Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Roller Derby

First, I'd like to apologize for the misleading title. This is not about roller derby. This is about roller skating. I just wanted a catchy title to draw in the readers. And now that I have your attention, I'll do what I can to hang on to it. For example, I'll start a new paragraph to give the eye a break and create a sense of drama.

I took the boys roller skating.

There. What seems like a common parental activity now seems fascinating, and it's all due to a clever formatting trick. I'll continue to use these tricks throughout to maintain your level of interest.

The boys just got wrist pads for their roller skates (Max) and roller blades (Luke), and they were excited. Excuse me, they were excited!!! So I looked up a roller skating rink using my iPhone, and sure enough, King Skates in Bellevue was open all day on Monday for public skating.

As soon as we walked in, the boys heard their favorite song -- "I Gotta Feelin" by the Black Eyed Peas. They looked out at the lights flashing on the skaters, and you could tell these 6-year-olds thought we had just stumbled into the coolest place on earth.

Observation 1: There are men and women in their 30s and 40s who go to roller skating rinks alone and skate dance. Sometimes they skate backward, and sometimes they skate forward, but they're dancing the whole time. At first, I thought this was strange behavior. And then I thought about it a little more, and thought about the battle against peer pressure and the joy of exercise, and I came to the realization that this was REALLY strange behavior. They should be on a treadmill in a gymnasium.

Observation 2: Pop music from the 70s has an enduring quality that will outlive us all. Did you know our grandchildren's grandchildren will roller blade to "Do the Hustle," "YMCA" and "Dancing Queen"?

Observation 3: There has been some really good pop music made over the last five or thirty years. I can't tell how long some of that pop music was, because I had never heard it. But I found myself snapping my fingers while skating, and then bending my knees a little bit. And then I started to weave my skating pattern just a little bit, and there's no way to weave your skates without getting your hips involved, and before I knew it, all the other skaters had lined up along the wall, and they were clapping in rhythm and shouting encouragement to me whenever my skates left the floor for a double axel or a triple toe loop.

In summary, roller skating is FUN!!!


Friday, February 5, 2010

Super Bowl XLIV Analysis and Prediction

It's difficult to find someone on the World Wide Web of the Internet who is willing to discuss the upcoming Super Bowl between the Colts and the Saints, so I'll fill in the gap.

Sport Being Played

American Football.

Ways in Which the Game May Play Out

This isn't quite like last year's game between the Steelers and Cardinals, when you could tell in the first quarter what kind of game it would be. This year, with the two best teams playing, the game won't be decided early. Both teams have explosive offenses, and both teams have come back repeatedly from large deficits. So even if one team goes up early by a couple of scores, I don't think the game will turn into a rout.

Scenario 1: Shoot-out. Both teams move the ball at will. In this scenario, forcing the opponent to kick a field goal will be considered a victory for the defense. Forcing a punt is a huge momentum swing. Last team with the ball wins.

Scenario 2: Slopfest. The defenses get pressure on both quarterbacks, there are lots of turnovers, young receivers drop passes, and announcers continue to praise the quarterbacks because they're contractually obligated. Drew Brees looks nervous, and Peyton Manning yells at his linemen.

Scenario 3: Low-scoring battle. Both offenses dominate, especially in the running game, but they eat up the clock with long drives that frequently end up with field goal attempts. Even though neither defense appears particularly effective, there's something like a 16-12 score in the fourth quarter.

Scenario 4: Blowout. I suppose this is a possibility. The Saints blowing out the Colts would be a shock. The Colts blowing out the Saints wouldn't be quite as shocking, especially if Brees seems off his game, but it seems unlikely.

I'm going with Scenario 3 - a tight, low-scoring game that either team can win.

Quarterback Play

If you watch ESPN, which I do, you might think that Peyton Manning went through some kind of apotheosis during the Jets game and became a football god, while Drew Brees is some kind of scrappy waterboy who somehow found himself playing quarterback in the Super Bowl. In my arrogant opinion, both quarterbacks have played equally well this year. This year, they're the two best players in the league.

