Monday, June 28

Fool me once, shame on you, etc.

Saturday while I was driving around running errands there was a story on one of NPR's financial programs about how a new round of banking regulations are kicking in next month, and banks offering "overdraft protection" -- i.e. a service whereby they'll cover an ATM withdrawal or point-of-purchase debit sale that would technically overdraw your account, for a fee -- will have to allow customers to opt in or out of such an amenity. Sounds fair to me: Back when I was young and irresponsible -- you know, a couple years ago -- I would do something dumb like go to the grocery store the day before my next paycheck was supposed to clear and buy a twelve-pack with what I thought were the last twelve or fifteen bucks in my checking account, only to find that it was actually more like my last seven or eight bucks, and my account was technically overdrawn, and my bank was going to charge me an additional thirty-five bucks for covering the purchase I otherwise wouldn't have been allowed to make. Now, you can blame irresponsible bookkeeping on my part, and you wouldn't be wrong, but still, had I known that in exchange for avoiding an embarrassing rejection at the checkout counter, I was going to end up buying a $47 twelver of beer, I might've declined that little feature.

Well, now my bank has to give me the option to do so, which I fully intend to do -- and here, incidentally, is what I found on the home page of my bank when I logged on to check up on some recent transactions this morning:

Ah, yes! That overdraft coverage, which is so awesomely convenient! Whose enrollment is fast, easy, and free (except for the $35 or whatever they have to pay if they actually buy something too rich for what's in their account)!

Look, I'm not stupid -- I know the real lesson here is don't spend money you don't have. (Getting smacked with overdraft fees is one way of learning this. Burying oneself under ~$15,000 of credit-card debt within a few years of graduating from college is an even better one.) But it seems like the old version of automatic overdraft protection encourages people to spend money they don't have, and like all those supposedly wonderful credit cards we gorged ourselves on in the '90s and early 2000s, which let us spend spend spend until we realized they'd snuck a bunch of arbitrary interest-rate hikes into the fine print, it lures us into thinking we can spend without consequence -- at least until the nasty surprise of a rate hike or overdraft charge smacks us in the face once we turn the corner.

Banks bitched and moaned about this rule change before it got passed. Me, I like having the option of turning down something that looks too good to be true. Hey, I don't have a problem with someone trying to profit off of the stupidity and/or irresponsibility of the American consumer -- lord knows that's a growth industry these days, and one of the few we have left -- but they should at least be honest about it.

Friday, June 25

The Friday Random Ten+5 remembers some pretty sweet victory parades.

Like I said yesterday, the past 48 hours or so -- thrilling wins by the U.S. and Slovak soccer teams, a match to end all tennis matches won by Georgia alum John Isner -- have been about the happiest that sports have ever made me outside of the four or five glorious months we call "football season." It's true that most of my awesome sports-related memories are intimately tied with some great success on the part of the Bulldogs -- or the Washington Redskins, in the pre-Snyder era when they still had successes -- but I've been privy to some pretty amazing non-football achievements that made my heart swell with pride to be an American, a Georgia fan, or perhaps just someone who happened to have a TV and a cable connection and be in the right place at the right time. This +5 is dedicated to the heroes who made me snap out of my pigskin-and-beer-induced trance and made me realize that there are other sports in the world, not an easy thing to do in and of itself: My Five Proudest Sporting-Related Memories That Had Nothing To Do With Football.

October 5, 1991: Braves claim their first division pennant in nine years
Confession: While I'm a ripe old 32, I'm not one of those Atlanta-area Gen-Xers with massive archives of miserable memories about how bad the Braves were in the '80s. We didn't move to Georgia until the summer of '91, right before I started high school, and I don't have many memories of paying attention to baseball period before that. But not long after we moved down to Columbus, my dad had some sort of job-related doctor thing up in Atlanta that included tickets to a Braves game, so off we went to Fulton County Stadium. The Braves were leading the NL West for the first time in forever, but only a game ahead of the Dodgers, with two games to go in the season; we got to watch Smoltzie pitch a complete game of pure ruthless efficiency, downing the Astros 5-2, then hung around while they showed the Dodgers-Giants game on the Jumbotron. I don't think a single person left the stadium as the LA-SF game wore on, and when the Giants corralled LA's final groundout to clinch their own 4-0 win, the place exploded even louder than it had when the Braves had won. A photographer took our picture as we walked triumphantly back to our car, and somewhere, in some newspaper's dusty archives, there's a picture of little 13-year-old me with the foam tomahawk someone had handed me on my way into the stadium, waving that thing like I'd caught the winning out myself.

