Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Newspaper Demise

No, this is not another post ripping on the Erie-Times... although, from what I've seen lately, the Times, like most other print newspapers is probably hurting. I think I read something a month ago about some layoff/early retirement packages being offered to a certain percentage of the staff. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I came across an article on the more general state of the newspaper industry, which detailed how much newspaper advertisting, in particular, classified advertising, was down, and how this was putting print papers across the country in jeopardy. The article did say, however, that smaller town papers were doing better than large metropolitan dailies.

Having worked for a few small town papers back in the day, I have always maintained an interest in the "community newspaper." Even back in the early '90s, we realized our main competition was national/international news outlets - and this was before the Internet. So, at the time, we countered by covering as much local as possible. After all, when I worked in Greenville, PA, papers were about the only source of local news, as the closest TV station was across the stateline in Youngstown... So, you can imagine my shock, when I happened to be passing through Greenville on Saturday, picked up a copy of the Record-Argus, and found the whole thing filled with AP articles. I mean the whole thing. Did they fire the editorial staff because it was too expensive? Were they all just on XMas vacation? I couldn't even find a name on the masthead to contact.

I have no idea what the purpose is of a rag filled with AP copy - maybe just a wrapper for some local advertising - but I was truly dismayed by this development. A piece of my past had suddenly disappeared. Unless I find out that issue was an anamoly, I can never again dream about going back to the simpler days of covering high school wrestling matches, or sitting in the sun enjoying a spring afternoon track meet, taking in the local gossip, and preparing my evening copy in my head....

I wonder if the people of Greenville feel the same way. Do they feel they've lost a piece of their identity? Yes, I'll admit (gulp) that the Sharon Herald did a pretty good job of covering Greenville even when I was there and maybe there was only room for one paper in Mercer County. But still, the Record-Argus is gone? Say it ain't so. My clips, two years of my life, headed for oblivion.

Anyway, we made it to the wrestling tournament we were taking my son to. I saw some people from my past newspaper work there, but didn't have the heart to approach any of them. We then had a wonderful lunch down the road in Sharon at the original (and best) Quaker Steak & Lube, and drove back to Erie. I must admit, however, that I feel like a small piece of me is missing...

Ralph

Sunday, December 28, 2008

WSEE Thanks

As a lifelong Bills fan, I just want to thank the kind folks at WSEE for not showing today's game vs. the Patriots. I just listened to about 10 minutes on the radio-a drive that ended in a missed field goal, and was thankful I was heading into Starbucks to do some work.

Ralph

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hot NFL Action

What a day for football yesterday. I'll admit, when I heard the radio pundits (actually Red, Jim LeCorchick, and Mike Ruzzi broadcasting from the casino) talking about what a great day of NFL action it was going to be, I was questioning their credibility. After all, the Tennessee/Pittsburgh and Carolina/Giants games were only really playing for home field advantage and not for playoff spots, as all four teams had clinched. And the Bills, well...

But, what do you know, the Tennessee-'burghers game sucked me in and I went from there.

Although I generally root for the Stillers cuz I like their style of play, I was glad to see the Titans win yesterday, just because they have a running game. The four teams I mentioned have pretty much clinched the top four seeds in their conferences, and they all play good defense. But only three of them, the Stillers being the exception, have strong running games. This is unusual for a 'Burgher squad, but it's the unfortunate reality of this season. Big Ben had no more miracles to pull out of his ass and the 'Stillers went down. I'd say this bodes poorly for their chances in the playoffs.

The Giants, on the other hand, what a show last night. They rang up more than 300 yards rushing and totally steamrolled the Panthers in the second half after being down 21-10. It was a clinic in how you play late season football: wear the other boys out and then slam it down their throats. Good stuff. The Giants might have this late season football thing down. Madden kept saying how the Giants' coaches said they were going to get back to the run, no matter what the other team's defense did- even if they were keying on it and tempting the Giants to pass. Well, they did, and it certainly worked. Curious thing is that the Giants O-coordinator is Kevin Gilbride, who was always noted as a passing guru - and spent some time with Bledsoe in Buffalo. He was the guy Buddy Ryan once took a swing at when Ryan was coahing the Oilers defense way back when. Ryan accused Gibride of running a "chuck-'n-duck" offense that was putting too much pressure on Ryan's D. Now, Gibride's orchestrating a power running game? I guess it's never too late to learn.

As for the Bills, they won a wonderful game against the Broncos, who like the Bills started fast and have been an extreme disappointment since. Go Bills! Edwards looked marvelous yesterday, shades of the early season, after a rough start. If we can beat New England at home next week, and knock the Pats out of the playoffs, I think I'll be happy with the season.

Anyways, I went into yesterday with low expectations because I didn't think there was too much to play for in many of the top games. But, the NFL showed me that it's made up of true professionals that really know how to put on a show and take pride in their work.

January should be fun as usual.

Ralph

Friday, December 12, 2008

High Class Scams

Does anyone cover a high-class scam as well as Vanity Fair? This (or is it next) month's issue features Tina Fey on the cover - more droll Hollywood stuff - but buried on page 100 is this wonderful story of how this German immigrant cut a swath through the country posing as a high-class blueblood. His final scam, which he rode for several years and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars (plus he got a daughter of it) was posing as Clark Rockefeller, a relation to one of America's weathiest and most well-known families. Unforutnately for him, he is now in jail, but man, he really pulled it off for awhile. Vanity Fair should win some sort of award for its journalism on these types of stories. It really gets the dirt on the guy, but at the same time manages to glamorize him somewhat and lay fault on the people that willingly fell for his ruse... Plus, the last line (in the rather lengthy story) is really a zinger.

Cheers.

Ralph

Friday, December 05, 2008

What makes a great athlete?

This is an interesting article by some guy who thinks about these things from time to time. It questions whether Michael Phelps, who won seven swimming gold medals in the Olympics, is even close to being "the world's greatest athlete," as many have billed him. The article makes interesting points like:
a. Penn State's starting safety actually beat Phelps in races several times when they were young, but quit swimming to pursue football, because, well, football is football and swimming is, well, unless you're in the Olympics...
b. Lance Armstrong admits he sucks at football
c. Most swimmers admit to being like fish out of water in other sports
d. Aside from the gymnastics, swimming is like the only sport in which you have an opportunity to win eight medals...

None of this is to deny that Phelps is a great swimmer, but it gets down to the definition of athlete. Should a truly great athlete be able to accel in multiple sports or just be super great at one? I'm predisposed to the multiple-sport view, which is what I think helped Jim Thorpe gain such fame as the "world's greatest athlete" in the first half of the century-even though he had a pretty mediocre career as a major league baseball player.

Just some chowder to swish around in your head.

Ralph

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Trainspotting-Dark Humor

I was looking for a good dark comedy to read over the recent holiday, and I came across a Yahoo! thread on this topic. After some investigation, part of which involved checking what was in stock at our library, I settled on Irving Welsh's Trainspotting. I had heard this is a good movie, and it was actually recommended by a friend of mine whose wife hails from Scotland, but I have never seen it. The book is a hoot, although it's written in phonetic Scottish dialogue, so it's like reading something written in another language. In some ways this adds to the enjoyment, as it really makes you feel like you're reading about something from a different land.

It takes place in the 1980s (I think that' s the timeframe) in Scotland. Coincidentally, this was also the time I was coming of age in Erie. And even though the lads in the book reside across the Atlantic, it seems they had a lot of the same goals my friends and I did. I mean, we weren't shootin' smack, but sex, drugs, drinking, partying, (not necessarily in that order) is what we were all about for a few years there. It's always good to find kindred spirits.

Here's a link to marvelous short (Trainspotting- Sunday Breakfast) from the book. It certainly reminded me (with some literary exaggeration) of something that might have happened to me back in the day.

Cheers.

Ralph


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Whistleblower - lipstick on a pig

Talk about putting lipstick on a pig. Did you see the story in today's ETN about St. V's agreeing to pay $1.9 million to the federal government for what amounts to Medicare fraud. By no means am I saying what St. V's did was right. Apparently, from 2001-2003, Vincent was jacking up the prices of certain procedures so they'd fall under this "outlier" category and then getting Medicare to reimburse them. (More details are in the print version of the story than the online one I've linked to, unless it's been updated). So, St. V's was basically ripping off the federal government, although they won't admit to it. (The $1.9 million payout just to "put something behind them" - I'm paraphrasing, admits enough.)

It was action brought by New Jersey-based "independent hospital consultant" Anthony Kite that brought on the payment. In press coverage, Kite is classified as a whistleblower- yeah, right. I'll agree, he blew the whistle on St. Vincent's and about eight other hospitals performing similar fraud, but Kite wasn't even employed by St. Vincent. No, Mr. Kite could be more accurately described as an extortionist.

First of all, Kite is from New Jersey, so that should tell you something (and I felt this way about NJ people long before the Sopranos made it fashionable). Second, when I Googled his name, I didn't find any listing for a hospital consulting business. I did find several stories about extortion schemes similar to the one he pulled on Vincent, including some published by his apparent employer - the law firm of Phillips and Cohen.

