2005-09-29



The games are underway ...

New York is going for the jugular putting 4 up on Baltimore in the top of the first. They're up 5-0 in the fourth, and as they finish off the O's, they'll be simultanneously rooting for Toronto to beat Boston.

The Blue Jays do hold a slim 2-1 lead over the Sox in the middle of the fifth.

The Cleveland Indians are also big Toronto fans tonight. This afternoon Chicago wrapped up the AL Central leaving the Indians to play for the Wild Card. They began the night even with Boston in that race, and Cleveland, too, came roaring out of the gate with a 4-run first inning.

Ouch! The Jays just hung 2 more on Boston.

Ummm ... anyone who wants to go to the playoffs, grab a stick and get busy.

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Yayyy! Let's hear it for the Padres. They can finally breathe a sigh of relief after completing the difficult task of winning the NL West. Next up: Trying to finish over .500 so they don't have to keep answering the question, "Do you think it's fair for a team that is under .500 to be in the playoffs?" all of next week.

Ironically, the rip on St Louis is that they've gotten fat on sub-par competition. It appears that that trend will continue in the playoffs when St Louis draws the Padres in round 1.

Pencil Houston in for the NL Wild Card, which scares me. They'll be facing off against the Braves in the first round, and as I've mentioned before, in the drawn out playoffs, any team with a good pitcher is a serious threat. If the 'Stros can figure out how to get some runs for the Rocket, don't count them out.

So, while the NL is just about wrapped up, the AL is heating up for a wild weekend. After mounting a seemingly impossible comeback to almost catch the White Sox, Cleveland has chilled a bit. The AL central is a long shot at best, and now they've fallen a game back in the Wild Card race. Working in their favor is the fact that whichever team doesn't win the East will be taking at least two more losses before the week ends. But the Tribe, er rather, homogenous group of persons of Native American descent (the NCAA has me all aware now!), still has to do their part and win.

And at the eye of the storm ... New York and Boston. The Yanks took a one game lead last night, and both teams will play one more game tonight before they face off in Boston this weekend. Think massive whiplash as everyone will be looking over their shoulders at the scoreboard to see how the other team is doing. If New York can jump out to an early lead on the Orioles, they would really turn the heat up on the Red Sox, er, guys clad in crimson hosiery. A New York win tonight means Boston would have to win three of their last four, and even then they could finish in a tie with New York and need to go one more. This year, the regular season is likely for keeps as, barring a total Cleveland collapse, whichever team loses the East will probably not make the playoffs at all.

So it seems that there is quite a bit of Karma on the line here. If New York wins out, after Boston had looked shoe-in at many points earlier in the season, the "curse" will still be alive and most will conclude that it was simply in remission last season. On the other hand, the Yankees are in great shape right now; playing well, a game up, having put Boston in a position where there is next to no margin for error, and with the Red Sox internal strife having come at the worst possible time, New York has to like their chances. So, if the Bosox should pull this one out, while it wouldn't be as dramatic a collapse as last season, it would still mark two years in a row that Boston came from behind and beat New York head on to end the pinstripe season. Suddenly the monkey would be on the Yankees' back.

This is awesome! How desperate everyone involved; fans, owners and players; must be to prevail.

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2005-09-27



My apologies to those who opened the blog to find Coach Petrino all up in their face. I forgot the "width=" in the img tag.
-- B --

Nice to see Congress pushing the steroids issue with MLB. Not to worry, boys of summer. If Congress can do for you what they did for (insert issue here), everything will be ok, and you'll be able to continue being a crooked, inefficient, disrespected has-been of a sport.
-- B --

No reply from Barrister Ike yet. Pity. I was really looking forward to doing business with the man. And, it kind of whetted my apetite, so I may have to go fishing for some Nigerian e-mails I can use.
-- B --

Hillary Clinton is doing a great job of moving to the middle with her votes and rhetoric as her run for the White House approaches. Still, as I watch football games and what not, I have to wonder how she's going to pull off the "regular guy" image. Remember Kerry blossoming into a huge Red Sox and Patriots fan? Kerry the duck hunter? Kerry throwing a football around at the airport (by the way, I saw a video of the whole throw once - it doesn't just appear that he throws like a girl, he really does throw like a girl), etc. I mean, she's not good at being fake in situations where you expect fake.
-- B --

UT vs. LSU ... awesome game last night! This was an early meeting of SEC Super-Powers, and with a loss to Florida already on the books, Tennessee was in danger of dropping completely out of the race for their conference and the National Championship. Through the first half it looked as if that would be the case as the Vols had lost a starting QB, were stopping themselves with penalties, fumbles and poor play at every turn, and generally didn't seem to have an answer for LSU on either side of the ball. Tennessee miraculously came back in the second half to force overtime and eventually win.

I feel for the Vols having to travel on game day due to the hurricane. I'm never at my best after an early morning flight. Still, that and .50 will get you a soda, so soldier on. Across the board, no one was making plays. I can't begin to count how many touchdown or deep gain passes their receivers flat out dropped. This continued even during the second half comeback. The O line was allowing their QB's to be harrassed all night. In the second half, the Tennessee D finally played big, coming up with huge stops at key moments.
-- B --

I got a kick out of listening to the Fox (I think) team talk about salary inequities in the NFL, and how a lot of teams have an inordinate amount of their cap space tied up with a handful of superstars. Mind you, Terry Bradshaw and Company, are former QB's, Receivers, etc. Folks who, though there was no cap, didn't seem to mind that they were collecting the lion's share of what their team had to spend on salaries during their playing days.
-- B --

Across the NFL: Jets QB, Chad Pennington is out for the season. One wonders how NY will manage without the engineer of their blazing 0-3 start. Pennington is just the latest QB who showed flashes of brilliance at one point, and has remained the real deal in some eyes, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

Miami looks good in Nick Sabin's opening NFL campaign. Still, one wonders how long "playoff run" and QB Gus Frerotte can co-exist.

What is the deal with Indianapolis? Over the past two weeks, this offense that features Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Edgerin James, has mustered a whopping combinged total of 23 points. Kudos to their defense for picking up the wins. This is supposed to be the year that Indy turns the corner (no great surprise there ... every year is the year that Indy is supposed to turn the corner). That prediction is not based on what a solid defense the Colts have!
-- B --

I must admit, in this the final week of the MLB season, there is a lot of excitement left. St Louis has nothing left to play for other than to chase 100 wins and avoid being lethargic going into the playoffs. Atlanta and Los Anaheim have all but closed the door on their divisions - Atlanta for the 14th straight year and counting!

