The Conspiracy Theorist’s Guide to the NFL Playoffs

(This is a work of fiction. I do not believe there is an NFL conspiracy. At least, I’m pretty sure there’s not.)

It’s Playoff time! And our favorite team, the Seattle Seahawks, are seeded um,  wait a second?! No Seahawks in the Playoffs? So in order to keep these playoffs interesting, I’m going to make some predictions based on the ludicrous idea that the NFL is scripted by screenwriters in New York.

Overarching themes for the playoffs:

  • The NFL need some new and exciting matchups. And one of those is going to be a new Belicheck vs Brady rivalry, with Belichick leaving for New York after a disastrous 2017 post-season. So this year, no Patriots in the Super Bowl.
  • There a couple of new cool young QB’s. They’ll lose in the first round.
  • There’s one team left that needs a new stadium and new ownership.
  • The NFC is going to win.

Week 1:

  • Tennessee vs Kansas City: The NFL wants the young but not elite QB’s to do well enough to stay interesting. Mariotta fits that bill. He leads the Titans to victory over the coach that the NFL hates for some reason.
  • Falcons vs Rams: Goff vs the NFC West is the storyline in the division for 2018 and beyond. But Matt Ryan’s revenge is more compelling this year. Falcons win, but the Rams are going to be poised and positioned to be the NFC favorite next year.
  • Buffalo vs Jacksonville: Buffalo tried to lose this season, and yet the NFL needed them to be a playoff contender so the rich guys in Toronto would want to adopt them. A playoff birth is really all this terrible team needed to get. Now the franchise is worth an extra $250mm dollars. Jacksonville wins.
  • Carolina vs New Orleans: The NFL is still annoyed at Cam Newton. Saints make him look silly and he has a meltdown in his press conference.

Week 2:

  • Tennessee vs New England: Here’s the dumb upset of the playoffs. It’s inexplicable but the necessary plot twist to cause the Belichick/Brady breakup. Tennessee wins.
  • Jacksonville vs Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh has some of the most exciting players in NFL. Plus, I’m pretty sure the Rooney and Mara families have a deal with the NFL where one of them makes the Super Bowl every 3 years. Jacksonville is 2018’s team, this year Pittsburgh wins.
  • Atlanta vs Philadelphia: There is something about seeing Philly fans of any sport be miserable. But they’ll be more miserable if they lose next week. Philly wins.
  • New Orleans vs Minnesota: Best game of the playoffs. It goes down to the wire and New Orleans wins, because the NFL needs enough time to get Minnesota’s stadium ready for the Super Bowl.

Week 3:

  • Tennessee vs Pittsburgh: We can try to pretend this will be competitive, but Pittsburgh blows them out.
  • New Orleans vs Philadelphia: As we said before, it’s nice to see Philly fans miserable. And everyone in Pennsylvania would be hoping for an intra-state Super Bowl. So karma leans to the Saints.

Super Bowl

  • Pittsburgh vs New Orleans: Brees vs Roethlisberger. Ingram and Kamara vs Bell. Good WR’s on each squad. An exciting Super Bowl ends with the Saints getting screwed on a bad replay call, and the Steelers get the Super Bowl win.

10 Things To Do On New Year’s Day

The New Year is upon us. For many people, New Year’s Eve means staying up past our normal bedtimes, drinking champagne past a reasonable hour, and awaking the next morning thinking that the year can only improve from there.

But the good news is that you have the day off from work. You could turn on Netflix, find a show, and spend the next 10-15 hours between your couch and kitchen. But you could also be a little productive with your spare time and dead brain. Here are some suggestions.

