2011 NBA Finals

Tomorrow marks the start of the NBA Finals. Once the Lakers got knocked out, this is the best matchup that the NBA could have wished for and I must say I think it is very intriguing also (even though I wanted to see Chicago defeat Miami). The thing is, the NBA better enjoy the glory of having a marquee matchup while they can because I think this is going to be one lopsided series that will be finished early.
Before going into my prediction, I wish I could say I was different than all the Heat-haters out there. I wish I could say that I am above rooting against any team that has Lebron James on it. I wish I could say that I am pulling for a young coach who overcame a rough start with enormous expectations only to guide his team to the Finals. I can’t. I love these blogs because you can pretty much say whatever you want. Well, I hate the Miami Heat. Everything from their cockiness to their style of play rubs me the wrong way. I have rooted against them the whole season and cringed every single time they celebrated after each of their playoff series victories. Sadly, I am really going to hate myself in about a week and a half when the Heat win the NBA Championship.
The Heat will win this series because they have better players than the Mavericks do. I mean, what more can you say? This is not a bold statement on my part. Does anyone out there think the Mavs have a decent shot? Please let me know if you do. Despite an uneven series, I am looking forward to the James-Nowitzki matchup. I  really hope they guard each other. If it does play out this way, I think we will see a back and forth battle where Dirk will get the best of Lebron one night and then Lebon will get the best of Dirk the next night.  Of course, on the nights when Lebron gets the best of Dirk, the Heat win automatically while on the nights where Dirk gets the best of Lebron, Wade and Bosh have monster nights and the Heat still likely win. I am still excited for the one-on-one battle between the two though. The media has been billing it as the best American player versus the best European player on the biggest stage in basketball. Very intriguing.
The Miami Heat will play host to the Dallas Mavericks in game 1 of the NBA Finals tomorrow. Game 2 will be in Miami, with games 3-5 in Dallas. The series will never make it out of Dallas, but if it did, Miami will host game 6 and game 7. I bring up the Finals schedule because I feel it is a blow to the Mavericks. There is no way they can win in Miami. In American Airlines Arena, the Heat do not lose. They especially do not lose in big games. Of course the Heat are comfortable playing in their own arena and they have great fans. It is also tough for a team (the Mavericks) to travel. But mostly going against Dallas in these first two games is that the Heat get EVERY SINGLE CALL in their arena. James is God and the hardwood in American Airlines Arena might as well be water because he walks across it the whole game. Miami will win game one and game two. Once in Dallas, I feel the Heat will take game three because they will still be riding the momentum of winning the first two games and because they are just simply better. Miami has a tendency to get cocky and let up a little bit when they know they are in control. After initially proving that they can win in Dallas and showing the nation that  this series is a joke, I feel they will have a little bit of a setback in game 4 and the Mavs will take it. In game 5 the Heat will blow out Dallas and the series will be over.
Brent’s Prediction: Miami over Dallas – 4 games to 1.
There is nothing more I would like to see than a complete reversal of what I am predicting. Please, please, please prove me wrong Dallas. Enjoy the NBA Finals everyone! Don’t Blink.

Memorial Day Weekend Getaway

So I am just about to travel to the Missoula Airport and hop onto a plane that will take me to sunny Arizona. Going from 50 degrees/rain to 100 degrees/sunshine is going to be quite the transition. I am hoping I do not get sick as I do have the tendency to develop a sore throat and cold when the weather dramatically changes.
Whatever, if I do get a little under the weather it will be well worth it. I am ecstatic about being able to spend  the Memorial Day Weekend in hot weather. My plans? Sit by the pool, read, and drink beer. No, blogging is not one of them. I will be back better than ever on Monday night though with a new post. Until then, have a great Memorial Day Weekend and Don’t Blink.

