Saturday, October 31, 2009

My day ...

... actually began in the middle of the night. I had the most restless night, tossing and turning and then getting up to either use the ladies' or walk around a bit. My right leg was threatening to severely cramp up every so often - one of those utterly devastating cramps that, if you let it really get hold of your leg, you cry out in agony and it takes many minutes to go away.

Then I was cold. I put another blanket on the bed and waited for my body to get all nice and toasty warm. Finally, I fell asleep and was very rudely awakened at 7am by my alarm going off. I thought, "What the devil is that horrible noise?" before realizing what it was, then turned over and snoozed until it went off again.

Fred Wang's memorial service was scheduled to be held at 9:30 this morning and I had told myself that I would go if the weather held. Well, it was just gorgeous outside. Quite a change from all the stormy weather we've had. To say that all of the ground in the Houston area is saturated would not be an exaggeration.

I am so glad I went. The wing of the funeral home where Fred's memorial service was held was filled to capacity and there were flowers everywhere! I recognized three or four others from the world of duplicate bridge, but the rest were complete strangers to me. Except for Amy, of course.

It was a Buddhist ceremony ... lots of chanting, incense and bowing. There was a formal viewing of the body, where one could bow or whatever - stopping to say a word or prayer, perhaps, as they passed by. I was one of the first ones through this long line and didn't realize the proper protocol until much much later, after I had already gone right by Amy without saying a word, bowing, or anything. I was too busy trying to find out where I was supposed to go next.

Then, on the other side, I walked behind his daughter and two others in the immediate family w/o realizing that I was to walk in front of them and offer whatever condolences I had to share. I thought, because I could see what no one else in front of me was doing, that I should not walk in front - that I should try to avoid obstructing the family's view of the proceedings. Oh, my! I sincerely hope that I did not offend anyone. That would have been the furthest thing from my mind.

Concluding the ceremony were statements by Fred's two children. His daughter read hers, which consisted of several typewritten pages. She talked about how Fred had shared his love of music with her and the many times the two of them had gone to Jones Hall to hear the symphony. They would sneak up front - he had bought cheap seats in the back - so she could see all the instruments and identify them. They would listen to the music being played and try to name the composer and composition w/o referring to the program. She had many heartwarming stories to share about her times with her father. It sounded like they were very close.

Fred's son, on the other hand, went up front to speak with no notes and began his statement with (something like), "My father and I did not get along very well." He had trouble completing even that little bit before he broke down into tears and was unable to continue for a few minutes. Gradually, however, he was able to compose himself and went on to deliver some very stirring remarks about the family's time together, including their celebration of Fred's 60th birthday just last month.

Well, that's how my day began. It was my very first time at a Buddhist memorial service. Should I ever have occasion to go again, I hope I'll remember how to conduct myself.

Afterwards, I went on a serious hunt for 12" by 36" furnace filters. Do you remember my decrying - some time back - the shock I felt when Randall's (from whom I had always bought my filters!) changed their filter brands and raised the price like 3X?

I had been paying those exorbitant prices and using those filters w/o realizing that anything was amiss until my ARS guy told me that those filters were way too heavy duty and causing my AC and furnace to work too hard. The air draw was just too much, he said. Ye gods! When I told him how much I had been paying for them, as well, he could hardly believe it.

I asked him where I could find ones like he was talking about, but he couldn't help me. Well, shuckeydurn anyway! And so, whenever I was at a store - HEB, Randall's, Kroger's, whatever, I looked. They all had furnace filters, but either not in my size or the 'way too heavy duty' kind that cost more than $20 apiece.

Anyway, today was going to be the day, I decided. There's a Home Depot a couple of miles from my house. I thought I'd try there first. Bingo! Not only in my size, but the price per each is a little less than $5!! I bought three. I'm supposed to change these out once a month, he told me. Tomorrow's November 1st. What better date than the first of every month, right?

So, I'm good to go until February 2010. Does that sound like a date way in the future or what?

