Friday, September 22, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games--Bye Week Edition

Old dude, both the Badgers and the Gophers are on byes this week, meaning that we have to find some other games to focus our attention on.

I sense a Prairie Fire sighting is imminent.

Is it that predictable?

We've been doing this for a long time, so I know your approach. But at least you're not phoning it in, like a certain Cowboys running back who shall remain nameless.

I agree, and I am going to put more effort in this post than Zeke did last weekend on that pick. That was not a good look for him, and maybe he needs to get a dose of HYYYYYYYYYPPPPPPEEE!

I thought he was going to remain nameless. Oh well, he deserved that shot.

Yes. Yes he did. I guess it is time to get down to bidness, and it is time for the world to watch me work!

Ripon College Red Hawks (NL) vs. Knox College Prairie Fire. Ripon is 0-2 this year, and are going to be paying a visit to my guys here at Knox. Knox did win against Beloit, which is a good win even if some other family members would disagree with me. I am a homer, and Knox has looked better, and the football team has good guys that are hard workers, so I think we should win a very tough, low scoring football game. Prairie Fire 19, Red Hawks 9.

Assuming the weather doesn't change, it's likely to be about 100 degrees in that Knosher Bowl. If you haven't seen Knox's football stadium, it's essentially a pit, and I don't mean that as an insult. See for yourself:

Image result for knosher bowl knox college
Down there
Ripon doesn't come calling very often, so they might not find it to their liking. Knox 24, Ripon 21.

Penn State Nittany Lions (-12) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes. This line is awfully high, and quite frankly is based on a couple of misunderstandings. The first is that Iowa is a team that always going to be well coached and will make you earn every single yard. The second misunderstanding is that Iowa City is a very difficult away trip, which you can ask Michigan about after their shocking upset a year ago. Penn State is the defending conference champion, and considering that they got screwed over by the powers that be, despite being a name program, after winning a surprise conference title, the Nittany Lions know that they need to win every game in order to get the benefit of the doubt that a school in Ohio gets. However, Iowa is going to throw a monkey wrench into James Franklin's charges, and will hopefully showcase the depth of the league. Hawkeyes 22, We Are 8.

Iowa is always a tough out, but Penn State is good. Real good. Penn State 35, Iowa 21.

English Premier League: West Ham United (NL) vs. Tottenham Hotspur. Because of the bye weeks for the Gophers and Badgers, and because high school football is going on as I write this, we have to turn to soccer once again. Tottenham have had a mixed start to their season, with a good win against Dortmund in the Champions League, but have been dropping points, most notably to Swansea City last weekend at Wembley. West Ham are a team that is midtable, and are most well known in the United States for being mentioned in Harry Potter and for playing their home matches in the Olympic Stadium. I expect Spurs to win, since they should beat West Ham. Spurs 2, West Ham 0.

Actually, that sounds about right. Spurs need to win this game and I think they will. Spurs 3, West Ham 1.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NL) vs. Minnesota Vikings. This game has no line because it was unknown if Sam Bradford would be able to go, but we now know that Bradford will be out again. I have heard online that some Vikings fans want to sign Mr. Kaepernick, but that is for the front office to determine. The Vikings did not look good last week, but I think that was more playing a good Steelers team away from home in a tricky game. Tampa Bay is a team that I regard as capable of being a factor later on, but this is a home game and you would expect the Vikings to win. However, if the Vikings lose this game there will be a lot more questions asked about whether the front office and coaching staff are the right people to have in place. Vikings 35, Bucs 13.

I expect the Vikings to play better this week, but Case Keenum is not the guy you want to go to war with. The Vikings will try to take Mike Evans away. They may not be able to do so. Tampa Bay 24, Minnesota 17.

