Friday, December 28, 2007

A Successful Rental Car Experience

I went to south Florida for a little Christmas vacation this past week, and to spend some time with Jaimi’s family. All in all, it was a great trip. Full of good times, and even better bargains. I enjoyed an abundance of delicious, home-cooked food - for free. And I got a few pairs of fabulously and deeply discounted designer jeans at the nearby outlet mall. When I tried these jeans on I just knew - it’s as if I was poured into them.

But perhaps the most spectacular part of the entire trip - the highlight as it were - was the smooth-revving, sleek and powerful Pontiac Grand Prix rental car, from Alamo. Here’s my review of the experience:

Arriving in West Palm Beach, I quickly the noted the convenient location of the rental car counter. Its proximity to the baggage carousel allowed me the benefit of remaining within shouting distance of my travel companion, while I got the rental car and she waited for our bags. Not a bad start.

Next, the rental car lady was super nice. I had booked the rental through a UK site (best decision I’ve ever made) and was worried that they wouldn’t honor the pre-paid reservation once I got to the airport. The price I paid was literally one-third the price of any American travel site. It’s insane, I know. And so I kept waiting for the catch. “Sorry sir, we’ll need to see your UK passport in order to give you this price.” Or, “Sir, you’ll need to swear on the eyes of the Queen that you are a subject of the British throne before we can give you this low, low rate. Also, you must be uncircumcised to receive this special price.”

Despite my non-English heritage, the catch never materialized, and the transaction went off as smoothly as clotted cream on a crumpet. I even got an upgrade to full-size for an extra 8 dollars a day. I didn’t want to drive no stinking 4-cylinder vehicle. I need the power of a V-6. I knew I’d be spending a good deal of time accelerating around slow, elderly drivers, as they meander between two or three lanes at 20 miles per hour on their way to Bingo.

Hey Gramps, please try to keep your vehicle on the hard part of the road. Meaning, stay off the grass, and out of the water alongside the road. Also, get out my way when you see the Grand Prix looming large in your rearview!

The convenience of the experience only continued, and even increased, as the rental car shuttle picked us up right outside the baggage claim area. A well-groomed driver helped with our bags, even though I tried to do it myself. He seemed an expert at seizing your bags away from you, and scurrying up the two or three steps into the bus. All you can do is follow.

The rental car lot was divided into several rows, each one corresponding to a different class of car: Economy, Compact, Regular, Full-size, Grande, Venti, and Minivan. We were given our choice of any car in the full-size row. The keys were waiting. All we needed to do was choose and drive. It wasn’t easy.

There was the Chevy Monte Carlo 2-door - a big, heavily-muscled beast of a family sedan in cherry red. 2-door? No thanks. What if we need to transport passengers? Four-doors is more our style on this trip. A Chevy Malibu sat off away a few yards, looking lonely in its copper-colored skin and outdated styling. This was not the new, hot Malibu. This was the old boxy Malibu of potential brake-failure recalls, and surprisingly poor gas mileage. Or something like that. In any case, I hadn’t heard anything good about this car. So we passed.

Then it struck me like a debilitating deluge of Mahjong tiles. A shimmering, slightly unusual paint job. Almost like molten chocolate swirled with emerald dust and covered in protective clear coat. It wasn’t exactly beautiful. And it wasn’t exactly interesting, or pleasant to look at. But it was a Pontiac - a Grand Prix to be exact. As anyone born this side of the pond will tell you, they build excitement. Pontiac. We had a winner.

One word describes this marvel of high-performance engineering: Totallyawesome.

I inserted the key and gave it a twist. The motor fired up immediately. No lag. No hesitation on the part of this powerful beast. The interior was ensconced in a pleasing dark cloth-like material. Obviously durable, and obviously standard attire for this car. It still had that new car smell, which I love.

Driving Impressions: The steering wheel of the Grand Prix (pronounced “Grand Pricks”) was unusually large, and took a bit of getting used to. Turning radius seemed to be normal for an unnecessarily large, American sedan. Response and road feel were acceptable. The wheel did not shimmy at highway speeds. So far so good.

Starting Impressions: Acceleration was brisk and smooth from a standstill. Jaimi got a little nauseous when I’d accelerate too hard, so I let her off easy and kept it light on the gas. Although the Grand Prix really wanted me to air it out. I could tell it was begging for more action, and would have much preferred that I create a gas pedal sandwich as often as possible - substituting my foot and the floorboard of the vehicle for bread. The pedal being the metaphorical meat, or cheese and veggies if you prefer.

Stopping Impressions: Braking was smooth and confidence-inspiring, with very little fade even under repeated hard acceleration followed by hard deceleration. This is all relative of course, as I rarely got over 40 miles per hour, and typically slowed down from 40 to zero over the course of about 2 minutes. Still, the pedal felt nice on the bottom of my flip-flop.

Final Impressions: Usually, I beat the hell out of my rental cars, and return them as mere shells of their former selves. But the Grand Prix took what I gave it, and handled it with a smile. The trunk swallowed our luggage easily. It wasn’t too thirsty at the pump. It’s design was inconspicuous enough so as to appear almost invisible to the State Police.

I highly recommend the Pontiac Grand Prix rental vehicle from Alamo.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Do Nice Guys Finish Last? Week 8

(The saga of my fantasy basketball team, composed of nothing but the sweetest, most generous gentlemen of the NBA - a weekly feature on The Love of Sports. We're not in first place, but we're not in last. We're somewhere in the confortable middle. This week I attempt to shatter my theory that this team of good guys can continue their solid play.)

Week 8 of the fantasy basketball season, and as I’ve mentioned before, it’s been a season of ups and downs. My team, “The Centerfolds”, again experienced a temporary fall from grace. We lost 6-3, getting thoroughly pummeled in rebounds, points, and steals. Our opponent played a superior game on many levels - and my guys simply didn’t deliver.

But it’s a long season. 82 games in the real NBA, and 21 weeks worth of madcap fantsy basketball action. There’s plenty of time for me, as the fantasy manager, to cure all the diseases that ail my team.

Speaking of diseases, we have something called plantar fasciitis festering in the fantasy locker room right now, spreading like the swine flu pandemic of 1919. I looked up this malady on WebMD, and it turns out it’s not a communicable disease or pathogenic infection of any sort. It sounds a lot worse than it is - it’s just a soft-tissue foot injury. Basically, it makes the bottom of your foot hurt a lot.

Still, with LaMarcus Aldridge as the latest victim, and Yao’s toe also hurting this past week, I fear it could be from some kind of airborne or direct foot-to-toe contact. I’m not taking any chances. All fantasy players must wear special antiseptic, Teflon booties over their feet at all times. No bare feet anywhere in the clubhouse or locker room.

Despite being bitten by the injury bug as of late, and suffering through a subpar performance this past week, I’m still very excited about my team’s prospects - as 2007 irreparably rushes to a close.

Now remember, this fantasy basketball season has been something of an experiment all along. Something never before attempted, but something that needed to be investigated – much like the first moon landing. Can these nice guys of the NBA succeed on the court as a fantasy team, just as they’ve succeeded off the court in their personal lives? So far, so good. We’re in 4th place out of 12 teams, with about one-third of the season behind us.

My hypothesis has always been that “The Centerfolds” will be able to compete at a high level all season long, with nothing but kind and well-mannered NBA gentlemen on the team. However, every proper experiment requires that the scientist/fantasy basketball manager introduce certain variables into the laboratory. If I add an outside element to the team, and if the results of the experiment remain the same, then I’ll need to revise my hypothesis. If, however, that uncommon element appears to alter the results of the ongoing experiment, then my hypothesis is strengthened.

As a necessary part of this season-long experiment, I’ve decided to mix things up now, as a way to ring in the new year. Now what, you might ask, could possibly shake up a fantasy team that seems so rock solid. “The Centerfolds” are emotionally stable, with strong leadership (me), and a tireless work ethic.

You’re probably thinking that the addition of some sort of bad influence in the fantasy clubhouse, like an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, or an all-night casino/strip club would offer an interesting challenge to the harmony and well-being of the team.


What about something even more pernicious than gambling, alcohol, and trans-fats?

What could possibly be more distracting and destructive than all of that?

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Yeah, you probably are: We’re getting Stephon Marbury.

Believe it or not, Hogbury is a free agent in my league, and I decided to put in a waiver claim for him. And this is the perfect time. What better Christmas present for my team than a gift-wrapped, walking, talking, ball-hogging, full-grown crybaby?

