Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fantasy Football: Week 12 Recap

No BCS drama around here!

My money league team clinched the overall #1 playoff seed this week with another relatively easy victory. Of course, it helps when you're opponent has a horrible week - even a 41-point performance by Drew Brees on Monday night only brought them to within fifty of the mighty Chads. The second-highest score for the week again, this time led by twenty-point-plus scores by Andre Johnson, Wes Welker, Marshawn Lynch and Tony Gonzalez (who is now TE#1 points-wise overall in the league). Even an off-week by Jay Cutler couldn't keep them down.

The Chads now head into the last week of the regular season with a 138-point margin (almost 9 percent) over the next highest team, giving them a meaningless final game and a bye for the first playoff week. I'm guaranteed to finish in the top four, and the top three split up the pot. So all I need is one win in either of two playoff games, and I'm in the money.

Would that it was that easy for the Longhorns....

The Shield Finale Predications

Based on no advance spoiler knowledge...I think Vic walks tonight.

He's got his eye on the prize - namely, saving himself and Corrine. Of course, once he finds out he bet on the wrong horse - Corrine instead of Ronnie - that'll just be one more burned bridge he'll leave behind. I don't think he's come this far to throw away his lifeline, not for Corrine or for Ronnie. So I think he'll leave Ronnie to his fate, walk away from his family once he finds out they've been working against him, and head off into his new life as a federal undercover man with his head held high. He's been totally exposed, but as long as he's got his immunity deal, he'll just keep rolling.

Everyone else gets the shaft. I think Ronnie likely ends up dead, rather than captured, perhaps during the drug raid. The only question is whether he ever finds out Vic screwed him over before he goes. Shane and Mara also end up dead, and at this point, I think by their own hands. I think Claudette doesn't die, but does resign her position voluntarily, die to illness and mishandling of the Mackey investigation. Dutch ends up in charge of the Farm, but only temporarily, as the Vic/Ronnie scandal proves to be the last straw, causing the district to be shut down. Dutch also ends up killing the young serial killer he has been tracking in self-defense.

At any rate, this episode probably ranks higher than even the most recent Lost finale on my expectations meter. Bring it on!

Monday, November 24, 2008

TV Review - 24: Redemption

Well, it's good to have Jack back, even in this form.

I haven't had too much of a problem filling my TV time, with The Shield having one of the best season-long runs I can remember and Sons Of Anarchy having a good showing in its first season. But both of those shows will be disappearing after this week (with Sons to return sometime next year), and so it's time for the second-half of the "fall" season to start. That means welcome returns for both 24 and Lost.

While Lost also managed to turn in a great season last year, 24 has definitely been headed the other direction. After a great fifth season, season six turned into kind of a lackluster disaster, and the off-season hints of things to come (Jeanene Garofalo? urk..) left me dreading the return of a neutered Jack Bauer.

So it was with some trepidation that I approached this two-hour 24 movie, subtitled (although not on-screen) "Redemption". First off, I thought the producers chose a good backdrop, a fictional example of one of the all-too-real African genocides currently going on. Rather than drag out another nebulous terrorist group, we get an alternate scenario that provides real danger for Bauer, and a way for him to try to find some personal redemption, and shines a spotlight on an under-reported real problem that exists in the world today. Much better than, say, Jack helping a group of eco-warriors fight an evil, global-warming corporation or something.

And the fact that we get to see some very well-deserved shots taken on the feckless United Nations and the U.S. State Department is just icing on the cake. "Go hide in the shelter with the other children" - and then he does! Just outstanding.

But just so we know it's still 24, there is a tieback to a nameless "old white guy" (played this time around by Jon Voight) and to moles in the five-minute old administration of whatever the new president's name is. Those are just setups for the next season, though, and they didn't distract too much from the main plot back in Africa.

For a "two-hour event", we didn't get a big set piece on the order of the fighter strafing-run from....back in season two, I think? But we did get a lot of standard 24 beats - Jack as pistol sharpshooter, Jack being tortured (that just makes him angry), Jack killing a man with his bare hands, err, feet, a confederate taking the kill so Jack can continue, and so on. Nothing out of the ordinary for 24, but just seeing it back in action and done well after the disaster of the last season makes me happy.

