Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Football Fantasy: Sanchez

College League: lost, 90.05-75.87 (5-7 overall, 11th place out of 12 teams)
Vermont League: lost, 89.92-84.94 (6-6, 5th out of 12)
My Player of the Week: Mark Sanchez (Quarterback, Jets) with 17 completions for 180 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception and 2 rushing attempts for 5 yards

Photo via HeadBlitz

There's one week to go in the regular season for both leagues. I'm pretty sure I'm mathematically out of the playoffs in the college league. No worries. I'll still have the opportunity to improve on last year's 11th place finish in the consolation playoffs.

I had an outside chance at a win in the Vermont league heading into Monday night. I needed really strong games from both Jimmy Graham (TE, Saints) and the Giants defense. Unfortunately, it was virtually impossible to have both - a frequent fantasy football conundrum. Graham held up his end of the deal, hauling in 2 touchdowns. But the Giants allowed 49 points - not good.

I face Mock for the last matchup. We currently hold 5th and 6th places with identical 6-6 records. If I've got the math right, whichever one of us wins is in the playoffs. There's an outside chance the loser could make it, too, but we need some help from Marc. If he beats his opponent, whichever one of us loses should have more points than the guy in 7th place. That's not too much to ask, is it?

There's been much fretting over Sanchez in New York but he had a great game this week. Even with his occasional struggles, there's some poetic justice in the fact that he's a more successful NFL quarterback than the guys he used to back up at USC. Apparently, he's a huge musical theatre fan and was a presenter at the 2010 Tonys.

My Tennis Fantasy: Can He Do It Again?

My Final Overall Standing: 15th
My MVP for the Week: Novak Djokovic (Serbia) with $260,000, finishing 1-2 in the round robin stage of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals
My MVP for the Year: Novak Djokovic

Photo via Bettor.com

Without a doubt, 2011 has been Novak's year. Here is Jon Wertheim's nomination of Djokovic for SI's Sportsman of the Year. (I'm betting it will be either Coach K or Aaron Rodgers). The question remains, though: can he keep this up?

My guess is no. Djokovic is obviously plenty good but I think Nadal and Federer will reassert their authority in 2012. If each player is at his best, I think they're both still better than Djokovic is. Yes, Novak's got all of the shots in the book but the Federer/Nadal reign has been about mental prowess as much as physical. I think they both win Slams next year and - ready for it? - Djokovic doesn't win any.

One final bold prediction for 2012: I've said for a long time that I think this next year will be Federer's last and I'm standing by it. But I think he'll leave us with a few final gems to remember him by. I genuinely hope I'm wrong about this one. If anyone deserves to walk away from his sport on his own terms, it's Fed. Even if he plays until he's 40, he'll be sorely missed once he's gone.

As for Fantasy Tennis Tour, I've definitely enjoyed the year but I have been very frustrated by their inclination to change the rules on us mid-season. It happened several times. I've been even more frustrated by their slow-loading website, at least on Safari. I know it's just a beta site this year but I hope they'll shape up for Year 2. And yes, I'm definitely planning to play again. I'm sad not to have cracked the top 10 - a worthy goal for 2012!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The New 52: The Second Issues

That's Entertainment in Worcester, Massachusetts had a Black Friday sale featuring, among other bargains, a buy-two-get-one-free deal for New 52 titles. The time had arrived for checking out the second issues of my favorite #1s. I also picked up a recent Wolverine book for comparison. My thoughts on each...

Green Lantern #2


My ultimate question for each title was essentially the same as it had been for the first issues: am I sufficiently curious about what happens in the next issue? For GL #2, the answer is a definite yes. I absolutely love the dynamic between Sinestro and Hal Jordan. Can a former arch-villain actually be a better superhero than the supposed good guy? The broader question posed by Sinestro, why superheroes haven't used their powers to fix Earth's larger problems, is a poignant one. Mock recently gave me a Squadron Supreme series from the mid-'80s which confronts that matter directly.

Green Lantern Corps #2

Image via Team Hellions

I was less impressed by this one. The initial draw for me was the dynamic between the various Corps members and issue #2 didn't do enough to encourage further interest. The current storyline - a barren world rebuilding by stealing natural resources from other planets - is a good one. But I need something more than brawling action to hold my interest long-term. Verdict: did not pass.

