Cafe 227

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Where'd you go, Johnny?

No worries, I'm still around. Just dealing with the inevitable post-Labor Day deluge of work.

I'll be starting to post regularly again in a week or two (and it won't all be about the Steelers either, especially now that they SUCK). In the meantime, keep yourself entertained with this:

And this:

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The AFC North's Biggest Rivalry: Steelers vs. __________

In his weekly "First-and-10" column, ESPN football analyst Hermey the elf says the following about the Bengals-Steelers matchup this weekend:

"[Chad] Johnson may say the Ohio rivalry against the Browns is better, but he's wrong. This is evolving into one of the best rivalries in football."

During my relatively short time here on earth, each of the following matchups has been considered the most significant intra-divisional AFC Central/AFC North rivalry at some point:

1. Steelers-Browns
2. Steelers-Ravens
3. Steelers-Oilers
4. Steelers-Titans
5. Steelers-Jaguars
6. and now, Steelers-Bengals

Do you see the common denominator here? No one in the history of the AFC has EVER talked about the "heated Oilers-Browns rivalry" or "the historic emnity between the Ravens and the Jaguars." It has always been the Steelers vs. Johnny-Come-Lately.

Success is the NFL is rare and fleeting. Except for the Pittsburgh Steelers, for whom it's the norm.

Of these various permutations, I personally prefer the Steelers-Ravens rivalry. After all, they're the real Browns, and the Steelers' rivalry with the Browns has the richest history. Also, unlike those other pretenders, the Ravens have at least won a Super Bowl. (Two if you count the Baltimore Colts' championship. But definitely not five.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Lest we forget:

Monday, September 18, 2006

I Confess. I Love the New Ten Dollar Bill.

While I normally reserve my hyperbolous affection for things like Atlanta sports teams, Georgetown basketball, or my wife, I have a new, guilty crush.

I am in love with the new $10 bill. Take a minute to look at it.

It is a gorgeous specimen (and I'm not simply referring to President Hamilton, who is a handsome guy in his own right).

I don't know if it's the colors, the increase in the number of symbols, or its departure from the norm of U.S. currency, but whenever I get one of these bills as change, it makes me happy.

Too long the ten dollar bill has toiled in obscurity behind the popular "Benjamins," the ubiquotous one-dollar bill, the overly common $20s, and even the stately Lincoln $5 bill. When you got change for a $20, you really needed the $5 and five $1s. You didn't care about the $10 bill... it was an afterthought, a filler. But those days are gone... gone for good.

I hope you will join me in celebrating this wonderful bill and, as such, I am offering a contest:

Whoever writes the best sonnet to the new $10 bill will win one. The poem must conform to the conventions of a Shakespearean sonnet.

Good luck and thank you, U.S. Mint!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Cognitive Dissonance and the NFC East

From the sports section of today's Washington Post:

"Writing Another Chapter In NFC's East Side Story
A Lot of Talk Precedes Loaded Division's Marquee Matchup

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 17, 2006; Page E01

The trash-talking began well before the season did.

Calls and text messages were exchanged between Washington, Dallas, New York and Philadelphia throughout the summer, with players in each city boasting that they had the best team in the NFC East. All could agree on one thing -- that after years of mediocrity, this was the most competitive division in the NFL. Nearly everything else was open to debate..." [Emphasis added]

I don't know why I keep hearing this refrain. After one week of the NFL season, here are the standings of the NFC East teams:

Philadelphia 1 0 0 1.000 24 10 Won 1 0-0 0-0
Washington 0 1 0 .000 16 19 Lost 1 0-0 0-1
NY Giants 0 1 0 .000 21 26 Lost 1 0-0 0-0
Dallas 0 1 0 .000 17 24 Lost 1 0-0 0-0

Last week, Washington was beaten by the Minnesota Vikings, a team that was riddled with offseason controversy and features a first-year head coach, a career backup at runningback, and Brad Johnson, who just celebrated his 38th birthday. Washington's star player - Clinton Portis - is injured. Their quarterback is Mark Brunell's decomposing corpse, and their backup quarterback is a cocktail.

