Month: November 2004 (Page 1 of 3)

A Couple Interesting Things

First, we don’t have Ken Jennings to kick around anymore. He clearly threw it on Jeopardy. He acted like a thief or a philanderer who has been getting away with his crimes for too long. He seemed uninterested. Downright reckless on the Daily Doubles. I think he was just ready to sign his book/movie deal and get back to a normal life. Come on, how do you miss that Final Jeopardy question? I think he spent the 30 seconds trying to come up with a wrong answer that seemed reasonable so he didn’t get too much grief. My favorite part, though, was the gasping from the crowd. The cameras showed some people giving him a standing ovation when it was obvious his reign had ended. I bet there were people seeping tears of confusion now that all they’ve come to believe in no longer makes sense.
Second, I took my first full-length practice GRE this afternoon. I had been just killing the practice sets on the verbal side while over the weekend I started from scratch on the math since I was feeling totally confused. Naturally, today I nailed the math side and missed far too many verbal questions. I admit, I devoted only 75% of my attention to the verbal questions because I had been doing so well. Easily rectified. The math questions I missed were all simple errors rather than lack of understanding of the subject matter, which makes me feel good. My whole goal is to do as well as possible on the verbal and essay portion, then hope I don’t hurt myself too much with my math score. I can’t really expect a journalism program to take me with a shitty verbal score. Seven days to make sure I hit my goal.
One more thing, I missed the actual interview but understand Dick Vitale has been running around ESPN weighing in on Notre Dame firing Ty Willingham. Why the fuck are they going to him for comments? Because his kid went there and he’s sucked up to them just slightly less than Duke over his career? That somehow gives him special insight? I know, he’s probably had dinner with Willingham, or sat next to him at a fund raiser or something, so he deserves to be heard, right? It’s not like he’s not going to go into a five minute tirade during whatever game he’s doing tonight anyway. Why give him a separate forum? I look forward to hearing the thoughts of Kirk Herbstreit, Trev Alberts, or one of the other ESPN football guys next spring when some big-time college basketball coach is fired. As always, outside of the actual broadcast of games, ESPN sucks.

 

Chunky

Just returned from M’s four month check-up. She continues to allay any fears that the occasional bottle she ignores is somehow affecting her growth. She checked in at 15 lbs, 12 oz. She was 12.2 at the two month visit. She has grown up a little, 24″ as opposed to 22″ eight weeks ago. She’s now up in the 90th percentile for weight and just under the 50th for height. I’m still hoping she follows my path of being short and stout for the first year, then growing up like a weed and being skinny the rest of her life. More on her new tricks later…

Bad Habits

I hate it when Blogger decides to jack with a couple characters in an HTML line and thus screws up a post. I just noticed yesterday morning that the link I attempted to share last Wednesday was corrupted while posting and thus none of you could use it. My apologies. At times when I use the desktop posting tools I have, strange things happen. This was one of them. I’ve fixed it if you still want to read about Thanksgivings past.
M. sat through her first gangster film Saturday night. S. was working and our college student for the week was out for an evening on the town, so M. sat on my lap while I watched Miller’s Crossing on Fox Movie Channel. She didn’t flinch at all the gunplay and physical violence. Later, I found Pulp Fiction on A&E but decided she wasn’t quite ready for that, or for me to bust out the Godfather trilogy or Goodfellas yet.
She has developed two bad habits over the last few days. First, she’s started to shun the pacifier in favor of cramming her fist into her mouth. Sometimes, she tries to get both fists in at the same time. It’s amazing how if we attempt to remove one hand, the other quickly flies up to take its place. We don’t feel any teeth starting to poke through her gums, but they must be close as often as she puts her hands to her mouth. What makes matters worse is as she chews on her fist, she flexes her fingers inside of her mouth and accidentally gags herself. At least I think it’s accidental. Babies can’t be bulimic, right? Most times we hear her gagging and get her hand out before the full process takes place, but she has forced herself to puke a few times. She doesn’t seem particularly happy after she pukes, so I don’t understand why the trial and error thing isn’t taking hold. It must really make those gums feel good to chew on stuff.
The second habit is sticking her tongue out. Like most new parents, we’ve been sticking out tongues out at M. for months. Every book says that’s one of the first actions they’ll mimic back to you, which she has certainly done. In the past, she would just barely stick her tongue out and smile in response to our prompt. Over the last few days, however, she’s started to be the prompter. She’ll sit and stare at us with a sly grin on her face, the tip of her tongue just barely peeking out of her lips. If we acknowledge her in any way, she goes all Gene Simmons on us and sticks her tongue all the way out. It’s fun in the comfort of your own home, but if she starts doing it to strangers we may need to have a little talk.
We can confirm, however, that the silly gene that was present on both sides of her lineage is certainly present in her personality. In addition to sticking her tongue out, she laughs all the time now. While we were watching TV last night, I thought she had fallen asleep on my chest like most other nights. I looked down and she was staring up at me with wide eyes and a crazy grin on her face. As soon as she saw I was looking back at her, she squeezed her eyes shut, buried her face in my chest, and started laughing. Talk about easy entertainment! If we hold her near a large, well lit mirror, it’s good for at least 20 minutes of distraction.
On the down side to all of this is she has somehow forgotten how to roll over. She first rolled from her front to her back at six weeks and routinely did it when we put her on her belly. She has absolutely no idea how to do it anymore, though, and eventually gives up and drops her face to the surface she’s on until we roll her over.

