3.31.2012

Let's get together and do it again

Today was a pretty great day.

I slept in until almost 9 this morning. The day was sunny with temperatures in the 80s.

Kates went to church in the morning to rehearse with the choir for its Palm Sunday cantata tomorrow. Phoebe played in the living room and watched the Food Network.

And I worked in the baby’s room. I did some cleanup of my paint job, washed the hardwood floor, nailed down the new quarter-round and started unpacking some of the baby items we’ve been storing in the closet.

After lunch, Kates took Phoebe to a friend’s birthday party at the bowling alley and did some grocery shopping. I headed outside to spend the afternoon in the yard.

Besides the usual mowing and trimming, my objective for the afternoon was to begin the process of moving a section of the chain-link fence that surrounds our backyard. I’m willing to put my dislike for chain-link fences aside, but a section of the fence that ran along one side of our yard has bugged me since we moved in.

We have a shed in the back corner of our yard. But the shed sat outside of the fence, at a corner of our yard that is opposite of where the fence gate was located. So when I worked in the backyard -- inside the fence -- and needed something in the shed, I had to walk the length of the yard to the gate, exit the fenced portion and then walk to the back corner of the yard to access the shed. To me, it made a whole lot more sense to have the shed inside the fenced portion.

So I got my plan approved with the city officials. Plunked down $10 for a permit. Had the utilities mark off cables and pipes. And today I dismantled the side in question, which was a cinch to do, by the way. As I find time in the next couple weeks, I’ll dig new holes for the posts and reinstall the fence about 10 feet over from its original location. Outside our shed.

* * *

While I was outside this afternoon, I came upon a little friend I scooped up for Phoebe to see.

Phoebe, of course, was enthralled and we had a good time petting the little bunny. He, or she -- we never did figure that part out -- stayed with us in the yard for much of the afternoon.

As much as Phoebe begged for us to keep him -- and as tempting as that was -- we finally did say goodbye. After we had been inside for awhile, I looked out the window just in time to see him hopping away.

* * *

I would’ve worked in the yard until the sun set had it not been for a certain college basketball game tonight.

By the time I did come inside and turn on the TV, the Kentucky-Louisville game was in the second half and Kentucky was widening its lead. … For a little while, Louisville looked capable of pulling off the upset. But Kentucky took back control of the game and advanced to Monday night’s championship.

I hope Kansas sticks it to them Monday night. I’ve never been a Kentucky University fan, and now that John Calipari’s coaching them, I dislike them even more.

But Kansas had better learn to play in the first half, if they have any hopes of winning the national championship. … These tournament games are making my hair turn grayer by the minute.

Tonight, against Ohio State, they looked absolutely awful in the first half. They were out of control, attempting fancy passes that were landing out-of-bounds and tossing -- to quote one of the CBS analysts tonight -- "dipsy-dos" at the basket. To Ohio State’s credit, the Buckeyes were playing tight defense and a slow tempo that had the Jayhawks out of whack. Ohio State also was knocking down its shots, and Kansas was not.

Good thing for Kansas that college basketball is a game of two halves. Especially in this year’s NCAA tournament. My goodness.

I lied emotionless on the couch for the first half, preparing myself for what could have been the end.
Kansas was on the ropes at halftime Saturday against Ohio State. With the Jayhawks' chances of playing for their second national championship in five years hanging in the balance, they turned the screws defensively and sped past the Buckeyes 64-62 and into Monday's final.

Trailing by 13 points late in the first half and nine at intermission, Kansas (32-6) held OSU to eight second-half field goals on 33 attempts. (USA Today)

The energizing second half had me sitting up and paying closer attention. To yet another comeback. … As Kansas closed in on the lead I let out a burst of excited laughter and shouted to Kates, “They’re doing it again!”

Then, when Kansas finally took its first lead, since leading 2-0 to start the game, a weight was lifted. But it was hardly the end. Multiple lead changes as the clock wound down kept me on edge.

During that last minute, all I could think was, Here we go again.

I was sweating and literally sitting on the edge of my seat. Every time there was a shot, turnover or whistle I was springing off the couch, pumping my fists, clapping and pacing to the back of the living room before returning to the couch.

When Withey caught a pass in the paint, turned and tossed a shot into the basket with 27 seconds left, I let out a loud cheer and started jumping around the room, thinking he sealed the game -- only to turn around and realize the referees waved off the shot because he traveled. The basket would have put Kansas ahead by five.

