Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 Christmas Swag Part II

"Jack Frost" had this shirt under the Christmas tree for me and the wife.  Yes we are that couple who have matching shirts.  Somewhat dorky but that is what makes us who we are and Jack has been doing this for us the last couple of years.  Many might not know but this is a reference to the Overlook Hotel from the movie The Shining.  So if you aren't that familiar with the movie you might not get this reference but that is what is great about it.  The subtlety.  The Shining is one of the wife's favorite movies so this is a pretty cool gift.  I'll give props where props are do.  Our shirts came from Crazy Dog T-Shirts

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014 Christmas Swag Part I

Santa Clause left the Hot Wheels 75th Anniversary Batman collection under the tree for me Thursday.  It is a collection of eight vehicles from the various movies, video games, TV shows and cartoons.  I love that the set has such a variety of vehicles.  Included in the set are The Batman Batmobile, Batman Arkham Asylum Batmobile, Batman Batcopter, Batman Live Batmobile, Batman Movie Batmobile, Batman The Brave & The Bold Batmobile, The Dark Knight Rises The Bat, Batman Classic TV Series Batmobile. 

I don't think you could convince me to say the '66 Batmobile from the TV series isn't my favorite.  That said I do really like some of the other vehicles.  The best among the rest is the Arkham Asylum Batmobile.  It is a cool rugged looking version of Batman's wheels.  The Bat is also a nice looking car and from what I've read is a bit different from previous versions in that it has a blue hue.  I also really like the Batman Brave and the Bold and it's slick look.  Can't go wrong with any of these vehicles though. 

Now I have to decide what to do with them.  I normally open all my Hot Wheels because half the fun is being able to touch them and of course play with them as well.  These come in special packaging with artwork from the source Batman property.  I like the packaging as a whole.  I'm leaning towards leaving them in the package.  I'm very limited on where I could display them but I'm thinking it is worth figuring out.  Anyway I hope you all had a great Christmas and once again thank you to Santa Clause!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas! Yes I'm a little late...

The holidays, including Thanksgiving and Christmas have been great.  I've been pretty busy this month so there have been a lack of posts.  But again I've enjoyed the holidays.  For Thanksgiving we did pizza since our oven is broken.  That was a great idea until I started checking on pizza places that may be open on Thanksgiving.  None were.  Finally I remembered Casey's General Store made pizzas and they were open.  Great pizza and we all enjoyed even if it wasn't the traditional holiday dinner.  The Saturday after Thanksgiving I ran the local 5K which is run every year just prior to the Christmas parade.  I enjoyed the run and the parade as well which we watched from our front porch.  Living on the main road in town the parade runs right in front of the house which is great.  Our neighbor came over with his mother to watch the parade with us and the youngins gathered all the candy thrown from the floats and vehicles.  We love our small town we live in and the parade is a great reflection of our cozy little city. 

We had Christmas three times this year as my youngins came from out of town on Christmas Eve to get their presents, we had the traditional Christmas morning opening of presents, and then our oldest surprised us by showing up later in the morning with her fiancé to open their gifts.  You can never celebrate Christmas too much can you?  Well you probably can but we had a great time.  Santa Claus was good to me as I picked up the Hot Wheels Batman 75th anniversary collection, a laptop lap desk which I'm using right now, and an Overlook Hotel shirt (from the movie The Shining). 

I hope everyone else's holidays were good and that your upcoming New Year is just as fun.  I'll do some further posts showing my Christmas swag. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Review: Panini Hoops Basketball 2014-2015 Basketball Cards

Picked up a couple of the Hoops brand cards.  The first I wasn't impressed with so I grabbed a second pack yesterday to see if the set could redeem itself.  Bottom line is I'm not that impressed.  I know this isn't Panini's signature brand but it just feels as they did the bare minimum here.  Last year's set was better though the 2011-2012 set was also just so-so.  The fronts are ok with the brand and team name on a colored strip at the top.  The photos are good quality though a few made me shake my head.  Can't see the player's face or just an awkward picture.  The team logo and player's name are on a black strip on the bottom.  As always I'd prefer to see the player's position on the fronts of cards.  The backs are black and white again and for me very hard to read without a magnifying glass.  Very frustrating.  The backs include the card number, team logo, NBA logo and player's position at or near the top.  The middle portion includes the player's name and some quick factoids on the player.  Next are his height, weight, birthdate, round drafted, and college attended.  Then come the stats for each season they've played - games, FG%, FT%, 3PM, RPG, APG, steals, blocks, points and PPG.  Why do we need totals for points, three pointers, steals and blocks.  I never, EVER, talk to other fans and say "did you see player X had 200 total steals last season?".  I, and everyone I know, talks in per game numbers.  "Player X average 2.5 steals a game." That is how the NBA world works.  I just don't get why they continue to put stat totals on NBA trading cards.  Frustrating.  Again I think this is an average set at best. 

