Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pruning The Family Tree

AUTHOR'S NOTE: In no way whatsoever am I suggesting that I would enact physical violence against my in-laws, unless in self-defense as a last resort.

That said, I just took another one of my in-laws off my Facebook friends list, and she deserved it. Just when I thought all the ruckus from my in-laws' humiliation of my wife from the family camping trip had subsided, she chose to bring it back up again. Oh, she made a weak-ass claim that it might not have been about my flaming my in-laws after all that, but I knew better. And I was able to confirm it with a simple two- word post:

"too bad."

And she had the nerve to threaten physical violence against me after I revealed her true colors! Oh, I have better weapons to use against your cellulite-ridden carcass than my fists, dearie. I have shame, repudiation, vindication, and humiliations galore to use. In so many words, if you think my wife is faking or exaggerating her illnesses, or you don't like the fact that I am more than happy to call anyone out on their bullshit, then get the fuck out of my life. We have no further use for you.

And with that, I award the Fred Phelps Award for The Dumbest Humanoid On The Planet to my former sister-in-law, Nancy Gingrich-Walker. I don't give a flying fuck if you don't like that I air out the family's dirty laundry. That's my wife they've been talking about, and if you'd rather defend them than the truth, by all means - go down with the sinking ship. May (insert they deity of your choice here) have mercy upon your soul.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Enough Whining - Let's Cook, Dammit!

A few months ago, I came across a recipe for pan-fried chicken breasts covered with hummus and coated with panko bread crumbs while I was waiting for Joy in yet another doctor's office. Recently, I tried playing with it a little, and I came up with something pretty damn good. I'll call it......

Miso Horny Chicken.

Here's how it came to be. Have you ever bought instant miso soup at an Asian grocery store? You know, comes in a bag very little English on it because it's fucking Japanese? Well, making the soup is pretty simple - take the small, soft, squishy packet (which is basically condensed miso soup, comprised of miso paste and dashi no moto - broth made from the dried and flaked loin of a fish called bonito) and dump it into two-thirds of a cup of water and stir, then add the larger packet of dried seaweed (likely nori) and veggies and wait for them to hydrate before eating. Well, my mom loves the soup, but hates the nori. So one day while Joy and I had the house to ourselves, I came up with another use for those miso-soup packets. Here's the recipe:

(Serves two)


Two chicken breasts, roughly 6 - 8oz. each
Two packets instant miso soup base
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil


Season each chicken breast lightly with salt and pepper. Open the miso soup base packets and empty the contents into a small bowl. Brush each breast liberally with the soup base, then dredge the breasts in the panko to completely cover. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, and panfry breasts for 8 to 10 minutes a side depending on size of the breasts. Serve with rice and steamed vegetables.

Personally, I like to serve this with bok choy (Chinese cabbage), split lengthwise and steamed with chicken broth spiked with garlic, ginger, and a dash of sriracha hot sauce, then take a little of that broth and condense/thicken it into a sauce.

Enjoy, and bon appetit!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Joe's Simple Solution For A College Football Playoff: The Playoffs Themselves ('Bout Damn Time)

Well, I think you've had plenty of time to digest my proposal so far as to how to fix college football. Well, now we're into the real heart of the matter - the actual playoff system itself. So let's begin, shall we?

Now that we have ten conferences, all conference champions earn automatic berths. Using the human and computer polls that currently serve as the basis for the BCS, six wild-card entries fill out the remainder of the National Championship bracket. With this information, I'll now give you a hypothetical field of sixteen teams. First, the conference champions:

PAC-10: Oregon
Big Ten: Wisconsin
SEC: Alabama
Big East: Penn State
Texas Athletic: Baylor
Mountain West: Boise State
Midwestern: Nebraska
ACC: Florida State
MAC: Ohio
Great Atlantic: Miami (FL)

Add Stanford, Iowa, Georgia, Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Clemson as remaining six teams. Okay, the field is set. So how do we get from sixteen teams down to one? Here are my two options First off is a straight single-elimination tournament. Using the same polls that selected the wild-card teams, seed the entire field from #1 to #16. For the sake of arguments, I'll let you seed the teams how you want. For the First Round, let the top eight seeds host the games. From there on out, use the BCS bowl games (Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, Orange) plus two others - let's say the Holiday and Cotton Bowls to stage the quarter- and semi-finals, with the National Championship game held say, the Sunday before the Super Bowl.

The overall season schedule could, in theory, look something like this:

2012 Regular Season Start: weekend of Sept. 15-16
2012 Regular Season End: weekend of Nov. 1-2
Ten game season with two bye weeks
First round playoff games: Dec. 22
Quarterfinals: Dec. 29
Semifinals: Jan. 5, 2013
National Championship: Jan. 27, 2013 (presuming that the Super Bowl is held on Feb. 3, 2013)

I take inspiration for my other from the NCAA's method for determining its champion in Men's Ice Hockey. Take those sixteen teams and put them in four regional brackets using the geographically appropriate teams as best as possible, and use the existing bowls for all 15 games. Using those sixteen teams and fifteen bowls, here's a potential bracket:

West Region:
Holiday Bowl (San Diego, CA), 12/22 - Oregon v. Notre Dame
Emerald Bowl (San Francisco, CA) , 12/22 - Stanford v. Boise State
Winners play in Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA), 12/29
Midwest Region:
Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, TX), 12/22 - Oklahoma v. Ohio
Texas Bowl (Houston, TX), 12/22 - Nebraska v. Wisconsin
Winners play in Cotton Bowl (Dallas, TX), 12/29
Southeast Region:
Independence Bowl (Shreveport, LA), 12/22 - Alabama v. Baylor
Liberty Bowl (Memphis, TN), 12/22 - Georgia v. Clemson
Winners play in Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA), 12/29
East Region:
Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, FL), 12/22 - Florida State v. Iowa
Florida Citrus Bowl (Orlando, FL), 12/22 - Miami (FL) v. Penn State
Winners play in Capital One Bowl (Tampa, FL), 12/29
National Semifinals:
Fiesta Bowl (Tempe, AZ) - West champion v. Midwest champion, 1/5/2013
Orange Bowl (Miami-Dade, FL) - Southeast champion v. East champion, 1/5/2013
National Championship:
Championship Game (Arlington, TX) - Semifinal winners, 1/27/2013

"What about the rest of the bowls?"

Simple enough. Teams with at least six wins that failed to qualify for the playoffs are still eligible to play in bowl games not affiliated with the National Championship system, with the bowl games themselves played pretty much as they are now.

So there you have it. A simple system - okay, maybe not as simple as I'd like it to be, but it's workable. The situation as it stands now is unworkable - hell, it's fluid as we speak, with Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 after this season and Oklahoma likely to follow, both schools outraged over the ridiculously unfair advantage created by Texas' deal with ESPN to create its own television channel, the Longhorn Network. The Big 12 may fall apart just as fast as the WAC is, as its elite schools move to the Mountain West, while the MWC loses BYU and Utah this year, and TCU bails for the Big East next year. Most college-football pundits see a future of four sixteen-team conferences hoarding all the power and money for themselves. And that's just not right. Conferences should be about local schools and local rivalries, not continent-spanning, money-spinning behemoths. We already have the NFL for that.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Joe's Simple Solution For A College Football Playoff: The Realignment

Well, it took a little time, a little horse-trading, and a little hand wringing. But I figured out how to whittle down 120 schools in eleven conferences (not to mention those four pesky independents) to 100 in ten. So let's start with the easiest conferences to rejigger, or as I called them.....

