Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why the Green Bay Packers Scare Me

Felipe M.

The Packers go into Sunday's NFC title game as 3 point favorites. The way I have observed these two teams playing, the Packers might be able to win by at least 7. Here are some reasons why the Packers might make this Sunday another huge disappointment in Beasrs' playoff history:

  • That defense is ferocious. Especially against the Bears, who last I checked, only scored one offensive TD against this team in both of their regular season games. Many experts would say that the Bears were lucky to win the first game and should have lost by more in the second game. Also, it seems that the Bears don't do very well against 3-4 base defenses where Dom Capers' complex zone-blitz schemes seem to confuse and rattle an already suspect Bears' offensive line. Plus add that Mike Martz really hates succumbing to a short pass scheme to counteract said blitzes, and Jay Cutler's stubborness and tendencies to make questionable throws and this game might get ugly really quickly.

  • Let me ask you this; which coaching staff would you trust more? Lovie Smith's or Mike McCarthy? Last January, the entire city of Chicago wanted Lovie to be terminated from his head coaching position and a lot of the coaches who call the offensive and defensive plays were Lovie's desperate hires after all of his first choices snubbed his offers to coach for this team and move on to greener pastures. I personally like Lovie Smith, but he sometimes seems to be overmatched in terms of scheme and strategy, especially in the 2nd half of games.

  • The Bears defense has been great, but a lot of weaknesses were exposed against Seattle, mainly that Tampa 2 defensive base that Lovie continues to stubbornly use despite getting burned in games against the top-passing teams in the NFL. Lovie's 4-3, cover 2 defense works fine when all 11 players are highly talented and are in sync with each other. However, they face the hottest QB in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers and he is packed with healthy weapons at receiver and at running back. The Packers also have a porous offensive line, but the Packers have killed the Bears in the past (no matter who their QB is) with screen plays to counteract a highly aggressive, Bears' front four that is lead by Julius Peppers. Even more worrisome, the Packers no longer have to set up screen plays to mimick a lackluster running game because their running attack has been finally established at the right time with James Starks running the ball enough to keep opposing defenses honest and giving Rodgers more time in the pocket to make big plays.

  • So that is why the Packers scare me for this Sunday's game. I've been burned before by other Bears' teams hosting playoff games before and I have a really bad feeling about this one. Lucky for all of us, my "bad feelings" are usually valid 50% of the time. Please feel free to comfort me as I go to bed with nightmares of Aaron Rodgers mutilating the Bears' zone defense.

    GO BEARS!!!!!

    Poor Build Quality

    Jaguar XF ($51,000)
    Jaguar has replaced the aging S-type with the new XF. The XF displays sleek new styling and a more advanced technology that has never been offered in previous Jaguars. Although its styling is pretty, reliability is not up to par. In fact, Jaguars consistently score low in initial quality surveys. Unless you have deep pockets. You're better off buying from BMW or Mercedes-Benz.

    Land Rover Range Rover Sport ($59,000)
    Land Rovers are known for their ability to provide luxury both on road and off. Although the average buyer won't take these machines off-road. Many of these vehicles will spend most of their lives in the repair shop. That is if you find that one Land Rover that actually is reliable. Just like Jaguar, Land Rovers suffer from poor reliability ratings. To sum it up, you buy a Land Rover as a status symbol.

    Volkswagen Beetle ($17,000)
    The Volkswagen Beetle is known for its cute iconic design. With a 2.5liter five-cylinder rated at 150hp and a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is so-so, but interior quality is typical Volkswagen. When you buy a New Beetle, make sure that you get rid of it after the warranty is over. Many owners have complained of electrical problems and even major mechanical problems well after the warranty is over. Even though its cute, the build quality is terrifying.

    Automatic BMWs
    BMWs are dream cars for many. Most people lease them and trade them in for newer models. Once traded in, people flock to buy them used. This is where all the problems begin. Even if certified pre-owned, these automatics should be avoided at all costs. Most customers complain that the transmission hesitates or won't go in reverse at all. German cars aren't cheap to fix. BMW tends to be a little pricier to fix than the average German vehicle.