  1. Take a walk around the block: Yeah it’s going to be cold. Probably rainy. One walk around the block will get your blood moving and lungs working. Plus it will get your brain going again – not much, but just enough to accomplish the rest of the stuff on the list.
  2. Remember your successes from 2017: It’s easy to get hung up on what you want to do better in 2018. Be in better shape, lose weight, make more money, etc… But you did some things really well in 2017. You did some things other people admire. Remember those wins.
  3. Backup all your photos: Oh some of you are really good at doing this on the fly. But the rest of you have hundreds of photos on your phone that you haven’t put in a safe place for awhile. Sure, I know they all get uploaded to the cloud, but why not save yourself the heartache of wondering if Apple is hack-proof? Just get all your photos on a backup hard drive. It takes very little effort.
  4. Clean up your phone: While you’re backing up your photos, why not take a spin through the 346 apps on your phone and clean some out. That new cool app you read about on FastCompany or Geekwire probably isn’t even in business anymore. Take an hour and wipe out the clutter.
  5. Read your LinkedIn profile: Remember that profile you updated the last time you needed a job, or got a new one? Yeah, the world has changed since then. Probably a good time to go in and make sure your professional internet presence reflects who you really are.
  6. Call some old friends: Hey guess what your friends are doing on Jan 1. Lying on the couch! Give them a call.
  7. Put all your gift cards in a stack by the front door: Maybe you aren’t like me, but I often receive gift cards that I never remember getting, then have them scattered around the house, so I forget to use them. I like to find them all and put them in one place next to my keys, so I can’t miss them when I’m leaving the house.
  8. Cook something delicious: Are you hungry now? Debating the prospects of leftovers vs a pizza? The internet makes it easy to find recipes. You can type in something like, “Easy things to cook on New Year’s” and I bet you’ll get a variety of chili and crockpot recipes that are awesome. Spend 20 minutes off the couch, go to the grocery store in your sweats and baseball hat, and then slow cook something that makes you seem like a culinary genius.
  9. Clean up your bookmarks: You have 100 articles stores somewhere that you meant to read at some point during the year. Either read it or delete it or both. Get a fresh palette of reading material.
  10. Write down the gifts you wanted and didn’t get this year: In a few months people will ask what you want for your birthday. And you won’t know. But if you have a list of “Xmas Didn’t Gets” in Evernote or GoogleDocs or whatever, you can just email it to them.

Happy New Year everyone. Whatever you do on your own New Year’s Day, I hope it leads to a prosperous and happy campaign.

A Conspiracy Theorist’s Predictions for the 2017 NFL Playoffs

We all know the NFL playoffs aren’t rigged. But if they WERE being written by a team of storytellers in New York, here’s how it would go down.

Houston: No NFL team has ever won a Super Bowl in the year their city hosted the game. The host city needs the tourist revenue. So no Houston this year. 1st round out.

Oakland: Their QB is out so they should have no chance. BUT, that wasn’t supposed to happen. The NFL needs the Raiders to become America’s favorite team so that either Oakland or Las Vegas will build them a new Billion Dollar stadium. Oakland is going to the Super Bowl behind a rookie QB who has never started an NFL game. Cinderella plus history + need for stadium = NFL preference.

Seattle: This is a tough one. The NFL finally had a team full of interesting characters a few years ago. Richard, Marshawn, Earl, Russell, Kam, and everyone’s favorite grandpa coaching them. But then something happened and the storytellers saw their characters go off script. Beast Mode quit, the goody-two-shoes QB married 50 Cent’s ex, Earl got hurt and spoke of retirement, Sherman seems to have lost his cool. This isn’t a team the NFL loves anymore. This is the team that goes down inexplicably this year.

Detroit: The Cavaliers, Cubs, Indians, Donald Trump… notice a trend? The world is conspiring to provide some relief to the Rust Belt. Detroit gets a cinderella win this year, even though they stink.

Miami: No one cares about the Dolphins, including Miami. If a team loses a playoff game and no one in the city notices, did they actually lose? Doesn’t matter. 1st round out.

Pittsburgh: I’m pretty sure the Rooneys and Maras have a deal with the NFL that one of them gets to win the Super Bowl every 4-5 years. They also fit well into the Rust Belt conversation. I see them to the AFC Championship where they do what is best for the league and lose to Oakland.

Giants: The Giants vs Cowboys rivalry is going to be THE rivalry for the next 3 years. But it starts in earnest next year. This year is the appetizer where we learn how important the regular season will be to each team. The Cowboys get a bye, the Giants go down in the best game of the 1st round. OR, they win a few games and end up losing to Dallas in the NFC Championship where home field matters. This is a tough one.

Green Bay: Is it the end of an era? Or is this the transition year where Aaron Rodgers gets a new cast of characters to make great? Once Tom Brady is gone, Aaron Rodgers will have another 5-7 years. I think Green Bay gets a win but goes on a Super Bowl drought until Rodgers’ final year when he gets to have his Peyton Manning Swan Song. OR, they have to bow to New York and let the Giants vs Cowboys NFC Championship game take shape.

New England: Every year, they could be the team that wins it all. They’re the guys you know will get there one or two of every three years. And this year they are simply going to need to take one for the league and let Oakland get to the Super Bowl. It’s just good business sense to let Oakland beat them.

Kansas City: Blah. No one outside of Kansas City cares about Kansas City. A league that saw TV ratings go down this year needs a HUGE Championship weekend and Super Bowl. Neither of those lead to Kansas City success. Out as soon as possible.

Atlanta: The Falcons have managed to get tax payer money to get a new stadium built. That was rewarded with a trip to the playoffs. But the idea of Aaron Rodgers vs Dak Prescott is too good to pass up.

