Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cars, Trucks, Friends and Family

By Alan Burkhart

A few friends have been e-mailing me to ask where and how I've been and why I haven't been writing my column. Quick answer: I've been buried in work and the state of our nation has reached a point that I get sick every time I read the news.

As such, my column is on hold until I can actually sit down and write without getting an ulcer. Maybe I'll just write about something besides politics and societal woes.

As to what I've been doing: I've been taking a pretty good stab at learning to program in Visual Basic. I will in fact have a small line of freeware out in the near future. It'll be available for download on my old site (www.alanburkhart.com). I'll announce it here when it all comes together. A way-cool text editor, image batch-processor and a couple of slick utilities are in the works.

Blew the motor in my Eagle Talon. Been wanting a bigger car anyway so I parked the Eagle and went out in search of a deal. Found one, too. My nephew is service manager at one of the larger Chrysler dealers in the DFW area. The mother of one of his mechanics is no longer able to drive and her car had been in storage two years. He said he'd sell it for $400.00. I was understandably skeptical in regards to the condition of the car, given the price. My nephew and his dad checked out the car (I was nowhere near Ft Worth) and informed me that it was an absolute cream puff.

Long story made short, I bought the car - a 1983 Chrysler New Yorker with just about every option one can imagine and only 71,000 miles. I gave my nephew an additional $500 and he applied massive amounts of TLC to the car (new belts, hoses, wheel cylinders, all fluids replaced, a/c reworked, new tires, etc). There is definitely an advantage to having a family member in charge of a repair shop. Lord only knows what all that stuff would have cost me otherwise.

One of my trucking buddies pulls a step-deck trailer and he volunteered his services to get the car from Texas to Mississippi. I didn't want a 500-mile shakedown cruise for a 24 year-old car and gladly accepted his offer. Below are some pics of the car from last Saturday when it arrived where I work.

Here she is just as she arrived on the trailer.

Backing the car off the trailer

A smooth landing

Moral of the Story...
Never underestimate the value of friends and family. Due to various circumstances my money has been uncomfortably tight for about a year. No way I could have come up with a car this nice (and in such good condition) without going deeper in debt than I already am - which ain't an option at this point.

Always think of your best friends as part of your family. And always be proud of your friends who actually are your family.

See ya'll on the road - Alan

Monday, October 01, 2007

Early Expectations

By Alan Burkhart

The so-called "NFL experts" love to make early-season predictions. Mike Klis of the Denver Post is already pointing to the October 14th match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots as a preview of the next Super Bowl. Others are referring to the Cowboys as the best team in the NFC and the Patriots as the best in all of football.

Excuse me, but we're only four weeks into a 16-game season. Sure, the Cowboys are 4-0 and the Patriots are 3-0 with Monday night's contest against the Bengals likely to be yet another Patriot victory. But, let's not overlook the fact that both the Packers and Colts also stand at 4-0, and that four other teams currently stand at 3-1.

The season is still quite young.

Both Dallas and New England have posted impressive stats, but neither team has faced an opponent with a winning record. And both teams still have another game to play before the Patriots visit Texas Stadium.

Dallas will almost certainly manhandle the Bills in Buffalo, and it's a good bet New England will defeat the Browns. That, if my own early predictions are correct (keep in mind I'm not an expert) will see both teams standing at 5-0 on October 14th.

On that day in Texas, both teams will be subjected to their first contest against an opponent with a record above .500. A number of questions will be answered:

1. First and foremost - how good is Tony Romo? The Cowboys likeable new QB has torn up the likes of the Giants, Dolphins, Bears and Rams, but how will he fare against the Pats stingy defense? And please don't point to his performance against the Bears. This is this year, not last year. And the Bears are SO last year.

2. And how will the Cowboys' defense stack up against Tom Brady's powerful offense? Can the Cowboys' somewhat suspect defensive backfield continue to improve and slow the Pats' offense while the slow-starting Cowboy offense gets its collective act together during the first half? In spite of leading the league in scoring, the Boyz have yet to score a first-quarter touchdown.

3. Can the Pats' defense contain hard-charging Marion Barber? Terrell Owens? Jason Witten and Patrick Crayton? I remain unimpressed with Julius Jones.

4. Do the Pats have a defensive lineman capable of getting past Leonard Marshall?

5. New Cowboys coach Wade Phillips has out-coached the brain trusts of 4 losing teams. But can he stay a step ahead of Pats coach Bill Belichick?

Neither team has faced a real test thus far in the season, and assuming that the Pats handle the Bengals Monday night, both teams will start next week undefeated. And they'll probably still be undefeated when they finally clash in Dallas. Each team promises to be the acid test for the other. Two explosive offenses, one with an established veteran QB and the other with a young gunslinger who will likely be the next "great" NFL passer. Keep in mind that "likely" means he hasn't done it yet.

The Pats' defense through three games is allowing just over ten points per game. The Cowboys defense started out awful but has improved a bit each week. Neither defense has faced an offense comparable to what they'll face when they play each other.

If it comes down to a defensive contest, the Pats will likely be the winner. In an offensive shootout, I'd give the edge to Dallas, but only barely and only because the game will be on Dallas' home turf. Tony Romo is a gem of a QB, and he has a multitude of tools at his disposal, but he hasn't reached the lofty plateau of Tom Brady. And whether it's fair or not, Romo will be judged by how he compares with Brady on that day.

As a diehard Cowboy fan, I'm waiting for this game to see just how good this latest incarnation of the team will be. So far, all anyone really knows is that they're better than NFL's absolute worst. Any realistic Patriot fan will also be looking to this game as the first true measurement of the character of the 2007 Pats.

When the dust has settled, it will doubtlessly have been one helluva ballgame. Super Bowl preview? Maybe. Maybe not. The season is young.