The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012

September 30, 2005

Chicago Food reaching out

Having grown up in Chicago, I’m a big evangelist for Chicago food. You New Yorker’s have that cheese-on-cardboard thing you call pizza, it’s nothing of the sort. And a hot dog without a salad on top of it isn’t worth eating. I’d expound on the wonderfulness of Italian Beef sandwiches, but it’s a Chicago staple unknown outside the city, and it would be lost.

So I’m happy to see that some of the Chicago greats are expanding outside the Chicagoland area. Pizzeria Uno did so a long time ago, and has now spread all across the country. Having had it at the original Uno’s in downtown Chicago as well as many of the franchises, I can say that it’s much better at the original, even compared to those in the Chicago suburbs. But when you need your deep-dish fix, you need your deep-dish fix.

Billy Goat Tavern

The first is the Billy Goat Tavern, which earned fame as part of a Saturday Night Live skit, which is opening in Washington DC:

The Billy Goat Tavern, a local institution made famous by the “Cheezborger, Cheezborger” sketch on “Saturday Night Live,” is setting up shop in the nation’s capital.

It’s the first foray outside Chicago for the restaurant, also known for a curse that some say has kept the Cubs out of the World Series for 60 years and counting.

Bill Sianis, the son of the current owner, Sam Sianis, and grandnephew of the tavern’s founder, William “Billy Goat” Sianis, said he and his dad have long wondered if the tavern could make it outside its hometown.

Given the Goat’s popularity among tourists who never tire of asking for fries in the hopes of hearing “No fries, cheeps!”, Sam and Bill Sianis thought Washington, with its steady stream of out-of-towners, would make it a perfect spot to give it a try.

“They say nobody in Washington D.C. is from Washington D.C.,” Bill Sianis said. A lot of people from Illinois who work on Capitol Hill have been asking when the Billy Goat was coming to town, he added.

I do wish them luck, but I’m not convinced the Billy Goat will have the appeal outside Chicago as some other places. The Billy Goat in Chicago is more of a sentimental, hometown favorite. It’s gained acclaim because of the family’s history in Chicago, and from Saturday Night Live’s “Cheezborger” skit.

Italian Beef Sandwich

The second, which of course gets put in just after I move AWAY from SoCal, is Portillo’s. They’re opening their first non-Chicagoland location in Buena Park, CA (about 20 minutes from where I lived in Irvine):

Portillo has decided not to franchise his new location to make sure that it maintains the same standards as the Chicagoland stores. For example, he is making all of his West Coast employees attend a week of Hot dog U, just like Chicago-area employees do. He also believes that Californians only wanting to eat lighter food like tofu and alfalfa sprouts is a myth (we can attest to that!) and is trusting his instincts that Portillo’s in LA will be a success. Others aren’t so optimistic saying that Californian’s eating habits are a lot different than Chicagoan’s and that when they do go for unhealthy, quick casual food, they go for Mexican (we can also attest to that!).

Portillo’s is the food I grew up on. They’ve got some of the best hot dogs is Chicago, great burgers, incredible cheese fries, and decent italian beef and italian sausage sandwiches. When I think about comfort food, this is what comes to mind. So next time I’m in southern California, in addition to a stop at In&Out, I’m going to have to drop by my home-away-from-former-home :-)

Crap… Now I’m hungry!

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Rove is safe

Miller Ready to Testify in CIA Leak Probe

New York Times reporter Judith Miller appeared for testimony before a federal grand jury Friday, throwing a spotlight once again on the White House role in the leak of a covert CIA officer’s identity.

Freed after 85 days in a federal detention center, Miller arrived at about 8:30 a.m. at the federal courthouse to testify for Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation about her conversations in July 2003 with Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Miller said in a statement that her source — identified by the Times as Libby — had released her from her promise of confidentially.

They didn’t even need to reveal the source to be sure that it wasn’t Rove. Why? If it was Rove, this would be all over CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox News, etc etc. It’s getting relatively little media play, therefore Miller was obviously not protecting Rove.

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September 29, 2005

Broadband – no wiring needed

This is technology that has been around for a while, but it seems that it is really starting to come to maturity.

