Monday, April 30, 2007

Tidbits in History

Two-hundred sixteen years ago today, George Washington took office as the first U.S. President (where would we be without him? Without the one-dollar bill, I guess). Fourteen years later, the U.S. spent $15 million buying the Louisiana Purchase from France. Eighty-six years later, Washington’s inauguration became the first U.S. national holiday. Fifty-six years after that, Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide after being married for one day (talk about a short honeymoon; I still think they’re cryogenically frozen away somewhere… maybe in Mrs. McKluskey’s refrigerator on “Desperate Housewives”). Just twelve years after that, Elvis recorded “Jailhouse Rock.” Jump forward forty years, to the day that NBC aired the last episode of “The Cosby Show.” ABC aired the “coming out” episode of “Ellen” five years later, in which Ellen DeGeneres’ character declares she is a lesbian (I guess they’re not ALL hot). Coincidentally, that was the same year Madonna’s bustier was stolen from Frederick’s of Hollywood.

I have no idea why I wrote this, but if you’re still interested, head to the History Channel’s website to see their “This Day in History” video.

Birthdays Today

Happy birthday to:

Isiah Thomas

A phenomenal point guard (have you seen the footage of him scoring 16 points in one minute, thirty seconds?!) and a questionable front-office executive. I can’t believe he got a contract extension after this season was declared a “put-up or shut-up” year and the Knicks sucked. An example of a guy who didn’t quit when he should have, but still one of the NBA’s all-time greats.

“Zeke” turns 45 today.

Adrian Pasdar

“Flying man! WHOOSH!” If you’re not watching “Heroes” on NBC Monday nights at 9:00 PM, you’re missing out.

Also the husband of Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks. DYK?, he also had parts in “Top Gun,” “Solarbabies,” and earned a football scholarship to the University of Florida? His football career was cut short when he was involved in a car accident that left his face scarred and his legs badly injured.

He is 42 today.

Kirsten Dunst

I think she’s got a small movie opening this weekend called “Spider-Man 3.” It might make some cash for her. Here’s a selection of her filmography:

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Little Women
Interview with a Vampire
Kiki’s Delivery Service (English-language dub)
The Virgin Suicides
Bring It On
The Crow: Salvation
Mona Lisa Smile
Spider-Man 2
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Marie Anoinette

She’s all of 25.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Remember the Spring of 1992 in L.A.?

Fifteen years ago today, Reginald Denny was pulled from the cab of his truck and nearly beaten to death at the intersection of Florence and Normandie in Los Angeles. It was the act that really set the tone for the L.A. Riots. If it weren’t for the efforts of Bobby Green, Titus Murphy, Terri Barnett and Lei Yuille, all of whom had watched the events on TV and then ventured out to save him, Denny would be dead.

How crazy is that? I remember watching on TV when that happened. It was insane. As dumb as those cops were to beat Rodney King, the riots were a million times dumber.

To read more about the Denny case, see Wikipedia. It lists a majority of the people who assaulted him. Time magazine ran a small update profile.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Happy Birthday, Harper Lee

The author of the book that almost everyone (except for Kindra) agrees on as a Great. She was born in 1926 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 for “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It was her first and only novel.

She is 81 today.

Happy birthday also to Jay Leno, who is 57.

Jessica Alba turns 26. I used to think she was just another pretty face, but she seems pretty down to earth in interviews. Of course, Kindra disagrees. Shocker.

I liked her in “Sin City,” “Fantastic Four” (the movie was ~eh~, but she was okay), and “Idle Hands.” You’ll have to look up that last one. DYK?, she was also a lead in the TV series’ “The New Adventures of Flipper,” appeared on “Beverly Hills, 90210,” and did a commercial in 1994 for Nintendo? Crazy what you can learn on IMDB.

And no, I didn’t forget the “Dark Angel” TV series, but it wasn’t that impressive. I think Kindra’s seen more episodes of that than I have.

Oskar Schindler would’ve been 99 today. He saved almost 1100 Jews during the Holocaust. Read more about him at Wikipedia. He passed away on October 9, 1974.


