September 29, 2008

Posting Limited This Week

PARENTS HEADING UP FOR A VISIT. That means I'm engaged in housework and what not -- which given my adeptness in these matters, goes somewhat like this:

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 28, 2008

Now People Want to Ruin Sushi

SO EARLIER THIS WEEK I was feeling a bit cranky and stressed. OK, I'm usually cranky and stressed, but this week was notably worse than normal and as such I decided to splurge on an enjoyable dinner out. There is a nice restaurant (Tokyo & Taipei) in Bedford that serves both Chinese and Japanese food, and so I ventured there for a very large meal consisting mostly of raw fish.

I decided to really splurge and in the end, I managed to spend $52 including tax and tip. In no way was this a justifiable expense but I was not in my normal phlegmatic dollars-and-cents mood. For this $52, I had a nice bowl of miso soup, the sushi and sashimi deluxe combination, and for good measure I added on a few sushi rolls I especially like -- a couple of ikura (salmon roe) rolls and tobiko (flying fish roe) rolls. Oh, and also tea and Diet Coke.

For those Loyal Rant Readers who find the idea of eating fish eggs offputting, I would encourage you to give it a try -- there is nothing that better conveys the feeling and sensation and essence of the sea than roe, whether it is real caviar* or a more humble substitute, such as salmon or pike or flying fish roe. Feeling the roe roll about and pop in your mouth is just pleasant and cheering. If that proves a bridge too far, go for sashimi -- which is exquisite in its toothy rawness and elegant simplicity. If even that seems a bit much, then go for sushi -- although I would recommend going for various types of nigirizushi, which is just raw fish on rice, rather than California rolls or some such. (California rolls might actually be a good introduction for people who have never had sushi, although my personal opinion is that if I wanted avocado, I would go out for Mexican).

Anyway, it was an excellent meal as always, although dining alone has its drawbacks. For instance, I was disheartened to find that my wa was slightly disturbed thanks to the decadent barbarians in a booth some distance away, who insisted on engaging in verbal combat with their poor waiter over their dinner order. Had I been with friends, I could have ignored this and focused on my compatriots with whom I was dining.

But I digress. For I have found my harmony disturbed yet again, thanks to well-meaning people who are busy determining whether sushi is bad. This is not to say bad as in bad for one's health, but rather bad for the environment, which in this day and age is the same thing as just bad overall.

Are they entirely off-base? Of course not. For instance, the glorious bluefin tuna is being overfished to the point where it is endangered. As such, it might be wise for sushi lovers to reduce their consumption of the stuff accordingly, lest they no longer have any bluefin tuna to enjoy. Besides, although worth every penny, the stuff is hideously expensive. (I do not believe the bluefin tuna will ever go extinct, just because the prices for the stuff will shoot even higher as the bluefin tuna population declines, and people will substitute other sushi they like as a result).

Still, part of me wonders why they are so upset. After all, according to no less than the San Jose Mercury News, one Palo Alto sushi restaurant told that newspaper that the California roll, the dragon roll (crab, avocado, and eel) and the rainbow roll (fish, crab, avocado), are the most popular choices on the menu. This almost certainly means most customers need to worry about nothing, because the faux sushi rolls these represent are invariably inexpensive and made with unspectacular ingredients.

Besides, what's good and bad often depends on where the fish is from, and that is not helpful at all. No sushi customer has any idea from whence their sushi fish originates, and I have to think it would be the height of bad manners to ask. You'd be insulting the restaurant by implying they are openly engaged in bad practices. I mean, can you imagine it?

CUSTOMER: Excuse me! I was wondering -- just where does this tuna come from?
SUSHI CHEF: I'm sorry, sir?
CUSTOMER: I was just wondering where the fish came from. I'm trying to be environmentally conscious, that's all.
SUSHI CHEF: Oh! Well, sir, let me ask. A moment.
SUSHI CHEF (in Japanese): Good God. Hey! Kenjiro! Mr Important Muckymuck Foreigner here wants to know where the tuna's from!
SECOND SUSHI CHEF (in Japanese): You have to be kidding me. Tell him it's from the ocean and see if that shuts him up.
SUSHI CHEF (in Japanese): That won't work, the Westerner has a ponytail.
SECOND SUSHI CHEF (in Japanese): Hmmm. Well, make something up then. Mr Takashimi did the buying today and it's not like these fish have labels.
SUSHI CHEF (in Japanese): Good call. Thank you!
SUSHI CHEF: My apologies, sir, but our head chef did the procurement, and he has retired for the evening. Might I interest you in something more to your liking? Perhaps the ebifuraimaki rolls?
CUSTOMER: Yeah, OK! That sounds great!
SECOND SUSHI CHEF (in Japanese): Good! We can unload that box of shrimp we got from Newark.

Personally, I think a campaign focused on working hand in hand with sushi restaurants would prove much more effective than trying to work on everyday customers. For one thing, working behind the scenes would undoubtedly get better and quicker results. Also, the restaurateurs obviously know their business better than anyone. Not only would they have far more clout than their customers, they could perhaps employ different marketing schemes based on their customers: one scheme aimed at typical Westerners going out for sushi, while another aimed at serving their core base of knowledgeable customers. For instance, sushi eateries could suggest "good" fish for Western customers who are concerned about the environment, while reassuring their regulars and other knowledgeable customers that the bluefin remains in stock.

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* For the record, I have never had real caviar -- by which I mean the high-grade and impossibly-expensive grades of the stuff. Those are far, far too expensive for a poor writer to enjoy -- but based on how I like the less-pricey alternatives, I am sure I would love it. If any Loyal Rant Readers want to send me a tin of sevruga or something out of the goodness of their hearts, do send me an e-mail.