Last week, the Dallas Cowboys were beaten by a marginal AFC team - the Jacksonville Jaguars. (Yes, I know what Jacksonville's record was last year. And yes, I know they present a particularly tough matchup for my beloved Steelers this week. But I don't care - I just don't think they're that good.) At some point this year, Tony Romo might be prominently involved in Dallas' offense. (But hey, he had a spectacular preseason.)

Last week, the New York Giants were beaten by the Indianapolis Colts in what was admittedly a very competitive game. While it's true that the Giants have one of the best running games in the league and tremendously upgraded their defense in the offseason, there are still a lot of questions surrounding their passing game. Eli Manning hasn't exhibited very good decision making skills in his short career (witness last weekend's fourth quarter toss-up interception), and Plaxico Burress - who didn't exactly give up a promising career in theoretical physics to play football - once spiked a live ball. I wouldn't call them one of the NFL's "elite" teams just yet.

The only team from this "loaded" conference to win last week was Philadelphia. And they beat the Houston Texans, who have become the Washington Generals of the NFL.

So can we please put a moratorium on this whole "the NFC East is the most competitive division in the NFL" thing until these teams actually win some games?

UPDATE: Thank you, Michael Wilbon, for echoing my sentiments in your column today. I feel vindicated. (If you haven't figured it out yet, the real power conference is the AFC North, with Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Cincinnati. Cleveland's the only dog (so to speak) of the bunch.)

Some Things Just Go Without Saying...

This sign is prominently posted on the front door of the BB&T Bank on U Street:

Who would dare bring a revolver into bank anyway? Semi-automatic pistols are much more effective when robbing a bank.

Friday, September 15, 2006

My New Favorite Pittsburgh Bar: Belvedere's

So when I went to Pittsburgh over Labor Day weekend, my dear friend Alayne introduced me to a new bar: Belvedere's.

We actually started the night at Brillobox in Bloomfield. Apparently, there's this burgeoning hipster/punkster/artsy scene in some of Pittsburgh's eastern neighborhoods - Bloomfield, Lawrenceville, East Liberty, etc. Brillobox appears to be ground zero for Pittsburgh's nouveau intelligentsia on weekend nights. (Of course, being from Brookline, I had no idea places like Brillobox existed. Instead, I just assumed everybody in Pittsburgh spent their weekends like they do in Brookline - i.e., by donning their Zubaz, Merril Hoge jerseys, and Starter jackets, moussing up their hair, and heading out to the local bar to dance the night away to the sweet tunes of Donnie Iris and the Cruisers.)

After about 30 minutes at Brillobox, a large group of us headed a few blocks away to Belvedere's in Lawrenceville.

Now, imagine a typical yinzer neighborhood bar. Now, imagine it on steroids. That's Belvedere's. There are two rooms - a small, wood-paneled front room packed with yinzers where the actual bar is located, and a cavernous back room where assorted hipsters were having a little dance party. The two groups never, ever intermingled - which is kind of an allegory for Pittsburgh itself. But this place is hipster paradise. The whole scene screams "irony" - right down to the prominently-displayed sign behind the bar advertising the bar's MySpace page.

I went straight to the bar and ordered 2 jack-and-cokes and 2 PBRs ($1 a can). The grand total? $8. (By comparison, $8 would buy me half a martini at Oya.)

My next stop was the dance room, which resembled a VFW hall after a particularly festive lenten fish fry. The banquet tables that usually take up most of the floor space were pushed to the side to make room for the hipster dancers. One of the tables actually had an American flag paper tablecloth:

The DJ was actually spinning some pretty good old-school hip-hop and R&B, deftly navigating between the likes of Bel Biv Devoe, Kool Moe Dee, and Prince. The hipsters were dancing their asses off, and not necessarily to the beat of the music. I think Ecstacy was involved. One woman (who was ostensibly there by herself) kept twirling around like she was preparing to whack a pinata. This continued until she got bored, at which point she decided to use the support pole in the middle of the room to simulate the dance maneuvers of a stripper.