Back on the couch I went to sweat it out some more. Every time Kansas took another step toward sealing the game, they followed it with a careless mistake. With 3 seconds left and Kansas ahead by three points, Tyshawn Taylor stole an Ohio State pass, drove the court and then threw the ball away. Maddening!

It left Ohio State with time to do something as Aaron Craft went to the foul line.

Finally, the Jayhawks got the break they needed when Craft made his first shot and then drew a whistle on his second for racing into the lane in an attempt to rebound the shot, which he missed on purpose.

Before any of the Ohio State players could figure out what happened, Kansas inbounded the ball and the game was over.

Jayhawks fans across the land breathed another sigh of relief and rejoiced.

At one point in the second half, I noticed my TweetDeck was eerliy quiet, which I took to mean that people were paying so much attention to the game.

But when the game ended, Twitter and Facebook blew up. Here’s a sampling of some of my favorite posts …  
YYYEEEESSSSS!! Holy mother of Xanax we WON!!!

Who can watch NEWS after a game like that, Greg Gumbel!? Anyone with a pulse should be rewatching that second half. #Kansas

HOW do they keep DOING that?!

Boom. Kansas.

I think my heart beat is back to normal now.

Not bad for a rebuilding year!

Bill Self really needs to start giving his half time speeches at the beginning of the game...

I love having the opportunity to hit "like" on so many of my friends' status updates! Rock Chalk!

Thanks to Charles Barkley and Bill Walton for continuing to pick against KU, I'm counting on you again monday!

Thinks it's funny that I have so many KU fans from so many different eras of my life. Must be good people.

Oh man. no crappy first half Monday night jayhawks! Let's do this!

… Tonight I’m going to bed a happy man.

Meanwhile, in Manhattan. ... What a saga this Frank Martin thing has turned out to be, after he emphatically denied during one of the tournament games last weekend that the news of him moving to South Carolina was totally untrue. The Star's Sam Mellinger had a good take on it this week.

Good reads ...
a Kansas Tops Ohio State in Tense Stretch Run
a Bill Self's good point about the "easy" job he's had this year
a Davidson loss was a turning point for KU
a Withey’s volleyball background was a building block
a Sullinger, Robinson truly the elite in matchup of Ohio State and Kansas
a The Onion: Exhaustive Investigation By Broadcasters Finds Every Player In NCAA Tournament Just A Great Kid

3.29.2012

Twin Pacers

My friend Joe posted this photo he captured in a K-Town neighborhood.

This is classic. A scene like this could only occur in K-Town.

3.25.2012

Final Four. Jayhawks. It's happening, Baby.

This year's ride with the Jayhawks just gets better and better.

I was parked on the couch at 4 this afternoon for the Kansas-North Carolina, and nothing else mattered for two hours.

Against Purdue, it was Elijah Johnson. Friday night, it was Jeff Withey to the rescue. And today, Tyshawn Taylor finally showed up to play.

Welcome to the NCAA tournament, Tyshawn, tweeted Seth Davis at one point after Taylor hit a big shot for the Jayhawks.

Given Kansas' recent success against the Tar Heels and their former leader Roy Williams, I was fairly confident going into the game ...

And I'll say this to all the people who might blame North Carolina's loss on Kendall Marshall, who didn't play because of the injury he suffered earlier in the tournament: I believe, no matter the sport, that teams earn championships by not only playing well but by staying healthy. By overcoming adversity. The stars must align. North Carolina's star point guard broke his wrist and the Tar Heels' game arguably suffered. Bottom line: Kansas was the better team today.

Still, that's not to say this game wasn't a stomach-churner like those of the last week. There were 13 lead changes and 15 ties before Kansas finally put the squeeze on North Carolina.

My heart was racing and my mouth went dry for that last minute-and-a-half.

My friend Wren tweeted ...

What an unbelievable game! I don't want it to end.

To which I tweeted back hastily ...

I want it to end -- with a KU win!

Finally, it ended. With a KU win.

In a fast-paced Midwest Region final that was tight throughout, Kansas scored the last 12 points to win, 80-67, at the Edward Jones Dome. The top-seeded Tar Heels collapsed down the stretch, missing their final nine shots and 14 of 16 in the face of a Kansas triangle-and-two defense ... (The New York Times)

Kates was away at a church choir rehearsal, and Phoebe had been playing in her downstairs play room for most of the game. ... But she understands my love for the Jayhawks and joined me on the couch for the final minute or so.

