Saturday, April 28, 2007

Killing time on a Saturday morning

Hey, it's 11:48. Do you know where your first-round pick is?

It'll be another 100 minutes or so before the Redskins, presumably, make their pick. They could trade up, trade down or stay where they are.

Selfishly, I'm praying for A or C.

Cheering in sports journalism (or any journalism really) is an absolute no-no. However, there is a tiny bit of leeway: Internally (and only internally) I always cheer for a quick game or a quick resolution to whatever it is I'm doing. You can imagine my delight at a 2-0 high school baseball game last night that took about 1:40. You also get a tiny bit of leeway if it means a nice trip for you; needless to say, I was cheering like hell inside (and only internally) for George Mason in last year's Elite Eight game vs. UConn (sorry, Matt).

So you can see why I'm hoping for the earlier two of the three options. Even trading back wouldn't be so bad, so long as it's to like 8 or 9. None of this bullshit about swapping first-round picks with Chicago (31st) in a Lance Briggs trade. I've got plans tonight, dammit.

There are 11 other people in the Redskin Park media room at the moment, with two cameramen just outside (where they tend to congregate). The NFL Network is on the nearby TV; listening to Deion Sanders is particularly painful though it's all been pretty much a drag (Rich Eisen claims that Matt Leinart is 'in a pretty good position' in Arizona). But I suppose it's better than listening to Chris Berman bloviate and wave his arms frantically and take the suspense out of each pick by hinting.

We're all just waiting for things to happen.

Hopefully they do so quickly.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Ain't the net grand...

I was hunting around good old Technorati - usually I look there to see if anyone is paying attention to my work blog, but then I find the results are somewhat depressing. Hey, at least Jayski linked there a few times.

OK, twice. Whatever.

Once the depression subsided, I ran a search for Lehighton and 'class of 1993' - my graduating class. Surprisingly, only one result came up. This one. (Hell, we had 220 people in our class. I figured one of them had a blog anyway...)

I can't recall Christa from her picture; I have a guess, but if that's the case, she looks a lot different from high school.

Of course, MySpace provides plenty of friends links. That led me here, to my old buddy Mike Serfass. A very cool, low-key guy who was always a good friend, even though I was never really especially close to him. (He's even a Redskins fan. I really thought about e-mailing him and seeing if he wants some swag when the season rolls around. Lord knows I have no use for it.)

Mike's page led me to Craig Hoffman's page. He was also a low-key, good-friend type - definitely a cool guy. Who knows, maybe he's loud and bombastic now.

Craig's friends reminded me of another dude I knew in high school - but didn't graduate with - named Kerry Getz. I don't know if you guys have ever really been into skateboarding, but he sure was. And still is.

(Speaking of notable athletes, we had one other quasi-famous athlete from the L: Carl Wolter, the 2002 ReMax World Long Drive Champion. He was one of those people that pissed you off because they were so athletically gifted. Six-four, could throw a football like Vick in that Powerade commercial. A quick scan of the Big Ten record book shows he won the 1996 javelin title with a throw of 233-8; the longest winning throw until 2003.)

Anyway, back to Serf. He's also got a link to Autumn, a very sweet girl back in the HS days. Glad to see she's doing well. There's also Steve Schock, who gets bonus points for putting Journey on his homepage.

But just passing through those guys wasn't enough. Why not search on MySpace? So I did.

Here's Amy Holland, a cool girl in high school but one who did not hesitate to tell you to shove it. Then there's the least surprising page of all from Ethan Savitsky, who had his cowboy thing going on even back then. Now he's got a ranch in New Mexico ... shocking.

But of all the discoveries I've made, two stand out - and they didn't even happen on Wednesday night.

I've lost her address - and apparently it was some sort of project for school - but I had a blog for Cheryl Blaukovitch (Cheryl Isleib back in the day), a wonderful friend throughout the prep days. I met her back in sixth grade, because I was one of the smart kids from our elementary school. I went to some competition, met her and found out what smart really is.

I know Linds often scolds me for not giving myself enough credit. But this time, it cannot be any more accurate. She's brilliant, always has been.

(A quick aside. I do specifically remember taking a test in one of our science classes in high school - with Mr. Bisbing, a wonderful older teacher who insisted on letting us learn by ourselves. But when he'd stand and lecture, he was outstanding. Anyway, to prevent cheating, he'd have people in certain rows take their tests in the back of the room at the lab tables. I was working away, tapping my fingers on the table to Dokken or whoever it was. I happened to look up and got this glare from Cheryl that I'll never, ever forget - she even rested her head on her hand and flipped me off in the process. Now, all these years later, my wife gets annoyed by the same thing.)