At some point, I switched from jack-and-coke to good old 'Ahrn City. Alayne, who was feeling especially creative that night, decided to turn my empty bottles and cans into art:

After about 5 or so 'Ahrns, I had to make my first trip to the bathroom. I was thinking about tagging up the bathroom wall, but I was dissuaded by the following sign, which was hanging next to the urinal:

(Seriously, could a sign like this ever be posted in a city other than Pittsburgh without an eventual lawsuit?)

I eventually had enough 'Ahrns in me to wow the hipsters with my Michael Jackson moves on the dance floor. After about 2 hours of dancing, 10 'Ahrns, and 8 trips to the graffiti-free bathroom, it was time to go. But next time I'm in the 'burgh, there's no doubt I'm going back - I wouldn't want to miss the complimentary pig roast:

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Word to my Loyal Readers...

Sorry for the recent preponderence of random links and absence of my usual substantive and entertaining soliloquizing. The truth is, I simply haven't been around much lately. And when I have been around, my energies have been focused on bringing my clients' pesky future cash flows down to size by discounting them.

So, where exactly have I been? Well, I was actually back home in Pittsburgh for an extended labor day weekend, which explains the Pittsburgh focus of my recent posts. Then I spent the next 60 hours of daylight in the climate-controlled oubliette that I call my "office." Luckily, I was released in time to attend a kick-ass wedding at the Four Seasons with a bunch of doctors. (Much more fun than lawyers, with whom I'm generally bored.)

Then I flew out to San Francisco, which (despite the similar topography) is the diametrical opposite of Pittsburgh. You'll be happy to know that my streak of watching the worst movies ever on long-haul flights is still alive. This time, I was treated to Poseidon, which I'm convinced United showed us to prove that there are worse ways to travel than being wedged between an obese, torpid stranger and a porthole offering a glimpse of certain death for 5 hours. I also had the chance to view the pilot of NBC's new series Friday Night Lights, which is exactly like Varsity Blues down to the most inane and inconsequential subplot. I mean, if there were ever a case of script plagiarism, this is it. The only discernable differences between the series pilot and the movie were (1) the coach in the TV series is a good guy, (2) Dawson doesn't seem to be involved, and (3) no whipped-cream bikini.

Anyway, I got back from San Francisco (aka "Bizarro Pittsburgh") at about 1am last night, got to bed by 3am, and had to wake up at promptly 6am this morning.

Which is why I can only offer more random links right now. It's hard to form coherent thoughts when you're running on fumes.

Most of the following news stories are from Pittsburgh-based media outlets, not surprisingly:

  • Let's actually start out with a rather serious piece from about President Bush's military tribunal bill, which included the following paragraph: "Bush's bill would allow CIA interrogators in a special program to employ what Bush has called 'tough' interrogation techniques that would otherwise contravene the Geneva Conventions. In the past, those CIA interrogators have reportedly subjected suspects to simulated drowning, prolonged isolation, slapping, sleep deprivation, reduced food intake, and exposure to light and loud sounds." Doza, who sent this article to me, took issue with the inclusion of "slapping" among such torture techniques as "simulated drowning" and "sleep deprivation." I, on the other hand, found the inclusion of "exposure to light" to be much more out of place. Who precisely are we capturing in Iraq and Afghanistan - vampires?
  • Now, onto the absurd. First, a "T-ball coach's desire to win at all costs became a crime when he twice asked an 8-year-old boy to hurl baseballs at a disabled teammate for $25." But it's OK, because he was just joking.
  • Down in Florida, a 31-year old man was trying to help his daughter Meagan rid her fear of heights by jumping off the Lantana bridge 25 feet into the Intracoastal Waterway. This worked out just as well as you'd think.
  • I'm not even going to provide the details of this one. You can just click through to it if you want.
  • OK, enough Pittsburgh bashing. Here's an extremely well-done piece from NPR about 3 generations of Pittsburgh steel mill workers.
  • Now, back to the Pittsburgh bashing. Who the hell let Myron Cope out of MayView? I mean, you heard his speech at Canton, right? Are we all in agreement, then, that he definitely shouldn't be operating a vehicle?


