Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thank you for calling...

Sometimes people actually call the Journal to ask questions, make comments or tell me I am a blabbering idiot. Actually, nobody has called me a blabbering idiot over the phone, thank goodness.

Most of the calls are about stories or to purchase pictures. I do need more calls from people wishing to buy ads or make donations, but that is another blog.

I felt the need to point out the phone number listed for the Journal is really…MY CELL PHONE!

I am not at the level where I can have an office with a dedicated business phone. But that dedicated business phone would be difficult to carry with me, unless I forwarded the calls and…never mind. And I don’t have any employees.

So, as I was writing, my cell phone doubles as the Journal’s phone. Please don’t tell Verizon! They are hitting me hard enough as it is.

Anyway, I do get calls at times. I have not gotten into the habit of answering the phone in a professional way such as: Good morning! (or afternoon or evening) Thank you for calling the Journal! This is Craig, how may I be of service?” Maybe that is why I don’t get calls to buy ads or make donations.

That would be said in as perky of a voice as I could muster. Yeah, I know, my voice wouldn’t sound all that perky. I have a friend who know longer calls because I am no longer his boss who says I sound like Hank Hill from King of the Hill. I disagree BTW (see, I actually know one text term!)

I do need to remember to try and sound more professional in case an unknown caller rings me up. Now, I usually mutter a “hello” into the phone, which usually causes the following reaction.

“(a few seconds of silence)…Uh, I was trying to reach the Journal.” They are probably thinking they woke somebody up from a nap, which sometimes is just what happened.

After I realize this is a business call, I try to sound professional. “This is Craig,” I say, because that IS my name.

“Oh…,” they say and then tell me what they called to discuss or to cuss.

If I didn’t hate the auto phone answerer, I could get one of those. This is what it would say, in case you were interested.

“Hello, thank you for calling the LeFlore County Journal,” that would be my opening. So the caller doesn’t think they are talking to Hank Hill, I would use somebody with a professional voice, like the guy who does the promos for all the movies. Or the English sounding woman at First National’s ATM at Poteau.

I wouldn’t give an option for them to hear the message in Spanish or English. If they want to call me, by gosh, speak English or hire a translator.

“Sorry, we can’t answer your call at this time.” I probably could but if I have enough money to buy an automated phone answerer, I’d have to make it worthwhile.

“Hit one if you want information about the Journal. Punch two (the button, not people) if you would like to place an ad. If you actually want to talk to a living person, your estimated wait time is heck if I know.

“To leave a message, hit four and leave your name, phone number, a short message as to why I should use precious moments of my day to return your call and marital status, if you are a female.”

[A short disclaimer! I would not enquire about the marital status. That was a joke! No, it wasn’t all that funny but sounded that way when I wrote it.]

Then again, maybe I should stick to what I have and try to answer the phone in a more professional way.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tips don't help!

Sometimes I admit, I watch the Early Show on CBS.

This is usually during breakfast and I don’t want anything to distract from eating. Usually, the show is lite news, you know less filling and doesn’t taste all that great.

But there is nothing better on, except for ESPN.

So I watch good old Harry, Maggie, the new pregnant woman and Dave, the irritating weather guy who tries to be funny but fails badly.

I like Harry and Maggie, who must have a huge baby growing inside her based on her growth over the last month.

This morning, they featured an Oklahoma couple where the hubby watched chick flicks with his wife for 30-straight days.

They also had a famous chef who I have never heard of cook something I wouldn’t eat if I was starving and the other other food was bark and rocks.

But they did feature five ways to be happier and because I want everybody to be happy, I wanted to share these tips with my fine readers.

Hang on, I can’t find my notes. That was how important that was. Oh, there they are!

1. Be grateful! They encouraged people to write letters to people who have done something good, even if you don’t send them. Serious. Hey, Ralph was nice to me the other night and drove me around, I am going to show my appreciation to him and write him a letter or email, but then not send it! I tried this. It didn’t make me any happier. Just wasted five minutes of my very valuable time. Kind of like this blog.

2. Be optimistic! I always try to be optimistic and see the glass half full instead of half empty. I am looking at my glass right now and sadly, it is empty. But wait, I can get some pop and it will be full! At least until I drink it. Hmm, the happy level remains the same.

3. Count your blessings. Okay, they are counted. The happy level tilted for a second and then came back to the previous level. Although I am blessed greatly. I could live in Haiti, oops, that just depressed me.

