August 30, 2008


YOU KNOW, ONE OF THESE DAYS, Michigan will actually win its home opener and stay in contention for the national championship for longer than, oh, three hours.

Today's 25-23 loss to Utah was not the way I wanted to start the college football season. Although the loss was nowhere near the magnitude of last year's horrific loss to Appalachian State, today's game brought with it plenty of pain and suffering for Wolverine fans. Still, it could have been worse, for the following reasons:

* We were down 25-10, but managed to score two touchdowns set up through great defensive play, making it 25-23 before our "offense" decided to collapse again.
* For much of the game, we did not have -- to use the technical term -- an "offense."
* For much of the game, our quarterbacks -- to use the technical term -- were "incompetent."
* We could still have had Mike DeBord as offensive coordinator, in which case the final score would have been Utah 25, Michigan 3.

I will say this, though -- I am pleased with Coach Rodriguez. There were some positives, I thought, during the game: such as the excellent second-half play of our defense; the speed and quickness I saw among the players; and clever playcalling that would have worked if our offense had been, you know, effective. And even though our quarterbacks were pretty awful, neither one of them had actually ever played a full game before, so hopefully they will settle down as the season goes on.

Next week we have Miami of Ohio, which should be an easier opponent than Utah. From there it gets pretty tough, but we'll just have to work our way through it. We have not had a losing season since 1967 and there is no reason we should start now.

Also, in the spirit of friendly competition, I would congratulate the Utah Utes on their victory and leave them with a friendly message:

SPACE, you rotten scoundrels! SPACE!

In further news, I should note that -- unlike last year -- Michigan was not alone in sharing the pain today. No. 25 Pittsburgh lost to Bowling Green, 27-17.

This somewhat disappointed Mr Kepple, who for decades has been rooting for Pitt. Save for a few bright shining moments in the late Seventies and early Eighties, Dad has had his hopes and dreams crushed every year before and since. (He also roots for Penn State, which is a story for another post). Today, he summed up the team's loss with the rueful quip that it was yet another strong start for the Panthers.

Also, No. 17 Virginia Tech lost to East Carolina, 27-22. Oh, how wonderful was that? Less than two minutes left and the Pirates block a punt and return it for a touchdown? Good for East Carolina. That brought a little joy to my day today, that's for sure.

Well, now it's time for the evening games. Let's see how Clemson does against Alabama.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Touch and Go

LAST NIGHT, I GOT A CALL from Mr Kepple back in Ohio. It was a short call, but one with an important message: the game between Appalachian State and LSU had been pushed back to 11 a.m., due to the approach of Hurricane Gustav. Stupid hurricane, I thought to myself. It did, however, mean that football started an hour early on a day when I had Saturday off, so there was that.

Unfortunately, the game had been switched to ESPN Classic. This posed a problem. My cable provider, in a fit of Comcastic pique, decided some months ago it would switch ESPN Classic one "tier" up from my present channel lineup. However, it apparently forgot to mention this to everyone, leaving me somewhat annoyed. While ESPN Classic is not a channel I would normally want, it is starting to show more live events, and as a result it has turned from a novelty into a quasi-necessity.

As a result, after I went out and got breakfast this morning, I came back and steeled myself for the call to my cable provider, which went Comcastic. Well, actually, it went fine. The young man on the other end of the line was polite and friendly, and flipped on ESPN Classic for me. True, it did cost me $10.95 per month extra, but the annoyance associated with this faded once I realized I got Bloomberg, BBC America, and ESPNews. Oh, and I got a bunch of channels just for women.


I'm not saying, I'm just saying. Besides, I have the NFL Network.

Unfortunately, as it happened, there would not be a repeat of Aintgonnawin State's shock victory over Michigan. After 45 minutes, it was LSU 17 and ASU nil. Ugh. That didn't work, I thought. So I switched over to the Big Ten Network -- sweet -- and watched plucky Youngstown State take on the (evil) Ohio State Buckeyes. Then that game went badly. I switched that off when that hit 17-0.

I had hoped the Big Ten Network would have shown the Coastal Carolina - Penn State game, because my first cousin once removed, Brian P. Kepple, was an offensive guard for Coastal Carolina a few years ago. Then again, the game didn't really go all that well -- Penn State was ahead 45-7, last time I checked -- so I was again adrift. The other big games were also blowouts.

Except for East Carolina v. Virginia Tech. I detest Virginia Tech, so the fact East Carolina is giving them hell is wonderful. If you're reading this as of now -- it's 2:10 p.m. -- we're close to the end of the third quarter, and East Carolina is only down a field goal. Oops. Big pass play. They're about to be down two scores. But it's good to have at least one good early game to kick off college football season.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 24, 2008

Pravda Means Truth

LIKE MOST AMERICANS, I had thought Pravda -- that infamous propagandist's organ -- had gone the way of the dodo when the Soviet Union collapsed back in 1991. So you can imagine my surprise tonight when I stumbled across Pravda Online, which is even in English. There's also apparently a print version, although it's not related to the online version and the two publications are entirely separate. But still. For our purposes, the online version is Pravda. And you know, things ... haven't ... really ... changed all that much. Look at some of the headlines:

"Russia's financial crisis of 1998 plotted by IMF"
"Condoleezza Rice and the insult to international diplomacy"
"NATO must not teach Russia on how to behave towards Georgia"
"Anti-Russian US Senator McCain may take Bush's position in 2008"

Only one of these is clearly marked as an opinion piece. Guess which one!

Although the outlandishness of the copy is a bit disconcerting, in a way it is good. You see, even those Westerners who would gladly sell their own mothers to the bolshies will pause when presented with such ham-handed propaganda. But then, I don't think subtlety was ever Pravda's strong suit.

(And along those lines: Дорогой президент Путин, пожалуйста не отравляет меня с радиоактивным чаем).

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 22, 2008

What? My Doug Flutie Rookie Card Won't Let Me Retire?

I bought Polaroid at seven! It's probably up millions by now!