Inserts I Pulled
The one plus of the cards I bought is my very first autograph card.  I pulled an Anthony Bennett Great Significance signature card (#11).  Pretty cool.  Bennett isn't a player I follow and is probably still a bust but he has improved ever so slightly this year in his first year in Minnesota.  Not sure what I will do with the card but odds are it will be coming to an online auction site near you soon. 

In the Heat of the Night Movie Shown on the Big Screen

My Ticket
The 1967 hit In the Heat of the Night was shown yesterday at the local theater.  The movie was shot right here in town so the locals have always had a connection to it.  While the movie is set in Sparta, Mississippi it was actually shot right here in Sparta, Illinois.  The movie was very controversial and shooting in the deep South wasn't a good idea.  So for a donation of canned goods for the local food pantry I had a ticket for the show.  It was great.  When we arrived at the theater there were photos from the movie displayed as well as some behind the scenes shots.  As I listened to folks who were walking by the photos I heard things like "my sister-in-law was in that scene" or references to where the scenes were shot in town.  This was awesome.  I love that kind of stuff.  Once I sat down there was more of the same.  As movie facts and trivia cycled on the screen prior to the movie starting folks talked about the movie with pride.  The crowd definitely skewed older but I was surprised how many younger folks made it out.  It is also a thrill to see places on screen that we all recognize.  Once the movie was over no one was in a hurry to leave and just wanted to talk about the movie.  This was a wonderful experience and I'm very happy I had the opportunity to make it to the showing. 

As for the movie itself I'd only seen part of the it prior to yesterday.  What I had seen I really enjoyed.  The plot revolves around Sidney Poitier's detective, Virgil Tibbs, who is drawn into a murder investigation in a small southern town while just happening to pass through the town at the time of the murder.  Police Chief Gillespie is not happy to have a big city black police officer in town but they form a very uneasy alliance to catch the murderer.  The fun starts when Portier is brought in as a suspect and Chief Gillespie finds out he is really a Philadelphia homicide detective

As the movie progresses Tibbs and Gillespie must deal with the extreme racism of the South as well as their own prejudices.  The acting by Steiger and Poitier is nothing less that stellar.  Steiger won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.  The smaller characters and their great characterizations help fill out the small world that is Sparta.  The movie was nominated for seven academy awards, winning five, including best picture.  This really is a good murder mystery that is a joy to watch.  I'm not just gushing because of the local history.  This is a great movie. 

Note:  The Walking Dead fans will see Scott Wilson make his film debut in this movie as Harvey Oberst, a small time thief.  Wilson is best known as Hershel Greene in the hugely popular zombie series. 
Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Royals Lose World Series to Giants in Seven Games

This is more about the Kansas City Royals than say the World Series itself but do let me touch on the games for just a moment.  The San Francisco Giants, and more specifically, Madison Bumgarner bested the Royals this series.  While the team's ERA's aren't that much different (SF 3.98/KC 4.28) the hitting for the Royals was just not there.  The Royals' .249 batting average and .291 on base percentage led to their demise.  With their speed a few guys on base here and there could have made a huge difference in the series two close games.  But it was not to be.  Bumgarner pitched 21 of San Francisco's 61 innings and had a 0.43 ERA, 2 wins, 1 save, 1 complete game and only walked one while fanning 17.  Outstanding World Series for him and the Giants deserved to win.

I feel for the Royals and their fans.  I was rooting right along with them.  They are in my top five of MLB teams and I love the underdogs. And who is a bigger underdog than K.C.?  Ok, maybe the Cubbies.  Still it was hard.  They are a lovable team who was just fun with their brand of running and youthful exuberance.  I was rooting hard knowing that anything less that the title would hit the team and the fans hard.  I do hope that at some point soon they can all reflect on it for what it really was which was an amazing run, grab all the American League Champions gear and swag they can and be happy for what they accomplished.  It truly was magical. Eight and 0 going into the World Series, sweeping the Tigers and Angels on their run to the American League Championship.  No one, no one saw that coming.  I know it won't be long before the Royals see the playoffs again.  Still as a small market team I do know that they'll have to make financial decisions on players which will make it tough to sustain the momentum. Right now though it should all be about October and the fun the Royals brought to Kansas City. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I Voted!

While there are definitely millions of others who will vote today I want to note that I voted today.  When younger I was pretty cliché in my varied record for voting.  It is something that is so important and so easy I'm definitely not proud of my spotty past when it comes to casting a ballot.  But all that is behind me.  I make it a priority now and want my youngins to take the task to heart as well.  Tonight I, my wife and two kids all voted.  If asked I'll tell you I'm a Republican but I definitely won't hesitate to vote the other side of the aisle if I believe someone is the better candidate. 

Of course research is the key.  Sometimes that can be hard as much of what is out there pertaining to candidates is biased  That is one reason I've really come to like watching debates and the national conventions come elections for the president.  That way I get it straight from the horses mouth.  No matter who I choose it is always complicated.  There are pros and cons to all candidates so you have to go with your heart. 

