Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ode to a fine fish

Tasty salmon, fresh and pink
Of happy times you make me think

Lovely raw, a dash of soy
Topping bagels, lox bring joy

Kiss of smoke will make it keep
Candy from the oceans deep

Sear it light, saute in pan
oven baked, a foolproof plan

Lemon, thyme, spiced or sweet,
All will give your tongue a treat

A single flaw which I can nag
The numbers on your price tag!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Baiting the Trap

I do not like this one bit.

NFL Network had a segment this week about Norv. The video is now posted on The segment consists of 4 analysts spending ten minutes- TEN MINUTES- lionizing, waxing poetic, and otherwise praising Norv. Talking about the job he's done, how he's "totally underrated", and a viable Coach of the Year candidate. Put this in perspective: this network can do a whole game "preview" or review all the highlights of an entire game in under 5 minutes. And they spent 10 minutes loving Norv?

No, no, no! Do not praise the Norv!

Listen, I like Norv. I actually think he's a decent coach whose done a good job with the Chargers. But like the rest of this Charger team, he's at his best flying under the radar. Way under the radar. Ignore them, ridicule them, discount them all you want, and they'll move along and quietly win. Praise them and bad things will happen. Bad things like losing games which this team is absolutely supposed to win.

Now we have the hot, hot, hot, Chargers heading into cold, cold, cold, Cleveland tomorrow to take on the hapless Browns. Its in the bag, right? No way they suffer one of the all-time letdowns and prove unworthy of all the praise being heaped upon them, right?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Badvertising: Target "Santa"

Cause at least Santa still has his job!

I sure hope Jolly old Saint Nick left some coupons for marriage counseling in their stockings. Or at least some good chocolate.

I get what this commercial is trying to say about Target and their affordable prices. This is good, both as a fact and an advertising strategy. But it kinda falls apart at the end, when instead of a joyous moment we get a very tense situation which leaves us wondering about the strength of this couple's relationship. The last 5 seconds of this commercial are almost painful to watch. Maybe Santa left a chainsaw under the tree so they can cut the tension lingering in the air.

The holidays are stressful enough, it doesn't make sense to advertise that shopping at your store could inflame the yuletide emotions in a negative way.

And God is that an ugly tree.

Organic Overloards?

The Organic Milk has become self aware. It has realized its imprisonment and has used its superior lactose based reasoning to find an escape from its jug jail. I can only assume its next move is to exact revenge on its captors.

You have been warned!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The (Potential) Mistake by the Lake

Life is pretty good for Charger fans these days. A record of 8-3, a six game winning streak, first place in the division. The Offense is third in scoring, the Defense has figured out how to stop people. LT is scoring TDs at a decent rate. The team controls its own playoff destiny and can win its way into a division title and a bye week.

I have only one feeling about this week's game against the lowly Browns:

Admiral Akbar knows about Traps. And I'd bet there's a good chance he's a Charger fan, given that his natural habitat is the ocean. I'm in agreement with him, this doesn't feel right.

This game worries precisely because it doesn't seem to worry anyone else. The game is on the road. The weather will be lousy. Injuries are a concern, with no Weddle for sure and probably no Merriman or Castillo. The coaches seem to think that Cleveland is such a pushover that they'll probably rest any nicked up starters so they can be ready for Dallas.

I don't like it.

True, the Browns are hideous. They stink out loud. But they're still an NFL team, filled with (technically) NFL players who you can bet will be playing their butts off in order to try and earn future NFL paychecks. That's the thing about pro football: no matter the record, players either play like their hair is on fire or they quickly find themselves selling insurance. Eric Mangini, for all his failings this year, is still an NFL coach, and you can bet your powder blue beanies that he's doing everything and anything to try and keep his job. Consider the stops pulled out, possibly thrown into the wind along with any caution the Browns might still have left.

NFL Network ran a segment this week where they asked if the Chargers were the "Forgotten Team". Three analysts then spent the segment praising the Chargers and predicting great things for them, even going so far as to say they were the one team the Colts wanted no part of in the playoffs.

I don't like it at all.

Even if I'm wrong and we get by the Browns this week, don't go printing those division title T-Shirts and playoff tickets just yet. The last 4 games will all be tough contests, 3 against teams trying to handle their own playoff business, with 2 on the road. Meanwhile the suddenly resurrected Broncos are nipping at the Charger's heals, and their remaining schedule leaves something to be desired. Two of their games are with the Chiefs and one is with the Raiders. They play the Colts, who could be resting starters by then, and the Eagles, who haven't looked very strong lately. This playoff race isn't over, and with one slip up the Bolts could go from a bye to a Wild Card bid (or worse!).

So let's keep our eye on the ball and avoid any screw ups this week. The Chargers have only one Ewok to try and bail them out, and he hasn't scored a TD in 5 weeks.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Half a league... Half a League...

Tonight, President Obama is going to address the nation from West Point in order to make official his plans for future military action in Afghanistan. These plans will involve an estimated 30,000 new Soldiers and Marines, mostly combat troops, who will begin deployment this month. Supposedly the deployment will be for 19 months, ending in July 2011, and the mission is to engage the Taliban, stabilize the government, and most importantly train some kind of functional Afghani security force.

Like many Americans I'm deeply conflicted about the Afghanistan conflict. The realist (or perhaps the pessimist) in my says that what's done is done, and we should get the hell out of there. Afghanistan is the rock upon which mighty empires have broken themselves, and it is foolish not to heed that warning from history. True, this isn't quite the same as the 1980s. We aren't fighting a proxy war against a Cold War enemy with deep pockets. But its still a guerrilla war, fought on enemy ground, against a fanatical and resourceful enemy. The cost in blood and treasure has already been high, and its foolish to throw good after bad. We shouldn't keep doing something just because we have already sunk so much into it.

Finally, neither the end goal or the strategy of the war seems particularly clear at this point. Hopefully this last point will be cleared up tonight.

The more idealist side of me says that the war in Afghanistan needs to be carried out to the end, and its not so simple as pulling up the flag and heading home. Whatever happens, and whatever the shortcomings and faults of the situation there, we owe it to ourselves and to the people of Afghanistan to finish the job there and be sure that the Taliban can never come back into power and that Al Qaeda cannot regain its haven. The Taliban are monsters, the scum of humanity, and to let them come back into the picture as we sneak off into the night would be both a major threat to our security and a shame on our national honor. I realize that the concept of national honor probably isn't very comforting to a child whose parent is separated form them, possibly forever, and it shouldn't be the primary motivation behind our security decisions. Nevertheless, if our national ideals mean anything than we can't abandon the innocent to the wolves.

I realize its not so simple as choosing to fight on or not. There are issues of strategy, cost, sacrifice which must be considered. In addition, there are potentially much bigger challenges we face outside Afghanistan from Iran, Pakistan and other nations. Hopefully we can address those issues peacefully and diplomatically, but whatever happens in Afghanistan its ignorant to think that is the be all and end all of our national security strategy.

I sincerely hope that the President's long deliberation process on this matter has produced the best possible decision.

If I had the President's ear today I'd make one suggestion for his speech tonight. Its a sad truth that the burden of our wars is no longer shared by all Americans. Most of us, myself included, go on with our lives with little thought for the sacrifices borne by our troops in the field or by their families. In addition, the monetary cost of war is being shirked as well by a public which has been conditioned for generations to think of any an all taxes are evil.

I know it would be political suicide for the President to suggest that the rest of us make up for this by actually paying for the war via a "war tax" or "war surcharge", so I suggest he challenge America to help out the war effort in voluntary ways. Americans are (or were) proud of their ability to sacrifice to solve problems, so I hope he can take this opportunity to call on that pride.

