September 30, 2006

Well, This May Bode Well for Next Week

I DON'T THINK ANYONE expected the Fighting Illini to walk into East Lansing and actually beat Michigan State at football this afternoon. After all, we're talking about Illinois, a team which had lost 24 of its last 25 games in the Big Ten Conference. As a perennial football doormat, the Illini were a 26-point underdog going into the game against the Spartans, which weren't all that highly-regarded either. Yet Illinois somehow managed to defeat Michigan State with a last-second field goal today, winning the game 23-20.

Good Lord. I still can't believe Michigan State blew it again. You'd think they'd have done better after blowing it against Notre Dame last week. And while it may bode well for next week, when MSU is due to play the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, I have to admit the loss somewhat alarms me -- because this is exactly the type of thing which can cause an unwary team to let down its guard. As such, I urge Michigan's football team to stay keyed up about the game and utterly destroy the Spartans when they play in Ann Arbor.

I'm serious. Give them absolutely no quarter. Trample them underfoot.

But I digress. Moving on --

According to news reports, the Michigan State and Illinois football squads briefly sparred after the game, when the Fighting Illini tried to plant their school flag on Michigan State's football field. I was extremely disappointed that Illinois would do such a thing.

I mean, planting a flag on someone's field is a classless and gauche act. In this case, it was also undeserved: the way they play, Illinois has no business planting its flag on anyone's turf. Besides, smart football doesn't involve ticking people off, particularly when folks are naturally inclined to root for one's team.

That said, Illinois couldn't have tried it against a nicer group of people. Recall that under similar circumstances, MSU's squad planted the Michigan State flag at Notre Dame last year, an act for which they were roundly condemned. So while I don't think Illinois ought have tried to plant their flag, I can't condemn them TOO much for what I'm entirely sure was an unplanned outpouring of emotion.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 05:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread

THE GOOD PEOPLE at have long been famous for their vicious, even cruel, parodies of modern sappiness. For instance, one can order candy hearts ("Bittersweets") with dejected and sarcastic sayings on them (such as "U C MY BLOG?"). They also have neat items like the Pessimist's Mug, which has a line marking the point where it is half-empty, and so on.

But is most famous for its "Demotivators" -- the parodies of those godawful motivational posters one finds extolling the values of teamwork and working weekends, the posters which stand as prima facie evidence that the souls of a firm's employees have been sapped and destroyed. Recently, while visiting Emily Jones' site, I learned that has created an engine letting ANYONE make their own such demotivational posters.


Here's a couple of posters that I dreamed up yesterday evening. (AP gets the photo credit in both cases, I think, but to be honest I'm not entirely sure.) More will follow later this week, but this is the weekend and as such sports will be the primary focus. You can make your own right here.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 29, 2006

From Prometheus to the Fans

FOR AMERICANS, few things are as frustrating, complicated and Byzantine as the way U.S. television networks draw up their schedules for airing professional football games.

All football fans have had the experience of getting ready for Sunday's football, only to find their local network affiliate is airing a crummy game -- like Dallas at Tennessee, for instance. Meanwhile, the game one might want to watch -- say Minnesota at Buffalo -- is only available if one drives to a sports bar (or two hours north, but that would also mean driving to a sports bar).*

Fortunately, though, the Internet no longer means football fans must suffer through that shock and horror on Sunday. Thanks to the committed efforts of football fan J.P. Kirby, people everywhere can now see the networks' TV coverage maps for themselves, and plan accordingly to watch the games they want to watch -- days in advance. Thank you, Mr Kirby, for your tireless efforts to bring football fans everywhere the information they need.

* Yes, I'm fully aware of NFL Sunday Ticket, which lets viewers see any NFL game they want. I would pay an arm and a leg for this -- but satellite service isn't an option for me. Also, I'm fully aware that local teams take precedent; this has to do with getting crappy out-of-market games versus good out-of-market games.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 03:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Getting in on the Ground Floor Dept.

BOSTON MAGAZINE has a neat article about a Bay State man in the process of making millions of dollars through selling the Iraqi dinar (IQD) to small speculators.

The speculators hope the near-worthless currency will somehow increase in value and result in a windfall. The operators, engaged in work the magazine rightfully describes as between "highly specialized" and "nuts," would like that too. However, one suspects the currency traders are already quite pleased with the markup they're receiving on their IQD. Based on Boston magazine's description of what they do to earn it, though, I'm not entirely sure the risk-reward equation is properly balanced.

