A Deadline Is Born

If you were planning on voting in WXPN's Top Ten Favorite Albums of 2004 you have until midnight tonight. I'm working on my list today and I'll try to post about it tomorrow.

Man, this really snuck up on me. A November deadline for best albums of the year? According to their website, 'XPN is going to stretch out the playback of albums 11-50 by playing a few "selected" songs from each album between December 13 and Dec 31. Then on January 1 they will play the top ten albums in their entirety.

Get voting! You could win a copy of every CD that ends up on the top 50.

Yule Time

Take a look at my Daily Photo

On a related note to yesterday’s post, my Christmas wish list entered the hardware department Sunday, thanks to a couple Black & Decker ads during the Eagles game.

The Black & Decker BULLSEYE Crosshair 90-Degree Auto Leveling Laser is a lot like the Bullet Laser Level that I’ve wanted for a while, except it shoots a laser both horizontally and vertically. As the missus knows, asking me to hang a picture brings about procrastination on an epic scale. That’s because very few things can ruin my day more than hanging a picture crooked. This isn’t just a tool; it’s a marriage saver.

The Black & Decker ATM100 25' Auto Tape Measure is more of a toy than a necessity, but what a jaw-dropping toy. A tape measure that retracts and extends at the touch of a button? Pinch me. I consider myself a connoisseur of tape measures, and while I’ll never give up my Stanley PowerLock, the ATM100 would instantly gain a spot of honor on my workbench.

If you’re keeping track, here are the other Christmas wishes I have made. I’ve also listed them on my sidebar, under “Wishing for…” (I don’t even pretend to think that many people care, but the missus keeps bugging me about making a list).


This Old Host

Take a look at my Daily Photo

hey, bob

Alan J. Heavens, perhaps the only person who cares about This Old House as much as I do, had a column in Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer about one-time TOH host Bob Vila. In between remarkable articles on home ownership, home repair and tools, Heavens will sometimes slip in a piece about the state of home repair shows. Earlier this year he had an article about the 25th season of TOH. He has been just as disappointed in what TOH has become as I have, but he saw promise in this season’s house and was willing to give them another chance. I have tuned in a bit, but I still hate the fact that they are building yet another 5000-square-foot mansion.

After his ten years with TOH, Vila created (along with his sponsor Sears) Home Again, which he has hosted for the fifteen years since he left TOH. Home Again is done in the style of the old TOH that I enjoyed long ago, though with less-knowledgeable Bob Riley filling in at carpenter for Godlike Super-Genius (and I say that with absolutely no sarcasm – just ask the missus) Norm Abram.

The only other downside to Home Again is Vila’s enormous ego. While TOH often allows host Kevin O’Connor’s sidekicks to handle a scene by themselves, Bob is always on the screen during Home Again. But where O’Connor was a VP at Fleet Bank before joining TOH, Vila’s been doing this his whole life and obviously knows his stuff. Vila’s ego, along with his insistence on being allowed to shill for Sears on his own time, seems to have been the cause of the split between him and PBS. Nonetheless, the projects that Vila now works on are interesting and informative enough to allow looking past his personality flaws. TOH has better personalities, but their projects are geared towards those in the market for million dollar homes.

Rather than use his column to critique Home Again, the Inky’s Heavens lets Vila give his opinion of TOH and the other home improvement shows that litter the airwaves. Though the erstwhile TOH host claims that he doesn’t like to criticize his old show, it’s obvious that he does not like what it has become. He says that after he left, “the show became scripted, like a sitcom.” I totally agree with him here, especially with the TOH spin-off, Ask This Old House. Ask TOH deals with the kind of projects that Vila has always done, but the scripted banter between O’Connor and his co-hosts is cringe-worthy to the point of being unwatchable.

Vila saves most of his venom for the newer “home improvement” (if you can call it that) shows that he sees as more entertainment than information; those with carpenters who are celebrities first and craftsmen second, or shows that are just updates of Queen for a Day (ironically, Extreme Makeover Home Edition host/carpenter Ty Pennington is also a Sears spokesman). Like me, Vila wonders how sturdy the results are when the workers rush through them to meet some arbitrary deadline. (I've always wondered how these shows get their permits so fast).

Obviously this is a subject near and dear to my heart and I wish I could catch Vila’s Home Again more often, but it airs at 4 a.m. here in Philly. I’ve been stuck watching it whenever I happen to catch a rerun on cable, but I think I will start taping it so I can watch it once the weather turns frigid and I start running on the treadmill again.

Just like I use to do with This Old House.


Fantastic Planet of Football - Week 11

Take a look at my Daily Photo

fantasy players wear teeny tiny helmets

Week 11:
The Lucky Bastards 88, Three And Out 77

Strong outings by Brian Westbrook and Jake Plummer could not rescue my Fantasy Football team from a lackluster fantasy weekend by Terrell Owens and zero points from Brandon Stokley as Three and Out fell to the Lucky Bastards, 88-77.

We go into this weekend already up 20-0 against the Slackers thanks to a strong Thanksgiving game by Stokley. I will take this as a sign from above and not touch my roster this weekend. Here's what my roster looks like going into Week 12:
QB J. Plummer (Den - QB)
WR T. Owens (Phi - WR)
WR B. Stokley (Ind - WR)
WR D. Bennett (Ten - WR)
RB W. McGahee (Buf - RB)
RB B. Westbrook (Phi - RB)
TE J. Wiggins (Min - TE)
D Baltimore (Bal - D)
BN D. Graham (NE - TE)
BN B. Roethlisberger (Pit - QB)
BN I. Bruce (StL - WR)
BN W. Dunn (Atl - RB)
BN L. Suggs (Cle - RB)
BN D. Staley (Pit - RB)
With three fantasy weekends before the fantasy playoffs, Three and Out (5-6), Slackers (5-6), the Lucky Bastards (4-6-1), and the Sharks (4-7) are all battling for the two remaining playoff spots. This weekend should start the separation of the contenders from the pretenders.


Photo Friday - 11.26.04

Each week Photo Friday posts a photo assignment. Your mission is the creative interpretation of the week's theme. When you're done, post the picture you took to your website and submit your link to Photo Friday.

