Friday, November 29, 2002

Football Picks - Week 13: This hasn't started well. I spent the afternoon writing up my picks and I stupidly did not save them before I connected the laptop to the port replicator while it was on stand-by instead of hibernate. This always causes me to have to shut down and this time was no exception. Picks lost. Start over. The temperamental nature of my laptop matches well with the unpredictability of the NFL this season, yet here I go back into the swirling chaos.
  • Miami -2.5 at Buffalo Dolphins cover. The Bills are back-sliding and I'm back on the Fins bandwagon.

  • Chicago +9.5 at Green Bay Cheeseheads cover. It's interesting to see how Green Bay has dealt with the whole Sapp thing. Outrage and righteous declarations of vengeance. I think the Cheese coaching staff is trying to create a crisis atmosphere to pull the team out of it's funk. At home against the pathetic Bears, it should work.

  • Baltimore -2.5 at Cincinnati Ravens cover. With a strong defense, I'm counting on the Ravens to restore my faith in science.

  • Carolina +7.5 at Cleveland Browns cover. The problem I have with a spread like this is that it's really easy for the lesser team to sneak in a last minute score, when the leading team stupidly goes into a prevent defense. Because of this, I actually typed 'Panthers beat the spread'; then I remembered how the Browns are fighting to get in the playoffs and how truly bad the Panthers are.

  • Pittsburgh -3 at Jacksonville Steelers cover. The Steelers still have something to prove now that their first stringers - Stewart and Bettis - are back. Beating the Bengals last week doesn't count. Meanwhile, judging from last week's folly, the Jags may have packed it in for the season.

  • Arizona +10 at Kansas City Cardinals beat the spread. The Chiefs have such an atrocious defense anything can happen, so I'll go with the Cards and a 10 point head start.

  • Atlanta -3.5 at Minnesota Falcons cover. The Vikings just plain stink.

  • Tennessee +3 at New York Giants Titans beat the spread. I'm fairly surprised the Giants are favored after their dismal display last week.

  • Denver -3 at San Diego Chargers beat the spread. Another possible outcome is that the Broncos demolish the Chargers. The point being: I have no clue. But other things equal, I'll go with the home team and the 3 point spot.

  • Houston +11.5 at Indianapolis Texans beat the spread. The Colts should cruise, but no way can I pass up 11.5 points.

  • St. Louis -2.5 at Philadelphia Eagles beat the spread. I'm truly surprised the Rams are favored. The Eagles are at home and don't seem to have lost a step without McNabb. Marshall Faulk is still questionable.

  • Seattle +9.5 at San Francisco Seahawks beat the spread. The 49ers looked a bit confused last week and the Seahawks proved they could score a lot of points. And that spread is nice and fat.

  • Tampa Bay -1 at New Orleans Buccaneers cover. One lousy point. Should be a gimme.

  • New York Jets +6.5 at Oakland Jets beat the spread. Seniors are a better team, but not by that much. I've stopped disbelieving in the Jets.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Football Results - Week 12: I knew it was going to be tough. Quarterbacks are dropping and recovering at a furious pace. Teams are more unreliable than anytime in recent memory. Still, you know those cartoons where the characters get flattened by a steamroller? Or better, you know that episode of the Sopranos where Tony belt-whips the congressman? Or even better, you know those "You Gotta See This" type shows where someone bungee jumps from a bridge and the cord breaks? Well, that'd be me. In all cases. I am ashamed to even type the numbers. 4-12.
  • Minnesota +7.5 at New England Pick: Evil Minions Wrong! Minions win 24-17 What could be more evil than just trouncing the Vikings? Easy answer: trouncing the Vikings by just enough to not cover the spread. That way, not only do the Vikings lose, but so do I. Pure evil.

  • Tennessee -2 at Baltimore Pick: Titans Wrong! Ravens win 13-12 Just when I think the Ravens aren't as much better than everyone else thinks as I thought, they prove to be slightly less not better that everyone else thought. You figure it out.

  • Atlanta -3.5 at Carolina Pick: Falcons A Winnah! Shower him with glory! Rhymes with Sick attains a new level of greatness by handing the woeful Panthers their eighth straight loss. What an achievement.

  • Detroit +5 at Chicago Pick Bears. Wrong! Bears win 20-17 Remember what I said last week about the Bears being a potential late season sleeper? Fuhgetaboutit. They were on the verge of losing this game until the Lions, true to form, found a way to let them tie it up in the final seconds of regulation. Then, also true to form, the Lions took the most direct possible route to lose the game by winning the coin toss and giving the Bears first possession in sudden death overtime. Pay attention to that: winning the coin toss and giving the Bears first possession in sudden death overtime. There's a new sheriff in Stupidville and his name is Marty Mornhinweg. It was interesting to see the Lion's player's reaction after the game. Impressively diplomatic. Stuff like "I'm not paid to make those decisions. That's up to the coach. Once it's made we just give it everything we got." Nothing to read between the lines there, eh? The only one who came out one hundred percent behind the decision was Joey Harrington who saw that the only hope was to try to put any resentment toward the coach behind them and move on. The fact that he would go on record in support of such inanity for the sake of holding things together shows what a good leader he is. Nice try Joey, but I think Marty just lost the confidence of everybody and he's as good as gone. Matt "devout cowards" Millen too.

  • Jacksonville -2.5 at Dallas Pick: Jags Wrong! Cowboys win 21-19 Think about it. The Cowboys have absolutely no reason to hit the field. They haven't played like they wanted to hit the field all year. Emmitt's been causing a fuss in the papers about not being given playing time. Even the Jags, the masters of mediocrity, should have taken them. I can think of no plausible or implausible explanation.

  • San Diego +3 at Miami Pick: Chargers Wrong! Fins win 30-3 I am officially off my three week long pack-it-in-and-worry-about-next-season kick I was on regarding the Fins. The defense is unreal; Ricky Williams is everything he's cracked up to be; and now that Ray Lucas (Jekyll) has replaced the abysmal Ray Lucas (Hyde), things are falling into place again. These guys well positioned to be post season monsters now.

  • Cleveland +6 at New Orleans Pick: Browns A Winnah! Browns win 24-15 I shall hold on to this pick as a work of startling insight, despite the utter decimation I experienced otherwise. beat the spread. I thought the Saints were running out of steam and I was so completely right it isn't even funny. The Saints may be my anti-sleeper for the remainder of the year.

  • Buffalo +3 at New York Jets Pick: Bills Wrong! Jets win 31-13 Ok, I wasn't ready to believe the Jets were for real, but now I am. They are a very good team (as was expected of them early in the year before they mangled the proceedings early on). The opposite is true of the Bills - a strong start and now looking lame. How poetic that teams going in different directions should cross paths and produce a palindrome score. (Picture two drunks guys watching Sportcenter highlights in some sports bar, stupefied by the deeper meaning of it all.)

  • Cincinnati +10.5 at Pittsburgh Pick: Steelers Wrong! Steelers win 29-21 The foundations of science have been shaken. I'm going to have to re-evaluate the nature of the universe before I go any further. Hold my calls.

  • Green Bay +3 at Tampa Bay Pick: Cheeseheads Wrong! Bucs win 21-7 I think Brett Farverer is struggling with his vision. Has he been checked for color blindness? He seems to be throwing to folks in the wrong jerseys. You know, despite everything that was said, I don't think the hit Warren Sapp made was all that awful. That's what you do. You block out as long as the whistle hasn't blown. It was a clean hit. Where Sapp blew it was his reaction. He could have showed a little concern for the guy he sent off the field on a stretcher. He could have not reacted like he did when the Green Bay coach mentioned it to him. Nope, not Warren. He goes off and acts like a thug, swearing up a storm and getting in the face of a couple of grey haired old guys. Class act.

  • Kansas City -3.5 at Seattle Pick: Chiefs Wrong! Seahawks win 39-32 I don't know what to say. In my own defense, just ask yourself this. If someone told you Priest Holmes would get 300+ yards; KC would get 550+ yards, 32 first downs and only one turnover, would you have picked the Seahawks to win? Apparently the Chiefs D was so bedazzled by the all-blue Seahawks uniforms that they just watched them go by. Whatever outside shot KC had at the playoffs is pretty much gone now.

  • Oakland -8.5 at Arizona Pick: Seniors A Winnah! Seniors win 41-20 The Seniors pretty much did whatever they wanted, as expected. Let me just say that despite the presence of the abhorrent Bill Romanowski, I've really gotten to like the Raiders. At the moment - my choice for AFC champs.

