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Inspirational Reads

Finally, Some Respect!!!

January 31, 2007

With all apologies to Will Shannon, who lived next to and around me for three years in the mid- to late-nineties and who thusly knows of my love and passion for Indiana Basketball.

Also, all apologies to A.J. Ratliff, whom I have dogged in the past. You've earned your striped pants tonight, sir. I tip my cap to you.

And, no apologies to the talking morons on the radio and television who said that Wisconsin's only true tests this year will be at Michigan St. and at Ohio St. later in February, everyone of you should call up Kelvin Sampson and say, "Hey, maybe you CAN coach at a place like Indiana." Because, you know, he can't call you.

I'm especially pointing out local buffoon Chris Clark on this one, who, yesterday said, "Wisconsin...they're not going to lose to Indiana." This is one of those times when I want to break my ban against calling in to radio talk shows. I want to gloat, because this guy is one of your typical, swollen head, egomaniacal ass clowns who think they're cool and tough and edgy, like Jim Rome or Keith Olberman. The problem is, with these ass monkeys, no one can take them to task for the idiocy they spew on the radio. My favorite (allow me to digress a moment) was earlier this year, when the editor of the ACC Sports Journal was on every radio show that would give him a moment talking about how all the national media guys have no idea what they're talking about, how they've got the ACC all wrong, and how they've totally misjudged NC State this year. To recap: National media predictions for NC State: 3 wins, Chuck Amato gone at the end of the season. David Glenn: "Chuck Amato's not even on the hot seat, NC State will challenge the Florida schools for a shot at the ACC title. There's no way they'll fire Amato." I don't need to elaborate further.

Anyway. I might rag ESPN all the time (but then, they rag Notre Dame all the time), but I was particularly peeved tonight when they could have telecast Wisconsin at Indiana. Instead, they showed Ohio State at Purdue. Nothing like broadcasting a professional team versus a high school team when down the road is a match up of two top 25 programs. I suppose Matt Painter would accuse Kelvin Sampson of cheating and foul play if ESPN had pulled up and gone to Indiana for the game, so to keep from further sullying the good coach of IU, it's probably for the better. However, thankfully, ESPNews gave us a little in-game extra, so I got to watch most of the second half. A.J. Ratliff was on fire. Mike Davis should have torn the tendon in Ratliff's shooting hand when he was a freshman! To be able to step up and burn a good team on a hot streak who stresses defense first for 20 in the second half with an injured shooting hand shows an incredible set of cajones. It was tighter toward the end thanks to a suddenly ice-cold showing at the free-throw line (missing 3 of 4 which could have sealed the deal rather than dragging it out). Awesome. Just awesome. You could also see the excitement on Kelvin Sampson's face, too, down the stretch of the game. I like how you can see his emotions, but he doesn't get carried away with them like Davis did, or especially Knight. He's a little fireplug, but he also knows how to toe the line, and that's what IU needs. Well, that and a good coach. I think they've nailed both.

A Change in Programming

January 23, 2007

So, in the past, I've fired off the Ass-Hat of the Day award. Usually this involves someone who pissed me off at one of my daughter's sporting events. Usually, it's the fat guy who rips into five- and six-year olds.

I'm here today to hand out the UN-Ass-Hat of the Day award.

It's true. I'm lauding and praising someone here.

Last week (Friday night), my daughter had a basketball game. They ended up winning, and she got lots of playing time. That's cool and all; Coach Sean does a really good job of getting the kids in there so they can play. However, the focus here isn't on my daughter's team; it's on the team they played against.

The other team did not have any girls, which normally would peeve me a little bit since they're in a co-ed league. However, the other team did have a mentally handicapped kid playing for them. I found this beyond admirable. Not only did the coach have the kid on the team, he played the kid, and the kid got a lot of minutes (ignore the fact that only six kids showed up for the game). Unfortunately, I don't know his name, so he'll have to just remain as "the kid" for the purposes of this posting. What's more, the coach, during half time, took this player out onto the court and worked with him to help get him ready for the game. The kid's family sat beside us, and you could see the respect in the kid's father's eyes. Unfortunately, I don't think he got any points and maybe not a lot of good touches. I was hoping that maybe the coach would have him cherry-pick toward the end of the game just so he could get a lay-up, but the kid, instead, was hustling up and down the court and seemed to be enjoying himself, which is, to throw out an overused cliche, what it's all about.

This means a lot to me since my sister was handicapped and my father has, in the past years since I graduated college, gotten out of the accounting game and moved into a profession where he helps handicapped folks live lives of modest independence. He runs a workshop where they have jobs and he also helps in the group homes, where he assists them with cooking or laundry or takes them to movies. He also serves as chaperones when the clients go on dates, which, given the amount of discomfort my father always showed when he had to chaperone MY dates, always brings a wry smile to my face.

So, here's to the coach of the other team on Friday night (sorry, I don't have his name handy and I don't think I have the schedule still in my email box). Your team might not win a game this season, but (to fire off another overused cliche) you and your team are already winners in the game of life.

Almost Perfect

January 21, 2007

Wow. What a nice day yesterday.

First of all, I stumbled across a Brainiac marathon on G4 yesterday. It's just the sort of offbeat, bent approach to science and the scientific method that I think more people should embrace. It might make science less "icky" to school kids. Or not. Mainstream media seems to paint a picture of "you can't be a scientist unless you're really, really smart! Or Asian!" That last part might sound racist (sorry Jim) but it's not, really. Think about how many times growing up as a kid that you saw a show or something, and the smart kid/science kid was always the Asian. I'm just trying to reflect that here.

