In the Final Four: thoughts on the Tournament so far

So, Kansas made it into the Final Four.  Bare­ly. ((We won 59–57 ver­sus a tal­ent­ed David­son team that deserved more than a 10-seed, if I do say so myself.  Here’s a good sum­ma­ry of the game.)) It has been an enter­tain­ing tour­na­ment so far, though there have been few bright spots.  In fact, Kansas is respon­si­ble for snuff­ing one of those bright spots out, the David­son team was a Cin­derel­la for the ages in the mak­ing.

But now that all the #1 seeds have made it to the Final Four (for the first time, ever) we should have a lot of com­pet­i­tive bas­ket­ball to watch next week­end.

Here are a few of my thoughts so far.

  • I’m wear­ing my Kansas shirt for every game.  It’s not that I’m super­sti­tious, but just in case.  Plus, Rus­sell Robin­son, one of our seniors, asked the fans, “we need you to wear your lucky socks, wear your lucky shirt … what­ev­er you do to help us win the games, you’ve got to con­tin­ue to do that the rest of the sea­son.”  So I am.
  • I’m doing a lot of laun­dry, as a result.
  • I’m think­ing about buy­ing a flag­pole and a flag, too.  Band­wag­on!
  • My sports year con­tin­ues to be charmed.  The Red Sox win the World Series.  KU’s foot­ball pro­gram goes 10–1, then wins the Orange Bowl.  The Patri­ots make it to the Super­bowl.  And now KU makes it to the Final Four.  I should clear­ly enjoy it now, as this will nev­er hap­pen again.
  • I see Steve Alford got a con­tract exten­sion (to the 2015–2016 sea­son) at New Mex­i­co.  And they are wel­come to him.  “Until the walls and rafters ring! Go Hawks!” ((That’s from the Iowa fight song.))
  • We (KU, that is) played pret­ty bad­ly in the last game vs. David­son.  The pun­dits said the team was “tight.”  I say they were bad.  Except for the big Russ­ian.  Go Sha­ka Kaun! ((Yes, that’s a joke, his name is Sasha Kaun, but the announc­ers test­ed call­ing him Cha­ka Khan for a while.  It flopped.))
  • I’m afraid North Car­oli­na is going to crush us.  We can beat them, but we have to have a per­fect game.  At least it should make good Tv.  News arti­cles have been call­ing it Roy Williams’ night­mare. ((Because he coached KU for fif­teen years before jump­ing to UNC, his alma mater.))
  • This arti­cle at on pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios for the Tour­na­ment is a fun read now that it is almost over.  It helps if you’ve been watch­ing, of course.

Your thoughts?  Are you even watch­ing bas­ket­ball, or are you all “Iron Chef is the best, man!”  ;)

WordPress 2.5 brings hotness, possible breakage

Noth­ing like mess­ing with a per­fect­ly work­ing blog. I’ll be upgrad­ing to Word­Press 2.5 lat­er today. The blog might break. My apolo­gies. For what­ev­er that’s worth.

Update: No break­age involved.  Had to refresh my includ­ed images a cou­ple of times, but oth­er than that, every­thing went smooth­ly, like a point upgrade should.  Your mileage may vary.

What drove you from local news?

I don’t watch the local news on tele­vi­sion. I don’t know many peo­ple who do. If I hap­pen to flip to local news, I might watch if the weath­er is on, but I will nev­er go find it. Why is that? Because one day in win­ter I saw a news sto­ry so dumb, so asi­nine, that it for­ev­er turned me off of local news.

It began with pro­mos appear­ing dur­ing com­mer­cial breaks in a show I was watch­ing. (This was before TiVo.) “Hid­den dan­ger on the roads!” it said. “Break­ing news you need to know first before you dri­ve!” they cried. After sev­er­al drub­bings of this I actu­al­ly thought maybe I’d stick around and watch, to see if I had any­thing to be con­cerned about. Maybe it was seri­ous, a tox­ic tanker had spilled its load. Maybe it was tan­gen­tial, invad­ing Japan­ese weeds were chok­ing out native plants along the high­way. Maybe it was top­i­cal, mas­sive pot­holes along the route to work.

So I stayed.

