Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chilean Earthquake

So the big news from the weekend (other than the USA/Canada gold medal hockey game) came when a major earthquake hit the western edge of Chile.  From the New York Times:
RIO DE JANEIRO — A deadly, 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday, collapsing buildings, shattering major bridges and highways across a long swath of the country, and sending tsunami warnings along the entire Pacific basin. 
Chile’s TVN cable news channel reported 122 deaths less than 12 hours after the quake struck. The death toll was expected to rise, particularly around Concepci√≥n, Chile’s second-largest metropolitan area, which is roughly 70 miles from the quake’s center.
(...)
In Hawaii, officials were preparing to evacuate low-lying tourism areas and scheduled a statewide tsunami alert hours ahead of the tsunami swell’s expected arrival around 11:05 a.m.
This is of interest to me because one of my coworkers was in Hawaii on vacation for the past week.  She and her husband are set to head home today after spending a week vacationing in the tropical paradise.  So, along with any souvenirs they pick up, they'll also bring back with them the experience of living through a tsunami evacuation.

One of the many ways that technology continually amazes me is that I received real-time updates on my coworker's situation via her Facebook page every once in a while, letting everyone who cares about her well-being know how they were faring.  She reported that the hotel's evacuation plan was to get "vertical" so they "evacuated" to their room until the tsunami had passed.  She also noted that their hotel was near a marina and all of the vessels were leaving the dock and heading out to sea until the tsunami passes.  She ended the day with an update that it looked like the warning/evac was coming to a close without any damage.

And it seems that I wasn't the only one who was relying on first-person accounts to get the (most important to me) information about the situation.  One news viewer noted that "Much of the reporting was from citizen journalists via webcams, Skype, and Ustream.  Meanwhile, anchors were regularly referring to information coming to them by social networking websites such as Twitter."

What a fascinating age/era/time we live in.

(Also fascinating is this animation from the NOAA that shows how the Pacific Ocean reacted to an earthquake in northern Chile in 2007.)

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SONG:  "Dixie Chicken" by Little Feat

LOOKING FORWARD TO:  getting back into the daily dog walking routine.  The guy is getting cabin fever.  This was the first weekend in a long while that the sidewalks have been clear of (most) snow and ice and the temp has been above freezing, so, today and yesterday, he and I walked down to the RedBox to rent some movies, which he LOVED!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

American Idol -- Top 24 -- Guy's Night

Not-Brian-Dunkleman does his usual introductions and tells us that tonight they separate the men from the boys.
Todrick Hall – had a great original song for his audition.  He’s singing Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You Been Gone”.  He reworked it into an R&B version.  I liked the verse more than the chorus, but it was memorable, which is what the judges always want.  He received a round of applause from The Wife.  Ellen liked everything except the chorus.  Dawg doesn’t understand what song he sang.   Kara agrees with Randy and doesn’t think he should be as crazy next time.  Simon thought he was being a dancer trying to sing and it was verging on stupid what he did. 

Aaron Kelly – (aka Chicken Little Part Deux) – sings “Here Comes Goodbye”, which is fitting because he has a similar voice to the chipmunk who is the lead singer for Rascal Flatts.  The Wife says it’s a carbon copy of the original version, which is fine, but not great or original, which is what the judges always want, which means they’ll love him.  Simon says it was a good performance but notes Aaron is lacking stage confidence/presence.  Kara loves his raw, natural talent.  Dawg says he has a huge voice, the chorus was pitchy, and he lacks confidence.  Ellen thinks he’ll be around for a long time.

Jermaine Sellers – promises he won’t throw anyone under the bus anymore.  Singing “Just Get Here” and that’s exactly what I’m hoping for with the ending, just get here.  He’s not good at falsetto and he sounds very off key.  Not a good performance.  Ellen felt he pushed a little too much.  Randy was surprised with the song choice and he did too much with it.  Kara didn’t think the runs were meaningful or special.  Simon thought it was a cocktail bar performance and it didn’t work.  Simon thinks he blew his chances with that song, but the other judges don’t agree.

Tim Urban – (no relation to Keith Urban or Urban Apparel, from what I’m told) – was a replacement after Chris Golightly was kicked off the show for already having a contract.  Singing “Apologize” by New Republic.  He does a carbon copy of the original and is nowhere near as good of a singer as the original version.  He keeps missing the higher notes.  Mediocre at best.  Simon says the vocals were weak and they made the right choice initially about not picking him for the Top 24.  Kara says he was over powered by the music.  Dawg says it was the wrong song for him because he doesn’t have the falsetto.  Ellen said he may get a lot of votes because he’s adorable. 

(Aside:  New Glee commercial = the Wife has to change into a fresh pair of panties.)

Joe Munoz – (I need to find the little “n-yeah” symbol to put over the N in his name to make it official) –Singing Mraz’s “You and I Both” in the style of Enrique Iglasias.  Nothing special or noteworthy about the performance.  He’ll be fine this round.  The Wife loved him.  Ellen liked him.  Dawg likes his voice but wasn’t sure about the sound choice.  Kara never would have thought he’d sing a song like that, and she thought he was the best singer of the night so far.  Simon thinks he’s not a star with a performance like that one. 

Tyler Grady – has a throwback/70s style.  Not sure if that will help or hurt him.  Singing The Guess Who’s “American Woman.”  He starts it like the Guess Who version and then kicks into the Lenny Kravitz version, and he does both very poorly.  He never really sings, just screams the words “American” and “woman” over and over.  Simon thinks people will remember the performance for the wrong reasons and that he’s a pretend rock star.  Kara feels similar to Simon and that he obsessing over the 70s too much.  Dawg thought it was style over substance.  Ellen doesn’t think he has enough charisma to go with the poses he does on stage. 

Lee Dewyze – His performance with his guitar at Hollywood week was pretty good.  Hope he uses the guitar tonight.  Singing Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars”.  He has the guitar.  It has a country/alt-rock feel to it (similar to Darius Rucker).  I like it.  Ellen thought it was a good song choice, but felt he screamed parts of the song.  Dawg didn’t like the song choice, it wasn’t hard enough Rock enough for his taste.  Kara agreed with Dawg and Kara.  Simon disagreed and thought it was the best performance of the night. 

(Aside:  The Wife and I would like to petition Idol to give the contestants 30 more seconds to sing and have less Ryan & Judges filler.  It is so frustrating that they seem to be killing time, but the songs are only a minute long.  Annoying.)

John Park – Shania Twain made him blush in the audition.  Singing “God Bless the Child”.  A jazz standard.  I can’t understand a word that is coming out of his mouth.  The first couple of lines I thought he was singing in Japanese.  I did not like this one bit.  Simon thought John’s voice was not incredible enough for that song, and was emotionless.  Kara agrees.  Dawg liked parts of the song, but the song made him seem old.  Ellen was confused by the song choice but liked the performance. 

Michael Lynche – became a father during Hollywood week (birth, not conception.  That would have been weird to make publicly known).  Singing “This Love” by Maroon 5.  He does a more R&B/jazz version than the original.  Vocals are nothing special.  Ellen likes Mike’s personality.  Dawg liked the energy.  Kara thought it brought the energy in the room up.  Simon thought he delivered so little for such a big guy.    

