Thursday, April 30, 2009

The "A" Word

Remember last month's post on all the fun I've been having with my lungs? Well, today I met with an allergist. And, while the doctor's office was less than 10 miles from my job, the events of today merit the "travel diary treatment".

1:25 PM - It's five minutes until my scheduled appointment and I'm in the parking lot of the medical facility, sitting in my car. I'm listening to the A's/Rangers game on Sirius XM. Jason Giambi is up for Oakland with runners on in the top of the 7th. I want to listen to his at-bat before going in, but then the Rangers' catcher comes out to chat with the pitcher. Then, the pitching coach comes out after the catcher walks all the way back to home. More conferencing. The play-by-play guy reads a promo for Fireworks Night featuring "music selected by Nolan Ryan". I never realized how boring this game is.

1:40 PM - I'm greeted by a nurse named Cara. Now, I know you guys hate when I say things like this without photographic back-up, so I'll dial it back a bit and just say: Cara is kind of cute. Times 10. She takes my blood pressure and I register 155/85. That's a good 30 points higher than I've EVER registered in my life. "Nurse Out-of-my-League" asks if I'm tense. Pfft…as if a guy in his mid-30s could be affected in any way by an attractive 21-year-old woman holding his scrawny right arm.

1:45 PM - We move on to yet another spirometry exam. Can't get enough of those. The nurse instructs me to inhale deeply and then exhale rapidly for six seconds. Once again, I wheeze like the wind through the remains of Al Davis.

1:50 PM - The doctor finally joins us and it's becoming increasingly apparent that I've stumbled upon one of those porn movie medical facilities, where every single employee is female. Doc is also wearing three-inch heels and a skirt that's shorter than my wife. Jesus Christ, I'm here because I'm already having trouble breathing! Anyways, she hooks me up to a tube that fills my lungs with albuterol for 10 minutes.

2:00 PM - They had to pinch my nose closed for the albuterol inhalation and I was told not to remove my mouth from the plastic tubing. Consequently, when it was over, a portion of my nose and mouth might've been secreting…well, those watery things that noses and mouths secrete. Perfect time for a different nurse/Next Top Model to enter the room and assist me. "Ooh, did they tell you about the snot and drool?", she asked. No, they did not.

2:05 PM - ANOTHER spirometry. They're going for before/after readings and…well, damned if I'm not actually breathing a little easier.

2:15 PM - Dr. Legs returns, sits legs and legs over my paperwork. In all seriousness, though, she actually let me tell her the whole story of the past several months and listened intently while furiously scribbling notes. She shot down the credibility of every other doctor I'd seen and the "placebo prescriptions" (her words) they recommended.

2:20 PM - Her diagnosis: asthma – which three other doctors told me I didn't have. On the one hand, I'm still not entirely convinced that a healthy guy in his mid-30s can just "catch asthma", considering the perfect climate I live in and absolutely no recent change in my environmental stimuli. On the other hand, she mentioned some obscure asthma symptoms that I'd never heard before and most of which I have.

2:30 PM - The doctor prescribed two inhalers. The first is Symbicort which, the doctor disclosed, came with something called a "black box" warning. Well, that couldn't possibly be as ominous as it sounds, right? Turns out, in the drug's early studies, "…there was a small, but significant increase in asthma-related deaths in patients…" and "…analysis suggests the risk may be greater in African-American patients compared to Caucasians." Slightly less frightening was the Ventolin prescription or, as the doctor called it, my "panic inhaler".

Looks like I won't be lacking for blog fodder any time soon.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

TBG Ranks: Top Five Favorite Salty Snack Treats

Current Weight: 168.2 lbs.

+35% of African-Americans have hypertension, which accounts for 20% of the African-American deaths in the United States - twice the percentage of deaths among whites from hypertension.

+Compared with whites, hypertension develops earlier in life and average blood pressures are much higher in African-Americans.

+African-Americans with high blood pressure have an 80% higher chance of dying from a stroke than in the general population.

I included the above facts out of respect for my wife. She's been on high blood pressure medication for over two years and fights a constant struggle with irresponsible cravings.

Meanwhile, I've turned my colon over to this lightly-read blog – eating pretty much anything and everything I want, without the concept of moderation – and my blood pressure is the same now as when I was 16. Eat it, Mrs. Bootleg! Oh, wait…you can't!

Next to the American majesty of fast food, my greatest greasy vice are chips. Be they potato, tortilla, Sun or pita…hell, I've even shredded my esophagus with an occasional bag of Baked Lay's. Yes, yes…I know they're gross and I don't care!

In September 2006, I crowned a new salty snack champion during my family's Vancouver vacation. Oh, Ketchup Lay's…your tomato tanginess accentuated by that perfect Lay's texture. I assumed your reign at the top would last the rest of my lifetime.

Ah, but, uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. Shout out to Shakespeare!

After 2 ½ years, Canada's ketchup ecstasy has been bounced from my top spot. In fact, 2009 has – so far – been quite the year of change…within this hastily-constructed list of my top five favorite salty snacks:

5 – Jumpin' Jack Cheese Doritos: I cannot possibly convey how glorious these Doritos were. Lightly-dusted with a spice blend that – at the time – was an exciting new development for snack foods, these chips gained most of their infamy from an ad campaign starring this guy. These were only around for a few years in the early 1990s, but were so far removed from that ubiquitous Doritos flavor that it's no surprise the public's bland palettes rejected the Jack.

4 – Frito-Lay Brand Sunflower Seeds: I'm a purist, people. (1) I don't do "flavored" seeds. (2) I don't do David Brand sunflower seeds. (3) I don't do seeds that aren't in the shell. For starters, I refuse to believe that Jesus and Mother Nature intended for this most natural of earth's hors d'oeuvres to be coated in artificial flavoring. God's children only need a sweet, sweet brine of heavily salted water to soak the raw seeds in. Just not too salty. Those David seeds are saltier than b-sweat. Finally, cracking seeds open is the closest society will ever get to "acceptable spitting". And, you haven't lived until you've seen the look on your wife/girlfriend's face after she finds your "shell spittin' cup" for the first time. HA~!

3 – Emerald Sea Salt & Pepper Cashews: Costco sells these in drums that are the size of my head. These nuts are so overloaded with S&P that the only thing remaining in the jug when you're done is a three-inch deep residue of surplus seasoning. Hard to believe that something so polluted and full of children's pee – like the sea – could produce such wonderful sodium. Truly a testament to the underrated awesome that is the cashew.

2 – Ketchup Lay's: I had a co-worker of mine – through relatives – coordinate the exporting of six bags out of Canada and into my hands last year. Prior to that, I stashed $20 worth in my carry-on luggage back in '06. Since then, I've had several Canadian readers shrug their shoulders, effectively saying the same thing: "Meh, they're OK, I guess." OK? Just OK?! I daresay it's this kind of countrywide indifference that cost Canada the Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques, Eric Lindros and The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers.

1 – Earthquake Chips: Close your eyes and imagine a potato chip that blends the tartness of salt n' vinegar with the sweet smokiness of barbecue, the spice of jalapeño and some cool sour cream. These chips – from a company called "California Chips" – recently had their wares placed within the confines of the vending machines at the Unnamed Defense Contractor. One of my partners-in-gross-contract-mischarging and I soon cleaned out every vending machine across the half-dozen or so buildings on campus.

Honorable Mentions: Salt n' Vinegar Lay's, Snyder's of Hanover Honey Mustard Pretzel Nibblers and Buffalo Flavored Pretzel Nibblers, Flamin' Hot Cheetos, Munchos

Monday, April 27, 2009

That Social Networking Guy

My family didn't have much money when I was growing up. Consequently, we were always the LAST family on the block to have the latest and greatest technology. Except, by the time my family owned it, the technology in question was neither "latest" nor "greatest".