As the clock ran down, I stood up in front of the TV and began clapping and cheering. Phoebe joined me and for several seconds we danced around the living room together singing KU's praises. With similar emotions to that epic night of the 2008 national championship -- the baby who was already pulling so heavily on my heart that night, and now a KU-winning bracket for the child on the way -- I caught myself in the moment with my eyes welling up a bit.

Not long afterward, Kates arrived home to Phoebe and I now resting on the couch. Kates looked at me wide-eyed and asked "Did they?!"

"They did. Jayhawks in the Final Four, Baby!" I said with my arms outstretched over my head.

(Updated: 03.26.2012) Good reads ...
a KU returns to its identity as it reaches Final Four
a Self has shaped the Jayhawks into muscle
a First Look at the Final Four
a Postgame Interviews, Some Net Cutting and a Sweet Homecoming

On top of the Kansas win, the only thing that would have made a better cap to my spring break week would have been watching tonight's “Mad Man” Season 5 premiere.

Unfortunately, Kates and I lost track of the show during Season 4 when our TV blew up, and we're still working to get caught up. Distractions like graduate school and baby preparation have made it a little more difficult than we’d like.

3.24.2012

Spring break

In between a lot of basketball …

The university was on spring break this week. And it was good.

It’s not a true spring break for me, because I do have to work during the week. The students and faculty get their traditional spring break week off, but staff members like me are off on Monday only.

Nonetheless, this year, I took Tuesday as a vacation day so I could have some extra time at home to catch up on projects and make some dents in our baby preparation.

Usually, it seems, my vacation days are marred by some stint of bad luck or a project that doesn’t go according to plan. But aside from the fact that it rained both days, I couldn’t have had two more enjoyable days -- let alone a more enjoyable spring break week.

* * *

While I checked a ton of things off my to-do list this week, my major accomplishment was painting Baby 2’s room.

We knew early on, no matter the gender, that we wanted to paint the room a shade of blue.

Then, after a lot of pondering, Kates and I decided to go with the same d├ęcor we used in Phoebe’s baby room.

To a fault, we want to be sure Baby 2 gets the same brand of one-of-a-kind treatment Phoebe got before and after she was born. But we’re also learning to be realistic and know that not everything can be that way during this journey we call parenthood. In this case, it came down to our budget and the realization that, in the end, we can design a room that’s just as unique as Phoebe’s original room was, with the same decorations and a few twists.

Plus, those original decorations have blue in them. So we matched it with some paint colors and chose Icy Peppermint Vinca.


* * *

Thursday afternoon, we had our basement inspected, and I now have some peace of mind about our foundation and all of the work that was done to it before we took ownership of our house last year. Long story short, the steel anchors on the walls are doing their job, the foundation is secure, and I have clearance to finish off the basement and start resurrecting my baseball museum … It will be awhile, though. Before I can think about the basement, we need to get adjusted to life with two children, and I need to finish my master’s degree.

Yesterday, I finished my work week. And I cleared a ton of projects off my desktop. That’s the thing about our spring break: We may not get a full week of vacation like the students and faculty, but it’s just as refreshing because of all the work we catch up on.

I’m most proud of this story, which I referenced last fall after one of my colleagues stumbled on a video about their nerdy hobby. … We followed up on it, and I had a fun interview with them last week. Now I want one.

* * *

That brings me to today. Phoebe spent the afternoon at a classmate’s birthday party -- at the bowling alley -- and Kates went shopping. I spent the day working outside in our yard, and it was glorious. Sunny with temperatures in the low 80s, and I mowed our lawn -- in March!

Mark this one down: The winter leading up to Phoebe’s birth was one of the snowiest in history; heck, it snowed on the April morning she was born. Now, as we work our way to Baby 2’s birth, we’re coming out of one of the mildest winters on record.

Tonight, Kates and I capped the week with a late showing of “The Help.”

An excellent, enlightening and inspiring film. Wonderfully written. And terrific acting by an uber-talented cast that includes Emma Stone and Allison Janney.

It’s on my list and highly recommended. Here’s the trailer …

So maddening

Dang, Jayhawks. You do like to make it interesting.
For the first few minutes Friday night, Kansas’s Midwest Regional semifinal with North Carolina State suspiciously resembled its third-round tussle with Purdue. The Wolfpack, like the Boilermakers, jumped out to an early lead and made the second-seeded Jayhawks sweat right to the finish. (The New York Times)
They play like a junior varsity team the first 10 minutes of the game and need the rest of the first half to chip away at the deficit. Then, just when you think they’ve taken control in the second half, they go turn the ball over five times and let North Carolina State outscore them 17-10 in the final 11 minutes. Yeesh!

