Friday, December 28, 2007

Friday Five

This week has been very laid back for the two of us. Karin had all week off, and I, of course, have been in town. We did a very quiet little Christmas, and have just enjoyed getting away from life for a while.

I don't really do New Year's resolutions, or at least I don't stick to them, but here are 5 things I'd like to work on in 2008.

  1. I'd like to drop about 20 pounds. Every time I say that, some well-meaning person will tell me I don't need to lose any weight. While I appreciate that, I'd still like to have a chin again.
  2. I'd like to read a little more non-computer stuff. Be nice to get through a couple of books over the course of the year.
  3. A little more time at home might be nice. Just saying. ;-)
  4. Figuring out who to vote for in the primaries is probably in order.
  5. There's quite a bit I'd like to get done around the house. Some new carpeting. Maybe new counter tops. Things like that.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas in San Diego

IMG_2086 For those of you who've never lived somewhere that doesn't have all four traditional seasons, Christmastime is a tad interesting. There's something very cool about wearing shorts and driving around town with the top down. Never gets old.

The tree is our first in quite a while. We've spent quite of bit of time traveling the last couple of Decembers, so a tree just wasn't practical. This year, Karin insisted we get a tree. A real one, of course. We have quite a few decorations from our families, so it's always neat having a little bit of history on our tree.

IMG_2082As I mentioned before, Karin and I traditionally do something just the two of us for Christmas Eve. However with the Chargers playing last night, we decided to go to the game. For those who didn't watch, the Chargers jumped out to an early lead and cruised to a very easy 23-3 victory. A great Christmas present.

Today will be spent with my brothers and a couple of very good friends, enjoying Chicken Cacciatore. Sure, not very traditional, but it will be a good time.

Wherever you are this week, I hope you have a very merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

They don't know I'm not a terrorist

With these last three weeks excepted, I fly once a week now for work. Which means that twice a week I find myself dealing with the joy that is airport security. And unlike what seems like a majority of Americans, I don't mind it.

Now don't get me wrong - it is inconvenient. I did wind up having to change airlines one week at the last minute, which garnered me the dreaded "SSSSSSSS" on my ticket, meaning that I received extra special treatment at the security line. I also travel with a lot of electronics, meaning my bag gets extra scanning on a regular basis.

My personal favorite was the cooling pad I use for my laptop bothering the security folks. It took 5 TSA employees to look at the X-ray picture of my bag until they finally did a bag check, swabbing every last item. Because my last name is Harrison, the fan set off the bomb residue detector, meaning I got a pat-down as an added bonus.

The entire time, I was very friendly, talking with the TSA folks, and asking what I should do next time since I knew I'd be back again the following week. (Take the cooling pad out, BTW, is the correct answer.) I always give myself plenty of time, so I had no added stress at the moment.

I understand the folks at TSA are simply trying to do their job. They need to confirm that I am not a terrorist. Now, I know I'm not a terrorist, and everyone who knows me knows I'm not a terrorist. But they don't know that. They need to confirm for themselves that I'm not a terrorist.

What I don't understand is people who haven't figured this out on their own. I often hear people complain about TSA folks spending time with kids and "old ladies", pulling them aside for extra screening. The question is often asked, "Can't you tell they're not a terrorist?" Actually, no, I can't, and neither can the security personnel.

Let's remember that the second worst terrorist attack on US soil was perpetrated by a couple of middle-aged white guys. There is no definition of what a terrorist looks like. After all, up until a couple years ago, Islamic terrorists were always men - but that has long since changed, as boys and girls, men and women, have all blown themselves up in the name of jihad. The simple fact is if we stop scanning little old ladies, or people in pilot's uniforms, or anyone else who "doesn't look like a terrorist", the terrorists will then start enlisting people that fall under those categories. Everyone must be treated as a terrorist until we can confirm they're not.

The next time you find yourself getting "wanded", just remember the fine TSA person is simply trying to confirm that you are not a terrorist.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday Five

Home for a full week. What a great time this has been. Outside of the 4a conference calls on Tuesday and Thursday, it was a good time. I've done a whole lot of nothing, and loved every minute of it.

I went to the Poinsettia Bowl last night with my brothers and a friend last night - good time, even if we did get stuck on the Utah side of the field. Karin and I did her work party as well this week. All-in-all, a very good time.

As for the 5, I figured a Christmas theme would work.

  1. My favorite Christmas movie is Miracle on 34th Street. The original black and white.
  2. It's not Christmas to me until I see Linus's soliloquy.
  3. Karin and I traditionally go out to dinner somewhere on Christmas Eve. This year will be a little more challenging with the Chargers playing on Christmas Eve.
  4. My mother's Jewish, which meant we always celebrated both Hanukah and Christmas. Hanukah was my preference simply because it meant my mother made latkas. (Simply garnished with applesauce, thanks.)
  5. I love this time of year for all the college bowl games. I will watch every last one of them. It's great seeing small schools go give it everything they've got.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Five

Wow. What a couple of months this has been. Since moving back to San Diego, I have been in town for a collective 7 full days (12a-12a), 5 of those being Saturdays where I left the following day. I've flown around 22,000 miles in that time.

As a trainer, I tend to measure the passing of time on a class-by-class basis; time passes in 5-day blocks. So my life for the past couple of months had the following pattern:

Home on Saturday
Travel out on Sunday
Teach a class for 5 days
*rinse and repeat as needed*

(Of course, that will be the pattern for most of 2008, but that's a story for another posting.) All-in-all, though, it's been a good experience. This was the last trip for the year, except of course our annual trip to Vegas for New Year's Eve.

Earlier this week, a good friend of mine, and regular commenter on this blog, mentioned Pandora in a Facebook note. So it got me to thinking of sites that not everyone uses or knows of but should.

  1. Pandora - This is a site based on the "Music Genome Project", which tries to tie different songs together based on their characteristics. The way the site works is you type in a song you like, and it will go off and find other music similar to that song. Great way to set up background music. Listening to it right now as a matter of fact.
  2. Google Reader - Google makes a ton of great products, but this is one of their lesser known ones. Google Reader allows you to "subscribe" to blogs and easily read through them. There's a good number of blogs that I follow but I don't read every article. Google Reader makes it very easy to scan through a blog, read the articles you want, and have the rest automatically mark themselves as read.
  3. Wikipedia - It has come to my attention that not everyone uses Wikipedia. I don't understand how people exist without it. I've always found Wikipedia to be reliable on the whole. You'll be amazed how you'll find yourself reading articles on almost anything - like what a sesame plant is.
  4. Facebook - I didn't want to get hooked up on one of these personal sites. I really didn't. But what's nice about Facebook is unlike certain other competitors *ahem*MySpace*ahem*, Facebook looks good and isn't crawling with 20-somethings just looking for a fling.
  5. Meebo - I have had occasion where I did not have direct access through a normal chat client. Meebo allows you to chat on any service through a web-based client. Very slick.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

On the eve of what, exactly?

In a few hours from now the Mitchell Report, the report on steroid use in baseball, will be released. The impact it will have on baseball will be, umm, yeah. I'm thinking very little.

The report was commissioned by inept commissioner Bud Selig, who is currently trying to salvage his legacy by investigating steroids, much like presidents late in their second terms start getting Israel and the Palestinians to sit down and talk. While Senator Mitchell is certainly a very qualified man to conduct such an investigation, one has to wonder what MLB will do with this report.

As for the report itself, it's going to blame both MLB management and the MLBPA for the letting steroid use run rampant. Basically, it will justify anyone who wants to blame the union for resisting testing or blame management for turning a blind eye. I'm a little disappointed that this gives credence to any of those arguments, because at the end of the day it's the fault of each individual player that stuck an needle in their tukus. (Every company I contract with has rules against me showing up high. I don't need to be tested when I walk in the door on Monday to teach my class to prove I'm not doing drugs. It's this little thing called "personal responsibility".)

The report will also list players who allegedly took steroids. This means essentially nothing. There will be players that we all suspected took steroids, there will be players we never thought took steroids, and almost every one of them will deny it.

But the real question is - what about the records? What about the stats? Will any of that change? Probably not. I'm guessing there will be a lot of talk about the report. (ESPN, which is rapidly turning SportsCenter into the Nancy Grace Show, will be covering the release of the report starting at 12N Central time.)

