Monday, August 31, 2009

People Of Wal-Mart

Here's a new photo blog that should appeal to those of you seeking more visual proof of just how doomed we are as a species.

Lords and saints preserve us.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Expected local weather over next few days, courtesy of our friends at Weather Underground:

Mostly cloudy. Scattered showers and a chance of thunderstorms. Lows in the upper 50s. West winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 50 percent.
Showers and thunderstorms likely in the morning. Partly cloudy in the afternoon with a chance of a lingering shower. Cooler with highs in the mid 60s. West winds 15 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 60 percent.
Sunday Night
Mostly cloudy. A chance of a shower. Cooler with lows in the upper 40s. Northwest winds 10 to 15 mph... becoming north after midnight. Chance of rain 30 percent.
Partly cloudy. Highs in the upper 60s. Northeast winds 5 to 10 mph.
Monday Night
Mostly clear. Cool with lows in the mid 40s. Northeast winds around 5 mph.

GAH. ENOUGH. What the hell is up with the weather this year? I'm not demanding 100 degrees of blast furnace Arizona-style heat every day, but how about more than a mere handful of days in the 80s? Sure, I do appreciate the relative ease in which Sarah and I can take care of our power bills these days, but it seems like I spent all of June and July waiting for the real summer heat that finally arrived partway into August and hung around for, oh, two weeks.

If I sound unreasonable, hear me out for a minute: summer is the one season all year where I can sleep at night with the windows open and wake up in the morning without spending five minutes sneezing my head off or feeling like my sinus cavities have been packed full of rubber cement. Even more importantly, summer is supposed to be the one season all year when I can take a walk, drive or bike ride at 1 A.M. and feel completely comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt. Even if all of the days this past summer had topped out at 85 degrees with no humidity and not a cloud in sight, the near-total lack of evenings with the conditions as I described above leads me with no other choice but to proclaim the summer of 2009 to be the Lamest Summer In History (my history, anyway).

If I have to deal with six months of godawful weather starting in November, the least I can ask in return is an actual summer and not three months of what felt like early autumn instead. Here's to the warmest September/October ever.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


"If this isn't the biggest bag-over-the-head, punch-in-the-face I ever got ... GOD DAMN IT!" - Clark Griswald

Really bad day at work today.

The most infuriating part of this whole mess was that we knew this was going to happen and we did everything we could to think ahead and attempt to circumvent this problem before it ever came up, yet we wound up getting screwed anyway. Unbelievably frustrating.

So, what happened, you ask? EMI happened. Yes, the worst record company on the planet is in the process of royally screwing up their biggest release of the year: the twin Beatles box sets, which are set to release on September 9. The ripple effects of this latest cock-up should pretty well sabotage the grand kick off to our fourth quarter, and torch what should have been our best weekend (and non-Christmas month) ever. To say we're "infuriated" is putting it nicely.

Here's the set-up: I'm not quite sure how much of this is ultimately tied into the general downsizing of the music industry apparatus over the last five years or so and how much was simple modern-day corporate thinking, but right now only two major labels, Sony and UMG, still own the means to press and distribute their own product. The remaining majors, WEA and EMI, long ago sold off their pressing plants and attendant pipeline outlets and now farm out these operations to outside companies (including Sony and UMG).

With sales levels being as depressed overall as they have been over the last few years, this new compacted production scheme runs relatively smoothly, only running into a bump here and there if an album suddenly explodes around Christmastime (Straight No Chaser) or if some unforeseen event has a drastic effect on sales (the entire Michael Jackson catalog going completely nuclear in the weeks following his death). Another cause of problems with this new system is the launch of items with bulky, complicated packaging like, say box sets.

As many of you I'm sure are aware, it's not the 1990s anymore, and CD boxed sets aren't the sales-driving juggernauts they once were. That said, once in a while you do get a long-awaited collection from a Neil Young or a Genesis (or, uh, the Beatles ... you know, the single biggest act of the entire rock era), that will create some noticeable sales ripples. With artists more involved than ever in the creation of these sets, and with label catalog departments all trying to create something with a unique design and multiple design-specific components to wow the people who still buy these things, the production of these sets requires significantly more effort (and, more importantly, time) to create than simply duping a couple hundred thousand Miley Cyrus discs and booklets.

