Saturday, February 26, 2011


Come March, the Redmen of St. John's will be going to the Big Dance for the first time in eight years. First year Head Coach Steve Lavin and his seasoned assistants have done a fantastic job with a Senior class that had stalled under Norm Roberts. Just look below at the wins in 2011 over ranked opponents. The team is playing with great momentum and if they can keep this up, a Sweet 16 run is possible. Although we will lose almost the entire team to graduation, the incoming Freshman class is ranked # 3 in the country - we knew Lavin could recruit - but based on Jan and Feb 2011, he (and his assistants) can coach a bit too... great to see a moribund program back on its feet and getting great attention in the media.


It ran for 13 years and 357 episodes and was shown in over 90 countries. Somehow the rather modest house out in Parker, TX (15 miles northeast of Dallas) does not quite capture all the pomp and grandeur portrayed in one of the most popular TV shows of all time.

Only exterior shots were filmed here but for some reason the inside is decorated as if the Ewing's actually lived there. It was a bit hard to wrap our minds around that... Makes sense that most production was in Hollywood - the scalding Dallas summers would have made exterior filming miserable. We visited on a slow day and our tour guide was desperate to not let us go with seeing (and photographing) every closet and cupboard.

Worth a visit, even for the casual fan and rumor is, they plan a new series in 2011 on TNT.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

2-1 to the Arsenal!

Watch this short clip closely for video of my young nephew Tadgh Beirne and then later yours truly. This was filmed before our first visit (and not last, hopefully) to the Emirates to see Arsenal play Barcelona.

We were interviewed by an Arsenal crew before the game but the audio was not included. We did not expect the video to make it onto TV... but there is a 30 minute weekly show called Arsenal 360 shown here in the US on YES (the Yankee baseball channel) and no-one was more surprised than me when I spotted "Tiger".

More importantly, let's not forget that the Gunners won 2-1, with late goals from Van Persie and Arshavin. A very memorable evening in north London with 60,000 fans singing and chanting practically the entire game.

View from the North Bank during the second half. Bendtner and Arshavin had replaced Walcott and Song at this stage. All the goals were scored down our end.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cue Bonanza Theme Music...

Glorious weather here in Texas today, way too nice to be holed up inside so we headed to Benbrook Stables and spent some quality time riding the trails around Benbrook Lake.
In order, the ponies were Chewy, Dude, Blue Eyes, Kringle and Cactus. The riders are of course Hoss, Ma Cartwright, Little Jo, Adam and Hop Sing...

Super Bowl XLV

And so the extravagance and hoopla has come and gone and I am not talking Mubarak here. The hype around the first Super Bowl to be held in North Texas (the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington to be exact) was unreal with seemingly every TV and radio station, bank, 7-11 and pawn shop having countdowns, parties and tie-in's.

Did Jerry really sell his soul when he fired Landry and won those three Super Bowls back in in the early 1990's? Was it a mistake to have a roof on the new stadium, meaning you know who cannot always see His favorite team? Certainly the elements conspired against the big game. The weather the weekends before and after was perfect but during the days leading up Super Bowl Sunday we had a mini ice age and so may things went wrong: parties cancelled, stadium entrances closed (due to ice falling off the roof), temporary seats not complete. The latter was the worst. Imagine shelling out several thousand $s and not being allowed to see the game live. What a fiasco.

I am not sure if it was Jerry's fault or the NFL. Apparently the League takes over all aspects of the stadium in the weeks leading up to the game. We got to see NFL flexibility at work when we stopped by the stadium the week before Super Bowl Sunday and attempted to snap a photo. Some heavy handed NFL security thug was quick to jump in front of the camera and remind us this was against NFL policy. This never happened when Jerry was running the show, although Jerry might have charged for the photo... At least the game itself was great and the right team won.

I met some Packers fans straight out of Wisconsin at a McDonald's the Friday before the game. They did not complain one iota about the weather and I felt bad trying to craft a Chamber of Commerce type answer to their question "What is there to do in Irving"? They did not wait around for an answer... Some lug nut in an SUV was spinning his wheels in the McDonald's parking lot and they all rushed out to help him get traction. I was ready to leave him stuck. Cheese Heads are really nice people.

