Sunday, March 29, 2009

ebay sandbag auction shortened for Red River emergency

Darryl Janhonen, of Brunsdale, ND, just south of Fargo, decided three weeks ago to sell off his 100,000-plus sandbag collection on the popular on-line auction site ebay. Janhonen, 47, has been collecting the bags for nearly a decade and meticulously numbers them in alphabetical order. Most of his bags are from towns within the Red River watershed, which, contrary to popular belief, is not a tributary of the Mississippi River.

"It's a hobby. In fact, It's a very popular hobby in the Fargo/North Dakota/Minnesota metroplex," said Janhonen.

Janhonen was eager to finally cash in on his longtime hobby. That is until the Red River, the border between North Dakota and Minnesota, began to rapidly rise last week toward record levels threatening many towns along the waterway. The father of four was never looking to earn extra cash at the expense of others.

"He was merely selling his collection," explained Mary Janhonen, Darryl's mother. "He wasn't looking to jack up the price and take advantage of people. He started the auction long before the river was rising."

The former resident of Moorhead, MN, just across the river from Fargo, decided he wanted to help the battered residents of these flood-prone cities. Not only would he physically lend a hand by pumping water from yards and basements back into the river, but Janhonen decided to shorten the length of his sandbag auction on ebay.

"The final day of the auction was suppose to be next Wednesday, but I moved it up to Saturday. That way desperately needed bags can arrive where they are most needed in plenty of time."

Fargo police, firemen and residents laboring to save the city all lauded the gesture by the native North Dakotan. The Fargo Chief of police, Dennis Samuelson, called it "the sign of a true sandbag collector."

"God bless him for moving the auction deadline up. Those sandbags are badly needed [in Fargo]. He's a hero. A 'dam' hero," said Northport, ND resident Haily Alfredson.

"I just hope Susy P. from Fargo wins the auction. All the other bidders are from Boise, Idaho. That would be a shame to send them all out west," said Janhonen.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Homeowner unhappy with Finnish basement

Sitting in a leather recliner below ground level can heighten one's senses to the sound of billiard balls colliding, that hollow ping pong ball nipping the end of the table or a relative repeatedly twisting the cue stick into the cube of chalk. These are not only sounds of enjoyment, but enjoyment in a finished basement.

Nick and Julie Ramsey have dreamed of finishing their unwelcoming basement from the day they purchased a three bedroom home in Sycamore Mills, PA five years ago. The couple pictured hours of fun for their three children, as well as entertaining friends and relatives, perhaps, with foosball, billiards, ping pong or wii.

The two opened a savings account for the sole purpose of funding a game and bar room complete with large screen TV, couch and reclining chairs (with mini fridges) in their "subterranean paradise."

"I've wanted a finished basement since I was a little kid," said Nick, an HVAC technician in Chester County. "Our neighbors had one and because of it I became quite the pool player. I still compete in leagues in Media on Tuesday nights, but the tables are all real small."

Finnish Basements, Inc. has been finishing basements for 15 years in southeastern Pennsylvania and south New Jersey. The Paulsboro, NJ company recently appeared in Philadelphia Magazine's Best of Philly for Best Basement Finishing and Crown Molding category.

Every Finnish Basements, Inc. contract, which are written in Finnish, states that the company will Finnish your basement to meet your specifications. Every contract also states, in small Finnish print, that "our specifications will also be your specifications."

"To be honest, the Ramsey's were our very first customer neither to have Finnish ancestry or to be born in Finland," said Jake Selanne, founder of the company. "We wanted to expand our customer base and so we took a huge risk."

Most finishing companies usually take on the task of transforming a dark, damp and leaky cave into an extension of the home with drywall, soothing paint colors, carpet and crown molding. Finnish Basements, however, attempts to accomplish this with a taste of Finland...and no building materials or tools.

Pictures, posters and occasionally small statues are imported from Finland to give the new Finnish basement authenticity. All products installed in a Finnish basement are guaranteed to be from Finland—including the fjord picture made from Finnish beer bottle caps.

