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Inspirational Reads

Pick Time!!!

February 28, 2007

I was just going to make a list of my selections by conference. I won't try to figure out the 65 teams getting into the tournament (though I have a solid idea...I'll work in who I think is in when I get to the power conferences). I also thought I'd guess name the four number one seeds. I'll start with them first.

Number 1s:
Ohio State A win over Wisconsin pretty much sealed this one. It might have been at home and it might have been ugly (49 points), but it was effective. The Buckeyes have so much talent it's running out of Matta's ears. If only Indiana had been able to snatch him up a year earlier...
UCLA Some earlier season let downs had removed the Bruins from the picture...briefly. I think that Ben Howland has this team focused and playing well at the right time. Losses to USC and Stanford are not bad losses, and even if they don't win the PAC-10 championship, they should be a solid No. 1.
Kansas I've dogged Kansas this year for several reasons, but Bill Self has finally shoved enough fingers in the dam to keep this team together. I don't think they're the greatest team in the country, and I doubt they make it past the Sweet 16. They very well could be the first No. 1 to fall. This pick could, however, come down to whomever wins the Big XII, or who advances further between the Jayhawks and Texas A&M.
North Carolina Barring total and complete meltdown over their last two games, UNC should have the final Number 1 seed. Granted, this team has been a little spotty down the stretch, and the players, coaches and staff have all but admitted that they aren't focused on the ACC but rather on the big picture. This could be dangerous. I doubt that they'll lose their last two games of the season, especially the finale this weekend versus Duke. I also doubt they'll win the ACC tournament. I don't doubt that they're the fourth No. 1 seed.

I thought about Wisconsin, but with Butch's elbow injury, it might be enough to drop Bucky to a solid No. 2 seed. They're still going to be a tough out and very well could make it to the Final Four, which is far more important than a Number 1 seed (Never has four 1-seeds made it to the Final Four). Florida was a number 1 until losing 3 out of 4. Combine that with some possible bad chemistry coming out thanks to Dickie V, and Florida would be a soft No. 1 at best. Memphis is a nice team, but they're not 1-seed material, they just happen to be a good team in a horrible conference.

So, onto the conference picks:

1) American East Vermont: Last year's darling was Albany, but Vermont is hot, and this is by far the best team without Taylor Coppenrath. Their streak of 11 in a row includes a win over Albany at Albany's house, where they came from down late on a 12-point run. The American East hosts their conference tournament at the 1-seed's home. This will help Vermont get back to the dance.

2) Atlantic 10 Xavier. The Musketeers are currently tied with UMass for the top of the league, but they have a better offense and a better defense than the Minutemen (the A-14 could be the best-armed conference in the nation). This is a league that could see someone else pop up and steal the championship, but it will most likely be one of these two teams. Whoever wins goes to the tournament; the loser is NIT bound (or heading off to Spring Break).

3) Atlantic Coast Maryland. UNC is the most talented and Va Tech is the most experienced and Virginia has the most talented guards. I flirted with the notion of Boston College for a while before I fell down laughing. I don't feel that UNC is necessarily focused on the conference championship (remember Clemson bouncing them in the first round and then the Tarheels marching to the National Championship?) and Va Tech has issues with teams that they don't match up well against. Virginia is two guards and another guy who might toss in a few points. Maryland is like that trashy girl that you see in the restaurant when you're out with your wife and she makes that curled-up lip disgusted face and you think "Wow, she's hot." Yeah. I hate the Terps, but they're hungry, and probably the trashy sexy pick out of the ACC. They were hungry against UNC, they've outplayed and outshone Duke tonight AND they have a lay up at the end of the year with NC State. Fear the Turtle, and pass me a bucket to throw up into. UNC, Duke, Va Tech, Virginia, BC and Maryland are all in from the ACC. If Georgia Tech gets a couple of wins in the conference tournament, they will make seven. Clemson and Florida State: Enjoy the NIT.

4) Atlantic Sun Belmont. The Bruins could repeat as conference champions. E. Tennessee St. is the conference leader and No. 1 seed, but Belmont has better overall numbers. Lipscomb, if they can find some more offense, could be a darkhorse.

5) Big Twelve Kansas. Texas A&M is the sexy pick, but this is Kansas, after all. Kansas can handle the pressure of big games. A&M still seems to be learning how to do this. These two could definitely be slugging it out for the conference championship. I want to say Texas Tech, but I don't think they can beat A&M three times in one season. Despite this, I think the Red Raiders are in the dance, along with Texas. Oklahoma St. could have made it in, but the loss to Texas Tech only helped to solidify Tech's trip to the dance. K State could be a darkhorse here, buty it will take a win or two in the conference tourney to secure a bid to the tournament (despite having overall slightly better numbers than Tech...but the Red Raiders have those wins over A&M both home and away).

6) Big East Notre Dame. Homerism at its finest right here. Notre Dame seems to be peaking at the right time. A big home win over Marquette not only helped them secure a spot in the tournament, but also (barring collapse against Rutgers) gave them the inside track to a first-day bye. You don't want to pull a Syracuse. Notre Dame has issues on the road, it's true, but they also play well in Madison Square garden. Tory Jackson has really stepped up, and Colin Falls has refound his shot. Hillesland and Harongody are solid underneath with Rob Kurz playing the perfect swingman inside and out. Pittsburgh is fading, but will be in, along with Marquette, Syracuse and Georgetown. Villanova (with a win tonight over UConn) should probably also be in. Louisville might sneak in, too, but Villanova's and Syracuse's wins down the stretch could keep the Cardinals outside looking in. Enjoy the NIT Rick Pitino. Again.

7) Big Sky Northern Arizona. The Lumberjacks have a high-powered offense. Their defensive numbers aren't great, but they've also got momentum. March momentum carries over well into the tournaments. They're probably a 16 or 15 seed, so they have the potential to be a bit of a gadfly if they can get running against a defense that is overlooking them.

8) Big South Winthrop. The Eagles are good, have experience in winning the tournament, and host the tournament. Rock Hill's finest will be in again. Is this the year they bump off a top seed? Bruce Pearl doesn't want to see them again, I can guarantee that much.

9) Big Ten Ohio St. The aforementioned injury to Brian Butch means that Wisconsin could lose in the semifinals. Ohio St.'s talent is just too much for most of the rest of the mediocre Big Ten to handle. Butch-less Wisconsin is a cut above the rest, to be sure, but Bucky will still have trouble handling Oden inside. Michigan St. has put together a nice run to get into the tournament. I really, really wish I could say anything nice about Indiana, but they've fallen on hard times. Northwestern tonight was harder than it should have been. Still, Indiana should secure the 3-seed thanks to their win over Wisconsin, which will hopefully give them an inside track to the semis, where they would meet Bucky for a rematch. Still, Ohio St. is the class of the league. Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan St. and Illinois also make it in. Iowa's loss to Penn State sealed their NIT fate. Steve Alford is wondering why Mike Davis had to resign last year.

10) Big West Long Beach St. No one else is close to the 49ers, but Fullerton has a powerful offense that could cause an upset in the conference tournament.

11) Colonial Old Dominion. This is a toss-up with VCU. Personally, I like ODU just a tick better than VCU, so I pick them. Both teams should be in. George Mason won't make it in. In fact, after ODU and VCU, there is a big drop off, and teams that are popular March darlings like UNC-Wilmington and even Drexel will not be in this year (for Wilmington, consider it lying in their own bed).