Alex Lambert – (Not related to Adam Lambert or Bill Laimbeer, according to my sources) – Singing “Wonderful World” by James Morrison.  He’s rocking a mullet and a jeans/suit jacket combo.  The song is fine if you close your eyes.  He has no stage presence.  Simon was quite happy for it to end due to the uncomfortableness of the performance, but likes his voice.  Kara likes his voice tone and wants to hug him.  Dawg liked him.  Ellen likes his mullet.

Casey James – He’s singing “Heaven” by Bryan Adams.  He tries to make it a country version, but doesn’t commit to it and it comes up way short.  He has a goat vibrato on notes that he holds for longer than 2-beats, which is very annoying.  The entire Casey-Kara banter is growing very old and stale.  Ellen jokes about the Casey-Kara dynamic.  Dawg thinks it was good.  Kara says he’s ear and eye candy.  Simon says they’re both cursed with good looks.  Simon says he chose the right song. 

Andrews Garcia – He cries a lot.  He’s singing Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar We’re Going Down” acoustically and toned down.  It’s a nice arrangement, but his voice is nothing special.  He’s more of a musician than a singer.  Simon was disappointed with the seriousness of the song.  Kara thought it was a strange rendition and that he was a risk taker.  Dawg agrees about the arrangement and is a fan.  Ellen says she’s a fan but was not blown away.

I would rank them (from best to worst)
Todrick Hall
Lee Dewyze
Andrew Garcia
Joe Munoz
Casey James
John Park
Michael Lynche
Alex Lambert
Tyler Grady
Bottom three is Tim Urban, Jermaine Sellers and Aaron Kelly 
And Tim and Jermaine go home. 


The wife and I usually pick one guy and one gal each and then see whose contestants last the longest. This season:
The Wife picks:  Andrew Garcia and Katie Stevens
I pick: Lee Dewyze and Lilly Scott

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

World's Tallest Dog

This week, the Guinness Book of World Records announced that Giant George, at 43 inches tall, is the World's Tallest Dog. 



 And, the Guinness Book of Records is using this announcement to let people know that they will be "searching for other, less obvious record-breakers such as the smallest dog (length), the dog with the longest ears, the oldest dog, the smallest cat and the oldest cat."

Well, if that's the case, I'd like to make a nomination for "Biggest Schweety".  I present, Sir Brodie Edmond Fredrickson Lundy III, Esq.


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SONG:  "Diddy Wah Diddy" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Looking forward to:  whooping Miah and Erica's booty in our American Idol bet this year.

Thinking back on:  nothing today.

American Idol -- Top 24 -- Girls Night

(These are my notes from tonight's American Idol)

Ryan introduces the Judges and notes that Ellen isn’t sitting by Simon anymore.  Ellen says that Simon is too handsy and has proof on video.  Hilarious.

(Go HERE if you want to put a face with the contestant's names)

Paige Davis – Horrible song choice, weird outfit, and don’t hit the microphone when clapping on stage Simon didn’t like song choice, but thinks she has the best voice of the girls.  Dawg & Kara rambled on but liked her.  Ellen liked her and thought she pulled it off.  It must have sounded better live, because I did not like her voice or the song choice.

Ashley Rodriguez – (I love that Simon makes fun of Jordan Sparks’ “Battlefield”) – She’s singing Leona Lewis, which is like singing Whitney, Mariah, or Celine, you shouldn’t do it unless you have some great pipes.  At least it’s a fairly unknown song, so we can’t compare her to Leona.  “This song is eating her alive,” the wife says, and I can’t disagree.  Kara gives credit for taking on big song, but didn’t think it was great; Dawg says it wasn’t Ashley; Ellen wants Ashley to sing a different style of song and take risk; Simon thought is was clumsy, didn’t like arrangement, thinks she could be in trouble.  It’s a shame because the wife and I liked Ashley initially.

Janell Wheeler – She won Simon over in Hollywood week after his being lukewarm to her.  She’s singing Heart’s “What About Love”.  Risky song choice.  Will depend on the arrangement.  Good until the chorus, and then the song crushed her soul.  She is a decent singer, but the song was way too big for her voice.  Dawg song-choiced her; Ellen liked song choice and her performance overall; Simon says she delivered 65% and she went off key, he likes her voice; Kara said the big notes caused her to lose the originality of her voice.

Lilly Scott – Colorado girl, whoop-whoop!!!  She’s a musician, which I always love.  Singing “Fixin’ A Hole” by the Beatles with her guitar.  Unknown (to me) song.  Great song choice.  Shows off her unique voice.  Good stage presence.  Best so far.  Ellen thinks that’s what they’ve been talking about regarding song choice, she loved it; Simon felt she sang song because it portrayed her as an artist; Kara says she’s believable; Dawg likes her indie-artist style and honesty.  Best so far.

Katelyn Epperly – plays the piano in her video.  Singing “Oh, Darlin’”.  Looks/sounds like she’s in the stage production of “Grease”.  Ok performance.  Should get her though to next week.  Simon thought she was screaming and messy in parts, but he likes her.  Kara asks her questions and then compliments her knowledge of her voice, and gives fashion tips.  Dawg talks about having the runs and then likes her vibe.  Ellen like it ok and said she has a nice voice.

Haeley Vaghn – another Colorado girl.  She’s 16 and got her nose pierced as reward for making it to Hollywood.  Singing a Beatles song, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”.  Hard to watch, even harder to listen to.  Strumming the guitar.  She has an odd tone to her voice.  Weird.  Kara explains technical problems of the song, then compliments her for having “fun”.  Dawg loves her unpredictability, but doesn’t like her high notes.  Ellen mentions that she’s 16, and she enjoyed it.  Simon gets “honest” and says it was verging on terrible and a complete and utter mess.  

Lacey Brown – was in Hollywood last year.  “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac is her song choice.  Bad first line.  Doesn’t get any better.  She sounds out of tune and she’s pronouncing words oddly.  She sounds like a Cindy Lauper impressionist.  Dawg didn’t like the song choice and thought it was terrible and pitchy (drink).  Ellen thinks she’s better than that performance.  Simon thought it was depressing and indulgent and boring.  Kara thought she was forcing it and started requesting songs. 

Michelle Delamor – has a crazy family, according to her intro video.  Performing Alicia Keys’ “Fallen”.  From the first line, it pales in comparison to the original.  The middle gets much better.  Ending is ok.  Ellen thought it was fantastic and safe.  Simon thought she did very well and was professional, but was never wowed.  Kara didn’t think she lived up to her potential.  Dawg though it was ok, but that she needs to take risks.

Didi Benami – She sang one of Kara’s songs during Hollywood week.  She’s emotional and a crier.  Singing “The Way I Am,” which is a great song.  She’s singing it very close to the original, which shouldn’t matter because the song isn’t very well known.  It’s a safe song that was well done.  Simon has a problem with her trying to sound like the original artist (Adele, Duffy, etc.).  Kara gets technical and Simon interjects that it wasn’t memorable.  Dawg feels the same way as both Kara and Simon.  Ellen likes her voice, but feels it doesn’t make a good impression.   (Side note:  Brodie is snoring).

Siobhan Magnus – Is singing Chris Issac’s “Wicked Game”.  Weird, odd performance.  This song is going to win her some major “Vote for the Worst” style points.  Yikes.  It was fine, musically, but horrible for this performance.  Kara wouldn’t have picked the song, but she liked the performance.  (I just noticed Kara’s fake-tan line on her scalp—funny).  Dawg didn’t like the seriousness of the song.  Ellen loved it because it entertained her.  Simon thinks she’s a funny little thing, because she’s unknown.  He didn’t like it compared to her final Hollywood performance.    

