Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why Award Shows Suck

I am certified in my particular profession, and I am a member of the professional organization for that profession. I am also a member of the local chapter of the organization. This evening, I attended the monthly chapter meeting. For each meeting, a variety of issues and notices are covered prior to the main speaker. These can include upcoming events, volunteer opportunities and job openings. At tonight's meeting, one of these items was the announcement that one of our local members had received an award given by the region that includes our chapter.

Now, I do not want to diminish this person's accomplishment. By all indications, he worked exceptionally hard and did a fantastic job, all of which culminated in amazing results. It seems that he completely deserved the award that he received. That being said, after receiving the award from our local chapter president, the guy broke into an acceptance speech right out of the Oscars or Grammys (minus being rudely interrupted by an obnoxious rapper). He started with the traditional "I would like to thank..." and proceeded to thank the members of the board, the other volunteers on his team, and the guy that held his position the previous year. He even threw in a few "special thanks" for some people. By then, I was waiting for his orchestra music cue and the cut to commercial. I think he definitely went over his 45-second limit. This was before he recognized his replacement for this year, and they exchanged a few jokes ("Thanks for not setting the bar too high").

I think this guy was talking completely off-the-cuff, and I don't think he was aware beforehand that he was receiving the award. It wasn't like he had a prepared speech that he whipped out of his pocket. Regardless, it was obviously that the guy was taking a page out of the award-show playbook in the same way that a rec-league softball player prances around the diamond after hitting a home run like he just won the World Series. Spawning acceptance speech emulators and imitators are one reason award shows suck.

Of course, I'm not the only person that think awards shows suck.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Taxman Cometh

On Saturday, El and I visited our favorite local beer and wine store. The store has a bar where you can sit for a bit and have a drink. I had a half pint of Bosteels Brewery's Pauwel Kwak and then a pint of North Coast Brewing's PranQster ale. Kwak is most well known for its interesting serving glass, but the store doesn't have those glasses. Both beers are Belgian (or Belgian-style), but the Kwak is a slightly darker amber ale while PranQster is a lighter golden ale. Both have average alcohol content for Belgian ales, 8.4% for the Kwak and 7.6% for the PranQster, and both are quite drinkable. While I was enjoying my beers, El did a sampling of various red wines. We also picked up a four-pack of Nemesis by Founders Brewing.

I got my federal tax refund back the other day. Of course, that means that I got my tax returns finished up and sent off a few weeks ago. For my federal taxes, I e-filed using Free File Fillable Forms. For my state taxes, I fell back on the old reliable pen-and-paper method.

As an aside, I recently discovered that taxes are the source for an interesting idiom, Morton's fork.

Like most people (almost everybody, I guess), I hate paying taxes. For most of the year, I am pretty much apolitical. I haven't voted since I voted for Ross Perot when he ran the second time in 1996 (which was a much worse performance than in 1992 when he withdrew and then reentered the race). However, the day that I work up my tax returns is the one day that I am a hard-core conservative Republican, perhaps even... (gasp!) a teabagger! On that day, I appreciate family values like the (financial) benefits of getting married and the true purposes of spawning deductions... err... kids and buying a tax break... I mean a house.

As the credits roll on this post, let's cue The Beatles.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Cougs (continued)

I edited my previous post to change the word "organize" to "orchestrate" in regards to the influence of the Carolina Hurricanes on the relocation of its top-level farm team. In this context, "orchestrate" has a more nefarious connotation. While I am sure hockey fans in Charlotte are glad to see their local team upgraded from the Double-A to Triple-A level, I am equally sure fans of the team in Albany have a more negative view. It is hard to argue against the fact that the Hurricanes manipulated their affiliate for their own purposes.

With their AHL-affiliate moving to Charlotte, there is an interesting suggestion that the Hurricanes could play one or more preseason games in Charlotte. I think the Hurricanes playing games in Time Warner Cable Arena would drum up interest in both teams throughout the area. Who is to say that will ever happen, but if it does and turns out to be successful, perhaps the Canes would consider playing some regular-season games in Charlotte. Personally, I think that would be a bit much.