-- Miles Monroe, in "Sleeper"

IN 1987, YOUR CORRESPONDENT -- who was living in Kalamazoo, Mich., at the time -- would routinely trudge one and a half miles up to the retail complex nearest to home, and spend his pocket money at the plaza's five-and-dime store. Sadly, the store in question was consigned to the business cycle's dustbin long ago, but I can assure you the many football cards I bought from it are safely stored at home. Somewhere. I think.

Much to my chagrin, however, I have learned my complete 1987 Topps football card set -- which I spent hours upon hours collecting, storing, putting in sleeves and obsessing over -- also fell victim to the business cycle at some point in time. Apparently there was a bubble in sports cards, and it burst. Thus, I may have actually lost money on the deal when all is said and done.

This is particularly annoying because just a few years ago -- or was it longer? -- some of the cards had actually appreciated to the point where they could have paid for a decent steak. Now, they'll pay for hamburger -- and if I'm lucky, a package of rolls to go along with it.

I think 1987 -- when I was 11 -- was the first year I really got interested in football, although it wasn't for a few more years that I began to develop the hard-core loyalties that I now carry today. (When I was a very young boy, as my father loves to relate, I would root for the winning team in a football game. That's right, the winning team. If, say, Chicago was beating Detroit, I would root for Chicago unless somehow Detroit took the lead, and then I'd root for the Hawaiian blue.)

In any event, it was in this year that I really started collecting football cards, growing up as I did in a house where football was the only sport that mattered. It is amazing to think just how much time I spent on the bloody things, and I grew out of the hobby after a couple of years. After ten years or so, the cards I had collected actually had some value to them -- with a few worth over $20 each.

Unfortunately, these rarefied valuations went the way of tulip mania, the South Sea Bubble, the railroad bubble, the Florida swampland bubble, the dot-com bubble and -- well, you get the point. Consider my chagrin upon idly finding the values of the cards this very evening.

For one thing, there's the fact the Doug Flutie rookie card -- yes, that Doug Flutie -- is one of the most, if not the most, valuable cards in the 1987 Topps set. It is worth $8. Of course, that's the "book value" of the card, which means that is what you could buy it for if you went to your local hobby shop. In terms of actually selling it, it is worth somewhere between $2 and $4 -- and according to, as little as $1.25.

1987 Topps #45 - Doug Flutie RC (Rookie Card) - Courtesy of

The 1987 Doug Flutie rookie card, which is theoretically worth $8 in American dollars, but upon sale would probably not pay for passage over the Ambassador Bridge.

The Jim Kelly card is worth $10, and the Randall Cunningham rookie card is worth $6, both values that seem fair. The Dan Marino and Joe Montana cards are also allegedly worth $6. But the value of other cards have dropped precipitously. Jim Everett's rookie card from that year -- and if I recall right, the Los Angeles Rams were pretty good -- is worth just $1.25. On the lower end of the scale, Cris Collinsworth's card is worth just 25 cents -- although given his broadcasting, that might be generous.

1987 Topps #188 - Cris Collinsworth - Courtesy of

Cris Collinsworth: Lame then, lame now.

Given these values, I think we can peg the "common card" values at, oh, $0.02 each. Indeed, I daresay the whole set would probably go for about $50 on the open market, if that. Add in the extras I gathered in the pursuit, and it might go for $60 or $70.

All that for $70? Sure, I should probably be happy it might fetch $70, but ... ugh. How many hours did I spend on those walks? How many hours did I spend walking in the winter for those football cards? Why didn't I spend my youth doing something useful, like clipping bond coupons? Plus, at 45 cents per pack, which worked out to three cents per card, I probably lost one cent each on most of the cards I purchased. One 1987 U.S. cent, which is worth two cents today.

But this has taught me a valuable lesson. First off, there's a lot to be said for buy and hold -- but when things are really going well, selling might be a good idea. Second, it's important to pay attention to even the most minor assets one might have, in the event good deals are to be had for those assets. Third -- and keep this in mind, kids -- only buy collectibles if you really like them. If they happen to be a great "investment," that's all well and good, but only collect if you value the good -- like, say, football cards -- more than the cardboard they're printed on.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 21, 2008

At Least Someone in Cincinnati Has a Brain

VIA DEADSPIN: "Chris Henry Again? Are You Serious?"

The Bengals are so going 3-13 this year.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 17, 2008

Time for the Cavalcade of Pre-Season Football

WITH JUST THREE WEEKS -- God! Let it get here already! -- before the start of the NFL season, it's important for fans to analyze important developments taking place in the worlds of professional and college football. This is for several reasons: one, nothing else is going on; two, it's important to see what's happening with the backups and third-stringers on a team, because you may need them; and three, nothing else is going on. So let the Cavalcade of Pre-Season Football Begin!

* HA HA! I now have the Big Ten Network! It's about time, too. I have to say that when it comes to availability of sports programming -- particularly football -- I don't care what it costs to get it. It's just a shame I can't get the NFL Sunday Ticket on cable. But now that I have the Big Ten Network, never again will I be forced to go without watching Big Ten football on television. Well, unless I'm at -- ugh -- work on Saturday.

Although I have to admit it will be difficult for me to get excited about certain programming (ooooooh! Purdue's football team is practicing!) I will probably turn in for the broadcast of Michigan's football practice, which is Monday at 9 p.m. This will hopefully let me ratchet down my expectations (you mean Michigan's not going to be national champions?) or -- and this is most likely -- allow me to have inflated expectations for the season, which will leave me screaming at the television on Aug. 30 during our game against Utah. Apparently, Coach Rodriguez has been giving the team a good kick in the ass and our strength coach is legendary, so I'm excited to see the results.

* THOUGHTS ON STEELERS AFFIRMED. AOL's Fanhouse blog reports about what I expected: Santonio Holmes is crazy good; our running backs look good, to complement a good prognosis for our wide-receiving corps, and our offensive line ... oh God help us.

