FIWK the NFL: Week 17

The sadness before the playoffs. I really go nothing on the hope AJ Smith doesn't get fired? As for the rest of the NFL, the Packers are locked into the first seed in the NFC and the Texans are locked into the third seed in the AFC. Every other seed is up for grabs. The Saints move from 3 to 2 and get a first round bye with a win and a 49ers loss, so both those teams will be trying. The winner of the Cowboys-Giants game gets the 4 seed and the loser is out of the playoffs, so they will both be trying. Atlanta can leapfrog Detroit from the 6 to the 5 seed with a win and a Lions loss, and both teams would much rather face the NFC East champ than Drew Brees and the Saints, so they will both probably be trying. In the AFC, A Patriots loss combined with a Ravens loss and Steelers win means the Steelers get the 1 seed, the Patriots get the 2 seed and the Ravens get the 5 seed. A Patriots win locks up the 1 seed, then the Ravens hold the tiebreaker for the AFC north and the 2 seed over the Steelers, meaning the Steelers would need to win and for the Ravens to lose to get a first round the Ravens, Steelers and Patriots will all probably trying. Houston gets the 3 seed. The Broncos get the 4 seed with a win or a Raiders loss. The Raiders need to win and a Broncos loss to win the AFC West. The Bengals get the last playoff spot with a win, but a loss opens the door to the Jets, Titans and Raiders for a wild card spot. There is no way the Broncos can lose the AFC West and still get a playoff spot. So that means the Broncos, Raiders, Jets, Titans and Bengals will all be trying. By my count half the teams in the league still have something to play for on the last day. That's actually pretty entertaining. So did I take any of this into consideration when making my picks? Of course not. The spreads already take this into account and I just pick the games according to the line that is put in front of me.

Music Tuesdays - 123 Stop by The Postelles

Classic British indie rock sound to this song. Maybe it's the accent, but it reminds me strongly of The Kooks. Big fan.

FIWK the NFL: Week 16

So apparently I forgot to make my picks last week. Just plum forgot. I was on vacation (who takes a vacation two weeks before Christmas?) and thought I would have time on Thursday, but alas, family, friends, games and drinks got in the way. Oh well. I think I would have done horribly anyways. But you know what happened since the last time we met? The Broncos lost and the Chargers won three in a row, including a beat down of the Ravens. It may be too little too late, but if the Broncos lose two and the Chargers win two, the Chargers win the division at 9-7. Any other situation, the Broncos have the fourth tiebreaker of record against common opponents (or the Raiders or Chiefs win the division). And also, all of a sudden, the Chargers have wild card hopes. They are still behind the Jets and Bengals, but other than head to head with the Jets, the Chargers hold most tie breakers for multiple teams tied for the last wild card spot. So this week Scott and Mik are cheering for the 49ers and the Falcons to beat the Saints, while Royce and I are cheering for the Chargers, Bills, Cardinals, Jaguars, Giants and the Chiefs. But the Chiefs losing wouldn't be particularly harmful. Isn't projecting playoff scenarios fun?

Music Tuesdays - Thin Line by honeyhoney

When I hear this song, all I can think of is Mik's description of the White Stripes' "old-school, ass-kicking, hillbilly vibe" because that's exactly what this song reminds me of - as if the Jack White sang as a woman. It has the same dirty, rockin' gaucho sound.

Bonus points go to our entire comment thread on the above link... that was hands down our best series of random comments ever. MP is the Adlai Stevenson of FIWK.

FIWK the NFL: Week 14

There are two rules the NFL has that I absolutely hate. While I don't like the current confusion surrounding what constitutes a completed catch before the end zone or in the end zone, and I don't like the ability of a judgment call to award a 60 yard penalty, the refs in the NFL are fucking spectacular and do an outmazing job and you should try your darndest to avoid criticizing them. But I hate the NFL awarding a monopoly on the Sunday Ticket to Direct TV and I hate that the NFL blacks out the local team when the game doesn't sell out. Normally, moving from San Diego to the bay area would take care of both of these issues. The Chargers are rarely on TV locally, and since I can't get Sunday Ticket through my cable provider, I need to go to the local BJ's to watch the Chargers on their Sunday Ticker. This kind of works out as a win-win, as I get to enjoy quality craft brews and watch multiple NFL games at once. Also, since I no longer live in San Diego, I never have to fear the dreaded local black out. But this weekend, I will visiting San Diego and the Chargers game will be blacked out and now I'm just as mad at Roger Goodell and the NFL as Royce is at David Stern. So will it be a crappy streaming foreign internet feed or $50-$100 to go to the game?