Cincinnati Bungles (+9) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. It looks like the Packers are going to be short handed because of all the injuries, which is concerning to me. However, Green Bay did show flashes and hung in there down in Atlanta next week. This game is a bit of a trap game, because the Packers have a short week going into the Bears game, and the Bengals are no slouches -- they have beaten the Packers a couple of times in the past. I think the Packers should win this game since it is at home, and should have better pass protection with Bryan Bulaga back on the field. Watch for Kevin King to make a play or two covering A.J Green sometime during the game. Packers 28. Bengals 9.

The Bengals are a mess right now. The Packers have a lot of work to do, but even short handed they shouldn't have too much difficulty with this one. Davante Adams picks up the slack and scores at least one touchdown, maybe two. Packers 35, Bengals 13.

Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5) vs. Bear Down Chicago Da Bearz. The Bears are quite frankly a bit of a dumpster fire. I am sure that Gino probably wants to see John Fox gone. There is no way they beat the Steelers, even though this game is in Chicago and the Bears are going to be game. You almost wonder if Papa Bear Halas is shaking his head in heaven, and you have to feel bad that a historic team of this league has been such a nonfactor since 2010. Maybe they should bring back Lovie and Jay to save them, or kick it back a notch further to 2006 and bring out the glory of Sexy Rexy. Steelers 175. Da Bearz Still Suck -15.

The Bears simply don't have enough talent to win right now. I'm not entirely sure how it happened, but they have just a dismal set of receivers. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen have talent, but the Steelers will have 8-9 guys in the box and Mike Glennon won't be able to make them pay. Steelers 35, Bears 14.

That is all from us today. Enjoy the football this weekend, and donate to help all those in need because of natural disasters. Ben out!

Home Truth

Mel Brooks, making a point that should be obvious but isn't said enough:
Society's "stupidly politically correct" sensibilities will lead to the "death of comedy", the veteran Hollywood comedian Mel Brooks has warned.

Brooks, known for his plethora of acclaimed comedy movies, said political correctness was becoming a stranglehold on comedians.

"It's not good for comedy. Comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks," he said.

"Comedy is the lecherous little elf whispering in the king's ear, always telling the truth about human behaviour."
And he makes the obvious point about how things have changed over the last 40 years:
The producer and director said that his iconic western parody Blazing Saddles could not be made in today's political climate.
Most people remember Blazing Saddles for things like the campfire scene or the Mongo character punching a horse, but it was chock full of social commentary. One of my favorite moments of insight is in this short scene, which happens after the Sheriff Bart character is called, well, the N-word:

We all are, at any given moment, morons. To his credit, Brooks has always recognized that home truth. And then there's this image from the film:

Or else

In its own way, the juxtaposition of messaging isn't much different than what we see from these guys:

Or else
At bottom, comedy is about telling the truth. We can, for now.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mayor Cluster

It doesn't look good for the mayor of Minneapolis:
Six staffers have left Mayor Betsy Hodges’ campaign less than two months before the election, the second campaign shake-up in six months for the incumbent.

Hodges’ campaign manager, Mike Pfarr, declined to comment. A spokeswoman confirmed six people have resigned, including communications director Alida Tieberg, senior staff member Jim Niland and four others.

Five staff members who worked for the campaign — including Tieberg and Niland — did not return messages from the Star Tribune on Wednesday.
So why would they leave? Follow the money:
And Hodges’ fundraising is lagging. Her campaign reported having $54,901 in cash on hand at the end of July, but also $75,500 in debt to Hodges personally, and $24,217 in unpaid bills to five vendors.
What might save Betsy's bacon is the less-than-scintillating lineup of challengers:
Hodges is running for re-election against a crowded field of challengers, including Council Member Jacob Frey, Nekima Levy-Pounds, DFL state Rep. Ray Dehn, Tom Hoch and several others. The election is Nov. 7.