Mmmm Basketball

A basketball lover’s Thanksgiving tonight:
6:00 PM – Snack: Indiana vs. Indiana State. IU has a lot of young talent. The question is will Mike Davis screw them up or will the Hoosiers be better than they were a year ago? (Please note, I just think Davis is a bad coach. I’m not one of the people who hate him just because he’s not Bobby Knight. In fact, I liked Davis at first simply because he wasn’t Bobby.) ISU is no good, but every good college hoops fan gets a warm feeling when they think of the Sycamores. I was down at IUPUI a couple weeks back and saw a kid who was wearing an ISU Larry Bird jersey. I nearly offered to pay his tuition for the semester I was so impressed by his fashion sense.
7:00 – Appetizer: Celtics at Pacers. My man Paul Pierce should go off without Ron Artest to slow him down. With the Pacers officially out of the NBA title hunt, I’m back to basically cheering for my KU guys in the NBA to do well.
10:00 – Main Course: St. Joe’s at KU. Can my Jayhawks find some of the pace and fluidity that was sorely missing last Friday? Will they be smarting at all after dropping a spot in the AP poll this week? Will any freshman big man demonstrate that he has a clue? St. Joe’s should not be nearly as good as they were a year ago, but they return players that have a new sense of confidence after breaking their way into the college basketball elite last year.
Also, plenty of fluff from Maui on ESPN to fill the commercial gaps. Should be an outstanding evening in front of the big screen. Maybe something interesting will happen and I can write about it tomorrow!

 

More Randomness

ABC didn’t exactly take my advise last night, but there was a subtle shot at the haters in the MNF lead-in.
When I’m watching CBS, I see ads for The Amazing Race with the show hyped as “The Emmy Award winner for Best Reality Series”. I’ve watched the show a few times, and like the concept better than pretty much every other reality show. Still, isn’t being called the best reality series kind of like, in Anthony Michael Hall’s words, being called king of the dorks?
Why isn’t it big news anymore when people swim the English Channel? I remember when I was a kid it seemed like it always made the national news when someone crossed the Channel. I checked and 17 people have completed solo swims of the Channel this year. I haven’t heard a news story about a single one of them. I guess now that the Chunnel exists, no one thinks it’s sexy to swim from France to England anymore?
You know what makes me laugh? The ads for Hungry Man frozen dinners. Those are the ads where one guy brags about how his frozen dinner included an entire side of beef, while another guy talks about some rather dainty food he downed. The healthier eating lad is then either blown away by a gentle breeze or knocked over by a child to demonstrate the lack of substance in his meal. These make me laugh because in an age where we know more about the effects of large portions of food on our overall health, Swanson’s is basically calling anyone who doesn’t throw down 1000 calories in a meal a sissy. “Sure, these meals might give you an instant heart attack or provide enough calories to feed a small nation, but you don’t want to be a wimp do you? Come on, eat it!”
Some people across the street put up their Christmas lights and decorations two weeks ago. They flipped the lights on last weekend. I understand putting the decorations up early. People travel over Thanksgiving weekend and this time of year you can never be sure if you’ll get good weather here in the midwest. It makes sense to string the lights when you have a chance. But is it really necessary to turn them on before Thanksgiving? Can’t we celebrate one holiday before we start with the next? With all that in mind, I’ve already had two Peppermint Mochas from Starbucks this season, so perhaps I’m part of the problem too.

 

Another Prediction And Assorted Items

16 days to the GRE. I feel like the more I study my math review books, the less I understand. For the last hour I’ve been looking at a series of word problems and have had no idea how to set them up, let alone solve them. These next two weeks of studying will not be fun.
Since David Stern clearly payed attention to my suggestions in handing down suspensions yesterday, I’ll offer some more unsolicited advise, this time to ABC. I didn’t say a word about the Monday Night Football intro last week because I didn’t see it. I do think tonight’s broadcast is an opportunity for ABC to make a statement about what happened a week ago and what to expect in the future. My suggestion is a thirty second shot of a gallon of vanilla ice cream sitting on a kitchen counter. It will be a fairly close shot; close enough so you can see the sweat beads on the carton. A spoon and bowl will sit next to the carton. For 30 seconds, jaunty, Herb Alpertesque elevator music from the early 70s will play in the background. There will be no actors or voice overs. After 30 seconds, the director will cut to Al Michaels and John Madden in the booth for the game. No controversy, no tacky cross promotion, nothing to offend anyone in America (except maybe the lactose intolerant). I believe a sarcastic response is the best response in times such as these.
Or perhaps Eva Longoria will drop her towel tonight?
Our digital video recorder was installed this morning. Now, if M. decides to start screaming during a game, I don’t have to miss a second of action. If only I had it last Friday night. Not only could I have reviewed the Pacers-Pistons fight at my leisure, but I also would not have missed the first two minutes of the KU game. We went out for dinner then to the grocery store with what appeared to be plenty of time to make it home. We pulled into a checkout lane at almost exactly 7:30 with only one person in front of us, and nearly all of his items had been scanned. 12 minutes later, he was still handing coupons to the poor kid working the register. This guy was clearly either making Thanksgiving dinner for a huge family or for some other large group. He literally had 30 packages of frozen broccoli. He had managed to load his cart up with nearly every item in the store that was on some kind of special, some of which were not marked. The guy had ten bottles of an Oil of Olay product (Not sure how that fits into Thanksgiving, but what do I know?). Only eight went through at the sale price, which he didn’t discover until some other items had been scanned. So he makes the kid go back through the receipt, confirm two weren’t charged at the right price, then rescan them. After that, he handed the kid a coupon for each bottle. Some of these didn’t scan. Once our fearless hero behind the register got those cleared up, the guy hands him another pile of coupons for some stuffing he had purchased. 16 boxes of stuffing. 16 coupons. Again, a couple of them didn’t go through right, but the kid points out there’s a limit of 5 or something. “Fine, cancel them all out and use these,” the man said as he handed over a different batch of coupons. Once he finally got his ass out of our way, the kid told us he had used $150 worth of coupons.
Now I’m all for saving money. But if you’re going to use $150 worth of coupons, a couple suggestions. First, warn the people behind you that it’s going to be awhile. The store was busy, but we could have gone through even the longest line and been done in the time it took for him to check out. It’s common courtesy to give us an opportunity to find a shorter wait. Since he made no such effort, S. and I stood and glared at him (which he ignored) and my father-in-law, who just happened to be there too, said rather loudly, “What the fuck is he doing?” Second, don’t keep pulling coupons out of your ass every few minutes. Put all of them into one batch and hand them over together. You can monitor them just as easily and you save a ton of time. Four different times our register boy thought he was ready to total out the purchase and the guy would reach into a pocket and pull out another batch. So we went from having plenty of time to get home and get the groceries put away before tip-off to flying into the driveway at 8:05 and S. saying, “Just go watch the game, I’ll put everything away.”

Suggestion – Prediction

Saturday was Brawl Day in Indy. Almost every local newscast was devoted entirely to recapping and replaying Friday night’s brawl between the Pacers and Pistons. A day later, I still don’t know what to say about the event as a whole. So I’ll just move on and offer these suggestions/predictions to the NBA before they hand out suspensions tonight or tomorrow.

Ben Wallace: 5-10 games. Every summer you hear about people who innocently throw a cigarette into some dead brush, forget to properly put out their camp fire, or are just screwing around with open flame and end up starting massive, destructive forest fires. Their intent may not have been to burn thousands of acres, if not subdivisions and places of commerce, but they’re responsible nonetheless. Ben Wallace’s reaction to Ron Artest’s hard, but totally legal, foul at the end of the game was wildly inappropriate and excessive. If he doesn’t decide to shove Artest in the throat, the brawl in the stands never happens. I know he didn’t mean or expect to cause what eventually happened, but he lit the first match and holds a high level of blame.

Jermaine O’Neal: 10 games. As Ben Wallace’s actions were totally out of character, so were JO’s. He’s always seemed like a very good guy who avoided trouble on and off the court. By going into the stands, though, he’s earned at least a Vernon Maxwell level suspension. JO is quite lucky he didn’t a major injury, or even kill, the guy he hit on the court. I imagine Jermaine will be securing the services of a lawyer soon.

Stephen Jackson: 15 games. Not only did he go into the stands, but as the initial ruckus on the court was winding down, it was largely his actions that extended the verbal tussle and opened the door to further mayhem.

Ron Artest: 25 games. In principle, I agree with the ESPN crew on Friday night that said if you’re attacked, you have the right to defend yourself. When Artest was hit in the face by a bottle thrown from the stands, as a man he had every right to search out whoever threw it and take a swing. As an NBA player, however, he had an obligation to turn the other cheek and get his ass to the locker room. The fact he was provoked by a viscous and obvious attack from the crowd should be a mitigating fact to David Stern, but not an absolving fact. We don’t know if the guy Artest went after was indeed the person who threw the bottle. We don’t know if the second guy on the court Artest took a swing at had done something to Ron, or if he was just standing there minding his own business. Even if you explain away 2/3 of his activities, there’s still plenty of disturbing images for David Stern to consider. Ron’s past doesn’t help him. It can be argued that by suspending him for the remainder of the year, he can be saved from himself, saved from this happening again, etc. If the bottle hadn’t hit him before he went in the crowd, I don’t think there would be any question he wouldn’t play in the NBA again until November 2005. I wouldn’t be surprised if the suspension is longer than 25 games, but that’s my gut feeling. It’s a shame the Pacers didn’t trade him when they had a chance. I think he’s sunk their season and they’ll be lucky to get a draft pick for him next summer.

 

Unbelievable

I sweat my way through the KU-Vermont game, which was entirely too close, then switch over to watch the end of the Pacers-Pistons game. The Pacers had the game well in hand, so I was playing with M. who was in an excellent mood after watching her first ever Jayhawk basketball game. Then I hear all hell break loose on the TV. When Stephon Jackson and Ron Artest were taking swings at people in the crowd, and idiots were taking cheap shots at them, I knew I had seen the worst thing I’ve ever seen in a US sporting event. I’m usually halfway decent expressing myself through the written word, and I have no idea what to say. It just kept getting worse and worse. Unless we start having gunplay in the crowd, I don’t know that this one will ever be topped.

Ron Artest Is Crazy

I gotta share some thoughts on Ron Artest. A quick recap for those who missed last week’s antics:

Ron sat out the Minnesota and Clipper games because of a “situation that challenged the integrity of the team” according to Coach Rick Carlisle.
Said situation was later identified as Ron asking for up to a month off due to fatigue from production and promotion activities for two CD releases he’s involved with.
In two interviews, Ron alternately denied and confirmed this was the reason he asked for time off. He reaffirmed his loyalty to his teammates and the Pacers’ organization, but also said he contemplated retiring before the season started, and stated he may do exactly that if the Pacers win the NBA title this year. In an ESPN interview, while holding up the two CDs he’s been working on, he said three times that he was not crazy.

First off, before I address the rest of the situation, can we all agree if you insist on three different occasions in an interview that you’re not crazy, that you in fact probably are a little nutty? That’s nothing to be ashamed of; there have been plenty of certifiably insane professional athletes. I just think if Ron would accept the fact he’s crazy, his life might become less volatile.
The most important aspect to all of this is that the Pacers can no longer trust Ron Artest. In sports, arguably the biggest knock against someone’s reputation is if they take too long to come back from an injury, don’t play through minor injuries, or fake an injury. While roughly half the Pacers’ roster is struggling with ailments from serious to minor, Ron attempted to abandon them so he could more or less catch up on his sleep. In a year that, for the first time since the early 90s, the NBA East has multiple teams that could challenge for the championship, Ron put off-the-court interests over the team’s interests. Taking three weeks off could cost the Pacers valuable standings spots to the Pistons and Heat. Keep in mind, we’re not talking about a serious physical illness to Ron or someone in his family. We’re talking about someone who overextended himself off the court and rather than curtain those activities, wants to give his team the shaft while he wraps up those activities and recovers from them. Think of all the flack Shaq and Kobe have taken in recent years for spending their summers shooting movies or recording albums instead of working on free throws or learning how to play nicely with others. That was undeserved, in my opinion, as they made sure they isolated those activities away from the Lakers’ schedule. Ron, on the other hand, had the temerity to violate the sanctity of the team for his individual pursuits. The Pacers should be used to distractions from Ron. This takes it to a whole new and destructive level, however.
I find Artest to be a fascinating guy. When he talks to the media, there’s no telling what he’ll say or whether you’ll be able to decipher it when he’s done. On the court, he’s one of the ten best players in the league because of his ability to score and lock people up defensively. However, he looks more like a linebacker rumbling up and down the court than a traditional small forward. When he dribbles, the ball appears to have an equal chance of hitting his hand or flying into the third row of seats. When he drives to the hoop, he gets the ball to the rim by sheer force rather than technique. His shot selection can be maddening. Honestly, there’s nothing aesthetically pleasing about his game. And most basketball fans know of his penchant for playing an excessively physical style of basketball. Alone, those flaws are worth tolerating for the benefits he brings to the team. However, every professional athlete has a limit of how much they can screw up off the court before they become a distraction to the team’s goals. Ron hasn’t had an drug or alcohol offenses, hasn’t had any domestic abuse charges, or any of the other traditional pitfalls that curtail athlete’s careers. But he has made himself a distraction of the highest order.
Many in Indy are calling for the Pacers to trade Ron now, no matter what they can get in return. The Pacers did circulate his name over the summer, but never received any serious offers. His relatively cheap contract makes things problematic (Roughly $6M/year). They couldn’t trade him for someone like Vince Carter without throwing in several other players to off-set the washed up Raptor’s contract. I’d love to see Artest and Jamaal Tinsley shipped to the Nets for Jason Kidd, but again contractual disparity will keep that from happening. There have been persistent rumors that the Kings would like to swap Peja Stojakovic for Artest, which would work contractually. I think both teams are afraid that trade will come back to haunt them, though.
So what will happen? I think it’s up to Jermaine O’Neal. It’s no secret he’s thoroughly disgusted with Artest’s antics. He was dragging his bum foot up and down the court while Ron was sitting on his ass because he understands how important every game is and how to honor the sacrifice and commitment of his teammates. JO took great pains to say as little possible about Artest last week. I don’t think a conversation has taken place, but I believe both he and Larry Bird accept that Artest has one more opportunity to screw up. If/when that happens, JO will walk into Bird’s office and say, “Make the trade.” Jermaine is the team leader and understands that he has the power and obligation to save the team before it’s too late. I think he’s finally mature enough to know when to have that talk with Larry. If it’s not for Peja, I can see the Pacers either including Jonathan Bender in the trade to get a name player, or just go for a crafty veteran and draft picks. And I believe they’ll make the trade with a Western Conference team. They can’t afford to have Ron fired up to play them 4-6 times a year or at any point in the playoffs before the NBA Finals. Then Ron can go destroy some other team until they tire of his antics.

 

It’s Here

Stealing from the NBA, Happy Basketball New Year! The pro season is three weeks old, college hoops started playing for real earlier this week, and my Kansas Jayhawks take the court for the first time tonight. ESPN Full Court has been purchased. Popcorn is only 11 hours from being popped. I’m contemplating what shirt to start the season with. And thankfully the Sports Illustrated college hoops group decided to hang the cover jinx on North Carolina. At least their coach isn’t superstitious.
Looking into my crystal ball, I see the following in the future for KU:
24-3 Regular season record, 14-2 in the Big 12, regular season champions
Big 12 Tournament title
#1 seed in the NCAAs
Nets come down in St. Louis as KU defeats Syracuse 81-78. Somewhere in North Carolina, Roy Williams cries and says he doesn’t give a shit about Kansas.

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