Here's how it works: Kite is the front man, who likely has connections and knows how to discover which hospitals have been pulling this scam on Medicare (lots of scamming going on here). So, he threatens to sue and expose the hospital, which settles with Phillips and Cohen, which pulls a nice commission from the deal. The rest goes to the federal government, and everybody is happy, except for the taxpayers, who have overpaid this hospital first and are now contributing to the ever-accumulating wealth of this law firm. Then again, if it wasn't for the meddling law firm (shades of Scooby Doo here. "They would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for.....'), the federal government probably would have recouped nothing. So, I guess we can give them some due, but to call Kite a "whistleblower" is to put him in the same class with people who have taken serious personal risks and in some cases paid a hefty price to expose wrongdoings.

Maybe "extortionist"' is too strong of a term. Let's just call him a mercenary and leave it at that.

Ralph

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Prep Guidance Department Takes Hit

A know that SI columnist Peter King meant well in yesterday's MMQB column, when we awarded Bob Sanders the "Good Guy of the Week." However, he seems to slam Prep's guidance department with his comments about Sanders not even knowing what the SAT was. I went to Prep, albeit a few years before Sanders, and while the guidance department wasn't world class, it did take an interest in students' futures. I don't know if there were budget cuts in the years after I left, but I fiind it hard to believe that no one tried to help a talented guy like Sanders lay out his future plans.



Anyhow, congrats to Sanders for starting his Chasing Dreams foundation. Sounds like a good thing. I just feel bad for Prep's guidance dept, as King makes it sound like they were sleeping on the job.



Ralph

Monday, November 24, 2008

Last week for Zoo

Just as a heads up, the Erie Zoo closes for the season after this coming Sunday, Nov. 30. According to the Web site, it's open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day until then. I don't know if this includes T-Giving, but it doesn't say it doesn't.

Now, granted, a lot of the animals are away for the winter. But the orangutans are still up and about and worth the visit. I don't know how long Layla, pictured above, will be with us over there, as word has it, her father is starting to make advances on her and they may have to move her. I recently did see a wrestling match between the two of them that definitely raised my eyebrows.

Those of you who have seen the orangutan family know what I'm talking about when I say how entertaining they can be. They are very active and definitely respond to visitors. Leyla climbs all over the place and puts on quite a show playing with her blanket. The mother will swing from the ceiling and threw a couple punches at my youngest son yesterday. And Joseph, the father, he's a big lug who will put his lips up to the glass and try and kiss you. Really good stuff to watch, especially for the kids who get a chance to interact (closeup, especially this time of year when there is barely anyone else around) with some really intelligent and fascinating animals.

Ralph

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Maybe not...

Maybe I was being a bit too easy on ole' Judge Joyce. Perhaps he did strong arm Erie Insurance into forking over the cash....

Joyce Innocent

No, this isn't a scoop.

I have no insights into how the jury is voting, but the more I think about it, I don't see how they can justly convict this guy. Did he take over $400,000 from Erie Insurance based on trumped up claims? Almost certainly. Did Erie Insurance care? No. So, how is this a crime? Who is the victim? Granted, you could probably look at this as some type of bribery, but that's not what Joyce is charged with. And if it is bribery, Erie Insurance should be charged too.

I think someone from Erie Insurance testified to the effect that they wanted to settle with Joyce quickly because of his track record ruling in favor of insurance companies. Now, $400,000-plus seems like a pretty expensive settlement for this reason. I mean what kind of cases was Joyce hearing that involved Erie Insurance? And how often did these cases occur that Erie Insurance couldn't wait the time it would have taken to follow-up on Joyce's claim with more care.

Certainly, something sounds fishy, but is this sort of deal illegal? To me, it sounds like Erie Insurance felt it was making a business investment, much like lobbyists invest in our governmental representatives.

When Joyce is found innocent, the question I'd like to see answered is "how did this thing get brought to trial?" In other words, "who's responsible?" And when we figure that out, the responsible party should be made to reimburse the taxpayers for the court costs. The same holds true for the Fillippi trial, which was also seemed a bit frivilous for my taste.

Of course, that all said, both trials have been highly entertaining to follow. Maybe, there's some value to taxpayers in a bread and circuses sort of way.

Ralph

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wide Right

The horror. The horror.

Can you imagine? It certainly reminded me eerily of Super Bowl XXV. During that game, I knew the kick was too long. Just like tonight. Couldn't we have thrown it one more time? Tried to get just 10 yards closer. A 45-yard kick into the wind in Buffalo is no gimme. We ran it three times up the middle and settled for the long kick. I remember feeling the same way at the end of Super Bowl XXV. I thought, if we could just get it a little closer, I'd feel better about the kick.

But in both cases, it was not to be. Same result. Painfully close, but wide right. And now, we will miss the playoffs again.

At least the game was entertaining. I'd like to say, congrats to Cleveland, you played a good game. But, we kind of gave that one to ya'. Merry Christmas I guess.

Cheers.

Ralph

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cringely leaving PBS

It seems one of my favorite columnists is wrapping things up at PBS.com at the end of the year. If you've never read his work before, do yourself a favor and read this week's post. He's truly an original with unparalleled insights into and contacts in the high-tech industry. He jokes (I think) that Barak Obama should consider him for the position of CTO for the federal government. Then again, with Bill James holding a front office position with the Red Sox, I guess anything is possible.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Joyce Trial

This trial of the former Judge Joyce is truly a classic. You've got all sorts of high-drama elements coming together:
  • a high-profile former district judge, who was also known as a man about town
  • a spurned ex-girlfriend with a vendetta
  • an insurance company that admittedly paid him off quickly so as not to lose access to his mostly favorable rulings
  • is Greg Rubino involved in this as well?

Anyhow, things are coming to ahead, and based on today's article in the paper, if I as on the jury, I think Mike Joyce would be cooked. Here's the testimony I found most damning: (It comes from Dr. William Welch, the chief neurosurgeon at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, who was testifying for the prosecution.)

From the Times article:

"Joyce’s activities, especially the long hours he spent piloting a personal
plane, do not support Joyce’s claim to the insurers that he suffered
life-changing pain and cognitive problems after the crash, he said. Joyce’s
'actions suggest this is not a highly disabled person,' Welch said.

Joyce’s multiple flights in 2002, the 95 score he received on his pilot’s
test and his clean Federal Aviation Administration physical all indicate he was
'highly functioning,' Welch said. 'If you are saying you are having arm
weakness, numbness, and shaking, you would have trouble operating the controls.
Anyone having significant neurological difficulties would not pilot anything. It
is unconscionable.'"

That makes sense. Really, if someone was as worried as Joyce says he was about physical problems, and stuff, like his back, suddenly stopping working, what the hell was he doing flying a plane? It makes no sense. Of course, maybe he's just psychotic, which I guess in itself isn't criminal...

Oh well, there was a lot more evidence presented than what I have just written, but, based on that alone, I'd say something is fishy.

Ralph

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Weekend-Monday update

Well, we got our first snow of the season. The rest of the week looks a little questionable, with more snow perhaps next week. Could we possibly be in for a big snowy winter?

Looks like it will at least be pretty nasty for the Prep-Vincent rematch on Saturday. I've seen the Ramblers play twice this year, and, from my perspective, they got killed both times, vs. Vincent and McDowell. I sure hope they have some sort of a different game plan for this one. Prep seems to do pretty well in the games I haven't gone to, so maybe I should stay home.

Prep runs this spread offense and they do have a new quarterback from the one they had in the beginning of the year. As the QB is definitely the key to this type of offense, perhaps they really have turned a page, but I'm not overly confident. Vincent has been really, really solid all year.

On a professional football note, the Bills have really shit the bed after their fast start. I've had a link to this guy's page for a couple years now. He is absolutely brutal on the Bills, and it turns out justifiably so. Basically, he's insisted that for the past four years - at least, any winning they have done is through smoke and mirrors and that they just don't block, tackle, and execute well enough to win consistently in the NFL. Maybe if Mr. Phillips would spend a little more time on his day job with Cowboys and less time writing under his alias, his team in Dallas would have more success. Seriously, when Wade was in Buffalo, the Bills sure could tackle and hit you at least. I don't know what's happend to his D in Dallas.

Oh well, that's about it. All sorts of fun on several fronts here.

Ralph

Friday, November 07, 2008

Gotta Love Denny Green

Was listening to the Browns-Broncos game last night. Former Vikings (and regrettably Cardinals) head coach Denny Green was doing the color commentary. To give you an idea of what he sounds like, I thought it was Jerry Glanville. Anyhow, he made this call, "the Broncos still need a whole half-yard for the first down."

Oh yes, another great episode of Life on Mars. I absolutely think this is the best network TV show ever made through five episodes. Unforuntely, I haven't found anyone else who shares my opinion. Are you out there?

Ralph

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Democratic night

Last night was very democratic both with a capital and a small "D." First and foremost, there didn't seem to be any voting problems or controversies, which was a big relief. So the democratic process, with a small "d" worked.

Then, of course, we had the big wins by both Barak Obama and Kathy Dahlkemper. Congrats to both of them, because I think both were signficant underdogs a year ago that pulled off pretty remarkable victories. Yes, they were buoyed by the failures of the Republicans (who elected those guys anyway?) But, neither one just stood there and let the votes come to them. They both did some serious campaigning.

