Thursday, March 11, 2010

By Merlin's Beard

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,

So…apparently I was given some incorrect information about Weber State winning last night…and the Grizzlies of Montana came from 20 points down at the half to win in the final seconds. Oh well, that’s okay. Why? Because my mom’s going to be visiting in a matter of hours. Sure we’ve got some plans for gambling, In-n-Out Burger, pub crawl, snowmen, downtown Truckee, all that stuff…but honestly, it’s her vacation…so if she just wants to relax by the fireplace and watch HGTV, then she can do that too. I know she needs a vacation. It’s gonna be epic. In the meantime, here’s the news…

Merlin Olsen - Pro Football Hall of Famer, former television actor, & Utah legend Merlin Olsen has died. He was 69. Utah State, Olsen's alma mater, said he died outside of Los Angeles early Thursday after battling cancer. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung lining, last year. "This was the voice of a man who not only became one of our country's most decorated athletes, but also one of the most accomplished and respected people ever to hail from the state of Utah," said Stan Albrecht, president of Utah State. Olsen was an All-American at Utah State and a first-round draft pick of the Los Angles Rams in 1962. The burley giant from northern Utah joined Deacon Jones, Lamar Lundy and Rosey Grier on the Rams' storied "Fearsome Foursome" defensive line known for either stopping or knocking backward whatever offenses it faced. The Rams set an NFL record for the fewest yards allowed during a 14-game season in 1968. Olsen was rookie of the year for the Rams in 1962 and is still the Rams' all-time leader in career tackles with 915. He was named to 14 consecutive Pro Bowls, a string that started his rookie year. Olsen was also an established television actor with a role on "Little House on the Prairie," then starring in his own series, "Father Murphy," from 1981 to 1983 and the short-lived "Aaron's Way" in 1988. Olsen was a consensus All-American at Utah State and won the 1961 Outland Trophy as the nation's best interior lineman. The Rams drafted Olsen third overall in 1962 and he spent the next 15 years with the team before retiring in 1976. Utah State honored Olsen in December by naming the football field at Romney Stadium "Merlin Olsen Field." Because of his illness, Olsen's alma mater didn't want to wait until football season and made the announcement during halftime of a basketball game. Olsen was well enough to attend, but did not speak at the event. He stood and smiled as he waved to fans during a standing ovation and chants of "Merlin Olsen!" and "Aggie Legend!" Utah State is also planning a statue of Olsen at the southeast corner of the stadium. The Rams also honored Olsen during a game Dec. 20, with a video tribute narrated by Dick Enberg, Olsen's longtime broadcast partner. Olsen did not attend because of his health. His name was already part of the Ring of Fame inside the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis along with other franchise standouts. He was voted NFC defensive lineman of the year in 1973 and the NFL MVP in 1974, and was voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982. So it is a sad day for those of us who grew up hearing the legends of Merlin…but at least he’s not in pain anymore. My condolences to the Olsen Family, the Aggie Nation and all the lives that he’s magically touched over the years.

