Thursday, March 31, 2005

First underarms, now Underarmour

Another reason that living in Scotland would be interesting: Reality TV there appears to involve celebrity sumo wrestling. However, the newspaper The Scotsman reports a flap (vague pun intended) has developed over the garb worn in sumo. Apparently, the celebrities aren't all that enthusiastic about wearing the diaper-like garment sumo wrestlers don for the sport, and were hoping to wear either normal underwear or something more modest. The creators of "Battle of the Network Stars" must be rolling over in their graves, provided they're dead.

This raises the unpleasant specter of a US version of the celebrity sumo challenge -- or worse yet, a public radio pseudo-celebrity version. (Although I think it'd be interesting to see a bout featuring Daniel Pinkwater and Nina Totenberg.)

It also, in a roundabout sort of way, directs attention towards an alarming trend I've noticed in my several recent trips to divergent parts of the country: The pheonomenon of guys wearing Underarmour shirts as part of their traveling wardrobe.

I happen to own a couple of these form-fitting shirts for workout purposes -- they're swell, in that they keep various untoned parts of my upper body from moving around too much. However, a) I never wear them outside the context of the gym, and b) I take precautions against blinding anyone by wearing a t-shirt over such garments.

And therein lies the problem -- guys wearing these shirts despite a physique influenced by Krispy Kreme. You know, it hasn't been that long since people actually dressed up to travel by plane. The 19 Minutes staff still throws on a blazer, though that's more due to its inability to pack a sport coat with out having it come out looking like Saran Wrap than for reasons of formality.

In general, the casualization of air travel is probably a good thing, but the Underarmour issue speaks to the wider problem of people's need to call attention to themselves in airports -- which started with the phenomenon of guys standing in the middle of the gate area, hands on hips, and having animated discussions with their subordinates using their hands-free cell phones. The phenomenon progressed with the advent of Nextel phones, which allow users to look even more aggressive as they dress down their coworkers for not having placed the proper file on their desk before they left for the airport. And it's now reached its current stage, marked by guys shouting into their cell phones while wearing Underarmour shirts, taking breaks only to bark expletives at the airport TVs showing NBA games. It sure makes me look forward to the day they allow cell phones on airplanes! Oh boy!

Or maybe I'll just take the bus.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Yet another audio alert (or yet more shameless self-promotion)

Those of you with high-speed internet connections and streaming audio (audio streamers?) can find out what happens when they put me in front of a live microphone for a few hours tomorrow morning. I'll be doing the fill-in thing on the local broadcast of NPR's Morning Edition, from 5-9 am MST on Thursday.

You'll also notice an odd phenomenon, namely that I sound much perkier (whatever) from 5-6 than I do from 6-7. Speculate all you'd like.

That much said, it also means an early bedtime for the 19 Minutes staff.

Good night, and drive safely.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

I get press releases, Volume 8

I do get press releases, but in this case, the folks behind this particular press release actually sent it to our music director, who was kind enough to forward it to me. (Why the PR folks would send a press release about a new exciting development in bra technology to the guy responsible for programming classical music on a public radio station is a topic for another day.)

Anyway, this one is worth reading, if only because it introduces us to the concept of a "uni-breast":



A new workout bra allows women to increase their breast
size while improving their lap times.

According to manufacturer Personal Beauty Unlimited of Florida, the bra boasts a revolutionary design which actually builds and strengthens the bust line during athletic workouts.

"This sports bra doesn't strap the boobs down and squish them into a uni-breast, but actually separates them and increases their size during jogging or exercise," says company spokesperson Donna Lisa Wray.

The bra's bosom building power comes from a patented "Under Band" which not only lifts and supports the breasts, but retrains and repositions midriff and underarm flesh into the breast area, giving breasts extra shape and fullness.

"Retraining the misplaced soft tissue back to its proper position also results in a slimmer midriff," says Ms Wray.

Most women will experience a one cup size increase after 30 days, according to Ms Wray.

