Saturday, October 29, 2011

Week 9...Here's 6 home teams who are going down!!

Whenever the World Series is being played, my interest in football falls off the edge of the earth. This years’ series was especially classic, so I have been even more isolated from college football news than usual. Add to that the fact that my “bad feeling” from last week proved prophetic. The resulting 3-3 record was my worst so far. It all adds up to a very low enthusiasm level for this weeks’ endeavor. But, much of success in life is the result of merely showing up, regardless of how you feel. So, I soldier on and offer these games for your consideration:

Michigan State vs. Nebraska

The Spartans come off a thrilling hail-Mary pass that beat Wisconsin. Nebraska has the advantage of being at home. I don’t think that Nebraska’s offense is good enough to move the ball against State’s defense. However, Nebraska defense may have finally found an offense anemic enough for them to stop. This might be the ugliest, most boring, grind it out struggle of the year. In other words, Big Ten football at its best. Michigan State 16-9.

Oklahoma vs. Kansas State

Is there anyone in America outside of the state of Kansas who believes that Kansas State deserves to be ranked #11 in the country? Further, is there anyone outside of Manhattan, Kansas who believes that the Wildcats will actually beat the Sooners? Psshhttt! Oklahoma 48-21.

Georgia vs. Florida

No matter how many veins Will Muschamp explodes during his lunatic sideline rants, the fact of the matter is, the Gators just aren’t that good. Perhaps if he channeled the energy from those spittle-flinging rages into teaching his defense to tackle and his offensive line to block, the results would be better. Georgia, on the other hand, has managed to right the ship after a slow start. With far less juvenile histrionics, Mark Richt has his squad playing better each week. Here, I go with my heart and predict what should happen rather than what probably will happen…Georgia 24-20.

Clemson vs. Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech has managed to lose to Virginia and Miami in consecutive weeks, proving beyond doubt that they suck and their early season record was overblown. Their defense gave up 24 points to Virginia…that’s right, the cavaliers. Clemson is good. The Tiger offense is terrific, and although their defense isn’t good enough to stop an elite SEC team, they are good enough to beat a team as one dimensional as the Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech. 35-17

Stanford vs. USC

What the heck? Two weeks in a row I’m talking about west coast football?? OK, I’ll make this brief. Stanford is the much better team on both sides of the ball. USC, being banned from bowl appearances this year, will be amped up for this game like it was the Rose Bowl, and they are playing at home. Doesn’t matter. Luck is that good. Stanford 39-30.

Wisconsin vs. Ohio State

Reading back over my first 5 picks it dawns on me that I have picked against the home team 5 times. Wisconsin must be on the ultimate downer after the shocking way they lost last week. Ohio State has a lot of pride and are playing at the horse-shoe. But there is very little offense to go along with all that pride, so make that 6 home team losers. Wisconsin 28-10.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Game Six. A Beautiful and Ugly Thing

I was there, in front of the TV, for every pitch of game six in 1975 when Carlton Fisk delivered. I watched every gut-wrenching inning of the epic game seven dual between Jack Morris and John Smoltz in 1991. I nearly cried when poor Bill Buckner let Mookie Wilson’s slow roller through his legs in game six in 1986. But nothing in my wild and varied baseball history prepared me for what I witnessed last night in St. Louis. It was simply the most thrilling, exciting, baseball game I have ever seen. Ever.

First of all, I should point out the fact I have no dog in this fight. I hold no strong feelings for either club. I have watched nearly every inning of all six games of this series because, well, because I am an unrepentant baseball guy and that means that no matter who is playing in the post season, you watch. As the series has played out I have found myself leaning towards the Rangers, primarily because their manager is a whirling dervish of little league, wild-eyed joy in the dugout. Also, they appear to be the better team, with more depth, and at least on paper, a better bull-pen. But, my loyalty to the game has rewarded me handsomely in this series. Each game has been an edge-of-the-seat thriller, culminating last night in what can only be described as a collision of Shakespearean drama and Greek tragedy.

I am not a sports writer so if you want to know the pitch by pitch details you’ll have to consult Sports Center or Yahoo Sports. Suffice it to say that if a script writer turned in this whooper in Hollywood, the suits would laugh him out of the room. The two remaining teams in the big leagues , on the games’ biggest stage committed 5 errors in the first 7 innings, some, the comic variety, including David Freese who dropped a routine pop up at third base. A pitcher threw a pick off attempt wildly into center field. An all-star outfielder dropped a fly ball. There were botched double plays, wild pitches, and balls being bobbled around all over the place. But it wasn’t just the players doing weird things, the two managers put on a clinic of how NOT to manage a baseball team. Tony Larussa ran out of position players in the 8th inning of what turned out to be an 11 inning game, leaving him no choice but to send pitchers up to pinch hit. And Ron Washington, while a fresh and entertaining personality isn’t exactly a tactical genius. His decision making process with regards to the use of relief pitchers is, lets just say, a thing of profound mystery. No, this game wasn’t awesome because it was a showcase of virtuosity. It was awesome because each player on both teams over the last 3 innings just refused to give up, refused to lose.