Anyway, once Brainiac was done, my daughter, being inspired by the bent angle to which Brainiac approaches science, she decided to figure out which of the toy hammers was better for knocking the wooden pegs out of the wooden boards that you can hammer the pegs into. It was kind of funny, because she would repeat her experiments over and over again. She decided that the plastic one was better, until I stepped up and launched the peg across the room with the wooden hammer. Granted, I also whacked the hell out of it. I figured it was good to show that not everything works out like you think it should. I'm setting her up for a fine career in chemistry. It's too bad, too, because she has beautiful hair, and I don't want her to rip it out at the roots due to frustration.

Anyway, after Brainiac, I switched over to the Indiana-Connecticut game, figuring that, since Indiana was on the road, Connecticut would be handing it to them. Quite the opposite, actually. This enthused and excited me. To cut a long story short, Indiana went on to win (more on this later).

I immediately turned it over to the Texas Tech-Kansas game (which I had been flipping back and forth to during the IU game) to see Tech pull it out against the hated Jayhawks. That was marvelous, but I wish that fans would allow the players and coaching staffs to get out of the way before storming the court.

Back to Indiana. My two biggest complaints from the pre-Big Ten season have been largely fixed. yesterday, IU missed only 1 free throw. Sure, they shot about 10 less than Connecticut (but since UConn sucks from the line, it didn't hurt them that much), but that's beside the point. Indiana's ability to knock down free throws, especially down the stretch when Connecticut was using the hack-and-time out defense, is what won the game for them, more or less. Also, the turnovers were way down (I think they had 10 for the game and Connecticut had 11 or 12 or something like that), despite Joey Shaw making a couple of freshman mistakes when he was playing point. They could have been critical mistakes, but Indiana remained poised and Connecticut kept bricking free throws. Team fouls were WAY up, but this was UConn's court, so the bias will naturally lean toward them. UConn also kept pounding the ball down low by the basket to try and foul out DJ White, but instead he stood strong and didn't get into a lot of foul trouble (he sat about halfway through the half to be as fresh as possible toward the end of the game). Lance Stemler continued to be a non-entity. I'm wondering just how badly he was hurt when he got the concussion prior to the Duke game during practice, as he's not played well since then. He's slow to react on help defense, he can't hit a three pointer and he's constantly out of position for rebounding (instead, opting to fly in at the end of the play, putting himself further out of defensive position on the other end and/or earning a stupid foul).

Unfortunately, AJ Ratliff was also not much of a factor yesterday. I've been a critic of his several times in the past, and most of it has been well-warranted. However, I do owe him an apology as he's come up big in several games recently. All this with torn ligaments in his left hand. Yesterday, he was rolled like a defensive end trying to rush the quarterback (and there was a foul called...amazingly enough) and he reaggravated the injury. Here's hoping for a quick recovery to number 20. Or he can keep sitting the bench and sucking up fouls off players who are on the floor (a foul that should have been called on DJ White was called on Roderick Wilmont, who was about twenty feet away from the action, so the referees got together and decided it was on Ratliff...who was sitting next to Kelvin Sampson, icing his injured hand).

Overall, I think this week's matchups will be interesting. A win on the road at Illinois, which is going to be about the most hostile environment anyone could want to go to, would be least as big as the road win over the Huskies. I'm thinking that Indiana could pull it out, as Illinois seems down this year. It's an ESPN game, so I'm guessing it will either be Lavin/Musberger or Vitale and a mop handle calling the game. I'm hoping for Musburger because, even though he's a senile old idiot, he brings along Steve Lavin, who is a pretty decent announcer, and the oh-so-delectable Erin Andrews. A home game against Michigan could also go a long way to securing Indiana a lock in the tournament. That, of course, would mean that the following game (if IU wins both) would be a potential top 15 matchup at home vs Wisconsin. And ESPN, I'm guessing, is going to move that one from ESPN Full Court to national broadcast. Or maybe they'll pull the big dick move and dump it onto ESPNU. God, I love ESPN.

Wherever it's broadcast, that will be a huge game for both squads. It could also put Indiana on the inside track to winning the Big Ten (they only play Wisconsin once...and Wisconsin has to travel to Columbus to play Ohio State before the end of the season). That would be huge to put Sampson on the map.

No Reason to Live

January 19, 2007

If I'm not dead by 2100, please, somebody, kill me.

Snow Problem: Too Much, Not Enough and Why Can't People Drive?

January 18, 2007

With all respect to Will Shannon, who posted about Madison, WI's snow problem earlier this week over at City of Tiny Lights, I thought I would toss in my two bits, mostly taken from my commute this morning. You see, since I live in the South, I had LOTS of time to ponder things such as this while stuck in standstill traffic on my daily commute.

I live in North Carolina, but I grew up in Indiana. I know how to drive on snow, or when it's snowing, or sleeting, or there's a spot of freezing rain coming down. This is, apparently, privileged knowledge as, whenever there is the slightest permutation in the weather down here, people go apeshit. It's very frustrating knowing that the road conditions would allow for normal 55 mph travel only to be stuck behind a woman who is freaking out, traveling 15 mph, and there's a quarter mile gap between the front of her bumper and the rear of the next car in front of her. After all, we wouldn't want to go suddenly batty and not be able to stop, thus rear-ending the person in front of her.

This was my morning. All aching 60 minutes of it (normal commute time is about 25-30 minutes). One thing that really amuses me, though, is not just the inability to drive in it, nor the freaking out, nor the mass confusion that it brings. It's the I'm-going-to-be-so-careful-that-I-won't-get-into-a-wreck-but-I'll-worry-more-about-what-the-next-guy-is-doing-and-so-I-won't-pay-proper-attention-to-what-is-going-on-around-me-and-therefore-be-a-hazard-hahahahahahahaahahaha attitude.