Green Lantern New Guardians #2

Image via Kaskus

I am powerfully curious about the various Lantern Corps beyond the Green. I'm very interested to see what will happen with the unification via Kyle Rayner. I like the floating Oompa-Loompas (aka Guardians) a lot but Rayner's new threads with all of the various insignias are very impressive. It will be easy to pull for him in the inevitable conflict. Verdict: passed.

Red Lanterns #2

Image via Kaskus

This book is really strong. The story is good. Just as with the first book, the art work is outstanding. I'm still very impressed by Atrocitus and his avenging-the-worthy philosophy is very appealing (more on that later). And yet, I have to say that my interest in following the story further is lacking. Next up is Atrocitus's selection of a lieutenant from his entourage, an intriguing narrative direction. But I don't see that the Red Lantern Corps's development is any more compelling than that of the Green Lantern Corps. What is most interesting to me is the interaction between the various colors, thus my curiosity in the Sinestro and New Guardians story lines. Verdict: did not pass, but it was close.

Teen Titans #2

Image via originalcomics.ru

By the end of the issue, my interest in the characters had run out. Red Robin's crush on Wonder Girl offers potential but not enough for me to keep following this particular band of heroes. The introduction of characters should be exciting. In this case, it is disappointingly tedious. Verdict: did not pass.

Justice League #2

Image via Comic Reviews from the Life-Impaired

In contrast to the Teen Titans, the superheroes in the Justice League feel like old friends to me. Such is the power of television on the childhood mind. Even though I didn't read many comic books in my youth, the Super Friends had a TV cartoon in the '70s and early '80s when I was firmly entrenched in their target demographic. The Teen Titans didn't get their show until I was an adult. As such, the introduction of The Flash in this issue and the promise of Wonder Woman in the next are both very exciting. JL #2 also ends with an excellent cliffhanger in the Cyborg story. Verdict: passed.

That said, why is it that superheroes must fight one another when they first meet? Does this speak to subconscious insecurities despite possessing super powers (or not, in Batman's case)? I can't help rooting against Superman in these tussles. To me, pulling for Superman seems a bit like pulling for the Yankees - too predictable to offer real satisfaction.

Wolverine #16

Image via Jazma Online Forum

As I noted in my wrap-up post for the New 52 #1s, I am a Marvel man at heart. I have a great fondness for Wolverine in particular and I thought I would check in with his story to see if I still prefer it to the current DC saga. Just as I suspected, it was no contest.

There are so many things I like about Wolverine. I love that the line between Logan and Wolverine is very blurry indeed. I love his back story. I love his connections to Japan. I love his conflicted, tormented persona and his vigilante sense of justice - basically everything I like about Atrocitus but with stronger development behind him. I find his super powers very appealing, too, especially given the fact that the Adamantium fused to his bones was essentially imposed upon him - enhancing his strength but also his resentment.

At present, Wolverine is the central character of the Marvel universe and this book clearly demonstrates that. Marvel loves the group shots and the picture of the combined forces of the Avengers and the X-Men is a keeper. I don't know the Marvel characters as well as I know the DC ones - again the power of television. DC had a much stronger TV presence than Marvel did during my childhood. While it can be brutal sifting through Marvel's cast of thousands, everything I've read so far suggests that the heroes of that universe are more complex individuals than their DC counterparts. They're worth the effort.


Three of the six New 52 #2s I read passed my curiosity test. Three did not. I would rank all six books as follows:

1. Green Lantern
2. Green Lantern New Guardians
3. Justice League
4. Red Lanterns
5. Green Lantern Corps
6. Teen Titans

But I would still put Wolverine above them all.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

On the Road: Worcester

We've just returned from our not-quite-annual-but-frequent Thanksgiving trip to Worcester, Massachusetts. Worcester is home to English Prof and The Playwright, two of My Wife's closest friends from her Chicago days. We all live pretty far from our family home bases so we've gotten in the wonderful habit of spending Turkey Day together. Our plans don't work out quite every year, but more often than not they do. My Wife and English Prof are both culinary masters so they spend a lot of time in the kitchen creating minor miracles. In addition to the benefits of good food and good company, we all get to wallow in the joys of The Playwright's voluminous DVD collection.

