Archive for May, 2009

A Weekend In Biloxi Means I’m Running A Day Behind

Posted in Personal on May 31, 2009 by thelasthonestman

So my wife and I spent the weekend in Biloxi, Mississippi — work took her out-of-state, and having nothing substantial to do myself this weekend, I went along with her.  While the weather was wonderful, and the area shows signs of rebirth as we head towards four years since Hurricane Katrina battered this part of the Gulf Coast, there was only one thing I could find to complain about.  The hotel that we stayed at had a problem with the television reception — apparently in our room only — and we were left able to only pull in local channels for the weekend.  Ugh.   With the hotel booked up, we were stuck with the tough decision between Married With Children reruns and infomercials for our late-night entertainment.  Thankfully, we had other endeavours occupying our time for the weekend, so it wasn’t such a big deal.  But boy, was I happy to get home to my DirecTV.

Feel The Joy

Feel The Joy

While my television viewing was stifled, I did have access to the Internet with my laptop — not that I did anything substantial with that time.  So I’m using Sunday to relax and regroup, and we’ll push our schedule for this week back a day:  Fantasy Notes for the week will be tomorrow, and Ro-Sham-Bo goodness will be on Tuesday.

Now, if you’ll excuse me — I’ve got some premium televison watching to catch up on the rest of this evening.

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When You Don’t Have Something Good To Say — Then Say It In A Wrap-Up Instead

Posted in News/Current Events, Rants, Ro-Sham-Bo Award, Sports, Television, The Wrapups on May 28, 2009 by thelasthonestman

We’re getting ready to go into the weekend, but with my Friday pretty much spoken for already due to other commitments, I decided to get something up for your enjoyment today.  As is always the case with my wrap-up entries, here’s a handful of things not worthy of their own lengthy musings, but still worth mentioning:

The NBA is NOT going to let me lose in 5 games -- just you wait and see.

The NBA is NOT going to let me lose in 5 games -- just you wait and see.

— If I were a betting man, I would be putting everything I could on a Cleveland victory tonight in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.  It’s been clear to me that, sadly for Cavaliers fans, Orlando is the better team right now, or at least they match up with Cleveland in a way that even LeBron James’ brilliance hasn’t been able to overcome.  Indeed, if not for that tremendous buzzer-beater by King James at the end of Game 2, this series would already have ended in a sweep.

So why my love for Cleveland tonight?  Let’s face it — the NBA wants a Cleveland-Los Angeles NBA Finals, and with it, a Kobe-LeBron match-up.  And in the past, what the NBA wants — it tends to get, usually with the help of some questionable officiating to nudge things along in the preferred direction.  Do I sound like a conspiracy theorist?  Maybe — but I’ve also seen too many NBA games over the years — particularly crucial playoffs games — influenced by incompetent (or shady) officials in a way that has been an embarrassment to the league.

No matter what David Stern or any other NBA executive might say publicly, the league is counting on the Kobe-LeBron pairing; a Orlando-Denver Finals might cause Stern’s head to actually explode if it somehow came to pass.  But it won’t.  Not unless both the Magic and the Nuggets manage to completely outclass their opposition in the remaining games ahead.

The Lakers are safe — they’ll probably lose Game 6 but will win Game 7 in Los Angeles.  Cleveland, however, is looking at a daunting task — coming back down 3-1 in a series will require a Herculean effort, particularly since, as I’ve said already, the Magic look to be the better team to boot.

Not to say they won’t get some help from the officials — at least enough that the series won’t end tonight.  Back home for Game 5, the Cavaliers would be a favorite anyway, but I’ll repeat myself by saying that I’d put anything I could on Cleveland winning tonight, no matter what type of odds I had to lay.  The true test of the NBA’s — errrr — interest — in who wins this series will more than likely come down to Game 6 back in Orlando.  I’m willing to predict now that I’d be absolutely stunned if that game (assuming it happens) doesn’t have some of the Usual Officiating Suspects working the game, and I’m already calling the game out ahead of time as a candidate for one of the worst officiated contests you’ll see in the playoffs (which when you’re talking about the NBA, the league with the worst officiating of all the major sports, is saying something).  To win, Orlando’s going to not just have to be better than Cleveland — they’re going to have to be a whole lot better.  Can they be?  We’ll see in the next few days.