The recent distribution history with nearly all box sets has not always been a pretty sight, and we've become used to these things almost immediately running into short supply. To ensure that we would be the only store that had any Beatles box sets in stock after everyone else had blitzed through their supply, we deliberately over-ordered, especially on the limited edition mono box (which would attract the most ardent Beatles fans who also happen to make up a sizable portion of our customer base). Thus, when the word came down a few days ago that there were production/supply issues cropping up with these sets, we didn't worry terribly much: we'd ordered enough that even if our initial order was cut (as we were pretty sure it would be), we'd still have plenty of stock to work with.

Well, we got word of our allotted amount from our supplier this afternoon and were very surprised indeed to learn that while we had ordered 70 mono box sets (by far the most of any account in our supplier's system), we would be receiving a grand total of 5. That's right: 5. I figure that amount should last us a whole two minutes from the time the box comes through our front door. Gosh, what a sales bonanza that will be.

Oh, it also turns out that our stereo box set orders will likely be slashed in half as well. Great. I guess a 50% fill beats the pants off of the 7% fill we're getting on the mono set, huh? Anyway, if this figure holds up, that would leave us with 35 pieces of the stereo set, which would then necessitate us having to buy up separate copies of all of the original albums as our strategy of sourcing the individual album sales from our planned glut of stereo box sets just flew out the window.

Looking into this disaster, it appears that some genius at EMI's sales department did his research and figured on a limited outlay of 13,000 copies for the mono set. This number was arrived at before any orders had even been placed, which is standard operating procedure for most labels as they can fine-tune their shipments upwards or downwards from target as orders come in during the solicitation period. Well, it turns out that this genius guessed a tad low: orders for the set topped off around 46,000, nearly 3.5 times the size of the intended production run. Oops.

Now, when this happens (which is hardly ever since most people in sales departments have at least a basic grasp of what the fuck they are selling), you generally have two options as a company: 1.) you delay the release of item a couple of weeks to allow for production to try and catch up to demand, or 2.) you stick with the release date and allocate shipments so that everyone gets something to sell, just not the quantities that they'd ordered. Locked into this September 9 street date since April 7 for crissakes, EMI felt they had no choice but to go with the latter option. A decision was then made to fulfill all the remaining orders before cutting the piece off once and for all. Thus, the mono set appears to still be limited ... to 46,000 units. At 270 bucks MSRP, one might figure that supply should last for a pretty good while. The stereo set, which is priced cheaper and actually has more CDs in it, will be available in perpetuity.

Of course, catching up to these remaining orders is going to take some time. Since they cannot press their own product, EMI has to stand in line along with everyone else, which means that retailers won't be seeing refreshed supplies of these sets for anywhere from 2-6 weeks after street date. In our discussions before we arrived at our order figure, I opined that these sets would get a pretty good second wind around Christmas time, but I didn't exactly figure on them being COMPLETELY GONE until then.

So, this is the way we sell things in the 21st century: set a release date months ahead of time, whip the media and the marketplace into a froth with wall-to-wall hype, and worry about whether you can actually meet said date sometime later on. Don't worry: by launch date, people will want to be the first to own your product so badly that it barely matters if you didn't make enough to go around or that there might be some mislabeled discs or perhaps a couple of packing errors during the assembly of the piece (whoops! I have an extra copy of Abbey Road instead of Yellow Submarine and my Please Please Me CD actually plays Rubber Soul instead!). This whole fiasco feels more like the launch of the Playstation 3 than something dreamt up by the music industry. Perhaps I miss the point when I wonder how this can be anything but a PR disaster, especially considering that the record industry has a vested interest in people buying their products, and this is generally helped greatly when that product is actually in stores when they say it's going to be.

Until today, we were really looking forward to these sets as there aren't many bands that create excitement amongst music people of all ages like The Beatles. Now, we're kind of dreading having to explain everything I wrote above time and time and time again. There are going to be a lot of very unhappy Beatle nerds running around on September 9 and the days afterward, and there aren't many things in customer service that are worse than dealing with unhappy nerds. Bravo, EMI.

Monday, August 10, 2009

That's Just The Way It Is, Baby

Looks like a few of my recent twenty questions were answered over the last couple of weeks, eh?

Despite a few misgivings I had with the idea going into last weekend (all of them to do with the present state of the team), my brother and I took in a Tribe game this past Thursday, and it was a corker: the Cleveland Indians held the slap-hitting Minnesota Twins to 1 run while managing to score just 2 of their own. This was the kind of tense match up where every pitch and every runner could be the difference in the game (the best kind there is, really), and we had a great time.

