Thursday, December 23, 2004

Down and Out in The Winter Wonderland: It's break time. No more posting until after the holidays. I need to write fiction and besides, all I can think to do is vent about winter to you. What a pain in the ass it was to get around in the snow that fell this morning, and the reward for that is a few days of single digits, thank you very much. One day soon I am going have a genuine this-is-where-Cameron-goes-berserk moment.

To remind me of happier times, here's the journal of my last Vegas trip. And I'll catch up with you in '05.
Football Picks -- Week 16: OK, this is the last of them. I'm not posting again until next year so maybe we'll have a recap then.

Here is all the background info. You know the routine by now.

First up teams that are 40+ points superior in DVOA and favored by less than a touchdown. There are none.

Next up, games where a team is favored by 7+ points but has less than a 30 point DVOA advantage (DVOA advantage in parenthesis):
  • Indiana (27.5) -7 over San Diego

  • Seattle (6.9) -7 over Arizona

  • Miami (6.5) -8.5 over Cleveland

I'll skip taking San Diego because of Indiana's propensity for scoring a bazillion points meaning a 7 point spread for them is more like a 4 point spread for anyone else. I'll skip taking Arizona because they are just so bad. So we come to Miami -- this is where I could begin repeating my early season mantra 'The Fins are not as bad as everyone says.' But I won’t. They still don’t have much of an o-line. I think this line is a reaction to last week's fluke win over the Patriots. So as much as it saddens me, I have to take Cleveland and the eight and a half points.

Lastly we come to games where the team with the superior DVOA is the underdog. Here we again have three, including what must be one of the most whacked out lines in history:
  • Atlanta (14.5) +5 at New Orleans

  • Houston (1.4) +7 at Jacksonville

  • Philly (76.7) +3 at St. Louis

I'm going to take the underdog and the points in all these. A lot of what goes into these is the assumption that teams that have something to play for -- some playoff scenario where it benefits them to win -- are going to be motivated enough to do better than the team that doesn’t. I'm not sold on that. See: Miami v New England last Monday.

In fact the PHL-STL game has the most whacked out spread I have seen relative to DVOA. But it is also a special situation. Philadelphia is 76.7 DVOA points superior to St. Louis, but St. Louis is the favorite by 3 points. Now this is probably the result of two things, 1) The injury to Terrell Owens and 2) the fact that Philly has nothing to play for, having clinched home field advantage through the playoffs.

But if you wan to play psychologist Philly does have something to prove in that they need to show they can win without Owens. Also, Philly is still the best team in the NFC. Also, the Rams are the most overrated team in football. I have to take Philly. If I was in Vegas, I'd bet a wad on this one.

So here's the last of them for this year:
  • Cleveland +8.5 at Miami

  • Atlanta +5 at New Orleans

  • Houston +7 at Jacksonville

  • Philly +3 at St. Louis

Whatever the outcome it's been an incredible season of picks. Maybe I'll quit my job, move south, and bet football games for a living.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Shiver: As I write this, the official temperature for Ann Arbor, Michigan is 3 (or trece, in Espanol de Bono). That's an insulting temperature. It's not much different from zero, but it's like, if you looked really hard you could find a little heat out there. Bollocks. Global warming cannot come fast enough for me. My next car will be a Hummer.


Remember that hotel I was going to stay at in New York, Dream; it was close when i arrived and I ended up getting fobbed off on HoJo's? You can read about it here. Anyway, it seems they are finally open for business, but just barely. Check out these comments over at Hotel Chatter. Apparently, some of the workers have a slight hygiene problem:
One big problem with these contractors: They left an absolutely vile stench in the elevators, or on the floors that they would visit. Now the first time you get a waft B.O. you might think, one rotten apple, but time after time as these contractors entered and left different elevators and different floors the stench was literally unbearable.

Well, that's one problem they didn’t have at HoJo's.


This cracked me up. The Ten Most Accurately Rated Artists in Rock History. Get this:

6. My Bloody Valentine: On the surface, My Bloody Valentine should be underrated, but they’re not; everyone who aggressively cares about alt guitar music considers Loveless to be a modern classic, and everyone who is wont to mention “swirling guitars” during casual conversation always references this specific album. Loveless sold about 200,000 copies. This is the correct number of people on earth who should be invested in the concept of swirling guitars.


It looks the FCC has approved in-flight wireless for next year, which is very cool; of course, it will be a while before one airline decides to make it free and the others jump on the bandwagon. Until then, it'll be an arm and a leg.

They haven’t quite approved of cell phones. Interestingly, they are no longer worried about safety -- which means the existing ban has been one of the biggest bureaucratic jerk offs in history. No what they are no worried about is whether allowing cell phone conversations will be annoying to other passengers. Well, that's actually none of their business. That should be up to the airlines to set policy. Busybodies. This is the reason the poor flight attendants have to explain how to buckle a seat belt before every flight. If they are really worried about preventing things that are annoyances to passenger, I could provide a list.

But speaking of that, why is it so annoying when the person next you is talking on a cell phone. Why is that worse than holding a conversation with the person next to them (which is unlikely to be banned)? I know it is, but why? Anyone have an answer?


The Wire just closed up another amazing season, sadly amid signs that it may not be renewed. If that's the case, it will be the first gutless move by HBO I can recall. But I'll wait until it actually happens to rail about it.


It's a Wonderful Life, reenacted in 30 seconds. By bunnies. Would that all of Christmas (and Winter) passed so quickly.


I guess the only thing to keep me warm is my football record. I was 3-0-1 in my picks this week. How cool hot is that?

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Football Picks – Week 15: Only a couple of weeks left in the season. I know many of you will be glad. I, on the other hand, will need something new. How about online poker? Dangerous.

Anyway, here's where you can read the background on my selection method and get the latest decision grid for all NFL games. Below, a team's DVOA advantage is in parenthesis.

As always, we start with teams that are 40+ percentage points superior in DVOA and are favored by a touchdown or less. This week, that amounts to one:

Washington (47.3) -4.5 at San Francisco

That's cool with me. We'll take the 'Skins.

Next up we look for underdogs of a touchdown or more but with small(er) DVOA deficits. I do not have a rule of thumb for what small(er) DVOA deficits are. Anything under 30 is worth a look at least. Once again, there is only one in that category.

Indiana (19.4) -8 at Baltimore

I'm going to pass on this one. Baltimore has a great defense, but Indiana is at home and they have this disturbing habit of scoring a bajillion points at times.

Lastly, we look for disconnects -- games where the team with the superior DVOA is the underdog. This week we have a whopping six of these:
  • Carolina (17.4) +3 at Atlanta

  • Houston (30.9) +1 at Chicago

  • Minnesota -3 at Detroit (0.2)

  • Denver -1 at Kansas City (4.0)

  • St Louis -3 at Arizona (2.6)

  • Tennessee (1.3) +2.5 at Oakland

Wow. Where to begin? How about the beginning. I'm going to take Carolina although I'm rather scared to because it's Atlanta at home. But Atlanta has clenched the division and Carolina has come on so strong it's worth the risk. I've got to take Houston just because of the huge DVOA spread. I'll also take Detroit at home and suddenly with a running game, and hope Mike Tice keeps calling silly plays. KC over Denver is tough; Denver has something to fight for so I'll pass. I can’t take Arizona with the quarterback situation the way it is. Tennessee at Oakland -- I have no clue so I'll pass.

Thus, this week's picks:
  • WAS -4.5 over SF

  • CAR +3 over ATL

  • Houston +1 over Chicago

  • Detroit +3 over Minnesota

For the record I did my picking on Friday night with the intent of posting on Saturday, then I turned on Sportscenter and they were talking about today's games. At least I'll have these up before any of the games end.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Latest "I like the change of seasons, it helps me appreciate them," is a typical response you get when you whine about the winter. That's kind of like saying, I like getting beaten on the knees and elbows with a rubber mallet because you appreciate it when it stops.

I have always hated winter. I hate driving in it. I hate going to work in the dark, even though I'm my usual 15 minutes late, and I hate that the sun sets shortly after Noon. I hate my down comforter. I hate shaking the snow off the paper in the morning. I hate winter coats. I hate keeping my windows shut. I hate what the arid, forced air heat does to my silken skin.

And when it comes to skiing, I suck Lake Michigan through a straw.

And here in Michigan the onset of cold weather also means the onset of kamikaze deer leaping out in front of your car at three in the morning when you are driving back from the bar in a just under legally intoxicated condition. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.)

Fun fact: Hunting and/or farming deer for commercial purposes is against the law. We are swamped with the carcasses of suicidal deer alongside every road, but if you want to order a venison fillet, it'll have to be imported from New Zealand or somewhere.

To quote Jimmy Buffett, "I need to fly to St. Somewhere." And it's only December.


I am seriously considering getting an iBook. I have never been a Mac person. Really, they have always seemed a little weird to me -- the people that is, not the Macs. Especially now that they all have iPods. Do you realize they like to call themselves Pod People as if they have been replaced by aliens or something?

But, the little 12' iBook looks awfully appealing to me. It is light and has a good battery life; it even has a special power mode for playing DVDs that shuts down everything except the screen and the DVD player to extend the viewing time. It's nicely priced and good quality, or so I've read. The problem is it also involves me buying about $600 worth of software on top of everything else. I'd need Office Standard, Quicken, Photoshop CS, maybe one or two smaller things. That's a good chunk of cash and a major PITA over and above the purchase price, which makes me think I should stick with Windows. The big cost there is Office which I suspect will run me about $300. I'd love to hear if anyone knows how to get Office for Mac cheaply. (And no, Appleworks and OpenOffice will not do.)

