12/31/2009

2009: I Learned Some Things

Every year at this time people always want to rant and rave about how the past year was the best or worst of something. Every decade at this time people do the same thing for the preceding 10 years. I'm not going to do that.

See, 2009 was cool, but to say it was better than any other year is plain disingenuous to my past, you know? I mean, I met my wife in 1999. We got married four years ago. We bought a house before that. What would make this year any better than those things?

The truth of the matter is 2009 was good not because it was the best ever, but because I learned some things. Some of them helpful, some of them not so much - that's always how it goes. So here, in no particular order, some of the things I learned in 2009:

  1. That the reason I couldn't wear The North Face clothes had nothing to do with how they cut things, but more to do with the fact I was fat. It's funny what kinds doors open up when you drop 30 pounds. Apparently I can wear Calvin Klein jeans - who knew?
  2. Losing weight is not a quick thing. I probably knew this already on some level, but none of that diet shit works. You know what does work? Eating healthy, eating balanced, keeping the sugars and alcohol to minimal levels, and busting your ass working out 5-6 days a week. Perhaps some of you were hoping for some magic rules for my dropping that 30 pounds and about how I intend to drop the next 20, but that's it. Sorry.
  3. Actually, I do have some guidelines I follow, but that doesn't mean they will work for anyone else since everyone has a different body chemistry (hey, lesson one - find what works for you!). I eat minimal carbs after lunchtime. I don't eat at all after 9pm (harder than it sounds). I eat organic, whole foods whenever possible (not only are they healthier, but they simply taste better). I fully endorse dairy fats - higher percentage milks and yogurts are good to me, who knew? I drink alcohol only a couple times a week, if that. I eat dessert, I eat out - the key is moderation. I need to sleep more - when I get more than seven hours of sleep a night it shows on the scale (it just only happens on weekends). I like a big breakast, an average size lunch, and a dinner on the smaller side. I lift weights 3-4 times a week and do a 30 or more minutes of cardio 3-4 times a week (note - I should do longer cardio more often, and I know that).

    For me, those things work. It won't necessarily work for anyone else, but trying it out and figuring that out for yourself is part of the "fun." A lot of this is also recognizing where you are coming up short. If you realize what's wrong, it's easier to fix address.
  4. I learned I can read a book and watch a game on TV at the same time, and not miss much at all in either one. See, I told you not all of this was going to be useful.
  5. There are some fantastic food combinations I learned about this year. Olive oil on brownies; malt and salt added to hot chocolate; salt on your brownies, caramels, and chocolate chip cookies; orange or lemon essence (oil, peel) to any kind of fruit dish; pork belly in anything; blue cheese or gouda with sliced apples - I could probably go on forever. The point is I learned to try a lot of things in the past year I would have not been interested in or willing to try in the past. I've become a lot more open to new things in the past.
  6. All sorts of things happen when you lose weight. Apparently one of those things is sweating less - I like that. On the flip side, I have actually find I legitimately get cold faster - which makes sense when you think about it, but crazy to me nonetheless.
  7. I'm pretty good at this writing thing. Okay, I already knew that - or at least figured it, since I've been writing for a national audience for six years now and haven't been fired yet - but it's always nice when another medium seems to work out.
  8. Beer can be for sipping. I think I've slowly realized this over the past several years, but this year it hit home. I really think it all goes back to my first sip of that Deschutes Black Butte Porter XXI (yeah, I like the stuff if you haven't noticed). Up until then I really just regarded beer as, well, beer. It was something that gave you a buzz. After forking over the $12 for that bottle - which surprised myself as much as anyone I guess - I really stopped to sip and enjoy the flavors, to appreciate what comes from a good brewer.

    This is a decided contrast to how I felt about beer 10 years ago when I got out of college. Fill in the blanks for yourself.
  9. There is no reason to attempt to drive in the snow. Yes, this probably can't apply to everyone - lots of people have more important jobs than I do - but with the advent of being able to work from home via the internet there is really no reason for me to leave my house when the weather gets a little dicey (ice and snow).

    Some part of that is my own inexperience with winter driving, but I handle a car pretty well. I have no desire to buy chains or put studs on my car, because there would be zero reason for me to drive anywhere. I can walk to the store if I need something (the weather is rarely ever that bad) and we stay pretty stocked up.

    A lot of my aversion to winter driving is dealing with the other fools behind the wheel. Some people drive too fast, some too slow, but the reality is no matter what someone does they could simply lose traction and slide into my car anyway. Why bother with that hassle, when it just makes everyone angry? I don't need a bad day when I know I can avoid it - that would just make me more annoyed, knowing that if it happened.
  10. I can do it. Eight-mile hike? No problem. 1,000 foot elevation change? I can handle it. Tight deadline? No issues.

    I wouldn't say I've lacked self-confidence in the past, but I think this year I have come to the realization that there are few things I wouldn't be able to deal with. Juggling two jobs while still being a good husband for the past few years now, I have learned how my time needs to be structured and allocate to not only keep everyone happy, but to make sure everything gets done when it needs to get done. And yes, it does drive people crazy sometimes, and I recognize and apologize for that.
Hmmm...I would like to think I've learned more than 10 things in 2009 - and hopefully I have - but those lessons aren't coming to me right now. Perhaps that means they aren't really learned yet? Who knows.

I'll be tipping back a cold Blue Moon Brewing Grand Cru tonight to usher out 2009 in favor of 2010, which I hope will be just as good - but not better or worse - than 2009. Cheers!

12/29/2009

Latest Reads and Views

Over the past month I've actually got some reading done...so here are my thoughts on the pages I've turned.

Latest Reads

The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold - This was a very well done book. It's another teen book - like Twilight, which I liked, which may say something about me, I'd prefer not to dwell on it - but Sebold does an excellent job creating a world of the dead for her main character while still keeping her tied to the living. The upcoming movie probably won't hold a candle to the book, but they never do. Another reason I liked the book was for selfish reasons - the scenario of telling a story of a death and its repercussions told from the point of view of the dead person was an idea I have toyed with myself. And yes I came up with it before Desperate Housewives. Wow...I'm not gaining any man points here am I? Anyway, heartily recommend the read.

Dearly Devoted Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay - By now many people know Dexter because of the Showtime series, but it was a book before it was a TV show. And the first two Dexter books were very good. The third one, which came out after the first season of the show, seemed almost like Lindsay was desperately trying to make a break between his Dexter and the one on TV, and it didn't quite work. This book was a little better, and a good story - hey, stories about a serial killer with a conscience can't be all bad - but it still didn't live up to the quality of the first two novels. I hate to say it, but with the success of the previous novels and whatever Lindsay is bringing in from the TV show and complementary Dexter stuff (dolls, mugs, whatever else), the writing may be suffering a tad. I am heartened by the fact four was better than three; perhaps the next novel will be back to the same place as the first two. If you like Dexter it's still worth reading. If you haven't read Dexter before, start with the first novel.

The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown - Brown crafts a story that is always thought provoking. The minutiae of one of his thrillers may not be altogether believable, but there is little doubting his history and research, plus his ability to put that research into a mass market story - he does it well. And it's entertaining. At times I thought the characters got bogged down in details that didn't fit the speed Brown has set - I mean, the whole book takes place in a matter of hours, right? - but it makes you think. Did you have any idea noetic science is a real science? Did you know theories about collective thoughts creating real impact on reality is something being researched today? The concept of it is fascinating and if proven could really turn the world on its head. I'm also fascinated by the history of the Masons, and may do further reading of their history at a later date. The book itself was decent - I kept the pages moving - but some of the details that stuck out (and proved to be real upon further research) were the most fascinating parts.

Alex Cross's Trial, by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo - When I first picked this up I expected it would be a story where Alex Cross - Patterson's famed hero of many novels - would somehow find himself on trial. Instead, it's apparently Alex Cross writing a book called Trial. Who knew? The story is very intriguing, set in the deep south during the early 1900s where a white lawyer is sent down there to research lynchings. It's a good read, a painful read, and it's also something that prompted discussion in our house (we do Book Club type readings a lot - get a novel from the library and each read it). However, the Alex Cross part of this story just bugged me. Cross "writes" an intro to the story talking about how it's from his family history, but then at the end it never comes back to Alex. You can guess but never find out how the Crosses in the story are related to him. Honestly, you could drop the whole Alex Cross link and the book would stand on its own much better. Still, a good read. And as always with Patterson, a fast one.

Ford County Stories, by John Grisham - I enjoy Grisham. I think the first one I read is A Time to Kill and I've read just about all of his others, usually thoroughly enjoying them. This collection of short stories I didn't need. By Grisham's own admission these are stories that didn't have enough depth to make them novels and have just been sitting around for years. Apparently Grisham is big enough he can now publish whatever he wants. However, just like with all those albums of 2Pac's that came out after his murder, that doesn't mean they SHOULD be published - there is a reason they never got to the publishing stage in the first place. Perhaps this is too harsh on Grisham, because some of the stories are okay, a couple even decent, but as a whole it seemed like kind of a waste of time. I finished most of the stories with a shrug, thinking, why did I bother? Why did he bother? Then I got a little angry for having been lured into reading. I would recommend passing.

I, Alex Cross, by James Patterson - Again, this was Patterson with Cross - this time as the main character once again - and it was entertaining. I read it in little more than a day and enjoyed the story. However, you have to remember what you are getting into with a Patterson novel. At the time of reading the story is great and flows well, and you enjoy it. However, a few hours later - just like with a movie that doesn't give you all the details - you realize you are left with questions about things that just don't seem to fit. Like, what was the point of those characters watching his house? And why leave the reference with a bad guy knowing something about Cross, when it never comes to any fruition and the character simply disappears? And why create an off-main story distraction for Cross when it never affects his work on the case as a police detective? What's the point? As a young writer (and by young I mean new, not necessarily in age) these are the things you are taught to stay away from because it detracts from the reader's enjoyment of the story. However, apparently when you get to be X amount of successful commercially (like a Patterson, or a Grisham, or someone on that level) you can apparently do whatever the hell you want. And yes, I know all of this about Patterson and read his new books anyway, so I really can't complain about it - just pointing it out as a warning to other readers who may expect more. It's entertaining, fast, and enjoyable - like a Bruce Willis movie. Just don't expect more than that.

