Tag Archives: Dallas Cowboys

Thanksgiving

Greetings all

It’s much easier to focus on what’s wrong and not what’s right about something. To let perfect be the enemy of the good.

Thanksgiving is a perfect example. I’ve seen people complaining for years about how it’s just a time for gluttony, an insult to Native Americans, and it leads into all the greed of Black Friday. There’s some truth to all of these and other complaints.

But there’s so much to appreciate about Thanksgiving that is forgotten when focusing on such things. It’s a time for many people to enjoy spending time with family.

Gluttony yes, but also an opportunity to make great food and share it with friends.

It’s also a great day for football. I personally really appreciate it.

I know there are those who love Black Friday in the way a hunter loves the opening day of deer season. Not my thing, but I’m happy for people who enjoy it.

More importantly, Thanksgiving prompts all of us to think about our lives. Cliche though the idea is, it’s a great thing to simply think about what we’re all thankful for. If you don’t do that now, I hope you do that at some point. It will make you happier.

So here are some things I’m thankful for.

My parents. I’m especially thankful my mother has survived breast cancer and that it looks my dad will survive his cancer for many years.

My sweetie. I’ve a great sweetie who puts up with me, despite my abilities to dig myself into a hole by being mouthy. She rocks. She even loved that went I went to see Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood last December that I had them pose with no one in between them so I could caption it as a picture of her with them.

My kitty. She’s a really nice cat who needs more love than I can really give her at times, but she’s still always there purring when I fall asleep.

My job. Writing is hard, but I love it. I’m not successful enough financially at this yet, but I keep plugging away.

Brewbakers. This is a bar in Lenexa that lets me sit here for hours writing and doing my job. In some ways, it feels like my office. Tonya and the rest take good care of me.

My readers. I’m very thankful for those who’ve made it clear that as long as I keep plugging away and doing my best they’ll read my stuff. The most important one in many ways is Cedar Sanderson, who has twice been there with nice things to say at exactly the time I needed nice things the most.

A myriad of *things*. By things, I mean my car, my house, my computer, my scrolls, my books, and all the rest of my stuff. I’m wealthy indeed when it comes to that and I’m thankful for all of it.

Rush. It’s really hard to express how important Rush’s music is to me. It’s been there when I’ve needed it ever since 1980. It’s inspired me many times.

My other favorite artists, authors, and performers. Too long to list, but I’ve admired a lot of great stuff over the years. In 2016, my new passion is Tengger Cavalry, which is Mongolian folk metal.

The Dallas Cowboys. I’m not saying that because they’re doing so well this year, but because they’ve given me a lifetime of great moments, even if some of those moments were some of the saddest in my life. Really, I could just say football. Or frankly, sports.

The SCA. The SCA continually gives me great opportunities to grow. Whether it’s as a person, or a public speaker, a poet, or all the other things, I am much stronger. Also, some of the best friends I’ve ever met.

My friends. Very lucky here, especially as I’m a guy who’s never really been anything but socially awkward. I do better now, but it’s never been easy. Thanks for staying when I’ve screwed up.

There’s so much more, but that’s a fine list. I don’t know about you but seeing it laid out like that makes me much happier.

I often quote Wallace Stevens, “death is the mother of beauty.” The universe gives us bad things that we dwell upon, but that makes all of the good things so much brighter.

Oh, one last thing.

Thanks to all of you for reading this.

 

 

 

Weekly Update: The Unforgiving Minute

Week of 13-19 November

Greetings all

I’ve spent much of this past week re-organizing and cleaning my garage / shop. I’ve made huge progress and can soon do some projects, which is great because I find myself generating writing ideas as I work with my hands.

I’m moving along well on Where Now the Rider, too. I’ve also been working on a few poems, some for the SCA and some for Shijuren. I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll be publishing a collection of Shijuren-themed poetry someday.

In general, I’ve filled the unforgiving minute well.

Quote of the Week
I’m a huge fan of the Dallas Cowboys. Have been since I was 4. Yesterday, Tony Romo, the quarterback of the Cowboys, showed what kind of man he is. I have a blog post about what he did here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=496.

I didn’t intend to quote from Kipling two weeks in a row, but If is too appropriate. Tony Romo has filled his unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run and more.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If, Rudyard Kipling

News and Works in Progress
– Getting Where Now the Rider finished is my main focus right now
– Starting to add things to the wiki from Where Now the Rider. You can find some links below.

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

  • – Decided against going to Toys for Tots to get various projects done
  • – 10 December: Kris Kinder, Kansas City, MO
  • – 22 January: ChattaCon, Chattanooga, TN
  • – 27-28 January: Market Day in Birka, Manchester, NH
  • – 3-5 March: CoastCon, Biloxi, MS
  • – 12-20 March: Gulf Wars, Lumberton, MS

Spotlight
This week’s spotlight is on Amanda S. Green. I especially enjoy the Honor and Duty series she co-writes.

Her author page at Amazon is at: https://www.amazon.com/Amanda-S.-Green/e/B004TYLM96/ref=sr_tc_2_rm?qid=1479327165&sr=1-2-ent

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels
Website: www.robhowell.org
Blog: www.robhowell.org/blog
Shijuren Wiki: http://www.shijuren.org/World+of+Shijuren+Home
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/robhowell.org/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Rhodri2112

Currently Available Works
A Lake Most Deep (Edward, Bk 1)
The Eyes of a Doll (Edward, Bk 2)
I Am a Wondrous Thing (The Kreisens, Bk 1)

Weekly Update Archive

 

Filling the Unforgiving Minute

Social media has been in many ways at its worst this past week because of the election. Lots of man-bites-dog stories, which in all actuality are minimal representations of what a country of 325 million is really about. If only we would report millions of dog-bites-man stories of people being decent to each other, we might realize there are fewer divisions than we think and more ways to resolve those we have.

