Thursday, January 31, 2008

Speaking of my birthday...

...a friend from San Antonio, George S, also shares a birthday with me, as does his son.

When my wife and I were dating, her stepmom asked when my birthday was.

"February 6," Jennifer said.

Mom replied: "No kidding? That's my birthday also."

It's coming...

On next Wednesday (February 6), I'll be hitting a milestone.

My 35th birthday.

Where have the years gone?

I've told my wife I just want one thing--a set of reusable chopsticks. We'll see if the birthday boy gets his wish.

Идёт снег!

Идёт снег!

That’s how you say “It’s snowing!” in Russian. And tomorrow up here in Michigan, we’re expected to get lots and lots of snow. Ah, joy…

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

An open note to Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane regarding my request for Houston's current uniforms to be fired

Mr. McLane:

I know that what’s ultimately important are the players who wear the Houston Astros uniform and not the uniform itself, but I am begging you: PLEASE change those ugly uniforms the Astros have. Houston needs a return to its roots with uniforms that reflect the space industry and the team nickname (short for Astronaut and derived from the Greek word for star). In the 2000 season, you chose to radically change the Astros’ uniforms to reflect the location of their new stadium (now Minute Maid Park). Located on a former train depot, the colors were altered to black, brick red and sand and the script patterned to resemble that of a train. Oh yeah, with a name like the Astros and a logo that used to include a shooting star, that made a lot of sense.

My humble suggestions for a new uniform:

1) Return to the blue-and-gold moving star of the nineties
2) Return to the blue-and-orange shooting star look of the sixties
3) Incorporate the royal blue, silver and red of NASA’s logo to create a new look altogether that pays appropriate homage to Houston’s space exploration industry.

Remember, railroads (at least the one at Union Station) reflect the past. Space exploration reflects the future.

The only two things I like about the current uniforms: the numbers on the front of the jersey and the name HOUSTON on the road jerseys.

Richard Zowie
Houston Astros fan since 1983
Arbela Township, Michigan

The latest in the 2008 elections

John Edwards and Rudy Giuliani have dropped out. I am suspecting more and more that Barack Obama will be the democratic nomination for the 2008 presidential race. He’s been gaining more momentum on Hillary Clinton, and he’s been picking up more endorsements. Perhaps the biggest thing that’s attractive about him—besides his potential for becoming America’s first real black president (author Toni Morrison once referred to Bill Clinton as “America’s first black president”), is his message of change. Can’t say I’m really convinced. Sounds like the same old, same old. One friend observed that if Obama were really able to implement all the government programs he wants, he’ll bankrupt our economy. Granted, we are already trillions of dollars in debt as it is.

On the GOP side, it will probably be either John McCain or Mitt Romney winning the nomination.

As for running mates, I get this sneaking feeling that the Democrats will go for a VP candidate from the South. Since 1996, the Democrats have done very poorly in the South: Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee in 2000 and John Kerry lost running mate John Edwards’ home state of North Carolina in 2004. The Republicans, I suspect, will go with the South or perhaps a heavily-democratic state like California or New York.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Boogeyman 2 and a suggestion of great suspenseful films

I saw Boogeyman 2. Some suspense, lots of gore. Poster is a lot scarier than the movie. To me, the time spent on the gore should've been halved and spent on developing the story. In other words, it was so-so. If you want a great suspense film, check out Dead Silence. Or, better yet, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Also, for sci-fi with great suspense, there' that Ridley Scott classic Alien. One thing I will say: I was happy, though, to see Tobin Bell of Saw fame in this one. He plays a psychiatrist, and that's all I'll say so as to not spoil the film.

Post-State of the Union thoughts

Yes, I voted for President George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 and have no regrets of doing so. Yes, I think Bush’s tax cuts have been sorely needed to get our economy going again. Yes, I think that Saddam Hussein was an evil man whose regime needed to be ended.

Those being said, I didn’t watch the State of the Union address last night.

