Saturday, December 12, 2009

There is a little nudity in this post. Be forewarned, and Sweetie, don't just skip to that part. (Sweetie's Hunk of the Week, 42)

I'm sorry, Nathan Fillion,

I'm sorry because while you've been named the 42nd Hunk of the Week, it's a title you hold in name only, as we'll see. You're not really a hunk, per se. You've made it on to the list, but like me in my grade school, high school, college, law school... well, like me in every year of my life until I met Sweetie and got married, you're doomed to sit on the sidelines while the real hunks get all the action.

But cheer up -- you'll probably still get to ride shotgun on the way home while your friend makes out with that girl you were going to ask to dance. That jerk. He knew that I thought she was cute and it's not like ...

...Where was I? Oh, yeah. Nathan Fillion

is, technically speaking, the 42nd Hunk of the Week. Let's find out about him, and why he's not really the Hunk of the Week.

You Don't Know Him Without You have seen him on one of the many things he's done which nobody, ever, has really watched. Nathan Fillion's career in that sense is like dark matter: It's supposedly out there but nobody has ever seen it or touched it or measured it and nobody can really prove that it actually is, and yet, it must exist, people say, because (in the case of Nathan Fillion) he's there walking around and being alive, or because (in the case of dark matter) they're a bunch of scientists who are too lazy to actually figure out the answers and they know nobody's paying attention, so they just say "Ah, well, dark matter, now let's go have some martinis and play Wii tennis."

Nathan Fillion's Career (Artist Conception):

Dark Matter (Artist's Conception):

Nathan Fillion was most recently seen starring in "my computer desktop photo," as Sweetie had downloaded his picture this week and made it the desktop background before I replaced it with my picture of Lake Monona masquerading as Antarctica. I'm sure some stars would mind being replaced by cold ducks, but I'm sure Nathan Fillion would be okay with it, for reasons we'll get to in a minute.

Before that, Nathan Fillion also was in "that one sci-fi TV show that wasn't Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica," and he was also in "that one movie based on that one sci-fi TV show that wasn't Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica," and he was also in "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," which I downloaded and have watched twice and which is awesome, and he also played James Bond in two of the last three Bond movies.

Just seeing if you were paying attention or skimming to get to the nudity. (Sweetie...)

But, really, given that you don't really know what Nathan Fillion was in, can you swear he didn't play Bond? You didn't see the Bond movies, either, did you? I know you didn't, because you're not Daniel Craig's mother or sixty years old, and those are the only types of people who still watch Bond movies.

So, for sure, we know that Nathan Fillion (a) can sing, and (b) probably guest-starred on a Law & Order or some similar show recently, since that's how Sweetie knows people who star in shows that she doesn't watch, like sci-fi shows and movies with "blog" in the title.

Speaking of which: In the 90s, when email and the Internet were becoming a bigger deal, there were, by my count, about a zillion movies based in some way on the Internet and email, movies like You've Got Mail and The Net and ... um... Wargames?

But now that the Internet is a facet in everyone's life and is full of Youtube and These Videos Are NEVER Funny (Or Die) and blogging and The Social Networking Site That Hates Me But Still Lets White House Gate Crashers Have A Page and encourages abusive husbands to get in touch with their ex-wives, now that our lives are full of that stuff, we get... zero movies in which the plot revolves around one of those things. (I'm leaving out Julie & Julia, because it turns out that the blog on which it was based is one big huge deception.)

That needs to be remedied, and fast. How about this: Nathan Fillion stars in a movie about a guy who has no friends but dreams of being popular and famous, and one day sets out to make everyone in the world his friend on a social networking site, and, as he gets closer and closer to setting the record for the most friends on one of those sites, he gets a friend request from a girl he knew in high school, who he'd asked to the prom and who'd told him she liked him just as a friend. Now, though, she says that she's changed her mind and they begin dating. Pretty soon, he's falling for her anew, and is about to ask her to marry him when he finds out that she's been putting secret, edited videos of their dates on the web to promote her own dating website, leading him to pull the plug on his most-friends-ever experiment.

At the end, we see him clicking off his laptop in a coffee shop, and turning around, only to see the girl (let's say, Courtney Cox) standing there. She takes out her little digital video camera, drops it on the floor, and they walk off into the sunset hand-in-hand.

He's even got the quirky t-shirt necessary to
star in a romantic comedy nowadays!
This movie will sell itself.

I call it Friend Me? (Tagline: He set out to just be friends, until his status changed!) and you know it'd be a hit. Because Nathan Fillion's so likeable. As we'll see...

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmm About Him: For one thing, chiseled, muscular guys aren't supposed to be this good at singing:

But beyond that, there's also the fact that right now, there are seventeen different photos of Nathan Fillion for sale on eBay, ranging from this one:

Which goes for $8.50 and is billed as a "hot rare new must see 8 x 10" photo, to an autographed photo being sold for $29.99. (But you can buy it now for $39.99!)

My favorite Nathan Fillion eBay item, though, is the collection of clippings about him, for sale on eBay for a bargain price of $3.50. I'd show you that, but the seller has cleverly kept me from copying the image over to this blog. But I mention it in case you are sitting around thinking to yourself, I wish I'd kept track of Nathan Fillion's career over the years, but it's too late to start now... it's not too late. It's never too late. Go bid now! (You'll be in a bidding war with me, though, as I still need a "stocking stuffer" for Sweetie for Christmas.)