* A MEMO TO THE NFL. For some reason, the NFL is broadcasting various commercials for NFL apparel and materiel that feature Steelers fans. This may be because Steelers fans are prone to spending their disposable income on Steelers stuff. Tonight, two commercials caught my eye. The first is a commercial for women's NFL apparel, which features four hot female Steelers fans. The second is a commercial for NFL team-themed memorabilia.

Although it is enjoyable to see the female Steelers fans mock the doofus male Tennessee Titans fan who stumbles into their tailgating sanctum, I have an issue with the second commercial. You see, it shows a football room chock full of Steelers memorabilia and then asks, after scanning over to an end table with a plain light fixture on it, "What's with the lamp?" Never mind the lamp. What's with the Steely McStupid bobblehead doll?

No true Steelers fan would ever purchase anything related to Steely McStupid, much less a bobblehead doll, and then put it in his Steelers-themed football-watching room. No. A true Steelers fan would have other things, like a poster of Mr Rooney.

* MUCHO STINKO UPDATE. So Chad Johnson reportedly wants to change his name to Chad Ocho Cinco, thus allowing him to have it on his jersey without the NFL fining him.

The Rant approves of this, if only because it will make the Cincinnati Bengals even more of a laughingstock than they were before. Plus, the paperwork will give Mucho Stinko something to do while healing up from his sprained shoulder. In other Bungles news, the Detroit Lions went crazy in attacking Carson Palmer, and the Bungles' backup quarterback is from ... Harvard. From Harvard! I love it! (Although, annoyingly, he did look pretty good in the Lions game).

* QUOTH THE RAVEN, "Losing season!" Yeah. Baltimore. Maximum suckage.

* I'M JUST POINTING IT OUT. "Shoot, I don't care if it's pre-season! Redskins are 3-0, baby!"

* CANADIAN FOOTBALL UPDATE. Well, at least the Roughriders had a bye week this past week, because they needed it. As Loyal Rant Readers know, everyone on Saskatchewan's squad is hurt, and so hopefully the week off will help many of them recover from their (less-severe) injuries. Also, it's a good thing the CFL has a 19-week season, because it's going to take a good two or three months for the team to recover from its spate of broken legs.

More importantly, the Riders are 6-1 and have a two-game lead on pretty much everyone, plus a 4 1/2 game lead on the two worst teams (Winnipeg and Hamilton) in the league. This means they can pretty much play their backups and STILL make it into the playoffs. Once they get in the playoffs, they'll be well on their way to making a second run for the Grey Cup.

* NOTE TO ROD PEDERSEN: The Voice of the Saskatchewan Roughriders should spend the money to have his blog hosted on his own Web site, and not Blogger's.

* WHAT IF? Saving the best for last ...

As a rule, one is not supposed to read too much into pre-season games. This is because the games don't feature the first-stringers on a team. Rather, they feature the backups, third-stringers and marginal players fighting to retain their own positions or move up on the depth chart. But pre-season games do provide insight into the talents of these players, and that can be important down the road if your starters get hurt.

Which leads us to the "What if?" questions of the week: what would happen to the Patriots and the Colts if their starting quarterbacks got hurt? For that matter, what would happen to the Patriots if many of their starters got hurt?

I mean, I hate to read too much into the Patriots' craptacular performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tonight, but boy. It certainly seems to me they're going to be pretty thin on the depth chart, even if their first unit is one of the best in football. Then again, the Pats may well not suffer any major injuries this year, and it could just be their bad play is a feint, devised by Evil Genius Hobo Coach, to disguise the efficacy of the Patriots' second- and third-stringers. But I haven't seen anything that would save the Patriots or the Colts from a Catastrophic Quarterback Injury.

This is one thing I like about the Pittsburgh Steelers -- they actually realize the backup quarterback position, you know, involves more than holding a clipboard. If Ben Roethlisberger gets hurt, we can turn to Charlie Batch. Or, we would, if Batch hadn't had his collarbone broken. So what did we do? We went out and got Byron Leftwich to be our backup. True, Leftwich isn't all that great of a quarterback, but he'll do well enough. That's not something I think one could say of either Matt Cassel or Jim Sorgi.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Fun With Mikhail Saakashvili


1. What?! Where? HOW many divisions? The ENTIRE province? Well, organize a counter-attack with -- what do you mean, "organize with what?"

2. Honey? It's Mikhail. Yes, ah -- we've got to cancel the vacation. I know you always wanted to visit the south of France, but -- honey, that's not fair, and besides, I -- hello? Hello!

3. I can't believe you picked me as your lifeline. I'm kind of busy, and -- no, I don't know who Heathcliff is and what he does in Wuthering Heights.

4. What? No, I did NOT purchase a 52-inch plasma television from Best Buy! What else did -- a wrench set? What the hell would I need with a wrench set?

5. Out? How can you be out of kung pao chicken? Great, now I have to coordinate the entire order all over again!

6. Aucune?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 16, 2008

Well, There's Always Next Year

THE FOLLOWING WILL SERVE as an apt summary of the game between the Manchester Wolves and the Tennessee Valley Vipers this evening in Huntsville, Ala.:

As you may have guessed, Manchester wasn't driving the General Lee.

When the first half was over, the score was 28-14 -- not bad, considering we were down 21-0 at the end of the first quarter. Manchester turned over the ball twice during the half, and couldn't capitalize on a late Bradly Chavez interception in the closing minute. Our opening drive in the third quarter looked promising until our quarterback, Brian Jones, threw an absolute lulu of an interception. Tennessee Valley then marched down the field and we were again down three scores. Somehow, though, Manchester stopped the Vipers twice on offense, and we capitalized. Halfway through the fourth quarter, we were only down 35-28. Then, when Al Phillips made a great interception, it looked like we could tie it up -- until Jones fumbled on the very next play. The Vipers recovered. Ugh.

With some smart play calling into the mix, the Vipers were able to run down the clock and kick a field goal. With 52 seconds remaining, the Vipers were up 38-28. But on the enusing kickoff, the ball bounced off the crossbar and the Vipers recovered, punching it in for a touchdown on the next play. Ugh.