Normally this narrow margin of victory does not hold up over nine innings in such a hellish parody of expectations as this season has been, yet the Tribe somehow prevailed. As rickety as it looked at times, Fausto Carmona's second major league start since being sent all the way down to Arizona ball two months ago was better overall than I could have expected, though he's still walking far too many batters for my liking. The difference now is that Carmona doesn't seem to rattle as easily as he did before, and he now appears to have reacquired the ability to limit damage when base runners are in scoring position (Minnesota's only run for the game was scored on a wild pitch) without throwing an extra dozen pitches in order to do so. Carmona may not be the invincible, unhittable phenom he was in 2007 anymore, but this is absolutely an improvement on his early season form.

The bigger story here is that the team that we watched last Thursday afternoon was not quite the same club we saw barely two weeks before. First baseman Ryan Garko, pitcher Carl Pavano, outfielder Ben Francisco, relief pitcher Rafael Betancourt, pitcher Cliff Lee, and catcher Victor Martinez (arguably the heart and soul of the team, and in many peoples eyes the true face of the Cleveland Indians) are gone now, mostly traded away for desperately needed pitching prospects after the Indians front office was forced once again to look towards the future in realization that the present just ain't gonna fly. While the pace of retooling may have slowed since the hectic end of July, the surprise recent move of Pavano (ironically, to the Twins) signals that we're not quite through with moving assets around just yet. It definitely wouldn't surprise me to see other players such as Kelly Shoppach, Jhonny Peralta and Jamey Carroll dealt in the off-season, if not before.

I have no desire to see Eric Wedge at the helm of this team at the start of the next season and I have serious misgivings with various aspects/levels/tenets of General Manager Mark Shapiro's organization, yet I do not believe that these moves were made lightly and with any malicious or lunk-headed intention. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the last two weeks on a personal level is the apparent belief by many fans that I talk to at work that Shapiro, Wedge and team owner Larry Dolan are simply "being cheap" and refusing to put a decent team on the field for whatever nefarious conspiracy-minded reason sounds good at the time.

Incredibly, local columnists, talk show hosts and sports desk anchors feed into this simplistic ignorance of reality rather than actually try to explain why these trades had to happen. I'm not sure of the reasons behind this decision to pander to the mob: it's not like this is discussing neurosurgery and you don't need a master's degree in business to figure out that most of major league baseball is being held in a financial headlock by the 5 teams at the upper end of the financial pyramid. These teams are able to use their vast resources to cherry pick their future starters from the remaining 25 clubs, all of whom are forced to rely on smarts, guile, timing and not a little bit of luck to put together what they hope are contending teams on a comparatively shoestring budget (and hoping to God they don't have to write off the inevitable busts, which is nowhere near as easy for a small-to-mid-market team as it is for Boston, Chicago or New York).

It is this frustration with the misdirected vitriol of the fans that has spurred me to write about the current economic state of major league baseball in the hope of at least instilling some basic understanding of why "it is what it is" (as the players are so fond of saying). It's okay to be mad: hell, I'm furious over losing Martinez (the closest thing to a hero I've had over the last few years) for lack of anywhere to put him and being stuck with 3 more seasons of Travis Hafner instead, but fans need to be focusing their anger at the system instead of the people doing the best they can to work within its boundaries.

Fans are at least partially correct on the "spend the money and win" angle: with only a few exceptions, the teams with the most dosh to spend are the ones who usually wind up in the postseason. These teams may not always win it all, sure (just ask the New York Yankees, who in of the rare instances of poetic justice in modern life, have spent over a billion dollars since their last World Series title and still have no follow-ups to show for it), but they can certainly get most of the way there before letting the dice fall where they may.

The top 10 pro baseball teams by 2009 payroll, preceded by payroll amount in millions, and followed by their current standings (sourced from ESPN):

  1. 201.5 New York Yankees (#1 AL East)
  2. 135.8 New York Mets (#4 NL East. Ow.)
  3. 135.0 Chicago Cubs (#2 NL Central)
  4. 122.7 Boston Red Sox (#2 AL East. 6 games behind NY)
  5. 115.1 Detroit Tigers (#1 AL Central)
  6. 113.7 Los Angeles Angels (#1 AL West)
  7. 113.0 Philadelphia Phillies (#1 NL East)
  8. 103.0 Houston Astros (#3 NL Central. Whoops.)
  9. 100.5 Los Angeles Dodgers (#1 NL West)
  10. 98.9 Seattle Mariners (#3 AL West)

The only team at the top of its division that is not listed above is the NL Central St. Louis Cardinals, who are 13th on the list with 88.5 million (that said, the Cubs trail them by only 2 games). The Cleveland Indians, for the sake of noting, are 15th on the list with a 2009 payroll of 81.6 million, which only further underlines just how badly they have underperformed this year.