"The bra is amazingly comfortable, and even though it pumps the breasts up, women won't experience any bouncing during workouts," says Ms Wray.

They're also kind enough to provide professional journalists such as myself with potential interview questions, such as:

1. What made your company design a bra like this?
2. According to your survey, what percentage of American women would
like to increase their breast size? How many breasts did you survey?
3. What do most women dislike the most about their breasts?
4. Over the past 20 years, how many American women have surgically increased their breast size?
5. How does the bra increase breast size?
6. Is the increase permanent?
7. Can this bra correct drooping breasts?

...and, of course:
8. Where can listeners purchase your new bust enhancing bra?

I have a few questions to add, such as:

9. How does one go about surveying a breast? And wouldn't that job be a potential solution to a summer employment shortage among college-aged men?

10. Since when is the "proper position" for a woman's soft tissue on her chest, and not in her underarm? Does her underarm just disappear when she's wearing this bra? And does that mean amazing savings on deodorant bills?

11. What would happen if a guy with a uni-brow met a woman with a uni-breast?

and 12. Don't you think that what women really hate the most about their breasts is the fact that companies such as Personal Beauty Unlimited of Florida invent products that suggest women should want to transfer their underarms to their breasts?

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Resort living vs. a room at the Inn: a report

So as I mentioned, we went to Tucson last week, allowing our daughter to take a vacation from the stress that's involved in being 9 ½ months old.

We stayed at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, thanks to the generosity of some key relatives of the 19 Minutes staff. But for purposes of this post, let’s pretend we paid the $279/night that our room would normally go for. That’ll make the comparison with the $46/night Holiday Inn Phoenix West work a little better, anyway. We stayed at the Holiday Inn on the trip back north.

Let me start by saying that the Loews is a very nice hotel. The service was extraordinary, and it’s tough to beat having a saguaro cactus literally just outside your door (unless you’re a sleepwalker, I suppose). But I’ve always been a little skeptical about whether I could actually tell the difference between a humorously expensive hotel room and, well, a humorously not expensive hotel room. At least I wondered whether, at $279/night, the Loews was really six times sweller than the Holiday Inn.

Our comparison breaks down into several areas. Here goes.


The Loews is located, as is everything in Tucson, roughly 75 miles from anything else. The trip off the interstate gives you a good feel for what your trip to Tucson will be like – roads that go on seemingly forever, lined with expensive brown adobe homes wedged onto the hillsides and strip malls that pop up at random intervals. It definitely discourages the riff-raff from interfering with your stay. Their cars would never make it that far.

The Holiday Inn is located a convenient 75 feet from Interstate 10, meaning the sounds you got used to on the drive will follow you into your room. The marquee out front reads “Welcome Riff-Raff.”

The pool:

The Loews has a recreation pool, a lap pool, an outdoor hot tub, and a “cooling off” pool replete with waterfall. The smell of mesquite from the surrounding desert wafts over the entire area. There are dozens of deck chairs around the recreation pool, giving vacationing investment bankers plenty of room to read the Wall Street Journal and bark at their surly underlings via cell phone while keeping one eye on their kids and another on the bikini-clad women in the neighboring chairs.

The Holiday Inn’s pool is located under an overhang at the front of the hotel. It’s walled off from the entry driveway, but even the wall doesn’t keep out the wafting aroma from the fast-food joints across the street.

The room:

Our room at the Loews had a king-sized bed, a couch, an easy chair, and a desk. The mattress had seen better days, or at least wished it had seen lighter guests. Reading material included Condé Nast Traveler, Tucson Living, and USA Today on the one day they got around to delivering it.

Our room at the Holiday Inn had a king-sized bed, an easy chair, a desk, and a refrigerator. The mattress was relatively new and pretty comfortable. Reading material included the guide to the hotel amenities and area attractions. This hit all the hot spots, including the Phoenix Zoo, the world-famous Heard Museum, a nearby batting cage, and the Garden of Jesus’ Suffering.