Final score: Tennessee Valley 45, Manchester 35.


There's always next year.

That's something I hope the team can take away from what really was a magical turnaround and a heck of a run for the Arena Cup. To go from a 1-6 record in the first seven weeks to an overall record of 9-7, and then to knock off not only the South Georgia Wildcats and the Green Bay Blizzard in the playoffs, was a hell of an accomplishment. It's one that should be celebrated and recognized. Although tonight's game didn't go the way we had hoped, the season can only be considered a success, and something to build on for next year.

Although I am certainly disappointed -- the team was so close, and yet so far -- the Wolves are not a team in which I can be disappointed. Not when their players are playing for love of the game, $250 per week and a shot at the Arena Football League or even the NFL (a Wolves linebacker in 2007, Maurice Fountain, went to the AFL in 2008 and just signed with the Miami Dolphins). Although I would love for the team to someday win the Arena Cup, I'm happy to have some good football during the off-season. So here's to next year, the quest and plenty of good football yet to come.

(What's that? Hazzard County was in Georgia? Eh. It's close enough).

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 15, 2008

Why I Don't Hike

THE BOSTON GLOBE has published an important article for any hikers considering a leisurely jaunt in the White Mountains National Forest (or anywhere else, for that matter). Its title? "A Beautiful Place to Die." If you're an amateur hiker, read it, please.

The situations described in the article are a major reason I Do Not Hike. My idea of outdoor recreation is going for a nice walk after dinner. However, for reasons that escape me, many people voluntarily venture out into the Godforsaken wilderness, which is far from the comforts of civilization and contains things like angry woodland creatures, miserable weather conditions and unforeseen dangers, like the bubonic plague. (There are a few cases reported each year in America, and most of the people that get it are hikers). Yet amazingly, a considerable subset of these outdoors enthusiasts go about their "leisure" underprepared or woefully unprepared for the dangers that face them.

Going unprepared -- or even underprepared -- when roughing it is a very bad idea. Trust me on this. You need to be prepared for bad weather. You need to let people know where you're going. You need to have proper equipment and clothing. You need to plan for the worst. This goes especially in New Hampshire, because we bill you if we have to rescue you because you weren't prepared.

So don't become a statistic. Be smart about hiking. Then again, you could just do what I do, which is look fondly at the hiking gear in the mall, and then go have dinner at your favorite Mexican restaurant.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 13, 2008

This Recession Is Really Starting to Hurt, Part IV

A DETROIT HOUSE has been listed on real-estate search engines for $1, according to the Detroit News. Yes, that's right. $1.

The house does still have its roof, but fancy extras like siding, windows, doors, light fixtures, the fence, the furnace, the plumbing, and the kitchen sink will have to be replaced on the new owner's dime, because they have all been stolen from the property. Oh, and the garage, 'cause that burned down. Of course, the real question is how long the new owner can put those things back in place without squatters stealing them again.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Day of Sun "Threatens Blade Runner Remake"

Financial Rant

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Producers scouting Manchester, N.H., as a shooting location for a remake of the iconic science-fiction film "Blade Runner" warned that today's perfect summer weather threatened the city's potential as a production site.

Although the day was the first in three weeks in which torrential, soul-crushing rains did not fall upon the city, the producers expressed concern the spate of good weather might actually last, thus frustrating their plans to use the city as an inexpensive filming location.

"When we came here two weeks ago, we thought this place was perfect," said executive producer Sidney Argyle, with Wapcaplet-Stone Productions, which is financing the remake. "There wasn't a day without rain. Not only that, the rain was so pervasive and unpleasant that it got on everyone's nerves, giving Manchester the despondent, hopeless aura for which we were looking."

"Today, on the other hand, entirely sucks," Argyle said. "It's sunny, it's shaping up to be a perfect summer evening, and there's very little humidity. We can't shoot Blade Runner if there's no humidity."

The famous 1983 version of the film, which starred Harrison Ford and Sean Young, depicted a futuristic, rain-soaked Los Angeles, in which Ford hunted androids amidst a dystopian megalopolis. Argyle warned that a continued bout of good weather would make Manchester look "like a city, you know, where people were actually happy." As a result, he said, it would thus prove unsuitable for the production's purposes.

Although New Hampshire officials have no means at their disposal to change the weather -- "What are we, China?" asked one official who demanded anonymity -- film buffs in the Granite State are hoping the producers will change the film from a remake into a sequel. This would give them the creative freedom to take advantage of the city's bleak, unforgiving winter, in which citizens must suffer through practical polar darkness, considerable snowfall, and subzero temperatures.

"It's pretty nice here in spring, and there's certainly no better place on Earth to enjoy fall," said Manchester resident Franklin Klurz. "But there are times in winter when this place looks like Pyongyang."

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

On Getting a Nicer Place

SO I WAS AT A PARTY -- no, really, I was -- on Saturday night and the conversation, as one might have expected, eventually turned to the housing market. As one might also have expected, the conversation eventually turned to the question of why I, Benjamin Kepple, continue to rent an apartment as opposed to buying a house or condominium. The benefits of owning a house -- forced savings! appreciation! climb a rung on the ladder of prosperity! -- were expounded upon, and I offered up my various defenses for not buying accordingly. (They do not, as we shall see, revolve around the state of the market itself, although I am wary about it).

This was not the first time I have found myself discussing this. Over the years, I have had people -- including people I have just met -- express opinions ranging from befuddlement to pity (!) about my decision not to buy property. It's actually somewhat unbelievable -- it's as if I'm some kind of Communist for having no interest in buying a place. But when someone I trust completely for his advice on financial matters gently broached the subject -- it appeared at the time as if a Government tax benefit might have made a purchase more worthwhile -- I gave the matter more thought.

Well, there are certainly advantages to buying one's own place, I will admit that. For one thing, you own it and you can, subject to the rules and regulations in one's municipality, do what you want with it. For another, you freeze your cost of housing. Your mortgage payment will not -- at least, in terms of principal and interest payments -- go up unless you tap your equity or otherwise treat your house like an automated teller machine.