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

September 24, 2008

Well, There's One Job Michigan Won't Mind Losing

SO THE DETROIT LIONS finally cashiered Matt Millen, their widely reviled president and chief executive. I have to say I can't actually believe it happened. However, I suppose that when Bill Ford Jr, the team's vice chairman, came out and said he would have fired Millen if he had the power to do so, it was clear the writing was on the wall.

I am happy for the people of Detroit, the fans of the Detroit Lions, and for all of Michigan. They needed this.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Recovery Mode

NOW THAT IT IS Wednesday, I have finally recovered enough to discuss football. While Michigan was off this past week -- thank God for small blessings -- the Pittsburgh Steelers ventured to the east (read: bad) side of Pennsylvania to take on the detestable Philadelphia Eagles. The game was set. It was aired on national television. Pittsburgh fans were psyched, having won their first two games.

It was thus only natural the Steelers got their asses kicked on Sunday night.

I lay most of the blame for this debacle on our offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, who was clearly outcoached by his defensive counterpart from Philadelphia. I also lay a portion of the blame on our offensive linesmen, who quickly found themselves overwhelmed in the face of a furious defensive assault from the Eagles. But Arians should have made better adjustments and focused more on the running game. At least, that's how I see it. All things considered, our defense played really well -- when you hold Philadelphia to 10 "real" offensive points, that's not a bad outcome.

But it was not a pleasant game to watch. As Loyal Rant Readers might expect, I was down at Billy's Sports Bar and Grill here in Manchester, watching the game on the big screen. If there's one word that would describe my fellow Pittsburgh fans, it would be dejected. Some of them also got a bit frustrated. Including me. However, I was not as frustrated as some, who watched the game in disbelief and were visibly upset at our shellacking. This is not to say I was the model of calm decorum -- football is one of the few things in which I can really get, well, focused -- but there were a few folks who were clearly not happy.

Also not happy was Browns Fan Rick, who turned out to watch Cleveland again. Everyone at Billy's likes Rick, who arrives each week and watches the Browns game from his chair next to the video golf machine. As everyone else (mostly Steelers fans) gets to watch their games on the big screens, Rick makes do with a small 21-inch television screen hoisted above the Golden Tee machine, and watches the Browns play the entirety of their games -- no matter how badly they do.

A friend of his who was at the bar, a Steelers fan decked out in jersey, gleefully told me that after the Steelers' win against the Browns last weekend, he had called Rick to give him crap about the Browns losing. Rick did not return his calls for roughly a week, this friend reported. Rick was particularly unhappy to watch the Baltimore Ravens, who are evil, stomp their way to victory over the Dogs, and by the fourth quarter he was calling for backup quarterback Brady Quinn enter the fray. I can't say I blame him. But word has it that Anderson is the starter against Cincinnati this week and hopefully Romeo Crennel and his team will win one against the stupid Bengals. I hope so.

However, the most astonishing thing about this weekend was the silence that emanated from the main room of the bar, as fans of the New England Patriots watched in silence as the Miami Dolphins -- God help us! -- crushed them underfoot. What an amazing performance Ronnie Brown turned in during that game, and how demoralizing it must have been for the Pats fans to watch as their defense proved powerless against the Dolphins' offense. As one colleague of mine at the office put it, "At least you lost to a good team."

Well, there's that. Pittsburgh plays Baltimore Monday night for leadership in the AFC North. We had better not lose.

Also, while I'm thinking about it, what's up with the Oakland Raiders and Lane Kiffin? It's three games into the season and Kiffin's team actually looks pretty good. This annoys me, because I hate the Raiders, but even I have to say the team looks as if it's much improved. They had a tough loss to Buffalo and Denver stomped them into the ground, but this is not the usual incompetent Oakland team we've come to expect. Why cashier the guy if he's produced the first half-decent team Oakland's seen in a while?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 18, 2008

Change We Can Believe In

IN TIMES OF CRISIS, America demands leadership. For a true leader will stand up for substance over style, for what is right over what is convenient, and for what is just and good and true. In times like these, when the nation is struggling and cries out for healing and salvation, America needs change. Major change. Important change. Change that will have a real, positive impact on Americans' lives.

As such, I would ask our leaders: please, please, please take Tony Kornheiser off Monday Night Football.

I have given this a lot of thought, and after long consideration, I have concluded that no other policy act would have such an overwhelmingly positive impact on Americans' well-being. Removing Mr Kornheiser from Monday Night Football would immediately lead to improved productivity among American workers, particularly on Tuesdays; would significantly reduce chronic hypertension, saving billions of dollars a year in health costs; and could even lead to considerable increases in Americans' happiness quotient, to the point where we become as happy as Canada or Denmark. Thus, we can see removing Mr Kornheiser from the broadcast would cause Americans to look at life with such sunny optimism it would have amazed even Reagan.

I am not, of course, suggesting to our leaders -- by which I mean the people who run ESPN -- that Mr Kornheiser should be removed from the air entirely. I am confident Mr Kornheiser's talents can be put to good use covering other important sports, such as soccer, auto racing, fly fishing or field hockey, preferably at five in the morning. Indeed, one might suggest that certain sports could use a bit of the exaggeration, hyperbole, oversimplification and general buffoonery that Mr Kornheiser brings weekly to the Monday Night Football broadcast. Like, say, curling. Or badminton. Or beach volleyball. Indeed, I think beach volleyball would be much more exciting if Mr Kornheiser were to look at a preliminary friendly match as a "must win" contest, a sobriquet he applied to the Cowboys-Eagles game in Week Two.