Really, then, the thing that makes me go Hmmm about him is that it seems as though Nathan Fillion is sitting around, in between starring in things (maybe?) making a little side cash by taking pictures of himself and selling them on eBay. Which is what I'd do if I were famous, too, so I can't really blame him.

Reason I Tell Myself Sweetie Likes Him: I can't answer this one, because I had only just come in from crawling on our roof to knock snow off the satellite dish so that we could once again watch TV, and before I gave any thought to why Sweetie likes him, I asked her why, and she told me, which became instantly my reason for feeling sorry for him:

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: Says Sweetie: "He's just like a guy you can pal around with."

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him: SEE? See what I said? Ouch! Sorry, Nathan, you're in the friend category. You're the guy who wouldn't mind having his picture replaced by a bunch of ducks, you're the guy who could believably star in Friend Me?, you're the guy who is good-looking but can also sing, and that means that you're just a friend. True hunks always get the girl. Guys who are just a friend, who you can pal around with, drive the girl's car back to the girl's house while their their buddies drive the girl in their car back to the girl's house. Then, while the buddies make out with the girls in their house, those guys who are "just like friends" wait in the car trying to drum along with Radar Love on the dashboard.

That's where you are, Nathan Fillion: Forever trapped at one step above You're like a brother to me, and many levels below true hunkiness. I recommend putting Radar Love on your iPod now. That way, you'll have it ready for those late-night drum sessions.

(And, when you're doing that, call me. After years of practice, I know just how it goes.)

This picture is saved on computer as "Nathan end." Ha!
(It is also, I suspect, the Actual ACTUAL reason
Sweetie likes Nathan Fillion)

Friday, December 11, 2009

You begin to waver (Friday's Sunday's Poem, 39)

I know I promised Christmas poems, but promises were meant not to be fulfilled on blogs. I'll do some Christmas poems in the future, though. Maybe. (Blogs-crossed?)



Sojourning a journey,
Running a race.
Yearning for that heavenly destination,
Of it no permanent trace.

Several travelers,
uncountable roads.
But which one is the right one?
Where is one to go?

Obstacles appear,
rocks and stones get in the way,
Flustering the wanderers,
making some go astray.

You saunter on
STILL trying to find,
that peaceful destination
towards which paths intertwine.

Staring straight ahead,
an intersection comes in sight.
The choice is yours to make
whether you turn left or right.

Years and years fleet past
the race is not yet done.
What else is one to endure,
'til he can say that he's won?

Doubt starts to linger,
clouding your limited mind;
brooding over you deeds' vanity,
including every sacrifice.

You begin to waver,
changing track as you think
that this destination's mere illusion,
one of your mind's little tricks.

Proceeding the voyage,
with no particular goal to reach;
still craving for contentment,
just shambling as you please.

In the end there's no goal,
no final destination to pursue;
traversing on high and low tide,
still in search of the truth.


Today's FSP is from Renee Mangunay, who writes on the Half-baked Disillusionments blog. Paradox appeared there first, and I asked Renee for permission to repost it, and she gave me permission. (One problem with working with living poets is that you have to get their permission to use their work, or at least I feel like I have to get their permission.)

What I liked about it was the echoes of Robert Frost in the themes and images, and the way the rhyme scheme and rhythm seem to shamble -- her word, which I like -- along, almost-but-not-quite aimlessly, reflecting the message (or what I assume to be the message) of the poem.

The modern-day Muppets focus a lot on this "Shrimp" character who I do not like. (3 Good Things From 12/10/09)

After spending 2 hours driving in to work, it's hard to think of 3 Good Things about anything...but that's the point of this. One of the points of this, anyway.

1. This song, which came on a CD I got and which I'd never heard before but is my favorite song this week: "The Cello Song" by The Books:

2. I was smart enough to leave work early and return phone calls on the way home. Fool me once, shame on you. Make me sit in traffic for 90% of my day because everyone around me is an idiot twice, and I'll go nuts. Ordinarily I return phone calls for the last hour or so of the day; yesterday, having been tricked into thinking people could handle driving in snow once, I resolved to do better. So I left work at 4 p.m. and took my list of phone calls with me and returned all my phone calls on the way home. Don't worry: I was rarely moving and so was free to dial. My office was more mobile than my car on the way home.

3. I watched Prep & Landing with Mr F and Mr Bunches last night. I always resolve to watch more Christmas specials on TV, but never get around to it. This year, I'm doing well, having watched the not-too-bad Prep & Landing (which was enjoyable enough but displayed the shortened storyline and development characteristic of today's information-addled media) but also A Charlie Brown Christmas, Bad Santa, and 2/3 of that Muppet special.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I bet nobody in Hawaii sat for two hours in traffic this morning. (3 Good Things From 12/9/09)

I have only rarely needed my 3 Good Things more than today, after I spent 2 hours (yes, 120 minutes) driving the seven miles to work. There were no accidents, no bad roads... just a lot of people who are apparently completely unfamiliar with this thing we call "snow" and this other thing we call "driving like someone who has more than one functioning brain cell."

Whoo... Okay, my 3 Good Things...

1. This comic from XKCD:

I would watch that movie. Seriously. Plus, it's nice to know I'm not the only person who sits around thinking up seemingly-ridiculous-but-in-reality-quite-good movie ideas.