It's no secret that a lot of Bush's success was driven by the grass-roots-level campaigning led by Karl Rove. Unfortuntately, (or justly, depending on how you want to look at it) Rove was disgraced because of some underhanded intimindation-type stuff. However, his path to success was not lost on the Obama and Dahlkemper campaigns. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, totally missed the message.

I knew Dahlkemper was serious during the primaries when both my wife and I received several polite calls, and even an apology that a rep couldn't stop by our house because of bad weather. And, these were not recorded messages. Dahlkemper also made a point to campaign hard in Crawford and Mercer counties, even though she was at a serious disavantage vs. Repulicans in those areas. Having lived in Mercer County for a couple years, I know, those people don't want to be ignored and the area is not completely devoid of Democrats. I think one of Ron DiNicola's biggest failures was his inability to connect with people outside of Erie.

Obama, of course, has been lauded for his use of Internet communication, something which was really pioneered by Howard Dean four years ago. I still think it's a shame Dean couldn't knock off Kerry, but he was a bit of a loose cannon and quite frankly scared some people. I think Dean's head of the Democratic party now. I don't know how much be helped Obama, but the Obama campaign difinitely followed his lead and took advantage of Internet communication.

This reverberated with young people, and probably high-tech people in general. I thought it was interesting that, according to ABC's exit polls, the majority of people earning more than $200,000 per year, which are the people being targeted for higher taxes by Obama, voted for him. I credit this to the fact that a lot of these high-wage earners are likely technologically savvy, and, in Obama, they likely see one of their own. When you add this elitist base to the traditional Democratic working/union base, and the minority vote that Obama carried...well, that's why he won by so much.

Here's my Republican thought for the day: Obama Joe Biden sounds a little like... well, you know that guy in Pakinstan. Whatever happend to him anyhow? I'm still not convinced that the Bush family connections with him didn't get him off the hook.

Cheers.

Ralph

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

1973 tunes

This is kind of wierd, but has been thoroughly enjoyable for the past 45 minutes...

Is Kathy D a millionaire?

Yesterday, I posted a comment on Erie Blogs, in which I probably, unjustifiably, took at least one crack at Phat Phil's weight. And Heavy D (presumably not realted to Kathy) rightfully called me out for it, but still, for a guy his size to be preaching against walking and riding bikes, seems a bit, I don't know, ironic.

Anyhow, Heavy D did bring up the point about Dahlkemper not revealing her tax returns, which I've let pass by because I think her husband owns a business and lettng people pour through the returns may be a competitive disadvantage. Heavy D also says she has 12 acres with a lake view? Is this true? Not that it should matter, but for some reason, perhaps her work with Frontier Park, I was under the impression she lived in the Frontier area. Anyhow, if all this money was earned through valid landscaping work, god bless big Chuck and Dan and whoever made this thing roll. But, if there are some questionable contracts and potential political favors going on... let's hear about it.

Ralph

Monday, November 03, 2008

Sore throat

Seems to be some sort of sore throat virus going around. My wife has had it, and now I feel a it coming on me. My son stayed home from school because of a bad cough this morning. Of course, it's supposed to be warm out the next few days, so I guess we'll just open up the windows and try and chase the bad stuff out.

As always, any theories on colds and what causes them and how to get rid of them are appreciated.

Cheers.

Ralph

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween




Apologize for the poor quality, but it's a low-grade camera phone.
Cheers.
Ralph
Oh yes, another great episode of Life on Mars Last night. The ending really tied it together. With about 10 minutes left, I was thinking that the show was starting to slip, than, crash, bang, boom, we got three or four quick scenes that tied everything together. Two of them were great Kietel scenes. And they even managed to tie in the cheezy acid trip scene from earlier.
Also, we had this exchange.
Cop sent back in time: Look it's Jim Croce.
Cop: Jim, I love Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown. It was my favorite song when I was a kid.
Croce: I just released that album this year.
Cop: Right, I forgot. Anyhow, stay away from small planes.
Croce: Stay away from the hallucinigenics.
There's an old screen writing addage about always closing with a bang. Leaves them wanting for more or something. The writers of Life on Mars seem to get this.

Ralph

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Phillies: Part Two

WikiAnswers:

From 1883-1889, the current "Phillies" team was known as the Quakers.

In 1890, the name was changed to the "Philadelphias," after the custom of the time. It was shortly thereafter changed to "Phillies."

It stayed that way until 1944 when the team went by the nickname of Blue Jays.

That lasted two years and in 1946 the name was changed back to Phillies.

From BleacherReport.com:

Pittsburgh Pirates: "Though baseball was first played in Pittsburgh in 1876, the team that evolved into the Pirates, the Pittsburgh Alleghenies, joined the American Association in 1882, and the NL in 1887. Then known as the Innocents, they became the Pirates by 'pirating' second baseman Lou Bierbauer from Philadelphia."

Feel free to comment.

DDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

Things I've Learned about the Phillies Since They Won the World Series

First, growing up in Western PA, I always thought the "phillies" were somehow related to horses (fillys), so I was always confused by their mascot (the green monster dude...he doesn't really look like a horse, not too much, anyway).

But, after living in SW PA for more than a year, I've come to understand that "phillies" are not related to horses at all. It just means "people from Philly".

That's it!?!?!?! What's the history here, Ralph? Couldn't they come up with something more creative than the Phillies? At least the Brooklyn Dodgers meant "trolley dodgers" (before they moved to LA).

Geez, I feel deflated now. It's like I always say: It would be better if animals were involved.

Really, it has to be one of the weakest nicknames in sports, no wonder World Series Championships are so few and far between. God is punishing them for being so uncreative.

Second, what are the real Phillies team colors? I always thought the colors were read and white (with red and gray travel uniforms), but I've seen blue Phillie hats and green Phillie hats, in addition to red, here on the KU campus. It was explained to me that the blue is legit, as the Phillies have always had some blue in their uniforms; however, the green hats are designed exclusively to encourage people to buy their favorite team's hat in a different color (that's just corrupt).

Now remember, I lived in Pittsburgh for 13 years and all of their sports teams have the same colors (black and gold). Makes it real simple, which suits me just fine.

Anyway, I'm learning about this Phillies team, little by little. It's been fun to watch all of the local fans having so much vacarious fun, just like I did when the Celtics won the NBA World Championship in June 2008. Woooohooooo!!!!

Still, I want to learn more about how the Phillies were named. I know the Pirates got their nickname when they allegedly stole some players from another team (was it the Phils?), and the Steelers has obvious origins.

I won't even comment on the 76ers, who are now just the Sixers...that's another lame name.

I need access to a sports editor, pronto!

DDDDDDDDDDDD

Bully girls

So, my wife and I had a conversation this morning regarding bullying. Apparently, one of the girls in my daughter's class pushed her the other day and then said something along the lines of "I did it on purpose." My daughter has also told us this girl made fun of her for wearing colored underwear on a gym day a few weeks back. My wife and I have termed this girl and her friends as the "mean girls," and are having a debate over how are daughter should handle the situation.

According to my daughter there are a couple times when she's said something like, "you shouldn't have done that," when one of these girls made her friend move at the lunch table or something. My daughter is not exactly a wilting violet.

But, after this girl pushed her, she didn't do anything. I said she should have shoved her back even harder. (Note: my daughter is pretty sturdy; she has an older brother that likes to use her for wrestling practice. I'v'e seen her fight back and know she packs a wallop.) My wife said she should have told the teacher and is thinking that maybe she should go in herself and tell the teacher.

This brought about conversations about the value of kids learning to deal with their own problems, and the value of a little violence against a bully. I think we agree that parent interference should be kept to a miminum. Of course, some of my wife's more overbearing friends (and just to cover myself, I use "overbearing" as a term of endearment) don't feel that way. In regards to fighting back with a little violence, my wife seems to think this will reflect negatively on my daughter. I, of course, having just finished reading a 450-page biography of John Adams, am certainly in favor of a little bit of justified violence. That's how revolutions happen, baby!

Any opinions or advice on this topic are appreciated.

Ralph

Ralph

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ken Holtzman

I was watching the Philles-Rays game last night when Phils pitcher Joe Blanton went deep for I believe the first home run of his career. Not a good sign for the Rays, who ended up losing like 13-2. The announcers revealed that Ken Holtzman was the last pitcher to homer in the World Series, in 1974 against the Dodgers. That was the second World Series I ever remember watching, and I recall Holtzman's blast. Of course, a year earlier, Holtzman hit two doubles against the Mets. The guy was a .163 lifetime hitter with a .203 slugging percentage. In three Word Series' with the A's, he hit .333 with an .833 slugging percentage. He also had a 4-1 pitching record in the October Classic.

Here's what Ken Holtzman looked like in the mid-1970s. White shoes, green hats, yellow uniforms, great mustaches- the A's were the epitome of style to a wide-eyed youngster like myself. Ahh, the 1970s...

Friday, October 24, 2008

OJ's final game in 1973

Another solid episode of Life on Mars, yesterday. Sure, it has its cheesy moments, but then it hits you with these bizarre philsophical questions on reality, and fate, and destiny. You can definitely sense its English roots. Also, the show had a really strong ending last night, so I'm looking forward to next week.