Meanwhile, with an always interesting take on the NBA and its officiating problems, check out this column by Bill Simmons on ESPN.  As always, it’s an entertaining read.

Better this than a steady diet of reality television

Better this than a steady diet of reality television

— It’s taken every bit of resolve I could muster not to publish a Ro-Sham-Bo Award entry mid-week, instead of waiting until Monday to unveil  it.  The piece is already partly written and I could have easily finished it for publication either yesterday or today — but I managed to resist the temptation and held off.  I almost wish I hadn’t said on Sunday that I wouldn’t be handing out the hardware this week due to the holiday — I could have just given out a belated set of honors and gotten this piece up.

But this will give you something to wait for, and trust me when I say, I’m not going to have any less venom for this upcoming week’s losers winners.  The beauty about the Ro-Sham-Bo pieces is that they tend to inflame my own passions so much, taht not striking while the initial idea hits me usually does nothing to lessen the intensity of my commentary — or the fun I have in putting the piece together.

In the meantime, until Monday, here’s your only hint about the subject matter:  it has to due with Reality Television, which as a rule, I absolutely abhor.  And by the time Monday is over, you should have a good idea why.  If you’ve been watching some of the past week’s current events, you probably have a good idea as to who I’ll be discussing, but that shouldn’t keep you from tuning in next week anyway.

It's like Robin Hood robbing from the rich to give to the poor -- except in reverse

It's like Robin Hood robbing from the rich to give to the poor -- except in reverse

— So Congress recently enacted some even tougher limitations on issuers of credit cards.  What does that mean to you, the good customer who’s paid their bills on times and has never missed payments or threatened to go into default?  Well, more than likely,  it means that it’s you who’s going to get screwed — again — by lenders trying to make up for a string of their own bad decisions.

As this MSN article details, there’s going to be a lot of changes ahead for people who use credit cards, and unfortunately, any of the good that might have come from the bill President Obama signed will get wiped away by the credit card issuers attempt to squeeze more money out of the people who really don’t deserve that type of treatment: the customers who have done the right things when it comes to using credit responsibly.  Get ready for high annual fees, jacked-up interest rates, a loss of rewards programs, and other new charges — even if you’ve never missed a payment or have done nothing but pay your bills on time.

We can lament the unfairness of all of this — after all, it’s not your fault or mine that so many of these lenders made the decision to issue credit to risks who clearly shouldn’t have gotten it in the first place — but the lending institutions have already essentially made it clear that they intend to make up for these losses on the backs of their good customers.  So — what to do?

As the article I linked to advises, clear away as much of your debt as possible as a start.  Then, stop using the cards of companies who plan to take advantage of you, the responsible consumer.  If they can’t or won’t treat you better, then they don’t deserve your business.

From my end, I’ve already detailed my own battles with Bank of America and Chase National when it came to their raising my APR without cause and basically attempting to bend me over to make up for their losses elsewhere.  Currently, those accounts remain open, but with no balances attached — meaning there’s no interest for them to collect from me on any given month.  There are no annual fees (so far) on either account, and my wife and I are not even using them for our day-to-day transactions like we used to (that spending now is done on a different account or with our debit card).  Essentially, their greed cost them the substantial business they were getting from me.  However, since I’m worried about their closing our accounts due to inactivity (another tactic currently being used by credit card companies), I do plan to begin using each of them again shortly — to pay 0.01 a month on my television satellite bill on-line (an option I believe is available).  That way, my account will actually begin to cost them money to maintain — proper justice, in my eyes, for my crappy treatment from them.

If you’ve been unfairly treated by your card issuers, then find a way to stop giving them your business.  If enough of their “valued” customers begin to desert them, then hopefully the message that treating their best customers like crap isn’t the way run their business will start to sink in.

— I’ll try to be back over the weekend with another edition of my fantasy baseball column and then again on Monday with my Ro-Sham-Bo entry.  We’ll see you back then.

Things I Learned This Week, Fantasy Edition (5/26)

Posted in Fantasy Baseball, Sports on May 26, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Oh, how I might have hated Florida Marlins reliever Hayden Penn.

longoriaHow much hate would I have had, you might ask?  My reply — more than you can possibly imagine.  As to why?  Watching him drill my star hitter, Evan Longoria, with a fastball in the elbow during Saturday night’s game in Miami and chasing him from the contest was enough reason for me.  If Longoria had ended up injured for any length of time, I could pretty much have written my fantasy season off.  And if that had happened, then I would have feared for the safety of Hayden Penn.