Many fair-weather Indians fans have been screaming themselves hoarse over the last 2 weeks, proclaiming that they are "through" with the team and that they "never going to another game again" and sundry other expressions of disgust, blaming the Dolans (and/or Shapiro and Wedge) for the sinking attendance numbers at Progressive Field games this year. Apparently, many of these fans have failed to notice that the Indians have ranked near the bottom of the league in attendance totals for some time now, averaging only 22,500 people per game this year in a stadium that can seat twice that amount. Even during the magical 2007 season, the Tribe's first playoff berth in six years, attendance only really surged over the last two months of the regular season campaign, when it was clear that the Tribe were post-season contenders. Even considering that the team made it to within one game of the World Series, 2007's year-end attendance rating was still 9th in the American League with about 28,500 per game (the ranking was the same last year, though the per-game figure was closer to 27,000). While these numbers are, incidentally, improvements over the rebuilding years of 2003 and 2004, it can be safely extrapolated that even with a contending squad on the field, the glory years of 455 consecutive sold-out games are long gone, not to mention the once-surging local economy that powered that impressive statistic.

Attendance and merchandise sales are vital parts of any club's revenue stream, but the real separator over the last decade has been cable television networks, and the cold demographic realities of advertising and subscription revenue is what truly weeds out the men (New York, Boston and Los Angeles) from the boys (everyone else). Ever since the Atlanta Braves started pulling in big money from revenues generated by team owner Ted Turner's cable station WTBS in the early 1980s followed by ESPN's acquisition of broadcast rights at the dawn of the 1990s, the transition of baseball away from broadcast stations has gathered speed to the point now where one can hardly ever see a baseball game outside of cable television. While the popularity of the sport may have waned over the years, a lot of people still watch baseball games at home (or at the bar) rather than attend the games in person (certainly a lot of disgruntled Indians fans do this, judging by their posts to various discussion forums), and if baseball owners were to get a cut of the fees people gladly put up for cable/satellite TV packages, it stands to reason that there is an awful lot of money to be made.

Eventually, many cities with big league sports teams launched their own regional sports networks (a kind of homer mini-ESPN, in effect), and the combined revenues/subscriber fees from those networks could then be used to fund operations, pay salaries, obtain free agents, et cetera. With at least 162 games played by each team annually, most of them lasting three hours in duration, baseball quickly became the dominant sport (read: "cash cow") of the RSNs. For many smaller teams, these networks offer at least some measure of financial competition with the mega markets ... but when you're comparing the audience cume of, say, Tampa Bay with that of the New York City metropolitan area, "some" is nowhere near enough.

Just how unequal is this distribution of newfound wealth? According to Forbes magazine:

"For the 2008 season the Yankees received $80 million in rights fees from YES (note: the team's RSN, launched in 2002), more than double the local cable revenue of every team but the Angels and the New York Mets, who earned $52 million through its RSN, SportsNet New York. In fact, it was more than the entire media revenue (both national and local) of all but six teams: the Mets, Atlanta Braves, Dodgers, Cubs, Angels and Red Sox."

Another revelation from the same article: Cleveland's own haul from their SportsTime Ohio isn't listed among the Top 10 in baseball (even the Washington Nationals make more from their RSN, for Christ's sake!).

Things were bad enough with disparity ten years ago, now they seem to be getting completely out of hand. Without some form of revenue sharing or (only slightly more realistically) a salary cap, it's difficult at best to imagine how these financial imbalances will ever keep from hobbling five out of every six teams in baseball to the benefit of the remaining sixth.

What has to happen in order to force a change towards a level playing field? A strike? Who, exactly, is going to strike over this? Certainly not the players, whose union would gladly shut down the game instead over any agreement that might drive the ludicrous salaries of the game's biggest names down rather than up. While I'd love to imagine long-suffering baseball fans across the heartland states finally realizing they've been ranting at the wrong people for the reasons why their middle-market team hands over all of the best players to the coastal organizations, what would they actually do about it? Unsubscribe en masse from cable television? Cease going to ballgames? Oh wait, they already did that. Uhhh, large demonstrations outside of said ballparks in an attempt to reach those who are still going and teach them the error of their ways? Sure, yeah, but come on man there's a Cavs game on tonight ...