  • St. Louis -5 at Washington Pick: Rams Wrong! Potatoes win 20-17 What a mess. Exactly how is one supposed to make a reasonable pick when the Rams are playing. Again, in my own defense, I'll say that when I posted this I fully expected Marshall Faulk to play (he didn't). Where does that leave Kurt Warner? Well, Bulger won the previous week without Faulk. So, with Faulk, Warner lost 5 and Bulger won 5; without Faulk Bulger won one and Warner lost one. You do the math. Warner is hanging by a thread.

  • New York Giants -5.5 at Houston Pick: Giants Wrong! Texans win 16-14 Schroedinger's Cat didn't just die. It got squashed by a sixteen-wheeler, and the carcass was devoured by scavenging birds, who then flew north and dumped on my car just for good measure.

  • Indianapolis +6.5 at Denver Pick: Colts A Winnah! Colts win 23-20 It took two 50+ yard field goals in a snowstorm. The Colts are rocking. Once again, I wonder will I have to sacrifice them as my sleeper?

  • Philadelphia +7 at San Francisco Pick 49ers Wrong! Eagles win Jeez Louise! The QB named for a pond fish makes everyone say 'McNabb who?' He gets hurt and replaced by third stringer A.J. Feeley (What kind of name is Feeley for a QB? That's not a QB, that's a porn star.) And still the 49ers can't get it done. Not even close. Ah well, why not cap the week with one last slap in my face.
Here's a point of interest. One would think that point spreads are set such that there would be about a 50-50 likelihood of a victory by either the favorite or the underdog. So in 16 games you figure the favorite is likely to cover about 8 times. Not this week. This week, the favorite failed to cover 11 times and lost outright 8 times. So it would seem like the odds makers had just as bad a week as I had.

Of course, it doesn't actually work that way. Point spreads are not really set based on expert evaluation of the teams. They are set so that an equal amount of money is wagered on either side of the spread. The points are adjusted over the course of the week as wagers are made. So what it really means is that the collective expectations of the betting world were seriously trounced last week. That makes me feel better. Misery loves company.
Football Picks - Thanksgiving Day: Lots of hemming and hawing goes on about who has the advantage on these weird mid-week games. Statistically, the home team gets an even larger boost than usual (although not much larger), but these statistics are misleading. Usually what you get quoted is something like Dallas (or Detroit) has won 54% of the time on Thanksgiving versus, 51% of the rest of the games. That's all poppycock. First, to do this properly you would have to control for all sorts of things, not the least of which is to compare only home games, or compare versus home games in the same year, or games versus opponents with similar records. Suffice to say that, outside of baseball, sports statistics are so horribly misguided they are little different than superstition. I never pick winners because of any silly statistics. I pick based on what the voices in my head tell me.
  • New England -6 at Detroit Evil Minions cover. Normally I would pick the Lions, just because it's time for them to unexpectedly win another game. But they couldn't win unexpectedly because that's just what I would be expecting. On the other hand, since Marty and the Lions seem to be determined to give games away, any demonic curses the Minions cast to upset the Lions plans could end up making the Lions win. You see, it's all very complicated.

  • Washington -pick 'em- at Dallas Cowboys win. On a hunch. The Cowboys beat the Jags last week when there was no earthly reason for them to do so. I'm thinking there is something going on there that I don't see, plus they will be pumped to salvage their season with a victory over the hated Potatoes. I was going to make some kind of vapid allusion to Mashed Potatoes and Thanksgiving, but I can't force myself to do it.
Scam Alert - Seriously: For those of you who connect to the web through Earthlink, there is a scam email going around. It reads like this:
Subject: Important information reguarding your Secure Earthlink Mail!
Date: Tue, 26 Nov 2002 23:11:58 -0500

Dear Valued earthlink member,
We have noticed that you have not been reading your Secure ELN Mail.
This is a new feature we have recently added to our system, and have been sending important account information to your Secure Earthlink Mail! Please be advised that we need you to log into your Secure Mail within the next 72 hours to keep the Secure Account information in our database.

Below is the site to log into your account
HERE link omitted, or if your EMail client doesn't support HTML You may go to HERE link omitted

Thank you for your time on this matter
Do not respond to this. It is a scam designed to steal your login and password. You login and give your password to the site that is linked and you expect to get something called Secure ELN Mail, but instead you have just given your login and password to a bunch of crooks. If you get one of these, please forward it to this earthlink address:

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Holiday Links: Just some stuff to read when you get tired of Aunt Ethel asking why you're not married yet.
  • A world famous dirtbag. Almost within firing range of me. Just a little closer and you're spam in a can. SIC SEMPER SPAMMERS!

  • The official web site of Joan Jett is just what you'd expect. But scroll down and read the open letter to Rolling Stone magazine, by Maya Price, (note to Joan, you need to provide links to specific posts).
    Jewel and Mandy friggin' Moore have full page features as Rock Icons...Meanwhile Joan Jett gets one line. ONE LINE. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, who have never stopped touring, recently did 10 days in the Middle East playing for the troops stationed in Afghanistan. In AFGHANISTAN, Joan would come onstage wearing a birkha, which she ripped off and stomped on before blazing through the purest and nastiest rock show ANYWHERE.
    Chortle. Whatever you may think of Joan Jett, it's a perfect dismantling of Rolling Stone magazine, which is one of the few things in the world more hurl-worthy than MTV. And that's saying something.

  • Nasa has a fascinating site where they post relatively current information on any natural disasters going on in the world, including satellite images. Nifty.

  • These young kids have it too easy today. What I would of given for this on-line library - tons of free books, journals and articles, with suggestions for term papers. Why, when I was in school, we had to write term papers with lumps of charcoal, and when you didn't have charcoal you used blood, and when your little brother started to turn white, you went out in the snow in bare feet hunting for possum droppings. And we were grateful.

  • Tee-hee-hee. You know what TIVO is, right? The digital TV recorder that can pause live shows and store and untold amount of recordings. Well, it turns out that one feature of TIVO is that it tries to figure out what type of shows you like based on what you've recorded in the past, then it records things it thinks you will like. This guy's TIVO decided he was gay. He fought back by ordering trashy sex farces. Amazon does similar things. Of course, Amazon doesn't differentiate between what you buy for yourself and what you buy as gifts. Thanks to a couple of purchases I made for HRH Miss Anna a couple of years ago, Amazon thinks it's good salesmanship to offer me H.R. Puff'n'Stuff videos.

Monday, November 25, 2002

Scoopage, Wearily: I am resolved to throw up the redesign sometime over the Thanksgiving weekend. (By "throw up" I don't actually mean regurgitate, thanks for asking) So if you check in and things look weird - patience please. I'll have a lot to say about it once it's in place. You may be thoroughly underwhelmed.

This week, Football Friday will fall partially on Wednesday due to there being games on Thanksgiving day. I'll posts picks for Thanksgiving day and results from last week - the horrible, horrible results from last week - and then I'll post again on Friday with picks for Sunday and Monday.

I've actually been thinking of renting a couple of DVDs over the weekend and maybe getting a review or two up for you. I promised TAD Chrissy to give Lord of the Rings a second chance. Maybe this would be a good opportunity.

Speaking of reviews. I don't know what to make of the Sopranos this year. The portrayal of Tony has been remarkable. They managed to make him more human and more of an animal at the same time. A good deal of this has to do with what a phenomenal actor James Gandolfini is. There's been some exceptional humor - Christopher's intervention was a hoot. But they have been dwelling on two plot lines that are pointless and boring. The Furio and Carmella situation (I'm being careful not to spoil things for those who get by on rentals after the fact), is as far as I can tell, totally unmotivated. Janice and Bacala is another one that perplexes me (although the manipulative Janice is a terrific character). There are two shows left and traditionally the second to the last show is the big one. Maybe they can sort it out.

One last thing. If you are a blogger, think about visiting the Blogger User Support Group over at Yahoo. It's a good spot to get help. I quickly got an answer to why the spacing screwed up when I put a table in a post. Bookmark it.

I have more, but I'm exhausted. Maybe I'll slip you some links tomorrow night.

Friday, November 22, 2002

Football Results - Week 11: Tasteful is how I would describe it. Unassumingly tasteful, in fact. 9-7. On the plus side, but tastefully so. For the year, that makes me a somewhat more gaudy 31-24-3, mostly owing to my phenomenal, season-making performance in week 10. (Do you realize I was 10-3-1 last week? Amazing.) Still, one doesn't want to make like Terrel Owens with a Sharpie, so a bit of restraint was in order this week.