The biggest surprise has to be the AL Central where it looked like the White Sox had things wrapped up at the All Star break. Now a red hot Cleveland team is bearing down on Chicago. Both have series against opponents with nothing to win (or nothing to lose) before the season wraps up with the White Sox visiting Cleveland for a three game set! Only by a miracle would Chicago be able to wrap up the division before the weekend, so that shoud be good one.

In MLB's sub-basement, San Diego, with their imposing 77-79 record is trying to hold of a late steroid, er, Bonds-induced charge by the Giants. The teams just started a 4-game stint in San Diego, with San Fran taking the opener to tighten things up just a bit more. San Diego holds a three game lead, but this, of course, corresponds to the number of games left in their series with SanFran. Neither team can count on help after that as both play sub-.500 teams over the weekend. Of course both are sub-.500 teams so who knows?

This renews my call for a special playoff rule in sports where post-season entry has been expanded. Anytime a division winner comes in under .500, i.e. they lost more than they won, they should forfeit their playoff spot and an additional wild card team selected. I mean, how can you possibly justify that? What if San Diego wins the World Series? Can you call them champion? If the Padres limped through the rest of the week, and their post-season series' went the distance, they could coneivably win the World Series and still have a sub-.500 record with all post-season games factored in. Ridiculous!

The grand-daddy of them all, though, is the Yankees and Red Sox. They began their final seven games dead even. A month ago, smart money would have favored the Red Sox as the stronger team top to bottom. Not so anymore. Suddenly Boston is vulnerable on and off the field. And, while the Yankees play their final week on the road, they also started out with a win at Baltimore, turning up the heat on the Red Sox who were idle due to rain. Here, too, the season ends with New York visiting Boston for four games. Think that'll be intense?

I, for one, am rooting for the Yankees. I can't fault an organization for being successful while playing within the rules of a totally messed up system. And, while the Yankees do have an astronomical payroll, the Red Sox come in at number two, a good $30M higher than all but six teams. So I really grow tired of Red Sox fan trying to play the pauper by invoking the "Yankees' huge payroll" platitude. More than that, while New York may have more money, Boston leads the league in obnoxious without a close second. This was made even more insufferable by all the fans who jumped on the bandwagon after last season - they seemed to adapt to Red Sox fan's loud-mouthedness without missing a beat!

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2005-09-25



This is what I was talking about when I urged caution regarding the Cards. And though I didn't say it, my thought was, "Let's not put them in the Rose Bowl just yet - they've still got to get by South Florida!" OK, seriously, USF did an awesome job of preparing and they deserve all the respect they get out of this one.

Now maybe we can settle down. The Big East isn't a lost cause, but you don't jump from C-USA to competing for a National Championship.

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2005-09-23



Trump - Apprentice 4Well, the premier of the new Apprentice did not disappoint. The players were agressive right out of the gate, Trump has shown that there will be plenty of surprises, and best of all, this season's Omarosa has already been found and eliminated! Some notes:

// Of course everyone dressed to the 9's for their first meeting with the Donald - no Danny's in this bunch. So what does Trump do? Sends them racing across his golf course in a full sprint, trying to be the first to locate and get to his helicopter. Ties were flying everywhere. Women were ditching their heels. Classic!

// This whole bunch must not have seen or taken seriously previous editions of the Apprentice, because they were breaking the well-known, "unwritten" rules left and right.

// // Markus talked about how he and Trump were "kindred spirits" and how they were going to bond and do business. Really for a second, I thought I might have accidentally stumbled onto some bizarre gay edition of the Bachelor or something. Anyway, in the past, guys who've come onto the show thinking that they were Trump's equal and were going to be buddies with the man have not fared well. Markus and Markus' mouth won't be the exception.

// // Melissa unloaded on her team to Caroline and ultimately paid the price. It's funny when stuff like this happens because Caroline will appear to just patiently listen, but she gets this "I can't believe how hilariously stupid you are" look in her eyes. Unfortunately the person in question usually is hilariously stupid and doesn't notice.

// // Back to Markus - he was indecisive. Big no-no for anyone in this game, but especially bad for the Project Manager. When the men selected him as their leader he balked. At another point he brought his team to a halt and asked if there was anything he should be doing better. He needs to rid himself of this quickly - because if Trump ever witnesses it, he'll crush the Euro-looking dweeb, Markus.

// Even with all of the boardrooms from previous seasons to learn from, Kristi and Melissa, the key players, seemed determined to do themselves in. First Melissa wouldn't shut up. While people have gotten hammered for not speaking up, the rip on Melissa was that she was a negative and disruptive force on her team. Just in case there was any doubt, there was Melissa running her mouth and making matters worse.

Kristi did no better. She started this one with her back to the wall. Melissa was just a general poison the team, but Kristi, the PM, had the most direct links to her team's failure which usually spells doom. So, when the Donald asked her which two people she wanted to bring to the board room she asked if she could bring only one. Man, I thought Trump's head was going to explode. You are taking a big risk when you try to change up the order of things. And when you are already a prime target, you don't want to take that kind of risk moments before Trump is going to fire someone.

// Kristi's mano-a-mano (femano-a-femano? Yes, I know that's not literally what that means) gambit was one of two, interesting individual strategy-related decisions.

Should Kristi have brought a third person into the board room? On the one hand, she escaped and managed to do so without getting on the bad side of anyone else on her team. Still, her survival was far from certain. This is the first time I can remember that Trump took out the generally bad person when he had someone so clearly responsible for their team's loss in the current task. I think she should have brought an ally. No one else on the team was in jeopardy - she could have worked it out with them in advance, and I think doing something like that could even be "spun" (cuz Trump will ask: Why did you bring __?) in a way that the Donald and crew would respect.

The second item involved the victorious men's team, Team Excel. In a new twist this year, the winning PM does not automatically receive immunity from firing the following week. The team has to vote whether or not to give their PM immunity. This week only two men voted in favor of it, so Markus will not receive immunity.

I suspect this has to do with Markus' taking the early lead in the "most unliked guy on the team" race. To be fair however, Markus was weak. Should the men lose next week, it's a good bet that he'll be at least partially responsible.

Most outwardly gave generic reasons. "I don't think anyone should be immune," "Everyone should have an incentive to perform at their best." The only thing is, each one of them hopes to one day be sitting in the victorious PM chair. Somehow I believe they'll feel different when that happens.

