on the way to the World Cup.
I’m just hours away from embarking on the biggest adventure of my life. I’ve taken trips before and had experiences in my life, but nothing like what’s about to take place over the next two-and-a-half weeks.
On Thursday night, I leave for Dubai with my buddies Cole and Sam. We’ll spend three nights in a city that a coworker described to me as “Vegas on steroids.” And because I’ve never been to Las Vegas, I don’t have the slightest idea what that means.
We have several activities planned for Dubai. We’ll be visiting the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world. It’s not often that you can view the world from the such a vantage point, so we’re gonna give it a shot. We also have plans to going skiing / snowboarding at the ski resort in the Mall of the Emirates and sandboarding out in the desert. There’s a lot crammed into a short amount of time in Dubai, but I doubt it’s going to be enough.
From there, we board a plane for Johannesburg, South Africa, host of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. But before we partake in the world’s greatest sporting event, we’ll take a short road trip to the east coast of Africa, more specifically, Maputo, Mozambique.
Supposedly, Mozambique has some spectacular beaches. And though it’ll be early winter while we’re in the southern hemisphere, we figured we’d regret not having a look.
The drive to Maputo may be the most exciting, and simultaneously nerve-wracking, part of the trip. Driving on the wrong side of the road. Trekking across a country that in our lives we’ve yet to step foot in. Avoiding some notoriously greedy cops. All of these factors are in play and I have no idea what to expect.
Following the Mozambique road trip, we return to Johannesburg for the duration of our adventure. The majority of what we have scheduled in Johannesburg is World Cup-related, but I’m sure we’ll carve out some time to dabble in some local sightseeing.
Finally, we depart Johannesburg on June 24 and spend the better part of the next day-and-a-half traveling back to the US.
I’m nervous about this trip for several reasons. I don’t know how much money I’ll end up spending. I’m generally a little nervous flying, and eight- and twelve-hour flights are a bit long for me. There are some terrorism concerns about a large event like the World Cup. There are safety concerns going to the Middle East and Africa. Luckily, none of these things are deterrents by any means. (Side note: big thanks to the writings of Tyler Tervooren and Chris Guillbeau for easing my fears.)
I think since I’ve finished college, I’ve gotten bored. I’ve become complacent in my daily life, whether it be work, or social, or recreational. I think I’m desperate to shake things up and step out of my comfort zone. Hopefully this trip will afford me the opportunity to expand my horizons and find a renewed sense of enthusiasm in my day-to-day.
Every few months, my old college roommates and I like to get together for a weekend. We ditch the girlfriends / wife and go to one person’s place for the weekend. These trips usually involve a lot of drinking, eating, and dick jokes.
Long story short, we do our best to relive our college experience in the span of two nights together. We just completed our latest roommate reunion weekend:
December is a fantastic month. (Word of caution, fantastic has become my new favorite word to describe something that is good, when I’m too lazy to think of a more creative word.)
There are several things that make December great. The obvious is Christmas. Everyone loves getting (and even giving, sometimes) gifts. But there’s more to it than just that.
Time off of work / school
When I started working 40 hours a week after I graduated college, one of the hardest things for me to adjust to was the 40 hour work week. It’s not so much that it is hard to work a lot, it’s that I had trouble spending so much time at work and getting home and only having a handful of hours before I had to go to sleep and do it all over again the next day. It was the repetition, really.
It took me a good seven or eight months before I finally adjusted to working 40 hours. So with Christmas, comes a much-need dose of time off. Most people get a little taste of relaxation during Thanksgiving break, when they get out of work the Tuesday or Wednesday of the holiday and end up with a four or five-day weekend. When you get back to work or school the following Monday morning, you’re already in the mood for Christmas break.
With Christmas break, you get Christmas Eve, Christmas day and some combination of the weekend and days around Christmas off along with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Some lucky souls (like myself) get Christmas Eve through New Year’s off.
No matter what combination of days off you have, it’s much-needed. Enjoy it.
Seriously, is there a more drinking-ish month than December? Eggnog and rum/whiskey. Holiday-flavored beers. Hot cocoa and peppermint schnapps. There’s probably more that I’m not thinking of.
And not just the alcoholic combinations offered during December, there’s all the reasons to actually drink them. On Thursday night I went to Wassailfest in New Braunfels and some people had “leaded” wassail containing 151 or whiskey. And then after we stopped by a bar because Wassailfest takes place right next to the bars in New Braunfels.
And because it’s Christmas time, there are a ton of Christmas parties being thrown in December, obviously. There are parties thrown before everyone goes out-of-town, parties thrown by family, office parties, you name it. And chances are, there is going to be some amount of alcohol present. Usually more than none.
Then there’s New Year’s parties. Technically, the majority of the partying goes on before midnight. Therefore, it counts as December. And because it’s painfully obvious how much drinking goes on at New Year’s, I don’t need to explain.
Then there’s reunion parties. If you live close to where you grew up or are going home for Christmas, oftentimes someone is going to throw a party for everyone to get back together and reconnect. Even if you don’t like anyone you grew up with or went to high school with, these parties are great if for no other reason than to see how much fatter everyone got since the last time you saw them.
We had a party with some high school friends a couple of years ago where I caught up with friends who I hadn’t seen since graduation and couldn’t believe how many people put on weight. I’d say about 75%, if not more, of the people I went to high school with put on a significant amount of weight in the few years since we graduated. And the best part, a lot of times it’s the ones you didn’t expect. A lot of the people who were hot shit in high school now just look like shit.