First, the food. Turkey before:

Turkey after:

The pies, English Prof's specialty:



Butternut Squash:

Prepping MORE pies for Friday night:

In total, five pies were produced, plus extra squash filling for the road. We were visited by a mysterious green ghost at dinner. A new Thanksgiving tradition, perhaps?

The Worcester area contains two of our favorite retail establishments: That's Entertainment, a comics shop and general collectibles mecca (more on that visit in a separate post), and Trader Joe's in Shrewsbury. We don't have a Trader Joe's in Vermont so it's always an important stop on our Massachusetts trips. We were also introduced to Annie's Book Swap, a used book store in Marlboro. If you're a romance novel fan, Annie has an astonishing collection. There's a decent children's selection, too.

We had some good out-of-the-house meals, too. On Saturday, we went to Fugakyu in Sudbury, a very nice sushi place. I'm a big maki fan and their menu is impressive. Even with endless variety at my disposal, I tend to keep it simple: just tuna, cucumber and Alaska rolls for me. On the way out of town, we stopped at Chipotle Mexican Grill in Shrewsbury for lunch today. I'd been a couple times before to locations in other cities and hadn't been overly impressed but I really enjoyed my steak burrito today. Perhaps it was just a matter of ordering well.

Finally, some photos from EP's and TP's apartment and the neighborhood:

I'm with the Band: Arizona State

Band: Arizona State University Sun Devil Marching Band
University: Arizona State University
Founded: 1915
Current Director: Mr. James G. Hudson
Fight Songs: "Maroon & Gold" and "Go, Go Sun Devils"

We head to Tempe for our first trip west of the Rockies. "Maroon & Gold" is Arizona State's official fight song. It was composed by Felix E. McKernan in 1948. "Go, Go Sun Devils," also commonly played at games, was composed by Albert Davis.

All This and Football, Too

My Picks for the Week: 19/21 (1st place out of 3 players)
My Picks for the Season: 168/260 (3rd out of 3)

My monster week puts me in a very strong position going into Week 14, the finale of the pick 'em season on Yahoo! I'm only two points out of first. With only three of us, I suppose I'm guaranteed a trophy but it would still be great to win, especially since I've been dragging behind all season.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

12 Books in 12 Months: A Tear-Jerker

Book: The Time Traveler's Wife
Author: Audrey Niffenegger

Image via Heroes and Villains

No, the book didn't make me cry. I wondered briefly if that meant I had really fulfilled the requirement. Then I decided that a quest to find a book that would, in fact, bring tears to my eyes would most certainly be unhealthy. There is no doubt that the intention of this story is to make the reader cry so I'd say that's close enough.

I'm still working out how I feel about this book. As previously written, I am skeptical of time travel narratives in general. I do appreciate the fact that this one sets up the rules early: despite his temporal escapades, Henry can change nothing. At the end of the day, he is just another of life's wanders, even if his path meanders in unusual directions.

Here's the question I'm chewing on: how much does time travel actually add to the story? Imagine the same tale told without it. The Henry & Clare romance is a compelling narrative - yet somehow, it's not quite enough to stand on its own. Their everyday dealings with loss are easy to relate to: deaths of loved ones, confrontations with one's own mortality, miscarriages, etc. The time travel permits an extra-dimensional perspective but the science fiction fan in me is less impressed. Apart from the narrative convenience which time travel provides, there seems little point to it. Does Henry's abnormality serve a higher purpose in the end? Not really. It's a quirk, a novelty, a frequent inconvenience with occasionally tragic consequences. Is there any meaningful resolution as to the science behind it? No.

That said, there were moments in the book I really enjoyed. I thought the description of Clare drawing Alba while the latter slept was lovely. In fact, I would have liked knowing more about Clare's art. I doubt many readers know much about the paper making process so clearer explanations would have been handy. In truth, I found Clare a more interesting character when she was apart from Henry - less so the other way around.

As a romance novel, I would say the book hits its mark cleanly, even if I didn't cry. As a science fiction tale, it falls well short.


And so, I have completed the 12 Books in 12 Months challenge. I managed it in just under five months. I'm glad to have knocked out the first several during the summer as the going has definitely been slower once school started.

I would certainly like to do this again but I'm going to wait a while so I can read other things, too. Please send category ideas my way if you should have any.