Photo Friday is about challenging our participants to be original and creative within the constraints of the week's theme. It's not a competition. Anyone with a camera and a place on the internet to post pictures can participate.

This week's challenge: Prosperity

Click on photo to enlarge.
click image to enlarge

Prosperity is an unsmashed piggybank.
Home, South Jersey, USA


Going Stagg

Take a look at my Daily Photo

another christmas hint

Week 11:

Rowan spent week 11 taking a top-seed bye and waiting to find out their opponent in the second round of the Stagg Bowl XXXII playoffs. By beating Curry College, Hobart College moved on to face Rowan. This Saturday the Statesmen make the trip from Geneva, NY to Glassboro, NJ to take on the fourth-seed Profs.

Hobart established the first Men's Studies minor in the US, "an intellectually rigorous and coherent explanation of men’s lives." They also offer a major in Woman's Studies, the goal of which is to "give students the broadest possible context in which to realize and interpret the multidimensional roles of women in societies around the world." I won't go into how unfair it is that Men's Studies is a minor and Woman's Studies is a major, but it seems to me that the point of the Woman's program is to study women's accomplishments through time while the Men's program just hopes to figure out what the hell makes guys act the way they do.

The march toward the NJ Parochial 3 championship by my high school alma mater, Holy Cross High, was ended by Pope John XXIII last Saturday, 34-16. Tonight in Moorestown the Lancers take on the Quakers of Moorestown High. In addition to winning in front of a Thanksgiving weekend full house, Holy Cross (#8) has a chance to overtake Moorestown (#6) in the Inquirer's South Jersey Football Top 10. It's not much, but it's the only thing they have left to fight for.


500 Miles Standish

Take a look at my Daily Photo

Peanut's Linus is such an obvious self-rightous bleeding-heart liberal that he could be the patron saint of the Accidental Blogist. Since we're going over the river and through the woods (well, lower Bucks County) I'll hand my Thanksgiving post over to him:
"In the year 1621, the Pilgrims had their first Thanksgiving feast. They invited the great Indian Chief Massasoit, who brought ninety of his brave Indians and a great abundance of food. Governor William Bradford and Captian Miles Standish were honored quests. Elder William Brewster, who was a minister, said a prayer that went something like this: We thank God for our homes and our food and our safety in a new land. We thank God for the opportunity to create a new world for freedom and justice!"
Amen. Let's Eat!

Happy Thanksgiving!


The Accidental Vanilla Sunset

Take a look at my Daily Photo

i'll trade france jerry lewis for julie delpy

Keeping with the movie theme, here are some quick thoughts on the last few movies I saw before joining the Blockbuster DVD-by-mail program.

Before Sunset – I was going to wait until I saw Before Sunrise again before saying anything about its sequel, but Blockbuster says that I have a “very long wait” for that one. The missus and I saw Before Sunrise in the theatre back when it originally came out in 1995 (that also makes it Before Sons for us). I don’t remember much from the first movie other than that it was an obvious art-house film. I liked it, but it definitely didn’t make a lasting impression on me. I think that was the point. It was just a quiet little movie about a couple of strangers walking around Vienna waiting for the dawn and the trains that would split them apart. Before Sunset takes place nine years later as they reconnect in Paris. It’s the same concept, this time walking around waiting for a plane to take Ethan Hawke back to his wife-and-child life. The film happens in real time and both Hawke and Julie Delpy are so relaxed and are so obviously having fun, which adds depth to the simple story. It also makes you really like these guys, not an easy task when dealing with Ethan Hawke. Nothing really earth-shattering and no deep revelations but I found myself smiling throughout, and not all of that had to do with the beautiful Ms. Delpy and her wonderful singing voice.

The Accidental Tourist – I took this video out from the same library that I borrowed the Anne Tyler novel from this year. Another quiet movie, technically I guess it’s a chick flick but William Hurt never lets it get mushy (okay, maybe in the very last scene). I’m a big fan of Tyler and thankfully her story does not suffer in the move to the big screen. Geena Davis plays an eccentric without chewing up the scenery, earning herself an Oscar (though for Best Supporting Actress when Best Actress would have been more appropriate). The only bit of criticism would be that William Hurt’s wife isn’t as fleshed out or as sympathetic a character as she is in the book. I think some of this has to do with the time restraints of the movie but is mostly due to a miscast Kathleen Turner. If you want to know what I thought of the story, go back to my post on the novel.

Vanilla Sky – 120 minutes of WTF? followed by 15 minutes of that’s it? Like an overlong Twilight Zone episode, one of those few episodes you forgot about as soon as it was over. Cameron Crowe uses the “what’s a dream and what’s real?” hook to cover up the fact that there really isn’t an interesting story behind it. It didn’t take long for me to stop caring about the characters and just hang on to see how everything is explained. The explanation is so rushed at the end and so unspectacular that it left me unimpressed. Crowe adds some Sixth Sense-like “did you catch that clue?” stuff at the end, but nothing that makes it worthwhile to actually go back and watch various characters say “open your eyes” about a kabillion times. As it often happens in his movies you never get past the fact that Tom Cruise is playing The Smile (as he’s called in the biz), even though he spends most of this movie behind a mask (and after the awful Eyes Wide Shut you would think Tom would stop making movies involving masks, but I guess not).


Flop Like a Fish

Take a look at my Daily Photo

she's purd-y spongebob

The classic woe-is-me line that parents of young kids use is “I can’t even remember the last movie we went out to see.” (I really can’t remember the last movie the missus and I went out to see). But this, of course, ignores the fact that parents often goes out to see films, it’s just that they’re all kids movies. That’s because we’re usually trying to forget these movies.

So when the SpongeBob SquarePants Movie came out I jumped at the chance to fulfill my parenting duty before getting stuck seeing to see some Disney holiday-related piece of mush. SpongeBob is the only Nickelodeon show that I haven’t gotten sick of. Jimmy Neutron and Rocket Power may have been all right at first, but they couldn’t hold up to the ten million replayings that Nickelodeon subjects every show to quite like SpongeBob could. SpongeBob's the only show you want them to play 10 million times. It’s also a source of bonding each time the men of the house can recite whole episodes and drive the woman of the house bonkers.

