Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Another example of great parenting

First, there was the mom in Texas who lied on an essay about her 6-year-old daughter's daddy dying in Iraq in order to win tickets to a Hannah Montana contest.

"We did the essay and that's what we did to win," Priscilla Ceballos, the mother, said in an interview with Dallas television station KDFW back in January. "We did whatever we could do to win."

That's a nice lesson to teach your children. A better one would have been -- stealing a line from the Rolling Stones -- that you can't always get what you want.

Ceballos later admitted to the fraud.

Earlier this week, a former Lower Pottsgrove woman was sentenced to 2 years' probation after pleading guilty to child endangerment. What did she do? She abandoned her 2-year-old daughter at a store in the King of Prussia Plaza while she continued to shop.

And now, a third contender has emerged for Mother of the Year -- a Chester County woman who allegedly used her daughters to ... well ... get what she wanted.

According to the Associated Press, Delaware State police arrested Jennifer Ramos, 27, of West Grove, who allegedly used her 10- and 12-year-old daughters to steal from a store.

Police say Ramos was at a Kohl's Department store near Stanton, Del., with her daughters Tuesday.

Officers were called to the store for reports of shoplifting. Police say the woman had her daughters take items and put them in a shopping cart. The three then convened in a dressing room where $700 worth of items were stashed in the mother's purse or about her body.

Ramos is charged with shoplifting and endangering the welfare of her children.

If these moms can act this way, what's to keep their daughters from doing the same when they grow up?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

An omen for the season?

New Phillies' closer Brad Lidge had arthroscopic surgery Monday on his right knee. Lidge, who had off-season surgery on the knee, re-injured it Saturday during batting practice on his first pitch of spring training.

Lidge, shown at right in an Associated Press photo, is expected to miss 3 to 6 weeks, which means he could be back for the season opener on March 31 against the Washington Nationals.

Last year, Tom Gordon and Brett Myers both missed significant time in their role as closer. Lidge was brought in to help stabilize the bullpen and improve the starting pitching with Myers returning to the rotation.

A stable bullpen is essential if the Phillies hope to repeat as National League East champions and advance to the World Series. Hopefully Lidge's injury is not a sign of things to come for the 2008 season.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Coming to the rescue

As I was sitting in the office one day last week working on some pages, a call from an unfamiliar number came to my cell phone. Usually I don't answer those calls, but since I recognized the exchange I decided to see who it was.

On the other end of the call was my 17-year-old stepdaughter Kelly. It took me a few seconds to figure that out, since she always calls me on her cell phone. Only the reason for the phone call was why she didn't use her cell phone.

Kelly was getting gas after school when she locked her keys -- and purse, and cell phone -- in her car. The car doesn't have power locks or a remote, so the only way to lock the car is to do it manually.

Since I was the one who had the spare key, I got the call to come to the rescue. So I made what was a 45-minute round trip just to unlock her car.

My reward was all that any parent could ask for: a smile and a big hug!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Jumping on the smoking ban wagon

Warning: The surgeon general says this column may be hazardous to smokers.

I’m not a smoker, never have been, never will. I know few people who do smoke. Yet why is it taking so long for Pennsylvania to enact a smoking ban in public places?

Before any smokers out there get their panties in a bunch, you have the right to smoke ... and I and my nonsmoking brethren also have the right not to be bothered by it.

The issue isn’t about your right to smoke. The issue is the health and well-being of those around you and the nonsmoking employees who work in such places day after day.

I hate walking into a restaurant knowing that as soon as the doors open, the odor of smoke will come wafting toward me and cling to my clothes the waytrouble clings to Britney Spears.

At some places I like to dine, the nonsmoking section isbeyond the smoking section, so diners who don’t light up have to walk through a cloud of smoke to get to their table and to leave the restaurant.

On a recent Friday morning, my wife and I went to breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants. When you walk in, the non-smoking section is on the left, and the smokers sit on the right.

The non-smoking side was nearly full and we got one of the few remaining tables. As I looked to the smoking side of the restaurant, I counted about 12 emptytables/booths.

We were only in the diner about 30 minutes. Yet when we returned home, our clothes reeked of cigarettes and we had to change. I’m sure the other people in the non-smoking section went home and did the same thing.

All so a few people can enjoy a cigarette while they dine.So despite the quality of its meals, I refuse to eat at that restaurant until it bans smoking.