Today is the fourth anniversary of iTunes… Wow. Four years and over 2.5 billion song and video downloads. Things could really change now, with the push for DRM-free music. Fortunately, Steve Jobs is onboard with that idea and is also refuting the idea of an iTunes subscription service, similar to Rhapsody, Y! Music Unlimited (Yahoo!’s service), and Napster. Now if he could just put wi-fi into his next iPod, like the Sansa Connect

How ever did we get our music back in the old days? Oh yeah, the old NAPSTER. *sigh* I miss the early days… and then the mad rush to get whatever you could before they shut Napster down. Not that I did that.

Shame, now it’s a shell of a music-subscription service. Shawn Fanning deserves credit as the pioneer of the electronic transfer service. As naïve as he was, he deserves a spot in the programming and computing hall of fame. Now he’s working on programming a new social network for online gaming called Rupture, which will take World of Warcraft player info and create a personalized site for each character. His 2002 startup, Snocap, was an end-to-end music distribution company that would allow content providers to oversee their own distribution and create online stores anywhere HTML code could be edited. Hmm… Yeeeeaaaah. From the creator of the most widely-known peer-to-peer file-sharing client in the world to… hmmmmm. Clearly, it’s not 1999 anymore…

But what about Fanning on the cover of Time magazine? That was cool.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Failing Educational System

Kindra was telling me how her school usually gets some graffiti over the weekend. She heard that the following was found on the handball wall: “Springview sucks pines.”

Somehow, I don’t think they meant “pines.” Must be the dyslexia.

One Moment

Today mark’s the 18th anniversary of the day that student protestors took over Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. For seven weeks, students, workers, teachers and soldiers – eventually numbering one million – held Tiananmen Square until the government finally had enough on June 4, 1989. That morning, tanks rumbled into Tiananmen, killing hundreds of people.

The photograph above was taken on June 5, 1989, of an unknown man who represented something that we should all strive for – courage of conviction in the face of insurmountable odds. Reputedly, when he climbed up on the tank, he questioned the driver by saying, “Why are you here? My city is in chaos because of you.” Today, the young man in the photograph remains anonymous to the world. Some say he was a nineteen-year old student named Wang Weilin. Others say he was the son of a factory worker. Nobody is certain of his identity, much less his fate.

Talk about having a defining moment in your life.

How to Feel Like an Underachiever

I was talking with my buddy Don, and he said that he ran into an old high school classmate the other day. She told him that she was in her second year of medical school at the UC Irvine School of Medicine after leaving her job as a software consultant and spending three years of postgrad education. WTF? I ended up Googling her and found an article from two years ago when she received an award from Cal State Fullerton for outstanding academic achievement and community service. What the hell am I doing?

She was a bright student, but not in the realm of the geeks and nerds that I occupied. Sure, her brother went to Harvard and played football, and she went to the University of Virginia, but I was supposed to be one of the ones who ended up being a doctor or lawyer or at least something with a modest “wow” and “ooo” factor and some degree of success. Instead, I’m a washed-up basketball coach who’s lost his taste for the game working part of the time for a low mid-major basketball conference (can’t get to calling it a low major, since the Big West is ranked #16 out of 32 conferences by Ken Pomeroy) and part-time for a fledgling athlete-training company. At least I’m married and have the coolest daughter in the world (she scared me yesterday a little bit, but you can read that here).

To top that, I just saw a video on a girl in Michigan that will leave the rest of you awestruck as well. Nicole Matisse is a nineteen-year old student at the University of Michigan. She will be graduating in August with a degree in psychology and will attend the Wayne State University law school in the fall. It will take her one calendar year to graduate, and she is currently maintaining a 4.0 G.P.A.

Apparently, she learned to multiply at age 3 (I’m guessing - hoping - she memorized her times tables) and was reading at a fifth-grade level when she was five. She’d breezed through high school classes and ended up passing eight AP tests and taking JC classes which allowed her to enter Michigan as a junior last year. She started with nineteen units her first quarter, went to TWENTY-SEVEN her second, is taking twenty-three this spring, and seven during the summer. Oh, and she wants to write a book about her experience before enters law school.

