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Today's Caps Headlines Aren't Exactly Inspiring Confidence

Well, tonight it starts.

The Washington Capitals open the National Hockey League playoffs at home in just a few hours against Columbus. The Washington Post has already filled me with tremendous optimism thanks to such headlines as “Caps Goal Is To Exceed Reduced Expectations” and “Trotz Isnt Secure and He Might Need A Deep Run To Stay”, although they almost got to the glass being half full instead of half empty with “Caps Changed Their Approach and They Might Have a Shot.” Nothing fires up a fanbase like knowing they "might" have a shot.

Even the Columbus newspapers know the torture the Caps have put us through, as the headline on their lead columnist’s story is “Capitals fans know all about playoff pain.”

Yes. We. Do. And no, the columnist is not dressed like Captain Obvious. But he could be.

My goal is to just not end up like the crying kid in the Caps jersey you see in the picture like I do every year. That might as well be my avatar the last 20 years as I start out so optimistic, then we lose games we shouldn’t, lose series we are favored in, and God forbid a game go into double or triple overtime. All that means is I’ll stay up until 2 AM, then go to bed cursing “why did I stay up this late to see this? You KNEW this would happen.”

But enough about the past. This is a new season. A clean slate. I’m putting on the Caps sweater at 7 and will start my delusions immediately afterward. In fact, I’ve already started them, interpreting Pittsburgh’s 7-0 shellacking of Philadelphia last night as a trend that will lead to the Pens being so overconfident when they sweep the Flyers, they will be ripe for the taking in the second round.

Drink with me, folks. It could happen. Stanley Cup or bust…

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Dave Scarangella

Update: The Caps blew it, losi...

There is a noticeable lack of optimism now among the Caps faithful....
Thursday, 12 April 2018 22:54

Welcome To National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day....

Since every day is apparently national SOMETHING day (yesterday it involved pets), today we honor melted cheese between two slices of bread: National Grilled Cheese Sandwich day.

I always wondered who decides these things, because there’s a national day for just about every kind of food, animal or occupation imaginable. And there are far more than 365 foods, animals or occupations, so clearly there’s some overlap.

I struggle with grilled cheese because if I’m going to invest a lot of cheese, a flour-based product like bread and grill/bake it, I’m going to  make a pizza. It’s is nature’s perfect food, and why mess with what God has already perfected?

But there are times when a toasted grilled cheese sandwich – served with a mandatory bowl of tomato soup – can be pleasing. My issue, as is the case with everything I cook, is I use too many ingredients. I have to have significant amounts of American cheese, swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, and if I have any in the refrigerator, provolone. As a separator, I will put a thin slice of ham between the various types of cheese, and occasionally will even add a few thin slices of pepperoni.

See? I end up making a pizza again.

I Googled the topic to see just how serious people take this manufactured holiday, and the answer is pretty serious. The first story to pop up is titled “9 ways to honor National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day on Thursday.” Of course it’s from a newspaper in Milwaukee, and in Wisconsin they do take their cheese extremely serious. But with that kind of reverence, you’d almost think they have a “Tomb Of The Unknown Cheese Curd” or something there too.

So enjoy National Grilled Cheese Day...until tomorrow...when it's National Peach Cobbler Day...Blame Someone Else Day...International Skeptics Day...and Friday the 13th...

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Hey FB: Forget Artificial; Show Some REAL Intelligence

Following Mark Zuckerberg the last few days testifying here in D.C. has been entertaining to say the least. A lot of it is just political theater, but there have been moments that make you think this is all the plot of some bad, bizarre science fiction novel.

