Month: December 2012

Sports – NFL Picks, Week 17

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 17 Picks:
(I was 10-6 last week)
Bye teams: none

TB @ Atl – Sometimes the Week 17 games are a little wonky, as some teams have it all wrapped up and some teams are dead in the water.  Such is the case here.  The Falcons win, probably.
NYJ @ Buf – What a mess for the Jets.  They finally move on from Sanchez, only to call on him when McElroy gets hurts.  Messy, messy, messy.  With both teams out of the playoffs, Bills win.
Bal @ Cin – The Bengals surprised me last week and played themselves into the playoffs.  The Ravens already won the division, but look for them to get a practice win in Cincinatti.
Chi @ Det – The Bears are still alive, but need a win here, big time.  The Lions would like to play spoiler to their division rivals, and I think they’re just nasty enough to pull it off.
Hou @ Ind – The Texans are in danger of losing their first round bye.  They need to get their act together, and now!  The Colts have nothing to play for and will lose at home to a superior team.
Car @ NO – Both teams are out, but both teams have some momentum going into next season that they would like to see continue.  The Saints are the better team and will win at home.
Phi @ NYG – The Giants are technically, TECHNICALLY, still alive.  They need to win and to have three separate teams lose.  I think they’ll win, but I doubt they’ll get in.
Cle @ Pit – What a sad end to the Steelers season.  It’s odd to think of the Giants and the Steelers both being out of the playoffs, but cest la vie.  The Steel Curtain will get one more win though.
Jax @ Ten – No wonder the Texans and the Colts got in the playoffs; they got to face these two clowns twice each.  This is an unwatchable game.  Titans by default.
KC @ Den – So far this season the Broncos haven’t fallen for trap games.  With a win here, the Broncos get a bye.  Peyton will make it happen and Denver will prepare for the playoffs.
GB @ Min – All the Vikings have to do is win to get in, and the Pack doesn’t have much to play for, so I look for the Vikes to win a home game on Adrian Peterson’s shoulders.
Mia @ NE – The Pats are hoping for the pieces to fall into place so that they can get a bye.  First they have to beat the Dolphins …shouldn’t be much of a problem.  Patriots.
Oak @ SD – What an end to the Norv Turner era.  The Chargers aren’t awful, they just need new life.  A new coach could make the an immediate impact next season.  SD will get one more win.
STL @ Sea – The Seahawks were very impressive last week, and now are in a position to win the division.  They shouldn’t have much of a problem at home against the Rams.
Ari @ SF – The Niners were embarrassed last week by the Hawks, but can still win the division and gain some momentum with a win against the Cardinals.  Should happen.
Dal @ Was – The biggest game of the week is on SNF.  Winner takes the division, loser needs some luck to get into the playoffs.  I love Romo, but the Boys will fall once again to RG3.

Thought – Merry Christmas!

Category : Thought

Well, I’m off on a little holiday break and I will see you again soon.  I hope you have been enjoying reading my blog and that you will continue to read once I get back from my hiatus.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Book Review – I, Robot

Category : Book Review

Author: Isaac Asimov
Year: 1950

My first experience with Asimov was reading Robot Dreams, a collection of short stories centered around the topic of robot development, intelligence, and incorporation into the human world.  When I picked up I, Robot I was expecting something more akin to the movie.  I was very wrong, but thankfully so.  It was much more a collection than I expected, and had very little to do with the film, but this classic sci-fi masterpiece turned out to be a wonderful read.
The story of I, Robot is one of time.  It is a series of short stories, all interconnected, and chronologically placed to show the history of robot production, improvement, and integration.  The narrator and main character, Susan Calvin, works for U.S. Robotics, a company than ultimately runs the robot world.  As these man-made creations become more and more sophisticated, problems arise that must be faced, solved, and dealt with in a surprisingly human way.  The lines begin to blur between robots as slaves and robots as peers in this scientifically interesting work.
You have got to enjoy science to enjoy this book, even more so than other sc-fi novels.  There is a technical side that is very interesting, but also very in depth.  However, beyond the science is a very human element; the attempt to understand the robot brain leads to some intriguing conversations on religion, thought processes, morals, etc.  It sounds cheesy to say, but the study of robotics leads to some fascinating insights on humans.  I, Robot is part story but mostly idea, as it poses a possible future and leads us in a discussion of the various topics related to it.  A very interesting read, one of sci-fi’s groundbreaking stories.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Thought – The Reason for the Season