Please note that I have begun including the final score in my comments. Generally, in fine literature, it is thought to be good to have a certain context for your action. In this case, it causes eveything I write to make sense without having to go to to find out what I am going on about. It's a technique thing.
  • Green Bay -6.5 at Minnesota Pick: Cheeseheads Wrong! Vikings win 31-21 -- The almighty Cheese fail to come through. This should have been a gimme. And don't give me any of that Brett-Favererer-doesn't-play-well-in-the-Dome nonsense. What sort of irrational twaddle is that? If there is anything I dislike about sports reporting it's that silliness like that passes for wisdom. Mind you, this isn't a commentary about how the Cheese are relatively more comfortable in bad weather - that would at least be plausible. Except that the Cheese play just fine when they are down South. This theory hinges on the dome itself. And not all domes, that specific dome - Favererer does well against the Lions in a dome. So come on now. Does anyone besides me ever question this sort of outrageous conventional wisdom? The obvious answer is that Brett Favererer doesn't like how I spell his name and this was his juvenile, immature way of getting even.

  • New Orleans +2.5 at Atlanta Pick: Saints Wrong! Falcons win 24-17 -- I refuse to say his name. From now on I will refer to him as "Rhymes with Sick."

  • Cleveland -3.5 at Cincinnati Pick: Browns A Winnah! Browns win 27-20 -- Cosmologists and metaphysicians are using the Bengals as proof that we live in a perfectly deterministic universe.

  • Dallas +6.5 at Indianapolis Pick: Colts A Winnah! Colts win 20-3 -- Yep. The Colts have been a great sleeper team (a team that is much better than their record) for me. After this trouncing of the Cowboys they won't be under the covers anymore.

  • Buffalo + 3.5 at Kansas City Pick: Bills A Winnah! Chiefs win 17-16 -- Weird game. Should have been a triple digit affair, but scoring was fairly reserved. My guess is that there is deep meaning in that for the rest of the season, but I have no idea what it is.

  • Baltimore +4.5 at Miami Pick: Ravens Wrong! Fins win 26-7 -- No excuses here. I was way off. I had written the Miami season off, and thought the Ravens were underrated. Wrong on both counts. I was glad to see the Fins win and Ray Lucas play well. Sadly, it will make next week's picks for these teams all the more difficult.

  • Pittsburgh -3 at Tennessee Pick: Steelers Wrong! Titans win 31-23 -- Tommy Maddox, whose story of perseverance has been touted all year, deserved better. He deserved to finish out the year with success, if not a Super Bowl victory, and be able to go through the off season knowing he was solidly entrenched as an NFL starting QB. Did you see the interview with him? He is clearly shaken to the core - as I would be if I spent some time lying in the hospital unable to move my legs. Anyway, I wouldn't blame the guy for a second if he never wanted to see another football again in his life. Of course, the remaining Steelers may never want to see another football in the hands of Kordell Stewart again for the rest of their lives.

  • Washington +3.5 at New York Giants Pick: Potatoes A Winnah! Giants win 19-17 -- Countering the deterministic, fixed state metaphysics of the Bengals we have a probabilistic existence exemplified by the Giants. I predicted Schoedinger's Cat would die this week. I'm not sure whether I meant the Giants would lose or jsut not cover. Perhaps we need a four-state Cat for the Giants - Live, Head Cold, Coughing Up Blood, and Dead; corresponding to Win, Beat the Spread, Fail to Cover, and Lose. Of course we'd have to re-do Schroedinger's experiment with two slits for the photon to pass through. I actually think about this sort of stuff. The conclusion you are racing to (correctly) is that I am some kind of weirdo.

  • Arizona +11.5 at Philadelphia Pick: Cardinals Wrong! Eagles win 38-14 -- McNabb fractures his ankle and then throws 4 TDs - best game of his career. First observation: Note what the Football gods had to go through for me to lose this one. Second observation: Another back-up QB gets a big shot at leading a top level team. Bulger, Maddox, even Pennington have succeeded in this situation. Koy Detmer? - possibly, I'll be suspicious until it happens; after all, like the Dolphins before them, the Eagles have made inquiries about Troy Aikman's status. (What kind of a name is Koy, anyway? That's not a quarterback, that's a mutli-colored pond fish.) Third observation: A little perspective is in order for McNabb's injury. Certainly it took a good deal of grit to play that kind of game when injured, but the fact is the ankle didn't even bother him enough to get it X-rayed at halftime. When it got really bad at the end of the game he left. That level of courage would almost qualify him to play hockey.

  • San Francisco -2.5 at San Diego Pick: Chargers A Winnah! Chargers win 20-17 -- I'll admit this one was a coin toss. Sometimes you get lucky.

  • Carolina +9 at Tampa Bay Pick: Panthers Wrong! Bucs win 23-10 -- On paper this was the NFL's best chance to get a 2-0 game in history. Since when did the Bucs get an offense?

  • Denver -4.5 at Seattle Pick: Broncos A Winnah! Broncos win 31-9 -- Yet another QB goes down. Has anyone thought to call Troy Aikman yet? Prediction: At the end of the season, Holmgren will call a tear-filled press conference to announce that he has fired himself.

  • New York Jets -3 at Detroit Pick: Jets A Winnah! Jets win 31-14 -- Low hanging fruit.

  • Jacksonville -6 at Houston Pick: Jaguars Wrong! Jags win 24-21 -- Is a mediocre team one that can only beat less than mediocre teams, or one that can only win or lose in a mediocre fashion? The Jags seem to think the latter. Am I even making sense?

  • New England +4 at Oakland Pick: Seniors A Winnah! Seniors win 27-20 -- Why does everything seem to go the Pats way? You could develop some sort of conspiracy theory. You know that episode of X-Files where in the Cigarette-Smoking man dictates to his cabal of shadowy puppet masters that "Buffalo will never win the Super bowl. Not while I'm alive." You are never given the reason. Of course, in the conspiracy theory you develop Paul Tagliabue plays the evil doer and the referees are the cabal. You can't think of a reason, but you don't really need one. I don't buy it. I can't imagine so blatant a conspiracy on that level going on for over a year and nobody speaking up out of fear of reprisal. Not a referee for martyrdom, no front office lackey looking for 15 minutes fame, everyone keep perfectly quiet. Nope, I don't buy it. Even Tony Soprano can't keep his people quiet. In the fiction business, we call that implausible.

    The only plausible explanation I can think of is that the Patriots are a bunch of soul-selling Satan-worshippers. It started with the now-so-infamous-it's-a-cliché tuck last year, the Super bowl victory, and then the Pats come out of the box like gangbusters this year. Suddenly, they slip up and lose four in a row. This, I believe, corresponds with a brief falling out with the Dark Lord. It could be that the Pats just got too big for their britches, thought they could win like mere mortals do, slacked up on the incantations, drew their pentagrams a little crooked, did a few too many good works.

    So they pull themselves together, rededicate themselves to the Prince of Darkness, double up on the ritualistic sacrifice of small furry mammals, and so forth. Listen to Tom Brady's audibles backwards and you will hear things like, "Satan is your buddy, Satan is a cool guy, send Satan a fruit basket...", you get the picture. What a turnaround. They get a victory over Drew Bledsoe, against a Bills team that plays worse than humanly possible. (I am of the opinion that Bledsoe was ousted from the Pats primarily because he never bought into the devil-worship thing.) At least two provident calls late in the game (the bumbled interception and the generous first down spotting) enable their last minute comeback over the Bears. And you can't tell me they weren't the beneficiaries of the influence of the Evil One against the Raiders - and not just the "duck" which saved them from a fumble. A Gannon pass bounces off the foot of a defender into the arms of a defensive lineman who waddles in for a touchdown. Who's kidding whom? That's clearly the result of some sort of arcane demonic curse, or perhaps Bill Belichick was carrying a Rich Gannon voodoo doll. Check the game tape closely.

    And still the Seniors won. They can now lay claim to having Beat the Devil. "The Devil went down to Oakland, He was looking for a game to steal..."

  • Chicago +10 at St. Louis Pick: Chicago A Winnah! Rams win 21-16 -- The question is "Is it indicative of a weakness if a team doesn't beat the spread?" Probably not. But I can't help but think the Rams should have won by more. Interesting. Chicago pushes the Patriots to the limit last week, and maintains respectability against the Rams. Could they be my new sleeper? This question and more will be answered in an upcoming episode of As The NFL Turns.
Football Picks - Week 12: The new offical name for the Patriots is the Evil Minions, or Minions for short. As mentioned above, the Falcons QB will be reffered to as Rhymes with Sick - sort of like an Indian name or something. With QBs dropping like passes to the Lions receivers, this was a tough week. Troy Aikman is the new Waldo.
  • Minnesota +7.5 at New England Evil Minions cover. I think the Minions want to beat up on someone. Their demonic deity owes them.

  • Tennessee -2 at Baltimore Titans cover. The Ravens are not as much better than everyone thinks as I thought they were. Re-read that. It makes sense.

