Monday, December 29, 2008

Surviving the Lights of Vegas - Part 2

In our last thrilling episode, we continued our obsession with snow in Portland, which led us to venture down south toward Las Vegas, the land of cheap buffets and slot machines everywhere. We had come up with the idea back in August, which seemed like a great thought, but after knowing what weather was here, well, we got on the plane anyway. We now continue with our regularly scheduled blog entry.

Friday, December 19th - The plane ride was rather uneventful during the first three quarters, as it was filling up with snacks, reading airline magazines full of products and services that I would imagine nobody needs, but somehow they can advertise for them. Sky Mall is one huge magazine of crap that nobody needs, but somebody thought would be a good idea to create. Alaska had also changed their beverage service to Jones brand, as they indicated they wanted a more "natural" soda. It's not bad, actually, and now I'm seeing it everywhere as they just became the soda vendor at the Rose Garden here.

As we start to descend to Las Vegas, we had heard that Vegas had issues with snow and ice there, but the airport was open so we weren't concerned. Until we turned around over the city, and saw the entire town covered in a white glimmer of snow. Normally, the glitz comes from the neon, but in this case, Sin City was officially Snow City, and it didn't look quite right. I suppose our packing plan of having some winter and some warmer clothes was a good idea.

After picking up our bags, we found the MGM Grand check in desk, which was right at the airport. Yes, we were able to check into our room about 10 feet from baggage claim. Ok, you can play slots while picking up your bag at points, so I'm not surprised here except that why don't more hotels do this? We got our rooms, caught our shuttle to the hotel, and within a half an hour, we were looking at the chilly Strip. Only 37 degrees at 5 Pm. Maybe we didn't get far enough from the cold.

Girl and I found our room, and just chilled for a bit inside the room, getting to know the room specifics. The rooms all have an electronic safe, so I got to figure out a combination to look up our valuables, and any monies we might win while there. Well, it's the thought anyway, but soon after this, we are in search of food. We find the MGM Grand Buffet, and so decide to give it a try. And let's just say that when they call it a Grand Buffet, they aren't kidding. It was amazingly huge, and it had so many different food options. After powering through food from two different trips, we settle down to gamble a bit with some margaritas. It doesn't take too many losses and the effect of the booze to put us up to our room, although it certainly seemed like we were there for a while. But since there's no clocks on the casino floor, you can lose track of space and time. I'd also spent some time in the sports book area, placing bets on my beloved Trail Blazers and West Ham to do well in their respective leagues, although the odds certainly weren't what I expected. The Trail Blazers to win the NBA at 8 to 1 odds?

Well, if we get to bed around midnight, we'll be ready to go the next morning.

Saturday, December 20th - We had thought this time of year, things would be mellow around Vegas, or as mellow as this place gets. We couldn't have been more wrong, as the annual Las Vegas bowl game was happening here later that night. Arizona, who hadn't been to a bowl since Clinton was in office, was facing BYU. It seemed odd that BYU would want to be here, but the fact that Donny and Marie were playing at the Flamingo meant there was something for them to do here. Plus, they'd been here the 3 previous years, so apparently there must be something here for them. We'd encountered some of their fans the previous night, but we were serenaded early Saturday morning to some of them running about, banging doors about in the hotel. I love people...

We end up waking up a bit late after dealing with the traveling stress and being woken up early, so we don't get out of the room until about noon. That's normal around here, but probably not the going to bed early thing from the previous night. Well, hey, it's vacation and we'll do what we want. We decided to head to the Luxor for their buffet that afternoon, and so we walk from MGM to New York, New York then Excalibur. I have to say that New York, New York is an impressive casino from the outside, but inside, it looks a lot like any other casino. Excalibur looked very old school casino inside, and it was by far the most packed during the afternoon. And the Luxor has the cool vibe to it, and yes, they advertise the cheapest and best buffet, and they weren't kidding. Since it was Saturday, they served champagne brunch, and so girl and her mom didn't disappoint in drinking a bit. I felt a bit parched, so I stuck with water until later. But again, massive eating was abound. We took our time walking back, playing a few machines here and there, and we found a bar that had frosty big drinks for sale, so we drank a bit on our way back. Ok, we drank a lot, and tried to take in a few sights. As we got back to MGM, girl's shoes were giving her trouble, so we sat and watched the action at Lion Country Safari for a bit.