2. The "Penguin Fudge" my Uncle Dick sent me. He's not really my uncle, he's my dad's uncle, but it sounds silly to call him "Great Uncle Dick" or "Second Cousin-Uncle Dick" or whatever his relationship is. Uncle Dick sends really great pr
esents, and yesterday's was really great-er: A foot-long, eight-inch-wide block of fudge shaped like a penguin. I envision needing to work out a lot more than I was originally planning to this weekend.

3. This picture:

That's Mr F on the left and pantless Mr Bunches on the right, sleeping last night at 10 p.m. when I went in to check on them. They each have their own bed, but you wouldn't know it.

Bonus Good Thing: The picture below was the only good thing from my ride in this morning: While sitting on John Nolen Drive in Madison (for 47 minutes) I snapped this photo using my cell phone:

You have to click on the picture to get the full effect, but that's Lake Monona, not yet frozen, with ducks swimming around and the mist and blowing snow covering the view of Madison across the lake.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I Read The News Today Oh Boy: Table of Contents

I Read The News Today Oh Boy

collects up a day in my life via (mostly) pictures...

Holiday Roundup Edition

March 1, 2009

Valentine's Day, 2009.

January 31, 2009

January 29, 2009

Droid! Droid! DroidDroidDroidDroidDroidDroidDroidDroidDroid! (Yes, I'm a 3rd grader.) ( [Un]Cool Things I Never Learned In School)

You can't say Droid.

That's the uncool thing I learned recently, when I read some fine print in an ad for that new phone, which, because of trademark laws, should be called "The Phone Who Must Not Be Named," but calling it that might get me in trouble with the World's Most Unnecessarily Litigious Author.

So I don't know what to call the phone, but I know that I can't call it a Droid because George Lucas copyrighted the word "Droid."

That's what the fine print in those Droid ads says:
So everytime someone says droid they have to pay George Lucas, apparently.

I can't even believe they were able to trademark it, since as I understood it, droid was short for android, and I didn't think that you can trademark a part of a word.

But apparently you can, since the US Patent and Trademark Office ( somewhat of an authority, I guess... ) says:

A trademark includes any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods. In short, a trademark is a brand name.

"Droid," I guess, can be trademarked in reference to the phone, or other goods, maybe -- but it wasn't, not until recently. Lucas didn't try to register "droid" for the phone until October 9, 2009, so the Droid trademark for the phone wasn't his until about two months ago.

That may not be any help if you want to make, say, a droid car, because prior to his adventures in phonery, Lucas had registered Droid as a trademark for a computer game, an entertainment news service, action figures and other toys, general housewares including pudding molds [that one's been abandoned, so if you want to make your own IG-88 pudding mold, you probably can][<<<Note: Not actual legal advice!], going back as far as 1979.

Then again, maybe you can make Droid Popcorn: Lucas wasn't the first, it seems, to try to trademark droid, anyway and wasn't the only one to ever get a trademark for it.

There was a trademark application for a droid tool that would be a:

Hand-operated, multi-function pocket tool comprising hex keys, box wrenches, spoke wrenches, socket wrenches, wheel dishing tools, spanners, knives, forks, scissors, pliers, magnifying glasses, bottle openers, can openers, nail files, tweezers, reamers, tire levers, wood saws, axes, hatches, wrenches, hammers, locking wrenches, and adjustable wrenches, hand tool for bicycles, and chain tool.

Which is now a thing I want. That trademark was filed in 2005 and abandoned in 2006.

is also a registered trademark for a chest-protector-with-neck-brace, luggage (but that one's been abandoned) and a record partnership.

There's also an Anne Droid Surveillance System trademark which has also been abandoned, so if you were going to write a series of books about a sexy robotic detective whose goal is not just to solve mysteries but also to get robots to have equal rights with humans so that she can marry her human partner, the name Anne Droid is likely available. [<<<Note: Not actual legal advice, and also my idea.]

All that droid-searching got me thinking about registering other trademarks for parts of words so that I could get rich the American way: Suing someone for taking my ideas. My first thought was this: what about, say, "Bot" for robot?

Alas, it's already registered for "flavored waters." (Bot flavored waters? I'm no marketing genius [Note: Yes, I am] but that doesn't sound very good at all: "Here's some water flavored like half a robot. And not even the good, first half.")

Alarmingly, someone also registered a trademark for Skybot, which is a little too close to Skynet for my peace of mind. They say that one's abandoned, but I'm sure it's just a ruse and I'm going to have to finish up my underground hideout sooner rather than later.

Then, as is also the American way, I got bored and gave up.

So that's what I learned today, and what I never learned in school even though I was in school in 1979: You can trademark part of a word. And also: You can't say Droid without sending George Lucas money.

Well, I'm not caving in to his tyranny. I'm going to fight this. I'm going to name my next kid "Droid."

Take that, George Lucas!

School: 0
Fine Print In Advertisements: 1

You'll have to read all the way to the end to see if you won the contest... no fair skipping ahead! (3 Good Things From 12/8/09)

Did you make it in to work today? I did, and I'm the only one here, so far. Which makes me Boss for the day. I declare raises and pizzas for everyone that's here!

If you
didn't make it in to work because of snow, and because you decided to follow the warnings to stay home if your job is "nonessential", ask yourself this: Do you really want to (a) use up a perfectly good day off being snowed in, and (b) declare that the job you do is nonessential?

