Archive for March, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Computer …

Posted in Personal with tags on March 19, 2010 by thelasthonestman

… I got way too busy, and I had to sacrifice content this week.

The plan was to blog during the day during the first round of the NCAA Tournament, much as I had last year.  Obviously, that didn’t happen.  I’ve got a million things going on and just not enough time to do them in, unfortunately, and something had to be sacrificed — in this case, that was the site.

I blame the calendar for this one, as the fact that my main two fantasy baseball leagues are drafting a week earlier this year (due to the Easter holiday weekend) has pushed my entire schedule for this time of the year forward and crammed too much to do in a smaller window.  I’m prepping my house for the arrival of guests who come in from out of town, I’m still finishing up a number of remodeling projects before I get set to finalize the refinancing of  my home loan (an odyssey of its own that’s worthy of an article when it’s finally over), my wife is preparing for a trip of her own out of town … and there seems to be a thousand other things vying for my time.  It’s enough to make me want to pull my hair out of my head.

But not this much hair

So here’s the deal — just like last year, the site will soon be going on it’s fantasy baseball hiatus until after my drafts are over.  I may have an update in me on Monday or Tuesday, but maybe not — we’ll just have to wait and see.  What I will have in store for everyone once I return, however (which should be March 29 or so) will be my second annual fantasy baseball predictions (which will be up too late for the guys in my league who come here to use them against me).  After that, we’ll be back to normal — or as close as we can get to it around here.

Thanks for you patience and for reading what goes up here, and keep checking back in a little over a week for my grand return.

Weekend Wrapup In The Form Of Bullet Points

Posted in Entertainment, NFL Football, Personal, Sports, Television, The Wrapups with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Since I had a busy schedule for the entire weekend, my posting on Friday had to be pushed back until today — in addition, since my schedule is still pretty hectic for the next couple of days, today’s  wrap-up is going to be briefer than normal, with a lot of short points rather than lengthier diatribes.  However, if time ends up allowing it after all, I’ll try to have something lengthier up later on — in the television world, I believe they would call that “bonus coverage”.  Or something like that.

But I wouldn’t necessarily count on it — I’m headed into the time of year when I’m preparing heavily for two main things: the plethora of fantasy baseball drafts I participate in, and arrival of several guests from out of town for the main one of those drafts.

Which means I have a brief vacation coming ahead — but not starting until next week — but it doesn’t mean we won’t have some great content upcoming as well.  I’ll have my second annual diary of the NCAA Tournament coming up on Thursday, and my notes on the upcoming fantasy baseball season will be arriving sometime around three weeks from now, just in time for the start of the season.

But in the interim, here comes my bullet point presentation on the weekend (and week) that was.  So without further ado, let’s get on with it, shall we?

— Lo and behold, the Chicago Bears apparently have an officially licensed NFL draft hat?  Don’t you actually need draft picks for that to come in handy?  Maybe I can get Jay Cutler to autograph one for me — I’m sure that will make up for the lack of any activity during the first day of the draft for my beloved Bears.

In other NFL news, there has been a flurry of other activity around the league.  In one of those moves, LaDainian Tomlinson has signed a two-year contract with the Jets, apparently to fill the role the departed Thomas Jones had with the team.  Unfortunately for New York, LT has lost a lot of tread off of the tires, and the likelihood of his making a positive impact with the team at 31 years of age and with nearly 3000 career carries isn’t good.  It’s much more likely that he’ll be taking away carries that should be going to the explosive Shonn Greene, which won’t help the Jets at all.

Meanwhile, Brady Quinn has been dealt to Denver in exchange for — well, not much of anything really.  Quinn never really got a chance to do anything in Cleveland, but he should at least be given an opportunity to compete for the starting job in Denver.  Of course, I’m not really sure it says much about your upside when Mike Holmgrem thinks that a washed-up, turnover machine like Jake Delhomme is a better option than you are.