Tonight I'm going to treat myself - have been doing a lot of that lately! - to The Kid. This is a 2000 film starring Bruce Willis as a highly successful but unhappy image consultant who changes his life completely after being visited by himself as an 8-year-old. It's a fable, of course, but a movie with a really good story. And, of course, there's a lesson to be learned.

I've seen this movie once before and am looking forward to watching it again. During commercials, I'll be flipping over to the World Series, game three. Somehow or another, game two completely escaped my attention. I enjoyed watching game one, where the Yankees got creamed. What happened in game two? Well, I'll find out tonight, won't I?

I like Bruce Willis! Do you? The movie I'll be watching this evening reminds me a bit of the role he played in another film, The Sixth Sense. This 1999 film stars Bruce as a child psychologist who is trying to help a young boy who says he sees dead people who don't realize they're dead. It's a dandy! If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. There's nothing macabre or creepy scary about it, I assure you, although there are some parts that are a little unnerving. No zombies or anything of that nature. Don't let my synopsis turn you off. Another really good story.

I finally sent Marilyn Methvin, my New Orleans bridge-playing friend, an e-mail telling her that I was playing some bridge online with Bridge Base. I heard back from her a short while ago. Her user name is "aztecroi", don't you just love it? Mine is "hmm7". Boring, huh?

ANYhoo, that's my day for Saturday, October 31st. Tonight, while all of the ghosties and goblins and mischief makers are out and about, I'll be here at home minding my own business and trying to stay out of trouble. What will you be doing?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Childhood memories

I was lying in bed last night, luxuriating (Have I ever told you that I love my bed? I love my bed!) in a sort of dream state and expecting at any moment to fall back again into a deep sleep, when my mind turned to thoughts of David Gehringer.

David Gehringer is the little boy who lived directly across the road from us many many years ago when we lived 'out in the country' on West Arndale Road in Stow, Ohio. Daddy was working for either Goodyear or Goodrich in Akron, I forget which. He was a research chemist and we had moved to Ohio from Minneapolis, Minnesota, where I was born.

I can't think of a single good reason why we were living so far away from daddy's work, or why we were raising chickens ... Rhode Island Reds, they were. We had all sorts of bugs and critters and mice and - oh, yes! A very large outdoor-type cat that loved first playing with, then finally dispatching and perhaps even eating some of whatever she had chosen to make her prey that hour. She kept the larger rodents well under control - a very good thing.

David and I were exactly the same age, still not in school, and spent many hours together running, climbing trees, gathering eggs (his family raised chickens, too) and playing doctor under this humongous tree in our yard. This last activity seemed to cause Mother no end of worry, and she frequently would come out to where we were (carrying lemonade or cookies, or anything that would serve as a reasonable excuse for her intruding into our professional activities) just to see what was 'going on'.

Well, what was going on was that we were simply and quite properly playing doctor. David was the doctor and I was his nurse. One of my dolls would be our patient. We would examine the doll, feel it all over to see where it hurt and stuff like that. As I recall, we even had a make-believe stethoscope. We could spend literally hours playing doctor. It's funny now, trying to imagine it. Can't, really.

Have you ever gathered eggs? Feeling under a hen's bottom for an egg is such a neat experience ... really soft and warm. The eggs have little feathers and stuff stuck to them. Not all clean and smooth like you see in the stores.

Whenever Mother wanted to cook up some chicken for supper, she'd go out into the yard and grab one, lay it on a big old stump and chop its head off with an axe. Afterwards, we got to watch the chicken running around in circles missing its head. That was the darndest thing! We had to stay well away, because there'd be blood and goo flying everywhere for a while.

The farm behind us had a large field which backed up to our property. In that large field, which was enclosed by one of these wooden cross hatch type fences - great for climbing on, resided a large bull. We used to like to climb on the fence and watch the bull graze. Every now and then he'd look over our way and give a little snort. We always kept our distance.