The bathroom:

No real complaints about the Loews bathroom, unless you count the poor audio quality on the bathroom phone. The Loews bathroom also featured a TV (though it was one of those little ones you’d take camping and not a 50-inch plasma job). It also included a humongous tub, in case our 9 1/2 –month old wanted to get her lap swimming in, as well. Nice soaps/shampoos/mysterious lotions, though for some odd reason, we were never provided with soap for the sink. Enormous towels.

The Holiday Inn bathroom had working fixtures.


Loews – grand piano and lounge singer in the main foyer.

Holiday Inn – Friday night was some sort of a special “dress up like pimps and hookers” night at the sports bar just off the main foyer. Not that anyone at the Holiday Inn was calling it a foyer.

Kind of a Hobson’s choice, actually, between the two places.


Both places noted that the parking lots were under some form of surveillance, but one got the feeling that it only actually mattered at the Holiday Inn.


When it comes down to it, both places served their purpose – the Loews gave us a bed and a relaxing (well, as relaxing as it was going to get with a baby around) respite from the everyday. And the Holiday Inn gave us a bed and was, on the whole, somewhat safer than actually sleeping on Interstate 10. Was the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort six times better than the Holiday Inn Phoenix West? Pretty close, actually. Though the Holiday Inn would catch up pretty darn quickly if they put that 50-inch plasma TV in the bathroom.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Back from Tucson...

...and a vacation that I inadvertently forgot to mention. So thanks for your patience in checking this space for updates.

This isn't much of an update either, as the ride back from the south has the 19 Minutes staff a little drained. But our Easter schedule is light enough that I believe we'll have time to comment on all things Tucson, among them life at a (relatively) schnazzy resort and a ubiquitous haircutting chain that purports to do "sports" haircuts. It seems, though, that you don't have to be a barbering genius to pull off a Michael Jordan cut. But I'll get back to that.

Happy Easter, and enjoy your Pez..

Monday, March 21, 2005

They're the Red *Sox*, for crying out loud

So, Coughing Fest '05 continues around the 19 Minutes household. Here at work, I've taken up the hobby of spitting phlegm into my trash can, which is actually something of an improvement (for me, anyway) from the weekend, when the area phlegmish population decided to congregate at the back of my throat. In any case, the cold, combined with the New Bedtime Strategy we're employing for 9-month old Sylvi, gave me plenty of TV time over the weekend.

A couple of observations follow. [Actually, it'll likely be more than two, but it seems that here in Arizona, people believe "a couple" to be interchangeable with "a few", as witnessed by the following verbatim dialogue, which occurred at a local fast food restaurant, which we won't name, except to note that it rhymes with Lentucky Fried Chicken:

Me: I'd like a couple of your two-piece meals, please.

11-year old behind the counter: Okay. And how many would you like?

Me: Um, that'd be two. Four pieces of chicken altogether.

11-yr old: Okay.

Me: And a couple of the chocolate parfaits.

11-yr old: Okay, I think we only have the chocolate.

Me: Uh, yeah. That'd be fine.

11-yr old: And how many of those do you need?

Yeah, this is what I get for making my annual trip to KF.. er, LFC.]

So, back to this weekend's TV observations. Through my cold medicine-induced haze at 3:00 am Sunday, it seemed that QVC has apparently added a wacky late night "chat" show on weekends, replete with a cheesy laugh track and applause. Normally, I have a weird affection for QVC. The hosts are perky, and I'm always amazed at their ability to wax eloquently for hours about some of the most hideous ceramic figurines imagineable. But between the vaguely-scuzzy host, the woman demonstrating the device that helps you fasten bracelets, and the way-too-tanned elderly guy applying hairspray to everyone, it kind of felt like a pornography roundtable, or one of those infomercials for men's sexual enhancers that constantly refer to "that special male part", as though it's a tremendous inside joke that only sophisticated infomercial viewers will get. Um, anyway, after a half-hour of "Seriously Late on QVC", I was feeling unclean enough that I was grateful for a return to the hideous figurines.

