September 23, 2009

haiku wednesday - September 23, 2009

This week's words are

Another insane week where I beg your indulgence with nothing offered in return. I apologize, dear friends, but this week I will be unable to make the rounds. I hope that either next week or the week after I will be back to my usual form and once again be able to enjoy all the wonderful 3WW posts you create.

languish on the couch
foot's velocity inspires
butts eclipse TV

velocity girl
does not languish in sad life
she will eclipse fate

sorrows eclipse joy
dampen life's velocity
languish in the past

September 18, 2009

The Bears go on the road to Minnesota

I tried really hard to score a business trip to Minneapolis to see the Bears maul the Gophers, but in the end I couldn't because I just have too many obligations at home--scout events, soccer games to coach, soccer games to play in... and something I'm forgetting... something... oh yeah! My wife's birthday.

Anyway, here's a summary of the matchup as I listen to Sick Puppies' "War" from the Tri Polar album. Appropriate.

The Bears are 14 point favorites. Jeff Sagarin's ratings put Cal at #7 and Minnesota at #46, with a spread of 9.26, or a one-touchdown spread if the home field advantage is factored in.

The Bears have faced two weak teams and clobbered them, opening the season with two 50+ point outings for the first time in history. They have been very solid nearly everywhere, though kick coverage needs to be cleaned up a little bit. Also, the defense has a tendency to give up a lot of yards early in the game as they're adjusting. The offense has stalled from time to time, but for the most part they've moved the ball at will, particularly late in the game when they've out-fitnessed their opponent.

The Gophers will undoubtedly be a more difficult test. They have a capable offense with an efficient quarterback and a receiver that was a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff award last year. They are less experienced at running back, but there is talent there. More importantly, the Gophers lost only one offensive lineman from last year, and they return experience--44 starts among the other four lineman. That said, a lot of that experience may be sitting on the bench since two of the OL starters are transfers (one from JuCo and one from Notre Dame). Overall, though, their statistics are not impressive for the competition they've faced. They came from behind to win both their games this year--OT at Syracuse, and vs Air Force. They gained an average of 343 yards per game, and an OK 3.9 yards per carry rushing (just 110 yards per game on the ground).

On defense, the Gophers start nine seniors and two juniors. The two juniors are both in the Safety spot, and the DBs may be the strongest part of the defense. Much has been made of the Bears being unable to scout Minnesota's defense because they have a new coordinator. Regardless, they look very strong defensively. Their two DTs have each started 21 straight games, and they're both over 300 pounds. Their three LBs are all highly productive, whether it's number of tackles or causing turnovers. They've allowed only 13 and 20 points in their two wins. Granted, Syracuse and Air Force are not amazing offenses, but the Minnesota defense should not be underestimated.

With the size of Minnesota's offensive linemen (the OTs are 336 and 365), and the quality of their QB and WRs, it's no wonder they have weaker rushing and stronger passing. The fact that they came from behind in both their wins says that they also have overall fitness and can play all 60 minutes.

Minnesota will be a good test for the Bears before facing Pac-10 opponents. I think Cal will pass this test and will find ways to score. I do think that even if Minnesota gets a lead, they will have difficulty protecting it with their weaker rushing game. They also have not faced a team as strong and as complete as California is this year. They'll get a lift from their new stadium and a sellout crowd I'm sure, but the crowd will be in the 50,000 range.

After seeing both of the first two games, I don't think Cal is overrated. I think both defense and offense are as good as advertised, and the team has insane depth. If the special teams can hold it together, and if the Bears don't get overconfident, I think they'll take a lead by the second quarter and pull ahead late in the third. I see this game coming out in favor of the Bears, 34 - 18.


September 16, 2009

haiku wednesday - September 16, 2009

This week's words are

My thoughts and sympathies to ThomG, the curator and flashmaster of 3WW, who lost a family member this week.

winter's chill sinks deep
thick drift builds beside her bed
toss one more hanky

thick, goopy romance
hanky-snorker film for girls
boys' minds drift outside

yellow hankie drops
thick coach chases ref, screaming
players drift to sides

September 14, 2009

Thousands flock to hear reading of "Unlucky Twenty-Six"

WASHINGTON, DC--A flash mob gathered thanks to the power of social networking when it was learned that a blog reader who stumbled upon The Unlucky Twenty-Six decided to read from the macabre and humorous compilation on the steps of the United States Capitol on September 13, 2009.

News of the reading spread quickly, thanks to the power of Twitter, Facebook, and drunk dialing. Eyewitness reports placed the crowd in the dozens, if not millions. This photo, taken from above as the crowd was only just gathering and before it really got rocking, underestimates the vast magnitude, rivaled only by the tens of millions that gathered on September 12th at the teary-eyed pleading of Glenn Beck to bring tea bags to the White House lawn. (These people also are known as Morans.)