    Devon M 

    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    Song Meanings (Part Five)

    Nine Inch Nails
    "Head Like a Hole" is about the control that money has over people, and the pain and suffering associated with it. "God Money" is just that. Money has become a god unto itself. Trent Reznor is basically saying, he'd rather die than give in to temptation.

    Smashing Pumpkins
    "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" was written to express lead singer's (Billy Corgan) pain that comes from being a rock star. The lyrics are exceptionally dramatic, and Corgan has said they are bit of a joke.

    "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle"
    In this song it appears Kurt Cobain is likening himself to Frances Farmer. While Frances was almost infamous for her difficulty to work with and her battle with her movie studio, which forced her into bad roles. She demanded much and later all she got for it was a series of mental collapses and a failed battle with alcoholism. Kurt related Farmer's battles against her contracts with corporate Hollywood with his difficulty with his record label, which he felt was holding him back and stifling his art, making him release poppy stuff he was never satisfied with. Farmer was born in Seattle, but Kurt had a lot more to do with the city than she did, which leads me to believe this is not a musical biography... not Kurt's style.

    The Used
    "Blue and Yellow"
    "It's a song about me and [frontman] Bert McCracken's friendship," guitarist Quinn Allman explained. "When the band started to really pick up and people started to really get interested, we were almost not being friends anymore because we were focusing so much time on the band and not on each other."
    The colors in the title could have some meaning. The color blue belongs to the Planet Venus, the giver of Love, devotion and harmony. The musical note of blue is G, a favorite key for the composer of romantic music. The color yellow belongs to the planet Mercury, and is said to stimulate the nerves of the brain and body. Mercury instills a quick intellect by stimulating the nervous system, so nothing can remain stagnant under the influence of this planet.

    "My Own Summer (Shove it)
    "Cloud come shove the sun aside" - sadness against happiness.
    "And no sun in my summer" - The bad luck of being sad and poor in this world.
    "There are no crowds in the streets" - Loneliness caused by social discrimination.
    "The shade is a tool, a device, a savior" - Living in the shade is a solution to get far away from this.
    "I try and look up to the sky, but my eyes burn" - Someone wants to bring us down everyday.
    "Shove It" - These people don't care for anyone but themselves. These people are the "sky" (because they've got the cash), and when we try to get next to them, we want to return to our shade and just say, "Shove It."

    Backmasked Messages (part one)

    The Beatles "Rain"
    Message: "...the sun shines. Raaain. When the rain comes, they run and hide their heads"
    Comments: Gibberish occurs during the fade out (accompanying muisc is not reversed), actually sections of the vocal melody. This was one of the earliest instances of backmasking. The deliberate reversal was repeatedly acknowledged by John Lennon and others.

    Beck "Loser"
    Message: "Soy un perdedor. I'm a loser, baby, so why don't you kill me" (entire chorus reversed)
    Comments: After the last time Beck says "I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me," and before the vocal "I'm a driver, I'm a winner."

    Message: "You must wait for the rest of the non-believers/ If you disagree, you will sleep/ You must wait for the rest of the non-believers"
    Comments: At 3 minutes and 17 seconds into the song, you can hear faint vocals that sound like gibberish. Reversed you can hear the lyrics.

    Devon M

    Top Five Worst Beatles Covers

    Kidz Bop
    "Octopus's Garden"
    Everyone says that the original version of anyone song is usually the best. Perhaps this isn't the case for either party. Kidz Bob must have decided to try and outdo The Beatles and make the song sound worst than it already is. Usually a cover is to flatter the original or surpass. In this case however, they've made a complete turn for the worst.

    Maroon 5
    "If I fell"
    John Lennon hated the way his voice sounded, so he double-tracked his vocals to improve the sound of his singing in songs. Too bad he never got the chance to show this trick to Maroon 5. Not only does Adam Levine's vocals sound strained and weird, but the fact that he's trying to sing a song that doesn't fit the band's image really is just plain odd.