Oh, and then there’s the whole having-sex-with-one-of-the-Knicks-interns-in-the-back-of-an-SUV incident. Charming stuff, Stephon.

I look forward to this next phase of “The Centerfolds” experiment. I definitely want my team to keep winning, but I can’t say I’ll be rooting for Marbury on any given night.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

And Then There Were Three - The iMac Completes The Trifecta

iPod. iPhone. iMac.

So functional. So modern. So easy to use. So Apple.

I now own all three. Proudly.

I picked up the shiny, new iMac up from my local shiny, new, glass-staircase-having Apple Store earlier this week. The computer's almost as cool looking as the store!

I haven't had much time to play around (see my last post on holiday party time for explanation), but as of today, I've figured out how to turn on the computer, click on various on-screen items using the "mouse" (included!), type words into text boxes using the keyboard (also included!), and power down the computer. It's all so easy. And just like the iPhone and the iPod, I am a cooler and better person for having purchased one.

Shadows created by the sultry glow of the iMac's brilliant 20-inch screen shroud my face as I write this blog post. I got the cheapest model available, but it still makes me feel and look like a million bucks.

Really though, I needed a new computer bad. My 3.5 year-old HP laptop was giving me the blue screen of death every other time I booted her up. "Ol' Bessie," I called her.

What could be worse than writing a perfectly amazing blog post, and then before you had the chance to click "SAVE NOW" the computer craps out on you? Nothing could be worse than that. Nothing in the whole world.

So I decided to switch back to Mac after 10 years of tooling around on Microsoft's unstable operating system. Now, I'm no Microsoft-hater. Bill Gates gives a ton of money to charity, after all (albeit only 0.00002% of his net worth).

But Macs are so sleek and beautiful. They're carved out of a solid block of aircraft aluminum, and sprinkled with pixie dust. Then Steve Jobs carefully kisses each and every Macintosh computer as it leaves the assembly line, in China - at the rate of 40,000 kisses per day by my estimation, and Apple's recent sales figures. Steve's lips must be chapped raw, and coated in aluminum dust.

So far so good. I hope to continue to explore my iMac's functions, and learn how to unlock its mystical secrets. I've found an Apple users' blog that claims a certain code entered at just the right time while launching just the right multimedia application will enable the iMac to reanimate the dead and/or see into the future. I don't know about all that. And quite frankly, the thought of zombies in my apartment scares the shit out of me. Although seeing into the future could come in handy, particularly during football season. The sportsbook is where the big money is in Vegas, after all.

I'll probably just stick to word processing, photo editing, email, and fantasy sports. But no porn or illegal music downloads. I respect my new iMac way too much for any of that.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Holiday Season: Too Many Parties. No Time To Write.....

Or something like that. Tis the season to down massive amounts of eggnog/beer/vodka with one's coworkers/clients/friends. This is my excuse for not writing any posts over the past week - several holiday parties that I felt obligated in one way or another to attend.

That, and another one of Jaimi's friends got married, and I went along for the ride. This time in Puerto Rico. You mean The Shining Star of the Caribbean? Yeah, that Puerto Rico. It was nice to get away from the frigid Northeast for a couple of days, but it wasn't long enough.

However, as I believe all things have their bright side, I've found that my lack of writing and increased drinking has allowed me to plan ahead for my New Year's resolutions. I've created a much longer list than in years past - although nothing written down because, as I said, I haven't had time to write. In fact, I think that will be the subject my next post. Not the memorization of lists vs. writing them down. No, I'm talking about New Year's resolutions. And what they mean to me and to you. And why they're stupid. And why I always promise myself that I'll drop those extra 2 pounds, but can never quite get there. At least my iPhone loves me for who I am, and not how much I weigh.

Anyway, I will revisit this topic at a later date, as it is getting late.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Do Nice Guys Finish Last? #6

(Yet again, my weekly column from The Love of Sports. Follow along as my fantasy basketball experiment continues. This team is composed of nothing but upstanding citizens. The table manners of a perfect English gentlemen. The hushed tone and demeanor of an elderly librarian. The honor and courage of a U.S. Marine. The height and strength of a mythical Titan. Roll all of these things into one sleek package - or, rather, 12 sleek packages - and you'd have my team.)



Week 6 of the fantasy basketball season came and went with few surprises. My team, "The Centerfolds", won our weekly match-up for the fourth time, this one by a score of 6-3. We again dominated in rebounds, blocked shots, and points scored. And our only deficiencies were shooting and free throw percentage, as well as a narrow loss in the 3-pointer category.

"Now wait a minute Scott," you may be shouting aloud to your computer screen right now, "didn't your team lose last week in a close competition? If I recall correctly, the score was 5-4, and you seemed concerned that your players weren't really 'bringin' the noise and bringin’ the funk' as the teenagers like to say nowadays."

Yes, that's true. I was concerned about my team…..For about one minute. Then I took a good look up and down my roster and noticed nary a weak spot. We're rock solid top to bottom, and left to right. Front to back and side to side. And....Well, you get my point. I knew that these guys could bounce back from their near victory of 2 weeks ago - and bounce back they did.

Kevin Durant, Andrew Bynum, Yao Ming, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Andre Miller provided the points, rebounds, blocked shots and assists. Ray Allen and Shane Battier again provided "The Centerfolds" with the necessary veteran leadership. Yi Jianlian did nothing, but more on that later.

If one were to ask in regards to my fantasy team, "What are your weaknesses?" I'd respond just like I do whenever I'm asked the same question in a job interview: "I have no known weaknesses." But every time I answer that question, I know in my heart of hearts that I'm lying just a little bit. Everyone - and every fantasy team - has a weakness or two. My own personal weakness is that I have no discernible weaknesses. Oh wait. There I go again. Actually, I'm a bit of a procrastinator. There, I said it. Now you know my weakness.

But in the case of "The Centerfolds", that weakness is a bit easier to locate and define. His name is Yi Jianlian.

Yi's a nice guy, don't get me wrong. In many ways he belongs on this team: He translates when Yao gets too excited and can only speak in Mandarin. He's great at making balloon animals. He cooks a mean Belgian waffle. The list goes on and on. But there are also a few things that he doesn't do, such as: score points; rebound; block shots; have fun.

My number one rule is "If you're not having fun, then you're not helping anyone." And this doesn't just apply to fantasy basketball. Come on, people. Life is a game.

Once I recognize your lack of fun-having, your days are likely numbered on my fantasy team. I knew it from Yi's shallow breathing and furrowed brow. He slouched during fantasy team meetings. He wouldn't even crack a smile at one of Yao's hilarious Barbara Bush impersonations. I didn't think it was worthwhile explaining to him why he was being dropped from the roster. He had to serve as an example. So I sent him a fantasy email, and told him to clean out his fantasy locker. A new player would be taking his place in the morning.

That new player? By his name alone, you'd assume that this guy couldn't possibly be a member of the nice-guy-infused Centerfolds team. He sounds more like a James Bond villain than a basketball player. However, after a look at his stats - and a quick FBI background check - I picked up Travis Outlaw and plopped him directly into Yi's old spot in the lineup.

It turns out that Travis is as nice as guy as you'll ever hope to meet, or have on your fantasy team. He'll help with the dishes, score 20 points and grab 12 rebounds, and then pick the kids up from soccer practice. Definitely an upgrade in the power forward position.

Sorry Yi Jianlian. There's a new kid in town. And his name is way cooler-sounding than yours. Travis Outlaw, welcome to “The Centerfolds.” I hope you make yourself comfortable and stay a while - and a score a massive amount of points and grab an insane number of boards while you’re here.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Me And My iPhone

I got an iPhone for Hanukkah this past week. Thank you Jaimi!

It's pretty much the best gift possible. Here's why:

It makes me smarter, cooler, more interesting, and easier to reach via email, text message, or cell phone. It's easier to reach me now not because the iPhone gets a better signal than a regular cell phone, or works underground. Rather, I never let the thing out of my sight for even a second. Basically, I'm in love.

I reviewed the iPhone when it first came out back in June of this year. Unfortunately, my review was written from the point of view of someone who had never actually seen an iPhone in person. That made it marginally difficult to judge the merits of its many revolutionary features, or to discover inconsistencies and flaws in its user interface or physical design. That being said, my previous review was quite positive. And even now, I stand by that entirely uninformed review.

The thing lives up to the hype, and then some.

I could sit for hours and play with the photo viewer, shrinking and enlarging the pictures by dragging my fingers across the screen. The internet also looks ridiculously good on the iPhone. You get to see the whole goddamn web page, and not just a crappy mobile version that's available on every other cell phone out there. But just as with viewing the photos, the coolest thing about browsing the web on the iPhone is zooming in and out by using your fingers. It's insane. Right out of Star Trek.

