“Max”- imum Humor

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was part of the entertainment business.  A struggling wannabe actor, I made bills every month – well, most months – by working in the technology side of the industry.  I had a number of freelance jobs over the years with ABC Television, MTV, and others.  But after many weeks of begging, my 40-hour-a-week day job started with the three-year-old E! Entertainment Television cable network in November, 1993.

When I arrived at the E! Channel I ran into this guy:

Max proudly displaying the wedding gift he received from me. $200 worth of gift certificates to In ‘N Out Burger. You can see that he liked it.

… Ron “Max” Baer.   Max and I worked east coast prime time, the 3-11 shift, for the better part of seven years, not counting military leaves of absence.  Some quick calculations show that together, we were forced to watch close to 15,000 hours high-quality E! programming.  Having worked there both before and after I did, he’s watched probably five or six times as much high-quality E! programming.

Well, E! programming, anyway.  Some was quality and the other 14,999 hours… Well, you can figure out what I mean without me having to openly disparage my former employer.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a fun place to work — particularly at first.  While many of the tasks were mundane and mind-numbingly boring, people like Max made it a fun place to spend eight hours every day.

Max and Dr. Darren Jones (left) on the front of Tim Sweeney’s Christmas Card from one year back then.

Max was unflappable in a crisis and I learned a lot from him and his extensive prior experience with E!, its predecessor Movietime, and other master control jobs he’d held over the years.  I recall one weekend we were working together, Max was seated at the switcher, legs crossed, hands folded casually in his lap conversing with me when the whole plant went dark.  Boom!  No power.  No TV.  No lights.  Nada.  A few weeks prior, E!’s crack (addicted)* engineering staff had just installed a brand-new, uninterruptable power supply for the critical equipment in master control.  It failed on first use and there we sat in the dark.

A mere two or three seconds passed – if it was even that long — and Max make his “I don’t effin’ believe this” face.  Without uttering a word, he calmly reached over, pulled out a notebook containing the phone number of people to call when emergencies happen, and made the call.  He didn’t even uncross his legs.  That’s how unflappable he was.

When hired at E! , I and everyone else was issued this badge…

… which got me in the building and into the master control area where Max and I worked.  Most often, I’d plop down my stuff and my coat, often leaving the badge attached to the coat or on top of the pile o’ stuff that I brought in for the day.  Then I would go about retrieving from the media library the videotapes containing the next day’s commercials and loading them into the ACR-225 commercial playback robot:

Ampex Corporation’s ACR-225. Mercifully, these digital videotape systems were replaced with hard-drive-based storage and playback some years later.

Unfortunately, I often left my badge vulnerable to parody and alteration as Max, bless his heart, had a predilection for sketching funny things on Post-It notes and sticking them to my badge like this:

“Dub Boy” refers to Craig Burritt, who worked in duplications making, yes, dubs for everyone.

My badge was always fair game for him because of my own absent mindedness.  So he had ample opportunity to modify my badge with funny Post-It’s over the years and I was always delighted to discover them.

Remember Day Runners? How about Thomas Guides?

The other day, I was sorting through some stuff in the junk room and rediscovered the little remnants of the Post-It Notes that Max had attached to my badge over the years.  They were all stuck to two Day Runner pages that I had saved precisely to preserve these nostalgic little gems.  I was so delighted to have found them and I remembered all the genuinely good times that Max and I had while we were doing fair-to-middling master control work.

Now, I’m delighted to post them here.  I know they won’t be funny to the vast majority of you, but Max, I hope these bring back some memories of the olden days when 1” videotape ruled and TV’s were closer to being square.

One other thing you should know.

In the early days of my E! career, I told to my new E! colleagues the story about how I got nicknamed Liz.  It was short for “Lizard Lips.” When I was teaching high school band at the SHAPE American High School in Belgium, the music students bestowed upon me that nickname.  It stuck and I embraced it.  It also got shortened to “Liz.”  So many of my colleagues knew me more as Liz than they did as Dan. Hence these modifications:

Sunday night at E! network control was “X-Files” night. We’d swing the steerable satellite dish around to pick up the east coast Fox network feed so we could watch it three hours earlier and fast-forward through the commercial breaks.