Take, for example, the woman whom I referenced above. She is literally driving down the freeway at 15 mph (unfortunately, when I got onto the interstate, someone was in the on-ramp going even slower, so I could only get around one of them). The back end of her car is sliding a bit from time to time, and she is freaking out. I could see her hunched over the wheel like a vulture over the rotting corpse of a zebra, her big scared eyes sizing up every car that came near her and staying a healthy quarter of a mile behind the next car in line. I am not exaggerating here...she actually put on her brakes whenever someone tucked into line behind the car ahead of her so that she would keep that 1/4 mile cushion. The truly remarkable thing was--and this is the thing that blew my mind--that, despite all of her cautious driving and watching what EVERYONE else was doing, she was driving NOT in the clean areas where cars' tires had already gone. She was driving in the piles of slush that accumulate between the grooves cut by the cars that had already passed, which explained why she kept losing traction on the back end.

I got around her as quickly (and safely) as possible. Others were traveling slowly, but not as ridiculously as this woman. There were some areas where rubbernecking (which is always intelligent, even under optimal conditions...but I must say, the wreck they were gawking at truly was spectacular...and both of the guys were out of their cars and upright, calling for help on their phones, so I assume they were uninjured) slowed things down, and of course the major intersections with the interstates were horrific. Mostly, it was the one woman who annoyed me. And some jackass in a BMW. I personally was hoping he'd find a quick trip into a ditch and ruin his little prize car. Prick. However, these scenarios didn't happen to just me this morning. All of my friends at work had similar issues while driving in. But even their sad tales of woe were not even the worst of the morning.

No, my poor wife got up with the kids, got them ready, loaded them in the car and drove from Durham to Wake Forest because no one had bothered to report that my daughter's school had closed. She waited as long as she could, knowing that there would be people out there driving at 15 mph with a quarter-mile distance between themselves and the next car in line, so she would require extra time. None of the radio stations, which are supposed to report ALL of the closings, did so. Instead, she called me on the cell phone once I got to work and I had to check the website in order to see if the school was closed, which indeed it was. My poor wife then had to turn back around and come home in the middle of that mess, because she couldn't have gotten ahold of me while she was still in Durham. That's not how it works. No, I didn't get to work in time to take her call until she was almost in Wake Forest (it's about 30 miles).

It would be natural to blame the ineptitude of the schools for this, however, I lay none of the blame at their feet. In fact, when most administrators and teachers were reporting to school, the roads were probably fairly good. We were under a winter weather advisory, but that's nothing major. However, the weather forecasters were all telling us how this would be largely a non-event, there'd be a little sleet, maybe some freezing rain, and then it would quickly turn to rain and we'd be alright. Nothing to fear. Nothing at all.

It turned out, though, that the weather forecasters were like that guy in Iraq who kept denying that the American troops were in Baghdad. "Nothing to worry, the Americans are not fighting to take over the airport," he'd report...all the while with gunfire and rocket explosions in the background. That's kind of how it was this morning. To paraphrase: "Well, we missed it again...we thought sure that, despite the temperatures being WELL below freezing, that the rain somehow magically wouldn't freeze. But don't worry! Even though it's snowing, the soil temperatures are warm enough there won't be much of an accumulation. Pay no attention to the two inches of snow on the ground! This will be out of here by noon!" In fact, when I came home this evening at 6:00, it was still raining. Morons.

But that's the problem. The weather forecasters down here are always absolutely 100% wrong. They can't tell a cold front from a store front. I remember a couple of years ago when they said "Areas east of I-95 will experience all rain and no ice, but areas west of I-95 will get ice and watch out." It was 100% flipped. We got the rain, the eastern part of the state was buried in ice. Good job, guys. Wanna pick my lottery numbers for me?

When I lived in South Bend, where they deal with lake effect snow every winter, the weather forecasting was a helluva lot more accurate than here. Sure, they'd fudge their forecasts by saying "if the wind does this, this place will get snow...but if the wind does this, this place will get snow." The thing was, they got it right. If the wind did this, this place got snow! And South Bend isn't exactly the sprawling metropolis that's going to suck in the very best and brightest weather forecasters in the world. It certainly isn't as big as the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill-Cary megacity. It seems that most of the time I could run out onto my back porch, stick my finger in my mouth and then raise it up in the air and do a better job forecasting the weather. In fact, I'm not too sure that's NOT what they're doing at these television studios.

So, the major headaches caused this morning should have been avoidable, especially since I suspect that several of the people traveling back and forth were scrambling to go and get their kids either from the schools where they had already been dropped or were turning around to go home after finding out their kids' schools had been canceled. Had the weather people had any clue about what was actually going to happen rather than the hand-waving and such that they did all night last night as well as the poo-pooing of the winter weather advisory ("Well, this isn't going to turn out to be nyeh!"), a lot of the commuter headaches could have been avoided. The other major blame here is the radio and television stations that don't do their jobs and report in a timely fashion as to what's happening. When growing up in Indiana, I remember every few minutes on mornings like this (when real winter systems would hit, not just a measly two inches of snow), the morning zoo crews actually stopped their nonsense and the whole morning long it was weather update, school closing/delay updates. No commercials. No chatter. Just the important news. And more than one radio station carried it. ALL of the radio stations carried it. It was a service they provided their listeners.

But I guess that, like even partially reliable weather forecasts, is just too much to ask.

