Taking down Bowser

In college, I spent far too much time playing Nintendo games and not nearly enough studying. One of my earliest obsessions was Super Mario Bros. Eventually I got to world 8-4 and figured out a way to beat Bowser. If memory serves, I did it routinely after a while.

Then 28 years passed.

For Father’s Day 2010, my kids gave me the 25th anniversary edition Super Mario Bros. game set for the Wii. And for six-and-a-half years, my son and I whittled away at it untiul finally, this past weekend, we took down Bowser. And it felt just as exhilirating as it did in my cramped dorm room.

1989 WMU Football Coulda Been

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Apropos of nothing, I found this ticket stub from the Sept. 2 1989 Western Michigan vs. Temple game (WMU won, 31 – 24.) I leaned on College Football Reference for help in finding the score.

In looking at Western’s 5-6 record that season, I noticed the Broncos lost four of those six games each by just a point:

  • 21-20 home loss to Eastern Michigan
  • 14-13 road loss to Central Michigan
  • 19-18 road loss to Toledo
  • 31-30 home loss to Bowling Green

With a little luck, a 3-5 conference record could’ve been 5-3 or, with a lot of luck, 7-1.

Carry on.

30 Years Later, Baseball Card Collection Still Treasured

Shortly before Thanksgiving I was re-reading* Peter Walsh’s book “It’s All Too Much“, a treatise on de-cluttering home, office and life. (*Actually, I was re-listening to it as an audiobook. Nevertheless…) Walsh, who is a regular on Oprah, TLC and other TV shows, made one particular point in this reading that hit home: If something is valuable and cherished, why is it in a box in your garage?
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After hearing this I immediately glanced over at my crudely boxed baseball card collection and thought, “Yep. They deserve better.” And what better time to do this than over the holidays and near the start of a new year?

My New Year’s Top Five

Here are five things I’m working on to start the year:

  1. Going all Gmail. It took me a while to see what all the hubbub was about Gmail but now that I’ve made that transition, all my email is in one spot accessible from any computer. It also helps that I can download into Apple Mail.
  2. Dumping all tedious/useless social networks. Out of sheer curiosity I joined Facebook, Virb, MySpace, Good Reads and Plaxo in 2006. Only Plaxo remains and that’s because it helps me keep my address book in sync. Good Reads was fun, however, but I’m being ruthless with my time this year.
  3. Moving closer to the all-digital office. Last year I wanted to go as paper-free as possible and I did. In years past, I’d go through two cases of paper in a year. In 2006, I had a single ream leftover from the one case I used all year. Good for me. Also, my streamlining email and calendars to iCal, Google Calendar and my Treo. Leaning heavily on the new OmniFocus application.
  4. No more miles-for-magazines. “We get Bon Appétit?” my wife asked. Well, we didn’t until Delta or Continental offered magazines for my few remaining and expiring infrequent flyer miles. Same goes for Travel & Leisure, The Atlantic and Sports Illustrated.
  5. Stopping dumb monthly subscriptions. For starters, I cancelled Audible.com. Stopped my Starbucks card auto-reload and am considering the nixing of NetFlix.

We’ll see how it goes.

 

My Favorite Author Dies

David Halberstam was killed Monday morning in San Francisco and I’m more than a little bummed.

For a fuller obit, read the one from his former paper, The New York Times.

Halberstam was my favorite writer and I suppose he still is. The first book of his that I read was “The Summer of ’49” a wonderfully researched and written tale of an epic battle for the American League title.

The Breaks of the Game” about the 1979 Portland Trail Blazers is another classic.

October 1964“? Terrific

Yes, the man wrote about much more than sport but that was how I was introduced to him.

I did have the pleasure of being in the same room with the man once. It was the fall of 1994 and my wife and I were in a theater in downtown Chicago waiting for the film “Quiz Show” to begin. Before the lights were dimmed I noticed Halberstam sitting across the theater from me.

I knew then that I needed to say something to him and would regret that I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity. But I felt like I’d be bothering him and chose not to do anything.

Today I regret that decision even more.

11:15 a.m. PT Update:

Others weigh in: Peter Gammons on “The greatest journalist of my lifetime.”

Will Carroll in BaseballProsectus.com.