But when one looks at it in black and white, I am not convinced the numbers work out. At least not yet.

Let's say I borrow $150,000 tomorrow, at seven percent, to buy a place. Over 30 years, this represents a total payment of $359,266.59 to my mortgage company. Of this amount, $209,266.59 is interest. In my present situation, I pay $800 per month in rent for my two-bedroom apartment. (Yes, it is a good deal). Thus, paying rent of $800 per month over that 30-year period would work out to $288,000 in total payments. (True, I realize that my rent payment will not stay at $800 forever, but we'll get to that).

Anyway, the initial gain works out to $78,733.41, that is to say, it's the equivalent of: (equity) - (total payments - rent payments). Yes, I have banked $150,000 in initial equity on the property, but have paid a goodly amount in interest to buy it, so the real equity is not as great as one might think. Now, it is true that property tends to appreciate, and if we assume the property appreciated at 3 pc per year, it would be worth about $346,089 at the end of my mortgage. Thus the appreciation would work out to $196,089, for a total gain of $274,822.41.

Tax savings from interest payments start at $1,275 in the first year and wind down to about nothing after 15 years -- after that, I would take the standard deduction, you see -- and so we'll call that $10,000 for simplicity's sake. Tax savings from property taxes start at $625 in the first year and by year 30 will hit $1,517; we'll call that $32,000 for simplicity's sake. That works out to $316,822.41.

But -- and here's the grand but -- what about the costs over time that offset this gain?

Property taxes are a big one, especially here in New Hampshire, where property tax is the Government's key revenue generator. In the first year, my property taxes would be $2,485. In year 30, they would be $6,031 -- at minimum. (That figure assumes a 3 pc increase each year). Averaged out, that's $4,258 per year, and over 30 years that works out to $127,740. Our gain is now just $189,082.41.

Next, we have condo fees, which pay for things like heat, hot water, keeping up the grounds, and so on. $200 per month is not an unreasonable estimate. This works out to $2,400 per year in year one and, let's say, $4,800 in year 30. This works out to $108,000 over 30 years. Our gain is now just $81,082.41.

My insurance costs would notably increase -- about $500 per year, I am guessing, in year one. By year 30 that would cost about $1,100, so if we average that out, that's another $24,000, bringing my gain down to $57,082.41.

Let's add in another $1,200 per year for what I call the Bad Things Happen to Good People Expense. I need a new washer; I need a new dryer; the sewer main backed up into my house; those crazy kids tore up the lawn; insert your calamity of choice here that would require some sort of surcharge. The gain now drops to $21,082.41.

And God help me if I decide to remodel the kitchen.

Now, maybe that's too pessimistic. But I am not convinced that is the case. The way I see it, I'm basically looking at a gain of about $21,000 in rapidly inflating Yankee pesos when all is said and done. Yes, I'd have that equity of $346,089 banked. But when I add in the cost of the mortgage ($200 more per month), the taxes ($200 more per month) and the condo fees ($200 more per month), I am looking at spending $600 more per month for the privilege of ownership. That's $7,200 per year that I am not directly paying for now.

If I put $7,200 per year away for 30 years, and I make 3 pc per year on it, I end up with $350,518. That's roughly $4,429 more than I'd have if I bought the house. I have more faith in my ability to invest in the markets well than I do in my ability to buy property well.*

The real financial advantage, of course, to buying a place comes after year 30 -- when the stupid mortgage is paid off. My housing costs would drop precipitously in year 31, whereas if I didn't buy, I'd still have a rent payment. Which leads to the one flaw in my argument I readily concede -- my rent payments have to stay about where they are for this to work. Once the rent goes up, the equation changes dramatically.

If my landlord decides to raise my rent sharply, suddenly the idea of buying a house becomes much more amenable, because the $288,000 rent payment number goes through the roof. For instance, if my rent jumped to $1,100 tomorrow, I'm suddenly paying $396,000 in rent over those 30 years, giving me roughly fifty thousand good reasons to buy a house.

Loyal Rant Readers may argue that my landlord, just because he needs to make a profit on his investment, will eventually raise my rent over time, thus making my argument out of balance. This may be true. But since my landlord is the best landlord in New Hampshire, I'm not seeing any immediate reason to jump on the property ladder.

There are plenty of other reasons not to jump as well. Here's my favorite: I am single and I have no children. I don't need a house. For that matter, I don't need a condo. I mean, for Pete's sake, I don't even use all the space I have now. If I did, I would not refer to the back bedroom as the Back Bedroom I Do Not Use -- well, except for storing paperwork and books -- here on The Rant.

Not having a wife and children also means that my roots here are very thin. If -- God forbid -- Something Happened, there's nothing keeping me here in New Hampshire. (I would miss the Wolves games, yes, but would undoubtedly adjust to rooting for the AFL/af2/other indoor football team in my new city). If Something Happened here, I could be fully moved back to the Midwest within 45 days, if not sooner. The long and short of it is this: if Something Happened, I could cut myself free of my New Hampshire ties quickly and easily.

I like having that flexibility, and at this point in my life that's important to me. The ability to pick up stakes and move someplace else, should the situation require it, is an advantage that those with roots someplace don't really have. This to me is worth the offset of not having a "nicer" place -- particularly since my place is nice enough already, and will undoubtedly be so ... well, for a while, anyway!


* In the last five years, house prices in my area have gone up roughly 28 pc, according to OFHEO. The S&P 500, on the other hand, has gone up 31 pc.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 11, 2008

My Football Loyalties Explained

WITH FOOTBALL SEASON just a few weeks away, I thought it would be important for Loyal Rant Readers to know where I stand when it comes to my football team loyalties. Although my partisanship for certain teams, like the glorious Pittsburgh Steelers, is well known, it is less well known that I actually have a complex scheme ranking all 32 NFL teams (and all 8 CFL teams) in order of preference. This allows me to take any game -- even a crappy one -- and turn it from a boring snooze-fest between two awful teams into an exciting contest full of chills and thrills.

