Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Reform

With the election finally upon us, it's time to stop procrastinating and type up my thoughts on campaign reform. It seems to me that every successive election gets more contentious. I can't watch TV without seeing repeated commercials stating '[insert candidate] is just too extreme', 'we can't afford to elect [insert candidate]', or 'civilization as we know it will come to an end if [insert candidate] gets elected', or '[insert candidate] wants to steal all your money, kill your family, and dance on their graves (cue ominous music)'. It is truly becoming nauseating. Not to mention that, as I understand it, there are no slander or libel laws in campaigning. You can say pretty much anything you want about a candidate with no fear of repercussion.

Elections have become so negative that people don't want to vote for anyone, resulting in record low voter turn out in each successive election.  That's why my solution is to amend the electoral process to allow voters to vote against a candidate rather than for one.  If you don't like any of the candidates, you would have the option of taking a vote away from a candidate you don't like.  If campaigning is negative, why shouldn't voting be negative as well.  Of course, if a race gets too unsavory, it would open up the possibility of someone flying under the radar - like Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson - winning the election because the other candidates all have negative votes.  The law of unintended consequences might just be what it takes to finally elect Lyndon Larouche or Ron Paul.  This would effectively force candidates to clean up their campaigns or things might get interesting.

In related news, campaign spending has gotten out of control.  According to recent data, team Obama is spending roughly $5.33 per registered voter while team Romney is spending $4.81.   

President Barack Obama and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney are spending a combined $26.86 every second this election cycle, as a binge of campaign spending deluges voters with rallies, banners, and of course, TV ads.

The figure comes from a grand total of nearly $1.5 billion spent by both sides just through September. And that works out to about $70 million per month, and more than $2.3 million every day, according to data provided by the Federal Election Commission.
That is an astonishing sum of money that I can't help feeling would be a lot better spent on something more productive.  When I'm seeing so many political ads that I'm missing the usual ads for erectile dysfunction, the Snuggie, and GEICO, then something has to be done.  Perhaps if 20 cents of every dollar spent had to go toward paying down the national debt until it is wiped out, that would be a start.  Add to that a hefty fine for any candidate or PAC that makes slanderous ads and we are really making some progress. 

Vote Craw Fu for innovative solutions!

In closing, I'll leave you with this:  “Mitt Romney, I hear he wears magic underpants. I expect the leader of the free world to go commando.” - Homer Simpson

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Marcus Lattimore

In case you aren't a football fan or simply missed it, South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore suffered a horrific knee injury today.  Considered by many to be a potential first round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, his ability to play again is now in question.  Having suffered a serious knee injury myself, I have some idea of how devastating it is and my heart really goes out to him.  The team and medical staff have not yet released any information regarding the severity of the injury, but I can say that it was as bad as any I've ever seen and I have no doubt he has multiple torn ligaments.  If you are at all squeamish, do not watch the video in the above link. 

By all accounts, Marcus was an exceptional young man, universally liked.  Teammates, announcers, and even opponents have never had anything but good things to say about him, and it really breaks my heart to see bad things happen to good people.  I pray that he is able to make a recovery and resume his football career, but I know he has a long difficult road ahead of him. My knee surgery was by far the most painful thing I have ever experienced, and the following physical therapy was the most difficult ordeal I have ever gone through, so God speed Mr. Lattimore. My heart is with you every step of the way.  You have the advantages of youth and superior genetics on your side, not to mention a nation of well wishers.  Keep your head up.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mockingbird Lane

Tonight I watched the pilot of Mockingbird Lane, a remake of the 1960's series The Munsters. This is quite a departure from the original, and while this is just one episode and it's too early to make a firm judgment, for the most part it was pretty terrible.



For starters, this iteration isn't a comedy, or if it is I didn't notice any humor.  Which is a shame, because Portia de Rossi is a brilliant comedic actress. She was wasted on a very limited role.  If more episodes are made, they would do well to feature her more. Anyway, this is a much darker show, with the pilot primarily revolving around Grandpa's desire to kill and eat people, and young Eddie Munster coming to the realization that he's a werewolf and has killed several people.  I guess the lone attempt at humor was making Eddie a vegetarian, which is one of my pet peeves - kids that don't act like kids.  Kids that age don't have a social conscience or choose to be vegetarian, if they do it is because they are told to be that way by an adult and clearly his family is quite the opposite.  But I'll drop that before I go off on a full fledged rant.

The original was mostly based around the reaction of strangers to realizing that there are monsters in their midst. In contrast, with the exception of some scars on Herman most of which are covered by clothes, these Munsters just look like a family of hipsters.  Other than some flamboyant clothing, they are visually indistinguishable from normal folks.  And rather than trying to fit into society, they are not tied to any community and have no interest in socializing except when it is to their benefit. They calmly discuss killing people and come across more as sociopaths that the lovable monsters they were in the original. 

Jerry O'Connell is miscast as Herman Munster.  His performance was very flat and unemotional.  Perhaps that was intentional, the idea being that as a Frankenstein like monster, he has difficulty feeling emotion.  It didn't work, though, he just came across as bored.  Eddie Izzard did well with what he had to work with, and seemed very devious. In my opinion, though, Cheyenne Jackson stole the show with a small part.  He was the only actor who seemed to bring any life to the role, no pun intended.  It's a shame he won't be back if the series is picked up. 

On the bright side, the production was extraordinary for a television series.  The sets, costumes, and special effects were worthy of a feature film.  I loved the design of the house, it had just the right combination of opulence and creepiness.  The special effects created a wonderful ambiance, for example, my favorite shot was near the beginning of the episode - a boy scout troupe is running through the woods superimposed in front of an enormous full moon.  It was beautiful, but I can't find a screen shot, so here is the mansion instead. 


I know the intent was to create something new, and not simply rehash the original, I just felt it didn't work.  It was as lifeless as Herman Munster's corpse before being reanimated by a jolt of electricity.  The writing, acting, and direction was simply uninspired and honestly, the whole show was disappointing.  From what I've read, the series has not been picked up and only the pilot was ordered so this may be the end of it.  I had high hopes for the series and if it does get picked up, I think there is a lot of re-tooling that needs to be done to salvage it.  There is a lot of talent involved, though, so there is reason to believe that they can make it work.  As is, though, it is pretty lackluster.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Stubbed Toe

Tonight I absolutely stubbed the hell out of my toe.  Actually my 3 middle toes on my right foot.  Somehow the big toe and pinkie toe were spared, but the other 3 got crushed to the point that it took all the restraint I could muster to keep from shouting profanities loud enough that the neighbors would call the police.  I'm of the opinion that a solid toe stubbing is one of the most unpleasant experiences in life.  Off the top of my head, the only thing I can think of that is more upsetting is waking up from a dead sleep with a calf cramp.  And come to think of it, I'll probably wake up with a cramp tonight just to make this day perfect.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Full Moon

For years now, I've been trying in vain to take a decent picture of the moon. And so tonight when I saw a full moon peeking through the trees, I thought I'd give it another try.  The problem is that I can never get it to look like anything other than a glowing blob in the sky.  No matter what settings I try, I am unable to get any detail.  I would love to be able to see the Sea of Tranquility, but to no avail.  Granted, I don't have an expensive DSLR camera, but I feel like my point and shoot should be able to do better than this.  I had it on a tripod and set it for night landscape mode.  Is there some other mode that would work better? The only night modes I have are night landscape and night portrait.  Do I need to study up and figure out what manual settings work?  I will say that this does take way better pictures than my cell phone at least.

National Coffee Day

Happy National Coffee Day, one and all.  This is a day that traditionally is filled with peace and love because people can't be unhappy with a cup of coffee in their hands.  At least not a good cup of coffee, Seattle's Best makes me angry sometimes.  But I believe that we could have world peace if only everyone who had a disagreement would sit down with their adversary and enjoy a delicious cup of hot coffee. 