Yesterday, though, there was a man-bites-dog story about a person acting with class and respect in a situation that many expected would cause strife. Yes, there’s frustration, pain, and anger as you will see, but none of it directed at the only people in reach, people who are not at fault.

What happened? Tony Romo came out and publicly accepted that he would be the backup quarterback to Dak Prescott for the Dallas Cowboys. Here’s the video.

Now, let’s get some perspective. Football is the ultimate team sport, and a failure by any player, coach, or front office guy can be the one thing that prevents a team from winning a Super Bowl. We know mathematically that games decided by 7 points or less are essentially coin tosses. Even the worst team in the NFL consists of talented world-class athletes, and the difference between the top and bottom is simply not much.

Watch  the Immaculate Reception (Google it, it’s a fun play to watch), and tell me if the ball hit the ground. The Steelers don’t win the Super Bowl that year if it did. But the referees said it did not, so Ken Stabler did not get elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame until after his death. An entire legacy hinged on a play that close. This sort of thing happens *every* year again and again.

It’s why we watch sports. The ultimate reality show, where people put everything they have into something and every time someone wins someone else loses.

And it’s why we care about the people, good or bad, justified or not, we care about the players.

Football is a ballet of 11 people moving in an intricate dance. If certain arm angles, foot placements, knee angles, and many other technical details are even an inch incorrect, it can mean the difference between victory and loss. There are a maximum of 20 games that matter in a season, and each one might be the one that shapes a season or a career.

Out of 32 teams, there’s only 1 Super Bowl winner. E pluribus unum, indeed.

Tony Romo will be criminally underrated unless he is the quarterback of a Super Bowl winning team, but for the bulk of Tony Romo’s career, the talent around him has been continually overrated. I can go for hours about that.

I can also talk about bad luck. Many remember the botched snap against the Seahawks in the playoffs, but don’t realize that the NFL had seen that happen a number of times that year and was already planning to change to a different ball for kicks because the ones they were using were too hard to handle. Then there’s the catch by Dez Bryant against the Packers in 2014. I can go on about that too.

I’ve watched him turn bad teams into average teams, average teams into good teams, and good teams into great ones. His results have been especially amazing since he wasn’t even seen as good enough to be drafted. 262 players were drafted in 2003. 13 of them were quarterbacks. 1 of them still plays, Carson Palmer, who is nowhere close to as good as Romo is.

There’s an advanced metric that correlates strongly to winning, it’s called ANY/A, or Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. Basically, it penalizes the bad plays, credits the good plays, and comes up with a total. Tony Romo’s *career* ANY/A is 7.02, which is 5th all-time. Now he benefits from the era, but 5th puts him in the elite quarterback range of this era.

But he’s never had a great team around him.

I know the Cowboys went 4-12 last year, but for the first time in a while I had high hopes for this roster.They invested in the offensive line, giving the team the best one in the NFL. Ezekiel Elliot. A plethora of targets. A great offensive identity. They created a defense that was underrated, but more talented than many realize and designed to make up other talent deficiencies with hustle. A great kicker, perhaps the best in NFL history.

Last year was an aberration. Injuries yes, even more than this year, and there have been a ton of injuries this year too. But also a lot of bad luck, like 2-7 in close games and a league-worst fumble recovery rate, which is also a coin toss. A perfect storm of awful.

This year the luck has rebounded and the Cowboys have been a lucky team. The fumble rate is about average, but they’ve been 4-1 in close games. Can that continue? Not in the long term, but an NFL season is *not* long term. Remember it is, at most, 20 games.

This was to be Tony Romo’s year. After hundreds of hits, years of pounding, playing through a punctured lung, ignoring pain you or I cannot imagine, *this* was to be Tony’s year.

I had higher hopes for this year than any in recent memory, and the 8-1 record, though aided by some luck, validates that hope.

But it’s not been Tony’s year. He got hurt on an odd play with an injury medical professionals repeatedly insist had nothing to do with age, only the odd angle and timing of the play. Just a bad luck play for Romo, but it opened the door for Dak Prescott to take his place. To replace Wally Pipp in the sports lexicon with Tony Romo.

Don’t get me wrong, I was ecstatic when the Cowboys drafted Dak Prescott. I didn’t expect he’d be as good as he’s been so quickly, but I did have high hopes for him. And he’s been good, not as good as Romo as a quarterback, with a number of missed passes and reads and subtle mistakes, but he’s been just as good of a leader. And he’ll help us lift a Lombardi someday, maybe even this year.

Certainly, the Cowboys have played really well this year. 8-1 is a great record, and as Tony said, it’s not easy to do in the NFL. I’m especially pleased with the defense, though things will get tougher in the next few weeks because their strength has been depleted by repeated injuries in the defensive backfield. Still, this is a team that will be favored in most games for the rest of the year and justifiably so. This is a damn good team that can play anywhere.

But. It’s. Not. Been. Tony’s. Year.