  • Atlanta -3.5 at Carolina Falcons cover. How long before Rhymes with Sick gets tossed on the burgeoning QB rubble heap? It ain't gonna be the Panthers that do it.

  • Detroit +5 at Chicago Bears cover. This is one of the very few times you will see Chicago favored this season. Just for the record, this does NOT offcially make Chicago my new sleeper. It's just that they are playing the Lions.

  • Jacksonville -2.5 at Dallas Jags cover. Even a mediocre victory would cover that spread. The Cowboys have already called it a season.

  • San Diego +3 at Miami Chargers beat the spread. Sorry to the Fins, but one victory does not make you what you were. Cruel fate: I keep picking against the Fins - favorite team - and betting with the team of Rhymes with Sick. At least no one can accuse me of betting my heart instead of my head.

  • Cleveland +6 at New Orleans Browns beat the spread. I'm going out on a limb, but the Saints looked completely listless in their loss to Atlanta. Although that was only the second bad game they played all year, I'm rolling the dice and guessing they are running out of steam. At least running out of enough steam to win by a touchdown.

  • Buffalo +3 at New York Jets Bills beat the spread. Two very evenly matched teams. I'm not ready to go full force into beleiving the Jets are for real.

  • Cincinnati +10.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers cover. They could have fired-up for this game with cries of "Win One For Tommy!" but they don't have to. It's the Bengals. Kind of a shame for the Steelers that it worked out this way. They waste their once-a-season injured collegue inspriation since science is on their side. Also bad for Kordell Stewart since he really needs to prove himself, and slaughtering the Bengals proves nothing. How much you wanna bet that if Kordell makes a hash of this, the Steelers start considering Troy Aikman. (For the record, I hate going with the favorite on a big spread.)

  • Green Bay +3 at Tampa Bay Cheeseheads beat the spread. A lot on the line here: a leg up on home field advantage in the playoffs; the Cheese can clinch if they win and Minnesota loses (I think). I really have no idea what's going to happen. I think the Cheese are the better team, but they are away and the Tampa defense matches up well against them. My hopes are riding on the 3-point head start.

  • Kansas City -3.5 at Seattle Chiefs cover. All Seattle has left to prove is that it was all about Brett Favererer after all.

  • Oakland -8.5 at Arizona Seniors cover. I'll be suprised if the Seniors can't pretty much do whatever they want, however they want to do it. It's a fat spread, I hope they want to cover it.

  • St. Louis -5 at Washington Rams cover. The Potatoes were showing some promise but in his inexorible quest to screw things up, Spurrier decided it was time to mess with the QB again. Has he thought of calling Troy Aikman? Of course, the Rams QB situation isn't without question either. But with Marshall Faulk back (probably) they should win be able to win by a TD.

  • New York Giants -5.5 at Houston Giants cover. This should become the fourth win in a row for the Giants. Schroedinger's cat may have escaped.

  • Indianapolis +6.5 at Denver Colts beat the spread. A tough call with the Broncos at home. Denver is the one team that lost a QB last week and probably won't feel much adverse effect. But the Colts are really hitting stride, so I'll go with the 6.5 point bonus and hope my sleeper isn't fully awake yet.

  • Philadelphia +7 at San Francisco 49ers cover. This would have been tough for the Eagles even with McNabb. For that matter, this would be tough for the Eagles with Troy Aikman.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Two Quick Notes: 1) I have no idea why an ad banner is appearing at the top of the page. Some confusion between me and blogspot. I'll sort it out. Bear with me. 2) Football Friday is tomorrow (but you knew that already).
Assorted Linkage: Some curious links to chase away your boredom.
No Moore, Please!: Well, once again Michael Moore has oozed up from bowels of Flint, MI and subjected the human race to another movie. This one is called Bowling for Columbine, which is supposedly a scalding critique of the horribly sick culture we live in that forced the a couple of depraved maniacs to slaughter their classmates. I haven't seen it, and I have no intention of seeing as I refuse to contribute to Moore's obvious Krispy Kreme addiction, but it contains such clever humor as taking one of the Columbine victims, who still has a bullet lodged inside him, to Kmart to ask for a refund on the bullet. Moore's fans find this to be the height of comedy. This suggests Moore's fans skew heavily toward college freshmen who sit in coffee houses and laugh through their noses at Bill Maher.

As always, as soon as Moore puts anything out for public consumption it is quickly demonstrated to be noting but lies and innuendo. In Bowling for Columbine he goes to a Wal-Mart in Ontario to show how easy it is to purchase ammunition. In the movie, the clerk just hands it to him - but wait! It seems the Canadian Department of Justice wouldn't tolerate that; they investigate, but Moore will provide no details. Could it have been staged? I'm shocked!

Once again, Ben Fritz over at puts Moore's boundless mendacity on display for all to see.

Best ever description of Moore (I wish I knew where I heard it): Michael Moore puts the hippo in hypocrite.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Like Nelson Says, "HA HA": As you probably know by now, I hate spammers. I think they should all be drawn and quartered. No - drawn and sixteenthed, just for good measure. Equally evil are their spiritual forefathers, telemarketers. There is a $50 device called the Zapper which theoretically sends a signal back to the telemarketer over your phone line that automatically removes you from the calling list. Interesting, but it sounds kind of suspicious, doesn't it? Well, here's how it works and how you can duplicate it for free. (I got this via email, but I think it came from Wired.)
Junk mail can be tossed and spam can be filtered, but telemarketing has always had a technological edge. At least until the TeleZapper. The device - AS SEEN ON TV! - promises to erase you from telemarketers' lists and stop the unsolicited solicitations. And it works, at least until the industry devises a workaround. But why spend $50 for uninterrupted evenings? The fledgling Telemarketing Resistance has banded together online to help you do it for free. Just follow the steps below.

1. Get the Audio: The TeleZapper fools telemarketers' autodialing equipment by emitting the ascending three-note special-information tone you hear before, "We're sorry, the number you have reached has been disconnected." You can download this tone from the Web. Do a Google search for "sit.wav" to find one of these audiofiles.

2. Chop It Down: Open sit.wav in an audio-editing program like Microsoft Sound Recorder. Edit out the second and third notes. (You don't actually need those, and they're sure to annoy family and friends.) Save the WAV file.

3. Press Record: Play that one note on your computer and record it as the first sound on your answering machine's outgoing message. Follow with an oh-so-witty greeting.

4. Enjoy the Silence: Now sit back and screen those calls. Over time, telemarketers will get the "zapping" tone and take you off their lists.
My Apologies In Advance: Sorry to do this to you, but I felt it was necessary to pass this along. I have deemed it the Stupidest Joke Ever and I think you will too.
A Russian scientist and a Czechoslovakian scientist had spent their lives studying the majestic grizzly bear. Each year, they petitioned their governments to allow them to go to Yellowstone. Finally, their request was granted. But at Yellowstone, rangers told them it was mating season. It was much too dangerous. But this was their only chance, so the rangers relented. They were told to report in daily.

For several days they called in, and then nothing was heard from them. The rangers mounted a search. They found the scientists' camp ravaged, with no sign of the missing men. They followed the trail of a male and a female bear. They found the female and killed her. Cutting her open, they found the Russian's remains.

One ranger said, "You know what this means, don't you?"

(Are you ready for this?)

(Get ready!)

(Here's the punch line!)

"Of course," said the other ranger, "the Czech is in the male."
I feel terrible now. I'll do penance somehow, I promise.
It Gets Worse: What could be more depressing? I'll tell you. Howard Stern is planning to remake the movies Rock and Roll High School and Porky's. Note this.
Stern is waiting to see the completed scripts before deciding whether he'll play any onscreen roles in the movies.
Seeing as Stern stole his "look" directly and blatantly from Joey Ramome, he should be ashamed. Of course, that would be like a serial killer being ashamed of littering.
Ya Think?: I don't follow basketball too closely, but this comment, in Charlie Rosen's Page 2 column, from a Dallas Mavericks coach kind of stuck out.
Next up is one of Dallas' posse of assistant coaches, Del Harris. He explains that the Mavericks' overall philosophy is based on the concept that the team that scores the most points always wins the game.
I'm stunned. I can think of no snide comments regarding Captain Obvious that are worthy of that quote. Del Harris is also credited with the discovery that a player's height is directly proportional to how tall he is. In related news, scientists today announced the remarkable discovery that higher temperatures always occur when there is an increase in warmth. I could go on, but I don't want to make your head explode.

Friday, November 15, 2002

Football Results - Week 10: There was once a female stand-up comic named Judy Tenuta. Her signature line was to shout, "Worship me, pigs!" at the audience. And there was once an animated comedy called The Family Guy wherein a super-genius infant named Stewie plotted to take over the world. Stewie made liberal use of the imperative and would loudly inform everyone he met that "You will bow before me!"