My Big Fat Greek Recession – Anybody watching the world news anymore? I typically don’t but once in a while I watch the stuff on the market once in a while…and the Daily Show fills in the rest. Seriously, they’re probably the best news network out there…and they don’t even know it. Anyway, Greece is having problems. Serious street clashes erupted between rioting youths and police in central Athens Thursday as some 30,000 people demonstrated during a nationwide strike against the cash-strapped government's austerity measures. Hundreds of masked and hooded youths punched and kicked motorcycle police, knocking several off their bikes, as riot police responded with volleys of tear gas and stun grenades. The violence spread after the end of the march to a nearby square, where police faced off with stone-throwing anarchists and suffocating clouds of tear gas sent patrons scurrying from open-air cafes. Police say 12 suspected rioters were detained and two officers were injured. Rioters used sledge hammers to smash the glass fronts of more than a dozen shops, banks, jewelers and a cinema. Youths also set fire to rubbish bins and a car, smashed bus stops, and chopped blocks off marble balustrades and building facades to use as projectiles. Thursday's strike (the second in a week) brought the country to a virtual standstill, grounding all flights and bringing public transport to a halt. State hospitals were left with emergency staff only and all news broadcasts were suspended as workers walked off the job for 24 hours to protest spending cuts and tax hikes designed to tackle the country's debt crisis. Riot police made heavy use of tear gas during the start-and-stop clashes throughout the demonstration, including outside Parliament. Strikers and protesters banged drums and chanted slogans such as "no sacrifice for plutocracy" (wow, that’s a chant) and "real jobs, higher pay." People draped banners from apartment buildings reading: "No more sacrifices, war against war" (Seems like an odd idea to me) The demonstrators included hundreds of black-clad anarchists in crash helmets and ski masks, who repeatedly taunted and attacked riot police with stones and petrol bombs, at one point spraying officers with brown paint. Shopkeepers along the demonstration route hastily rolled down their shutters, while a few blocks away, people sat at outdoor restaurants, nonchalantly continuing their meals. Tear gas gently wafted through the city center's streets, sending businessmen in suits scurrying for cover, their eyes streaming. Minor clashes also broke out in the northern city of Thessaloniki, where about 14,000 people marched through the center. Fears of a Greek default have undermined the Euro for all 16 countries that share it, putting the Greek government under intense European Union pressure to quickly show fiscal improvement. It has announced an additional 48 billion Euro ($65.33 billion) in savings through public sector salary cuts, hiring and pension freezes and consumer tax hikes to deal with its ballooning deficit, but the measures have led to a new wave of labor discontent. The cutbacks, added to a previous 11.2 billion Euro ($15.24 billion) austerity plan, seek to reduce the country's budget deficit from 12.7% of annual output to 8.7% this year. The long-term target is to bring overspending below the EU ceiling of 3% of GDP in 2012. The new plan sparked a wave of strikes and protests from labor unions whose reaction to the initial austerity measures had been muted. Thursday's strike shut down all public services and schools, leaving ferries tied up at port and suspending all news broadcasts for the day. However, some private bank branches were open despite calls from the bank employees' union to participate in the strike (ugh…that’s when I would rob it too). While their colleagues clashed with groups of protesters, some police joined the demonstration. About 200 uniformed police, coast guard and fire brigade officers, who cannot go on strike but can hold protests, gathered at a square in the center of the city shortly before the marches got under way. "The police and other security forces have been particularly hard hit by the new measures because our salaries are very low," said Yiannis Fanariotis, general secretary of one police association. He said the average policeman made about 1,000-1,200 Euro ($1,360-$1,635) a month if weekend and night shifts were included. Joining the protest "doesn't feel strange, because we are working people like everybody else and we are all shouting out for our rights," he said. The government says the tough cuts are its only way to dig Greece out of a crisis that has hammered the common European currency and alarmed international markets — inflating the loan-dependent country's borrowing costs. But unions say ordinary Greeks are being called to pay a disproportionate price for past fiscal mismanagement. "They are trying to make workers pay the price for this crisis," said Yiannis Panagopoulos, leader of Greece's largest union, the GSEE. "These measures will not be effective and will throw the economy into deep freeze." A general strike last Friday was marred by violence during a large protest march. Riot police used tear gas and baton charges against rock-throwing protesters, who smashed banks and storefronts, while left-wing protesters roughed up Panagopoulos as he was addressing a rally. The labor unrest could spark fears that the government will have trouble in implementing its new measures. Greece insists it doesn't need a bailout (at least by that name apparently), and its European partners are reluctant to fund one (having their own problems). But it has called for European and international support for its program, saying that unless it receives that support and the cost for it to borrow on the market falls, it might have to appeal to the International Monetary Fund for help (you know, the group of nations that funds Africa). So basically, they’re getting desperate.

Here’s what I never understood about rioting, especially in this case. Your country is in financial torment, so what’s the solution? Stop working and go destroy the city of Athens. What is that going to solve? Granted, it’s great to get all the anger out (which I assume is that liquid rage coming out of your eyes as the tear gas is fired) but destroying the center of your country’s political & financial sector…as well as one of the most historically significant cities of all time…and vandalizing shops that somebody has to try to run a business at later in the week…and utilizing police resources that are leaving other facilities unprotected from other vandals, it just doesn’t seem like a brilliant plan. You’re angry…and I respect that. You want change, we all do. The world is pretty much in crisis…but destroying it isn’t the answer. What’s the solution? I’m not sure…but what I do know is that rioting and destroying the Parliament buildings is only going to make things worse. Think about it. That’s like saying Hurricane Katrina revolutionized downtown New Orleans by whipping it clean. Anyway, glad you could get your anger out…and now let’s discuss alternatives and solutions in a respectable manner…as opposed to having “No more sacrifices, war against war” on a poster board. What does that even mean? How can you have a war without sacrifices? Thumb war? A group of wise men once said, “War (huuh, yeah) what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.” Let’s talk about this rationally before we go “300” on each other’s asses again, okay? I don’t care how loud you say it, this isn’t Sparta. That is…until rioting starts in Sparta. Then my argument is screwed. Anyway, enough of this depressing stuff…