Just as playing some games in Charlotte might help increase the exposure of the Hurricanes throughout the Carolinas, the same idea would apply for the Charlotte Bobcats playing games in Raleigh. In the past, the Bobcats have played preseason games in cities throughout North and South Carolina including games this season in Greensboro and Charleston, SC, and previous years in Chapel Hill and Columbia, SC. Several years ago, before the team gave up on Charlotte and moved to New Orleans, I attended a Hornets preseason game at the RBC Center which was still the unsponsored Entertainment and Sports Arena back then. Perhaps in the future, the Hurricanes and Bobcats will consider exchanging some games to help expand their fanbases.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Cougs

Beer Update: I am currently giving the High Country Canadian Draft a second taste. I poured from the bottle a little fast and right down the middle of the glass. That generated a good bit of extra head which has really helped reduce the strong taste from the first bottle.

Moving on to another topic, Charlotte, North Carolina is getting a new minor-league hockey team starting next season. At least the team is new to them. The AHL franchise that is currently playing in Albany, New York as the River Rats has been sold and will be relocating to Charlotte. The AHL is similar to Triple-A leagues in professional baseball. The Rats are affiliated with the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes who helped orchestrate the sale and relocation of the team in order to have their AHL affiliate closer to their home in Raleigh, NC.

Of course, the team isn't exactly new to Charlotte since the new team will be taking the name of the city's current ECHL franchise (think Double-A in baseball terms), the Charlotte Checkers. It remains to be seen what will happen with the city's ECHL franchise. The current team owner purchased the River Rats and currently has the ECHL team on the sales block. The team is affiliated with the New York Rangers, so one thought is the team will move north, possibly somewhere in New York state to be closer to the Rangers. One possibility is Utica, NY which has been home of previous minor league teams. Another interesting possibility would be to move the team to Albany which would result Charlotte and Albany having exchanged their hockey franchises. Perhaps, the team could even be renamed the River Rats. However, the city of Albany is busy trying to lure another AHL team to the city.

Back to the new hockey team in Charlotte, I am glad that the ownership elected to maintain the Checkers nickname. However, I am disappointed that the team will still carry the name of Charlotte instead of taking this opportunity to change the name to Carolina. I think it would help differentiate the old ECHL team with the new AHL team. Professional sports teams in the Carolinas need to attract fans from both states. This is particularly true for teams located in the city of Charlotte which is close to the border with South Carolina. An easy way to show that a team represents the whole area instead of a single city is use Carolina as the team name.

I think that could also be applied to the professional basketball team located in Charlotte, the Bobcats. When the city was first awarded an NBA team back in 1988, the Charlotte Hornets were the only game in town. With the excitement of the area's first major-league sports franchise, it really didn't matter what the team was called. However, things changed when the area received a second major-league franchise in 1995. In an effort to attract fans from both states, the new NFL team elected to use the name Carolina instead of Charlotte. The Panthers also decided to hold their training camp in Spartanburg, SC at Wofford College. The team even played their first season in South Carolina at Clemson University.

The Bobcats are in the process of being sold, so perhaps the new ownership will consider changing the name of the team from Charlotte to Carolina. I would like to see the team resurrect the Carolina Cougars from the old ABA. The Bobcats already have Larry Brown as head coach. Brown coached the Cougars back in the 70s. Unfortunately, the term "Cougar" has a negative connotation and is now used in the name of two television shows, one hosted by Vivica A. Fox and the other starring Courteney Cox. Then there is John Mellencamp who has spent years trying to drop "Cougar" from his name. I just mention that because whenever Mr. Mellencamp is coming to town, El wants to buy front-row tickets so she can yell things like "It's the Coug!" just to see if she can get a reaction from Mellencamp.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lesson Learned

Beer Update: On Sunday, El and I cracked open the first bottle of the second home brew batch, and each of us had a pint. Honestly, it was a bit strong. El felt that it needed aeration and even grabbed a stirrer to help with that. Hopefully, the other bottles will be more drinkable.