Of course, if that had been the case, writing this piece was probably not the best thing I could do, as it would go a long way towards proving motive and intent, if all my years of watching Law & Order are to be believed.  But you wouldn’t have ratted me out, would you?  I didn’t think so.

What that does reminds me of this week, however, is the lesson of how unkind and unfair injuries are to a fantasy owner sometimes.  If you’re drafting someone notoriously made of glass — like an Eric Chavez or a Rich Harden — and bemoaning your luck when they inevitably end up on the DL, then you only have yourself to blame.  Predicting guys like that to get injured is almost as easy as predicting that the sun rises in the east.

On the other hand, there’s nothing more frustrating that drafting a guy who’s supposed to be an iron man — only to watch them go down for a lengthy stretch, crippling your fantasy hopes with one trip to Dr. James Andrews.  You can ask any owner of Brandon Webb, for example, how they’ve liked seeing their ace sit on the DL for almost the entire season — or the owner of Akinori Iwamura, who watched their man taken out for the remainder of the season in a freak play this past weekend (the loss of Webb would clearly be worse than the loss of Iwamura, but the principle is the same).  From my perspective, even though I dodged the Longoria bullet (he was back in the lineup on Sunday), I’m still dealing with the frustration of watching Joey Votto sitting with his inner ear infection and Jose Valverde still recovering from his injured calf.   Sometimes it isn’t just the best team that wins it all — it’s the best team that can dodge the injury bug.

— Watching Joe Mauer absolutely dominate major league pitching since his return from his own injury issues makes me think — haven’t I seen this guy play somewhere else before?  And then it hits me — I have see him play already.

240px-HobbsYep, watching Mauer right now is like watching Roy Hobbs of The Natural come to life.  He’s been absolutely unstoppable in the 81 at-bats since he returned, crushing an unbelievable 11 HR and adding 31 RBI to go with his video-game-like .444 average.  His OPS?  1.414!  Mauer is on a completely different level than everyone else right now, , putting up production that would be welcome no matter what position he plays — and that is absolutely golden when it’s coming out of a catcher slot.

What has to be even sweeter for Mauer owners is the realization that they likely got the Twins’ star for a lower price on draft day than they would have ordinarily.  Mauer was hampered by back pain during the spring, and coupled with the lingering effects of kidney surgery in the off-season, the catcher started the season on the DL.  There was rampant specualtion as to how much time Mauer might miss and how his game would be affected — I’ll be the first to admit that I was scared off entirely on drafting him.  Whoops.

Of course, he won’t keep up this pace, but there’s no reason to think that the power is for real — he is only 26 years old, after all, and his physical gifts have always suggested that there was someone there who could drive the ball out of the park with regularity.  I wouldn’t expect 40 HR — but are 25-30 out of reach?  Not at all.  Mauer was already one of the top fantasy catchers in baseball last year based on the edge he gives in batting average, but this year he looks to be taking a step to fantasy superstardom.  Even with Victor Martinez having a tremendous rebound season, Mauer is the man to own behind the plate.

STR— If you looked at my roster in my main league and wondered why my team was struggling, it wouldn’t take too long to realize that Twins starter Francisco Liriano is a primary culprit.  Like many fantasy owners around the country, I was counting on the Minnesota left-hander to help anchor my pitching staff;  instead, he’s threatening to be the iceberg to my team’s Titanic.

After the beating the Red Sox delivered to him on Monday — yet another debacle that I had seen coming as soon as I realized he’d be facing them when I saw the schedule earlier in the week — Liriano is sitting with an unsightly 2-6 mark and a ghastly 6.42 ERA.   I’ve seen all of Liriano’s starts this season — it hasn’t been too hard, since he’s often been out of the game before I could get too settled in — and not only does he look nothing like the wunderkind we saw back in 2006 (pre-Tommy John surgery), he doesn’t even resemble the pitcher I saw in the final months of last season.

Liriano’s lost some velocity since his surgery, but more importantly, Minnesota had worked on his delivery while he’d been recovering, changing his motion in an attempt to keep him healthy, and that may have had some impact on the ridiculous movement the lefty used to have on his offerings.  Liriano looks incredibly hittable now, little more than a batting practice pitcher masquerading as a major league starter.  The Red Sox hit everything hard off of him today; once Liriano had gone through the order once relatively unscathed, the wheels came completely off — and without an Jacoby Ellsbury caught stealing and a great grab by Carlos Gomez to end the third on a ball crushed by Jason Vartek, his final line could have looked a lot worse.

