Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Annual Rosewood Crawfish Festival

Today it was a gorgeous day and we went to the annual Rosewood Crawfish Festival, less than a mile walk away from our house.

It was a nice, efficient little festival with various foods and Bud Light on tap. But of course, I had to try the Crawfish:

I split this 2.5 pound "serving" with Professor X (Paul being allergic and the girl having zero interest to crawfish) and it was just right. It ends up being a lot of work eating these, so by the time I made my way to the end, I felt close to full.  Thankfully there were vendors selling big ice cream cones to top it off.

One of the highlights of the festival was a musical performance by Eve6.  According to the Free Times, Columbia's Crawfish Festival was the 2nd stop on their first tour in years.  Remember "Inside Out"?

Want to put my tender
heart in a blender
watch it spin 'round into a beautiful oblivion

Unfortunately the girl didn't, so we had little gumption to stay.  But it was a great way to spend an afternoon on a gorgeous day.  Definitely looking forward to next year's festival.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Royal Wedding

I didn't think I'd have any interest in watching the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine but I ended up flipping it on when I got up.  The girl had grand plans to get up early to watch it because one of her friends is an apparent Anglophile and was planning on watching it.  But, no surprise to me, she didn't have the same pull at 5am herself.  Fortunately she has the modern convenience of the DVR.

I remember being curious enough about the Prince Charles and Diana wedding 30 years ago and getting up before dawn to watch it.  I also remember being surprised that something so romantic in concept could be so incredibly boring, stiff, and drawn out.  And that I actually got up so early to witness it.  Frankly, what I also very clearly remember at the time of Prince Charles' engagement, was the big hullabaloo about how the bearer of future heirs to the throne had to enter marriage a virgin.  And my recollection is, that there was an official confirmation of it back then.  Well, it's either a good sign of progressiveness or privacy but I'm relieved that it wasn't a part of the news this year.  Because let's face it, Catherine wasn't a 19-year-old preschool teacher when she got engaged.

Anyhoo, today I managed to wake up in time to watch William and Catherine's slow exit from the cathedral and I have to say, I really liked her dress.  The silhouette reminded me of the wedding gown Julie Andrews wore in "The Sound of Music" when she got married and the actual style with the lace overlay over the bustier frame was an obvious nod to the gown Grace Kelly wore in her wedding to Prince Rainier.

I caught a highlight reel on CNN of the actual ceremony and I loved the little smirk Catherine reflexively gives when William says "for richer or poorer".  I'm sure she was so relieved that she reined in a b!tch, please eyeroll during that part of the vows. And soon, they will be off on their honeymoon.  Am I the only one who finds that ironic?  Isn't their Royal lives the stuff honeymoons are made of?

Anybody else watch some of this?  I have a feeling this marriage is going to be a lot more quiet, and hopefully happier and more fulfilling, than the one I got up before dawn 30 years ago.

Monday, April 25, 2011

And there's more!

I got a Fedex of more loot!

Including the absolutely lovely little scrapbook and some great stickers.  I love it.  Thank you!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bday weekend

I was psyched to spend my birthday doing one of my favorite activities: feasting. Paul and the girl got a bunch of fancy eats at The Gourmet Shop:

The Haribo Fruit Salad was my favorite candy and I loved the Idiazabal cheese (it's like a softer version of Parmesan but also has a smoky and buttery essence) and of course, the smoked salmon and bagels!

I even got to enjoy some caviar!  The best part is that these were all treats that I really wouldn't feel right getting myself but when I'm gifted with it--I gotta enjoy it!

I was thrilled to receive this birthday gift from my friend Linda--can't wait to cash it in next time I'm in SoCal!

And I received these wonderful gifts from Opa & Oma, Nana, and my sister and her family:

A VERY happy birthday for me!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tax Refund Hubris

As soon as I got excited about our impending tax refund, my car decided to overheat and need a new fan assembly.  And then the girl had her first orthodontic appointment here in SoCar--and he says she needs thousands of dollars worth of braces.

So though I briefly fantasized about putting the down payment on a car that would be perhaps a decade newer than our '92 and '99 Hondas, it looks like it'll be the down on the girl's braces.

Oh well, her smile is worth much more than a car made in the 21st century.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Another favorite iPhone app: PS Express

I love the simple efficiency of PS Express (aka PhotoShop Express). And to top it off, it's FREE. I use it frequently, especially for quick edits of pix for my blog or when I resend to friends.