The lion habitat at MGM seems rather cruel, as you have lions under glass, but apparently they stay there only 10 hours per week, and they stay with the same pride and handlers, so they build a relationship with everyone. And while they look rather large and menacing, they basically acted like big cats during dinner time, playing with their food and water, and getting praise from the helpers. It was interesting to note the similarities between our cats during feeding time and the lions, although our cats won't snap your arm in half with their bite. Well, that I know of. We ventured up to our room, and didn't intend on napping, but we soon found ourselves down for a couple of hours, waking up in time to watch the end of the bowl game and Arizona's victory. Thinking that things might get a little insane later that night, we head to the food court to get some pizza and drinks later, and then head into our room for another early night. Well, we did gamble a little bit, but again, we were in our room before midnight. Hmmmmm, maybe there is a theme here? Girl's mom did get to see David Hasslehoff, though, as he was passing through the casino. He had sung the national anthem at the bowl game that night, and was staying at the MGM, we think. Apparently, he's really tall and has a rather large entourage.

Sunday, December 21st - Morning came with us being serenaded again, but not by Arizona fans, but by some kids who were told to play in the hall before breakfast. Ok, it's 8 am and they are signing, laughing, and knocking on doors until a front desk employee comes up later to scold them and have them return to their room. Ok, another bad start to the morning, and we also had some issues with the hot water in our bathroom. It was bad enough the ventilation in the room caused the shower curtain to blow into you while in the tub, but then apparently everyone decided to take 2 hour showers to kill the hot water. Needless to say, it was a rough start, but the champagne brunch at MGM made up for it. More good food, more alcohol, great dessert. Geez, I feel like I've put on about 20 pounds.

We decided to head north towards the Bellagio today, to check out the fountains. Plus, there might be some shopping to do about here, so we stopped into the M and M World store. And it was absolutely insane. People in every direction, grabbing stuff from the shelves, talking at the top of their lungs. Apparently, consumerism turns some people into idiots, and so after 20 minutes of this, we run from the place screaming. As we walk north, we see the casino construction of the new City Center areas, plus the new Wynn casino Endeavor. The economy might be struggling, but casinos are doing Ok, and building and expanding to keep one step ahead of the competitors. It reminded me of Portland, who for a while seemed to have everything here under construction.

We soon got to the Bellagio, and saw their wonderful Christmas display, which was very popular and people filled. This led us to try and find some quiet machines to play for a bit until the fountain show later. It was fun, until girl's mom tried to cash out on her machine, and it couldn't produce a ticket. So it took us 30 minutes to track someone down to collect our pay. The fountains came on right at 5, played for one song, and then it was done. Hmm, the economy affecting water shows? Well, we wandered back to catch a cab back to MGM, and decide on what's up for later.

Girl and I soon head to Walgreen's to load up on some snack food that isn't overpriced, and while it was a nice diversion, I also had a bit of tunnel vision going on, so I wasn't the most communicative person. Sometimes, in my desire to do well and keep on top of things, I focus too much and don't always say as much as I should. Thankfully, it was a good conversation with girl, and we got things settled, because I don't want her to feel like she can't talk to me. And if she does, I should respond with more than a grunt or passing gas...

We decided on Sunday to try and stay up as late as we could, first loading up our big drink cups from last night at Fat Tuesday, and seeing how many casinos we could hit until they hit back...Well, I can safely say, we did a pretty good job of hitting them. So good, that the trip deserves it's own entry. So, tune in next time for stories of drunken wandering around the Strip, and food at 4 AM. Talk to you all next time.

Next Time - So this is what 4 AM looks like, and wait, we've been here before, but why are we still here?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Surviving the Lights of Vegas - Part 1

I'm exhausted again, but it's a good kind of tired. You'd think at some point, I'd just stop running myself into the ground, but there's the tired from being lethargic after consuming your body weight in snack food and soda and then there's the tired from actually working hard to accomplish something. My tired has a lot to do with the latter, and so stick with me as I detail my adventures from the past few weeks.