Will Major League Baseball actually suspend any players? Probably not. Most every player was not given any form of due process, so suspending players would face stiff legal challenges. Granted, any legal proceedings could have the added side-effect of forcing players to take the stand, but I still doubt doubt it will come close to that.

Will Major League Baseball take away stats? That would be a completely unprecedented move, and one that a very weak commissioner will be unlikely to take. And even if he did, what stats do you take away? How far back do you go? What formula do you use to convert juiced stats to clean stats? Nobody knows.

So what are we left with then? Well, at the end of it all, I think we're left right back where we started. There's a ton of blame to be spread around, there's players who we all suspect did steroids, and the fans are left wondering if what we're watching at the ballpark is actually real.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Interesting definition of long haul

Bobby Petrino was hired as the coach of the Atlanta Falcons early in 2007, long before the discovery of Vick's dog-fighting operation. When Petrino was hired, Atlanta was at a crossroads at the QB position - either Vick, or an unproven Matt Schaub who had shown flashes of promise. To clear up any possible controversy, the coaching staff and the Falcons decided to trade away Schaub.

Fast forward 11 months to the Falcons being 3-10 (and lucky to have those 3 wins), the team in complete turmoil, and in need of a complete overhaul. Petrino insisted he was in it for the long haul, and would see this team be rebuilt. Apparently long haul meant a couple of hours after he said those comments, as he took the head coaching job at the University of Arkansas.

I understand the concept of taking a job and immediately realizing you made a mistake. I also understand taking a job and having the situation you were walking into completely change - I just did that 6 months ago.

But he made a commitment. He gave his word. How does he walk away from that?

And just to show the level of cowardice Petrino showed during all of this - he didn't even meet with his players before disappearing into the night.

A coward and a liar. What parent would send their son to go play football and be mentored by this man?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Friday Five

This week had me in Rogers, AR of all places. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. It's of course a small town feel, but they've seen a lot of growth, as there's a couple of large corporations that have a pretty sizeable presence here. Across the street from my hotel was a Famous Dave's, which, as most people know, is my favorite BBQ place in the world. Also, it's right next door to Oklahoma, which has Indian casinos, so I was able to go play a little poker on Tuesday night.

Rogers itself happens to be in a "dry county". Their definition of "dry county" simply means there are no liquor stores where I can buy bottles and bring them home. However, I can go into any restaurant or bar and get a drink. I'm not sure that I follow the logic there, but what do I know.

As for the five, I'm just going for odd facts about myself.

  1. For years I didn't print with lowercase letters - I would simply use smaller capital letters. This became an issue when I started teaching programming languages that are case sensitive. Having all the letters on the whiteboard capital was a tad confusing for the students. As a result, I had to force myself to relearn how to write with lowercase letters. I still have to sometimes thing about which direction b's and d's go.
  2. I try very hard to like all kinds of food. It bugs me that there are a couple of things that I just can't get a taste for, specifically cheeses, olives and oysters.
  3. I was 23 when I finally saw my first game on US soil (only saw the Expos at that point). I was 28 when I finally saw a game played outdoors (the only other game I had seen was the Twins).
  4. I did Amway for about a month. That is a cult with a fervency on par with Branch-Davidians.
  5. Just found this odd - I had a student this week who has 3 sons, with the names of Christopher, Patrick and Harrison.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Happy Chrismahanakwanzaka

I love the holiday season. From about the week before Thanksgiving through the final college football game, it's possibly my favorite time of the year. I find this time of year even more enjoyable knowing I won't have to follow it up with 4 months of winter, but that's another story.

The one thing I don't like one bit is the annual controversies over what to say to someone to wish them a happy whatever. One side complains because this is some vast conspiracy to eliminate Christmas, and in turn Christianity. Others complain about Christmas, and in turn Christianity, being "forced" down their throat. (I find both positions rather ironic since Christmas is a remarkably secular holiday, even banned by the first settlers to what became the United States, with Christian ideals bolted on at a much later date, but that's a subject for another posting.)

Almost every major religion and culture has some form of a holiday around this time of year. Most of them revolve around celebrating the harvest or the solstice, or simply the need to have a holiday to make the harsh winter a little more bearable, even if for just one day. And just about every one is represented in this country by some portion of society.

This has led a lot of society, for whatever reason, to want to avoid offending people by wishing them something that doesn't match the holiday they celebrate. Somehow speaking in generalities has become the way to respect other people's beliefs.

We're supposed to be a melting pot. We're supposed to celebrate each other's beliefs. What better way to celebrate another's beliefs than to find out what it is they actually believe and share that part of ourselves? And a great start is to say "Happy ____" or "Merry ____".

By saying "Happy" whatever, you're doing two things. You're, of course, wishing well upon the person, in a very personal way, and what's better than that? On top of that, you're sharing a bit of yourself by declaring what it is you celebrate.

I would much prefer someone wishing me "Happy Hanukah" when I see them on the street than just "Happy Holidays". Same goes with the employee at JC Penney's. Or my coworker. Or anyone else for that matter.

Rather than everyone hiding what they celebrate, let's celebrate what each individual celebrates. Wish people what you normally would, and graciously thank them when they wish you their normal blessing. And who knows - maybe you'll learn something about a culture you never knew.

So with that, I wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas, and a very enjoyable New Year.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Don't blame the officials

Since the dawn of sports, fans and players alike have criticized the officials. Those with an emotional connection to the game often pinning their losses on a couple of calls that didn't go their way.

For those who don't know, I used to officiate high school football games. As a result, I have kind of a unique perspective on this. I'm here to tell you, it's unbelievably stressful, and an extremely difficult task. Unfortunately, I am in a very small minority; very few fans, and even fewer commentators, have ever grabbed a whistle or thrown a flag.

One of the biggest things most fans don't seem to understand is the officials get just one shot at making the call. There is no replay available for the vast majority of calls (all of those that fall under the "judgement" heading are not reviewable). Within a split second, you must decide if the defender did something to impact the receiver when the receiver tried to catch the ball. You don't get to rewind it. You don't get to zoom in. You don't get another angle. You get one shot. And quite often, you're the only official that is looking at that section of the field, so if you boot the call you won't get any help later. Certainly, mistakes happen. But considering the percentage of correct calls under these circumstances, I think we can all agree a little leeway is in order. I challenge anyone who thinks they can do better to find out where their local football officials association gathers and volunteer.

The next thing to keep in mind, is that the majority of the time the official has the best angle on the play. Cameras are in place to give the fan the best overall view of the game, not positioned to make calls. There are times when a camera particular angle won't be correct, and commentators will start complaining about the call. They don't understand what the official saw because they didn't have the same angle. I can tell you at least 9 times out of 10, the official has the better angle.

And then there's the self-proclaimed experts commentators who think they know everything. I always get a kick out of someone criticizing a call when they don't understand the rule in the first place. I like to think I have a decent grasp of the rules, but I also understand I know less than most NFL officials have forgotten. They've been doing this for years, often decades; I did a couple of years at the high school level, and most everyone on TV has never read the rules. Just because Al Michaels (who I respect a lot) says something doesn't make him right and the official wrong.

At the end of the day, the officials are right almost all of the time. The couple of times they are wrong isn't what costs one team the game. Take last night's game as a perfect example. If the Ravens gain one yard on their possession before the Patriots score, they can effectively run the clock out. If Boller doesn't throw to an area of the field with 3 Patriots and 0 Ravens, they at least add 3 more points to the board, which would have meant the Patriots final TD tied the game rather than winning it. In both of those situations, the calls the officials made (correctly, mind you) don't matter one bit.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Five

Feels good to be back in my chair at home, even if it is short lived. I was up in Irvine this week (about 80 miles north), which was tantalizingly close to home, but still not quite San Diego. It did work well on Tuesday, as I got to meet up with Karin and a couple very good friends for dinner at Pizza Port in Solana Beach (about 2/3 of the way from Irvine, 1/3 from San Diego).

I also lucked out this week to be at the Wyndham (got the room through Priceline), which is a very nice place to stay (although their cable/satellite system needs upgrading). I was also blessed to have a trainer friend of mine who I hadn't seen in a few months teaching at the same location; we were able to go out to lunch every day and did dinner on Thursday evening. The drive home took about 3 hours due to rain (which does to SoCal freeways what snow does to most others). Fortunately, podcasts are a great way to pass the time.