We have another weather system moving in Sunday night/Monday morning. This one looks considerably bigger than the one we got this morning. We'll see if anyone has learned any lessons, or whether they're going to go about skipping through the daisies and tossing rose petals around when it comes to forecasting the weather. I'm sure one of these times their attitude of "if we don't see it, it's not really happening" might ACTUALLY work.

And We're Back

I can't believe I didn't update before tonight. I actually thought I had written something over the weekend, but apparently I didn't. Nothing like not remembering what I have and haven't done. That's always a good sign.

Over the past weekend, I finished Chapter 13, which was big since that was yet another partial chapter that I finally finished. Tonight, I finished Chapter 17, which was kind of exciting because it gave a couple of clues as to the identity/roles of some of the characters. It was also exciting because now I have 11 through 19 done, which is all of the "teen" chapters and leaves only 4, 7 and 10 as partially-finished chapters. If you think about how I want this to be a little over 30 chapters, then you'll notice that this is about 1/3 of the whole book. But then, I have a bunch of other chapters done, so it's not like I'm only 1/3 of the way complete; I'm way past that.

That's about all I have concerning the writing. Here's the numbers:

Word Count: 91,121
Page Count: 300

Bang. I'm at the 300 page mark and slightly under 100,000 words. I'll put together another big push to finish chapter 7 this week and I'll hit on chapter 4, as well. I have to finish 7 before I finish 10, as I need to have various characters in the correct positions before I can start moving them, and 7 positions them and 10 puts them in motion.

All these book updates are kind of boring. I'll continue to update the book progress, but I've got some other things I need to take care of, like an apology to a certain #20 as well as looking forward to 7-7-07.

Just Because This Amuses Me So...

January 15, 2007

I love the subtlety of this comic.

Sure, it's a fart joke, but Jef Mallet pulls it off very well.
As always, click on the image to make it larger.
The backstory here is that Frazz bought a bunch of exercise balls because the heavy-set gym teacher was making fun of him for doing triathalons. The balls are a form of revenge.

Another Quickie

January 11, 2007

Since I didn't write anything earlier in the week about my progress, I thought I'd toss a little bit more on here tonight. I'd keep pushing on, but exhaustion is taking over and Sleepy Karl just doesn't get things to fit together nearly as nicely on a page as I do when I'm at full strength. And, since it's 11:42 at night, I'm not going to make a pot of coffee. In fact, I probably should have been in bed 30 minutes ago, but instead I was writing.

I also learned something tonight. Well, it wasn't so much learned as it was corrected (relearned?), and it made me realize that I will need to more carefully reread King of Shadows and King of Thistles when I start touching on them (perhaps later this month? If not, probably later next month, for sure). I had looked up the garment worn under a shirt of mail (or hauberk, for the anal retentive out there) and thought that it was called an "akelton", like skeleton, but without the second e and the s turned into an a. Close, but no cigar. In something that I like to refer to tongue-in-cheekly as "What I learned from Wikipedia today" (for instance, I learned from Wikipedia that Chrissy Moran and I have the same birthday...both born in 1975), I learned it is actually "aketon" (taken from the Arabic word for cotton). It can also be called a "gambeson". That's your useless armor information for the day.

Anyway, I'm going to have to check carefully when I reread my other stories. I know I used the term akelton, and then added it to my dictionary. My idiocy knows no bounds.

That was a lot of crap to get through for no reason. Here are the running totals:

Word Count: 85036
Page Count: 280

Notice how close I am to 100,000 words AND 300 pages. Kickass.
I almost finished chapter 13 tonight. Hopefully, I should get it done tomorrow. It's an important chapter because it brings two of the main human characters together and leads to important things down the line. It's also important because that's one less of those half-chapters I have laying around that needs to be cleaned up and finished.

That's all for me. Just remember kids, if your basketball coach punches you in the junk and shows you porn, you probably need to work on your free-throws.

Another Brief Update

January 10, 2007

I know I promised one Monday or Sunday, but I got distracted by other things, like my wife being sick and reading Notre Dame blogs and whatnot. You know, that damned thing called life that tends to get in the way whenever you have something you REALLY want to do.

So, I ended up finishing a chapter. That was one of the other reasons why I delayed posting a new update. I wanted to have completed a new chapter. The only problem was, this one took me a bit longer than I intended. It featured several scenes that I have schemed over the past few weeks and it's a somewhat important chapter in the story, so I wanted to get it perfect. More perfect than all the other chapters I wanted to be absolutely perfect. So, I took my time, got it done right (for a first draft) and now I'm moving on to another chapter. So, 16 is done. I can add that to the finished list giving me a grand total of 16 finished (with epilogue and prologue) and six started and/or in various degrees of completion. I won't list them again until I have some real progress.

I've also found it to be difficult to have two characters who are traveling together who are unable to interact. They just look. There is minimal interaction such as points and nods and the occasional picture drawn in the dirt with a stick, but that's it. I decided to not have my human girl know how to read as that makes the story more challenging for both my main characters. The other main human character, the young knight, is beginning to catch on as to why the girl travels with such a strange group.

Anyway, the totals:

Word Count: 82761
Page Count: 273

From a numbers standpoint, this looks nice. I'm hoping to be close to 100,000 by the end of the month. If I finish the six chapters I have started, that should be very attainable. That would also give me more of a confidence boost. Right now the light at the end of the tunnel looks like a pinprick.

Speaking of pricks...I read a story today that was very disturbing. I'll just leave it at this: Coach Knight might have been accused of and gotten away with a lot of shit at IU. But he never, ever was accused of punching his kids in the junk in order to "get them fired up" like some high school coach in Colorado allegedly was. Yikes. Makes that little pop on the chin seem tame now, huh?