As a writer, this is an amazing story. Tony is a tragic figure, one the gods seem to especially love to torture. They put his ultimate goal, a Super Bowl victory just within reach, only to snatch it away time and again. A Prometheus who brought the fire to the Cowboys and has been punished eternally by a vengeful Zeus.

As a fan, I’m watching that tragedy play out. I live and die by the Cowboys each week. I’ve had the pleasure of watching them with 4 Super Bowls, which is more than most fans of any sport can claim. I’ve also watched about 40 years where the didn’t win. I will always want the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl.

Yet I want to see Tony do it before Dak gets his. Tony is a *great* quarterback, better than a number of ones that will get into the Hall of Fame, and in a just world, he should be there eventually.

But it’s not a just world. If he is the quarterback for a Super Bowl winning team, he’ll be seen as one of the greatest ever. Without that Super Bowl win in the ultimate team sport, his legacy will be forgotten.

That would be a great shame.

Now that I’ve said all this stuff, go watch that video again. This is a man whose lifetime dream may elude him once again because of some fluke. *This* is the root of that pain and emotion in that speech. Because he knows. And yet, despite that, despite the eagle eating his liver, Romo stood up and took one for the team. As Mike Fisher, one of the reporters who cover the Cowboys said, “he threw himself on the quarterback controversy grenade.”

After all of this, I leave you with Kipling, the third stanza in particular.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.

Tony has filled his unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run and more.

 

World Fantasy Con AAR

Greetings all

I’m mostly recovered from the drive back from World Fantasy Con. In all honesty, it was a fairly easy drive, helped by the fact that the tough part of the drive consisted of the Cowboys v. Eagles game on the radio so I was never close to falling asleep. Ranting in frustration a few times, yes, but never sleepy.

Oh, by the way, 6-1 and a 2-game lead in the NFC East is not something I predicted for this team, especially when Tony went down with injury. But I sure will take it.

Anyway, back to World Fantasy Con. I’ll probably do a real football post later.

First, I want to thank my friend Mary for giving me a place to stay over the weekend. Much as I prefer to stay at the hotel for extra chances to socialize, it’s can get so expensive.

I knew I would not get enough sales at the con to pay for the trip, which was correct, but I did get to talk to a bunch of new people and added quite a few to my mailing list. Bit by bit, I’m reaching out.

I moderated two panels, one on fantasy in the American heartland and then the impact of George RR Martin on fiction. These panels went really well. I don’t know that we discovered anything earth-shattering or surprising, but we covered the topics well enough that I received quite a few compliments on the panels in general and my skill in moderating as well. I actually really enjoy moderating panels so I hope that helps me get a reputation so I get more opportunities to moderate.

Because I was in the Dealer’s Room most of the time, I did not do a ton of socializing, except for those people who chatted with me at my table. I barely partook of any of the rest of the con, which is one reason I will probably not get a table at a World/World Fantasy Con again. The other reason, of course, is cost. They’re some of the most expensive cons around in terms of dealer tables.

I’d like to tell all of you more about World Fantasy Con, but in truth that’s pretty much all I can talk about. I was either at my table or in a panel, with a little socializing in the bar when I could afterwards.

Overall, though, I would have to say it was worth the time and effort. I did get to meet quite a few people. To a great extent, that’s the whole purpose of cons is to meet people and get my name out there. And that’s what I did.

 

Weekly Update: A National Holiday

Greetings all

I’ve had a productive week, though not necessarily with all of the things I had intended to do. Saturday I did a reading at the Kansas Authors Club meeting. Had a great time. You can find my AAR on my blog at: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=447. Of course, Sunday was for me a national holiday, the first full Sunday of the NFL. While I was disappointed in the Cowboys loss against the Giants, I can take solace in the quality play from Dak Prescott. He looks very impressive.

Quote of the Week

This week’s quote is particularly apt, given that had the Cowboys had 3 more seconds, they might very well have one the game.

“We didn’t lose the game; we just ran out of time.”
– Vince Lombardi

Works In Progress
– Worked on making a list of future events and ensuring I was added to their panels.
– I am also making progress on the next Edward novel, which will be called Where Now the Rider. Tentative release date is 30 November.

 News
– The updated electronic version of The Eyes of a Doll is now live on Amazon. If you already own it, you can add wiki links by contacting Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/clicktocall (phone) or http://www.amazon.com/clicktochat
(chat).
– I’ve been working on some new events to attend. I can confirm I’ll be at Time Eddy in Wichita from October 14-16.
Upcoming Events
– Morning 10 September: Reading at Corinth Library, 8100 Prairie Village, Kansas for the Kansas Author’s Club from 9:30am to 1pm.
– Afternoon10 September: King’s Company of Archers in Smithville, MO
– 16-18 September: Dodecacon in Columbia, MO
– 23-25 September: Gryphon’s Fest in Warrenton, MO
– 30 September – 2 October: Kansas Author’s Club convention in Lawrence, KS
– 8 October: Calontir Fall Crown in Omaha, NE

– 14-16 October: Time Eddy in Wichita, KS

Spotlight
I’m adding a new feature to my email. Here I’ll be including a link to someone or something I think is cool. This week I’m pointing you at the Kickstarter that my artist, Patrick McEvoy, is working on. As you know, I think he’s a fantastic artist and he’s lending his talents to another noir-themed mystery, this one a graphic novel that blends Cthulhu with Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. You can find more info at:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/309827462/casefile-arkham-her-blood-runs-cold?ref=project_tweet

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels
Website: www.robhowell.org
Blog: www.robhowell.org/blog
Shijuren Wiki: http://www.shijuren.org/World+of+Shijuren+Home
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/robhowell.org/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Rhodri2112

Currently Available Works
A Lake Most Deep (Edward, Bk 1)
The Eyes of a Doll (Edward, Bk 2)
I Am a Wondrous Thing (The Kreisens, Bk 1)

Weekly Update Archive

Pennsic 2016 AAR

On June 14 I left for SCA 50 Year. Exactly 2 months later, 61 days, I’ve returned from Pennsic. In the intervening time I have been home for 8 days. It’s so nice to be in *my* chair.

