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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What I'm Reading - 9/28/10

I have long read the works of Joseph Campbell. I even applied the monomyth principle to Sherlock Holmes in an essay: The Hero's Thousand and First Face.

The Hero With a Thousand Faces is a good book to read, though it can be a little complex. I have Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey on my shelf. It is a more accessible look at the Hero's Journey from a screen writer's perspective.

The Key is sort of like The Hero With a Thousand Faces 'light'. That's not a bad thing, though as a Campbell fan I prefer more meat when dealing with t eh Hero's Journey and the monomyth.

James Frey authored the massiver bestseller, How to Write a Damn Good Novel, and (surprise!) followed it up wtih How to Write a Damn Good Novel, II: Advanced Techniques. I have not read either, though I did read How to Write a Damn Good Mystery (see a pattern here?). It was okay.

One thing that bugged the crap out of me was his habit of referring back to some principle from Damn Good Novel, with not much of an explanation of the principle in the book that I was reading. You know, the one I had paid money for. This seemed like a cheap tactic to sell more books. But other than that, there were some things to learn in Mystery, though I haven't tried the technique he teaches.

I'm relatively early in this book. Frey writes in an easy to understand style. He doesn't look to obfuscate paradigms with academic babble (like this sentence...) and he gets his point across pretty clearly. I'm curious to see how much 'dumbing down' he does of Campbell's work in exchange for ease of understanding.

I'll have some more thoughts on this quick-read soon.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Steelers 2010 - Bucs Game (week 3)

And with the Steelers 2-0, a look at this weekend's game.

Tampa Bay, a whopping 3-13 last year, is a surprising 2-0 so far. Now, one is a come-from-behind win, at home, over Cleveland. But hey, a win is a win. They also went into Carolina and whomped the Panthers. Carolina looks better on paper than on the field and has benched starting QB Matt Moore after only two games. So, Tampa Bay is improved, but I don't think we'll be seeing them in the playoff hunt.

I don't know what the Steelers were doing at training camp in Latrobe in August, but they were not ready for a warm, humid day in Nashville. Which does not bode well for a trip to Tampa. The o-line had major cramp problems and guys shuffled in and out a lot. I'd assume there's more of that coming, as well as d-line fatigue. I don't get it.

Pittsburgh has given up one TD so far, and that was while in a soft zone/prevent late against Tennessee. Tampa Bay has a second year QB, Josh Freeman. They benched Byron Leftwich last year in favor of the then rookie. Freeman was a talented but very erratic QB at Kansas State. He has a strong arm and moves well. He's off to a good start, but he had 10 TDs and 18 INTs last year. He's improving, but this guy is going to have a very tough day with the Steelers D.

Cadillac Williams has recovered from two knee surgeries in 2008 and is a pound-it-out guy. He averaged less than two yards per carry against Carolina and he is not going to get yards this weekend. The backups are negligible. I don't expect to see a hundred yard rusher this weekend for the pewter pirates (I know, they don't wear those uniforms anymore. I just like the nickname). Pittsburgh has allowed just one hundred yard rusher in the past 36 games. That was Ray Rice (I think last season).

They have no wide receivers of note and that big jerk, Kellen Winslow, Jr, at tight end. I don't see Tampa Bay able to run, then they're going to have to pass. And I'd be more worried about Matt Ryan and Vince Young than Josh Freeman. Tampa just doesn't seem to have the tools to be effective against this overwhelming Steelers D.

First up, big news today. Tampa Bay's best safety, Tashard Jackson, has been suspended for the rest of the year as a repeat substance abuse offender. So, mid-week, they need to pick a new starter. The other safety is the secondary's weak link. This could open up some downfield throws. If we actually have any of those. The Steelers had 21 yards net passing last weekend. That's beyond horrible. You've got to expect, oh, say, at least 100 this weekend?

The corners aren't bad, though Ronde Barber is slowing down a bit and he's not the pro bowler he once was. If Ben were back there, I'd expect a big passing day. We'll see if Batch (who is starting this week) can do any damage.

The defense is similar in that the d-line stuffs the run so that the linebackers can make plays. But the personnel, while not bad, are nowhere near as good as the Steelers'. Pittsburgh should be able to run some unless Tampa puts 8 guys up there every down. In which case, Batch should at least be able to hit short-to-medium routes.

What say we open the game with a TD return again this week? Reed is better than Tampa Bay's Connor Barth, though Barth has a strong leg. Tampa Bay struggles in the punt game, which could help the Steelers with field position (something they really struggled with against Tennessee) At worst this unit is a wash. After last year, that's fine with me.