One member of the crowd, Herman Snodgrast from Palm Desert, California, was unimpressed. "The sound system sucked, man. I could barely hear the dude." Snodgrast had positioned himself near the base of the Washington Monument. He added, "My little sister could have read that better. They shoulda got Hayden Christensen to read it."

Snodgrast and others were unimpressed with the reading of Adolf Wilder, whose nasal, whiny voice carried across the crowd like the screech of a seagull with emphysema. Patricia Blain from Laramie, Wyoming was Wilder's lone supporter. "It was a different interpretation, and it really made me think," she said. "Wilder is an artist, and clearly this mob does not understand the full depth of Wilder's reading. He brought something unique to this most awesome compendium of cautionary tales."

Peter Dudley, the compilation's author, was unavailable for comment. His publicist, ten-year-old Sam, spoke on his behalf. Sam said, "He's in the bathroom. I think he drank too much whiskey again. OK, bye."

Flash mobs have been known to grow exponentially even after they've dispersed thanks to the magic of compound interest. When one person twitters a falsehood (for example, "There were a million people protesting Obama on September 12"), ten people who are interested then tweet it themselves. Those people want other people to be interested in them, so they pass along an even bigger number so their tweet can be more impressive than the one they received. Soon, the size of the crowd on the White House lawn (originally around 60,000 or so) is believed to be larger than the entire population of India.

Economics guru and professor Richarde Reiche said that the phenomenon is also known in technical jargon as "idiots with amplifiers," and there's little doubt that that would be a good name for a rock group. "One other thing that this situation illustrates, which can not possibly be emphasized enough," Reiche added, "is that The Unlucky Twenty-Six is perhaps the most stunningly important piece of literature we shall see in the entire century, perhaps the entire millennium."

Wilder could not be reached for comment. When he finished his reading, he was swept away by a throng of scantily clad, buxom women believed to be from Paramus, New Jersey. He has not been seen or heard from since.

September 12, 2009

Flying a kite

A beautiful Saturday afternoon.

September 11, 2009

buy low

Everyone knows the advice to buy low, sell high. People get it backwards so frequently that it never hurts to remind ourselves of this tenet, and to examine how we are using our money, our time, and our talents. I know many people who waited until the housing market was at its peak to jump in--they were swept up in the fervor of the market, and now they're underwater or, in some cases, foreclosed.

Last Spring I was fortunate to attend a meeting where a very smart economist was speaking. He shared his own thoughts on investing and urged us all to look at the down market as an investment opportunity. Buy low. Among his remarks, he made a very strong point of how emotionally difficult it is to buy during the low points--the human tendency is to hunker down, horde what wealth there is, lower our risk. Ironically, at the societal level, that is a self-destructive tendency. The only thing that will stop the slide and start the up cycle again is investment, yet the average Joe only invests when things are going well.

This morning, I was fortunate to attend a meeting where the CEO of my local United Way spoke. She said that calls to 2-1-1, the universal referral service, are up 40% year-over-year. These calls come from people who can't make ends meet--perhaps they are unable to pay their utility bill this month because they've had a forced, unpaid furlough; or one spouse has lost their job; or here in northern California, their water bill tripled even though their usage dropped. Or their drop-in health clinic closed and they need to find another place to take their children. Whatever it is, they need some help for the first time in their lives. The San Francisco Food Bank is increasing their food output 10% this year, from 33 million pounds to 36.5 million pounds.

There is no doubt that we are in a low period as a society. So many people need help. Maybe just a little help. Here and there. Maybe just this month. Maybe just this year.

Your dollar to a charity today is a good investment. Buy low. The dollar you donate today goes farther and has a larger impact than a dollar donated during high times. Your dollar may get someone through the week that otherwise might teeter and topple off the edge into a downward spiral. If your dollar keeps them on track, or helps lift just one person up, it will be multiplied many times over in the coming years. If we let those people slip and slide down into the abyss, though, we won't see the uptick for a long, long time.

It's like one economist said: "We are in a recovery that only a statistician could love." This points to the sad fact that "recovery" is only applied to the financial markets. This analysis is never applied to real people. Too many are underemployed, keeping their jobs but losing hours or benefits. Too many have just stopped looking for jobs, which means they aren't considered "unemployed." Even worse, "stimulus" is never applied to basic human services. It is only given to those who "create jobs" or "extend credit." Which means that the family that can't pay its gas & electric bill this month may be in danger of losing their home next month.

Your dollar donated to charity today can get that family through this month. Imagine if your dollar weren't there--that family could drop into a negative spiral. But your dollar can get them through, and when they're thriving again they can help others, and they'll be working and buying and saving and growing.

Buy low, folks. Invest today. This is when help is most needed and your investment will show the greatest return. Thank you for reading this far, and thank you for caring. Thank you for your donations to whatever charities are important to you. Whatever you give matters.