Under the Dome, by Stephen King - I'm a sucker for a King novel. He was down for a bit (I call it a post-Dark Tower finale letdown), but his most recent effort is very, very good. And crazy long. Most books that are 1100 pages are obviously overblown, but King does a very good job not bogging a story down. He presents many, many different characters and outlooks on a story, but does it in a way so they don't get all boggled up in your mind. When a new character is introduced King spends enough time with the newbie so the reader gets a strong sense of who this character is - then when he comes back to them 60 pages later the readers isn't flummoxed by wondering who the hell this person was and have to flip back. I hate that. Wifey hates that. You probably hate that too. The premise of the story is a classic "what if" scenario: What if a giant dome suddenly appeared around a small town? And what if that town was run by someone who was completely full of himself and a somewhat religious zealot? And what if there was a giant meth lab? Just what would happen to those people caught under the dome? (I love the way this story came about - throw out a crazy idea and discuss how people would deal with it - I may try this.) It's a Lord of the Flies type play out of the scenario (at least, from what I know of that book - I haven't read it; maybe I should) and while some of it is predictable, much of it is not. Yes, 1100 pages is long and the story can be wacky, but it's also completely believable (you know, given the premise of the dome and the people presented) as to how it could play out. And it's a page-turner. People can accuse King of a lot of things, but you can't ever say his stories are dull or they are poorly constructed. Thumbs up.

I may have missed one or two...I wish the library's website told me the books I had borrowed in the past so I could use that as a reference. If I remember them, I'll just insert them and you'll never know the difference. As for my next book, it's Omnivore's Dilemma...yeah, it's on a different level than these previous ones listed here. As expected, so far it's mildly depressing along with being informative. Good stuff.

Latest Views

Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 - This is the new version, with Denzel Washington and John Travolta. I was entertained, but it wasn't anything special.

Angels & Demons - A nice companion piece to reading The Lost Symbol, the movie was interesting but fell far, far, far short of the original novel. Tom Hanks simply does not work for me as Robert Langdon. That was a casting mistake. Of course, it - and The DaVinci Code - made hundreds of millions, so my opinion probably doesn't matter.

The Ugly Truth - This was entertaining, actually. Thought not a new premise - guy and girl fall for each other while one setting up the other with someone else - it was still amusing. The restaurant business meeting scene will no doubt entertain many.

State of Play - This movie I thought was pretty good. Sort of like All the President's Men, but with more violence. Russell Crowe gave a pretty good performance of a gritty news guy who disdains new media (i.e., blogs and the like), but also proved himself to be nimble and adaptive when the story demanded it. The veteran and the new young blogger falling for each other isn't something I think is believable, but it was entertaining.

Spanglish - For some reason I thought this was going to be funnier, probably just because it had Adam Sandler. Still, it had funny spots and Sandler does a fairly respectable job as a chef while also trying to handling his crazy wife and find common ground with his new help that doesn't speak English. Tea Leoni does a pretty good job playing a crazy upper class suburban housewife - crazy probably doesn't do her justice.

Julie and Julia - As a foodie and someone who blogs - sometimes about food! - I had to see this, right? To be truthful I wasn't all that excited about it, but after seeing I understand why so many loved it. Heck, I loved it, but probably for other reasons. The concept of Julie's blog about cooking through Julia Child's book in a year is pretty fantastic, and I plan on reading her book (and maybe her blog too) when I can. It's that kind of focus in a blog that can really lift it to where it becomes a big, mainstream draw. Mine? Probably not so much. Too scattered. Food, football, beer, stuff that pisses me off - how would you market that? Really, how? If you can tell me I will be very thankful. (!) Anyway, the movie was interesting, and the extras on the Blu Ray were cool too. If you have it, make sure you do the Scrambled Eggs for Daphne recipe - they were pretty damn good.

12/28/2009

I Can't Help It

Believe it or not, I don't go out of my way looking for these things - they just appear. I don't wake up in the morning hoping I can find some readerboard to make fun of and just hope it's on a church. It just happens.

The other day I drove past a church - not my favorite one - with a board that said something like "Jesus Christ is our hope." Now, for some reason, my brain looked at that and ran through the following equation:

    If JC = Hope,

    And JC is no longer living,

    Then Hope is Dead.

Now, I'm 100% positive that's not the meaning this place of worship was trying impart to drivers passing at 50 miles an hour (well, perhaps I should just say 99.9% - you never know), but that's how I read it.

I'm sure they were going for something deeper, using religious teachings to inspire hope through the story of Christ or some such thing, but I couldn't help myself.

Then today on the way to work my favorite church had this little tidbit to pass on: "New Year, New Start."

That's great in a symbolic way, but it's also completely ridiculous if you put any thought into it whatsoever. Sure, I can have a new mindset I suppose, but those bills aren't going to pay themselves.

To be real honest I don't know where all this skepticism of organized religion comes from for me. I wasn't raised in an outright religious household, though both of my parents were. When it comes to matters of a higher power us kids were left to our own devices, presumably with the hope we could continue a somewhat Christian tradition - or perhaps just any sort of religious tradition - on our own.

Apparently that didn't happen.

I won't say I'm an atheist, because to say that is to say I would never believe in a higher power. That would be shutting my mind to a possibility, stating that something is 100% not possible, when I obviously have no way of knowing that. Let's just say I'm strongly agnostic. Show me a miracle and after I research the hell out of it I still can't explain what happened - you know, I don't find the invisible pulley or whatever - maybe then I'll believe.

I am, by nature, full of doubt though.

I will also admit that many religious aspects I find deeply troubling. I'm not a fan of taking something based on faith. I also don't feel a need to have someone - or some dogma - tell me how to live my life; I don't need to read the Bible to know I shouldn't kill people or steal my neighbor's wife (oh lord, the thought of that actually makes me sick...). Right and wrong is something that shouldn't come from a religion, yet in so many aspects religion is used to literally tell people how to live. For me, if it were something I would buy into, it would have to be restricted solely to discussions of faith.

The way religious history is told also drives me insane. A local radio station had 36 hours of Christmas music while we were in the kitchen on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so I think I heard just about every Christmas song that was ever made (probably not - they didn't play anything from the legendary Christmas on Death Row album, so they must have missed others too). Many of those talked about the birth of Christ and what it meant, but the lyrics are simply silly.

One that stands out - and I won't quote this because I can't recall the name of the song or the exact lyrics - claimed when Jesus Christ was born everyone was instantly excited (or something like that). Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't he lead a rough life? And how exactly did everyone know this was the child of God? I mean, it's not like they had Twitter and Facebook, so I'm not entirely sure how the news would travel so quickly. I don't think his birth was exactly a highly anticipated event - I'm going to go with that's a little bit of revisionism on the part of the conquerors, which usually is how it goes.

So what does any of this mean? Probably nothing. I suppose on some level I sound profoundly confused about the whole idea of organized religion, and I guess that's a little true. Likely someone with a religious background might think I'm not whole or missing something, but I really don't think religion is going to fill any kind of need I may not be aware of (The Sugar Cube's Highway to Heaven cupcakes, on the other hand, are the answer to all things in my mind).

Like I said - I'm highly skeptical. Highly. As in very, very, very. Anyone got a miracle I can witness?

12/22/2009

Little Jillian

Wifey and I have a home gym, replete with free weights, treadmill, elliptical machine, and a bench. And very little space to move around in. Still, we like the setup because it means we don't have to go anywhere to work out - the old "I don't want to leave the house" excuse doesn't work when the gym is literally in your house.

Our pets put up with our daily forays into the world of exercise, trying to stay away from the swinging weights and the mom and dad who won't move out of their way (you know, because I've got 100 pounds on my back I'm squatting). Actually, that's not true - they don't care at all, just flopping down in the middle of the only floor space available despite the fact we need to do our crunches.

Still, they pretty much leave us alone to our crazy time. Well, all except little Lilo. It turns out she thorougly enjoys our workouts and apparently was a trainer in a previous life. We've taken to calling her Little Jillian during the workout sessions because she reminds us of The Biggest Loser's Jillian Michaels. How so?

Well, this little ball of fluff - barely six pounds - has a voice capable of shattering glass. And it carries. When she has something to say and she wants you to hear it, you will hear it. You can be sitting in a room downstairs and at one end of the house, she can be upstairs at the other end, she will yowl, and you will jump because is sounds like she yowled in your ear. It's not pleasant.


Time to get your ass in shape!

She brings this voice to the gym and uses it. Constantly. We usually work out in circuits, going back and forth between a couple exercises with the idea being you don't take breaks. If one of us slows down to catch our breath or take a drink, she will literally yell at us. Loudly. It's pretty amazing - like she's taken it upon herself to yell at us like Jillian does on TV, like it's her responsibility for us to get our asses in gear and put in the work.

She also makes us work harder, which is funny. She demands to be held whenever possible, so Wifey and I will do sumo squats or wall sits while holding Little Jillian. If we are on the floor doing crunches, she will sit on our stomachs. If we supposed to be holding a plank position for a minute, she'll walk under us, swishing her tail in our faces. And yes, talking the entire time.


You can lift more than that you candy ass!

I'm not exactly sure who put her in charge, but we've actually taken to this pretty well. Probably part of those furry little ones' plan to take over the world - they already have us under their control. If we pause and she yells, we apologize and get back to work. If you ever have seen the TV show where Jillian yells at the fat people and they bitch and moan about how hard everything is, that's kind of us. We don't bitch as much (then again, we aren't beached mammals training like Kobe Bryant), but the dynamic is similar.

I have no idea why I'm admitting this on the internet, but oh well. I'm here to entertain you.

You know what though? On more than one occasion we have wondered if she ever lived at or near a gym (she was a stray so we don't know her full history). She's not scared of the big weights, she loves the body heat generated by a gym session, and she literally loves being in charge. If I could ask her about that, I would.

You know what.... Here she is now. Lilo! Come here!

Lilo: What?

Me: You know this whole trainer persona you have going on? Where did that come from? Why do you enjoy torturing us so much? Does that come from something in your past, which you never talk about?