Good thing Jeff Withey blocked a gazillion shots and North Carolina State actually allowed Thomas Robinson to score in the paint.

And Elijah Johnson. There he was again tonight with a clutch layup to seal the win for Kansas during the final seconds. Elijah is the man for KU right now.

With the win, of course, Kansas moves on to play Sunday against the vaunted North Carolina Tar Heels. For a trip to the Final Four.

My heart was pounding as the clocked ticked away on regulation of that Ohio-North Carolina game earlier tonight. But Ohio couldn't put the game away, and North Carolina got the best of them in overtime. ... It would have been glorious had Ohio pulled off the upset. Dare I say it, after the way North Carolina looked tonight, I think Kansas has a decent shot of winning Sunday.

There was a time tonight that I thought Indiana was going to pull off the upset of Kentucky, which also would have been glorious had it panned out. But it didn't.

So at this point Baby’s bracket is faring best of the three we filled out in our house. ... Not sure what it is about babys in the NCAA tournament. Phoebe's bracket outdid mine in 2008.

Phoebe’s bracket died last night when Wisconsin lost that heart-breaking thriller to Syracuse -- which Jim Boeheim and others called one of the best-played tournament games ever, in a tournament that's shaping up to be one for the ages. … The game was in the Badgers’ hands for the taking. Oh, it was tough to watch those final 20 seconds and the botched play on the last possession. But I give Syracuse a lot of credit. Watching them play that suffocating zone defense was something special.

Meanwhile, Kentucky and North Carolina are the only Final Four teams I have remaining in my bracket, and the Baylor-Kentucky matchup is the only regional final that I accurately predicted.

Good reads ...
a KU needs Robinson’s ‘A’ game in NCAA Tournament
a Thomas Robinson: Talent chiseled by hard knocks
a KU's Elijah Johnson is on course in life
a Fun-loving reporter Sager's wardrobe speaks loudly ... No TBS sports broadcast would be complete without him and his rainbow-colored suits.

3.19.2012

The Madness, continued

Oh, Jayhawks.

They nearly did it to me again last night. But I’d rather have them leave me speechless -- the way they did last night -- than heartbroken. Like they've done so many times before.

This weekend, I went to work hard on Baby 2’s room. In doing so, I moved our 19-inch TV from our master bedroom to the baby’s room and stretched a long cable cord down the hallway so I could keep tabs on the basketball games while I worked.

How exciting were Saturday’s games!? They picked up right where Friday night’s thrillers left off and I my Saturday could not have been better, as I watched the games from morning 'til night. Syracuse knocked off Kansas State. Ohio State beat Gonzaga. Indiana topped VCU in a thriller. Louisville put away New Mexico. And Wisconsin squeaked by Vanderbilt on a missed last-second shot, which of course had our house roaring Saturday evening.

I didn’t get much work done in the baby's room during last night's Kansas-Purdue game, however. … And when I did make progress with my painting, it was only because Kansas was playing so poorly I couldn’t stand to watch.

After all, Purdue should have won that game. They led for like 39 of the 40 minutes that make up a regulation game. The Boilermakers had totally shut down Thomas Robinson, and Tyshawn Taylor was cold.

Then Elijah Johnson happened.

When he nailed that three-pointer to give Kansas its first lead with three minutes left in the game, I had one of those moments where I had to do all I could to squelch my excitement because Phoebe was sleeping in the next room.

My eyes were glued on the TV the rest of the way, and by the final minute I was on all fours. Chewing my T-shirt collar.

Purdue took back the lead and had a chance to put the game away with 20 seconds left. But Purdue’s Lewis Jackson lost control of the ball. … Good ol’ Elijah was there to snatch it up and run it up the floor for what proved to be the game-winning layup.

Purdue had two more attempts to win or tie the game in the final 20 seconds, but both failed. Kansas won 63-60. Unbelievable finish.

When it was finally over, I sank back on the wall and burst into anxious laughter.

“Why are you laughing?” Kates asked from downstairs.

Good reads ...
a KU hopes flaws were one-time deal
a Kansas Rallies Past Purdue and Into Final 16
a Lower Profile, but No Longer Overlooked by N.C.A.A.
a Hanging From the Rafters, Lasting Symbols of Success and Pride
a Which teams have the best chances to upset powerhouse Kentucky?

3.17.2012

The Madness

So I filled out my bracket -- half asleep -- around 12:30 a.m. Thursday.