12) Conference USA Memphis. The rest of the league sucks. Next.

13) Horizon Butler. I'm sticking with the Bulldogs, despite the polish they've lost over the past few weeks. Wright St. hosts the tournament, and Brad "How Do You Like Me Now, Wilmington" Brownell has the Raiders playing well, but they also just got their asses handed to them by Youngstown St. And you can't lose to the Penguins and expect me to pick you. Plus, Butler makes three Indiana teams in the tournament. Huzzah. Butler is in no matter what, I think. The pre-season NIT championship sealed that for them. A win by Wright St. (or Loyola-Chicago) puts two Horizon teams in.

14) Ivy League Penn. I think they've already clinched, unless the Ivy Leaguers have instituted a conference tourney and I didn't pay attention. The power of Amos B. Smith, III prevails again.

15) Metro Atlantic Marist. I watched them beat Siena in overtime. It's tough to beat a team three times in one season, but Marist outhustled and plain outplayed Siena down the stretch. The Foxes should be dancing.

16) Mid-Continent Oral Roberts. They host the tournament, and they beat Kansas at Kansas. I'd like to say Valpo or IUPUI (the team I'm coaching in my PS2 College Basketball game), but I don't see that happening. Plus, Oral Roberts has an enormous pair of praying hands on campus and a "No Fat Chicks" rule.

17. Mid-American Akron. I almost went to Toledo for grad school (but I wanted to learn how to operate something other than an X-ray machine), so I was tempted to pick them. But Akron has a better offense and a better defense. Gone are the days when the MAC was the sexy mid-major. Gone are the days when Rick Majerus' portly profile patrolled the sidelines. Gone are the days to fear Miami of Ohio. Gone are the days of, well, anything good to say about the MAC. Akron makes it to the dance...and then promptly returns home. Maybe they can split airfare with Indiana.

18. Mid-Eastern Delaware St. Delaware St. has a five game lead on their closest competitors, which all seem to be stuck together in one big glut of a tie. Clearly, no one else can compete. Clearly, I have no idea about any of the teams in this conference, other than North Carolina A&T is in Greensboro.

19. Missouri Valley Southern Illinois. Last year, everyone had a boner over the MVC. This year, with all the good coaches plundered, headed off for greener pastures, only Southern Illinois and Creighton have survived the preseason hype to be anything. Wichita Who? Bradlame. Gone and gone. The only hope these teams have are to win the tournament. Plus, Indiana beat the Salukis earlier this year, so I've got respect for them. Bruce Weber might want to reconsider past decisions.

20. Mountain West Air Force. The Falcons have been darlings of the media all year, and with good reason. They barely made it in last year as an at large. I don't think they have to worry about it this year, but BYU could pull the upset in the conference tourney. They're probably in the Big Dance, either way. Either way, we've got a two bid conference again. Woe to the Florida States of the world.

21. Northeast Sacred Heart. Central Connecticut St. is probably the class of the league, but being that I went to Notre Dame, I feel obliged to pick Sacred Heart. No other reason.

22. Ohio Valley Austin Peay. The Governors are atop the OVC standings, and I think the OVC No. 1 seed hosts the tournament. My undergrad plays Austin Peay every year in football. I'm considering this to be homerism by proxy.

23. Pacific 10 UCLA. I've already outlined how I think they're a No. 1 seed. USC could be a dangerous team. Oregon and Stanford will also go to the tournament. Washington St. could have the National Coach of the Year, and will also be dancing. Arizona, despite being unmanned by UNC, will probably make it in thanks to both name recognition as well as the Pac-10 being a monster conference this year.

24. Patriot Holy Cross. The Crusaders are 13-1. So is Bucknell. Based on Bucknell's recent successes as well as everyone's love of the Mid Majors, I'm hoping that Holy Cross wins on a tip-in at the buzzer, and the selection committee takes both teams. Everyone else in the conference is .500 or worse.

25. Southeastern Florida. As much as it pains me, their recent slump could cost them a No. 1 seed, but that's about it. They're still a good team, and no one else has been that consistent enough to upend them in the tournament. But, this will be a neutral site, and there is enough talent around the league that I could see it happen. However, I can't pick a team to replace them. Vanderbilt? Tennessee? Kentucky? All decent, dance-worthy squads, but none have enough of a reason to fall in love with them.

26. Southern Appalachian St. I realize that Davidson won the conference regular season title, that Davidson has been to the tournament most recently, that Davidson has had marginal tourney success, that Davidson can claim Joe Mahoney as an alumni. But, Appalachian St. could be hungry enough for it. Plus, they beat Virginia, and Davidson hasn't had a real marquee win. Sadly, the SoCon will probably only send one team. Both of these teams are probably deserving, but you can only fit 65 in.

27. Southland Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Mostly, I'm picking them because they have the best offense in the league, decent defense, and I don't think they've ever been. I would pick Texas-San Antonio, only because my friend Joe went there, but they have two conference wins. Sorry, Roadrunners. I gotta go with the Islanders. Northwestern St. went last year and beat Iowa in the tournament. They could be a darkhorse candidate from the Southland.

28. Southwestern Mississippi Valley St. I'm going with them because their defensive numbers look a little better. And they're tourney virgins.

29. Sun Belt South Alabama. The Jaguars have been the class of the league for a while, and I see no reason why they won't continue on that path. And, if you don't pull for a team nicknamed USA, the terrorists have already won.

30. West Coast Santa Clara. Gonzaga's mushroom-imbibing players are gone. Hopefully, they're done. But, they have the name recognition, so they'll make it in the Big Tournament, just because. Fuckers. I hate them.

31. Western Nevada. The bigger guys sweating it out on the bubble had better hope that Nick Fazekas (does he have his pH.D yet? Dude's been in school for seventeen years, I swear) takes care of business in this one-trick-pony league. Otherwise, there'll be two from the WAC. I guess New Mexico St. could make it in, but it's not going to happen.

There you have it. I've predicted 62 teams to get in, with maybe two or three strong maybes. That's better than Seth Davis, who has about 112 teams in the tournament. Hopefully, this is more interesting than Harry Potter.

It's Been A Long Week...

...and it's only Tuesday.

I've got a sick kid at home. She started out with the flu (we think) and it's moved into an ear infection (we know). If she did have the flu, it was amazingly short flu. However, the ear infection is pretty nasty. She does have medicine for it, though. I think she probably had a cold, and then her ear got the infection, and she still has the cold. Either way, we've got serious Victorian heroine melodrama going on at the house. You'd think she has the plague and that each breath she draws could be her final one. The weak coughing followed by weak whimpers have been a constant backdrop for everything since Friday evening. That's why you've only gotten guesses as to what Harry Potter is going to do in lieu of real updates.

Still, I'm here to brag update about my own progress. Not only was my daughter's illness affecting us all, but also I just completed the largest chapter in my book to date (I'm guessing that the battle scenes--which I personally think I do very well on when I write them--will be larger). I finished chapter 21 tonight and then promptly eschewed chapters 22 and 23 and started in on chapter 24 (24 is the continuation of the action from 21...so you can tell that something big must have happened in 21, right?). I got about two pages written, and then boredom set in, and I started wandering around reading other blogs out there and posting my predictions for who is going to win the conference tournaments of the 31 major conferences in the world of college basketball. Yes, I am that sad.

