Kosmo On Sports

November 30, 2010

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Iowa State wrapped up their football season with a disappointing loss against Missouri on November 20 and ended the season at 5-7.  At the beginning of the season, I figured that five wins would be a best case scenario, given the difficulty of the schedule (non-conference games against Iowa and Utah and road tilts against Texas and Oklahoma).  As it stands, we ended up with five wins, and I’m disappointed that we didn’t catch a couple of breaks that could have gotten us a couple more wins.  Mark my word, we’re going back to a bowl game next year.

Former Iowa State coach Dan McCarney, currently the defensive line coach for Urban Meyer at Florida, will be the new head coach at North Texas.  McCarney had a 56-85 record with the Cyclones, but the overall wins and losses don’t do justice to the work Mac did to build the program.  Iowa State was fresh off an 0-10-1 season when McCarney took the reigns from Jim Walden.  In Walden’s seven seasons and head coach, the Cyclones mustered a winning record just once (6-5 in 1989).  After just ten total wins in the first four seasons under McCarney, Iowa State burst onto the national scene in 2000 with a nine win season – and the first bowl appearance since 1978.  In a six year span between 2000 and 2005, the Cyclones played in five bowl games.  After a 4-8 season in 2006, McCarney was fired.  That night, I sent a short email thanking him for everything he had done for the program.  McCarney, in the process of cleaning out his office and figuring out what his next career move was, took a moment to reply.

My wife’s favorite NFL team, the St. Louis Rams, find themselves in contention for a playoff berth.  At 5-6, they are tied for first place in a mediocre NFC West.  Rookie quarterback Sam Bradford is leading the way with a successful debut season – 17 touchdown passes against 9 interceptions.  No 7-9 team has ever made the playoffs – but it  could happen this year.  In any case, the season has been a big step forward for a team that had just one win last year.  At the beginning of the season, I wondered if the Rams wouldn’t have been better off to trade star running back Steven Jackson in an effort to plug multiple holes … but it seems that the Rams have found a way to get to the next level without sacrificing their best player.

The Yankees and shortstop Derek Jeter are reportedly far apart in negotiations.  It’s an odd case.  On paper, the Yankees would seem to hold all the cards.  Jeter is coming off a very poor season, and at at 36, is at an age when a decline in abilities is expected.  Barry Bonds aside, players generally do not improve their statistics in the waning years of their careers.  Additionally, Jeter is a type A free agent, meaning that teams would have to sacrifice a first round pick to sign him.  At this point, I think many teams see the folly in signing an aging type A player.  The Braves signed Tom Glavine as a type A player after the 2007 season.  It ended up being a bad signing, with Glavine giving limited value to the Braves, while at the same time, the Braves handed the division rival Mets Ike Davis on a silver platter (the Mets drafted Davis with a pick they were awarded as compensation for the Glavine signing).  On the flip side, Jeter is a Yankee icon, and there is fear on backlash from the fans if they front office fails to ensure that he finishes his career in pinstripes.  What am I hoping for?  I hope the Yankees massively overpay Jeter.  More money for Jeter means less money for players who could actually contribute to the team in the future.

On Monday night, my Colorado Rockies extended the contract of Troy Tulowitzki, adding six years and $119 million to his existing deal.  He had been signed through 2013, with a club option for the 2014 season.  Tulo is now signed through the 2020 season.  While I’m glad to know that the Yankees or Red Sox won’t be snapping up Tulo as a free agent any time soon, lengthy contracts can be worrisome in baseball, where the money is guaranteed.  The deal should serve to put a ceiling on Jeter’s contract.  It would be difficult to argue that a Jeter approaching 40 is worth more than Tulo in his prime.

In a recent edition of Sports Illustrated, I saw some ads for the publication’s annual swimsuit edition, which is now a multimedia experience – not just the magazine, but a calendar, video, and more.  It made me wonder how much of SI’s revenue comes from swimsuit model and how much comes from the coverage of sports?  My favorite sports publication, Sports Weekly, doesn’t have a swimsuit edition, or anything even close to it.  That’s probably a good thing – I really have no interest in seeing Paul White in a Speedo.

