Sunday, January 22, 2006

NFL Picks - Championship Games Edition

Carolina 27 Seattle 19
Panthers again travel well, and I'm just not all that impressed with the Seahwaks. With Shaun Alexander potentially still a bit groggy from last week, John Fox's defense will bring the heat on Matt Hasselbeck. Panther QB Jake Dellomme is unfazed by being on the road in the playoffs, and the feeling here is that he and Steve Smith will help take the crowd out of the game early.

Pittsburgh 23 Denver 17
I've gone against the Steelers for two straight weeks, and lost each time. Not this week. Coach Cowher's crew is feeling zero pressure, being both on the road and being the prohibitive underdog. The feeling here is that they will come up with a defnsive gameplan that can neutralize Jake Plummer, likely by getting in his face and limiting his room to roam. The Pittsburgh rush defense is tough enough to keep Denver's ground game in check. The mile high atmosphere will not play as big a role as expected, and like Carolina, Pittsburgh has the ability to strike early and take the big hostile crowd out of the game.

Last week: 2-2
Overall: 4-4

Friday, January 13, 2006

NFL Playoff Picks

Picks for the Divisional Round of the playoffs....

Seattle 24 Washington 12
Can't see Gibbs' crew going cross country, and pulling this one off. Seahawks are rested, tough at home, and due to finally win a postseason game.
Actual result: Seattle 20 Washington 10

New England 23 Denver 20
Toss out the result from Week 6 (Broncos won 28-20, and it wasn't that close). Pats defense is clicking and is capable of slowing dwon Denver's ground game. Which means it's all in Jake Plummer's hands....
Actual result: Denver 27 New England 13

Indianapolis 27 Pittsburgh 15
Colts are simply better, and primed to move on. Steelers might hang around, but once they fall behind they'll be done.
Actual result: Pittsburgh 21 Indianaoplis 18

Carolina 13 Chicago 10
People, it's Rex Grossman, not Johnny Unitas. Is he better than Kyle Otron? Sure, but he's still Rex Grossman. Panthers travel well, are playoff tested, and I can see them pulling this one out via a big play from defense of special teams.
Actual result: Carolina 29 Chicago 21

Last week: 2-2

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Building Security...or lack thereof

I work in downtown Hartford (that's in Connecticut, for those geographically challenged among you), in an eighteen floor building. Security here is more intense than any other building I've ever worked previously, as each person is required to carry a badge which contains a photo. The badges are coded to only allow access to the floors you are required, and are needed to move the elevator anywhere beyond the first floor. So, if I tried to flash mine and take the elevator to the 6th floor, I'd be denied.

Of course, I managed to forget mine the other day, which I didn't realize until, of course, I was getting in the elevator. D'oh! No problem, I thought, I'll just go the the Security Desk, explain the situation, and arrive at some temporary solution. I'm guessing I'll have to fill out forms, sign things, show identification, etc. in order to get to my desk.

I approached the desk, and didn't recognize the two men there. Not surprising, since I hadn't really needed to interact with any security folks recently. I explained the deal, how I work here and forgot my badge, and began reaching for my wallet...since he's gonna demand some ID and check it against some kind of master list, right? Uh, nope, he juts points to the other guy, who then takes me to the elevator and asks what floor I work on. Once we get to my floor, he asks if I'll need any help getting past the next layer of security, the doors to my office, and he opens those as well.

Now, I might look trustworthy, but I was taken aback that nobody even bothered to have me produce something, anything, that proved I was who I claimed to be. I could have been anybody, from a corporate spy to a petty theif to a real live terrorist, and these guys gave me a golden path to wherever I wanted to go. I wonder if there was some subtle reverse racism or profiling at work here - I was carrying a laptop, and perhaps most importantly, I'm white. I certainly gave all indications I was legit, but wouldn't a good criminal do the same? I wonder if I was black or middle eastern looking if I would have been afforded the same treatment?

I suppose people just become more lax the further we are from any kind of security scare. I recall visiting another one of our offices in midtown Manahttan about six months after 9/11, and getting past the security desk there was very tough. I had to show a drivers license, and they then called the office where I was visiting to make sure they were expecting me. Only then did the burly security detail allow me to pass to the elevators. About a year ago, I went to the same building, on a Saturday, and while the security looked more imposing (anything I was carrying had to be put on a conveyor belt to be inspected), the guard seemed to really not care that much. He even told me I didn't have to put my laptop bag on the belt! What?

Don't you feel safer now? I mean, your security is only as strong as its weakest point, right? If you're going to put up all these restrictions and barriers, then why don't you make sure your employees are trained to make sure they are observed?

As we've seen countless other times, the only thing that causes a reaction is when something bad occurs. Let's hope it doesn't come to that, again.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Are You Being Monitored?

Hmm…seems like President Bush is walking down the slippery slope of surveillance without using warrants. I understand the whole “we gotta root out the terrorists” angle, but does anyone really think the potential for misusing this power will go untapped? Honestly, it’s not like politicians would do stuff like monitor those deemed “political enemies”, “radicals” or anything. Sorry, but I’m too jaded to believe that this won’t be abused.

Just to see if they’re listening to you, answer the phone thusly:

“F#@* Cheney, hello?”

Not only will you freak out Telemarketers, but you’ll find out pretty quickly if you’re on the list or not. Of course, you might get tortured at some point, but sometimes you have to pay the price to make a political statement.