My real problem with her? She looks and acts too normal. Aren’t kids who do this sort of thing supposed to be geeky-looking and/or socially awkward? Isn’t that supposed to be the tradeoff? Here’s a shot of Nicole and her mom, Pamela Naboychik.

Let Nicole Matisse make you feel inadequate via or read about her in the Detroit News.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Forever Stamp

Hear ye, hear ye! I just found out the US Postal Service will increase the rate of regular postage from 39 cents to 41 cents on Monday, May 14. This is the 13th time in 33 years that the rate has increased, averaging a rate increase roughly every two and a half years. The first increase was in 1974, was a whopping 25% increase (vs. this year’s 5% increase), and raised the price of a first-class one-ounce letter from 8 cents to a rounder 10 cents. The postcard rate is also rising, to 26 cents.

In announcing the rate increase, the USPS also announced a new concept called the Forever Stamp. Basically, it’s a stamp set at the current first-class postage rate that can be used indefinitely, even in the event of another price increase. They are currently being sold at the new postage rate, and will continue to be sold at whatever the current first-class postage rate is. So, just stock up, and in twenty years, when postage is 65 cents, sell them for a profit at 60 cents! That’s my new money-maker. Don’t steal it.

It seems like the use of e-mail and increasing use of specialty shippers like UPS and FedEx might be taking their toll on the Postal Service. Just looking for an influx of some cash, I would imagine. But it’s always been a financial loser for the government, so I guess it could just be the times. Hey, at least if we buy stamps now, we won’t have to deal with those stupid 2-cent stamps that you have to buy to use your old stamps. I always get stuck with a bunch of them lying around after the increase, and end up putting twenty on a letter just to use them. You can buy the Forever Stamp here.

* * *
In other postal news, the Yoda stamp is in the lead as the favorite of the recently issued Star Wars stamps. The USPS is sponsoring an online vote here. The winning stamp will be unveiled May 25th, the 30th anniversary of the debut of “Star Wars,” at Star Wars Celebration IV in Los Angeles. Personally, I voted for the Leia/R2-D2 stamp that the Postal Service used to advertise the Star Wars promotion. I just like the colors better, no offense to Master Yoda, who would’ve been my third choice, behind Luke on Tatooine. I suppose if you had to choose the one iconic image, Yoda would probably be the best representative…

Oh, and don’t think that I’m not going to be trying to get my hands on one of those R2-D2 mailboxes that are out there. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, but I want one. Maybe it’ll become Danica’s inanimate best friend. There’s a great tracker and map online at the Frappr site here.

A bit of advice if you want one: don’t pull them out of the ground, since that would be a federal offense. Word is they’ll be auctioned at the end of the promotion.

Happy Birthday, Tim Duncan

The two-time NBA MVP (2002, 2003) and three-time NBA Finals MVP (1999, 2003, 2005) turns 31 today. See his bio at his website,, or one of my personal favorite sites, Wikipedia.

Speaking of Tim Duncan, I think I know why the Nuggets won Game 1 of their series (Game 2 is tonight), and it’s because of Allen Iverson:

Simple karma. That’s all.

I'll still take the Spurs in the series.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I spent yesterday working for the Big West at Tijeras Creek Golf Club in Rancho Santa Margarita, where we were holding the Big West Men’s and Women’s Golf Championship. I know, I know... tough job. I’m going to admit this was the first time I’d ever spent at a golf club other than for a wedding, and it was pretty nice. I would, however, advise against having to film golf, especially a lot of it. After arriving at the golf course in time to catch the second round of tee-off times, I ended up just figuring I’d have to sit between two holes and shoot everybody as they came through – a shot from the fairway, a put or two (or three, in some cases), and then get them teeing off for the next hole.

Okay, I’ve never played golf, either, except for miniature and hitting balls at a driving range, but it’s DAMN SLOW when you’re watching it. There were eight or so women’s groups with two or three players per group, and thirteen men’s groups with two or three players each. My mind was so all over the place since I’d be shooting for a while, then there’d be a five- or ten-minute lull, then I’d shoot again. No offense to the golfers out there, but ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. I’m sure it’s way better when you’re playing.