Lilo: I don't like to talk about my past. It was violent, scary, and life is better now. Why do you have to ask about that?

Me: You do know I'll get the stories out of you, right? Might be one at a time, but they must be told!

Lilo: Whatever.

Me: Tell me this though - were you ever around a gym before you came here? Is that where Little Jillian came from?

Lilo: I was. It was actually a boxing gym. It wasn't my first home, but I was really hungry being out on my own, and it was raining. Everything in the area was closed up because of the rain, people hiding from the wet. On good days there are usually plenty of doors that are slightly open where I could sneak in and dig around for something to eat, but not this day.

Except for this one door. It was in the back of the building, facing an alley - the door was open to the cold rain, held by a brick. That was plenty of room for me to sneak in and the warmth  coming out of there was enticing. As I snuck through the back area I could hear loud smacks and a lot of grunting punctuating some really fast rock music. Unsure as to what exactly was going on - you wouldn't believe the stuff I've walked in on in the past - I stuck my head around the corner and saw the gym.

The boxing ring was in the middle and two younger men were fighting. They looked tired, like they had been there for awhile, but I couldn't stop watching the game of - you'll love this - cat and mouse they played. Feinting one way, then the other. Blocking, counterpunching, moving light on their feet. I was still hungry though, and through the thick air I picked out a little bit of meat. I followed the smell, keeping to the shadows so no one would notice me. It was also my experience that it's way better to not be noticed for a whole slew of reasons.

I snuck into a side room, a small one you would probably call an office, and found the source of the smell in a brown paper bag in the form of a turkey sandwich. As I sat there munching contededly I didn't hear the person step lightly into the room over the sound of punches and music. Thankfully for me this person - Coach everyone called him - liked cats. He scooped me up, scaring the hell out of me, and started talking to me, pulling out his sandwich and offereing it to me. Apparently I must have looked pretty hungry.

After I ate he brought me out to the gym, showing the boxers what he had found (I let that slide, since technically I found this place - whatever, humans always like to think they're in charge). He set me on a table next to him and proceeded to put the boxers through a rigorous set of ab exercises while I watched. He would push and coerce the guys when they thought they had enough, when they thought they couldn't do anymore. Occasionally he would ask me if I thought Joe or Buck or Ronnie was working hard enough, and I'd offer my thoughts.

Probably to them it just sounded like "Meow!" but I got to where I could pick out the ones who weren't working hard enough.

At the end of the day Coach let me curl up inside a box of handwraps and sleep, probably figuring I needed it. And I probably did.

The next day he brought me more turkey and during the workouts I walked among the boxers, watching them. They were all nice to me - none of those jackasses who like to kick little kitties I saw a lot of on the streets. I would occasionally yell at one of them when I thought they weren't working hard enough, just like Coach, and the boxers were entertained by that.

Well, until Coach figured out what I was doing, and then he'd take the cue when I said something and chastise a boxer for not working hard enough.


I think you can go 5 miles an hour faster

Still, it was good times. I really enjoyed it...

Me: So what happened?

Lilo: What do you mean?

Me: Well, obviously you are here and not there anymore. And I know before we adopted you the hospital was your last stop. It sounds like you had a good thing going, so what happened?

Lilo: I had a few good things going like that, but you're right, something obviously happened otherwise I might still be there. Something always seemed to happen to my good things.

The back door, the one I had snuck in originally, was almost always open. For me it was nice because I could duck out whenever nature called, then come back.

However, one day I was out doing my business when some kids came walking down the alley. They didn't see me because I was in the bushes, but they were acting like your typical punk kids: swearing like sailors, throwing rocks, smoking joints. One of them kicked the brick out of the way, closing the door. Apparently no one in the gym heard it or noticed, at least not very quickly. I would have thought that gym would heat up pretty dang fast without that open door, but I don't know.

Right at that time it started to rain - hard. I had to find myself some cover, so I took off. By the time the rain let up and I came back it was late so the gym was locked up. So I just moved on - I never saw the gym again. I think I was there for about three weeks, but it was one of the most memorable - and positive - stops on my journey.

Me: How sad. I mean, it sounds like you enjoyed that place. Is that why you enjoy it so much at home when we work out? You get to channel your Coach?

Lilo: That's part of it, yeah.

Me: So you know we call you Little Jillian, right? After Jillian Michaels? How do you feel about that?

Lilo: Jillian is awesome, I love it! How many people can get away with yelling at people for weeks at a time and still have them love her? Gordon Ramsay has the yelling down, but no one can stand him.



Jillian yelling on The Biggest Loser


Lilo yelling at the My NW Experience Home Gym

This is something I'm good at, and you in particular are a lazy ass. You need someone to get your ass moving so you can work off that weight.

Me: Um, thanks...I guess. Well, we appreciate it. And now I know why you surprised us with this whole trainer thing.

You probably have some more stories in there, don't you? Shall we do this again?

Lilo: I guess. Just don't ask about the red robes.

Me: Red robes? What the hell are you talking about?

Lilo: See ya!

****

Sorry all, she took off. I'm going to have to ask her about this whole red robes thing at some point...you just shouldn't be allowed to drop nuggets like that into a conversation and then disappear. Catholic cardinals? Some cult? It's just not right.

No water for you! You dissappoint me. Have I taught you nothing?

Hmm....we learned a lot about Lilo today - I bet Jillian would be just as proud to have a mini me as Lilo is to be named after Ms. Michaels. She probably didn't figure it would be a cat, but that's besides the point.

We'll have to do this again - see what other kinds of craziness in this household we can explain.

12/20/2009

Pac-10 Football: 2009 Bowl Preview

Ah yes, Bowl Season in college football! This is when we get to see how teams from different conferences truly stack up against each other.

Last season the Pac-10 was 5-0 in bowls, just another postseason where they beat up on their bowl opponents after being disregarded by voters in the weekly rankings all season long. Will this be another?

Consider, the Pac-10 this season has an interconference record that looks like this:

Oregon - 2-1 (Boise State - L, Purdue - W, Utah - W)
Arizona - 2-1 (Central Michigan - W, Northern Arizona - W, Iowa - L)
Oregon State - 2-1 (Portland State - W, UNLV - W, Cincinnati - L)
Stanford - 2-1 (Wake Forest - L, San Jose State - W, Notre Dame - W)
Cal - 3-0 (Maryland - W, Eastern Washington - W, Minnesota - W)
USC - 3-0 (San Jose State - W, Ohio State - W, Notre Dame - W)
Washington - 1-2 (LSU - L, Idaho - W, Notre Dame - L)
UCLA - 3-0 (San Diego State - W, Tennessee - W, Kansas State - W)
Arizona State - 2-1 (Idaho State - W, Lousiana-Monroe - W, Georgia - L)
Washington State - 1-2 (Hawaii - L, SMU - W, Notre Dame - L)

That gives the conference a 21-9 overall non-conference record - not bad at all. It helps to have four games with Notre Dame across the conference. Here is how it broke down by conference:

BCS Conferences

ACC - 1-1
Big 12 - 1-0
Big East - 0-1
Big Ten - 3-1
SEC - 1-2

Total - 6-5

Non-BCS Conferences

Conference USA - 1-0
Independents - 2-2
Mid-American - 1-0
Mountain West - 3-0
Sun Belt - 1-0
WAC - 3-2

Total -  11-4

Non-FBS - 4-0

Can the Pac-10 make a good showing? I think they will.

Las Vegas Bowl: Oregon State v. BYU - December 22nd, ESPN, 5pm

If you like points you should love the Vegas Bowl this year. Oregon State has one of the more balanced attacks in the nation and can beat a team in the air or on the ground. BYU boasts one of the best passing attacks in the nation and even though the Beavers are a good defense, their secondary is the weakest part (especially with the injury to starter Tim Clark). Will BYU QB Max Hall have time to throw? That's the big question. I don't think BYU can slow down the Beavers at all.

The Pick: Oregon State, 45-24

Poinsettia Bowl: California v. Utah - December 23rd, ESPN, 5pm

Cal is a tough team to read simply because you never know which team will show up. If their defense doesn't hold the Utes to a moderate game - say around 20 points or so - they may not have a chance. Their offense is completely unpredictable - and Utah is a good defense. They have allowed 20 points only three teams - all losses (TCU, San Diego State, Oregon).

The Pick: Utah, 27-20

Emerald Bowl: USC v. Boston College - December 26th, ESPN, 5pm

Will SC even care? I think they will. I think SC is embarrassed and a bit angry. They aren't that great this year, but they are still much better than a middling team from any other conference. BC faced just one ranked team all season long - Virginia Tech - and lost badly. SC should walk all over them. They should, but they won't - they'll do enough to win.

The Pick: USC, 31-23

EagleBank Bowl: UCLA v. Temple - December 29th v. Temple (ESPN, 1:30pm).

Personally I don't believe UCLA deserves to be in a bowl game, but here they are. Temple has been able to run the ball well all season, but they probably haven't faced a defense like the Bruins - except when they visited Penn State, where they were worked handily. UCLA is the most inconsistent offense in the Pac-10 with horrible quarterback play, but they should be good enough to beat Temple. And not finish the season with a bowl berth and a losing record - that would be embarrassing.

The Pick: UCLA, 31-23

Holiday Bowl: Arizona v. Nebraska - December 30th, ESPN, 5pm

Arizona has been high and low for the past few games, but they might see an incredible low in the Holiday Bowl. They have been a decent passing team and a good running team, but they aren't particularly adept at blocking for the pass. Enter Nebraska and Ndamukong Suh - easily the best defensive player this year in college football (he's already won four trophies and been a Heisman finalist!). If I had the top pick in the NFL draft this April, I wouldn't be looking at anyone else. I think Suh will make a mockery of Arizona's blocking schemes and dominate this game - but I don't think Nebraska will score much themselves because the Cats have a very good team defense. I think Arizona hits one or two big plays and that will be the difference.