As my wife tells me, it’s almost as if nonsmokers are being segregated because WE have the obnoxious habit.

It really should be so simple, passing a law that benefits the health of everyone in the commonwealth. But that would mean our state lawmakers would have to do something for its citizens, rather than lobbyists. And we know how rare an occurrence that is.

In 2007, the dysfunctionalPhiladelphia City Council passed a citywide smoking ban in almost all of its workplaces, including in all restaurants and any bars which do not receive at least 90% of their gross revenues from alcohol sales. It’s the only smoking ban currently in effect in Pennsylvania.

So I guess it’s time for the restaurant owners to take matters into their own hands. Some have.A sign outside of Angelo’s Family Diner on Route 100 in Bechtelsville states that theeatery, which has just been remodeled, is now smoke-free.

Also smoke-free, and under new ownership, is the Five-Star Diner and Restaurant on Armand Hammer Boulevard in Lower Pottsgrove.

In Lititz, Lancaster County, The General Sutter Inn went completely smoke free on Jan. 1. Smoking had been allowed in the bar, but not anymore.According to the Associated Press, the inn’s owner said a number of factors went intomaking the decision, including the comfort of employees and the possiblity of a state-wide smoking ban. The Pennsylvania Restaurant Association has come out in support of a statewide smoking ban, claiming it would protect workers from secondhand smoke.

New York City banned smoking in all restaurants, food-service establishments and bars in 2003, and that city doesn’t seem to be suffering.

It’s not just in restaurants, either. A few weeks ago, my 14-year-old stepdaughter went bowling with a few friends. When I picked her up 2 hours later, the nasty smell of smoke just overwhelmed my car. She is still complaining about it.

My mother-in-law is a chronic smoker. She lives in Delaware, a state that banned smoking in all public buildings — including workplaces, bars, restaurants and casinos — in November 2002. When we visit and go out for dinner, she has no problem forgoing a cigarette while we dine.

So why can’t the rest of you, and why can’t the state get this passed? It’s for the good of everyone.

For a list of smoking bans throughout the country, visit

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's like driving Daytona every day

Watching the final laps of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, the scene seemed vaguely familiar.
Vehicles driving at excessive speeds and swerving in and out of traffic. Cars touching bumpers every now and then and a few of them spinning out of control.
What did it remind me of? A typical commute on Route 422!
Whether headed west from King of Prussia or east from Reading, driving Route 422 can be a nightmare for anyone. While the above Associated Press photo from Sunday's NASCAR race might be a bit of an exaggeration, there are a lot of reckless drivers on the highway every day.
One night last week I experienced something on Route 422 that I had never seen. Driving west through Amity, a car in front of me did a U-turn and began to head east -- in the westbound lanes!! I looked in my rear-view mirror and there was traffic behind me in both lanes. The last thing I saw was the driver who made this ill-advised maneuver darting into the shoulder to avoid a head-on collision.
I just wonder how Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson or Tony Stewart would have handled that.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Spring is here!!

Yes, the calendar says it's only Feb. 14. Yes, we just saw a storm drop a few inches of snow, ice and rain on the area. But today is the first day of spring.

Phillies' pitchers and catchers reported to Clearwater, Fla., this morning for the start of spring training -- the unofficial start of spring.

Watching the television reports from Phillies' camp in sunny Florida and seeing photos of the team working out -- like the one from the Associated Press, above -- gets me thinking about spring and the excitement of the upcoming baseball season.

So while we may get a few more snowstorms and several cold and cloudy days in dreary southeastern Pennsylvania, it's already spring in my mind.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dog days of ... winter

It was nearly 3 a.m. Monday and I could hear the wind howling outside. All I wanted to do was stay curled up in my bed under the warm comforter. But something wasn't letting me -- my almost 7-year-old black labrador, Disney.

A storm must have freaked her out when she was a puppy. So when it's as windy as it was overnight Sunday, she just paces in the bedroom -- and usually on my side of the bed. Occasionally she'll hop on the bed and curl up with me, but seconds later she's back on the floor pacing.

After a few minutes of this on Monday morning, I got out of the nice, warm bed and put Disney on the leash -- thinking she may have had to go to the bathroom -- and let her out behind the house. She walked off the deck -- and just stood in the yard in the wind. And stood there. And stood there.

I turned on The Weather Channel to see the wind chill temperature: it was -9 degrees. And my dog who hates hearing the wind was still standing in the yard, right in the middle of it.