Perhaps I should have, just for the sake of blogging about it. In some ways I regret not having done so.

Whether it’s a president I loved (Ronald Reagan) or one I didn’t (Bill Clinton), I’ve never been able to watch. The speech preparation begins weeks—if not months—ahead of time and is tested out. It has one of three purposes: Why you were right to elect me, Why you should reelect me and Why American historians will write favorably of me. By and large, I find it too self-serving. The speech, as have been the other speeches, was stopped many times for applause (mostly from fellow Republicans).

Ultimately, the speech matters little. There will always be those who thought it was brilliant, those who thought it was terrible, those who thought it was good but not great, those who thought it was bad but not terrible, and so on.

President Bush, arguably one of the most ineloquent speakers in recent presidential history, can relax: this was his final SOTU address.

I did find it amusing to read that although Democratic presidential nominee contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton sat within feet of each of other, neither acknowledged the other. A photo shows Senator Ted Kennedy (who endorsed Obama over Hillary despite Bill Clinton’s pleas) sitting next to the author of The Audacity of Hope. After the speech, Bush greeted Obama but not Hillary.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Barack Obama receives more endorsements

Add the Kennedy Clan to the list of those endorsing Barack Obama—and not Hillary Clinton—in the race for Democratic nomination for president.

Matt Drudge posted a link to an article earlier today that reported former president Bill Clinton’s unsuccessful attempts to get the Kennedys to back his wife. A New York Times article stated that JFK’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy, said that Obama reminded her the most of her father.

Also endorsing Obama is—interestingly enough—African-American author Toni Morrison. The same Morrison who famously described Bill Clinton as the “first black president.”

My question: If Hillary ultimately gets the nomination, will all these people still end up endorsing her? Or is the love affair between the Democratic Party and the Clinton’s starting to sour?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Whom to vote for…

In the Michigan primary a few weeks ago, my wife and I both voted for Mike Huckabee. Now there’s talk that Huck isn’t as conservative as he makes himself out to be. Sheesh, this is rapidly turning into an election where it seems like there is absolutely nobody to vote for.

If it weren’t for the horrific mess that I feel Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama would make of our country if elected, I would probably vote third party. And even if they have no chance of winning, I might—just to send a message to the GOP that I’m sick of having no decent candidates.

Wo xi huan yong kuaizi!

The headline is Mandarin Chinese for “I like to use chopsticks!” it represents one of a few phrases I remember from the eight months I spent studying Mandarin Chinese at Defense Language Institute in Presidio of Monterey, Calif.

The other night, as an early birthday present (I turn 35 on February 6), my wife took me and our kids out for a Chinese buffet. As always, I asked the waitress for chopsticks (In Chinese, to request chopsticks, you’d say, “Ching ni gei wo kuaizi [Cheeng nee gay wo kwai zuh].” I ate with them for a while until my left wrist got sore, and then I switched to a fork.

Well, as it turns out, eating with chopsticks is actually a good thing. John Tesh, on his radio program Intelligence for Your Life, recently reorted that using chopsticks make you eat slower. This, in turn, gives your stomach ample time to send signals to your brain telling it that you are full.

I was joking with my wife that maybe it’s time I try to buy a permanent pair of chopsticks from the store. I don’t think, though, that I’ll be doing The Karate Kid thing by trying to catch flies with the utensils!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Writers’ Strike thoughts

The writers’ strike in Hollywood continues, and frankly, I couldn’t care less. In recent years the quality of TV has deteriorated so much that, frankly, the strike is something I prefer to think of as a miniature vacation. Reruns instead of new episodes of garbage? These days, the only shows I really like are 24, Lost, NCIS and, well, that’s really about it. No comedies interest me. American humor, as evidenced by the abysmal Knocked Up, is really going downhill. To get great comedy, I usually like to watch comedian Frank Caliendo or search for reruns of Frasier or, better yet, The Carol Burnett Show.

