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Five things in no particular order, e-book edition

First, let me set the scene . . .

When I finished Divergent earlier this month, I was a bit underwhelmed by it, but not so underwhelmed that I wasn’t interested in starting the second book in the Veronica Roth series, Insurgent, immediately after, which put me into something of a conundrum.

1) I wanted to start reading it soon, a factor that eliminated trying to find time to get to a book store.

2) I  didn’t want to pay a lot for it, as is no more than $8 or $9 (which also eliminated a book store purchase).

3) My usual avenue for getting free books (paperbackswap.com) didn’t have this book available.

4) On Amazon, used copies, with tax and shipping, would still come out to more than $10.

Basically, I wanted the book now and cheap.

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5 things in no particular order

1) Dreaming of a White Christmas

I grew up in a tropical climate, so the concept of a white Christmas was totally foreign to me until mom and I moved from Colombia to upstate New York. Snow was, indeed, a wondrous thing to a 9-year-old who had never seen it before. We also discovered, though, that however prettily it settles on the Christmas pines, snow can also be kind of a pain in the ass. For the latest proof see this week’s travel news out of the East Coast. Still, when you don’t have to fear its effects on your holiday itinerary, snow does add a certain charm to the season. Few things compare to burrowing yourself in a warm blanket, Christmas lights flickering, mug of hot chocolate in hand, as winter does its thing outside.

There was no such picture in our house this year. Denver weather, fickle mistress that she is, teased us with a cold spell early this month before temperatures settled into the 40s and 50s over Christmas, showing few signs of fluxuating too drastically before the calendar turns. Not that I’m complaining. I still get chills when I think about the winters hubby and I endured during our adventure in Chicago. There is cold, and then there is winter in the Midwest. Denver winters are much milder in comparison. That can be hard for some who don’t live here to believe since blizzards and bone-chilling temperatures have a reliable tendency to make an appearance when the Broncos are on Monday Night Football or the Rockies are playing October baseball and the rest of the country happens to be looking our way.

So a white Christmas is not exactly rare here, but it’s also never a guarantee. That I’ve come to expect, even wish, for one every year is a product of the very cold places I’ve lived since moving to the United States, but also an inclination that runs contrary to the Christmases of my early childhood in Latin America. I guess at this point in my life, I’ve spent more Christmases in cold weather so warmth feels like a novelty. Of course, when the cold does come around and I’m wrapping myself in several fleece blankets trying to keep my feet from feeling like icicles, I remember that my mind may have come to terms with weather above the Tropic of Cancer but my body still lives at the Equator.
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5 things in no particular order, late edition

Stuff I’ve been meaning to blog about for days, weeks and months, even. Enjoy.

1) A (bath)room with a view, five months late

The number of times I’ve moved in my adult life is almost too absurd to consider. Starting back when I officially stopped living at my mother’s house 15 years ago at age seventeen, I’ve called no less than 13 different residences home. The majority of those moves were only across town, but a couple did take me across the country. In any case, such has been my life and my luck that nomadism is the norm. Earlier this year, hubby and I moved for the second time since our return to Denver from our adventure in Chicago. This time, fate landed us on the doorstep of a colleague who, having been our partner and commiserator in newspaper job loss, was heading out of town for greener employment pastures and needed tenants for his lovely home. We left our tiny condo in the hope that someone might take it off our hands permanently (no such luck, yet) and that we could welcome the end of this tedious recession (anytime now, economy) with a bit more leg room.

The house has many of the wonderful idiosyncrasies of a place that has been lived in for a long time. My favorite is the window in the second-floor shower. It’s small and up high on the wall (I have to stand on my toes to see out) and doesn’t reveal anything that a discreet bather wouldn’t. Still, it allows for a nice view of the tops of neighboring trees and houses and, if you look hard enough before the hot water starts to fog it up, the Rocky Mountains. If I shower in the early afternoon on a clear day, the sun shines on me and the water in such a way that I feel as if I am outside, which takes me back to the days early in my childhood when my cousins and I would bathe in my aunt’s back patio. The light is best at the end of the day, when the warmth of the setting sun soothes as much as the hot water. Serenity is welcome anywhere one can find it.

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5 things in no particular order

5 things, World Cup edition. Lots of links coming your way, so click away and then come back.

