Thursday, December 30, 2010

5 Unsung Holiday Traditions


I am sure you imaginary readers have enjoyed many of the usual holiday traditions that are so common at this time of year. Tree decorating, gift giving, and enjoying family dinners are all widely celebrated rituals. But let us take a moment to reflect on the unsung traditions that get less fanfare despite their omnipresence in most of our lives.

Here are 5 that seem ubiquitous:

Threatening your children
The only known way to make kids get along all day and then eat vegetables at dinner, is to remind them that Santa will judge them harshly if they do otherwise. This is the most constructive and perhaps enjoyable of all the traditions at my house. With Christmas behind us, I am not anticipating the consumption of much broccoli until next December, when the specter of lost gifts regains its salience.

Assembling a bicycle in the garage at midnight, under poor light
This is not an annual ritual but a semi-regular ceremony held at odd intervals until all offspring reach adolescence. While it is almost a rite of passage into fatherhood, completing the task in any less than 2 hours, 3 beers, and 5 skinned knuckles is not common. Left over parts, on the other hand, are very common.

Lost toy pieces
Here’s a holiday staple for those of you who are married with children. Nothing says Christmas afternoon like venturing into the cold to search the outside trash bin for lost instructions and missing toy parts. This usually happens after a pan of turkey fat has been poured into the bin adding an additional dimension to the unpleasant experience.

Keeping the cat out of the tree
I’ve never had one myself, but every cat-owner I’ve ever met has a story about the seemingly irresistible proposition (in feline eyes) of shiny bobbles that dangle within paw’s reach among twinkling lights.

Puzzling over the identities of those people in the Christmas card
Yes, most relatives are obvious and all good friends can be clearly recognized in their cards. But let’s be honest here, sometimes you just don’t know who the hell those people are, right? And if they only signed with their first names, well, it can be tough to figure out who they are. Or does that only happen to me…

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Dog House

Did I ever tell you about the year I spent in the "Double Dog House"? The only way to get there is to be completely unaware that you are in the regular Dog House while continuing to do what ever it was that got you sent there. Then you end up in the Double Dog House....

Monday, November 15, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ready for some Baseball?


Contributed by Auggie
-------------------------------
The World Series starts tonight. Really. While the FOX network executives are probably swearing under their breath about the match up, there is always something to like if you are a baseball fan. For example:

1. The Yankees are not in it. From a ratings standpoint the Yankees are a big draw, but there is a large segment of the population that are sick of the Yankees (including yours truly) and would prefer to see anyone else. As a humane person I often feel sympathy for the losing playoff teams no matter how hard I rooted against them. But as the Yankee players sat in the dugout with glum faces while the Rangers were about to eliminate them in game six I kept waiting for that feeling to come. I’m still waiting. So long losers!

2. First time for Texas. This is the first World Series for the Texas franchise, in fact, before this year they had never even won a playoff series. It’s always good to see a franchise get its first championship, and it would be nice for the fan base as well. And with the Cowboys sinking faster than the Andrea Doria lets face it, they need something to root for.

[Note: I didn’t mean to disrespect the 49ers with my ‘sinking Cowboys’ comment. The 49ers are sinking even faster; thus, this series is a good diversion for both area fan bases].

An underrated aspect of having Texas in the Series: we all have an excuse to use Texas slang around the house when talking about the game. For example, if the Giants want to walk Hamilton to face Vlad Guerrero we can say “they’ll be sorrier than a one-eyed gofer in a cactus patch”. If the weather is hot in Texas we can say “It's been hotter'n a goat's butt in a pepper patch”. After a dumb move we could say “If dumb were dirt, he’d cover about an acre” or “He couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if you wrote the instructions on the heel”. So there’s that.

3. Weather. With the World Series now concluding in November, there is always the threat of a snow out. That shouldn’t be a problem this year.

4. Giant tradition. The San Francisco Giants have a great tradition, but at the same time they fall under the tortured franchise label. The Giants have not won a Championship since moving to the west coast in 1958, and in fact they have the third longest championship drought behind the more talked about Cubs and Indians. They’ve had their chances. In 1989 they went to their first World Series since moving to San Francisco but they were swept by Oakland, and the massive earthquake in the Bay area overwhelmed any interest in baseball. Then in 2002 they were six outs away before losing games 6 & 7 to the Angels.

Over the years the Giants have had some of baseball’s greatest stars; most notable are Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Bobby Bonds, Gaylord Perry and of course Bobby’s son, Barry Bonds. While none of those players won a championship with the Giants they helped build a strong tradition and provided great memories for baseball fans everywhere. Ironically, if they win this year it will be without a major superstar, with the possible exception of Tim Lincecum. Speaking of Tim Lincecum . . .

5. Pitching. The Giants are built on pitching and set records this year. (I don’t know exactly what the records are and as a guest blogger I see no reason to verify my assertion). In any case, its pitching is really, really good, and it will be interesting to see if it continues against a good hitting American League club – especially the games in Texas when the DH rule is in effect. On the other side, Cliff Lee has been unbeatable in the postseason and is making history along the way. If he can consistently shut down the Yankees in the post season, he should be in line for a couple no-hitters against the Giants. I predict the scrappy Giants will beat him at least once.

Quick tangent: In September I blogged about the pansies in baseball after yet another inexplicable incident. In hindsight, I should have realized it’s specifically baseball pitchers giving the sport a bad name. Well, San Francisco pitcher Jonathan Sanchez reinforced that notion with his incident in game 6 of the NLCS. In fact, he moved to the head of the class (garden?). Words can’t describe how ridiculous his behavior was so I won’t even try. Back to the blog.

6. Josh Hamilton. Hamilton was once a can’t-miss baseball prospect before his life was nearly ruined by alcoholism. He beat his addiction and not only lived up to his playing potential but possibly exceeded it. He has a good chance to win the AL MVP award this year and is clearly one of the most feared hitters in the game. After the Rangers beat Tampa Bay his teammates were sensitive to his past struggles and sprayed him with ginger ale so he could participate of the celebration. (Of course they were probably drunk when they did it). If you like come-back stories, this is a good one.

I for one am looking forward to an interesting, and hopefully 7-game series.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Beginning of the End of the NFL


Actually, this is probably not the beginning. Although the NFL is commanding higher and higher TV ratings, dominating an ever-increasing share of the pop culture mind, and raking in record breaking revenues, I think the beginning of the end happened a couple of years ago when Chris Henry died in an auto-related accident.

For those imaginary readers not familiar with Chris Henry, he was a young and talented NFL receiver who struggled mightily to curb his penchant for making horrible social decisions. I won't besmirch his name other than to point out that, with so much to lose by his constant brushes with the law, more than one person speculated that he was not completely, cognitively intact. After he died, an autopsy showed that he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (C.T.E.), a brain disorder caused by repeated blows to the head.

Earlier this year, we read the story of Owen Thomas, an outgoing honor student who was captain of the football team at an Ivy League school. He surprised everyone he knew by going home one afternoon and hanging himself. As with Henry, an autopsy showed C.T.E.

The scariest aspect of the Owen Thomas story is that he had never had a concussion or even a head ache from his years of little league, high school, and college football. Still, the constant, low-grade trauma seemed to be taking its toll. It manifest in sudden, intense depression and probably, a tragically impulsive decision to kill himself. That is consistent with the pattern of poor and impulsive decisions that had followed Chris Henry through his brief adult life.