Let me just say that those two have nothin' on me this week. 10-3-1. I repeat with gusto: 10-3-1. I'd be willing to bet that in the annals of game picking, you could count the number of times anyone has done that well without removing your shoes. Ah yes, that glow of victory has given me a nice bronzed skin tone this week. Strangers in the street involuntarily genuflect as I pass.

Did I mention that I was 10-3-1.
  • Indianapolis +9.5 at Philadelphia Pick: Colts - A Winnah! Let's see, including the 9.5 point bonus, Indy won by about 300 points.

  • Cincinnati +5.5 at Baltimore Pick: Ravens - A Winnah! There's really no point in bragging about this one. It's like picking the sun to rise tomorrow.

  • Detroit +10 at Green Bay Pick: Lions - Wrong! Bill "The Sports Guy" Simmons over at ESPN Page 2, who has forgotten more about picking football games than I will ever know, has an immutable rule: Never bet against Brett Favererer. Michele, blogmistress extraordinaire of A Small Victory, dropped a line before the game to guarantee the Packers would cover. It seems everybody was in on this but me. Understand: my expectation was that the Pack would run up a lead and then maybe slack a bit and let the Lions come within 10. When the halftime score was 30-7 I figured I was in good shape. The Pack could ease up, maybe even rest Brett Favererer, and let the Lions gut out a couple of ugly touchdowns for a 30 to 21 final and redemption for me. Sadly, even when slacking, the Packers could not help but outscore the Lions in the second half. That's the last time I pick the Lions for anything. Ever. (Unless the spread is big enough.)

  • Minnesota +1 at New York Giants Pick: Giants - A Winnah! "Meow," said the cat in the box.

  • Atlanta +5.5 at Pittsburgh Pick: Falcons - A Winnah! Lots of people are up in arms about the overtime rules - they want to get rid of sudden death, or at least assure that each team gets one chance on offense once OT begins. I'm fine with sudden death, I just wish they'd play until someone scores. Baseball and basketball go on until someone wins. Football and hockey don't (until the playoffs). What's the reasoning? Some of the most memorable games in history are those marathon sessions that occur in the hockey playoffs. Sister-kissing should be outlawed.

  • San Diego +5.5 at St. Louis Pick: Chargers - A Winnah! Poor Chargers, decidedly trounced by the Jets a week prior, then they blow it in the 4th Q. I'm glad they had the presence of mind to beat the spread.

  • Houston +10 at Tennessee Pick: Texans - A Winnah!. Thanks to the Titans for not distastefully running up the score.

  • New Orleans -5.5 at Carolina Pick: Saints - A Winnah! The most perfect example of how charmed I was last week. New Orleans was up by 3 in the last few seconds of the game. Now, if the Saints had possession, they would have just taken a knee and walked off - don't wanna run up the score or anything - without covering. But wait! On the final play it's a turnover! The lineman who recovers for New Orleans is so delighted to have a clear path to the end zone he doesn't think about the propriety of running up the score, he just goes for it. New Orleans ends up winning by 10. It is unlikely anything so provident will ever happen again in my lifetime. Like I said, 10-3-1.

  • Washington +3 at Jacksonville Pick: Potatoes - Wrong! Spurrier had appeared to be developing the first vestiges of a clue how to operate in the NFL, then he comes up with this. A big issue was made that Spurrier threw his visor to the ground in disgust. It's just throw, throw, throw with that guy.
  • Seattle +3.5 at Arizona Pick: Seahawks - A Winnah! I have it on reliable authority that Mike Holmgren had long talk with himself regarding the direction of the team an his future. Holmgren made it clear that Holmgren needed to win this game and that his job was on the line.

  • New England -3.5 at Chicago Pick: Patriots - Wrong! Wouldn't you know it? This was the one I picked as a no-brainer. This shoulda been a gimme, yet the Pats barely eek out a victory. What's more remarkable is that if they didn't benefit from some seriously friendly calls late in the game, they wouldn't have even won. How can they steamroller the Bills then have to luck out to beat the Bears? Why do I ask unanswerable questions like that? Do you picture me with a confused look on my face, kind of like A.J. Soprano?

  • Kansas City +6 at San Francisco Pick: Chiefs - A Winnah! All that whimpering for close games paid off. I feel young again. Like a child who can get whatever he wants just by whining.

  • Miami +3 at New York Jets Pick: Jets - Push! I kind of pity the Fins. I would guess they really put their best game on the field here. Talk about star-crossed, they go to all that trouble to try to get Cris Carter playing - a dubious decision in my book - and, sure enough, he promptly gets himself hospitalized. There are still two or three games until Fiedler returns. The temptation will be to try to do something to salvage the season, like pinning their hopes on the aging and heavily concussed Troy Aikman. Forget it. Ain't gonna happen. Let Lucas try to play his way through it. Give your rookies some field time. Experiment. If you manage to only lose one of the next three games, great, maybe you still have an outside chance at a playoff berth. But whatever happens, when Fiedler returns win every remaining game. Even if you don't make the playoffs, you'll build a sense that you were robbed by fate so that next year becomes your destiny. (Pretty good speech, eh? Enough stirring "wait 'til next year" speeches and you give the Red Sox a run for their money.)

  • Oakland +5.5 at Denver Pick: Raiders - A Winnah! Not bad for a bunch of old farts in a low oxygen environment. Gannon (age 73) completed 29 straight passes - yes, the one that was called out of bounds was actually a completion so I'm counting it - and used the 3-4 yard pass like Woody Hayes used a cloud of dust. Rod Woodson (age 86) had the game breaking interception, and Jerry Rice (age 112) caught two TDs. Afterwards they held interviews at the local Bill Knapps.

Football Picks - Week 11: I've decided to start implementing specialized nicknames for certain teams. Green Bay will be the Cheeseheads, or the Cheese for short; the reasons are obvious. I realize it's a cliche to refer to Wisconsinians (Wisconsinites?) like that, but the fact remains they are adults wearing cheese shaped headgear, so really, you owe it to them. The Raiders will be the Seniors, in honor of the discount they get at McDonalds. Washington will be the Potatoes, in deference to racial sensitivities. I thought about the Washington Burn Victims or the Washington Guys-Who-Are-Blushing-From-Embarrassment, but neither of those has the right ring. (Besides, aren't the Washington Burn Victims a minor league baseball team or something?)

Along similar lines, why in the world do they call them New Potatoes at Boston Market. What's New about them? Do they think if they call them Redskin Potatoes they will offend any Native Americans standing in line? Or would they convey a message of implicit support for Washington football, which wouldn't play well in Dallas? Look, they have RED SKIN, that's why they are called redskin potatoes. I mean, NEW as in what? Fresh? "Yes, these NEW potatoes arrived just recently, when they get old and rotten and mildewed, we'll mash 'em." Yum.

Oh, and speaking of comic ethnic food moments, you know that scene in the Godfather where Sollozzo and McClusky are meeting with Al Pacino. They drive to an Italian restaurant called Louis in the Bronx. As soon as they sit down, McClusky asks loudly, "How's the Italian food in this place?" Sollozzo tells him to try the veal. But that isn't the right answer. The right answer is "It's an Italian restaurant. It doesn't matter how the Italian food is here because that's all there is to eat. Idiot." One suspects that was in the script but changed at the last minute to preserve the weighty drama of the scene.

Am I rambling?
  • Green Bay -6.5 at Minnesota Cheeseheads cover. A touchdown margin of victory over the hapless Vikings should be a cakewalk. Still, the theme of the season is for teams to put together strings of impressive victories followed by head-scratching defeats to lamers. It could be the time for the Cheese to experience a head-scratcher, but I don't think so.

  • New Orleans +2.5 at Atlanta Saints beat the spread. Falcons won their last meeting - a seriously competitive game in New Orleans - despite the Saints playing well. That could either be indicative of the Falcons superiority, or it could be incentive for New Orleans to get revenge, or it could mean nothing. I still think the Saints are the better team, they have played only one bad game this year (an inexplicable loss to the Lions) whereas Atlanta only managed to come out of Pittsburgh with a tie thanks to inept play calling and place-kicking form the Steelers. And I (wishfully) sense the league closing in on Michael Vick.

  • Cleveland -3.5 at Cincinnati Browns cover. Scientifically speaking.

  • Dallas +6.5 at Indianapolis Colts cover. Indy is has momentum after body-slamming Philly and I think Peyton Manning knows what to do with it. Besides, the Cowboys really have no reason to play, and haven't really wanted to all year.

  • Buffalo +3.5 at Kansas City Bills beat the spread. This is a toughie. Buffalo failed miserably against New England a couple of weeks ago, but I'm hoping the bye last week works to get Bledsoe's head back on straight.