So perhaps I went into the SpongeBob movie with my expectations too high. I anticipated something akin to an animated Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Or maybe a Blazing Saddles for kids. Something that was wall-to-wall non-stop wackiness. Sad to say, SpongeBob was nowhere near that much fun. The writers stuck to one never-deviated-from story for the whole eighty-minute movie, rather than take the wild tangents I hoped for. While one story works for an eight minute episode, it falls short in a movie ten times as long.

Right from the start the mood was wrong. While the pirate-related opening was wacky, having the pirates sing the SpongeBob theme in the style of a 40’s musical was the film’s first missed opportunity. The TV show starts with the theme song as call and response, and if the movie followed that style they would have had the kids in my audience going nuts. Imagine a theatre full of kids screaming a theme song they know by heart. Instead most of the kids tried to do a sing alone, but quickly gave up. So instead of a charged audience, you had an audience that sounded like it had the wind knocked out of it. Five minutes into the movie and the audience’s enthusiasm is being snuffed.

Another problem was that, while I understand that the movie is about SpongeBob and his best friend Patrick, the other players from the TV show hardly ever seen. Instead, SpongeBob and Patrick are surrounded mostly by new characters created just for the movie (and David Hasselhoff, playing his Baywatch uber-lifeguard – a joke lost on every kid in the theatre and not that funny to those adults who did get it). These new characters all seem to be stolen straight from the Disney playbook. Some of them, like Jeffrey Tambor’s King Neptune, are somewhat off-kilter, but no more than recent Disney characters like Shrek’s Donkey or the Lion King’s Timon. The SpongeBob creators had a chance to ridicule these quasi-hip-but-really-white-bread Disney smart-alects (who all seem to me to be voiced by either Eddie Murphy or Nathan Lane), but instead they just lazily copy them.

Even worse is King Neptune’s daughter Mindy, played by the beautiful Scarlett Johansson (pictured above) of Lost in Translation fame. She is the textbook Disney earnest new friend who teaches the lead characters that they have the power to do whatever they are willing to work toward. Here is an element of childrens' movies that is ripe for ridicule, but again the SpongeBob guys just go with the flow and do little with Johansson’s character. After her one funny scene she just becomes annoying.

The final letdown was that there was no surprise after the credits ran. My son and I (and half the crowd) waited and could not believe that they wouldn’t add something – anything – here. Even the lamest of kids’ movies do that these days. Luckily the kids who were waiting could make finger shadows over the credits to keep themselves entertained.

I know that I may be taking all of this too seriously, but I was disappointed for both my son and me, never mind the fact that a night at the movies is twenty bucks for the two of us. The film moved along quickly enough but it didn’t produce a lot of laughs for anyone at our showing. I really expected it to be a raucous scene in the theatre but many times there was complete silence. I don't even expect silence in the theatre during an adult drama these days, much less at a cartoon.

Did I like it? Yeah. Could it have been much funnier? Absolutely. Am I glad I took my son to this and got out of taking him to the next Murphy/Lane Disney movie? No doubt about it. Is it annoying when a reviewer asks questions like this? Positively. But I can’t help thinking that the most fun my son had was making those finger shadows during the credits. For that I paid $20.


Everyone's Gone to the Movies

Take a look at my Daily Photo


Even though the Accidental Blogist’s subtitle describes me as a “Movie Snob,” I rarely post anything about movies. Truth is, like most parents of small children, the missus and I don’t get out to see movies very often. And because I am such a movie snob I usually can’t even find a film I would want to go see or even rent. Ads that attract most people out to the movies don't work on me. Hearing that deep-voiced “movie-trailer guy” (you know him, the one who always starts with “In a world where…”) is enough to turn me off. The missus and I are lucky if we get to go out once a month, and we don’t want to waste that night on a bad movie. It’s too dangerous to go into Blockbuster without knowing exactly what you want, you’re more likely than not to come out with garbage.

Recently, however, we have been determined to have on-the-cheap “at-home” dates where we eat a late dinner alone and watch a DVD. We pay our seven-year-old 5 bucks to stay upstairs with our 2 ½-year-old and we keep the baby monitor on (the boys are in bed for most of our "date" and we do go up and check on them every so often. Please don't call DYFS). As much as we have tried to keep this up, our dislike of going to the video store, along with the fact that we almost always forget to return movies on time, was working against us.

So I crunched the numbers and realized that it would be worth it to join a DVD by mail rental service. It’s about $20 a month, but if we rent two movies a month that’s about what we would be spending at Blockbuster. We could research the movies better and rent some of the older movies we’ve wanted to see that Blockbuster no longer stock. Plus, if we joined Blockbuster’s program (instead of Netflix) we would get two coupons a month for free in-store movie or game rentals. The 7-year-old has agreed to accept these coupons as payment for babysitting (have we gone into the child-labor violation area yet?). It’s a win-win for everyone.

So hopefully we will be seeing many more quality movies in the near future. In addition to our date-night flicks, I hope to watch at least one movie a week that the missus might not want to watch. Right now I’ve loaded our queue up with a lot of Paul Newman, early Coen brothers, and some music DVDs (the Clash, Wilco, Alison Krauss). We’ve also put some cool older things on there for the kids. I’m thinking of putting films that are on the top of our queue somewhere on my sidebar, but for now here are the first three movies being sent to us: Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism (my pick), Catch That Kid (for the kids), and SNL Best of Phil Hartman (the wife’s pick).

Stay tuned for my first attempt at a movie review tomorrow.


Fantastic Planet of Football - Week 10

Take a look at my Daily Photo

fantasy players wear teeny tiny helmets

Week 10:
Three And Out 73, Woolwich Eagles 67

Thank God for Terrell Owens and Brian Westbrook. Going into the Monday night game my Fantasy Football team was down by 30 points, partly due to a 10-point mistake by me. I forgot to bench Daniel Graham for Jermaine Wiggins. But T.O. and Westbrook came through with 35 points combined and gave me a 73-67 win over the sad but trying Woolwich Eagles. The win puts me at 5-5 and moves me up to fourth place (a playoff spot) with only four fantasy weekends to go.