1982: Five years after its debut, my twin brother and I received the Atari 2600 for Christmas. In November 1982, the Atari 5200 gaming system had been released.

1987: The Nintendo Entertainment System hit American shores in October 1985. My parents tried to convince me and my brother that this next generation of gaming was a foreign fad, not unlike America's brief infatuation with all things Australia in 1986. When it was obvious that the NES had more staying power than Yahoo Serious ("I know what those words mean, but that sign makes no sense.") my parents finally caved in.

1987: We bought our first microwave oven around this time, as well. If memory serves me, this was the closest we'd ever gotten to being kinda-sorta on the crest of a nationwide craze. Of course, our microwave oven was the size of a small SUV and sounded like the airspace over Shea Stadium whenever it ran.

1989: Our first VCR! This was a huge deal for our household, mostly because it provided a default $12 gift idea for any member of our family. And, if anyone out there is interested in factory-sealed VHS copies of Glory, Ghost or Godfather, Part III, see my mother.

1994: My girlfriend at the time bought me my first pager. This was five years after Sir Mix-A-Lot dropped his single, "Beepers". The thing I miss most from this era is the urban catchphrase "hit me on the hip", which meant…well, you know.

1997: Back when I was buying music on a near-weekly basis, it was nothing but cassettes for me. Hey, they were three or four bucks cheaper than CDs and – more importantly – the only thing my 1986 Ford Tempo could play. In the fall of 1997, however, I bought Mack 10's Based on a True Story and the soundtrack to Gang Related on compact disc. Such timeless West Coast rhymes needed the CD treatment so that their generation-spanning sound and subject matter could last forever.

1999: First cell phone. Just a cheapie flip phone with Sprint as my provider. Hilariously enough, when I first met "That Nicka Guy" in 2003, he was rocking the exact same phone.


So, yeah, I'm officially the last professional on earth to sign up for a LinkedIn account. If you're on board, feel free to "connect". And, yes, I'd be making this same pathetic public plea if another round of layoffs weren't just announced for the week of May 4th at the Unnamed Defense Contractor.

By this time next month, I could be your new neighbor!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

1,995 Calories, 155 Grams of Fat, 100% WANT

I think I might've heard somewhere that the Phoenix area will be hosting next year's Wrestlemania. Well, if Vince McMahon is looking for one of his patented C-list celebrity matches, I'd like to throw my hat in the ring and officially challenge this guy.

Also, on a related note, WHY was I the last person on earth to discover Man vs. Food on The Travel Channel?! If my eight regular readers aren't going to keep me informed of programming like this…

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Parent-Teacher Conference

Yesterday afternoon, I attended a parent-teacher conference at my son's preschool. Consequently, the kids were out of school for the day and since we couldn't find anyone to watch Jalen, I was tasked with spending 25 minutes – alone – with J's teacher.

Mrs. Bootleg and I have been to a few of these conferences before. The teachers hilariously offer us the same size chairs that the children sit in and pour teardrops of warm water into Lilliputian cups.

Jalen's been at this preschool since September 2007 and, save for the occasional infraction, he hasn't had any real problems. Here are some highlights from our parent-teacher discussion. All comments are from memory and, if something below is not attributed, then it came from Jalen's teacher:

Jalen's Teacher: "In this picture, Jalen drew mommy, daddy and [his S. H. Babysitter]. He's very fond of her. Is she pretty?"

Me: "Oh, f*ck yeah." (TBG Note: I might've just thought this and not said it.)


"Jalen cannot, as yet, skip. Encourage bike-riding, balance-beam [activities], kicking with left and right foot."


Jalen's Teacher: "You should have a 45-minute 'hang-out time' with Jalen and focus on problem-solving."

Me: "What, like, everyday?" (TBG Note: This I did say. I didn't realize how awful it sounded until I recounted the exchange with Mrs. Bootleg hours later.)


Me: "How're Jalen's socialization skills? At home, he's almost pathologically competitive."

Jalen's Teacher: "Competitiveness is just undeveloped male immaturity. He'll grow out of it. When Jalen plays football at playtime, we try to stress 'fun' over who had the most points." (TBG Note: Jalen's teacher is British and she INSISTS on calling "soccer" by its "proper" name. Don't get me started.)


"We don't think children should be watching 'fantasy' (TBG Note: She refers to 'cartoons' as 'fantasy' for some reason.) until they're six or seven years old. Children need to be exposed to reality."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Your 2009 Rays, Everyone!

Top (left to right):

Coach Aaron - Quiet, intense and dignified…which just so happen to be the same words used to describe every African-American baseball coach or manager. Anyone know why that is? Even the sh*tty ones like Davey Lopes and Jerry Royster.

Coach Ernie - Great with the kids. Prior to last Saturday's game, my son Jalen said, "I don't want to play catch with you. I want to play with [Coach] Ernie." That…that hurt.

Second Row (left to right):

Kimo - The team's best player and it's not even close. He KNOWS he's better than everyone else on the field (coaches included), too. He's built like a cannonball, he never smiles and he could legitimately hit third or fourth for a half-dozen Major League teams right now. When the kids pig-pile for the ball, watch them part the waters if Kimo goes after it.

Jacob - Like most youth coaches, I can't be bothered to know much about my team beyond our best player and my own kid. Jacob's most memorable for this weird habit of running sideways. His upper body's fine, but his lower body twists at 90 degrees – like a "fully-poseable" action figure – when he runs.

Alex - Much like David Eckstein and Darin Erstad, it's more about the intangibles that Alex brings to the team. There is no one – NO ONE – in his age group that can find more inappropriate uses for the word "poop" in casual conversation. Last Saturday, he held a captive audience of kids (from several teams) in the palm of his hands with an awesome monologue of bodily functions.

Jalen - I've officially become one of "those dads" when it comes to my son. J now sports Nike cleats ("These hurt my feet, daddy."); baseball socks ("These are too tight on my knees, daddy.") and a belt for his XS pants with an elastic waistband. I've previously bored the boy with the story of how I taught myself to switch-hit in high school. Now, he'd give anything to hit from the left-side in an actual game. He should've thought of that before he ditched me for "Coach Not-His-Damn-Daddy".

Bottom Row (left to right):

Cooper - Kimo's kid brother. He comes up to about my knee and might be around 18-months-old. Most popular player among the mothers mostly because of this loud exchange I had with him a few weeks back while he stood in right field: "I have to go potty!", he said. "Umm, OK…where's your dad?", I replied. "He's at home!", he said. "OK, OK…where's your mom?!", I said. "I want YOU to take me!", he screamed. "Oh, God!", I gently replied.

Ernie - One of Jalen's best friends and a holdover from last fall's Pirates t-ball team. Crazy improved from last season, too. His dad (Coach Ernie) tells me that the two of them practice every day after dinner. My level of dedication with Jalen is similar: we practice on Sunday afternoons. Then, during the week, after dinner, we watch the A's play on my MLB Extra Innings package. And, if you can't learn fundamentals from watching Jason Giambi play first base and Jack Cust swinging the lumber, then it's time to find a new youth sport.

Jack - To tell you the truth, this might be James. I've got a cheat sheet with the all the kids' names and numbers that I keep in my pocket during games. Whatever his name is, he wears those really low-cut socks during games, which annoys me to no end as he runs around in hiked-up baseball pants and exposed ankles. I'd call him "Kid Capri" if I thought anyone other than me and Mrs. Bootleg would get the joke.

James - Again, he could actually be Jack. I can't see what number he's wearing in the photo. Always smiling and couldn't care less if we win or lose (which is good, since we don't keep score for some reason). Kimo's assessment: "He's not taking this seriously." Jesus, it's a good thing we don't have hazing at this level.

Camden - Probably a wee bit, umm…"not ready" for organized sports. Cute kid and one of Jalen's classmates, but he wore Crocs - Crocs! - to the first game. Since then, he's been wearing rubber-soled brown suede shoes. After 10 minutes of hyperactivity, his dad threw in the towel on getting him to stand still for the individual player pictures. Only player capable of wandering over to every position on the field in a single half-inning.