As these stories multiply and awareness rises about the long term health effects of head trauma, little league football will go away. This will steer the nation's youth to other sports and the quantity and quality of high school football players, after many years, will also recede. As participation and celebration of high school football dwindles, it will decimate the youngest slice of the NFL's fan base and begin to erode the financial prospects for the league. Eventually, college programs will opt for more affordable, lower-risk programs and the NCAA system will feel the effects of less interest in football. As the feeder system collapses on itself, the NFL will face an increasingly educated public that sees it as a senselessly violent undertaking. Like boxing today, the NFL will eventually assume a stripped down form on the outskirts of mainstream pop culture.

I wrote earlier about my fear that an NFL player will be killed on the field of play and fans across the land, like me, will blame ourselves. When I saw the hit on DeSean Jackson last Sunday, I was sure it had happened. He eventually got up but the impact revived my old fears and I felt sick for more than a day.

Escalating violence and a better understanding of brain injuries are conspiring against the future of the NFL. I can't say the end is near, but it is on its way.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dear Auggie

Apparently the soothing, consolatory tone of my blogs has left people with the impression that I’m a warm-hearted person who will graciously help them with their problems. I’ve never fancied myself as an advice columnist, but I’m not one to turn my back on lost souls in need of guidance. Without further ado, here are some recent letters I’ve received.

Dear Auggie,

I recently set out for my usual Saturday morning golf round with my buddy Jimmy. It was a bad day from the start. First, Jimmy texted me that he was sick and wouldn’t be able to make it so I had to play alone. Then I shanked my first four iron shots of the day. I was so frustrated that I just decided to put the clubs in the bag and head home. When I arrived home and turned into my driveway I saw Jimmy running out my backyard while trying to slip his pants on. I was shocked. I haven’t said anything to my wife yet but I think she senses something is bothering me. What should I do?

Biff

Dear Biff,

This is one of the most difficult things a man has to go through, but you are not alone. Try slowing down your backswing and be sure to maintain a consistent spine angle throughout your swing and you should be hitting great shots in no time. Hope that helps!

====

Dear Auggie,

When I met my husband I never told him my family had money because I wanted him to love me for who I am. Now that it’s our first anniversary I would like to surprise him with the nicest set of golf clubs he can imagine. Any advice on what features I should look for?

Wendy,

Dear Wendy,

Just make sure they all have swimming pools. There’s nothing like a refreshing dip after a steamy round of golf.

====

Dear Auggie,

My husband has too many golfing days with the boys. What should I do?

Meg

Dear Meg,

This is perfectly natural behavior and it should be encouraged. The man is a hunter and he needs to prove his prowess with other men. Far from being pleasurable experience, a round of golf with the boys is a stressful affair, and getting back to you is a relief for him. Just look back at how emotional and happy he is when he returns to his stable home. The best thing to do is to buy him a new set of Ping custom-made golf clubs

====

I think that went well. This advice stuff is not so bad.

Vexation

Contributed by Auggie
-------------------------------------
I was going through my notebook the other day and came across these sports related tidbits that annoy the crap out of me. I like to share.

First, I’m tired of hearing so-called pundits give the same tired analysis of Michael Vick while ignoring the obvious fallacy. It goes like this: “Vick needs to learn to stay in the pocket and not rely on his legs . . .” or something to that effect. But I ask - why should he do that? The very quality that makes Vick a dangerous QB is his freakish athletic ability and his knack for turning would-be sacks into 42 yard gains (as good as a 42 yard pass play). He’s basically Gale Sayers with a rocket arm - why mess with it? Let’s consider the QB rating for a moment. I, like other fans without an advanced mathematics degree, do not fully understand the QB rating but I do know this: it’s basically a measure of a quarterbacks passing efficiency and does not consider running statistics (although maybe it should). In that sense, it’s a perfect way to look at Vick because it separates his “quarterbacking” skills from his running skills. Consider that in Vick’s career with Atlanta (before he spent time in the big house) his QB rating averaged 73.4 a season which is mediocre at best. Quarterbacks capable of a 73.4 rating are a dime a dozen. So why is Vick a winning quarterback and considered (by the same pundits) a good quarterback despite his dismal rating? Because the dude can run! A 73.4 quarterback rating without the running ability is called Derek Anderson. So the next time someone suggests he should stay in the pocket and stop running, just zip it.

So I’m watching the Ryder cup and a player leaves a crucial birdie putt short. This triggered the automatic “you should NEVER leave a birdie putt short” response from one of the high-paid analysts. Now I wholeheartedly agree with that statement as it applies to straight putts. But most putts (including the subject putt) are a combination of speed and break, and the combination of these variables determines where the putt will end up. If you are trying to hole the putt then you need to hit the correct speed for the amount of break. If you’re only concern is to ‘not leave it short’ then you’re liable to hit it through the break and still miss. Worse, if you hit too far past the hole you’ll leave yourself with a Danny DeVito just to save par (i.e. a nasty little 5 footer).

Tony Sparano annoys me. Why does he wear sunglasses at night and indoors? Is it a sensitive eye condition? Does he think he looks cool? Throw in the 70s porn mustache and I really don’t know what he is thinking. If he is going for the dorky-professional-poker-player look then he nailed it. How can you take that guy seriously? Dork!

Does Fox really need six high-paid analysts for the NFL pre-game and half-time shows? Naturally they all want to talk, and they usually do at the same time. And who can understand Shannon Sharpe even when he has the floor? The first time I heard him I thought he had just come from a root canal and the novocain hadn’t worn off, but apparently that’s his normal speech. Half time is only 12 minutes long and 8 of those are commercials promoting other Fox shows so that doesn’t leave much time for the boys to feed their egos. Brent Musburger and Irv Cross used to handle everything just fine. I can’t wait for the Hollywood Squares set arrangement when they have a different analyst assigned to each game with a host lighting up their square when it’s their turn in the spotlight.

Why do tennis players always fall to the ground and put their hands on their head after winning a match? There has to be an alternate celebration routine out there. I’m still waiting for someone with originality to break the mold.

I could go on but I’m starting to annoy myself.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Best Moment of MLB 2010

I didn't watch much baseball this year but I followed the season's headlines and I am aware of the major plot lines. One story that got lots of press, essentially all angry or at least negative, also spawned my choice for the season's best moment.

The story is of Armando Galarraga, a young pitcher who took a perfect game through 8 and 2/3 innings and needed only to retire the final hitter to record one of the rarest and most haloed feats in the game. He then induced a ground ball to the right side, hustled over to cover first base himself, and took a throw from the first baseman for the greatest out in his career. Only problem: the umpire called the runner safe and the perfect game was blown.

The story became the umpire, Jim Joyce, and how he had robbed the pitcher, robbed the fans, and robbed history with a blown call. He took it like a man, admitted his mistake, apologized to Galarraga, and prepared for a lifetime of angry reminders from unforgiving fans.

During the ensuing 24 hours, the national media magnified the mistake and did its best to whip baseball fans into a frenzied mob, setting the scene for more "made for TV drama" when Joyce took his position behind home plate for the next game.

The drama was there, but not really in a way that many expected. Joyce took the field with visible emotions, ready for the boos and the wrath of the Detroit Tigers, whom he had robbed of a milestone achievement the evening before. When it was time for the managers to bring out the line-up cards, out came Galarraga, with a forgiving smile and an encouraging pat on the back. Joyce cried. Best moment of the year.

Here's the video:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Decade of Parenthood

So the oldest turns 10 today which means I now have a decade of parenthood under my belt. If you had asked me ten years ago to predict how much I would know about parenting by the time I had been on the job for this long, I would have way over-estimated myself.

I am sure that, among the mass of imaginary readers, there are experts on this topic who might weigh in with real expertise, but to get it started, here are the top things I think I learned each year along the way:

Year 1: If your infant's nasal passages are completely clogged with mucous and you use that big turkey baster contraption to try to clear them, never "check the results" by peering into the pointy end and squeezing the bulb.