Lots of snow today

It’s snowing again up here in Michigan. A few days ago, our low got down into the single digits. A few weeks ago, I had to call the bagel shop where I work and tell them I wouldn’t be able to make it in. Too much snow and ice, making the roads where we live (Arbela Township, Tuscola County, Michigan) too dangerous to drive on.

Do I still prefer Michigan winters over Texas’ infamous summer heat waves? You bet!

Regrets about San Antonio

I see online from the San Antonio Express-News that the annual Cowboy Breakfast took place recently. That is one event, along with Fiesta, that I really regret my family and I never having the chance to have participated in during the six years we lived in San Antonio. Perhaps we can do that some day when we return to Texas for a visit. Those and the Folklife Festival.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Kwame Kilpatrick, curator of The Detroit 'Zoo'

I am so glad I don’t live in Detroit. I spent time there in 2006 while my wife was downtown at Harper University Hospital. Lots and lots of decrepit, abandoned buildings. Of the errands I had to run, I made sure I ran all of them in broad daylight to avoid being on places like 8 Mile Road at night time.

A few years ago, I really thought the political career of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was D.O.A. when it was revealed that he’d used his city credit card for lots of personal purchases. Sure, he reimbursed the city, but only after his irresponsible use was exposed by the Detroit Free Press. Now, it’s been revealed that Mayor and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty, now face possible perjury charges. Reportedly, the two lied under oath about:

Their alleged affair, which they denied. (The Free Press reported this: Kilpatrick and chief of staff Christine Beatty denied during testimony in August that they had a sexual relationship. But the records, a series of text messages, show them engaged in romantic banter as well as planning and recounting sexual liaisons… The newspaper examined nearly 14,000 text messages on Beatty's city-issued pager. The exchanges, which the Free Press obtained after the trial, cover two months each in 2002 and 2003.” [Emphases mine]

And, (and this is another biggie):

The mayor and his chief of staff/girlfriend apparently lied about their involvement in the 2003 ousting of former Detroit Deputy Police Chief Gary Brown. The paper further reports: “The Kilpatrick-Beatty relationship and Brown's dismissal were central to the whistle-blower suit filed by Brown and Harold Nelthrope, a former police officer and mayoral bodyguard. The two cops accused Kilpatrick of retaliating against them because of their roles in an internal affairs investigation of the mayor's security team – a probe that potentially could have exposed the affair.

Brown has sued the city; the lawsuit has cost Detroit (already in debt as it is) more than $9 million.

Kilpatrick in the past reacted angrily to a Detroit news crew that had wanted to ask him questions about a Southern California vacation he took with his family. The mayor was caught on tape grabbing a microphone from a reporter and tossing it. The vacation cost the city more than $8,000 (which Kilpatrick later paid back after—again—it was made public). Kilpatrick also cancelled a “business” trip to Hawaii after word leaked that several TV stations planned to tail him there to make sure he was going to be there on business and not pleasure.

How this turkey has stayed in office is absolutely beyond me. I’ll never forget how, in the last election against challenger Freeman Hendrix, Kilpatrick decided to make himself seem more professional and mature by removing his earring. Believe me, all things considered, the earring should be the least of his worries.

Besides the growing calls for the mayor’s resignation (he and his family are reportedly in Florida right now, as of this blog posting), there is also talk that he and Beatty may face felony perjury charges.
(Photo of Kilpatrick and Beatty courtesy of the Detroit Free Press)

Season openers soon for Lost and 24

In the Zowie family, we love the shows Lost and 24. Lost, that brilliantly-enigmatic show, begins this next season with the survivors of that Oceanic flight apparently getting rescued from the island—or are they? So many questions…is Ben right in saying they’ll die if they leave the island? Can Sawyer (real name: James Ford) changes his con-artist ways? Will we find out why Jack, back in the real world, wants to return to the island? Will Jin’s crash course in English continue? Will Hurley be able to go an entire episode without saying the word “Dude”? Will Desmond be reunited with his girlfriend?

I can hardly wait.

