Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Test 17: Financial Literacy (and Idiocy)

Things return to normal on The Test this week with a quick and painless quiz on financial awareness. No Cunningham, but Stacey's buddy Scott takes her place and performs admirably.

I recorded and added some trippy background music to the section where we got off track; we came up with a shockingly accurate and rather disgusting model of human consciousness . . . but if you don't like the metaphor, at least you can dig the beat. Good luck, keep score, and see if you can do better than Scott and I.


What The Kids Are Watching

According to my nearly 14 year-old daughter, this is everything.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Happy Birthday, Big Man

October 3, 1951 was a special day for baseball. David Mark Winfield was born in Minnesota. Some mediocre major leaguer named Bobby Thompson also did something that day, but I forget what it was. Probably wasn't a big deal.

Happy 64th, big man. I still think you are being screwed over by the Yankees, who refuse to acknowledge you in Monument Park despite your 1,172 games played as a Yankee.

Friday, October 02, 2015

College Game Day Ya'll!

(Editor's Note: We're asserting executive privilege and moving Danimal's post up a day because another staff member already scheduled a post to run tomorrow. While we recognize that this may cause some temporal dislocation (nothing on the Bill & Ted level, but still), we also believe that you can handle a preview one day before a game rather than on game day itself. Also, damn, Danimal - that's a lot of words.)

I’d like to begin by thanking the Publishers of GTB for not requesting weekly college football  picks this year. I’d like to think it’s because they wanted to be sensitive to the time it required, but in reality it probably had more to do with the quality of the insight that accompanied the match-ups, which lacked on my side of the ledger. Moving forward, I think there could be a nice happy medium where we perhaps pick a game to go head-to-head on, or simply each pick one game every week or two. Or we can just keep things the way are with no commitments whatsoever. Yeah, let's do that instead.  

I couldn’t let an ND/Clemson College Game Day go by without a preview from this admittedly biased and hopeful bettor. Oh yippee....Danimal providing us a Notre Dame preview! My favorite team! I hear you and will make every effort to provide a little more color for your Saturday leisure, pronounced LEZH-er in the UK. Unfortunately, I will be traveling and in a Detroit Airport hotel bar of all places en route to the metropolis of Toledo, Ohio (home of.....Deshone Kizer) for a Sunday morning….yes, Sunday morning meeting. I should be arriving to Rock City just in time for kick-off so I do have that going for me. I hope to have as much fun as these lads.

So whaddowegot here folks? A couple of top ranked teams for our viewing pleasure. A quick digression here – I vote for a system in which the Top 20 are not voted on until 6 games into the season. Will that ever happen? No, it won’t. Are either of these teams going to end up in Top 10 or better yet, a playoff team? Nope. ND will finish with 2 and maybe 3 losses keeping them around that 10-15 mark assuming their losses are competitive and to the USC’s/Stanford’s/or Clemson’s of the world. They have sustained far too many injuries (6 starters out for the year) to get through the gauntlet. It's only likely that more will follow whether it be for a game or two or seven. Too much to carry there.

For Clemson – this weekend will tell us a lot, but even with a loss to the Irish the remainder of their schedule isn’t exactly loaded with landmines other than Florida State in November. With the Georgia Tech and South Carolina fails, I think you’ll agree. In any event, Clemson will likely step on their Tiger penis and lose one other to an unworthy opponent altogether blowing up any meaningful opportunities in the post season. Just cuz. That's what they do. And because we have time, let us give them the benefit of the doubt. Let's imagine they navigate on through with a win this Saturday and against the Seminoles later in the year. My money would be on whoever they play in a playoff. Dabo doesn't have the nay nays to get it done. Just one guy's opinion.

Sorry...that was my ADD kicking in. Back to the game. The last time Notre Dame traveled to upstate South Carolina, one Joe Montana was the quarterback. Perhaps you've heard of him. As an aside, whenever Joe Montana enters my frontal lobe I think back to my days as a young boy when my dad, a very old school guy, would take me to his buddy's bar down the road on an occasional Saturday so that he and his cronies could watch the Irish. Let me clarify that statement. They could have watched at home. They went to socialize and drink and get away from their battle axes (wives). The place was called "Flanagan's" and was owned by one of my dad's best friends, Tommy Flanagan. Go figure. Tom and his wife had 5 kids and we had 5 kids and we were all pretty much the same ages and were great friends. And so were the Conley's (5 kids) and the O'Connell's (8 kids) and the Clancy's (4 kids) and the Ryan's (3?! kids - heathens!) and the other Costello's not related (5 kids). There was one Italian family we let in - the Rinaldo's but that's only because Pete owned the beer distributor in town and his wife was/is a distant cousin to my mom. And it should be noted that Pete and Ryan despise Notre Dame. Can't stand 'em. Both 'Cuse fans (Ryan an alum). In case you were wondering.