Also, I can't wait until they activate the function that allows you to use the iPhone as a stun gun. I heard it's in the next software upgrade. Steve Jobs is such a genius.

In the meantime, though, I'll still be able to use my iPhone to shock would-be assailants by way of its brilliant user interface, and stunningly beautiful LCD screen.

By way of example, here's a picture of me holding my iPhone with a picture of me on it:

Yes, that's a picture of me holding a picture of me. I took both of these pictures with the iPhone in my hand. Sound impossible? Think 'wormhole', which the iPhone was also able to open for me, along with local weather and sports scores.

If I were walking down a dark alley, alone and obviously vulnerable to attack, and someone jumped from behind a pile of trash - grabbed me by the throat and pinned me to the side of the dumpster opposite the big pile of trash - then I would simply whip out my iPhone (much like I'm demonstrating above) and let the goon check his/her email and play around with the iPod function while simultaneously checking stock quotes, and the current time in Bangkok.

Then, as the criminal was distracted by the astonishingly easy-to-use touchscreen display - and because the iPhone, when out of Wi-Fi range, accesses the internet via the relatively slow EDGE cell phone network - I'd have plenty of time to subdue my mugger with a combination of choke holds and heart punches. And as luck would have it, I would have learned these self-defense techniques via a Chuck Norris Podcast, just before getting out of the subway.

In other words, the iPhone just saved my life. And even without the stun gun function, it could save yours as well.

So yes, I'd say that my updated iPhone review (after having actually used one for a little while) remains quite positive.


Monday, December 03, 2007

The Mill's Refer-A-Friend Drive - Results Are In: Color Me Unimpressed

A couple weeks back, I decided to launch an exciting new promotion on my website. For no more trouble than you sending a few friends, colleagues, enemies, or relatives to my blog, you'd get the chance to win a free t-shirt. Did I fail to mention that this shirt would be free? And that you wouldn't have to pay for it? And that it's a real t-shirt that you'd win, and not just a digital image of a shirt? Was that not made clear?

Perhaps not. I apologize. The thing is, only two people referred anyone to the site who actually left a comment on my original refer-a-friend post (see November 18, 2007). That was the whole idea. If the referred individual didn't leave a post, I'd have no idea who referred them, or that they were even referred to the site in the first place. I suspect that no one else was referred.

So thank you to my Cousin Pam, and to my work associate Dennis for being the only people to participate. I will announce the winner at the end of this post.....Don't skip ahead unless you want to ruin the surprise!!

I suppose the contest could have been more of a failure. At least no one left any hateful comments. And so this whole ordeal leaves me wondering whether I should try again.

Was it the t-shirts? Are they lame? Even the dog would be embarrassed to wear it?

Would you rather have a key chain, or maybe a coffee mug?

How about a Nintendo Wii?

A snowmobile? Or a desk calendar? Seems to me a desk calendar would be more useful.

Let me know what went so terribly wrong, and if there's anything I can do to improve the response next time around - if there is a next time, that is.

And now to announce the winner of the 1st ever Mill's Refer-a-Friend race for the free t-shirt.

And the winner is........

But before I announce the winner, I'd also like to mention that I know it's hard enough for all of us out there in the real non-digital (analog?) world - what with the traffic and the high taxes and the crime and the lousy weather, etc. etc. So I understand if you didn't have the time, friends or thoughtfulness to participate in the referral-a-thon. I ain't mad at ya.

So without further ado. The winner of the November 2007 Refer-a-Friend drive to survive is none other than our wonderful friend Dennis Hui!!!!

That's right Dennis. Congratulations. You truly are an officer AND a gentleman. You beat Cousin Pam by one referral. Final tally: Dennis 2, Cousin Pam 1. Better luck next time. Especially to those of you who didn't participate. If you're lucky, you'll get another chance!

Dennis will need to let me know his preferred shirt size, style, color, font, and what he wants the shirt to read on the back. Alternatively, I've come up with a new design - more stylish than a t-shirt, and yet also much more comfortable. If you wear this while driving, you'll probably fall asleep at the wheel:

So Dennis, let me know if this is the design you'd like. Not sure if it's available in adult sizes, but judging by your recent luck, I'd say the chances are quite good.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Do Nice Guys Finish Last? No. 5

(Yet another installment of my jocular column from The Love of Sports. Last week, my fantasy basketball team - "The Centerfolds" - celebrated Thanksgiving. But no Pilgrims, or Native Americans, or Typhoid, or starvation. Instead, they slam-dunked, blocked shots, and all-around dominated the opposition.)

Week 4 of the fantasy season, and a real resurgence was in the works.

Higher shooting percentage than last week? Check.

Higher free throw percentage? Check.

More rebounds and assists? Check and check.

More hustle and camaraderie? Check that.

Higher level of winning attitude, peace on earth, and good will towards men? Check, maybe, and yes please.

That's just a cursory rundown of how The Centerfolds performed during the past week – a week of giving thanks both on and off the court. My team returned to its early season form, dominating in several categories including total points, rebounds, and blocked shots. We’re back at the top of the standings, with only two points separating The Centerfolds from the number one spot.

A couple highlights from the week:

- Caron Butler’s triple-double on Friday night, and his monster 39-point performance on Tuesday. Don’t call him “Karen.” It’s pronounced “Kuh-RON.” He’ll politely correct you if you make the mistake once, but he may feel obliged to gently hurt your feelings if you do it a second or third time. Super nice guy, so the least you could do is pronounce his name correctly.

- Also, the emergence of baby-faced Andrew Bynum (C, LA Lakers) has only served as an inspiration for the rest of the team. The second youngest member of The Centerfolds (Kevin Durant is younger by a year), the kid was born in October, 1987. I think I was shaving by then, and by that time my level of physical fitness had already begun its irreversible decline. Please keep in mind that I was born in 1976, as a point of reference.

Anyway, Andy Bynum, or “Big Baby Bynum”, as I like to call him, is a monster on the boards. He seems to be grabbing 12 or 13 rebounds a night. Not too shabby for a guy who can’t even legally buy himself a beer during pre-game warm-ups.

I gave my fantasy players the day off for the holiday, and they gave some serious thanks. Now, I don’t consider myself a particularly demanding fantasy manager. We hold fantasy practices four times a day, 3 hours at a time. The players are prohibited from smoking, drinking, or socializing with women at least 12 hours before any game. I keep the players’ fantasy passports locked in my glove compartment to make certain they don’t skip town, and start playing fantasy basketball in Italy – or worse, the CBA.

So maybe I am just a bit draconian. But it’s all in my players’ best interests. They’re good guys to a fault. And I want them to stay that way. Otherwise, if they slip up, commit a crime, attack a fan, or produce an obscenity-laden hip-hop album, they’ll be hitting the highway. “One strike and you’re out,” as I’ve posted on everyone’s fantasy locker, and on every single door and window in our fantasy clubhouse.

Along with other warnings, you'll find this sign above and below every single door and window in our fantasy facility. Smoking stinks!!

Additionally, this sign instructs women not to litter. They're also located throughout the fantasy clubhouse. We want to keep our area smoke-free and trash-free.

In any case, none of my fantasy players really had anywhere to go for the holiday. It’s not like they have fantasy wives and fantasy kids with which to spend their free time. So I decided it was time to have a real family-style Thanksgiving dinner in the middle of the fantasy locker room, right between the showers and the training room.

I put together a great spread, catered by Boston Market. And let me tell you, these guys can eat. I encouraged them to grub down on all the turkey, stuffing, creamed spinach, candied yams, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce they could handle. Don't hold back, I told them. But at the same time, I asked my team to think about the less fortunate, and give thanks for being able to enjoy what they’ve been given. Also, I asked them to give thanks for having Yao Ming as a teammate.

Yay! Everybody loves Yao no matter what! This picture was taken right after they LOST the game by 20 points.

He truly is a blessing…..and a veritable eating machine. I think one of his immense legs is hollow. Yao put away about 5 pounds of turkey, an entire tray of creamed spinach, and pretty much all of the stuffing. There wasn’t much left for anyone else. But no one was angry - and besides, Yao agreed to buy everyone dessert to make up for the fact that he ate all six of the pies I had purchased.

I only hope that your Thanksgiving was as full of joy, kindness and brotherly love as that of The Centerfolds.


