Friday, January 21, 2005

Fight Picks

This week marks the first big boxing weekend of 2005. Last year, I suffered only a single loss. That was the controversial split decision loss by Antonio Tarver to Miami's Glen Johnson. I will predict the notable fights of this weekend.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Juan Diaz vs. Billy Irwin... Diaz by UD
Diaz is the young Texas based fighter who recently won a sanctioning body belt at 135 pounds. Irwin, once a staple on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights cards, hasn't done much in the last few years. The last fight of his I remember was his encounter with Dorin Spivey, where he lost almost every round. The styles would seem to make for a rather lobsided points win by Diaz over the Canadian Irwin.

Calvin Brock vs. Clifford Etienne... Brock by UD
The Black Rhino's best days are behind him. On the bright side, he should last more than the 39 seconds it took Mike Tyson to knock him out two years ago.

Chris Smith vs. David Estrada... Smith by UD
This is a rematch of their last meeting, which Smith won. I'd call this one a toss-up, with a slight lean towards Smith.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Floyd Mayweather vs. Henry Bruseles... Mayweather by UD
At 140 pounds, I doubt Mayweather has the power to KO a durable fighter in Bruseles. However, the skill deficiency facing Bruseles will be too much to overcome. If I thought this fight could be competitive, I'd actually buy a ticket and go to the AAA Arena. In fact, I still might do so.

Early Semester Thoughts

Finally, I've gotten my class schedule set. I decided to drop the Political Parties & Interest Groups course. It's a shame, since the subject matter was interesting and I liked the professor. However, I really think four 4000 level courses is enough for one term. I didn't want to get into a situation where I'd have to drop a class mid-semester. My main goal was to take as many Communication courses as possible.

I'm a little more enthusiastic about this semester. US Journalism is getting better. I might be the only person who finds the history of journalism to be interesting. This is very much a history course that focuses on the roots of journalism. The absence of a term paper and focus on four individual essays makes the prospects of an A very promising.

News Media Ethics could also be interesting. The class also branches out into elements of philosophy, such as the Heinz dilemma. It'll be a significant amount of work, but doable.Florida Politics should be easy for me. I'm taking this class as part of my Political Science minor. I plan to be involved a lot in

Florida politics as we try to re-elect Sen. Nelson and elect a Democratic governor in 2006.

Finally, there's Mass Comm Law. I wrote an entire post about Mr. Suits. It's hard to put a positive spin on this course. I have to promise that I'll keep up on my reading and prepare well for tests. There's no reason I can't escape this miserable course with an A.

My goal for the Spring 2005 term is 2 A's and 2 B's. I want to keep a minimum of 3.5 GPA going into Senior year. Of course, I'm going to work hard and try to get additional A's. I have to tell myself that I'll keep up on the reading and not procrastinate. If done properly, all of these classes are potential A's.

NFL: Week 19 Picks (Conference Title games)

I'm down to my last three picks of the season. This week's games are a tough set to pick. I'm taking a bit of an upset in going with the Falcons. I really think that the Falcons, led by Vick, would make an intriguing Super Bowl entrant. In the AFC, you've got to like the ability of New England to win the big game. Basically, I'm going with trends in both games. New England generally wins big playoff games; Philadelphia can't win NFC Title games. So, there you have it. I project the February 6 Super Bowl to feature the Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots.

Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles…Atlanta
For the fourth straight year, the Eagles have made the NFC Championship Game. Of course, Philly is 0-3 under coach Andy Reid in the title games. Most experts have focused on the absence of Terrell Owens. However, the most important player in this game is Mike Vick. It will take everything Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has to get Vick out of his rhythm. With Vick, it isn’t as much his passing that worries coordinators. His passing numbers have been mediocre this season. Vick’s big play ability is what has opposing defenses worried. I don’t think the Eagles will be able to stop Vick from making plays. For Philadelphia to win, they’ll have to utilize McNabb and hope to outscore Atlanta. They certainly have the offensive playmakers to score points. Philadelphia has to be burdened with losing the last three title games. Without Owens, this is primarily the same team of the past. One bad intangible for Atlanta is the weather. Snow is expected in Philadelphia on Sunday. Even though Atlanta did win in cold weather two years ago in Green Bay, they are still a dome team. Any inclement weather has to favor the Eagles. Still, I don’t believe weather will be the determining factor. Four years ago, the Falcons came in as underdogs and defeated the favored Vikings. With a new cast of characters, they can do the same thing on Sunday.

New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers… New England
This is the second time these two teams will meet this season. Back in Week 8, Pittsburgh won at Heinz Field by a score of 34-20. However, Corey Dillon was injured and did not play. New England only carried the ball six times for five yards in that encounter. It was a complete domination without Dillon. Pittsburgh possessed the ball for more than 40 minutes. I was very impressed with how easily New England was able to dominate the Colts last week. If there were ever a game where New England’s weakened secondary would be exploited, that was it. This week, they face a Pittsburgh team who relies more on the ground attack. I still believe that Pittsburgh doesn’t want to rely on Roethlisberger in the big spot. They would prefer to run the ball 35 times and limit Big Ben to 20 or fewer passing attempts. I’m not sure about the exact number, but Bill Belichick is undefeated the second time he faces a QB. I fully expect him to be better equipped to handle this Steelers offense. In addition, Belichick is 8-1 in playoff games, compared to Bill Cowher’s 8-8 record in the postseason. Three years ago, when these teams last met in the playoffs, New England defeated Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game at Three Rivers Stadium. I made the mistake last week of picking against a playoff tested Patriots team. I think the game will be close and low scoring, but the Patriots manage to pull out the victory.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Lord Zach Wins Again

Friday night, some of my friends and I engaged in a friendly game of no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em Poker. I wanted to go to Orlando to check out the Tivoli apartment complex, but they didn’t let us in. Anyway, I always jump at the chance to play poker.

Originally, we were supposed to have six contestants. The usual four players consist of Eric, Sean, Zach, and myself. Midway through the afternoon, we received two additional commitments. One was from a guy named Dave who lives in the Gatherings. I’m sort of glad he pulled out, though. Overall, he seemed like a nice guy but may be into illicit drugs. He was friendly enough to help us secure a bottle of Jim Beam, Kentucky Bourbon. In addition, this girl named Colby was supposed to join us. Unfortunately, Zach got into a minor dispute with his girlfriend and got delayed. By the time everyone got together, it was 12:50 and we had only four players.

For a while, it looked like Zach would be the one leaving early. I called one of his big bluffs and took a big portion of his blacks. Winning an all-in against Sean saved him. I don’t remember the exact cards, but Zach essentially ended Sean’s night. I did pretty good for myself. I had a little too much Jim Beam, though. I don’t think it really hurt my game. I kind of exaggerated the level of my intoxication. I will say that were I more sober, I would have played my last hand better. I lost on a JQ to A8. I had enough chips that a simple race would have sufficed. I didn’t need to wager all my chips.

I believe it was Eric who chimed in following Zach’s victory, saying, “Lord Zach wins again”. Everyone at the table started laughing. While Zach is a fine player, he is far from royalty.

The Jim was the highlight of this evening. I’ve found that Mr. Beam goes down much easier than Jack. I hate to say it, but I’m beginning to prefer Jim to Jack. Jim is cheaper in addition to being smoother.

I was glad to see everything return to their proper place. In our games in Orlando, Zach usually wins and I take second. Sean and Eric battle it out for 3rd and 4th. Eric ended up taking 3rd this time and nearly beat Zach, were it not for an ill-timed full house.

Anytime I get together and play poker for more than a few hours, I consider the endeavor a success.

Week 19: Picks Summary

Regular Season record:
Week 1: N/A
Week 2: 9-7
Week 3: 7-7
Week 4: 6-8
Week 5: 8-6
Week 6: 9-5
Week 7: 7-7
Week 8: 8-6
Week 9: 7-7
Week 10: 8-6
Week 11: 13-3
Week 12: 12-4
Week 13: 10-6
Week 14: 14-2
Week 15: 11-5
Week 16: 12-4
Week 17: 7-9

Total: 148 W, 92 L, 62 %

Playoff record:
Week 18 (Wild Card Round): 1-3
Week 19 (Divisional Round): 3-1

Playoff Total: 4 W, 4 L, 50 %

Pittsburgh 20, New York Jets 17 (OT) W
Atlanta 47, St. Louis 17 W
Philadelphia 27, Minnesota 14 W
New England 20, Indianapolis 3 L

Pittsburgh over New York Jets - Give the Jets credit for hanging tough. Pittsburgh nearly blew this game with a blown punt coverage and two costly Roethlisberger INT's. I don't think any less of Pittsburgh for winning so close. They aren't a team that usually wins by big margins. I think New York got lucky last week on a missed field goal, and Pittsburgh got lucky Doug Brien missed two makeable FG's.

Atlanta over St. Louis - Not much to say here. Once St. Louis played a real playoff contender, I knew they would lose.

Minnesota over Philadelphia - I called this one correctly. I'm not sold on 8-8 teams going far in the playoffs. I'm impressed with the efficiency of Philly's offense. I liked how they utilized Westbrook as a reciever and out of the backfield. Minnesota got behind early so they were unable to establish much of a running game.

New England over Indianapolis - There's a reason the Pats have only lost a few games over the last two years. After seeing the snow, I wished I knew of a good sportsbook where I could place an under bet on this game. There weren't going to be 50 points scored in these weather conditions. Manning didn't necessarily play a bad game, but he didn't do enough to put Indy in position to win.

My First Poker Triumph

Since I first took up poker a few months ago, I have been met with many disappointments. I’ve always managed to play pretty good poker and compete admirably. However, I always come up just short. After a while, it’s gotten me sort of irritated. I know I can play with the best intermediate level contestants.

Today I decided to test my luck with the big boys of poker. I did some searching online and found a place to play in Palm Beach County. My destination would be the Palm Beach Kennel Club, down off of Southern Boulevard in West Palm. My motivation was two-fold. Primarily, my bank account has been getting a little slim and I needed some money. Secondly, I did want to see what it’s like at a real poker room.

So I got up around 11:30 this morning and got a spot at one of thirty poker tables at the club. I was disappointed to find out that there were pot limits. I played a variation of Texas Hold ‘Em called straight/$2. In each round of betting, the first wager cannot exceed $2. After that, people can raise each round up to a maximum of $8. This type of betting is allowed before the flop, after the flop, after 4th street, and after the river. While there are limits, you can win a sizable pot. It also keeps one from losing all of their cash on one hand.

I sat down and was surrounded by nine other men. There were some younger people, but the crowd was mostly middle-aged. I surmised that a lot of them were regulars. Many of them knew one another and were friendly with the dealer.