Dream Weaver

So call me weird, but I write down my dreams.
Before I go any further, I guess I should explain the type of person I am. I am a person who is very conscientious about remembering things that happened in my life. As I have mentioned before I am a dedicated journaler. Since I was in middle school, I have a detailed record of every single day I have lived up until today. I love Twitter because it is another way for me to keep tabs on my life over time. Whereas my journals focus more on the factual moments of my life, Twitter focuses more on my thoughts and direct reaction to events. I have had a Twitter account for two and a half years and I have sent over 5,000 tweets (follow me at www.twitter.com/brentr7). The reason why I started a blog is so I  would have another outlet to document my life. You get the picture.
In January, I was reading a dream interpretation newspaper column. The person who authors the column told her readers to keep a dream journal. She said to get into a habit of jotting down dreams either when you wake up in the morning or immediately after you wake up from a dream. She said to consistently look through your journal and look for reoccurring themes and symbols.
I was very intrigued by this idea so I bought a cheap spiral notebook and placed it in my nightstand drawer. I told myself right from the beginning that I was going to journal immediately after waking up from a dream. This was easier said than done. I wake up a lot in the middle of the night and usually I recount the dream I had. However, it was so hard for me to reach over and turn my reading light on and get my notebook out and write down my dream.  You simply just want to go right back to sleep. But I disciplined myself to suck it up and always journal after waking up from a dream. These days, I am just conditioned to do it.
Before I started a dream journal, I would always remember my dreams when I woke up in the middle of the night but come morning, pretty much all recollection of them would be gone besides some exceptions. I would probably remember about one dream per week. Now, when I wake up in the morning I still do not initially remember my dreams during the night but then I open up my journal and it all comes back to me. Yes, pretty weird. Even though I write down my dreams on paper I must not be 100% conscious because I never really remember them until I read them in the morning. Many times I will say to myself, “I can’t believe you wrote this. How can you think this stuff up.” There have been times where I don’t read my dream journal for a whole week (although I am still writing in it nightly) and  then I will catch up and read about the stuff I dreamed  several days ago…it is crazy. Our brains are incredible things, and the stuff they draw up when we are unconscious is fascinating.
I thought about writing down verbatim some of the entries from my dream journal but it is a little too personal so I have decided to pass. I can say this, as someone who has always struggled with nightmares, it is very therapeutic and it helps me a lot to write about it when I wake up from one in the middle of the night. It calms me down and helps me get back to bed without being placed right back into the nightmare again. It is weird, in  the morning I will  read some of my bad dreams and ask myself how I could be afraid of something so stupid. But at night, your brain is in a different state and things are just scarier. On the other end of the spectrum, there have been times when I have woken up in the morning with the sun shining and read my bad dreams and the accounts have been absolutely chilling. In fact, I can open up my dream journal right now and have the hair stand up on my spine as I read over some of my past bad dreams.
Enough about the bad dreams though. Majority of my dreams are irrelevant, random, and weird. I really do not get into much of the dream interpretation business. I just like having the record available of things that went on as I slept that I would never be able to remember if I did not write them down. While I do not get into the interpretation of my dreams I do notice some common settings/people that seem to come up. Many of my dreams take place in the house that I grew up in. Many of my deceased relatives do appear in my dreams, especially my grandparents (my Mom’s parents). My brother is in my dreams a lot. Really weird, but a lot of times my brother and I are attacked or we are defending ourselves in some way. Food is also very common in my dreams, especially pizza.
I love my dream journal and I encourage you to get one. Develop a routine and discover the crazy things  your brain comes up with while you sleep. And the most important thing for you to remember while you are actually in your dreams: Don’t Blink.


Brace Yourself…Play at the Plate!!