Crystal Bowersox – Singing Alanis Morriset’s “Hand in my Pocket”.  Great song choice for her voice.  Love the harmonica and guitar playing.  She is the favorite in our house thus far.  Dawg has a bunch of reasons why she’s his favorite.  Ellen, too, is a fan.  Simon thought it was good, but says there are thousands of people doing the same thing in front of a subway (as a way to get her to quit being a sound-alike).  Kara thinks it wasn’t up to her full potential.  

Katie Stevens – is 17 and is singing “Feeling Good” by Michael Buble.  The slow intro was good.  The up-tempo middle was good.  The ending was good.  I wonder how many times they’ll bring up her age.  Ellen brings up her age and wants her to be younger and current.  Simon agrees totally with Ellen, and thought it became annoying (and he brings up her age).  Kara doesn’t think she killed the song.  Dawg thinks she was pushing too hard (and brings up her age twice).  

I would rank them (from best to worst):
1.       Crystal Bowersox
2.       Didi Benami
3.       Lilly Scott
4.       Katie Stevens
5.       Michelle Delamor
6.       Ashley Rodriguez
7.       Katelyn Epperly
8.       Janell Wheeler
9.       Paige Davis
Bottom 3 – Lacy Brown, Haeley Vaughn, Siohban Magnus
With Lacy and Haeley going home

Winter Poem

My cousin Kyle passed along this wonderful winter poem.  I usually don't like poetry, but this one spoke to me in a way that I've never experienced previously.  Enjoy.


WINTER
By Abigail Elizabeth McIntyre
  Shit it's cold.

The End

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thoughts on Tiger-gate

I am a golfer, but I'm not much of a golf fan.  I love playing golf.  I love practicing golf.  I love reading golf magazines and building golf clubs.  I plan on entering the golf industry in the future.  But, if I never watched another round of golf on TV, I wouldn't mind.  I don't have a favorite golfer.  I don't have a favorite PGA Tour stop.

I prefer my golf coverage to be very simple:  "So-and-so won the latest tournament on Sunday.  And now, here are the scores from last nights basketball/football/baseball games."  I want the biggest controversy in golf to be whether or not a players sand wedge grooves are within the regulated standards.  I don't want golfers to be celebrities because celebrity has a way of ruining almost everything.

So, after almost three months of silence, Tiger gave an apology last week.  And I was as indifferent to it as I was to the initial news of his car crash and affairs for three reasons:
  1. I'm not a golf fan (and, besides,according to Joe Posnanski, fandom has changed); 
  2. No matter how many commercials or events I saw Tiger in, I don't really know him, so I shouldn't be surprised one way or another by his actions off the course;
  3. Even the world's richest athlete is still a human who is susceptible to temptation.
My favorite sports writer, Joe Posnanski, who writes "curiously long posts", addresses "the Tiger-burg Address" by linking it to recent athlete apologies:
You know what I miss? I miss those days when being a sports fan did not also require a deep and textured understanding of body language. I miss the time when you could follow the games people play without having a hyper-sensitive scent for sincerity. I miss the time when being a judgmental sports fan meant only that you made moral judgments about a manager’s decision to bunt or not bunt in the third inning or a golfer’s choice to go for the green in two from a balky lie.

This is what I was thinking about when watching Tiger Woods carefully read from his prepared statement on Friday. Within minutes of him finishing, sports fans and countless pundits around the country and the world would be engaged in a detailed breakdown of the speech: What did it mean? What did he want it to mean? Was he sincere? Was he sincere enough? Was he sorry? Was he truly sorry? What does it mean to be sorry? Why did his voice sound as flat as a dial tone? Why did he use those weird hand gestures? Why didn’t he speak from the heart? Was he speaking from the heart? What does any of that matter? Was he sorry? Was he truly sorry? When will he return to golf? When should he return to golf? Who was he hoping to win over? Why didn’t he take questions? Why should he take questions? Why should he be sorry to anyone but his wife? Was he trying to overpower the Accenture tournament? Was the timing unavoidable of his schedule? Didn’t Accenture drop him as a spokesman? Was he sorry? Was he truly sorry? Who wrote this little speech? Did he sound angry? Was he angry? Where was Elin? Was he sorry? Was he truly sorry?
On and on and on … a million questions and comments and judgments about a 13-minute statement made by a brilliant golfer who cheated repeatedly on his wife.
The absurdity here is that this isn’t absurd anymore.
Read the rest, it is spot on.  If I had an eighth of Joe's writing skills, I'd probably react to the speech in a similar fashion.

Another aspect of the Tiger-gate scandal that I think is often overlooked is the fact that, as Jim Rome often points out, we really don't know these people.

Sure, we know how players and celebrities perform in their professions, but we have no idea what they are like off the field or off the screen or off the campaign stump.  I think most people forget that these celebrities are just people, who, for the most part, want to be thought of positively, and will usually do what is necessary to keep up the facade of stability/sanity/honesty/caring with those around us. 

Take a player like Marvin Harrison, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts.  Marvin is one of the most prominent and prolific wide receivers in NFL history.  And, until today, I was under the impression he was a model citizen off the field because, until today, I had never heard a bad thing said about the man.  Ever.  I assumed he was of the Peyton Manning school of football:  do your business on the field and stay out of trouble off the field.

Yet, if this GQ article is to be believed, Marvin Harrison is human and, quite possibly, a thug of the worst order.
It was a scene* to make anybody stop and watch. Broad daylight in North Philadelphia. April 29, 2008—a Tuesday. The corner of 25th Street and Thompson, about seven blocks north of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the steps Rocky climbed. A block of brick row houses, a church with a rubbed-out sign, a Hispanic grocery, a vacant lot. In one sense, the presence of a future Hall of Famer at this seedy vortex of the city—Harrison, eight-time Pro Bowl wide receiver with the Indianapolis Colts, then at the tail end of a thirteen-season career and a $67 million contract—was incongruous. Especially given that Harrison, who is usually described as "quiet" and "humble," was noisily stomping the fat man in the face and gut.
To Nixon, the fat man looked semi-conscious.

After several minutes, Harrison and McCray walked away. The fat man slowly picked himself up. Shouting epithets, he staggered to his car. Nixon watched as Marvin Harrison got into his own car, parked to the west of the fat man's. The fat man put his car into reverse. Thompson Street is one-way going east. The fat man backed up the wrong way until he was smack in front of Chuckie's Garage, a car wash Harrison owns. The fat man was now blocking Harrison, who was trying to drive away.
Nixon saw Harrison get out of his car and exchange words with the fat man. He couldn't hear the words, but he could see the gestures of threat and counterthreat. The fat man stayed in his car. He called somebody on his cell. Harrison got back into his car and called somebody on his cell. After a minute or two, Harrison got out of his car for the second time.
Marvin Harrison is six feet tall and 185 pounds. He has a neatly trimmed mustache and the body-fat content of an Olympic swimmer. He became the dominant wide receiver of his era not by outleaping or outwrestling defenders but by exploiting an almost supernatural talent for getting open: for feints, fakes, jukes, dodges, bluffs, stutter steps, sudden bursts of sick speed. But at this moment, Nixon says, Marvin Harrison did not run. He stood on the sidewalk and calmly raised his wiry arms. In each hand, Nixon clearly saw, was a gun.
Nixon froze.
Nixon heard the fat man scream at Harrison. "YOU AIN'T GONNA SHOOT. YOU AIN'T GONNA SHOOT. DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO."
Nixon was across the street and thirty yards away when Harrison started shooting. Pop pop pop pop pop pop—a great staccato gust of bullets. Steadily, Nixon says, Harrison unloaded both guns into the fat man's car, stippling the red Toyota Tundra with bullet holes as the fat man ducked in his seat. Eventually, the fat man sat up and sped off, heading straight toward Nixon's position as Harrison darted into the street and continued to shoot.
So, you really never know a person.  I never would have guessed Marvin Harrison to be capable of (reportedly) gunning down another person.  I never would have guessed John Edwards would knock up another woman while his wife battled cancer.  I never would have guessed Tiger Woods to participate and (reportedly) actively seek out numerous affairs.

