Tots, Clocks, Bikes, and Air

A few more of my favorite things…

0717141745-00Golden Tater Tots: A family classic. A favorite food of a classic cult character.

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Clocks: Time comes in many forms; also a visual representation of Coldplay’s hit.

0712141910-00 (2)Badass Bikes: Belonging to some big badass bikermen and bikerchicks at a motorcycle rally. Not even close to the size of the Sturgis gathering held every year. Bikers come from miles away to participate in that one. At this particular one, I got near the stage where a cover band was playing and it was LOUD! I thought the whole place was going to blow up or something.  

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Max-Air: A high flying exhilaration ride that turns your world upside down. Just don’t get hit in the head by falling shoes. Reminds me of a pendulum clock, only this one belongs to Death himself. BTW, check out this eight year old on the Gatekeeper, a ride I had high hopes for when I first rode it this year but was kind of let down.

The 365 Project of 2014 continues on facebook

Besides that, I am also getting a business together that focuses on creating videos for special events, as well as offering photo collages, photo books, and possibly in the future a whole line of party supplies. All of this is an if because I don’t know if the business will even get off the ground let alone having one customer approach me. Doesn’t hurt to try.

 

 

 

Something Fishy – July 8

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“Sea life on the Ceiling”

In the doctor’s office, just before a small surgical removable of something on my neck, I looked up and saw this artwork and it instantly had a calming effect on me. Obviously this place is meant for little kids in order to give them a form of entertainment but to anyone this can make a stressful visit seem more enjoyable.

 

View my entire project here.

Now on the second half of the year I have thoughts of why I even consider continuing on with this daunting project day in and day out. It’s when I find something interesting or unusual that immediately puts that thought on the backburner. Every picture is worth a thousand words and that phrase has stayed with me since January.

 

Why My Mall Sucks

I’m not one to visit a shopping mall very often but I know a winner when I see it. The overall experience of walking into a giant super plaza like The Mall of America is magical and unforgettable. Seeing all the people bustling about and all the wonderful stores and side attractions makes you feel like you’re in a wonderland of some sorts; the carousels, bungee jumping, and kiddie trains choo chooing about adds to the eye and ear pleasing scene. I would like to say the same thing about my own mall close to home but that is not the case. The Westwood Mall in my hometown of Jackson, Michigan pales in comparison to other multi store complexes I have been to in other cities around Michigan and in other states. For one reason, it seems like it is so dead there most of the time; no wonder certain stores can’t stay in business. Compared to other shopping malls, I would say Westwood is pretty bland and boring. Kansas’ Great Mall in Olathe had a lot of cool stores to choose from and the entertainment value there was endless. Plus, it had a lively atmosphere that Westwood is lacking right now. Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor is, in my short opinion of malls, probably one of the best in Michigan, you couldn’t possibly walk out of that place disappointed, especially if you drove a ways to get there. The mall in Novi, Michigan has two floors and lots of picture worthy tourist attractions. The food court, another thing Westwood lacks, is amazing and it includes some well-known restaurant brands and others that are more local to the area; this also provides an area to chill, eat, and chat it up with friends and family. Westwood has two floors but the second is for staff only and probably storage as well. Hmm…I wonder what the employees do up there while on their breaks?

This is all you’ve got?

I recently went to the mall in Rockford, Illinois. It was called the Cherryvale and sported two floors, escalators, a glass elevator, and many store outlets that are popular among people today. There also were video screens around the food plaza that showed up to date news on movies and sweepstakes being held throughout the mall. These screens had a recurring section of featured YouTube videos being played, most of them involving cats and goats in trees. The ethnic diversity in Rockford made this mall an interesting place to hang about. I found it neat to order a frozen yogurt from a man that I was sure had roots in India and thought resembled Raj’s dad on The Big Bang Theory from the way he spoke; I was a little intimidated by him. Another neat thing about this Cherryvale was the free samples being given out around the place by employees. They seemed so nice and I tried every one of the samples that I came into contact with, even the little cups of yogurt from Mr. Kootherpali. The Chinese restaurant actually had people of that heritage working behind the counter and giving out samples. A Spanish person spoke Spanish to a cashier who also spoke Spanish and I was like “this is unlike anything I’ve ever seen at home”. That same thing happened at a McDonald’s in Rockford; it was the first time I heard a real conversation all in Spanish, besides in TV and movies.