Back to chapter 21. It's big. It's real big. It's 31 pages big. The thing is, four distinct events took place in it, which is why it was so big. But there was really no place to break it off and make it into two chapters, so I continued with one. I'm hoping that not all of my chapters leading up to the finale will be this big (I already know that chapter 24 will be short...a typical 14-17 page chapter), but I know that as I begin to weave together the three major plot threads that there will need to be some lengthy chapters because, well, nothing ever fits that neatly together. Plus, there will be battles raging, and there's a lot of intrigue that will go into the battles. It won't (hopefully) be just hack-and-slash.

Another reason that the chapter turned out so long is that I went by the old rule of thumb when it comes to writing: if something bad can happen to your character, then do it. So, I did. Neither of my human characters came out completely unscathed, which provided for character development aplenty. I also purposely added a bit of information for the "reveal" at the end of the book. It's a fairly punch-you-in-the-face clue as to what's going on, but I'm hoping that I've been vague enough on the details of the other clues I have written into the story that things won't be bleedingly obvious ten chapters from the end. I'm also fairly happy with how I brought up an older event in the story and used it again. Another rule is that comedy works in threes. I don't know if it's a rule or not, but I'm going to say that drama works in twos, and so I won't be bringing that element of the story up again throughout the rest of the book. Twice is nice; anything more and Elmer's will be asking for Barbaro's carcass.

By the numbers:

Word Count: 111,147
Page Count: 363

Obviously, I'm going to blow past 120,000 words, probably this week. At one point, that was a goal for the size of the story. Now, I laugh in its measly face.
I'm going to especially focus on chapter 24 and probably 25 this week. If I get those two done, then I'll have one story arc wrapped up leading into the final chapters. More importantly, that one story arc completes the roles of three of my five (or six) main characters. That'd be wrapping a nice big bow around part of my story. Granted, I'll still have chapters to finish that are in between those...and, of course, 7 and 10 are looming behind me still. At some point I'm going to have to stop ignoring them and actually get to working on them. For now, I have my goals set and I plan to follow through with them. More later this week.

Ten Bold Predictions: Number 9

February 26, 2007

Just like with the previous prediction, I'm not going too far out on a limb here. I've said this since the moment my wife broke the news to forced the ending of the story on me. I just didn't have the specifics to handle my claims then.

9. Dumbledore is Not Dead

Again, it's not a big stretch. And I certainly don't have to rehash the old arguments; that's been done here. But, I'll do a quick recap.

a.) You have to really, really hate someone for the avada kedavra curse to work, and I seriously doubt that Severus Snape could pull it off, since they'd been fairly friendly throughout the book (Dumbledore moreso toward Snape than the other way around, for obvious reasons).

b.) C'mon. Dumbledore had a pet Phoenix (Fawkes). Fawkes saved Harry when he was envenomated by the basilisk, I'm sure he could take care of Dumbledore in his wounded state.

c.) Why put Hagrid out by the woods to "overhear" the fight between Snape and Dumbledore? That's either a dead end (something that doesn't happen in fantasy literature NOT written by Robert Jordan) or a classic misdirection (or bait-and-switch...whichever you prefer). Aragog had served his purpose in the second book and had no real purpose in this one except to have Hagrid in the right place at the right time.

d.) Just like with Regulus, we never saw his body. We saw a shroud wrapped around something roughly Dumbledore-shaped, but no one ever looked at his corpse and identified it. Except Hagrid. And anyone who thinks that Hagrid is smart enough to see through the ruse that Dumbledore had going is fooling themselves.

Why pretend to die then? Why not just sit back, gather your armies of good wizards, and have a showdown with Voldemort? Simple: This isn't the O.K. Corral. With Dumbledore "dead", Voldemort can move more freely in the world. His only fear is a seventeen-year-old boy. Dumbledore, being a canny old coot, knew this, and him pretending to die will only embolden Voldemort further. And we all know what happens when the evil mastermind gets too emboldened: he effs something up and the hero wins the day. Tragic flaw is the proper term for it (notice how the frustrated fantasy author is all over the literary devices here).

And Snape's role? Ah, well, that's going to be another bold prediction. Stay tuned.

Ten Bold Predictions: Number 10

February 22, 2007

It's never a pleasant thing to admit to your addictions, especially in such a public forum. However, that's what I'm here to do tonight (or whenever you are reading this). I've alluded to this before, but now I'm finally following through. There will be nine more of these, so I figure I'll start out easy and get to the more juicy thoughts later.

July 21st will see the final installation of the Harry Potter books. We will discover the fate of young Harry, his friends, the locations of the final horcruxes, and the fates of several other main characters that we've all come to know and love. I'm here now to use my "expert" analysis (being a frustrated fantasy author myself) to disseminate what I think will happen in this, the final book. I'm sure that there will be plenty of loose ends left around after the book is finished, but I'm fairly certain that these ten things will crop up during the course of the action of the book.

And, no, I don't have insider information. I just thought I'd toss these out there so that, on July 22nd, we can all get together and praise my ability to pick apart the story (which is kind of a sad notion) or to point and laugh at me like Nelson Muntz (the ha ha kid from the Simpsons...in case you've been living under that cliche rock for a few decades).

Without further ado, let's do this.

R.A.B. is Regulus Black!

One of the first rules about fantasy stories is that, without a body, never trust a death. Regulus has been brought up in conversation a few times in the latter books (by Sirius in Order of the Phoenix and then again by Slughorn in Half-Blood Prince...both of which are important later on for other predictions...so remember those), but we've never seen him. He's allegedly dead, according to Sirius, Slughorn and most of the wizarding world. We have no body, though. We haven't even seen a tomb. There's just been a few reports of how Voldemort sent the Death Eaters after Reggy in order to kill him. Again, this will be important later down the line.

By the way, the "A" stands for Arcturus. This was confirmed long ago on Mugglenet by J.K. Rowling herself. You've gotta love that Black family for their love of the stars and naming their kids after them (how Narcissa wasn't Deneb, I'll never know).

So, that's it. Prediction 10 is that the "mysterious" RAB is Regulus Arcturus Black. I know, it's not a big stretch, but it's a prediction, and I feel pretty good about this one. I like my chances of starting off 1 for 1.

David Slays Goliath

February 19, 2007

I've withheld posting about this for a while, because I didn't have all the facts. I still don't have all the facts, but I have a more clear picture of what is happening here.

At the end of the season, my daughter's basketball team played the number one team in the league in back-to-back games. They were undefeated, and it's pretty obvious why. They have one kid who is light's out shooting from anywhere on the floor. He's going to grow up and be a pretty good athlete. Hell, he's a pretty good athlete now. They have another kid, a girl, who is about the size of my wife. This is supposed to be a 5 & 6 year old league. Now, I don't know if the girl is just big or if she has a thyroid problem or what the story is. I do know that her dad is the coach of the team. I also know that the offense revolves solely around these two players. The one kid who is naturally gifted will either throw the ball to the big girl in the middle and then she turns around and shoots, or when the defense crashes down on her to prevent the entry pass, he drives down for a lay-up. It's pretty simple, and devastating because there's no way the Lilliputians can hold down Gulliver for that long. Much to my daughter's team's credit, they've played that team tough both times, losing twice by 4 points, and the second game they had a lead late until the team's normal offense took over. However, that's the entire offense. Throw the ball to her, and if she can't get it, the other kid drives and shoots. No one else is allowed to take a shot. They only serve the purpose of throwing the ball to the girl in the middle.

