Hot Dog!

June 30, 2009

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While most of us revel in the fireworks of the Fourth of July or the backyard barbeque, I for one take in a sporting event unlike any other. It is my favorite hour of television for the entire year. The Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Championship.  2009 ushers in the 94th installment of this major eating event. The contest takes place every year where it all started at the company’s flagship store in Coney Island on July 4.  This year will be a fierce rematch of two-time champion Joey Chestnut against six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi.

According to legend, on July 4, 1916, four immigrants had a hot dog eating contest at the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog stand on Coney Island to settle an argument about who was the most patriotic. After ten minutes, Neer Sehgal had eaten thirteen hot dogs and was crowned the victor. The contest has been held nearly every year since, in conjunction with the fourth of July at the site.

To add to the dramatic theatre of the event, there is a weigh-in with the Mayor of New York City prior to the contest. On the day of the contest, the contestants arrive in the “bus of champions” and are announced to the eating stage much like Heavyweight boxing champions are announced in a Rocky Movie. Competitors arrive with props and the list of “eating accolades” which include world record holders in such culinary delights as hot wings, crab cakes, pickled pig’s feet and my personal favorite … mayonnaise.

It will be very hard to duplicate last years event, where Chestnut and Kobayashi wolfed it out bite for bite against one another. Kobayashi narrowly escaped a “reversal of fortune” at the buzzer, ( eating terminology for losing your lunch). After the end of the 10 minute regulation, both were tied at an amazing 59 hot dogs a piece. Next what ensued is one of the most exciting fifty seconds in the history of organized sport. This is way better than Elway’s’ drive against the Browns, MJ’s shot at the buzzer to beat the Utah Jazz, more climatic than Tiger Woods dropping in a long put to send the US Open Last year into a sudden death playoff. Heck I will even say it was better than the 1980 “Miracle on Ice”

I am talking about the monumental yet slightly constipating five hot dog overtime.  Chestnut won, but Kobayashi immediately vowed to return to reclaim the Coveted Mustard Yellow Belt which ranks up there with the WWE title belt in terms of prestige.

“Each July Fourth I am thrilled as an enormous crowd gathers in front of the original Nathan’s Famous,” said Wayne Norbitz, President and COO of Nathan’s Famous, Inc.  “We value our association with this great American holiday and I appreciate the fans, who come from around the world to witness the spectacle first hand while millions more watch on ESPN.”

Last year, Coney Island authorities stated that 40,000 fans crowded the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island to witness Joey Chestnut’s rematch with Takeru Kobayashi.  Amazingly, more than one million households tuned in to the contest’s live telecast on ESPN.

To add to the spectacle this year The 2009 contest will be preceded on July 3 by a hot dog bun eating contest, in which three professional eaters will take on three semi-professional eaters..elephants from Ringling Brothers Circus.

Vegas has the Pachyderms as the early morning line favorite.

I for one know exactly where I will be at high noon come this Saturday. Smack dab in the middle of my couch watching the battle for the bejeweled mustard belt…likely while enjoying a wonderful Johnsonville bratwurst and a beer.

Have a Happy and safe fourth of July!

Open and shut

June 29, 2009

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Last week, Connie Gates of Cedar Rapids (Iowa) went on trial for vehicular manslaughter regarding an incident that occurred in March of this year.  The case began on Monday, the prosecution and defense both rested on Tuesday, and the jury reached a guilty verdict on Wednesday, after less than three hours of deliberation.

Rarely have I seen a case that gave the prosecution such a strong chance to win.  When they told the story on the news, you kept thinking “this can’t get any worse” – but then it would.

On the night in question, Connie Gates was driving a vehicle that struck a taxi driven by 76 year old  Richard Dankert.  Dankert died from his injuries.  Gates was apprehended at the scene, quashing any doubt about who was behind the wheel.

At the time of the accident, Ms. Gates was attempting to elude police when she ran a red light and struck Mr. Dankert’s taxi.

Why, exactly, was she trying to elude the police?  Probably because the Dodge Neon she was driving was a stolen vehicle.  Or perhaps it was the fact that she was under the influence of crack cocaine at the time.

How do we know that Ms. Gates was under the influence of crack at the time?  Well, perhaps the most damning evidence to support the allegation is her videotaped admission of that fact.  Then, of course, were the results of the drug screen.  Although, to be fair, the drug screen was unable to determine the concentration of crack in Ms. Gates’ system.  They were only able to determine that it was beyond the maximum that could be measured by the machine.