It is no quick trip through the gigantic plaza of Cherryvale and unlike Westwood or even the Jackson Crossing you feel like the outside is far away and you are in the “belly of a beast”; at Westwood, it is only a short walk before you see the doors again making it seem less intimate and appealing. That’s what I like about malls, feeling like you could never go home because there is always something new to see everywhere you look.

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This shopping mall in Manila, Philippines completely blows the tiny Westwood out of the water.

If Jackson’s old time mall wants to get back in the game it should add some attractions that would bring people in again and rejuvenate the area. Renovate, add something new and exciting that other malls clearly did their homework with when they were being designed. Of course the thing that Westwood has against it is available space, with Walmart hogging up most of the real estate and threatening to grow even bigger in the future. If Westwood could ever become a centerpiece mall again, not being unapologetically shoved to the side, it would make it much more recognizable and viable for business there. Some of the best malls in America are centerpieces and are the first things people see when driving by the particular block of stores. Having lots of available space allows freedom for improvement of aesthetics, scenery, and expansion. All Westwood has managed to do in the last few years is add a tacky sign that people can walk under. The one option that Westwood could entertain doing would be relocating to a more convenient location that isn’t so dominated by the behemoth of Walmart. They could build more and have more anchor stores that would boost business. It would be smart to relocate to a well developed area, of course, but one where it could become a mall of it’s own, not a secondary stop. It’s not really that bad to be a small place but at least try to put some spirit into it and get up to date with the modern world. Putting in an arcade room (with Xbox Kinect systems) wouldn’t hurt. Or perhaps a small movie theater or miniature golf course. Or entertain the thought of putting in a swimming area. Ok, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. But the fact is that there literally isn’t much to do at the old Westwood except it’s main purpose – to shop. And sit on a giant green turtle near the front.

 

Then there were four…

All of the partying and pouring over brackets now long since mangled and tossed in the garbage, or forgotten online, has come down to this. Through all of the smoke,gas, and debris of the war torn battlefield, four teams have emerged in 2014’s edition of the NCAA tournament.

Florida. Connecticut. Wisconsin. Kentucky. A 1,2,7, and 8. Unusual Final Four numbers but nonetheless these teams are heading to Dallas and knocking on the door at a possible chance at a championship – and all four of these schools have storied traditions with winning. By making the Final Four these teams have shredded lingering doubts cast upon them.

Florida did what is was supposed to do against Dayton, pulling the dreamers back down to earth and ending Cinderella’s story. They won by ten and now face a surprising UConn team that has hit their stride at the right point in the season. Still, the Flyers’ journey had it’s benefits. Now the school has gained some exposure which could lead to better recruiting and future appearances in the tournament. They’re still Ohio States’ much smaller brother but maybe now there is something to gain from the two teams playing each other if Dayton’s program is finally getting up to par; reaching the Elite Eight after a 30 year absence has got to send shock waves across the program. But we’ll see. Meanwhile, the Gators haven’t lost a game since December 2 and have won all four of their tourney games by double-digits. Scottie Wilbekin might face trouble against Napier and Boatwright of UConn, though. The last time Connecticut and Florida faced each other, Napier scored 26 points and Wilbekin had more turnovers than assists, the only time that happened to him against a non-SEC team in all of 2013-14.

Connecticut took down the team that a majority of the nation had pegged for the Final Four or possibly winning the championship. Sure, it was more of a home game for UConn at Madison Square Garden but that doesn’t take away the fact that this team has been absolutely on fire. Senior Shabazz Napier has led his Huskies through the tournament, averaging 23.3 points per game, while facing tough competition against Villanova, Iowa State, and Michigan State. And all three of those opponents were handled with expertise. Against Florida, Napier will need some help; the Gators boast the number 1 defense in terms of adjusted efficiency. UConn’s defensive rebounding will also have to improve drastically if they want to get by Florida.

Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison beat Michigan on a three-point shot with a couple of seconds to go to send the Wildcats on an improbable trip to the semifinals. He has also been quite consistent during this tournament, while his brother Andrew has not. A key for Kentucky against Wisconsin is it’s ability to grab offensive rebounds with 552 on the year and an offensive rebound percentage of 42.5, both ranking first in the country. Kentucky has been a frequent visitor to the free throw stripe, 26.3 percent of its points coming from there, highest of the four teams still standing. But only three Wildcats – the Harrison boys and Julius Randle – make even 70 percent at the line.

