Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pumpkin from the Past

Jeff was going to add this photo to the earlier blog about our pumpkins, but couldn't locate the pic so here it is! This is my pumpkin from '02 right after the Giants lost the World Series and the only time Jeff and I have carved pumpkins together (besides this year).

Not bad, huh?

About the earthquake, I still can't believe I didn't feel it! We were playing volleyball in a gym up on top of a hill at Foothill College and no one in there felt it. As we were leaving someone told us that it had happened and when I got to my car, I had 4 missed calls from people checking in. I kind of wish I would have felt it. The volleyball games were fun, but unfortunately we lost all 4. The Devcon volleyball team is even worse than the Devcon bocce team, but I'm still proud to be a member of both!

EARTHQUAKE!!!

I was sitting here watching the opening night Warrior game, and at 8:04pm, a 5.6 earthquake shook me and my condo for what seemed like 8-10 seconds. My heart raced as I prayed it wasn't big enough to create catastrophic results. What if my condo was damaged? What if my ceiling collapsed? What if it kept increasing in power?

WHAT IF THIS WAS THE BIG ONE THAT WE'VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR?

These are real thoughts that entered my mind as I sat there with an accelerated heartbeat. Bosco barked and ran for the door, mistaking the shaking ground for somebody coming to knock on it. I sat there for several seconds while my brain soaked in the fact that an earthquake was happening, and when the quake was dying down, I did what I was taught as a kid and ran for the doorway.

This was an experience that will be ingrained in my brain for the rest of my life.

I somehow didn't feel the 1989 earthquake, so this is the first time I've truly experienced the power of one. I'm glad I felt it because I've always wanted to experience one firsthand. However, I never realized how scared I'd actually be! I was freaked out tonight, and am very thankful nothing bad happened and that the earthquake wasn't higher on the richter scale.

Now that I've felt an earthquake, I hope I've felt my last.

Pumpkin Carving Results

Carving pumpkins is not a 'must do' for Darcy and I. In fact, most years we don't carve them. Looking back on our seven year relationship, I can only remember one time in college that we ever carved them! This year we decided it would be fun to carve pumpkins again, so last weekend we bought a couple. The plan was to carve them Sunday, but we ended up only gutting them, distracted by the World Series and cooking bacon avocado turkey burgers.

YUM!


Monday after work we were thankful to have the dirty work of gutting them over with and started the creative process. I drew some sketches on what I thought I might want to carve, and went with my third sketch. When it comes to carving pumpkins I don't have too many tricks, and usually settle for a weird looking face. As a kid I often just drew the classic triangle eyes, triangle nose, and big mouth pumpkin. This parallels my love of plain ol' vanilla ice cream. Not to continue on too much of a tangent, but I've been ridiculed my entire life for choosing vanilla when I could have had other more exciting choices. I just like it best, what can I say! Anyways, back to carving pumpkins, Darcy is much more creative and artistic than I am, and found a neat Halloween-esque picture to assimilate.

This is what we came up with:


Jeff's up close (it's a face in case you couldn't tell):


Darcy's up close:


Right now they are out on the back deck waiting for their big night to shine. Armed with candles inside them, they will shine bright tomorrow night, even though we don't even get trick-or-treaters.


Happy Halloween everyone.

Bridge School Was A Stinker

This weekend the much anticipated Bridge School Benefit concert at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, CA came and went. It left us with sort of a bitter taste in our mouth for the event, one that has us saying, "unless the lineup next year is absolutely amazing, there is no way we're going!" That's not to say we didn't have fun, either. My Morning Jacket, the first act we saw at around 7pm Saturday night, was cool enough to watch, but didn't leave us aching to run home and download all their music from iTunes. John Mayer was next, and his set was the highlight for me (and I think Darcy too). He played four songs off his new album Continuum, and then finished his set with a Tom Petty cover (Free Fallin'). The rest of the night didn't exhibit any more highlights, not even from the much anticipated Metallica, who opted to play cover songs rather than their classic hits that everyone in the crowd paid to see.