Their styles are different. The Colts use only a few formations with hardly any pre-snap motion, while the Saints try to confuse defenses with lots of formations and motion. One of the reasons analysts have been deifying Manning is because he calls his own plays and acts like a coach on the field. While that's impressive, it doesn't mean that a quarterback who lets coaches call the plays can't be effective. In the last 20 years, coaches have called plays for Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Drew Brees, and every quarterback not named Peyton. Manning is 9-8 in playoff games. That's not exactly a divine record.

Manning used to let the pressure of a big game get to him. Under pressure, he'd get out of his rhythm. So far this year, he hasn't flailed in a big game. In fact, he's been clutch, even heroic. If anything, Brees is more likely to let the pressure get to him than Manning.

Defensive Pressure

Despite what people say, both teams have only average defenses. The Saints have to get pressure on Manning, or he'll continue to play out of his gourd.

If you're still reading this, you know that the Colts' best defensive player, Dwight Freeney, has a badly sprained ankle and may not be able to play. In the championship game, the Saints offense struggled because they used an extra blocker to stop Jared Allen, a Freeney-like rusher. If Freeney doesn't play, the Saints should be able to send an extra receiver out on a pattern, forcing the Colts to blitz more to get pressure. In turn, they expose themselves to big plays.

Jerraud Powers is also injured for the Colts. Even though he's a rookie, Powers has started all year and played well. In fact, the Colts have lost three of their four starting defensive backs, but they've still played relatively well, primarily due to the two rookies, Powers and Jacob Lacey. Against the Saints, who use multiple receivers, the Colts badly need Powers so that Lacey can cover the extra receiver. If Powers can't go, you'll see Brees picking on a guy named Tim Jennings. That's a mismatch.


Luck is an important factor. When a pass gets tipped, does the ball fall harmlessly to the ground, or is it picked off? When a team gets called for a penalty, does it nullify a big play? Are there bad calls at key moments? Will there be big plays on special teams? Does an open receiver drop a pass when it's 3rd and 2? Does a safety guess right and pick off a pass on a hunch?

Are the Saints so nervous playing for the first time in the Super Bowl that they overthrow open receivers, get called for stupid penalties, and get out of position because they're too eager to make a big play? Does the Colts' Super Bowl experience keep them calm and confident?

Are the Colts overconfident? The Saints are playing up that "No one believes in us but us" angle, which is a surprisingly strong motivator to get a bunch of grown men whooping like dogs. That mentality helped the Giants beat the Patriots a couple years ago, and these two teams are much more evenly matched than those two teams. At one time, they were both 13-0. That's never happened before. Both teams let up at the end, and the Colts finished 14-2 and the Saints 13-3. The "We get no respect" angle could be key.

The Who is playing at halftime. I hate The Who. You better you better you bet.


I played several simulation games using my old electronic football game that vibrates players into moving. I hobbled the tight end on the Saints and the defensive end on the Colts to make the game more accurate. I've come to the conclusion that the Colts have a 53% chance of winning, while the Saints have a 47% chance of winning. If my simulation is correct, Peyton Manning will rush for 332 yards and two touchdowns.

On the other hand, the Colts are my favorite team, and The Who is playing at halftime. I can't imagine the Colts winning on the same day I have to sit through 65-year-old men singing songs that have menaced me for 40 years.

Final score: Saints 19 Colts 16. Party on Bourbon Street. Gloom in Bloomington.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cereal Box Plastic

Has anyone else noticed that the plastic liners inside cereal boxes now require scissors to open properly. All my life, I've been able to pull the sides of the plastic bag to pop it open. Starting about 10 years ago, the cereal I bought at places like Trader Joe's and other health stores had flawed plastic liners. If you try to pop them open, the glue was too strong, so you just ended up shredding the plastic, resulting in an uneven cereal pour that left a lot of cereal flakes between the liner and the bottom of the box. (You can make your own cereal killer joke.) And now, even cereal from the name brands like Post and Kellogs provide these difficult-to-open liners.