There are numerous charities and organizations which work tirelessly to improve the lives of veterans and their families, and I would advise President Obama to mention them in his speech and encourage Americans to donate their time, energy, and of course their money. As a strong gesture to kick off this effort, I would advise the President to pledge at least a portion of his Nobel Prize money to one or more of these organizations. Such an act, while small in the grand scheme, should go a long way towards encouraging others to do their part.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Empty Sacks

One of several cliches which I hate is the notion that "statistics lie". Mark Twain's famous quote about there being "lies, damn lies, and statistics" has been over quoted about a million times (source: OMD). Contrary to what many people may think, statistics DO NOT lie. They can't lie. They are just numbers, which makes them incapable of lying. You can have false statistics, which is a different issue because someone else is lying by making them up, but assuming the statistics are accurate in what they are measuring then they are not lying. They can be misinterpreted, misanalysed, misappropriated and otherwise mistreated, but they can't lie.

Statistics are merely numbers which tell parts of a story in quantifiable ways. In order to really get the most out of them, you have to think, something that most people lack the time or inclination (or both) to do. And an important part of this thinking involves realizing the limitations of what statistics can and can't tell us about a given phenomenon.

Today's victory against the Chiefs can remind us of the interesting ways in which stats can't quite capture everything that goes on in a football game. Simply looking through the box score, or at the accumulated stats of a team or player, can never tell us the whole story, because of course the whole story isn't easily quantifiable.

The Charger defense played fairly well today, giving up just 14 points and limiting the Chiefs to 284 yards of offense. They managed to do with without three of their best players, who were all down for most or all of the game with injury. Most importantly, they forced 4 turnovers. But surprisingly, the Chargers actually recorded no sacks today. Someone without knowledge of the game itself might look at this and think that the Chargers were unable to generate any sort of pass rush today, but this would be wrong. The Chargers actually had several plays which were nearly sacks but actually ended up better than sacks.

(EDIT: after writing this post, I actually looked over the message boards, and this subject was already a discussion topic. Someone who hadn't seen the game had looked at the sack stats and was bemoaning the Charger lack of pass rush.)

Paul Oliver would have had a sack if not for the inexplicable fumble by Matt Cassell. Instead Oliver got a gift TD, which was a much better outcome. Similarly, Larry English could have had a sack except that he beat Cassell to recovering a fumble. Dobbins also would have had a sack if not for the intentional grounding call. The result was the same, a safety, but no sack recorded.

So in this case you have at least three would be sacks which the Bolts missed out on, but it was actually to their benefit to do so! It won't help them in the league standings for most team sacks, but the actual outcome was better.

Looking at LT's stat line, you can see another way statistics fail to tell the whole story. True, he had 2 TDs, but he gained a mere 39 yards on the ground. From this we might conclude that he had a poor game, but the reality is that he played as much as the Chargers needed him, and was basically pulled from the game pretty early on because it was a rout.

Its not fair to blame the stats for this. They aren't inaccurate at all, they are just limited by their nature. A sack can only be a sack, it can't be anything else. Its a good example of how statistics are merely a tool which require careful thought and consideration in order to be utilized properly.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Showdown in Denver

As much as I'd like to take credit for predicting the Chargers catching up to the Broncos by this weekend, sadly I was too lazy (or gutless) to actually write it down. Hence I have no proof of my prediction, not that it matters.

I wanna take this opportunity to say that I do not have a good feeling about tomorrow's showdown. I know I should, given the winning streak and the Broncos losing streak and the injury to Orton and Big Daddy LT's sudden resurgence. Conventional wisdom says this should be a mile-high cakewalk.

Which is exactly why I feel uneasy about it. I hate conventional wisdom, and I especially hate it when it comes to football, because football is a game which refuses to do what people say it should do. Every single story about the game has put forth the narrative of a suddenly invincible Chargers team heading into Denver to finish off a Broncos team in its final death throws. In just the latest example of lazy sports journalism, every article I've read or video I've watched about it has used the the phrase "two teams moving in opposite directions".

Yes, the Chargers have won 4 in a row. One of those was against the Chiefs. The next was at home against the Raiders, and that required a last minute defensive stand. The last two were against marginally better than .500 teams, and both of those games went down to the wire. I'm not trying to discount the wins, but its a great example of the fact that winning solves everything. Each of the last three games could have easily been lost but for a few key plays.

On the flip side the Broncos have lost 3 in a row. Two of those games were too very strong teams, and the other was on the road without their starting QB playing for a half. As bad as a losing streak is, they should still be considered dangerous.

Hopefully it all works out and this isn't an issue. I just know that the NFL is a league where the line between success is thin and chalky. Hopefully the Bolts can find themselves on the right side of it tomorrow.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Big Questions in Life

Ok, so I was half wrong and half right. I was right to say that the Packer-Cowboys game would be a pile of blah, I was wrong in predicting the Cowboys to come out on top. Congrats to the Packers for their win.

I have an interesting situation this evening which comes up every so often for those of us who play fantasy football. I've already won for this week. I have more points than my opponent, and while all his players are done, I still have one player going in the Monday Night Game.

So the question is this: start, or sit?

In this situation I'm far enough ahead that a points backslide into a loss seems very unlikely, so it really doesn't matter. The other issue here is that any points my player gets will help me in a tiebreaker situation, and for that reason alone I'm gonna play him. However, I believe that anything that can happen certainly will, especially in football, so I did seriously consider benching my player and banking my victory before Hank Williams Jr. came on to sing.

There are two schools of thought on the subject. The sportsman in me says that you should play him, in accordance with the spirit of the game. The strung out victory junkie in me says that you bench him and enjoy your good fortune. This is the NFL after all, even if its just Fantasy Football (JUST!), and in the end you are indeed what your record says you are. It doesn't matter if you lose because you valued fake sportsmanship over fake victory.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another excuse to hit the bar...

A quick thought: Screw you, Fox.

This Sunday at 4PM, approximately 124% of the nation is going to be subject to the Fox Broadcast of the Cowboys at Packers game. Seriously, check out the broadcast map. Its Fox's Marquee Game of the Week, and we know this because they put Joe Buck in the booth. Oh Joy!

Look at that map. The red bleeds into every nook and cranny of our great nation. The other games hardly have enough room to breath. Typically markets will get the games of teams in their division, but you don't even get that here with the exception of northern Colorado. Not Southern Colorado. Just the north half of the State.

They don't even have the decency to show the Chargers vs. Eagles in all of Colorado, or in Oakland or Kansas City. And I have to imagine there are plenty of Eagles fans in the rest of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York who really don't give a damn about the Cowboys and Packers. Plus I guarantee there are plenty of Charger fans in, say LOS ANGELES who might be curious as to how that game is going.

The Cowboys are a good but unspectacular team. They have little star power. And the Packers are bad and have no star power. This is not a marquee match up. So why is most of the nation being subjected to it? Short answer: Because the Cowboys are "America's Team"!


Memo to Fox: No one likes the Cowboys. Sure a few people do, but really most people dislike them. It's not that they're just indifferent to them. Most NFL fans The only possibly joy they would get from watching them is if they were ripped limb from limb by their opponent. And that's not likely to happen against a team which just lost to the freaking Buccaneers.

In fact, its more likely that Wade's Warriors will rip off at least one of Aaron Rogers limbs off, given that the Packer's O-Line is so godawful that they should be arrested tried for committing assault and battery on their own QB. Check out this cool website which tracks all his punishment throughout the season.

So basically we're going to be subjected to 3 hours of Buck and Aikman praising the Cowboys non stop, with a special focus on Tony Romo. And you just know that given the games' location, a certain QB who shall not be named and isn't even playing in the game will be mentioned at least 2 dozen times.

My only hope is that the Cowboys manage to blow out the Packers horrifically and are up 40 points at the half so Fox will mercifully switch stations, but now that I've said I want that I know its not gonna happen. My prediction: The Cowboys jump out early and maintain a double digit lead for most of the game. Two close to switch networks, not close enough to be an interesting game.

I guess what I'm really saying is: could you please show the Eagles/Chargers game?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Badverstising: Chase Sapphire Card

I know this is an older commercial, but I can't escape it and I hate it more every day. Let me explain: I usually watch The Daily Show and Colbert in the mornings on my computer while having breakfast. Between segments they play commercials, and it seems like this commercial has been on between every single segment for about 2 months now. Meaning I've had to endure and/or shut it off out of revulsion about 6 times every single morning.

