Monday, December 31, 2007

I win!

The final results are in. Although I did not WIN the CHEZ pool, I came in first where I cared about it - the Doc and Woody show. I beat Doc, I beat Woody, that's good enough for me. In the end, I finished 73 points ahead of Doc and 113 points ahead of Woody. Now, Doc will argue when he returns, I am sure, that because he missed a week that he would have won had he played them all. To this I have a response, albeit a premature and pre-emptive one. You see, over the course of the season, I averaged 72.8 points per week. And Doc averaged 72.9 points per week. Which, I agree, IS more than I averaged. However, if we give him his weekly average for the week that he missed, then he ends up with 1,237.9 points, and I end up with 1,238 points. And I still win. Woody has a better case, in this circumstance. He finished with 1,127 points. But he actually missed THREE weeks of picks, meaning that he averaged 80.5 points per week. By that average, he would have finished with 1,369 points had he played every week, which would have made him the clear winner. But he didn't, and he lost. As they say, that's why they play the game. The online gambling game.

As for my office pool, I went 15-1 over the weekend, and I am reasonably confident in that number. I think there is a good chance I could overtake Greg, the front-runner, and hopefully outdistance those around me, to claim victory. But as we all know, the last week of the season is impossible to predict, so there is always a chance someone came out of nowhere with some ridiculous 16-0 week. I will know soon enough. Until then -

Ones I got right: Packers did beat up on the Lions, even though they sat their starters early on. Same goes for the Chargers over the Raiders. The Falcons were indeed hungry enough to (barely) knock off theSeahawks second string. Baltimore beat the Steelers, who were resting everyone. Skins made the playoffs with a victory over the Cowboys, and the Panthers did get the road upset over the Buccaneers. Bears knocked the Saints out, Philly beat Buffalo, Cleveland smacked San Fran, Cincy stomped the Bengals, and Arizona and the Jets both won. And the Titans did win a close one to make the playoffs.

Ones I got wrong: I will admit, when I found out the Jaguars were sitting David Garrard, Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor for their Sunday game, I changed my pick in the pool to the Texans. But based on what I wrote last week, I was wrong. And Minnesota was completely incapable of doing themselves any favours with that OT loss to the Broncos. So that's the one I was wrong about. So far so good!

An amendment: As it turns out, I did not make the same picks in my office pool as I did here in the blog. I can't imagine why, but I picked the Panthers to lose and the Colts to win, and I ended up with 12 wins, not 15. Therefore, with HIS twelve wins, Greg beat me by one win on the year, and I finished in second place. Not bad. I shoulda taken my own advice!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Cultural significance vs. the apathy of non-sports fans. In my house, the non-sports folk win.

As I sit downstairs, banging away at the keys of my computer and writing in my blog, I am watching the Patriots go for their perfect regular season. I feel as though I should be watching this on my new and exciting hi-def TV. However, I have been relegated to the basement, since I could not convince the rest of the family of the cultural significance of this event. My girlfriend and her 13-year-old are watching Aliens. While I would not deign to diminish the cultural significance of Aliens, which was truly an excellent movie, and one of the few sequels that may surpass the original in terms of quality, it is not a team going undefeated in the NFL regular season. It is not a quarterback setting the record for TD passes or a receiver setting the record for TD catches or a team setting the record for most points in a season or a team going UNDEFEATED. I tried to impress upong them the significance of this event. No, it is not the moon landing or the assassination of JFK or 9/11 or the tragic death of Benazir Bhutto and the subsequent rioting in Pakistan.

But the chance at an unbeaten season IS the most significant, (positive) sports story of the past decade, and of the new millennium. (Is the millennium still new, eight years in? I think so.) Steroids in baseball. Red Sox finally winning a World Series. Lance Armstrong winning forty-one consecutive Tour De France titles, possibly while on steroids. These are the biggest stories in sports of the past decade, and none comes close to a perfect NFL regular season. When the greatest teams in sports of all time are discussed, baseball has a few to choose from. The '27 Yankees are often mentioned as the greatest team of all time. But so are the 1906 Chicago Cubs, the 1961 Yankees, the 1929 A's, and the 1975 Cincinnatti Reds. In basketball you can choose between the 64-65 Celtics, the 84-85 Celtics, the 66-67 76ers, several Michael Jordan Bulls teams and the Lakers of 71-72 or 86-87. In hockey, who is it? The Habs of 76-77, the 83-84 Oilers, the 97-98 Red Wings, the 69-70 Bruins, the 58-59 Habs, 48-49 Leafs, 1904 Silver Seven? A good case can be made for any of these teams. But in the NFL, the answer is clear. There is no doubt. The best team of all time is the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Period. They did not lose a game. They were perfect. How can you make the case for the Steelers or the Cowboys or the Niners or the Bears when they all lost at least once?

I am not qualified to judge what are the greatest teams of all time. I saw the Red Wings in 97-98, the Bulls in 91-92, and that's about it. Everything else was before my time, so how could I comment? But I have seen the Patriots of 2007. And I can now say I have seen the greatest single season in the history of professional sports, pending their victory here tonight. Sports-wise, this is the most significant sports game of my lifetime. More so than even a Super Bowl, or a World Series or Stanley Cup game seven. Because those games merely determine who wins and who loses. This is a game where I have seen the culmination of the greatest quarterback performance in history. I have seen the culmination of the greatest season by a wide receiver in history (arguably - Jerry Rice had his 22 TDs in only 12 games). And I have seen the greatest offence of all time on the greatest team of my lifetime. That is, of course, pending the Patriots victory, should they pull it out. New York is playing them pretty tough right now. And I am cheering for the Giants. I really hate New England.

Beware the Welcome Wagon, even when bearing gifts.

I recently praised the Welcome Wagon people because although they gave me an awful lot of serious crap in a basket, they gave me at least one useful thing. The Mr. Clean magic eraser. However, I may have spoken too soon. Yes, there was a lot of crap, but I thought that the Welcome Wagon program was one that was created merely to foster a sense of neighbourly camaraderie and pleasant feelings of community. I had no sense that it was a crass commercial enterprise, except for the fact that everything in the basket came from some specific store in the area that was obviously advertising. Whic I thought, once again, was a pretty benign and inoffensive way of getting their name and products out there. I can peruse the advertising at my leisure, and discard those in which I have no interest.

However, before the welcome wagon lady left, she took down my name and phone number (she clearly already had my address), my impression being that it was for the files, so she could say she had been there. In fact, I think that may have been exactly what she told me. However, this was certainly misleading, and although my memory of the incident is not crystal clear, it was possibly also an outright lie. Imagine my surprise last night when I received my seventh phone call this week from Direct Buy. Now, I had not answered the other ones. I figured they were trying to sell me something when they appeared on my call display, and I ignored the calls. Finally I had to see what was up. And yes, they were indeed trying to sell me something. And somehow they let it slip how they had received my phone number. The welcome wagon! THAT was why they took my name and phone number, so they could subject me to the aggressive, irritating, phone-type of advertising! Yes, the welcome wagon had sold me out!

Not only that, but the welcome wagon passes itself off as a "community" service. Every piece of advertising I received in the basket was from the thirty-block radius around my house. You know, my community. Direct Buy is on Cyrville Road. Approximately, according to mapquest, 18.4 miles from my house. Mapquest is so American. 29.6 kilometres, for you true-blue Canadians. In other words, nowhere near my house, my community, my neighbours, or my half of the urban sprawl that is the Greater Ottawa Area. No, the welcome wagon has sold me out, for sure. And that sweet lady that came to my house is either an unwitting pawn in the whole scheme, or a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Boy, do I ever hate the phone.

As I look to my right once more on this page, I now see a commercial for Rogers bundles. This stands to reason. After all, I work for Rogers. I sure hope these ads are gone soon though, it seeems as though I have served my penance. And I will say one good thing about Rogers. Although calling them for something service-related makes my hands clammy and my brow bead with sweat as I make sure I have a cooler beside my chair full of cold beer and some quiet, soothing jazz music on the CD player, since I know I will be there for hours and I will need to remain calm through the process, at least Rogers has never called ME. I have never received one of those "would you like to switch to Rogers" calls, or a "we would like to upgrade your current service" calls. This, to a small degree, makes me a much more satisfied Rogers customer. And, by extension, employee.

I am not, however, a satisfied consumer of gas. I hate everything to do with having gas in my home, and I don't even know at whom to direct my anger. Once a week, it seems, since I have moved into my new house, I have been assailed in some way by some gas company. I think they all have something to do with Enbridge in some way, but I don't even really know if that's true. What they offer seems to be some kind of price-freezing deal, where for the next five years my gas rates won't go up or something. I have never paid close enough attention to their spiels to figure that out. I have estimated that there are four hundred and seventy-one freeze-your-gas-rates companies in Ottawa, give or take six or seven. And they have all come after me in some way since I have moved. They come to my door with clipboards and pens. They call me at all hours of the day, usually when I have just managed to fall asleep for a nap, start dinner, or begin a game with the kids. And each and every one of these assaults on my tranquility has been overly aggressive, I feel.

You see, they go through their whole spiel, which is something they have down by rote. Because they have it down pat, and because they recite it by rote, there is no opportunity for me to participate in the exchange. I become merely a sounding board for their memorized speech. When the speech is done, I have no idea what they have said, because I tuned them out at about word three. Therefore, they finally stop talking, four minutes later, and I say "no thanks, not interested". Which should make them say "that's OK, thanks for letting me ramble on for four minutes. My voice needed the workout. Have a good day, sir." But no. This is their opportunity to go into crisis prevention. "May I ask why, Mr. Intern", they say. I will say something like "because I just moved and all my papers are still in disorder, and I am not going to sign up for anything until I figure out where I'm at." To which they will respond "certainly, I understand your objection, but may I ask why?" To which I respond "you are either reading a paper with no regard to the answer I have just given you, or you are a total moron. Please don't call my house again, you total moron."