4. Use your strengths. Hmm, strengths? Which strengths? Hey, I am writing which I consider a strength but others probably feel is a serious weakness. I could mow except the grass is still dormant or pet a dog, except they are muddy and tend to jump up on me and then I would have to change clothes again. No help, sorry.

5. Commit acts of kindness. I said good morning to a stranger at the post office this morning! She ignored me. I fed and watered the dogs. They were so appreciative they ignored me and went right to the food. I texted a friend good morning and got a rude response. Eek, the happy level is tilting downward, rather quickly I might add.

But wait, I do feel happier! The Early Show is over and I won’t have to listen to Dave the irritating weather guy for another day! Yes!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Poteau choir was awesome

Most of the time, I do not listen or pay as much attention as I should when the Star Spangled Banner is played before a sporting event.

Usually, I am in the process of getting ready to take pictures, but do stand and listen to the music.

Most of it is the same old stuff, recorded music or some with lyrics. Sometimes, students or local residents will sing.

Tuesday night was a far different experience. Prior to Panama’s games at Poteau, there was a delay as a bunch of students made their way on to the court.

I was talking to a few coaches and wondered what was going on. That changed when the group started singing.

It was the Poteau High School choir and it was a performance far different from any I have had the pleasure of hearing.

They were great. Anybody who paid to come see a basketball game got to see a performance before the game started that was better than anything during the basketball game.

I am not a music critic. I can usually hear when something is wrong or bad. There did not appear to be anything off key or missing a beat during the choir’s performance.

It gave me goosebumps and that usually does not happen. I remember Whitney Houston’s performance prior to a Super Bowl that everybody talks about, but for me, it was not as good as what I heard Tuesday night.

For the singers and directors of the Poteau High School choir, you should be proud. Your performance is one that I and hopefully everybody else will remember for a long time.

I only wish I had a recording of it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My basketball season

My high-school basketball season started on Nov. 2

So far, I have covered 76 games for high schools. That total does not include college games or junior high ones.

There have been some thrillers and some duds.

Among the best games I have seen this year are all three Poteau-Spiro games, the Howe boys against Heavener in the LCT, Poteau’s girls against Howe (also in the LCT), Howe’s boys vs. Red Oak in the finals of the Eastern tournament and many more that I can’t recall.

And yes, there have been some bad ones. Howe girls blasting Cameron, Heavener’s girls laying a whipping on Hartshorne and Howe boys taking care of Cameron and Bokoshe are some of the biggest mismatches.

In those 76 games, 20 came during the LeFlore County Tournament. That was four games for five games. Yes, I needed a break after that week.

My travels have taken me to here and far. The only county gyms I have not been in this year are Arkoma, Bokoshe, LeFlore, Talihina and Whitesboro.

I have seen all the county teams aside from the Arkoma girls and Whitesboro boys. And yes, I apologize for missing those two teams.

The teams I have seen the most are Heavener, Howe and Poteau, which makes sense because they are the closest schools to home. But I have also seen Pocola’s girls play seven times and Talihina’s boys five times.

I have watched Heavener’s boys and girls play 13 times. Howe’s girls 12 and the boys 11. Poteau’s boys and girls 12 each.

There have also been some outstanding individual achievements. Taylor Collins had a great game in the LCT finals and scored 37 last week at Pocola. She also outscored Hartshorne in a game. For the boys, the best game was Josh Ross scoring 36 earlier in the month.

Another one that stands out was Pocola’s Patrick Dixon going wild in the last couple of minutes against Poteau. The Pirates seemed to be in control but Dixon hit five threes in the final two minutes and almost lifted the Indians to a miracle win before Poteau won.

There have been players have breakout years and others who didn’t even get to finish the season. Heavener standout Brandon Kirkland was easily one of the top players in the county before breaking his collarbone in the LCT semifinals against Talihina and missing the rest of the season.

Another standout, Pocola sophomore Taylor Martindale showed she is one of the top players in the county, but hurt her knee and has missed several games. She might be able to return, but like Heavener, Pocola has missed Martindale.

As far as good coaching jobs, one that many might not think about is the job Heavener coach Scott Gregory has done since losing Kirkland. The Wolves were not very good in the third-place game and for a week or so after. But he has mixed and matched lineups and now Heavener is playing some pretty good ball heading into the county tournament.