That said, I decided to celebrate this momentous occasion by roasting some fresh coffee.  I started out with some green Costa Rica tarrazu beans.

Roasted them for about 8 minutes in my Fresh Roast +

Cooled the beautiful, delicious, dark roasted beans.
 
 
I then ground and brewed them, added some half & half, and am now enjoying a delicious cup of coffee.  Another successful National Coffee Day in the Craw Fu household! 
 
 
And lest you think that is all, let me just say that a new study has found that a green coffee bean supplement will help you lose weight.  In a 22 week study, men and women lost an average of 17 pounds when taking the supplement.  There is seemingly no end to the health benefits of coffee!  Truly a super food.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Apple and the iPhone 5

Recently, The Molitor, a self proclaimed Apple zealot, posted a brief treatise on what makes the iPhone, and Apple products in general, great, and I feel the need to rebut.  If you don't want to take the time to read his position, it can essentially be summarized as 'they make pretty products'. Never mind the fact that Apple just sued Samsung, claiming that the Galaxy SII was designed so that it was indistinguishable from the iPhone to the layman.

To provide full disclosure, let me just say that Apple makes fine products, I personally have owned 2 ipods for several years, and for a while owned some Apple stock and sold it for a tidy profit.  Had I held onto it longer, I would like the company a whole lot more. Apple is a well run company and does a lot of things well.  Their forte is in user interface.  For years they have designed their products in a way that they are easier to use than a majority of their competitors, and I will readily admit that my android phone has room to improve in this area - some things are more difficult to do than they should be.  Apple is also second to none in marketing.  There is a well known proverb 'a fool and his money are soon parted', and nobody does a better job of separating fools from their cash than Apple. Time and again, Apple has taken existing products and ideas, repackaged them and slapped an Apple logo on them, and convinced a large portion of the populace that it was their idea.  Even a former Apple executive admitted as much, saying that, "Apple haven't invented anything."

That brings me to what I don't like about Apple, beginning with the legion of cult members. For example, when Apple released the white iPhone 4, the fanboys fell all over themselves lining up to get in line to throw their money at Apple, proclaiming the company execs to be geniuses for inventing the color white.  Example #2: Jimmy Kimmel recently took to the street to gauge public response to the iPhone 5.  He showed people the iPhone 4S, told them it was the iPhone 5, and they predictably fawned over how much faster it was, how it was lighter weight, how much better the display was, etc.

In general, Apple customers are the epitome of conspicuous consumption, however rather than buying Apple products to display wealth (as is the dictionary description), they buy them to convey status.  They feel that owning the latest Apple product somehow makes them cool, little knowing that it makes them a laughingstock.

I'm not one to let the opinion of others to influence my decision, so I'll continue.  I dislike Apple's restrictive environment.  Users are restricted in what they can do with the products they own, and developers are handcuffed with what they are allowed do do with apps.  This is exactly the thing that opened the door for Microsoft to dominate them in the PC market, and has opened the door for Google to walk through in the phone and tablet market.  Unless Apple learns from past mistakes, they will continue to see their market share erode.  But I digress, my point is that not only do several existing Android and Windows Mobile phones sport superior specs, but they allow you the freedom to do more with your device. I realize that this is a point of preference, as many people would sacrifice performance for usability, but I am very much a utilitarian, and being able to do more and do it faster is more important to me.

This leads me to my next issue: an inability to keep pace in performance has led Apple to become incredibly litigious.  Their answer to eroding market share, rather than create better products, has been to sue everyone in sight.  They recently won a decision against Samsung, which most experts agree will probably be overturned or significantly reduced upon appeals, but more importantly will undoubtedly set off a chain reaction of retaliatory and pre-emptive lawsuits, all to the detriment of the consumer.  Yes, I absolutely believe that Apple should have the right to defend it's patents, and to some degree I believe that this is more an issue with the horribly broken patent system which will issue a ridiculous patent for a rectangular shape with curved corners. Mark Cuban has written extensively and more eloquently than I could regarding patent law, so I won't waste time duplicating efforts. My point is that this spate of lawsuits will reduce competition in the industry and increase the cost of products.  The big loser will be consumers.  There is a well written editorial here, and I couldn't state it any better than this:
In the end, consumers will lose. Companies high and low are scrapping potentially amazing product ideas right now for fear of legal retaliation. Not just from Apple -- this ruling is way, way bigger than that -- but from any company with a patent on [insert obscure shape here]. I hope we're happy.
The lawsuit against Samsung was primarily fueled by Steve Jobs' insane ego, so I hope that with Tim Cook now in charge, perhaps cooler heads will prevail, however I fear that Pandora's box is now open and can't be closed again.

Again, full disclosure: I currently own a Motorola Droid Bionic.  I'm happy with it, but would have preferred the Samsung Galaxy SII if only it were available from Verizon.  Prevously I owned a Samsung Omnia (Windows Mobile), and prior to that a Motorola Razr.  I believe that Samsung currently makes the highest quality phones, and will look had at their products when it comes time for me to upgrade.  I'm currently irritated that Google has gone out of their way to make it difficult to sync android phones with Outlook, so I will also look hard at Windows Mobile phones next time around.  What I will not look at, however, is an iPhone.  For me, Apple's phones are inferior to those of their competitors, and while I know they meet the needs of a lot of people, they fall short of my what I'm looking for.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Incredible Hulk

I'm watching the pilot episode of The Incredible Hulk television series and a few things have occurred to me. 

1.  I don't know why I never realized this before, but it is essentially a modern day retelling of the Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde story.  Both have a troubled doctor who manages to turn himself into an uncontrollable beast, and the two are seemingly separate people with no memory of what happens when he changes. It all seems so obvious now, I can't believe it just came to me now.  It also borrows from the biblical story of Samson, who was also known to wreak havoc when he got angry. 

2.  I wonder what the wardrobe budget is for Dr David Banner.  Every time he gets angry he destroys a shirt and pair of pants.  It's a good thing he's pulling down a doctor's salary otherwise he would quickly go bankrupt.  The Hulk was walking around barefoot, so I assume he destroyed his shoes too, but since they didn't explicitly show him busting out of them, it's possible he simply removed them.  That would save him a bit if he did.

3.  It is kind of a warning about the dangers of roid rage. 

4.  I find it somehow odd that even his nipples turn green when he changes.  I don't know why I should expect any different since his hair changes color as well, I guess I just thought that they would be a different shade of green.

 

5.  Finally, as he was lifting his car in a rage, I couldn't help thinking that someone needs to remind him to lift with his legs and not his back. If he gets a lower back injury, he will really get angry.  But then again, with his superhuman strength, maybe he's impervious to back injury.  Even a gun shot barely slowed him down, so I suppose that's a safe assumption to make. 

That's all I've got.  It's just a shame that Lou Ferrigno got typecast and never really had much of an acting career outside this show.  I guess his buddy Arnold Schwarzenegger took all the good roles for bodybuilders.  Maybe Lou should follow in Arnold's footsteps and run for governor.  It will have to be a smaller state though since he wasn't as popular as Arnold.  Maybe Wyoming.  And he would add to the growing list of former co-stars of Arnold to run for governor.  Although I guess he was never a co-star, just a friend.  Still, why not run anyway?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Open Letter To Netflix

I have a few comments and suggestions for Netflix, and since it is next to impossible to jump through all the hoops to contact Netflix through their website, and it will no doubt fall into a black hole and never get read even if I do get through all the nonsense, I'll just complain here. Although chances are nobody will read it here either, but at least it will make me feel better.

Let me start by talking about streaming television series.  I stream a lot of content through my Xbox, and the Xbox app sucks.  It is very irritating that you can't select which episode you want to watch, it automatically starts streaming when you select a series.  I won't say that somebody deserves to lose their job over that, but I will say that whoever is responsible for that decision deserves a running kick in the crotch.  Next, it would be delightful if, when watching a tv series, when you finish an episode, the following episode should automatically begin.  Or, better yet, you could simply program in how many episodes you would like to watch. And it should be this way on all platforms.