Dallas: GOD the NFL needed Dallas this year. It’s a ratings bonanza. Kids love Dak and Zeke. Old guys love Dez and Whiten. This is NFL gold. Pencil them in to go all the way to the Super Bowl.

Round 1:

AFC: Oakland (5) over Houston (4) and Pittsburgh (3) over Miami (6)

NFC: Detroit (6) over Seattle (3) and Green Bay (4) over New York (5) (or vice versa)

Round 2:

AFC: Oakland (5) over New England (1) and Pittsburgh (3) over Kansas City (2)

NFC: Dallas (1) over Detroit (6) and Green Bay or New York (4 or 5) over Atlanta (2)

Championship Round:

AFC: Oakland (5) over Pittsburgh (3) in a classic AFL battle that makes the old people happy.

NFC: Dallas (1) over Green Bay or New York (4 or 5) in a classic NFL battle that makes old and new young people happy.

Super Bowl: TBD.


What I Learned – 6 Business Lessons To Learn From Bruce Springsteen

3 hours and 45 minutes. That was the amount of time Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played at Key Arena on Thursday night. What can a musician teach a business person in 4 hours? Here are some simple lessons of which I was reminded.

1) Treat your customer right
How do you get you most ardent fans, all who have seen you play multiple times, to spend hundreds of dollars to see you again? Deliver them something so over the top, that they can’t say no to you. Do something unheard of – like playing “The River” from front to back for 2 hours, and then delivering another hour and 45 minutes of your hits. No intermissions, no fake encores, just turn on the lights and start playing.

2) Deliver consistent product
Once Springsteen hit his groove, he continued to deliver what his audience wanted. Sure, he dabbled here and there with some things like Tunnel of Love, but for the most part he has kept driving updated versions of what his customers were clamoring for. And when he wasn’t producing new material, he was on the road reminding his customers why they loved him.

3) Work with a strong team
Look at the folks he works with, and those who have passed. Solid musicians who do things better than he can. You don’t see him doing a vanity song on the piano or sax to show us he can play any instrument. He has the E Street Band, who are a key part of his storyline, and critical to the customer’s overall experience. Oh – and don’t be afraid to bring on someone like Eddie Vedder for a freelance consultant role.

4) Let your team discover their own creative outlets
I bet there are fans of Silvio Dante who has no idea he was the lead guitarist for Bruce Springsteen (while even fewer Lilyhammer fans had a clue.) And plenty of Conan O’Brien lovers didn’t know who Max Weinberg was hanging out with on weekends. These were creative outlets where the guys in the shadows could get some spotlight and be known for being more than, “That guy who plays in Bruce’s band.”

5) Work harder than everyone else
Did I mention 3 HOURS AND 45 MINUTES. Without a break. With stage diving. At 66 years old. You don’t just do that. You train for it. You eat right, train better, and have the will to get it done. You practice so that you know exactly how to be the most efficient with your effort. You plan so that you know how to give everyone a couple of minutes here and there to get some water (or whatever they need) to stay on top of their game. This isn’t stumbling onto a stage at Bumbershoot and goofing around for 45 minutes. Any half-ass band or company can fake it for a little while. But that’s why he’s been selling out stadiums for 30 years.

6) And of course, it’s good to be The Boss.

American Politics are Dead, and I Blame Social Media

I hear the gasps now. “But Andy, your mortgage gets paid because of social media. How can ANYTHING be social media’s fault?”

In the beginning, we all promised that social would lead to the democratization of media. Finally, one person with a great point could be heard by the masses, without the media getting in the way and distorting the message. That was the goal, the dream, the vision.

But what do we have instead?

Everyone in my Facebook feed who posts something political, made their decision who to support months if not years ago. I have yet to see a single post where someone says, “Here is a really well thought out article that discusses two sides of a complex issue. Please read it so we can discuss as mature adults in a reasonable fashion.”

No, every political post is along the lines of, “Another example of how Trump sucks.” Or, “Here’s why Hillary is going to jail.” Or, “Look, GOP is imploding. LOL HAHAHA #DemsRule.”

And really, this is our fault. We took a channel that we could own, and turned it into a circus. People complain about how biased FoxNews, CNN, and MSNBC are. But they need to look at their own Facebook and Twitter feeds. Individuals pander to their friends and followers worse than the media does. No Democrat reads an article about John Kasich and posts, “Hmm, I hadn’t thought about this before. He seems to make sense.” No, everyone moves on to the next article in their Flipboard hoping the headline says something like, “Donald Trump declares he likes to eat puppies.”

Ari, Chris and I learned this in 2007 when we built (ironically we lost the url to some Chinese spam company). People were really happy when their results confirmed the beliefs they had entering into the survey. They were very displeased to learn that they had something in common with the opposite party. Sometimes I wish we could try that experiment again. But I bet we’d find the same results.