Also, Scott Nelke has done an excellent job with Poteau, guiding the Pirates to a 15-6 record against a tough schedule.

But the best coaching job I have seen this year is by Howe girls coach Chris Brown. After dominating the county over the last two years, Howe lost eight of its top 10 scorers after last season.

Brown used a mixture of young and old and has led the Lady Lions to a 24-1 record with only three seniors playing. With a standout group of sophomores and freshmen, the future looks bright for Howe.

Talihina coach Chris Gillespie also has to feel good about next season. The second-ranked Tigers have four starters coming back next season from a team that won the LCT for the first time since 1974 and is looking for a state championship trophy in a few weeks.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

My Super Bowl memories

I can’t really say I recall life without a Super Bowl.

I am actually older than the Super Bowl, but just barely. The Super Bowl is a game I have always tried to watch, ever since I was a little Craigman.

The first Super Bowl I really remember watching was the Colts over the Cowboys on a late field goal. I blame that loss on the Colts forcing the Cowboys to wear their dreaded dark shirts, which used to always mean a loss.

I have watched every Super Bowl since. I saw the Cowboys win their first Super Bowl over the Dolphins, the year before Miami was perfect, and several more, along with several losses along the way.

Many of the Super Bowls were not all that super. Some have been more than super. Probably the best one was the Giants beating the Patriots two years ago.

I watched that one on a tiny television in a hotel room in Louisville. The TV was so small it was impossible to read the score or time remaining unless I stood approximately a foot away from the screen.

I saw Terry Bradshaw and the Steelers dominate in the 1970s and the current edition win a couple, but not nearly as impressive. I saw the Vikings throw a big donut in each of their Super Bowl appearances, along with the Bills (which was good because two of those were against the Cowboys) and have seen the Patriots win way more than I would like.

Some of the games were suspenseful, usually the games involving the 49ers in the 80s and 90s weren’t.
Do I have a favorite game? Probably the Cowboys over the Broncos in the 70s when Randy White and Ed “Too Tall” Jones ruled and Tony Dorsett flashed his speed.

The games used to be played early in the afternoon or mid-afternoon, not the late start they have now. I even remember back when people watched the game to be watching the game, not the silly commercials, although some have made me laugh and many more made me wonder how many millions of dollars were blown for that junk.

They used to not even have a big halftime show. Now it is necessary, for some reason. I remember the outfit malfunction where Janet showed her Jackson for the world to see, not that it was all that impressive.

One Super Bowl that I will always remember was shortly after the first Gulf War started with the Giants and Bills playing. The jets flew over the stadium and Whitney Houston sang the national anthem as good or better than it has ever been done before or since.

The country was united then, everybody worried and praying for our troops as they battled a madman’s army in the middle east. We had been watching bombs explode over and in Baghdad for way too long and needed a release. That game took our worries and fears away for a few hours and it was a good one, coming down to the end when a field goal sailed wide, leaving the Giants on top.

There was even a game that made me seriously dislike a player for the rest of his career. It was Desmond Howard. He returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the Packers’ Super Bowl win over the Patriots.

Why do I dislike him? I had bought a square for that game and it was in the fourth quarter and after the Patriots scored, I had the right number to win the moolah. I danced, hollered and probably spilled a drink or two.

Then the Patriots kicked off and I got a bad feeling. It grew worse as Howard sprinted upfield and NOBODY touched him. I prayed for a flag or a whistle, but none came. In seconds, I had tasted the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat as ABC sports used to proclaim.

I don’t take part in those stupid squares any longer. But I will watch the game tomorrow evening with no particular care who wins. I will even watch the ads, except when nature calls.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Talihina boasts special group

Every now and then a special group comes along at a county school.

Some smaller schools can only hope to have a few good athletes at a time, which will spur an improvement in wins.

Other schools are happy if there are one or two special athletes in a group.

Spiro has had a string of great athletes over the years. So has Poteau. Heavener had a good run in the 2000s in basketball, both the boys and girls. Pocola and Howe have had some special groups in girls and boys.

Then, there is Talihina.

Success in athletics has been the norm, not the exception over the years. There have been good teams and some very good. Typically, these good years for Talihina and other schools usually came in one sport, like the Tigers were in football for several years in the 1980s and into the 1990s.