I'd also be interested in any recommendations for a Windows/PC alternative. Battery life and low weight are big priorities. And built in wireless. And at least 512 meg. And Windows Professional (not Home). And a docking station would be nice. And…

If I defect, you can blame Dell and the Satanic Inspiron they sold me. But gawd, don’t let me become a Pod Person. Could there be a more conceptually obnoxious device than a U2 Special Edition iPod?


My picks were 2-2 this week. That's bad. (In Vegas, breaking even means you lose the house rake.) But I take solace in the fact that I mentioned that I thought this week was scary, so at least I was right about being wrong. Also, this was my worst week of the season so far. What a great year when your worst week is 50-50.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Local Insanity: Ann Arbor has more than its share of the bizarre. One walk through the U of M diag during the Naked Mile or the Hash Bash would be proof enough, but here are a couple of things that stand out above the usual madness.

This unbelievable article in the Detroit Free Press details how Michigan defensive lineman Larry Harrison came to be arrested for indecent exposure. Get this:
Harrison, a suspect in 14 other cases of indecent exposure in campus neighborhoods since August, was caught in the act by a police officer who was part of a surveillance team, said Ann Arbor police Lt. Chris Heatley.

Apparently Ann Arbor has adopted a fifteen strikes and you’re out rule in these cases. Or maybe it's a fourteen strikes and we form a surveillance team rule.

"The charges are very serious and very alarming," coach Lloyd Carr said in a statement as the school suspended Harrison from the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl. "I can only hope they are not true."

Uh, Lloyd, he was caught in the act. I would try to imagine a situation where someone could be accidentally playing with himself on a stranger's porch but I might throw-up in my mouth.

The description of the suspect matched Harrison in several of the cases. In some of the incidents, the suspect covered his face. Harrison had been identified as a suspect before his arrest early Tuesday.

Police studied the U-M schedule and noticed the incidents stopped when Harrison was playing in out-of-town games. Heatley declined to give details of how Harrison, 6- feet-3, 313 pounds, was identified as a suspect.

A 6 foot 3, 315 pound man was able to evade the police by covering his face. If you say so. Luckily, someone in the AAPD had the bright idea that a man that size was probably a football player as opposed to an Art History TA.

Harrison, 20, appeared in 15th District Court wearing handcuffs, a yellow jersey and low-slung blue jeans without a belt. His attorney, Joe Simon, and his father, Larry Harrison, pulled Harrison's pants up to his waist several times during the arraignment.

I'm guessing Dad has been trying to get him to keep his pants up all his life.


In a wonderful case of life imitating me, compare this statement from a U of M activist group pushing for mandatory sex education,

"A Gender and Sexuality requirement will create new dialogues, challenge hegemonic discourse, break taboos and stigmas, and open up realms of communication between all students," states the students’ proposal, slowly being circulated among LSA faculty members. The plan would incorporate a wide swathe of issues, from classes on "Hollywood Masculinity" to those on gender and health.

with this passage of a U of M professor assigning a term paper from a book you may have heard of called Apple Pie:

"The topic of your term paper is," the Prof. said with flourish, as if he were introducing a play, "Themes of pious oppression in literature since 1950." He wrote it on the board so I had to believe my ears. He continued, "You must identify at least three such themes from your readings, either explicit or unconscious, and explore them fully..."

You see, you can’t make this stuff up.

By the way, Tom Wolfe's recent bestseller I am Charlotte Simmons, about what a cauldron of sexual promiscuity and political correctness the modern university is, was partially researched at Michigan. I'm sure it's a fine book, but if you'd like something with a closer perspective, possibly more realism, and almost certainly more humor, you know where to go.
Football Picks -- Week 14: The fact that I went 5-1 last week is less remarkable than the statistical anomaly (it must be) that with the except of the one "on-tilt" bet I made in Vegas, I have made exactly one wrong pick each week. No matter how many games I have picked it has been exactly one wrong and the rest right. Averaging one wrong would be understandable, but never varying is truly bizarre.

Having said that I have now jinxed myself I'm sure.

Newbies, should see this page for an overview of the process and summary of the data used.

Our old standby of picking the favorite when they are 40+ percentage points superior in DVOA but favored by a touchdown or less fails us this week. There are no such situations. The closest situation we have is Philly 58.3 better in DVOA and favored by 9.5. You have to wonder if there isn't a point where superior DVOA doesn’t translate well into a larger margin of victory. Is a team that is 58 DVOA points superior more likely to win by 10 or more than a team that is, say, 42 points better. I don’t know. I am going to take Philly on this for two reasons. 1) I think there is a big difference between less than 10 points and 10 or more. I don’t think a touchdown and a field goal is an unreasonable margin of victory for any game, even when you take into account potential garbage time minor comebacks. If you opponent gets in striking range of ten points, it is no longer garbage time; 2) Looking at Philly's blow out of Green Bay last week, they are clearly motivated to win by a lot of points, and they certainly will be able to against Washington.

Next up we look for games where the spread is 7 or more, but there is not all that much difference in DVOA or it is not in (subjective) proportion to the spread. There are six such games that catch the eye:
  • Buffalo -12 over Cleveland, BUF + 18.6 in DVOA

  • Dallas -7 over New Orleans, DAL +2.0 in DVOA

  • Atlanta -8 over Oakland, ATL +17.3 in DVOA

  • Minnesota -7 over Seattle, MIN +6.9 in DVOA

  • Green Bay -9.5 over Detroit, GB +4.0 in DVOA

  • Arizona -7 over San Francisco, ARZ + 18.3 in DVOA
Picking underdogs here is complicated by the fact that, with the exception of Dallas, all the favorites are at home. I just can't pick Seattle or Oakland. Seattle has been spiraling down since early in the season, and Atlanta at home is too scary a concept to cross for the Raiders. After last weeks win and given the pathetic state of New Orleans, I would be more tempted to pick Dallas here, but that's way to small a difference in DVOA to justfy 7 points on the road.

I will take Cleveland and 12 simply because 12 is an awful lot of points. I will also take San Fran over Arizona because both these teams are so incredibly bad that a close game is likely. Now, what to do about the Lions? It's tempting to take the Lions but who knows. If Favre comes out with a chip on his shoulder in Lambeau the Lions are dead. He might after last week's loss, so I'm going to pass on this.

Our last check is for teams that are superior in DVOA but are even money or the favorite has the lower DVOA. There is only one such game (which suggests the spread is catching up to the DVOA, or vice versa). Kansas City is 23.9 points superior in DVOA but is getting a point and a half over Tennessee. That's too good to pass up, I'll take KC.

  • Philly -9.5 over Washington

  • Cleveland +12 over Buffalo

  • San Francisco +7 over Arizona

  • Kansas City + 1.5 over Tennessee
This is about the least confident I have been in any of my picks this year. Too bad I can’t get odds that my one loss streak is broken.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

HBO Roundup: A lot of reviewers panned the Peter Sellers bio, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, that came on HBO Sunday. I thought it was good. They took a lot of chances dramatically, in fact using so many different creative devices may have come off a bit gimmicky, but I liked it. It couldn’t have been easy to biograph Sellers, who was practically an empty shell for his characters; especially without making him seem either heartlessly evil or helplessly sad. Sellers just was.

It won't be a grand revelation, but the movie is worth seeing. It's especially poignant if you remember some of the old British comedies that are recreated in part. Fascinating to be reminded of Sellers' performances in these films and have them put in the context of his personality (or lack thereof).


The Sellers flick pre-empted The Wire, which only has two shows left on the season.

If you ask anyone what the best cop show ever made was, and they say anything but The Wire they probably never saw it. If you haven’t seen it, don’t bother watching the last two episodes. They will be meaningless to you. The first two seasons are out on DVD. You should rent them so you get the full effect, but even if you do, bear in mind that The Wire isn’t paced like a typical TV show. It is very possible that you could look at an early season episode and think absolutely nothing is going on. The Wire is intentionally paced to build slowly over the season. In this fascinating interview, done sometime during the second season, series creator David Simon explains in some detail about the artistic philosophy behind the show and how it steps beyond a standard cop show. It actually explains the show better than I can.

I should point out that even though it is a gritty adult show, in contrast to a lot of HBO drama, there is no preponderance of violence or nudity. It really is carried by the plot and the characters.


Once The Wire ends we'll come to the second season of Carnivale. If you have broadband you can get the trailer here. This will be a make or break season for Carnivale. Last season was visually stunning, and eerily atmospheric, but a little light on plot structure. The challenge is simple. If they build a compelling storyline or two they'll have a winner. If they fall back pretty pictures and reed thin stories propped up by Deus Ex Machina, it'll be a write off.

It's interesting to contrast this interview with the Carnivale's creator, Daniel Knauf, with the above interview with David Simon. Knauf is all about find the right way to keep the audience passionate and keep "blowing their minds." Simon doesn't give a rat's pistachios about the audience; he only cares about the story. There's an awful lot that could be said about that contrast.

Rumor has it that Carnivale was looking to cast a multiple amputee for the role of Management for the sake of realism. Whatever the case, let's hope he (or she) can act.
Links Lying Around: Random nonsense I've stumbled across while trying to recover from Vegas.
  • No dark sarcasm in the courtroom. The kids who sang the anti-grammatical chorus to Pink Floyd's The Wall are all grown up and suing for royalties. I guess they got their education after all.