1) This one is for us.

The World Cup is now merely days away. I would venture to say even hubby can’t wait for the games to start, if only because he’s probably very tired of hearing me say how excited I am. He’s not interested, and though I made an effort to get into American “football” for his sake, I’m in no hurry to try to convince him to watch the real stuff. I’ve never been interested in convincing any American that soccer in general, and the World Cup in particular, really is great fun to watch. Non-believers — and there’s no other way to describe them — don’t want to be convinced. There have been countless attempts to put the magnificence of this event in terms they can understand. This one is pretty funny if you know American sports (though I would cast Argentina as Duke basketball and France as the Boston Red Sox).

The fact is some Americans take great pride in hating soccer. I don’t have patience or time for that. Those of us who love the sport love it more than enough for the rest of the country and are comforted by the fact that the rest of the world has our backs as far as this argument is concerned. The nice thing is that for this particular Cup, American sports media have bought in. In previous cycles the bulk of the coverage would be spent on trying to draw non-fans to the game, trying to explain the sport’s idiosyncrasies, and introducing top players like flash-in-the-pan Olympians instead of treating them like the world superstars they are. Even the play-callers were once chosen based not on their experience covering soccer, but on their experience covering American sports, in hopes that U.S. fans would recognize the voice, if not the action on the field.

Mercifully, that era is long behind us. Football isn’t merely coming to America. It’s here. All the Cup previews and analyses I’ve seen and read make it clear that the major sports media have figured this out. ESPN and ABC are carrying every game in this World Cup with coverage that respects the game and the fans. They aren’t devoting 300 staffers to Cup coverage for the non-believers. They are doing it for us.

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5 things in no particular order

1) It’s a wonderful time for Oscar! Oscar, Oscar! Who will win?

The nominations are out tomorrow, and though I haven’t had the time to blog about the Oscar race this year, I am as interested as ever. This year we get ten Best Picture nominations, instead of five. Many have complained that this dilutes the pool, but the nominees in this category are to be considered the best movies of the year and many other critical bodies pick top tens every year so why not THE critical body. (And by THE critical body I mean the Academy in that it gets to hand out what is considered Hollywood’s biggest prize, not in that their choices are always critically sound.) I like the idea of expanding the field so that we get a clearer sense of the film landscape over the entire year, not just the last three weeks of December. I’ll try to carve out some time this week to offer my ruminations on the nominations. For now I will only say that Anthony Mackie of The Hurt Locker TOTALLY DESERVES A NOMINATION, Hollywood. Ahem.

2) It’s a wonderful time for Austen! Austen, Austen! Who will marry?

Some mysterious yet benevolent force of the universe landed me on an Entertainment Weekly online post buried in the magazine’s Web site about a PBS Masterpiece mini-series of Jane Austen’s Emma mere hours before it began. It stars England’s most underrated actress Romola Garai as Miss Austen’s most capricious heroine and Jonny Lee Miller as a surprisingly sweet yet still stern Mr. Knightly. For most, Pride and Prejudice’s Mr. Darcy is the Austen hero to end all Austen heroes, but I would pick Mr. Knightly over him any day of the week. He’s not a snob, for one, and is willing to move into to Emma’s home upon their marriage so that she doesn’t have to leave her overly attached, overly protective father. Serious devotion. The miniseries, which ends next week, is a lovely depiction of a book and of characters I have long loved.

(Speaking of Emma, and to be filed under “Things that are awesome,” the In Memoriam montage at the Screen Actors Guild Awards included Brittany Murphy’s timeless “You’re a virgin who can’t drive” line from Clueless, the best Emma adaptation before this one. As good a delivery of memorable dialogue as any, and a great tribute to her short career. May she rest in peace.)

3) It’s a wonderful time for Conan! Conan, Conan! Where will he end up?

A lot of things have made me feel old in the last year or so. The transition from Jay to Conan, back to Jay on the Tonight Show means that John Carson was officially three hosts ago. Yikes! I was too young to have really watched or developed any sort of attachment to Johnny Carson, but he hosted the show late enough into my childhood that I knew who he was even before I truly became aware of pop culture in general. I never really watched Jay Leno, having never really found him all that funny. Conan, however, was supposed to be my Johnny Carson. He was they guy who would be the Tonight Show for my generation. At least until the suits at NBC decided that he wasn’t for a number of stupid reasons that have been explicated and deconstructed to the point I don’t need to bring them up again here. NBC is stupid and so devoid of creativity at this point in its existence that maybe hitting rock bottom without Conan is what the network really need. I hope he lands somewhere that lets him be the kind of guy my kids might remember as the guy who really did late night right.