As part of my continuing connection to 1973, I came across this wonderful video of O.J. Simpson's last game that year, when he both broke Jim Brown's single season rushing record and the 2,000-yard barrier - the first time a professional running back ever did that and the only time in 14 games. A few things are remarkable about this video:
1. For some reason, it's recorded in black-and-white.
2. The announcers never mention the score of the game, even though the Bills were 8-5 going in and battling the Bengals for a playoff spot. (Both teams finished 9-5, with the Bengals gaining the tiebreaker.)
3. The Bills running attack is incredible. They've got people pulling and sweeping all over the place, with O.J. cutting and shifting beautifully behind them. This is on a snow-covered field, and the Jets knew the Bills weren't throwing. (Rookie QB Joe Ferguson had like 4 TD passes all year.) You might see this type of running attack in college, but never do you see anything like it in a pro game anymore.
4. Look how tight the I-formation is. O.J. is practially up fullback Jim Braxton's ass.

This is condensed version of the game, so you get the gist of what went on in like 10 minutes. It's truly a beautiful thing to watch if you have the chance.

Ralph

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

World Series

I'm looking forward to the World Series. I think the Rays and the Phillies is a good match-up. Do you realize in like 100 years of existence, the Phillies have won one World Series title? In 1983, I think. The Rays, meanwhile, have pretty much finished in last place every year of their existence, until now. Both teams have some great talent this year. I have to think the Rays will take it in six or seven, based on the fact that they beat out both the Yankees and Red Sox for their regular season division title, and then vanquished the Red Sox again in the playoffs. Those are some great teams they beat to get here. Meanwhile, the Phils had to deal with the self-imploding Mets and a questionable Brewers team, before deposing of a pretty weak Dodgers squad (Manny excluded) in the NL Championship.

Things open Wed. and Thurs. in the dome - which from what I understand is an abomination of a place. Personally, I've never watched more than an inning of ball there. I listened to the AL Championship Series on the radio. But, at least the weather will be good. And things don't look all too bad in Philly for the next 10 days. So, let's play some ball and get it done. The NFL is about to kick into its stretch drive and the Bills are 5-1. (And DrD's Vikings have the immortal Gus Frerotte at the helm.)

Cheers.

Ralph

Friday, October 17, 2008

Life on Mars

I few years ago, I realized had a bit of an obsession with the year 1973. I would have turned six that year, and my first real sports memories come from that time. For example, I remember the 1973 Super Bowl, which took place in January, between the Redskins and Dophins, but I don't remember the 1972 World Series, between the A's and Reds, which took place a few months previous. I do remember the 1973 Series, between the Mets and A's, however, as well as O.J. rushing for 2,000 yards, and even Secretariat winning the Triple Crown.

So, they launch this TV show on ABC last week and it's about this 41-year old guy who is transported back to 1973 after getting hit by a car. But, he's not a a six-year-old kid, but an adult, who is a police detective, just like he is in 2008. But then, although most everything seems real, as real as 1973 can be, he gets these not-so-subtle messages from time-to-time that he's really in a coma or something and this world has been constructed just for him. And then I start thinking about my obsession with 1973 and start thinking that perhaps this show, and my world, are constructed just for me... and it gets really strange.

On top of that, I read a review of this show, and it asks, "do they really expect us to feel nostalgic for the year 1973?" and my answer is yes, of course, I love 1973. But, my wife, for instance, who is also my age, seems to be indifferent towards it. So, I'm baffled. Does anyone else appreciate this show or is it on just for me?

Thanks

Ralph

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

GeoEye Satellite Image of Kutztown University

Click the link for an ariel view of Kutztown University campus.

The road running through the center of the photo is Main Street Kutztown. The land on the right is South Campus; the land on the left is North Campus.

I teach all of my classes in the giant building in the center of the photo (directly on Main Street, south side).

Pretty cool pic.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Phillies-Dodgers

There's a crazy big blue jay just landed on a chair back just outside my door. He croaked a couple times at me and then flew off. Once upon a time, Matt Stairs was a crazy big Blue Jay. So, that game last night was whacky. Matt Stairs has always been a crazy good hitter, and man he tatooed that ball to put the Phils ahead for good.

I'm cheering for the Phils because my two-year-old son has a Phillies hat he wore all summer, and people were always asking me quesitons about it. Now, it's all beat up and broken in, and the Phillies are one-game a away from the World Series. Makes him look like he's knows what he's doing. I can't say I saw more than five Phillies hats in Erie all summer, if that... but you can bet they'll all be popping up now. But, Fudgie, he was there when it started. He's in on the ground floor man.

Anyhow, did you realize that Stairs finally made it to the big leagues to stay with the 1997 A's, at 28 years old. He hadn't hit more than 13 home runs in a minor league season and had even spent some time in Japan. His A's teammates now included Mark MaGuire, Jose Canseco, Jason Giambi, and Miguel Tejada. And, in a couple years, Stairs was a 40 HR, 100 RBI guy. Anyway, he's a hero now, and he did hit 21 homers in limited playing time with the Blue Jays last year, when they were testing, weren't they?

Oh well, that Manny Ramirez can really hit can't he? But, it looks like we might not get to see a Dodgers-Bosox World Series after all. Would have been fun.

Ralph

Donna the Buffalo: Silverlined

Donna the Buffalo has released a new CD: Silverlined.

It is very good. A must-have for fans and a strong purchase for anyone.

Sim Redmond has also released a new CD. I've listened to it a couple of times, and it is pretty good. Fans will certainly want to add it to their collection.

Both CDs are available at Funkyside.

By the way, Funkyside is a great website if you are looking for new music in general. It's based in Ithaca, NY (Finger Lakes) and supports the local artists in that area (many of whom make the trip to Erie on a regular basis).

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Texas-Oklahoma

They call it the Red River Shootout, and in this day-and-age of the overuse of terms like "shootout" and "classic" as part of media hype - this one actually lives up to the hype. I think they've been playin' it for 110 years, which is clearly long enough to establish a "classic" rivalry.

I remember a few years back reading a list of the 10 greatest college football rivalries, and at the time, to me, the Nebraska-Oklahoma game always seemed like one of the biggest. But, this list, which obviously had a broader perspective than I did, listed Texas-Oklahoma. It said something like, these two states just don't like each other. If you want to insult someone from Texas, just say they're from Oklahoma, or some such jazz. Anyhow, when a rivalry goes back 110 years, as I said, and you typically have two good football programs, it's going to get pretty heated.

Saturday's game was fantastic. Oklahoma jumped out early and help on until the 4th quarter when the Longhorns came rolling like an orange tidal wave that the Sooners couldn't hold back. Something about Brent Mussburger calling Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops by his nickname "Stoopy" I think doomed them.

Mussburger did have one great line when his color man said something about them potentially riding together the largest Ferris Wheel in the world, which is installed at the Texas State Fair. "Do they serve cold ones up there?" Mussburger asked. I think he may have a been a bit uncomfortable with the propsition.

Anyhow, great game, fun time, lot of patentry, good quarterbacking - that Colt McCoy of Texas can play - college football the way it should be. As a sidenote, I was in Austin last week, and even though the Cowboys played on Sunday, the big story in the paper was the upcoming Saturday's game with Oklahoma. That's what it's all about.

Ralph

Monday, October 06, 2008

400 Posts

Ralph,

I see where you wrote the 400th post.

Nice work and congratulations. You and I have written approximately 200 articles, each, in just under three years (the numbers start tallying as of January 2006). That's about 70 articles per year...six articles per month, if my math is right).

I think that's strong production.

So, what's our next step? Do we want to see where it goes, or are we prepared to try to connect our work to the cash flow in the mainstream? I think we've got a pretty solid, consistent product. Maybe we need to promote it more.

At the same time, the masses love the drama of polarity...I love it, too, but I like the balance of it more than life at the poles. I wouldn't want to lose any of our character if we go in this direction (although I think we're pretty good at grabbing a topic and being brutally honest, and we can do that because we aren't connected to money[see Noam Chomsky]).

We have also built up an archive of writings. Maybe we'll have enough for each of us to write a book someday, a collection of essays.

Sorry to see the Bills lose. I don't know whether I've mentioned this or not, but the Bills are my third favorite team. I like the cold weather, the colors on the uniforms, and a lot of Erie friends and family are Bills fans.

I'm rooting for a Philly/Boston World Series, but there is a long way to go. The Red Sox haven't even won he DS yet.

Well, there it is...

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Blockbuster Dream

One of my friends has been trying to convince me to join Netflix. As I'm in the midst of building out my home theatre system, I've probably put way too much thought into this. But here's the dream I had last night:

I went down to the Blockbuster store at the Liberty Plaza to return a DVD. After I dropped the movie in the slot, I went inside to get a new one. However, the store hda been transformed into some sort of Bed, Bath & Beyond-like boutique. There were towels, and lamps, and glassware, and all sorts of fufu-stuff all around.

I was baffled, wandering around looking for the movies but couldn't find any. Then I saw a reformed older hippie-type with a Price Valient-haircut looking around with the same bewilderment as I was. Our eyes met, and I realized what a dinosaur I was.

I ran out of the store and started asking people what had happened to Blockbuster. “Oh, it’s been closed for weeks,” was the answer I finally got, after a few “I don’t knows.”

Distraught, I caught my breath and found a place where I could shoot some pool and reminisce about the good ole' days with other old fogies. Instead of being sad, I found the dream strangely satisfying. (I think that last line makes it sound like a clinical report in a Freud book.)