"Sure, when the truck pulled up to the house I saw 'Finnish Basements' in big letters on the side, but I thought the owners were Finnish or they were somehow affiliated with Ikea," said Julie, who was being consoled by her sister.

"I spent $15,000 on posters of ice hockey, Finnish flags and Helsinki street scenes," said Nick, sitting down from uncontrollable shaking. "Fjord you!"

Selanne countered:"I asked [Nick] over and over if he really wanted a Finnish basement and he kept saying yes that it was a dream of his."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Biron credits improved play to extra work at carnival

The Philadelphia Flyers have won three straight games and have pulled to within seven points of the first-place New Jersey Devils. The club is starting to get hot at the right time and it may be linked to their goaltender, Martin Biron, getting hot at the right time.

Since February 22, 2009, the date of the Flyer's Wives Fight for Lives Carnival—a player and fan festival raising money for charities in the Delaware Valley, Biron has started 10 games and has won seven. The goalie has also won his last three starts for the team and has compiled and overall 2.71 GAA and .917 SV%.

What happened at the carnival?

Flyers fans taking shots at goalies has become a tradition at the Wive's Carnival. A portion of the ice surface has been left exposed to give smiling children the opportunity to fire a wrist or slap shot against such netminders as Hextall, Cechmanek, Soderstrom, Peeters and now, Biron.

Though the player dunk tank seems more popular, the shot-on-goal event can give a struggling goaltender the extra work that is critical to uncovering their A-game. During the event an astounding one thousand shots can be taken by, often angry, fans.

"I'll never forget the 1990 carnival," said Ron Hextall, the former goalie who spent two separate stints with the team and now serves as assistant general manager in Los Angeles. "I was struggling badly and I was planning on greeting the fans and maybe taking 20 shots. As I was skating off [Bob] Clarke ordered me back into net. I saw over 900 shots that day."

This year estimates put Biron's carnival shot total at 750. That is the equivalent of playing 21 games at 35 shots per contest. Most fans admit that Biron looked sharp during the shot-on-goal event and seemed to improve the longer it lasted.

"It was not only the extra practice I received during the carnival, but also one of the ferocious shooters gave me some great advice," said Biron about his improved play.

The ferocious shooter was Tommy Hartley, 10, a huge fan from Prospect Park, PA in Delaware County. Hartley went 3 for 3 against Biron knocking the water bottle off the top of the net twice. Biron felt better when he learned Hartley is the leading scorer on the Propect Park Salamanders youth hockey club.

"He told me to just be myself." said Biron about his hour long conversation with Hartley at the carnival. "He also said to focus and relax. He's a smart little guy."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Students' chant initially confuses media, viewers, other fans

Philadelphia, PA--At the Wachovia Center on Saturday afternoon a raucous chant echoed through the rafters during the NCAA men's basketball tournament second-round matchup between the Villanova Wildcats and UCLA Bruins. Initially, both television analysts and in-house fans were confused by what exactly the student section was shouting.

For fans unfamiliar with Los Angeles and the southern California climate--some east coasters, perhaps--the chant from Villanova fans may have never made sense.

With Villanova up 38-19 late in the first half a barely audible chant began to spread through the arena. As the chant became more organized it was clear that a designated portion of the student section (and some alumni too) were shouting a question and the arena's collective 'Nova fans were providing an answer.

"It took me a couple of minutes to determine what they were saying and until after halftime to get the meaning," said Jerry Wydnum, a sportswriter covering the game for the Delaware County Post-Dispatch. "The first part was 'Can UCLA?' and all the Wildcat fans would respond, 'Not through all that smog.'"

The contest in south Philadelphia was practically a home game for Villanova as only 15 miles separate the arena and the university. The crowd overwhelmingly supported the Main Line school.

"I was like, 'Can UCLA what? Why aren't they completing the question,' said Wydnum. "I know LA has lots of smog, but what was going on? What was happening?"

Wydnum, the other fans and the television analysts finally got it. The question 'Can UCLA?' translates into 'Can You See LA?'. The chant was taking a shot at Los Angeles' famous smoke and fog choked air, primarily caused by automobile exhaust.