I hope that you, too, will join the 12 Books in 12 Months challenge. Details are here. My own list and books read by others shall be maintained on the pages list on my sidebar. Other blogs currently participating:

My Wife - Wikes! Hikes on the Long Trail
Mrs. Mock - Exclamation Point (!)

Two friends of My Wife are also participating: TonTon via Facebook and The Hermitess via Goodreads.

If you'd care to join the challenge, please let me know by commenting below or e-mailing me at armchairsquid@gmail.com. Also, please tell me how and where I can follow your posts. Don't be shy about suggesting other categories, either. It is my intention to compile a new list of 12 once this one is completed. My only parameter is that no one should have to buy anything in order to complete the challenge - nothing beyond a library card required.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Football Fantasy: Stafford, Part 3

College League: lost, 82.54-69.83 (5-6 overall, 11th place out of 12 teams)
Vermont League: lost, 98.00-87.00 (6-5 overall, 3rd out of 12)
My Player of the Week: Matthew Stafford (Quarterback, Lions) with 335 yards passing, 5 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and 2 yards rushing

Photo via ProFootballFocus.com

It was my second week in a row losing in both leagues. The standings are still very close in the college league. Even in 11th place, I'm still only one game behind the guy in third. The problem is that mine is the lowest scoring team in the leagues. So, even if I can manage wins in my next two games, I may be on the outside looking in for the playoffs. My position in the Vermont league is stronger. The first and second place teams clinched playoff spots this week. Mine is one of four teams at 6-5 but mine is the second-highest scoring team in the league. It is possible I could clinch this week but only if I win and two others lose.

Stafford was the double-edged sword for me this week. He's mine in the Vermont League but he belongs to my opponent, Michigan native Special Dinner in the college league. 5 touchdowns will make up for 2 interceptions anytime.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Family Adventures: Belden Dam

It was a Novemberish weekend - very grey and occasionally rainy. But oddly enough, it still isn't especially cold with temperatures in the 50s today. Saturday was quiet but we headed south today to meet some friends. First, we went letterboxing at Belten Dam in New Haven, Vermont. We didn't find the first box but we did get the second. I got some nice pictures along the way.

Afterwards, we went to Two Brothers Tavern in Middlebury. My standard order for my first time at a restaurant is a club sandwich if they have one or a burger if they don't. I figure if they can get one of those right, the rest of the menu is likely to be pretty good, too. I went with the tavern burger today and it was a good choice. Nice beer list, too - 17 on tap alone. I had the Wolaver IPA, a local brew. Service was good as well.

I'm with the Band: Notre Dame

Band: Band of the Fighting Irish
University: University of Notre Dame
Founded: 1842
Current Director: Dr. Ken Dye
Fight Song: "Notre Dame Victory March"

For me, this one's all about the fight song. "Notre Dame Victory March" was also my high school's fight song. I did four years of marching band in high school. The first year, I was just an instrument holder - essentially there to fill the space in the formations - as I had not yet learned to play the trombone. It was my sister's clever trick for getting me to follow her footsteps into the band program. It's not easy to "pretend" to play the trombone. The slide's a dead giveaway. I had to keep a close eye on the guy next to me to be sure I was in approximately the right position.

Knowing now how seriously marching band is taken at many high schools, our program was very low-key - just one hour of rehearsal a week, very modest formations, rarely moving and playing at the same time. I doubt any of us, director included, would point to marching band as the highlight of our high school musical experience. And yet, I'm glad to have done it. Marching bands are scarce in Vermont. Our local high school doesn't have one. The high school in the town where I teach doesn't have one. I completely understand why but I'm a little disappointed that my daughter may have to wait until college to have that experience, if at all.

The Band of the Fighting Irish is the oldest college band in the country. The "Victory March" was written by the Shea brothers, Rev. Michael J. and John F. It has been called the best of all college fight songs and in my humble opinion, it's not even a close call. Everyone else is battling for a distant second. I suppose I am biased.

