September 26, 2007

Two Things I Miss About North Carolina.

The Carolina Panthers and Bojangles chicken. OK, one thing.

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September 24, 2007


All I can say is: Awesome. Brandon DiCamillo builds a life size Donkey Kong game and has Rake Yohn dress up as Mario.

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September 21, 2007

MIT: Now Accepting Complete Idiots!

The Face of Stupidity
Meet Star Simpson. Star's a nineteen-year-old Electrical Engineering major at MIT -- so I guess that makes her smart or something.
Well, maybe not. From the AP:

BOSTON - Troopers arrested an MIT student at gunpoint Friday after she
walked into Logan International Airport wearing a computer circuit board and
wiring on her sweatshirt. Authorities call it a fake bomb; she called it art.

Ummm, yeah. "Art."

You know, if I were going to strap something that looks like a bomb to my chest and run my way through airport security, I'd make sure that I did it at the airport where two of the flights that were hijacked on 9/11 originated. Yeah. That makes sense.

Then again, isn't it nice to know that one of America's elite universities (allegedly) has such high admissions standards.

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September 20, 2007

At the Rutgers Football Game.

Tucked away in one of my desk drawers is what I like to call my "Life's To Do List." It's a constantly evolving list as I add and erase entries all the time. Somewhere on "The List" -- in between "Hop a Flight to Cancun and Crash a Wedding" and "Claim that Property in Newfoundland that my Grandmother Told Me about Before She Died" -- I wrote, "Go to a Rutgers Football Game before I Graduate." So when I got an e-mail informing me that tickets to see the nationally ranked Scarlet Knights take on Norfolk State were available, naturally, I took the bait.

Although I attend Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, I had never been to New Brunswick -- the host of the university's main campus. I had no reason to being that I was enrolled at the Camden satellite. However, with graduation coming up and with it the search for a graduate school, it should be natural that I would consider applying here. With kickoff scheduled for 3:30 PM, and wanting to check out the environs, I left around 10:00 AM.

It took me a little more than an hour drive on the Turnpike to get from exit three to exit nine. Then the real fun began. It took about another hour to drive through downtown New Brunswick, and another hour to find a place to place to park. New Brunswick is your typical American college town. It's got the same row of crap bars, hole-in-the-wall pizza joints, and cheap apartments that every other land-grant college town in America has. It kind of reminds me of Chapel Hill, in a way, and that should NOT be construed as a complement.

After parking the car in a public park about two miles away from the stadium -- $15 to park? I don't think so! -- I arrive at Rutgers Stadium. For the next hour or so, I wander around checking out the atmosphere. This was Homecoming weekend, and as such, the tailgating scene was skewed a little older than I expected. Either that, or the student body was getting their drink on back on campus (more than likely). Anyway, the revelry was a bit subdued to what I was used to at an Eagles game. But the Ivory Tower Gentry was getting their drink on, while the student body stammered in from their dorms.

At around 2:00 PM, I begin to notice the Rutgers marching band assembling outside the stadium. Looking bored, the band was killing time until the Rutgers team bus arrived. By my count, I think they played that old Paul Simon song, "You Can Call Me Al" three times.

Then, slowly but surely, the crowd begins to assemble around the band. By this time, the band had been joined by the cheerleaders, who formed a honor guard in front of the stadium. When the team buses arrive, the crowd had grown to about three-deep. All were there to catch a glimpse of the team before game time. They call it the "Scarlet Walk," and they do it before every game. I get a brief glimpse of head coach Greg Schiano.

At 2:30 PM I head to the turnstiles. Out of the corner of my eye I spot Janet Rice, the mother of Rutgers' star running back Ray Rice. I saw the last game, and the announcers said that Ms. Rice was 4' 11". If Ray Rice's mom is 4' 11", then I'm 7' 3"! Anyway, I'd be a bit embarrassed if I were a Heisman Trophy-caliber running back and my mother showed up at my games wearing a jersey with "Chris' Mom" on the back, and a facemask-less helmet.

Over the next hour the stadium would begin to fill. The athletic department sets aside the end zone seats for New Brunswick students, but the tickets I got were all the way in the Upper Deck -- far away from the action. I was kind of expecting more Camden students to make the trip, but I didn't notice anyone in our section. Also, one of my professors (the Chairman of the economics department at RU-Camden) has season tickets on the 50-yard line. But I didn't see him.

Just before kickoff, I make a run for the concession stand, to grab a quick brew and a hot dog. And that's when it hit me. NO BEER!

That's right, you can not buy a beer inside Rutgers Stadium -- which, I guess, explains the empty beer cans and Captain Morgan bottles in the men's room. What the hell kind of country do we live in where you can't get a beer at a football game?

As for the game itself: This week's opponent was Norfolk State, a historically black college that went 4-6 the previous season. This would be their very first game against a division 1-A (or whatever they're calling it now) school, and that would be no coincidence. You see, Rutgers is a "football school" now, and as such it requires some creative scheduling. Outside of conference games, each school is allowed to draw up their own schedule. Usually, that means contracting with weaker 1-A or 1-AA teams by enticing them with a big pay day.