The biggest bummer was the time it took to get from John Mayer to Metallica. After John Mayer was Tom Waits. His music is indescribable. Having never heard him before, I literally wondered if he was joking the way he sings. I read some blog reviews on the event yesterday and to my surprise, there were some people in attendance who really enjoyed Mr. Waits. Darcy and I were not among them who did. Following Tom Waits was Neil Young. Young is a staple Bridge performer who you can count on seeing every year. Although we accept this fact, we don't enjoy watching him perform. He's a great musician, and is a good friend of our beloved Eddie Vedder, but he's not our cup of tea for whatever reason. Perhaps it's his winy voice or his oafish stage presence. We do like a few of his hits, such as 'Keep on Rockin' in a Free World', 'My, My, Hey, Hey', and 'Needle and the Damage Done', but he never plays those for us. Following Neil was Jerry Lee Lewis, who is a legendary piano-playing act who cut his first demo in 1954. It's amazing how he can still perform at the age of 72. Even though we got to hear 'Great Balls of Fire' live, his music would be more appealing to our parents than it is to us and quite frankly sounds kind of cheesy. Plus, at that point it was late, and we were only there because we wanted to see Metallica.

At 11:30pm, Metallica finally took the stage! As I mentioned above, they proceeded to play cover after cover until we finally said, "forget this," and left. No 'Nothing Else Matters'. No 'Unforgiven'. No 'Enter Sandman'. No 'One'. I didn't pay all that money and wait all that time to watch them perform other artists songs! After midnight, we disappointedly walked to my Ford Explorer, contemplating never coming to another bridge school again.

Beyond not particularly enjoying the music, the time gap between performances was nearly unbearable. There was literally a 20-30 minute break between each performance! We had to wait nearly three hours between John Mayer and Metallica, and well over an hour of that break was dead time, while the stage crew lethargically set up the next act. I'm convinced that if they hustled they could do it in ten minutes, which would shorten the show by nearly two hours.

But why would they want to do this when they would rather we had ample time to blow all our cash on concessions?!

PS... Bruce Springsteen did not make a surprise appearance as was speculated/rumored.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Despite Sleepy Refs, 3-0 Start is a Reality


As I indicated in yesterday's "update", my basketball was slated for a 10pm tip-off Wednesday night. This is the least ideal start time for me, but luckily it's our only one of the six-game season. I'm assuming we lucked out getting only one 10pm game out of six.

Last night it worked out good in theory having the late game because it allowed me to watch game 1 of the World Series without interruption. However, since it was such a blowout, this didn't end up being such a blessing. I was not captivated by the 13-1 drubbing the Red Sox put on the Colorado Pebbles, I mean Rockies.

There isn't much detail I care to share about the game, other than that we won by about 10, and the refs were half asleep. It's hard to blame them for not having the time of their lives reffing their fourth game of the night, but we paid to play in this league, and last night deserved better. I don't expect them to get every call right, but I do expect them to be awake. If we ever have another 10pm game in the playoffs or a future season, I'm going to supply the refs with Red Bulls at the start of each half. We were down two at halftime, but had a great second half, making (I think) every free-throw, while they missed many of theirs. We also switched man-to-man defense from zone, which turned out to be the best way to play this particular team.

I didn't get home until 11:40, got in bed at midnight on the dot, and laid there for 30 minutes before falling asleep. A short 4.5 hours laters I was awaken by my Timex alarm clock, and was not happy. I wanted to just ignore it and fall back asleep, but my responsibility to my employer along with Bosco wanting to go outside to pee and then eat breakfast, forced me to fight the heavy eyelids and get movin'.

I'm glad to have the 10pm game behind me, and am glad we won. I look forward to getting back to a regular bedtime tonight, and also hope World Series game 2 can offer up a little more excitement than game 1 did.

It feels good to be 3-0, but going 4-0 next week will pose a difficult challenge since one of our best players will be missing the game to take his 8 year-old daughter trick-or-treating.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Update...

- Darcy and I got our carpets professionally cleaned on Monday. The same guy did it that we used a couple years ago. The carpets look brand new! We got a little deal too because our next door neighbor Larry got his done as well, and we referred the business.

- The World Series starts tonight. Go Rockies. After watching the Red Sox win three straight very convincingly over the Indians, it's hard to see them losing. However, that's the beauty of baseball, anything can happen. Do you all realize that if there is a game 5 (which is likely), then Denver will be the host of both Monday night football (Broncos host the Packers) and a world series game on the same night. This would be quite a rare occurrence, and I challenge anyone to find out if it's ever happened before, and if so, when and where.

