When your blog has the tagline “when stuff comes in, this is what comes out,” you are often dealing with a lot of stuff. Most of the stuff makes it to this blog in the form of the four hundred fifty-nine posts (soon to be plus one) that have been published. But my mind is restless. There are plenty of things I could write about, but I either don’t have time, or I don’t flesh the ideas out enough to make it to publish. So what we have here is a kind of cleaning out of the junk drawer. Only the junk drawer is in my head.
- Some day job follies for you: as some of you might know, I work in local County government in the Finance Office. July is usually a very busy month for us, as we start collecting property taxes for the new fiscal year. Because we offer a discount on County taxes for the month, we usually get a lot of mail and walk-in customers. When I have had time, I’ve helped with some of the mail. Of course, quite a few checks written by the taxpayers are often written incorrectly, or not signed. So while I was entering payments one day, I had a customer send in a check that was not written correctly. Because he was local, I gave him a call to request permission to correct the check. When I explained that the check was not written properly, his answer was “I don’t know how that happened.” Say what?
- A second day job tax collection story: a customer comes into the office to pay his taxes. The clerk informs him that his mortgage company has paid the first half of his taxes (in Maryland, property owners whose property is their principal residence may pay their taxes in two installments, as opposed to all at once). He replies that he’s responsible for the taxes, and he would like to pay them in full. In addition, he requests that we return the money his mortgage company paid, going so far as to write a letter to us making the request official. For those of you out there who are homeowners and have money set aside in escrow to pay your taxes, do you go out of your way to pay your taxes twice?
- My Baltimore Orioles have hit something of a rough patch lately. They have lost five consecutive games, if you add yesterday’s beatdown at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays. They have fallen out of first place in the American League East, replaced by the same Blue Jays that have beaten them the last two days. While they are still in contention, it appears that the old worry has finally manifested itself: the team’s below average starting pitching. Aside from Chris Tillman, who is 14-3 with a decent ERA, the rest of the starting staff is leaving quite a bit to be desired. I attended a game the Friday night before my birthday, and I watched in horror as Ubaldo Jimenez was booed practically from the opening pitch by many of the home fans and didn’t make it out of the second inning. Sadly, along with the mediocre starting pitching, the team isn’t hitting all that well either. And what we are seeing now is what happens when bad pitching and lack of hitting combine against a major league team that is rolling. It’s not time to panic, but concern should be rising. If the fall continues, I can see many Baltimore sports fans turning their attention to Ravens football. Training camp is underway, which means that real games can’t be that far away.
- The sporting event that I’m looking forward to the most is the Summer Olympic Games in Rio. I can’t remember a run-up to a Summer Games that has been so full of unpleasant news: the pollution in the rivers where some of the water events are supposed to be held; the worry over the Zika virus that has many athletes choosing not to attend the Olympics at all; the Russian athletic doping scandal; and the recent stories of crime, political corruption, unfinished venues and just overall seeming disorganization of the games mere days before they start. I don’t remember this much hand-wringing about the location of a major sporting event when the FIFA World Cup was played in Brazil two years ago. I am interested to see how NBC covers theses games. How much will they focus on the issues that I’ve mentioned versus the usual athlete profiles and competition that thrills most of the viewers who watch? I plan to watch as much as I can; though I do have a day job (see above) and can’t watch every day and night (or late night) that NBC will air. As opposed to London four years ago, many events will be seen live, as opposed to taped, so if you are around to watch during the day, you can see lots of live events covered.
- I’m one of the people that likes to watch the USA do well in the Olympics, but I also like the stories of other competitors from other nations who are favored or that haven’t been known except for the four-year merry go ’round that is the Olympic games. Some stories I will be following: I want to see just how much Michael Phelps has left in the tank. I want to find out if three-time world champion gymnast Simone Biles can win gold in an Olympics. Of course, in one of the glamour track events, every eye will be on Usain Bolt of Jamaica—can he win the 100 meter dash for a third consecutive Olympics? My favorite events to watch are swimming, track and field, basketball, volleyball (both traditional and beach), soccer and gymnastics (because I know I wouldn’t have enough nerve to flip and tumble the way they do). I hope the host nation can pull off a Games with little to no controversy or trouble, so that fans can focus the competition. It remains to be seen if that can happen. The Summer Olympics begin coverage with the opening ceremonies on Friday on NBC.
- The commercial I am tired of seeing: Jon Bon Jovi’s DirecTV ad for “turning back time.” I swear it runs at least four times every hour. A question for the last one: we see “Grampy.” Where is “Tim”? Now they have one with Lionel Richie singing “It’s Peyton (Manning) on Sunday Mornings” to the tune of the Commodores’ hit “Easy.” I’m sure that one will be in heavy rotation now that NFL football season is right around the corner.