Now you know why I'm here. Plus, that picture to the right is a picture from my actual drive in this morning. 12 inches of snow, no plows around, and 30 mile per hour winds... and it was the best drive in I've had in all of 2009.

Now, on to the real news: the 3 Good Things from yesterday:

1. I did a bang-up job at my seminar presentation, if I say so myself. And I do say so myself, but also a couple of people came up afterwards and said they really enjoyed it, which is really saying something, considering that my presentation was on the topics of "hidden assets and foreclosures in divorce proceedings."

2. Two of the Christmas presents I ordered for Sweetie were delivered. For security reasons, I can't discuss too many details of the presents I've tried and tried to order for her for Christmas. But for now, I can say that I first ordered them, then was told I couldn't get them. Then I ordered them again, and was told that again, and I've finally ordered them and two of the three came. Which is good, because I don't want to go out Christmas shopping again. I want my sole Christmas duties from here on out to be "dreading putting up the tree," "putting up the tree," "complaining about taking down the tree," and "eating fruitcake."

3. The contest winners have been picked! All you commenters got an entry in the Magic USPS Coffee Mug (Which I Don't Know How I Got, And Which Sits On My Desk Unused So Don't Worry, Your Entries Weren't Coffee-Tainted) (that's the mug's official name:)

And then I drew out the two winners:

Winner of the subscription to one of the three magazines: is "Petri Dish" reformed LLC Cool J fan and author of Love Fears A Lover, one of the great blogs around. Petri, you get your choice of a subscription to Conceit, The Bracelet Charm, or Amulet. Email me at "thetroublewithroy[at]" and let me know which one you want and the address to send it to.

Winner of a copy of my book, Eclipse: Stanley Goodspeed, whose post about the clipboard man still makes me laugh every single time I think of it. Stanley writes The Buffoon Blog and it's awesome, too. Stanley, email me at that address and let me know where to send your copy of Eclipse.

If you didn't win, don't despair -- look to your left and see what you can do for the next time.

I doubt there are very many experts on that subject, worldwide.

The snow is falling, the calendar reads December... and that leads everyone to think about ...

The Superbowl! Or, at least, those of us who never really stop thinking about the Superbowl are now thinking about it, still, or more. And we're looking for news about the Superbowl, for stories about the Superbowl, for predictions on who will be in the Superbowl, for the halftime show. Hype, of any sort.

I've found just the place: Article Alley's collection of Superbowl articles.

Article Alley is a collection of articles from the web that are sent in by the authors, and are readable and copyable for free - you can post and repost any article on Article Alley into your website (provided you attribute it) and you can write your own articles (or blog posts... hmmm... ) and post them there to promote and share your writing or your website.

Which is all great, but the best for me was finding those Superbowl articles, because it lets me begin the hype and have something to talk with The Boy about.

There's tons of other articles on there, too, from blog posts to computer, dating, legal topics, pets, pay-per-click sites, and more. I'd be willing to bet that if you can think of it, there's an article for it. And if there's not an article for the topic you're thinking about, you can just write and submit one yourself, for free, making you the expert on, say, Armadillo Mating Habits.

I don't know why I thought of that. Hmmmm.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Aristotle's Cookies. (3 Good Things From 12/7/09)

Today's the last day to comment and be entered to win a prize! Leave your comments by midnight tonight. Winners to be announced tomorrow or sometime.

It's late in the day to post this, but here are the 3 Good Things that have helped me not totally lose it when it turns out that yet again, people who have lived in Wisconsin all their lives turn out to have forgotten how to drive on snow, so that I'm snarled up in traffic even though we've gotten only about 1/2" of snow and it's really nothing to worry about... now I'm getting mad again.
Deep breath!

1. I made it to my seminar in time to grab extra cookies yesterday. I had an afternoon seminar -- a comedy seminar about legal ethics that was short on comedy (and short on legal ethics) but long on cookies when I got there. I grabbed three and brought home one for Sweetie and one for The Boy.

And, yes, I have considered the juxtaposition of my grabbing extra cookies while attending a seminar on ethics, but I took ethics in law school and college, too, so I'm pretty familiar with the rules of ethics, and I can say with confidence that Aristotle would have done exactly the same thing.

2. I got low-fived by my nephew. While visiting my mom last night, I ran into my 3-year-old nephew. I got him to give me five, then on the side, then way up high. I then held out my hand and said Down low, but he pulled his hand away and said Too slow! I thought I had until kids were four to be outsmarted.

3. Mr Bunches and Mr F team-hugged me. When I finally got home, around 10 p.m., the Babies! were still awake (of course), and I went in to sit with them. Mr Bunches jumped up onto my lap and hugged me, and Mr F then came up behind me and hugged me from behind. There's no better way to end your day than wrapped in 3-year-olds.

One Percenters, Day Five: Don't tell me we don't have the money for health care.

First off, HOORAY for Harry Reid, and John Fund, you're an idiot, and a disingenuous liar.

Now, on to the substance here.

As I mentioned the other day in the context of talking about Giovanni Ribisi (that's how my mind works), the estimated cost of the current, pretty good health care plan pending before Congress is $1.055 trillion.

I hear over and over how there's no way we could ever pay for that, and how we'll be bankrupting our kids or our kids' kids or even their kids' kids' kids, or something. It'll be financial Apocalypse, with no Rapture to lift up those who had jobs before the wave of payment decimated small businesses.