- My third basketball game is tonight. The games every Wednesday are either at 7,8,9, or 10, and tonight we are stuck with the dreaded 10pm game. This means I get home at about 11:30, shower, and then get to bed hopefully by midnight. That's rough when my alarm clock is set at 5:05am!

- Yesterday Ticketmaster spammed me a code to get floor "VIP" seats to the Billy Joel concert that will be Saturday night, November 10th, at Oracle Arena in Oakland. I curiously logged into Ticketmaster to see how good of seats I could get and how much they would be. I ended up buying two tickets on the floor, 25 rows from the stage! I've been a fan of Billy Joel for a long time, and know most of his music. I remember getting the cassette of his 'Storm Front' album for Christmas when I was about ten years old. My favorite song on it is 'We Didn't Start the Fire', a song that I still can recite every word to. Who said spam wasn't an effective marketing tool? It worked on me yesterday.

- This Saturday is Bridge School, which is rapidly approaching. We found out late last week that the main attraction for us, Eddie Vedder of Pearl jam, has backed out due to "family issues". In his place will be the band My Morning Jacket. We have heard good things about this band, but are not familiar with their music. We are hopeful they are good, but are still excited to see Metallica and John Mayer play their acoustic sets. We're also very hopeful the "The Boss" aka Bruce Springsteen will show up as a surprise performer. It makes perfect sense because he is playing at Oracle Arena this Thursday and Friday and has nothing on his tour schedule for the weekend. I'll be sure to let you know if the rumors/speculation turn out to be true.

- The Warriors start next Tuesday, October 30th, at home against the Utah Jazz. I can't wait! I heard Stephen Jackson is out the first seven games, but I don't know why. I need to find out. Probably for some sort of punishment knowing him.

- Darcy and I bought pumpkins this weekend and will be carving them Sunday evening. If anyone would like to join our little pumpkin carving party you are welcome to. The more the merrier and it's always fun to see who can come up with something original.

- I was going to be Tiger Woods for Halloween, but have not found the motivation to accumulate a costume. I was going to wear his signature Sunday red and black pants, buy a TW hat, and arm myself with other golf accessories like tees and a glove, but have not got around to it. Who knows, maybe I never will.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Off to a 2-0 Start in Basketball League


I can't even remember the exact score from last nights game; but we won.

I do remember the halftime score of 10-19 though. Very low scoring! It took both teams a while to get going. I think it was 2-0 us after about six minutes of play. Then, in the second half, we got off to a very poor start as our opponent nearly tied the game. I remember at one point less than halfway through the second half we were only ahead 22-20.

We kept our composure and eventually took back control of the game again and ended up winning by 12 or 13 points. I believe the end score was 42-29, but like I said, I'm not totally sure. The team we played did not have good shooters, but they were very physical on defense and on offense. We use a 2-3 zone to encourage them to shoot to exploit their weakness. Defensively they played hard, but fouled a lot. We must have made 15 points at the free throw line in the second half as we were in the bonus with 10 minutes left.

Personally, I had a good game. I only shot 3 or 4 three pointers the whole game (making one of them), and instead made a lot of two point baskets, ranging from lay-ups, to three footers, to 15 foot bank shots. I also focused my efforts on the boards and swallowed up quite a few rebounds, both offensive and defensive. A few of my baskets came after an offensive rebound.

It was not an exciting win, but a win, nonetheless. Hopefully we can keep it going next week when we are sure to be faced with another challenging matchup.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Writer's Block