"It was crazy down there," said Villanova fan Scott Dempster, a senior from Masquananook, NY, talking about section 107 in the arena. "[The students] got the chant started and it just spread through the arena. You have to admit that LA is pretty smoggy. I'm not a science major so I'm not exactly sure what two elements make up smog."

Some 'Nova fans reported seeing hundreds of UCLA backers willingly participate in the chant.

"I saw Ed and Charles O'Bannon on the JumboTron cheering and shouting, 'Not through all that smog,'" said Dempster. "Really! The O'Bannon brothers."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Concussions forced Gagne to consider Hollywood

Philadelphia Flyers all-star forward Simon Gagne has had a very successful 2008-09 season considering his chances of playing this year, and beyond, were in serious jeopardy. Gagne suffered three concussions in five months last season missing most of the regular season and was absent from the team's run to the NHL's final four. Things looked pretty grim for native Canadian.

Following the winger's condition very closely were producers and executives at CBS television network. CBS approached Gagne last June, after the season had concluded, about a possible television career if the left winger was unable to continue playing because of his head injuries sustained from brutal on-ice collisions.

The network had been in the process of bringing back the hit 80's detective show Cagney & Lacey, but had been unable to reach a contract agreement with Sharon Gless, the actress who played Christine Cagney during the show's original run. The network needed to move quickly in finding a replacement as filming was set to begin less than two months later in August of 2008.

"There was a lot of interest in bringing the show back for another go around with the original cast," said CBS executive, Scott Ribble. "But, truthfully, we wanted to change the show a bit to have a male-female team. And we needed the proper name. It's all about the name."

The key to bringing Gagne (pronounced Gon-yay) onto the show was getting him to anglicize his last name and abandon the French pronunciation.

"We wanted Gagne to rhyme with Cagney and we felt that would have been the formula for a hit TV show. We wanted Gag-nee not Gon-yay. Gagne & Lacey," said Ribble.

When asked whether having a male, with no acting experience, fill in for Cagney would affect the show's message and following Ribble responded,"The original show was revolutionary and cutting edge, but we would run with Simon's story of making him a hockey player turned cop on the mean streets of Philadelphia."

The show's setting would have moved from New York City to Philadelphia and writers had Gagne wearing hockey shorts while policing the neighborhoods. The tough cop would carry a firearm, but would never use the piece instead threatening thugs with old Zamboni parts he keeps in the trunk of his squad car.

"The French Canadian accent would be difficult for an American audience so we would have had a voice-over for Simon similar to a Sylvester Stallone voice," said writer, Jake Jenkins.

CBS made a formal offer to Gagne on June 15, 2008 and requested an answer by August 5, at the latest. The offer was never made public, but was said to be financially generous and possibly included three guest appearances on a CSI of his choice.

"[CBS] offered me a lot of money and CSI, which was difficult to turn down. The headaches were so severe that I had to look toward Hollywood. I love hockey but a television career would have been really favorable ... really bien."

Quebec Province in Canada—Gagne is from Ste Foy—loves their hockey players, but are infatuated with their television cop show heroes. Quebec City has a day honoring all the actors in CSI: Halifax and CSI: Portland (ME).

On August 4, 2008 Gagne sent the most difficult text message he has ever had to send. After composing the message for over an hour the Flyer hit the send button:

Dear Guys at CBS,
Over the past several months I hv made tremendous strides in my recovery frm concussion symptoms. It is with mixed feelings that I in4m you that Gagne & Lacey will have 2 wait as I have chosen 2 continue my NHL career & my quest 2 win a Stanley Cup with Philadelphia Flyers. I wish you luck with your search.

Two days later CBS announced an agreement had been reached with Norville "Shaggy" Rogers (aka Shaggy) from Scooby-Doo fame. The contract called for Shaggy to become Shaggny making it fit the shows title. Executives felt Shaggy's crime solving background and long arms would benefit the show.