The bigger issue is that immunity is an incentive to be PM. Without it, why would you take on that role? Granted, you don't want to be seen as actively dodging the responsibility, but it is for the most part, an opporunity to have your team do a half-baked job and put your neck on the chopping block. The downside far outweighs the upside, especially in the early going.

If I'm in the game, our team is up in the suite right now having a meeting and agreeing how to handle the immunity vote. We would decide in advance that either everyone gets immunity, or no one gets it. Handling it off the cuff like happened yesterday is to be avoided. Your team just won, and instead of enjoying the momentum, you turn right around and do and say things to sow seeds of dissention in the ranks. Have a policy and avoid the conflict.

// As for individual prospects: no one clearly established themself as a competitor to be reckoned with yesterday. I'm pretty sure neither of last night's PM's will win. Kristi wasn't terrible, but she wasn't great, and she's weak in a field of hopefuls that demands strength. Plus, even in surviving the board room she managed to really tick off the Donald. If Melissa weren't such a singularly bad apple, Kristi already be gone.

And, as already mentioned, Markus has the weak style of leadership that Trump hates. Team Excel will be gunning for him, and his initial effort to seduce the Donald with his "kindred spirit," failed.

Can't wait for next week!

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So, Rafael Palmeiro has suddenly regained his memory regarding his own steroid use. And he's decided to take a fellow player down with him. Apparently he found out that there were one or two people he hadn't gotten around to alienating yet. Baltimore will stick with Tejada, and has decided that Palmeiro is no longer worth the trouble.

How sad - Hall of Fame candidate to unwanted has-been in two months.

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Still at 1.58 this morning so I topped off once again.

The "I heard it's gonna go up to" rumor index is spiking with reports as high as $5.00 in the Louisville area - no indication as to whether that was internet-induced.

Finally, can we please quit with the "I don't see why our gas has to go up - we don't get it from down there," talk. What are we, in first grade? This stuff doesn't happen in a vacuum. I'm not even going to explain it beyond that.

Now go sell your monster SUV and be quiet.

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2005-09-22



Chris Moneymaker: WSOP ChampionI've been reading Chris Moneymaker's Book. As its subtitle suggests, it is, in one sense a blow by blow account of how he parlayed his win in a $40 online satellite poker tournament into a million dollar World Series of Poker Championship. Also in the mix however, is the story of Moneymaker's gambling pilgramage - a journey which started in his childhood.

Turns out, the fairy tale picture of Moneymaker that we were sold during his miracle run in 2003 hides a darker reality - this guy is a gambling fiend! Gambling grew roots in his childhood, was unknowingly urged on at times by his parents, and had a severe impact on his life at many turns. For this one WSOP champion, there are thousands, maybe millions, who will not be rescued by a sudden, seven figure windfall. The jury is still out on whether this event will turn out to have worked for or against Moneymaker himself.

I'll cop to having only read 3 or 4 chapters so this is preliminary, but I'm curious to see how it will all be wrapped up at the end of the book. If I were Moneymaker, I don't care what I had in my bank account, I'd have had a hard time laying out all the ugliness for people to see. My hope is that this book will be more of a warning than an encouragement.

But this brings me to a bigger problem. While sex, drugs and alcohol get all the play as adolescent problems, gambling flies under the radar. Like those other vices, it undermines a teen's development, ruining their ability to form normal relationships, wreaking havoc on self-esteem, and unchecked it can be life-threatening via suicide. An Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery study found that 80% of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 had gambled in the past year, and more than 35% gamble weekly.

Once again, parents and leaders often unknowingly contribute to the problem when they allow or help their youth participate in things like football pools, lotteries, "casino nights," etc. Like any addiction, with the wrong person, it only takes minor exposure to set the hook.

A couple of months ago I stumbled onto a discussion of the poker craze in a Youth Pastor's forum, and was amazed at how many were taking the "sure I let them do it in the church, they're going to do it anyway" or "I'm connecting with their interests," tack on this. One youth pastor even bragged that he had put up a Hold'Em table in his youth room. So I guess if your youth developed a sudden interest in S&M you'd put in a dungeon?

The point is, gambling is probably one of the most ignored and underestimated serious problems facing children and teens, and, like sex, it too has gone mainstream. Media outlets are breaking the bank on this craze ... so who is going to point out the danger?

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Trump - Apprentice 4At long last, the Apprentice returns! No, not that Martha Stewart spin-off ... I'm talking about the real deal.

This time out the show boasts a stellar roster of 18 hopefuls, hand-picked by the Donald himself. How much do you want to bet that it's light on non-college grads?

Trump stepping in on the selection process was the right move. Last season was horrible! Rather than delivering excitement in the much-hyped Book Smart-Street Smart matchup, the show left its audience starved for talent, class, intelligence, etc. Even a scant whiff of potential would have been nice.

Instead we had Polyeser Danny, who no doubt was brought in to give the show a little spirit but turned out to be just plain clown. He lasted three or four weeks when I would gladly have axed him after one. Another contestant quit after two weeks. The Apprentice is grueling, no doubt, but after only two challenges, and in reality she quit on her team halfway through the second challenge. How did she wind up in the mix in the first place! The rest of the bunch just never got past the petty whining, bickering, back-biting stage. Even the eventual winner, Kendra, won on the basis of her individual effort, not her teamwork.

So, the poor showing last season is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it won't be hard to better that effort. On the other hand, Trump needs to improve or he runs the risk of this thing dying young.

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Well, time to get moving with those crazy Nigerians. I have reviewed Barrister Ike's business proposition, and well, how can I refuse? It seems that one couple's fatal plane crash is my gain. So be it. My reply in .pdf form, or read on ...
Barrister Ike,

It is a great honor to make your acquaintance, yet at the same time I am saddened that it took a tragedy such as the death of your clients the Williams' to connect us. It is apparent by how carefully you've seen to the acquisition and liquidation of their assets without allowing integrity to get in the way, that Mr. and Mrs. Williams were more than clients to you – they were your friends. Please accept my convalescences.

A great tragedy this was, too. I believe I remember hearing of it on the news – only I had heard that it occurred in Montreal instead of Kano, and that it was a commuter train instead of a plane, and that the couple had four of their five children with them. Other than that (and we certainly know how the media can screw up the minor details when they get ahold of something, do we not?), the story is a perfect match – I remember being moved at the time, and wishing I could do something for the family. Now it appears that my wish might come true. By the way, if there were any surviving children that you forgot about, please pass along my convalescences to them. If not, then perhaps you could pass along my convalescences to someone else.