But of course they do, because their file is marked "inconclusive" after the call. Now, I have nothing against telemarketers per se. I realize they are doing it because it's just a job, and they need to eat, and they probably hate it as much as I do. But if you're going to call my house to try to force me into buying something, at least listen to the actual words I use to respond to you. The most insidious example was one of these gas price deal companies who came to my house. A very nice young man, who likely hated his door-to-door job as much as I hated him doing it, made a very good case to me. He said "can I just leave these pamphlets and this form with you, and let you think about it". I said sure. It doesn't matter to me if I have some extra papers in my recycling, and this guy clearly gets a bit more money every time someone fills out one of these just-checking-things-out forms, so what the hell? But of course, it doesn't end there. The phone call came a week later, and the guy on the phone presented himself as though he needed a few last details about the program for which I had just signed up. I said I had not signed up. I had merely agreed to look at the information. And in point of fact, I hadn't even done that. So, no thanks, said I.

But this guy would not let it go. Short of swearing at him, or hanging up the phone, I was actually not going to get out of this. And I knew that if I hung up the phone, someone else would be calling me the very next night. (I knew this because I had done that four three nights in a row.) I made up every excuse in the book, and I even said I will not sign up for your plan because I abhor your sales tactics. I find your company to be on a level with scum. Please stop bothering me. But they would not. Then I said that I already had one of these freeze-your-thing-and-stuff deals with another gas company. No problem! Said the persistent and aggressive voice. We'll just go ahead and get you out of that deal. So if you'll just give me your postal code, we'll have you out of that deal in no time...I stopped for a moment. This other deal was just about the same. Five years, frozen-rate...or so I said. Yes, he said, sometimes these deals can not be broken, but when we input your information, we'll find out. And then we'll fight to have you with us, because we always look out for the best interests of our customers.

Epiphany! I said to him "if I agree to your thing with the rates and that, will you get off the phone with me? Like, right now?" He said that he would. I said fine, go ahead, sign me up. Screw you and your company. And I hung up. The next day, another helpful door-to-door gas rate happy guy came by. I didn't even listen to his spiel. I took his pen and signed the papers he had in front of him. As soon as he identified himself as yet another gas company rates guy, I said "I have been waiting for your exact company. No, no I know all the details. Just let me sign up for your plan right now." Within one minute he was gone. And so pleased! I was the easiest house he had hit all day! So here was my epiphany. The only way to feel polite, make these people go away fast AND have them never come back was to simply sign up and agree.

And now, the beauty of the plan. I am certainly hoping I am right here. But every one of those companies says they will take your account and boot out the other companies you may have signed up with. They also say that they are FAR superior than the other ones for reasons which I never listen to. But the thing is, only one company can do my gas rate freeze thingy, right? But if I sign up with everyone who comes to my door and calls me on the phone, every single time, then soon, all four hundred and seventy-one companies of this nature in Ottawa will be fighting over me. Not that I think I will get any special deal out of this, or that I will pay less for gas than my neighbour who is never home and has no phone, but I will get enormous satisfaction from thinking about all these companies trying desperately to figure out who has the most legitimate claim to overseeing my services, and doing their thing that ousts the other companies, and on and on and on. It is my fondest hope that things get so screwed up in the ranks of these companies that they call back their people from the phones and their people from the roads in order to disentangle the whole mess. And then that they choke on it.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Finally! HD LCD TV LMAO.

I have finally finished purchasing my TV and Blu-Ray player and the assorted accoutrements. I have my little 32" (well, little compared to everyone else I visit) LCD TV, and the Blu-Ray player to go with it, and the HD box from Rogers. I got them all home at the same time, and had to set them all up at once. I read all three instruction books before I began. The HD box said "turn on your TV, and then use it to program the HD box". The TV said "turn on your HD box, and use it to program your TV". I stood there in my living room in despair, for almost an hour. What do I do? Do I wait for the chicken to lay an egg, then eat egg, or do I wait for the egg to hatch, and eat chicken? As is my understanding of the old saying. I decided to hit every button on every device and on every remote. Some weird stuff happened. None of it good, or helpful. I took a nap. I woke up, and discovered I had been sleeping on the TV remote. I must have rolled onto the right button, however, because all of a sudden things were working and I was able to program stuff.

I was then too tired to watch any actual TV, and I took another nap. This morning, I checked out all the Hi-Def channels, because it is sort of an exciting thing to be able to do. I wake up at 2:00, and at that time, one of the higher movie channels shows hard-core porn. For the first time in ages, I stopped on porn. And not because anything interesting was happening. It was two bored-looking people having sex. I've seen that before. Once, I saw it in a mirror. No, what made me stop was the fact that the porn industry was the catalyst that gave us VHS over Beta back in the day, when there was a real debate as to which would last longer. No one really knew, until porn went VHS, and the rest is history. It is that big, in terms of home rentals and video purchases, that it can influence the entire industry. So now I'm thinking, did porn go Blu-Ray or HDDVD? I don't know. Anyone out there know? I may have made a big mistake purchasing that Blu-Ray if porn goes HD!

But then I thought that this might be a lot different from VHS vs. Beta. That was just about getting porn into your house. THIS is about getting super-high quality porn into your house. And my question then was - who really wants super-high quality porn? As I watched the two bored actors on screen, I realized that the bottoms of the girl's feet were dirty. I saw that the guy was sweating profusely and looked as though he might be in his early fifties. I could see the makeup lines on her face, and the places where her hairdresser had just barely missed with the highlights. Does anyone really want porn with detail that clear? I certainly don't. I think most guys would choose the regular 60-dollar DVD over the Blu-Ray or HD quality, 120-dollar porn DVD.

Just a thought here. Why, on the free porn that they show on the movie channels late at night, do they edit the films such that they make sure not to show the "happy ending" to each scene? If you're already sitting around watching hardcore pornography, are you really going to be offended by THAT? Like, wow, this porn was so great and artistically relevant, but they had to ruin it with that gratuitious ending to that scene! Or, "I don't mind if my kids accidentally come across porn on TV. As long as they don't see the grand finale". Just wondering. Any porn fans out there that would have complained about this to their cable company?

Another thought. I had to buy a Blu-Ray DVD to test it out with my new player. I chose Underworld, because I know my girlfriend really likes it, and Kate Beckinsale in leather and Hi-Def can't be a bad thing. I also bought The Departed, because when it came out, I mistakenly purchased the full screen version. And an order form came with my player. I could order five free Blu-Rays, choosing one from each of a few categories. Which was fine, but I couldn't help but be surprised at some of the movies I had to choose from. If you have this great new technology, shouldn't you use it to enhance that which could benefit from the enhancement? I totally get having Pirates of the Caribbean on Blu-Ray, or Terminator 2, or Pan's Labyrinth, or even Alien vs. Predator. I mean, it was a crappy movie, but if you have bad taste and like it, you probably enjoy the visuals most of all, and you would want the best ones you can get. That's fine.

But what puzzles me are titles like The Simpsons Movie. Or National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The Simpsons is a cartoon. How much better can the picture really be? Does the Griswalds' house look that much more exciting and gaudy in Hi-Def? Why is Ultraviolet on Blu-Ray? It was absolutely terrible in regular def, and almost unwatchable, and the visuals were horrendous. That can only be accentuated in this format, no? Here is a short list of films I don't understand being on Blu-Ray:
The Jane Austen Book Club
Mr. Woodcock
Led Zeppelin: the Song Remains the Same
Masters of Horror
A Christmas Story
Gridiron Gang
License to Wed

Just a short list. And I think the reason for these movies being included is that people with HD and Blu-Ray are a certain type. The format is not for movie lovers or connaisseurs. It is for technology junkies. So good taste in movies has nothing to do with one's desire to get them in a neat new format. The same thing goes for the Super-Audio CDs and DVD audio CDs. When I used to work at a CD store, I would constantly bemoan the selection of music in these formats. Peter Gabriel or Pink Floyd? Sure, I get it. But who really needs Super-Audio Kenny G? Techno-nerds with no taste in music, that's who. I suppose I can now count myself among the select few who are both giant techno-nerds AND discerning consumers.

More global warming = less ice.

I laughed when I saw the story today in the news. Environment Canada has come out with their list of the Top Ten Weather Stories of 2007! Wait. Top stories? First of all, every year people have to do this. Watch TV this weekend, and you will see top-ten lists on every channel. Top Ten Celebrity Meltdowns of 2007! Top Ten New Recipes From Rachel Ray! Top Ten Lead-Based Toys From China! Top Ten Legal Battles By Former Cincinnatti Bengals Wide Receivers! It's a madhouse. Every one of the lists more boring than the last. And now, they want to bore us even more with stories Only Woody would be pleased, weather junkie that he is.

But then I read the list. And although it is not exactly entertaining, it certainly is interesting...and scary. Our big snowfall of December 16th? Number three! Yeah, we're on a list! Go Ottawa! Well, all of Canada really. We were briefly mentioned at the end of the story. But at least we made it! But the scary thing was the number of global warming-related stories. Here they are, from #10 - #1. Lists! Exciting, no?

#10: Canada's first-ever F5 category tornado. An F5 category tornado is the most powerful tornado that can be recorded on the Fujita scale. Judging by the name, Japan receives a lot of tornadoes also. Canada is second to the US in the world in number of tornado occurences, but we had never officially recorded an F5 until this one touched down 40 km outside Winnipeg on June 22nd. Thankfully, it happened in a very small town called Elie. A town so small that most of the residents of Elie were out of town for a high school graduation ceremony, and there were no serious injuries. You know you are in a small town when the entire population can be gone for a high school graduation. I think my Dad's town in Saskatchewan is about that small.

#9: Severe weather in the Prairies. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba set a record for most "severe weather events" with 410. That beat the previous record of 297, set only last year. Hail pounded crops so often that 4,700 hail-related claims were made to insurance companies in the prairies. In my Dad's area of Saskatchewan, near Kindersley, many farmers reported several hits over the course of the summer.