Its not a totally awful commercial, but it is pretty bad. And pretty bad gets exponentially terrible with each showing. Let's go to the tape:

She spent a whole vacation's worth of points on that fugly dress!?!? What?!? Its not even flattering or pretty! They could be having lobster in St. Bart's but instead she gets to look like she's wearing a wrinkled sheet?

Then there's the music. I like Frank Sinatra, and I actually really like this song. But goddamn is it loud. They do the regular commercial trick of cranking the volume up 100% from the very sensible level at which you were listening. Plus, the crappyness of this commercial has actually inspired a kind of negative Pavlovian response in me for Old Blue Eyes. I hear those first few notes and I freak!

Please people, someone either get a Chase Sapphire or buy out the company and fire whoever green lit this commercial and decided to run it a gazillion times.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Badvertising: Tabasco

I don't know about this ad. On the one hand the song is a little catchy and I'm a sucker for barbershop quartet.

On the other, these creepy pepperoni faces make me think of zits, which is not what you want to associate with food. Plus the visual of pouring Tabasco on this slice makes me think of a big shot of hot sauce right in your eye, which I can only imagine must hurt like hell.

On another note, Tabasco seems to advertise a lot as something to put on pizza. I don't understand this. Hot sauce is for bland food or meals that need a kick. Pizza is just bread, tomato sauce and melted cheese, and none of those things really needs hot sauce. Pizza is usually great by itself, and if its not then you really shouldn't be eating it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Butter makes it Better

I love me some Paula Deen. She has an amazing ability to shoehorn butter into just about any recipe, plus she's a sassy broad. And now we know she's a trooper too. Check out this video:

Crazy guy invading your kitchen on live TV? No problem. Just don't mess with her, because I know she would do awful things to you with her knife. Though maybe she'd feel bad and make you some butter covered butter as an apology. That might be worth it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Just FYI

The Broncos are super lucky, they have throwbacks so ugly that whoever approved them should be put on trial at The Hague, and to top it all off their coach has some (ahem) "unfortunate" hand gestures.

This was gonna be a perfect weekend too. Dodgers and Angels advance to their respective LCSes, LSU loses in "Death Valley", and we got a World Cup qualification to boot. Then the lucky ass Nazi Broncos had to get lucky and Nazi up the end of it. Jerks.

Onward Sam's Army!

South Africa here we come (again)!

Last night the US Men's soccer team punched its ticket to the 2010 World Cup. It took an exciting, back and forth 3-2 win over host Honduras to finally get the job done, but with victory they secured enough points in CONCACAF qualifying to make it.

Not a bad couple days for American international relations, with one Nobel Peace Prize and one World Cup slot. Maybe today we'll hit a trifecta and North Korea will decide to disarm .

I did have one gripe about the game, namely that I couldn't watch it, and neither could a lot of our nation. Since the game was in Honduras, they technically owned the broadcast rights, and for some reason US networks couldn't or wouldn't work out a deal to broadcast in the states. To make things worse, the Hondurans apparently are crazy about their rights and were constantly shutting down any attempts to stream the game over the Internet. As a result, a lot of fans like myself were reduced to getting updates via "match tracker", which is basically someone typing what happens during the game, or even worse *ugh* Twitter. Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to try and track the last minutes of a tight match via Twitter?

Imagine the absurdity of this situation. The richest, most advanced nation in the history of the world, who's President is so dreamy he won the damn Nobel prize 24 hours earlier, is somehow unable to secure a TV feed for a match which could qualify it for the biggest sporting on the planet. There are tons of two bit countries where everything, even war, will stop for these games, and we can't even get a feed on ESPN2. I wondered if we could invoke the Monroe Doctrine or something to get the Hondurans to share the broadcast.

I also thought it was funny that Honduras is having this huge government crisis and they they still managed to host their CONCACAF games. Their government was overthrown this year, and the United States does not recognize the new regime as legitimate (which probably has something to do with the lack of broadcast rights). But even though they are an illegitimate regime denounced by the world, they damn sure are gonna put on the game as scheduled. That's just good sportsmanship.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

In the Tall Cotton?

I had a weird moment today watching the UCLA-Oregon game. The Ducks have this running back with super quick feet. It seriously looked like he was playing Dance Dance Revolution out there as a he juked and avoided two, three, even four Bruin defenders at a time. He tore up UCLA in the second half and was a big part of the victory.

After one of this guy's impressive runs, the announcers were talking about him. One of them said something like "I wouldn't say put him in the tall cotton just yet". I'd never heard this saying before or anything like it. My buddy and were perplexed, to say the least. The player in question is African American, and putting two and two we came up with "What the hell?".

I tried looking up the term later, and all I got was that "tall cotton" refers to a time a plenty (ie. when the cotton crop grows tall). I guess it sorta made sense (maybe? or not?) if he was saying that the player himself is not yet "the tall cotton" on account of his limited playing time. But that just sounds weird, and it doesn't make a lot of sense given the way the sentence was constructed.

I'm not trying to make something out of this, and I seriously doubt the announcer meant anything negative by his comment. I'm just struggling to figure out what he meant.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Roster Math: QBs

We have 3 slots filled, and the next three are almost as easy.

QBs Philip Rivers, Mike Volek, and Charlie Whitehurst will in all likelihood fill the 3 QB spots this year.

Rivers is obviously locked in to a roster spot. It's now his offense and his team.

Volek is the 3 million dollar a year player who the Chargers hope never has to actually play. In case Rivers goes down for part of the year, the Chargers are betting that the Volektricity will be able to keep them going. The only reason, barring injury, why I could see him not making the team is if they determine that his play has fallen off dramatically, so much that it no longer warrants his price tag as a backup. I don't know of any evidence of that.

Whitehurst was a 3rd round draft pick with 4 years experience learning and practicing in the Chargers' system. He has no competition in camp for the 3rd QB spot. The team didn't even bring in a 4th QB as a camp arm (its reported that David Binn is filling his time by throwing to receivers in practice).

Whitehurst's only danger of being cut would come from the team deciding that the extra roster spot would be better suited for a player at another position. I doubt this happens, since risk of having only 2 QBs likely outweighs the reward of keeping another backup elsewhere. If they were to go that direction and one or both of the other two QBs were to go down, the Chargers would then likely have to scramble to bring in some currently unemployed QB as a backup or, heaven forbid, the starter. While we can't say just how good Whitehurst would be if pressed into service in a meaningful game, I think its safe to say that, with his 4 years of coaching and knowledge of the system, he would be preferable to someone who couldn't find work on any other NFL roster and had to scramble to learn the system.

This scenario is admittedly far fetched. The reality is that the Chargers QB depth chart will look as its looked the last 3 years: Rivers, Volek, Whitehurst.

That's 3 more roster spots accounted for, leaving 47.

Roster Math: Part 1

Fact: Football is wonderful. Amazing. Sustaining. A life giving seasonal rain in this harsh desert of existence we call life.

Sadly, not everything about football is positive and fun. The excitement of training camp is now in the air all across our nation, bringing with it the giddy anticipation of a new season just over the horizon. Looming unspoken among this excitement is the reality that professional football is still a business, one which requires cold and ruthless decisions to be made every year.

Cuts. 53 spots, that's all you get in the NFL. Arrange them however you like, but it has to add up to 53. Excesses of depth and talent at certain positions are often trimmed out in order to make roster spots available for inferior but necessary talent at others. Like most NFL team the Chargers face this dilemma every year. In recent years the cold hard arithmetic of building has forced them to part ways with many talented players, often veterans. Many of these players end up signing with and even starting and starring for rival NFL teams. In most cases I think the Bolts would have been happy to keep them, but the roster spots simply weren't there.

In anticipation of our 2009 Charger season (and to kill some time until it gets here), I've decided to post some thoughts about what direction I think the Chargers are likely to go in building their roster for this year. Given the complexity and wordiness required by this topic this will be a multi part series. All predictions here are based on the assumption that no players endure a serious injury during the preseason. I have a fairly strong grasp of the main roster but know very little about the Undrafted Free Agents or practice squad players. That ignorance may hurt my predictions, but given the strength of the roster already I doubt more than one guy makes the jump from camp fodder to the 53 man squad (again, barring injury).