How moving it was to hear you quote the disciple, John, when you mentioned the truth setting you free ... Amen, Brother Ike! As a coincidence, one of my favorite Bible passages is also found in John, where Jesus instructs us that if we remain faithful we should ask for whatever we wish and it will be given to us. As I am an honorable man, so are we both, both honorable men, I am not too sanctified to let you know that just recently I prayed to God about the need for funding for our new ministries at the Life Center. I had asked for $20,000,000, but I guess $10,000,000 will
get us started if you are so inclined to allow us to honor the Williams' by carrying on God's work in their name.

I do have a personal question – it may seem strange but I shall share my reasons for asking momentarily. You had mentioned that the Williams' had much property like lands, house properties, etc. which you sold off. Did they happen to have any baseball cards? The reason I ask is that I've been trying to track down a '62 Hank Aaron for several years now, and a dealer friend of mine (he deals baseball cards, not drugs ... at least as far as I know, I mean I'm not with him all the time) mentioned that a lot of the Topps 50's and 60's sets wound up in Nigeria. If Mr.
Williams did happen to have some of these, I would be more than happy to send you some funds from my personal account to cover the cost of re-acquiring these cards and a little extra for your effort. Just let me know.

Speaking of accounts, I know all too well the hassles of dealing with the bank. The other day I had to open up a passbook account. Even after I had made an initial deposit of $350,000 they still wouldn't give me a free coffee mug. They said that those were for the new checking accounts. Well, I already have one of those – what I don't have is a coffee mug! How amateur did I look coming out of there without any parting gifts!?

Barrister, if I may be so bold – you seem to be kind of hard on yourself about your past. Don't be. I know a certain other person who also had some skeletons on his clothesline. He liked to pick on Christians. He would throw rocks at them, and gave them no end of hassle. I think you know who I'm talking about ... that's right, Stevie Simpkins, a kid I went to fourth grade with. Well, Stevie is living proof that people can change. At some point Stevie put down his stones and picked up a semi-automatic weapon. Last year it all finally caught up with him when they fried him for his sins in the electric chair at the state pen in Austin. I guess my point is that you should be thankful you saw the light before they fried you.

Now you and I have the chance to do something good here, and to atone for our “sins.” Let's serve God and honor those who have gone before us. Let's do it for Stevie! Let's do it for the Williams'! I would dearly love to share with you all that we have going on here at the Life Center, so that you can know in good conscience that the Williams' money will always be hard at work for righteousness. I stand at the ready to do whatever is necessary to get this good work of ours underway!

Sincerely,

Avery Lunch
Senior Enthusiast
Life Center Ministries


We'll see how it goes.

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Time for the daily gas update:

The expected run-up has stalled while we wait for Hurricane Rita to finish crossing the Gulf of Mexico and make landfall somewhere in Texas. My theory: they've already started shutting down refineries and could be raising prices, but they're waiting for some tangible destruction to keep the outrage down.

Prices have actually taken a dip which is a surprise, not only because of the hurricane, but also because the weekend is coming up.

Around Louisville, I filled up on Monday at 2.61 after a weekend of threatening oil reports. With the price down to 2.58, I topped off this morning, and will probably keep my tank topped off until the run-up starts, because once it does, who knows how long it will take to come back down?

Side note on gas stations: Soda fountains are a real value, but "Polar Pop," needs to do something about their ice dispensers. I hit the release once and got two chips of ice in my cup. I hit it again and half-filled my cup. So that's why there was a mountain of ice sitting in the machine's drip tray.

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2005-09-21



Lo and behold, I got a Nigerian scam e-mail last week. Yes! For a while there I was worried that I had been black-balled, or that they knew a little too much about my checking account and were choosing to fish in more promising waters.

Well, who cares? It's just good to have those guys back!

The first e-mail was really long, even by their standards. You can find the whole thing in .pdf format here, or read on.

Dear Beloved in Christ,
I am Barrister Godwin Ike, the legal adviser to late Mr.andMrs.Bright
Williams who died in the plane Crash in Kano, EAS Airlines plane Crash It is
by the grace of God that I received Christ, knowing the truth and the truth
have set me free. Having known the truth, I had no choice than to do what
is lawful and right in the sight of God for eternal life and in the sight
of man for witness of God?s mercy and glory upon my life.

I have the pleasure to share my testimony with you, having seen your contact from the
Internet. I am Barrister Godwin Ike, the legal adviser to late Mr.and Mrs.
Bright Williams, a British couple that lived in my Country Nigeria for 25
years before they both died in the plane crash late last year. These couples
were good Christians, they so dedicated to God but they had no child till
they died. Throughout their stay in my country, they acquired a lot of
properties like lands, house properties, etc.As their legal adviser, before
their death, the husband Mr. Bright Williams instructed me to write his
WILL. Because they had no child, they dedicated their wealth to God.
According to the WILL, the properties have to be sold and the money be given
out to a ministry for the work of God.As their legal adviser, all the
documents for the properties were in my care. He gave me the authority to
sell the roperties and give out the fund to the Ministries for the work of
God.In short, I sold all the properties after their death, as instructed by
Mr. Bright Williams before his death. And as matter of fact, after I sold
all their properties, I realized more than $10,000,000.00 (Ten million US
dollars plus), and what supposed to be the percentage interest of
my right legal fee was firstly deducted by me out of the total amount
realized from the sold properties, this was base on the initial agreement
between me and the owner of the properties before his death. Therefore the
total amount left to be invested into God's work as instructed by the
owner,is $10,000,000.00 (Ten million US dollars) only.But Instead of giving
the main fund out for the work of God as instructed to me by the owner
before his death.

I converted the fund to myself with the intention of investing the fund
abroad for my personal use. I was afraid of putting the fund in the Bank,
because I have to give account to the bank on how I got the money. I then
packaged the fund in consignments and deposited the con I had encounter with
Christ when Pastor Benny Hinn was preaching on television concerning Ananias
and Saphira in Acts 5:1-11. After hearing the word of God, I gave my life to
Christ and became a born again Christian. As a born again Christian,I
started reading my bible and one day, the Lord opened my eyes to Ezekiel 33:18 and 19 where the word of God says: "When the righteous truth from his
ighteousness, and committee iniquity, he shall even die thereby.
But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and
right, he shall live thereby". From the scripture, I discovered that the
only way I could have peace in my life is to do what is lawful and right by
giving out the fund as instructed for the work of God by the owner before
his death.

