Saturday, February 28, 2009

UCLA 72; Berkeley 68

I mentioned it the other day following the Stanford game, but there's a reason I think these two wins were better than the four straight routs that UCLA put together a few weeks ago. That reason is heart. For two straight games, the Bruins showed the courage to come back from a second half deficit and pull out a road victory. I'm not convinced that UCLA will put together another long tournament run, but if they do, look no further than the way they rebounded from a very poor performance against Washington State.

The key today was senior leadership. The three senior starters combined for 46 points. Josh Shipp and Alfred Aboya had 12 each, and Darren Collison finished with 22, including 16 in the second half. He was awesome down the stretch, and his finish in the lane with under a minute to play turned out to be a back breaker. Berkeley, choosing not to foul while trailing by four with under a minute left, decided to let the possession play out. They let the Bruins run 30 seconds off the clock and end up with two points after another typically great Collison drive to the hoop. Collison also finished with six assists and one turnover.

Neither Aboya nor Shipp had terrific shooting games, but they both made big shots at big times. Aboya made another clutch free throw, canning the front end of a one and one that made it a full two possession lead with 1:11 to go. Shipp did most of his damage in the first 35 minutes, but he kept the Bruins in the game up to the point where Collison decided to take over. Nikola Dragovic fought off the effects of illnes to finish with 12 points, while Jrue Holliday poured in eight points. Michael Roll rounded out the scoring for the Bruins with six.

Strange play in the first half, which turned out to be key, when Dragovic drove to the basket for a layup. He was held from behind, and the referees ruled that the foul was intentional. UCLA got the two points, two free throws, and the ball. Dragovic made both field goals, and Michael Roll hit a three pointer from the corner for what turned out to be a seven point play. It turned a five point deficit into a two point lead. Honestly, I think it was the right call. Theo Robertson was not attempting to make a play on the ball. He was beat, and he tried to grab Dragovic to prevent the basket. It wasn't flagrant, but it was clearly intentional. That said, I agree with Bobby Knight and Jay Bilas that the rule is poorly worded. Evey foul at the end of the game is intentional, but not called intentional. How about a rule that penalizes intentional fouls so long as they aren't strategic? There's a strategic aspect to fouls at the end of a game. There's nothing strategic about getting beat and pouting by grabbing your opponent.

This keeps the Bruins' hopes for a shot at a fourth straight Pac 10 title (albeit shared) alive. Wazzu needs to beat Washington, a distinct possibility with as well as the Cougars have been playing. UCLA gets the Oregon schools at home, and they should both be fairly easy victories, but you never really know with this team. But I am encouraged by their courage. This was not an easy trip, especially coming off a bad loss, and they responded to the adversity, walking out of Maples and Haas with two victories. Let's hope it's a sign of things to come.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Another Nice Night on the Hardwood

Illinois, UCLA, and UC Riverside all had more points than their opponents at the final horn.  I like it when that happens.

Illinois over Minnesota

It wasn't pretty when these teams played the first time, and it wasn't pretty tonight.  The teams combined for only 93 points, but Illinois had 52 of them, including the final 10 to avenge their loss in Minneapolis earlier this season.  The win puts them in second in the Big Ten, and you have to think their spot in the field of 65 is pretty secure right now.

The best is still yet to come for the Illini, with a young team, and great classes lined up for the next two seasons, but one of the things that makes this team so interesting is the mix of youth and experience.  They start three sophomores and two seniors, and the sophomores are their top three scorers.  But they wouldn't be where they are right now with the seniors.  Trent Meacham had 13 points, including a big three late in the second half, and Chester Frazier has just been phenomenal this year everywhere but on the offensive end.  He does everything for this team except score, which is fine, because they don't need him to score, and he's just enough of a threat that teams occasionally still have to respect his offense.  Off the bench, Calvin Brock has really had a great season.  He's the best athlete on the team, and while he only had two points tonight, he finished with four steals in fourteen minutes.  

As for the Sophs, Mike Tisdale didn't have a great game, but Mike Davis had another double-double.  This is a kid that was barely recruited, was thisclose to heading to prep school before Bruce Weber swept in and offered him a scholarship, and now he's one of their most important players.  Demetri McCamey is really shooting the ball well from long range, and he showed the ability to get in the paint and cause some trouble.  He just needs to keep his head in the game on every possession.  

Once again, the Illini finished with assists on almost 75% of their field goals.  Their not a team that scores in isolation, nor do they put back a lot of offensive rebounds, so they need to work together to get the ball in the basket.  It's fun to watch (when they score more than 33 points).  I'm astounded that they're as good as they are this year.  But I'm really glad they're back.

UCLA over Stanford

Mercifully, Fox College Sports kind of screwed up and didn't show the first 10 minutes of this game.  When they finally cut over from the Wazzu-ASU game, UCLA had started to make their comeback, and played fairly well the rest of the way, doing just enough to pull off the victory on the road.  