#8: Last year's winter that never came. We here in Ottawa didn't have snow until January 16th. The weather throughout the fall was summer-like, and the weather in the winter was fall-esque. 2005-06 was the wramest winter in recorded history, and one ski resort laid off 1,300 employees. In the end, winter lasted about six weeks. Total. That's not groundhog-rounded.

#7: Great Lakes at their lowest water levels ever. Trillions of litres of water disappeared from the Great Lakes as Lake Superior reached a record for lowest water level in history. The prevailing opinion here is that the Great Lakes have been losing water for about 12 years now, and it is because of climate change. What environmentalists and climate experts predicted would happen many years from now is already happening.

#6: Hurricane Noel hits Eastern Canada. No one died. No harm no foul. I think no one even got injured. No big deal then.

#5: Southern Ontario goes parched. The number of "hot" days (those above 30 degrees) was three times the normal average in Southern Ontario this year. Record dryness of a kind not seen since the 1930s killed thousands of trees and made water very scarce. The Ministry of Natural Resources...and I'm not making this up...asked anglers not to fish in certain streams and rivers, because the water levels were so low that the fish were "stressed out". Yes, it was even so dry that the Delhi Horticultural Society had to cancel their flower show because the blooms had wilted!

#4: Super-hot prairie summer. Humidex records were broken. Dew point records were broken. Whatever those are. Bloated fish floated to the surface of streams, lakes and reservoirs that had overheated. Hundreds of thousands of people were very uncomfortable.

#3: Our big ol' snowstorm. Well, we all know about that one.

#2: The long flood threats in BC. The province of British Columbia braced itself for the worst flooding in the province's history. There were some minor incidents, but the massive flooding never took place. This was a non-event. How did this make it to #2?

#1: We are killing ourselves. A chunk of ice the size of Ontario melted over the course of this past year. The previous record low for arctic ice was 5.3 million square kilometres. This year, it was 4 million square kilometres. Five of the ten warmest winters since 1960 have occurred since 2001. The shrinkage of arctic ice this year was similar to what climatologists thought would happen THIRTY years from now. Tell me that isn't a little scary. Or a lot.

Much as I love all you climate change deniers, the anti-Global-Warming head-in-the-sand angry right-wingers, I think maybe we should all just jump on the bandwagon and do something? Maybe convince the party in power that saying "we care about the environment" is not an environmental policy? My favourite call in a while came last week. A gentleman called up to complain about the big snowfall, and I understand that. The snow was a pain in the ass. He suggested we bring Al Gore up here, to show him this incontrovertible proof that global warming was a myth. Look Al! We have snow! You must just be stupid! How could we have snow if there was global warming? Then, this fine yet possibly misguided man went on to say "I knew we'd have this dump. It said so in the Farmer's Almanac." And he was not joking.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

My personal war against credit cards. It isn't going well.

I know what you're saying. After my last blog post, you are saying, "Eric, you are an idiot. You should have a credit card, then you wouldn't have these problems". This is true. If I had a credit card, I would have been able to purchase my TV at Audiotronic yesterday without worrying about my bank letting me have my money. This is because credit card companies are all about letting you have your money, as often and as much as possible. You need fifteen hundred bucks right now? Sure! The last thing credit card companies are about is protecting you from yourself. That, you see, would not be a good business practice on their part.

I have resisted, most of my life, getting a credit card. I recently got one of those HBC credit cards, not because I wanted one, but because applying for one gave me 10 percent off on my massive holiday purchase at Zellers. So I figured, what the hell. I'll never use it anyway. But now that it has arrived, I have people everywhere telling me I HAVE to use it. If you don't use your credit card, you see, you can't build credit. Which is a lot like applying for a job, but being turned down because you don't have enough experience doing that job. How can I get experience when no one will hire me because I have no experience? How can I build credit when I don't have enough credit to get credit?

And why do we need credit? Well, because our system is set up that way. If you don't have good credit, you can't buy a car. You can't rent an apartment. You can't purchase a house or take out a loan or book a flight or a hotel room or rent a carpet shampooer. It occurs to me that if I didn't have parents kind enough and trusting enough to co-sign on things for me (car, apartment, house), then I would in fact be homeless. I have no credit rating. At all. There is one thing that shows up on my credit rating, and that is an unpaid $2,000.00 for tuition at Ottawa U. (Which is a long story, and comes down to a serious deficiency in logic, and which they will probably never get back until I decide I really have to become a physicist after all.) Also, apparently affecting my credit rating, are all those credit card applications I filled out when I was a student. I get a free box of cookies just for filling out this form? Sold. Free soda? Deal. Well, I would fudge the forms and put down an income of $00,000.00 per year, to ensure that no one would ever send me a card. It turns out that every time you apply for a credit card and get declined, an arbitrary number of "points" are taken off your already non-existent credit rating. Apparently.

So I have been unable to rent apartments, buy houses, buy my car, or rent a moving van on my own, throughout my whole life. And this, for me, came down to a conscious decision. I do not want a credit card. If I want to purchase something, like a TV or a Blu-Ray player or both, I will save up enough money until I am able to afford them, and then go ahead and pay. Which, it seems to me, is the most sound financial philosophy there could be. I will never, under this system, buy something that I can not afford. I will not go into debt over a sofa or a fridge or three packs of Skittles. Now, of course, I am not debt-free. I have to pay the necessities. Car and house. But at least I'm not paying off a fancy new home theatre system over the next forty-one years, at which point I will have paid nine times the sticker price.

So there's my big problem with credit cards and credit ratings. If you go through life buying only what you can afford with what money you actually have, you are a credit risk. However, if you buy a $2,000.00 Velvet Elvis for your bathroom, and pay the minimum installment on your credit card bill, and incur the 22 percent interest on it, and don't miss a payment, and finally finish paying your now $3,600.00 six years later, then you have excellent credit. You are a terrific risk, and should be allowed to buy all kinds of terrific things. Let's bump up your credit limit, you seem like you have a splendid head for finance, and are unlikely to screw us over. Perhaps we can interest you in this Faberge Egg, or these Dogs Playing Poker. This may be true. You, the purchaser of the bathroom Velvet Elvis, are not that likely to screw over the credit card company. You are, however, very much likely to screw yourself over. And the credit card company will only make money when you are screwing yourself over. They make their money through the interest payments, and you only pay interest when you buy something you can't really afford.

So why do so many of our most obvious needs and institutions require a credit card for any kind of security? Well, it seems to me that that there is a pervasive culture of debt in North America. It is in everyone's best interests to keep people in debt. If you are not in debt, VISA does not get your money. If you are breaking even or doing better than that, you can use debit instead of American Express to purchase your TV. If your bank will let you. But if you are in debt, and you NEED that TV, then here comes the Mastercard. Sure, you can pay it off eventually, but by that time there will be a newer, cooler TV, and you might really want that one instead...

So why is it better to keep people in debt? Well, for one thing, it makes them better employees. If I had had a huge burden of debt when I worked at North American Security, or Island Park Esso, or Security 24, or Bradson Security, or Lynx Stadium, or CD Warehouse, or Canadian Tire, or H2O, or Consumers Distributing, or the X-Press, or Initial Security, or Capital Security, or Lone Star catering, or Dasani, or MGD, or the Independant Grocer, or Buffalo Charlies, I might still be at one of those jobs. I wouldn't have been able to up and leave when I felt like it - I would have desperately needed the money, and therefore I would have been forced into being a model employee simply to keep my job. This would have crushed my soul, I would have been miserable, and I would have wanted to make myself happier through purchases. I would have put those purchases on my credit card, and put myself deeper into debt, and become an even better employee. Not one with ideas or something to offer the company for which I worked, mind you, but one who was quiet, and obediant, and never rocked the boat or made myself visible in any way. And of course, what employee could ever be better than that?

So perhaps this is the big vision. If everyone is in debt, then everyone will behave properly in society, will fall into line, and things will be far easier for everyone. Debt breeds more debt, more debt breeds more spending beyond one's means, which totally helps the economy. Spend! The economy loves it! And what's the way to earn enough money to spend what you want to spend? Get a better job. How do you get a better job? Go to school. How do you go to this school? You pay. How do you pay? Student loans. So when you get out...debt already! You are already a productive member of society. So your Bachelors of Science degree warm in your pocket, you can now become, right away, almost, the manager of a Taco Bell. And you can't leave that job, because the month with no money will likely bankrupt you and make you homeless. Enjoy your ten-year tenure as Taco Bell manager, which isn't such a bad job, and you can make it feel better with a plasma TV to go home to.

The world is against me, and I am defeated. So is the Audiotronic bathroom.

Yesterday was the first day of Audiotronic's big blowout Boxing Day sale. I was there on behalf of CHEZ doing a live commercial, and I decided it was time to replace the old tube TV in my living room with something good. The picture we get now is shaky, so much so that I can't even make out the scores that scroll across the bottom of the screen during football or hockey games. I flipped on the Senators game the other day, and at first I thought the score was 9-0! Upon further inspection, I discovered it was 0-0, and only 12 seconds had been played in the first period. Yes, it was time for an upgrade. I had managed to save up just enough to get a 32" LCD TV and a Blu-Ray player at boxing day prices. (Which, as a professional movie reviewer, I assume I can write off on my taxes.) So I selected a TV, the DVD player, and the cables to go with, and sat down with Ken, the sales associate who had been so helpful, to start the process. All went fine, until I went to pay. I used my debit card, and when I swiped it, it said "limit exceeded". Not "insufficient funds", but "limit exceeded". I guess I have a certain limit on my card for purchases each day.

I called my bank. They said "we are experiencing unusually long delays"...I held. I listened to a Neil Young song. Then to an Alice Cooper song. Then to a Dire Straits song. Then I had to put the receiver down, because I was supposed to be on the air right after Dire Straits. After my last segment, I went back to the phone. "I have enough money in my account for this!" I told the bank. "We know that, Eric, but we hate you" said the phone service. Then it said "we are experiencing longer than usual delays". I gave up. I hung up the phone and said I would physically go to my bank to clear things up. I leapt in my car and sped off to the TD bank at the St. Laurent shopping centre, the closest TD I could think of. Half way there, I noticed that I really had to go to the bathroom in a big way. No problem, I thought. I will be at the shopping centre very soon, and I will be able to evacuate myself at that time.