I have asked God for forgiveness and I know that God have forgiven me. But I
have to do what is lawful and right in the sight of God by giving out the
fund to the chosen ministry for the purpose of God's wok as instructed by
the owner before his death.

After my fasting and prayers, I asked God to make his choice and direct me
to a honest Christian or the chosen ministry that deserves this fund by his
Grace. I then came across your address on the Internet as I was browsing
through a Christian site, and as a matter of fact, it is not only you or
your ministry that I picked on the Christian site initially, but after my fervent
prayer over it, then you were nominated to me through divine revelation from
God, so these are how I received such a divine revelation from the Lord, how
I got your contact information, and I then decided to contact you for the
fund to be used wisely for things that will glorify the name of God.
I have notified the Security Company where I eposited the consignments that
contained the fund, that I am moving the consignment abroad and the security
company has since been waiting for my authority for the consignment to leave
my country and move to abroad.So if you know that you will use this fund
honestly and wisely for things that will glorify God's name, then do contact
me back first throughthis my PRIVATE E-MAIL Address: xxxx@yahoo.it
You should also forward to me your telephone and fax number for easy
communication and to fax you the documents concerning the consignments.
Your prompt response will be highly appreciated.
Yours in Christ.
Barrister Godwin Ike.

Wow! He comes clean about his own intended shenanigans ... "honesty" is a nice twist. Thank God the ministry of Benny Hinn turned Mr. Ike around!

My reply coming up.

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2005-09-20



To hear the pundits coming into the seaons - New England was the NFL's version of USC. Most wanted to start fitting them for their rings in July.

Now, after the Pats were shown up by Carolina, those same pundits sound just as smart, but their tune has changed. "What'd you expect? They lost both Coordinators, for crying out loud!" "What'd you expect? They play one of the league's toughest schedules!" and on and on it goes.

Well, since, almost to a man, you had the Pats winning the Super Bowl and residing in an entirely different universe than the rest of the NFL, I was expecting them to be playing like champions. Since you were even doing the occasional "Can they run the table?" puff piece, I was expecting at least a few wins before they took their first loss.

Whenever someone brought up the loss of both their Offensive and Defensive Coordinator, they were made to look like idiots ... "Pshaw! Now you're going to see what a genius Bill Belicheck is!" And according to ESPN's Steven A. Smith, they still have Tom Brady and, "Quite frankly, that's all you need."

Now, I'm not suggesting that New England's season is doomed. There's no shame in losing to Carolina. I'm just always amazed to see how shameless the "experts" become when they fall in love with a team or a player. That team is New England and that player is Tom Brady.

New England is still a force, make no mistake. But, you can change out only so many key pieces before you start to feel the effects.

As for Brady, it's amazing. Throught the current New England run, conventional wisdome has been that the Pats' key to success is that they are unselfish, team players, and that they have been riding mastermind coaching, and a crafty defense to the NFL crown.

Somehow, Tom Brady has been translated into a god-like QB. I maintain that Brady is the latest and most successful in a line of NFL QB's who have been surrounded with talent, teamed up with great defenses and great coaches and as a result have been made to look better than they are. See also: Dilfer, Trent and Johnson, Brad. Brady is no slouch, but the thing he does best is not screw everything up.

Sometimes ... ok, most times I wish the talking heads of sports would just shut up.

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Been having a dreadful time with allergies, so my mind is a little disorganized right now.

So, Congress is going to continue looking into the whole Rafael Palmeiro incident. Granted, this does seem kind of pointless. But on the bright side, anything that distracts Congress from doing their normal work of making laws is a bonus for our country!
-- B --
I'm growing tired of "auto-install updates." Yes, it's nice to have it all happen automatically in the background, except that it doesn't stay in the background. I'll be working along and all of a sudden the computer becomes slow and erratic. I'm closing applications, scanning the task list for applications or processes that might be hogging resources, etc. Then ... "ding!" The popup that tells you an update has just been installed. I guess it doesn't help that the culprit is McAfee and I'm getting a new update almost every day.
-- B --
Speaking of slow - Verizon is hyping their new wireless broadband offering. Great idea, and I can't wait until the others get in the game and drive the price down and the features up. For now, the fine print is: 400-800 Kbps ... that may not register because you are used to seeing speeds measured in Mbps. It's slow. Not horrible, but if someone is expecting to sign up and experience the cable speed that they get at home, they're in for a disappointment.
-- B --
The Texans fired their O Coordinator yesterday. I don't get this ... it's week 2! Chris Palmer had been with the team since the beginning. And, did I mention that it is week 2? I mean, what huge surprises surfaced in the first two weeks of this season that weren't there before and that you didn't think you could work through with a guy who has been with you for several years?

Granted, the Texans have been less than stellar these two weeks, but again I ask - what changed? They've had their ups and downs under Palmer since they joined the league. All of a sudden he's unbearable.

Or, if you felt like this was a possibility, why not pull the plug during the off-season that you just completed, or during camp, or during the pre-season? No, the Texans chose to evaluate and come to a decision two weeks into the season!
-- B --
Keep an eye on www.i-disciple.com, and a new Excel site that I'm working on, www.numbers-edge.com. I'm slowly firing them back up.

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Google's new sidebar. Pretty sweet. It's lumped in with their desktop search app - not sure if anything has changed with that.

And, thanks to Major Geeks, a great new weather tracking application, Weather Watcher. This one blows away WeatherBug or any other ad-laden weather program. Singer's Creations did a great job of keeping the user in mind. It stays small and efficient - the usual temperature icon in your system tray. But, when you want more information, it expands to offer more, quicker because, once again, it doesn't bother with all hoopla and other crap built into commercial programs. One neat feature: you can set a regularly updating satellite weather map of your region (or Timbuktu for that matter) as your desktop wallpaper. Way cool!

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2005-09-19



I'm in the process of going back and viewing older gangster flicks (70's and 80's) that came out before I got into gangster flicks.

Tonight - Carlito's Way. What a disappointment!

Between the first two Godfather's and Scarface, Pacino has set the bar pretty high. This one wasn't even close. Although even a banner performance by Pacino might not have saved this thing. The plot is thin. The "wise, old gangster trying to go 'legit,' and the dame that the wise, old gangster just can't get out of his system are the very tired, main story lines, here. The whole thing lacks Puzo's rich, interwoven sub-plots.

