Monday, February 22, 2010

Olympics in HD

The Winter Olympics have proven to be great family viewing. I think everyone except my three-year-old really enjoys them , and he even puts up with them for the most part. We've actually all been sitting on the couch watching the prime time coverage - a rare family TV viewing experience.

The Winter Olympics have always been entertaining, but adding HD to the mix, with the white snow and colorful uniforms and equipment really adds another level. Then you've got these new sports like ski-cross - did you see that one? Four guys (do women do it too?) racing on a track over jumps, while wearing skis. They have a snowboard version of this, which seems considerably less dangerous, as having eight skis flying through the air in close quarters, well it seems like a recipe for disaster. I did see one bad crash, but amazingly, for the most part, it turns out it's probably less dangerous than the straight-forward downhill.

Speaking of which, how about Bode Miller? Great Olympics for the philosopher skier. His quotes are fascinating. I read an article today, which pretty much accused him of sabotaging his previous Olympics because he wouldn't have been able to handle the fame. The impression I got was that he was already very famous in Europe, and that may have been a pain, but that was nothing compared to the pain he was anticipating as the posterboy U.S. Olympic success. He said he pretty much would have felt like a hypocrite because there is so much politiking and money-grubbing that goes along with the Olympics that he just couldn't deal with it. Or at least that's what I think he said.

Miller did go on to compliment that the Olympics as the pinnacle of his sport as well, so he said it was a double-edged sword and this year's he's been able to ignore the negatives better. Plus, I think he blew up his image so badly last time with talk of drunk skiing and the like, he really has little chance of being used by the USOC for their ulterior purposes - You've got to remember, this guy was, by all accounts raised in a hippie environment. Anyhow I'm glad to see his saved face this time around, if only to hear him philosophize about how making the perfect run at the perfect moment is so much more important than the gold medal.

U.S. Hockey Team
And how about that men's ice hockey team? Great win over Canada last night. It's been a great tourney for the U.S. guys so far, although a medal is far from guaranteed, but even more exciting, it's been a train wreck for the Canadians. Granted, the Canadians, on their home ice, playing their national sport, could still put together a medal run, but they're clearly behind the eight-ball. Losing to the U.S. was bad, but being pushed into OT by the Swiss hurt them even worse I think. Heads will roll if they don't make it out of the quarterfinal match vs. Russia. Why do I find this amusing? Canadians are nice people aren't they? Are they too smug about their hockey perhaps? I guess it's just great tragic theatre playing out and I love a good show.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pest Control: Bird in the Fireplace

You'll have to excuse me if I'm feeling a bit like Jim from the Wild Kingdom this morning...and I guess, my three-year-old son is Marlin Perkins. You see, yesterday afternoon we discovered we had a bird in our fireplace. I heard my wife scream after the little guy banged himself against the glass doors. From there, the adventure began.

I Googled topics like "bird stuck fireplace" and after some reading discovered that throwing a heavy blanket over the thing, wrapping it up, and carrying it outside was the "professional" method for handling the problem. Of course, at least half the stories I read, and some of the online videos, indicated that people had used that method, and others as well, like garbage bags and pillow cases, with varying degrees of success. I was not too excited about this dirty bird - he was black with soot - flying around my house, so, I wanted to make sure I did this right.

Was I scared of the bird? You might say. But, I'd like to say I was just being cautious. I sized up the problem from six different angles, allowed my mother-in-law to half-heartedly try and wrap him up in a towel, before my wife finally got the idea that we should use a fishing net. In the meantime, the bird mostly kept to the back of the fireplace, every now and then hurling himself into the glass doors, and also sometimes disappearing into parts unknown.

Well, when my brother-in-law finally arrived with the net yesterday evening, the bird was nowhere to be found. So, I went skiing..... well, what else was I going to do? When I got back, my mother-in-law, who was watching the kids, and brother- in-law, who had stopped back for his net, had apparently determined the bird had left. They had straightened up the fireplace, and taken the net home.

I was too smart for this trick. Actually, my neighbor, who apparently has dealt with this problem several times, guaranteed the bird would be back. He also recommended the blanket method. So, I went to bed...

This morning, the bird was certainly back, banging his way around the fireplace. I sized up the situation again and made up my mind to do something, as I didn't want to be worried about this all day when I was at work (so, instead, I'm wasting my time on this blog post). My three-year-old woke up, and, of course, wanted to see the bird. I showed it to him and he almost condescendingly suggested I use the blanket. This was interesting because the blanket I was going to use, an old drop cloth for painting, was in the basement, so he had no visual cues. I chalked up it up to an inspired answer, grabbed the drop cloth and went in.

My first toss missed the bird and he hopped over it. Thankfully, he didn't try and fly toward the glass doors or anything. But I realized I was going to have to invest myself in this if I wanted some success. I put on my ski gloves and went in after him, which involved inserting my head inside the fireplace so I could reach the back.