  • Quite possibly the coolest optical illusion ever.

  • The ten least successful Christmas specials.

  • When someone wants you to watch It's a Wonderful Life, scare them away by explaining how Pottersville Rocks!

  • Remember Bejeweled, that insanely addictive little game that came out a couple of years ago? Bejeweled 2 is now available. Try to resist.

  • Top 100 Overlooked films of the '90s, although I am not entirely certain I would call some of these films "overlooked." Found at the the evil devourer of time, List of Bests.

  • I'm not big on the Mobil diamond and AAA star hotel ratings. I've been burned by these. But if you're curious, here're the latest top properties according to Mobil and AAA.

  • Someone believes they accidentally photographed a meteorite striking a street lamp. That would have to be about a zillion-to-one shot. There is still a good deal of debate over what it actually is.

  • A guide to the hot new board games. (Is that an oxymoron?)

  • Iron Chef America is now an actual TV series, starting in January

  • My review of The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy is up over at Blogcritics

Psst! 5-1 in football picks. {giggle}

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Where's the Nearest Manger?: I have no reason to be totally freaked out about money right now, but for some reason I am. Actually, I do have a reason -- it's all the gratuitous traveling I'm doing. It tends to lead to a gag reaction when I open my credit card bills.

Then, of course, comes the first of the 2005 bills, which so far have my gym membership and my condo fees going up for next year. OK, the gym thing is a trivial amount, but a twenty dollar a month increase in condo fees after a similar increase last year is annoying the hell out of me. When I bought this place, condo fees were $125/month. Now they are $215. That's, what, a 72% increase in since '98 (I think). What else in the world has gone up in price 72% since 1998? We live in times of very low inflation; I can't see how maintenance costs could have gone up so damn much. Can they not find illegal immigrants and pay them slave wages like any self-respecting condo board?

The rational person is now saying, "So get on the condo board and do something about it." Well the fact is, it's not so bad to make me do that. It's a total of $240 dollars more than last year and I went through that in Vegas like it was nothing. But is does piss me off enough to bitch about it on my web site. Ipso bleedin' facto.

Another problem vexing me is my inability to alter the rate at which time passes.

Firstly, I need sleep badly, but I cannot get over this jet lag. The last three nights I have promised myself to get to sleep at a reasonable hour but I can’t seem to get off Vegas time, so despite being red-eyed and nearly catatonic, I lie awake in bed 'til the wee hours. I shall attempt to drug myself to sleep tonight.

Secondly, I have so much writing (and corresponding reading) to do I may never catch-up. I have to write about Vegas, and I have two book reviews swimming around in my head, not to mention fiction that I was just making some progress on until recently. Again, I may have to resort to chemicals.

This is all a problem of time. If I could just alter the rate at which time passes things would be OK. I could speed up time at night so as to get enough sleep and slow it down when I need to get writing done. A wayback machine would be nice. I'd put it on my Amazon wish list but they don’t seem to stock them. Using chemicals to alter the rate of passing of time is highly indicative of something about life at the turn of the millennium, no doubt. I just don’t know what it is.
Football -- Week 13: So last week, as I mentioned, I was 3-2. I should have been 3-1. My picks were Houston, Buffalo, Miami, Jacksonville and Baltimore. The first three covered or beat the spread, the last two didn’t. The real bad decision was Baltimore to beat the touchdown spread against New England. This was the one bet I made that violated the principles I have been following been following since I started doing my Football Outsiders based picks a few weeks ago. It didn’t really make the cut. It was close, but not clear. Unfortunately, I had read a couple of convincing articles by sportswriters who seemed to know what they were talking about that suggested that NE winning by a touchdown was unlikely. Plus, I was betting "on tilt" as they say in poker. My judgment was scrambled by some egregious blackjack losses, so I was groping for a reason to make up for them. Stupid. But it's all spilt milk now.

This week, in contrast there seem to be tons of picks. Also for this week I have summarized the key information on this page to give a better feel for how I make my decisions. (I'll clean up the HTML eventually, but that gets us back to the above mentioned time issue.)

Our first rule of thumb is to play the favorite when a team is 40+ percentage points better in DVOA but is favored by a touchdown or less. This week there are four of those.
  • Buffalo -3.5 over Miami

  • Kansas City even over Oakland

  • Philly -6.5 over Green Bay

  • Pittsburgh -3 over Jacksonville

The only one I'm even slightly hesitant about is Philly because they are a lock for the NFC title and Green Bay is still fighting tooth and nail and because Brett Farve is who he is.

There are two match-ups where the favorite is more than 50 DVOA percentage points up on the underdog, NE over CLE and IND over TEN, but the spreads are in excess of 10 points and that scares me. NFL teams play to win, not to beat the spread, so it's really easy for me to see one of these teams up by say 17 points and the opponent gets the ball in garbage time at the end of the game and easily marches down for a meaningless touchdown that just happens to beat the spread. Still, Indy is tempting; I do believe it is their goal to score a hundred points in a game.

OK, possibly playing "on tilt" again, but I am going to swap out Philly/GB for Indy -11.5 over Tennessee.

Converse of the above rule of thumb is to look for teams favored by at least a touchdown but with a DVOA difference less than 40, then decide if there is a compelling reason to pick the underdog. There are five such match-ups.
  • STL -11 over SF

  • NYJ -7 over HOU

  • BAL -8 over CIN

  • MIN -8 over CHI

  • SEA -7 over DAL

Picking SF seems like a no brainer, but they are soooo bad. Houston can put it together but the Jets have their starting QB back and they are at home. Seattle has been on a brutal downward trend since the start of the season but they are at home and the Cowboys are a mess. Chicago can play well and they may want to at home against Minnesota. Baltimore is another favorite at home.

Chicago is tempting, but I'm going to take SF and the 11 points and hope the 49ers can make good use of the above mentioned garbage time. I'll back off of the rest.

Next up we look for teams that have superior DVOA but are the underdogs per the Vegas bookies. There are two of those this week. ATL is superior to TB but TB is giving 1.5. NYG is superior to WAS but WAS is giving 2.5. Neither of these are egregious enough to pick on.

Finally, a special situation. Arizona is starting a brand spanking new rookie QB, John Navarre. Navarre was a great QB for my alma mater (Michigan), but when you pile on the fact that it's his first ever snap in the NFL, his starting RB is out, he's got the added pressure of coming back to Michigan, and Joey Harrington and the Lions once again find themselves with something to prove -- at home, I just think the deck is too stacked against him. This is going to be a personnel issue based pick but I'll take the Lions and hope they can keep at least a touchdown advantage.

So here's the recap for week 13:
  • Buffalo -3.5 over Miami

  • Kansas City even over Oakland

  • Pittsburgh -3 over Jacksonville

  • Indianapolis -11.5 over Tennessee

  • San Francisco +11.5 over St. Louis

  • Detroit -6 over Arizona

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Guess Who's Back -- Back Again: That'd be me. Back for a quick update.

First off, I was 3 - 2 in football picks, my worst week yet this season. Wouldn’t you know this was also the week that I actually wagered money on them, since I was in Vegas for Thanksgiving. Still you can’t complain about coming out ahead, and they did a bit to alleviate my horrible showing at the blackjack table. A full accounting is coming (both of the picks and the trip), but I remain jetlagged for the moment so I'll need a few days to get back to what passes for normal.

On this trip, I discovered a couple of things. Not the least of which is that I really need a better understanding of my camera. Virtually every one of the pictures I took of the strip at night came out blurry as hell. If it was just a few of them I could pass it off to the fact that it was bitter cold and I may have been shivering. But all of them? Nope. Either I'm doing something wrong or the camera is. I'm guessing me.

The other thing I realized is that my laptop is well nigh useless. This is a Dell Inspiron I bought a coupe of years ago. The power supply has always been flaky; sometimes after having been shut down for hours, it inexplicably boots up. Seriously freaky if it happens in the middle of the night when it seems like an eerie blue glow is emanating from the next room for no reason. Now I discover that it will only hold a charge for about 15 minutes. Which when combined with the fact that I could not get the hotel room connection working meant that I had to hunt down internet cafes on the Strip and the laptop was essentially a 10 pound albatross I got to lug through various airports.

Plus, the CD burner doesn’t work properly. It will duplicate entire CDs via Roxio, but can’t copy ad hoc files to a CD for backup. What a POS. When you combine this with the fact that my desktop is also on its last legs and recently needed a solid weeks work to reconstruct after a disk crash, it's clear it's time for me to invest in new computer infrastructure. Lucky I've been spending an insane amount of money on recreational travel.

Fortunately my employer provides interest free computer loans so it looks like I'm going to pick up a new IBM X series sub-three-pounder with built in wireless and take the hit over the next eighteen months as a paycheck deduction.

Anyway, I've finished reading The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. At the outset I thought it might turn out to be one for the Pantheon, but now I don’t think so. Not that it wasn't rewarding, but it is a difficult book to get a grip on and in the end, the objective is not all that exceptional. A wonderful main character, though, and some interesting perspective. I hope to do a full review.

At the moment I am reading The Whole Wide World, by Yvonne Castaneda, an author of my acquaintance. You'll get the scoop on that too.

But I really really really really really need some sleep. More soon.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Turkey Links: That is to say, links for your entertainment when the food is cleared and the football games are over and your grandpa is sitting on the couch with his belt undone and groaning at the first of what will be uncountable showings of A Christmas Story.
  • The continuing saga of Ricky Williams. I wonder if some casino in Vegas would give odds that Ricky starts a cult that is raided by the DEA at some point within the next 10 years. With a teaser on whether Ricky's official statement will be "Gunga galunga...gunga, gunga-galunga."