Currently Talihina has a group that is better than the county has seen, possibly ever. The Tigers have some good seniors and sophomores, and a junior class that other schools can only dream about.

In football and basketball. The Tigers were undefeated the last two years in football, falling in the second round last year and the quarterfinals this year.

In basketball, Talihina’s boys have been to the county finals the last three years, finally breaking through this year to win the LCT for the first time since 1974. The Tigers also made it to the state finals last year before falling to Pawnee when a last-second shot missed.

The Tigers have three juniors starting in basketball in Taggart Lockhart, Jace Chancellor and Jordan Eagleroad, along with sophomore Chris Capsey and senior Marcus Sullivan.

Lockhart and Eagleroad were co-MVPs of the county tournament. Eagleroad also earned the Journal’s player of the year award for football as a standout quarterback and safety.

Capsey and Sullivan were also named to the county all-tournament team.

In addition to Eagleroad in football, the Tigers have a talented group of juniors who have excelled such as Taylor Hubbard, Kane Owens, Chance Judkins, Thomas Casey, Kevin Humphreys and Garrett Williams.

Capsey, Kash Clemons and Austin Lawson made an impact in football as sophomores while the Tigers’ seniors included James Cody Brigance, the defensive player of the year on the Journal’s all-county team, running back Dakota Boren, Tanner Trowbridge and many more.

I am sure I missed some names and apologize in advance. But one thing is for certain, it will be tough for any other county school to top the success Talihina has had over the last two years.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Guess what I got to do today?

Give up? C’mon, try please! I got to call a certain federal government unit concerned with taxes!

Yeah, I would much rather done something more interesting such as watching slugs race across hot concrete.

The call concerned the EIN (that’s employee identification number) for the Journal. No, I don’t have employees yet, but still had to have the number because…

Anyway, the bank where I have my account informed me there appeared to be a duplicate EIN associated with a different business.

Argh, eh? So I took a few minutes to collect myself and called the government organization which shall not be named because I do not want my attractive rear audited.

After 3:51, I had answered all the proper buttons on the phone in response to the computer-generated fake voice. Then, I was told it would be approximately seven to 10 minutes of time before my call could be answered.

As if.

After waiting for 4:11, I noticed my nails needed trimming.

At the 5:28 mark, I started to fall asleep to the elevator music, but kept getting stirred awake by the “don’t hang up, you idiot! Somebody will be with you after they drink their coffee and talk about American Idol!”

When the 10:50 mark showed, I noticed that it had been more than seven minutes.

After 13:54 passed, I realized it had actually been more than the 10 minutes they promised.

At the 15:53 mark, I decided I could watch 24, which I had recorded on Monday, in about the time it took me to wait to speak to an actual person, as long as I skipped the commercials and previews.

Finally at 18:26, I heard a click and my call was transferred to an actual person. His name was Mark something and he gave me a series of numbers which I could have jotted down if he wasn’t speed talking.

I told him my EIN, name, address, city and state, in what I thought was a speed where anybody with any typing experience could follow. “Slow down!” he grumpily said. “You are going WAY too fast!”

I considered telling him that was not a customer-service friendly way of answering and I did not want to be a customer anymore, but passed because of the audit thing I mentioned earlier.

So I spoke even slower. Buck the Bull Mastiff could have gone outside, marked every tree in the backyard in the time it took me this time and scratched to be let back in during the time I provided the information AGAIN. Mark didn’t respond for a while, I could just see him pecking away with one finger while watching a repeat of 24.

Finally I told him my problem. He sighed heavily. Honest. He asked me where I got the information I was reporting. From the form the IRS sent me. Duh.

Mark explained some things about I.D. numbers that I learned when I was 14 or so. I asked if I had anything to worry about. “Show the bank your form!” he said.

Gee, I wished I had thought of that when I opened the account and gave Susan the form for her records. Double duh. I thanked him, informed him that I wished him a good day and said, “Goodbye!”

He hung up without saying anything else. I guess his coffee was getting cold or he had somebody else to be rude with.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The case of the tinkling texter...

I consider myself a fairly observant person.

For some reason, I notice things some people don’t or wish they didn’t.

And for some other reason, I feel inclined to point it out to whoever is unlucky enough to be in my presence.

If there is something strange or weird, I notice it, by gosh. A few years ago, I was driving on I-540 to Fayetteville and saw an Emu walking along the road.