While I was typing this out, I got a call from Green Mountain Energy, which features renewable energy. Since I was struggling for a Five, it now seems appropriate that I do Five things on the environment.

  1. I don't know how I feel about global warming. I simply don't have enough time to sit down, actually READ and STUDY the findings and come up with my own opinion.
  2. With that said, I don't see anything wrong with trying to focus on reducing use of fossil fuels and limiting emissions. Even if this isn't needed to stem global warming, it can't do any harm to work on cleaning things up.
  3. There are still several things I can improve in my own life when it comes to the environment. For starters, I'd like to start switching over to CFL lights.
  4. I do wish businesses would start doing little things to help with the problem. At the hotel this week I got a copy of the McPaper every morning. Not once did I actually read any of it. How about simply asking at check-in if I want one.
  5. It would be nice to see cities come together and make it easier to recycle batteries and other toxic items. How many batteries are thrown away simply because of the inconvenience of properly disposing of them?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Happy Birthday to me


Seems strange.

If you don't mind my waxing philosophic for a moment, being an adult still seems strange to me. I always expected as a kid that there would be some switch, some event, something, that would mark the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood. I don't know what that would be, I just expected it. Instead, it's simply one continuous experience where one day you wake up and you're 35.

There's still a part of me that's the scrawny, maladjusted, self-esteem challenged 14 year old. There's still a part of my brain that will kick in when having a serious conversation with someone saying, "Wow, this is an adult conversation." There's still a part of me that wonders how my parents always seemed to have it so together, or at least able to handle what came at them.

I still can't figure out what being an adult is about. Obviously, I'm doing something right. I've been married to the greatest woman on the planet for just over 12 years. I'm very successful in my career.

But the fact still remains that I'm still waiting for the day when someone calls me out for being a fake and I find myself back in high school.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Friday Five

Just a tad delayed... Karin and I got back from Upstate New York/Vermont yesterday, and I was sans Internet access the entire trip (which was strange for me).

With this being 3 days after Thanksgiving, I figured the five things I'm thankful about this year sounds good:

  1. My family and friends. This is something I'm thankful for every year. From a great wife, to my family, my in-laws and our friends, I (and Karin) have been surrounded by great people.
  2. The chance to be a contractor again. Since I had to abandon being a contractor in the past, I've always yearned to get back to. It's certainly a lot of travel, but it's a great time.
  3. The adventure that 2007 was. The move to Houston, and subsequent move back, caught not only our friends but Karin and I off-guard. But in the end, we learned a lot about ourselves, a lot about each other, and left Houston wiser and stronger.
  4. Turning 35 soon. My 30's have been a blast thus far, and I'm ready to see what the 36th year of my life has to offer.
  5. Being back in San Diego. Moving back to San Diego certainly made the best "Plan B" ever.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner

For 4 or 5 years (Karin and I aren't sure) we have done a pre-Thanksgiving dinner. It's a way to get everyone together for a good meal, good company, and good wine. It's also nice to have a holiday meal with people we love before going off to spend time with others we love that are out of town.

IMG_2024 This year in particular was very special for us, not just because of the amount of fun everyone had, but also because our friends here played a large part in our decision making process that led us back to San Diego.

I also need to thank everyone who helped make all of this work - Karin doing all of the shopping and helping clean, Abram for helping cook and clean up afterwards, Ron for helping clean, and Brent for being the "Mom" during dinner. (And if I forgot anyone, thanks to you as well.)

The menu:IMG_2025

Brined Turkey - We have done this recipe up every year we've held the dinner, and have had a great bird every time. This year it was a tad drier than normal as I left it in the oven a bit longer than I should have, but still a great bird.
Bourbon Mashed Sweet Potatoes (towards the bottom on the link) - Easily the hit of the dinner. I would recommend doing these up earlier and re-heating to give some of the alcohol a chance to burn off.
Wild Mushroom Stuffing - Still the only stuffing I'll eat and enjoy that wasn't actually in the bird.

Fresh Cranberry Compote - Came out very well, and even this person who doesn't like cranberries liked this dish.
Green Beans and Almonds - This was originally supposed to be my father's green beans done up in bacon. Unfortunately, by the time we got around to the green beans, I really didn't have time to start rendering bacon. So I did the almonds up in the butter, and then threw in the green beans. Add plenty of salt and pepper, and I wound up with some of the best beans we've served up.
(Edit) I forgot to list Mashed Potatoes - The secret is to season first, then start mashing, so you mash the seasoning right into the potatoes. Then add butter and half-n-half.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Five

So I'm (again) sitting in the Phoenix airport waiting for my connection to San Diego. Pretty straight forward trip this week - class went very well. Looking forward to our traditional Pre-Thanksgiving dinner.

As for the Five, nothing really came to mind, so I went back to the site with the questions and found this:

  1. Are you a dog or a cat person?
    I don't think I really have to answer that.
  2. Do you have a dog? Have you ever had a dog?
    I had a few dogs growing up as a kid. About 3 years ago (right about now) Karin and I were blessed with the chance to add Roscoe to our family.
  3. What is your favorite breed of dog?
    Pugs, labs, Irish setters, and of course the border collie/lab mix (which is what Roscoe is).
  4. Do you believe that dogs are truly man's best friend?
    Well, judging by Roscoe, dogs are woman's best friend.
  5. If you could come back to life as a dog, would you?
    I insist this is actually one of the questions on the site. If you've seen how Karin spoils Roscoe, the answer is obviously "YES!"

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What did we get ourselves into?

Karin and I have signed up to do the 3-day breast cancer walk in San Diego. 20 miles/day, 3 days. The walk isn't until November, so I have until then to get into some sort of shape (other than pear, that is).

As part of this, Karin and I need to raise a collective $4,400 between now and the walk in November. Expect to be begged for donations in the future. ;-)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Friday Five

Well, another week, another class, another 5 days in Houston. Fortunately this trip I got to go out to dinner with a couple of friends 3 of the nights I was here, including a trip to the Alamo Drafthouse to watch Heroes on the big screen. I also managed to get on an earlier flight out, so all in all it was about as good of a trip as I could have asked for.

As for the 5, I found these questions back on the same site as before and thought they were kind of interesting.

1. If you're only as old as you feel, how old are you?
16. I don't know that many males progress beyond that point.

2. What habits, traits, or behaviors to you engage in that might be considered too young for you? Which might be considered a trait of someone older than you?
As for being younger, I do still play a lot of video games, and I do still get a thrill out of things I thought were cool when I was a kid, like watching planes take off and land. As for older, well, Karin and I did take 3rd place in the shuffle board tournament on the last cruise we were on together.

3. Do you ever wish you were a different age than you are now? Why?
Not at all. I'm thouroghly enjoying my 30's.

4. Do you deliberately behave or dress a certain way to appear or feel younger than you are? How about older?
Not that I know of.

5. What is your *real* age?
In 18 days, it will be 35.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Is AI that far off?

This may only interest me....

In case you didn't already know, I'm a bit of a geek. Ok, well, I'm a huge geek. I've had a computer in front of me in some form or fashion pretty much since I can remember. As a result, I'm fascinated with human interaction with anything artificial, if it's a computer or a robot. I wanted to buy an AIBO for the longest time (until Sony discontinued it) simply because I wanted to play with the AI built into the machine.

One of the biggest challenges besides mobility in creating robots that will become a part of everyday life is human interaction with the machine; will we as sentient beings treat a machine that is simply programmed to act sentient the same as we would another human?

According to at least this study, we will. What the researches did was placed a robot programmed to behave similar to a human into a daycare center to study how the children reacted to the robot. While at first they treated it as a normal toy, in the latter sessions they began to treat it more as a peer. When the reprogrammed the robot to act more predictable or robot like, that interaction decreased dramatically.

I'm not sure exactly what this study indicates. Does this indicate that we as humans can accept something that is designed to act as a human? Or are toddlers, whose perception of reality is still being formed, willing to accept anything that interacts with them? It's a great question, and personally I find it fascinating.