October 28, 1995: Braves win the World Series
It took another four years before the Braves won the Big One, of course, but I remember exactly where I was when it happened: in the TV lounge of the lobby at Oglethorpe House my freshman year at UGA, surrounded by pretty much every single one of my neighbors, watching I think it was Marquis Grissom tear across left-center to catch the final out. When it finally happened, when all those years of disappointments and achingly close missed opportunities gave way to a Series title, the entire room poured out and I remember spending the rest of that evening engaging in copious amounts of underage drinking whilst wearing my Braves boxers on the outside of my clothes. Good times.

July 23, 1996: Kerri Strug vaults on a bum ankle and wins the gold for the American gymnastics team
We caught a couple of events when the Olympics were in Atlanta, but we watched the team gymnastics competition from home, and saw the whole drama with Kerri Strug's ankle and the one last vault she did to clinch the all-around team gold for the U.S. for the first time ever. Considering that she had to be taken straight from the Georgia Dome to a hospital afterward to be treated for tendon damage, I think Strug's hero status was well-deserved, as were her "Saturday Night Live" cameo and appearance in one of the funnier spots from the golden age of "This is SportsCenter" ads.

March 16, 2008: Georgia wins the SEC basketball tournament
I don't have the clearest memory of where I was when this went down: I think I'd driven home from Birmingham to Columbus that Friday night -- through a hellacious thunderstorm, of course -- and woke up the next morning fully expecting to open up the Ledger-Enquirer sports section and read about how the Dawgs had been unceremoniously bounced out of the tournament in the second round by Kentucky. Instead, I got to read about how the second-round game hadn't even been played because of a tornado that tore through downtown Atlanta -- ripping a hole in the roof of the Georgia Dome in the process. So I got to watch two games on Saturday -- the first a Georgia victory over Kentucky (their second straight overtime win), followed just hours later by an equally improbable win over Mississippi State. Keep in mind that, in the most delicious irony of ironies, this all happened on Georgia Tech's basketball court, where the entire tournament had been moved because of the damage to the Dome. And the following afternoon, the Dawgs -- who'd been the sixth seed in the East at 4-12 in the SEC, 13-16 overall -- knocked off Arkansas to claim one of the least probable NCAA tournament berths ever. They lost in the first round to Xavier, of course, and less than a year later Dennis Felton was out of a job, but still, this was one of those miraculous weekends that could bring a glimmer of pride to even the most beleaguered program. (Of course, now that Mark Fox is in charge and recruiting like a madman, the Hoop Dawgs are gonna win so many of these things that the fan base gets bored and starts taking them for granted like asshole Kentucky fans. Book it.)

February 24, 2010: Slovakia beats Sweden in ice hockey to advance to the medal round of the 2010 Olympics
Just like I really get into the World Cup despite not being much of a soccer fan, I like Olympic hockey even though I don't follow the sport much otherwise. And with the NHL being littered with bad-ass Slovaks, I figured the motherland had a great chance at a medal in Vancouver (after having smoked the rest of their group in the first round in 2006 but getting bounced by the Czech Republic in the first round of the knockout stage). SVK began the 2010 hockey tournament by getting whacked again by the Czechs, but then stunned the world with a shootout win over the Russians, and closed out group play by pounding Latvia 6-0. They dispensed with Norway in the first round of the playoff, but that only meant they'd earned the right to face Sweden, the defending Olympic champions, in the next round. Instead of folding, though, the Slovaks scored on a power play in the second period and never trailed from there, and my boys were headed to the medal round for the first time ever as an independent country. (About that: Yeah, there was no medal. Not this time. But it's happening four years from now, oh yes it is.)