I took some extra time on the trip to do something important, and that was have a wonderful picnic with my apprentice Judith. Between my schedule and her health we haven’t had much time since she accepted a belt from me last November. We went to a park and watched ducks and talked about all sorts of things. She’s been working on lacework. Beautiful, intricate, and something I could never do. She’s amazing.

Also, by traveling slower I can stop and work along the way. If I schedule an extra day or two I really don’t suffer much loss of productivity.

It’s important to get to Pennsic early for me because of the bardic circle I sponsor on the first Monday at Pennsic. I can’t remember if it’s been five or six years since I decided to do it, but it’s been something I very much look forward to. Apparently, I’m not the only one, as this year the circle was huge. Lots of great performers. Lots of great people.  So many people I ran out of chairs. Many thanks to His Highness Atlantia for sending his people for spare benches. So many people I ran out of water. Many thanks to Her Excellency Belanna for loaning me a flat of water.

Really pleased so many people showed up, though, and I’ll have more of both next year.

On Tuesday the 2nd, we opened Drix’s booth. From Wednesday through Friday the 12th I spent most of my time there, arriving 10ish each day and leaving 6ish most days.

Overall, my time there was extremely productive, though I did not reach my sales goal. There is context, however, last year was Drix’s largest year ever and this was towards the slow end so I probably had much more traffic last year. Also, last year had significantly better weather, and book sales at events are affected dramatically by the weather.

I got a lot done when I wasn’t selling, though. I worked through what I’m discovering is the hardest part of writing books, the 5-20k word range. This part involves a lot of writing – cutting – rewriting – cutting – and so on. I’m taking the basic idea and forming the exact pattern with all of this rewriting. I think I have the structure for Where Now the Rider going.

I have to take this moment to thank Nicolaa. She reviewed The Eyes of a Doll in the Pennsic Independent. Last year, she gave me a great review on ALMD in the Independent right when I needed the emotional boost. I was pleased to receive another good review from her, and I had at least one person buy a book because of it. Thanks much, Nicolaa.

As traffic increased in the second week, I shifted to retrofitting  ALMD and TEOAD to include links to wiki entries for all the people, places, and weird stuff on the e-book versions. I completed ALMD and it is now live in updated form. I also made progress on TEOAD. The feedback I’ve had both from people who have already bought I Am a Wondrous Thing and those looking at it has been, without exception, positive. I’ve been really anxious to get these done, and editing wiki entries is great for higher traffic days as I can step away at a moment’s notice.

A side note. My new package through Verizon is expensive, but I now have a ton of data and the wifi hotspot feature allowed me fast wifi even at Pennsic. I’m excited about some of the possibilities that this freedom will give me.

As for Pennsic as Pennsic, I had a reasonably good time. I’m really glad I’ve lost some weight, as between my job, my responsibilities to help around the shop, and the things I contribute to the party, I was swamped. I did not have energy to go out and seek parties after working, but I did have the energy to hang out in the Royal Pavilion most nights. That’s perhaps my favorite part, anyway.

My big highlight of the war was the opportunity to herald TRMs Logan and Ylva into opening court. As we chatted beforehand, I made a whimsical comment, and Logan said, “I like that.” and so I heralded them into court as “Logan the well-beloved and Ylva the one we actually like!”

Prior to court, in the waiting for things to start, was another highlight when Ealdormere and Calontir sang songs back and forth at each other. Really good time, especially since Garraed made a cameo.

Wednesday through Friday was still extremely hard. I was in the shop for 14 hours on Wednesday because of Midnight Madness (We’re MAAAAADDDD!). I really like Midnight Madness, but it *is* exhausting. Thursday I tried to work, but barely had an hour and a half there. I came back in time to see Dongal beg the boon for Gavin, which is wonderful.

The Calontir Party is usually a lot of work for me, and this year was no exception. I cleaned the lamps, organized the incinetrons, and set up the bar. There’s no way I could have done all of this if I had not had help. Jack brought me lamps. Ian put them back. Tim Leatherhand helped move the heavy stuff. Emma, the baby huscarl, got the alcohol on Wednesday so I didn’t have to. But my big hero was Demetrios, who volunteered to do the town run to refill the propane bottles we use and get ice. This gave me the chance to get a nap before court.

I needed the nap as I was also TRM’s herald for court. Really happy to see Halvgrimr get created a Laurel in a drive-by ceremony. The best part, I have to admit, is watching Sibilla’s face the moment she realized Fionnuala was begging her boon to make her a Laurel. One of the highlights of being a herald is getting to know what is coming so you can know where and when to look.