Admitting Failure

November 29, 2010

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I am at the point in my effort to write a novel in 30 days where I must admit defeat. The goal was 50,000 words during the month of November, I have only made it to just over 25,000 words. So why did I “fail”? I let other activities occupy my time. Some of these were unavoidable; family, work, and home. Others were just my lack of drive. I could probably analyze the amount of time I wasted on on-line games, watching TV and sleeping in. That kind of analysis is self defeating if you are writing for pleasure. I plan on continuing to work on my novel, hoping to have something for review in the spring. When writing, that is all you can do. Set goals for yourself, but keep going even if you do not meet those goals.

I am fortunate that I have a job that allows me enough actual relaxation time to write. If I had a job with a significant manual labor content, say, a longshoreman, I do not believe that I would have the opportunity to write very much; all of my relaxation time would be to recover my strength for the next shift. I hope each of you has an opportunity to write, it is such a great way to express your creativity with little or no cost.

My leisure time is sometimes augmented by job related travel. I am not much of a partier, so I have plenty of time after hours with no family responsibilities to dedicate to writing. That is the main reason I was able to make the 50,000 word contest last year. Next year I plan on trying again. My long term goal is to produce most of one novel every year as long as I can write. I am going to try to publish, eventually.

I hope at least some of you who were taking the Novel Writing Challenge were successful. Even if you were not, I hope that you had a good time trying. Remember to keep writing.

People Of The Month

November 28, 2010

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Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta

On November 16th, Staff Sergeant Giunta became the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War.  The Medal of Honor was awarded for his heroics after his platoon was ambushed by Taliban fighters on October 25, 2007.  Among the actions that Giunta took during the fighting was to chase down Taliban fighters who were attempting to carry off a wounded American soldier.  Staff Sergeant Giunta killed one of the soliders ad caused the other to flee.  Although Giunta pulled his comrade to saftety, the soldier later died.

In any case, I would be proud of such a heroic soldier.  In this case, it hits home even more because Giunta is an Iowan.  Not only is he from my home state, but he grew up just a couple of miles from the office where I work (although news stories mention that he grew up in town of 6500, Hiawatha is part of the Cedar Rapids metro area – the second largest metro area in the state).

The local news media has been all over this story.  Not only did they cover the presentation live, but they advertised the event weeks in advance.  They also covered the parade when Giunta returned home to a hero’s welcome.

Elizabeth Smart

This month, Elizabeth Smart finally gave testimony in the criminal trial of Brian Mitchell.  Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, abducted Smart and held her until their arrest nine months later.  Although some people suggest that Smart could have escaped if she really wanted to, in actuality, factors such as Stockholm Syndrome actually make it mentally difficult for hostage to break away.

It has been more than seven years since Smart was reunited with her family.  She seems to have made a remarkable adjustment.  She has not become a recluse, but instead has made an effort to reach out and help others. – through TV interviews, a collaborative book with other victims (free download from the US Department of Justice), and most recently, as a Mormon missonary.  Far from using her abduction as reason to pull back from society, she has instead used it as motivation to do much good in the world.

Josh Hamilton

We go down a few rungs on the ladder to the world of sports.  Josh Hamilton was a heralded baseball prospect in high school – being picked with the #1 overall selection in the 1999 draft.  Hamilton eventually began to abuse drugs and alcohol, and by 2006, his star had faded so much that he was left unprotected in baseball’s Rule 5 draft.  He was selected by the Cubs, who immediately flipped him to the Cincinnatti Reds (yeah, Cubs fans, that has to hurt).

After being traded to the Texas Rangers, Hamilton blossomed into a bona fide star in 2008 – wowing crowds at the All-Star game home run derby and finishing seventh in MVP voting.

In early 2009, Hamilton was reported to be in a bar, asking questions about where he could get some drugs.  The 2o09 baseball season was also a disappointment for Hamilton, whose numbers slipped considerably.

In 2010, Hamilton once again appeared to have his act together – clean and sober.  He hit .359 for the year, with 32 homers.  Even though the Rangers shut him down in September to allow him to recover from injuries and be ready for the playoffs (a smart move), Hamilton’s season’s work was enough for him to reach the pinnacle  – being named the American League MVP in the same year that his Rangers advanced to the World Series.

I sincerely hope that Hamilton is able to continue to remain clean and sober – his achievements on the field are secondary to his battel with addiction.

Overrated stat of the month

I am annoyed at how often talking heads point to the number of rushing attempts a football team has in their wins versus their losses.  The suggestion is that teams that run the ball often win more often than those who don’t.