The Easy.

Pacific Athletic Conference

Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, California, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State

This was the easiest of all. Ten schools, five natural pairings. The way it has been for 30 years-plus now. The PAC-10 has become the PAC-12 now, adding Utah and Colorado to the fold, which makes no sense to me whatsoever. Looking at what they already had, if they were going to add two more schools, why not pick schools in the same state that already have a natural rivalry? The most logical candidates in my opinion would've been Nevada and UNLV. The SI issue I talked about in the last post described the PAC-10 as 'trapped in amber.' Who says that's such a bad thing?

Big Ten Conference

Wisconsin, Ohio State, Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Minnesota, Iowa

Once again, tradition reigns. A conference calling itself the Big Ten should only have ten teams in it, right? Not eleven, not twelve. No 'Legends' and 'Leaders' divisions, either. Isn't that the dumbest thing you've ever heard? So adios to Penn State and Nebraska, we'll see them again later, when things get a little complicated.

Southeastern Conference

South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Louisiana State, Auburn, Mississippi State, Mississippi

More tradition here, with only minimal pruning. Arkansas has never really fit into the SEC in my opinion, and jettisoning Vanderbilt means only a loss of an easy win and combined conference-wide GPA scores.

After that, things get a little..... complicated. In fact, some of this is all new. Here come the conferences that were....

The Not-so-easy.

Big East

West Virginia, Pittsburgh, South Florida, Syracuse, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers, Notre Dame, Boston College, Penn State

I told you that you'd see Penn State again. In my opinion the Big East is one of the prime offenders in all of college athletics. 'Super-conference' doesn't even begin to describe them. In 2012, Texas Christian enters the Big East - in all sports. How wrong is that? One the one hand, while the Big East is trying to expand its football presence (the conference is trying to persuade Villanova to move its football program up to D1A as well), the addition of TCU to the conference makes seventeen member schools. Seventeen! That's just too damn many, folks. And besides - how is Fort Worth, Texas 'east?' No sense whatsoever. Dropping Cincinnati and adding Penn State and Notre Dame is just so much easier.

And what do mean, 'Notre Dame should always be independent?' Fine with me, if they want to play in D2, or maybe the CFL. Besides, Notre Dame competes in all other major sports as a member of - wait for it - the Big East.

Texas Athletic Conference

Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor, Houston, Southern Methodist, Texas Christian, Rice, Texas-El Paso, Oklahoma

This conference makes geographical sense. And should that retard Rick Perry take his ball and go home and Texas secedes from the Union, they could all go pro. Yeah, Oklahoma isn't in Texas, I know. But I don't want to break up the classic rivalries if I don't absolutely have to.

Mountain West Conference

Boise State, San Diego State, Utah State, San Jose State, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, UNLV, Fresno State, Brigham Young

The funny thing is, I think this is what the Mountain West wanted all along. This is pretty much the MWC as it will stand in 2012, albeit with Colorado State and the Air Force Academy out and BYU back from the wayward path of independence. While it was surprising to hear that BYU decided to take its football team independent, they do have something of a precedent for doing the unexpected: BYU's men's soccer team doesn't even play in the NCAA - instead, they play in the United Soccer Leagues' Premier Developmental League, the lowest tier of the US professional soccer pyramid.

Atlantic Coast Conference

Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Maryland, Wake Forest, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Duke

The only reasons the ACC is relevant in D1A football are FSU and Virginia Tech. This is a basketball conference plain-and-simple, and nobody is going to miss Boston College (back where they belong in the Big East) or Miami-FL (who knows where they could wind up - if they even survive past this year, with all that's being said about them) all that much.

Now things get really weird. Forty schools , thirty spots left: Who? Will? Survive?

The Weird.

Midwestern Conference

Tulsa, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Colorado, Nebraska, Arkansas, Wyoming, Colorado State

This is where the clusterfuck really starts, with teams from four existing conferences merging into one new one. It's not like these are the dregs of the sport, the bottom of the proverbial barrel. But the Pokes up in Stillwater need a new rivalry game after I sacrificed the Bedlam Game for the Red River Rivalry, and the Golden Hurricane should do nicely. Adding Tulsa, Arkansas and Colorado State to the remains of what was once the Big Eight would make an interesting conference, though.

Mid-American Conference

Ohio, Akron, Miami (OH), Kent State, Cincinnati, Bowling Green, Toledo, Northern Illinois, Ball State, Memphis

I probably could've gotten away with calling this the 'Ohio Athletic Conference', with six of the ten teams in the Buckeye State. The Bearcats of Cincinnati would dominate this conference, but at least it would a fairly easy travel schedule for everyone.

Great Atlantic Conference

Miami (FL), Tulane, Vanderbilt, Southern Mississippi, Central Florida, East Carolina, Marshall, Alabama-Birmingham, Temple

Yeah, this is the bottom of the barrel. But it's still not too shabby, though the issue of which team would dominate this conference would only be decided if and when Miami gets through the latest allegations of improper payments to players. Which I don't think it will, so the Hurricanes get to rebuild in the last stop before 1AA. Still, there are a lot of teams here with histories of pulling off the big upsets here, so I wouldn't sleep on this conference come playoff time.


So there's your hundred teams in ten conferences. Here's who got left out, and why:

Army, Navy, Air Force:

Patriotism aside, if you're that busy training the leaders of tomorrow, why bother with major-college athletics? Aside from a few seasons here and there, the service academies haven't been relevant since Army tore up the gridiron back in the 1940's with Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard. You're not going there to play football, you're going there to learn the fine arts of leading men into battle. If you must play football, drop down to D2 or D3, wherever the Coast Guard and Merchant Marine academies play.

Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan:

The only relevance that these schools have is that they've traditionally composed the bulk of Michigan's non-conference schedule. Enough said.


It's all about the money for the Warriors and Wahines. UH has the highest travel budget in all of college sports. Allow me to explain....

Get up at an ungodly hour in your dorm in Honolulu. Take the team bus to the airport. Fly to Los Angeles - five and a half hours. Wait how long for the connecting flight to Dallas? An hour at least? LA to the Metroplex - another two-and-a-half hours. Pile into the charter buses now, flying direct is too damn expensive. Four hours and change later, the buses pull into Ruston, Louisiana. The team got up at 3:00am for the flight, and left Honolulu at five, but after crossing four time zones in thirteen-plus hours of travel, the Warriors finally come to a stop in Louisiana at 10:00pm Central Time......

Now that only happens every other year for the football team. For most UH teams that compete in the Western Athletic Conference, they do it every year. When every road game requires a minimum of five to six hours in flight, that's just too damn much.

Idaho, New Mexico State:

Small, isolated, out of the way. That's about the only things Moscow, Idaho and Las Cruces, New Mexico have in common. Oh, and they also have universities playing in the WAC. NMSU has at least been there a while, but Idaho only got into D1A football a few years ago, and their stadium is still too small to qualify as a sufficient D1A venue under NCAA standards. How do I know this? When Idaho entered the process to prove that they could draw big enough crowds to meet D1A's minimum standards, they didn't play their home games in Moscow. Instead, they packed up the show and drove seven miles west, to play their games at Washington State's Martin Stadium - the smallest stadium by far in the PAC-10/12, but still more than twice the capacity of the ASUI Kibbie Dome back in Moscow. And the most damning thing for the Vandals? Want to know their first stop in D1A football? The Sun Belt. Case closed.