David was the baby in his family. (In mine, there was still just my sister and me. Johnny hadn't come along yet.) He had an older brother who owned a Model A - or Model T - Ford that had a rumble seat. Every once in a while, he would give David and me a ride in it. What a special treat that was!

Oh, the things that just come into your mind while you're lying there in bed. It's odd, I think, that I remember so clearly how to spell David's last name. I wonder if he's still around?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Remembering Fred Wang

The Houston duplicate bridge world lost another of its more faithful members this past week. Fred Wang, who could most often be seen playing with his wife, Amy, died on Friday, October 23rd.

I last saw Fred about a month ago, when I was getting my September 'Evelyn Berger fix'. And that reminds me. Evelyn and I haven't played yet this month, and time is a flittin'. Must give her a call.

Evelyn and I were sitting N-S in one section and Fred and his wife N-S in another. So we were sitting the same direction in different sections, except Fred was seated South and I was seated North. We could easily just glance up and meet each other's eyes without even turning our heads.

Thinking back on that day, I remember feeling from time to time that someone was staring at me. I'd look up and it would be Fred, quietly watching from just a few tables away. I'd meet and hold his eyes for a few seconds and then transfer my attention back to what was happening at my own table.

The Wangs have been around the world of duplicate quite a few years, but it had been a while since I'd last seen them. I hadn't really thought much about not seeing them. You know, people come and go and I don't play every single day. Our playing schedules could have been different. Besides that, there are several venues in the area from which to choose. I mean, there could have been any number of reasons why our paths hadn't crossed.

But I remember thinking, when I saw them again just recently, how thin Fred looked ... not gaunt, really, but very thin. I thought, "I wonder if he has been ill?" I said nothing aloud other than telling him how wonderful I thought it was to see him again. He smiled and said something polite in return.

An uncommonly good-looking man, Fred and his wife made a strikingly handsome couple and were formidable opponents. He will be dearly mised.

A memorial service will be held Saturday morning at Winford Funerals, 8514 Tybor Drive. This street is very near the intersection of 59 and Gessner. I am planning to attend if there aren't thunderstorms all about. We've had more than our share of those lately!

The family is asking that anyone who wishes to make a donation in Fred's memory add their contribution to the Fred Wang Memorial Scholarship through The Esperanza Education Fund, which awards college scholarships to immigrant students. Fred's daughter, Alice, has become quite active in that non-profit organization.

Contributions can be made online at, or mailed to The Esperanza Education Fund, P.O. Box 27507, Washington, DC 20038.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My monitor

How many of you remember about this time last year, shortly after Ike blew through, that my monitor died? I wrote about it September 21st in one of my "Bits & pieces" posts.

Well, actually I had begun writing about it a week or so earlier, but it was not until the 21st that my son-in-law had a chance (Things didn't get back to 'normal' in their household - or anybody's in the Houston area, as a matter of fact! - for quite some time.) to come over and officially pronounce it deceased. "We said a few choice words over it," I wrote, and then he went over to WalMart - there's one just around the corner from here - to get me another.

All was working well until mid-September this year, when - all of a sudden, while working at the computer, the screen on the monitor went completely white.

I took my big keyboard off the top of the closed computer where it was resting - love my big keyboard! - and opened it up to see what its screen looked like. Perfectly normal. I thought, "Hmmm!"

I checked all of the obvious connections (There are plugs and wires everywhere!), but could see nothing amiss. I even wiggled and jiggled a few. Nothing on the monitor but white. I moved some dust around and blew like crazy. Still no change.

I decided to leave the computer alone for awhile and come back to it later. I thought, "Maybe I'm on it too much." I mean, what did I know?

And so I did. Later, I came back in here, jiggled the mouse a bit and discovered that the monitor appeared to be working just fine. Whaat?! I went back to doing whatever it was that I had stopped doing when everything went white in the first place.

About five minutes later, however, the same thing happened. Nothing but white on the big screen, but everything A-OK on the little. Hmmm! I waited a day or so before calling my son-in-law to ask his opinion about what was going on. I wanted to see if the process would repeat itself over and over again. (I was particularly interested in seeing what would happen after being away from it for several hours, such as overnight.) It did.

