Saturday, February 28, 2009

Most wonderful time of the year

I love this time of year. It is one of the few times in a year that I can have a little hope that the Lions will come out better than in previous years. So many mornings I find myself with a cup of coffee and view at the recent NFL transactions hoping to gain insight into what my favorite team will do to crush my spirits. I have been watching these huge mega-deals go through and been very thankful that we are not in on those, but that seems to be the way that the new front office operates.

Albert Haynesworth got the fattest deal ever for a defensive lineman. $41 million in guaranteed money, $32 million in the first 13 months, and over $100 over the length of the contract. Whoa, this for the guy playing on a very solid d-line as well as having the honors of a fine and suspension for purposely stepping on another players face that didn't have a helmet on. What a weird world, huh?

Otherwise it is just been very interesting to watch these big money deals come through. I think a lot of the wild spending has to do with the fact that no one knows what will happen next year with the cancellation of the end of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Basically 2010 will have no salary cap unless something can get done soon. That is very sad to me as I think that sports with a salary cap are much more enjoyable to watch.

On the Lions front, they have pick up Maurice Morris, recently of the Seahawks. He is a good second runner. Nothing spectacular for a signing though on such a huge first day of free agency. Right now I am hoping for two signings in particular. The first is to get Khalif Barnes who has proven to be a very solid left tackle and still pretty young. This would be a great addition to the offensive line and allow them to do some shifting to put their best 5 players on the line. The second player is Michael Boley who is a great linebacker waiting for a run stuffing opportunity. I think the Lions could really use that type of player on their D.

But that was only the first day, and this period will last 1 month or so leading up to the draft. Trades are now allowed as well and there likely will be some pretty big trades as some of the new coaches are coming into teams that traded away this year's picks for last year's busts.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

NFL Combine and Lions

The NFL combine is such a weird thing to me. When you are evaluating talent why do you need them to go bench 225lb a bunch of times to see if they are good football players. Why agility drills and the 40 when this is without pads which really isn't going to transfer to real football speed. It is only compounded by special training regiments that are tailored to optimize these athletes to the tests. It is a flawed concept, but I think it has a couple things going for it. First off, it always help identify some flaws in players around professionalism. How they approach this media circus helps give teams a view into how they would approach life as a pro player. Did they come unprepared to the combine? How readily did they pick up the coaching for the Wonderlic or 40 yard dash? In addition the medical physical might be one of the most rigorous they will have.

This two players have been hurt by the combine. The top wide receiver prospect Michael Crabtree showed a stress fracture in his foot. This will probably hurt his stock when it shouldn't at all. If you look at how he played, he is a great wide receiver. The other player is Andre Smith who was one of the top OT prospects. For different reasons from Crabtree, this type of behavior I think is much more negative. Sure, he had a fantastic season where he was the type of roadgrader run blocking tackles in college football, but when he acts selfish and unprepared for his future, I just see a holdout and flop for a short NFL career. And to think this was one of the guys I wanted for the Lions, not so much now.

Now onto the Lions. My friend, Ish, insists we are going to pick a QB with our first overall pick. I insist that we are going to go defense as it seems like the intelligent thing to do. If I had my pick, it would go to probably B.J. Raji and then with the 20th pick, I would try to get a LB like James Laurinaitis or Ray Maualuga. I would also willing accept Alex Mack at center or maybe another offensive lineman with the 20th pick. Please don't screw this up, Lions.

I wish Miranda would use the potty

Still not potty trained. I think we will have to just drag her into the bathroom every 45 minutes instead of asking her every 30 minutes whether she needs to go. Lately her sleep has been interrupted and it looks like the cause is a molar breaking through.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Neal Asher's Ian Cormac series

At some point, Amazon started recommending Neal Asher books for me to read. I am not sure which other science fiction book I had read pointed me towards it, but I just kept holding off on buying the books. I was really hoping I could find them in the local used book store to at least try them before paying retail if need be, but I could never find them. Eventually I was out of books at home and needed to order some more so I thought it was about time to give these a whirl.