I’d like to be optimistic here, but I can’t.  Liriano’s shown me nothing to indicate he’s ever again going to be that magical talent we once saw.  There were a lot of comparisons between Johan Santana and Liriano back then, but Liriano’s current struggles should remind us just how rare a talent Johan was (and still is) and should be a caution that, for every Santana that we’ve lucky enough to witness, there’s hundreds of others who never reach that level for one reason or another.  Liriano has a lot of work to do if he wants to be lumped in with the former, and not the latter.

We’ll be back next week with some more fantasy baseball goodies.  Until then, may your days be better than my team’s was today.

Happy Memorial Day

Posted in News/Current Events on May 24, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Memorial Day[1]

A happy Memorial Day to everyone out there.  I hope everyone has a safe holiday — to all of you who have them, enjoy those three-day weekends!

It’s easy for all of us to forget how fortunate we are to live in a country where we have the freedoms we do;  this weekend, I implore everyone to remember those who gave their lives in order to protect that freedom.   Several members of my family served in the military in their lifetimes — many had been in the service as far back as World War II — and I have always been in awe of what they’ve done.  My thoughts tonight are with them, those who have fallen in the line of duty, and those who still wear our uniform today.

In the meantime, the holiday means we’ll be skipping the Ro-Sham-Bo festivities until next week.  On Tuesday, I’ll be back with this week’s entry of What I Learned In Fantasy Baseball.  Until then, have a great Memorial Day.

An NBA Playoffs For The Ages

Posted in NBA Basketball, Sports on May 23, 2009 by thelasthonestman
LeBron James sticking a dagger in the heart of the Magic last night

LeBron James sticking a dagger in the heart of the Magic last night

If you haven’t been watching the NBA playoffs so far, you’ve been missing out.

The NBA has come a long way from when I first started watching sports.  Once upon a time, the league was irrelevant enough that the deciding game of the NBA Finals was shown on national television — on tape delay!  If you can’t imagine a sporting event with that much importance being relegated to the local news announcer saying, “If you’re planning to watch the game following this broadcast, then turn your eyes away from the screen now …”, then believe me when I say that was life in the NBA in the late 1970’s, pre-Jordan/Bird/Magic.

Now, every game of the playoffs is televised live, with in-depth (and some not-so-in-depth) analysis to follow.  And in 2009, there’s been more to talk about than in any post-season of recent memory.

We’ve already seen a number of classic series so far, and we’re not even to the NBA Finals yet.  We had the Boston-Chicago match-up, which was arguably the greatest opening round series in the history of the playoffs, if not one of the greatest playoffs series ever period.  There was high drama in the Dallas-Denver match-up in the 2nd round, the seven-game classic between the tottering defending champ Celtics and Orlando, and the surprisingly close near-upset between the Rockets and the Lakers.

And now, we’ve already seen four games in the Conference Finals that have all been thrillers.  There’s not a lot separating these four teams right now, and as a fan without a biased rooting interest (since my Bulls and my father’s Celtics are both now gone) it looks like any of these teams could eventually be hoisting the trophy above their heads by the time these playoffs are over.  In addition, there’s compelling stories all around:  Kobe’s quest to finally win a title out of the shadow of Shaq, and Phil Jackson’s quest to pass Red Aurebach for the number of all-time championships won; there’s Orlando looking for its first title, and Dwight Howard’s attempts to emerge as one of the elite players in the NBA; and there’s Denver looking for its first championship, as Carmelo Anthony takes his game to another level along side his underrated teammate Chauncey Billips.  What’s not to like here?

Oh, yeah — there’s this other fellow you may have heard of still playing by the name of LeBron James.  As it turns out, he’s pretty good too.  All season long, the NBA’s MVP has been taking his game to unheard of levels, and his effort in last night’s Game Two against the Magic was his latest display of refusing to let his team lose.  The three-pointer he hit with time expiring to give the Cavs a miracle win — after the game (and series) had seemed lost — will be the stuff of legend in Cleveland, especially if the Cavs end up winning it all.  As a Bulls fan, it reminded me of  a play known simply as “The Shot”, Michael Jordan’s game-winner over Craig Ehlo some two decades ago against these same Cavaliers — now, the fans in Cleveland have finally felt what it’s like to have that type of ending from the winning side.