Ahh, memories. And now the Ten:

1. Pet Shop Boys, "Always"
2. Fatboy Slim, "Right Here Right Now"
3. Moby, "Natural Blues"
4. A Tribe Called Quest, "The Pressure"
5. Deee-Lite, "Power of Love"
6. Pet Shop Boys, "Legacy"
7. The Streets, "Don't Mug Yourself"
8. The Pixies, "Crackity Jones"
9. Ween, "Piss Up a Rope"
10. Duran Duran, "Save a Prayer"

Your turn -- your Random Tens and/or favorite non-football sporting memories go in the comments, if you're so inclined.

Thursday, June 24

It's great! To be! An American Georgia Bulldog of Slovak descent!

So let's recap: In the past 24 hours, I've gotten to see

· Team USA advance to the knockout round of the World Cup -- winning their group, no less -- on one of the more thrilling goals that's ever been scored;

· the longest tennis match ever played, which was won 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68 by a Georgia Bulldog; and

· Slovakia, in its first World Cup as an independent nation, advance to the knockout round via an amazing 3-2 victory over the defending world champions -- in the process sending the loathsome, preening, flop-artist Italians home in disgrace.

I didn't know it was possible to be this happy so far away from football season.

And I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm going to the knockout round.

Though I have next to zero interest in soccer generally, I've always gotten really excited about the World Cup, because it's sort of like an Olympics for one sport: People from all over the world come together in one place to (mostly) put aside political differences and compete not with guns and bombs but with sheer athletic prowess, and some people win and some people lose, but the hope is that everyone does so with a real love for the whole idea of competition and a respect for sportsmanship. (Well, except for the French maybe, but you never know what you're gonna get from them.)

Sitting there in my cube, though, surreptitiously checking the action on the FIFA MatchCast and being less and less slick about it as the game wore on and got increasingly tense, I was reminded not of any specific Olympic memory but of the 2006 Georgia-Georgia Tech game. An agonizing defensive struggle, packed with numerous great plays but an even greater number of missed opportunities, and it looks like the good guys are going to be hanging their heads right up until the last minute, when a talented but maligned player goes in for an amazing score.

It even felt the same way to be watching it: Just like in 2006, I was away from the actual action, keeping track of it on a few seconds' delay -- but there was a group of people watching the game on one of the big-screens on the opposite side of our floor, and in the 91st minute of the match I heard a huge cheer go up from that side of the building. Just as I'd heard a huge cheer when the Americans knocked in their disallowed goal in the first half, and just as I'd heard a huge cheer go up from Sanford Stadium, right down the street from our tailgate spot, when Staffy hit Massaquoi for that TD pass. Wait a few seconds, and then boom, the little soccer-ball icon popped up signaling Donovan's goal, and it was party time for the rest of the day. (Yeah, it was a weird way to be watching the game, but let's be honest, it wasn't like I would've understood the game of soccer any better had I been watching the action unfold on TV right in front of me.)

So congratulations, Team USA. And everyone say a prayer for similar miracles today for Slovakia, who need a win over Italy to have any hope of following the U.S. into the knockout stage.

And actually, while you're at it, say a prayer for American tennis player and damn good Dawg John Isner, who will be resuming the longest tennis match in history at some point later on today. If I weren't pulling for Isner so hard, I'd say just let him and Nicholas Mahut both advance to the next round and take on their opponent two-on-one -- it almost seems unfair to make someone lose at this point, and besides, after playing seven hours of tennis yesterday they probably only have enough combined physical stamina left to equal that of one healthy player (if that much). But Bulldog Nation's pulling for you, John -- just keep acing those serves, and stay hydrated, for God's sake.

Tuesday, June 22

Reputations I'm sullying this week (other than my own, of course).