And if dogs are doing something like mating, I always have to point that out. Most people don’t care what the dogs are doing or that I point it out.

If somebody does something irritating, like snorting all the time, I usually pick that up as well. If a person has a tick, I’m aware of that by the second flinch.

No, I don’t like that. Besides of it getting on my nerves, I want to ask the person to quit. I don’t, but wish I could.

I was watching HGTV Home Hunters the other day. A couple was looking at the houses to decide which one to buy. This was actually the traditional husband and wife, not two guys who look like they wish they were holding hands and skipping.

Anyway, they had a little baby named Jenson, or something like that which made me feel sorry for the kid. Every room of every house, the mother/wife had to make some comment about whether it would be good or bad for JENSON.

Geez, the kid is still pooping in his diapers! If I was the hubby or realtor, I’d have less hair than I already do. Then again, if I was the hubby, the kid’s name would not be Jenson. That’s just asking for the kid to get beaten up until he turns to an emo.

Of course, I don’t have any bad habits…

I also think I am pretty good at doing different things. Sometimes this gets a little confusing. But I saw something at Wally’s the other day that impressed the heck out of me.

I visited the restroom to do my bidness. I saw a man at the urinal and in addition to what a guy does while standing at a urinal, he was texting. Talk about your multi-tasking! He was a tinkling texter.

Yeah, I was so impressed I wanted to commend him on his command of time management. I didn’t, of course, because he did not look like the kind of guy who would understand the term “time management”, plus it’s a guy thing. You don’t talk to people when you are doing the urinal thing.

There is always the possibility he might get distracted and turn, aiming his flow right at the speaker. No, that is not good. Plus, it is a time for self. You know, private time. A person can greet another person on the way in or out, but not while one is at a urinal.

I don’t even answer the phone while at a urinal. That has saved me many missed call explanations. All you have to say when a person asks why you didn’t answer the phone was you were using the bathroom. Try it, this works!

You just have to come up for a good reason why you did not return the call before they call back to see why you didn’t answer the phone the first time.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Styling...or not

My female friend made a comment the other day.

Actually, she makes comments every day. But anyway, that day she apparently did not like the way I was dressed and said my clothes did not match.

I was wearing baggy jeans, old running shoes, a red shirt under a purple wind shirt, or whatever they are called.

For some reason, she said red and purple do not match. What?

I thought I looked, well, not stunning, but rather normal. Perhaps that is the problem.

I have been dressing myself most of my 46 years and have a style that is my own. As long as the clothes are reasonably clean, don’t have enough wrinkles to look like the waves off a lake, I’m okay with that.

Others do not agree. Now I can dress up and have done that most of my working days. But my choice of clothing, when given, amounts to shirt, jeans and running shoes. Yes, I do go with the accessories like socks and…you know.

This is not the first time I have been informed my clothes did not match. Sadly, this is a common theme. I have not had people I do not know tell me that, but have been given a few stares before with the “Your clothes don’t match” look.

What I want to know is how the colors of clothing are supposed to match. Is there like a grand color chart located only where females and gay guys (not that there is anything wrong with that) know about? I have had a guy who is not homesexual even tell me my clothes didn’t match! Something to do with black socks, brown shoes and light brown slacks, along with a brown belt.

Argh! So, I want to see this advisory telling people what matches and what doesn’t! And I also want to know who decides what matches.

I want in. I want to decide what matches and what doesn’t, so the next time somebody says something I wear doesn’t match, I can pull out the chart and show them that they are wrong. Or more likely, show them they are right but it isn’t any of their business how I dress.

I have seen people wear things I don’t think look all that good, and not just at Walmart. I did make a brief appearance at Walmart last night and saw a female sporting a hairdon’t that was sort of spiked and some shade between red and pink that I didn’t approve of. I actually acted like I was looking at something and took a picture of her to share with friends!

My female friend also feels inclined to point out that most of the shirts I wear have a hole or two. It’s not like they are over the nipples or anything, so I don’t feel I am offensive or anything, not that I think my moobs are offensive. But now I have to thoroughly check my clothing to make sure I don’t get nailed for having a hole. In my shirt, that is.

In the cold weather we have been not enjoying lately, I prefer the layered look. Usually I can take off enough shirts to find one that is hole free. But then I have to worry if all the different layers match.

And no, I am not color blind. Just style blind, I guess.