Separation of Church & Bate - Second-degree burglary charges have been filed against an Ames, Iowa man who broke into a church where he allegedly used the institution's electronic equipment to watch pornography. Police allege the 55-year-old man broke into the First Christian Church on Thursday. After gathering items from around the building, he is believed to have gone to the basement to spend the night. Police summoned to the church Friday by staff, found the man trying to haul away a garbage can filled with food, kitchen utensils, clothes, electronic equipment and a 26-inch flat-screen television. Police Cmdr. Mike Brennan said the man used the electronic equipment to watch pornographic movies that were found on him when he was arrested. The man was being held at the Story County Jail in lieu of $10,000 bond. The real question is…why is the church the only place in town with a working VCR? And why is it hooked up to a 26-inch flat-screen? Sigh… I can’t say much. My VCR is currently connected to a 27-inch TV in my bedroom (stop it, I don’t have any porn…except the “Girls Gone Wild” DVDs my brother bought me but they suck…and frankly, I don’t have anywhere else to put the TV, it’s not being used much). And I’ve also hooked it up to the projector TV before to watch “Romancing the Stone” (I didn’t have the DVD at the time). Anyway, that’s not important. I’m told there’s a special hell for people who masturbate in a church (but then again, I’m also told it makes you go blind) and I’m sorry unidentified man seeking spanktuary. Tehehe, that reminds me of this club I went to in Scotland…that was basically a church transformed into a club… and I was there with this 16-year-old hottie from work… and after a few drinks there were these other girls that sat at the table…ah, you don’t wanna hear this story. Hope I don’t meet you in that special spanktuary hell, sir. Speaking of joysticks…

Take That Wii - Sony has a new message for Nintendo Wii gamers: Come join us. The Japanese maker of the PlayStation 3 unveiled Thursday its highly anticipated motion controlling system, as it takes aim at Nintendo's dominance in the gaming sector. With the "PlayStation Move," Sony hopes to lure gamers who have outgrown Nintendo, which launched the Wii in 2006 and became the first to introduce motion-detecting controllers. Peter Dille, senior vice president of marketing for Sony Computer Entertainment, credited Nintendo Co. for "introducing motion gaming to the masses." Now it's time for them to graduate to the PlayStation, which offers a new experience for both casual and hard-core gamers, he said at a press conference in San Francisco. "The migration path from the Wii household to the PlayStation 3 household is a pretty natural path, partly because of the experience that you can get on the PlayStation Move but also because of the content that we find on PlayStation 3," Dille said. Used with the existing PlayStation Eye camera, Sony's new wireless motion controller can track players' body movements. The controller, in turn, has on its end a light-emitting orb that is recognized by the camera. "Nothing has ever been this precise," said Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Computer Electronics Worldwide Studios. The PlayStation Move will go on sale this fall. Complete details of prices have not been released, but a starter bundle including the PlayStation Eye, motion controller and one game (Spanktuary 3?) will retail for under $100, Dille said. Major game publishers such as Activision Blizzard Inc., Electronic Arts Inc. and Square Enix are developing Move-compatible games. The latest announcement comes as both Sony and Microsoft Corp., maker of the Xbox 360, attempt to gain ground on Nintendo. Since the Wii first hit stores, it has consistently outsold rivals by attracting casual and nontraditional gamers like women and seniors. Microsoft is planning its own offensive this year as well with its "Project Natal." Natal, which combines a camera, depth sensor, microphone and processor, eliminates the need for any button-mashing device (remember yesterday and my Back to the Future gripe? Somebody’s listening out there). Microsoft is expected to release Natal in time for the Christmas shopping season but has not set a specific date. Although demand for the Wii has slowed in recent months, it remained the most popular console among Americans in January with 465,000 units sold, according to market researcher NPD Group. Microsoft sold 332,800 units of the Xbox 360, trailed by 276,900 PlayStation 3 units. “So $teve, will you be getting one of those controllers?” Probably. I’ve been intrigued by the Wii (though have still yet to play it) and I can only imagine how bad-ass playing tennis or a boxing game or whatever would be standing up…with my projector TV wall. Could be pretty sweet. We’ll see how it goes though. Honestly, I don’t play my PS3 much. I’ve played it probably less than a tenth of the time my brother has talked to me on the phone about it. I’m pretty sure he’s already pre-ordered this PlayStation Move (not to be confused with Movement). We shall see.

Well, I’d better get ready for my mom’s visit in the morning. By the way, have I told you how excited I am? Because I kinda am. It’s how I keep from being jealous that Lilie is going to New Orleans this weekend with her mom. I’ve gotta go visit the Big Easy again some time soon. Still have those free flights with Southwest… but we’ll see. My summer may just be a lot of wild & crazy adventures. Also, five weeks until I start my epic road trip across the Western US. Still availability if you want to hitch a ride for any leg of the trip. Remember, there are stops in San Francisco, Monterey, Hollywood, San Diego, Las Vegas, Slick City, & then back to Tahoe…and everywhere in between. It’s gonna be fantastic. Have a great day everybody!!!

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