Year 2: If you make up a really good bedtime story with a two-headed dog and twisting, funny plot, all of your future stories may be harshly compared to that standard by a disappointed child with high expectations.

Year 3: With the addition of a second child you must question the math you learned as a kid. Caring for two should be twice as hard as caring for one. But it's not. It's six times as hard.

Year 4: Whenever one kid does something inappropriate and must be reprimanded, the other kid will be behind you to witness the irrepressible smile that crosses your face when you turn away from the one you just scolded. This will set you back several years in teaching right from wrong.

Year 5: TV is bad for the mind and stunts creative thinking blah blah blah...when you are single parenting and you need to make a phone call or use the bathroom, the TV is like a magical friend with limitless power to captivate your kids.

Year 6: No form of birth control is perfect. (Third child joins the family.)

Year 7: Little boys pee differently than little girls. Even imaginary readers know that. However, it takes some parenting experience to know that a good pair of goggles at the changing table can preserve your eyesight.

Year 8: If you make eye contact with your child and ask them, in a clear, loud voice, to perform some chore, they probably won't hear you. But the sound you make biting into a marshmallow from the confines of the kitchen pantry, will wake them from a sound sleep and prompt a request for a marshmallow of their own.

Year 9: Kids today are smarter than we were. Example: We were smart to figure out that, if we swore, we got in trouble with mom. Kids today know that, if they swear, Dad gets in trouble with mom.

Year 10: Nothing compares to parenthood in terms of its capacity to fill you with sheer joy and a profound sense of purpose.

There you have it. I welcome all tips on instilling discipline, explaining war, getting vegetables consumed, and refuting the "unfair" claim.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Day in Rock History


It's not always obvious that a particular event will be historically noteworthy at the moment it happens. Other times, the significance of the event or those involved, virtually ensures a marker in the great book of time passed.

On a certain day in the early 1970's, a group of high school boys in Jacksonville, Florida showed up for gym class sporting hair that was micro-fractionally longer than it had been the day before. The clean-cut gym teacher, a stickler for rules who was apparently blessed with world-class discernment skills, promptly declared their hair to be "unacceptably long". He sent them all to the principle's office and they were summarily expelled. This date was not recorded in history.

Those boys later formed a rock and roll band which they chose to name, in a smart-alecky way, after the old gym teacher who had provoked their sense of rebellion. The exact dates when the band was formed, and when it was named, are also lost to history.

The band went on to reach super-stardom, wrote and recorded musical anthems that are still widely played today, and etched their presence immutably into rock and roll lore. The band is Lynyrd Skynyrd and the gym teacher was Leonard Skinner.

Let today be remembered, September 20, 2010, as the day that Leonard Skinner died.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cool Things with No Purpose - Part IX


A new way to think about "Facebook".....

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Rules of engagement

Contributed by Auggie
Likely beanball recipient

-------------------------------
“There’s no crying in baseball”. That was a cute line from the movie ‘A league of their own’, unfortunately it has no basis in reality. Major league baseball has once again proven to have a bigger collection of pansies than Cypress Gardens.

What’s rattling my cage today? It’s the seemingly endless “unwritten” rules of baseball, violation of which are punishable by beaning from a cowhide orb hurled at 90 mph. Just this past year I have learned that you can’t try to bunt for a hit if the opposing pitcher is throwing a no hitter (it’s perfectly legal according to the written rules), and you can’t cross the pitcher’s mound on your way back to the dugout after making an out (see Braden, Dallas).

The latest example comes from the Florida Marlins-Washington Nationals game earlier this week. A quick recap: National’s player Nyjer Morgan was beaned early in the game for being a jerk (hey, that’s what you get). He calmly jogged down to first base and then promptly stole both second and third base putting him in position to score on a sacrifice fly, which he in fact did. In his next at bat, the pitcher threw a fastball behind him, purportedly because he had the audacity to steal those bases when his team was TRAILING by 10 runs. That's right, his team was behind and presumably trying to catch up. I’ll bet the bum doesn’t recycle either. I would have applauded him for continuing to play hard when his team was down but I’m obviously not fluent in the unwritten rules of baseball. Incredibly, Morgan is the one being vilified in the press because, well, he's a jerk. Maybe the rule is that jerks can't steal when down by 10 runs - we may never know.

I’ll venture to guess that stealing bases when you are ahead by 10 would bring the same punishment. Who can keep us with this? Here’s an idea: why not write these rules down so everyone knows them? Or let the pansies have a league of their own.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Milestone Eve

I don't know if it's a big deal for most kids to go to professional baseball game, or if their first glimpse of the field inside a real stadium is magic moment, but it was for me.

I have spoken with other guys my age who can vividly recount their first big league game, so I think it might be worthy of "milestone" status. By that I mean, one of those events that is intensely anticipated, yet still turns out to be every bit as good as expected. Milestones are those experiences that make indelible footprints on the path to a fulfilling life.

Tomorrow, I will visit Angel stadium with Romeo to see them play the Orioles in a game that is all but meaningless for both teams. Meaningless, that is, in terms of the 2010 MLB post-season, but it is not a meaningless game to us. We have planned this for a long time and my 4-year old, baseball-crazy son has been counting down to this day all summer long

I bought two front row tickets behind home plate and two more front row tickets up against the bullpen in left field. We plan to move around, catch a few home run balls during batting practice, chat with the bullpen pitchers, befriend the on-deck hitters, and run the bases. That's right -- it is "run the bases" day for kids under 12 so we will be allowed on the field for a single, glorious lap.

I don't know what Romeo has up his sleeve, but here's my plan: I will sprint to first and make a proper, wide turn in foul ground so that I can accelerate across the inside corner of the bag toward second. I will go hard into second with a pop-up slide, eliminating any chance of an imaginary double-play, before digging hard and low toward third, where I will arrive with a dramatic, head-first slide. Without even spitting the dirt out of my mouth, I will scamper up, head for home, and bowl into any kids awaiting their turn to run, scattering them like tenpins.

Look for me on Sports Center. I'll be the guy covered in dirt, wearing the proud expression of a man who took his son out to achieve a milestone but ended up bagging one of his own.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Reggie Bush and the Heisman Trophy


I know my imaginary readers don't dwell in Southern California, if they did, I could complain to them out loud and I wouldn't need a blog to blow off steam. Anyway, is there anyone in the sports media who isn't dumber than Miss South Carolina?

Case in point, the non-stop disucssion about whether or not Reggie Bush should give back the Heisman Trophy, with which he was honored in 2005.

For those of you not awash in the details of this ridiculous story, Reggie's parents accepted some free transportation to his road games during the season when he won the Heisman, which is a violation of NCAA regulations. The NCAA has since discovered this violation and severely penalized USC by reducing their athletic scholarships and banning them from bowl eligibility for awhile.

It's a severe punishment, it has dampened the viability of the very popular USC football program, and lots of locals are really mad at Reggie Bush. Hence the question: Should he give back the Heisman?

What's that you say? You don't understand how the back story leads to that question? Exactly! It's ridiculous on multiple levels.

Here's an analogy: Once I wrote a paper that won an award given annually by some private group. I also violated the regulations of my Home Owners Association by using the pool late at night after it was closed. Should I give back the award I won for the paper?

The main source of my exasperation with this coverage is that the media seems not to understand the difference between the honor (winning the award) and the symbol of the honor (the actual trophy). It's not up to Reggie if he should retain or concede the honor; that decision rests with the Heisman Trophy Trust of New York City, for it is they who bestow the award each year.

