Archive for September, 2007

Why Ahman Green was never good for the Packers

Don’t get me wrong, I think Ahman Green is a talented running back, I really do. Obviously he has the ability to be a solid running back. And I was always more than happy to have him on our team more than others, because at times he was a difference maker for us. However, I was never quite happy with him as our running back despite his obvious talent for a number of reasons. After watching the Packers offense so far this year, I actually feel somewhat justified by this now.

I know the Packers currently rank last in the league in rushing in every category. However, if you look at the Packers over the past two games, they are getting better and better. This week will probably prove to be our best defense we are facing since Philly came to town so it will be a good mark as to how good they really are progressing, but they seem to be really getting into a stride. They have become much more controlling offensively over the last 6 quarters than they ever were with Green. So why is this when they are doing it with virtually no running game whatsoever? (In fact, last week they didn’t even bother to run most of the time).

Well first of all there is the fumbilitis of Green. Everyone knew it, we knew it, our opponents new it, he likely dropped the ball and lost it in at least 50% of the games, more than that usually. Now normally I think a decent team can cope with it, but when you are a team who has a QB like Favre who throws from 1 to 2 interceptions per game, you are looking at nearly 3 turnovers per game through these two players alone… this is harsh and most defenses can’t overcome this kind of deficit that the team is facing almost from the start. I think having one of either would have made a better team, but overall Favre is the better player.

Second is that I think the Packers just relied on Green far more than they should. The team was predicated on the run. Sherman was in love with the guy and he became extremely predictable with many of his plays that were used with Green because it seemed like their running game was essentially a one-trick pony (the U51). Even Favre I think became reliant on him which was bad, I will note that his best season with Green came when he had Walker… he no longer could carry the team anymore, he almost seemed to force the ball more when Green was around than was without… Green became Favre’s crutch and when Green inevitably became injured in the season, Favre was lost without him. In fact, I could point to the first game and the preseason as further proofs that Favre just forgot what it was like to be Favre without Green… I can almost point exactly to those scramble plays in the middle of the Giants game as the point that Brett Favre returned from his slumber because since that point, he has been stellar… he looks BETTER now than he did in 96-98 when he won 3 straight MVPs.

Another reason I never really cared for Green was that he never really was a west-coast guy. I mean he was a great back, but not in a west-coast system. In the west coast system, you need a more complete back… someone who can not only run but also catch passes and block if need be as well. Green could make some pretty good chip blocks, but he wasn’t great against it… likely cause he was scared of being injured. But he didn’t catch worth a lick, if it was thrown at him he’d miss half the time and fumble the other half. As such, the screen game died completely. I found it interesting that against the Chargers the screen made a come back and in a pretty large way. It was often a difference maker just like it was under Holmgren. Really for the type of system west coast is, you need a more complete back like Dorsey Levens (who I think would have been a lot better had it not been for the injuries), Marshall Faulk, and Reggie Bush (does NO even run a west coast offense for him?).

Again, it is no slight against Green. He is a great back, he just never fit in with what our offense was about. It is no surprise to me that our offense is doing better all around despite the fact we are with a worse offensive line than when he was around with nil of a running game… go figure.

NBC Mondays

I was going to just put a quick little review of one of last night’s new shows, but I decided instead that I should write up a little bit on each program just to kind of sum up my thoughts. So with that in mind… my review of the new NBC Monday night programming schedule. ***Spoilers may be coming if anyone wants to avoid them, in particular… Heroes***

First up on the night is Chuck, the unfortunately named new action-comedy. The premise of the show is pretty good, take an average “nerd herd” employee and have him somehow stumble into being needed by the government for the information that is somehow encoded into his brain. From the previews of the show it seemed rather humorous, but as is often the case, it isn’t as funny as it looked. It had its moments, but in the end it wasn’t incredibly hilarious. I think the show was ok still, it certainly isn’t a show that is worth missing something great, but it is on in a time slot that doesn’t have anything else really playing and this is actually a pretty nice brainless show that is still entertaining to watch.

Next is the return of Heroes, was hugely excited for this and overall I would say it was a little bit of a let down. The new “virus” plot line isn’t very excited and was also done pretty well in the previous Heroes (aka X-Men). I think the new plotline of them trying to get rid of The Company is a much better plot line, as well as the member of the original Company who is going around and killing everyone else in it. The explanation of how each of them became so rich (a man with a midas touch), was also pretty cool. Hiro’s new story is a bit disappointing, was it surprising to anyone else that his hero was actually a bandit that stole money from people? It didn’t even entirely surprise me that he was British in an attempt to lower the amount of reading that the average viewer has to do.

Lastly was Journeyman, a show I honestly didn’t even remember seeing commercials for, I remember seeing and hearing about a new Quantum Leap type of show, and sure enough this was a lot like that. This show was completely amazing however, I don’t know who the main actor was, but he was great and completely carried the show which is what he needed to do. You felt his confusion, is yearning for his former fiance, even the awkwardness that he has with his wife and brother (who used to be dating). He is a phenomenal actor and kudos to him. The premise of a show about this guy who can travel in time and change events has worked well in previous shows like Quantum Leap and even Early Edition, and it works well with this one. The twist at the end with the family he was helping was really good, and so was the kick ass way he used this ability to prove it to his wife. It was a special show. My only two complaints about the show is that 1) Heroes as a lead in is awful, I don’t think it is going to attract the same people even though it has similar science fiction like qualities. It also is a little disconcerting moving from a show where one of the main characters time travels, to a show where the main character time travels.. these shows need to be split up if for this alone. 2) The added in the mystery of “what’s happening here?” that Lost added into television a few years ago and honestly, it feels forced here. I am a fan of the style, though Lost has Lost interest in me long ago.. but it really just feels tacked on and I think Journeyman would be better off without it. Still, this show is worth a watch for anyone… the fact that I can honestly say that Heroes was on last night and all I can think of today is Journeyman does this show lots of credit because the episode of Heroes wasn’t THAT bad.

Laptops

I have long hated laptops. They have been a huge fad over the past few years where more and more people are getting them for apparently no reason. I mean unless you actually travel a lot, most people don’t actually need a laptop. I mean, in this age you do need a computer, but you get a much better computer for a comparable price when you actually buy a real computer… laptops are essentially a waste of money for all those who aren’t hardcore travelers… and a lot of people buy them even though they aren’t. So now, I am thinking of being a lemming and buying a laptop… but why?

Well the initial reasoning is to help my note taking… a lot of people these days bring laptops into class to take notes in class, and even record the class on webcams and microphones. I cannot deny that this in itself would be worthwhile, especially considering I have about 4 hours between classes on Tuesdays in which I am sitting doing homework. Well if I had a laptop I could be working on essays as well. However, this logic is very low as I am in my last semester of school and the purchase of a laptop is more worthwhile when you have more than a year left.

The secondary reason I’d buy one is to help me with my writing. Now let me explain. When I am home, I get super distracted. Something that I don’t think is uncommon for writers. I sit around and play games or watch TV or other things when I’m home and before I realize it the day is gone and I haven’t done anything.  My thought process is that I could bring the laptop out to lounges or coffee shops or libraries, or even take vacations out of town where I could more easily work on my writing without getting distracted by household things.

So the idea is appealing to me… but it is $600 I don’t have to spend on frivolous things. On the other side, if it helps write books which make me more than $600 can I afford not to? But what if I don’t use it ever? What if, even though the thought is good, I never go out of the house to use it as I say I would. After all, I am very good at making promises to myself (like going out every day/week to go exercise) and not fulfilling these promises. So what makes this one different?

It doesn’t help any that my roommate has decided to quit her $18 an hour job because she doesn’t like her boss and now I may need to help pay for more of the rent than we originally planned….

Still… it could help me get a book published…

EQuinox reviewed

I got my copy of EQuinox a few weeks ago and have read through most of it… I haven’t read 2 of the fan fictions within the magazine but now that school has started I don’t think I’m really going to have time to get to it for awhile, so I’m just going to review it without those two pieces.

First, I’d like to say right off the bat that I think this magazine is geared right towards roleplayers. Nearly everything in the magazine is explained in a way that is geared so that roleplayers might be ok with it. They also give tips on how to roleplay better in a number ways, from directly, to showing some successful roleplay, to events and places that people have created to roleplay. Even the two guides they put in on classes were done in a roleplay fashion. In all, it probably worked to differentiate the magazine from the internet… after all if they just put in what was commonly accessible online, then why would people pay for it? Still, if you don’t like roleplay you may have a harder time with this, in fact the articles I liked the best tended to be ones that didn’t rely on it so much.

The articles I did like were Cyanbane’s and Aggrome’s. These two articles were fairly good, but really only took up a page, and I wouldn’t be surprised if both put their articles online if it hadn’t been for the magazine, hell they might have done so as it was. I also really enjoyed the article on the tavern on AB, and can even imagine that from that article a lot of people give it a try on various other servers. It was interesting at the very least.

There were articles on Rise of Kunark and Legends of Norrath, however they didn’t really say anything new, and I felt this was a real opportunity missed by SOE. Here SOE is with inside information and they could have used the magazine to reveal something about both that hadn’t previously been said, but instead they recapped months old news for the most part. I think the most interesting thing from either article was that originally the RoK griffons were going to have a new tint but they cut that out from time constraints (would have been cool had they done it).

Similarly, they missed another opportunity with their news/notes sections which have small updates from their various factions of SOE (like Europe & Korea)… the idea of events that they have coming up and that they’ve done was good, however I don’t really care that much about those servers, and it would have been nice if they had some upcoming events posted from the various American servers. As it was they didn’t even do a similar recap for the American servers, which kind of sucked.

The one fan fiction that I got a chance to read was actually much better than I expected and I look forward to reading future installments in the series. Though, again I think it would have been nice had SOE paid for someone on staff to right some cannon fiction for the game that would have gone into lore, history, or current events in the game that could be considered standard lore. I think this would have been a nice touch and maybe they do it if they feel the magazine is a sucess in the future.

The profiles on the Dirge and the Alchemist were fairly good actually, I really liked the tables on the various spells & items, and the articles themselves were far more enjoyable than I originally thought they would be.

However, the zone run through wasn’t very good at all, and I could have done without it entirely. I think they need to be more in depth on this in the future as I went through most of the article trying to remind myself which zone it was supposed to be in the first place because the narrative of it made me feel like it was more a piece of fan fiction rather than a run through of any particular zone.

In the future, I would personally like to see more from SOE instead of just a collection of fan submitted stuff. I think fan stuff is nice to have in there, but I almost think they overdid it. I think for fan submittal they could maybe continue the class profiles, the two small articles such as Cyan & aggrome did, the one bigger article like the player run tavern, one fan fiction, and then some fan questions and art. Then they need to supplement that with behind the scenes, staff fiction, server/game news, and new never before seen previews. They need to use what they have as a company, as it stands, they seem a lot more like a fan zine and less like an official magazine. Overall, I like the concept, think the quality is decent, but not worth the high price tag of the magazine. Though I also imagine this to be a likely quarterly magazine instead of monthly or bi-monthly.

Patriots punished… or so they tell me.

So most people have probably heard by now that the Patriots cheated by video taping opponents play calling and in order for their offense to be able to know what the defense was doing. And though I’m sure many people already know about the punishment that was announced last night, I found the need to talk about it anyway.

So the punishment is that the Patriots are fined $250,000, Bellicheck is fined $750,000, and the Patriots will need to give up one first round pick in the future. I was actually really pissed about this, I think some people think the draft pick is a big deal, but the Patriots don’t have a first round next year anyway so this punishment is really 2 years down the road. The monetary fines are less than a slap on the wrist for an organization that makes far more money than that, and Bellicheck makes nearly $6 million a year, this is about 1/5 his salary for a single year which is almost nothing.

In reality I think the fines are ok, I wish they would have done at least $1 million to the organization but the bell fine was ok… he was lucky they didn’t slap him with a suspension of some kind.. they should have, and just made his salary during the suspension go to the NFL instead of him. Even a 4 game suspension for him woulda been reasonable considering the crime.

I also think they should have taken more than just a single pick away. I had one guy tell me that it’s not that big of a deal because everyone in the NFL does it, the Patriots just got caught… this may be true, but the fact that they caught someone should make the NFL want to make an example of them… instead it seems like the NFL is ok with it. With current punishment I could totally see organizations thinking it is worth it… after all if you win 4 extra games from cheating, you have a shot at the super bowl (if not winning 3 like the Patriots have), and thus have a worse first round pick anyway… totally worth it for one super bowl ring…. good trade off… however, if doing it also meant you forfeited the game, you lost 2 first round picks, lost your coach for a month PLUS the fine… they might think twice about the value of the cheat….

As it is, there is still value in doing it, and if you ask me, it is a shame that the NFL is ok with looking like the sham that the MLB is.

Amazon.com’s fall

I was an early adopter of Amazon.com. I was one of those people who in the mid-90s was looking for a way to monetize his site, even if it was just a little and at the time, the only real thing to do with sites is to throw the Link Exchange banner up (a service I think is extremely missed btw). Then, amazon came along, giving people something like 10% of the profits for linking books on their site and all was great. People bought, and though it wasn’t much money, in those days it wasn’t too much to expect somewhere around $10-20 per year.

Then Amazon became a big money making machine at some point, and not for the websites that made it grow. It started slowly first adding movies and music which in all honesty were welcome. But sooner than later they started adding products left and right. To me, the more disturbing thing was that originally Amazon somehow provided their own products… they were the ones that sold everything, not another store… But even this changed at some point… It started by merging with CDNOW.com which was a great site in its day who now provide itse music and movies, Borders provides books, Target provides a ton of stuff, Toys R’ Us provides toys, etc… What once was the internet’s first superstore soon became one of the internet’s many super malls.

On top of this, at some point they kind of ninja’d in a lowering of the commission that they handed to their website parters, first with anything that wasn’t books but then to books… I think it is currently at 4% (it actually wasn’t bad that they had a lower percentage for electronics as even at 1% if you sold 1 item you’d general make more from it than you would off a book at 10%). In addition to this, they also took many of its discounts off the site… it used to be that in general most items at amazon were between 20-40% off the market price, this difference made it ok to shop through them as this discount made up for the shipping costs and still often made it cheaper than going to the store… no longer. Now if you go there you are often lucky just to get 10-15%, many times it is at 0%.

As if all this wasn’t bad, I went to Amazon earlier this week and it seems that they have stopped altogether being a single store. Before, at the very least, while the music was provided by cdnow, books by borders, etc… if you bought a book, a cd, and a shirt, they’d all come in one package for one price. This isn’t even possible anymore as in addition to these sponsors, it has essentially become like eBay where the entire store is now dominated by individual sellers.

I attempted to buy birthday presents for 3 children, and two packs of underwear earlier from Amazon and ended up with items coming from no less than 5 different stores, only 2 items from the list of about 7, would come from Amazon at their shipping cost. NONE of the items barring one from amazon had any sort of discount. So I canceled the order… we tried again with only the amazon.com items and another which we have been having a difficult time finding. So down to two stores… we looked at the price… $90. The item from the other store sold for $4, but its shipping cost $8. What was worse is the only way we figured this out was by taking the item out of the cart as Amazon is smartly not even posting the shipping cost breakdown anymore… but essentially you pay $8 per store at least… that means that first order would have cost nearly $50 just to ship to my house! You can’t even search Amazon without having these other stores in the search results which would have been fine, but now I can’t even fully tell what amazon has without them… their searches of results is full of crap I refuse to buy due to additional shipping costs.

Amazon, far and away is no longer the deal it was originally and it is no where near being convenient which was the other early draw. It is no wonder they keep trying to come up with new ideas other than the store to keep afloat such as a search engine and a digg machine… because I have a strong feeling that their sales are dropping on average and the only way they keep it up is by adding new stores and new side features… I personally am blacklisting them as an online seller after this last experience, even though I have generally bought between 6-10 items per year for the last 10 years from them. I am also not going to be listing their advertisements on my site any longer, and they have been a premier advertiser for me largely because they provided many different products that I could place with a single plan. I don’t know who is going to replace them in any way, but I know they need to be replaced so I will look.

Dragons of the Dwarven Depths

So over the summer my goal was to read Dragons of the Dwarven Depths by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman. It seems kind of odd to make a goal out of just a single book over the summer, but to be honest given that i read so heavily during the school year, reading takes a back seat in my life when I don’t have to. So when I read in recreation, I do it extremely slowly, often just a few pages a day, if that. So the fact that it took me all summer to read it, is not a negative thing against the book, it is just how it reads. I actually started this book the summer previous to this but it was late in the summer and wasn’t able to get very far until school started. So the reason I made it a goal this summer was because I wanted to finish it, and because the second book in the series came out.

This particular book takes place in the Dragonlance saga and is essentially the 1.5 in the series. Meaning that the purpose of this book is to fill in gaps between Dragons of Autumn Twilight and Dragons of Winter Night, the first two books that started the saga over 20 years ago.

Because of this, the book itself expects you to not only read the original Chronicles Trilogy and Legends Trilogy, as well as perhaps at least know what happened in the Majere Chronicles. This actually limits the audience quite a bit, but the book may be in existence for no other reason than to bring back older fans of the series who have left, and to that it may work quite well.

To be honest, I thought the book was quite charming, though by no means deep. It was a friendly reminder of how good this group of adventurers worked together, and how great those original books really were. They brought me back to a better time in the series which really hasn’t been matched since. It is obvious to me that when it comes to Dragonlance, even Weis & Hickman have a difficult time trying to really establish new characters and plot lines that don’t include gods. Most of the W&H books bring back members of the original group, even in their recent Lost Souls trilogy it is about the son of Caramon, the dark elf, Tas, and Raistlain, the dominants of the series.

However, for this book it worked because it wasn’t trying to be anything more than that original trilogy. In addition, where most books in the series tend to deal almost solely on Paladine and Takhisis, this book’s god had much more to do with Roerx whom hadn’t really been explored previously as a personality. For this, I really appreciated the change… it was far too boring with the old two gods and I thought Roerx brought a slightly different perspective to the mix. However, with this they brought betting into dwarven culture, and while it kind of works it never really seemed like something that had been there previously in the series so it felt somewhat out of place… especially for Flint who seemed to take any and every bet that was offered to him for no more reason than it was a bet… if he was like this in the original trilogy, it would have been much easier to deal with the stubbornness…. (I bet you that you won’t get in that boat!)

The other main affect that occurred in this book was a further deepening of the Draconian race, which as it turns out since the original two trilogies, has been the most interesting race of the world.

The book was overall, ok. It was a nice reminder of a beloved franchise that has since gone into the dumps… I think this book was well worth picking up if you’ve read the above two trilogies, but by all means leave it alone if you haven’t… if by chance you decide you like this series, there are many many spoilers for the other 6 books just in this one.