Sunday, December 14th - The snow obsession detailed in my last entry finally came true with some crazy snow and ice falling around our home. Although I wasn't around to see it much, as I ventured to NW Portland to watch a footy match and then participate in practice. When I got to the pub, there was nothing wrong, just a rather cold morning. That all changed about 9:30 AM when the heavens broke down and the snow came down. It appeared to be wet and not sticking, so I decided to practice instead of heading home. Bad move on my part, as unbeknown to me, the snow was significantly falling east side, and roads were closing while I was running about. And of course, my cell phone battery decided to die about the time practice started, so I had no way of being contacted or calling out. Yeah, needless to say, the drive home was an adventure but I took it really slowly and cautiously and made it home without issue. I will now promise never to do anything that dumb for at least the next 15 minutes or so. The snow fell for the rest of the day, meaning that the likelihood of going to work tomorrow was falling between slim and none. However, my friend dublinx did get a great shot of me playing in the snow.

Monday, December 15th - With the snow still down on the ground, I woke up Monday deciding to work from home at my primary job. I love the fact that my job is flexible enough to allow me this alternative, rather than me trying to drive on semi-dangerous roads with other people who drive like there's nothing wrong with the roads. Despite the fact that cars are leaving the road on a regular basis trying to stay upright, there is a part of the population here that thinks driving as fast as possible works and hey, if you don't hit anything, there's nothing wrong here. Thankfully, I can connect with my workstation from home, and my meeting schedule is pretty consistent so I know where I'm supposed to be most of the time. As I work away at my stuff, girl is working hard on her grant writing. With some of the mangled grammar still showing on the page, she curses the world according to Clippy and just wonders if she has anyone that can make nouns and verbs agree. The snow tapers off later in the day, but things are still chilly as the temperature hovers about 20 degrees for most of the day and night, so basically, the snow that fell isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Tuesday, December 16th - Well, I woke up at 7:30 am and seeing how things hadn't dramatically changed from overnight, I decided to venture into the office anyway by transit. I bundled up in my best eskimo wear, with snow pants, gloves, hat, and butt warmers present, and wandered off to catch the train and bus. Since the snow and ice were still about, I had visions of sitting at the stop waiting for long times and nothing coming. I've lived in Portland since 1989 and know that when things get snowy and icy here, transit still tries to operate with varying degrees of success. I've experienced 4 hour bus rides home packed to the hilt, busses stopping because of conditions, and busses smacking each other in a crazy version of Chinese Checkers, so I had expectations that I might be waiting for a while. And I couldn't have been more wrong.

The train was totally on time, and got me to the bus stop in plenty of time to make my connection, which was also on time. I spent not more that 40 minutes getting into work, which was absolutely crazy considering the conditions outside with ice, cold and blowing snow. As I take off my layers at my desk, many of my coworkers are sharing reports of snow and ice in their area, and the many reports of what possibly is coming to hit us later that day. Apparently, the paranoia about the weather is being listened to, as many folks complete a few hours of work, then disappear home before things get worse. I decide to stick it out as I have a few things to complete before I leave, and if all else fails, I live close enough to work that I could walk home if needed. The afternoon gets quieter and quieter as more of my co-workers head home, and then girl calls me after one of my meetings. Apparently, she's grown frustrated at the staff she works with, and has asked for my help to edit some of her work.

Ok, in my past life, I've written for a college newspaper, I've written dozens of reports and project documents, hundreds of important notices, dozens of procedure updates, even more new procedure documents, and countless self training documents. While I may not have the best grasp of grammar usage around, I can write and write quickly. And most of the time, it makes sense. After careful consideration lasting about 30 seconds, I agree to provide some help to her. Within moments of this news, I find out by email that our bowling league is cancelled for the night, as the alley is closing in case conditions get bad. I tell you, the paranoia about snow here is big. It's suddenly more true as the snow starts to hit later that night, with a light dusting at first, but then getting more consistent as the night goes on. I listen to girl's instructions about what she reviews in her documents, what the particulars are to look for, and suddenly I'm off in editor land.

And I have to say that I'm glad I don't have an editor for this exercise here. I'm sure that most grammar nazis would cringe at some of the words I use, plus I break a lot of English rules by starting sentances with prepositions or ending them with one. When I blog, I tend to be extremely conversational in my style, which is great for reading but not so much if you are being completely attentive to correct style. Anyway, after a late night of editing, I'm off to sleep and wondering if I will venture to work or not.

Wednesday, December 17th - The conditions aren't terrible outside, but they haven't changed since the snow hit, and with the cold, cars aren't moving around much in the morning. You know it's bad when city officials are telling people that if possible, just stay home. I heed the warning and settle in to work at home for the second day of the week. I have some requirements to review, some testing to complete, and a few meetings on my schedule, so I have a rather busy day of work on the schedule. As I quietly work, knocking off task by task, I realize that by noon, I'm done with my tasks and there's still a good half a day left. Well, I need to do some more reading and there's a few emails that have piled up.