FIWK the NFL: Week 13

Another good week last week. Somewhere between not sucky and back up to even for the year. If I can just keep this momentum going...and the Chargers can win out to get to 9-7, things will be looking good. Where did that come from? The Chargers win out to get to 9-7? Is that supposed to be some unconscious calculation of what the Chargers and Raiders need to do to make the playoffs? Why am I doing this? Why am I checking the Raiders schedule? Oakland is 7-4. The Chargers are 4-7. I want Norv Turner demoted to offensive coordinator and Bill Cowher hired. But the Raiders play the favored Dolphins this week and still have to play the Packers and the Lions. Those three losses puts them at 8-7 or 7-8 (if they also lose to the Chiefs) going into the last game of the year against the San Diego. STOP IT!! I CAN'T HELP MYSELF!! AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!! As for the sane/objective analysis of everyone else...

FIWK the NFL: Week 12

That picture looks familiar. Maybe it's because I used the same exact picture seven weeks ago. but it's such a great picture for the Chargers vs. Broncos matchup. I mean, I guess I could have gone with Ryan Mathews. Or any of the photos from the game. But I really like this standard photo of the line of scrimmage with the offensive lineman facing the defensive linemen. And when I get a chance to use it, I jump at the opportunity. Last week I was 10-4 SU, 7-5-2 ATS and 4-2-1 in games I chose to put $ on. You know what, that doesn't suck. So let's keep the not sucking going on.

FIWK the NFL: Week 11

Last week didn't go that well for me. I mean my picks weren't that great, but the real killer was the Chargers losing to the Raiders. I guess our 4th-8th linemen aren't that great. And our 1st-3rd were injured. As for my picks, I think I blindly followed my statistical analysis just a little bit too much. As I pointed out, I actually picked the Bengals to beat the Steelers outright, even though I knew this looked fishy due to their respective strength of schedules. So, this week, I'm relying heavily on the Pythagorean winning percentage compared to the spread historical winning percentage, but in a few cases, I am going to interject just a little bit of common sense.

Music Tuesdays - The Sound of Winter by Bush

In the spirit of musical compromise that Aaron gifted me last week, I would like to present this new Bush song. I was really surprised to hear Bush with a new single on the radio. Big fan.

What the F*WK? "Android Fragmentation"

According to Nielsen, Google's Android OS runs 43% of America's Smartphones - that's a lot, and sounds like Google should be flying high considering they've only been around for a few years. Not so fast my friends. Android is open source & free, meaning any OEM can leverage it to create the next great Android device. This is great for Google. This has resulted in a tremendously fragmented ecosystem that, according to app developers, presents a significant problem (see chart below).

Michael DeGusta presents this another way: it's also incredibly troubling for the end consumer. Little-to-no high-end devices run on the latest version of Android; how frustrating is it for a consumer to spend $200 on a device that's outdated 3-weeks later?

Image via Phandroid.

FIWK the NFL: Week 10

I obviously picked the Chargers this week. For everything else I'm going totally quantitative. For a while I had been trying to figure out how to relate points differential or yards/play differential into a way to attempt to pick against the spread. Bill Barnwell and Bill James provided the answer this week. Taking the Pythagorean winning % for the two opponents and Bill James' formula, you can determine how often the favorite should win. Then I used Spreadapedia to look at how often a favorite at each spread has won outright and added 3% for the home team. For example, based on the Chargers and Raiders points scored and points allowed, the Chargers should win 60.8% of the time. But 7 point favorites win 72.2% of the time. If we expect the Chargers to win 60% of the time, they should probably be favored by 3 or 3.5. So, strictly quantitatively, I would pick the Chargers to win outright and the Raiders ATS, but I never pick against the Chargers. I just can't.

Unfortunately, all of this makes for fairly boring analysis of each individual game.

Music Tuesdays - If I Die Young by The Band Perry

Don't know why I like this one. Hopefully it's a compromise for me and Royce

FIWK the NFL: Week 9

There weren't very many pictures of Chargers and Packers playing. And there are even fewer stats in this weeks picks. I made my choices mostly based on the spread and location. In general, the underdog wins ATS and loses SU more often than not. So I'll be leaning towards the underdog when I can. And for a little quiz, when picking straight up, I picked every favorite except one. If you can't figure out the underdog I picked to win outright, then shame on you.