Alexander - I made the mistake of calling him "Alex" early on ("My NAME is Alexander!") Well, then. A couple of weeks ago, it seemed that every ball was hit to him. After a few minutes, he shouted to his dad, "I got six balls that means I've got six points!" Last Saturday, he was almost an hour late for team pictures. We'd finally gotten every kid to stand/sit and smile in unison, then had to wait for Master Alexander to stroll over and grace us with this preschool ego.

"Psst, Kimo. Wanna make some easy money?"

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

TBG Drinks: Hell or High Watermelon Wheat

Brewed By: 21st Amendment Brewery
Brewed In: San Francisco, CA
Type: (Fruit) Wheat Beer
ABV: 5.2%

What They Say: "The definition of summer in a pint glass. This unique, American-style wheat beer, is brewed with 400 lbs. of fresh pressed watermelon in each batch. Light turbid, straw color, with the taste and essence of fresh watermelon."

Website: The "virtual pub tour" feature is wonderfully user-friendly and something more of these brew sites should implement. A few nits, though: the "Show Us Your Cans" feature isn't anywhere CLOSE to realizing its true potential (giggedy) and the "beer list" is only a sample. Patrons have to call for the current on-tap assortment.

Why I Picked It: M'man Smitty told me about this odd concoction a few weeks ago, then brought a can(!) of it down to Anaheim when we met for the Angels/A's game earlier this month. He is a good friend to my family and his graciousness is appreciated. On the other hand, m'man Vig lives in the Bay Area and never took me to or even told me about this brewery. My family and I now hate him. Yes, Vig, even Jalen.


Presentation (5): I can forgive the cheesy play on words, since the logo itself is pretty bad ass. The trident/pitchfork thing is appropriately cartoonish, while the streak of brightly-colored flames makes for an aesthetically eye-catching image. 4

Originality (5): The union of watermelons with wheat-based beer seems to be almost commercially exclusive to the fine folks at 21st Amendment. At first blush, I can certainly understand why American brewers aren't exactly in a rush to line store shelves with suds from large green gourds. 5

Body (10): It pours out a cloudy, muddled yellow with minimal head and lacing. This is one of the more carbonated "snob" beers I've had as the beer's haze seems to re-create itself every few seconds. Overall, a somewhat malty medium body. 6

Taste (10): Sweet. I've read some online reviews that call the watermelon flavor here "mild" or "modest", but I couldn't disagree more. Don't get me wrong: there are also some strong bready notes, a hint of acidic citrus and that typical wheat beer taste in here somewhere. Hey, it actually works. The almost synthetic sweetness won't be for everyone, though. 7

Efficiency (10): This one checks in at 5.2% on the Richter Scale and if you can get past the Jolly Rancher flavoring, there's no reason why one couldn't suck down several of these in a single sitting. I'd guess the kick would be fairly stealth, though, and on you before you knew it. Still, though, I only had the one can. I'm not sure how the taste would hold up after two or more. 6

Versatility (10): I enjoyed this with a plate of Mrs. Bootleg's parmesan-shrimp pasta and damned if I didn't inadvertently stumble upon a palatable pairing. I can't imagine much middle ground with beer aficionados, though. You're either curious enough to give it a go or inherently repulsed by the notion of someone "fructosing" with your beer. 4

Grade: 32 (out of 50) – Good beer

The above format has been lifted with permission from That Beer Snob Guy.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Word! - UPDATED, YO!

From the AP write-up of today's scintillating A's loss:

"We have a lineup full of Great White sharks," [Dallas] Braden said. "If they smell blood it's going to be on and cracking."


Seriously…how do white folk have such an uncanny knack for jackin' Black slang ten years after Black folk stopped using said Black slang?


The beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle took some liberties with Braden's quote above. Here's how it appeared in today's paper:

"We have a lineup of great white sharks," Braden said. "When they smell blood, they'll be in there and get cracking."

Less ebonics = less awesome.

TBG Eats: Mini Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sandwiches from Jack in the Box

Current Weight: 168 lbs.

I might've mentioned that I have a marketing degree. And, while I haven't done much with it since graduating in the fall of 1997, I managed to rack up some real-life experience in the industry as a student at San Diego State.

I took a Marketing Research class in which my five-person team measured the short-term and long-term potential of online banking opportunities. In another semester, there was the marketing plan that my group and I developed for a local tea and coffee distributor. I'm most proud of my final project where I led our entire Advertising class in a weeks-long promotion of SDSU's newly-opened Cox Arena. Our two featured events?

Men and women's hoops doubleheader and a taping of WCW Monday Nitro.

So, it goes without saying that I know how to identify great marketing with great brands. Still, I'm not sure I get the point of this new "mini" food craze.

Burger King introduced Burger Shots a few months ago (along with a separate breakfast-time sandwich companion). Jack in the Box, meanwhile, already has Mini Sirloin Burgers:

To me, it seems like a WAY belated attempt to mimic the model of White Castle. At least, it would until one notices that JitB's three-pack of mini-burgers goes for almost $5.00, making it one of the more expensive sandwiches on the menu.

The Mini Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sandwiches are $4.29 for a box of three. These are not to be confused with JitB's (relatively) high-end "Homestyle" line of deep fried chicken-flavored meat products. The chicken here is closer to those frozen breaded chicken patties often found on the value-menu.

Each mini-wich is dipped in Frank's Red Hot sauce and then slathered in ranch dressing. Honestly, it's been a few weeks since I had this and I've already forgotten if there's lettuce, onions or any other ingredients. Wow. The Fast Food Writers Association of America will have my head for this.

I do remember that this was a perfectly inoffensive meal, though. Yes, yes…ranch dressing IS an abomination when brought together with anything "Buffalo". And, I'll concede that the usual Western New York elitists – looking down on us from atop "Mount Eventual Angioplasty" – won't be impressed with the laughable attempt at authenticity that the Frank's brand is supposed to provide here. And, despite the full meal price, these mini-sammiches aren't the least bit filling.

Still, unless we're buying it by the bottle, there aren't many menu items anywhere out here that feature Frank's. And, JitB's ranch dressing (which almost surely comes from a surplus drum) isn't as watered down as most fast food versions. It all makes for an edible melding of flavors, featuring a wee bit of heat tempered by a few tablespoons of cool

Grade: 2.5 (out of 5)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

TBG TV: Lost - "Some Like it Hoth"

The Good:

Horace's repeated use of the phrase "circle of trust" just killed me for some reason. Thank you, Robert DeNiro, for ruining those three words forever. And, would it have killed Miles to drop a "Meet the Parents" reference? You disappoint me, you cantankerous Asian, you.

I absolutely LOVED the scene with Kate and Ben's father. I was thinking that Kate was doing a terrible job of convincing him that Ben was going to be alright. I mean, how would she know? Glad to see the writers planned it that way with Ben's dad growing rightfully suspicious of this woman he barely knew.

In about 13 months, when everyone is writing their requiem for Lost and compiling their favorite moments, I sincerely hope the look that Miles gave his dad after the "country music" line is at least in everyone's top three.

Juliet's lack of reaction to Sawyer's assault on Phil and his "get some rope" quip was just gold. The Sawyer/Juliet relationship is the only one I've given a damn about on this show, as theirs has been executed better than even the most ardent Lost apologist could've imagined. Hope those rumors of one of their deaths this season don't come to pass.

"The ditch had a gun?"

The Bad:

The Association of Hurley Haters has another public convert, as m'man Joe Reid writes: "… since Miles showed up, his brand of sarcastic comic relief has sapped me of 90% of my patience for Hurley's bumbling-slacker brand of humor, so watching Miles spend 60 minutes calling Hurley an unbelievable moron was pretty cathartic." Hurley's sole purpose this season has been to bait the geekiest fringe of the Lost fanatics with pointless in-jokes (an Ewok reference in two-thousand goddam NINE?!). If the final scene of this show isn't Miles, Sayid and Faraday using Hugo's lifeless frame as a raft home, I'm gonna be more than a little pissed.