The Wisconsin Badgers are suddenly a favorite of mine to roar into the championship game and take home the gold. After totally dismantling Baylor I believe this team has peaked at the correct moment. The one thing that will come into play against Kentucky is size. Wisconsin has three players with heights of 6-1, 6-2, and 6-3 while Kentucky counters with the 6-6 Harrison twins. The question will be whether the Badger trio can get to the basket and score the way Michigan’s bigger guards could. Wisconsin picks up 72.8 percent of defensive rebounds that come their way, good for sixteenth in the country while the Bluegrass cats got 17 offensive rebounds in their match against the Wolverines alone. Frank Kaminksy, at 7 feet tall, is a tough player to guard, even by the biggest men. He averaged 22 points on 58.7 percent shooting in his last three tournament games and made easy pie out of Arizona’s frontcourt of Kaleb Tarczerwski and Aaron Gordon. The towering trio of Dakari Johnson, Julius Randle, and Marcus Lee will not be easy to get by in this match up.

All in all, the two games at AT&T Stadium are sure to be action packed and quite competitive. Whoever wins, it’s hats off to them for their amazing season and journey through what’s been called time and time again the greatest tournament in sports. It has been total madness this time around.

My predictions are Florida vs. Kentucky in the championship game, with Florida winning it all, the Gators being the only team still intact in my flat-lined (dead) bracket.

 

‘The Walking Dead': Welcome to Terminus

macbofisbil:

I expected Terminus to be filled with people upon Glenn and co’s arrival. But making it look secluded from the start and having one person welcome them with a look of mystery is what The Walking Dead does best; that chilling reveal of a new character that signifies a major plot advancement, or should I say more of a speeding up from the slow crawl this show likes to take. The lady welcomes them with a barbeque and a glassy, unwavering look in her eyes. Tread lightly.
It is a little bittersweet to see Glenn and Maggie back together. I’ve grown used to the Maglenn relationship throughout the series, watching these characters progress and develop. I’ve not always liked the Maggie character because she seemed a little boring to me and a lot of times had nothing to do but mope about. I started liking her more after Herschel’s tragic exit and her just moving on and facing the truth. It made her more independent and a much stronger character. Now Glenn and Maggie’s love has been solidified after being away for a while and trying to catch up with each other again. In the true Odyssey fashion, I think I can safely say there is a real unbreakable bond between them now, something I had trouble grasping early on. The scene in the dark tunnel was very memorable and fitting for their reunion.
Joe is the kind of leader you need in the post-apocalyptic game. He’s a bit of an asshole but he has control and know how. Sure, he and Daryl didn’t exactly get off on the right foot but sometimes you have to draw the line between making friends and sticking to the business of survival.
I think next week’s finale is going to focus on Rick and Daryl’s group getting to this so called “sanctuary” called Terminus. We’ll probably meet some of the people there and uncover some of the truth behind the place. Much like the Woodbury plot and The Governor from season 3, this is going to set the stage for a new main antagonist, and I think it’s the mysterious lady at the barbeque pit.
After the group split up and left the prison this show took an awesome turn in the right direction.

Originally posted on PopWatch:

[ew_image url="http://img2.timeinc.net/ew/i/2014/03/20/WALKING-DEAD-GLENN.jpg" credit="Gene Page/AMC" align="left"]
Last week’s episode of The Walking Dead hit new levels on the WTF?!? meter as Lizzie stabbed her sister Mika and then Carol put a bullet in Lizzie’s brain. How would the AMC drama follow that up while also setting the table for next week’s season 4 finale? Well, we just found out. [SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead.]