(Discovered via SciGuy's blog)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

In defense of Shula

Recently, Don Shula told the Daily News he thinks if the Patriots go 19-0 there should be an asterisk placed next to their record. That of course opened up two cans of worms - the cheating scandal of the Patriots with the NFL is desperately hoping goes away, and Shula and his cheating.

Let's go in reverse order here.

In 1969, while Shula was still coaching the then Baltimore Colts, the Miami Dolphins signed him to a contract. When this was discovered, the NFL penalized the Dolphins their first round pick in the 1971 draft. There's the full story.

Then, of course, there's the Patriots. I wish I could explain exactly what happened with the Patriots. Unfortunately, Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, has made that impossible.

Quick history lesson:

The Patriots play the Jets on opening Sunday, the same Jets whose head coach used to be a member of the Patriots staff. The Jets find someone taping defensive signals being sent in, a clear violation of NFL rules. NFL security detains the man, and confiscates the tape.

Goodell, who until this point was great at laying down the law, promised to get to the bottom of this. He was quick to act, fining Bill Belichick, the coach of the Patriots, $500,000, and fining the team $250,000 and stripping them of a draft pick.

Goodell then went on national television the following Sunday, and told Bob Costas that he had sent word to the Patriots demanding all related tapes and materials, and that this case was still open.

The following Thursday, the NFL announced the Patriots had complied with their request and all materials received had been destroyed. Case closed.


Case closed?

What was on the tapes? Don't know.

What did the Patriots send in? Don't know.

Does this date back to their first Super Bowl? Do the Patriots still have tapes? Did they make copies? Don't know.

And that was Shula's biggest point. We simply don't know.

Goodell won't answer questions, saying the case is closed. Belechick took the cowardly way out, saying before the penalty from the league, "I don't want to talk until the NFL finishes their investigation", and then refusing to "talk about the past" after the NFL levied their fines.

In my mind, and the minds of many NFL fans, questions still exist. If Goodell had handled this properly, completing a full and public investigation, there would be no question. We'd know all the facts and be able to make informed opinions. Or at least just tell us what was on the tapes that were destroyed.

Instead, we're left with uncertainty.

And asterisks, I guess.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Friday Five

I've been a tad out of touch from the blog recently. I apologize for that and intend to work harder on that. I do plan on doing "trip reviews" every week, hopefully starting later today when I get to the airport.

In the mean time, I felt like being a tad seasonal, so here are 5 things that scare me:

  1. Snakes. I hesitated putting this out there, because I know some of my friends who read this like to play jokes - this is not funny. Don't do it. Snakes petrify me. Almost dehabilitatingly so.
  2. Horror movies. I just don't do them. I used to a bit as a kid, but not any more.
  3. I'm rather squeamish about my fingers. I've had a good amount done to them - lost a couple of fingernails, sliced one in a paper cutter, had a lovely compound separation. So anything that involves getting fingers caught in something...
  4. I'm a tad claustrophobic. Not much, but I get a little uneasy in certain situations, including sitting in the window seat (which oddly is something I used to love.)
  5. Heights. But it's not a bad scare, more of a good scare; a rush. I love being able to look over a high ledge, rollercoasters, and pretty much anything else. It frightens me, but it's a high that I rather enjoy.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Do we really need this waste?

One of the things my main client in Houston decided to do was pick up the rent on the apartment we were using out here, which certainly does give me more space to spread out in. So I got back to the apartment last night, and there was a phonebook sitting here.

I had to stretch my brain to think of the last time I've used a phonebook. A quick search on the Internet, or mobile Google Maps, and I can pretty much find whatever I want. How many times a month/year do people actually still use phonebooks?

With all this focus on outlawing plastic bags and the like, how about changing phonebook delivery to opt-in? Just a thought.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Five

Before I get to the normal nonsense, I wanted to write out a couple of quick updates.

Karin and I, as well as the rest of our family are perfectly safe. Thank you all for your concern. My recent trip, outside of the one frustrating student, was just fine. I do intend to post on my travels, but as of right now I'm feeling a tad lazy. So here's five things about me that are driven by my laziness:

  1. Drinking black coffee. I always used to take cream and sugar, until eventually I got too lazy to put it in my coffee in the morning. So now it's just black.
  2. I often don't tie my shoes. I never do when I'm leaving for work - I can do it when I get there. As for the rest of life, I just simply don't tie them.
  3. I got contacts that I can leave in for a week because I'm too lazy to take them out at night. When I'm ready to sleep I just want to collapse in bed.
  4. I'm so lazy, I only feel like coming up with 3.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hurricanes vs Fires

Just as an FYI...

I don't know if anyone has seen the news recently, but there have been some very serious fires in Southern California, including a big one in San Diego County. I just wanted to mention that we are just fine. We live rather central in the city of San Diego; if the fire ever actually got to us, well, all of San Diego would be hosed.

So we're perfectly safe.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Five

This week has been extremely tough on me. My class has included quite possibly the most difficult student I've ever had to deal with, which is, unfortunately, one of the hazards of the job.

Which got me to thinking - why not do a Friday Five on the 5 things I like most about being a trainer.

  1. Friday always comes. This is easily my favorite part. No matter what happens, how bad a class goes, there is always an end. I used to work with a trainer early on in my career who served as a mentor to me. He compared Fridays to a Vegas dealer clearing their hands as they walk away from a table - they clap their hands, quick wave, and leave it all behind.
  2. I'm not on call. I've never had to answer the phone at 2a from a frantic manager or boss who has to learn T-SQL right now!
  3. There is something very cool about helping someone learn a new skill. Watching a student realize something or grok something is truly special.
  4. Instant gratification. I know immediately when I've done a good job, and I love being lavished in student's praise.
  5. It gives me a chance to play with technology. The reason I became a computer geek of any variety in the first place is because I truly love technology. And that feeling has never left me.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

3-3 and Looking Up

I believe it was Bill Parcells who used to split the season up into 4 mini-seasons. His thought was to chop the season up into more manageable chunks, and to give yourself good points to reflect, see where you are, and implement any necessary changes. I tend to agree with this thinking, but the bye weeks certainly provide a certain marker of their own.

The Chargers are currently 3-3, and winners of their last two as they enter their. They are tied for first in the slumping AL West, however they're essentially a half game behind since the Chiefs did beat them in their first match-up. Considering how terrible they looked during their 3 straight losses, and how sharp they've looked during their last two wins, the Chargers have managed to build some pretty good momentum. The defense is starting to turn the corner, only giving up 10 points in their last 2 games (the other TD by Oakland was an interception return). Their offense has finally found itself, and Norv has realized that number 21 guy they have is pretty good.

I was feeling pretty good about the Chargers until Tuesday. Now I'm jazzed. On that Tuesday the Chargers traded a second round pick for 2008 to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for Chris Chambers. I don't think the impact of this trade can be overstated.

Without a doubt the two biggest holes in the Chargers is their secondary and their receiving corps. In the past, the Chargers were able to cover the first with a good pass rush, and the second by at least having serviceable receivers. Unfortunately, with Eric Parker injuring his right big toe to the point he wound up on the IR, and Keenan McCardell being released, our only two serviceable receivers were unavailable.

Enter Chris Chambers, a former Pro-Bowler who has played under Norv and is familiar with the offense. This threat will open things up for Gates, Tomlinson, and make life easier for the offensive line since defenses must now respect both the pass and the run.

We've got momentum. We've got a week to heal up. We're tied for the division lead. And our offense is notably better. And the fact that I have Chambers on my fantasy team only makes this even sweeter.

Color me a happy Chargers fan.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Back in San Diego

First - I did not get a Friday Five up; just too busy. Will resume this upcoming Friday.

In the mean time, Karin and I did make it successfully back to San Diego (although I am in Houston as I type this). The trip was fairly straight forward.

Day one got us to Fort Stockton, which was where we stopped on our way out. Or at least, that's where we wanted to stop. When we got there, we couldn't find any vacancy - apparently there was some sort of convention/festival/something there. Anyway, we trekked on to Van Horn, TX - about 120mi past Fort Stockton. Granted, we were rather miserable while doing the extra 120, but it turned out to be a blessing as it made the rest of the trip that much easier.

