Sunday, October 27, 2013

30 Teams, 30 Haiku: My 2013-14 NBA Preview

Following the unexpected, runaway success of my 2013 NFL Preview, for the first time ever I'm extending my love of haiku to the NBA. With a top-heavy Eastern Conference and the West as wild as ever, I try to break down the upcoming season in 17 kiru. Enjoy!

(NOTE: asterisks note playoff teams)

1. Nets. Young, old united/big bucks might gel into a/dark horse contender.
2. Knicks*. Blue and orange crushed?/Hardly, but a deeper East/makes a tough battle.
3. Raptors. North of the border/sleeping dinos lurk; a hot/start is quite crucial.
4. Celtics. Rondo? Still injured/don't blame Stevens for struggles/as Shamrocks rebuild.
5. 76ers. Very soft offense/despite a decent backcourt/hello, top five pick!

1. Bulls. A healthy Rose blooms/while the D divides and/conquers; be afraid!
2. Pacers*. So close, yet so far/a deeper bench is needed/to turn off the Heat.
3. Pistons*. Monroe and Penguin/hot-shot ballers on paper/must work together.
4. Cavaliers*. Anthony Bennett/left his heart in Bedford Heights/but can Bynum thrive?
5. Bucks. All hail "The Greek Freak"/there's something in the gyros/...if he ever plays.

1. Heat. Targets on their backs/a three-peat won't come easy/...ah, I'm just kidding.
2. Wizards*. The number eight seed/is the final Wall to climb/you might be surprised.
3. Hawks. A middling bunch, true/with Carroll at small forward/same so-so results.
4. Bobcats. Battle for last place/credibility growing/but no playoffs yet.
5. Magic. Fascinating youth/but a lack of direction/produces few wins.

1. Thunder. When Rusty's knee heals/Durant's long quest for a ring/may finally end.
2. Nuggets*. Play by committee/swaggy, but no superstar/clutch or confusion?
3. T-Wolves*. Rubio and Love/upfront? Great, but no depth and/injuries linger.
4. Blazers. Get Fred Armisen/to back up Lopez, and I/might want to watch this.
5. Jazz. Upside is the word/with so many question marks/Favors sings the blues.

1. Clippers. No second fiddle/Staples' other occupant/is ready to win.
2. Warriors*. Spicy Curry for/my dinner with Andre; Bay/Area says "yum!"
3. Lakers. Kobe's got a beef/one last year in Laker gold/another ring? No.
4. Kings. So much potential/yet the pieces don't fit; more/soap opera crap.
5. Suns. Desert of talent/the Phoenix won't rise this year/70 losses?

1. Spurs. Sound fundamentals/and a seamless youth movement/Popo's boys can't lose.
2. Rockets*. D12 aside, they're/weak on the charity stripe/they need a stretch 4.
3. Grizzlies*. Merciless defense/must make up for shaky O/and lack of upgrades.
4. Pelicans. Young birds hatching, but/like old Hornets, they won't sting/just hover around.
5. Mavericks. There's Dirk and... uh, um.../big step backwards in Big D/Shocker! Cuban's pissed.

Rookie of the Year: Victor Oladipo, Magic
Most Improved Player: Andre Drummond, Pistons
NBA MVP: Lebron James, Heat
First Head Coach Fired: Rick Carlisle, Mavericks
2014 NBA Finals: Thunder over Heat in 6

Your thoughts?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Open for Business

Before I could even comment, the government shutdown was over. Seventeen days, billions of dollars lost, and in the end the United States received a three-month Band-Aid on a long-term gash wound. What happened earlier this month was obstructionist politics at its ugliest and misguided, a case example of what our highly partisan system has been reduced to. The Tea Party opposition was bullheaded and foolish --I still can't take them seriously-- yet at the same time I can't see them losing too much ground in 2014.  At the same time, the whole system has to take some blame for the shutdown.

With that said, has the Affordable Care Act --er, "Obamacare"-- been slow to roll out? Yes. Has it been marred by complications, technical errors, and other kinks in the system? Yes. Is it an abject failure? No, and give it time. The government has never nailed modern technology down, no matter what's being rolled out. This is an embarrassment to the Obama Administration, no questioning that, but nothing that can't be rectified.