No matter why or how someone votes it is just important that they get out.  I'm ok with someone clicking all Democrats or all Republicans.  At least their voice is being heard.  It is easy to dismiss some voters as not having all the facts or being narrow minded.  I am just happy they vote.  We've seen the numbers of voters at all-time lows in recent years and that is worse than my candidates not winning.  So I hope everyone got out today and voted. I'm happy I did. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

October Sports Collectibles Show Part III - Basketball Cards

Found some older basketball cards at the show particularly the late 60's and early 70's.  Many I really hadn't seen in such quantities but really couldn't find many that made me want to pick them up.  Still I found a few cards that caught my eye.   
My favorite card of the day hands down.  I love logos and this card from 1969 is awesome.  It has logos from the 1969 NBA teams to include some variations I've never even seen before.  A green and purple Lakers' logo?  Wow.  A great find and I paid $3 for the card which was far and away the most I paid for any card that day but I couldn't pass this up.
Players I like in Moses Malone, Artis Gilmore and Jack Sikma.  And yes that Gilmore card looks as psychedelic as the picture makes it out to be.   
Two of the greatest Atlanta Hawks and Portland Trail Blazer players ever, respectively, in Dominique Wilkins and Bill Walton.  I'll never pass up a 'Nique card and these unique cards are from a Sporting News top 50 players set. 
I pick up LeBron cards when I can and Damian Lillard is of course a Trail Blazer and a stud. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

October Sports Collectibles Show Part II - Football Cards

Here are the football cards I found.  No huge finds but I did find some I hadn't seen in a long time.  There was one dealer who had plenty I would have picked up had I had the means but the money just wasn't there.  I know, because I kept looking in my wallet hoping it had shown up since the last time I checked...
I loved receivers in the 80's.  Art Monk and James Lofton are right up there with the greats.  Kellen Winslow is a tight end I love and know he could put up numbers close to those of Tony Gonzalez if not surpass him if he played in the pass happy league we know and love today.
Two of the all-time greats.  Brady is a Michigan guy I've always followed and it is fitting that he'll play fellow great Peyton Manning today. 
Finding my Falcons players is always fun and I picked up another receiver I like in Vincent Jackson.
Who doesn't love the Creamsicle uniforms...
Huge Dickerson fan and even have his jersey.  Lee Roy Selmon was probably the greatest of those early Buccaneers teams. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

October Sports Collectibles Show Part I - Baseball Cards

I attended the October Westport Sports Collectible and Autograph Convention in St. Louis.  I also went to one earlier this year and blogged about that experience as well.  As always I went with my buddy and we had a good time.  I'll post about the different cards I picked up starting with baseball today.  First though I have to mention the school girl moment we had.  They had a pretty impressive lineup of stars doing autographs to include Bo Jackson, Robin Yount, Bob Gibson and other local sports heroes.  So my buddy and I are leaving the hotel for lunch when none other than Bo Jackson is getting out of the SUV that brought him to and we walked right by him.  [cue school girls giggling] We didn't say anything to him but it was quite the thrill.  That may sound weird coming from a forty-five year old man but the sports nerd in both of us was very excited.  And yes I've told the story to anyone who would listen whether or not they cared or even knows who Bo Jackson is.  Now that I've got that out of the way on to the cards. 

I had heard or read about the Kevin Smith card above and couldn't pass it up when I saw it.  I enjoy his TV show Comic Book Men and some of the podcasts he and his crew do which you can find here.  Combined with it being an Allen & Ginter card it was a win-win. 
My favorite cards from the day.  The Rickey Henderson card is just a really cool card to me.  Nice Pedro card as well.
More Allen & Ginter combined with my Red Sox.  Love finding Jim Rice cards. 
Yes more Allen & Ginter.  Will it ever end!?  Well these are the last for today.  Craig Kimbrel is probably my favorite Brave at the moment and I like Jose Altuve of the Astros.  Paul Molitor is one of my all-time favorite players. 
Big Papi in triplicate. 
Some Braves pitching studs. 
Big Papi again and two of my favorite current players in Andrew McCutchen and Yoenis Céspedes. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

2014-2015 Portland Trail Blazers Preview

Portland is coming off a 54 win season and a first round win over the Houston Rockets.  The Western Conference hasn't gotten any easier but expectations are still high for this team.  I like what coach Terry Stotts is doing with the team and think this team can definitely improve though I know it won't be easy. 

In the back court young star Damian Lillard holds down the point guard position after averaging 20 points and 5.6 assists a game.  Beside him was Wesley Matthews who averaged almost 17 points per game.  Both shot 39% from from three-point land.  I love this backcourt.  A point guard who can distribute the ball and score and a wing who can hit it from downtown.  Steve Blake, back after being signed as a free agent this summer, will be the new backup point guard.  I like him as guy who won't turn it over much and can hit a jump shot.  C.J. McCollum will come off the bench as a shooting guard and may see some time at the point as well. 

