Saturday, January 31, 2009

Super Bowl Tomorrow

If this doesn't get you in the mood for the Super Bowl, nothing will.

And the legend of Shamwow speaks. And it's as funny as his infomercials.

Finally, congrats to Rudy, Greg and Brandon for their All-Star berths. Brandon is playing in the big game, Rudy is in the slam dunk contest, and Rudy and Greg are playing in the Rookie - Sophomore game. It's a great day to be a Trail Blazer fan, and a big weekend on February 13th through the 15th in Phoenix.

Darius Miles will be with an NBA team for the rest of the year. Sucks for our bottom line, but perhaps he's learned something and he really wants to work hard. He's got talent, but talent alone doesn't make an NBA career. We'll see how this goes, and who knows, I might be surprised.

I don't care who wins the Super Bowl, just simply that the game is entertaining. Otherwise, it could make for a long Sunday. Go Bud Dry!! Wait, what do you mean they aren't playing?!#$? Ok, got to go get ready for the game. Only 26 hours to go!!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

It's A Damn Blanket With Arms

You've seen the commercial, heck you might even know someone that has bought a Snuggie for their home, because it's the hottest thing in pop culture right now. And honestly, I can't figure it out. I suppose if you are going for the fleece covered monk look, Snuggie has you covered, but for me, I'm already proficient at operating a blanket when needed and if I'm that cold, I usually put on a sweatshirt and long pants. I'm not sure I would want one of these things, much less be seen in public wearing one of these, but apparently, I'm wrong in dissing on the Snuggie because they are selling like crazy, and stores can't keep them in stock.

I can't completely explain how some products become almost cultish in their appeal, like the Snuggie and the Shamwow, and others are doomed to end up at garage sales for a nickel, but the one thing that they all have is a catchy advertisement, and it plays everywhere. You can't watch any basic cable shows without seeing an ad for either the Snuggie or Shamwow, the special shammy towel that is super absorbent. At least with the Shamwow, I can say I've seen it work because girl's mom bought some to help clean up the cat pee that appears every once in a while in the house. And I can give the best testimonial ever to the Shamwow that it cleans up cat pee better than any other towel I've used. I'm not completely sure that would work for a commercial, but when you see something like this work, it makes you feel better about buying something. Plus, there's something about the Shamwow pitch guy, who talks with his fast food drive through headset, talking about the most absorbent towel on the market. He talks fast, he does crazy demonstrations that show amazing results, they have testimonials from people who have bought them, and then cue the 800 number and start the feeding frenzy.

Admit it, we've all bought crap from the store or television, sucked in by the outlandish claims that somehow promise magic things, like being able to set your car polish on fire, scramble an egg inside the shell, or spray on hair that looks and feels real, but only to find that if you're dumb enough to set your car on fire to prove its shine, well, you probably shouldn't be driving. But part of marketing is making something seem like you can't live without it, and these commercials do that very well with catchy demonstrations and testimonials.

But while some might say this is capitalism at its best, I would say that's hardly the case. A true capitalist should be paid for their talents, which is the essence of capitalism that people's worth is calculated by talent and they are compensated for that. Where the current run of Americanistic commerce comes into play is adding unbridled greed to the desire to be paid for talent, and then it turns into wanting to make more so you can have everything, then rinse and repeat. Some of these infomercials prey on people's insecurities for the simple reason of lining someone's pocket out of greed, and you hear the horror stories of getting ripped off all the time. While my capitalistic roots love people doing what they love and being compensated for their talents, I also have the ethical side of not wanting to screw with people, which is why I'd be a terrible telemarketer. Well, actually, I was one for about two weeks, and while I had the great phone voice, I sucked at scamming people.

But while the world of marketing has dozens of failed inventions that toil in obscurity, there are those that not only rise to the fame of actually having people buy them, but they gain a loyal coltish following. Heck, even CNBC created a competition between beloved products from the infomercial world, and the winner was a towel that sucks...really well. I think I still have my George Foreman grill around here somewhere, and it actually works really well. Plus, and I have trouble admitting this, but I like seeing what crap Billy Mays is pitching this week, because the guy is hysterical and his beard is a true black hole of commerce. Granted, I can also avoid most of the appeal for these by saying I don't really need them and besides, they'll be on sale at the store in about 3 months anyway under some other brand name. But I can appreciate the cult factor of these products by truly calling them what they are: legendary.

Postscript - I read my friend Heather's blog, Mile 73.com, quite a bit because the stories are really funny, and she presents them in such an unusually entertaining way. Plus, she hangs out at Timbers matches with daveknows, who really knows about Portland, so she's in good company. She posted something about lite rock a few days ago, complaining about a certain band named after a city that has a team of Red Soxs and Celtics running about because there is a certain song that she's not fond of. While I can relate to her turmoil, I can do her one better, by being tormented this morning by the worst song in the history of rock, as voted on by Blender and Vibe magazine, and I think VH1 referred to it terribly as well. It was a song by a band that should have known better. Cause don't you remember, don't you remember, we built this city on rock and roll!! Just say no to craptacular 80s music.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Karma's a Bitch

I'm not exactly sure what God is, or if there is a God out there, but I do believe there is a higher spirit that keeps things in order. Things happen for a reason, and sometimes, it's not very apparent, but the reasons always become known at some point. Granted, it's a simplistic point of view based on my own experiences, but I also believe that there are lessons that we all need to learn, and there's some greater force that is out there keeping track of it.

Saturday night, Girl and I were driving to the Trail Blazer game, and we'd left the house a touch later than usual because we were busy moving furniture and computers about the house. Our new office location is rather nice, and our cats spend a lot of time sleeping in here, keeping an eye on us when they aren't getting into trouble, plus girl's computer and my computer aren't right next to each other in a corner, so we basically sit back to back to each other in a cramped L shape. But, we got the move done, and then it was off to watch the Trail Blazers versus the Wizards.

Our normal parking spot for the games is in the Lloyd Center Cinemas parking lot. I know, it's supposed to be for the mall and the theatre, but it's very well known that the place is packed full of Trail Blazer fans who don't want to pay $20 for parking, and so they park here for free and then catch the MAX to the game. We pulled into the lot at about 6:35 pm on Saturday, which is a bit later than our usual early arrival, so I knew the competition for spots would be tough. And it was so tough, we never found one there. Seriously, going up and down the rows, it was jam packed, and so it was time to move to another parking lot and see if we could still make the game on time.

It was then that I turned from the cinemas parking to get onto Wiedler and then I turned into the regular mall parking lot. I'm not entirely sure why I just didn't go up to NE 15th, but I ended up going into the mall. I was so focused on trying to think of parking spots and where to park that I didn't even realize that as I sped along, I was passing through a crosswalk near Sears with people to my left as I was traveling north. There are parking spots on both sides of the crosswalk, so really it's a pathway between cars but it's marked as a crosswalk. I went rather slow, but I never stopped for a moment, and I heard the thunk from the back of our car as I sped by without stopping. Apparently, I had gotten too close to them, and they let me know they were there by smacking the back of our car.

Girl told me that I really needed to pay more attention about what was going on, and then I realized my mistake. I never intended on blowing through the crosswalk, but I did and it wasn't pretty. I didn't have a chance to really stop and apologize, but I felt bad for my mistake. I tend to get a little stressed with a compressed time frame because I hate to be late to things. I picked up a very bad habit from my mom, who was 30 minutes late to everything she did, and for years, I was always 10 to 15 minutes late for everything I did. When my friends finally started commenting, I did a 180 and became preoccupied with being early at any cost. Not a smart thing to be, but hey, we all have our hangups.

We continued on to eventually find parking at the Convention Center for $6 and we made it to the game right as the National Anthem was being sung, and by the time we hit our seats, it was only a few minutes into the game. Not bad for leaving so late, but my earlier driving mistake was still bugging me. I don't like to do things wrong, even if I do a few things wrong each day. We all like to be perfect, but being human, we make mistakes because that's part of being human. We learn from our errors so that we don't do them again, but for some of us, that doesn't stop our obsession in being perfect. But I have a feeling that the guys and gals upstairs keep track of things like this, and bring them up as lessons for us. I don't know if you could call it fate, but it's certainly something with a higher power than you or me.

For today, I went to Fred Meyer Wood Village to get the new Franz Ferdinand album, which just went on sale. The weather around here today was a bit snowy and cold, then it turned to rain by the afternoon, so it ended up being a rather typical winter day in Portland. I had an incident on Sunday trying to get to soccer practice on time, and I was late again and running around like a crazy person, so I'm already a bit aware of my most recent actions about time and paying attention. As I left the store with my purchase, I walked from Fred Meyer to my car when I encountered the service road that runs in front of the store. I stopped at the crosswalk, looked both ways, and proceeded to enter because it was safe. I saw on my right a gold SUV that was coming, but I assumed they would slow down as I waved at them that I was walking.

But apparently, the driver's phone call was entirely more important than seeing where they were on the road, because she blew through the crosswalk with me still in the middle. I had stopped walking as soon as I realized that she wasn't stopping, and I just stood there in amazement at her actions. I even saw the color of her eyes as she drove by, and I'm sure she saw me waving at her, but she kept driving by without stopping. I was floored by her actions, and muttered to myself how could someone be that callous about pedestrian safety until I recalled my driving mistake on Saturday.