Say, I've got a pic of me and Linda's big, Ethan:

I've got some of my key options on this pull-down:

I use Crop pretty often to cut out extraneous distractions in a pic or to bring a more flattering focus on the people in the picture.  I also manage to use Rotate often--somehow a good number of my pix end up being landscape when I thought I was taking it in Portrait or vice versa--this is an easy quick fix here in PS Express.

I use Exposure pretty often because my 3G doesn't have flash and this is the easiest way to lighten up (or darken) a pic.  And Black & White makes a nice, simple B&W conversion--done.

But one of my favorite effects is "Sketch":

Which turns your pic into a cute cartoon. You're welcome, I just saved you at least 99 cents from purchasing one of those Picture to Toon apps.

This is probably one of my most frequent go-to photo apps.  Not really exciting but very useful.  And free!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Crafty Sunday

The girl and I spent some time crafting stuff today, though we're kind of learning as we go along when it comes to jewelry making. I found this owl charm and was playing around with it:

In the end, I decided to make a ring out of it after popping in some topaz colored crystals for the eyes:

The girl made these friendship necklaces--she just tied the ends to clasps, but I'm pretty sure we're supposed to be crimping them:

I took an old scrapbooking charm and made a necklace and found these coils that crimp around the cord and make for nice looking closures:

I think this is the finest piece of jewelry I've made yet.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

New Experiences Saturday

We started off Saturday morning checking out a local farmer's market. Even though I've never cooked them, I got bags of Swiss Chard and baby Collards from here:

I heard they're healthy, but I really don't have any idea how to prepare them. I'll have to google/Martha Stewart/epicurious/Real Simple it. We also got these zesty salad greens with the orange flowers:

From City Roots, this local self-sustaining farm here in Columbia.

And we also picked up a block of tomato basil cheese from a local dairy, Happy Cow:

We pretty much ate the cheese when we got back. In the afternoon, we were invited out to a shooting range with Professor X:

Coming from a university neighborhood in Irvine where guns weren't even allowed, the girl was a bit apprehensive, understandably.  I told her that this didn't mean we were going to get a gun, but that this was an opportunity to learn something new.  And the more you learn, the more prepared you may be for new situations in life.

She offered dryly, "You mean like if there was a time machine and I was suddenly transported to the Old West?"

"Well, let me give you an alternative scenario."  I said.  "What if this city was over-ridden by zombies and you managed to get yourself to a gun store.  You'll want to have known how to load, aim, and shoot a gun in that situation, right?"


"Or think of this analogy. Even though most cars are automatic, there are still some cars with manual transmissions--like our old Mazda. And even though both our current cars are automatic it would be smart for you to know how to drive stick. Say you have a friend that drives you to a party and she gets sick. You want to drive her home but her car is a stick! See?!"

"Or if the party is overrun by zombies and the only car to escape in is a stick."


Anyhoo, at the shooting range, we were both thrown off by how loud it was (it was indoors) despite our earphones. Between that and the fact that neither of us had shot real bullets--getting muffled instructions on loading a .22 caliber rifle was a bit surreal.  Fortunately, it had very little kickback so the girl was okay with it.

I managed to get all my 8 bullets in the red zone but not quite on the "X". I hope it doesn't take such precision to take down a zombie:

Paul was more familiar with rifles, having had some experience growing up in Nebraska:

Funny, I would have thought there'd be more than three rules:

Professor X also let me and Paul try his .44 Magnum revolver.  Unfortunately I was total novice holding it:

As evidenced by my bruised thumb and gunpowder detritus:

Also, this .44 magnum has a LOT more kick than the .22 rifle.  It was like a little cannon, complete with a burst of fire out of the barrel.  I have to admit, the firepower of this revolver was pretty intimidating and nearly jumped out of my hands.  Or it might have been me nearly jumping out of my skin.  Needless to say one round of it was enough for me.  Going back to the .22 was nearly like a toy afterward.

It was interesting to look around and see that it was somewhat a diverse group in the shooting range.  It was mostly men, but age and race varied.  There were a few couples, include a young one in matching USC Gamecock t-shirts.  There was also a father and his two teen kids in the booth next to us and I have to say, whatever the dad was firing was crazy loud--I want to say louder than the .44 revolver.