After court was the Calontir party. We think it wasn’t as well-attended as some, and the potential for rain might have been a reason, but we still had a great time. Wohlgemut got there fairly early and, as usual, were awesome. We had a good singing circle later on. Really liked Gwen’s new drink, which consisted of lingenberry juice, vodka, and tonic water. I’m calling it the Ikea. Next time we need to garnish it with a meatball stuck on an Allen wrench.

Friday was tough. I was still tired from Wednesday, and I had gotten to bed at 3am after closing the party. I was hoping for a lot of traffic of people following up on their plan to buy books later in the war. However, I only got a few doing so. Ah, well.

I knew I was going to pack down on Saturday morning, so I went to bed fairly early. Unfortunately, I couldn’t sleep and barely got two hours of sleep before waking up 7ish. I was packed and ready to go by 10ish, but I was exhausted. I never once had the idea I would make the drive in one day, though I have done so in the past. I took a nap in Mansfield and I got to Terre Haute at 7:50, just in time to get a hotel so I could watch the Cowboys v. Rams pre-season game. Perfect timing.

Today, I drove the last 7 hours and now my car is completely unpacked. I’ve a ton to do to clean up after a wet, humid Pennsic, including a boatload of laundry, but progress is being made.

Overall, I would call Pennsic another moderate success. I’m definitely making progress in sales, but it’s still tough sledding. I can’t thank Drix enough for giving me the space.

Looking forward, WorldCon is this week. I’m hoping for some sales there, though I don’t anticipate much. I can still hope. After that, I’ve got a few events scheduled, but I’m going to plan out my schedule for the next year. I need to get west of the Rockies to both SCA events and cons, and I need to do so as cheaply as possible.

So I had a good time when I could, worked as much as I could, and got to see cool things happen to good people. I’ll take it.

 

 

More Than Three Toes

I’ve been a sloth since I got back from the trip. I’ve written hardly at all, though I’ve puttered through a number of projects for Pennsic. I think it’s a normal neap tide after a 25-day trip, though I know there are other factors.

My birthday was last week. I turned 48. I survived the day. That might sound sarcastic, but a good friend of mine turned 48 on June 22nd and did not survive the day. I also had a guy I’ve looked up to for over 30 years also pass away recently. The last day of LibertyCon held both of their memorials. What a strange day. Exciting in many ways, but hard. It might be that my sadness from their deaths has stripped me of motivation, but if so, that’s a horrible tribute to both of them.

The truth is that while there’s no major news in my world, things have been going generally well. I have some irons in the fire that might or might not pan out, but we’ll see. Just having these ideas is a great start.

I am starting to get excited about Pennsic. I’ll do a pre-Pennsic post next week. I am upgrading my SCA furniture, which has needed some refurbishing. In particular, I’m replacing a couple of 6-board chests that have seen better days.  At Trillium War I was pleased with how smoothly my setup went, and it will be getting better. I also have a couple of cool ceremonial things happening at Pennsic.

Football season is also on the horizon, as training camps start in about a week. I’ll review my predictions from last year and make my predictions for this year. Injuries killed my Cowboys last year, more than most of you know about, and if they return to simply average luck, the Cowboys will be better than many people think.

I’m also excited about some of my ideas for Where Now the Rider, which while I’ve not been writing it, I have been letting it percolate in my mind. By the end of this novel Edward will be settled in Achrida fully, but it won’t be easy.

I’ve got some SCA things happening, too. I’ve a project that I’ve wanted to start for some time that will commence after Pennsic. I’m sure I’ll talk about it more later on.

The other good news is that I see myself flowing back up from the ebb. Writing this blog post is a definite sign of that. When I’m down I tend to become a hermit crab. In fact, it’s time to get working on something else. Have a great day everyone.

 

 

Random Musings

  • I’m learning so much about how to write each day. I’m editing A Lake Most Deep for the second edition release and I shake my head at the progress I’ve made.
  • Many thanks to Kellie for taking the time to tell me why something is right or wrong, helping me make fewer mistakes, write better, and also find times to break the rules for effect, not ignorance
  • A Lake Most Deep, v2.0 will be a vast improvement but won’t seriously change anything, for those who’ve read it before. It’s mostly better formatting and a better working relationship with my editor. Beth, who edited it the first time, did a fine job, but I still do not really know her. I’ve known Kellie for years and that is a great help to me. Much more collaborative.
  • I’m facing some technical challenges to the big thing I want to announce, so it is delayed, but still coming. I want it to be right before putting it out there.
  • I’ve not liked the NBA for a long time. Frankly, it’s boring basketball, and I’ve long since enjoyed soccer so much more than basketball because it’s more exciting in general. Steph Curry is changing that for me. He might very well be the most skillful basketball player ever. Not the most dominant, that is Wilt Chamberlain, but the most skillful. He has changed the game in a way we’ll only fully understand in retrospect.
  • All that being said about basketball, the one and done format of March Madness, especially on opening weekend, is truly one of the best things ever.
  • I really hope Ron Baker and Fred van Vleet have one more great run in them. Obviously I mean that because I’m a Wichita State fan, but also because I think they’re great kids.
  • I am looking forward to Gulf Wars, and in some ways I’m more excited than I have been in several years. However, it’s becoming more and more an afterthought to…
  • Ealdormere Coronation and Ad-Astra. I’ll be on panels at Ad-Astra, with maybe a reading. That all is a huge step up for me. I’m also going to swing by my grandparents house in Teeswater, which is fairly close to Underwood and Coronation. I’m also contemplating doing something stupid, and going around the Great Lakes. I know it’s much longer, but there’s so much to see.
  • The NFL draft talk is approaching. People keep talking about what Dallas should do, so I will too. Dallas should trade pick 4 for something like pick 8-10 in 2016 plus a 1st in 2017 and some others. The draft chart numbers work for this. The question is whether the Cowboys should take a QB (my preference is Carson Wentz) as a successor to Romo or get better players to surround him. This way you get better players *and* put the Cowboys in position to get a successor next year.
  • Rob’s rule of thumb when trading high picks. Always trade down. More picks means a better chance to get a productive player.

