Stumped on what to give your lady? Well, Santa and his elves have a great gift up their sleeves

Shopping for that special gift for that special lady in your life is a daunting holiday task for most men.Suffice it to say, our women may adore us as gods, but they think our sense of fashion is downright atheistic.I learned years ago to stop buying clothes for my wife, who subsequently would dispatch them with warp speed. Whenever she would open one of my Christmas gifts, my presents seldom were met with a twinkling, welcoming eye. My fault, not hers. In retrospect, some of my gifts were scary enough to spook the stripes off a zebra.So now I’m reduced to giving her just gift certificates for Christmas. They’re not bad, of course. But there is nothing extraordinary romantic or sexy about a Wawa or Home Depot gift certificate.So would I resort to giving her a honest-to-goodness Christmas present that you can actually gift wrap? In a heartbeat, assuming I could get somebody else to gift wrap it. I’ve gotten a tad handy over the years, but my hand-eye coordination still isn’t sharp enough to handle a gift wrap that doesn’t look as if the present was chewed on by squirrels. The trick is finding a gift that works for her — and for me.Guess what? If I live long enough (not a given in a day and age when you need the steely calculation of a riverboat gambler just to merge onto the California freeway that has stolen the identity of our West Shore Bypass), there is hope on the horizon.Indeed, such a gift could truly be extraordinary — a true gift that keeps on giving.Yep, (pretend you hear a drum roll in the background as you read the next few words) a new nasal spray aphrodisiac for women that works in minutes may soon hit the market.Doctors said women who used the drug PT-141 in test studies felt a tingling or throbbing, followed by a strong desire to have sex immediately after spraying their noses.What a fabulous gift to share with your lady! Such a present undoubtedly would bridge the gender gap. I know I risk generalization when I say that sex owns a time-share in the foyer of most male minds. And I know I risk resorting to a stereotype when I say that sex usually is stuck in the attic of most female minds once they hit 30 and/or get married.Still, facts are facts.And this incredible gift has the bright promise of a sizzling sunrise to change all the dynamics of a relationship. Of course, a word to the wise: When the nasal spray aphrodisiac for women hits the shelves, make sure your lady only uses it in your company. Otherwise you may have to serve her divorce papers in lieu of gifts.

Every day is Groundhog Day at Antietam Lake

Call me a pessimist, but I’m starting to think that we’ll likely see peace on earth, mankind playing polo on the surface of Jupiter, frogs playing in the brass section of the New York Philharmonic, and the Phillies winning a World Series before we see a resolution to the Antietam Lake squabble.Actually, that’s being somewhat optimistic. Because maybe there never will be a resolution, just an infinite series of legal mumbo-jumbo playing on an endless loop of nonsense.At this point, City Council and the mayor could sell Antietam Lake to the devil for 30 pieces of silver and I wouldn’t care. All the legal glop has bled my interest pale.But in case you still harbor a glimmer of interest in this never-ending story, check out Don Spatz’s concise synopsis of the latest shenanigans in today’s Eagle.