Meanwhile, I’m apprehensive about 24. I love the show, but last season was fairly disappointing. What I wanted to see was Jack Bauer escaping from a Chinese bamboo gulag. Instead, it was a season where his return was nothing short of anticlimactic. I think my favorite part of the season was the recurring role of the brilliant Hong Kong-born actor Tzi Ma, who played the ominous Chinese official Cheng Zhi.

This season will feature Tony Almeida as an apparent criminal mastermind. You thought Tony was dead? Well, so did I. but as we’ve learned on 24, just about anything’s possible. Maybe the show will feature Wil Wheaton (who co-starred in Stand by Me with Sutherland) as a criminal mastermind.

This season starts with Jack testifying before congress regarding his treatment of a terrorist suspect. The senator interrogating him is played by Kurtwood Smith (who played Red Forman on That 70s Show). Jack has to once again save the day from some sort of terrorist attack. We’ll see.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Richard works with moving parts

My brother-in-law, Joe (a machinist-turned locksmith), used to tease me as I’d attempt and fail at something mechanical. “What’s wrong, Richard? Too many moving parts?” he’d say.

Today at work I had some success against those parts. Partially disassembled some of the mechanisms on a bagel machine and cleaned them. Man, were they filthy! Got it back together with very few problems. Yee-haw!

Thoughts on the late, flamboyant, never boring Ron Luciano

I’m currently reading The Umpire Strikes Back, a comical autobiography of the late MLB American League umpire Ron Luciano. Hilarious. For all the self-deprecating comments (especially about his umpiring skills), Luciano apparently was a very good umpire. I’ve laughed out loud several times while reading it, one of my favorite parts being the time Luciano was angry, cussed out Billy Martin and then tossed Martin from the game and how he had to take a 50/50 shot at a foul home run that he lost sight of.

Sadly, Luciano died in 1995. He was found behind the wheel of his car inside his garage—later ruled a suicide. As I laugh at this book and think of how funny Luciano was, it’s sad to think that there was a degree of tragedy there. Reportedly, Luciano wrote in a note to a relative that it was just his time to go.

I was surprised also to read in the book that though he didn’t get along with Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver (Luciano ejected Weaver from all four of the first games he umpired), he had a great deal of respect for Weaver as a manager. Luciano also later became good friends with Martin.

I miss your humor, Ron.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heath Ledger, 28, exits the world's stage

I am very sorry to hear aobut the passing of actor Heath Ledger. Wow. He was only 28. (I’ll be 35 in February, so it really puts things in perspective for me). As of this blog posting, the autopsy is inconclusive; sleeping pills and anti-anxiety pills were found at his bed, and his family insists that Ledger did not commit suicide. For me, I’ll always remember him for that quirky medieval comedy A Knight’s Tale.

Sorry to see you gone so soon, Heath.

Cat thinks I'm its mother!

I was woken up this morning at around midnight by something disturbing, yet hilarious. One of our Calico cats, Cassie, was sucking on my ears. First my right and then my left a short while later. Apparently she was trying to nurse! I thought she'd put two and two together (figuratively speaking...nobody's ever proven cats can do math) and realize that since nothing was coming out that it was pointless). If I hadn't been so sleepy, I would've laughed myself limp.

A lady at work told me some cats will do this as a type of soothing activity. Glad I could be of service, Cassie!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Congratulations, Eli Manning

You have really showed lately that you're becoming a good quarterback. I watched you beat my favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys, last week, and I honestly don't remember a single bad pass you threw. I hope you and the New York Giants defeat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII and that you and your brother can compare Super Bowl rings. Something tells me that the Patriots, who have come closer and closer to getting defeated in the past month, might encounter the same surprise with the Giants that the Buffalo Bills did years ago.