The Red Sox played the Dodgers in a Spring Training game on ESPN today. I don't really have a lot to say on that subject except to note that Boston's bright red jerseys are about as ugly as it's possible for a sports uniform to get, save perhaps for the 1976 White Sox (or the '78 Astros, or the '77 Padres, or even the '77 Pirates... okay, maybe it's not the ugliest ever, but it is ugly).

Discovery Health continues to add to its "Things You Hope Will Never Happen to You" genre, with tonight's well-publicized airing of "When Anesthesia Fails". [And while we're at it, a tip of the hat to the author of last week's comment about my Robitussin-related blog, which noted the risk it (the Robitussin, not, presumably, the blog posting) posed to the phenomenon that is cervical mucus. It's great, the information that's out here in blog land...]

And finally, we note the demise of a once-vaguely-useful TV channel: CNN Headline News, which officially jumped the shark on Friday afternoon, when it added an exclamation point to the headline: "BREAKING NEWS: TERRY SCHIAVO'S FEEDING TUBE REMOVED!"

I'll be getting back to my trash can now...

Friday, March 18, 2005

The sane voice of March Madness (another audio alert)

It's back to Surprise, Arizona, this morning for more baseball and -- just maybe -- more Taco in a Bag. I'll be going on a sort of radio blind date, with a listener who successfully bid on a day at the ballpark with me in a public radio online auction. I forget whether we threw a straight-jacket in as part of the deal for spending a whole day with me.

Stay tuned as we report back on any new surprises from the town of Surprise. Maybe a new Best Buy has sprung forth.

In the meantime, March Madness is heating up. The 19 Minutes staff is still puzzling over its Women's NIT bracket for the big office pool (Delaware? Creighton? Western Kentucky?). But regardless, we recently did an interview with sportswriter John Feinstein about his new children's mystery novel, "Last Shot", along with a few other topics, like parents, kids, and sports.

Anyway, we started out by talking about the mystery, which is snooped out by a couple of teenage reporters. If you're so inclined, the audio is here.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Well, what did I expectorate?

So now I have a cold. This one comes courtesy of my nine-month old, who was considerate enough to bring it home as a souvenir of her trip to Minnesota.

Anyway, I'm taking occasional pulls on a bottle of Robitussin, which purports to be a "Cough Suppressant/Expectorant". Now, maybe there's some new meaning for the words "suppressant" and "expectorant", but it does lead me to wonder how Robitussin manages to keep you from coughing, while simultaneously causing you to cough more.

Maybe that's why my cough goes on, unabated. What I could use is an adult version of the Evil Blue Nose Vacuum.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

I get press releases, Volume 7: Gutteral Mandate

In an effort to keep you, the loyal 19 Minutes reader (and in this case, the singular case is apt) apprised of current public opinion, I'm pleased to pass along this important polling data, thoughtfully forwarded my way by the publicity folks at

As you know, the first day of Spring is on Sunday. I wanted to flag the announcement released today about who is planning to spring clean this year and what their no.1 priority is. The survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive, revealed that nearly three in four U.S. adults are planning to spring clean (72 percent). Of those, 42 percent of women said they will focus on cleaning the interior of their home, such as vacuuming and dusting, while 44 percent of men said they plan to focus on spring cleaning for the exterior of the home, such as landscaping and clearing gutters.

First of all, let me reference my March 4th posting, which -- you'll recall -- detailed my own half-hearted efforts at spring cleaning. Apparently, my flaw was not that I'm a slob, but rather, that I didn't join with that clear mandate of guys that focus on the exterior of their homes. Of course, as a proud renter of my home, I think I'll allow my landlady to deal with those features. But as we learn from the conclusion to the press release, I apparently have not had the expertise needed to effectively handle these tasks, anyway:

Porter Knight, the author of "Organized to Last: Five Simple Steps to Staying Organized," offers simple tips to help keep on track to successfully spring clean this year, including start with a plan, make time and use the help of professionals, which can easily be found through [surprise] an online Yellow Pages site such as

A quick check of Porter Knight's website reveals she is something of an authority on the world of organization. A more detailed check reveals one of her clients is the folks at Feng Shui Harmony, which is kind of interesting. I mean, here I thought Feng Shui was its own method of organization, and here they are, subcontracting.