Off to go through a car wash on a lovely day.

Interesting Day

Greetings all

It’s been an interesting day, mostly in a good way.

I had to buy a dryer today, not necessarily a good thing, but because the owner made a mistake I got $100 off. I actually tried to split it with him, but he refused. That’s a good way to start our relationship, Stewart Appliances in Olathe.

A second bonus came in the form of La’el Collins signing with the Cowboys. I feel bad for the kid, who apparently did nothing wrong, but because of the timing of a the murder investigation of a former girlfriend, lost somewhere in the neighborhood of $5million.

In any case, he’s supposed to be a first-round talent at either guard or right tackle. The Cowboys already had probably the best offensive line in the NFL. Now they’re even deeper. Excellent.

Well, that’s enough dawdling. Back to writing.

And They’re Off

Football season is back. The seemingly endless offseason is over. As of this writing, I have -1.70 fantasy points. Thank you Earl Thomas for fumbling. Anyway, here is my quick and dirty assessment of each team and division. If I’m wrong, you can get your money back. Please note, I’m reviewing each team in the order how I think they’ll finish in their division.

AFC East (2013 Finish: Patriots, Jets, Dolphins, Bills)

New England Patriots – It’s hard not to pick the Patriots to win this division, but there are cracks in the armor. They’ve got a goodly amount of defensive talent and depth and I think they’ll stop people. Where I don’t think they have depth is on the offense. I think their offensive line is a huge question mark. I think their wide receivers are nothing more than solid. It’s a truism that if you lose your starting quarterback that you are doomed. This is essentially true of all teams but if Brady goes down I don’t think the Patriots can score and I think they’ll have problems scoring even with him.

Buffalo Bills – This may be a year early but I like what the Bills are doing. If E.J. Manuel can be a solid quarterback, I think they’ll surprise some people. This is a big if, though they have talent around him and an intriguing defense with a good line. I don’t see them winning the division, but in a weak division with no great team they have some interesting possibilities.

Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill has some talent and there are some pieces around him, but the offensive line is weak and will be hammered by all of the other teams in this division. Their secondary is not great. The statistic that has the most correlation to wins is Average Net Yards per Attempt Differential. Basically, the teams that are more efficient throwing compared to their opponent will have the best records. I think Miami won’t be great on offense and will be only alright on defense.

New York Jets – There are a lot of nice pieces here but for some reason the Jets seem to be less than the sum of their parts. Chris Johnson will have a few great games, but won’t be consistent. The same for Geno Smith. Their defensive line is very good, but there are holes in the secondary. They’re going to be inefficient on offense and inefficient on defense. This is a bad recipe.

AFC North (Bengals, Ravens, Steelers, Browns)

Cincinnati Bengals – This team is stacked on offense. They may not have many players at the very top of their position, but they have a lot of good players. Andy Dalton is good, and I think he steps up a little more this year with a number of good players around him including the stellar A.J. Green. They’re solid on both lines, especially defensively. I think they repeat here.

Pittsburgh Steelers – I’m not a huge fan of this team, but I think they will come on later in the season as they are relying upon a number of young players like Ryan Shazier. I think this will pay dividends. Antonio Brown is fantastic, and I would say that if he was not on both of my fantasy teams. This is not a great team, but I can see 9-7 and a wild card berth.

Baltimore Ravens – I have never been a Joe Flacco fan, even though I recognize how well he played in stretch that won them a Super Bowl two years ago. They have pieces on offense and they could be productive and efficient there, but Flacco’s no more consistent than Dalton and Dalton has a better overall offense around him. On defense, don’t be surprised to see the Ravens rack up a lot of sacks but give up a ton of passing yards. Their back seven has holes that good offenses will exploit. They could have a lot of breaks and do better, though of course that’s true of most teams, but I think they take a step back. There’s simply not enough youth on this team to overcome some of the aging.

Cleveland Browns – I can’t pick them higher than last this year, I just can’t. But…., there are more pieces here than most people realize. They have very good to great cornerbacks, and some other nice players on defense. They will hold most teams down, but their offense has real problems. Josh Gordon might be the best wide receiver in the NFL, if he weren’t suspended all year for stupidity. We don’t know when Johnny Manziel will start, but even if he is towards his ceiling, it will take time for him to adjust. The good news is that their offensive line is pretty good. All in all, I want to pick them higher, but questions at the quarterback will be too much this year to overcome. There are signs of progress though.

AFC South (Colts, Titans, Jaguars, Texans)

Tennessee Titans – This division is awful to predict. The Titans will win if they avoid significant injuries, as I think they have almost no depth. They have a lot of good things here though, and Jake Locker is better, when healthy, than most realize. Bishop Sankey will be an upgrade over the current version of Chris Johnson, though I don’t think he’s got that ceiling. Their defense will be much like the Ravens, lots of pressure but also with lots of openings for opposing receivers to take advantage of. Still, I think they eke out a 9-7 division title.