And what does New Mexico State have that should keep them in D1A? Aside from great chiles...... not much. Enjoy playing Texas State and Sam Houston State in 1AA. You might actually win once in a while down there. And last and least......


Sorry folks, but the Bisons are just the last folks to the party, the new hires if you will. Lack of seniority sends them back where they belong.


So there you have it - ten conferences, one hundred teams. And now for my next trick, I'll actually explain how the playoff system works - easily!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Joe's Simple Soultion For A College Football Playoff

Just after I got back from my most recent trip to Nevada, I got my latest issue of Sports Illustrated, the big college-football preview. And as I look over the latest stories of what teams are moving to what conferences, where the money is going and where the power is focused, I came to the realization that college football is a steaming pile of crap. For all intents and purposes, the season is already pretty much over for about 50 of the 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (a stupid a name as it gets), as they have absolutely no shot at even getting a sniff at the still-fictitious National Championship, because they operate beyond the six largest conferences, which quite literally control the Bowl Championship Series, effectively locking out those 50 or so schools from competing.

So I said to myself, 'how would I fix it?' So here's my simple, cold-blooded solution to creating a fair, straight-forward system to naming a national champion.

1.) Limiting the number of teams

Remember that I said there are 120 schools participating in the FBS.... fuck it. It's Division 1A. I fucking hate that stupid name. Now where was I? Oh yes. 120 schools, competing in eleven conferences, with four independent schools (Notre Dame, Army, Navy, now joined by BYU). That's about twenty too many. So they've got to go. First off, it's time to take off the belt. As in the Sun Belt Conference. While that conference has generated some good players in its brief tenure in 1A, its nine member schools are aboard the 1A train for little more than meals and quarters, so they're gone. That leaves eleven teams left to cut, and that can be done by culling the bottom-feeders from the remaining 'mid-major' conferences (Western Athletic, Mountain West, Mid-American, Conference USA), and reorganizing the 100 remaining teams in to ten ten-team conferences.

2.) Simple scheduling

These ten conferences will all play simple ten-game schedules, playing all nine conference foes as well as one non-conference game. Five home games, five road games. Simple, no? And there will be no games scheduled against non-D1A schools. No more cupcakes. And no more independent schools, either. If you're not in a conference, you're not playing in D1A any more, simple as that.

3.) Simple playoff system

After the ten-game regular season is over, the ten conference champions are joined by the best six remaining teams as determined by computer rankings. The sixteen teams are then seeded by those same computer rankings. The first round of the playoffs takes place on the home fields of the top eight seeds, while the quarters, the semis, and the final all take place in the major bowl games, like the Rose, Sugar, Orange et al.

The counter-argument to a playoff system has been the excuse of players playing too many games, especially when the academic calendar puts semester finals during bowl season. I call bullshit on that. Teams in the largest conferences can play as many as fourteen games a season already, between a twelve-game regular season, conference championship and bowl game. My system would put no more strain on players than what currently exists.

And what about the rest of the bowls? Keep 'em! Maybe even arrange them into a football version of the NIT. Some bowls may not survive, since there may not be as many bowl-eligible teams left out there for them to pick from. But we've all seen shitty bowl games between mediocre teams and scratched our heads at the thought of it, so maybe a few less bowl games isn't such a bad idea.

4.) Yes, promotion and relegation

The simple fact is that college football expanded like it has because of the expanding pool of money being offered to the NCAA, the conferences, and to individual schools themselves, in the form of television revenues. Where do these teams come from? From 1AA conferences, of course. The WAC has continually raided the 1AA Big Sky Conference for talent (Boise State, Nevada and Idaho), and will likely do so again after Nevada, Hawai'i, and Fresno State join Boise State in the Mountain West, with 1AA powerhouse Montana likely the WAC's first target in an attempt to stave off irrelevancy and effective banishment from 1A. (NOTE: Under current NCAA rules, for a conference to be recognized as 'official', it must have at least eight members - the departures mentioned above will leave the WAC with only five member schools) And then there's the Sun Belt - entirely lifted from 1AA.

But why not give those schools a chance to move up? Here's my idea: Of the ten last-place finishers, the worst of the worst, number 100 of 100, will play the 1AA champion from a conference in the same region in a promotion/relegation game, with the winner going to 1A, and the loser going to 1AA. Once again, simple as that.

I know, you probably hate my idea. But I don't care. This is my blog and mine alone, so therefore it's my opinion and mine alone. Don't like it? Start your own blog and tell the world what your opinions are. Over the next few days, I'll come up with new conference alignments, and even altogether-new conferences, and I'll explain my reasoning for moving what teams where.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fred Meets My Brother-In-Law

Time to rip my in-laws a new one again. I just found out earlier today that my wife's brother Doug had de-friended us on Facebook. I wonder why? Perhaps it was because I'd found out about the shitty way he treated his sister when she told him that she had kidney disease during her family campout last month, and that I'd flamed him, his brothers, and even his mother for their refusal to accept Joy's illness as real. He even went so far as to tell Joy that he couldn't believe her because he thought that the tests had been done by a naturopathic doctor.


Doug isn't an evil man, just one that's about as sharp as a bowling ball. Blood tests of that type aren't done by your average family practitioner. In fact, I don't think I've ever had my blood tested for anything by a doctor him or herself. But having been with Joy now for nearly eighteen years, I know the drill well enough. The doctor, whether or not they're medical or naturopathic, orders the blood tests to be done by another clinic. We go to said clinic, and a phlebotomist gets a blood sample from Joy or myself, and said sample is analyzed seven ways from Sunday to get results for whatever illnesses and/or conditions can be determined from a blood sample. Once the analysis is complete, the results are sent to the doctor, who then informs the patient and determines a course of action for whatever ailment is in play. What was Doug thinking - a naturopath would take a sample, then what? Drop some herbs in the sample and see what happens next?

We've all reached an age where we know how the process goes, but his ignorance of medical procedure, not to mention his sister's health, is unforgivable in my book. Joy and I have long suspected him of being the source of the misinformation that has poisoned my wife's immediate family against her, and this recent course of events pretty much confirms it. I wonder what his beef is with Joy, what he knows, thinks he knows, what he's hiding...... who cares any more.

So, it is with great pride that I announce the latest winner of The Fred Phelps Award for Dumbest Humanoid On The Planet - my brother-in-law, Doug Walker. But to be totally honest with you, I'm basically ready to wash my hands of Joy's entire family, and so is Joy. Their treatment of her these past few weeks has been so shitty, I'm glad that I wasn't there to see it. I'm glad that I wasn't there, either - had I been, I'd probably be in jail for multiple counts of aggravated first-degree murder. Maybe this is why when I'm around, he doesn't get in our faces. But then again, I don't think he's ever liked me either. After all, he didn't bother to show up at our wedding. All Joy's other siblings showed up, as did several of their kids - including the nephew who'd just been in a horrible car-wreck and arrived in a fucking halo - he broke his fucking neck and he showed up, why not you, Doug?

