Wednesday, September 24, 2008


No, the title's not a reference to the stunning news that Clay Aiken is gay.

It's about this delicious salad I had for lunch today and the mental midgetry required to manufacture it.

I order antipasto, and the clueless young lady (with her boyfriend's name tattooed on her arm) who's putting it together has obviously never done it before. She procures a list of ingredients from another employee, and then proceeds to collect them in a bowl. Trusting this obvious display of competence, my eyes drift to the menu as I peruse different food options for the future, instead of carefully watching her selection of ingredients.

And what, to my pleasant surprise, did I find on my antipasto? Tortilla strips, of course, hard-boiled eggs, and capers. Delightfully tossed in balsamic vinaigrette, these bonus items complemented the robust flavors of pepperoni, roasted peppers, olives, and provolone. Just writing about it brings the memory of that taste back along with a flood of nausea.

Living in Philadelphia and working in food services, one might suspect you've stumbled across antipasto before. But alas, our heroine constructed an anti-chef taco salad instead, much to my culinary dismay. Another $8 well spent. Although, when I think about it, that salad was more entertaining and less time-wasting than Tropic Thunder, so perhaps I should consider myself lucky.

Tomorrow I'm off to Chicago to hang out with a couple old poker buddies and watch the Eagles play at Soldier Field. I'll be stuffing a backpack full of clothes - not enough for four days, but I'll wash them once on the road - to avoid the super-cool checked luggage fee on United. That's just what I need as a traveler: another excuse for sweaty, inconsiderate buffoons to stuff huge pieces of heavy luggage into tight spaces above my head. Good thinking, airlines! With an attitude of hopeless despair firmly in place for my trip, I'm sure nothing blog-worthy will come out of it...

Monday, September 22, 2008

NFL Notes

Huge win for the Eagles, but a costly one. Tony Hunt, LJ Smith, and Brian Westbrook all were knocked out of the game and could miss additional action. McNabb was banged up but returned to finish. Some thoughts on the game:

  • Hank Baskett looks like a legitimate NFL receiver. He's big, has good hands, and seems to run good routes.
  • Remember when I said this defense had a chance to be dominating? Yeah.
  • Westbrook to have an MRI today. He left the stadium on crutches, but at least two players said he was 'fine'. To my untrained eye, he looks like he'll hover around questionable for the next three weeks then heal up over the bye. They can win some games without him, but of course they aren't nearly as explosive.
  • The Eagles are #1 in the NFL in rush defense, after playing Steven Jackson, Marion Barber, and Willie Parker. Giving up just 2.4 yards per carry.
  • I'm going to Chicago for the Sunday night game...this has all the signs of a letdown performance, coming off two physical, emotional games against powerful teams. Chicago isn't very good, but they have enough talent to take advantage of the Eagles if they come out flat and make mistakes.
  • Speaking of mistakes, the stupid penalties have to stop.

Other thoughts from the NFL after Week 3:

  • The NFC East remains undefeated outside the division. For my money, it has the best three teams in football.
  • Drafting a QB who's never started a college game and staking your season on him: Genius. Letting Asante Samuel walk: Genius. Failing to address an offensive line that was abused in the Super Bowl: Genius. Getting outcoached by Tony Sparano: Absolute Mensa. A 38-13 loss at home to a 1-15 team clearly demonstrates that the Patriots' success has been all about Tom Brady, and not fantastic coaching or personnel moves.
  • I've called out Marvin Lewis before for costing the Bengals a game, and he did it again yesterday. At the 3-yard line, down by 3 with 4 seconds left, the Bengals kicked a field goal to go to OT. At 0-2, on the road against the Super Bowl champs, be a man and go for it. But worse than that, the Bengals had a timeout left. Bad clock management meant they didn't have enough time to take a shot at the endzone before the FG. And then, in OT, they get the ball and go into a conservative shell. Two runs for a yard, incomplete pass, punt, game over.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Doubling Down

Yesterday was a spot of good news in a horribly bleak market.

I continued gritting my teeth in the morning, and I bought more stock into this sickening decline. Added to my Goldman Sachs and Cisco positions, because to make money, you have to buy when everyone else is selling.