Unfortunately, Pacino doesn't do an already weak script any favors. His was the most awful accent since Nicholas Cage in ConAIr. What's worse, they went with the main character narration throughout the picture. The biggest problem was the absence of Pacino's insane intensity. Mellow good guy, (pr perhaps good bad guy) is not his thing.

The supporting cast, ironically enough, made Carlito's Way bearable. Sean Penn as Carlito's lawyer Kleinfeld, John Leguizamo as upstart gangster Benny Blanco, and Penelope Ann Miller as his love interest all turned in colorful performance that gave the movie some flavor. I'll say one thing for Penn in particular - the guy is a screwball in real life, but I can't recall him ever laying an egg on screen.

So, some worthwhile secondary performances add some value, but overall I'll probably have to watch Godfather II this week just to wash the taste of Carlito's Way out of my mouth.

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2005-09-13



Instant Replay has come to most of College Football, and the announcing crews seem to be falling all over themselves to gush on about how great it is. In general I'm for it. Anything that helps them get it right is a good thing.

But, they need to work on their system. I've seen bits and pieces of several games so far this season, and I feel like we've spent an awful lot of time waiting on the replay crew. The main problem: coaches don't get to request challenges. "The booth," this unseen Football Big Brother in the sky decides which plays will be reviewed. The coaches can however, stall to give "the booth" plenty of time to decide to review a play, or hurry up to prevent a review, but other than that they are out of it.

At first blush this may seem like a good plan. But the net effect of it is that there is no limit on how many plays can be reviewed. "The booth" doesn't lose any time outs, and they don't take heat from the boosters. This is the kind of thing that happens when you let "the booth" have that kind of unchecked power.

I have to wonder why they didn't just adopt the NFL's system. The pros had it, did away with it, and then brought it back and have tweaked their process to where it is about as unobtrusive as it can be. Mainly, they need to give the challenge decision to the coaches and charge them a time out if they are wrong. The coaches are forced to exercise discretion. I've rarely seen a coach use up all of his challenges, thus the waiting time is limited.

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Instant Replay has come to most of College Football, and the announcing crews seem to be falling all over themselves to gush on about how great it is. In general I'm for it. Anything that helps them get it right is a good thing.

But, they need to work on their system. I've seen bits and pieces of several games so far this season, and I feel like we've spent an awful lot of time waiting on the replay crew. The main problem: coaches don't get to request challenges. "The booth," this unseen Football Big Brother in the sky decides which plays will be reviewed. The coaches can however, stall to give "the booth" plenty of time to decide to review a play, or hurry up to prevent a review, but other than that they are out of it.

At first blush this may seem like a good plan. But the net effect of it is that there is no limit on how many plays can be reviewed. "The booth" doesn't lose any time outs, and they don't take heat from the boosters. This is the kind of thing that happens when you let "the booth" have that kind of unchecked power.

I have to wonder why they didn't just adopt the NFL's system. The pros had it, did away with it, and then brought it back and have tweaked their process to where it is about as unobtrusive as it can be. Mainly, they need to give the challenge decision to the coaches and charge them a time out if they are wrong. The coaches are forced to exercise discretion. I've rarely seen a coach use up all of his challenges, thus the waiting time is limited.

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2005-09-12



Great opening night for Monday Night Football. I thought they had been over-hyping the Atlanta-Philadelphia rivalry just a bit. But there was a major scrum at half-field and each team had a starter kicked out ... before the game had even kicked off! The craziness has continued through the first half. This is certainly not the Michael Vick that Philadelphia pushed around in last season's NFC Championship. After he had an early pass picked off (he telegraphed it), Vick has been efficient with his wheels and his arm, and has staked the Falcons to a one touchdown lead.

Of course things would be closer were the Eagles not 0-2 on FG attempts. Other than that the Eagle offense has been decent. The Falcon "D" crunched McNabb early on, causing an interception. Other than that, like Vick, McNabb can beat you in a number of ways, and he's using them all. Nothing noteworthy on the McNabb - T.O. front. They're playing football. Owens is doing his part. And they haven't thrown down and started knifing each other in between plays or anything like that. I'll keep you posted if anything of the sort develops, though.

The thing I hate about MNF: Here it is, time for the news and we're just starting the half-time show. Speaking of the half-time show, ABC has added something new: highlights from this week in the NFL. Well, they've always done the highlights, but now they are set to Tim McGraw singing "I like it, I love it." The course features McGraw's lyrics, but the verses are changed to "clever" things like, "(blah)(blah)(blah) dandy, bet the Vikings wish that they still had Randy." I guess this is entertainment. It must be something, cuz it sure isn't informative, interesting or intelligent.

I say, do the highlights or do music. Sometimes you can just get too creative for your own good. And the whole bombardment of raucous, country music throughout the show is getting old. Well, it was getting old ten years ago. Now it's getting annoying ... time for an overhaul.

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2005-09-10



I'm right in the middle of the Ohio State - Texas game and it's a dandy! Now, I've never been a fan of either team, but I've got to admit, both are putting on a good show. At first it appeared that Vince Young, a.k.a. Texas' offense, was going to run away with the game. Then Ohio State settled in, and went to a speed-heavy defense, and the 'Horns offense began to sputter. Still, the Buckeyes have only been able to cash in repeated Texas turnovers for field goals, letting Mack Brown's team remain in the game.

I'm rooting for Ohio State. Playing in the Big 10, they'll have plenty of opportunities to pick up a loss further on down the line. If Texas wins, they could easily run the table in the Big 12 which is weak this year. Given that the poll-sters have had a major league crush on them for years, nothing would keep Texas out of the Rose Bowl.

One last thought on Ohio State. When I heard Coach Tressel's plan to alternate QB's Justin Zwick and Troy Smith, two possessions on and two possessions off, I was not impressed. When has sticking with a QB uncertainty ever worked? It did pan out for the Buckeyes in the first half, thanks in part to Tressel abandoning his plan and sticking with Smith's hot hand.

As the game moves on, however, it is Oho State's offense that is keeping Texas in the game. The Buckeye defense might just as well be sitting in on Texas' huddles because they seem to be all over everything the 'Horns try. Since a 2nd quarter Smith to Santonio Holmes touchdown Ohio State has mustered only field goals on offense despite several golden opportunities.

Mark my words - Ohio State will not reach the Rose Bowl with a two QB system. You can not compete at a high when you don't let your key player settle in and when your O Line is hearing two different voices throughout the game.