Who wouldn’t want to go to a party and drink to that?
The Texans season mercifully coming to an end
Let’s just say this: I posted this in mid-October, and it hasn’t gotten any better since then. Let’s just move on to the next, more uplifting point.
The annual Dallas Cowboys collapse
Yes, the annual tradition that is much-celebrated in my household. Thanks to the Tony Tomorrow / Wade Phillips combo, the Cowboys winter collapse ranks up there with opening presents in both enjoyment and consistency.
But one day, the Cowboys are going to fail to show up for Christmas aren’t they? Just like that one family member who comes to Christmas every year and then up and decides not to come the next, the Cowboys will start winning in December sometime. Right?
Probably. But after yesterday’s 31-24 loss to the New York Giants, this year should go as scheduled.
And if it doesn’t, I gotta find something different to get my dad for Christmas.
On July 4, 1776, our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, announcing that the colonies were no longer going to be part of the British Empire. Despite supporting the movement, Perk was not amused.
It’s getting to be late November and the NBA season is picking up pace. The Spurs sit at 4-6 right now, while the defending-champion Los Angeles Lakers are 9-3 and their second-best player just returned to the lineup.
A sense of urgency is building around the Spurs, with many experts having picked them during the summer to be one of the top teams in the NBA. Some even went so far as to predict they’ll dethrone the Lakers.
What I see is a team inconsistent in every area. From game-to-game and quarter-to-quarter, the Spurs have yet to put it all together.
Maybe that’s good. They’re a competitive team in their current state, a few different breaks here and there and the Spurs are on the right side of .500.
On the other side of the coin, what if they’re unable to play a complete game?
Being just ten games into the season and having to fit in so many new parts, there’s going to be a period of adjustment. Some players are new to the team and must learn the system. Others are coming back from injury and trying to ease back into NBA shape.
The fear is not what the Spurs have been inconsistent at to this point, it’s what they haven’t shown the ability to do yet.
Interior defense and defensive rebounding are two things that come to mind. Gone are the days of the guards funneling their man into the twin towers with little chance of conceding a layup.
Tim Duncan is no longer the shot blocker he once was. He’s a smart defensive player who plays position defense and still provides a good number of blocks. But he’s not an athletic pivot who stops the ball at the rim anymore. (Was he every really athletic, in comparison to the rest of the NBA, that is?) Antonio McDyess, DeJuan Blair and Matt Bonner aren’t elite shot-blockers either.
And with the transition the league has taken to more perimeter-oriented offenses, many teams are playing “small ball” and using just one interior player. This scheme allows for more penetration against the Spurs defenses, leaving just one big to defend the rim.
From there, options are almost limitless. Teams can score points in the paint, draw fouls, and kick the ball out for uncontested 3-pointers. All three are crippling results for a team that banks on a stingy defense to win games.
The Spurs have to do something to remedy this. Duncan, McDyess and Bonner are proven commodities. We know the Spurs aren’t going to get any rim-stopping plays from them.
Theo Ratliff can still block some shots, (Just ask Carlos Boozer about that.) But at 36 years old, the game has passed him by. He’s not the physical beast the Kevin Willis was when Willis was in San Antonio. Ratliff’s body isn’t in shape to play more than 20 minutes in the NBA.
But towards the end of the bench and on the inactive list sit a pair of players with intrigue.
Ian Mahimni and Marcus Haislip have the athleticism to protect the rim and cover quicker big men. They have the young legs to play as many minutes as Pop feels like throwing at them. Unfortunately, to this point they haven’t shown the ability in other areas to get on the floor.
At some point soon, Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford are going to have to make a decision. Play Haislip and/or Mahimni in hopes that they’ll be in position to contribute during the stretch run. If nothing else, the Spurs can afford to lose games right now. They’re doing it anyway.
If not, trade one or both of them and bring in someone who can shore up our weaknesses. The season depends on it. Already.
This video has been seen a lot of places, mainly because it’s awesome.
And this video inspired me to make this tweet this morning:
Lucky guy that I am, got a good, old-fashioned response from the official PETA twitter account, who are obviously monitoring the twittersphere for anyone who tweets the name PETA.
They sent me a link to their blog post about the Manu Ginobili incident, giving us this gem, which is making its way through the blogosphere:
To bludgeon a 4-ounce animal to death, it takes either a small man or a totally unthinking one—with no respect or consideration for lives humbler than his own. This is a time when athletes in particular need to be on their best behavior around any animal and show that they have brains and a heart, not just reactionary brawn.
Yeah, that link they have there basically compares Manu Ginobili to Michael Vick. So I responded to them in kind:
And PETA’s “official” response:
Yes, it’s great to know that the people at PETA type like 13-year-old girls too. My response:
I have not gotten a response from that last tweet yet. Apparently it doesn’t matter that the animal survived. (Note: I don’t know for sure if it survived, I heard that it did, though.) All that matters is someone used “reactionary brawn” on a poor, helpless animal. One that possibly could carry rabies. Have at it in the comments, folks.
[Update: I checked around and apparently, the bat died. Oh well, I stand by my point. Ease up PETA. There are millions of bats under the South Congress bridge here in Austin. One bat is nothing to raise a fuss about.]
[Update to the update: Maybe the bat lived. That’s what Manu himself says. I don’t know what to believe anymore. (Can you tell how frazzled I am?) Anyway, get a life PETA.