I have writers block in that I can't think of a good topic to dedicate a post to. Darcy filled you all in on last weekend's Rocktoberfest, and other than that it's been work as usual. And since I don't blog about work, I'm a little short of material. I could write about how I'm watching Journeyman, am going to give Friday Night Lights a shot, and am still loving NBC's The Office, but that doesn't sound very interesting. I have another basketball game tonight, but there is no way I can top last weeks story, so why try. In the sports world, I'm excited for the Warriors to start, but the two more weeks I have to wait for them to play a meaningful game feels like an eternity. Right now whether or not Kobe Bryant is going to get traded is a pretty entertaining saga though. I'm pretty uninterested in the 49ers even though I still pay attention to them in hopes they'll start playing better. By the way, I'm worried for coach Nolan if they keep up the way they're playing. I listen to sports talk radio every day, and they aren't nice to unsuccessful people. The Sharks started and even though I'm rooting for them and like going to their games sometimes, I'm just not a huge hockey fan. Golf is over for the winter as far as I'm concerned (Even though Tiger is still busy in the business world selling his "Tiger Brand" to Gatorade for $100 Million! Michael Jordan must even be jealous of that!). Oh yeah, and then there's the baseball playoffs. I'm rooting for the Rockies to win it all, and wouldn't mind seeing Cleveland beat Boston. If the Indians do end up losing to the Rockies in the world series, then their two world series defeats in the last 10 years will have been to two expansion teams who were winning their first ever championship. They lost to the Florida Marlins in 1997 who won the world series in only the fifth year of their existence.

As far as plans go, Darcy and I are busy the next two weekends. This weekend we will be hanging out with Abby and Matt, who are coming to the south bay to go to downtown Campbell to Oktoberfest with us. I hope the weather cooperates. The following weekend after that we have the Bridge School concert at Shoreline.

So back to my first sentence, I really don't know what to say!

Maybe tomorrow I will fill you in on how my basketball game went, but please don't expect another thriller.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rocktoberfest '07

This weekend Jeff and I went to Modesto to visit my family and to go to the first annual Rocktoberfest. My parents, along with my Aunt Barb and Uncle Rick put this party on at the new Baker Barn (Rick & Barb's new shop/barn) and it was a lot of fun. There were about 60 people there made up our friends and family. The first stop before Rocktoberfest was my parent's house where we got to meet Cooper, their new beagle. He is 9 weeks old and a big ball of energy. Unfortunately, Bosco was not really interested in playing or even looking at Cooper so it made for some interesting little spats between the two of them. Rocktoberfest turned out great, we had bratwurst, tri-tip, and German beer along with entertainment from Meghan Baker, Ice Age (my dad's band), and a special guest appearance by Japheth Simpson.

Cooper at 9 weeks
Jeff holding Addison Simpson, Brandi and Japheth Simpson's 5 week old baby girl. She is so cute!
Jase Wallick, Sonya's 8 month old son and Addison's cousin. Like his shirt says, he's a rock star.
The Pratt Family, minus Kayley (Jeff, Michael, and Jennifer.) As you can see, Michael had fun playing in the mud.
My cousin Jack Baker playing the drums. He is only 2 and already has them down pretty well.
Ice Age (my dad is on the left).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Late Surge Gives Us Victory in Season Opener

I'm excited to report that our team is much improved this season with our new additions. This summer our problem was with rebounding and toughness, and the two guys we added are scrappy and hit the boards hard. I think once we get in better playing shape and learn to gel a little better as a team, we will be tough to beat.

Last night was no walk in the park, but we came away with the victory. Here's roughly how it went:

After trailing by a basket or two for most of the first half, we battled back to make it a knotted 23-23 at halftime. Our shooting as a team was horrendous, and we allowed them to penetrate the lane a little too easily for easy scores. The first 15 minutes of the second half were terrible, as our opponent built an 11 point lead (48-37) on us with five minutes to go (the games are two 20 minute halves with a running clock until the final two minutes of the game, in which the clock stops just like it would in a regular basketball game).

We started the comeback when I hit a three pointer to make it 48-40. Then, over the next few minutes we picked up our defense, pressing full court man to man. Thanks to some luck and our increased defensive pressure, our opponent missed some shots and made some key turnovers that allowed us to come back. With the score eventually at 51-48 them, David Hwang - my former colleague at Synnex - hit a three-pointer from the top of the key, tying the match at 51. Now, the score was tied at 51 and there was only 22 seconds left, but their ball. Lucky for us they botched the inbounds play, making it our ball with 16 seconds left.