At least until the new season starts.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fantasy Football: Week 11 Recap

It's better to be good, unlucky and lucky than good and unlucky.

My money league team this week was good. They got the second-highest point total for the week, racking up 136 points behind 33 points from Marshawn Lynch (RB #1 for the week) on Monday night and 19 points from Thomas Jones (RB #15) on Sunday. For once, the QB and WRs weren't leading the scoring, particularly Andre Johnson who will suffer, I think, from the continuing absence of Matt Schaub in Houston.

But they were also unlucky. I may have been the second-best team in the league, but I was also the second-best team in my matchup, as my opponent put together the kind of game I had last week. As a result, my second loss of the year, 176-136.

But - they were also lucky. I came into the game in first place, with a one-game lead over two other teams. Amazingly, they also both lost this week, meaning my one-game lead is intact. Even better, I outscored both of them, so my point total lead (the first tiebreaker) expanded as well. Now I effectively have a two-game lead with two left to play, meaning I'm almost certainly a lock for the playoff bye. And that means I only need to win one of those two playoff games to be in the money.

My other two teams are now effectively dead. The ESPN team limped to a 109-45 thrashing, dropping them to 7-4 and barely holding onto the last playoff spot. My hapless Fox Sports team also lost badly, 113-65. They're now 5-6 and two games out of the playoffs with two to play.

At least the team I'm most interested in continues to be good. And lucky.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thanks, Bank Of America!

Went by Bank of America to deposit a check. They have a wonderful (for some bizarro-world definition of wonderful) new addition to their ATMs, at least around Austin. You used to place your checks into an envelope and then insert the envelope into a slot, after typing in the amount of the deposit.

Now, you just slide the checks individually into the slot without an envelope, and it is supposed to scan the amounts automatically.

At least, in theory.

Or, in my case, despite having a nice, non-crinkled-up check, you sit there impotently stabbing the slot with the piece of paper that it steadfastly refuses to accept.

You know how wonderful it is when you try to use a dollar bill (or three, if you are at a motel) to buy a soft drink from a machine, and it just doesn't work? Not the kind where it sucks in the bill, thinks about it, and then spits it back out - but the kind where the machine won't even think about sucking it in at all?

Yeah, it's wonderful like that.

I understand why they did this - no need to stock envelopes. But at least the envelope provided some heft, some thickness to aid the machine in grabbing the deposit. Not any more.

And I haven't even got to the scanning part. At least my check was printed on a printer - what's going to happen to all of the hand-written checks? Does the ATM display the amount it thinks it is? What if it doesn't match the amount you think it should be?

Maybe I'll never get to find out.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It Was Nice While It Lasted

"The avalanche has begun; it is too late for the pebbles to vote."

$700 billion bailout of the financial industry.
$25 billion bailout (so far) of the auto industry.

Next in line, Detroit, Atlanta and California.

Hell, why don't we just forget about capitalism and federalism altogether?
I mean, what good have they done anyone?

Jesus H. on a pogo-stick.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fantasy Football: Week 10 Recap

Well, there are some weeks it all comes together. I posted earlier about the night that Jay Cutler had last Thursday. The trend continued up and down my roster. With Monday night still to go, I started Jay Cutler (QB #1 for the week), Thomas Jones (RB #2), Kevin Smith (RB #12), Wes Welker (WR #4), Tony Gonzalez (TE #1) and the Carolina defense (D #2). About the only dud on the roster was first-round pick Marshawn Lynch, who at RB17 for the season is underperforming more than a bit.

Add it all up and you get a 199.56 - 73.48 drubbing of my previous co-leader on top of my money league. This brings the mighty Chads up to 9-1, the highest point total in the league by about one-hundred points, a clinched playoff spot, and most importantly, nearing a clinch of a bye week in the playoffs. I think one more win ought to do it for me.

My other teams continued their meandering ways. My ESPN team needs some help from Larry Fitzgerald to pull out a win and avoid dropping to 6-4 on the season. Winning the division is pretty much out of the picture at this point, but if we don't get this victory, even reaching the playoffs may be a stretch.

