Month: June 2007 (Page 1 of 2)

NBA Draft

Well, the kids intervened a little, and some household chores kept me from watching as much of the draft as I would have liked. By the time I was able to sit down in front of the TV for good, I was just too tired to rewind and watch the entire thing from the beginning. So some truncated thoughts, or I guess some thoughts based on my truncated viewing and reviewing of the picks.

Both Portland and Seattle had remarkable nights. Unlike most teams who are in position to land the two clear Best in Class players, they did not stand pat. Some outstanding moves by both GMs to remake their respective teams. I think New York got the better of their trade with Portland, assuming Zach Randolph can stay clean and focused in NYC, but Channing Fry is a player everyone wanted to trade for last season and will serve as a solid backup to both Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge. I’m not sure how Stevie Franchise fits in, but if he can humble himself a bit, be might be a useful piece as the Blazers’ young guys develop. I keep hearing great things about Rudy Fernandez, who may not join the Blazers for another year.

A stunning move by Seattle to send Ray Allen to Boston for Jeff Green’s rights, Wally Z. and Delonte West. Green will be a fantastic match for Kevin Durant, Delonte provides solid depth in the backcourt, and Wally can serve as mentor to the Sonics’ young players. I know Danny Ainge wanted to get Paul Pierce some help, but I’m trying to figure out how Allen was the right answer to that problem. If the West wasn’t already getting tougher with the addition of the top two picks, the Sonics and Blazers are setting themselves up to be contenders soon.

I guess the big surprise in the first round was Milwaukee taking Yi Jianlian when he made every effort to tell them he had no interest in playing for them. This could be interesting.

My man Julian Wright didn’t fall too far, still in the lottery although not a top ten pick. He should do well playing in the Hornets system. I liked how ESPN started looking to see who in the green room was nervous around pick 12. You know the producers were praying that someone would get the Matt Leinart pout going.

Fortunately, I only heard Dick Vitale a couple times, but wasn’t it predictable that when they did patch him in, his comments were often about everything but the player just selected? Kind of like talking about Duke when Duke isn’t on the court in front of him. Wright is picked, he talks about Al Thornton.  I enjoyed his comment about Julian, “Well, he’s being drafted on potential as opposed to the guys who stayed three years and are finished products.” What?!?! That doesn’t make any sense. Is he saying Horford, Brewer, Noah, etc. won’t get any better but Julian can? Wouldn’t it make sense to draft Julian higher, then? Those guys might be more accomplished than the sophs and frosh that came out, but they’re far from “finished products.” As usual on NBA draft night, Dick has no idea what he’s talking about.

Two other quick KU-related thoughts. I had two recurring thoughts last night. First, I bet Julian would have been drafted higher a year ago, and not just because that was a shallower draft. That second year made his flaws more obvious and GMs more prone to think they can’t be corrected or improved upon. A strange world we live in. Second, I have a feeling Brandon Rush, had he not gotten injured and stayed in the draft, would have been drafted ahead of Julian, which is odd considering when the season ended, Julian was generally in the top five and Brandon not even in the first round.

Two Indy guys in the first four picks, two more Indiana players in the second round. Solid night, although Josh McRoberts sure couldn’t have expected to be a second round pick when he went to Duke two years ago. But he ends up in Portland, which isn’t a bad spot for him to be, especially with his old AAU homey manning the low block. McRoberts is a complimentary player, and that situation is ideal for his skill set.

Most predictable pick of the night: Brandon Wright to Charlotte. Like MJ wasn’t going to draft another Carolina guy. In fact, when his second pick rolled around, I bet the conversation was something like this in the Charlotte war room:
MJ: Let’s take Hansbrough.
Assistant: Umm, Mr. Jordan, he’s not in the draft this year.
MJ: He’s not? How about Reyshawn Terry?
Assistant: Mr. Jordan, he’s a second round pick, at best.Are you sure you want to waste a first round selection on him?
MJ: Waste a pick?!?! You’re never wasting a pick when you take a Carolina man!
Assistant: My bad, but perhaps another player might be more suitable for our needs in this slot.
MJ: Whatever, take another ACC guy as long as he’s not from Duke.
Assistant: How about Jared Dudley? He was the ACC player of the year.
MJ: Sounds great! What school is he from? Maryland?
Assistant: Boston College.
MJ: Boston College? That’s an ACC school?
Assistant: Yes, has been for two years.
MJ: Fine, take him. I need to call Nike and see about getting our colors changed to Carolina blue for next year.