The user review feature has devolved to the point where it is pretty much useless.  It's time to drop it and only list professional reviews for movies.  The user reviews have not yet reached Youtube levels of hostility, stupidity, racism, etc, but they are quickly moving in that directions.  More and more they are becoming of the type, "Why isn't this streaming?  I pay $8 a month and feel entitled to access to every movie and tv show ever recorded" or, "this movie sux!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" or, "my DVD was scratched and I can't watch it."  Brainless comments such as these do nothing to help me decide if a movie is worth watching.  For a while, I would report dozens and dozens as 'not reviews' but apparently I'm fighting a losing battle because things are getting worse instead of better.  It's time to just dump the reviews all together. 

Finally, I would like to see an annual Netflix Film Festival every year around the time that there are other film festivals going on around the nation.  If you were able to get together some new, independent films for, say a month, that would be awesome.  And I have to think that a lot of indy film makers would be thrilled at the opportunity to have their films viewed by an audience as large as that of Netflix's subscribers.  I think this would be a win for everyone, I don't see a down side.

That's all I've got for now, however I reserve the right to update this at a future date.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Meteor Shower

With NASA and meteorologists worldwide promising celestial fireworks this evening, I grabbed a folding chair and parked myself in front of my building to take in all the glory of the annual Perseid meteor shower.  As it turns out, I ended up disappointed.  With the forecast for up to 100 meteors an hour, I sat out for an hour and 15 minutes, from 11:30 to 12:45, and saw a grand total of 5 meteors.  All of them relatively unimpressive - no bright ones streaking across the night sky.  The ones I witnessed briefly appeared and quickly faded away.  I also witnessed three constellations which I was able to identify - Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, and Cassiopeia - one satellite, two noisy and annoying teenage girls, one fat chick, one old bald guy, three raccoons, and a bird that I was unable to identify in the dark. In all fairness, I was not in an optimal viewing location though.  I had some trees obstructing my view, and was close to artificial lights.  Ideally I would have liked to have viewed them from my vacation home in the wilderness, out away from the city lights, but sadly I don't own a vacation home.  I guess I'll have to wait for the Leonid meteor showers in November.

My camera phone takes pretty lousy pictures in the dark, but if you look closely, you can make out some raccoon eyes peeking out from behind the tree. 

It wasn't all bad though.  For starters, I got to spend some quality time in the cool night air after a hot day.  And from time to time, it's very pleasant to  just sit and enjoy the peace and relative quiet of the evening.  It affords the opportunity to relax and think.  And as I gazed up at the stars and pondered the vastness of the universe, I found it odd that some people like Carl Sagan can look up at the sky and conclude that we are insignificant when you consider that we are on a medium sized planet, orbiting a smaller star, inside an average galaxy.  I, on the other hand, marvel at the fact that tucked away in our little corner of this massive universe is the only known life.  Certainly extraterrestrial life may exist, however it's also quite possible that we are alone in this universe and completely unique.  That makes me feel special, and makes me feel that life is precious.  And if life does exist on other planets, the odds that aliens are bipedal, with two arms, two eyes, generally just similar in size and appearance to humans is extremely unlikely, despite what those who claim to have been abducted would have you believe.  And if you believe in evolution, the odds that intelligent life would evolve into similar species on different planets is extremely unlikely.  It's more reasonable to think that purported alien sightings are time travelers from the future returning to our time.  And this is precisely the point where I decided that I'm done pontificating for the evening and it's time to get some sleep.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Burgers

Yesterday I got my lunch at Zippy's Giant Burgers.  I had been looking online for good burger joints in the area, and Zippy's kept showing up, so I decided I had to give them a try.  Conveniently located in White Center (convenient if you live in West Seattle or Burien, convenient for me yesterday because I was going to Alki anyway), they use fresh ingredients and grind the chuck on site, they don't buy pre-made frozen patties. 

I was pretty hungry when I got there and went all out and got myself the Last Gasp burger.  The last gasp contains pretty much everything you could want on a burger.  Starting with a quarter pound patty and the pre-requisite special sauce and veggies (lettuce, tomato, and pickle), they proceed to top it with a hot link, fried egg, bacon, and American cheese.  On a tangent, is American cheese the worst thing that this great nation has bestowed it's name upon?  I think so.  It's terrible, and I would be happy if it went out of production.  When I was in Denmark several years ago, they referred to it as 'plastic toast'.  Anyway, back to the burger - obviously it would have been better with some cheddar, pepper jack, havarti, smokey gouda, pretty much anything other than American - but was still a decent burger.  I found the hot link a little overpowering though.  It drowned out some of the other flavors a bit.  I also feel that the quality of bun could have been improved.  They use pretty much a standard sesame seed bun like you'd get at McDonalds or in an 8 pack at your local Supermarket.  I think that the bun is one of the most overlooked parts of a gourmet burger, and that if they switched to a toasted brioche bun or kaiser roll, that would significantly improve the flavor of the burger and ultimately the cachet of the restaurant. Ultimately, though, it was a pretty tasty burger.

In addition to the burger, I got some onion rings.  I'm please to say that they make battered onion rings rather than breaded rings.  If you're not a connoisseur of onion rings, believe me when I tell you that it makes all the difference in the world.  Battered rings are much crispier and have a richer flavor, and are just better in every way.  Zippy's gets the thumbs up from me for their onion rings, however they are still not as good as the best onion rings I've ever had which were at Crazy Eric's.  If you ever find yourself in Bremerton or the Puyallup Fair and in need of some cheap, greasy, delicious food, then Crazy Eric's is the place for you. But that's a review for another day.

I'm headed back to Alki next Monday and am planning on swinging by to try another burger that I am pretty curious about on the menu:  the Maui Wowie.  With spam, pineapple, teriyaki mayo, and swiss cheese, it could either be delicious or terrible.  I'm hoping for delicious, but either way it is at least pretty unique. So let me close by saying that Zippy's does have some good tasting food.  They are very reasonably priced in comparison with some other gourmet burgers in the area, but the burgers aren't as giant as you would expect based on the name.  Except for the King Lou Lou which has 4 quarter pound patties, 4 slices of cheese, 8 strips of bacon, and sauteed onions. That one sounds pretty giant.  I'd have to be pretty hungry to attempt to tackle that bad boy. Oh, and one last thing, they don't have any drinks on tap.  Only bottles of root beer and various other sodas, beer, and milk shakes. I didn't try a milk shake so I don't know how they taste, but I did find it odd that they didn't have any fountain drinks. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Starbucks Refreshers

Starbucks recently provided me with a free Refresher beverage, so I feel I owe them a review.  The Refresher beverages are iced drinks made from green coffee extract and flavored with fruits.  I tried the very berry hibiscus flavor and am happy to report that it was quite tasty.  I've never tried green coffee extract before, so I didn't really know what to expect, but to me it tasted a lot like green tea flavored with fruit juice.  There was no coffee taste at all which, for a coffee lover like me, is a little disappointing, but may please the non-coffee crowd.  And if I find myself in the mood for something a bit different, it fits the bill.  It is refreshing, as advertised.  It does contain caffeine, however I don't know how much in comparison to and espresso drink or tea.  I would say it's comparable to a lemonade iced tea, or Arnold Palmer if you will, so if you like those, you'll probably like the refresher.  And since it hasn't been named after anyone yet, I believe I'll start calling it a Carson Palmer. 

And while I'm on the topic of Starbucks, I'd like to propose a question: why do I get served drinks with the hole in the lid lined up with the seam in the cup?  If I don't notice this before I start drinking, it's likely to result in coffee dripping on my shirt.  So I'm wondering, do baristas not pay any attention to the lid orientation and put it on randomly, or is this a way for baristas who think I'm a jerk to get a little payback?  I would think the former since I'm pretty affable, however with all of the attention to detail that Starbucks is known for, it makes me wonder if it's the latter. 