How, exactly, did the defense attorney react to this evidence?  Well, after the prosecution rested its case on Tuesday, the defense also rested its case – without calling a single witness.

The defense hung its hopes on the allegation that the collision was an accident that was nobody’s fault.

Not surprising, the prosecution (as well as the jury and most reasonable people) disagreed.  To suggest that this was simply an unfortunate accident seemed ludicrous, considering that Gates was under the influence of drugs, was attempting to elude police, and also ran a red light immediately before the accident.  If you assign blame for Mr. Dankert’s death, clearly Ms. Gates is at fault.  If Dankert had been the one to run the red light, this argument would have held a bit more water – but with Gates making poor decisions at nearly every possible opportunity, the blame lands squarely on her shoulders.

The strength of the evidence, coupled with the  minimal defense, makes me wonder if Gates was forced to roll the dice with a trial because of the prosecutor’s unwillingness to offer a plea deal.  After all, the prosecution had very little to gain, and a plea deal in this case could have been unpopular with the citizens.  Perhaps Gates could have lessened her possible sentence by immediately taking blame, reaching out to Dankert’s family, and pleading guilty to the crime – throwing herself on the mercy of the court.

Gates will be sentenced on August 13.  She faces 25 years for the charge of vehicular homicide involving a controlled substance and 10 years for a charge of eluding police.  Gates also faces prison time for the lesser charges of operating a vehicle without consent and possession of a controlled substance.

Voluntary identity theft

June 27, 2009

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I bought a board game at a local secondhand store last night.  The box was taped shut.  It seemed a bit thicker than it should have been, but I assumed that contents had just shifted.

Nope.

I just opened it.  Inside the box, on top of the actual game contents, were 17 sealed envelopes from student loan lenders (and the Department of Education).

In an age in which people go to great lengths to protect their indentity, someone handed a gold mine to potential indentity thieves.

Oops!

Kosmo = Rachel Ray?

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Today, I will channel my inner Rachel Ray.

How am I like Rachel Ray?  Let’s count the ways:

  • Am I a perky brunette with her own TV show?  No, not exactly.
  • Am I a savvy businesswoman with a profitable line of cooking equipment for sale in many fine stores?  No, not exactly.
  • Do I feature a star studded lineup of guest stars?  Hey, that’s debatable, with my stellar columnists and guest writers.
  • Do I have a recipe to share?  Ooh, ohh, definitely.

Today’s recipe is one that I utlilize a lot during lent.  As a Catholic who is allergic to shellfish and dislikes the taste of other oceanic creatures, I don’t have a lot of things to choose from.  I did learn at an early age what a friend we have in cheeses.

Biscuit Pizzas

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. Take one can of Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits (blue can).  Flatten the biscuits on a cookie sheet (you should have 10 flat biscuits at this point, not one big one)
  3. Cover the biscuits with pizza sauce.  My personal preference is Contadina in the squeeze bottle – a good balance of taste, economy, and convenience.
  4. Top the biscuits with shredded cheese.  My pereference it to put mozzarella on half and sharp cheddar on the other half.
  5. Put the biscuits in the oven for 10 minutes.  You may need to tweak this based on personal perference.  10 minutes should get the biscuits nicely browned on the bottom.

Enjoy!

Chill Out

June 26, 2009

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It was 11:18 PM when the refrigerator door closed for the final time. The occupants of the fridge waited 15 more minutes, just to make sure. Then they finally started to unwind.

“Man,” said Leftover Pizza, “I really thought I was a goner. She was eating my slices pretty fast. At least there’s still a little chunk of me left in here.”

“Eh, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” replied Orange. “I’ve been in here for three months. It’s always too cold and the lights are always off. Plus, Limburger has horrible BO that fills the entire fridge.”

“Speak for yourself,” shot back Limburger. “I’m not so sure that you’re not the cause of a lot of the smell. You’ve got mold spots that are older than me.”

“Hey guys, cool it,” said Cucumber. Cucumber was unflappable and served as the referee for these battles. “Limburger, stay in the dairy section. Orange, stay in the produce drawer. No more trash talk, guys.”

“Yeah,” piped up Ketchup. “Some of us are trying to get to sleep.”