This is a classic example of confusing cause and effect.  Quite often (although not always), teams runs the ball a lot because they are winning – it’s not that they are winning because they have run the ball a lot.  Let’s say you’re up 30-3 at the beginning of the 4th quarter.  What sort of plays are you going to call?  Runs, of course – because the clock doesn’t stop after running plans (it does stop after an incomplete pass) and you’re able to eat more clock and make it more difficult for the other team to come back.  Likewise, the team that is down 30-3 is probablty going to throw a lot of passes in an effort to get points in a hurry.  At the end of the game, the winning team will have a lot of runs and the losing team will have a lot of passes – but simply because the score dictated the game play.

Idiot quote of the month

The Pac 10 conference has a round robin schedule in which every team plays every other team.  While many other teams play seven or eight conference games, Pac 10 teams play nine.  Washington coach Rick Neuheisel has pointed to his as a reason why the Pac 10 went into the weekend in danger of not being able to fill all of its six bowl slots, saying “… it hampers everbody, because it’s five more losses for the conference.”  That’s true, but the extra conference game also means that it’s five more win for the conference, too (with 10 teams playing an extra game, five teams must win and five teams must lose).  It’s only a net loss of five wins for the confernce if you assume that the teams would have gone 10-0 in games against non-conference foes instead of the 5-5 record in the conference games.  Note that the five teams that were struggling to reach six wins have a combined 8-7 record in non-conference games.

Should Full Body Scanning and Pat Downs Be Allowed?

November 27, 2010

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In recent weeks, there has been much outrage regarding the full body scanners and pat down techniques currently in place at airports across the country.  Last week, I took a step away from my generally (but not always) pretty liberal point of view to argue in support of speed cameras.  This week, I once again side with the government on an issue.  Don’t expect this to become a trend …

I do expect some tomatoes to be thrown my way – so don’t be shy about sharing your opinion.

First of all, lest anyone jump to wrong conclusions, I certainly don’t support all of the actions of the TSA.  If pat downs are crossing the line into the area of sexual molestation, then this is CLEARLY wrong and those who are using the name of the TSA to perpetrate criminal acts should be prosecuted.  I also take exception to small children being separated from their parents during the pat down process.  My general rule of thumb here is going to be that anyone who can’t vote has the option of having a parent with them during the process. 

My friend Lazy Man is in disagreement with me on this issue, writing recently in opposition to the full body scanning and pat downs (and a couple of days ago, The Angry Squirrel also chimed in on the topic).  Lazy makes many arguments that I agree with, and I’m guessing that he will agree with some parts of my argument.  The difference is that we place different weights of certain factors.

In his article, Lazy Man makes this comment: “I understand the need for security, but I believe our right to privacy trumps that.

Let’s look at this in detail.

Our right to privacy

Which right to privacy, exactly?  There is, of course, no explicit right to privacy outlined in the constitution, although various amendments are generally interpreted in a way that suggests this right – something that has been backed up by a considerable amount of case law.

However, the right to privacy is really not at risk here.  The TSA cannot force you to undergo body scanning or a pat down.

Of course, if you refuse, you won’t be allowed to board the plane.  Note that you aren’t being deprived of your right to privacy – you’re simply being deprived of your “right” to board an airplane.  Guess what – no such right exists.  You can fly or you can decline screening – your choice.

While the issue at airports is front and center these days, the fact of the matter is that when you buy an airline ticket, you are entering into a contract.  In exchange for a seat on the plane, you pay a sum of money and agree to other terms.  I don’t have an airline ticket in front of me, but I suspect that being vetted by security is part of the fine print.

Odd that you’d need to give up a right as part of a contract?  Not really.  That’s often the very point of a contract.  Sign a contract to play Major League Baseball?  Guess what – you’re going to have to submit to drug testing and you’ll be bound to a particular team for a number of years (note that for many jobs, you have to submit to drug testing even if your employment is “at will” – a case where you don’t even have a contract).  Want to open a restaurant?  Prepare for inspections by the department of health.

Privacy trumps security

Go through a full body scan and the worst thing that happens is that your privacy has been invaded.  Yeah, that’s bad.

Get on a plane with people who haven’t gone through rigid security screening and the worst thing that happens is that you can die in a firy crash when a bomb explodes.  That’s the worst kind of bad.

I wonder how many people who complain about invasion of privacy still want terrorists to go through body scanners or pat downs.  Ah, there’s the trick … sometimes the wolf can wear sheep’s clothing. 

What this really boils down to is your privacy on one side of the equations, and hundreds of lives on the other side.  The equation is similarly unbalanced for every passenger, as any one person can result in everyone dying.