The Dark Knight Rises

I braved the torrential downpour today to catch the opening day showing of The Dark Knight Rises.  I got there nice and early to ensure I didn't have to sit in the front or on an aisle, and despite the fact that I only got there about 25 minutes prior to showtime - later than initially planned - there were only 2 people in the theater when I arrived.  To my surprise, the theater was less than half full when the show started.  Starting with the trailers, Argo looked interesting. Oz looks kind of bad, it has a strong Tim Burton vibe (not a good thing) but I didn't see his name in the credits.  I'm growing weary of superhero reboots, so I don't have much interest in Man of Steel. I also have a hard time getting interested in the Total Recall remake, particularly since the best part of the original - Arnold Schwartzenegger - is missing.  Also, there's something about Colin Ferrell that makes me want to punch him in the face.  On the other hand, if someone brainwashed me and convinced me that Kate Beckinsale was my wife, I'd be pretty happy about that.  Moving on, The Bourne Legacy seems to me like another cash grab sequel that will be mediocre at best. Finally, Jack Reacher is another Tom Cruise action movie that didn't seem to have much plot, at least not in the preview.  That's all of the previews I can remember, and overall there isn't much to get excited about. 

On to the feature: The Dark Knight Rises started out with an action scene which almost had me rolling my eyes.  I was a little concerned that there would be copious amounts of unrealistic action, but other than Hines Ward returning a kickoff for a touchdown in a later scene, it wasn't too bad the rest of the way. I mean, seriously, I don't think I've ever seen Ward return a kick.  But at least they used a professional football player rather than an actor. 

As you may already know, Bane is the villain in this flick, and since a hero is only as good as the villain, I was pleased to see that Christopher Nolan went to great lengths to turn him into a truly frightening sociopath.  No longer is he the hulking meat head he was in Batman & Robin (starring George Clooney), he is now intelligent and purposeful. I don't know if it was intentional, but his mask and raspy, labored voice made him somewhat reminiscent of Darth Vader.  Feel free to refer to him as Darth Bane if you like.  What I found really interesting about Bane and his followers, is that all their speeches and grandstanding sounded exactly like the Occupy Wall Street movement.  'The rich fat cats have been oppressing us for too long', and 'we're going to take back what's rightfully ours' and so on.  They continually fan the flames of class warfare to return Gotham city to the violent state it was in prior to Batman cleaning it up in the first film.  I'm not familiar with the comics, so I'm not sure if it's faithful to the source material, or if the film makers are trying to make a political statement, or if they are simply trying to be timely, but it was as if they watched news footage of the Occupy movement and added it to the script word for word.  Make no mistake, though, Bane was a worthy villain: powerful, ruthless, hateful, and if that weren't enough - kicked out of the League of Shadows for being too sociopathic. 

Catwoman is an interesting character as well. She retains the skin tight costumes from previous iterations (which Anne Hathaway looks great in by the way), but we no longer have to put up with any purring or ridiculous one liners.  She's a real character, rather than a caricature, and she keeps you guessing until the end whether she will turn into a hero or a villain.  Michael Caine, however really stole the show as Alfred.  He has a relatively small part in this film, but his scenes are highly emotionally charged and he truly left me in awe.  Some of the other emotional scenes border on sappy, but Michael Caine really nails it.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt also shines as John Blake, a young cop who is unusually perceptive and aids both Commissioner Gordon and Batman.  I think we'll see a lot more from him in the future. 

I can't say enough about how impressed I am with Christopher Nolan as a film maker.  Like the previous two installments, he takes source material that is steeped in fantasy and finds a way to make it realistic.  None of the characters have super powers or behave in unbelievable ways.  That, to me is what makes villains truly terrifying.  Vampires and zombies don't frighten me at all, but a brilliant serial killer like Hannibal Lechter or a violent and charismatic man like Bane who is able to recruit followers to his cause of creating anarchy is plausible enough to make me wary.  More importantly, Nolan is a brilliant story teller who is able to weave a tale in such a way that it's difficult to see what is coming without having to resort to crazy plot twists at the end like M Night Shayamalan.  The Dark Knight Rises keeps you engaged from beginning to end and at no time does the 2 hours and 45 minutes seem long or drag in any way.  I went into the movie with high expectations and it didn't let me down in any way.  In my opinion, this surpasses the Dark Knight, but I think I still prefer Batman Begins.  This film left me wanting more, unfortunately the only additional material I will ever see is bonus material on the DVD, which I now can't wait to purchase.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Beard

For the last couple of months I've been cultivating a pretty solid disheveled look.  I haven't shaved or gotten a hair cut, and to be completely honest, I really enjoyed looking like a mountain man coming back to civilization after a couple months of beaver trapping out in the wilderness.  I've learned something about bearding, though - eventually you stop looking stylish and look like a slob.  I passed that threshold weeks ago.
This is the extent of my Grizzly Adams look before I finally had enough and had to shave it off.  I'll let you in on a secret - by this point it is itchy as hell and quite annoying.  I don't know if you eventually break through and it gets better, but if not, I don't know how guys make it to the ZZ Top stage.


My first attempt at a new look was what I call the Irish immigrant look.  I have some Irish blood in me, and could pull this off.  I could see myself in a smoky bar, standing toe to toe with Tom Cruise in Far And Away, and I would fit right it.


Here's another view for your enjoyment.  And though I look quite grand, it's still too long and irritating and I have to go shorter.


The next logical step, obviously, is the fu manchu.  This is really classy.  Too classy I think, so ultimately I went with no facial hair at all.  So, though I don't look as good, it is kind of a relief to be hairless and I feel much more comfortable.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

There's An App For That

Twice today I've looked at something and thought, "what is that?" And so it is that I stumbled upon an idea for a great smartphone app. I call it What The Hell Is That? Anytime you see something you don't recognize, you take a photo of it and the analyses the photo and tells you what the hell it is. Everybody could use this. Any developer would make millions selling it. And being the generous soul I am, I'm not even asking for a cut of said millions for this idea. I'm giving it away virtually free. All I want in return is a free copy when it's completed. I will also accept a trip to Bora Bora if one is offered, however that is not on my list of demands.

This has been another million dollar idea brought to you by the brilliant and innovative minds at Craw Fu Industries. We make the world better. ©

Monday, July 02, 2012

Running Mates

I was just reading this article (while listening to this song if it helps put you in the right mood) about Mitt Romney's potential running mates, and all I can think is: why are the president and vice president a package deal?  Why do we get to vote on every publicly held office except the vice president?  Is it because the VP doesn't really do anything and has no real power, or is it because nobody cares who the VP is, or is it something else?  As far as I know, there's no political advantage to having a running mate, only a potential liability (see Sarah Palin).  I've never heard of anyone voting for or against a president based on his running mate.  I have yet to hear, "I wasn't sold on Obama until he brought on that Biden fellow."  Of the many idiosyncracies in the American political system, this one possibly makes the least sense to me (although admittedly I don't see the point of the electoral college either).

It wasn't always this way.  Originally, the second place candidate in the presidential election would become the vice president.  I'm not suggesting we return to that, but I'm sure the majority of Americans would prefer to have vice president McCain in place of vice president Biden.  Who am I kidding, nobody cares.  Certainly there are down sides to this, foremost among them that it would encourage crackpots (of which we have an ever increasing number) to become assassins if their candidate lost the election.  Anyway, this all changed in 1804 with the ratification of the 12th amendment, though it's unclear whether the intent was to devolve into our current system. 