“Man,” piped up Eggs “you are no fun at all, Mr. Ketchup. Not even midnight yet and you’re already going to sleep. We have a short life span, we need to party as much as we can!”

“Oh Yeah!” said the Kool-Aid pitcher. “Time for a party. Who brought the tunes?”

“There are no tunes, you numbskull,” retorted Fresca. “Just the incessant sound of that stupid compressor. Day after day, night after night, year after year.”

“The rest of us should be as lucky as you, Fresca,” said Ranch Dressing. “The life span for my species in this habitat is less than a month. How long have you been living in these parts, Fresca?”

“Since 1992,” said the old geezer. “It was touch and go for a while, but then grandpa died, and grandma doesn’t like my flavor – but she hates to throw anything out, so I still sit here.”

“Yeah, good old grandma,” said the Container of Food with an Indeterminate Origin. “She has already forgotten what I am, so she’ll never want to throw me out until she remembers what I am.”

Milk sighed. “You guys are so lucky. She barely leaves me in here a week past my date. It would be so great to have the shelf life of Fresca.”

“The cold does get to you after a while, though,” replied Fresca. “Sometimes I long to be squirreled away in a closet somewhere, enjoying tropical climates all year.”

“It could be a lot worse, though,” piped up Butter. “Someone could have drunk you years ago!”

“You speak the truth, my fine yellow friend. You speak the truth. My life may not be a paradise, but it is a life nonetheless. Better to have lived than to have died, I always say.”

“Hey guys,” yelled Limburger. “Watch me light my farts!”

“Limburger, cut that out. Cheddar, grab that lighter from him. Let’s settle down, guys. Let’s play a quick game of twenty questions and then go nighty night. Carrot, it’s your turn to pick the object. Orange Juice, you can ask the first question.”

“Animal, vegetable, or mineral?” asked Orange Juice.

“Vegetable,” answered Carrot.

“Don’t tell me it’s a carrot” asked Celery.

“Yup,” replied Carrot.

“Aw, man, you suck at this game.”

“OK, that’s wrap. Time go grab some ZZZs,” said Cucumber, in her most authoritative voice.

Interview with Lazy Man

June 25, 2009

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Today, we interview Lazy Man from the personal finance blog Lazy Man and Money.

Kosmo: Lazy, come on in and take a seat. Hey, hey, take those shoes off. I apologize for the condition of the furniture. We’re on a tight budget and got most of this stuff at yard sales. Can I get you something to drink? We haven’t been able to afford a refrigerator yet, so we can’t offer you anything cold.

Lazy Man: It’s good to see I’m not the only one saving money at yard sales. A glass of tap water would be fine, save your drink money for a fridge.

Kosmo: You definitely have an interesting nickname. How did you acquire it? Were you a Lazy Boy when you were younger? Do you spend countless hours in your hammock in the summer? Have you found yourself watching hours of C-Span because you’re too Lazy to change the channel? Are there piles of dirty laundry in the middle of your bedroom? Spill the beans – America wants to know!

Lazy Man: So many questions in one question, here goes… As a child I certainly was Lazy. However, I wouldn’t call myself a Lazy Boy as that’s a registered trademark of another corporation. I actually don’t have a hammock. I’ve been in negotiations with the wife to get one for about 4 years now. She’s worse than Scott Boras! I go out of my way to avoid C-Span at all costs just to stay clear of that issue. I tend to put the pile of dirty laundry to the side. I have also have a pile of clean clothes.

I chose “Lazy” after a principle in Software Engineering, my career at the time. It’s generally considered smart programming to delay computation until a result is required. When I preach the “Lazy Way” of doing things, it’s more about the efficiency. I always say that if necessity is the mother of invention, laziness is the father of efficiency.

Kosmo: What made you take the plunge to become a personal finance blogger? Do you also disperse personal finance advice to your family and friends, or are your blog readers the sole privileged recipients of your vast knowledge?

Lazy Man: I was at the dentist and read a Business Week article about how anonymous bloggers are sharing their networth on the web. One person in particular caught my eye, Boston Gal’s Open Wallet. Having lived in Boston all my life at that point, I gravitated towards anything Boston-related. After reading her site for a couple of months, I figured that I should document my quest to acquire all the world’s wealth.I pretty much reserve my financial advice to readers. It turns out that people don’t often like to receive advice on how they should handle their money from me.