I called my son-in-law. He asked me all of the obvious questions. Had I moved anything? Had I accidentally kicked and dislodged something with my feet? Had I checked all of the connections? Etc. and blah. His opinion - without actually making the trip over here to look at it - was that the monitor was dying. "But," he added, "until the monitor screen is white all of the time, I can't be sure."

Well, it wasn't white all of the time ... only after I'd been working at the computer for about five minutes. But then, just a couple of days later, it happened. The screen turned white and just stayed that way, 24/7. I e-mailed my son-in-law, who asked when I wanted him to come over. He had an extra monitor I could use, he said.

The truth? I didn't want him to come over. The house was an absolute mess. "Worse than ever!" I told him. Besides, I was getting used to working off of the little screen with my big old keyboard sitting on top of those little dinky keys. Only I had to be careful where I set the keyboard down. Have you ever had a 'stuck' key? Seriously interferes with your ability to sign in and type messages or blogs and makes all sorts of weird sounds.

I did have one question for him, tho. Did he think there could be a possible short somewhere, either in one of the cords or plugs? I mean, I had been sniffing like crazy and looking as hard as I could, but could detect nothing that smelled or looked 'hot'. (Bein' as how I'm a smoker, I've always been extra aware of how quickly and easily things can accidentally get set on fire. I've never in my life smoked in bed, for example. Can't even imagine such a thing!)

No, he didn't think so, he said, but I continued my sniffing and looking routine anyway. But then, just a couple of days later, a really strange thing happened. The monitor screen all of a sudden started working again - some of the time, at least as well as it did before its 'all white all the time' existence. What the devil?!

If I came in here and there was a white glow in the room, I knew it was deader than a doornail. However, if I came in here and there was no white glow, I knew that it would be working for however long it chose to before going white again. And the times varied ... usually only a very few minutes, just like it had when I first noticed that something was wrong.

I reported this to my son-in-law, who had not the vaguest idea what was happening. I got used to just ignoring the big screen and leaving the little computer open with the big keyboard on top for my use.

But then an even stranger thing happened. I had been sitting here, working away at whatever - maybe even playing Bridge Base Online - when I realized that the monitor screen had been working for perhaps an hour or so. Hmmm! I reported this to my son-in-law, who said, "Hmmm!"

It worked perfectly fine all that day and the next, but then went back into its 'fussy' mode of coming and going as it pleased - all white and nothing working one hour, screen working for about five minutes after startup the next. I became quite used to expecting absolutely anything.

However - there always seems to be a 'however', doesn't there? - it has decided to work 24/7 again for reasons known only to it. For the past three days or so, I have been enjoying the wide screen. Oh, the luxury of it all!

This monitor's problems are very different from what happened last year! When that monitor died, it was a complete and utter 'black death'. No on again/off again white screen, no startup teasers, nothing. I still think it was fried by all of the power surges that came along after Ike, but we'll never know for sure. I mean, no autopsy was conducted or anything.

I asked my son-in-law how long monitors are supposed to last, and he told me that the times varied. The other one that I'd had had been in the family for a few years, so he wasn't too surprised when it gave out, but I wasn't the least bit pleased that this one started acting up when it was barely a year old. I didn't like that one little bit!

One might even suspect that they build things nowadays with little timers set to go off a day or two after the warranty expires and start things going awry, mightn't one?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Simon Says ... #1

Do you remember, as a child, playing "Mother, may I?" I think this was probably more of a girl's game. Boys were busy climbing trees - altho I did a bunch of that myself (In fact, I used to have about an 8" long scar on the side of my upper right leg that has faded a bunch over these many years. I got it from falling out of a tree and landing on a board that had this rusty old nail in it. Had to get a tetanus shot, stitches and all those other awful things.) - and playing cowboys and Indians.