Take for example, these three situations where Zuckerberg struggles to give any sort of a direct answer (which generally means “I know the answer but I don’t want to tell you”):

  • When a user deletes their account, does the account actually get deleted and completely wiped off the server? Twitter users described Zuckerberg’s response as similar to the way Chester Cheetah stutters in answering questions in commercials. I’m going to take that lack of a direct answer as a “no, the info does not get completely wiped off the server.”
  • When a person logs off Facebook, does this mean Facebook is no longer connected to a user’s browser? Zuckerberg’s tapdancing on this was really interesting because if a program I have terminated still stays in my browser and looks around, it’s not a program. It’s a virus. And since it’s Facebook, all users have already allowed it to come through the firewall and anti-virus protection. There’s nothing to stop it. Don’t think it happens? Search for something when you’re logged off. Then notice how Facebook miraculously shows you an ad for the same thing the next time you log on.
  • Does Facebook accumulate information on people who have not even signed up for a Facebook account? Zuckerberg gave an answer that is basically “yes,” saying they need to do so for various reasons. As an example, if you allow Facebook to access your contacts, they’ll build what Zuckerberg calls a “profile” of each whether they have a Facebook account or not. Click on a link to a story on Facebook and you don’t have an account? They’ll grab info on your IP address, computer, phone, etc. and eventually match it up to other information they’ve gotten. Why? Because it’s what they do: gather and sell personal information.

But the part that really made me think of Zuckerberg as more like “Dave” in 2001: A Space Odyssey, was his insistence on Artificial Intelligence saving Facebook and the world. Indeed, there is actually a headline in The Washington Post this morning that says “Zuckerberg says AI will solve Facebook’s problems.”

Which is kind of frightening.

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National Pet "Day"? How About National Pet "Year"?

Today, I have been informed by social media, is National Pet Day. Which is kind of strange to me, because in my house, every day is National Pet Day.

Our house is owned and operated, 24/7, by two criminals named Doodle and Schoodle. They are bichon frises, which I can only guess is French for “stubborn and hungry.” They do what they want, when they want, and are blessed by being in the same house with the world’s greatest enabler, my wife.

These dogs are treated so well, my goal in life is only to be treated as well as the SECOND dog. I’ve long given up on ever obtaining lead dog status.

My wife and I have always been dog people, so we’ve always had one in the house most of our lives. Before moving here in 2000, we lived in High Point, NC and had the greatest dog of all time, a black lab named Butch. In his youth, there was no dog more obedient, as I could tell him to stay, go upstairs and be gone for a half hour, then return and Butch was still patiently sitting.

This, however, all faded away when the requirements of my job called for me to travel more and more, leaving my wife and Butch home together alone. Somehow, someone started teaching Butch the rules were for other animals. I’d be sitting on a sofa watching a show and Butch would just take a “don’t mind if I do” attitude and help himself up on the unoccupied space. Commands of “stay” turned Butch into the RCA Victor dog, as he turned his head and gave a quizzical look as if to say “you talking to me?”

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These Are Not Autographs You Will See For Sale On Ebay

Yesterday, I wrote a piece about Mitchell Gold, and in it I mention that I ended up getting a chair autographed by both Mitchell AND his dog. Some found that a little unusual.

“That’s not the only thing unusual about my Dad,” would be my daughter’s response.

But I will grant you that I do look at the whole autograph deal a little different than most. I have some sports memorabilia – an autographed picture of Julius Erving in a Virginia Squires jersey, a throwback Redskins helmet (the gold one with the big “R”) signed by Sonny Jurgensen, and a Virginia Tech helmet signed by Frank Beamer and Michael Vick.

The first one I ever pursued was Erving. I grew up in Norfolk watching the brief tenure of pro basketball in the area, and Erving was amazing. At the same time, Jurgensen was the quarterback for the Redskins, and at the age of 13, I thought he was the best quarterback of all time (still do, for that matter).

But it was Erving who soured me on any further sports hero worship. Later in life in the late 1990s, a great friend and business partner knew one of the then-minority owners of the Orlando Magic, and Erving worked for the team at the time. My friend and I were in Orlando, so he arranged for us to get tickets to the Magic game that night and meet my childhood idol.