Here's what happened next:

I took the ball and dribbled up the court, thinking about how I would take the last shot. However, my man was on me tight so I passed to the top of the key from the left wing, and then circled under the basket making it to the right wing. My teammate at the top of the key now with the ball passed it to the guy now on the left wing, who was wide open for a 15 footer. There were 7 seconds left as he took the shot. As he hurled it up, I dashed into the key from the opposite side of the court. The shot was short, and ricocheted off the rim in my direction. I jumped up in the air and grabbed the ball, landed, and then jumped right back up and attempted to score the game winner with 2 seconds left on the clock. I was unable to get an attempt though because two players on the other team were in my face. Luckily, I was fouled! With two seconds on the clock in a tied 51-51 game, I was on the line with two chances to seal the deal. I love this sort of an opportunity, and pride myself on coming through in situations like this. The first free throw is obviously the most important because if missed, the pressure escalates exponentially to make the second one. Knowing I did not want to put myself in that predicament of having to make the second shot to avoid an overtime, I concentrated hard to just relax and stay confident, blocking out any negative thoughts. Luckily for me and my team, both free throws went in. With not enough time to get off a legitimate shot, the opponent hurled a 50 footer at the buzzer that didn't even come close.

What a comeback!

Despite the exciting victory, we should have been able to win without all the drama, and quite frankly, got a little lucky that our opponent made so many mistakes down the stretch. I'm looking forward to seeing how well we can come together as team over the course of the season because if we do, I think we can become league champions.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

2nd Basketball Season Starts in 1hr

It's 6pm and I have to jet out of here in 10 minutes. I am heading out to east San Jose. I'm talking so far east San Jose that's it's on a hill that offers up a splendid view of the Silicon Valley. I have a 7pm basketball game that will be the first of a new season. This summer I played in the same basketball league and had a lot of fun.

The first season started in June, ended in August. My team went 5-1 in the regular season, and then lost in the second round of the playoffs, which was the quarterfinals. It was a disappointing loss but we clearly got beat in the game, not playing nearly well enough to win. In the offseason we have picked up a couple solid players, filling the void of a couple of guys who weren't around to play this season. My team was started by an colleague of mine from our days with our former employer - Synnex.

I'm excited to start a new season and hope I'm not rusty tonight. I haven't played since our playoff loss in August, and am just barely getting back into shape post-China and post-being sick.

I'll let you guys know tomorrow how the first game went.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Genesis

From the time I started listening to music as a kid until now, I've always been a fan of Phil Collins not only as a solo artist, but also as a member of the rock band Genesis. He has a very unique, melodic, and high-powered voice that eloquently contributes to the greatness of his long catalogue of great songs, whether as a memeber of Genesis or as a solo artist.

Tonight Darcy and I are going to the HP Pavilion to watch Genesis in the only Bay Area stop of their reunion tour. Although Peter Gabriel is not touring with the band, Phil Collins will be playing the drums and singing, and I can't wait to see many of my favorite Genesis songs live. If I can sneak my camera in, hopefully I will have pictures to show off later in the week.

I was just thinking and drew a parallel between Phil Collins and Sting.
- Both emerged around the same time with Genesis and The Police, respectively.
- Both were the lead singers in their respective groups
- Both also played instruments. Collins on drums. Sting on bass guitar.
- Both left their bands after great success for solo careers that were also very successful
- Both participated in highly anticipated reunion tours in 2007 with their old bands
- Both reunion tours were attended by Jeff and Darcy

My favorite of that list is the last one!

Monday, October 8, 2007

I Like My Ipod Shuffle

When running outdoors on a trail or track, or inside on a treadmill, music is an absolute necessity. I have driven all the way to the gym to realize I forget my mp3 player. Instead of biting the bullet and working out to no music, I opted to drive home and get my music and then drive back to the gym. I'd rather not work out than work out without music. The beats, the drum solos, guitar solos, and passionate lyrics give me the fuel I need to get the most out of my workout. Without this fuel, I become bored, uninspired, and eager for the workout to end. With the music, although feeling the pain of fatigue associated with a good workout, I am able to enjoy myself and get the most out of the workout.

Because of this requirement I have for loud music when I'm exercising, I've always found it worth my money to invest in the latest and greatest portable music device. As a kid I had a tape walkman and always made mixes to listen to. Later the tape walkman turned into a discman. I even bought a mini-disc player in college, but that was soon obselete when digital mp3 players emerged. After initially buying an iRiver mp3 player, I've been through a slew of iPods, owning a regular iPod, an iPod Video, an iPod mini, and an iPod Nano.