Meanwhile, my hapless Fox Sports team reaped the Jay Cutler whirlwind and is cruising to a 138 - 67 win. Mostly on the back of Cutler, this team has managed to crawl up to a 5-5 record, just enough to land one game out of the playoffs with three games left to play. It could still happen.

My Suicide Points league lead, which seemed pretty secure for the last few weeks, has now disappeared in the wake of the New York Jets 44-point drubbing of the Rams. The Chargers could only manage a one-point win over the Chiefs, so now I find myself going from a twenty-six point lead to trailing by seventeen points in a single week.

Oh well, can't win them all. As long as the Chads keep rolling, I don't really care about the rest.

Movie Review: Drunken Master

And at last, after much delay, we finally get to the point in my Jackie Chan Film Festival where we are firmly in the "classic" era. He has largely escaped the Lo Wei influence and shown that his more comedic persona can result in blockbuster success (at least in China - success in America was still quite a ways off). This movie borrow a lot from the immediately preceding Snake In The Eagle's Shadow in terms of personnel, both in front of and behind the camera. Most specifically, Yuen Siu Tien returns in his "Sam The Seed" persona (here called Su Hua Chi), the old beggar whose age and appearance hides his kung-fu prowess. This time around, rather than playing an old man that Jackie's character meets by happenstance, here Jackie (playing the legendary Wong Fei-Hung) is instead handed over to Su for training by his father, who has disowned his son in the wake of a series of misdeeds.

Actually, for much of the film, Jackie plays Wong as pretty much a jerk who deserves the torture heaped upon him during the film. And if you like seeing Jackie get tortured, then this is the film for you - he gets into fights at the market (and gets beat up) and at his house (and gets beat up some more), and then some more during his training. Even during the inevitable showdown at the end, it isn't a case of an unbeatable Wong destroying his opponent - they are actually fairly evenly matched for much of the fight, and Wong takes his lumps several times.

For a movie called Drunken Master, there sure isn't very much drinking going on. The drunken boxing styles aren't even mentioned until over an hour into the film, and then (as usual) Jackie goes from reading a book to a near expert in no time at all. We get a lengthy montage of Wong demonstrating all of the Eight Drunken Gods (except for the feminine Miss Ho style, which he finds he needs later on), but there really isn't any learning curve shown on film - he just goes from novice straight to master.

There is a good variety of fight scenes here. In particular, an early fight scene set in a market that has Wong up against a sword-wielding noble and a conman who uses his head as a weapon are particularly well-choreographed. Later scenes get more into the straight acrobatic hand-to-hand combat style we've seen in a few Chan film now, and get a little more repetitive, but are still generally well-done. And for those that have seen the later Drunken Master II (aka The Legend Of Drunken Master), the drunken boxing doesn't get into quite the wild frenzy here as in that later film.

I'm pretty stingy with the five-star ratings, so I'm only going to grant this one four stars. But it is clearly the class of the festival so far. Next up, Jackie takes the director's chair for the first time in another film whose title might clue you into the fact that it isn't to be taken too seriously: Fearless Hyena.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sign Me Up

Via Instapundit, a report of micro-nuclear generators capable of producing power for 7-10 years for 20000 homes before refueling, at 10 cents per watt, hitting the market in the next few years. I've been amazed with all of the "energy crisis" talk during the recent campaign that we seldom heard the one word that actually makes sense - nuclear. Any plan to reduce coal for electricity generation that doesn't include substantial investment in nuclear - especially when the proposed solutions include much more expensive, less reliable and less mature solutions like solar and wind - is just whistling past the graveyard, in my opinion. (The snarky side of me would point out that President Obama will just power everything with rainbows and unicorns and his amazing charisma, but of course, that would just be snarky.)

However, Austin would never go for anything like this, given (a) the disastrous participation in the South Texas Nuclear Project back in the 80's, and (b) the Bezerkeley-envy in this city that makes it more likely they would be explicitly anti-nuclear than ever considering anything like this.

Friday, November 7, 2008


I've been far too busy to post much, but this is deserving of a post:

Andre Johnson has been big the last few weeks, but the reason my money league team is 8-1 (and now likely to go to 9-1 and in the playoffs) is Jay Freakin' Cutler.

447 yards and 3 touchdowns? 41 points (in a league where 100 is pretty good for a nine-player team)? Amazing.