The Eagles don't light up the sky, but repeat after me: A win is a win

Well, the Philadelphia Eagles’ first victory after four straight losses hardly was sanguine.Fortunately for the Birds, they played the stumbling, bumbling, fumbling, humbling, mumbling Green Bay Packers late this afternoon at the Linc.Suffice it to say that Eagles fans were in desperate need of electroshock therapy during the dust of the conflict. I would hazard a guess that some Eagles enthusiasts either sustained bruised heart tissue and/or suffered orbital fractures to both eyes watching such a brutal bout of indigestion.But it ended well for the Philly bunch as they rode four David Akers field goals and five Packer turnovers to a 19-14 victory that pulled them within a game of .500 at 5-6. Granted, there were highlights.Akers, for one, no longer seems hamstrung by his hamstring.Brian Westbrook, who earlier this season saw the football so infrequently that introductions were in order at times, rushed for 117 yards on 21 carries.Those rushing numbers would have been staggering and shocking in the glory days of Donovan McNabb to Terrell Owens. However, McNabb and Owens aren’t playing these days for the Birds. But you already knew that.Consequently, Andy Reid has gone more conservative than George W.’s henchmen. Reid had passed nearly 73 percent of the time in the first nine games. But today the Eagles ran 34 times and passed 28 times.And they did it with two linemen making their first start in left tackle Todd Herremans (in place of Tra Thomas, back) and left guard Adrien Clarke (in place of Artis Hicks, knee).Reid used to be almost ridiculous and reckless with his pass-drunk philosolphy. Now he treats forward passes more delicately than he does the family china.Actually, I applaud Reid for playing it so close to the vest that his nipples must have been rubbed raw. Simply said, the Eagles’ passing attack no longer is a tide strong enough to suck up oodles of yards.Mike McMahon, filling in for McNabb, is armed but not dangerous. He finished a pedestrian 12 of 28 for 91 yards. He was a mere 4 of 12 for 27 yards in the first half. If McMahon hadn’t run four times in the game for 29 yards, the Eagles essentially would have been playing with just 10 men on offense. At least McMahon didn’t throw a pick or lose a fumble. Still, he’s more of a caretaker than he is a quarterback right now.Another Eagles highlight was the defense, which had a much less agitated appearance than had been the case during the past futile month. Of course, some of the stellar moments by Eagles defenders came courtesy of Packers QB Brett Favre, who seems to be playing in some sort of limbo that his own mind has imposed on him. Favre misfired on nine of his first 10 passes, was an abysmal 6 of 18 for 78 yards at halftime, and finished 15 of 33 for 171 yards, one TD and two interceptions. His second pick wound in the Eagles end zone — nestled in the hands of cornerback Rod Hood — with 49 seconds left in the game as Green Bay plunged to 2-9.Safety Michael Lewis also picked off Favre in the end zone, in the second period.In the twilight of his grand career, Favre definitely is high risk, high reward. His game is pockmarked with evocative highs and cavernous lows. Stats can be terribly misleading, but his 19 TDs and his 19 picks say it all.Speaking of twilight, the Eagles are clinging to the last streaks of light in their season. A losing season is a verdict they desperately want to avoid. But with their injury-depleted lineup, they’re going to have to plumb some deep wells of inner resources if they want to come together before darkness drops its final curtain on them.

Splitsville for Jessica & Nick; nirvana for me

For months I have had little sleep. The Reading Parking Authority, in fact, requested the use of the large bags under my eyes for additional lots.Why haven’t I been able to enjoy the sweet bliss of slumber?Angst over Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey.For agonizing months, I’ve been tormented by their marital problems.Months and months of ugly rumors, knee-jerk denials and magazine stands polluted with cover stories about the star-crossed couple have given me psychic whiplash.Thank God, the long national nightmare is over.Jessica and Nick have officially called it quits.May they go their separate ways in peace.As for me, I’m going back to bed.Sleep deprivation is a real kick in the teeth, you know.

With apologies to all the freshly deceased turkeys, Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Many of us, myself included, don’t seem to live in the present anymore. That’s because we’re never fully engaged in a given moment because we’re always in a hurry to move on to something else.Consequently, we skim along the surface of life. We exist in the topsoil of life and never seem to have the time to get to the root of the matter.I guess we’re all prisoners of our hyperkinetic existence.Except for holidays.Happy Thanksgiving everybody!Do yourself a favor today. Push the pause button on your life, at least for a few hours. You can hit the fast-forward button again tomorrow.In the meantime, expend your voracious appetite on turkey and all the trimmings. Watch some football. Try to enjoy your family. Experience some serious jubilation. Savor some serious reflection on how fortunate we all are to be Americans.And a special thanks to all the faithful browsers of my blog. If our crack Internet Services team could figure out a way, I’d love to download an extra slice of pumpkin pie to all of you. Maybe next year.

A shattering KO for T.O.