So instead of a place to learn, social media has become an echo chamber where like minded individuals like each other’s posts, which triggers the algorithm to deliver more of the same types of posts that the same people can like even more. Social media is now built to make sure you don’t see a differing opinion, especially one that requires reading and/or thought. We’ve built a channel where everyone who believes the same thing can put on blinders and believe everyone sees things the way they do.

And that is the exact opposite of what the democratization of media was supposed to be about.

Imagining Presidential Candidates as League Commissioners

I don’t know what made me think about this, but indulge me if you will. If you took the remaining Presidential candidates and put them in charge of the sports leagues, which ones would they run? Here’s my proposal.

1) MLS
Let’s start with the easiest one first. Major League Soccer is by definition a socialist endeavor. The league revenues are split, the labor force has few rights for negotiating wages, and all transactions must go through the league office. This is Bernie Sanders’ league, plain and simple.

2) NFL
The country’s most powerful league is going to need a member of the establishment to carry out its charter. Someone who knows everyone on Wall Street as well as the rest of the Billionaire owners. They must have political clout to wield or they’ll be a lame duck. But also, the NFL needs someone who can deflect controversy, pretend things that are happening aren’t actually happening, and show a strong willingness to tiptoe on the wrong side of the rules. I think the NFL goes to Hillary Clinton.

3) MLB
This league is much harder to determine a proper commissioner for. Its leader must have the clout to appease 30 billionaire owners, manage municipalities to get stadiums built, and negotiate billion dollar TV deals, all while presiding over a sport that is losing its appeal to much of America. In some ways, to some people, MLB has become somewhat a relic of days gone by. A memory of what once was, rather than what will be. And with that in mind, I hand the keys to Jeb Bush.

4) NBA
Another tough decision. We’re looking for someone who can see the international picture while not overlooking the inner cities. Someone who can manage across different cultures. But also someone who can simply step into the shoes of his mentor and merely continue to operate the machine rather than create a new one from scratch. I think this role is given to Marco Rubio.

5) NHL
Here we have a league that not enough people get excited about. It rarely registers on your sports mind, even though the few times you pay attention to it, you find it quite enjoyable. It is the epitome of being John Kasich.

With this organization, we’re looking for a few key qualities. This leader must be fairly tone deaf to the cries from its labor force who want to be paid. The leader must embrace the idea of the 1% receiving all of the money, and have strong convictions about who should be let into the system. Plus this leader must be stubborn, resistant to the opinion of others, and able to hold true to their beliefs. I believe Ted Cruz is our answer here.

7) WWE
Come on, is this one really that hard? There’s only one Presidential candidate capable of running the circus that is Worldwide Wrestling. The one and only, Donald Trump.

Have I missed a league that needs a Presidential candidate as a commissioner? Let me know.

Andy vs the Woodpeckers

Round 1:
Sometimes in the beginning of a war, only the protagonist knows that the war has started. In the saga of Andy vs the Woodpeckers, this was the case.

The evil Woodpecker staged a sneak attack one morning with a small series of annoying, but not overly damaging, pings on the side of the house. It wasn’t constant, it wasn’t overly obnoxious; it was just a few taps on the Northeast corner of my house. All I needed to do was tap back at the wall and he would flee. It seemed innocent enough.
Round 1 Winner: Draw

Round 2:
Little did I know that this was the beginning of an invasion, and the WP’s were staking their claim. After about a week, it became clear that the enemy had entrenched itself. The tapping became constant. And it was more than a single woodpecker. It was a whole platoon. They were taking shifts. My tapping back was no longer a deterrent. They had gathered enough intelligence to know nothing was coming through that wall.
Round 2 Winner: Woodpeckers

Round 3:
Thus I had to regroup. I said to myself, “This will be easy. Surely, the internet has dealt with woodpeckers before. I will ask my friend Google for advice.” And Google did not fail me. There were lots of easy tips for deterring woodpeckers. I could attach tin foil to my wall. I could put a fake owl on my gutter. The list of ways to deter a woodpecker was nearly endless. And so, I walked to the northeast corner of my house, unfurled my 12 foot ladder, scaled as high as felt reasonably safe and realized I was still a good 15 feet away from where the deviants were pecking. I looked to my right and saw the nearest window that could be opened was about 50 feet away. Barring the unlikely event that I would learn to fly, there was going to be no easy way to attach tin foil to my wall 25 feet above the ground and 50 feet from a window.
Round 3 Winner: Woodpeckers

Round 4:
“Woodpeckers are probably easily scared,” I naively said to myself. “All I need to do is frighten the woodpecker. When he pecks on the wall, I will hurl a penny with my left hand from 50 feet away. I will scare him off and he’ll know not to mess with me.” And so, when one of my winged attackers attached himself to my abode, I took a penny and chucked it at him from 50 feet away.