It was actually fairly easy to trap him, as he was either tired, or cooperative, or both. He let me toss the blanked over him and wrap him up without a fight. I tried to wrap him up as best I could to prevent flight, but when I pulled him out he never really struggled. I could see a small piece of some part of him sticking out of the blanket, so I knew I had him. I carefully but quickly walked to the front door, opened it, and threw the whole blanket out. As soon as the blanket touched the ground bird flew swiftly up in the air and into our front-yard tree. He seemed fine after his long ordeal. I shut the door and thanked by three-year-old for his help. He said he wanted to wave good-bye to the bird.

Of course, last week, he also said good-bye to the dead mice I had trapped in the basement. Vector traps, traditional style is what I recommend.


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Bills Hire New Defensive Coordinator

Here's a quote from a Buffalo News story discussing George Edwards, our recently hired D-Coordinator:

"Edwards' one year as defensive coordinator in 2003 was head coach Steve Spurrier's final year, and it was unsuccessful. The Redskins ranked 25th in yards allowed. They were fifth the year before and third the year after...."

Sounds great.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Super Bowl Monday

Congrats to the Saints and all the Saints fans I know. There is one guy from Nawlins that I work with, then there is Bob/R.L. McCray - a sports writer from Corry who did some work for the Erie paper and may still write for Warren. Great game. Hats off to the guy at Football Outsiders, who opened my eyes a couple days before the game with his insights on why the Colts were a good match-up for the Saints. One of the reasons he gave was the favorable coaching match-up, and I think we all agree that Sean Payton orchestrated a beautiful game, with the great on-side kick contributing immensely to the win. Of course, Brees had to execute and did a nice job, but let's take a look at Payton's other great call: Going for it on fourth and two late in the second quarter:

Yes, the Saints got stuffed and handed the ball back over to Peyton Manning and the Colts, with the Saints trailing by seven with two minutes to go in the half. (The Colts were also due to get the ball to start the third quarter, or so we thought). However, the Colts also got the ball on the two-yard line, which affected the plays they would call. Had the Saints gone for the field goal and kicked off, the Colts more likely would have received the ball past the 20 and closer to the 30. From there, with two minutes left, I'm betting Manning works it downfield for at least a field goal and perhaps a touchdown. So, kicking the field goal from the two was likely at best a break-even proposition and at worst a minus-four point swing for the Saints.

Payton (Sean) made what some would call a gutsy decision to go for it on fourth down from the two. However, he was really just playing the percentages - so it was more of a smart call. But, sometimes, it does take guts to be smart and go against conventional wisdom.

Payton was gambling and playing better odds than he had decided to kick the field goal. Here's why, based on the possible outcomes:
a. the Saints score a TD from the two - at best a plus-7 gain in the score, at worst a break-even proposition, if the Colts get the ball back and march down the field
b. the Saints get stuffed, stop the Colts, get the ball back and kick a longer field goal, which is still worth three points (and run out the clock for the half), which is what happened - this is a plus-three proposition for the Saints
c. the Saints D stops the Colts from scoring, but the Colts either run out the clock or the Saints get the ball back and can't score - a break even proposition, which is likely the best outcome if the Saints had kicked the field goal from the two and kicked-off to the Colts
d. The Colts take the downfield from the two and score-either a minus-three or minus-7 proposition - with the minus 3 being more likely - and still a better result than the minus-four possibility if the Saints kicked the field goal and kicked off.

Does that make any sense? The bottom line is that by going for it on fourth-and-two, Payton (Sean) created a higher chance of a better scoring outcome for his team in the last two minutes of the half.

Manning's ego problem
I'll conclude by discussing briefly Peyton Manning's ego and how it ultimately resulted in the game-clinching interception for the Saints. Colts have the ball on like the Saints 40, down by seven, third-and-five, with like four minutes to play. I'm watching the game with by buddy, who's a junior high football coach and he says, "this is four down territory, the Colts should run it here." Makes perfect sense to me, because their halfback, Josesph Addai, really had a great game and seemed to be running the ball well. I predicted the Manning would not want to give up control of the situation to another player and would therefore call a pass play. Exactly what happened - six points the other way for the Saints - Game Over. Manning is a great quarterback, one of the best ever, but there's a reason he's only won the big one once (and it's the same reason Dan Marino never won it). He's still not bigger than the game and 11 guys will more often beat one guy - or however many guys Manning wants to get involved with the play. Addai was having a great game, Manning should have recognized that and let him have his moment - but he just couldn't do it. Oh well - congrats to Joseph Addai on a great Super Bowl!


Thursday, February 04, 2010

Bills Hire Steelers Scouting Dir.

It appears like the Bills may have finally done something positive - at least hired a younger guy with somewhat of a track record of success, who's career is heading in the right direction. I mean, at least this guys has a chance...but, then there is that porn thing...Let's just hope it doesn't effect his job performance negatively.