4) It’s not a wonderful time for Tar Heels basketball so the theme for 5 Things is not going to work all the way through.

UNC basketball is pretty bad this year. NIT bad. This was to be expected, of course, even though the “experts” penciled them into the top five before the season started. Call it the Tyler Hansbrough over-correction. The last time the Heels were in post championship rebuilding mode, these same experts thought the Heels would spend the season in the ACC cellar. Freshman Tyler took care of that, sealing a 2 seed in the tournament with a win over top-ranked Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on JJ Reddick’s senior night. The only win to top it in his career was his final one in Detroit last year. This year’s team was similar on paper, so they were given the very generous benefit of the doubt. It’s been downhill since. It should be no surprise, though. A very young team, no real leaders or go-to playmakers. It’s a low-pressure, post-championship year so I’m not minding it all that much. The bad years make you appreciate the good all the more. Still, it would be nice to have a win over Duke.

5) And I can’t not say something about One Tree Hill.

The fact that this show has been on seven years makes it one of the few constants in my life over a decade that saw a whole lot of change as adulthood hit head on. This last year was tougher than most, and maybe I’ve clung to the show especially hard this season (to the hubby’s eternal dismay) because I find comfort in its relentless sameness. Brooke is still stuck in a love triangle from hell, and Nathan and Haley are still the awkward girl and the popular boy who got together. Both were certainly true in tonight’s episode, a surprisingly effective tribute to the late, great master of angst John Hughes.

When Madonna covered Don McLean’s American Pie when I was in college, a friend of mine who really loved the song said that despite people’s protestations about the new version, he didn’t mind it. He liked the song so much, that he thought any version of it–even one by Madonna in the middle of her I’m British and really a techno geek phase–was good. The kissing over the cake scene from Sixteen Candles is one of the most iconic movie moments of my life as a film lover, and though I’ve seen it parodied and copied numerous times, I always love it. Seeing Nathan and Haley act it out it felt as real and honest and sweet as the original. It harkened back to who the characters were back when One Tree Hill first started while also acknowledging that such characters might not exist had John Hughes not been the first to breath life into them. To convince us that they mattered. May he also rest in peace.

5 things in no particular order

1) Not having a job doesn’t always mean you have nothing to do.

I would argue, even, that one has more to do: look for a job, file for unemployment, do all that stuff you’ve been meaning to do around the house but had been avoiding thanks to the ready-made excuse previously provided by your job. For me, the last two weeks without the paper have been crazier than I anticipated, which is nice in that I’m not just sitting at home playing the Wii in between fits of “what am I going to do with my life” while the cats look at me disaffectedly from their perch by the window. Busy is good. (Even if it means this blog gets neglected — again.)

I am stepping closer to what I think/hope will be my next career. I am helping other print journalists continue to do their work online. And I am moving, not cross-country this time, just across town. A ten minute drive from the shadow of Coors Field to the doorstep of the Mayan Theater. I suppose baseball for movies not a particularly good trade to make in the summer, but we will still get to a few Rockies games. And maybe next year we might have seen some of the Oscar nominees before they are announced. Hubby is busy too. So busy, in fact, his plans for creating an online media empire have limited our quality time even more than our old jobs used to. But we have to be optimistic about the future — how else can we look at this situation and not go crazy? — and optimists, apparently, have a lot to do and a lot of calls to make.

2) Audrey Tautou: the French Penelope Cruz?

I love the movie Amelie. It just makes me happy. That may be an odd way of describing a movie (and very, very, few movies I’ve seen fit that description), but it just works. The heart of the movie, of course, is Audrey Tautou. She was also wonderful in A Very Long Engagement (a lovely, if slightly long, World War I movie), but less so in Da Vinci Code (the not so lovely adaptation of the overwrought and overwritten novel of the same name about evil Catholics who — SPOILER ALERT! — are not actually evil). Her latest role is that of fashion legend Coco Chanel, which is in her native French. (It co-stars a mustachioed Alessandro Nivola! Sweet!)