  • The worst jobs in science. I could've done without knowing at that some of these existed. So I figured I'd share my pain.

  • Lost Islands of the World. Any one of these would work for the folks who still can’t get over the last election. Fun fact: The remotest inhabited island in the world is Tristan da Cunha, a English settlement in the South Atlantic. There are about 300 people who live there and if you Google "Tristan Da Cunha" 226,000 pages. That's over 750 pages per resident. And yes, I have no idea where I was going with this.

  • Rules for calling shotgun. A good read. Until now, I was always confused by seemingly random cries of "Ozzie Pissbolt!" at the start of a road trip.

  • Basketbrawl Analysis. My favorite sportswriter, Bill Simmons, analyzes the TIVO equivalent of the Zapruder film and discovers -- surprise! -- Ron Artest is certifiably insane.

  • AFI to pick best 100 movie quotes. I'd could tell you my favorite, but then I would have to use the phase, "Gunga Galunga...gunga, gunga-galunga" twice in one post.

Enjoy your cooked, eviserated raptor flesh and pulverized, dirt-incubated tubers with semi-gelatinous, liquified fat coating.
Football Follow-up: 4-1-1. Interestingly the loss was the one where I followed my hard and fast rule. The tie was Green Bay and Houston. That makes my record for three weeks of Football Outsiders based picks 12-3-1. Wow. Your standard degenerate gambler would kill for that record. Maybe I should start a service and charge people.

I'm not sure if I am going to be able to post picks this week, what with the holiday and all. I will certainly make them, but I may not get them on-line in time. If not, I'll share them afterwards and you'll just have to trust me.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Football Picks -- Week 11: Squeaking in just under the wire. As with the last couple of weeks, these picks are based on the analysis done by Football Outsiders who try to make quantitative evaluations of NFL teams. This evaluation is distilled into a number called DVOA (background). DVOA ratings through last week are listed here. This week they also did a set of DVOAs which were more heavily weight towards the later games. It makes sense to place more emphasis on the later games, so those are the figures I'm using. The point lines are from, as of about 11PM Friday. I take the most beneficial odds available under the assumption that it is what I could get in Vegas. Your mileage may vary.

Kind of slim pickings this week. Just one obvious choice.

I've been trying to develop a rule of thumb which states that when a team is 40 or more DVOA percentage points superior and is giving a touchdown or less, take the favorite, give the points. There is only one such situation this week. San Diego is 52.7 percentage points superior to Oakland, but is giving only 4 points. So there's an obvious pick right there: Chargers -4.

The other three situations where a team is at least 40 percentage points superior in DVOA are Baltimore over Dallas, Tampa Bay over San Francisco, Philly over Washington. In the case of Baltimore and Tampa Bay, they are giving 7.5 points as the favorite. A couple of things make these appealing. First, the favorite is at home, which is usually good for three points. Second, in both these cases, the favorite DVOA is trending up and the underdog is trending down. On the other hand, after my big week last week, I promised myself not to do anything stupid. Oh well, stupid is as stupid does. I'll take both Baltimore and Tampa Bay and give 7.5 points. Philly is giving 10.5 points to Washington and that is too generous for me.

The next set of games to examine are those where the team with superior DVOA is the underdog. Here's the list:
  • Buffalo is 7.5 points superior in DVOA and is getting 1.5 points from St. Louis.

  • The New York Jets are 23.4 points superior in DVOA and are getting a single point from Cleveland.

  • The New York Giants are a whopping .3 superior in DVOA and are getting a field goal from Atlanta.

  • Houston is 4.5 points superior in DVOA and are getting a field goal from Green Bay.

It seems like the Jets would be an obvious pick, but remember the recent injury to their QB Chad Pennington. Quincy Carter is the replacement and I'm just not comfortable with him. I'll pass on the Jets until we get a better idea of how they are functioning with Carter. The Giants and Atlanta are just too close in DVOA to make a call on this basis. Buffalo and Houston are both tempting and both are at home, so let's pull the trigger on those -- pick Buffalo +1.5 and Houston +3.

The last category we'll look at is games where the point spread is greater than a touchdown but the DVOAs are less than, say, 30. In this case there are two: Seattle is 29.6 points superior in DVOA and is giving a whopping 10 points to Miami. In a lot of cases this would be tempting, but Seattle is at home and Miami has packed it in for the season, so I'm going to pass on it. Remarkable how my tune has changed on Miami over the course of the season. The other one is Minnesota being 3.6 points superior in DVOA to Detroit and giving 7.5. It is in Minnesota, but I'm going take the risk on this one since I think the Lions can stay within a touchdown and Randy Moss' situation is still iffy.

To recap:
  • San Diego -4 over Oakland

  • Baltimore -7.5 over Dallas

  • Tampa Bay -7.5 over San Francisco

  • Buffalo +1.5 over St. Louis

  • Houston +3 over Green Bay

  • Detroit +7.5 over Minnesota

I shall now hold my breath.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Status Memo: Master and Commander came to HBO on Saturday. I saw it in a hotel room during one of my travels and thought it to be very good. I have now seen it two more times and my admiration has grown each time. I may have to review it. A strikingly well thought out piece of drama.

This really gnaws my ass: There are two radio stations in the area that have for the past couple of weeks, been playing nothing but Christmas music. That means they will have played nearly two full months of Christmas music by the time it's all over. Do advertisers really favor that, spending a full sixth of the year with nothing but annoying, repetitive holiday music? I suppose they hope they will get played as background music in retail stores trying to put shoppers in the gift buying mood. Who knows, maybe it works. Doesn't stop me from cursing them.
Travel Links: Thought I'd take a moment to share some interesting travel links I've found in my, well, travels.
  • Mobissimo searches dozens of airfare sites to get you the best deal, including many non-US based services.

  • Seat Guru will help you pick the right seat once you have your flight.

  • Fodor's keeps munch of the info in their travel guides on line; and Right This Way is Fodor's blog of the latest travel news.

  • Frommer's is a competitor to Fodor's, a bit better at hotel reviews.

  • Travel Intelligence, yet another since for reviews and guidance.

  • Johnny Jet is all links all the time.

  • Travel Zoo keeps up on the current deals.

  • IgoUgo consists of actual travel journals from actual people. Some good scoop when making plans. I may be posting future travel writing here.

  • Tripadvisor is the site I rely on when deciding what hotel to book. Most hotels have dozens reviews and comments from recent visitors. This is the site that will save you from falling for the beautiful pictures on the hotel web site. Plus, once you find a hotel you like, click the Best Deals link and you can search Expedia,, Travelocity, and Orbitz for the best rate. Far and away the most important travel resource on the web.

Habla Espanol?: There are a couple of thing about the new U2 song, Vertigo worth mentioning. First, it is the only U2 song I have ever heard that doesn't make me hit the Seek button.

Second, in what bizarre numerical system is it legitimate to count "uno…dos…tres…catorce"? One…two…three…fourteen? This is very disturbing. Bono, who is never less than multi-culturally aware and politically correct, doesn’t take the time to learn to correctly count to four in Spanish? Then he throws in an "Hola!" and a "Donde estas?" to sound even more like someone dumbass gringo in Tijuana trying to make nice with the locals. I'm guessing the guy from his entourage who got sent out for the Spanish phrasebook is on the street now.
Football Follow-up: 5-1. Wow. My continuing experiment in basing picks on Football Outsiders DVOA has generated two great weeks of remarkable results. This could turn out to be something. Of course, what that means is that I have to be ardently on guard against doing something stupid this week.

The new DVOAs are already out at Football Outsiders and this week they have introduced a weighted DVOA that more heavily weights recent games. I'll have to figure out how that is going to fit into my picks for this week.

BTW, I have a new piece on football fandom up over at Blogcritics.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Football Picks – Week 10: This week we continue our experiment with picks based on the DVOA ratings (background) produced by Football Outsiders. This week's DVOA ratings are here. This week's point spreads are here (I'm using the spreads as of about 8 PM eastern on Friday night).

Let's start with the big differences in DVOA. Philly is 50.2 DVOA points higher than Dallas and giving 6.5 points in odds. Even better, Pittsburgh is 40.5 DVOA points higher than Cleveland and giving only 3.5 points in odds. I'm hoping to have a rule of thumb where if a team is 40 or more percentage points higher in DVOA and is giving less than a touchdown, you take the favorite. So my first two picks are Philly -6.5 over Dallas and Pittsburgh -3.5 over Cleveland.

New England is close. They are 39.8 DVOA points higher than Buffalo and giving 7 points in odds. That's borderline. It's tempting, but I'm going to keep them on provisional watch because they are banged up (remember DVOA will not take into account injuries until their effect is worked into the plays and scores of the season) and because Buffalo is improving and they are at home.

Next, there are 5 match-ups where the team with the stronger DVOA is the underdog:
  • Detroit is +6.9 in DVOA over Jacksonville but Jax is giving 3.5

  • Cincinnati is +6.4 in DVOA over Washington but Washington is giving 3.5

  • Minnesota is +13.1 in DVOA over Green Bay but Green Bay is giving 4.5

  • Chicago is +13.6 in DVOA over Tennessee but Tennessee is giving 6

  • Carolina is +19.3 in DVOA over San Francisco but San Francisco is giving 1

Well. I'm going to pass on Detroit and Cincy since 6.x is not all that much of the difference and the three and a half points are roughly the advantage the other teams should have for being at home. Too dicey.