I'm more worried about the annual Road Clunker being Miami than Tampa Bay. But  you absolutely can't look past this weekend and think about the Ravens. Atlanta and Tennessee have much better offenses than Tampa Bay and they couldn't score on this D.

The Bucs should really have a hard time putting up points.  If the Steelers can get in the end zone, they should garner back to back road wins with backup QBs. That's pretty impressive. But I'm worried about five things:
1 - The Road Clunker phenomenon, (which is as real as the Madden Cover Curse);
2 - The heat affecting the O and D lines;
3 - The heat wearing down the D in the fourth quarter and leading to Tampa Bay scoring drives;
4 - The lack of passing yards;
5 - The likelihood of way less turnovers (you don't get 7 very often) and scoring even fewer points than last week; So...

While I think this is the most winnable of the first three games, those conditions, combined, could lead to a loss. And we all know what a hard time the Steelers have finishing out close games.

As I mentioned, Batch is starting. Leftwich is the only backup. After that, it's Antwaan Randle El. Tomlin also mentioned that Arnaz Battle was a QB at Notre Dame before he moved to WR.

I like Charlie. Good for him that as a fourth stringer who was going to be cut at the end of camp, he is starting week 3. At least he has a full week of snaps with the starters, as he makes his first start since December of 2007.

 Casey Hampton (hamstring) and Max Starks (ankle) will both play some (might even start), but it's not known how much they can go.

 Trai Essex is likely out, with Doug Legursky filling in at guard. I think that means Ramon Foster and Tony Hills are available to rotate in. The O-line starters have got to provide more snaps this week.

 Overall, the D is healthy and the RB/WR/TE folks are in good shape.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Parenthood - It ain't easy

I got through grad school, became a key part of a world-class Ultimate (Frisbee) team and worked on becoming a good writer. But nothing in my life has been nearly as difficult as being a parent. My almost-three year old son had a pair of asthma attacks Tuesday night/Wednesday morning: the second easily being the worst he's ever had.

We were basically holding him down to keep the mask on his face, while he yelled, cried and tried to breathe. That's hard. Hiking up the side of a mountain as a conditioning exercise is a walk in the park compared to that. The decisions you have to make and things you  have to do for your child's welfare, far exceeds the difficulties of other aspects of life. At least, they do for me.

This is a past treatment that went well. It's the exception. Fortunately, he switched to a new treatment method yesterday and it goes much easier for him.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Steelers - A big win

I've seen/heard some grumbling about Dennis Dixon's QB play in the season-opening victory over Atlanta last weekend. Dixon was 18 of 26 in only his second career start, with one INT.

Folks, let's get some perspective. Out third string QB was opening up the season against a team a lot of pundits have making  the NFC playoffs. Pittsburgh needed Dixon to minimize mistakes and keep the Steelers close. And that's what he did. His interception was a big one, surely costing them points. And he stayed almost exclusively in the pocket, not utilizing his speed at all. That seemed to be the Tomlarians game plan. I think they didn't want to chance an injury with only Charlie Batch available. It seems similar to last year's Ravens game when only untested Tyler Palko was the backup.

Rashard Mendenhall and the defense won the game. Substitute Jeff Reed for Mendenhall and that's probably what most of us expected. Dixon looked tight, turfing several passes that would have kept drives alive. But he did what he needed to to win.

They (whoever 'they' are) are already talking about QB controversies in San Francisco (A. Smith/Carr) and Cleveland (Delhomme/Wallace). Dennis Dixon delivered an important victory. He should be a little more comfortable next weekend and hopefully the coaches will let him use his legs. It's his combination of speed and throwing ability that gives him the advantage over Batch. Taking away his mobility seriously limits Dixon.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Psychics R Us

Driving home from work, I pass by a psychic/palm reader's shop in the little downtown near my neighborhood. I noticed yesterday that it seemed to be closed and there was a sign in the window. It said that if you were visiting for a consultation or a reading, to call the phone number listed. The psychic would be there within five minutes.

Now, that got me to thinking: shouldn't the psychic know when a customer was coming? Isn't that kind of the point?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tuesday Morning Quarterback!!!

Far and away my favorite sports column is Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback, which can be found at's 'Page 2.' The NFL coverage is much better than you'll find on the regular ESPN NFL page (I don't want a blog. Any shmoe can write a blog: I want qualified columnists) and the offerings over at

But Easterbrook also offers thoughtful commentary on other subjects (such as the European supercollider and the absurdity of public officials spending $$ on personal bodyguards to feel important). This week's column starts off with a look at the ridiculous 'cupcake scheduling' so many major college football teams utilize to get easy home game wins to start the season.

TMQ is the only column I make certain not to miss during football season.