What I'm suggesting is a separately elected vice president, if for no other reason than I think Americans should be able to choose their own leaders.  It will also return some of the prestige to the position that has been lost over the years.  Currently, the VP is just a glorified cabinet member.  Directly electing a VP would increase representation by adding someone to the White House staff who was not appointed by the president and therefore not in political lock step.  Obviously, if a VP from the opposition party were elected, it would potentially be too difficult to work together - the situation that led to the 12th amendment in the first place.  So I think that the VP should be elected from the same party as the president.  This just makes too much sense not to be implemented.  It should be the 28th amendment, or Crawford amendment if you will.  And you will, if I have anything to say about it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Crappy Novel

Hayashi Paper Company has begun selling rolls of toilet paper containing a horror story written by Koji Suzuki, author of the Ring.
According to this article, the 'novel' is currently only available in Japanese, although an English version is rumored to be in the works.  It sells for $2.52, about 10 times the cost of a regular roll, but significantly lower than a standard novel.  No word on whether or not a Kindle version is in the works.

This is a pretty interesting idea, and I'm pretty interested to see how it sells.  I can envision a few complications.  I know some people who spend 30 or more minutes at a time on the can already, that's unhealthy enough as is, and those folks don't need any encouragement.  Second, everyone will have to have their own roll.  If you don't live alone or have company, you will miss key plot points and the story would be ruined.  And if they ever make the story into a movie, it would be a little awkward.  Still, it will no doubt keep you on the edge of your seat.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Antisocial Network

Facebook has been in the news a lot lately with their IPO and a lot of people are hoping it will fail.  That solidifies my belief that it's time for someone to create an antisocial network.  The hateful, shut ins, and the unlikeable need something to waste their time too.  It can't all be spent in a cabin in the woods writing a manifesto. 

For starters, instead of a friends list you would have an enemies list.  Personally, I already have an enemies list as I'm sure that all the antisocials do, and having a convenient online place to maintain such a list and keep track of schemes would be very convenient.  Not to mention what a valuable resource it would be for vengeful plans - who knows what devious plans are out there than I haven't thought of.

Next order of business, there would be no 'like' button.  Only a dislike button.  One of the great irritations for me on Facebook is the inability to dislike things.  Negative feedback is every bit as valuable as positive feedback, more important some might say.  Solely having positive feedback is disingenuous.  It smacks of the 'everyone is special' and 'everyone's a winner' awards that are pedaled to the youth today.  In the real world, people dislike things.

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty tired of companies telling me to like them.  Nobody likes Comcast.  And nobody is a fan of Justin Bieber.  Wouldn't you much rather hate them?  You'll be able to rant and bad mouth everything you dislike and disapprove of once I roll out my antisocial network.  I've come up with a name already.  Since it will be, in many ways, the opposite of Facebook, I plan to call it Assbook.  Particularly fitting since a majority of users will, in fact, be jackasses.  Anyone who has ever been on an internet message board or forum knows that 90% of the population are jackasses when they are anonymous, so this will be huge. 

I know what you're thinking, won't I be sued by Facebook if I use that name?  Luckily I have legal precedent on my side.  The South Butt was able to fend off a copyright infringement suit from North Face. Their best hope is to buy me out, and I won't be cheap.  Just picking a number out of the air I'm going for $11 billion.  I will use that money to buy the most comfortable chair money can buy and the largest television in the free world.  And probably a pizza.

What makes me think I can overtake Facebook if Google couldn't?  Don't worry, I have a plan.  Facebook's primary competitive advantage is that they have so many users - if you want to switch to another network, you have to convince your friends to  switch as well or you're wasting your time.  The key is to be a social network aggregator.  If you can access Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, and any other networks that come along all from one convenient location, you'll be unstoppable.  That's where Assbook comes in, it will be your one stop shopping web site.  And my 2 loyal readers will get in on the ground floor.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Munsters

For a while now I've been watching The Munsters on Netflix and a few things stand out to me, the most obvious being how did they manage to make 70 episodes, all with virtually the same plot.  The are a family of monsters who think they are a completely normal, average American family and at some point someone sees them, gets scared, and leaves a human shaped hole in the wall, jumps out a window, has his toupee fly up to the ceiling, or some such nonsense.  I'm into season 2 now and it's clear that the writers realized that the premise was wearing a little thin after 40 or so episodes and are trying to branch out a bit, but not enough.  It's just a little hard to believe that they could see people every day and still fail to realize that they were the unusual ones.  Or that people in the areas they frequent wouldn't become accustomed to them at some point.  At any rate, I'm sure that's why the series didn't last longer than it did, although it's entirely possible that the cast was tired of the make up and costumes as well. 

I also have a very hard time coming to grips with the fact that Herman Munster is a Frankenstein monster, his wife Lily is a vampire, but somehow their son Eddie is a werewolf.  That makes no sense, did the writers have no concept of genetics or monster mythology?  Maybe I've been unduly influenced by the Underworld movies, but aren't werewolves and vampires supposed to be enemies?  Competing species, so to speak, much like lions and hyenas compete for the same territory an prey?  Although you sometimes see a dog nursing a tiger cub, so the only way it makes sense is if Eddie is adopted.  Nothing in the show suggests he's adopted, though, so I'm left to assume that he's the byproduct of one of Grandpa Munster's experiments.  And nothing is really explained regarding why Marilyn, niece of Herman and Lily, is not a monster.  When vampires procreate, is it just a crap shoot as to what type of monster or human the offspring are?  That's something that needs to be fleshed out when they remake the series. 

Yes, a Munsters remake is already in the works.  Because of the limited story arcs in the original, I think that it would be more suited to a one off movie, but maybe that's why I'm not in Hollywood. The remake is supposed to air beginning in 2013, and I think casting Herman is going to be pivotal to the success or failure of the show. Fred Gwynne really made the show, playing Herman as an overgrown child - easily excited and amused, and throwing a temper tantrum when things go badly.  My initial thought was that Vince Vaughn would make a good Herman Munster, but the more I think about it, the more I think Brad Garrett, best known for his role as Ray's brother in Everybody Loves Raymond, is perfect.  Come to think of it, were he still alive, I think Ray's father on the show, Peter Boyle would make a perfect Grandpa Munster.  Maybe Everybody Loves Raymond was really a remake of The Munsters if they were really a normal family.  But I digress.  Unfortunately Jerry O'Connell has been cast as Herman.  Jerry is a fine actor, but he's no Brad Garrett, so I'm a little disappointed.  I do find this odd because I've been watching episodes of Sliders concurrently, and had I not been doing so would not have noticed the Munster house appearing in an episode.  Portia de Rossi has been cast as Lily, according to this article, which I think is perfect.  She's a brilliant comedic actress and maybe they just wanted someone with 'de' in her name as a nod to Yvonne de Carlo who originally portrayed Lily.

Well, I was originally going somewhere with this, but have gotten distracted and lost my train of thought, so I'll shut up for now.  I reserve the right to return and edit this at a later date if it comes back to me though.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Mariners History

The date was June 2, 1990.  I was a high school senior, just about to graduate and for a couple weeks had plans with a few friends to go to the Mariner's game.  Randy Johnson was going to be on the mound.  It was ladies night, and none of us goofballs had any hope of picking up any ladies, but all signs still pointed to an enjoyable evening.  Well, game day rolled around and I called up my buddies and we were all a little tired and didn't feel too much like going, so we skipped it.  Later that night I turned on the news to see highlights of Randy Johnson throwing the first no hitter in Mariner history.  For 22 years I've been kicking myself, but tonight I finally got to witness a no hitter. This wasn't a conventional no hitter, it took the Mariners 6 pitchers to pull it off, but it still goes in the record books - the Dodgers didn't manage a hit.

 
I didn't go to the game expecting to see anything historic, although does anybody?  I was just looking forward to seeing the Dodgers.  The first baseball game I ever went to was a Dodger game.  I was just 5 years old when I visited the friendly confines of Chavez Ravine and although I don't remember who played, where we sat, who I went with other than my parents, if it was sunny or cloudy, or any other details of the game, I've been a Dodgers fan since.  All I really remember is the feeling of being overwhelmed by what a spectacular place it was.  Sadly I haven't been back since.  My only opportunity to see my beloved Dodgers in person these days is to wait for them to come up to Seattle.