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Chicago, A City Beautiful

Today I visited Chicago

If only for the briefest moment

A glorious day of sightseeing

As grand as I have always known it

One of the busiest spots on Earth

Its global commerce alongside Wall Street

A city that continues to grow

With no sign of defeat

The metropolis by the lake

Where work is never done

Often called the Windy City

Because Chicagoans like to have all the fun

The Great Chicago Fire

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Some say it was O’Leary’s cow

A blazing inferno swept through the streets

Forever a reminder of the then and now

The turmoil did not last long

For out of the ashes came a melodious song

The world’s fair bringing citizens together again

Celebrating Columbus’ successful mission

And America’s first breathes, how zen

Chicagoland

The City in a Garden

Urbs in Horto

The landscape sculpted so beautifully

The parks and ports fit for show

Music and art here is alive and well

From the blues, soul, jazz, and gospel

To the offbeat and unmellow

Classical monuments from the idealist alike

Art crafted so intuitively

It’s like they always knew who was right

 

New York is the Big Apple

Chi-town, the Big Onion

Named for the tear jerking Allium

That is ever so abundant

Exceptional dining is the way

Renowned by many far and wide

Its deep dish pizza, so delicious

Feeding the plenty one slice at a time

With gusts of force, the Hawk swoops down

On those cold chilly mornings

From the waters of Lake Michigan

Neighbors across the shore peacefully snoring

The night Chicago died

Capone and his mob ruled the streets

People thought it was done for

But Chicago got right back on its feet

A ruthless draught forever engulfs the Cubs

While on the South side

The black and white cladden

Always have some bad blood

Jordan and the Bulls

Dominating the hardwood

Knocking down opponents left and right

Paying off as we thought it would

The Blackhawks

Part of the Original Six

Have fared well in their own right

Adding yet another Lord Stanley to their immense mix

 

Chicago is my kind of town

The place I yearn to be

A bustling concrete jungle

That has such rich history

I wish to visit here again someday

To see more of this amazing place

And maybe even get to live here

And revel in its power and grace

Things to do during a NASCAR rain delay

The 2014 Daytona 500 got red flagged for rain so Jack and I got bored and started to present some interesting facts about the race, number one being the starting point.

1. Try to offer a scientific explanation of the commentators left to right positioning on screen:

The main speaker of the broadcast is always on the left, being the traditional rule in TV etiquette (at least here in America). The audience’s eyes seem to focus more on the left side of the screen so the guy who is going to speak the most will obviously be over there, with some exceptions. I know this is the thing in America but in other countries, such as Japan, it might be different. On talk shows, the guest star is on the left because he/she is the star, the one being spotlighted and the viewers eyes are trained on them. In America, we also read left to right, drive on the left side of the car, and on Windows computers have the start button to what Beyonce would say.

In the NASCAR on FOX broadcast, Mike Joy is on the left, serving as the leading voice and orchestrator, Larry in the middle as the fool, the stooge, who only really comes into play when he has expertise on a topic or there is an exciting finish, and Darrell on the end as the blue ribbon, the showcase man, legendary driver, and generally the one Mike passes questions to.

2. View highlights of classic driver fights, from the ‘water cooler’ race of 1979, to The Intimidator saying “that son of a bitch”, to ‘the shove’ of 2006 with Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth, to the Edwards and Keselowski feuds at Talladega. And also a little bit of Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, and Tony Stewart mixed in there.

3. Watch last year’s Daytona 500 with a person who didn’t watch it last year, betting money on who will win, when cautions will come out, etc., and relaying events that had not happened yet and talking about people who were still alive then, maybe watching the race.

4. Entertain self with episodes of “Bob’s Burgers” and “American Dad”.

5. Sing karaoke songs. Any songs related to racing are very welcome.

6. Shoot hoops.

7. Play a game of Twister.

8. Watch the “circus act” on the track as jet dryers and workers try to dry the surface, sometimes using squeegees and boxes of Tide to the tune of “Car Wash”.

9. Figure out that from Neil Armstrong’s name, Neil A spelled backwards is A lien (Alien). So the joke is “did they send him to the moon or did they send him BACK to the moon?”. You could also get “Strong Mr. Alien” out of that. Again, it’s all a conspiracy. NASA didn’t really send anyone to that rock in the sky. It was staged. Neil Armstrong is a geniusly made up name that could have double meanings.

I’m only joking of course. I’m a realist. I don’t believe in conspiracies, hoaxes, and other crap passed around the Internet by people with no life. Paul McCartney is alive and well.

10. Thinking “when are they going to get this damn race started again?” and “They didn’t have to introduce all 43 drivers to us with a cheesy ceremony like that”.

11. Catch up on your favorite TV shows on Netflix (The Walking Dead, everyone!).

12. Reminisce about the first 38 laps of the race, watching it all over again if you have to.

Am I in a Movie?