I know not everyone is as enamored of this idea as I am. Some time back, one of my colleagues at work asked me -- with a bit of exasperation in his voice -- "Can't you just enjoy the game?" The answer to this question, of course, is No. Besides, let's say there's a real stinker of a game on television -- between, say, the Carolina Panthers and the Minnesota Vikings. Normally, I would really have to force myself to watch it. But under my Detailed Football Loyalties Scheme, I can switch to a pro-Panthers mindset in about ten seconds and start rooting for Jake GoHomme and the Panthers to beat up on the Vikings. It's easy!

So how does it work, you ask? Well, here you go:

Now, you must realize the table is read left-to-right, then up-and-down: the Jets top the Chiefs, who top the Saints, but both teams top the Tennessee Titans. So, for instance, in a game between the Detroit Lions and the New York Jets, I would root for the Lions. In a game between the Jets and the Buffalo Bills, I would root for the Jets. In a game between the Chicago Bears and the St. Louis Rams, I would root for the Bears. You can also see I would almost never root for the New England Patriots and it would require extreme extenuating circumstances for me to root for the Baltimore Ravens.

You see, there are -- in theory -- situations I could root for the Ravens. However, these situations only involve playoff considerations for my favored teams. For instance, if Baltimore is playing the Cincinnati Bengals, and if the Ravens knock out the Bengals it would allow the Cleveland Browns to get into the playoffs, then I would root for the Ravens. These extenuating circumstances are only applicable to the Steelers, Browns and Lions' playoff chances, and not to other teams.

I hope this chart proves handy for Loyal Rant Readers who, during week seven of the season, will wonder why I'm going on about the Saints-Panthers game, a game which no one outside of Louisiana or the Carolinas watched, or why I'm suddenly beating up on the Denver Broncos. It will also help explain my ranting on about Canadian football, a side of football not normally discussed in the United States. (That could change if Americans could, you know, actually watch the games, but that is neither here nor there).

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 10, 2008


LOYAL RANT READERS will recall my absolute joy when, somehow, someway, the Manchester Wolves -- my city's minor-league arena football team -- beat the South Georgia Wildcats in the first round of this year's af2 playoffs. Not only did we win, we won after a last minute of play that was perhaps the most exciting minute of arena football I've ever watched. Well -- THEY DID IT AGAIN! The Wolves beat the Green Bay Blizzard! The Wolves beat the Green Bay Blizzard!

And I thought last week was exciting. Holy Toledo, this was even better. So dig this: with less than a minute left, the Green Bay Blizzard have scored a touchdown to go ahead 54-47. That gives us roughly 46 seconds to march the ball down the field and in the endzone to tie it all up. With no time outs left, we're under the gun. Well, lo and behold, we're able to advance the ball down into Green Bay territory, and with 7.2 seconds left, we've got enough time for roughly one more play. With 17 yards to the endzone, we were completely behind the eight ball. But Brian Jones, our new quarterback -- who was our starting quarterback before he got sidelined with injury in April -- takes the snap, heads back, and after a few seconds hits wide receiver Emery Sammons in the endzone for the equalizer!

Then Sammons ran into the trombone player. No, wait. Anyway, so now comes the extra point attempt, which would have sent the game into overtime if good. But ... hey. We're not going to try the extra point. We're going for a two-point conversion to win the ball game. Oh God oh God oh God. The try goes ... and the pass is incomplete off the back wall. NOOOO -- but there's a penalty! It's on Green Bay! One more try! It's a running play. Jones walks into the endzone! Manchester's up 55-54!

But with 1.2 seconds left, Green Bay still gets to receive a kickoff and try to return it for a score. Their return man is Steve "Speedy" Gonzalez, who played for the Wolves before getting a promotion to the Philadelphia Soul. In a word, the guy's dangerous. But the unthinkable doesn't happen -- and Manchester wins! Manchester wins! WOW!

Even more amazing, we are not facing Wilkes-Barre Scranton in the conference final. Somehow, WBS lost at home (!) to the Tennessee Valley Vipers, of Huntsville, Ala. So now we're heading down to the Yellowhammer State to see if we can make our way to the ArenaCup game. I do not know what a yellowhammer is but I do know Tennessee Valley is a very tough team. They beat Wilkes-Barre at home. That's an accomplishment that can't be understated. But if we can beat South Georgia and Green Bay on the road we can beat these guys too.

Amazingly, the playoff situation as it stands now gives us an outside chance to host the ArenaCup game -- which would be downright cool. However, it's an outside chance. Not only would we have to win, so would the Amarillo Dusters. I put our chances of beating Tennessee Valley as pretty good. Amarillo's chances of beating the Spokane Shock, the best team in the entire league ... well, they're slim. But if Manchester makes it, that will hopefully mean some sort of television coverage, so we'll see. I don't want to put the cart before the horse, though -- so let's go to Alabama and bring home a victory.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 06, 2008

A Bridge Too Favre

MY FATHER, UPON HEARING my complaint I was absolutely sick of hearing about former current soon-to-be-traded Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, offered up what I think is a reasonable explanation for the all-Favre, all-the-time news cycle that has emerged over the past few weeks. Namely, my father wondered if ESPN secretly paid Mr Favre ten million dollars to suddenly un-retire and send shock waves throughout the football world. After all, Mr Kepple pointed out, it's not like Terrell Owens has been in the news lately.

Of course, Mr Kepple was kidding, and so am I. But I must admit a bit of secret pleasure -- schadenfreude, perhaps -- at the latest twists and turns in the Favre saga. Not only is Favre almost certain to leave Green Bay, there's a chance he could get traded to the New York Jets. The Rant's reaction to this possibility can be summed up as follows: oh, please God. Please. I mean, how cool would it be if the New York Jets got Brett Favre as their quarterback?