Minnesota is tempting, but the injury to Randy Moss plus the game being at Lambeau, makes me think it's best to pass here also.

The other two are sweet. Chicago has a reasonably better DVOA and gets a solid six points, and Carolina has a significantly higher DVOA than SF and still gets a point. Add two more picks: Chicago +6 and Carolina +1. We can keep provisional watch on the other higher rated underdogs.

In the remaining games there a couple of other opportunities. I can get a pick 'em on Seattle vs. St. Louis, yet Seattle is 28.9 points higher in DVOA, this is also something of a revenge game for Seattle after the tough loss to the Rams a few weeks ago. And Baltimore is 3.8 points in DVOA better than the New York Jets with a pick 'em. Bearing in mind the Chad Pennington is down and the less talented substance abuser Quincy Carter is leading the Jets, while the talented and probably angry substance abuser Jamal Lewis is making his return after suspension for the Ravens. I'm guessing the Ravens take this one handily. So add two more picks, Seattle and Baltimore even steven.

To recap, I'm making six picks (a lot for me):
  • Philly -6.5 over Dallas

  • Pittsburgh -3.5 over Cleveland

  • Chicago +6 over Tennessee

  • Carolina +1 over San Francisco

  • Seattle over St. Louis straight up

  • Baltimore over New York Jets straight up

Vegas is getting closer everyday.

Monday, November 08, 2004

What a Wreck: My New Orleans travel article is done. Other than that, I can only ask: Could things get any more mangled?

I have a desktop (rarely used) and a laptop. This week I had the hard drive on the desktop crashed. Not exactly sure what went wrong, but I reinstalled the operating system (Win2K) and it seemed to be going well. Then, I stupidly connected to the internet before re-applying all the security/service packs I had installed over the years. Damned if it wasn't about 15 minutes before I had a virus infection (Sasser, I believe). OK, so I download an anti-virus package and run it. And I stupidly (once again) tell the thing to remove all infected files (at this point I think well over 100 files were infected), even the critical ones. Naturally that removes files that are needed for me to access the CD-ROM, which I need to reinstall the operating system again, so I can install the files needed for the CD-ROM, which I can;t use cause of the missing files. Arrgh. So I have to reconfigure the BIOS to boot the CD and do a completely clean install. What a pain in the ass. It's tempting to say the lesson is that you can never drop you guard even for a minute when it comes to Internet security. It's also tempting to say the lesson is that I am an idiot. But the real lesson is that the little snot-gobblers who write viruses should be skinned and salted.

Then, in the course of trying to get some laptop data moved over to the desktop I discover I cannot copy files to my CD-R. I can use software to duplicate entire CDs, but I can’t copy individual files and folders. This laptop is a Dell Inspiron and has been nothing but trouble since I bought it. So I write down the particulars of the problem go into work today with a plan to log into to Dell's technical support chat only to find that after entering my problem in detail and clicking submit, I get a message saying no one is available please try again later. Why couldn’t they have told me that before I typed it up? So I go to Dell email support only to discover you need to enter the "tag" number of your machine so they can route your email properly. I don’t have the tag number, I'm at work, my laptop's at home. KEEE-RIST!

So in the interest of doing something productive, I walk over to the nearest brick wall and pound my head against it for a good solid five minutes.

In an unrelated development, it seems the hotel follies from my last trip to NYC will never end. I get my American Express bill and I find the Hilton in New York has posted a $69.80 charge to my credit card for use of the mini-bar.

First of all, I NEVER EVER use the mini-bar. I have a deep seated philosophical opposition to the mini-bar. I believe it is blatantly exploitive. I generally take a very dim view of the anti-corporate-they-are-all-out-to-rip-us-off-to-line-their-silk-pockets whack jobs who protest WTO meetings and Wal*Mart openings. But I draw the line at the mini-bar. It is an evil attempt to get you to pay exorbitant prices just because there is little alternative. I will pay princely sums for ultra-luxurious hotels, but I refuse to spend three dollars for a bottle of water from the mini-bar. You gotta have some boundaries in this world.

Second, even considering the usurious prices, $69.80 would have to pretty much empty the thing, wouldn't it? Let's see, figure an average of three dollars for a drink or a bag of peanuts means I would have had to down something on the order of 10 warm Seagram's Ginger Ales, 8 Butterfingers, 3 little bags of trail mix, and a couple of Bud Light's for dessert -- or something to that effect. What, did they think I was trolling Manhattan with Cheech and Chong?

Luckily, and to the credit of the Hilton, this was cleared up with a quick phone call. Saved me another trip to the brick wall.
Maybe I Can Drive Her Car: HRH Miss Anna managed to land a role in a pilot for the Sci-Fi channel to be produced by Roman Pictures and entitled, Signals. If From the description, it sounds a little X-files-ish. Anna is set to play Tina Morgan, the girlfriend of young Zack Rebak, child genius and psychic stud-boy. No telling what will come of all this, but Anna is clearly on her way to stardom. I'm sure she'll let me be in her entourage.
Thanks For Listening: It seems Alan Ball has decided to take my advice and nail the coffin shut on Six Feet Under. Frightening, the power I wield.
Football Follow-up: Interesting. My Football Outsiders based picks came out 3-1, with only Denver defying their DVOA. On the other hand, my provisional observations were all WAY off base. More on this when this week's DVOA comes out and the spreads stabilize. Very interesting.

Note: The '72 Dolphins popped the corks this week.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Football Picks – Week 9: Thought I forgot about these, didn’t you? We're going to try something a little different this week.

There is a site you may have heard of called Football Outsiders where, over the past couple of years, they have been working hard at doing deep statistical analysis of football. In the same vein as has been done for many years in baseball, where you may have heard the term Sabrematics to describe it. (Interestingly, the godfather of Sabrematics is a man named Bill James, who for many years produced the annual Baseball Abstract, an exhaustive compendium of baseball statistics. This past year, he was hired by the Boston Red Sox as a consultant. Do the math.)

FO has developed a formula called DVOA, which stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. In their own words:
Every single play run in the NFL gets a "success value" based on this system, and then that number gets compared to the average success values of plays in similar situations for the entire season for all players, adjusted for a number of variables. These include down and distance, field location, time remaining in game, and current scoring lead or deficit. Rushing plays are compared to other rushing plays, passing plays to other passing plays, tight ends get compared to tight ends and wideouts to wideouts.


By adjusting each play based on the defense's average success in stopping that type of play over the course of a season, we get DVOA, or Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. Rushing and passing plays are adjusted based on down and location on the field; receiving plays are also adjusted based on how the defense performs against passes to running backs, tight ends, and wide receivers.

You could read the whole thing, but I'm pretty sure your head would explode. Bottom line is, they come up with a percentage value for each team in the league. A positive percentage means better than average, a negative percentage worse. (They also apply this formula to individual players, but that's not relevant here.)

Now, the folks at FO go to great pains to point out that their numbers are NOT meant to be predictive. They don’t take into account things like injuries and such. But, if one assumes they are on to something, one might look for discrepancies between DVOA and the point-spread, for gambling guidance. Mighn't one?

Here are the spreads (probably gone by the time you read this). Here are the DVOA ratings through week 8. This time I'll do the math.

There are two games where the DVOA difference is over 40%. Seattle (11.0) at San Francisco (-35.3) -- the spread is Seattle -7. New England (31.9) at St Louis (-18.0) -- the spread is New England -1. I'm going to take that favorite in both these, on the principal that such a large difference really tilts the scales in my favor, especially regarding the Patriots, although it's easy to make a case for the Rams given the New England injuries.

Next, Houston (10.0) at Denver (8.4) -- the spread is Denver -6.5. These are the two closest in DVOA and Houston is actually ranked slightly better. Given the big spread for Denver, I'll take the Houston and the points.

The only other game where the favorite in the spread has a lower DVOA than the underdog is Arizona (-9.7) at Miami (-37.6) -- the spread is Miami -3. Notice how I have not said Miami is not as bad as everyone thinks. I'm pretty much cured of that particular delusion. So we'll take the Cardinals and the field goal here.

Provisional comments: These are not picks, just observations. Other games that look out of line are the Jets -3 over Buffalo when their DVOA is 26.1 points greater and KC over the Bucs by 3 when their DVOA is 30.8 greater. You'd think that much of a difference would be worth more than a mere field goal. Then there's the Philly versus Pittsburgh pick 'em, when Philly is 16.8 points greater in DVOA.

To recap, my official picks are:
  • Seattle -7 over San Francisco

  • New England -1 over St. Louis

  • Houston +6.5 over Denver

  • Arizona +3 over Miami

This could be interesting. I may try to keep this going over the next few weeks to see how it averages out.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Forced to Abstain: I must admit that I didn’t vote yesterday. It was not for lack of effort. I went by the polls three times and all three times folks were telling tales of two hour waits. I simply did not have two straight empty hours yesterday to stand in line.

If I thought there was going to be a huge wait, I would have planned for it, but I live in the formerly sleepy, semi-rural little town of Dexter, MI. Four years ago, I went to the polls on the way to work, and got in and out in less than half an hour. Of course, had I given it some thought, it would have occurred to me that I used to be able to go to the post office at Noon and there would be no line -- now it's out the door; and they had to build larger High and Middle schools just to hold the influx of young-uns. Shoulda - woulda - coulda. Net result, I didn’t vote in a federal election for the first time since 1980.

