Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Looking Into You

Well I looked into a house I once lived in
Round the time I first went on my own
When the roads were as many as the places I had dreamed of
And my friends and I were one

You never know when something strange will decide to happen to you. The other week, I was jack hammering up a section of my floor in the basement to clear the way for the installation of new drain lines for a bathroom I am adding in the basement. I decided to take a coffee break from the hard work and soak in a bit of the day’s news from the ink spread across the Star Tribune and noticed a black Toyota pulling up to park outside my window. A short, happy-looking woman with closely cropped hair, somewhere in her late fifties or early sixties, emerged from the vehicle and started to walk up my steps and front walkway, distractedly looking at the landscaping and neighboring houses. I greeted her at the door as anyone would in this sort of situation, with a hesitant “Umm, can I help you?”

“Hi,” she replied, “my name is Joanne and I grew up in this house.”

Now the distance is done
And the search has begun
I’ve come to see where my beginnings have gone

Joanne came inside and looked around the room. She asked if I was renting the place (the previous owners had rented to college aged kids during the last few years they owned the place) and I told her no, that I had purchased the property in late 2006 and was working on fixing up the place. Joanne informed me that she was in town from Dallas for a class reunion at Holy Angeles and couldn’t resist stopping by to see the place. She talked about how much she loved the dark woodwork in the living room, how her brother had sunk himself for weeks on end into fixing up the place after her father had died in 2001, how expensive it was to replace the foundation after they had discovered it was in poor structural shape.

As we wandered about the room, Joanne remarked how her father had watched his tools like a hawk. She talked about how painful her father’s death had been and how hard it hit her family.

All the walls and the windows were still standing
And the music could be heard at the door
Where the people who kindly endured my odd questions
Asked if I came very far

I took Joanne downstairs and showed her the projects I had been working on, how I was updating the basement to add a bedroom, bathroom and media room. She was impressed and laughed that her family had always joked about her father adding a bathroom out on the porch, something that is even more laughable given the current state of my porch (not good). Joanne said that even more than the house, what she missed was the neighborhood; that she remembered a happy childhood with good friends, running through the yards of the houses up and down the block, each one filled with people that cared about and supported each other.

She talked about the flower and vegetable competitions her father would have with the neighbors, how she and her friends would take their bikes down to Lake Nokomis to go swimming in the summer time, and how cold she remembered it being waiting for the bus to take her to school. As she was walking out the door, Joanne turned to me and said “I’m not sure if this sort of thing is important to you or not, the vibe of a place. But if it is, you should know that you are living in a place with great memories, where people loved each other very much for a long time.”

Well we spoke the changes that would find us farther on
And it left me so warm and so high
But as I stepped back outside to the grey morning sun
I heard that highway whisper and sigh
Are you ready to fly?

It seems to me that people seek out their origins for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes it’s to see that the things they remember still exist, that the world as they knew it is still reality in some small way. Sometimes it’s to remember something that it seems the rest of the world has moved on from with little or no care, something lost that cannot be replaced. And still others some sort of smeary in-between, less defined, but no less powerful.

Nothing lasts forever – that seems to be the lesson of looking back, of revisiting where you come from. We are doomed with the knowledge that eventually the people we love will die, the things we have accomplished will be forgotten, and the places we have lived will crumble. I guess in the face of such hopelessness, sometimes it’s good to see that some part of who, what, and where you have been is still standing.

And I looked into the faces all passing by
It’s an ocean that will never be filled
And a house the grows older
And finally crumbles
That even love cannot rebuild

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Commuting in a World of $4 Gas

I've started riding my bike to work. It takes me right around 30 minutes to peddle my way to St. Louis Park, almost all of it on paths and avoiding riding in traffic.

This is the route I would normally drive to work:

View Larger Map

This means that every time I ride my bike, I'm avoiding 18.4 miles of car travel. I'm hoping to track my progress on a new blog soon, but so far I've bike commuted 2 days, which means 36.8 miles of car commute avoided.