Anyway, back to tonight, starting in the 4th inning I began to give updates every inning that 'the no hitter is still in effect'.  My friend kept telling me to stop saying anything because I'd jinx it, but not believing in jinxes I continued my updates.  So when Kevin Millwood left the game with a minor groin pull after the 6th inning, I took the blame.  Sorry Millwood, it's on me.  From there, Charlie Furbush came in and got a quick out and then coaxed the second batter he faced into hitting a routine comebacker, which he then wheeled and fired into the dirt in front of first base, turning an easy out into a 2 base error.  He struck out the next batter and was replaced by Stephen Pryor who closed out the 7th inning. 

Pryor walked the first 2 batters of the 8th inning and was replaced by Lucas Leutge who recorded one out before yielding to Brandon League.  League quickly retired the next two batters, and Tom Wilhelmsen pitched a 1, 2, 3 9th inning for the save.  According to ESPN, this is just the 10th combined no hitter in major league history, so I'm pretty happy about getting to witness it.  This is a story I'll be able to tell for days to come.  By my estimates it will take approximately 5 days for people to start telling me to shut up and that they don't want to hear about it.  I'd like to think that this win will light a fuse in the Mariners and that they will make a playoff run, but I have my doubts, so I'm just going to soak it all in while I can. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Titanic

The other day I read an article in Smithsonian magazine about the Titanic (I know, I'm way behind on my magazine reading), and I can't help wondering why, of the myriad of shipwrecks throughout history, the sinking of the Titanic has captivated the public's attention more than any other.  I've spent recent days going through it in my mind, trying to figure it out, but so far I'm coming up empty.

Unlike the sinking of the Lusitania, which compelled the United States to join the fighting in World War I, there is no particular historical significance to the Titanic sinking.  Nor is there the political intrigue - the Germans claiming they were justified in torpedoing the Lusitania because the US was using it to supply munitions to England, a claim that proved true in 2008 when divers explored the wreck and found about 4 million rounds of ammunition.  The sinking of the Indianapolis is also far more historically significant and, in my mind, far more deserving of a film.  I'm actually kind of surprised and disappointed that no film has ever been made about the Indianapolis.  And come to think of it, the same could be said about the H. L. Hunley, the Confederate submarine which sank the Housatonic - that's a buy one, get one free nautical disaster.

My next thought is that perhaps it was Hollywood that pushed the Titanic into the forefront of the public imagination.  Other shipwrecks featured in the media haven't generated the same hype, however.  The Perfect Storm failed to cement the name Andrea Gail in people's minds (I had to look it up).  U-571, while largely fictitious, is based on some historical fact and the sinking of the Bismarck is rarely thought about.  Several books and Seinfeld reference are not enough to make the Andrea Doria a household name.  Even Gordon Lightfoot singing about the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald only managed to drum up temporary interest. 


It's not the number of passengers lost in the disaster.  According to the internet, which would never lie to me, the death toll on the Titanic only ranks it fifth in maritime history.  While some rich, powerful, and famous souls were aboard the Titanic, the same could be said of the Lusitania.  And again, the Lusitania was every bit the luxury liner that the Titanic was. 

The only unique facts I can think of regarding the Titanic are that it sank on its maiden voyage and the hubris of the owners who called it unsinkable.  So where does this all leave me?  I can only conclude that rather than one thing it is the multitude of factors that combine to make it memorable.  And since it's never been overly interesting to me, I feel that Hollywood owes me films about the Indianapolis and H. L. Hunley, both of which I find more interesting.  So if you have any sway with the film industry, do me a favor and get them started on one or both. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Anonymous

Who was William Shakespeare?  Was he truly the author of the plays that bear his name, did he take credit for the work of an anonymous author, or is the man we know as the bard a complete fabrication.  This his been debated for years by the likes of Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Sigmund Freud, and others.  Consider this:  no play in his hand writing is known to exist, his parents and children were illiterate, his own signature nearly illegible - sometimes spelled Shaksper, sometimes Shaxpeare.
It is inferred from the plays that the author was well educated - very knowledgeable in history, well versed on the law, most likely able to speak multiple languages. It is also thought that he was well traveled, probably having lived in Italy for several years since many of the plays are set there.  He would have to have inside information on royal affairs and courtly procedures.  None of these attributes can be verified in regards to the man from Stratford upon Avon that history has come to accept as the author of the plays.

So who did write the plays?  Some think it was Francis Bacon.  Some think it was the Earl of Oxford.  Some think there were multiple authors. The supposition of the movie Anonymous is that the true author of the Shakespearean canon was Edward DeVere, Earl of Oxford.  That due to political machinations, he had to keep his authorship a secret.  Many of the negative reviews complain that the film is historically inaccurate, but it's not meant to be.  If you keep in mind that it's a work of fiction, that the majority of scenes are complete fabrications and not intended as historical fact, it is absolutely brilliant.

First, let me say that the film is visually gorgeous.  The CG, costumes, etc really transport you back to 16th century England.  The dialogue is sparkling and the political intrigue is thrilling.  The acting is top notch, and I found the portrayal of Edward DeVere by Rhys Ifans particularly captivating.  The film jumps around in time a bit, and there are younger and older versions of characters, so you really have to pay attention or it will get confusing quickly.  If you stick with it, though, you will be greatly awarded with a very interesting movie that will likely stimulate you to learn more about who really wrote what are considered by many to be the greatest works of the English language. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

2012 NFL Draft

With the 12th pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks select ....

This year it is a little difficult to guess what the Seahawks will do.  Most mock drafts have them taking either linebacker Luke Kuechly or some defensive lineman.  DE Quinton Coples is the most popular prediction, however I've seen Melvin Ingram, Michael Brockers, Dontari Poe, and the forces at ESPN have aligned to come up with a prediction of Chandler Jones.

I like Luke Kuechly and think that with the proliferation of pass catching TEs in the league, we could really use a LB who is so solid in pass coverage, however I don't think he'll last until the Seahawks pick.  I don't think any of the remaining LBs are good enough to warrant a selection that high, and I really feel like the team feels they can find quality players in later rounds like they did last year with KJ Wright.  For that reason, I don't think we'll draft a LB in the first round.

This brings us to defensive line, where most of the projections are.  After seeing Quinton Coples maul guys in the Senior Bowl in one of the most dominant performances I've seen in the game, I've developed a man crush on him.  Despite unbelievable physical prowess, questions about his effort and desire, whether real or perceived, have pushed him down the draft board and it's beginning to look like he's too big a gamble at the #12 pick.  The Seahawks could use a good pass rusher, but for the most part I think it's the abundance of talent at the D line positions that are pushing analyst to make these predictions.  The Seahawks D line was pretty solid last year and I don't think it's a high priority for the team.  But like LB, the draft is pretty deep at DL and good players will be available in later rounds.  I'm pretty high on Vinny Curry, who should be available in round 2.

So here's my prediction.  The Seahawks will draft Stanford G David DeCastro.  The more I think about it, the more sense it makes.  The guard position has been a revolving door since Steve Hutchinson left town, and the line has been largely ineffective over that time period.  With the team releasing Robert Gallery in the offseason, there has to be a plan in place to draft a replacement - I can't believe that the team is planning on starting the season with either Deuce Lutui or Paul McQuistan as the starting left guard.  DeCastro is a safe pick, not a gamble, and he could be a Pro Bowl player for years to come.  I think that the priority for the team is making holes for Lynch to run through, and keeping Matt Flynn upright long enough to be successful. I think the team will try to trade down about 5 spots to get an extra mid-round pick and hope DeCastro is still there, but I'm not sure they'll be able to find a trading partner.

Now, as for surprises in the first round, I don't think we'll see many.  The only potential surprise I think we'll see is that I think that the Dolphins interest in Ryan Tannehill is largely a smoke screen to try to entice another team to trade up for him.  The Fins have enough holes to fill that taking a project QB who will sit on the bench for at least a year is probably not going to happen.  I see Tannehill doing an Aaron Rogers like free fall, but I don't think he'll make it past the Browns at 22.  If he's still around at that point, I think Holmgren will pull the trigger on him.