But when I got to the mall, there was not a single parking space available. Anywhere. I drove around. To one parking lot and then the next. At every turn, there were seven cars at the very least approaching the stop signs. When I came out of one parking lot, the line of cars in front of me was so long, and not one of the cars would stop to let me through. Eventually, I had to back up, drive through the front doors of the mall, speed down the aisle by Farm Boy, honking so that people scattered, and I was finally able to drive out the entrance of the Bay on the third floor, having knocked over only one display case containing snow globes. "I only need to use the bank! I'll be three minutes!" I hollered at the cars. "We know that, Eric, but we hate you" responded the traffic. By now I was squeezing my butt cheeks together as tightly as possible, really worried I would not be able to even make it to the bathrrom once I got parked! Finally, the world was right. There, in the single furthest-from-the-mall parking spot, was an empty space. It had taken me more than a half hour in that parking lot, but it was with a serious sense of relief that I pulled in, and waddled as quickly as I could toward the mall. I went through a door, down some stairs, across another parking lot, through another door, down a few more stairs, along a causeway and finally into the Bay passed my smashed snow globes.

I decided the bathroom was far more important than the bank at the moment, so I hastened to that area first. Fighting my way through the thousands of boxing day shoppers who were in no hurry to go anywhere, and might even have been moving slower than the traffic. "I need to go. Really bad." I told the pedestrians at the mall. "We know that, Eric, but we hate you" responded the shoppers. Finally, I reached the bathrooms, and rushed down the corridor. The sense of relief was overwhelming. I had begun unbuttoning my pants and started to gingerly release my bowels before even reaching the bathroom, since it had been such an effort to keep them tightly wound until that time. "I'm finally at the bathroom!" I cried, in relief. "We know that, Eric, but we hate you" said the Out Of Order sign on the bathroom doors. Out of Order! On the busiest shopping day of the year, would you not anticipate more people attending your mall? And therefore, more of them might need a restroom? No? It's just me?

So now, there was an absolutely superhuman effort on my part to re-squeeze my already-beginning-to-relax butt cheeks, in order to avoid an accident of monumental proportions. I could already tell there was to be no quick solution to this one. This wasn't one of those jobs that could be done quietly and unnoticed in an abaondoned stairwell, or snuck into an empty Booster Juice cup behind some cars in the parking lot. No, this job would require some serious maintenance, pre-event to some small extent, and post-event to an enormous extent. What to do? I guess the only thing to do was to get to the bank, since there was no way I could make it anywhere else to a bank, and I was not going to leave to find a bathroom and then fight my way back into the St. Laurent parking lot. I waddled toward the bank with the gait of a man who had just spent seven of the worst nights of his life in prison, and made it there by 3:50. It was closed. That made sense to me. After all, it was boxing day. Too bad you can't use the phone to find out if they are open or not, I thought.

I decided to try my card anyway. Maybe if I took some out in cash, and some out seperately, I could pay for my purchases. No. It turns out I can take out only $500.00 in a day. That's it. I tried three different combinations of things, pulling my card out and putting it back in. Nothing more. $500.00, and that was it. I took the money quickly, turned toward the parking lot, and came as close to sprinting as is possible for a man who is pressing so hard in his hindquarters that diamonds are being formed in his colon. Into the car, down the ramp, heading back to Audiotronic as fast as my car would carry me. I got down the ramp, turned the corner, now it was just two little parking lots to get across before I was free of the ugliness of Boxing Day shopping at St. Laurent. I made it across one parking lot and then...ambulances. Fire trucks. Firemen and paramedics and security guards directing traffic. But not my traffic. Other traffic. Oncoming traffic, and cross traffic and through traffic, but not my traffic. I sat there. Squeezing. Sweating now, profusely. I had my window open to get fresh air, and I was breathing as though I was in labour. I have no idea what the paramedics were doing, because I was not watching. I was having my own medical emergency.

Another fifteen minutes to go 60 yards. Finally, I was free! Free of the ambulances, the fire trucks, the out of order bathrooms and the closed bank. Free to speed back to Audiotronic, and tell them I would be unable to make my purchase today. Perhaps they will set it aside, and I can go to my bank again tomorrow. And take out another 500 bucks. And then, I can go to my bank once more, on Friday, and take out ANOTHER 500 bucks. And then I can pay on Saturday. How is that? I wondered. The important thing, however, was that they had a bathroom. It took me about six minutes to get back there, and I made a beeline straight for the rest room. "Hi!" said Ken, who had been waiting on my return. "MGhuFF" said I, as I held up my finger, indicating I needed a moment and sped toward the bathroom. Ken seemed to understand, since he nodded as I closed the door and fumbled for the lightswitch. I gave up on finding it, and just let loose. I feel I ought to apologize to the customers and employees of Audiotronic, for what I did to their bathroom. When I finally found the light switch, I could see that I was covered in sweat, white as a ghost, and that there were tears streaming down my face. I don't know whether those were tears of relief, tears from the earlier pain, tears of hopelessness from the car ride, or merely as a result of the smell. They have a Febreeze air freshener in the bathroom, but even that entire can could not disguise what had gone on in there.

I finally emerged, ready to take care of not buying anything. I had to speak to Ken, but now he was with another customer. So I made myself as inobtrusive as possible for the next half hour, watching the world junior game on the very TV I wanted to purchase but couldn't, and waiting until he was done selling more TVs. Finally, it was my turn. "I can't make this purchase." I stated. "My bank does not give me a big enough allowance." I kind of understand this. I mean, it would save people some money if someone managed to steal their bank card and their PIN number and their identity and then went to a store like Audiotronic and tried to purchase a TV and a Blu-Ray player and stuff....but if my money is there, why can't I just have it? I would rather have access to my money than be protected from theft, frankly. It's kind of like that guy who has a vintage Porsche, that he keeps under a tarp in his garge and never drives, in case people steal it. Why have it at all?

I highly recommend the Audiotronic boxing day sale. There are some great prices there. I will be going back tomorrow to purchase my items. But I suggest if you go, bring cash, or credit cards, or a small child you can use as collateral.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Assuming the Chargers win big tonight...

OK. One week left in the season, and I am maintaining a narrow lead on Doc in the CHEZ pool. Rain Man has somehow managed to stay right with me all season long, and will be 8 points behind me going into the final week, pending the Chargers monster win tonight. In the office pool, I assume I have fallen fairly far from first right now because I had a truly lousy week. Here's how it all worked out:

Ones I got right: The Cowboys did beat the Panthers, but Carolina played hard and they did cover that spread in the CHEZ pool. Buffalo DID make it interesting for the Giants, going up 14-0, but New York came through with the victory. The Steelers won fairly handily against the Rams, when St. Louis fell apart in the second half. The Colts were easily able to beat up on Houston, and even when they rested their starters, Houston could do nothing. Jaguars certainly did win HUGE against the Raiders. Philly was able to upset the Saints. The Lions managed to beat the Chiefs, but I was wrong about the spread. Lions covered, winning by 5 when the spread was 4.5. The Cardinals DID win their game simply for pride, but even then they looked lousy doing it. Titans did win, Jets did cover. Seattle beat up on the Ravens.

Ones I got wrong: The Redskins were more resilient than I had imagined, and the Vikings are more human than I thought. Skins will make the playoffs now, Minnesota still needs help. New England did NOT cover the spread against Miami. They go up 28-0 in the first quarter, and then sit down and wait for the game to end. Miami snuck that late TD in to cut it to within 21 points, the spread was 22. The Browns did not run it up big on Cincinnatti. In fact, they did not even win the game. Now they need some help to make the playoffs. The Packers fell completely apart against the Bears. For some reason, Chicago really has Green Bay's number this year. The Niners covered the spread, like I thought they would, but I never expected them to actually WIN the game against Tampa. Niners look like they might be decent next year.

So, I will put my picks for this coming week up here, so I can get all the football over and done with right now, to spare those who dislike reading about football. Here goes, for the worst week to predict in all of football:

New England - New York Giants: Thankfully, this one is out of the way on Saturday, so we can concentrate on games that matter. Frankly, this one does not matter at all to either team. Giants have locked up the first wild card berth in the NFC, and the Patriots obviously have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. That means there is nothing really to play for, for either team. Maybe the Giants want to play spoiler to that perfect season. Maybe the Patriots want to get the TD records for Brady and Moss. My money is on the latter, and I think they will keep their starters in long enough to break the records and ensure a perfect season.

Seattle - Atlanta: Another nothing game. The Seahawks are already assured of the third seed in the NFC playoffs, and will be resting starters. Atlanta wants to end the season on a high note, and they might be hungry enough to knock off Seattle's second-string players after their overtime loss to the Cardinals yesterday.

Pittsburgh - Baltimore: The Steelers will have a home playoff game to kick off the wild card round, and with Willie Parker already done for the year with the broken leg he suffered on Thursday, look for Pittsburgh to take no chances. Roethlisberger will be in for one series, and then sit. As will the rest of their starters. Baltimore has a very good chance in this one. Good enough that I will actually pick them to be victorious.

Dallas - Washington: The Cowboys have homefield sewn up. Nothing to play for. The Skins, on the other hand, have everything to play for. They are on the verge of making the playoffs, when their season seemed lost not that long ago. It would make for a great story if they did indeed make it, and I think they will beat the Cowboys on Sunday to do so.

Carolina - Tampa Bay: The Panthers played the Cowboys very tight when Dallas actually cared about the game. Tampa is not as good as Dallas, and they will not care about this game. They are seeded fourth in the NFC, and that is already set. Panthers in the road upset.