Star LaMarcus Aldridge is the leader of this team and a stud in the front court.  I really think he is a guy who can help take this team to the next level.  His 23 points and 11 boards are only part of what makes him great.  Nicolas Batum joins him in the front court.  Another guy who can stretch the court with his outside shooting where he hits a 36% clip.  Batum added 13 points, 7 boards and 5 assists per game.  Great production.  Thomas Robinson (PF) and Dorell Wright (SF) will come off the bench.  At center Robin Lopez returns to defend the paint.  He gave this team much needed defense while putting up 11 points and 8 and a half rebounds per game.  Journeyman Chris Kaman comes in as the new backup. 

Overall this is a solid team.  Their ability to score inside and out make them a tough matchup.  They need to grow some for them to get to the next level - a team that can get past the second round.  I think they can do it but while they added decent players in Blake and Kaman I don't think that adds up to a ton of improvement.  That means it is on coach Terry Stotts to help make this team better.  Again I like him and hopefully he can get more out of this team.  Timing also plays a part in these things.  Is Houston as good as last year?  Will San Antonio finally grow old?  How will Kevin Durant's injury affect Oklahoma City?  Can Phoenix play at the same level as last year?  I think Portland is a 54 win team again this season.  I also think they can win 54 games and be a better team.  With improvement as a team this team could definitely be a contender for the Western Conference title. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What happened to the Atlanta Braves This Year - a Look at The 2014 Season

The Bravos finished 17 games back of the Washington Nationals with a 79-83 record and didn't make the playoffs.  This and the fact the team hasn't won a postseason series since 2001 cost general manager Frank Wren his job.  The Braves had problems in different areas but the lack of scoring has to be the biggest weakness this team has.  Only the Padres scored less runs than Atlanta.  The offense was just anemic.  Whoever is hired to replace Wren has to help figure that out. 

Wren's best move of the year might have been cutting ties with Dan Uggla though the Erwin Santana pickup was a big boost to the starting staff.  Though Santana's signing came at the cost of a first round pick so I'm not sure how much of a win that is in such a down year.  I wish Atlanta would do the same with B.J. Upton.  He is horrible and getting worse but there were other holes in the lineup too.  Andrelton Simmons has massive skills on defense but he regressed at the plate.  Atlanta has to find someone who can help Simmons and Upton improve at the plate.  The pitching also had issues as it took big hits before the season when Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy were sidelined with Tommy John surgery.  Mike Minor also missed time with shoulder surgery and wasn't the same after his return. 

All wasn't bad though.  Evan Gattis, Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton, Julio Teheran and Aaron Harang all had good years.  The bullpen is in good shape so hopefully the offseason can concentrate on getting the offense right.  This isn't the first year the Braves have had issues with the offense.  At some point it has to get better.  Right?  Still it was a lost year that looked promising early but a late season collapse doomed the team.  Here's hoping Atlanta can find some offense somewhere this offseason whether that is through free agency, the minors or within the lineup itself. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

2014-2015 Atlanta Hawks Preview

The Atlanta Hawks are coming off a 38-44 season under new coach Mike Budenholzer.  Al Horford tore a pectoral muscle and missed all but 29 games dooming any hope the Hawks might have.  This netted them the final Easter Conference playoff spot and a first round matchup with the Pacers.  The series was hard fought and it looked as though Atlanta would win it but they fell in seven games.  Atlanta made a late push for the final playoff spot and I have to admit I wouldn't have felt too bad if they'd fell into the lottery and possibly gotten one of the big players in the stacked draft.  Probably not the best thing to say but the Hawks need more scoring and it wasn't there when they drafted in the first round.  While they did draft power forward Adreian Payne and added defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha this year's team will pretty much be the same as it was last year. 

The offseason was tough as the under the radar Hawks had to take front row and center in dealing with racially insensitive remarks from general manager Danny Ferry and owner Bruce Levenson.  The latter is selling his controlling interest in the team.  While this didn't rise to the level of the Donald Sterling ruckus, it does not help a team that already deals with the perception of not being somewhere NBA free agents want to go.  Hopefully the team can move past this somewhat quickly and keep the attention on the court. 

Point guard Jeff Teague returns after a year in which he cemented his status a true point guard who can lead this team.  He averaged 16 points, almost 7 assists, and shot 46% from 2 range but only 32% shooting the 3.  I'd like to see his 3-point percentage increase so guards have to respect that shot more.  Shooting guard Kyle Korver averaged 12 points a game while leading the league in 3-point percentage at 47%.  While I shouldn't complain I'd like to see him take more shots while increasing his scoring output.  Twelve points a game from your shooting guard just won't cut it for me.  Shelvin Mack (PG), Sefolosha (SG), and Kent Bazemore (SG) will all come off the bench.  Again I'm not sure I see the scoring I want here.  Teague is good right where he is at but to me my starting off guard should be putting up 15 points a game.