So, that leaves it up to the owners. Well, some of the owners, anyway. I don't see Theo Epstein or the Steinbrenner Brothers ever assenting to an agreement that would theoretically erase their biggest advantage over the rest of the league. So, would the owners of the bottom dozen teams come together and bar their teams from playing until a fairer system can be hammered out, in effect holding the entire season hostage? I suppose this stunt has some element of plausibility, but also seems extremely unlikely. So much for the owners. Barring some kind of sea-change of incalculable magnitude from within or outside the sport (or a major redrawing and redistribution of the current luxury tax system as it affects the sport's payroll), the playing field looks to remain tilted for the foreseeable future. Insert pithy "ain't that life" remark here.

Bah. All of this is a bunch of crap that proves nothing, the fans reply. The Dolan's need to step aside and sell the team to someone who is not afraid to spend some money so that we can compete with the big guys.

OK, first off, what billionaire is going to be the prospective buyer of an overvalued baseball team (Dolan bought the Indians from the late Dick Jacobs at a quite-frankly ridiculous price) that has just announced that it will be losing sixteen million dollars this year? Who is supposed to buy this team and then just toss a hundred million dollars into the wind and see what happens, even though the club doesn't draw consistently (even when performing well), and hasn't since the end of the last century? Anyone? Anyone?

Even if the most fevered dreams of Dolan haters came true and Cleveland Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert decided to add a baseball team to his portfolio, what reasons does anyone have to believe that Gilbert intends to spend money willy-nilly when the economic realities of major league baseball have very little in common with those of professional basketball? This is what it all comes down to, people: like it or not, owning a baseball team is a business proposition and the owners (and shareholders, if applicable) intend to profit from their venture, and you don't profit by spending freely when there is no hope for a return on your investment. Therefore, unless the underlying money is there (and it is not here for reasons I detailed above), literally no one outside of the Red Sox, Mets or Yankees can afford to pay C.C. Sabathia 23 million dollars a year for six years or drop fifty million dollars into the toilet just for the right to take a look at Daisuke Matsuzaka's pitching (nevermind actually signing him). Hell, the Yankees pay 5 players on their squad a total of 106 million dollars a year (this is more than the total payrolls of 22 other clubs). So. Anyone out there know of any prospective owners who feel like matching that out of their own pocket (since it sure isn't coming from anywhere else)?

Oh, before we move on, there is one last little fact that gets lost in all of the back and forth: the Dolan's actually spent 3 million more on payroll this year than they did in 2008, and nearly twenty million more this year than in 2007 (this despite the relatively low upswing in attendance in 2007 and subsequent drop in 2008). So much for being "cheap" ...

While the loss of so many familiar (and trusted) faces is crushing for those who regularly follow the Tribe, it's also an exciting time as the Indians roster is presently overrun with kids now jockeying for position on the Opening Day roster for the 2010 season. Among these new faces: catcher Wyatt Toregas is getting an extended look while Shoppach is given some time off (ostensibly to regather his swing), super-utility man Chris Gimenez will play at odd spots around the diamond (as well as behind the plate when the need arises), Andy Marte will man first base, and Trevor Crowe will patrol left field while occasionally spotting Grady Sizemore (whom I suppose has now become the undisputed face of the Indians) in center. These new names may not have the effortless grace and presence of seasoned veterans, but they play with heart, they've greatly improved the team's speed on the base paths, and they all have something to prove.

While the full impact of all the recent trades may not be known in most cases for a few years yet, there have been a couple of optimistic portents visible at the major league level thus far. First and foremost, the performance of Justin Masterson in two appearances has already made some people feel a little bit better about the Martinez trade. Masterson, acquired from the Boston Red Sox bullpen, made a great first impression in relief and then again in an abbreviated start as he is gradually stretched into the Indians' starting rotation. Also showing considerable promise is fireballing reliever Chris Perez, who was acquired last month in the Mark DeRosa trade and is just now being summoned into games in high-leverage situations.

So, the Indians' 2009 season continues to play itself out in a relentless march to Boston in the first week of October. Perhaps the Indians will continue their expected post-All Star Break winning tear and finish the season with a .500 record as they did in 2008 (hey, how about we move the break into May next year so these guys can at least have a fighting chance of contending by early August?). Maybe there will be some good news concerning the rocky rehabilitation of Jake Westbrook and the continuing, evolving Rorschach Test that is Travis Hafner. Maybe Eric Wedge will (finally) be let go in the off-season in lieu of someone like Red Sox pitching coach (and ex-Indian) John Farrell. While we won't be looking forward to October once again, we still have at least some reason to keep listening or watching, as frustrating as this year has been.