Finally, let's not forget what today is: the 10th anniversary of Tupac's (alleged) death. The rap game hasn't been the same since September 13, 1996.

Weed: the New Carrot

"A woman admitted to smoking marijuana daily with her 13-year-old son to reward him for completing his homework."

Thankfully, this took place in Gettysburg and not Pittsburgh as one would expect.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The 9/11 Attacks: No Silver Lining

I think most of us can agree that absolutely nothing good came out of the 9/11 attacks. There are, however, varying levels of "bad." And somewhere on the spectrum between "the senseless murders of 3,000 innocent Americans" and "being required to take your shoes off at airport security checkpoints" is this:

I just got off the phone with my father, who owns a Middle Eastern deli in Pittsburgh. His store was broken into and vandalized late last night/early this morning. It's unclear whether it was "just" a robbery or a 9/11-related hate crime. But I suspect it's the latter due to the timing and nature of the vandalism. (Usually when my father's deli gets robbed, the perpetrators go right for the cash register and don't take time out of their busy schedules to thoroughly trash the place...)

Friday, September 08, 2006

To Do This Weekend? Tip One for the Troops

What to do this weekend? Everyone has their suggestions. So allow me to throw my hat in the ring...

This Saturday evening, from 4pm until 11pm, Cafe 227's very own injun, Ajit Verghese, will be playing at Cantina Marina for the Tip One for the Troops party. Three bands, great drink specials, a waterfront atmosphere... not a bad way to spend your Saturday evening. And, it's for a good cause, which you can read about here.

If you absolutely can't make it there Saturday night, but want to see the legendary Ajit play, check out his web site for a list of his upcoming performances.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Difference Between Pittsburgh and DC, Part 1: Friday Night Lights

I returned from my 3-day Labor Day holiday in Pittsburgh on Sunday evening. (See, unlike the rest of the country, I had to work Monday.) Exhausted after a long weekend and a seemingly longer drive home, I grabbed the Sunday edition of the Washington Post from the garbage pile in our front "yard," poured myself a glass of delicious Port, and grabbed a stool at the bar to do some light reading before bed. That's when I saw this article on the front page of the Post's "Sunday Source" section.

A primer on the local high school football rivalries.

The differences between Pittsburgh and DC have never been more apparent to me than at that moment in time.

See, in Pittsburgh, everybody knows about high school football - young and old, men and women alike. To paraphrase Jeb Babbin, publishing a high school football primer in Pittsburgh would be like going deer hunting with an accordian. Your average, middle-age Yinzer could probably tell you who Woodland Hills' quarterback was during the 2000 season before he could tell you his spouse's birthday. (Steve Breaston.)

Of course, this makes perfect sense. I mean, nobody moves to Pittsburgh. So, it can be deduced that people who live in Pittsburgh went to high school in Pittsburgh and have thus been exposed to the local high school football rivalries their entire lives.

The DC metropolitan area, lying at the opposite end of the economic spectrum as Pittsburgh, has a lot of transplants who don't know squat about local high school football. Sort of like me. (And those who do know a lot probably don't read the Post's "Sunday Source," which recently profiled non-dairy ice cream substitutes "for the vegans, lactose-intolerant and dairy-allergic among us.")