I can’t imagine what those camera guys go through who shoot golf for TV, because you’re looking at the same shot over and over, and it’s not like there’s that much action. At least in other sports, there’s some back-and-forth action. Even in baseball, which is another pain in the butt to shoot, there’s a battle between the pitcher and the batter. And college pitchers work a little faster than pro pitchers.

FYI, some female golfers are WAY out of shape. Good thing they had to walk the course, because some of them REALLY needed it. I’m not saying you have to look like a supermodel, but at least look fit. I ended up deciding to shoot some golfers just putting or driving the ball, because to look at the whole package would’ve been disturbing. Seriously – there was one girl who was wearing shorts with a belt and her shirt tucked in, and her gut hung over her shorts. Ugh.

* * *

In more exciting news, I just saw the trailer for “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and must say that it’s SPECTACULAR. The Harry Potter movie series is one of the few that has gotten consistently better over time. I really thought the first two Harry Potter films took the material and translated it into something a little too juvenile, but as the series has grown, they’ve stayed true to the darkening nature of the books. It’ll be interesting how they deal with Dumbledore’s apparent death in the film after this one, but after seeing the trailer for “Order of the Phoenix,” I’m not worried. The trailer showed a great mix of action, suspense, horror and some beautiful cinematography. Now I’m getting excited for July, since the movie opens on July 13 and the final Harry Potter book gets released on July 21.

See the trailer here.

Monday, April 23, 2007

R.I.P. Johnny Hart and Brant Parker

I can’t believe I missed it, but thanks to a nice tribute strip from “Non-Sequitur,” I finally found out that Johnny Hart, the creator of “B.C.” and the co-creator of “The Wizard of Id,” died of a stroke on April 7, 2007 at the age of 76. Hart’s long-time collaborator, Brant Parker passed away shortly thereafter, on April 15, 2007 at the age of 86. Parker died of complications resulting from Alzheimer’s disease and a stroke suffered in 2006. Hart debuted “B.C.” in 1958, and joined with Parker to create “The Wizard of Id” in 1964.

Both “B.C.” and “The Wizard of Id” will continue for the foreseeable future. Hart worked on “B.C.” until the day he died, but had been aided by family members over the last few years. The family will continue to produce the strip. “The Wizard of Id” was taken over by Jeff Parker, Brant’s son, in 1997. Jeff Parker and members from Hart’s family will continue to collaborate on the strip.

As a little bit of trivia, Hart’s anteater character from “B.C.” was the inspiration and model for the UC Irvine mascot.

P.S. – A belated “Happy Earth Day!” (which was yesterday) to all. I spent mine taking walks with my family and watching the Discovery Channel/BBC’s “Planet Earth” marathon. Just so you know, I think “Planet Earth” really has to be seen in HD to be truly enjoyed (sadly, I do not have this capability).

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Good Samaritan of the (Yester)Day

Every Saturday, a majority Americans spend a good portion of their day locked in a seemingly constant struggle. They pray, curse, fidget, stall, hunt, and race for the most coveted of all Saturday possessions – the parking spot. It’s a ritual repeated over and over, and it’s not for just any parking spot. It’s for THE parking spot – the one closest to their shopping destination, with the least amount of walking distance and most convenient route to the desired location. I was among those repeating the ritual this last Saturday…

I went to the Best Buy yesterday near my apartment and was looking for a space on the bottom level of the parking structure. I have a regular routine I use to find a space, but decided to alter it and start down a different aisle because there was some traffic where I normally start. BIG mistake. I ended up behind a guy who didn’t know what the hell he was doing trying to find a parking spot, inching along and braking anytime he saw a person walking to their car. I finally got fed up and drove around him, turning down my normal aisle from the opposite end.