The Glee Club:

The Dropkick Murphys:

I could not, in good conscience, write about Notre Dame without a tribute to Samwise Gamgee... I mean, Rudy:

All This and Football, Too

My Picks for the Week: 10/19 (tied for 1st place out of 3 players)
My Picks for the Season: 149/239 (3rd out of 3)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Football Fantasy: Gostkowski

College League: lost, 88.88-61.84 (5-5 overall, 10th place out of 12 teams)
Vermont League: lost, 94.30-71.86 (6-4, 3rd out of 12)
My Player of the Week: Stephen Gostkowski (Kicker, Patriots) with 1 field goal (20-29 yards), 1 field goal (30-39 yards), 1 field goal (50+ yards), 4 PATs and 1 solo tackle


Gostkowski is my kicker in both leagues and he was my high scorer in both this week. It's probably not a good sign when your kicker is your high scorer. Gostkowski was Mississippi All-State in three sports in high school: football, soccer and baseball. He went to Memphis on a baseball scholarship and walked on for football.

It's a big week. The trade deadline in both leagues is Friday. It's also the last bye week. While I'm in 10th place in the college league, I'm only one game out of 1st - crazy.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Family Adventures: The Family Table

It was a pleasantly quiet weekend at our house. November is very grey in Vermont, historically the fewest days of sunshine of any month - a time of year when it's important to find excuses to get out of the house and not let the gloom invade. Our Girl and I played some backyard soccer this morning and we finally managed to draw some chickadees to our feeders. My Wife had the brilliant idea of using recorded bird calls to draw their interest. I sat out on our front porch with The Backyard Birdsong Guide: Eastern and Central North America by Donald Kroodsma playing the chickadee songs until the real birds finally came to call.

We went out to lunch today to The Family Table in Jeffersonville, essentially a comfort food joint. We'd never been and knew nothing about it but it seemed worth a try. After all, we are a family and we enjoy eating at a table. The food was decent and the service friendly, if a bit slow. I had an Angus burger that hit the spot. The hand-cut fries were the highlight for me. It was a little too pricey to justify regular visits.

On the way home, we stopped at Boyden Valley Winery. There are a surprising number of wineries in Vermont and Boyden is our favorite - not least for the fact that we know the family through Our Girl's old preschool. We particularly like their glogg, a mulled spice wine. We generally have a few bottles on hand for the holidays. I like their fruit and dessert wines, too.

My Tennis Fantasy: Federer

Current Overall Standing: 11th
My MVP for the Week: Roger Federer (Switzerland) with $612,765, defeating Jo-Wilfred Tsonga (France) for the title at the BNP Paribas Masters

Photo via TopNews

Even at age 30, it's not too late for Roger The Great to achieve a career-first. He had never won the Paris Masters tournament before this week. There are now only two Masters events he's never won: Monte Carlo and Rome. He's had a great two-week stretch. He didn't lose so much as a set in Paris.

I'm with the Band: Maryland

Band: Mighty Sound of Maryland
University: University of Maryland
Founded: 1908
Current Director: Dr. L. Richmond Sparks
Fight Song: "The Victory Song"

Maryland is my home state and as such, quite a lot of my high school classmates went on to the University of Maryland for college. One of my closest friends joined the marching band. We shall call him The Bus Driver. You'll learn why.

The Bus Driver was our star trumpeter in the high school band. Given the over-abundance of trumpets at Maryland, he switched to mellophone. It was one of the best decisions he ever made. He met the woman who would become his wife in the mellophone section. Some years later, they played together at our wedding.

Mellophone photo via Ironton High School Million Dollar Marching Band

In an enormous state university, a group like a marching band can be very important for a student finding his or her niche. For my pal, it also turned out to be an important network for good campus jobs. At Maryland, marching band members had the inside track for shuttle bus driver jobs. Back at my own college, I would tell tales of my friend The Bus Driver. Some of my friends came to believe that was his full-time job, not realizing it was a work-study gig - my buddy, Ralph Kramden!

One quick musical note: "The Victory Song" was composed by Thornton W. Allen. "Copacabana," on the other hand, was written by Jack Feldman, Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman.

All This and Football, Too

My Picks for the Week: 12/20 (tied for 1st out of 3 players)
My Picks for the Season: 139/220 (3rd out of 3)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

12 Books in 12 Months: A Book You Really Don't Want to Read but Everyone Keeps Raving About It

Title: Memoirs of a Geisha
Author: Arthur Golden

Image via live through books...

The two years I spent teaching English in Japan encompass the life-defining experience of my young adulthood. Elements of that experience are so vital to my sense of self that I have difficulty discussing them with people, even with those I trust completely. Thinking back to my life before Japan is to recall a time before I was fully awake to my surroundings. As such, I am very protective of what I selfishly consider my Japan.