Cheers.

Ralph

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bizzaro-World Playoff Play

I'm listening to the Dodgers-Cubs game last night when this happens: Dodgers are leading 5-1 at the time. With a man, on Dodgers outfielder Jim Edmonds comes to the plate. Before he became a great hitter with St. Louis, Edmonds was primarily known for his spectacular outfield play with the Angels, often, in fact, injuring himself by running into walls and such. In other words, he's known for playing the game hard.

Well, Edmonds, a lefty, hits a slicing fly ball down the left field line. Assuming it's foul, he doesn't bother to run it out. (Note: running out hits until you're absolutely sure they're called foul is something we stressed to 8-9 year-old players on our Little League team this year.) Well, the wind being what it is Chicago this time of year, the ball's slice is held up and it nearly drops fair. Manny Ramirez, yes, that Manny Ramirez who was traded by the Red Sox this year pretty much for loafing, hustles over, makes a nice play on the ball off the wall and gets it back into the infield quickly.

Now, the ball was foul so it really didn't matter, but my point is, that on this play, in a hugely important playoff contest for both teams, Manny was huslting, and Edmonds, who was quite willing to break his butt for fifth-place Angels teams back in the day, was not. Oh yes, the Dodgers won 7-2, with Manny getting two hits, scoring twice, and taking one out of the park.

No matter what you want to say negative about Manny, and most of it is probably true, he's a pro. No doubt about it. When the chips are down, he's not scared to step it up. (an alternative cliche: He really knows how to take the bull by the horns.) This is one of the things that makes him so great. He may eschew responsibility for many things, but when it comes to baseball, Manny's not afraid of the big moment. (Maybe we should put him in charge of Congress until we get this bailout thing passed.)

On a related note: Jason Bay, who has always been one of my favorite players because of the way he played and handled himself when he was with that awful Pirates franchise, had a homer to push the Red Sox past the Angels last night. Bay, whose personality is practically a polar opposite of Manny's, was the main piece the Red Sox got in return when they traded Manny. He's been solid. And his personality fits in much more with what the new Red Sox management (since the team was sold in 2003) is trying to achieve. Could this be one of those trades in which both teams benefit? It sure will be interesting if the Dodgers and Red Sox meet in the World Series.

Ralph

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Baseball

I know I'm going to sound like a curmudgeon, but is the baseball season ever going to end? They played 162 games...162!!!! And the season still isn't over yet. They have to play more games to determine wild card teams.

What the hell? Does the regular season mean anything in MLB?

Most of this has to do with my particular bias: Because your average regular season game doesn't mean shit, I don't start watching baseball until the playoffs---when the games have meaning. Therefore, I'm ready for the division series to start.

But no, they have to play more games before we even know who is going to be in the playoffs. Talk about watering down league play.

I know there are reasons for all this: Long seasons mean more money for the league...wild card teams mean that more cities retain hope for the playoffs. I understand all of that. It just seems to be that, if you are going to play 162 games, that ought to decide the fate of the teams in the league, but it doesn't.

As a result, they have lost me at the turnstiles.

Again, I realize I am an angry old man relating to this, but I used to be a huge Pirates fan. I used to listen to Pirate games on the radio (both in Erie and on KDKA when I lived in Pittsburgh).

But now that my Pirates have been eliminated from playoff contention for the rest of my life, I don't have much to root for. Then, when I try to figure out what the hell is going on in September, so I can begin watching, I am met with an array of IF/THEN statements on ESPN about who might or might not end up in the playoffs.

Are you kidding? We've endured 162 games and you still don't have it settled? Holy sheep shit.

Ya know, once upon a time, the regular season meant something because your team had to finish FIRST in order to win the division. It's not like that any more, so why play all those games. Why not have all the teams make the playoffs and play Round Robin? They've probably discussed that idea already.

What say you, Great Defender of the National Pastime?

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Would-be VP Anagram

It's kind of an obvious one-meaning the letters are too jumbled, but my niece who's in fourth grade was over the other day with a book entitled "Sarah Plain and Tall." I just thought this was a curious coincidence.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

No Country for Old Men

Watched the best picture Coen brothers flick No Country last night for the first time. Now, I'm a huge fan of Oh Brother Where Art Thou, Barton Fink, and the Big Lebowski, but not so big on Fargo - although I liked it. I think I liked this one less than any of those four (but better than Intolerable Cruelty, which actually was watchable and kinda worked as a chick flick).

While I thought the "thriller" aspect of No Country was good, as I was on the edge of my seat a few times, and the actors were great in, particular Tommy Lee Jones and Kelly MacDonald, the story lacked some cohesionn. However, I forgive that in most Coen Bros. movies. The biggest thing lacking for me in No Country was humor.

Barton Fink, Fargo, and even the Big Lebowski all are pretty much dark comedies, which is probably my favorite genre of entertainment. I don't know what that says about me, but I really enjoy being able to find something humorous in an otherwise tragic situation. (Oh Bro' Where Art Thou had some dark themes as well, but the music kinda lightens the blows.) No Counrty, seemed totally lacking in humor (at least the first time through. I'll try to give it another watch).

It tried to be philisophical and presented some interesting ideas about the lines between good and evil and life and death- but I didn't think it was anything Sartrian. Maybe in these dry times for deep thought, as well as fairlly humorless times based on the war and financial crisis in the U.S., it's really the best we can get.

I'm still hoping I see something better if I get a chance to make it down to the Great Lakes Film Festival this weekend. This is an inde thing I've been wanting to go to for several years, but have either been traveling or too busy. I'm hoping to squeeze in a session or two to do some research on my theory that Big Hollywood is truly going out of vogue in today's movement toward narrowcasting.

Cheers.

Ralph

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wall Street Fat Cats or Congress To Blame?

In the interest of fair and balanced reporting - a concept unbeknownst to most of the blogsphere-here's an interesting column by National Review editor Jonah Goldberg that blames Congress for enabling some of these recent mortgage-related blow-ups. With many Republicans, it's hard to separate lies/pure spin from the truth, but I've found Goldberg to be a pretty good source over the past year or so that his stuff has appeared in the Erie paper. I'm posting this link mainly in response to some of the Kunstler stuff that really takes banking execs to task over the current government bailouts.

Goldberg pretty much says that Congress encouraged/directed banks to write these high risk loans and then encouraged/directed Fannie Mae and Freddie/Mac to buy them, and then changed the rules of the game, causing the whole thing to come crashing down. It's an interesting alternative viewpoint that may hold some water. Check it out if you get a chance.

Cheers.

Ralph

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Kunstler on Colbert

Here is a video of James Kunstler talking about his book, The Long Emergency on Colbert Report.

His premise is that life inthe US is going to change because we will not have the energy (oil) necessary to sustain all the cars and 18-wheelers and suburban living that we are currently used to.

He says that ethanol, sun, coal, and wind are not going to be enough.

I just hope we have enough energy to heat and cool our houses and our food.

To be sure, certain luxuries are going to go away...According to the Air Traffic Controllers Association, "on any given day, more than 87,000 flights are in the skies in the United States." That's clearly a luxury we won't be able to sustain.

Plus,recreational boating and such will viewed more as extreme luxuries as people pay more and more for energy.

This is a long time coming. I've been talking about sustainability for 15 years. Glad to see it finally hitting the mainstream. Maybe people will understand that the Earth is not an Everlasting Gobstopper (a Wonka candy that, despite how long you suck it, will not diminish).

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John Adams and the Revolution

I am currently enjoying a biography on John Adams entitled "A Party of One." The theme is how Adams, despite being a fairly devout Whig, was not afraid to do his own thing and follow his principals, despite public opinion perhaps weighing against him. For example, he successfully defended the British officers charged in the Boston Massacre. Not that he wasn't a Revolutionary - he actually did tons of the dirty work (the paperwork and legal stuff) that helped pull off the Revolution. However, he felt the officers were being railroaded and that they were merely acting in self defense.

One of the underlying themes of the book is that Adams was a pretty serious guy, with Puritan values grounded in hard work. And while Franklin, Hancock, and even Couzin Sam may be more celebrated, John Adams' nose to the grindstone approach, along with his intelligence and truly Revolutionary spirit, helped get a lot done.

As I may have mentioned, I remain fascinated by the Founding Fathers of our Country. These were mostly well-to-do men (except for maybe Sam Adams, who was a rabble rousing radical), who risked everything to make this revolution succeed. Perhaps, they were just keen enough to sense that the American people were pushing toward a Revolution and smart enough to get in front of it, so as not to be swept under- but nonetheless, there were great risks involved and the Revolutionaries managed to triumph over one of the greatest powers in the world at the time.

It was a great upset, which today, I think still resonates in Americans habit of cheering for "the underdog" in a sports match. Which, of course, brings us to Iraq.... I'll let you draw your own parallels or paradoxicals, if you will

Ralph

Clusterfuck Nation

Shimmons sent me this link to Jim Kunstler's blog, Clusterfuck Nation.

Here is also a link to Kunstler's website.

I was familiar with William Kunstler, who died in 1995. I don't know if there is any relation...I checked out Jim's bio and he makes no mention of William. Therefore, there is either no relation or he's trying to downplay his parentage in order to make his way on hiw own name.