And, finally, this is as good a time as any to remind ourselves that money doesn't buy happiness.  Tiger Woods is the first billion-dollar athlete.  He was on top of the world.  He was married to an attractive wife, a father to adorable kids, had houses on both coasts, and was the greatest athlete the golf world had ever seen.  And yet, all of this wasn't enough for him.  He convinced himself he needed more, and in doing so, he alienated himself from his family, friends, and fans.

Friar Tuck's most recent sermon dealt with "The Barn Builder" and in the sermon, Friar Tuck points out that
The farmer tears down his barns and builds new ones the Bible says. And he seems pleased with himself. And then that night, God comes to this rich farmer. He calls him a fool. He tells him that that night his life will end, and he will go into eternity. “What good will your wealth be now?” Jesus says, “Who is going to inherit all your crops and enjoy all you have earned?”
Jesus goes on to say, “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, but is not rich toward God”.
The farmer put all his security in his stuff. Jesus says he has chosen poorly.
It would seem to me that Tiger was raised from an early age to put all of his security in himself.  Golf is a lonely sport, with no one to rely upon but oneself.  Tiger is one of the most mentally tough athletes of my generation.  When on the golf course, he has extreme focus and drive.

And, when off the course, rather than focusing his legendary drive and effort into the people who we'd assume were most important in his life, his wife, children, neighbors, etc., he instead chose to chase after women.  Even the richest athlete of all time can "still struggle in putting our security in things and stuff instead of investing in relationships with those God has put in our path."

Ultimately, I wouldn't mind seeing Tiger take some time away from golf.  I would even understand him retiring until he's of Champion's Tour age (it's not like he needs the money from the PGA or Nike).  He should spend the next 18 years being the "Worlds Greatest Dad" to his two kids (and, maybe, along the way, he might mend his relationship with his wife), and I don't see how he can do that while chasing Jack Nicklaus' Majors record.

Just as baseball will always have the "Steroid Era", golf will now always have the "Tiger-gate Era" and the only person who can shorten this era is Tiger himself.  He attempted to begin the healing process last week with his apology, and only time will tell how deep of a scar he has left on the golf world, and more importantly, on his personal relationships.  

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SONG"Friends and Family" by Trik Turner

Looking forward to: taking full advantage of the "Tee it for Ten" card my wife got me for Valentine's Day.  With this card, I'll be able to play Shoreline Golf Course and Pacific Springs Golf Course for $10 a time.  I'll probably spend the same amount on golf this year, but this card will ensure that I play more often than last year.

Thinking back on:  the amazing time I had golfing back in Junior College.  Three of my JuCo golf teammates and I have been maintaining a Facebook email thread over the past month reliving the good times we had back in the day.

The Skyline Surrender


Today, I bought the latest EP, "This is Character", from The Skyline Surrender, on amazon.com.  While TSS's genre of music (metal/hardcore) isn't one of my favorites, I did want to support a Colorado band with which I have a connection, as I went to college with their vox (I'm pretty sure they're not called "singers" in the scream/hardcore metal scene, and vocalist seems to "operatic") Anthony Archuleta -- far left in the above picture.

From their MySpace page, it seems that their touring schedule is looking good this spring, with stops in Wyoming, California, Kansas, and Colorado (and possibly making it out to Omaha this summer, which would be awesome).

I'm torn between being filled with pride (from personally knowing someone whose music is on iTunes/Amazon) and jealousy.  I'm jealous because these guys are grinding out one of the dreams I have, but have not had the guts/time/energy to pursue, being in a touring band.  But, as with all dream jobs, being in a touring rock band takes much more work than I think I could ever commit to, as TSS's bassist Jinji Thompson explains in this Westwood interview.
Going on tour requires a lot; you have to get the bus and the merch together, and all of us have to take time off of whatever day jobs we're doing right now. We've gone through different booking agents that haven't worked out. We haven't quite found our break yet. There's just been a lot of drama. [Laughs.] We always say we're the cursed band of Denver.
So, I hope Archie and the boys enjoy great success this spring and that their fan-base grows exponentially (for which I'll take much of the credit).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Welcome to the fishbowl"

So says 9th Circuit Court Chief Judge Alex Kozinski in his dissent "from the 9th Circuit's refusal to reconsider its decision backing the warrantless search of a man's home after officers spotted a gun tucked in couch cushions," according to a Courthouse News Service dispatch.  The CNS adds that,
 The decision not to take up the case irked Kozinski so profoundly that he wrote a nine-page dissent, calling the search "a fishing expedition by four officers" that was approved "based on no showing whatsoever. Nada. Gar nichts. Rien du tout. Bupkes."
(Read the full dissent here.)

Judge Kozinski ends his dissent by arguing the Fourth Amendment has been eviscerated by the concept of "plain view."
Because our plain view case law is so favorable to the police, they have a strong incentive to maneuver into a position where they can find things in plain view, or close enough to lie about it.
This is a case in point. While the officers were finishing their room-to-room sweep of Lemus’s apartment, apparently finding no one and nothing suspicious, the detectives entered as well. Yet Buie permits only a sweep for people who might be dangerous. Once the officers found no one in the living room, what authorized entry by the detectives? There was absolutely no reason for the detectives to enter except to try to find contraband in “plain view.” So, the detectives went in and, while there, Diaz thought he saw “something sticking out from the couch” that “looked like the butt of a weapon.”
Lemus, 582 F.3d at 960. Longoria then lifted the couch cushion “to make sure” and found a gun. Id. at 961. Under what theory of “plain view” may police lift cushions off a couch to make sure something is contraband? Why weren’t the officers required to get a warrant—if they could—based on what they saw, before rummaging through the couch?
Plain view encourages the police to find every possible loophole to get themselves into a place where they can take a good look around, discover some evidence and then get a warrant to seize what they already know is there. This tiresome two-step is the new dropsy evidence. As often as not, the chance of hitting the plain-view jackpot is what drives the police into a man’s house, his doctor’s office or his ISP. Carefully drawn limitations in a warrant and narrow justifications for exceptions to the warrant requirement are becoming afterthoughts. “Police officer safety,” the narrow justification in Buie, had nothing to do with this search. Gathering evidence did. We should not abet such skirting of the Fourth Amendment by the police; it only encourages them to do worse.
Is it too soon to nominate Judge Kozinski for Justice Steven's seat on the Supreme Court?