Very early on in the game, I got a pair of poker jacks. Things were looking up for me. I ended up winning $25 in that pot, elevating my chip count to $45. I initially paid in $25 for chips. Well, that was pretty much all the luck I had. Two hours and many fruitless hands later, I had frittered away my sum of $80. Each time I went out of chips, I’d just pay the dealer $20 more. I figured my luck had to get better. Unfortunately, it never did. I left around 2:30 divorced from my $80. That was a low moment for me. As I drove home, I tried to figure out how to get some more money. Even if I get a part-time job, it might not be enough. Down to my last $200, I ate some of my leftover KFC chicken and thought about things.

Not wanting to go out like that, I went back to the bank and took out one last $40. I told myself that I’d try to go back to the poker room and win back $20 of my losses. I told myself I wouldn’t lose more than $20 of my $40. This time, I was seated at a different table with an entirely new group of people. It was an experience to be certain. This one guy starting yelling every time something would go wrong. He’d keep screaming, “Damn that two, damn that seven”. I couldn’t tell whether he was upset at the two in his hand or the #2 horse. See, at the Kennel Club people play poker while watching the horse races they’ve bet on. They can have multiple bets going on simultaneously. They must live their entire lives to gamble. They knew the exact point spread and over/under on all the NFL playoff games. Some of them casually talk about how they lost $3000 on a certain game.

My luck suddenly began to turn around. Sometime within my first hands, I flopped an Ace high flush. I knew there was nothing short of a full house that would beat me. I ended up winning a big pot off a guy who had the king high flush. At this point, I was starting to feel better. I had won back $20 and I almost was ready to call it quits. But in a foolish move, I kept on playing and playing and playing. At one point, I had $200 worth of chips. The play ebbed and flowed for quite some time. Around 5:00, I was crestfallen to discover I was down to under $70. For a second, I thought about calling it quits. But I told myself I’d try to hit $100 and then cash out. I did get the $100 and kept on falling slightly below or getting slightly above. Luckily, I got on a really big rush late in the game. By the time I cashed out, I had $200 worth of chips. I put $80 in earlier that day and $40 in the afternoon, so I had paid in $120. That left a net profit of nearly $80.

Finally, let me give some observations about playing cash games like these. First off, it takes an inhuman amount of patience. I’ve concluded that if you play for long enough, you’ll probably find a way to come out ahead. I screwed up earlier by wasting money on mediocre or poor hands. When the money is real, you have to be very careful how you wager. I decided to play only face cards or aces. Secondly, you have to understand the percentages. Don’t stay in after the flop unless there’s a very high probability that you have the best hand. Of course, each person will take different chances. I’m guilty of holding out for some gut straights from time to time.

Overall, it was a pretty good experience. I particularly liked this one old guy who had a dispute with the dealer. They had to call some tournament head over to take care of things. The dealers are incredible. They are so proficient in handling the cards. I liked this one dealer named Tomas. He was the one who dealt me the pocket jacks. Dealers rotate from table to table every 45 minutes.

I wonder whether I should go back there again. On one hand, I never found that I was having a fun time. In this setting, it really is all about the money. One problem is that in limit games, there’s not a great amount of skill involved. Basically, you play the cards and hope you get lucky once in a while. If I went back, I’d be much more cautious in paying money. I might start with $40 chips and commit to leaving with no less than $20. It takes discipline to quit when you are ahead. I’d consider it a success if I could leave each time $10 to $20 in the clear. Although I’ve learned that it can be hard to stop once you start winning (or losing).

Gambling at the track is definitely something you don’t want to do too much. I can see how it could get addicting quick. There were a number of times I should have stopped yet kept on playing. I came dangerously close to losing more money than I should have. I’ll be happy with this victory and consider the day a success, even though I could have made more. I’d hate to wind up like some of those guys who routinely lose hundreds of dollars daily. It’s no fun to lose a big hand and become desperate to win it back.

For now, I’m a happy camper. The $75 I won today will do loads of good for this semester. It’s a bit scary knowing that a card or two difference could have made me go nearly broke.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Chuck Suits: Moderate Republican?

Yesterday I briefly mentioned something about Chuck Suits, my Mass Communication Law & Regulation instructor. Technically, he's not even a professor. He's what they call an adjunct, which as Chuck Suits puts it, "places me one ring above pond scum on the academic totum pole".

I could tell from the outset that Chuck Suits was a Republican. First, he was wearing a shirt and tie. What's with Republicans always getting dressed up? Frankly, I prefer a teacher who's clean looking yet casual. When I read the syllabus, I learned he was a public information officer. That sounds very Republican to me.

My suspicions were confirmed when he told us that he had just started a job with County Commissioner Warren Newell. Palm Beach County residents know that Mr. Newell is a Republican who represents the 3rd Commission district. He narrowly won re-election by only a few hundred votes over Maine's Harriet Lerman. While I am not in the district, I would have probably voted for Lerman, the Democrat.

If that wasn't enough, he tells us that he used to work in the Pentagon. He worked under former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinbeger. He failed to mention that Weinberger resigned in disgrace and was run out of town as a result of the Iran-Contra scandal. I guess he didn't think we were smart enough to know that bit of history. After leaving the Pentagon, he went to work for good 'ole Ronnie Raygun as part of the W.H. Communications staff. Suits spoke with gusto and verve about the Cold War and how exciting it was back when the USSR was still in existence.

Also, Mr. Suits was a colonel in the military. He said we could call him Chuck, but he prefers to be called "Colonel". I could tell he was a military man even before he said anything. He makes constant references to military terms, noting the construction in West Palm Beach, "looks like the roads got carpetbombed by a B-52 bomber".

Somehow, the issue of gays came up. We were talking about the Constitution and he mentioned Bush's proposal to ban gay marriage. Surprisingly, Suits said that he was against amending the Constitution to prohibit gay marriage. His words were, "I don't care of a man wants to marry his parakeet, it's none of my business". Just as I was starting to think he was a decent guy, he expressed his contempt for gays in the military. "The homosexual lifestyle is not compatible with combat situations," Suits said.

Finally, he flat out admitted he was a registered Republican. Amazingly, after listening to all his positions, he called himself a moderate Republican. He said he's never voted a straight Republican ticket for President. He validated his moderate credentials by agreeing with President Clinton's assertion that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare". Suits also agreed with Colin Powell's idea that pro-lifers shouldn't bomb abortion clinics. Hooray for Suits. I've noticed that there are a significant number of Republicans, especially from the Northeast, who favor a woman's right to choose. In addition, Suits went on to say that the Bush Admin is clouding the line between separation of church and state.

He never came out and said whether or not he voted for Bush. He sounds like the type of libertarian Republican who has a hard time with Bush's conservative stance on social issues and reckless disregard for a balanced budget.

Mr. Suits is a rather boring man who leads a boring life. He told us that his only hobby in life, besides reading over college textbooks on media relations and mass communication law, is shooting targets with his M-16 gun. He got rather vociferous in chastising Clinton for signing the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, which forbade a number of weapons from being purchased by the public.

So, lets take a second to sum up Suits' stances and see whether he's a moderate or conservative. I'll add to this as more of his stances are revealed.

-Pro choice: liberal
-Gun rights: ultra conservative
-Gay rights: libertarian (his stance on gay marriage is to the left of Democrats like Dean and Kerry). However, his view on gays in the military is rather conservative.
-Seperation of Church and State: liberal. Not even sure if his stance is necessarily liberal. However, he's different than many of Bush's Southern evangelical Christian voters.

My sense is that Mr. Suits would be more of a Neal Boortz or John McCain type Republican. He's definitely not in tune with the Rick Santorums and Tom Delays of the right. On the other hand, he isn't exactly a liberal Republican like Lincoln Chafee and Susan Collins. I'd put him in the same category with Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, a moderate.

This guy has the chance to make for some funny moments, even if the joke might end up being on him.

Second Day of Classes

I'm still working on finalizing my schedule for the term. I went to two more classes today, Mass Communication Law and News Media Ethics. More than anything, I'm concerned about UCF next year. I want to be 100 % sure I'm taking the proper classes this term. I'm feeling a little stressed this week trying to figure out what to do. UCF is where I want to go, but I don't want to hurt or prolong my academic career. All I need to find out is whether the Communication major is similar to the one offered at FAU. I hope to have it all figured out by the weekend.

Onto the two classes.

-Subject matter is moderately interesting.
-I like the instructor.
-Major portion of grade is participation based.
-Final term paper is required.
-Part of aggrivating Wednesday class schedule.

-At least it fulfills a requirement.
-The professor, Chuck Suits. He deserves an entire post for himself.
-Dry material. I can't imagine anything more dreadfully boring than this.
-Cumulative final. CUM exams are always annoying. I rather the semesters be split up.

I'm not sure which class I plan to drop, if any. US Journalism, while dry, is a requirement and the instructor is decent. Same thing for News Media Ethics. I'd rather take it with a familiar professor than someone I'm not familiar with.

That leaves Mass Comm Law, Florida Politics, and Political Parties & Interest groups in the fianl three. I think the FL Politics could be interesting. I might be the only one who really wants to learn more about state politics. I'm pretty certain I should keep that, placing me at 9 credits.

I'm left to decide between Mass Comm Law and Political Parties. I've yet to go to my Political Parties course, which is Friday at 9:00. It really depends on the teacher and what I see on the syllabus. I'm tempted to keep Mass Comm Law just so I can mock the professor. A complete report is coming, but among his classic lines were "The homosexual lifestyle is not compatible with combat situations". Unless I see something special out of my Political Parties class, I'll probably drop it. I might even leave in the middle of class Friday if I've decided to drop.

Sorry if this was an overly dry post. I want to comment at least once on the prospects of Spring Semester. I doubt there will be much interesting to post about the rest of this semester. Frankly, this stuff is very boring. Maybe this Chuck Suits guy will be good for some much needed amusement.

NFL: Week 19 Picks (Divisional Round)

Games are listed in time order. Saturday's games are at 4:30 and 8:00. Sunday's games begin at 1:00 and 4:30.

Beware the pitfalls of picking too many upsets this week. Despite three of four underdogs winning last week, the divisional round is another story. The favorites are tougher and have had more time to prepare. I'm only selecting one upset this week, although there is a conceivable chance of an upset in all four contests.