Buffalo - Philadelphia: Neither team is going to be in the playoffs, but one of the two will finish 8-8 to at least hit .500. My pick here is the Eagles, who would make the playoffs were the season two weeks longer. They are clicking on all cylinders right now, and just dropped 38 points on a good Saints team. Philly is much better than Buffalo right now, McNabb is healthy, and Brian Westbrook is the second-best running back not in the Pro Bowl.

New Orleans - Chicago: The Saints need this win, what with still having very faint hopes of making the playoffs. The Saints laid a big egg yesterday against the Eagles, and I don't think they are a team that can play desperate footaball. The Bears showed yesterday that they are relishing the position of spoiler, and their dominant victory over the Packers shows they still have a lot of pride left. Bears will knock New Orleans right out of the playoffs.

San Francisco - Cleveland: Cleveland needs to win this game to make the playoffs. They also need the Colts to knock off the Titans. There is a good chance both could happen. San Fran has played much better of late, but I still believe in the Browns, and I think they will be a hungry team that beats the Niners soundly. Then they will be an anxious team while watching the Sunday night game.

Detroit - Green Bay: Neither team has anything left to play for. The Packers are #2. That's settled. The Lions are out. That's done. But I don't see Green Bay taking it easy here for some reason. Have you ever seen Brett Favre voluntarily give up some snaps? And if he does, that backup guy no one has ever heard of will really have something to prove. Packers to win.

Jacksonville - Houston: Houston has nothing left to play for except pride. They are in the toughest division in football, a division that may well put the other three teams in the playoffs this year. And Houston is a pretty good team. But they are 0-5 so far in their division this year, and althought Jacksonville will be resting starters and taking it easy, they should still be able to take the Texans. Close, but a Jaguars win.

Tennessee - Indianapolis: This game matters to one team. The Titans. Win, and they are in the playoffs. Lose, and they need big-time help. So, there is one thing to do. Win. And they actually can, since the Colts are going to sit starters, rest up and get healthy. One would assume. And even against the second-string Colts, a Titans victory would be a major statement, and one that would put them into the playoffs on a major high. Tennessee in a close one.

Cincinnatti - Miami: Who cares? I dunno, take the Bengals. Miami has had their win.

San Diego - Oakland: Chargers have wrapped up the #3 seed by now. Oakland can't even play spoiler any more. The Chargers may keep their starters in a while, since they have had trouble clicking lately,a dn might like to get some game-situation reps in before the playoffs begin. If that is the case, they will hammer the Raiders.

Minnesota - Denver: The Vikings must win if they hope to make the playoffs. They ran into a very hot Skins team yesterday, but the Vikings have been playing well enough of late to shrug that one off and end the misery of the Broncos. Minnesota in a big win.

St. Louis - Arizona: Arizona could finish 8-8 with a win. Thin motivation, I know, but the season can't end fast enough for the Rams. Cards to win, no one to care.

Kansas City - New York Jets: Possibly the worst game of the entire season. Jets are fairly good...for a 3-win team. Chiefs have been done for a long time. Jets to win.

Okay. There will be at least one more football-related post, for all you football haters, when I crow triumphantly about my victory in the office pool, and hopefully my victory over Doc in the CHEZ pool.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The MPAA...good times and hilarity.

ThinkFilm is prepping an appeal to the MPAA, but this one doesn't concern a film's rating. It's about a poster. The poster art for Taxi to the Dark Side -- a documentary about the pattern of torture practice that is on the short list for Academy Award consideration -- is causing a stir due to its depiction of a hooded man being led by American soldiers. The original news photo was taken by photographer Shaun Schwarz, and had been censored before -- when the military erased it from Schwarz' camera. (He later retrieved it from his hard drive.) Variety magazine is reporting that the MPAA has officially rejected the poster, and if ThinkFilm goes forward with the marketing, they could have their "R" rating revoked. Taxi to the Dark Side is due for release on January 11th. Here is the poster. For more hilarious information on the MPAA, check out the DVD This Film Is Not Yet Rated. It is awesome.

Eastern Promises. Best movie of the year.

I have seen the best movie made this year. And it comes out on DVD today. Here is a link to the trailer:

David Cronenberg is quickly becoming one of the top five directors in movies today, along with Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorcese, Tarantino and the Coen Brothers. A couple more like this and he will be number one, easily. He was the auteur of last year's best movie as well, A History of Violence. Viggo Mortensen is in Eastern Promises as well, playing a driver and general thug-for-hire for the Russian mob in London. Naomi Watts plays a midwife who accidentally uncovers evidence against the Russian syndicate. She is one of the most underrated actresses in movies, and a new addition to my "top five actresses whom I would pay to see in a movie" list, now that Hilary Swank has become a motivational speaker. Not that that matters. Really. Go see that movie being advertised just to the right of this post. I'm sure it's delightful.

But first, rent Eastern Promises. Because the next "new release Tuesday" is actually Christmas day, the whole system gets screwed up for a couple of weeks, and movies are released on Friday of this week. Also Rush Hour 3, and The Heartbreak Kid. Rush Hour 3 might be decent, The Heartbreak Kid will likely be lousy, but Eastern Promises is so worth the trip to the video store. It is such an intense, powerful drama/thriller/crime story/gangster epic that it is, in my humble movie critic's opinion, the best movie of 2007. The others are Superbad, The Host, Knocked Up, Rescue Dawn, Sicko, Hot Fuzz, Ratatouille and The Bourne Ultimatum. This may be because I have not yet seen No Country For Old Men. But as it stands right now, Eastern Promises is the must-watch, get-it-now movie of the year.

I'm on the Sidney Crosby bandwagon.

OK, NOW Sidney Crosby is the greatest player in hockey today. Last night, his first ever fight, and he did pretty well. A Gordie Howe hat trick in the first 25 minutes of the game! In fact he had a goal, a fight, and TWO assists in the first 25 minutes of play as the Penguins rolled over Andrew Ference and the Bruins. He may never break any of Gretzky's records, but three more fights and he has surpassed the Great One in at least one category.

Oh no! More punishment ------------------>

Now I see that the ads are rotating, and it is not just that one about the Cobalt. There is also one for the new movie P.S. I Love You. As host of Cynical Cinema, I would like to state that I heartily endorse the film P.S. I Love You. I am certain that it is a high-octane, adrenaline-filled powerhouse of a movie, full of heart-pumping car chases and shootouts. And please friends, don't let the fact that Hilary Swank has become a motivational speaker deter you from checking out what I'm sure is a towering masterpiece of cinematic art. P.S. I Love You. In theatres now.

Oh, one more. The Bucket List! OK, this one I really do want to see. Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, trying to make sure they do everything on their list before they kick the bucket? This one really does have tremendous written all over it. Morgan Freeman, over the last several years, has proven that he will appear in anything, as long as it pays him, so his judgement is not necessarily to be trusted. But Jack has always been bang-on. With the exception of Anger Management. You can trust Jack.

Oh, I Am Legend also. Well, this movie doesn't need more advertising. It had the biggest December opening of all time and is making ridiculous amounts of box-office money. I wouldn't go so far as to say you can trust Will Smith to make a movie that is great. But you can definitely trust him to be in a movie that will make a lot of box-office money. I will suspend my judgement on I Am Legend until I have seen it. When it comes out on DVD. I suppose I should do the same, as a reputable movie critic, but some things promise "suck" long before anyone sees them. Like the involvement of Orlando Bloom or Ben Stiller.

Witness my punishment ------------->

To your right on this page, you will see my just desserts for screwing up such a simple thing as the entering of a bonus code. Feast your eyes upon the advertising that has been (temporarily, I hope) added to my page. Please, visit our sponsor and win a Cobalt. Whatever that is. Some kind of flashlight, I wager. The only way to find out for sure click on the ad! Enjoy!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bonus code bitterness? Mea culpa.

I am pretty new to the whole CHEZ bonus code thing. I was given access on Tuesday to actually create them myself, and then a brief tutorial by a colleague in another department as to how to actually use the system. It turns out that his system is slightly different than the CHEZ system, and as such I have screwed up the bonus codes for two days in a row. My fault, apologies all around. I think I have it fixed now, and today's should work just fine. Fingers crossed. I have received many emails and phone calls and a few messages on my blog about the bonus codes, so I figured I would use this space to respond to them all. I am told that all those who attempted unsuccessfully to enter the codes have been credited with the points in their accounts. I am also told that as punishment for my idiocy, ads might soon be going up on my blog. So...look for some ads soon. I feel one week's worth is punishment enough for me.

Most of the messages I received have been friendly in tone, just gentle reminders and mildly phrased questions about the bonus codes. However, some have been amazingly malicious and angry! These are the ones that make me laugh. I tried to copy and paste the bodies of these emails into my blog for the amusement of all, but my email won't allow me to do so, so I have copied down some of my favourite phrases. I felt like I was Randall, and this was my rant-back! Here are a few:

"Get your head out of your ass, you piece of s*t intern."
"You're clearly the dumbest person at CHEZ."

A personal favourite of mine:
"I spent two hours trying to put this code in. You cost me two hours of my work day."

"I didn't get a thousand points today. What are you going to do about it?"
"How do you expect people to keep listening when your bonus codes are always so f*ed up?"

That's just a sample, and I have paraphrased where appropriate. This really does make me smile though. I mean, it's a bonus code, right? For points in the Platinum Nation? It isn't your mortgage payment or your child's University tuition, no?'s called a "bonus" code, because getting it is a "bonus". I do not owe you points simply by virtue of the fact that I am here. When Doc creates a bonus code, he doesn't create it because he owes everyone 1,000 points a day, he does it because he wants to give people 1,000 points a day. Which is why I am doing it. I could quite easily have taken over the show for these two weeks, and given away no bonus codes at all. It would have made my life much easier, and I wouldn't have had to learn the time consuming process of creating a code. But I wanted to give away points. So I made the effort. I was ready to pack it in yesterday, after two days filled with venomous emails. But then my error in creating the codes was pointed out to me, and I felt so stupid at missing such a small detail that I have decided to continue with the practice.