FIWK the NFL: Week 8

I got nothing. I can't figure out anything. And I'm not even bringing the funny very well. I really wanted to ignore all the stats and go with my gut. But it only took me two games before I realized I don't even have a gut feeling about any of these games. SO! World Series Game 7, huh? Pretty exciting. Can the Rangers become the Buffalo Bills of the World Series or will Matt Harrison (who?!?) lead the Rangers to their first Fall Classic title? All the numbers you could possibly use are below, but I'm not going to mention them in the matchup discussions. Winning %, Pythagorean %, Pt. Dif/G, Offensive Yards/Play, Defensive Yards/Play, Yards/Play differential, DVOA. Finally, one of my favorite Tweets of the week to show you just how hard this is; Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders told us they had the Colts and the Jaguars as good chances to win outright. The Jaguars upset the highly favored Ravens and ruined many a Survivor pool. The Colts lost 62-7.

The US is a Platform

Two weeks ago, Steve Yegge publicly posted a rant lambasting Google for approaching tech architecture from a product standpoint instead of a platform perspective. In other words, Yegge wants Google to produce a platform on which the public can build applications & products for the masses. Instead, Google releases finalized products that often miss the mark. The genesis for the rant stems from Google's lack of success with Google+ compared to it's chief rival Facebook, which has built one of the most widely adopted platforms in the world.

I had this in mind when reading a debate on American exceptionalism between Stephen Walt & Thomas Friedman.

Image via Foreign Policy.

What the F*WK? "Occupy [fill in the blank]"

To all the "Occupy" movements out there: what the hell do you want? Your 'movement' means nothing, has no goals nor organization, and cannot be compared to the Tea Party Movement given this lack of clarity. For me to take you seriously, organize yourselves (no, camping out in public spaces does not constitute organization) and find a goal!

Image via Occupy California.

FIWK the NFL: Week 7

I feel like I've lost my picking mojo. Or at least that this season is both really clumped together and very volatile. I can't really get anything going, but I'm not doing poorly. You could say that I was performing average or within one standard deviation of the mean. Which I consider a disappointment for myself. All the way below I have listed every stat I consider when picking games. That's not to say these are my only determining factors, just that if I don't use these stats, I'm probably relying on more subjective analysis. The stats are Pythagorean Win % (which is just another calculation based on point differential), Points For - Points Against = point Differential and divided by the number of Games played = Differential per Game. Then we also have Offensive Interception (thrown) rate, Defensive Interception (caught) rate and Football Outsiders DVOA. And with the Redskins, Raiders, Vikings, Broncos and possibly Rams going with new quarterbacks, I just don't know what to think.

FIWK the NFL: Week 6

These are just a few of the great activities the San Diego Chargers can enjoy during their bye week.

Last week, point differential went 6-6-1 after an impressive 12-4 the prior week. So maybe we take it into consideration, but not just follow it blindly. Also, now that some teams have had their bye and only played four games, we have to focus on point differential per game. I'll provide the list below. I used Football Ousiders DVOA, point differential per game, the spread and some of my own observations in my picks this week.

Music Tuesdays - Go To Sleep by Radiohead

Radiohead was in the news recently because of their rumored gig at Occupy Wall Street. That got me listening to them, and I got this song in my head of all things.

FIWK the NFL: Week 5

I have a friend and fellow Chargers fan coming in to town this weekend and we are going to watch the game at BJ's together. I am actually more excited to watch this game than the Chargers first four matchups because it is always more fun to watch a game with a friend. Last week, my point differential stat du jour went 12-4 so you bet your sweet ass I'm going with that again. PLUS I don't have to think nearly as much. So take the picks, grab a friend and some good beer, and here...we...go!