Work email is a necessary work communication tool, but at points, I think people just send them to make it look like they are doing some work. The note may not accomplish anything more that stirring up more questions, which may be the approach, but by sending a note, real work can be avoided. I must learn the ways of this skill, as the inbox piles up. By quitting time, I'm back caught up with my email, and now it's off to complete more editing for the night. It's not such bad work, and I'm actually getting pretty good at it. The weather guys are predicting more snow for tomorrow, which would be good if you like snow, but bad if you were thinking of getting into work. And honestly, I'm getting a bit of cabin fever so getting out of the house is starting to sound like a good idea.

Thursday, December 18th - The predicted snow hasn't started as of 7:45 AM when I wake up and the roads are clear, so I trudge down to shower and get ready for work. No sooner than I walk upstairs at 8:10 AM, the skies turn purple and it's a snow downpour. I suppose I could try to get into work, but that idea fades as the snow starts to stick and it's now slowing down at all. I settle in for another day of working in the basement. I tend to my work documents and meetings while also getting laundry ready for our big trip. Tomorrow, we head to Las Vegas, and I'm excited. There's a bit of concern that the weather might keep us here, depending on when the storm might hit, but at this time, it's a go. As I look at my work task list getting shorter, my home task list is getting bigger with packing, other editing, and house chores. Girl and I have tickets to the Trail Blazer game that night, and under normal circumstances, we never miss a game. But the snow keeps falling, the work keeps piling up, and there's not time to divert our attention from the tasks here for hoops. As much as I hate to, I end up selling my tickets to a friend for the game.

The editing is flying along, the packing is going well, and I even decide to hook up the radio to listen to the game. My tickets were picked up, and going to a good cause. And the cause got better as the game went on, as Brandon Roy had a career night in scoring 52 points in the Blazers beating the Suns for the first time in 12 tries. I had to go upstairs to watch the fourth quarter, as it was a game for the ages. But I knew that going to the game would mean that there would be numerous things here at the house that needed attention that would be ignored, and so I was where I needed to be. And besides, if you need a fallback plan, listening to Wheels call a game isn't a bad back up option. Girl and I end up working late, and then I knock off about midnight to finish packing, and curl up for sleep. Our shuttle arrives at 9:30 AM to get us to the airport for our flight, and I can't wait.

Friday, December 19th - Travel Day is here, and I'm ready and raring to go. A few last minute items to clear up, and we're ready to fly south to avoid the cold. In watching the news, though, snow had hit Vegas the night before and the airport had closed for a while because of the conditions. Wow, the snow is following us all over? Well, we are going to chance it anyway, and the shuttle arrives a bit early ready to take us to the airport. The conditions on the roads are a bit dicey, but as long as you drive slowly, it's not that terrible. Our driver takes his time getting us to the terminal, and we arrive in plenty of time before our flight at 1:30 pm. After a quick visit to the bank for some much needed gambling funds and a stop for some snacks, we settle into our gate for the flight.

Well, ok, girl had lost her stocking hat on the way back from coffee, so I went on a mission to find it and I did right in front of Good Dog, Bad Dog sausages. And our gate actually changed to another location. Plus, we ran into our friend Dick Danger, who works at the airport and was there getting his check. So, there was plenty to do while waiting for our flight, and that doesn't include the people watching opportunities that were abound. Airports are an amazing study in people, as you have the folks that dress to the nines when traveling, showing off the latest fashion styles with their designer bags, and then you have the people that just rolled out of bed and don't care what they look like. Add this with the conversations with fellow travelers, and seeing people meet up at the gate, it's truly interesting to watch. The movie Dogma had a few scenes about what happens at airports, and I believe it's the truth. When you see someone at the gate, you are truly happy to see them and it's a true show of emotion. We got to watch a few tearful reunions before we got the call to board our plane.

As we took off from Portland, it didn't matter that the conditions were cold and snowy here, or that things might be getting worse while we were gone, or did we forget anything at the house. It was the simple emotion of being able to put the trials and cares away for a few days and just be somewhere different for a few days. And I was looking forward to having a few adventures while we were gone, then return home in time for Christmas. What I didn't expect was how many crazy adventures we'd have between the time we left Portland and the time we came back to the very snowy Rose City.