Perhaps the natural question while reading the story is whether speculating on the IQD is a good idea, and the answer is Most Certainly Not. Two years ago, I wrote a friend of mine who had brought up the subject:

Thanks for sending this site along. I've heard of several such sites which are selling Iraqi dinars, and it's an interesting concept. According to the purchase price rates your site provides, the value of each IQD is as follows:

25,000 IQD purchase for 40 USD = 625 IQD per 1 USD
50,000 IQD purchase for 75 USD = 666 2/3 IQD per 1 USD
100,000 IQD purchase for 150 USD = 666 2/3 IQD per 1 USD
250,000 IQD purchase for 319 USD = 783.69 IQD per 1 USD
0.5m IQD purchase for 589 USD = 848.90 IQD per 1 USD
1m IQD purchase for 1050 USD = 952.38 IQD per 1 USD
5m IQD purchase for 5125 USD = 975.60 IQD per 1 USD

Here's my take on the matter:

The exchange firm is making out like bandits selling IQD to the God-fearing American public.

As of today, the IQD was trading at 1,461 to the dollar*. This means that were one to sink five thousand dollars into the IQD from this site today, one would need to realize an approximate 50 percent gain in the IQD to make any money. At the $40 purchase rate, one would need the IQD to increase 233 percent in value to make any money.

That said, it is possible the Iraqi dinar may strengthen above these levels. The latest version of the IQD ("Bremer dinar") opened trading at 420 per 1 USD when it was issued, and if the insurgency is wiped out or weakened, the dinar would likely strengthen. In troubled countries, trading the local rouble off for dollars or other hard currencies often becomes a national pastime as the populace -- which usually relies heavily on cash -- seeks to protect what assets they have. But if there are no threats to the Iraqi dinar's store of value, the currency will rise in value vis-a-vis the dollar.

However, there may be unforeseen problems with the IQD. For instance, if the Iraqi Government collapses, its currency will be worthless. If it is revalued (they lop off the zeros at the end and issue a new currency) there will be far less chance for an investor to realize the huge gain needed for profit. And the way I see it, key factors in the IQD's value will be whether it is A) accepted as a settlement currency and B) achieves a measure of
"hardness." ... the Iraqi dinar is at best a very weak soft currency, and at worst inconvertible...

That is to say, at this point in time, it is only useful as a souvenir. It cannot be converted at banks in the United States or elsewhere. It will not be accepted for settlement purposes in the United States or elsewhere. It is true that this could change: the then-worthless Kuwaiti dinar increased 3000 percent in value after the U.S. threw Iraq out of that country during the first Gulf War. I don't see that happening here, even if Iraq diversifies its industrial base, begins to really attract foreign investment, and starts producing oil on a steady and uninterrupted basis -- all things necessary for an increase in the IQD's value...

For more on why speculating in the IQD probably isn't the brightest idea in the world, visit this foreign-exchange company's site.

(via Boston Gal's Open Wallet)

*As of Sept. 27, 2004. The present IQD-USD rate is 1,472.85 IQD per $1.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Point of Order Here

AS A GENERAL RULE, I don't get involved in policy arguments here at The Rant. As readers know, I much prefer spending my free time criticizing beer advertisements, insulting search engine users, writing about the Pittsburgh Steelers and examining personal-finance issues.

However, I must say I was disappointed to see Michelle Malkin, the columnist and prominent blogger, dismiss some recent arguments my good friend Dean Esmay put forward as mere "traffic bait." This was not merely sloppy, it was perfectly untrue.

After all, a responding writer does not give "traffic bait" the benefit of a giant post arguing against the points made in the baiter's essay. Besides, it wouldn't surprise me if Mr Esmay gets more traffic than Mrs Malkin. According to Mrs Malkin's "About" page, she averaged four million page views per month as of July 2006; Mr Esmay, according to his publicly-available site statistics, received 5,105,638 page views during that month. In any event, having known Mr Esmay for several years, I can assure my readers that he does not argue for the sake of arguing, or to merely draw traffic to his site.

