Friday, May 29, 2009

things come in pairs OR: nazis on film

Every so often there comes along a unique idea in film or TV that happens to have something similar coming out at the same time. And usually one is much better than the other.

We saw it with The Truman Show and Ed TV. The Truman Show is a solid B+ and utterly rewatchable. Ed TV replaced Empire Records (and was subsequently replaced by Gosford Park) as the answer to the trivia question: "what's your least favorite movie"?

Studio 60 started out strong but didn't have a lasting appeal, while 30 Rock struggled out of the gate--but by the second season became the funniest comedy on TV.

And Trust Me had appeal to me as it had Ed and was in Chicago and based on advertising. But it stunk. I gave Lie To Me a chance and was rewarded. It's a great show centered around a great character played by Tim Roth and is quite enjoyable. I recommend going back and watching the first season (13 episodes).

Also, even though The Illusionist had Ed Norton, I remember enjoying The Prestige a lot better. I'm not sure if I didn't like The Illusionist, or if it was just not as good.

But that was the past. This is the future:

Dead Snow vs Iron Sky

Dead Snow is a Norwegian comedy-horror about Nazi zombies in the arctic.
Iron Sky is a Finnish comedy-scifi about Nazis in space.

Check out the trailers below. My money's on Iron Sky.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I wasn't lying about my injury

This was taken 5 days after the collision. It's hard to see but my whole arm is covered in a bruise. At the wrist there's an extra purple layer of bruise and towards the elbow there's an entire region on yellow-green nastiness. It hurts. This might be the worst injury I've ever had.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chicago Barbecue Review: Smoke Daddy on Division

It's Memorial Day and for me that means barbecue. And I DON'T mean burgers on a grill.

I mean the real deal. So Burnsy and I went all the way down to Smoke Daddy, a good 3-4 blocks away from his place.

It was a nice day out so we grabbed a table on the sidewalk seating area and enjoyed the atmosphere. Burnsy suggested splitting the Rib Sampler (24.95 gets you a 1/2 rack of baby back, a platter of spare ribs, and a smattering of rib tips). It came with two sides so I chose fries and beans. I assumed that a sampler wouldn't be enough for two so I also added a side of pulled pork. (Plus we had read on yelp people saying this was the best pulled pork in the city.)

In just minutes we had more smoked meats in front of us than we could eat. And that's a good thing.

We also sampled all three of their sauces: original which had some spice, a sweet, brown sugary sauce, and a mustard based sauce. Here's a picture that I found online to set the mood:

The ribs were darn tasty. I enjoyed all the varieties, although it seemed like we got a ton of spare ribs and just a few rib tips, but whatever. Good meat, smoked well, good sauce. They didn't blow us away as the best thing ever, but solid, good stuff.

The fries were thin and crispy and sort of blah. The beans were outstanding. Big chunks of meat and actual flavor in the beans themselves. Nice work.

Now as for the pulled pork. It wasn't bad per se. And I kept eating it. But there was something sort of uninspired about it. And to have reviews that this was the best in Chicago...sheesh.

Ribs: B+
Pulled Pork: C+
Fries: C
Beans: A+

Overall: B+

- - -

For The Record:
Gates, eat-in, Overland Park (2/13/09): A+
Jack Stack, carryout, Overland Park (10/6/07): A
Gates, stadium, Arrowhead (10/7/07): A
Oklahoma Joe's, eat-in, Overland Park (10/6/07): A-
Corky's, eat-in, Memphis (5/24/08): A-
Carsons, eat-in, Chicago (2/7/09): A-
Jack Stack, carryout, Overland Park (2/13/09): A-
Smokehouse BBQ, eat-in, Overland Park (2/14/09): A-
Smoke Daddy, eat-in, Chicago (5/23/09): B+
Rum Boogie Cafe, eat-in, Memphis (5/25/08): B+
Neely's, eat-in, Memphis (5/25/08): B
Blues City Cafe, eat-in, Memphis (5/24/08): C