And the news start­ed. And they built it up, and up, and up, and they went to their man on the street, and he turned to a typ­i­cal car, just like one that could be owned by you or me, and he crouched down and the cam­era zoomed in and he showed us… the dan­ger that road­way salt could pose to our cars. Rust! he exclaimed! Rust could eat away at your car! Beware!

Oh, and be sure to wash your car reg­u­lar­ly in the win­ter. With that under­car­riage set­ting.

I was so dumb­found­ed I think I actu­al­ly watched the rest of the news broad­cast. My last local news broad­cast.

So. What drove you from local news?

Song choice derails the Chikezie! Express, on American Idol

For this week of Amer­i­can Idol the singers got to choose songs from the year of their birth. It’s like Eight­ies Nite all over again, only with few­er songs to choose from. Which was prob­a­bly a good thing.

Randy was a lit­tle harsh this week, and Paula was wear­ing some weird armwarm­ers with dia­monds on them… I think. Her sense of style clear­ly stayed in the Eight­ies with her career. There seems to be a flu bug or some­thing going around, though Ramiele hur­ried­ly dis­count­ed that as hav­ing any effect on her (bad) per­for­mance.

I got to think­ing, while watch­ing the show, about which of these singers could get me to part with actu­al cash for an album of theirs. Of these ten con­tes­tants, I would buy albums from Brooke (she’s my fave!), and David Cook. That’s it. Car­ly has an out­side chance, if she gets her­self togeth­er after a cou­ple of bad weeks (noth­ing a pro­duc­er could­n’t fix, but I’m not sure what her musi­cal style would be). Turns out they actu­al­ly do full-length, stu­dio record­ings of their songs (as they showed us dur­ing the results show iTunes pro­mo). I might actu­al­ly buy one or two.

Per­for­mance of the week (of the sea­son?): David Cook absolute­ly knocked it out of the park with his Chris-Cor­nell-inspired ver­sion of Michael Jack­son’s “Bil­lie Jean.” Wow. We went and found the Chris Cor­nell ver­sion lat­er, and if they post the stu­dio record­ed ver­sion of this song, I will most cer­tain­ly buy it. It’d be infi­nite­ly bet­ter than the Cor­nell ver­sion (and it already was a lot bet­ter than the orig­i­nal, sor­ry Michael). Con­sid­er­ing that of the absolute stand­out per­for­mances of the sea­son so far, Cook already has two… the judges may be right that he’s the odds-on favorite now. Also of note, Chris Cor­nell called, and he is adding him­self to the David-Cook-cov­ered-my-song fan­club, join­ing inau­gur­al mem­ber Lionel Richie. Speak­ing of the favorites: Two weeks ago I list­ed my final five or six, and since then some of them have had a rocky road. Car­ly got Bot­tom Three­’d for her cloth­ing, Chikezie went back to Luther and punt­ed, Brooke fum­bled her sec­ond Bea­t­les song, and Jason dis­re­spect­ed the grav­i­tas of Idol (I know, I know, what grav­i­tas?). The only two to have risen since my pro­nounce­ment are David Cook and Aus­tralia, and Aus­tralia seems to have a pen­chant for gim­micky are­na rock. The new order is Cook, Aus­tralia, Brooke, Car­ly, and Jason. Sor­ry, Chikezie. God Bless the USA: Kristi Lee Cook, in a des­per­ate bid to avoid going home, pulled out all the stops in her song selec­tion rou­tine. She went for Lee Green­wood’s “God Bless the USA.” It was a judi­cious, can­ny, insight­ful, clever, total­ly annoy­ing, per­fect choice. Which means some­one else must have cho­sen it for her, right? She did a pass­able job, but she draped her­self in the flag to try and pull votes from all the patri­ots out there (not to men­tion Aman­da’s South­ern-coun­try crew, now that she’s out). That, and Lee Green­wood’s bless­ing, took her over the top (into fourth from the bot­tom?).