In the front court Demarre Carrol returns as the starting small forward after having a good year - 11 points, 47% FG, 5.5 RPG, 1.8 SPG.  Again less scoring from a wing than I'd like to see.  Sefolosha and rookie Lamar Patterson will also get minutes here.  Power forward Paul Millsap had an all-star year.  He averaged 17.9 points and 8.5 rebounds a game and added some range hitting 35% of his three pointers.  Mike Scott returns and the rookie Payne will also get minutes behind Millsap.  My thinking is Payne was drafted as the long term solution at this position.  Millsap is a free agent after this year and I wouldn't be surprised if Atlanta thinks he may be too expensive to keep.  Al Horford returns to anchor the middle.  While undersized he is a tough player and if he can average 18 and 8 like he did last year it is a win.  Pero Antic was a nice surprise last year with Horford out so he should be fine as his backup this year.

Still too early to make a determination on coach Budenholzer.  Thirty-eight wins isn't much to write home about.  This year the team has to move forward.  It will be year two in his system and they'll have Horford back.  I still worry about scoring.  Most teams have a wing guy to pick up the scoring while Atlanta relies on their bigs and Crawford.  I'm not saying it can't work, see San Antonio, but I just don't see Atlanta doing better than a 6th, maybe 5th seed as constructed.  The Eastern Conference isn't great but I think there are teams who are better and getting better.  I'm not sure I see Atlanta with that group.  Still I think they improve this year and probably get above .500.  I do look forward to seeing what they can do and who knows.  Maybe things can fall their way some and they'll be a surprise team in the East. 
New Unis - Pac Man is back!

Band of Brothers Book Review

Most probably know the popular HBO TV series based on the book Band of Brothers.  While I'd never seen the series I was familiar with it.  A buddy gave me the book to read.  I'm glad he did as I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The book follows E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne as they start the tough training for their first jump which is into Normandy on D-Day and through to the end of the war.  The book does a great job mixing the personal stories of the individual soldiers, the information needed to provide scope, and additional details to round everything out.  This all made for an easy read that I could have read in one setting given enough time. 
The personal stories are always what make these books.  Too many times though the book becomes a biography of one person or sometimes the big picture is lost and you meander through a story.  This doesn't do any of that.  You can tell the author, Stephen Ambrose by the way, took care to get what is important the soldiers while ensuring the book flows and the reader never gets bogged down.  You get a good feel for what it was like for the soldier as they readied for war and what really happens when that moment finally comes.  You also get what daily life was like as they froze, moved to the rear for a rest and once again moved forward to join the fray.  All the while you get to join in the hardships they must endure. 
If you at all are interested in military history this is a must read.  I enjoyed it immensely and don't think you'll be disappointed.  By chance I started watching the TV series last week.  I also like the show and will finish it up in the upcoming weeks.  Having just read the book I was really impressed how the series goes right off the book.  Always a good thing.  So I'll say I recommend both. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Movie Review

Not too many spoilers here so don't fret too much about reading this ahead of seeing the movie.  Though I'm a comic book guy I knew pretty much nothing about the Guardians of the Galaxy prior to watching the movie.  I'd heard of the title but before this year I really doubt many knew much about this group of characters.  I think Marvel did a great job marketing this movie.  Watching the previews I wanted to watch see it.  It also helped that everyone I knew that had already been really enjoyed it.  That included my sisters and all the kids.  So I was really itching to see it and it was still showing in our local theater so I made a point to see it Friday. 

The basic plot is a group of characters who are all have different motives but end up as a group fighting to save the universe.  Comedy is definitely a huge piece of this movie which makes it fun to watch for all ages.  The action and great characters are big piece to the movie as well and should keep everyone engaged.  I really did enjoy the movie and time passed pretty quickly.  I'll be curious if the movie's characters ever interact with the Marvel universe proper like the Avengers or others.  No matter Marvel has a pretty good property here that they can spin into more movies.  Again I liked it and think everyone should give it a look.  And yes there is a bonus scene after the credits. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hot Wheels 1989 Batmobile with Red Pinstripes

I had just read about this on the Hollywood Diecast Facebook page and what did I find at my local Wal-Mart yesterday?  You guessed it.  This is a new version of the 1989 Batmobile that Hot Wheels added to their base collection.  There are red pinstripes on this version.  The picture to the left is the only picture I took which looked decent.  Once I removed the car from the packaging my camera couldn't focus on the car for some reason.  Some special technology Batman added to the car no doubt.  Hot Wheels did do a version of this back in 2003 and many different versions have been released throughout the years.  Again Hollywood Diecast does a good job chronicling all the different Batmobile releases throughout the years from all the different movies, the TV show and unique interpretations.  This car specifically is a pretty good representation of the 1989 movie car.  Not overly detailed but it looks good.  While the red pinstripes aren't a true representation of the movie I like the look on the car.  Keep an eye out for this car as you are out and about.  For under a dollar you can't beat it. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