And believe me...everyone else was selling yesterday. CNBC broke out an old Will Rogers quote from the Depression, when he said I am not so much concerned about the return on my capital as I am the return of my capital. When you hear that three times in the same day, you can be fairly sure that pessimism is running high. The Dow was down 25% from its highs, nearly 8% in 3 days, and the flight to safety was reflected in the soaring price of gold. What does all that mean? It means start buying.

And then in the afternoon, a break in the storm. $180 billion made available by the Fed for bank-to-bank lending. $50 billion for the Exchange Stabilization Fund to guarantee Money Market funds. Rumors about more help on the way, with the Fed buying toxic mortgage-backed securities at 30 cents on the dollar (most MSBs are currently valued at zero, so 30% is a huge lift.)

On this news alone, Goldman went from 88 to 108. After the close, additional measures were announced. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo will probe illegal short-selling in Goldman. And finally, the big one...the SEC temporary banned shorting in financial stocks, including GS. (Ironically - I hate this move as a classic overreaction from a regulation-heavy government. But it will certainly make me money in the short run.)

Call me crazy, but outrageous goverment action like this comes at the bottom, right? Historically, massive bailouts don't occur halfway down. This has to be a sign that I can finally start scratching back toward level. But be warned: I'm disagreeing with Cramer on this one. Of course, I'm thinking that yesterday will look like a tremendous buying opportunity in a few years, while Cramer tends to be more concerned with next week. Still, I can't see selling Goldman today unless it shoots through 150.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

This and That

Just cleaning up some odds and ends that I've been too lazy to expand into a post on their own...

  • Sarah Silverman won a Creative Arts Emmy for her video Fucking Matt Damon. I'm not sure what a Creative Arts Emmy is, but the video was hilarious. I'm glad she won something for it. What's up, Jimmy? She may not be the hottest thing on two legs, but I'd have a hard time dumping a chick that funny.
  • Donovan McNabb is the best QB in Eagles history, he's playing great, and the Eagles aren't even in that Monday night game without him. But how hard is it for a 10-year veteran to hand off the ball to a running back? The same RB who's been on the team for 6 years? And can you please throw the ball to a WR on 3rd-and-14 instead of getting sacked? At least give the guy a chance to make a play.
  • Am I the only person who knew the Cowboys would score before halftime, if the Eagles left enough time on the clock? I was screaming for a run on second-and-goal instead of the one-yard out pattern that stopped the clock. Time management around the NFL is so bad, it's stunning. NFL teams seriously need to consider hiring someone to be in charge of clock management other than the head coach. Someone who sleeps during the week instead of working 14-hour days. Someone who isn't thinking about playcalling, substitutions, trends, situations, but just the clock. Like me, for instance. I'm available, Andy, just call.
  • Kudos to Mike Shanahan on going for two to win instead of kicking the extra point to send it to overtime. The odds aren't with him - converting a two-point play is successful 43% of the time, while the home team wins about 55% of OT games. But he said his defense was spent, and after giving up 37 points I'd agree with him. He wanted the outcome of the game in the hands of his QB instead of a coin flip, and that's the attitude I want to see in a leader. In a business filled with sheep, Shanahan gets props for having the balls to be different.
  • I'm reluctant to beat this drum again, but with Lehman Brothers gone, Merrill Lynch bought by BAC, and AIG getting bailed out by the Fed, could Cramer have been any more right? I won't link to the video for the fourth time, but it's not hard to find if you forget what he said. And bear in mind that a year ago, he was a lone voice in the wilderness...every other talking head was telling us that things would be ok. How can you not respect a guy who goes way out on a limb, calling out the most powerful financial institution in the world, potentially making a huge fool of himself...and turns out to be dead right?
  • How do the Eagles and Cowboys perform the week after that wild, draining Monday night game? The Cowboys visit the Packers while the Eagles host the Steelers...there's a long way to go in the season, of course, but you could make an argument that these are the best four teams in the NFL right now.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Joy of Rediscovery

One of the tracks on Madden '09 is a song called Never Wanted to Dance. It's full of energy and is unique enough to defy standard categorization. I was intrigued, since it's not the usual Madden fare that alternates between hard rock and hip hop.