(That speech, verbatim, courtesy of the deranged ramblings of Republican Mitch McConnell. Okay, maybe not verbatim, but I'm pretty sure he said something like it.)

The problem with that argument is that it's false. Patently, blatantly, whatever -ntly modifier you want to put in front of it, it's false, and those who make it (and those who believe it) are dumb.

The United States is the richest country, by far, in the world, and can easily afford $1.055 trillion. Not only could we come up with 10% of that money right now simply by tapping the 10 richest people in our country (and leaving them fine, as I pointed out in that same article) but we could come up with it a variety of other entirely painless ways.

Take movies. We all love movies, right? I know I do, and I go to them all the time. So does every other American, as far as I can tell, because movies are doing just fine, even in a recession and even in the face of a looming InsuranceApocalypse.

Last week, the top 10 movies raked in grosses (combined) of $86.16 million dollars. )$86,160,000) (And it wasn't even a very good batch of movies.) The average US movie ticket prices (as of 2008) were $7.18. Which means, using the average price applied to last week's gross, there were 12,000,000 tickets sold last week alone. (A lot of them, apparently, to teenage girls seeing Twilight 2: Vampire Boogaloo a fifteenth time.)

Put a tax of $1 on each movie ticket -- increasing the price marginally -- and you'd raise $12,000,000 in a single week. Do that for the whole of 2009, when the top 10 films so far have grossed $2,535,000,000 (or about 353,064,066 tickets) and you'd have raised $353,064,066 towards health care reform in a single year.

$353,000,000 is about 1/3 of the trillion needed to cover health care reform -- and it could have been raised without even hurting anyone; you'd go to a movie and pay a buck extra to watch Robert Pattinson glower or Kevin the Bird run.

Would that kill businesses? I doubt it. I doubt anyone would even notice it. Except for the people who could then afford to go see a doctor and go on living.

Health care reform can be paid for easily, and painlessly, and I'll continue pointing that out. That's why I came up with the concept of One Percenters: people who care enough about helping others out that they're willing to pay an amount equal to 1% of their gross income to provide universal health care. If you make $50,000 a year, that's $1.37 per day you'd pay to help someone else get health care.

So don't tell me we can't afford to reform health care. That's a ridiculous lie. We can pay for it as easily as we go to the movies and watch the latest Sandra Bullock crummy movie.

The Senate is still debating health care reform, and the House will then have to consider whatever the Senate emits as its bill. So keep the pressure on politicians to do something. Today's two are:

"Senator" Evan Bayh, who recently suggested that he'd vote for the bill before voting against it. "Senator" Evan voted to let debate continue, while being coy about whether he liked the bill. Bayh has taken in over $1,000,000 in contributions from insurance companies and health interests, so I think we all know who will be purchasing his vote in the long run -- but you can still try to get Bayh to vote in favor of protecting little kids by providing them insurance; call him at (202) 224-5623 and tell him that if America can afford to spend $15,000,000 on werewolves, we can spend money on kidney transplants for kids. Or click here to contact him through his website.

"Congressman" Jared Polis: Jared represents a district in Colorado. He recently wrote that "Health care reform is the single most important step we can take to rebuild our economy." I'm not sure what he means by that, but it seems a step in the right direction, right? But then he said this:

"I also made the difficult decision to vote against the bill" for health care reform in the House. Jared painted that as a courageous stand against health care costs; I say it wasn't so much courage as the $30,000 in campaign contributions from health concerns that he's already collected in his young career. Jared's only been in office since 2008, which means he's raising money from health concerns at a rate of about $41 per day.

(Jared also wanted to have it both ways; he voted against the bill in committee, then voted for the bill on the House floor. Congressmen, it seems, like to be both for and against things.)

Call Jared at 202-225-2161, or click here to go to his website and congratulate him on voting the right way, once, and remind him that the work isn't done: Make sure that his $41 a day in campaign contributions doesn't make him against things again.

My input into household finances: "There's always room in the budget for potato chips."

What's your budgeting system for your money? Mine is to give it all to Sweetie and then tell her when I'm running out of gas or need to download some songs, and hope she gives me some money back.

That may not work for everybody, so if you're someone who has a more complicated life than mine, or if you can't get Sweetie to handle your money for you (she'd probably be willing to do so), you might want to look into the envelope budgeting software provided by NeoBudget.

NeoBudget will help you, the ordinary Joe or Joe-ette, budget your money without all the complex shenaniganry of those other programs out there. You want a simple budget, and NeoBudget will do that for you, helping you manage your money and get the most out of your paycheck. Their program will not only show you how you're spending now, but will help you plan for the future and adjust spending and saving accordingly -- and it's available for a free trial right now. So click on over there and give it a shot, because I'm pretty sure Sweetie is busy today and can't take your call.

Monday, December 07, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Fifty-Two

52. Make cups and glasses wider on the bottom. (All cups and glasses.)

Last night, I poured Mr F a glass of milk and was about to put the cap back on the carton of milk (which really isn't a carton anymore, it's a jug, but that's besides the point) and my hand nicked the edge of Mr F's glass with just enough force to send the glass (which was an ordinary cup in that it had a smaller base than top) falling over, spilling the milk and making me restart the whole process and have to move Sweetie's little Smore-man candy dish and clean under there.