I’m not sure if there are any adjectives left to describe James, who has lived up to every bit of hyped that was heaped upon his shoulders when he entered the league.  In my eyes, he’s the best player in the league, hands down, he’s the best player I’ve seen play since Jordan (and yes, he’s better than Kobe ever was), and he’s got a chance to cement himself as one of the greatest players of all-time — and what better place to do so than in one of the most thrilling, wild, and exciting playoffs of recent memory?

Trust me when I say, if you’re not watching the NBA Playoffs now, you’re missing out.  The good news is, though, we’ve still got a lot of it left to go — so you’ve still got time.

Update On The Car Warranty Scam

Posted in News/Current Events, Personal, Rants on May 21, 2009 by thelasthonestman

updateLast week, I posted an article detailing my own experience with the “Car Warranty” scam, which had become a nationwide nuisance over recent months.

Well, apparently, the FTC has managed to pull the plug on the entire operation, filing suit against both the promoter of the phony extended warranties, a company by the name of Transcontinental Warranties, and the company making the robocalls, a company called Voice Touch.  Both companies have also had their assets frozen by the federal court in Chicago where the suit was filed.

I’m sure everyone will agree with me that this is awesome news.  The credit card interest rates call I (and many of others) have also gotten seems to be cut from the same illegal cloth, and the hope should be that a quick ending for that group is on the way as well.

How Did I Get Here Already — And Where Do I Go Next?

Posted in Personal on May 19, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Has it already been five months since I started this blog?  By a quick look at the calendar, evidently so.  And lo and behold, this is my 100th post on the site since I began — so let’s have an anniversary party!

No -- not THAT kind of party

No -- not THAT kind of party

I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank the loyal group of people who’ve followed me on this site since I’ve started, and who’ve given their support simply by bothering to click on whatever the latest subject I’ve been ranting on about is.  I’m proud to say that the site will be going over 20,000 views since its inception at some point today;  while that pales in comparison to any number of other sites out there, it’s still a lot more people than I thought would be visiting my little corner of the Internet when I started working on this project.  And the truth be told, if even one person has read something here that’s entertained them or made them think for one second about anything they might not have otherwise — then doing this has been well worth it in my eyes.

The intent behind this blog was to get me in the habit of writing on a regular basis again, and to give me some much needed work to warm me up for a return to fiction writing.  I have my finished novel that needs polishing before I hope to see it published, and I have some new ideas brewing around in my head that I’m looking forward to getting out and onto the page.  Working on this blog has given me some additional confidence in that respect — I feel more like a “writer” now than I ever have before — and I think I’m much better prepared to continue on in my quest to make a real career out of putting words together in my attempts to say something relevant or meaningful.

Of course, reading this entry may sound like I’m using this occasion to wrap up the blog once and for all — but don’t despair!  That’s not the case at all!  While I said a week ago that I’d be posting a little less often here — mainly because I don’t want to burn myself out, and there’s times when I just need to take a step back and take a deep breath away from the keyboard — I plan to continue on updating this blog for as long as the desire strikes me to do so.  And that should still be for a while to come, as there’s all kinds of subjects I haven’t talked about yet, and a world of events in the future that will warrant discussion — as long as that’s the case, I hope to be here making myself heard.

In addition, I’m toying with the idea of using this forum as a publishing point for some of my works of fiction as well — either some of my unpublished short stories, or maybe a preview of my novel.  I don’t know how feasible that’ll be, or if that’s a direction I would definitely want to go, but just the fact that it’s possible represents to me the incredible opportunity the Internet has opened up for people like me to communicate themselves to the world around them.

Again, I thank everyone who comes here and I hope I can continue to talk about enough things so that something catches your interest once in a while.  Meantime, I strongly encourage you to tell anyone and everyone about The Last Honest Man and invite them to check out the blog.   Coming up in the next few weeks:  More fantasy baseball insight (for whatever that might be worth), some additional comic book related posting (included my promised look at the Batman Animated Series), a look back at one of the most revolutionary video game systems (and my own personal favorite), the Intellivision, and as always — a lot of Ro-Sham-Bo Winners to mock.  Until then, enjoy!