— Instead of watching the draft, what I plan on doing is trying to catch up (before I fall behind) with the new WWII television series on HBO, The Pacific, which premiered last night.  The miniseries — which will run for ten hour-long episodes — is from some of the people who brought the critically acclaimed Band of Brothers to the small screen.  While Band focused on the European theater, The Pacific follows the action in the Pacific theater and the war waged against Japan.

If it’s anything as good as Band of Brothers, The Pacific will be well worth watching this spring and summer on HBO.

— Another good piece of television I’ve been watching for the last several weeks has been The World At War, airing on Friday nights (and repeated at other various times) on the Military Channel.

The World at War is a documentary originally run on ITV (a public service network in Great Britain) in 1973.  The series is noteworthy for a number of interviews with historic figures from the war (including Karl Donitz and Albert Speer), as well as raw footage from the time, much of which had never before been seen before the series was broadcast.

I remember commercials for the documentary series — then available on VCR tapes — being broadcast during local programming when I was younger, and never having seen it, I was thrilled at getting a chance to watch it now.  Even thirty-seven years after it originally aired, The World At War remains an excellent look back at the most momentous event of the 20th century.  While the documentary definitely has a more dated “look” to it, the content is relevant as ever.  For anyone who wants the whole series, it’s also available on Amazon for a great price as well.

Prepare For Things To Get Messy For Big Ben

Posted in News/Current Events, NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , on March 11, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Will this be the cover of the 2010 Steelers Media Guide?

So now Big Ben is claiming, in so many words, that “he did not have sex with that woman” (or something along those lines) — the said woman being his accuser in the currently-unfolding sexual assault complaint that Roethlesberger finds himself embroiled in.  However, he does admit to having “sexual contact” with his accuser — at least according to this report by MSNBC.  That’s a nice way of looking at it — by chance, is he getting advice from former President Clinton these days on how to distinguish between sex acts?

All kidding aside, this sordid tale is going to end up as a major black eye for not only Roethlisberger, but for the Steelers and the NFL as well, before it’s all over.  Look, we all know that the average professional athlete sees women throwing themselves at them on a regular basis.  We all know that random sex is pretty much a case of “where and when do you want it?” situation with those athletes as well.  But that doesn’t mean that we want to know all about it and have the private lives of our athletes turned into a version of a “Letters to Penthouse” column either.

You want a great example of a celebrity keeping their private life just that? Look no further than Derek Jeter.

Even if you want to give the benefit of the doubt to Roethlisberger at this point, it’s hard to be anything but extremely critical of his seeming immaturity.  If the stories filtering out about his behavior on the bar circuit are to believed, the Steelers quarterback looks to be living his life with motto of  “I get older, they stay the same age.”   Hitting on coeds in a small-town college bar isn’t anything you’d hear of Derek Jeter doing, is it?  Or showing up in photos half-baked by alcohol?  Jeter lived the bachelor life for a long time, with a veritable all-star lineup of famous beauties coming in and out of his world, and the embarrassing photos and stories we’ve seen of Roethlisberger’s behavior in the last year were something you never saw from someone like the Yankees’ shortstop.  I’m not begrudging Big Ben to fight for his right to party, but a little discretion and common sense deifintely seems to be lacking on his part.

Of course, we may be looking at something far more serious than a frat boy trapped in an adult quarterback’s body.  Roethisberger’s story of this latest dust-up already smells fishy, and (again according to MSNBC) the Steelers’ star is not consenting to another police interview, nor is he willing to provide a DNA sample to investigators (as of yet).  The adage is “innocent until proven guilty”, but the other adage “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” also applies — and in Big Ben’s case, there’s been a whole lot of smoke in the past year.