I had my window down and was following a gentleman in his late forties who seemed to be headed out (tip: it’s always best to follow men, since they usually know where they park, take direct routes there, and don’t fiddle around a lot once they get in their cars). He turned to me, pointed to the next aisle over, and said, “I’m over there.” I figured he was just being nice and letting me know I could move on. Then he said, “If you want to go around, I’ll wait for you.” Huh?!?

Who does that? I’ve only encountered maybe two other people in my lifetime who said anything like that. I asked him which car he was in, then drove down the aisle to turn into the next one. I’d spoken to him at the end of one aisle, and as I rounded the corner and saw three or four cars looking for spots, I figured there was no way that he was going to wait for me. I drove down to where I thought he said his truck was on my left and didn’t see him in it. Meanwhile, there were cars looking for spots driving opposite me.

Just then, the guy appeared from my right, smiled at me, got in his car, and I ended up getting his parking space. It seems he’d just walked across the aisle to clear out any cars that might be waiting for him, so he could give me his spot, as he promised. Wow. I was floored. It’s made more amazing that this happened in Southern California, near one of the biggest and best shopping centers in the area. It would only be more amazing if it was Christmas…

Pay it forward, as they say…

Friday, April 20, 2007

Remembering Columbine

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the school shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, and the fifth day of mourning for those lost in the Virginia Tech incident on Monday. Thirteen people were gunned down at Columbine, and thirty-two were killed at Virginia Tech. While shocking and disconcerting to all of us, I think we tend to maintain a level of detachment from the events because very few of us are linked to anybody who was involved in either incident or anything remotely similar. However, the six degrees of separation maintain that we are all linked, and unfortunately, sometimes it’s true.

It must be eight or nine years ago that I took my first trip to Snow Valley Basketball School in Montecito, CA (a quick aside – Montecito is about 10 minutes away from Santa Barbara, Snow Valley is held at Westmont College, it used to be run by one of the best teachers I’ve ever known, Herb Livsey, and was one of the best teaching camps in America). I arrived around 10:30 AM on a Sunday morning, extremely early since the camp started at 3:30 PM. I introduced myself to Coach Livsey, and then asked if there was anything I could do to help. He asked me if I might take two young men down to the local bakery for breakfast, since they had spent the weekend there, and the cafeteria wasn’t open. I agreed, and we drove down to the Xanadu Café for breakfast. They were both from Denver, CO, and now that I think about it, must have been going into their sophomore year of high school. One of them was named Greg Barnes.

They were both pretty good kids, but I remember Greg a little more since he had these huge hands that could palm a basketball like it was a volleyball. He was probably 6-2 or 6-3 at the time, weighing in the neighborhood of 165 pounds, and he used to pull that Connie Hawkins/James Worthy/Michael Jordan thing where he’d palm the ball in one hand while holding off his defender with the other. I remember seeing him do that in a game, so I commented to him how dangerous it was and how it limited some of his offensive freedom. He grinned at me, and I didn’t see him do it again the rest of the camp.

He was a pretty good player at the camp, and it turns out he was a pretty good player in the state of Colorado, too. A player I used to coach at UC Irvine, Ross Schraeder, was also from Denver and said that Greg was a stud, both on and off the court. He averaged 26.2 points per game his junior year and helped lead his team to the state semi-finals. Harvard, Notre Dame, and a host of other schools were recruiting him during his junior year, and he was sure to play basketball at the Division-I level in college. Many thought he would be the best player in the state of Colorado his senior year.

Two weeks from today will mark the five-year anniversary of the death of Greg Barnes. Greg Barnes was a sophomore at Columbine in the spring of 1999. He was friends with two of the victims, had both killers in his English class, and was looking out his classroom window as Dave Sanders, a teacher at Columbine, was shot twice in the back while trying to warn students and aid their escape. Greg pulled Sanders into the classroom and tried to stop the bleeding with the shirt off his back while waiting for help. He had to leave Sanders and step over bodies of his classmates as police escorted students off campus.