Kids should be exempt

I’ve seen suggestions on many sites, including The Consumerist, suggesting that very young children be allowed to pass through without screening.  After all, a three year old can’t possibly be a member of a terror cell.

While this is true, the sad fact is that it is not uncommon for parents to use their children as “mules” to unwittingly transport contraband from place to place.  If a drug smuggler can use a baby, then why not a terrorist?

I’m the parent of two young children.  Nonetheless, I think that children should have to go through screening the same as anyone else.

What’s next?

This isn’t to say that what’s in place today is the perfect solution.  Let’s once again look back at Lazy Man’s article, in which he says “There is talk about having the computer only showing outlines of the body and potential foreign objects. Considering that the technology that we have with facial recognition is a million times more complex this should be able to implemented in a couple of weeks.”  I’m definitely on board with anything that minimizes the risk to privacy while still maintaining the same level of security.

No Need To Touch My Junk And Other Musings

November 25, 2010

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With the holiday travel season upon us the right has found their latest obsession in attacking the TSA and newer regulations before boarding flights. Their new slogan is Don’t touch my junk. What the case is if you’ve been hiding in a cave the last week or so is that if you choose not to go through the full body imaging scan there will be an extensive full body pat down. Some think that the image equipment causes a risk to your health and that is why they elect not to go through that process. However like on most issues they are dead wrong. The health risk to radiation from the process amounts to the amount you would have from a few minutes of flying. So if it really was a health issue for you, you might as well not even get on the plane at all.

However on one note I will agree with their side that the extensive pat down is not required at all. It has been 15 years since I have flown with them, but El Al Airlines has always had nice security measures for pre flight boarding and maybe should for other airlines. Basically you’d have to show up way early before your flight and then go through an extensive interview process with their security and check out your luggage you are carrying on. If they think something is questionable about your answers, your reaction to the question, your demeanor, something in your luggage, whatever it may be you are not allowed on your flight. Then again this would just bring up the right with saying their time is being wasted by these new invasive efforts into their privacy, but who exactly are they going to be blaming when lack of regulation fails. Who they always blame for everything under the sun, Obama.

So on this busiest of travel days the teabaggers have taken to the airports in protest of this. The image scanners are a “health concern” and also show too much and can get into wrong hands. I have already discussed the former, but on the latter they are wrong as well. The equipment does not have a save feature to keep your body image on file after the next person has gone through the line or the equipment is turned off.

So remember this holiday season when your travel is delayed some, blame the proper people. The nutcases who are protesting this whole issue instead of actually offering any sort of solution. Then again they probably won’t listen so it will probably fall on deaf ears.

Speaking of nutcases, up in Alaska defeated Republican candidate for Senate Joe Miller continues to be a sore loser and is pissing and moaning and continues to bring up lawsuits blocking the landmark write-in win by fellow Republication and current Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski … His new lawsuit is that he thinks handwriting looks similar on some ballots so they must all be cast out. This goes with his other argument he has made in suit that misspelled ballots should not be counted because his supporters lead a campaign to have protest votes. So in his mind Murkowski should have received no votes at all instead of the comfortable victory she had as a write in candidate over his stupid arse. I am guessing his next step will be to have his security detail “arrest” Murkowski. So the long story short if the legal wranglings by the teabaggers in Alaska are allowed to continue Alaska will be without a Senator for the time it takes to get things sorted out. Then again I will shed no tears as it just means there is one less Republican vote in the Senate for a while, even though it will have no ramifications on the amount of votes needed to get anything done.

Other ramblings I have for this month are on the Bush tax cuts and healthcare reform. It is quite funny that the group of people who ran on the issue of the average Americans not creating debt and repealing socialist healthcare want to extend the Bush tax cuts to millionaires, add considerably to the debt and when they show up at orientation in Congress want to know where their government run healthcare is.

Well that is all I’ve got for this month. I hope everyone has a safe and Happy Thanksgiving holiday and remember there is no need to have your junk touched this holiday – unless you really want to that is.

What Islam Means To Me

November 24, 2010

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[Editor’s note: on occasion, we delve into topics that touch on Islam.  In the past, some of our writers have made an attempt to explain how Muslims may feel about issues.  However, when writers of a Judeo-Christian background do this, we don’t really have the proper background for it – we’re outsiders.  If we truly want a Muslim point of view, then it makes sense to actually ask a Muslim.