A Brief Update

January 7, 2007

I just finished chapter 15. One of the major hang-ups was I couldn't pick out a first name for a character. He's minor, he appears only in passing, but yet, I wanted him to have a good, strong name. I had picked Conrad or Connor, but then when I remembered/realized that his last name was Calloway, I nixed both of those. His father's name was Royce, so I stuck in that general area (since his mother's name is Milana and his sister Miranda). I chose Roman, though I'm not sure if I can actually name someone Roman when they live in a world where Romans never existed. I like the name, enough. I don't know. It might be changed.

I also sat here for five minutes trying to come up with the word "wisdom". "Wiseness" isn't a word, apparently. Either that, or it's just too effing odd to say it. Wiseness doesn't roll off the tongue like wisdom.

So, since I haven't trotted this out for a while, here are the finished chapters: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 15, 18, 19, prologue and epilogue. 4, 7, 10, 13 and 16 are close to finished; 10, 17 and 20 have one page done each. If things work out like I've planned, I'll have around 31 chapters, which means 21-31 haven't had a real lick of work done on them yet. I know what goes into them, I have that divided up, but I don't have anything typed yet. I'd rather get a nice flow of earlier chapters completed before I push the final 10-12 chapters.

Word Count: 79076
Page Count: 262

I'll try to have another update either tomorrow night or early in the week.

The Economics of Coffee

January 5, 2007

So, with the new year comes the annual "I'm going to better myself" thoughts, right? First, for me, it was to finish my books this year (this month, optimally) and to shed some of the Huttian proportions to which I am blossoming (this isn't EXACTLY true, as I have dropped a pants size).

The next one on the list is to become a little closer to independently wealthy. The first step in that direction is to start saving money on a Scroogian level. Yeah, yeah, it's also to finish the book and publish, I know. Piss off. I'm making a point here.

The best way, as I figure it, is to look at where I'm currently hemorrhaging cashflow. What do I do everyday that I can cut out or modify in such a way that the money's not flowing out of my wallet, but going into it (and presumably sitting around for a better use...such as new video games, or postage to mail manuscripts). The answer: coffee.

Now, I'm a coffee addict. I'm surprised that when I get cut open, I don't squirt out French Roast. With cream. Every morning, on my trek into work, I stop off at the local Chick Fil-A and order one hellaciously delicious cup of dark roast coffee. This costs me $1.48 (down a penny in recent months...don't these people know that the "hidden cost of oil" is driving prices upward? C'mon, M. Cathy. Let's get with the program here. There's a lot of hydrocarbons in that styrofoam cup you hand out every morning). That doesn't seem overly expensive, especially when viewed in light of other chains that offer coffee. But, if I stop there 5 days a week on the daily commute, that's a cool $7.40 I spend in coffee alone (the hidden price of oil here is that I go about a mile-and-a-half out of my way to get to this nectar of the gods, but I'm not calculating that). Again, not much, as you can shell out more than that at other coffee joints for a cup of coffee and a slab of dry coffee cake to go with it. But, figure that I'm going there 52 weeks every year, and the number swells to $384.80!!!

But, it's not just the coffee. See, Chick-Fil-A lures one in with the promise of delicious coffee, but then they hook you on the sweet, savory chicken biscuits, chicken bagels, and other various breakfasty goodies they offer (finest breakfast of any fast food chain, anywhere, says I). Now, I will admit that I don't eat there everyday for breakfast, but there are times when I'll say "yeah, add on a biscuit or a bagel or hell, one of everything!", and so the total then comes out to be $6.67. The difference here, of course, is $5.19. At 3 times a week (let's say I'm an incredible hog), that's $15.57 and by extrapolating that out to a year's worth of Chick-Fil-A runs, that's $809.64, and then add in the coffee and it's $1194.44 (also figuring North Carolina tax rates).

And let's not stop there. Most weeks, I hit up Starbucks at least once or twice a week. Sometimes it's at my wife's work in the cafe, sometimes it's at Target, sometimes it's at a different Barnes & Noble. I admit it, I'm a coffee whore. I can't get a small (or whatever that is...tall?). No, it's Venti the whole way for my caffeine-swilling ass (just hook it to my veins already!). This is usually about a $10 deal (factoring in my wife's discount if I can schmooze my way into her good graces whilst at the store) more or less. I don't have the totals memorized, but we'll go with that. It might be a little low, but there are the rare weeks when I don't find a Starbucks cup in my hand. So, we'll give this an additional $520 in Starbucks. Gad-freaking-zooks. This brings my total to $1714.44, or roughly about five bucks less than what I make in a year (that's a joke...just like my salary ZING!!!).

What to do, what to do. I can't give up my coffee, but I could do a lot of things with this money, like pay for my daughter's school tuition or pay off one of those pesky credit cards or, better yet, rent a high-class whore. So, I've decided to brew my own. I have this wonderful coffee maker that starts up whenever I tell it to and makes absolutely wonderful coffee. I also have a grinder, so I can buy the whole bean coffee. Economics, here I come (my father, the bean counter, would be so proud of me).