Kosmo: You have been blogging for 4 years now. You have a fairly large audience and are able to earn a decent amount of cash from blog related activities. Did you have a particular moment or event when you knew that you had crossed the threshold from novice blogger to successful blogger?

Lazy Man: Whoa, don’t make me old, I’m only at 3. You presume that I’ve crossed the threshold to successful blogger.  Success can be measured in a number of ways. I presume you mean financially successful. I think when I had my first $1000 month from blogging, I realized I was on to something.

Kosmo: What sort of advice do you have for bloggers who are just starting out? What are some pitfalls they can avoid or obstacles they will encounter along the way? What steps can they take to increase their likelihood of success?

Lazy Man: I have about 20 posts of blogging advice already written. I’m just afraid to publish it because I’m not sure I can maintain another blog. For now, I invite everyone to contact me about any specific questions they might have. I hope a lot of people do because it will kick my ass in gear to formalize and publish what I already have written. I aggregated some other bloggers blogging tips at Advice for New Personal Finance Bloggers.

Kosmo: Much of the subject matter in the personal finance blogosphere seems to center around good financial advice. On the other side of that coin, people should also make an effort to avoid really bad decisions. What are some of the worst personal finance decisions a person can make?

Lazy Man: I’ll give you a couple of bad ones:

  • Reach into your wallet or purse. Pull out all money you have in there. Set it on fire.
  • Buy as many depreciating investments as you can… especially expensive ones like boats and cars.
  • Subscribe to as many services as you can. Never use them.
  • Start smoking. Do I get bonus points for the bad health advice

Kosmo: OK, now that we’ve covered the serious stuff, let’s get the scoop on the man behind the blog. What’s on your iPod right now?

Lazy Man: It’s been about 3 months since I’ve seen my iPod. However, my Palm Pre has The Beatles, Portishead, The White Stripes, Radiohead, and System of a Down.

Kosmo: How do you unwind after a long day of blogging. What are your hobbies?

Lazy Man: There’s time to do stuff besides blogging? Here are a couple of hobbies

  • I spend an hour or two each night acting as my dog’s chew toy.
  • I’m big into wine tasting. My tastebuds are pretty poor and I have almost no sense of smell. That makes me really bad at wine tasting. I also break all the rules and have white wine with red meat and red wine with white meats.
  • I have the world’s largest collection of sea shells. I keep it scattered on beaches all over the world. Maybe you’ve seen some of it…
  • I like steal Steven Wright jokes and pretend they are my own.

Kosmo: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

Lazy Man: I would be a cheetah. I’ve always thought they were cool.

Kosmo: Is there any truth to the rumor about Scarlett Johansson?

Lazy Man: You know, everyone always gives the no comment when situations like that arise. I’m not that kind of guy. I’m just going to say it straight out: It’s true.

Kosmo: You make no secret of the fact that you are a Boston Red Sox fan. Do you consider the Red Sox to be the true 2007 champions, considering that a bevy of bad calls handed them a tainted World Series victory?

Lazy Man: Look, the tuck rule was in the rule book the whole season. In fact it’s still in the rule book today. I don’t know why people can’t understand the basic rules of the game.  Oh wait, you said 2007 Boston Red Sox…

Kosmo: You are an anonymous blogger. You guard the secret of your identity so closely that not even your dog knows about your alter ego. It must be stressful living with such a big secret. It would be a big weight off your shoulders to reveal your identity today, on The Soap Boxers, in front of a crowd of readers …

Lazy Man: I’ve thought about not being anonymous any more. All the biggest personal finance bloggers are not anonymous. I also don’t go into my net worth any more like I used to.You are right it would be a big weight off my shoulders to reveal my identity on The Soap Boxers today.

Kosmo: Thank you for your time, Lazy Man. Reader: if you haven’t had a chance to visit Lazy Man and Money, hop on over – www.lazymanandmoney.com. Lazy Man blends insightful personal finance advice with some interesting stories from his personal life. Lazy Man and Money is definitely one of my favorite blogs.

If you visited The Soap Boxers just to see the interview with Lazy Man, look around a bit. Browse the archives, subscribe to the RSS feed, or simply come back again tomorrow. We offer a full money back guarantee. If you read us for a week and don’t like the content, we will refund 100% of the purchase price.