Also I would say the attitudes varied as well.  On the one hand, there was Professor X who not only had the unloaded .44 magnum in a locked case, but also an additional lock around the trigger.  Then on the other hand, there was a car in the parking lot with a bumper sticker that said "Keep Honking, I'm Reloading".

We finished out the day with a nice salmon dinner at The Mediterranean Tea Room:

A great way to end a day of new experiences.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A little better

I got a full night's rest after my tax/Bossypants near all-nighter and caught up with some more positive stories this week:

My faith in humanity was restored a bit reading how the former tour manager of NOM, Louis Marinelli, now supports marriage equality.  NOM (National Organization for Marriage) has been one of the biggest opponents of marriage equality for gay and lesbian Americans. In his own words, Marinelli expresses how he "came to understand that gays and lesbians were just real people who wanted to live real lives and be treated equally as opposed to, for example, wanting to destroy American culture. No, they didn’t want to destroy American culture, they wanted to openly particulate in it."

What I really appreciate is that he allowed himself to experience, think, and change, especially for one who was leading a charge in one direction.  To take a huge step in the opposite direction took courage and heart on his part and I really respect that he made such a bold statement.  As we get older, some things get fixed like a bad habit and harder to change.  This brings me hope that we (totally including me) can allow ourselves to keep learning and growing no matter where we are in our life's journey because it appears that we're not done when we think we are.

I also welcome that his story isn't some overwrought "gays are my best friends now" piece, because it's not about that, it's about American civil rights.  In my post opposing Prop 8 in California (Prop 8 proposed defining marriage solely between a man and a woman in the state constitution--this proposition is currently in the middle of appeals), I mentioned that everyone will have personal beliefs of who is appropriate for marriage based on religion, race, and sexual orientation, but such discrimination shouldn't be legalized.  Marinelli, in his interview, stated, "I personally do not agree with homosexuality and without any shame will continue to uphold my belief that homosexuality itself presents a public health concern due to the sexual diseases that are associated with it and that spread rapidly as a result of it."  But "Having said that, the health issues facing promiscuous homosexual men is irrelevant to the issue of same-sex marriage."  Despite that some may find these personal statements carrying an anti-gay sentiment incongruous, I give him credit that he can recognize the line between his personal creed and legalizing discrimination against marriage equality. 

Because I think that somehow the message became "If you support marriage equality than you think all gays and lesbians are awesome and should enjoy watching them make out" and it's not.  Because I'll be the first to say that some gays are the most obnoxious jerks I've ever met--honestly, they're annoyingly as bad as the straight ones.  But here in the US, we don't legalize discrimination against religion or race even though we may have personal prejudices and opinions--likewise, we shouldn't be legalizing marriage discrimination against gays.

Okay I'll get off my soapbox.

And get on this smaller one:

I'm digging Lady Gaga's taking a stance against plastic surgery, which she feels "promotes insecurity". Sadly, this is a refreshing voice, given how plastic surgery is sought by younger and younger women, rearranging beautiful natural faces and bodies.  For what?  The worst part is there seems to be a homogenous look--is there only one mold that all plastic surgeons share?  That 20-something reality star who had 10 surgeries looks the same as a 40-something year old woman with the same work--now they both look like a 50-something woman who had work done.  Given that Lady Gaga is only 25, though, I guess time will tell how long she'll embrace that choice, but I'm totally rooting for her.

I'm also digging that Adele doesn't worry about her weight. She's one of the few female music artists who breaks through on talent--pretty much a rarity these days.  She says, "Even if I had a really good figure, I don't think I'd get my t!ts and a$$ out for no one...I don’t make music for eyes, I make music for ears.” Totally love that music lovers that made her album, "21", platinum agree.

I'm closing this post on another encouraging note and recommend purchasing "Songs for Japan" on Amazon or iTunes. Proceeds benefit Japan's recovery from their triumvirate of disasters--how did one news reporter describe it? Something like "the Thailand tsunami, Haiti earthquake, and Chernobyl combined". And this is one of the easiest ways to help out because you get 38 songs for $10 (or less if you get the mp3 version). It's a huge mix, something for everyone, including some remixes and live versions. Honestly, it's win-win.  Hey why do I have Shakira's "Whenever, Wherever" blasting on my iPhone?  Because it's awesome. AND I did it for disaster recovery in Japan.  See?  Win-Win.