Well, I guess Terrell Owens’ ego — at least for now — no longer is as swollen as a blowfish.Arbitrator Richard Bloch turned T.O.’s champagne smile upside today when he sided with those madcap comedians in the Eagles organization.Bloch upheld the Eagles’ four-game suspension of their mutinous wideout and their right to deactivate him thereafter.Bloch’s ruling effectively ends Owens’ season. That hissing and howling you now hear undoubtedly belongs to Owens, who will have even more free time to be preoccupied with his celebrity. Bloch wrote that the Eagles clearly proved that the suspension was justified, and were within their right to pay their All-Pro receiver but not allow him to return “due to the nature of his conduct and its destructive and continuing threat to the team.””We couldn’t have written it any better ourselves,” an Eagles official told ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio.After the ruling, the Eagles released a one-paragraph statement thanking Bloch for considering the matter and saying Philadelphia is looking forward to “moving on with our preparations for Sunday’s game vs. Green Bay and the rest of the 2005 season and will have no further comment on this issue.”There had been reports this morning that Bloch was going to soften T.O.’s punishment. Instead, his ruling dramatically vindicated the Eagles — about the only victory they’ve posted latelyT.O.’s posse and the players union had argued that the suspension was excessive and the deactivation for the season was too severe. Owens sought reinstatement to the Eagles or a release so he could sign with another team.The Eagles maintained the suspension was fair and are willing to pay Owens about $1 million to stay home the final five games.Bloch’s ruling is the latest development in the almost cartoonish relationship between Owens and the Birds, who undoubtedly will part ways with him in the offseason to avoid paying him a March roster bonus of $5 million. For those of us who have been on the T.O. watch all summer and autumn, the closure of this media circus seems rather surreal. There were times this year when it seemed Owens would sit like a clot on the psyche of the Eagles organization for eternity, like a few grains of cereal perpetually stuck to the side of the bowl.Now the selectively loquacious rebel who always is searching for a way out of the lockstep NFL world now finds himself on the outside looking in.As for the Eagles, their season already a lost cause, they no longer have to worry about the T.O. nonsense welling up inside them like a terrible virus.In a twist of irony, Terrell Owens — who elevates self-consciousness to an art form — now finds himself to be a solitary man, a lonely receiver without a team.

We can't blink away the danger in Reading

Every year the scary numbers pop off the page of my Reading Eagle, triggering flecks of fire-engine red in my irises.Reading again is the most dangerous city in Pennsylvania, the fifth most-dangerous in the nation among cities of similar size, and the 29th most-dangerous city in the entire country.Just when we take a hopeful pause and point to all the marvelous initiatives trying to point Reading in a new direction, we again are brutally reminded that we live and work in a crackling cage of friction where the point on its moral compass is broken.Too often our town lapses into flash violence, a place where a Niagara of lawlessness can disconnect synapses and life itself. Such tragic rankings are unblinking and remorseless. They all add up to a sorry tale of impotence and failure by everybody around here.Granted, we could have better police resources. But more importantly, we need fewer bad guys and more good guys to finger the bad guys for the cops.For too many years we have had too many eyes turning glittery with primitive darkness in our city. Those eyes have destruction in them, including their own.And we also have too many eyes that spill primal fear from their pupils, like deer caught in the blinding headlights of a violent vortex. It all comes down to the eyes. The eyes of the cowed who wish they had eyes in the back of their head. And the eyes of the predators whose retinas never are detached from bloodlust and money lust.