Max had a large appetite and an adventurous palate when it came to food.  Me?  I’m a burgers and fries kinda guy.  Max recognized my dislike for sushi with this:


I have no clue what this means in ANY context.

I presume that this one… Well, shoot, I have no clue on this one either.

Last one. Who didn’t love “The Simpsons” in the 90’s?  And who doesn’t love donuts?

That’s pretty much it.  Thanks, Max, for making years of boredom bearable.  And remember, you can’t spell “loser” without E!.

Max, his lovely bride, Juile “Sparky” Baer, and their wedding party. I was honored to officiate. Sparky was also a colleague at E! master control.

I found this photo of Max after I already posted this. I’d have used this one at the top if I had known where it was hiding.

* I’m definitely kidding about the E! Engineering Staff of the day. They were terrific folks and did back handsprings to keep things on the air.


The Disillusionment of a Pseudo-Intellectual

I’m one of those “students” who crammed four years of college education into five. I have a bachelor’s degree in Speech.  That’s it.  And I literally flunked out of two other departments (Math and Physics) before Dr. Scheid took pity on me and graciously permitted me to transfer into his Speech department when I probably didn’t deserve it.

It’s not as though I don’t value education.  I do.  It’s just that for me, the process is too painful and lacks any tangible reward beyond the piece of paper that you get to hang on your wall after you’ve suffered the run through the gauntlet of academic rigor.  It just ain’t worth the trouble.  At least, not to me.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t admire smart people with advanced degrees and who make their ways through the world using the brains and education to advance and support themselves and their loved ones.  On the contrary, I wish I had the discipline to make it through the rigors of academia as so very many of my colleagues in and out of uniform have done.  I particularly admire and respect all the Ph.D.’s and other researchers with whom I work here at the Research Center.  But for better or for worse, I lack their academic discipline and ambition.

Having said all that, I’m not stupid.  I may have been born at night, but tweren’t last night.  I pay attention. I read a little now and again.  I’m not a low-information voter nor do I center my world in the ongoing real-life drama that government has become.  I can sift through the BS, the fake news, the outright lies and only occasionally be fooled by something that rings unusually true.  I check sources often, though not always.

Yet here on this blog from time to time, I spout off opinion as if I know what the hell I’m talking about.

Clearly I do not.

I have never been as completely wrong about anything as I have been in reading the tea leaves of this past election cycle and the subsequent fallout.  I wrongly presumed that reason would prevail.  I wrongly presumed that the Nation would come to its collective senses and make this a more routine election cycle rather than the wholly embarrassing spectacle that it’s become.

I was not just a little bit wrong. I was horrifically wrong.

I watch the headlines flash across my Facebook page and the words only become more extreme and mean spirited by the minute.  No longer is it easy to find genuinely reasoned dialogue among disagreeing parties.  No longer is it easy to find a post regarding politics that avoids personal attacks and profanity.  (Don’t get me wrong. I swear like a sailor — and that probably does a disservice to sailors everywhere.  And I love Nicki’s Blog which is hilariously profane and fun.  I wish I could swear like her, but she’s had some advanced training or some such shit.)

Bottom line here, about ten poorly-constructed paragraphs too late:  I’m done with it all.   I’m done talking about it, I’m done posting about it, and I’m pretty much done reading it.  One day I share a meme that makes me laugh and the next thing I know, people whose opinions I often respect but with whom I occasionally disagree immediately trade profane insults.  No disagreement, no ramping up the passion, no escalation of the language.  Right to the profane personal attacks.

What the fuck is wrong with people?  Have you never heard of civil discourse?  Seriously.  Your opinion is not the only one out there and, news flash, there are people who don’t think like you do.  That doesn’t immediately make them WRONG.  Maybe they are and maybe they’re not.  Without some kind of discourse based on facts and ideas, how can you be sure that your opinion is 100% correct?  How do you know for certain that you’ve drawn the only correct conclusion?  And if you are sure that your opinion is 100% correct, chances are you’re wrong.  (In my experience, the chance of me being wrong is directly proportional to the degree to which I think I’m right.)