    William Shatner
    "Lucy in the sky with diamonds"
    "Picture yourself... in a boat... on a river.. with tangerine trees!!! And marmalade skies!!" Some songs shouldn't be performed in spoken word form. This statement applies to William Shatner, whom decided to cover The Beatle's most controversial song "Lucy in the sky with diamonds". Not only is it just weird to hear someone speak lyrics to a song meant to be sung. William Shatner's emphasis on certain words through out the song just makes you wonder why people liked this song?

    Jonas Brothers
    "Hello Goodbye"

    Its a toss up here, and I bet you're wondering why a department store is on this list. Target and the Jonas Brothers have single handedly ruined what was considered The Beatles most commercially successful song in 1967. There's a reason why John Lennon hated this song, and why most people dislike this song now.

    Marilyn Manson
    "Helter Skelter"

    Marilyn has some how turned a hard rock (often considered one of the earliest Metal Songs) into a screamo piece of garbage. Not all songs sound cool when you scream the whole time. There are better covers for this song. There's no need to waste your time on this cover.

    Devon M

    Odd facts (Part Two)

    Fertilizer in Subway Sandwich Rolls
    Chemical fertilizers inevitably make it into our produce in trace amounts. You wouldn't expect it to be a common food additive. Ammonium Sulfate can be found inside many brands of bread, including Subway's. The chemical provides nitrogen for the yeast, creating a more consistent product.

    What's in your Raspberry candy?
    The anal glands of a beaver, "Euphemized as Castoreum" is a common ingredient in perfumes and colognes but are also sometimes used to enhance the flavor of raspberry candies and sweets.

    Beef Fat Cake anyone?
    While this may not bother everyone, but others will be shocked when they discover their favorite childhood treats contain straight-up beef fat. The ingredients come included with a list of other oils that may or may not be used, so its always a gamble.

    Red Bug food coloring?
    After killing thousands at a time, the dried insects are boiled to produce a liquid solution that can be turned to a dye using a variety of treatments. Some people worry that the coloring - often called cramine or carminic acid - cold be listed as a 'natural color'. Disguising the fact that there are bugs in the product.

    Beetle Juice in Sprinkles and Candy?
    Ever wonder why the coating on candy is shiny? Or the sprinkles on cupcakes and ice cream sundaes? The reason they are shiny is due to secretions of female lac beetle. The substance is also known as shellac and commonly used as a wood varnish.

    What does Bubble Gum and a Sheep have in common ?
    The oils inside sheep's wool are collected to create the goopy substance called lanolin. From there, it ends up in chewing gum (often disquised as 'gum base') but also used to create vitamin D3 supplements.

    Duck feathers or human hair?
    What's in your morning bagel? If you get it from Noah's Bagels, it contains either human hair or duck feathers. The substance called L-cysteine or cystine is used as a dough conditioner to produce a specific consistency. While artificial cysteine is available, it is cost prohibitive and mostly used to create kosher and halal products.

    Coal Tar Candy
    Coal tar is listed as number 199 on the United Nations list of "dangerous goods", but that doesn't stop people from using it in food. The coloring Allura Red AC is derived from coal tar and is commonly found in red-colored candies, sodas and other sweets.

    Stomach Cheese anyone?
    In the UK, all cheeses are labeled as either suitable or not suitable for vegetarians because in Britian - and everywhere else many cheeses are made from the fourth stomach of a cow. In the U.S. and most other countries, people are left to guess about the stomach-content of their cheese.

    Sand in your Chili?
    Sand is hidden in Wendy's chili as a name you might remember from high school chemistry class: silicon dioxide. Apparently they use sand as an "anti-caking agent", perhaps to make sure the chili can last for days and days over a heater. You're better off cooking yourself a quick vegetarian meal instead of this meal.

    Devon M

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    Devon test drives a Smart Car... with a sunroof.

    Likes: Small size makes it easy to park in tight parking spaces, one of the cheapest convertibles you can purchase, you'll stand out everywhere you go.