Needless to say, I did not hit him.

I did make some noise with my toss and he flew away. First it took him about 20 minutes to come back, so I threw another penny and he flew away again. This time it took him 10 minutes to return. I threw another penny and 5 minutes later he was back. We danced to this song a few more times until he realized he only needed to fly away for 15 seconds or so to get me to leave the window.

About a hundred yards way, I could see a collection of woodpeckers congregating in a tree. I think one may have been taking tickets. I’m pretty sure they were all laughing at me.

Round 4 Winner: Woodpeckers

Round 5:
“I’m a reasonably intelligent human. I’ve seen McGyver. There is a way to get this tin foil on the wall,” I said to the amusement of the fates. On a piece of paper, I had drawn the perfect solution.

  • I would attach a nail just under my window and tie a 75 yard string to it.
  • Then I’d drop the ball of string to the ground, walk it over to a tree near the edge of the house and throw the string over the tree branch.
  • I would then bring the ball of string back towards the window, and hurl it 20 feet into the air, through the open window.
  • I could then tie the 2nd end of the string tight and create a “laundry line” which would pass directly by where the woodpeckers were doing their damage.
  • I would then use clips and attach a nice long strip of tin foil, and attach a long string to the tin foil that would reach the ground.
  • I could then pull the tin foil along the string until I reached the place I wanted to leave it. Easy.

Foil Plan 2

I attached the nail, dropped the string to the ground and began bringing the string across. That’s when I noticed the other trees on the side of my house and the branches that were making it difficult (read: impossible) to get the string through. After a few minutes, I managed to get the string to the target tree, got it over the branch and headed back. Now the branches really grabbed hold of the string. I pulled my way through and prepared to launch the ball through the 3rd floor window.

Foil Plan 3

My first attempt was close, but not successful. My 2nd attempt less so, to the point that the ball of string came back to earth through the tree branches. Attempts 3 thru 10 were similar in nature. Finally – SUCCESS! The ball of string made it through my window. I excitedly bound up stairs and got ready to revel in my win. I grabbed the string and started to coil it in so that I could have my taut laundry line in which to slide my tin foil across.

First there was a slight tug as the string caught a tree branch. I pulled it through. Then there were more tugs, as the tree opened all its fingers and grasped on to any bit of string it could find. The string was not coming up any further. I would not have a taut laundry line, all I would have was a tree full of string.
Round 5 winner: Woodpeckers

Round 6:
That was the end of one day of suffering and I decided to sleep on it and look for more solutions in the morning. So Monday, I headed over to Fred Meyer and asked the nice lady in the Garden Center if they had a Woodpecker Removal kit. When she said, “No, but I think we have some things for rodents or bugs,” my confidence waned. I was going to have to create a solution. 1st stop – some sort of garden sprayer so that I could poison the whole area where these evil creatures were burrowing. 2nd stop – the toy section and the purchase of a high powered Nerf gun.
I tried the poison first, spraying the side of my house high enough that no insect will ever return. This did not phase the woodpecker in the slightest. He was asking – no begging – to be shot with the Nerf gun.

Nerf Gun

This thing can shoot 75 feet, so my target would be well within the range from my window next time he came over. It was almost too easy.

It wasn’t long before I heard his return. He sat himself on the wall and started banging. I leaned myself out the window took aim. If he saw me, he didn’t show it. This was one cool cat. I lined up the shot, calculating for wind, distance and the unknown variable – how much velocity does a Nerf bullet actually bring to the equation.

I had him in my sights. He was all lined up. For a brief moment, I felt bad about what I was about to do.

That moment passed. I pulled the trigger.

The missile sailed a good foot over his head, as I was surprised by how much speed the missile had. The surprised woodpecker noticed immediately how lucky he was to be alive and fled. Surely, almost being shot would keep him from coming back.

10 minutes later, he was back. Once again, I shot and missed, and he fled. He came back. I shot and missed, and he fled. He came back. I shot and missed, and he fled.

We did this another 10 times or so, me firing from different angles and spots around the perimeter. This plan may work eventually, but I did not have the patience to keep it up.
Round 6 Winner: Woodpeckers

Round 7:
Google couldn’t solve my problem, so I crowd-sourced an answer on Facebook. The obvious solution was raised for me – Helium Balloons!

Just my luck, it’s the day after Easter and QFC was stuck with a ton of Mylar “Happy Easter” Balloons that the florist said he’d sell me for $.99. And he threw in 30 feet of ribbon for fun (or because he just wanted me to leave.) I wasn’t sure how many balloons was the proper amount for Woodpecker removal, but 3 seemed like the right number.