You never know what you are going to see on any given day. For me, it’s the normalest of days that sometimes get a wrench thrown into the works.

My family and I were in Lansing on the twelfth of February, my sister Emily’s 18th birthday, and heading over to the CSL plasma center to donate for some cash like we’ve been doing for over 2 years now, excluding dad and Emily. Not the best way to earn money but it helps out a lot for us and gets us by since we are so cash-strapped and can’t even afford a new dryer. It was supposed to be a great day for my sister. I mean, this is her last day officially as a kid and will soon be able to do anything she ever dreamed of, except drink yet of course which isn’t a big priority for her anyway.

First, my dad pulled into the Speedway/Sunny Day gas station to, you know, fill er up. It’s usually a stop and go, normal everyday situation. But today I sensed something different. For one thing Dad was slower than usual, and he is pretty slow anyways. He was in the store for quite a while. Finally, he came out of the store with a receipt, crinkled it up, and threw it in the trash. Something I never see him do; he usually keeps every receipt that comes his way. We were making jokes about him about being slow and a putz and other jokes about Charles and Al, two lovable buffoons, who didn’t go to donate today. The commotion broke out as my dad, Bob, was pumping gas. I was in the middle seat, thinking away absent-minded, and heard some shouting behind me. Then I heard a gunshot but was oblivious to the moment, didn’t know exactly what was happening at first and didn’t react immediately. Then a grey SUV backed up into another behind a gas pump and smashed its front bumper up pretty good, pushing in the front end of the car like an accordion. The damaged car turned around and fled, the driver obviously pissed. We thought at first that a riot was going to break out and this was some sort of dispute. But then Emily and my uncle Jack, who saw the action from the backseat, believed it was an undercover cop after they saw a man in a brown coat running after the criminal’s car. The details were murky from my point of view but all the undercover cop did was shoot the guy’s tires. I thought someone got shot and was laying on the ground. It could have ended up much worse. The criminal’s car drove off and jumped over a snow bank. Later on,behind the snow bank, I saw a couple of men chasing the fugitive after he ditched the car which either crashed into something or was cornered by the police. The guy was obviously wanted for something and had been staked out perfectly at the gas station. As we were finally getting the hell out of there another grey SUV pulled into the gas station and seemed to drive over the debris as if the driver didn’t notice it was there. I thought “how stupid can this guy be?”

I guess it’s a good thing we weren’t in the middle of the commotion or dad wasn’t walking towards the store as that SUV backed up into the other one. We should have ducked our heads when that gun went off but I guess we’re not so used to situations like this. It was fairly controlled and the cop knew what he was doing and obviously had some backup to stop the criminal from getting away. Still, though, shooting a gun off in broad daylight in front of innocent bystanders is a bit risky. Jack had this crazy idea afterwards that it was a scene being filmed for a movie and the people at the gas station were extras. It sure seemed like it because I’ve probably been to gas stations a million times and nothing like this ever happens. It was like an action scene from an old Bruce Willis’ flick or an episode of COPS. Either way, it was surreal.

Dad was so slow getting out of there, just taking his merry time with pumping the gas. Mom and Jack were yelling for him to hurry up. And it is funny when my uncle Jack gets nervous because he sounds like a little schoolgirl with his voice getting high. A blue-shirted employee of the Sunny Day convenience store came out and looked around like “What the hell?”

In front of us was a brown car at the pump and a black guy near it with a winter hat and a red plaid, Paul Bunyan-esque shirt on. He was just laughing like what just happened was no big deal. Yeah, I’m sure he’s seen his fair share of eruptions in the cruddy city of Holt-Lansing.

“Just another day in Lansing” I said.

This happened to occur right on Emily’s first day of giving plasma and she started to feel like she wasn’t going to be able to go through with it because her heart rate went up. Jack told her to calm down and that things would be OK.

Heres a schematic I drew up to give you an idea of what the incident looked like.