If I brew my own, I save the $1715 (I liberally rounded up to four sig figs). But wait. That money doesn't just spring from the ground, and neither does the coffee. In order to make it, I have to have the raw materials, right? Well, Juan Valdez and his donkey partner don't show up every morning with a "Buenos dias, here's your coffee, senor, now please don't deport me", at least not around here. I have to purchase it somewhere, but I've already built in a bit of savings. By getting the whole bean, I save myself a few ducuts out of the gate. Also, I made mention of this earlier, but my wife gets a discount on items purchased in the cafe. So, that $8.99 for a bag of Starbucks whole bean coffee suddenly becomes $6.73 (with the appropriate taxes figured in), and a bag of this runs me about three weeks to a month. I'll use the 3 weeks, since I estimated on the high end for other things. This comes out to be $116.63. I refuse to calculate the cost of the water, since it's minimal when compared to the amount of water I use when, say, shitting, so that is a variable essentially equal to zero. $1 worth of coffee filters will last you until Armageddon, and I use up maybe three boxes of artificial sweetener (at $4.69 each => $14.07) and $1.99 for a bottle of creamer once every three weeks ($34.49). Take all of these together, and brewing my own, I spend $165.19.

Overall, then, my net gains is $1549.25. This might not be enough to force me to build a money vault out back where I can go and dive into my money and swim through it, but it's a step in the right direction. Couple that with the fewer calories I'm ingesting, and I'm not only making money, but I'm losing weight, too!

Now, if only this coffee thing could write my fucking books...

880...and what could have been...

January 2, 2007

Over the weekend, The General, Robert Montgomery Knight, won his 880th game as a head coach in Men's Division One basketball. You have to toss that Men's in there so that Pat Summit lovers don't get all pissy, despite the fact that there is more than one good team in Men's basketball, as opposed to Women's.

So, my heartfelt congratulations to a man for whom I grew up wanting to play basketball. His long and storied career at Indiana, of course, was cut short. Way too short, for any Indiana fan's liking. Granted, a lot of things came together to end that: Myles Brand, constant media scrutiny, Knight's legendary anger, Neil Reed choking and then being choked, Ron Felling being pissed at no longer being an assistant, some punk who didn't respect either his elders or a man that was as dedicated to the university as his fanbase was to him, and faculty who were jealous at the attention Knight garnered over them. Of course, I'm on the outside looking in. I have no real ties to Indiana University aside from loving their basketball team and respecting them as an institution from birth. Yes, I went to Notre Dame, but even when the Irish were ranked Number 10 in the nation and Troy Murphy was busy being top dick dog on campus, and Indiana was coming to town, I dressed in my cream and crimson and stood in the ND student section, cheering on those Hoosiers whom I dearly loved. Knight was gone, the team was a shadow of its former glory, and yet I loved watching Kirk Haston show Murphy how to play (of course, who has had the better professional career?).

I find it a little sad, though, that Texas Tech had to basically recruit a crowd to come and join them in watching Knight become the wins leader in Division 1. I mean, he's now coaching at a place where football is first, in a city in the middle of nowhere, for a fanbase that doesn't really care. Maybe that's good for Knight, though. He's out of the spotlight, he doesn't have the constant pressure of needing to win. He's taken Texas Tech, turned them around from a single-digit win team into a contender for, if not Big XII titles, then at least for NCAA tournament appearances. It seems the athletic department is thrilled with him, and they should be. He's a helluva coach. He certainly is a fiery personality, a polarizing man who either had legions of dedicated fans (Texas Tech memorabilia spiked in sales in the state of Indiana when Knight was hired at Tech) or armies of haters.

I didn't get to watch the game; I instead took my daughter to see Charlotte's Web. I heard the news when I got back in the car after the movie and was pleased. I saw him lose against UNLV (and thought back to 87 when Indiana beat UNLV on their way to the national title) and I watched him tie Dean Smith against Bucknell. Like I said, I was genuinely happy for both Texas Tech and Bob Knight, but moreso for Coach Knight, since I felt a real connection as he was my favorite coach for a long, long time (still is, but I am liking what Kelvin Sampson has brought to the table).

Right now, I'm watching Indiana battle against Ohio State. It's looking like Indiana's not going to be deep enough or athletic enough to keep up with the Buckeyes, and I'm fine with that. I understand that. Mike Davis' departure left the cupboard not just bare but nearly desolate, and Sampson has struggled to cobble together a team. Of course, I mention the Buckeyes specifically because this team is cornered by two Indiana kids. They might be young, but my God are Conley and Oden amazing. I've never, ever seen a big man move acrobatically in midair like Oden did earlier in the game to avoid a charge. It was smart, it was athletic, it was un-effing-believable. Conley has been fast, smart, needling and powerful on offense all night long, slicing the Indiana defense for lay-ups, dishes and all sorts of winning moves.

And to think, they could be wearing Cream and Crimson right now.

Had Knight been able to contain his anger earlier in his career, to explode less and meltdown fewer times in public, who knows what could have happened? Would he have been able to talked Haston into coming back for one final year and then win the national championship in 2002? Keep Jarred Jeffries and recruit Sean May? Win the 2003 championship? 2004? What about now? Could you imagine, on one team, Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Jr., Josh McRoberts, Luke Zeller...with Eric Gordon coming in? How many championships would he win with that line-up? Could he challenge Wooden? No, never. But he'd definitely have far more championships than Coach K. Not to take anything away from the Knight protege, but those are high-powered offenses we're talking about. Indiana (the state) has been cranking out stud college stars for years now, and one of Mike Davis' downfalls was his inability to put ANY of those kids in red.

And we wouldn't be talking about 880 wins on the first day of 2007. Knight was out of coaching for a year, so add an extra 20 wins to his resume. Also think about the powerful lineups he could have been trotting out there just by recruiting within in own state, a problem Bob Knight has never really had. Think about some of the kids that slipped away in the later years. Chris Thomas to Notre Dame, Jason Gardner to Arizona, the loss of Luke Recker, the kid who went to Memphis (can't remember his name), Sean May...all of these guys came from Indiana. They were legends in the high school ranks. They should have all been slated to put on red-and-white-striped warm ups and jog around Assembly Hall as they prepared themselves for the next step in their careers, and making geeky fan boys like me mess themselves over the number of wins and championships they'd generate. We'd be talking about Knight hitting win1000, not just 880! He might not be the King of College Basketball. That will always belong to John Wooden (who is also, *ahem*, from Indiana), but Knight could have filled his grand shadow easily with his fistful of rings and his 1000+ career wins.