The feeling of being taught a lesson in a practical but abrupt way stuck with me as I got into my car. Yes, it was a rather dramatic example and one that had a bit of danger associated with it, but it definitely proved a point to me in no uncertain terms. It's important to pay attention to where you are going at all times, because you don't know if the other guys are even paying attention or not. I'm sorry that I scared the shoppers at Sears with my driving, it certainly wasn't intentional, and I don't even have an excuse of being on the phone, I was simply trying to find a place to park and wasn't paying as close of attention as I should have been. And karma or fate or whatever was smacking me on the head today to remind me to pay more attention to what's going on.

And it's a lesson that I can appreciate, because it validates that someone or something is really looking out for us, and trying to make sure we don't do things we shouldn't or trying to ensure that we learn lessons about life that we should. I'm not sure if it was God or Jeebus or whatever making their point today, but they made it very well. So just remember that karma is indeed a bitch, and you should be careful about what you do because things have a way of evening out.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Timbers Schedule is Out!!

It was a huge red letter day on Friday when the 2009 Timbers schedule finally was posted, and members of the Timbers Army (myself included) can now plan our summer accordingly.

The schedule has every team playing 30 games total, and facing each team 3 times with everyone playing at each other's park at least once. So you get to travel once or twice to each team's home, depending on the schedule.

Immediate Observations from myself on the schedule:
  • We only play up in Vancouver once to start the season. Swangard hasn't been very friendly to us in the past.
  • We play in Austin twice, which could be good or bad. The team is new, so we don't know much about them, but the Texas summers can be brutal, and we play there in July and September.
  • We play Miami FC and Puerto Rico twice on the road back to back, which is new for us. It does save travel costs by having to go there only once, but it does mean that you hope the guys can get one of two there.
  • We host Carolina and Cleveland City (another new team) twice in a row at home, with a day between each home game. Again, a new thing for the league, probably to save travel costs. It could work well if you get the first game and put pressure on the other guy.
  • We don't play any back to back games at all, as we have at least one day between games all year. That is a first that I can recall.
  • We get 3 Fox Soccer Channel games, two at home, one on the road, and a total of 5 games on Fox Sports Northwest. Not bad for coverage, to be honest. The status of USL Live, the site that you could watch all USL games is up in the air, so we don't know if there will be a way to watch away games or not.
At least we know have dates. The schedule for the new Under 23 Timbers PDL team is due out this week as well. They play a May - June schedule of 16 games, and will be playing at various places about town. It's a great move for us to have a development team, where guys can get coaching and play against top quality talent to potentially further their dream of playing professional soccer one day. While the U-23 guys aren't being paid, they can keep their amateur status so that they have their future options open. The one thing that the Timbers have struggled with is developing young talent, and they hired Amos McGee to coach this team, and he knows soccer. It will be interesting to see what happens, and how much we gain from having a development team, but it does mean more soccer to watch this summer!!

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Lesson in Politics

Tuesday was a red-letter day for me in many ways. I saw the good in some people assuming leadership of our country, while I saw others in charge of our community watch their political clout fall apart like falling dominoes. I’ve spent a few days trying to figure out how to write about it, and this is probably the twentieth draft I’ve come up with, but that’s how significant I consider what happened.

While the country focused on Barack Obama becoming our 44th President, Portland became embroiled in scandal as our current mayor, Sam Adams, admitted to having a relationship with an 18 year old man he had been mentoring, and they had met when he was 17. Adams had denied any wrongdoing up until Tuesday, even saying that allegations of misconduct were grossly exaggerated because the relationship was platonic. However, Willamette Week, a local alternative newspaper in Portland, presented new evidence earlier in the week and they were ready to go to press on Wednesday to break the news that Adams had indeed lied. Before that happened, Adams changed his story and even admitted that he had asked the boy to lie about the situation if asked. The past few days have seen a crazy media frenzy, web posts calling for support or resignation, and a near paralysis of city government.

As I read through and listened to Obama’s speeches on Tuesday, his demeanor, language choice, and composure struck me in giving a speech of that much significance. The first African American taking office as the President, and he showed mettle that even I didn’t believe he had. He basically admitted that as a country, we’ve lost our way and it’s not going to be easy to get back on course. Some of our allies don’t like us very much, the parts of the world that want us to suffer have grown over the past 8 years, our credit rating and reputation around the world have sunk to new lows, and everyone, business and personal included, are struggling to make ends meet. Getting out of this mess won’t be easy at all, and yet, his words filled me with optimism and hope. I know things are pretty bad right now, it’s hard not to pick up a newspaper or watch a newscast and not see the reports of job layoffs and, bad economic news, and come to the conclusion things are OK, unless your math skills are suspect. What Obama showed more than anything was true leadership, saying that while things are bad, they can get better and I will do what I can to make that happen. It won’t be easy, because there are obstacles in the way, and our choices will involve short term pain and suffering, but we must go through this to realize the end success. It was an incredible honest and forthright display, and one that makes me proud to have this guy as my President. He’s not Black, he’s not African American, he’s the President, and I am ready to see what he will do during his presidency. So far, closing Guantanamo Bay prison and freezing salaries of some White House staff is a good start, and agreeing not to torture prisoners I think adds some icing to the cake.

What our previous President failed to realize what that the rules apply to everyone, including himself, and his various decisions about the War, corporate oversight, torture, and diplomacy as a whole were all grossly wrong. Hindsight will do that to some people, but until the very end, there was no admission of guilt, no real regrets until it was towards the very end when he admitted, “we probably shouldn’t have declared victory when the job wasn’t done.” It was a surprising admission, but I think received entirely too late, because the damage was already done.

Which bring me to the tale of Sam Adams. The depth of this story is becoming very clear over the past few days, as the general timeframe and events are being put together. He met the teenager, who was an aide of a State Senator and agreed to mentor him. In spending time together, they grew fond of each other, and apparently, they hooked up after he turned 18. They have remained in some contact, but nothing more since then. When asked about the boy, Adams said the relationship was above board, and he was simply mentoring him because he was struggling with coming out. The allegations never went any further until recently, when Adams was forced to admit the true nature of the relationship and admit that not only did they have sex, but that he asked him to cover it up. This information, had it been known before the election last year, probably would have affected the voting, but we don’t know for sure. One of the reporters from the Mercury, another alternative newspaper, became a sustainability chief for Adams recently, despite questions about her background and the fact that she was the main investigator for their publication into this story when she was a reporter. Oregon’s Attorney General has indicated he’ll investigate the situation to see if there was any wrongdoing, and Adams hasn’t decided whether he’ll resign or fight, but the entire situation is a true mess. There's even been talk of a recall happening later this year. If you read the various links I’ve posted, you can see that this is one truly messed up situation.

From my own experience, I’ve mentored young people from my university, and I think the idea is one of the best gifts you can give a young person. I don’t think anyone in college can fathom what it is like in the working world, and having someone guide you through the trials can be a wonderful thing. But then again, most of the mentees are high school or college aged, and so they may be na├»ve to how things really work. Some of my mentees were female and attractive, but I was more struck by their talent and desire to succeed, and I didn’t view them in any other way but as a person asking me for help. I’m also reminded of their age when girl and I recently attended a Portland State football game, and I was caught staring at the cheerleaders, and girl pronounced to me, “Hey, you are old enough to be their father!” The staring immediately stopped, and I sat there, embarrassed at my gawking.

But then again, I’m a straight male. The whole issue here is dealing with a gay mayor and a gay young male. Things work a lot differently in that world, as I have learned in talking with some of my friends who happen to be gay. Hookups happen a lot, and it’s nothing for them to have one night stands with random folks, much like what you might see in any other bar anywhere in the world. People meet up and sometimes they have sex, right after they meet. It happens, and there’s not a whole lot that people offended by that can do. The best hope you can do for children about sex is to educate them on the dangers, and hope they make the right choice. Needless to say, I’ve made some smart choices, and some rather dumb choices, but nothing bad has happened. I consider myself lucky in that respect.

I’m not a public figure, though, I’m a guy living in Portland with my wife and cats. My background matters to her, my employer, but I don’t have to face the intense scrutiny that folks in the public eye face daily. There isn’t a whole lot of things that are considered taboo anymore, and so anyone interested in politics should prepare themselves to have their private life ripped apart, examined to no end, and then put out on display for all to see. It’s a tough existence, and I applaud anyone with the stomach to actually put up with the process. But we’ve made this process ourselves, by allowing quick snap judgments to determine a candidate’s likeability, and information can be distorted in efficient 30 second snippets. That happens when people allow single issues to determine their thoughts about potential candidates, or voters don’t take the time to actually read and try to understand the issues at hand, so they choose either not to vote or vote based on the quick snippets. Trust me, you can do some effective damage with simple, short ads. Just look back at the Smith - Merkely campaign for Senate, and watch the carnage from that campaign, as both sides took shot after shot, and in the end, Merkely was left standing, barely.

I can understand why Sam Adams chose to bend the truth when asked, because he felt like the alternative would be distorted and lessen his chances of winning. But he also had a chance to do something truly noble that day, and not play the game of politics like everyone else, and instead he answered a political question, albeit a risky one, with an even riskier political answer. I’d expect someone with 20 years of experience in politics to take that tact, and personally, the part about him having sex with the boy doesn’t bug me. As far as we know, it was an act between two consenting adults, and it’s none of my business. Things like this happen all the time, but in this case, it’s a public figure involved and he originally told a lie to cover it the facts.

We expect our leaders to perform with integrity and humility, and what Sam Adams did shows neither. He should have displayed the tenacity to live with the truth, and let things fall where they may, but he didn’t. And now, the city waits to see what happens next. Selfishly, I really want MLS to come to town, and Adams is a major proponent to this idea, and now I’m not sure of it’s future with this. While we have the desire and passion, there isn’t a true political heavyweight involved with this if Adams resigns. And for something like this, you have to have someone with the foresight, integrity and ingenuity to make it work, and while Adams has two of the three, the integrity is now called into question.

But does that mean he won’t be a good mayor and he can’t get past this? Absolutely not, which is why I am hoping he remains in office long enough for the facts to come out and the investigation to be completed. People make mistakes, and part of showing integrity is admitting to an error in judgment and then doing everything possible to restore people’s confidence. Politicians are human, and I think anyone that expects them to be completely without baggage is just being unrealistic. I don’t even think Gandhi or Jesus could survive some of the true attacks that some people have endured running for office. But true leadership means standing up and taking responsibility for what you’ve done, and I’m hoping that he does that, for the good of the city. Running way now just makes things worse for everyone.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday, Monday

Filling in some gaps from yesterday's post and talking about a few other things.

MLS Update - The St. Louis story is attached here, and paints the picture of their economics. The stadium site is tied together with some other development, such as retail and restaurant, which means there's more potential to make money but there's more things that have to fall into place in order to make it happen, unlike stadium only. St. Louis would be a great market to add to MLS, being centrally located in the US and it's the birthplace of US Soccer. But I think that there are other cities that are as good of a bid or better.

Atlanta is looking at other possibilities for teams, but not at soccer. Seems like a decent enough market, but I also know that competition for sports dollars is tough when you have the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB all within town, and the Braves are really a top draw there regardless of their record. Miami's bid includes the Barca name, a big club from Europe along with other big footy names possibly coming to town. It's not so much that I think the team will do badly in Miami, but seriously, you've had two chances to make MLS work there and they've failed for various reasons, including attendance and ownership. And your USL entry has had the worst attendance the past two years in a row, so by all means, give them another team and see how well it goes. You have to wonder about how many chances you get until it's raising the red flag. Philly's stadium issue is still up in the air, despite them being on tap to join MLS in 2010, and so right now, this leaves Vancouver and Portland.

Vancouver BC would be a great market for MLS, they have great fans, a beautiful city, and a history of great support. The instant rivalry with the fish guys from the Emerald City makes it a win, and if you were able to include Portland with that, it makes it that much better because you have a built in Pacific Coast rivalry. The only thing that Portland needs to do is get the money figured out.

The following thread on my home away from home on the interwebs has all sorts of MLS news, including information about the task force meetings that are occuring here for Sam Adams' stadium committee. This is the group tasked to recommend stadium options for not only the MLS Timbers should that occur, but a home for the current PCL Portland Beavers. It's important to consider the future of both teams, and while MLS would be great here, you can't ignore baseball because there is a market here and people like to watch the game. But it must be in the right spot. The task force meetings are open to the public, so anyone can drop in and learn more.

Super Bowl - Ok, admittedly, I knew Pittsburgh was going to be a good team, and they were going to make the playoffs. I didn't have them picked for the Super Bowl, but I figured they'd be in the hunt to get there. And they did, providing a most brutal win versus Baltimore. The game was physical, bruising, and defensive, exactly what you would expect from two divisional rivals. Players said they are happy getting an extra week off to recover from their playoff game, and they weren't kidding.

But Arizona? Seriously, I had them as the third best team in their own division behind the Seahawks and the 49ers, who I thought would have figured things out enough to be competitive. And all Arizona did was win while the Hawks imploded badly and the 49ers digressed enough so that their coach, Mike Nolan, was fired and is now in Seattle coaching the defense. So they won the division, but then after not winning a playoff game in 40 some years, they not only win their first game vs. Atlanta, but they beat Carolina and Philadelphia to get to a Super Bowl. I would have never guessed it, which is a great thing for the NFL getting fresh teams in there.

But just because Arizona is a surprise doesn't mean the Steelers will win this game easily. The NFC is loaded, and Arizona beat some very balanced teams to get to this point by having a great offense and a defense that made plays when needed. Should be a fun matchup, even if it wasn't completely expected.

Trail Blazers News - The guy that shoots three pointers really well is going to the dunk contest. Rudy Fernandez will participate in this year's Slam Dunk contest. If he dunks like he shoots from the outside, this could be a load of fun to watch him. Either way, it's great that a Trail Blazer will be at All-Star Weekend, especially after so many years of being snubbed until Brandon Roy broke that streak last year. I expect Rudy and Greg Oden will be in the Rookie game, and Roy will be selected as a reserve, which will be very deserved honors.

Timbers News - There are rumours the 2009 season schedule is coming out on Wednesday, January 21st. I'll believe it when I see it, but the source is someone I believe, so look here for more information. We know at this point, our home opener is April 30th versus Carolina, which is a Thursday night. Apparently, the hipsters need a place to go.

Local News - According to recent studies, Portland and Wonder white bread have something in common. Uh, really. The study proves what anyone that hangs out around town knows, young people are flocking here in droves because of the art, music, culture and vibe of the town. Seriously, what's not to love about a town that loves its strip clubs, pubs, and sports teams? Well, the fact that many of the people coming here are caucasians.

But really, while race may be lacking in some areas, I challenge the fact that we aren't diverse here. If you think of sexual orientation, this place is amazingly diverse in places where gays and lesbians congregate. Plus this town has various conventions and gatherings for geeks, comic book folks, gamers, beer guys, and sports fans. I've never lived in a town where there were so many festivals in celebration of different things.

Admittedly though, the housing issue means gentrification, and the areas where African Americans traditionally lived have now been changed into areas where young people, mostly white, are buying houses. It's tough when you have the demand here like there has been, and people are priced out of the area and pushed out into the suburbs. My area is incredibly diverse with Mexican Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and caucasians melding together, and I see lots of different folks about town. Mind you, when I lived in NW Portland, I didn't see much diversity but then again, it was a trendy part of town. But seriously, if you are going to talk about diversity here, I think it's better to talk about interests and about who people are rather that what they look like, and in that case, Portland is an incredibly diverse, almost quirky paradise.

Ok, off to go watch the Trail Blazers tonight. Be good and don't get blown away!!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

It's Sunday Afternoon and I'm Being Blown Into Tuesday

Girl had told me the wind blows around here. But nothings has prepared me for the gusts over the past few days. And yes, it's blown. They say gusts about 50 miles an hour, and I don't think they are kidding here at all. It blew so badly yesterday driving to the store, it felt like I was being blown off the road. As they say, the east wind coming through the Gorge makes for some great wind surfing but it also chills things a bit eastside. Today was an usual day in the sense that it was nicely sunny outside without a cloud in the sky, and then add in the brisk winds, and it felt about 20 degrees colder than it probably was. I could see many people taking off outside, thinking it was sunny but then realizing it's freaking cold. I've heard trash cans blowing about, there's debris all over our yard, and the sun makes you think it's nice outside, but then the wind gets you and wow. I walked to the store to get a news paper, and felt the chill. I was supposed to go to footy practice today, but ended up having too much to do around here for my own good, and now, I'm taking a break to blog a bit.

The world didn't come to an end on Friday, but it was a momentous day for the Trail Blazers as their salary cap went down $9 million dollars for a player they don't even have on their team. Darius Miles played in his 10th game, and so his salary is back on our books. As much as I'm angry about the circumstances, I realize that things could be a lot worse, like our effort last night at the free throw line versus Charlotte. We should have won the game, but in shooting just over 50 percent from the line, we ended up losing the game in overtime. Things happen over an 82 game schedule, and last night was evidence of a team that did everything to give another team a victory. You could blame the loss on the FT shooting, but our defense in the first half was terrible, letting too many easy layups happen. We'll be just fine, because we tend to not let bad efforts phase us much in the next game, but it does feel like we miss Steve Blake a lot, and we need to get back to what wins us games, mostly effort and rebounding.

I've focused a lot on the Trail Blazers lately because the news from soccer here is kind of slow, being our offseason. But the Timbers did sign seven players this week, well one was with us last year, Cameron Dunn. He played very well late in the season, giving us a spark from the bench that we had been missing through our tough part of the schedule. McLoughlin I remember from his days up north as part of the Craps, and he's a good player and will fit in well down here. The funny thing with this year is that there is no Seattle in the USL and no reserve division in the MLS, so there's plenty of talent to be had if you look right. We'll probably be a better team than we were last year, but then again, I thought our team last year was good to go for 12 wins and we didn't even get half that number.

In soccer, defense gives you so much, and if you can't stop goals, you can't win most games. And really, last year's Timbers had two problems going on - they either couldn't score at all and we would lose by a goal or we couldn't stop the other team at all and we'd lose by a big score. My hope is that this year, there's a better plan in place. I already feel that talent wise we'll be better but it's a matter of actually showing it on the pitch. This week, there were tryouts for the team, and my own friend Firestarter did his level best to give it a go. I commend him for even stepping on the pitch with some of these guys, but he's good and it would be cool to see him on the team, even though that would mean he wouldn't be up with us in the stands. It could be one of those "I knew him when" things.

The MLS bid is also still going on, but it's a waiting game as the Stadium Task Force in town is talking about stadium bids, while the other prospective cities are falling off the wayside. No Las Vegas, No Atlanta, Philly is struggling with money issues, and St. Louis has a plan but major backers to help fund it. Essentially, the competition is Vancouver and Miami right now, and both of their bids have the capital in place and a plan of sorts out there. Vancouver wants to refurbish a stadium that is getting a facelift for the Olympics, while Miami wants to use the Barca investment monies to spread the word of soccer in Miami. The MLS wants strong money in their league, which is why both bids are still on the table and present the strongest challenge to us. We have the passion and crowds, but so far, the money is still being worked on and our stadium committee is still meeting. I feel like MLS is ours for the taking if we can get the money figured out. But considering that two cities are struggling to make ends meet, including Philly which is a team that's already been accepted for expansion, I know that's the tough part of the equation. How do you fund money for a sports team in a tough market where businesses are closing, people are losing jobs, and things are tough?

The answer is that you find a way that won't adversely affect these other services, which Portland has with their bond plan. The money is borrowed off the city's credit record, but none of the general fund is touched so money still pays for cops, services and other things. And building a stadium will bring jobs to town, although some temporarily, but still some folks will make money from a stadium. It's a matter of finding a site and thinking of the future. If you want to learn more about the status of things, visit www.mlstopdx.com or www.mlstoportland.com and you'll get caught up on things. Just remember to stay warm.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

One More Game

So here it is Tuesday night in Portland, and things around Darius Miles just keep getting stranger. It was learned today that Portland had actually attempted to pick him up on waivers after Memphis waived him. Whether it was their intention to stash him on the bench for the rest of the year, or on our injured list, the NBA denied the waivers claim and Miles resigned with Memphis. This now puts him 2 games from the magic figure where the insurance claim the team filed to offset his salary is voided because he played in the required number of games after being declared medically retired. Whew, and I try to avoid run on sentences when I can, but there was a lot to cover there.

ESPN also reported today that the NBA won't fine or discipline the team after the email that went around threatening legal action against other teams that signed him for the intent of messing with the salary cap space for next year. And Darius put up 13 points in 14 minutes for the Grizzlies versus the Cavaliers tonight. It would appear that even the Players Association won't file action yet, because Miles has signed and is now playing, so apparently the end result of all of this is that on Friday, Miles plays in his 10th game effectively putting his salary on Portland's books for the next two years, pushing us over the cap and having to pay luxury tax.

The situation stinks to high heaven, but apparently you can trade players for the purpose of seeing them waived and then resign them. This happened most recently with Antonio McDyess, who was with Detroit, but traded to Denver with Chancey Billups as part of the Allen Iverson trade. McDyess was waived because Denver was over the salary cap and didn't have room on the roster. Approximately one month later, McDyess resigned with Detroit and all is well. Dallas did this with a player they traded a few years ago, resigning him right before the playoffs. So I wonder what is different here that what Portland tried to do? The premise for each move is the same, allowing teams to pick up players without adversely affecting their salary situation.

The problem is that Portland has always had a bit of an odd relationship with the NBA. I think our team is well liked enough, but we haven't hosted an All Star game here ever. There was squawking when the first overall pick from the 2007 draft came here and we took Greg Oden, which then led to an season of rehab watch when he hurt his knee before the season. We have one of the richest men in the world as our owner, and he's not afraid to use his resources to help our team where he can. Paul Allen cares enough to spend the money, and he's got people in the organization that make sure it's spent right. The team has everything going in the right direction, and there might be some resentment. Apparently, our GM, Kevin Pritchard, isn't well liked by some GMs because of his brash attitude about success and using new technology for scouting and evaluating talent. Face it, there's plenty of ways to manage a team, and right now, Pritchard is doing things right. But that doesn't stop fans in other cities from saying "Trail Blazer fans are whiners about this" or "I'm tired of hearing about the Blazers."

To all of them, I say tough. You haven't had to endure the pure embarrassment of watching the Jail Blazers from the early 2000's literally destroy every good piece of will that most fans had towards the team. The group may have had basketball talent, but you couldn't turn on the TV or read a newspaper without hearing about something one of the players had done. The list goes through drugs, dog fighting, drag racing, marijuana found at an airport wrapped in tin foil by a metal detector, fighting amongst the players, player insubordination, bad attitudes, surliness with fans and media, getting arrested and showing a trading card as identification. It was a tough time to be a fan of this team, and that wasn't always the case. Yes, we got a little spoiled with success in 1977 and then runs in the 90s with our great teams. But we had good guys and always seemed to be a basket short or a run away from pulling off a title. And then Bob Whitsitt came into town, and changed the philosophy of the team. They became paranoid and insular, and the chemistry of a team was thrown away for quick wins. When things are good and the team is winning, all is well. But, shake it up with some drama, and then watch the fireworks.

It was the hardest time ever to be a fan, watching other NBA fans make fun of us because of our legal issues and trouble. I wore my Trail Blazers gear but more conspicuously than in the past, and going to games was more of a chore than actual enjoyment. I kept waiting for the other shoe to fall, but the more things happened, the more distant I kept getting from the team. I couldn't be proud of a team that didn't care about themselves, their city, or the legacy of the players that played before them.

Darius Miles represents that legacy of those teams, playing only for themselves and their paycheck, selfishly avoiding the responsibilities of being a professional athlete. I understand people make mistakes, but that team repeatedly took any good will built up and destroyed it. Allen even considered selling the team because attendance was so bad and people were abandoning ship in droves. And so we now have a new era of success and doing things the right way, and then, a reminder of the past comes cropping up. The legacy of the Jail Blazers crops up, and won't quickly go away.

I'm ready to move beyond all of that, but there seems to be things that keep pulling us back to rekindle those days. And I resent it, I resent having this situation affect us when we followed the rules, and Miles decided now was the time to rehab and work hard, ignoring the medical advice to retire. It will be nice when all of this is past us, and we can finally put some distance between that dark chapter in Trail Blazer history. We should never forget the lessons of what that team taught us. It's important to win, but it's more important to win doing it the right way.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Our Night At The Trail Blazers - 1/10/09 Vs. Warriors

Girl and I love going to Trail Blazer games, and so having a game on Saturday was a welcome diversion from working, keeping our cats out of trouble, and doing mundane things around the house that need it. And the game on Saturday versus the Warriors was also Gonzaga Alumni night, so we got a good deal on the seats. This is the third year I've went, and I've ran into someone I went to school with exactly zero times. I know my class at Gonzaga did have some people move to Portland, but apparently they don't go to functions like this. But I do see some familiar faces from my going to Gonzaga games at University of Portland, but the evening is mostly about watching the Trail Blazers. It's been a tough week with the off court distractions, and apparently Brandon Roy will be back in uniform, so that helps things a great deal.

Our plan was to arrive very close to 6 pm when the doors opened to get food and then find our seats. Subway in the Rose Garden is actually very good, and not overly priced for a stadium, so we decide that's our dinner choice for the night. And it's more healthy than some of the other options around. We leave our house for our customary parking spot near Lloyd Center, and wait for the MAX because it's freaking cold outside. Yes, it's January in the Rose City, and it's cold and wet. The train arrives relatively soon after we get to the platform, and we got a lovely show from some homeless kids crawling about the station on the platform roofs. Girl and I especially loved on a crowded MAX train, they were talking about getting wasted and being high, but girl pointed out everyone of their lines was taken directly from the movie "Trainspotting". So apparently, life imitates cinema rather badly.

We get to the gates right at 6 PM and I give girl her ticket outside the Rose Garden, and we head it. As I move through security and get ready to hand my ticket to the taker, I notice girl isn't behind me. I look back and she's been detained by security, and for what I'm not entirely sure. Apparently, the gal asked her to remove things from her pockets, so there she was pulling out Kleenex and cough drops. The security gal apparently asked for her to remove the contents of the other pocket in a rather stern voice, and I stood there in befuddlement. Girl finally said there's nothing in my pocket, and the line for reviewing purses is now 15 people deep. She wasn't carrying a bag for the simple reason that she didn't want to be searched, and if truth be known, I had more stuff in my pockets than she did, as I was carrying my phone, camera, batteries, an email from the team, and my game ticket. Girl was rather frustrated at the events, and honestly I don't blame her because I'm still not sure why she was picked for searching. But knowing things around there, causing a scene might have gotten us ejected or something, but it was still annoying as anything.

We finally got to Subway, grabbed sandwiches and then headed to the third floor to our seats. It still wasn't very crowded at 6:30, but we were expecting a sell out and our crowds notoriously arrive late. Sure enough, 7 PM rolls around, we are in our seats, and people are still filing in. The anthem is done, badly, not because the gal doesn't have a good voice, she just kept enunciating the wrong notes and so it sounded funny. I realize the anthem is hard to sing, but after hearing Storm Large sing it for the Boston game, I don't want anyone else singing it. She just did too good, although watching Zakk Wylde rip through the anthem last year was a real treat, too.

The game itself was full of runs, as we stunk up the first quarter being down by 10 at the break, and then finally putting together some offense in the second and third quarters to get up to a 19 point lead, and then we almost gave it back in the fourth before prevailing 113 to 100. Brandon Roy was back, but honestly he missed his first shot and first two free throws, and seemed rusty, but LaMarcus Aldridge was anything but rusty, hitting shots from everywhere. The thing about Golden State is that they play hard, and they play a rather unorthodox style of basketball, so you can never really feel like you have enough of a lead. We ended up with six players in double figures, which really emphasized this was a complete team effort. We soon headed downstairs for the meet and greet after the game.

For the past few years of doing this, we got to meet Dan Dickau, shoot free throws, and hang around on the court, and tonight it was going to be Gonzaga alumnus Rony Turiaf who was supposed to speak with us. However, he was injured in their previous game when someone hit him in the mouth with their elbow, and he broke a tooth. While he played in this game in Portland, he was in so much pain afterwards, he was visiting the Portland team doctors to get help for his tooth. So, we may or may not get a meet and greet, but we'll get to shoot free throws. As we wander down on the court, we line up and get about half way through the group when the main Trail Blazers PR guy says they are looking for someone to come down and talk with us for a moment, so we continued to shoot until suddenly Jerryd Bayless walked up. Apparently, the rookie point guard agreed to come talk with us for a moment, very dapperly dressed. He spoke for a few moments, answered some questions and was generally great to talk with. He didn't even go to our school, but he was willing to come out and talk with the fans, which I thought was great. And, Rony felt so bad for cancelling on his part of the meet and greet, he's working on something special for the Gonzaga fans that will be mailed to us over the next couple of weeks.

After the chat, I lined up to shoot my free throw, as I hadn't shot yet. Suddenly, I'm on the floor dribbling the ball with girl perched under the basket, ready to document the moment. I dribbled a few times, launched it, and was determined not to leave it short. And I ended up banging it off the back rim and it bounced out. So, in my short career of free throw shooting at the Rose Garden, I'm now officially 0 for 3. But the moment looks pretty good, courtesy of her. So I can't complain too much.

The news around the team has been rather bleak with the Darius Miles situation, and most recently today, a fan that has cancer passed away after getting her life long dream of watching the Trail Blazers on Christmas Day. Katie Shearer was 24 and was recently diagnosed with a malignant melanoma, which was determined to be fatal. Rather than wallow in self pity, she decided to make the most of her time, doing all the things she wanted to do. She got her degree from Portland State, given to her at home, the first time they'd ever done anything like that. She saw the Trail Blazers versus Dallas on Christmas Day and the team made sure her entire family got tickets so she wouldn't have to decide which ones to take, and she took care of her family right up until the end. She loved the team so much, and it's tragic to hear about such news. What strikes me most about the story after losing a family member to cancer is the maturity Katie showed in dealing with her situation. She was probably scared and angry, I'm sure, but she took that and instead turned the situation into a positive by inspiring others to do things they've always wanted to do. 24 years old is too soon to be dealing with such a life altering event, but then again, life doesn't give you more than you can handle.

But it shows the true spirit of giving embodied in the new Trail Blazers organization, from the owner to the players. While I feel that a certain sports columnist really overstated his involvement to make himself look better to people, it pales in comparison to the good things this team does on the court and off the court. Jerryd didn't have to come speak with us, but he did anyway, and was a great guy. The team make sure Katie Shearer and her family was taken care of, while many of the team take it upon themselves to give their time, money and efforts to help causes around town. It's a different age around here, and I'm happy to be able to see it happen first hand. It sure feels much different from the dark ages of the Jail Blazers.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Postscript to Yesterday

So after writing my piece yesterday, the update is below. The Grizzlies, the team that Miles was with this year for 12 games, resigned Miles to a 10 day contract. Now, the watch is on to see if he gets the 2 games needed to them become part of Portland's salary cap.

Apparently the Memphis Grizzlies have chosen to ignore the Portland Trail Blazers' recent request.

The Grizzlies have re-signed Darius Miles, who is attempting a comeback from major knee surgery, to a 10-day contract, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported Friday night.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=3822911

And a blog from Memphis fans about the issue.
http://cmimemphis.com/grizblog/node/435#comment


Look, I'm proud my team stood up for themselves and pointed out a potentially distructive thing, and anyone that thinks another team threatened with the same situation wouldn't do something similar is just kidding themselves. I realize that it's not money we should have expected to keep, knowing this was a possibility. But, at the same point, teams need to stand up for themselves and let folks know that if you mess with us, we'll mess back. The point was never to stop Miles from playing for another team if he was going to be part of their plans, but to sign him with the intent to harm the Trail Blazers was the concern. Again, proving that last piece would be extremely hard, but imagine the mess if Miles plays 2 games then gets cut again and not resigned? I'd imagine the issue gets messier if that happens.

I don't believe for a minute that the NBA hates Portland, despite what others might think. I think we are at a point where the franchise is moving in the right direction, and the confidence is showing. Seriously, the team is loaded, and will be a threat for NBA titles for years to come, but part of becoming a true legendary team is showing talent and swagger on and off the court, and it's apparent that it's showing up in all facets of the team and the organization. Keep up the good work, folks, I'm with you no matter what.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Past Rearing Its Ugly Head Once Again...

The news around the Portland Trail Blazers this year has been relatively positive. The team is winning with solid talent, good natured guys who are out in the community and want to be the faces of the team, and the crowds are returning in droves to the Rose Garden. The expectations are this team should make the playoffs this year, and content for a few NBA titles over the next few years, as they have that much young talent. So imagine the surprise for many Trail Blazer fans over the news of the past 48 hours, and it's been anything but positive.

The link to what is happening courtesy of the Oregonian is noted here, but to give you a quick catchup of the events, here goes. Back in 2003, the Trail Blazers took a chance on signing Darius Miles, a former top draft pick of the LA Clippers. The kid had a world of talent, even appearing in a movie playing a basketball players, but he couldn't put it together with the Clippers and Cavaliers, and was in danger of dropping from the NBA. His attitude and demeanor was the major issues, as he seemed to play mostly for himself, but Portland thought we could resurrect his career and so we took a chance. And he proved himself pretty good in the half season here in the Rose City, so much so that the Trail Blazers gave him a 4 year maximum contract, even though we really were bidding against ourselves to keep him. The next season was moments of talent followed by sulking and disinterested play, but that was the problem for the entire squad. Miles also had run-ins with the coaching staff, including a few suspensions that were reduced without the coach's knowledge.

During the 2005 - 2006 campaign, Miles blew out his knee in a game, and ended up needing microfracture surgery, the new rage in the NBA where they put tiny breaks in the bone to help speed healing, with the recovery time taking a bit shorter time than regular knee surgery. The team has experience dealing with these situations, with Zack Randolph and Greg Oden needing these surgeries while with the team. So the thought was that Miles would rehab and see if he was able to return, although doctors indicated the injury was pretty severe.

So the rehab continued, and the team starts rebuilding but keeps Miles away from the new talent, desiring to keep him from corrupting the others. The rehab seems to go Ok or not, depending on who you believe, but suddendly it's the 2007 - 08 season, and Miles isn't near coming back. The team can't cut him without taking the full brunt of his salary, so they hold onto him with the thought that he might medically retire if the condition is worse enough, or the team can enact insurance to cover his contract if he's deemed unfit to play. Miles has no desire to retire, so the team waits until April to file the insurance claim on the salary once independant doctors indicate that Miles' injury is deemed career ending. But Miles continues to work out and try to come back, and ends up getting some interest from teams. During this summer, Miles gets himself in trouble with drugs, and ends up earning a 10 game suspension. But the insurance clause is also something to consider for the summer as well. If Miles ended up playing 10 games during the 08-09 season, the insurance claim would be rescinded and the Trail Blazers would have to pay his entire salary for the next two years, about $18 million. The team was taking a risk by filing insurance, but they felt he wouldn't come back. And now, an extra 10 game suspension meant even if he made a team, he'd have to sit 10 games before he could play, and then it would be 10 games before the clause kicked in.

Miles played in Boston for the pre-season, and was cut before the season. While some teams had expressed interest, it was December before Memphis signed him, knowing about the suspension. He could be under contract with the Grizzlies until this week in January, and the team could cut him without having to pay his salary for the rest of year. The Grizzlies decided to let him sit the 10 games, and give him a 2 game audition before making the call to keep him or not. They chose to cut him after 2 games, but apparently the move was more money related rather than talent, as Miles fit in with the team and showed some skill.

Cut to this week and Yahoo Sports indicates that the 10 games that everyone expected Miles to have to play before it hit the Blazers' salary cap was actually 2, as the league counted the six games Miles played in Boston. So now, any team signing him to a 10 game contract and playing him for 2 games would then trigger the insurance clause, and the Trail Blazers end up paying Miles' salary. This ends up putting the team over the luxury tax, so instead of being under the amount to be able to sign free agents, the team would have to pay into the league pool. While there were rumours that teams were interested in signing him, the Trail Blazers took an interesting tact today.

The team sent an email to each NBA general manager and the league office stating that if Miles was signed simply to affect the clause and have Miles' salary hit the team's salary cap, the Trail Blazers would take any steps necessary to fight the situation, including litigation. Needless to say, the email caught some teams off guard, and caused quite a ruckus at the NBA offices and at the headquarters of the NBA Players Association. The Players group is filing a grievance against the team, claiming that the email hinders teams from signing Miles, while the NBA has stated that Miles is a free agent now and can be signed, and the NBA is ready to approve any contract that meets the standards. The Trail Blazers' front office has been busy with the press, explaining their situation and taking the heat, so to speak, Even the local columnist in town weighed in on the issue. He stated the reaction seemed paranoid, and the NBA is probably going to come down on the team rather hard.

The thing is, I don't see this as a bad thing overall. If I'm a business and I am now having to pay for something I didn't expect to pay, I'm going to use any recourse I can to get due diligence. And I know from watching the NBA rather closely that the fact that Miles could only play 2 games and affect the Trail Blazers' bottom line so much for salary hadn't escaped many astute teams. In the email out to the league, the team didn't say that another team couldn't sign Miles, but simply that the team would be upset if someone signed Miles simply to trash the Trail Blazers salary cap situation for next year. Mind you, the team will still have assets to trade and one rather large expiring contract if they don't trade LaFrentz, but the money available is slightly smaller, but it's something to consider. The team is looking out for their interests, and I don't blame them a bit for doing that. Ok, timing wise, after hearing about the 2 games, it probably didn't look very good, but did you expect the team to sit back and not say anything? The old organization probably would have bit the bullet and not said a word, but this team from management to the floor has a scrappy attitude and they don't take much from others.

Ok, I'll give the other side a point that it would be extremely difficult to prove that another team willingly signed Miles to affect our bottom line, but if anything, if an issue gets to court, you can't always determine what the outcome might be. I know most teams are very secretive about plans and draft strategies, but then again, the web finds out a lot of things that are supposedly secret. The team would have a tough road proving that a signing was done maliciously, but they'd have their chance in court and you never know. And in watching the events across the pond for my beloved West Ham, you think something might go away, but it doesn't. The team was penalized three seasons ago for supposedly signing players that weren't eligible to be signed, but they did anyway and one of them, Carlos Tevez, helped them stay in the Premiership. The team is now facing all sorts of legal inquiries and proposed fines, and it could cripple them. I don't know what the truth is there, but I know that the team has vowed to fight because they feel they've been punished already. But the courts continue to talk about it, and it seems never ending.

Look, the Trail Blazers situation getting to court would be a bad thing, but they have a few points that I think need to be addressed. One, how come the pre-season games counted towards the 10 games Miles had to play, when he was supposed to be suspended? Yes, he served the suspension later, but why was he allowed to start the pre-season and have those games count. Secondly, this insurance clause now gives another team the right to sign a player and significantly alter their ability to sign players, so the NBA has effectively given another team the right to affect another team's bottom line simply with investing a 10 day contract. The insurance clause rights should be further clarified, especially in this case since it wasn't team doctors that declared the injury career ending. If a team knows they can get away with this with other players in a similar situation, you don't think other GMs might try the tactic simply to keep an opponent from signing someone?

It's a mess, and I don't expect it to end happily for everyone. I don't blame Miles for wanting to play and prove people wrong, nor do I fault the Trail Blazers for trying to get some cap relief, thinking the injury was career ending. This is a rather unique situation, and one I hope ends without too much damage. What I expect to happen is the NBA fines the Trail Blazers, Miles is signed and the clause enacts, the team files a complaint, and the salary cap won't be affected for the full salary because there will be a compromise reached. The NBA doesn't want this dirty laundry aired out, and it's in the best interests for this to be worked out as equitably as possible. We'll see, but at least we can say the season has had some drama on and off the court.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Years Resolutions And What Not with the B(*&(*^S

I've overheard numerous conversations about New Year's resolutions and how many folks tried to start something new already in 2009, but it's failed miserably. The assorted stories were about exercising, losing weight, trying new food types, or doing something different, but it appeared that most people had already given up on the ideas just six days into the year. I haven't done resolutions for years, mostly because I suck at them, and so I've tried a different tact.

Resolutions are meant with the best intent, as people look at the end of year, realize they want to do something different and so resolve to do that something at the start of the year. I spent many New Years Eve, drinking and partying, and coming up with drunken ideas to find my soul mate, get a better paying job, get rid of my expanding gut, get hair surgery, and most all of them failed by the time the Super Bowl kicked off later that month. For some of the ideas, it involved a lot more effort that I first realized and I gave up, but some of them were doomed to fail by an extra factor I have with some folks.

See, when Christmas passed and then the New Years Ball drops, for most people it's the end of the year and a start of something new. For me, it's one more day until my birthday hits, so I get the added pressure of realizing that I'm a year older while dealing with all of the new year stuff. Mind you, adding the year is great when you are 10 years old and wanting to hit double digits in age, but when you're turning 30 and things haven't quite turned out the way you expected them to and you're not sure what to do next, the new year and birthday thing just adds a double whammy. Granted, it's not a great excuse, but it's the same one that many people use when they join gyms at the start of the year, resolving to get in better shape, and then by February, they can't remember where their gym is. Try as people might, they want to do different things, but sometimes they resolve themselves to follow in the footsteps of their parents or friends.

Resolutions fail when there is negative energy behind them. What I mean is that if you try doing something simply to avoid a possible downfall or you are motivated by being scared of being alone, fat, bald or something like that, motivation will only work to a certain point. When you feel less threatened or the alcohol has worn off a bit, suddenly even the best ideas lose that necessity factor, and then it's another task that fell by the wayside. I didn't want to be alone at 30, but it was my circumstance, and now being where I'm at now, I appreciate my wife that much more realizing where I was and where I am now. The circumstances behind the change were a lot different.

Change fails when it's too nondescript to be measured or so far beyond realistic, it's doomed to fail, which means most resolutions will die out because they are set up that way. "I want to lose weight" is a noble intention, but too nondescript to really be measured in a meaningful or motivating way. "I want to lose weight because I want to meet Gillian Anderson in London during my summer holiday" is a bit more descriptive, but the chances of this happening for most of us is the same as being struck by lightning, winning the lottery, or being given our own reality show. It might happen, but more than likely, a certain path of extraordinary things must occur for it to fall in place. And while I believe in karma and fate, even those powerful forces have their limits.

My resolutions that have worked are placed when I am in a positive place, whenever that may be. I realize that something needs to be changed, and being more open and positive, it's not immediately dismissed. Then, I try and make the resolution something quantifiable, but also attainable. This blog really started as a resolution for me to write more creatively. I love my writing career now, but it's much more entertaining writing this at times than writing about the process flow of comparing data bits from the consumer resolution survey with the entire databank of customer records. See, I put you to sleep there just by having you read that sentence. Mind you, my job isn't boring, but I also know that in my best writing there, it's for a limited audience. So my resolution is to write at least once a week in my blog. It's easy, attainable, and the most important thing is that I don't beat myself up if I miss a week now and then. It happens, we all get busy, but because the change is associated with positive vibes, it has a greater chance of success.

Look, I'm a statistics guy, and some people will make change work under the worst of circumstances, but I will say the likelihood is small. But it's possible, and that's all that you have to keep in mind. And for me, sometimes, even I forget that as I deal with the day to day trials of living. We're all human, and sometimes, it's remembering that fact that helps us realize how special life can be.

Meanwhile, in the land of delusion labeled the BCS, apparently now legal action has been threatened because of the perceived inequity of the system. Utah is unhappy, and so they use the one thing we've learned in this country to solve differences, sue somebody. I swear that I hear the voice of Doug Llewellyn's voice saying "Don't take the law into your own hands, you take them to court" as I read things like this. I get that people are starting to get angry over this, even having our soon to be inaugurated President weigh in on things, and I don't think there is anyone that would agree the current system is completely fair. The BCS says we'll get the number one and two teams together to play for a title, and the rest is a mish-mash of rules, conference tie ins, and money flying about. It doesn't produce a clear mandate unless you have two teams that are undefeated, as long as they belong to the right conference, and if not, then it's a crapshoot.

But I'm tired of the whining and frustration, simply because you are fighting a losing battle here. Despite yelling, writing letters, suing, or whatever, the BCS won't change because it has no incentive to do anything different. People bitch about the system, yet games are still selling out for large ticket prices, and TV ratings are near the top of the rankings for each game, and sponsors continue to make good money. Gee, why would you want to change this at all, because it works if you are within the system. If you really want to mess with the system, don't watch the game and encourage your friends to do the same. Don't buy the sponsored products, and choose another show or activity to watch. If enough people affected the bottom line, it would get them to notice.

Look, logically speaking, a playoff would work and makes sense for every other NCAA division in football but the top, and the powers that be would make more money in a playoff then they currently do, and it would cause excitement beyond what is going on now. But if the system isn't broken according to the guys in charge, why would they try and fix it? Sounds like another broken resolution that slipped away like confetti after New Years.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Surviving the Lights of Vegas - Part 4

If you've read up to this point in our trip to Sin City, you've read about some crazy adventures, drinking and casino hopping, and eating way too much food. I've also collected the least hideous photos for perusal here at this link, but I can safely say that the adventures weren't quite finished...

Tuesday, December 23rd - There wasn't a whole lot to do except get up, finish our packing, and check out of our room. I had been glued to the television trying to find any word about travel conditions and any impending storms into Portland. But the channels were focusing on issues back East and in the Midwest, so I had to glean information from the pictures as best I could. It looked like snow was coming to Portland, but later that night, so as long as we got into town, it appeared OK. Girl was packing her toiletries, while I organized my money pouch and got my bag finally packed. I had some souvenir beer glasses that I wanted to preserve, so I wanted to pack them safely. As I was making some adjustments to my bag, I heard CNN flash to something about Portland, and it was Kyle Iboshi's face from the airport. Yes, KGW was getting some love, and he mentioned the conditions. Planes were getting in and out, things had been cancelled for a few days, but they were resuming operations and trying to get everyone out of town and get planes in as best they could. It was the best news I'd heard all morning, and so I packed my bags and we finally headed downstairs to check out.

MGM Grand does a great job, and the check out process was extremely quick and efficient. While they couldn't help me with our noise issue, they were sympathetic about it. And for every person checking out, there were dozens trying to check in early. I feel bad for the housekeeping group here, especially after hearing about an incident on our floor where an employee walked into a room to clean it and someone was in there that shouldn't be. We tipped our staff pretty well, even if they had this unnatural obsession of putting this tray on our bed to remind us about room service. Just what I want, a $25 hamburger and $15 bag of chips delivered.

Our shuttle was on time, and since it was prepaid, it was a matter of walking to the bay, putting our bags in back, then riding to the airport. You can actually see McCarren Airport from MGM, but the ride takes about 20 minutes with lights and traffic. We had decided to skip breakfast at the casino, instead eating at the airport. Our flight was a 3:30 departure, so we figured there would be plenty of time to eat. We were dropped off at Alaska gates, we checked in rather quickly, breezed through security, and then took the tram to our gate. This was coming along rather smoothly. Girl and I then wandered around, trying to find our lunch of choice, and after seeing all the options available, we chose Chili's to go. It was certainly good stuff, and after being filled up, we sat at the gates waiting to board. There was also a little bit of gambling at the slot machines, and I hit a rather small jackpot of $20.00 for my trouble. Not bad, but not the big money I was hoping for. Once I sat back at the gate, I got a call from my friend Wade saying the conditions were thawing a bit, but he expected us back earlier. I said nope, we were staying until Tuesday, and just getting ready to leave. And with that, the official announcement came to board our plane.

We got on rather quickly, and everyone settled in for the flight back. Our pilot made an announcement about a possible issue in the cockpit that they needed some time to check on, so said we would sit for about 30 minutes while they checked it out. No big thing, we're on the plane, it's just a short delay. After 30 minutes, they found the problem was with a window in the cockpit getting too warm, and they think they know how to fix it, but they need another 45 minutes to fix it, so we need to deboard while we run some more tests. So much for getting out on time, but hey, we're safe and we'll get out soon. The hour came and then an announcement that changed everything, as they said, we can't fix the issue with this plane, but one is coming from Portland that will be here at 7:30 PM, so we'll board you then and we'll be heading towards Portland. Ok, so maybe it's not that bad. Except for now, it's about 5:30 or so, and things are closing at the airport already. We finally wander up front to a California Pizza Kitchen, and settle in for some food and drink. I still had confidence we were leaving that night, it was just going to be an adventure getting out of town.

As I ate my pizza and Girl and her mom ate their pasta, I recall the moment when I got the text message from Alaska. I had set this up before I left to alert us to any issues or delays with our flight, and I was hoping it would never be used. When I got the text, saw it was from Alaska, and read the word "Cancelled", I uttered an obscenity, and then watched as at least 10 other people in the restaurant were looking at their phones getting the same news. Misery loves company, but in this case, I was really wondering what happened between we are leaving late and we aren't leaving today.

We paid for our meal, and wandered back to our gate to see a long line of folks waiting to talk to 2 people. The guy announced that you could also go downstairs to talk with someone, but in us following that plan, we ended up all the way back at the main terminal. Once we got in line for Alaska, I was trying not to go ballistic. I just wanted to get home, but no one would tell us anything. When I finally got to the front and was talking with the woman behind the counter, I said "We're on the flight to Portland that has been mysteriously cancelled.." It was at that point that she explained that the plane expected to arrive that night wasn't coming but they had a special flight planned for us in the morning at 9 AM. She booked all three of us on that flight, and then asked how many rooms we needed. I said, "Huh?" She indicated that because the delay was mechanical, Alaska was paying for us to stay that night at the Hampton Inn on Tropicana. We could catch a shuttle to the hotel, stay the night, and then come back in the morning. Realizing that it was probably best to leave, get some sleep and shower, and come back was the best plan, we left to collect our bags.

The bag collection was hard enough to find, but then finding the place where hotel shuttles were at was even more difficult, as it was below ground a couple of floors. I had even called the hotel to ask where it was, and got some decent directions, but once we found it, we saw that there was a lot of us waiting for the same shuttle. It was now well past 8 PM, and all I wanted to do was get out of the cold and just relax. Nearing 9 PM, the shuttle finally arrived, but it was a madhouse as the courtesy of the queue got thrown out the window as people crammed on to find a spot. I decided to try and help with the luggage a bit, and once there was no spot for me to sit, I took my seat in back on some luggage with another guy. Girl had gotten a standing spot in the row, while Mom found a seat of sorts, as it was packed to the hilt inside. The ride was fast and furious, and we drove past some of the sights we saw on our shuttle earlier in the day. The Hampton was a bit off the strip, but at least there was a Jack in the Box close by.

Apparently, the staff was hoping for a quiet night, but it was anything but as there were about 30 people checking in all from our cancelled flight. And the clerks treated everyone professionally, checking everyone in, taking information as needed, and explaining how things would work in the morning getting back to the airport. The Hampton had some slot machines there and a smallish bar in back, but most folks went straight to their rooms. Some decided to head to the strip to party one more night, while girl and I found our room and decided to chill for a bit. It wasn't a bad sized room, and the cable package included HBO and Cartoon Network, so we had something to watch finally. I wandered up front to get a few snacks later on, and the front desk gave me a big pile of food for $4. I felt bad for the staff at the Hampton because it appeared they didn't know what was going on, and they were scrambling to get people to drive and take care of this issue, and they were doing what they could to help. And with it being Christmas time, everyone just wanted to get home.

We ended up watching some bad HBO TV showing sex advice from a porn star, and then watched Adult Swin until almost 2 AM. Yeah, we probably didn't get much sleep, but knowing that we wanted to catch the 6:30 AM shuttle, it was hard to really lie down and relax.

Wednesday, December 24th (Christmas Eve) - It didn't take much to wake us up, as we were ready to go early. We hadn't unpacked much, and I decided to wear the same clothes as the previous day, so getting ready was a quick process. We left our room right after 6 AM, which was the first shuttle in the morning. Mom had been there to see the chaos in the morning, where there were more people than seats, and so some taxis had been called in to help. We decided to eat again at the airport, so once we got outside, it was wait for the shuttle or catch a cab and pay for it to get us there. A SUV looking cab showed up, and so the three of us were put in a cab with another nice gentlemen I saw the previous night at dinner. He was trying to get home as well, so the camaraderie amongst us was pretty strong. We wanted to get to Portland, no matter what.

The cab pulled up, and we said we had 4 and didn't mind getting close. Our cabbie was laughing and said I'll try but can't promise anything. We got all the bags and people in barely, and soon we were off to the airport again. But our cabbie decided to turn the ride into a one man comedy show, talking about what SLUT meant and telling Scottish jokes. It was crazy fun, although our fourth person seemed a bit uncomfortable about all the sex talk. It was a good time, and we even got some Life Savers for our trouble, which was a nice touch. We gave him a big tip, and Mom even got a big hug from the cabbie. We made his day apparently, but honestly, he gave us a laugh and hope that we were getting back home.

We made it to the Alaska counter to check in for our flight, now labeled the "mystery flight" by us as girl and I said "We're here to check into your mystery flight." It didn't have a flight number, it wasn't on the boards, but we were told a plane was here to take us to Portland. We were assured that yes, there was a plane, and we would be able to get out of here. Portland's weather was holding steady, so planes were coming and going, but they expected a big storm on Christmas Eve, so it had become a race to get there before things got worse.

Security the second time was actually even easier than the first run through, but with girl and I flying so much, you get used to the questions you'll be asked and the drills you need to do. I'm used to pulling my shoes off, even if I don't need to, and packing things so that TSA can see what's in my bag. We got through security in time to catch our tram to the gate, ironically the same gate as yesterday, and by 7:15 AM, we were back where it all started.

One of our adventures last night was watching a gal sell a credit card to get air miles, and she was quite chatty and loud yesterday. Another gentleman had taken over the kiosk, who took a more stealth approach to getting applications. Girl and I both agreed that this job of getting applications could possibly be the worst job ever, but at least this guy was having fun, and chatting with various folks trying to catch planes. Many of the people we saw last night were arriving in waves, probably from either waiting for the shuttle or catching cabs, but the faces were familiar. We decided on some Starbucks for breakfast, getting us caffeinated and ready to deal with the day. Our flight was scheduled for 9 AM, although we now saw that there was a flight up to Seattle due out around 9:30 AM, so it was going to be a quick boarding.

As we settled near the gate, we heard an announcement that our flight had a number finally, but that the paperwork was still being completed so things might be delayed. Hey, at least there's a plane here for us to use, so a short delay isn't terrible. However, our flight and the flight to Seattle were using the same gate, so then they announced a change to the Seattle flight to the gate next to us. This still didn't prevent many people from getting in the wrong line to catch a flight. I was also impressed with how many people decided to wedge up front as close as they could to ensure that they could see what was going on while restricting the flow of people. But, their flight finally started boarding when another announcement came on that said TSA was doing extra security checks for our flight, so some people may be picked from the line to go through additional screening. Of course, pick a cancelled flight with people already on edge to then keep in town just a bit longer. Nice work.

But soon, we were boarding, and it was the same crew from yesterday, and apparently it was the same plane as they were able to fix the problem during the night. We got on board only an hour behind, but the collective cheer when we started to taxi from the terminal was great to cheer. This was only met in loudness by the cheer as we got off the ground, and as we landed in Portland about 12:30 pm that day. I've never been so happy to be back in Portland, but we were finally able to see the true effects of the cold and snow, as the entire town was covered. Roads were pure white, and you didn't see much traffic around at all. It took our plane almost a half an hour to taxi to the terminal, which was met with some amusement by some passengers who tried to use the bathroom while the plane was moving. Apparently, the crew didn't find it nearly as funny. We also had a medical emergency on board, as paramedics met our plane to escort someone off. I overheard that she was one of the party girls from the previous night, and apparently the hungover feeling didn't merge well with flying. But she was whisked off the plane, and soon, we were all moving to get off the plane as well.

The snow on the roof of the airport appeared to be about 10 inches, and the coldness in the air was felt all over the lobby, but I was still happy to be home. We saw many people trying to start their journey to somewhere or wanting to pick up their loved ones, everyone sitting with nervous anticipation of either leaving or somebody arriving. We finally picked up our bags from the claim area, and wandered off to wait for our shuttle home. The driver wasn't too terribly late, although it did take us a moment to find the right bay to pick up our transportation. Our driver took us and another gal that lived near here, and we packed up ready to go. The snow on the ground was melting a bit, but we saw another shuttle driver showing the evidence of falling early by his dirty shirt, and our own driver showing us the two previous pairs of boots that were soaked by being out driving around.

The ride home took forever, as the road was plowed up until Airport Way meets 205, and then it was packed snow all the way to our house. I was worried a bit about the hills near us, but our shuttle driver got us through no problem, even though she chatted non stop the whole drive, and missed our turn at least a couple of times. Apparently, she felt the need to share with us her entire life story, whether we cared to hear it or not. I felt like I was listening to a Lifetime movie, but I couldn't turn the channel.

We finally got home, about 18 hours and an unexpected hotel stay later. The cats were happy to see us, even if initially they shied away from those strangers. Soon, we couldn't move without them being near us. Our car was also buried under a foot of snow, so even if I wanted to leave the house, it wasn't happening anytime soon. But we were home, and while I enjoyed the lights of Vegas, I was glad to be back in the Rose City.

I've traveled enough during the holidays to know that things happen, and you have to just go with the flow. I would have liked to been more prepared here for the weather, have all my gifts purchased ahead of time, and be able to have the Christmas we all expect to have with our family. But each experience is what you make it, and what I found by this trip is that I love to travel and I've found a companion that loves to see new things as much as I do. And I'm lucky to have someone so complimentary in personality. I just need to remember to talk every now and again...

So that's my holiday story. Things have mellowed out a bit here, as we finally celebrated with girl's dad on New Years Day, spend new years eve here with a small gathering, and I celebrated my birthday last Friday. I'm looking forward to the antics of 2009, and you can read more about them here. Just keep the safety belt fastened, as it could be a bumpy ride...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Surviving the Lights of Vegas - Part 3

When we last left you, girl and I were starting a drinking adventure in Las Vegas. On a Sunday night at 8 pm. I remember the time well because we saw the Simpsons start up on the telly and it was this year's Treehouse of Horror episode, where Homer tries to vote for Obama.

Sunday, December 21st continued - We left our room with our yard drinking glasses in tow, and immediately headed to Fat Tuesday in the lower level of MGM Grand. It's a bar, but really, there's only a couple of seats there and it's a place where they have pre-made frozen alcohol drinks. Girl got one flavor with an extra shot, while I got the mojito. And so the drinking began.

We set our goal to hit as many casinos as we could that night, staying up at late as we could. So, it was first off to New York, New York, which again is a great looking casino from the outside, with large buildings resembling New York. Inside, however, it's kind of bland. We hit the casino floor and headed over to Nine Fine Irishmen, a pub that was recommended to us by some friends. However, the pub was closed for renovations, so we just wandered about and really didn't stay very long. The walkway connected from New York, New York to Excalibur, so we wandered there.

And it was crazy loud, with a band playing there, and people everywhere. We ended up finding a couple of slot machines called England, which displayed all sorts of English symbols, and I did Ok for a bit. Well, enough that we had money to refill our yard of drink at Dick's Last Resort there. We gambled for a bit, but then wandered down to the kid's area, where they have skee ball, other arcade games, and it was crazy fun there. Too bad most of the quarter machines were busted, because I wanted to get change and play some games, but overall, it had an energy and it wasn't too obnoxious with kids. Ok, by the time we left there, it was after 11pm and kids were still up, so perhaps that was the only thing wrong.

We then wandered to the Luxor, and gambled a bit more on the Cops and Donuts machines for a couple of hours, drinking our yard of drink and generally having fun. I was doing Ok, but girl kept hitting the bonuses, so she was racking up cash like crazy. We kept drinking, and wandered around the Luxor, which seemed to have a good size crowd about, and so about 1 AM, we decided to wander to Mandalay Bay. It's a nice casino from the outside, but on this night, it was freaking dead. There was a tram running from Excalibur, Luxor and Mandalay Bay, and after a few minutes in Mandalay Bay, we left because it was boring. We took the tram back to Excalibur, and had our yard drinks filled for the third time. Thankfully, the bartender remembered us so it was an easy transaction, and besides, once you buy the glass from anywhere, it's only between $9 to $11 to refill each time, so it's a great way to get drunk. The band was also playing the song "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" by the Madness, and so we all had to sing along. At the top of our lungs. I can say that Dick's Last Resort sounds like a blast to visit, but they advertise that they have good food but surly service, and it's part of the appeal. At least on the drinking side, there was a lot to be happy with.

We left Excalibur and decided to head north towards other casinos. We walked for a bit, and stopped by the Planet Hollywood Casino, which is now where the Alladin used to be. It's a fancy, upscale casino, and the music made it sound like a dance club. We gambled for a bit there, sipping on our drinks. I found it interesting we didnt' get offered any free drinks all night because we had the big cups. Apparently, they didn't want to get us completely drunk, but not to be offered was interesting. Anyway, we decided to continue north and stopped inside Paris to see it. Paris is one of my favorite casinos, with the Eiffel Tower Experience there, but for the night, we used the loo and wandered around to see what was up. Not seeing a whole lot, we continued on to the Bellagio, which was actually a bit busy for a Sunday night. The card tables were all filled, and people were partying like crazy. However, after our experience with trying to find someone to cash out a machine, we didn't stay very long, instead wandering up to Ceasar's Palace. By this time, it was just after 2 AM, and so we wandered to see the shops, see if there were any machines to play, and the like. We did stop and rest for a bit at the sports book area, which was completely closed at this point, and we walked by some college kids who had a huge drinking glass full of alcohol. He commented that we should have gotten the bigger glass, but I don't think he had been through his three times in a night like we had.

The clock had finally hit 3:30 AM and so we decided to wander back towards MGM because we were getting hungry from all the walking and drinking. It was rather chilly outside, but we walked briskly to get back to our hotel. And since it was late, there were no vendors our pushing their services or wares, so the walk didn't take very long at all. We got in about 4 AM, and went to the Studio Cafe and asked for a table for 2. We got a pager and an explanation we should be seated within 10 minutes. By the time we had wandered away, the pager went off and our wait person sheepishly said, we had something immediately available so sorry we sent you walking.

Girl and I both ordered huge burgers, and we split some chicken tenders. The tenders weren't oily at all, and very well cooked, while the burgers were simply tasty. We didn't even eat many of our fries, we were so full from the food and drink. By the time our meal was done, it was 4:45 AM and we had made it through most of the night. And by the tally, I had only lost about $40 in the machines, had three yards of drink, and a big meal at the end. Not bad at all, and we knew that we still had a day in Vegas, and then were heading home on Tuesday. As we nodded off to sleep with the sounds of casino machines dinging in our heads, I can't help but think this is the Vegas experience we had really wanted, but had to build up to. Ok, we weren't getting up anytime early on Monday, but we partied hard and for a long time, and that's what counted.

Monday, December 22nd - Well, we did make it up around noon, a bit hung over, but happy for making it as long as we did partying. Ok, the kids did wake us up again at 8 Am, waiting to go to breakfast, but we soon turned over and slept more. We had warned girl's mom we were partying like crazy people, so she didn't expect us for food in the Am at all. We got up and about around 1 pm, showered, and left the room at about 3 pm. Not a terrible departure time after being up all night, but it was the last full day there, and we still had some things to do and see. I had forgotten to secure playing cards for my friend Wade while at the Bellagio, so I needed to go there after getting some food.

We discussed food options, and decided to eat at the Rainforest Cafe there at the hotel. The food there is usually really good, and the whole eco theme is a good touch. We did get asked about joining their club to save money on meals, but since the closest location to us here is at that place up north that we don't speak of, there was no way we were buying the membership. Our waiter was very nice and chatty, and we had a really, really good meal. Complete with a birthday song for another diner, a few thunderstorms, a little rain, and then girl and I with our picture with a large monkey. Not bad, indeed. We paid for our meal, and then I left to go find the playing cards while the girls shopped a bit at the cafe.

Monday night was seriously cold, as I walked along the Strip, freezing my butt off. The wind was absolutely biting, but I was determined to walk and get my errand run. Bellagio is a nice casino, but it took me forever to find the gift shop and when I finally did, they didn't have cards from their casino. Interesting, but at least I found a few, purchased them, and then decided to take a cab back to MGM. It was only $6, and didn't take long at all. Once I got back to the room, girl and I fussed with our luggage a bit to get everything all back into bags, knowing that the shuttle was arriving for us at 11:30 AM tomorrow. I was planning on doing the desk checkout, mostly to review our bill and mention the loud kid issue. Once we got our bags dealt with, we headed down for some more gambling and a late night snack.

I'd never had Nathan's hot dogs before, but for $4.95, I'd expect a cheese hot dog to have a bit more than just a small weiner and cheese. I will recommend Nathan's cheesesteak, because it was a great value and very tasty. After eating, it was off to play Lucky Lemmings, which went on until about midnight when I finally cashed out $25 ahead, and it was up to get some sleep before heading home. We'd spoken with girl's brother about the conditions in Portland, but we still hadn't really seen any pictures or had any descriptions about what was going on. Needless to say, we were in for another adventure in getting home, but it's probably not exactly what you might expect to happen.

Next Time - Final Day in Vegas, well, Ok, final two days in Vegas, Huh? And, wow, there is a lot of snow around here.