    Dislikes: You'll stand out everywhere you go, transmission still jerky and slow to shift, touchy brakes makes smooth stops hard to accomplish, somewhat disappointing gas milage maybe a let down.

    Overall: The Fortwo has a charm that no other car has. But it ruins your driving experience with a slow shifting transmission, and oddly modulated brakes that makes stopping smoothly difficult.

    Devon M 

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Odd Foods (wanna try?)

    Boiled Bat is a much appreciated dish in Asia. Sold at a fairly steep price, it's considered by many a delicacy. It can be found in Fiji, and also other Asian countries. Those who taste it say that it tastes like chicken.

    Pork Brains
    (Heart attack anyone?)
    Pork Brains is another dish that's not common among every restaurant. One company has gone a step further by making available to those who wish to try something different. Offering Pork Brains in a can with Milk Gravy. 150 calories and 5 grams of fat. It has 3,500mg of cholesterol, representing 1170% of the recommended daily allowance.

    Lutefisk is a special kind of cod served in Norway. The food is soaked in alkaline solution to such a degree that it corrodes silverware. Somehow this dish is deemed safe for your intestines.

    Japan is known for their down weird and odd dishes. So it shouldn't suprise you when you see that one Bull Penis on a Japanese Restaurant Menu. Eating Bull Penis is thought to increase blood flow to the genitals and stamina. Most who actually try the dish say it tastes like beef.

    Balut is a fertilized duck (or chicken) eg with a nearly-developed embryo inside that is boiled and eaten in the shell. Considered to be an aphrodisiac and is believed to have high protein. Its commonly sold as streetfood in the Philippines. Its also commonly sold in some countries in Southeast Asia.

    Try washing down all that food with some wine from Korea. The wine is made by stuffing three day old mice into the bottle of rice wine and left about a year to combine flavors. Considered a "health tonic" in Korean and Chinese traditions, and has the taste of gasoline. Little mice are plucked from the embrace of their loving mothers and (while still alive) shoved into a bottle of wine. Yum! Mouse Flavor....

    Sheep head anyone?
    Pacha is a traditional Iraqi dish made from sheep's head, trotters and stomach; all boiled slowly and served with bread sunken in the broth. The Cheeks are considered the best parts. Many people prefer not to eat the eyeballs which could be removed before cooking. The stomach lining would be filled with rice and lamb and stitched with a sewing thread.

    Devon M

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Summer Live Part IV: Scream it Like You Mean It Tour

    Felipe M


    This was the first band that we saw on this tour date at The Metro in Chicago and the first thing I thought about them after they performed their first song was, "is this a Christian band?" The band's set up with the constant change up of screaming to clean vocals, a boat load of band members, and a synth player reminds me a lot of Christian hardcore heavyweights The Devil Wears Prada and Underoath. Plus when a band tells the audience to raise their hands in the air towards the sky, instead of fists or devil horns, you know what kind of show you are in। However, Devon and I tried to give this band the benefit of the doubt. So we looked them up on Wikipedia while they played on stage. Turns out their music is not full of Christian lyrics, but most of the band members are devout Christians--kind of the same way the next band that followed them on stage, Emery, would be described as.

    Let the record show that I don't have a problem with Christian bands. I rather enjoy other Christian bands such as MxPx, The Devil Wears Prada, and the like. But it's kind of awkward to see a band that has "Christian band" characteristics and still trying to create crossover appeal. This band definitely has appeal as many of the people that were there really liked this band. For me, however, I really didn't hear much originality or anything that stood out from this band's setlist as the music structure seemed too random. The songs are dominated by screaming vocals and the clean vocals were intended to create a good mix, but the clean vocals do very little to enhance this band's music in my humble opinion. The music itself was pretty unmemorable as I couldn't tell you any one particular song that stood out. However, without a doubt, their shows are full of energy, if anything mindlessly chaotic. And the songs are full of so much positivity, you'd think you were at a Hatebreed show. This band must be getting a lot of pub because they will be touring the upcoming Spring version of the Scream it Like You Mean it Tour.