There's a word game I dearly love that reminds me a bit of "Mother, may I?" It's called Simon Says. "Mother", of course, was very much a popularity contest. Whomever was currently in favor with 'mother' always won the game. As I said, a girl's thing.

Anyway, this is the first in what will be a series of Simon Says puzzles for you to solve. (Btw, folks, I'm only going to publish those that I find particularly amusing.) However, there will be no 'mother' to tell you whether you may or may not do something. With Simon Says, you must do the steps in the order presented and follow the directions exactly in order to arrive at the correct solution, which will be an amusing word or phrase that is apropos to where you started.

Only rarely do I get it right the first time, so have a little patience. Ready? Here we go with the first one.

1. Print the words MAD MITES ON THE MOON.
2. Change the A to a U.
3. Remove the center letter.
4. Swap the second vowel (A, E, I, O, or U) with the fourth consonant. (When directions like these are given, always assume that they mean starting from the left.)
5. Move the S to the very end of the row.
6. Remove one O.
7. Change the first letter to the letter that immediately precedes it in the alphabet.
8. Repeat step 3.
9. Swap the second consonant with the eighth consonant.
10. Insert a K immediately before the last letter.
11. Remove all M's.
12. Change the eleventh letter to the letter that immediately precedes it in the alphabet.
13. Remove the word THE.
14. Change the E to an A.
15. Remove the O.
16. Move the A two places to the left.

Did you have some fun with this game? What did you end up with? If you had LUNATICKS, you were correct. (If not, you need to start all over again. Be more careful this time.)

If you were really intrigued by this kind of puzzle and would like to see a bunch more, I'm sorry to tell you that you're in for a bit of a disappointment. You will notice, depending upon which store you are in, all sorts of different puzzle books and magazines. Generally speaking, however, only one or two Simon Says appear in any one issue - and there don't appear to be any large volumes of this particular kind of puzzle available from the publishers, as there are for many others.

Jacky, there's one coming up for you in the near future, but - unfortunately - I have misplaced it at the present time. It's here, somewhere. lol

PS. Tammy, your girls might have fun with these!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The booboo ...

... has been kissed and all is well again. I'm talking about my garbage disposal situation, of course.

"The man" came from ARS this morning, as advertised. Boy, do they ever have efficient and nice people! I think - over the years, and I've had various ones here from time to time - I might have had only one that I had kind of mixed feelings about.

[In fact, before I continue on with this post, I just have to call ARS to commend them for their service.]


He couldn't have been here more than 40 minutes from start to finish. We jabbered almost the whole time, mostly about him fishing out in the Gulf yesterday and the pretty good-sized sunburn he had acquired because his friend had forgotten his hat and my serviceman loaned him his because he 'didn't need it'. lol

We visited some about Ike's effects over there where he lives (Anahuac .. look it up on a Texas map, it's east of Houston), about my dad's fishing "prowess" ... about all sorts of things, actually, but mainly we talked about garbage disposals.

When I had called ARS last Thursday to inquire about possible charges to replace a garbage disposal, the gal at the other end of the line was reluctant to give me any kind of quote because "Sometimes," she said, "the whole sink has to be replaced."

I thought, "Oh, Lord!" Well, whatever it took, I was going to have to do it.

Do you guys have any idea how long garbage disposals are supposed to last? I certainly didn't, altho I was fairly certain that I was probably setting some kind of world's record with mine!

My second husband and I bought this townhouse in - let's see, 1977? 8? - something like one of those and the house was only about two or three years old at the time. Certainly less than five.

My 30+ year old deader-than-the-proverbial-doornail garbage disposal was majestically carried out of the house by the ARS repair guy, and I'm hoping that plans are underway for a burial befitting such a royal one.

I asked - just as kind of a curious question - how long garbage disposals are supposed to last, theoretically. His answers?

You're not going to believe this, folks. At no time did any of his answers exceed ten years. Just incredible!

Even more incredible, however, is that he replaced my original 30+ yr. old garbage disposal with one of the same brand. I find that extremely funny!

