Saturday, April 29, 2006

Oakland Wanted A Quarterback In The First Round?

Ever since Oakland released Kerry Collins in the off-season, critics have linked the Raiders with an urge and/or need for a quarterback. There are many reasons for this. Lets recap: Oakland drafts quarterback Andrew Walter in the 3rd round of the 2005 NFL Draft. The team enters the season with Kerry Collins at QB, Collins is pulled for backup (2001 2nd round draft pick) Marques Tuiasosopo, Tuiasosopo is pulled for Collins and season ends with Collins throwing 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions (ranked 6th in in NFL passing yards and ranked 10th in NFL touchdowns.) Collins is now a free agent and is contemplating retirement. Tui started 1 game and was tossed around like a rag doll (he did throw a touchdown) but remains with the team. In the off-season, Oakland signed former Saints starting quarterback Aaron Brooks to a 1 year deal.

A lot of the problems should fall on the shoulders of Oakland offensive line, which was pretty offensive. We'll start by saying that they need help at guard. They need to move Robert Gallery to his natural position. They have tried to plug the line holes with veterans but it hasn't helped. (Hint: Consider drafting a guard as early as the 4th round, guys.) Whatever quarterback they use, he'll need protection. Granted, a 1 year deal with a veteran usually means that he is there to groom someone for the position. Hence, the talking heads pushing the idea that Oakland would take a quarterback with the #7 pick in the draft. Many expected they would take Vince Young and others said Matt Leinart (Oakland likes California players.) It didn't happen (as of noon PST the team drafted Michael Huff a much needed defensive back.

Ahhh, why wouldn't the team want to draft a quarterback? That would be because the team and many fans view Andrew Walter as the team's quarterback of the future. I know, why didn't he get thrown into a game last year during a lousy season if he was that good? Great question. Walter had a great year in 2004 leading Arizona to an 8-3 record and became the Pac-10's all-time touchdown leader breaking a mark held by John Elway (recently broken again by Matt Leinart.) Why didn't Walter get drafted higher than 3rd round then? During the last game of the 2004 season, Walter suffered a 3rd degree shoulder separation which affected his draft status (originally expected to be a 1st round prospect.) Walter reportedly was injured during training camp and was held back for the remainder of 2005 to allow the shoulder and groin injuries to heal. Walter is expected to compete with Brooks and Tuiasosopo for the starting quarterback position. Teams usually carry 3 quarterbacks into a season. If Oakland drafted another, they would likely be cutting Tuiasosopo (which still can happen.)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

...It's A Gas, Gas, Gas

I guess that I've become rather numb to the rise in the price of gasoline. After all, as a scarce non-renewable resource, the price isn't going to get cheaper over time. But, a few days ago I started relating it to other things. Statistics show that we go through 20 million barrels of oil a day in the U.S. Of course gasoline is a major consumer of that oil but there are the thousands of petroleum-based products on the market (CDs, cosmetics, auto polish, safety glass, PVC pipes, industrial cleaners, wire insulation, printing ink, paint, pesticide... anything made of plastic, elastic, polyester, rayon, dacron or orlon among many many others) that bid for their share that oil so they can continue production. Of that 20 million barrels, we as a country produce: 8 million. We produce 40% of a product that we use multiple times each day. It's that stat that keeps rattling in my head.

I keep thinking that if I had 12 million barrels of oil per day coming in from other countries at $70 a pop, that comes to a mere $840,000,000. If I wanted to balance trade internationally, I'd want to cut that back some and depend on ourselves more. We don't and wont. Instead, we actually put some of what we produce aside in a oil reserve. In some respects, it's not a bad idea to put something aside because we are oil dependents and it's good to have some sense of security. Currently, we get the remaining 60% from (in order of supply): Saudi Arabia, Canada, Venezuela, Mexico and Nigeria. I'll avoid boring you with how we could currently produce more oil at a cheaper rate (which I know you've heard a lot about), how we haven't opened an oil refinery in nearly 30 years and about how we can cut consumption by embracing new technology. I just wonder if we as a country are purposely purchasing from others something we could produce cheaper as a means to be "last man standing" when the oil supplies of other countries start drying up.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Parody Or Marketing Device?