Greg Barnes hung himself on May 4, 2000, a year after the Columbine shootings. He was found by his father at 12:15 PM, “Adam’s Song” by Blink-182 playing on his CD player. He left no note or reason why he chose to end his life, and students and teachers alike said that there was no outward sign that Greg was despondent at all. There is caution in linking Greg’s suicide to what he witness and endured at Columbine, but the possibility exists. Regardless, his death rocked the Columbine community again.

I’m not saying that because I spent a few hours during one week with Greg Barnes that I knew him. But it is disturbing to realize that you can be that close to something so horrific, and to realize that it could happen to somebody you knew, even if you knew them only in passing. I can’t imagine and don’t want to know what it’s like to be a part of something like what happened at Columbine or at Virginia Tech. Now that I have a daughter of my own, I shudder at the thought of her having to deal with something as insane as what happened on those campuses. I can only hope that people take the time to see what’s going on around them, help those that need it, and realize that we’re all closer to each other than we think.

Remember Greg Barnes:

An article from the Denver Post about Greg’s death.

A nice tribute written by Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated.

A remembrance from Meghan McKee, a student at Columbine.

* * *
P.S. – If you’re not already, put on some maroon and orange today as a show of support for the Virginia Tech family.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Today, We Are All Hokies

I have my own thoughts on the Virginia Tech incident that occurred on Monday, but I thought I’d share a couple of things that I found on the Net that were positive.

The “Today, we are all Hokies” tribute on the Facebook social networking site is a nice show of support from college students across the nation. It’s listed under the “Always Remember VIRGINIA TECH” group. Since most of you won’t be view the tribute, I posted a sampling here. They were created by students at their respective institutions.

There are close to 700 pictures up at the group now with more being added by the minute. This morning there were just over 400. They include photos of vicitims, campus vigils, news stories, and other tribute graphics. If your alma mater isn’t represented, it’d be nice to have it added. There are other tribute pages on Facebook as well.

Also, here’s another beautiful sentiment I saw on Flickr titled "To the parents of the innocent victims on the campus of Virginia Tech:

Mascots Don’t Die, Do They?

Ramses the Ram is dead.

It was announced on CBS’ telecast of the USC-North Carolina game Friday, March 23, 2007 that Jason Kendall Ray, a 21-year-old University of North Carolina senior who played the part of Ramses the Ram, had been struck by an SUV while walking back to his hotel. The driver of the SUV stopped, called authorities and tried to help him, and he was taken to the hospital in critical condition. He passed away of his injuries on Monday, March 26, just months from graduating. He was 21 years old.

Jason Ray’s death makes Ramses a little more real to me. How sad that a guy whose job it was to be anonymously famous and spent the better part of three years in a ridiculously hot costume would have to have this happen to him for the world to get to know him. I would hazard to guess that he gave a lot of himself to the part of Ramses over his career and should be commended.

The mascot is one of the institutions of college sports. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re ubiquitous in sports, but are especially endearing to me at the college level. Since I’ve been around college sports, I’ve gotten a better idea about who the people inside the costume are, and they’re usually just some crazy kid with too much energy who wants to dance around and be a part of the entertainment. It’s really a thankless job, since they have to project their personality into what amounts to basically a sauna covered in fur. To see the outpouring of support from fans and other mascots was great. It’s too bad Jason Ray didn’t get to see it when he was alive.

I guess the uplifting part of this is that another student will come from the crowd to don Ramses’ horned head again, and UNC fans will be treated to the antics of another anonymously famous and sweaty uber-fan. But it’s still shocking to me to see the face behind the mask…

Read a tribute on the University of North Carolina Athletics website.

FYI, I started this on Tuesday, March 27, 2007. I got distracted… what can I say?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Free Cone Day!

Yippee! Free scoop day at Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream locations from 12:00 PM to 8:00 PM.

Find a shop near you:

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Taiwanese Toy Story with SpongeBob’s Overseas Cousin

Found at a rest stop on the way back to Taipei. I don’t know… is elongating the shape of a character enough to get around those pesky copyright restrictions?

BTW, this was called a “disturbing abomination” by a friend of Steph’s.

Happy 60th Birthday, Kareem!

FYI, a nice look at Kareem’s career by the numbers at