So, that sets the stage for tonight. Tonight was the team's second tournament game (they won on Saturday morning to move into the second round in the winner's bracket...congrats, you get to play the unstoppable team). But, fortune shined on us, sadly, at the expense of the really good kid's ankle. He and the big girl who plays in the middle actually ran into each other coming down the court and took each other out. The coach for the other team had to sub each other out, and the poor little guy who was good finally had to come out of the game completely.

This is where the breakdown began to happen and what I had suspected to be true in fact was true. My daughter's team slowly chipped away at the small lead that the other team had and then played really tough defense (my daughter was key to this in that she stuck very tightly on one of the other girls on the other team who was playing point and wouldn't let her pass the ball to the big girl in the middle...and when the other girl got the pass off, our three tallest boys were all ready for the pass and intercepted it). My daughter's team got up by 7, and then the other team came down, got the ball into the big girl and scored, then the other team came down and played good defense and forced a lousy shot that they rebounded.

The kid who rebounded it shot the ball into our goal, which counted for our score, setting us up by 7 again. The other coach lost it. I mean, totally apoplectic. It made most college coaches (Knight, K, Roy Williams) look tame. At a five year old who was on top of the world because he was actually allowed to shoot the ball for once (what a novel concept). Yeah, it's a dick move by us for celebrating the gift basket, but our dick move is completely outshined by this guy's stellar asshat performance. I guess that's what you get when you have seven kids who you don't let shoot the ball. Jerk. Then, my daughter's coach pulled out a great move and just had the ball handlers dribble the ball for a minute to run the clock out, which is exactly what their team did to us the last time we played because we had too much momentum. The whole time, this guy is screaming for a foul. The time and expired and my daughter's team won. Unfortunately, the other team is not eliminated, but they have one loss, and we have the upper hand. Two more wins and the championship belongs to my daughter's team. That's what teamwork does. Five of the eight kids on my daughter's team scored, and Madeleine played tough defense and little Trajan played tough defense and got some good rebounds, too. All-in-all, it was an excellent game for the light blue team. I love seeing a well-coached team click together.

The coach for the other team fully and totally earned the Asshat of the Night award. My suspicions were true all along: this guy truly is a piece of work. I should have known when he showed up with a notepad to scout our team because he hadn't played them yet. Asshat. You deserve it AND the loss. I'm just sorry that Number 11's ankle had to be hurt.

But wait, there's more. My least favorite soccer mom in the whole world, the wife of Coach Doug who coached my daughter's soccer team last fall, is connected with this team. Her punk brat kid plays on the team, and the whole time she's sitting in the stands running her obnoxious mouth about how the ref isn't calling travels fairly and that their team actually has to dribble the ball while we don't. All the while her punk kid is in there shoving my daughter around to keep her from getting the ball. For that, they both get Honorary Asshat Awards. At one point, my daughter had to come out of the game because she hurt her arm. I didn't see what happened, but I guess she hurt it when she was going for a rebound and she actually banged into one of her own teammates. However, I had seen the punk kid in under the basket all night long hacking and fouling and pushing and shoving, so I assumed it was him when she was injured. It wasn't but that doesn't change the fact that he's a punk.

I still can't believe how stinking happy I am for a kids' basketball team. I feel about the same way I did when Indiana upset Duke in the 2002 NCAA tournament. I know some of the feeling is that this asshat got his comeuppance, but a huge part of it is that my daughter played really well, and I'm very proud of her. I'm biased, of course, but I give her the MVP and the second UNAsshat Award.

Now...how to explain that second one to her...

Six Figures

February 18, 2007

Have I mentioned that I only have one dragon left to kill?

That's not the reason why I haven't posted an update in about a week or so. I have actually been busy writing, but I just promised myself I wouldn't post again until I reached a couple of goals. Obviously, they have been reached.

I went through the other day and looked at a lot of my older posts. Some of them, especially early on when I was taking myself a bit too seriously (but in those days, I didn't have much in the way of readership, so I could get away with it), were atrocious, but they amused me. More than a few times I saw reference to not having completed chapters 4, 7, and 10. I laughed, because as of the other day, I still had not completed chapters 4, 7, and 10. Naturally, that meant that I needed to focus more on killing dragons on a video game rather than type.

I have, however, been typing away on my keyboard, especially over the past few days. I've gotten quite a bit done, at the expense of my sanity, hygiene and social life--but the wind chill over the weekend has been unpleasant, so why go outside? (I'm sure anyone from oh, say, Minnesota would scoff at my new, carpetbagger definition of "wind chill", but I'll be the first to admit I've gotten Southern Soft over the past four years). I figured I might as well sacrifice sleep as I have two kids, and I'm slated for very little sleep over the next 15.5 years, anyway. At the least. What a happy way of thinking about it, huh? It's made much worse by my daughter having mostly outgrown her need for an afternoon nap. That just shoots my weekends all to hell. But, today, while she was watching Mulan, I was sitting here at the computer working away gleefully (and she was giving me helpful suggestions like "My daughter Madeleine is beautiful and I love her so much"...which I had an awful hard time explaining to her why I couldn't pop that into the story, but she seemed to accept my explanation and move on) and enjoying that which I was writing. Last week, I was writing, but I wasn't enjoying it very much. A lot of it seemed to be there just to be there. It advanced the story, but didn't leave that sort of page-turning experience that I get sometimes while writing a chapter or a passage that I really enjoy.

So, to update. I have finished chapter 20, which was one of the goals for the week. That didn't get me quite to 100,000, so I looked at my spreadsheet and did the mental equivalent of kicking a dead horse to revive it and dove back into chapter 4 (I do realize that in one week I was working on 4 and 20, which made me giggle just a little bit). Surprisingly, chapter 4 was easy to complete. It's like the words just flowed onto the screen/page, and thusly, I completed my second goal, which was to finish chapter 4. That achievement did put me over the 100,000 word mark...and there was much rejoicing.

Oh, let's give a quick completion run down, shall we?

Done: Prologue, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, epilogue
Started, but not finished: 7, 10, 21

I'll probably next work on 21. I've got this one planned out well in my head, as well. It was kind of blurry up until I finished 20, but I actually finished 20 early, thinking that it flowed well in that direction. So now I have 21 to finish, but that's a taller order, since I only have a couple of paragraphs done. 20 did offer me the opportunity to go looking into herblore some more and find a common plant that is used as a soporific. I don't know what the deal is, but with this story, herblore has become a very important part of the telling of the tale. I didn't necessarily intend for that to happen, but it's been a happy side effect. I blame it on reading about the extraction of digitalis from foxglove (which was something that was alluded to on Psych a couple of weeks ago, and I was able to figure things out thanks to it...though when I saw the flower bed full of foxglove, I didn't know what it was, so I didn't latch onto the solution to the mystery nearly as quickly as I thought I should...oh bother) and it's role in the pharmaceutical community. I love enriching myself while enriching my story.

So, here's the vital numbers:

Word Count: 101146
Page Count: 331

As I said, my next goals will be to hit Chapter 21, and I still have 7 and 10 that need to be completed. I've reported several times that I need to finish 7 before 10 because it places different characters in different places that I need in order to begin working 10 out. After 21, naturally, comes 22, and 22 is where I begin weaving the final thread into the ending for one of the main characters. If I can get to it, 23 also moves another two main characters closer. I have 26 down in my spreadsheet as being the beginning of the climax, so I'm edging ever closer. However, with these latest successes under my belt, it's time to go off and celebrate. And this calls for a celebration in the only way I know how: Time to kill the Ultimate Dragon. See you guys in a week.