Nor is this to say Mr Kornheiser's particular style of analysis is unfit for certain fields. Indeed, Mr Kornheiser would undoubtedly do well as a substitute for Jim Cramer on CNBC's "Mad Money," on those days when Mr Cramer feels he just has to lie down after a busy day screaming about the stock market. In temperament, the two men are not far apart. Mr Cramer, for instance, seems to go on about hedge funds. Mr Kornheiser seems to go on about the NFC East.

I just don't know how much more the American people can take of Mr Kornheiser, that's all. I don't know about the rest of you, but certainly one benefit I saw to having the Patriots lose the Super Bowl last year was that we did not have to hear about them from Mr Kornheiser, who had spent much of the season wondering aloud whether the team would go 19-0. It also might be nice if Monday Night Football's top analyst would not say odd things, such as insulting the Mexican people during the NFL's concerted effort to reach out to Hispanics.

But I have confidence ESPN's management will do the right thing. After all, as Ventura County Star columnist Jim Carlisle has reported, ESPN made a major push this year to have the Monday Night Football broadcasts focus on actual football, instead of pushing reams of celebrucrap. Commish is wise, the people said. And there was much rejoicing, because no longer did the people have to dread Mondays, fearing that Matthew McConaughey would emerge from nowhere to ruin the night's football.

As an aside, it's worth noting that the one time ESPN had a decent celebrity guest -- Jimmy Kimmel -- ESPN got huffy and said he wouldn't be invited back. I'm sorry, but I about fell out of my chair laughing when Mr Kimmel innocently asked, "Where's Joe?" (Don't give them ideas, Jim!)

It's also worth nothing that sometimes alternate ideas do, in fact, work. In Monday Night Football's case, I have to say that ESPN's second-tier Monday crew -- of Mike, Mike, and Mike -- was far better than the first-run crew. I would enjoy watching them call the games much more than the present first-run crew of Messrs Tirico, Jaworski and Kornheiser. You've got a decent play-by-play guy in Mr Greenberg, a good analyst in Mr Golic and, well, Ditka. I mean, come on. Plus, they're all named Mike. On general principle alone, that's reason enough to put them in charge of Monday Night Football every week.

It's worth a shot, anyway. So I would encourage ESPN to embrace change; nay, revel in it. Do the right thing, not only for yourselves but for the American people. Have Mike, Mike, and Mike do Monday Night Football from now on. That's change we can all believe in.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 15, 2008

Boom.

I fell into a burning ring of fire
I went down, down, down, and the flames went higher;
and it burns, burns, burns:
the ring of fire --
the ring of fire.

-- Johnny Cash

MY OPINION -- NOT THAT YOU CARED -- on today's rather spectacular blowup is not as gloomy as you might think. That's based on the following rationale, as I wrote to a friend of mine today:

In my estimation, this is not as bad as it seems. In terms of the market correction, it's not (yet!) as bad as 2001, and not as bad as 1987, and not as bad as 1973-74, and certainly not as bad as 1929. ...

The reason I think this is not as bad as it seems is because the financial system is purging the toxin in its system. As with any illness, you have to purge out the bad stuff before you can recuperate, and I think that's what's happening with the market right now. Now, I only wish I had a crystal ball to tell me when the fever breaks. But despite the short-term struggle that goes along with all this upheaval, every daily crisis that comes along will push us towards a position to eventually rebound.

For the record, my crystal ball is broken, so I'm not advocating any particular trading strategy. I just don't think there's any reason to panic in the streets. (That day may come. If it does, see you on the barricades!)

But there is good news: lost in all this is the fact oil prices have crashed too. As I write, the October futures are down to $93.55 per barrel. At close on Friday, the per-barrel price was $101.18. That's roughly a 7.5 pc drop and there are, at present, no signs that oil's inexorable slide is going to continue any time soon. The hot money has left the station, folks. So at least that's something for all of us.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 14, 2008

Glory! Pittsburgh Wins Again!

THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS ARE VICTORIOUS! How wonderful that two games into the season, we are an amazing 2-0 and our major divisional archrivals, the hapless Cleveland Browns and pathetic Cincinnati Bengals, are both 0-2! Clearly we are well on our way to the playoffs yet again. Now, it's time for some Football Q&A with Loyal Rant Readers.

Q: Uh, aren't you going to mention the score?

I don't see why. We won. They lost. That's what's important here.

Q: It was 10-6.

Yeah, but it was 10-6 in weather conditions that can only be described as downright miserable. It was muggy and hot. Plus, there were sustained winds of 25 mph and gusts upwards of 50 mph, driving rains that weren't too visible on television, debris flying in from the field -- it was a truly miserable night. Fun to watch, but miserable.

Q: Wouldn't the Browns have won if they had gone on fourth down late in the game, instead of kicking a field goal? Thus, isn't it all Romeo Crennel's fault?

I'll hear no talk against Mr Crennel here. I like Romeo Crennel. Remember, the Browns are my second team and so I do like them, even if I want to see them lose against Pittsburgh. That said, I would not have made the decision to go for a field goal -- the Browns needed a touchdown, it was one of the few times they were within sight of the end zone, and with just three or so minutes left it would be unlikely they would get the ball back. But that's just me.

Q: Didn't the Steelers look a bit off tonight?

Yeah, but only a bit. Besides, the weather had a bit to do with that. But that's OK, as failing to crush the Browns on national TV will only lull our opponents into a false sense of security. Again, to reiterate: we won, they lost.

Q: What did the folks back home think of the game?