Shaggy, a cartoon, has been drawn into every scene and has given Tyne Daly, the actress playing Beth Lacey, all she can handle.

"This is a low point for me," said Daly. "The writers have him saying Zoinks about 35 times per episode."

"Perhaps we could have lured Simon from hockey if we brought back Simon & Simon. Calling it either Simon & Simon & Simon or Three Simon's. Perhaps Two Simon's and One Simon if the show aired exclusively in French-speaking Canada." said Ribble.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Beer Week Enthusiast: 'I really thought someone was calling our beer weak.'

"I took it very personally," said Adam Zimmer, 36, of Bala Cynwyd, PA, referring to the idea of Philadelphia's beer being less than stellar compared to other American cities. "I kept thinking to myself we have Yards, Sly Fox, Victory, Philly, Dock Street, Nodding Head and Triumph to name a few and they're calling our beer weak?"

When Zimmer realized his spelling mistake he forced himself to attend Philly Beer Week events wearing a cardboard cowboy hat (pictured) made from a Coors Light case box.

"It was pretty rough," said Zimmer, "I got lots of stares. But not as many as my drunk buddy who kept yelling, 'Fillet Bear Wheat.'"

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Phils to honor Dawkins: safety to throw first pitch

In an effort to give tribute to one of the most beloved Philadelphia professional athletes of all time the Philadelphia Phillies have announced Brian Dawkins Night at Citizens Bank Park for Monday, April 20 at 7:05 pm.

The team will fly Dawkins first class from Denver to Philadelphia (or pay for a limo if he is already in the Delaware Valley) for the game. Dawkins plans to take batting practice with the team and participate in fielding drills. The team has offered the safety an opportunity to address the crowd; however, Dawkins remains undecided as he recognizes "this will be an emotional night."

"This is an organization that has supported me unconditionally during my entire 13-year career in Philadelphia," said Dawkins referring to the Phillies. "I'm almost positive that I'll address the crowd."

"We'll have Brian throw a ceremonial first pitch with a baseball and then with a football. Ruiz will wear an Eagles helmet during the ceremony," said Phillies ambassador Scott Palmer.

Every Phillies player will also wear a green number 20 on their right sleeve for the game. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins will all wear dark visors attached to their caps as a tribute.

Though Mike Schmidt's number 20 is already retired the team said it will retire the number again when the legendary third baseman makes an appearance to unveil a green number 20 on the outfield wall for Dawkins.

In addition to honoring the safety critics also claim the move aims to lure even more fans away from the large Eagles fan base, adding to the thousands who migrated during the Phillies World Series run in October.

"The Phils opening day game is sold out and so is the ring presentation game on Wednesday (April 8, 3:05 pm), but they're trying to bring more fans for the cold weather weekday games in April. Don't get me wrong it's a great thing they're doing," said Dan Kelly, analyst.

All fans 65 and under will receive a Brian Dawkins bobble head doll featuring the Eagle in a Phillies uniform tackling an unidentified New York Met player.

Brian Dawkins Night will also coincide with Hatfield Phillies Franks Dollar Dog Night where Joe Banner and Jeffrey Lurie will serve hot dogs for charity behind section 117 on the lower level firstbase line. Stop by for a visit.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Parking garage a treasure, will house paintings not cars

The new parking garage at the Philadelphia Museum of Art along Kelly Drive is finally open and ready for business. After almost two years of construction the final details are being added and work crews have begun cleaning up the site and removing the heavy equipment. The new garage, however, will be missing one detail—automobiles. So delighted with the results of the museum's latest project that board members couldn't help but alter the mission of the new garage--it will now shelter art.

"It turned out so nice that we can't possibly fill it with cars," said museum director Kaitlin Quinn. "It's going to add several hundred square feet to our exhibition space. It really is a blessing. It's quite exquisite."

The official name of the new exhibition space will be: The Pearlman-Tuttleman Gallery Space at Garage.

The added space comes at a perfect time with the Cezanne and Beyond exhibition in town until May 17, the most anticipated exhibition in some time. The museum plans to place half of the French artist's works in the garage for public viewing.