Monday, November 26, 2007

A Karaoke Hope - Part One

(I'm trying something new here. This is the first part of a short story I'm writing. It may or may not be wholly or partially autobiographical. That information is of little consequence though. The fact is, everyone enjoys karaoke but many are embarrassed to admit it. It's a real problem, and something I'd like to address.)

I have this friend who likes karaoke. He would never admit this to those outside his circle of karaoke friends, so for the sake of anonymity, let’s call this friend of mine, this very close friend, “Steve Songmill.”

Steve really enjoys the occasional trip to the karaoke bar with a few friends (myself not included, of course). Steve is particularly fond of singing hip-hop songs from artists such as 2-Pac, Fat Joe, Ludacris, and Jay-Z. He doesn’t shy away from performing Whitney Houston, Mariah, or Beyonce. Even the occasional Billy Idol, Madonna or Tears for Fears makes its way into the mix.

In other words, Steve has an astoundingly broad vocal range. He also possesses an implausibly detailed knowledge of karaoke technique. He is, however, not a purely technical karaoke performer. Rather, he finds a way to imbue his performances with raw emotion and shocking physicality. What I’m trying to say is, Steve likes to pour beer on his head and stand on a table while he sings. Sometimes he’ll pour sake on his head as well. One time, he used soy sauce, as it was the only liquid within reach. He’s irreparably damaged countless wireless microphones (by submerging them in beer), and ruined quite a few karaoke shirts (similar to Hawaiian shirts).

The owner of the local karaoke bar knows Steve by name, and by credit card number. The bartenders request songs from Steve, and never the other way around. “Is it getting hot in here?” they’ll say. That’s Steve’s cue to put on his do-rag, knock back a shot of hot sake, and jump up on the bar - all in one fluid motion, if you can imagine. The wireless microphone is already in mid-air by the time Steve’s feet touch down on the slick countertop. The mike invariably lands in his hand with the precision of a Peyton Manning pass. We can thank Rick the bartender for his microphone-tossing accuracy. With that, the karaoke machine fires up the intro to Nelly’s mega-hit “Hot in Herre.”

This is one of Steve's classic acts. His rendition is flawlessly authentic. His rhythm is perfect. The cadence, the perfectly-timed movements, everything is amazing. His performance is simply unimpeachable. The bar crowd erupts as the song reaches its climactic chorus. Steve is on top of the world.

But Steve knows that as soon as the song is over, and once the bar closes for the night, the real world awaits. It's a depressing thought, and a bit too much to bear. So he buys a karaoke machine for his home.

The machine is like a DVD player, and connects directly to the TV and stereo system. It plays discs known as CD + G (short for CD plus graphics). It is nothing short of a godsend.

Steve is now able to practice at any time of the day or night. In the comfort of his own home, and in the comfort of his underwear. He orders numerous karaoke discs from a website that burns them to order. He finds all of his favorite songs, and requests them to be burned in a specific order. These discs are to provide the basis for the most ambitious karaoke performance ever attempted. 1,000 songs. Non-stop. No cover charge. Ladies drink free from 9-11pm. Half price Bud Lights the rest of the night.

To be continued......

Listen to this post.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Do Nice Guys Finish Last? 4th Edition

(My weekly column from The Love Of Sports. Follow along as my team, The Centerfolds, attempts to navigate the dangerous world of fantasy basketball, utilizing only their raw talent, wits, and my flawless leadership abilities to fantasy-manage them. No guns, knives or drugs allowed.)

Week 3 of the fantasy basketball season was witness to a strange reversal of fortune. I’m not talking about the Jets shocking the Steelers in the Meadowlands. After all, we’re talking basketball here, not football.

I guess I’ll just jump right into it. We got our butts handed to us this past week - on a platter. With a side of wasabi. And a bit of the wasabi just got in my eye. Yeah, that’s why I’m crying all over the keyboard right now.

The Centerfolds lost 7-2, ending our early season ride along the tip-top of the standings. We’re now in the middle of the pack – elbow to elbow with the likes of Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant. Not good company for my team, or any team for that matter. As I’ll explain, it took me a while to figure out what went wrong. On the surface, we simply didn’t get it done this past week, and the problem couldn’t be isolated to just one or two players. Poor performance spanned the entire lineup.

It all came to a head late in the week. You should have seen the look on Yao’s face after a 12 point, 6 rebound performance on Saturday night. He shot a miserable (and very un-Yao-like) 23.5% from the floor. This guy can dunk while standing flat-footed in a six inch hole, so he usually makes the majority of his shots.

But that look on his face…..I could see it in his doleful brown eyes; in his slightly labored movement up and down the court; in the way he sipped his Gatorade during timeouts. It was almost as if there was a slow leak inside - an internal hemorrhaging of confidence, if you will, which evaporated into the heavy Houston air along with the sweat and tears pouring off his body.

“Yao, buddy. What‘s wrong?” I asked him after the game, in Mandarin.

“I do not know for what exactly is this problem, Chief Badass leader of dogs and men,” said Yao, loosely translated in my mind back into English, “I think it is my heart which is broken hard into bowls of rock by that which makes me smell angry.”

With that, he hung his head as low as it would go, and traipsed back to the fantasy locker room.

Of course, I’m still learning Chinese, and it’s a very difficult language. Still, upon further reflection, Yao’s seemingly senseless comments were not the result of temporary insanity. I may never know exactly what he meant, but the gist of it was this: I am sad.

Yao’s a leader of this team, and his example is invariably followed by the other players, young and old alike. His feelings of sadness had spread through the fantasy clubhouse like tuberculosis - and by that, I don’t mean it rode through the air on tiny globules of mucous or saliva. Rather, Yao’s grief was airborne, in the sense that it traveled in and around every fantasy player, fantasy coach, fantasy towel boy, fantasy trainer, and fantasy manager (Me) with no discrimination whatsoever. We were all feeling blue.

The sadness had persisted for most of the week. But the melancholy vibes reached a peak on Saturday night, during the ride back to our fantasy ranch in Crawford, Texas. Kevin Durant was in his seat, huddled with his knees to his chest, sobbing quietly. Ray Allen was humming a funeral dirge, tears streaming down his face. Shane Battier was locked in the lavatory, burning incense and reciting Druid prayers. It was all too much to bear. I needed to get to the bottom of this.

I slowly approached Yao’s seat, near the back of the tour bus, and sat down next to him. He stared out the smudged window as the rain fell in heavy sheets against the glass. He breathed slowly, fogging up the window along its entire length. It struck me that his eyes were bone dry and bloodshot. This giant of a man had run out of tears.

I reached up and put my hand on his shoulder. I asked him what was wrong, in English, and implored him to confide in me, in English. The Centerfolds don’t keep secrets from one another. This fantasy team shares the triumph and the tragedy. And so he answered freely, and I learned the source of his pain.

Earlier in the week, and after a lengthy illness, Yao’s hamster had passed on to the great activity wheel in the sky. I think it made him feel a little better when I told him that there was plenty of shredded newspaper in heaven. Also, his furry friend would have all the oat pellets he could eat, and would never want for fresh seeds and grains. Yao smiled at this thought – his fat, happy hamster waddling around in heaven without a care.

And with that smile, a bright warmth spread through the fantasy tour bus. The players dried their eyes. The time for grieving had ended. The board games came out, and we all enjoyed a raucous round-robin of fantasy Hungry-Hungry Hippos, into the wee hours of the night.



Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Mill's Refer-A-Friend Drive - Win a Totally Sweet T-shirt!!!!!!!

I've got some exciting news. Please sit down. If you're already seated, please slouch, or sit on the floor. You'll need to be as low to the ground as possible in case you faint from all the hubbub. I also recommend you go ahead and lay pillows on the floor all around you. Additionally, use duct tape and styrofoam to cover the exposed corners of any furniture, doors, baseboards, radiators - anything that you could potentially strike your head on as you lose consciousness, your legs buckle, and you drop to the ground. Once you've adequately head-injury-proofed the room you're in, you may continue reading this post.............

I'm giving away free t-shirts!!! Of course, I can't possibly afford to simply give these things away without expecting something in return. I want you to refer your friends, families, co-workers, and friendly acquaintances to this blog. Here's the idea: You tell your people to visit my site, read some of my stuff, enjoy themselves, and leave a quick comment on this post. All they need to do is tell me who referred them, and maybe a "Hi, how ya doin'?" or something along those lines. At the end of the week, I'll count up all of the folks who commented, and whoever referred the most people will win a shirt of their choice. Here are some samples of the designs you'll have to choose from. Also, several other colors are available:

A shirt like this could be all yours. Just send your friends to my blog, and have them leave a comment at the end of this post telling me who referred them. Not kidding!