Regardless, it means that Sunday is another good excuse for a bath.

At least there was no MSG

I was on a job interview recently. We won't go into the details at this particular point in time, save for one key experience -- which we'll file under the category of "Why it's a Bad Idea to Go Out for Chinese Food on a Job Interview". The meal was great: No Szechuan beef on my tie. No hot-and-sour soup on my white shirt. The fortune cookies show up. My fortune:


Great. Next time, I'm having Chinese food for breakfast before the interview.

On the upside, the lucky numbers on the back of the fortune won me 53 trillion dollars in the Megabucks lottery. And I was able to use the Chinese word for "oyster" (conveniently translated below the lucky numbers) to impress the waiter when he picked up the check.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Mass wasting

The 19 Minutes staff is heading off tomorrow morning, at an ungodly hour, for a few days in Massachusetts. This leaves the staff somewhat conflicted. After around 120 inches of snow, Spring is legitimately underway in Flagstaff. Today, for example, it's a day of the variety that people in the northeast are lucky to encounter three times a year -- sunny and 65 with a sky so improbably blue that you'd think the Crayola folks modeled the "cornflower" crayon on it. We had one of those days yesterday, too, and the day before that, and there's one in the forecast for tomorrow. God invented sunroofs for such days (though, perhaps, maybe He/She/Whatever should have thought of that before also inventing male pattern baldness).

On the other hand, as Dennis Miller once said (before he became completely objectionable), it's a little like life in Hef's jacuzzi. Arizonans get so inured by the 300+ days of sunshine a year that they sprout invisible, but nevertheless real, bubbles around themselves, a little like wearing a Walkman while walking through a congested subway station. This leads to ridiculous situations like cars turning the wrong way up one way streets, triggering a response unheard of in Massachusetts: Other cars pulling over and getting out of the way. I always make sure to lean on my horn for an extra few seconds, both to let the driver of the first car know what an idiot he is, and also to remind the drivers of the other cars that they should be, perhaps, a little more possessive about the lanes they're driving in. (And also to remind them that they're idiots.)

And it's maple sugar season in western Massachusetts, and if I'm lucky, I'll drive by a maple sugar shack with its unbelievably intoxicating aroma. Or at least score some maple syrup.

The other downside to this trip is that I'm booked on Southwest Airlines. It's not a huge problem -- the fare is good, the schedule (except for the leaving Flagstaff at 4:30 am to get to Phoenix part) was the best of any of the airlines that fly between Phoenix and Hartford-Springfield, and I'm sure they'll be perky across all three time zones. But we leave Phoenix at 10:30 am and stop twice before we get to Bradley International at 7:30 pm. That means I have to either buy lunch and dinner at Sky Harbor Airport of the variety that it can withstand six hours on a 737, or I have to concede that I'll eat nothing but those annoying Ritz Cracker sandwiches, fruit snacks, and reverse Oreos that Southwest insists on including in its snack-packs. (I'll save the diatribe about reverse Oreos for the return trip.)

But modern-day travel is wonderful enough that I'm sure there's a third option awaiting me as I set out early tomorrow morning. I'm thinking, perhaps, of reverting to my early eating habits. That cornflower crayon sounds pretty good to me.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

I get (too many) press releases, Volume 6

The kid (okay, my kid) has a cold. Not a lot of fun when you're a nine-month old. Basically, all you know is that sometimes you have a hard time breathing, then mom or dad inflicts the evil big blue nose vacuum on you. Sylvi hates the nose vacuum more than just about anything else on earth, even more than the 12th showing of "Rocky IV" on AMC. Anyway, she has this cold, which is also causing her right eye to water and is flushing her cheeks, giving off the effect of an extremely small Emmett Kelly.