Also on Sunday, El and I had dinner at Savoy, a local French restaurant. We have dined there before, and it was quite enjoyable. For those that may not know El, she is quite a foodie. One of her favorite foods is foie gras, and Savoy is one of the few restaurants in the area that have foie on the menu. We were both looking forward to dinner and to some succulent foie gras in particular. Unfortunately, we have repeatedly discovered that Valentine's Day is the absolute worst day for dining out. In the past, we have encountered poor service, limited menus, and lower-quality food (even resulting in a possible case of food poisoning). Alas, this year was no different. Instead of their full dinner menu, Savoy offered a limited fixed-priced menu which did not include foie. I asked about substituting or adding a dish of foie, but neither was allowed. I assume this was due to the large number of diners. On our previous visit, we had plenty of attention from our server as well as other waitstaff. On this visit with a packed house, our server barely had any time for us. The food was still good, although the desserts were a bit disappointing. The bottle of wine (Guido Porro, I believe) was nice though. All in all though, it was another disappointing Valentine's dinner.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Need a Holiday?

The second second batch of home brew has been in the bottle for two weeks now, but I haven't yet had the opportunity to have a taste. I put two bottles in the fridge. Once I crack open the first bottle, I'm sure I will post about it. Instead of staying home and sampling the home brew, El and I ventured out. I had the next to last half pint of Aventinus Eisbock and then a pint of Victory's Storm King Imperial Stout. There was a two-pint limit on the eisbock due to its higher alcohol limit. I'm sure that helped drained the keg since limiting something usually makes it more desirable, but it also helps that it's a good beer. I thought my second beer, the Imperial Stout, was much more hoppy than the standard stout. Meanwhile, El had a flight of red wines. Three of which were Mourvèdre wines. We ended up bring home a bottle of 2004 Jade Mountain Mourvèdre.

Of course, today is Valentine's Day, but today is the first day of Engineers Week. In honor of George Washington, a trained surveyor, Engineers Week is celebrated the week of Presidents Day which is tomorrow. On Wednesday, some technical-minded coworkers and I will be visiting a local middle school for Engineers Week to encourage students to study science and math and consider careers in engineering and technology fields.

Today is also the first day of the Chinese New Year which is known as the Lunar New Year in other Asian cultures. According to the Chinese zodiac, 2010 is the year of the tiger, and according to Wikipedia, this is specifically the year of the Metal Tiger. That reminds me of the World War II German tank. To summarize, if your sweetheart happens to be a metallurgical engineer who went to say Clemson University, or some other engineering school that has a tiger as their mascot, then you can wish them a Happy Metal Tiger Engineers Valentine's Day. Otherwise, let's just stick with "Happy Valentine's Day".

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

(Over) Time Is on My Side

I have previously posted twice (here and the follow-up here) on the NFL's overtime policy. The NFL playoffs have now ended since those posts. The NFC Championship Game, which had the Minnesota Vikings visiting New Orleans Saints, ended with the Saints kicking a field game on the first possession of overtime. I stand by my previous opinions on overtime. In that game, both teams had amble opportunity to win the game during the sixty minutes of regulation. Also, the Vikings had the number six defense in the NFL led by All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen, so it is not like they had chopped liver out on the field.

It was also interesting that at one point in the fourth quarter, there was a possibility of Super Bowl XLIV being the first to be decided by overtime. The Saints were leading by a touchdown, 24-17, and the Colts were driving down the field. Luckily, Payton Manning saved the world from Armageddon by throwing an interception to Saints cornerback Tracy Porter who returned it for the game-icing touchdown.

I stand by my opinion that the current overtime format is completely fair. However, I am coming around to the fact that one team taking the opening kickoff in overtime and then driving down the field only to kick a field goal to win is not particularly satsifying. Proposals that I feel are reasonable have been suggested by several people. In his most recent post, ESPN.com's Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, recommended in a parenthetical aside that overtime should not be decided by an opening drive field goal, but everything after the opening drive is OK. I do not completely agree with that proposal, but it is getting close. Mike Greenberg from ESPNRadio's Mike and Mike in the Morning, had an overtime suggestion that I liked. His suggestion is that the winner in overtime should be first team to score six points, however that occurs. That way, an opening possession field goal would not win the game, but an opening touchdown would.