Indianapolis Colts – This is all on Andrew Luck. He’s got some targets, but they have mediocre at best running backs and I’m not a big fan of this offensive line. On defense there are lots of holes. Honestly, I really don’t like this team and I think they are very overrated because of Luck. He’s a great quarterback and that does matter, but there’s just not much else here in my opinion.

Houston Texans – By contrast, this team has a ton but has an awful quarterback situation. They will be good on both lines, and the J.J. Watt / Jadaveon Clowney pairing could be incredible. They’ve got good players at the skill positions, even if Andre Johnson is a step slower. However, they have Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. If he’s average, and that’s a big if, they could win this division with a bit of luck, but it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Jacksonville Jaguars – I see some signs of progress, but they have Chad Henne at quarterback. Not good enough. Oh, they have a decent offensive line and their defensive front has some players, but there’s just not enough here. They are two or three good drafts away and that includes hitting on a quarterback.

AFC West (Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders)

Denver Broncos – They’ll score a ton again and they might be better on defense. However, this team is relying on a lot of old players and if the injury bug bites this team might actually finish third in the AFC West. I find it hard to pick against Peyton Manning, who is playing quarterback about as well as anyone ever has, so I’ll leave them here, but I’ll state my reservations.

San Diego Chargers – This offense will also be excellent, though a step down from Denver’s. Philip Rivers has plenty of weapons, and if the line can give him time they will score. On defense, they will have some matchup issues but I think will be adequate. I don’t entirely know why, but I think this team will be better than many people think.

Kansas City Chiefs – I think they take a step back. Much of their success last year was the turnover differential, but that is less of a controllable skill than people realize. If a team relies upon turnovers, they will find that this reliance giveth and taketh. Jamaal Charles is one of the best running backs in NFL history, but Alex Smith is not a great quarterback and there is not much at receiver. This defense is pretty good, but the offense is overrated and they’ll regress a bit.

Oakland Raiders – If they would only commit to a plan, they’ve had some talent go through there. This year they invested in average at best free agents and in some ways will be improved but not enough to beat the other teams in the West. Their quarterback play will be last in the division, and they don’t have enough talent elsewhere to overcome that. Flip the top three teams in this division as you see fit, but leave the Raiders in the cellar.

NFC East (Eagles, Cowboys, Giants, Redskins)

Dallas Cowboys – It’s easy for you to say this is a homer pick, and it is true that I might be too close to this team. However, if Tony Romo stays healthy this offense will be incredible. They have one of the top two or three offensive lines in the NFL, Dez Bryant and depth at wide receiver, and a number of other talented weapons at running back and tight end. They will score on anyone and everyone. The question is if they can stop anyone. Their defense last year was historically bad, but that was in part because of a ridiculous number of injuries at the defensive line. People are bemoaning the loss of DeMarcus Ware, but he was a shell of his 2010 self, though Jason Hatcher was a tremendous loss. However, here is what people don’t realize. Their other defensive linemen were awful. Not just mediocre, but awful. For example, if they can get an average player to replace Nick Hayden, and I think they have, they will have offset the loss of Jason Hatcher, Hayden was that bad. He wasn’t the only one. This defensive line will be much closer to average this year, and with that they’ll be reasonable on defense. If they finish around 20th on defense they will go 10-6 at least and frankly I see that happening. Remember, they were 8-8 last year with one of the worst defenses *ever* and there’s improvement on both sides of the ball.

Philadelphia Eagles – I’m putting them here by default because I think both of the other teams in the East are mediocre at best. I’m not sold on Nick Foles, and while I love some of their weapons like LeSean MCoy, there are a bunch of holes. I think this defense will be slightly better than Dallas’s but only slightly as they have a good defensive line but not much else. On offense, they’ll score 26 or so points a game which is good but not elite.

Washington Redskins – RGIII needs to be all that and more on this team for it to step up from 3-13 to more than 6-10 or so. Their offensive line is not good and while they have very good to great receiving targets for him, he’ll have to work to get it to them. On defense, they have some great players if they’re healthy, but lots of bad ones too and on defense especially the weak links are often hard to hide.

New York Giants – This offensive line is going to be bad. They lacked talent and they’ve had injuries. Eli Manning and his running backs are good players, but are not the dynamic players that can overcome a bad line like RGIII. They’ve got pretty good wide receivers, but Eli might not be able to take advantage of them. On defense, they have a pretty good secondary, but I wonder about the rest. This becomes a much better unit if Jason Pierre-Paul returns to form, and I think that will happen, but their linebackers are not good.

NFC North (Packers, Bears, Lions, Vikings)

Green Bay Packers – This is a hard division to call and I can create a scenario for each team to win it. However, the Packers have Aaron Rodgers and an offense that will score. When in doubt, go with the best quarterback. Their defense has issues, but will be average or maybe even around 10th in the NFL and with this offense that should win this division.

Minnesota Vikings – Yes, the Vikings, whoever ends up at quarterback. There’s a lot here actually. Cordarrelle Patterson is fantastic and is improving. There’s some guy named Adrian Peterson who is about to decline but I think has two more years in him. Matt Cassel is an average quarterback, but he is at least that and neither Matthew Stafford nor Jay Cutler impress me all that much, even though they’ve got bigger names. I think Mike Zimmer gets this defense to surprise people and it does have some talent. This is my pick of the team that makes every other prognosticator shake their head and ask “where the hell did these guys come from.”