If they strip him of the honor, his mere possession of the trophy would mean nothing. Conversely, if he gives the trophy back but they do not strip him of the honor, he will still be forever memorialized as the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Dad Life

This video was called to my attention by faithful WWDS reader Rick Bohon, who is living the "Dad Life" in Switzerland. (That's right, WWDS has a global, imaginary following!) Not sure why I didn't write, direct, sing or star in this video but I should have...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Best Friends

I saw this video posted on cousin Debbie's Facebook page. Thought it was worthy of pushing on the entire WWDS readership. Enjoy!

Monday, August 16, 2010

One of Those Days

There are certain dates that trigger my mind to recall particular events. Today, August 16th, is one of those dates.
I am not sure why I remember that these four events all occurred on the same day but, for some reason, they seem related in my mind and I never seem to forget them.

No need to elaborate extensively; I'll just list them chronologically with a short comment:

August 16, 1920 - Ray Chapman became first and only batter to be killed by a pitched ball in Major League Baseball. This changed the game in many ways including the rule that newer, whiter balls be used. That particular change meant that old, dirty, dead balls could not be used and the newer, more tightly wound replacements ushered in the era of the power hitter. Which leads to...

August 16, 1948 - Babe Ruth died. He was probably the greatest beneficiary of the changes to the game that favored power hitters. His on-field abilities drew attention to his colorful social life and he drove "celebrity status" to a new level for professional athletes and entertainers. Celebrity status brings us to...

August 16, 1958 - Louise Ciccone was born near Detroit and later changed her name to Madonna. Her fame grew to the point where, at the height of her notoriety, she was on a very short list of the most well-known figures on the planet. To that point in history, the only other musical entertainer who had achieved such widespread fame was Elvis, who died on...

August 16, 1977 - That's right. Same day. Heard the news from Joe Nemi. Even though many of us think of "young Elvis" and "old Elvis", the latter term referring to his bloated final years, he was never really old. He died at 42.

August 16th is just one of those days...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Soxy thing


Contributed by Auggie
------------------------------
In golf it’s called “scrambling”. Player A splits the fairway with his drive, knocks his second shot 15 feet from the pin and two putts for a par (ho-hum). Player B, the scrambler, hits a drive into the woods, punches out to the rough, hits his third shot to the fringe and drains a 30-footer for par. Player A is demoralized. High level scrambling is not for the weak, it requires perseverance, determination, heart and an unwavering will to win. Ladies and gentlemen, meet your 2010 Boston Red Sox. To use the golf analogy, this team is definitely scrambling.

I’ve heard it said that the 2010 Red Sox are boring. I don’t disagree. They are not the lovable losers they were during the curse era, they don’t have the outsized personalities of the idiot era (Ramirez, Damon, Millar), and they don’t really have a superstar as the face of the organization. What they do have is resilience. As a baseball fan it’s hard not to respect what they have done so far this season.

Lets review. Due to an aberrant rash of injuries this season, the Sox have been winning with players named Bill Hall, Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald, Elvis Patterson, Eddie Haskell, Felix Doubront and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. (I only made up one of those). Meanwhile, established stars like Pedroia, Youkilis, Ellsbury, Martinez, Drew and Varitek have spent considerable time on the disabled list while other players they were counting on have not lived up to expectations - the prize offseason acquisition (Lackey) has lived up to his name, Josh “overrated” Beckett continues to be a non factor and Jonathan “extremely overrated” Papelbon hasn’t thrown a 1-2-3 inning since sixth grade. Today they sit 3.5 games out of the wildcard spot and I honestly don’t know how. Terry Francona must be a good manager.

I don’t know how the season will end (unless I’ve jinxed them, and then I do know) but it’s been an exciting ride for a boring team.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Super Teams

In keeping with the "All LeBron" theme of the week, I thought I would share my thoughts and add a little perspective to one angle of this whole, NBA free agency season.

First, there is no need to watch the special tonight, LeBron is staying in Cleveland. I can't understand all the speculation when I have already been very public with this announcement. I have solved the mystery so you can all stop looking for clues.

Second, I hear the talking heads say that "rings" or championships are how we judge athletes but that's just not true. Dan Marino is considered one of the best QB's of all tme despite his unadorned fingers whereas Trent Dilfer, Jeff Hostetler, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien, all QB's on championship teams, are not in that conversation. Carl Malone and John Stockton are always listed high in the NBA pantheon but neither won a ring in their careers. Patrick Ewing is considered one of the best centers of all time with no ring. Think about Pete Maravich, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Charles Barkley Reggie Miller, and Jason Kidd. All considered great; no championships between them.

Football, basketball, and baseball are team sports and no individual can be fairly judged by the quality of the team surrounding him. Sure, one sign of greatness is making your teammates better, but that's a pretty opaque scale.

Finally, a little perspective. When I was in 5th grade, I somehow ascended to the role of "leader of the kickball field" and found myself with the authority of deciding the rosters for the teams. I quickly learned to abuse this power by adopting all of the skilled kids to my team and transferring the nose-pickers to the other team. Naturally, we drubbed our untalented opponents for about 3 or 4 recesses, and then everyone lost interest.

It turned out not to be fun getting drubbed and taunted, nor was it fun to pummel a clearly inferior team. The lesson, which I am sure all NBA players learned somewhere along the way, is this: if LeBron were to go to Miami and join the other star free agents on a "Super Team", it would be a blow to the excitement of the NBA, and any success earned by the super team would be forever pale when compared to those victories earned in a balanced league.

The King without a ring

Contributed by Auggie
--------------------------
I want to like LeBron James, I really do. But he’s making it difficult. James is one of the faces of the NBA, and like other modern athletes he’s used his athletic popularity to brand himself as a global entertainment icon. The reason for James’ popularity on the hardwood is that he is good, really good. It’s not his personality which is no more interesting than two or three hundred other NBA players. But it seems to me that James is more worried about being a brand than being a great basketball player. If I were his publicist, my message would be this: “there is nothing better for the brand than being great at your craft, and a couple rings wouldn’t hurt”.

The latest thing stuck in my craw is the televised announcement of his free agency decision (tonight). Is this really necessary? I had been blaming the media (as I am wont to do) for over blowing the ‘summer of LeBron’ for two years and then complaining two days after the free agency period began because they are sick of all the talk. But this one is all on LeBron. I already thought his whole free agency courting process was a bit tawdry, but this televised event brings it to a new level; “All bow to the King - tune in tonight and I’ll declare who will be blessed with my greatness for the coming years”. I won’t be tuning in. There will be more slobbering at that event than a puppy convention.

LeBron ought to be working on his jumper. I don’t pretend to know his off season workout schedule but I’m guessing he doesn’t have the work ethic of MJ and Kobe. If James would develop a consistent long-range jumper and a couple low-post moves he could be the greatest ever. Maybe if he could televise his workouts he would have a real incentive.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Great Catch

No need to writte anything about this, just watch and enjoy....

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cool Things with No Purpose - Part VIII


Once again, I am featuring an image that really isn't "cool" per se, but I found it amusing. This is exactly the kind of thing I used to encounter on a daily basis in college, when my friends and I were seeking ways to deploy our latest learning to solve some real life problem.

I wonder what the nice ladies at Verizon did to deserve Randall's provocative memo...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Damn Good Advertising

I've commented in the past about how we all think we recognize effective advertising, and that we might all be fooling ourselves if we don't have the appropriate formal background. Given that, I am not sure this is a good spot, but I suspect that it is.

