Friday, July 27, 2012

American Pentathlon

With the London Olympics underway, the time's arrived to send our sportsmen and sportswomen into pitched battle and bring the hardware back to the good ol' U.S. of A.  Now that Baseball and Softball have been swift-kicked out of the Olympics, the better to avoid all that spittin' and cussin', that's at least thirty well-trained athletes, plus a couple of designated hitters, who won't get to hang a shiny, gold object on the moosehead over their fireplace.  As Americans, you and me and Ethel, we desperately need a new sport to dominate so we can once again feel good about our drive-through cheese fries.

We at My Two Innings have considered various possibilities for a new Olympic competition at a recent offsite retreat.  We have brainstormed, conceptualized, and imagineered.  We have used Kaizen techniques and Powerpoint slides.  And flipcharts.  Don't ever forget the flipcharts.  We have come up with ideas and suggestions and thought about them for about eight minutes, tops.  We have tested the final recommendation with our focus group, and she agrees with us.

The new Olympic sport: American Pentathlon.  Five days, five events:
  • Day 1: Punt.
  • Day 2: Pass.
  • Day 3: Kick.
  • Day 4: Home Run Derby.
  • Day 5: NASCAR.
Brilliant, right?

I hear what you're saying: the stodgy, old-guard Europeans may balk at this innovation.  But never forget, my friends, we have the U.S. Dollar, God, and Liberty on our side.  And the Penske racing team.

I think you'll agree, it's imperative that we get American Pentathlon approved by the IOC as an Olympic sport in time for the 2020 Summer Games.  A strong proposal and a few key bribes should do it.  We can vote in one of their favorite sports at the same time: Rescuing Greece.

It's the least we can do in the Olympic Spirit.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Clearer Vision

As a public service, My Two Innings today announces a revolutionary, five-step process for glasses-wearers to increase vision, reduce headaches and eyestrain, and improve personal disposition -- all in less than one minute, all without a prescription.

No, this is not a LASIK testimonial. Rather, after 45 years as a card-carrying, prescription-packing myopic, I've finally figured out how to clean my glasses. Really, really clean them. Listen, children, to my story.

Bane is not a Batman villain but the irritation that arises when one attempts to focus on the world through greasy, gritty, grubby, sweaty spectacles. Summertime is the worst.

Especially for those who look at computer screens for a living, the quest for a truly reliable cleaning method is endless. I've constantly yearned to restore my glasses to their original refractive clarity. I've dreamed of viewing the world through pristine, crystalline lenses, the way they come from the optician shop with the Magic Cloth.

I've tried the Magic Cloth. The Magic Cloth is pretty good. My way is better.

It's a five-step process. Skip any one step, and you condemn yourself to a lifetime of a heartache far worse than psoriasis. I might be exaggerating, but only a little. I might be a little OCD about this. Whatever.

1. The Application

Grasping your specs by the frame lightly, from the top and bottom edges, spritz your favorite glasses-cleaning solvent on each side of each lens. Windex, Glass Plus, or that clear stuff that the receptionist with the bad haircut sells you when you go in to get your new glasses prescription will all work well. You don't have to spray on a living room-window dose until it's dripping; a light mist that covers the lenses evenly is what you're after.

2. The Wipe

After waiting a few seconds, use your clean-ish thumb and forefinger to rub each lens lightly, smearing the solvent around the front and back of each lens with a light pinching motion.

3. The Rinse

Rinse the solvent off all lens surfaces at a convenient, nearby sink under a stream of regular tapwater from the faucet.

4. The Re-application

Here's the kicker: respray your lenses, front and back. Granted, it seems wasteful to use two doses of solvent per cleaning, but if you follow this procedure exactly, I promise you'll make it back in career earnings and reduced aggravation. Besides, wash-rinse-repeat is as American as Uncle Fester.

5. The Cloth

It can be the Magic Cloth. It can be a clean handkerchief. It can be a tissue from the box. It can be the back of a clean t-shirt from the pile of laundry that you brought up from the basement and dumped in your office because your Beloved Spousal Unit has already gone to bed. The beauty of the five-step process is that it doesn't much matter what cloth you use to perform the Final Lens Rubdown [note to self: new band name?], so long as it's not slathered with motor oil or sunscreen.

That's it. That's all there is to it. You're no longer looking at the world through factory windows. You've got your vision back. You can see!