Well, Dad was happy, and I understand that Mom and Jesse took it well. It wasn't like it was a blowout. Of course, the folks back home had to scramble. Right before the game went on, the Kepples were among the more than 336,000 households in the greater Cleveland area to lose their electric service due to the remnants of Hurricane Ike. That forced the Kepples to act fast. Among their clever moves: rigging up two five-inch, black-and-white battery-powered portable televisions to watch the game in the living room.

Q: Uh, didn't you have one of those televisions in your room when you were in high school?

Yeah. What, you thought the Kepples would just toss them, just because they're more than a decade and a half old? Ha! They're called durable goods for a reason! The Kepples do NOT throw away durable goods if they work! (The rarely-used popcorn popper at home is older than I am).

Q: It's a good thing the switchover to digital service hasn't happened yet.

They had a battery-operated radio in the event the televisions ran through their batteries.

Q: Did the power come back on?

The power came back on immediately following the conclusion of the game -- something I think everyone could have expected.

Q: PATRIOTS! PATRIOTS! PATRIOTS!

That's not a question, but I was impressed with how the Patriots played. The Jets, not so much. I daresay the game was more about the Jets screwing it up rather than the Patriots playing all that great. Of course, the same could be said for the Cleveland-Pittsburgh game tonight. So it seems clear the real question now is how the Pats will do against shockingly good Buffalo. Where did the Bills come from? I mean, we knew they would be better this year, but they're really off to a stunning start.

Q: Wouldn't it be something if the Rays blew their lead in the AL East, and the Red Sox --

Baseball season's over, son.

Q: I hate Peyton Manning.

Well, that's an understandable reaction -- although I have to admit that I do like these new Sony commercials in which he is appearing.

Heh heh heh. I still hate Peyton Manning though, even if he is funny that one time. Unfortunately, Rocket Arm managed to figure out a way to beat the Vikings today. Gee, and that first half went so well too. But the Vikings kinda ... well, blew it. It's a bit much to ask your field goal kicker to kick six field goals. The Vikings had to get in the endzone to win the game. They didn't, and Rocket Arm made them pay for it. Dammit. The good news, though: the Colts' running game sucked. So unless they get that going, we won't have to worry about them in the post-season.

Q: Simon From Jersey is a Lions fan. How does he do it?

True grit. Plus, when your team is bad -- and as a long-time Steelers fan, I remember when the Steelers weren't so great -- you kinda get used to it. But if I was a Lions fan, I would have been strongly tempted to throw something heavy through my television today. I mean, my God. The Lions are down 21-0 pretty much out of the gate, and are down 24-9 at the start of the fourth quarter. Then they score 16 unanswered points to take the lead halfway through the fourth. What happens next? Green Bay scores 17 points in the final minutes of the game -- including two interceptions returned for touchdowns.

When Detroit took the lead, I was this close to sending Simon a text message ("Yeah Detroit") but thought I would wait until the end of the game before doing so. After the 48-25 rout, I thought it might be better not to talk football, so I didn't. Oh, and fire Millen, for God's sake.

Next up, tomorrow night: Eagles at Cowboys. Go Eagles!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Reflection in the Gray Morning

WELL, THAT WAS A disappointing Saturday, wasn't it? However, I can assure readers I am recuperating this morning through listening to uplifting music! Shostakovich. Chamber Symphony, Op. 110a. It is not snowing outside but with this music playing it feels like it.

As much as it may surprise Loyal Rant Readers, I have actually reconciled myself with Michigan's loss to Notre Dame yesterday. In part, this was because Ohio State suffered a much more grievous loss to evil USC last evening.

There is little worse than suffering a humiliating blowout on a national stage, particularly when one has hopes and dreams of winning a national championship, and Ohio State's hopes and dreams died last night in Los Angeles. It would have been one thing to merely lose to USC, but to lose 35-3, and to be so utterly crushed in the process, had to have been devastating to the Ohio State faithful. Also, as Southern California is a program made up of complete bastards, and whose partisans are also complete bastards, the loss hurts even more for the Buckeyes. For justice demands USC be thrown down to the depths like Capernaum. But the day will come soon enough.

But Ohio State's loss only salves the wound Michigan suffered because it puts Michigan's situation into perspective. Ohio State was the No. 5 team in the nation, whereas Michigan was No. 37, according to Massey Ratings' excellent rankings comparison scheme. We are now arguably somewhere in the mid-fifties -- which is about where we were last year, if I remember right.

There is a lot to like about Michigan even though it is a rebuilding year. It is important to remember Coach Rodriguez finds himself in a situation not of his own making, and as such must go to war with the army he has. The recruiting for future years looks promising, and our glorious freshman running back, Sam McGuffie, would appear to have extreme development potential. As a freshman he cut through Notre Dame like a hot knife through butter; it stands to reason that in a few years he will do the same to much better teams.

Things will get better. I liked the look on Coach Rodriguez's face at the close of the game. He was angry at losing, and that was good. For a man who does not want to lose will find a way to win.

Speaking of winning -- uh, don't look now, but Penn State is looking kinda scary.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 13, 2008

I May Throw Up

ACTUALLY, I WOULD HAVE ALREADY thrown up had it not been for the excellent and inspired performance of Sam McGuffie, Michigan's freshman running back, who will win the Heisman in a couple of years. You watch and see. As for the rest of Michigan's game against Notre Dame -- blech. Blech blech blech. What an absolute embarrassment. I mean, is it too much to ask that our players, you know, hold on to the ball?

The worst part was that Michigan, after getting its ass kicked in the first quarter, actually put the game within reach by halftime. Sure, give us hope, why don't you? God. 35-17. How awful was that?