New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers... Pittsburgh
If you’re looking for an upset, it’s unlikely to happen here. There are reasons to believe that the Jets can make the game competitive. They kept it close last time in Pittsburgh before getting fooled by a Jerome Bettis HB option pass. The Jets still have the NFL’s best rusher in Curtis Martin. If he has a 200-yard game, it would keep the game tight. I’m mildly concerned about Ben Roethlisberger in his first playoff game. That might just be me getting nervous for no reason. If any rookie QB is equipped to handle the pressure of a big game, it’s Big Ben. However, playoff games are much different than regular season ones. We won’t know for sure until the game on Saturday. The Jets will have to utilize their speed receivers and try to work the ball downfield. This means having Chad Pennington throw the deep ball and try to break a long TD reception. Expect backup RB LaMont Gordon to be utilized in a change of pace measure. I almost would have felt better had they not had the bye week. The Steelers had so much momentum going, especially after beating Buffalo in Week 17. On the plus side, Pittsburgh has had three weeks (they rested their starters in Week 17) to get Roethlisberger, Burress, and Staley healthy. I like Pittsburgh to win because of their ability to run the football. Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley combine to make up a premiere NFL rushing tandem. The Steelers will try to put Roethlisberger in as few “uncomfortable situations” as possible. If you look back to their Week 14 meeting, which Pittsburgh won 17-6, they ran Bettis and Staley 26 times for a combined 108 yards. Pittsburgh played much smarter in that encounter, committing only two penalties compared to 12 for the Jets. Overall, Pittsburgh has been very difficult to beat this season. I don’t see any glaring weaknesses that prevent them from beating the wild card Jets. The Steelers simply have a better defense, with which they can control the clock and maintain decent field position. Still, I expect a close game that will be enjoyable to watch.

St. Louis Rams at Atlanta Falcons... Atlanta
It’s hard to tell whether the Falcons are worthy of their number two NFC seed. Personally, I have a hard time picking any 8-8 regular season team to win a divisional round playoff game. Mike Vick has shown the ability to play well in playoff games. Back when the Packers were nearly invincible at Lambeau, a young Vick was able to go in and win a playoff game. Clearly, the Falcons are only good because Vick is on their team. When he got hurt last season, their team stunk. In late season games last year when he returned, Atlanta looked great. St. Louis has a few factors working in their advantage. The Rams like to play on the artificial turf in St. Louis. Fortunately, the Georgia Dome has artificial grass as well. Secondly, Marc Bulger has a QB rating of over 100 in his last three games. Even though Vick had a mediocre passing season, he was able to run for over 900 yards. He poses challenges to the Rams defense that weren’t presented by immobile quarterbacks like Matt Hasselbeck and Chad Pennington. The Falcons defense has the ability to make big plays. They recorded 48 regular season sacks and returned four interceptions for touchdowns. This game comes down to which Marc Bulger shows up. Despite his recent success, St. Louis is turnover prone. That plays right into the Falcons hands. On the other hand, Atlanta has been anything but spectacular this season. They’ve benefited from a number of close wins and a fairly easy NFC South schedule. In the end, I trust the coaching of the inexperienced Jim Mora, Jr. to out manage the unpredictable Mike Martz.

Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles... Philadelphia
I realize that a lot of experts will suddenly forget about the Vikings season of futility and jump on their bandwagon this week. These are the same people who thought Minnesota had zero shot to beat the Packers. Try and remember a few things. First, Green Bay’s home field hasn’t been great the last few years. Brett Favre has lost two home playoff games in the past three seasons. Favre, despite all his regular season successes, hasn’t played great in playoff games recently. I’m not trying to rehash last week’s game. However, it must be noted that the Vikings didn’t just beat the ’85 Bears. The Vikings are the type of team you never should get too confident in. When you think they’re world-beaters, they disappoint. Just when it looks like they’re dead, Minnesota will surprise you with a victory. For the Eagles, this game comes down to preparation and mental toughness. Even without Terrell Owens, this is a similar Eagles offense to the one who made last year’s NFC Championship Game. They have been able to get by without a game-breaking receiver in the past. The bigger question is whether Freddie Mitchell and Todd Pinkston can step up and replace Owens’ 77 catches. If I’m coach Andy Reid, I lean heavily on the playmaking abilities of Donovan McNabb. If the OL gives him enough time, McNabb can find holes in the Vikings secondary. Additionally, Brian Westbrook will be relied on to make the big offensive plays. Westbrook’s absence in last year’s playoff game versus Carolina is pointed to as a big reason why Philadelphia missed an opportunity at making the Super Bowl. In closing, Minnesota has their work cut out for them. I know that Daunte Culpepper could have another spectacular game and throw three touchdown passes to hobbled WR Randy Moss. The Vikings defense could conceivably play a second uncharacteristically good game and contain McNabb & Co. Unfortunately for Minnesota, the Eagles have a much more solid defense than the one they faced last week in Green Bay. McNabb by himself is probably capable of winning this game for Philadelphia. I’m not saying the Eagles are invincible, but I do think they have the playoff experience and resolve to defeat the mediocre Vikings.

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots... Indianapolis
The last game of this playoff weekend may very well turn out to be the best contest. It’s a tribute to Bill Belichick and the job he’s done that New England comes in a 2.5 point favorite. Many have criticized kicker Mike Vanderjagt for his ill-timed comments, but the Patriots are ripe for the picking. New England’s biggest hindrance is the loss of key secondary players. Both their starting cornerbacks, Ty Law and Tyrone Poole, are lost for the season. Their replacements, Asante Samuel, Eugene Wilson, and Randall Gay are banged up as well. New England was forced to sign free-agent CB Hank Poteet this week to fill in these vacancies. In addition to the losses in the secondary, pass-rushing DE Richard Seymour is questionable. I saw in the Miami/New England game in Week 15 where Troy Brown, the team’s star WR, was forced to play defense and got burned by Derrius Thompson in the last minutes of that game. New England may try to blitz Manning and force him into making mistakes, but that poses dangers as well. If Manning keeps his cool and avoids committing costly turnovers, he could throw long receptions to Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Brandon Stokely. For New England to win, they must keep the game close early and avoid getting down by ten points in the 1st Quarter. We’ll probably see Charlie Weis run Corey Dillon on first down. One of the Patriots strengths is their ability to get in 3rd and short opportunities. It’s much easier to manage 3rd and 5 than 3rd and 10. If Dillon is unable to have success controlling the clock and field position, I’d take Manning to beat Brady in a shootout. While Brady is certainly a premiere playoff QB, Manning may have developed enough over the past year to find a path to victory. The one intangible that favors New England is their ability to win close games. With the notable exception of the Miami game, New England almost always finds a way to win. That’s why they are 29-2 in their last 31 games. It’s incumbent that the Colts come in prepared to win in the 4th Quarter. This means that Mike Vanderjagt cannot miss a crucial FG and Peyton Manning must keep errors to a minimum. When it comes down to making the selection in this game, it’s hard to ignore the trends that New England has established over the past two seasons. On the other hand, trends aren’t always indicative and you have to see when those trends are likely to be reversed. The fact remains that Indianapolis is in a much better position than they were last season. In the AFC Championship game of 2004, the Colts lacked TE Dallas Clark. Now, they have three receivers with over 1000 yards and ten touchdowns, along with a 1500-yard running back and weapons at tight end. With the new strict NFL defensive rules, Patriots cornerbacks might get called for a lot of pass interference and holding calls trying to contain Indy’s playmakers. A few early penalty calls would be enough to spook those defensive backs and allow Manning to get the big pass completions needed for victory. I feel that Peyton Manning and the Colts are facing a must-win playoff game on Sunday afternoon. For his 49 regular touchdowns to mean anything, he has to validate it on Sunday and play big when it counts.

DNC Chairmanship

I've decided to end my self-imposed exile and talk a little about the upcoming DNC election. In February, the 400 + delegate committee will vote on who will be the party's chairman for the next four years.

Up until today, the race lacked notoriety. While a lot of the candidates were household names inside the Beltway, none had name recognition with the general public. With the formal declaration that former Gov. Howard Dean is officially seeking the slot, the race has taken shape and the field should begin to narrow little by little.

Obviously, the chairman will have a big role in the upcoming 2006 midterm elections and the 2008 Presidential. It's very important that the party starts preparing early for these elections. The next two cycles will be a crucial time for Democrats. We risk permanent minority status if we continue to lose Congressional seats. Whomever gets the chair must find a way to compete in as many of the 50 states as possible. It's unacceptable for the Democrats to work with an electoral map of 20 blue states.

The outcome of this February's election will forever alter the path of the party. If a Roemer were to become chair, we can expect the Democrats to significantly alter their positions on abortion and gun rights. I believe Roemer is the wrong choice to lead this party.

I think we have to go with someone who can work towards establishing a coherent Democratic message. I honestly believe that Dean is our best hope of winning back the hearts and minds of Americans. Dean has already proven that he can raise a ton of money in a short period of time. Fundraising won't be a problem. This party needs to once again stand for something firm and tangible that connects to the American public. We learned in 2004 that strong and wrong will beat weak and right every time. We need to convince people that we believe in our core values, and eventually the people will begin to follow.

Briefly, I'll discuss the seven announced candidates for the position (in alphabetical order)

Howard Dean (former governor of Vermont, '04 Presidential candidate): Of course, this race revolves around Dean. I don't think he would have announced his candidacy if he weren't certain of victory. Many within the party might like Dean to be DNC chairman because it precludes a run for the presidency in 2008. Hotline reported today that the Clintons called Wesley Clark and asked him to run for the DNC, but declined because he's running for president again. Provided the party doesn't unite against a Dean run, I consider him the odds on favorite to be the next DNC chairman.

Donnie Fowler (former Clark '04 campaign manager, Kerry/Edwards field director in Michigan): Fowler's the youngest of the declared candidates. He was an integral part of the Draft Clark movement of 2003. I think he's too green to get the position this time.

Martin Frost (former Texas congressman): Frost was defeated this year because of Tom DeLay's redistricting scheme. Frost's best shot is to emerge as the anti-Dean candidate. However, that role seems to be filled by Roemer.

Dennis Leland (former chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party): The question has to be asked - can a man with a lisp get elected chairman of the DNC? Seriously, Dennis "Turn OH Red" Leland doesn't have much of a chance.

Tim Roemer (former Indiana congressman): Roemer got traction at the beginning with the endorsements from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Roemer is under fire for his stance on abortion, which differs from the party's stated pro-choice platform. If members within the party decide that Dean cannot get the position, I expect Roemer or Rosenberg will have a good short.

Simon Rosenberg (New Democratic Network co-founder): Besides Dean, Rosenberg brings the most intrigue to the race. Despite his pro-war and centrist stance on many issues, Rosenberg was an early supporter of Dean's presidential campaign. Rosenberg, like Dean and Trippi, is a strong advocate of the type of Internet fundraising that helped catapult Dean to frontrunner status. Today, Rosenberg was endorsed by John Kerry's stepson Chris Heinz. Rosenberg may be an acceptable compromise candidate to those who hesitate to be associated with Dean but aren't comfortable with Roemer's pro-life stance. Watch out for this guy.