On Wednesday, Scott Cousins of the Florida Marlins collided with catcher Buster Posney of the San Francisco Giants on a bang-bang play at the plate. The play totally sucked for Posney as not only did he drop the ball but he also broke his leg. His season is most likely over.
In the past couple of days, debate in the sports world has centered on the base runner vs. catcher home plate collision. The argument comes down to whether there should be any rule protecting the catcher from such situations. This is an issue that I followed with great interest on talk radio. It seemed that overwhelmingly, most people believe that these types of collisions are part of the game and enforcing any type of rule that could change a practice that has been allowed in professional baseball for well over 100 years would constitute complete blasphemy. I internally thought a lot about the whole dilemma in my head as well. In the end though, I could not go along with the baseball purists.
I love tradition as much as the next person, but something has to be done to prevent these collisions.
I understand that there are many other arguments besides the “it’s just part of the game” attitude that is in opposition to any rule that could eliminate the runner-catcher collision. Many fans contend that these collisions provide some of the best excitement during the game. Colin Cowherd said today that these crashes at the plate are rare and the event when a catcher gets hurt is even more rare so there is no need to implement a rule. Ray Fosse, an all-star catcher in 1970, questions what a base runner would be able to do if the ball beat him to the plate and a rule was implemented…“just stand there?” John Kruk said this is a debate that will just pass in a few days and we will move on.
I don’t care how long an accepted practice has been around, I don’t care how rare a play is, I don’t care if a base runner has to slide instead of ramming into a catcher, and I don’t care if everyone is going to forget about Buster Posey breaking his leg in a few days, if a player’s health and career is mindlessly jeopardized, something needs to happen.
Check this out: A player on third base is getting ready to tag up. The game is on the line. His run means something. He sees the ball land in the glove of the outfielder. Using third base to push off of and a whole bunch of adrenaline to propel him, the base runner uses the ninety feet he has between him and the catcher to reach a speed that carries with it violent force. A couple feet from home plate he lowers his shoulder and explodes his force into the vulnerable catcher. How is this safe?
You have to understand the position a catcher is in during these plays. He is crouched down, looking towards wherever the throw is coming in from. At that moment, his mind is entirely focused on receiving the throw. Once the throw comes in, the catcher must immediately turn his attention to making the tag. Crouched down, body exposed, and game on the line, the catcher has a split second to brace himself for a violent impact. Many times, the catcher does not even have the “luxury” of this split second. Many times, the throw is late or never comes in and the catcher is blindsided. No chance at all to brace himself.
In the past couple of days, players have tried to defend collisions at the plate by saying baseball is a contact sport. Really? Baseball is not a contact sport. Besides base runners running into catchers, batters do get beaned by pitches and sometimes outfielders lose the ball in the sun and collide into each other but it hardly makes baseball a contact sport. In a sport that is obviously not a contact sport, why do we allow such bush league collisions at the plate? It is out of place. More importantly though, it is unsafe. This is the one and only point I think that matters in opposing collisions at the plate.
Sure, people have said that collisions at the plate hurt the teams because it has the possibility of taking out arguably the most important player on the field, the player who is practically running the show on the field, the catcher. Yes, there is also the argument that home plate collisions suck for the fans because marquee players get hurt (such as Buster Posey) and then they are not able to watch them for the rest of the season. These arguments are so dense. Ending home plate collisions is not about saving the best interests of the team and it is not about making the fans happy (and returning to the ballpark) by insuring that their favorite players will be in the lineup each day. It is solely about the safety of the individual player. Besides, when the safety of the individual player is protected, the interests of both the teams and the fans will be protected.
Just like in high school baseball, I propose a “slide or avoid” rule with plays at the plate. If violated, the player running into the catcher is called out and is immediately ejected. Fines and suspensions will follow.
If we followed tradition completely, hitters would not wear batting helmets and Tim Wakefield would be able to add spit to his knuckleballs (could you imagine?). It is time for a change. Don’t Blink.

My Wrap Up on American Idol Season 10

I just want to leave a couple thoughts about last night’s American Idol finale.
I thought the non-finalist performances were okay. Just to pick a couple of highlights: “The Edge of Glory” is by far my favorite Lady Gaga song and she did a good job of performing it last night. Steven Tyler started off great when he sang “Dream On” but it was so short! I was expecting him to transition into another hit and really blow everyone away. Loved his intensity though, he is a true entertainer. At the start of show, the eliminated Idol performers sang Gaga’s “Born This Way”. By far the best performance featuring the Idol cast. Thought Marc Anthony’s performance was average and I thought JLO’s dancing in it was too forced. Do I even need to say anything about Casey Abrams and Jack Black’s performance? It sucked. Casey Abrams was by far the Idol contestant I hated the most.
As for the performances by the finalists: I really think the Tim McGraw and Scotty McCreery duet will go down in American Idol history as one of the best ever. It was that well done. Scotty stood toe-to-toe with McGraw and matched him every step of the way.  It was a great moment. In my post from yesterday, I said I was pulling for Lauren to win…that all changed after McGraw and McCreery sang “Live Like You Were Dying”.
Lauren Alaina’s duet with Carrie Underwood was good. However, it did not even come close to the electricity that the McGraw-McCreery duet produced. Alaina showed off her great vocals and I would say she actually held her own with Underwood but ten years from now we will still be watching the “Live Like You Were Dying” performance while everyone will have forgotten about “Before He Cheats”.
Congratulations to Scotty McCreery for winning the tenth season of American Idol. This kid is going to be a country music superstar. There really is no doubt in my mind. His voice is simply unbelievable. He is an artist who I would go out and buy his CD right away. Yes, he does need to work on his stage presence, that is something that was plainly exposed when he did perform with McGraw. But that will all come. I predict a Kellie Pickler type career for Lauren Alaina. She is very talented but losing American Idol hurt her career last night whereas if Scotty would have lost it would not have hurt him as much.
In closing, congrats to all the executives at American Idol who really revamped the show this year. They made some major changes and took some major risks that paid off.  Don’t Blink.