I tied 12 feet of ribbon to the 2 feet already attached. With my ladder still perched against the wall, I climbed to the 12th foot and tied the balloon to its anchor. The balloon swayed back and forth, never going more than about 10 feet from the Woodpecker’s target, but always returning home.

3 hours later, the balloon is still up and the Woodpeckers have not returned. This isn’t a long term solution, but we can put this day in the books.

Round 7 Winner: Andy

Seeing Sting and Julio Down By the Schoolyard

You know when you are sitting around with friends listening to music and enjoying a beverage or two, and someone says, “Wouldn’t be AWESOME if “Person X” and “Person Y” went on tour together?” And then you spend an hour debating what group of people you’d like to see collaborate on stage at the same time for a whole show.

Springsteen and Pearl Jam? U2 and Madonna? Paul McCartney and Justin Timberlake? Bruno Mars and the Rolling Stones? Usher and Toby Keith? And then you wonder sadly why it never happens.

Well somewhere high on my list was Paul Simon and Sting. And lucky for me, they showed up at Key Arena last week.

I wasn’t exactly sure how they were going to perform, but their model was fantastic and hopefully will be something other groups will replicate. For a pretty ridiculous ticket price, they combined their 2 bands into a fantastic harmony featuring both the predictability of the songs you want to hear, and the unpredictability of some weird combinations.

Grand total, we ended up with 30 songs over about 2 hours and 45 minutes. And frankly, the time flew by. The 30 songs themselves make for an awesome playlist (listen here if you’d like). But how they were executed made it even better.

They came out together, sharing vocals on 3 of their top hits, almost as if they had written them together. Then Sting did 5 of his own, Simon came back for a duet, Simon did 5 of his own, Sting came back for a duet and 5 of his own, Simon back for a duet and 5 more, and then a 4 song encore together. Basically, we ended up with 10 duets, and each guy did 10 of his own. Plus Sting did Simon’s America with one of his solo choices, which was a nice tribute to the man 10 years his elder.


The highlights of the show were watching Simon sing on things like Fields of Gold, Every Breath You Take, or Sting taking Garfunkel’s role on Bridge over Troubled Water and The Boxer. These collaborations showed both how great the songs are, but also how much talent each man possesses to have the ability to step right in and make it seem like it’s his own song.

Almost as much fun as watching Sting and Simon, was watching how the two bands played together. They didn’t hire new people to back them up, they took their regular teams and mashed them up on the same stage. All told I think there were 13 additional people when everyone was out there. Instrument wise, I think I counted 2 drum sets, a percussion set (bongos and such), keyboard, organs, bass player, 2-3 other guitars, female vocals, clarinet/sax player, a trumpet, violin and an accordion / jack of all trades. They rolled on and off the stage depending on the song, which has to take some tight coordination.


The bands themselves were pretty funny in how different they looked. Simon’s guys all looked like they were going to walk over to Floyd’s Place after the gig for some chicken wings and cold beer. Sting’s team looked like they would take an Uber down to the Triple Door for a glass of wine and maybe check out some jazz. But musically, they seemed pretty flawless.

It’s funny to think about two people who have achieved so much in their lives, but can also have such a respect for the other one, that their natural course of action is, “Hey man, let’s go make a few million bucks playing some gigs together.” On one hand it seems so easy. But I imagine it takes some special personalities not to get too egocentric about it.

If you live out east, the show will eventually get to Madison Square Garden. I highly recommended it.

Set List:
(Spotify Playlist)

Brand New Day, Boy in the Bubble, Fields of Gold

Sting solo:
Everything She Does is Magic, Englishman in New York, I Hung My Head, Driven to Tears, Walking on the Moon

Mother and Child Reunion

Paul Simon solo:
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Dazzling Blue, Graceland, Still Crazy After All These Years, Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard


Sting solo:
America, Message in Bottle, Hounds of Winter, They Dance Alone, Roxanne, Desert Rose

The Boxer

Paul Simon solo:
That Was Your Mother (aka The Zydeco Song), Hearts and Bones / Mystery train / Wheels Medley, Obvious Child, Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, You Can Call Me Al

Encore Together:
Late in the Evening, Every Breath you Take, Bridge Over Troubled Water

2nd Encore, sans bands.
When Will I Be Loved – Phil Everly

Occupy Seattle Described as a Poker Game

You won’t see this analysis written anywhere else – this content comes from part of an email chain where a bunch of people were discussing the differences between the original Occupy Wall Street and the local spin-off versions such as Occupy LA and Occupy Seattle.  It all stemmed from an LA Times article that explained it would cost Los Angeles $2.3 Million to clean up the park which had been Occupied.  I’ll keep the whole email from this anonymous person for context, but the paragraph with the poker analogy is the one I found most compelling.