After a few minutes, I put on my coat and went out to get her. I tried to get Disney to go into the basement, where a few days earlier on a day that wasn't so cold and not as windy, she spent much of her afternoon.

I know dogs get scared during thunderstorms, but Disney's actions when just the wind blows are a bit neurotic.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

No wonder so many crashes happen there

The intersection of eastbound Route 422 and River Bridge Road in Amity Township is one of the most dangerous in the tri-county area. One day last week I discovered why.

Knowing the history of accidents at that intersection, I'm always wary when I see cars lined up on River Bridge Road. The patience of the drivers wears thin while they wait for an opening, so you never know when one will shoot out in front of you.

In this instance, that wasn't the case. As I drove toward the intersection on this rainy afternoon, a vehicle came down River Bridge Road, ignored the stop sign and crossed in front of me.

I couldn't believe what I saw. I wasn't close to hitting the car, but driving conditions that day weren't so good. Roads were wet from a day-long rain, so had that driver spun out while racing across Route 422, I would have slammed right into him.

Many people have suggested that PennDOT improve the intersection to avoid the crashes -- some of which have been fatal -- that have plagued the area. Perhaps all that is needed are more intelligent drivers.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Just give him the money!!!

For the second straight year, the Phillies and Ryan Howard are locked in a contract dispute with an arbitration hearing scheduled for 2 weeks from today.
Last year, the 2006 Most Valuable Player, at right in an Associated Press photo, avoided arbitration when he agreed to a $900,000, one-year contract.
This time, Howard, who blasted 47 home runs last year, is asking for $10 million. The Phillies are offering Howard "only" $7 million.
The Phillies need to step up and make up the difference. Thanks to their division title last year and high hopes for this season, season ticket sales have increased. Citizens Bank Park will be full from May to September, putting more revenue into the owners' pockets, and Howard is one of the reasons why the fans turn out.
He may not be the face of the franchise as Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley are, but Howard's an integral part of any success this team hopes to have.
Management can't continue to have salary disputes with their slugger. Either give him what he's asking for before the arbitration hearing, or come to an agreement on a long-term deal to avoid this scenario every February.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

It's all about the money

Kristen, my youngest stepdaughter, isn't into current events. What's news to her is school gossip or whatever shows up on her myspace page.

So my wife and I were quite startled last week when Kristen started quizzing us about President Bush's economic stimulus package.

Since discussing news with her is such a rare occurrence, I asked Kristen, "How did you know about that?"

She said the subject was brought up by the teacher in her Early American Cultures class. According to Kristen, her teacher told the kids how much their parents would be getting back -- including a $300 rebate for each child.

Which explains why Kristen was so interested in the stimulus package. She wanted to know what her "cut" of the $300 would be.

Thank you very much, Mr. Exeter teacher!!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Usually I enjoy watching the underdog win

People kept asking me over the weekend who I was rooting for in Sunday's Super Bowl.

Rooting for the Patriots wasn't much of an option. Since they had won 3 Super Bowls in 6 years, and the Red Sox had won 2 World Series in 4 years, the people of New England have had enough glory this decade. So I didn't want them to win. Plus, their arrogance is tough to take. But when you're as successful as they have been, you have every reason to be arrogant.

The other option would be rooting for the underdog -- which I have no problems doing. But since this time the underdog was the Giants, a bitter division rival of the Eagles, cheering them on was definitely out of the question.

So as the game progressed and the Patriots held a slim 7-3 lead in the fourth quarter, I prepared myself for the worst -- that the Giants would be Super Bowl champions.

Though the Pats took a 14-10 lead with less than 3 minutes to go, somehow I knew the Giants would come back down the field and score a game-winning touchdown. So on the final drive when Eli Manning, above in an Associated Press photo with head coach Tom Coughlin holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy, escaped a sure sack and Giants wide receiver David Tyree made a great catch for a 30-yard gain, I just sat back and waited for the inevitable.

Sure enough, the Giants took the lead with 35 seconds to go. At that point, I knew that even a team as great as the Patriots were this season wasn't going to get into field goal range to try to tie the game.

The scary thing is, I felt angry that the Giants won. Very angry. Why? Probably because the last time I could celebrate a sports championship, I was still in college.

A day later, I sit here and wonder to whom was I directing my anger? The fact a team I hate won the Super Bowl, or that the teams I root for fail me time and time again?