My bracket made it through Thursday’s first round games mostly intact. Although I foolishly picked Wichita State to beat VCU and Long Beach State as an upset over New Mexico; after VCU’s success last year, I should have known they were capable of taking out Wichita State, and Long Beach State -- I’m not sure what I was thinking. I also missed on Gonzaga over West Virginia; in recent years, it seems, Gonzaga has underachieved during the tournament, so I bet on them getting knocked out in the first round. The only other game I failed to pick was Colorado’s upset of UNLV.

On a side note, WTMX, the Chicago radio station that I listen to faithfully each morning had a good bit this morning: Every time anyone mentioned VCU coach Shaka Smart, the intro of Chaka Khan’s “I Feel For You” charged over the airwaves. It made me burst into laughter every time.

Then, today happened.

I arrived home from work in time to catch the second half of the Missouri-Norfolk State game. As hard as I was trying to finish another piece of my graduate homework for this week, I couldn’t look away from the TV. … Missouri couldn’t seem to knock down any shots, and Norfolk State was just plain outplaying the Tigers.

Then the game got really good during those final seconds. When Phil Pressey hit that 3-pointer to cut Missouri's deficit to 85-84 with 10 seconds left, I thought, Whoah! Missouri could still pull this thing out! ... Then, Norfolk players suddenly lost their ability to make free throws. Missouri almost stole the game on a botched inbounds pass. And the Tigers had a chance to grab one more possession after a Norfolk missed free throw. But Norfolk held on.

I had Missouri in my Elite Eight.

Upset city. And it got better.

North Carolina State upset San Diego State (picked it!), Creighton beat Alabama by one (picked it!), Xavier upset Notre Dame (picked it!) and Purdue upset St. Mary’s (picked it!). I was wrong, however, on Florida over Virginia, St. Louis over Memphis, South Florida over Temple, and Ohio over Michigan.

Kates and Phoebe arrived home and we settled in for the Duke-Lehigh game.

That was the big one.

Like Missouri, Duke seemed out of sorts. And Lehigh was running all over them, tossing balls up the court like a quarterback throwing passes to a wide receiver streaking down the sideline. Lehigh played with such tenacity and fearlessness -- it was something special to watch.

Norfolk State and Lehigh put on such exciting shows in their defeats of Missouri and Duke -- which I had going to the Sweet Sixteen -- that I didn’t mind the impacts on my bracket. ... It was the first time in NCAA tournament history that two No. 15 seeds defeated No. 2 seeds -- and they did it on the same day

That kind of excitement is what March Madness is all about. Look how tired it made Phoebe ...



* * *

For the record, my Final Four consists of Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina and Florida State. Then I have Kentucky and North Carolina facing off in the championship game, with Kentucky taking the whole she-bang.

Kentucky, Michigan State and North Carolina, of course, are popular picks as No. 1 seeds. … But I’ve been impressed with Florida State the last couple weeks, and I think they’re getting hot at the right time. I predict they beat Syracuse in the regional final for a trip to New Orleans.

Other notables: I’ve got Wisconsin winning its first game, but falling to Vanderbilt in the second round. I have Kansas losing to Georgetown in the Sweet Sixteen. I have Murray State upsetting Marquette to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. And Baylor meeting Kentucky in the Elite Eight round.

* * *

Phoebe filled out a bracket, too.

In past years, I’ve simply filled out an extra bracket and submitted it under her name. But this year I wanted to giver her the chance to make her own picks. … So last night -- I let it slide that some of the games already had been played -- I printed a bracket for her, and we sat on the couch with me reading each matchup -- line by line, round by round -- so she could select her teams.

Needless to say, almost all of her picks were lower seeds. Her Final Four consists of Duke (oops!), BYU (oops!), Belmont (oops!) and Wisconsin. She has Duke and Wisconsin in her championship with Wisconsin winning it all.

By picking mostly lower seeds, however, she successfully called VCU over Wichita State, South Florida over Temple, Ohio over Michigan, North Carolina State over San Diego State, and Purdue over Saint Mary’s.

She also picked Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri to go deep into the tournament.

Thus, my theory is that her picks were based on teams she was familiar with because I talk about them and watch them a lot. Or because she liked the way their names sounded -- like St. Bonaventure.

* * *

Of course, Baby No. 2 got a bracket this year as well. Because let’s not forget the luck that came when I filled out a bracket for Phoebe the year she was born. Her bracket had Kansas winning it all -- and as luck had it -- it happened.

So, it should come as no surprise that Baby No. 2’s bracket features Kansas as the national champion. (Hey, I had to get my Jayhawks in there somehow.)