I am not passionate about politics in the slightest. I have opinions, of course (it may surprise you to hear that I am somewhat opinionated), but I rarely share my political ones. In my experience, most people who ask about your political opinions only want an excuse to go off on some sort of self-satisfying rant about their own political opinions, which are almost always just peep holes on their personal neuroses.

I would have voted for Bush, but frankly, I wasn't particularly worried if Kerry got elected. Maybe because I've seen the country survive and even prosper under presidents I didn’t vote for, I don't get all worked up about these things. Maybe because, though I have lots of opinions, I just don’t have the arrogant certainty that they are unquestionably correct and invariably urgent. Maybe it's good that I let everyone else make the decision this time. From now on, it's absentee for me.

On the upside, I am finally starting to feel better; not surprisingly that coincides with my getting the re-proofed manuscript of Business As Usual off to the new publisher. Still, I need more hours in the day than the solar system currently allows.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Snivel: The last couple of days I have been laid low by a cold. And I mean really laid low-- like sleeping for 15 hours a day. Plus, having placed Apple Pie with a new publisher I am now doing the same with Business As Usual, so all the reviewing and editing has to be redone. Between that and blowing my nose and coughing my brains out, I haven’t had time for much else.

New Orleans soon, I promise. I'll be back when I recover.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Housekeeping: The latest on my New York trip is up. It took a while because I ran out of free space provided by my ISP, thanks to my silly new habit of taking pictures. So I had to hunt around for free places to store pictures -- yes that's right, I pay through the nose for pointlessly luxurious hotels but I try to find free web storage. I didn’t find anything that I liked so I had to register a new site,, to hold all the future pics and travel articles.

As I write this, there is a lunar eclipse going on outside and the Boston Red Sox seem poised to win the World Series. Spooky.

Some quickies:
  • Back on 9/29 I flippantly predicted Marion Barry would be involved in the new baseball stadium in DC and, whaddaya know: "The agreement requires the council to act by Dec. 31. That deadline has a secondary importance because three council members who support baseball are expected to be replaced in January by three who aren't sold on the idea. They include former Mayor Marion Barry."

  • Speaking of being right, I made nasty comments about the state of the Flamingo Hotel in my write-up on my previous Vegas excursion. Now employees and patrons are contracting some sort of bizarre disease. Step aside, Miss Cleo. Of course, the contrarian in me figures they should be dropping prices to regenerate business any day now...

  • Speaking of hotels, this blogger describes the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, DPRK (North Korea): "The Ryugyong Hotel is, in my opinion, the single most unsettling structure ever erected by the hand of man. It's 1,082 feet tall, has 105 floors, and encloses 3.9 million square meters of floor space. And it is completely empty. It doesn't even have windows." But is it worse than the HoJo's in mid-town Manhattan?

  • Speaking of the Far East, in what must be multiculturalism's greatest triumph, there is a Hooter's opening in Shanghai. As HRH Miss Anna would say, "Good, cheap wings."

  • Speaking of paradigmatic restaurants, it appears Ronald McDonald dolls are the new version of crop circles. Exceedingly creepy.

  • Speaking of creepy, I'll just quote this article and leave it at that. "At around 11 p.m., authorities said police responded to a report that Schulz, who was dressed like Elvis Presley, was having convulsions after falling down stairs outside the hall. When officers arrived to help, they said Schulz jumped up, said "Praise the Lord, Viva Las Vegas," then started singing show tunes." Thank you; thank you very much.

Next up, New Orleans.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Mangle Minor: I am trying a minor redesign in an effort to de-emphasize the blog and highlight the travel writing and critiques. It looks a little awkward and needs some tweaking, but I should get it cleaned up soon.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Back in the Saddle: In the past couple of weeks I have been to New York City and New Orleans. Truly fine trips, but damn -- the other night I woke up from a nightmare where I was stranded in the middle of this enormous city when a hotel where I had a reservation turned out to be closed for business, so I was standing in the street trying to call Travelocity to sort things out and, oh wait…that really happened. More on that to come.

While I'm on the topic of travel I should make another special travel related note. In my piece on Savannah and Hilton Head, Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season, I slammed Northwest Airlines over a bad bit of interaction. I also mentioned that I sent them a scathing email and they had not responded. I was wrong. They had responded but I just missed seeing it in my inbox. And they were very conciliatory and even gave me 5000 miles for my trouble. In the service industry, that's called a "save". Northwest is back in my good graces.

Not ready to get back to football picks just yet. In fact, I have an idea for a new method of picking based on the work done at Football Outsiders. With any luck I will have something ready for that by next week. Like everything else, more later.

As soon as I got to New Orleans I planned to drop some cash on Sunday's games. I printed out the latest spreads and made my picks on the way down. Naturally, when I arrived, I quickly discovered there is no sports book at Harrah's Casino in the Big Easy. Turns out I was lucky because my picks would have been losers. (Instead I did my part to finance the casino through craps and blackjack.) Whatever made me actually believe, however briefly, in the Lions? Since I didn't officially make the picks, they don’t count against my record. That's the rule.

I was really more interested in following the Yankees-Sox drama anyway. An amazing thing to see. I was actually grateful not to be from NY or Boston because I probably would have spent the better portion of the week staggering around like Fred Sanford having the big one.

Also, I'm in the process of reading a remarkable novel called The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy, set in the late fifties in New Orleans, which is where I bought it (in New Orleans, not the late fifties, Einstein). I'm only about halfway through, but I have never encountered a character more like me than Binx Bolling, or at least how I think of myself. I'm sure a complete review will be coming.

For now, I'm writing as fast as I can. I will work like a speed freak this weekend and with luck I'll have more on everything this early next week.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Back on Hiatus: In record time, we have my travel article on Savannah and Hilton Head, entitled Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season.

Also, I am once again 3-1 in my football picks. So far I've been 3-1, 4-1, 3-1, 3-1. 13-4. I rule, clearly.

Unfortunately there will be no picks for a little while, or any other posts. Maybe as long as a month. I have to deal with my difficult and troublesome personal life before I get back to this. A shame when I'm on such a winning streak, but reality bites.

You can always email me if you are so moved. I have not forsaken you completely, just for the time being. Later, gator.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Football Picks, Week 4: Once again 3-1 last week and now 10-3 for the season. Obviously, my planted assumption that the early season games are a crapshoot was way off. Either that or I am just so freakin' intelligent and perceptive the laws of chance do not apply to me. It's important to remember, we all have a daddy; Pedro's is the Yankees and I am yours.
  • New York Jets - 6.5 at Miami -- Neither of the Florida teams should be 0-3 at this point. Fiedler is back at QB and maybe his little vacation motivated him a bit. The defense is still very strong. And in case I haven’t mentioned it before, the Fins are not as bad as everyone thinks they are. (I've gotten real good at hiding my meds.) Pick: Dolphins

  • Denver -3.5 at Tampa Bay -- If Miami shouldn’t be 0-3, then Tampa Bay really shouldn’t be 0-3. Seriously, the D is solid and if you looked at this team and I told you they would be 0-4 to start the season you would have laughed at me -- then told the nurse about me hiding my meds. Pick: Buccaneers

  • Washington -3 at Cleveland -- A truly difficult pick, but the 'Skins and Gibbs looked completely confused last week. It was a poorly coached game which is a shocker. True, the Browns aren’t worth a damn, but they are at home and have 3 points to give, and there ya go. Pick: Browns

  • New York Giants +7 at Green Bay -- This is an interesting match-up. In week 1 the Packers looked invincible and the Giants were an outright disaster. Since then Green Bay lost to Chicago of all teams and then lost the shootout with the Colts. Meanwhile the Giants seem to be putting it together. If the Giants can stay on the straight and narrow and show up early for their meetings, and the Green Bay that played Chicago shows up, and if they don’t win by at least a touchdown…Pick: Giants

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Fresh Meat: has been completely revamped in the style of, including a free preview of the first four chapters. If you haven’t read Apple Pie, you should of course, but you can get a feel for it at the site, and although it is not technically available yet, you can pre-order it at Amazon. Hopefully it has found a permanent home with the new publisher.

Yet another terrific week for my football picks, but more on that in a couple of days. Speaking of football, here's a couple of good articles: This one from Football Outsiders is a recounting of a road trip to Ann Arbor for last week's Iowa/Michigan game; it contains the perfect characterization of Wolverine fans: "...there's one thing that we Michigan fans do better than anyone: show up." And over at ESPN Page 2 we have this story of the pitiful optimism of Lions fans. I maintain Lions fans have deeper and more foolish faith than those of any other sports franchise. Not only is their no hope of a championship, there is very rarely hope of a winning season, there are even more rarely any big stars or charismatic players to root for, and worst of all there is no romance to their losing, they just lose in complete anonymity.

And while we are on the topic of sports, it looks like Washington DC is finally getting a baseball team back. This will be their third chance (third strike?) and all it's going to cost them is a $400 million publicly financed stadium. I don’t know where they are going to get the money, but I understand Marion Barry has been brought in as a financial consultant. Although the vast majority of fans are out in Northern Virginia, I'm sure they will be happy to ride the Metro in from Loudon County. In preparation for the expected throngs of fans riding in and the potential for them flaunting the rules, the DC legislature has approved the death penalty for anyone who talks or eats.