Chip Helps Electric Outlet Go Broadband

The common electric socket will serve as your home’s connection to broadband with a new chip developed by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. — doing away with all the Ethernet cables or the hassle of hooking up to a wireless network device.

Products are still being developed, but gadgets embedded with the chip from the Japanese manufacturer of Panasonic products can hook up to a broadband network by plugging into the common electrical outlet, company officials said Thursday.

That’s because the Osaka-based company has come up with technology to use electric wiring in the home to relay not just electricity but also data.

The technology has been around for some time — including in the United States — but Matsushita’s system is unique in that it delivers fast-speed broadband information at up to 170 megabits per second, which is faster than Ethernet.

The advantage is that the lowly electric socket is everywhere. Right now, a broadband outlet still isn’t usually available in every room, even in homes that have broadband connections.

The buzzword in the technology world over the last few years has been ubiquitous computing. It is the idea that in the future, everything will contain a computer. You want to run the dishwasher while you’re at work? Log in and tell it to start. Your friend is coming into town and staying at your house, and you want to change the air conditioning temperature to make the place comfortable before he arrives? Log in and set it an hour before he arrives. You’re about to leave work, and you want the oven to preheat to 400 degrees? Set it remotely. You’re on a business, and realized you want your TiVo to record something that you forgot to set? Set it up from 1000 miles away.

But for all this, there have been two things holding this back. The first is high-speed internet connectivity. Much of the nation 5 years ago was still using dial-up. This is quickly changing, and all but the luddites (like my parents) have high speed connections. The second was a matter of wiring. I just bought a 20-year-old house, and it’s not even approaching being wired for a network. I have set up a wireless network for my own computing use, but I’m not about to buy wireless adapters for my oven, refrigerator, etc etc.

But every house is wired for electricity. Plug something into a wall socket where you get your high-speed internet, and it can route signals all through the house for appliances. This is the step that needed to be completed for ubiquitous computing to become a reality.

The world, it’s a’changin’.

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September 28, 2005

Congress tackles performance-enhancing drugs in music

As part of their ongoing hearings about performance-enhancing drugs in the music industry, RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Bainwol faced a Congressional panel today. At issue was the growing inability of the major recording labels to rein in artists who were known for using dangerous narcotics known for helping musicians create great music.

Before the panel, Bainwol said “It is the position of the RIAA that performance-enhancing drugs like heroin, marijuana and LSD should not be a part of the recording industry. Efforts are being made to educate artists about the dangers of such drugs, but have not had the intended effect. At this time we are wary of mandatory testing, however, as it might drive the best artists into small, independent labels where oversight is even less aggressive.”

Congress has been increasingly concerned about the use of dangerous narcotics in the music industry. Many popular artists are seen as role models for their young, impressionable fans. But the recent discovery of classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s $2000/day cocaine habit shocked everyone. According to Senator Jim Bunning, “When respectable classical musicians such as Yo-Yo are found to be enhancing their performance with the ‘caine, it shows that this problem is so much deeper than we had once thought. Congress must act quickly to restore the public’s faith in the music industry.”

Even more troublesome is the pressure on other artists when they see the success of their dope-fueled contemporaries. William Shatner, in an interview at a recent Star Trek convention, said “I’ve never used any illegal drugs to enhance my albums, and I think that shows in their quality.” He did not realize the irony of his comments, as many drug users credit hearing Shatner’s “spoken word” albums as creating the impetus within them to start using drugs in the first place.

This sentiment was echoed by rocker Courtney Love, known for her battles with the ’sound potion’, heroin. “I’ve been clean for a whole two years now. [My] last album? It didn’t go platinum. Hell, I don’t think it even went aluminum! If my dealer hadn’t [been] locked up a few months ago, I would have started using drugs again. I need some royalty [money], or my baby is gonna starve!”

Of greater importance is the danger of these drugs. Many talented musicians, from Elvis Presley, to Jim Morrison, Jazz legend Charlie Parker, even country star Hank Williams, have paid the ultimate price for their success. Senator John McCain elaborated, “What message does it send to our kids that they need to risk the penalty of death just to succeed in the music industry? How can we allow a system that absolutely requires aspiring musicians to take dangerous, mind-bending drugs, risking their own lives, just for a slice of fame?”