None of the other campaigns said they had hired an ex-Hodges staffer recently. The Dehn, Frey and Levy-Pounds campaign declined to comment.
They probably don't have the money, either. Getcha popcorn.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Unidentified Flying Object

I was on my way home from work yesterday. I had just crossed the Minnesota River. Then it happened. I have no idea what it was, because I never saw it hit my driver's side window. But the sound was loud and sharp. What the hell was that, I thought, as I continued on my way, northbound on 35W, heading for home.

After about a minute, in the time it takes to travel from 106th Street to 98th Street, the broken glass began to tumble onto me. Then more glass, then more still. As soon as I was able to work my way across the four lanes of rush hour traffic, I exited on 90th Street. I have lived in the Twin Cities for about 25 years, but I don't believe I've ever been on 90th Street before. I drove about a half mile to the east, past Lyndale, where I found an auto body shop. I pulled my glass-strewn car into the driveway and stopped. Fortunately, they were able to take a look at my vehicle, give me a quote for the repair and put a plastic wrap over the now-missing space where my window once was. I will be able to get the window fixed on Thursday.

Had I arrived at the point of impact a tenth of a second earlier, the object might have hit my windshield and the story would have potentially been very different. Had I arrived two seconds earlier, I'd have been on my way and some other dude might have taken the blow.

I could feel sorry for myself. It's an inconvenience. I might feel lucky, but good luck is not getting hit by something flying through the air in the first place. I could complain about it, but then I turn on the news and see the death toll continue to mount in Mexico, and watch the latest hurricane take aim at Puerto Rico. It can always be worse.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Look out

Here comes Maria:
Two weeks ago, Puerto Rico was spared a devastating hit when Hurricane Irma ripped up the Caribbean. This time, it may not be so lucky.

The bankrupt island, already contending with the aftermath of a storm that left as much as $1 billion of damage and hundreds of thousands still without power, faces even more upheaval with Hurricane Maria set to hit as soon as Tuesday night. The government ordered rationing of basic necessities, including water and batteries, although those items were already gone from some San Juan store shelves as residents prepared for what could be the worst storm for the U.S. territory in decades.
Maria is not messing around, either:
The Caribbean island nation of Dominica sustained “mind boggling” damage from Hurricane Maria, its prime minister said on Tuesday, after the storm hit with maximum sustained winds of nearly 160 miles per hour that ripped roofs off buildings, including his own home.

There was no immediate word of deaths or injuries on the island from Maria, the third in a string of devastating hurricanes to sweep through the region in recent weeks.

The National Hurricane Center said just after 5 a.m. that the storm, now moving away from Dominica, had regained Category 5 strength, after briefly dropping to Category 4. It is expected to remain “extremely dangerous” as it approaches the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Tuesday night and Wednesday, the center said.

Roosevelt Skerrit, Dominica’s prime minister, wrote on Facebook earlier Tuesday that the island nation of 72,000 had experienced “widespread devastation,” based on initial reports.
Maria may stay away from Florida, however:

Image result for predicted path of hurricane maria
Stay away
Hoping things don't get any worse for Puerto Rico, as they have problems enough these days, but it doesn't look good.

Monday, September 18, 2017

In fact, it's cold as hell

The news services struggle with how to cover President Performance Artist:
President Donald Trump on Sunday mocked the leader of nuclear-armed North Korea as "Rocket Man" while White House advisers said the isolated nation would face destruction unless it shelves its weapons programs and bellicose threats.
They asked H. R. McMaster for help:
Asked about Trump's description of Kim, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said "Rocket Man" was "a new one and I think maybe for the president." But, he said, "that's where the rockets are coming from. Rockets, though, we ought to probably not laugh too much about because they do represent a great threat to all."
You need to go to the proper source material:

Rock it, man.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Back At Knox Edition

Old Dude, it is time to pick some games, and this week is going answer a fair amount of questions early on for the pro teams our family cares about most on the road.

The road is always calling my name.

The road is calling for Geritol?

Well, maybe not that.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. But the road to success requires brilliance and HYYYYYYPPPPE!

Choose the right road, Seabiscuit.