The Pick: Arizona, 20-13

Sun Bowl: Stanford v. Oklahoma - December 31st, CBS, 11am

The Sooners were a popular top-five pick before the season began, but their season collapsed with the injuries to quarterback Sam Bradford. They have been mediocre across the board, while the Cardinal have the most productive rusher in college football this year (with all due respect to Bama's Heisman winner Mark Ingram - and yes, I do still think Jacquizz Rodgers is the better player) and a decent passing game. The defense is okay, but the Sooner offense isn't good. This game should be moderately entertaining because there will be a decent amount of points.

The Pick: Stanford, 41-30

Rose Bowl: Oregon v. Ohio State - January 1st, ABC, 1:30pm

The spread on this game is only about five points - for Oregon - but that's not nearly enough. The fun thing about this matchup is the pair have a common opponent: USC. Oregon blew them out, Ohio State lost to them at home. There is also much talk being made of how Ohio State quarterback Terrell Pryor had Oregon on his short list before becoming a Buckeye and how he could be in Jeremiah Masoli's place. If he were, he'd likely be happier after this game, because Ohio State will not be able to shut down Oregon's offense at all. Oregon has scored on some of the better defenses in the game, and Ohio State does not face offenses like this in the weak Big Ten. Oregon in a walk.

The Pick: Oregon, 48-24

This would give the Pac-10 a 6-1 bowl record, which is pretty dang good. It would also include two wins over the Big 12, one over the Big Ten, and one over the ACC. I don't have a high opinion of the Big Ten or the ACC when it comes to football, but the Big 12 wins should garner some good press for the conference.

Should you listen to my picks? Well, I am 52-14 on the season picking straight wins or losses (I'm not a gambler, don't pick against the spread - only matters who scores more points). Check back after the first of the year for the bowl recap when we can talk about another smashing success from the Pac-10.

12/15/2009

Some Good, Some Bad

It's been awhile since I threw some little thoughts together, so here's a few things that have been bouncing around.

  • Got some dinner from the Che Cafe food cart a couple weeks ago now. I haven't written about it - like I have with all the others - because frankly I wasn't that impressed. It's not that it was bad, it's just that it wasn't necessarily good either.

    We ordered a sloppy joe special they had going and meat capellini (beef wrapped bacon in marinara and angel hair pasta). The sloppy joe was decent - almost sweet, actually - and it came with a whole potato's worth of fries. The meat in the capellini was decent, but the sauce wasn't anything special.

    The couple who runs the cart was very nice. I'd probably go there again if I was in the area and hungry, but the truth is I'm not in the area that often and I wouldn't say I need to go out of my way for it.
  • On the flip side, we've now been to The Sugar Cube about 35 times now. You think I'm kidding, but I don't think I am. We've tried all the cupcakes Kir has had so far, as well as some fresh apple pie, malted hot chocolate, brownie with olive oil, mocha panna cotta, hot apple cider, and various other things I know I'm forgetting.

    She never disappoints. And I think she never will. In Kir we trust.
  • Why does the mall always have to be so damn hot? Seriously. It's 30 degrees outside, I come in wearing a coat, gloves, and a sweatshirt, yet someone who runs the mall thinks it needs to be 70 degrees. And some idiot thinks Macy's has to be 75. Really? Does it really need to be that hot?

    Especially around Christmas time this is even more annoying, because the collective body heat of all the people ramps it up another 10 degrees. Ten minutes into my little shopping excursion I haven't bought anything but I'm down to my T-shirt and my arms are full of the aforementioned coat, sweater, and gloves. What a joy.

    I propose they lower the temperature to 60. I still might be warm, but I probably won't be sweating. I'm sure the employees would hate that, but at the same time when has any store that is in the mall ever cared about their employees? All they do is cost them money, right? (That was tongue in cheek - don't get angry mall workers.)
  • Speaking of the mall, I always seem to think I need to go there every year to finish off my Christmas shopping, and ever year I prove to myself I'm wrong. It's busy, parking is a mess, they never have anything I want, and what they do have I know I can find cheaper online.

    Thank goodness for the internet, Amazon.com, and holiday free shipping specials from just about every online retailer I like to shop from. Maybe next year I'll learn and just enjoy the thrill of shopping from my desk - and getting better deals than I'll ever find in a brick and mortar store.
  • Batdorf and Bronson, the coffee company I've talked about earlier because of their excellent Dancing Goats blend, did a Holiday blend this year that is very smooth and solid. Some Holiday blends - like Peet's, for example - are too smooth for their own good, but this one has decent flavor to go with good smoothness. It's good for mixing and for having on it's own.

    I know you can find it in Portland at Whole Foods, but haven't seen that brand anywhere else.
  • Why is it joggers feel like they have to run in the street? I mean, we have sidewalks, right? Sure, if there is no sidewalk, fine, but if there is a sidewalk shouldn't there be some kind of obligation to use it?

    I get it - sidewalks aren't as smooth as the street and they have that constant up and down at the entrance to every driveway, but at the same time they exist for a reason: so pedestrians don't get hit by cars.

    I can't count the number of times since the days started getting shorter I've almost hit a stupid jogger because they can't manage to stay out of the street. You know, the street that is for cars?

    This goes for kids too - the street isn't a playground. I'm not saying this to sound like an old man - though sometimes I feel that way - but I'm saying it so you don't die. Thank me later. By getting the hell out of the street.
  • Quick note to bicyclists: Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway west of Scholls Ferry Road is not a good place to ride your bike. There is no bike lane, the speed limit is 35, cars go 45, and the lanes are narrow all the way out to Highway 217.

    Traffic rules clearly state that when no bike lane exists you can use the sidewalk - please do.

    I get the fact some people think bicyclists should be afforded the same rules as cars. That's fine. If you are Lance Armstrong and can go 35 miles an hour and accelerate at least as fast as a Tri-Met bus that's fine. If you can't, please use the sidewalk. You are just backing up traffic.
  • The lovely church I drive by every day on the way to work - that I immortalized forever with their thought process here - seems to have calmed down. After that message there was an innocuous one, followed by multiple weeks of a blank board.

    I was so curious I almost pulled in one day to see if the church had moved or gone out of business. (Can a church even go out of business? I have no idea.) Then, right about the time I'd decided to stop in there, a new message cropped up, just as innocuous as the one before.

    Are they done with the craziness? It's weird...after I posted that earlier note the message was just up for a couple more days before it came down, and since then, no crazy. It's odd, because there was plenty of crazy before.

    I seriously doubt anything I write could influence anyone to do anything, but it's an odd little coincidence. Maybe I should be worried...
Coming soon - more kitty and puppy pics!

12/13/2009

Introducing Our Kids

Everyone loves to show off pictures of their kids, and Wifey and I are no different. Of course, what we call our "kids" most people would just call pets. Whatever. This is as close as we are getting to being parents.

We'd like to think we are good parents. They get to eat when they are hungry, but not too much. The dog gets to go outside and go to the bathroom. The cats get their litterboxes cleaned (although they are messy little ones). You know, all the basic minimum stuff.

And in return they do such cute stuff they fill up our hard drives with .jpgs. Seems like a fair exchange to me. When you throw in "keep us warm when we sit on the couch and watch TV" and "stalk each other like lions on the savannah" into the mix, plus "wake us up in the middle of the night with the most amazing yowls you will ever hear" - wait, scratch that last one - it makes it so much better.

On to the pictures!

First up is our dog, Ruby. We got her from a breeder in Los Angeles. How exactly did that happen? It's a long story, but we found her on the internet. You'll get the full story at a later date.




Ruby is an Akita. Did you know there are different kinds of Akitas? The Japanese ones - the originals - are smaller, docile (used as police dogs in Japan), and have more delicate features. The American ones are bigger and bulkier. Ruby is an Akita mutt - Mom was Japanese and Dad was American. Most American breeders will tell you there is only one kind of Akita, but they would be wrong. Put a Japanese one and an American side by side and the differences are obvious. Here is a link to Ruby's parents - scroll down past all the puppy pictures. Mom is of Japanese stock and on the left; Dad is of American stock and on the right.




This picture just cracks me up every time I see it. It reminds me of a surveillance photo, like it was taken at night across a parking lot right after she bought crack from her dealer. Maybe she just sold nuclear secets to the Russians. Or something like that. Not that she would do that, buying crack. We taught her better than that. I think. And if she sold secrets to the Russians, she better have gotten a lot of money so she can share and I don't have to get up at 5:30 in the morning for work anymore. I won't tell, promise. Perhaps we should give her more exercise.

Next, the cats - all three of them are Bengals. And what are those? The short answer is they are the result of many years of breeding various domestic cats with wild Asian Leopard Cats. The result is basically the coolest cat ever. These guys think they are wild animals, sometimes act like wild animals, and will kick a domestic cat's ass. Well, actually they won't because they are pretty laid back. But they could - that's how cool they are.

First up is Lilo.




Lilo was actually a stray brought to our attention by a co-worker. She had been caught in a yard by a couple dogs and ended up spending some time at the Dove Lewis Animal Hospital before being allowed to go home. As a result whenever someone is collecting money for Dove Lewis we are suckers for it. After all, without them we probably wouldn't have this tiny ball of crazy. And yes, I just used crazy as a noun rather than an adjective. In our house, with this menagerie, crazy is a palpable thing you can see - and most definitely experience.




You might think she looks tiny - and she is - sitting here on top of a dry fountain in the early fall sun. Lilo is about six pounds, which is actually about twice as big as she was when we adopted her. We think she's so small because of all the time on the street, since all the other Bengals we know are monsters - like her adopted brother and sister.

The last two are twins - brother and sister we got from the same breeder - SnoPride in Roseburg, OR - Moochie (boy) and Sera (girl - short for Serendipity).

Here's Moochie.




Mooch is a ham - I have never seen a cat make love to a camera like he does. Trust me - if a human acted this way you'd think he did porn for a living.




He also has the largest claws I have ever seen on a domestic cat. Of course, at 19 pounds and lithe - not overweight at all - the use of the word domestic applied to him is debatable. As you can tell from the picture above he's about as tall as I am - and you think I'm kidding but I'm not. The other thing you need to know about Moochie is he apparently speaks about 75 dialects of cat. Seriously, he makes sounds you have never heard before - and he comes up with new ones all the time. Half the time his sisters look at him with a face that says "What the hell did you just say? That's not any language I know!" That in and of itself is damn funny.