Friday, May 22, 2009

Softball 2009: Game 2

This game I was scheduled to pitch the first half and then move to 3B for the second half. The captain clearly tried to get me out of last week's slump by moving me up in the lineup to the leadoff spot. (I was active all innings, pitching stats in red)

------- 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 -- F
US --- 3 0 1 0 0 2 0 -- 6
THEM 3 0 0 1 1 2 x -- 7

Batting Stats for Game Two:
1st AB: 1B (out at 3rd)
2nd AB: 1B (scored run from second)
3rd AB: fly out to right
4th AB: 1B (stranded)

Average: .750
Slugging: .750
0 walks
0 strike outs
0 rbi
1 run

Pitching Stats for Game Two:
3 IP
3 runs
2 K
0 BB

ERA: 7.00 and no decision

Last week I threw out the first pitch of the game. This week I was the first batter of the game. I hit a grounder in between first and second and was safely on first. The next batter hit the ball safely out of the infield and I rounded 2nd and headed for 3rd. I'm fairly fast (over short distances) and the ball was in the outfield and I didn't think there would even be a play at third. But they made a good throw and I don't remember what happened next. I didn't want to slide but I guess I did because I scraped up my leg and got a bloody knee. I made contact with the third basemen, overran the base and tried to get back, thought that I might have been safe but got called out. Not sure if I was out initially or because I overran the base. And then I immediately got up and starting holding my left arm. (A day later I think I've figured out the injury is in tendons in my left forearm).

We scored three runs in the top of the first anyway and I felt confident about our chances. I had to go pitch and did pretty well considering the injury. I don't remember much about the bottom of the first but they scored three. In the bottom second (we started with a 1-1 count) I dug myself into a 3-1 hole. Then I throw a strike that landed on the plate and with a full count threw a nice one that got the batter looking. Not many times will you get a batter to strike out without swinging. That was a 1-2-3 inning as I also caught a pop-up.

I was the first batter in the top of the 3rd and I could barely lift the bat. (A few hours later I couldn't lift my left arm into my robe sleeve.) But I hit a line drive to right for a single. I then advanced to second, and scored from there.

In the bottom of the fourth, our relief pitcher came in. I don't want to say that's she's terrible. But she did walk at least three batters on the night, including a guy with a girl behind him in the lineup which is treated as an intentional walk, so the batter goes to second and the girl goes to first. That is the cardinal sin of pitching as girl batters are sacred (read: easy outs).

In three innings at third base I fielded 4 balls:
1st: a weak ball between me and the pitcher. I called off the pitcher and made the running throw to get the batter out.
2nd: with the bases loaded, I stabbed a sharp grounder and tagged third.
3rd: an even weaker ball was hit just in front of the batters box--I tried to charge it and make the play but couldn't get the throw on the mark in time. but I wouldn't call it an error as I didn't throw it away
4th: my defensive play of the day. bottom of the 6th, we're already losing 6-7, the bases are loaded and there's only 1 out. a sharp chopper to my left. I grab it, tag the runner going from 2nd to 3rd and then spin around and throw it to second for a double play that ends the inning and doesn't score the runner from third.

Another note on the pitcher: she made a double play by catching a line drive and throwing it to catch the runner at first. So she pitched three innings, gave up at least 3 walks, and got two double plays, which are basically unheard of.

In the top 5th, I was up to bat with two outs and crushed a ball to right even though I couldn't lift the bat. Unfortunately, it was caught by the right fielder. Sometimes it's better to just hit a grounder throw the infield.