The Rant grudgingly congratulates the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame on their victory and wishes them well during the rest of the season. Please beat Michigan State. That is all.

UPDATE, 7:52 p.m. Well, at least I didn't go to UCLA. Good God.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 12, 2008

Glory and Honor at Stake This Weekend

GOD, I LOVE AUTUMN. Let me count the ways:

* Saturday, 3:30 p.m. Michigan v. Notre Dame.
* Saturday, 8 p.m. Ohio State v. USC.
* Sunday, 1 p.m. Colts v. Vikings.
* Sunday, 4:15 p.m. Patriots v. Jets.
* Sunday, 8:30 p.m. Steelers v. Browns.
* Monday, 8:30 p.m. Cowboys v. Eagles.

That, my friends, is 18 hours of quality football. One starts with the classic battle between Michigan and Notre Dame; will the Wolverines improve to 2-1 or will downtrodden Notre Dame improve its fortunes against Michigan? Then, just a few hours later, the glorious match between the evil Buckeyes and the even more evil Trojans: can Ohio State -- FOR ONCE -- do the Big Ten proud and defeat USC? (Let's not hold our breaths).

Then, on Sunday, it gets even better -- at least up here in the Northeast. We start off the day a bit slow, with the Colts-Vikings matchup; and as much as it pains me, I must root for the Vikings, for should they win it will put the Colts and Rocket Arm at 0-2. That would be glorious, particularly as the Tennessee Titans would be up two games over the Dolts. (The Titans play the Cincinnati Bengals, which -- let's face it -- is a win for Tennessee).

At four we shall see that epic rivalry in the Northeast, the Jets and Patriots, resume. If the Jets defeat the Patriots -- and I hope they do -- the Jets will take the lead in the AFC East, or at least find themselves tied with Buffalo, who could defeat Jacksonville. Oh, how I like it.

Then, in the evening, the granddaddy -- Pittsburgh at Cleveland. Oh, how I can't wait for this game. In fact, everyone in my family can't wait for this game. Let's review the breakdown of who's rooting for whom:

PITTSBURGH: Benjamin Kepple, Dad, a majority of the extended family
CLEVELAND: Jesse Kepple, Mom
DEFENSE: The Rev. Uncle Dave

Smack talking on The Rant will be done after the game, however, as I do not intend to give my brother any ammunition to throw back at me in the event -- however unlikely -- that Cleveland wins. The Browns winning would be punishment enough.

But even if Cleveland wins, I might still be able to watch Dallas lose on Monday night, when they play the Eagles. I hate both teams, of course, but I hate Dallas more and it would be so wonderful to watch the Eagles beat them. That goes especially since the game is in Dallas and I would so like to see the Cowboys lose at home.

Anyway, as I said, eighteen hours of quality football. I intend to watch every minute of it -- unless the games become absolute blowouts and even I get bored watching. One of my bosses at work, upon hearing of my plan, politely suggested that somewhere along the line -- perhaps during the early Sunday game -- I take a break. Please. That's why God invented March.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 11, 2008

The Rant's Official Statement on Tony Romo

THE RANT has released its official statement in response to newspaper reports of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo stopping at midnight to help a couple with a flat car tire. The statement, issued from The Rant's headquarters in Hamilton, Bermuda, is drawn from the novel Catch-22, and reads as follows:

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Everything Appleby did, he did well. Appleby was a fair-haired boy from Iowa who believed in God, Motherhood and the American Way of Life, without ever thinking about any of them, and anybody who knew him liked him.

"I hate that son of a bitch," Yossarian growled.

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He may be a decent human being, but he's still a Dallas Cowboy, folks.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

(I Can't Drive) 75

Rapid motion through space elates one. -- Joyce

THE RANT NOTES WITH disapproval the latest bright idea to come from the establishment, which is that cars ought have speed governors on them. This is because when people drive cars really fast, they sometimes get into accidents. As a result, a prominent doctor -- it would be, wouldn't it? -- has suggested in The New York Times that cars should be prevented from traveling at speeds greater than 75 miles per hour. Ever. Because.

Alarmingly, this idea -- which in a sane and just society would be dismissed out of hand -- has received some acclaim. Ezra Klein, for instance, suggests the idea might be workable if applied to reckless drivers. And Ryan Avent, in responding to a critic who suggests the doctor in question must not drive all that much, writes:

So our blogger recognizes that it is dangerous to drive at very high speeds. And that in fact, some proportion of highway fatalities–less than 30% but likely appreciable–can be attributed to driving at high speed. And yet it was deemed necessary to get in a dig at those crazy eastern elites, who don’t understand the charming, speedy ways of real America? Who will stand up for the right of rural and suburban teenagers to wrap their cars around trees? Who will defend the VERY IMPORTANT commuter riding the tailgates of people driving ten miles over the speed limit, because don’t you know that car can go faster.

Well, Mr Avent, allow me to explain how Flyover Country works.

You see, I'm originally from Michigan -- you may have seen pictures -- and in Michigan, one must often drive long distances to get where one needs to go. Sadly, in Michigan, the population density is insufficient to warrant an excellent public transport system such as exists in Washington, D.C., which according to your blog is where you currently reside. Indeed, I can assure you that in Michigan, there are instances when driving at Very High Speeds is not only perfectly appropriate but an accepted part of the social fabric. Driving at a mere 75 miles per hour on the freeway does not cut it in the Great Lakes State.*

I realize the idea of driving at a speed greater than 75 miles per hour may seem alarming and dangerous -- especially when one considers that in New York and Washington, it is difficult to get anywhere close to 75 miles per hour in heavy traffic. I know this because I used to live in Washington and have driven through New York too many times for my own liking. However, there are places in this country where driving at speeds of 80 miles per hour, 90 miles per hour, or even higher is perfectly reasonable. I know this because I have driven there.