    Let me preface this by saying that Emery was without a doubt the best band that performed on this tour date. Playing a good mix of their albums, their set was predominantly filled with songs from their more recent album, ...In Shallow Seas We Sail. The album is what a great mix of screaming and clean vocals should sound like and without a doubt was one of the best albums to come out in 2009 for the post-hardcore genre. Emery was near flawless live and without question the best band of the night. There was something wrong with the sound as the clean vocals, for all bands, sounded awful and high-pitched, but that doesn't take away from the fact that Emery was fantastic on this night. Just like the band that preceded them, Emery is one of those bands where all band members are devout Christians, but go out of their way to not include too many, if any, songs with strong Christian overtones as they attempt to appeal to a mass audience. Whether you agree with their beliefs or their marketing approach, you cannot deny that Emery, simply put, is a rock solid band.

    Headlining on this date was the mighty Canadian post-hardcore band Silverstein. Silverstein, to the best of my knowledge is not a Christian band but they love touring with those type of bands (i.e. The Devil Wears Prada, August Burns Red, etc.) as their appeal to an evergrowing younger crowd who are full of angst and heartbreak meshes well with the crowd who count these shows as part of their mandatory weekly mass.

    All kidding aside, the super-vegans were on the heals of releasing an album that didn't do much to keep my interest going for this band. A Shipwreck in the Sand might have been this band's most intricate piece of work, but for an old-timer like me, nothing will ever top their first two full-length albums. Nevertheless, I tried to come in with an open mind for this band and their new work, however, just like the two preceding bands, whenever clean vocals were used in their music, the singer's voice would sound atrocious. And I like lead singer Shane Told's voice, but there was something off at The Metro that night as the high-pitched-sounding vocals were deafening and made me regret not getting earplugs. The band's setlist was pretty unspectacular for me as the first five songs were flooded with their newest material. It was a nice surprise to see them play "Red Light Pledge" live, a very underrated song. Nevertheless, the "old" songs they selected for this night is getting very predictable and uninspiring. How many times do we have to hear "Bleeds No More" to end every show with this band? And even the crowd started thinning as Silverstein's setlist continued to drag, more and more people were leaving the show.

    So to summarize, after reflecting on this show, you realize that the band who was headlining seems to be on the way down, while the band that we witnessed first, We Came As Romans, have yet to peak and are just streaking towards the top. Or maybe I'm exaggerating, but on this night, Emery were the band live, but We Came As Romans stole the show. Meanwhile, Silverstein's set just dragged on forever.

    On a positive note, the best part about going to The Metro is that there are these two Thai restaurants in the Lakeview area that might be the two best Thai restaurants in the entire Cook County area. Try out THAI CLASSIC (get the Pineapple Chicken) and PS BANGKOK (best Tom Yum soup ever. I recommend you order it with seafood).

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Devon Drives an Outlander Sport

    Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

    Likes: Aggressive styling, keyless entry and keyless start, small size makes it easy to park and live with in the city.

    Dislikes: CVT transmission shifts with delay, the lack of power doesn't match sporty looks, large 18inch alloy wheels creates a firm ride.

    Overall: A great crossover with plenty of features for the money. Even though these are great qualities, Mitsu needs to offer more go power to make it stand out more.

    Sunday, January 2, 2011

    Food to die for (literally) - Part One

    This pear-shaped fruit (the national fruit of Jamacia) contains toxins that can suppress the body's ability to release an extra supply of glucose, plunging one's blood sugar level and potentially leading to death.

    Japanese Puffer Fish
    This fish has a killer taste (literally!). The puffer fish's skin and certain organs contain tetrodotoxin, an extremely poisonous toxin that can paralyze a human and lead to asphyxiation (choking). However fugu, as it is called in Japanese, has been eaten for hundreds of years in Japan, where expert chefs serve it as a delicacy. Chefs that serve fugu must go under extreme training and are licensed to prepare the dish. One trop of the clear, tasteless liquid is enough to kill almost instantly. Those who dine on this deadly delight swear fugu's liver is the most delectable part but it's also the most lethal. It's claimed that some master fugu chefs purposefully allow a tiny amount of toxin to remain in the fish's flesh to cause a tingling sensation on the diners tongue.