Like Penelope Cruz, Tautou is a petite European woman with grandly expressive eyes and talent who shines in her mother tongue. Even if you don’t understand, her words, her voice, are moving. But like Cruz, Tautou’s performances falter in English. The translation, the extra layer of foreign-ness derails them. Cruz was able to overcome this with help from Woody Allen, who turned the language barrier, the change in demeanor from one culture to the next, into an asset in Vicki Cristina Barcelona. Could he give Tautou a job next?

3) On a no-good-very-bad feud or be careful what you wish for

First, the Broncos fire Mike Shanahan, which was exciting news in these here parts. The two-time Super Bowl-winning coach had taken a seat of the sofa of mediocrity and showed no signs of getting up. A shake up was necessary, but a few months removed, the Broncos seem to have gotten a little more than they bargained for.

After the hiring of young Josh McDaniels, formerly an offensive coordinator for the mighty New England Patriots, most Denver fans thought the team would be riding two young bucks (McDaniels and promising QB Jay Cutler) to long term success. McDaniels appears to have had other ideas. He quietly (but no quietly enough) inquired about getting former Tom Brady back-up and sudden flavor of the NFL trade talks QB Matt Cassel to follow him West. Cassel did — but stopped at Kansas City. This all got under Cutler’s skin, and understandably so. Why would a coach want to consider replacing who everyone recognizes is the best player on his team. Does McDaniels not think Cutler is worth the time it would take to teach him a new offense?

McDaniels has since tried to make nice with Cutler, who is not having it. Cutler put his Denver mansion on the market (good luck getting it sold, Jay). So have his parents. Sour grapes, much?

To be sure, McDaniels made a mistake in going after Cassel, but Cutler is starting to look like the brat in this situation. He may be a good quarterback. He may even have a stronger arm than John Elway, as he has famously claimed, but Elway is the one with the Super Bowl rings. Cutler, good as he may be, still hasn’t won much of anything. Sports pundits are starting to label him a diva and a whinner (and since even a stopped clock is right twice a day, you can’t help but think that the label might stick in some circles).

I don’t know what will happen. Maybe Cutler cut a secret deal with Shanahan to go wherever the ol’ coach plans to land. Either way, I really wish I didn’t have the jersey of a guy who suddenly doesn’t want to wear it.

4) You don’t know what you got, ’til it’s gone

March Madness is here! The Selection Show is mere hours away, and I wanted to reflect on a coach I’ll be rooting for in the tournament (until such time as he faces the Heels, of course). The coach is Tubby Smith, formerly of Kentucky and currently of Minnesota. Though his Golden Gophers are “on the bubble,” as they say, it’s more than likely that they are heading toward a birth in the Big Dance. The same cannot be said for his old team. Kentucky didn’t exactly fire Smith — you can’t fire a coach that has won you a national championship and made you a mainstay in the NCAA tournament for a decade — but they asked him in their best Southern drawl, to please get the hell out so we can get someone who will take us to the Final Four more times than you. Smith obliged and Minnesota was only too happy to welcome him.

Kentucky is one of those “storied” programs, the winningest in college basketball (though UNC could pass them if they win it all this year — fingers crossed!), so any fool would take an offer from them. That’s what Billy Gillespie of Texas A&M did after the Billy the Wildcats really wanted (Donovan of Florida, a former Kentucky assistant and two-time national champion) turned them down. To say that Gillespie has struggled is an understatement. He has recruited some good players, but his teams have underperformed, leading to a handful of embarrassing losses (Gardner-Webb, VMI, to name two) and a recent letter from the once proud program stating the Wildcats will, in fact, accept an offer to play in the lowly post-season NIT. Suddenly, Tubby is not looking so bad. And he beat Louisville this year.

I’m certain Kentucky will be back. UNC played an 8-20 season not so long ago, and here they are trying to win their second title in five years. But UNC had to drop kick a coach (Matt Doherty) prematurely (three years) and open their wallets wide (really wide) to get the next one (Roy Williams) in order to return to glory. When Kentucky bid Tubby a not so fond adieu, I had a feeling it would take them more than one try to get to where they wanted to go. Donovan is still a possibility — as long as Kentucky is willing to match the millions that Florida will throw at him to stay — but whoever the next heir to the throne of Rupp turns out to be, one thing is for sure: his name is not Gillespie.