If Ralph Nader were elected back in 2000, we could have avoided this mess.

Tomorrow, as promised, you'll get the Super Bowl XLIV preview!


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My State of the Union Address

A commenter named "Anonymous" wrote the following:

How about a recap on the current status of the Democrats. Kind of like the ones you did about the right wing morons. The Democrats have been so good for the country, nay, the world. And they are only getting better.

Your wish is my suggestion. I will now tell you what I think of the Democrats in a rambling, semi-coherent matter. And later this week, I'll provide you with my Super Bowl pre-game analysis and prediction. That's right. I'm promising two blog entries in one week!

The best thing about the Democrats, in my humble opinion, is that they're not Republicans. And the best thing about Obama is that he's not Bush.

That may seem trite, but for me it's huge. Having Obama take over was like waking up from a nightmare. The day may not be perfect, what with the root canal appointment and all, but at least it's not a nightmare.

You wouldn't think it would be necessary to remind people of this, but let's go over it again. Bush failed to adequately address the 9/11 attacks by ignoring a number of warnings, and then they used that awful terrorist attack as an excuse to invade Iraq and torture suspected terrorists. He and the Republicans advanced tax breaks that disproportionately benefitted the super rich. The combination of wars and tax breaks and struggling economy converted the surplus budget he inherited into a record deficit. In his final year, the economy collapsed, pushing us on the brink of a possible Depression. None of these points are even worth arguing. They're a matter of record.

When Obama and the Democrats took over, they inherited two wars, a devastated economy on the brink of collapse, and a record deficit with expiring tax breaks that act like political poison pills when they expire. (Obama is raising taxes! He's a tax and spend liberal! He's a socialist! HE WASN'T EVEN BORN IN AMERICA!!!)

McCain and many Republicans thought the solution to the bad economy was a spending freeze. Simply put, that's stupid. It's appropriate for the government to run up a deficit to help us out of bad economic times, and they should pay down debt during boom times. As much as I dislike running up the deficit, I thought the bailouts and stimulus packages trotted out by both Bush and Obama were necessary. The details of the bailouts and stimulus packages were highly questionable (typically political?) in both instances, but I don't want to get into those details. By the way, where were the teabaggers during the "Deficits don't matter" Bush years?

The Republican party is using the crappy economy -- the same one they played a major role in creating -- as a way of criticizing Democrats. And it's working! On a related note, I don't have a problem with Republicans opposing the Democratic agenda, but I don't like the way the filibuster has become so commonplace. Without getting into Constitutional issues, I prefer a simple majority rule.

One thing that frustrates me about both parties is that they've failed to take opposing stances in a few key areas. The Republicans used to represent business while the Democrats represented labor. Since the Clinton days, the Democrats have catered to businesses a lot more, effectively abandoning labor. And Republicans used to represent conservative fiscal policies while Democrats were more willing to spend and drive up deficits, but Republicans have obviously abandoned fiscal prudence. In a two-party system, those shifts are especially damaging. We need a five party system: Labor, Whig, Tory, War, and Green.

The fact that the Republican party has shifted so far to the right is incredibly frustrating to me. Instead of being able to maintain an independent stance and vote right or left depending on the circumstances, the wingnuts have essentially forced me into voting straight-ticket Democrat. Having only Republicans in charge isn't healthy in Utah, and having only Democrats in charge isn't healthy in the Puget Sound region.

It frustrates me that Obama has continued many of Bush's awful programs that permit torture and questionable spying practices. I understand why he's doing it from a political standpoint -- to be viewed as centrist for the next election. If it keeps a charming lunatic like Palin or Huckabee from being elected, I suppose that's the price that has to be paid. Still...

The health care system is broken. Even die-hard Bush-loving Republicans would have to admit that. If the Democrats fail to push through a decent health care reform bill, I'll be angry. I'm still waiting to see what happens with that story.


Republicans: F*
Democrats: D+

* The Republicans also received a 0 for citizenship and have been put on notice by this blog.