I actually remember going to my grandparents store in Idaho (the only one in the small friendly town) and being told to pick a few treats out. It literally was the kid in a candy store analogy brought to life. Now, I didn't go crazy. I've always been a bit finicky. But, I always thought candy cigarettes were funny. They had a taste of their own and were what I consider "parody" candy.

Several countries in the world actually made candy cigarettes illegal during the early 1990's. Necco and World Candies actually fought a bill in Congress in 1990 that would have banned the product in the U.S. The claims were made that the items looked so similar to the real thing that they urged children to smoke later in their lives. The items even have a little red at the end.

I might be in the minority here but I don't think the candy made me want to smoke. It's not one of my vices although several friends and one of my parents have and/or do currently inhale. I remember trying to act like it was real and of course this was in the late 70's and early 80's when smoking wasn't as frowned upon. I'd hold it in my fingers and put the end in my mouth. The thing didn't last more than a few seconds. Usually the first one would be played with but they'd end up in my mouth in seconds. I think that if candy cigarettes lead children to smoking that it also leads them to eating their Marlboros and Salem Lights. I also think that if people are so freaked out about candy cigarettes... why aren't they upset about licorice pipes. (I actually bought that one in a store near Olivia's recital.) But don't they lead people to smoking pipes? Is there a pipe smoking crisis? It's like saying that the eating of bananas or Big Stick ice cream treats promotes and trains young women for oral sex. Never heard of a study or a ban on those.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Bunny Left From Easter

Went to my first recital last night. The performance was of Little Red Riding Hood by a ballet company in Boulder City, Nevada. Why would I break such a long streak of never seeing a recital? Olivia.

She was one of the bunnies in the forest during Red's 2 1/2 hour trek to Grandma's house. Sure, I wanted her to have a bigger part but this is her first year, I believe. But one thing that was very noticeable was that the other girls were looking over at her to make sure they were doing the right thing. That smile on her face in the photo says it all. I gave her that flower (that's in her hands) after the performance. If you look closely to the right of the picture, you can see Olivia's new brother/sister... well, my sister's stomach (which she tried to avoid getting photographed.) I had a great time and I even got to play with Connor for a bit (felt bad about getting something for Olivia so I gave him some taffy.)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Juggling Unknown Variables

Ever have a project you need to do but are given very few details in an area well outside your working knowledge? Ok, I have two of these that I need to address before the 29th. These chores deal with the new job starting in June. I'm figuring that putting them down will help me shake loose an idea or two... or someone else nudges me in the right direction.

1) The new business coming to town need an office. The boss is hoping for something in the 1,000 sq. ft. range and in the Summerlin area. I know very little about offices, leasing and even his plans for the space. But, I told him I'd "keep my eyes open." (Yes, I think I piled the dirt on my grave with that statement.) The only things that I can think of are driving around and writing down addresses with phone numbers at decent locations. Now that I think about it, it might be worth talking to Mom about these things as she leases out airplane hangars.

2) A soon-to-be co-worker will be moving to town with his family and will need to find a rental home. Again, details are fuzzy here. I don't know how many rooms but know he is looking in the Summerlin area also (stay close to work etc.) So, I've been hoping to pile up information on houses to rent but I haven't seen any good magazines in town. I have considered emailing the link for the Review Journal (local paper) website so they have something more to go on.

Either way, both the boss and the co-worker are due in town on the 29th and I'll need to show that I haven't ignored the tasks. Meeting them that day is also going to be interesting. NFL Draft starts that morning, my brother's birthday party (held later to also celebrate his sister-in-law's birthday) starts at 3 pm and I'm supposed to have dinner with the new boss and co-worker later. Should be an interesting day. Think I'll give Mom a call and pick her brain on lease/rental properties.

Update: Mom gave me some great leads on the lease property. She goes in for her multiple hernia surgery tomorrow. I'm going to see if I can drop in on her when she gets home later that day before I go to work.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

My Brother, Matthew

Didn't get to post this yesterday as it was a busy newsletter day but here it goes. Yesterday was my brother Matt's birthday. He's there in the picture in the red sweater and also in the tux with his wife on the far left. He turned 32.