For those readers who would care to learn more about this issue in depth, one can read a good primer on it at Mr Esmay's site.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 28, 2006

Outsourcing the Neighborhood Kids' Work

ON A COUPLE of occasions when I was young, I had the opportunity to tutor a student who was struggling with his math coursework. For this work, which I seem to recall doing around 1990 or so, I was paid $10 an hour by the kid's parents.

Nowadays, as it turns out, people can turn to the Internet and hire on-line tutors for their children from India and China, who tutor for the equivalent of $2.50 per hour -- and perhaps even less, depending on the provider. That's a mere fraction of the cost one would pay these days for private tutoring, which has become remarkably lucrative over the past decade or so. Reuters has the full report.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

An Open Letter to the Molson Coors Brewing Co.


TO: W. Leo Kiely III, President and Chief Executive

FR: Benjamin Kepple

RE: Rocky Mountain Taste

Dear Mr Kiely,

AS A PROUD football fan for many years, I have frequently encountered advertisements for Coors, Coors Light, and many other Molson Coors Brewing Co. products (including Zima, but we won’t dwell on that). As I prefer heavier beers, I do not drink Coors or Coors Light myself, but have on occasion considered buying them for my guests who prefer lighter libations.

That said, if you don’t stop airing those commercials about the plastic cooler boxes, I’m going to drink enough Miller Lite to make even Bob Uecker throw up.

I mean, my God. I’ve seen some stupid beer commercials over the years, but these latest ads of yours are as foul as an early-Eighties batch of Schlitz. I mean, they’re so bad I cringe whenever they appear on air, an event which seemingly took place five or six times an hour this past weekend.

In the event you’ve blacked out the memory of these advertisements, allow me to recall them for you. These are the advertisements in which a rather irritating group of apparent fraternity pledges purport to crash a press conference with an old-school football coach, such as Bill Walsh or Dick Vermeil. Then, like the scoundrels they are, they proceed to ask the coaches questions about the Coors plastic cooler boxes, and receive supposedly funny answers in reply. The answers are not funny. The campaign is not funny. The whole idea is not funny. Please, for the love of God, stop it already.

But don’t just take my word for it. Observe it for yourself, in all its hideousness:

Simply put, this campaign has all the excitement of a shuffleboard competition in Panama City, and as much style as a pastel sport jacket from 1973. Oh, and that reminds me. It’s no longer 1973. As a result, young American beer drinkers like me don’t consider Coors a novelty beer which should be savored and revered. Instead, we see it as a feeble and pale concoction that tastes vaguely like paint thinner. Not only are young beer drinkers not enthused about “Rocky Mountain taste,” we see it as a clever euphemism to fool the uninitiate – somewhat akin to “Rocky Mountain oysters.”

This is not to say there aren’t times when young folks like a nice, weak pilsner in mass quantities; that is a temptation for any beer drinker. Yet there are proper times and proper places for such recklessness, and proper beers as well – like the Beast, for instance, or even PBR. For football games, and other important events, better beer is needed. The idea that one would drink Coors Light – that Coloradan horsepiss you shamelessly claim is beer – during football is downright insane. I’m sorry, but it’s just not beer if one drinks it out of a plastic bottle.

Now, Mr Kiely, I am sure you are thinking, “But, Ben, you represent but a fraction of the beer-drinking public, with your snippy, arrogant demeanor and fondness for Samuel Adams Octoberfest.” Yes, that’s undoubtedly true. But that’s not to say I won’t drink light beer. After all, there are times when Sam Adams isn’t available for one reason or another, and one’s choices are limited to light pilsner-style beers. Also, light beer can be useful when one must entertain.

But when faced with such situations, one has options. For instance, if one’s lucky, there’s Amstel Light or something. Of course, one could choke down some Bud Light without too much suffering, because it has the “Real Men of Genius” radio campaign, which is hilarious. Also, they had the famous “Whaaaaazup” ads, the Clydesdales, the referee parody ads, and Ted Ferguson, the Bud Light Daredevil. One could also drink – in fact, would probably have to drink – Miller Lite, which continues its long tradition of clever advertisements with those “Man Law” ads involving former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis and Burt Reynolds. Besides, these guys had one of the best ad campaigns in history:

You know why everyone was running away at the end? Because that last guy – who seems familiar for some reason – had brought Coors Light, and was tainted with the stench and embarrassment of making that purchase. It was a purchase which said volumes. To the cashier, it said, “Check for ID.” To the man behind him in the express line, it said, “Oh God, the guy’s going to count out change.” To the cute girl in Aisle Eleven, it said, “Here is a man with limited earnings potential and little in the way of conversational skills.” There may be places where this is not the case, but I would submit that such places have not yet seen this latest round of wretched commercials, ads which must be condemned on every possible level. I mean, it says something when you have to put in a disclaimer noting the cooler boxes are for one-time use.