But even whilst I tend to her nasal aspirating needs, I have a chance to check out two promising press releases that have shown up in my in-box. First, from the publishing world, this book pitch (actually, the subject line is the highlight of the release):

Adoption experience inspires author's kung-fu novel

The tome itself sounds like a perfectly nice children's book, so I won't get on its case too much, save for the last line of the news release, which invites readers to:
"Log on to to test your warrior-focus!

This is a dangerous invitation for most of us in the journalism field, as our collective warrior focus is generally focused on fighting off colds (see above). Anyway, that allows us to move on to a news release from the Medical Industry E-mail News Service, which wants to inform the world (and elsewhere) that:


COSTA MESA CA USA -- MEDICAL INDUSTRY E-MAIL NEWS SERVICE(TM) -- MARCH 10 2005 -- The popular "Medical Industry E-mail News Service(TM)," now in its 5th successful year of operation, transmitting press releases for over 700 regular clients [Mitch's note: "...such as itself."], released direct quotations from them today, regarding results they received.

The total distribution list is now approx. 200,000 individual e-mail addresses worldwide -- all updated daily & hourly, year-round.

Oh boy oh boy oh boy! Direct quotations! Here we go...

Typical Unsolicited & Unedited Testimonials

We received a tremendous response back from our press release that you transmitted last week. We would like to go ahead and purchase 2 more.
-- Director, Conference Division

And if two more press releases weren't enough:

Thanks for sending out the emails. We got a lot of registrations from it.
-- Executive Director, Medical Association Meetings Division

Note the quote doesn't specify exactly which medical association gets the e-mail registrations, but we can safely assume it's something cool.

I just want to remind all my loyal reader(s) that, after they see this stuff on the front page of the New York Times, or even the Ironwood Daily Globe, you read it here first.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Bravo for life's little ironies

I'm currently shut out of my house, as my carpets are being cleaned. Strange, given my posting from last Friday I am looking forward to going home, as "wet carpet" is one of my favorite smells, right after "elderly lobster".


I made the trip down the hill to the Phoenix area yesterday for some baseball Spring Training. The benefit to living in Flagstaff is that when it's spitting snow and 40 degrees on March 6th, you can drive two hours and sit in the 70 degree sunshine and watch baseball. It also means you can avoid dealing with 117 degree sunshine come August. Plus, you can almost get creamed by recreational vehicles on their way to Cliff Castle Casino.

We saw the Milwaukee Brewers play the Kansas City Royals in the Royals' spring ballpark in Surprise, Arizona. There are actually relatively few surprises in Surprise, unless your idea of a Surprise is a strip mall with both a Best Buy and a Barnes & Noble. Actually, the biggest Surprise is in the lack of copy editing in the scorecard program. The City of Surprise operates the ballpark (known, catchily enough, as "Surprise Stadium"), and places a city boosterish blurb in the program. Apparently, in just the stadium's third year, the blurb-writing became a mundane enough task that they just cut and pasted last year's blurb, complete with the city's expectations for 2004. Great stuff.

I went to the game with my boss, proving my efforts to get away from work on my one day away from the pledge drive were less than effective. His priority, other than to spot any player he'd even remotely heard of, was to score some Kansas City-style barbeque at the ballpark.

Given that this was Surprise, Arizona, and that ribs are not an eating option for many of the city's, um, incisorly-impaired residents, we settled for what I've come to regard as the new, perfect foodstuff: Taco in a Bag. I'll grant you, the menu also featured such other Kansas City favorites as deep fried Twinkies and deep fried Oreos, but should your plans call for you to be in the greater Surprise area, the opportunity to eat taco fixings directly out of a bag of Nacho Cheese-flavored Doritos makes the journey more than worth it.

And you can save the deep fried Oreos for the 7th inning stretch.