My prediction:

New York 30
New England 21

Getting a new van today

1998 Dodge Ram van. We had to get this when our previous van, a 1995 Chevy Astro, was totaled. I've told my wife that we need to drive it only when absolutely necessary since it takes alot of gas. Lots and lots of features on this. Will post a pic sometime.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Death of Bobby Fischer

As someone who enjoys the game of chess, I was very saddened to hear of the passing of American-born former world chess champion Bobby Fischer. Fischer, who died January 18 in Iceland (where he had assumed citizenship in an effort to avoid returning to America) at the age of 64, leaves behind a mixed legacy. He is generally considered the greatest chess player America has ever produced and one of the greatest of all-time. We'll never know how good he could've been since, after becoming the world chess champion in the early seventies, he eventually dropped out of the game and became a recluse.

Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov told the Associated Press this about Fischer's death: "The tragedy is that [Fischer] left this world too early, and his extravagant life and scandalous statements did not contribute to the popularity of chess."

The New York Times also had this fascinating interview with Kasparov where he details some interesting things: he never met Fischer, but Fischer reportedly expressed interest in playing Kasparov.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Post-Michigan Primary thoughts

The controversial Michigan primary is over. My wife and I talked about the issues, prayed and compared where the candidates stood on the issues, and we voted for Mike Huckabee.

I can't speak for Jennifer, but for me, it was mostly a protest vote. I don't think Huck will get the nomination, and I doubt he'd do well against Hillary or whomever gets the democrat nomination. But with our views, Huck was the closest to what we believe. Granted, it was more of Huckabee stunk the least of all the candidates. I didn't like John McCain's views on immigration or his campaign finance bill; Giuliani's too much of a RINO; Romney has a track record of being a liberal and is only now starting to have conservative social issues. I've been a registered voter since 1992, and I have yet to see an election where one candidate jumps out as THE choice. Too bad I was too young to vote when Reagan was in office.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Don't cry for me, Terrell Owens

In the past, Terrell Owens has blasted his quarterbacks, questioning the sexuality of San Francisco 49ers teammate Jeff Garcia (not the brightest thing to do in a city with such a liberal view on homosexuality like Frisco) and talking of how Philadelphia Eagles qb Donovan McNabb got sick in the huddle during the Super Bowl (maybe it was just a bad can of Campbell's Chunky Soup). But after Sunday's 21-17 loss to the New York Giants, T.O. was surprisingly supportive of Tony Romo. Dallas, who had homefield advantage throughout the playoffs and finished the season at 13-3, now faces an early off-season vacation.

Because pictures of Owens' crying hidden behind his sunglasses and his support for Romo, I've wondered what T.R. thinks. Perhaps a song is in order:

Don’t Cry For Me, Terrell Owens
(parody of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina)
Lyrics by Richard Zowie

Your tears were moving
Even hidden behind your Secret Service sunglasses
I didn’t know you cared for me that much
If I had known, I’d have thrown you more passes
It was a tough loss, I think you’ll agree
I’ll try to tell you how I feel
I know you like me more than you did Jeff Garcia
Or even Donovan McNabb
But I need you to know I’m doing ok
Jessica’s by my side, I have a big contract
And next season will be better

Don't cry for me Terrell Owens
The truth is I never quit liking you
No matter how much popcorn you spill
Or what crazy things you say and do
Don’t cry for me, Terrell Owens

We have next season to make it right
As long as we draft and sign the right guys
Sure, we wasted a 13-3 record, but that’s fine
But, please, send this message for me:
Michael Strahan, you can’t have Jessica

Don’t cry for me Terrell Owens

Sunday, January 13, 2008

My new favorite jeans!

I LOVE Tommy Hilfiger Jeans! They are so comfortable. Picked up a pair at Goodwill a week or so ago. Someday I'll have to visit a store and pick up a few new pairs.

Suicidal chickens

The chickens that live next door must have death wishes. They walk around their's and our yards, even tough there are farm cats outside and a few dogs here and there. I've seen dogs eat chickens, and cats love birds.

I picked up one chicken, a female white Leghorn and put her back in the fence.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Ode to Earl Weaver

Here's a video of the unforgettable baseball manager Earl Weaver, seen here in this 1982 game where he gets ejected arguing a balk call. (WARNING: video contains profanity).