The Seahawks will need a linebacker eventually, and there are 2 guys I really like that I think we will take a look at in the 2nd & 3rd rounds.  First is MLB Mychal Kendricks from Cal.  He's a little undersized, but he's very fast and reacts quickly and has good instincts and vision.  The other guy I like is Zach Brown, OLB from North Carolina.  The UNC program was in disarray last year and all of the prospects seem undervalued to me, and like Kendricks, he's very fast and athletic and covers a lot of ground.  I would be thrilled to land either of those guys.

The first Husky off the board will be Alameda Ta'amu.  I think he's a first round talent, but since he played 4 years on a UW team with a terrible defense, he is undervalued.  He's huge (348 pounds), and surprisingly agile for a guy that size.  He's also got a good motor and won't need to be rotated out.  He will be a steal for some team.  And I've been thinking, it's kind of amazing how many huge guys there are in the league now.  When William "the Refrigerator" Perry was drafted, he tipped the scale at 335 - every year there are several guys that size or bigger in the draft.  Today he'd just be "the college dorm room fridge".  Anyway, I also think Washington's Chris Polk is also underrated and will be a steal for whoever takes him.  I don't think he fits the Seahawks needs, but he is one of the most complete backs available.  He's a terriffic receiver, has great balance, breaks a lot of tackles.  He just doesn't have that blazing speed to get him attention. 

Other players of note:  I'm intrigued by this report I saw on ESPN yesterday that the Seahawks are looking at Derek Carrier (who I've never heard of) from Beloit College (which I've never heard of).  He's a big (6'3" 240 lbs), quick, reasonably fast WR who may end up profiling as a TE.  I haven't seen him play, but his physical skills really make me wonder about his potential.  I'm also hoping that LaMichael James drops to us in the 4th round.  I think he'd be the perfect change of pace back to complement Marshawn Lynch.  He's got world class speed, and is surprisingly tough for a smaller back.  I'm also a fan of Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus, although admittedly partially because of his name.  That is a great name for a defender.  I don't think he'll make it to the Seahawks in the 2nd round.  We'll have to wait for one of the two biggest defensive end sleepers in the draft - Jack Crawford and Tyrone Crawford.  Both guys are sure to be stars in this league.  And I nearly forgot to mention TCU MLB Tank Carder.  How do you not like a guy named Tank.  I think LSU WR Rueben Randle is undervalued and could be a sleeper as well. 

That's it for today.  I'll watch the first round today and regroup and see how things look tomorrow.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Case Against Ryan Tannehill

The quarterback position has become so valuable in the NFL that every year, teams get desperate and players get pushed up the draft boards way higher than their talent dictates.  This year that player is Ryan Tannehill. 

Looking at the statistics of current NFL QBs, the majority of starters were drafted in the first round.  Last year, there were 34 QBs with enough attempts to qualify for the statistical leader board (a minimum of 14 per game according to ESPN.com).  Of those 34, 20 were selected in the first round, 3 in the second round, 2 in the third round, 1 in the fourth round, 1 in the fifth round, 3 in the sixth round, 2 in the seventh round, and 2 went undrafted (Tony Romo and Matt Moore).  Further breaking that down into groups of ten, it's clear why teams feel like they have to select a QB in the first round - once you get past the first, the likelihood of drafting a starter drops significantly:

Top 10
1st  - 6
2nd – 1
3rd – 1
6th - 1
Undrafted - Tony Romo

10-20
1st – 7
2nd - 1
6th - 1
Undrafted – Matt Moore

20-30
1st – 5
2nd – 1
3rd – 1
4th - 1
7th – 2

30-34
1st – 2
5th – 1
6th – 1

This apparent need will cause some unfortunate GM to justify taking a huge gamble and draft Tannehill way higher than he should.  The one statistic that best correlates to NFL success is completion percentage.  While Andrew Luck completed 71.3% of his passes, and RGIII completed 72.4%, Tannehill completed just 61.6% of his passes, placing him 53rd in the NCAA.  That puts him about on par with Seahawks QB Tarvaris Jackson (60.9%), who I think is a pretty close comparison in terms of talent.  QBs are unlikely to improve in accuracy at the next level, so since Tannehill was inaccurate in college, don't expect him to be accurate in the NFL.

My next point of comparison will be experience.  For 2.5 of his 4 years, Tannehill wasn't good enough to earn a starting spot over Jerrod Johnson, who recently signed with the Steelers but thus far in his career has not been good enough to make an NFL regular season roster.  Because he only has 13 starts as a senior and 7 as a junior he is still very raw, and since he took a back seat to a player not good enough for the NFL, it begs the question, what makes teams think he's worth a first round selection?

What's also of concern is that Tannehill failed to perform in the clutch.  Against top defenses, he turned in his worst performances of the season.  The level of competition he will face in the NFL is much greater than anything he faced in college, and his past performance suggests that he'll falter when faced with NFL defenses.  The old adage in investing is that past performance doesn't guarantee future results, so the notion of him improving is not improbable, but based on what I've seen of him in college, I have little reason to believe he'll show significant improvement.  

I understand why scouts are interested in him - he has prototypical size, a strong arm, and is very athletic.  A lot of scouts and GMs look at that and see it as potential.  What I see, however, is the same thing that was said about the previously mentioned Tarvaris Jackson.  That's who I see as his most reasonable comparison, and Jackson was selected with the last pick of the second round, and at the time many thought that was too high.  Need and desperation are pushing a lot of QBs into the first round that shouldn't be there, and while Tannehill is probably a 3rd or 4th round talent, but will likely be selected in the top 10.  

Despite the fact that the odds of finding a legitimate starter decrease significantly after the first round, I contend that current economics make drafting a QB in the first round a bad idea.  It's a gamble in any round, but a first round gamble will cost upwards of $75 million, but for significantly less you can make several lower round gambles and achieve similar odds of success.  My personal philosophy is that you spend first round picks on guys who can play right away.  The best case scenario for Tannehill is that he sits for a year, starts for 3 and then is a free agent.  Jake Locker was drafted 8th overall last year, and that is where many people predict Tannehill to go.  I can't find the details of the rookie wage scale, but using Locker's deal as a template, I would estimate that Tannehill would receive a 4 year deal for $12.5 million.  Is it really a valuable investment to spend that much money training a player only to let him go as a free agent?  Not in my opinion.

That's my opinion, but for a second opinion, check out the Prediction Machine. According to their web site:
We run a very complex set of algorithms that factor college stats, previous utilization and strength of competition, combine measurables, role and expected utilization of the player's NFL team (in this case an average NFL team) and previous performance of similar rookies at that position in general. This allows us to predict both the player's projected ratio stats such as yards-per-carry, percentage of tackles made while on the field and passing completion percentage, as well as his forecasted usage for the upcoming NFL season. Then we can compare all rookies based on who we think will make the biggest positive impact in his first year. It's a system that we have applied to the previous three drafts and with great success.
Although they are secretive about their algorithms, their calculations place Tannehill as the 9th best QB in the draft.  It seems crazy to me that the 9th QB is likely to become the 8th overall pick.  Rumor has it that the Seahawks like what they see in him, and my sincere hope is that the Dolphins or some other team take him off the board before the Seahawks have the opportunity to make a huge mistake.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Photos

Over the last week or so, during the sunny weather I've gone strolling, taking pictures of whatever catches my attention.  Instead of posting them one at a time, I decided to make up a little slide show.  And while looking through the pictures, I had the Dream Theater song Home stuck in my head, so that's what's on the soundtrack.  Anyway, without further ado, here you go.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pennies

Canada recently announced that they will stop minting new pennies in about 6 months and slowly remove them from circulation. Naturally this has led to numerous articles and discussions about whether or not we should follow suit.  Obviously, the answer is yes.  Pennies have virtually no buying power and cost more to mint than they are worth.  They are simply a nuisance.  Before I go into greater detail, let me just say that this video explains it much better than I could.