    This popular snack food can not be eaten raw and unprocessed, because the amount of cyanide contained in each of them. New Zealand has banned them and the U.S. monitors the cleaning and heating process of them very carefully. This is why almonds aren't cheap to buy.

    Casu Marzu
    Want a delectable Italian Herb? Whatever you do make sure that if you're flying to northern Italy that you avoid this dish. Casu Marzu is made from sheep milk cheese that literally contains thousands of fly eggs in the cheese. The result is a maggot-infested, decomposing mess. Some of the finer restaurants that still stubbornly serve this 'treat' provide the diner with a pair of goggles to protect the eyes. Yes it is served in some fine restaurants! The maggots are served alive-- once they die the cheese quicly becomes more toxic. The cheese is so acidic it burns the mouth--the result of rotting cheese having been drenched with hundreds of maggots' digestive juice.

    The Wriggling larvae are not digested by the body, but survive the human digestive tract long enough to breed. The aggressive and hungry hatching attempt to eat through the intestinal walls casing intense pain, violent vomiting, bloody stools and even death. ome of the finer restaurants that 
    Sannakji (Live Baby Octopus) 
    Baby Octopus is considered a delicacy, and many Japanese and Koreans will serve it as a special treat to honored guest who come to dinner. In Korea, "Sannakji" is served live. Ever remember you parents telling you to not play with your food? With this dish you have to fight with your food. The tentacles fight back as you try to eat them. Pieces will crawl up your chopsticks, wrap themselves stubbornly around them. They'll grab onto your nose, lips, teeh gums tongue --even the roof of your mouth-- in a desperate attempt not to go down your throat. When you finally get the rubbery, writhing, squrimming bits down your throat, make sure you've chewed them sufficiently. A significant number of people nearly choke to death on this living dish virturally every day. Some find they've taken too big a "bite" and the tentacles exact revenge by clogging up the diner's throat and cutting off air supply. Sadly, dozens find "sannakji" their last meal. 

    This is one of the world's popular staple food. Cassava is often used to make tropical delicacy in the form of tapioca, starch or flour. If not properly washed or cooked, Cassava leaves and roots contain toxin called cyanide which is fatal to humans even in small doses.

    Blood Clams
    In China thse clams are only flash-boiled and can contain deadly viruses like hepatitis A, E, thyphoid and dysentery. Because they are only partially cooked, the clams become a dangerous treat.

    Devon M  

    Interesting Facts Part 1

    What is it? A fruit native to Southeast Asia
    Why is it illegal? Due to fear of Asian fruit flies that can devastate local crops, southeast Asian countries are unable to export the fresh fruit
    Where's it illegal? North America, Europe.

    What is it? Sheep innards including intestines, heart and the lungs.
    Why is it illegal? There is a ban in the U.S. on all food made with lungs.
    Where can you try this dish? U.K.

    Cuban Cigars
    What is it? Cigars that can only be found in Cuba
    Why is it illegal? America's long-standing embargo with Cuba. There's a total ban on these cigars through out the U.S.
    What are the consequences if caught? $55,000 fine and jail time.

    What is it? An alcoholic beverage that contains an ingredient called wormwood, which contains chemical thujone.
    Why is it illegal? The chemical thujone reportedly can cause hallucinations.
    Update: Abstine without the ingredient wormwood are allowed for purchase in the U.S.

    Dog and Cat Fur Products
    What is it? Any product made out of cat and dog fur.
    Why is it illegal? The reason behind it is simply a disdain for the abuse of millions of dogs and cats who are mistreated in the fur trade.
    Interesting fact: There's an ongoing debate over banning particular breeds of dogs in the U.S., like pit bull terriers.

    Devon M