In any event, Jim's latest blog entry is pretty solid. He writes some compelling stuff.

Busy today....gotta run.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

NFL Round-up

I tried to post this last week, but kept getting error messages for some reason. It's my return to the AFC East Report, the place where I made my unfortunate predictions about the Tom Brady-Randy Moss combo last year. I've gone on record as admitting how wrong I was on this. Watching the Patriots, and Moss in particular struggle this year, reenforces what a wonderful combo Brady and Moss really are.

It's also interesting to note that whereas Brady was still a pro-Bowl player without Moss, Moss is really struggling so far without Brady. Related to that, if the Patriots continue to struggle, I think it will somewhat expose Belichick as a fraud. I'm not saying this is going to happen, but Miami sure put a thumping on them at home yesterday. This puts Belichick's career record in games when Brady was not his starting quarterback at 43-58. As I wrote last year, who's the real "genius?"

Which brings me back to the Bills and Trent Edwards. Yesterday, for the second game in a row, Edwards led the Bills to an awesome fourth-quarter comeback win. Without Edwards... well I was going to say the Bills would be 1-2, instead of 3-0. But he did stink the joint up for three quarters, before turning it on. Like Brady, and perhaps Joe Montana even, Edwards seems to have that ability to turn it on when he needs to to win a game. This has always been my favorite trait in a QB. It's an intangible that's real hard to quantify. Granted, the Bills did barely beat the lowly Raiders at home, so not all was peaches and cream, but they did pull it off. It's always the mark of a good/great team, when they can win if they are not playing their best, and the Bills certainly made enough mistakes yesterday to give the Raiders the game. Hopefully, the mistake part is not a trend.

One final note - both Brady and Edwards grew up in Northern California, where Montana played most of this career.

Also, Dr.D, maybe Frerotte is your savior. He also did just enough to help the Vikes pull out a win. Perhaps the ole Kittanning Kid is ready for one last run...

Cheers.

Ralph

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bowie is King

I know I've said it here before, but Bowie is the King.

I sent away for Best of Bowie and it has so many terrific songs on it...Moonage Daydream, Suffragette City, Ziggy Stardust, Let's Dance, I'm Afraid of Americans. It is a must-have.

Really, there's not many people who rank with Bowie. His lyrics, rhythm, collaborations, voice, strings, piano, kungas...it goes on and on.

I never realized--all those years ago when I bought Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (on vinyl)--that I would be coming back to Bowie with a who new appreciation. He would be fantastic to work with.

In contrast, I also bought Talking Heads Greatest Hits and it sounds dated. Some of the songs are fun: "I gotta girlfriend who wears bows in her hair; and nothing is better than that...Is it?" That's fun stuff. Plus, it has a whole big bounce thing going on---but, really, it's not even in the same galaxy as Bowie.

I think that says it.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Joe Posnanski

This guy is my new favoritate sports columnist. He had a great piece comparing Pete Rose to Derek Jeter the other day. Today, he followed up with a wonderful article on Manny Ramirez.
Check him out if you get a chance.

American Money

Just a quick note on the Wall Street calamities during the past several days...

Many of these problems got their start during the Reagan administration. If you remember, Ronald Reagan was very good at convincing the American People that Government was BAD. He pledged to shrink government and "get it out of the way" of the private markets.

This set off a trend of deregulation that spanned the next several decades and included the Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II administrations. Basically, it was political suicide to suggest that such private interests as the banking industry should be regulated.

Oddly, it still is dangerous to make such a suggestion. I watched a speech by Sarah Palin the other night where she said (paraphrased): The regulatory system in this country is broken and outdated. Then, moments later, she contradicted herself and said that government should get out of the way of the private sector. Huh?

You can't have it both ways, but Palin knows that she's treading a fine line.

The issue, as I see it, is a deep-seated American belief that problems in life can be permanently "solved." Personally, I don't believe this is true. We are, as Joe Campbell writes, living along the razor's edge, all of the time. There are no panaceas; there is no "correct" ideology or methodology. There are only balances.

So, the best we can do it attempt to strike a balance between liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat, government and private interest...it is ALWAYS a negotiation, eternally.

Therefore, the idea that government is bad and free markets are good is false (as is the reverse). The idea that liberals are wrong and conservatives are right is false (as is the reverse).

Just look at all of the Hillary Clinton bashers who now find themselves in the odd position of crying "sexism" any time someone critiques Sarah Palin. I find that funny (and sad...and ironic). The pendulum ALWAYS swings.

Anyway, the problems of Wall Street are a direct result of the lack of regulation. We basically said: "We can let the wolves run the hen house--because we think that government is evil" and now we're in tough shape.

We better hope that benevolent (European) friends invest in our banking system...or we're going to have to learn to speak Chinese very soon.

I've written it here before: One of the reasons so many in government have pushed for such a strong American military is because they know about our tenuous financial situation. Therefore, when the country goes bankrupt, we can try to hang on to our assets by sheer force.

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Vikings Bench Jackson for Frerotte

This is no surprise: The Vikings have benched Tarvaris Jackson in favor of Gus Frerotte (see article from Sports Illustrated).

There is simply too much pressure to win NOW in the NFL, so Brad Childress had little choice. This is particualrly true when you consider the amount of money that Ziggie Wolf spent ($60 million) to patch holes in the Vikings' roster during the off-season.

With this change, I won't be surprised if the Vikings beat Carolina this Sunday. The game is in Minnesota and the Vikings could have renewed energy if Frerotte can perform competently.

The Vikes, by the way, are a 3.5-point favorite. Philly is a 3.5-point favorite over the Steelers, and the Bills are a 9.5-point favorite over the Raiders.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Afterword from the play, Androcles and the Lion, by GB Shaw

I'm not the biggest fan of Shaw's plays, because he typically wraps his art around a not-so-subtle political agenda. The effect, for me, is like being clubbed to death by ideology posing as art.

So, if you think that art should be used to achieve political purposes, you'll like Shaw. If, however, you believe that a work of art tends to suffer as it is bent toward a political agenda, then you might prefer other authors.

Despite my reticence on Shaw, I recognize his strong contributions to the world of letters and offer this short piece for consideration. Do not be surprised if you see connections between Shaw's comments and the current US administration.


In this play I have represented one of the Roman persecutions of the early Christians, not as the conflict of a false theology with a true, but as what all such persecutions essentially are: an attempt to suppress a propaganda that seemed to threaten the interests involved in the established law and order, organized and maintained in the name of religion and justice by politicians who are pure opportunist Have-and-Holders.

People who are shown by their inner light the possibility of a better world based on the demand of the spirit for a nobler and more abundant life, not for themselves at the expense of others, but for everybody, are naturally dreaded and therefore hated by the Have-and-Holders, who keep always in reserve two sure weapons against them.

The first is a persecution effected by the provocation, organization, and arming of that herd instinct which makes men abhor all departures from custom, and, by the most cruel punishments and the wildest calumnies, force eccentric people to behave and profess exactly as other people do.

The second is by leading the herd to war, which immediately and infallibly makes them forget everything, even their most cherished and hardwon public liberties and private interests, in the irresistible surge of their pugnacity and the tense pre-occupation of their terror.

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Devil Rays, Tampa, and Mike & Mike

This morning, on Mike and Mike in the Morning, Mike Greenberg was upset with the attendance at last night's Devil Ray's game. It seems attendance was 32,079 in a stadium that holds 44,000+.

At first, I thought What are they talking about? 32,000 fans is a good turnout for a baseball game.

Then I did some research. Did you know that the greater Tampa bay area is home to more than 4 million people? It is the 19th largest metro area in the US. I knew that area was growing, but I didn't have any feel for the numbers.

So, now I see their point. You'd think that the stadium would be packed for a game against division rival Boston Red Sox in mid-September, but it clearly wasn't.

Oh, by the way, the Devil Rays won, 2-1, to take a one-game lead over the Red Sox.

Any predictions on who is going to win the World Series this year, Ralph? Will it be a cross-town battle in Chicago, or will the Cubs fold?

Looks like the Phils are on the comeback this year, too. They rallied last year just to lose in the first round of the playoffs.

DDDDDDDDDDD

Monday, September 15, 2008

Vikings, Steelers, Bills

I watched (and cringed) all week as Mike Greenberg (from Mike and Mike in the Morning) predicted that the Vikings would defeat the Colts.

All the while, it was clear to me that "Greenie" hasn't been following the Vikes for long enough. The Vikings' Achille Heel for this year: They have no passing game (and, as a result, can't score TDs).

While it's true that Minnesota pounded the Colts physicall and should have won the game, they found a way to lose just before the final gun sounded.

After Adrian Peterson ran for 160 yards on the Colts defense, and after Joseph Addai--at one point--had 10 yards on 14 carries, the Vikings could only manage a pathetic five field goals.

If they would have scored one TD out of all those chances, they would have won the game.

Viking's next loss: Carolina.

********************

Glad to see the Steelers get out of Cleveland with a win.

The Browns seem to make the silliest mistakes when the Steelers come to town. If you saw the end of the first half, you'll know what I'm talking about. They mismanaged the clock like they were a bad Pop Warner team.

Then, when they had the chance to tie the game with 3 or 4 minutes left, they decided to kick a field goal. I was amazed! Thanks for the gift! There's no way you take the FG at that point. That serves no purpose whatsoever.