After going ahead 7-4 on back to back home runs in the seventh inning, the Rangers lead looked safe even after St. Louis got a run back in the eighth, because the Texas closer, Neftali Feliz would pitch the 9th. With two outs, two on and two strikes on the Cardinal batter, the Rangers were one strike away from glory when David Freese,( yeah, THAT David Freese, the one who dropped the pop-up ) , tripled off the right field wall to tie the game and send it to extra innings. In the top of the 11th, the Rangers best player, Josh Hamilton who has been battling a painful groin injury the entire post season, came up with a man on base. It has been painful to watch this kid try to swing a bat. Every time he swings and misses, its everything he can do to keep from grabbing his crotch and doubling over on national TV. He has been reduced to weak arms only swings that have produced ground ball singles and not much else. Until now. In Kirk Gibson fashion, he pounds a ball deep into the right-center field stands and everyone in the stadium and everyone watching on television had the feeling that they had witnessed one of the greatest home runs in world series history. It was perfect, the struggling star guts it out the whole series and finally hits a miraculous bomb that leads his team to victory. Unfortunately for Hamilton, his home run is only a footnote because the bottom of the 10th had to be played. This time the Rangers would once again come within one strike of a world championship, and once again a Cardinal hitter would somehow come through with a clutch hit to tie the game and send it deeper into the night.

I looked at the clock. It was 12:45. I had been watching this game for 4 hours and 30 minutes. The lead off hitter for St. Louis in the 11th was our friend Mr. Freese. Did I mention that the kid is actually from St. Louis? Yeah, he’s a home town boy. The eighth pitcher of the night for Texas threw a 95 mph fastball and the kid hit it 400 feet into the grass field right behind the center field wall. 10-9. The Cardinals win and there will be a game seven tonight for the first time since 2002. I have no idea who will win. Can the Rangers recover from being within one pitch of victory not once but twice? Will the Cardinals have used up their ration of clutch hitting and suffer a mental and physical let down after so dramatic a win? I have no idea, but I will be watching. Won’t miss a pitch. These are the boys of summer, and at a time when much of life in America disappoints, these guys never do in October.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Week 8...I've got a bad feeling...

My 31-11 record over these past seven weeks makes me think that either I have an intuitive proclivity for this business ….or, I am living on borrowed time and the law of numbers is about to bite me in the “you-know-where”. This weeks’ games are all difficult. Something tells me that I am due for an off week. So, with all of that negativity and foreboding working against me, here I go:

Auburn vs. LSU

Although LSU remains unbeaten and is ranked number 2 in the nation, each week, it seems, they lose yet another player to some sin of the flesh. This week they are without the services of their best defensive player, who along with two of his teammates, just couldn’t resist firing up a “synthetic “ joint. Luckily for the Tigers, the suspension expires just in time for the stars to return for the big game against Alabama in a couple weeks. Funny how that worked out. So, looks like Auburn is catching a break. Won’t matter, since the back-ups for LSU are probably better than Auburn’s starters. LSU 28-17.

Wisconsin vs. Michigan State

Ok, here’s the deal. I watched some of the Michigan State win over Michigan and I’m here to tell you, the Spartans have an offense that is offensive to watch. They set back the forward pass decades. Even Woody Hayes thinks they need to open up the play book! But those dudes look pretty stout on defense. Wisconsin on the other hand comes in with a gaudy record of pounding the day-lights out of pathetic teams. Who can forget their epic battles with the likes of UNLV, South Dakota, Northern Illinois, and Indiana? Well, its October 22 and they are finally getting ready to play an away game against a quality foe. Love Russell Wilson. Michigan State seems to have an awful lot of white guys, usually a bad sign in big games. Hmmm. Wisconsin wins but not impressively enough to keep from dropping in the polls…20-14.

Washington vs. Stanford

Yes. I have a bias against west coast football. This will be my first and probably last time picking the winner of a Pac-10 game ( …or is it Pac 12??). The reason I don’t care for west coast football is because there’s just something incongruous about California and football. I know, I know USC used to be awesome. But for me, football is the south and the Midwest. California is for surfers. It’s a place where all the girls want to be actresses and all the guys want to be ..girls. I don’t know man, just not feeling any Washington vs. Stanford vibe. So I’ll go with the team that has the best quarterback. Stanford wins 33-28.

N.C. State vs. UVA

Last week Mike London and the boys got their signature win against the 12th ranked team in the country, Georgia Tech. Good for them. But to make that win have real meaning, he needs to follow it up by beating a team that UVA should beat. The wolf pack stinks in just about every way and even though UVA stinks probably just as bad, they should be able to win this despite playing in front of the worst football fans in history…” Why Buffy, I do believe we missed the entire third quarter because you insisted on getting that mint-julep recipe from Millicent Fenweather. But not to worry, my love, we still have more runs than the other team.” UVA 19-13.

Maine vs. UR

My spiders are in a rebuilding year. That’s what you say when you used to be great and now you suck. We have a decent quarterback who throws the ball all over the field. Unfortunately, we have a defense that lets the other guys run all over the field more. Maine’s only loss was a 35-29 near upset of division 1 Pitt. They are tough, play terrific defense, and they all have annoying down-east accents. Maine will throttle my spiders 40- 28.