Category : Thought

If I read one more Facebook post reminding me that “Jesus is the reason for the season!” that vein in my forehead might finally pop.  In all ways and explanations, Christianity, a Jonny-come-lately religion anyway, has no claims to this winter holiday.
Without trying to sound elitist, I would urge you to read something, anything, on the topic and notice a recurring theme; that almost every religion, culture, and people performed some sort of celebration during the winter solstice.  The Pagans celebrated the physical season, the Syrians celebrated the birth of the sun god Adonis, and even the Jews claim this time as the birth of Yahweh, all before the supposed birth of Jesus, the forming of a religion around him, or the development of a holiday called Christmas.
Of course, it was very intelligent of early Christians to place their holiday on this date.  With everyone already celebrating something, it makes sense to claim this time as YOUR savior’s birth, put YOUR stamp on it, and try to get some converts, or at the very least get people thinking about Christmas while they’re celebrating the birth of Sol.
We see this in the way that the majority of Americans celebrate Christmas, even devout Christians; it is a combination of ancient traditions (pine trees, wreaths, Santa) with religious practice (Nativity scenes, baby Jesus).  There is nothing wrong with this, as it is fundamental to our nation; the merging of many cultures and many traditions into a new society that will forever be influenced by both new religions and ancient traditions.
Believe in whatever fairy tales you want.  Believe in whatever God/gods/spirits you wish.  But don’t attempt to tell me that “Jesus is the reason for the season!”.  He isn’t.  He may be the reason someone made up the term ‘Christmas’ and then planned his birthday party on the same day that everyone else was celebrating THEIR savior’s birth, and that may have resulted in a veritable smorgasbord of American religious and traditional practices that all melted together.  But don’t forget that the vast majority of the peoples of Earth have been celebrating a holiday of their own during this time of the year that has nothing to do with your new-found religion.

I say “Merry Christmas!” even though I’m not a Christian.  I think this is ok, if for no other reason than that Christmas is a melting pot of culture as much as America itself is, and I don’t see that as a bad thing.

Movie Trailer – The Great Gatsby

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan
Release: May 10th, 2013

I guess I forgot that this movie was coming out.  I saw the trailer months ago, filed it away, was reminded of it, and watched it again.  If anything, it is going to be more spectacular than I had imagined.  Luhrmann is not for everyone (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!), but his films are exciting, beautiful, and original; Gatsby looks no different.

Sports – NFL Picks, Week 16

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 16 Picks:
(I was 12-4 last week)
Bye teams: none

Atl @ Det – The Falcons aren’t perfect, far from it.  But they annihilated the Giants last week and they get to play an awful Lions team that has lost six in a row.  Matty Ice will dominate.
Oak @ Car – In a game of eliminated teams, even the winner doesn’t win.  The Panthers have been playing fairly well, and the Raiders are 1-5 on the road this season.  Cam!
NO @ Dal – Although technically still alive, the Saints don’t have a real chance at the playoffs.  They’d have to beat a hot Cowboys team to keep their hopes alive, and I doubt they can do it.
Ten @ GB – Should be a lopsided victory for the Packers, as the Titans have allowed an embarrasing number of points this season.  Rodgers and Co. are prepping for a deep playoff run.
Min @ Hou – The Vikings are a team that I definitely did not see coming.  Adrian Peterson is running wild, but I think that stops this week.  The Texans are the real deal and will come away with a win.
NE @ Jax – And I thought the Packers game was one-sided.  I don’t care that the Pats got beat by the Niners, that won’t happen again this week.  The Jaguars are pathetic.
Ind @ KC – The Colts are not a very good road team, and the Chiefs defense can actually be formidable at times.  But Luck has more to play for right now and will fight for the win.
Buf @ Mia – The Bills have had such a disappointing season.  Three seasons, actually.  With the Dolphins playing pretty well right now, I don’t foresee any circling of the wagons this week.
SD @ NYJ –  Well Gang Green finally came to their senses and benched Sanchez.  Problem is A) they’re not starting Tebow, and 2) they’re already out of the playoffs.  Chargers.
Was @ Phi – Will RG3 be back this week?  Didn’t matter last Sunday, as Cousins stepped up and played well.  No matter who plays at QB, the Eagles still suck and everyone there is getting fired.
Cin @ Pit – I like this matchup; divison rivals fighting for the last playoff spot.  The Steelers have been hurting, but Big Ben ALWAYS beats the Bungles and he will this week at home.
STL @ TB – Doesn’t matter, don’t care.  Neither team is awful but neither team is good.  The Bucs will win by virtue of home-field, but don’t get excited about it.  I guess there’s always next year.
Cle @ Den – Thank you, Peyton, for coming to Denver.  The Broncos are on a nine game win streak and couldn’t be hotter.  Call it a trap game, but Manning doesn’t fall for those.
Chi @ Ari – Talk about collapses.  The Cards finally stopped theirs, but not before being eliminated.  The Bears are currently riding theirs and are getting booed out of town.  Cardinals by a nose.
NYG @ Bal – Which embarrassed team with pull it out this week?  The Giants are playing for their lives, while the Ravens have already wrapped up a playoff spot.  G-men win in a bloody one.
SF @ Sea – A great SNF matchup between two teams fighting for the division title.  Both teams have scored and allowed almost the exact same amount of points.  So the deciding factor will be the 12th Man; the Seahawks are undefeated at home.