OK…so, Juliet helped mastermind the plan to get Boy Ben the medical help he so desperately needed. Kate and Sawyer are woven into the plot and successfully transported Ben to The Others. Yet, no one has thought two minutes ahead and come up with a cover for Ben's father when he inevitably comes to check on his son? I'm probably picking nits, here, but this is one egregious nit.

Kudos to Mrs. Bootleg for calling out Naomi's odd change in wigs from scene-to-scene. I daresay that "fake hair" has supplanted "bruthas who date outside their race" at the top of the Black woman's list of annoyances.

Hey, it's the numbers! Remember how vital they were in the first two seasons, before being all but erased from the show's history? Still waiting on the return of Vincent the dog, guys! Keep those critical plot points a'comin'!

Verdict: This was one of those episodes where the nagging "bad" points were absolutely obliterated by the "good". I don't know why, but I felt a little cheated by the Miles/Dr. Chang revelation initially. Leave it to Ken Leung to turn in one of the best singular performances of the show's run to garner the right notes of sarcasm, sadness and sympathy.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

TBG Travel Diary: Anaheim, California – Part II

Top of the 1st - The A's get a runner on, but fail to score. Jason Giambi is reflexively booed by 43,000 idiots who only remember him as a New York Yankee. Smitty reminds me that Giambi's a professional athlete and the boos roll right off his back. TBG Note: I couldn't find The Simpsons clip that I stole this comment from, but here's a pretty good one from the same episode.

Bottom of the 1st - I'm generally loathe to throw around the word "hate". It's a powerful word that should be reserved for only the most despicable acts and individuals. That said, I f'n HATE Chone Figgins. He's the Angels leadoff hitter and he always kills the A's. Here, he walks, steals second, advances to third base on a flyball and scores on a groundout. See? Despicable. A's starter Trevor Cahill is struggling on the mound, but is helped out when the Angels' Torii Hunter doubles to deep centerfield with the future home of Vladimir Guerrero's double knee-replacement surgery on first base. Every other active Major Leaguer scores on that play. Not Vlad!

Middle of the 2nd - Former Oakland A's starting pitcher John "Blue Moon" Odom shuffles down to our seats to say hello. Again, I'm wearing his throwback jersey and Odom always seems to get a kick out of the fact that someone remembers him. So, you'll forgive me if I gloss over his 1986 drug conviction or that whole "threatening the life of his first wife" misunderstanding.

Bottom of the 2nd - Angels are up 1-0 and they're hitting everything hard and far. So, with the 21-year-old Cahill on the ropes, what does Halo's manager Mike Scioscia do? He opts for "small ball" and has Erick Aybar lay down a sacrifice bunt. Seriously, I love this National League nonsense. And, as the old sabermetric saying goes: "When you play for one run, all you get is one run." The Angels go up 2-0.

Middle of the 3rd - A's waste Mark Ellis' leadoff double and leave him stranded. Meanwhile, the Jumbotron shows highlights from the earlier games. Hey, it's Ted Kennedy! He's on hand to throw out the first pitch at the Red Sox's home opener. Quick scouting report on the veteran right-hander: impossible to get out and his curveball falls right off the bridge.

Bottom of the 3rd - For the second time in three innings, Vlad Guerrero fails to score from first on a two-out double. A potentially huge inning is once again snuffed out by Guerrero's decaying legs. I cannot possibly convey how ungainly he looks on the basepaths. Here's a helpful video to assist with the illustration of my point.

Top of the 4th - The A's put up a three-spot and take the lead. There's a douchebag seated a few feet from us – rocking a Kirk Saarloos authentic Oakland road jersey – who has positively lost his sh*t at this development. 20 years ago, that's exactly how Smitty and I would've reacted. Today, we just wanna watch the game and not get killed.

Bottom of the 5th - The Jack Cust OF Experience racks up another error as Vladimir Guerrero's line drive to right-center clangs violently of Cust's glove. Thankfully, Vlad is retired one batter later as he's caught flat-footed between second and third and nailed in a rundown. Swear to God, this guy's gonna be embalmed by October. A Kendry Morales single plates the tying run, 3-3.

Top of the 7th - With one out and one on, Jason Giambi steps to the plate. He singled in his last at-bat and I call his home run shot here. Smitty derisively dismisses me. Giambi ends up singling to right, so we'll split the difference and say that I 99.5% nailed it. A's score two in the inning and take a 5-3 lead.

Top of the 8th - Darren Oliver is on the mound for the Angels. Smitty and I are huge fans of players who are actually older than either of us. Smitty is convinced that he's been pitching since the early '90s, while I believe he's the last active Negro Leaguer and Harriet Tubman's first husband. Giambi doubles in an insurance run…6-3, A's.

Bottom of the 8th - Quick quiz…Which of the following is NOT one of Angel Stadium's hackneyed means of generating cheap crowd noise: (A) showing a diseased monkey clapping, shrieking and possibly throwing its own feces on the Jumbotron…(B) a generic "MAKE SOME NOISE" declaration on the smaller scoreboards that ring around the stadium…(C) cheerleaders who walk the aisles and motivate the crowd one section at a time. The Halos broke out (A) and (B) before the start of this half-inning. ((C) is actually a staple at the Padres' PETCO Park.)

Bottom of the 9th - A's still lead 6-3 and Brad Ziegler is on to close it out. 3B/A's irritant Chone Figgins singles, then advances to second. He comes home on a one-out single by Bobby Abreu and, just like that, the tying run comes to the plate. Thankfully, it's Vlad Guerrero who strikes out on three pitches. Only 160 more games with this gimp, Orange County! Torii Hunter whiffs to end it. Huzzah!

10:30 PM – 12:45 AM - The forecast called for rain, but save for a brief misting of drizzle in the middle of the game, things remained dry. I'd wondered where the rain had gone until I found it on Interstate 5, about 10 miles south of Anaheim. And, look…our usually laughable levels of precipitation brought all its friends for my ride home! Pretty much bumper-to-bumper for close to 90 minutes. On a Tuesday. In the late evening.

I (heart) you, too, Southern California.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

TBG Recipe: Sassy Tuna Salad

Current Weight: 169.4 lbs.

Back when Mrs. Bootleg and I were just Girlfriend n' Boyfriend Bootleg, we split the cooking responsibilities almost equally. Over time, Mrs. Bootleg has assumed control of the kitchen and I'd be lying if I said I was uncomfortable with this arrangement. These days, my culinary contributions are few and far between, but there's still one dish I dust off semi-regularly.

The city of San Diego endured a rare, rainy Saturday this past weekend, so I rolled to the store and picked up fixins for what I call "sassy tuna salad". A more appropriate description would be "spicy tuna salad", but I daresay there's not another tuna salad out there that captures the stereotypical ethnic attitude of the 1970s and 1980s.

This is the only recipe that I can legitimately claim as my own. Mrs. Bootleg believed my last batch was the best ever and it just so happened to be the first time I ever actually measured the ingredients, instead of going by taste-n-feel:


One (1) 12-ounce can Bumblebee-brand chunk light tuna in water (Don't cheap out here, kids. This'll run you between $3 and $4, but it's worth it.)

1/3 cup of mayonnaise

1 tablespoon of sweet relish

1/4 cup of diced tomatoes (I use 1/3 cup, but your mileage may vary)

1/4 cup of finely diced onions

1 heapin' tablespoon of chopped fresh cilantro

3 or 4 small pickled chili peppers (stemmed), finely diced (seeds and all)

Dash of black pepper

1.) Drain tuna (sorry, gotta assume I'm writing for men, here) and flake into a medium-sized bowl.