I'm not saying one type of city is better or worse than the other. I'm just saying it's different, that's all. Very different - as you'll see later this week when I write about by new favorite bar in Pittsburgh, Belevedere's, and compare it with some of my favorite bars in DC.

(Oh yeah, while we're on the topic of high school football, I'd like to point out that my alma mater, Pittsburgh Central Catholic, is currently ranked 11th in the country. That's right - in the whole United States. Where's Marist ranked, Chico? Yeah, thought so.)

Monday, September 04, 2006

More Fun with Presidential Action Figures

I love's presidential action figures, but there are only 9 available. I mean, we've had like 43 presidents or something. (44 if you count David Rice Atchison.) Target's product development team is slacking. Here are some ideas:

1. President Gerald Ford

(This one comes with its own Model T.)

2. President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt

3. President Bill Clinton

(Truly the first black president.)

4. President Andrew L. Jackson

(My personal favorite. "It'll get you drunk!")

I don't have plans to secure copyrights for any of these, so if anyone from's product development division is reading this (and can translate it to their native Urdu), feel free to run with it.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Get Your Benjamin Franklin Roosevelt Action Figure at Target while Supplies Last

Check out the new presidential action figure on sale at In case they've already discovered and corrected their error, here's a screen shot from approximately 10pm EST...

Three historical inaccuracies immediately jumped out at me:

1. After contracting an illness in 1921, Franklin Roosevelt became paralyzed from the waist down, forcing him to use a wheelchair. The fact that a wheelchair (or at the very least, a cane) isn't included with the action figure is a gross misrepresentation of history.

2. Slightly less egregious, but still an oversight, is the fact that the Franklin Roosevelt action figure does not come with a companion action figure for his beloved Scottish terrier, Fala.

3. The Franklin Roosevelt action figure looks disturbingly like Benjamin Franklin.

Hey, wait a minute...

How could Target, a fine American retailer, confuse these two lions of American history? A quick read of the product features provides some clues:

Bullet #1: "...Presidents own Voice!" No apostrophe signifying the possessive, and "voice" is inexplicably capitalized.

Bullet #4: "Figure come in an attractive display box however..." Improper subject-verb agreement, punctuation is omitted between "box" and "however."

If Target insists on outsourcing its web administration functions to India and/or China, it should at least hire a U.S.-based content editor...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Georgia On My Mind

As a former educator in the state of Georgia and as one who still has close family ties to the Peach State, I try to follow its local news with some frequency.

This week has brought some interesting news, particularly in the education department.

First, the new SAT has "lifted" Georgia's average score ranking all the way from 49th in the U.S. to FORTY-SIXTH!!!(Conor and Johnny, GA ranked above PA, by the way.)

Second, Morehouse (Atlanta's elite college for African-American males) has plummeted in the rankings for traditionally Black colleges because they're not doing so well in that pesky category of "graduation percentage."

Now I saved the best for last...

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, Discover Mills Mall in Lawrenceville recently held a Spelling Bee for home-schooled children.

Now for those of you who watch the national finals on ESPN or saw Spellbound or just enjoy watching kids falter and fail, you know that the majority of the best spellers in the U.S. are home-schooled. They tend to be the children of hard-working immigrants who see a value in education that, sadly, many of us take for granted. They amaze us by knowing how to spell words we will probably never hear again and which seem to break every linguistic rule in the book.

Not in Georgia, friends.

No, the winning word in one division was "mail."

You read that right... M-A-I-L.

Like this:

I assume that the tricksters running the Bee were just hooooping that little Rachel Gheorgies wouldn't think to ask for a definition and might spell "M-A-L-E," but she saw right through them and took home the title.

Now, some of you may say that I'm being too harsh... after all, this is the 5-8 year old division! So, as a test case, I asked my 6 year old nephew who is in the PUBLIC (is that a dirty word in the home school community?) school system in the City of Atlanta if he knew how to spell "mail." He laughed and spelled both forms correctly.

Oh, the winning word in the 9-12 year old division?