Now, I realize it is not entirely fair to condemn you, Mr Kiely, for the decisions your subordinates make. After all, you are a big picture guy and don’t focus on these types of things. However, I know that you can change things – and even if you don’t, you can drop a note to your advertising agency telling them to shape up.

Speaking of your advertising agency, it took me a while, but I finally found out who the devil is responsible for these wretched commercials. According to the good people at AdWeek, it’s the Chicago office of DraftFCB Group, which I believe has long handled Coors advertising (FCB, I think, was once Foote, Cone & Belding). DraftFCB Group is part of Interpublic Group of Companies Inc., the worldwide advertising giant. Ad Week writes:

Naturally, no NFL commercial break would be complete without junk food and beer. Golden, Colo.-based Coors partnered with NBC last week and re-upped its "official beer sponsor of the NFL" status for Coors Light, an estimated $300 million deal beyond its annual spending on the brand (a third of which is already spent on games). The brewer designs packaging around football, and upcoming comedy spots from IPG's Draft FCB Group in Chicago will tout a Silver Ticket giveaway. Four fans break into press conferences held by Dick Vermeil and Bill Walsh, only to grill the coaches with Silver Ticket questions.

The “Silver Ticket” in question refers to NFL tickets which Coors Light is giving away – and quite frankly, I can think of a hell of a lot better ways to promote this fact, such as writing better commercials. But I digress. In discussing the effectiveness of any campaign, it’s important to talk numbers.

Here’s one number I think is important: $58.38. That’s the all-time-high stock price for Interpublic, which it hit in early 2000. Yesterday, it closed at an anemic $9.86 per share, a loss of some 83.1 pc over the last six years. Here’s another number I think is important: $0.095. That’s the dividend per share Interpublic once paid out. But it’s hard to pay a dividend when you lost $276 million over the past year.

I don’t know how in hell an ad agency manages to lose $276 million, not even a big firm like Interpublic, but clearly these folks have some issues. Certainly its FCB unit should be ashamed of producing this wretched, third-rate excuse for a television advertising campaign. If they don’t shape things up, I would suggest you start asking the firm to take proactive measures to turn things around. Maybe watching better ads would help them – better ads like this:

All best,

Ben Kepple

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 24, 2006

A Very, Very Frustrating Sunday

I KNOW IT'S IMPORTANT for me to keep life's curveballs in proper perspective, but it's still incredibly frustrating when ALL of the football teams for which one has a passion somehow manage to lose on any given Sunday, while ALL the teams one hates manage to win. OK, so that's somewhat of an exaggeration, but the Dallas Cowboys and the Oakland Raiders WOULD have won if they'd been scheduled to play today. That's how bad the day went.

I mean, I'm sorry, but could someone PLEASE explain to me how, within the span of a minute, the Pittsburgh Steelers managed to make two key fumbles? Two key fumbles which led to two touchdowns for the Cincinnati Bengals, thus giving Cincinnati an 11 point lead late in the fourth quarter? Also, how in the hell did the Cleveland Browns manage to blow their 11 point lead in the fourth quarter, which led to a one-point victory for the evil Baltimore Ravens? As for Detroit -- well, I don't even want to know, because it was Detroit, but they lost to Green Bay and that was rather unfortunate.

It would hurt less if the teams I hated also lost, but that wasn't the case either. Baltimore, as noted, eked out a victory. The Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins also managed to run roughshod over weak opponents, and that was annoying. But the worst part came when I checked this week's scores in the for-fun football pool of which I'm a part. I did worse than my friends' toddlers at picking winners this week -- and the kids make their choices based on how much they like the teams' names.

The kids, as one might have expected, picked the Bengals.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 22, 2006

All Right, Let's Get Back to Work!

Oh No!
It’s Time for Yet Another Edition of …

An occasional Rant feature

AH, THE FALL. Here at The Rant, autumn is a time for celebration. It heralds the arrival of crisp, cool days and football season. It allows me to relax a bit from the hectic summer and prepare for the months ahead. It is also a good time for me to go on vacation.