5) There’s something about Idol

I’ve never watched full episode of American Idol, but I’ve (rather reluctantly) become a fan of a few of its participants over the years. There’s no denying that the people who make it on the show have talent, more talent, I would say, than some of the people who’ve managed to get significant face time on MTV over the years (Ashlee Simpson comes to mind). The show is obviously orchestrated to manufacture a non-offensive, not particularly creative, easy on the eyes and ears winner, and not all winners make it out of the box Idol puts them in. But Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, at least, have hung around in the pop culture consciousness long enough for me to know who they are and even download a song or two.

And yesterday, I saw a video of David Archuleta singing the Selena song “Como La Flor” on the fly in a concert in San Antonio (her home), and I have to say I was endeared. I loved that song and now find myself hoping he records it. I don’t even think he was the Idol winner, but he sounds a little like an English-speaking Luis Miguel and he has a nice smile.

5 things in no particular order

1) Life in limbo city

I’ve been neglecting this here blog recently. Last week, my excuse was that I worked all week, but this week has been much slower in that regard, so I should have been posting up a storm. Certainly, there is no shortage of topics: Michael Phels smokes pot, Alex Rodriguez was/is a juicer, hubby and I finally made it to some Oscar nominated movies that are begging to be reviewed and North Carolina’s class of 2009 just completed a perfect 4-0 run on the soon-to-be-renamed Danny G Court at Hansbrough Indoor Stadium, or HIS. Perfect acronym, don’t you think?

Nevertheless, it’s a hard time to get or remain motivated. Hubby and I still are waiting patiently to find out what will become of our employer, the travails of which, along with those of its competitor, seem to have become a veritable soap opera. We both like the newspaper too much to leave if we don’t have to, and there aren’t a whole lot of other jobs out there to be had anyway. (I’m looking at something else but don’t want to mention it quite yet, lest I jinx myself.) So we wait. Despite efforts to the contrary, everything else takes a dimmer tone as a result, and writing just doesn’t feel like a top priority. But enough about that because the only way to get past this funk is to put your head down and push through. Just like the Tar Heels did after starting conference play 0-2. Now, they are at the top of the ACC standings and not looking back. Let’s see how many times I can reference the team in this post. Onward!

2) 30 really does Rock

When Tina Fey’s 30 Rock premiered, another show-within-a-show about an SNL-clone was getting all the hype. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, written by West Wing wonder Aaron Sorkin and starring some of his absolute favorites (Bradley Whitford, Matthew Perry, Timothy Busfield), was a surprising bust. Surely, if you consider the pedigree, you’d have to believe it was an a Emmy-winning hit waiting to happen right? Sorkin does have his haters and many critics didn’t like the show from the start, but few would have guessed that it would fail so thoroughly, not even making it to a second season. Tina Fey’s show did — though barely — and has been racking up the awards — if not viewers — ever since. I watched the first episode of 30 Rock and found it funny, but not nearly enticing enough to return. Part of the initial problem were the rumors about the retooling of the show by NBC before it actually came on the air. Namely, the recasting of SNL alumna Rachel Dratch, whose role was taken over by the prettier, blonder and less funny Jane Krakowski. Krakowski is fine on the show, and she can garner a laugh, but the change in Fey’s vision in such an obvious Hollywood way just didn’t sit right with me. And why Dratch didn’t go back to SNL, where she was hilarious, remains a mystery to me. So even as Studio 60 died its slow death, I watched. But even as 30 Rock got more and more critics to jump on its bandwagon, I didn’t.

One bandwagon I did jump on and enthusiastically was the one for Mad Men, which I adore. When I heard that star Jon Hamm was doing a three-episode run on 30 Rock, I had to tune in. And wouldn’t you know, it was awesome! Hansbrough-hitting-a-late-three-at-Duke awesome! Hamm is playing a love interest for Liz Lemmon, Fey’s character, but the true star of the show is Alec Baldwin and his storyline was Latino-aided hilarity. Currently courting a nurse played by Salma Hayek, Baldwin’s NBC-ish owning exec, Jack Donaghy, is unable to win over her Puerto Rican abuela. Her favorite telenovela stars an evil Baldwin clone (played, naturally, by a tanner, mustacchioed Alec). Jack buys the network and tries to fire his doppleganger, who in turn tries to foil Jack before offering to seduce a Latina woman of a certain age to win over the granny. Great stuff. Don’t know if I’ll keep watching once Hamm is gone, but at least I will agree that the critics are on to something.