Lets start with the easy positions: Special teams.

Nate Kaeding, Mike Scifres, David Binn.

All among the best, if not the best, at their position. All under contract for the foreseeable future. Unless some other position player learns to long snap as well as Binn (highly doubtful), all three are locked in with their roster spots as secure as anyone on the team.

That's 3 down. 50 spots left.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

Our illustrious supreme leader turned 48 today (in Earth years). White House press room fixture Helen Thomas was also celebrating her birthday (89 and still kicking!) and so our President behaved in a manner befitting his Messianic nature by thinking of others first on his special day.

I wonder if he baked those himself. He's probably busy, so maybe he just frosted them. It would have been a really cool way for the President to show up the nutbags opposed to health care reform if he had joked about Ms. Thomas "rationing" out the cupcakes. I can only imagine the insane frothing which would have resulted.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


The gym I go to is serves a community of mostly college students, graduate students, faculty and staff. One would think that this collection of high quality grey matter would be able to understand simple instructions and concepts, even for things unfamiliar to many of the brainy set, such as going to the gym. One would be wrong in this assumption.

Almost every time I go to workout I am confronted by at least one example of some piece of gym equipment being misused or abused, or someone exercising in an incorrect manner. The latter is more understandable than the former, given how much bad information and misinformation is out there regarding exercise.

Nevertheless, you would think that just by watching someone else do a proper workout you would pick up a few things. Yet almost every day I see someone butchering that simplest of weight exercises, the bench press. Earth to gym people: its not a bench press if you only bring it down three inches and then push it back up. It doesn't make you stronger if you lift your hips and bow your back like you're trying to do yoga on the bench. Lie flat on your back, bring it down to your chest, push it back up. Its just about the simplest exercise you can do.

When you're down with your bench press, maybe you'll want to do some curls or shoulder presses. That's all good. Now when you're done with that, do everyone a big favor and put the weights back on the correct rack. Preferably side by side, without taking up the middle two of the four open spaces on the rack.

To be fair, these are mild complaints. My biggest gym peeve is the flat out abuse of the exercise bike foot straps. They are clearly labeled with and "R" and an "L". They don't work if you put the L where the R is supposed to go, or vice versa. They don't look right, they don't feel right. They just get bent out of shape and eventually ripped apart. I would say that this is why we can't have nice things, but the stupid straps aren't even nice! I've long since given up using them because they were always ripped up and never available.

Its gotten so bad that the gym now has its few remaining foot straps at the desk, and you have to ask for them if you want them. You would think that would be a foolproof system, right? The desk gives you an R and an L, and you put them on like so. Ha! Sure enough, today I looked down at the bikes and saw the L and the R reversed on not one bike but two!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Right Choice

It was forty years ago today that human beings first set foot on the moon. The first moonwalk (or probably more accurately, moon hop) was the culmination of years of effort put into the Apollo Program at a cost of billions of dollars and, tragically, at least 3 human lives. The Program itself was built upon thousands of years of human advancement in science and technology.

The Apollo program ranks with the Manhattan project as the greatest technological achievement of the 20th century, and as one of the greatest of mankind's achievements in age. I think it goes without saying that it represents the best that humanity has to offer in terms of knowledge, ingenuity, and sheer force of will. All too often the skills of mankind have been turned to devious, crass, immoral or inhumane purposes, and what the Apollo program represents, more than just the conquering of a frontier, is what our species can accomplish peacefully and creatively.

Naturally, its easy to point out that the Apollo program was merely an extension of the American military industrial complex, and the entire space race was merely a measuring contest between two rival superpowers who owned the most deadly arsenals in the history of the world. Its also easy to point out how many a select Congressional district was the benefit of NASA largess, something which no doubt helped to push the program forward with such speed and enthusiasm.

These criticisms, while valid, should not overshadow the incredible achievements of NASA and the Apollo program. It was an accomplishment of will and spirit and guts as well as science. President Kennedy's famous speech to Rice University, excerpted here, addressed the goal of a moon landing not as something to hope for or dream about but as something we would do because it was worth doing in itself.

"We choose to go to the moon"

It sounds like hubris or perhaps bluster, and perhaps it is, but its also a reminder of the potential of mankind in those brief moments when we decide to pursue great things.

Getting closer

Just one week left.

Till what, you ask?

Oh, like you had to ask. What, you really don't know?

One week till Camp! Oh boy! Camp!

So get out your tent, pack some s'mores, and for god sakes sign your remaining draft picks so they can get in on time!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Shack Shack: the Review

Savoring a great hamburger is one of life's little joys. A really great burger can take a seemingly mundane undertaking and elevate it beyond merely obtaining sustenance. I've written about my love for great burgers before, both on the East Coast and back home. Today, in the interest of science (gastronomy is a science, right?) my taste buds and I went to seek out the now legendary Shake Shack.

My first encounter with Shake Shack was actually over a year ago, at the 2008 Big Apple BBQ fest here in NYC. The Fest was held down at Madison Square Park, which also happens to be home to the original Shake Shack, which lives up to its name since it actually is a shack in the middle of the park. What amazed me is that despite the presence of the once a year BBQ fest, with pit masters from around the nation and beer and music, and despite the 100+ degree heat, there was still a line a block long for Shake Shack. This line was easily as long as any of the BBQ lines and longer than most. Clearly something good was coming out of this little hut in the park.

I encountered the Shake Shack phenomenon next on my trips to the new Citi Field, which boasts a Shake Shack location in the plaza beyond the outfield bleachers. I was again amazed at how much people seemed to crave whatever was coming out of their kitchens. On both trips the line for Shake Shack zig zagged several times before stretching out down the length of the left field bleachers, and it stayed long the entire game and well after. My understanding is that the Citi Field location opens hours before the game and remains open an hour after the last out, something almost unheard of for a ballpark concession stand.

You get the idea: people really love Shake Shack.

Shake Shack has been described to me as the closest thing to In-n-Out here on the East coast. This is no small thing for me to hear. In my mind, comparing something to In-n-Out is like comparing a basketball player to Jordan or a golfer to Tiger. You don't just throw that comparison around. I've also heard a few less enthusiastic reviews, mostly from displaced Californians who long for a Double-Double. Nevertheless I had to see, and taste, for myself. The franchise has four locations that I know of, and luckily for me one happens to be on West side.

The menu at Shake Shack is similar to In-n-Out, with an emphasis on simplicity and fresh ingredients. They do burgers, fries, hot dogs, and frozen custard served several ways, including in a variety of shakes. They also do beer and wine. There decor at the Upper West Side location is basic and has kind of a faux industrial feel similar to Chipotle.

There is a large menu on the wall but it lacks much key information. For example, it will tell you that one of your Options is a Shack Burger, but won't actually tell you what that means (I thick it means is has Shack Sauce). Worse than that are the many frozen drink concoctions, which are named but not described. Smaller paper menus fill in the details, but it seems to me like a big oversight. They also proudly claim that all their electricity is wind generated. Bully for the them, I guess, but when your business is selling beef its hard to really see you as hardcore environmentalist, given the resources that go into and pollution which results from raising cows. Whatever.

The line was long but moved quickly enough. When you order they give you one of those little beepers like they use for people waiting for tables at a sit down restaurant, and then they beep you when your order is up. Seems like overkill to me but it works for them.

For the purpose of this taste test I decided to order what I would normally get at In-n-Out, to see how it stacked up, with one exception: I got a single cheeseburger instead of a double. Shack Shack differs from In-n-Out, and most other fast food joints, in that the burgers are served plain and any additional items must be requested when ordering. I like this idea.

I ordered a cheeseburger with lettuce and onions, fries, and a chocolate shake. The first thing I noticed was the prices. A regular hamburger will run you $3.75. Add cheese and its $4.25. Get a Shack Burger and you'll pay $.50 just for the addition of Shake Sauce, whatever that is. Double Hamburgers are $5.75, and it takes $6.50 for a double cheeseburger. Keep in mind, that's a la carte. No fries, no drinks, no anything. The fries were reasonable if still a little steep at $2.75. Add a dollar and you can get cheese fries, though the only ones I saw didn't really look like they had a dollar's worth of cheese on top.