FIWK the NFL: Week 4

The NFL right now is a volatile muddled middle. Remember that week in August where the stock market had four consecutive days of triple-digit movement and at the end of the week we were right back where we started? That's the NFL so far. Overall the teams are really close in quality, but that doesn't mean you can just take the underdog and the points because the games are much more volatile. You're going to have underdogs winning outright and one point favorites winning by double digits. You're going to have Team A beat Team B by two touchdowns, Team B defeat Team C handily and then Team C takes care of business against Team A. Go ahead and look at Tennessee, NYJ, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville and Oakland and figure out what's going on there. I'm pretty sure there is a Super Bowl contender and 6-10 team in that group. Go ahead and add Washington, Dallas, NYG, Philadelphia (wait, that's all the same division), New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Atlanta. I would only feel confident picking 3-0 Green Bay and against 0-3 Kansas City and 0-3 Seattle...wait, no Seattle beat Arizona last week, who beat Carolina, who beat Jacksonville, who beat Tennessee, who beat Baltimore, who beat Pittsburgh, who beat Seattle. See that vicious little circle we're dealing with? For no particular rhyme or reason, I'm going to use point differential unless I have some reason not to.

BPL or EPL? Filling out your lineup

After the Rooney scratch last week, I've become hyper sensitive to unexpected injuries taking a toll on our players. Fantasy NFL owners of Jamaal Charles and Peyton Manning know all too well how injuries can drastically change your fantasy team. In the vein of using your bench of effectively, make sure that you are actively checking the Guardian Squad Sheets the night before game day. As of right now they and other fantasy sources are saying that both Rooney and Chicharito are going to play for Man United tomorrow.

That being said, I'm skittish enough about their injuries to yank my captaincy from Rooney. I'll be giving it to either Silva or Aguero since Man City faces hapless Blackburn this week. This is going to explode in my face when Rooney has 4 more goals against Norwich this weekend. I'm not quite ready to go 3-5-2 out of striker-injury fear though.

BPL or EPL? Use your bench players intelligently

Before the Premier League season started, Aaron had a theory that he'd roster attacking players from the teams that scored the most goals last season - Chelsea, Arsenal, and United. (Click the 10/11 pull-down for last year.) Similarly, defenders from the teams that allowed the fewest goals were ranked highly. Using this same logic, take a look at the high-scoring teams for this season - United has 21 goals, City has 17, and the next closest team is Chelsea with 8. The lesson, as always, is roster all the Manchester players.

For fantasy purposes, consider your budget to be $81 and lock in Rooney (9 goals) and Aguero (8) for $19.1. They are the two highest scorers on the two highest-scoring teams; if you don't roster them you give yourself lower odds of keeping pace. How you treat the rest of your lineup, however, depends upon whether you're rolling out a 3-4-3 or a 3-5-2 formation. The reason it's different is because of the way the ESPN fantasy game treats subs.

FIWK the NFL: Week 3

Yeah, I did pretty bad last week. I guess I took my own theme of not overreacting just a little too far and ended up underreacting. (Why is overreact a word, but underreact gets the red spell check squiggly?) I may have ended up underreacting all the way back to 2009. So let's try and find a happy middle ground. Let's start considering strength of opponents. The Bills and the Lions are both 2-0, with huge point differentials. But I'm pretty sure that's more an indictment of how bad the Chiefs are (L 41-7 to the Buffalo and L 48-3 to Detroit) than an early proclamation those two teams are going to the playoffs. In fact, I kind of like Royce's early "Always pick against KC and SEA" rule. So, with just the right amount of reaction...

Beer Wednesday: Cherry Chocolate Stout by Stone, Jason Fields and Kevin Sheppard, and Troegs

A new beer is available from the Stone collaborations series, and I was really excited to give it a try. You don't see an ambitious flavor mix like 'Cherry Chocolate Stout' every day, so I was pretty excited about this one. The short version: it tastes a lot like a beer version of a Cherry Coke. Make of that what you will.

FIWK the NFL: 2011 Week 2

Ok, this week is going to be fast. And my overarching theme is to not overreact to Week 1.

Oakland (+3) over BUFFALO: It's the Bills. You're going to take the Bills and give points? The Raiders showed some toughness last year and last week. If the Bills win by 30 point this week, then maybe I'll take them as the favorite next week. Darren McFadden is the only non-QB to get 10 fantasy points.

Kansas City (+8) over DETROIT: The Chiefs won the AFC West last year. The Lions went 0-16 a few years ago. Let's not start sucking each other's popsicles yet. Calvin Johnson gets two TDs...again.