After a rough junior season shooting the ball  (43%; 32% from three), Josh Shipp has been very reliable this year.  He's up to 49% from the field, and 40% from three.  He's had an excellent senior season, and he had a great game tonight, pouring in 24 points on 9/12 shooting, 4/5 from long range.  The other surprising senior has been Alfred Aboya.  He's stayed in games, his numbers are up in every category, and he hit four clutch free throws tonight to salt the game away.  

On the other hand, contrary to what the Illini have seen, the young players have not lived up entirely to expectations.  I don't really mean that as a knock, because expectations were REALLY high.  Probably unfairly high.  I've been impressed with Drew Gordon, and Malcolm Lee plays like a talented freshman, where maybe 3/5 plays are really good, but with a few mistakes mixed in.  The jury is still out on Jerime Anderson.  And honestly, I kind of feel bad for Jrue Holliday.  We were spoiled with Kevin Love's polish last year, and I think we expected great things from Holliday this season.  We've gotten inconsistency, which is really what you should get from a freshman.  But he needs to defend better.  That's where the Bruins are really lacking this season.  I'll say right now that if he's a lottery pick, he should go.  That's a lot of guaranteed money, with a new CBA looming.  But if he does, I suspect that UCLA fans will be a bit disappointed with what they got, and Holliday will be a little disappointed with what he gave.  Then again, we're almost to March, and perceptions can change really quickly when the tournament rolls around.

After a lackluster first ten minutes, the Bruins did something we haven't seen much of this year.  They showed some heart.  They made Stanford play at their tempo in the last ten minutes of the first half, and that got the Bruins back into the game.  The squeaked out a lead in the second half, and they hung on, despite, as usual, some questionable road officiating.  I loved the series of plays I saw from Aboya late in the game when he tipped in a Josh Shipp miss to give the Bruins a seven point lead at one end (gingerly avoiding an over the back call), then calmly stepped out of the way on a Josh Owens dunk.  He realized he wasn't going to stop Owens, he avoided his fifth foul, and he was a critical component of the win down the stretch.  

I still think the team that blitzed the Bay schools, U$C, and Notre Dame is out there, lurking.  We'll just have to see whether that team shows up down the stretch.  Saturday at Berkeley is going to be a big test, and how they respond will tell us a lot about what we can expect the rest of the way.  They should sweep the Oregon schools, so a win Saturday keeps them in the hunt for a share of the conference title.  

UC Riverside over Cal State Fullerton

Yay!  Didn't see it.  But they're 16-10, and over .500 in conference.  I'm proud of my alma mater.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Got: A follow up post

So back in mid July, I wrote this post about a roller trainer that I was pretty well obsessed with for a while. I'd been riding the cheap mag trainer I got at Costco for about five months at that time as part of a diet and exercise regimen. I was a little leery of the price, and I wanted to make sure that indoor training was going to be something I was going to stick with, and not something I'd do for three weeks and quit. After putting nearly 1,000 miles on the old trainer, I seriously started to consider picking up a new trainer.

Well, in December, I finally broke down and shelled out the $800 for the Inside Ride E-Motion Rollers. I have not been disappointed. My pre-purchase research consisted of reading a bunch of reviews. I found one particular site with reader reviews that was very helpful. You know how when you read reviews on Amazon for a really great product, there's always about 5% of the reviewers who like to be contrarian and rate something a 1 out of 5? Well, I could not for the life of me find a negative review of these rollers. The only cons I came across were 1) price, and 2) portability (they don't fold up).

Some background on rollers for those who didn't click the wikipedia link: Bicycle trainers essentially consist of two types. The first are mag, fluid, or wind trainers, all which provide a different resistance mechanism, but are similar in that they lock a wheel in place, basically turning a regular bike into a stationary bike. The second type are rollers. Rollers consist of a frame surrounding three drums. The back wheel sits between two drums, and the front wheel rests on one (see image). A belt connects the front drum to one of the back drums, so when you pedal, the front wheel spins as well. The catch is that there's nothing holding you up except your balance and the forces that hold you up when riding on the road. What makes rollers difficult is the lack of visual cues that you have on the road. You have to retrain your brain to know that you'll stay upright even when things aren't zooming past you.

Inside Ride's E-Motion rollers differ from regular rollers in that they are "free-floating". The drums are attached to a frame that sits within a second frame (see video - note: that is not me). The frames are attached by rubber bands, which allow the frame with the drums to surge back and forth, simulating the feel of riding on the rode, and making them much easier to manage. In addition, they have bumpers in back and front of the back wheel, which keep you from jumping off the drums when pedaling hard, and they have in-line skate wheels that sit horizontal to the ground on either side of the front wheel. These serve to kick you back on to the drum if you drift to the edge. It's very hard to fall off of these rollers once you get the feel for them, which happens quickly. I've only really fallen once, and that was because the Kings were on, and Raitis Ivanans got in a fight, and I drifted a little too far while I was focused on the game.