Sera isn't as much of a camera lover, but she has her moments.




You know how some cats think of themselves as royalty and everyone else is just the help? If Sera was human she would literally be the Queen of Sheba (I honestly have no idea if that was a real person, but you get the point). Sera believes all pedestals were made for her queenliness and if she deems your lap worthy of her attentions you damn well better appreciate it.




She also is very, very, very proud of her claws and keeps them sharpened like razor blades. Literally. Those things slice through flesh so fast you don't know you have been cut until a few minutes later when you notice blood all over the place. And then it starts to hurt. Just look at that picture. Ten minutes before the Nikon snapped that tennis ball was brand new.

So why introduce the world to our kids? Well, besides the fact they are just as cute as can be and make us laugh with their crazy on a regular basis, it's setting up some future writing. Trust me, it'll be good. I'm thinking about looking into the souls of these fine animals to see what they can tell us about life. Literally, tell us - that's your hint. Not literally looking into their souls - that would be rude, and probably disgusting.

Does that not make any sense? No? Good, it will keep you interested. And you'll see in the coming weeks what I'm planning.

12/08/2009

Holy Hell It's Cold

It's hard for me to really fathom just how cold it is here in the Portland area right now. I mean, my thermostat currently says 14, but what does that even mean? When you get to a certain point, it's really just "too cold to go outside."

This is amazing to me, especially considering just a few short months ago I was whining about how freakin' hot it was (see the whines here and here).

No more of that whining now. I used to think it being super cold was better than it being oppressively hot because a person can always get warmer by throwing on another layer of clothes or something, but it's very, very hard to cool off.

Scratch that - at 14 minus some bunch of wind chill you really can't warm up.

It's so cold the dog doesn't want to walk out into the grass to use the facilities because the concrete she has to cross hurts her paws. I feel bad for her, but it's not like I really feel like teaching her to use the toilet at he moment. Or ever.

I was watching the news last night and they teased an upcoming story about how to keep your car protected in this extreme cold (and yes, I know extreme is relative - but this isn't Alaska). How about park your damn car in the garage?! It amazes me how many people - who have garages, not everyone does - leave their cars in the driveway or parked on the street. Why? Because they have too much crap filling up the garage! Seriously...you are never going to use it. I know it cost money and you hate to get rid of it because it would be admitting some kind of failure in your own head, but the garage is for parking your car!

Sorry, no sympathy if your car doesn't start because you can't put it in the garage due to too much junk.

I work in a building downtown for my day job. Regular office building, full of cubicles. I'm lucky enough to have a window cube, facing the Willamette River with what really is a spectacular view of Mt. Hood. If this was an apartment, they'd be charging me a pretty penny to wake up to this view every day. Anyway, the building was built in the 70's, I think, and it doesn't heat very well.

Yesterday afternoon I was typing emails with frozen fingers. My fingers literally hurt from the impact on the keys because they were so damn cold. How is that even acceptable? I mean, I can walk into the bathroom - about 20 feet to the interior of the building - and literally be hot.

I guess I could wear gloves, but have you ever tried to type in gloves? Yeah, that ain't happenin'.

And the wind - wow. I could probably handle the cold without the wind, but that East wind chills your bones. I used to think that was just a saying, but after these past few days I see the truth behind it.

I walked around downtown Portland and the Pearl District a bit on Saturday morning while Wifey got her hair did, going to The North Face store, Kenny and Zuke's (cheesecake and pastrami! - not together), and then the opposite direction up to Melt on 21st and Johnson. It was about 28-30 when I started, maybe 33 by the time I was done. I had on layers, four on top and two on bottom, as well as gloves and stocking cap, and I generally managed to stay warm. Walking helped, as did the occasional stop in warm stores, but when I was in full contact with that wind it was amazing how much it literally hurt to take it.

I have this Windstopper jacket from The North Face that kicks a ton of ass - it works, get one - but of course that only covers my torso and arms. The pants I was wearing did an okay job, and my stocking cap kept my head and ears warm enough, but the gloves felt the wind go right through them. Moving kept my fingers warm enough...but my face? Moving a lot doesn't do much for your nose, lips, and eyes when faced with a bitterly frigid east wind that apparently is coming straight from the Arctic Circle.

I wear glasses, and even that didn't help much. My eyeballs were in pain when that wind blew, and my nose was chilled numb in about 1.4 seconds.

I could handle all of that, except for the pain in my eyes. I have never felt anything like that - not skiing or snowboarding, or anywhere else. Of course, then I'm wearing goggles - maybe that's why. Should I have been wearing those around downtown Portland on Saturday? Quite possibly.

The whole point I want to make here is it's cold. The weather people tell me it's the coldest it's been in a long time. This is also the year of the hottest summer on record, when it hit 107 in July.

Seriously, what the hell is going on here?! These are epic temperatures in Portland, and they can't be blamed on something like El Nino or La Nina currents. How many other calendar years had 85 degree swings in the temperature within a few months?

Again, I don't know if this has to do with global warming, but no matter what anyone else tries to claim the temperatures in Portland are getting more extreme. It could be normal, it could be something that has always happened, but it clearly does not happen often and it's not something that can be explained away by 10-year currents like the Spanish girl and boy. This is something bigger.

Maybe we just haven't lived around here - the Portland area - for enough years to see the full cycle. I'd buy that, but there is literally no way to prove it (I suppose advanced scientific research can tell us these things by examining rocks and the like, but to my knowledge that hasn't been done).

Is this a natural cycle, one we just haven't been around for the full circle on? Or is it something more, perhaps being contributed to by man's love of creating greenhouse gases? Or is it literally a one-time aberration? Can we ever really, truly know?

The one thing I do know is it's really f-in cold. And we've got two more months - at least - of this crap to get through before it starts to really warm up. I so need to win the lottery and move to Maui.

12/07/2009

Pac-10 Football: 12/5 Aftermath

Wins: Oregon, Arizona, Washington ... Boise State

Losses: Oregon State, USC, California

Prediction Results: 3-1

Season to Date: 52-14

Thoughts: I'm saving most of my thoughts for below when talking about the bowls - and I already discussed Civil War - but I'm both surprised and not surprised Arizona upset USC in L.A. I'm surprised because that's a game USC should win against a team in Zona that had struggled in recent weeks (at home against Oregon and Arizona State), but at the same time you could just tell that SC really doesn't have their hearts in the game. Maybe they'll have their hearts in a stellar bowl.

As for the Huskies, where they hell has that team been?! Those are the Huskies that upset USC and almost upset LSU (at home) and Notre Dame (on the road). That's the team the rest of the Pac-10 was worried about seeing, but they took the middle part of the season off. These are the Huskies that could be damn good next year - if Jake Locker stays for his senior season. If he doesn't - and if he's a projected first round pick he should go pro - there is a serious question about what the Huskies will have at the quarterback position. Is it a coincidence that in the past two games Locker seemed to look to run just a bit more than the middle of the season? I think not. Note to Coach Steve Sarkisian: You have to let your playmakers do what they do best. Locker is faster than just about every other player in the Pac-10 - let him run.

AP, USA Today, BCS Rankings

Oregon - 7, 7, 7
Oregon State - 16, 20, 18
Stanford - 19, 21, 21
Arizona - 22, 23, 20
California - 31, 33, NR
USC - 33, 27, 24

Boise State - 6, 6, 6

Final Pac-10 Standings (Conference record, Overall)

*Oregon - 8-1, 10-2
*Arizona - 6-3, 8-4
*Oregon State - 6-3, 8-4
*Stanford - 6-3, 8-4
*USC - 5-4, 8-4
*California - 5-4, 8-4
Washington - 4-5, 5-7
*UCLA - 3-6, 6-6
Arizona State - 2-7, 4-8
Washington State - 0-9, 1-11

* Bowl-eligible

The Bowl Schedule

First off, let's look at the how the bowl schedule shook out for the Pac-10 (all times Pacific):

Rose Bowl: Oregon v. Ohio State - January 1st, ABC, 1:30pm
Holiday Bowl: Arizona v. Nebraska - December 30th, ESPN, 5pm
Sun Bowl: Stanford v. Oklahoma - December 31st, CBS, 11am
Emerald Bowl: USC v. Boston College - December 26th, ESPN, 5pm
Las Vegas Bowl: Oregon State v. BYU - December 22nd, ESPN, 5pm
Poinsettia Bowl: California v. Utah, December 23rd, ESPN, 5pm

UCLA could be named to the EagleBank Bowl on December 29th v. Temple (ESPN, 1:30pm). However, it depends on the outcome of the Army-Navy game on December 12th. If Army wins, UCLA will stay home. If Navy wins, UCLA gets the bowl berth.

So what jumps out at you, dear reader? Could it be the fact that although Oregon State was the only other team with a Rose Bowl shot in the last weekend of games, they ended up in the fifth place bowl? Despite the fact all voters in all polls have OSU as the second-best team in the Pac-10, and despite the fact they have the same record as Arizona and Stanford? And despite the fact they beat Stanford?

I have no issues with Arizona in the Holiday Bowl. All three teams had the same record, yet Zona beat them both - it makes sense. I would have had more issues with SC going there had they beaten Zona this past weekend.

And, unfortunately, the bowls aren't obligated to take a team even if that same slotted team went there last year - so the Sun Bowl had the right to not take Oregon State (and after a 3-0 game last year - which was fun to watch, actually - who is surprised they passed?). It's a travesty how this worked out for the Beavers...apparently the Emerald Bowl, for fourth place, can then choose whomever they want. Lame, lame, lame.

This bowl game is so meaningless to the Beavers there was no one around to celebrate it when it was announced yesterday. Sure, they'll go and they'll work hard and play hard and kill BYU, but when you go from the cusp of the Rose Bowl to the Vegas Bowl, it's understandably disheartening.