The interesting thing to me at this point is the lack of comment from the NFL on the matter.  Commissioner Roger Goodell may find himself quickly on the hot seat to discipline Roethlisberger at some point as the situation unfolds, even if the case doesn’t go to trial — even if Roethlisberger is never charged by police.  The Steelers QB is cultivating an image — fair or not — right now of a wealthy athlete who thinks the rules of society don’t apply to him, particularly when it comes to how he treats the opposite sex.  One isolated incident wouldn’t cause this shift of perception — but the disturbing pattern of events that have followed Roethlisberger over the last twelve months (starting with the rape accusation against him by the former Lake Tahoe employee last year) have many people believing that he is a serial offender and already proclaiming him guilty.  Guilty of what?  There’s a segment of the public that isn’t going to wait to find out what.

And considering the hard line that Goodell has taken with other NFL players during his tenure as commissioner, at some point, he’s going to have to address the issue with Roethlisberger — and hand out some sort of punishment — or he’ll be facing some uncomfortable questions about the fairness of the NFL’s conduct policy — and whether or not it’s truly handed out indiscriminately.  With the exception of Jacksonville receiver Matt Jones, all of the players who have been subject to suspensions have been African-American.  Except for current Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (who at the time of his suspension, had already pleaded guilty to federal charges of dog fighting), none of those who’ve been suspended had anywhere near the name recognition of Roethlisberger, nor were they high-profile players at the game’s most visible position.  In addition, none were faced with accusations as serious as Roethlisberger has faced.

Goodell will have to do something at some point, particularly if more ugly details emerge about this latest incident.  Even if he didn’t commit a crime, Roethlisberger is certainly engaging in conduct that has the potential to embarrass and damage the league’s carefully-crafted image — nothing in the NFL policy states that a player has to be convicted in a court of law first in order to face punishment — and if the NFL chooses to turn its head and wait for the mess to simply go away, they’re going to be rightly accused of utilizing a double standard for their “star” players — as well as a double standard when it comes to white athletes behavior aside of that of black ones.    Both would be potential quagmires that I would guess Goodell wants no part of wading through.  If he doesn’t speak up soon, he may find out though that he doesn’t have a choice.

Watching Holmes On Holmes Might Save You A Lot Of Money

Posted in Entertainment, Personal, Television with tags , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Mike Holmes, star of the show about renovations gone wrong -- Holmes on Holmes

Since I started my home renovation almost three years ago, I’ve found myself watching a lot of programming on HGTV and their sister channel, DIY.  On a lot of these shows, I’ve seen ordinary people — not trained or licensed in home remodeling or repair — tackling a number of hefty projects around their houses and making it look (relatively) easy in the process.

But it’s not anywhere near that easy for people to do a lot of that kind of work – something I’ve found out numerous times during my own project.  In cases where the job was overly complex, or required skills beyond our capability — like the plumbing or our bathroom tiling jobs, for example — we hired out skilled contractors to handle the jobs for us.  When it’s something that’s crucially vital to the safety and security of your home, hiring a professional should be the safest way to go, right?

Except it’s not.  I’m thankful that the people we hired were tremendously professional and did the jobs they were hired for in a timely fashion and correctly (according to the codes and standards required by the state), but it’s a fact that there are a lot of contractors out there who don’t know what they’re doing at all, or who bite off jobs that are well beyond the scope of what they’re capable of doing — and the homeowners who hire them often find themselves in situations that leave them with structural problems, unfinished jobs, and safety issues — all while costing them ungodly amounts of money in the process.

My education as to how prevalent these situations actually are has been coming lately from the HGTV show Holmes on Holmes, the current season premiere of which will air on HGTV Sunday night at 9:00 ET.  The show, which originated in Canada, follows around contractor Mike Holmes as he attempts to repair and fix botched jobs by contractors who range from the inept to the flat-out unethical.  The show has been one of the highest-rated shows on HGTV Canada during its run, and it’s been running almost daily in the afternoon on HGTV the last couple of weeks, where I’ve been able to catch it.