Wellington Webb (former mayor of Denver, CO): I doubt he has much of a shot. I'm sure some people inside the party would want a minority chairman, but it's unlikely Webb will get the job.

Sorry if this post ran a little bit long. It's the last I plan to post on this topic until the actual election. I figure this covers the basics of this interparty debate.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Nikko's Failing Health

Many of you have had the not so pleasant experience of meeting my dog Nikko. As my friends and family are well aware, she was not always the nicest dog and took every available opportunity to try and bite.

Unfortunately, her health has taken a turn for the worse in the last few days. It started on New Year's when we fed her some table scraps. For the next couple of days, she kept throwing up. I thought she was getting better. But on Saturday, she laid down in the kitchen. Since that day, she has not been able to move. Despite her best efforts, Nikko can't summon the ability to leave that spot.

My Mom tried to move her yesterday, which yielded catastrophic results. Nikko was in tremendous pain, and in the midst of her agony, violently bit my Mom. It's not the type of bite that she so often perpetrated on my friends. This was a bite with bad intentions. My Mom's hand got infected and she had to go to the emergency room. It wasn't malicious. The severity of the bite came out of the intense pain that Nikko must have felt.

So tomorrow might be the end of the line for Nikko. She has a vet's appointment at 9:30. If the veternarian can't give us hope for her future, she may be put to sleep.

Tonight was a sad night at our house. Gary, Tim, and Loren came over to say what might be a final goodbye. We gave Nikko her favorite food, sherbert, as a last meal of sorts. The sight tonight was not one that I will soon forget. It was emotional watching Gary lie down next to Nikko on the kitchen floor and play with her one last time. My Mom pulled the couch over tonight and is sleeping next to her. She wants Nikko's last night to be spent with the person she loved the most. I'll go out there before I go to bed tonight and spend one last moment with her. While she and I were never that tight, I feel a sense of impending loss. That's only natural when anybody has been a part of the family as long as she has been.

I hope that the vet has some news that might prolong her life a little while longer, but I realize that is a slim possibility. Everyone in our family has prepared ourselves for what might be a day of saddening loss tomorrow.


First Day of Class

Today marked the first day of my Spring semester at FAU. Not that anybody really cares, but here are my initial observations.

-No final term paper
-Four essays are worth 40 % of final grade. From my experience, the professor is pretty easy grading papers.
-Class participation is 20 %. Since I rarely miss class, this works to my advange.
-Only two exams. From last semester, the professor wrote exams that weren't too difficult.
-Subject matter is rather dry. The history of U.S. Journalism isn't all that intriguing to me. However, I've always wanted to learn more about Woodward & Bernstein (Watergate).

-I have an advantage having worked in Florida politics.
-No final term paper
-No presentations like the one I had to do in "Issues in American Politics".
-Even though I like politics, learning about the structure of government isn't the most exciting thing.
-3 tests, constituting majority of grade. I suspect this teacher may give tougher exams than most.
-I think the professor may be a Republican. I can't verify it 100 %, though.
-3 hour class from 7:00-10:00 pm.

I'm trying to place this in the larger scheme of my final semester schedule. I'm 100 % certain I'll keep U.S. Journalism. While it might be boring, it'll be a pretty easy A or B. I'm considering keeping FL Politics and Government. Oral presentations was my biggest worry here.

All of this is dependent on my transfer status for next term. I'm thinking of making the trip to UCF this Friday to talk to an advisor. I'll call there tomorrow to make sure I can actually meet someone in person and not waste a drive for nothing. I want to make sure all these courses are approved for transfer. Basically, I don't want to waste time and money on courses that aren't compulsory.

I'll report back tomorrow with similar reports on News Media Ethics and Mass Communication Law. Hopefully the choice of which class to drop will be easy. However, I'm open to the idea of taking 15 credits. I'm thinking I might want to take a heavy load this term and devote summer to earning money for the fall term. The more likely scenario is me dropping either News Media Ethics or Political Parties.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

UCF Plans

For a couple of years, I have flirted with the idea of transferring to the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Various reasons have led me to stay at FAU and continue living at home. I seriously began contemplating a transfer last term, but figured admission for 2005-spring term would be unfeasible. So I set my target for the fall of 2005.

I’ve taken time to weight the pros and cons of continuing my education at FAU, or deciding to transfer to UCF or another state university. The pros of FAU were that it was relatively cheap, I could save money by staying at home, and have the security of familiarity. I won’t denigrate the education I receive at FAU. Overall, it is a respectable institution on par with a UCF or USF. However, FAU lacks the true college environment of a FSU, UCF, UF, etc. This is partly due to the fact that FAU is often times referred to as “Transfer U”, because of the number of transfers from local community colleges.

I’ve genuinely begun to feel that transferring to UCF is in my best interest. I want to have one more year of fun before starting graduate school or entering the workforce. I’ve enjoyed my visits to UCF over the past few months and could get used to living there. I also turn 21 in June. It’s probably long past overdue that I move out of my parents’ residence and try to make it somewhat on my own. I say somewhat because I’ll still be getting financial assistance from my Mom. Still, it constitutes a big step to finally move out of the folks’ house.

I have my hesitations about making this decision. I’ve never been one that adapts particularly well to change. I’m very comfortable in my room and my surroundings in Jupiter. Things have been the same way for years and change comes harder for some people than it does for others. However, I’m confident that I’ll eventually get over any initial homesickness and make a home for myself in Tivoli.

I’m in the final stages of coming to a definitive conclusion on my status for next year. Short of receiving official admission from the board, I’m ready to make the decision to transfer. In the next few weeks, I’m going to travel to the campus and begin making plans. I want to get specifics about my major and see how the university will recognize my existing credits. I don’t foresee many significant problems in this regard. A Communication degree is pretty standard anywhere you go.

Of course, the issue of housing needs to be addressed. Fortunately, I have an early opportunity to finalize this aspect of my transfer. I’m seriously considering rooming at the Tivoli apartment complex, which I believe is on University Drive. I’m told it costs only $425 a month, but comes without furnishing. I’ve also thought about the Riverwind Complex, a slightly better facility nearby. I’m expecting Tivoli will be my eventual destination, but I want to explore all the options before making a final commitment.

If all goes according to plan, life in Orlando could be significantly more enjoyable than my life in Palm Beach County. I’m not saying that I’m unhappy where I currently reside, but I see numerous opportunities awaiting me at UCF. Moving out on my own is a step that I have to take, whether it is somewhere in Palm Beach County or in Orlando. I certainly would have a better time in a college town rather than a retirement town.

I’m happy with the self-improvements I’ve made over the last year or so and feel that I will grow even more as I take this next step. I’ll conclude with a poker analogy. It’s possible to stay alive in a game for hours if your only goal is to survive and place 2nd or 3rd. But sometimes you have to put all your chips in the pot early on and hope for the best. I’m tired of playing it safe. I feel like putting on my Fossilman glasses and going “all-in”.


Annie & Bub

As I was flipping through television stations last night, I was pleasantly suprised to see the 2004 Poker Tournament of Champions was being replayed on ESPN2. Back in September, the ten best poker players in the world assembled to compete for a top prize of $2 million. All the household names were there - Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, T.J. Cloutier, Greg Raymer, Phil Ivey.

It took an hour and half, but they finally got down to the final three. Phil Helmuth, who incidentally comes off as an asshole, made it down to the last three. The other two left were Howard and his sister Annie Duke. I've always been intrigued by the story of "Bub", as Howard is nicknamed, taught Annie how to play at a young age. They used to call him Bubba because years ago he weighed over 400 points. Since his weight loss, they've shortened it to simply Bub. Howard and Annie would spend countless hours playing poker at their parents' house in Connecticut. At first, Howard would always beat Annie. But as time went by, Annie improved and catapulted herself to the top of the poker world. Last year, she became famous by training actor Ben Affleck to compete in a high stakes poker tournament.

Back to the game last night. As time went by, Howard was losing his chips little by little. He'd keep on having to make big bets in order to stay alive. A couple of times he'd initially make a large raise, only to succumb to Annie's re-raise. You could tell Annie was hurt by having to pilfer her brother's dwindling chip stack. Finally, Howard got a hand that he could go all-in on. He had pocket 7's. With her own pocket 6's, Annie had to call the raise. When the flop was revealed, devastation was painted on both of their faces. The flop was a QQ6. That gave Annie, the underdog before the flop, a full house. The next two cards provided no help for Howard. With tears in her eyes, Annie got up and hugged her older brother. The scene was more touching than anything I've seen in my years of poker. She was heartbroken to have taken her "Bub" out in such fashion. But that's how poker goes.

Howard was gracious as usual. That's what I love about the man. Unlike many poker players who are obnoxious and insult other players, Howard takes his losses like a man. I can tell that he's a true gentleman. He's certainly among the very best players in the world today. Unfortunately, he has a way of getting unlucky at the worst times. Howard knows that he cannot win every hand. Still, it's tough to lose the way he did last night. His intelligent style will eventually help him reach the pinnacle of the poker world.

The last two standing were Helmuth and Annie Duke. Duke, a psychology major, got under Helmuth's skin. On one occasion, she raised big with two pair, Kings and Nines. Helmuth had the over pair as well (the Cowboys), but lacked the two pair. Helmuth eventually folded. Duke revealed only one of her cards, the nine. Phil was incredulous that he folded to the middle pair. Little did he know that the card Annie mucked was the king, which trumped Phil's one pair. When Phil finally lost the game, he left the table cursing and second guessing.

The scene was contrasted by the heartwarming site of Annie calling her Bub to inform him of her victory. The pride Howard feels for his younger sis resonates through the television set. Annie won a prize that Howard could only dream of winning. Still, Howard was gracious and lives to play another day and make more intermediate level poker tutorials.

Congrats to Annie and Bub, a true poker tandem to be admired.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Spring 2005 Semester

Tomorrow officially marks the beginning of my Spring 2005 semester at FAU. The term lasts from today, January 10 through May 5, 2005.

Here is my tentative schedule:

No classes scheduled

U.S. Journalism (11:00-12:20)
Florida Politics & Government (7:10-10:00)

News Media Ethics (1:00-3:50)
Mass Communication Law (7:10-10:00)

U.S. Journalism (11:00-12:20)

Political Parties & Interest Groups (9:00-11:50)

I call this my tentative schedule, since it's all subject to change on a whim. I've signed up for 15 credit hours. Between now and tomorrow, I may even sign up for an 18th.