Recently, I asked my friend Z if she knew someone who would be interested in writing an article.  Z is a typical modern American woman in many ways – she loves to shop, is devoted to her husband and young son, and is a member of the Facebook generation.  I am hoping that this article, written by Z’s husband ZZ, will allow people to place a human face on Islam.]

What does Islam mean to me?

Here is some background and reality check before I get into, “what does Islam mean to me? We have been hearing that Islam is the religion of “peace”, but current global situation doesn’t help us to believe that. This is absolutely true for the individual who solely relies on media. However individuals who have a little bit of awareness of Islam wouldn’t agree with that. The biggest take away from Islam is, Islam never allows hurting anyone, never allows any sort of suppression, it always encourages helping others out regardless of caste/religion/race. This is huge; let me repeat this regardless of ANY CASTE/RACE/RELIGION. Think about that, in today’s modern western society we are still struggling on those three elements pretty much every day in and day out under “discrimination” and yet Islam mentioned and cleared those centuries ago.

Moving along, the actual definition of Islam is “to Submit” meaning submit yourself to one God or in Arabic “Allah”. Having said that, individuals (Muslims & non-Muslims) define or explain Islam based on their own knowledge, experience, interaction or perception which sometime is misleading and away from the “true” definition of Islam. Unfortunately, today’s media is not helping to identify the “true” Islam as well.

Regardless, Islam is still the same as it came hundreds of years ago. It’s the followers who make things too complicated. I always say don’t blame religion, blame “followers”. Let me try to explain this further, the fundamental difference between the “true-right” followers and what I called “mislead” followers is that, those mislead individuals don’t know and most of the time don’t want to understand the fundamentals of the “true-Islam”. It’s due to the fact that there are predefined misconception against the “true-Islam”.

Subsequently, the fundamentals of the true Islam is in this sequence; Quran, Prophet Mohammad’s actions & sayings along with the actions of his immediate families. If any Muslim misses any of the above sequence will ALWAYS be misleading and couldn’t be a true follower of Islam. So in order to understand Islam one has to do some research instead of watching 9 o’clock news— funny isn’t?

Furthermore, Quran verses are always connected to Prophet Mohammad’s sayings & his actions (which sometimes are elaborations of Quran verses) and actions of prophet Mohammad’s immediate family resulting in the True Islam, OR in other words the simple and basic formula of following the true Islam is:

Quran + Prophet Mohammad’s actions & sayings + Actions of Prophet Mohammad’s Immediate families = TRUE ISLAM!!!

So technically, person who take ONLY Quran is not justifying and following the “true” Islam because following only the Quran is not sufficient and in fact it causes confusions and misleads the followers.

I’ll explain why those three are in the sequence and why one can’t ONLY follow the Quran some other time.

Having said that, one doesn’t have to be a Muslim to understand how Islam continues after death of Prophet Mohammad and how prophet Mohammad immediate families showed the world, how to live forever with dignity and kept the Islam alive.  Even non-Muslims researchers recognize this connection. There are thousands of examples on that, but few of those are as follows….

Mahatma Gandhi
– “My faith is that the progress of Islam does not depend on the use of sword by its believers, but the result of the supreme sacrifice of Hussain (A.S.), the great saint.”

-I’ve learned from “Husain” (A.S) how to be oppressed yet victorious.

Dr. Radha Krishnan
“Though Imam Hussain gave his life years ago, but his indestructible soul rules the hearts of people even today.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru
“Imam Hussain’s (A.S.) sacrifice is for all groups and communities, an example of the path of righteousness.”

  • Husain (A.S) was the grandson of Prophet Mohammad.

Like any other religion, Islam teaches about peace, non-violence, patience, meditation, helping others and encourage to do good deeds in one’s life. There is one famous saying of Prophet Mohammad’s regardless of race/religion/caste, if your neighbor is not happy with you, God will not be with you. This means Islam dictates that one should keep peace all the time.

Look around you – you’ll find your neighbors, co-workers, employees, relatives, and family friends are the followers of Islam and most of them are good law obedient citizens and have been a part of U.S melting pot for years. And this is what true Islam means to me…  

Now, let’s compare that to “Taliban” or “Al-Qaida” (handful of people) and see if their actions are close to what I mentioned above, or not? In fact do their ANY ACTION come close to what I mentioned above? And the answer is “NO”. Now the question is WHY??? … and the answer is very simple. It’s because they don’t follow the “sequence”.