Oh well. Enjoy the award, Doug. It's the last thing you'll ever get from us - unless you'd like to receive my fists to your face - over and over again. May whatever deity you believe in have mercy on your soul, asshole.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Marching Upon Oblivion, or "Life Of A Vidiot"

Another quiet night in Port Angeles. And that means one thing for me: video games. Well, Joy is sick, and since our tastes in TV differ pretty drastically, I opt out of trying to get her to change her mind on watching that Law & Order: SVU re-run for the 63rd time, and retreat to the basement. Down below, my old nineteen-inch TV is hooked up to an XBox 360 that I bought from my little brother for $40 and a carton of cigarettes. My game of choice these days: The Elder Scrolls, Vol. 4: Oblivion.

I never thought I was going to like the system, let alone the game. Let's just say that I've never really been an early-adopter of video-game technology. Which is kinda funny, because I've always been a video-game freak. Hell, the first real video game was made the year I was born (IIRC). I've never really known life without them. My first real memory of video games was seeing a Pong machine at a skating rink when I was barely big enough to skate by myself. Then I remember playing a baseball game at a Shakey's Pizza in the Seattle suburbs at the age of five or six. An Atari Video Pinball console graced the home here in Port Angeles, though it was never quite the same after I spilled spaghetti on it. That wound up being the last system my family ever bought for me. I remember bitching, whining, begging and pleading for an Atari Video Computer System (better known as the Atari 2600), a Magnavox Odyssey, Mattel's Intellivision and Coleco's ColecoVision, all to no avail. Those were dark days, indeed.

And then in late 1986, when the Port Angeles High School Marching Band went to San Diego to play at the Holiday Bowl, my addiction to video games really began in earnest. During a trip to a shopping mall in downtown San Diego (Horton Plaza, I think that was the name of the place), I saw a Nintendo Entertainment System for the first time. I was still playing games in arcades, but I'd never seen anything like this before. Let's just say I was jonesing pretty bad. But I never got the chance to really mess around with one for several years, until I'd gotten together with Joy, and found her kids playing an NES. But by this time, the Super NES was already coming out, and it was a few more years before I could finally mess with one of those.

The pattern kept on going over the years, getting one system after another, and always pretty much right at the end of their particular cycles as the preeminent system in the world. Didn't care much, though - I was having too much fun. The Super NES was replaced by a Sega Genesis, then briefly by an NEC TurboGrafx 16. Then along came a Sony PlayStation. All along, the games were getting better and better, but I found something a bit disturbing in all of it.

I found that the games were getting too complicated, the controllers too complex. When I was a child, that old Video Pinball console had only two buttons on it for the flipper buttons, a dial in the center for playing Breakout, and switches to turn it on, and start and select the games. Now each individual controller had a directional pad, four control buttons opposite, and two more buttons on the controller's 'shoulders' in addition to start and select buttons. The addition of 'analog' sticks to the controllers, as well as two more shoulder buttons for PlayStation 2 controllers, sent me into 'oh, hell no!' mode. How the hell was I supposed to coordinate that kind of activity? Was I being generation-gapped out of video games?

No. I was just being a pussy.

And I shouldn't have been. By this time, I was just beginning to warm up to games on a PC - something I hadn't touched in years, since I was removed from the presidency of the PAHS Computer Club in something of a nerd coup d'etat. And I was handling the combination of mouse and keyboard to play Diablo just fine, so why not buck up and get a better home console? And thus the timesuck truly began as I found some really great games to play on the PS2, like Dragon Quest VIII. I could see why people rated that game so highly, and why that series had hung around for so long - the original game in the series was a debut title for the NES under the name Dragon Warrior - great story, awesome music (with a real orchestra!), and gameplay that didn't tax my brain too much. Then there was Kingdom Hearts 2, where the universe of characters from the legendary Final Fantasy series met up with the Disney Universe, and what could've been a colossal clusterfuck became video crack for not only me, but for Joy as well.

And then I was offered the 360. I'd never even messed with a first-generation XBox, let alone its sequel. But Mac had one to spare, so I figured 'what the fuck?' and picked it up. By now I was used to the dual-analog controllers, so the 360's sticks, d-pad, four buttons, shoulder buttons, shoulder triggers and three start/select buttons wasn't that big a deal any more. Though come to think of it, fourteen - fourteen! - control surfaces on a single controller is pretty fucking crazy. But I found it all to be pretty intuitive. And Oblivion uses them all. And while I knew that a good game could take up a serious chunk of time, I don't think the timesuck factor really hit home for me until I started playing Oblivion. I mean, DQ8 could require up to 40 to 50 hours of gameplay to finish the game. With Oblivion I could rack up 140 hours or more of play and still not really have accomplished much of anything. But it's a fucking awesome kind of not-really-accomplished-much-of-anything. And the next chapter in the Elder Scrolls series - Skyrim - is coming out on Veteran's Day this fall (11/11/11 - yeah, I can remember that). I might actually have to buy that game new instead of used - maybe even pre-order it......

And then on top of all that, we got a Nintendo Wii. Our daughter-in-law back east in North Carolina is an EBay reseller in her spare time, and apparently she's pretty good at it. Enough so that when a lot of 24 Wiis came in to her possession, she sent one our way as an early Christmas present last year. And it came with a whole shitload of bells and whistles. Like a WiiFit game and balance board, a complete set of Band Hero instruments (as well as the game itself), even a Nintendo GameCube controller and a few GameCube games that the Wii was backwards-compatible with. But what interested me the most was online gaming. No, not MMORPG's like EverQuest. That's one place I won't go - and more on that later. I'm talking about the Wii's Virtual Console. Y'see, the bright beans over at Nintendo came up with the idea of placing their entire back catalog of games for all their old systems (NES, Super NES, N64, even games from other manufacturers like Sega, NEC and SNK's NeoGeo) and make them available to be downloaded onto the Wii's internal memory (or a handy-dandy SD card). The idea of being able to download all my old favorites and play them again gave me a full-on video boner! Although I haven't bought nearly as many games as I would've liked to, now I can play River City Ransom, Mega Man 2 and Dr. Mario (Joy's all-time favorite) any time I damn well please. And I can do this with my 360 as well. I've downloaded internet-browser games like Bejeweled 2 and Hexic HD to the 360's hard-drive, as well as the classic arcade game Bubble Bobble. I've even gotten some downloadable content for games like Oblivion and Forza Motorsports 2. Now if only I had a more stable source of broadband-internet, then I could actually play online more......

Except for MMORPGs. For those of you still living under a rock, that unwieldy acronym stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. More like massively-expensive, massively-hacked, massively-risking-my-marriage-even-more-than-I-already-do-with-long-ass-videogames-games. Ironically though, Joy found one she likes and plays when she can, Wizards 101. It's really more of a kid's game, but she likes it - so who am I to argue? And it's free to play. Well, it's free to play if you really don't mind that your character never gets anything good - you've got to pay for the good stuff. I think that's what I hate most about MMO's. - having to pay for membership and/or 'premium content'. And then there are the 'adult' MMO's. Don't ask me how I know about them, I just know about them. Rule 34 in full effect, y'know. I already hate MMO's, but you couldn't pay me to touch those games. I don't want to risk getting a virus.....