Finally, I'd like to offer a few words for a couple of dearly departed Indians. From a pure fan standpoint, the final week of July was the worst time to be an Indians fan since possibly the end of the 2007 ALCS, if not Game 7 of the 97 World Series. Sarah wasn't happy to see Betancourt, Garko or Pavano go, but the terms of their departures were at least understandable on a gut level. The loss of Lee was a significant blow to our morale as we have lost one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, and with Jake Westbrook's future presently in a state of stomach-churning doubt, the Indians pitching staff now seems particularly rudderless for the first time in 3 or 4 years. Cliff may not have been the most personable, affable player on the team from a PR standpoint, but he was a model of staggering consistency and focus and he will be sorely missed.

At least Lee was shipped over to the National League, where I can cheer him on to beat C.C. Sabathia in the World Series this year (assuming, of course, that the Yankees can power their hefty lefty past the ALCS). Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Victor Martinez being traded to the Red Sox (the Red Sox! Jesus!), the final announcement of which was almost too much for me to bear. I could ramble on here for a long while about how much Martinez meant to the Tribe, to the fans, and to Cleveland itself, but there are others (such as Jay, Andrew and Ryan over at Let'sgotribe) who did an incredible job of delving into the enormity of this loss from all angles, so I'll link you to their work instead. Believe me, these guys express far more eloquently what I cannot at this time without sounding like a big ol' sissy.

P.S.: My personal attendance record is now 17-11 (.608). Yeah, that's right. I bring victory, bitches. Someone clue the front office in and land me some season tickets. I'll do my part.

The Midnight Heat

20080713 135
81 degrees at 2 AM. Cruising down empty thoroughfares in shorts and a tee with the windows down, some appropriately scenic music pulsing from the speakers, sipping at a sweaty can of Pepsi, basking in the nighttime warmth and soaking up the thickened, sultry atmosphere.

This, my friends, is true summer. So nice that it decided to show up at last on the final days of my vacation. ;p

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Staycation '09

My 2009 vacation, such as it is, kicked off today in suitably relaxed fashion: we went off to MicroCenter to pick up a couple of USB/PS2 adaptors for the computer as I am maxed out on available ports, got the Saturn's fluids topped off and serpentine belt replaced and then spent the evening hanging out and watching DVDs (and listening to a few cuts from 5.1-enchanced classic albums) with our friends Eric and Katie down in Seven Hills. A very pleasant start indeed.

The reason for the "such as it is" qualifier is that this vacation will be marred by one work day towards the end. When setting this week up, my replacement during the week informed me that he couldn't fit Saturday the 8th work into his schedule, which for a few hours had me debating on delaying my furlough for a week or two before coming up with a secondary option that suited us both. The original plan had been for me to work the 1st, and then take off the 4th through the 8th (which, with weekends bookending, would have me off the days of August 2-10). The amended plan works out as follows: I am now off August 1-7, I'll work the 8th (which actually should allow me to get caught up enough that I don't come back to a huge pile of e-work on the 11th), then I'll still have the next two days off as a normal weekend. While this isn't exactly the ideal scenario I'd had planned, it's still a very workable option, and I get the keep the nine days off ... only with a hiccup towards the end.

Despite the onset of my first week off in exactly a year, I wasn't in a very good mood Friday night as I'd been battling a sore throat for the last 36 hours and was rather annoyed at the timing of this seeming onset of illness. Luckily, I seem to have triumphed over this cold or infection or whatever it was, having been free of symptoms since this morning, though I'm currently sucking on a Cold-Eeze and sipping on a glassful of Airborne just for good measure.

As for what comes next, there isn't much to write about right now. I'm still not 100% caught up on remaining bills that were delayed by the purchase of the Saturn, thus I plan to spend most of this year's vacation off at home. I can't presently afford to attend multiple baseball games as I did on last year's break (not that I am presently in the mood to do so following the events of the past few days ... more on that later) or doing much of anything else that involves the throwing about of moolah. The only possibility I am considering for a daytime trip right now is heading over to Geneva On The Lake and seeing how the ol' Strip looks. Beyond that, you can just call me "homebody."