True, the only reason I want the Jets to sign Mr Favre is because it could conceivably help the Jets defeat the New England Patriots. As a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, I once kinda liked the Patriots -- at least, until they got really good and started defeating the Steelers despite all our best efforts. Add in the antics of Mad Genius Hobo Coach, the admittedly-brilliant play of quarterback Tom Brady and the fact the Pats lost the "humility" page in their playbooks, and they've suddenly become Public Enemy No. 1 for everyone who does not root for them. Making matters even worse, I live in the heart of Patriots Nation; as such, I am an enemy combatant. So, even though there are situations when I do root for the Patriots -- such as when they play Rocket Arm and his gang of idiots -- I generally view them the same way Cato viewed Carthage. Must. Be. Destroyed. If the generally-likable Jets can help bring that about, I am all for it.

Given this, I think it's clear the Packers ought trade Mr Favre to New York, and not to Tampa Bay, where Mr Favre would quickly fade out of the limelight as he played in games against the -- ew -- Atlanta Falcons. Trading Mr Favre to the Buccaneers would mean he could conceivably knock the Packers out of a Super Bowl trip, and the cheeseheads would go crazy if that actually happened. But trading Mr Favre to New York would almost certainly prevent him from causing trouble for the Packers, as the possibility the Jets could reach the Super Bowl is so remote that it is downright laughable.

Whatever the outcome, though, I can take pleasure in knowing Mr Favre's trade will help take much of the spotlight off Green Bay and its pleasant, albeit vaguely disturbing fans. Although like most fans I tend to like Green Bay, I would be fine if I did not hear about them for the first eight weeks of the season. Mr Favre's departure should help bring that about, as the Pack descends into a mediocrity one would normally associate with the Minnesota Vikings. This would then help my third team, the hapless Detroit Lions, have an excellent season. By which I mean 8-8.

God, I can't wait for fall to get here.

UPDATE, 8:38 a.m., Aug. 7: YES! YES! YES! YES! I am glad to see the Packers listened to me.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 05, 2008

Penny Wise, Pound Foolish -- Or Is It?

BACK WHEN FRED SCHWED wrote "Where Are All the Customers' Yachts?" he mentioned one silver lining to the country having gone through the Great Depression. After all, Mr Schwed wrote, are you quite sure you would want all those people who had money to have it again? Like the Depression, the state of air travel is so bad these days one has to start looking at the bright side.

After all, are we quite sure we want all those people who used to fly, back in the good old days, to start flying again? The vacationers with eight obnoxious children? The sweaty fat guys wearing track suits? The rotten scoundrels who made a point of reclining their seats the moment they sat down? I could go on, but you get the idea -- and undoubtedly you have your own bones to pick with certain members of the traveling public, like that guy who insists on loudly babbling into his mobile phone prior to takeoff, even though no one wants to hear his mundane conversation.

Fortunately, our airlines have seen the error of their money-losing ways. As a result, they are steadily making air travel more and more unpleasant for occasional and unseasoned travelers, who cost them money and whom I think all can agree are generally responsible for making air travel suck. The only down side is that the airlines are not doing the smart thing and raising fares across the board.

Instead, many are nickeling-and-dining all their passengers. Were this done reasonably, it might not be so bad; but some airlines -- fortunately not Continental, which I fly -- are charging for the privilege of checking one bag and the privilege of enjoying water whilst on the flight. (For a good list of annoying fees, see here). These fees came to the forefront yet again when JetBlue announced it would start selling passengers pillows and blankets for $7.

Now, I happen not to mind this. For one thing, I have long considered free airline pillows and blankets disease factories only marginally less dangerous than those Lord Amherst wanted to send to Pontiac's troops. For another, I have never used the stupid things, and dislike it when my seatmates do, as they bring the pestilence that much closer. Still, even if there are advantages to getting rid of free pillows and blankets, it seems a bit much to charge $7 for the things. For that matter, it also grates on the nerves when one must pay $5 for a cold sandwich, $2 for a soda, and $4 for a set of cheap headphones.

If you ask me, it would be smarter for the airlines to ... shall we say ... refine their fees. Under my plan, people would be entitled to free meals, free soda, free water, and even free headphones. These would be paid for through the imposition of fees as listed in my Reasonable Airline Fee Scheme, viz. and to wit:

1. PET IN CABIN FEE: $250 for dogs or cats; $500 for anything else, guide dogs for the blind excepted. Note: minors named Jimmy Wilson would be allowed to bring their dog on board for free, provided the dog was named Scraps.

There are few things more annoying while flying than having someone bring his precious pet on board an aircraft. Air travel is supposed to be elegant and refined. Having some selfish, emotionally crippled dingbat bring on board his or her companion ferret detracts from this experience. This goes especially if the dingbat in question does not stow the beast, which probably has rabies, in some sort of portable pet cage, but instead insists that Rory the Rabid Ferret be allowed to do whatever it is ferrets do with free rein.

Now, if you ask me, if you're so emotionally scarred that you always need a companion beast at your side, you probably shouldn't be flying. But if one were to buy everyone on board the flight lunch through paying this fee, I think it would help make things up to the other folks in economy class.

2. MOBILE PHONE FEE. $25 travel voucher to other passengers in same row, $10 travel voucher to everyone on flight.

As I understand it, our engineers believe a limited number of mobile phones could be used in flight provided modifications were made to an aircraft. However, the way air passengers behave these days, it is almost a certainty that someone who used his mobile phone during flight would abuse the privilege. This would thus result in an aggrieved passenger taking the offender's mobile phone and breaking it, or even worse, shoving it up the offender's alimentary canal.

Instead, I propose the airlines auction a limited number of mobile phone licenses -- say, three -- to passengers on board an aircraft. This would allow business travelers who really needed to make calls to make them, while compensating other travelers for the nuisance.

3. UNRULY MINOR/CHILD FEE. $50 per minor or child, levied in advance; refunded at crew's discretion; exemption for minor children under two years of age.