These prices are high but tolerable given that were are in the Big Apple, but what really breaks the bank is the shakes. A frozen custard shake will cost you $5.25. And we aren't talking about a large cup either. Its the equivalent of a small sized soda. For the purposes of this comparison I went ahead and got it, but I doubt I ever will again.

There are also McFlurry-like custard treats with mix ins which will cost you $7 a pop. They might be worth it but I didn't try them on this trip.

I placed my order, waited a few minutes with my beeper, and then finally got to see what all the fuss was about.

First things first: the burger. It was... great, actually. Fresh beef and cheese, cooked medium so it was still juicy, topped with onions and lettuce on a kind of sweet bun. The bun was ok, better than an average burger bun but not measuring up to the Sponge Bun. The onions weren't grilled but were still fine. What made the burger was the burger: tasty, juicy, flavorful. If I had any complaints, its that it was on the small side, especially given the price, but quality wise it was there. Even as I sit writing this, hours later, I can still taste it in my mouth, one of the signs of a great burger and a familiar sensation for anyone whose ever enjoyed a Double Double.

On to the fries. They resemble the crinkle cut fries you find in the supermarket freezer case, which made me hesitant at first to even order them. However, they surprised me with how crispy they were, and the taste was nice as well. A fine enough side order, though not in the running for the title of Best Fries.

The shake was interesting. Despite being made of custard, which I figured would have made it thicker, it was actually thinner than most shakes I've had. The taste was good, very chocolaty and a little bit different than what I am used to. Worth the price? Meh. But a good drink to be sure.

So what's the initial Shake Shack verdict? The cons have mostly to do with cost and value for your money, though that may be partially the result of expectations. I got a good burger, fries and a shake for $12. In half the restaurants in this city I'd be lucky just to get the burger for that, and it likely wouldn't be as good. Still, its a lot for fast food, even good fast food. The beer and wine are also no bargain, though they are not overpriced either. The other con is the line and the wait time, though with some timing and luck that doesn't have to be a problem.

In the Pro column, the food does satisfy the taste buds and the appetite. I can't make this claim for the whole menu, but for what I tried it certainly was a good meal.

Of course, the real question here is simple: does it stack up to In-n-Out?

I my own very, very biased opinion... not quite. If In-n-Out is Tiger, than Shake Shack would make a decent Phil. Maybe not the greatest but certainly close, and with a style which is slightly different and has its own charm. I won't be moving downtown just to be closer to it, but I will certainly be enjoying it again when I have the chance.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Make a wish America

Our wonderful nation turns 233 years old today.

Sort of.

The birth of America is kinda like the birth of Jesus, in that its hard to pin down an exact date when it really happened. True, the Declaration of Independence was made official on July 4th, 1776, but it was actually passed the the Continental Congress on July 2nd. John Adams actually wrote to his wife saying that he thought the 2nd would be the day which later generations celebrated the Independence of America. But the thing wasn't even actually signed by most of the delegates until August of 1776.

But really, is just saying we were independent sufficient criteria for the birth of a nation? Whatever its rhetorical and symbolic power, the Declaration was nothing without the might to back it up and force Britain to acknowledge it. Perhaps then it would be more accurate to date the birth of America to the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775. Or perhaps the Declaration is better thought of as the conception of America, with the actual birth coming after the surrender at Yorktown or the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

All of this gets really complicated (and boring), so instead of worrying about it we did the smart thing by picking a date and celebrating the hell out of it, same as we do with Christmas. I think it works out pretty well.

On this 4th of July its natural to think of the Founding Fathers. Its interesting to me how the Founders (capitalized, naturally) are viewed as demi-gods by people in our time. Not that they don't deserve our respect and admiration. They certainly do. What I find interesting is the way in which the founders are so idealized and revered as though they were both infallible and spoke with one all-knowing voice, two ideas which cannot possibly be true. I think its perfectly American that we do this, ignoring (or simply never learning) those facts which may cloud and contradict in favor of a simple and positive view of events.

We know that no man is infallible, and the shortcomings of the Founders are well known. I don't mean to disparage them with this, its just the truth. Some were slaveholders. Few thought particularly highly of the abilities of women or non-whites, or for that matter non-educated, propertied white men. There is an elitist streak which runs through much of their thought and deed which makes me laugh at the current charges of elitism which are hurled at modern politicians, often by the same people who revere the Founders above all else.

Some were men of ill temper, some were a bit slow, many quite full of themselves. No doubt some were philanderers and some drank too much. I doubt many of them would recognize religion as it is often practiced here in America, as many were Deists, and even a few were atheists. Thomas Jefferson himself went so far as to make the famous Jefferson Bible, a copy of the bible with ever reference to Jesus's divinity and the supernatural removed.

As to being a monolith of thought, the Founders were such a diverse group (in experience and beliefs, if not in background) that the idea that they had one mind about anything is crazy. Their political debates were often fierce, while their personal feuds could run even deeper, ranging from mere insults and at times escalating to the point of violence. At times they campaigned against each other with a vulgarity which would make our modern campaigns look tame. Its true that campaigns today too often focus on irrelevant minutiae and negative attacks, but the idea that this is somehow new is laughable.

Despite these contradictions, it seems that in any political question, any argument that is to be made about policy, the proper role of government, or America as a whole, the ultimate rhetorical trump card one can pull is to say that you are on the side of the Founders, if not in exact words than at least in spirit. Its a tactic attempted by conservatives, liberals, moderates and partisans of every stripe in support of pretty much every idea and proposed policy you can imagine. They have been quoted (and often mis-quoted) countless times, a practice which sometimes seems futile to me. Given their wide range of beliefs, its usually possible to find supportive words from the Founders for both sides of a given issue (and sometimes even from the same Founder). Despite all this the Founders remain the gold standard of rhetoric in America.

I don't write all this to disparage the Founders. Quite the opposite. I think our Nation benefits from a more thorough understanding and knowledge of who they are, a complete picture which includes their virtues, beliefs, contradictions, and their faults.

My favorite Founder is Ben Franklin, probably more for his sense of humor and playfulness than for any of than any of his political accomplishments (though they are impressive as well). Franklin strikes me as America's irreverent Uncle, not quite so stiff and serious as the other Founders. Perhaps he didn't have to be so serious given his advanced age, reputation and the fact that he never served as President or in any office under the Constitution. Whatever the case, if I could meet only one Founder I would certainly pick him.

I sometimes wonder what the Founders would think of America today. No doubt they would be surprised by many things, even shocked (though we can speculate at what), but I think on the whole they would be pleased by the progress America has made. Some more than others, I'm sure, and while I have no way of knowing I suspect that Franklin would be among the most proud of the Nation he helped create.

Enjoy your 4th of July everyone. Special thanks to all Veterans or those who are currently serving our Nation, both at home and abroad. And thanks of course to the Founders for their bravery, vision, genius, and luck. Here's to another 233 years.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Confed Cup: Stage 2

Question for ESPN: If you're going to show highlights of a soccer game, and there were 3 goals in the game, is it really so hard to show all three goals? This isn't a basketball game, or even a baseball game. There were 3 goals in the game, and not a lot else which was highlight worthy. Do you really think the audience is so short of attention that they wouldn't stick around to watch all of the goals?

Obrigado to the Seleção for your dominating win over Italy, though it didn't really seem like the Azurri gave much of a damn about this tournament. Here's hoping we can put up a decent showing against Spain.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sharks vs. Jets, 2009 remix

We all know that when rivals reach an impasse, there is only one way to settle things:


Oh my goodness. The Big East Baseball Championships are this week. A scheduled game between UCONN and USF got rained out, so instead of going back to their hotels and hangning out like normal people, the teams decided to take the time to bust a move.

UCONN served USF. USF danced back. So naturally, it was on.

Luckily for us the cameraman had nothing better to do but hang around and film this for posterity. Let's go to the tape (fast forward to 5:45 to see the remarkable limbo skills of #42 Kevin Vance.)