As I think about it, I've had 32 years of memories with him making it one of my longest lasting friendships. I've always felt a weird connection with him. Both of us were slapped plenty of times in church for just looking at each other at the wrong time and bursting out into laughter. (Yes, the wrong time is when the pastor says, "This is my body, eat from it...") As sporadic and cautious that I am, Matt is equally more focused and sure. Just him being around pushed me to be better. I don't think he'll ever know how proud I am of him.

Before starting the newsletter, I ran over to pick up donuts. I remember during weekends that Mom would usually pick up a dozen from Winchell's as we went to the tennis courts. I had a flashback of myself looking through the glass with my siblings as they each picked a few to go in the dozen. I remember Matt always picked the maple bars, glazed twists and cinnamon rolls so I made sure to get a few of those. They were out of what I like but yesterday wasn't about me. (I'll talk about those another day.) I then proceeded over to his office (which is oddly enough just a few blocks away from my house.) An hour flew by quickly and it seems several people brought him goodies (two batches of homemade rice krispy treats, a bottle of alcoholic beverage and tons of email.) As I left, I was thinking that I really need to spend more days with him like this. Happy Birthday, Matt.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

80's Albums You May Not Know

Allergies are kicking my butt and I've been sleeping a lot. But instead of leaving landscape photos up forever, I decided to talk about a few of my favorite albums of the 1980s (since I covered 3 from the 90s a few months back.) Yes, they may be bands that you haven't heard or been familiar with but I call each of them 'perfect' albums - meaning that I enjoy each of the songs and prefer to hear them straight through.

The first album may be one that you've heard of... or heard at least one song from. In 1987, Icehouse released Man Of Colours which would mark the apex of their career. The album showed maturity for a band that leaned heavily on synthesizers early on where a new emphasis on the songwriting became almost as important as the music. The album includes the Top 20 hit singles, "Electric Blue," which was co-written (and included background vocals) by John Oates of Hall & Oates and "Crazy." The album wasn't as critically accepted as the hit singles imply. The album boasts some gems ("My Obsession,") beautiful harmonies ("Sunrise") and sonic soundscapes ("Heartbreak Kid.") The lyricism and vocal strength of this album made it quite hard to follow up. Well worth giving a few listens to if you can find it (the album is out of print and I had to replace my old one with one from eBay.)

I fell into this next album thanks to a friend in Junior High named Phil Gelber. After reaching some success with the band Sheriff (minor hit with "When I'm With You" in 1982 which would become a bigger hit for them later when re-released in 1989,) the Canadian band split into two camps. Steve DeMarchi and Freddy Curci went and formed Alias (with former members of Heart) while bassist Wolf Hassel and vocalist/guitarist Arnold Lanni formed Frozen Ghost. The album had a chart single with "Should I See" but got little notice outside of Canada. The songs range from driving beats to the melancholy but never so drastic as to seem out of place. Lyrically strong tracks even when one of the songs is titled "Yum Bai Ya" - no relation to "Kum Bi Ya." This release is also out of print and had to spend over $20 on eBay to repurchase it. (Saw it as high as $50.) Oddly enough, the band recently saw some of their songs released in an Essential Frozen Ghost collection in Canada. (note - I actually used to use the name Frozen Ghost on BBS' after hearing this album and even ran my own Phantom Zone BBS under the name Frozen Ghost.)

And now for something a little darker. Fields Of The Nephilim released The Nephilim (their second independent album) in 1988. I saw the cover in a record store and purchased it right away (also noticing that the album was #1 on the U.K. Indie charts and had a top 40 hit single there with "Moonchild.") Haunting or country/metal/gothic are probably the best descriptions for this band and their guitar-work. Lead vocalist Carl McCoy has a gravelly delivery that ranges from whispers to roars to moans that takes some time to get accustomed to but very distinctive. I guess this would be the equivalent of stumbling upon a bunch of druids at a ceremony worshiping a lost pagan idol. It seems so out of place yet harmonic and deviant. The tracks run from blistering-paced guitars to the dark and sensual "Celebrate." This is an album to listen to in a dark room with your eyes closed.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Lucky Shoes, Don't Fail Me Now

Ok, I don't really believe I own lucky things. I just think that there are times when everything goes well or better than expected and I feel amazed and, yes, even blessed. Today was the end to my landscaping adventure. (See earlier entry with photo of the home when I purchased it.) First up here is a photo of what my home looked without clothes on. Yes, that's right a naked yard. Took a lot of work to get it that way too. I finished prepping the areas for running irrigation and marked off areas that I'd like to highlight. The photo was taken this morning at about 6:30 A.M. with the sunrise behind the house.