Moo Means No

February 16, 2007

I was perusing the Indianapolis Star yesterday when I came across this article.

At first, I was disgusted. Then, I was intrigued.

I grew up in Indiana. I've heard rumors about what lonesome farm boys do out behind the haycock when they think no one's looking. I've actually heard whispers that someone knew someone who knew someone who did these acts. My cousin even witnessed a guy taking indecent liberties with a tractor tire once. However, there's a usual list of suspects that come up when talking about such agrarian indecencies. Usually, these are the ever-popular sheep, goats, horses (see Catherine the Great), cows, llamas, pigs, dogs...but never, ever have I ever EVER heard about chickens.

One wonders if this is a banner day for the Chick-Fil'a cows. Do you think they are holding signs that say "Molesst mor chikun"? You wonder if this particular hen had a nice set of legs and large breasts. I could always go for the classic "time to take out your cock and poulet" joke. Or pretty much any cock joke. But I think three is enough.

Now, I know northwestern Indiana has a lot of chicken farms. And when I say a lot, I mean, a lot. Around Rensselaer, where St. Joe is located (my undergrad), there were a couple, and then you saw several huge barns on the way north to Merrilville from St. Joe (we would always go to Merrilville because, well, Rensselaer isn't exactly the swingingest town on the face of God's green earth). But, you'd think with all the worries of avian flu that the more traditional targets of bestial lust would come to mind first, especially if it was a cold night. Wool is a better insulator than feathers (I'm pretty sure...).

But then, I began to wonder: Indiana doesn't have bestiality laws already? And, do we really need these laws? First, the lack of a bestiality law confuses me. There's laws prohibiting oral and anal sex in Indiana (sodomy laws), so I would naturally believe that there is a law somewhere on the books against sexing chickens. Or any animal. Let's not discriminate.

The second question is a bit more serious, as the end of the article points out. It's important to protect the animals, especially in cases where the family pet becomes the target for some asshat who doesn't like the way you cut your lawn. Or worse, when you threaten your child's pet because you're afraid that she's going to rat you out for beating her. So, in those cases, I completely understand.

I don't like to see government meddling in the everyday life of your common man. However, in this case, I'm hoping that it gets a unanimous pass. Let's get this one on the books and move to more important things. Honestly, this should have been a blip on the radar.

One other thing, though. I was struck by the end of the article, where they were talking about the abuse case and the threat against the puppy. They were quick to point out that, after the abuse was reported, the puppy was moved to another house for safekeeping. However, there were no assurances for the girl. I realize that sometimes you need to cut articles for space, but you'd think they could have left in or inserted a line to let us know that the girl was okay, too.

If You Ain't Cheatin', You Ain't Tryin'


I don't know to whom I can ascribe the above quote and be right. I've heard it bandied about this week in relation to Michael Waltrip and his #55 Toyota car designed to shoot to the moon. I did hear that Lou Holtz used it once at an SEC meeting in Alabama, and we all know what a magnificent, dirty old troll Lou Holtz is. At least that's Mark May's opinion.

But, it was coughed up several times this week, almost as if it's the unofficial mantra of NASCAR, right up there with "Rubbin' is racin'!" And yet, NASCAR wants to bottle these personalities up. I just don't get it.

The other morning--actually, the morning after I posted "And you should always give in to peer pressure"--I heard an interview on the radio during the drive-in time between two "experts" in the field of NASCAR. They were discussing a couple of things that seemed appropriate to offer as a follow-up to my earlier post.

One, apparently, NASCAR sees cheating, but sees it on different levels. Apparently, the tires, fuel and restrictor plates are the three areas that NASCAR deems the Holy of Holies. For these three things, you get the old Nun with a ruler across the knuckles routine. For all other offenses (aerodynamics, being Jimmy Johnson), you get a few Hail Marys and a couple of turns around the rosary, and there you are. In my book, cheatin's cheatin, and should therefore get an across the board punishment. Like, I'm fairly certain that if my wife came into the house and saw me on the couch with a naked Scarlett Johansson, she'd accuse me of infidelity, even if I was wearing mittens and I told her "But Sweets, I didn't touch her tires, fuel or restrictor plates." Maybe I'm just jealous.

Two, according to the "experts", you can't equate smearing your intake manifold with Sterno ( made of ethanol and diethylene glycol ...and I'm still not seeing where the oxidation reactions are here...there's apparently a very small amount of dye to make it pink, but I'm guessing that's not going to do the trick...unless it's a VERY efficient catalyst system ) with shooting roids in order to one-up Mark McGwire and his andro-laced forearms (and Sammy Sosa and his cork-ridden bat). Apparently, cheating in NASCAR is something that you can equate with Michael Vick giving the crowd the finger. It's not very nice, but it doesn't hurt anyone, so we should just let it go.

Upon the revelations that NASCAR is above the law, I began to rethink my original post. Was it wrong to call for such harsh penalties? Apparently so. I mean, it's acceptable, right? Rules are laid down, and it's the interpretations of the rules that are what makes the sport a sport. So, I guess that if my wife comes in on Miss Scarlett and myself in various states of undress, I can be like "Well, when I said 'I do', this is what I thought 'till death do you part' meant..." Clearly, my sarcastic take on the situation was the wrong attitude to have.

And then, the twin 150s were run. One was won by Tony Stewart, that fat ball of anger from Indiana that's never been seen in a red sweater. The other was won by that, uh, California transplant from Indiana in the rainbow car. Quite the banner day to be a Hoosier (unless you count the unmanning by the Boilermakers...) But wait! Upon further review, Gordon's car was found to be an inch too low to the ground, thus making it illegal, disqualifying him! Even after five cars got pinched for rules infractions, here's Gordon's car, winning the race and being shown to be set up illegally. And here's my favorite part: NASCAR's official explanation of their Golden Boy. To paraphrase: "It was too low, but it was probably the result of a broken part, and thus we don't find Jeff nor his team at fault." But apparently you found them at fault enough to negate his starting position and forced him to use provisional points to get into the race. Once again, NASCAR shows itself to be a gutless sack of shit. Here's arguably the sport's biggest star with his hand in the cookie jar and you can send a real message to the entire sport that you are serious about cracking down on cheating in your sport, and you give him a free pass. Unbelievable and disgusting, absolutely disgusting.

And yet, here we are, talking about it. I can hear the fat cats over at ESPN laughing all the way to the bank over all this. There's no better way, in their eyes, that their renewed contracts to carry NASCAR could have started. Curse you, Norby!

EDIT: I looked up the MSDS here, and thought that diethylene glycol was the second ingredient. However, that's the ingredient for Wick Food Warming Gel, which is different from Sterno, it's just made by the Sterno corporation. Thank you to Mike Seifert, the Global Director for Quality and Technical Support over at Sterno, for setting me straight. The corrections have been made.

As an extra follow up, I've heard since the Waltrip deal that several other gel-like substances have been indicted for being smeared on the intake manifold of Waltrip's car, anything from jet fuel to petroleum jelly. It's all very messed up, and a good thing that he didn't win yesterday, otherwise, wow, there'd be some serious follies going on.

You May Have Noticed

February 14, 2007

I'm pulling some new stuff on here. Blogs with pictures are a lot more fun than blogs with just endless rants about why Jimmie Johnson sucks. Or why Kelvin Sampson doesn't. Or why when Led Zeppelin was on a bunch of stuff, they sang about Hobbits. Or pretty much damned anything.