I also like the back story about how it was developed by a guy, who was not commissioned to do so, but he cared about the cause and loaned his creative efforts to the task for free.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Things I Thought We'd Have Figured Out by Now


Waiting to board a plane in Los Angeles and these two things struck me in rapid succession. Since I am traveling alone with no companion to serve as crash test dummy for my pointless banter, I have to turn to my trusted army of imaginary readers at WWDS and leave my thoughts in this blog posting.

First, it says here in this discarded newspaper (Dallas Morning News), that scientists don’t know how trees get water out of the ground. They’re pretty sure the roots are involved but can’t really say after that how it happens.

Really? We don’t know how trees work? Next time I need an example of a category of professionals who haven’t really made much progress in their field, I plan to invoke agrobiologists.

Second, I have heard a couple dozen announcements over the PA system since I arrived here at gate 48A but haven’t understood a single one. Aside from the universally poor quality of the audio that all public address systems strive to maintain, this one happens to be in an airport which means...multiple people enjoy making announcements simultaneously over the same speakers.

Let me tell you something. When I was in second grade and the teacher brought out a big box of wire and switches and lights and bells, me and Derek Perreault built a messaging system so that we could send silent, coded messages to each other by pressing a button and making a light blink. With two messengers and only one light, we had to devise a dampening mechanism to enforce control of the light. We put in a second circuit so that when one of us flipped a switch, the other guy couldn’t make the light blink.

That was in 1971. Me and Derek had about three and a half years of combined formal education counting Kindergarten. We figured it out between recess and lunch.

Now it’s 2010 and I am sitting in Amercan Airlines’ new terminal at one of the planet’s most high-tech airports. I am surrounded by nine gate agents with microphones that all flow through the same, crackly, overhead speakers and nothing prevents them from making simultaneous announcements. Why haven’t we figured this out?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

High School Angst


I happened to have lunch today near a spot where many high school students passed after completing some exam that I gathered to be relatively important in the grand scheme of college admissions. It was obvious to me that these students had assigned enormous importance to their performance on this test and, I am sad to report, they virtually dripped with angst.

Didn't all the studies come out five years ago showing that we parents and teachers were over-hyping the importance of getting into any particular "school of choice"?

Wasn't it clearly shown that Stanford, MIT, and the Ivy League schools conferred a small lifetime benefit in income but the next 2500 schools were pretty equivalent? Didn't it also show that income had no correlation with personal fulfillment and social success in general?

Wasn't it strongly advised that students shouldn't marry the idea of attending any particular school given the giant crap shoot that the admissions process has become?

Weren't the data incontrovertible that, upon University graduation, students were really happy that life circumstances had led them to a four-year experience at a school that was originally low on their B list?

If any of you imaginary readers are in high school, here is my advice: Try to get good grades, participate in extra-curricular activities, and do community service, but be sure you are paying attention as you go and learning from all of that effort and experience. If you are merely marching through an exercise in rounding out a solid college application, you are missing the point.

As you make the transition to University, aim high but don't despair if you need to attend your 5th choice. It is true that you get out what you put in, so the quality of your education is in your own hands, regardless of the name on the old brick buildings. Also, it is equally important during college to grow up and to hone your life values as it is to master bio-chemistry (unless you are a pre-med student and then it is more important to master bio-chemistry).

Too many of the students I saw today were crestfallen by the thought that they had not performed well on their test. Their logic was that the poor performance meant that they would not be accepted to the top University of their choice and therefore would lead a failed life. This is not true and it is unfair of parents and teachers to let them believe this just because it is an effective tactic to motivate academic effort.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Gotta Love Phillies Fans

Sometimes we understand things at the gut level that we cannot describe rationally. This was the case when I wrote about Mets fans last year and, though I could not articulate why the particular predicament was apropos of a Met fan, the post reverberated across the imaginary readership of WWDS and excited the blogosphere.

Similarly, I don't know why this incident, a goofy fan runs on the field and gets knocked out by a rent-a-cop with a tazer gun, seems right for Philadelphia, but I am sure you will all agree that it is:



I know that one point does not a pattern make, and that two posts do not a series make, but keep your eye out for other stories that see seem intuitively befitting of a particular fan base and this might just become a staple of the blog.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Marathon Moments

I veered to the sidelines to greet my family at mile 25.
________________________________________________

I don’t think I can describe running the Boston Marathon in a way that truly captures the magic of the experience. Nonetheless, here are my reflections on some of the moments I know I will remember about “running Boston”.

The People Want to Know You
Many runners wrote their names on their shirts or bibs to identify themselves to the crowd. I had heard about this practice, but declined to do it because I didn’t want to seem like I was begging for attention. Along the way, I was amazed at the constant response from the spectators calling to “Jimmy” or “Emily”.

Surprisingly, many in the crowd called out to me specifically as “green shirt” or “twelve five eighty-eight” (I wore bib #12588). I realized during the run that the enthusiastic spectators are as big a part of the race as the runners, and that they genuinely want to connect.

In some ways, I felt I had been selfish for not sharing my name and preventing a more personal exchange. The entire weekend was almost perfect but, if I could have one “do-over”, that would be it.

The Drummer in Natick
Just before entering the town center in Natick, we passed a stretch of road where the cheering crowds were especially thick and boisterous. I could hear a rousing drumbeat and I scanned the crowd to find its source. About 50 feet beyond the crowd, at a house set atop a rising lawn, I eyed a young black man who had set up a full drum kit on the New England style wrap-around porch.

While most of the runners pushed forward with inward focus and concentration, I caught the drummer’s eye with a fist-pump and we pointed at each other for several strides. He responded to the recognition with a sharp acceleration of the beat and the crowd exploded with a roar of approval. For just a single, surreal moment, engulfed in the force of a raucous cheer, he was a rock star and I was a celebrity athlete.

I think I will remember that moment for a long time.

The Gals of Wellesley College
In the middle miles of the long challenge, the course passes the picturesque campus of Wellesley College. I’m not sure I understand the full tradition, but from the runner’s perspective, it is a half-mile of screaming female students, each and everyone of them waving signs that say “Kiss Me”, along with a short message about why the runner should do so.

The signs are waved with vigor; there is eye contact, pointing, and begging. I can tell you first hand, it is enough to make a forty-something, anonymous runner believe that they really want him to stop.

Alas, that is a myth better not dispelled, and I will carry from the Boston Marathon a golden memory about the rampant, unfilled demand for my services at an elite, northeastern girls school.

Heartbreak Hill
Over the course of a run that takes hours to complete, runners will sometimes catch stride and compare notes on the experience. A common topic in the Boston Marathon is Heartbreak Hill, the famous incline at mile 21 where the runners’ fitness and resolve are challenged.

Recognizing the historical and cultural importance of that stretch of road, I found myself looking forward to it. I decided that, rather than going inside myself to tap the inner drive that would ordinarily help me meet such a challenge, I would stay in the moment and drink up the full experience.

The crowds that line that portion of the run are fully aware of the physical test imposed by the hill, and they rise to the occasion with vigorous, personal encouragement. I noted the passion of their vocal support, their faces contorted with intensity as they implored the racers to "push". It seemed as though many of them were burning more calories than the runners.

From the center of that storm, it was one of the single most impressive acts of group compassion toward strangers that I could have imagined. Their genuine warmth pulled my heart into my throat, and I scooted over Heartbreak Hill like I was rounding the bases after a game-winning homer.

The Disco Rave
Somewhere after the Hill, we ran through the square in Newton, where a major sound system was blasting 70’s music. A spandex-clad lady ahead of me spontaneously raised both arms and began swaying in a disco rave. This took about three seconds to ripple outwardly through the pack of runners and into the crowd on both sides of the road, until a sea of arms pointed upward and swayed in unison.