I’m man enough to admit that there were three players in the first round that I’ve never heard of, and they all went to US colleges.

Wow, the Pacers really went nuts, trading a future second round pick for some stiff from Bosnia the Heat selected in the second round. Well done, Larry. He can replace that other stiff who’s always injured, David Harrison, as the third center. Big moves! Shaking up the franchise!

Finally, I caught Stuart Scott doing his act with Wilson Chandler after the Knicks took him, despite never working him out. Stuart tried to be super cool, be Chandler’s buddy, etc. and said, “Just between you and me, no one else has to know, what did Spike Lee say to you?” Best line of the night was from the overwhelmed Chandler, who didn’t understand he was supposed to play along with Stuart’s little game. “I’ve never talked to Spike, he just shook my hand.” Well done, Wilson.

Oh, Joakim Noah’s overall look was outstanding!

I’m sure I missed some other good stuff, or at least things to get my blood pressure up, but that’s all I’ve got for now.

Draft Preview

It is my hope to continue a small tradition of the blog and provide some kind of commentary on tonight’s NBA draft. Conveniently, S. is working, so I’ll have the TV to myself. Inconveniently, we have two kids, so I’ll be DVRing and watching after bedtime, hoping I don’t get interruptions from upstairs. A quick preview seems in order, though.

Oden vs. Durant. It’s not even a question in my mind. Since the Jordan/Bulls era ended, only the 2004 Detroit Pistons have won a championship without a dominating big man, as Shaq and Tim Duncan have split the other eight titles. For all of the talk about the NBA moving away from the power low-post game towards a more run-and-gun style based on versatile wingmen, the best step towards building a contender is still a strong low-post presence. Shaq is about toast. Duncan is at best at his peak, but probably already entering a slow decline. Greg Oden will be THE man in the NBA for the next decade, baring injuries, even if Durant becomes the more exciting player. I think Durant will do fine. But even if Durant becomes a perennial scoring leader and adds 10 boards a night, he’s more Kevin Garnett than Michael Jordan.

Mike Conley will be the big winner in the draft. And I mean Mike Conley Sr, who represents both his son and Oden.

For all the talk of how deep this draft is, and it is very deep, I don’t see superstars after the top two. Perhaps that is from looking at too many charts in the last couple weeks that show the top five or ten picks in recent drafts. Other than 2003, which was insanely deep, most draft lotteries seem to produce only a couple stars, then a bunch of washouts and role players. It almost seems worth it to trade down and go for the more experienced players instead of drafting the over-hyped freshmen and sophomores.

I hope my man Julian Wright doesn’t turn into Brady Quinn, but he sure seems to be dropping in a lot of mock drafts. We’ll see if the GMs agree.

Check back for more tomorrow.

Little Reader

As an addendum to my Reader’s Notebook entry, a funny update on what C. is up to these days. My wee girl loves her some books! We’ve got books scattered all over the house, and one of her favorite tricks to to round them up and bring them to me, one-by-one. She’ll dig through them, looking for one that grabs her interest, then picks it up, and scurries my way, giggling and shrieking the entire way.

Sometimes, she just hands it off and returns for another, like a momma bird feeding her baby. Other times, she tries to climb up onto whatever I’m sitting on until I hoist her and set her next to me. Then, she cuddles into me and excitedly coos, “OOOH, OOOOH, OOOH!” as I open the book and prepare to read to her about baby animals or Chicka Chicka ABC or whatever. However, my absolute favorite moments are when she brings me a book, walks away, then turns around and runs at me with her hands up in the air, yelling happily. It’s like she can’t wait to read, but needs to burn off a little nervous energy so she can sit still during the story. When she runs around with her hands in the air, it reminds me of E.T. somehow. She’s a funny kid.

One other thing, I think it says a lot about how parenting techniques change from kid one to kid two that one of C.’s first 15 or 20 words is Dora. M. didn’t know who Dora was until well after her second birthday. C., on the other hand, starts stuttering “Doodoodoodoodoo,” anytime she sees a picture of Dora somewhere, be it on the cover of a book or on the toy shelves at Target. She then shakes her shoulders like she does when dancing to the Dora theme song each morning. M. has some Dora pajamas, and C. loves to dig them out of the closet and run around with them while yelling, “Doodoodoodoo!” Horrible parenting, indeed.

The Lost Art (A Rant Of Sorts)

Lost arts: The bounce pass. The stolen base. Good customer service.

As we were working on our various projects around the house this winter and spring, I kept a mental list of customer service issues we had with the various contractors and businesses we worked with. There were a lot of unreturned phone calls, which are always annoying. To be honest, though, I lost track of my big list because one business’ especially poor performance.

We purchased our swingset on March 30. We set delivery for two Mondays later, at a specific time so that S. and I were both around to monitor things and watch the kids. The model we purchased was missing a couple parts, but the owner assured us that we would have them in a week or two.

The morning of the delivery rolled around, and 30 minutes after the installation was supposed to take place, there was still no sign of the workers. I called, and no one in the office knew anything about us getting a swingset that day. The owner was not in, but they promised he would call to clear things up as soon as he got in. By 4:00, we still hadn’t received a call, so S. called back. She got the owner and he said something like, “Oh yeah, we didn’t get some parts we needed so we can’t do it today. I guess we forgot to call you.” Nice. He said he’d be happy to deliver it on the following Saturday, but we were going to be away from the house that day. She explained how she had adjusted her work schedule to be around that morning, she did not appreciate us not getting a call, and he needed to find a time this week to deliver it when we would be around. The swingset was installed that Friday.

But that’s just the beginning. A few weeks went by, no sign of our missing parts, so S. called. The owner, setting a theme that would continue over the next three months, had no idea who we were and couldn’t track down our paper work. But he would get those parts over to us that week. Three more weeks go by, and the process is repeated. Eventually, we get to last week, with a total of three calls in between. S. talked to him last Monday, and he promised the parts would be at our house by Thursday. He offered some story about how he knew they were making lots of people mad, and they were going to hire someone else to handle the playground equipment side of the company. But no apology.

Friday, we still don’t have the parts, so I called. He claimed he had talked to S. the previous day and he had said the parts would be at our house over the weekend. I quickly reminded him they spoke on Monday, he said they would be in by Thursday, and I was looking at the swingset and they weren’t out there. I said I wanted the parts that weekend, or we’d need to get a refund for them and we’d go buy them someplace else. “Yeah, that’s definitely an option…” was his response. He said he’d check into if he could pull the parts from another set and call me right back. Two hours later, I finally get a call and he tells me that he’ll personally drive them over and install them after work Saturday night.

Quick, guess if he showed up Saturday night? That’s right, no appearance, no call. Finally, Monday morning he called and said he had the pieces and would send someone over to install them. The problem was one of the parts wasn’t the color we wanted. S. told him we didn’t want a mismatched part, knowing it would take another three months to get the replacement. A couple hours later, his guys show up, after a quick trip to Lowe’s to get a matching part, and install them in ten minutes. I cautiously inquired about what the hold up had been. One guy got real quiet and the other guy quickly said, “I don’t know, we just install for him, we don’t work in the office.” Well played, I thought. I mentioned how we had been told it would be a couple weeks when we first bought it. He snickered and said, “And a couple weeks turned into a couple more weeks, and a couple more weeks…” He knew where I was coming from.

After all of that, we finally have all the parts of our swingset. It only took three months and at least seven phone calls on our part to get them. Never got a decent explanation from the owner or an apology for our wait and their shitty service. We still would have been annoyed if they had communicated with us, but it would have been a different level of annoyance. I’m not sure why it’s so hard to do that when you’re trying to run a business. Now, we will tell anyone who asks about a swingset or basketball goal to avoid them, and we certainly won’t call them when we are ready to put a hoop in, which is where they do the bulk of their business.

So much for trying to go with the local business over the big, national chains.

We Must Look Nice

This weekend, two different times while out for a family walk, we were stopped by people driving through the neighborhood looking at houses to answer some questions about living here. If it happens one more time, we’re contacting the home owners association and asking for some kind of compensation plan, because we talked it up! I’m pretty sure houses are going to start flying off of the market thanks to our good words of advise.

 

Trip To The Lou

Very good trip to St. Louis Tuesday and Wednesday. I headed over with a friend from Indy who had business in the area and generally takes in a Cards’ game when he is in town. He dropped me off and headed to his meeting, I did some walking and shopping and picture-taking, then caught lunch with Mr. N at a favorite from St. Louis trips past, Rigazzi’s. A little Sicilian lasagna and a nice fishbowl of Bud Light for lunch is hard to beat.

I was impressed by new Busch Stadium. It’s the first park I’ve been to that was built during the great stadium renaissance of the past 15 years, and delivered about what was expected. Lovely architecture. Fantastic sight lines inside the park, aided by the phenomenal view of downtown and the Arch. Lots of concession areas with plenty of room for mingling and walking without getting sucked into a line. Just an all-around good place to watch a ballgame, aided of course by the St. Louis fans, who even made old Busch a great place to watch a game. A couple of the locals I was with complained about the abundance of ads inside the stadium. Something about if they were going to have that many, they could have used less tax dollars to build the stadium.

I spent some time in the gift shop when we first got to town, looking for something to bring back for the girls. Just about every little stuffed animal would set you back about $30. A steep price for something the kids will just tear up. I guess that’s what winning a World Series can do for the bottom line the following year.

A couple other old friends, Mr. Y and Mr. B, joined us for the game. We had great seats, first row of the third deck directly behind home plate. Beautiful view of everything, including the horrificness that was Scott Elarton that night. Oh, a big highlight was Sammy Hagar tossing out the first pitch. When I say big highlight, I mean it was something unexpected, not like I ran down and tried to find him and get an autograph on my 5150 CD or anything.

After the game and a couple beers at Mike Shannon’s, my traveling companion and I hit the town pretty hard, taking advantage of the lack of kids and wives to hold us back. I’m pretty sure I drank about as much in one night as I normally drink in a month. When I hit the sack at 2:30, I had been awake for nearly 22 hours. To say that I felt the effects yesterday would be an understatement. I felt every second of 36. S. worked last night, but the girls were nice enough to have an easy night. Today, they’ve both been awful, but daddy got his needed easy night last night.

Strangely enough, for as much as I love baseball, this was only my fifth stadium in four cities. KC, Oakland, new Comiskey, and both Busch Stadiums. I’ve got to do better. I should have planned my trips better back when I was still traveling. I could have knocked out Seattle, Pac Bell, Dodgers and Angels, Phoenix, Denver, and Arlington.

To The Lou

Just a friendly reminder that the new White Stripes album hits stores on Tuesday. As I type this at 11:07 PM, I’m seriously considering staying up until midnight to grab it from iTunes, even though my alarm is set for 5:50 AM tomorrow morning. (That is one thing I miss about the non-Daylight Savings Time days in Indiana. During the summer, you could buy new albums on iTunes at 11:00 PM on Monday nights.)

Why such an early wake-up call? I’m heading to St. Louis to catch perhaps the best match-up in Interleague play, the Royals and the Cardinals. A friend here has business in the area, and happens to be a big Cards fan. So we’re heading out super early so he can drop me in the city, continue on to his meeting, then get back in time for the game. I’ll be running into a few loyal readers of the blog for both lunch and for the game. Pics will be posted, hopefully Wednesday night. I’ve been sitting on a couple lengthy posts that hopefully I can get up for your reading pleasure later this week as well.

 

Very Quiet

Quiet here on the blog and elsewhere. It’s been kind of a strange week. I’ve been doing some data migration (that’s fancy talk) which has disrupted some of my normal routines. C. is being a royal pain at night, which makes mornings tough. I’ve got thoughts, just not always the motivation to post them for you.

Several folks have asked about what the job prospects are looking like. To be honest, there’s not much going on right now. A friend had connected me with a company she did some writing for, and they seemed interested before Memorial Day, but I haven’t heard back from my contact in weeks. It would have been nice to do some work right away.