The nano has been a mainstay for a couple years now. It's small, holds more than enough music, and I have a light armband for it that I use to fasten it to me while I'm exercising. However, it had caught my eye recently at the gym that many people have the iPod shuffle, which is much smaller than even the nano, and comes with an integrated clip to fasten it to your clothes.

Over time my desire to own one of these little devices grew until finally I became motivated to actually drive to the local Apple store and buy one. They are price around $85, come with headphones (that I needed anyways and would have cost me $20), hold 1GB of music, are display-less, very tiny, and have the aforementioned clip. When listening the iPod Shuffle, the "shuffle" feature is optional which was a major selling point for me. When I work out, I like to set the order of the songs so that the most high-powered tunes are at the end when I'm nearly sprinting. If listening to the songs in random order was required, then this device would not have been for me.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Golden State Warriors: Currently The Bay Area's Most Promising Franchise

For many years the Warriors have been the black sheep bay area franchise. With the Giants, A's, 49ers, Raiders, and Sharks all competing at very high levels, bay area sports fans grew to shun the warriors for their inability to lure superstars, and create a winning culture.

The 49ers, although very bad over the last five years, are the bay area's crown jewel historically, with five super bowls (all since 1981) and many ex-greats such as Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. The Raiders have a huge and very loyal fan-base, and were in the super bowl just five years ago. In baseball, the Giants and A's have both been consistent winners over the years. The Giants were in the world series in 2002 and 1989, and through the late 90's up until a couple of years ago, were in the playoffs just about every year. In addition, we had the added entertainment of watching probably the best hitter in the history of the game in Barry Bonds. The A's have achieved success with Billy Beane's coined "money ball" strategy, where they kept a low payroll and still managed to find enough talent to compete for the AL West titles just about every year. Additionally, they were world series champions with "the bash brothers" in 1989. The Sharks of the last few years are shoe-in's for the playoffs and have been predicted to compete for the Stanley Cup. It's thought by many, however, that their failure to get out of the second round of the playoffs each of the last two seasons has been a major disappointment. Could their window of opportunity be closing on them?

Therefore, with exception of the Sharks (who are in a second tier professional sport), all of the bay area teams mentioned in the last paragraph are currently in bad states. The 49ers offense is worthless once again and it looks like they might fail to meet their expectations this year that were not very high to begin with. The Raiders hit rock bottom last year with only 2 wins, and although slightly better this year are still not a playoff team. The Giants and A's both finished sub .500 2007 campaigns, and are in the need of new talent before the playoffs will be a reasonable goal.

This leaves us with the Golden State Warriors, the bay areas only NBA franchise. They are on the upswing in a big way after just this year breaking their 12 year streak of missing the playoffs. In most of those 12 straight losing seasons, they weren't even close to earning a spot in the post season, and were overshadowed in Northern California by the fun and exciting Sacramento King's, who rivaled Kobe and Shaq's Lakers in the early 2000's. After squeaking into the playoffs in March of 2007, and then upsetting the number one seed Dallas Mavericks in the first round, the whole country took notice, making the Warriors the "darling" team of the playoffs. As an added benefit, this upset has done a lot for making the Warriors a more attractive free-agent draw.

With the 2007-2008 pre-season starting up there is a lot of hype around the Warriors chances of doing well. Although they are not expected to be a top team in the western conference, they are expected to make the playoffs, and will definitely start to see some national attention. Despite losing the sharp shooting and high flying Jason Richardson, they have added first round draft picks Brandon Wright and Marco Belinelli. They have also thankfully parted ways with the overpaid and ineffective Adonal Foyle, which is addition by subtraction. Just about everyone else, including coach Don Nelson, will be back.

Now we just have to see if the Golden State Warriors can live up to the expectations and excite the bay area once again with their dazzling high powered offense and cocky swagger. For this to happen a few thing's are for sure: Baron Davis needs to stay healthy, Stephen Jackson needs to stay focused and out of trouble, and their emerging role players need to continue to emerge.

A lot is at stake. As the bay area's most promising sports franchise, the Warriors need to prove they deserve this tag, and that they can change the word "promising" into "successful".