So, the Rose Bowl has a legitimate tiebreaker system, though no other bowl for the Pac-10 does - they get to make choices based on whomever they want to have if tied teams exist. That, my friends, sucks ass, because it rewards not as good teams who will be big draws - like SC - and hurts teams who could be better - like Oregon State. For fun, let's apply the tiebreaker all the way down and throw out the stupid no-re-peat clause. That's fine if the bowls think they will lose money if a team comes back twice in a row, but it's a penalty to that team and their fans, which I find unacceptable and unfair.

So here's how it should have played out:

Rose Bowl: Oregon v. Ohio State

Oregon won the league outright, can't argue.

Holiday Bowl: Arizona v. Nebraska

The first tie-breaker in a multiple team tie is head-to-head. In the event of a multiple-team tie the first question is did one team beat all the others. In this case Stanford, Oregon State, and Arizona all are tied, and Zona beat Oregon State and Stanford.

Sun Bowl: Oregon State v. Oklahoma

With Zona out of the picture it again reverts to head-to-head, and Oregon State beat Stanford. The Beavers move up two bowl levels.

Emerald Bowl: Stanford v. Boston College

Stanford is the last team in the three-way tie, so the Emerald takes them by default. With Stanford being local, the Emerald would do well.

Las Vegas Bowl: USC v. BYU

SC and Cal are tied, but SC gets this berth by virtue of beating Cal way back when. Vegas would be ecstatic to get the Trojans. By the way, hasn't BYU now been to this bowl something like five straight times?

Poinsettia Bowl: California v. Utah

Either way, Cal finishes sixth.

And UCLA? Sorry, I really don't believe you deserve a bowl game with a 6-6 season. If after the bowl game you could be under .500, how is that a good thing?

It's a shame what the money in the bowl system did to Oregon State. The players deserve better, even if it is a trip to El Paso, Texas.

Oh, and if anyone cares Boise State earned a BCS bid with a matchup with TCU in the Fiesta Bowl (January 4th, 5pm, FOX). That's nice both teams got the bids, but don't we want to see these schools play teams from major conferences to see how they match up? I see this as less compelling than if both teams played someone from the Big 10, Big 12, SEC, or Pac-10. And as for the fact the Big 10 got two BCS bids (Ohio State and Iowa) - that's just a freakin' joke. I hope both schools get tromped.

I'll have a Pac-10 Bowl Preview, with picks, coming as the games get closer.

12/04/2009

Pac-10 Football: 12/5 Games

Now we have a conference champion, but there are still two Pac-10 games to be played and they have serious implications as to the rest of the bowls.

Oregon State and Stanford are currently tied for second in the conference at 6-3. The winner of the Zona-SC game will also be 6-3, and if Cal beats UW they will also be 6-3. If Cal wins, the loser of the Zona SC game will end up in sixth place in the conference, despite a 5-4 conference record and at least seven wins (eight if it's SC).

If Washington beats Cal, they will end up with a better conference record than UCLA, who is bowl eligible because of their three non-conference wins over San Diego State, Tennessee, and Kansas State (combined record - 17-19). If that happens, no way UCLA - a borderline bowl team anyway - deserves a bid. Personally, I don't believe a .500 team should be in a bowl anyway, but it's not my call.

Time - Game - Channel

12:30 - #29 Arizona @ #20 USC - ABC
3:30 - #19 California @ Washington - Fox Sports NW

Noon - New Mexico State @ #6 Boise State - ESPN360.com

(All Rankings are AP.)

I'll Be Watching: Well, both games of course. Ideally the Cal-UW game would be starting at 4 because I'm sure the other game will be more than three hours, but I can live with this. I'm glad my teams are in major conferences where all the games are on regular TV - ESPN360.com is a nice option to have, but if I were a Boise State fan I'd have to watch at least half of their games that way. The ability is nice, but it's not the same as a TV.

Predictions: If the game were in Arizona I'd pick them, even though they have struggled to finish games the past two weeks. They should have polished off Oregon earlier - they let UO back into that game - and they beat ASU on a gift turnover in the final minutes. SC is down, but they'll still probably win. Unfortunately for Oregon State and everyone else, that means they'll finish 6-3 in the conference and the Holiday Bowl won't be able to get the invitation out fast enough (reportedly the Holiday will take the winner of Zona-SC regardless - we shall see). Come Monday I'm going to look at the final standings and apply the Rose Bowl tiebreaker equations to the rest of the standings and see who SHOULD be going to the Holiday Bowl, Sun Bowl, Emerald Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl, and Poinsettia Bowl. SC will go because of money, but I think Oregon State will make the best matchup versus Nebraska (when they lose to Texas this weekend)...Has any team in the nation been more up and down than Cal this year? Right now they are trending upwards, but I think the Huskies still have some fight in them - I'm taking Washington...And, um, Boise State? Yeah, like they lose...

Civil War: The Aftermath

Congratulations to the Oregon Ducks for winning the Civil War and heading off the to Rose Bowl - may they crush the Ohio State Buckeyes with no sympathy.

That was a fantastic game wasn't it? It lived up to the hype in every way possible. The only way it could have been better was if Oregon had been forced to kick a field goal on that final drive at some point, allowing Oregon State to get the ball back with a chance to tie. I was hoping that would happen, just so this game would go longer - it was that good.

This game also had plenty of enduring images...some thoughts:

  • I gained a ton of respect for cornerback Tim Clark of the Beavers last night. He's made some plays and missed some plays in his OSU career, but no one wants to see a player's college career end with an injury - and that was brutal. You know what will stay with me though? After Clark was booted up and placed on the cart to be taken to the locker room, the camera zoomed in on his face. What did I see? It wasn't pain, though it was probably there. What I saw more was disgust and anger, because the injury was taking him off the field and away from his teammates. That's the kind of guy I would want on my side as a player.
  • The Beavers absolutely learned how to contain the spread offense. They filled the gaps well for the most part, it was just a couple key plays here and there that turned the tide. It's probably worth pointing out the Beavers actually scored seven times while Oregon scored only six; having to kick field goals can sometimes come back to bite you.

    And this is exactly why Mike Riley went for it on 4th and 15 down by four late in the fourth despite being well within field goal range. He said after the game he didn't think he'd get the ball back if they kicked - and ended up being right. At the time Wifey and I both said we would have kicked, but I can't even come close to saying Riley made the wrong decision.

    Speaking of good decisions by Riley, going for the TD on fourth down on the opening drive was an awesome, awesome call. This game was for everything they play for, and Riley - and Chip Kelly - left it all on the field.
  • How about the evolution of Sean Canfield as quarterback for the Beavers? Early in the season I was less than thrilled with his ability to stand in and throw in the face of pressure. He was always jumpy, throwing the ball away with the slightest amount of pressure. Last night showed just how far Canfield has come as he stood in and made some very good throws. The defensive pressure eventually got to him in the late third quarter, but Canfield earned himself some NFL money last night - which is something I didn't think I'd be saying two months ago.

    There are still drawbacks, to be sure. Sports Illustrated's Stuart Mandel tweeted that it was odd many of Canfield's third-down throws ended up being just a yard or two short of the first down. As any Beaver could tell him, he's been doing that all season long.
  • Speaking of NFL money, we had a LeGarrette Blount sighting. Raise your hand if you are surprised Blount was finally used in the Civil War? No one? Yeah, me neither. I still honestly think that if it were purely up to Chip Kelly Blount never would have played for Oregon again, but he showed he hasn't lost anything.
  • It's always interesting to listening to the national commentators talk about your local teams, teams they don't see on a regular basis. Apparently Jeremiah Masoli has a Z in his name and the Rodgers brothers are interchangeable, despite the fact they wear different numbers. Also not sure how anyone could get LaMichael James and Blount mixed up - as in who was on the field. They are pretty obviously different. Another time they got Oregon receivers Jeff Maehl and Ed Dickson mixed up. That's a little crazy - Maehl is white, Dickson is black.
  • The saddest part about all of this? Oregon State goes from the cusp of the Rose Bowl likely all the way down to the Las Vegas Bowl, typically for the league's fourth place team. Ouch. In a situation like this the Holiday Bowl should be required to take the loser of a battle where the winner goes to the Rose Bowl.

    In fact, I hate the way the bowls can choose whomever out of tied teams in the standings. There is a tiebreaker process for the Rose Bowl, but not for the others. I'm not a big fan of the no-repeat clauses either, which will keep OSU from the Sun Bowl.

    For OSU to have a chance at the Holiday Bowl, Beaver Nation has to hope Arizona beats USC on Saturday to eliminate the Trojans from Holiday eligibility.
It was a great game, and I hope the nation finally got a chance to appreciate that we really do play some fantastic ball on the West Coast. You can have the SEC and the Big 12 - I'll take Pac-10 football every day of the week. And five times on Saturday.

12/03/2009

Civil War: The Prediction

Game time is now just a tad over three hours away. Here are some final keys to the game.

  • Oregon State needs to get the lead first. If the Ducks shoot out to an early lead it's going to be very hard on them.
  • Contrastly, the Ducks want to score as early as possible - to put the pressure on their rivals.
  • The Beavers also need to play at their own pace. When the Ducks score it's usually in a minute and a half or less - OSU's drives are typically much longer. If the Ducks score the Beavers shouldn't feel like they need to score immediately - take your time, do it right. UO will allow you to score points.
  • Defenders on both sides of the ball need to stick to the game plan - especially Oregon State. The Ducks zone read/spread offense feeds off of defenders getting out of position.
  • One player that hasn't been mentioned in any blog or major news article is going to make a major impact on this game and likely determine the outcome. It happens every year. Who will it be?
It's going to be one hell of a game. To me it really comes down to two things - defense and Autzen Stadium. Can the Beavers tune out the crowd? And can they defend the spread?

This game is going to be close. It will take 40 points to win it. Hopefully it lives up to the hype.

I can see reasons to pick either team...However. I have yet to see Oregon State effectively defend the spread. Because of that...I'm picking Oregon, 42-38. And I'll probably be wrong.

Civil War: The Case for Oregon State

While there are reasons the Ducks can win the Rose Bowl, it's not like the Beavers have no chance. Of course not - they wouldn't be in this position if that were true. Here are some reasons the Beavers can show Vegas and many of the media experts wrong:

  • The Ducks defense isn't very good at all. They don't really stop anyone - they simply hold just enough for the offense to score more. And since the offense is so good, it usually works.