Herry Chrismakwanzakuh

Thank God the season is finally over, and we can stop hearing these blowhards prattling on about The War on Christmas (yes, Fox News Channel, I’m looking at you).

Look, nobody is trying to phase out or overlook the fact that December 25th is the day celebrated throughout the world as Christmas. Even though most theologians are pretty sure that Jesus wasn’t born on that date, it’s the day that’s been picked to coincide with the Pagan ritual celebrating the Winter Solstice, so that’s what we do. The funny thing is that people who don’t really practice their religion still setup trees, decorate the house, and give presents. The larger message is that it is a time of year where people try (not always successfully) to be a little bit nicer, a bit more tolerant of others, and try to spread some peace. Seems like most follow the spirit of the season, even if they don’t necessarily follow the letter of the law regarding the religious practice.

America, however, though still predominantly Christian, has undergone a degree of cultural change over the past twenty years or so. Immigration brought more people to our shores who were of different cultures and religions. Political Correctness came into vogue, and while the underlying message is sensitivity and tolerance of others, it has gotten way out of hand, like most well intentioned efforts. Any comment made about anyone, no matter how innocuos, causes a chorus of whining about Racism, Sexism, or any other -ism you can imagine. One familiar complaint is that the only acceptable form of bashing left is bashing Catholics in particular (or Christians in general). The Religious Right, which wields waaayy too much influence in this country to begin with, seemingly won’t be happy until everyone turns into a Southern Baptist, while giving their cash to Pat Robertson. Honestly, for a group of people who are (still, for now) the majority religion in this country, and for the most part have it preetty good, we Christians sure are good at whining about how bad things are and how everyone is against us. Where the hell does that come from, anyway?

Back to this recent Holiday Season, it seems like the crybabies are missing the larger point in play here. Look, stores like K-Mart and Target are not stupid. Heartless corporate bastards, perhaps, but not dumb ones. The decision to greet shoppers with a more generic “Happy Holidays” was a marketing decision, pure and simple. They understand that we have become a much more diverse country, with recent immigrants who may or may not celebrate Christmas. Rather than risk alienating a customer, whom the store would like to have return at some point, they chose to play it safe. Imagine, for a moment, if they decided to say “Happy Chanukahuh” or “Happy Kwanzaa” or heaven forbid, “Have a great Ramadan” to a hard core religious right person – I’m thinking lawsuits would be in order. Lost amidst all this is the irony that those people who complain the loudest about how commercial Christmas has become are whining about being disrespected

Everyone needs to relax. We have real problems in this country, over and above the language people use when trying to be nice to one another. Accept whatever greeting you’re given, smile, say “You, too” move on, and do something nice for somebody else. Isn’t that what Jesus would have done?

Cool Site Recommendation: RetroCRUSH

From time to time I will run brief notes about some of my favorite sites...starting with this one.

A Feast for your nostalgic tastes

Time to hip you to one of my favorite destinations on the internets, RetroCRUSH.

The site features all kinds of cool stuff to trigger memories of things you probably thought you’d forgotten about, and brings them vividly back to your brain. They also manage to blend in contemporary things like reviews of current movies, which makes this one of my favorite stops for all things disposable and wonderful about popular culture.

What really made this one of my faves was the introduction of their very own podcast. Webmaster Robert Berry, whose unique voice sounds like a cross between a grown-up version of Yogi Bear’s pal Boo Boo and well, someone else, is your host. Robert takes you through a cool audio tour of the retro world, playing vintage audio clips, interviews with forgotten stars (like one of the Landers sisters!). listener voice mails (some of which are truly bizarre, thanks to what appear to be drunken dialers), and other aural treats. The fact that Berry is an entertaining listen makes it all the more enjoyable.

If pop culture is your thing, you owe it to yourself to check out Retrocrush. Even if it isn't the site is an absolute gas, and worth a few moments of your time.

Stop it, Gas Man

Can we finally dispense with the charade regarding gas prices? Notice how every sign shows an additional number after the price, denoting tenths of cents. Anyone remember a time when that wasn’t a 9? Damn, I’m old enough not only to remember when that column contained other numbers, but also when the signs didn’t have the capacity to accommodate a third digit in the price.

Look, your price is 2.59 per gallon, not 2.58 9/10. You’re not fooling anyone. Cut it out. Now.

Sports Break

For those sports fans out there, here are my NFL picks for the first round of the playoffs.

Washington 20 Tampa Bay 13
Bucs are somewhat up and down, while the 'skins are the hottest team in the league right now.
Actual result: Washington 17 Tampa Bay 10

New England 23 Jacksonville 10
I'm not betting against the Champs at home, no way.
Actual Result: New England 28 Jacksonville 3

Cincinnati 27 Pittsburgh 23
Bengals are ticked that Vegas made them an underdog at home. Steelers puffed up with big wins against bad teams, and have plenty of holes which will be exploited.
Actual Result: Pittsburgh 31 Cincinnati 17

N.Y. Giants 20 Carolina 17
Panthers have been wildly inconsistent, while the G-Men are very tough at home.
Actual Result: Carolina 23 N.Y. Giants 0

As always it is a good thing I don't bet real money with real bookies.

Miss Me?

Yes, it's been awhile, but I am back. I could list the reasons why I haven't posted, but they would bore you, so just enjoy the latest musings/rants/crapola from your humble blogger....