I'm pretty firm in sticking with U.S. Journalism and News Media Ethics. I like the professor very much and feel its in my best interest to keep these two courses. Additionally, they are required courses for my major. Then comes the Mass Communication Law course. The professor is a guy I've never heard of, named Chuck Suits. I love Susan Willey who teaches my other Comm courses. I'm not so sure about Mr. Suits. Even though it's part of my required courses, I'd drop it if it seemed like the teacher wasn't good.

I'm left with the two political science courses. I'm taking two courses with the intention of probably dropping one of them. Both of the subject matters seem interesting. I've always wanted to learn more about Florida politics. Political parties and interest groups are fascinating as well. The determining factor will be the projected difficulty of each course. If it looks like both are decent, I could conceivably take 15 credits. But I doubt it will come to that. I'll end up dropping one of the political science classes or Mass Comm Law.

From the looks of things, Wednesday could be a rough day. Two classes for 3 hours apiece. That totals six hours in class on Wednesdays. Fortunately, I have Monday off and maybe Friday (if I drop the political parties course). Once a week courses tend to overload you big time some days but provide for a day or two of relative freedom.

I have to make a late call to make on a course titled "Coverage of Public Affairs". I wouldn't have a hard time getting in, seeing that 18 of 24 spots are currently open. The idea of having to do two big research projects probably scared prospective students away. However, I like the teacher and would probably be guaranteed at least a B. I might add that for a total of 18 credits and drop one or two by the weekend.

I have high hopes for what likely will be my last semester at Florida Atlantic University. I'll elaborate more on my future plans as they develop. I should have a pretty firm grasp of that in a few days or weeks.


Sunday, January 09, 2005

Week 18: Picks Summary

Regular Season record:
Week 1: N/A
Week 2: 9-7
Week 3: 7-7
Week 4: 6-8
Week 5: 8-6
Week 6: 9-5
Week 7: 7-7
Week 8: 8-6
Week 9: 7-7
Week 10: 8-6
Week 11: 13-3
Week 12: 12-4
Week 13: 10-6
Week 14: 14-2
Week 15: 11-5
Week 16: 12-4
Week 17: 7-9

Total: 148 W, 92 L, 62 %

Playoff record:
Week 18 (Wild Card Round): 1-3

St. Louis 27, Seattle 20 L
New York Jets 20, San Diego 17 (OT) L
Indianapolis 49, Denver 24 W
Minnesota 31, Green Bay 17 L

Since it's the postseason, I'll offer up some brief comments on each game.

St. Louis over Seattle - If there was going to be an upset, I figured this would be the game. However, I didn't think the Rams could go on the road and play that well. St. Louis was aided by many dropped passes by Seattle receivers. Shaun Alexander, with a hurt wrist, wasn't himself. Much credit must be given to Marc Bulger. He found a way to exploit a young Seattle secondary. Seattle will certainly get better in the years to come, but it's questionable as to whether Coach Mike Holmgren will be around to see it.

New York Jets over San Diego - Fun game to watch, but I don't think either team deserved to win. Lets first look at the Chargers. In the first half, Marty Schottenheimer gets called for a 15 yard personal foul penalty. Then, San Diego gets called for a costly penalty for too many men on the field. This came after San Diego's defense had forced the Jets into a punt. Fortunately for the Chargers, they overcame this miscue and forced OT. In OT, San Diego's moving the ball and settles for a 40-yard FG. In two meaningless plays, Schottenheimer couldn't find a way to get the ball to the center. That way, Kaeding wouldn't have missed wide right on the FG attempt. Don't think I forgot about the Jets. Never in my years of watching football have I seen two coaches (Herm Edwards and the Jets offensive coordinator) get into a physical altercation on the sidelines. Were it not for a Jets player restraining Edwards, we might have seen a fight. The most laughable moment of the game came in the 4th Quarter when, for two consecutive plays, New York played with only ten defenders. San Diego, inept as they are, weren't able to take advantage. Finally, it looks like the Jets have the game won. Drew Brees has two defenders on him twenty yards from the goal line, no time left on the clock. For some reason, Jets LB Eric Barton feels the need to throw a left cross in the face of Brees. The personal foul extended the game, allowing Brees to throw a last-second TD pass to Antonio Gates. Whew! (Did I say that my comments would be brief? Sorry, this game has me perturbed). Now I know why I've been saying for months that Marty Schottenheimer is a terrible coach. Herm Edwards isn't much better. Thank God that the Pats or Steelers will crush the Jets next weekend.

Indianapolis over Denver - This was the game I came into the week most confident about. Denver never stood a chance to stop Indianapolis pass attack on the artificial turf in Indy. Following the disastrous playoff game last season, Shanahan and the Broncos tried to upgrade their defense to prevent another game like this. Unfortunately, the acquisition of Champ Bailey wasn't enough to slow down Manning, Wayne, Harrison, and Co. The Colts have to feel confident about going into Foxboro next week without having to face Pats CB Ty Law.

Minnesota over Green Bay - I figured this would be an easy GB win. All the signs pointed to another Packers triumph. However, Minnesota played a tremendous football game. Their defense played better than it had at any point this season. Brett Favre had a horrible game, throwing 4 INT's. He wasn't helped by the absence of Robert Ferguson and the early game injury to Javon Walker. One thing is for certain. The home field advantage at Lambeau isn't worth what it once was to the Pack.

Desperate Housewives (1/9/05)

For the first time, I took an hour out of my week and decided to watch the ABC hit series “Desperate Housewives”. I’ve heard good things about this show, and much of the press has been fairly positive. It seems as if ABC is getting its act together. Housewives is the cream of what had been a very mediocre ABC primetime lineup.

Without having done much prior research, some of my comments may be ignorant. Hopefully I’ll learn more about the character dynamics after viewing subsequent episodes. So, without further adieu, my comments on the episode titled “Move On”.

Mrs. Martha Huber, a neighbor on Wisteria Lane, went missing. The strong implication was that most of the block hated her besides Edie. Even her own sister didn’t like her and thought the world was a better place with her gone. Huber seemed like a bitch and had harsh words for even her closest female friend, Edie. I imagine her as a more malevolent version of Marie Barone. I didn’t catch the whole drift, but it looks like Mike is being framed for Huber’s murder. The episode ended with a man and his dog finding human remains, most likely belonging to Huber.

Then we have the character of Gabrielle. I don’t know, but she came off as a real bitch. Apparently her husband was involved in some sort of fraud that led to his incarceration. Gabrielle’s love of money ended up trumping her desire to punish her criminal husband. Funny scenes ensued as Gabrielle, hard up for money, had to model for a car company at the local mall. She was ashamed to be seen by her neighbors doing such menial work. It was referenced that Gabrielle was used to doing red carpet modeling, not shilling for some second rate agency. Maybe there’s some more depth to this character, but in this episode she came off as conceited.

I had to like Tom, the husband of Lynette. His wife hassled him to go down and make some coffee downstairs. When he arrived in the kitchen, he had the fortune (or misfortune, as it might be) of seeing his attractive, young nanny in the nude. Apparently aroused by the pleasant scene he walked in on, he went upstairs and vigorously made love to his wife. Eventually, the wife found out and asked some tough questions. Even after the one embarrassing incident, Lynette caught Tom staring at her bosom in her presence. That led to the couple deciding to seek a new nanny, preferably unattractive (as Lynette put it). I recognized the actress who plays Lynette, Felicity Huffman, for her guest appearances on “Frasier”.

Then there is the situation between Bree and Rex. Recently hospitalized for a heart attack, Bree is upset at Rex for having an extramarital affair. In an effort to appease her distraught children, she decides to take Rex home and nurse him back to health. Trying to make Rex jealous, Bree asks out the local pharmacist on a date. Rex immediately realizes that Bree wants to cause him as much agony as possible. Andrew, the son, walks in and witnesses Bree and the pharmacist as they are prepared to kiss. Andrew is angry and, in a moment of spontaneity, Bree blurts out that his father had cheated on her. Initially, Andrew disbelieved that his father was an adulterer. But Andrew goes to his son and has the awful news confirmed. When Andrew comes to his mother and expresses contempt for his father, she tells him to respect his father for the 18 years of marriage that they had. Rex overhears Bree talking about him in a rather kind manner. Will the two still get divorced? Will Bree hook up with the pharmacist? From the information provided in this episode, it’s hard to tell. I think that Bree has more feelings left for Rex than she lets on.

Finally, we have the character of Susan. Her marriage of 13 years recently collapsed because of Karl’s cheating ways. Karl comes back and is upset over the dissolution of his most recent romantic relationship. He came off as very pathetic, causing Susan to invite him to a forthcoming party. Susan is now with her new boyfriend, a plumber named Mike. The contrasts between the two men are evident. Mike is more of a safe choice, with life with Karl was a thrill a minute. Sometimes those thrills, such as his affair(s), were anything but pleasant. When Mike professes his love for Susan in a moment of passion, Susan doesn’t know how to respond. At the party, Susan is enraged by news that Karl had groped Edie at a New Year’s Eve party many years ago. In the middle of her singing “New York, New York”, she angrily yells at Karl and demands answers. Back at the house a few days later, Karl wishes for things to go back to the way they were. When Susan feels nothing by his proposition, she is enthused and runs to her current boyfriend, realizing that she loves him.

That’s it for Installment I of my Desperate Housewives commentary. I found the show to be quality and worthy of continued viewing. Fortunately, tonight’s Sunday episode was a one-time installment, leaving Desperate Housewives supreme in the Sunday 9:00 time slot.

RIP Khephra

As some of you know, I used to moderate a political discussion board called Democratic Underground. Of the 60,000 + members, one of the most popular and beloved was Khephra.

We learned today that khephra's real name was Scott. He died at his home in Indiana at the age of 37.

I didn't know the man. Many on DU did know him personally and spent time together outside of the bulletin board venue. Never did I hear a bad word uttered about Khephra. Even the most ardent Kerry/Clark/DLC supporters had nothing but respect for Scott, who was a Dean supporter.

I can't say this comes as a shock, but it's saddening nevertheless. Looking at pictures of khephra, he was clearly overweight. Posting over 50,000 times on a message board cannot be conducive to physical activity. Still, Khephra was a man with tremendous talent when it came to words. He befriended noted DU'er William Pitt and was hired to work for the progressive website It was heartening to see these two remain friends during a time of unparalled contempt between Kerry and Dean supporters. For them, friendship transcended party politics.

Farewell, Khephra. I will always remember you as the kind and gentle man that you were. May you discover what you already knew to be true: God is not actually conservative (bitches!).


NFL: Week 18 Picks (Wild Card Round)

Note: I wasn't able to complete my extended matchup breakdowns for the St. Louis/Seattle and Minnesota/Green Bay games. Frankly, I can't see extending the effort for such mediocre teams. With the exception of GB, I can't envision any of these teams doing damage next week. I may bring back my extended previews next week.

