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Never Let You Down

I'm going to try another "Saturday Nine." Ready? This week's questions are inspired by the song "Never Let You Down," by a group called Fastball. Never having heard of them, I went here to listen to the tune, and ... it's cute! Fun video, too. I'll embed it at the end of this post. Meanwhile ...

Here goes.

1) Fastball is a trio from Austin, Texas. Austin is the capital of Texas. When you were in school, did you have to memorize the state capitals?
I never had to learn them for a class, but when I was in high school, one of my extra-curricular activities was Academic Team, and I think I learned them for that. I believe I can still list most of the capitals, but not quickly, as I didn't have a song or catchy mnemonic to help with the memorization. Does such a thing exist?

2) Have you ever visited your state's capital?
Yes. Annapolis makes a great day-trip from my Baltimore suburb, and I've taken the boys. Last time, we did the tours at the Naval Academy and the State House (both excellent), stopped in St. Anne's Church, walked around the historic streets and harbor, got milk shakes in a peculiar Main Street joint where the Pledge of Allegiance is recited every morning (I kid you not), and I think toured inside one of the historic houses (but enough time has passed that I'd need to consult my useless collection of brochures & ticket stubs to be certain). Now I feel overdue for a refresher visit, and since my sister has just moved there, you'd think I'd have an excuse.

3) Fastball played dates throughout Canada this past spring. When did you last leave the US of A?
I visited Italy and England on a 10-day trip in 1998. The reason for the trip was to meet the children of favorite Italian author Guareschi, about whom I was making a website. But I had studied in Oxford 13 years before, and I didn't want to cross the Atlantic without seeing it (and some old friends) again. Both aspects of the experience were wonderful, and I'm glad, since it'll probably end up being my last overseas trip.

4) Tony Scalzo is a founding member of Fastball. He's the singer in the video for this song, and that's his wife, Jennifer, playing the organizer of the speed-dating event. Have you ever gotten a job because you knew somebody?
The only items on my resume of which this *isn't* the case are my first two jobs, aka the college summer jobs. Right out of high school, I was hired as a waitress at a local "family restaurant." The only qualification for the position was to be 18 years old and breathing, so I was able to get it without inside help. :-) I did that for two summers; then, after I had a little college under my belt, I filled out a generic civil service application and got a gig as a "Mathematics Aid" at a nearby government base, also for two summers. And *that* job led to my first full-time position, which began an unbroken string of jobs for which I had a leg up because I knew someone on the inside.

See, the government boss liked me so well as a Math Aide that, as my college graduation approached, he did the then-not-uncommon civil service trick of requesting a new hire with skills so specifically like mine that HR was bound to draw my application from the pile and put me on the short list from which he would then be allowed to choose. (Interesting fact: every now and again, a person would be beat out for a job that had been intended for him in this way. It happened to someone else in my department shortly after I got there. Scary fact: I was later informed that the short list presented to my boss for my position included another newly-minted mathematics graduate with my exact name, and that the secretary almost sent papers to the other girl!)

After the cubicle job, I transitioned to teaching, and every college teaching job I've ever held has been offered to me directly, without a formal application process, because I knew someone in the organization. College deans have a lot of freedom in hiring adjunct faculty, and they often get new ones by asking their current employees for the names of qualified friends and associates. I had the right friends and associates, obviously. Yes, I've been fortunate, but I don't feel any serious guilt: none of the hirings were cases of a relative nepotism-ing my unqualified self into a job I couldn't do, and in no case did I take any meetings with Russian officials on behalf of my benefactors. :-)

5) In [the song's] pitch to a [pro]spective lover, [the singer] admits he doesn't have much money. Last time you went to the ATM, how much did you withdraw?
I don't visit the ATM too often anymore, preferring to save time by obtaining point-of-sale cash in the grocery store check-out. But when I do use an ATM, my standard withdrawal is $200, and that's mostly out of old habit. In my neck of the woods, see, $200 was typically the maximum allowed, and taking out anything less than the maximum always made those $2-$3 ATM service charges seem offensively high in proportion. Of course, these days I know where the no-service-charge ATMs are, and I stick to them. But I've remained comfortable with $200 as a withdrawal amount. It doesn't make my wallet too fat, and I know about how long it ought to last me (remember, I'm old and still use cash -- even coins! -- for many transactions).

6) [The singer admits] that at times, his mind is hazy. Do you have a good memory for names?
Not especially, but it's not horrible, either. I'd say I'm typical: I often find it challenging to remember someone's name on our second meeting, but I'm usually good by the third. And I'm pretty good with faces -- that is, when I see you, I can remember the *fact* that we've met, even if your name escapes me.

7) Fastball guitarist Miles Zuniga admits that he once had a crush on Carrie Fisher (aka Princess Leia). Tell us about one of your one-sided love affairs, either with a celebrity or someone you knew in real life.
Well, I'm still sort of carrying the torch for the ex who unexpectedly left me seven years ago after 22 years of marriage, but you don't want to hear about that (again). All my other crushes and loves have been one-sided, and these days (except for that stupid torch thing), I pretty much confine them to celebrities. Stephen Colbert, whom I've seen twice in person and regard as the best of the best, is the one I describe as my alternate-universe husband. Not only am I crazy about him, but I love how much he loves his wife.

8) Fastball's drummer Joey Shuffield is partial to drums from Pork Pie Percussion. This company was started by Bill Detamore, who began making drums as a hobby. Do you have any hobbies that, under the right circumstances, could make you money?
Well, I *had* one -- playing the piano. I took private lessons as a kid and was good enough to do lots of accompanying at school and in church, but I decided against majoring in music in college, so figured I'd just be a hobbyist for life. Then in 1994 I started teaching (philosophy) at a college that offered a few music classes but didn't have a music major (or even a full department), so I offered my dilettante piano skills to the chorus director (who'd been hired that same year). He used me for that, and then started including me on paying gigs accompanying him (he was a trumpet soloist) at various functions, both on campus and off. Thus began my years of having to declare "hobby income" on my taxes.

Now that I'm on the payroll of a church for my organ and piano playing, it isn't really accurate to think of my musical endeavors as hobby-ism. And those outside gigs are much fewer and farther between.

9) The fast ball is the most common pitch in major league baseball. Now that the MLB season is past the halfway mark, how is your baseball team doing?
Grrrrr..... The Baltimore Orioles, as they often do, came out of the gate strong this season, but our pitching has been, to put it mildly, severely lacking. I would prefer not to say where we stand at the moment.