American Idol Grades and Predictions

Currently, I am awaiting the finale of the tenth season of American Idol (2 minutes left!!). I am not a die hard American Idol fan. Over the years I have watched some seasons and have passed on others. It all really depended on the contestants for me.
This year, I would say I was an average viewer. I watched most of the audition episodes and then watched consistently during the Hollywood and Vegas weeks. When the Final 12 was announced, I watched the next several weeks. Then, as the NBA Playoffs started and Major League Baseball opened up, I started to decrease in my viewership. I want to say right now that I predicted that Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery would be the two finalists. Do not believe me? Check out my twitter account (www.twitter.com/brentr7). When the Final 12 was announced I thought it was pretty obvious that they had the most talent. You could fit all of my knowledge about who can sing and who can’t sing into a thimble but for some reason this one seemed obvious to me.
A big deal about this season centered around the judges. With Simon, Ellen, and Kara DioGuardi all leaving, Idol was going to have a much different feel. Of course, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler were brought in to join Randy Jackson, the sole remaining original judge, to once again form the original three person judging panel.
At the start of the season, I really enjoyed the style that both Tyler and Lopez brought and I thought the judging dynamic between the three was quite good. There actually seemed to be chemistry and I really enjoyed listening to the three talk with each other in deliberating whether to advance a contestant or not. However, as the season went on, especially after the Final 12 was chosen, it seemed like the judges always agreed on all performances and were always way too nice to the contestants. It became a game of who could articulate their praise the best. It got very predictable and an edge to the show seemed to be taken away. However, I do think this year’s judging panel was a big improvement over last year’s. I just wish that the strength that the judging panel came out with at the start of the show would have carried on throughout the whole season.
Briefly, I want to grade the performance of each judge during Season 10 (in order of where they sit).
Steven Tyler: I admit it, I am a Steven Tyler fan. I  think the guy is cool and I grew up listening to Aerosmith. I enjoyed his energy and it seemed like he really enjoyed his gig as a judge. I loved it when he would sing with the contestants and it was kind of fun to see how cracked out he was going to look for each particular show. Of course, his downfall would be that he offered way too much praise for the contestants. Also, it was pretty corny when he started saying those prepared lines after the contestants performed (i.e. “Well hellfire, save matches, f— a duck and see what hatches!”). Still thought he did a good overall job. Steven’s Grade: B
Jennifer Lopez: Jennifer Lopez was the MVP of the judging panel in my opinion. She gave thoughtful, specific feedback. That lady knows her stuff. She came across as likeable and smart. Just like Tyler, you could tell that she took the gig seriously. Hands down she seemed to have the most knowledge of ways contestants could improve for the next week. Again though, she did not give out as much of this knowledge as she should have because she sometimes got into the rut of praising the contestants too much. Damn, she was nice to look at.  Jennifer’s Grade: A-
Randy Jackson: Clearly the weakest link from the “original three” days of him, Paula, and Simon, I feel like he is still the weakest link today. Even though he has had a successful career as a record producer, he does not have the immediate credibility that someone like Tyler or Lopez holds. Despite his lack of credentials, I just think he is flat out annoying. I get so tired of hearing him open up his critiques with the female contestants by saying “You know dude…” or “Here’s the thing man…”. Come on Randy, this sounds flat out stupid. I don’t care if it is your so called trademark or what, show a little more respect. Randy tried to pick up the void that Simon left by assuming his reputation as the “tough judge” but I think he even failed at that as he fell into the same trap as the other two judges and dished out way too much praise. Sorry “dawg,” can’t say that you are my favorite judge. Randy’s Grade: C-
I really enjoy both Lauren and Scotty. Yes, I am a country music fan so it helps. I am amazed at the poise these two have shown considering Lauren is only 16 and Scotty is 17. It is a tough decision for me to say who I want to win but I feel like I am pulling for Lauren. I feel if she wins, it will help her career more.  I think Scotty is a lock either way for a solid career/contract. He really does have a can’t miss voice. Who do I think will win? Despite Lauren’s better performance last night, I believe the teen girls who give Idol such lofty ratings will put Scotty over the top. Look for Scotty McCreery to be the next American Idol. Don’t Blink