In the top of the 7th, I came up to bat in the ideal pressure situation. Down one, two outs, last chance to score. I hit a grounder up the middle, right past the pitcher and made it to first. So now I'm on first and we have a good guy hitter up after me. On deck is a girl who's not bad, but who you wouldn't want to rely on to win the game. So I'm thinking with two outs I have to try and score from first. The batter fouls one off to get to a 2-2 count. On the swing I'm taking off and running hard to second, ready to go to three. He hits a nice line/fly to centerfield. If it drops I'm running for home and ready to slide if need be. But the outfielder catches it and that's the ballgame. We lose 6-7 to a team that we really should have beat. Especially because our schedule is about to get a lot tougher and wins will be at a premium.

I'll calculate season stats when there's more numbers to crunch.

2009 Team Record: 1-1

home court advantage

So the talking heads on TV say that L.A. lost home court advantage because the series is 1-1 going into game 3 in Denver.

I understand that Denver has three home games remaining and the Lakers only have two. But in my opinion home court advantage is not something that can be lost. The advantage is that L.A. has 4 home games in the series and specifically has games 5 and 7 at home. That can't be taken away.

Even if they lose games 3 and 4, they still have the advantage of having game 5 at home and if they would win games 6 on the road they would have the advantage of a game 7 at home.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

site note

I'm still posting new content to the Autopilot Novel official site so check it out and keep an eye on it every so often. And forward the link on to your friends. I'm still waiting to see the first reviews pop up on the product page.


Odds: Lions a longshot to win Super Bowl 44

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Softball 2009: Game 1

Opening day in Lincoln Park. A beautiful day in the shadow of the Chicago skyline. And as the home team's starting pitcher, I threw out the first pitch of the 2009 season. Since it's the first game, we had a huge roster and everyone got to play half a game. My active innings are in bold.

------- 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 -- F
THEM 1 0 2 0 2 2 0 --7
US --- 2 1 4 0 4 2 x -- 13

Batting Stats for Game One
1st AB: fielder's choice
2nd AB: ground out

Average: .000
Slugging: .000
0 walks
0 strike outs
0 rbi

Pitching Stats for Game One:
4 IP
3 runs
3 K
0 BB

ERA: 5.25 and the win

Our relief pitcher had an ERA of 9.34. So somewhere in there is my VORP.

I know for a fact that the first run scored because of an errant throw to first, so technically that shouldn't count againt my ERA, but that's too complicated. I was really good at placing my pitches, I fielded a bunch of sharp grounders back to the mound, and I covered all over the infield on incoming throws. Two of my strikeouts were against guys, which is almost unheard of.

As for my batting, the first one was a weak grounder to short and I think that I could have beaten the throw to first, but there was a runner on first that was dead to rights at second for a fielder's choice.

The next at-bat I hit a nice deep hit to right, but it veered foul. On the next pitch I hit a solid grounder in the hole between the 2B and the 1B. I sprinted to first and stretched my foot out to the base and somehow got called out. I wasn't watching the ball, but I assume the 2B made a nice play to her left and threw me out, but I didn't think anyone was going to get to it. That was frustrating as there were runners on base and it would have been a rbi single and keep the 3rd inning alive.

I was glad that at least I was able to contribute as a pitcher since my hitting was weak. Although the relief pitcher only allowed 4 runs it was a little dicey. The first 6 pitches she threw were balls and I was afraid she was going to walk a lot of batters. But the other team bailed her out by hitting on 2-0 counts on outside pitches. I was excited to get the win, as this was one that we should have won. We'll face a lot of tougher teams so it's good to get wins when you can.

2009 Team Record: 1-0

Tropicana Packaging: Part Two

So in January 2009, PepsiCo decided to change from the packaging on the left to the packaging on the right.

I am not a orange juice consumer but I did notice the new packaging in store. But I didn't have the luxury of comparing the old carton. I couldn't remember the straw in the orange or the type treatment. So I actually liked what I saw. In particular, I liked that every other carton was really orange and I thought the white carton stood out to me, or "popped" in our language.

And then I didn't think about it until I saw the news that Tropicana was switching back to the old packaging because of consumer demand. Consumer demand for packaging! These people seriously were upset about the picture on the box!