While vacations are nice, they can generate a bit of a backlog when one returns. Such is the case with The Rant’s stockpile of search-engine queries, which have been piling up over the past several weeks. Idiocy from all corners of the globe manifests itself in these strange and often degenerate requests, which stand as depressing testament to the sloth, avarice and pettiness one so frequently encounters in life. I mean, my God, what kind of loser would do a search for “brent musburger women’s lingerie,” as one deranged visitor to The Rant did? What kind of ignoramus would actually inquire as to when earthquake season came around on the calendar?

Well, probably the same type of silly people who posed the following search-engine queries, which led them here to The Rant. But we’ve got two months of searches to plow through, so let’s get to work.

QUERY: eharmony dating disaster

ANSWER: Well, that’s no surprise, considering that schlub who founded it – the guy with the three first names – and his annoying television commercials. I swear, watching those things makes me glad I’m single and free.

QUERY: dating service business risk of getting sued

ANSWER: As much as any other business, which is to say considerable. Actually, I’m surprised we haven’t seen more lawsuits related to dating services.

QUERY: gilbert gottfried eharmony

ANSWER: Oh my God.

QUERY: fiancee doesn t respect me

ANSWER: That’s really not cool, and if she doesn’t respect you during your engagement, there seems little to suggest she’s going to suddenly change her ways once you’ve been married. Consider having a good long talk about the issue, because it needs to be resolved before you get hitched.

QUERY: thus the term soul mate has a surprising twist that goes beyond romantic partners. soul mates may very well be those we know as friends or family and are important to our quest to learn the life lessons we need to know

ANSWER: Oh, shut up.

QUERY: need see sex have no credit

ANSWER: God, that's pathetic.

QUERY: women in love are weird

ANSWER: ANYONE in love is weird. Love is like cocaine for the soul.

QUERY: bumper car sticker that says if people would consider the power of love instead of the love of power

ANSWER: If that’d been the case a few decades ago, I’d be writing in Russian.

QUERY: why do men loosen their ties

ANSWER: We’re uncomfortable and our necks need to breathe. Also, it looks vaguely raffish and as such charming.

QUERY: the musician bjork attacked a reporter who simply extended a greeting at the airport

ANSWER: Well, that’s reason enough, isn’t it?

QUERY: rights of smokers at work

ANSWER: That would be none, unless you work at an office where prevailing work conditions don’t change due to fashion. You should quit smoking anyway.

QUERY: refused drug test at work fired

ANSWER: What, were you expecting a prize?

QUERY: raising and investing in alpacas risks and cautions

ANSWER: They’re frickin’ alpacas, for God’s sake. Alpacas! Why in the name of God would you invest in alpacas when you could invest in something like the S&P 500? It’s not just the financial benefits, either -- the S&P 500 doesn’t need to be fed and sheared regularly.

QUERY: requirement for coffee and tea supervisor of restaurant

ANSWER: Well, being able to boil water might be a good start.

QUERY: tipping hotel housekeepers

ANSWER: At least $1 a day, and more if you make a mess of the place. The hotel will leave envelopes for this purpose. Actually, I’ve found that tipping the housekeeping staff is a great way to get rid of change one doesn’t want to lug around. Just make sure you leave at least one $1 bill, make the tip a few bucks if you use this tactic, and only use it if you’re staying for one night. Remember, the housekeeping staff make little money and are oftentimes immigrants, so you should tip freely and generously.

QUERY: how much taxes are owed when winning a car

ANSWER: If you win a car, you will be provided with appropriate tax documentation which will show the market valuation of the car you won. You must pay ordinary income tax on this amount. As such, if you are in the 25 pc bracket, you would have to pay 25 pc of the car’s value in tax. Which still isn’t a bad deal.

QUERY: in what scripture in the bile would you find a fool and his money is soon parted?

ANSWER: Barnum 23:15.

QUERY: what to do when you get sued for selling conterfeit

ANSWER: Well, you could pay the plaintiff the money you owe him for selling counterfeit goods, which is a hideous economic crime.

QUERY: stop neighbors from stealing newspaper

ANSWER: Pepper spray may work.