My Trip to Pittsburgh, PA

From Thursday night through Sunday morning of this past week, I had the pleasure of visiting Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I got to spend my time in Pittsburgh with my good friend from high school, Erik, and his fiancée, Nikki. It was a memorable trip.
Pittsburgh is a hard working, blue collar city. It is not flashy, it is not over the top, it is not in your face.  For a big city, the people are down to earth and nice. I got on the bus in Pittsburgh and accidently almost fed a $50 bill in the dollar bill fare collector only to have the bus driver quickly put his hand in front of the slot and say in the nicest way possible “Sir, I think you would like to save $49 extra bucks.” Pretty sure in any other big city with an established public transportation system I would have gotten an eye roll and the wrath of a pissed off driver.
Never did I realize how big of a role water serves in Pittsburgh. Three different rivers cut through the city with big, yellow and blue bridges connecting everything. It gives the city an old school, but very unique, look. When you live out west, you do not see houses like the ones you see in Pittsburgh. Houses in Pitt are magnificent old structures that are built very close to each other. As is the norm in many eastern cities, the African-American population is very high. The city has an overabundance of funeral homes and hair salons. When it comes to the cleanliness of the city, I have seen cleaner cities and I have seen much dirtier cities. The city also did not have nearly as many transients as other cities its size. Yes, Pennsylvania has sales tax. The license plate design is cool.
 I could go on forever mindlessly jotting down my observations about the city but I would rather have them come naturally while telling you about what I did on my trip.
Thursday, May 19th
I flew from Spokane to Minneapolis to Pittsburgh. I arrived in Pitt at about 6:30pm and Erik came and picked me up. We first went and picked up Nikki from work. From there we went to an area called  Station Square that is a walk way type area with shops and restaurants just on the edge of the water. Of course, this provided for a great view (see picture).
                                  Me taking in my first great view of Pittsburgh at Station Square.
We ate at a restaurant called Houlihan’s. It was here that I had my first Yuengling Lager, a very popular beer in Pittsburgh. After dinner we went to the South Side district. What makes up the South Side are blocks of streets lined completely with bars. It was the coolest thing ever. I am not lying, there were probably 60 bars sitting right next to each other up and down this one street. It was so funny, you would walk by one bar and it would be packed and then the one right next door would be completely dead. It alternated this way down the whole street. The locals really know where the hot spots are. If I ever go back to Pittsburgh again I want to go back to the South Side and spend some more time touring and experiencing all of the establishments.
After the South Side we went to Erik and Nikki’s house. I got to meet their cat and dog and Erik and I watched the rest of the Thunder’s victory over the Mavs in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. Did you see that Durant dunk?!?! Wow!
Friday, May 20th
On Friday morning, Erik and I jumped on the bus and went to the University of Pittsburgh campus. Here is the cool thing, the college is immersed in the city. In fact, you can walk onto campus with not really knowing that you are on campus! It has a very urban feel and one that is in stark contrast to many of the campuses I have visited.  Erik is enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh Law School. You know you have some talent when you are studying law at a prestigious University such as Pitt. Anyway, Erik showed me around the school and I saw plenty of aspiring lawyers!
For lunch, we went to Primanti Brothers. For those of you who are not familiar with Primanti Brothers, it is synonymous with Pittsburgh. It has been featured on Man vs. Food (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMHF7MvBBCA) and is deeply revered in the city. What is a Primanti Brothers sandwich you ask? It is your choice of meat coupled with cheese plus French fries and cole slaw all slapped together between two pieces of bread. Nothing short of delicious. I had a hot Italian sausage one.
                            My first time ever eating at Primanti Brothers.
        This place is so good that people literally have to line up outside the door to get in
After getting ice cream and looking around at some more of the U-District, we went to the Pittsburgh Museum where Erik and I spent majority of the time on the sports floor. Of course, the history of the Pirates, Steelers, and the Pens were colorfully presented. The museum offered many hands on sports challenges that were meant for little kids but Erik and I did them anyways. We passed through many of the non-sports exhibits too, including an exhibit on the Heinz Co.
We next walked across the Roberto Clemente Bridge. This bridge leads you right up to PNC Park. On days where the Pirates play at home, the bridge is completely shut down to traffic. Right when you get across the bridge you are greeted by the famous Roberto Clemente statue that is outside of the center field entrance to PNC Park. It is a big photo draw and it was no different for us.
 By the time we had finished getting our pictures with the statues, it was about 3pm. We were going to the Pirates game that night but the gates did not open until 5:35pm so we strolled over to a sports bar called Mullen’s right across from the ballpark. The bar itself is indoors but they have a large part of the wall that opens up giving a great view to the streets and to PNC Park itself. We posted up at a table right at the open area. Erik and I had a great few hours in that place running up a bar tab and catching up on everything that has happened since we graduated high school. As the drinks started to go down, the place got more and more full. Many of the patrons coming in were clad in Detroit Tigers stuff (the Pirates opponent that night). The atmosphere was great, the music was good, and the beer was cold.
We left the bar at 5:25pm and went to one of the outfield gates to await the opening of PNC Park. Right at 5:35pm the gates opened and we entered the stadium. This is hard for me to do because there is nothing more that I would like to do than devote 2,000 words to the description and review of the park but I must hold off for right now because I plan to do that in a later blog post (I have a couple more MLB stadium stops this summer and I want to write about them all in one post).
When we entered we both got a free t-shirt as part of their “Friday T-Shirt Giveaway” promotion. We then got a couple of Iron City Beers, another Pittsburgh original brew that you have to try when you go there, and went down to the left field bleachers where we watched batting practice. This is the type of stuff I live for. I was a kid in a candy shop as I took in the surroundings of a new stadium and watched batting practice while chatting with the people around me.
    Hanging out in center field during batting practice
We then went to our seats. Immediately as we sat down the usher came over and skeptically looked at us and asked us for our tickets. You see, that usher was not expecting to see two 24-year old dudes in t-shirts with beers and peanuts sitting in the THIRD ROW right above the Tigers dugout. I love buying tickets off of Stub Hub.
The game was awesome. It was pretty cool to be looking eye level with the players, hearing every call the umpire made, and being able to really recognize the true velocity of the pitches. We got the whole PNC Park experience front and center. Obviously, it always makes the experience just a little bit sweeter when the home team can pull off a victory. The Pirates won 10-1.

