UNC – 2017 NCAA Basketball Champs

Last night UNC won their 6th national championship.

I’m amazed how little this mattered to me. I didn’t even watch the whole game. I turned it on shortly after tipoff. For the first half I only partially paid attention while I did other things. For the second half I watched less than 5 minutes of the game before deciding to go to bed.

This amazed me because UNC’s 2nd national championship is one of my earliest sports memories. It was 1982 so I was only 7 years old at the time. I don’t know if I remember the actual game or if I only remember the countless replays I’ve seen over the years of Michael Jordan’s go ahead shot and James Worthy’s game clinching steal.

What I definitely remember from that night was how important it was for me to watch that game. As a Second Grader with school the next day I had a bedtime too early to watch the whole game. After being sent up, I snuck back downstairs to the office to watch the rest. I turned the TV on and lowered the volume to a whisper. It was still a flawed plan because the bathroom was right next to the office. Eventually my mom came back that way and I was busted.

I was generally a good kid who rarely caused any problems for my parents, so Moms went easy on me. The fact that I even did this must have showed her how important the game was to me so she let me stay up. I don’t recall if that meant for the whole game or just until halftime.

So today there is this clear contrast in my head. As a 7 year-old, I’m doing everything possible to stay up and watch this game. As a 42 year-old, I can hardly be bothered to pay attention while it is on and don’t care if see the outcome until the next day. It’s strange to be able to see such a clear progression of how my priorities and things I enjoy have changed over the years.

All time all-world roster – basketball edition

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Inspired by the Word Baseball Classic, there’s a baseball version of this going around the internet right now. I know how these things go, so I’m getting ahead of the trend on this one.

So I think the strategy is to build the best starting five first and then fill-in backups and reserves. Also, you’re going to want to get the greatest player of all-time on your roster. Whatever that means to you – Wilt, LeBron, MJ – they’re all American, which means you only get one. The good news is that it gives you position flexibility – C, SF, SG – so you can figure out your other 4 and pick the American that fits at the end.

The best foreign born player ever is Tim Duncan (Virgin Islands). The benefit of taking him is that he is a PF so he leaves the American flexibility. Next is probably Dirk Nowitzki (Germany)…unfortunately also a PF, so probably my first backup.

The underrated Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria) is next. I’ll gladly give the Center position to The Dream and cut loose any shot at Wilt.

So my C and PF are filled. Looking through a list of foreign born players, it turns out many of best are big men. Maybe I’ll use some of these to fill in: Pau Gasol (Spain), Patrick Ewing (Jamaica), Dikembe Mutombo (Congo), Yao Ming (China).

At PG I found two fun surprises for my team. I was expecting Steve Nash. The surprise was that he was born in South Africa, not Canada. Similarly, the same thing for Tony Parker. I was expecting France, but he was actually born in Belgium.

So France is still available…and there is a surprise Hall of Famer. SF Dominique Wilkins was born in France. Taking Dominique eliminates LeBron as my SF. The last of my original Americans is Jordan. No complaints.

Starters:
PG Steve Nash (South Africa)
SG Michael Jordan (US)
SF Dominique Wilkins (France)
PF Tim Duncan (Virgin Islands)
C Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria)

Backups:
PG Tony Parker (Belgium)
SG Manu Ginobili (Argentina)
SF Peja Stojakovic (Croatia)
PF Dirk Nowitzki (Germany)
C Patrick Ewing (Jamaica)

Reserves:
Pau Gasol (Spain)
Rolando Blackman (Panama)
Kyrie Irving (Australia)

Road Rage

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I have been fighting a mild cold for a couple of days. Today it caused me to leave work early. It always seems as if random moments that wouldn’t happen normally, pop up when I wouldn’t have encountered them otherwise.