McNabb and Sheppard: Two Birds grounded for the season

We all knew this was coming.It was just made official today.Eagles coach Andy Reid didn’t exactly send eyebrows cartwheeling when he announced that quarterback Donovan McNabb finally will have surgery on his sports hernia injury within the week, thus ending his season.Oh, well. The Eagles’ season is over as well. Granted, they have six games to play. But they essentially are dead men walking in helmets. Consider this to be a season hijacked from a nightmare.”Donovan’s had two opinions and both opinions said that he needed the surgery,” said Reid, whose rotund face is not likely to break into sunlight anytime soon. And who could blame him? He’s basically been looking at a bad moon rising all season. Mike McMahon will be making his second start in McNabb’s absence this Sunday against the Packers. This time, Reid hopes McMahon’s start begins sometime before halftime. Which would be a major improvement from yesterday when he took a sabbatical in the first half. The Eagles have been snacking on success for years. Now they’ve been force-fed a diet of bad breaks hard to swallow. They’re in dire need of a chaser to wash away the bad taste in their mouths.For instance, cornerback Lito Sheppard didn’t break his ankle yesterday. But he might as well have. His severe high ankle sprain will require surgery. He, too, is out for the year. “There is quite a separation between the ligaments almost to the point that there’s a dislocation of the ankle,” said Reid.Ouch. But this is what happens to teams gone bad. They get crystal chinned and snake bitten. A calamitous chain of cruel consequences keeps growing more and more swollen, as if fueled by steroids.Anyway, no need to regurgitate the Eagles’ ignominious decline this year. Their Super Bowl hopes have gone up in smoke. And now they’re soaked in the smoke of burnt dreams that have been fried in the NFL skillet.I could be sadistic and saracastic by suggesting the Eagles, as befitting their status as condemned men, be granted a last meal request. But I will refrain from further suggesting they eat crow at their last supper.

Eagles’ losses now doomed to the rote of assembly work

Needless to say, the Philadelphia Eagles now find themselves squatting in a squalid patch.Here they sit poached in shadows of gloom. And what lies ahead seems to be nothing but poisonous gales.As the Birds fell 27-17 to the New York Giants today, the visitors to the Meadowlands bore not a trace of recognition to Philadelphia teams that have stalked the NFC with dignity.They now have lost four straight to plummet to 4-6, including an abysmal 0-4 in the NFC East. For this club, time has stopped. They are out of time. Even if they could run the table – and considering their general sense of helplessness on offense, defense and special teams, that would seem extremely unlikely – they still probably would be outcasts from the playoffs.If this lost season gets any uglier, we may have to hide the women and children in attics and basements.Depleted and depressed, the Eagles have been ground down into a wasteland.With no Donovan McNabb, no T.O. and no hope, bloggers such as yours truly may have to resort to crafting metaphors by the light of a whiskey bottle.Since Andy Reid is a Mormon, it’s unlikely that the Birds will drive him to drink. But don’t be surprised to see Big Red overdosing on Haagen-Dazs on the sideline.Granted, the Eagles did have some feisty moments today before disappearing into the murk of another embarrassing defeat. But when it came down to crunch time, the Giants stomped on the Birds as if they were merely insects of indeterminate genus. The Eagles really didn’t play offense in the first half as fill-in quarterback Mike McMahon needed a hammer and a chisel to know the rust off his limbs. New York jumped to a 10-0 halftime lead and it could have been worse if the Birds hadn’t flexed some defensive muscle.McMahon finally tore free from the adhesions of inactivity after halftime. But by then the Eagles’ D had lost its muscle tone and turned more flaccid than Santa Claus’ belly. In the end, three Eli Manning touchdown passes crippled Philadelphia. The killer was a 61-yard strike to Plaxico Burress to open a 27-17 lead in the fourth quarter. On their last two possessions, the Eagles turned the ball over on downs and then watched helplessly as David Akers missed a 38-yard field goal attempt with 23 seconds left. McMahon finished 18 of 39 passing for 298 yards, one touchdown (a 22-yarder to Reggie Brown) and an interception. He threw for 217 yards in the second half. His first half was so atrocious that Eagles fans were praying that McNabb could dip his sports hernia into the healing waters of Lourdes. McMahon was just 5 of 15 for 81 yards. McMahon did mimic some of McNabb’s pre-injury fancy footwork by finishing with nine carries for 31 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown. Brian Westbrook hot-footed it for 66 yards on 16 carries and caught four passes for 57 yards. Tight end L.J. Smith, a teammate of McMahon’s for one year at Rutgers, had seven receptions for 84 yards.Since we’re into numbers, the Giants had the Eagles’ number because Tiki Barber ran for 112 yards on 21 carries and Burress caught six passes for 113 yards. However, the numbers really were inconsequential. What matters is that the Eagles, who lost cornerback Lito Sheppard to an ankle injury, are damaged goods. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men won’t be able to put them back together again.