Oddly enough, now that I’m out of school and have lots of time to come up with ideas for articles to pitch, I honestly can’t come up with a thing. I sit around occasionally and try to brainstorm, and either get a few half-assed ideas or none at all. I’ve posted a resume onto Monster, but the only hit I got was clearly a generic request for anyone to interview for some kind of sales job. I signed up on a site called guru.com, which connects free-lancers in all fields with people who need their skills. I haven’t found anything great there yet, but may start bidding on a few jobs just to get my feedback score up (It’s kind of like eBay – you bid on a job, and if you get it, your employer is expected to give public feedback when the job is completed to help other potential employers). I’m in the process of putting together high-quality copies of my best campus paper articles and sending them to all the community papers in the area, to see if they have any use for free lancers. However, the big media companies have been buying all of them up in recent years, so most are owned by Gannett and affiliated with the Indy Star, and thus have cut back on their use of free lancers.

What I really need to do is block off time every day to scour the various sites set up for free lancers rather than hitting them haphazardly. My goal is still to work on a free lance basis for the time being. S.’s job has gotten more involved in recent months – she’s helping to start the hospital’s peds residency program – and she’s spending a little more time in meetings, so I’m needed around the house more than I used to be. I’m enjoying the stay-at-home dad thing, now that that’s what I really am and not part of what I’m doing in balance with school. But, I really like to spend money, and I need something more than my little editing job to justify potential expenditures! Plus, M. starts preschool in the fall, and we’ve got tuition due.

I guess I hoped something would fall in my lap right at the beginning, like the one contact I had last month, and figured everthing would flow from there. I’m a little frustrated that I can’t get my brain on track to at least send some ideas out to magazines and newspapers to see if anyone bites. It’ll happen, I’m sure, but I’d rather it came sooner rather than later.

Dumb Kids

Not my kids, although there are moments where I’m thinking that. No, I’m talking about the kids who edited the paper down at campus the past two semesters. I’ve been digging through the stories I wrote to make copies to send out to prospective employers and thus reading through everything I had published. Oddly enough, I don’t always like reading my stories once they’re printed. I can’t explain why, it just works out that way. Anyway, for most of them this was the first time I read what had been printed. As I read through them, I noticed several articles were published with horrible errors in editing. In one, comments the editor had for me were inserted into the published piece. Things like “I think skeptical is a better word here,” etc. That looks real professional. I give that editor a pass because she was great the rest of the time and that was the first paper of the semester, and kinks were being ironed out.

I thought one of my best stories was one I wrote about a speech on campus by a native Darfurian about the genocide. I was reading through it and noticed the article cut off in mid-sentance at the end. It was my final paragraph, but rather than edit the quote down, they just filled the space and stopped. There are probably people all over the place who read that article and are still wondering how it ended.

Now my debate is do I use these clips, assuming editors at newspapers and magazines will realize it was a college paper and understand those errors, or does it look too unprofessional and I need to let them sit? I think the answer is A, but it makes me feel a little silly. “Here are some great articles I wrote for a paper that obviously wasn’t very good.” Frustrating.

The Deep End

We took the girls to the in-laws’ pool today. It was a pretty good demonstration of how different my daughters are. M., nearly three and a two summer veteran of the pool, threw a couple fits because she didn’t want to get into the water. When we finally coaxed her in, it took her forever to relax and have fun. When she was in the water with me, she wrapped her legs and arms around me, clinging tightly, and always had a nervousness in her voice. She’s the worrier. We forced her to get her face wet at the end – I taught her how to hold her breath and we went under together – which resulted in screaming and the end of her pool fun.

For C., this was her first trip to the big pool. I think we may have put her in briefly last summer, but she was too little to remember. Keep in mind, on bath nights, M. yells at us not to get her eyes wet while C. dumps cups full of water on her own face and head. C. was clamoring to get into the pool as soon as she saw it. We got a little inflatable boat she can sit in, and she wanted nothing to do with it. She wanted to get out and swim. Unlike M., when I took C. through the water, she was constantly trying to get away from me and do it herself. As I held her flat on the water, she intentionally dunked her head and then laughed. She made happy noises and loved it when I tossed her up into the air and caught her just as her body hit the water. When my mother-in-law took her underwater for the first time, she popped up with a shocked look on her face, and for about five seconds we weren’t sure how she was going to react, but they she figured out she was fine and tried to get back in the water again. She’s the risk-taker.

Funny how different people with common DNA can be. One of these trips we’ll take the camera or camcorder and get some video evidence of this behavior.

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