QUERY: mansion rentals for sweet sixteens in the los angeles area

ANSWER: When you eventually retire, and you find that you’re cutting your medicines in half and eating cat food near the end of the month because you haven’t saved enough money, don’t frickin’ turn to me to bail you out. Christ. That said, in the event you are perfectly prepared for retirement, what the hell kind of message are you sending to your children with this ridiculously extravagant display?

QUERY: when are you too old to buy an annunity

ANSWER: Well, I don’t think one is ever too old to buy an annuity, at least from the insurance industry’s perspective! That said, there are financial and actuarial considerations to take into account. If one is 80 years old, for instance, there’s a real risk one may not get much use out of the annuity, and should perhaps instead draw down the cash one has. But talk it over with your financial advisor.

QUERY: stomping shoes upstairs neighbors complaints police

ANSWER: Surely the police don’t have to be involved in this. Talk with your neighbors first and if that fails, your landlord or condominium association. Then call the cops if you really must.

QUERY: why is serenading your girlfriend in kalamazoo michigan prohibited?

ANSWER: Because the God-fearing people of Kalamazoo have had enough of this “love” and “harmony” crap.

QUERY: in the early 1990s how many americans were drinking coca-cola for breakfast?

ANSWER: About 37 million.

QUERY: analyzing popular culture paris hilton

ANSWER: I have to admit I find the whole Paris Hilton phenomenon baffling on so many levels, although it does prove the entertainment industry’s grand marketing machine can create a “star” out of whole cloth.

QUERY: barbara tuchman great historian

ANSWER: Yes! Buy any and all of her books. You will not be disappointed.

QUERY: does manitoba allow public nudity?

ANSWER: Last time I checked, Manitoba wasn’t the place one wanted to engage in that type of conduct.

QUERY: manchester weather december

ANSWER: Cold. Hell, it was 40 degrees here last night.

QUERY: lions fans despise ford

ANSWER: Can you blame them? Thanks to the Ford family, it will be years before the Lions even get close to “testing the waters of greatness,” much less make it to the big dance.

QUERY: continuity in coaching pittsburgh steelers

ANSWER: That’s the neat thing about the Steelers – they keep their coaches no matter what. That’s part of the team’s Old School Charm which makes it so popular.

QUERY: steelers the true america s team

ANSWER: Well, it sure ain’t Dallas!

QUERY: steelers coach yelling

ANSWER: Did you see the game at Jacksonville? That had some good video of Coach Cowher dishing it out!

QUERY: did notre dame plant the flag at msu

ANSWER: We’ll find out tomorrow!

QUERY: college football commentators hate ohio state

ANSWER: Oh, come on. Everyone knows they hate Michigan.

QUERY: ohio state fire riots football

ANSWER: That’s the type of behavior one would expect out of Columbus!

QUERY: i hate peyton manning

ANSWER: That’s an entirely understandable reaction. After all, as my good friend Chris has noted, the commercials in which Peyton Manning has starred tend to make fun of average people and their everyday routines. Also, Peyton cracks under pressue and blames his offensive line for his own mistakes. The good news, though, is that one can usually watch large linebackers “sign Peyton’s melon” on Sundays.

QUERY: funny super bowl commercials band attacked

ANSWER: Ask, and ye shall receive! I love this:

Think of this as a reward for getting this far!

QUERY: why the sky is blue

ANSWER: What the hell kind of crazy question is that? How should I know? Do I look like a scientist? It’s blue … because it’s blue. Go to a different blog – they’ll have the answer to that.

Well, that’s it for this edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! Tune in next time, after we at The Rant have had a few beers and have watched a bit of football! It’ll be especially entertaining!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 21, 2006

Error! Error! Does Not Compute!

I WAS DISAPPOINTED on Monday night when, to my utter amazement and surprise, the Jacksonville Jaguars somehow snapped out of their let's-play-good-but-not-great rut and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 9-0 shut out in Jacksonville was, as one might imagine, completely unexpected here at The Rant. After all, it was Jacksonville -- not a bad team, but not a great team, and not one which automatically earned the Boba Fett Nod of Respect. * Well, that sure as hell changed. Boy.

I mean, when did they turn on the afterburners? The last time anyone paid attention to Jacksonville, they limped into the playoffs as a No. 5 seed and the New England Patriots knocked the stuffing out of them. Suddenly, they've got this killer defense and Leftwich is threading the needle. It's craziness!

