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.