I often dare to dream what might have happened. What would have happened in 1975 if Scott May didn't break his arm? What about 1993 if Alan Henderson hadn't blown his knee? 1992 if Bobby Hurley hadn't been hitting threes from anywhere in the building? That would be eight championships for Indiana (1940, 53, 75*, 76, 81, 87, 92*, 93*) and six for Knight. But then...what else? 2002? 2003? I'll take one of those. I'll also take one in the near future, 2007, 2008? That'd be ten National Championship banners, eight of them under Bob Knight. 1000 wins. Indiana's lore in college basketball forever etched into the minds of all fandom. And the man setting the win record where he belonged: in Bloomington, Indiana.

Oh, what could have been...

Good-Bye, Brett

You can imagine my delight when NBC announced that they would use their flex scheduling to pick up the Bears-Packers game to conclude the NFL's regular season. I love the Packers, hate the Bears, and would love nothing more than to ring in the New Year with a Packers victory over their hated rivals. Earlier in the week (before Tiki Barber went apeshit against Washington's run defense ), the Packers stood an outside chance of getting into the playoffs as the 6 seed. After Saturday, when the Giants won, it was next to impossible for the Packers to get and by the time the game kicked off, the Giants had secured that 6-seed as their own.

That didn't matter. I don't get to watch my favorite team that often. I don't get to watch my favorite player that often. And, no, it's not former Notre Dame quarterback-turned-NFL wide receiver Carlyle Holiday (though, it is nice to see an ND alum on my favorite NFL team). No, that title is reserved for No. 4, Brett Favre.

So, I sat down last night in my comfy chair and watched the game as it kicked off. I rejoiced in the Packers grabbing a quick lead. I sunk into the usual depression after Favre tossed yet another interception. I was quickly elated once more as Rex Grossman turned into himself. This was a fun game. It didn't matter, really, since the Bears were secured in their homefield-throughout and the Packers were shut out of the playoff picture for the second year in a row. Still, it was nice to see the game being played, as I've only seen two Packers games this year, both of them Monday-Night-Debacles.

You can imagine how thrilled I was when the Packers continued driving down toward the end of the game. Up by 19, it became more and more evident that this was in the bag, an 8-8 season was clinched, and Favre's misery from last year was almost wiped clean and erased from the memory banks. And then, the two-minute warning came.

I thought it a bit odd that Favre started shaking hands with everyone in the huddle as they gathered awaiting the imminent stoppage of time. And then he went off the field when the game really was in the bag, and Donald Driver picked him up and carried him off. And then he started hugging everyone on the sidelines.

Oh, fuck, I thought.

My worries were confirmed when Andrea Kremer, vile bitch that she is, shoved a microphone in his face and asked him the question, the questions that every sports reporter asks at the end of every NFL season.

"Is this it?"

And then he started to cry. Well...ah to hell with it, he cried. A manly cry, because nothing Brett Favre does in unmanly. Including wearing a pink tutu (not that he would do that, or has done that, or probably will ever do that...but if he does, it'll be manly). But, when his tears started flowing, I knew it was it. He's retiring. And I just watched his last game.

And, yes, I went out to the garage, closed the door, and turned on my power tools.

I realize there is a waiting period, but Canton should throw it's doors open the moment he makes it official. I mean, even if this was all a clever ruse, and he does come back (he is only seven TDs from breaking Dan Marino's records for passing TDs and only a few wins from the all-time leader, and, let's face it, he can still play), they should induct him now. Granted, I'm viewing the situation through green and gold-tinted glasses, but he's the greatest quarterback not named Unitas to ever play. Okay, so he's probably around the fifth- or sixth-best to ever play. He's definitely a top ten. He's certainly the best quarterback I've watched play in the NFL, until Peyton Manning wins a super bowl and/or plays half a season with a broken thumb.

Sure, Favre's throwing motion isn't what you'd teach your son (or daughter) and his methods of scrambling out of the pocket and heaving the ball downfield is a little unorthodox (I'm having visions of Charlie Weis' head exploding at that), but he's just like a kid in the backyard out playing a game, which is exactly what the NFL is. It's a game, filled with big, fast, incredibly athletic men who entertain the hell out of us week-in and week-out. And Favre was king of those men. In his prime, no one was more entertaining than Brett Favre. Whether he was breaking his receiver's fingers with passes thrown at light speed or squeezing the ball in between three defensive backs and between a linebacker's upraised arms to hit the guy in stride and move on down the field, Brett Favre was entertainment. Whenever he stepped on the field, Packers fans had the feeling that, you what, we can win this. If it's even close at the end of the game, he'll lead us down the field to win this thing! In the later years, it seemed he tried too hard to do too much, tossing inopportune interceptions during key drives late in the game (or overtime...Brian Dawkins is the kryptonite to Brett Favre's superman, I swear!). But, he was the best, a legend, and everyone, even the hated enemy, respected Favre (in case you missed it last night when Brian Urlacher came up and gave him a hug...again, manly...and it wasn't just a 'good game' hug; it was a 'you're the best' hug).