I always do. Now where was I? In the college ranks, both the Badgers and the Gophers have their last tuneups before the start of Big Ten league play. Should be a fun football weekend in the Midwest.

I love me some football.

And non-standard usage, I guess. Well, enough of your attempts to stay hip and with it. It is time to get down to bidness, so watch me work!

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (+10.5) vs. Minnesota Golden Elite Boat Rowers. The Gophers should have no problems winning this game, especially in light of going to Oregon State and beating down Gary Anderson and his Beavers. The Fleck Elite Boat Rowing Experience seems to be going well, and they like their quarterback situation with Conor Rhoda playing well last weekend. I expect the Gophers to gear up well for Big Ten play, where we will find out if Fleck is an elite rower of the boat, or if he will have to paddle back out of town being chased by a flotilla. Gophers 38, Blue Raiders 10.

Sail on, sailor. Middle Tennessee beat the Gophers on the basketball court in the NCAA tournament earlier this year. We're not on the basketball court this time. Gophers 31, MTSU 14.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-17) vs. BYU Cougars. Normally, the Badgers would probably be given the right amount of being favored by the experts in Vegas, but this line seems a little high. BYU is not going to roll over and die, and the Badgers have not put together a complete performance yet. Jonathan Taylor looks like he is the next great running back, but Alex Hornibrook needs to step up a bit, because he probably shouldn't have to look over his shoulder for now. Provo is going to be a tough place to get a win, but one I expect the Badgers can win. Badgers 33, Cougars 18.

This one is not going to be easy, but BYU is down a bit this year, at least based on the early results. I'm still concerned with how the Badgers have been slow out of the gate, but this one shouldn't be a problem. Badgers 31, BYU 16.

Texas Longhorns (+15.5) vs. USC Trojans. The last time these traditional powers played, it was an instant classic and one of the best college football games I have ever seen. That was over a decade ago, and these two teams are not as good as the teams that played in the Rose Bowl that night. Sam Darnold is the favorite for the Heisman Trophy, but might not be as good as his crosstown rival Josh Rosen. Texas is trying to rebuild yet again under Tom Herman, but suffered what seemed like an embarrassing home loss to a Maryland team, but that loss might not look as bad down the line. USC looks like they have things figured out based on how well they played against Stanford last week, and should win this game. Trojans 41, Longhorns 34.

I think Herman can win in Austin, but it's going to take time. Not this week. USC 45, Texas 23.

Minnesota Vikings (+6) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. The Vikings did not get a gift from the schedule makers, as they have a short week to go to Pittsburgh to play a Steelers team that believes it can break to break through and win a Super Bowl, or at least win a conference title. The Steelers have an elite running back in LeVeon Bell, and they also have wide receiver Antonio Brown, who is a stud for me in my fantasy football league. The Vikings put up points on the Saints in a climate controlled stadium, but this game should be much more difficult. Steelers 28, Vikings 9.

Sam Bradford is already injured. He played well against the Saints, but if he has trouble with his mobility on Sunday, the Steelers will get him. They are a nasty bunch. Steelers 31, Vikings 20.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-3) vs. Atlanta Falcons (Who Blew a 28-3 Lead) For the second consecutive year, the Packers get to play on national television against a team opening up their shiny new stadium. My theory on how the Packers have to go in order to win this game is something that other pundits would not touch for fear of their jobs, but I will go for it. What the Packers have to do is to let Matt Ryan do his thing and not worry about him. The reason why is because the secret to the success of the Falcons is Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman on the ground. Once the Falcons get their ground game started, they became really scary good. This game has to be a situation where Packers linemen Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels are making plays to stop Freeman and Coleman. On the other side of the ball, the Packers need to run the football, and not rely on Aaron Rodgers winning a shootout. This theory sounds a bit strange, but I haveto be honest with you and call it like I see it. Packers 31, Falcons 17.