This weekend Jake Plummer goes back in against the porous Saints defense and Ben Roethlisberger takes the bench. Big Ben's a great QB, but he doesn't rack up many fantasy points. Last weekend he gave me 1 whole point. To paraphrase Buddy Ryan, he just wins games. Hopefully I got some much needed WR help by picking Drew Bennett off of waivers and dropping bench-warmer Darius Watts. I'll play Bennett this week and let Isaac Bruce ride the pine. And I made sure that I made the Wiggins for Graham move, but I'm going to double check right now just to be sure... Yup, I did.

My opponent this weekend is the lackluster Lucky Bastards, who are 3-6-1 and have made so few moves that they should be checked for a pulse.


Red Hawk Down

Take a look at my Daily Photo

amos alonzo stagg

Week 10:

With yet another strong game from their sophomore quarterback, Rowan finished their regular season on a high note. Mike Orihel's four touchdowns helped lead the Profs to a 42-14 win over the Red Hawks of Montclair State. Orihel's performance allows him to hang onto the NJAC Player of the Week title he earned last week for another seven days. Rowan ends the season 8-2 with a perfect 6-0 NJAC record. Their only two losses came against Division II teams. Pretty impressive. The bracket-makers were obviously impressed, giving the Profs the top spot in their playoff bracket and the fourth seed overall. That seeding gives them a bye this weekend as they march towards Stagg Bowl XXXII.

The Stagg Bowl, the Division III championship game, is named after Amos Alonzo Stagg. Stagg coached for seventy years, most notably at the University of Chicago. According to the Stagg Bowl site he is credited with inventing the man in motion, the backfield shift, the quick kick, the reverse, the end around, and the lateral. He is in no way related to Chicago Hope's Hector Elizondo, Good Times' John Amos, or Stand and Deliver's Edward James Olmos, but he did play himself in Knute Rockne All American.

My high school alma mater, Holy Cross High, scored twenty unanswered forth-quarter points to beat Immaculata 34-14 in the first round of the NJ Parochial 3 playoffs. This weekend the third-seed Lancers face second-seed Pope John XXIII in Sparta. A team of lancers battling a pope who died 30 years ago? I like our odds (the Philadelphia Inquirer, on the other hand, predicts the old guy beating my Lancers, 32-30).


Short Shrift

Take a look at my Daily Photo


Think of all the dumb things I write about. Now think of all the dumb things that I don't write about. Where do they go?

Throughout the week I bookmark interesting items that I might want to write about. At the end of the week I end up with the leftovers. Not substantial enough for its own post, too good (at least at one time) to let go. Here goes this week's:

1. Food Network keeps airing All Star Thanksgiving and I keep missing it. It's on this Saturday and again Sunday, both at 4:00pm. What's so special about it? Picture all the Food Network cooks together in one room. Rachael Ray. Emeril Lagasse. Alton Brown (pictured above). Sara Moulton. Tyler Florence. Paula Deen. Giada DeLaurentiis. I'm not crazy about most of these guys (except Alton and Rachael and maybe Tyler) but it's worth watching just to see the vibe between Alton and Emeril. Until they have a steel-cage fight between these two, this will have to do.

2. Congrats to Mark Winegardner who, after winning a contest, has written the first post-Mario Puzo Godfather sequel. Winegardner is the author of one of my favorite novels, Crooked River Burning. Here's hoping he doesn't get pigeon-holed into writing just Godfather books or get his kneecaps broken by angry Puzo fans. I'm hoping readers use the Godfather Returns as an entry point to all of Winegardner's writing.

3. I hope everyone noticed my new improved header banner and revised and detailed list of sites I hit ("Hitting..." on the sidebar).

4. And lastly, from McSweeney's, Cruel Nicknames for Overweight Vampires:
Undead Weight
Count Chocoholic
Vampire the Buffet Slayer
The Vampurgler
The Vampire Lestop For Some Tacos
Vlad the Inhaler
Child Of Candy Cain
Quiche Lilith
Queen of the Hammed
Taco Bela
Bela Obesi
Transylvania 6-5000 Calories
Dick Cheney
Das Vhoppyr
Have a great weekend!

Photo Friday - 11.19.04

Each week Photo Friday posts a photo assignment. Your mission is the creative interpretation of the week's theme. When you're done, post the picture you took to your website and submit your link to Photo Friday.

Photo Friday is about challenging our participants to be original and creative within the constraints of the week's theme. It's not a competition. Anyone with a camera and a place on the internet to post pictures can participate.

This week's challenge: Patterns

Click on photo to enlarge.
click image to enlarge

Society Hill Towers.
I.M. Pei, Architect.
2nd & Locust, Philadelphia, PA.


Hot Stove Burn Baby

Take a look at my Daily Photo

the thing that ate philly

Hot-stove Season (n) - the winter season, when baseball is not played but only discussed.

While looking at ESPN's list of 2004's top free agents I noticed that David Wells, at number 33 (which coincidentally is also his jersey number), is the only top free agent projected to sign with the Phillies. This bugged me for two reasons. One, ESPN must still think that the Phillies still can't attract free agents, and two, I really don't want David Wells to sign with the Phillies.

Hoping that they're wrong, I decided to look at last year's list of top free agents and see how well ESPN did with their predictions. Here they are:

1. Vladimir Guerrero Prediction: Orioles. Signed with: Angels
2. Bartolo Colon Prediction: Yankees. Signed with: Angels
3. Miguel Tejada Prediction: Dodgers. Signed with: Orioles
4. Gary Sheffield Prediction: Yankees. Signed with: Yankees
5. Ivan Rodriguez Prediction: Cubs. Signed with: Tigers
6. Kevin Millwood Prediction: Red Sox. Signed with: Phillies
7. Keith Foulke Prediction: Braves. Signed with: Red Sox
8. Andy Pettitte Prediction: Astros. Signed with: Astros
9. Kazuo Matsui Prediction: Angels. Signed with: Mets
10. Javy Lopez Prediction: Dodgers. Signed with: Orioles
11. Greg Maddox Prediction: Cardinals. Signed with: Cubs
12. Shannon Stewart Prediction: Twins. Signed with: Twins
13. Rafael Palmeiro Prediction: Angels. Signed with: Orioles
14. Ugueth Urbina Prediction: Cubs. Signed with: Tigers
15. Sidney Ponson Prediction: Orioles. Signed with: Orioles
16. Luis Castillo Prediction: Red Sox. Signed with: Marlins
17. Eddie Guardado Prediction: Twins. Signed with: Mariners
18. Mike Cameron Prediction: Mets. Signed with: Mets
19. Tim Worrell Prediction: Blue Jays. Signed with: Phillies
20. Kelvim Escobar Prediction: Rangers. Signed with: Angels
21. LaTroy Hawkins Prediction: Yankees. Signed with: Cubs
22. Shigetoshi Hasegawa Prediction: Mariners. Signed with: Mariners
23. Rich Aurilia Prediction: Giants. Signed with: Mariners
24. Raul Ibanez Prediction: A's. Signed with: Mariners
25. Juan Gonzalez Prediction: Expos. Signed with: Royals
26. Miguel Bastista Prediction: Cardinals. Signed with: Blue Jays
27. Tom Gordon Prediction: A's. Signed with: Yankees.
28. Maels Rodriguez Prediction: Devil Rays. Signed with: ????
29. Carl Everett Prediction: Rockies. Signed with: Expos
30. Todd Walker Prediction: Padres. Signed with: Cubs
31. Jose Cruz, Jr. Prediction: Pirates. Signed with: Devil Rays
32. Raul Mondesi Prediction: Giants. Signed with: Pirates
33. Rod Beck Prediction: Mets. Signed with: Padres
34. Reggie Sanders Prediction: Royals. Signed with: Cardinals
35. Wilson Alvarez Prediction: Dodgers. Signed with: Dodgers
36. Fernando Vina Prediction: White Sox. Signed with: Tigers
37. David Wells Prediction: Yankees. Signed with: Padres
38. Jose Guillen Prediction: Braves. Signed with: Angels
39. Curt Leskanic Prediction: Cubs. Signed with: Royals
40. Kenny Lofton Prediction: Cubs. Signed with: Yankees
41. Joe Randa Prediction: Royals. Signed with: Royals
42. Benito Santiago Prediction: Padres. Signed with: Royals
43. Roberto Alomar Prediction: Cardinals. Signed with: Diamondbacks
44. Jeromy Burnitz Prediction: Diamondbacks. Signed with: Rockies
45. Rondell White Prediction: Pirates. Signed with: Tigers
46. Vinny Castilla Prediction: Rockies. Signed with: Rockies
47. Arthur Rhodes Prediction: Yankees. Signed with: Athletics
48. Mark Grudzielanek Prediction: Cubs. Signed with: Cubs
49. Brian Jordan Prediction: Mariners. Signed with: Rangers
50. Jose Mesa Prediction: Astros. Signed with: Pirates.

So they got 10 out of 50 predictions (or 20%) right. While that's way better than draft-day goldenboy Mel Kiper Jr. does with his football forecasts, it's nothing to write Bristol about. Amazingly, ESPN predicted that none of last year's top fifty would sign with Philadelphia. We ended up with two (both in the top 20), which is better than average when you spread 50 players among 30 teams.

So if you're worried about the Phillies signing Wells, or not signing someone else on ESPN's list, find something else to worry about. Like what ever happened to Maels Rodriguez? (Or better yet, stop worrying and take a look at my daily photo, I'm kind of extra proud of today's.)

Update: I originally didn't give ESPN enough credit. I initially had said that they got 9 predictions right, but missed that they correctly predicted Vinny Castilla signing with the Rockies in 2003. But how tough of a prediction was that? Other than the Rockies, who in their right mind would sign a Coors Field hothouse flower like Castilla? The guy can't hit at sea level. What? Washington just signed him for two years? Oh. Well, it's good to see les Expos Ressortissants are getting off on the right foot.


Geek Alert

everybody loves geography!

I almost forgot, today is GIS Day! Woo Hoo!

Don't Come Around Here No More

Take a look at my Daily Photo

scarier in real life

Yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer had an interesting little article about Petty's Island, a very large piece of land that sits in the Jersey side of the Delaware River. Most of the island has been home to an oil refinery (currently run by Citgo) while the rest of the island has been left undeveloped and has even attracted a pair of nesting bald eagles.

Citgo tried last year to donate the island to the state, perhaps to get an environmental mess off its hands while looking like the good neighbor. The state refused the donation, citing cost of cleanup and maintenance. Pennsauken, where the island is located, is eager to condemn the land and build a golf course and some ritzy homes on the island. Environmentalist would like the island to be cleaned up and be allowed to return to nature.

I admit that I haven't been following this story very closely. My brain has lumped it together with the plans for developing Burlington Island, a similarly sized island off the coast of Burlington City, which isn't the environmental mess Petty's Island is but still comes with its own headaches. But yesterday's article caught my attention because it focused on a new player in the saga of Petty's Island - Christie Whitman.

Yes, that esteemed sentinel of both New Jersey and the environment is on the case. And who's side has President Bush's first head of the EPA taken? Why, Citgo's of course. Like I said, this is a tricky case and I'm not very read up on it, but I know if Whitman is going one way the State and environmentalists should run the other.

One reason not to trust her? She's playing naive:
"I agreed to pick up the phone and call [U.S. Secretary of the Interior] Gale Norton and realized I became a lobbyist."
Don't get me started on what a joke it's been having Gale Norton run Interior, but Whitman must be smart enough to know that making calls for an oil company to the government is lobbying. Maybe she should have at least realized this when Citgo handed her the check for making the calls.

Another reason not to trust her? While Whitman can take credit for some environmental improvements as governor, she has rarely chosen the environment over big business. Before she was Governor she sat on the state Public Utility Board and often sided with the utility companies. While Governor she was responsible for forcing the anti-development Terry Moore out as head of the Pinelands Commission, where he helped protect about a quarter of the state for twenty years, in favor of an obviously pro-development appointee. As the head of the EPA she was a Bush lapdog before being a Bush lapdog was cool. She could teach all these new cabinet appointees a thing or two about selling your soul and becoming yes-men (and yes-women).

What's scariest about this is that the environmentalists don't see any other choice but to support her on Petty's island. The article quoted the director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club:
"It shows you how environmentally bad New Jersey has become when we're looking at Gov. Whitman and the Bush administration to be our environmental champions."
They say politics make strange bedfellows. With Whitman and Bush, the Sierra Club should sleep with one eye open.