I also made some of those infamous minor changes, mostly just shifting things around. I figure people would want to read OTHER blogs before finding out more about my boring ass life (also a fine blog), so I relegated myself to the bottom (in no large part because my short bio is not exactly a compelling read). And I've added some label groupings, so that if you cruise in from YouThink.com and want a book update (since Cheeseking almost singlehandedly ruined the book forum by being a whiny punk, thus causing me to effectively give the site the finger and head off into the sunset) on either the Boar War, King of Thistles or King of Shadows, you can just click on the updates link or the books link and you'll be taken right to the latest in what I've spewed onto a screen. Lou Two, I hope this helps.

Sorry for the absence. I figured people were tired of reading my random thoughts. Plus, I was coping with the pain associated with the sudden realization that I suck at Buchwald chemistry.

And you should always give in to peer pressure.

What kind of author would I be if I didn't bend to the whims of my readership *cough*jkrowling*cough*? I wasn't going to write about this much, if at all, but since my good friend Jim brought it up, I thought I'd weigh in with my two cents worth on the Daytona Speed Week controversies.

Now, I'll preface all of this with saying that I used to be a huge NASCAR fan. In college, I used to watch every race. I went to the Brickyard 400 while in grad school. I even once put off sex in order to catch the end of the race (this was the only time, but it was a really good finish...and it has happened more often with Indiana basketball...but none of those times was it with my wife...I'll stop with the too much information now). Prior to my Aunt Rita dying and my premature assumption that Brett Favre was retiring, the last time I cried was when Dale Earnhardt died. And I hated him. But, when Earnhardt was killed and then Rusty Wallace and Terry Labonte and Mark Martin all started either retiring or cutting back their racing schedules, I slowly began to lose interest. By the time I moved to North By God Carolina, the very heart of NASCAR country, it had completely passed me by as anything of interest. None of the drivers these days have any sort of personality. They're all the same. Young, aggressive, obnoxious and so effing corporate. Of course, the sponsors paying millions of dollars for these teams and these races don't want some moonshine running hillbilly driving the car and giving Jeff Gordon the finger. They want someone out of business school in a fire suit. Put on your dark glasses and give us our dap, and you'll get your money to keep driving the car. That's why NASCAR doesn't excite me anymore.

So, where do I stand on the most recent "black eye" the sport has endured? I say, it's about damned time. Now, I understand five lines ago, I was bitching about how NASCAR is nothing like its roots and this might strike some as hypocritical. It probably most likely is, since NASCAR was built on cheating, and I say it's about time they were cracking down.

I guess I should explain myself. So here it is. This summer, Barry Bonds will most likely break Hank Aaron's home run record. Be honest. What was your first reaction to that? Disgust, probably. Outrage? Did you mutter "cheater" under your breath? I'm not a Bonds apologist by any means (I do all my apologizing for sucking at Buchwald chemistry and for Bob Knight...no room for Barry here). But, here's a man approaching one of baseball's most hallowed records, perhaps the most hallowed record, and every sports show, talking head, baseball guru, afficianado, fan, or even Joe Blow or Wiffle Ball Tony on the street has an opinion on Bonds, and most of those are negative. He's a cheater for using steroids. That's what most people say. We have no proof (other than Bonds' enormous head...but something has to stow that ego...and his sudden bulking up like Bane hitting the juice) that Bonds used steroids. He claims he didn't, and we can all think he's a liar, it's the American way. With this knowledge, and with Bonds just a few home runs shy of tying and breaking Hank Aaron's record, not even the commissioner of baseball is planning on attending the games. He gave a non-committal "Eh, I might be there, I might be trying to get sausage races in every MLB ballpark this summer, who knows?" But there it is. The head honcho might not be around for the greatest home run hitter in the game claiming his crown. For everyone's talk of asterisks and banning him from the ball park (I personally think every manager should walk him every time he comes to the plate this summer, win or lose, but that's just my opinion) and tossing him in jail for lying, it doesn't matter. He will be the home run king, and no amount of crying "cheater" will stop that. Steroids weren't illegal when he hit the bulk of his home runs. Now they are. You can't go and remove the numbers ex post facto. He hit them, whether legally or not.

Now, counter that with Jimmie Johnson, the current, reigning Nextel Cup Champion (I throw up a little in my mouth whenever I say that). Jimmie Johnson is a known cheater. There's no doubt he is a cheater. He cheated. He got caught. And what's more, his crew chief's candor about the situation was even worse. "Yep, we got caught that time." That time?!?!? So, even though you got caught cheating, you admit to having done it in the past, and you admit that, after your four race suspension, you'll be back cheating again. NASCAR, because Jimmie Johnson is the most corporate of the new corporate drivers, gave him a literal slap on the wrist. We'll dock you a few points and you can't talk to your crew chief for a while, and then you run along like a good little boy and win the championship. It's wrong. If NASCAR wanted to actually pony up and have some balls, they would have grabbed that whiny little bitch by the scruff of his neck and tossed him out of the garage and said "See you in 2007." Or, if you don't want to be that rough on first offenders, then he should have not been able to come back until after the Pepsi 400 (or whatever name the second Daytona race has now). And the truly funny thing here is, they suspended the crew chief. As in, he couldn't be in the garage. But, he could set up a webcam and text message his boys on the crew and tell them where they were going wrong by setting the car up legally. Please. It's a joke. Johnson is a cheater, and yet, he's celebrated as being the Cup Champion. Bonds might be a cheater, and he's treated like a Vaudeville villain sneaking onto the stage. Reaction to Bonds: Boo, hiss, cheater! Reaction to cheating Jimmie Johnson: It speaks a lot about his heart and character that he could come back from the early season set backs to capture the crown. Let's throw large-breasted women at him now. What a freaking joke.

And now we the current situation. Before the season has started, we've got five cars already in the impound. Three of those cars come from the same owner. Can you smell what the Evernham is cooking? I can, and it smells foul as hell. So, here comes NASCAR doing their typical song and dance. Oh, wait, it's not typical this year. They're getting tough on cheating. So, they'll dock those teams 25 and 50 points, some money, and won't allow their crew chiefs back in the tracks. Oh no. I'm scared. Oh, and they have to requalify. The horror. Way to pony up, NASCAR. Now, Michael Waltrip is a different story. Apparently, they found chemicals (uh, Sterno...which is supposed to oxidize the fuel and give your engine a few more horsepower...I don't know the structure of Sterno, nor do I care to look it up, so I also can't provide the mechanism for the oxidation, unless Sterno is something akin to Dess-Martin) on Waltrip's car, which happens to be a Toyota. *gasp*

Being that I'm in North By God Carolina, I've heard all of the complaints about a non-American model being introduced into NASCAR. I'm sure there's been plenty of outraged overtones throughout the country, but I hear it loudest down here. I mean first, Pearl Harbor, then baseball, and now this! How could we allow these things to happen. Japanese people should stay on their island, work their insanely long hours, and produce lots of video games for us to enjoy, all between dodging monster attacks. They don't belong in NASCAR. That's been the sentiment, at least around here in North By God Carolina. Now, I don't know which is worse, drilling holes in the body of your car so that you get an unfair aerodynamic advantage, smearing some Sterno on some engine parts, or doing whatever the multiple infractions that Cheaty McJohnson pulled last spring. They all seem pretty much like cheating to me. Now, why does one team get this many points and another team get this many points taken away and then Waltrip's team (who, coincidentally is the biggest named Toyota driver...which is kind of sad, if you think about it...) gets their crew chief suspended indefinitely and loses 100 points? It doesn't make sense. I mean, Dick Trickle used to have an ashtray mounted in his car so he could smoke during yellow flags. Maybe Mikey wants to roast some marshmallows during caution periods.