I'm still working on my write up of my Coastal Empire trip; hopefully this weekend. I may provide a few pics ahead of time. For now, I can't stop laughing at the story of Edward Furlong (the brat Ahnold has to save in T2) getting arrested while freeing live lobsters from their tank at Meijer's:
…the actor and his buddies began yanking live lobsters out of the store's display tank for reasons that were not made clear…The officers ordered Furlong to turn around so they could frisk him, but the…star began twirling around in circles instead.

I would pay real, folding money for the video from the Meijer's security camera.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Thank You Jeanne: I have just returned from a few days in "The Coastal Empire" -- specifically Savannah, GA and Hilton Head, SC. Both very cool places in very different ways. I am grateful to hurricane Jeanne for doing a quick loop-de-loop out in the mid-Atlantic so I could have some nice weather, but it was the least she could do considering it was her fault I wasn't in Turks and Caicos and it was her older brother Ivan who flattened Grand Cayman which was my first choice. A full accounting of the entire misadventure will be forthcoming, as usual. (update 9/25: Yes, I did accidentially refer to Jeanne as Frances. Hey, it's not like I never gotten womens names confused before.)

I do not know why they call the area the "Coastal Empire." It does sound better than the other descriptive name, the "Low Country," which conjures up disturbing Deliverance images. I was a little surprised, given this is the among the deepest of the deep south, that I detected little Southerness anywhere except the appearance of grits as breakfast side. More likely to encounter a European accent than a lazy drawl. Anyway, I'll save it for the story. Real Soon Now.
Football Picks -- Week 3: 4-1 last week, making me 7-2 for the year and compelling me to continue inquiries as to the identity of your daddy.

A brief Mea Culpa from last week. I referred to Carson Palmer as a rookie. This is, in fact his second year, but he didn’t take a single snap last year. Chances are you would have just figured I was fake but accurate, but I would hate to be spoken of in the same breath as Dan Rather, so there you are.

Peter King had an update on Ricky Williams' whereabouts. He's currently camping next to a bay somewhere in Australia. I've never been one for sleeping on the ground, but hey, whatever pitches your tent. Today is the first day of the rest of your life, Ricky. And considering the Dolphins are trying to retrieve in excess of 8 million in signing bonuses from you, you may take some solace in the accuracy of that.

  • Pittsburgh +1.5 at Miami -- Like a highly agitated schizoid, I keep repeating the same thing over and over: The Fins are not as bad as everybody thinks. Please don't tell Nurse Ratchett.

  • Philly -4.5 at Detroit -- Detroit is 2-0 with victories (cynics would say surprising victories) over the dubious Chicago Bears and the less than mediocre Houston Texans. Philly is the cream of the NFC for the moment and they dominated the Vikings last week, TO's sham TD notwithstanding. Harrington has not faced a defensive line like this. Even at home, I can’t pick the Lions.

  • San Fran +10.5 at Seattle -- 10.5 is a lot of points to give. Scenario: Seattle up by 17, then end of game comes and SF is tossing up prayers in its last few plays against a bunch of Seahawk third-stringers. They get the TD. Who cares, says Seattle, they still need two scores in less than a minute, right? Except the guy who puts cash down on Seattle being at least 11 points better gets reamed. But they are at least 11 points better, so what can you do except throw down and hope those third stringers have some pride.

  • Dallas +2.5 at Washington -- The 'Skins coughed up turnovers like meningital phlegm last week. (Sorry, that didn’t really work, did it?) They won’t do that again, but there is just no way they are all that good -- Gibbs or no. On the other hand, the Cowboys have Vinny Testaverde who has a stupefying ability to not quite win football games. But Parcells has had more time with his clowns than Gibbs has had with his, so I'll take Dallas and the points.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Things and Stuff: All I have to offer is some clickage.
  • I did a quick recap/review of the recently concluded season over Six Feet Under over at Blogcritics. Probably meaningless unless you watch the show.

  • CBC picks the top 50 songs of the twentieth century, roughly by decade. This is a pretty sharp list. I could quibble but I only outright hate about 30 percent of these songs which is pretty good for these sorts of things.

  • Speaking of music, the 80s group Queen has been given the seal of approval from the psychotic Iranian mullahs. Apparently, Bohemian Rhapsody is about someone who sold his soul to the devil, at least according to the mullahs. It's as good as any other explanation, except drugs. We can only hope they'll weigh in on I Am the Walrus.

  • The Donghu Hotel in the Hubei province in central China must be quite a remarkable place, considering the poetic description on the home page: "Glory and delication of half a century. Write down some brilliant chapters. Tremendous change in the reform and open…" Reading further we discover that "In the vicissitudinous history of half a century, the Donghu hotel undergone weal and woe as well as resplendence...Nowadays, it is striding toward a new century, bursting out vigor of youth…" That's nice and all, but does it include free HBO? And, about the food: "The Hotel offers Chinese and Western-style food banquet, bender ,team meal , buffet and zero service. It is good at the reception service of the slap-up feast and banquet for take charge of the reception of the national leaders in long-term. The slap-up facilities , appetite and service will take you upscale enjoyment." Whoa there! I have experienced zero service at a few hotels, but I've never been slapped up. Is that a some kind of spa treatment? (hat tip: TMQ)

Football Picks -- Week 2: Being 3-1 on last week's picks gives me the right -- nay, the obligation, to say Who's Your Daddy? Fear not, I still know that it takes a few weeks for the season to take shape before you can claim smart picks versus lucky picks. This is why I'll be waiting until late in the season to hit Vegas.

If there was a quote of the week, it came from Lions QB Joey Harrington after they beat the Bears to end a multi-year road losing streak. "Usually when we fly home from Chicago, it's like a 47-minute flight. But today it's gonna feel like 37 minutes." King of the world!

  • Houston +3 at Detroit -- This is another pick 'em, with the Lions spotting the standard home team field goal. Lions won last week, but unimpressively. Texans lost last week even more unimpressively. I'll go with the Lions again, simply because even at their worst they generally do well at home. It's not much of a reason, but I can think of no reason to think the Texans can beat the spread.

  • Miami +5.5 at Cincinnati -- I remain convinced that the Fins are not as bad as they are supposed to be. The Bengals have a lot of young guys at key positions, including the rookie QB, and the Jets won without really testing them with blitzes last week. Miami should win, but I'll still take the five and a half.

  • Washington -3 at New York Giants -- Everyone raved about Terrell Owens last week, but nobody bothered to mention that the Giants defenders apparently chose not get closer than four feet. Maybe it's because he's gay and they didn’t want it to rub off, but it sure played well into Donovan McNabb's acknowledged skill at inaccurate passing. The Giants may actually be the worst team in the league. And although I still don’t think Joe Gibbs can work miracles, he should be able to beat the Giants by more than a field goal.

  • Seattle -2 at Tampa Bay -- Tough pick of the week. I would have given both Tampa Bay and Seattle strong chances to be dominant teams this year. Seattle looked like it in week 1, TB did not. For that reason only, I figure Seattle covers. They just have to win by a field goal, right? If Chucky wins this one, I may have to stop trying to pick the Bucs games.

  • New York Jets -3 at San Diego -- Chargers got a surprise win last week, but they still stink. Jets are a team n the edge of the upper echelon. Got to figure they win by more than a field goal.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Football Picks: I have no idea how long I will be able to keep this up. A couple years ago I did picked every game and it nearly killed me keeping up with things. Last year was such a pathetic season that it could barely hold my interest. This year, I'm going to try to just pick a handful of games each week at the most. I also vow to get to Vegas sometime during the season, so this will be a good warm-up.

I'll try to pick the Fins and the Lions every week, beyond that, we'll see how it goes. It's also possible I may pick all the games but only comment on a few. It's also possible I'll go crazy again. By the way, two games have already occurred (including the Fins) and I would have lost bets on both. Timing is everything.

  • Lions +3 at Bears -- This is basically a pick 'em. Home field advantage usually costs you a field goal. For the Lions, this season is all about Joey Harrington. Basically he's been a pretty lame QB but the entire offense has been lame so he's had an out. This year he's got some great receiving talent and so, barring injury, it's make or break. Conventional wisdom is that he's too nice and pretty and musically talented to be a top notch QB. Mariucchi, when asked his opinion, only gives Harrington the limpest support possible. Basically nobody thinks he's got it in him. Neither do I really, but I think he's got enough to beat the Bears.

  • Bucs +2 at Redskins -- Joe Gibbs returns to play Dumbledore to Dan Snyder's Voldemort (according to TMQ anyway). On the other side is Chucky, with his team all cleaned up of dead weight loudmouths. This is the toughest call of the week, but I think Chucky pulls it off. My guess is the Bucs contend with the best this year having dispatched the ass Sapp and some other overpriced personnel. Gibbs is the best, but unless he has assembled a killer team (which he hasn't) it'll be midseason before they hit their stride.

  • Cardinals +10.5 at Rams -- The Cardinals are a horrendously bad team. The Rams are good, but overrated. 10.5 is a good deal of points. I think the Cards can get within 10 during the end of game garbage time.

  • Giants +9 at Eagles -- The Eagles should self-destruct at some point this season, but they will likely start out hot. The Giants are awful. Eagles should cover most of their spreads until TO feels the need to prove himself a bigger brat that Nicole Richie.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Laboring Day: No day off for me. Way too much going on to lose momentum. But, I did complete three book reviews over at Blogcritics: Lake Wobegon Summer 1956, by Garrison Keillor, The CEO of the Sofa, by P.J. O'Rourke, and Tricky Business, by Dave Barry. Now I have to get ReadApplePie updated since it's re-release is imminent.