The rest of her Final Four includes Missouri (oops!), Kentucky and Syracuse, with Kentucky advancing to the final against Kansas.

Like Phoebe's the year she was born, I think Baby No. 2 has the best bracket of all of us. 

I contemplated advancing Missouri to the championship against Kansas, and even throwing Wisconsin into the Final Four instead of Syracuse.

But that wouldn’t be realistic now, would it?

Good reads ... 
a Inside the Jayhawks: They don't eat bird food
a KU professor researching Naismith, religion and basketball
a Old rivals sharing close quarters in Omaha
a Thursday in Bracketland: VCU Signs In
a Long, strange trip it's been: Fired in disgrace, Eustachy is back
a In 1956, a Racial Law Repelled Harvard’s Team
a For Two-Way Referee, It’s N.F.L. One Day, College Basketball the Next
a No Dribbling and No Passing, but Free Throws Are Nonstop 
a The Onion: Report: Only Matter Of Time Before A 'SportsCenter' Host Snaps, Blows Brains Out On Live Television

3.15.2012

Deadlines

I’ve spent my entire professional career living by deadlines. You would think I’d be used to this by now.

In college, my schedule revolved around the Wednesday night deadline. The one that made sure our university newspaper got off to the printer and was delivered to the driveways of our subscribers every Thursday afternoon. … I always started the week refreshed, rested, clean-shaven. By the end of those weeks I usually looked like a walking zombie.

But I fed off the pressure, the adrenaline rushes and the build-up of each week.

After college, I transitioned into daily newspaper reporting -- where the mantra was, as one of my favorite newspaper quotes goes:
The newspaper business is the only enterprise in the world where a person is supposed to become an expert on any conceivable subject between one in the afternoon and a 6 p.m. deadline. (Robert S. Bird, The New York Times)
On certain days, when the really big stories broke, the adrenaline rush was through the roof, and the anxiety was almost unbearable. But with the daily deadlines, there was something of a monotony that lessened the power of the rush.

Now, in this latest chapter of my career, doing media relations, I’m having flashbacks of my days of those weekly deadlines. Now, each week brings a rush up to a Thursday afternoon deadline -- a sort of ghost-writing gig I have that I somehow manage to get published each Friday morning (so I found this read particularly interesting and relatable). Week after week.

Until last fall, that Thursday afternoon deadline was the dominant source of my anxiety each week. Then, I decided working toward a master’s degree sounded like a good idea. And the Thursday afternoon deadline took a backseat to the Wednesday night deadline for my graduate papers. Double the anxiety.

But I feed off the rush. I’m competitive. I’m a perfectionist. And I do what it takes to get. the. job. done. … On Monday I participated in a fascinating professional development session that focused on improving communication among differing genders, generations and genetic traits. During the lesson about genetic traits, participants were characterized as one of four different animals based on their genetic traits. I’m a lion.

So this week’s graduate assignment was to choose one of five creative options as a vehicle to deliver a review of our studies this semester. Among the options were writing a multi-stanza poem, a narrative for a documentary or writing a one-act play. I considered the documentary narrative, before settling on compiling a timeline, using Prezi.

I worked on it until about 2:30 a.m. this morning -- which would be yesterday morning at this point. Building the Prezi is one thing, but skimming every chapter of our 600-page textbook for all of the relevant dates, statistics and anecdotes  is another.

After last night, I figured I’d finished about one-third of the project. And with that midnight deadline looming today, I knew I had my work cut out for me.

I got through my work day, but I had a lecture to tend to on campus tonight, too. Best-selling authors T.C. Boyle was on campus today. ... I sat in on a creative writing class he spoke with this afternoon; I always enjoy hearing other writers discuss their processes and comparing them to my own. His visit meant I had a news conference to mediate and then maybe stick around for his lecture. This is the way it’s gone the last three Wednesday nights, and, miraculously, I’ve managed to do the news conference thing, attend the lectures and still get back to my office to finish my papers by midnight.

Tonight, however, I knew I needed every minute. So I did the news conference and then ducked back to my office. … I posted my timeline at 11:55 p.m. -- ahead of four of my classmates, I might add. My project is far from perfect, and I could’ve spent several more hours tweaking it if I had the time. See it for yourself.

When I finally arrive home, there was one more deadline to beat: Completing my NCAA brackets.

I’ve made my picks, but I’ll share them in another post. I need some sleep.

3.10.2012

The week in review

Work. Graduate work. Sleep. ... Start over.