Next Time - Adventures in Gambling and Buffets, and Gee, We aren't the only city under construction right now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holidays Around Here....And It's Arctic Death Storm 2008

I love Portland more than a lot of things, but one of the insane phenomenons that exist here is how snow affects the town. Because we have a lot of hills about town, when there is the slightest bit of snow around, it can make for an adventure driving. And since we have a lot of different weather affecting areas (Beaverton and all points west are higher up, while Gresham gets frozen like a Popsicle with the east winds, etc), the weather isn't the same anywhere in town. But what adds a element of insanity to the mix is our local television station's almost non-stop obsession with reporting the weather. It can go on for hours and hours of pictures of snow about the area, followed with the obligatory reporter stations of Sylvan hill (high point in town) and the Troutdale truck stop, where some rookie reporter slides around on the ice while talking to truckers that can't figure out why people driving certain cars feel the need to drive 80 miles an hour in a driving snowstorm without chains.

The Portland Mercury gets the whole situation right, courtesy of their news list. Even Fark has video of our adventures in trying to drive up a hill covered in snow. The area is down near John's Landing, and yes, it's amazing that nobody got into an accident. That's almost as good as some video they got last year of cars sliding around PGE Park taking out cars. What amazes me is that friends of mine that live in other areas and people that live out here can't imagine why this town goes nuts when the seemingly smallest amounts of snow fall on the ground. Gee, we can drive in this stuff in Minnesota, but why here when there's an inch of snow, the town literally shuts down.

Well, it's really simple. We have something called elevation to deal with, and there's lots of hills around town, and they might not be very big, but get a little snow on them, shake it with some ice and not have any sanding crews come near it for a while, and it becomes a regular sledding hill. We also have a lot of inattentive drivers, who don't realize that you can't drive as fast in the snow as you can on bare pavement, but I think these are some of the same people that freak out when it rains and then have to slam on the brakes because they can't stop as fast with water on the road. Personally, I find our fascination with snow endearing, as I love seeing the white stuff come down, but I could really do without the long TV coverage about it. But I suppose it's one of the things about here you just get used to.

The MLS Dog and Pony show came winding through town last week, as the commissioner and other officials toured the city and met with various personnel about the MLS bid. Merritt Paulson did some talking, the MLS folks did some talking, the city officials talked, and the task force set up to study stadium options asked a lot of questions. Some were pretty good, others not so much, but at least the group is trying to understand all of the challenges and positives about bringing MLS to town. Merritt has a good plan in place to bring MLS here, and is trying to learn from the mistakes of renovations past , while a lot of sports writers are asking simply what will MLS do if it comes to Portland? Even John Canzano has been talking about soccer, and if you can get him to talk about something, you've done your job well but get him to be positive about it, and you are really accomplishing a major feat.

Look, MLS will work here, and I can cover the thoughts in a few sentences. The MLS plan is backed by bonds purchased by the city, so there's no affect on city services. The bond payments are made by collecting taxes from team sales, ticket revenue, and salaries from the players. $85 million for an upgrade to PGE for MLS and getting a minor league ballpark for the Beavers is less of an investment that what would be required to bring any other major sport here. NFL and MLB require large stadium investments with a larger corporate support in town, and while the Rose Garden is suitable for the NHL, that won't happen unless Paul Allen either buys the team or supports the idea because he owns the arena. Yes, there's lots of details to be worked out, but when the MLS commissioner says "We want Portland in our league", that's a pretty clear indicator that they want our city there because they know what we have here, even if we are a little obsessed with the snow.

I've never done much traveling during the holidays to points that didn't involve seeing family. I've done all night Greyhound trips, flown in some of the worst weather possible over the holidays, even drove to some rather remote points just to end up with family for the holidays, and so this year, I'm actually doing something different. Girl, her mom and I escape to Las Vegas for a few days before Christmas to relax. I've been to Vegas a few times in the past few years, and it's a rather fascinating mix of hotels, debauchery, buffets, and entertainment 24 hours a day. I'm actually going to enjoy going somewhere to drink a bit, gamble a bit, and just get away from the day to day insanity around here. Wait, you are telling me the snow is there too? Maybe there is something to this snow obsession.

Finally, I've been listening intently to my local radio station who has been counting down the 94 best alternative albums ever as voted on by the listeners. The list is available here, and I'm not terribly surprised about who won. It was a rather unusual album when it came out, and it showed a generation that music could be dark, raw, unpolished, and yet extremely powerful. But I can't help but thinking that Nevermind isn't my best alternative album, and I probably would put it top 10 but maybe farther on the list.

Look, if this was a question of the most influential alternative album, it wins easily as it totally changed the face of music during the 90's. But Nevermind has some weak tracks intermixed with some great songs, the album can wear you down upon repeated listenings, and I think that Nirvana immediately gets more cred and attention simply because of Kurt Cobain's death. Yes, they are talented, but a lot of their tunes talk about some bleak topics. If that's all you want to listen to, well, I guess that's your thing, but for best alternative albums, I'd choose Weezer's Blue Album, Depeche Mode's Violator, Radiohead's the Bends, U2's Joshua Tree, or even Pearl Jam's 10. All five of those have a tight track set, varied track types, and even the more obscure songs bring something to the album. There's even some more obsure music by the Dismemberment Plan, Self. Futureheads and Hum that I would put up against this and call it some of the best music I've heard

But I suppose this is why stations put together lists or put up voting to get opinions. If anything, you get a lot of discussion about albums, and talking isn't such a bad thing. As long as it's not about snow, we should be Ok. Wait, it's lightly falling down here, I need to go watch the news about Arctic Blast 2008...

Before I go, here's some wonderful Christmas music for you to listen to. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Last Few Days of Adventures

I love the holiday season, but the social calendar tends to get rather insane this time of year. There's parties to attend, gifts to buy, events to see, and you still need to manage to work and take care of the day to day things about the house. Tonight, I sit at home, which is really the first night in about a week that I can say that. I love being busy, but at some point you just need to hide for a bit..

Thursday 12/4 - After a day at work, girl and I headed to the Cheerful Bullpen for our TA monthly gathering. The off season being here, we gather the first Thursday of the month to talk about things and plan next season's activities. Well, today, someone had posted on our message board about setting up Timbers currency, which led to all sorts of board havoc, so the conversation was pretty animated. The food was good, the alcohol excellent, and the deer with a TA scarf was a really nice touch in Christmas decorations. We stayed a bit late, but thankfully I didn't have to work on Friday.

Friday 12/5 - I've never been to the Holiday Ale Fest, as I considered the location small, the beers not very good, and the time of year was tough to get a day off to drink. But I had a vacation day available, and girl encouraged me to hang out with the boys, so I did. Since the location was at Pioneer Square in downtown Portland, it was a very easy MAX ride down there to meet up with the boys. And then drink, eat a bit and keep drinking.

I loved the chocolate porter with vanilla beans, and the commemorative beer was great, too. We also got some condoms from Rogue while getting food, as I noticed there were plenty of merchandise booths there. Going early on Friday was rather smart, as the lines weren't bad, the beer was still plentiful, and you could leave before the Friday night crowds showed up. Around 4 PM, I decided to head home, although the trip home I don't remember that much of. Thankfully, the MAX did the driving for me, and so I wasn't on the road scaring people. I made it home to see part of the Trail Blazer - Celtics game, but the pull of food was more important that watching the Celtics smack us about. The Road House steak was very good, and filled my stomach with goodness, which at that point, I needed as I was still full of beer. By 9:30 PM, I was in bed, dreaming of things not related to beer. Girl woke me up around midnight to drink some water, which was good since most of my liquid consumption that day was fermented.

Saturday, 12/6 - Girl and I worked on a few things here at the house before we left for downtown to meet up with some Timbers Army to watch the Winterhawks that night. The TA had gotten a block of tickets to watch the Winterhawks - Thunderchickens match at the Coliseum, with it being teddy bear toss night (score a goal, toss a bear on the ice) and such. We met at a pub to snack a bit before catching the MAX over there.

Admittedly, the Winterhawks used to be one of my teams in the wheelhouse, as I went to at least 10 games a year when I first moved here. The team was good and competitive, the stadium was fun to watch games at, and the ticket prices were reasonable. Well, over the years, the team got better then worse, the tickets starting running close to ticket prices for the NBA, and I decided that watching them lose all the time wasn't worth my money. I've tried to get back into going, but every recent game I've attended in the past 2 seasons, it hasn't worked to draw me back in.

So, Saturday was a litmus test. I did enjoy the bear toss, and the video screen in the Coliseum actually worked, plus the team played well despite losing. Also, the mascot Tom-A-Hawk came to visit us a couple of times with a TA scarf on But, the concession lines sucked (over 30 minutes to get two beers), and we had an issue with our tickets. The TA was supposed to have a reserved section, but instead, our original seats had us surrounding families. Mind you, we stand and chant at all matches, and the language can be PG-13 to R at points, so we tried to find another spot. After folks started showing up for the seats we were at, we decided to find the top rows of the section and hang out there. The regular hockey crowd seemed to like our noise, although we did get a lot of strange looks for most of the night. Eh, I'm used to it.

Sunday 12/7 - I got a taste of what outdoor winter soccer will be like in the mid-afternoon, as it was down pouring during our scrimmage at Columbia Park. After a while, I didn't notice how wet I was until I stopped running and thought about the coldness. But around here, if you don't get out of the house in the rain, you might go from November to April without seeing the outside. That's why Gore Tex and rain gear was invented.

I did make it home in time to watch my fantasy football results come in from the day. I know some folks don't like make believe football or the real version anyway, but I've been running our league for about 15 years, and many of our teams have been with us since the early days. While we all worked together at one point, for some, this is the only time they see each other, and it's nice to be able to connect after the years even for a day. The stories of beer and fun adventures in the past are now stories of new children and different jobs. What I do like about fantasy sports is that it forces you to be a fan of the sport, because being a homer fan of your team in any fantasy setting can be a recipe for disaster. My first year of fantasy football, I won the league with lots of Broncos (my team), yet months later, I did fantasy hoops with tons of Trail Blazers and I got my lunch handed to me. It's a fun diversion, and if I win now and then, it makes it fun.

Monday 12/8 - After a day of working, girl and I went downtown to celebrate our first date anniversary at Ringler's Annex before heading to a concert later. It was 3 years ago, when we had our first real date there, and we go back every year near the date to celebrate. And so, it's plenty of food, drink, and me trying not to act like too much of a geek realizing that I'm now married to the girl. Yes, there are points the conversation mirrored the talk of that first night, as I was nervous trying to think of things to say. Glad to know that some things don't change, but I'd like to see this one little thing disappear.

We then found our way to the Crystal to watch Cold War Kids and Franz Ferdinand. While I've seen Franz perform before, this was a smaller venue so I was looking forward to seeing them up close, plus girl worships them. The show was good, but it was a tale of two bands. One was young, inexperienced, and their sound showed it, with distorted vocals, too much treble and bass drum, and other assorted noises appear in their songs. Yes, you guessed it, the Cold War Kids really looked rather amateurish and while their show had moments of goodness, it was really shoddy in comparison to the old pros. Franz Ferdinand started on time, had a crystal clear sound, and the band just owned the stage. Plus, the singer engaged the crowd all night, something that the first band couldn't be bothered with. When the show got done about 11 PM, the room was still buzzing from nearly 2 hours of high energy rock. It's a treat to see professionals do their thing.

Tuesday 12/9 - We still bowl on Tuesday nights in our Big Turkey league, so it was off to Hollywood Bowl for some bowling action with our friends. The alley has refurbished their bar and snack area rather nicely, and the food is actually good quality when it finally arrives, although they are still working out some of the kinks. It's too bad the actual alleys haven't been repaired, because they could use some serious attention and maintenance.

For me, this is my 11th term of bowling, from the days of Bourbon Crew to Got Balls? to Gutter Punks, and I'm happy we have such an amazing group of guys and gals to bowl each week. They are all wonderful people, and so very unique. Hornman is our ringer, bowling like a true pro, while S3K does his dance hop thing and flips pins off when he misses shots. NickyD is a super bowler, and has the unique style of position then loft, but it works. Graceless throws the ball, and then superstitiously, she can't watch it hit the pins, while her beau fenrus just throws really hard - no change up, just fastball. Hornman's gal joined us this term, and she's a lefty social butterfly, while girl is our captain and emotional leader of the team. She's a great bowler, but also knows what to do to loosen the team up when needed. And myself, well, I send the emails and try to be the other quiet leader while trying to throw my ball straight. I love having such a good group of friends to meet up with and bowl, and while we might now win most of the time, we always have a good time. Unless you are listening to the Trail Blazers game and they lose on a last second shot..

So, it's now Wednesday, and I'm exhausted just typing all this in. But, I had fun doing all the things I did, and I owe much of this to girl and my friends. I spent times in my life being rather insular, only going out once in a while, and so forming bonds with people was hard. But getting involved in the TA means there are events going on all the time, and while you don't have to attend them all, it's nice having such a diverse group of people there to do things with. If there's something I'm thankful for this holiday season, it's meeting up with this lot. Without them, I wouldn't have these fun adventures nor would I have met my wonderful wife. Not bad for a bunch of soccer hooligans...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dude, Seriously, Just Drive

I tend to talk a lot about sports here, but I've been noticing a trend in stupidity lately that I feel the need to comment towards. Granted, I'm not a poster child for making all the right choices, but I'm really beginning to wonder about some people. Mind you, it's bad enough lately when you see guys at your work bathroom talking on their cell phone while doing their business, it hardly fazes you. But when they are using the wall urinal and cradling their phone with their head on their shoulder, I wonder why the conversation is that important that you have to talk while peeing. Mind you, two days prior to that, I was trying to use a sit down stall in another part of the building, and they were both being occupied. I turned to leave and heard snoring from one of the stalls. So apparently, you can fall asleep while doing your business, but I don't want to become one of those people obsessed with poo. We've already got one family member with that issue...

But in the vein of cell phones, I'm tired of people using their cell phones while driving. I've seen enough near accidents and slow driving around the area to know that people aren't paying enough attention to driving while they chat on their phone. These aren't folks using hands free sets or the phones with speaker, but people cradling the phone with their neck or driving with one hand and talking on the other. Seriously, your conversation with some random person is more important than actually driving and paying attention to what you are doing, so you risk the lives of everyone else around you just to talk more? I just don't get it.

I mean, seriously, when I took drivers education back in the 1980's, they showed us the education films with accidents and bloody bodies and such, and it freaked most of us out enough to drive and pay attention. But my history in driving stopped at high school, as I went to college and sold my car as I left, and then I moved to Portland and lived a carless existance until I moved out to the eastside with Girl. I've always had a drivers license, and have driven enough rental cars to keep some skills going, but it wasn't until I drove more regularly that I got better. But there's been some scary moments, and times I really thought girl was going to banish me from driving. Driving is a lot of paying attention to detail and traffic flows, and my old roommate John-O would be happy to hear me channel traffic terms. I've gotten better, and I try not to make mistakes and not speed, but I drive a bit faster than I should at points. It happens, but I make it a point to never use my cell phone while driving unless I have a hands free and it's a conversation that I need to take.

Yet, I see dozens of people talking while driving on the highway, responding to and sending text messages, not paying attention to what they are doing. Some drivers drive slower while on the phone, which may give them a false sense that they are helping things out by slowing down. But seriously, anything that you do to draw attention away from the road is bad, and trying to pay attention to that many things isn't good for most people. I know there are exceptions to the rule, I'm sure there are people that are smart enough to do both things, but the law of averages says that most of us aren't and some folks aren't smart enough to know better. So I'm asking all of you to put the cell phone away while driving, or let your passenger make the calls while you are driving around. If you need to talk, pull over and talk. The choice might cost you some time, but the alternative isn't worth the risk.

MLS Update!!! - Montreal has bowed out of the MLS sweepstakes, and our interim mayor, Sam Adams (no relation to the patriot guy or beer guy) is soliciting input on stadium ideas. He'd love to put a footy stadium in the Rose Quarter complex, but right now, it's more about soliciting ideas and getting a task force together to talk about the ideas.

If you'd like to leave comments about the plan, learn more about Sam's ideas, or learn more about the committee folks, you can visit the following site: It's directly to the mayor's site, and has the latest news. The MLS sites to Portland also have periodic updates about progress, and you can get to them from my home page. The decisions about the 4 main candidates for MLS expansion are due soon, and right now, it looks good for the Rose City.

Web Alert - In reading the Interwebs today, I found this interesting tidbit from Brooks Sports about the University of Montana. During my college days, I've actually been to Missoula, Montana a couple of times. It's a nice part of the world, very rustic and scenic, and fanatical about their pointyball team. So fanatical, that they throw pastries about. Yes, I said pastries. Being a pie loving person, I can't condone the use of pastries in celebratory gestures, and after reading the ingredients list on these things, I think this is a better use than actually eating them.

That's all for now. Be good everyone, and remember, don't text and drive!!