    However, despite how well Stanford did against Oregon they haven't seen a team with the balance of run and pass of Oregon State. The Beavers throw to Jacquizz Rodgers out of the backfield almost as much as they throw to James Rodgers down the field. They also have finally started using Joe Halahuni as a target more - and he's delivered. Tight end has always been a key part of the Beavers pass offense, but early in the year they weren't using him much at all. And they struggled. Coincidence? Hardly. Damola Adeniji is a very underrated receiver - it's unfortunate for the Beavers he's a senior.

    When a bad defense faces an offense with so much balance, it usually loses. It doesn't hurt that not only are they balanced but the Beavers passing game is the league's best, and Jacquizz is still my pick for the best player in the league.
  • Stephen Paea. This defensive tackle has the best first step in the Pac-10. With all due respect to Brian Price from UCLA, no one reads a snap count better and explodes into a backfield faster than Paea - and he's been getting better and better all season.

    The Ducks offense is predicated off very good blocking that opens running lanes for Jeremiah Masoli and LaMichael James, and allowing Masoli to move around to set up for passes. This means they have to hold their blocks or move the defender to where they want them - Paea is so fast he could force them to throw that out the window.

    That means potential drive-killing holding penalties, and it also means the linebackers have to be even more careful of Masoli running - something they should be aware of anyway. Paea is a game-changer.
  • Experience. The Beavers have a lot of players that didn't play last year in the Civil War, but many of the key players for this team were in Corvallis last year and saw their dreams of a Rose Bowl berth blown away. Coaches have talked all week and a half about how they truly feel the team has a better mindset this year, that they are approaching this as a one game thing, rather than thinking about the potential Rose Bowl berth.

    Nothing could be more important in a game like this than focus. That's not saying that the Ducks aren't focused as well, but they don't have the feeling of loss that has haunted them all season long like the Beavers. They truly feel they gave up their shot at a Rose Bowl last year, and this year has been all about redemption. Discounting that would be silly.
  • The Rodgers brothers. Junior James Rodgers is the Pac-10's most effective wide receiver with the most catches and big play ability. He also is a threat to run the ball on his fabled fly sweeps. Add to that he returns kicks and punts with the chance to take it to the house every time he touches the ball and there may not be a greater threat in the league.

    Other than his brother Quizz. With all due respect to James and my Heisman choice, Stanford's Toby Gerhart, Quizz is the best running back in the Pac-10. His ability to switch directions on a dime is mind boggling and while you don't want to throw out comparisons like this for a college sophomore, it's hard not to think Barry Sanders when you see him play. Plus, no running back in the nation is more of a threat in the passing game than Quizz - and he's a pretty decent blocker.

    It would be silly for anyone to think these two won't be handling the ball 60-70% of the time. Or more. Also, neither one played much in last year's Civil War (Quizz was hurt, and James got hurt early), while James was a key piece of the Beavers 2007 Civil War victory. Quizz is excited for this - he said on his Twitter feed that in two years no game has prompted more "good luck" comments on campus as the 12 days leading up to this one.
If you aren't excited yet you don't have a pulse - see a doctor about that. The pick and final thoughts to come later in the day.

Civil War: The Case for Oregon

Here's some reasons why Oregon can win today's Civil War game:

  • It's at home. Autzen stadium is a serious homefield advantage. Of course, OSU won the last game there in 2007, but that's not the point. The Ducks feed off the crowd and in this rivalry game with such high stakes (remember, the loser will end up in the Sun Bowl (UO) or Vegas Bowl (OSU) not the Holiday for some stupid reason ($)) the crowd is going to be insane.

    Let's just hope they stay relatively under control. It's way less than ideal, but the Register-Guard's George Schroeder wrote this for a reason.
  • Jeremiah Masoli and the spread offense. The Beavers were lost for the first 30 minutes of last year's Civil War, and by the time they figured a couple things out the game was essentially over. They have had trouble defending the spread whenever they play a spread team - they had issues beating UNLV early this season. Heck, they had trouble with Jake Locker before this year, when Steve Sarkisian changed the plans for his quarterback so he didn't run as much. Ironically, that made the Huskies easier to prepare for and easier to beat.

    Masoli could be the best active spread offense quarterback in the nation - and yes, I'm including Tim Tebow - when it comes to pure athletic ability. Masoli has better cuts than Tebow and a very strong - albeit inconsistent - arm. He sells his pass and run fakes so well that when he does the opposite the defense is totally at a loss.

    The spread may be a gimmick just as much as the Wildcat (or, in OSU's case, the Wild Beaver), but you can't argue with the results for Oregon. Can OSU defend it now? The truth is they honestly don't know - they hope they can. The key for Oregon will be early scores, because no one thinks the Beavers defense can suddenly shut them down if they get hot early.
  • LaMichael James. The numbers say James and Jacquizz Rodgers are almost dead even, but James is faster (might be the fastest guy on the field). If he breaks into the secondary, can anyone catch him on the Beaver defense?
  • The X-factor: LeGarrette Blount. The bruising running back hasn't played since being re-instated from his suspension for punching a Boise State player after the opening game, but could Chip Kelly be saving him for this? Blount was the best player on the field in last year's Civil War and it's possible the Beavers may not have prepared much for the possibility of him checking into the game.

    While Masoli is a big runner, he isn't Blount. Putting him in the game could be something the Beavers aren't prepared for and give the Ducks a surprise edge.
Next up, the Case for Oregon State, and later, my Civil War pick.

Civil War: The Breakdown

Just in case you hadn't heard, the Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers are kicking off tonight to decide who wins the Pac-10 title and goes to the Rose Bowl to face Ohio State. It's on ESPN at 6pm Pacific. It's kind of a big deal, you may have heard about it. Somewhere.

It's the most anticipated game in Civil War history, and honestly, I don't think there has been another game in my lifetime I anticipated with so much relish. Can you tell I'm stoked?

Now, the problem with games like this is they rarely, rarely live up to the hype. Heck, if you have read this blog or my Twitter posts you'll see how much I've built this game up in my own head. Can the actual game live up to that? Sure, it CAN, but the chances that it will simply aren't that likely. While on some level that's sad because of the hype, it's hard to avoid reality.

This game may not be the greatest game ever like I hope it will be, but I'll be happy if it's tightly contested and well played.

Let's break it down.

The Passing Game

The Beavers lead the Pac-10 in passing offense by a wide margin (272.5 yards a game). In fact, second place (Arizona, 240.2) is closer to eighth place (Arizona State, 215.2) than the first place Beavers, which just shows how dominant they have been and how much Sean Canfield has improved in his senior season. Oregon is ninth (187.5), but part of that is because Jeremiah Masoli has the option to run on just about every play - and he does that well. In fact, many of his rushing yards come on plays other teams would pass on and with Oregon's spread offense are designed to look like pass plays. This puts the defense back on their heels - and OSU has struggled with defending the spread offense for a while.

For receivers the Ducks look most often to Jeff Maehl and tight end Ed Dickson, 10th and 11th in the league in yards. For Oregon State James Rodgers - also a kick and punt returner - is far and away the league's leader in receptions (77 - his brother Quizz is second at 67 out of the backfield, and no one else has more than 57).

Edge: Oregon State

The Running Game

The Ducks, led by Masoli and freshman running back LaMichael James, lead the Pac-10 with 231.4 rush yards a game; Oregon State is sixth at 149.7. While James and OSU's Jacquizz Rodgers are neck and neck in total yards (1313 for Quizz, 1310 for James) and yards per game (though Quizz leads in touchdowns 19-11), it's the running by Masoli that really puts the Ducks in charge here. Oregon State's running game is no slouch, but the focus on the run for Oregon and the balance for Oregon State means the edge is obvious.

Edge: Oregon

The Defense

Oregon is a team that seems to depend on outscoring their opponents. They score almost every possession and then hope they can stop the other team about half the time. I'm guessing this isn't how they are coached, but it's the reality.

Oregon State has a solid all-around defense that has improved as the season went on. Stephen Paea has the fastest first step in the league (seriously, watch him get off the ball).

Both team's have average, at best, secondaries. Considering how many big plays and passes I'm expecting, the secondary that plays better may determine the winner.

Edge: Oregon State

The Intangibles
  • Oregon gets a huge edge for having this game played at Autzen Stadium. There probably isn't a louder, more suffocating stadium in the league.
  • Oregon State gets the edge when it comes to coaching. Mike Riley - outside of Pete Carroll at USC - is now the most successful coach in the league and one of the nicest guys around. And as history shows, his teams get up for big games, and they play better as the season goes on.
  • Oregon may feel they have an advantage because of last year's Civil War results. However, Stephen Paea, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Sean Canfield did not play in that game because of injuries (and Sean may not have played anyway). James Rodgers broke his collarbone early. Injuries are never an excuse for a loss, but they are a reason not to be overconfident next time.
  • The Beavers are in the position of if they beat Oregon they go to the Rose Bowl for the second consecutive year. Last year they didn't show up against Oregon and got run out of their own stadium. That game has served as a reminder these past two weeks they can't look ahead. I believe they will be much more focused this year.
  • Both teams have broken big plays in special teams this year, and both have made mistakes. If the game comes down to special teams play, choosing the winner is a crapshoot.
Edge: Even

Holy hell this looks like a great game on paper. My prediction? Coming later in the day...

11/30/2009

Why Must I Choose?

They say that everyone in the state of Oregon has to make a choice: Oregon or Oregon State? They say you must take a side, that you aren't allowed to remain neutral, that you can't just be happy with whomever wins.

Well, I'm about to make a case for that very thing.

Most people who fall into the neutral category either don't like sports or don't have a close tie to either school (not an alum, don't have a kid who went there, etc.). Obviously I can claim neither of those things, since I am a huge sports fan, am an alum of Oregon, and having had season tickets to Oregon State for nine years.

So why is it I don't feel a strong desire to pick one team over the other? I don't honestly know the answer as I type this, but I think the root of it goes back a long ways.