I was halfway through my commute home without incident. I was on Kettle Run, which is a twisty, one-lane road when I needed to slow down. There was a car 4 cars ahead of me going slower than necessary, but not unreasonably so. So a bunch of us started stacking up behind this car…including a couple behind me. Eventually the second and third car decided to pass putting me in third place. Kettle Run wasn’t that much longer at this point, so I was in no rush. It didn’t matter if I was anyway because the second car wasn’t passing and Kettle Run isn’t a road you would attempt a double pass.

But the truck behind me was impatient. He would do the half swing out…which to me looked as if he was just trying to get a sense of how many cars there were. At a minimum he could see the SUV in front of me so he knew I wasn’t the one holding up the line. But that didn’t stop him from riding on my bumper.

I had nowhere to go. What did this guy want from me? I don’t do the unnecessary breaking…the last the I want is to get rear-ended by this maniac. So I gave him a gentle, backwards hand wave. That normally works without incident.

Nope, not for this guy! It wasn’t long before we reached the end of Kettle Run. It ends at the intersection with Hopewell where it’s wide enough for cars turning opposite directions to pull next to each other. I was making a left and had to wait for a break in traffic to turn. He was making a right and was able to pull right next to me. Dude wearing a bandana rolled down his window and started yelling at me. This is where the fun begins!

Dude (yelling): “Fuck you, motherfucker!”

I roll down my window. Me (calmly): “All I did was wave.”

Dude (yelling): “You’re a fucking douchebag!”

Me (calmly): “You’re the one who was driving too close.”

Dude (yelling): “Get out of your car and I’ll fight you right now!”

Well, that’s not a good option for me. Me (calmly, but questioning): “Because you were driving too close?”

Dude (yelling): “You’re a fucking pussy! You got nothing to say now!”

Now I’m confused. I am saying stuff. Is he not hearing me? My voice is a little hoarse from being sick. Maybe he can’t hear me over his yelling. Me (calmly, but louder): “I am saying stuff. I am saying that I think that you’re a terrible driver.”

By this time I realize there is a break in the traffic on Hopewell and it is safe for me to turn. I think he yelled something else as I pulled away.

I have replayed the incident in my head a couple of times and really don’t think I did anything to set this guy off. And I have envisioned a bunch of things that could’ve happened to this guy earlier that day or throughout his life to make him act like that in that moment. But no matter what excuse I try to come up for him…really, what is wrong with this guy? Especially when I try to break it down logically. OK, he’s clearly in a rush. But then he has a spare minute to yell at me at the intersection?!? It makes no sense. I would love know what his perspective of the whole incident is. Maybe he’s writing up the story somewhere too. Though I can’t imagine he finds our exchange as entertaining as I did.

2016 Recap

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I’m only recapping 2016 because it is pretty universally agreed that the year sucked. It seems like one of those times in history that somebody may ask me what it was like in the moment. Like “How great was it to experience 1969?” Or “How terrible was 1929 or 1941 or 2001?”

It seems like the negative sentiment is driven mostly by the enormous number of celebrity deaths and fatigue from the presidential election cycle, which was even worse for the half (actually 80%) that didn’t vote for Donald Trump. It will be interesting a generation from now to see how 2016 is remembered.

But how was 2016 for me? The celebrity deaths barely register for me. A buddy of mine seems to take every death like a punch to the gut. I don’t want to be that impacted, but I always feel weird that I basically have no feeling other than the occasional “That’s a shame.” As much as I like Reggie Jackson, Paul McCartney, Allen Iverson and Larry David, when they die I don’t expect to mope around because of it. They are all strangers to me. The only famous stranger that may bum me out is when John Sterling dies. But he’s almost not a stranger since I probably hear his voice more often than most of my family’s.

As for the election, well, it sucked. I expected Hillary to skate in untouched. I didn’t count on the press needing a close race, so they gave Trump a pass on everything and blew up anything they could find on Hillary. So much for the “liberal” media. This election made it clear that more than any ideology, the press wants a story. Besides the media, I also didn’t count on the FBI and Russia picking sides either. Oh, and I forgot we don’t live in a democracy…thank electoral college!

Not that Hillary is my ideal candidate – I think that she would’ve been fine as President – she is definitely qualified and capable. The problem is Trump. He is the least experienced President ever. And he’s so soft. He probably has the thinnest skin of anybody that has had his level of success.

Trump’s unpredictability makes him a huge risk. But maybe that means there is a slim chance that he surprises me in a good way. Let’s put it this way, the possible outcomes under a Ted Cruz presidency would’ve been narrow, but all terrible. For Trump it’s probably wider than anybody else. Yes, the down side is frighteningly bad, but maybe he flip-flops into an acceptable result.

As for me, well, a Trump presidency is a lot like the celebrity deaths – I’m not going to let it impact me. My favorite quote is this tweet:

Whether we’re talking about god or Trump, I can relate it the same. I am going to continue to work hard, succeed and take care of myself and my family. Neither god nor President Trump is going to dissuade me. I do feel bad for those that this becomes an obstacle for. Unfortunately all I can recommend is work harder, change the system, and vote in 2020.

The rest of 2016 wasn’t that bad. I started playing softball again this spring. I also ran my fastest 5k ever at 23:36. I took some great vacations too.

New York City
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Pittsburgh
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New England

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Disney
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And the best part of 2016 is that we booked our trip to Italy…

…wait, does is a 2017 trip OK to count? If not, well, at least 2017 already looks promising!

Bat Mitzvah planning kick off

We went to M’Kor for the first step in making sure everything is on target for the Bat Mitzvah’s in May. The rabbi and the cantor lead the discussion accompanied by packets for everyone. The night started by us reading Numbers 13 & Numbers 14. The take away was supposed to be that Moses was a great leader. As usual with these Bible passages, I got something totally different out of it. So God tells these people that he wants them to go Israel. There are some tribes there already, but don’t worry about that, just kill them. Yay genocide! Some of the advance scouts try to talk Moses out of it.

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It’s unclear whether they were scared to fight or, you know, just had a conscience about slaughtering innocent people. Either way, good for them. Except not carrying out God’s plan pissed him off. I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating. As someone reading this for the first time, it didn’t make me feel like God is omnipotent. Instead the character was an insecure, narcissistic ass hole.

Do people only take away from the Bible the good stuff because they feel that’s all they should? Or do they purposely ignore the negative stuff so that it doesn’t shake their faith? It’s curious to me. At least Pam gets it. She compared this passage to Native American Indians. Ooh…maybe Moses could just give away blankets infected with smallpox like Lord Amherst.

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The next page in the packet asked us to write down how we can increase our commitment to our family, synagogue, Jewish people, and God. No, I didn’t cause a scene. But the Jewish people one was actually weirder to me than the God one. I don’t know…maybe because I’m not part of any religion it seems strange to so bluntly segregate people like this.

Susie had zero interest in participating in this part. I get the sense that she thinks it’s a load of crap. Julia on the other hand seems to buy into it. She answered the God question by saying she should pray more. That caught me off guard. Pray? Julia seems like such a self starter and independent thinker that she’s the last person I would think needs to pray, even if she does have faith. It’s just one more example how you can’t predict the differences in your kids.

The last section of the packet asked us to list things we hope to see/experience at the Bat Mitzvah and things we don’t. Basically I don’t want anything for myself. This isn’t my day. It isn’t for me. And, honestly, because of that I don’t really care. So what I want is for Pam, Susie and Julie to get everything out of the day that they want. Oh, and I think I’ll buy myself a new suit. So I guess I kind of do want something.

Independence Day

I always say that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but Independence Day has a lot going for it every year…might be a strong # 2.

Dave and Col always host a BBQ. In addition to it being July 4th, the 3rd is Moms birthday and the 4th is Marie’s. This year the BBQ was actually on the 3rd, but close enough. We always have a fun time with the family.

The morning of July 4 is the Annual Marlton Mayor’s Cup 5k run. This year I set a new personal best at 23:36. I was very excited. I had hopes that I would finish in the top 3 for my age group but there were a lot of good runners this year.marltonmayorscup2016_web Last year my time would’ve been good enough, but this year it wasn’t. I was still very happy with the time though. It’s funny, I don’t know what anybody else is thinking, but I definitively know that I take this as a serious competition. I was nervous at the beginning. And near the end when I was passed by an older looking guy I was sizing him up trying to determine if he was in my age group. Not wanting to take any chances I sprinted to the finish line. The last thing I want is to finish fourth by 1 second and miss out on a dollar store medal. It’s so stupid, but for some reason it matters in my head.

Nathans Hot Dog Eating ContestAt noon I watched the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest with Julia. Pam and Susie are disgusted by it. But we love it. It has become our little 4th of July tradition. It is such a spectacle and so ridiculous that we can’t help but being entertained. I had two favorite moments:

Then because of the holiday there was afternoon Yankees game. I love baseball, especially weekday afternoons. I listened to the game while I cleaned up the basement – something I have been trying to get to for a couple months. I don’t necessarily like organizing the basement, but when a project like that is complete I always feel such a sense of accomplishment. It’s a meaningless task, but I’m so satisfied that I got to delete it off my To Do List. The Yanks lost, but it was still a great day.

Pittsburgh

Me, Dave and Pops went to Pittsburgh. The main purpose of the trip was because I wanted to see PNC Park. I thought it would be a good, long weekend trip for me and Pam to do. Besides a game, there seemed to be lots of cool restaurants and shops in the city that I thought she might enjoy. She kept declining, so I asked Dave and Pops. It’s funny, from the time I made arrangements with them until now, there have been a number of women who have told me and Pam how much they like Pittsburgh. I don’t think Pam’s regrets not taking me up on the offer, but I think she would’ve enjoyed it.


On the Friday drive out we stopped at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA. Yes, we had gone to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York earlier this year. This one wasn’t nearly as impressive. Not that I was expecting it to be – clearly New York is going to be able to (and, frankly, need to) do bigger and better. Though the museum here did a good job recreating the day, the memorial lay out was awkward. The path was unnecessarily windy and things were not identified. Because of that I am unsure whether they are even done working on it. It’s worth a side stop on a trip like this, but not worth going out of your way for.


Pittsburgh itself was great. Our hotel was right next to PNC Park. Everything was within walking distance. Friday night we had a great steak dinner at Eddie Merlot’s. On the way back we could see PNC all lit up during the game.IMG_20160415_205648304

We hung out at a cool bar the rest of that night. Saturday we walked all over the city including Mount Washington. We got lunch at Primanti Bros. Then we hung out at a bar to watch the Penguins playoff game. Our Pirates game was right across the street that night.

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PNC Park really deserves the hype. But even better than the ballpark itself is the placement. The street it borders is closed to cars during games so everyone is walking around. There are tons of restaurants and bars so you can easily go out before or after the game. (Or, like we did, both.) All of this gives the game experience a lively atmosphere regardless of what actually happens in the ballpark.

Pops 70

Pops turned 70 today. For his birthday he wanted to go up to NYC with me and Dave. We started the day at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum (more detailed review written at that link).

After that we walked around to where he used to work. We found the building. He case-study-brown-brothers-harrimanhad brought 2 pictures with him from 1970. One was of him standing under the big cube outside his old building, which he recreated today. (The other was his vantage point of the World Trade Center towers being built.)

From there we went looking for his coffee shop…the one that served him a coffee with a roach in it. As Pops tells the story, a guy he was with says he saw it in there but didn’t say anything because he thought Pops wanted it in there. Apparently Pops guzzled 9 Cokes to clean his mouth. To this day Pops still won’t drink to the bottom of his coffee cup…whether it’s a clear glass cup or whether it’s home brewed by himself…still won’t drink it. 1017px-starbucks_corporation_logo_2011-svgToday that old coffee shop is a Starbucks!

Then we walked through Trinity Church and the cemetery. Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fulton are buried there.

At that point it was time for lunch. We had steak and wine at Morton’s. Obviously not a typical lunch, but it was a special day. After lunch we completed our day at One World Trade Center (more detailed review written at that link).

One World Trade Center

My favorite skyscraper has always been the Chrysler Building. The art deco design is really cool. And I appreciate the Empire State Building for how much taller it is, especially considering the era it was constructed. Yes, the old World Trade Centers were tall, but honestly they were kind of bland looking. Basically 2 rectangles with no character. However the new One World Trade Center is striking.

IMG_20160303_115630486Besides just having a sleek, contemporary architecture outside, it is really impressive inside as well. Being brand new allowed the designers to really tech it out.

Start with the elevator. You are surrounded by digital screens. Not only do you know the floor you’re passing, but the elevator ride acts like a time machine. You start out with New York’s first settlement in the 1600’s. What you see on the screens is basically trees. As you ascend, the dial on the years pass. You witness the development of the city all around you with landmarks properly located geographically. It was kind of a shame that the elevators are so quick and smooth because I would’ve liked to concentrate on the displays longer.

Upon exiting the elevator you are put in a long room to watch a couple minute video shown against a wall. It was good, but the unexpected part was that at the end of the video the wall lifts up to reveal a panel of windows giving you your first look from 100 floors up.

From there you go up to the main observation floor. They offered iPads with a system that seamlessly moved with you. So whatever you were looking at, the iPad was as well. You could zoom in or click for more information.

The entire observation floor wrapped 360 degrees. And yes, everything was tiny from up there. The Statue of Liberty is close, but from that height I could easily crush it.

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National September 11 Memorial & Museum

The 9/11 Memorial is a peaceful tribute to those that died there. It very much reminds me of the VietnamUnited States, New York, Manhattan, 9/11 Memorial designed by Israeli architect Michael Arad involving a forest of trees around two bodies of water with two large Square holes in their center at the exact spot where the formers towers stood Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington DC…something appropriately cold about the materials used and the simple listing of names.

After that we entered the 9/11 Museum. It may be the best museum I have ever been to. It is amazingly designed and laid out. The majority of the museum is underground. They are able to take you right up to the foundations of the World Trade Centers without making you feel as if you are disturbing what is now hallowed ground.

The content of the museum was just as impressive. There are 3 main sections. The foundation hall has various exhibits and the memorial hall has portrait photographs of all of the victims. But the best part was the historical exhibition. In here you walk through 3 sections of time.

bp3There is the World Trade Centers prior to 9/11: the concept, the construction, the use of the buildings, and what they represented including, for instance, as a backdrop in movies.

Then there is reliving the day. I do this every September 11th by watching History Channel. For some reason I like to get myself upset about what happened. But I also like being amazed in watching the brave firefighters go into the buildings. I also take pride in how the people of NYC came together that day. This part of the museum definitely stirred the same emotions that I get by watching the documentaries each year.

(My own recollections of that day…well, it was confusing. I was working at Mercadien listening to everything unfold on the radio. It took awhile for us to understand that the first crash wasn’t an accident. Even after understating, I don’t think I got upset that day. I was too focused on work…Hillier’s tax return was on extension and it was due September 15 whether we were under attack or not. I even worked late that night. To be clear, there wasn’t a person who told me to stay buried in my work or to stay late. It was just the understood culture of the time and place.)

The final section takes you through the aftermath. Not only are the recovery and rebuilding presented, but also the larger effects on the country and the world. I liked that this section didn’t sugar coat anything. The words “Islamic terrorist” were used. On the other side, they presented August Daily Brief from the CIA to President Bush warning “Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US”.

(My memories of post-9/11 was that we all wanted a retaliation. The actual consequence of war didn’t matter…we wanted retribution. Beyond that, patriotism was through the roof. Everyone had flags, pins, caps and shirts. It was everywhere. I particularly remember driving major highways like 295 and NJ Turnpike. Every overpass that crossed the road had at least one flag hanging from it.)