It's a win-win for both schools. The bigger school gets an easy win, a full stadium, and a placated alumni (for one week anyway). The smaller school gets a big payday, and the experience of playing against the big boys of college football. Not that long ago, Rutgers was in Norfolk State's shoes, serving as whipping boys for the Notre Dame's, Tennessee's, and Penn State's of the college football world. Now, the shoe is on the other foot and Rutgers is able to play eight of their 12 games at home.

When Norfolk State took the field for warm-ups I thought to myself, "These have got to be the ugliest uniforms I've ever seen." Green and Gold. The Archbishop Don "Magic" Juan must be a Norfolk State benefactor.

Around 3:00 PM the student body begins to trickle in. The school wants everyone to wear red to the game, and many of the students comply. Red t-shirts and jerseys are the uniform of the day. I did see someone in a "Be the Reds" t-shirt, which I thought was kind of cool -- even though it's the wrong sport and wrong country. It brought back memories of staying up until 5:00 AM to watch the '02 World Cup.

Rutgers football fan is a unique breed. A hybrid that takes the pugnaciousness of Philadelphia sports fan, with the arrogance of New York sports fan. Case in point: during the previous home game against the Naval Academy, chants of "Fuck You Navy, Fuck You! clap clap" (Stay classy, New Brunswick!) Fortunately on this day -- in part owing to the "Homecoming" atmosphere -- such chants were not heard by this observer.

As for the game itself, the final score was almost a forgone conclusion: Rutgers 59, Norfolk State 0. It had all the excitement and drama of a fourth-week NFL pre-season game. The only highlight was the Norfolk State marching band.

I think it speaks volumes about the quality of a football game when the only thing memorable about it was the halftime show. Although I have to admit, it made me a bit uncomfortable to see a predominately white audience giving a standing ovation to a uniformed phalanx of dancing African-Americans. Don't get me wrong, those Norfolk State kids gave a hell of a show, and took a great amount of pride in their performance. But it seemed like something out of a Jim Crow-esque minstrel show.

In fact, after the Norfolk State marching band's halftime performance, many began to head for the exits. As do I, to the strains of the Rutgers Marching band playing Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al," again.

Lessons learned:

1) New Brunswick is a shit town. Rutgers-NB will be my "safety school."
2) The atmosphere of college football is much different that the NFL.
3) Rutgers' football team is better than Norfolk State's.
4) White people love black college marching bands.
5) I will never be going to another Rutgers football game again.

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September 11, 2007

Where I was...

NOTE: I posted this on my baseball card blog last year on the fifth anniversary of 9/11.

Here's a story that, outside of immediate friends and family, I've never shared with anyone before. Indulge me for a moment, as it is, somewhat, card related.

After weeks and weeks of endless "phone tag," a date and time had been set. At 1:30 PM that afternoon, Lloyd Pawlak (the guy whose facsimile signature is on the reverse side on all of your Fleer autogamers) and Jim Stefano would be interviewing me for a potential opening with Fleer Trading Cards.

This was the opportunity I've been waiting for my whole life. I mean, me, the ultimate card geek, was about to interview for a card geek's ultimate "dream job." Not only that, but their headquarters were only a short twenty minute ride up I-295!

As the days slowly ticked away, I planned out everything I would do that day right down to the millisecond. First, I was going to get up bright-and-early (well, 6:30 AM anyway), and call my boss with some BS "I'm sick" excuse. Next, I was going to hit the Wawa for my daily cup of joe and a doughnut. Finally, I would pick up my "interview suit" from the dry cleaners.

I was so amped with excitement, that I was able to accomplish all of these items by 8:15 AM. Still, I had five hours to kill until the interview. What to do?

At around 8:30 AM, on a total whim, I decided to "preemptively celebrate" my all-but-assured future sports collectibles career, by treating myself to breakfast. But not just any breakfast, but breakfast at the greatest greasy-spoon in the whole world: the Waffle House in Elkton, Maryland. (Yes, we have Waffle Houses up North now, and from time-to-time, when I need my fix; I make the pilgrimage down I-95 to Elkton.)

I think it was around the time I was on the down slope of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, approaching the $3 toll, when Ba-Ba-Booey interrupted Howard with news that an airplane had just flown into the World Trade Center.

It was all an accident. No big deal, right?

I think it was around the time I was finishing off my waffle and about to tear into a ham-and-cheese omelet plate, that the Waffle House's manager informed his staff, and the half-dozen-or-so customers, that the other WTC tower and The Pentagon had been flown into as well.

It was at that moment it all started to sink in. These were no accidents, or isolated incidents. These weren't just merely acts of "terrorism," whatever that word meant on September 10th. This was an act of war against the United States of America. For the first time in my life, after hearing twenty-seven years worth of stories about Pearl Harbor, I now knew exactly what my grandparents felt on December 7th, 1941.