What is not so funny is that this garbage disposal has a warranty of only two years. I repeat, two years! (For another $200, I could have gotten a warranty good for five years. "My man" did not recommend that I spend the extra money.)

You know what? If this all wasn't the God's honest truth, it would be hysterical!

I don't find it hysterical at all. I find it a terribly sad sign of the times, actually.

SO, how are all your appliances/gadgets working these days?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Predators ... ...

Everywhere, it seems, there are predators. You have to be so very careful. Even then you can be caught off guard, as I was about an hour ago.

I wrote a short piece for the Examiner about a week or so ago, in which I was talking about some of my experiences with Bridge Base Online. I hope you've had a chance to read the article.

Well, earlier today I was playing again and was invited to play in a tournament coming up in 42 minutes by "Pegasus66". Without thinking about who it was who had invited me, I accepted. Almost immediately, I regretted the acceptance, and sent him a "I do not wish to hear from you again today, this afternoon, tomorrow, or EVER!" type of message and then logged off.

"Pegasus66" is the user name for a Bridge Base Online sexual predator. I've been chronicling his suggestive comments to me for a few days now, in preparation for a written complaint to the BBO 'powers that be' - in hopes that he might be either officially reprimanded or permanently removed - but he caught me by surprise by an invitation out of the blue to play in a tournament. He's never done THAT before!

Just as soon as I finish publishing this, I'll log back in to BBO and see what my status is. The tournament - supposedly - began 20 minutes ago. More later!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Amazing .. absolutely amazing!

The things one discovers about one's self are just incredible, aren't they? Not necessarily in a good way, either!

Just a bit ago - and this went on for quite a while, actually - I was trying to get started on this new post and my machine didn't even make that option available to me. I thought, "What the devil?!?"

And so I thought, "I'll give this machine a reboot. Maybe something's just kind of 'stuck' in there." That happens, sometimes, and reboots often clear up whatever it was in the first place that was causing the obstruction. I did that a couple of times. Results the same.

Then, just as the phone rang for the first time at my son-in-law's place - I was going to ask him what I was doing or had done wrong this time, I happened to notice that my e-mail address at the top of my screen was a "gmail" one. I hardly ever use it, wouldn't you know, but had forgotten to sign out of it the last time I checked for messages.

That'll screw you up every time, folks, just in case you didn't know. Problem corrected and here I am again, typing away like mad.

Not really a whole lot new going on in my life. Did I tell you that my garbage disposal decided to up and die on me recently? Well, it did, and the problem has now gotten so bad that I can't even do dishes in the kitchen sink. Nasty stuff!

Anyhoo, ARS is scheduled to come over Monday after 10am to give me a free estimate on replacement. This'll set me back some big buck$, I'm afraid, but I can no longer tolerate being without it.

Speaking of $$, I mentored at the bridge studio again this past Wednesday and my partner and I had a 65% game. For those of you not familiar with duplicate, that's huge! We had some 'gifts' along the way - you have to have really nice things happen in order to have that big a game - but my partner played well, generally, and a couple of things came up that I was able to help her out with (I think!).

Then, after the game, I had a problem when she asked me to play with her more frequently than just once a month. Coward that I am, I guess you could say, I ignored her question.

It's not that I don't have the time. I DO have the time! It's not that I don't enjoy playing with her. I DO enjoy playing with her!

My problem might be that I've been paid for too many years to teach bridge to now just 'give away' my time. In addition to that - and my mentee is not the only one who has asked me to play as a teaching partner - I am expected to not only donate my time and years of experience, but I am expected to pay my own entry!

Folks, I simply won't/can't do it, and I am unable to figure out a nice way to say exactly what I mean. I even have dreams about this type of situation! To say that "I already gave at the office" or "I prefer to play - outside of these mentor/mentee games - with some of my regular partners" I find personally unsatisfactory and only somewhat truthful.