Movie Trailer – Zero Dark Thirty

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Kyle Chandler, Chris Pratt
Release: January 11th, 2013

I’m on the fence about this one.  It’s a relevant and interesting topic, and I know people will eat it up, but I’m not that excited about it.  Perhaps because I didn’t care for The Hurt Locker, Bigelow’s Oscar-winning Iraq war drama.  It’s just not my thing, but perhaps it’s yours.

Movie Trailer – Kon-Tiki

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Joachim Ronning
Starring: Pal Sverre Valheim Hagen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen
Release: 2013

It’s nice when you stumble across a foreign film that you would never have heard of and it looks this good.  In what seems like a Norwegian Castaway, I expect some good acting and beautiful scenery.  This is one of those films that’s worth a shot in the dark.

Sports – Broncos vs. Ravens

Category : Sports

Today’s game between the Broncos and the Ravens is an important one for many reasons.
  1. It is a personal rivalry between my team and the Scott’s team.  Now, they’re not huge football fans, but I still don’t want my team to lose to Baltimore, I want them to have a good showing.
  2. Although the Broncos have already clinched the AFC West, they are attempting to become ranked as either the #1 or #2 seed.  If they can do that they will receive a one week playoff bye and then have home field advantage for two games in the playoffs.  Home field in January is very important.
  3. For the Ravens, they still haven’t won their division.  The Steelers and the Bengals are right behind.  Baltimore has lost two in a row, fired their offensive coordinator, and are in a slump.  They need to pick it up now or risk losing home field advantage, or even a playoff spot.
  4. And lastly, the Broncos need to show that they can beat an elite team.  Earlier is the season they lost to the Texans, Falcons, and Patriots; three of the best teams in the league.  These are the Broncos’ only losses on the year, and they came early when Peyton was still adjusting, but it would mean a lot to Denver’s morale and momentum if they could beat a good team in a tough matchup.
The game is on CBS @ 1 p.m. and should be a good one.  We’ll see if Baltimore’s new offensive coordinator can fix their problems quickly and help them to score against the Broncos’ #4 ranked defense.  Also #4 ranked is the Denver offense, which should be able to put up points on a Ravens team that is too injured to play up to their pedigree.  Ray Rice must be stopped, especially in the screen game, for the Broncos to win this game.  And a few Joe Flacco sacks or INTs would be nice as well.  The Broncos need to hold onto the football, no fumbles on kickoffs or punts or runs, and score when the opportunity presents itself.
Game Score: Broncos 31 – Ravens 16

Book Review – The Cider House Rules

Category : Book Review

Author: John Irving
Year: 1985

Apparently it’s easier to write a review of something I hated, because I am finding this very difficult.  When a book exceeds all your expectations, when it surprises you with just how deep it goes, and how strongly it affects you, it becomes hard to judge.  What can I write that will express what this story meant to me?  You might read it, enjoy it, even love it, but it will become something totally different to each person who experiences it, for good or for bad.  And that, I guess, is the magic of a great book.
The Cider House Rules is the story of Homer, an orphan from St. Clouds, Maine.  His early life is sculpted by the people around him; from Dr. Larch, the obstetrician, to the two dedicated nurses on staff, to the children like Fuzzy and Melony who will always be a part of who he is.  Destined to be a doctor and follow in his mentor’s footsteps, Homer’s life veers onto another path when he meets Candy and Wally, two young lovers whose privileged existence is so very different from his own.  As he begins to understand the world outside of St. Clouds, Homer must make decisions that will effect his future, that of the orphanage, and of everyone he has come to love.
Very rarely does a story have so much of an effect on me that I can’t describe it or even express myself.  Very simply, this is one of the best books that I have ever read.  It was more than a novel, it was a piece of life.  It was a record of an interesting time and the extraordinary people who lived it.  It was a window into a character that becomes more real than any I have ever known.  I will never forget the story, the conflicts and questions that it raises, the personalities that were so well written that they became physical.  The Cider House Rules will always be on my mind, and will change the way I read every book from now on.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