3) Baseball has never been perfect, neither are the records

When it comes to steroids, everyone has an opinion. There are those who say, “The hell with it! Everybody juices! Just let them play.” There are those who say, “Ban those cheaters for life.” My opinion lies somewhere in the middle. I believe that before Major League Baseball pulled its head out of the sand, a majority of players in the 1990s juiced and that most of them were doing it not to get an edge, but simply so they wouldn’t get left behind. A soft view on the issue perhaps, but it’s true. For every Barry Bonds or Alex Rodriguez there were probably two dozen players just trying to get a job, keep a job, stay on the average. Is theirs less of a crime because they aren’t household names? No. It takes more than an single player to stain a sport. The masses, not the individuals, are who made the “steroids era” what it was. Bonds and A-Rod are merely two of many. They get the brunt of the anger because of the record books, but honestly, that’s the least of the issue for me. Those who urge the preservation of the purity of the records and rail against the lost sanctity of the game are naive.

There has never been “sanctity” in baseball. Beautiful though the game is, nothing about it — save maybe the starchy white uniforms on opening day — has ever been pure. Babe Ruth hit 714 homeruns, not a single one against a black pitcher. If the baseball of today is tainted by steriods, the baseball of the first half of the 20th century was tainted by racism, just like the baseball of the 1980s was tainted by cocaine use. I could go on. It’s a game played by humans, which means it’s never going to be perfect. Do I think it’s unfair for a player to use an illegal substance to make himself stronger? Sure, but I also think it’s unfair to compare millionaire athletes who train year-round and who live and breathe baseball and only baseball from childhood to the journeymen of the ’50s and ’60s who actually worked for a living in the off season, who took the subway in to the stadium along with fans, who didn’t have an army of trainers and coaches and massage therapists rubbing their every itch. Is it fair to compare Tyler Hansbrough’s all-time scoring record to the stats put up by the UNC greats who played before freshmen were allowed on the varsity? Times change, players change, expectations change. I don’t know what baseball should do with its records, but throwing out a person’s achievements because he played in a certain era seems wrong. We are nothing if not a product of our times. So why don’t we simply call the era what it was — add the asterix if we must — and move on.

4) Apologizing for being a kid

So much of greatness in sports is about projection, a desire to see someone achieve greatness and feel enveloped by the moment simply for having gotten to se it. “I was there” isn’t just about witnessing something — although that word, “witness,” has taken on added significance in sports thanks to Nike and LeBron — but validating it. Michael Phelps isn’t great merely because of his feats as an individual athlete. He is made great by the millions who watched him achieve those feats. The proverbial tree falling in the forest of sports. So what happens when the greats do something not so? Well, same principle applies. If the masses don’t see you. It didn’t happen, but if they do — as was the case with Mike and his now world infamous bong hit — they will let you know just how not great it was.

On SNL, Seth Meyers asked on Weekend Update what kind of a person it took to see Michael Phelps at a party and think “Ka-ching” instead of “Cool, I get to party with Michael Phelps!” A dick, he concluded, and he’s probably right. Mike, however, should have known better. Not about the pot-smoking (marijuana is less bad for you than tobacco), but about doing it in public. He’s been down this road before, having gotten a DUI (a much worse offense, if you ask me, given the dangers of driving drunk) after the Olympics in Athens. That he didn’t learn his lesson the first time shouldn’t really surprise. Being a great swimmer doesn’t make you any smarter than the rest of us. Mike’s problem is that he’s done all these amazing things — he’s a 14-time Olympic champion for goodness’ sake — but he’s still just a kid. He could retire now, at 23, and probably not live to see some of his records broken. To malign his achievements over a night of youthful indiscretion is just silly. Yeah, we all think that if we were that great at anything, we’d be smart enough not to be stupid. Yeah, right.