Thank you, I'll be here all week! Try the veal!

Okay, time for bed. Stay tuned for more insane rants, same time, same channel!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I Heart Satellite Radio

No really, I do. SiriusXM rules the universe, as far as I'm concerned. Why do I think this way? Let me paint a picture for you......

It's late at night - really late. I've been driving all day and into the night on my way to a gig in Nevada. I'm in the middle of nowhere, probably somewhere between Klamath Falls, OR and Alturas, CA. I've listened to every CD in my car twice by now, and I'm seriously craving some stimulation for my tired brain to keep me focused on the road. But there's nothing on the radio except distant static and occasional echoes of signals from stations in the Bay Area. I scan the dial on my radio every few minutes, and nothing changes until I draw closer to Alturas. Then a scratchy AM signal comes around, slowly strengthening until I can clearly make out...... "Crazy", by the late great Patsy Cline. And I shut off the radio and scream in horror, for that very same song was playing the last time I drove through Alturas, about a month before. And the time before that, a few weeks earlier still. And the time before that.......

What's scary about that story is that it's absolutely true. I don't mean to bag on Alturas, it's a fine little town of aging Victorian storefronts, the seat of Modoc County, CA, and nerve center for an area roughly the size of Connecticut. Nowadays they have a classic-rock FM station in the area to add to the AM station, but I could care less. I'd been craving getting Sirius or XM satellite-radio in my vehicles for years, but it took moving to Nevada to make it a reality.

When we bought our Ford Explorer in Reno, I nudged Joy into buying it because of two things - a stout aftermarket towing rig, and an XM unit hardwired into the dash by its previous owner. After a few false starts, I got the right equipment to get the unit operational, then called up XM to establish service. One of the smartest decisions I've ever made - outside of marrying Joy, of course. The sheer variety of services available is amazing. Damn near every type of current, retro, and classic music to listen to. ESPN Radio. Every last game in Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and college football and basketball to boot. The BBC's World Service. Book Radio, four or five comedy channels - love it, love it, love it!

And the funny thing is that I've come across people who've stated that satellite-radio is already obsolete. Really? How so? Well, why can't you just get everything via the Internet now? That'd be great - if I drove through areas that had free wireless Internet access so I could get all those streaming broadcasts. Where are those areas - oh that's right, they don't exist. Until something better comes along, the only way to get live radio signals of that quality to listeners all across the country is - wait for it - via satellite.

Not that I have a mean-on against terrestrial radio. Living along the Canadian border as I do, I like Canadian radio stations, like Victoria's 100.3fm, "The Q". And Victoria recently got their own outpost of the Canadian version of the popular Internet- and terrestrial-radio franchise JackFM, different from the American version due to 'Canadian Content' laws that require all Canadian music stations to play music of Canadian origin fifty percent of the time.

But I do adore my SiriusXM unit, so named now because the once-rival services merged to save their mutual interest. The bonus of that for me is that now I can listen to Howard Stern, NFL games (pending the end of the lockout), even Playboy and Spice Radio, though I really doubt I'll listen too much to those stations while I'm driving - I have no interest in driving off the road while listening to some dirty story......

I do encourage you, my loyal readers (if such loyal readers do exist) to check out SiriusXM. It's absolutely worth the investment. And for those of you who think I'm kissing their ass a bit too much - why the hell not? Maybe someone at SiriusXM will read this, and offer to buy adspace from me. Or maybe offer me free service for my kind words - which in truth are quite sincere, since I can say without hesitation that SiriusXM has saved not only my sanity, but probably my marriage as well, because sometimes Joy wants to listen to what she wants to listen to. Our tastes are that different and divergent, and thankfully SiriusXM has us both covered.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Fred Phelps Award Rides Again!

As I've said before, when I'm online I often tend to find little articles that pique my interest out of nowhere, things that I've never really paid attention to. But this article I found through Yahoo's homepage as I was clearing out my email hit my outrage button in a real hurry. In so many words, Science writer Mara Hvistendahl has blamed Western governments and businesses for the shortage of females in Asia, for importing the technology to determine the sex of an infant while still in the womb and to abort the child, with no understanding of possible repercussions.

Before you go thinking, 'What the fuck is Joe smoking?', listen to some statistics first. Gender imbalances in Asia are real, have been real for a very long time, and are getting worse, with ratios of men to women in some countries as high as 121 men for every 100 women. Why? Well, in many Asian societies giving birth to daughters is no cause for celebration - in fact, historically it's often led to infanticide. That's because traditionally women have never been allowed roles outside of the household (like getting an education and having a job), and that marrying off one's daughters can be an expensive business, from paying of dowries to a groom's family to paying for the actual ceremonies themselves, which can be quite lavish in some places. This has often led to poorer families simply disposing of newborn female infants, either abandoning them at orphanages and monasteries, or killing them outright. And while society and culture have changed and gender-equity is becoming more more and more the norm, the practices still exist. Female infanticide was outlawed in Asian countries decades ago, though enforcement since can has often been quite lax, as old ways die hard.

That said, I found Hvistendahl's accusations to be at best, tasteless. Apparently she suffers from severe guilt over what's known as "white man's burden", or "cultural imperialism". In short, her accusation is based on the principle that the Western world imposes its will upon cultures and structures elsewhere in the developing world, demolishing them and forcing native peoples to adopt Western customs and mores against their will. It is a very real thing though, and saying otherwise would be total bullshit. But this gender bias is older than any of us, and sadly is not going away any time soon, not so long as Asian cultures continue to prize sons over daughters to the point of selective infanticide, whether it is pre- or post-natal. Technology did not change the cultural standard, it only changed the time frame. It's still wrong no matter how you slice it, but laying blame at Western governments and businesses for the latest version of a cultural practice that has been around far longer than any Western government or business - no matter how wrong the practice may be in our eyes - is simply ludicrous.

Therefore, the latest winner of the Fred Phelps Award for Dumbest Humanoid On The Planet goes to Mara Hvistendahl, for her misguided guilt-trip upon Western society as a whole. For while she illuminates a serious problem, her choice of villain leaves much to be desired, and seems in my opinion an easy way out, blaming someone only partially related to the problem at hand, rather than to actually lay blame where it is most needed - the societal and cultural forces that are the root cause of the problem.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Downfall Of A Wiener

I'm sure you've heard about it all by now - ad nauseam - about the resignation of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D - New York) from the House of Representatives. Well, here's me piling on. It's a total shame - and not just for Weiner.

Let's start with what we know: he's sent questionable pictures of himself to a number of women who are not his wife, as well as various sexually-oriented messages. He was outed by a right-wing hacker who broke into his Twitter and Facebook accounts, and the data... somehow found its way to right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart, who then proceeded to beat that proverbial horse to death until the sheep of the mainstream media began to pay attention. Oddly enough, Congressional Republicans were fairly quiet on the matter - perhaps because they'd just weathered a far worse scandal involving now-retired Senator John Ensign of Nevada, who'd had an affair with a campaign staffer, then bought her silence and that of her husband with money and jobs with lobbying firms, a scandal that looks to be revisited because of fellow Senator Tom Coburn's (R - Nebraska) apparent role in facilitating to cover up the initial scandal.