Needless to say, the show has been a complete eye-opener.  In episode after episode, I’ve watched families whose lives had been driven almost to ruin, whose finances had been all but wiped out, by contractors who either couldn’t — or wouldn’t — do the job properly.  There have been examples of contractors who literally stole tens of thousands of dollars from helpless homeowners, often leaving them with houses that were in ruin and — in some cases — unsafe to live in.  In every one of those cases, it was left up to Holmes and his crew of workers to fix the problems, with the price tag largely being absorbed by the show and on more than one occasion, Holmes himself.

In every one of these cases, the family afflicted hired a contractor who seemed to be the right person for the job.  But what I’ve learned over the course of watching the show is that there are far too many people out there who aren’t doing quality work the way it should be done — and that it’s really easy to find yourself a victim of a botched job if you’re not careful.  For anyone attempting to embark upon a renovation project who’s looking to hire someone for the job, just watching a few of these episodes could save you thousands of dollars and countless headaches.

MY spider-sense was immediately tingling when the contractor dodged the question of permits for our renovation project

How easy could it be to fall for a one of these con artists depicted on the show?  When my home renovation project was started, the first contractor my wife and I talked to about doing the framing on our extension seemed eager enough to take the job — but he wasn’t able to give specifics on budgeting for material or labor, he wasn’t able to give a clear and concise plan for how the project would unfold, and he was evasive when it came to discussing the needs for permits or adhering to code — all red flags according to Holmes (and to me at the time).  We thankfully passed on doing business with this guy, but I had a relative who did hire him for a much smaller job — and who got taken when he took money from her and never did the work.   I remember hearing about it and thinking “That could have been us — but far worse”.   As thankful as I am that we apparently avoided any mishaps along the way of our renovation, I wish we had known then what we’ve learned since — and that I’d seen a show like Holmes on Holmes way back then.

Holmes deserves tremendous credit for shining a light on some of the problems in the building industry, in which the contractors have all kinds of protection within the law, but homeowners have far fewer.  His show is well worth checking out if you have the time — and if you’re thinking of doing a remodeling project.  You just may end up saving yourself a lot of money down the road if you do.

Second Iron Man 2 Trailer Is Out — And It Looks Good

Posted in Comic Books, Entertainment, Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2010 by thelasthonestman

In case you missed it, the second trailer for the movie Iron Man 2, scheduled for release on May 7, has been released.

There’s not much for me to say other than I like what I see so far.  I’ve become a huge Robert Downey, Jr. fan, and there isn’t much I wouldn’t enjoy watching him in these days.  No good comic book movie works without a heavyweight villain, and even though Whiplash wouldn’t have been my first choice for an adversary, Rourke should bring enough weight to the role to make him memorable.  If it had been me, I would have just cast Rourke as the same character playing either the Titanium Man or the Crimson Dynamo (the Russian-based character of Whiplash in this film takes a lot of its elements from either of them, and it’s not like we’re going to not going to have other armored bad guys either, watching the trailer).  But I trust Jon Favreau and Marvel at this point to give us a winner, so that’s me being extremely picky.

Other high points of the trailer (for me) was seeing Scarlett Johansson actually in action as the Black Widow (the costume looks fantastic and she looks absolutely fantastic moving around in it during the trailer) and Don Cheadle in the War Machine armor.  Seeing Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury again means we’re also going to get some more development towards the upcoming Avengers movie as well.  I also love the chemistry between Downey and Gwyneth Paltrow.

I don’t see a whole lot of movies in the theater, but on opening weekend for this one, I’ll be there.  I’m sure I won’t be alone — Iron Man 2 already looks like it could be the big hit of the summer.

The NFL Off-Season Is Heating Up — But The Bears’ Chances Are Still Ice Cold

Posted in News/Current Events, NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , , on March 8, 2010 by thelasthonestman

It’s probably going to surprise you — but as a Chicago Bears fan, I’m not at all happy about the way their off-season has gone.

"So we'll line Marshall up as a receiver, and put Holt and Bruce on the other side of the field for Warner. What's that? What do you mean it's not still 1999?"