  • Baltimore +4.5 at Miami Ravens beat the spread. It wounds me to keep picking against Miami, but I get the sense that the Fins put everything they had out there last week against the Jets and came up empty. I see no reason to suspect they have turned anything around. Interesting: Miami loses QB and WR and end up in a deep hole and starts trolling for TV personalities to replace them. Steelers lose QB and RB and somehow manage to pull a better QB and RB off the bench. Just not the year of the Fins.

  • Pittsburgh -3 at Tennessee Steelers cover. The Titans are a solid team, but the Steelers who were erroneously picked by many for the Super Bowl before the season, would be a correct pick now that their offense is centered around second stringers.

  • Washington +3.5 at New York Giants Potatoes beat the spread. Giants are too unreliable, Schroedinger's Cat dies this week.

  • Arizona +11.5 at Philadelphia Cardinals beat the spread. The Eagles have faltered the last two weeks. How can you not take 11.5 points? I'd even be tempted to take the Bengals +11.5 over Philly. Just tempted, though.

  • San Francisco -2.5 at San Diego Chargers beat the spread. San Diego slipped up in the fourth quarter last week. Niners were not overly impressive in beating Kansas City. Basically what I'm saying is I have no idea.

  • Carolina +9 at Tampa Bay Panthers beat the spread. Kind of out on a limb here, but last time they played Tampa Bay won 12-9 in a snoozer. Also, although Carolina has lost it's last 6 straight, five of those losses have come in the waning minutes of the game. With a 9 point bonus I'll take the risk.

  • Denver -4.5 at Seattle Broncos cover. Here's to last week being a fluke for both teams.

  • New York Jets -3 at Detroit Jets cover. Should be an interesting battle between two talented young QBs whose last names end in -ington. I don't know which of the -ingtons is better, I do know the Harr- plays for the Lions.

  • Jacksonville -6 at Houston Jags cover. Jacksonville pretty much defines average. But that should be a touchdown better than the Texans.

  • New England +4 at Oakland Seniors cover. The defending Super Bowl champs with a four point bonus is tempting. But New England is hard to figure. They flatten the Bills one week, in a game they should have lost, then the next week comes around and they barely squeak by the Bears in the last minute. The Raiders Retirement Community absolutely owned the Broncos last week, after four straight losses, but can they beat the Pats by more than a field goal? I'm thinking the crotchety old geezers have one more win in them.

  • Chicago +10 at St. Louis Bears beat the spread. Back at the start of the season, the Rams got it in their heads that they didn't need to run Marshall Faulk constantly to win. That clever strategy landed the sheep at 0-5. Since then Faulk has been the center of the sheep herd and they are 5-0. With Faulk out this week, a ten point head start to the Bears is too good to pass up. What's that you say, Faulk might play after all? That makes this a nasty pick. I'll stick with Chicago on the odd chance that even if Faulk plays he's not 100%. My fearless prediction: this is the game where it becomes clear that the Rams want Warner instead of Bulger. I count on you to forget about that if it doesn't come true.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Another Memo: I had hoped to get something up before Friday football posts, but I got terribly distracted by The Godfather Saga, on Bravo. The Godfather Saga is a re-cutting of Godfather parts 1 and 2 such that the story is in chronological order. Additionally, there is a bunch of footage that was cut out of the originals.

Many people believe the Godfather 1 and 2 to be the greatest movies ever made. I never agreed. (Are you surprised about that? You must be new here.) Excellent movies, yes, but not the works of awe and splendor that they are often described as. For the record, Goodfellas is the best mob movie ever made. However, the added footage really adds to the story; it fleshes out the incidental characters and just generally better explains the motivation behind the actions that move the plot forward. Still not as good as Goodfellas, but definitely a step up the greatness ladder. Sadly, you cant get the Godfather Saga on DVD. The closest you get, is a multi-CD package that includes all three movies (including extra footage) and a couple of CDs of ancillary "Making of" type nonsense. For 70 bucks. Sorry, I'll pass. Coppola is rich enough. If anyone knows of a way to get just the Godfather Saga on DVD, please pass it along (no I don't mean record it on your Tivo and burn a DVD, but thanks for the offer).

Plus, I am at war with a head cold that is trying to cause me undeserved grief. I must fight. I must win. So for the moment I lack energy for major posting. At least until football Friday.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Memo - From:Me, To:You, Re:Status: I know it's not Friday, but let me just say the football gods smiled upon me this weekend. Which us appropriate since they owe me. Judging from the current state of the Monday night game (in progress as I type), I may actually end up 10-3-1. Unheard of.

I haven't discussed the redesign lately because I haven't been working on it much. I have decided to go to three columns instead of two, because I want to wedge as much of the permanent material up towards the top of the page to draw attention to it. I'm also considering moving from Blogger to something called Moveable Type as the post engine. Most bloggers I know who've made the switch think it is wonderful, but it means temporal deficit spending (i.e. more time than I have). And I'm already unhappy with the heading of the redesign. I just can't seem to make myself go with a decision - I always feel like there is something more I should do first (a microcosm of my life).

The search for a publisher for A Pleasure Doing Business With You continues to cycle through hope and disappointment ad nauseam. It WILL see the light of day - I guarantee. Eventually.

There are only a few episodes of the Sopranos left this year. It has been very uneven - occasional greatness, moments of uncharacteristic vacuity. Once it's over I'll probably do an updated sequel to my HBO original programming review.

Now back to your regularly scheduled posts.
Tube Notes: Speaking of TV, it looks like there is a move afoot to pressure cable providers into providing a la carte programming subscriptions. Apparently, there is evidence to suggest that cable companies are required to do this by legislation. It may be worth a shot to contact your local cable monopoly and see what they say, but I'm thinking it's a long shot. I don't know what there would be to stop them from setting pricing so that a la carte is way too expensive.

In another vein, it seems that HDTV is a girl's best friend. That settles it. Chicks are the new guys.
Vegas Matrix: An utterly absorbing article on Vegas is posted over at Popular Science. It's about seven pages long and it's packed with fascinating info on how Vegas operates beneath the surface.
What made Budz rich, and what has made casinos even richer in recent years, are new digital networks that connect virtually every slot machine in every casino in the country. Wheel of Fortune, for instance, is part of the MegaJackpots system, a network within 18 states and one Native American reservation that encompasses more than 8,000 machines, about half of them in Nevada. Because all these slots are wired together, every coin and bill inserted is monitored and tallied by banks of central computers, often hundreds of miles away. The maximum jackpot, advertised in flashing digits above each cluster of machines, mounts identically and simultaneously with each spin.
All this networking has allowed for a hidden revolution in odds (which I'm not sure I'm clear on).
Every game - slots, cards, sports betting, even bingo - is now attempting to adapt a [Norwegian mathematician Inge] Telnaes-style solution: Decrease the odds without increasing apparent complexity. That allows bigger prizes, which increases - by staggering quantities - the amount of money people are willing to gamble: In gambler-think, 10 bucks for a shot at a few thousand dollars is one thing; a hundred bucks for a shot at millions is another, even if the odds are much, much worse.
The result of this was the money began pouring into Vegas even faster - and so did cheaters.
[No thieves were more efficient] than Ronald Dale Harris, whose job as a software engineer for the state Gaming Control Board was to write slot machine anti-cheating software. Harris surreptitiously coded a hidden software switch - tripped by inserting coins in a predetermined sequence - that would trigger cash jackpots. After retooling more than 30 machines, Harris and accomplices made the rounds, walking away with hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So the casino build up counter-measures
...hundreds of cameras linked to banks of video recorders, software that can match physical characteristics to shared databases of the faces, names, and histories of suspicious individuals - all run from hidden control centers.
And so it goes. Good read. Enjoy.

Friday, November 08, 2002

Football Results - Week 9:There are three stages of primatological de-evolution involved in getting eviscerated by the NFL. You begin the day as a rational intelligent Homo Sapiens, by mid-Sunday a passer-by might mistake you for a retarded Baboon, and by the end, you are the intellectual equivalent to a hydrocephalic Tree Shrew.
  • New England +2.5 at Buffalo - Pick: Bills beat the spread. Wrong! This would have been my first clue that things were not going to go well for me. There is just no way this should have happened.

  • Minnesota +7.5 at Tampa Bay - Pick: Vikings beat the spread. Wrong! I was counting on a low scoring game, what with Tampa Bay's anemic offense (no offensive TDs in their last two games) and Minnesota being, well, Minnesota. I just thought the 7.5 might be a more appropriate over/under.

  • Baltimore +7.5 at Atlanta - Pick: Falcons cover. Wrong! I was happy to see that Baltimore got to Vick - a few sacks, minus 5 yards rushing - of course the net result was that the Falcons didn't cover. Now I'm even more sick of Vick.