Weaver, to my knowledge, is the only MLB manager to not only get ejected from both games of a double-header, but to get ejected from the second game before it even began (he was tossed during resentation of the lineup cards while disputing a call from the first game).

Friday, January 11, 2008

I accidentally created a new topping at work

By accidentally dumping schmear into streusel and trying--without complete success--to scrape it out, a co-worker named Pat told me that we now had:


(Pronounced "shmoo-sel")

Think it'll catch on?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Great Teachers I’ve had, Part 1: Dr. James McTee

Dr. McTee was my senior English teacher at A.C. Jones High School, Beeville, Texas back in the 1990-1991 school year. He was tough, quiet and knew his material. He seemed to have an almost photographic memory of books, and it was very apparent to me that he adored books. I started off in his Honors class but, by the end of the first semester, was forced to transfer down to regular English classes. Still, I stayed in his class (something I requested to do if I didn’t make it in honors). My grade for the year was around 85%, but I really found myself really learning to love reading while in his class. Someday, if things work out, I’d love to teach English at the secondary level, and I feel that if I employ his techniques, style and love for reading, it would be hard to go wrong.

Dr. McTee’s instruction was clear: keep up on the reading, understand what’s going on and be able to intelligently discuss it and you should do fine.

I’ll never forget that day I did a book report with him on dress-up day; normally a man to wear slacks, open-collared short-sleeved white dress shirt with a t-shirt underneath, Dr. M was dressed in his hobby: bicycle rider. My book report was on Deliverance, and to this day it still amazes me how much the doctor knew about countless books. If you didn’t know the answer on a quiz or test, it was best to leave it blank: some teachers you could fool if you could write creatively enough, but most certainly not him.

Dr. McTee, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re enjoying your retirement.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Will I watch baseball this season? Hard to say

Spring training is just around the corner, and soon my favorite team, the Houston Astros, will be getting ready for the season. Honestly, though, I could be far more enthusiastic. The steroids/human growth hormone scandal has really soured me on baseball, far more than the strike of 1994.

How many years did Bud Selig know that chemical enhancement was a problem in baseball? Too many, I suspect. I guess it was easier to watch Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa hit Ruthian home runs and help baseball recover from its strike.

I find myself longing for the days of the eighties, when Jesse Barfield hit 40 homers in 1986, a number that seemed remarkable at the time.

When I look at my Barry Bonds rookie 1987 Topps baseball card and see how slender he was, his home run records* of 73 in a season and 762 career homers are both pathetic jokes.

Whom will I vote for?

This is looking like yet another presidential campaign in which there are no clear "great" choices. Alas, I was only 11 the last time we had a clear-cut choice--back in 1984 when President Ronald Reagan ran for re-election. I'm an independent conservative, so it goes without saying that none of the Democrats appeal to me. Of the Republicans, I like Fred Thompson, although I wonder how long he'll be in the race. I don't like Mitt Romney's social issues but he seems solid in terms of fiscal issues. Mike Huckabee, though a former minister and a Christian, seems like a mixed bag; supposedly democrats want him to get the GOP nomination since they feel he'd be the easiest to defeat. I'm not impressed with Rudy Giuliani's social issues positions. As for John McCain, I've never really gotten over his anti-First Amendment campaign finance reform. Still, if McCain gets the nomination, I will probably vote for him.

There's also third party. The only way I'll do that is if the GOP has no chance of losing in November or if their candidate so much disgusts me that I decide on a protest vote.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Wow, 2008. When I was a kid, I loved staying up until midnight seeing in the new year. This year I didn't. Too tired, mostly.

2008 means a few interesting things:

If you accidentally write 2007 on a check, no worries. With the deft use of your pen, you can easily modify the 7 into an 8.

This year my son and two of his cousins (my nephews) will be turning 10. 1998 was a very bountiful year for the procreation of the Zowie family tree.

I hope this year is a little better than 2007. We'll see.