Maybe I'm Amazed

Take a look at my Daily Photo

Today is a big day at our house. Tonight at 9:00 the Amazing Race returns.

While the missus, my 7-year-old son, and I only really started watching this show last season, it's quickly become a favorite. It’s cool that we can include our son in this almost-completely-swear-free show. That's not a common reality show trait, but neither are non-stop action and a lack of whining, both of which AR offers. I truly think that the superior AR has soured me on ever watching the whiny Survivor again (unless, of course, they have another All-Star version, I'm a sucker for those).

The only bad thing about AR’s ratings success last season is that it won’t be repeated on Saturdays at 8:00 anymore. That means that we’ll have tape it so my son can catch it.

I tried coming up with some pre-show favorites, just from the CBS bios. Here are the couples I have to choose from:
The Formerly-Dating Couple, both of them personal trainers.
The High School Buddies, Brooklyn-born, now-bicoastal.
The Old Couple.
The Engaged Models.
The Dating Actors (although really it’s just another couple of dating models).
The Father-Daughter Team, him a former CIA agent, her a special-ed teacher.
The Married Entrepreneurs who fight all the time.
The Long Distance Dating Couple. She’s a former go-go dancer who’s now studying Geography, my kind of dame.
The Mormon Sisters. One is a single mom; the other is a former striptease aerobics instructor who is returning to college after the Race. I’ll hold judgment until I find out whether or not her major is Geography.
The Married Professional Wrestlers. I don’t like them already.
The Roommates and Best Friends. From NYC.
I’m leaning towards either the Roommates or the Father-Daughter Team (pictured above) before tonight’s show. I have a better grasp on who I think I won’t like: the High School Buddies (Mets fans), the Old Couple (why get attached to them? Chances are: a. they’re extremely nice and b. they’ll be gone once the stupid people are eliminated), the Dating Models/Actors (if they’re anything like last season’s models), and the ‘Rasslers.

Of course, all of that could change after I watch the first episode. Well, everything but the part about the ‘Rasslers. I’m pretty sure of that one.


Whit or Whitout You

Take a look at my Daily Photo


In a move that has probably pushed my interest in my alma mater, Rowan University, from simply worrisome to outright pathetic, fourteen years after graduating I have subscribed to the email version of the school paper, the Whit.

While it's always fun reading the words of would-be journalists (just like it's fun to listen to would-be DJs' trying to sound cool doing college station IDs), I am impressed with what the paper has done with the Crime Log since I left what was then Glassboro State College.

The Crime Log, once a dry listing of almost word-for-word police reports, now includes snarky comments. An example:
An officer on bike patrol noticed two males walking on the sidewalk in the area of Rowan Hall. According to the police report, "As I arrived to check their well-being I noticed an odor consistent with what is commonly referred to as marijuana."

The officer also noticed one of the subjects had a cigarette-like object in his left hand. He asked what it was, and the subject handed the officer what looked like a homemade cigarette without a filter. Upon close inspection "it appeared to be what is commonly referred to as a joint." The subject continued to claim that the two were just sharing a cigarette.

There was too much thinking to be done for one officer to handle, and backup was requested. Another officer arrived in short time and with their combined brain capacity they were quickly able to determine that the item in question was marijuana. Both subjects were detained and brought back to Public Safety headquarters.
I'm not trying to slam campus police officers - or police officers in general, and believe me I'm glad my work isn't under scrutiny like theirs is, but when you put "...what is commonly referred to as marijuana" in your police report, it's not too hard to ridicule it. It's like shooting fish in what is commonly referred to as a barrel.

While the Crime Log gets some of its laughs at the campus police's expense, many entries show just how smart some students are:
In yet another testament to how intelligent potheads are, an officer on routine patrol noticed a subject smoking a glass pipe in plain view in a public place. There was smoke emanating from the pipe and the officer recalled detecting the smell as marijuana from the past. As the subject was approached he attempted to place the pipe between his body and a bench. The subject was asked what he was smoking in the glass pipe and he responded "marijuana." The subject was then identified and asked if he had anything else on him. At this point, the subject pulled out medical bottle containing a leafy green vegetation and placed it on the bench beside the glass pipe.
Some are just funny at no one's expense:
Unknown suspect(s) have pilfered the "Welcome Back Alumni" sign which was hanging from the porch area in front of the Alumni House. "Both the zip ties and nylon strap were found at the scene and appeared to be cut by a cutting device". The sign is valued at approximately $180.00. Officers are on the lookout for anyone cordially welcoming back alumni.
By the way, the name the Whit follows a fine Glassboro tradition of naming things for some obscure reason. The school nickname is the Profs because Glassboro/Rowan was once a "teacher's college" - just like every other state university in New Jersey! How many of them are named after that fiercely intimidating occupation? Zero. The Whit takes its name from the Whitney family, who as you surely know owned the glass factory that gave the town its name - about a billion years ago. Of course everyone just assumes that Rowan journalism majors can't spell Wit.


Gone Cheney?

Take a look at my Daily Photo

While I don't doubt that Dick Cheney was really sick the other day (he's looked a little sick to me all along), I think the plan for the GOP is for him to step down before the next term starts. I can't believe that this is an original political thought, but I haven't seen this discussed anywhere else (granted I stay away from political shows these days).

Let's face it, his health would be a valid reason for stepping down. I would have sworn the GOP was going to use it as an excuse to drop him before the last campaign started (for fear that Haliburton would blow up on them), but I think they knew that people voted for Bush because he had Cheney to do his thinking for him. Bush's personality only takes him so far. And changing VP candidates would go against the GOP's CHANGE = WUSS tactic (although they often change their mind, but that's a whole 'nother post).

Anyway, in the RNC's mind Cheney's taking up valuable real estate. The VP spot offers a political upstart national name recognition and use of the term "our administration" while campaigning for president. Cheney's not running in four years, and the RNC surely doesn't want a catfight in the primaries like the DNC had, so why not crown their candidate now? Have Dick step down now citing "health reasons," which sounds better than the usual "spend more time with the family" that most politicians use when forced out, and start getting to work on 2008.