Day two got us to Gila Bend, AZ, also where we stopped on the way out. We had done the Best Western previously, but remembered that it was next to a very busy set of railroad tracks, so we decided to try elsewhere. The only national chain that we recognized was the Travelodge. Now, all we really wanted was a clean room to crash in. That was too much to ask for, apparently. The room itself was very run down, and the towels were badly stained. We quickly informed the front desk we weren't going to stay there (to no objection from the front desk - they must be used to this) and ran back to the Best Western.

We were back in San Diego by 1p. I was in my chair by 1:15p.

Again, thanks to everyone for your support. This has certainly been an adventure. We will continue to keep everyone up to date here (as well as my normal nonsense.)

Monday, October 8, 2007

And if we don't like our lives

Just wait 5 minutes and it will change.

I showed up for work this morning - no students. Turns out they all had to cancel. I now had a down week.

As such, Karin and I decided - let's just start driving Tuesday. So come about 10 hours from now, we're heading west back to San Diego.

I hope to keep updates coming if possible.

Until then, sleep well and dream of large women.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

You can never go home again, Oatman

... but I guess you can shop there.

(Bonus points for the first comment by someone who can name the movie without having to search the Internet (aka - cheat))

I don't know who's heard and who hasn't, but one of the reasons this blog exists is to keep people up to date - so here goes....

Karin and I are headed back to San Diego.

There's a long list of reasons why we're dong this, but it basically comes down to the uncertainty of the housing market. We just don't know if/when we're going to be able to sell the house, and at what kind of a loss.

So, come Oct 21 (or so) Karin and I will be packing up and heading back to San Diego.

I am going to start contracting (which means I'm going to be traveling quite a bit), and Karin will be looking for a job.

While we're disappointed that it didn't work out, we are pleased to be heading back as well. We've learned a lot from this experience, and it certainly has been good for us. It's shaken up both of our lives, taking us both out of our comfort zones. So in the end, this will be a good experience.

In the mean time, we thank everyone for your support and prayers.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

How about a description?

I'm not sure how many brewers are going to read this, but...

I rather enjoy beer. As such, I love trying new beers from all sorts of different microbreweries. The one thing I will never understand is why small breweries often don't have any description of the beer on the bottle.

Any beer drinker will tell you there is a large variation between styles of beer. While an IPA will normally be hoppier than say a Pale Ale and lighter than say a Brown Ale, there are still differences between different brewers' interpretations.

As a result, when I grab a six-pack of some unknown brewery, it would be nice to have a description. I understand that a label doesn't give you a lot of room, but you have a whole box. A simple 2 sentence description of the beer: Hoppiness, kinds of hops, color, flavor, approachable, intense, aromas, something! And on a personal note, if there's a story behind the recipe, maybe a quick description there as well.

If you want me to buy your beer, tell me what to expect.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Everybody's doing it...

Marion Jones is famous for whipping everyone on the track and having one of the cutest smiles of all time. She's also famous for denying any steroid use, despite her connection to BALCO; denials that even went so far as to include a red-letter page in her book denying ever using something illegal.

And now she's famous for being an admitted cheater.

Of course, she's also claiming that at first she didn't know what she was actually rubbing on herself, stating she thought it was flaxseed oil - which apparently has magical powers beyond any comprehension. If flaxseed oil had half of the impact on a body that athletes seem to believe, they'd all be bathing in it.

Whenever someone tests positive, this immediately brings up the argument of, "Well, everybody in <insert sport here> is doing it." That argument didn't work with my mother when I was 6, and it doesn't work today.

My first simple question is this - what are we basing that statement on? What proof is being offered that "everybody" (or even a majority or significant number) is doing it? Nothing more than conjecture.

Floyd Landis, Ben Johnson, and Marion Jones are all proven illegal performance enhancing drug users. They all dominated their respective sport's premier events in ways previously unimaginable. This implies to me that either their drug of choice gave them a large edge over the field, or their competitors need to get better "doctors". Seems to me the reason they were so successful is they were playing with a different set of rules than their competitors.

The other argument to try and excuse this cheating is they still need to be world class athletes in the first place, or typically shortened as "Steroids don't make you hit home runs."

I'm pretty sure I ended my short Little League career with a perfect .000 average. I am under no disillusion that injecting my derriere with any cocktail of steroids is going to magically give me the skills to make it to the majors. I'm not saying that a certain slugger who is surrounded by rumors isn't an amazingly talented player. But to argue that taking steroids doesn't enhance your skill, or make that ball that would have had warning track power wouldn't now clear the wall, is ludicrous. Steroids help. Why else would athletes risk potential health problems if not for the edge they gain?

None of these excuses makes cheating in any way acceptable. It's time to abandon that faulty logic.

Friday Five

I'm not exactly sure what made me think of this, but this week I will be doing a list of little peeves I have in every day life.

  1. Servers at a nice restaurant who insist on pouring water with the glass still on the table. No matter how neat you are there is always a little splash. The proper way is to take the glass, turn around, fill it, and then present a full glass.
  2. Having someone blow their nose at the table. Sorry, but this just drives me crazy.
  3. Drivers who don't signal when making a turn. I don't care about lane changes, but if you slow down in front of me and don't signal that you're about to make a right you need to be smacked.
  4. People talking during movies and TV shows. I like to be able to concentrate and catch all the little nuances. Plus, I find that people have a bad habit of talking right during a crucial moment.
  5. Bad cell phone etiquette - specifically people who don't turn off their cell phones during class. At least once every 2 weeks a cell phone will go off during class. On top of that, about once a month I will have a student answer their phone and start a conversation during class. How rude can a person be?

Ok - done venting now. ;-)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Local flavor

Karin happened to be flipping through a Houston magazine and saw an ad for Gator Fest. We realized immediately we had to go check it out.

As it turns out, it was really just a local fair, but it was still a good time to see a local fair in small town Texas. The air boat ride was a blast, and gator sure is tasty. Karin also enjoyed holding the baby gator. If you want pics, you can see them here.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

If a puck drops, and nobody cares, does it make a sound?

I follow baseball, football (pro and college) and NASCAR rather closely. I track basketball just enough to have a conversation about it, and I love March Madness. I watch SportsCenter roughly once a day, and I frequent many sports sites.

In other words, I think I'm a pretty typical red-blooded American sports fan.

Imagine my surprise as I'm watching PTI the other day and they mention the NHL regular season started Saturday. And it started in London. Who knew? (Or, at least, who south of Canada knew?)

The NHL has been struggling for quite a while. Long before the strike that wiped out the 2004-2005 season, the NHL was lagging in US viewers and fans. The fact that the players' union and the owners let themselves get to the point of canceling an entire season is bad enough considering the already thin ice (pun intended) the league was on. Since then Gary Bettman, commissioner of the NHL, has seen his decision making ability degrade from there.

Baseball had a vicious strike during their 1994 season that led to the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years. Once an agreement was made between the union and management, Bud Selig and others realized they needed to market the heck out of baseball and get as much exposure as possible; you could barely turn on a television without seeing a commercial about MLB or a game.

The NHL didn't learn from baseball's lead. There was very little in the way of marketing when play was restored. And in this millennium, quite possibly the most important factor for any sports league is television exposure. In fact, there was many a puck-head pundit who insisted that HD was the one thing that could save the league. So what did the NHL do after the strike ended? Go to ESPN, and give ESPN the best deal in the world to show NHL games, knowing that exposure is the most critical component to recovering after the strike? Nope - they went to OLN Versus, a network that was famous for the Tour de France and very little after that. Couple that with the fact that they're not in every cable market (we only get them on the most premier package here), and until recently did not offer HD.

Now the NHL is attempting gimmicks to raise ratings and awareness. Having their opening game in London will generate more interest in Europe than here, and shouldn't the US be the country the NHL is interested in? And if you're going to hold a big event to open the season, maybe playing the game during prime time on a national television network is a better plan than an Saturday afternoon game on Versus?

And as further proof the NHL still doesn't get it, they've decided to hold an outdoor game in Buffalo. Great idea. I'd love to see hockey played in the elements. But apparently the cold got to Bettman's brain; they're holding the game on January 1st - the day dedicated to recovering from the night before and watching college football until your butt is numb. If you're already a hockey fan you're going to watch; but the NHL needs to grow beyond current hockey fans.