But Democrats throughout DC - including the President himself - were quick to condemn Weiner for his transgressions and demand his resignation. Why? Let's look again at what he's done that we know of so far - sending dirty pictures of himself and equally dirty messages to women who were not his wife, who just so happens to be pregnant. So far, nobody has stepped forward saying that they slept with Weiner, and as far as I've read nobody involved with the 'scandal' has even met with him face-to-face. Really? He was forced to resign over a 'sex scandal' when it seems that a sex act has yet to take place?

What really irks me about this is the phony, fraudulent, FAKE morality at work here. This isn't Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky back in the 90's, while Newt Gingrich had an affair (and not his first, either) while trying to run Clinton out of office over his affair. It wasn't John Edwards and his mistress in 2008, nor Gary Hart and his mistress (Donna Rice?) in 1984. What it is, is simple - it's almost election time, and in the build-up to a presidential election a little less than seventeen months away, both parties are tyring to beat their chests about how moral and upright they are, and god forbid anyone stray from the path of righteousness.


Weiner has been a firebrand, a liberal-and-damn-proud-of-it who was more than willing to take on the stupidity of the right-wing echo chamber, and also not afraid to kick his fellow Democrats in the ass when they were too worried about Republican posturing and threats instead of actually doing their jobs - y'know, that whole helping-the-people thing? It seems clear to me that Weiner had become too much of an irritant to his own party, and the echo-chamber was only one part of what looks more and more to me to be a plot to get rid of him one way or another. The 'other' way it seems, was the threat of the House of Representatives actually putting Weiner on trial for ethics-code violations. Maybe they just got tired of the jokes from late-night TV. Face it, folks: a sex scandal involving a guy named Weiner? Pure comic gold.

There has been some speculation that when the State of New York calls the special election needed to fill his seat, Weiner may run for it either as a Democrat or as an Independent, on the presumption that while his own party may have drummed him out of office, the people may put him right back in. It's been dismissed by most, but I for one would like to see it. While he should be ashamed of himself for straying from his marriage, the outcry against him over his own personal transgression - one that has not cost taxpayers a single dime, or claimed lives, damaged property or started wars - is shameful to the entire nation, and especially shameful to Weiner's fellow Democrats for their cowardice in choosing to oust their colleague rather than help him recover from a terrible error in personal judgement and behavior. I for one would like to see Weiner stick it to the man.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Who Wants To Move To LA?

Another story I came across just in the last few minutes: The Anschutz Entertainment Group claims to have been in contact with five NFL teams about the possibility of moving to their proposed stadium in Los Angeles. For the record, those teams are Minnesota, San Diego, Oakland, St. Louis, and Jacksonville. AEG CEO Tim Leiweke went so far as to suggest that AEG would go so far as to buy a majority stake in a particular NFL franchise and buy out their existing stadium lease in order to facilitate the move.

AEG, and in particular its founder Phil Anschutz, they do have a small place in my heart. AEG was part of the original investment group that founded Major League Soccer, and to this day they own the LA Galaxy and maintain 50% ownership of the Houston Dynamo. At one point in time AEG maintained four MLS clubs, and the league may not have survived if not for Anschutz's largess. Their myriad of sports-related investments includes outright ownership of the NHL's Los Angeles Kings (and its entire minor-league system), several hockey clubs in Europe, and several arenas and stadia in Europe, and interests in the LA Lakers and Sparks as well as the UFL's Hartford Colonials and Danish soccer club Hammarby IF. So they know what they're doing when it comes to running pro-sports teams, and I'm pretty sure they'd make whatever NFL franchise they owned or otherwise persuaded to move to La-La Land a success.

But AEG isn't the only entity trying to bring the NFL back to LA. While AEG plans to build a 72,000-seat stadium in downtown LA as part of its 'campus' (which also includes the Staples Center arena), a rival development is in the works fifteen miles east of LA, in the City of Industry. There, warehouse magnate Ed Roski leads a group attempting to build a 75,000-seat stadium for a prospective NFL franchise. To me, this group seems a little..... quixotic, as they probably don't have the sheer financial muscle AEG has to not only build the stadium, but to also purchase a franchise to inhabit such a stadium.

But let's focus on AEG right now. They say they've spoken with five different NFL franchises, but which would be the best fit for them? Let's start with the teams that actually have history there first:

St. Louis Rams: This actually came as a surprise to me, that they'd actually want to move back to LA, which wasn't even the team's birthplace (the Cleveland Rams moved to LA in 1946) to begin with. The Rams won a Super Bowl in St. Louis, and while their current stadium (the Edward Jones Dome) isn't the newest thing in town any more, but it's been kept up nicely over the years and remains a good NFL-caliber stadium. I'd have to rate the possibility of the Rams returning to LA as 'doubtful'.

San Diego Chargers: This club actually started out as the Los Angeles Chargers of the old American Football League before moving down the coast to San Diego, and while the Spanos family have bitched and moaned about Qualcomm (formerly Jack Murphy) Stadium, and publicly pondered moving back to LA, they have no interest in selling any part of the club to anyone, so I'll rate this one as 'doubtful' as well.

Oakland Raiders: Two words - no, three: Al Fucking Davis. Who would be crazy enough to deal with a guy who looks more and more like Emperor Palpatine with each passing day? I've spoken to a lot of Raider Nation types over the years and even the craziest, most hardcore Halloween-on-Sundays Raiders fan has said to me that they can't wait for Davis to kick the bucket so somebody with a fully-functioning brain can run the team. And considering that last I heard, Davis' lawsuit against the NFL for trying to block the team's move back to Oakland from LA is still ongoing - for over a decade now - you'd have to be out of your gourd to deal with them. Rating: "oh, hell no". Let's just hope that Davis doesn't try to issue Order 66 on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.....

Minnesota Vikings: As of this moment, the current lockout of the players by the NFL had better not end soon, because if it did, the Vikes might not have a stadium to play in. I'm pretty sure you've all seen the rather dramatic video of the Minneapolis Metrodome's roof collapsing under the weight of several feet of snow. They're still working on fixing that roof even as we speak. The Vikings wound up finishing their home schedule at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium, which is not only smaller than the Metrodome, but outdoors as well. But while Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has been pondering relocating the Vikings for years, it turns out that TCF Bank Stadium was designed to be easily expandable to a capacity suitable for the needs of the Vikings. And considering that domed stadiums are slowly going the way of the dinosaur, I foresee outdoor football in Minneapolis on Sundays as well as Saturdays. This one gets a 'doubtful' rating. Which leaves us with.....

Jacksonville Jaguars: I've always been struck by one thing about Jacksonville: how the hell did they ever get a team in the first place? I'm sure Jacksonville is a fine place, and they've always had a big-ass stadium there in the Gator Bowl, but they never struck me as the stereotypical NFL market. While Jacksonville isn't the smallest city to have an NFL franchise (Green Bay has a population barely over 100k), it is most certainly one of the smallest markets in the NFL in terms of total metropolitan population (excluding Green Bay, natch). And Jacksonville is surrounded by other NFL teams within a reasonable drive (Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Miami), not to mention surrounded by traditional-power college teams (Florida, Florida State, Georgia and Georgia Tech). Jacksonville has been the traditional host of the annual Georgia - Florida football game ("The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party") as part and parcel of the city's passion for college football. And attendance for Jags games has steadily declined in recent years as the team has been stuck in mediocrity for several seasons. And like Minnesota and San Diego, Jags owner Wayne Weaver has publicly stated that moving the club is a distinct possibility. And with no other real options in sight for the club......