You're always about being counter-intuitive. That's your thing. It's going to be a tough place to win. I think the Packers can win, but this is the home opener and the Falcons will be ready. Shootout. Falcons 38, Packers 35.

Enjoy watching football this weekend, and a special thank you to the kind ad that FAU took out thanking Wisconsin for housing them. The Owls are welcome to play in Madison again, and I hope they do well this weekend. And maybe soon, I'll stop ignoring the Bears. Ben out!

Musical interlude

I've been reading a biography of Peggy Lee, the midcentury singer who went from North Dakota to major stardom. Here's a taste:

There's a lot of interesting music from that era out there now -- here's another sultry singer of the era, Julie London:

Good stuff.

The Knights get a little love

Nice article on the Star Tribune website today about the alma mater of Benster and Fearless Maria and the surprising success of the football team:
Through it all, Irondale football coach Ben Fuller never doubted. Not through a winless first season, nor through a mere five victories in his first three. Not even when his quarterback, who showed all the trappings of being a potential star, spent the first two years of his career on the bench because of injuries.
Now things are changing:
Expectations were high, but there needed to be a catalyst, something to crank up the ignition. That happened in the first game of the season when Irondale rolled over nearby rival Spring Lake Park — a 2016 Prep Bowl finalist — 35-0. Mention that game to players and smiles creep over their faces.

“That was a huge confidence boost for us to beat them,” said [quarterback Brendan] White, a senior. “I don’t think we’ve beaten them in, like, five years.”
We see the kids practicing, often at the same time that Fearless Maria's Irondale Marching Knights are practicing. Historically, Irondale has been an also-ran, at best, in football. It would be fun to see this trend continue.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Everybody must get zoned

Back in the early 1990s, before we moved to to the Twin Cities, I lived in the Chicago area and worked for a big law firm in Chicago that had over 300 attorneys. Much of the firm's work was in real estate, including big real estate deals for properties like shopping malls. One of the attorneys at the firm was an expert in zoning and he was proud to tell anyone who would listen that he was going to be helping the city of Houston develop its first zoning laws. I don't think he got very far.

Houston has been in the news because it took a huge shot from Hurricane Harvey. As you may know, among the many features of Houston is that the city doesn't have the sorts of zoning laws that you find in other areas. This has always bothered the bien pensants of the world, who equate Houston with being benighted and profligate, the embodiment of urban sprawl and bad carbon footprints, like that. And because Houston suffered so much damage from Harvey and had so many problems, the bien pensants are blaming Houston's lack of zoning for exacerbating the problems. Here's a typical example from the website
Largely unobstructed either by rules or by natural features such as mountains, the Houston area sprawled. Between 1992 and 2010 alone nearly 25,000 acres (about 10,000 hectares) of natural wetland infrastructure was wiped out, the Texas A&M research shows. Most of the losses were in Harris County, where almost 30% of wetlands disappeared.

Altogether, the region lost the ability to handle nearly four billion gallons (15 billion liters) of storm water. That’s equivalent to $600 million worth of flood water detention capacity, according to the university researchers’ calculations.
Sounds bad, right? But would it have made much difference? The invaluable Joel Kotkin doesn't think so:
Much blame for Harvey has been linked to development on the fringe, a major component of the region’s growth. Over an 18-year period, Houston lost about 25,000 acres of wetlands, which took away about 4 billion gallons of storm water detention capacity. In contrast Harvey dumped about 1 trillion gallons, meaning those wetlands could have only absorbed about 0.4% of Harvey’s deluge. Many flooded roads were consciously designed to hold storm water temporarily when there is nowhere for it to drain.
And would zoning have helped? Kotkin is skeptical:
The zoning argument is, simply put, bogus. Cities in the area that were heavily zoned, like West University, or intensely planned like Sugarland, got hit as hard as more haphazard areas. Harvey, it turns out, was an equal opportunity devastator. Similarly, Sandy dropped barely one-third the rain from Harvey, yet overwhelmed a dense and very zoned area. New Orleans before Katrina was dense and zoned; a lot of good it did them.
There can be advantages to zoning; I wouldn't want my neighbor to sell his property to someone who turned it into a micro-sized oil refinery, nor would I want to move my house a mile or so north so I'd be downwind from the telephone pole yards. But rules and rulemaking aren't what make a city work. It's the sense of people in the community itself, the commitment to making the community a place where you can live and thrive, that makes the difference. Back to Kotkin:
In the decades before Katrina, as southern cities like Houston and Atlanta were burgeoning, New Orleans stagnated. Joel Garreau in his Nine Nations of North America described the Crescent City as a “marvelous collection of sleaziness and peeling paint.” The aristocracy enjoyed the city’s unparalleled culture while many ambitious people from its neighborhoods migrated elsewhere. Without a strong, engaged business community and middle class, there was little attempt to fix the infrastructure. This weak civic culture has left a city with huge economic challenges that a regenerated local business community is now gamely trying to address.