Disclaimers: The shirts are made out of cotton. Cotton is flammable and vulnerable to strong acid. They are hypoallergenic except to those allergic to cotton - if you're allergic to cotton, I can send you a poncho made from a plastic garbage bag, but it won't say anything on it. These shirts will not insulate your body from sub-freezing temperatures nor can they be worn in the depths of space. That being said, the shirts will wick away perspiration during light to moderate physical activity. White shirts will become see-through during periods of heavy rain or rowdy horseplay with a garden hose. Additionally, I should mention that brown gravy will stain all non-brown shirts, whereas mustard will stain all non-yellow shirts. If you stain a blue shirt with mustard, the stain will appear green. No refunds, exchanges, complaints, etc. It's a free shirt. What the hell do you expect?

Also, you'll have a choice of what you want the back of the shirt to read. Here are a couple examples, but I won't limit you to the following two choices. It's your shirt, after all.

If there's a tie, then I guess you'll each get shirts. I don't know. I reserve the right to hold some sort of tiebreaker, but it might be easier just to send out an extra shirt. Whatever.

I expect that you won't need to refer too many people in order to win, but the more the better. Also, each of the people whom you refer will receive a virtual hug from The Mill. This virtual hug will be fully clothed and purely platonic, so feel free to refer wives, girlfriends, husbands, boyfriends, sisters, brothers and grandparents. I do not discriminate.

I'll post results next week, on November 26th. If this succeeds, I'll be giving away a Hummer H2 next time! Or perhaps another t-shirt!



Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Do Nice Guys Finish Last? #3

(My weekly column from The Love of Sports. Can my fantasy basketball team keep winning, without any felonies or embarrassing strip club incidents circulating through the fantasy locker room?)

The stock market’s in turmoil. Pakistan is in upheaval and under martial law. The New Orleans Saints got their asses handed to them by a previously winless St. Louis Rams team.

These are just a few examples of the madness which surrounds us. Everywhere we look, another surprise. Around every corner, the proverbial masked man is waiting to attack. But through it all, and amidst the chaos, The Centerfolds remain at the top of their game.

Perhaps it’s the calming influence of the massive Yao Ming, or the support of Shane Battier off the bench. Ray Allen continues his stellar play as a perennial pro, and Kevin Durant overcame a miserable shooting performance early in the week and has emerged as an early season candidate for Rookie of the Year.

But individual honors aside, my team continues to develop its own unique personality. Even as I sit here in the fantasy clubhouse, just out of view of the fantasy locker room, typing away on my fantasy laptop, I can hear Ray Allen singing to LaMarcus Aldridge, It’s a beautiful, soulful lullaby - with lyrics about candy-coated basketballs and chocolate referee's whistles. You see, LaMarcus has had trouble sleeping this week, what with the change from daylight savings time and what not.

So Ray thought he’d try something that’s worked for his three young children, especially when they were infants. And guess what? LaMarcus is sleeping like a giant baby right now, right there on the locker room floor. Ray stops singing, his voice trailing off like a velvet mist. He tiptoes towards me, flashing a smile that could stop your heart with its brilliance. Luckily, I'm used to it - mine keeps beating. I give him a silent high-five as he glides past.

“Great play Ray,” I whisper.

This is what it’s all about. It’s a crazy world outside, but in this place, The Centerfolds home base, all is calm and quiet.

As I mentioned earlier, we remain at the top of the league statistically. Our record for week 2 was 5-3-1, and we’re a half game out of first place. We tied our opponent in three-pointers, but dominated in points, rebounds, shooting percentage, free-throw percentage and blocked shots - overall, a very solid performance.

I’m as proud as can be. But I find one piece of statistical data rather vexing. There’s one category in which we’ve been lacking during the first two weeks, and you’d think it would be the one category at which The Centerfolds would excel.

That category? Assists.

The entire team is composed of guys who live for the chance to lend a helping hand. The Ray Allen lullaby story is but one small example. So, how can it be that this team doesn’t pass the ball in order to give others the opportunity to score?

I guess part of the problem lies somewhere along the fine line between fantasy and reality. Each of my players exists in something called “the real world” and plays for something known as an “NBA team.” Apparently, quite often on these NBA teams, there’s no one to pass to. So, for example, in those cases, Yao just dunks it or Ray squares up and fires a three. I continue to work on ways by which my fantasy managing can affect real-life game play, but so far to no avail. I’ll keep you posted on this.

All that being said, I really believe my team continues to improve. We made a significant free agent acquisition this week, with the addition of Yao’s countryman, Yi Jianlian (PF, Milwaukee). He’s only 6-feet 11-inches, but is a bit more agile than Yao, and therefore gets a few more steals.

When their teams played each other last week, the game drew an estimated 200 million viewers worldwide (I believe 199 million of them were in China). Luckily for me, they’re both on the same fantasy team (mine) and compliment each other quite well.

Yi and Yao, together again. A thing of beauty. So until next week - just remember we’ve got a ton of beautiful basketball left to be played this season, and The Centerfolds are just warming up.



Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Google Yourself - A Means To Measure Personal Success

I perform a Google search on myself almost daily, in part, to make certain I actually exist. Google’s 200,000 servers CANNOT be wrong. But even more than that, Google results can give you an accurate idea of how your personal success stacks up against others. The more Google entries, the greater contribution you’ve made to society. Don’t get me wrong. I’m definitely not bragging here. My feats are not all that substantial, in any sense of the word “substantial.” Or the word “feats.” Or even the word “my.” Even so, it’s quite fun to see my name on the computer screen sprinkled across more than a handful of web pages.

Typically, searching for my name yields information about where I went to school, some Chemistry publications I wrote in grad school, and numerous entries from this here blog. But occasionally, (and this is another reason I check regularly) I’ll find a new entry - a new search result that seemingly sprung from the froth of the internet ocean. Is that really me? When was I quoted by that small town newspaper in Kentucky? They were asking me about why I’m picketing in front of a Laundromat? In nothing but a top hat and jock strap? While wearing roller skates? And then it all comes rushing back.

So Google is useful for occasionally jogging one’s memory. It’s also great for investigating the background of a potential blind date. But perhaps it’s most useful function is to make you feel better about yourself by Googling people you went to grade school with. If you haven’t done so recently (which I find difficult to believe) you should really give it a try.

Ever try this Google thing? It's pretty neat. Use it to see if your nemesis from kindergarten is now in jail.

How about the bully who stole your lunch money in 2nd grade? Go ahead and Google him. Chances are he’s been arrested for writing bad checks, or was involved in a conspiracy to defraud little old ladies. Maybe his name doesn’t even appear in Google’s search results. That’s equivalent to never being born. Why even bother? The daily drudgery of life - a never-ending waterfall of frustration, boredom, loneliness, and pain. AND you have no Google results to show for it? That would be far too much to bear.

Now what about the prettiest girl in 6th grade – the one who wouldn’t let you buy her French fries or carry her books because you were an integral member of the “Nerd Herd.” So what if you never stopped staring, and followed her around after school and on weekends, at a distance of usually around 50 yards or so. Big deal. Anyway, type her name into Google. Don’t worry about her having a different last name now. She’s most likely never married, or is thrice divorced and has reverted to her maiden name. If you can even find anything amidst Google’s definitive database of everything mankind’s ever done (that’s worth a shit), then it probably refers to the girl’s record-breaking weight gain. Or some type of crime spree. Nothing makes you feel better than the knowledge that those you dislike are safely stowed away in prison.

Go ahead and satisfy your curiosity. Google a few people whom you suspect haven't done shit with their lives. Even better, Google those jerks from your past whom you pray haven't done shit. I'm confident you'll be satisfied with Google's search results. Also, throw in a Google search or two just to make sure that you yourself exist - and aren't just a part of the Matrix, or a figment of my imagination.

Just be careful. All this Googling can be addictive.

Listen to this post.



Sunday, November 11, 2007

Secrets Of The Magic 8-Ball Not Revealed

I plan to include the Magic 8-ball as an integral part of my decision-making process at home and in the office - much more so than I do right now. Why not? It’s easy, reliable, unbiased and makes tough choices for you. Plus, it’s always right - because it can predict the future. A claim which I defy anyone to dispute. The only caveat is that you have to ask a yes or no question. Otherwise, you’re likely to be confused. For example, “Magic 8-ball, do I turn left or right at this intersection?” You give the 8-ball a brisk shake, and it replies, “Reply hazy, try again.” The intersection is now in your rearview, and you’re utterly lost. Thanks a lot, stupid Magic 8-ball.