Disagreements do not mean that the person with the opposing opinion has no worth.  If you behave like that, it diminishes your opinion.

So anyway, I’m done with memes, reposting what I believe to be enlightening articles and engaging in fruitless arguments potentially pointing the way to a differing point of view.  It’s too much and it’s become too mean spirited.  I refuse to arbitrate when people on my page go down that road.  I guess I’m neither smart enough nor savvy enough to make a reasoned argument that will provide a different perspective.  You wanna live in your bubble, that’s fine.  I’m probably not going to visit.

I’ll leave the political “discourse” to the real intellectuals.

Why I’ve Not Written Much Lately

I certainly have nothing cogent to add to the already ridiculous political discussion on Facebook. No sense in joining that shit show. So in addition to recusing myself from the cacophony that is Facebook politics, here’s my list of ten other reasons I’ve not written much lately.

1. Winter’s here and it’s hard to type when wearing mittens.

2. My give-a-shit meter is pegged.

3. Lamenting the dreaded holiday season in writing makes me seem like a non-McDuck Scrooge.

4. Because I’m cold all the time, my brain functions more slowly.

(Now this requires a brief explanation. As a rough approximation, for many chemical reactions happening at around room temperature, the rate of reaction doubles for every 10°C rise in temperature. Therefore, it stands to reason that there would be a commensurate reduction in rate for similar drops in temperature. It is winter. I am cold. My brain is also cold. Therefore, my brain chemistry is slowed and there exists a reduction in brain function sufficient to inhibit writing. QED.)

5. See reason #2.

6. I’ve been unusually busy at work. (This one’s actually true. I’ve been unexpectedly busy this year during the weeks when it’s usually slow. I suspect that’s just probably procrastination and piss-poor prior planning on my part.)

7. Supporting Emmett during his recovery from a recent muscular injury and upset tummy took up much of my attention. (He’s fine now, thanks for asking.)

8. I was busy binge watching a season and a half of “Daredevil,” the entire season of “Luke Cage,” both on Netflix, and the “Star Trek: TOS” marathon on BBC America. Priorities, people. Priorities.

9. Wild horses kept me away.

10. See reason #2.

Things I’m Keeping in Mind Today

1. In spite of the political flame throwing, Facebook is still fun.

2. Regardless of who wins, we’ll all be OK.

3. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” notwithstanding, the Three Laws of Thermodynamics still apply.

4. Exercise still sucks.

5. News hasn’t been news for years.

benedict-cumberbatch-filming-doctor-strange-set-pictures6. Benedict Cumberbatch is a tremendous actor.

7. So is Tilda Swinton.

8. I’m the worst political pundit ever. I’m not making any political predictions because I’ve been surprised at every turn.


9. Life cereal is a gift from whatever gods there may be.

10. Emmett, the family Dachshund, is still a jackass.


Yes, he’s wearing a bow tie.

Some Quick Thoughts

You’d never think it from my Facebook feed or from the previous sixty years of my life, but I started exercising about six weeks ago. Witnessing recent illnesses in the family as well as my own shortcomings in controlling diabetes made it a priority.

Two things happened that are worthy of note.

  1. A little encouragement goes a long way.

I was out for a run (no, no one was chasing me) a couple weeks ago in really hot, humid weather. I probably shouldn’t have been out vigorously exercising on such a scorcher particularly since I was just starting my exercise program after having been sedentary for… well, a really, really long time.  Like years.  Anyway, I was running along Hoadly Road and a bicyclist passed me going the other way. “Good job! Keep it up!” he shouted to me as he whizzed past.

Just that little bit of anonymous encouragement made me lengthen my stride, improve my posture and run a tad faster. I was surprised at the immediate effect that it had on my run and my dedication to keep it up. That bicyclist will never know the impact that his five little words had on me.

My point? Never underestimate the power of kind words of encouragement. You never know whose life you might be improving. (Especially kids.)