All of a sudden, we were not tired runners with untold miles behind us, but spirit-filled dancers with too much energy to contain. The much-needed boost was short-lived, but it served as another vivid reminder about the energy of the crowds and their profound effect on the runners.

Family
Some of my favorite moments during the day happened when a nearby runner would meet their friends and family along the way. There would be a brief but intense cheer as they passed, some especially heartfelt support, and a notable up tick in the runner’s pace following the encounter.

As I approached mile 25, I moved to the left side of the road and began scanning the crowd for my family, who had risen early and traveled a great distance to cheer me on. I heard my name and then quickly picked them out, pressed against the barricade in the front row. I swerved over for some high fives and drew a deep dose of encouragement that carried me to the finish line.

Of course I have many more memories of the marathon. Memories that span the training and the qualification process to the countless other runners I met, and with whom I shared this experience. But as I rode the plane home, with a sore body and a soaring spirit, it was the memories of impassioned support from the locals that had touched me most deeply. And I know that looking forward, the Boston Marathon will always be, for me, more about "Boston" than about "Marathon".

Friday, April 16, 2010

Adrift on the Sea of Modern Whim


As Auggie described in his post about "The Blame Game" last year, everything you can imagine, no matter how absurd, eventually manages to happen.

You may recall that his favorite fictitious example of legal absurdity (suing a baseball bat manufacturer for an incident when the bat performed perfectly) actually unfolded in a court of law. Clearly, the realization that he had miscalculated the bounds of lunacy shook him to the core and left him searching for a semblance of structure in a nonsensical world.

I now find myself drifting in the same state of confusion after having a similar experience. We have arrived at a point of ridiculousness that I had previously thought to be unreachable and I must now find a new example of "unthinkably foolish consumer products".

It is no longer a joke. Chocolate toothpaste has arrived.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Feeling a draft


Contributed by Auggie
----------------------------------
Calm down people, the NFL draft is only one week away. This event has become so popular that ESPN will televise the first three rounds in primetime over a two-day period, followed by rounds 4-7 in the normal Saturday time slot. I for one will be glued to the TV. Everyone knows how rare it would be for a single draft class to immediately turn a team into a contender, but still, it’s a time for optimism and hope. And for most sports fans, what else is there?

For you non-experts out there, Auggie is once again here to help. As you no doubt recall, I provided a similar service last year with spot-on predictions before the draft. (Ok, it takes more than one year to properly evaluate a draft but I’m not waiting 5 years to boast – and I need to boost my credibility so you’ll pay attention this year). Let’s review. Last year I said that WR Darrius Heyward-Bay was the most overrated player entering the draft and some team would foolishly pick him early. Bingo! The Raiders made him the seventh pick in the draft. Heyward-Bay basically bombed his rookie year with only 9 catches for 124 yards and 1 TD. He wasn’t even the best rookie receiver on his team - a distinction that went to 3rd round pick Louis Murphy who came in with 34 catches for 521 yards and 4 TDs. On the flip side, I said that CB Alphonso Smith was the most underrated player. Well, the Bronco’s staff must have been reading WWDS because they traded up to get him early in the second round. He didn’t exactly set the world on fire his rookie year but he did show promise. Let’s just give me an A and move on to 2010.

Most overrated: Taylor Mays, S, USC. He has the speed of a CB and the size/strength of a LB. Some team will fall in love with this combination without consideration to the fact he doesn’t know how to play safety. Actually, some teams are onto this now and he may be slipping down the draft boards. The runner up for this award goes to Bruce Campbell, OT from Maryland.

Most underrated: Jahvid Best, RB, California. Everyone is talking about C.J. Spiller as a top-15 pick and Best as a second rounder. I don’t see much difference between the two unless its injury concerns for Best. I could see Best ending up with someone like Indy or Minnesota and winning the rookie of the year award.

Safest picks: Maurice Pouncey C/G, Florida: Mike Iupati, G, Iowa. The offensive line is not the most exciting position, but both these guys are NFL ready and should start immediately.

Boom or Bust: Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida: Jason-Pierre Paul, DE, South Florida. I could see either guy being an elite pass rusher in 2-3 years, or going the way of Manny Lawson and Vernon Golston. And if you’ve never heard of Lawson and/or Golston then enough said.

Sleeper: Andre Roberts, WR, Citadel. Roberts reminds me of Greg Jennings (WR for Green Bay). Jennings was a small conference WR who was not highly touted but immediately grasped the NFL system and developed into one of the better receivers in the league. I think Roberts will do the same. If your team picks him in the 3rd round or beyond they got a steal. Some late-round sleepers include Dennis Pitta (TE, BYU), A.J. Edds (LB, Iowa) and Jarrett Brown (QB, WVA).

I am not planning to post a mock draft, but if Jeff Ryer insists then I'll think about it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Dallas Cowboys and Humanity


I am no fan of those guys with stars on their hats but all the stories this week about the demolition of Texas stadium got me thinking about what makes us human.

Of course there is no simple answer to that question and sensible but drastically dissimilar conclusions are drawn from the fields of history, biology, psychology, and philosophy. Here's my contribution to the discussion.

One of the things that makes us human is our remarkable ability to store and process memories. We perform sophisticated social accounting to distinguish friends who deserve our cooperation from leeches who should be kept at arm's length. We remember places where we found comfort, joy, or other valuable resources as well as those where we felt threatened or harmed in some way. We recall times when various emotions peaked or important events unfolded. And remarkably, we tie all those memories together through an elaborate system of cues and references, index them against the emotions they produced, and use them to drive much of our behavior.

As far as we know, other organisms don't do this to the extent that humans do it. Yes, mates in many species form long-term bonds and clearly devote themselves to a partnership, various social norms in packs, herds, and hives suggest that social accounting is not uniquely human, and salmon return to their place of birth to die. All of those examples suggests memory and processing. But humans engage in memory processing almost constantly.

We make decisions by conjuring alternative scenarios and drawing on all of our memories to predict which decision will yield the best emotional payoff. Aside from extreme and automatic reactions in times of stress and surprise, such thinking completely governs our behavior. This is one facet of being human.

When I read the stories about the emotional reactions among the crowd that gathered to watch the implosion of Texas stadium, it struck me that a great many people have made significant emotional investments in the Dallas Cowboys. For some reason, the coalescence of that stadium, the team, and their celebrity during the 70's, underpinned some important markers of space and time for lots of people. As a consequence, those memories are informing the daily decisions of the Cowboy faithful and contributing to their humanity.

Long live Roger Staubach.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Bumble Bee Dusted With Pollen


Not sure why I feel compelled to post this photo here but I really like it. It's a perfect example of one of nature's most symbiotic relationships. It also conveys a sense of an "honest day's work" on behalf of the bee.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A tradition like every other?


Contributed by Auggie
Master of nothing

-----------------------------------
The Masters claims to be “a tradition unlike any other”. We’ll soon find out. Unless you’ve been trekking across the Northwest Territories for the last month, you probably know that Tiger Woods will make his long anticipated comeback at the Masters in April. If you’re a fringe golf fan whose interest depends on Tiger’s participation, this is splendid news. If you’re a true fan of the game then not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, from purely a golf perspective the inclusion of Tiger is the best case scenario, it’s the other perspectives I worry about. Without tickets to the event, the only way to follow the action is through the filter of the media – and we know how that filter works. If the media executives had their druthers you could expect the following coverage breakdown: on-course coverage 85% Tiger; off-course analysis 94% Tiger; golf related analysis 9.3%. Great if you’re a Tiger fan, bad if you’re a golf fan. There is obviously a market for the trash, but I’d like to leave that coverage to the networks/programs that specialize in it like the E channel, TMZ and ESPN (which doesn’t even feign serious sports journalism any more), and let the golf fans watch golf.