Here are some sample comments on an article about the redesign:

My favorite is the woman who felt scammed by paying $4 for juice with that packaging. Now of course looking at the side by side comparison, I think the old packaging is better. The orange with the straw is a good device that shouldn't be lost, and I like the more saturated orange. Plus, it's still mostly white so it should still pop.

I think it's fascinating how important a brand image is. Also it makes me laugh when I think about how people (cough Mark) would say that advertising doesn't work on them.

Tropicana Packaging: Part One

I was going to say more but I wanted to do a little market research. So here are two different Tropicana packages. I'm not going to say anything more about them.

1. Which one do you like better?
2. Any general thoughts?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Robin Wiszowaty Is Awesome

How awesome is this?

Can't wait for her book to be released: a memoir of her experiences called My Maasai Life: From Suburbia to Savannah, that explores the personal side of many African struggles.

Publisher's Site listing

Fav Five for 2009

Last year I asked who were your favorite five players on your team. This is what we came up with:

Hon. Mention: Sippio and Dorsey

5. Croyle
4. Gonzalez
3. D. Johnson
2. L. Johnson
1. Bowe

1. Roy Williams (apart from being the only talented guy on the team, he's hilarious)
2. Jon Kitna (I like that he cares, even if he's only mediocre)
3-5. None. This team is awful. Calvin Johnson might be good, Ernie Sims isn't bad, but I just don't like any of them.

- - -

Cut to 2009. Sippio and Gonzales aren't on the team. Croyle is 3rd string. Everyone thinks LJ is on his way out. Bowe was 2nd only to Braylon in drops and Derrick Thomas and Glenn Dorsey haven't impressed too many people yet.

On the other side, both Roy Williams and Jon Kitna are now Cowboys.

- - -

So after all those moves, who is our fandom pointed at now?

Hon. Mention: Dorsey and Flowers/Carr

5. Charles
4. Thigpen
3. D. Johnson
2. Cassell
1. Bowe

We haven't had a solid starting QB since Green in 2005. Last year alone we had Croyle, Huard and Thigpen line up under center. Will Cassell be the guy?

Will Derrick Johnson ever make a Pro Bowl? Will Bowe stop dropping the ball?

It's pretty sad that I can only find three guys to root for over our 2nd string QB.

But enough about me. Who's in your fav five?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

fast food is the devil

So I just looked at the healthiest meal options at fast food places. Now it's time to construct the least healthiest meal out there.

12" Chicken & Bacon Ranch on Honey Oat: 1300 calories + chips (300) + soda (450) = 2050 calories

Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese: 740 + large fries (500) + large chocolate shake (1160) = 2400 calories

Extra Crispy Breast (490) & Thigh (370) + potato wedges (200) + baked beans (200) + 2 biscuits (360) + 64oz Pepsi that is actually listed on their nutrition guide (800) = 2420 calories

Triple burger with cheese -- which is worse than the Baconator-- has 970 + large fries (540) + large chocolate frosty (540) = 2050 calories

Burger King
Triple Whopper with cheese: 1250 + large fries (580) + 22oz. Oreo Sundae shake (1010) = 2840 calories! That's having it my way.

Jimmy John's
Gargantuan: 1008 + chips (160) + cookie (420) + soda (400) = 1988 calories.

Large size PB&J: 1307 + cookie (450) + oreo shake (740) = 2497 calories. This hurts because the Potbelly cookie is one of my favorite things. Ouch.

Pretty amazing that KFC offers 64 ounces of Pepsi and Wendy's has a sandwich called the Baconator and they still can't top Burger King.

fast food as fuel

After Autopilot came out I was able to focus on myself again, and get back on food as fuel™. It feels good, but it does take constant mental focus. I've got gum at my desk and I'm drinking a lot of water. Since I declared my love for Propel, they've come out with other low-calorie powder packets. I've enjoyed Snapple and Ocean Spray at only 5 calories per serving.