League Championship Series Matchups

I've been out of town for almost two weeks and saw only 9 innings worth of the baseball playoffs.  Luckily it was the first 9 innings of the thrilling Kansas City - Oakland wildcard game.  And what a start to the playoffs it was.  I didn't expect either of the upcoming championship series matchups but here I go:

Royals - Orioles - Let's get this out of the way - I'm all in on the Royals' bandwagon.  Hopefully they can pull off the miracle and get to the world series.  It was one thing to beat Oakland in a one game series but they swept who I thought was the best team in the majors - the Angels.  How the heck did that happen?  I didn't get to see the games and the recaps and boxscores don't do it justice.  This was a huge upset.  Now how good are they and can they keep it going?  I think they are good enough to win against Baltimore.  The talent is there.  Still they'll need to play at the top of their game every game for any chance at advancing to the World Series.  Again I love this team and want to see them win but no matter how good they've played to this point it is hard to see them getting past a superior Orioles team.  Of course I would have said that a week ago prior to the Angels series had I had a chance to post my thoughts...  Still I'd love to see them in the World Series and even better to see them kick the Cardinals butt in a rematch of their last playoff/World Series appearance in 1985. 

Baltimore has flown under the radar most of the year.  About the only thing their offense didn't excel at was anything involving speed.  Their power numbers were near the top while also being 5th in the AL in average.  The pitching was 3rd in the AL in ERA though their starters (Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Ubaldo Jimenez, Kevin Gausman) probably don't strike fear in most fans when they hear their names.  Still they and their bullpen helped this team win 96 games while no one outside Baltimore paid attention.  They have a good offense that can win with the long ball.  I think this is the better team.  Kansas City should give them a good series assuming they don't wake up and remember they are the Royals.  I think Baltimore wins in 6 games and think it would be a great story considering the Orioles haven't been to the Series since defeating the Phillies in the '83 Fall Classic.

Giants-Cardinals - I really thought we'd see the Nationals in the championship series.  That said the Giants are a good team and have experience plus two of the last four World Series championships.  Good starting pitching here led by Madison Bumgarner and I can't wait to see the game 1 matchup versus Adam Wainwright.  I'm not sure I can quantify how but I think the Giants are the better team.  Look at the records of their starters and two have losing records.  Go figure.  Jake Peavy has been a great pickup as a starter and their bullpen has been very good sans some bumps in the road at closer.  Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Joe Panik lead a good offense that doesn't have a 30 homerun guy but many in the lineup can hit a homer at anytime.  I like the balance here on offense and in their pitching but I see a hard fought series that goes 7 games.  Bruce Bochy is one of the best managers going and I think that will help the Giants win this tough series.      

Living near St. Louis, and not being a Cardinals fan, I have Cardinals fatigue.  It is fun needling my buddies when the Cards struggle but that hasn't been much this year.  From about the mid point of the season St. Louis hit it's stride and look as good as anyone coming out of the National League.  Not a star studded offense and a relatively young starting staff this team is easily overlooked.  Still Wainwright and John Lackey help steady this staff along with stud catcher Yadier Molina.  The offense struggled mightily at one point this year but caught their second wind and while not sexy are scrappy, if not productive.  Mike Matheny is young and is questioned often here locally but this is his third straight championship series so he is doing something right.  Again I like the Giants here but St. Louis has home field advantage and should push them to the limit.  Should be a great series no matter how it comes out. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Jaunt With the Wife

I mentioned in the first blog of the month my "jaunts" with the wife.  For us that usually means a trip down a road that hasn't been called that since wagons ran over it, checking out houses or buildings we assume are abandoned, looking for houses with checkered pasts, or straight up chasing ghosts.  This jaunt was one was just North of town when we lived in Clovis, NM.  It was just off the main highway at a cross road that wasn't spectacular in any way.  Trees lined the corner on most of three sides with the highway side mostly clear.  Clumps of trees are good indicators that something may have been in an area at some point so it wasn't uncommon for us to seem those out.  We quickly saw it was definitely where a house once stood as outlined by what was left of the foundation. 

What we found that was out of the ordinary was what we saw in the picture above.  I wish I had done a better job of getting a picture that truly showed what was there.  What we saw looked like the outline of a small casket you might find in 1800's.  It had dimensions that left little doubt as to what it could be.  The odd part was nothing had been in this spot in many, many years.  As you can see the weeds were overgrown.  There was no reason for this bare patch of dirt that was the perfect outline of a casket. 