Some travel mugs have larger bases than tops. But no other cups do, so far as I have seen in my life, and I have seen pretty far in my life.

Why? Why aren't coffee cups, milk cups, all cups and glasses larger at the bottom to prevent unnecessary spills (there's no point trying to prevent those necessary spills, right?) Is it aesthetics? If so, shouldn't people like me (i.e., smart people who are also clumsy) have a choice as to which we think looks better, a small-on-the-bottom glass next to a puddle of grape soda, or a larger-on-the-bottom glass we're not afraid to set next to our computer?

Is it a cost thing? Because I'd pay more to avoid dumping liquids all over my life.

Still 2 days left in the contest: Comment on this post! You could win a book or magazine subscription (details here) and you'll be making me happy (details on that here.)

Prior entries:

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

Shoveling snow's not so bad if your driveway is small and you're not concerned with the quality of your work. (3 Good Things From 12/4-12/6)

Don't forget to comment this post! Today and tomorrow are it for the contest: Comment and win a magazine subscription or book! You can enter more than once. Details here.

It snowed a little more last night, and I'm just back in from the first pre-work/pre-'puting snow shoveling of the 09/10 winter. So pardon me if I'm a little sweaty. Here's my 3 Good Things from the weekend:

1. I got our Christmas shopping finished! Almost! Well, nearly...okay,
I did pretty good and got almost everything we needed in just four-and-a-half short hours of driving around with the Babies! and eating hash browns for breakfast and pizza for lunch and playing at the playground, and once, chasing a staticky-haired Mr Bunches through Walmart while Mr F, riding in the cart, laughed. All things considered, we did pretty well, and I have no idea how that trail of crackers in the Apple Store got there.

2. Sweetie did the reading at church extremely well.
Sweetie volunteers to do the readings at church from time to time, and I love watching her do it because she does it with emotion and really puts effort into it. She did the one yesterday and I liked it.

3. This version of Amazing Grace:

I'm not sure why I like it so much, but I do. It was nice to listen to while I shoveled this morning.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Saints Ain't Gonna Win The Super Bowl. (Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!)

Don't forget to comment this post! Three days left in the contest: Comment and win a magazine subscription or book! You can enter more than once. Details here.

Last week, I mentioned how sports writers and talkers don't understand stats at all.

This week, I go stats-heavy in what is a pretty in-depth look at how bad the Saints really are. So to lighten that up a bit, I'll present a fun lead-in:

Sometimes things are not exactly what they seem. Sometimes you'll think a thing is one kind of thing, and it's another kind of thing, exactly. Take three examples: Julia Roberts, The New Orleans Saints, and this picture:

None of those three things are what they actually seem to be.

That picture, for example, isn't exactly what it seems to be. It seems to be Mr F, playing at the mall playground with a kid who's being his friend. That's what I captioned it when I texted that to Sweetie yesterday, trying to use up some of the 250 text- and picture-messages I get each month on my phone for five bucks. (Total so far, on Day 6 of December: 17.)

But shortly after that picture was taken, that little boy on the right -- Mr F's new friend -- "borrowed" Mr F's toy (the toy is a snowman with a fishing pole sitting atop a plastic tube full of gum, which is not the most common image of Christmas, but Mr F liked it.) Mr F actually let the kid borrow it, but then the kid walked away with the toy, which upset Mr F, who didn't know he was giving it up. So I tried to talk to the kid, who's obviously-negligent parents were nowhere around. I said to the kid "Could he have his toy back, because he doesn't really understand about sharing." Mr F, meanwhile, hovered nervously near me. The kid tried to walk away again, and so I tapped him on the shoulder in a polite, and non-pedophiley way, and said again "Would you mind giving him his toy back?" As I did that, and the kid looked at me, Mr F grabbed the toy and ran, so to the rest of the world, it probably looked as though I had just cooperated with Mr F in stealing that toy.

Things are not what they seem.

Things like Julia Roberts, who I had always imagined to be a pretty nice person, overall. She had that smile, after all, and that laugh, and seemed to be kind of likeable even after she spite-married that cameraman and gave birth to some spite-kids and more or less stopped acting, so far as I know. Even then, I thought Julia Roberts was a pretty nice person, basing that assumption almost entirely on her character from Pretty Woman.

But then, yesterday, I read an article in Madison's Isthmus newspaper about movies filmed in Madison, and one of those movies was I Love Trouble, which starred Julia Roberts. I read then that she stayed near Middleton, Wisconsin (geographically, Middleton sits like a hat tilted jauntily back on the head of Madison) during the filming. Then I read this:

Julia Roberts stayed in a private home near Middleton during the three-and-a-half-week local shoot for I Love Trouble. (The owners moved out to make room for her, and the house was furnished for her needs.)

(Source.) The house was furnished for her needs? As opposed to, say, for the needs of the presumably-normal people who lived there before?

What you -- or at least I-- could read into that sentence is this: Julia Roberts did not say in a hotel suite or even a regular rental house. She kicked a family out of their own house during her stay in Madison, Wisconsin. That means that she had to pay a whole lot more money to do that, more money than it would have cost to have rented a suite or rental house, because who's going to move out of their house temporarily for low-rent payments? Then, Julia Roberts had the house furnished "for her needs." So she bought, or rented, furnishings for her temporary stay in that house.