Now, there are times when such speeds are clearly inappropriate -- for instance, during inclement weather. When one is driving through the Cajon Pass in heavy fog, and one must navigate the road through following the tail lights of the car in front of one's vehicle, one must drive at 30 or 40 miles per hour. When one is driving through white-out conditions in northern Indiana, or through a downpour in Cleveland, prudence may even require one pull off the road. But when weather conditions are fine, and it is daylight out, and there is little traffic, and there is great music on the radio, there is no reason not to drive as fast as one wants provided one is capable of handling it.

For instance, on US-23 between Toledo, Ohio, and Ann Arbor, Mich., a straight stretch of freeway, I can assure Mr Avent that I have driven 85 miles per hour with no ill effects. In fact, this may have been too slow for conditions, as I have frequently been passed on the right while doing so. When traveling I-15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, I have driven 85 miles per hour and hummed along with the rest of traffic on that glorious desert road. When traveling on certain desert freeways in California, I have found that no speed is inherently unreasonable, although in my age I have held the needle about 80 miles per hour.

Of course, a key element of this is being able to handle driving at high speeds, something which not everyone is capable of doing -- or wants to do. These people should, then, drive at lower speeds, in the lanes set aside for driving at lower speeds. In fact, in my old age, I have found myself traveling much closer to the speed limit on the freeway, in an attempt to save money and take it easier while driving. Driving fast is more expensive, due to greater gasoline consumption, and it also requires more mental energy. One must keep acute concentration on the road and traffic, as opposed to simply keeping an eye on things. These days, I have found the joy in driving slower. (Memo to Mom and Dad: I haven't driven faster than 80 in a long time, so stop worrying).

Furthermore, I readily admit that traveling at extremely high speeds -- say, over 100 mph -- is inherently dangerous. Although my preferred cruising speed is about 80 miles per hour, and there are times when I would like to push it about 90, there are almost no circumstances when I would drive 90 miles per hour these days. Under absolutely no circumstances would I travel faster than 95 miles per hour. When one gets close to (or into) triple digits, you deal not only with greatly reduced reaction times to road obstacles and other concerns, but also physical limitations -- namely, the limitations of most passenger car tires, which generally can't take much more than 100 miles per hour. It is a poor decision to risk a blowout when driving like Mad Max.

However, there's no reason why one must drive achingly slow either -- unless, of course, one wants to. As it happens, there are some insurers who are testing out this concept, and giving their slower-driving members discounts for doing so. That's a much better solution than forcing the vast majority of the populace to slow down via speed governors.

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* For those readers who do not believe me when I speak of driving in Michigan, I would invite them to travel along I-94 between Kalamazoo and Detroit, especially during rush hour. Try traveling 75 mph. Really. Go ahead. When you get sick of the semi trucks and sport-utility vehicles determined to test how well your rear bumper reacts to high-speed collisions, pull off at the nearest exit, find a quality family restaurant, and relax with a refreshing Vernors ginger soda. It's deliciously different! Also, the bite of the stuff might put you in a scratchy mood, mentally preparing you for getting back on the freeway.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 10, 2008

Classless, Yes. Dirty, Yes. But Still --

SO PARTISANS OF the University of Miami are upset with the University of Florida, due to how the football game between the two schools ended last week. It seems that Florida, which has overtaken the ne'er-do-wells of Miami over the past few years, crushed the Hurricanes something fierce. The score was 23-3 heading into the final minute. Then, Florida head coach Urban Meyer sent in his field-goal unit to kick a chip shot field goal with 40-something seconds to go.

This kick in the teeth, delivered when Miami was on the ground pleading for mercy, has prompted outrage and derision from Hurricanes fans. Retired professional football player Warren Sapp, the one-time Miami star, declared that Mr Meyer was a "classless dirtbag" for having the field goal kicked, while Miami coach Randy Shannon obliquely lit into Florida's program. That prompted a response from Florida quarterback Tim Tebow defending his coach.

Well, I for one am not going to disagree with Mr Sapp's sentiments. Kicking that field goal was classless and gauche. On the other hand, Mr Meyer had the field goal kicked against Miami. It's a tough equation to balance, it really is.

I mean, let's face it. If there's one football program that deserves getting trampled on and then having a field goal added to the score, solely for the purpose of adding to the team's misery and kicking them when they're down, it's USC. I mean, Miami. So can we really criticize Mr Meyer all that much? I don't think so. Sure, he shouldn't have done it, but in the grand scheme of things, it's not like he had the field goal kicked against Notre Dame or Elon or Murray State or Minnesota. It was Miami. So I think, when one looks at it all under the Rule of General Principle, Mr Meyer can be given a pass.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Conference Loyalty Cemented for Life

LOYAL RANT READERS know that as an alumnus of the University of Michigan, I detest the Ohio State University and all its works. The Columbus institution, second to Michigan in all but sports, is glorious Michigan's chief rival and total adversary. To defeat Ohio State is a Michigan athlete's crowning achievement; to lose to Ohio State is a Michigan athlete's most burning shame.

Yet I have moderated in my views towards Ohio State over the years. This is not to say that I will not eternally pine for its defeat at Michigan's hands, but rather that I have developed a more realpolitik view towards our situation. Sometimes, you see, the enemy of my enemy is an even worse enemy. As a result, when civilization must be defended from the barbarians, or when the infidels threaten all that is holy, or when USC could become national champions, one must grit one's teeth and root for a team one would normally like to see drown in a festering pit of its own bile.