The main reason that I like the first-to-six proposal is that it eliminates winning the game with an opening drive field goal, but it does not guarantee both teams possession of the football. I like the idea that returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown could win the game outright. The same is true for a touchdown scored by one of the defenses. Just please do not suggest this solution is any fairer than the current overtime policy.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Modest Proposal, Part III

Disclaimer: Unless you are an über-sports geek who absolutely loves spreadsheets, you probably shouldn't bother reading this post. If you are looking for an update on the home brew (the second batch has been in the bottles a week now), a movie review (Righteous Kill wasn't that good), or something controversial ("Let's tax kids."), come back another day.

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, and I am posting the third part of my now not-so-modest proposal concerning the NFL. The first two parts can be found here and here. The first post proposed eliminating the legacy NFC and AFC. The second posted covered a realignment suggestion, how my proposal would handle a possible team relocation, and how the regular season schedule would work under my proposal including expanding to a 17-game season.

5. Playoff Tournament


I would venture that the only sports postseason that rivals the NFL playoffs in popularity would be the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship. The postseasons for all the other sports pale in comparison. The playoffs for the NBA, NHL and MLB have best-of-seven formats which result in lots of games. The NBA Playoffs and Stanley Cup playoffs are especially known for having too many games and lasting way too long precisely due to having four best-of-seven rounds. On the other end of the spectrum is the controversial bowl format of Division I football where the champion is decided by a two-team best-of-one tournament. NASCAR has the Chase for Sprint Cup and golf has the FedEx Cup playoffs, but I really don't consider either of those to be serious contenders to the popularity of the NFL or NCAA basketball postseasons.

What makes the college basketball tournament great? Ignoring the ridiculous Tuesday play-in game, college basketball has a one-and-done tournament with a perfectly-square, fixed bracket. The NFL playoffs also single elimination, but the bracket is not fixed. The second round match-ups depend on the outcome of the first round with the lowest remaining seed in each conference playing the top seed in that conference. Under my proposal without conferences, a fixed bracket would be standard. The most straight-forward suggestion for the playoffs would be to have the second and third seeds from each division play in the first round with the winner meeting the top seed from that division in the second round. The winner from each of the divisional brackets would then go to the semifinal round with the semifinal winners meeting in the Super Bowl.

One problem with that straight-forward suggestion is that it guarantees rematches that were already played twice during the regular season. Also, it is possible that the two best teams come out of the same division, and one would be eliminated prior to the Super Bowl. For instance, this year's Super Bowl contenders, Indianapolis and New Orleans, are from the two South divisions. Without any realignment, those two teams would both be in the South Division under my proposal. To alleviate both of these issues, I would suggest sending the second and third seeds to the other side of the tournament bracket.

Another issue with my playoff suggestion is that there will be four number-one seeds. This would be problematic in terms of home field for the semifinal round. The answer to that issue is to have the semifinal games played at neutral fields. This would work by requiring Super Bowl host stadiums to sign up for a three-year stint. Each of the two years prior to hosting the Super Bowl (and possibly the Pro Bowl), the stadium would host one of the two semifinal games. To avoid situations were second or third seed ended up hosting a semifinal game, the semifinal game between two divisional brackets should be played at a stadium for a team from one of those divisions. Therefore, a number one seed may end up hosting a semifinal game, but the second and third seeds from that division would be on the other side of the bracket and would end up at a stadium from one of the other divisions.

Now that I have laid all that out, here is an example. Below are some fictional standings based a 17-game schedule that loosely follow the actual 2009 NFL season.

West DivisionNorth DivisionSouth DivisionEast Division

Using those standings, here is how the 2009-2010 NFL Playoff tournament would have looked.

