Tuesday, March 28, 2006

All Along The CD Tower

While organizing my CDs the other day, I questioned the need for certain albums to remain in the collection. I did no vetting this time, but next time, there will surely be some discs ripe for elimination.

Here's a look at the three albums I am most embarrassed to own. Have fun mocking me for the following atrocities:

1. The Bridge, Billy Joel.

To call this album a piece of shit would be a disservice to dung. I suspect I purchased this album circa age 12 because I liked "A Matter of Trust," which interestingly enough, might be the one track from this disc that has stood the test of time. But otherwise, it is quintessential 1980s, from the opening "Running On Ice" drek to the well-known "This is the Time," which I remember oh so well from all those eighth-grade dances. The Bridge came at a time where the '70s had left Billy behind, and he hadn't quite transitioned to his easy-listening tunes yet.

2. Away From The Sun, Three Doors Down

Pussy rock at its worst -- or finest -- depending how you look at it. I'm sorry I own this. I really am, OK? I can't explain it. I've only listened to it once, I swear. I don't know how it wound up in my home.

3. Pump, Aerosmith.

No, there was nothing truly terrible about this album -- at least, it sounded somewhat cool the last time I listened to it ... as a freshman in high school.

But Pump was sort of like a gateway drug. It was not the needle in the vein officially ending Aerosmith's reign as a kick-ass band. But it was a precursor to all the syrup the group produced throughout the 1990s and into the new millenium, marking its transition from legitimate band to teeny-bop hooey manufacturers.


Onto a new category. Next up are a few albums you would think I'd be embarrassed to own, but I'm actually quite proud to enjoy.

1. Fore!, Huey Lewis

As the fifth tune on this disc proudly declares, it is indeed Hip To Be Square. The first four songs on this album are cheesy 80s icons: Jacob's Ladder, Stuck With You, Whole Lotta Lovin', and Doin' It All For My Baby. All this album is missing is the track popularized by Back To the Future ... "Power Of Love."

2. Business As Usual, Men At Work

Down Under produces its own version of The Police. Colin Hay's schtick might be lifted from Sting, but there's nothing wrong with the sax-driven "Who Can It Be Now?" The "Land Down Under" is a timeless catchy tune, which has the added benefit of teaching the masses about vegemite sandwiches.


Monday, March 20, 2006

Salton Inc. update

About a month ago, you may recall that I sent a fiery letter to Salton Incorporated after their crappy toaster broke after three months of light use. (See the archives if you do not remember this letter).

It is with great pleasure I annouce the arrival of a brand-new toaster. It came with the following letter, which shows that Salton's goons folded faster than the French army once I unleashed my wrath upon them.

Honestly, they did a solid job in ironing out the problem, so I will not rip them too much. For one day, The Man took responsibility for his inept product.

Dear PCB:

I have received the letter dated January 30, 2006 along with the toaster you had sent Mr. David Sabin.

We are sorry for the problems you have experienced while using this toaster. We have examined the defective toaster, and found that the latching mechanism had detached from its normal position, and that's why the toaster did not function properly.

Separately, we are sending a replacement toaster which has been examined and tested for proper performance. We hope you will find this toaster to perform satisfactorily.

Once again, please accept our sincere apology for the inconvenience caused by the defective toaster, and please feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding any Salton products.


Pravin Jobanputra

Senior Vice President - Engineering


Thursday, March 16, 2006

On being Brown

When Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage arrived in Cleveland, they must have been aghast at the talent level on his roster. There wasn't a single player to build around on either side of the football. Other teams might have had worse records than the Browns, but at least they had promise.

Arizona had receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. The Jets had John Abraham. San Francisco had Julian Peterson and Alex Smith. The Browns? They didn't have a single "impact" player, according to Peter King's rankings in SI, the only team to so blatantly lack talent.

That sort of sordid history has plagued the franchise, which has only had one player reach the Pro Bowl since its return in 1999. (Jamir Miller in 2001).