I grew up a basketball fan (in the great state of Indiana...of course I was!), but as I was leaving middle school and moving on toward high school, my love of basketball didn't fade, but I did discover football. I had always known the rules of football, played it, and was familiar with it. I never had the passion and love of it like some folks did. When the Bears won the Super Bowl in 85, I hesitantly embraced the Packers as they were the Bears' greatest rival and, frankly, the Super Bowl Shuffle made me want to vomit. Couple the Packers' colors being rather fetching (my favorite color is green), it seemed like a decent fit. And then, when I was in high school, this young quaterback emerged from the shadows and he was young, good and exciting to watch. Suddenly, football became more interesting as I would catch a few games every season (we would still get pre-empted for Bears and Colts games back then) and I began to really enjoy football. Finally, in college, I started loving it. It helped that the Packers were a mainstay in the playoffs and went to two Super Bowls, winning one. I was done. I was hooked. Basketball would always be my first love, but close after came football. Baseball faded into nothing. And it was all because of this guy named Brett Favre.

I've only ever bought one sports jersey in all my life, and it is a replica Favre jersey that still hangs in my closet, waiting to be worn again. I should have had it on last night.

Sure, he only won one Super Bowl (and lost a pretty tight one) and then never made it back there after those two (despite Lambeau's frozen curse on visiting teams), but he was the MVP three years in a row. Sure, his approach to the position was unorthodox and sometimes he seemed headstrong, but no one (except for a few idiots at ESPN, the dickhead who wrote the Daily Quickie being one of the loudest) ever demanded that he sit down, that he give up his streak and his love of the game for someone younger and more polished. Sure, he went off to rehab because he addicted to painkillers, but he handled that situation with as much aplomb as possible, dedicating the very first chapter in his first biography to that. He had his faults, but he was the best player in the league for many years and many reasons. His recent spate of tragedies became our tragedies, and we felt the emotions that he wore on his sleeve right alongside him. He trilled us time and again; he broke our hearts time and time again. And now, sadly, it seems it's his time to head off into the sunset, like the gun-slinging cowboy quarterback that he is. He's not on the white horse that John Elway rode out on, but he's also not a diminished shadow of himself hovering on embarassment like Marino was when he left.

He was a lot of things to a lot of people. To me, he was my favorite player, the reason to watch, to love and to hang on every play when the ball was snapped into his hands. Now, he's walking away from the game, and an era in the NFL is coming to an end.

Good-bye, Brett. We love you.

New Year's Resolutions

January 1, 2007

First off, let me wish you all (you know, both of you) a Happy New Year. I hope 2007 is as great a year as it can be (especially for half of know which half I'm talking about).

Second off, a belated Merry Christmas! I was beset by in-laws and wrapping (Oh, the wrapping!), so I didn't post much. Or at all. I am happy to report that Santa Claus was very good to me, despite me being a naughty boy and all. I figured the removal of a cantankerous semi-vital organ was gift enough (you know, the gift to eat whatever I want, the gift of shitting like a goose, the gift of not waking up in the middle of the night feeling like Azrael has just buried his flaming sword through my chest...). However, I got some absolutely splendid presents, including moose moccasins, made of real moose. They're very warm.

Thirdly, a belated Happy Channukah to anyone who might stumble on this who is of the Jewish faith. I have much respect for the Chosen people (despite laughing uproariously at several anti-semetic Monty Python skits...see the "naughty boy" part above), and so I wanted to be sure that they are well-represented on my blog.

Now, onto the important stuff: My New Year's Resolution

I could be a cop-out and say "I resolve to lose weight". I was planning on that, anyway. I want Dr. Clowse to be very happy with me in April when I go to visit him. I don't like disappointing people, especially people who might be useful to me later in life (you know, by writing prescriptions for things that will keep me alive). Plus, you know, healthiness and all. I figure if my fat ass can get up off the couch (or out of the chair) and do something, this will be a shot of inspiration for my children to also not get into the corpulent state in which I find myself.

Actually, seeing some of the people from around here at the local Mc Donald's yesterday, I don't feel so bad about my size. I'm large. That I'll admit. I could stand to shed some excess weight. I am, in no way, approaching Huttian proportions yet, which is good because the repulsor-sled technology is a little lacking in this sector of the galaxy.

No, I'm shooting high on this one. My resolution is to finish The Boar War and submit it for publishing and/or agent representation. In addition, I resolve to streamline and finish King of Shadows (the bastard child of King of Thistles) and prepare that for publication, as well. Mostly this will involve the streamlining of the story. There are a few odds-and-ends I need and want to insert into the new story. I have a half-dozen characters laying around that got excised out of the old story who could play important roles later on in the whole of the story. In fact, they were going to be there, but mostly just mentioned. Now they're going to be...not stars, per se, but something a little less. Definitely in the roll-players-slash-supporting cast category for most of these ladies and gentlemen. It's not going affect that story in any great capacity; it's just going to make it more complete in my viewpoint. Whenever I get picky like this, I always remember that Tolkien kept revising the Lord of the Rings until the moment he died. In fact, he's probably sitting at a big table in the sky with C.S. Lewis murmuring something about he regretted making most of the elves out to be incredible pusses.

This might seem like a cop-out, itself, as I've been working on this since last summer. However, setting myself up a real reason to finish it (you know, a real reason, like a phony New Year's Resolution...everyone always keeps theirs, right?) should help me to finish it. I dream about it everyday while standing in front of my hood, but at night I come home and am most times too exhausted to write. No more. Mental fortitude starts one block at a time. Er, something like that.

(By the way, my resolution last year: to get my gall bladder removed. Hopefully, the follow-up tales of keeping this year's resolution won't be so...graphic...and poop-smeared).

Oh yeah, and I'm going to lose weight.