St. Louis vs. Texas

In case you weren’t aware, the World Series is being played. But since neither the Yankees, Red Sox, or Phillies are playing there are like 16 people in the country actually watching the thing. Well, you idiots are missing out. They have both played some terrific baseball. Although I don’t have a rooting interest in either team, the Rangers have been growing on me, especially their wild man manager Ron Washington, who seems to be in love with the game and shamelessly cheers like a proud parent every time his team does something good. Its quite charming to watch someone so overflowing with joy in the midst of so much pressure and seriousness. To watch Ron Washington in the dugout in a rally is to be reminded that it is after all a game and should be above all Rangers 6-5.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Parenthood, best show on TV

Tonight Pam and I settled in with a marvelous dinner to watch Tuesday nights’ episode of Parenthood. For those of you who don’t know, Parenthood is the best show on TV since “24”, and possibly the best family drama of all time. However, this particular episode was a classic illustration of the difference between men and women, and more importantly why every family needs a strong father. The fact that Pam and I saw the same scene so differently just serves to prove my point.

Sarah is one of the main characters in the show and although quirky and semi-adorable at times, she is also a complete train wreck at other times. She has two teenage children and is raising them as a single Mom with prodigious amounts of help from her siblings and especially her Dad, Zeke ( one of my favorite characters on the show ). The father of Sarah’s two kids is a drug-addicted, ne’er do well who was so violent and despicable when he was her husband, that she was forced to leave him three years ago and move back home with her parents back when the show started. So, in this episode, good old Seth shows up out of nowhere, gets into a drunken brawl in a bar and calls Sarah to come rescue him literally from the gutter. By the end of the episode Seth has made the decision to enter rehab and Sarah goes to Zeke for some money to pay for it all. Seth and Sarah hold hands in front of their two incredulous kids and determine that they will get through this together “as a family”.

Here’s where the whole differences between men and women come in. Zeke absolutely refuses to pay a dime for Seth’s rehab. You know why? Because Zeke had to watch the hell that this bum put his daughter through the entire time he was whoring around and doing drugs when he should have been providing for her and their children. Zeke has had to stand by helpless as he watches his grandchildren struggle with feelings of inadequacy because their bum of a father couldn’t be bothered with raising them. Zeke is doing what every good father is wired to do, look after the best interests of his family and protect them from deadly predators.

So Sarah goes to her sister Julia, the well-off lawyer and her stay at home husband Joel for the money. Of course Joel says yes and in an impassioned speech says to a frustrated Zeke words to this effect…”Sarah has made a decision with her heart and you need to honor that.” Pam practically swooned at the sweetness and support that Joel showed in the scene, and I must admit, I do like Joel but get real. It’s one thing to show all this support and sweetness when you have no skin in the game. Sarah isn’t HIS daughter. Joel wasn’t around when Seth was beating Sarah up when the kids were toddlers. Besides, Joel is a stay at home Dad, and as such has probably lost a few mph’s on his fastball. I would also suggest that Joel will be singing a different tune 20 years from now when some drunk loser breaks little Sydney’s heart.

Every family needs a Zeke, someone who isn’t afraid to be the bad cop and put an end to all of the bleeding heart, give peace a chance nonsense that would abound if Mom’s and Sisters ruled the world. Here’s whats going to happen . Seth is going to get through rehab by some fakery, then further worm his way back into Sarah’s life to the point that she will then plead with Crosby and Adam to give him a job at their recording studio ( Seth was a musician in a rock band back in the day ). He will then succeed in poisoning the entire Braverman family dynamic. All because the women of the family ( and Joel ) wouldn’t listen to Zeke when he reminded them all that Seth had never done anything good for their family in his entire life.

Its ok Zeke. At least you tried to warn them!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Disappearance........the conclusion

After travelling the back roads of the southeast for six months, camping at night and drifting about during the day, he found himself at the southern end of Route 1 in Key West, Florida. And it was here that he settled. He grew a beard and took up the name, Sandy Baker. He found a room to rent and landed a series of jobs as a dish-washer, grounds-keeper, and finally as a first mate on a private charter fishing boat ironically named the “Escape”. Everyone who knew Sandy liked him. He worked whenever he could and when he couldn’t, spent lots of time in small, out of the way bars as far away from the big crowds of Duval Street as possible. He found himself drinking a lot, and enjoying it quite a bit. Although if he had too much, he had a tendency to talk, so he tried to keep his heavy drinking to a minimum. He made no close friends but was friendly to everyone he met. The 100,000 bucks was holding up rather well, even after three years. It was amazing how far money would go when you didn’t own anything, he thought. In his poverty, he had become rich.

He thought about his family very little and about the life he had left behind even less. Every once in a while, usually after a night of drinking, he would allow himself to wonder how the family was getting along without him. One particular night he found himself in a discussion with a twenty-something year old kid named Bobby, who was in deep trouble with his girlfriend and his little son.
“What do you really want to do kid?” Sandy asked. Tears were in Bobby’s eyes and his hands began to shake. He looked up from his drink and whispered, “What I really want to do is get in my car, drive as far and as fast away from here as I can, and never look back.”
Sandy smiled and whispered back, “ Why don’t you do it then? Just disappear!”
“Are you nuts? I couldn’t do that…I could never ever do that. What about my kid?”
“You know what your trouble is Bobby?” Sandy began to sober up and his voice became clear, his diction precise. “Your trouble is that you don’t understand your calling. You are born into this world to be free. But with the passage of time you become enslaved by family and other so–called moral obligations, and before you know it, half of your life is over and you’ve done nothing for yourself. We aren’t placed into this world for the benefit and comfort of others, Bobby. Every man should be a king.”
Bobby stared back at the bearded middle-aged sun burnt face as if seeing it for the first time. “ So, what the hell are you the king of?”
“The rest of my life Bobby, the rest of my life.”
“Well, from the looks of things, the rest of your life is off to a rousing start.”