But I just have to share this with you because it make me laugh whenever I think about it.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Found Around: Hmmm. This set of links contains references to amputees, screams, dead folk's ashes, breasts and bats. Perhaps I'm channeling Roger Corman.
  • Here's an interesting thread over at Metafilter providing advice for someone moving to Ann Arbor.

  • Sheri moved again. Girl just can't sit still. Maybe it's time to resort to Ritalin. Also, breasts are now playing a much larger role in her site.

  • HBO notes: Word on the web is that Carnivale is searching for a double amputee to play Management. Also, The Wire season three starts September 19th. I'm still not sure anyone could pick up on The Wire who hasn't seen it from the outset. After the season starts, don't bother.

  • You probably know the Munch's Scream was was stolen in broad daylight. It was worth $19 million and was secured to the wall by a simple wire. Well thought out. We have a job for you at TSA. Here's some background on the greatest art heists in history.

  • I like women's beach volleyball as much as the next guy (and I do mean guy), but this business of Misty May spreading her Mom's ashes in the sand is truly ghoulish.

  • As I walked out one morning a few days ago, I noticed a fist-sized brown object over my door. Closer inspection revealed it to be a bat. Very cool. He was not more than two feet from my door, but he didn't bat an eyelash as I came and went. This pic should give you an idea of how close he was to my door. No matter what kind of noise I made, he just hung there all day long, totally chilled out, presumably flying out by night to go moth hunting or other batty things. I named him Eric, for obvious reasons. Sadly, he seems to have bugged out. I haven't seen him for a couple of days. I'll miss him. It was like having a living gargoyle guarding the entrance to my home.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Some Progress: Two bits of original writing. First, my summary of my trip to Miraval Spa in Tucson, including the requisite rant. Beware, it's on the long-ish side. And a quick quasi-political rant (apologies in advance), partially inspired by my trip to Portland, over at Blogcritics entitled, Be Quiet, Stupid Hippies. Do you suppose I will ever get back to writing fiction?
What's The Word: I have a new second favorite word: poshlost, which pretty much describes all of Hollywood and Washington DC. You will recall that my favorite word is asshat. Oddly neither are included in Wordcount, an artistically done site that visually ranks words by their commonality. More oddly, none are covered in this guide to reviewerese, the secret language of book reviews.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Back Again: This time I was in Portland Oregon; a work trip. Portland is a fine city, the best way to describe it is Ann Arbor but several times larger -- the social activist/hippie vibe; the indignant homeless; good restaurants; and holding it all together, upper-middle class consumers. It was uncharacteristically hot, but still good to wander around in a colorful city. I probably won’t write it up because I really spent only one day on walkabout (a nice and reliable light rail system makes getting around easy), and I am so backed up with writing projects that I will be happy to get caught up with what I have now by the end of the year. But I did bring the camera.

Coming soon, the latest spa visit. Then a trio of book reviews.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The New Phone Book Is Out: Well, almost out. In all probability, this will be the new cover of Apple Pie. I can dig it. There will be review quotes added. This means I have to put updating on my to-do list.
HBO Notes: My longtime favorite blogger, the fresh and sassy Sheri, has a new home: the Hotel Angsty. It looks like she just started watching Six Feet Under which is too bad because this hasn’t been their strongest season, that would have been last season. (In fact the official season quality ranking is 3,1,4,2.) this season has been more on the light side which is probably realistic given the various traumas they all went through. There has still been some wicked clever writing, but these guys really do emotional depth much better than light comedy. Still better than anything else on TV at the moment, with possible exception of reruns of The Wire which redefines grit, but you shouldn’t watch unless you watch both seasons back to back, or it will mean nothing to you.

Then there is this tidbit from a trusted web source:
Speaking of HBO, Carnivale adds some new freaks to the mix when they come upon the stranded Daily Brothers carnival and the Samson merges the groups. They head to Damascus NE, where a supernatural force is killing people at a hotel.

I'm sure it will be very spooky, but they better find a strong plotline this year because spooky will not hold my interest indefinitely.
Skinned Pigs: I am more than a little gratified by this column over at Football Outsiders. For years I have always had to explain why, despite living in southeast Michigan for pretty much my entire life, was I more of a Miami Dolphins fan than a Detroit Lions fan. The answer is that when I was but a mere lad, circa 1972, the family went on one of those excruciating family road trips all the way down to Florida. Those with even a minor knowledge of football history will recall that 1972 was the year of the Dolphins famed undefeated season; the only such season in the history of the NFL. A bond was formed. (Of course, it's also true that the Lions are one of the most pathetic franchises in the history of sports, but that's not the reason. Really it's not.)

Well apparently I am not the only expatriate Dolphins fan. And I offer a bit of thanks to the writer for making me feel less like a total freak of nature.

The Dolphins have had an abysmal off season. Early on, legend Dan Marino took a job as GM. Ex-players do not usually make good executives, but at least it meant Marino would be around and something good might rub off from that. If he sucked at the job, maybe they could have just let him continue as a figurehead and let the professional talent evaluators do the real work. Then, suddenly, Marino changed his mind and resigned after only a few days. Pundits postulated that he was probably just surprised to find out it was a bit more demanding than the announcers booth. Or maybe he got a whiff of an administration that hasn’t produced a Super Bowl winner in 30 years, in spite of having reams of talented players, and saw the futility. We'll never know, but things didn’t get any better.

Brian Griese -- Wolverine alum and son of Bob Griese, the quarterback from the undefeated season -- was let go and AJ Feeley, third string QB at Philadelphia behind Donovan McNabb was brought in as the new back-up. Nothing wrong with that move, Feeley had a couple of good games subbing for McNabb, but unless somebody saw something spectacular in the kid, the QB job is still Jay Fiedler's. Fiedler is steady at best. If he goes the season without injury, things should be OK. If not, it's a gamble on Feeley, which is not any better than a gamble on Griese. Call it a wash.

They added receiver David Boston who has talent but is a confirmed head case. They did not fire Dave Wannstedt, who has shown definite Grady Little tendencies over the years. The offensive coordinator requested a demotion because of exhaustion even before Ricky Williams retired. Odd because all he really ever had to do was draw up a game plan for Ricky to carry the ball about 40 times.

See, it was already a mess even before the bomb dropped. Which brings us to Ricky, who retired last week to...well, we don’t really know what to do. To live, too roam, to be. Whatever he does, it's a fair bet that it will involve tooting a monster spliff.

You see, Ricky retired almost simultaneously with the NFL narcs putting the touch on him for tastin' the ganja -- for the third time. How much of a inveterate pothead do you have to be to get caught three times? "Yeah I know I'll be peeing in a cup tomorrow, but that sleepy dude with the bong said that Little Debbies will mask it, so I guess it's OK." Ricky's retirement is supposed to be the death knell for the Dolphins season.

But maybe not. Last year, the Dolphins were 10-6, despite injuries to Fiedler. The defense was sound and still is. And the fact of the matter is, although Ricky made lots of yards last year he was a less than mediocre performer. Maybe it's because he spent the previous year getting his bell rung 35-40 times a week in the course of leading the league in rushing, but last year he got his bell rung 35-40 times a week for a miniscule 3.5 yards per carry behind a horrendous offensive line. And the Dolphins were still 10-6. Now the offensive line is a bit better, so with an average RB as a replacement and a healthy first string QB. Is there any reason Miami shouldn’t get 10 wins again?

Psychology you say. They have the talent but the loss of their go-to guy is going to take a toll in morale. They won’t believe they can win, so they can't. Again, maybe not. They could just as easily use Ricky's "betrayal" as motivation. Or maybe they'll just be happy to be rid of him in the locker room. According to Peter King, besides just being flat-out weird, Ricky had a bit of a problem with personal hygiene:

I had various mates tell me over the years that he and his locker smelled of severe B.O. (which I can confirm), that he was alarmingly antisocial, and that he had no interest in being their friend. None of which, by the way, makes him a bad person.

So maybe things aren't so bad as they seem. Which brings to another topic. Gambling. Scooting around web sports betting sites, there is an over/under for total wins for Miami at -130 for over 8 wins. That means a hundred dollar bet will yield $130 if the Dolphins win 9 games (8 wins is a .500 season). I'd take that without hesitation. Other potentials are -150 for 9 wins. That means if Miami duplicates last year's record of 10-6, a hundred dollar bet returns $150. I'd take that too with maybe a bit of hesitation.

And while were at it, here're some other good bets in my fevered mind:

++The Lions are paying $145 for a hundred dollar bet that they will win at least 7 games (meaning a .500 season). The Lions are much improved.
++The Ravens are paying $135 for a hundred dollar bet that they won’t win 9 games. When a running back carries more than 370 times in a year, they almost invariably fall off the following year. Jamal Lewis carried 387 times last year. A fair bet.
++ You can win $155 for a hundred dollar bet if the Titans win less than 10 games, the Jets win less than 9 games and the Bears win less than 7 games. I'd consider any of those, especially the Jets.

Of course, if you want to take a flyer at the Super Bowl winner, I would go with Tampa Bay at 10-1 or Seattle at 12-1 for a good balance of probability and risk. (Interestingly, the Patriots are 4-1 to repeat but the Eagles are 7-2 to win it all, meaning the Eagles are the favorites according to bettors. That's all wrong; the Pats improved undeniably, the Eagles improved only arguably.)

So what's the bottom line of all this? I need to get to Vegas.