While I continued to sip on my half-full and quickly becoming half-empty coffee mug, contemplating what was happening a hundred or so miles to the immediate Northeast and Southwest of Elkton, it occurred to me. How the hell was I going to get home? I still had to cross over that bridge. If those bastards -- keep in mind we still didn't know al-Qaida was responsible, or if there were any other "flying bombs" still left in the sky -- targeted the Twin Towers and The Pentagon; then the Delaware Memorial Bridge, the keystone of the Washington-to-New York transportation corridor, might be the next logical target! What was I to do?

After a few moments of contemplation and reflection, I slammed down my coffee mug, left a $20 bill underneath my half-eaten omelet platter, and high-tailed it back to South Jersey as fast as my '91 Mercury Capri could take me. I had to get home before they closed that bridge. Or worse.

I think it was around the time I arrived back home and turned on Channel 6, came the news that a fourth plane had crashed in some place in Pennsylvania none of us had ever heard of before. And then the first of the Twin Towers collapsed. And then the other. The look on Marc Howard's face after seeing the WTC towers vanish in front of all our eyes, is an image that will be burned in my memory forever.

My mother, as well as the rest of the Eastern Time Zone's labor force, was let out of work early, arriving home at around Noon. I immediately gave her the biggest hug a son could possibly have given to his mother. Her immediate concern was that the Air Force might recall me back to active duty and send her oldest son off to war. (I left in '99, but the USAF had until October of '02 to recall me. I never got the call, but if Uncle Sam needed me, He knew where to find me.) I had never seen my mother acting this way before. I can't think of the right word to say it. I wouldn't call it hysterical, but not quite despondent either. But as we embraced, I just kept whispering to her, "It's going to be all right. We're Americans. They're never going to get us here. It's all going to be all right."

At around 1:15 PM -- minutes before I was scheduled to have my dream job interview -- I called Jim Stefano to cancel. I got his voice mail, which leads me to believe that Fleer closed shop early as well. A few days later, I attempted to go to what was being called "Ground Zero" to pay my respects, but got no farther than Jersey City as the Holland and Lincoln tunnels were closed. I rescheduled my Fleer interview for the next week, and wound up not getting my "dream job" after all. But that story is for another time.

Hard to believe that it's been five years, eh? I invite you to share your 9/11 stories in the comments section.


September 10, 2007

The Eagles Special Teams Unit...

... is now officially "On Notice!"

Where Reno Mahe when you need him? Is he back to washing dishes at Chickie's and Pete's?

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September 7, 2007

Trained Economists Need Not Apply.

Donald Luskin (who is a trained economist) tears Jonathan Chait (who is not a trained economist) a new one.

Trained Economists Need Not Apply.

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September 5, 2007

It's the most won-der-ful time, of the year!

We had our Fantasy Football draft yesterday. Here's my team, the Heineken Draft Kegs: (And yes, I know it's spelled "Draught Kegs," but Yahoo! has a limit as to how many characters you can use to name your team, so "Draft Kegs" it is.)

1. (6) Frank Gore RB
2. (11) Travis Henry RB
3. (22) Cedric Benson RB
4. (27) Antonio Gates TE
5. (38) Drew Brees QB
6. (43) Deuce McAllister RB
7. (54) Hines Ward WR
8. (59) Donald Driver WR
9. (70) New England DEF
10. (75) Laveranues Coles WR
11. (86) Adam Vinatieri K
12. (91) DeShaun Foster RB
13. (102) Donte' Stallworth WR
14. (107) Matt Hasselbeck QB
15. (118) Isaac Bruce WR
16. (123) Benjamin Watson TE
17. (134) Brian Leonard RB
18. (139) Jacksonville DEF
19. (150) Dominic Rhodes RB

I have no idea why, or how, I picked a kicker in the 11th round. I think I hit the wrong button on Yahoo!'s draft interface. Granted, it's only an eight-team league, but it looks like I got myself a pretty strong team.

I'm also in 610 WIP's suicide pool. My pick this week: Vikings

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September 4, 2007

Final Semester, Day One.

Just got back from that gaggle of humanity known as the "first day line." The first day line is, of course, the queue that forms at the university bookstore on the first day of the semester. Usually immediately following the conclusion of the first set of classes.

I wanted to get in, and get the fuck out, as quickly as possible. So I'm browsing the aisles for my Labor Econ class and see the price tag: $152.

Fuck that, I'm going on-line.

Lowest price on $115.

Found it at some site I never heard of before for $73.10 (including shipping). The internets rule!

On the other hand, I bought both of the books for my other class: Anti-Americanism. Boy this is gonna be fun because one of them from that a-hole Noam Chomsky. Speaking of which, it's the same book that that nitwit Hugo Chavez held up at the UN.

Yes, Professor Kim Sheinbaum, perhaps the most right-wing professor at Rutgers-Camden, has Chomsky on her reading list. I'm looking forward to her rants already!

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September 3, 2007

This is the school that just beat Michigan.

Ladies and gents, this is an actual promotional video for Appalachian State University. The same Applalchian State that just beat Michigan 34-32 in the greatest college football upset, like, ever.

So horrible, but at the same time kind of catchy. Don't you think?