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and then…

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Another thing like this happened on July 7, 2007. 7/7/7. Supposed to be one of the luckiest days ever but not for an unfortunate driver in Detroit. As we were heading out from Detroit at night from a 14-inning stint with the Red Sox, the Tigers winning by the way on a walk off double, we came upon an intersection on MLK Boulevard. We were about to cross it when a car came zooming by from the left and hit the side of a car coming from the road in front of us, smashing in it’s side door and spinning it around several times. The other car just kept on going through the intersection and never looked back, the driver not stopping and facing up to their reckless, life threatening mistake. This night was another lucky break for us, being in the right place at the right time. Dad called in the accident like a noble Samaritan would.

Afterward, back in 2014, we donated and got our money and left the strange city of Holt-Lansing where there are shoot and runs, people just nonchalantly walking out into the street full of cars, and poor beggars on every corner. As day turned to night, we arrived at Ruby Tuesdays in Okemos to eat dinner. A fine restaurant with a nice salad bar that really upped the meal I got (a slice of hickory bourbon chicken with a side of onion rings). We had a young waitress that looked like in she was in her 20s, blonde and kind of ditzy like a pre-Penny at the Cheesecake Factory. I thought she was kind of cute and I smiled at her and tried to get her attention and it worked quite a bit. Even walked by the section where she and the servers were and walked right around the middle bar and stool section. So silly of me, I thought afterward.

Let the Games Begin!

February is usually a so-so month for me. I get no love on Valentine’s Day, football is over after the Super Bowl, and the usual TV shows are starting up again such as The Amazing Race and Survivor which, don’t get me wrong, is a well orchestrated show, but has become so formulaic and too polished in the last couple of years and Jeff Probst is quite a tool while he is hosting the show. Not to mention the various twists featured year after year that end up going away around the fourth or fifth week. The twist this year called Brains, Beauty, and Brawn looks very intriguing and it’s interesting to see which “high-school clique” will win out in the end. That is until they’re all mixed up into different tribes and it becomes a normal game again. Cochran would be a great candidate for the Brains tribe if he came back. Anyways… the contestants are not really on the island to survive anymore let alone learn how to survive. It’s more about the social game, forming alliances, making game play strategy, not about worrying if there is enough rice for everyone. Too many reward challenges that consist of big banquets of food for the players. Come on, what happened to the days of contestants just begging to get a slice of pizza or having to chase and cook their own chickens? I guess it’s the human rights thing – can’t let anyone starve or start dangerously losing a lot of weight that their hair starts to fall out. Still, the game can at least cut back on the amount of food and other luxuries that these spoiled brats of today get.

The Daytona 500 comes around again and for most people is the only race they’ll tune into all year. After that the season drags on for way too long in my opinion, especially with the summer races that seem to run together. How about cutting down the season to 30 races and starting the final ten races in September? We don’t need another Pocono race and of course people over there would say we don’t need another Michigan, which isn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t help that the drivers get a week off just two or three races into the season, either. That just slows down the momentum and makes the season even longer. I’m hoping for Jimmie Johnson to get his seventh championship this year to tie the two legends Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. Then the whole NASCAR world is going to be in shock and desperation because Jimmie could actually break the record and be crowned the true king of NASCAR with eight championships. What does that do to Petty and Earnhardt’s legacy? Well, they would still be two of the all time greats, iconic images of racing no doubt, but their names would lose a bit of shine and bravado with Jimmie Johnson’s now above theirs. It would be a little embarrassing that they held those championship records for so long, taking many years to amass them and in about 10 short years a racer once just an apprentice and under-winger for Jeff Gordon, had amassed a boatload of victories, two Daytona 500s, and eight championships. All in this screwed up, problematic “play-off” format called the Chase (i.e. letting Jeff Gordon in last year with a 13th spot because of an “unfair racing move” on the track that prevented him from getting in the Chase on his own).

So this February parts of the world have already witnessed a major television event, the Super Bowl, which was a disaster on the field but nonetheless drew in over 115 million viewers, shattering records. Bruno Mars put on an amazing performance that might go down as one of the best halftime shows in recent history. True talent, Bruno Mars has, with dance moves reminiscent of the late Michael Jackson. The NFL has been on a role with getting big name talent for halftime and I expect someone prominent next year to perform. Katy Perry, perhaps? She’s certainly got the fun factor and charisma to entertain for 15 minutes along with an interesting playlist of songs. The nightmare choice would of course be Justin Bieber and if that happens I might as well start packing my bags for the rich iron soil of Mars.