We wandered the entire area and never did see anything else that looked that out of place.  Maybe some different parts of this or that we couldn't identify but nothing you wouldn't see at any abandoned spot.  To see this in the middle of this field was really odd.  We've wandered many an abandoned property and never seen anything similar.  I'm also betting we were probably the only ones who had been through there in years as there is no reason to ever stop there.  So how did this come to be?  A natural occurrence that would make perfect sense if we knew the answer?  Or was it really something more oddball, more sinister?  I'm always one to come up with an explanation but this one really escaped me.  Why would this one area of dirt have no grass and have such a specific shape?  There was no indication that anything was buried there.  It just looked like something of that shape had sat there for a very long period of time and been removed just prior to us showing up.  It wasn't anything worth Ripley's but it will always puzzle us and I wanted to share.  The next jaunt I'll post about was definitely more adventurous and I think it will be fun to write about it.
Another Picture of the Area From That Night

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

I like Halloween - I really like Halloween

Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year.  I'm sure as a kid I'd have told you it was Christmas and I was probably right but Halloween was a close second.  As I've grown Halloween jumped to #1.  I love everything about it.  The scary scenes like the above, the costumes, the movies, the visuals, the music, the feel of being scared, the candy, everything.  This year I had wanted to post for the 31 days of October.  I got the idea from Erick's Wonderful Wonderblog.  You can see this year's post concerning the Countdown to Halloween here which is annual drive put on by another site.  I'm actually out of town for a bit so for now I'm going to say I'll do it next year.   

As a kid I always dressed up.  Maybe it was a football player, in a homemade wolfman outfit or any of the kind you buy at the store.  Didn't matter.  Just looking forward to picking out my costume was great.  I also loved going to the Halloween fairs they had at school.  I would even trick or treat and I even remember trick or treating on my own as I got older.  Not something you'd do today.  I also remember getting homemade candied apples.  Homemade food is also taboo today.  I even stuffed a shirt and pants and put them in our front yard once.  I also had recorded scary sounds on a cassette tape.  I had no way to remotely play the sounds and it didn't run long so I'd run outside every time I saw someone coming to hit play on the old school cassette player.  I was probably was in my mid teens at the time and I'll never forget how much fun that was.

One thing that I always looked forward to around Halloween were the Halloween TV shows and movies.  In the 70's and early eighties this would be The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, Mad Monster Party, the universal monster's big three (Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman), among many others.  One of my first posts here was on my favorite horror movies.  This part of Halloween was always better than Christmas.  I cut my teeth on all the great black and white movies that scared me to death and slowly graduated to Halloween, The Fog, right up to current greats such as the original Scream and Rob Zombie's Halloween.  There are too many to name here but needless to say I could go on and on.  Being scared by a movie or show is something I always look forward too. 

Halloween is also something I've always enjoyed with my youngins.  Passing on the love of Halloween is great.  My kids would tell you they've seen Mad Monster Party way too many times. Still it is great to see them enjoy something that I've had so much fun with throughout the years.  The older kids still at home love to dress up and hand out candy and the wife loves making up all the cool Halloween treats for everyone to enjoy.  We all enjoy seeing the great costumes of kids and how they react to the pumpkins we carved and have put outside the house.  My wife is someone whose interests lend itself to the ghost hunting side of the genre and she was into long before it came into vogue.  We'll go on what we like to call jaunts and I'll share some of those this month in future posts.

Halloween always seems to bring out the fun in folks. We always love talking about everything the season brings.   I'm in the military and one of the things I enjoy every year is our Halloween run and costume contest.  We run a 5K in costume followed by the contest.  I am in communications, which is a career field filled with nerds, and historically we've done very well with costumes.  Just two years ago they took first and second with a group from Futurama as well as Rick Astley.  One more thing to make me look forward to ictober and all it brings.  I look forward to the upcoming season and I hope you have a fun and scary Halloween.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

2014 MLB Post Season - The Wild Card Round

AMERICAN LEAGUE:  I don't have much time but wanted to touch base on this if even for a quick minute before the wild card games start.  First my teams didn't make it but I'll touch on those topics in another post.  Second I couldn't be happier for the Kansas City Royals.  I've always watched them from afar and, like Pittsburgh, have wanted them to be relevant again.  Hosting the Oakland A's in tonight's wild card game is a good start.  This is a good team.  Not one I'd expect to do much damage in the playoffs past this game but I would still like to see them get a shot at the Angels and have at least one additional playoff game in KC.  Oakland is also a team I like to see do well.  Maybe it is the small market thing.  Actually I know it is.  Still they've had their shot winning their division the last two years only to fall in the first round.  I would definitely root for them if they make it past Kansas City but I'd like to see the Royals move on.  That said I think Oakland wins tonight in a close game.  I like Lester in the playoffs and think that gives Oakland the edge.  Still Kansas City should give them a game of it and a play here or there and they'll be headed to Los Angeles for the next round. 

NATIONAL LEAGUE:  Pittsburgh is another team with a soft spot in my heart.  They are also playing well right now and I think they'll beat San Francisco at home tomorrow night.  This should be another close game but if either wild card game becomes a blowout this would probably be it.  I like the Giants' pitching staff better overall but Pittsburgh has Edison Volquez going and he gives them as good a chance to win as anyone.  Either team will be lucky to make it a series in the next round against Washington but you never know.  You just need to get there and hope you catch a few breaks.  Again, I think Pittsburgh wins this one in a close game. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Maze Runner Movie Review

Yesterday was the daughter's birthday and she wanted to see The Maze Runner.  We found it at a local drive-in theater and went last night.  It was the Skyview Drive-In.  First we really enjoyed the drive-in experience.  Three of us sat outside on lawn chairs with a  radio which we had tuned in to the radio frequency they broadcast the sound through.  Two youngins sat in the truck and used it's radio.  Been a long time since I've been at a drive-in.  Probably 15 years.  Good stuff.