It's a start!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Lakers & Celtics Game 1, Part Deux

And now a follow-up live blog of the second half:
  • Uh oh, Pierce goes down. Of course, will we see Pierce make a dramatic comeback to inspire his team? This injury has the same feeling as when Bird banged his head and came back, or when Magic sprained his ankle against Ohio State in 79 then came back. Could spell trouble for the Lakers.
  • The NBA needs to step up enforcement of the moving screen penalty. Seriously, every pick PJ Brown sets is moving. Pretty easy for Ray Allen to get open when he has a fullback blocking for him as he darts around the court.
  • Yeahp, here comes Pierce. Crap. Of course, I'm not sure he was out long enough to warrant a full fledged "holly crap, Pierce is playing with a life-threatening shrapnel wound, I better step it up so we don't lose this game" from his teammates.
  • Kobe's hang time on the alley-oop from Fisher with 2:50 to play in the 3rd was simply unreal. What an athlete.
  • And Kobe follows it up with a double teamed, hand in his face, falling away from the basket 20 footer. The man is an assassin.
  • Two big threes from Pierce to put Boston up 4. Pierce is a warrior, no doubt about that, and he would be truly unstoppable if he didn't let himself get psyched out by other players.
  • Through the end of the third, Boston is maintaining a big lead in rebounds, 33-21. It's actually kind of surprising they aren't up by more than 4.
  • Is it just me or is the split screen ABC commercial with Kobe and KG about liking the "fear" kind of ridiculous? Does anybody see that commercial and think KG is anywhere near as ready as Kobe is? I mean, I love the Big Ticket, but there's a reason he's never been to the finals before and Kobe has 3 rings.
  • Why exactly was that not a back court violation? Because Garnett jumped in the air? So if you make contact with the ball in the backcourt after going over the line but happen to be jumping it's allowed? I never knew that.
  • OK we need to officially nickname PJ Brown "The Fullback." Can the Vikings look at teaming him up with Adrian Peterson in the fall? I suppose the danger would be that he would set an NFL record for holding penalties in a season. Unreal.
  • The Lakers sure are having trouble executing offensively down the stretch. When you have Gasol, Odom, and Bryant on your team and you are consistently having Ronny Turiaf and Sasha Vujacic take shots, it's time for a timeout.
  • 2 minutes to go and Kobe has only scored 2 in the fourth quarter? Tough to believe the Lakers will pull this one out.
  • And Garnett gets the follow-up dunk of his life. How does Gasol not box him out on that play? That's gonna be a youtube classic.
  • And it's all over, the Celtics take a classic game one to start this series off.
Wow. If the first game is any indication, this looks like it will be a monster of a series. Biggest questions remaining from tonight's game (and my predictions):
  • Have the Celtics stopped Kobe or was he just not hitting?
    • Umm, definitely the latter.
  • Can anyone in the Laker front-court keep KG off the boards?
    • Not looking like it.
  • Will the Celtics continue to get the kind of production off the bench they got tonight?
    • Doubtful, but Cassell has come through on a big stage before.
  • What defensive adjustments will Phil Jackson make to contain Paul Pierce?
    • Continue to force Pierce to be a jump shooter, tonight's strong showing from outside was an aberration.
  • Will Eddie House's son see more playing time than Eddie?
    • More than likely, yes.
  • Is Luke Walton going to make any impact off the bench?
    • At home? Absolutely. On the road? Hopefully he can D-up and pull down some rebounds.
  • Will Ronny Turiaf resort to his normal Rastafarian dreads after the Duncan MacLeod pony tail didn't work?
    • Man I hope so.
Things are off to a great start!

The NBA The Way It Was Meant To Be

Thought's on tonight's first half between Boston and LA:
  • Kobe Bryant doesn't panic, he waits...
  • Gasol's talent as a low-post scorer could really hurt KG's ability to rotate and protect the rim from the weakside because it's harder to rotate another defender to cover him as the Celtics did against Rasheed Wallace. Key stat for Garnett from the first half: zero blocks.
  • Pierce cannot get into foul trouble in this series, he's far to important to Boston's offense. They really struggled to score with Pierce off the court.
  • Rebounding the ball and holding it above your head for the outlet pass is really a lost art in the NBA and dramatically reduces the effectiveness of team's transition offense. Compare the way Odom, Gasol, Garnett, and Perkins rebound the ball to the way Kareem, McHale, Bird, and Rambis rebounded the ball.
  • Rajon Rondo is completely outclassed by Derek Fisher in this series. It really isn't even close.
  • Score at halftime: 51-46 Lakers. Another fiercely competitive game between the Lakers and Celtics for the title. Does it get any better than this?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Gopher Gloom

Ahh, what a satisfying Friday evening in Minneapolis! Tonight, Kyle Sexton (K-Sex), Caboose, Mom, Pops, and I attended the Gopher Spring game. I must admit, I was really looking forward coming into tonight's game to seeing some of the Juco recruits picked up by Brewster & Co. during the off season and seeing how various players had developed. Overall, tonight's inter-squad scrimmage was a bit of a snooze and didn't provide much in terms of confidence for the coming season. Some thoughts:
  • The Gophers were wise to recruit all those wide receivers. Judging by how slow our current receiver corps looked against our defensive secondary we will need all the speed Vincent Hill and Brandon Green can provide, although it should be noted starting WR Erik Decker was not playing tonight.
  • Gophers and quarterbacks do not mix. Webber was unimpressive. Mortenson was disappointing. Pittman was injured. Brewster was unpolished. Marqueis Gray was still in Indiana. Suffice to say, tonight's game did not leave me confident about our QB situation.
  • The D-line is showing promise. Anthony Jacobs has bulked up to a solid 285 and if he can maintain the speed that made him an elite defensive end recruit back in 2007, he should be a monster in pass rushing downs. Derrick Onwuachi looked good at right defensive end. VanDeSteeg looks to have recovered from last year's broken wrist and should provide good balance to the line. If we can get some size at the defensive tackle position, the line should be much improved from last year.
  • Can Duane Bennett stay healthy? No doubt he's quick and has some good moves to shake tackles, but I keep getting the feeling he's about 10 pounds too light to survive the Big Ten season intact.
  • We need corners. Marcus Sherels showed promise tonight, but Ryan Collado seems hopelessly lost. Hopefully Traye Simmons, Tim Dandridge, and Simoni Lawrence can make big contributions as freshmen.
  • Ben Kuznia was an animal tonight. I'm putting the over/under at him being second team All Big Ten in 2008 at 40%.
  • The linebackers looked solid. Sam Maresh, Gary Tinsley, and Spencer Reeves should make this group even better.
  • Harold Howell fumbled the first punt of the game and allowed an interception on his next time out on the field. Yikes.
Let's hope the new freshmen can provide some much needed talent to this team!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Recent Reading

A few links to some reading over the past week:

Memo to Petraeus & Crocker
A thought provoking opinion piece on the recent testimony by the lead General in Iraq. Interesting how even the business of murder can be made PC.

Bill Simmons' LVP to MVP - Part I & Part II
The section on Tim Thomas has to be the highlight, though the Sports Guy's love letter to KG is a sobering reminder of what a joy it was to watch him play for the Wolves. However, I think Simmons missed an opportunity to pay tribute to the Celtics true MVP this year: Kevin McHale.

Denver Post Column on the Minnesota Wild
Personally, I loved this column. Think about it: when was the last time Minnesota had a professional sports team that had a reputation for being tough? The 60s? I find it comforting that others view the Wild as a tough team willing to muscle their way to victory. Plus, think of all the shots this leaves open to take on the Avalanche. I think my colleague Licia summed it up best: "If they don't want to get hit then they shouldn't play hockey. Maybe they could play ladies rules against the Canadian women's team, that might be more their speed." Ouch.

Survival of the Richest
Normally I don't agree with Kiyosaki's columns, but this one is a reasonably concise explanation of why the Fed bailout of Bear Stearns was such an unbelievable move. Worth at least a quick read.

The Next Five Years
An interesting blog post I stumbled upon about Eric Case quitting the Blogger team and moving on to other adventures. A good reminder that no matter how comfortable things get, it's OK to keep your eye on the horizon and follow your heart.

So THAT'S why the Wolves Suck
It all seems so simple: the Wolves have terrible players. Why does Kevin McHale still have a job? Why?

Seriously, why?

Financial Inequality in 2008
It's unreal how much greed can continue to exist despite all of the troubles faced by the middle and working classes over the past decades. Don't forget, if you think you're rich, you're not. Remember this in November.

Happy reading everybody and get ready to enjoy a spectacular year for the NBA playoffs!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Poetic Finish

Every so often, we get reminded why some flaws are referred to as "fatal;" we get reminded that a critical weakness can rise up and snatch defeat from the claws of victory, leave us confused and despondent and wondering what went wrong, how we blew our chance at glory.

Last Monday night, the Memphis Tigers showed us all how fatal a single flaw can be.

Coming into the tournament, Memphis was widely considered one of the most talented teams in the country. They spent the season utterly dominating their opposition: UConn by 11, Arkansas State by 21, Marshall by 23, and on and on. Led by All-American Chris Douglas-Roberts, outstanding freshman Derrick Rose, and senior Joey Dorsey, the Memphis Tigers were the complete package both offensively and defensively. They could run the fast break, score in a half court set, shot the three well, could defend teams that scored from both the guard and post positions, and rarely made mistakes or turnovers that cost them games. On the eve of March Madness, the Tigers appeared to be an invincible juggernaut destined to make NCAA history as the winningest team of all time.


During the season, Memphis had revealed a critical weakness: their ability to make free throws. In fact, Memphis ranked 329th out of 341 teams in their statistical ability to cash in at the charity stripe, converting only 61.3% of their attempts throughout the season. While it is not unusual to see players, especially more defensive minded centers and forwards, shoot this bad of an individual percentage, for a team of Memphis' stature to shoot this bad collectively is truly a staggering display of lapsed concentration. To put this in perspective, the Tigers shot less than 15% worse from the field, when the other team was allowed to play defense!

Many speculated that free throw shooting would be the undoing of the Memphis Tigers in the Tournament, but much to the critics chagrin, the team seemed to miraculously reverse course. 74% against Michigan State. 83% against Texas. 87% against UCLA. By all appearances, Memphis had found their stroke from the free-throw line at precisely the right time. Some said they had heard their critics and were rising to answer them, others that the magnitude of the event was causing the Memphis players to perform at a higher level. Regardless of the explanation, all considered the Tigers' free-throw dilemma solved and predicted a national championship and a place in the record books. But as Galadriel once said, they were all of them, deceived...

As the final game against the Jayhawks of Kansas stretched on, Memphis found themselves up by nine points with approximately 2 minutes to play, victory seemingly assured if they could hit their free-throws and crush any hope of a comeback left in the Kansas players. It was at this moment that the basketball gods turned their back on the Tigers, abandoned them to fend for themselves, and trip after trip to the line was met with a resounding *clank*. Taunted and tormented, the Memphis players looked around wildly for answers, but the truth was inescapable: it was time to pay the piper for their free-throw sins that had gathered and compounded throughout the year. Like a script from Hoosiers, the Jayhawks proceeded to make a stunning comeback, capped by Mario Chalmers incredible three-pointer with virtually no time remaining. Kansas would go on to clinch the title in overtime and Memphis would be left to wonder about what went wrong and what could have been.

In hindsight, it's almost poetic how the Tigers' free-throw collapse cost them a national title. Their one Achilles heel, their inability to stop, concentrate, and execute, rose up to bite them on the biggest of all possible stages. Almost like it was fate.

Anyway, there's tons of great analysis out there for this game so I won't continue further. Hope everybody enjoyed the wild finish to a great year of March Madness!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Night Frank's Bracket Died

And I was singing
Toast, toast, my bracket is toast
I was feelin brash, talkin trash
But now I've no right to boast
It all slipped away while I watched Memphis coast
Sayin oh my gosh my bracket is toast
Oh my gosh my bracket is toast

And just like that, my hopes of a respectable finish in my various pools slipped away as Kansas and Memphis advanced into the Elite Eight. Memphis simply took the wood to Michigan State in the first half, leading by 30 at the half. Some thoughts from tonight.
  1. Just like Georgetown, Wisconsin was significantly bigger than Davidson on the block yet, bafflingly, couldn't get much scoring production down low (Stiemsma, Butch, and Landry were a combined 6 of 16 for the game). Whatever Davidson is doing to keep their opponents bigs from scoring in the paint, let's hope they can find a way to keep it up against Kansas.
  2. If the T-Wolves by some miracle end up with the first or second pick of the draft, they should take Derrick Rose over Michael Beasley. I just don't see Beasley complementing Jefferson very well and Rose would be a beast in the backcourt with Foye and Brewer, with McCants coming off the bench for scoring. So a starting lineup of Jefferson, Foye, Rose, Brewer, and a more defensive minded F/C. That starts to sound promising...
  3. Glen Dorsey is a chump. Only a chump would trash talk a guard after an open court dunk in a game where his team is leading by 20+.
  4. I can admit it, I was completely wrong about my prediction that Wisconsin would make the Final Four.
  5. Brook Lopez had a pretty good game tonight even though Stanford lost. Get ready for the local papers to hype him up when the Wolves miss out on Beasley & Rose and end up taking Lopez with the third pick. (Frank slams head into wall)
Anyway, a disappointing night of blowouts. Rory is back in town from Iraq so the Caboose & I are driving to Marshfield tomorrow to visit for his welcome back party. Be sure to check out his blog (Duty, Honor, Country) for some of his tales from the front.