Memoirs of a Geisha was published in 1997, a year which I spent almost entirely in Japan. While I poured through many novels about the Land of the Rising Sun, I've avoided this one for a long time. It's a book that comes up frequently when I mention my time in Japan - not too surprising considering that it's the most widely-read book about the country since Shogun. But I can't help bristling as I know that for too many Westerners, their concept of Japan - and perhaps of Asia in general - is limited to samurai, ninja and geisha. My own Japan, the ultra-modern Yokohama and Tokyo of the late '90s, is so far removed from that romanticized past that I can't imagine anyone appreciating why it's so important to me. The film Lost in Translation is much closer to my own memories.

It's silly of me, really. Why should my Japan be like Arthur Golden's any more than my concept of New York could be like J.D. Salinger's or my concept of New Jersey could be like Bruce Springsteen's? But while I've lived in those places as well, I don't feel the same way about them - not even close. Thus, I don't feel as threatened by the differences.

I have to admit that I got swept up in the story anyway, which is not to say that the book is without troubling elements. I don't know Mr. Golden personally so I won't make any assumptions about his sexual attitudes. But I met a lot of men with the Japanese woman fetish. (It didn't happen for me. I dated while I was there but almost exclusively Western women.) Apart from the physical attributes, I know that the appeal for a lot of men is the prevailing ideal of demure, subservient Asian women. Geisha are the ultimate embodiment of that ideal. To his credit, Golden does not overly glamorize the geisha world. Sayuri had a rough life and her lot was probably better than most. But very little of her story is self-determined. While that may, indeed, be an accurate reflection of the life of not just geisha but of most Japanese women, she makes for an uninspiring protagonist.

Despite all of that, I enjoyed the book. Only one more to go!


I hope that you, too, will join the 12 Books in 12 Months challenge. Details are here. My own list and books read by others shall be maintained on the pages list on my sidebar. Other blogs currently participating:

My Wife - Wikes! Hikes on the Long Trail
Mrs. Mock - Exclamation Point (!)

Two friends of My Wife are also participating: TonTon via Facebook and The Hermitess via Goodreads.

If you'd care to join the challenge, please let me know by commenting below or e-mailing me at armchairsquid@gmail.com. Also, please tell me how and where I can follow your posts. Don't be shy about suggesting other categories, either. It is my intention to compile a new list of 12 once this one is completed. My only parameter is that no one should have to buy anything in order to complete the challenge - nothing beyond a library card required.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Football Fantasy: VJax

College League: won, 76.56-69.08 (5-4 overall, 6th place out of 12 teams)
Vermont League: won, 126.92-73.00 (6-3, 2nd out of 12)
My Player of the Week: Vincent Jackson (Wide Receiver, Chargers) with 141 yards receiving with 3 touchdowns

Photo via Gains Media

A straight-A student in high school, Jackson turned down Columbia to go to the University of Northern Colorado, a Division II school, on just a partial scholarship for football and basketball. In the NFL, he has established himself as the Chargers' #1 receiving threat. Always a good fantasy asset, he's only made one Pro Bowl, in 2009.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Family Adventures: Birds

Every fall, once we're fairly certain the bears are down for the winter, we put up our bird feeders. We learned the hard way about the bears. One day, I looked out the front window and saw a fuzzy face looking back at me. Sure enough: a mother black bear and three cubs, feasting away on sunflower seeds from our hopper feeder. So, from April to October, no feeders at our house.

My Wife suggested a new tradition this year: put up the feeders together as a family in the morning, then pie for breakfast. The ritual had a bit of a monastic feel, all of us outside in our bathrobes. We're starting with a simple set up this year with two tube feeders - one with black oil sunflower seeds (left), one with thistle (right) - and one suet feeder.

We also have a peanut feeder we may add at some point. We need a new hopper feeder, too. The turkeys destroyed the one we had last year. The pie was from Poorhouse Pies, our local pie shed.

We love backyard birding for many reasons. Winter hobbies are essential around here. It's very important to have something to look forward to as days get shorter and colder. I also enjoy being reminded that the woods surrounding our home are teeming with life and that we can make a modest contribution to sustaining it. Thus you can understand our disappointment when no birds showed up - not a single customer all day! We're sure to get plenty over the course of the winter but we couldn't help wondering if something has decimated our local chickadee population. (We suspect a neighborhood cat!) Have we done something to offend?