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Back In The Day, You Could Disagree & Still Respect Someone

One of the great things about having a child is realizing they have no idea what you’ve done in life. It’s as if they think you’ve never left the house, and if you did, you certainly didn’t meet anyone interesting.

Such was the case Sunday when my daughter was reading The Washington Post Magazine. The cover story was about a businessman and gay activist by the name of Mitchell Gold, and I mentioned I’d like to read it to see how he was doing.

“You KNOW him?” my daughter asked, as if I had just grown a second head.

“Of course I do,” I replied, as apparently my daughter didn’t notice I had left the house for 25 years and worked in the furniture industry, allowing me to meet a lot of interesting people, including one Mitchell Gold. “He and I never got along, but he’s a good guy. He even built a piece of furniture for us that he customized just for you.”

Since she was 5 at the time, I suppose it was fair she didn’t totally recall all of that. So I began telling her the story of Mitchell Gold, and it immediately bought to mind how different times are from way back then. These days, you couldn’t disagree with someone the way Mitchell and I did back in 2000 and survive.

That’s because according to the rules of social media today, it seems that if you disagree with someone, they have to die. You have to destroy them. There is no middle ground. They need to lose their job, lose their career and be branded with a scarlet letter if you have a different view. Disliking them and respecting them at the same time is not allowed.

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Protect Your Data, And Never Mess With A Photoshop Master

Since Facebook has us all thinking about just how much of our personal information is out on the web, I conducted a simple experiment this morning:

I entered my name into Google

The first group of items that returned were no surprise: Links to articles I’d be quoted in, old stories on me from back when I was in the business world, who I am on Twitter, etc. I expected that.

But then came wave after wave of sites that claimed to have all the information on me going back to the time of my birth, and for just $49, they’d sell it all to you. Many offered teasers in the first paragraph, and after scrolling through them I saw not only my name, but how old I am, my address, my home phone, the names of my wife and daughter, every town I’ve ever lived in, the addresses and home phone numbers of those places, etc.

About the only thing I didn’t see was my cell phone number, social security number and blood type. The rest is out there. Most even offer you the opportunity to click on a link near my address so you can see an aerial photo of my neighborhood and directions for how to drive right to my home so as to not inconvenience you if you decide to stalk me.

This is more than Facebook. It’s like every credit card application, every company you’ve ever registered with, every time  you’ve interacted with the business world, someone has sold your information, and companies out there compile it in a database and try to sell it.

It’s like, why even try?

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It's Time To Answer The "Caps" Question...Again

It’s the Sunday after the final Washington Capitals regular-season game.

I have a decision to make.

Do I come to my senses, realize this relationship with the Caps is only going to get my hopes up every year, then crush my heart like a grape the minute it gets to the second round of the playoffs? Or do I lie to myself, saying what’s happened in the past doesn’t mean anything, and this is the season they go deep into the playoffs.

Yeah, I know. I’m going to lie to myself. Again.

I have scanned several newspapers in search of stories that would help me with the decision. But after reading the online versions of the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Columbus Dispatch, Richmond Times-Dispatch, New York Post and Philadelphia Inquirer in search of comforting information, I could find none.

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Losing 4 Straight Isn't A Concern; Rendon's Ejection, However...

Now that a few hours have passed since the Nationals lost their fourth straight game, I can say via the benefit of a great meal and a power nap that the team has nothing to worry about losing four in a row.

But they do have something to be concerned about with umpiring crews.

First, the losing streak. Anyone with an ounce of common sense (which we as sports fans are not exactly known for) realizes that unless you go oh-for-April, losing early in the season doesn’t matter. The Nats will be just fine. The only thing that does give me pause is the fact the Nats looked unbeatable the first four games of the season, then turned on a dime and saw their bats fall asleep as they lost four straight.

In a best-of-7 series, avoiding the snoozing-bats-for-4-game syndrome is something Nats teams have not been able to accomplish in their playoff appearances of the past 6 years, so every time it happens, I do find myself thinking “aren’t we past this yet?” But as previously stated, there is plenty of time to figure this out, and better to have slumbering bats in April than October.