Note: At this point the discussion had moved to talk about whether the movement, or the offshoots of the movement, would be successful on getting student-debts absolved.  (And no offense to puppetry and history majors.)

People take risks and develop new and improved goods and services because they believe that they will profit from it. That is at the root of our free market economic system. That is exactly what Adam Smith wrote about all those years ago. Plus, where do you think all that money comes from to pay off people’s debts (whether student loans or mortgages or bank bail outs or whatever)? Government takes in revenue through taxes. The inhabitants of a country pay the taxes. So, if one group of people want money from the government (and that is exactly what asking to have your debts payed off is- getting money from the government), in essence those people are asking other people to pay for their choices. Why should I have to pay for the choices that another person made (that is the root of the whole social contract and the obligations of citizenship)?

For example, I am OK with helping to pay for education in general- most people are. That is why we have free public K-12 education. It is an investment in the future. I am also OK with student grants for college kids who can not afford college. That also helps society and is an investment in the future. But if some guy takes out a massive loan from a private business (i.e. a bank) to fund his two years in college to get a masters degree in literature or history or puppetry or what have you, and then the guy can’t get a job with his worthless degree, why should I have to pay to get his loan written off? That guy is in essence begging money from me. He better be able to explain why and persuade me to pay off his loan, or I will not want to pay it off for him. And if his first attempt to persuade me to pay off his loan is to “occupy” the park down the street from my house and threaten to stay there until I pay for his loan, then frankly he has failed at making his case from the get go.

To put it in poker terms,  imagine if some guy at the table made big risky bets over and over, chasing long odds on flush draws hand after hand, borrowed money repeatedly from other players to buy in on more hands, and when he finally craps out and has no more money, he demands that everybody else pony up money to pay off his debts. How would you feel about that? How would you react to that? How would the other players react to that? Now imagine if that guy- rather than to try to logically explain why you should pay off his debt- decides to go sit in the bathroom and “occupy” it for several weeks. He messes the place up, refuses to clean it up, disturbs other people who are just trying to use the bathroom, refuses to leave even though he is on private property and the owners ask him nicely to leave, and becomes belligerent when the police to evict him. How would you react to that?



Man vs Plumbing, or, The Great Kitchen Sink Adventure

It all started innocently enough.

It was a Friday morning that looked like any other Friday morning.  Except this time, as I headed through the kitchen on my way to work, I noticed the sink was backed up.  I’m not very handy, so these kind of things fill me with dread.  So, I walked over and followed the process adhered to by every man who suffers from my lack of home improvement ability.

  1. Look at sink and say to self, “(Sigh) This doesn’t look good.”
  2. Turn on garbage disposal, and think, “I’m a genius” as the water goes away.  However, as soon as the disposal was turned off, the water returned.
  3. Stare at garbage disposal and try to figure out what law of physics caused Step 2.
  4. Grab plunger, plunge, and watch water spray out of the silly useless little release valve on top of the sink that I had never noticed before.  Plunge more, and notice how all the water from one side of the sink was being pushed into the other side of the sink.  Stop plunging, and watch the water return to its original home.
  5. Look under the sink.  I’m not sure why we do this.  It’s like we’re expecting to see a little elf with his hand stuck up the pipe, and a sly mischievous grin saying, “Ha, you caught me.”
  6. Look at sink again and say, “Well maybe it will magically fix itself while I’m at work.”

I successfully made it through all 6 steps, and headed to work.  And to my surprise and delight, when I returned home, the sink was clear.  Sure, there was residue, but no more clog.  Life was good.  I was a home repair genius for not panicking.

Now just to be safe, I called for a moratorium on kitchen sink usage.  I wanted to make sure we were safe.  No dishwasher, no washing machine, no sink.  And so when I looked that evening at a messy (but not smelly) kitchen sink with dirty water backed up, I had to scratch my head.  Where did that water come from?  I decided to worry about that later.

Attempt 2: The solution seemed easy enough.  If it was a clogged kitchen sink pipe, all I needed to do was undo the pipes, find the clog,  replace pipes. Piece of cake.  So, I emptied the sink out the kitchen window, pulled out the pipes and…..found no clog. (Sigh).  Now I had an empty sink, but one that wasn’t connected to the pipe system.