I liked it enough to download the song, and the more I listened to it, the more I couldn't shake a sense of familiarity. A band that describes itself as a "hyper-bizarre mix of hip-hop, metal, punk, and electronica" has a unique enough sound that it shouldn't remind me of anything else, yet the more I listened, the more convinced I was that I'd heard something like them before.

I started to download other Mindless Self-Indulgence songs, and then finally I found the source of familiarity. I listened to this same band for a brief time 10 years ago, even put two of their songs on my Happy Mix, highlighted by this gem called Faggot:
(sorry about the gay anime intro, but I got bored of searching youtube for something better)

Somehow I'd forgotten all about this band, and then stumbled upon their new music several years later. And they don't seem to have matured, cooled down, or sold out to the mainstream one bit. I was so pleased by the fortuitous rediscovery that I did something my kids will never do: I bought an audio CD. It finally arrived today, after a week of breathlessly awaiting the Free Super Saver Shipping! from amazon.

So if you're in the mood for something energetic and bizarre, check it out!

Sunday, September 07, 2008


38-3 is a nice way to start the season. As much as I enjoyed the game, it's important to temper my enthusiasm - they could still very well lose the next two weeks (at Dal, Pit.) Some observations from the game:

  • Marc Bulger is done as an NFL quarterback. Finished. He was spinning away from contact even on the balls he completed. Every throw was rushed and usually off his back foot. The Rams will draft a QB early in April, and Bulger will be a backup somewhere within two years.
  • How does Jim Haslett have a job? The Rams didn't look prepared to play at all, especially in the secondary. I don't think I've ever seen so many DBs out of position.
  • Darren Howard had a big third down sack when the outcome was still in doubt. If he plays well for a whole season, this pass defense could be dominating.
  • In spite of having a huge lead for most of the game, Andy Reid called 40 passes and 28 runs (excluding the 3 kneel-downs at the end.) It's hard to criticize the playcalling when your team wins by 35, but this guy just won't ever run.
  • McNabb wasn't sacked once. Yes, the line played great, but more importantly, he got the ball out quickly. He'll need to do the same the next two weeks.
  • The Rams' best player, Steven Jackson, was held to 40 yards and a 2.9 average.
  • Was Torry Holt injured? He seemed to be on the sidelines a lot, and disinterested when he was in the game. I wonder if he'd play better on a good team, like say, the Eagles. Lito Sheppard, Jason Avant, and Carolina's first-round pick...could the Rams really afford to say no to that?
  • Asante Samuel played a great game, getting his hands on several balls, but the Eagles as a team continued to drop potential interceptions.

Congrats to Al Golden, Temple coach, who went for a fourth-and-one from his own 34 late in a tie game against Connecticut. Although Temple didn't make it, the defense held and UConn missed a FG. He defended his decision after the game, saying "I'm trying to turn around 30 years of crap." Good call, Al, and stick with it. Especially when you aren't the best team on the field, aggressive fourth-down decisions can swing a game in your favor.

And oh boy, am I crossing my fingers on Tom Brady's injury. I'd love to see him out for the year, not because I have anything against Brady, but I would truly enjoy seeing Belichick and Pioli exposed as the less-than-geniuses they are. Snagging a Hall of Fame QB with a sixth-round pick doesn't make you brilliant, just lucky. And Brady has been covering up some really bad drafts of late with his record-setting play. The Pats aren't even a mediocre team without Brady.

Friday, September 05, 2008

And so it begins

Football is back.

The Giants opened up the season with a 16-7 trouncing of the Redskins. No, the score doesn't look too bad, but the game was non-competitive from the start.

The blame falls squarely on the coaching staff for this one. First-time head coach Jim Zorn, who is also calling the plays (he's never done that before either) was clearly overmatched in both capacities. The playcalling and time management were terrible. To some extent, this is expected in a first-time coach. When goofball owner Dan Snyder fires the entire staff and replaces them with clueless newbies, this is the result.

But what's inexcusable is cowardice.