This is a long-winded way of saying that I have completely and utterly come around to the principle of conference loyalty. Similar to how America's internal squabbles stop at our borders, I realize that no matter how much I detest certain teams in the Big Ten, I must root for the Big Ten to stand triumphant against all opposition. I must pull for the Big Ten to achieve more than its many enemies. And I must defend the Big Ten's honor against all grave insults.

As such, The Rant notes with disapproval the recent remarks of the latest Playmate of the Month, a Florida native and University of Florida public relations major (Gawd!) who disparages the Big Ten -- specifically, the fairer sex of the Big Ten -- in no less than the Gainesville Sun:

The 22-year-old Carrington — Kelly Carrington is not her real name, it’s the pseudonym she uses for the magazine — is a UF public relations major who took a break from school to be photographed and promote her appearance in the magazine.

The annual college edition features a spread on the girls of the Big Ten, so Carrington admits it’s funny that a Southeastern Conference girl made the front.

“There weren’t any girls from the Big Ten who were hot enough to be on the cover, so they had to pull someone from the SEC,” she quipped.

Ha ha ha ha ha!

Ha ha!

Ha.

Oh, no she didn't.

This, my friends, is an insult that cannot be borne. Clearly we should avenge our honor by burning down Atlanta again. Well, OK, that might be a bit much, but we can't just let the hotness of the Big Ten's women go unchallenged. I mean, why else do we keep Michigan State in it? Besides, although several SEC schools do offer their students a decent collegiate education -- and Florida is one of the better ones in this regard -- one fails to see how this is equal to the top-notch education one receives at, say, the University of Michigan. So our course of action is clear: the Big Ten must strive valiantly to defeat the SEC in everything -- and especially football.

And to borrow again from Orson at Every Day Should Be Saturday, I would simply note: SPACE, you wretched Floridian succubus! SPACE!

P.S. For those readers interested in Miss Carrington's cover picture, you can see it here, thanks to a Florida television station, which reports: "Stuart naitive is Playboy's Miss October." Yes, that's what the headline says: "naitive." Let's hear it for that Florida educational system!

P.P.S. I'd rate her an eight, but that's just me.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 09, 2008

Another Day, Another Crisis

THE MESS WITH LEHMAN Brothers Holding Inc. is the latest in a series of financial crises to land upon us. Six months ago, this might have caused me a bit of worry, but now it seems as if the troubles surrounding Lehman are par for the course. The news tonight, however, leads one to wonder if they can get out of the muck.

The Associated Press reports Lehman will announce "key" initiatives to get things back on track at the investment house. Like many interested observers, I was interested in the reaction to this news. So, here at The Rant, we took a poll to find out just what Lehman Bros. shareholders want from the company. The results of this survey follow below:
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What's that? Why, yes, that picture is from the cover of "Head Office." A style point for all of you who noticed!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

We Have Met the Enemy, and He is ...

SCIENTIST: This district is probably what you'd call the southwestern United States. That was before it was destroyed in the war.
MILES MONROE: War?
SCIENTIST: Yes. According to history ... a man named Albert Shanker got a hold of a nuclear weapon.

-- Sleeper (1973)

A GROUP OF MY FRIENDS are in the midst of an animated e-mail discussion, prompted by this op-ed essay in The New York Times, about the myriad threats facing the United States from Our Enemies. The threat being discussed most is the explosion of a nuclear device somewhere within the United States' borders, most likely in the vicinity of Washington or New York.

One of my friends notes writer Jeffrey Goldberg's assertion that the chances of such a detonation over the next decade are perhaps 10 pc to 20 pc, although another of my friends dismisses this suggestion, saying "suitcase nukes" are not only quite detectable, but likely to kill the terrorists hauling them before they can be set off. My own viewpoint is more in line with my second friend's thoughts, and so I must say that I am not all that concerned about Our Enemies setting off a nuclear device within our borders, whether the target is Washington or Sheboygan, Wisc.

Generally speaking, I do not have a lot of faith in our Government, but one area where I think it has done well is protecting us against foreign terrorism. We have prima facie evidence of this in that there has not been another attack against our shores since 2001, despite several attempts which have come to public light. It stands to reason that if several attempts have come to public light, many more have been thwarted in secret. It also stands to reason that although the Government's power is limited within the borders of the United States, due to our political freedoms, its power is far less limited when operating in the international sphere. Thus, certain things have undoubtedly happened to make us here at home much safer. Bob Woodward, the journalist, has reportedly learned of certain secret programs that have caused untold numbers of our enemies to enjoy early arrivals in Hell, and with the Government's unlimited resources at its disposal, those programs are undoubtedly being refined and improved as I type. I would suggest it is difficult to work on acquiring a nuclear weapon when all one's forces are surrounded and beset by a vastly more powerful enemy.

There are many threats facing us in this world, but to me, actively fearing nuclear terrorism makes little sense. That is not to say the Government should ignore it, of course; but rather that there is no need for the people to worry about it, at least to the point where they are going out and buying plastic sheeting. If you ask me, the greatest threats to our way of life right now are economic-based. God knows these concerns may not be as sexy as nuclear weapons, but I fear that hidden amidst the balance sheets and general ledgers and government statements, there may be problems that are invidious -- and far closer to home.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:20 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 07, 2008

Rule the Day

THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM has it that the Pittsburgh Steelers face a meat-grinder of a schedule, an impossible hill to climb in their pursuit of post-season glory. Today, the Steelers delivered a message with their 38-17 win over the Houston Texans. That message is this: it is not a case of Pittsburgh having to play many of the league's greatest teams. It is a case of the league's greatest teams having to play Pittsburgh, and hoping they survive.