Butch Davis, the biggest fraud in the history of NFL coaches, left the cupboard bare for Romeo. I don't know if any team has drafted worse in the last seven years than the Browns. Combined with Chris Palmer, here's the team's first-round draft history in the modern era:

1999: Tim Couch ... a bust on the proportion of Ryan Leaf
2000: Courtney Brown ... injury-prone bust in Cleveland; never played a full season
20001: Gerard Warren ... two arrests and half-assed effort; rendered a nonfactor
2002: William Green ... multiple arrests and a drug suspension from the league; a nonfactor
2003: Jeff Faine ... an underachieving center who will not make the team this year
2004: Kellen Winslow Jr. ... an arrogant cancer. he's played two games in Cleveland
2005: Braylon Edwards ... Romeo's first choice; looks promising ahead, but also injured

Last year, Romeo and Phil began to add pieces of the puzzle. He picked up guards Joe Andruzzi and Casey Coleman in free agency. They were not Pro Bowlers by any stretch, but it marked the first time the team had added guards or tackles in free agency.

The offensive line has been a huge weakness since '99, and Butch the Charlatan inexplicably ignored it year after year -- with the exception of the drafting of the unexceptional Faine in the first round, the team never drafted another lineman higher than the sixth round during his tenure. Butch's see-no-evil approach to the line made me want to drink some of Jimmy Jones' Kool-Aid.

Romeo and Phil also traded for Reuben Droughns, a bowling ball of a back from Denver. Frankly, Droughns ranked fourth on the depth chart with the Broncos, and ran for 1,000 yards as a product-of-the-system back behind Denver's staunch line. I was skeptical of the trade, but he developed into a legit starter. What he lacks in talent, he makes up for with bruising toughness.

Last year, it was nonetheless a miracle the team won six games. They had no business doing that. The additions on offense helped the unit rise from stench to below average, but that was about it. Droughns became the first Cleveland running back since 1985 to reach the 1,000-yard mark. There was hope, but it was obvious this team was still light years from contention.

Fast forward to this past week.

The team's free-agent haul is the second-best in football, only behind the Redskins. In one week, we've skipped those light years ahead. We're ready to contend for a playoff spot this year. It's March, and I'm wound up about Cleveland Browns football.

Romeo and Phil addressed the offensive line in a big, big way. They added Pro Bowl guard/center LeCharles Bentley, the best center in football and a Cleveland native who is genuinely excited about lifting this team from the gutter.

They added Falcons left tackle Kevin Shaffer, a guy who anchored the league's best rushing offense last year and has allowed only six sacks in two seasons.

Adding another native Clevelander, they replaced locker-room cancer Antonio Bryant with the sure-handed Joe Jurevicius at receiver. The San Francisco-bound Bryant may have had 80 catches for 1,009 yards last year, but the dude dropped a whole lot of passes in crucial situations and had a bad attitude. He should have had 100 catches. Good riddance.

They signed punter -- and yet another Cleveland native -- Dave Zastudil from the Baltimore Ravens. He replaces the ineffective Kyle Richardson. Hopefully, this means that opponents will not average starting field position of their own 40 next year.

On the defensive side, the Brownies also needed tremendous help. Their pass rush produced an NFL-least 23 sacks last year, and their run defense was 31st in the league.

So the additions of mammoth defensive tackle Ted Washington and linebacker Willie McGinest should be a tremendous benefit to Romeo's 3-4 scheme this fall.

At 38, I think Washington's best days are not in front of him. At 34, McGinest is also past his prime. But it's a testament to the dearth of talent the current regime inheirited that both these guys could be the two best defensive players.

OK, linebacker Andre Davis had a breakout season last year. And Brian Russell is a hard-hitting, if undersized safety. But the Browns simply did not have a player with the stature of a McGinest. These are good additions, even if they are not long-term solutions.

So the offense looks like this: Droughns pounding behind a battle-hardened line and fullback Terrelle Smith, as solid a FB as there ever was; Braylon Edwards, Jurevicius and Northcutt as a legitimate receiving corps and perhaps Kellen Winslow finally playing at tight end.

Defense: On the line, legit veteran Orpheus Roye and Ted Washington bettering the run defense with Jason Fisk now out of town. McGinest and Davis anchor the 3-4. Gary Baxter, Brian Russell, up-and-coming Leigh Bodden have the makings of at least a mediocre secondary.

There are surely lots of holes and questions.

QB Charlie Frye will be in his first full year as a starter. The team needs a legitimate change-of-pace back for Droughns. Lee Suggs is always injured and William Green is always in jail. We need a solid Eric Metcalf or Dave Megget type.

Defensively, there are still a lot of holes. But fewer than last year. Hopefully, they will address these during the draft next month. If they could somehow trade up from No. 12 and grab Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk, I will proudly shit my pants.

I expect a defense-oriented draft. And I think Romeo and Phil are two of the better talent evaluators out there, unlike their outwitted scumbag predecessor. I have high confidence these guys will do a hell of a job next month.

And come September, there's going to be a new attitude in Cleveland. The makeover of a depleted roster will hardly be finished, but this has the potential to be the best offseason in Cleveland since the team raided the defunct USFL in 1984 and signed LB Mike Johnson, G Dan Fike, CB Frank Minnifield, FB Kevin Mack and KR Gerald "Ice Cubes" McNeil.

That haul set the foundation for a team that reached the AFC Championship Game three times in the five years that followed. This year's free-agent crop could set the same sort of foundation. For the first time since the franchise's rebirth, there is truly hope in Cleveland.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

reading material

A recent discussion with a friend left me questioning why I still bother to subscribe to Sports Illustrated, given its decline. The answer: My grandparents get it for me every Christmas, and it's simple for them to send in the renewal form.

Here's my rankings of the magazines I subscribe to:


Likes: It's the king of magazines. Excellent adventure stories of inspiring feats. It's got some of the best writers on the planet. It's at the forefront of political battles over ANWR and land squabbles in the West. You don't need to be an outdoors junkie to like this magazine.

If you want a sample of its excellent features, read this article when you have about 40 minutes to give it your undivided attention. It might be the best magazine article I read in 2005.

Dislikes: Forced to come up with one, I'll tell you that I'm tired of its fawning over Bode Miller.

At first, I was a fan of this cat. I didn't necessarily endorse his drunken skiing, but it was nice to hear someone speak their mind with little care about which pompous, tired beauracrats they would offend. His 60 Minutes interview was solid.

But then this yahoo kept yammering through the entire Olympics about how he didn't care about winning, how he wanted to go away and be left alone. How he's anti-capitalism (but wears no less than eight corporations' logos in every possible photo shoot).

Thankfully, he's in his 14th minute.


Likes: Technically, this is Ericka's magazine subscription. Since I read it almost every week, however, it gets lumped into my rankings. It has a deep well of insight that no other magazine can match. Every week, there are meaty stories about the guy behind the guy in the Iraq War.

Dislikes: The New Yorker can get way too snooty.


Likes: Every month, there's a couple adjustments to my workout that come courtesy of Men's Health. It keeps my routine fresh. It also has a lot of health/nutritional information that I read religiously every month.

Dislikes: A lot of it is geared toward corporate clowns. There are many a story advising Johnny Former Fratboy on how he can move up the food chain and grab that corner office. Also, its "Affordable Fashion" section is ludicrous, particularly when it displaying sweaters that cost $250 bones.

Also, the feature stories bland more times than not.


Likes: It brings out my geekdom in full. I like reading about stocks and whatnot, along with perhaps planning for my retirement. Also, this will sound strange, but it spawns a lot of interesting sports stories.

Dislikes: The obligatory profile on some hotshot CEO. Yawn.


Likes: As soon as this arrives in the mail, I immediately flip to the "Never Again" section, which profiles a flight gone awry once a month. I'd much rather learn about danger in flying from other peoples' mistakes than my own. Most accidents aren't the result of one sudden clusterfuck. There's typically a chain of errors, so it's a great study aid to read about what these pilots were thinking each step along the way during their accident flights.

Dislikes: Each month, they spend a couple of pages profiling the specs of a new aircraft. Since I'm not in the market for a ride that costs $250K on the low end to $18 million on the high side, these are useless to me.


Likes: The sleeper of the group.

I received the subscription as a gift, but you might be surprised to know I was a fanatic when it came to watching Chef Tell on PM Magazine as a four-year-old. Then I graduated to watching Pasquale's Kitchen Express sometime around eighth grade. He was this old-school Italian cat who sang while he cooked and poured more wine in his mouth than in the food. You could watch him get drunk. It was hilarious.

These were hard-core cooks, who toiled in an era before Emeril made it fashionable to host a cooking show.

Anyway, back to my cooking, it's something I like to do. Also, the wine portion is nice, because it offers stuff that's in a price range that I find realistic. It's not all $200 bottles. There are some in the $9 vicinity that are good.

Dislikes: Some of the recipes involve things that take entire days or weekends to cook. I won't be using those.


As a preface, I'm going to admit it's still a pretty good magazine. But my comments will probably be skewed decidedly toward the negative, if only because it used to be so much better.

Likes: Gary Smith's three bylines per year justify the subscription price. S.L. Price and Bill Nack are bonuses.

Dislikes: Where to begin?

First and foremost, Sports Illustrated has abandoned its quality in a poor attempt to compete with ESPN Magazine's clownish, booyah antics. The result is it loses substance, and also don't do ESPN as well as ESPN does. It's stuck in a magazine netherworld.

It has also cut the news hole. The mag feels thinner every week at the mailbox, because it IS thinner. And what they do with their now-limited space is a shame.

It starts with the 30-odd pages of fluff that now kick off the mag. I don't care who Derek Jeter is dating now, nor do I care about "SI People," which profiles what hip-hop artist Terrell Owens might be listening to right now. It's like they turned SI into People. That's all lost on me.

More often, the bigger features are book excerpts, not staff-written copy. The editors are sitting on a mountain of talented writers, but then fill the space with outside stuff. Doesn't make sense.

Last but not least, Rick Reilly is unreadable.

No exaggeration. Absolutely un-fucking-readable.

Once, he was a very good columnist and a hell of a feature writer. Now he's a washed-up, self-promoting, humorless douchebag. Almost every week, he interjects himself into his columns. It's like he can't help himself.

Sometimes he doesn't even bother to write a column. He'll instead do some sort of ridiculous referee sketch. It's embarrassing. Its worse than watching Michael Jordan play in his last season with the Wizards. He's that fucking bad.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Durango, Colorado

This is my second post of the night, a rare double-billing. Ericka is sleeping off her second hip surgery in the last six weeks, so I have some spare time between her regular slumber hours and mine, which usually don't start until 2 or 3 a.m., thanks to my copy-editing prowess.

To recap the last week, we had an excellent time on my big turning-30 trip last weekend in Durango. Even getting pulled over by John Law on the drive down -- I was pushing 75 in a 65 -- did not wreck the weekend. In fact, I lucked out and got one of the nicer officers who has ever zapped me for speeding.

Upon pulling me over, he immediately appeared in my window and said, "Just to let you know, I got you going a little fast back there. No worries, though. It will just be a warning and we'll get you on your way."

With that, we were free.

The drive down took 6 hours, 19 minutes because of my reduced speed following the encounter. In the past, it has taken me 11 hours to do this in snow, but we had excellent, mild weather the entire trip. Which was part of the problem when we got to Durango.

Ski conditions were about as putrid as I've ever seen them down at Purgatory. While the northern half of Colorado has enjoyed a tremendous winter, the bases at Purg and Wolf Creek are about 25 to 30 percent of average.

Nonetheless, I skied the first day. It was my first ski day of the season, a fact which had caused a great deal of well-deserved ripping in my general direction. I was a little worried about wrenching my back, but it survived some good mogul runs in the morning.

After lunch, we played it safe and throttled down some of the roly-poly blue runs that make Purgatory such an excellent resort.