Only every once in a while would Sandy allow such conversations.

One day it all began to unravel. The Escape got chartered by a group of 10 very loud and boorish salesmen from some bank in New York. One of them, an older man, kept looking at Sandy with a puzzled expression….”Don’t I know you from someplace?,” he slurred, already hammered at 10 in the morning. Sandy glanced up from his lines of bait and hooks only quickly enough to say, “Nope.” For the rest of the day Sandy tried as best he could on such a small boat to avoid the man, but as the sun began to go down and the captain headed back to port, Sandy’s heart began to beat heavily in his chest as a glimmer of recognition flashed in his mind. He had met this man at a trade show in Chicago some years back where he had been manning a a booth promoting his software company. They had a long conversation and had even gone to dinner to discuss business. He couldn’t remember his name and he hoped and prayed that the now totally drunk banker couldn’t either. Sandy felt a hand slap on his back, and the unsteady banker hugged his neck and whispered loudly in his ear, “ I do know you!! It was Chicago, right? You had that software company, I think it was. Yeah!! Well, what the hell happened to you man??! Whatcha doin cuttin’ bait in freakin’ Key West??”

Sandy calmly shuffled away with busy work to occupy his hands. Without lifting his eyes from the work, he assured the banker that he was mistaken. That night Sandy went back to his room and counted his money. Still $42000 left. He really didn’t want to leave the Keys, everything was perfect there. Maybe the guy would never give it another thought. Maybe he was so drunk he wouldn’t even remember it tomorrow. Or maybe the stubborn old bastard would sober up, Google up the whole story and then go to the police.

From the Key West tip the FBI eventually cornered Sandy outside of a Waffle House in Sarasota. When they took him in he had $7800 left. Even without the beard he was unrecognizable and had lost 70 pounds since his lunch of teriaki wings four and a half years earlier. Two days after his arrest and just six hours before his wife was to come and make an identification, they found him dead on a cot in his holding cell. His heart had stopped beating. He had laid out to his full length, folded his arms neatly over his chest and calmly expired. It was as if he had willed the end to come, king of his swiveled life to the very end. He left no note and no explanation of the last four and a half years. His wife said simply, “ Yes, that’s him,” without a trace of sadness, bitterness, or regret. No tears shed for James Duncan. No tears shed for the king.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Disappearance.........a short story

James Duncan was by all accounts a success. 51, handsome, wealthy, and well-liked by all who knew him. Married 25 years to the same woman, the mother of his three children, all of whom were grown and successful in their own right. He lived in a fine house, drove a nice car, dressed well and was in excellent health. He held no uncomfortable opinions and was thought by most people to be an ideal husband, father, businessman, and citizen. One day, to the horror of his family, and a shock to his community, James Duncan disappeared. He drove to work, had an uneventful morning, seemed perfectly normal and pleasant to everyone he encountered. Then he left the office around 12:15 in the afternoon to grab a quick lunch and vanished without a trace.

They found his Lexus locked and parked in the lot outside the Buffalo Wild Wings. There had been no sign of foul play and the people in the restaurant confirmed that he had in fact eaten his lunch, a dozen teriaki wings with bleu cheese dressing and ice water, and then…nothing. He had simply dropped off the face of the earth. Surveillance cameras had shown him walking into the restaurant but not walking back out. The story had been a sensation and for months the local paper had been full of the latest details of the case. There were rumors of marital problems, business reversals, and personal failings of every carnal description. But, all of the rumors had been put to rest one by one as the investigation consistently turned up exculpatory evidence confirming his sterling reputation. The longer the case wore on, the more grave the outcome seemed destined to be. After 6 months the authorities had exhausted every lead and the trail had grown cold. Hope that James Duncan would ever be found alive diminished with every passing day. In the last press conference on the subject the lead detective made the cryptic observation that Duncan was either dead or brilliantly determined never to be found.

What no one knew about James Duncan was that he had slowly and quietly lost his mind, but being a master compartmentalizer, had chosen to keep his madness to himself. To friends and family he was the indispensable man, a bedrock unchangeable guarantee in a world of disappointments. But in the private world of his thoughts he had simply given up on his life as it was and determined to make a change. For over 5 years he had planned and plotted his disappearance day. He had made sure that his wife would be set financially. His personal and family finances were clean and unburdened with debt. There was no reason to make anyone else suffer. It certainly wasn’t their fault. He saw to it that she would be a rich widow. There would be no tearful goodbye, no explanatory letter, just a clean break, swift and decisive.

He chose the winter to make his break. With the cold weather, his big leather jacket would arouse no suspicion. No one would be able to tell that the shiny gold silk lining had been gently unstitched and that $100,000 worth of 100 dollar bills in zip-lock plastic bags had been stuffed inside. He would have to survive whatever trip was to come and then establish his new life before the money ran out. Little thought had been given to what that life would look like or where it would lead. All of the meticulous planning and dreaming had been about disappearing. His new life would be left to fate.