St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks... Seattle
St. Louis has beaten Seattle twice this season. However, I don't see Seattle losing for a third time. For one thing, it's very hard to beat a team three times in a season. St. Louis hasn't impressed me in the last two weeks. In a must-win game against the Jets, they struggled their way to an OT victory. The Rams have played very poorly on the road this season. They face a cross-country trip to the Pacific Northwest on short rest. If St. Louis is to win this game, they will have to utilize their deep threats. Marc Bulger can still throw the long pass as well as anyone in the league. The problem is that the Rams have allowed 41 sacks this season. There's not much else to say, except that neither of these teams has a chance in hell of defeating Philly or Atlanta next week. Seattle 27-24.

New York Jets at San Diego Chargers... San Diego
The Jets team that comes into Qualcomm on Saturday night hardly resembles the squad that started 2004 at 6-1. In a game that had playoff implications, the Jets were unable to put away a wholly mediocre St. Louis Rams football team. It's to New York's detriment that they have a short week to prepare for a game over 2000 miles from home. Both teams will look to establish their running games early on. It shouldn't be easy for either team to deal with the other's rush defense. San Diego will continue to utilize Brees, Tomlinson, and Gates as their offensive firepower. On the other hand, New York will look to ride Curtis Martin all the way to victory. I'm not convinced that Chad Pennington's shoulder is 100 percent. A lot of his passes versus the Rams were wobbly and fell short of their intended target. On paper, this looks like a fairly even matchup. When I compare them position by position, it breaks down like a pick 'em game. However, I like the intangibles that the Chargers have going for them. Playing a home playoff game for the first time in many years will be a big motivation for the Chargers. In addition, they come in as a confident team, having defeated Kansas City in Week 17. I'm selecting the Chargers to win by a final score of 27-14.

Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts... Indianapolis
Don't read too much into Denver's 33-14 victory over Indianapolis in Week 17. If anything, Denver was forced to show more than they may have wanted to, since they were fighting for a playoff spot. Surely, Indianapolis used that game to prepare for the matchup that they knew would ensue. I'm not sure why this game will be any different than last year's Wild Card round when Peyton Manning threw for 5 TD's. It's hard to see the Broncos being able to contain Indianapolis's three WR tandem. Despite the relative closeness on paper, this may be the most lobsided postseason matchup. Despite finishing strong, Denver has been inconsistent for much of the season. I'll select Indianapolis to win by a final score of 38-17.

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers... Green Bay
These two teams are very familiar with one another. They have played twice in 2004. Both encounters were won by Green Bay by a score of 34-31. This tells me that we'll see another tight game. However, Minnesota is 2-21 in their last 23 games played outside. If Minnesota is to win this football game, they must exploit a very weak Packers secondary. CB Al Harris has been getting beat recently and could get destroyed by Moss. Brett Favre has recently been known to make mistakes in big playoff games. In the end, I expect Green Bay to use a lot of Ahman Green to control the clock. Bretty Favre will manage to make the big play or two he needs down the stretch to give Green Bay the victory. Final score will be Green Bay 28-24.

Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts

Sunday, January 9, 2004

Television: CBS, 1:00 ET / Commentators: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, and Bonnie Bernstein

Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts... IndianapolisDon't read too much into Denver's 33-14 victory over Indianapolis in Week 17. If anything, Denver was forced to show more than they may have wanted to, since they were fighting for a playoff spot. Surely, Indianapolis used that game to prepare for the matchup that they knew would ensue. I'm not sure why this game will be any different than last year's Wild Card round when Peyton Manning threw for 5 TD's. It's hard to see the Broncos being able to contain Indianapolis's three WR tandem. Despite the relative closeness on paper, this may be the most lobsided postseason matchup. Despite finishing strong, Denver has been inconsistent for much of the season. I'll select Indianapolis to win by a final score of 38-17.

QB: Jake Plummer (Denver Broncos) vs. Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts)
Edge: Manning. No doubt about this one. Despite his relative lack of success in big playoff games, Manning is the superior QB. Plummer isn’t known for his playoff performances either. Plummer has been a liability, throwing 20 interceptions compared to 25 touchdowns. Manning has been incredibly efficient this year, amassing a QB rating of 121. Lets hope that we don’t see a repeat of Manning’s performance in the 2004 AFC title game, where he threw for 4 interceptions against New England.

RB: Reuben Droughns vs. Edgerrin James
Edge: Even. Droughns has stepped up in the absence of injured TB Quentin Griffin. His season numbers are very similar to those of James. Droughns could have a very good day against an Indianapolis team that has shown an inability to tackle at times this season.

FB: Kyle Johnson vs. James Mungro
Edge: Even. Without having looked at tape, it’s hard to differentiate between these two blocking fullbacks. Neither one has touched the ball more than a dozen times this season. Both teams utilize a lot of three WR sets and take the FB out of the mix.

WR: Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie vs. Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne
Edge: Harrison & Wayne. The Colts WR corps is amazing. Including 3rd WR Brandon Stokely, each receiver caught for over 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns. However, Denver is competent at the position and has the Super Bowl experience of Rod Smith. That being said, there’s no comparison at this position. Indianapolis employs three receivers that would be #1 options on many NFL teams.

TE: Dwayne Carswell vs. Marcus Pollard
Edge: Pollard. Factoring in backup Dallas Clark, Indianapolis tight ends have caught more than 50 passes in 2004. Pollard and Clark are factors offensively, while Carswell is mainly relegated to blocking.

Edge: Even. Both teams have experienced offensive lines that give their quarterbacks plenty of time to throw the ball. Neither QB was sacked more than an average of once per game.

DL: Marco Coleman, Mario Fatafehi, Monsanto Pope, and Reggie Hayward vs. Raheem Brock, Montae Reagor, Josh Williams, and Dwight Freeney.
Edge: Indianapolis. Denver’s been better this season at stopping the run, allowing opponents fewer than 100 yards of rushing per game. However, Dwight Freeney and his 16 sacks is the biggest threat to Denver’s success. Raheem Brock chimed in with an additional 5.5 sacks as well. Denver gets the majority of its sacks from Reggie Hayward, the team’s Right End. Indianapolis’ front four will have to come up big and not allow Droughns to establish confidence on the ground.

LB: D.J. Williams, Al Wilson, and Donnie Spragan vs. David Thornton, Rob Morris, and Cato June
Edge: Denver. Williams, the rookie out of UM, led Denver this season with 114 tackles. Wilson and Spragan have acquitted themselves as solid NFL linebackers. I’m concern whether or not Indianapolis’s linebackers are physical enough to slow down Reuben Droughns.

Secondary: Champ Bailey, Kelly Herndon, Kennoy Kennedy, and John Lynch vs. Nick Harper, Jason David, Mike Doss, and Idrees Bashir
Edge: Denver. On paper, Denver would seem to have the better pass defense. They’ve allowed only 184 yards per game in the air, compared to 243 for the Colts. Last year’s 41 point disaster against Indianapolis in the playoffs was the impetus for bringing in big names like Lynch and Bailey. There are no big playmakers on either side’s secondary. Even though Denver has a slight edge, it’s hard to envision a scenario where they can contain Wayne, Harrison, and Stokely.

Special Teams
Edge: Indianapolis. Both kickers, Mike Vanderjagt and Jason Elam have been exquisite as usual. Hunter Smith has another great punting season for the Colts. Dominick Rhodes had a wonderful year returning kicks, averaging nearly 25 yards per return.

Coaching: Mike Shanahan vs. Tony Dungy
Edge: Dungy. It might be hard to imagine picking against a coach who won two Super Bowls. However, Shanahan road largely on the coattails of John Elway and a prime Terrell Davis. Without the help of these two playmakers, Shanahan has not won a playoff game in five years. Dungy has consistently had his Tampa Bay and Indianapolis teams at the premiere stage of NFL competition. I have no doubt that Dungy is capable of winning a Super Bowl, even if it may not come this season.

Friday, January 07, 2005

USC Wins the National Championship

Tuesday night, I went over to Eric's house anticipating a historic football game between two top ranked NCAA football teams. The result turned out to be a 55-19 demolition. The game was pretty much over midway through the 2nd Quarter.

It looked for a while like Oklahoma would make it a close game. They scored the game's first points on a five-yard Jason White TD pass to Travis Wilson. However, the game turned on a Mark Bradley fumble on a punt return deep in Oklahoma territory. LenDale White ran for a USC touchdown and gave USC the 14-7 lead. The rest of the game can be summed up in a couple of stats. USC QB Matt Leinart set an Orange Bowl record with 5 TD passes. Leinart did not throw an INT in the game. The offensive tandem of White, Reggie Bush, and Steve Smith took over the game. By halftime, the score was 38-10. Had USC tried, they may have been able to score 70 points. I stopped watching during the 3rd Quarter, but I assume USC took it easy on the beaten Sooners.

I was very impressed with what I saw from the Trojans. I had not seen any of their football games this season. Pete Carroll has done an amazing job over the last two seasons, splitting the title last year and winning it outright this year. In his four years at the school, he's only lost 9 games. I see no reason why USC won't be the #1 team coming into next season, especially if Leinart returns for his senior season. On the other hand, Oklahoma was a big disappointment. For being a Heisman trophy winner, Oklahoma QB Jason White has failed miserably in big games. He struggled in last year's Sugar Bowl vs. LSU and made some inexplicable misques against USC. I think Auburn may have played slightly better defense than Oklahoma, but I doubt any university could have beaten USC on Tuesday night. In fact, I'd wager to bet that many weaker NFL teams would have lost to USC. No wonder the 49ers made an effort to get Carroll to coach their franchise.

The night was made a success by the presence of many forms of alcoholic beverages. The night prior, we made arrangements to purchase Jim Beam Bourbon and Johnnie Walker Scotch. In addition, we had the regular Jack Daniel's. I also tasted some Maker's Mark Bourbon, Booker's Bourbon, Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey, a gin whose name I cannot remember, and some rum. The Jim Beam gives JD a run for his money. For the price (a 1.75 L goes for as cheap as $20), Jim will be a sure addition to our reportoire of drinks. Johnnie Walker scotch was good as well, but not worth the price. It cost $24 for a .75 L bottle. If I had to choose the premiere bourbon/whiskey, I'd go with Maker's Mark or Booker's. Maker's Mark is moderately affordable, while Booker's should be reserved for only the most special of moments. I'd like to try a few other products, most notably George Dickel, Old Grandad, and Tom Sims.

Overall, Tuesday was a fairly enjoyable evening. I plan to retire my collection of Jim Beam, Jack Daniel's, and Johnnie Walker for a couple of weeks. Maybe they're will be a poker night when I can unveil them for additional consumption.