The next big event of 2014 is the Winter Olympics. It started with Greece and now is traveling to the cold tundra of Sochi, Russia by the Black Sea. I am so excited for the Olympics this year, being that I have always been fascinated about the country of Russia and the mysterious veil that always seems to be put over them.

Learning Russian was a choice of mine for a while. I managed to learn the alphabet and did recognize the 33 letters when I saw them being showcased in an artistic form at the beginning of the telecast. But that’s about all I got around to before giving up and trying something more my style, such as taking up photography. Our English language seems so dull and plain compared to the fanciful, romantic languages of various countries. In different parts of the world almost all of the countries names are pronounced or spelled differently than what I’m used too. Even my sister Emily said during the Parade of Nations that our language isn’t beautiful and has no art to it. Now there could be some debate to that but she is right for the most part. In other languages there is inflection and accent to how words are said. In English there aren’t fancy ways of saying the word or rolls and clicks of the tongue that seem like too much added work for an American like me. Words are just pronounced the way they look, except for words like honest of course whose rule is most likely borrowed from Spanish and other dialects of having a silent letter. It must be hard to be a silent letter. It’s like they are just there in the room but no one ever acknowledges their existence. The other letters are like the engine that makes things go and the h, for instance, is the decorative ornament on the hood that completes the car, so to speak, and has no other added purpose than for show.

The opening ceremonies for the Winter Games were simply breathtaking. Excellent choreography, brilliant art and direction, vibrant colors and symbolism that uniquely represented the periods of the Russian timeline. The 1000 years of Russia in 3 minutes was a very nice addition and I praise the animators that put that piece together. Learning more about this historic country intrigues me. Discovery, exploration, imperialism, ballet, buildings, machines, expansion, war, peace, the dark ages, revolution, and evolving technology were all presented during the elaborate 1000 years of Russia ceremony in the stadium. The thousands of performers moved seamlessly together from one act to another, a product of many years of training for this huge moment.

There was one glitch at the start of the ceremony. On the floor five computer animated snowflakes were projected and were supposed to expand to form the five Olympic rings. Four of the rings managed to get into their interlocking forms but the fifth one on the top right stayed in “pre-bloom” and didn’t meet the other rings, making the presentation look odd and disjointed. Right away the announcers criticized and pitied it. It was in fact a buzz on Twitter, like most trivial things are these days. I joked that even though Russia had been preparing for these games for seven years the committee still couldn’t manage to get an Olympic ring to work properly. Just goes to show you we are all human in the end. Interestingly, that fifth ring on the Olympic flag is red, a color that deeply ties into the fabricwork of Russia and the former Soviet Union. Communism, war, industrialism, blood, anger, and of course love.

The President of Russia Vladimir Putin officially opened the games in the native Russian tongue. One of the most iconic powers of the world helping to bring together millions of spectators, athletes, and people across many countries for three weeks of competition, camaraderie, fun, and a chance to show some pride for one’s native homeland. Vladimir Putin is quite a character. Just consult his Wikipedia page. One thing I noticed about the woman Opera singing for the opening of the Games was that part of her dress shoulder was partially down. Showing off some skin to the world, I suppose.

The epic long torch relay ended with figure skater Irina Rodnina and hockey player Vladislav Treiakhe lighting the cauldron together. It was situated outside the stadium in the Olympic meadows. A much more iconic and dramatic lighting of the torch than in recent years. The flame was lit, and a series of flames shot up one at a time and followed their way up to the main apparatus, igniting in its fiery form. Fireworks commenced all over the torch cauldron and the stadium along with The Nutcracker theme playing and a dance number from Swan Lake taking place.

Later on, after the cauldron was lit, there was a second try at the Olympic ring formation. The glitch was fixed and the process went through perfectly. The rings came together, flashed brightly with smoke, and the games of the twenty-second Winter Olympiad were now officially officially open. No, that’s not a typo.

All in all the opening ceremony for the Olympics was a grade A, ten out of ten. That minor glitch did not take away the three hour extravaganza that commenced. It was brilliantly engineered. Now onto the actual sports. I’m mostly interested in the skiing and snowboarding events since they’re fast and I get to see the beautiful Russian landscape with the high rising ice mountains and views of the dark, chilly Black Sea.

P.S. If you read my last post I still cannot yet order my meal in Spanish. I’m working on it, though.