Other notes:

+ Dad Update: After nearly six weeks out of the house, my father is expected to come home later this week. He can walk 100+ yards now, but the lack of peripheral vision gives him dizzy spells. A day or two ago, my grandmother's former live-in caretaker has been rehired to handle my father, as least for the next six months.

+ About a month ago, my Palm Pre died. I wasn't able to transfer any data (photos, contacts, etc.) before it conked out, so I bought a new phone basically from scratch.  Since the Palm brand ceased to be a year or two ago, I ended up buying a Nokia 822 that runs on Windows. I'm not the most proactive guy when it comes to new technology, but so far I'm really digging my new gadget. The interface is surprisingly easy to use and understand, and its reads wifi signals a lot faster than my old Pre.

+ My World Series pick: Cardinals in 7. Allen Craig's return from the DL was enough to sway me in what should be a very close series.


Monday, October 14, 2013

My Father's New Reality

About three weeks ago, my mother and I were discussing worst-case scenarios. My father had been rushed to the hospital earlier that day with a bad case of bronchitis, the latest in a variety of setbacks. In discussing his hospital visit so far, my mother mentioned that he had rewritten his will earlier in the week, "just in case." We nursed our dinners as we recapped our family's summer in the most sober way possible. I learned that he had updated his will earlier that week; that made perfect sense, but I was still taken aback.

After the tumor was removed, we wondered how long treatment would take. Now it's a question of how long he'll live with the lymphoma.

My father is not dying per se, but a full recovery is looking very unlikely at this point. The tumor removal has made it very difficult for him to read or see a TV screen. His hearing is spotty, but my father relies on a transistor radio for his news and entertainment. The chemo and radiation weakened him, and he can only walk short distances. He fought it at first, but now he wears an adult diaper. The bronchitis somehow snowballed into blood clots in his knees, which landed my father into a senior physical therapy facility. There's still a possibility he'll regain some physical strength but not much else.

As longtime readers of my blog know, my mother has had her own share of medical issues. Between my father's issues and her own, she's running a little ragged. Nearly five years after she put her younger brother is hospice care, she's now watching her husband of 30+ years slowly lose his capacities. She's the runner for not only my incapacitated father, but my grandmother as well. If she suddenly falters, than everything falls on me and/or my sister.

My father is a pack rat, or whatever you would call one notch below a hoarder. My mother has never been afraid to admit her mortification for my father's slovenly ways, so with Dad in physical therapy she's jumped head-first into cleaning out his belongings. Years of old magazines, newspaper clippings, and unpaid bills ("Don't worry," my mother said, "we always sent a check on the second notice") made a stealthy trip to our trashcans and recycle bins. Random things that disappeared over the years have resurfaced at the bottom of his cluttered bedroom.

His car, however was a whole different animal. For financial and practical reasons, we had to sell his 2001 Grand Marquis. It's a big silver boat that steers funky, with a trunk almost filled to the top with his crap. About 70% of the trunk was filled with more newspapers, catalogs, magazines, and declassified INS memos and paperwork. The other 30% was garbage; broken pens, old plastic bags, leftover fast-food napkins from maybe a decade ago. Worse yet, we found expired food; inside this black hole we found two unopened bottles of honey mustard dressing, untampered but still emitting a ghastly odor. I salvaged a scant handful of items; my mother was ready to get rid of everything. When the Grand Marq was finally cleaned and aired out, we sold it to a friend of our cousins.

When my dad finishes PT later this month, the new reality will settle in. The radiation is completed, but a third round of chemo is up in the air. Because my father is still regaining the strength to walk, his hospital bed might occupy our living room; his bedroom is too far away from the rest of our house for his physical convenience (i.e. the bathroom). His daily wardrobe consists of a plaid flannel shirt, pajama bottoms, and non-skid socks. What we'll do with his old room remains to be seen, though his old bed has been taken apart.

I'm sure there's some inspirational thought that will bring this whole missive full circle, but right now I'm just absorbing everything that has transpired over the last four months. My father was an eccentric Garçon before the tumor; his condition now is winsome, almost cringe-inducing. It's been a challenge bringing this up to friends and co-workers, largely because I can't stand that feeling of pity, but also because I don't want to sound self-absorbed. With that said, and for a lack of a better way of ending this post, please keep him in your thoughts.