Congratulations to the USC Trojans for proving themselves to be the premire team in college football this season.

New York Jets at San Diego Chargers

Saturday, January 8, 2004.

Television: ABC, 8:00 ET / Commentators: Al Michaels, John Madden, and Michelle Tafoya

New York Jets at San Diego Chargers... San Diego
The Jets team that comes into Qualcomm on Saturday night hardly resembles the squad that started 2004 at 6-1. In a game that had playoff implications, the Jets were unable to put away a wholly mediocre St. Louis Rams football team. It's to New York's detriment that they have a short week to prepare for a game over 2000 miles from home. Both teams will look to establish their running games early on. It shouldn't be easy for either team to deal with the other's rush defense. San Diego will continue to utilize Brees, Tomlinson, and Gates as their offensive firepower. On the other hand, New York will look to ride Curtis Martin all the way to victory. I'm not convinced that Chad Pennington's shoulder is 100 percent. A lot of his passes versus the Rams were wobbly and fell short of their intended target. On paper, this looks like a fairly even matchup. When I compare them position by position, it breaks down like a pick 'em game. However, I like the intangibles that the Chargers have going for them. Playing a home playoff game for the first time in many years will be a big motivation for the Chargers. In addition, they come in as a confident team, having defeated Kansas City in Week 17. I'm selecting the Chargers to win by a final score of 24-14.

QB: Chad Pennington (New York Jets) vs. Drew Brees (San Diego Chargers)
Edge: Brees. Neither QB has much postseason experience. Pennington has won only a single playoff game, while Brees has never quarterbacked in the postseason. Both of these men have similar numbers when it comes to pass completion and yards per attempt. The deciding factor is Brees’ ability to avoid the big turnover. Brees has 27 TD passes compared to 7 interceptions. On the other hand, Pennington has a mediocre TD/INT radio of 15/9. In this battle of young quarterbacks, I’d give a slight advantage to Brees.

RB: Curtis Martin vs. LaDanian Tomlinson
Edge: Martin. If you asked me which RB I would like for the next ten years, I’d go with Tomlinson. However, Curtis Martin had a splendid 2004 regular season and won the league rushing title. While Tomlinson certainly is a top five running back in the NFL, Martin ran for over 1500 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. On the other hand, Tomlinson is the more explosive player and can break a big play at any time. Martin is more of the durable, grinding type of player. In addition, the Jets have better depth at this position with LaMont Jordan. Since both of these guys are on the 2005 Pro Bowl roster, it’s hard to go wrong with either.

FB: Jerald Sowell vs. Lorenzo Neal
Edge: Sowell. Neither of these guys will run the ball much in this game. Neal has never rushed the ball more than 20 times in a season, and Sowell ran only twice in 2004. I’d give Sowell the edge based on his greater versatility, evidenced by 43 receptions out of the backfield. Neal is more the prototypical blocking FB.

WR: Santana Moss and Justin McCareins vs. Keenan McCardell and Eric Parker
Edge: Moss and McCareins. As a unit, I like the Jets wide receivers. Moss is perhaps the most explosive playmaker on either of these teams. While he didn’t have an exceptional regular season, Moss can be counted on for a big reception or special teams return. However, Keenan McCardell is learning the San Diego system. McCardell has a lot of postseason experience from his days in Jacksonville and Tampa Bay. When you factor in veteran WR Wayne Chrebet, the Jets have the edge at the receiver position.

TE: Anthony Becht vs. Antonio Gates
Edge: Gates. There’s no question that San Diego has a big advantage at TE. Becht is certainly a competent TE and shouldn’t be discounted. However, Gates had an amazing season, earning a trip to Hawaii in February. Gates set the single season rookie TD record for tight ends with 13. With 81 pass receptions, Gates is Brees’ primary passing target. The success of San Diego’s offense hinges on the fortunes of Brees, Tomlinson, and Gates.

OL: Jets OL vs. Chargers OL
Edge: Even. Frankly, I can’t add much insight to the discussion of the Jets and Chargers offensive lines. I did enjoy reading that Chargers LT Roman Oben was once an intern for U.S. Representative Dennis J. Kucinich (OH). San Diego is much younger on the OL, starting two rookies this season. Jets center Kevin Mawae is definitely the best of the ten offensive linemen in this game, having earned a spot in this year’s Pro Bowl. Both of these teams have superb offensive lines that allow their QB’s ample time to look downfield. If you care to learn about the other OL in this game, feel free to check it out at one of many football related websites.

DL: Shaun Ellis, Dewayne Robinson, Jason Ferguson, and John Abraham vs. Jacques Cesaire, Jamal Williams, and Igor Olshansky
Edge: New York Jets. One way to gauge the DL is to look at the opponent’s yards per game average on the ground. New York gives up close to 100 yards per game rushing (97.9 to be exact), compared to 81.7 yards for San Diego. On the other hand, a healthy John Abraham could be a major factor in disrupting Brees in the pocket. The combined 20 sacks of Ellis and Abraham give the Jets a fighting chance to stop San Diego’s potent offense. San Diego gets much of their pass rush out of their linebacker corps, which I will discuss next.

LB: Victor Hobson, Sam Cowart, and Eric Barton vs. Ben Leber, Donnie Edwards, Randall Godfrey, and Steve Foley
Edge: San Diego. LB Steve Foley is a force in this 3-4 Charger defense. He led the team with 10 sacks this season, making up for the relatively low sack numbers of the front three. With the exception of Leber, this is a very experienced LB unit for San Diego. Chargers LB Donnie Edwards not only lead the team in tackles but in interceptions as well. The Jets most promising LB is not even in the starting lineup. Rookie LB Jonathan Vilma recorded a team high 75 tackle and had two QB sacks. The Chargers group of linebackers will be counted on big time to contain Curtis Martin.

Secondary: Donnie Abraham, David Barrett, Reggie Tongue, and Erik Coleman vs. Quentin Jammer, Drayton Florence, Terrence Kiel, and Jerry Wilson
Edge: New York Jets. I’m not sure how I could give the edge to any starting secondary that includes Jerry Wilson. I watched that guy get beat so many times in Miami that we nicknamed him “Toast”. New York allows only 207 YPG passing while San Diego allows over 250.

Special Teams
Edge: Even. Neither Doug Brien nor Nick Kaeding is particularly great place kickers. Overall, they are pretty reliable even though both have missed some easy ones this season. San Diego did allow two kick returns to be scored for TD’s in their Week 2 meeting. San Diego has the edge at punter with Mike Scifres. His net average of 38 yards is better than that of Jets punter Toby Gowin. Scifres is known for his precision in getting kicks inside the twenty-yard line.

Coaching: Herman Edwards vs. Marty SchottenheimerEdge: Schottenheimer. I’ve given Marty heat in the past, much of it deserved. I’ve found that his teams usually underachieve and never reach the Super Bowl. However, someone deserves credit for the remarkable turnaround this year. Honestly, I can’t say that Edwards has had any more postseason success than Schottenheimer. He’s made the playoffs four times, but hasn’t reached past the AFC Championship game. At times this season, especially during the Baltimore Ravens game, Edwards has looked lost. Clock management may have lost them that Baltimore affair. Were Edwards to somehow beat the Chargers, I might change my mind.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Week 17: Picks Summary

My record:
Week 1: N/A
Week 2: 9-7
Week 3: 7-7
Week 4: 6-8
Week 5: 8-6
Week 6: 9-5
Week 7: 7-7
Week 8: 8-6
Week 9: 7-7
Week 10: 8-6
Week 11: 13-3
Week 12: 12-4
Week 13: 10-6
Week 14: 14-2
Week 15: 11-5
Week 16: 12-4
Week 17: 7-9

Total: 148 W, 92 L, 62 %

St. Louis 32, New York Jets 29 (OT) L
New England 21, San Francisco 7 W
Cincinnati 38, Philadelphia 10 W
Washington 21, Minnesota 18 L
New Orleans 21, Carolina 18 L
Baltimore 30, Miami 23 W
Cleveland 22, Houston 14 L
Pittsburgh 29, Buffalo 24 L
Green Bay 31, Chicago 14 W
Tennessee 24, Detroit 19 L
Seattle 28, Atlanta 26 W
Arizona 12, Tampa Bay 7 W
San Diego 24, Kansas City 17 L
Denver 33, Indianapolis 14 L
Jacksonville 13, Oakland 6 W
New York Giants 28, Dallas 24 L

New Feature: A Healthy Me for 2005

I talked about this briefly in my 2004 in Review post. I'll be using this LJ as a way of keeping me honest.

Over the last year, I've put on some pounds after losing a lot in 2003. A number of factors has lead to this disturbing revelation. I'll keep the actual number private for a little while, but I've recorded my current weight at midnight (Jan. 2). I'll simply refer to my current weight as zero and indicate gain or loss with a + or -.

It's been a personal disappoinment allowing my weight to fluctuate. It's a product of accepting a little gain at a time and then waking up one day and seeing an unacceptable total on the scale. One big mistake was allowing myself to get back to drinking regular soda. Those calories are such a tragedy, considering they're empty and wasted. I plan to limit intake to a maximum of one 12-ounce can a day. In addition, I plan to go back to drinking 6-8 cups of water per day. I've found that water goes a long way towards facilitating weight loss.

Exercise will be included in my program as well. Weight loss isn't only important for weight loss. Without proper exercise, you risk many health problems later in life. My preliminary plan is four miles of bike riding a day. Without access to a free gym, I have to find cost effective ways of staying healthy.

I'm taking this endeavor in stages. Stage 1 is the first couple of weeks. Typically, one loses weight fairly quickly. Five pounds per week isn't uncommon. I've been told that a lot of that loss is due to water. As you lose that initial excess fat, it takes more resolve to shed additional pounds. I think 2 pounds per week would be acceptable after a month. If all goes according to plan, I hope to be down to 190 or 195 pounds by summer.

There is the desire to check you weight on a daily or bi-daily basis, but I've found it more effective to weight yourself only once or twice a week. That keeps you from getting either overly enthuiastic or unnecessarily worried. As long as the dieter is adhering to proper diet and exercise standards, the weight will come off just fine.

Update #1 (January 2, 2004)- 0 (0 is what I will call my starting weight. I'd prefer to keep the actual figure confidential for now)

New Year's Eve 2004

I've never been a big fan of the whole Times Square/NYC New Year's Celebration. I was disturbed to see Regis Philbin, a man who I once idolized, working for ABC's coverage of New Year's 2004. I don't get why people get so excited about this holiday. The only thing I look forward to are the college football bowl games.