Maybe something good will come out of all of this for him. After Tar Heel point guard Ty Lawson got a DUI last summer (he wasn’t over the limit, but he was underage at the time, so any alcohol in the system was a no-no), he ended up dropping out of the NBA draft and coming back for his junior year. Now, he’s playing better than ever and, given the weaker class, will likely go higher in the draft than he would have last year. So hang in there, Mike. Win a few more medals in 2012, and the world will love you again.

5) The not-so-well-behaved college basketball fan

Hubby doesn’t like watching UNC games with me. I have stopped pointing out that I turned myself into a Broncos fan, sat through all those interminable games this season, for him. He seems unlikely ever to reciprocate. He says that I don’t seem to enjoy the games, what with my yelling at the TV and on rare occasion throwing the remote across the room. (I’ve actually only done this once, but it seems to have left a big impression.) Hubby has obviously never watched a game with my dad, who I get all this from. We are passionate people — Colombians, Obregons — so it can’t be helped. I certainly don’t enjoy watching the Tar Heels lose, but I do love to watch the games. And I love this particular team so much, I wish the season would just keep going and going. It can’t though, so I am trying to take hubby’s words to heart and enjoy every bit, even the stretches of terrible defense, the missed lay-ups, the stupid fouls, all of it.

I don’t even want to think about what might happen in March (except for the awesomeness of a Billy Packer-less NCAA Tournament) because then I’ll go back to being ornery. For now, I’ll say that the Heels have until Senior Night against Duke to get whatever losses they feel are necessary out of the way. After that all of them will be heartbreaking.

5 things, in no particular order

1. That race is still going on?

Yesterday, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune projected that Saturday Night Live alum-turned-talking head Al Franken would win the long protracted fight for the Minnesota senate seat that still hasn’t been resolved more than a month after the election. According to the paper’s count, Franken leads by almost 200 votes. When hubby told me this, I realized I hadn’t thought about that race or national politics in general in weeks.

To be sure, anytime President-elect Obama has appointed someone to his Cabinet, I have usually looked up from what I was doing and read up on the story for a few minutes, but a few minutes was it. There was a time, mere weeks ago, when I couldn’t get enough political news. In the weeks leading up to Election Day, I read everything I could find, and in the days following loved all the various ways columnists and reporters put the historic win in perspective. It’s likely, I suppose, that I OD’d and am now giving myself time to recover so that when Obama really is president, I’ll go back to a larger dose of news. But, on the other hand, it’s nice to see the wars of words that take daily place on the blogosphere go on without me and without giving me any more ulcers.

And speaking of Senate races . . .

2. Have Senate replacement battles always gotten this much attention?

Obviously, an invitation to join the Senate’s millionaire boys club means you’re set for life, which is why so much attention is paid when someone is tapped — rather than elected — to the position. Still, it seems like this year more than most, people are going crazy over all the possible appointments. Obama (whose own seat is at the center of the most controversial fight, given his governor’s kaching moment after Obama’s election) has asked a handful of senators to join his administration, leaving at least three seats open seats open. There’s VP-elect Biden of Delaware, Secretary of State to-be Hillary Clinton of New York and Secretary of the Interior to-be Ken Salazar of Colorado. Those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Caroline Kennedy has declared she wants Hillary’s seat, which was once held by her uncle Bobby. I think she’s qualified, even though some see it as a dynastic power grab. I’m not from New York, so I can’t speak to what the people of that state think, but at least you know she’s not in it for the money. There’s something to be said for someone who doesn’t need lobbyists to pay for her new house (like they did for former Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska) while she’s deciding on how to vote for particular pieces of legislation. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

In my own state of Colorado, there is a long line of potential candidates for Salazar’s post, but you better believe that Republicans are licking their chops for what they now see as a gettable seat. Nobody would have beaten the popular Salazar in his re-election bid two years from now. His replacement would be an incumbent too, but a much more vulnerable one, and Obama’s coattails may not be what they were this year after he has two years of having to deal with the current economic mess under his belt.

And speaking of Obama …

3. How many pastors does it take to controversify an inauguration?

A lot of people are making hay of his invitation of megachurch pastor Rick Warren to the inauguration to read the invocation. It’s easy to see why. Warren was among the California pastors who supported Proposition 8 in California, which took away the rights of gay couples to marry after those rights had been established as constitutional by that state’s Supreme Court. Gay people helped Obama get elected and celebrated with him on Election Night even as they saw their rights stripped away by a group of people who campaigned on lies (churches would be forced to marry gay couples — not true) and innuendo (children would be indoctrinated into the gay lifestyle — as if).