It's not stupid though. Don’t blame the 8-ball! It’s the user who must learn the secrets of this powerful, mystical and ancient (invented in 1946) liquid-filled device. You need to know the proper way to phrase your questions. Remember, yes or no questions. That is the key.

As a small child, before I learned any science, I believed the Magic 8-Ball could actually predict the future. Although there are twenty possible answers the 8-ball can give, they all boil down to yes, no, or maybe - which can be rather frustrating for a child still learning the complex nuances of the English language. I wanted so badly to ask the Magic 8-ball all sorts of questions. Will I have ice cream for dessert tonight? Will the Phillies win the World Series this year? Who stole my bike out of the garage? Did my brother sell it to the neighbor's kid? How much did he get for it? What will happen if I stick a G.I. Joe in the dog's ear? And so on and so forth. The Magic 8-ball performed flawlessly with some of these questions, but results were miserable and completely unreliable with others. I just couldn't count on it. And after 5 or 6 years of asking the 8-ball question after crucial question, I stowed it away in a shoebox, under the bed, in the closet or buried in the backyard. Not sure exactly where it went. In any case, I've been looking and I can't find it now. But here's a new Magic 8-ball I'm itching to purchase:

The Perfect Pink Prognosticator

Yes, it's a designer 8-ball from Juicy Couture. And yes, it's sleek, chic, and pink. Perfect for a man's man such as myself. And only $35 retail here. Not bad. I'm hoping the new Juicy model will offer more options for question-asking. I mean, I have to assume that this specialized 8-ball will be able to help with important day-to-day dilemmas, like what to wear and what to eat (or not eat), etc.

For example:

Me - 8-ball, do you like me in these jeans?
8-ball - From this angle your ass looks huge.


Me- Yo 8-ball, what should I order for dinner. Pizza or Chinese?
8-ball - Neither. All signs point to your fat gut, and it disgusts me.

And even:

Me - Dear Magic 8-ball, I've been having chest pains for the last 2 weeks or so. Along with these pains, I've felt a tingling sensation down my left arm. What should I do?
8-ball - Stop being a pussy.

All helpful answers, and all similar to the advice you'd receive from a professional. Seems to me that the Magic 8-ball could replace doctors, lawyers, personal trainers and financial/fashion advisors. Not to mention teachers, government officials, and law enforcement. At the very least, the 8-ball's always been great entertainment for cocktail parties, and cold lonely nights in graduate school. And if you crack one open, the blue liquid inside actually tastes quite nice with a twist of lemon and a splash of vermouth. However, the little tumbling icosahedral fortune die is rather difficult to chew, and tastes like a refrigerator magnet. I can’t recommend you try it.

So go ahead and dig up that old Magic 8-ball. If you can't find it, you could also buy a new one from Neiman Marcus, or your local Church of Scientology. Put your faith in its powers, and see how well it can predict next Sunday's football games. If you need proof, my Juicy Couture 8-ball picked the Rams over the Saints, AND the Broncos over the Chiefs. But it mistakenly thought the Steelers would cover the spread against the Browns. Not bad, Magic 8-ball. Nobody's perfect. But I'll always abide by your advice.

Me: Should I drink this milk even though the expiration date was 3 months ago?
8-ball: Signs point to yes.
Me: Whatever you say my spherical sidekick.

Listen to this post.



Thursday, November 08, 2007

Do Nice Guys Finish Last? #2

(Another installment of my column from The Love of Sports website - I'm trying to field a successful fantasy basketball team with exactly zero criminals or philanderers on the roster)

The first week of this young fantasy basketball season is behind us. And I must say, the future looks very bright. My team, The Centerfolds, are playing well, and have quickly melded into a cohesive unit of good will and brotherly love, so to speak.

We were off to a rocky start though. Last week’s draft was a little touch ‘n go, especially with the technical difficulties that disabled my internet during rounds 7 through 15. The system automatically picked players for me while I was gone. I’ve never heard of a few of the computer’s choices, but after a quick FBI background check, I’ll decide whether they stay or go. Here’s a quick rundown:

Round one, the ninth pick overall, brought Yao Ming (C, Houston Rockets) into my life. What a nice guy! He’s learning English, but never feels the need to trash talk in any language. He’s 7 feet 6 inches tall, but never scares small children….purposefully. Plus he’s appeared in some rather funny commercials. That’s what I call a gentle giant, and exactly the kind of guy I want as my team’s anchor. This guy can block shots all day long, and he’s a monster on the boards. But when I say “monster” think Shrek, and not Frankenstein.

Next pick for The Centerfolds was Ray Allen (SG, Boston Celtics). A dazzling smile, silky-smooth jumpshot, and easygoing demeanor are just a few of Mr. Allen’s credentials. Why doesn’t this guy have endorsement deals with every consumer goods company on the planet? Not to mention, he hits three or four 3-pointers per game and is lights-out at the free throw line – a great compliment to Yao’s gutsy game. We’re not just looking for nice guys to fill up the roster. There’s a little strategy involved here, believe it or not.

Moving right along, The Centerfolds drafted Kevin Durant number 3 (nice, young kid out of Texas, and recent college player of the year), Caron Butler 4th, and LaMarcus Aldridge number 5. We then added a nice little point guard named Andre Miller from my hometown 76ers with our 6th pick. All nice guys, all happy to be on the same fantasy team.

Everything was going swimmingly, and, of course, it was at this point that my computer crapped out. I spent the next 30 minutes in a panic, trying ANYTHING I could think of to fix the problem. I turned the computer off, and turned it back on. I shut down, and booted up again. I unplugged the power supply and plugged it back into the wall. I ordered a pizza. I called the computer a bad name and threatened to injure its hard drive. In other words, I tried absolutely everything. No luck. Nothing worked. I began to think my season was star-crossed from the outset.

Then I turned my wireless router back on. That’s right. In my excitement, or during a quick bathroom break, I must have jarred loose the power supply. It was a real nightmare. But I have a fantasy team to manage, and I don’t make excuses. We’ll just have to make the best of an unfortunate situation.

So the draft didn’t go exactly as planned. It probably wouldn’t surprise anyone if I immediately performed some serious restructuring of my fantasy organization. But wait, what about the team’s performance during week 1?

We’re in a head-to-head league, meaning you play against one team each week, competing across nine categories – one point per category. So the best you could do in a week is 9-0. And guess what? My team didn’t do that. But we came pretty darn close. A 7-2 win was the final tally. And just like that, we’re sitting on top, looking down on the thugs, hotheads, and domestic abusers sprinkled throughout the rest of the league. But we’re not ones to gloat. No sir.

As a form of celebration, we took a ride in The Centerfolds fantasy tour bus, and I treated my team to a round of fantasy golf – miniature golf, that is. And a few games of fantasy Skee-ball. Kevin Durant can fit about six of those balls in his hand at once. He won like 10,000 fantasy Skee-ball tickets!! And he traded them in for a Shetland pony – a live one. It was insane.

Kevin Durant's new pony. 10,000 tickets from fantasy Skee-ball, but the look on his face was priceless when the pony curled up in his lap.

Anyway, I plan to delight my team with many more fantasy reward excursions this season. Hell, even if they have an off week, I’ll still take them to fantasy McDonald’s for some fantasy French fries. Also, Yao Ming’s mom baked fantasy cupcakes. They were delicious.

Tune in next week for more fantasy baked goods. Oops, I mean basketball.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Letter Of Affirmation To My Fantasy Football Quarterback

Drew Brees had a rocky start this season, to say the least. As his fantasy football manager, I sure let him know how I felt about it. Boy did I let him have it in my last letter. And if you'll recall, I benched him several weeks back. It appears as though he's taken my vicious scolding to heart. He's been on fire as of late. Enough so to earn him another chance at the starting job. Congratulations are in order:

Hi Drew!

What's up big buddy? How's the shoulder feeling?...Strong? Supple? Laser-accurate? Yeah, I thought so.

Before I go any further, I'd like to say, "You're welcome." Yes it's official - you're back to your old Pro-Bowl form. Welcome to the land of touchdown passes and high-fives. You're having fun again. And I take a lot of credit for that. Rightly so. Sure, you practiced hard and studied the playbook. Probably spent hours and hours watching film of opposing defenses, trying to determine what went so terribly wrong during those first few games of the season. But think about the real impetus for your dramatic turnaround. Who benched you five weeks ago, after a horrendous start to the season? Drew, you threw for one touchdown and NINE interceptions in your first 4 games. It was gruesome. I still feel a bit of pain in the deepest darkest depths of my soul when I think about it. And that's a pain I'll have to live with for the rest of my fantasy football career. Maybe longer.