Sidebar: I bought myself a Fitbit. It’s a surprisingly good motivational tool.


  1. Vigorous exercise improves depression better than any pill I’ve taken.

I’ve taken ‘em all over the years. Exercise works wonders. I hate it, I truly hate exercise, but you know what? It freakin’ works.


My one comment about the Clinton email decision by FBI Director James Comey.

I think I’ll notify my government bosses at the U.S. Department of Transportation that I’ve set up my own email server and will no longer use government email for my daily business interactions.

I wonder how long I’ll still have a job?



My one comment about the presidential election.

Abstention is now an option.


Gun control.

Mine are. Controlled. Yours should be too.



Guest Blog – Evil Twin of the Sub Divine -or- Chernobyl on a Bun

by Beth Geyer

SubDivineFromHellAllow me to introduce you to this little asshole. I’d apologize in advance for the language but it’s already too late for that and I refuse to use the backspace.

My family’s pizza shop had this magical oven-toasted sub aptly named the Sub Divine. It was a glorious gold standard for hot subs everywhere. I miss it and every now and then I crave it so much that I replicate it at home. Usually with rousing success. I have, after all, 14 yrs experience making them.

I dropped the ball today, though. As I type this, my nose is still running and I’m positive I’m working through a mild stroke. Bear with me.

I looooooove spicy food. Love it. Always have. But I knew that if I substituted the shredded cheddar for habenero cheese, I better tread lightly. I thought I sliced it up thin enough for both pieces of bread (I had no sub buns) that I could avoid feeling like I was biting on Satan’s hairy undercarriage but failed spectacularly. In the picture you’ll see the delicious sandwich before I wrapped it in foil and baked it. Do not be fooled by it’s innocent look; I still can’t feel the roof of my mouth.


The lovely & talented Beth.

I knew after the first bite that something was wrong. The pain was almost immediate and was soon followed by shaking. I breathed through each bite like I was in labor and powered through half of it with sheer will and the power of prayer. I’d spent too much time creating this masterpiece to give up like a little bitch.

Alas, after half of the sandwich disappeared, so did my will to live. It was me or the sandwich and I chose me.

My tongue isn’t currently working properly and after blowing my nose and washing my face with cold water, I was able to stumble outside for fresh air, mumbling “Nothing about me feels good about any of that”.

This mofo ended up just being a bunch of toppings encased wall-to-wall in pure hatred.

I couldn’t even tell you if it was good or not. I *think* I tasted banana peppers and pepperoni at first but it was short-lived. After that, all I could taste was hell fire and every mistake I’ve ever made in my life.

Probably the worst part of all of this is the fact that I’ll have to relive the pain all over again tomorrow.

Look at that sandwich…..it was a simpler time and I was but a 35 yr old girl full of hope and wonder. Now Satan himself is holding a Fight Club meeting in my stomach and no one is the winner.

The lovely and talented Beth Geyer posted this on Facebook today and it had me laughing.  Well done, Beth!

Cool Pictures That I’m In or That I Took – “Long Time, No Post” Edition

Here’s another in a series of posts I’m going to make when I find some of these treasures. Some will be captioned, others will not. The only criteria for posting in this series is that:

a.) I’m in the photo or…

b.) … I took the photo.


From a few years ago when Nate and Garrett and I went to the Potomac Nationals game. They got to run the bases afterwards and this was taken shortly thereafter. Fun night!


I took this at the STEM Symposium this year. Tom was checking out one of Turner-Fairbank’s connected vehicles that was on display.


Fun selfie from nephew Andy’s graduation from the Army’s CGSS, which I presume means “Command and General Staff School,” but I don’t really keep up with such things anymore. To my left, Emily, Andy’s spousal unit; Andy himself; my sister and Andy’s mom, B.J.; and in the back, Andy’s’ Dad, Michael and stepmom, Brenda. ‘Twas a nice graduation conducted in the typical Army fashion.


Me in a Marine Corps uniform on the set of “House of Cards” season four.  It was a tense moment.

(A couple of these have already been on Facebook.  Yeah, this is a lazy man’s post today.)