The weather did not ruin everything. The kids had four days off school due to the ice and got to go sledding when the snow came. The hardest part was finding a hill when all we have is prairie.

And a couple of neighboring kids got to perform that most celebrated of all Texas sports (not football) but would you believe - pond hockey? For about 30 seconds my head was back in Connecticut...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Not Our First Rodeo...

The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo celebrated its 115th year in 2011. That's a lot of ropin' and a-wranglin' and based on the crowds when we went, it might well run for another 115 years. Even though it runs for about three weeks, the place was jammed. There were three rodeo's per day - they need that many just to get all the entrants through the qualifying rounds. This is part of the pro-rodeo circuit: there were over 1,200 contestants and $575,000 in prize money. Some of the entrants had over $600K in annual winnings, but I suspect that money came from the televised PBRA events from Las Vegas, Calgary, etc.

It was great entertainment value and the arena was packed. Some small rodeo's do not have the full complement of events but the FWSS&R had 'em all: bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing, bull riding... and even chuck-wagon racing, which comes as close to Ben Hur style chariot racing as you will see. My favorite is the tie down roping:

I think this guy was done in about 13 seconds, there are video's on Youtube where the times are under 7 seconds. Remarkable horsemanship and roping skills. We seen one contestant who had roped the calf but was having trouble because the horse was not keeping the lariat taut; the cowboy signalled to the horse to back up. The horse obliged, tightening the rope around the calf's leg and thereby subduing him a bit and the cowboy was able to complete the job. We have had fun since running the beagles around the living room and practicing this maneuver.

The next favorite part of the FWSS&R is the actual stock show. Families from all over Texas spend the year getting cattle, pigs, horses, sheep, chickens etc. ready for judging and spend days hanging around the pens getting their animals to look their best. There was more combing and blow-drying going on than backstage at a Broadway show. The Longhorns had already come and gone but there were plenty of Herefords, Brahman's, Jersey, Holstein and so on... We were there in time to see the sheep judging and a couple of sheep being sheared.

The noisiest barn by far was that with the fowl. The roosters were in fine form, take a listen to this chap:

Now magnify that cacophony by about 500. No wonder there are city ordinances about raising chickens. At 6am, this would cause civil war in some neighborhoods.

We had a great old time. Next year we might go on a week day and avoid some of the crowds. It certainly blows the Texas State Fair away. It is more about agriculture and family oriented - the Texas State Fair is basically a giant midway and expensive to boot.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

This Graph Looks Like My Stock Picks!

They say if you do not like the weather in TX, wait a while. Ordinarily, that is not entirely true. Sometimes the weather here goes for weeks without much change, especially in the dog days of July and August. Not so in the past 72 hours. On Sunday, we were in shorts and outside practicing baseball, getting the winter kinks out for the upcoming season. It was a balmy 75. By this afternoon, a frigid cold front had moved in from Canada and the temperature is now 16F and expected to go to 11F tonight, with a windchill that will make it feel like minus 4 F. That represents a 79F swing in a little more than two days - or from 24C to minus 19C for you metric-heads.

The front last night brought some form of wacky precipitation that was neither hail, sleet nor snow. All I know is that left abut an inch of ice on the roads. We had the oak trees out front trimmed on Saturday and I cannot decide if the timing was good or bad. The ice / snow last year wreaked havoc on their limbs. Time will tell...

Our office delayed opening until 10am. Then at 11am, they announced the office would close at noon. I think if I had risked driving in, I would have been upset at going in for a measly two hours. Fortunately, I stayed home and enjoyed the Gunners 2-1 come from behind win over the Toffees.

And one last weather related note (sort of): congrats to the Red Storm (Redmen) of St. John's, who knocked off the # 3 ranked Duke Blue Devils on Sunday. Another huge step in right direction for the Redmen.

Paris Horne (l.) and Justin Brownlee celebrate as St. John's upsets No. 3 Duke at The Garden.

Photo courtesy of Sipkin / News, NY Daily News