Because Julia Roberts can not stay in a house without a chair specially designed for her needs. What, does she have a tail?

I don't know what Julia Roberts had brought in, or moved out, or redesigned, or feng-shuied. I just know that whatever she did, and whatever she spent, it was a horrible waste of money and yet another shameful, degrading display of wealth that for some reason Americans keep putting up with.

I no longer think Julia Roberts is a nice person; I now think she's a selfish pig and we're better off without her making any movies.

Things are not what they seem.

Those two things: Mr F's toy getting stolen, and us stealing it back, and Julie Roberts being a horrible human being, lead into my thinking about the New Orleans Saints today.

I'm excited about the New Orleans Saints being 11-0. I want them and the Indianapolis Colts to both go 16-0, and to meet, undefeated, in the Super Bowl, so that we can have the greatest game ever played, and also so that the sole remaining accomplishment of the Belicheat-Patriots-Asterisk era will be erased; once two teams go 16-0 in the regular season, the Patriots* won't even have that as a claim to fame anymore and we all will finally be done with nonsense about what a genius Belicheat is.

All of us, that is, except ESPN's Mike Greenberg, who is apparently applying for the job of Belicheat Sycophant; Greenberg spent Tuesday morning on the radio suggesting that it was all a part of Belicheat's geniusy master plan to lose to the Saints last Monday night, claiming that it "set up" the Patriots* perfectly for the playoffs while avoiding the limelight and scrutiny that comes with ... you know, winning.

The problem is, the Saints aren't going to go undefeated. And they're not going to make the Super Bowl, either. I'm sorry, New Orleans fans, but that's the way it is, and here's why:

The Saints are not nearly as good as you think they are. Things are not what they seem, and the Saints seem to be an 11-0 team. But they're not. They're not really an 11-0 team, not the kind of "11-0 team" with a legitimate shot at getting to the Super Bowl.

The Saints' eleven wins this year have come against Detroit, Philadelphia, Buffalo, the New York Jets and New York Giants, the Dolphins, Falcons, Panthers and Rams, the Buccaneers and the Patriots*.

Of those teams, only four teams (the Patriots*, Giants, Eagles, and Falcons) have winning records as of today -- and only two of those teams are more than 1 game above 0.500. Those two putatively good teams, the Patriots* and Eagles, play in weak divisions: The Patriots*' division has no other winning teams. The Eagles' division has Washington and the flailing New York Giants.

New Orleans hasn't beaten many good teams this year. Which means they may not be so good, either. It's hard to tell, since they've struggled against terrible teams like the Rams, but then walked all over such ersatz contenders as the Patriots*. Statistically, the Saints are first overall in "total offense," but rank only 4th in passing and 5th in rushing. They don't rush for as many yards per game as the Dolphins, Panthers, Titans, or Jets -- which is a pretty meaningful statistic, because those teams aren't very good, but have gained more yards running than the Saints.

Those four teams which outrush the Saints pass almost as often as the Saints; they just get less out of it, gaining only about 2/3 the yards the Saints do while throwing the ball almost as often: The Saints average 31.2 passing attempts per game, while the Jets, who throw the ball the least in the league, average 25.2 attempts per game, or only 6 less passes per game than the Saints. The other three teams all throw 30 or more times per game -- so they throw almost as often as the Saints do.

Rushing, the statistics are more telling: The Panthers and Titans rank just behind the Saints in rushing attempts per game (all around 31), while the Jets and Dolphins run 33 and 36 times per game, respectively. But all four of those teams have more yards rushing than the Saints. The Jets have nearly 25% more yards -- over 2,000 to the Saints' under-1700.

The Saints, then, throw and run the ball about as often as those four terrible teams, but get less rushing yards. True, they get more passing yards, a lot more -- but what does that mean? Does that mean that the Saints' receivers and quarterbacks are just that much better than those other four teams? Or that their running backs are that much worse?

Or does it mean what I think it means: that the Saints' opponents are that much worse than those other four teams?

That appears to be at least part of the case: Coming in to the season, the Saints' schedule appeared to be the 8th-hardest in the NFL. But the Panthers, Dolphins and Jets all faced tougher schedules on paper. In actuality, the Dolphins', the Jets', the Panthers' and Saints' schedule has largely looked about the same -- as would be expected in the case of the Panthers and the Saints, who play in the same division. The Dolphins played Indianapolis, while the Saints were taking on Detroit, which is one difference -- but not enough to explain the difference between 5-6 and 11-0.

The Titans, though, play a markedly harder schedule. Their 11 games so far have included bouts against Pittsburgh, Houston, Jacksonville, the Colts, and Arizona -- only one of those teams has a losing record: Houston at 5-6, and that only became a losing record when they lost to the Colts last week. The Titans have played a harder schedule, have switched quarterbacks, began the year with a new defensive coordinator and without their best defensive player from last year and started 0-6 -- but have outrushed the Saints and have completed only about 40 passes less than the Saints.

So do the Saints have players that are that much better than the Titans? Or are the Saints a lucky schedule away from being 5-6? The Saints don't run the ball as well as the Titans and haven't faced as tough of a schedule as the Titans. It's not entirely clear whether the Saints' players are really markedly better than the players on those inferior teams -- in part because the Saints' schedule has made it hard to tell.