2.) Add mayonnaise and relish; stir thoroughly.

3.) Add tomatoes and onions, stir thoroughly some more.

4.) Add cilantro and chili peppers, stir thoroughly some more. Again.

5.) Hit it with a shot of pepper and stir one last time.

Personally, I think it tastes infinitely better when tightly covered and left in the refrigerator overnight. Mrs. Bootleg, however, hovers like a horsefly until I declare it "done", then swoops in for some.

Serving recommendation: This'll make the best tuna melt you'll ever eat or serve it as an hors d'oeuvre with the criminally underrated Olive Oil & Cracked Pepper-flavored Triscuit crackers. Classy!

Tom's Ten Thoughts on Citi Field

M'man Tom Daniels went to the Mets' official opener for Citi Field last night. He's got a great write-up on his blog and I regret opting for "dinner with my family" after I got home, rather than watching the Padres and Mets go at it. Anyways, my favorite snippet:

I don't have kids, but the "Fanfest" area is pretty awesome. They have a "scale version" of Citi Field (Kiddie Field) where kids can hit wiffle balls off a tee and run the bases. In dead center field is even a mini-Diamond Vision screen where you can catch replays.

A mini-Diamond Vision for the kids' field? C'mon, New York…I mean, really?

Nick MUST Contribute More to my Blog

From That Connecticut Guy:

Let me get this straight...last night the Rays had a ceremony that "raysed" the "AL Champion" banner??? Is that worse than your Oakland A's AL West Champions T shirt (get 'em while they're still in the playoffs)?

Or my 1995 Division Series Yankees vs. Mariners T shirt?

The Nick Swisher media crush is nearing Obama levels. Swisher pitching last night (I did enjoy him striking out that douchebag Kapler) got more coverage than the Rays' 15 runs.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

TBG TV: Parks and Recreation

One Sentence Premise: Mockumentary about small-town government and the quirky people who always seem to populate small towns…at least on TV.

Starring: Amy Poehler as goofball bureaucrat "Leslie Knope"; molten-hot mulatto ("mulatta"?) Rashida Jones as concerned citizen "Ann Perkins"; with Paul Schneider, Aziz Ansari, Aubrey Plaza, Nick Offerman and Chris Pratt as "the rest of the cast".

The Best Thang: Created by Greg Daniels (The Office) and the late Ken Tremendous, the show's behind-the-scenes pedigree earns it at least one viewing.

The Worst Thang: The casting is – to be kind – curious. Poehler is heaped with praise by the native New Yorkers and aspiring entertainment industry employees who make up 99% of Saturday Night Live's viewing audience, but I don't see it. There's a fine line between "goofy" and "grating". And, save for Ansari's "Tom Haverford", the rest of the characters come across as awfully unlikeable.

Verdict: I laughed exactly once during last Thursday's premiere (Haverford laying down an awesome stream-of-consciousness attempt to pick-up Ann). On the other hand, Mrs. Bootleg practically peed her panties at the sight of Leslie falling down into the ditch. My wife immediately created a "record series" for this show, so I guess we're both on board. For now.

Friday, April 10, 2009

TBG TV: Lost - "Dead is Dead"

The Good:

How could anyone NOT love the horrendous hairpieces featured this week? We open with a younger Charles Widmore – on horseback, no less – looking like a permed-out Prince Valiant. Later, we get a flashback of younger Ben rocking the k.d. lang look. I didn't want the wigs to end!

I've never known what to make of the John Locke character. He's got a terrific back story and a compelling presence, but he's been so easily duped over the years, that it's hard to wholly get behind him. (And, don't give me that "it's a part of his charm" jibber-jabber.) Well, it appears that death has finally smartened him up. Locke's cynical, disbelieving tone towards everything out of Ben's mouth was awesome. And, the subtlety of Locke putting his feet up on Ben's old desk (along with Ben's quick WTF look of disgust) was a clear rewrite of the island's org chart.

I'll concede that it was WAY over the top, but Ben's hasty, overt manipulation of Caesar was hilarious. I'm a little disappointed that, on appearances, Caesar doesn't seem like the type who'd trust anyone – especially someone who's so obviously is in it for himself, but I guess we're too late in the game for the slow burn-style of storytelling.

Ben's brilliant bit of double-talk to Sun ("I didn't know this would happen!") and Locke ("I KNEW this would happen!") was a kick. Here, now, are some original suggestions on how to make Lost even better: One, Poochie Ben needs to be louder, angrier, and have access to a time machine. Two, whenever Poochie's Ben's not onscreen, all the other characters should be asking "Where's Poochie Ben"? Three...

"I was just hoping for an apology."

The Bad:

Sorry, Losties…I know you've flooded your little message boards and viewing parties with unrestrained rage for Caesar, but I was intrigued to see where they were going with him. That he was gunned down so ignominiously (how do you NOT know that the sawed-off shotgun in your satchel is missing?!) has me hoping there's more to his story.

The whole sequence with the ghost of Alex confronting Ben was ridiculous. I mean, come ON. This deceased delicate flower is tossing Ben around like a rag doll and making threats? Was this supposed to be scary? The writers (and make-up team) couldn't have left the gaping bullet wound in her head or something?

I also wasn't feeling the Ben/Desmond/Penny scene. It's obvious that Ben could've killed Penny whenever he wanted, but he (1) calls his archenemy and announces his intentions (2) he opts for broad daylight (3) it's only a few hours before he's got to catch a plane (have any of YOU ever tried to fly out of LAX?) (4) he doesn't make sure Desmond is dead and (5) he doesn't kill Penny. Look, I'm fine with a more nuanced motivation for Ben, but don't try'n cram a few flashback moments of "Gentle Ben" and think I'm going to buy that this monster has a heart.

Verdict: Easily one of the best episodes of the season. The role reversal between Ben and Locke was long overdue and worth the wait. No Jack, Kate or Hurley, either? Woo! I still don't have any reason to give a damn about Ilana or the latest batch of castaways, but next week is lined up to be all about Miles, anyway. That's worth another "woo".

Thursday, April 9, 2009

TBG Travel Diary: Anaheim, CA – Part I

Tuesday, April 7

2:45 PM - I'm trying to explain to my five-year-old baseball-loving son why he can't go with daddy to the A's/Angels game in Anaheim later in the evening. "J, it's a really long drive"…"J, they say it might rain"…"J, we'll go to plenty of games this year"

(I'm almost starting to feel guilty…until Mrs. Bootleg dusts off her usual "Aaron's going out with his friend(s)" performance. The 2:45 PM show included a dramatic shuffle to the couch, where she gingerly laid down while exaggeratedly rubbing her temples. With her last gasps of breath, she softly asked for an Advil-n-water cocktail. Mrs. Bootleg then closed her eyes and awaited the reaper, apparently.)

4:00 PM - I have no clue if Mrs. Bootleg is still alive, but on the bright side, I've made almost record time to Anaheim. Armed with my iPod and the last known active satellite radio account, I reached the off-ramp in less than 75 minutes. Will Smith didn't make time like this while he was driving the main drag in I Am Legend. I don't see many movies anymore, so that's the best, timeliest reference I've got. HATED the movie, though. Smith doesn't "act", so much as he "makes faces". Moving on.

4:15 PM - M'man Smitty rolls up. I've known him since ninth grade. Of the 800 A's fans left in America, he and I are the only two who've never lived in the Bay Area. We've been doing these A's/Angels games in Anaheim since 1989. Ours is a unique friendship. He's white, I'm black. He's bald, I'm only balding. He's ultra-conservative, I'm a "socialist" and a "fascist", who "deep down inside secretly longs for a cold-hearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule me like a king". His words. Mostly.