But this weekend we'll be on the road a lot for Mrs. Hoagie Central's Masters graduation in Champaign. So I thought it would be a good time to review the healthy options at fast food places.

Club (ham, roast beef, turkey) on white, no mayo, provolone or pepperjack, with fat free honey mustard or sweet onion sauce = 400 calories.

McChicken (360 cals) and McDouble (390 cals) are both on the $1 menu. The Southern Chicken sandwich is also only 400 calories. Avoid the fries, cookies, and shakes at all cost.

Their grilled chicken is great (breast = 180 cals, drumstick = 70) but the sides are dangerous. The biscuit has as many calories as a chicken breast so skip those. For sides, choose two from green beans (25), corn (70) or potatoes w/o gravy (100).

They now have three sandwiches for a dollar and all three aren't bad: Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger (310) and Double Stack or Crispy Chicken (360).

Burger King
This is a little tougher. But hold the mayo and you can get a Jr. Whopper or Spicy Chicken for 290 calories.

Jimmy John's
I thought this might be off limits. But you can still go there, you just need to hold all the good stuff. A #5 with no mayo, cheese and vinaigrette is 420 calories. A #6 for the wife with no mayo is 413 cals.

Same scenario as Jimmy John's. A Roast beef with no cheese, mustard instead of mayo, seasoning instead of hot peppers is 375. For the wife, a veggie with only american cheese and no mayo is 355.

General rules: mayo and cheese has about 100 calories each, so either substitute or hold them. Never get the fries. Never get real soda. But you can still get a sandwich for about 400 calories.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Manny Being Manny hamper dump

First some thoughts on Simmons. I don't know if it's this year, or just the fact that his teams haven't won a championship in 11 months, but I feel like he went from must-read in 2003 to read because you have the time in 2004-08, to must-read this year. Between his farewell to his dog, to his Bulls-Celtics pre-game 7 article, to his Manny PED column, I think he's at the top of his game.

Also notable: the first part of his Kansas City Theory is off to as good of start as you could hope for:
Sure they're not printing playoff tickets just yet, but it's worth keeping an eye on. If the Sprint Center gets a basketball team, watch out.

- - -

When it comes to free agent acquisitions, it seems the Lions are linked more to the Chiefs than any other team. That's not a good thing.

- - -

So here's my take on the Manny suspension. First, his excuse was that his doctor prescribed it for him and it accidentally contained something on the banned list. Now since then it's been reported that it's a woman's fertility drug/steroid. So his excuse is already baloney. But if I was really innocent and had been prescribed something, wouldn't there be records of that or remaining samples at the doctor's labs. I mean, if I was trying to save my name in the court of public opinion then I would be tracking down samples for testing and proving that I didn't know what I was taking.

But that would be smart. And purposefully taking banned substances in 2009 when they have testing is dumb.

So we can agree that he purposefully took a banned substance in 2009 because he tested positive. So why does that mean that we are casting doubt on his 2004 season as Simmons and Bob Ryan have? Why does that mean his numbers from 2008 and before get an asterisk?

Am I missing something? From my perspective, they've had drug testing for years and he's passed 15 tests. So it would seem that I wouldn't have any reason to cast suspicion on anything that happened before 2009.

By doing so, Simmons and Ryan and everyone else are saying that the testing that was in place wasn't good enough to catch what he was doing, and that's why he thought he could take this in 2009, because he's been taking PED's for so long and gotten away with it, and it's the testing that finally caught up to him. If that's the assumption that we have to make than it makes the whole sport look worse.

So which is it? Did Manny start in 2009? Or has he been doing it for along time and he finally got caught?

- - -

So one of the inherent disadvantages of soccer and hockey is that you can only score one at a time. Which means that on the last play of the game, you cannot go from losing to winning.

Think about the excitement in baseball down three with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Or down 6 in football late in the 4th. Or down 1 in basketball. You take the shot and you either win or lose.