"It's so new and luxurious and with the weather about to turn we know it is a great place to show Paul's [Cezzane] work. Paul would be proud. Paul would just love it. He'd probably want to paint it," said garage designer Phillip Roselli.

The landscaped parking garage was suppose to help with the institution's parking shortage. It was constructed to provide over 400 spaces for museum visitors, but would also serve the Kelly Drive/Boat House Row and lower Fairmount Park recreational areas.

Gaits Contracting, Inc., a Buckingham, PA company and the builder of the garage, was disappointed when informed that cars would not find a temporary home here when visiting the museum.

"We build lots and lots of hideous parking garges from Maine to Florida, but this one was different," said Mike Hanks, president of Gaits. "We have never built anything like this before. This is our masterpiece. The whole crew was looking forward to seeing cars parked here."

Some donors are ecstatic over the new plans for the multi-million dollar facility while others feel mislead.

"I was so moved during the fundraising campaign when we were told that parking was so important for the future of the museum. That without parking the museum could slide into the Schuylkill. I feel a little betrayed," said an anonymous donor.

The Museum's floor plan design experts are estimating that the new space can support up to a thousand works of art. So cavernous is the garage that the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts is considering relocating here.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Dawkins: 'Altitude will force me to curtail my pregame ritual.'

Sadly, Brian Dawkins, the Eagles' superstar safety for the past 13 seasons, signed with the Denver Broncos last weekend as a free agent. Arguably the most beloved Eagle of all time, the team failed to match a very aggressive offer from the AFC West club.

Dawkins came to Philadelphia from Clemson University and quickly formed a connection with a football-crazy fanbase that loves their defensive units. His departure has caused quite a backlash from the Eagles faithful.

The safety is known for his pregame rituals that transform the quiet Jacksonville, FL, native into one of the NFL's most feared, hard-hitting defensive backs.

During home games, when the defense was announced to the crowd Dawkins, in character as his favorite superhero Wolverine, charged through the inflatable tunnel and onto the field to deafening noise. The player was drawn to the comic book and movie X-Men character who is known for having great strength, super senses and quick healing capcity when injured.

"The doctors in Denver have seen tapes from my pregame routine," said Dawkins. "They tell me that because of the altitude here I will not be able to continue it as is. They say I could, and probably would, pass out."

Even before Dawkins runs, or rather crawls, through the tunnel he has already spent hours psyching himself into a state of mind that prepares his body for the car accident-type collisions soon to come.

"Brian allowed us to put a microphone under his jersey a few years ago and we heard the player speaking his own language and roaring himself into a frenzy," said NFL Films president Steve Sabol.

Most professional athletes in Denver have reduced or cut entirely energy-draining pregame practices because of the city's mile high altitude.

"When I was traded from Montreal to Denver I tried to continue with my pregame routine," said former Denver Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy, referring to his 75 laps around the rink at full speed while carrying a duffel bag full of cinder blocks. "I passed out several times."

Dawkins was very much looking forward to igniting the Denver crowd, a great football city, with his Wolverine program.

"I may change from Wolverine to to Mighty Mouse," joked Dawkins. "Seriously, I will almost definitely have to walk through the tunnel onto the field. I've never done that before."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mall in the Sky Item: The Garden Yeti—scare your weeds away

Spring is right around the corner and before you know it your garden will be ready for aerating, weeding and planting. Whether you grow flowers, vegetables or carrots your garden needs protecting from mother nature’s natural predators—squirrels, cats, deer, rodents, muskrats, dogs, rabbits, muskmoles and muskraccoons.

You’ve tried the hollowed out, plastic owl for years only to see it become a perch for other birds and covered in grotesque droppings. Sure those droppings find a way to the soil and act as a great natural fertilizer, but the birds constant feeding on your newly planted seeds can devastate a home garden.

Introducing the Garden Yeti Statue: A 365/24/7 watchman for your patch of green paradise. The Garden Yeti was developed by Canadians, perfected by the Mongolians and manufactured by the Chinese.

