Tuesday, November 23, 2010

the off-season (or, that's the way uh-huh uh-huh I like it)

Time for a football update! Ladies, shield your eyes.

First I'd like to point out that this is a LIVE blog post. I'm sitting here typing in front of the TV. San Diego is playing Denver. It's half time. Score is 21-7, Chargers' favor.

Now, I'd like to start off by giving you San Diego's current season standings. They're 5-5. For the uninitiated, that means that SD has lost five games and won five games so far, meaning their win-loss ratio is 50%.

By ordinary standards, that would be abysmal.

By the 2010 National Football League's standards, that's actually about average.

This is a weird season, folks. It's all topsy-turvy. Teams which have customarily been terrible have been kicking big-name teams' butts. Teams which previously were best in the nation have been...well, for lack of a better term, gargling balls. (Dallas anyone?)

Yeah, let's take Dallas. They're 3-7. Three wins, seven losses. Two of those wins were garnered just in the last couple of weeks. For the first months of the season the Cowboys racked up an impressive string of losses. Not that I took pleasure in any of it, of course (yeah, right, I was doing handsprings in the living room), but it was still a surprise. Dallas is unofficially known as "America's team." They are/were THE big name in football, one of the most recognizable teams, and their record was nothing short of stellar. Oh, sure, they've had off-seasons before. But this takes the cake.

Or look at the Vikings. Minnesota's usually done pretty well. They've never won a Super Bowl, but they've been to several. (Like Buffalo, only, you know, not as embarrassing.) But this season they're in the same boat as Dallas, 3-7, undergoing a pathetic collapse. In my humble opinion, Brett Favre should've called it good when he retired (for the first time) in 2008. He should've gone out on a high note. He should've ridden his legendary career with the Green Bay Packers into comfortable old age. He shouldn't have tried to relive his glory days. He shouldn't have vacillated. He shouldn't have signed with the Jets, and then the Vikings. He should've just quit when he was ahead. But no. He stayed in. And now he's showing his age. Sunday's disgraceful 31-3 defeat against Green Bay (oh, the irony) has sealed coach Brad Childress's fate, and almost certainly Favre's as well. It's almost painful to watch.

On the other hand...

Baltimore has been kicking ass this season, defeating such doughty opponents as Miami, New York (the Giants and the Jets), and Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh, for crying out loud! What's the world coming to? The Ravens are ordinarily a B-team at best, but John Harbaugh has set them against comers, despite some minor dust-ups in their offensive line. We'll see how they do in the coming weeks, when they face Tampa Bay, Houston and Pittsburgh (again).

Speaking of kicking ass...

I just wanted to let you know that, as of now (four minutes into the third quarter, 7:35 p.m. Western Daylight Savings Time), the score is 28-7, San Diego's favor. YES!!! Eat that, Denver!

This is what I like to see. San Diego playing like they mean it. It's not a shutout, but we're not choking or dropping the ball or turning over incessantly, either. I like the way the Chargers are playing tonight. The defensive line has been on the ball (literally), we've made a sack or two, and we had a respectable turnover in the first half. On the offensive side of things, Darren Sproles is working his usual magic, the running backs are finding all the holes, the receivers are actually catching the ball, and Phillip Rivers's passes are (as usual) dead-on.

This is one of the NFL's biggest mysteries, in fact. Rivers has the most passing yards of any QB in the league, with nearly 3,000. (Denver's Kyle Orton is right behind him.) Rivers's career passer rating is 96.9, number one of all time. Nobody can figure out how San Diego can possibly be losing games when Rivers is throwing so many deep passes on-target...least of all me.

Indeed, the only black spot on tonight's ledger is the fact that San Diego is, as has previously been mentioned, 5-5.

If we win tonight, we'll be tied for second in the division (with Oakland, BOOOOOOO). If we lose...we're in last place.

'Course, it doesn't look like we'll be losing. I don't know what Denver's problem is, but they're dropping balls and running head-on into our defensive line. That makes me happy, of course, but this is something nobody expected to see from the Broncos, who have traditionally done well. It's a balmy 58 degrees at Qualcomm Stadium right now, so it's not like Denver can blame the weather.

There's six games left: Indianapolis, Oakland (BOOOOOOO), Kansas City, San Francisco, Cincinnati, and Denver again. Let's see how we do. All we have to do is come out top in the division (AFC West). To do that, we've got to beat Denver tonight (signs point to yes) and Kansas City in Week 14. It's a home game, so I'm fairly confident. We (ahem) lost to the Chiefs both in the preseason and in Week 1, but...let's not talk about that right now.

I can dream of a Super Bowl, can't I?