Taliban is nothing but a culture. Let me give you a simple example, it’s like a cult group. Same as what David Koresh had, they have their own believes and fundamentals. Taliban have their own believes, culture and fundamentals. By the way they followed the ancient culture.

The recent fight between “mislead” Muslims (“Taliban” or “Al-Qaida”) are rest of the world is the fight of two civilizations…and of course there is a political motivation and some “hidden” agenda and forces who escalates them and financing those “misleading” forces … which is not hard to find, as they say, follow the money trail you’ll find the answer.

At the end, I’ll leave this up to you all— what you all think, which Islam Prophet Mohammad and Prophet Jesus would have left for their followers …

Nebraska Big XII Conspiracy

November 23, 2010

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Much of the hype surrounding my beloved town of Lincoln, Nebraska this past week is the much alleged Big Twelve Conference Conspiracy against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  There are many facts figures and statistics that are in the media including

  • Nebraska’s opponents are the least penalized in the Big XII, second on the list the other team leaving the conference – Colorado
  • Nebraska has had the same crew of officials for their three tightest games, all in which the officiating was very lopsided in favor of their opponents.  Texas, Texas A&M and Iowa State

The list goes on for miles, but I will just say that the Husker Head Honcho, Bo Pelini, has brought on most of this himself. He continually berates officials, has dropped about 309 F Bombs on the sidelines and let’s face it, officials no matter how bad they might be, are humans and prone to being biased in their opinions after being yelled our pretty much non-stop for quarters on end.

Bottom Line, the Huskers offense is in shambles, the defense is playing well, and the officials in the Texas A&M game, while they might have contributed to the frustration did not directly impact the outcome of the game.


Texas A&M (-4.5) @ Texas – gig em … .Horns are horrible.  A&M 21- TX- 14


West Virginia @ Pittsburgh (-3.5) – Backyard Brawl … what a yawner.  WV- 21- Pitt – 20

Auburn @ Alabama (-3.5) Roll Tide.  Cam Newton loses Heisman, Boise State to National Title Game – Bama – 17- Auburn – 15

Colorado @ Nebraska (-20.5) – Buffs cost Huskers the Big XII title in the North. Buffs 15- Huskers 13

Arizona @ Oregon (-20.5) – You know the story here, Cal held them to 15, that won’t happen again.  Ore – 55- Arizona – 21

Boise State (-15.5) @ Nevada – Colin Kaepernick for Heisman.  Boise 49- Nevada – 42


Michigan @ thuh ohio state (-18.5) – Bunkeyes roll at home.  OSU – 42- MICH – 21

Michigan State (-1.5) @ Penn State – JoPa goes out a winner .  Penn St 21- Mich St 20

Kansas vs Missouri (-25.5) – Tigers looked bad last week, time to get rolling in Columbia – Mizzou – 35- KU 10

LSU @ Arkansas (-4.5) – Ryan drops the Mallett – ARK – 21- LSU – 17

Florida @ Florida State (-2.5) – Free Shoes U! – FSU – 21- FLA – 17

Washington @ California (-6.5) – California rolls this week as inconsistent Jake Locker is down again on Thanksgiving weekend.  Cal – 28- Wash 20

South Carolina (-3.5) @ Clemson – Lattimore for Heisman – SC- 27- Clem – 20

Mississippi State (-2.5) @ Mississippi – Battle for … well …. Mississippi.  Houston Nutt wasted his upset chance last week.  Miss St 21- Mississippi – 14

Oregon State @ Stanford (-14.5) – Stan rolls again.  Stan 40- Ore St – 17

Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State (-1.5) For all the marble in the South.  Which OU team shows up this week?  A losing one…..OSU – 28- OU – 24

Notre Dame @ USC (-3.5) – No Defense cannot contain the Trojans in the Mausoleum.  USC – 28- No Defense – 17

The Home Stretch

November 22, 2010

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For those of you who have joined me in the adventure of writing a novel in one month, we are in the home stretch. Just 8 days left in November and the end of National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo.org). We are more that two thirds of the way through the month, so if you are to succeed, you need to be more that two thirds cone with your goal of 50,000 words or at about 36,500 words. I personally am well short of that mark, coming in at about 25,000 words.