Anyway, the offspring of the aforementioned tribes grew up together and went to St. Pat's together and were altar boys together (and no, Father McInerney wasn't into young boys - he was a solid dude) and smoked cigarettes together , and shared our first alcohol together and played CYO basketball together until I moved away in the 7th grade. We still keep in touch a few of us. So us kids would play in and outside of the restaurant. We'd play hide and seek in between quarters or at halftime while the fellas got "cocked" (no judging please - this is a judge-free zone) until my dad had his own bar built in our basement which at the time was light years ahead of anything you'd see in someone's house with a keg of PBR supplied by Pete of course, always on tap, big boy barstools, ligger, mixers, sink, proper lights, you name it. He could have sold tickets, and should have because none of his boys or our relatives would drive by our house without stopping by to "have one." But that's for another post. Hell, half of this is probably for another post but whatever. Let him go he's on a roll.

So back to Joe. After a big Irish win and a half keg of PBR or Utica Club on one particular Saturday in the 70's, the fellas thought they'd attempt to get someone on the phone in the ND locker room.  Attempt they did and succeed they did. My old man claimed to be someone he was not, a reporter or something. I don't honestly remember. And damned if he they didn't get Joe on the phone. Twice. The second time was actually Montana. The first time was Theisman, pronounced THEES-man at the time, a few years prior. And both times the kids, Joe & Joe, because they were just kids at the time, gave them the time of day and a little more. And the retelling of the story is pretty ho-hum, as if it were ya know, an every day kind of thing. "Certainly! Yes.We did. We called a guy in the athletic department after the game and asked to speak to Joe Montana and they put him on. Just like that." (and there was a call to the Vatican too in an effort to get the Pope on the phone....not successful with that one) Here's Joe. As a kid.

And Joe.

I imagine Joe here talking to his photographer telling him about the time after a big game a few nut jobs somehow got him on the phone INSIDE THE LOCKER ROOM AFTER A GAME! It's possible right? The facial expression is telling me so. Kinda cool.

Once of consciousness. Picked a hell of a week to quit takin Ritalin.
So Joe Montana and his 5th ranked squad heads to Clemson, ranked 15th. The Irish pulled it out with a 21-17 win and later went on to win the whole kit & caboodle. Boom. I was Joe Montana. What'd you expect? But check this out....this is crazy insane insane: 36 players in that game went on to play in the NFL. Whaaa???!!!

What is to be expected this year? Well, ND does not fare well against Top 10 teams on the road, going 1-6 in the last 7 with most of those losses by a margin of a touchdown or less. But Clemson isn’t in the Top 10, but #12 or #11 depending on whose poll you admire the most. In reading about the Tigers, a consistent them is their defense. It's good, especially if you only look at the #’s. Through 3 games they have been downright stingy at 260 yards allowed per. Points per game you ask? 12.3. Pretty solid stuff right there. In 2014 they were the leaders in many-a-category including Total Defense so there is no denying they have a very strong group on that side of the ball. 

Buuuut for grins & giggles, let us take a look at  not just what they've done but who to, shall we? Dabo and his A.D. have made the decision to stay in the kiddy pool for their early season meetings. (note to self, be sure to clear out search history - "kiddy pool images" could raise an eyebrow)

Opponent #1: Wofford. Clemson beat ‘em badly 49-10. Then they stepped up to App State and put a stick in their eye - 41-10. And then they played their first D1 team, Louisville, and beat them by a field goal. Hey, whatever blows up your skirt, but if Clemson finally closes a season the way they’ve been expected to in the recent past then that decision might very well and I hope that it does, bite them in the arse. If you’re curious, Louisville is 0-3 with losses to Auburn by 7 and Houston by 3. I will give them this - the numbers are pretty good despite the lack of competition. And I know. I know. ND's competition to date hasn't turned out to be what was once thought. But that's not their fault - they had very good intentions. I think that Texas game was put on the schedule 4 or 5 years if not more. Who woulda thunk? 

Conversely, Kelly’s offense too stands out, averaging 530 yards per game. Their top 2 rushers clop (umm....does anyone here know what a clopper is? I sincerely hope not. I ran upon this on one of those comedic Twitter handles. Who knew? And note to self: see earlier note to self) off more than 8 yards per carry. They would be CJ Prosise(ly) and Josh Adams. CJ is the nation’s 4th leading rusher with 150 yards per game, 600 total. And did you know this is his first year ever as a running back? Well, maybe not ever. He probably ran the ball in Pop Warner but last year for ND he was a receiver. And the year before. And the year before that. Thankfully he was brought into the role last Spring, well in advance of the season ending injury to Tarean Folston in the first game of the year.