My apologies for posting having gotten off to a slow start in this, the blog's first week of, uh, re-emergence. I moved into my new place over the weekend and have been trying to get shit straightened out, which yesterday included sitting all morning in a half-empty house waiting for someone to turn my water on, only they never came, because who cares, my time's important because I don't have, you know, A JOB or anything.


But anyway, I've still been on the grind, which included posting the annual college-football composite ranking over at EDSBS. This, as you may or may not recall, is where I dig up the unofficial "preseason" rankings put out by folks like Phil Steele, Athlon, and the like, and combine them into a single top 25 ranking that gives a reasonable preview of where teams are going to be ranked in the official preseason polls that'll be submitted by the sportswriters and coaches in a few weeks. As it stands now, this summer's composite looks-a like this:

1. Alabama
2. Ohio State
3. Boise State
4. Texas
5. Florida
6. TCU
7. Nebraska
8. Iowa
9. Oregon
10. Virginia Tech
11. Oklahoma
12. Wisconsin
13. Miami
14. USC
15. Pittsburgh
16. Arkansas
17. Florida State
18. North Carolina
19. Georgia Tech
20. Penn State
21. Oregon State
22. LSU
23. Georgia
24. Cincinnati
25. Auburn

Full analysis is over at EDSBS, but the salient nugget for Bulldog Nation is that the Dawgs do check in down there at #23, which may seem like an insult if you've been following Senator Blutarsky and his Steele-sourced glimmers of hope for why Georgia could be in for a pretty promising year -- but then again, if you saw Georgia crash and burn against Tennessee and Kentucky last year and are still having PTSD flashbacks of our threadbare secondary and -16 turnover margin, you might be happy just to be nominated.

And then over at Dr. Saturday, I'll be throwing occasional assists this week to the lovely Holly, who's flying solo while the good Doctor is on vacation. My first contribution is here, a rumination on the Mountain West's chances at earning BCS status now that they're losing Utah to the Pac-10; it's meticulously researched (like everything else I do, duh!) but probably not as fun as Holly's post on the new spiderweb Lane Kiffin has managed to flail around in. OK, look, I know the guy beat the pants off us last year, but since then he's led a very schadenfreude-friendly (schadenfriendly?) existence; I wouldn't say he has a reverse Midas touch, exactly, but he does seem to have a very particular kind of bizarro Midas touch, the kind where everything he touches turns to DERP.

Also, I've been pulled in to contribute to a new project SBNation is doing -- they've been rolling out a number of "regional" sites over the past few weeks, and the Atlanta site goes live this week; I'll be posting a couple times a week on Georgia football. So keep your eyes peeled.

Further updates as developments warrant. Now I gotta head out so I can swing by my new place and see if I can actually use the crapper there yet. Fun!

Monday, June 21

Do you do parties?

Here's a jaunty beginning to your work week:

Just out of curiosity, how does the Nobel Committee decide whether to award prizes in new categories? 'Cause if ever there was a reason to award a Nobel Prize in Beatboxing, this would be it. I mean, come on, this is at least as worthwhile as the Chemistry prize. (Stupid chemistry. "Oh, look at me! I mixed a bunch of chemicals in a bottle! Where's my million dollars?" Hmm, I don't know, can you do the sped-up music from Super Mario World? You can't? Then I guess you don't get a million dollars. [/realtalk])

Thursday, June 17

The Friday Random Ten+5 has some things it'd like to catch up on.

The blog may have been offline for exactly three months, but that doesn't mean the world just ceased to turn on its axis during that time. A lot of stuff happened, some of which I might've liked to discuss on here, and now that HJS is more or less fully operational again, now's as good a time as any to go over that stuff, just to make sure we're all on the same page about stuff. (By which I mean you're on the same page with me, since you haven't had me around for the past few months to tell you what you should think and feel about everything.) So here's a quick refresher course -- Five Things I Probably Would've Posted About Over The Past Three Months If The Blog Had Been Up:

I got a job
The most recent development, obvs, and the catalyst for the blog going back up to begin with. My sidebar profile is accurate -- I am indeed a paid lackey for a Fortune 500 company now, albeit one that treats its employees very well and has given me a fat benefits package. I'm not gonna tell any of you assholes where I work, for fear that one of you is gonna do something like order 50 pizzas and have them sent to my office, but suffice to say I'm a working man again, and very happy to be one. (OK, I can't keep a secret: I'm a hired assassin for BP, taking out whistleblowers in the Deepwater Horizon case. Did you know they actually have hitmen on payroll? Although on my business cards it says "Information Security Specialist.")