Enjoy your points everyone, and the ads that are sure to show up here in the next few days.

Chris Simon

Chris Simon stomps on Jarko Ruutu's leg:

Chris Simon's two-handed stick smash to the face of Ryan Hollweg:

The fact of the matter is, the cheapshot on Hollweg was even worse than the skate to the leg of Ruutu, although both are fairly tough to watch. But I'm a little confused here. The slash to the face of Hollweg was worth a league-record 25 game suspension. Then, the stomp on Ruutu's leg, while not as bad, was worth an even-longer 30 games. That's not what confuses me. I get it. This is Simon's EIGHTH suspension, two of which have been of record length. And so the suspension he gets this time is based more on his previous record than it is on the incident itself. OK, fine so far. But here's what I don't get. Simon was suspended for TWENTY-FIVE games last time. The idea being, I suppose, to teach him his lesson. Did he learn it? Obviously not. The stomp on Ruutu was not in the heat of a game, a momentary loss of discipline in the thick of battle. It was after the play was long over, while Ruutu was surrounded by linesmen! 25 games obviously had absolutely no effect here, because here we are nine months later and he's acting the same way.

So why 30 games? Isn't that kind of like saying "well, you didn't stop mugging old ladies when we gave you two years in jail. So let's see if two and a HALF can convince you not to mug old ladies!" Umm...right. The criminal justice system doesn't work this way, and neither should the NHL justice system. Now, I like what both Simon and the Islanders did here, pre-emptively dealing with the situation, making sure the team was still behind Simon, who clearly has some serious issues that go beyond hockey, and making sure he had time away from the team to deal with whatever those issues may be. That is a good step, the team policing its players before the NHL even has a chance to do so. I think Ted Nolan must be behind that in some way. But the actions of the NHL are strange to me. If you really want to have an effect, perhaps here you REALLY have to step it up. Suspend him for a full season. Or, just get the thing over and done with and boot him out of the game for good.

I have seen Chris Simon interviewed. He is a likeable, soft-spoken guy, who seems like a very friendly individual. But when he gets out onto the ice, he is dangerous. And not in a Scott Stevens, keep-your-head-down sort of way, and not even in a Claude Lemieux, Ulf Samuelsson, Brian Marchment I'll-spear-you-behind-the-play-while-no-one's-looking sort of way, but rather in an uncontrollable, intent-to-injure kind of way that seems impossible for him to reign in. If kids do this in school, they are suspended. They keep doing it, they are expelled. If people do this in society, they are arrested. Eventually, they are imprisoned for a long time. The same, it seems to me, should go in hockey. A full-season suspension would not be out of order here. Not too many people seem to think the same way I do about this. All the pundits I've seen and read have suggested that 30 games is fair. I hope they are right, and I hope Chris Simon gets the help he needs while he is away from the Islanders. But I'm worried that a thirty-FIVE game suspension is just around the corner.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

More football picks...don't worry, only two weeks left.

OK, Greg and Kayla, and the rest of you all who have managed to pass me in the work pool. This week, I re-assert my dominance. And I have to, because on that last week, who knows who'll win and who'll tank? These next two are, in fact, the toughest by far to actually predict. Most of the playoff picture is clear, but with a few races still up for grabs, here we go:

Pittsburgh - St. Louis: The Steelers, once 7-2 and considered the third-best team in football, have fallen fairly hard of late. The Rams are not a good team, but they have nothing to lose, and could well surprise the Steelers. Pittsburgh will win this game, but it will be closer than the 7.5 point spread in the CHEZ pool.

Dallas - Carolina: The Panthers' win against the Seahawks last wek was...what? A sign that Carolina has finally figured it out near the end of the season? Or an aberration where Seattle played horribly and lost a game they should have run away with. And the Cowboys' loss to Philadelphia was...what? A sign the Cowboys are finally human and are starting to slide toward the season's end? Or an aberration where Philly played unusually well? Well, here's my take. The Eagles-Boys game was divisional, between two teams where their records have no bearing on the outcome of the game. The Panthers win was similar, but bigger than the Dallas loss. So I think the Cowboys will win, but Carolina has figured out enough football to keep it closer than 13 points.

New York Giants - Buffalo: This is a much tougher game to call than it appears. The Giants are proving, week in and week out, that they are NOT as good as their record would suggest. They are falling off in a big way, and there is actually a chance they might not make the playoffs at all, which would have seemed ridiculous a month ago. The Bills, on the other hand, have performed above all expectations most of the season, and are at home for this one. The thing is, the Giants are in danger of missing the playoffs because of the way they have played at home, not on the road. Add to that the fact that their last game is going to be a loss to New England, and the Giants need this one badly. They should win, but look for Buffalo to make it interesting.

Washington - Minnesota: Another one of those "zero spread" games in the CHEZ pool. But this is by no means an easy one to pick. It's really nice to see Sean Taylor being posthumously elected to the Pro Bowl, and based on the season he was having, he certainly deserved it. And this Skins team has proven to be very resilient and mentally tough, and they are good enough to win out and make the playoffs. My slight inclination here, however, is to go with the Vikings at home. They are looking absolutely fantastic as they make their playoff push, and I find it tough to bet against Adrian Peterson at the moment.

Houston - Indianapolis: Poor Houston is in a division where, try as they might, they will not make the playoffs this year. They have improved an enormous amount, thanks in large part to Mario Williams, who is more than justifying his first-overall selection this year. However, the Jaguars, Titans and Colts are all very good teams that Houston had to play twice each this year. The Texans are 0-4 in divisional games so far (meaning they are 7-3 in their other games). The Colts should make it 0-5 this weekend, but they have nothing left to play for. They are second in the conference, guaranteed first-round bye, no chance at homefield throughout. But the Colts don't want another late-season letdown, like the one that led to their second-round loss a couple of years ago. Look for the Colts to keep their starters in long enough to win, but to take them out in time for Houston to cover the 8-point spread.

Oakland - Jacksonville: The Raiders put in a pretty good effort against the Colts last week, but many experts are now saying that Jacksonville may actually be BETTER than the Colts right now, with the way Fred Taylor is running. Taylor has to be a little bitter, having once again not made the Pro Bowl. He will look to make a statement in this game, and Jacksonville has not yet officially made the playoffs. Jaguars to win HUGE.

Philadelphia - New Orleans: The Saints are an enigma. One week they are terrific, the next they are awful. Reggie Bush goes out and they still win last week's big game. They are better on the road than at home. Then again, so are the Eagles. Philadelphia is riding high after knocking off the Cowboys, and they might catch New Orleans on a down week. Take Philly in the upset and hope for the best.

Miami - New England: This is a game that could go one of two ways. Either the Patriots win by thirty, or they win by fifty. If New England decides to rest their starters for the playoffs, they will win by 30. If they decide to go all out against the team whose destiny they are chasing, they will win by fifty. Either way, they cover the spread.

Kansas City - Detroit: Two teams that are both bombing in a big way late in the year. KC has lost 7 straight. The Lions have lost 6 straight. Both are just playing out the string, and there is no telling who will care less than the other team and lose this game. The Lions are favoured by 4.5, and I will take them to win, but KC to cover the spread. Hedging my bets again.

Cleveland - Cincinnatti: The Browns not only have a great chance to make the playoffs, they also have a terrific chance to win their division and finish ahead of Pittsburgh. Last week's game in Buffalo just proved that Cleveland has what it takes to beat teams in adverse conditions, and they should run it up big on Cincy, who are completely lost this year.

Green Bay - Chicago: The Packers actually have a chance to win the NFC, now that the Eagles took out the Cowboys last week. Also, this game could exact some revenge on Chicago for that early-season loss. The Packers, with home field in the playoffs, would be Super-Bowl bound. The Bears will not be back to a Super Bowl for many years. Take Green Bay. A free 15-16 points in the CHEZ pool.

Atlanta - Arizona: Arizona is now out of the playoff hunt, thanks to their defeat at the hands of New Orleans last week. But they are still immeasurably better than the Falcons. Cards to win this one simply for pride.

New York Jets - Tennessee: The Titans are in tough if they want to be the final wild-card team in the AFC. They need a lot of help, but first they need to win their next two games. And the Jets are not a team that is going to offer much resistance. Titans will take this one, but there is a chance (I'd say a reasonably good chance) that they will tighten up enough to make it close. Jets to cover the 9 points, Titans to win.

Baltimore - Seattle: Baltimore has absolutely nothing left in the tank after their gignatic effort against the Patriots. Giving the Dolphins their first win of the season? Come on. The Seahawks have problems of their own, having lost a game they should have dominated against Carolina last week, but they are more than good enough to defeat a Ravens team that has lost eight in a row after starting 4-2.

Tampa Bay - San Francisco: Who would have thought San Fran's third-string QB could be so effective? Not me, that's for sure. Tampa Bay is still by far the superior team, and they should win this one easily, but if the Niners play like they did last week, they will make it close. I think they will, and I think they will cover the one-TD spread. But they will not win.

Denver - San Diego: The Broncos have been incredible underachievers this season, losing many games they should have won, and squeaking out wins in many games they should have lost. The Chargers, on the other hand, have figured out how to win, and win convincingly. They will do so again against the lackluster Broncos, as San Diego looks to get better and better as they hit the playoffs.

OK. That's it. One more week to go, and I imagine I won't be doing so well in the last couple of weeks. If you want to make that huge score with really long odds on Pro Line, the next couple of weeks are the ones to do it. The weeks where good teams looking to make the playoffs tighten up and lay eggs, the teams with nothing to lose come through with massive efforts, and the teams who already have everything wrapped up sit their starters. Good luck!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A couple of things.

Two administrative items I feel I should clear up, while I have the chance. First, a caller this morning asked if Bruce Willis had ever said "merry f*ing Christmas" in either one of the Christmas-themed Die Hard movies. I do not believe he did, but it's been bugging me ever since. Anyone remember?