So, if NASCAR really wants to get serious about cracking down on cheating, maybe they should take a look at other sports for a guide and start setting some ground rules. First offense, suspended 4 races and docked 50 points plus $5000 in fines. Second offense, suspended half the season, docked 100 points, $25,000 fine. Third offense, you're gone for a whole season's worth of races--so that if you get caught at, say, the Coke 600, you can't come back until the All-Star race next season--all points, including provisional points, are gone, and $100,000 fine. Plus, you have to polish Kyle Petty's bald spot every week. Make it shine, bitches. Only when NASCAR seriously puts some teeth behind it will they begin to curb the cheating, and not a moment before. They'll never take all of the cheat out of the sport (like all sports, which is sad but true), but they can at least start making things a little more fair or at least even for all the teams. But then...that's not the corporate thing to do.

Ha ha...some apologies due to SI

February 7, 2007

Well, it seems that ole Urban was up to his normal tricks again. Looks like he made an 11th hour push to get Finch and, allegedly, secured him. So, the recruiting analyst over at SI gets an official Crown of Thistles apology. Sorry, dude.

I guess nothing does wonders for your recruiting classes like a national championship. And ole Urban seems to know that when a player says he's going to one school that he can still be recruited and stolen away from that school to go to the Gators. Hip hip hooray! More public blowjobs for Urban Meyer in the national media, especially over at ESPUrban!

What Was That About Respect?

February 6, 2007

Apparently, losing at Iowa while playing 5-on-8 (look at the free-throw disparity and you'll find your six-point win...not to mention the fact that now Steve Alford is calling technical fouls on opposing players rather than the referees) is bigger than beating Wisconsin by 5. Never mind that they unseated the Badgers, were given no shot in the game, and pretty much took Wisconsin out of their game plan. Never mind that Kammron Taylor and Alando Tucker suddenly became human again. Never mind that Indiana never trailed in the second half. Losing at Iowa in a game plagued by spotty officiating on both sides of the ball apparently means more than upsetting the number two team in the nation. Indiana actually dropped out of one poll after last week's 1-1 record. God only knows what will happen this week since they don't play until Saturday.

But here's the worst part, from the Monday Awards or something on SportsIllustrated.com:

"3. Wisconsin (22-2)
Between losses to Missouri State and Iowa, the Badgers won 17 straight games. If they win another 17 before they lose again, the streak will take them their final eight regular season games, three Big Ten tournament contests, and six NCAA tourney tilts -- meaning they win the whole thing. It's not by any means scientific, but hey, just sayin'. . ."

Now that's a kick in the groin. Not that SI is ever actually been accused of doing research or knowing stuff like, you know, facts (check out their recruiting section and you'll see they're still discussing Jerimy Finch's decision as coming down between Florida and Indiana...despite Finch saying that Florida was nice but he wasn't interested and that it's 50-50 between Indiana and Michigan...I wonder if they have meetings at SI and ESPN about continued giving of public blow jobs to Urban Meyer). Still, you'd think that maybe, just maybe, the writers would look down the scores and be like "Oh, whoops, they lost to Indiana, not Iowa...silly us." Apparently copyediting is no longer in vogue.

Megaornithophobia

February 5, 2007

I'm not sure if that's the proper term, but I strung together my Greek prefixes and roots in order to cobble up an authentic-sounding word to describe one of my secret, dark fears: big birds.

I'm a bird lover. I have four bird feeders out and a humming bird feeder for the summer. Part of it is to get the kids excited about the world around us and amuse them while they eat dinner or lunch or hang out at the kitchen table. Another is because I'm a bird geek. Strangely, though, large birds make me really uncomfortable. Even the thought of them makes me a little wary.

This past weekend, while driving to church, I was zipping along Wake Forest road when I spied, sitting on the ground at the side of the road, what could only be a juvenile bald eagle. The thing was fucking huge. I thought it was a trash bag at first, but then I realized it was raptor-shaped. It's head was covered with black feathers, so it wasn't a turkey buzzard, and for a moment I thought it was a raven, but it was far too huge to be a raven. Plus, it had a hooked beak (I think...I was traveling pretty fast). In retrospect, I should have turned around to get a better look at it. But, honestly, I'm afraid that it would have taken flight, and while that might be cool and majestic, it's also pretty damned frightening. So, I continued on to church and, unfortunately, it was no longer there when I came back an hour and a half later.

Still. It was cool, fascinating and frightening all at once. This isn't the first time I've been weirded out by large birds, though.

When I was in college, during biology lab, we made a trip up to Jasper-Pulaski State Wildlife Area in the fall because, as luck would have it, Sandhill cranes get together by the millions and fly to this one spot in northwestern Indiana on their way south for the winter. And when I say millions, I mean it. We went to one of the observation towers and watched as they did their dances and whatnot and, as it was moving on toward evening, we decided it was time to go. I looked up and said something about the clouds moving in and that I didn't think we were expecting rain. The park ranger (or DNR ranger) offered, kindly, "those aren't clouds."

He was right. They were flocks of cranes so thick they blocked out the sun, or at least cast the sky in a grayer light. I looked through the field glasses provided by my biology prof and about shit my pants. There was nothing but black and dark gray silhouettes coming in from the north and west. It was then that I first realized how much these creatures bother me.

As best as I can figure it, this must be an innate evolutionary response to millions of years ago when terror birds were picking off our ancestors right and left as we crawled down from the trees and thought "hey, this walking upright is kind of--glug!" The glug was where one of those terror birds that evolved right after the dinosaurs got wiped snapped off our heads while thinking about how great upright walking is. My continued fascination with megafauna that occurred after the K-T extinction has often included these huge, predatory birds. It makes perfect sense that the birds would have filled the niche left by the predatory dinosaurs, as more and more evidence is coming out that a lot of dinosaurs, especially in the last Cretaceous, were feathered (I've even heard the king, Tyrannosaurus rex may have been feathered). It's not a big stretch to go from feathered velociraptor to Phorusrhacoids. Either way, both thoughts are pretty terrifying, and you can imagine that our ancestors, while trying to avoid lions and hyenas, were also keeping an eye out for huge eagles and large, mean flightless birds. I'm glad I live now rather than back then. It might be cool to have some of these huge birds around still, but I'm just going to go ahead and assume that they died out for a reason and not worry over it too much.

In the meantime, I'm going to keep an eye out around here. There's a huge bird hanging around here somewhere. I might need to invest in a camera of some kind so I can snap some shots of this thing. For one, it might help me identify it and two, maybe I can deal with my fear of these huge, winged creatures, no matter how irrational it might appear.

Stellar...Update Time

I haven't had much to update lately. I spent most of last week trying to finish up Dragon Quest VIII and I got through the first ending, but I wasn't satisfied with it so I'm pushing forward. I decided to set it aside for the time being and, instead, I've returned to my delightful little world of writing and sentient animals taking out centuries of frustration against their human overlords. I, for one, welcome our new porcine masters with open arms and full slop buckets.