It is here that I am counting on the Augusta National Golf Club to continue its tradition. There are those who claim that Augusta National has tight control over the network coverage and the media access, and that’s one of the reasons Tiger chose this venue for his return. I certainly hope that is the case. If so we can expect an exciting tournament based on good golf. Otherwise it will be a circus.

I realize that some people don’t know the Masters existed before Tiger came along, but trust me, it was a great event long before he was born, it was a great event when he was still a snot nosed 3rd grader (when he would have struggled to make the cut), and it will be a great event when he retires. Personally, it’s not only my favorite golf event but one of my favorite sporting events period. I was looking forward to the tournament even before the big announcement, now I’m not sure what to expect. If things get out of hand this could be the least interesting Masters since 2000 when Vijay “dead man walking” Singh loped up the 18th hole with the prize securely in hand.

If it’s a circus you want, check out Ringling Bros. They have real Tigers.

Monday, March 22, 2010

If it's Too Hot in the Kitchen

Well, if it's too hot in the kitchen, then you must not be at my house. I am enjoying home ownership to the tune of the cement floor, exposed structure, and the pipes and cables you see in this photo of domestic bliss.

If you can't make it in a toaster, we ain't eating it. Here's a tip for the uninitiated: it is much easier to throw away your toaster than to clean pizza out of it. This may also be true for spaghetti -- stay tuned for my report on that.

If you would like to experience such joy first hand, a small upstairs leak can make your dreams come true.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Advertising


We are all exposed to commercial messages more or less continuously each day. Being a highly intelligent species, it is quite natural for us to detect patterns within these commercial messages and, across a lifetime of experience, gather some inadvertent expertise about advertising strategies. I think the average adult believes they could create (or at least recognize) advertising that is likely to be effective.

Of course, if you undertake formal study in the area, you learn in Psych 101 and/or Marketing 101, that there is more to advertising than the casual observer usually understands. Often times, an unintuitive approach will stir the strongest emotional reaction and facilitate recollection of the intended message. For this reason, most advertising is not created by "casual observers" but rather by professionals who are skilled in the art.

The big exception to this rule appears to be advertising created for auto dealerships. Inexplicably, they still hammer the "top quality service" angle in all of their advertising. All of them. In every print, TV, and radio spot.

Memo to Jolly John: Nobody cares about your 5-star certification for repair service.

New car buyers are excited about the prospect of a new vehicle that won't require service. In their subconscious they know that if they ever need a repair, they will go to a trusted mechanic, close to their home or office, who does not charge neuro-surgeon rates to change the oil. How can the entire auto retail industry continue to make this advertising blunder for decades on end?

Perhaps I am one of those casual observers who doesn't get it? Maybe there is an "unintuitive" psychological mechanism at play and by telling me about their great service, car dealers plant the seed that they are honest and respectable and will therefor sell me a new car at a fair price?

I doubt it, but I'll keep my mind open.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Go Big Red!




As we brace for the annual drop in corporate productivity, known as "March Madness", when the nation's attention turns briefly but intensively to the NCAA basketball tournament, I thought I would sprinkle some good karma on my alma mater.

Below are the lyrics to the school song in case you would like to sing them in the shower each day. Hopefully, Cornell will make a run.

CORNELL UNIVERSITY
Far above Cayuga's waters

With its waves of blue
Stands our noble alma mater
Glorious to view.

Lift the chorus
Speed it onward
Loud her praises tell.
Hail to thee our alma mater
Hail, all hail Cornell!

Far above the busy humming
Of the bustling town
Reared against the arch of heaven
Looks she proudly down.

Lift the chorus
Speed it onward
Loud her praises tell.
Hail to thee our alma mater
Hail, all hail Cornell!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

5 Best Housing Options


If we hold valid the notion that accumulating knowledge in the school of experience results in both gray hair and deep wisdom, then my current mop of gray and white suggests that you should heed my advice. As such, I share with you my thoughts on the 5 best forms of housing accommodations:

1. Live in a 5 Star Hotel - This is the best. The King beds have exquisite linens, the concierge is a single number punch away, and if you hang a bag of dirty socks on your doorknob, they come back clean and folded.

2. Rent an Apartment - Not a bad option. Short leases can keep you relatively flexible, all maintenance problems belong to someone else, and you can usually steal cable from your neighbors.

3. Dwell in Your Friend's Attic - I have done this twice (they called me "Den Frank") . The attic is out of the way so you get your personal space but you can still raid the downstairs fridge late at night. It is generally inexpensive as well.

4. Be Homeless - Nothing prevents the accumulation of clutter like a lack of closet space.

5. Go to Prison - The meals are regular, a job is automatically assigned, and health care is free. Being Bubba's girlfriend probably isn't too fun but that's why this is ranked 5th.

Importantly, I am sure you have noticed that "Own a House" did not make the list. It's down there somewhere after camping, held hostage in the trunk of a VW, strapped down in an insane asylum, and adrift on a raft. Home ownership brings too much aggravation, investment to protect, and maintenance to perform. It's just not a good way of life.

My wisdom is your wisdom. You're welcome.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sports Innovations


It is amazing how progress piles up on top of progress. Once a great many people have applied a diligent effort over a long time, the sheer amount of learning that can be packed into what seems like a simple activity is often misleading. Sports competition is like this.

The spoils of competitive victory drive constant innovation and improvement. Everything from the grip to the stance to the drills to the equipment to the mindset to the teamwork; it is all broken down, studied, tweaked, and improved on a constant basis. As such, it always jumps out at me when I see obvious opportunities for improvement that have not yet been embraced. I may have shared with you my idea about the "reverse lead" when tagging up at 3rd base and I wrote about the behind-the-back pick-off move to first base earlier.

So, did anything jump out at you when you saw the photo of the snowboard cross-over competition at the top of this post?

If luge riders need to point their toes and down hill skiers need a fin on the back of their helmets then there must be something to the whole aerodynamics thing. Bobsledders, speed skaters, ski jumpers, and skeleton riders all go spandex. So do sprinters and swimmers for that matter.

I can see the day when 4 slackers in baggy plaid arrive at the chute for the gold medal run of the snowboard cross and, just before the starting gun, one dude tears away his outer-grunge apparel to reveal a skin-tight body suit underneath. I predict it would take about 4 hours to transform the look of the sport forever.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Best and Worst of the Olympics


I love the Olympics although, I must admit, I don't have time to follow them as closely as I would like. Here are my thoughts on the best and worst of the 2010 Winter games so far.

The Best
It's the sheer drama.

Years and years of dedication and sacrifice from the athletes coming down to a brief moment of competition. A lifetime of hopes and dreams are either fulfilled or dashed before our eyes. NBC does an incredible job of researching and presenting the back-stories so that average viewers like me, with no knowledge of these sports or the athletes who compete in them, can connect with the moment and feel the weight of the event.

Call me a sissy but I can almost guarantee that if I tune in and watch 30 minutes of Olympic coverage, I will tear up at least once.

The Worst
It's the frickin "medal count".

Isn't it all about sportsmanship and doing your best in the spirit of fair competition and international goodwill? Do we really need to track such a meaningless and misleading statistic as number of medals won by each nation? Couldn't we at least adjust for the number of events in which a particular nation competes before "listing the leaders" based on absolute medal count?

I'll bet you can't find a medal count in South Korea or Finland or any other country that sends only a relative few athletes to represent their countries in select events.

While it is the 2010 games that have sparked this post, my "best" and "worst" are the same at every Olympics.