I haven't seen the Steelers look that good in years. I mean, in the third quarter, the score was Pittsburgh 35 - Houston 3, and then Pittsburgh put in its backups. Houston, as football fans know, isn't that bad of a team. They are certainly not an excellent team, perhaps even not a good one, but certainly they are middle of the pack. Pittsburgh steamrolled over the Texans like a Hummer over an armadillo. Willie Parker had three touchdowns and 138 rushing yards. Hines Ward had two touchdown receptions. Ben Roethlisberger had a outstanding quarterback rating. And LaMarr Woodley was ... well, LaMarr Woodley. Everyone played great -- even the offensive line. You couldn't have asked for a better game from the Steelers. My reaction to the game can be summed up in three words: oh, hell yeah.

Pittsburgh's message to the league? In two words -- fear us.

Sadly, the Cleveland Browns did NOT do nearly as well as Pittsburgh. True, this was not entirely a bad thing -- the Browns' loss means Pittsburgh is now up a game on the alleged Smart Pick to win the AFC North. But I hate Dallas and watching Dallas win is annoying to say the least. Also, Dallas was unclassy as usual. So it was disappointing to see Cleveland fall 28-10 to the Cowboys. But we learned from the game that Cleveland still does not have, to use the technical term, a "defense." Mom was disappointed; my brother Jesse, who was at the game, was undoubtedly not happy at all. See you next week!

Jerome Bettis just smacked Cris Collinsworth on NBC's "Football Night in America." Verbally smacked, I mean. Made a crack about Collinsworth's work with the Bengals. And with good reason. Hoo boy did Cincinnati stink up the joint against the Baltimore Ravens today. This was pleasing, as I had predicted the Ravens' win over Cincinnati. Also, the Bengals apparently don't have a defense either. I am starting to like the Steelers's chances this year.

Of course, the big story of the day is Tom Brady. I have no idea what happened to Brady, although it certainly seemed to me Brady had the Kimo von Oelhoffen treatment applied to his knee. I've heard everything from "knee blown out" to "broken tibia" to "ACL torn" today -- this from my fellow football fans -- so I don't have any idea what might be wrong with the best quarterback in the league. My guess, however, is the ACL or some other ligament. If that's the case, Brady would probably be gone for the season. But we'll find out Monday, when the Patriots are forced to tell the world the news. I would not put it past them, however, to disguise the injury, thus paving the way for a mid-season Brady comeback, because one cannot underestimate the evil genius of Evil Genius Hobo Coach.

On an interesting observational note, a lot of football fans really don't like the Patriots. When the lowly Kansas City Chiefs pulled off a 68-yard pass play in the closing minutes of the game, bringing them within yards of tying the game, everyone in the room cheered. The Patriots fans, in the main portion of the bar, were silent. But the Pats pulled out the game, 17-10. They may need that win.

In other news: San Diego lost. Jacksonville lost. Now, only if Indianapolis would lose. But it's a long season and there are a lot of weeks ahead!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 06:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 02, 2008

Stupid Tropical Storm Aiming for New Hampshire

SO I CHECKED THE National Hurricane Center's Web site tonight and found, much to my dismay, that the remnants of Tropical Storm Hanna are on a direct course for New Hampshire. Naturally, the storm should hit right about the time I get out of work for my weekend, which starts on Saturday night.

What the hell? I mean, if a stupid tropical storm has to hit New Hampshire, why can't it happen at a convenient time, like Wednesday night? The last thing I want is for the stupid storm to hit as I'm about to start my weekend. Besides, other parts of the country -- like Georgia -- need a good tropical storm a heck of a lot more than we do. Earlier this summer, it rained every day for like three weeks.

The only advantage to having a tropical storm hit -- if not here, than elsewhere -- is that it could potentially mean Weather For Football. Like all football fans, I believe football is meant to be played outdoors, and ideally in miserable conditions. Remember last year, when Miami and Pittsburgh slogged it out at Heinz Field in a downpour? Remember how the turf turned into a soupy quagmire? Well, I watched the whole stupid game and loved it, just like all the Steelers fans at Heinz Field. (We did win, 3-0, so that was something). And if you didn't remember it, here's the video!

Also, just because I can show this, here's a video of Hines Ward decking Ed Reed.

Yeah. Oh, right. Where was I? Tropical storm. Anyway, I can assure you that as of this writing, the National Hurricane Center is forecasting a 12 pc chance of tropical storm force winds hitting south-central New Hampshire sometime on Saturday or Sunday. Well, as long as they don't knock out any power lines.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 01, 2008

Mendenhall's Fumbling Fix

AS MANY LOYAL RANT READERS are fans of the glorious Pittsburgh Steelers, you know that our new running back, Rashard Mendenhall, has had ... issues ... with holding on to the football. As a result, Mr Mendenhall's fellow players have come up with a way to help Mr Mendenhall. They've forced him to carry a football around for an entire week. Should Mr Mendenhall lose the football at any time, he will have to pay the Steeler who knocks it loose $100, and will have to pay $500 should the player return it to the running backs' meeting room.

Naturally, this was Hines Ward's idea. It was a good one too, I might add. But I do wonder: what will the Steelers players do with the money they get from Mr Mendenhall? Here at The Rant, we commissioned a special poll looking at just that question. The results are below:

Heh heh heh.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack