Tuesday, January 27, 2009

So, a little birdie told me that the Jets and the Rams are going to do a deal... maybe...

As you all know, I live in Los Angeles. HQ for the St. Louis Rams is here. The once and future Los Angeles Rams have deep roots my sector of the world. A little birdie done told me that that Rams and Jets are beginning preliminary talks about swapping some draft picks. What is the scoopy-pooh?

First a disclaimer: Remember all of this blatant NDA buster material, and none of it may pan out. Many more draft deals fall-through than go-through. This is true each and every year. It is common for teams to talk to each other and do nothing. A lot of teams talk to each other about picks, but many fail to finalize a deal.

With that said…

Rumor has it that the Rams are quite unhappy with their position in this year's draft. The #2 is bad for a lot of reasons this year. Most important is the fact the Rams have four major needs this year: (1) Left tackle, (2) Right Guard,(3) Center and also (4) Left Guard. It is a commonly accepted fact that the Rams have the worst offensive line in professional football. This has been true for 2 years running now. This is the critical weakness that has made us loosers 2 years in a row. Only our right tackle Alex Barron is moderately solid. This year's draft class has quite a few good men in these slots, but none who are worthy of being drafted #2.

With that said, understand that Mel Kiper rates Andre Smith of Alabama as the #4 prospect in the entire draft. Others disagree. Kiper is frequently wrong. The only draft evaluator I trust is Mike Mayock of the NFL network. This guy has street-cred. Mayock has not yet issued a discernable verdict on Andre Smith. I look forward to his verdict with great interest. Folks I've talked too believe Andre Smith is fat and out of shape. They believe his weight problem will get worse, not better, over time.

With various salary cap problems, the Rams are strongly disinclined to reach for an offensive lineman and pay him #2 pick money. Further, there is a belief that, push comes to shove, Pace could play one more season for the Rams. You'll need to pay him his full price and talk him out of early retirement, but he could play another season.

So what are the Rams to do about their draft position? The obvious answer is: Trade down. But who wants the #2 pick? Surprisingly, the answer is the New York Jets. Let's face the facts: The Jets are recovering from the Brett Farve debacle. They gave away a perfectly good QB and traded a #3 pick for an old man who was great for a small portion of just 1 season. Now they have no QB and no 3rd Round pick. At the very least, they need a QB or they might as well not bother to take the field this year.

So here is the problem the Jets must face: Detroit is expected to select Matthew Stafford of Georgia. In this scenario, one half of the decent prospects are gone after the Lions take the first pick off the board. The Rams aren't looking for a QB... yet... so they are expected to pass on Mark Sanchez of USC. Kansas City drafts #3 and they are going to take Sanchez, according to rumor. That's the end of the good prospects for this year, mate. If you need a franchise QB we'll see you next year when we'll have a bumper crop of great prospects to pick from.

So somehow the Jets need to get above KC in order to take a decent franchise QB prospect. The solution is simple: cut a deal with the Rams. What makes it more intriguing is that the Jets have some good young offensive linemen that they can use as bait. It would be very unwise for them to deal anyone like Ferguson or Mangold, but if worse comes to worse, they could. It should be noted that the Rams wanted to put Faneca next to Orland Pace last year. The Jets got him. It is much more likely that NYJs will send their #1 and #2 pick to the Rams for the #2 over-all pick. The Rams may want a sweetener, but they may not get one.

So do I like this idea? Would I deal the #2 pick for the Jet's #1 & #2? I'll give you a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is "Yes". The long answer is as follows: With three lower picks we have a good shot at sweeping all the great interior line prospects in the draft. We could potentially get the best guards and centers in the draft. With a young and decent Alex Barron at the right tackle position, and perhaps just one more season out of Orlando Pace, the Rams could have a vastly upgraded offensive line for 2009. Ergo, the deal will work for the Rams.

We'll have to see if it happens.

Somehow, the pessimist in me says that the Rams will blow it. We might not do anything about our OL problems. This is precisely what we did last year, with disastrous consequences. Instead, we might draft a great Wide Receiver like Michael Crabtree. Don't get me wrong, I love Crabtree to death, but he just isn't an offensive lineman. He can't block a nose tackle for us. No matter what his amazing skills may be, he isn't going to help the Rams as much as a couple of lethal-strength offensive linemen will.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ram Fans are pulling like a MoeFoe for Kurt Warner

So, the Super Bowl hype has begun. To this affect, last night the NFL network showed several of the highlight films from the Steelers many Super Bowl seasons. More specifically, I saw the "America's Game" Documentaries for the 1974 and 1975 Steelers. I don't know how many films they showed because I didn't turn on the HDTV until around 7:00pm or 8:00pm PST. It might have been 5 hours (5 documentaries) as the Steelers have won 5 Super Bowls.

Unfortunately, there are no such films for the Cardinals. To redress the balance, what could the NFL network do? They showed the America's Game documentary about the 1999 Rams. The 1999 Rams were voted the greatest single-season turn around in the history of the league by the NFL's "Top 10" documentary group. It was also the year Kurt Warner broke out and became a super-star as the grand-master of the Greatest Show on Turf.

There is a St. Louis connection between the Rams and Cardinals. There is also a Kurt Warner connection between the Rams and Cardinals. There is also a divisional connection between the Rams and Cardinals: Both are in NFC West. There is also a franchise movement connection between the Rams and Cardinals: both moved twice. There is also a stylistic connection between these two teams. Like the Rams, the Cardinals also have an Ex-Colt in their backfield. The Edge is substituting for Marshall Faulk in this interpretation of the play. Both had superior offenses and good scoring defenses. There is also a rags-to-riches turnaround story that they share. Furthermore, the Cards are only the second 9-7 football team in the history of the League to reach the Super Bowl. The other was the 1979 Los Angeles Rams, who also won the NFC title, who faced these same Pittsburg Steelers in the Rose Bowl (a virtual home game).

We gave 'em hell in that game, but we lost. The lead changed hands 7 times in Super Bowl XIV. The Rams lead for most of the first 3 quarters. Bradshaw threw 3 interceptions. Steeler fans were dropping bricks in their shorts when the 4th quarter arrived and the Rams were still leading 19-17. Lynn Swan had been knocked out by Pat Thomas earlier in 3rd quarter. Then Bradshaw hit Stallworth on 60-prevent-slot-hook-and-go and the Steelers went ahead 24-19. Vince Ferragamo almost got us the lead back, but Jack Lambert intercepted him at the 20 of the Steelers. The Franco Harris got a meaningless touchdown on clock-killing drive as the clock wore down to nothing. The final was 31-19.

It was not a blow-out or an ass-whupping, and everybody knew it. It was closer than the now-legendary Cowboy Super Bowl from the year before. It was supposed to be a massacre. The Steelers were happy to get out of there with their skins (mostly) enacted. Fred Dryer (famous from TV series Hunter) was interviews by Steve Sabol of NFL films and said "We fought the hell out of 'em. I guarantee you those bastards will be hurting tomorrow." The Super Bowl XIV cover of Sports Illustrated declared "This One Was Really Super".

I should mention that this was the first football game I ever watched in my life (start to finish). This was the moment when I fell in love with Football, and it was the moment I became a Ram fan. Rightly or wrongly, the shadow of that loss hung over my youth, and didn't really dissipate until Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk showed up in 1999. You can imagine how I felt when we finally won the big one.

Loosing the big one is horrible. Being the laughing stock of the league is horrible. A lot of that can be swept for the Cardinals if they defeat the Steelers on Super Sunday.

I see a lot of connections between Rams and the Cardinals in this game. It's a bit eerie and magical. I don't know about the rest of you Ram fans in SoCal, but I am pulling like a MoeFoe for Kurt Warner in this game. It's strange to think of it this way, but there are going to be hardcore NFL fans native to St. Louis, Los Angeles and Phoenix all lining up behind the Cards for several of these reasons.

If Kurt obtains the victory in this game he can be elected the Governor of Missouri the next day. Believe me, they'll hold a special election for him if he'll take the job. Furthermore, he'll become a lock for the Hall of Fame.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Why I am no longer crazy about SilverLight 2.0

Over the past year there has been a frisson of excitement about SilverLight 2.0 in the .NET world. I too was swept away in it. Why? It looked like the 3rd time would be a charm. What do I mean by the 3rd time is the charm?

Sun tried to introduce Applets with their Java platform more than a decade ago. About 12 years of experiance has proven that this concept was (is) a market failure. The technology works fine and almost nobody uses it. I can only name 3 or 4 working applets out there on the net that are of any significance. Strike one for hard code in the browser.

Microsoft tried to counter Applets with ActiveX in the browser. This was an unmidigated catastrophy. Words cannot express what a disaster this was for Microsoft. The echos and reverberations of this calamety are still being felt today throughout the world. ActiveX controls/applications inside IE5 & IE6 had no practical limits. You could do absolutely anything with ActiveX inside IE5&6. If you could code it, you could do it. This resulted in the great Spyware Pestilence of 2003. IE became the greatest vector of contageon the computer world had ever known. This gave Microsoft a seriously bad rep for unreliable and insecure systems, prone to ID theft. They are still trying to live down this bad rep today. What a disaster!

So now here comes Silverlight 2.0. This is basically a .NET Applet which is portable across multiple platforms and browsers, but based on a tight security model. You can write your .NET code in the language of your choice, but not all things are possible. You can't just do anything and everything you want to an end-user's machine. Silverlight 2 is not intended as a Flash killer. It is not in competition with Adobe Flash, no matter how often this erroneously statement is repeated. The intent is to put smart applications in the browser, just like Java Applets, just like ActiveX apps.

A lot of XAML graphical junk is possible. You can talk with web services. There is the possibility of 3d graphics and games. Rockford Lhotka is bringing his marvelous CSLA framework to Silverlight 2.0. His firm believes Silverlight is the way, the truth and the light. No one will reach the father without Silverlight 2.0, acording to Mugenic. However, and this is a drop dead issue for me, all of your code gets downloaded with Silverlight 2.0 applet zip file. This is CIL code... or original source code... I can't seem to get a clear answer on this question. In any event, the app can be totally disassembled and de-obfuscated using .NET Reflector and its marvelous plugins. I have done this. It is perfectly possible. It is easier now than ever before to interogate somebody else's code and figure out how it is done.

So why does this matter? When you code in ASP.NET or the MVC framework, you enjoy code privacy. Competitors will need to hack their way into your servers to get your source code, and thereby discover how you do things. That is a tall order. If you know what you are doing, it ain't so hard to lock these little fuckers out. If your rival knows what he is doing, it is difficult to hack into his server. I am a private source guy. My company is a private source company. A lot of crucial trade secretes are embeded in our source code. Not many know how to do what we do. Many confidential bits of knowledge can also be found inside the running bits of our app code. The web has protected our trade secrets rather well by hiding this stuff on our servers. Putting them into Silverlight would let the proverbial cat out of the bag. Personally, I can tell you that my blood runs cold at the thought of exposing our code to the world. It's not because I am embaressed about what I have written. Rather the opposite. I am afraid I am going to educate our rivals.

For this reason, my enthusiasm for Silverlight 2 has flat-lined. It no longer has a pulse. Although I was daunted by it at first, my enthusiasm for ASP.NET MVC is growing by the day. I believe this is the path to ultra-high reliability software. If implemented fully--in all its glory--MVC should deliver flawless software to the consumer and provide strong security for the authors. I believe in ASP.NET MVC.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

3d a smash at CES? LaserVue puts plasma to shame...?

Or so they say here. Supposedly, 3d ready HDTVs like Mitsubishi's DLPs and Panasonic's Plasmas are the rage right now at CES. What is a 3d ready HDTV? It basically an HDTV which can take any Blu-Ray {and perhaps any HDMI digital input} and transform the standard flat 2d picture into a stereoscopic picture. This means you can sit in front of the DiamondScan or the Viera and watch Dark City, or Apocalypto or No Country for Old Men in 3d. All you need are the customary glasses. The original authors and engineers of the film and disk do not need to do anything special to permit this stereoscopic feature to function. Its all done, post-process, with our marvelous silicone digital signal processing technology.

Although I have never been a particular fan of 3d movies, I must admit, this is cool feature. It would be fun and cool to try it out with my library. It would give me a reason to go back and watch all my favorites again. I am skeptical it will work well {this technology has never worked well in my estimation} but it would be fun to try it. Based on the enthusiasm for the tech, it must be working better than I would presume.

But then again...

We come to the issue of LaserVue. If you read my past blog entries, you know what I think about LaserVue: Its a fraud. The emperor has no cloths on. I say this is as a commited DLP fan who wishes it would work. I am more likely to buy a Mitsubishi DiamondScan 835 than a LaserVue right now, and not because of LaserVue's price. I would finance it, if I though it would work better. It does not.

Nevertheless, somehow, someway, the lovely Alix Steel [will you marry me babby?] is all bubbly about how LaserVue puts Plasma to shame. She even embedded a small res video in her post to prove it... not that such a proof can prove her point. I hope you are right, Alix, but I am highly skeptical. One thing I will say is this: You are girl after my own heart. Image quality is more important than skinny screens.

I vow that I will give LaserVue another look soon. It may be that Mitsubishi debugged their shtick in the past few months. I was expecting major improvement with the next gen. So far we have no generational landmark, but Mitsubishi may be making improvements to the LaserVue firmware. This process did wonders for my mighty PS3.

In my last survey of the market, Panasonic's marvelous Viera PZ850 series proved itself to be a serious contender for the championship. If the LaserVue can put such a screen 'to shame' it will be worth every penny of the $7,000 they are asking for it. It is no mean task to crush the PZ850 series or the Pioneer Kuro Elite Pro.