Also, the Thai military overthrew that country's Government in a coup d'etat. I didn't see that one coming either. And since these types of things happen in threes, I'm starting to wonder what will next creep up on me. Will the Steelers lose to the Bengals on Sunday, prompting a wave of taunts from the Rev. Uncle Dave? Will Wisconsin make a game of it against Michigan on Saturday, giving me a case of heartburn? Do I have enough Diet Cherry Coke to get through the weekend? The future is cloudy, and it's starting to worry me ever so slightly ...

* The Rant awards the Boba Fett Nod of Respect to professional or collegiate football teams which perform so proficiently that one must afford them a degree of respect for their play, no matter how much one may actually dislike them. These teams include squads such as the New England Patriots, the Indianapolis Colts, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Penn State Nittany Lions. Receiving the Boba Fett Nod of Respect, in most but not all cases, lowers or negates the amount of actual malice or hatred directed against these teams (Ohio State notably excepted).

Teams which fail to receive the Boba Fett Nod of Respect are either classified as Second-Rate Teams Which Aren't Generally Concerns (e.g., the Minnesota Vikings) or Wretched, Evil Teams Which Must Be Crushed Underfoot Without Mercy (e.g., the Oakland Raiders).

The "Boba Fett Nod of Respect," as all Star Wars fans know, is derived from that scene in "Return of the Jedi" when Princess Leia is disguised as a bounty hunter, and threatens to set off a thermal detonator in Jabba's throne room if she doesn't get her way regarding a bounty payment. After the gambit succeeds, bounty hunter Boba Fett gives her the slow nod of respect from across the room, as if to say, "You know, I was quite impressed with that. I must be cautious when dealing with you in future." Sadly, the "Boba Fett Nod of Respect" saying is not my own, but I believe I am the first person to apply it in print to professional football.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 20, 2006

And Now. a YouTube Interlude

OK, SO I SAID I would return on Monday and it's now Wednesday and I've still written nothing of consequence on the blog. But I have a perfectly valid excuse. Namely, I got back from my trip and ran smack into two giant obstacles. First, there were those annoying chores one must do following one's vacation, such as "unpacking" and "getting the dry cleaning done" and "buying groceries." As much as I like blogging, I figured it was important for me to spend the free time I had on, well, stuff. Also things have been crazy-busy at work, with long days and/or weird schedules.

I should warn that in early- to mid-November, a similar break in blogging will take place due to this. But that is a long way off. In the meantime, rest assured that I had a great vacation and it was super fun. Also, enjoy this YouTube clip (via Chris) of Darth Vader ... well, at least Darth's lesser-known, less-accomplished brother Chad.

Episode IV comes out soon! Yeah!

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September 16, 2006

OK, So I'm Back from Vacation ...

... AND I'M ALSO in football-fan heaven. I mean, just a few hours ago, I was in Detroit Metropolitan Airport watching the No. 11 Michigan Wolverines soundly thrash No. 2 Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. This comes roughly a week after I got to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers soundly thrash a decent Miami Dolphins squad -- and backup quarterback Charlie Batch earned a league-leading passer rating of 126.5 in the process.

God, I love fall.

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September 05, 2006

The Rant is Away ...

... UNTIL MONDAY, SEPT. 18. Until then, enjoy The Rant's fine listing of other, better blogs that you'll find in the left-hand column. Also, take a weekend to completely relax and watch football, drink mild intoxicants, and cheer on your favorite teams. Particularly if one of those teams happens to be the Pittsburgh Steelers, who could probably use it.

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September 02, 2006

Putting That Florida State Education to Work

IT'S WORTH NOTING that today, and at other times during this week, ESPN analyst Lee Corso -- a graduate of Florida State University (ouch) and the former football coach for the University of Indiana (double ouch), predicted the University of California at Berkeley would field this year's national champion football team.

As such, it is also worth noting that at the end of the third quarter, the score of the game between the No. 23 Tennessee Volunteers and the No. 9 Golden Bears is ...

Tennessee 35
California 3


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And Now, a College GameDay Interlude

WITH TODAY being the first Saturday in the college football season, I think we should reflect on the past for a moment. Not so much for its glories or its heartbreak, but for those great moments in time when one finds serendipity broadcast on television.

