Category Archives: Austin

Shaking things up

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.

The tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

The Burj Khalifa. Yup, I'll be there.

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.

Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Soccer City Stadium, home of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Yup, I'll be there too.

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.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Austin

Why December is a Great Month

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.

 

Drinking

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Austin

Smile or Something, Perk

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Austin

2009-10 San Antonio Spurs: Consistently Inconsistent

For the Spurs to make a serious run at the NBA Finals, the defense must improve. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Austin

PETA is Insane

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:

first_tweet

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.

peta_tweet1

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:

tweet_responseAnd PETA’s “official” response:

peta_tweet2

Yes, it’s great to know that the people at PETA type like 13-year-old girls too. My response:

my_next_responseI 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.

5 Comments

Filed under Austin

The Beautiful Game’s Breakthrough?

BRITAIN SOCCER LEAGUE CUP

Will your kids grow up to be fans of this guy? (AP Photo/Tom Hevezi)

When I was a kid, I remember waking up in the morning, long before my parents and older sister were awake. I’d quietly creep downstairs, not wanting to wake anyone up so I could sit and enjoy the living room TV by myself, for as long as possible.

I was up early, 6, 7 am. I was young, so I didn’t stay up late the night before.

I would get downstairs, turn on the TV and pour myself a bowl of cereal, unless I knew my mom was making pancakes or waffles later.

I struggle to remember the names of the shows I watched back then. There was one where kids would play arcade games against each other on Nickelodeon.

Another involved some sort of yellow, cat-like creature.

God knows what these abominations of television were actually about. But I was up watching them, sure as hell.

As I got older my tastes changed. There were less cartoons and more sports. I turned on ESPN in the mornings and watched reruns of SportsCenter over and over again until noon, when ESPN switched to other programming.

Hell, on Sunday mornings I actually sat through the Sports Reporters on a weekly basis. And I didn’t even try to shove sharp objects through my ear drums.

Oh, how innocent and stupid I was.

Starting this year, after the economy went in the crapper and Setanta Sports’ profits did too, ESPN got the rights to broadcast English Premier League matches in the US. Now, every Saturday morning on ESPN2 there’s an EPL match shown live.

Because England is five hours ahead of the US (on the east coast, six hours ahead here in Austin), these matches are shown early in the morning. For instance, my beloved Tottenham Hotspur take on the scum of Arsenal this Saturday, and the match starts at 8 am. Others start as early as 7 am here.

Not a lot of adults are up at 7 or 8 am on the weekends. And if they are, they’re just getting their eyes open. But you know who is up at 8 am? Kids.

If there’s ever a time that soccer is going to “make it” in the United States, or be something close to mainstream, it’s starting now.

A common theory was that kids grow up playing soccer and eventually these kids will become adults who like soccer. Not true. I know lot’s of people who played soccer when we were kids and none of them made it to high school before they gave it up. They all moved on to more popular American sports like football, basketball and baseball. (Note: in Texas, no one plays hockey. The only people in Texas who do play hockey aren’t actually from Texas.)

But kids today can turn on ESPN and see a professional soccer league full of arguably the best soccer players in the world, first thing in the morning. That’s what’s going to help soccer make it big in the US.

Before, it was harder for kids to catch European soccer here in the US. They would either need access to Sky or Setanta Sports, which only come on satellite packages. On the off-chance that they actually had satellite service, there were so many other channels to compete with, that soccer was hard to find.

The other option was watching on Fox Soccer Channel, which is usually only available on digital cable packages. And then, there were many other channels for FSC to compete with.

UEFA Champions League matches have been available on ESPN for the last several years. But kids most likely didn’t get to watch any CL matches because they are shown on weekday afternoons, when kids are in school.

If there’s one thing that keeps kids playing the main professional sports in America (baseball, basketball and football), it’s seeing their favorite players on TV several nights a week. Why follow a sports if there’s no one in it for you to look up to?

On Saturday morning, little Johnny can wake up and watch Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney bang home two goals, and then little Johnny will want to go to his YMCA soccer match and do the same. Or he can go out into the yard and kick his soccer ball off the side of his house for practice or play with friends who watched the same Man U match. Little Johnny’s got someone to emulate now.

Adult sports fans may never come around to soccer. But kids today are going to be watching the best of the best ply their trade in the world’s most popular game, before adults have even stepped out of bed.

1 Comment

Filed under Austin

The Texans Season is Over… Here’s to 2010

I’ve been holding out hope that the Houston Texans would turn their season around and make the playoffs after opening the season with a 2-2 record. That they were simply going through some early season struggles. They did start last season 0-4 and still finished 8-8.

This is their year to make the playoffs, right?