He had slipped out of the back door of the Buffalo Wild Wings, out of view of the parking lot cameras. He had hidden patiently behind two dumpsters until he was sure that no one was in the alley, then he had slipped into the woods and walked the 680 feet north to where the power lines dissect a grove of tall pines. He walked along calmly, listening to the hum and pop of the high voltage current overhead. Another 400 feet and he located the motorcycle under the camouflage tarp. He walked the bike down a steep hill to the place that he had cut a hole in the barbed wire fence two days before. He maneuvered the bike up a short incline, took a deep breath, hopped on, cranked the starter, and made his way on to interstate 40 heading west, and he was gone. Just like that. Give James Duncan 5 years to ponder something and he could have split the atom.

He had felt nothing upon the execution of his plan, no fear and no regret. It wasn’t that he didn’t love his family. It was just that, upon deeper reflection, it had occurred to him that he would not miss them if he never saw them again. He had always provided for their every need and most of their wants and in his mind, that had been enough. Although he might end up preferring his old life to the one that awaited him, James Duncan was willing to take that chance. Above all else, he longed for freedom and the promise of newness.

To be continued

Friday, October 14, 2011

Week 7...Boring games this week but I'm on it!

Last week I went 4-2 bringing my record to a not too shabby 26-10. This week’s schedule is sorely missing any marquee matchups. It would be easy to pick the GT vs. UVA game, or the Villanova vs. JMU game but, what’s the point?? Any idiot could do that. No, I have decided to throw in a couple of baseball playoff picks in the mix to raise the degree of difficulty. Let no one accuse me of cherry-picking. Here we go…

Virginia Tech vs. Wake Forest

Last week I showed great disrespect to these Demon Deacons. I made light of their scholastic skills at the expense of their football prowess and I paid the price when they whipped the Seminoles. What is it with teams that Ryan Roop likes that makes them under perform? But, that is a subject for another day. So, do I finally pick against the Hokies? Umm, no. Sorry Kaitlin, Wake Forest just doesn’t impress me as being that good, despite their record. Tech 30-17.

Oklahoma State vs. Texas

Man-o-man what a complete butt-whipping the Sooners put on the Longhorns last week. For a minute I thought it was Texas STATE out there. So, now the question is, do they bounce back after hitting bottom, or have they simply been exposed as a bad team. Its not exactly like Oklahoma State has a great record of winning in Austin, I believe they are something like 2-16 or something. But this is a new day, these are new Cowboys, and Texas has a platoon system at QB with the unfortunate feature that neither of them are any good. Oklahoma State in a romp, 42-28.

Michigan vs. Michigan State

Words cannot express how little I care about the outcome of this contest. I know very little about either team, and they play in the most boring conference in the game. However, both squads come in ranked highly in the polls with great records so I can’t pretend that this game doesn’t exist. OK, let me see, um,…..Zzzzzzz..Sorry!! Where was I??, Ahh yes, Michigan State has a better defense so they win 21-14.

Baylor vs. Texas A&M

The State of Texas is getting way too much attention in this blog but, it is what it is this week. Baylor has a very exciting player in Robert Griffin. The guy can do everything, much like Cam Newton last year. Texas A&M, on the other hand has no very exciting players, but they are playing at home and have a 18-2 record against the Baptists, so the Aggies get the win 38-35.

Brewers vs. Cardinals

The Brew-Crew is a better team than the Cardinals. They smash the ball all over the place and they play terrific defense. But their pitcher for this game , Zach Greinke is a complete head case. He has terrific stuff, but is so easily rattled, you never know whether he’s going to be lights out or end up hiding in the clubhouse in the fetal position. The Cardinals win in a sea of red at home to go up 3-2 in the series, then go in to Milwaukee and lose two sending the Brewers to the World Series.

Tigers vs. Rangers

This series was always fated to go to game seven which means that the Tigers must win this one and they will. There’s the whiff of destiny with the Tigers. When a sure double play ball hits the third base bag and bounds over the head of the best third baseman in baseball for a double, something is up. Plus, there’s the weird winning vibe in Detroit what with the Lions undefeated and all. I’m going with it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Not looking forward to THIS

Today I’m up early in preparation for an all day “Welcome to Cambridge” technology tutorial. Now, if you know anything about me you’ll know that this is the sort of thing that sends me into fits of catatonic despair, and then sends me to strong drink. But today I am committed to patience and forbearance. I will sit there at the table with my Cambridge note pad, Marriott Hotel complimentary pen, glass of water and mints, and listen as carefully as I can. I will nod knowingly when a speaker states the obvious. I will simply pretend to be taking notes when a speaker tells an obvious lie. I will refrain from making snarky comments, being vocally contrarian, and asking questions intended to embarrass the speaker. In other words, I will refrain from being myself and doing what comes most naturally to me in these settings. I cannot, however, promise that I will stay in my seat for more than 30 minutes at a time. The goal for the day, besides survival, is not to make waves, be branded a trouble-maker, or accidentally knock over a glass of water on the laptop. Perhaps when its all over, I will have learned something of value, my opinion of my new Broker-Dealer will have been enhanced, and I will feel better about the decision, that was forced upon me several months ago, to leave a perfectly fine BD for the greener pastures of Cambridge. Nothing would make me happier than to discover the wonders and benefits of this new firm and say a year from now, “best business decision I’ve ever made!”