P.S. It's the fourth quarter now and Rivers just threw a beautiful touchdown pass to Jacob Hester. Score's now 35-7. Marvelous, folks. That's the way (uh-huh uh-huh) I like it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

random travel destinations - the Maldives

Doesn't get much more random than that, does it?

The Maldives, otherwise known as the Maldive Islands or the Republic of Maldives, lies about 430 miles southwest of the island of Sri Lanka, in the Laccadive Sea. The Maldives themselves are, according to good ol' Wikipedia, a double chain of twenty-six atolls running north-to-south over an area of about 90,000 square kilometers. There are over twelve hundred separate islands or islets, of which only about 200 are inhabited.

There's a lively debate on where the name "Maldives" came from. Some say that it's the anglicized form of the Dutch name Maldivische Eilanden, which itself may have originated in Sanskrit. Others insist that the name comes from a passage in an ancient Sri Lankan text, the Mahawamsa, which refers to an obscure island called Mahalidiva, "The Island of Women." The Arabs used to call the place Mahal Dibiyat, the word mahal meaning "palace."

It holds the unsurprising distinction of being the lowest country in the world, hovering at an average of four feet eleven inches above sea level. The highest point on the entire island chain is 7'7" above the water. Let's hope the tsunamis around there never get higher than six feet or so, eh?

Okay, enough with the bloody factoids. Let's get to the rat-killer.

You wanna know why I've featured the Maldives so prevalently on this blog (after such a long absence from these random travel destinations)? Why I want to go there so desperately, when I'm rather leery about the area (those Somali pirates operate not too far west of there, y'know)?

Three reasons.

First, the sunsets.

Second, they've got themselves an underwater grub joint. You can dine 16 feet under at the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, at the Conrad Hotel and Resort on Rangali Island.

Tell me that ain't cool. Go on, just try.

Finally, and this one's the kicker...

Maldivian Air Taxi is the country's biggest air carrier, and one of the most prolific seaplane operators in the world. Close to 500 flights a week during tourist season. I hear their pilots wear Hawaiian shirts and fly barefoot.

And if they hired me, my office would look like this:

Turquoise water, white sand, tropical sunsets, plentiful seafood, and a de Havilland Twin Otter to fly: what could be finer?

For a writer-cum-pilot with itchy feet (like yours truly), that's darn close to heaven.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

cocktail review no. 41 - Pumpkin Bomb

It's holidaydrinktime again, folks!

Now, just so you're aware, I am not suggesting that you go out and get yourself trashed for the holidays. Save that kind of thing for office parties and raves and Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve.

No, this is just a nice little drink you can sip as you snack on Halloween candy, or while you're stuffing the turkey.

It's called the Pumpkin Bomb.

Lay off the Spider-man references before I king you, jerkface.

Here's the recipe:

  • honey or agave syrup
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ounce Goldschläger
  • 15 ounces pumpkin ale
  • ½ ounce chopped, toasted pumpkin seeds
Dip the rim of a pint glass in honey or agave syrup. Combine the cinnamon and sugar and coat the rim of the glass with the mixture. Pour the Goldschläger into the glass and top off with the pumpkin ale. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds and another pinch of cinnamon sugar on the head of the beer.

Now, I didn't have chopped or toasted pumpkin seeds—I carved two pumpkins for my Halloween party (a jack-o-lantern and a punchbowl), but didn't have time to save the seeds. The rest of this stuff I had lying around, though. So I slapped it together this evening just for a lark.

And let me tell you, folks, this drink is smooth, sweet, spicy, and reminds you of all the fun things that you've always loved about the fall season: the cool air, the short days, the fuzzy sweaters, the changing colors, the sound of dead leaves, the carving of pumpkins, the baking of pies, the consumption of copious amounts of turkey...the whole shebang. Up top, we have the spiciness of the cinnamon and the sweetness of the sugar on the rim of the glass; the head of the beer provides a foamy and hop-laden overtone before the plunge is made into the drink proper; then we have pumpkin-beer and cinnamon schnapps warring for primacy on top of your tongue. This sequential approach to taste and the absolute synergy of flavor forge a powerful combination. And as you might expect, the nose is positively ravishing. This libation smells almost exactly like pumpkin pie...pumpkin pie beer. What could be finer?

(Yes, a prerequisite for appreciating this cocktail is, of course, appreciating beer. You have to like beer to like this drink. Otherwise you're SOL. So, if you like beer, try this drink. Have fun with it. Expand your alcoholic horizons. Sip a bit of autumn incarnate. If you don't like beer, start, dammit. You're missing out.)

Lesson over. For my American readers, I hope you had a Happy Halloween, and I wish you a gut-busting Thanksgiving. For my overseas readers, stay tuned for my Christmas cocktails, you poor benighted souls. And have a happy Remembrance Day (and Remembrance Sunday).