The truth be told, I would LOVE to have some regular mentees as partners - only if they are willing to pay for the entry and my time. I could sure use the money!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A volunteer extraordinaire

I haven't published it yet, but thought I'd introduce all of you who do not subscribe to my column in the Examiner to my duplicate bridge friend, Arlene, who is - in the truest sense of the phrase - a volunteer extraordinaire and the newest subscriber to "Goldenrod's thoughts". Welcome, Arlene!

Now, Arlene's the one on the right in this photo. Originally, the one I had intended to use was larger and included all of the words on the banner.

However, Arlene chose to use the cropped version because she didn't want her tummy showing. Rrvit! Shades of my mother, who - when lying in a hospital bed dying of cancer - had her beautician come in and color her roots because she didn't want any white showing. (Btw, Arlene doesn't have a 'tummy' per se, altho she thinks she does. That's what matters, right?)

Arlene was honored at a recent tournament here in Houston for her many many years of service to Unit 174, which is the local American Contract Bridge League affiliate. I won't go on and on here listing what all she did, but you'll just have to trust me on this one. Significant!

Now, since retiring as editor and writer of 174's monthly newsletter, Arlene has begun her own blog. Content is here, there and everywhere, and she goes into great depth. I know that she would love to have some of you as her readers.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Oh, what fun!

Kind of sad for the Rockies, who lost to the Dodgers yesterday (but still are going to the playoffs as the National League's wild card representative), but REALLY fun for those fans of the American League Central, where a one-game playoff will be held between the Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins - not tomorrow, football holds precedence (Rrvit!), but Tuesday.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

It's here

The final weekend of major league baseball's regular season for 2009.

I can almost hear some of you saying, "I thought it would never end!" Others, "Who cares about baseball, anyway? It's football season!" My son-in-law is among the group who 'only' pay attention to baseball when it comes time for the World Series - or so he says, but earlier this season he groused at me because he thought I didn't mention his Red Sox prominently enough in one of my posts.

Games 161 and 162 will be played later today and tomorrow throughout the country. Most of the races have already been decided, some even weeks ago, but there are two that have everyone in the sports world all excited again - almost like it was a brand new season.

Take a gander at the standings in the American League Central and the National League West. What do you see? In each division, there is only a one game difference between 1st and 2nd place with two games left to play. Is that incredible or what? That many games played, only a one game difference.

Let's take a look at the National League West first, because that's the simpler one to discuss. The Colorado Rockies, who have been playing good and steady ball for quite some time, have stayed within hailing distance of the Los Angeles Dodgers pretty much all year. This past week, however, has brought them within striking distance.

How did that happen? Well, for one team to gain that many games on another, two things have to happen. First, the 1st place team has to lose a few games and second, the 2nd place team has to win a few. Duh! Too simple, huh? The Dodgers have now lost 5 games in a row, whereas the Rockies have won 5 in a row.

The two are duking it out face to face out there in Los Angeles. You might have noticed that both of these teams have a "y" in front of their names. That's because both will be going to the playoffs - one as the divisional champion, and the other as the National League's wild card team.

This division has no chance of ending in a tie. There will be a champion crowned this weekend. Contrast that with the American League Central, where there is also only a one game separation between two teams - the Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins. However, they are not playing against each other. So, theoretically, by the time Sunday evening rolls around and the final out has been recorded in the last inning, the two teams could be tied with equal won and loss records.

A one-game playoff would have to be held, and here's where it gets really interesting. It seems that this playoff game would be held in the Twins' ballpark, and on Monday the Vikings have a football game scheduled in that venue, so any playoff between the Tigers and Twins would have to wait until Tuesday. Rrvit! I'm sure football aficionados just love that fact!!

On kind of a sad note, only one of these two teams will advance to the post season playoffs - the Red Sox clinched their wild card spot in the American League within the past couple of weeks - so you know that every Tigers and Twins player will be giving it 'their all' these next two games.

That's pretty much 'it' for me, I think, for baseball this year. We'll see what 2010 brings.