Have a super weekend everyone!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Is lack of sleep supposed to make me ranty?

I pounded through taxes--which I was dreading somewhat because of the move, but in the end, all doable and rewarding--refund! I also couldn't put down "Bossypants" and read 30% (according to Kindle) of it last night making it a near all-nighter. Unfortunately, this resulted in not getting much sleep. In years past, lack of energy and sleepiness during the day were just part of the fallout.

Lack of sleep and near delirium used to fuel my opinionated reasoning and power up rants, where exhaustion should instead be subduing them. In years past I would blow up about minutiae, like when Savage Garden's "Truly, Madly, Deeply" would play on the radio:

Me (groaning): UGH! What a waste of a clever name. I've said that before, right?

Paul (recognizing this rant, sighing): I know...

Me: I mean, I get that it's a popular song. I'm sure there are a bunch of young women hoping this is the song their groom chooses for their wedding...

P: uh, huh...

Me: But jeez, if your name is Savage Garden--shouldn't the song have a touch more depth?! I mean, I'm not asking for profound gravitas here!

P: sure...

Me: But for God's sake, how about NOT being full of cliches? "I want to stand with you on a mountain"?! PLEASE! Can this song use the word "wish" or "dream" MORE?! Is this song TRYING to be a Disney movie song? Hey guys, why don't you use "magic castle" or "chestnut ponies" in this song while you're at it?! ARGH!

P: right...

Me: Am I being ridiculous here?! The band's name is "Savage" Garden! There is nothing, NOTHING! "SAVAGE" about them! Not even complex or...YEESH! Is the name supposed to be doubly-ironic?! GAAAAAAH! You know what they SHOULD be CALLED?!

P: (sighing) wiener garden.
Me: (shrieking) WIENER GARDEN!

Anyhoo, I'm hoping that was then, this is now. But today I was really annoyed to hear so much snarkiness came from the picture of Scarlett Johansson (that I appreciated as being refreshingly "real") that her rep had defend against snide comments that "wondered" if she's pregnant.

Great. Have we just nailed the coffin that young women need to be constantly lithe and thin? Now is her rep going to convince Johansson to slim down, wear more flattering workout clothes, and more acceptable running shoes in the next photo op? I really hope not because I would bet good money that Sean Penn's rep is not phoning him to slim down, get a decent haircut, and wipe the "Curmudgeon McGrumpy" expression while he's running. You know why? Because his rep would just respond, "Hey, he's running, a$$holes!"

And though I get that this may not be most flattering pic of Johansson, it's totally reasonable not to look red-carpet ready when you're doing non-red-carpet things like grocery shopping and exercising. We accept that reality with him, why not her?

Okay, maybe I'm still extra-ranty with lack of sleep but I'll end there before I go on more. I'll go to bed early and hope that I'll be nicer (or at least more mellow) in the morning...

Cranking on taxes

Cranking on taxes (and by that I mean, I'm finally installing the 2010 version), which is a little difficult with this excellent distraction gifted to my Kindle:

Thank you to the Js for a welcome diversion!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Well let me just quote the late-great Colonel Sanders

who said..."I'm too drunk to taste this chicken."

Except for me instead of drunk it's sunburn.

I've learned that sunburn is scarily like baking--even when you take cookies out of the oven, they continue to cook and apparently, so does my body after it's been in the sun for a spell.  I don't know what the human equivalent would be to removing cookies from the pan onto a cooling rack to stop the baking, but my skin continued to get red through the night after the day at the beach.  And cruelly, it itches.  Cruel because trying to relieve it with even the gentlest pressure is like asking Wolverine to scratch it after you've pissed him off.  And then any material feels like sandpaper or burlap so even wearing clothes is painful.  Even my hair touching my sunburned skin is like a coarse broom scrubbing it.  I spent the past few days fairly immobile, hoping to hasten recovery by sealing myself in with Aloe Vera gel.

During these days, a few things broke through the haze:

- Can't wait to read Tina Fey's new book Bossypants.  Added to my Amazon wishlist.  Gaaaahh, love this woman.  Wish I had that book now to get me through the pain.

- Heard that Donald Trump is a possible Republican presidential candidate for 2012.  And that one of his big issues with Obama is whether he was truly born in the US (despite official confirmation).  Man, that is so 2008. 