I recommended that you sit back and contemplate your god-awful early-season performance. You used the bye week, and took the time to figure things out. But I wasn't about to let you bust back into my starting lineup. You seemed to take the hint - If you wanted to rekindle The Mill's love for Drew, then Drew would have to give the Mill something to love. How about 1,246 yards passing, 11 touchdowns and just 1 interception in your last 4 games? And this past week alone? 445 yards and 3 touchdowns! Spectacular. Yes Drew. I love it. You have re-arrived on the scene with passion and fury, power and glory.

I knew you could do it. I've said it several times in previous time-stamped blog postings, so I can prove that I'm not just hopping on your Mardi Gras float of a bandwagon. Here, at long last, is your reward for four consecutive weeks of rock-solid Brees-ian football - YOU MAY HAVE YOUR STARTING JOB BACK.

But please restrain yourself for now. Allow your excitement to simmer. Mix it with your rage towards me for benching you the past 5 weeks. Bottle that potent concoction (two parts excitement, three parts rage), stick a rag in the neck of it, light it on fire and throw it at your opponents this weekend - the woeful St. Louis Rams.

I can only guess what the future holds for you. You've clawed and gnawed your way back into my heart, and back into the most important role on the fantasy team (besides the manager, of course). It's like you can do anything you set your mind to - things never before accomplished, really monumental things. I bet you could conjugate nouns if you wanted to. Or bake the most delicious sugar-free cake ever known to mankind - one that tastes better than a fully-sugared one. What I'm trying to say, Drew, is you're an extraordinary man. And I'm proud of your recent performance.

Please try to keep it up. You've been named the starter, for now. Just remember, with the click of a mouse, I can take it all away.

Thrilled by your return,

Wishing you the best,

Don't forget my threat of re-benching you,

But mostly you're the best ever,

And as always,

With affection,

Your devoted, kind and fair, steadfast and faithful fantasy football manager,

- The Mill

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

I Want a Panda

These things are pretty cute and cuddly. They’re like three-hundred pound stuffed animals, with sharp claws and strong legs. But nevertheless, I want one. A baby one, preferably. Just take a look at this little cuddly puppy-monkey:

Awww. Holy shit, this thing is cute.

Technically, the panda is neither puppy nor monkey. I’ve been considering panda ownership for the past two or three days, and during that time, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about this remarkable species. The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca, “black and white cat-foot”) is a mammal, in the bear family. Its native habitat is central and southwestern China, but seems to enjoy and gravitate towards small concrete holding pens in American zoos. Through my intense studies, I’ve also learned that the panda likes to build nests out of shredded newspapers and empty soda cans. This is where they lay their eggs. The female panda is usually the one who lays the eggs, about a dozen at a time. The babies hatch after six months, and slither into the mommy’s pouch. The tiny, bald, pink, blind panda will remain there for six to eight weeks while feeding on meat regurgitated by the mother.

After this initial period of development, the baby panda will become very playful and terrifically cute. All the baby wants to do is cuddle with its mommy, and perform cute tricks for humans. The period of time in a baby panda's life, from eight weeks to eight months of age, is known as “The Golden Time,” during which the baby panda neither eats nor defecates. But rather, the fuzzy darling simply plays with everything and everyone in sight, and generally acts as adorable as panda-ly possible.

At the age of nine to twelve months, the panda resumes eating, and quickly grows to weigh one-hundred pounds or more. It is at this point that the animal becomes dangerous and difficult to control. The simple solution is intravenous tranquilizers, which causes the panda to revert to its former docile and more adorable state. If, however, local, state and/or federal laws prohibit the purchase and distribution of IV tranquilizers to pandas, then you’re shit out of luck. You’ve got a wild animal on your hands, after all. Generally speaking, two or three large dogs will be able to help you corral the juvenile panda into the back of your S.U.V. or pickup truck for transport to local Animal Control authorities.

Doctors administer tranquilizers to this unruly, wild monster before it hurts someone.

In any case, pandas are great fun for the first nine months of their lives. They seem like they’d make super-fun pets. And yes, baby pandas would make great pets. That’s why I want one so badly. But the important point I’d like to make is that adult pandas are rather temperamental, and could rip a man’s arm clean off if given the opportunity. So leave the care of older pandas to the professionals down at the zoo. If you’re currently caring for a baby panda, you’ll thank me for this advice. Get rid of it as soon as its cuteness begins to fade. Also, don't get your baby panda wet. And whatever you do, do not feed it after midnight.

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New Look Template - Do Not Be Shocked

Sorry to be so shocking. I decided to change the background and general look of the website. Really though, it's not such a big deal. You can still expect the same spectacular content, razor-sharp wit, and laser-accurate insight to which you're accustomed. My ninja-like blogging skills are what I like to refer to as 'Mill Kwon Do', or 'Mill-jitsu.' And that hasn't changed. If anything, I'm getting better, and learning more advanced techniques with each passing day. It's an ancient Asian martial art, mixed with modern day technology, beaten with bamboo shafts, lashed with reeds, and entered into my computer keyboard with lightning-quick finger taps. Just like a ninja with a poisoned dart or throwing star, I could very easily kill my enemy with a computer. I'd probably sneak up behind him when he was super drunk and, using my laptop as a sort of hand extension, push him in front of a bus or taxi cab. Yeah, that's right. I'm that much of a bad ass.

Anyway, there should be more changes to come. And with any luck, nobody will get hurt.


The Mill's Podcast - Ready for Primetime

I spent the better part of the day getting it set up, but I think "all systems are go," as they say in the military. If you'd like to hear my deep, velvety voice reciting my posts (I've been told I'm a cross between Axel Rose and Barry White) then you have two options. Either download the mp3 file from the link provided at the bottom of the post - only the 4 most recent posts have been recorded so far, not including this one (After all, how could you listen to this post, when the whole point of this post is to tell you about how I'll be recording other posts?). Or you can subscribe to my podcast. You heard me right. I have a podcast now, and you can subscribe. For free. I only ask for your everlasting gratitude and devotion, and 4th or 5th-born child in return (whichever one was more of a mistake). To sign up, just open your iTunes, and look under the "Advanced" menu for "subscribe to podcast..." When it asks for the url of the podcast, type:

Then enter your credit card number, date of birth, SSN, mother's maiden name, and location and combination of any safes in your house. Oh, and the address of said house.

Kidding, of course.

But really, it's that easy. Then sync with your iPod, and enjoy my material as it was meant to be enjoyed - by having someone else read it to you. You probably don't have the time or the energy to read it to yourself. I agree, reading is exhausting. One of the most tiring things ever invented by mankind. During the course of a normal day, it's almost impossible to avoid some modest amount of reading. But I'm not gonna be the guy to increase your workload or "readload." Thus, The Mill's sweet podcast was born. I hope you like it.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The NBA - Do Nice Guys Finish Last?

(Below is a post I wrote for my friend's website. The site is called "The Love of Sports." It's a cool site, so please check it out. There's a whole lot more than what I wrote - a bunch of daily columns, videos, and pics from across the sports world.)

“Fantasy basketball is just like real basketball. Except different. Now here’s a dollar. Go wash my car.” That’s what my father always said. And truer words have never been spoken by man or beast. Even so, it’s important to remember that the fantasy clubhouse is still a place of complex interpersonal dynamics - just like a real-life NBA clubhouse. You have the infighting, the bickering, the showboating, the having sex with other players’ wives and girlfriends, etc. etc. Except it’s all imaginary. Did Kobe Bryant just throw a chair at his teammate Dirk Nowitzki? “Dirk, did you steal Kobe’s iPod?” Not in my fantasy clubhouse he didn’t. I run a tight ship.

We’ve all assumed that the imaginary relationships between the players on our imaginary teams have nothing to do with their actual success on the court during the real NBA season. Oh really? Is that so? How can you be so sure? Why is it if I wear my 76ers jersey inside-out, and sit on the left side of the sofa while eating a piece of cheese with two fingers in my right ear, they always hit a three and win the game? (Happened once in 1989. Not kidding.) And why couldn’t the positive vibes flowing from my fantasy locker room make it out to the real world, and vice versa? That’s what I’m here to find out. I’m going to spend this season focusing on the good, the moral, the wholesome, the honest in the NBA. And see if we can field a winning team.