I'd say the best bet for moving to LA would be the Jaguars. San Diego's ownership won't sell, St. Louis' situation is nowhere near as bad as it may or may not seem, Minnesota has better options available, and who in their right mind would deal with Al Davis? The only issues left are timing, and who would own the team. Would AEG convince Weaver to move, or just buy the Jags outright? Would they move the team immediately, and have the Jags play in the Rose Bowl (also owned by AEG) until the new stadium is complete, or leave the Jags in limbo for a few seasons while the new stadium is under construction. I would think the best situation would be to move the Jags ASAP and put them in the Rose Bowl until a new stadium is ready, because I seriously doubt Jacksonville fans would pay for Jags tickets fully knowing that the team wouldn't be staying for much longer. Not to mention that any remaining difficulties AEG might be having getting the permits and clearances to build their new stadium would likely vanish once a tenant has been confirmed for it.

There is one last variable to bring into consideration when it comes to bringing the NFL back to the LA metro, though: the fans themselves. Fact is, LA was never all that excited about the NFL for most of the time. Sure, the Raiders were kinda.... fashionable during their stay in LA, but since then there just hasn't been that overwhelming clamor to bring the NFL back to LA since the Raiders and Rams left. In fact, when real-estate mogul Ken Behring attempted (and briefly succeeded) to move the Seattle Seahawks to Anaheim, the response from LA sports fans was overwhelmingly.... meh. The Los Angeles Times ran a poll on fan excitement of various LA Metro teams shortly after the Seahawks moved, and they finished eleventh, if I remember correctly.

So the only certainty in all this is uncertainty. But I think there's enough information floating around that I'll make this prediction: in 2015, there will be NFL football in Los Angeles. And it'll probably be the Jacksonville Jaguars moving to LA. Sorry, Jacksonville. It sucks losing a team - I'm still bitter about the Sonics being stolen off to Oklahoma City, and there are probably a few old-timers that are still pissed off about losing the Seattle Pilots to Milwaukee. Seattle fans are expert in dealing with this issue. But look at the bright side - the Gators, Seminoles, Bulldogs, Yellow Jackets - they'll never move.

Realignment In MLB - Srsly?

One of the things I like to do when I'm watching sports on TV is to read the streamers at the bottom of the screen, see the scores go by, watch for new little tidbits of this or that. When I woke up this morning, Joy was still asleep (as she usually is), so I turned on the TV and turned on ESPN to see what was going on. College baseball and pro women's fastpitch, two things generally not on my list of things I enjoy watching. Hell, it took me several minutes to figure out which team was which on the fastpitch game between the Chicago Bandits and the USSSA Florida Pride - whatever happened to home whites and road greys?

But I found something truly intriguing on the streamer below the game. It seems that Major League Baseball and it's players' association are pondering the possibility of a fairly radical realignment of the leagues, schedules, and playoff structure. In a nutshell, the American and National Leagues would each have 15 teams (currently the AL has 14, while the NL has 16), and the divisions within each league would be done away with altogether, and the top five teams in each league would advance to the playoffs (Author's note: I would presume that under such a system, the top three teams in each league would receive first-round byes, and the #1 seed would face the winner of first-round match between the #4 and #5 seeds). The article also suggests that the team most likely to switch leagues under the proposal would be the Houston Astros.

It's an interesting proposal for sure, but one that might be unworkable. First off, scheduling the season would be nightmarish at best. By removing the divisional structure, the new format removes one of the needs for an unbalanced schedule (where playing teams in the same division or conference takes precedence over playing teams outside said division or conference, while a balanced schedule is essentially a round-robin format). And with an odd number of teams in each league, that means that there would be an interleague series going on at all times throughout the season. Trying to do the math in my head necessary to generate how many games a season would be needed to make a schedule work rapidly made my brain ache and beg for mercy.

My honest feeling is that this is a nice try, but totally unworkable. The problems that would arise from scheduling 30 teams to play each other over the course of six months and 150 - 160 games into two- to four-game series make it a logistical nightmare. But it's still a nice try. If there were already the same even number of teams in each league, that might help. But what would it take to get there? Contract two clubs and then realign, or add two clubs and realign? I'm not sure either would work, because remember that there's more than just the big club you're dealing with. If a team were to be contracted, all of a sudden you'd have a AAA club, a AA club, and three single-A clubs without players, let alone a major-league team paying their salaries. That'd put a lot of people out of work. Likewise, two new MLB clubs would require a farm system that would need ten new minor-league clubs to be formed to handle those needs. Doable, but building an infrastructure like that takes a lot of time, and a lot of money. And in this economy, that kind of money would be very hard to find.

In closing, here's my take on it all: Getting rid of the divisional format? Nice idea, traditionalists would probably love it. Fifteen teams in each league? No way, man. Not workable. Stick with what works for the time being.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

So You're Probably Asking Yourself By Now.....

What else does this guy like? What does he know? Why does he think he's so goddamned smarter than us?

Well, like most guys I like sports. But not necessarily sports you might expect. I love me some soccer - Sounders till I die! - and I love rugby, even played for a few years, down in Olympia with Budd Bay RFC. Not that I was any good at it. I was placed out at the wingback positions (#11 or #14 - the positions are strictly numbered in rugby, with the forwards being numbers 1 -8, and the backs wearing 9 - 15, while the substitutes wear 16 - 22), mostly to keep me out of the way. I liked to joke that I was 'the Les Nessman of rugby' (and if you caught the reference - good for you!) because I was just that bad at it, though I loved the camaraderie of it all, and still do.

I like other sports too, your usual stuff, though I hate the NBA - fuck them right in Darth Stern's puckered old asshole. After what he and his buttmonkey Clay Bennett did to Seattle, fuck 'em all. The IRL Major League, with only Charlie Sheen and his Buddy Holly glasses and shitty haircut missing. Not to mention the happy ending. Well, it looks like there will be quite a lengthy lockout after their collective-bargaining agreement with their player's union expires after the season ends - owners want a 1/3 reduction in player's salaries, and the union told the owners to go fuck themselves - and I will enjoy that lockout, laughing heartily at their collectively bargained arrogance and hubris. Oh, and by the way, who are the defending WNBA champions? Seattle fucking Storm, that's who! Remember them - the team Clayboy and the Redneck Mafia didn't want, with the players that flat-out refused to move to Oklahoma? Hey Stern, FUCK YOU, ASSHOLE!

Yeah, still bitter.

I like racing - just not NASCAR. If I want to see rednecks turn in circles for three hours, I'll go to a WalMart parking lot on Black Friday. Give me road-course racing - give me Formula One. They say Darlington is 'the track too tough to tame'? Well my friends, the Nurburgring Nordschliefe would beat Darlington like a bitch and take its lunch money every day of the year. So there.