The highlight of my night was watching the Chick Fila Peach Bowl, featuring the Florida Gators versus the Miami Hurricanes. It was a disappointing performance for the Gators, who lost 27-10. Hopefully new coach Urban Meyer will have his team ready by September.

I didn't do much else except for playing some online poker. I didn't feel like doing anything spectacular this year. I didn't even bring in the New Year's with Old Number 7. I figure I'll save that for an occasion I'm more fond of.

That's the extent of things. I wish I had more to write about, but I don't.



Now that the year 2004 has reached its conclusion, I decided to take a look back at the year. I'm trying to remember all the good and bad things that have taken place over the past twelve calendar months. Forgive me if I forget some things.

The Good (in no particular order):

1) My introduction to Jack Daniel's - Overall, I think that October night was beneficial to me and my development. I've learned that there are two sides to alcohol. The side I've been exposed to (my family) taught me the dangers of excess. This experience showed me how Jack can be enjoyed responsibly. I still don't regret abstaining for all these years, as I don't feel that JD is the key to a happy night. Nevertheless, I'm glad that I was able to work through a phobia of mine.

2) Poker - This was the first year I played a hand of Texas Hold 'Em poker. While my playing time will be drastically cut with the onset of Spring Semester, I hope to make time in my life for poker games. It's given me something to practice and hopefully take pride in my improvements as a player.

3) Gary and my Mom - At first glance, their breakup would be seen as a bad mark on the year 2004. However, I see it on the contrary. Their time apart has given them the opportunity to think about what they both want out of life. That has set the stage for a likely reunion in 2005. As much as I joke about Gary, and he surely has flaws, he is a good man and cares deeply for his family. I'm proud to consider him one of my very best friends.

4) Eric & Zach - I've enjoyed the time spent together over this past year. I've been pleased by the fact that Zach and myself have grown closer over recent months. I value their friendship and hope to have many more good times in 2005.

5) Academics - 2004 was a great year for me academically. I got straight A's at PBCC in the Spring and 2 A's and 2 A-'s this term at FAU. It's elevated my GPA to a point where admission to graduate school shouldn't be a problem.

The Bad:

1) Democratic loss in November - Without question, this is the worst happening of the year. The year began with Howard Dean being the likely nominee and George Bush as a vulnerable incumbent. November came and John Kerry lost by 3 % and Democrats lost seats in Congress.

2) My accident - In June, I was involved in a minor accident which cost me time and money. I guess I should be glad nobody got hurt.

3) Florida sports (in general) - It's been a terrible year for the Dolphins and Gators. Ricky Williams retirement was bad enough. Then the Gators struggle to start the season and close 2004 by getting crushed by Miami. 2005 might bring better things with the hirings of Nick Saban and Urban Meyer, along with the Heat's possibility to win the NBA title.

In between:

1) Jennifer - I'm not looking to rehash this old situation. It's surely been discussed a lot in person and on my Live Journal. Suffice to say there are ways in which I should have handled things better. This story may continue into 2005, or maybe it might be best kept in 2004. Anyway, I don't want to get all dramatic here like I have done in the past. All I can say is that I try to learn from experiences and hope to forge more meaningful relationships in the future.

Resolutions. I guess I have to make these. I don't consider them New Year's Resolutions, as I try every day to make positive changes in my life.

1) Diet/Exercise - I need to do better at this. One new feature of my LJ will be frequent updates about this aspect of my life. I know I have the potential to do better and will start tomorrow morning. It will require a strict adherrance to exercise and a more reasoned approach to eating. I hope to lose at least 10 pounds in the next three weeks and work from there.

2) Study habits - Despite my superb grades, my study habits are abysmal. I literally didn't study more than an hour for any test this year. Even for final exams, my studing consisted of waking up at 6:00 in the morning. Most of my papers were written sometime around 7:00-9:00 a.m. I know that habits such as these will eventually catch up with me as classes become harder. So my resolution is to avoid procrastinating. This will be vital if I plan to attend graduate school.

3) Become more outgoing - This is a resolution I make almost every year. I have a hard time because I have a difficult time sometimes expressing my feelings. Some might think I'm uninterested or bored when in reality I'm simply shy. I don't expect a full personality change, but I can make minor alterations that may have a positive result.

It feels good to take a look back at this year and visualize improvements that can be made in the upcoming one. Overall, 2004 wasn't a great year yet had enough bright spots that present 2005 as a potentially better year. So as I sit in my bedroom and see the closet doors busted down (long story) and a lot of cleaning up to do, I'm ready to regroup and get on with 2005.


Saturday, January 01, 2005

NFL: Week 17 Picks

New York Jets at St. Louis Rams… New York Jets (1)
Talk about a tough Week 17 game to pick. On one hand, the Rams are a decent team playing at home. They are 5-2 at home this season. However, last week’s win over the Eagles may have been an aberration. That win was over an Eagles team who wasn’t playing their best men. When I look at the Jets this season, I see a team that is able to beat mediocre teams but can’t quite hang with the NFL’s elite. I can’t express much confidence with the Rams team at the moment. Therefore, I like the Jets on the road in St. Louis.

San Francisco 49ers at New England Patriots… New England (3)
Despite having nothing to play for in Week 17, the Patriots are a sure bet to beat the 49ers. It appears that this could be the last game of coach Dennis Erickson’s tenure in San Francisco.

Cincinnati Bengals at Philadelphia Eagles… Cincinnati (1)
The Bengals have more to play for in this one. With a win, they are poised for a second straight non-losing season. Philadelphia is unlikely to play their starters for any extended period of time. I expect Bengals RB Rudi Johnson to run all over this Eagles defense.

Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins… Minnesota (2)
It’s hard to say whether or not Minnesota chokes in Week 17 like they did last year. In 2003, all they needed was a season ending victory versus Arizona to make the playoffs. In that game, Cardinals QB Josh McCown orchestrated a late scoring drive to put Arizona over the top. Washington will make it difficult for the high-powered Vikings offense to score their usually high number of points. Something tells me that Daunte Culpepper and the Vikings defense does just enough to make it into the playoffs.

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers… Carolina (1)
This may not be as close as the experts predict. New Orleans has a terrible run defense that will have a hard time stopping Nick Goings. It says something about the sorry state of the NFC when you see two 7-8 teams competing for a wild card in Week 17.

Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens… Baltimore (2)
If a RB like Lee Suggs is able to decimate Miami’s defensive front four, it’s safe to assume that Jamal Lewis will do even more damage to Miami’s porous run defense. While Miami has played well under interim coach Jim Bates, Baltimore is a team still fighting for their slim playoff hopes. At the very least, a Ravens win would give them a winning season at 9-7 for 2004. Miami fans will finally get a chance to see Sage Rosenfels, the Dolphins 3rd stringer who’s rarely played during his tenure in Miami, start at QB.

Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans… Houston (3)
After having been subjected to witnessing a Cleveland Browns game live in person, I can’t bring myself to even contemplate them winning a professional football game.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills… Buffalo (2)
Buffalo needs a win versus Pittsburgh AND help in order to make the playoffs. It appears that Ben Roethlisberger, Duce Staley, and Jerome Bettis may all sit out this game for the Steelers. Consequently, it looks like Pittsburgh is satisfied with their top seed and resting for a playoff game in two weeks. Even if the Steelers were at full strength, Buffalo would be a threat based on their potent offense in the second half of the season.

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears… Green Bay (1)
The Bears have been a very poor home team this year, going 2-5 at Solider Field. The Packers have had an uncharacteristically poor season at home this season, but have made up for it with solid showings on the road. The absence of star LB Brian Urlacher will make it difficult for the Bears to stop Green Bay’s solid offensive unit. In fact, the only way the Bears will stop the Packers is if Mike Sherman decides to pull his starters and protect them from injury.

Detroit Lions at Tennessee Titans… Detroit (1)
If anyone cares to add anything intelligent to the discussion about this epic Lions vs. Titans match up, feel free to do so in the comments portion of this Live Journal or Blogspot.

Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks… Seattle (1)
Reports are that Michael Vick will start at QB for the Falcons. It remains to be seen how much he’ll play. Matt Hasselbeck appears to be healthy and ready to play, but might not see action were the Rams to lose at 1:00. If St. Louis loses to the Jets, Seattle will have already clinched the NFC West. While Hasselbeck might have enough to deal with the Atlanta blitz, I doubt Trent Dilfer could handle it. Hesitantly, I’ll take Seattle at home.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arizona Cardinals… Arizona (1)
Arizona seems to play fairly decently at home, while Tampa Bay’s won only one road game this season. Since this game has no playoff implications for either squad, it’s hard to say what will happen. I’m thinking that 6-10 will be seen as an accomplishment for Dennis Green’s young team. On the other hand, Tampa Bay’s almost identical record is a huge disappointment for a man (Gruden) who’s two years removed from winning the Super Bowl.

Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers… Kansas City (1)
I’ve searched around in pursuit of relevant information I can use to select a team in this game. On one hand, Marty Schottenheimer has to want to emerge victorious over the team he formerly coached. Working in Kansas City’s favor is the fact that the Chargers are expected to sit both QB Drew Brees and LaDanian Tomlinson. The word is that Doug Flutie will start, but rookie Philip Rivers will see much of the playing time at QB. If I had to choose a winner, and I guess I’m being forced to do so, I’ll go with the favored Chiefs.

Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos… Indianapolis (1)
This is my big upset selection of Week 17. Conventional wisdom dictates that Denver, playing for their playoff lives, will come out and take care of business. However, Denver has struggled mightily in recent weeks and could have trouble with the Colts. Were Denver to win this game, they would likely face Indianapolis again in next week’s first round of the playoffs at the RCA Dome. The cynic in me says that Indianapolis would prefer Denver win, so they would avoid the red-hot Bills next week. I doubt Tony Dungy is that sinister, so I expect his team to give a good effort.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders… Jacksonville (3)
Jacksonville’s playoff fate may be decided by the time they hit the field at 4:15 ET Sunday afternoon. For the Jaguars to secure a wild card berth, they need to win and hope both Buffalo and Denver fall to their respective opponents. Nevertheless, I expect Jacksonville to emerge victorious even if their playoff hopes are terminated after the early set of games.

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants… Dallas (1)
Remember the days when games between the Cowboys and Giants were actually significant? Actually, those days were probably before I started following football. Bill Parcells looks to win another game against his former team, the Giants. I have high hopes that rookie QB Eli Manning goes through this season without a win. A loss by the Giants makes it likely that they’d be forced to send their 5th pick in the 2005 draft to San Diego as a result of the Rivers/Manning deal. I’ve hated Eli Manning ever since he refused to play for the Chargers and had Dad Archie orchestrate a deal to the Giants. I would love to see Manning injured in this game, but I’d settle for a simple loss.