Houston performed very differently during Harvey. Mayor Turner and the Harris County Judge, Ed Emmett, epitomized level-headed leadership. Gov. Abbot, unlike Louisiana’s dithering Gov. Kathleen Blanco, swung immediately to action. Local volunteers pitched in, so much so, notes Houston-based analyst Tory Gattis, that many found themselves unable to participate because each Facebook call for help spurred more volunteers than could be accommodated. Houston can also count on something New Orleans lacked: a strong, and philanthropically inclined business establishment who are pouring millions into recovery efforts.
We won't be talking much about the recovery in Houston in a year or so, because the people there will be making it happen without commentary. We're still worrying about the fate of New Orleans a dozen years after Katrina. You can plan all you want, but if people aren't buying the plan, it won't matter.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


One way or another, the primary topic in the political world is Le Grand Orange, the Leader of the Free World. And I'm tired of writing about him.

I don't want to shut down this blog, because I love to write and these days I spend most of my days directing and reviewing the work of other writers. But lately it's been a struggle to find any interest in what's going on in Washington or elsewhere. Beyond Trump himself, the other politicians on the stage right now are a dismal lot. Paul Ryan is smart as a whip but can't find his own ass with both hands. Mitch McConnell commands the respect of no one. Chuck Schumer is a strange combination of a carnival barker with the sense of fun of a funeral director. Nancy Pelosi is demented. Hillary Clinton is an even bigger narcissist than Trump. Meanwhile, closer to home, Mark Dayton is Gov. LePetomane and every other politician in the state is a dry well. It's hardly a promising landscape.

Sports was once a refuge from all that, but for the last several years politics has increasingly crept into the realm of those who play with sticks and balls. Colin Kaepernick and his portside girlfriend bore me to tears and I couldn't care less what Curt Schilling thinks of politics, either.

I'll get out of this funk. But it won't be easy.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

More bullets

Fighting through a case of writer's block, but we do need content, so. . .

Monday, September 11, 2017


Not even a lightning round, just random thoughts. It's been busy.

  • Hurricane Irma has been largely as advertised. It will be a while before we're able to determine what the aftermath really is, but given the amount of looting that already seems to be taking place, it's likely to be far more disturbing story than what the narrative seemed to be coming out of Houston after Harvey's rampage.
  • Spent most of the weekend away from the news, as it was time to send the Benster back for his final year of college. We've made the trip south many times in the past few years and we'll be making a different trip next year, once Fearless Maria picks her school.
  • I'm really enjoying the rollout of the Hillary Clinton book. She's not taking things well.
  • Packers 17, Seabags 9. Not the score we expected, but a satisfying result.
  • I think the NFL has some real issues ahead. Forget the National Anthem, which in the end is really a non-issue. Injuries are a big story this year already. David Johnson may be out multiple weeks for the Cardinals, and Allen Robinson is done for the year already. It's become even more of a war of attrition and in the end, no one really enjoys that.