(H/T Althouse)
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Favorite iPod shuffle song:  "Mustang Sally" by Wilson Pickett

Looking forward to:  defending my "title" at Friday night poker at Andy's house.  Last night, I was down to my final dollar chip, caught a nice streak of cards, and worked my way up to become the money winner for the night.

BONUS Looking forward to:  the Mission Deli chicken enchiladas and green chili that our friends Matt, Michelle, and Jennifer brought out to us from Rocky Ford.  They were picking up a trailer they bought in Iowa, so they stopped for the night in Omaha.  We had a great dinner of Orsi's Pizza with them, and we got to see what a little fish Jennifer is in the hotel swimming pool.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Oh, Canada

With the Winter Olympics being held in Vancouver, I thought I'd take a moment and recognize my favorite Canadians.  Often, our neighbors to the north are a forgotten sibling, but I thought it would be nice to shine a light on Canadians who have made an impact in my life in one way or another.

Athletes:
Georges St.Pierre -- The best pound for pound fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (and my second favorite French-Canadian).
Wayne Gretsky -- The Great One.
Patrick Roy -- The goalie for Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche.  He is my favorite French-Canadian on the list, and the only person on this list that I've seen shopping in a Denver Golfsmith (he's shorter than I would have guessed).
James Naismith -- Inventor of basketball.
Steve Nash -- A great basketball player.

Comedians:
Martin Short -- I love him in the Three Amigos.
Jim Carrey -- The movies Dumb & Dumber and Ace Ventura helped me become the person I am today.
Phil Hartman -- Best straight-man to ever be on SNL.
Leslie Nielson -- The Naked Gun series is one of the most underrated comedies of the 1990s.
Harland Williams -- If you don't know who Harland is, rent the movie "Rocketman".  You're welcome in advance.

Musicians/Singers:
Bryan Adams -- I love his album "Reckless". 
Celine Dion -- My heart will go on.
Shania Twain -- The sexiest woman in country music history.
Gordon Lightfoot -- When media outlets and Twitter announce your death (even though you're still alive), you know you've reached the "Big Time".
Geddy Lee and Neil Peart of the band Rush -- Their cameo in the movie "I Love You, Man" was Oscar worthy.

Actors/Actresses:
Rachel McAdams -- Sexy, funny, and half of the reason I've watched The Notebook more than once.
John Candy -- Uncle Buck.
Dan Aykroyd -- Was one of the most important comedic actors of the 80s.
Micheal J. Fox -- He will always be my Teen Wolf.
Mike Myers -- The first Austin Powers movie is one of the funniest movies ever.

Others:
John Molson -- founder of the Molson Beer company.
Joseph-Armand Bombardier -- Inventor of the snowmobile.
Peter Jennings -- Probably the best news anchor of my lifetime (so far).
Lorne Michaels -- the creator of the most important television show of my lifetime (so far, but it's going to hard for any show to catch up with SNL's current lead).
Alex Trebek -- One of the saddest moments in my television viewing life was the death of Alex's mustache.

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Favorite song on the iPod Shuffle: "That's Life" by Frank Sinatra
Looking forward to:  I've been watching the Top 100 UFC Fights through Netflix.  I'm half way through the series, and I can't wait to see the top 50 fights, because, so far, the bottom of the list has been outstanding.  If someone wants to find out what the UFC is about, this DVD series is the perfect introduction.
Thinking back on:  the two hours I lost tonight when the wife and I meet some of her law school friends at the movie theater to watch "Valentine's Day".  While it was amusing at times, the story was severely lacking.  It was so cliched that the wife was predicting "plot twists" well ahead of the story line.  They used every romantic comedy trick in the book.  But, a bad movie with the wife is better than a good day at work.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Wife's Book Review of "The Politician"

Since I did a book review of Sarah Palin’s book, Going Rogue, An American Life, I told Eric that I would also like to do a book review of Andrew Young’s book, The Politician.  I am not sure this is really a book review, as it is just me expressing some thoughts that came to me while reading the book, but either way, here it is:

After it became apparent that John Edwards had a child with his mistress, and that he had a mistress in the first place, I was fascinated to hear some back story and what transpired to make this “family man” fall from grace.  Well, as it turns out, the story is much more awful than I would have thought.  Although my views on some things fall to the conservative side, some also fall to the liberal side.  I am one of those people.  As such, I don’t generally judge a book by its cover or by its label.  Because of this, I became a big fan of John Edwards back when he was running for President/Vice President in 2004.  I am not sure which of his views at the time I agreed/disagree with, but the thing that I loved about John Edwards as a politician was how much he seemed to love his wife.  Not necessarily his family, but his wife.  It was the essence of his image, and one that I bought hook, line, and sinker. 

Now, looking back, I should have been a bit wiser.  Everything that came out of John Edward’s mouth about his wife was kind, loving, and respectful.  I cannot imagine any person, let alone woman, who would not like to have those qualities spoken about her publicly.  Let’s face it; John Edwards always seemed a bit out of Elizabeth’s league.  She was short and pudgy and never quite looked the part of a rich, political power.  John Edwards, on the other hand, was exactly what one would expect from a politician.  If anyone were to get elected based on their looks, John Edward was the man.  Yet, John still seemed to love Elizabeth as much in 2004 as he had the day they met.  He did not see her as short and pudgy, but rather as the love of his life.  However, after reading Andrew Young’s book, I was reminded that Elizabeth Edward is quite an intelligent woman with a prestigious career.  She grew up as an Army brat and became very worldly as a result of it.  She also graduated at the top of her law school, just behind John.  She really was a force to be reckoned with.  It was this intelligence and presence that attracted John to Elizabeth at the beginning of their courtship and marriage.  According to Andrew Young, Elizabeth continued to be a strong voice in John’s political career and a trusted advisor.  But somehow, after many years of marriage and the gut-wrenching loss of their only son, John Edwards managed to stray outside his marriage. 

Andrew writes that Reile Hunter was just suddenly in the Senator’s life and seemed to stay there.  They first became acquainted in 2006 and apparently continue their affair to this day.  Andrew reveals many questionable tasks the Senator asked him to perform in order to hide the affair from Elizabeth, including taking responsibility for fathering Hunter’s child.  Andrew also speaks of John telling Hunter that the two would marry once Elizabeth had died of her incurable cancer.  This part of the book is no doubt full of juicy tidbits and exposes John and Elizabeth as power-hungry and sneaky people who would do anything to get into the White House. 

When reading the book, I actually believed Andrew Young.  He does have incentive to lie and there were many quotes in the book that were virtually impossible to remember, but for the most part, I honestly believed the story he was telling.  And at the end of the story, I did not feel better for having read the book, but rather worse.  Yes, I now believe John Edward to be a man who played the American people like a fiddle.  Yes, I now believe Elizabeth Edwards turned a blind eye while be relentless and not such a nice person with John’s staff.  But at the end of the day, I just don’t care.  John Edward created a public persona and ran with it for as long as he could.  He should have been honest with the American people, but there are a many political implications of having something like this scandal out in the open.    It is a game, and John and Elizabeth Edwards wanted to win that game.  I can say that after reading The Politician, I would never vote for John Edwards to be a president.  I do not understand how adults can lie like they are 12.  That baffles me.  However, I also wish I would not have given my money to Andrew Young.  I think there are some things that are better left unsaid, and if Andrew Young was as dedicated to John as he claims throughout the entire book, he should have kept his mouth shut.  His allegiance to John Edwards should have faded long ago, and because he made the mistake of not letting it fade, it is not now his place to air out dirty laundry of a family that needs to just sink into the background and go away.  If you want to read this book, rent it from your library or ask me for my copy.  I will be happy to get it out of my house.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

NBA blues

When I was growing up in the late 80s and early 90s, the most important and impressive athletes in my mind were those of the NBA.  I collected basketball trading cards.  I wore the jerseys of my favorite players.  I had the walls of my bedroom covered in their posters and pennants.  If you were to ask me (up until I got into high school) what I was going to be when I grew up, my answer would have been NBA basketball player.

My friends and I would spend hours and hours after school shooting hoops.  We'd recreate dunk contests.  We'd play in the high schooler's pick-up games at the elementary school.  When I wasn't playing ball with my friends, I was constantly working on my dribbling skills. I'd walk up and down the sidewalk in front of our house, bouncing the ball though my legs, behind my back, and crossing-over in front of me.  I would practice bounce passes against walls.  I would lay on the living room floor practicing my shooting form by "shooting" the ball into the air.

I loved NBA basketball.  My hero was John Stockton (who, incidentally, is still one of the three "celebrities" I would give up a years salary for the opportunity to spend a day with them.  The other two would probably be Carter Beauford and Justin Timberlake) and would always pretend we were teammates while I shot hoops.  I loved that he was so unselfish with the rock (all time assists leader) and was also a lethal defender (all time steals leader).  I loved when he and Karl Malone would pick apart teams with their pick-and-roll.  I loved that his short shorts, and I loved that he continued to wear them long after everyone else went baggy.  I loved that he played with no fear, setting picks and screens on players twice his size.  I loved his number 12, and always tried to get that number for my basketball jersey.  I even made my family drive me past the Delta Center when we traveled through Salt Lake City, so I could see where they played.  I would have died to get in and see them play live.  I watched the 1992 summer Olympics just to see the Dream Team play (of which he was a member).  I nearly died when he was named one of the 50 Greatest NBA players of all time. 

I loved that he avoided the media.  I loved that he treated basketball like a job.  He was professional, proficient, and effective.  He didn't showboat.  He saw the court better than any player I was ever able to watch.  His vision and accuracy were amazing.  His toughness and durability were phenomenal.  He didn't live a flashy life, on or off the court.  He went to an unknown college (Gonzaga), played for the same team for his entire career.  He would consistently turn down better offers from other teams, and even agreed to take less money to free up salary-cap room.  

He and Malone lead the Jazz to the playoffs throughout the late 80s and into the 90s.  And I can still feel the pain I felt when they lost to the Bulls in two consecutive years in the Finals.  It crushed me.  After Stockton and the Jazz lost in the 1998 NBA championship finals, my love of the game diminished rapidly.  I was in high school, so I had little time to collect trading cards or watch any of their 80+ games during the regular season.   And I couldn't have been happier to see Stockton inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame last year, but many people didn't notice, because he was, once again, overshadowed by Micheal Jordan. 

I rooted for players like Stockton, Malone, David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Clyde Drexler, and Chris Mullen because they played basketball the way I felt it should be played, with fundamentals like the pick-and-roll, the bounce pass, and man-to-man defense.  As the years went by, it seemed to me that the league was becoming less and less about the teams and more about the players.  Players bounced around from team to team.  Contracts became outrageous.  Fewer players from the John Stockton mold (Jason Kidd, Steve Nash come to mind) were featured in the league.  Instead, it became a contest to name the next Micheal Jordan (Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James).  


So it came as no surprise to me to hear this week that the league was set to lose $400 million dollars and the All-Star game, while being played in front of the largest crowd in attendance, had the second lowest television ratings ever.  And there is talk that the league will enter the second player lockout in a 12 year span if a new collective bargaining agreement isn't reached by the 2011 season.  What a shame.

It seems that the NBA is in a tailspin from being the premier professional sports league in America into the laughing stock of the sports world.  The league has lost its way and I don't know if they'll be able to right the ship in time.  And I have a hard time caring if they do.

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Favorite song on the iPod Shuffle:  "That Was A Crazy Game of Poker" by OAR
Looking forward to:  Baseball season.  The pitchers and catchers reported to spring training this week, which means I'm that much closer to $1 beer night at Rosenblat Stadium.
Thinking back on:  where I put my basketball cards when we moved last year.  I might have to dig those out and relive the joy of trading cards from my youth.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Seven Years

Tomorrow marks the day that I met my wife seven years ago.  Seven years should seem like a long time, but it seems like it was just last week.

It was a Friday, and my friend Brian and I were going to meet our mutual friend Michelle for our weekly lunch at Wendy's.  All three of us were attending CSU-Pueblo in the education department, and we somehow had fallen into the habit of meeting up at the Wendy's on Elizabeth Ave across from the K-Mart every Friday.  Usually Michelle brought along another one of our classmates, April, but this particular Friday, Michelle called Brian and said she was bringing her roommate.

And then they walked in, and I was hooked.  I watched them as they ordered (Brian and I were already seated) and paid special attention to Rach.  When they had their food and came to sit with us, Rach sat next to me, and I couldn't bring myself to make eye-contact with her, as I was too intimidated with her striking beauty.  Luckily, she was attracted to me enough to overlook my shyness and awkwardness, and, we were soon dating.

(Our first picture together)

So, to my Buddy, I'd like to wish you a Happy Valentine's Day and I couldn't be happier that Dave Thomas decided to start a burger joint and then franchised these restaurants and then one was opened in at a convenient location in Pueblo in comparison to the college and they provided a quality product at a reasonable price.  You're my kindred spirit and I know in my heart of hearts that the next seven years will be amazing. 

I love you. 
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Favorite song on iPod shuffle:  "40 Dogs (Like Romeo and Juliet)" by Bob Schneider
Looking forward to: watching my cousin Lauren play volleyball at the President's Day Volleyball Classic at the Qwest Center tomorrow.
Thinking back on:  all the wonderful memories I have about my Grandma Eva.  She was recently moved into a nursing home after spending the past few months living with my parents, but her health had diminished to a point where they could no longer provide adequate care for her.  My friend, and their pastor, Clint has a beautiful post about his recent visits with her, and it was a wonderful reminder of how lucky I am to have such an amazing woman as a Grandma.

Love Songs

In honor of the approaching "love" holiday, and because this winter is stifling all of my creative juices, I thought I'd make a list of my favorite "love" songs.  As far as themes go in song writing, "love" has to be one of the top three inspirations for song writers, along with "sorrow" and "partying".  A simple search for the term love in my iTunes library resulted in 200+ songs with "love" in the title.

Since Billboard already created a list of the 50 Sexiest Songs of All Time, I'll stay away from the sexy/love-making-inspiring songs and will focus my list on songs that best represent the feelings and emotions experienced when in love.

TOP ELEVEN

11)  Need You Now -- Lady Antebellum
  • One of my favorite duets (even though they're a trio, it sounds like a duet to my ear) in a long time.  And what is a love song list without a country duet?


10)  Up Where We Belong -- Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes
  •  An iconic 1980s love song that, thanks to great lyrics and vocals, has found a way to remain timeless despite the horrible electronic keyboard and synthesized drum kit accompaniment.  
 

9)  Beautiful Mess -- Diamond Rio
  • This song was mildly popular when I met my wife.  I would soon realize that the lyrics were the narrative to my life as we dated and became engaged.



8)  Happy Together -- The Turtles
  • Classic.



7)  Heaven -- Bryan Adams 
  • Unfortunately, this song has been overshadowed by Bryan's other famous love ballad, "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)", which is a shame, because I think this song has a stronger message of the power of love.
(unable to embed a video of Bryan Adam's version, but go HERE to see Bryan perform this song acoustically)


6)  Oh -- Dave Matthews Band
  •  Had the top five songs on my list not been written, I'm certain this is the song my wife and I would have chosen for our first dance at our wedding reception.



5)  She's Got a Way -- Billy Joel
  •  I love the simplicity of the piano behind one of the best explanations of the effect a woman can have on a man.  This was one of the songs that we had our wedding pianist play before our wedding ceremony.



4)  Love Comes Walking In -- Van Halen
  •  This song is one of the reasons I prefer the Sammy Hagar years of Van Halen over the David Lee Roth era.  I'd like to think that this will be the song that is playing overhead in Wendy's in the portion of the movie of my life when I meet my wife for the first time.



3)  Your Song -- Elton John
  •  This is another song that was played before our wedding ceremony.  It's another great example of how amazing lyrics don't need a big musical arrangement to be effective.



2)  Rapunzel -- Dave Matthews Band
  •  One of my (and my wife's) favorite DMB songs.  The ecxentricity of the lyrics and the syncopated rhythm of the music makes this one of the most unique love songs I've ever encountered.



1)  Inspiration -- Chicago
  •  The epitome of the love ballad, I'm pretty sure I wore out this cd when my wife and I were dating, and she always insisted I sing the lyrics to her, because I am a much better singer than Peter Cetera could ever hope to be.  And, of course this was the song chose to dance to for our first dance at our wedding.




THE BEST of the REST


Addicted to Love -- Robert Palmer
I Will Be -- Leona Lewis
All of My Love -- Led Zeppelin
Make You Feel My Love -- Garth Brooks
I Just Called to Say I Love You -- Stevie Wonder
Carrying Your Love with Me -- George Strait
Angel -- Aerosmith
Every Breath You Take -- The Police
I Just Wanna Love You -- Jay-Z
When I Said I Do -- Clint Black & Lisa Hartman Black
You & Me -- Dave Matthews Band
Faithfully -- Journey
In Love with a Girl -- Gavin Degraw
Love of a Lifetime -- Firehouse
For Your Love -- Chris LeDoux
Almost Paradise -- Ann Wilson & Mike Reno
Two Steps Behind -- Def Leppard
Only Wanna Be with You -- Hootie and the Blowfish

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The night I found out why Ace-King is known as "Anna Kournikova"...

...because they're nice to look at, but they never win.

I went with my golfing buddy Brandon out to the Horse Shoe Casino tonight and entered another World Series of Poker Circuit tournament.  As with the last one, this was a No-Limit Texas Hold'em tournament.  Tonight's event had 48 participants, and I ended up outlasting 37 of them.  While I was pleased with my performance, I thought I'd jot down a couple of observations while they were still fresh in my mind.
  • I should have known it would be a long night when a drunk idiot was seated between Brandon and me at the opening table.  The guy was deaf, drunk, and dumb, which is a lethal combination for the flow of the table.  He never knew when it was his turn, he never knew what the bet was, and he never fully grasped the chip values.  And no one could knock him out.  He went all in at least twice before we moved tables, and each time, the entire table was rooting against him, but to no avail.  He doubled up numerous times.  About an hour into the night, he was asked to leave behind a substancial chip stack and was evicted from the poker room for his drunken behavior.  He was never mean/beligerent/angry drunk, just not cognicant enough to finish the round.
  • I spent the entire night with about 5x the big blinds (which increased every half hour).  Using the strategy of only playing quality cards (which were few and far between), I was able to keep a chip and a chair.  
  • One hand was particularly interesting.  As the cards were being dealt, the dealer accidentally turned over a Jack.  When I looked down at my hole cards I had pocket Jacks.  I was the big blind, but I couldn't get too aggressive with the best hand I had all night because I knew one of my Jacks was out of play.  I limped in.  The turn revealed a couple of low clubs and the fourth Jack.  I over bet the pot, in an attempt to thwart off any flush draws.  Everyone folded, and I had to turn over the pocket Jacks, just to show how funny my hand was.
  • I doubled up a couple of times when my chips got too low and I knew I'd be blinded out of the game.  I'm pretty sure that my set of Jacks was the best hand of the night for me, but I did witness a guy go all in with AQ against AK after a flop and turn of AAQ8.  The turn was a King, so after going all in with the best hand and against only two outs, he lost the hand.
  • Which leads me to my final hand.  I can't complain about it.  I was about to be blinded out, with blinds at 600-1200, and I only had 4400, I knew I needed to catch some good cards to stay in the game.  I looked down at an AK (off suit) and pushed all in.  A guy called with a J8 (off suit), which according to an online odds calculator is a 2 to 1 favorite to win.  When the flop came out Q-9-4 rainbow, I was still a 2 to 1 favorite (according to the calculator).  A 2 on the turn made me almost a 4:1 favorite going into the river, which, of course, was a 10, giving my opponent a Queen high straight.  I played the hand perfectly, got all my chips into the pot when I had the best hand, which is all I could have asked.  (Well, I wouldn't have complained had "Big Slick" held up.)
  • I ended up missing the final table by one spot.  Had I won that final hand, I would have entered the final table a couple thousand under the chip average, but I would have had some room to gamble a bit, which would have been great.  I ended up getting 11th place, which is irrelevant in a poker tournament, but it was my highest placing so far (out of the four casino poker events I've been in).  I stuck with my strategy going into the event and did not make any dumb mistakes.  All in all, a great night.
  • There are a handful of $40 satellites left this week, and I may sneak over and play in one more, but I'm pretty sure that my dream to work my way into the World Series of Poker Main Event for 2010 has been put to rest.  Until next year, I'll keep practicing online and in the occasional Friday night cash game at my friend Andy's house.
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Favorite Song on the iPod shuffle:  "Dead and Gone" by T.I. (featuring Justin Timberlake)
Looking forward to:  Warmer weather.
Thinking back on:  The wife and I were looking through some old photos of when we lived in Pueblo and were reminded of what an ornery kitty we had and how young and skinny Brodie was when we got him.  Also, I miss working outside in the summer, which allowed me to burn off winter fat and get a nice tan while riding a tractor.

Monday, February 8, 2010

DO NOT OPEN THE LINK!!!

After twelve years with the same password for my Hotmail account, the code was finally cracked and a spam/virus email was sent out from my account to everyone in my address book.  Whoops!

So, I would like to use this teachable moment to remind everyone to never open a "suspicious" link, even if it is from someone you email with often.  Which reminds me of this scene from the mildly humorous HBO comedy "The Flight of the Conchords":

Best in Show

I enjoyed watching the Grammy Awards this year, but I was left wondering about the validity of the awards when I noticed that the Dave Matthews Band's latest album, "Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King" was nominated for both Best Rock Album and Album of the Year.  It would stand to reason that an album good enough to be one of the top five albums of the year would be a shoe-in to win any sub-category for which it was nominated.  But that isn't what happened.  Instead, an album that wasn't good enough to be nominated for Album of the Year, Green Day's "21st Century Breakdown", defeated DMB's album in the Best Rock category.  To me, this makes little sense.

I was reminded of this conundrum recently when the movie "Up" was nominated as the Best Picture and Best Animated Feature Film for the 2010 Oscars.  It would seem to me that the other Best Animated Feature Films that have been nominated have no chance to win, since one of the top ten films of the year is in their category.  Yet, it is entirely possible for the movie "Coraline" to win that category.  Only in Hollywood could this possibly make sense.

So, I have devised a way for the Oscars (and the Grammys) to ensure this "problem" does not occur in the
future, and, at the same time, increase interest and views for their shows.

I propose that the 2011 Academy Awards start the night with five movies being nominated for\.  sub-categories and the winners of each category would win entry into the Best of Show award, known as Best Picture of the Year, the winner of which would be announced at the end of the show.  Because the candidates for Best Picture wouldn't be known going into the show, I would also propose that the winner be determined by a combination of view votes and audience votes (50/50).  Viewers could send text messages for their choice of winner (like American Idol) and the audience members could vote on touch pads (like America's Funniest Home Vidoes).

If they used my format this year, it might look something like this (using most of this year's nominees with some additions on my part to fill out the categories):

Best Drama -- Blind Side, Precious, A Serious Man, Up in the Air, Crazy Horse
Best Comedy-- Hangover, Julia and Julia, Funny People, (500) Days of Summer, Away We Go
Best SciFi/Fantasy--Avatar, Harry Potter, District 9, Star Trek, Moon
Best Action-- Hurt Locker, Inglorious Basterds, State of Play, Inviticus, Sherlock Holmes
Best Animated -- Up, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Secret of Kells, The Princess and the Frog
Best Documentary -- The Cove, Food Inc, Which Way Home, The Most Dangerous Man in America, Burma VJ
Best Foreign Film -- A Prophet, The White Ribbon, The Secret in their Eyes, The Milk of Sorrow, Ajami

(They could add other categories such as short films, musicals, etc., as needed)

By the end of the night they would parade out the winners of each category, similar to the victors of each category in a dog show.  The votes would be tallied and the final announcement would be one of the most greatly anticipated events of each year.

If it were up to me, the Best Picture at the end of the show this year would have Blind Side, Funny People, Inglorious Basterds, District 9, Up, (and any of the other two categories, as I saw none of the contestants and wouldn't care very much which one won), with "Inglorious Basterds" ultimately winning the award for Best Picture.

Some might argue that the Best Picture Award would become too watered down and become too much of a popularity contest, especially if the general public were allowed to participate, were it run in this manner.  But, I don't feel that would be the case.  The Academy of Motion Pictures would control the entire nomination process, and the same people who currently vote would still decide who would win each category, so they'd still control which movies the public would eventually be voting to win.  Instead, this mini-tournament would give extra credence to the Best Picture category by pitting the top movies of each category against each other.  And with waning interest in awards shows, this shake up couldn't hurt ratings any more than giving Hugh Jackman hosting duties.  (But Hugh Jackman is Wolverine!)

Until a similar idea is implemented, quality movies like "Up" face the possibility of losing a lesser sub-category, yet potentially winning the nights biggest award.  Odd.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Calvin and Hobbes

Recently, Bill Watterson gave an interview to the Cleveland Plains-Dealer.  For those who don't know, Bill Waterson was the creater of the comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes", and was one of the top five influences in the development of my personality/sense of humor  (the other four influences being my parents, SNL, Jim Carrey, and Bill Cosby).

I still have all of the Calvin and Hobbes comic books and anthologies that I poured through during my youth.  I even have the final Sunday comic strip tucked into one of them, and I'll occasionally stumble into it when thumbing through my books (which the past few times has been when I've been boxing up my books for a move and I have to talk myself off the ledge of getting rid of them).  I remember cutting that final comic strip out of the paper as if it was an obituary of a close friend.  I kept it for multiple reasons.  I believe at the time I had the thought that maybe years down the road it would be a collector's item and I'd be the only person who kept the final strip from the newspaper.  I also kept it because it was such a big influence on who I am as a person.


I always respected Calvin and Hobbes for saying words like "mauled".  Garfield never said "mauled".  Family Circus NEVER said "mauled".  I loved that there was dark humor, there were fart jokes, and there were touching moments.  I loved the world of fantasy that Calvin lived in.  I would often find myself being jealous of Calvin, because his imagination was so much more vivid and creative than mine.  I lived vicariously through him.  I loved that his snowmen turned into zombies.  I loved Calvinball.  I loved how his babysitter tormented him and he her.  I loved how he had multiple people who were his arch nemesis.  And I loved how Bill Watterson wasn't afraid to change up the pace of the strip from one day to another.

This strip gives a good idea of the different levels of emotion and pacing that Bill Watterson used from day to day.

From the chaos Calvin caused his mother to the frustration he encountered in school.  From dealing with a bully to destroying his house.  And then...calm.  He would find his peace by being outside with Hobbes.  There would be days when Calvin would be flying through outer space battling monsters, and the next series of panels would feature the simplicity of leaning against a tree with his best friend on summer vacation.  Pure genius.

So I was excited to gain more insight into why Bill Watterson decided to call it quits.  
This isn't as hard to understand as people try to make it. By the end of 10 years, I'd said pretty much everything I had come there to say.
It's always better to leave the party early. If I had rolled along with the strip's popularity and repeated myself for another five, 10 or 20 years, the people now "grieving" for "Calvin and Hobbes" would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent. And I'd be agreeing with them.
I think some of the reason "Calvin and Hobbes" still finds an audience today is because I chose not to run the wheels off it.
I've never regretted stopping when I did.

 And he's exactly right.  While it's taken me 15 years to understand, I too am glad he put away the pen and paper when he did.  Whether it's John Elway, "Seinfield", or "The Far Side", I'll always appreciate those that went out on top more, leaving me wanting more, more than those that are still trying to relive/reclaim glory days gone by, even if the creative juices have long dried up (Brett Favre, "Scrubs", and "Peanuts" come to mind).

In the comic strip world, there are the classics (Family Circle, Peanuts, Garfield, Beatle Bailey, etc.) that have been around for decades.  Their appeal is the safety and consistency.  They are there every morning to greet you with your morning coffee and give you a nice chuckle before you start a new day.  And yet, they haven't been relevant for most of that time, because they haven't had anything relevant to say.

On the other hand, younger/hipper strips (Zits, Pearls before Swine, and Foxtrot) are more relevant because their characters are modern and are able to talk to a modern audience.  And, like The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes before them, these comic strip authors are willing to take chances with their characters.  I appreciate that.

At the end of his run, I was crushed that I wouldn't be able to read any more new Calvin and Hobbes comics.  Yet, today, I still love Calvin and Hobbes as much as I did that final Sunday 15 years ago.  Because Bill Watterson was willing to walk away, his creation sticks with me to this day.

On December 31, 1995, this comic was the last "new" strip featuring Calvin and Hobbes.


And, fifteen years later, it's still as fresh as fallen snow.  Genius.

(H/T The DC Trawler)

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Best song iTunes shuffled me while I wrote this post"Wheels" by Foo Fighters
Looking forward to:  Texas Hold'em at the Horse Shoe Casino this weekend
Thinking back on:  wife and my first trip as a married couple (not counting our honeymoon) was to Las Vegas.  She won $50 in video poker the first night we were there.  I won $100 in video poker, and used that money to enter my first Texas hold'em tournament.