Go forth and enjoy your new life. You can thank me later.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mystery at Mortlake Mansion

Having become inexplicably hooked on simple "hidden object" computer games recently, I played "Mystery at Mortlake Mansion" by Stella Games this weekend as a free download via  Doing it this way entails frequent interruptions in gameplay for 30-second commercials from ad service MetaCafe.  That's not a criticism of this specific title; just a factor to be aware of when you play a "free" downloadable game from Pogo.

The visual art concept and renderings of "Mortlake Mansion" are terrific, especially the wide-shot scenes of the various rooms in the mansion house (each one duplicated in a darkly magical "shadow world").  This is the strongest feature of the game.  The music lends to the cartoonishly gothic atmosphere without becoming overly intrusive or repetitive.  The puzzles are entertaining and at the right level of difficulty.  Several are more challenging than they appear at first glance, and the degree of difficulty increases slightly as you proceed through the game.

I appreciated the map function which indicates in which rooms you have active puzzles waiting for you to solve or objects to retrieve that are necessary to complete the required actions in other rooms.  The flow of gameplay is well thought out.

The occasional speaking parts (protagonist; raven; spirits) did not live up to the rest of the game, and I found myself impatiently waiting while bits of dialogue loaded and finished.  I would sometimes read ahead and click out of them.

I experienced just one technical glitch: the large game cursor was sometimes accompanied by a smaller, regular-sized cursor on the screen.  The large cursor controlled the action; the small one was an annoying distraction.

In summary, the visual art, music, storyline, and puzzles in this Poe-like production are best in class.  I merely came to wish the raven would speak nevermore.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Zack Attack

In a mid-season game yesterday against the lowly Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers' ace starter Zack Greinke was ejected after four pitches in the first inning.  He spiked the baseball into the infield dirt after a close play at first base.  First-base umpire Sam Holbrook, apparently utilizing eyes in the back of his head like the lava lizards of the Galapagos Islands, found in his infinite wisdom and frocked authority that the stoic, silent Greinke, who had said a grand total of no angry words after the play, not to the umpire nor to anyone else on the field, nor faced nor confronted the ump, nor argued the call with vehemence, nor with an air of sophisticated insouciance, nor gestured at the ump, who wouldn't have seen him do so anyway, nor so much as glanced sideways with a stony, hollow eyeball at the man in blue, had nevertheless said one word too many.

Greinke's ejection -- "unprecedented," according to Brewers' television announcer Bill Schroeder, inasmuch as the non-celebratory touchdown spike was spectacularly and notoriously unwitnessed by Holbrook, who nevertheless was evidently convinced it was the deed of a villainous scofflaw rather than the self-scolding of a Gold Glove-caliber pitcher angry at himself for being late to break to first base -- was followed closely by the pro forma ejection of the manager, Ron Roenicke; the Brewers proceeded to lose to the AAAstros, 6-3.

This being the Brewers' penultimate game before the All-Star break, and with Greinke connected to mid-season trade rumors, there's naturally more to the story.  Major League scouts from several teams interested in Greinke were reportedly in attendance, although they probably left to tour NASA's Johnson Space Center with their kids after Roenicke replaced Zack on the mound with 76-year-old Livan Hernandez (spoiler alert: not a prospect).  Unfortunately, the scouts still need receipts in order to write off the space junket, which means they can't return from a suborbital voyage to Houston without filling out their TSP reports, which in turn means they still need to see Zack pitch.  Instantly upon his departure, as he headed up the tunnel to play Three Card Wenceslas with Roenicke in the clubhouse for three hours, the hue and cry on Twitter and the game broadcast rose as one voice, voicing a potentially Nobel-winning concept: could Zack Greinke start for the Brewers in Sunday's first half-closing contest, his last opportunity before the All-Star break and conceivably his last as a Milwaukee Brewer, after throwing only four pitches on Saturday?

If the Brewers want to pitch Greinke today in order to compete and win, that's fine. If, however, the Brewers are considering risking Greinke's arm just to showcase him for the visiting scouts, that's risky and distorts the purpose of playing a Major League ballgame.  Woe to the organization if he gets injured after his every-five-day preparatory routine is thrown off.  Besides, Marco Estrada has been pitching quite well in his spot starts.

To me, the answer is simple: give Zack a cold drink and a lounge chair.  What more can the scouts possibly need to see that isn't already on game film?  He's a former Cy Young Award winner who would be the ace of most staffs and has had an excellent first half.  Either sign him to a new contract extension or start the bidding.

Then, when Estrada is ejected by Holbrook for glancing suggestively at second base, the Zack Attack will be tanned, rested, and ready.


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