The correlation between drug use and musical success is hard to prove. After all, it is not clear whether the great musicians were great before their drug use. But the experience of Scott Weiland, former frontman of Stone Temple Pilots, has shown strong evidence of a causative relationship. During the times when Weiland was in the throes of heroin addiction, his music inspired listeners and pleased critics with its depth and sense of purpose. While he was clean, however, his music suffered, with fans, critics, and on the Billboard charts.

Congress’ action brings up certain major questions. Since it will not affect Canadian musicians, it may result in the increasing popularization of Canadian artists. Considering their strange accents and tendency to say “aboot” rather than “about”, that cannot be a good thing for music in general.

Even more important is the role of Congress in the regulation of the music industry. Musicians contend that hampering their ‘personal habits’ will only cause music in general to suffer. And the RIAA is feeling their turf infringed, as the Congress is stepping in to handle problems they cannot control on their own. But to Senator’s McCain and Bunning, where the market has failed, the Congress must act:

McCain and Bunning said they’d prefer not to legislate but warned that Congress is prepared to.

“For whatever reason, you just can’t get it done, and you can’t get your act together,” Bunning said. “I and millions of fans think that’s pathetic.”

The Owner's Manual linked with #106 Best of Me Symphony
Eric's Grumbles Before The Grave linked with Carnival of Liberty XIV
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One of my recent commentors mentioned that the text contrast against the background was not sharp enough to be easily readable… Anyone else having this problem? If so, I’ll try to adjust my text slightly to make it brighter…

And as usual, any feedback on the template, whether it be text color, size, things that don’t work in certain browsers, etc, is highly appreciated.

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UFO Landing Strip

Some yokel down in Puerto Rico is planning on building a UFO landing strip. Now, of course, my first thought was “is he doing this with government funds?”

Lajas Mayor Marcos Irizarry’s support for the idea has provoked outrage among islanders who complained it would be a waste of money at a time when the government is encouraging thousands of employees to shorten their work week to cope with a staggering fiscal deficit.

“What nonsense,” said Luis Arocho, 47, sipping coffee with friends in a cafe in historic Old San Juan. “This country is in crisis, and since politicians are incapable of creating jobs, they create fantasies.”

Irizarry quickly clarified that his municipal government would not invest in the project. Instead, he has promised to help Rios get the proper building permits.

Phew. So at least this guy will be spending his own money, or that of stupid “investors”…

But I was struck by another question…

A landing strip? Most “UFO” sightings don’t land and take off like airplanes, they do so vertically. So why would you need a strip? Apparently, Reynaldo Rios either thought of this or is thinking small:

Rios, who leads a group called “UFO International” that holds nighttime vigils to search for signs of alien life, lets Negron worry about details like investment costs and permits while he envisions the design. The landing strip would be 80 feet long and have pyramids as control towers because aliens are attracted to the shape.

80 feet long? That sounds more like it’s either a landing pad, or it’s designed for aliens landing very small aircraft. And “control towers”? Does he have any idea what frequency alien spaceships use for their communication? How do you guide them in if you can neither communicate on their frequency or speak their language? I hate to be a naysayer, but this sounds a bit ridiculous…

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September 27, 2005

Commander in Chief

I had wanted to watch Commander in Chief to see just how bad it would be. My wife was excited because she thought it might actually be good. Well, it lasted 20 minutes. I was convinced of my original assertion after about 10 minutes, by 20 minutes in the wife had switched over to Sex and the City reruns on TBS.

So here’s what I’ve seen so far:

Plot: Holes big enough to drive a truck through. After all, what President chooses a Vice President who isn’t even in his party? If Bush had wanted a female VP, he would have picked Condi, or Elizabeth Dole, or any number of other moderate Republican women. Then, of course, considering he picked a VP that he didn’t want to succeed him if he dies, he has to ask her to resign so the Speaker of the House can take over the Presidency. And that’s just in the first 20 minutes.

Acting: Not too bad, from the little I saw. Geena Davis is a good actress, and the supporting players seemed at least believable.

Writing: If there’s a weaker point than the plot, this is it. All the fair treatment of Republicans you’ll typically find on The West Wing won’t be found on Commander in Chief. The one likeable Republican is the President, who is charismatic, engaging, and dies in the first 15 minutes. You’re left with the Speaker of the House, Donald Sutherland’s character, who is slightly to the right of Hitler. In the first 15 minutes talking about bad Presidential scandals, the three mentioned were Watergate, Irangate, and WMDgate. No Monicagate, not Hostagegate… Only bad things done by Republicans count. The first 15 minutes saw a shot at Pat Buchanan. Of course, one would expect such from a series written by a former Hillary campaign staffer.

One would ask, of course, in a land where some people think a Hillary v. Condi run might be imminent, that we need plot holes a mile wide to avoid the implausible scenario where a woman might be ELECTED President? And why, when viewers demand intelligent writing in dramas, they think they’re going to win people over with highly partisan smears. I have a feeling this program is only going to be watched by militant feminists and the crowd, and I don’t think that will cut it in primetime. I think next week I’ll have to see how My Name is Earl looks.

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EU farts in CA Wineries’ general direction

The US and the EU are at the doorstep of a trade agreement that will open the EU to an influx of American-made wine. Many differences in our wine markets have made it difficult for us to come to an agreement, especially our irreverance for their appelation names. Many folks “in the know” point out that the term Champagne only should apply to sparkling wines from the Champagne region of France. Northern California does not produce Champagne, they produce sparkling wine. The same is true for names such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, etc.

Under the provisional deal reached by EU and American negotiators in Washington two weeks ago, the two sides will mutually recognize each other’s winemaking practices, setting the stage for more detailed talks on protecting geographical indications, names of origin and the status of low alcohol wines.

The U.S. administration is to ask Congress to change the status — and limit the use of — 17 European names on American wines.

The names — Burgundy, Chablis, Champagne, Chianti, Claret, Haut-Sauterne, Hock, Madeira, Malaga, Marsala, Moselle, Port, Retsina, Rhine, Sauterne, Sherry and Tokay — are considered “semi-generic” in the United States. Once Washington has changed their status, American exporters will benefit from simplified certification of their wines in the EU.

Other issues, such as certain American winemakers use of water dilution of wine, and of using oak chips to add flavor rather than the more traditional method of fermenting in oak barrels also are causing problems. In addition, the EU is in a glut of overproduction of wine (overproduction meaning they produce too much to keep the price where they think it should be).

But what really struck me about this was the absolute scorn dripping from the lips of every European they interviewed. It was clear that they believe they, and their wines, are superior. What is odd is that they also believe that they compete with American wine. Europe: a land of contradictions…

“Water in wine is something which is unimaginable for us and unacceptable to our consumers,” said Klass, who represents the German Riesling-producing Mosel region. “We don’t need artificial wine.”

“Our winemakers will revolt against this, and they will have everyone in the south of France on the barricades,” Martinez said.

“We have been making wine since the Roman Empire, and not for a couple of hundred years like the Americans,” he said. “Wine is a civilization, it is a fine art.”

If the agreement is approved, Martinez said it would turn wine “into a chemical product, a kind of Coca Cola.”

French Liberal Democrat Anne Laperuze added: “I don’t want a McDonald’s type Chardonnay.”

Just remember, when politicians in this country want you to support protectionist practices, ask yourself whether they sound like these losers.

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Clarence Thomas is ready to start harassing again!


Anna Nicole’s Case Goes to Supreme Court

Former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith is going to the Supreme Court.

Justices said Tuesday they would consider Smith’s appeal over the fortune of her 90-year-old late husband. The stripper-turned-reality television star stands to get as much as $474 million if she wins at the high court and gets a bankruptcy court judgment reinstated. The case will be argued before the Supreme Court early next year.

She has not gotten any money from the estate of J. Howard Marshall II, an oil tycoon who married her in 1994 when he was 89 and she was 26. Marshall, one of Texas’ wealthiest men, died in 1995.

So many possible jokes. Clarence Thomas and a Pepsi can… Rehnquist looking down from above saying “Damn, why couldn’t I have held out a little longer?”… Ruth Bader Ginsburg ruling against her out of jealousy…

So I’m offering this one up to my readers. What’s the best joke you can make out of Anna Nicole going to the Supreme Court?

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Carnival of Liberty XIII

Number 13 has arrived. In the past, many posters have put their own little ’stamp’ on the Carnival. One poster changed the theme to “Personal Liberty”. One led into the carnival with an extremely strong post of its own right. Many have taken a lot of time to categorize and comment on each post.

Obi-Wan at Forward Biased, the current host, launched into a paranoid rant about his triskaidekaphobia. To each his own, I guess :-)

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September 26, 2005

Why I’ll never hold office…

Numerous people, knowing that I’m so heavily into politics, ask me whether I’ve ever considered running for office. And the answer is yes, I’ve considered it, but then dismissed it immediately. I’m not the kind of person who excels at that sort of thing. Despite being a heartless bastard of a libertarian, I don’t have the ruthless temperament necessary for politics.

Of course, like any human, I have a few skeletons in my closet (I can hear JimmyJ now, ready to chime in with “Remember that time…”, as he was probably there for at least a few of them)… But if our President can get away with being “young and irresponsible”, I’m sure I can survive that. After all, I’m a libertarian, so I’d campaign on making most of the illegal things I’ve done in my life legal anyway :-)

But it’s a much deeper thing. I simply have no desire to rule over people. Sure, I’m egotistical, so I think I can make better choices for most people than they could make for themselves. But even if I can, I don’t think I SHOULD. As I’ve pointed out many times, I know that there are a large number of people in this world who think they can make better decisions than I can. And I get angry as hell every time an elected official trys to coerce me into the decision they choose. I don’t care if you think it’s immoral for me to buy beer on Sunday. I think as long as I can find a willing seller, you’re an ass for stopping the sale. I don’t care if you think I should wear a helmet on a motorcycle. I think so too, but dammit if I want to be hamstrung by force of law. I don’t have any desire to rule over people, so my only justification for obtaining public office would be to fight those who think they deserve that power.

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technogypsy linked with Carnival of the Vanities 159
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Hat Tip: Eidelblog

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Snow Day!

Perdue closes Georgia schools

In an extraordinary measure to conserve fuel during the pending crisis with Hurricane Rita in the Gulf Coast, Gov. Sonny Perdue Friday called on Georgia’s public schools to voluntarily close Monday and Tuesday.

“We had a conference call with the governor and state school Superintendent Kathy Cox at 2:45 p.m.,” said Harris County School Superintendent Susan Andrews. “The governor asked school systems to voluntarily comply. He told us Colonial Pipeline is shut down. He said school buses in Georgia use more than 225,000 gallons of diesel fuel a day, and that he was letting us know as quickly as he knew. He said they had thought about doing it later next week.”

Andrews said Cox was asked if schools must make up these two days and Cox said no.

Great job. It’s not like Georgia’s schools are known across the country as wonderful. But on the off chance that one of these teachers might actually give useful knowledge during these two days, I would think it’s important that those kids do learn something. Why doesn’t he just close down all nonessential state government offices for a week? That’s gotta be about 80% of state employees, and if they’re not at work dreaming up new ways to spend my money, it might actually save the State quite a bit!

The response from Democrats is predictable:

Shortly after the governor’s announcement, Secretary of State and Democratic candidate for governor Cathy Cox strongly opposed the move in a statement. “Clearly, the governor didn’t consider the impact of this stunt on working Georgians,” she said. “He must not realize how much Georgia families will have to spend for last-minute child care alternatives for their children on Monday and Tuesday. What was he thinking?”

The meaning of that: “How can we use conservation and the environment as an issue if Perdue beat us to it? I know! We’ll call him insensitive to the poor working man, that always works!”

Oh well, it could be worse. We could be California.

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September 25, 2005

Gravity Hill?

Last night, the wife, a friend, and I drove up to Chattanooga for Wine over Water, a festival to support preservation of historic structures. Wine was drunk, historic structures preserved, and a good time was had by all.

On the way back, our friend informed us of a little place known as Gravity Hill. She grew up in Alabama, and was introduced to a place where the laws of physics simply do not apply. If you place your car with the front end facing down the hill, and put it in neutral, it will roll backwards, up the hill. This girl is intelligent, so I was a little intrigued, but I’m a skeptic and an engineer, and didn’t quite believe the hype.

Obviously gravity works just the same anywhere on earth, so something more must be occurring. She suggested that the mountain nearby was heavily full of iron, and the weight of that iron might be attracting that car. This is demonstrably false. Even if you fill that mountain with the most dense substance on earth, the relative mass compared to the entire earth will be miniscule. Any gravitational force could simply not overcome a downhill incline visible to the naked eye. Another possible explanation offered was magnetic force. Most modern cars are heavily made from metals like aluminum and stainless steel that is very weakly magnetic, so again, the magnetic force needed to pull a car up a noticeable incline would need to be enormous. Not a possibility.

Occam’s Razor states, that in the presence of multiple explanations for the cause of certain phenomena, the simplest explanation is most likely to be true. The simplest possible explanation is that it is not a downhill incline that you are being “pulled up” at all, but that an optical illusion makes you believe that it is a downhill incline. In reality, borne out by experience, this is also the true explanation. From the link above:

I have lived on Gravity Hill for 30 years. It is nothing but an optical illusion. From my home you can see you are really rolling down hill. A surveyor checked it once, and it has a 2 degree decline for about 75-ft. then a 31 degree decline, which gives it the appearance of going uphill.

In the car last night, we had decided that at some point in the future, we would need to make the 3-hour trek out to “Gravity Hill” with a carpenter’s level to try this for ourselves. I believed it would be an optical illusion, and would have relished the opportunity to prove our friend wrong (one of my pastimes). I think we can close the book on this.

What’s interesting, however, is how many “gravity hills” there are in the world. Wikipedia offers quite a few, as well as more evidence that the explanation is an optical illusion, rather than paranormal activity or the suspension of the laws of physics.

But I wonder, when I encounter people so willing to believe such nonsense, why they suddenly forego all normal sense to do so? I realize most people aren’t as versed in physics as I am, but it is almost that people have a desire to believe the most unlikely, but most “exciting” explanation. And people wonder why I don’t believe much of anything without verifying it for myself. There are enough people out there actively trying to deceive me, the last thing I need is to take the word of people who are simply gullible.

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September 24, 2005

Saturday College Football…

A few big games this week in the Big Ten:

Michigan @ Wisconsin:

This game became a lot bigger once Michigan fell apart against Notre Dame, and because it’s a night game in Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, WI, a very tough place to play. That being said, Michigan is still a 3-point favorite. I think Wisconsin will put up some decent points, but Michigan’s defense will keep Calhoun and Stocco in check enough to win it. Wisconsin’s defense is decent, but not what it was last year, and Michigan’s offense needs to step up.

Prediction: Michigan 24, Wisconsin 17

Iowa @ Ohio State:

Iowa was picked in the preseason as a possible team to win the Big Ten this year. But they just haven’t put it together. The loss to Iowa State was pathetic. Ohio State is looking formidable, even with the loss to Texas. And considering they’re still looking for revenge after last year’s defeat at Kinnick Stadium, they’re going to come out all fired up. I think Ohio State just outclasses Iowa in every category in this game. Vegas has tOSU as a 7 point favorite.

Prediction: Iowa 20, Ohio State 34

Purdue @ Minnesota:

Purdue is another possible pick to take the Big Ten title, largely due to an easy schedule (we don’t play Michigan or Ohio State). Minnesota is coming off three strong wins, just abusing their opponents on the ground (#1 rushing attack in the nation). Laurence Maroney, RB for Minnesota, is an absolute stud and might win the Heisman this year. Purdue’s shown very poor pass defense, but has shut down the run (#1 rush defense in the nation). Purdue has shown some very impressive offense, and a lot of new things with the addition of the option to their spread attack. Minnesota has traditionally been weak on defense, but is looking improved this year. It should be a good game. Purdue, ranked at 10th in the nation, is a 3-point underdog to unranked Minnesota. This game comes down to Minnesota putting together a few defensive stops, and to Minnesota’s ability to throw the ball. If Minnesota establishes the pass, it will allow their dominant rushing game to open up. If not, Purdue’s front 7 will give Maroney a bad, bad day. I pick Purdue, but a couple of turnovers or big plays could turn it around.

Prediction: Purdue 41, Minnesota 31

(Note: I won’t be at a computer for much of the day, so won’t be live-blogging any of these games.)

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