Wednesday Wisps

June 24, 2009

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Today we introduce what I will call “Wednesday Wisps”. This is similar to the potpourri term I have used in the past, except that Wednesday Wisps uses alliteration to creep insidiously inside your brain. Wednesday Wisps will feature an assortment of very short news stories, opinions, or ideas – typically, not much more than 100 words.

How long until we can stop using the word “dial”? We don’t dial phone numbers any more – rotary dial phones are something that the younger generation isn’t even aware of (except for the popular toy for infants). I’m struggling to find a better term. “Enter the number” doesn’t seem to have the same panache.

PGA star John Daly sheared the roof off his RV and sent it flying into the path of an oncoming vehicle when he became confused by signs and hit a tunnel. The other driver suffered back and neck injuries, as well as damage to his vehicle. Just as Daly has started to get his life back to a semblance of normalcy, this happens.

Detroit city council member JoAnn Watson will be forced to pay a maximum of three years of back taxes after having the city correct its assessment of her house. Watson’s home had been re-classified as a vacant lot in 1999, and she had been pay $68 annually in property taxes since then. However, the law only allows the city to collect three years of taxes when a property has been incorrectly assessed. It has been pointed out that the absence of the $300 city trash fee should have been a red flag to Watson – since she had actively fought the fee. Watson believed that the property was reassessed after a tornado damaged the home, although no official records of the tornado can be found, and Watson did not file an insurance claim at the time of the tornado.

University of Georgia gymnast Courtney Kupets won the Honda-Broderick Cup, awarded annually to the top female college athlete in the US. Kupets, the winningest gymnast in NCAA history, won four individual titles at this year’s NCAA meet. More impressive is the fact that Kupets was able to bounce back from a torn Achilles tendon that cost her most of her junior season. Not only did Kupets recover from the injury, but she was able to compete at the very highest level.

Voting for Major League Baseball’s All Star Game, held in July, begins in April, when some roster slots are not even set. This is wrong. Delay the start of voting until June 1. With internet voting, anyone who wants to vote will still be allowed to vote. While you’re at it, change the limit from 25 votes per email address. Restrict the voting by IP address instead, to avoid having someone use multiple email address. I personally have more than a half dozen email addresses.

The smart phone war escalated, with Palm releasing their Pre model and Apple releasing their iPhone 3GS to legions of adoring fans. I personally am a “dumb phone” sort of guy, relying on a Samsung Slider – my data connection to the world consists solely of text messages from 4info.net.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has begun working by email as he bounces back from a battle with pancreatic cancer. The charismatic Jobs, 54, received a liver transplant in April.

Reality stars Jon and Kate Gosselin – from TLC’s Jon & Kate plus 8 – have filed for divorce. This had been widely rumored for months.

Ed McMahon, longtime Tonight Show sidekick to Johnny Carson, and also the longtime spokesman for Publisher’s Clearinghouse, died at age 86. McMahon had suffered several health problems in recent years.

Mother Nature wins US Open, Glover gets trophy

June 23, 2009

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Much like the rain delays this weekend at the 109th United States Open Championship at Bethpage Black course, your truly is a little late in getting in this week’s sports story in.

Yesterday provided some great drama and a great and memorable finish. It became somewhat of a Darwinesque survival of the fittest down the stretch. The last group with Ricky Barnes and Lucas Glover started Monday play on the second hole with a comfortable cushion of 5 shots between them and the next closest competitor.

Only in the US Open, no lead is comfortable, especially when you have not contended in a Major before.

Barnes was the first to falter, giving away a number of strokes early in the round. He started to show signs of this late in the day on Sunday as he missed a very short putt on #18 and then promptly began the fourth round by barely keeping it on the golf course. Barnes has been in a position like this before, albeit while still an amateur. He is a past United States Amateur Champion. That is a Major in my book, and it sure was to Bobby Jones.

Glover leads the PGA this year in total driving statistics which combines length off the tee with accuracy. That is the kind of statistical support you need to find yourself at the top of a US Open Leaderboard. As Barnes faltered, Glover hung in there just a bit better…mainly due the number of fairways he was hitting.

A number of other players made a charge, Mike Weir, who was a magician with the rescue clubs and fairway woods all week. Ross Fischer…Who??? Most had never heard of him, but they will now. And if you watch golf channel coverage of the European Tour you would know a lot more about Ross and his golf game.