So, who would replace him? Anyone Bush picks would have to be approved by the House, but that shouldn't be a problem. The Dem's would look bad if they held up the important post of VPOTUS, especially seeing what a chowderhead the POTUS is. I don't know if the RNC would be happy with someone from the radical right like Santorum. No matter what they say, I think the RNC knows that the country isn't really moving to the right. That's why they had closet liberals Ah-nold and Giuliani speak at the GOP convention. I don't know if the RNC would be happy with Giuliani, though. They can't slam the Northeast liberals with him leading their ticket. As much as Schwarzenegger wants to be the Prez-i-nator, there's no way the wingers are going to let some foreigner become president. And they're too busy coming up with other important ways to destroy our constitution anyway. I think they have to go with a moderate from a red state who already has some success.

That's why I think Bush may keep it in the family. I think Dubba will try getting Jeb as his replacement VP. He'll say that right now, after Dick's (not so) surprising decision to step down, he needs a man he knows. And he doesn't know anyone better than his brother. And the House of Bush would continue its evil reign.

Just my thoughts. But you heard them here first.

Update: Now that I think about it, Tom Ridge would work too. We all know Pennsylvania minus Philadelphia equals Red State. Ridge could bring PA to the GOP.


Fantastic Planet of Football - Week 9

Take a look at my Daily Photo

fantasy players wear teeny tiny helmets

Week 9:
Deep Threat 114, Three And Out 52

As expected, my Fantasy Football team got spanked last weekend. As Deep Threat got to enjoy not just the outstanding as usual Peyton Manning, but also surprisingly strong performances from Michael Pittman and Antonio Gates. Meanwhile, I had to endure feeling like a traitor for putting in Ben Roethlisberger against the Eagles while keeping the stronger-performing Jake Plummer on my bench. A horrible week as I dropped to 4-5. The only good news is that the two other 4-4 teams also lost. With five fantasy weekends to go, Three and Out remains fifth in a league that sends four teams to the postseason.

No chance of putting Plummer in this week, since he's on a bye, so I'll stick with Big Ben at QB. While I haven't been too happy with Isaac Bruce this year I'll put him back in this week. My other WR, Darius Watts hasn't been doing all that much either and he's on a bye anyway. The only other roster change will be at TE. For some reason New England is not using Daniel Graham (damn you Corey Dillon!) so I'm going back to Jermaine Wiggins. Yesterday I picked up Duce Staley off waivers and finally gave up on Michael Vick. I'll keep Duce on the bench until he's playing at 100% but I can see him replacing Brian Westbrook pretty soon. I'm now carrying 5 RBs and 2 quality QBs. What I really need are strong WRs.

My opponent this week is the Woolwich Eagles, who have been making a mid-season push for the playoffs. They've made a lot of free agent pickups, but still don't have much beyond Tiki Barber and a now-injured Byron Leftwich. I feel pretty good this week.


Photo Friday - 11.12.04

Each week Photo Friday posts a photo assignment. Your mission is the creative interpretation of the week's theme. When you're done, post the picture you took to your website and submit your link to Photo Friday.

Photo Friday is about challenging our participants to be original and creative within the constraints of the week's theme. It's not a competition. Anyone with a camera and a place on the internet to post pictures can participate.

This week's challenge: Family

Click on photo to enlarge.
click image to enlarge

Cousins at the Jersey shore.
3rd & the Ocean, Ocean City, NJ.

Wouldn't You Like to Be a Lemming Too?

Take a look at my Bonus Photo

Way after all the cool people had already done it, I switched my browser at work to the free Firefly browser yesterday. It was a pretty seamless move from Microsoft Explorer and so far it does seem a lot quicker. I did have trouble downloading the Macromedia Flash Player extension, but that was solved by going right to the Macromedia website.

I am soooo hip.

Pat Down

Take a look at my Daily Photo

oak hall

Week 9:

William Paterson University was barely a speedbump on Rowan's road to their 14th NJAC Conference title, as the Profs pounded the Pioneers 61-6. Not much to talk about in such a rout, especially when you don't want to offend the missus, an alumna of the routee, so let me just add that Rowan sophomore quarterback Mike Orihel earned his third NJAC Player of the week with 252 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Tomorrow in Montclair the Profs play last year's NJAC champs, the Montclair State Red Hawks. MSU is home to the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, whose name is perhaps the biggest oxymoron in all of academia. A Yogi Berra Learning Center is like a Steven Seagal Film School. Since the Profs have already clinched the NJAC and Montclair, the pre-season favorites, have no chance at even making it to the playoffs, I'd say this is a case where Yogi was wrong: It is over before it's over.

My high school alma mater, Holy Cross High, had a bye last weekend, but they did find out whom they will play in the first round of the Parochial Group 3 playoffs. Tonight in Delran the third-seed Lancers will face the sixth-seed Immaculata Spartans of Sommerville. We're playing a team whose school name is in a dead language. I like our odds.


Trouble Over Bridged Water

Take a look at my Daily Photo

click on image to enlarge

When's Ashcroft leaving?

Here's the last shot I took on the Ben Franklin Bridge Wednesday before politely being asked to stop by a very cool Port Authority policeman. He didn't think I was doing anything sinister, but he said drivers get nervous when they see someone taking pictures of the bridge.

The picture is of the Chocolate Works condominiums, in what was once the Wilbur's Chocolate factory.

Update: I have sent an email to the Delaware River Port Authority asking for clarification of their stance on photo taking on their bridges. I couldn't find anything about "Homeland Security" measures on their website.


That's Me in the Corner

Take a look at my Daily Photo

Always on the lookout for both interesting things to photograph and to blog about, I have stumbled upon the Mirror Project, a "growing community of like-minded individuals who have photographed themselves in all manner of reflective surfaces".

Lucky for me, I came across this site shortly after taking a picture of the crowd behind the stage at the Philly Kerry rally, as seen reflected in a parking garage traffic mirror. I really liked that shot, so I submitted about a week ago. Since then I have taken the Mirror Project as a challenge to be on the lookout for interesting reflective surfaces to shoot. The fact that I'm not real crazy about putting my face out on the web (trust me, we're all better off without it out there) forces me to be a little more creative.