09-10 Playoffs

As discussed above, having New Orleans and Indianapolis in the same division could be a problem since the South Division can only have a single number one seed. However, the Saints would be the opposite sides of the playoff bracket, so this year's Super Bowl participants could still meet in the the big game in this fictional example.

Indianapolis and New Orleans being in the same division also presents a problem for next year's playoff bracket since those two cities will host Super Bowls XLVI and XLVII, respectively. Thus, they would host the two semifinal games in this bracket. To simplify things, I am just going to assume the Colts gets realigned to the North Division.

10-11 Playoffs

After that, I have to start assuming hosts for future Super Bowls. For Super Bowl XLVIII, I am going to assume the Giants and Jets win their bid to host the game in their new stadium.

11-12 Playoffs

For the following year, I am going just going on a wild-ass guess that Tampa will host Super Bowl XLVIII and start their cycle of hosting semifinal games.

12-13 Playoffs

A possible issue with my playoff proposal would be if a city is selected as host for a Super Bowl, but would be an unwilling, unable or inconvenient host for the semifinal games. A good example would be if London is awarded a Super Bowl as has been suggested. The simple solution to this issue is to have another city, such as Miami, serve as a stand-in for London for the two years of hosting semifinal games. In the cycle of hosting, London (with Miami as its stand-in) would be considered in the East Division. As a reward for serving as the stand-in, Miami would be the Super Bowl host immediately starting with next cycle. Basically, Miami would host four straight semifinal games and then the Super Bowl. They could also serve as hosts for Pro Bowl during this period and host the Pro Bowl for five straight years.

Year 1 - Miami hosts semifinal as stand-in for London (and possibly the Pro Bowl)
Year 2 - Miami hosts semifinal as stand-in for London (and possibly the Pro Bowl)
Year 3 - London host Super Bowl, Miami hosts semifinal (and possibly the Pro Bowl)
Year 4 - Miami hosts semifinal (and possibly the Pro Bowl)
Year 5 - Miami host Super Bowl (and possibly the Pro Bowl)

That is my proposal for the NFL playoffs. In my future posts on this topic, I am going to cover an innovative approach to the Pro Bowl plus an interesting suggestion for the NFL's contract with the television networks to broadcast games.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

That's Just Brilliant (-er)

I am currently working on my tax returns. Or avoiding working on my tax returns by typing this post. I have always done my taxes myself, no CPA or tax prep software. In the past, I have always used the old-fashioned pen-and-paper method, although this year I am looking into e-filing using free online forms.

Last year, my company sent out two copies of our 2008 W-2s. When I received my W-2s in mid-January this year instead of early February as usual, I just assumed the company was on the ball. I got an early start on my taxes a few weekends ago, but since I didn't have all the info, I put it aside to finish up later. When I received another set of W-2s in the mail, I didn't think any of it since we'd seen that show before. Only later did I noticed that the first set of W-2s that I had received weren't for 2009, but were yet another copy of my 2008 W-2s. Yes, I had started working on my 2009 returns using 2008 W-2s. Needless to say, I have now started over using my 2009 W-2s.

Monday, February 1, 2010

State of the Site Address

Beer Update: Yesterday, I did get around to consuming the last bottle of the first home brew batch. Last night, I put the second batch in bottles. Check back in two weeks for an update on the High Country Canadian Draft. ("O Canada, not my home nor my native land.")

Today is the first day of February, so I thought I would discuss the first month (give or take a day or three) of this site. Including yesterday's post, there were a total of 15 posts during the month of January. Seven of those posts were on the topic of sports with six of those being on football, particularly the NFL. The other sports post was on theme music for baseball players. There have been five posts that covered beer. (This post will be number six). Four of those posts were on the home brew with the other post about receiving beer-related gifts from El's family.

Quite unexpectedly, there have been 13 comments on my posts with only four of them being replies from me. Of course, Jennifer Love Hewitt (and her chest) generated the most discussion from my vast audience. My posts on sports are completely uninteresting, and my ventures into controversial fields seem to be duds. All in all, I would say things are going wonderful. Thanks for reading... or not reading as the case may be.