My recovery plan is alone time over the next few days to really write. Remember to achieve the goal, you work does not have to be a complete novel, it just needs to be words written down towards your novel. Last year, when I actually succeeded, it took me an additional three months and independent reviewers to get my work to a point that I would consider “done”. I am currently working on cover art and saving money to actually publish my work on paper. I will release electronic and audio versions at the same time. So this year, I have to get back into that writing groove.

One of the things I did this year was to change my genre. This was to change my comfort zone and expand my field of ideas. Although it did help me with new ideas, it has not helped me actually capture words at any better rate. Last year I was traveling a lot, so I had idle time in the evenings. This year is filled with family (which is a good thing) so not so much time is available.

I have mentioned in previous postings the support of the sponsor of this writing event. Within the National Novel Writing community, there are groups that you can join. Perhaps next year, I along with other contributors to theSoapBoxers.com and our faithful readers could create and join a group. We could call Other:SoapBoxer. That is a plan for the future.

Right now, I am interested in how others are doing in their attempts at writing. Even if you are not taking on the challenge of writing a novel in a month, what are you working on? How is it going? Do you have any advice for people trying the same thing? What got you going on writing? What has prevented you from writing? The questions could fill a whole page. My interest is somewhat selfish. I have found that listening to others describing anything they are attempting will provide me with new fodder for stories. I do not steel ideas; I am just looking for triggers.

For instance, Kosmo wrote a piece earlier this month about a non-functioning speedometer in his car. The repair shop had to uncover a different problem before the speedometer could be fixed. Taking the idea of car troubles, specifically with a speedometer, you could have a so many different stories. In a mystery, you could explore who was responsible, and why. In an adventure, you could trace the hero’s actions as he is trapped with a broken vehicle in an unknown location. Make it science fiction, and you have alien technology causing the failure. Romance could be a who meets who because of the car. And so on…

Regardless of what you want to write or what you think your skills are, since you are reading this posting you have access to a computer and can capture any of your ideas. If you are concerned about someone reading your work, you do not have to publish. If you want criticism, there are plenty of people who can look at your work and provide insight. In the end, my advice is always, keep on writing.

Are Speed Cameras Fair?

November 20, 2010

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Lately, the hottest news topic in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (where I work) is the existence of speed cameras.  These are unmanned cameras that take a picture of speeding cars.  You then get a ticket in the mail.  There are a lot of people very upset about the cameras – why?

The cameras are there to make money, not for safety

Many people complain that the city cares more about the revenue generated by the cameras than about improving safety.  An interesting aspect of the speed cameras is that they are installed by a private company at no direct expense to the city.  The private company then takes a cut of the fines.  This model is popular with cities, because they don’t to carve out budget items for the installation and maintenance of the cameras.  It’s popular with private companies because a lot of people speed, allowing them to make good money.

I agree that the positioning of the cameras could be better from a safer perspective.  There is one camera each in the northbound and southbound lanes of Interstate 380.  While you’ll never compare I-380 with New York City city traffic, it is nonetheless one of the more heavily traveled routes in the state.  There are some curves that can be dangerous if you’re going too fast and not paying attention – it would be nice to see the cameras a bit closer to them.

However, it’s worth noting that a local TV station analyzed tickets that were handed out, and it appears that the threshold is 12 miles per hour over the speed limit.  If the threshold was just a few mph over the limit, I’d be more swayed by this argument.  As it stands, I think there is a dual effect – there is some increase in revenue and also some increase in safety.

There’s nobody watching, so I shouldn’t get a ticket!

There are people who feel that their rights are violated because there’s not an actual human police officer operating a radar gun to catch them speeding.  The logic is that they don’t have a sporting chance against the camera.  Well, I think that’s the logic, anyway.

This is an argument that I dismiss out of hand.  If you burglarize a store and get caught on the security video, it’s perfectly OK to use this as evidence of the crime, right – even though you weren’t caught in the act.  Why would speeding be different?

It’s not even possible to accuse the city of being sneaky with the cameras.  Everyone knows exactly where they are.  If you’re not sure, you can go online and find out.  There are mobile speed cameras – and their locations are broadcast on the news.

In some locales, people have fought these tickets with the “it’s not me driving the car” defense – including the guy who donned a gorilla mask to avoid having his face captured by the camera (how safe is that?).  In Cedar Rapids, the tickets issued by the cameras (well, actually issued by a human after reviewing tapes) are issued to the registered owner of the car, not necessarily to the driver – similar to the way parking tickets work.  If someone else was driving your car, you need to make them reimburse yet.  On the flip side, the ticket doesn’t go on your driving record because of due process issues.