Currently the Ian Cormac series is at 4 books in the US and one more to come out shortly. This series takes place in a couple hundred years in the future in Asher's Polity universe. The basic concept here is that humans were able to create artificial intelligence and over time these AIs started ruling the humans. This worked out best of humanity as there were much less war occurring because of politics. That isn't to say that everyone happy. This is where Cormac comes in as one of Earth Central's government agents who takes care of little uprising and rogue elements.

These books are spy books. There are plenty of combat situations. There is violence. There are bizarre planets with bizarre life-forms. There is future technology. It has the makings of entertaining reading. The writing is very good and keeps one tied in especially near the end as Mr. Asher has a great way of really building up to a climax.

Gridlinked (Ian Cormac, Book 1) is the first book in the series. The basic story is Ian is an agent that has been in service for a long time and his neural interface has been in too long making him a bit too mechanical to be an agent. The only solution is to turn it off and send him out on another mission, one he is specially equipped for as he was one of the first to deal with the entity known as Dragon and Dragon is back. This book is able to stand on its own, so if you wanted to try out his writing without getting involved in a long series, this is a great way to take it. The remaining books are partly tied together so you are left wanting more once the books are done.

The Line of Polity (Ian Cormac, Book 2) is the second book and looks at another reappearance of a piece of Dragon sending Ian out again. This time you are introduced to a new world ruled by a Theology and a rogue scientist who is intent on resurrecting 5 million year old alien technology that has the potential to make his invincible. In his previous book, the intro to a chapter was like a dictionary telling you more of the world, but in this one you get a super graphic children's book where the soldiers of light are shredded by the local fauna.

Brass Man (Ian Cormac, Book 3) has Mr. Asher returning to one of the villians from the first book in Mr. Crane. Mr. Crane is brought back and you are given a more indepth look at what makes him tick as you explore a world populated by pre-Polity tech humans and a handful of different crazy killer creatures. Once more you find another piece of the Dragon which send Cormac out to hunt again.

Polity Agent (Ian Cormac, Book 4) looks at what happens as this alien technology poses a threat to human and AI alike. I found this book to have the best writing so far as you watch Ian and his regular crew deal with Dragon and Jain technology and how it interacts. This one really left me wanting more though and book 5 isn't available to me yet.

Speaking of wanting more, Mr. Asher has the amazing ability to end every chapter with a segment where you desperately want to know what is going to happen. Every chapter feels this way. Sometimes, I would like to put the book down for the night and it feels like I never ever get the chapter that says you can go take a break now. Another item that I felt a bit put off by is the strange fauna his places on his world. They are always deadly like way more deadly than anything you have seen in a nature show. And the planets seem to only have a handful of species, but that really isn't what the books are about.

Even with these problems, these books tend to fall in the Scalzi or Heinlein camp for me as they tend to be more focused on characters instead of on the technology. Some of the tech is cool and interesting, some feels light and fluffy with little substance behind it. It also only lightly looks at some of the social pressures of the new technology. There is some talk of how AIs are very similar to the humans that initially gave them rise with their individuality, but these seem to be light interludes between the action sequences.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Trips to somewhere

Well I started looking at plane tickets and plans today for a pair of trips. Wow, it is hard to figure out things. First up, a friend from high school is having a party post wedding and I would like to head in with Miranda for the weekend. The second trip is just for me as I am heading to my friend Jim's wedding. Since I am in the grooms party, get to show up a bit early and hang out with my best friends from high school for a few days.

I know the days I am thinking of doing, but I have to figure out the timing with my parents to figure out when I should stop by there and when they would like to see me. I am sure it wouldn't be a problem for either, but it is good to check the best time.

Tonight I am just sitting watching Robin Hood with Miranda. The Disney version that is. I don't think it is all that great but Miranda likes it although she runs out of the room at the "scary parts." Michelle has the evening away so just chilling.