I'm not merely picking on Jim Zorn here, he's only the first representative of a long list of cowards that I'll highlight this season. I'm incredibly weary of watching highly-paid NFL coaches make decisions not to win, but to avoid blame.

Here's the scenario: Down by two scores, it's fourth-and-one on your own 46, middle of the third quarter. Your offense has been horrible (crossing midfield just twice, once thanks to a long kickoff and 15-yard penalty) and your defense has been mediocre at best (7 possessions by the Giants to this point, resulting in 4 scores.) If you want to win the game you must go for the first down. Kicking it away, from good field position, with a greater than 50% chance that you'll give up another score, is not any way to win - but it is a way to avoid media criticism when you lose.

A few plays later, the Redskins pick off a pass. It's one of those potentially momentum-changing moments. Still down by two scores, the Redskins face a very similar situation (4th-and-2 from their own 44) and choose to punt again.

I have no idea how to statistically quantify the Redskins' differing chances to win if they punt vs. going for the first down, but I know this: anyone who has watched football realized the game was over when they punted. But you won't read about coach Zorn making controversial decisions today, you'll instead read about the Giants' defense and the poor decision-making of Jason Campbell. Mission accomplished for Zorn: he avoids blame while losing, building his resume for his next position (I guarantee he'll be fired after this season.)

What was Zorn waiting for? What did he think the odds were that the Giants would simply self-destruct, and give up two TDs on interceptions or punt returns? Surely they had to be less than the odds of making it on fourth-and-one? And so what if you fail, when you're losing 99% of the time you punt anyway? (I've linked this before, but in case you forgot: the numbers back me up.

Bill Parcells, widely recognized as one of the greatest coaches of all time, would have gone for it. Bill Belichick would have gone for it. The last year Parcells coached, the three coaches that went for it the most were Parcells, Belichick, and Cowher - all Hall-of-Fame types. But the average coach is more concerned about the perceptions of his future employers than about winning. There's just no other explanation for this cowardice.

I am confident that if you kept everything else constant, as a coach you could increase your winning percentage by as much as two games/year, by simply punting less. I keep waiting for a young coach to come into the league and play to win, but I'm disappointed again and again.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The New Election, Same as the Old Election

Now that final cuts have come and gone, I can spare a thought for something not Eagles related.

Vice presidents shouldn't matter at all, I know, but the symbolism of the Palin pick is inescapable. I've never had less respect for John McCain.

Palin isn't just conservative on social issues, she's fanatical. Palin is against abortion in all cases, even when the woman is raped or her life is threatened by the pregnancy, and strongly opposed to gay marriage. She's not a do-nothing like W, she would do everything in her power to legislate those values as president and make sure the Supreme Court was stacked to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Way to go, Maverick McCain. You had a chance to thumb your nose at the religious right, picking someone like Tom Ridge or Joe Lieberman, and declare your independence from those hateful, intolerant members of the Republican Party. But instead you are bowing to them completely, offering up one of their own to be a cancerous heartbeat away from the presidency.

So here we are again. After all this talk about mavericks, about change, it's just another election where I'm forced to choose between giving up my money to the Democrats, or giving up my freedom to the Republicans. I despise that choice - I don't understand why no one can govern with common sense and respect for the freaking Constitution - but when forced to choose, my decision is always the same.

I can make more money. Freedom, once given away, must be repurchased with blood.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Practice Squad

No surprises on the practice squad, the Eagles signed Kyle Arrington, Andy Studebaker, Jed Collins, and Shaheer McBride, as expected. The only minor surprise was Marquardt, who I didn't think would be signed, but when you look at the numbers (only 4 DTs active) it does make sense.

McDougle went to the Giants and the Eagles picked up LB Tank Daniels off waivers. Seems like it would have been smarter to just keep Daniels on the practice squad last year, like I suggested. He will walk right in and be a core contributor on special teams.

It's hard to imagine that the release of McDougle will come back to haunt the Eagles - he's never been healthy, let alone a consistent producer - but pass-rush talent is so difficult to find that I would have found a way to keep him. Still, Daniels is an athletic upgrade over Boiman, and I'm glad to have him back.