- Wow.  I guess the Sean Penn and Scarlett Johansson thing is for real?  I saw this pic of them jogging and a number of things flew through my head: 1) I have less a problem with their actual age difference than the fact that his age is practically doubled by his latent grumpiness/sourpuss.  He's not an older Jeff Spicoli, he's a younger Wilford Brimley.  Remember him at the Oscars with his needless defense of Jude Law that just sucked the life out of that auditorium?  He was like the love child of Debby Downer and the old guy in Up before he flies his house off with balloons.  2)  Check out the footwear that Johansson is rocking--the principle of them is like running barefoot and my understanding is it's about cushioned as that glove you smack across the face of a scoundrel who has insulted your honor.  (The girl did a report on it last year so kind of fascinated it's taking off.)  3) Totally appreciating that Johansson has a real body not a crazy skinny one.  4)  What in Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is Owen Wilson doing there?

- Holy crap--Rod Stewart's daughter, Kim, is pregnant by Benicio Del Toro?! Isn't she another of the one of the spoiled offspring of the rich and famous who gets to party, with an option to work? Yeesh, anyone else fall in love with Benicio Del Toro after Traffic? Anyone else fall utterly out of love with him after hearing this news?

- Finally--YIKES!  Taxes are due Friday and TurboTax is still sealed from the time I bought it at Costco 2 months ago. 

AAAAAHHH! Help me Tom Cruise! Tom Cruise, use your witchcraft on me to get the fire off me! 

I guess I should have gotten the Aloe Vera gel with Lidocaine...though watching Talledega Nights kind of eased the pain.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring break and Source Code

Spring break for the girl could be encapsulated by this picture:

Little scheduling or pressure, lots of relaxing.

I did manage to arrange a few get-togethers with her friends that made a few dents in the craft supply, including this necklace the girl made for her friend:

I also took the girl and three of her friends to the beach. I decided on Beachwalker Park on Kiawah/Jones Island. It reminded me a lot of Montauk - very unspoiled, no attractions or snack bar, just restrooms and changing areas and beautiful beach:

Yes that's my hand interrupting an otherwise sweet landscape shot of the beach

The beach was very uncrowded and likely populated by residents. The waves were very mellow which was perfect for a parent trying to watch over four middle-schoolers. We had a great time, despite a steady wind of 10-13 mph, that blew the fine sand everywhere. I'd get up from reading and see a reverse stencil of my body in sand on the blanket. I definitely no longer kicked myself for not charging up the Kindle because it just would have gotten trashed on this beach trip. As it was, so much sand blew into the book I brought, there were times it wouldn't even shut closed.

The only downside? Sunburn. Despite buying 3 tubes and sprays of sunblock, I hadn't warned the kids enough about re-applying, and the only kids not burned were the ones that would allow me to spray it on them myself. I had one kid who claimed that he only got sunburned on his ears and slathered it generously on the sides of his head. SPOILER Alert: he ended up sunburned everywhere else the next day. The cruelest irony is that I was probably the most sunburnt. I didn't bother asking any of the kids to help me with the sunblock and an obvious pattern of where I missed bloomed, including outlines of my hand over each shoulder where I was able to apply sunblock as far as I could.

And to cap off spring break, we squeezed in a movie, Source Code:

Source Code is about soldier who relives the memory of a man in the last eight minutes before the train explodes in an effort to find out who the bomber is and prevent an even bigger attack. It ended up being a great discussion in the car ride back, which to me is a hallmark of a good film, even if the discussion is with three 12-year-olds. We all concurred it was a like "Groundshog Day with Doom". And though the science was very arguable, the personal story of man looking to change his story as well as humanity's in eight minutes was an engaging one. I've seen the director Duncan Jones' other feature film, "Moon" and find a common thread between the two films--a story of isolated man fighting to get back home and re-connect with those he loved, but both were quite different stories. I give "Source Code" a B+ and recommend it.

The girl goes back to school today--hopefully well rested.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Congrats to Texas A&M Women's Basketball Team/Women & Sports

As I watched the women's basketball team of Texas A&M bring an exciting win in the NCAA tournament last night, Twitter was aflutter with remarks on what an enthralling game this was and how this championship game was more exciting than the men's game the night before (though unfortunately,this year's men's game ranked as one of the more abysmal wins, with one of the lowest scoring average of a team as one of its stats).  On the flip side, Twitter was also rich in comments such as "Network TV so lame on Tuesday nights, I'm actually watching the NCAA Women's game".

So here is the question--what does it take to get women's sports elevated to the same level of interest and well, respect, as men's?  To begin with, I understand that not all sports are equally popular.  Here in the US, the NFL generates much larger revenue than the NHL.  And likewise, as much as we were glued to the "Final Four" in basketball, the NCAA Ice Hockey championships run nearly concurrently and feature a "Frozen Four" that goes comparably unnoticed unless you live where ice hockey is hugely popular, i.e., in a state that borders Canada.  So I am not wondering why each sport that women play doesn't get airtime or respect, but more on a corresponding level--why is women tourney dissed in regards to men's?

I also recognize that female athletics have more viewership, interest, and respect on an individual level. According to Forbes, in 2010 top earners for female athletes were Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Danica Patrick, Kim Yu-Na, Annika Sorenstam--all tops in individual sports such as tennis, racing, figure skating, and golf.  To that end, endorsements is one of the more objective measures of popularity--the corporate bottom line isn't interested in generating interest in a particular athlete or gender, it's meant to profit from one that is already a celebrated and in-demand winner.  On a tangential note, despite these ladies making millions in endorsements, there is still a huge gap between the female top earners and male top earners like Tiger Woods and LeBron James.

I can't help but point out a key exception of success of females in individual sports are those in the typically "male" sports that have contact. Wow, still a huge, huge uphill climb. There have been some inroads to rising above the novelty aspects of women's wrestling in the 70s and "foxy boxing" in the 80s with athletes like Laila Ali, Gina Carano, and Cris Cyborg bringing legitimacy to the ring.  The irony is that for the most part, the women participating in the sexified versions, as well as in today's Lingerie Football League, were, and are, true athletes who would rather forgo the costumes and salacious dynamic and just play the sport, but there appears to be a natural disinclination to seeing women get physically hurt without a coat of prurience to wash it down.  I had mentioned in a post a women's MMA fight that I had reckoned would almost send women's MMA back in the closet--it was such an uneven match, that it was stomach-churning to watch this one woman get literally beat-up (albeit by a woman).  To be fair, it would have been equally nauseating to view a comparably uneven male match and see a man pounded to an equivalent pulp.

Ironically, even as a woman who wants to promote women in sports, I only watch women's sports for "the big ones" like this tourney and I have yet to watch a full WNBA game (though frankly, as Paul pointed out, I haven't seen a lot of full NBA games either) or lots of other women's teams or events unless it's for a title.

I can make general guesses at the popularity of men's sports over women's (e.g., baseball over softball, mens's basketball over women's):  the men's games are faster, stronger, and more bombastic and dynamic with the home runs and slam dunks with the entertaining accompanying of chest bumps and roars.  And in a similar vein of women in full-contact sports, it seems that folks in general aren't extolling similar behavior in women, whether they are ripping off their jerseys or chest-bumping (in non-sexy ways, mind you).  But watching the women's Final Four NCAA games was just as exciting as any of the men's tourney games--with lead changes and clutch shots at the end.  I confess that the earlier rounds, however, were much less exciting with double digit point spreads winning out.

So then does it come down to depth of field?  Does women's sports simply lack the depth of field to make it more exciting, where there are a handful of dominating players divided among a handful of teams?  Does it border on becoming a joke or just plain boring that it's always Tennesse, UConn, and Stanford that is expected be crowned national champion in women's basketball?  Gary Blair, Texas A&M's coach, had it right when he said his team winning was one of the best things to happen to women's basketball.--a win by an unexpected team, specifically a team that never even made it to the Final Four before, add a much-needed shakeup to this tournament.

And I agree.  What the women's tourney needs is some more madness.  As one who was not raised in sports, I would say that one thing that has played a big part in increasing my viewership has been the gambling aspect. If I wasn't in a football pool, I highly doubt I would have watched and followed so many NFL games.  I know with the proliferation of fantasy leagues and other pools, I am not the only one.  And what makes the March Madness pool so engaging is that there are so many upsets (yes, I know, REAL upsets). If the Women's tourney ever reach that level of madness, I think the brackets would be more exciting to gamble on and watch.

I realize I kind of rambled in different directions on this (and I have more thoughts) but I'll close out for now, hope I've given some food for thought, and say this:  Congratulations to the Texas A&M Women's basketball team on their NCAA championship win.  I hope this is a sign of exciting seasons to come for women's sports.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Favorite iPhone apps: Words With Friends

I've managed to reference my favorite iPhone game, Words With Friends, plenty, but I wanted to give it it's proper due. First, if you enjoy Scrabble, you're going to love Words With Friends. But instead of sitting at a board for an evening, you're wirelessly playing with someone through your smartphone for a few days (unless both of you are unemployed or have some serious downtime). Each has a set of tiles like Scrabble, and you lay down a word (yes, like Scrabble) and submit it. Then you just wait for your friend to play his or her word.  You can also use a turn to swap tiles or skip a turn straight up if you have nothing (usually done at the end).  It's at a go-at-your-own pace feel, but f you let a number of days (9? 12?) go by without making a move, it'll forcibly resign you.  But overall it's a fairly relaxed pace unless you're addicted to making words. That's where having multiple games going fills that need. Color me addicted.

Second, WWF lets you "try" words: you can put down some letters and if it's a word you'll see it "sending" it or if not, it'll tell you that's it not an "acceptable" word and not let you submit the word. I've learned some surprising acceptable words like "fiz" and "axon" this way. And it negates the need for challenges and dictionaries.  The "dictionary" it uses won't allow words that may be deemed objectionable and I have been frustrated that it took another player's "joyed" but not my "cryer".  Hello, WWF, ever heard of a Town Cryer?!

Finally, it's free!  The downside is you'll see an ad every time you play. Truthfully, given how many games I have going on at once, it was so worth the 99 cents (or $1.99?) at the time to get rid of the ads that sandwiched my moves.

Similar to Scrabble, it slays me when I have a great word and nowhere to put it:

Oh, Ddub..., I'll get you on the rematch.

E-mail me if you want to play me.  I'll be gentle.  At first.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Madness came to Women's NCAA Tourney

As I've mentioned before, I would love to see the Women's NCAA basketball tourney get more attention as the Men's tourney does. One of the keys to that would be some more "madness" in the Women's brackets. I'm guilty of expecting the predictability myself. I started watching the Women's Final Four expecting the two 1-seed teams (Stanford and UConn) to win out and pretty much looked forward to a rematch of a game that broke UConn's NCAA record-setting win streak.

But last night featured two fabulous upsets. The first one being Texas A&M's Aggies crazy win over The Stanford Cardinal. It was an arduous game where Stanford were just not connecting, with plays simply not panning out, bordering on sloppy at times. For Texas A&M, what was clear watching the two teams play together was how much bigger the Stanford players were on each position and on top of that, the long shots that brought the Aggies to the Final Four were not yielding the 3 points they stubbornly aimed for. Still it looked as if Stanford was going to win out, with a lead of up to 10 points in the 2nd half. But in the last 2 minutes, the Aggies narrowed the lead to 1 point. Then in the last minute, came the gripping back in forth as the clock ticked down--the Aggies go up by one on 2 free throws, then back down by one by 2 free throws by Stanford. With 19 seconds to go, the Aggies go back up by one with a lay-up. In the last 9 seconds, Stanford goes back up by one with a lay-up which the Aggies, jaw-droppingly drives it back down and answers back with a lay-up at 4 seconds to go with a final winning score of 63-62.

I tweeted it:

And to add to the unbelievability of it all, Shannon Cross read my tweet LIVE on the air after the game:

Needless to say, I couldn't help but wonder if this was a sign for the next game:

The next game between UConn and Notre Dame was much more polished and it was straight back and forth of great plays and scores being made--I swear there were at least a dozen lead changes in the first half. At half-time, though UConn was up 32-26, I could only picture the coaches saying, "uh, keep doing what you're doing but more of it". The picture changed in less than 10 minutes through the second half when Notre Dame took the lead, and UConn started missing shots and getting fouls called on them. Notre Dame gained a wider lead--at one point, up by 12!--that UConn wasn't able to catch up to. Another upset in the making though everyone was waiting for UConn to pull through. Notre Dame didn't let up and they won, 72-63.

So that leaves a very exciting matchup on Tuesday between Notre Dame (previously an NCAA champ) and Texas A&M (first trip to the Finals). Can the underdog Aggies pull it out one more time? You know I tend to root for the underdog, but this time, for the sake of the NCAA Women's Tournament, I'm also rooting for Madness.