Now, to the umpiring. Yes, it was a terrible call on Anthony Rendon. Yes, Major League Baseball should discipline umpire Marty Foster for throwing Rendon out of the game despite Rendon not saying a word and only dropping his bat in frustration. No, that will not happen in a million years.

Which is the cause for concern.

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He's Smart. Talented. Annoying. And Today, In The HOF

If you have followed sports in the state of Virginia, and spent any time in the western part of the state, you undoubtedly know the name Doug Doughty. Sometime later today, Doug – who has been writing for the Roanoke Times for 44 years – will be recognized for his great work and will be inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.

I’ve known Doug for over 40 of those 44 years. It would be an understatement to say I’m proud of my old friend, and that the honor is well-deserved. As is the case in such situations, there are stories in newspapers today listing all of his accomplishments over those 44 years.

I, conversely, will now tell a few tales that are NOT in those stories.

I knew of Doug when I was a student at Virginia Tech, but didn't really get to know him until one fateful night during the Richmond Times-Dispatch basketball tournament, where the Hokies and UVA were playing. It was the 70s, and I was working my way through school as a sportswriter for a weekly newspaper called the Blacksburg Sun. After the first round, everyone filed their stories and then went to the media room to imbibe in strong drink, strong stories, and needle each other. As a youngster, I went to watch the likes of Bill Brill, Bill Millsaps, Jennings Culley, Doug and the other top sportswriters in the state. As the hour wore late, however, my youth served me well and I outlasted just about everyone in drink and storytelling. 

I paid a hard price, and when I woke up in the hotel sometime after noon, I felt horrible. Knowing I had to work that evening, I forced myself downstairs to eat something. With my head on fire, I looked across the restaurant and only one other guy was there, wearing sunglasses, eating breakfast. At 3:30 PM. It was Doug, so I went over to his table, paid him a compliment of professional respect for surviving, and a friendship was born.

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I'm Pulling For RGIII, But Not Because He's A Football Player

 

 

I have read with interest the news of Robert Griffin III signing with the Baltimore Ravens, because regardless of his missteps both on and off the field over the years, I like the guy.

His time with the Redskins were both amazing and frustrating, as he may end up being the most polarizing athlete to ever play in D.C. To fans that liked him, he could do no wrong; any other player who took playing time from RGIII – mainly Kirk Cousins – they gave zero credit to.

Perhaps it’s just the way things are in the current electronic village known as social media, but when there was the battle of Sam or Sonny for Redskins QB in the 70s, you liked one or the other; you were not required to like one and absolutely hate the other. But that was RGIII vs. KC in Washington.

I have always been in the camp of liking whoever makes plays and wins games, so I liked RGIII in 2012, and liked Cousins in subsequent years. But my reasons for really liking the Ravens giving Griffin a chance has nothing to do with either of those occurrences.

It has more to do with a warm October Friday night here in Ashburn (there's a fantastic picture of that evening above the headline by Marianne Thiede). Broad Run was playing a high school football game, and there was an event going on for breast cancer awareness called “Pink’d.” Griffin’s popularity was soaring, so students at Broad Run tweeted at him heavily asking that he make the short drive from Redskins Park over to Ashburn Road for the event. They even had a “Pink’d” T-shirt ready and waiting for him.

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Super User
My wife Becky, ran into him and his wife in Chesterfield Town Center mall. He had his hoodie up over his head obviously trying to... Read More
Monday, 09 April 2018 07:41

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They Finally Did It...

They Did It

After a long and bumpy road, The Washington Nationals finally won the World Series. And made an old man in Ashburn cry...

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A trip to Spring Training reminded me we're all still kids at heart, and no matter how old, you keep playing until they get you out.

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My faithful dogs probably rode shotgun on hundreds of stories I've written since 2003. This one is for you, Doodle & Schnoodle.

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