Baltimore (-6) over TENNESSEE: Man, Baltimore looked really good last week. But if I've learned one thing from Football Outsiders (and then again from Bill Barnwell) it's that fumble recoveries are very random. Interceptions are not. So, the Ravens looked better than they are and the Steelers looked worse because the Ravens recovered every fumble. Still, they looked damn good. I'd even considering switching them with the Steelers in my season preview, BUT we're not overreacting to Week 1 so I am just going to take them to beat the Titans. Ray Rice has the best day among all fantasy running backs.

INDIANAPOLIS (+2.5) over Cleveland: Let's see something from the Browns and the Bengals before we determine what really happened last week. And same for Kerry Collins. Kerry Collins throws more touchdowns than Colt McCoy.

Tampa Bay (+3) over MINNESOTA: Tampa Bay did not look that bad and Minnesota looked way too dependent on Adrian Peterson. Good for fantasy, not good for the Vikings winning games. Neither quarterback gets over 200 yards passing.

Chicago (+7) over NEW ORLEANS: At the very least, this game should be much closer than 7 points. The Bears may not be as good as they showed hosting the Falcons and the Saints defense may not be as bad as they showed visiting the defending Super Bowl champs on Opening Night. I'll take the 7 points and re-evaluate next week. Darren Sproles scores a touchdown.

Jacksonville (+9.5) over NYJ: I'm just going to type NYJ and NYG for those two teams from now on. Well maybe not permanently, but at least for the time being. You know who did not have a good fantasy day against the Jacksonville defense? Chris Johnson and the Titan's running game. Who know who is a little extra dependent on the run and actually got a little lucky last week? The NYJ. While the Jets are the better team, the spread is way too big. Maurice Jones-Drew has more fantasy points against the Jets defense than Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson combined.

PITTSBURGH (-14.5) over Seattle: The Steelers lost 34-7 last week. They are favored by 14.5. Actually that feels about right because the Seahawks are just that bad.

WASHINGTON (-3.5) over Arizona: Arizona's defense made Cam Newton look really good and I think they do the same favor for Rex Grossman.

Green Bay (-10) over CAROLINA: I say Cam Newton throws for 200 yards less than he did last week. Green Bay has four different guys score touchdowns.

Dallas (-3) over SAN FRANCISCO: The Cowboys actually looked pretty good against a good Jets team. Despite Tony Romo's idiocy, I am going to put Dallas in the lead of the group vying for the NFC wild card. Felix Jones, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant all score more fantasy points than Alex Smith.

Cincinnati (+4) over DENVER: Nothing I saw from the Broncos gives me any confidence to pick them. And nothing I saw from the Bengals last week makes me think they will be horrible. But we're not overreacting. I think both of these teams are bad and I'm taking the points.

Houston (-3) over MIAMI: I don't think either of these teams are that bad. But I think Houston looked a little more ready to take care of business than the Dolphins who had more of a "Let's give it our best shot and see what happens" feel to them.

San Diego (+7) over NEW ENGLAND: I'm not a homer. Both have great offenses and Philip Rivers is going to throw for a ton against the Pats. And the Chargers defense is probably better than the Pat's defense. I'm not a homer. Well, I'm trying to be objective at least. Seven points is too big a spread. Yeah, I can't convince myself I'm objective either.

Philadelphia (-2.5) over ATLANTA: It just feels more fun to pick the Eagles here. No other reason in particular.

St. Louis (+6) over NYG: Both these teams are 0-1. And some supposed playoff contender is going to be 0-2. Of course the Rams are only in that discussion because of their division, which they could still win even starting 0-2. The only other game with two 0-1 pre-season playoff contenders is Tampa Bay @ Minnesota. I think the Giants are the better, but injured team. The Rams take this seriously and keep it close.

BPL or EPL? Just roster all the Manchester players

I'm legitimately not even trying to bring anything original to the table anymore. The Manchester teams are incredible and score a ton of goals - just roster as many of their players as possible. Additionally, you have to keep Rooney in your lineup and captain him. Seriously, you have no other choice. It's a baseline requirement just to keep up with the Joneses in the ESPN fantasy game.

By far the most important advice I can give you: listen to the Men in Blazers podcast on the Grantland Network. Best thing I've ever put in my ears.