Air travel is supposed to be elegant and refined. This is impossible if unruly minors are rushing about the cabin screaming, crying, hollering and generally causing a mess of things. As a result, the parents of said minor children should pay a $50 surcharge for each minor to allow their children on board the craft, with the fee refunded if the children are good. If the parents are clever, they will take the fee out of their children's allowance, thus giving Junior and his siblings incentive to behave. The fee will be waived for parents traveling with infants, as they're suffering enough.

4. PROPER DRESS CREDIT/IMPROPER DRESS FEE. $10 travel voucher for every passenger wearing business or conservative travel attire. $100 fee for anyone wearing a T-shirt with a kitschy or obscene message. Note: this fee would not apply on flights to Las Vegas.

People generally behave better if they are properly dressed. This is because they do not want to ruin their good outfits. It is also because, in some fashion, the clothes make the man -- a man wearing a good suit is more likely to behave properly than a man wearing a T-shirt with a message relaying a coarse sexual innuendo. As such, people wearing business attire -- or comfortable but respectable leisure clothing -- would get a discount, while the guy wearing the "I'm With Stupid" T-shirt would be heavily fined.

5. RECLINING SEAT FEE. A quarter sounds good, don't you agree? Yeah. A quarter.

Unless the person in back of them is more than six feet tall, in which case the passenger should pay $50 to the person whose knees he is about to crush.

6. INCONSIDERATE SCHMUCK FEE. $1000 on-the-spot fee levied against passengers who force an aircraft to be delayed, to return to the terminal, make an emergency stop or take other action because they're complete asshats.

This fee would be levied against any stupid get who incessantly argues with the cabin stewardesses, smokes in the bathroom, forces other passengers to restrain him, or takes other action that completely ruins the travel plans of the other passengers on board the aircraft. This fee would be assessed in addition to any federal or international laws in force during the flight, and would be due immediately -- payable via credit card or in cash, if the person has the cash on them. The money would then be raffled off among passengers in whatever manner was deemed necessary to restore order.

These six convenient ideas are merely a starting point for a conversation on fixing air travel -- because if it isn't fixed soon, we might find the airline industry re-regulated. That would have its upsides -- I recall traveling to Puerto Rico as a boy on a massive jet that had all of FIVE passengers on it -- but I have a feeling the downside of paying $600 or more per ticket would probably outweigh those.

Probably. We'll see.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 03, 2008

Canadian Football Update

THE GOOD NEWS: In defeating the Calgary Stampeders 22-21 on Saturday night, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are now 6-0, the best start to the season the team has had since 1934.

THE BAD NEWS is that practically everyone on the team is injured. On the other hand, the Grey Cup isn't until November, so maybe they can heal up by then.

This has been your Canadian Football Update.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 02, 2008

Trying to Hack The Rant's Computers is Not in the Olympic Spirit

SO I WAS TYPING AWAY at the computer tonight when I get a notice from my spyware program warning me it has blocked an attempt to violate The Rant's mainframe. Normally, I would ignore this, but being in a peculiar mood this evening, I spent a few minutes tracking down the attack as best I could. Disappointingly, the attack came from Hong Kong.

Dude. It is not in the Olympic spirit to try and hack The Rant's nerve center for nefarious purposes, particularly with the start of the Games just five days away. It is particularly not cool to attempt violating an American's computer with the Olympics so close, as our nations are supposed to be ... what's the phrase? Strategic partners? Yeah. Strategic partners. That'll work.

Anyway, in the spirit of Olympic friendship and peace, I forgive you. As a result, I shall wait until after the Olympic Games to pray for your stocks to turn into air, for your Government to throw you into prison and for you to contract syphilis.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


THEY DID IT! THEY DID IT! My city's minor-league arena football team, the Manchester Wolves, the seventh seed in the af2 playoffs, beat the No. 2-seeded South Georgia Wildcats! I can't believe it! They did it! What a game! I have never seen a more exciting fourth quarter in arena football. Holy Toledo!

I can only imagine what it was like in person down in Albany, Ga. As it happened, I watched it on my computer here at home, using the af2's particularly spiffy television feed. What an exciting last few minutes. Here's how it went down. With four minutes or so to go, Manchester is driving down the field, down 42-39 to the Wildcats. Quarterback James Pinkney throws a neat pass to wide receiver Emery Sammons, who caught the ball at about the five yard line. It wasn't clear what happened next -- whether the ball popped out after Sammons was down or he was stripped of it -- but suddenly, the officials ruled it was a fumble and South Georgia recovered it in the endzone.

Uh oh, I thought to myself. Now we're in trouble. It had been a tough go all night, and the Wildcats now had the upper hand. A few plays later, they seemed well on their way to scoring and getting a crucial two-possession lead. But thanks to some beautiful defensive play, we stopped them on downs. Now, we had the momentum again and had the ball on our nine-yard line. After heading back down the field, Pinkney threw a tough pass to Sammons, and the ball bounced off Sammons' fingertips, took a crazy jump, and one of the South Georgia cornerbacks somehow managed to intercept the ball with about a minute on the clock. Now, we're doomed! I thought.

All South Georgia had to do was get positive yardage and they would have been able to run out the clock. On the very next play, they fumbled the ball on the snap. The Wolves recovered on what looked to be the South Georgia four-yard-line. Oh. My. God. Then the South Georgia center complained to the officials, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Half the distance. Then South Georgia's coach got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Half the distance again!

A touchdown came soon after, and we were up, 46-42. But there were 56 seconds left on the clock, and with the one-minute timing rules in effect, scoring would have been pretty easy for the Wildcats. But boy did the Wolves step up. Not only did South Georgia have to use all four downs to get a first down, on the next play their quarterback screwed up spiking the ball. Don't ask me how that turned into a fumble, but suddenly, the Wildcats had to use their last time out. Then, again, the Wolves stopped them on downs. All we had to do was run out the clock, and we were able to do so thanks to a defensive penalty.

Oh. My. God. We beat South Georgia. A team that had won seven games in a row. A team that beat league-best Spokane in Spokane. A team that won the American Conference's South Division title. We beat them. You can't ask for more than that.

Now, on to Green Bay and victory!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack