crazy colored glasses

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Weekend Reading

Besides trying to catch up on a mountain of comics (i know, bad me... i've fallen behind again) I read both my new issue of Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine this past weekend. Both were sharply written and had articles that I felt compelled to comment on.

If their is one writer that I've been super hard on over the past few months it's been Bill Simmons. I've been highly against things he's written over the past few months. From not taking a stand against the Pats or wussing out on the Sox, I've been having heavy anti-Simmons sentiment. Then I read his latest column in the Dec 03 2007 issue. Titled I Took My Kid To Her First NBA Game And She Loved It. The article talked about his adventures as a dad and how he presents things to his daughter and the downright joy he feels interacting with her and exposing her to new things. It was human, emotional and contained passion for sports. Definitely things that had been missing from his writing in recent months. Of course as a dad of an almost 7 year old girl who is most of the time indifferent to whichever sport I am watching it was nice to read a story about a dad and daughter bonding over sports.

The other piece I thought was great was from the latest SI (11/26/07), that was titled The Road To Bad Newz by George Dohrmann and Farrell Evans. That was of course about the dogfighting ring operated by Michael Vick and his childhood friends. It was interesting, insightful, and most of all well-researched. It spoke about the homeboy culture, of loyalty, indebtedness, childhood bonds, communal pressure and most of all fear. It is a piece that is not to be missed. If anyone thinks they know the whole story about Vick they should absolutely read this. I'm not saying I give him a free-pass for his involvement (I never will), I just think this piece shed some new light on an oft-reported story.

Then of course there was what I think is a hachet job on the great Coach K titled Krunch Time by Jon Pessah, also in the above mentioned issue of ESPN. In it the writer wrote about how out of touch Coach K is with the modern athlete and how the game is passing him by. All of this I think is false. I still think he is among the best coaches in the game today. Truly one of the great teachers and motivators this great sport has. It upset me that the deck of the story read that "K's monumental legcay is starting to crack"... that to me is complete bullshit. He set the bar for himself so high that of course there would be a bit of a let down. But for a Coach who has more career titles than both Bobby Knight and Dean Smith I say kudos. He again has a fringe top 15 team that I'm sure he will lead into the Sweet 16 and beyond. If he is guilty if anything it's spoiling Duke fans. If thats a problem, I'll take it any day.


Different Pork

Scrappys parent/teacher conference was 11/13 which also happened to be a Tuesday night. It also so happened to be that my love was working that night. I had remarked to her that I felt like I always made the same type of pork when I cooked for Scrappy. She then went into the cookbook and found a simple recipe she thought I'd be able to do.

I didn't get out of Scrappy's conference until after 7:00 (smart kid, she needs to focus was the gist), I then ran over and picked Scrappy up. With an 8:30 bedtime I knew starting dinner after 7:30 with her just wasn't going to happen. So I ran over and picked up a Happy Meal for her on the way home. Once I bathed her and put her to bed I started to make dinner for myself.

The recipe my love selected for me was sliced pork with apples. It definitely was a nice and simple recipe for a kitchen novice like myself. It really involved browning the pork (on both sides) in olive oil and garlic. Then slicing up the apples and cooking them in the same olive oil with just a pinch of thyme. Although it really was simple, it was a very nice comination of tastes. I thought it was one of the better meals I had made.

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MMMMMMM.... Meatloaf

This weekend with very little time before she had to walk out the door her job I asked my love "Hey, what do you want me to do with the ground beef." She looked at me and says "Oh, I was gonna make a meatloaf before I left." I was flabbergasted. I thought to myself, is she gonna have enough time. I then asked and was reassured that there was plenty of time.

Before I knew it, bowls were being broken out and things were being mixed together. Then almost instantaneously, there was a meatloaf in the oven. As my love was getting ready to scurry out to the tavern she says "You have to make the sauce, I left the recipe open." What? Something for me to do... I was sure I was going to mess the whole thing up. I can't get left in charge of a masterpiece to oversee... I was scared shit.

So I grabbed the recipe then I grabbed Scrappy. She helped pour all the ingredients and then I stirred it all together. Once the Meatloaf was ready to come out of the oven I poured it over the top and popped it back in for about 10-15 minutes. As that was going I asked Scrappy what else we should have. She decided on the rice, I decided on the brussel sprouts (which Scrappy had surprisingly eaten without a fight earlier in the week). Once it was all completed dinner was on.

This is a shot of my plate with a whole heaping of meatloaf. It was absolutely delicious. So although I'm cheating a bit by posting this up, I did contribute a bit by not ruining it.

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Pumpkin pics

I had never carved a pumpkin before. This year, we didn't have Scrappy on Halloween, but we did have her on All Hallows Eve (um... the night before). We decided that would be a great night to try and carve up a pumpkin.

We didn't have a chance to go to the farmer's market, so I was stuck going to the local supermarket and fishing through the pumpkins they had there. Not only were they more expensive, I'm sure the selection wasn't nearly as great. I had Scrappy select the two that she thought would best work.

We then bought them home and had Scrappy go through the book of stencils and pick something she thought would be cool. Of course she picked something with a cat on it. My love then traced the stencils onto the pumpkins and handed me the carving tool. I had never done this before, but there I was tearing into this thing with my little Scrappy, while my love looked on and worked on the other pumpkin (which she free-handed... insanity... it looked amazing).

Here is a pic of that little work of art. Not the best pumpkin ever, but the first pumpkin I ever carved myself. I was pretty happy with it. I'm looking forward to more carving next year.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Indulging my Inner Rockstar

One of the biggest gaming revelations of the year for me has been the discovery of karaoke games for the PS2. All of these games are great.

Having a non-gamer and a 6 year old in the house, it's very rare to find games that we all can play and enjoy. Saturdays (or basically any days when we are all home together) have kind of unofficially turned into singing days. Here is a review of all of the games we have played recently and the stories behind them...

SingStar Pop
With my love and I being huge karaoke fans, and no plans to go singing anytime soon, I decided to bring karaoke home for my lady's birthday. That led me to buy SingStar Pop. It was an instant hit. Once we tore it open it provided hours and hours of entertainment. Chasing Cars, Invisible, and Hanging By A Moment were immediate favorites. We've played this game a ton since then. Scrappy finds a way to mumble through most of the songs, but still score relatively well. We played this game so much and it was such an instant hit that mere days later we bought...

SingStar Rocks
With plans now to incorporate SingStar into our wedding we decided we had to have a larger song library. We ran out to buy Rocks. With the package being slightly open we were able to get a 20% discount on the version with two microphones. Although we already had two, we wanted to have two more just in case any were broken during the wedding. We ran home the night we bought this game and tore it open. After having plenty of drinks (happy juice i believe) I remember claiming that I needed a microphone stand to be able to truly rock out. My baby hopped off the couch and broke out a light stand and taped the microphone to it... instant microphone stand... i love this woman. Again we had immediate favorites Keane's Everybodys Changing, Hole's Celebrity Skin and Coldplay's Speed of Sound to name a few. In fact, some of these songs are so good for us, that they have become our regular warm up songs.

With our love for these games growing at a high rate, my buddy at work (who I had been raving about these games too) decided to come by and hang out and sing a few songs. The surprise was that he didnt come empty handed, he brought with him this little gem.

Karaoke Revolution: American Idol
We all created ourselves (my guy was a bit overweight) and sang away for a few hours. The judges were a little rough, and with Scrappy not knowing any song besides Kelly Clarkson's Breakaway, she got bounced pretty quickly. The interface of this game was very different than the SingStar games so that was a bit of a change. With us loving the SingStar interface we were less than thrilled with the AI gameplay. The judges were ruthless but hilarious. It did lack the human seal that is PAula Abdul as her likeness was not included in the game. I remember earning a nearly perfect score on Always Something There to Remind Me which led to lots of trash talking. Since then Can't Help Falling in Love With You by the great Elvis as well as You and Me by Lifehouse have become my personal faves.

As I was looking for any and all information regarding SingStar it led me to the discovery that two more Singstar games were set to be released. They are vastly different but both very entertaining. In fact, I purchased both games on the same day.

SingStar 80's
As a self-professed hater of the 80's this was the SingStar game I was least looking forward to. This all changed when I saw the track list contained one of my favorite songs of all time Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time. I know thats a little cheesy, but I dig it. Even though I still don't love 80's music, I love this game. It's very enjoyable for me to sing songs that I dont know.

SingStar Amped
I think this was the disc we were both most excited to get. It had songs we both knew and love. In my camp, I was a big fan of Blink's I Miss You and the Foo's Best of You. The misses was a big fan of Creep and does a mean Come As You Are (although she doesn't really believe she sings it well). Although Scrappy isn't as big a fan of 80's and Amped, we love them. Which leads us into Scrappy's favorite game of all-time...

High School Musical: Sing It
I must admit to being a little excited when this game came out. I was able to pick it up almost a week early because I happened to be at the right place as they were opening boxes. As I surprised my love with it, we happily played the song for hours as we tried to unlock all the songs from HSM2. We have been singing for weeks now, continuing to unlock songs, all in pursuit of the holy grail that is Push It To The Limit by Corbin Bleu. This game while using an interface closer to AI has been a lot of fun for us to play. We enjoy it, and Scrappy knows most (if not all) of the songs. Its a win-win all around.

It really is incredibly fun to be able to sit down and enjoy all these games together. I must say, it's the best gaming experience of my life.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Games... Games... Games...

With a pretty long commute (usually an hour one way), having a PSP is just about a necessity for me. Over the last few weeks I've finished 3 of the games that were keeping me entertained on my long rides. I figured I should give each their little moment in the sun for providing me with entertainment (and distraction) on the commute to and from the office.

NBA Live 07
One of the things I've enjoyed most over the past few years in gaming is creating what I've called "Team Whitey" in various versions of these games. Without fail, I buy the new game play some games at the Lakers, dominate, and figure I need a real challenge. I then start diving in to the game and create a team of all white players who are ranked less than a 70% overall. Needless to say this team is not usually very good. So it provides a solid amount of gameplay for me.

The strategy I like to use is creating a team of specialists (rebounders, 3 point shooters, hustle guys, distributors). With that thinking my starting five looked like this:

PG: Dan Dickau
SG: J. J Redick
SF: Adam Morrison
PF: David Lee
C: Darko Milicek

The bench consisted of Beno Udrih, Fred Hoiberg, Hedo Turkoglu, Toni Kukoc, Nikoloz Tskitshvili, Jeff Foster, Christain Laettner and the often injured Jason Kapono.

My strategy consisted of running a fullcourt press at all times, off makes, misses, didn't matter, we were pressing. On offense we very much were a 3 point shooting team. Darko and Lee ended up being very good offensive rebounders so they played a ton. They didnt block a lot of shots, but they were active and got lots of deflections and steals. I used a very exact rotation of deploying my team in waves. Every 3 minutes a new wave of players came off the bench. It kept the guys fresh and able to press the whole game. They stormed through both the regular season and playoffs to win the title. David Lee was easily the best and most athletic person on the team. Averaging over 20 points and 8 boards a game.

Fight Night Round 3
I've been a big fan of any EA Sports Boxing game for years. I waited a while before finally picking this game up. Once I did, I found it highly enjoyable. Recreating classic fights, then creating myself as a light heavyweight and starting a career. Navigating through the amatuer ranks was pretty easy, going pro became a harder. My boxer after dominating the light heavyweight divisions started to bounce up and down between heavyweight and light heavy. At some point it became too much in terms of weight to be able to bounce back and forth, so I decided to strictly stay as a heavyweight where the paydays were larger. After a 53-0 record and many millions of dollars I decided to retire.

My boxing strategy as a lighter heavyweight fighting against basically mountain men was too fight very close on the inside so that my opponents couldnt extend their punches and I really worked the body. It was basically like chopping down a tree. Once the arms started to drop and protect the body I decided to go after the head. The strategy worked well. I was able to get inside and work the body. Some fights barely lasting 2 rounds with the body punishment I was doling out being too severe.

NFL Street 3
The third and final game that I recently completed was NFL Street 3. I bought this game in February of last year and had it basically sit on my shelf for months. As I was winding down with NBA Live the NFL season was starting. Which meant I was in a football fever. I started up a Rule the Streets season. A season in street consists of building a pickup team, playing local games until you are good enough to play real NFL Teams in street rules. A street game consists of 7 on 7 football. All players must play both ways. The more games your team wins the more you can increase players skills. Also as you unlock NFL teams, you have the ability to challenge all star teams and steal away some of their best players (so my final lineup consisted of me, jevon kearse, randy moss, vince young, ray lewis and two fat offensive lineman). Once you beat every team in the Rule the Streets game, you were able to unlock the NFL Legends team. It was nice to be challenged by the Legends team who had Art Monk, Steve Atwater, Dan Dierdorf, Ray Nitschke, etc.

The gameplay while fun and addictive is incredibly basic and easy. A regular gamer would have no problem being able to pick up this game and dominate. While very enjoyable, I wish it were more of a challenge. Even with that said, I wouldn't hesitate to buy a new version of th egame should it be released.

Now I find myself with nothing to play... I'm thinking NBA Live 08 will be the next game... I have to see which of last year "Team Whitey" players have graduated to bona-fide NBA'ers. I'm sure David Lee and Jason Kapono are now ranked to high to be a part of my scrubs. Only one way to find out....


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

QB Comparisons...

I've hesitated writing this, and resisted the temptation of entering the debate, but after the last few weeks I felt this was very necesarry.

All season long we've read and heard about the comparisons between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. How Brady finally had the weapons and this was a testament to his true greatness. I always struck back and said that that was ridiculous. If you had switched QB's on the Colts and Patriots neither team would miss a beat. Now i must say, I have to take that back and proclaim that I think Tom Brady is the best QB in the NFL.

The past few weeks, devoid of his regular weapons (Marvin Harrison, Dallas Clark and Anthony Gonzalez) Peyton Manning has put up his first two losses of the year. Without his primary weapons Manning has looked pedestrian. He seems like he has happy feet and tries to squeeze the ball into very tight coverages. His decision making which is generally top notch has suffered without the safety valve that are his missing weapons... all of which made me think of Tom Brady.

Both teams have great offensive lines, so that argument goes out the window. What it comes down to is the rest of the weapons. Manning has flourished with Harrison, Wayne, Stokely, Gonzalez, Clark, Pollard, etc. Where as the best receiver Brady has played with before this season is Deion Branch. Yet, he always remained cool under the pressure and won 3 Super Bowls. Yes, he's annoying with his model good looks and supermodel/actress girlfriends... but at the end of the day he is hands down the cream of the crop of NFL QB's. In my eyes he has the slight edge of Pitchman Peyton Manning.

On the subject of Mannings, I felt I had to mention this past weekends Giants/Cowboys game. On one sideline you had Eli Manning, the number one overaall pick of the draft from Ole Miss in his fourth year quarterbacking the Giants. On the other sideline you had Tony Romo who was an undrafted free agent from Eastern Illinois who sat on the bench for three years. You have two guys who couldnt have taken more different paths to stardom. Yet this past weekend the difference between the two was glaring. In a close game Manning imploded and had two delay of game penalties which cost the Giants precious field position as well as momentum. On each proceeding drive Romo went on to throw for touchdowns. While the more heralded QB cost his team the game... the one with the more humble beginnings continued his meteoric rise to super-stardom.


Monday, November 12, 2007

The 1470 Invitational

This weekend shortly after Scrappy got to our place we found ourselves clearing off the coffee table to have a race between Scrappy's favorite wind-up and pull-back toys. She instantly started digging sround in her room through her boxes of toys to find the 8 that would compete (as well as some fans to cheer them on.

Here was the starting line-up

I'll spare you all the video we took of each of the races (these things need to be documented so that there is no dispute over who the winner is). We decided to have a first round of races. Dino Rider A vs. Fillmore... Fillmore wins. Bee Movie bug vs. Dash... Dash wins. Lightning McQueen vs. Luigi... Lightning wins. Dino Rider B vs. Blue (last years champ)... Blue wins. That set up the very exciting second round. Dash vs. Blue in a matchup of the wind-up toys... in a stunning upset Dash wins... Blue was beside himself. Lightning then smoked Fillmore to set up a race of two Pixar superstars. I thought going in that the pull-back toys had the distinct advantage. Clearly as evidenced by the outcome of the races I was right. Lightning went on to win easily beating Dash. He is this years champion. Hopefully he represents the crown justly.

NEWSFLASH... We are waiting for him to pass his physical and be cleared of all performance enhancing drug allegations before we picture him with the championship trophy.

The best part of all this was that it was a lot of fun. We all sat down and played with toys together... something we all haven't done in quite a while.

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Batman & Catwoman (girl... aka Carrie)

With the holidays coming, and in the middle of my best year of art (ever), I've decided art as gifts is a must. I love drawing, I love my family... why not merge the two.

For some people it's easier than others to draw pictures for. For example, the below is a gift for my brother (it kinda ruins the surprise, because he regularly reads the blog). Also for my other (the L.I. one) brother, I will draw a picture of his twin girls. Simple, easy. What do I draw for my little sister, what do I draw for my other sister... I have no idea. Maybe they get no art, I don't know.

Back to the art. I wanted to draw a Batman piece for my brother. I wanted to include a character that could be his daughter. After thinking of all the various females that have been involved with the Bat over the years, I thought Carrie from the The Dark Knight Returns and Dark Knight Strikes Again was the perfect choice. This also allowed me to draw in the Frank Miller style.

I've always thought Frank was a little overrated as a storyteller (too many similarities in Old Town, Sin City and East End, Gotham... also the battle in 300 and the alley were the East End girls make the stand... a little too similar). His art has also definitely taken a step back in years past. His strokes are thicker and bolder. In my eyes It looks like he draws straight with inks. If you look back at his pencils on his classic Daredevil run, then compare that to his Dark Knight Returns, then go even further and look at his Sin City and Dark Knight Strikes Again art, and you can see a definite difference. I'm not trying to knock him, I'm just trying to say the art is very different. Regardless, I was excited about drawing something in his style.

I found a piece by Frank that had Carrie sitting on the older Bruce's shoulder. I thought this was perfect. As I was pencilling this, I was breezing through it. I was at less than an hour when I got to the detail on Carrie's costume. I wanted the costume to look furry. Both around her ears and the spots of her costume. My hand hurt like hell as I was varying the strokes on the costume. As it was getting late, I put the piece down after I was done with the pencils.

I picked it back up later in the week and finished up the inking. The blacks on Batman were intense. The varying strokes on Carrie's costume looked even better in the inks than they did in pencil. After getting done inking I looked at the piece (and loved it) but thought to myself... "Damn, I wish I had drawn something where I could see the Bat symbol"

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

She works hard for her money...

We've been trying a long time to teach Scrappy about money and responsibility and all those great adult things. Over a year ago we made up a list of chores and told her how important it was to the household to have her do them. They generally didn't get done. She needed some motivation.

We tried to come up with a plan where she would get $2 a week if she did a few chores. She could use this money to do whatever she wanted. Spend it on snacks in school, buy toys, etc. It didn't really catch on. We ended up buying some furniture for her Dora castle and putting it up on the shelf. We would charge her $4 for each of the sets of furniture. Again, it didn't really catch on... some of these sat on the shelf for months.

Thats when the wife decided to buy a dry erase board for the refridgerator. We would then list all her chores on here and check them off while they got done. Each chore line completed would be worth a quarter. All additional chores would be worth an extra quarter. EUREKA!!! This worked. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that there was a place she could look at and have a visual of what she has completed and what needed to be done.

At the same time that this dry erase chore list was introduced, Disney released the Hannah Montana dolls. This provided even more inspiration. She now had a target for how much money she wanted to save up for, because she wanted that doll. We drew a little bar we would fill up every week so that she could start to see how close she was to making enough money. Hannah was $17, so she knew that was a lot of chores. As Scrappy neared $9 there was a big price break and Target put the dolls on sale for $11.89. She went into overdrive the last two weeks and finally this weekend we were able to walk to Target get the doll.

I was very proud of her being able to save up enough money and get this toy she wanted. She was even more proud. When she finally opened the doll on Sunday (she had to complete 3 more chores before she had enough) she excitedly put on a rock show with her dolls, much to the delight of the dolls in attendance.

All of this couldn't have been done without my wife. All of this was her idea. She is the most instinctual parent I've ever known. She is generally right on about everything she ever suggests. I learn from her constantly. She leaves me in awe all the time. Scrappy and I are both much better for having her in our lives.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Fight Night

For Saturday night viewing (while the mrs. was working) I decided to watch the Joel Calzaghe-Mikkel Kessler fight on HBO. I've seen Calzaghe fight a few times and been impressed. I had never seen Kessler fight. During the pre-fight buildup they played clips of previous fights, and the fact that both of these guys had nearly 90 fights combined without a loss made for a megafight. I was definitely looking forward to this one.

In the very first round I turn to the wife and say "You know Kessler holds his left hand very low, I can see Calzaghe pounding away at that eye all night". The fight turned out to be awesome. Lots of back and forth action. Kind of the anti-Dela Hoya/Mayweather. Here you had two fighters willing to mix it up. Kessler hit Calzaghe with some bombs that he just simply walked through. Calzaghe put on a show. Easily controlling the fight. I scored it 9-3. Most judges had the same. In the 10th round, the announce team (which was surprisingly sharp) started to notice that Kessler's left eye was nearly swelled shut... something I had said would happen at the very start of the fight. My wife shouts out to me from the office and says "Hey didn't you say that would happen"... yeah, i did... it got me thinking about why I was able to make that prediction... it got me missing my Dad.

My Dad was a hugge boxing fan. I remember constantly being exposed to boxing at an early age, and loving it. My Dad never really missed an opportunity to watch boxing, he loved it. He knew the sport more than most. In fact, had I never watched boxing with my Dad, I probably would never have been able to make a proclamation like I did at the start of the Calzaghe/Kessler fight. I'm sure I watch and love boxing because it makes me feel closer to my Dad... in some ways it helps me miss him less, because I can just imagine him right there with me watching the fight as he bobs and weaves and barks out directions to the boxers or just makes observations in spanish. It would have been fight he loved.

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