Where Do I Stand?

I doubt this is going to be a surprise.  Although I’m as guilty of speeding as anyone else, I also believe that municipalities have a perfect right to use every tool at their disposal to enforce laws.  If you’re exceeding the speed limit by 12 mph, you’re simply going to take the risk of a few tickets.

The local news spoke with one woman who managed to get 14 tickets in the span of a few months, at a cost of around $1000.  Again, this is in spite of the fact that everyone knows exactly where the cameras are.  She commented that she has changed her driving habits, and now always set cruise control.  That’s not the safest thing in the world, considering the amount of merging traffic, but it’s probably safer than going as fast as she previously did.

End Of The Line

November 19, 2010

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“Weighing in one hundred forty six pounds,  Ellllllston Murrrrrray.”

Murray climbed into the ring to moderate applause.  He could see his opponent approaching with a large entourage in tow.

“And weighing in at one hundred forty seven pounds, the resigning world welterweight champion, Bruuuuuuuiser Brrrrrrrrrrown.”  The sellout crowd broke out into a deafening chant – “Bru!  Bru!  Bru!” 

Elston Murray watched the spectacle with disguised disgust.  Brown was an egotistical showboat who had gained his championship belt in a controversial split decision in which he had leveled several cheap shots when the ref wasn’t looking.  A sportsman he certainly wasn’t.

Murray had begun his boxing career as an angry, troubled youth.  By the time Murray had become a Golden Gloves champion, his legal problems were a thing of the past and the anger had begun to fade.  When he met Maria, the anger disappeared altogether.

Maria disliked seeing him in the ring, and eventually Murray also tired of the scene.  The ugly underbelly of the sport gained more exposure every year and fighters like Bruiser Brown brought shame to a sport that had once been great.  Elston Murray had retired in his prime – never having gotten a title shot, but having experienced much success in his career.

Elston had saved most of his prize money, rather than blowing the cash on fancy cars, drugs, and call girls.  Even with the conservative investing, he and Maria should have been earn enough in interest and dividends to live comfortably, if not extravagantly.

Then the cancer came.  Nothing helped Maria – not even the experimental treatments.  The medical bills would have been crippling for many people.  For Elston and his infant son, the bills were of minimal importance compared to the loss of a beloved wife and mother.  He sold some of their assets to pay for the medical bills and Maria’s funeral, and the two Murray men soldered on – with a bit of belt tightening.

Then came the salt in the wound.  Elston had intentionally engaged three different financial advisors to manage his assets in order to minimize the risk of embezzlement.  The advisors devised a plan to work together to steal the entirety of his portfolio out from under him.  His nest egg was gone.  He was forced to take out a home equity line of credit to make ends meet.

Elston realized that in order to send Sammy to a good college, he’d have to step back in the ring.  At 30, he was getting a bit old for the business, but had kept himself in good shape.  He reached out to some boxers he had mentored when he was still active, asking for a fight.  Most were happy to oblige a man who was universally liked and whom had aided many fighters with their technique.

After two years of slugging it out for peanuts, Elston had begun to get some bigger fights.  A couple of stunning upsets pushed him up the rankings.  When the champion needed to schedule a title defense in order to keep his belt, he picked the old guy, assuming Elston would be a pushover.

Elston was aggressive from the opening bell, rocking Bruiser with a devastating blow to the jaw.  Brown quickly shook it off and began to trade blows with Murray.  Murray had a longer reach than the champion, but Bruiser was quicker.  If Elston could keep Brown from getting too close, he’d be able to deliver blows with impunity.

The bout quickly turned into a rout.  Bruiser’s legendary quickness had been taken down a notch as the result of lackluster training and too much time spent at the buffet.  Murray pounded him relentlessly, with many observers wondering why the referee hadn’t stopped the fight.  When they came out for the final round, the champion’s face was bloodied and battered, and he could barely see out of his two black eyes.

Murray took it easy on Brown – letting him dance around and delivering blows to the body in order to avoid further damage to the pretty boy’s face.  Murray knew that he was far ahead on points and just needed to play defense for the final round in order to preserve a victory.  He’d walk away from the sport once again with enough money to retire.

When the bell rang to signal the end of the fight, Elston dropped his arms to his side.

He never saw the fist coming.  Before the referee was able to announce that Elston Murray had won a unanimous decision and was the new welterweight champion, Murray lay dead in the ring.

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