First, there’s the fact that almost all of the people responsible for the debacle of the 2009 season — head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo among them — are back in Chicago, making me less than optimistic that things are going to be any different in the Windy City for 2010.  Worse yet, the possibility that I talked about way back in November has unfortunately become a reality:  Mike Martz is the new offensive coordinator for the Bears.  On this, I can **barely** contain my enthusiasm.

I said then that hiring Martz was only going to compound the problems with the team’s direction, and I’ll predict it again now.  Jay Cutler, Johnny Knox, and Devin Hester/Devin Aromashodu are not Kurt Warner, Torry Holt, and Issac Bruce — a reality that the Bears “braintrust” seems all to eager to ignore.  And of course — the Bears best receiver (or certainly most talented one) is probably tight end Greg Olsen.  So it makes all the sense in the world that one of Martz’ first moves was to decide that Olsen is a bad fit for his almighty system.  The Bears are apparently shopping Olsen to the rest of the NFL, which means that Cutler will have one less quality target next year — at least one that’s actually wearing a Bears jersey – and Olsen, who’s shown signs of emerging as a valuable pass-catching tight end, will blossom with some other lucky team.  Oh, joy.

Pictured: Not Marshall Faulk

Granted, the Bears have shown a willingness to open up the checkbooks for a change this off-season — but what exactly have they been buying?  For starters, they got a running back in Chester Taylor who’s a decent enough back as a backup, but someone who already is 30 years old, has seen over 1000 carries in the NFL, and — and let’s face it — just isn’t all that good, having averaged 3.8 YPC over the last two seasons with a better line than the Bears have.  The word was that Martz viewed him as a poor man’s Marshall Faulk — I think he’ll be more along the lines of a poor man’s Kevin Faulk, at best.  They also acquired the 30 year-old Julius Peppers — signed to a huge multi-year contract, despite looking uninspired and erratic while in his last year in Carolina — and a pass-blocking tight end in Brandon Manumaleuna.

Add it all up, and the Bears are looking like the NFL North’s version of the Washington Redskins, minus the meddling owner.  At this rate, I’ll have to make sure to request a vomit bag along with my purchase of the Sunday Ticket to watch Bears games next fall.

On the other hand, at least I have the NFL draft to look forward to, and all of the picks in the first two rounds that the Bears … errr … never mind.  Let’s forget I even brought that up, shall we?

— The other big news of the last week involved Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who for the second time in less than a year, finds himself in the middle of allegations regarding his conduct with women.  After a civil suit was filed against him by former Harrah’s employee Andrea McNulty last July (a lawsuit which is still ongoing), the Pittsburgh quarterback now finds himself the target of accusations of sexual assault following a night out in the bars and nightspots of Milledgeville, Georgia.

Sometimes, throwing into double coverage looks good when compared to the other ways you can show bad judgement

I like to reserve judgement on these type of situations until all of the facts are in, but there’s one thing I’m pretty certain of already: once might be an aberration, but multiple times is a trend.  There’s no way to know for certain now what happened in either case — and we’ll probably never know 100% for certain no matter how much time passes — but it’s pretty obvious to me that Roethlisberger is guilty of putting himself into situations he shouldn’t be getting in, and if nothing else, he’s clearly exhibiting bad judgement.  If it turns out that Roethlisberger is guilty in either case, then I hope the judicial system tosses the book at him and that his NFL career comes to a richly deserved crashing halt.  Whether or not he is, however, should prove to be a drama that plays out in the news for the next several months — which if the news today that the quarterback has hired a prominent Atlanta attorney to represent him in the matter means anything, it’s that it won’t be pretty.

Back On Monday

Posted in Personal with tags on March 7, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Thankfully, my aunt is faring far better today than she was a week ago at this time.  What that — and a little more free time on my hands — means is that I’ll have something up for your perusal later on Monday.  Thanks for your patience, and we’ll see you back here then.