  • Philadelphia -6.5 at Chicago - Pick: Eagles cover. Wrong! This should have been the blow out - not NE/Buffalo. Apparently Chicago provided the Eagles with their best chance to sleepwalk through a game and still win. So they did. Slackers. Have they no concept of THE SPREAD?

  • Pittsburgh -3 at Cleveland - Pick: Steelers cover. Push. At this point in the day, I was declaring this a resounding victory for me.

  • Dallas +3 at Detroit - Pick: Lions cover. Wrong! The Lions had more points (9) than first downs (8). You will never see this game on ESPN Classic. Tapes of this game are being used in sleep disorder clinics around the country.

  • Cincinnati +3 at Houston - Pick: Texans cover. Wrong! There is a misguided saying about how an exception "proves the rule." Muddleheaded people often say this when something contradicts an accepted belief as justification for continuing to hold that belief despite the contradiction. They think the meaning of the saying is that the existence of an exception only verifies the rule. That is the stupidest thing ever. It's like saying that the fact that the world is round proves that it's flat. In fact, the word 'prove' in this instance is synonymous with 'challenge', not 'verify' (you can look it up). Now, as we all know, it is a scientific fact that any team can beat the Bengals by any amount they wish. At times like this I wish I were muddleheaded enough just to call it an exception that proves the rule. But I can't. I have too much respect for the integrity of science and the scientific method. The only possible scientific conclusion is that the Texans, for unknown reasons, wanted to lose by 35 points. If I were the commissioner, I'd be running a scandal investigation.

  • Tennessee +3.5 at Indianapolis - Pick: Titans beat the spread. A Winnah! The Colts are clearly worse than I thought. If the Titans hadn't slacked in the 4th Q it would have been an enormous blowout. I need to keep that in mind for week 10. Have you noticed how far you have had to read before you reached a good pick? Are you still awake, even?

  • New York Jets +7.5 at San Diego - Pick: Chargers cover. Wrong! How in the name of all that's holy...ah, never mind. I don't even want to talk about it.

  • San Francisco +3 at Oakland - Pick: Raiders cover. Wrong! This is what I was talking about when I implied NE/Buffalo set the tone for the day. Just like Buffalo, Oakland had every reason in the world to win this game. The Raiders appear to be making a ham-fisted attempt at suicide.

  • St. Louis -3 at Arizona - Pick: Rams cover. A Winnah! Rams are beginning to show their true colors and I suspect they can smell a playoff berth despite their horrendous start. Apparently that smell of a playoff berth is identical to the smell of Marshall Faulk after a hundred yard game. It's not something I want to dwell on.

  • Washington +3 at Seattle - Pick: Redskins beat the spread. A Winnah! It occurred to me, if you don't like Washington because of their racially offensive name, just think of them as the Potatoes. Apropos of nothing.

  • Jacksonville +3 at New York Giants - Pick: Giants cover. A Winnah! This was pure luck. There is simply no way to tell if you're going to get the good Giants or the bad Giants. I'd use Schroedinger's Cat as a metaphor but I don't have the energy.

  • Miami +4.5 at Green Bay - Pick: Packers cover. A Winnah! This was a real no brainer, which works out well for a hydrocephalic Tree Shrew.
5-8-1. And that good only because of a heroic comeback in the night games. Maybe I should just play Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Point-Spread to get my picks in the future. So that leaves me at a politely humble 12-14-2 for the season.
Football Picks - Week 10: Like a battered co-dependent I keep coming back for more.
  • Indianapolis +9.5 at Philadelphia Colts beat the spread. If Philly couldn't beat Chicago by 6.5 last week, how are they going to beat Indy by 9.5? Also, note how I am already ignoring what I said about Indy in last weeks results.

  • Cincinnati +5.5 at Baltimore Baltimore covers. I remain blinded by science.

  • Detroit +10 at Green Bay Lions beat the spread. OK, so I'm out on a limb. But Green Bay is due for a bad game and all they have to do is slack off when they have a big lead in the fourth quarter so the Lions can beat the spread.

  • Minnesota +1 at New York Giants Giants cover. I'm counting on Schroedinger's Cat living and the good Giants showing up at home.

  • Atlanta +5.5 at Pittsburgh Falcons beat the spread. If I'm so sick of Vick, why do I keep picking Atlanta? Beats me. All I need is a close game here. Ideally, Vick gets hammered and the Steelers win by a field goal.

  • San Diego +5.5 at St. Louis Chargers beat the spread. Same as above. St Louis is in pursuit of that smell, and San Diego is waffling, but all I need is a close game.

  • Houston +10 at Tennessee Texans beat the spread. I just can resist betting on teams to beat these double-digit spreads.

  • New Orleans -5.5 at Carolina Saints cover. The only bad game the Saints have played was against the Lions. Just win by a TD. That's all I ask.

  • Washington +3 at Jacksonville Potatoes beat the spread. I've gone with Washington for no good reason the last two weeks and they've come through, so I see no need to change.

  • Seattle +3.5 at Arizona Seahawks beat the spread. If Seahawks Head Coach/General Manager Mike Holmgren doesn't win eventually he's going to have to fire himself.

  • New England -3.5 at Chicago Patriots cover. Truth be told: I'm not all that confident in my picks this week (unlike last week - guffaw!), but if there's a no brainer this week it oughta be this one. If I'm wrong, well, I'll just have to edit this post.

  • Kansas City +6 at San Francisco Chiefs beat the spread. I still maintain that the Chiefs are better than their record. That whimpering you hear is the sound of me begging for yet another close game.

  • Miami +3 at New York Jets Jets cover. It started out well, for the Fins. They got hot early. They beat the Patriots in one of the most exciting football games ever. Then the injuries started. WR Gasden and, more importantly, QB Fieldler. To call backup QB Ray Lucas ineffective is overly kind. Now even he has an injury and is questionable, which brings up the prospect of third stringer Sage Rosenfels, who looked like a lost child in a crowded airport for the handful of plays he ran on Monday. (What kind of name is that for a football player? Sage isn't a QB, it’s an earth tone.) The Fins pull Cris Carter out of the HBO studio to bolster their receiving crew, but he’s clearly not comfortable yet. Now they are looking to pull Troy Aikman out of the Fox studio to solve their QB woes. That might actually work if they had more time - but no way can these two sports announcers get it all together for a run this year. At this pace, they'll be lucky to make the playoffs.

  • Oakland +5.5 at Denver Raiders beat the spread. Yeah, it's hard to imagine Denver not winning at home. But all the Raiders have to do is make a game of it. I keep hoping that vaunted Raider attitude will come through and prevent them from losing these high profile games. Now would be a good time for that to happen.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Writers Are, Like, Smart Guys, You Know: OK, this is self-serving. I came across a couple of articles about how brilliant and wonderful writers are, so I think you should read them. First, this article about pre-discovery - the act of explaining a cosmological concept long before it is discovered by physicists. Turns out Edgar Allen Poe pre-discovered the big bang and black holes, in his own way.

More impressively, David Lodge, author of a bunch of comic novels (including the delightful Changing Places), provides a longish read on how and why we may get the best insights about human consciousness from fiction.
There are some thinkers in cognitive science, or on the fringes of it, who have acknowledged as much. Noam Chomsky, for instance, has said: "It is quite possible... that we will always learn more about human life and personality from novels than from scientific psychology." The reason is that science tries to formulate general explanatory laws which apply universally, which were in operation before they were discovered, and which would have been discovered sooner or later by somebody.

Works of literature describe in the guise of fiction the dense specificity of personal experience, which is always unique, because each of us has a slightly or very different personal history, modifying every new experience we have; and the creation of literary texts recapitulates this uniqueness (that is to say, Jane Austen's Emma , for example, could not have been written by anybody else, and never will be written by anyone else again, but an experiment demonstrating the second law of thermodynamics is and must be repeatable by any competent scientist).
Well, of course I think so.
May I Suggest Hooked On Phonics?: Long time reader and all around good egg, Inne ten Have, passed along this hilarious sound bite. An Australian radio station was giving away ACDC CDs, all the guy who called in had to do was spell A-C-D-C. One suspects a good deal of Foster's Lager was involved in this. (It's about 850K, it'll take a minute or two to download.)
Thank You Sir May I Have Another: You may have been following the scandals surrounding University of Michigan basketball (yeah, it's local, and it's my alma mater, so I'm going to rant a bit) wherein Chris Weber and others members of the now infamous Fab Five of the early '90s accepted loans from some numbers runner while they were on the team. This is, of course, forbidden by the NCAA and U of M faced punishment. Today the president of U of M announced preemptive punishment which should no doubt satisfy the NCAA poobahs once they take up the issue.
"I am determined that nothing like this will ever happen again at Michigan," [UM President Mary Sue] Coleman said. "Let me say loud and clear: Integrity is our top priority."
To prove this, she announced the following punitive steps.
* U-M will forfeit all games won while the four players were ineligible, including the 1992 and 1993 Final Fours, the entire 1992-93 season, and all the seasons from fall 1995 through spring of 1999. The University has removed four championship banners from Crisler Arena and will remove all references to the victories from all written materials.