It’s hard for me to warm up to any corporate thing, and this difficulty has caused me no small amount of grief over the years. Natural skepticism combined with my acerbic wit make for a volatile cocktail. I start any new corporate relationship with the unshakable conviction that I’m about to be screwed, that given an opening, the guy in the suit will take advantage of me financially. Whats best for me often isn’t for him. So despite all the platitudinous blather about “working together” and being on the “same team”, or that we’re all one big happy family, I know better. If I’m not on my game, I”ll get rolled. Many say that I have an unnecessarily confrontational attitude in matters such as these and , in fairness, they are probably right. My skepticism is not a virtue. Rather, it is the result of life experience. In a perfect world, and if I were a better Christian, I would be able to let past unpleasant business adventures go and give new adventures the benefit of the doubt. I’m working on that. I really am.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Columbus Day. How Do YOU Celebrate??

In 1937, Franklin Roosevelt, struggling mightily to get the nation out of the Great Depression, and having seen all of his prior attempts to bring down the unemployment rate fail miserably, decided that what the country needed was a brand spanking new Federal Holiday. “Columbus Day” was declared to be a paid vacation day for all Federal workers, to be celebrated on the 12th day of October. Back then, there was no such thing as political correctness, so there were no million-man marches on Washington decrying this shameful promotion of a man who came to our shores only to gouge our land for gold and introduce pestilence and disease to the virginal Indian population. That part would come much later when more enlightened governments like the Berkeley, California city council would rename the holiday, “Indigenous Peoples Day”.

In 1971, along came the most lionized legislation in government employee history. The Uniform Holiday Act came up with the brilliant innovation of moving all of the federal holidays from fixed days on the calendar to Mondays. This had the desirous effect of creating the much celebrated “long weekend”. Now, in the era of ballooning debt and impossible budget deficits, we are saddled with 11 of these babies. That’s right, there are 11 paid holidays for government workers. To be fair, its not just government workers anymore. Today, banks and all the evil Wall Street firms are in on it too, like those blood-suckers actually need a day off. Luckily for the rest of us, one of the 11 only comes around every 4 years. That’s right, Inauguration Day is a paid holiday too.

So, how are you celebrating Columbus Day? I'm sure you've set up your display of Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria models on the mantle over the fireplace. I’m sure you’ve hung that Indigenous Peoples wreathe on the door. If you live near any college campus in America, you could always take in the sights at the sack-cloth and ashes sit-in over at the People of Color Studies building. Or, you could commemorate the day by jumping in the car with the intention of driving to the beach, but end up in Des Moines instead.

Lest you think I’ve got something against all of these paid federal holidays, au contraire mon frère. I actually think we should add one more. Only this one would be on, say, the first Friday of every June. On this new holiday, all government employees would have to work while everyone else would get the day off with pay. We could call it “Private Sector Appreciation Day”. But we better get a move on. In another thirty years, we will all be government workers and there won’t be anything left to appreciate.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Word About My Dog, Molly

My Golden Retriever, Molly, turns 10 this month. She has been, and continues to be, the surest affirmation of grace ever to have entered my life. Her intelligence, beauty, and zest for life have been a thing of legend in our family. It’s an exercise of profound mystery to consider the moral and ethical superiority of dogs to human beings. But, when I think of the colossal changes that have occurred in the world during Molly’s ten years, it becomes clear to me that Molly alone, among all of my family, friends and acquaintances, has been the immovable, steadfast north star. Not once in 10 years has she been angry with me, cool with her affection, bored with my stories, or anything else but delighted with my mere presence in the room.

Here’s what this dog provides for me and my family. Each morning she greets us with unbridled enthusiasm for the day. Every afternoon when any of us return home from work or school, we are greeted like rock stars, so uncontrollably thrilled is she with the celebration of our amazing and miraculous return. It’s as if she spent all day worrying that this time, we would never come home and she would never see us again. Every day she encourages us to take at least a few minutes to play. She brings us a ball with the hope that we will forget about whatever it was that put the anxiety and frustration on our faces. We never disappoint her. Even when we accidentally step on her tail, she yelps in pain and then scurries toward us, desperate to reassure us that it wasn’t our fault. To Molly we always are the person we so desperately want to be to everyone else, enchanting, charismatic, and heroic.

This isn’t to say that having a dog is all sunshine and roses. Having a 90 pound beast under foot is a game changer for any family. In Molly’s case it means the continuous and daily administration of three different oral medications. It means giving her a bath every week of her life with special shampoo and conditioner to keep her various allergies at bay. I have spent more money on medications and doctor’s appointments over the last 10 years on Molly than my two human children combined. It means never being able to eat a meal in peace. She is always at my elbow with her mournful countenance and hopeful whining. It means never being able to have a spontaneous moment where we throw everything in a suitcase and head to the beach or the mountains, because preparations always have to be made for Molly. Lucky for her and us, my sister and her family live right down the street and they too have fallen under Molly’s charms.

Lately I’ve noticed that she is aging. The fur around her eyes has turned snowy white. Her stamina isn’t what it once was. She doesn’t last as long on walks or fetch the sticks with endless enthusiasm like she once famously did. And lately, she has started having trouble navigating the stairs. It takes her awhile to stand when she’s been laying down. I have noticed the beginnings of a limp. With these disturbing visitations has come the stark, cold realization that Molly will not always be with us. We all make this bargain when we bring a puppy home. We embrace the beauty and wonder of a dog knowing that she comes to us with mortal strings attached. She will blaze through our life, lighting up our world with happiness, and then she will leave us entirely too soon. She is a loan, a grace note sent from God to help us deal with the brutality and disappointment that can often be our existence. We pay back this heavenly loan by learning to treat those we love like Molly treats us, with unconditional respect and gleeful appreciation. The debt can never be paid in full, because we just aren’t good enough. I will never be as wonderful as Molly thinks I am. But I will spend my life trying to be.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Week 6...Dang those Hokies!!