It will be hard to tell, too, as the season finishes up, because the Saints don't have many real tests left, either: Dallas is the best team remaining for them to play, and Dallas isn't so great (and plays terribly in December under Tony Romo.) So the Saints, whatever their record at the end of the regular season, may not know much about what kind of team they really are -- and neither will we, although my opinion is that they're an 8-8 team (like they were last year) with an easier schedule than last year -- and 8-8 teams don't tend to do well in the playoffs.

Nor do teams that start hot do well in the playoffs, generally. There's another reason, beyond an easy schedule, that the Saints won't make it to the Super Bowl: the 11-0 start.

The 11-0 start and weak schedule to finish, as well as the fact that the Saints will likely clinch a playoff spot today, means trouble for the Saints. Remember all those Indy and Broncos teams that would start the season 9-0, 10-0, 11-0? Remember how many of them won the Super Bowl? None.

That's because teams that don't play meaningful games in December can struggle in the playoffs. Some years, the teams that looked hot and didn't lose until week 12 or 13 sat their starters for much of the games and then came out looking rusty -- like the Colts did the year Pittsburgh beat them as a wild card and went on to win the Super Bowl: The Colts had a better record and were heavily favored but lost to Pittsburgh, in the playoffs, in Indy, because they started out rusty.

Last year, the Titans began the year 10-0 before losing to Brett Favre's Jets. Though they only lost three games the whole year, all three of those losses came after things were largely wrapped up for the season: The Titans were 12-2 on December 14 with 2 games remaining; their closest competitor in the division, the Colts, were 10-4 on that same date and could at best tie the Titans, so the Titans' games in December didn't matter much, and it showed when they lost their first playoff game 13-10 to Baltimore -- a team they'd beaten in the regular season early on when their games still counted.

The Saints haven't played a hard schedule so far, and they don't have to play a hard schedule to finish up. They're competing only with Minnesota, really, for home-field advantage. They have a one-game edge over the Vikings, but the Vikings face games at Arizona, the Bengals, and against the Giants to finish the season. If the Saints win today against the Redskins, and the Vikings stumble against the Cardinals tonight, the Saints will have a two-game cushion with four games remaining, and might start to relax.

Finally, consider defense. Everyone knows the Saints' offense scores a lot of points. And everyone this year now talks up the Saints' "much-improved" defense as the difference between the old, disappointing 8-8 Saints' teams and the new, hopefully-better 11-0 Saints' team.

The "new" "much-improved" defense is ranked only fifteenth in the league, though, giving up 20.1 points per game. Of the teams that have given up more points per game than the Saints, only four have winning records, and those teams barely have winning records. The other 11-0 team, the Colts, by comparison, have the third ranked defense, giving up 25% fewer points per game than the Saints.

So the Saints' defense is middle-of-the-road; is it "much-improved?" Not really: Last year, the Saints ranked 26th at the end of the year, giving up 24.6 points per game -- so they've improved by just over a field goal per game.

The Saints' offense finished last year ranked number one, and has remained there in scoring -- but has increased its average per game from 28.9 to the heady 37+ points per game the team scores now. So the Saints may be better -- their offense may be better and their defense may be better. Or maybe it's that their opponents are worse, remember.

So the defense isn't much better at all -- it's ranked higher but giving up only marginally fewer points per game. It's the offense that's improved a lot, and the schedule that's improved a lot more, even.

To understand the impact the schedule plays in both improving the win-loss record and the statistical improvement on offense and defense, consider:

Last year, the Saints were only 6-5 through 11 games, a record they compiled playing a tougher schedule than they have this year through 11 games. They finished 8-8 in 2008 (going 2-3 down the home stretch). That 8-8 meant they were a mediocre team, and the specific games they won showed that: the Saints got their eight wins largely by beating the bad teams they played and losing to the good teams.

This year, the Saints are 5 games better, and they've begun beating some good teams, too-- but haven't played any of the really good teams they'll face in the playoffs. Instead, they're playing weaker teams, and beating up on those. They haven't yet played any of the really good teams they'll meet in the one playoff game they'll get -- and those teams that they'll meet in the playoffs more than stack up to the Saints.

The Saints will play in the playoffs teams like the Minnesota Vikings, who have lost only one game, and that loss came on the road to the defending Super Bowl champions in a rather fluky series of events, and who have thrown for only 2 less touchdowns than the Saints, gained nearly as many yards, and whose defense gives up only 18 points per game. The Vikings have a better defense, nearly as good an offense, and have racked up those stats against a tougher schedule.

Or the Saints could have to face the Arizona Cardinals, who, at 7-4, don't appear to be a threat but they are: The Cardinals lost to the 49ers, the Colts, the Titans, and the Panthers so far. Two of those losses are understandable: the Colts have beaten everyone they've played this year, while the Titans have beaten everyone they've played the last five weeks. The Cardinals give up fewer points per game on defense than the Saints, and have played an equal- or tougher schedule.

Like I said, I'm not rooting against the Saints -- I'm rooting for them (although I'm also rooting for Brett Favre, which makes things kind of confusing for me at times. I'd like to see, maybe, a three-way football championship, or perhaps a round-robin World Cup type of affair where all the best teams could play each other a couple of times, but that's for a different post.) I just don't think the Saints will be marching into the promised land anytime soon.

They seem like an 11-0 team, but they're not. They're a one-and-done playoff team, destined to watch as another NFC team plays in their stead, yet again.