That's pretty much the drill around here these days. Monday through Friday. ... With a little bit of fun sprinkled between. Thanks to my loving and supportive wife, our wildly imaginative 3-year-old and the exciting environment in which I have the privilege and honor of working in each day.

The highlights ...

* * *

Tuesday night, I did the work-graduate work thing.

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I've made a habit lately of working in my office until 5:30 or 6 each night and then staying there to work on my graduate assignments. Even if it's to finish reading a chapter in my thick-as-a-brick textbook, I can concentrate far better in my office than surrounded by all the distractions at home.

By 8:30, I'd finished my reading for the week. The next step always is to start the infamous weekly paper, in which I must select three points from the week's reading and elaborate on them, citing outside sources along the way. ... For that, I came home. And worked until about 12:30 a.m., when I hit a wall and could no longer concentrate.

* * *

Wednesday, Chaz Bono visited our campus as part of our lecture series.

He's a fascinating figure, or a controversial figure, depending on your perspective. ...  Bono's talk was very simple and straightforward. Just him sitting at center stage and sharing his life's story.

What's more meaningful is that I never cease to be amazed by the willingness of our students to gain new perspectives and be so accepting of others' views. Their questions of our guests at the end of each lecture always fascinate me. Just one of the things I love about my job.

When the lecture was finished, I headed back to my office to finish my graduate paper. I submitted it around 10:30 p.m., 90 minutes ahead of the midnight deadline.

* * *

Thursday night, I served on the judging panel for the university's annual Zeus and Hera pageant -- a ritual the fraternities and sororities carry out each spring as part of their Greek Week activities. It was one of those things a student asked me to do weeks ago, and I said yes without considering my schedule the rest of the week or that a night at home with nothing to do might be nice for a change.

As Thursday night drew closer, I was seriously wondering what I was getting myself into. ... And I ended up really enjoying myself.

For me, watching people perform or entertain -- and do it with pure joy oozing from their faces -- is something that never gets old. It's contagious fun.

The 1990s was the theme for the week -- which meant the night included a couple performances of "Ice Ice Baby" and "Fresh Prince of Bel Air." For another skit, a pair of sorority girls teamed up and did a hilarious "Wayne's World" sketch based on our own campus. And another pair of girls performed Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" on cello! with a full complement of dancers behind them.

There were a lot of fraternity guys playing on their guitars and singing original songs, too.

But the best part of the night may have been when one of the men stepped to the mic and started belting out Brian McKnight's "Back at One," a cheesy 90s R&B song. At the chorus, he had nearly the entire auditorium standing and singing it with him -- complete with the 1, 2, 3 hand gestures. ... I laughed so hard I think there were tears streaming down my cheeks, and it was the kind of performance that I will be forever reminded of when I hear the song.

* * *

Saturday, we reflected on what we were doing one year ago this weekend ... and enjoyed the day.

With 70s and sun, I spent much of the day outside. I cleaned the cars and the garage and -- best of all -- began to pull some of my yard stuff from the shed. I'm so thankful for the mild winter we've had and can hardly wait to spend long days and nights working in the yard again.

Then, we treated ourselves to a movie -- "The Lorax."

Now, I haven't read the book, and I don't recall seeing the television special, so I have nothing to compare it. Phoebe's preschool class, meanwhile, spent last week studying Dr. Seuss, in conjunction with his birthday. Plus, one of her favorite things these days is to rhyme. Real words or made-up words, it doesn't matter -- she loves rhyming.

The film tells the story of a boy in search of a tree to win the affection of a girl in the town of Thneedville. The town is enclosed, made completely of plastic and ruled by the greedy Mr. O'Hare; (So much of it reminded me of The Truman Show). To find a tree, the boy breaks through the town's barriers and sets out to find the The Once-ler, who can tell him about the trees and The Lorax who tried to protect them.

We thoroughly enjoyed the film -- from all of its vibrant colors to its cuddly animals and sunny songs; I'll be looking for the soundtrack. The cast is great and Betty White is a hoot as Grammy. And the singing goldfish steal every scene they're in.

Entertainment value aside, the film possesses a timeless environmental message, too.

See it for yourself ...

3.04.2012

Taylor Swift and Zac Efron cover "Pumped Up Kicks"

So I was catching up on weeks worth of email, internet reading and random links this morning when I stumbled onto this video.

Taylor Swift and Zac Efron doing their own version of "Pumped up Kicks" on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

Classic.

Kates, Phoebe and I watched this with delight.

3.01.2012

Gotye's Weird Pop Science Blows Up

So my friend Tom turned me on to Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know" a couple months ago.