But there was a dilemma. My old trainer was set to a very low resistance level. I was going for a spin workout, to get the heart pumping and to burn calories, but I wasn't building leg strength or stamina. When the E-Motion rollers showed up, I couldn't pedal for more than about a minute without being totally gassed. Every stroke feels like the third or fourth stroke you take on the road. A lot of resistance with no momentum. I just didn't have the leg strength. I was afraid I'd just dropped 800 bones on a product I wasn't going to be able to use effectively. Fortunately, within a few weeks, I was building leg strength and stamina, and now I can ride a good 30 minutes+, but I'm doing it in a low gear. In a few weeks, I'll be riding that long in larger gears, but for now, I'm getting a better workout than before, and I'm building leg strength, which will really help when golf season comes around. I stop for occasional breaks, not because my legs dictate it, but because I'm still not comfortable toweling off and drinking water while riding (you can't really coast very long).

So I'd add my review to the ones I read before. This is a great product if you like to train indoors. In the winter, that's almost mandatory here, and in the summer, I like the option because I can watch baseball while working out. And the trails around where I live, particularly the Lakeshore trail, gets very, very busy. But these rollers are awesome.

New Song of the Day

Just posted at the appropriately named "Song of the Day" blog, which is really turning into more of a "song of the every couple of weeks or so". It's Neon Beanbag, by Stereolab, and I think I've finally pegged their sound in my own words. But even I couldn't come up with a better description than "Space Age Batchelor Pad Music".

Here's some bonus Stereolab

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


It may be too late to shift things around, but could the Kings just please not play anymore games at home?  Pretty please?  

Last 10 road games: 8-2; 16 /20 points
Last 10 home games: 3-5-2; 8/20 poins

Don't come home, guys.  Seriously.

Money Well Spent

Long time readers know that I don't really "do" political here very often, mostly because I like writing about other stuff, and there are a ton of people who do the political thing much better than I do. But I just read the text of Governor Jindal's response to President Obama's speech, and a few things stood out, both from this paragraph:
But Democratic leaders in Congress rejected this approach. Instead of trusting us to make wise decisions with our own money, they passed the largest government spending bill in history - with a price tag of more than $1 trillion with interest. While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a ‘magnetic levitation’ line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring.’ Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, DC.
First, high speed rail is actually a really good idea. About five years ago, I worked on a project around Des Moines, and drove back and forth once a week for five straight weeks. I did that because flying was kind of a pain. Driving took five hours, door to door. Flying took nearly as long, and I only live a half hour from O'Hare. But I had to leave about two hours before my flight, the flight was around an hour, and it took a half hour to get to the hotel, which was near the city center. A high speed rail line going from Chicago to Des Moines would have actually gotten me there quicker, all things considered, and been a heck of a lot cheaper. I'll freely admit that the car provided other advantages, like being on my own schedule, not needing to rent in Des Moines, and being able to stop in Cedar Rapids to catch the Kernels. But a network that linked Des Moines, Chicago, St. Louis, Springfield, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus, and parts east would be really useful. And I'm not sure why they demagogue Vegas to LA. Maybe the Republicans in congress don't know this, but there are a lot of people in LA. I mean a whole lot. And a lot of them like to go to Vegas. There's a very large segment of the population that a line between those two cities would serve.  

Second, seeing as how governments need cars for all sorts of reasons, and seeing as how most government units tend to buy their cars in fleets from American auto companies, companies who are in a bit of trouble if you haven't heard, that actually seems like a good thing to spend money on. 

Finally, Volcano monitoring? Are they serious? The western United States kinda has a lot of Volcanoes. There's a whole range of them called the Cascades. One of them is pretty close to Seattle, a metro area of about 3.25 million people. Another has been in the news a lot lately, near Anchorage, a metro area of about 275,000 people. That's about three and a half million people potentially in the path of Volcanoes.  This is the result of some quick googling via wikipedia:
Mount Rainier is an ACTIVE[7] stratovolcano
 According to Geoff Clayton, a geologist with RH2, a repeat of the Osceola mudflow would destroy EnumclawKentAuburn, and most or all of Renton.[13] Such a mudflow might also reach down the Duwamish estuary and destroy parts of downtown Seattle, and cause tsunamis in Puget Sound and Lake Washington. According to USGS, about 150,000 people live on top of old lahar deposits of Rainier.[7] Rainier is also capable of producing pyroclastic flows as well as lava.
That seems like kind of a big deal.  A quick back of the envelope calculation tells me that's well over 800 times the number of soldiers we've lost in Iraq, and over 1,000 times the number of people we lost on 9/11. The stimulus bill contains $140 million dollars to monitor and study those volcanoes. Considering we've spent about $600 billion on "Iraq monitoring" a country that hadn't killed any Americans before we invaded, $140 million seems like a small price to pay to monitor volcanoes that potentially threaten 3.5 million people. Honestly, if those are the three most "pork laden" proposals they could find in the bill, it's probably a bill that doesn't contain much pork. 

And what's with the "something called Volcano monitoring" crap? Umm, yeah, that's what it's called. Do these guys go around talking about "something called neurosurgery" or "something called the auto industry". I mean, it's not like it's some sort of Orwellian doublespeak for a project they're trying to keep secret. It's "something called" volcano monitoring because it consists of monitoring volcanoes. It's not to hard to understand.

I can only conclude that Republicans are either really, really stupid, or they think you are really, really stupid.