In lieu of providing any original or worthwhile analysis this week, I want to take a moment to rage at the ESPN Premier League Fantasy player prices. Who the hell is running this game?? Anybody? As just one example from the many, look at the price of Phil Jones for $6.0 (speaking of the Joneses, I guess). He appears to be a safe starter for the best team in the Premier League, has played the full 90 minutes in each of the past three games, has two clean sheets in those three, and in the most recent game got an assist and displayed some attacking dribble skills that rivaled most midfielders. He's a double-threat for a fantasy fullback - can rack up clean sheets for a top squad, and can come forward and attack and get bonus points that way. He currently has the 11th-most points at that position in ESPN fantasy. ESPN, WHY DOES HE COST ONLY $6.0?! That is cheaper than the cost of such immortal defenders as Fulham's Brede Hangeland and Everton's Phil Jagielka. Jones' teammate in the backfield, Chris Smalling, costs $6.5 even though he was benched in the most recent game but Jones was not. Also David Silva still costs only $7.0, which I think is just about the funniest thing I've ever seen in any salary game. Great work, ESPN.

Anyway, until Rooney and Aguero cost $20 and $15, respectively, you need to keep them in as your strikers. For your 3rd you might have some flexibility, although to me it really comes down to Luis "Anne Hathaway" 'Suarez' Suarez or Javier Cheech & Chong Hernandez. Sure there are other good strikers in the league, but the others seem MUCH more volatile in terms of appearances and performances than those two.

Any other EPL fantasy thoughts? What other salaries by ESPN that are particularly heinous?

Music Tuesdays - Perth by Bon Iver

Another song from the recent Bon Iver album, which I've enjoyed quite a bit. If you didn't like any of the previous Bon Iver songs, don't bother listening to this one (Aaron).


The first game of the season was yesterday and I couldn't be more excited. I mean, it's one NFL team playing another NFL team. There's a pretty good chance I would have watched the game, no matter who was on the schedule. But the fact that it was the last two Super Bowl Champions made it all that much more enticing. I have a standard policy that any time there is a relevant untimed down, it was probably a great game. But that's not really the point of this post. I'll get to all the week 1 predictions later. Today I'm giving a quick hit on every team in the league. I will probably end up focusing on which teams have new quarterbacks and head coaches and which players I like from a fantasy perspective. Now, based on my random number generator, I will be starting with the AFC North.

Packers vs. Saints

Tomorrow I'm going to have a NFL season preview AND a week 1 predictions. But I want to get my Packers (-4) pick published tonight. The Super Bowl champ at home, week 1 with the fans all excited. Should be a good game, but I think the Packers take it.

For more detailed analysis, I think both teams have great quarterbacks, but the Packers have a better defense. I like to look at interceptions and I think Brees is more likely to throw more interceptions than Aaron Rodgers.
Bold prediction: Ryan Grant and James Starks both score touchdowns for the Packers.

Music Tuesdays - The Dive by Fool's Gold

I love this song. It has a great summer sound; it makes me imagine I'm at a beach barbecue. Sipping a Corona.

Because it was somewhat hard to find an embeddable link to this song, I took to searching blogs for it and found a couple of interesting blogs that had recently featured it. One is called One Sweet Song and covered it in early August; the other is the amusingly titled BlahBlahBlah Science. I encourage checking out both of them for their song recommendations.

BPL or EPL? An American tries to identify fantasy opportunities

Fantasy is fun because it has a blend of random chance (game to game stat volatility) and fan skills (identifying players on upward trends). Keep this in mind and don't overreact to weekly performances, especially early in the season when things are shaking out.

For a fantasy NFL example: In week 2 in the NFL last year, Jason Snelling was a top fantasy rusher and Kevin Walter was a top fantasy receiver. So don't overreact to Ivan Klasnic scoring some goals early on. On the other hand, Darren McFadden and Arian Foster were already putting together consistent running performances. So do keep an eye on Matthew Jarvis and Danny Welbeck. The key is to identify trends and not overreact to outliers. Recap blogs like this are useful.

In Premier Fantasy, it's easier to pick up your favorites (everyone can own every player) but it's costly to whiff on too many gambles (you only get 20 transfers). While Danny Welbeck did have a great game for Man U and looked really good, you have to weigh that performance against the possibility of Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez eating into his playing time. When looking for opportunities, I am looking for players whose playing time is more of a sure thing.