                                           View from our seats!

After the game, Nikki picked up the two of us and we decided to go to Rivers Casino. Rivers Casino is the new Vegas style resort casino in downtown Pittsburgh. This casino was more than impressive. If you know me, you know that I have a taste for cards. Being in high school when the poker boom was at its height and living in the state of Washington where table games are legal, there was really no way not to develop that taste. Having been to casinos all over the place and having been to Vegas four different times since I have turned twenty-one (will be five times come June), I feel I know an advanced casino when I see one.
Everything in Rivers Casino is ahead of the game. When you bought in at a Blackjack table you were given your chips electronically. You had a screen under your playing space and you would simply touch it to make your bets. Likewise, you made all of your plays (hit, stay, double, surrender, tip, etc) from the screen as well. Of course everything else was normal about the table – the dealer, actual physical cards, player positions – so it was very interesting. Many of the slot machines had televisions built into them. Cash out machines were all over the place. All you needed to do was feed your receipt into the machine and it would dispense your cash. Who needs a cage anyways? At the casino I played a 4-8 hold ‘em game and then some Paigow. I did not win that night but it was fun. After closing the night at the casino bar by watching some of the Root Sports replay of the Pirates game, we came home for the night.
Saturday, May 21st
I woke up bright and early on Saturday morning to the beautiful sun. As it was the weekend, Nikki did not have to work so she was able to join us for the day. As we waited for Erik to get ready we went to a brand new coffee place about 30 seconds away from their house called “Java n’ Crème House.” I hate coffee, so I got a hot chocolate. Erik came out and we hit the road.
We started the day off by going back to the area surrounding the University of Pittsburgh campus. It was here that we had breakfast at a place called Pamela’s. This is another Pittsburgh institution that is raved about. I had chocolate chip-banana pancakes. It was at this place that I had another experience that proved my stupidity and proved Pittsburgh’s niceness. The restaurant was a place where they bring your tab to your table and then you pay it at the cash register. Okay, well this is an extremely busy place and lines get long at the register. When we were ready to leave, I left the tip on the table and then I went up to the cash register and handed the lady a $20 bill as I thought the total on the bill read $19.45. Thinking that I had paid the full bill and not wanting to hold up anyone for $0.65, I quickly walked out the door. Once I get out the door, I see Nikki at the counter forking over about $5 to the cashier. Immediately knowing that I must have shortchanged her, I went up and with great embarrassment I apologized. The cashier just laughed it off and said don’t worry about it. For all of the scum that must go into that diner and dash and run, I was expecting her to be pissed. She wasn’t. I still don’t know how I got the bill wrong, I could have sworn it said $19.45. But it all makes sense: Great food simply is not that cheap.

                                   My breakfast. You have to be hungry now, right?

                                           Inside Pamela’s

After breakfast we drove to an elevated area that looks down on all of Pittsburgh. In fact, it was the place where Erik proposed to Nikki. (See picture)

                                            Erik and Nikki

                                            Erik and I

Next stop for us was the Strip District. In order for you to get an idea of what the Strip District in Pittsburgh is like, think Pike Place Market in Seattle. While not as exotic as Pike Place, it was very entertaining and hopping. We especially liked going into the Italian groceries they had. In one Italian grocery, they had just about every cheese ever known to man for sale. On a large white board they displayed all the kinds of cheese available by country. The Strip District also had great options for t-shirts and other souvenirs at very cheap prices. Musicians played on the sidewalks and people of all walks of life roamed the streets.
After the Strip District we came back to the house for about 2 hours because we figured if the world was going to end (it was May 21st), Erik and Nikki had better be with their dog and cat. When it was obvious that the old man in California was full of shit, we went to a borough right next to Pittsburgh called Bellevue. It was here that we went to a ristorante called Luigis for dinner. This place was a favorite of Erik and Nikki and I must say it was my favorite dining experience of the trip. The atmosphere was so laid back and the whole layout of the restaurant was very interesting. I ordered a calzone and I had never tasted a calzone like it before. It was a meat lovers one but it had a bit of a sweetness to it. It was very unique tasting and I was just about able to eat the whole gargantuan thing.