An Inexpensive Trip Down Memory Lane

Browsing the toy aisle at Target today with my two kids I saw a venerable toy — a favorite of my youth — and almost passed it up. The bare-bones Nerf basketball and net, officially named the Nerfoop, sells for a meager $3.49!

How could I pass that up? I didn’t. As I start the design phase of my new office the Nerfoop will play a central role…if not in doing the actual work at least in all brainstorming sessions.

I Lost My iPod

Anyone who’s traveled on an airplane with young children knows what it’s like when that cabin door is open and you are free to get off the aircraft.

It’s a mad dash to gather your belongings, corral the kids and get the hell out of there.

That’s exactly what happened last week when, in my haste to get my curmudgeonly son off the plane, I did a half-hearted once over of the seats, saw no Buzz Lightyear action figures or Dora the Explorer DVDs, and made a break for the exit. When I got home and unpacked my laptop back I realized I left my beloved, 10th wedding anniversary gift 30 gigabyte video iPod on the plane.

Admittedly, I’m a gadget guy but, for many reasons, this was the ultimate gadget in my collection. My wife had it engraved on the back with an anniversary message. It contained a video I produced of our 10 years together in photos. All my digital photos — copies, that is — were on the iPod too.

The worst part of it all was that I was a nanosecond away from not even bringing the iPod on the trip, alas, I did.

Northwest Airlines says no one has found the iPod. I think the more accurate statement is “no one has brought it forward.” Which means someone in Detroit, where the plane was returning to, or Phoenix has wiped my iPod clean and is now listening to whatever music they enjoy.

Such a bummer.

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Getting Real About, and Ready for, NE Valley Wildfire Threat

By Mike McClary
The Arizona Republic

Like many Arizonans, I’m not originally from here. I hail from Michigan and have spent time in Colorado and Texas, places that have distinctive summertime threats.

Whether it’s a tornado, severe thunderstorm or a Houston chemical plant explosion, you eventually learn how to prepare and respond.

When I was living in those other states, I’d see footage on television of raging Arizona wildfires and think “Wow, that’s scary.” Then I’d turn the channel.

I recently said the same thing, but I wasn’t watching TV and couldn’t flip to ESPN. I was standing on my front porch, watching the flames from the “Bart” fire that burned more than 23 square miles of Sonoran desert last month near Bartlett Lake.

While it might have been a mildly interesting news report to someone in, say, Chandler or Tempe, to those of us living in the Rio Verde foothills, the blaze was an unwelcome sneak preview of how vulnerable our area is this time of year.

By all accounts, the conditions today – dry weeds and scrub brush, fueled by heavy winter rains – are more dangerous than usual. It’s the same devilish recipe that cooked up the “Troon” and “Rio” fires in the 1990s. It’s why so many of us in Rio Verde are taking precautions to keep our wildfire threat under control as much as possible.

When we moved to the Rio Verde area three years ago, the first thing we did was gleefully donate our lawnmower, weed trimmer and lawn edger to Goodwill. Twenty-some years of lawn maintenance were enough.

But after the soaking rains of winter, our property began to look more like South Dakota prairie than Arizona desert. And with each passing day, the lush green weeds quickly became an unruly fire hazard surrounding our house, not to mention the other 50-plus homes in our neck of nowhere.

That’s why we – and several neighbors – recently were at the hardware store, picking up new weed trimmers.

Our neighborhood usually is quiet on weekends, not counting the kids on four-wheelers, but lately it has been humming with the sound of weeds being whacked.

It’s a strange feeling, really, doing all this work and merely hoping it pays off. We understand that despite our preparations, we’re still at the mercy of a careless smoker or a random lightning strike.

We only can do so much.

Unfortunately, not everyone is taking the fire threat seriously. That leaves all of us at risk. I heard of one resident who told a neighbor that he moved out here because he can’t stand homeowners associations. He doesn’t want anyone telling him to clear his yard.

Get over it.

Let’s face it. Every day that we go without rain is another day that our area turns into a bigger box of matches.

As Dr. Phil would say, we need to “get real” – or prepare to see our homes engulfed in flames on the evening news.

Mike McClary is a free-lance writer who lives in the Rio Verde area. He can be reached at michael.mcclary@gmail.com. The views expressed are those of the author.