April 6th, 2006
When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.
- Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Commentators Should Be More Selective.

March 27th, 2006

This past weekend the NCAA Tournament narrowed its field to the Final Four teams. Congratulations to LSU, UCLA, George Mason and Florida for their success. During some games, the analysts providing play-by-play give a player's background. It is a heart-warming, humanizing addition to the action on the court. There were two stories, from separate games, that were presented in the same fashion, yet were nearly polar opposites.

The first was a story of Villanova Wildcat senior guard Randy Foye. Foye's father, they said, left when Randy was of a very young age (3-and-a-half years old I believe) and his mother disappeared after he completed kindergarten. Her whereabouts are still unknown. Randy was raised in Newark, New Jersey by his two grandmothers, one of which had never been on an airplane, but agreed to fly to Indianapolis to see Randy play in the Final Four if his team made it. Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright said of Foye that he has a God-given ability to listen to the right people. When asked about his future in the sport of basketball, Wright commented that above success on the basketball court, Randy Foye would be a great man.

The second story featured George Mason senior guard Tony Skinn. The George Mason Patriots (GMU) were seconds away from completing the upset of top-seeded Connecticut as Skinn walked to the free-throw line. GMU was ahead by two points and Skinn had the opportunity to make it a two-possession game if he made both attempts. While he walked the length of the court the commentator mentioned how remarkable Tony Skinn's story was. He elaborated that Tony Skinn lost himself for a moment with about a minute remaining in a game against Hofstra and punched an opposing player in the groin in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament. He had been immediately pulled from the game by his coach and suspended by his team from the first round NCAA Tournament game against Michigan State. The team managed to hold on against the Spartans without him and now here he was with a chance to put the game out of reach. And to think he had overcome this adversity to now find himself with the opp...

:Missed the first free throw, the front-end of a one and one. Rebound to Uconn.:

Well he had the opportunity to "ice" the game for George Mason, he said.

Call it my Villanova bias, but I think Randy Foye's story was a little more vivid and appropriate considering the circumstances. They were both presented the same way. When they launched into story about Tony Skinn it was in a way where you expected to hear of tragedy and triumph over adversity. And you find out he overcame a one-game suspension he received because he punched a guy below the belt.

George Mason, an 11 seed in the tournament, was a controversial invite to the 65-team tournament. Many critics felt that other teams, Hofstra for one (who beat GMU twice head-to-head), should have been asked to the tournament instead. Since the brackets were announced, GMU has beaten 6th seed Michigan State, 3rd seed North Carolina and 1st seed Connecticut. The last two games were wins over the past two winners of the NCAA Tournament. The team's story has been and continues to be a remarkable one. Tony Skinn's story is about nothing but him losing his cool.

The Uninvited Guest.

March 27th, 2006

I was highly entertained yesterday while at lunch with my parents. Our family is very close and I am comfortable saying that it is always entertaining when we are together, but yesterday was different. They told me a story that started with my mom asking if my dad had yet told me about the noises he heard coming from the basement at 6:15AM Saturday.

My immediate feeling was one of shock and terror. What could possibly have happened? Are they ok? ...Oh, right, they are both sitting here with me and in fine spirits. If anything had gone wrong, I would surely have heard about it before now. Dad took the reigns and led me through the details of his story.

Before heading down to the exercise room for his Saturday morning work-out he went to the computer to do who knows what. While sitting at the computer he hears a loud crash and then silence. He pauses and remains silent, listening. A few minutes pass and he thinks that something must have fallen over and he has no cause for concern. And then a crash, louder and longer than before. Something is afoot.

He stands at the top of the stairway leading to the basement and turns on the light. Again he waits, listening. And he hears something walking! Alarmed and confused all at the same time while a few moments pass and he sees the perpetrator. Into the guest room walks a duck. Yes, a duck.

My new brother.

The duck came back out of the guest room, walked into the laundry room, then back into the hallway and sat down. The animal was safely caught and released.

The only explanation was that the duck must have come in through the chimney downstairs in the bar area as the flue was found open. There has been no determination of whether the flue was open prior or if the duck opened the flue by landing on it after falling into the chimney. The sound, by the way, was the duck flying into the blinds on the windows as he attempted to free himself.

Who says there is no excitement in the lives of empty-nesters?!

The Letter Should Read Like This...

March 26th, 2006

Dear Coach Al Skinner,

Thanks for the help.

Sincerely,

Billy Donovan

Apology

March 23rd, 2006

I want to say that I am sorry to those few of you who have commented from blogspot locations. If you put your blogspot url with your comment(s) I accidentally deleted it/them.

Truth be told I did it on purpose...kind of. In my on-going battle against stupid spam-comments I was doing my routine clean up. The latest trend is comments from blogspot sites. Rather than delete 30 comments 1 by 1, since each was different by subdomain, I tried to take a shortcut. I deleted all comments containing blogspot.com...

It never occurred to me in my haste that I would be deleting some relevant comments as well. So there you have it. The exciting tale of how I tried to cut corners and screwed up. Well I guess it's not the first one of those, just probably the first one that relates to you.

I am trying to squeeze time in to research options so that does not happen again and so I can still cut down on the amount of spam I get.

So yeah...I'm sorry I did that.

AquaKnox - Las Vegas, NV

March 21st, 2006
http://www.las-vegas-hotel-tours.com/venetian-aquaknox-restaurant.php
AquaKnox - Global Water Cuisine

AquaKnox's fresh colors reflect the vibrancy of the cool ocean waters. Experience an environment designed to entertain your every sense, highlighted by a water encased walk-in wine cellar and a state of the art open kitchen. Celebrated Chef Tom Moloney attains a new standard of culinary excellence, boasting global seafood flown in daily. -AquaKnox.net

AquaKnox, located in The Venetian Resort Hotel & Casino, is, as I am told, one of the area's premier seafood restaurants. I am not one who enjoys fish, so I perused the menu for an alternative. On that, or any menu, a steak suits me just fine.

It is fish that I can live without, but I do like shrimp, crab and lobster. Fitting with that, I and my business travel companion shared the Seafood Trio appetizer: sweet shrimp, lobster and jumbo crab served with AquaKnox cocktail sauce. The name is rather misleading as only the shrimp comes with the cocktail sauce. Each of the three meats comes plated with its own unique sauce. Of the three, though I liked them all, the crab was my least favorite.

I ordered their Bone-In Ribeye, though the menu online shows "Bisteca (32 oz. Prime Double Cut Porterhouse)." I cannot say if that is new to the menu or if the ribeye is instead. What I can tell you is that the competition in my search for the best steak in Las Vegas just got a little tougher. The ribeye came over root vegetables. I feel bad saying that the ribeye at AquaKnox is one of the best steaks in 'Vegas if it is not even an option anymore. I cannot speak to the porterhouse, though I would be tempted to try a "serves two" steak alone!

The prices were not outrageous, though I had expected them to be. Most main dishes were around $30. If you need to find it, the restaurant is located outside the Blue Man Group Theatre.

AquaKnox has not converted me to the ways of seafood, but through steak they have helped me recommend this restaurant to you. There are so many restaurants in Las Vegas I do not know if I will ever go back to AquaKnox, but it was worth going once for me. And if the situation arose, I would not hesitate to go back.

2nd Round NCAA Action

March 20th, 2006

What happens when you take Wil Morris's man-crush on Kevin Pittsnogle, teach him about the rapid-capture action-shot capability of my camera and let him loose on the West Virginia v. Northwestern State game?

148 pictures. (Though in fairness, included in that total were pics from the Pitt/Bradley game. And only 130 made it to the gallery.)

Impressions:

The officiating for Pittsburgh v. Bradley was some of the worst I have ever seen. Bradley won that game fair and square, and Pittsburgh is not a team I would ever make excuses for; that is not my intention. Calls on both sides of the ball were horrible. I guess the silver lining is that at least they were equally bad to both teams, but they were not consistent in the level of contact required for a foul.

The band director/leader for the Northwestern State band was awesome. The band itself was little more than a drunken student section with instruments. In his highly animated state, the man led his band through many hip-hop/rap hits such as "Let Me Clear My Throat" and "Laffy Taffy." He also led the band in cheers. After one bad call the band yelled "Nuts and bolts. Nuts and bolts. We...Got...Screwed!" Pretty funny, though not the best. While at the free throw line, West Virginia Guard Johannes Herber was serenaded by the band as they chanted "Brokeback Mountain. Brokeback Mountain." (I have just learned that Gonzaga fans had been reprimanded for similar behavior. Thanks for the update, Matt.)

I know it is hard to get fans from schools across the country to make the trip, but I thought the stadium seemed very empty. Maybe it was because there is no alcohol served at the NCAA events.

Bradley played very well against Pittsburgh. Since Kansas was kind enough to lose to them in the first round, maybe I will jump on the Bradley bandwagon to beat Memphis...

I could not believe that there was not a screen in the building that was constantly scrolling scores for the other games-in-progress yesterday. Only during a stoppage of play would the other scores be shown.

I was not happy that I had to leave Las Vegas early to come home for class on Saturday, but at least having tickets to the two games on Sunday was a consolation.

Rigged!

March 9th, 2006

http://mas.scripps.com/WXYZ/2006/01/13/nicole2005_e.jpgThis young lady (Erin) works for a local news station and moonlights at home games for the Detroit Pistons. She works on the promotions team and can be seen throughout the night in the stands hosting the contests for the fans. One of the contests we will call 3-ball Monty as it is in the vein of the old street hustle 3-card Monty. On the big screen those in attendance see three basketballs. One of the three basketballs has a logo on it and it is shown to the audience, then turned around. They then begin to bounce around the screen and when they come to rest the contestant has to pick the one which had the logo. A correct answer wins the contestant a $50 Gift Certificate to Belle Tire, the contest sponsor.

Courtesy of some friends I had great tickets to last night's game. At one point I happened to notice Erin on screen for 3-ball Monty (I think I knew a guy in college named 3-ball Monty...) with the contestant standing next to her. I glance around the stadium as I like to see where the contestant was chosen from. She was halfway up the lower bowl in one of the sections in the corner of the arena.

After the girl contestant answered correctly, she was handed her gift certificate. The cameras went back to the game after whatever stoppage of play allowed for the contest in the stands. Erin and the contestant then both came down the stairs to seats on the floor in the corner. The "contestant" was not even seated in the section where she was shown while the contest was in progress. Her seat for the game was near a whole crowd of press passes where I had noticed her earlier.

I am not going so far as to say she was Erin's friend, but she certainly was not the fan from whatever section the fans were led to believe she was.

Now the conspiracy theories can be let loose. Why not speculate that this girl was chosen because she or a family member works for Belle Tire? She was a plant. She was only at the game to be in the contest...and answer correctly. Shameless ploy on behalf of the Pistons organization and Belle Tire to get screen time with the logo and look benevolent as they give out a prize for a contest that any average Joe off the street can win, even you or me, even though it is all smoke and mirrors.

Who knows...maybe next game you could be chosen for 3-ball Monty. But I bet you won't! Call it a hunch.

The Groin.

March 7th, 2006

Why? Can you tell me? I do not understand why we see adult (in the eyes of the government) men who feel the need to hit/punch/kick each other in such a sensitive area.

A story has arisen from a basketball player at George Mason University who, in the word of the article "punched" an opposing player between the legs. There was no foul called on the play, but he has been suspended, by his own school, for one game.

This continues to happen in college basketball mostly. Earlier this season Villanova University sophomore guard Kyle Lowry had his groin intentionally stepped on by an opposing player while he lay on the court after a play. Last season Wake Forest guard Chris Paul http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/boxing/photo_galleries/4084942.stmwas suspended for one game for a "low blow" delivered to an opponent.

The young man from George Mason said that he lost his head "[i]n the heat of a tense game," a game George Mason lost, by the way. Maybe it is simply because I was never able to play at the collegiate level, but in nothing I do would I ever want to hit someone there.

I don't get it.

Lovely weather we're having...

March 3rd, 2006

I spent the better part of this week in Phoenix, Arizona for a client conference. If you have never travelled to one, they typically entail a golf outing, one or more open bar receptions, a handful of meetings, and a dinner complete with awards banquet. Depending on the client, the conference may or may not be held at a fancy hotel. In this case it was, and I took a few pictures. The weather in Phoenix was what I would consider pretty ideal. Every day we were there it was mid-to-upper 70s and sunny to only partly cloudy.

Tough job, isn't it? Sorry, we are not hiring.

When it was all over, I went to the front desk to check out of my room. The woman agent asked how I had enjoyed my stay. I told her everything was great, with the exception that I now had to return home after four days. I told her that I was from Michigan and that was my destination that day, home sweet home, 36 degree high temperature and all.

At the mention of 36 degrees she said, "Wow, I thought we had it bad...with all of these clouds."

Oh sweet front desk employee lady, don't go changin'!