September 9, 2009

haiku wednesday - September 9, 2009

This week's words are

Tough words this week; I think it's because engage can only be used so many ways without changing its form. Still, a great mental warm-up on the train before a long day at work.

hottie teen trouble
engage her, or disarm him?
Pa's ten-gage mayhem

let's disarm, escape
ditch emotional mayhem
engage the warp drive

mayhem in your brain
as my fists engage your face
disarm that, fucker!

September 4, 2009

Maryland visits California

Last year, Cal visited Maryland and claimed that the 9 a.m. Pacific start time had no bearing on the outcome. I'm not so sure. And I'm not so sure that Maryland will do any better with tomorrow night's late kickoff (10 p.m. Eastern). The second half kickoff will take place around midnight Eastern. Tough to adjust to that and stay fresh for the fourth quarter.

In any case, the first game every year is rife with unknowns. Just ask Oregon, ranked in the top 25 preseason but looking completely outmatched last night against Boise State. And this year, Maryland has more unknowns than their share while the Bears know quite a bit about themselves already.

The Terrapins return only ten starters. They are such a young and inexperienced team, only Army in all of division one have fewer games started among their players. Their defense returns only four starters--one on the line, one linebacker, and two in the secondary. The defensive strength looks to be the DBs, though, with four seniors starting and an aggressive new defensive coordinator. On offense, the Terps return a highly accurate quarterback and two good ball carriers. Their O line returns only two starters, though, and lost five of its top seven from last year. Like the Bears, they are converting a guard to center. Their other returning starter is the very important left tackle position. The receivers are also young but generally talented.

The Bears, meanwhile, return lots of familiar names. Cal fans all know about the departure of three of the league's best and fastest linebackers, and this year two sophomores are starting in their places. The rest of the defense, though, consists of juniors and seniors with significant experience. The speed of this defense, coupled with the 3-4 scheme and experience (especially in the defensive backfield) make it truly imposing on paper. Last year the Bears grabbed 24 interceptions and held opponents to 19.9 points average. On offense, Cal returns a legitimate potential All American at running back and an improved WR corps and QB from a team that scored 32.6 points per game last year. The tricky bit is the O line, which lost an All American center and this year will start two sophomores and a redshirt freshman.

As with any opening game, it's tough to say exactly how the new players will perform. I have long held the belief that the O line and the linebackers are the most important units on the field. Since that's where Cal's inexperience is, Bears fans may have allowed their expectations to rise a little higher than they should. Still, I believe the quality of the team is very high overall. And the two OTs are each over 315 pounds, which is hard to move.

Maryland is a 21-point underdog for this game, and after looking into the rosters and matchups, it's easy to see why people think that. I have little doubt that the Bears will win this game, but will it be that big a beat-down? Could be. Could be close, if the young Terrapins are talented and the Bears come out sloppy like the Ducks did.

I think Cal will have a lot of offensive success with the big O line against the inexperienced D line of the Terrapins. Maryland's defensive tackles are 315 and 325 pounds, so they won't be easily bowled over for runs up the middle. So expect the Bears to go around or over them, which then exposes Cal to the experienced and talented Maryland secondary. I do expect Best to reel off a number of 7-10 yard runs on speed alone. With the youth of UM's linebackers, expect Tedford to establish a tendency and then switch it up with screens, cutbacks... anything to get the linebackers into a rhythm and then use that against them.

When Maryland has the ball, I think their big O line will do a decent job of pass protection and opening some holes for the running backs. I don't think they'll get anything significant downfield, though, and if they try they might hear the cry of "oski!" ring through the Berkeley night. Their hopes lie in a decent and sustained running game, by stretching the defense and trying to get their backs into space. Cal's 3-4 scheme will make that difficult. And when they get into the red zone, the short field will compress things and play to Cal's favor.

Ultimately, I think the Bears have more talent and experience and will suffer far fewer first-game mistakes than Maryland will. I think Cal will come out fast and furious and put a 14-0 lead on the Terps in the first 20 minutes. The middle of the game will be less dramatic, but the fourth quarter will be all Cal. The young Terrapins will simply not be able to hang with the Bears after midnight Eastern; Tedford's teams have always been known for fitness if nothing else, and depth is a big asset this year.

This is a tough start for Maryland and a good opener for the Bears. Cal fans will ultimately go home happy and talking about hotel prices in Los Angeles at New Year's. As we do after every win.

My prediction: Cal 38, Maryland 16.


September 2, 2009

haiku wednesday - September 2, 2009

This week's words are

All that work this summer has begun to pay off. We reached $5.28 million in donations by the end of the first day of our campaign, and we're over $6 million as of right now. Here's hoping the next 28 and a half days bring us to another amazing total. I am so thankful to work for a company that has such remarkably generous employees.

glare and empty threat
luster of child's broad grin
ice melts on vase shards

gold's glare blinds the king
wish granted hides deadly threat
wealth's luster now dulled

glare of the luster
who covets his neighbor's wife
threat to both their souls