It's late, and I'm tired

It's pledge drive time here in public radio land, and I'm having one of those Pledge Drives of Enhanced Perspective. I have them once every two or three years, and it means I spend most of my spare time thinking about what an odd habit it is to have to take to the airwaves a few times a year and basically ask people to pay your salary. It's the broadcasting equivalent of selling pencils on the street corner, though we generally provide our donors with receipts for tax purposes. We also try to shower before we go asking for money. (It's late, and I'm tasteless.)

The wife and offspring are also away visiting family in the midwest for most of a week, which means not only am I experiencing Enhanced Perspective (which I think is the name of the Yoga DVD I saw them hawking on public television the other day), but I'm experiencing it without being able to bounce it off anyone else. Oh, sure, I *try* talking to my iPod, or the Weather Channel's Dave Schwartz, or even the box of Golden Grahams on the kitchen counter, but the best responses I've gotten involve, respectively, the song "Serves Me Right" by Garrison Starr, the dewpoint in Maine, or 25% of the US recommended daily allowance of Riboflavin.

All this is to say that useless things are rattling around in my head that aren't necessarily conducive to the blog world. (Not that it appears to be stopping me.)
But it's late, and I'm tired. Tune in tomorrow to pledge central, as I ask listeners to cut out the middleman, and just drop by my place and make me dinner.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Good, the Bad, and the Slovenly

As part of my continuing dubious public service, I hearby present March's edition of Last Laugh, my column in Northern Arizona's Mountain Living Magazine:

Springtime is almost upon us, a time during which my thoughts invariably turn to spring cleaning. Notice I say “my thoughts”, as opposed to, say, my actions. I think about cleaning a lot. As for the act of cleaning, well, I’d just as soon read Finnegan’s Wake.

I’ve never been what you’d call a neat person. Go back to my high school days and I was routinely late for class – not for any nefarious reasons, but because it took me that long to dig through my locker to find the right books for the next period. Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t one of those guys that was finding old tuna fish sandwiches from freshman year and confusing them with my biology project. I was a slob, but a sanitary slob. Rather, I was one of those guys who went looking for his math homework and confused it with the standings from his Rotisserie baseball league.

The weekend after my college graduation, while my classmates were all getting drunk and embarking on their actual lives, my roommate, Mike Fox, and I spent the better part of 36 hours dealing with an entire year’s worth of newspapers that had rendered our recycling bin too heavy to move. (I knew we should have subscribed to the microfiche edition.)

The worst day of my journalism career – even worse than the time I had to emcee the Winneshiek County Fair Queen Pageant while everyone in the crowd was waiting for the stock car races to begin – was the day I came to work and my boss had cleaned my desk.

Not cleaned out my desk, implying that I was fired. I could have dealt with that. It would have saved the time of packing my things. No, he had come in over the weekend and filed everything in manila folders and drawers and cabinets and cubbyholes and OHMYGODTHEWASTEBASKET! And without even considering the idea that I might someday need that 10-month old press release from the local 4-H chapter. He claimed to have committed the neatness because he was worried what our Congressman would think if he ever walked in the newsroom. I’ve always figured he did it because he was a neatnik. Or our Congressman was a neatnik.

And that’s why I think I fit nicely into northern Arizona. It’s not necessarily a neat place. Sure, there are people that keep their homes, or their offices, neat. But the elements work against it. Head down to Sedona and come back with a car (and shoes) full of red dirt. Here in Flagstaff, my nine-month old daughter will never have to worry about sliding on our floor, since all the cinders that were formerly on San Francisco Street are now in our living room.

But I’m hereby resolving to change my slovenly ways. This year, I’m actually going to do some real-live Spring Cleaning. As soon as I hit the end of this column I’m going to go take a bath.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

I get press releases, Volume 5

Amazingly, this news release didn't get snared by my spam filter, despite the fact that the return address was "BP Lubricants USA". This one takes a while to get going, but stick with it, since it may represent the first time anyone's ever compared "The French Connection" to "Ride With Funkmaster Flex":


2005 Program Expands to Award Participants Chance
to Flex Their Skills and Earn Apprenticeship with Radio and
TV Personality Funkmaster Flex

Wayne, N.J. – March 1, 2005 – Americans have a lasting love affair with the automobile—from 1950s hot rodding and James Dean to the “French Connection” chase scene, “Bullitt” and Steve McQueen. And who could forget “Herbie the Love Bug,” “Dukes of Hazzard” or “Knight Rider?” Today, the obsession continues with popular reality car shows such as “Pimp My Ride” and “Ride with Funkmaster Flex,” yet there remains a growing need for qualified men and women to service the vehicles we love.