Paterno and Penn State once again marching in lockstep with greatness

You could say that Penn State faced just a tad of pressure this afternoon. The Nittany Lions had to beat Michigan State or otherwise blow their chance at an automatic BCS bowl.When you’re under the gun like that, your red and white corpuscles have this tendency to turn pink like so much Pepto Bismol. So it’s not surprising that the Lions were a little queasy at times in disposing of Michigan State 31-22 at East Lansing.Penn State wasn’t looking for style points. PSU was merely looking for a win to claim a coveted BCS bowl spot and a share of the Big Ten title with Ohio State.By the way, it’s the first Bowl Championship Series bid for the venerable Joe Paterno. The BCS series hadn’t even been invented yet the last time the Lions were an elite team.And with his dim eyes lit up with happiness after today’s hard-earned victory, Paterno has lived long enough to claim his second Big Ten championship and the first in 11 years.One thing about JoePa. His face seldom wears a mask of ironic detachment. That face has been an angry, cranky one in recent years. This campaign, however, the smile has returned to full wattage on his Italian mug.Granted, there were a few frowns appearing on Paterno’s puss today. Nervous fingers of anxiety seemed to be poking his team in the eye. But never mind that the Lions at times today looked stuck in a net like a tuna caught at sea against a Michigan State team that seems to navigate rocky waters with the death wish of a ghost ship.What people will remember about today is that Penn State has risen from the tenements of college football and once again has festooned itself with glory at 7-1 in the Big Ten and 10-1 overall.Of course, it’s somewhat ironic that Wilson grad Chad Henne, now the sophomore Michigan QB after spurning Penn State in a spirited recruiting war, was the guy doubly responsible for depriving Penn State of an unbeaten regular season and the outright Big Ten title.Henne’s last-second TD pass dropped Penn State from perfection in an agonizing manner. And today Henne’s Wolverines failed to beat Ohio State, which is why the Buckeyes got a share of the title.Still, since Penn State beat Ohio State 17-10 on October 8th, the Lions get the automatic Bowl Championship Series bid. The Buckeyes still have a strong possibility of getting an at-large BCS bid. Happy Valley zealots still must be pinching themselves over Penn State’s dramatic reversal of fortune. In recent years, Penn State teams have limped away from sorry seasons as if they were straggling home from the Russian front.This year the Lions concluded the regular season with all the imperial regal pomp of Caesar shutting out Gaul in the first very BCS bowl.You won’t find enough figurative language to evoke the enormity of the accomplishment for this Penn State team in any dictionary or thesaurus.It’s a shame the game ended in darkness, for the Lions’ victory should have been backlit by a 24-karat sun.Three Penn State guys who made a huge difference today were Michael Robinson, Alan Zemaitis and Donnie Robinson.Robinson’s quarterbacking numbers were pedestrian. But rather decisive. He rushed 14 times for 85 yards, including a crucial 33-yard TD jaunt. And he completed 10 of 20 passes for 109 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown pass to Deon Butler. Zemaitis had three interceptions while Johnson blocked a punt and had an interception in the end zone, both in the second period. Matt Hahn recovered the punt blocked by Johnson, and did so in the end zone for a touchdown. After Robinson’s 33-yard TD ramble made it 17-0, Johnson picked off Drew Stanton in the end zone with four seconds left in the half. But the guy who really was picking Stanton’s pocket was Zemaitis, who probably would make a spectacular jewel thief if his moral compass ever pops a spring. While the rest of the universe may seem to be out of alignment, the world has returned to normalcy in Happy Valley. Once again JoePa is fusing talent, drive and heart into a single winning organism.