Hockey fans are about as dedicated as soccer fans. And no matter what the NHL does, a puck-head's allegiance will never waiver. What the NHL doesn't seem to grok is they can't sustain a league on this small subset of the population. They need converts. They need to make it easy for the passing fan to tune in and watch what is a very exciting game.

Unfortunately for the NHL, the only people who don't realize this are employed by the NHL front office.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Five

Again with the questions....
  1. Do you follow current events? Why?
    As best as I can. I do it for both cultural literacy and to be a semi-informed voter.
  2. Do you believe that the media is biased? Why or why not?
    Yes. But I don't think it's biased collectively in one direction or another. I think certain organizations generally lean one direction, but on the whole it's on a person by person basis. The news is covered by humans, and we all have our opinions. Try as we might, it's very difficult to contain them and be completely objective. Plus, I'm smart enough to know when someone is being biased and filter that out.
  3. Where do you get most of your news from?
    The Internet - usually just I used to watch Headline News at night, but they've decided that Glenn Beck and the hideous Nancy Grace are better for ratings than simply running news capsules.
  4. Are there any particular news sources that you don't trust?
    Bill O'Reilly
  5. Describe one recent issue in the news that has piqued your interest.
    Certainly the story in Jena has caught my eye. Like so many stories, it's not nearly as black and white (literally and figuratively) as certain "leaders" would have us believe.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Is This a Great Game, or What?

People who know me know I very rarely read. (One person in particular who frequents this blog keeps trying to get me to read a book she really enjoyed.) For me to finish a book it really has to capture me, and I really need to connect to it. Nick Hornby's books will pretty much always do that for me, and on occasion others will, but those are few and far between.

Enter Is This a Great Game, or What?

I've always been a fan of Tim Kurkjian. He has a very unique voice, and truly loves both his job and baseball. His book is about 300 pages of stories, anecdotes and observations collected over his 25 years of covering the game. While he is certainly biased about baseball being the best sport, and glosses over some of baseball's bigger issues (such as steroids), it's still offers an enjoyable view of this game. His chapter on fear of the ball is required reading for every baseball fan.

Easy read, very engaging. Also perfect reading in the john. Highly recommended.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

1-2 - How do we fix this problem?

After watching what has become a consistent story with the Chargers - get up early, lose in the 4th quarter - my first thought was, "Is available?" (As it turns out, it's owned by a Cybersquatter who happens to own for several coaches.)

In any event, my first thought after watching yet another Chargers meltdown that we need to jettison Norv Turner, and jettison him now while we still have a chance to recover this season. After all, one is taught when troubleshooting a problem to find out what has changed, which will reveal your problem. The coaching staff changed - pretty much the entire staff from the Head Coach to the Water Distribution Manager - and it seems that they would be the problem. Or are they?

Certainly, Norv Turner was not the first choice by the Chargers. After all, his 59-84 career record, and having only 3 more winning seasons* as an NFL head coach than I do, is certainly nothing to boast about on a resume. However, the Chargers management didn't fire Marty Schottenheimer until after our Offensive and Defensive coordinators (and TE coach) were hired away by other teams. They said the reason they kept Marty was because they didn't anticipate losing a lot of their coaching staff. Clearly these people don't pay attention to NFL history, because the NFL has a tradition of teams stealing coaches from other winning teams, and at 14-2 the Chargers were the winningest of teams. How they couldn't see the writing on the wall is beyond me; SportsCenter had story after story about the Chargers coaches being lusted after.

By the time Marty was deservedly shown the door for his inability to win a playoff game, every other team that felt they had a need at head coach had filled their positions leaving behind retreads of retreads. Norv Turner was not, in my [not so humble] opinion not the best option left. One wonders if offering Bill Cowher (who loves teams with a strong running game and a 3-4 defense, which the Chargers have (or had)) enough money would have lured him out of retirement. After all, this was the 14-2 Chargers - a gift for any head coach. But the Chargers hadn't planned on firing their coaching staff, and wanted continuity. Norv Turner did have a connection with this team; he was the Offensive Coordinator in 2001, and allegedly installed the offense that the Chargers ran in the past (I'm not quite certain what offense it is we're seeing now.)

When they fired Marty, little did I think they would make the colossal mistake of hiring Norv Turner. Having said that, there are other factors at work.

Our two losses are to New England and Green Bay. The Patriots, cheaters or not, are still among the best (if not the best) teams in the league. Losing, or getting stomped in our case, doesn't necessarily indicate that we have problems. The Packers have started to turn the corner (and were my pick to win the NFC North), and Lambeau is still a difficult place for visitors to win football games in.

And our problems are fixable.

We need to figure out ways to get LT the ball. I haven't seen the same use of misdirection and pitches that have been successful in the past. Screen passes and passes out to the flat act as long hand-offs, and usually match LT up with an undersized DB.

We need to establish our pass rush again. Our secondary is still week. We were able to disguise this by way of our pass rush. Getting back to sending 5 and 6 after the QB on a regular basis will serve us well.

Norv doesn't necessarily have to go now. Our schedule does ease up a little, with a trip through the entire struggling AFC West coming up, and 2 of the 3 games at home. A 3-0 sweep of our division heading into the bye week puts us in a much better position that we are right now.

However, losing even one (or *shudder* two) of these games that we're supposed to win if we are in fact one of the best teams in the league, will spell the end of our season. The AFC is simply too good for a .500 team to make it into the playoffs, and that is the best we could hope for at that point.

In the NFL, you normally only get a few years before eventually the salary cap and age catches up with you. The Chargers are well positioned for the future, with a very young squad, and players under contract for years to come. But that doesn't magically give us time to rest on our laurels. If Norv can't turn this around, he will have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt he's incapable of leading this team to the promised land. At that point it will be time for him to go.

Immediately after the season.

By the end of December.

And did I mention that Bill Cowher is still unemployed?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Five

Before I get into the normal nonsense, I wanted to mention a great little show Karin and I went to with a few co-workers last night. Jonathan Coulton happened to play a cool little bar in Houston called the Mucky Duck, with the opening band being Paul and Storm. Jonathan sings a great little song named Code Monkey, which of course I love. All three are very talented, incredibly funny, and admitted geeks. We laughed, we cried, we sang along, we clapped in rhythm (well, as best as a room full of white geeks can have rhythm.) A great time was certainly had by all.

(Short PSA - go see live entertainment. Comedians and bands are meant to be seen live, not just listened to on an iPod.)

With that, here's my 5 things.... I struggled a little bit coming up with something, so after a quick search on the internets I found a list of 5 questions at Five on Friday. I didn't choose the most recent one (wasn't overly interesting to me), but I did grab this one:
  1. Have you ever been pulled over? How many times?
    Let's see if I can remember them all:
    Wrong way on a one way - verbal warning
    Speeding in Minnesota twice - one ticket, one warning
    Speeding in Vermont - ticket
    Rolling stop - ticket
    Pulled over once in Vermont by the Border Patrol (I'll tell that story later)
  2. What are you most likely to be pulled over for? (Speeding? Reckless driving? Expired tags/inspection? Bad signal/headlight?)
    Right now - expired tags. Still need to get my car registered in the state of Texas.
  3. You're driving along on your merry way when you see a police car. What is your first thought?
    Double check speed, and hope he doesn't pull me over for expired tags.
  4. When you see a cop car, do you hit your brakes or keep your foot on the gas?
    Ease foot off the gas.
  5. What's your personal speed limit? How do you determine what it is for any given road?
    Like my father taught me - always keep someone passing you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Proof positive I have the greatest wife

Karin and cooking don't always get along. On occasion she'll try a recipe that doesn't turn out quite the way she would like. One of our jokes is the Karin Special is sloppy joes with canned green beans (which I will admit I love).

Today, Karin decided to take on Pan Fried Catfish with Lemon and Garlic, normally a dish a bit beyond her. (Mind you, catfish, and fried catfish in particular, is one of my favorite things.)

Not to be deterred, Karin did it up in fine fashion; would only have been better if Emeril himself came over and made it.

To top it off, she made a special trip to Spec's to pick up Turbodog, which is a great beer by Abita, a Louisiana brewery, and a perfect match for anything southern.