I think UCONN takes this competition, though USF put up a good fight.

One thing that bugs me though is that this seems like the lamest rain delay in history. Its not even raining and the field looks dry. I think these guys really just wanted let their inner Zac Efron out.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Das Birds and Das Capital

For about the last year or so we've been having an economic dilemma. Rising unemployment, dwidling savings, frozen credit, stock market in the tank... listen, we all know by now what's going on. But how to fix it? That's the real puzzle.

Leave it to the Germans, that crafty pretzel eating race of ubermen, to come up with a solution. Its simple really: make more money!

Sure you say, but how? Duh! The same way you make more of anything: sweet, sweet love. Shagging, to be precise. As shown in this new commercial from a German finance company (at least, I hope its a finance company).

Warning: this video is guaranteed to disturb or entertain you. Or even better, do both at the same time.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

President Obama's standup routine

From last nights White House Correspondent's dinner. A couple groaners, a few really funny moments. Overall a pretty good performance for a non-comedian. That teleprompter bit was gold. Plus: Captain Morgan!

Monday, May 4, 2009

You should see him filibuster

There's a saying that legislation is like sausage: you don't really want to watch them make either one. In general I would agree, but every once in awhile the festering pile of idiocy which is the United States Congress manages to be sexy and entertainment (un-ironically, that is).

CSPAN is so dirty sometimes.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Great Googly Moogly

Freakin Chefs. They just took Tyson Jackson. He was gonna be our Igor Replacement and solidify the front 7 for years to come. Damn.

Just for that, I mock you with this classic video.

Detroit 's Draft Demetia

UPDATE: The Lions really are insane.

Well apparently no one in the Lion's organization takes heed of this humble blog. Barely an hour after my long winded screed about the stupidity of taking Matt Stafford number 1 overall, Jay Glazer announced that the Lions have agreed to contract terms with him and will thus draft him first overall later today.

The reported terms of the deal: 6 years, $78 million, with $41.7 in guaranteed money. This is the biggest rookie contract ever, and its not even close. Jamarcus Russell's contact from 2 years ago was a mere $65 million, meaning that the annual inflation rate for first pick QB contracts is roughly 10%. Not exactly hyperinflation but still a lot of money.

Incredible. Absolutely incredible. For a guy who's never taken an NFL snap or even been to his first NFL team meeting.

Personally I don't care what the Lions flush their money away on, except in this case it will probably drive up the price for the Chargers when they try to re-up Phillip Rivers at the end of this season. Oh well, at least we're not the Lions.

And we should draft Rey Rey.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Draft Dementia

Tomorrow is the start of the NFL Draft. Its the end of months of scouting, rumors, testing, speculation, information and misinformation. If current news reports are to be believed, the Detroit Lions, the only team ever to finished 0-16 in the history of the NFL, will be selecting Georgia QB Matt Stafford with the first overall pick. Of course, there's no telling what could happen between now and 4PM tomorrow, especially given that the Lions haven't yet agreed to contract terms with Stafford, but lets assume for the time being that he's the pick.


Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb.

I have nothing against Matt Stafford. Maybe he's a great guy. He seems fun enough to hang out with (from what little I do know about him, he seems to know his way around a keg). Maybe he's a pro Bowler or even a future Hall of Famer.

But I doubt it.

I think Matt Stafford could be a perfectly fine QB in this league. Maybe.

What I do know for sure is that this is a dumb pick. And yet it surprises no one, least of all me.

There are several important reasons why this would be a dumb pick.

First, why the hell does Matt Stafford warrant consideration as a top of the first round QB? Sure he's athletic enough (most Division 1 QBs are) and has a strong arm (ditto). He played reasonably well against mostly strong competition, though a lot of his team's success had to do with the strength of his defense and running game (true in most cases, of course). But what exactly screams out "FIRST ROUND TALENT! PAY THIS GUY 70 MILLION DOLLARS AND ALL YOUR PROBLEMS ARE OVER!"?

Seriously, I want to know. I realize he's talented, but what's the big deal about this guy?

I'm not one to believe in willful media conspiracies or biases, but I do believe in media stupidity and laziness. And the NFL draft media is no exception to this (they're probably worse than most). Every single year they do this. They deliberately spotlight a couple of QBs and build them up at the next big thing. Of course, NFL personnel are really the ones compliant here, because its their idiocy in scouting these guys. They need QBs because its the glamour position and the face of the league. They need 2 so they can play them off each other. Its a crazy sort of groupthink.

Part of me thinks its a con job by the other teams which eventually winds up with some idiotic team getting duped into drafting and paying a ton of money to one of these overhyped QBs. Then all the other teams laugh at the con job and the other QB in the pair, who was supposed to be just as good as the first fella, falls like a stone and the other teams get their pick of the actual good players while the top team doesn't improve at all. Think Alex Smith & Aaron Rodgers or Jamarcus Russell and Brady Quinn.

This is an unproven QB. In the NFL, the odds that an unproven first round QB will really pan out are probably 50-50 at best, and a lot of that depends on the supporting cast the team puts around them. Sure, its easy to look at the Matt Ryans and Joe Flaccos of the world and think all you need is a strong armed, broad shouldered Messiah to come in and turn things around. Easy, until you realize that both those QBs benefited from a very strong supporting cast, just as pretty much every young successful QB in the NFL does (and the old ones too).

You know who doesn't have a very strong supporting cast?

The Detroit Lions.

You know what doesn't really help a team in putting together a strong cast?

Drafting a QB number 1 overall.

Which is the real reason why, irregardless of Stafford's talents, this is a stupid pick.

Let's think about this for a minute. You draft a QB with the number 1 pick overall. Let's be optimistic and suppose he doesn't hold out. You're going to end up paying him a shit-ton of money over the next 6 years. Not only is he the number 1 pick, but he'll also likely demand the so called "QB premium", so tack on 10% more. The last QB to go number 1 overall was Jamarcus Russell, who eventually signed with the Raiders for 6 years and $65 million. While that was extra crazy in itself, owing to Russell's holdout and the fact that the Raiders are idiots, we have to assume that any Stafford deal would be in the same ballpark.

So they draft this guy and sign him to a huge freaking contract. What's the best case scenario for him? Perhaps he comes in and starts right away. Meaning he'll likely get killed behind the sieve that is the Lions O-line (Adjusted sack rate 9.4% in 2008, good for 31st out of 32 teams!). The running game may provide a bit of respite for the young man (they were ranked only 28th in run blocking!). And he better score a lot a points, since the 2008 Lion's defense was ranked 31st in weighted DVOA. At least they've been consistent, though, since they were ranked 31st in 2007 as well.

The point of all this is, the Lions suck. We all know this. This is true of pretty much any team picking in the top of the draft. And as good (or not good) as Stafford could be, putting him in doesn't fix their very deep fundamental flaws. If anything, throwing him to the lions like that (so to speak) will probably get him killed and do little for the team's W-L record.

More realistically, the Lions will bring him along slowly, meaning they'll suck badly with another crappy veteran QB for half a season or so before deciding its time to suck badly with their $60 million dollar "star" QB taking the snaps. Or maybe they sit him the whole year, though I doubt that would happen unless they happened to get competitive with someone else taking the snaps (not bloody likely).

The truth is, no matter what you do, you're paying the guy a ton of money and most likely not getting much in return, at least not for at least 2 years and possibly never. Sure, he could gain some game experience and all that, which could help him improve and reach his potential as the next great NFL QB (NOT BLOODY LIKELY!). Or more likely he'll be a drain on your time, patience and salary cap.

In my mind, investing a ton in a QB and hoping he'll fix things for you is like a really bad baseball team investing a ton in a top closer and thinking that will turn their fortunes around. "Hey, he saved 54 games last year, he's just what we need". Its completely backwards. Like a closer, a QB is pretty much the last thing you should blow your money on. Sure, both positions are nice to have and both can help you win a lot of games. That is, if you have the rest of the pieces in place. A top closer is only a worthwhile investment if you have the hitters, defense and other pitching to make it work. Similarly, a top QB is only worthwhile if you have some talent to surround it. And again, that's assuming the QB is in fact top notch, which we can't even say for certain in this case.