That was before they came back from a 21 point deficit against the Cardinals, only to throw an interception that was returned for a touchdown and fail to score when they had 2nd and goal at the 1 yard line.

Now?

I’m ready to dive into the college football season and scout possible draft picks. When your team is down a touchdown with 40 seconds left in the game, has 2nd-down-and-goal at the one yard line, and can’t convert on three straight plays, I think it’s okay to start looking towards next year.

That man is awesome.... on third down. (Wesley Hitt / Getty Images)

That man is awesome.... on third down. (Wesley Hitt / Getty Images)

It’s tough to root for a team that gets beat in more aspects than they win. And that’s exactly what the Texans do. They look good because they can put up a lot of points in a short amount of time. They’re sexy. I don’t trust a sexy team just like I don’t trust a sexy girl without getting to know them.

Sexy will win you a few games, but it won’t give you consistent success. You just never know about them.

Well, I’ve gotten to know this girl.

Ground game

Houston’s running game is a weakness. Steve Slaton is a big-play back and fantasy all-star, but he can’t carry a running game. He’s not big enough. He’s sexy (there’s that word again), but he can’t pound the ball and grind out yards. He’s only averaging 46.2 yards per game in his first five games this season. His biggest game was against Jacksonville (ranked 19th in the league against the run) when he ran for 76 yards.

Houston needs to find a power back to pair with Slaton. He’s shown that he’s an excellent third down back because he can catch balls out of the backfield and has learned quickly how to pick up the blitz, but he’s not an every-down back. Slaton needs someone else to take some of the pounding for him. Chris Brown just ain’t cutting it.

In the trenches

Unfortunately, it’s not just this year. The Texans franchise started off on the wrong foot. The best way to build a team is from the inside-out. Taking offensive and defensive linemen and building a foundation where you can add skill position players later and have long-term success. Houston made little effort to build from the inside, other than taking left tackle Tony Boselli with their first pick in the expansion draft. Boselli never played a down for the team because of injury. No argument here, that was the right move. But they’ve spent too many high draft picks over the years on skill players while neglecting the foundation.

Look at the New England Patriots, would Tom Brady be the quarterback he is today if he hadn’t played for the Patriots? No way. He was forced into a starting role because of injury to Drew Bledsoe and thrived because he was protected by the best offensive line in the league and had one of the top defenses to keep them in games. His running backs that season were Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk. His receivers were Troy Brown and David Patten. Canada has more weapons than Brady had.

In 2002, the Texans made quarterback David Carr their first draft pick ever, taking him first overall in that year’s draft. It was the sexy pick (le sigh). Who was the very next pick? Defensive end Julius Peppers, who has 73.5 career sacks in his eight seasons in the league. Then they took tight end Bennie Joppru in the second round of the 2003 draft and defensive end Osi Umenyiora was taken 15 picks later.

It’s easy to point these things out after the fact, but dang it that’s the point.

Aw, hell.

Aw, hell.

Houston’s front office needs to focus on two things for the offensive and defensive lines: talent and depth. The defensive line has talent, but it’s short on depth. And they can’t stop the run. The offensive line lacks both talent and depth, save for a couple of spots, like left tackle Duane Brown. Houston should spend at least one of their first, second or third round draft picks on a lineman every year. That way, you’ve got a steady stream of talent and youth coming in. Young guys will come to camp every year in a position to compete for playing time. And not just practice squad-talent, legit difference-maker talent. If, say, Amobi Okoye leaves for whatever reason, you’ve got someone ready to step in and take their place.

Secondary Concerns

The secondary is perpetually a problem for the Texans. The team has had a make-shift secondary since its start. Dunta Robinson is the only blue chipper they’ve put in the defensive backfield (And oh-by-the-way, pay that man his money. He’s shown that he’s recovered from his knee injury and that he’s one of the top cornerbacks in the league. Sign him to a long-term deal today, before he bolts in the offseason for the Colts).

Houston has no excuse not to spend a first or second round pick this year on a ball-hawking free safety. Year after year they neglect to find a difference-maker to play that role. And it shows. Even with the pass rush the Texans have, they still can’t defend the pass.

Head coaching

I’d say that Gary Kubiak won’t last the entire season, but I’m pretty sure he’s already been taken out like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. Mike Shanahan is unpacking in his new office as you read this. I’ve seen very few teams come less motivated and make fewer in-game adjustments than a Kubiak coached one.

Houston was a sexy (NO! STOP!) underdog pick coming into the season. After going 8-8 last season, they were supposed to take the next step in 2009. This team was supposed to compete with the Colts in the AFC South.

Well, at least my fantasy team is 5-0.

Leave a comment

Filed under Austin