Did Romeo Crennel think that his offense was really going to get the ball again with enough time to drive all the way downfield against the Steelers? That's crazy talk.

I gotta hand it to the Browns, they did have a couple of very good drives. They worked very hard to get the ball into the Red Zone, but going against the Steelers is hard work, and you don't get too many chances. Most of all, it's time-consuming. Romeo must have been watching a different game than me if he thought he was going to get another shot at a TD.

Steelers face the Eagles next week in the Battle of PA. The Eagles look tough. The Steelers will have to play mistake-free football in order to beat Philly.

********************

Finally, I'm glad to see the Bills winning. They looked pysically tough during the preseason and I was impressed. I have a lot of friends who are Bills fans, including my brother and Ralph, so I have a soft spot for them. I hope they do well this season and unseat the Pats.

DDDDDDDDDDD

Thanks DrD

Just want to thank the good doctor of his series of solid posts over the past few days. I haven't been online, as I've been busy at the home front. Here was my weekend schedule, just for kicks (it was a lot of fun):
1. Friday night - went shopping for couches and home theatre/receiver units
2. Saturday morning - golfed nine holes in the rain at Millcreek.
3. Saturday afternoon - removed carpet and tack boards from living room floor, choosing to go with the hard wood that has been covered since we bought the house. It's in pretty good shape. As a sidenote, you probably don't want to know how much dirt is buried underneath your carpet.
4. Saturday night: Second round of couch and home theatre/receiver shopping, as well as food shoppinig for two-year old's birthday party on Sunday.
5. Satruday late night
: Ate trememdous Permanti Bros. style sandwich from Steel City.
6. Sunday morning. Check paper for deals on home theatre/receive units. Drive to Circuit city to purchase one.
7. Sunday late morning/early afternoon: Hooked up home theatre receive unit and reassembled living room, while watching the bigging of the Bills-Jags game.
8. Sunday afternoon: Thoroughly enjoyed the Bills win, while taking breaks to cut lawn and set up tables and chairs for late afternoon/evening party.
9. Evening: Grilled hamburgs, bratwusrt, and dogs for party, after stopping at liquor store, beer distributor, and Six-pack shop to secure libations.
10. late evening: Watched Browns-Steelers game while wind gusted at 40 mph outside my house.
11. later evening: Was lying on the couch in my underwear to beat the heat, when I was surprised by my brother-in-law and his family, who were headed to Buffalo Wild Wings when the power went out on upper Peach.

So, I'm finally back online.

Cheers.

Ralph

Friday, September 12, 2008

CHROME (part two)

There's a good article on CHROME on today's wire. I thought it was a fair evaluation.

I've been using CHROME and I find that I like the multi-threaded nature. Each tab functions separately, so if you have a tab running a small app (like a video or JavaScript) and the app is taking up too much processor, you can shut down the individual tab to restore bandwidth to the processor. My computer is six years old, so that helps me a lot.

Overall, CHROME seems to use less of my processor than IE or FireFox. Whereas IE feels like a heavy hog, CHROME feels light, with FireFox somewhere in the middle.

I like it, but it all comes down to what you want in a browser.

Last thought: If you're looking for bells and whistles, you won't find them on CHROME. This product was build for funtionality. It is designed to get you where you're going and get out of the way. I doubt that will change as they move beyond BETA.

So, if that's what you want in a browser, then you want CHROME.

DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

Current tire recycling efforts make new plant unnecessary

From Jim Carroll at the Times-News:

...those in the industry say things have changed since the days when used tires were tossed in landfills or stacked in dangerous stockpiles.

Those hazardous stockpiles are disappearing quickly.

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection officials this month said the last of what was once a pile of 6 million waste tires in Columbia County has been shredded and hauled away by recyclers.

"We cleaned up over 30 million tires in Ohio ourselves," Kendall said.

High Tread International, of Buffalo, collects many of Erie's scrap tires, and General Manager Rick Johnson said those tires are ground up for use as tire-derived fuel in industrial plants, but also for things such as doormats, flooring and building products, roofing and artificial turf. Some of it even goes into asphalt and some is used to make new tires.

"It is our experience that most of the currently generated tires in Pennsylvania and New York -- well over 90 percent -- are probably being recycled in one form or another right now," he said."


For the complete article, including information on the number of tires currently available for "burning," visit Times-News article on tire recycling.

Now, one thing that makes me really mad in all of this is the fact that Greg Rubino (in a recent Times-News article) has called opponents of the tire plant "hysterical."

(This is, itself, sexist, because "hyster" is the Greek word for "womb" so it automatically associates passionately held opinions with supposed feminine "irrationality"--in any event, it's a huge put-down and not a good choice of words. He's basically saying "you're all being a bunch of women," which should make everybody mad as hell).

So...now I'm hysterical? The Curtze owners are hysterical? Long-time friends and neighbors of mine on the East Side are hysterical? I don't think so. People have a right to express their views and they come breaing evidence, not just opinion and loud talk.

Besides, this shows you the kind of man we are dealing with in Greg Rubino. He's not at all shy about slandering the locals in order to get his way.

But regardless of etymologies, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the tire plant might be a bad idea not only from a environmental and sustainability standpoints, but also from a business-practice standpoint because they might not be able to get their hands on the 33 million tires that they want to burn (see Jim Carroll's article).

Mark my words, if they cannot get their hands on the requisite number of tires, they'll want to burn other stuff. They're not going to stand by as the furnaces sit idle...no matter what Greg Rubino might say.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Joseph Campbell Quotes

There are so many great quotes by Joseph Campbell, that I can't being to account for all of them.

However, there is one that I came across today that reminded me of something Ralph once said: "You can choose to either embrace or reject your destiny."

I've always liked that.

Here's the same sentiment in Campbell's words: "The Fates lead him who will; him who won't, they drag."

Here's another: "One sure path into the world runs along the printed page."

Finally: "Instead of clearing his own heart, the zealot tries to clear the world."

I will spend the rest of my life reading Campbell. Alas, I fear I will be unable to comprehend all of it.

DDDDDDDDDDDDD

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Poison Leeching into Lake Erie at the Former IP Site

Ralph,

By the way, I got a kick out of how the golf course that you mentioned in the previous blog was once a waste site. Shows me that former waste sites can be re-zoned and improved.

And speaking of waste sites, Hammermill (International Paper) was supposed to correct the environmental degradation on the south side of East Lake Road. Sadly, the field is leeching waste into the storm sewer and directly into Lake Erie (see photo below, taken under the viaduct on East Lake Road in July 2008).

To make matters worse, whoever bought that property cut down all the trees, so there isn't much hope that the soil will be anything more than waste for the foreseeable future.

So, who gets away with degrading the environment for profit? IP. Who loses? The people of Erie, who watch helplessly as the lake continues to be polluted even as IP is nothing but a memory.

And by the way, my Mom and Dad bought their house in 1958, before Hammermill went on its destructive environmental run.

I think people are starting to learn to put environmental issues ahead of so called "development"...development that profits a few while the remainder of the community suffers.

After all, what good are "profits" if your kids can't swim in the lake and the fish have tumors on them? Ask China. They're learning about the real costs of out-of-control manufacturing.

DDDDDDDDDDDD

Erie Golf Course Could Be Open Next Year

This is great news for the golfer in me. I'm still not sure I get the financial logistics behind it, but I love playing golf on the hill up there. And there is that beautfully rennovated clubhosue and bar with the picture window looking north toward the lake.

But, here's the chronology of events in regards to the money spend on that place. You tell me who is going to end up footing the $2 million bill for the improvements that were made.

1. City of Erie builds golf course on land it go pretty cheap. By the 2000s, the course is considered a money loser because of lack of irrigation and tricky set up that causes right-handed golfers who slice (the majority of average and below average golfers) to hit an inordinate number of balls into the woods.
2. Millcreek builds golf course and learning center on old Harper Road Dump/Superfund site. I don't know what Millcreek paid to do this and how much money came in grants, but they did a great job turning a wasteland into a pretty decent golf facility, and from what I understand it has been fairly profitable, mainly due to the range, which is nice and fairly conveniently located for people living on the west side of the city, western Millcreek, and Fairview - in other words, probably the majority of golfers in Erie County.
3. Erie, under the direction of Mayor Rick Filippi and right-hand man Jimmy Casella decides to spend like $4-5 million on improvements on Erie. How they expect to earn this money back is beyond a casual observer like myself, but apparently, Council buys off on it, and the plan is passed.
4. Somehow, the investment gets cut down to like $2.5 million or less, and the city goes through with the first two phases of its planned development at Erie.
5. A few holes are shutdown, leading to a couple pretty lean seasons that presumably cause Erie Golf Course to lose even more money than it usually does, but the new course finally opens to great fanfare.
6. The course is nice, but apparently, at least according the Mayor Sinnott, is still losing money, so after he gets elected, he shuts it down and tries to sell it.
7. Of course, then the notorious deed restriction comes to light and Erie can't sell the course to real estate developers whose market is tanking anyhow.
8. Erie remains closed for a couple years. The City makes its debt payments on the course, and pays maitenance fees so they don't lose it as a usable golf course.
9. Finally, Millcreek comes to the rescue because their course is getting destroyed by this airport runway project and gets the County to agree to pay Erie like $2 million from this casino fund, which will pay off the City's debt on the course. Apparently, this money is compensation for the land the Airport is seizing from Millcreek in the name of progress.