Responding to this need, Castrol ® SYNTEC ® today announced the launch of the 2005 Castrol SYNTEC Outperformers Scholarship Program, a nationwide search that encourages young car enthusiasts to take interest and pursue careers in the automotive service and repair industry, while rewarding them for their passion, hard work and ambition. Now in its fourth year, the program is dedicated to attracting young men and women already thinking about automotive service as a career choice, as well as vehicle lovers who haven’t yet considered the opportunities and rewards.

This year, Castrol has partnered with Funkmaster Flex, the most-listened-to DJ in the New York area and host of “Ride with Funkmaster Flex” and “Funkmaster Flex Super Series,” both auto-performance-inspiring shows airing on Spike TV. [Mitch's comment: The real trick is getting your auto to sit still long enough to be inspired by these shows.] The selected national Castrol SYNTEC Outperformer will earn a career-igniting apprenticeship at Flex’s Team Baurtwell Body Shop. Baurtwell team members include expert technicians and die-hard enthusiasts devoted to vehicle customization and performance.

“High-performing cars, trucks and motorcycles make my eyes widen and jaw drop. They’re the reason I get so excited about work every day,” said Funkmaster Flex. [Mitch's comment: Yeah, speaking as a fellow radio personality, nothing gets me quite as excited about going to work as high-performing cars, trucks, and motorcycles. If it weren't for my '87 Volkswagen, I can't imagine spending a day editing stories, reading weather forecasts, and writing news copy.] “I’m eager to share my love for vehicles with the next generation of ‘Outperformers’ because making vehicles look good, sound sweet and perform better only happens through knowledge and dedication to the trade. That’s why we’re offering the one winning Castrol SYNTEC Outperformer an apprenticeship with Team Baurtwell, an experience they can use now to help build a career for the future.”

The release goes on to lay out the rules of the competition, and the prizes:

-->Two Tickets to the Automobile Club of southern California NHRA Finals in Pomona
-->$1,000 worth of new Mac Tools
-->A year’s supply (four cases) of Castrol SYNTEC motor oil
-->Castrol SYNTEC Outperformers hat, t-shirt and other items
-->Subscriptions to Primedia publications
-->A framed certificate recognizing successful completion of the curriculum in synthetic motor oils
-->Membership into the Castrol SYNTEC Outperformers Club

The one regional winner who “outperforms” the others will receive the apprenticeship with Funkmaster Flex, as well as a $7,500 scholarship to attend a racing, high-performance or automotive education program to build upon their passion for vehicle performance and automotive service knowledge.

Now, I'd assume that -- in order to receive the framed certificate recognizing successful completion of the curriculum in synthetic motor oils -- the regional winners would probably learn that oil changes can be far-less-frequent with synthetic motor oil. Even working with a conservative estimate of, say, 7000 miles between oil changes, that would mean their "year's supply" of oil -- four cases -- would assume that you're going to drive 42,000 miles this year.

I'm thinking I might enter this competition, since -- at that rate -- the four cases of oil would last my '87 VW approximately 17 more years.

Meanwhile, with quotes like: “I’m eager to share my love for vehicles with the next generation of ‘Outperformers’ because making vehicles look good, sound sweet and perform better only happens through knowledge and dedication to the trade. That’s why we’re offering the one winning Castrol SYNTEC Outperformer an apprenticeship with Team Baurtwell, an experience they can use now to help build a career for the future,” it's easy to see why Funkmaster Flex is one of the top DJs in the New York area. It's also easy to see why he'd be encouraging more young people to enter the auto repair field.