BPL or EPL? An American tries to figure out the other fantasy football

When I hear the term football, I think of NFL football like most Americans. Yet somehow, over the past few years, soccer has crept into my life. I lived with a soccer player; we played FIFA on Xbox. I slowly learned the major teams in the English Premier League, Spain's La Liga, and Italy's Serie A. I adopted Tottenham Hotspur - before Simmons did - because of their name's reference to a historical figure and Shakespeare character (I'm a Shakespeare nerd). I started learning rosters and key players. I enjoyed the relegation drama.

To learn more, I think it's time to go even deeper. To really know the contours of the Premier League, it's necessary to do for the other football what we all do for American football - join a fantasy league. This will be one U.S. idiot's endeavor to do just that.

Tech Thursday: Nobelist Harold Kroto on 60 Second Science

In a recent episode of Scientific American's "60 Second Science" podcast, Nobel laureate Harold Kroto is quoted on the importance of each individual finding the evidence to support the facts they believe, rather than believe what they're told.

This seems self-evident, but think of his example - do you know the actual evidence behind the Copernican claim that the Earth orbits the sun? How to prove it given the astronomical facts? I sure don't. A very simple, thought-provoking mental exercise.

Music Tuesdays - Some Are Lakes by Land of Talk

This is another song by Land of Talk. It actually came from the album before "Cloak and Cipher". Big fan.

Which photo is better? Korean War Memorial

I guess this is the dilemma I had in mind when creating this new segment. These are both photos of the Korean War Memorial in Washington D.C. Both are very similar photos of the same subject, yet entirely different. We are no longer looking at lighting or shadow or action or landscape vs. portrait. Which do you think is better? I mean, I couldn't even come up with an effective label to distinguish the photos for the poll below.

Music Tuesdays - Good Life by OneRepublic

I feel like OneRepublic is a really good compromise band between Royce and me. I do genuinely like their music and especially enjoy this song and Secrets. They make me happy and glad to be alive and enjoying life. Jessica and I have been listening to this song a lot recently because we really are happy with where are lives are right now. I hope to teach my kids that enjoying life is about relationships and experiences. Friends and family and having good times with them.

Which photo is better? Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

These were taken at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. This was a special wreath laying ceremony for a foreign prime minister. Based on my research, I believe she was Jadranka Kosor, Prime Minister of Croatia. Do you think they look better marching or standing at Present Arms?

Which photo is better? Grasshoppers

These are the exact same shot of a grasshopper at the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. The only difference is that the photo on the left uses a flash while the photo on the right is sans flash.

7-19-11 update: The photo below was what I meant to include as the non-flash photo. Still gets all the detail, with slightly better lighting and color. What do you think?

Beer Wednesday: Solace by Firestone Walker

There is a new seasonal beer out from Firestone Walker called Solace. Firestone Walker is the maker of my favorite pale ale, their Pale 31. I was excited to see that the Solace is another light style, which they describe as a hefeweizen-saison fusion of styles.

Music Tuesdays - Waste by Foster the People

Somehow this wasn't posted on Tuesday when I thought it was, but here it is nonetheless. Another song by Foster the People, who have been getting a lot of radio play lately.

Beer Wednesday: 50 Best Beers in America

Rather than a beer review this week, I am passing along a link from MP (who was not bold enough to post this himself) about the 50 Best Beers in America as named by the American Homebrewers Association. Or maybe as named by readers of Zymurgy, the AHA's magazine. Not quite sure. (Fun etymology fact - Zymurgy is named after zymology, which means the process of fermentation and frequently is used as a fancy term for the study/process of beer-making. Class dismissed.)

Keep in mind that people who brew their own beer about as hardcore as beer aficionados get, so it is not too surprising that the list is dominated by IPAs and Imperial Stouts, the extreme manifestations of their respective styles. Pliny the Elder by Russian River, which we tasted in the FIWK IPA Tasting, came out on top. There are lots of beers on here that I haven't had before, so I'm very excited to try to work through this list.

(pictured: #2 finisher Two Hearted Ale by Bell's)

Anything on here that you would personally rate higher? Any beers listed that you want to go find now?

Initial thoughts on fixing US public education

Ok, the first thing I want to share is a few premises. These are determined by a lot of different books, articles and statistical analyses and from this point forward I am considering them facts. If you want to disagree or argue with these premises I completely understand, but it is based on these that my ideas come from. Most of them are correlations rather than causations, so if you want to provide an alternative theory as to what actually causes the correlation, I am open to that as well. Also, most of these are looking backwards on a large society wide scale. They may or may not be the case moving forward, but they have actually already happened and I believe/agree with the interpretations.