                           This calzone tasted like nothing I had ever had before

After Luigi’s, we drove back into the city, parked the car, and made a beautiful walk to PNC Park for Saturday night’s game. It was Neil Walker bobblehead night so it was nice to get another souvenir to bring home. For this night’s game, we had seats close to behind home plate and about 30 rows up. While not as close to the field as Friday night, they were still great seats. I made it a point to walk the entire stadium and take pictures and video just to give myself a lasting impression of PNC Park.

                                      Me at  packed PNC Park

 Unfortunately, I did not eat too much ballpark food at PNC. Erik and I devoured two bags of peanuts on Friday night and then on Saturday night I had a hot dog. What I lacked in eating I made up for in drinking though. I became very well acquainted with the beer hawkers and the beer pourers at the ballpark. The beer hawkers at PNC Park work extremely hard and are the nicest people you will meet. At PNC Park they have a stand called the Beers of the Burgh and one of the women beer pourers at that stand remembered my name and beer choice from the night before when I went back on Saturday! Beer doesn’t taste much better than at a ballpark.
As for the game, the Pirates overcame a 2-0 deficit in the 6th inning to end up winning 6-2 over the Tigers. Believe it or not, the game was a sell-out! This simply does not happen for the Pirates so it was definitely cool to see the place packed and everyone excited about the team. After the final out, we walked back to the car and drove back home. Erik and I watched the rest of Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals which the Mavericks won to go up 2-1 and then I watched Baseball Tonight. It was then to bed so I would be ready for my early morning flight.
Thank you to my hosts, Erik and Nikki, for a great time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For anyone going to a new city, I have a bit of traveling advice for you: Don’t Blink.

Good, Bad, and Ugly of the Weekend

This past weekend had its fair share of news. I decided to quickly choose four different topics from the weekend that was and even more quickly say a few things about them.
Macho Man Dies – The clichés about Macho Man Randy Savage eating Slim Jims in Heaven have been strung out so bad that I am not even going to try. Bottom line, Macho Man transcended professional wrestling. I was an obsessed WWF/WCW fan growing up so his death did mean something to me. When I got the tweet that said he had died I was not surprised. I figured he had a heart attack or maybe overdosed on something. Sadly, professional wrestlers die these types of deaths quite frequently. When more details came out and it was revealed that he died in a car accident, I guess I was a little more surprised. Wrestling lost a legend.
The Rapture – If not for our nation’s rights of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion, I would just assume that Herald Camping was shot. I really feel that at some point, you have to be accountable for what you say. I can’t believe this old man has duped so many people, not just once, but twice, to drop everything and prepare for the end of the world based solely on his “calculations.” It is a complete joke. Honestly, what must have been going through Camping’s head (besides stupidity) when 6pm hit on May 21st and nothing happened? This whole saga was one of the more moronic things I have heard about in a while.
Eastern Conference Finals – On Sunday night, the Heat took it to the Bulls despite a pretty decent game played by Chicago. As I had said in a previous post, Miami is just too good. No way in hell does Chicago win away from home. Chris Bosh played like the 3rd superstar he was supposed to be and Lebron and Wade did their thing. Can’t do much to stop that. I am still sticking with my prediction that the Heat will win in 6 games but I will not be surprised if they pull it out in 5.
Billboard Music Awards – The host killed  this show. I know it is the easiest thing in the world to critique an awards show host but what happened last night was nothing short of a colossal train wreck. Ken Jeong (Mr. Chow of “The Hangover”) served as the host and it was brutal. His opening musical performance with Nicki Minaj was a complete disaster. His jokes sucked. He was awkward. Look, dude is funny when he speaks in an Asian accent and is trapped in a trunk but dude is not funny out of character. Besides that, I thought the musical performances by actual singers were pretty bad too. Did not like Mary J. Blige’s, did not like KeSha’s, did not even like Neil Diamond’s. However, I did really enjoy the performance of “Everything Tonight” by Pitbull and Ne-Yo and the Black Eyed Peas did not do bad either. Also, I thought the recipients of the awards were pretty much right on this year.
Okay everyone, tomorrow night I will post about my Pittsburgh trip. It was awesome. Please check back to read it. Don’t Blink.