Though the Yeti doesn’t move (some customers swear it does) it can be difficult to spot. At an unimposing 28 inches and 12 lbs, the Sasquatch can blend in with its surroundings or scare the pellets out of a rabbit or deer.

The Garden Yeti not only watches for unwanted wildlife but also useless plant life such as weeds.

“I did not read the fine print on the box and had no idea the Garden Big Foot prevented weed growth,” said Denise Roberts, 58, of Fox Chase, Pa. “My neighbors all commented on my garden’s lack of weeds last year and I attributed it to the 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, my weed killer of choice. All along it was the garden Yeti that was scaring the weeds away.”

Winter takes its toll on your yard. Would you like to replace the old, faded mulch around your trees or gardens? The Yeti will scare old mulch away and provide a safe, comfortable place for your new liquorice root mulch.

As stated previously the Yeti does not move, nor does it make noise or encompass any internal mechanical device. Despite this, government regulations require any yard ornament greater than 10 lbs to use batteries. The Yeti calls for 56 AA batteries, 25 of which are included with your purchase.

The Garden Yeti does need to be registered with your local police department and finger printed as stated in Bill 34RHL873 passed by the United States Congress in May of 2007.

So go ahead, be the talk of your neighborhood and invite this friendly statue into your yard today.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

S. Phila bar owner: Hornets fans no longer welcome

Since 1988 Mack McMikes Pub in South Philadelphia at the corner of Snyder Ave and 9th St has been considered a Hornets bar. Hornets fans, initially just a handful, gathered here when the team was officially added to the National Basketball Association in April of 1987. By 1991 the Philadelphia Area Hornets Fan Club had officially named McMikes as the team's home bar.

"Mostly transplants from Charlotte and the Outer Banks to Philly and the Delaware Valley," said bar owner Rudy Krygle when asked where exactly the Hornets fans were coming from. "Even though Charlotte has a new team (the Bobcats) a lot of our Hornets fans are from the Carolinas."

When the team moved to New Orleans in 2002 many of the area's loyal Hornets fans from Tobacco Road continued to meet at Mack McMikes along with a brand new contingent from the bayou.

Hurricane Katrina added to the crowd at McMikes in 2005 when several hundred of the storm's victims were relocated to Philadelphia and wanted a taste of home by watching their NBA team. The devastating category five hurricane eventually forced the team to relocate again, though temporarily, to Oklahoma City. The franchise's third city in three years pushed the bar's maximum capacity of 200 persons to the limit for most Hornets games as area Oklahoma transplants found their way to South Philly.

The somewhat rowdy crowd has been an enormous boost to Krygle's business. Though he takes some heat from other neighborhood bar owners who support the local teams—Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, Sixers and Kixx—Krygle is happy how things have turned for his bar since 1988. Or at least he was.

Last night the New Orleans Hornets were in town and their Delaware Valley supporters were hyped up. The Philadelphia/Tri-state Area Hornets Fan Club, lead by David Jimms formerly of Tulsa, Oklahoma, organized a pregame meal and rally at McMike's and were also hosting the Oklahoma City Hornets Fan Club.

"[The Hornets Fans] were way too energetic for a regular season game," said Krygle. "I've seen them energized for the playoffs, but this was off the hook. I had a bad feeling."

An Orlando Magic fan in town for Saturday's tilt against the Sixers and stranded by Sunday's Nor'easter decided to crash the party.

"Magic fans can be a lot like Eagles fans, very passionate and loyal and very in-your-face. It was like mixing oil and oil," said Jimms.

Suddenly, without any warning, an argument erupted which had been brewing slowly all evening. Several Hornets fans began pummeling the Magic fan with no-longer-available Oklahoma City Hornets foam fingers. Witnesses said the Magic fan kept referring to Hornets star Chris Paul as Paul Chris purposely. Police were called to the scene and made several arrests further preventing many fans from reaching the game and joining the reported 14,299 fans at the Wachovia Center.

"I've had it with Hornets fans," said Krygle. "They're like really bad Utah Jazz fans and Sacramento Kings if they formed an evil robotic robot."