Benedict Brown


Contributed by Auggie
------------------------
The honeymoon is over. Scott Brown is now being called “Benedict” Brown because he GASP!! broke party ranks and voted for a bill not created by his own party. His campaign contributors feel betrayed and have disowned him, and for good measure he is now an involuntary member of the RINO club (Republican In Name Only). And you wonder why nothing gets done in Congress? This tactic has become all too common among BOTH parties. In a nutshell, the strategy goes something like this: prevent the other party from taking action by any means possible (filibuster is preferred choice), this leads to the public perception that said party is incompetent, spoiler party wins more seats the next time around. The partisanship in our government is worse now than I can ever remember (of course, I'm not very old). This is why I’m an independent. I like to be able to have an opinion without checking with my party first.

We should fire all the idiots and start over. I’m Auggie and I approve this message.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tiger News Conference


I know I shared my thoughts on this earlier but here are some additional comments as well as my reaction to his news conference this morning.

Pre-Conference Thoughts

Selfishness:
PGA players who say Tiger is selfish for holding his conference during the Accenture Tournament have lost touch. Perhaps each of them would like to give back 3/4 of the money they have earned since Tiger joined the tour because his presence in and promotion of the sport earned that money for them.

The real golf fans, those who followed the sport pre-Tiger, will still be enthusiastically tracking the leader board at Accenture whether they tuned into Tiger's announcement or not. The other fans that came to the tour only to see Tiger (constituting about 75% of the sport's recent base) were never Ernie Els fans to begin with.

As a casual fan, I was not even aware of the Accenture Tournament until I heard the whiners playing the selfish card.

Apologies: To all those who think Tiger owes anyone an apology, let's consider that. Bear in mind, there is a difference between who would "appreciate" an apology and who is "owed" an apology; we are discussing the latter group.

He hurt his wife and kids so they are owed apologies. If he made promises about representing a corporate brand with integrity and moral character then he owes his sponsors an apology. I know they are a vilified group, but I would say that if he lied to his mistresses, he owes them an apology. He also seems to have embarrassed his mother and his wife's family so I would put them on the list. All total, that's about 30 people and a dozen corporations.

I am sure those parents who held him up as a role model to their children would appreciate an apology but they cannot claim that he owes them one.

The public in general has no case for an apology whatsoever. Nor does the PGA tour. Nor do the players on the PGA tour.

Post-Conference Thoughts

I wish he hadn't read his statement but I understand the need to be careful with word choice and to get his message out accurately.

I think the highlight was his admission that he felt he was "above the rules" and entitled to privileges. That's laying your soul pretty bare.

I think he will get blasted by the media for repeating that he won't answer questions about personal details. As I said before, people are curious but don't have the right to know. The press will take his defiant stance as a challenge and it will likely ignite their ongoing furor to bring him down.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Things I've Been Muttering About

We all have busy lives. I presume your lives ebb and flow much like mine and that, from time to time, hobbies like blogging must be ignored for short periods. Had I found a bit more free time over the past two weeks, I probably would have posted my thoughts on the following:

- Peyton Manning leaving the field with out shaking hands after the Super Bowl
- Superbowl advertising 1 (the Tebow flap)
- Superbowl advertising 2 (extreme violence in movie trailers)
- US citizenship process
- Howard Dean's whooping scream that cost him the nomination
- Marathon training
- Home ownership

I'm still riled up about a couple of these so they may become blog topics in the coming days.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Enduring Super Bowl Image

Don't let it be said that Den is not in touch with his inner schoolgirl. I think this is the enduring image of the SuperBowl and I love Drew Brees.

A cool Brees


Contributed by Auggie
Happy Football fan

---------------------------
Only 210 days until opening day 2010! Can’t wait. In the meantime, here are some leftover Super Bowl thoughts to close out the 09/10 season.

• Well, its official, Drew Brees is now “in the conversation” when discussing the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. In case you didn’t know, “in the conversation” is media speak meaning you ARE one of the best, and can legitimately be mentioned with the other anointed ones. For the record, it doesn’t matter how good you really are, you can only be “in the conversation” if you have The Ring. This is the word of the media – amen. Brees clinched his spot in the QB pantheon with a 32-39 / 288 yds / 2 TD MVP performance against the Colts. There were no electrifying pass plays for the highlight reel, but he played spectacularly within the game plan. A quick side note: had he had produced identical stats in a losing effort because, say, his defense had totally collapsed, then he would NOT be an elite QB. Are you following this logic? For more commentary on the media’s inability to grasp the team concept see Den’s earlier post.
• In any case, I am happy for the Saints in general and for Brees in particular. I get the feeling that he doesn’t need the media validation to feel content, but as a fan I’m glad he’ll have it. Over the past few years I believe Brees has played the QB position as well or better than anyone in the league, and he has done so with class and professionalism. Of course, I would say the same about Manning. Sill, I wanted the Saints to win for a multitude of reasons which I can’t go into here because the word-count police [Ryer] will nail me.
• Interesting how Pierre Garcon’s 2nd quarter drop on 3 and 4 went from the “underrated” key moment of the game to the “overrated” key moment of the game. So many journalists have jumped on that moment as a turning point that you would think he was about to waltz the remaining 65 yards for a TD to put the game out of reach. One problem; if you’re going to play the “what-if” game then you need to mention Marques Colston’s drop a few plays earlier that would have given the Saints a first down in Colt’s territory. They were force to punt instead. For some reason no one mentions that moment - but why ruin a good story with logic.
• Some people have already jumped on Manning for his 4th quarter interception, but sometimes you need to give the defensive player credit. Not every interception is a choke even if it happens in the Super Bowl. Tracy Porter knew they had a blitz on, he knew Manning would need to release it quickly, and he knew the quick slant to Wayne was a likely response. He may have taken a gamble by jumping the route but he made a great play at the right moment and it essentially sealed the game. When you hear about teams that are good but don’t have enough “playmakers” that’s what they’re talking about. Porter made the play just like he did two weeks earlier against Minnesota to force OT.

The Saints rise from NFL doormat to champion gives hope to other franchises. Can it be long before Detroit is hosting a parade?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Shark Attack

I would say, off the cuff, that I probably hear news about a shark attack about once per year. I have no objective measure of how often I hear such news but that's my guess. Note that I live in a surfer-rich region so such news is certainly emphasized in my area.

Given this, I was not surprised when I came across a list of the number of accidental deaths in the USA, ranked by cause, and saw that shark attacks cause an average of about one death per year.

I was surprised, however, by many other items on the list. Here it is:

Deaths per Year
44,757 - Car Accidents
19,456 - Accidental Poisoning
3,306 - Drowning
742 - Bike Accidents
273 - Sun Stroke
130 - Collisions with Deer
47 - Lightening Strikes
31 - Dog Attacks
24 - Train Crashes
11 - Fireworks
1 - Shark Attacks

So let's see....

For Car accidents: that's about one person every 5 minutes. Doesn't surprise me that it leads the list but I might have guessed the actual number to be even higher.

Poisoning: you kidding me? More than 50 people a day? Does this include drug overdoses? What are people ingesting out there?

Sun Stroke: what exactly is that? Maybe these people actually drank poison and merely happened to be in the sun when they died.

Lightening Strikes: this really happens nearly once per week? I know about the urban legends and, as a former golfer I was aware of the general danger, but has anyone ever known anyone who knew anyone whose actual cause of death was lightening? Doubtful...

Fireworks: only 11? I would have guessed a few hundred on 4th of July, a few hundred more on Cinco de Mayo, a couple a day in West Virginia all year long, and a smattering of others around the new year and Bubba's birthday.

By the way, that shark photo above is a fake.