Secondly, a gentleman left me a message on my answering machine asking about Rolling Stones films. He left me a phone number to call him back, but I accidentally erased the message, and now I can't remember it. So I will respond here, and hopefully this man reads the blog. Here is your answer: You mentioned Gimme Shelter, which is (I think) by far the best Rolling Stones document out there. The story of the Stones and Altamont and the fallout afterward, Gimme Shelter is absolutely essential for any Stones fan. There is also a movie called Sympathy For the Devil, which is a film done by Jean-Luc Godard, a French director who is famed for his disjointed art films, where narrative is almost irrelevant. Sympathy For the Devil is no exception, it is almost too weird to be enjoyed. There are some bizarre scenes involving the Black Panthers movement, and it's just plain weird. Also too weird and badly-filmed to be enjoyed is the cult-classic bootleg video entitled "C*kS*ker Blues", which is basically just backstage footage from one of their tours. It's grainy, badly done, and does indeed involve some Stones-style debauchery. But (although it is tough to tell for sure because of the film quality) none of that debauchery involves the Stones themselves, just their entourage, and outside of that stuff, it is very boring.

A decent bootleg is called "Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones", which chronicles their 1972 tour, and another solid purchase is the Four Flicks DVD set, which is four performances from different-sized venues during one of their recent tours. Also worthwhile are the Voodoo Lounge DVD and the Bridges to Babylon tour DVD. The gentleman who left the message was, I believe, interested in something from a tour in the early 80s, but I have never seen a DVD with any footage from that era. The ones I mentioned here are all the ones I have seen. If anyone knows of a DVD featuring a tour from 1981, please let me (and the man whose phone call I accidentally erased) know!

Let it, let it stop.

The dream is dead! My dream of shovelling no snow this winter, of waiting until it melted, is over. As I dug myself out of the snow yesterday, for the third time in two days, I took several breaks to savour a coffee and stave off the inevitable heart attack I felt coming on. On Sunday, my mother-in-law was over for our Christmas celebration. When it came time to take her home, which is only two blocks away, we had to completely shovel out the driveway, since it was too deep to drive the car out. A hurried effort by my girlfriend and myself resulted in a temporarily clear driveway, just long enough to get her home and come back into the garage. By the time I had pulled in, the evidence of shoveling had pretty much been cleared away by the snow and the wind, which insisted upon pushing the newly-shoveled snow back onto the driveway from whence it came.

Then yesterday morning, I was frantically trying to remove the giant ice chunk from the bottom of the driveway so I could pull the car out and get to work. I didn't have enough time to clear off the whole driveway, which meant that I got stuck in the middle of my own driveway for a brief spell, but with a massive effort and the liberal application of the gas pedal, my house was covered in spraying snow, but I was on my way to work. While I was at work, the plow came by again. This time, our 13-year-old was commissioned, in my absence, to at least clear off the entrance to the driveway so I could get in when I got home. Although he put in a commendable effort, the resulting gap in the front of the driveway was not quite wide enough to get a car through. But with more liberal application of the accelerator, I was able to gun it up my driveway and into the garage.

I was tapped to go pick up my mother-in-law from work. Normally she takes the bus, but with the massive snowfall and the big snow banks, she would have had to climb over a snow bank to get onto the bus, or she would have had to wait for the bus on the road itself. Neither one was a solid option, so I picked her up. That meant clearing the rest of the driveway. (I also attempt to have the driveway clear every day for the time the letter carrier comes by. I would feel bad if he had to slog through waist-deep snow in order to deliver the pizza place flyers and Homesense catalogues that make up my mail.) This is the part that took me over an hour, since I was watching my heart and taking several breaks, and because I had to widen the mouth of the driveway, which by this time had frozen into a solid ice lump. Once I picked up the mother-in-law, I had to shovel out her walkway at her house. She rents, and the company she rents from does have their own snow-removal crew, but they seem to wait three days after each snow fall to actually get around to it. So in order to make sure she could get to the sidewalk, I was scooping out a small but walkable path as quickly as I could.

Another thought about my mailman - I suspect he does not read my blog, but if you are reading this, sir, I apologize for the minefield you have had to navigate these past few days. You see, although I attempt to keep the driveway and path clean for the mailman, that also means it is the only place outside the house that is not waist-deep in snow. For a while now, we have been unable to open our back door at all, which is where the dog normally goes to do her business. Now, we have no choice but to let her out the front door to do so, which means that there is a lot of yellow snow in the area frequented by the mailman. And, occasionally, a depth charge we missed somewhere along the way. (They are easy to miss at times. Our dog is very small, and by extension, so is her poo.) So I hope this hasn't made your job more difficult, sir.

More snow later today and for the next three days, apparently. I am glad to see that the few poor individuals who left their cars in the station parking lot over the weekend have been able to dig their vehicles free of the mountain, but there is more to come. I am hoping I can hold off until this Saturday, when the +6 temperatures will melt it all. I don't, however, hold out much hope.

Christmas is over!

We had our family Christmas this past weekend. It was the only time we could see my youngest step-son during the holiday season, so we got to celebrate early. Of course, this does not mean we can take down the Christmas decorations that irritate me, because we are still hosting all my in-laws for dinner on Christmas proper, and as such we need to continue being festive until that time. Maybe the Christmas music will ease up a bit, but I am not crossing my fingers. But in the end, it was a fantastic Christmas weekend. We were going to keep the kids home from school on Monday anyway, but since it was a snow day, there really was no school to go to anyway. And what a snow day! Truly a white Christmas for us, which is terrific when you are bundled up by the fireplace with hot chocolate, but not so terrific when you have to get ready for work early on a Monday morning.

But of course, we were cooped up in the house all day Sunday and Monday. Playing all the new games. Of course, the kids had to open every single gift they got at Christmas time, and play with every one of them. So on Sunday I built and then played a game of darts, built and then played Spongebob Operation, opened and played Disney's Scene It...(by the way, anyone played that game? I know it's all Disney movies, but they really hammer that home. EVERY movie title in the game, every answer to every question is things like Disney's The Aristocats, or Disney's Miracle. We get it. The box says Disney. Now it's just obnoxious.) I also played some game with cubes where two guys in the cubes run into each other's cube and bake cookies and sometimes fight each other. I can't really describe it, but it's kind of fun. I hooked up two DS games together. I played with something called a Pokedex. Which is Pokemon related, it seems. Then I set up some Magnetix and played with those. Then the kids got up.

Of course, our oldest step-son was already fully aware that we had purchased Guitar Hero III (having caught us in the act of playing it a few short weeks ago). But he has only played it once before, when I borrowed it from Ted almost a year ago. Jen and I had been able to get through an entire career on Easy mode in one day, but when you get to the end, the songs are way tougher and you have to battle the devil himself to win the game. (The devil for some reason is named Lou. Short for Lucifer, I suppose.) We had tried, but it had proved impossible to beat him. Our 13-year old decides to pick up where we left off, and plays two songs to warm up. then, having played this game once before in a year, goes ahead and beats the devil. Just like that. I hate being impressed by someone's ability to play video games, but I felt that was extremely impressive. I gave him a cookie.

Altogether a very successful Christmas, with several more to come. The in-laws and our older step-son again on the coming weekend, and my mom and sister are going to be around sometime in the Christmas-related holiday season. Then there's my father-in law, brother-in-law and his kids, and my actual Christmas day, which I plan to spend with the girlfriend, completely by ourselves, where we will watch horrible Christmas movies, like Santa Clause 3 and Santa With Muscles (both movies and their reviews on Cynical Cinema this week), and drink some beer. Go Christmas!

Football recap.

I'd like to take a moment to toot my own horn here...who predicted the Dolphins win over the Ravens? That's right, me. And no, I was NOT just trying to throw off the other pool players in my office, like Greg...OK, I was. I really did not see that one coming. I was also lying when I picked the Jets to beat the Patriots, but man, that was close! Could've easily happened, in the end, and the Jets certainly covered that 24-point spread, which was an easy 14 points for me in the CHEZ pool. In fact, I had a pretty poor week, and I hope no one in the pool around me actually took my advice, because my fake picks were better than my real ones.

Ones I got wrong: Who would have seen Seattle losing to the woeful Panthers? I am guessing no one. Very few people would have picked the Eagles over the Cowboys, but I almost did. And I chose wrong. The Eagles DID cover the big spread easily, however, I was right there. Very few people, also, would have chosen the Niners to beat the Bengals, and I am among their number. The Giants should have beaten the Skins, but it turns out none of the Giants receivers are able to catch the ball. Go figure. I chose Arizona by a slim margin over New Orleans without Reggie Bush, but the Saints came through and took the game by a touchdown. I picked the Chargers to win, but the Lions to cover the spread. I was WAY off on that spread thing.

Ones I got right: Vikings covered the spread against the Bears on Monday night. Titans did beat the Chiefs easily. Indy beat Oakland, although it was closer than I thought it would be. Tampa Bay - Atlanta WAS the biggest gift in the CHEZ pool, the Bucs hammering the Falcons. Jacksonville IS a better team than Pittsburgh, and after that win this week, I am hearing many NFL experts saying that the Jaguars might be the second-best team in football, better even than the Colts! Packers DID beat the Rams by ten or more, and Cleveland did cover the spread against the Bills. Although I would hardly call an 8-0 score "winning big". And Houston was able to comfortably beat the Broncos.

My strategy of throwing off the others (Greg especially) in my pool has sort of backfired. I will have to come up with a better system this week. To be continued!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Turn on the juice!

When I was in high school, I learned how to rig those "aptitude tests". One summer, I decided that I wanted to stay home for the summer. I had a girlfrien for the first time, you see. In order to do so, I would need a reason to take summer school. So I rigged the test to say I should become a doctor. This made my mom very happy, but in order to get into medical school, I would need to stay home and take reach-ahead biology in summer school, so I could take OAC biology next year, and get into the right schools...after the summer I decided biology and being a doctor were not for me, and I concentrated on math. You know the tests I'm talking about, right? The ones with questions like "if you could choose between being a garbage man and a spetic tank installation technician, which would make you less upset?" and "when watching Godzilla vs. Mothra, were you cheering for Godzilla, Mothra, or the scientists?" Yeah, those.

What ended up happening, however, was that I never figured out what I was supposed to do with my life. I mean, if you don't take one of those aptitude tests seriously, how do you know? Maybe I was supposed to be an electrical engineer in the field of livestock milking, but I was too busy rigging those tests to say "professional baseball player". (I figured if I had proof, in test form, then I would be able to just go play baseball all the time, and my marks would no longer matter as much. I figured wrong, of course.) Of course, I was way too lazy to put the time, the effort, and the human growth hormone into myself that it took to actually make the big leagues. Frankly, I was too lazy to put the training and effort in that it would have taken just to make my high school team. It just seemed like a neat job to have.

Now, I'm not so sure it WOULD be a neat job to have. If I HAD made the major leagues, I would be halfway through my career right now, supposing I was very good, good enough to play twenty years or so. A George Brett type, I fancied myself. Well, that's a lie. Frankly, I fancied myself a Roger Clemens-Doc Gooden type. I was a pitcher. And those two guys were my heroes. Look what kind of role models they turned out to be. Gooden, after that monster start to his career, effectively coked himself out of the game in a few short years, along with his pal Strawberry. And now Clemens is the biggest, most important name mentioned in the Mitchell report, which came out today. The report seems like it is just the tip of the iceberg. A very small tip. It looks like if everyone using HGH or other steroids was busted, and supposing they got kicked out of baseball, there would be enough players left for two full teams, presumably in Kansas City and Minneapolis.

I really don't have an opinion on what should be done here. Do you suspend them all? Kick them all out? Do you erase the record books in baseball completely for the last fifteen years? Do you divide baseball's history into two eras, BC and AD? Before Canseco and After Drugs? Who knows? Frankly, there is no satisfactory solution that would make everyone happy. I find it hard to believe there is a solution that would make ANYONE happy. I mean, basically you are saying that just about everyone who was any good at all in the last ten, fifteen years in the major leagues was on the juice. Brady Anderson's 50 HRs? Juice. Roger Clemens not sucking after the age of 35? Juice. Bonds, Sosa, McGwire? Well, come on. We knew that already. Frankly, we had to know about Brady Anderson too. How did people not see this before? I include myself in this group. I remember a few seasons where guys with career highs of 14 home runs started popping 40, 50 out of the yard the very next year. And I just thought "wow, good for them! They must really be working out! Especially that Juan Gonzalez guy with biceps the size of my head." Perhaps I was being a little naive.

But the guy I feel worst for here is Bud Selig. He was already cursed with being one of the ugliest public figures this side of Kim Jong Il. (Seriously - what's with these nerdy guys all looking basically the same? I'm going to post a blog with some pictures, I think. Bud Selig, with droopier features and a wheelchair, is Stephen Hawking. Selig with 60 extra pounds and thicker glasses is Stephen King. And a better, healthier looking Selig, is Bill Gates.) So he was already difficult to look at, in a James Carville sort of way. And now, he just looks like he is in so much pain, like it hurts his brain to talk, that he makes me cringe every time I see him take a podium somewhere.

Come to think of it, had I really been on the ball when I was younger, I would have rigged one of those tests to say I should become commissioner of baseball. (All it would have taken is answering "Mothra" instead of "Godzilla" - it's a complicated mathematical system, rigging these tests.) Thank god I was NOT on the ball, however. Because becoming commissioner isn't something that requires steroids or even that much effort. So it's something I might actually have done. And boy, I would hate to be Bud Selig right about now.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More's what I do.

It has been pointed out to me by Greg Callwood, our estimable CHEZ sales rep and current leader of our office football pool, that I do NOT have a stranglehold on first place. In fact, I am not even in second place. I have fallen to third place. You see, although I was very happy with my 13 wins last week, it turns out that it was not good picking on my part at all. It was merely because last week was the easiest week of the year to pick. Greg had 14 wins. Six other people, including WOODY, had 15. And I fell ever so slightly from second into third. This also leads me to think something else - Greg, and possibly others, are obviously reading my picks on my blog, and making theirs accordingly. If they choose a few different ones, then they might sneak by me into first. With that in mind, I will continue making picks here on the ol' blog, but - are they real? Are they fake? Are they designed to throw off my competitors, like the unscrupulous Mr. Callwood? Decide for yourself, football fans!

Denver - Houston: Houston, according to the online CHEZ football pool, is favoured by 1.5 points. No team has ever won a game by 1.5 points. I have every faith in Denver's skill, but even more faith in their stupidity. Houston beat a fairly good Tampa team last week, and I think they have more than enough talent to compete with Denver at home. I'm taking Houston to cover this spread and win the game.

Cincinnatti - San Francisco: The spread here is zero. This is a gift to all those prognosticators who want free points in the CHEZ pool, because the Bengals are by far the better team. Which is not to say Cincinnatti is that good, just that San Fran is that terrible. They are TERRIBLE. Take the Bengals.

Baltimore - Miami: The Ravens have lost seven in a row, and after the huge opponents of the last two weeks, they will have a seriously easy game against the Dolphins this week. Easy enough to overlook it completely. And Jason Taylor will have a field day with Baltimore's offence. Miami knows they will lose to New England next week, and they will be totally focussed on this game. Dolphins in the big upset.

Tennessee - Kansas City: The Titans have figured out how to win, the Chiefs have not. Tennessee is gunning for a wild card spot, KC is not. Titans will win, but not by a huge margin. They have not been good at covering the spread this year. Titans by three. Spread is four.

New York Jets - New England: You never can tell with these divisional games, eh? The Patriots are already looking at week 16. Yes, week 16, not 17. Because they play Miami. And beating the Dolphins to go 15-0 while the fish fall to 0-15, will be sweet justice for the Pats. However, the fish will go in 1-14, thanks to their win over Baltimore, and the Patriots will go in 14-1, when they lose to the Jets. You think New England has the ability to look past a team to face a winless opponent? Only if that team is the Jets. And the Jets have already stunned the Steelers with a convincing win. Remember that year Dallas went 1-15 and the Bears went 15-1? You know who beat the Bears that one time? Dallas. The Patriots will LOSE!

Seattle - Carolina: The Seahawks are too strong right now, Carolina is too weak. Yes, the Panthers finally have a win at home, but they will not get number two this week. Hasselbeck will pick apart this defence. Seahawks to win, and to cover the 7 point spread.

Buffalo - Cleveland: The Bills have made a seriously tough push for the playoffs, and they have looked much improved in doing so. But their playoff hopes get dashed this week against the Browns, as Cleveland makes their case for wild card status. Cleveland to cover the spread and win big.

Green Bay - St. Louis: The Rams are much better now, and are a serious threat to playoff teams because they have nothing to lose at the moment. But Green Bay is not a team that will tighten up in this last few weeks. They are playing so loose and having too much fun to let the Rams surprise them. Packers by ten or more.

Arizona - New Orleans: This one seems like a gift in the CHEZ pool also. Zero spread, just pick the winner! However, it isn't that easy. New Orleans and Arizona are both so up-and-down this year that it is almost impossible to choose in this game. But the Saints are out. No playoffs for them. The Cards have a shot, and they will not waste it, I think. Arizona by a slim margin.

Jacksonville - Pittsburgh: The Steelers are favoured by 3.5 at home. However, the Jaguars are a better, more complete team. They have lost to the Colts this year, and Pittsburgh is realistically their statement game. Jaguars not only to win, but to win big.

Atlanta - Tampa Bay: OK. This one really IS a gift. Tampa still has to hang on to that first place in their division. And Atlanta is lousy. Painfully lousy. The Buccaneers will win big, and the CHEZ spread is zero. Enjoy your 16 points.

Indianapolis - Oakland: The Colts are still not 100 percent assured of home field throughout the playoffs, but they are banged up and will likely be resting several starters in the coming weeks. They could rest Peyton Manning, Bob Sanders, Joseph Addai, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne and still beat Oakland by 30.

Detroit - San Diego: Yes, the Lions have lost like 12 straight. And yes, their playoff hopes are all but done. But that showing against the Cowboys made it looke as though they still care! Not enough to win the game, mind you...and the showing by San Diego against the Titans made it look like they no longer care. But they cared just enough to win...the Chargers will win this one at home, but it will be much closer than that 10 point spread.

Philadelphia - Dallas: A divisional game, and Philly has played every really good team very very well this year. Donovan McNabb is back now, and if he finds his groove, Dallas could be in trouble. I would hate to pick against the Cowboys in this one, they are still the superior team, but the Eagles should cover the 10.5 point spread easily.

Washington - New York Giants: There is no way to tell how the Skins will do. If they have another great, emotional game, they could dismantle the Giants, who are still not as good as their record indicates. However, if they have a letdown at all, the Giants could smoke them. I will take the Giants to win at home, but the Skins to cover the 4.5 point spread. That's called hedging one's bets.

Chicago - Minnesota: The Vikings could be the scariest wild-card team in the playoffs. They have looked absolutely dominant since Week 12. Between Peterson and Taylor running the ball, they have the best backfield tandem since...umm....I can't remember. They will pound the run, and stop the run, and win this game. Big.

OK, that's it! Greg, you cheater, see if you can figure out which ones I invented! If any at all! I've got you now, pool players.

Monday, December 10, 2007

An endorsement.

The lovely welcome wagon lady left me several useless things, and also some hidden gems. One of those things was a Mr. Clean Eraser. I scoffed at my sister when she suggested it was a magical product. Scoffed! Products are not magical! Only Disney movies and David Blaine are magical, said I! But I tried that eraser today on my sink. And it came cleaner that any amount of scrubbing has ever done. In fact, it came cleaner than it was when we moved in. This product IS magical! I heartily endorse the Mr. Clean Eraser and all it's glorious cleaning ability.