I like my politics. I'm a Democrat and damn proud of it, but I'm not as liberal as either of my parents are. In some areas - like guns and the military - I'm damn near conservative. But don't lump me in with that other party. Those fools are painting themselves into a corner they'll never get out of with their phony patriotism and fake piety. And their logic is utterly mystifying - how the fuck do you pay down the debt by lowering taxes to nearly zero? You don't! They're nobody's 'patriots', they're nobody's conservatives, either. What they really are is nihilist-anarchists, or to use a more exact term, idiots. So there.

I'm not much for television anymore, All the good ideas are gone, used up, ground down into mindless pablum. Who really gives a shit about D-list celebrities ballroom-dancing or ice skating? Does a group of moronic kids from New York and New Jersey doing their level best to reinforce every negative stereotype of Italians really have to be that popular? Why are we bombarded by the random mumblings of the most mind-numbingly ignorant of people, while intelligent, intellectually stimulating shows are shunted off to god-only-knows where?

And I'm trying not to lose hope for music. As far as I'm concerned, country music died with Johnny Cash. And the pablum they show on all those simpering country-music channels polluting the dial, the surviving members of Lynyrd Skynyrd should be suing them all for back royalties. My tastes are pretty much Metal, Metal, and more Metal - it's just about the only honest music left these days, though truth be told I think my problem is more with the inflexible and stagnant corporate culture that's polluted all music than with any modern form of the art.

I think my real refuge from it all is the kitchen. I love to cook - another thing I learned far too late in life to be able to do anything meaningful with, like go to culinary school and open a restaurant or something like that. I love cooking for my family, busting out something they've never had before. One of these days, I'll get them to eat lengua - beef tongue braised for hours in Mexican herbs and spices before being chopped up and slapped into homemade corn tortillas with a little onion and cilantro. Or maybe a nice osso bucco would be in order. Or maybe my homemade pseudo chiles rellenos - I use the 'pseudo' because I wrap my roasted chiles and cheddar in egg roll wrappers instead of using an egg batter - would be nice.....

Inspiration just struck - so I've gotta go. Time to get a few things out of the freezer. We'll talk more later. I'll try not to curse so much next time. That said, if anything I said offended you, too bad. Perhaps you needed to be offended.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Going Mobile

Well, I figured that the first real post here should be about what's been most important for Joy and I over the last few months: a place of our own.

We'd decided some time ago that when Joy was finally approved for Social Security - Disability, we'd buy ourselves an RV to live in. I think that we were both enamored with the idea of living mobile when we first moved to Reno, and spent five weeks living at the Silver Sage RV Park across Virginia Street from the Peppermill. Being able to pull up stakes just like that, and go where our noses led us. Being able to drive across the country to see her oldest son and his family at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on little more than a whim. And staying at the Silver Sage for a second time, about five months or so before our return to Port Angeles, only cemented that desire in both our minds.

It all breaks down to a few simple questions, though. The first one is 'what kind of RV do you want?' At first we were only thinking of a large (30 - 35') Class A......

Oh wait a minute. Do you know what I'm talking about? If you do, be patient. Suffering is good for the soul. If not, here's a quick primer on recreational vehicles.

Until recently, there were two main types of RV's - Trailers and actual Recreational Vehicles. Trailers break down into to three basic types - travel trailers and fifth-wheel trailers, and park models. Travel trailers are the most basic form of RV, just a big aluminum box to sleep in, anywhere from tiny teardrop-shaped trailers barely big enough to hold a bed to monsters up to 40 feet long and eight feet wide. Our pop-up trailer fit into the low end of the scale at a mere 17 feet in length (24' when fully extended), and could be towed easily with any truck with either a reciever or even a simple tow ball on the rear bumper. Fifth-wheel trailers require a custom hitch rig (called a gooseneck) that sits in the bed of a larger truck, and are easily identified by their somewhat humpbacked appearance, as the trailer body extends out over the bed of the towing vehicle. Park models are very long (usually 35 to 40 feet), and basically look like a 3/4-scale mobile home, and aren't really designed or built to be moved more than once or twice.

RV's come in three classes. A Class A RV is a full-body RV (a big box on wheels) on a custom-made chassis. Class B RV's are basically full-size vans that have been converted (hence the term 'conversion vans') to hold a couch that switches to a bed, a small kitchen and sink, and little else. In the middle falls the Class C, which has most of the features of a Class A while still being built on a van chassis, and essentially look like domesticated moving vans.

The newest member of the RV family is the 'toy hauler'. These can be either trailers or RVs, but what they all have in common is lots of room in the back for smaller vehicles, like bikes, motorcycles, ORV's or sand-rails. The downside of a toy hauler is that while there's space for your toys, that leaves less space for you.

Okay, we're back. At first we wanted a Class A, and the bigger the better. Then we started to fine-tune our desires, and other options came into play. Our choice then became either a Class A or Class C, and no longer than 35' because anything larger than 35' wouldn't be allowed in National Parks. I would prefer an RV with a diesel engine, for better towing and fuel economy (trust me on this - an extra two or three miles-per-gallon is crucial when you're driving two to three thousand miles with a rig that might only get 10 to 12 MPG at best). We never really gave trailers a look until very recently. My dad got me looking at fifth-wheels, which have a lot of room, but were too big to be towed by our SUV. And anything with stairs - even if only two or three - makes Joy nervous, no matter how much she likes the space. I never liked travel trailers, never really paid any attention to them, but then I found a 38-footer on Craigslist which I could turn into a rolling home-and-office complex with little effort. Now if only that woman would email us back. I've got the financing and transport ready.....

Every vehicle has its own advantages and drawbacks. RV's can go whenever you want them to, but the gas-mileage sucks ass, and insuring them can only be crazy expensive. A trailer might be cheaper than a full-on RV, but then you have to license and inusre two vehicles instead of one. And we have no interest whatsoever in toy haulers. My toy isn't a toy at all - it's my drumkit, and I only need a rig with enough 'basement' storage to hold it all, as well as one door big enough to fit my bass drum through.

But the dream is still there, and shining brightly. RV's depreciate in value rather quickly, so much so that we can budget a decent amount of Joy's SSD money towards a rig and be able to buy a fairly decent one without busting the budget. We look on Craigslist, Ebay, the local classifieds, and find a wide variety of vehicles available at decent prices. We're not all that nuts about going to dealerships - we have no love for the hard-sell, let me tell you - but so far our visits to local RV dealers have been educational, insightful, and generally positive. We think we're getting close to owning one, though at this point in time we don't have any place to actually park one, can't really do so until that SSD money comes in. But we use the time to our advantage, always searching, reading, learning. We want that lifestyle, to be air-conditioned gypsies.....

Well, maybe not 'gypsies', not in the classical sense. But being able to travel to my gigs together in comfort once in a while would be nice. That's a start....

Welcome To My New Nightmare

Well, you've found the clearinghouse for all the other thoughts running loose in my head. As I've run my blog for the last three years, I would often find myself wanting to talk about something else, something beyond the lingering hatred and resentment I've held towards certain...... others that I've had the pleasure of dealing with over that time period. I have other thoughts in my head, y'know. I would actually consider myself to be a fairly well-rounded person by now - and no, I'm not saying that because I'm far heavier than I'd like to be. I do have a lot of other interests outside of music. News, sports, politics, cooking, gardening, tech, I follow a lot of things. And this is where they'll be loosed upon an unsuspecting public.

So fasten your seat belts, folks - it's gonna be a bumpy ride.