(Now, she did do the dirty rice she served the catfish with from a box, but it hardly seems fair to hold that against her.) ;-)

Monday, September 17, 2007

NFL Thoughts

Here's what was bouncing around in my mind on Sunday (while I wasn't curled up in the fetal position asking the bad Patriots to stop scoring)

  • I know I touched on it last week, but that Peyton Manning commercial where we're supposed to be seeing the inside of his mind just confounds me. If that really is what's going through his mind, he's dropping LSD before each game.
  • I got a kick out of Patriots fans booing Shawne Merriman. I guess some cheating is ok (illegal spying) and some isn't (illegal substances).
  • It drives me crazy that we're calling this spying incident by the Patriots "Spygate". I understand how events work their way into our lexicon ("drinking the Kool-aid comes to mind), but the name of the hotel was Watergate - "gate" wasn't simply added to the end of another name. Are we really that un-imaginative  that every scandal now must have the word "gate" attached to it?
  • Oh look - a commercial for Bionic Woman. I guess that answers my question about imagination.
  • It was great listening to Phil Simms talk about the fact the rules don't state "the ground can't cause a fumble." I'd love to see that phrase go away.
  • The Patriots needed someone to beat up on. Unfortunately, that was the Chargers this week. The Chargers schedule gets easier from here, but if the offense doesn't improve quickly it's going to be a long, long season.
  • A big part of the reason women's sports isn't overly successful in America is because the people who run the organizations are a tad, um, misguided. The WNBA Game 5 of their finals was on Sunday. On Sunday against Week 2 of the NFL, the first race of NASCAR's Chase for the Cup, and the final match of golf's FedEx cup. Did they honestly think anyone who wasn't already a diehard WNBA fan was going to tune in? How about a little foresight into scheduling next year.
  • How fast is Devin Hester? I know Madden gave him a 100 on speed - they may need to up that to 102 next season.
  • People have to stop talking about plays that happened but were negated by penalty. Pundits are praising Hester for a 95 yard runback during the Chiefs game that was negated due to holding. If there wasn't holding on the play, how do we know Devin would have made it 10 yards, let alone 95?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The smart one blogs...

It's really no secret that the smartest of the Harrison boys is Abram.

He's currently attending California Western Law School, with aspirations of eventually becoming a politician. (Maybe I need to rethink that smartest comment...) In all seriousness, he's a bright kid, and started his own blog. It will mostly be about politics, with a little bit of his life thrown in. His political stances tend to be what I would call left-leaning common sense.

If you're interested, it's at

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Five

Felt like a music theme this week. Five simple questions: Favorite song, album (aka CD for those of you who are too young), artist, concert and musical.

One disclaimer on my list - these are what came to mind as I was typing. If you see me next week (or even later today) my opinion may have changed.
  1. Favorite song: A Letter to Elise by The Cure - WishAn amazingly deep, hautingly brilliant song about a breakup. Played this song so much in high school I wore out the section of the tape it was on.
  2. Favorite album: Out of Time by R.E.M. - Granted, it has Shiny Happy People, but it's still some of the best work the band has ever done. It was also the beginning of the end for them.
  3. Favorite artist: The Cure - Gotta be. I really didn't want to put two items from the same band up here, but I can't justify putting anyone else here. (I also considered Barenaked Ladies, Franz Ferdinand, R.E.M. and Pete Yorn.)
  4. Favorite concert: Newsboys in Minneapolis - They put on a great show - just a great rock concert. I still get chills thinking about it.
  5. Favorite musical: Avenue Q - It's Sesame Street for adults. If you're not easily offended, go see it if you have the chance. (If you are easily offended, don't go see it)

Karin's list:

  1. Favorite Song – “Careless Whisper” by WHAM!. It’s always been a favorite of mine when I hear it on the radio, which, unfortunately, is less and less as time goes on. The lyrics don’t have any significance to me, I just like the music and overall feel of the song. Measure of a Man
  2. Favorite Album – This is a tough one for me to come up with, so I decided to look through a case of CD’s I keep in the car or at work. I must say, the CD I’ve listened to the most in recent times is Measure of a Man by Clay Aiken. I know, I know, I can hear all the groans now. ;) It’s probably not my favorite album of all time, but it will have to do for the moment.
  3. Favorite Artist / Group – I can’t really say that I have one particular favorite artist or group, so I thought instead I would list a few that I like a lot: Phil Collins, Elton John, Barenaked Ladies and Cat Stevens.
  4. Best concert – Barenaked Ladies. Chris and I have seen them in concert twice and they put on a great show.
  5. Favorite musical – Mama Mia. We’ve seen it 3 or 4 times and it’s always a ton of fun. The way the music of ABBA is incorporated into the story is great, and it’s just a fun time.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I love roller coasters, but this one isn't always fun

Just a quick life update here...

Hurricane Humberto missed Houston. It came right up to our shore, and then took a hard right, dumping rain all over eastern Texas and Louisiana. Tropical Depression Eight (not a sexy name) is currently trying to come together as a storm/hurricane. Not sure where that will eventually end up, but if it gets close to Houston I will keep people up to date.

BTW, if you're interested, the Houston Chronicle has a great weather-geek that blogs on Very informative and easy to read. I've learned a ton about hurricanes from his blog.

The house has been an emotional roller coaster. We had a potential buyer a few weeks ago, but could not come together on price. We had an interested party a couple weeks ago, but they decided to go a different direction. We've just had a handful of showings over the last couple of days, so now our hopes are up again. We will see what happens.

And as always, if you just want to see the life updates, on the left hand side there is a list of topics. Just click on the Life link and it will filter the rest out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Liar, liar Pats on fire

This is all based on current speculation. So insert the word "allegedly" where appropriate. If the Patriots are exonerated I will be the first person to post a retraction.

If current reports are to be believed, the New England Patriots have committed a crime that calls their entire run (and Tom Brady's career) into question.

NFL security officials detained a Patriots employ during Sunday's game with the NY Jets and confiscated a tape and video camera, under the suspicion that he was video taping the defensive signals sent in by the Jets. There is also word about potential issues with the radio signals used to send plays into the QB, but that's fodder for another post.

I am all for pushing the limit of the rules. I'm also all for attempting to steal signals. But there's a fair way to do it, and a cheating way to do it. A fair way to do it is to have someone watch with their eyes and try to discern what's happening. To use video is cheating, and is against both the spirit of and the actual written rule.

Football is more about technology than the other 2 major sports (baseball and basketball). Plenty of money is spent on the safest equipment. Pictures are taken just before and just after every snap, and delivered to the field after every drive for the players to look at. Coaches are allowed to radio the plays into the field (although this has more to do with increasing the speed of the game than anything.)

However, the one constant is when you take the field, it is up to you as a player to look across the line of scrimmage and figure out, based on your memory, what the opposition is up to.

I liken this to taking a test. As a technical trainer, I am constantly taking new certification exams, which come with a series of rules you are to follow. The one thing the rules allow is that once you walk into the exam, you are allowed your brain, a pencil and paper. You can write whatever you want on that paper, but it has to be blank when you walk in. Want to stand outside, memorize a table real quick, walk in, start the exam and write it down? That's completely legal. Again, I'm only using the information in my brain. You'll notice I don't get is someone telling me what questions I'm going to see on the exam.

Anyone who knows Karin and I knows we're Chargers fans. And if you follow the NFL in the least, you of course know that Shawne Merriman was busted for violating the substance abuse policy. Why is this act by the Patriots worse than what Merriman did?

Cheating is cheating, and cheating is despicable. But like any set of rules, there are some that are more damaging than others when broken. Here's the difference:

Having one player juiced up improves the performance of that one player.

If the offense knows what the defense is about to throw at them, that helps the offense to an immeasurable level. If you know the defense is about to blitz, zone blitz, or drop back into zone coverage you can call a play specifically designed to break that defense.

I'd say that's a monumental difference. A consistent game-changing difference.

Reportedly, this is not the first time the Patriots have done this; there are reports they did the same thing in Green Bay. I'd also argue that those two cases are not the only times they cheated - I can't imagine the NFL is that acute at stopping this, or the Patriots are that inept at cheating.

That brings into question every game the Patriots have played. Which ones did they cheat during? Which ones did they win simply because they knew what was coming?

Brian Belichick, Tom Brady and his five layers of protection, and the entire organization cannot be looked at with the same respect.