4:30 PM - Our favorite pre-game watering hole is apparently under new ownership. It's still a sports bar, but everything is…a little off. I beat Smitty to the obvious "the fire hydrants here are YELLOW!" Simpsons quote. In his defense, though, Smitty's acidic wit may have been in remission as our scantily-clad server bore an uncanny resemblance to WWE Diva Michelle McCool. Aaron approves.

4:45 PM - This is my first experience with Kona Brewing Company's Fire Rock Pale Ale. Due to the myriad of meds I've been on, I haven't had much of a chance to expand my beer snobbery in recent weeks. Consequently, I don't want to exaggerate the moment…but, this beer was the equivalent of m'man Deion Sanders coming back to baseball after a three year absence and going 3 for 4 with a home run, 3 RBI and a stolen base in his first game back with the Reds in 2001.

5:15 PM - Smitty is absolutely apoplectic. ESPN's is about to air the finals of the women's NCAA basketball tournament. During the pre-game, one of the topics of discussion was whether a Louisville win over Connecticut would be the greatest upset in sports history. ALL of sports history. As in men and women. There are few things Smitty is passionate about. Ironically enough, the complete list is: his wife, his daughter and keeping women in their place. Put it this way: he's the only white man on earth who regularly quotes the semi-famous line from James Evans on Good Times: "The kitchen and the bedroom, Florida! The kitchen and the bedroom!"

6:00 PM - Our seats are in Section 127-Row P. Field level, overlooking first base. These were someone's season tickets, so Smitty and I are getting the usual "uh oh, A's fans!" ribbing from Angels fans. 20 years ago, we took pride in how obnoxious we could be – former Angel Rob Ducey flipped us the bird during one game, reliever Mike Fetters threw the remains of his in-game meal at us in another – but, in our old age, we just want to watch the game, people. We've matured.

6:15 PM - OMG~! The amount of hotness here tonight is INSANE! The Angels' fanbase may be a fatuous n' fair-weather lot, but the young women who come to games here are the best-looking in baseball. There is a downside, however, as the 18-to-24-year-old groupies are equaled by the 40-and-over cougars who've been demoted to slump-busters for the coaches, broadcasters and uglier ballplayers.

6:30 PM - For the third or fourth straight Angels/A's game I've attended, I'm wearing the psychedelic yellow throwback jersey of former A's arm John "Blue Moon" Odom. We've had a nice little winning streak in those games and it's entirely attributable to me. As previously posted, Odom lives in the area and is an Angels season ticket holder himself. His wife saw my jersey and chatted me up. Favorite revelation: she HATES Reggie Jackson. I can't do her tone any justice. Let's just say Reggie had better not be walking alone at night in her neighborhood.

6:55 PM - OK, fans, get out your scorecards ("score…cards"?) here's the starting line-up for the visiting Oakland Athletics! Hmmm…second game of the season and Matt Holliday is nowhere to be found. Smitty and I immediately think the worse. (After the game, the A's announced that Holliday simply had the scoots.) Speaking of cynicism, our starting pitcher – making his Major League debut – Trevor Cahill!

Hey, where's that ominous music coming from?

Next: A's vs. Angels!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

TBG Eats: The "Two Chili Dogs for $3.00" Deal at Carl's Jr.

Current Weight: 170.8 lbs.

"I really think you guys hit the wife lottery... but then again, I'm biased."
- Mrs. CT, speaking of herself and Mrs. Bootleg.

And, I can't really argue.

Last night, my Oakland A's opened their 2009 season with a resounding THREE g*ddam hits in falling to the hated Angels, 3-0. But, Mrs. Bootleg more than earned her keep, by commemorating Opening Day with the first ever theme dinner since we've been together. She threw some Hebrew Nationals on the ol' propane Jane and brought home a ginormous sack of peanuts. Old Lady Bootleg even let me and Jalen watch the game on TV while we ate!

Trust me: I would TOTALLY plan a theme meal for her if I knew what any of Mrs. Bootleg's interests were.

The point is that a grilled hot dog is one of God's greatest gifts to humanity. I'm not saying we should put it up there with "His only begotten Son", but is Top 20 too presumptuous? Top 30? Still too blasphemous? Top 50?

Carl's Jr. – like every other fast food restaurant with an insincere corporate conscience – has been offering inexpensive featured menu items in attempt to appeal to those affected by the current economy. Way back in 1991, the chain commemorated 50 years by bringing back their hot dogs. The first Carl's Jr. "restaurant" was actually a hot dog stand, which started up in 1941.

I fondly remember those hot dogs from almost 20 years ago. They were gigantic, phallic and fabulous. Oh, and most importantly…they were grilled.

The cut-rate version that Carl's Jr. is selling today is microwaved. Microwaved~! I expect that method from busy college students who are pressed for time or lazy, indifferent fathers who need something fast at 8:00 PM, because they forgot to feed Jalen their kids.

The hot dog here is bland and mushy. It's topped with watery chili, yellow mustard and onions. No shredded cheese. None.

Y'know those pretentious twits who take great pride in not eating hot dogs ("Do you know what they PUT in those things?!")…these abominations-in-a-bun should be Exhibit A in their eternal, uninteresting argument.

Grade: 1 (out of 5)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Top 10 Eats That Mathan Misses Most

Longtime readers of mine might remember "J.A.M." "The Minority Report". Earlier this decade, I teamed with fellow music zone writers Jeff Fernandez and Mathan Erhardt, forming an unoriginal first-initial acronym 2002 Tom Cruise movie reference/super-group that held down the Thursday, Friday and Saturday music beats.

I've had the pleasure of meeting both of 'em and the honor of featuring their writing within the confines of this lightly-read blog. Jeff was nice enough to contribute a pair of international food reviews, while below, m'man Mathan gets all bi-coastal

So, just under a year ago, Bootleg commissioned me to write about the West Coast eateries that I missed the most since my relocation to Baltimore. And now five months after I finished writing it, I finally got around to typing it up and sending it Aaron.

Thus, here are the ten places whose food I miss the most, in alphabetical order.

Baja Fresh

Baja Fresh shouldn't be on this list. It should be excluded mainly because there are a few in Maryland. But my beef is that there isn't one in the city. I used to work across the street from a Baja Fresh in Vegas. Across the street. It was my Monday routine; get off of work, cross the street get the awesome Nacho Burrito (rice, beans, chicken, cheese, nacho sauce, jalapenos), get on the bus and go home a happy man. That was every Monday. And I can't tell you how much I'd kill for a case of the Mondays now.

Carl's Jr.

I didn't really think that I was going to miss Carl's Jr. I mean I'm not the biggest fan of the Roast Beef Burger (which was overkill) and the Lo-Carb Six Dollar Burger was just an edible fiasco. However I'm a huge fan of the "Six Dollar Burger" concept. I loved the Teriyaki Burger. I really dug the Mushroom Burger too. Oh and the Cap'n Crunch Shake was a genius addition to the menu. Plus Carl's Jr. was literally just around the corner from the crib, so it was uber convenient.

Del Taco

My heart yearns for Del Taco. You have no idea how much I miss the #12 ( a chicken taco, a Big Fat chicken taco, fries and a cherry coke) which I'd always upsize to macho. Del Taco is what I miss the most because it literally melds the best of both worlds; tacos and fries. Their fish tacos are the best you'll find in a drive thru and their shakes are darn fine too. My world is darker without Del Taco in it.


Eegee's isn't in Vegas, but it's in Tucson, but knowing that I’m time zones (plural) away, kills me. In terms of good they stand out only because they have grinders. Not subs or hoagies, but "grinders" which is rare for Tucson. But they're really unique because they have the Eegee. It's really hard to quantify what an Eegee is. It's like a smoothie only without the dairy. It's like a Slurpee only not as sweet, more thick and with real fruit. Any Tucsonan will tell you that nothing is more refreshing than an Eegee on a typical triple-digit summer day. At this very moment my mouth is watering thinking about a half strawberry half pina colada Eegee. Gah!