David Duval, who had gone the way of Ian Baker Finch, win the Open Championship only to never be heard from again. Duval showed the world that he might be closer than we think to being among the games best again. He had a few horrible breaks early in the round and could have easily faltered, but instead righted the ship and finished tied for second. No one saw that coming. Except maybe Double D himself.

Tiger made a fourth quarter drive, but ran out of holes and out of time. NBC is always pushing for Tiger, and frankly pushes too hard, I think the reason a lot of folks don’t like Tiger is the media is often so slanted to have him win that it turns a lot of folks off. Still it is impressive that he has no putting game at all this week, hits it just average and still can finish tied for 6th. It just proves how good he really is.

The peoples choice, Phil Mickelson once again came up just a bit shy. Too many good story lines here if he did pull this one off. Now we look at his record in U S Opens and see five….count em five second place finishes. This might be like Arnold Palmer and the PGA Championship. Many close calls but he could never win that one. How many more shots will Phil get to be this close.

At the end it was Lucas Glover hoisting the trophy. One of the quietest and unassuming champions you could predict. With now two wins to his credit on the PGA tour, Glover gets a lot more attention, fame, and a smooth ten year exemption on the tour.

A lot of other big stories later this week including the finale of the College World Series and the start of Wimbledon.

Also I would be remiss if I did not mention a good friend of mine says to purchase your Colorado Rockies tickets now….for the playoffs. What a turnaround in Coors!

Until next week- Hit em straight!

Rockies Update

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My favorite baseball team, the Colorado Rockies, have been on tear lately.  The Rockies have won 17 of 18 games, dating back to June 4 against Houston.  Their only loss in this stretch was a June 16th game against the Tampa Bay Devils.  That game followed an off day, which is another great reason not to have any off days during the season.  The Rockies are 19-5 under interim manager Jim Tracy after starting the season 18-28 under fired manager Clint Hurdle.

Much maligned shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has played in 16 of those 18 games and has hits in 14 of the 16 games in which he played – good for a .400 batting average during that span.  Tulo has also smacked 5 of his 10 homers during the streak.  For those of you keeping track at home, his OPS (On-base-plus slugging) is nearly identical to the numbers he put up in 2007, when he was putting up numbers deserving of the Rookie of the Year award.  This fact is hidden a bit because injuries have cost him some at bats this year, and because his batting average is lower than it was in 2007.  However, his on base percentage is actually higher than it was in 2007, because of a marked uptick in the number of walks Tulo has drawn.  Keep in mind that the kid is still just 24 years old.

What other players are having good years for the Rockies?

  • Todd Helton finally had back surgery after a sub-par and injury filled 2008 season.  The Toddfather might have a legitimate shot at 30 homers for the season, and he already has 49 RBI.  There is one small area of concern – Helton’s walk rate is the lowest it has been since 1999.  Helton’s walk rate is on the upswing, though, as he already has more walks in June than he did in all of May.  Helton surpassed 2000 career hits earlier in the season, to the surprise of many observers who were under the impression that he had already reached the mark years ago – but Helton’s relatively late start in his career (coming through the college ranks) as well as his propensity for taking walks, has served to limit his at bats a bit.
  • Right fielder Brad Hawpe continues to be the best player that nobody has ever heard of, putting up a .335 batting average and an OPS above 1.000.  Hawpe has been a beast at home this year, with a .400+ batting average at Coors Field.  Over the course of his career, Hawpe has not been a “product of Coors Field”, however.  His career OPS differential is +45 points, compared to a typical hitter who enjoys a 30 point advantage at home.  Hawpe clearly gets some additional benefit from Coors, but not the typical Coors Field boost.
  • 24 year old rookie Ian “Stewie” Stewart has displaced Garrett “I can’t hit no more” Atkins as the starting third baseman.  Stewart’s batting average is still hovering around .225, but he has 13 homers in just 180 at bats in the season, including 6 in 70 June at bats.  Stewart appears to be bouncing back from a dreadful May that saw him post a horrendous .595 OPS, largely as the result of an absurdly low .128 BABIP (batting average on balls in play, a number which is typically around  .300).  Oddly, Stewart has a “reverse split” this year, posting significantly better numbers away from Coors Field.
  • Catcher Chris Iannetta has fought some injuries, but still has 10 homers in just 132 at bats this year, building upon the power he displayed last year (18 homers in 333 at bats, as he shared time with Yorvit Torrealba behind the plate).
  • Off season acquisition Jason Marquis (9-4, 3.71 ERA, 97 innings pitched) leads the Rockies in all three of those categories.
  • Aaron Cook had a horrendous April, posting a 7.11 ERA.  This was attributed to a mechanical problem with his delivery, and Cook has been money in the bank since that point, putting up an ERA below 3.00 since the beginning of May.  With a win last night, Cook became the all time franchise laeder in wins, with 59.  (Note that the Rockies have only been around since 1993 and haven’t had many pitcher hang around very long). 
  • Closer Huston Street  posted a 6+ ERA in April before enjoying a dominant May (0.82 ERA) and a strong June (2.79) as has established himself firmly ahead of Manny Corpas in the closer slot.