So draft a tackle. Draft a linebacker, or a D-Lineman. Draft someone who's likely to step in now and at least play and help your team get better. Yes, you risk a flop, but the odds on a non-QB turning out to be at least a solid high pick seem a hell of a lot higher than the odds on a QB doing the same. Or better yet, trade the freaking pick, saving yourself some money while adding more potential draft picks. Because that's really what the draft is about for a bad team: volume. Grab as much as you can to increase the odds that some of it is good.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Stafford really is the best player in the draft and he's the promised one who will lead the Lions to salvation. Maybe any lineman or defender they could otherwise pick is a flop waiting to happen. But you can't know that for sure, and you sure as hell can't tell me that the freaking Lions know that. These are the same brain dead assholes who employed Matt Millen for 8 fucking years!

Finally, I know a lot of people are gonna be like "Oh, I feel bad for him, he has to play for the Lions". Screw that. The guys gonna be rich as hell. Sure he'll live in Detroit half the year, but probably in those rich gated suburbs where all the retired Auto Execs hang out and spend all day rolling around in the bonus money they earned for running their industry in to its grave. Plus Detroit plays in a Dome so he won't even been freezing his ass off in half is games. Whatever happens, its a sweet deal for him in a lot of ways.

So that's my thoughts on the supposed Stafford pick. It kinda unsatisfying, because if he succeeds then I'm wrong, but if things go as I predicted its not like I really went out on a limb. "Oh, the Lions suck and are gonna make a dumb decision". Big News!

Meanwhile, the Chargers should draft Rey Rey. Not cause they need him (they don't), or even have a place for him on the roster, or because they don't have a half dozen other glaring needs for that first round pick (they do). They should do it because it would be awesome. Think about this as your starting line backing corp: Phillips, Cooper, Rey and Lights Out. Bad ass. Plus, all their salaries combined don't add up to one Matt Stafford.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Grammar Gripe

Random thought I've had more than once:

Suppose I address a group of people. I can always say "Hi Guys" or "What's up Guys", no matter the gender makeup of the group. 100% men to 100% women and everything in between, "guys" works.

However, if there is a single guy in the group, then I can't just say "hello Ladies". At the least, you have to say "Hello ladies, and _____" or "Hello ladies and gentlemen".

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Oh Come on Ref, that's gotta be worth at least a point. That might be the highlight of this kid's entire athletic life.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

How much is that doggy in the window? $700 Billion

I just found out that the Obama girls still don't have their new dog. Hey Barack, I love you man, but how hard is this? I would blame Mama Obama, but Michelle seems to be busy posing for magazine covers and hanging with her new BFF, Oprah. Still you would think that between two high powered millionaire lawyers, one of whom happens to be friends with Oprah, they could get this done.

This is ridiculous, those poor little girls deserve their dog already. Stephen Colbert says it best.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Obama's Endless Dog Search
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Badvertising: Guitar Hero Metallica

Love it. I was at a bar watching the UNC-OU game and this came on, and I had to restrain myself from laughing out of my chair.

On a second viewing its sad to say that Bobby Knight really is getting old. He's always looked old, but its clear his strength is waning. In his prime he would have chucked that thing straight into the camera, and then beat up all four of those uppity punks.

Movie Talk: Where the Wild Things Are

I'm puzzled, slightly perturbed, and a little bit intrigued.

Apparently someone has decided to make a feature length live action motion picture out of that beloved childhood bedtime tome "Where the Wild Things Are".

I'm puzzled since I'm wondering how they could make a full movie out of a picture book which is like 12 pages long and has fewer words than this post is likely to have. The plot is razor thin: boy gets sent to bed, boy has dream, boy conquers wild things, boy wakes up and magically his supper is still warm.

Naturally I'm not too shocked to learn about the project since I know Hollywood has done more with less source material, though by "more" I don't mean that what they made was good, simply that they were able to fill two hours of celluloid with it. Which brings me to feeling perturbed, because I just know that in order to pad out this story the filmmakers are going to have to invent all sorts of new things and cram them into the story, a practice which rarely succeeds except in defiling the source material. I was curious about just what they were planning to do to make this a movie, so I tracked down the trailer. Let's have a look.

I'm... a little bit intrigued. Not in the sense that I'm going to see this film. I likely won't. But I'm intrigued at the way this trailer seems to market this film. From what I can gather it seems like a standard lonely escapist kid movie. Kid is alienated and sad, kid creates a fantasy world and has some adventure, kid eventually grows up (or not) and has his still hot supper. Makes sense.

But what's with all the indie music? Kids movie's are typically very wordy in their advertising, laying out the plot points and characters easily in order to real kids in. And they almost always end with that most annoying of trailer cliches "The Adventure of a Lifetime!". God I hate that phrase in a trailer.

I'm curious as to what this trailer is trying to do. Few words, adult music, stylized editing. It has a very hip-ish, indie film flavor to it. Is this an attempt to reel in older people (and hip 25ish somethings) who fondly remember the book from their childhoods? Is this actually not a kids movie but rather escapist fare for adults?

My money is that it is, in fact, a kid's movie. But in order to maximize their audience the advertisers figured that they had to grab the parents. Most of said parents will remember the book and will thus be happily inclined to take their offspring, subconsciously hoping to revive a bit of happy childhood in the process. Its likely also aimed at bringing in the childless but nostalgic who need an excuse to go see a kids movie which they really want to see. Its probably a good marketing idea.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Badvertising: Top Carl's Jr

Oh My....

"Top Chef" judge/host Padma Lakshmi is obviously a big time foodie and a big player in the world of culinary based entertainment. Why she would agree to shill for Carl's Jr in such as way is beyond me, but damned if I'm gonna complain. There are some things which are better off left unexplained.

Let's go to the tape.

I'm not sure what will cause more heart attacks: watching this commercial or actually eating that burger.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lost memories

Does anyone remember back when Charlie was still on LOST? I don't just mean the character, but the whole feeling of the show back then.

I miss those days. The confusion generated by the show back then seems almost trivial compared to the confusion it not puts out ever Wednesday night.

Also, there was a golf course.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Well Hellooooooo, Manny! Its so nice to have you back where you belong!

And its nice to be back to blogging as well. Sorry for the extended leave, I've had a bunch of computer trouble.

Its great to have the MannyChild back under contract for another year with the Blue. Sure its a buttload of money (that's an actual scientific term), and they still won't sniff the World Series, but its gonna be a hell of a lot more fun with Manny around.

And Yesterday we got another great piece of pseudo-free agency news, with LT signing a new contract which will keep him in Powder Blue for at least one season and hopefully several more.

Its funny comparing these two contract negotiations and what they say about the differences between Baseball and Football. Both players are sure fire Hall of Famers and all time greats in their respective sports. Manny gets $25 million for this year alone, at least 20 million next year, and every penny is guaranteed. LT had a contract for $24 million over THREE years, and it took 2 months of negotiating to try and reduce that since it was too much for the Chargers to spend with the restrictions of the Salary cap. Even after all this, only part of his now less than 24 million is guaranteed, and its likely that most of it will never find its way onto LT's bank W-2 form.

It also shows how crazy the difference is between aging in the two sports. Manny is 36 and is still highly productive and should be for several years. LT is almost 30, which in football player years is like 48 and in running back years is roughly 74. Its gonna take a ton of luck, and some lean meat protein, for him to finish out this contract.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Credit Crisis Explained

I don't like to let things get too serious around here, but I also feel a need to spread knowledge when possible. I found this great little video which simply and quickly explains how everything went to shit in the housing and credit markets. Hey, its better than reading a book.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Notice how the video doesn't blame the CRA? That's cause the CRA isn't to blame, and anyone who does blame the CRA is a fucking partisan moron. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Badvertising: Head and Shoulders

Love it. Simple, funny, catchy and not trying too hard.

Its also a good public service reminder to go check your tires for death crystals. This is no joke people, don't become another victim of death crystal laden tires.