Farm Basket

I don't even know where to begin with Farm Basket. Apparently it's a bit of a Vegas institution. From what I can surmise the selling point is basically for people who crave hearty, Thanksgiving-ish meals, year round. They've got turkey on the menu. They've actually got a "Turkey Steak Dinner." They've also got some honey biscuits that were completely oversold to me. The real reason why Farm Basket makes my list is because of the Cluck e' Tos. Chicken taquitos doesn't really do justice to the product. It comes with some watered down salsa that would be lame if it didn't completely compliment the taquitos. Plus they are awesome fresh, lukewarm or even after your roommate left them in the microwave for a couple of hours while you were at work.


I used to miss Fatburger more than I do at this moment. I fell in love with Fatburger because of the specialty burgers. They had one called the Saucy Burger. It was basically a mouthwatering cheeseburger, cooked before your eyes with just the right amount of A-1 Sauce to spice things up. Sadly for Fatburger (but fortunately for me) Five Guys has pretty much the same thing here in Baltimore and it's on my way to work. But I do miss the Fatburger ritual, which usually involved leaving a midnight movie premiere at a casino, venturing into the food court and having a thoughtful discussion about the flick we'd just watched.

Grande Tortilla Factory

The Grande Tortilla Factory, in Tucson, is the place that I probably hold the dearest to my heart. I literally grew up eating their food. A few blocks away from where my mom used to work, they were the place for a quick lunch or the place to grab dinner to take home. It's one of those awesome family owned places and they've seen me transform from a baby in my mom's arms to a grown man who has to stop by every time he's in town. Their quesadillas were the best thing I've ever tasted and sadly due to a specific ingredient being discontinued, they are no more. I love their little chicken tacos and their cheese enchiladas. They provided the food for my soul, which is why I'm so depressed since it just closed it's doors.

Jack in the Box

Jack-in-the-Box is really the reason why I wrote this. At work this fellow well traveled coworker and I came to the conclusion that JitB has the best value menu. Eggrolls, tacos, chicken tenders, two kinds of fries and onion rings. And that's just what I can remember. The Sourdough Jack will always have a special place in my heart. Sure the sandwich makes for greasy hands, but the sourdough bread is practically a delicacy compared to regular fast food buns. I was fond of the relatively new Sirloin Burgers; they were some hefty burgers and I don't know if that void can ever be filled.

Naked Fish

My longing for Naked Fish is comparable to my longing for my ex; I miss both immensely. Granted Naked Fish was more of a group activity. A cabal of coworkers would go there after work and splurge on sushi. But Naked Fish is a straight up great local sushi spot. First off, it's off The Strip, but still has a view fit for a postcard. The service is friendly and the prices are reasonable, for sushi. I'm a fan of the salmon sashimi, the cat eye roll and you can't go wrong with blue fin tuna. And I'm telling you it's got the perfect view of The Strip; it's from a distance.

Roberto's Taco Shop

Roberto's is the perfect late night spot. They're open 24 hours and the food is greasy. It's a (relatively) authentic Mexican food take out place. It's got enchiladas and tamales, which I love. Everything comes with refried beans and lettuce, so everything is like a combo. The price point is under $6 and they've got a value menu, which has a burger on it, so it borders ironic. They're all over the place. They're like the Mexican food equivalent of In N Out; it may not live up to the expectations, but it's something you've got to experience.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

That Betting Guy: 2009 MLB Over/Unders

In my never-ending search for quality blog fodder – to say nothing of the opportunity to revisit this post six months from now with my pockets a LOT lighter – I thought I'd give my readers an opportunity to make a little early Kwanza money.

The over/unders for team wins during the 2009 Major League baseball season are a part of every sports book on earth, at the moment. Below, Tom Daniels and I offer up our top five over/under bets for the upcoming campaign. Just to up the "embarassivity quotient", I will now disclose that I laid a c-note on my Angels call (-115) and another on the Rangers to win the West (+1000). Read these in declining order of confidence:

Aaron sez:

Los Angeles Angels – 88.5 wins: Make no mistake…the Angels, when healthy, are the cream of the American League West. But, (1) the AL West could be historically awful this year and (2) the Angels aren't all that healthy. They'll be without their three best starting pitchers until at least May and their defense will bleed extra runs all year. UNDER.

Texas Rangers – 74.5 wins: I think the Rangers are a very real dark-horse candidate to take the division. They've quietly put together a hell of an offense with guys you've heard of (Josh Hamilton) and guys you haven't (1B Chris Davis, 2B Ian Kinsler). Yeah, they'll go as far as their pitching, but Texas won 79 games with a subpar staff last year. OVER.

New York Yankees – 95.5 wins: I had my doubts about the Yanks in '09, anyway, but when they chose league-average OF Xavier Nady over the more productive Nick Swisher, that sealed the deal. So much of their offense depends on unlikely turnarounds and the miracle of sustained production and good health. The starting arms should be fine, but the bridge to Mo Rivera isn't exactly dependable. UNDER.

Oakland A's – 82.5 wins: Dallas Braden (career: 6-12, 5.44 ERA) is our Opening Night starter. The rotation includes two guys (Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill) who've never pitched more than 124 innings in a professional season. The "much improved" offense is too reliant on old guys (Jason Giambi, Nomar Garciaparra), declining guys (Orlando Cabrera, Nomar) and injury-prone guys (Eric Chavez, Nomar). UNDER.

San Diego Padres – 70.5 wins: The Pads will be in contention for "worst team in baseball" all season long. They feature just two legitimate hitters (Adrian Gonzalez, Brian Giles) and two dependable starting pitchers (Jake Peavy, Chris Young). But, Giles and Peavy are all but guaranteed to be moved to contenders during the season, while the team's 29th ranked farm system has nothing in the pipeline to replace them. UNDER.

Tom sez:

Boston Red Sox - 94.5 wins: The division has the reigning American League Champions and a Yankee team that just spent a quarter billion dollars on new contracts. The Yankees may be paying CC and Teixeira well in to their twilight years, but the front end should be worth it. At least one team in this division isn't hitting 95 wins, and my money goes on the team who just replaced David Ortiz (Boston)/Manny with David Ortiz (Minnesota)/Kevin Youkilis. UNDER.

Kansas City Royals - 75.5 wins: The thing that keeps the Royals above .500 is Major League Baseball's decision to schedule them against half the NL Central every year. Even with the free wins, they still only managed 75 wins last year. And I'm supposed to find a 76th? In the AL? Pass. UNDER.

Florida Marlins - 76.5 wins: They have mostly the same team they did last year and almost their entire nearly-free roster is on the right side of 30. The really scary part about this team (as it was a couple years ago) is that Loria could sign a few free agents and this team would be unstoppable-good. Fortunately, he's still whining and stomping his feet and making the team almost a contender instead of a real one. Good for me. Not only do I love this bet, but I love the Marlins as a sleeper for the NL Wildcard. The other two divisions are still pretty bad, the Braves barely improved, and the Phillies are already battling injuries in April. Besides all that, they have probably the best overall player in the league, a solidly mediocre pitching staff, and a guy who might wind up being the league's second best player in Cameron Maybin. This group has only been getting better. OVER.

New York Mets - 88.5 wins: The Mets are a 90-win team on paper. The problem is they were a 90-win team on paper for the last two seasons. I think they are probably going to come out the gate huge. My hesitation at booking them for a 90-win season is a really bad feeling their 2 and 3 starters are going to do a stint or two on the DL. Oliver Perez is out of shape because he spent most of Spring Training not pitching in the WBC and John Maine has been injury-plagued for two seasons. My gut feeling is over, so that's the way we'll go. OVER.

Cleveland Indians - 85.5 wins: While I'm not one of the fools expecting Cliff Lee to remain Pedro Martinez, I love the Tribe to bounce back this year and take the division from the White Sox. The Indians lost a significant weapon last year with Hafner's injury and, if he's even three-quarters of what he was, that makes them a lot better than they were last year. I love them for the Central and I love them here. OVER.