Chicago Bears – This offense will be pretty good if they can protect Jay Cutler and that’s a question mark. He has lots of good targets, and that’s no doubt. Matt Forte is great and still underrated. However, edge rushers will hurt this team and I think will force Cutler into mistakes. On defense, their linebackers and safeties are nothing to write home about and while they have a good defensive line, it’s not a great one. Note that the big names on the defensive line are not the most productive. Overall, they are an average team and no more.

Detroit Lions – Lots of big passing statistics here, but this is another team that is less than the sum of its parts. Calvin Johnson is still the best receiver in football, and we are living in the golden age of NFL wide receivers right now. But they have problems on both lines, especially from the edges. They might be very good in the middle, but that requires Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley to take steps forward that they have not yet shown will happen. This will be a wretched defense and this offense has too many holes to really carry it.

NFC South (Panthers, Saints, Buccaneers, Falcons)

New Orleans Saints – Have I already said “When in doubt, go with the quarterback?” Clearly Drew Brees is the best in this division. They have the best tight end in the NFL in Jimmy Graham and an underrated receiving corps. Another offense that will score well, if their offensive line stays moderately healthy. That’s actually a big question mark, and if I felt good about that this would be an easy choice. On defense they’re not bad, but I have questions about Rob Ryan’s scheme. It’s difficult to learn and easy to make mistakes in. Still, I think they are not a great team but do win the division.

Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan has some fantastic targets. They have a line that should give him the time he needs. They need him to be good because Steven Jackson is ancient at 31 for a running back. Don’t be shocked if Devonta Freeman leads this team in rushing. Who? Yeah, Devonta Freeman. On defense, Sean Weatherspoon’s injury is a major loss but they have good corners and it will be hard to be an efficient team passing against them.

Carolina Panthers – I’m not a big fan of this team actually, despite having a very good defense. I’m actually a big fan of Cam Newton, but there are major issues here. First, their defense is top-notch but already had some issues. Will Greg Hardy be gone for six games for domestic violence? It seems likely. They’ve had some other injuries too, and I see a bit of regression here. Note that I say regression from a top three or so defense to a top nine or so defense. Good but not great. On offense, Newton is an amazing talent but their offensive line is in shambles and I’m not sure any of their receivers would make the Cowboys with the exception of first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin. However, wide receivers are notoriously slow to adapt to the NFL. This offense will not score much, though Newton will have four or so huge games that inflate their overall statistics.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Oh, if they only had a quarterback. I like their receivers and Doug Martin, if he’s healthy, is fantastic, but I’m not sold on Mike Glennon. Their offensive line is average at best and won’t be something he can rely upon. On defense, they have some great players like Lavonte David but this is not a defense to rely upon either. Overall, they invested in a lot of free agents and that rarely works well, at least the first year. In a tough division, they’ll be last.

NFC West (Seahawks, 49ers, Cardinals, Rams)

Seattle Seahawks – The Super Bowl winners are stacked. They have a great quarterback in Russell Wilson and enough options on offense for them to be efficient. They had the best defense in the NFL last year and it was young without any huge changes. None of the things that tend to bring teams to regress to the mean apply to this team yet.

Arizona Cardinals – This team went 10-6 last year and I think it might be better despite losing Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett, and Daryl Washington for the year. There’s a goodly amount of depth here. Their offensive line was a major weakness last year, but will probably be better and if they are then Carson Palmer still has some skills. Andre Ellington and Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd are top-flight. This team will surprise people.

San Francisco 49ers – Age and regression is happening before us. I think this offense is good, but not as good as people think because I see a lot of regression in Frank Gore, Anquan Boldin, and others. The offensive line isn’t as good as it used to be. There’s talent, but this is not an elite offense and there is a perception that they are. On defense, they’ve been hurt with the loss of Navarro Bowman and Aldon Smith for nine games. I’m not sold on this defense being elite and in this division I see Arizona stepping forward.

St. Louis Rams – Had Sam Bradford not been hurt I might well have picked them above the 49ers. They have a fantastic defensive line and there are some other pieces, but without Bradford I don’t see them taking that step forward yet, certainly not in the AFC West.

Division Winners
AFC: Patriots, Bengals, Titans, Broncos
NFC: Dallas, Green Bay, New Orleans, Seattle

Wildcards
AFC:
Pittsburgh, San Diego
NFC: Arizona, Atlanta

I don’t see anyone beating Seattle right now, but it could happen. It’s very difficult to repeat and every team is one or two injuries from seeing their season implode. Nevertheless, at this point, with what we see, I think the 12th Man gets to celebrate another banner. The Seahawks are deep, good in all phases, young and yet experienced, and they’re comfortable in the system. They will have some regression next year, I think, but not yet.

Now, to make some qualifications. Injuries will happen. We know this, though of course we can’t predict them. I’m looking at my predictions and though I picked 5 new playoff teams I think I’m too conservative. One of the Patriots, Packers, and Broncos will have bad things happen and will be out of the playoffs completely. History tells us that the Super Bowl loser will be that team, which does not bode well for Denver but as long as Peyton is healthy that is a playoff team.

We’ll see. The Seahawks started with a convincing win over the Packers, who made too many mistakes to beat a great team.

In any case, 255 regular season games to go. I’m so ready.