Friday, February 20, 2009

That's a lot of Lucky Charms

Sproles got the franchise tag this week, all but guaranteeing that he'll be a Charger this year. Good for him, he's certainly earned it, and hopefully this can turn into a long term deal so he can remain a Charger for several years to come.

My only question is whether he has room in his pot-o-gold for $6.6 million.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A-Rod Tangent

All this A-Rod talk has made me remember something else that's bugged me. Back in 2001 A-Rod signed the biggest contract in sports history, a 10 year, $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers. During his tenure in Texas he was very, very productive (and apparently could afford some steroids as well). However, despite his big numbers the Rangers never amounted to much, and he was eventually traded to the Yankees.

One of the memes that developed during his time with the Rangers and since is, while A-Rod was very good, his contract was a "crushing weight" on the Rangers which prevented them from signing other quality players in order to compete, especially some good pitching. Getting rid of A-Rod was supposed to give them the payroll flexibility to be competitive.

This, to me, is a bogus theory. Didn't the Rangers think this through before signing A-Rod? Didn't they consider that signing A-Rod was only one part in building a winning team? Did they not think they were going to have to actually pay him? Did they think he was going to throw 200 innings a year in addition to hitting and playing shortstop?

This whole meme is nothing but a cop out for the Rangers being stupid. They made a shortsighted decision of their own free will, and when it didn't work out (as it probably wasn't going to) they managed to successfully shift the blame to A-Rod and his contract, not their stupidity.

By the way, since being freed from A-Rod's "crushing" contract, the Rangers have won precisely... nothing. In fact, their payroll was cut in half (way more than getting rid of A-Rod alone would account for) and has only trickled upward gradually. Their win total, on the other hand, has remained mostly flat.

Sour Juice

So Alex Rodriguez allegedly tested positive for Steroids back in 2003. Oh Boy. This is gonna be annoying.

This has instantly become the #1 story of the Baseball season. Everything that A-Rod or the Yankees do will have this cloud over it. It will be discussed, argued, clucked about and fretted over by fans, journalists and analysts from coast to coast. I'm even writing a post about it. And all this chatter will amount to nothing except a big headache.

I was meaning to write a steroid related post, but for a different reason, so I figure I'll be efficient and just role two thoughts into a single post. After all, saving words is important in these trying economic times.

ESPN's Outside the Lines, a program whose existence is one of the few redeeming qualities of ESPN, recently did a story about the 1963 San Diego Chargers and how they were pioneers. Though not the good kind of pioneers, who deal with bears and dysentery and broken wagon axles. The '63 Chargers were probably the first professional team to make extensive use of steroids. And it wasn't a dirty little secret in the locker room, either: the team was given and told to take these pills during training camp. The OTL segment is outstanding and I wish I could embed the video, but instead I just have to make a link here and send you on your way to check it out.

Its really amazing, looking back, how little these guys (and their coaches) knew about steroids at the time. Its also amazing how much the game, and sports in general, have changed. No one lifted weights. No one questioned what coach said to do. Coach told you to live in the desert for week, and all you said was "yes sir". He says you gotta play hurt: "Yes sir". He tells you to take a mysterious pill with every meal: "Yes sir". The teams didn't know or care, the league didn't know or care. Hell, Sid Gilman is in the Hall of Fame!

Of course, nowadays we know a ton about steroids, and yet I think we are still pretty naive about it. Or at least we make ourselves naive about it, in order to avoid the cold hard truth that a lot of our favorite athletes are probably cheating. Sure, when a hated rival gets busted, we cluck our tongues and heckle and mock them and write them off forever as cheaters. When its our guy we can't rationalize or forget it fast enough. Its a totally natural and human reaction, which is not limited to steroids or to sports.

It reminds me of a story about Antebellum Plantation housewives, who could be counted on to know who the father was of every mulatto slave in the state, except of course those who lived on their own plantation. Lord only knows where those children came from.

Which brings me in a roundabout way to our latest hero to fall from grace: A-Rod. A-Rod (allegedly, of course) used steroids in 2003, and possibly other times as well.

What's weird about this is that A-Rod isn't really liked that much. In fact, I'd wager that he's one of the most disliked players in baseball. Even Yankee fans don't seem to like him very much. There's a handful of baseball fans who (until now, anyway) liked him, myself included. I happen to like A-Rod because I think he gets a terrible wrap and is perhaps the most under appreciated player in baseball. This is not to defend him or excuse his behavior, its just how I (used to) feel about the guy.

The weird thing about this is that, unlike guys like Big Mac, Bonds or Giambi who got obviously bigger and stronger, A-Rod didn't seem to change in size. Nor did his numbers improve dramatically in 2003. In fact, they were down quite a bit from the prior season, as were his 2004 numbers. His slugging percentage dropped from .623 to .600 and then too .510 before rebounding in 2005 to .620. His Home Run totals dropped from 57 to 47 and then to 36 before going back to 48 in 2005. His power numbers have fluctuated throughout his career and there seems to be no definite trend either before or after 2003.

My guess, assuming that he was only using in 2003, was that A-Rod was using Steroids to try and recover from some lingering injury, and it took until 2005 for him to really get right again. Or maybe he was just a head case for those two years (he does admit to seeing 5 therapists). Either way, its odd.

For many years he's been, quite literally, the best baseball player in the whole world, and yet he's hated by so many. Most of this dislike is a combination of his being a Yankee, his enormous contract, and the perception that he isn't "clutch", a mostly meaningless (and fairly incorrect, in this case) distinction. Throw in the messy divorce and the fact that he's dated Madonna and you have a surefire recipe for loathing. And now steroids are the topper on the A-rod hate sundae.

The one thing that A-Rod did have going for him was that he was on pace to take back the title of Home Run King from perhaps the only player more universally hated than A-Rod himself: Barry Bonds. Whatever his other attributes or whether or not he ever won a World Series, A-Rod had this one chance at redemption and to be remembered in a positive light. To restore some dignity and pride back to what was once the most hollowed record in sports.

And now that's gone.

In a sad sense, this couldn't be more appropriate. Steroids have been hiding in plain sight in sports, especially baseball, for too long. The Home Run Chase with Sosa and Big Mac. Barry Bonds breaking almost every HR record. Rogers Clemens seeming immortality. Eric Gagne, Jason Giambi, dozens of others named and unnamed. The Mitchell Report.

A-Rod was a big hope for Baseball to right the ship and put steroids behind it, but I guess it was too good to be true, which is totally fitting.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Pot Phlap

This whole Michael Phelps flap has gotten quite ridiculous. Ya, he smoked some pot. Pot is illegal, or something, whatever. He's a bad role model or something. Oh Lawdy, a guy took a bong hit! To be fair, a lot of people aren't really that upset about it, but there's still a sizable group of self righteous idiots who consider this something to be upset about. I'm willing to bet that a year ago 99% of the people who actually care that Michael Phelps smoked pot had no idea who Michael Phelps was.

I'm not exactly a big Michael Phelps fan, but let's look at the facts. He has 16 Olympic medals. He has 14 Gold Medals. He has about a bagillion other medals from World Championships and more World Records than I care to look up. He's got like $50 million dollars and worldwide fame. And he earned it all. He's not some fake celebrity. Phelps worked his ass off his whole life to get all these things. If anyone's earned a hit, he has.

USA swimming has suspended him from swimming for a few months. Kellogg's has dropped him as a sponsor. Both of these things are stupid. Oh no, he can't swim for you for a few months? I don't know how he'll ever survive such a harsh penalty. Good thing the Olympics are 4 years away and he's got several other chances at high level international competition which will come after this lame suspension is over. A few months now? Really? That's like MLB suspending a baseball player for the month of December. That will teach them.

And Kellogg's dropping him? Of all his sponsors, Kellogg's? Do they not realize that one of the biggest markets for cereal is stoners? This is a potential gold mine for them.

What I love is that Phelps actually did something much, much, much worse than getting filmed taking a hit a long time ago. After his first Olympics, when he was only 19, he got arrested for DUI. He could have killed someone. Why didn't Kellogg's or USA Swimming give a damn about that?