In the day's other big game, another member on my list of "most hated teams," Notre Dame came up big, defeating Michigan in Ann Arbor. Turns out Pitt, whom the Irish dismantled last week, is no big deal. More on this later. Michigan on the other hand, came in at #3 in the nation, and picked by most to win the Big 10 and contend for the National Championship. It may turn out that the Wolverines were a shade over-rated, but this is still a marquis win for the Irish and confirms their resurgance.

With that, you have to give props to Charlie Weiss for the monster turnaround in South Bend. What else could it be? The talent is any greater or less than last year. The big change has been the coach, and once again this week we saw that Weiss brought his recipe for success with him from the New England Patriots. Like the Patriots, the Irish have come into both of their games under Weiss hyper-prepared. Like his former boss, Bill Belichick, it appears that Weiss doesn't win games on game day, he wins them in practice and scouting and in the film room on Monday through Friday.

Elsewhere, the bloom is off the rose in Pittsburgh. The Panthers began the season excited about new head coach Dave Wannstedt and picked to contend with Louisville for the Big East crown. Since then Pitt has suffered a lopsided defeat at the hands of Notre Dame, and equally embarrasing, last night's loss to Ohio. So, not such a hot start, but this should come as no surprise. Like Weiss, Wannstedt has brought the magic that he generated with the Bears and Dolphins in the NFL with him to Pittsburgh!

Also in the adjusted expectations file:

Boise State, yes pre-season #18, crybaby cuz they can't get into the BCS, Boise State is off to an 0-2 start. "What could explain this drastic change over last year?" you might wonder. Simple. Boise State has played two teams (Georgia and Oregon State) from BCS conferences - something they'd previously avoided. Again I say, "Shut up!"

Steve Spurrier, another high profile coach making an immediate impact, logged a tough loss but moral victory as his South Carolina team lost by two at Georgia. It's early, but Georgia is my pick to take the SEC and be a serious threat to go to Pasadena. South Carolina never was an easy game, but it appears that Spurrier is ready to upset the Georgia/Tennessee/Florida applecart in the SEC East.

Ohio State - Texas update. Well, all that settling for field goals came back to haunt the Buckeyes. Texas finally connected for a touchdown which was enough to give them the lead and ultimately the win. This sucks. Now the gushing over Texas will be even worse than before. This team is a one-trick pony, and that trick is Vince Young. The Buckeyes took away Young's wheels and seriously outplayed the 'Horns for 45 minutes of this game. The vaunted Texas offense was stifled for almost all of the second half. I tell you, those 2 QB systems doom the team that thinks, "It'll be different here."

Oklahoma struggled with Tulsa before finally waking up. If someone is going to de-rail Texas, it's not likely to be the Sooners this year.



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2005-09-09



"It's a sin to be good if God has called us to be great."
So says Thom S. Ranier, founder of the Billy Graham School at Southern Seminary and soon to be President of Lifeway, in his new book "Break Out Churches."

The book discusses Ranier's findings after he and his team studied churches that had transitioned from good to great. Over at Crosswalk, Rebekah Montgomery has a piece discussing the book and her interview with Ranier. While I'm curious about the methodology and how the team defined "good" and "great," it seems that members and leaders weary from the struggle that is the church grind would do well to ponder what Ranier has to say.

"We did not do a screening of theology on the front end of our survey, but when we came out on the back end, it was with conservative evangelical leaders. None of the other types of leadership were even close. Quite frankly, it is hard to do evangelism unless one holds to the exclusivity of salvation through Christ ...

The unchurched are only attracted to a church that believes in the truths of God's Word ... Essentially, they are saying, 'We get enough of relativism out in the culture. We're looking for a place that really believes something.'"


Amen! One thing that has me increasingly baffled are Christian "leaders" who are quick to discount Scripture. "'Well sure, it's in the Bible, but you have to remember that it was written by a human being, and subject to human bias and fallibility.'" Thus the door is open to compromising the message of God's Word, which leads to pretty much anything the leader wants it to lead to, and thus we have neutralized one of our greatest ministry tools and offer nothing special to the seeking.

For me the two big "Wake Up!" points were: 1. Deep prayer was a key precursor to a church's "break out," and 2. worship style was not!

In the case of prayer, this is nothing new, but probably a much needed reminder. In a church, when we set out on a project we plan, we timeline, we budget, and we staff. But how about prayer? How does the intensity of the prayer effort compare to the investment of energy and resources into men leaning on their own intellect and ability?

As for worship style, is this not a battle that rages in every small church living in the shadow of a mega-church? Here Ranier makes an important point:
"There is no correlation between style of worship - liturgical or contemporary - in terms of evangelistic growth. That's counter-intuitive because most people believe that more contemporary churches have the greater evangelistic growth, but we have found the more contemporary churches have growth explained by transfer growth but not evangelistic growth." emphasis added
In other words, the big churches with slick presentation get big by taking members from other churches, not by reaching the previously unchurched.

Montgomery concludes her piece with one more power point:
"Rainer sees the next trend in church growth coming in simplification of a church's focus by doing a few things well instead of trying to cover the gambit of activities. 'Over commitment and busyness are killing our best people and the ministers within the church. I see churches doing less but doing what they do better.'"
Thomas J. Peters in his landmark business classic, "In Search of Excellence," found that the best companies "stick to their knitting." It's high time the church discovered this decades-old concept.

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2005-09-07



Give it up for Yamaha of Louisville. They juiced up my battery free of charge. I've got to say, this is not out of the ordinary. The first time I had to take the bike in for maintenance, they were just getting started - Tim and his dad, setting up the showroom and handling sales, and one guy in the service dept. I had to leave the bike overnight and was getting ready to head out to the bus stop. Instead, Tim's dad jumped in his truck and drove me home - a 45 minute round trip at that time of day.

It's good to see them in their new, permanent digs. I checked out the new 1100's while I was in there. Oh man ... sweet! Sadly, my next bike will be a Harley, when I can afford to pay cash, somewhere on down the road (although when you figure in the gas savings, it may be closer than I think). But hopefully I'll be able to stay in touch with the YOL guys.

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A couple of after-thoughts on the weekend:

Attention Boise State. To answer your question of last season - Why don't we get a BCS Bowl? Ummm ... Georgia 48 - You 13. Apparently you were the only ones who didn't realize that this is what would happen when you played a real team. Those BCS guys, they're picky. They want their games to be competitive.

And suddenly, I'm a Joe Paterno fan. Regarding reporters Paterno said:
"Coaching to me has always been a fun job. I love coaching and I love working with kids. I don't like you guys anymore. I don't know how else to say it. An element of the job that I loved has been taken away from me."
I love it when you stumble across a guy like this in sports - someone who just purely loves the game, and misses being able to relax and talk about his craft with anyone who would care to listen.