Weekly News Nuggets

June 22, 2009

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James von Brunn

James von Brunn, who shot and killed a guard at the National Holocaust Museum, may face some additional charges.  When searching von Brunn’s computer, investigators found child pornography.  For the few of you out there who feel that von Brunn is an otherwise good man who simply had some radical political beliefs that got him into trouble, it’s time to jump off the bandwagon.  This man is not a kindly old grandfather – he is a criminal who derserves to be severely punished. Since von Brunn committed the crime in the District of Columbia, the federal government has jurisdiction.  That means that he could face the death penalty.  However, it is very unlikely that he will be executed.  By the the time that the case goes to trial, a jury renders a verdict, and von Brunn’s appeals have been exhausted, a lot of years are going to pass.  It’s much more likely that the 88 year old man is going to die in custody when his appeals are being heard.

While James von Brunn’s son Erik has offered his condolences to the family of security guard Stephen Johns, saying that “the wrong man died that day”, some von Brunn supporters feel that a conspiracy may have been at work, and that von Brunn might have been set up.  This appears to be rather unlikely.

Air France flight 447

It is beginning to appear that Air France flight 447 broken apart during flight on June 1.  Many of the bodies have had multiple broken bones, which is consistent with falling from a great height.  Very few have shown head injuries, which occur very often during crash landings.  The key question, of course, is WHY tha plan would have broken apart.

Air France is paying the families of victimes approximately $24,500 in initial compensation.  The key word is initial.  Certainly further compensation will be paid at a later date.

Illegal music downloads

A Minnesota woman was founded guilty of illegally downloading 24 songs and was fined $1.9 million by a jury.  The was actually a re-trial, as she was granted a new trial because of an error that was made jury instructions in her first trial.  She was also found guilty in the first trial, although the fine that was assessed by that jury was “just” $220,000.

The fine seems a bit on the high side, since stealing the same 24 songs from Wal-Mart (shoplifting 2 CDs) would be unlikely to draw a fine remotely in the same neighborhood.  I think that the fine will eventually be reduced, but there’s a lesson to be learned here.  Don’t mess around with illegal downloads.  Pay for your music.  The artists deserve to be compensated.  After all, you wouldn’t walk out of your favorite restaurant without paying.

Donte Stallworth

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth reached a plea agreement in his vehicular manslaughter case.  The plea deal calls for Stallworth to spend 30 days in jail (minus 1 day time served and 5 days off for good behavior).  Stallworth was drunk when he hit and killed a pedestrian.

To many people, the penalty seems absurdly light.  I agree that more jail time was warranted.  However, there are several factors that helped Stallworth.  First, it is possible that the victim was not in the crosswalk when he was hit.  However, for the sake of argument, I’ll assume that he was in the crosswalk.  After the accident, Stallworth did all the right things.  He called the cops and cooperated with the investigation.  He expressessed remorse.  He reached a financial agreement with the family of the victim (the family supported the plea deal).  Stallworth was also a first time offender.  Add up all these details, and clearly he is going to end up with less jail time than a repeat offender who flees the scene.

Some have compared Stallworth’s sentence to that of Michael Vick.  Vick’s situation was much different.  This is not simply the case of a man’s life vs. a dog’s life.  Vick engaged in intentional acts of cruelty against animals (whereas Stallworth intended to drink, but did not intend to kill) and continued a pattern of deceit after being arrested.  In short, Vick appeared to be the sort of person who needed a stiff prison term to rehabilitate him.

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