SPOILER ALERT:  To the movie.  I didn't know anything about the movie going in.  My perception was that the movie was geared towards a younger teen crowd.  I'm thinking that I'm pretty close on that thought.  The basics are that boys have been put in the middle of a maze starting three years ago.  A new boy shows up every month.  The boys live in a the center of the maze which has giant walls keeping them in except for when the walls open during the day.  These walls open up to allow the boys access.  The maze itself changes throughout the day and night.  "Maze runners" are those who go out and search the maze trying to discover a way out.  The maze walls close every night and no one who has been stuck in the maze overnight has survived. 

The last boy to arrive (Thomas) doesn't believe in the status quo which is just staying in the center living their days out.  He breaks the rules by going into the maze when he shouldn't.  He is challenged and even blamed for misfortunes that soon fall upon the group.  The last person to join their group is a girl with a note saying she is the last which worries everyone since they need the supplies that arrive with the newcomers to help them live.  After Thomas goes into the maze and kills one of the creatures that live there the door walls to the maze stay open. 

This is the beginning of the end as the creatures that once stayed within the maze attack the area where they live.  Some die, some live and some believe more than ever than Thomas and the girl are at the root of all that is now wrong.  The division leads Thomas and others to go into the maze to an area they believe they can escape through which they eventually do after more encounters with the beasts.  At the end they learn why they were in the maze and are rescued by unknown troops.  After that it is learned that all is not as they thought.  It was all a plan but to what end we don't exactly know yet. 

I've left out many details but that is the gist of it.  I liked the movie and if I was rating it I would give it 6.5 stars out of 10.  I think it is good and it probably will be popular with the crowd it was geared towards.  It is entertaining and I liked the concept.  I did think the ending was a letdown but it has obviously been made with a sequel in mind.  That is just what we tend to see now days.  We don't quite get that satisfying ending we come to expect with stand alone movies.  Still if you were thinking of seeing this movie I suggest you do so. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

4th and Inches...Week 2

Powered by special teams, Buffalo pitched a shutout in the first half and didn't let up in a 29-10 victory over Miami.  Kicker Dan Carpenter hit on five field goals while C.J. Spiller ran back a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown.  Sammy Watkins added the other scoring on a touchdown pass from EJ Manuel for the first of his career.  Spiller added 69 yards rushing averaging 5.8 yards per carry while Watkins totaled 117 yards receiving.  The defense had four sacks and an interception while only allowing Miami to convert 5 of 16 third downs.  EJ Manuel played well and didn't throw an interception again helping his team win by minimizing mistakes.  Great win that puts Buffalo in sole possession of first place after two weeks.  Yes it is only two weeks but when was the last time we could say that?  If feels good. 

Atlanta was not as lucky.  Cincinnati's defense held the Falcons to 309 total yards while allowing them to convert only 3 of 12 first downs and forced three turnovers.  Matt Ryan was the sole culprit as he threw three interceptions.  Bad day for him and so went the Falcons.  Atlanta averaged 5+ yards per carry but without watching the game it is hard to say in what context or is it easy to figure out why they didn't run more.  I would like to see how Cincy took Atlanta out of their game.  Ryan was only sacked two times and no quarterback hits.  Hopefully they haven't figured something out the rest of the league can mirror.  Atlanta has Tampa Bay in week three.  Hopefully they can bounce back but with the Bucs looking for their first win they are sure to be tough. 

What a week for finishes.  Kansas City doesn't convert a fourth and goal with just 15 seconds left as they tried to tie the game...  Cleveland wins on a short field goal after starting a drive from their four yard line and the New Orleans' defense blows the coverage to set up the game winning kick...  Tampa Bay isn't able to attempt a game winning field goal with eight seconds left when their receiver is injured and can't get up.  Tampa had no timeouts and the automatic 10 second run off meant the game was over...  The Jets find a way to lose when they nullify a game tying touchdown on 4th down when their sideline called a timeout.  No it wasn't coach Rex Ryan, the only person allowed to call the timeout, but a defensive end who saw the offensive coordinator signaling for a timeout.  And yes they did not convert the subsequent replaying of said 4th down...  Chicago pulled off a great comeback against San Francisco who once again did nothing in the second half.  And the Bears did this behind Jay Cutler who threw for 176 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions.  Wow.  Not a line you see from Cutler very often...  Did San Diego take it to Seattle or what?  I'll be curious what San Diego does with this win.  Can they keep the momentum at Buffalo in week three?  I say no.  Sorry Yaj...  What the heck happened to the Lions?  To fall that flat against Carolina is a huge letdown after their great performance in week one...