I’d go see ‘Star Trek’ but I’m too shook up

All things being equal, this should be a nerdy weekend for me, just not in the way you’d expect.

“Star Trek: Beyond,” the latest movie set in the rebooted universe, is in theaters.

But it’s opening the same weekend that my kids are appearing in the annual summer show at the Apollo Theater in our hometown – Martinsburg, West Virginia.

They are participating in the Apollo’s Youth Summer Theatre Workshop staging of the Elvis musical “All Shook Up.”

The show opens tonight with performances scheduled through the weekend.

I never thought I’d be faced with a choice between “Star Trek” and a musical.

Good thing I’m more nerdy about my kids.

Otherwise, the lure of “Star Trek” might be too much to resist.



This weekend’s newspaper column -I’ve finally learned to just go with Pokemon

I’ve done it, again.

I’ve publicly shamed my wife for the umpteenth time.

A colleague of hers walked into her office Thursday morning and asked, “Was that YOUR husband walking around downtown playing Pokemon?”

Before you start judging, please note that I wasn’t home parked in my favorite chair and passively binge-watching “Star Trek” episodes I’ve already seen hundreds of times.

I was actually out walking.

Around town.

Taking time away from my busy nap schedule and GETTING SOME EXERCISE.

On a certain level, my wife should be pleased that I showed enough initiative to get out of my chair this week, even if it was to hunt down cartoon monsters from a video game.

But I also suspect she would prefer I not be so obvious about “Pokemon Go,” the incredibly popular smartphone game that’s revived the Pokemon franchise and dominated pop culture since its release this month.

Anyone who is only dimly aware of the game instantly knows you’re playing it when you walk by them on the street. That’s part of its charm and a source of its ignominy. My wife’s colleague certainly figured it out when she saw me wandering around downtown phone-in-face, but she wasn’t the first.

After I initially downloaded “Pokemon Go” last weekend, I persuaded my teenage daughter to roam the neighborhood with me.

Teenagers are helpful. They are Pokemon literate. They grew up with the game and many are as nerdy about it as I am about “Star Trek.” She explained the finer points of capturing Pokemon and helped me catch my first one in an open field near our house.

That’s when I looked up from my phone long enough to notice a car slowing down and the driver giggling at us. Then her passenger bellowed “Pokemon Go!”

I should have felt at least slightly self-conscious. I’ve spent the past 20 years happily scoffing at Pokemon even as I opened my wallet so my kids could play each iteration of the game. But that shout-out felt like I was being welcomed into the club. Pokemon has finally found a way to suck me in.

I am probably more surprised by that than my wife is ashamed. I just wish “Pokemon Go’s” power to motivate people to get outside and explore the world around them extended to yard work.

My son and I usually share lawn mowing duties. This summer, however, I’ve let him slack a bit. It probably has something to do with him leaving for college in a few short weeks.

Rather than simply ordering him to help, I’ve tried to gently shame him, simply pointing out several times a week that “I mowed the lawn for you … AGAIN.” It hasn’t worked.

I tried a different tack earlier this week. I showed him a picture of a Pokemon I bagged while mowing. I thought it might motivate him, but he just shrugged it off.

It’s probably just as well. There are countless stories of “Pokemon Go” players becoming so distracted by the game that they bump into other people and walk into doors, poles and even into traffic.

If I actually let him play the game while mowing the lawn, he’d probably just end up mowing through his mom’s flower beds.

And that, without a doubt, would mean the end of anyone in our house playing “Pokemon Go” ever again.

Clifford and me – Part two

If you weren’t able to make last night’s West Virginia Public Broadcasting get-together in Petersburg, WV last night, here’s a taste of what you missed – Me and Clifford the Big Red Dog.

I stepped out from under his shadow long enough to pose for this picture.


By the way, if you’re looking for something to do for lunch, there were plenty of leftover Subway sandwiches. I’m sure the organizers would be only too happy to feed you if you’re willing to make the drive to Grant County.

I rediscovered my Crocs and now my daughter can’t unsee them

Found these long-lost babies in the bottom of the closet yesterday.

My teenage daughter gave me the side-eye when she saw me sporting them.

Then she asked, “Whyyyyyyyyyyyy”?

I told her comfortable shoes are a must for a man with as busy a nap schedule as mine.


In case you were wondering where I was this morning

I’m usually sleep-deprived during weekends.

My job requires that I roll out of bed insanely early on Saturdays and Sundays to prepare to deliver the latest news for radio listeners. It’s a zombie-like existence. The only thing missing is a mess of brains for breakfast.

But today I’m fairly well-rested. I took the weekend off and actually slept-in … until 6am.

Yes, that’s sleeping in for me. For once, the sun got up before I did.

Instead of heading to the newsroom this morning, my daughter and I picked up one of my cronies and the three of us drove out to Antietam National Battlefield to perform our annual Fourth of July ritual – the laying of the tarps.

In other words, we staked out our spot for tonight’s annual Salute to Independence concert by the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.

We’ll be there with several thousand of our friends.

My daughter helpfully circled our spot in the picture. If you’re planning on being there this evening, feel free to say hello.

Happy Fourth of July.



Quick update on my new car

Technically, my car is not new. Someone else drove it before me, but now it’s parked at my house.

I’ve already explained why I had to buy it.

But if you don’t have time to read last week’s post, the short version is this: my previous car was a lemon. It had problems that countless trips to the dealership couldn’t iron out.

I finally threw up my hands and traded it in last week.

Anyway, I took my new-to-me car on the commute to work for the first time over the weekend. Somewhere along the way I ran over a nail.

Standing around waiting to get a tire patched for 20-bucks is nothing compared to the time and frustration I put into the wheels I only just rid myself of less than a week ago.

But if it’s a sign of things to come, I may give up driving altogether.

At least my car isn’t keeping me up anymore

I bought a car this week.

I didn’t want to buy a car.

I HAD to buy a car.

I had to buy a car because I’ve been losing sleep over the one I bought a few years ago.

Believe it or not, there are times when I can’t sleep. In this case, it was because I had a lemon on my hands.

During our first summer together, my car bucked like an unbroken horse and left me stranded on the side of the interstate a couple of times.

The dealer replaced the catalytic converter TWICE before discovering the real problem: a loose ground wire.

I have no reason to doubt my service advisor’s explanation for fixing the symptom, rather than the problem. He said it was tough to diagnose. He told me the loose ground wire caused the engine to backfire, and when the engine backfired, the catalytic converter suffered damaged.

After it was fixed, the car was fine – until it wasn’t.

The following summer it began developing transmission problems. Specifically, the transmission kept kicking itself into failsafe mode, which made the car sluggish.

That’s actually an understatement. When the transmission went into failsafe, I could put the gas pedal to the floor and the car would not respond for a full ten seconds and then just creep for a few seconds more before reluctantly making better headway.

This particular problem generally only cropped up in the heat of summer and only when my car was idling at a red light, for example, or when I was stuck in a Washington, D.C. traffic jam.

The immediate solution was to perform a quick reset by shutting down the car, then turning it back on. But a long term fix was elusive.

My service advisor initially recommended replacing the transmission. I was shocked at the expense, but my car was still under warranty, so I agreed. When that didn’t fix it, though, he said the replacement must have been defective, so he replaced the replacement. That didn’t do the trick, either.

I then ended up helping myself to far too many of the complimentary donuts service departments leave for their customers. My car was in the shop too often in a futile attempt to determine the root cause of the problem.

The last time was in March, when I took it to a different dealer for a fresh pair of eyes before it started acted up in summertime heat. The service advisor there put his top guy on it and he found what I wanted to believe was the source of my car’s trouble. He told me the fan that’s supposed cool the transmission when the car idles was broken.

That made perfect sense to me. If the fan wasn’t working in already hot, humid weather, of course the transmission would overheat and do what it’s supposed to do to protect itself from damage, kick into failsafe.

I thought my odyssey was finally over. But on Tuesday night, when I was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on my way to work, my car kicked itself into failsafe.

I’m a patient guy, but even I have my limits.

A new car is in our garage.

I didn’t want to buy it.

But at least I’m sleeping better.