Neither of my parents went to Oregon or Oregon State, and neither one are sports fanatics. They like the Blazers as much as the next Portlander, but their day hardly revolves around when the game starts or anything like that. Neither of them are really football fans either. Why is this important? So often a person's sports loyalties are formed by their parents at a young age - the point is I didn't have a parent to mold mine, so my sports loyalties were formed later, in my pre-teen and teenage years.

I first started to really get into sports around sixth or seventh grade. I'd listen to Bill Schonely call Blazer games on the radio every night, because at the time only 10-15 games a year were on TV and we didn't have cable. At the time both Oregon and Oregon State weren't very good at football; Oregon was barely mediocre and Oregon State was in the midst of that epic streak of losing seasons. The games were still important to Oregonians, but they didn't make an impression on me. In fact, I didn't really get excited about football until I got to high school, which for a boy who loves sports is a pretty late start. I was all about baseball and basketball, plus I loved tennis.

At this same time I kind of did pick a school: Oregon State. Gary Payton, one of the greatest to every pick up a ball in the NBA and the best player in school history, was leading the Beavers at the time and if memory serves me right they won a Pac-10 title during Gary's years. The Beavers were my first pick of an Oregon college team - a lot of people don't know that. They assume that as an Oregon alum Oregon was always my choice...but there's even more to the story.

As I went through high school and started planning for college, I picked out a couple things I wanted to study: architecture and Japanese. At the time Oregon was winning the Pac-10 in football and going to the Rose Bowl, so I'd be lying if I said that didn't make an impact. (That's right all you who would like to think sports success makes no impact on university applications - they do. No, definitely not for everyone, but a lot for some people.) Oregon has a top notch architecture program and at the time a top-ranked Japanese program (not sure if they still do or not). It seemed like an easy choice.

Well, until I went down there early in my senior year in high school and talked with the admissions people of the architecture schools. It turns out you need actual creative talent outside of drawing plans for houses to be admitted, and art is not something I have ever been able count as a talent. They showed me some of the submission portfolios (I think the ones that failed, I'm not sure) and they were amazing, displaying people's talents in all areas of art. Apparently that's what they wanted.

And me? That set me back to square one.

Studying Japanese was still a priority though. Honestly, the other priority was a school from a major conference, because college football and college basketball were both experiences I wanted. I also wanted to stay relatively close to home, so my choices then became schools in the Pac-10 (sorry Marquette and Tulane, both schools I considered for awhile). Oregon still wasn't in my top three choices for awhile, but Oregon State - being a science-oriented school - wasn't even in the discussion either.

Instead, I was looking at Washington State, Arizona State, and USC. All of them had the major sports and all had decent Japanese programs. At this point I had to start thinking about what else would whittle down the choices. I'm not a huge fan of snow, so the fact Wazzu is in Pullman was a negative. Hey, you have to eliminate schools somehow, right? And no, I didn't visit any of these - perhaps I should have. I eliminated SC due to a combination of location (not the best part of L.A. - and yes, maybe that's a naive decision, but again you have to eliminate schools somehow) and cost. That left Arizona State and Oregon, which had moved up the list by default due to the fact it was the most cost-effective school on the list.

In the end I chose Oregon. I honestly can't recall why I eliminated ASU, but it was probably related to the fact that even though Arizona is only a couple hours away by plane, it still would have cost a lot more than Oregon.

So that's how I ended up an Oregon Duck. It was the cheapest school on my list, it was part of the Pac-10, it had a Japanese program, and I could go home for the weekend (two hours by car) if I really needed or wanted to. Hardly a heartfelt choice, you can see.

But when I got there, I was all Duck. I had three different UO hats, a couple sweatshirts, T-shirts - all the trappings of an Oregon student who wants to represent their school or logo. I attended every college football game at Autzen Stadium in my three years (spent my freshman year at a community college on scholarship - there's that cost factor again) there, save for some very early September non-conference games. I attended just about every single men's basketball home game, save for a poor scheduling choice my junior year that had me in class on Thursday nights (who picked that?!) that forced me to miss epic upsets of UCLA and Arizona. I still remember my first game at ancient McArthur when Oregon hosted 12th ranked Fresno State, coached at the time by the legendary Jerry Tarkanian. Being newbies we got there late and sat in the rafters, where the seats shake when the building gets loud. To be honest, that was thrilling but at the same time scary in a I-think-I-might-die kind of way the way the building shook.

When I graduated I was pure Duck, I'll admit that. However, the bonds to that loyalty were only three years and some change deep.

When I met Wifey she was (and is, and always will be) Oregon State through and through. She jokes (or, at least I think she's joking) she bleeds orange and black - I've never felt I bled green and yellow (if I had to pick anything, it would be Blazers red and black). The first major commitment we made as a couple - besides an apartment - was season tickets to Oregon State football. I felt odd about it at first, being a Duck and all, but the 2000 season for Oregon State was epic good. That was the team that should have been the national champs. They struggled to beat Eastern Washington and then lost to Washington later (a game we actually drove up to Seattle to watch), but by the end of the season that was - and still is - the best football team I have ever seen. And yes Miami, Florida, USC and Florida State, I'm including your great teams as well.

That season, and the seasons that followed, easily trumped anything I saw as an Oregon Duck at Autzen stadium. It also started somewhat of a change for me.

That's hard for me to admit, honestly. I know friends will read this - some of whom are fellow Oregon alums - and question my sanity, question my loyalty. And to be fair, switching allegiances in a rivalry is the most heinous offense for a sports fan, isn't it? It's one thing to go from, say, Oregon to North Carolina as a fan, but Oregon to Oregon State? That's just not acceptable, is it?

I'm not there yet. But let me explain why I know that time is coming.

Wifey made a perfectly logical request during that first season we attended games at Reser Stadium - wear orange and black. The first time I pulled that Beavers T-shirt over my head I felt weird. Very weird. At the same time, what was I going to do - wear Oregon colors? Yeah, right. Maybe if they were playing that would make sense, but I was rooting for Oregon State, so wearing the colors was logical. And I wanted to, eventually. You want to be a fan.

I wore orange and black to that game up in Seattle. Wore the visiting colors as we walked amongst the tailgates and visited the official Washington Husky (which is really a malamute, since huskies are crazy and malamutes are much more laid back around large groups of people). After a very close, hard-fought game I stopped at the bathroom on the way out. Throughout the day I had gotten some ribbing from the Washington faithful, but it was all in good fun, but the guy at the urinal next to me said something that has always stuck with me (which, yes, I know, is extremely weird). After complimenting the Beavers on a great game (like I had anything to do with it) he said, "At least you aren't a Duck."

At the time I laughed to myself, knowing that I was a Duck and wondering what he would say if he knew that. As time has passed I understand this for what it really was...my first tip that Oregon fans aren't very much appreciated around the Pac-10. Be that as it may, I don't really care that much - it's not like I can do anything about it or alter the perception any. It's just interesting.

That first year with Beaver season tickets Civil War was in Corvallis. I decided, like a good Duck, I would wear my Oregon hat and sweatshirt to the game, sitting in our season ticket seats. Understandably Wifey was less than thrilled, but figured it was my own funeral. This was the day Joey Harrington threw five interceptions for the Ducks, the day both teams were ranked in the top 10 (a first for the Civil War). People around us were shocked a Duck had been in their midst all season, but when you explain you graduated from the school, they seem to accept it. Not understand it, but accept it. And they were all good to me - good natured ribbing, but never anything aggressive or violent.

That was the first of five Civil War games I saw in Corvallis - and only once did the Ducks win, in 2008.

Throughout the seasons I've managed to accept the ribbing, even though I'm not always fine with it. Wear the road team's colors into a stadium and that's just part of what you have to accept. The novelty has worn off, though. In 2008 I surprised the whole tailgaiting crew when I showed up wearing neither orange and black nor green and yellow - was Switzerland when it came to color that day.

I realized then - roughly a year ago - that it didn't matter that much to me anymore. It's not that the games didn't matter or the team I was rooting for didn't matter, it's just that I didn't think my heart was truly in rooting for one team over another. I honestly just wanted to see a very good football game. If Oregon won, great. If Oregon State won - and ended up in the Rose Bowl - that would be just as special to witness and savor. Having seen some great, great games in Reser Stadium - upsets of top-ranked USC, multiple times, for instance - I've come to appreciate those moments.

When Oregon ran the Beavers out of the stadium, I took no solace in the fact the school I went to was victorious. It was sad. The fans were sad. It was depressing. I honestly would have been happier had Oregon State won that day, because a chance at the Rose Bowl is an opportunity that doesn't come very often for either school.

My closet now has more OSU logoed items than UO, something that will probably not change. In fact, I've even worn the Oregon State gear out in public, something I never used to do unless it was a day we were driving the two hours to Corvallis for a game.

Now, one year later, here we are again, though the venue is different with this year's game to be played in Eugene. Once again my heart doesn't feel like it's in rooting for Oregon, but neither do I feel comfortable outrightly rooting for the Beavers. Oregon State in the Rose Bowl is a better story, I think, because I've always had a soft spot for the underdog.

But when the game kicks off Thursday night on ESPN, and I'm sitting on the couch with Wifey with popcorn and a beer, I don't know what I'm going to be wearing. I don't think it matters, honestly, because I really just want to see a good game. I want to see my two favorite colleges play an epic game in the most important moment in the schools' shared histories, on national television with millions of people watching.

They say you can't remain neutral when it comes to Civil War, and to a certain extent that's true. However, that's probably right where I am, and it's been a long and complicated road to get here. If one were to look at the trend it could be said I'll be a Beaver fan soon. That very well could be true.

At the same time I will always be an alum of the University of Oregon - that can never change.

Oregon and Oregon State. These are my two favorite college programs. I will cheer for either school. When they play each other, I want simply to be entertained and the game to be good.

Is that riding the fence? Is that unacceptable? Is that sports fan bigamy? Is this the worst choice a sports fan can make? The truth is it's a little bit of all of those things. That's a little hard to admit and to accept, but at the same time I can only ask myself one question.

Is it honest? If the answer to that is yes - and I believe it is in my heart - then the answers to the other questions don't mean a thing.

Cheers to a fantastic 2009 Civil War game - may the best team win.