Levy business replacing him... Marv is like 80-years old. Literally.

Mark Weiler, one of my favorite Bills' analysts, is calling for a Phil Savage (GM) and Kirk Ferentz (head coach) combo. But it appears the Browns have gotten smart (for a change) and held onto Savage. Ferentz would still make an interesting addition, as he has Erie ties through his buddy and assistant coach Ken O'Keefe, who used to coach (and I believe won a Div. III national championship) at Allegheny.

Quick O'Keefe story: Back when I'm working as the sports editor of the Greenville Record-Argus, a kid from Greenville is playing (Mike Kuder I think it was)line for Allegheny. So I go up there to get some pictures and chat with O'Keefe after the game. Wouldn't you know it's pouring rain out and pretty cold, and the press box is probably full or something. So I spend the whole game on the sidelines snapping photos and getting soaked. All the press is sititng around the locker room after the game, and O'Keefe comes in for his interviews. He zeroes in on me and says (something to the effect of) "That's the way you should look when your covering a football game," and proceds to give me enthusiastic answers to all my quesitons about this lineman (I mean I don't think the kid was an All-American or anything, but O'Keefe hung in there with me). My impression was that he's a great football guy, and I'd be more than happy to have any friend of his coaching the Bills.

Final note: had a conversation with a Rams fan the other day who asked me what I thought of Gregg Williams as a head coach. What could I say? He sucked in Buffalo. I tried to soft sell it by comparing him to Belechick in Cleveland, but...

- Cheers.



Go JoePa. I can't believe the Nittany Lions kept me up until 1 a.m. last night before downing the FSU Crimi'noles in the Orange Bowl. An entertaining college football game. And I stress college - mainly because the kicking was so-o-o bad, which is always a halmark of college football if you ask me. I shouldn't say bad. It was mainly mediocre, but you had like four missed field goals and an extra point - the only reason it wasn't bad was because they didn't miss by that much.

So, I am getting a late start today.

JoePa though proved once again he is among the greatest. He does things JoePa's way and in the long run, they prove to be right. How about him sending his freshman kicker out there on second down? After the offense had just got a first down and the poor kid had already missed two shots at winning the game. JoePa never flinched, never doubted the kid. The announcer made some great comment about being a college coach being more than about football, being about molding kids for life, and by not giving up on the kid, and in fact, showing supreme confidence in him and sending him out there are second down and sitting his offense on the bench, and letting the kid win the game. Way to go Joe! Although I'll admit I thought the kick was no good from the camera angle (and I was pretty tired) and shut my eyes in fear of having to see that kid after he missed a third kick.

The other great thing about the game was the hype of this "great friendship" between JoePa and Bowden. Personally, I can't see why the two would even like each other. If you ask me, Bowden is a smooth-talking used car salesmen, whose program and what it stands for is at the opposite end of the spectrum from PSU. Maybe I'm prejudice as a PA resident, but come on, the Crimi'Noles didn't earn that moniker for nothing. Bowden put it best during that interview they showed with him and Joe sitting together. "Joe is the kind of guy you can trust." I'm not sure what that meant, but first off, when a smooth talker like Bowden starts throwin' around the word trust - well, it gets me a little nervous. And then after Bowden went off about how great Joe was and how you could "trust " him (said it like three times), Joe just laughed and said nothing about Bowden. Right on.

Finally, I'd like to congratulate my neighbor John Garhart (do a search on Garhart and you have to register, but it's pretty painless and a great site for local news), on his appointment as district judge. A great guy - hard working and very informed. Should be a fine addition to the local bench.



Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Got it going

I think we got this going. First off, I appreciate anyone who is reading this, because after all that is why I write, I guess. That, and to make some money on my day job I guess. Listening to this Penn State game. Penn State had a really great season no kidding. But like nobody expected it. They pretty much stunk for the last three years or so, but this Michael Robinson kid has come in and really dominated play. Yeah, their defense has been great, but you need to play ball control offense to play good defense - so you don't get tired out on D. And Robinson, who's got some great wheels, seriously contributes to a ball control 'O. Nittany Lions are up like 7-0. From what I can tell, they should crush FSU. Big 10 vs. ACC should rarely be a contest. Especially a good Big 10 team like PSU vs. a mediocre FSU squad this year. What more can I say. I've just fired up a bowl of BlackRasberry tobacco that my wife gave me for Xmas.. and am doing some thinking...

Let me welcome you again to Raph's place and encourage you to contribute. Over time I hope to build up a treasurary of luminaries to comment on various topics like sports, politics, music and pop culture. For example, we had a great dialgue today on (or was it a trialogue) on Ann Coulter and the merits of Kwanzaa. I personally don't get Kwanzaa, but my friend Dr. D seems to think there are some merits to it and that it has potential. As for the merits of Ann Coulter, that's a whole 'nother story. So, I'd like to move posts like that online from now on.

More later...



Hey. It's been a long-time coming, but this it. The initial posting for the Ralph's Place blog. What is Ralph's place? Good quesiton. Well, it's my basement. I'm looking at it right now, because I'm sitting in it listening to the Penn State/Florida State Orange Bowl game. Yes, that's right, listening, because I haven't yet hooked up the cable down here.

Ralph's Place is my sports bar, version one. I like to tell people it's very rustic. Rustic is a good thing if you think of a hunting camp or something. It's pretty barren, but the bar is well stocked. I hope to have some pictures posted sometime soon. But for now things basically look like this: A nice paneled bar that was here when we moved in about seven years ago, but has never been cleaned off and used. There's a sense of barreness about that too, however, as someone has removed the top.

The floor is half pulled up tile and cement with left over glue on it. I'm sitting in an old rocker that I assembled when I got married about 10 years ago and has been demoted out of living room dinner. There is also an old pink chair - retired from my in laws, an office chair I retrieved along with my dad and brother from a dumpster when I was like 12, a foosball table, - middle of the road, not too cheap not too extavigent, but good for some games, an old coffee table with ABPA baseball currently set up on it, four mismatched bar stools, a cheapo stereo from Wal-Mart on an old TV stand- which is currently playing the Penn State game. Nice paneling on one side with a dogs playing golf picture and crappy paneling on the other with an Irish writers poster and some assorted Bills memorabilia. There is also some autographed pictures and baseballs and beanie babies and a Bills' flag and other stuff radomly scattered around. It's kind of cold, becuase I've accidently set the Polaris on low - and well, it's a basement.

But, we opened it up finally on New Year's Eve and things went well. We had one person do 25 shots and several others do more than 10. And we're all over 35 years old I think. It was a good mix of family, friends and neighbors.

My goal is to track things from this bar. To draw you into my basement for discussions on sports, politics and life in general. I will try and post more later tonight. But his is just an intro and I need to examine my profile and such and figure some more things out about this blog.