So, everyone is happy, right. I guess. But, what about Brian McGowen and the Summit boys. Is this really responsible spending of the gaming revenue? As I said, I'm in favor of it, because I like to golf up there and as a result will likely get my share of the $2 million worth. But, what if I didn't golf? Is the land the Airport Authority purchasing from Millcreek really worth $2 million? I guess that is really what it comes down to.

Anyhow, I'll be interested to see how this ends up. Maybe it will all go smoothly, but if so, why? I mean, related to MTR and gaming money especially, we''ve seen quite a few stinks raised over less than $2 million.

Ralph

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Minnesota Vikings

Before the season began, the pundits said the Vikings were one QB shy of the Super Bowl. After watching last night's game against Green Bay, I'd say that they're a little more than a QB shy.

While Jackson's shortcomings were evident, the Vikes have more problems than that.

But let's begin with strengths: Run defense is awesome. Adrian Peterson is unreal. Plus, they seem to hit hard as a team.

Weaknesses? Pass defense, special teams, and, yes, Tarvaris Jackson.

The question is this: Is Brad Childress going to wake up and realize that Jackson is not the man for the job? I'm not hopeful. I'll bet the Vikes live and die with him (mostly die) for the entire season.

I hope it doesn't linger like the Kordell Stewart drama of the Bill Cowher days. Jackson doesn't have it, and the Vikings need to solve this dilemma.

They might as well make the commitment to Frerotte and look to next year's draft.

DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

CHROME

Google is poised to hurt Microsoft with the announcement of Google's new Web browser, Chrome (see full story from PC World).

There are a lot of factors at work here, but the basic idea is that today's Internet offers more "applications" than simple Web pages. In other words, when you go to YouTube, you launch video apps, when you go to MySpace, you launch other bots and gadgets.

Therefore, a Web browser that can take this kind of thing into account might be poised to take over the marketplace. For an excellent comic book description of the new browser, visit the Google "Chrome" Comic Book.

The new browser will enable applications to be multi-threaded--forming a new tab with each app--rather than being single threaded. Currently, if a single app goes haywire, it can crash the entire browser. With Chrome, if a single app fails, you simply close the tab.

There will also be a Task Manager, which enables users to monitor what is happening behind the scenes of the browser.

There's a lot more, but I have to move on with my day.

I will say that Google is in an excellent spot right now. They're using Open Source technology and they have the Web pages to test the browser, so they should release a product that is fast and secure.

But, returning to my opening point: if this migration from desktop applications to Web-based applications continues (and it will), Microsoft might be in trouble. I admit I haven't closely followed Microsoft for several years, so I don't know what they are currently working on. But Internet Explorer is a big, clumsy browser that has more patches than Emmett Kelly's jacket.

IE has also been famous for its vunerability. If Google can solve these issues, while maintaining Open Source and the ability to revise based on the Open Source Credo, then IE is definitely in trouble and will lose market share (currently estimated at approximately 74% of the market).

I wonder what Cringely has to say about CHROME. What does Ralph have to say?

More on this later, I'm sure.

DDDDDDDDDDD

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NFL - not for lightweights

This is an interesting story questioning Vikings QB Tavaris Jackson's toughness. It basically states that NFL players need to learn how to play with pain or forget about being a starter. That's apparently how the great ones like Brett Favre and Peyton Manning pile up these consecutive game streaks - and something that contributes to their greatness. Apparently, Mr. Jackson hasn't learned this toughness thing yet and is being called out for it in this article.

I guess it's a matter of sucking it up and still being productive when you're less than 100%. There's some sort of old adage about anybody being able to succeed when they're hot, but the great ones figuring out a way to do it even when they're not. I guess a prime example of this was Tiger Woods winning the U.S. Open with a broken leg. He figured it out and got it done, and now he can rest on his laurels. So, is Tavaris Jackson more like Tiger Woods or Eric Gange - a relief pitcher who always looked great until you put him in a real pressure cooker?

Ralph

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The wacky MTR ride

From a story in today's Times-News:
"Dunlavey, commenting on the developments in the lawsuit, said "it gets curioser and curioser."

And this isn't even Summit's lawsuit against the County. This is a different lawsuit that involves Nick Scott, Lenny Ambrose, Greg Rubino, and Dunlavey. When you throw in the Filippi trial, this the third high-profile court case that MTR has spawned in the past three years. At least we've got Marjorie Diehl and the pizza bomber thing to add some balance to our local court coverage.

Here's the working title for my book on the MTR thing: What Happens When You Bring Legal Gambling To A Small Town With A Long History Of Corrupt Government - or maybe that's too long and should be the subhead.

Of course, if we can only tie MTR in with this story about the LECOM student who was attempting to import a woman from New Zealand and her four-year-old daughter to start a family of sex slaves.... I mean this Internet thing is responsible for a lot of bizarre shit, and this clearly ranks up there with all of them.

Here's an excerpt from the story:
"The FBI said Slokum provided a series of e-mails and computer chats to back her claims, including a "spreadsheet/timeline" in which Noyes outlined a plan to start a "family" or "society" of female sex slaves.

The FBI obtained Slokum's identity. In an interview, she told investigators that she began dating Noyes in January after she posted an ad on a Web site, www.collarme.com, which concerns bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism.

She said that Noyes told her he had a long-term plan to create a family of female sex slaves. He wanted to buy a farm or an island to house the society."

Enough said, I think.

Ralph

Thursday, August 14, 2008

County Attempts to Embarrass Dunlavey

This is classic. The article starts out all nice, with Roger Taft, the lawyer for the County being polite and deferential. "Erie County and the ECGRA do not have a clear understanding as to why this Honorable Court invalidated (county ordinances) which authorized the organization of ECGRA, in its entirety, if that was the intention of the Court," Taft wrote.

However, as you work your way through the article, you see that Taft is merely (as one of my business partners likes to say) "kissing Judge Dunlavey before fucking him." The article later goes on to say, "
Taft's order 'questions whether the term 'unrestricted' gaming revenue was erroneously inserted (by Dunlavey) in place of 'restricted' gaming revenue" in some sections." In other words, he's questioning whether Dunlavey completely screwed up and wrote the opposite of what he meant to write! Whoops!, Wouldn't that be an error?

Of course, this is likely just a rhetorical ploy being used by Taft to publicize how ridiculous the County feels Dunlavey's ruling is. As if to say, "This ruling is so outrageous, we just assumed you got it backwards and you meant to say this when you wrote that. We understand, you're a busy guy and all..."

Condescending mo'fuckers. I hope Dunlavey's throws them all in Gitmo!


Ralph

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Peters Holdout Jeopardizes Bills Season

This Jason Peters holdout could kill the Bills' season. Left tackle is not exactly a high-profile position for non-football fans, but real fans know this guy protects the blind-side of the quarterback, usually taking on the defense's best rusher. And Peters is a good left tackle. Heck, he was our only Pro Bowl selection last year

The Bills also like to run behind Peters. He contributed mightily to last year's two-headed running attack, with Marshawn gaining 1,100 yards and Freddie Jackson looking solid as well. And, now Peters is holding out from training camp for a bigger contract. And the thing is, he's under contract for like the next three years... The Bills apparently signed him to a long-term deal a couple years back at like $2 million a year, which isn't small potatoes, but makes him the third-highest paid lineman on his own team, and puts him pretty far down on the pay scale for left tackles. But, the thing is, when the Bills signed him, there was no guarantee he'd become a star.

The guy was originally an undrafted free agent who played mainly tight end in college. The Bills invested in him and helped develop him, and now he wants his come-uppance. Can I fault him? Probably not, based on the short careers of NFL players and the fact that they need to grab all the money they can while they can. But, it sure sucks for the Bills.

Buffalo has a relatively easy schedule this year (although it may have just gotten harder with the Jets trading for Brett Favre) and had a realistic shot at winning 10 games, even with a fairly mediocre team and a second-year quarterback. However, losing Peters for the year would seem to jeopardize all that.

Reportedly, the two sides are barely even talking. There is some rumor that Peters hasn't fully recovered from off-season sports hernia surgery and that is why he is not showing up. The guy also apparently likes to lay pretty low in the offseason and there is talk that he is just carrying that attitude over into his holdout.

The Bills seem to be in a bit of a quandry. Peters has a pretty hard-ass agent who is also currently orchestrating a holdout for Steven Jackson in St. Louis. This agent has formerly worked for people like Deion Sanders and been responsible for things like "the largest contract for a rookie ever at the time." And the Bills don't want to renegotiate with a guy with three years left on his contract - especially while he is not in camp... It's all fucked up.

Most "experts" can't see Peters holding out into the season because of the money it would cost him. Let's hope they're right. Or let's just hope that in this case the team is bigger than the man, and the Bills can develop somebody else who can step in and fill Peters' shoes without too much of a downgrade/disaster.

The bottom line is that this Peters thing has the potential to ruin what was shaping up as a promising, if not somewhat misleading (based on schedule strength) season for the Bills. I think it bears more attention than it's been getting in the media.

Cheers.

Ralph