Lastly, there's a good friend, Dan Steigerwalt, who's become a chiropractic doctor but, apparently, not a website designer. Dan and I played football together throughout high school - he was a hell of a running back/DB. I've always felt bad that a missed block of mine on a wet field in practice led to a hit that disclocated his collarbone and ended his senior season.

Though he had only played like two conference games, he was still voted First Team All-League. (I was HM.) As good a player as he was, he was an even better guy; it's impossible to say a bad word about him.

Well, this sure dragged on. Thanks for indulging my trip down memory lane.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Go ski in Dubai...but why?

I've been enjoying all of the HD channels since we got our new TV. The Discovery HD Theatre is my clear favorite, though I wish they showed the same programming that was on regular Discovery. (I can only imagine the wonder - while convienently ignoring the logisitcs - of watching "Deadliest Catch" in HD.)

Of the programs they show consistently, Extreme Engineering is one I'll try to catch if the subject interests me - and it usually does. Tonight was no exception: There were no sports on that interested me, I've had about all I can handle of Virginia Tech coverage for now, and all the other regular stops - Discovery Times, History Channel, Travel Channel - were all barren.
Hello, Extreme Engineering.

They were tracking a monumental building in Dubai in the UAE. To keep pace with the tourist boom, the city has supported several high-end malls, each trying to outdo the others. This new mall was going for the biggest thing yet: An indoor ski slope with real snow. In Dubai, the middle of the desert. (Watch for crappy music on the link.)

Moreover, they were using an innovative technique to make snow that acted and felt a lot more like real snow. The sprayed water particles into the air like a mist, then seeded the mist with something (they didn't say what, of course) so that the falling snowflakes would form as they do in nature.

But the project was saddled with difficulties from the get-go. Things were built, then had to be torn down and rebuilt; things were covered in concrete, but it became necessary to rip out the concrete and rework some of the innards. Suppliers weren't always the most nimble.

The continued delays, the announcer said in a concerned tone, could cost the owners millions of dollars.

Come again?

Am I supposed to feel bad for them?

It was their brilliant idea to build a ski slope in the middle of the desert because, well, building a damn nice mall just wasn't good enough.

From that point on, I secretly hoped the delays would get unbearably long. (As it turns out, it was only three months.)

From then on, the structure looked less like a curiosity and more a garish piece of overzealousness. It gives the place a Vegas feel, where nothing's too over the top (and, incidentally, they put lots of golf courses in the middle of a desert).

Early in the program - before I turned bitter - the announcer stated (with a seeming sense of pride) how many megawatts it took just to run the place. Recalling that, I got even more pissed at the place. It's supposed to use all that energy and, presumably, make all that pollution for what? Again, one could argue Vegas does the same, but I believe they get most of their power from the Hoover Dam.

I hope the residents and tourists of Dubai enjoy their skiing. I just wonder at what cost.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Today was not an easy one at the office. Though Virginia Tech is four hours away, I can think of a handful of people I know who went there, are there or are going there.

One of the county's coaches wrestled there; another played football there. A friend in the biz went there too; another has kids there. A baseball player who I dealt with in years past plays there. A baseball player who I deal with now is going to play there next year.

I've been to the campus a handful of times. I've watched a basketball game at Cassell Coliseum, across the street from West Ambler Johnston, where this whole tragic day began.

I remember, now somewhat strangely, driving through Blacksburg and seeing anti-war protesters. I can't recall their particular message, but it was enough that my wife and I chuckled at the thought. "Why are they worried?" we wondered. "D.C. has a giant bull's-eye on its back; no one cares about Blacksburg Freaking Virginia."

But for one day...

As I sat there watching the updates come across the wire - one death became 20, 20 became 30 - I felt far closer to there than the four hours of drive time.

I sit here trying to figure out what I should write. I'm blogging, and I should be writing something, right? But nothing's coming to me. It's a mix of sadness, outrage, frustration - though I cannot take pleasure in knowing that many others feel the same.

It's simply not satisfying enough to chalk the incident up to a lone, mad gunman, especially one that won't be around to serve his pennance. Justice can't be served, at least not by anyone on this planet.

No one's going to pay for this act. Instead, it's left to the families of those deceased to pay the price; that isn't right. They're left with the unanswerable question: why?

Maybe it was a mistake to sit and read and watch and digest everything I could. It's simply habit for a news junkie, until it gets to be late at night and the lingering hangover sets in. Thirty-two families go to bed tonight in unimaginable sorrow; I pray for each of them. An entire community goes to bed with its world completely overturned.

The sun will rise, tomorrow, certainly. But the haunting memories of what happened on Monday won't be undone so easily. Not for the students, staff or their families.

The best I can do, I suppose, is to pray for each and every one of them. I guess it's time I get to bed and get started.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Planet Earth

I sent a text to regular commenter Matt asking if he'd be tuning into Discovery Channel's 11-part series, "Planet Earth." He sounded a little skeptical at first, but I hope I covinced him to check it out. I hope I can do the same for others, too.

This is must-watch television.

The series takes a look at life on our planet through various themes. Tonight, the episodes were Jungles and Freshwater; we learned that chimps are among the rare creatures who survive on the ground and in the canopy of the jungle; most animals do one or the other. In the second hour, we saw one freshwater fish that protected its young by holding them in its mouth. It appeared to have swallowed a school of fish in one gulp! But it was just protecting the young'ns.

Linds and I have watched the show from its premiere, and there has been no shortage of 'holy crap!' moments. Over at, they have a handful of highlight clips from the shows so far. Check out the second clip - "Jungles: Birds of Paradise." It's unreal what the birds are willing to do to attract a mate; I promise you, you'll never forget the turquoise smiley face.

Linds' favorite clip, undoubtedly, is further down the list: "Pole to Pole: African Animals." At the end of this clip, you see a group of baboons nervously wading through water - not for fear of a predator, but for the mere walk they don't walk upright but must if they want to keep from drowning. (And they most assuredly do.) That clip is great for sheer silliness.

If that hasn't convinced you, then I'll make it as easy as possible. Here's a clip from the British version, which is the same as the U.S. version except that our narrator is Sigourney Weaver. Here, some seals head out to go fishing, but must navigate through a crowd of great white sharks. This clip greatly slows down a great white attack; it's impossible not to appreciate the awesome power of the shark.

The whole series has been like that. Stunning photography and wonderful views were the culmination of five years of filming. And if you have HD, the series is mesmerizing.

Discovery HD Theater, incidentally, has limited commercial interruption; such that the show ends 15 mminutes early. That leaves time for behind-the-scenes clips.

In one producer interview, he says that one of his goals for the project was to show people that there are things in the world worth saving. Conservancy, then, is a part of the show; but it's never preachy and it never insists you feel guilty.

From my standpoint, I've tried to be pretty good about recycling and now I feel even more strongly about that and doing whatever else I can do. So for me, at least, the producer got his intended result.

It may not be that way for you guys, and that's cool too. Even so, I can't recommend this enough to you. Do check it out next Sunday night.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Would it just quit freaking snowing already?

Back in the fall, I couldn't wait for it to start snowing. Now, I can't wait for it to stop. Yes, I know I'm whiny.

But certainly you'll all agree snow is long past its due date. Easter should not, does not mean snow. Snow's expiration date is a calendar flip or two ago.

Yet here we are. Linds and I are in Pennsylvania for the holiday weekend, and today we saw at least three instances of snow flurries. Nothing really stuck to the ground to any measurable degree, but that's not really the point. It's Easter, and it's snowing.

And this doesn't offer much help either. Sunny and 62 sounds like a bargain at this point - even though it's still nine days away. (And Lord knows how much the forecast will change between now and then.)

Yes, I know I could fall back on my old line about how it's almost always better to be here, no matter how crappy, than Barrow, Alaska - where the high over the next 10 days will top out at 12 above. But that doesn't feel right, not this time. The folks in Barrow know what to expect in their season(s), and we know what to expect in ours. At least they're getting what they expect.

It's not just the agonizing wait for spring to brighten our moods, either. I won't be able to go 10 days without covering something, and that something is virtually guaranteed to be outside. Like Wednesday night when I'm supposed to go watch the Potomac Nationals. Or whatever else comes along - high school baseball, the big Nats, whatever. It'll be outside.

And by then, we'll be pressing into the second week of the major league baseball schedule. Snow delays and postponements are supposed to be quirks of the first week of the schedule; after the second Sunday night game, we should see some light - and feel some warmth - at the end of the tunnel.
Even the poor cherry blossoms are suffering, as you can see in the Reuters photo above from Yahoo.
None of us benefit from the extended cold. I honestly believe few of us benefitted from the unusual warm streak we had over the winter; it felt too surreal to be enjoyed. (The one positive from this whole deal is that it confirmed my suspicion that Mother Nature wasn't going to give us a free pass, even for a week. Vengence would be hers, and we're paying now.)
This is the time of year when the only thing I want to do is cover a game in jeans and a polo. Is that so much to ask?
This year, apparently it is.
(Apologies for the spacing issues.)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A strange noise; counting my teams

By now, you're all at least a little familiar with the layout of our place. I'm in the computer room (duh), which sits in the middle of the apartment. As I sit, the bedroom is behind me, the kitchen and living room in front of me (were it not for those pesky walls).

It's past midnight, and my wife is having a hard time falling asleep. Usually, she's settled comfortably in her nightly trip to Dreamland. She's got the TV on, tuned to some cheesy old sitcom.

Every so often, I can hear the laugh track. It sounds so distant.

And I can't help but feel like I'm in some sort of TV show myself. We've all seen the cliched shot where Character A sits alone in a room with the TV on nearby. Character A is distracted, perhaps even upset or depressed. Yet the laugh track rolls on.

I'm worried about my wife. Worried that she won't get enough sleep, worried that she won't get any sleep, worried that it'll adversely affect her day tomorrow. I don't want that for her. I want each day to be a joy - or as much of a joy as it can be - and I know a lack of sleep will prevent that from happening. She, much more than me, needs her sleep.

Don't worry, she says, it happens sometimes. You can't do anything, she says a minute later, so there's no reason for you to worry.

But I do. She's my wife. I'm supposed to worry - even as the laugh track plays on.

I'm glad someone's carefree.

-- TEAM TALLY: I covered the Washington Nationals' opener on Monday, writing a column from a 9-2 loss to the Florida Marlins. It means little in the grand scheme of things for the Nats - only that they're 0-1 - but it meant a little more to me.

It meant that I've now seen, in person, every team in the National League East. The Marlins had eluded me for some time; I had plenty of chances to see them when they came to Philly, and had even better chances since 2005, when they came to D.C., too.

For reasons I don't quite understand, I keep a mental tally of these sorts of things. (I guess it's a bigger deal for us small-fry sportswriters.) So, for posterity, I'll give you my complete list of teams I've actually seen in person, either as a fan or while working - NFL and MLB teams only, since those are the sports I cover primarily.

National League: Atlanta, Florida, New York, Philadelphia, Washington (East); Cincinnati, Houston, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, St. Louis (Central); Arizona, Colorado, San Diego, San Francisco (West).

American League: Baltimore, Boston, New York, Toronto (East); Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, Minnesota (Central); Oakland, Seattle (West).

NFC: Dallas, New York, Philadelphia, Washington (East); Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota (North); Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Tampa Bay (South); Arizona, Seattle, St. Louis (West).

AFC: New England, New York (East); Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee (South); San Diego (West).

Sunday, April 01, 2007

To my good friend, Tara

I know, it's been a while since I checked in. Truth is, life has been extremely hectic lately, for both Linds and I: Linds rarely gets home before 7 p.m. As for me, I've had one quiet week since mid-February.

Some of the wounds were self-inflicted, mind you, like this news-side story I volunteered to do. After talking to the financial analysts I mention in the third section, I realized how completely over my head it all was. And next week, I've got a Nats game (hey, it's the regular season!) and back-to-back trips to Richmond for Cup testing.

But that's next week. For now, I'm focusing on the comforts of the weekend, and that often means visits from friends. Often as in tonight.

As always, we were honored to have several good friends drop by tonight: Andrew and Rebecca, Dave and Tara. Linds, Rebecca and Tara have been friends for years, predating me by a good margin. Luckily, Andrew, Dave and I all get along, a situation for which I'm very thankful and appreciative.

Anyway, Tara lets it slip that she manages to check in here from time to time. But all the talk of aviation and such is of no interest to her. Apparently, to get a comment out of her, I've got a write a blog about her.

So that's what I intend to do.

If you're looking for anything juicy, though, forget it. I can only report good things about Tara.
I can't remember the first time we met; perhaps she can (if she leaves a comment). But since then, I've gotten nothing but an open-arm welcome from her whenever I saw her.

And that's not always an easy deal. Some guy comes along and threatens to take away one of your best friends...maybe not take away, but at least steal substantial time from.

Sure, she could have been pissed about this I suppose, but she wasn't. Every time I got to hang with her, it started the same way, with that giant smile of hers.

I wish I could give you more specific examples, but the alcohol of the night is ma
king that tremendously difficult. Suffice it to say that I could not be prouder to count her among my friends. She's a great friend, and only a blind man would miss that.

It might sound random of me to come here and sing someone's praises so loudly. Perhaps it almost sounds like I was being paid off.

Truth be told, Tara was, in fact, paying me. All those hands of Texas Hold 'Em added up the same effect: My chip stack was huge, and I didn't hold back. "Come to papa" was a common refrain.

It almost felt like she couldn't stop giving me money, you know?

I say this in jest, of course. The real story of Tara comes about five grafs ago: good time, good company and good fun.

That's what I've come to expect from her and love about her. A quick-wit with a great sense of humor.

Tara, please feel free to tell me if I'm misrepresenting you. I have a feeling that I'm not, however.