Monday, September 10, 2007

NFL Thoughts

For anyone who might be interested, here are the things that ran through my mind on Sunday.

  • I found a new commercial to be sick of - the Radio Shack commercial where the guy chases off the sheep. It's almost as bad as the This is Our Country commercials. Almost.
  • Keyshawn Johnson is an idiot. ESPN apparently has a quota of big mouth ignorant WR's they have to employ on the set of Countdown. I guess Keyshawn is taking Michael Irvin's place.
  • Will someone please tell me, to the nearest pound, how much ecstasy must I do to understand that Peyton Manning's mind commercial?
  • Retraining my brain for games at 12 and 3 rather than 10 and 1 will take some time.
  • 14-3. 1-0. It wasn't pretty, but it was a win by the Chargers. This season may be the death of me yet.
  • Reason #206 why I hate instant replay: If you're going to make plays reviewable, make them all reviewable. There was a blatant offsides that was missed during the Chargers game. Not subject to review. It's not a judgement call - it should be subject to review. Bad system.
  • Randy Moss had a good Week 1. Good for him. Talk to me come Week 6 when he's given up on the season because he's whining.
  • The Chargers didn't win pretty, but it was a win. The New England game looks like it will be a tough one.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Friday Five

On my flight home from Minneapolis on Sunday, I wound up getting an exit row aisle seat, one of my favorite little things in life. Which got me thinking... How about a Friday Five on life's little pleasures.. I also had Karin do up a list as well.

  1. Getting that exit row aisle seat. I'm not an overly tall guy; I'm pretty average at 5'11". Airlines have set their seat configurations for people who are 4'11". Having extra legroom, especially on a longer flight makes me very happy.
  2. Going out for breakfast. Give me Karin and a couple of friends, a Sunday paper (extra points for the NY Times), and good coffee and I'm a happy guy.
  3. Driving with the top down. There are few things more therapeutic than putting the top down and driving home after a hard day.
  4. Watching a small live band in a bar. Add in a good scotch and I will sit there for hours.
  5. Trying something new. A new beer, restaurant, food, cities, whatever. I love to appreciate what life has to offer, and the only way to do that is to get out and do something new.
  1. McDonald’s Coke – I don’t know what it is, but Coke from McDonald’s tastes better than anywhere else. Just thinking about it makes me want one!
  2. Going to a movie on a weekday afternoon, when everyone else is at work – I have no problem going to a movie by myself, and sometimes it’s nice to do that on a weekday when it’s quiet. And no, despite my current unemployment, I have not done that yet!
  3. Going to new restaurants / places with Chris – Going out to eat, especially to new places, is something we both really enjoy. It’s fun to explore new restaurants and try new foods. You never know when you’ll come across your next favorite!
  4. Pretty much anything to do with Roscoe – For all who know me, that should come as no surprise. ;) Roscoe has been such a great addition to our family. I love taking him for walks, to camp, to dog beach, etc. I also love to make him treats, trying various recipes from my doggie treat cookbooks. Roscoe is also just so darn cute, it’s fun just to watch him.
  5. Getting a really great deal on something (i.e., through coupons, sales, rebates) – I love a good deal – enough said!

Thursday, September 6, 2007


Over the last few years, more people have begun the migration away from the classic film based camera to a digital camera. Personally, I can't imagine ever going back to a film based camera. I like to take tons of pictures, go back through and get rid of the ones that didn't come out very well, and keep the ones that did. Doing this with film becomes expensive, and probably isn't very friendly for the environment.

As a result, I have (at present) 9.7G of photos on my hard drive. I know this will expand as time goes on, and I intend to move all of our actual photos into digital form. The problem is dealing with all of these files.

The best program I have found for managing photos is Picasa. Picasa is a free (let me say that again - free) program that was written by a small company that was eventually bought out by Google.

Besides just the price point, Picasa does several things right. It's very intutive to use, allowing you to easily manage and edit your photos. In the past I have always created a new folder for set of pictures. Picasa lends itself very well for this organization, listing all folders by the date they were taken in - which is exactly what I want. (The biggest reason I don't use the Microsoft alternative is because it doesn't list my photos that way).

Picasa provides you with the ability to do simple editing, like cropping and red-eye reduction. It also allows you to easily add keywords (for easy searching) and captions (so you know what that ship was you took a photo of.)

My favorite feature by far, though, is the easy ability to upload photos. Google will give you a small amount of storage (a much larger amount is available for a nominal fee). It's easy to upload and share (or not share) pictures. Other Picasa users are also able to go to the site and download your albums, which is nice in situations where multiple people took pictures of an event and you wish to collect them all. What's also nice is it's an easy way to back up your photos, so should disaster occur (hard drive failure, fire, etc) your photos will be safe.

With the price point and features, if you don't already have something to manage your pictures, this is it.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Five

As I sit here in the George H.W. Bush Intercontinental Airport on my way to Minneapolis for my fantasy football auction, I figure it only appropriate to do a list of the five things I miss about Minnesota.

  1. Being close to friends and family. Karin and I developed some very close bonds to people, and the biggest reason I continue to be involved in the league is to stay in touch with people. Most of Karin's family is still in the area, so living in Minnesota meant we were close to them.
  2. Indian summers. It's summer's last gasp before 8 months of winter (or what feels like 8 months of winter). (Closed circuit to my San Diego readers - ask the local Canadian if you don't know what an Indian Summer is.)
  3. Snow. Don't get me wrong, I don't miss shoveling it, driving in it, scraping my car, or in any other way dealing with it. But there is something very nice about sitting inside and watching the snow come down
  4. Famous Dave's. The best ribs I've ever had. Every time I go back to Minnesota I have to stop at Famous Dave's.
  5. Being close to Thunder Bay. Thunder Bay is a small town just on the north side of the border, and it was always the getaway destination for Karin and I when we needed a weekend. (Here are some pics of our most recent trip up there.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Chicken Marsala

One of the big things that Karin and I have been doing more of is eating at home. With our schedules in the past, eating at home wasn't always easy. Now that we're striving for a more laid back pace of life we're trying to eat at home more often. Towards that end, we found a Chicken Marsala recipe that we had to share.

The recipe, of course, is from Emeril. It's very easy to make up, with very little prep besides dealing with the mushrooms. I'd recommend using crimini mushrooms as they're easy to prep - pop out the stems, and then slice. If you have a food processor, all the easier. We used fresh chicken tenders (not the frozen/battered kind), which eliminated the need to pound the chicken flat. If you don't have Emeril's seasoning, a good seasoned salt or just salt and pepper in the flour helps.


(the recipe)

Monday, August 27, 2007

713 Restaurant and Lounge

Back in San Diego, Karin and I had a group of friends that would go out (roughly) once a month to a different restaurant to experience what San Diego had to offer. I had always wanted to start posting reviews of the places we visited. Now that we're in Houston, we're trying to check out places in Houston now, and since I'm blogging I figured this would be a perfect time. So with that, here's the first review:

What: 713 Restaurant and Lounge (Japanese/sushi)
10001 Westheimer Rd
Who (went): Karin, myself and a couple friend of ours
Description: The place tries to be hip and trendy, and to a certain extent succeeds (except for the fact that it's in a strip mall). There's a bar on right side as you walk in, with the restaurant and sushi bar on the left. They do play club music, but fortunately they keep it fairly quiet. They also open the place up as a club later at night.
How did you find the place: I had a couple of friends take me here during one of my business trips to Houston before moving here.
Food: I had the 71-Trio sushi combo, which has 3 different types of nigiri, salmon sashimi and a California Roll. The quality was outstanding. Karin, still not able to do sushi, had the 713 pasta, which everyone enjoyed. The husband of the couple we were with did the chicken skewers and the beef tataki. The chicken had an odd flavor to it, while the beef tataki was very tasty. The wife of the couple had a seaweed salad, which she enjoyed, and a sushi roll that had sliced apple inside. A with apple was something none of us experienced before, and gave the roll a great taste and a unique texture.
Service: The waitress was very friendly and attentive. None of our drinks were empty for long (if at all), and she was very helpful with the menu.
Would you go again?: Considering the fact that I had been here a couple of times before, and then decided to share it with everyone, I figure it's a safe bet we'll be back again. The quality is top notch, and I oddly enjoy the atmosphere.