This week I sent in the above photo, and they posted it here. I'm more proud of the bumper sticker than I am of this photo (the Mirror Project actually hosts all the photos and require them to be under 30 meg, so the quality of the image isn't the greatest). If you can pull yourself away from my ears, I think the way my son's beach ball in the truck perfectly encircles the reflection of the camera is pretty cool (I didn't plan that). The fact that I still have a beach ball in my truck tells you how often I clean it out. For those keeping count, my truck has now made it on my blog twice in the last ten days.

Take a look around the site, for such a simple premise it's really pretty cool.


The New Best Christmas Hint

Take a look at my Daily Photo


One little addition to my last Christmas hint post: Cook's Illustrated the New Best Recipe.

Last Thursday the Philadelphia Inquirer Food section reviewed both the New Best Recipe book and Gourmet magazine's the Gourmet Cookbook. Gourmet is everything I don't want, complicated haughty-taughty recipes that take a week to prepare. But Cook's Illustrated are the people behind America's Test Kitchen, perhaps the best show on PBS now that This Old House has become This Old Millionaire's House.

Much like the Food Network's Good Eats, but without Alton Brown's goofiness, ATK goes step-by-step through everyday dishes. It explains the science behind cooking so you can decide when it's safe to alter a recipe and when it's not. It reviews products and kitchen utensils and lets you know when costlier doesn't mean better (did you know that you can substitute imitation vanilla extract for the real stuff at half the price, with no discernable difference?). As I watch each episode I think, I could make that. (I think the same thing watching New Yankee Workshop but deep down I know that I can't really match Norm without my very own Porter-Cable Model 3700L 10" Compound Mitre Saw with Twinlaser, but I'll save that for another wishlist.)

The cookbook that I currently rely on when I need attempt a new recipe or refresh my memory on an old one is my copy of the Joy of Cooking. While Joy was updated a few years back to make it more user-friendly and practical, my copy is eleven years old and is definitely not user-friendly or practical. I pretty much only bring it out for it's french toast recipe and it's measurement conversion chart. There's just way too many recipes in Joy that I'll never use (I don't see me making Mountain Oysters anytime soon).

From the Inky review it sounds like New Best Recipes is just what I want: recipes of food my family actually would want to eat. We are desperate to add some new dishes to our menu. It's probably also full of cookie recipes and I would be willing to attempt every last one of them (just in case the missus made it down this far).

So that's pushes my wishlist to three items and I'm sure I'm not done. But nothing will match my 7-year-old's epic list (cribbed from the list emailed to Santa):
Beyblade and arena
Karaoke machine
a Jakks Pacific Ms. Pac Man game
a Driving Force steering wheel for Lego Racers 2
CD ROM games ( like the Incredibles, Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, or whatever you think would be cool)
a remote control car
a Mario Golf Advance Tour (Gameboy)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Destiny board traveler
Nick Tunes Freeze Frame Frenzy
Spongebob Square Pants (Gameboy)
Tony Hawk's Underground 2 (Gameboy)
a rock polishing kit
a frog spoapstone carving kit
a radio controlled car kit
a camping lantern with remote control
a solar car kit
a bubblegum kit
Shrek 2 DVD
a Shrek 2 GBA Game
a seascope
a radio controlled rush plane
EZ balance stilts
Air powered rockets
baseball cards
And it won't be a merry Christmas unless he gets everything (not that he will).


Release the Hounds!

Take a look at my Daily Photo


Long before Harry Shearer was known as a member of Spinal Tap and owner of several voices on the Simpsons, he had a long history as a political satirist. His public radio program Le Show has been a favorite of mine since I was in college (and that's a long time). Shearer has a newsletter that he sends out every so often. His latest had his thoughts on how Kerry's handlers mishandled him. I can't find anything wrong with what he says:
Somebody with the non-tin variety of ear should have told the Senator that you don't use the word "class"--as in "I'm fighting for the middle class"--in public, in America, in an election campaign. We believe in a classless society. Some of us are just richer than others, that's all. Bill Clinton figured this out; he talked about "those folks who work all day and play by the rules".

Somebody with an ear for coherence should have pushed the Senator into the Grand Canyon when he adlibbed that, knowing what he knows now, he'd still vote for the Iraq war resolution. He was then left for three months dangling on the platform of, "It's a stupid mistaken war, and I can win it better".

Somebody with a scintilla of knowledge of show business should have told the Senator to read the scripts as written. The adlibbing, when it didn't get him in trouble (see above), just buried fairly well-written speeches under a mountain of verbal styrofoam popcorn.

Oh, yes, and nobody now alive will ever see a sitting Senator run for President again. Especially one who couldn't be bothered to tell the country what it was he did in the Senate for 20 years--i.e., run valuable investigations into the Iran-Contra affair and BCCI, a bank that financed drug cartels and terrorism. When Bush taunted him for authoring only five laws in his Senate career, I certainly thought he was going to say, "So now the champion of less government wants more laws?"

Enough. I can't wait to see his beard.
It's pretty bad when the left's most common-sense advice comes from Mr. Burns.


Fantastic Planet of Football - Week 8

Take a look at my Daily Photo

fantasy players wear teeny tiny helmets

Week 8:
Three And Out 80, 4th And Inches 47

Even with a huge week from their QB Chad Pennington, 4th and Inches failed to beat my Fantasy Football team last weekend. Maybe because their RB Marshall Faulk was on a bye. Gotta check that roster. The good news for Three and Out was that RB Willis McGahee came up big and improved their record to 4-4 with six fantasy weekends to go.

Three and Out shuffles the roster a little this weekend. Since my RB Warrick Dunn is on a bye I have to choose between a gimpy Brian Westbrook or an overmatched Lee Suggs, who faces the Baltimore defense this week. I'm going with Westbrook and a prayer. Darius Watts will stay in for Isaac Bruce who faces New England this weekend. At QB Michael Vick is on a bye so my choices are between the unpredictable Jake Plummer or the red-hot Ben Roethlisberger who's playing the Iggles this weekend. As much as I hate testing my loyalty like this, Big Ben is just too hot not to put in. I'm putting Daniel Graham back in at TE to replace Jermaine Wiggins, just to keep Graham loose.

My opponent this week is the king of the league, the 7-1 Deep Threat with Peyton Manning, LaDainian Tomlinson, and David Akers. This showdown has been penciled in as a defeat since early in the season. A win would be huge.