It doesn't make sense to keep making cents.  Australia and New Zealand have both abolished the penny for cash transactions and couldn't be happier about it.  What they have done is eliminate the penny for cash transactions - rounding everything to the nearest nickel - while keeping the smaller denominations intact for electronic transactions (credit cards, payroll, etc).  Detractors claim that the elimination of the penny will result in retailers always rounding up to the nearest nickel, ultimately hurting the poor.  This hasn't been the case in Australia or New Zealand, however, as rounding to the nearest nickel (both up and down) has roughly evened itself out (as it logically should). 

According to this article, the main proponents are the zinc lobby, since pennies are currently primarily made out of zinc.  I have a hard time imagining that the zinc industry really has a very powerful lobby, though.  And is it really worth continuing to mint pennies, essentially amounting to a zinc subsidy, in order to protect a few jobs?  I think that with minimal expense, all of the folks working in the zinc mines could be trained to mine the metals used in dime and quarter construction, which will no doubt increase. 

I just realized that I'm tired of discussing this, so let me finish by saying that I find pennies to be more of a nuisance than anything else.  Were it up to me, I'd get rid of the nickel while we're at it, but one step at a time.  We can start that discussion once the penny is dead.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Right Management

Does anyone have any experience with Right Management?  As part of my severance package, I get 1 month of career management services from Right Management and am interested to hear if anyone has any testimonials.  I'm pretty skeptical at this point that it's worth my time to contact them, but I'm open to the possibility.

Let me start out with what I know about their services.  One of their representatives came out to my office and sat down with everyone for a 1 on 1 chat.  The first thing she said to me was, "how are you doing?"  "Fine" I replied, to which she responded, "I don't believe that, I would be pretty upset if I were in your situation."  So starting out with her more or less calling me a liar was a little off putting.  From that point, she handed me a packet of written material and then pretty much looked at me waiting for me to ask questions.  All I was able to get out of her was a broad overview of their services: they offer resume writing assistance, interviewing tips, and access to their job board.  All things that are available for free on Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, as well as other sources.  The one thing she mentioned that interested me is counseling for transitioning into other industries, although I was unable to determine how they go about it.  Do they look over my resume and recommend what other industries my skill set might apply to?  Do they interview me to determine my skills and interests?  Do they give me aptitude tests like a high school guidance counselor?  All of the above?  None of the above?  Long story short: I walked out of the meeting without a lot of confidence that Right Management provides any value that isn't readily available elsewhere.

My next issue is that they will only let me sign up by phoning them.  I find the phone to be a very inconvenient and inefficient means of communication.  I could fire off an email in less time than it would take me to dial the number and wait for someone to answer.  If some information is needed that's not readily available, one of us is going to have to sit in silence while the other looks it up.  In addition, the phone does not allow me to forward my resume or send links, nor does it give me a written record of the exchange for future reference.  I thought there was hope when the sent me a letter including an email address along with the ubiquitous phone number, however when I emailed said address for further information, the reply I received was, "please call our toll free number."  And maybe it's just that I was already experiencing a heightened state of irritability that day, but frankly it pissed me off.  It just gives me the impression that any contact with them will be either via phone or physically going to their office, which will be so time consuming and tedious as to not be worthwhile.

Despite my reservations, I'm happy to receive assistance if they are effective, so I spent some time googling them.  Unfortunately I've been unable to find much information.  It has been limited to a few reviews from employees and one Wall Street Journal article about outplacement services.  The employee reviews, like this one from Glass Door (which is an outstanding resource, by the way) are mostly negative, which gives me pause.  If the people with daily access to the resources to find me a new job are unhappy, but unable to find a job they are happy with, then what does that say about the effectiveness of the company?

The Wall Street Journal article covers outplacement services in general, with some specific mentions of Right Management, but is no more encouraging.  Some of the pertinent information is quoted below:

Skeptical employees are voting with their feet: Executives estimate about 40% of workers offered outplacement services don't show up; some ask for cash instead. Some industry participants, too, are troubled by reports of mass-produced resumes, canned job advice and slipshod counseling.

Mr. Shubert says he got access to job-posting sites and group workshops on topics like preparing a resume or closing a deal; equivalent material can be found online, he says. He says his coach didn't offer useful advice. Mr. Shubert's verdict: "truly boilerplate" and "lacking for middle and upper management."

Eighteen months later, Ms. Service says outplacement was a waste of time. She says the job-search training was rushed. During a practice lunch interview, a coach chided her for ordering cranberry juice, saying it could be interpreted as a sign of a urinary-tract infection, she recalls.  Her resume was sent to a prospective employer with a cover letter that included a typo and bore her signature -- which she says she never saw.

Documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal showed the materials resemble those of another ex-Pepsi job seeker sent to the same firm -- including the same typo and quirky date style. The firm's president says he eliminated both women from consideration as his executive assistant. "We didn't take the letters seriously because they did not reflect an understanding of our company -- and they looked alike,'' he says.

So there it is.  I'm very skeptical of the efficacy of Right Management and outplacement services in general at this point.  My time is valuable to me and I'd rather not waste it.  I'm hopeful that I'm wrong, though.  So if anyone has had some experience with them, good or bad, I would appreciate hearing more about what I can expect should I contact them.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Solar Power

I've seen some solar panels advertised recently, and out of curiosity I decided to do a little research.  What I decided to do was look up a middle of the road panel at Costco, look at the output, and do a cost/benefit analysis.  What I looked at was this 500 watt, grid tied panel.  It will set you back $1,899 before shipping and taxes.  Assuming you pick it up at the store to avoid shipping charges, the total cost will be approximately $2,050.  What do you get for that price?  According to Costco, the monthly output is between 30kWh and 70kWh - roughly enough to power a 15 cubic foot refrigerator. 

Of course the output varies according to the amount of direct sunlight, and since this area is under cloud cover a good portion of the winter, not to mention winter days are pretty short at this latitude, we'd be on the low end of the scale, and would get very little output in the winter.  But for ease of calculation, I'll optimistically say we would get 50kWh. 

According to the Puget Sound Energy web site, residential rates are currently 8.5 ¢ per kWh for the first 600kWh, and then 10.3 ¢ beyond that.  Again, estimating on the generous side for ease of calculations, let's say I average 10 ¢.  That means that for an investment of $2,050, you can reduce your electric bill by $5 a month.  If rates stay static (which they won't), it would take 410 month, or 34 years and 2 month to pay for itself.  Well beyond the 25 year warranty. 

With such a horrible return on investment, I can't help wondering why anyone buys any.  Without significantly coming down in cost and/or increasing in efficiency, solar panels are just not cost effective.  If your intent is to save the planet, you're much better off purchasing higher efficiency appliances, windows, etc to reduce your energy use.  I would really like to go 'off the grid' eventually, but at this point it seems highly unlikely that it will be economically feasible in my lifetime.

In unrelated news, I recently saw that this story was taking the internet by storm:  Hiker claims bear saved him from cougar attack.  According to the man, he was taking some pictures of a bear and her cubs when a cougar jumped on him from behind, and the bear came over and attacked the cougar.  At first I thought that this was an incredible story, if true, and now it seems that the rest of the world is beginning to question the validity as well.  Here's my theory.  A 'cougar' is slang for a sexually aggressive middle aged woman.  Or a WSU graduate.  Or the feared double cougar - a sexually aggressive, middle aged WSU graduate.  Also, a 'bear' is slang for a large, hairy gay man.  So, I think he went home, and when his wife asked why he had scratches on his body and he cooked up the story, when in actuality he had been at a brothel where a 'cougar' got a little too rough with him and the bouncer, who was a 'bear', pulled the woman off of him.  He simply changed the locale from a brothel to a wilderness hike.  Once the story got out and gained popularity, he had no choice but to stick with it.  And as a further update, the San Francisco Chronicle is questioning the account as well.  The man is sticking to his guns though.