* U-M has promised to repay to the NCAA about $450,000 in revenue for postseason play with the players.

* The basketball team will not participate in the 2003 NCAA Tournament or the post-season National Invitational Tournament.

* The basketball program will go on probation for two years.
This is insane. What, exactly, is the point of forfeiting an entire decade of games? What does that achieve? And removing all references to the victories from all written materials? Huh? This is like Pharaoh removing all references to Moses in the Ten Commandments. Even Pete Rose hasn't been erased from the baseball record. All that does is make the written materials inaccurate.

And what sense does it make not to play in the postseason this year? Deny your current team - none of whom had any contact with the known crooks, all of whom want every opportunity to play in high profile situation for the scouts and were probably thinking about that when they were recruited - a chance at post-season accolades because of something Chris Weber did 10 years ago?

Pay the fines, fire anyone associated with the crooks, take the hit on future recruiting, be contrite, then move on. That's all you have to do. It'll hurt enough. Coleman appears to want to flagellate everyone in sight, guilty and innocent, so she can pat herself on the back over her image of integrity. But the real costs to real people don't justify her exercise in moral indignation.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Weekend Warrior: I know I promised not to post about football until Friday, but let me just say 5-8-1. Ah, well. Despite that, I had a good weekend. I played hookey on Monday because HRH Miss Anna was in town with her Mom and friend, Kate and Katie respectively. We had a great time scurrying all around Ann Arbor including a visit to the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. Highly recommended, if you have critters to entertain. Equally fun for the girls was crossing the diag. Needless to say, the 10-year olds were thoroughly unimpressed with the college scene, instead preferring to classify everyone they saw into one of five categories, solely on looks. Everyone was either a Geek, Jock, Problem, Independent, Freak, or Gay. It's good to see they are well prepared to be shallow, yet popular, teenaged girls. Anyway, a it was a truly great day from start to finish.
What To Read: The best thing I've come across from web reading lately is Business 2.0. They post the entire print magazine - for free - a couple of weeks after it hits the stands. This month you get a look at the latest Mercedes and all the high tech stuff that keeps a ham-fisted driver like you from mangling it.
Not that you'd smoke in this car, of course. That wouldn't be good for you. And this would displease the SL, since virtually every system onboard is focused on making things safer for you, the hapless, error-prone human. Are you taking that corner too fast? Not to worry. By now, one of the 13 sensors tucked between the coils and the car body has noticed your foolishness, and the car has already tightened the suspension to eliminate 95 percent of the body roll. Have you wigged out a bit in traffic, slammed the brakes into a spin? Well, actually, the SL would not have let you endanger it like this. When it sensed you were getting into trouble (by analyzing the time elapsed between when you removed your foot from the electronic throttle and when you hit the brakes), it launched a host of countermeasures to ward off your clumsiness.
Who needs a chauffeur? Then there's a quick note about a scary new soft drink. Lots of good reading. Peruse when have the time.

Friday, November 01, 2002

Halloween is the New Christmas: Good grief. I'm sorry, but it's really gotten out of hand.

It starts with a hyperthyroidal fruit; gutted, and carved to resemble a disembodied head. We do this for the sake of entertaining the children, then we're shocked when the teacher wants to know why little Billy keeps saying, "It puts the lotion in the basket."

Then there are the witches with long noses and warts and cackling laughs, and zombies with deformed faces and eerie speech impediments, all designed to scare us silly. Let's see, Rosie O'Donnell, Howard Stern, Ozzy Osbourne, Michael Moore, Anna Nicole and Dennis Franz's butt have all gotten air time in the past few years. You do the math.

Next, we are subjected to a thirteen hour marathon of Friday the 13th movies, where we witness minor horrors such as graphic depictions of beheadings, to major horrors such as dialog like "Jason is out there. This isn't a game. You'll be sorry you didn't listen to me." Ya think?

The costumes are intended pay homage to demons and terrifying creatures of the underworld, which apparently would place Spiderman and the Powerpuff Girls as minions of the Dark Lord. OK fine, if little kids want to dress up that's OK, but it's not OK for adults at work. I just can't get comfortable with my pasta marinara being served by a waitress with a fake axe embedded in her head. (Aside: Best costume I ever saw was worn by a guy I lived with in the dorm who went to a party in preppy clothes with a small bullseye drawn on his forehead. It was a JFK costume. One sick, sick puppy. Cracks me up to this day.)

And just like Christmas, it's excruciatingly drawn out for weeks before hand so we can drown in cheesy decorations, excessive refined sugar, and tedious TV reruns.

There's only one good strategy for dealing with Halloween. Barricade yourself in your home and turn off all the lights and cower like a camp counselor hiding from Jason and hope the trick-or-treaters don't notice you.
Football Picks - Week 8: I'm reserving Friday for football posts for the rest of the season. Just in case this bores you.
  • New England +2.5 at Buffalo Patriots cover. Bills beat the spread. [[correction 11/3/02 - it should be obvious that I meant to pick the Bills to beat the spread. I am admitting this even though it makes me wrong. I will use this occurance in the future to prove just how honest I am.]] The Pats are sliding and Bledsoe would just love to put the nail in the coffin. Bills should cruise at home.

  • Minnesota +7.5 at Tampa Bay Vikings beat the spread. Minnesota looked alive last week, but the Bears don't quite have the Bucs defense. Still even if the Bucs shut 'em out they'll probably only win 6-0.

  • Baltimore +7.5 at Atlanta Falcons cover. As much as my heart tells me I am sick of Vick. My head says the Lewis-deprived Ravens don't stand a chance.

  • Philadelphia -6.5 at Chicago Eagles cover. They should win by at least a TD.

  • Pittsburgh -3 at Cleveland Steelers cover. Pittsburgh is a great team just hitting it's stride.

  • Dallas +3 at Detroit Lions cover. Cowboys have nothing to play for. Yikes. Did I just pick the Lions? I feel faint.

  • Cincinnati +3 at Houston Texans cover. The coach of the Bengals has guaranteed a victory. Now, let's stop and think about that. He's trying to motivate his players by guaranteeing a victory against an expansion team with a human blocking dummy as a quarterback. If you truly believe you are a good team and want to motivate your players, guarantee a victory against the Packers or Steelers. Guaranteeing a win against the Texans is like saying "Yeah, we totally suck, but not totally totally." Meanwhile, the Texans are thinking "They couldn't beat a JV High School team, but they guarantee they will beat us? Let's kill 'em!" The strategy needs work, is all I'm saying.

  • Tennessee +3.5 at Indianapolis Titans beat the spread. The Colts annoyed me by losing last week. This week they may annoy me by winning, but I'm hoping it's only by a field goal.

  • New York Jets +7.5 at San Diego Chargers cover. This strikes me as a no-brainer. The only way this fails is if the Chargers are winning by like 21 at half time and then fall asleep while the Jets snag a couple of cheap TDs and only lose by 7.

  • San Francisco +3 at Oakland Raiders cover. Ooh, this is a nasty one. Oakland is not playing it's best, but they are certainly a great team. I'll give them the nod at home, against arch-rivals, and hope as a veteran team they will respond to their current crisis.

  • St. Louis -3 at Arizona Rams cover. Five losses followed by 2 wins and a bye. Last week I noticed that many teams are beginning to approach their pre-season expectations. I'm betting the Rams are coming into form.

  • Washington +3 at Seattle Redskins beat the spread. Similar to last week's 'Skins/Colts game - a meeting of two underachievers. Last week, I picked the Colts and the 'Skins won. This week I'll pick the 'Skins. You see, I got a pretty complicated system going here.

  • Jacksonville +3 at New York Giants Giants cover. Giants only perform well every ten plays or so. Still, that should be enough against the Jags and their spit drenched coach.

  • Miami +4.5 at Green Bay Packers cover. The line on this game dropped from 5.5 down to anywhere from 3.5 (MGM/Mirage) to 4.5(Caesars/Hilton) after doubt was expressed over the status of Brett Fraverver. Even if he doesn't play the full game, the Fins still need Ray Lucas to get himself sorted out, Chris Carter to integrate properly, and a 72 degree temperature at game time for them to succeed. Not likely.