Short Timer

Okay, so I am totally that guy. I am exactly like that guy who just gets hired for a new job and then announces he is going on vacation.
Right after work today I made the drive from Missoula to Spokane. Tomorrow I have a 7am flight to Pittsburgh. I am going east to visit one of my best friends from high school. He is a law student at the University of Pittsburgh and he promises to show me the sights. Of course, I am most excited about going to a couple of Pittsburgh Pirates games. PNC Park is supposed to be the crown jewel ballpark of the Major Leagues. This weekend is the 2011 debut of Interleague play so I will be seeing the Pirates take on the Detroit Tigers (a team who is red hot right now). I will be catching the games on Friday and Saturday night.
Because I am in front of the computer enough, I choose to not be in front of it during my vacation. So I will not be posting to Don’t Blink the rest of this week. I fly back into Spokane on Sunday and then I will leave Spokane at 4:30am on Monday morning so I can make it back to Missoula bright and early for work.  I will post to Don’t Blink on Monday evening.
 I look forward to blogging about my experiences in Pittsburgh. Have a great rest of your week everyone! Don’t Blink.

Fox News: Why hate?

I always get a chuckle out of the people who get all worked up and red-faced and declare “Fox News is so biased! It is beyond me how they can even consider themselves a news organization!”

Sure, Fox News is biased. It leans way to the right and is stocked with many blowhard conservative reporters/personnel. But is it anything to get mad about? Is it a threat to Democracy in the U.S.? Should the whole station be taken off the air? Of course not.

Obviously, many of the people who whine and snivel about Fox News are people who tend to lean to the left. These people are great about calling out a conservative news organization that does not take the form of a model station that reports right down the middle of the political spectrum, but they are totally blind in calling out the myriad of other stations that do the exact same thing with the only difference being of where they lean to.

They are blind to the fact that MSNBC is just as guilty of spewing out the exact same venom in support of their agenda as Fox news is of theirs. They are blind to the fact that the chief political correspondent of ABC News (George Stephanopoulos) was a senior advisor to President Clinton. They are blind to the fact that CBS had to fire their longtime Evening News Anchor (Dan Rather) because of his consistent left-leaning bias and his botched coverage on documents that were supposed to prove that President George W. Bush evaded National Guard duty. They are blind to the fact that arguably the most popular newspaper in the world, the New York Times, is notorious for its liberal slant.

To say that this country is controlled by a liberal media is an understatement. I feel that the people who are so bothered by Fox News live in a different world. They feel that their views are the God-given truth. Because of this, when these people watch/listen to/read their preferred left leaning media outlet they feel they are getting a fair and balanced take on the news. Then, when they flip over to Fox News they encounter a totally different (wrong/evil) take on the world’s events and immediately dismiss FN as a biased station.

Open your eyes people. With what is available out there, it is very difficult to get an agenda-free presentation of the news. But who am I kidding? People really don’t want that in the first place. Most of the time, we are going to go with the presentation that mostly conforms to our views.  The pro-choice, college student hippie is going to watch MSNBC while the gun rights, Bush-backing hillbilly is going to watch Fox News. So be it! This outcome is fine as long as people don’t try to justify their biased news station by bashing someone else’s biased news station.

Before I end this post I want to bring up one more thing I notice from these people who have heart attacks just thinking about Fox News: Many of them develop personal vendettas against the on-air talent at the station. It seems as if they feel like Bill O’Reilly is such a bad person with misguided views that he is going to jump out of the screen and into their living room and slit their throats. Come on, get a grip. People like a Bill O’Reilly or a Sean Hannity are paid lots of money to have strong opinions. They do what they are paid to do very well. It is funny, I am convinced that the reason why Fox News is the number one rated cable news organization is because they effectively attract both the people who agree with them and the people who find what they have to say repulsive. Lots of these liberals can’t look away from Fox News! They like getting their chains pulled. I can honestly visualize O’Reilly and Hannity walking into work together and one of them boasting to the other, “I bet I can piss off more people than you today.”

Bill O’Reilly is no dummy. Sean Hannity is no dummy. Dick Morris is no dummy. These people understand that they are supposed to be controversial. When these people go home at night I doubt they take themselves as seriously as they do on the air. In fact, I bet once they step outside of the studio their whole persona changes. They did their job.   They earned their paycheck and they earned their station ratings.

I doubt Fox News haters will realize that they are just feeding the beast. Don’t Blink.