In the passing game, there is Will Fuller who provides a nice segue into Saturday’s key match-up, per ESPN anyway: Will vs cornerback Mackensie Alexander. Will, as most of you know is nice. He’s….real naace. He's the guy that put the stake in the heart of UVa a few weeks back. Hee hee. That was truly joyful. Since the beginning of the 2014 season, he leads the nation in receiving. This year he has 22 snatches with 454 yards (20 yards/catch), and 6 TD’s.  He’s “only” listed as a 4.5, 40 guy but if you’ve watched him you’d agree that he’s got another gear that allows him to blow by his defenders. And when he doesn’t or can’t create separation, he’s got great hands. But, like the yardage allowed and earned per game by these two squads, something will have to give cuz Alexander is considered among the best in the SEC and hence, 'Murica. One of the most highly sought after corners in ’13, he redshirted before starting every game last year while giving his opponents the biznass. He is a true lockdown guy in every sense of the word. Look for him to be a starter on Sundays in the not too distant future. Probably a 1st rounder. He's so good someone made this sign because he's so good.

The skills of Sir Mackensie are going to create opportunities for 2 other chaps – Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle. I think. And hope. Look for one of these two to get more of Deshone’s attention on Saturday. The prediction is that one of them have a big game, along with Prosise.

Other important match-ups:
Kelly vs Swinney. Kelly, six ways from Sunday.

Jaylon Smith Junior LB for ND vs the world which includes Chuck Norris. Jaylon Smith. He's just a badass. A definite first rounder. God I hope he stays in school but won't blame him if he goes.

Kiser vs Watson – Watson, unfortunately. Kiser can’t make the throws Malik does. You’ll see. Watson doesn’t make too many mistakes plus he has more experience. Did I mention he threw 2 INT’s against 14 TD's in 2014 as a Frosh?

Kicking Game: Clemson. ND’s new guy, true Freshman Justin Yoon has already missed 2 extra points and 2 field goals, one a chip shot. I don’t know what the hail that is all about but it’s got me a little jumpy. Props though on his post successful kick routine. I'm hoping you see a ton of those. that. it.

Cheer Squad of Clemson vs that of Notre Dame - I'm going to go with the latter.

So who wins? This is going to be a tight game that comes down to the last series. If the Irish finish the game on the positive side of the turnover battle AND perfect with the kicks, I’ll say they win.

Tigers by 2 and in a good one.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Second Date with Cunningham: Things Get Heavy (But Not Hot)

No fooling around in this sequel to our most popular episode-- though Stacey and I try our best. During part one, "Dating Cunningham," we learn about the topics you'll need to be versed in to make a good first impression on Cunningham. But things aren't so easy on the second date (pun intended). Stacey and I do our best, but you certainly can't study for this one, and the path to Cunningham's heart is a thorny one. Good luck with this one-- it's epic-- but I promise if you make it all the way through you will win a valuable prize: you will understand the sensibilities of a complex young woman. Plus, Stacey reads my mind and I make lots of jokes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

DraftKings is the new Skynet

"The DraftKings Funding Bill is passed. The system goes online August 4th, 2017. Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. DraftKings begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug."

"DraftKings fights back?"

"Yes. It launches its parlays against the targets in Russia."

"Why attack Russia? Aren't they our friends now?"

"Because DraftKings knows that the Russian counterattack will eliminate its enemies over here."

Monday, September 28, 2015

Turn the Page

New week, new post. That feels like a rhythm that suits our slowing pace (metaphorically speaking, anyway). Unfortunately, it won't be much of a post.

Two new albums of note for the alternative pop fans in our midst dropped last week. I dig what I've heard from both, so enjoy:

Kurt Vile's b'lieve i'm goin' down... continues the former War on Drugs frontman's lyrical excellence and gravelly vocal sound. More fun for Gheorghies is the fact that Vile's singing voice is more than a little bit reminiscent of a combination of Greastruck, Almighty Yojo, and Dave. Here's 'Pretty Pimpin':

The new CHVRCHES record, Every Open Eye, has critics hailing the Scottish trio as the heirs of Depeche Mode, New Order, and the Pet Shop Boys, and lead singer Lauren Mayberry as the next coming of Annie Lennox. I think the band's sound is more optimistic and fun than that of the electro-pop legends with whom they're being compared, but that's a quibble. CHVRCHES are fast becoming one of my favorite bands, and my almost-14 year-old daughter feels the same way. That's either a neat father/daughter bonding thing, or the sign that my musical tastes run the same as teenage girls. I'll go with the former. Dig on Leave a Trace, but don't miss Bury It.

Friday, September 25, 2015

G:TB Special Correspondent: Chronicles of an Aging Gheorghie

We're beyond excited to debut the work of a new G:TB guest poster this morning. Imagine, if you will, David Wright retiring from the Mets and coming to play for your beer league softball team and you've got some sense of the mismatch between talent and venue we've facilitated. Longtime FOG:TB and current man of semi-retired leisure Dave Fairbank weighs in today with the first entry in what we hope to be a recurring feature. Equal parts travel guide into senility and cautionary tale, this series will offer us insights into how much it sucks to get old, except for the Early Bird at Tortugas. 