I believe that sports is a reflection of life, and the sporting heroes that we worship on a daily basis not only teach us about victory and defeat, perseverance and humility, but in addition, they teach us how not to act. Don't beat up your wife or your dog. Don't drive your $120,000 Bentley into the river. Don't make a rap album. Don't take steroids. And so on and so forth.

Unfortunately for the youngest of fans - the most naive and impressionable of them all - it may seem as though the most troublesome behavior off the court leads to the greatest success on it. Let's be honest, many of the most exciting athletes around today are also the most likely to end up in an exciting police chase.

Yes, we'll always have to deal with the bad apples and their chronic legal problems, and the prima donnas who believe they're the most important ones in the locker room. But do you actually need any of these bad men on your team in order win? Admittedly, it IS all about winning in the end - especially when it comes to fantasy sports. My theory is, yes, you can field a dominant team that doesn't feature any former felons. You don't need a guy on your squad who keeps a Glock 9mm in his glove compartment. You do need a guy who just wants a hug after making that clutch shot.

My team’s name is The Centerfolds – the roster is beautiful from top to bottom, inside and out. My players have become fast fantasy friends. They eat lunch together in the fantasy commissary. They travel together in the fantasy hovercraft. They play friendly games of Yahtzee! and Pictionary, huddled in front of the fire in the fantasy log cabin, built into the side of a mountain deep in the Great Smoky Mountains. But no, they do not shower together in the fantasy locker room, while whipping each other with towels and spraying one another with shaving cream. That’s not part of this fantasy basketball world. Sorry.

The Centerfolds travel in style, to any venues located near water. Otherwise they travel by fantasy school bus.

Inside, you might just find nice guys Yao Ming and Ray Allen playing a game of pinochle during a fantasy off-day.

In any case, you’ll be following their adventures this season, with me as your guide and moral compass. They’re all really nice guys, so this should be quite a bit of fun for everyone.

Listen to this post.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween - What Is It Good For?

Halloween’s good for plenty of things when you’re a kid – 1) Gobs and gobs of free candy, 2) Stay out late on a school night, 3) Hang out with friends and joke around, 4) Dress up like a girl, etc., etc. But all the things that Halloween’s so good for when you’re young are summarily executed and tossed out the window when you get older - 1) Candy now makes me very fat if I were to eat gobs of it (1 gob = 8 pounds), 2) I’m too tired after a hard day’s work to stay out past 8:30, 3) My friends are super-serious and don’t like to hang out. They just like to schedule conference calls and discuss the complexities of modern-day thermomechanical wood pulp processing. Or some shit like that. Anyway, it’s no fun. And 4) In New York, men dress like girls every single day of the year. To do so on Halloween is so very passé.

Two years in a row and I haven’t dressed up! Does this mean it’s official? Is Halloween dead to The Mill? If so, I sincerely mourn the passing of my Halloween-celebrating days - if indeed those days are gone for good. I still halfheartedly try to come up with costume ideas, reasoning that if I find something fantastic, I’ll absolutely have to dress up. Even tonight, with mere hours before All Hallow’s Eve begins, my mind is chewing on the topic of Halloween costumes. Should I finally wear that Viet Cong guerilla outfit, and pretend to plant booby trap baby dolls and soda can nail bombs around town? Or is that still very offensive, non-PC, incredibly irresponsible, and asinine? Let’s hold off for another year, at least. Can I recycle my Serena Williams costume, originally worn back in 1999? What is the statute of limitations for re-using costumes? And would I even be able to pour myself into that tiny tennis dress? Probably not, although I can still fit into my Bar Mitzvah suit. But that wouldn’t make much of a costume. “A man in an ill-fitting, moth-ridden suit,” we could call it.

So I’m without a good idea this year. But there are plenty of other folks who lack good costume ideas, and still manage to participate in Halloween. How many Mahmoud Ahmadinejad costumes will we see? That one is so damn obvious. I’m sure we’ll also see numerous John Edwards’s, Dennis Kuciniches, and Jake Gyllenhaals, just to name a few easy ones. Oh, and William Hurt. I bet you'll see like 25 William Hurts this year. Why can’t people be more creative? And no, the “Cereal Killer” (guy tapes a bunch of cereal boxes to a sweater and walks around with a fake knife or knives impaling the cereal boxes) is not creative. That’s just stupid. And a waste of perfectly good cereal.

Wow, great William Hurt costume. Very lifelike. Too bad hundreds of others will have the same idea this Halloween.

A douchebag's classic standby costume. And so terrifying - a terrifying waste of cereal, that is!

Perhaps I'll be inspired in the hours and minutes leading up to Halloween. Although I'm not holding my breath. In any case, everyone knows that the weekend before Halloween is when all the good parties take place, and I definitely missed out on that this year (insert sad face emoticon). Thanks for bringing me to your friend's wedding this past weekend, Jaimi! We all dressed up in costumes. Wedding guest costumes.

Listen to this post.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Global Warming - A Revelation

I’ve always believed the proliferation of factories, coal-burning power plants, and the automobile were largely to blame for global warming - that our society’s complete and utter reliance on fossil fuels has led us to this point. And the racing locomotives that are the U.S., Chinese and Indian economies are forcing us ever closer to the brink of disaster.

But then I was watching “An Inconvenient Truth”, starring Al Gore as a professorial prophet with absolutely astounding PowerPoint skills. At one point during the presentation, he shows the sun shooting its rays at the polar ice cap. And the ice just reflects the sun’s heat. Then the ice melts and the sun’s rays are absorbed by the open ocean. Thus leading to more warming and more melting and more absorption of rays. And then more melting. And more warming. And…and. You get the picture. A peristaltic chain reaction of ruin.

So I done got me to thinking. What is the real problem here? Sure, it sounds like global warming could be pretty serious. But do I really need to build a windmill in my backyard (if I had a backyard) and drive a battery-powered soda can to work every day? Will that really save us?


"Why not, Mill?" you ask. Wouldn’t a decrease in the burning of fossil fuels lessen the production of greenhouse gases? Well, yes. But it’s not all about the greenhouse gases. Don’t persecute them just for trapping heat. The real problem is the sun. It’s way too hot. And as Mr. Gore demonstrated, it keeps shooting those damn rays at our open oceans, thus warming the water, melting the ice, raising the sea level, and murdering the polar bears. There’s only one solution: we need to find a way to blot out the sun. Literally. Not kidding.

Kill the sun, I say, and you cool the planet. That is indisputable science. Kill the sun, and save the bears. Let the ice live free and let the sun die hard, with a vengeance. But it’s unbreakable, you say? Well my sixth sense tells me that it can be done. And just as fire is the fifth element, so can Armageddon be brought down upon the sun by a simple team of twelve monkeys, Hudson Hawk, and Billy Bathgate.

Okay fine. Maybe I don’t have a plan. Maybe instead of coming up with a legitimate way to mitigate the tremendous damage we’ve already done to the planet’s climate, I just listed a bunch of Bruce Willis movies (can you find them all?). But that was fun, and still serves to illustrate my point. That point being - Bruce Willis can do it. He can save the world. If anyone can, it’s him. Again, not a joke. Mr. Willis, if you’re reading this, please leave a comment that you will indeed save the planet, as I’ve suggested.

So I wrote this post last night, and during my normal travels over and across the World Wide Web, on my way to sleep, I ran across this article.

Strange thing is, the author details a method by which we could actually reflect some of the sun's rays - by throwing a bunch of dirt into the atmosphere. A simulated volcanic eruption, as it were. I can't tell exactly when the article was written, but I'll just go ahead and assume that I came up with the idea first. As I've said before, I are a genius.

Listen to this post.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Ode To Beer: Redux

The crackling cap lifts from the lip.

A sizzling slide of golden amber.

Suds down the side of a fancy glass.

So cold. Fresh. Bitter. Smooth.

A biting cold. A sprinkle of snow down your neck.

Excuse me miss, how old are you?

Twenty-two, yet still with braces.

And only four foot ten.

But yet, this card says your age. And says it all.

I see here you’re from Maine.

The land of 10,000 lakes.

Or something like that.

I haven’t a clue.

Ten beers gone by.

Like a bygone high school daze.

In the dark dank alleyway.

No smoking inside. It’s the law.

What say you Officer?

Yes, she’s with me.

A fake? Who’s a fake?

What’s a fake?

Fake this! A flight to safety!

But no.

Too slow.

The blunt cold concrete.

The faint essence of urine.

It’s all you sense. With a knee in your back.

Suspect immobilized.

The pain is dull. A throbbing dread.

She’s talking to the cop.

He’s taking notes.

Thank you beer.

Listen to this post.