Next up are the lucky shoes. No, they aren't lucky but you'd think they are because I've kept them a whole 20+ years. My father would purchase tennis shoes to sell at his shop and every once in awhile he'd say, "Find a pair that are your size." As a youngster, I was pretty amazed that Goodyear made the soles and thought that they have to be a good as car tires. Yes, they have lasted that long and I have been picked on by family members for still owning them but there they are in all their glory. I put them on because I knew I'd need something that I wouldn't care if they got trashed or not. They actually survived pretty well.

And last but not least... the final product. I took the photo at 6:30 P.M. and having the sun behind you doesn't do the area justice. Many of the little plants in front will get a lot bigger, almost bushy (green cassia) while others will spread and circle the rocks. I'm sore and tired (got 5 hours sleep before starting and 5 hours the day before (they dropped off the rocks early.) Took some ibuprofen and plan to have a few beers after a nap. I will tell you something, though. I was going nuts trying to design a layout for what should go where (we even put in a few things so I can run lighting in a few spots later.) I decided use the red rock fines (crushed rock) to highlight specific areas and encircle them with the gold 1" rock. I'm actually shocked that it looked better than I expected. Content and without yardwork, life is sweet.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Not Football Again!

Ever thought about why certain people don't follow professional football? I have. I believe it is the forethought of a higher power that keeps people who would be passionate about one NFL team from beating up people wearing apparel for 96.8% of the other teams in the league. Sure, they might not beat them down every time but they may attempt it more than average fans. So, I believe it's for the greater good.

Monday, April 03, 2006

We Need A Fence Or To Sell A Vote?

Historically, cultures that have come to another country for work and not tried to assimilate have drawn the ire of the natives. Although the success of immigrants abroad usually creates a bigger backlash, keeping up language and social barriers puts them in a perilous spot. Germans living abroad suffered after World War I and II. Those successfully farming in Russia were told to stop teaching classes in the German language, end printing newspapers in their former country's tongue and cease gathering in secret groups. After World War II broke out, these immigrants were forced out of the country as some were believed to be drumming up support for the Nazi cause. Businesses were taken from them and many were sent to their deaths in the cold harsh elements. Russia wasn't the only one that treated Germans this way but restrictions on schools, newspapers and social groups were created in Brazil and even in the United States. This same thing happened to many cultures including the Jewish, Lebanese, Chinese and eastern Indians. Those that don't assimilate become resented for their success, what they might be saying or teaching in their language and even outward appearance.

These thoughts have been on my mind during the recent marches by those supporting the rights of illegal immigrants. I've been waiting to see things come to a head in our country as they are now. Personally, I'm stuck in the middle. The marches have shown me more than I expected. People carrying the Mexican flag as they try to show the United States that they are patriotic? (Being born in Sacramento, California, if I were to wave a state flag, I would hoist that of Nevada as it represents me as a Nevadan.) I've even seen signs saying that they are just taking back the property the U.S. stole from them. Ignoring the outcome of the Mexican - American War is not helping their case.

I personally believe that we have a lot of people that don't want to or can't physically or mentally do work in our economic system. In February, we posted a 4.8% national unemployment rate. Many of the jobs being taken are entry level set at our minimum wage standard. Many of the other jobs are ones we have little record of seeing that if I pick someone up to do yard work and pay him in cash, taxes aren't reported nor collected. So, I'm not against a guest worker program if it will keep track of who we have in our country, push towards assimilation, accurately increase tax revenue and lessen the strain put on our education system. But, I also believe that giving amnesty to those that broke our laws promotes more of the same. (This year, I hope we can forgive anyone that broke the speed limit... no points on your license and no fine. How will you drive next year?) Amnesty would also buy a lot of the Hispanic vote come election day.

Do good fences make good neighbors? Sure, to some extent but if one neighbor has to watch the fence more than the other, something is wrong. I hate the whole situation as I like my friends that have come to work over here. I also dislike racism with a passion. Right now the United States Senate and House of Representatives are redefining what being an "American" is and the future will only tell if history repeats itself.