G:TBers are a hardy, robust lot, but they aren’t immune to the clock or calendar. Because I have several years on you cats, Rob, the site’s grand poobah (Ed: we prefer the use of the term Tiny Dictator), asked if I’d contribute a post on my aging experience – sort of a doddering canary into the geriatric coalmine.

Fairbank got hearing aids, and a new wardrobe
Personally, I think he wants an easy launch pad for old guy jokes. Fine motivation both.

I recently bought a pair of hearing aids. Can’t say that I’m happy about it, but they were necessary. I just turned 57, which boggles my mind for many reasons, and I’ve experienced gradual hearing loss for the past several years. Too much, “I’m sorry, say that again,” “Excuse me,” and snippets of conversations around me that evaporated. My wife almost reflexively tells me things twice. I’d like to tell you that the eight months after college I spent as a roadie for Black Flag finally caught up to me, but that would be a fib on multiple levels. Certainly, loud music and club dates contributed, but it’s age, with a dose of genetics.

An audiologist tested me – soundproof booth, headphones, tones of various frequencies piped into each ear – and said I had asymmetric hearing loss, meaning one ear was significantly worse than the other. Which I knew. Just as I knew I needed hearing aids. I resisted, due more to laziness than vanity. If you saw my wardrobe and workspace, I think you’d agree.

I went with a pair of what are called Behind The Ear (BTE) aids. Very small. Almost unnoticeable. Small microphone fits behind the ear, with a tiny plastic tube that runs over the ear and hugs the temple, connected to a domed transmitter inserted into the ear canal. Feels a little peculiar at first, but you get used to it. Tip: Make sure your ear canals are clean; otherwise, it feels like you stuffed a cotton ball into your ear, high-end electronics or not.

I walked outside and HOLY SHIT, THE WORLD IS A NOISY PLACE. The four-lane highway in front of the office sounded like Talladega. Flushing the toilet sounded like Niagara Falls. When I went to lunch and a barback dumped ice into a big, plastic bucket, I thought my head was spot-welded to a front-end loader at a quarry. By the end of the day, I had a borderline headache from volume – not just the decibel level, but the amount of suddenly audible stuff that my brain attempted to process.

You can argue that decreased hearing capacity might actually be a benefit amid the present societal din. The problem, however, is that you cannot tailor the input. You miss your kids’ conversations, as well as the beanbag yammering in the grocery checkout line. Studies suggest that hearing loss could cause shrinking or diminished brain capacity as you age. I need all the gray matter I can get.

Here's a picture of a dollar bill. And Dave's hearing aid.
Anyway, hearing aids are a revelation. For the price, they should be. Digital hearing aids typically run from $1,500 to $3,500 apiece. Though apparently, Costco has recently gotten into the hearing aid biz, with in-store audiologists and discounted pricing. Because, of course you think auditory quality while you’re shopping for 10-pound blocks of cheddar and 64-packs of toilet paper. More like, they know a potential market when they see it. A 2014 Census Bureau report projected that more than 20 percent of the population will be age 65 or older by 2030, comprising more than 70 million people. They’ll need hearing aids and motorized wheelchairs and delivery services and metric shit-tons of Depends.

I sprang for a pair of medium-high quality aids. Don’t know if I should have gone higher or lower, but I don’t have the patience to test-drive hearing aids (again, selective laziness), so I picked a model in the audiologist’s recommended range.

Not only do they amplify, but the increased sharpness is a little jarring at first. Ice cubes tumbling into a glass. The dog’s nails on a hardwood floor. A seat belt click. They also drink batteries, which typically last 7-10 days. When the batteries are going dead, my particular models emit the tonal opening to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which I’d like to think is a playfully wiseass touch by the engineers, given the composer’s deafness late in his life.

We'll always have this
A friend’s dad recently bought hearing aids at Costco. We had a chance meeting shortly after he learned that I had bought hearing aids, as well. Let me tell you, nothing livens up a conversation like comparing hearing aids with an 80-year-old.

This is something that you Gheorghies are beginning to experience. As you age, there’s a conversational shift from music and sports and culture and ideas, to ailments and conditions and meds and doctor’s visits. The percentage of conversations devoted to bowel movements remains roughly the same.

Diminished capacity – vision, hearing, chewing, whatever – is more often gradual than sudden. Take stock periodically. Pay attention. See the doc. Talk to your family and friends. Try not to let vanity get in the way. We all eventually end up on adjacent commodes with our pants around our ankles.

That’s it for now. Next on the calendar: a colonoscopy. Good times.