Now, within the last couple weeks, the song has blown up on the radio. Just today, it was the last song I heard as I drove to work. And it was the first song to come on the radio as I drove home tonight.

I love it.

Here's some good reads ...
Gotye’s Weird Pop Science Blows Up.
Australian Pop Genius Prepares to Take America By Storm (Even When He's Naked)

Wednesday happenings

I just submitted another graduate paper. Six done for the semester, four to go.

For reasons I can’t quite pin down, I’d like to think the quality and depth of my papers has increased in recent weeks; I think that’s a tribute to the content we’re studying -- the history of higher education in America -- along with the fact that I enjoy history and drawing connections to current trends.

But that isn’t decreasing the stress and effort that goes into writing these papers each week.

I spent Monday night and last night fighting off sleep to finish my reading. Tonight, I somehow managed to handle my media relations duties at a lecture on campus and still write my paper in less than three hours to get it posted before our midnight deadline.

Some day I’ll look back at these days and smile, right?

* * *

The big news of the day around these parts was the damage caused by a tornado that passed through Branson overnight.

As I finished my reading last night, the wind gusts outside our house were so loud and ferocious-sounding that all I could think about was that freight train sound that people describe when they experience a tornado. … This morning we had a few branches down in our yard, but there were no reports of tornadoes or heavy damage near The 'Ville.

At one point last night, with all the wind outside, I turned on the TV to check the weather. The Kansas City stations already were reporting the damage in Harveyville, Kan., and projections showed the storm was heading for Branson and Springfield -- the area where my brother and his family live -- next.

This morning when we heard the news that a tornado hit Branson, my heart sank. Fortunately, my brother and his family are ok, and their home sustained no damage.

The reports and pictures coming out of Branson are impressive. It seems a person living in this region, after the devastation in Joplin and other parts of the region last year, can only think, Here we go again.

* * *

Monday it was Jan Berenstain. Today, another beloved piece of my childhood died with the passing of Davy Jones.

When I think about my childhood and how my love for music developed, the Monkees were right in the thick of it. From playing a 45-inch record of “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” one of my all-time favorite songs to this day -- and its B-side “Words -- over and over again to watching reruns of The Monkees television show to the cassette tape of Monkees records my dad helped me record.

Since I started collecting vinyl records a few years ago, I’ve proudly added a few Monkees albums to my collection. And I was just spinning them Sunday night.

Davy will be missed. The memories will live on.

A lot of music mags are now publishing their top Davy Jones performances. My list would have to include “A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You,” “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow),” and, of course, “Daydream Believer.”

(Updated 08.16.2012) Good reads ...
a EW: The Ultimate Davy Jones playlist
a Rolling Stone: Readers' Poll: The Best Monkees Songs of All Time
a Rolling Stone: In Memory of the Cute One: Davy Jones' Greatest Musical Moments
a Rolling Stone: Michael Nesmith Remembers Davy Jones
a Micky Dolenz on the Monkees' Reunion With Michael Nesmith

* * *

The talks have been ongoing for months, but it appears Major League Baseball is following through on plans to expand its playoffs and will add a Wild Card team to each league for the 2012 playoffs.

Initially, I hated the idea and fell on the side that it diluted the competition of the playoffs. But if it’s only a one-game playoff, as proposed, I can handle that -- and I’ll admit that scenarios for one-and-done playoff games for Wild Card teams actually do sound exciting.

Still, there’s the little part of me that wishes Major League Baseball would just. stop. tinkering.

That said, as a diehard baseball fan, I found a series of tweets on the subject today by a local sports reporter  to be pretty amusing, and with merit …
Really psyched to see MLB embracing the YMCA mentality that makes sports unbearable these days. #EveryonePlaysEveryoneGetsATrophy


Why even call it the playoffs? Let's just set up a bracket where everyone qualifies so no one's feelings are hurt


Now maybe the #Royals can make the playoffs and we can hang a 3rd in the AL Central flag in left field. #Priceless


Clearly MLB just needed to find a way to make sure that NYY and Boston make the playoffs EVERY year, not just 9 out of 10


I remember when the reward for winning in baseball was a 7-game series against the other best team in the league for a trip to the WS


Remember when the 2011 MLB season culminated w/ really exciting final day of reg season and gave way to unique thrilling postseason?


Under new system, Boston's collapse would have meant squat. Red Sox would have played Rays again in 1 game with chance to advance
Good reads ...
a Play-in game is just another Selig gimmick
* * *

Remember where Kates and I were four years ago today. Being Leap Day, it’s hard to forget, but here’s the answer.