While we're waiting for our feathered guests to arrive, some bird humor:

We lost in broomball, 4-0. We played hard, though, especially in a 0-0 first period. We're off for the rest of the month, then two more regular season games. There's talk of renting ice time for practice.

In happier news, the high school in the town where I teach won the girls' state soccer title on Saturday, their third in four years. Orange Man is their proud, first-year coach. Seemingly half the town was at the game - good times.

Follow Up: Orioles Hire a GM

The avian orioles are long gone from Vermont at this point, off to some tropical paradise for the winter. We've thought of putting up an oriole feeder but when we found our hummingbird feeder on the ground with a long black hair on it, we knew a local bear had a sweet tooth.

Photo via Casa Panama

The baseball Orioles have just hired a new general manager: Dan Duquette, former GM of both the Red Sox and Expos. He has the sort of credentials the Birds were supposedly seeking: significant experience in scouting and player development. He's a bit too old guard for my tastes but if the search process taught us anything, it's that the Orioles aren't the first choice employer for many baseball people. Ownership is still the overarching problem. Peter Angelos is a difficult man with a definite ceiling as to how much he's willing to spend on this team. Buck Showalter, while a talented manager, is a highly opinionated man himself. Now the team has added a GM with reputed interpersonal shortcomings. If the GM hiring adventure is any indication, it will be rough going for Baltimore in the free agent market as well. Even millionaires care about working conditions.

Photo via BostonHerald.com

But I'll take a new beginning where I can get it. As my daughter always says, you get what you get and you don't throw a fit. Perhaps in his time away from the Majors, Duquette has uncovered the mysteries of the universe. Here's hoping.

My Tennis Fantasy: Nishikori

Current Overall Standing: 12th
My MVP for the Week: Kei Nishikori (Japan) with $182,467, losing to Roger Federer (Switzerland) in the finals of Swiss Indoor Basel

Photo via ATP Tennis World

Nishikori is the big story of the week, having beaten Djokovic in the semifinals. Get used to seeing his name. I have long considered him to be the best under-the-radar player on tour. He has a disturbing tendency towards injuries but seems to be pulling things together, having already accomplished one career goal: becoming the highest-ranked Japanese male singles player ever. Now with supercoach Brad Gilbert on board, I think we can expect a lot from this young player over the next few years. He turns 22 next month.

I'm with the Band: Indiana

Band: Indiana University Marching Hundred
University: Indiana University
Founded: 1896
Current Director: David C. Woodley

IU is My Wife's alma mater. She has boycotted my I'm with the Band posts to this point because I've been writing about so many schools she was raised to hate rather than the ones she actually likes. Naturally, I have responded to her act of civil disobedience by declining to start with the Inidana schools until I was good and ready! Ours is a healthy marriage. Really, I promise. It is.

America's highest tier of music colleges consists of three schools: Julliard, Eastman and Indiana. The performance majors at IU are destined for the great symphonies and opera companies of the world. Very few of them would ever stoop so low as to participate in such a blue-collar operation as a marching band. Even music education majors only account for about 10% of the band. This is actually quite typical of big-time college marching bands. Most marchers have other, undoubtedly more sensible majors. They march because they love it. Bless them. The world is a better place for them.

Indiana is also well-known for its world class language programs. My Wife was a dual major: French and Arabic.

All This and Football, Too

My Picks for the Week: 13/20 (3rd place out of 3 players)
My Picks for the Season: 127/200 (3rd out of 3)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Football Fantasy: Fletcher

College League: won, 65.81-53.18 (4-4 overall, 9th place out of 12 teams)
Vermont League: won, 103.68-80.34 (5-3, 3rd out of 12)
My Player of the Week: London Fletcher (Linebacker, Redskins) with 12 solo tackles, 8 assisted tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 interception and 1 pass defended

Photo via DC Pro Sports Report

The Redskins are in a pretty ugly state at the moment but Fletcher had a monster game on Sunday, yet another example of an IDP thriving when his offensive teammates can't seem to stay on the field. The Cleveland native came into the league undrafted in 1998 and hasn't missed a game since. Meanwhile, parity still reigns in the college league. Mine is one of seven teams with a 4-4 record.