Last week I was once again reminded that every single time I exhibit even a trace of sympathy for Virginia Tech, it always ends up coming back to haunt me. Clemson rolls into Blacksburg and the Hokies look like a Pop Warner team on national television, prohibiting me from a perfect 6-0 record. The lengths they will go to humiliate me! Well, it’s week 6 and I have learned my lesson….I’m picking the bastards again!

Virginia Tech vs. Miami

No matter how much I might loathe Tech, picking the Miami Hurricanes over any team from Virginia is a bridge too far , even for a Hokiephobe like myself. Besides, Miami is dreadful. They were outplayed by Bethune Cookman for two quarters last week, for crying out loud. So, here I go again picking Tech to win for the 6th consecutive week. The game itself will be unwatchable, however with Tech escaping by a score of 20-17.

Oklahoma vs. Texas

The “Red River Rivalry” continues today in the Cotton Bowl. Oklahoma is the second best team in college football and Texas is not. The Sooners have a quarterback named “Landry Jones”. Any guess what pro team his Dad likes? Easy pick here. Oklahoma is better in practically all phases of the game and they will win 35-20. Yee-Haw!

Florida vs. LSU

In the second half of last week’s game against Alabama, it was hard not to feel sorry for the Gators. The beastly Bama defense had knocked Florida’s quarterback out of the game and into next week and the poor freshman they threw in there looked like a skinny, terrified 1st Century Christian being fed to the lions. Well, unless the kid received some sort of miracle talent and experience transfusion during practice this week, I suspect more carnage in Baton Rouge. LSU 28- 10.

Ohio State vs. Nebraska

I have a buddy who lives and dies Nebraska football. He constantly talks trash about the Cornhuskers, and Jae is about as fine a trash-talker as there is. But after the debacle in Madison last week, all of his dreams of Big 10 domination by the “black-shirts” will suffer a humiliating blow if Nebraska somehow loses this game. Seriously, Ohio State’s offense is so bad the St. Louis Rams defense thinks they suck. So, Nebraska better win this game or Bo Pelini will need to start polishing up his resume. Nebraska 24- 17.

Auburn vs. Arkansas

How would you like to be the Auburn Tigers? Here it is week 6 of the season and they are playing their 4th ranked opponent, three of them, including this one , on the road. But such is the life of the defending national champions. Arkansas comes off an amazing comeback victory over Texas A&M ( expertly predicted right here baby!!) while Auburn comes off another thrilling victory over a very good South Carolina team in Columbia. Hardest pick of the week , sports fans, but I’ll take Auburn, if for no other reason than the fact that Bobby Petrino is a dirt bag. Go Tigers, 27-24.

Florida State vs. Wake Forest

That’s right…Wake Forest. Who would have thought that this game would have actually meant something when the schedules came out last year? If not for an opening game overtime loss against Syracuse, the Demon-Deacons would be undefeated. They are 2-0 in the ACC and have the underwhelming Seminoles in Winston-Salem. The fact that my daughter is in grad school at Wake has absolutely nothing to do with this pick, because as much as I would love to see them win, they will not. Wake, after all, is an academic institution first and last, and Florida State is a football school first and last. Wake will hang tough but lose in the end, 24-16.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Occupy Wall Street....the End of Irony

I hereby declare the death of irony. Hipsters from every borough of New York City have converged on the financial district to “occupy Wall Street”. As if on cue, they have been joined by the usual Hollywood celebrities and various labor union bosses. Some have declared this to be a new “revolution” in America, a progressive answer to the Tea Party movement. While the Tea Party, as close as I could tell, was agitating for less and less government, the Occupy Wall Street crowd just can’t get enough of it. I checked out one of several lists of demands found on the official web site to get the flavor. The first four bullet points racked up a whopping 6 trillion in government spending. It takes a ton of money to raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour, give everyone a free college education, declare universal, single-payer health insurance for all, and guarantee every American a “living wage, regardless of employment”. Wow, a living wage guaranteed to me regardless of whether I work or not?? Sign me up!!! My personal favorite demand was an immediate default on “all debt”, whether its sovereign debt , college loan debt , or mortgage debt. How wonderful would that be? Although a problem might potentially arise when our defunded military-industrial-complex is faced with the Chinese army ,navy, and air force, who probably won’t be too thrilled with the fact that we just welched on over one trillion of Chinese government holdings. Still, imagine how cool it would be to tell all of your creditors to take a hike. Of course, if this idea ever did become law I would feel like a gigantic sap. 12 years ago when I built this house, the bank told me I could qualify for a $600,000 loan. But , like an idiot, I only borrowed $230,000. Can you imagine how much bigger a house I could have built if I had known that 12 years later my loan would be wiped out , thanks to a couple thousand college kids in New York??. Oh well, timing is everything.