Also, for the purposes of this discussion I am going to use the word 'success' a lot and for now we are going to assume that means something on the scale of being admitted to a four year college, graduating from a four year college, adult salary and/or lifetime earnings, not committing crimes or going to jail. Something on that scale that has the data for long term studies. It may or may not look at standardized test scores, but overall, those are not a great indicator of success of the student, teacher, or system. We are not looking at happiness or contentedness with life, getting married, having kids, etc. According to this definition becoming a plumber who provides for a family is actually a failure of the education system if he did not go to college.

Last preface, my mom teaches first grade, so while I understand her situation on an individual basis (time she spends on tasks, what she pays for out of pocket, how difficult parents are), there is a good chance I would disagree with her on large scale changes.

Which photo is better?


I took both of these at sunset just outside my place. Just put Violet down to bed, saw these colors through the window, grabbed the camera and went outside. So what do you like better? The silhouette of the bushes with the colors in the background? Or the colors reflected on the water?

Which photo is better?


I'm unveiling a new regular addition to the blog today. I really like to take photos and have recently invested in a really nice dSLR camera. In the world of digital photography and memory cards where people are upset when a card hold only 1000 photos, there are many, many occasions where I have two similar but different shots of the same scene or subject and I often have trouble determining which one turned out the best.

So I am going to post them both and let the public decide. Eventually I'll open this up to competing photos by others, I'll add a better voting system and I will probably come up with a better/catchier name. But for now, here are a couple photos from Paris to whet your appetite. I know MP will be ready to expound all things Paris.

Chocolate Wednesday - Chocolate Palette by Trader Joe's

I might be stretching the 'Wet Wednesday' template a bit for this one, but my chocolate review is in the same spirit as a beer review or anything else. If you are the type of person who likes tasting and experiencing new flavors to expand your palette, and you like chocolate, then I strongly recommend Trader Joe's Chocolate Palette.

Music Tuesdays - Calgary by Bon Iver

Bon Iver is one of my favorite recent artists, and in honor of the self-titled new album that comes out today, here is the first single they've released for it.

Beer Wednesday: Mother's Milk Stout by Keegan Ales

While in New York recently, I tried a local beer from Hudson Valley-based brewer Keegan Ales. I usually prefer to try local brewers when I'm somewhere new, and I'm glad I did, because I really enjoyed Keegan's Mother's Milk Stout.

Beer Wednesday: Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale by Cigar City

I have long been intrigued by Cigar City Brewing, based in Tampa, but their beers don't make it to me in Los Angeles. On a recent trip to New York I was finally able to try their Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale and I was very impressed.

On the Death of Osama Bin Laden

Note: this post first appeared on my other blog, Left of Center. Since this is a topic that touches on such a wide range of subjects, I figured the least I could do is put it up on FIWK and get a larger discussion going.

nough time has passed - both on this blog and in the real world - for me to feel comfortable writing about this. There are two reasons why I'm choosing to come back now, and on this topic. The first is that, after months of inanity, a story that cuts across the political spectrum - that actually seems to matter - was finally front page news. It may seem strange that I, someone who wrote about leafblowers, was not sufficiently inspired by all the other inanity to comment. But, I felt then and I feel now that not commenting is in a sense making a statement on how I feel about the place of those stories in our political discourse. The second, more personal, reason has to do with my own reaction to the killing of Osama Bin Laden. As in, when I heard the news I wasn't sure how to react. At all. For me, this is strange, as any bit of news - no matter how trivial - will usually elicit at least a visceral reaction from me.

Music Tuesdays - Little House by Goldenspell

Watch the video and tell me that's not a cool idea. That is a COOL idea. And very well done too... it reminds me vaguely of the HTC "You" commercial in its shorthand approach and its tone.

Beer Wednesday: Vrienden by New Belgium and Allagash

New Belgium Brewing has a line of beers called "Lips of Faith" which involves a variety of creative beer styles that have a funky or sour element. They are often brewed with brettanomyces, a type of yeast that results in "wild ales" - beers like Flanders red ales that have a sour flavor, for example, or fruit-beer lambics. Lips of Faith usually tames the wild side of the funk and will balance it with other interesting flavors. That is what they've done with their new beer Vrienden, which is a collaboration with Allagash.