The Bot­tom Three this week were:

Chikezie, falling off his own band­wag­on. We were all on the Chikezie! Express: young, hip, ener­getic, and fun, and then he went back to the Luther Van­dross well, and it sucked. The song (“If Only for One Night”) was ter­ri­ble, though the singing of it may have been fine. I could­n’t tell over the sound of his career shat­ter­ing into a mil­lion pieces. Sye­sha, who report­ed­ly sang well (“report­ed­ly” because the judges appar­ent­ly heard some­thing I did­n’t) but chose yet anoth­er R&B tune (once sung by Gladys Knight), which just does­n’t fly with today’s youth. I don’t think we’ll be see­ing a Motown theme night this year. Jason, who has indeed been coast­ing since “Hal­lelu­jah,” and pret­ty much coast­ed all the way to the Bot­tom Three, elic­it­ing a bored “meh” from me with his Spang­lish ver­sion of Sting’s “Frag­ile.”

I was hop­ing Sye­sha would be the one to go, because she has done noth­ing but bore me to tears, but Chikezie took the hit he deserved. You don’t turn your back on who brought you, and Chikezie did more than that, he took all the fans who vot­ed for him because of his pre­vi­ous two per­for­mances, and he spat on them. Too harsh? I don’t think so.

Next week we’ll have guest men­tor Dol­ly Par­ton. Should be anoth­er ban­ner week for Kristi Lee Cook, as she rides the coun­try music bron­co all the way to the bank. I’m expect­ing a train wreck from most of the oth­ers.

The Beatles giveth, and the Beatles taketh away, on American Idol

[Actu­al­ly last week’s episode, but it was Spring Break, so sue me. Dan­ny.]

If the first night of Bea­t­les (real­ly the Lennon-McCart­ney Song­book) was a glo­ri­ous show­case of all things good on Amer­i­can Idol, then the sec­ond night of Bea­t­les (actu­al songs the Bea­t­les record­ed) was just the oppo­site, a flop-heavy col­lec­tion of mediocre per­for­mances and dubi­ous tal­ent. Even the judges were off by a coun­try mile, as one of their few picks for best song of the night was dumped into the Bot­tom Three by the unwashed mass­es.

The con­tes­tants did­n’t help them­selves much, with a series of strange deci­sions: Aus­tralia chose his song because it was a dead friend’s favorite (beau­ti­ful sen­ti­ment but stu­pid); Brooke let out a whoop! on stage, and then did an awk­ward hip­pie dance; Cook used a voice box (like a fan­cy kazoo?); Car­ly wore the most hor­rid thing ever (see below); Jason gig­gled through “Michelle”; Chikezie played the har­mon­i­ca; and Ramiele chose a song called “I Should Have Known Bet­ter.” Real­ly, guys.

By far the best sin­gle moment of the entire week was the iPhone/AT&T/Coke pro­mo­tion in the mid­dle. Ryan sees a “ran­dom audi­ence mem­ber” with an iPhone and asks to see it. She gives it to him and he stands up there with it, extolling the virtues of Idol part­ner AT&T, while behind him on the megaplex-screen there are videos of the iPhone in action. Mean­while, Ryan is press­ing and swip­ing on his “audi­ence” phone, which is off. Com­plete­ly dead. Blank screen. And after this bit of forced pro­mo-play, he turns to the judges and says, “Cheers, judges!” and the cam­era turns to them and they all have their bright-red Coca-Cola cups up in the air, with great big pro­mo­tion­al smiles plas­tered on their faces. It was fun­nier than it sounds. If only that were avail­able on iTunes.

Best sar­to­r­i­al per­for­mance of the week: In lieu of good singing per­for­mance (since there was none) this week I’m hand­ing out the best cloth­ing award to… Sye­sha’s boobs. Not that the com­pe­ti­tion was chal­leng­ing here, but the dress she chose in which to sing “Yes­ter­day” was quite clear­ly design to point out that she has boobs. And she does. Quite. At the oth­er end of the spec­trum were Brooke’s hideous flower-child-meets-flap­per sun­ny dress, and Car­ly’s mater­ni­ty rose-col­lar, red silk gun­ny sack ensem­ble. Oy. Best song choice: Aman­da actu­al­ly chose the song best suit­ed to her, “Back in the USSR,” though it appar­ent­ly did her lit­tle good. Aus­tralia sang “Day in the Life” which is one of my all time favorite Bea­t­les songs, and while the judges panned his choice, I loved it. But I have to give the award to Lit­tle David, who chose “The Long and Wind­ing Road” for his trea­cle-smeared bal­lad-hap­py fans. It was the per­fect song for him. Worst way to pick a song: Kristi Lee Cook actu­al­ly admit­ted in her video clip that she chose her song because she liked the title. She had nev­er heard it. She did­n’t ask to hear it. She picked it, with­out hear­ing it! I think, just maybe, she’s not even try­ing any more.