Be warned, though, that I will go back and try to knock off a dragon or two over the next few weeks. I won't allow the game to wholly consume me again like it did over the past few days (it's always smart staying up until 2am to play a game, knowing full well that Buchwald couplings await you in the morning), but it would be nice to kill all the dragons. And find the last three monsters that I'm missing to complete the defeated monster list. Pip, if you ever read this, be warned, my friend. It's an addictive monster we have here!

Anyway, not much to report here. I did get a few more pages done and wrapped up a section (not a whole chapter). I'm enthused with how quickly I could pick up where I had been after a week off and pushed along with little to no problem. I just need to make a final decision on how they're going to get across the river. I'm thinking I might just settle on a ferry. But, I should have 20 done by the end of the week and then I can push on into the final chapters before el battle grande begins to take place.

Progess by the numbers:
Word Count: 93589
Page Count: 307

Mini goal for the week (aside from finishing off Ch. 20) is that elusive 100,000 word mark. Wish me luck.

Super

Congratulations to Tony Dungy, Peyton Manning and the rest of the Indianapolis Colts. You came out, fought through Devin Hester's run back, Thomas Jones' big run and Peyton's initial interception. You fought the weather and pulled out a game plan that the Bears couldn't adjust to. The vaunted Bears defense was either being dinked and dunked down the field and/or being slashed by Joseph Addai and Dominick Rhodes time and time again. Even you defense stepped up, all but shutting down the Bears offense until it came time to play prevent, and even then, the Bears couldn't really move it against you. Well done, well done indeed. And, coach Lovie Smith, even though you lost, you're still a class act. I hope you go to another team soon, because dammit, if you keep coaching the Bears, it's going to be harder and harder to hate them.

Have heart, though, Bears fans. Even though Indianapolis dominated the time of possession, picked apart your defense, and made you look pretty bad overall (take away Hester's and Jones' runs, and you would have scored 3 points), you still have a quality team. You're only missing one piece. Fortunately for you, Indy's dominance of the time of possession meant that Sexy Rexy wasn't on the field long enough to embarass you TOO much (though one could argue that two interceptions and a fumble and a whole night's worth of poorly thrown passes saved only by Mushin Muhammed's ability to adjust when running his routes was pretty bad). Putting in someone to run the offense (note, Brian Griese is NOT the answer) who is consistent enough that you're not totally being second-guessed would help matters greatly.

You'd just better do it through free agency because Brady Quinn's not going to be available.

Happy Birthday, Betsy Hagar

February 2, 2007

Today is Groundhog's Day (and also Betsy Hagar's birthday...that steaming tower of blonde sex that tormented every one of my fantasies between the fall of 1990 and the spring of 1994). On paper, Groundhog's Day works. It's another reason to get screaming, roaring drunk, turn on a marathon of "The White Shadow" on ESPN Classic, and pass out in a big, comfortable chair, all the while your pregnant wife is wondering why you haven't come home yet. Yep, it's the day they drag a slumbering rodent from his burrow and a man in a tophat who has probably never seen a real breast "translate's" the woodchuck's language for us. One would assume that he, too, is rip-roaring drunk in order to understand the gibberish that comes out of a groundhog's mouth...unless he's from Narnia, where talking animals are the norm. If that's the case, it only serves to reinforce my thoughts on his proximity to any unclad breasts, ever.

The legend goes that if the groundhog sees his shadow, he thinks that winter is still holding onto the land in a tight, hoary grip. If he doesn't see his shadow, spring is right around the corner. Apparently, no one's ever thought to hold an umbrella over the plucky little guy's head in order to affect real climate change on the northern hemisphere. I realize that this has traditions tied in with the early church and Candlemas and has even deeper roots in primordial times when we relied more heavily on animals to forecast the weather and less on idiots with satellites, radars and pretty colored maps (who, incidentally, got it wrong again yesterday).

Upon further review, though...isn't this backwards? I realize that the brainbox of your average sized woodchuck isn't exactly on par with more intelligent animals, like dolphins, pigs and talk radio hosts. Doesn't it make sense, though, that if the groundhog saw his shadow, he'd be more likely to be lulled into a false sense of hope that spring was here and that it was time to wake it up? Not seeing his shadow would cause him to think that it's overcast and dreary and thus more likely to snow, sleet and generally be miserable? I mean, that's how I see the world, but then again, I have opposable thumbs.

I think someone needs to rewrite the Groundhog's Day rules. It's time we sat down and had a serious reassessment of our core values as a society when it comes to the climatic prognostication of your average burrowing rodents. And if you need to sit down over a case of Rolling Rock in order to do it, then sobeit. Let's just get this done now.

And Betsy Whateveryourlastnamemightbenow...you and your luscious fine ass and long, sumptuous legs have one helluva 31st birthday.

So Long Meatwad...We Hardly Knew Ye

February 1, 2007

Okay, for the record, I already knew that the "bombs" were part of a marketing stunt by Adult Swim to promote Aqua Teen Hunger Force (number one in the hood, y'all), but last night when I read the stories and saw the picture of the "device", I immediately recognized one of the Mooninites flipping us the bird hardcore. Apparently, in their post-Pats playoff let down, the city of Boston has nothing better to do than stalk Theo Epstein and take out their wrath against Cartoon Network.

Please. How many other people, seeing that flashing little LED, would have been like, "Holy shit! Aqua Teen!"? A lot, I'm guessing, since the promotion went on in nine other cities and none of them called Homeland Security, scrambled the jets, shut down their major thoroughfares, and brought in John McCain. I realize this is a post-9/11 world in which we live, and Boston is the city from where the terrorists boarded the planes to take down the towers, and maybe Boston is feeling just a little guilty over their lack of scrutiny on that fateful day, but c'mon. Call out your average college student (or older, since I'm in that crowd) and ask around about the picture on the device. I'm sure about 90% of them (even kids at Boston College could make that logical jump...if you just waited a little longer than most others) would have had the same reaction: "Ha ha ha! Aqua Teen! Dude, where's Master Shake?"

Now, I'll admit it. I hate Boston. I consider myself a Yankees fan (only slightly) only because I can't stand the city of Boston and their asshat fans (but, given Charlie Weis' ties to the Patriots, I more or less pull for them...except when it comes to the playoffs, only because I want Tom Brady to never win anything without a certain Robot Genius calling the plays). Every person I've ever met from Boston has been lumped into that asshat category. I hate their accents, I hate their teams, I hate the way they talk louder than any other human being in the room, I hate their colleges, I hate the way their fans trash my campus win or lose, I hate their Federalist hold outs when the rest of the country has moved on. In my mind, about the only good thing they did was dress up as Indians Natives and chuck boxes of tea into the harbor...and I largely appreciate this incident only because I can't stand tea. This is just another knock against a city that I largely consider to be the right armpit of the country (the other armpit would be Gary, or "da Region"). I mean, this is where Ben Affleck is from. That should be enough for forced exclusion from the remainder of the country.

So seriously, lighten up. Tonight, go home, pop some popcorn, and tune in Adult Swim. From Futurama to Ghost in the Shell (which is one of the finest Anime imports this fine country has ever been blessed to receive, in my highly humble opinion), you'll find that this is one of the more entertaining blocks of television on the airwaves...or cable waves...or satellite signals or whatever. You might even crack a smile or be able to get obscure cultural references, and you might even develop a sense of humor (if you watch enough, that is). You might even, and I realize this is a stretch, find it in your hearts to appreciate some artist's right to freedom of expression and find in your cold, dark, frozen hearts to NOT arrest some college kid for putting these signs up.

And if you don't, Brock Sampson is going to kick your ass.