In hockey or soccer, down 1 in the final minute, the best you can hope for is to tie the game, and then try and win in overtime.

Or so I thought.

Chelsea and Barcelona were playing the 2nd leg of the Champions League Semifinal: winner gets to go on to play Man U in a single match for the trophy.

The first leg was at Barcelona and was a 0-0 tie.
Chelsea scored in the first half at home and was winning 1-0 entering injury time.
You might think that if Barcelona scored that it would be a 1-1 draw, and a 1-1 draw on aggregate since there were no goals scored previously. But the tiebreaker in the UCL is "away goals."
Since Chelsea scored 0 away goals in the first leg in Spain, all Barca needed was 1 away goal to advance to the Final.

So there you have it: just minutes left to play and if Chelsea could hold on to a 1-0 lead they would win. If not, Barcelona would advance.

Here's what happenned:

- - -

And then we get to Brett Favre. Who had a meeting with the Vikings to say I'm staying retired. Then WHY THE FUCK DID YOU HAVE A MEETING? It makes no goddamn sense.

It absolutely infuriates me that my Mike & Mike in the Morning and my Fanhouse and my gets taken over by this bullshit. Don't cover his bullshit! I don't care if he discovers a cure for Swine Flu: I don't want to hear his name, unless it's Week 1 and he's actually playing.

Someone on M&M joked that the reason Favre told the Vikings "no" was because he knew he would be sharing the news cycle with Manny and he wanted to wait until he would be the only story.

And seriously, the Vikings are better off without him. Every team in the NFL is. All of the experts who think the Vikings would win the Super Bowl with Favre are living in the 1990's.

Last year he led the league in interceptions. (8th in pass attempts)
He was 21st in passer rating. (Behind such luminaries as Seneca Wallace, Shaun Hill, and Trent Edwards). Aaron Rodgers was 6th in passer rating.
And when the season was on the line and they needed to win a game to make the playoffs:
18/31 for 187, 0 td, 2 int in a 3-13 loss vs Seattle
20/40 for 233, 1 td, 3 int in a 17-24 loss vs Miami

Last year the Jets took Favre, they didn't make the playoffs, and now they're starting over with a questionable rookie QB.
The Packers let Favre go, didn't make the playoffs, but got 16 games of experience for Aaron Rodgers who finished with 28 td and 13 int, instead of the 22-22 that Favre put up.

No one will win a Super Bowl with Favre. It will only delay the development of an actual quarterback of the future.

And this is a must read for a Vikings fan perspective.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Line Golf: Complete Masterlinks

I'm issuing a challenge: post your best score for the front nine, back nine, or complete course. Post your best scores for each hole and we'll see who is champion of the Masterlinks.

Front Nine

Hole One

Hole Two

Hole Three

Hole Four

Hole Five

Hole Six

Hole Seven

Hole Eight

Hole Nine

Back Nine

Hole Ten

Hole Eleven

Hole Twelve

Hole Thirteen

Hole Fourteen

Hole Fifteen

Hole Sixteen

Hole Seventeen

Hole Eighteen

It's important to note that to publish the hole, I had to make par on it. In some cases I set the par high so I wouldn't have to play it too many times. But on hole nine, I set the par at 1 just to show how easy it is to get a hole in one.

why am I not in san diego?

I suppose that's an okay forecast. But what about the shitty weather on Saturday. PARTLY cloudy? Fuck.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Animal Teams

This post was inspired by Adam Carolla's podcast talking about orcas (killer whales). Here are all of the animal teams in the four major sports. Why couldn't a team be called the Orcas? Not as intimidating as a Blue Jay or Oriole?


Brown Thrasher
Blue Jay

Big Cats
Bengal Tiger

Bear Cub
Grizzly Bear


Other Land Animals


Sea Animals




So inspired by this list of apex predators, here are some new team names that I think wouldn't be that bad.

Komodo Dragon
Polar Bears (hockey only)
Electric Eel

What other animals would make a good team name?