This week’s bot­tom three were:

Car­ly, who wore the afore­men­tioned smock from the dis­count rack at Burling­ton Coat Fac­to­ry but did a pass­able job on “Black­bird,” so I have to think it was every­thing but her singing that brought her this low. Kristi Lee Cook, always a brides­maid, but nev­er boot­ed off the show, she gave a bor­ing, wood­en, unin­spired ren­di­tion of “You’ve got to hide your love away,” that caused the judges to yawn and elicit­ed the dead­ly “this is the best you’ve ever looked” from Paula. Aman­da, who did exact­ly what she had done every week pri­or to this, singing her song like she was open­ing for Lynyrd Skynyrd in some are­na in Arkansas. Simon warned her that she need­ed to branch out, and she pub­licly dissed that notion from cen­ter stage.

And it cost her. Aman­da was the con­tes­tant with the fewest votes (Kristi Lee Cook escapes again!) and seemed per­fect­ly hap­py with that result. I don’t think she was all that excit­ed about being an Idol. And she just missed the inden­tured servi­tude of the Idol tour, too. After her sing out, when the con­tes­tants storm the stage in a group hug, she looked decid­ed­ly uncom­fort­able with all that close­ness.

No, he’s not running for Vice President

Last Fri­day, Bill Richard­son endorsed Barack Oba­ma for Pres­i­dent, over his long-time ties to Bill Clin­ton and the Clin­ton maquina. A lot of the sour grapes being hurled at Richard­son by the Clin­ton team/mates are along these lines, “He’s just gun­ning for the Vice Pres­i­den­tial spot now,” accus­ing him of dis­loy­al­ty (loy­al­ty being the most impor­tant thing to the Clin­tons). I have just one thing to say: no man with facial hair will ever be elect­ed to High Office. Though, inter­est­ing­ly, I think it makes him look more His­pan­ic than he ever has.

Lawrence has been Street Viewed!

So, Google, pur­vey­ors of “what com­put­ers were sup­posed to do for us,” have this Google Maps fea­ture called Street View. Cars with cam­eras on top cruise around the coun­try, tak­ing pic­tures of… well, of every­thing. Then they load them up online, and when you vis­it Google Maps, you can see actu­al pic­tures of the loca­tion you’re look­ing for.

They start­ed with five cities, broad­ened that to fif­teen, now they are up to some­thing like thir­ty (Wikipedia says 35). While Kansas City got Street Viewed a lit­tle while ago, I was resigned to nev­er get­ting it in Lawrence, a town of only about 140,000, for good­ness sake.

I was wrong.

Look­ing for direc­tions to my tax attor­ney today, I dis­cov­ered that Lawrence had been Street Viewed. Appar­ent­ly Lawrence was includ­ed in the KC update this past Feb­ru­ary, though I dis­tinct­ly remem­ber look­ing for it when I heard it came to KC, but what­ev­er. Take that, Tope­ka! And it is awe­some. Scary, but awe­some. If you know where I live, you can go look at my house! (Please don’t be creepy.) The pic­ture is from last sum­mer, judg­ing from the plant­i­ngs and the rock in the dri­ve­way.

The wife, when told of this Intar­web cool­ness, gave a lit­tle bit of a shriek (okay, it was more of a polite mur­mur) and imme­di­ate­ly point­ed out what this would do for Real Estate… not that we’re look­ing mind you. And she was right.

Has your street’s pri­va­cy been invad­ed yet?

I’m already standing in line for an Apple DVR

This patent appli­ca­tion by Apple regard­ing their research into dig­i­tal video recorder (DVR) tech­nolo­gies has me sali­vat­ing. If you know me at all, you know how much I love my TiVo. And yet, were Apple to build a DVR, I would hap­pi­ly back over my TiVo on the way to the near­est Apple Store. I’m just say­ing. In case Apple is lis­ten­ing.