30 A's in 30 Days – 2009 Oakland A's Prediction

Offense - This was a terrible offensive team last year and I'm not entirely convinced that all of their local-media-approved "improvements" are going to help. Anonymous All-Star Matt Holliday has the onus of proving his career-long Shane Victorino-esque numbers away from Coors Field can be improved enough to justify his spot in the middle of the order. Elsewhere, this lineup is pocked with aging stars in obvious decline; a few certain disabled list visits; and some best-case-scenario league average production.

Defense - The A's have fielded some of the better defensive units in the league over the last few years and most projections have them in the top half this year, too. The keystone combo of Mark Ellis and Orlando Cabrera should be fun to watch and catcher Kurt Suzuki is a…uh…what's the politically correct way to say "kamikaze behind the plate who's unafraid of collisions and calls a good game"? Ryan Sweeney is a bit stretched in center, but at least the Jack Cust Experience in RF appears to have run its course.

Starting Pitching - A few days ago, I heard a comparison of this staff to the one fielded by the 1989-90 Atlanta Braves. 20 years ago, the Braves let their abundance of young talent take their lumps in front of a bad offense (and worse defense). In the end, that on-the-job training allowed Atlanta to find the gems (Glavine, Smoltz, Avery) and weed out the non-talent (Pete Smith, Derek Lilliquist). Same thing here, as our kid pitchers are at least a year away.

Bullpen - Oakland's projected closer, Joey Devine, was put on the 60-day DL and is expected to need ligament replacement surgery. This is a ginormous blow, because it forces the overrated Brad Ziegler into the closer's role and scrambles the remaining relievers' responsibilities.

Prediction - 75-87, 3rd place.

2009 Major League Baseball Quick-Hit Predictions

AL West - Texas Rangers: Shaky pitching, iffy manager, but the offense is THAT good and the division is THAT bad.
AL Central - Minnesota Twins: Every team in division has a glaring flaw, so as long as Joe Mauer gets back soon… (Really soon.)
AL East - Tampa Bay Rays: Better than the Yanks and Sox and, more importantly, younger. It's still a six-month season.
AL Wildcard - Boston Red Sox: Not crazy about 'em, but I can't see any other team reaching 88+ wins.

NL West - Arizona Diamondbacks: I was big on 'em last year and I might've just been a year early. Great young talent on offense.
NL Central - Chicago Cubs: Meanwhile, I eagerly await the first of many Lou Piniella-Milton Bradley blow-ups.
NL East - Philadelphia Phillies: Injury concerns aside, they've got the best home-field advantage in the division.
NL Wildcard - New York Mets: Finally, Tom.

World Series: Rays over Phillies

Saturday, April 4, 2009

TBG Eats: Taco Nachos from Jack in the Box

Current Weight: 168.0 lbs.

I am proud to think of myself as a "Nachos aficionado".

I first discovered nachos as a morbidly obese 11-year-old. Way back then, the only REAL fake Mexican food was served by places like Taco Bell, Pup n' Taco and Naugles. But, my first nachos came from a mall food court after a long afternoon of Track & Field. Of course, I mean the old arcade game. Any real physical activity made my body too jiggly.

Throughout high school and college, all I needed were a few fistfuls of tortilla chips, two slices of American cheese and my family's 1980s microwave. 45 minutes later, I had a hot and gooey/uncooked-in-the-middle masterpiece of food ingenuity.

In the last year, I've conquered Taco Bell's Fully Loaded Artery Napalm and eaten orders of five and seven-layer nachos in a single sitting. I had grown concerned that there was increasingly less and less nacho ground to cover. Taco Bell's nacho monopoly produced only minor derivatives of the chain's ubiquitous Nachos Bell Grande product.

What restaurant could take the same-old nachos to the next level?

"Taco Nachos"? OK, Jack in the Box…I'm officially intrigued.

For just $1.99, here's what you get: several large tortilla chips – with one stacked on top of another – stuffed with JitB's underrated taco meat, an overflowing ladle of authentic imitation nacho cheese, shredded lettuce, jalapeños and fire-roasted tomato salsa.

My friends, if you'll indulge me for a moment. During my last semester at San Diego State, I wrote an exhaustive marketing analysis that focused on Jack in the Box's possible expansion into Asian countries. If Taco Nachos had been the centerpiece of JitB's international campaign, I daresay it would've cured China's communism, cleansed the country's air and restored basic human rights to its oppressed populace.

I didn't want this snack to end. The chips, meat and cheese were the exact same Taco Bell combination, but different in taste and texture. The salsa was better than anything places like Baja Fresh and El Pollo Loco proudly proclaim is "made fresh daily". Even after I'd annihilated the last chip, there remained a plate full of leftover lettuce, peppers and cheese. A Taco Nacho salad!

Best non-Taco Bell, non-ballpark nachos ever. EVER~!

Grade: 500 (out of 5)

Friday, April 3, 2009

TBG TV: Lost - "Whatever Happened, Happened"

The Good:

Jon Gries' turn as Ben Linus' father has been one of the best things to watch this season. He's made the character so much more nuanced than the usual formulaic abusive father. He's hit the right notes of creepiness (his awkward small-talk with Kate in the infirmary) and sympathy (his "I wanted to be the best father in the world" line) while ensuring that he maintains a greater than 50% a-hole persona.

Now, THAT'S the Juliet I've grown to know and begrudgingly tolerate! Free from the ridiculous domestication of her character, she returned to her take charge ways in confronting Jack, defying Sawyer and fighting to save he who would grow up to be a monster.

The Sawyer-Juliet-Kate-Jack love rectangle appears to have run its course, with Sawyer's "I did it for her (Juliet)" exposition and his weird reveal to Kate that they were never meant to be. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining…but, I had a hard time swallowing the idea that Sawyer somehow broke Kate's heart. That jezebel bounced between Jack and Sawyer depending on which way the wind blew.

Carole Littleton (Susan Duerden) = GMILF

Adult Ben's slow return back to consciousness and his reaction to Locke was gold. The last few weeks have been a welcome reprieve from Locke's pathetic naiveté. Here's hoping death has smartened him up some.

"No, you're all free to leave whenever you want. I'll just shoot you in the leg."

The Bad:

OK…I get what the Hurley/Miles time travel conversation was supposed to be: a wink-n-nudge characterization of the casual fan (Hurley) and know-it-all obsessive message board poster (Miles) discussing the increasingly confusing past-present-future storyline(s). That didn't make it any less annoying to sit through.

I really don't want to turn into "that guy", but come on. Boy Ben's been shot. He's teetering between life and death. The only way to save him is to take him to The Others. So, Kate and Juliet toss Ben's unconscious body into the back of a Volkswagen bus, without any straps or harness, to be transported (by a woman driver) over several miles of unpaved road?

The whole sequence of flashbacks bugged me. The "Cassidy" character has barely been explored beyond one or two previous Sawyer storylines. But, now, she's this insightful font of relationship wisdom who, seven or eight years later, still hasn't gotten over the guy? That she was so vital in determining the fate of Aaron just seemed contrived. I mean, Jack gave Kate the "Aaron's not yours" speech last season, but NOW Kate's listening? Boo.

There are now two more people who know the truth about the Oceanic castaways. I'm not sure I'm willing to believe that these two people would keep this fantastic information to themselves for long. It's a minor nitpick, sure, but one I hope the writers don't gloss over.

Verdict: Well, I hate Kate, but I'm OK with several scenes of Evangeline Lilly traipsing around in three-inch heels and a knee-length skinny dress. Solid, solid episode, otherwise that provided a reasonable explanation for Kate giving up Aaron, choosing to return to the island and an especially satisfying response to why everyone was so gung-ho to save Boy Ben.