"Justified" and "Community" are two of the best shows on TV
Being unemployed obviously gave me a lot more time to watch TV, but in the case of "Justified" and "Community," that may have been a good thing. "Justified," the show with Timothy Olyphant as a federal marshall assigned to return to his hilljack hometown in eastern Kentucky, would probably have been worth watching if it'd just been Olyphant showing off his considerable bad-ass skills and shooting people for an hour every Tuesday night, but instead the show surrounds him with a whole cast of well-drawn characters with unpredictable nuances -- including Walton Goggins as Olyphant's Neo-Nazi-turned-backwoods-preacher bête noire -- and works equally well as both drama and action series. "Community," meanwhile, started kind of slow but got steadily funnier as it went along, and launched into overdrive with the "chicken fingers" and "paintball" episodes toward the end of the season -- seriously, whether you have to get them on Hulu, Netflix, your cousin's DVR, or a pirated Chinese DVD out of the trunk of someone's car, watch both of them ASAP -- and as far as I'm concerned is now appointment viewing on Thursday nights, particularly with "The Office" appearing to sort of go off the rails. Joel McHale's character is poised to join the pantheon of Awesome TV Douchebags whom I'm increasingly trying to model my life after.

I don't get the iPad
Like everything else Apple makes, it's real purty, and it's a fun toy, but am I that far off in describing it as a really big iPhone that can't make phone calls? Which is not to say I wouldn't gladly take one if it were offered to me, but I can't see paying five or seven hundred dollars for what is basically a toy. (I can only see myself paying three hundred dollars for a toy, specifically the Lego Taj Mahal, which you're damn right I'm gonna go out and buy now that I have a job again.)

I'm glad conference expansion ended up not being all that big a deal
As many things that I find nonsensical and infuriating about how Division I-A college football is currently set up, I didn't really want things to change so radically that we ended up with maybe only four 16-team "superconferences" around which the entirety of Division I-A was supposed to revolve. Not that I necessarily had a lot of faith in the idea that a "Pac-16" would work, though, because by more or less adding an entire division of the Big XII to its roster, the Pac-10 would've been opening itself up to the same problems that caused fractures in the Big XII: Just as that conference tacked on a bunch of Texas schools in an effort to expand and have a conference-title game, causing Nebraska to feel slighted enough in the proceedings that they eventually bolted for the Big Ten, the "Pac-16" would've had two completely different divisions -- the old Pac-8 on one side, and a "Red Dead Redemption" division (to borrow Spencer Hall's phrase) full of schools with little or no connection to the Rose Bowl or any of the conference's other traditions, but whose money and TV markets still would've become the conference's new power center. (Not to mention, of course, that anything that distracts people's attention from the superiority of the SEC is unacceptable.) In the end, the Big Ten and Pac-10 went to 12 teams, and the Big XII survived by shrinking back to 10 -- which is ridiculous, sure, but no less ridiculous than making Texas A&M fans truck their asses up to Pullman, Wash., or Corvallis, Ore., for conference games.