Paterno's loss is our loss.

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2005-09-06



Wow! What a great first weekend of College Football. Surprises and thrillers all around. I didn't get to see the Sunday slate except for a little bit of Virginia Tech, so for some of this, I'm taking the sports journalists at their word - not within my comfy zone.

It just broke my heart to see Oklahoma fall to TCU. After all, I have such great respect for the Big XII. Of course, rather than getting everyone to rightly scratch their heads and think, "Hmmm. Perhaps the Big XII isn't as good as we are constantly saying they are," this will only serve to fuel the "This is Texas' year!" talk. Speaking of Texas, coming off their most impressive conquest of might Louisiana-Lafayette, the 'Horns head to Columbus next week where they'll take on Ohio State in the Pretender Bowl.

Tennessee struggled with UAB. Another great showing for a Conference USA team.

The second biggest surprise of the weekend was Notre Dame. Admittedly, I didn't even expect them to win, much less to man-handle Pittsburgh the way they did. The Panthers were probably a bit over-rated. But, it wasn't hard to see the trademark preparation and game-planning that new Irish coach Charlie Weis has obviously brought with him from New England.

Louisville defeated but also struggled with Kentucky. Moral victory to the 'Cats. The Card offense was not quite as high-flying, and the defense not quite as strong as those who have penciled Louisville into the BCS Championship picture had predicted. Brohm is good and thankfully has a touch of experience, but this is his first time running the show in the NCAA. Hyper-inflated expectations certainly won't help the growing process. Perhaps we can put the coronation on hold and just enjoy what will probably be a season full of great games in the Cards' inaugural Big East season.

I did get to see the Miami-FSU game. Wow - ugly. Here again, you have a couple of new quarterbacks jumping in where fans have come to expect more. Funny thing is, although they won, Florida State leaves this game with a lot more to decide and work on offensively than Miami does. The 'Canes can't blame Kyle Wright for their loss. Sure, he was a little erratic early, and the Seminoles only touchdown was set up by an interception. Once Wright settled down however, his performance was vintage Hurricane QB. Dropped passes, stupid penalties, stupid decisions and special teams that were in a shambles kept Miami from winning this game. Right to the end of the game I watched Wright move the Miami offense and kept thinking, "OK, at some point they'll be able to string together three consecutive minutes without a bonehead play, and then they'll put this thing away." Never happened.

So, the 'Canes took their lumps here, but Wright showed that he's more likely to be the next Ken Dorsey, than the next Brock Berlin. All across Dade County: *sigh of relief*!

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2005-09-05



My bike battery died - my fault, but that doesn't make it any less of a hassle.

Turns out Yamaha uses a battery that requires a constant voltage charger only. I'm sure the dealer has one, but I spent the better part of the day trying to track down one that was closer. On Sunday? Not likely. Problem is, Labor Day isn't likely to be much better and I won't have time to mess with it anyway.

So, I guess I'll have to make a trip during lunch on Tuesday. Yikes! I just added a heretofore unnecessary round trip by car, which burns gas.

Ahhh, the new economics.

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2005-09-02



By the end of the night order had pretty much been restored in the College Football universe.

Stever Spurrier brought dreams of Fun 'n' Gun North with him to Columbia, SC. And, with a couple of quick strikes, the Gamecocks showed that they just might be packing heat. Unfortunately the gun was not fully loaded and Spurrier's squad emptied their clip in the first quarter. After that the game settled into what we might have expected of a South Carolina-Central Florida tilt in the pre-Holtz days.

This was not fatal against UCF, but South Carolina had better wake up and remember that even with Coach Spurrier at the helm, their SEC schedule awaits. Count on Carolina's D to be overwhelmed much of the time. If the new and improved Gamecock team wants to make a decent showing this year, their offense will have to reload and keep firing for all four quarters of every game.

And in Houston, Oregon woke up at some point and came back to defeat the Cougars by two touchdowns. Still, Houston played tough against what was supposed to be a vastly superior Pac 10 team.

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2005-09-01



Ahhh ... I'm in heaven.

South Carolina came out and torched UCF for two quick throwing touchdowns. They're looking like a Spurrier team right out of the gate.

But the big surprise so far is Houston lighting up the Oregon defense for 21 points. Heading into the second half, the Coug's are leading what many consider to be the second best team in the Pac 10.

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It occurs to me that the saying, "Every rose has its thorn," is pretty pessimistic. It's like the crusty grouch who makes a point of bringing you down every time things are going good.

I'd prefer the saying to be, "Every thorn has a rose." Unfortunately, in life as in nature, that is less accurate.

Anyway, on to today.

The big, old rusty railroad spike of a thorn: Our fiscal year ended yesterday. I know, it's crazy. KBC has the same schedule and I've always thought it was nuts. As an accountant it's a nightmare trying to keep track of where you are in the quarter or year. Nonetheless, we're in full-scale, year-end get ready for an audit mode. Tax accountants have a nightmare first quarter, and industry accountants have this.

The huge, brilliant rose in full bloom: The College Football season is here! And we kick it off with Central Florida at South Carolina, featuring the return of Steve Spurrier. This really is a highlight for me as Spurrier is one of those guys who, despite his stint with the Redskins, smacks of College Football.

I browsed the ESPN "experts" "fearless" predictions. USC is a unanimous Rose Bowl pick - real fearless. Louisville is also the unanimous pick to win the Big East. I just don't see that as the lock everyone thinks it is. I don't care how bad the Big East is, they are still a big step up from Conference USA.

The consensus is that whichever team comes out of the Big XII South, Oklahoma or Texas, will win that league. Again, the fealessness is overwhelming. The North is weak beyond compare, and half of the South is right there with them, yet all season long we'll be hearing about how this is the best conference in football.

No surprise in the Big 10 - out of 12 "fearless" predictions, four different teams were picked to win the conference, and three of them received more than one vote. This one will probably go right down to the wire, but the Big 10 season is so brutal that it's hard to imagine a championship contender emerging from the mess.

Another toss-up, the SEC campaign, promises to be a little more exciting as it should jostle the BCS picture right down to the conference championship game. The one thing I can't understand are the Florida picks. Spurrier may be back, but he's not coaching the Gators. Two strong years with a mid-major out West are not all the ingredients necessary for major conference success.

Let the games begin!

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