Attempt 3: After careful consideration, it was now my expert plumbing opinion that there was a clog somewhere below the second floor.  So I grabbed about a gallon of Drano, and dumped it down the kitchen wall pipes.  Surely, a gallon of Drano would do the trick.  Environment be damned.  It was with a certain amount of displeasure that I watched the Drano come back out of the wall pipe, and into the bucket below the pipes.   Side effect – Child was starting to find this quite funny, and I was becoming a trending topic in her text world.

Attempt 4: It was clear I needed some professional help here, so I consulted the place that all amateur home repairmen go – the Internet.  And the Web provided a genius solution – the baking soda and vinegar bomb.  Child was particularly excited to find out how this would play out, as my battle with the pipes was achieving Movie of the Week status, and her frequent updates were giving her unemployed friends something to focus on.  So the next day, I carefully mixed a few boxes of baking soda with water and salt, and poured them down the pipes.  Then I dumped a bottle of white vinegar down the pipes.  I could hear the compound getting ready to fizzle back up, so I shoved a sock in the pipe to force the mixture in the right direction.  In my head, I imagined a gigantic, organic explosion, blasting its way through my invisible clog, like a supernova soaring through space……In reality, I have no idea what happened, but the clog seemed unfazed.  All I had were pipes with baking soda in them.

Now, somewhere along this time we had a discovery.  Remember, I still never figured out how that sink filled with water again a few days back.  However, suddenly upstairs I heard a toilet flush, and watched with horror as water came from the pipes and filled my bucket.  Our problem was somehow related to the pipes associated with the toilet upstairs.  Not a happy discovery. The upside was that now we had introduced a new set of drama into Child’s broadcasts, and ratings were up.

Attempt 5: It was time to do some real man’s work on this thing, so the next day, I commandeered a 25′ snake from a friend, and shoved it down the pipe.  I went down 25′ without issue.  No blockage.  I thought maybe I had saved the day, and confidently went back upstairs to flush a clean toilet just to test and confirm my successful snaking effort.  Alas….I once again had a full bucket.  At least the water was clean.

Attempt 6: It was time for some real professional macho man work on this thing, so I did what us men do when we want to release our inner caveman.  We head to Home Depot and rent big tools.  Tools so big, they get their own room in the back corner of the store, back where women refuse to wander. In this case, I got the big ol’ 100′ mechanical snake to run through the clean out valve.  It was dirty, heavy and nasty, and I prepped myself for the mess that would come from opening the clean out valve.  Except….. I couldn’t get the clean out valve open.  It was glued shut.  Now, I could have forced it open, but I took a moment to pause and reflect.  Whoever had built my house had gone through a lot of work to stop a yahoo like me from successfully acting upon the thought that it would be a good idea to open the pipe.  He obviously knew something I didn’t, and I trusted that opinion.  The clean out valve would stay closed, and I would return the super snake.  Child had mixed emotions on this.  She was anxious for some real open pipe drama – though admittedly less so when she realized the clean out valve was in her room.

So now we’re close to a week without sink, laundry, dish washer or upstairs toilet, and the natives are getting restless.  But I’ve invested enough hours into this process that stubbornness trumps practicality.  It’s been kind of the theme for the month anyway, dealing with some toxic people and situations, so what’s one more.

Attempt 7: There seems to be one solution left, and if I had known what I know now, it would have been Attempt #1, not #7.  It’s time to remove the toilet, and go in through the pipe.  I’ve never removed a toilet before.  It certainly doesn’t look hard on YouTube, so what the heck.  I get another mechanical snake, this time a slightly smaller 75′ version.  And I go to work on it.

I’m not going to lie, it took me a good 20 minutes to figure out how to use this machinery without either getting my hand or shirt stuck in the wire and almost getting flipped upside down.  I mean, there was a pretty good chunk of time where that snake was beating the heck out of anything in the bathroom that it wanted to.   But for the grace of god did I make it through that “training period” with all my fingers and not winding the power cord into the spinny thing.  But I eventually settled into a nice rhythm, and only had to jump out of the way and hit the emergency stop button every 10-15 minutes or so.

And then suddenly, success!  There was a silence down the hole, as whatever the snake had been banging on for 30 minutes finally gave way.  I recoiled the snake, and the size of the clog I brought back up made me pretty sure I’d solved the problem.

I was riding a pretty high level of confidence, and thus the re-assembly of the sinks and toilets were accomplished at a speed normally reserved for someone who knows what they are doing, not me.  It was a pretty crowning achievement in my home repair merit badge list.  I felt like Foursquare should have a check-in for “I fixed my plumbing” and give me 100 points.

Anyway that’s my story.  9 days, 3 snakes, 4 trips to Home Depot, 2 trips to hardware stores, a gallon of Drano, a few boxes and bottles of Baking Soda and Vinegar, and about $80 in supplies.  But in this episode of Man vs Plumbing…..Man wins.