On the second day, I wasn't feeling so well, so we took a drive up the San Juan Skyway, though the old mining towns of Silverton and Ouray. We plotted some hikes and climbs for the summer, enjoyed a lot of good eats, stayed at a haunted B&B -- this is a good thing -- and got to spend some time with my grandmother.

Then it was back home.

(The pictures: At top, Ouray is a tiny speck of a town, but it is also the ice-climbing capital of the U.S. In the second picture, you can see a guy scaling an ice wall that is the side of a canyon that is about 2,500 feet tall. The third picture is a look at Engineer Mountain from Coal Bank Pass, and the last one is just a group of trees at the top of Molas Pass just south of Silverton).

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Ask and ye shall receive, DA

So Reese Witherspoon won an Oscar.

As some of you apparently recall, I trashed her in an entry a few months ago, calling her a "once-talented actress." Let us note these comments were made before her movie "Walk The Line" debuted. I saw this movie. It is an excellent movie, and she is worthy of her accolades.

I extend a hearty congratulations to Mrs. Phillipe on her decision to stop filming garbage and returning to movies that allow her to display her acting ability.

As for my other comments about her hypocritical stance on the plight of young women feeling pressure to dumb themselves down to appease society, may I remind you all she is the one who made Legally Blonde, which glorifies the very traits she railed so firmly against on Oprah.

I stand by those comments.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Rutgers, The State Embarrassment of New Jersey

No, this is not about Gary Waters.

This is about Roberta Shulman Kanarick, the so-called president of the woeful, shameful Rutgers Alumni Association. I have received two letters from her in the mail in recent weeks, and each one deserves much scorn.

The first began with: "You have been prequalified for the Rutgers University Alumni Federation Select Rewards Visa Platinum Card! Hurry! Offer expires March 15, 2006. Sincerely, Roberta Shulman Kanarick." There is a P.S., which states: "Pay off higher-rate credit cards and save money!"

I am certainly glad Ms. Shulman Kanarick pointed this out, because I would have never deduced such financial and mathematical logic on my own after the substandard education she rightly assumed I received at her offending university.

Apparently, Ms. Shulman Kanarick's worthless organization has nothing better to do but sell my address to credit-card companies and pollute my mailbox with more junk.

Onto the second letter, which arrived last week:

It is a request that I re-join our Alumni Association, which I belatedly abandoned at the end of the 2004 calendar year. I will not agree to this.

Let me say this: As a member of the Ohio State Alumni Association, I have witnessed first-hand the true potential of an alumni association. Every week in the fall, more than 300 people turn out at the appointed gin mill to cheer on the Buckeyes.

Once a year, Jim Tressel comes to talk to the group. Once a year, the group takes a trip on the ski train up to Winter Park for the day. Once a year, they hold a Big 10 Picnic, which is well-attended by every single conference school. Everyone gets drunk, eats a lot and generally has a good time. They have lots of other trips as well, baseball games, national championships, etc.

The Rutgers Alumni Association, on the other hand, has held four events in the six years that I have lived in Denver.

I once asked the local chapter president why we didn't have more events. She snarled at me, "Because I don't have time to do anything else." Three of the events were trips to Rockies games, and I was working all three years.

However, I did attend the most recent event, in the summer of 2004. It was a gathering at The Rio, a Denver restaurant that serves powerful margaritas. The pernt of the gathering was to solicit ideas on how to make the RAA a more active club. I haven't heard from them since.

It is worth pointing out that all the Big 10 schools have people my age milling all around. At the Rutgers gathering, Ericka and I were two of the few people there under 45. The older gentlemen at our table -- I believe his name was Ed -- spent his evening ogling Ericka's rack, and making little attempt to hide this.

This is the organization that Ms. Shulman Kanarick wants me to rejoin. She writes: "Membership also gives us discounts to Rutgers bookstores and sporting events, hotels, movie theaters, (sic) and theme parks, just to name a few."

For the record, I never received one of these discounts during my five years of membership.

I am going to write a letter to Dick McCormick asking she be dismissed, right after Waters.
Good riddance.

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