So, why is this the death of irony? Watching and reading and listening to this thing unfold, and hearing the sad news of the death of Steve Jobs, it occurred to me that the Hipster generation has lost all connection to it's roots. We have been told that the home of irony is the hipster generation. Books have been written about it, the internet abounds with essential guides to Hipster Irony. And yet, practically everything I know about Occupy Wall Street has been delivered to me by products conceived and produced by the biggest, baddest capitalist enterprise on Earth…Apple Computer. Videos of all the action are filmed on I-Phones, dispatches posted to facebook via hipster i-pads and Macbooks, all the while, the sound track pounds through the earphones courtesy of i-pods. How could kids so manifestly anti-capitalist not see the profound irony in their complete devotion to and adoration of the products of a company so manifestly anti-union as Apple Computer ? But I give everyone of those kids up there a pass. Most of them are in their early twenties, and their active and eager minds have not yet been seasoned with enough life experience to save them from this sort of thing. But when the big-shots of labor unions start showing up at a movement whose goal it is to take down “Wall Street”. Well, then, that’s another story. Irony takes another blow at the sight of labor union bosses decrying the evil greed of Goldman Sachs, when their members’ pension plans are being managed by the very companies they seek to vilify. If a riot breaks out and the shares of US companies tank as a result, the rank and file union members will have their leaders to thank when they open their 401-K statements in January.

But, even though there are many reasons to roll the eyes at some of the stupidity on parade at Occupy Wall Street, there is an element of sincerity and righteous indignation for which I have great sympathy. They may have the wrong remedy, but their essential claim that something is terribly wrong with our financial system is true. At 53 I understand that the problem isn’t as simple and its solution isn’t as easy as demonizing banks, or even politicians. There is blood on all of our hands for the mess in which we find ourselves. Greed isn’t the sole possession of the rich, just as laziness and looking for a handout isn’t the sole possession of the poor.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I think I'm getting cocky

OK…Just for kicks, since I have gone a quite respectable 22-8 in my five week college football prognostication career, I will go out on a very precarious limb and offer up my NFL visions. I will include no attempts at wit or levity since there is nothing funny about the NFL. This week’s winners will be:

New Orleans
Green Bay
New England
San Diego

Feel free to ridicule the cluelessness of these picks.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

WEEK 5 Time for redemption!

I went 3-3 last week and I’m not happy about it. UofR decided to employ a daring new strategy of playing NO defense at all just for fun, and just see what would happen. Well, what happened was a 45-43 loss, at home. Then UVA takes yet another two steps backwards as a program by losing to Southern Miss. Ahhh, the ACC, that college football juggernaut, whose teams last week lost to the likes of : Southern Miss, Temple, Kansas State, and Cincinnati. So I guess you can hardly blame them for running out THESE stellar opponents in week 5: Towson, Bethune-Cookman, Idaho, and Florida International. Please. Somebody needs to defend this pathetic conference to me because ripping them every week is getting boring. Here we go….

Virginia Tech vs. Clemson

So I guess these two teams represent the cream of the ACC crop. Clemson has looked somewhat impressive so far but I’m not entirely convinced that they can play defense. VT, has hardly broken a sweat in the softest opening 4 games in the 5000 year history of competition, so I have no way of knowing who they are either. But, they are at home, the lunch pail will get its obligatory sideline shot, Tech fans will get to pretend that they are a serious contender and Tech wins 38-35 proving that , in fact, Clemson cannot play defense.

Alabama vs. Florida

Meanwhile, over in the SEC where real contenders live, Alabama goes into the Swamp to take on the Urban Meyer-less Gators. I am totally convinced that Alabama not only plays defense, they play it better than half the teams in the NFL. Alabama’s linebackers look like real grown men to me so you’re not going to catch me picking against them, at least not this week. Roll Tide 24-10.

Nebraska vs. Wisconsin

A lot of red. Russell Wilson Heisman talk ramps up big time after this one. Badgers win 35-20 when the famed “black shirt” defense is mistakenly put on a plane to Kansas State out of force of habit.

Texas A&M vs. Arkansas

The Aggies faithful are positively giddy over the announcement that they have been accepted into the SEC for next year. After this week, buyers remorse sets in. “ Wait a minute,” a coach is overheard saying after the game, “you mean to tell me that we have to play against guys like THIS each and every week?? Where in hell are the Iowa State’s on the schedule? Whose idea was this anyway??” Look on the bright side Aggie fan, at least you won’t be in the Longhorn shadow anymore. That’s gotta count for something, right? Razorbacks 28-21.

JMU vs. UofR

Madison lost their star quarterback to a failed drug test, proving that Division I-AA has come a long way, baby. Wasn’t too long ago when the only time a Division I-AA school lost a player was when they failed a Physics test. But now we’re out there recruiting drug users with the big boys. Lucky for the Dukes, Richmond plays no defense, so JMU could throw their equipment manager out there under center and still win this one. JMU 37- 24. Sigh…

Auburn vs. South Carolina

In Columbia, the student section rocks with the hearty cheer, “ GO COCKS, GO!! “, a somewhat creepy double entendre. For the last 30 years or so, that’s about the most fun Gamecock fans had, the chance to shout an obscenity in public without censure. But now, under the obnoxiously reprehensible leadership of Steve Spurrier, and a game-changing running back named Marcus Lattimore, they are finally relevant. Actually, they are quite good from what I’ve seen so far this year. But something tells me that Auburn wins this game. I know, I know…last time I went with my “trick knee” Florida State let me down. But I am nothing if not unteachable. Tigers win 40-35.