I'm really touched by how much y'all appeared to miss this thing
I'm gonna try not to get too maudlin here (or, conversely, let myself get too big a head about any of this), but when you're a blogger of any kind -- but particularly an unemployed one who sometimes finds himself struggling to come up with a reason to even get out of bed in the morning -- you sometimes wonder if anybody really cares what you have to say, and if it would matter all that much to anyone if you just stopped doing it. Well, I was pestered with enough "When are you putting the blog back up, assbag?!?" queries over the past three months to know that quite a few of y'all did care, and while some of you were bigger dicks about it than others, the concern still meant a lot to me. And now that things seem to be getting back on track in any number of aspects of my life, I feel like y'all are owed a debt of gratitude for making me feel important during a period when it was hard to find reasons to feel that way. So thanks to all of you, and I want you to know that just because I'm a working stiff again doesn't mean I'm going to be any more mature, or any less of a douche, on this blog going forward.

So here's to better times ahead. For everyone. And here's the Random Ten:

1. Stevie Wonder, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours"
2. Beck, "Debra"
3. The Chemical Brothers, "Playground for a Wedgeless Firm"
4. Ebn-Ozn, "AEIOU Sometimes Y"
5. The Smiths, "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want"
6. Beck, "Modesto"
7. The Romantics, "What I Like About You"
8. Gnarls Barkley, "Surprise"
9. DJ Shadow, "Changeling"
10. Paul McCartney, "Live and Let Die"

So: Anything you've been wanting to get off your chest for the past three months? Throw it in the comments, along with your Random Tens if you've got 'em. And happy weekend.

I wish Joe Barton (R-TX) was my dad.

OK, maybe not my dad. My dad's not so bad. But maybe my granddad, because seriously, I bet Joe Barton's kids live like fricking kings.

I didn't do a lot of egregiously bad isht when I was a kid, but I did get in a heap of trouble when I was 18 for throwing a party while my parents were out of town, after having been explicitly instructed not to. The party was a real rager -- 50-something people, underage drinking, smoking, people running around naked in the backyard, a true suburban Columbus classic -- but it wasn't the party itself my parents were mad about. Hell, I cleaned up so well afterward that they didn't even find out about it until nearly a week after they'd gotten back. What they were mad about was that I'd lied about it, and lying being about the worst thing you could do in my family, they brought the hammer down on me: Lost the use of my car for the rest of the school year, grounded anytime I came home from UGA, probably forfeited my monthly allowance somewhere along the line. About the most severe punishment I got for anything I did as a teenager, now that I think about it.

If Joe Barton had been my granddad, though, he would've bitched my parents out and apologized on their behalf for being so mean to me.

Your eyes/ears do not deceive you -- Barton apologized to BP for mean nasty Obama making them pay for the damage they'd inflicted upon the Gulf coast. And while he claimed to be speaking only for himself and not the Republican Party, he wasn't the only one: The Republican Study Committee -- a caucus that comprises nearly two-thirds of the GOP's current House membership -- echoed Barton's sentiment that BP being instructed to set up a $20-billion escrow account to pay spill-related claims amounted to a "Chicago-style shakedown." All of the usual talk-radio suspects -- Limbaugh, Hannity, Oliver North -- are using suspiciously identical "slush fund" rhetoric to criticize the account. Tea Party hero Rand Paul, of course, said it was "un-American" for Obama to criticize BP at all.

Look, everyone has the right to criticize Obama (or any other president) to their hearts' content, but how craven do you have to be to plant your nose in BP's anus so that you can trash-talk him? Are they so confident in their ability to retake Congress this fall that they figure they can afford to throw a pity party for the most despised corporation in the country? Or as one of the few entities in America whose approval ratings are almost as low as BP's, is this their idea of "climbing down into the crevasse"?

I have no idea. All I know is, the next time I get stopped for speeding, I hope I've got Joe Barton in the car with me to wring an apology out of the cop for pulling me over.

(Yeah, the political stuff's back too, dorks. Drink it in.)

Hi, everybody!

I'm back . . . and you may all consider yourselves iced.

But more to the point, Hey Jenny Slater is back as well, rested and refreshed after a hiatus that ended up lasting exactly three months. I know you all probably hate the new format, but don't worry, I'll be tweaking it over the next few weeks. The posting, however, will be exactly as douchetastic as you remembered.

But never you mind any of that -- you've got some drinking to do. Bottoms up, schmucks.