As such, I'm providing this gratuitous link to the funniest on-screen smackdown in known history. The target of the derision, in this case, is ESPN football commentator Lee Corso, whom I don't particularly like because I suspect he has it in for Michigan. Irrational of me, I'm sure. Anyway, enjoy!

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Quote of the Day

“Those guys from the Big Ten are out there thinking about the NFL and worrying about their knees. In the MAC, we don’t worry about our knees.”

-- Garrett Wolfe
Northern Illinois Univ. running back


Give 'em hell today, NIU!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Could We Kindly Not Panic?

RECENTLY, I read a tiresome and annoying screed on the housing market from FORTUNE magazine, in which writer Shawn Tully "dispels four myths" about housing prices. Mr Tully's article is so smarmy and annoying it makes one wonder if Mr Tully has been involuntarily renting all these years, and is now finally poised to deliver the mother of I-told-you-so's. I mean, just look at what the man has to say.

Mr Tully writes:

Americans wanted to believe, and they did. Now, the giant popping noise you're hearing is the sound of yesterday's myths exploding like balloons pumped up with too much hot air.

The newest sign that the myth-makers were spectacularly wrong is the data on existing home sales for July. Nationwide, median prices rose .9 percent.

But even that meager number masks the real story. Prices actually fell where housing is most vulnerable, in the bubble markets in the West and Northeast. In the Northeast, they dropped 2.1 percent from July of 2005, at the same time prices nationwide rose around 3 percent, meaning that houses lost over 5 percent of their value adjusted for inflation.

Homeowners just saw their wealth shrink, by a lot. The numbers will only get worse. It's time to examine the clichés that the "experts" - chiefly analysts and economists from realtors and mortgage associations - used to convince Americans that what they're seeing now could never happen. Here are the four great housing myths - and why they never made much sense in the first place.

What's with the scolding and the yelling and the beating about the head? So prices went down five percent in real terms -- which is arguably fudging, since no one thinks in real terms about their house, not even finance people. Especially not finance people, who don't generally borrow against their home. Besides, no one adjusted the numbers for inflation when prices were going up, so you can't do that on the downside.

Anyway. Housing prices went down a nominal two percent in the hot markets, Mr Tully said. Well, here's my official reaction -- Ooooooooooooooooh. TWO PERCENT. My God, it's just like 1987 all over again! For an article entitled "Getting Real About the Real-Estate Bubble," I'm not convinced this is all that helpful. Neither, for that matter, are the four supposed myths which Mr Tully sets about demolishing.

The first myth is: "As long as job growth is strong, prices can't go down." I can't believe for a moment people would think such a thing, given that prices were so high in markets with strong job growth. But apparently Mr Tully thinks THAT's the No. 1 myth on the list.

The second myth Mr Tully writes about is: "The builders learned their lesson in the last downturn. They won't swamp the market with new houses when the market turns." Let's look at what he has to say in depth here. Mr Tully writes:

You might call this the OPEC theory of homebuilders. The idea was that the builders wouldn't take a chance by building lots of unsold, "spec" units that could clog the market in a downturn. They had supposedly absorbed hard-won discipline from their excessive building in past downturns.

Well, it hasn't turned out that way. Builders are still pouring out near-record numbers of new homes as sales decline, assuring a further fall in prices. "Buyers" are walking away from deposits on houses that were supposedly pre-sold, forcing developers to throw them back on the market at a discount.

The problem is that even now, margins on new homes are still pretty good, though well below the levels of a year ago. As a result, builders will just keep building until those big margins evaporate. High prices are sewing the seeds of their own demise. They always do.

Kids! Mr Tully's just discovered the principles of supply and demand, and how they always end up at a point known as equilibrium. Of course the builders are going to build as long as they can make money. That's what they do. But here, though, Mr Tully is looking in the wrong place. It ain't the builders Mr Tully should concern himself with -- it's the people financing the builders. Were Mr Tully to go to some of these new developments, he would perhaps find they're being built in phases -- or even one building at a time -- for a perfectly good reason: that's what the banks will allow.

The other so-called myths are pretty pathetic. We won't get into them, as it wasn't exactly heavy lifting for Mr Tully to knock these paper tigers over. I suppose my question is whether Mr Tully's article is a harbinger of things to come. Will we be inundated with whiny, petulant articles about the coming collapse of the housing market, and the resulting panic that will follow? One would hope not, but I'm not optimistic.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack