Friday, December 30, 2011

Week Seventeen Picks

Really Like:
Lions -3 over PACKERS

TEXANS +1.5 over Titans
Steelers -6.5 over BROWNS
Seahawks +2.5 over CARDINALS

If forced to choose:

Jets +3 over DOLPHINS
VIKINGS -1.5 over Bears
Chiefs +3.5 over BRONCOS
BENGALS +1.5 over Ravens
Colts +3.5 over JAGUARS
Chargers +3 over RAIDERS
Redskins +7.5 over EAGLES
SAINTS -7.5 over Panthers
PATRIOTS -10 over Bills
GIANTS -3 over Cowboys
RAMS +10.5 over Niners
Bucs +11 over FALCONS

Lock season record: 0-0
Really like season record: 5-3
Like season record: 27-28-2
If forced to choose season record: 89-84-2
All games season record: 121-115-4

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Week Seventeen Power Rankings

The Contenders
1. Green Bay (1)

2. New Orleans (2)

3. New England (3)

4. Baltimore (4)
5. Pittsburgh (5)

6. San Francisco (6)

The Sub-Contenders
7. New York Giants (9)
8. Dallas (8)
9. Atlanta (10)
10. Detroit (13)

Too Little Too Late
11. Philadelphia (10)
12. San Diego (7)
13. New York Jets (12)

14. Cincinnati (15)

15. Houston (14)
16. Miami (16)

17. Carolina (21)

18. Tennessee (17)
19. Seattle (20)
20. Oakland (19)
21. Denver (18)

The Best of the Bad
22. Kansas City (22)

23. Washington (23)

24. Buffalo (24)
25. Arizona (24)
26. Chicago (25)
27. Minnesota (28)

The Really Bad
28. Jacksonville (29)

29. Tampa Bay (28)
30. Indianapolis (31)

31. Cleveland (30)
32. St. Louis (32)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Two Weeks of Goodness: Day Fourteen

Santa was always extremely generous while my brother, sister and I were growing up. Year after year, he went all-out. I really never understood how lucky we were until I got a little older.

It's harder to get a ton of stuff for us now that we're adults. Santa now feels sheepish if he doesn't live up to the extravagant standards he set when we were kids. So he wound up giving each of us some cold, hard cash this Christmas, which I then donated to Nothing But Nets.

Four years ago I ran my first experiment in faux altruism and an anonymous commenter recommended I donate to Nothing But Nets. After that NBN became my favorite charity, in large part because they are often able to find donors who will match every contribution made. They currently have a matching donor through the end of the year, so now is a great time to make a donation.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Two Weeks of Goodness: Day Thirteen

I left the NFL early in the second half of the afternoon games to help with some family stuff surrounding our Christmas Eve gathering. I could have avoided it if I tried, and anyone who reads this blog knows how much an NFL Sunday - or Saturday - means to me.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Week Sixteen Power Rankings & Picks

Power Rankings

The Contenders

1. Green Bay (1)

2. New Orleans (3)

3. New England (5)

4. Baltimore (2)
5. Pittsburgh (4)

6. San Francisco (6)

The Team Nobody Wants To Play
7. San Diego (13)

The Sub-Contenders
8. Dallas (10)

9. New York Giants (7)

10. Atlanta (11)
11. Philadelphia (16)

12. New York Jets (9)
13. Detroit (12)

14. Houston (8)
15. Cincinnati (14)

16. Miami (17)

17. Tennessee (15)

18. Denver (18)

19. Oakland (19)

20. Seattle (21)

The Best of the Bad
21. Carolina (23)

22. Kansas City (29)

23. Washington (25)

24. Buffalo (22)
25. Chicago (20)

26. Arizona (24)

27. Minnesota (26)

The Really Bad
28. Tampa Bay (27)

29. Jacksonville (28)

30. Cleveland (30)

The Andrew Luck Tankapalooza
Indianapolis (32)
St. Louis (31)

Week Sixteen Picks

Really Like:

COWBOYS -1 over Eagles
Vikings +7 over REDSKINS
BILLS +3 over Broncos


BENGALS -4.5 over Cardinals
Raiders +2.5 over CHIEFS
Giants +3 over JETS
TITANS -7 over Jaguars
Chargers +2.5 over LIONS

If forced to choose:

Bucs +7.5 over PANTHERS
SAINTS -7 over Falcons
Niners -1 over SEAHAWKS
Rams +12 over STEELERS
Bears +12 over PACKERS
Texans -7 over COLTS X
PATRIOTS -9 over Dolphins
Browns +12 over RAVENS

Lock season record: 0-0
Really like season record: 3-2
Like season record: 24-26-2
If forced to choose season record: 86-79-2
All games season record: 113-107-4

Friday, December 23, 2011

Two Weeks of Goodness: Day Twelve

I surprised my parents by coming over and cleaning the house for a couple hours in preparation for the annual extended family Christmas Eve congregation. I bring little to the table when it comes to carpentry and cooking, but I do have some secret cleaning skills.

Two Weeks of Goodness: Day Eleven

Today I shoveled a ton of snow off covered sidewalks, stairs, and cars in my neighborhood. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, getting some well-rounded exercise while listening to a podcast and watching a gorgeous sunset. I could absolutely work a purely physical job - and wholeheartedly enjoy it - if it did good for the world...and I could listen to podcasts.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Two Weeks of Goodness: Day Ten

I have been in the market for a nice winter coat for years. A couple years ago, I bought this unsightly blue coat as a stopgap while I searched for The Jacket. I bought it knowing it was hideous, but warm.

A month ago, I decided to stop screwing around and buy a decent jacket. I hunted for a bit and came up with something plausible. I was about to buy it when a special friend stepped in and suggested a better one.

The new jacket is absolutely killing it. It gets favorable comments from everyone I know and many people I don't know. It reminds me of the Gogol story "The Overcoat" that we read in tenth grade English class. I do sort of feel like a different person wearing it, and it's really gotten me thinking. If there was this one aspect of my life that could have been improved that much, there must be others. There are probably a hundred different things I could be doing better; I'm just not aware of most of them.

Self-improvement walks a fine line. Obsessively trying to transform everything about you is a pretentious, circular, and ultimately fruitless quest. For a guy like me, people will quickly recognize those pretenses and disdain overzealous efforts. It's ridiculous to adjust your actual personality. The best way to make changes is to do so organically whenever possible. These are my theories. Consistently implementing them has always been a challenge, even when I recognize my shortcomings.

I dropped the blue jacket off at Coats for Colorado (now at First Presbyterian Church at Walnut & 15th) last night, in large part so I'd have an excuse to wear the new jacket even more.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Two Weeks of Goodness: Day Nine

I gave a special friend the gift of fostering an orphaned elephant through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Check it out, it's a really cool program.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Two Weeks of Goodness: Day Eight

Again, I can't say what I did today because it involved doing something nice for someone who might read this blog.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Quarterback Rankings

My full all-encompassing QB rankings, 1-49, for Football Nation.

The Seven Days of Goodness: Day Seven

On Sundays a bunch of special friends come over to my house to watch football. I've hosted all season, and I do a nice job. In the past, I've been sort of a callous host for my friends. But I've really stepped it up recently. Does being a gracious host count as a good deed? Hard to say. In any case, I've decided to extend the whole project for another week. There are a lot of ideas I haven't executed yet, and I'm enjoying the whole thing more than expected. So I'm counting that as today's good deed, assuming watching football and Survivor all day doesn't count.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Seven Days of Goodness: Day Six

I can't publicly post what I did today because the recipient of this good deed could read about it here and it's more righteous if they don't know who did it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Week Fifteen Picks


Bengals -7 over RAMS
BUCS +7 over Cowboys

If forced to choose:

Patriots -7.5 over BRONCOS
CHARGERS +2.5 over Ravens
EAGLES -2.5 over Jets
Steelers +3 over NINERS
Lions PK over RAIDERS
CHIEFS +13.5 over Packers
COLTS +6.5 over Titans
CARDINALS -6.5 over Browns
Jaguars +14 over FALCONS X
GIANTS -6 over Redskins
BILLS -2 over Dolphins
Panthers +6 over TEXANS
VIKINGS +8 over Saints
BEARS -3.5 over Seahawks

Lock season record: 0-0
Really like season record: 3-2
Like season record: 24-25-1
If forced to choose season record: 79-72-2
All games season record: 106-99-3

The Seven Days of Goodness: Day Five

This evening I stopped by Boulder's Sunflower Market to grab a couple things on the way home. I had really forgotten what an awesome grocery store Sunflower is and was pleasantly reminded of their selection (ideal for chefs of every skill level, including the incompetent), prices (signifcantly lower than the average Boulder boutique supermarket), and generally jolly ambience. They have a neat holiday donation a special friend told me about where you can buy a bag of food for the food bank, so I did that.

I had some good ideas for the second deed involving a few different special friends and tried to implement a couple of them, but was sort of stymied. I'll have to get to those later. Instead, I ended up giving some money to the Volunteers of America to battle homelessness.

So far my deeds have been weighted towards cash donations, which certainly wasn't the impetus of the project. It's harder to find service-based donations on short notice than financial ones, but that's the long term goal: a consistent, mutually beneficial, service-based situation where the altruism won't be forced, where the giving will feel like receiving.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Seven Days of Goodness: Day Four

This evening I went up to Black Hawk with two special friends and donated a bunch of cash to the locals in the 1-2 no limit hold em game! It was wonderful!

I had planned to donate my winnings to my favorite charity (more on them in a future post) but I had no winnings to speak of so I am going to have to double up on the goodness tomorrow.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Week Fourteen Observations

My observations on the most exciting week of the NFL season for Football Nation

The Seven Days of Goodness: Day Three

Today I went to Bonfils and donated blood. My blood is extra special AB+, making me a universal plasma donor, so I simultaneously donate platelets and plasma.

I started giving blood earlier this year. The second time I went in, they had a hard time pinning the vein down and basically stabbed the crap out of both my arms until they finally made a clean connection. After that I horribly dreaded returning, but Bonfils hounded me like Von Miller coming off the edge, and I reluctantly agreed to go back in.

It gets better every time. Today was the smoothest so far. Donating platelets is the ultimate activity for the lazy philanthropist. You basically lie there for two hours clutching a comforting bag of warm water, watching movies (I've been watching The Lord of the Rings movies at Bonfils and am now halfway through The Two Towers), drinking juice, eating goldfish and being pampered. It hurts at about a 2/10, more a vague unpleasantness than any real pain. After that you get to hang out in the cantina drinking and eating (ice cream sandwiches in the summer!) and feeling good about yourself. And today someone told me that when they tell you not to drink alcohol afterwards until you've eaten a full meal, that really means "one drink will get you hammered, try it out." I'm telling you guys, it's a dream scenario for the faux altruist.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Seven Days of Goodness: Day Two

I delivered ibuprofen, lotion, q-tips, disposable razors, shaving cream, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste to the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless on north Broadway. I had never been there before, and was struck by its urbane environment. It seemed like the kind of place I could spend some time volunteering - in the idyllic vision I have for the Future Life. It's a vision I've had for a while, but most of the time, it's been merely a vision.

If I was truly altruistic, I would naturally volunteer at places like the homeless shelter and I would have been doing so for years. And I certainly wouldn't feel the need to blog for a week about what great stuff I was doing. I'm not that person and never have been.

But I want to be that person. I don't have a clue what I'm doing. If not for the ingenuity and guidance of a special friend whose knowledge and experience in the altruistic dwarfs mine, I wouldn't even be able to come up with seven different things to do this week. I really do want to make the world a better place. Whether that's legitimate altruism or the unsatiated frustration of my own parasitic tendencies is up for debate. In any case, I want to learn. That's the premise of this stunt - learning to be better, even if the method isn't organic. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Frankenstein's Monster Lives

My thoughts on the flickering playoff hopes of the Philadelphia Eagles

The Seven Days of Goodness

Zack & I had grand plans to do some good for the world Saturday night, but were so inept that our best intentions turned into Old Speckled Hens and Boddingtons at The Hungry Toad within forty five minutes. There, we discussed our fail and made an agreement to atone for it by performing a good deed every day this week - "good deed" defined as something we wouldn't carry out in normal everyday life. Zack also had the bright idea I could blog the event, to breathe some life into its moribund, pigskin-encrusted annals and make us look like gracious, non-degenerate members of society.

For the first day, I donated a few items to the Boulder Humane Society from their wishlist on Amazon. I went to the Humane Society seven times (and scanned their website every day for six weeks) before emerging with Bailey, so I've always felt indebted. That's not to mention how that seventh trip forever changed my life for the better.

Here's to the Humane Society and all the wonderful people who work and volunteer there.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Mile High Messiah

There comes a point where you know you shouldn't believe anymore. But you do still believe. And then it happens. And your faith deepens.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Week Fourteen Picks


BRONCOS -3.5 over Bears
Giants +4.5 over COWBOYS
Colts +16.5 over RAVENS
BENGALS -2.5 over Texans
TITANS +3.5 over Saints

If forced to choose:

Bucs -3 over JAGUARS
Niners -4 over CARDINALS
Falcons -3 over PANTHERS
LIONS -10 over Vikings
Bills +7 over CHARGERS
Patriots -7.5 over REDSKINS
Eagles +3 over DOLPHINS
SEAHAWKS -10.5 over Rams
Raiders +11.5 over PACKERS
JETS -10.5 over Chiefs
Browns +14 over STEELERS $

Lock season record: 0-0
Really like season record: 3-2
Like season record: 22-22-1
If forced to choose season record: 74-66-2
All games season record: 99-90-2

Week Thirteen Observations

My Week Thirteen Observations for Football Nation, including a surprise Coach of the Year candidate and the weekly power rankings.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Lessons Learned From Hidden Immunity Idols

Survivor first introduced the hidden immunity idol in its eleventh season. The hidden immunity idol is a talisman hidden near the camp which provides a one-time antidote from being voted out if revealed immediately after the fatal vote. When used properly, it's an extra life in a game of survival, the most powerful tool one can attain in the quest for a million dollars.

The logical thing to do after finding the hidden immunity idol is to hide it, shut your mouth, wait until you are on the chopping block, then play the idol to simultaneously save yourself and off your nemesis.

Almost without fail, however, the castaway who discovers the hidden immunity idol ends up spilling the beans to his tribemates. The usual pattern: one castaway finds the hidden immunity idol up in a tree or under a rock, celebrates gleefully with the cameraman, gives an emotional interview about the power of the idol and her newfound position in the game, sits on it contentedly for a day or two, then reveals it to multiple competitors under the pretense of currying favor and building alliances.

There are many fascinating aspects to Survivor, but perhaps the most compelling is watching how people deal with the extreme but extremely finite desolation. All the castaways are thrust into a physically, mentally, and socially exhausting crucible without any relationship to their teammates/adversaries, without a friend in the world. There is a million dollar prize at the finish line, but 90% of contestants lose sight of that goal and make decisions to placate temporary human relationships that will be irrelevant within a week or two. The choices they make will affect the rest of their lives, yet they often make the ones that will only benefit them for a few days. Loneliness, even in its most temporary form, is just too hard for most people to face. Consciously or subconsciously, they'll make any sacrifice for companionship, however fleeting it may be. Even the diabolical Russell Hantz couldn't keep his idols to himself.

The notable exception came last season, when Boston Rob Mariano found the idol early on and hid it until the last moment it was playable. Rob credited his performance, the most dominant start-to-finish run in Survivor's 23 seasons, to the strength his family gave him while cast away. Rob played the most heartlessly efficient, singularly focused game in Survivor history, but only because he never felt alone.

Monday, December 05, 2011

November Top 15

15. Rodney Crowell - Still Learning How To Fly
14. Ryan Adams - Chains of Love
13. U2 - With Or Without You
12. Fountains of Wayne - The Summer Place
11. The Naked And Famous - Girls Like You

10. The Rolling Stones - Play With Fire
9. Augustana - Steal Your Heart
8. Augustana - Borrowed Time
7. Rogue Wave - Bird on a Wire
6. The Rolling Stones - You Can't Always Get What You Want

5. Ryan Adams - Lucky Now
4. Travis - Somewhere Else
3. Liars - The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack
2. Augustana - Shot In The Dark

Song of the Month: Bee Gees - To Love Somebody

Friday, December 02, 2011

Week Thirteen Picks

Really Like:

Ravens -6.5 over BROWNS


BUCS -3 over Panthers
GIANTS +6.5 over Packers
Raiders +3 over DOLPHINS
Broncos +2 over VIKINGS
Cowboys -4 over CARDINALS

If forced to choose:

JAGUARS +3 over Chargers
SEAHAWKS +3 over Eagles $
Lions +8.5 over SAINTS
TEXANS +2.5 over Falcons
Jets -2.5 over REDSKINS
BILLS -2 over Titans
Bengals +7 over STEELERS
Colts +20 over PATRIOTS
BEARS -7 over Chiefs
Rams +13.5 over NINERS

Lock season record: 0-0
Really like season record: 2-2
Like season record: 20-19-1
If forced to choose season record: 70-60-2
All games season record: 92-81-3

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Week Twelve Observations

31 observations on the twelfth week of the NFL season for Football Nation, plus the weekly power rankings.