Obviously, many Obama supporters are upset over this. What really bothers me is not Warren but this: Why is religion allowed to play such a big role in the public square in what is by every definition a secular government? Say what religious people will, our country wasn’t founded by committed Christians “under God” (those words did not appear in the original pledge of allegiance). It was founded by Enlightenment humanists who wanted to establish freedom from religion in government. Many of the first settlers who came to the colonies, including those legendary Pilgrims, were fleeing a monarchy that exerted too great an influence on their religious lives. Those early Christians wanted the government to stay away from their houses of worship. The long and winding road that led us from that to this is a bit baffling to me.

I don’t think that this was a calculated political decision by Obama. I truly believe he is a person of faith and wants that faith represented during his inauguration. But his faith, as far as his office is concerned, is beside the point. He may not agree with me, but the Constitution does.

And speaking of Christians . . .

4. Will this recession finally end the commercialization of Christmas?

I wonder how many pastors out there are taking advantage of this economic downturn — in which many families are toning down the gift-giving — to remind people that Christmas (or Hanukkah for that matter) was never about gift-giving. Bill O’Reilly is wrong about the “war” against Christmas — it isn’t about political correctness and those who say “Happy Holidays!” That’s merely a surface distraction, in other words, O’Reilly’s bread and butter. The true war against Christmas is the commercialization of it. When you’ve got a list of gifts to buy a mile long and it takes an hour just to find a parking space at the mall, who has time to reflect on family and friends, the year gone by and the year ahead, and, most importantly, what the holiday truly means. I don’t hope to have another recession like this one any time soon. The abstention from gift-buying may be a sign, for many families, of economic duress, but I hope at least some embrace the idea that you don’t have to buy anything to make this of all holidays worth celebrating.

And speaking of celebrating . . .

5. Is Tyler Hansbrough the greatest Tar Heel of all time?

Well, no. At least, it’s arguable, but the boy has scored more points than any other player who has worn Carolina blue and that is as great an accomplishment as any in college basketball. It’s a record I don’t expect to be broken again in my lifetime, which is exactly how old it was (30 years) until yesterday, when Hansbrough made it his with a little more than 7 minutes to go in the first half. Besides, few of the players capable of it would stay in college long enough to see it through. That’s what’s great about Tyler — he is a quintessential college player. He loves college life. He may not go on to be an NBA star, but in this game, he is one of the best.

I’m glad I got to watch him break the record. I hope I get to watch him win it all in March. Go Heels!

5 things, in no particular order

1. Dad was right, or how the violinist on the Titanic felt

Once, when I was about 9 or 10 years old, I was at the house of a friend of my mom’s. My mom’s friend and several other mothers were in the kitchen complaining about pediatricians. I’m not sure what I was doing, but I remember overhearing their conversation.

“They never listen,” the moms kept saying.

“All they ever tell you is, ‘Give him some Robitussin.'”

“My kid is sick, and I didn’t bring him here for you to tell me something I’ve already done or I already know.”

I remember thinking at the time that I could grow up to be a pediatrician (I loved mine — a rotund man with big, bushy eyebrows), and when I became one, I would always remember these mothers and be a better doctor. A lot of people may remember what dreams they had as children, or what they wanted to be when they grew up. I don’t, but I look back on this memory from time to time and wish I really had wanted to be a doctor. Truth is I never really knew what it was I wanted to be.

My father was never one to romanticize work. He started hounding me about a five-year plan when I was about 13. Accountants always have jobs, he would say. Doctors, engineers, accountants—what else is there? Nothing. He wanted me to be happy, yes, but happiness to him meant security. When other parents were telling their children to follow their dreams, to do what made them happy, dad was telling me that accountants always have jobs, that if I didn’t have a plan for a career right then and there, I would spend my life bouncing from job to job with no stability. He offered people he knew as examples to back up his point.

In college, I majored in English — the only subject that ever inspired me. Upon my graduation, dad told me how proud he was even as he wondered what I would end up doing with my life. As a student, I dreamed of being a writer (still do), and journalism was my practical solution to the question of a regular paycheck. That solution has proven fickle, though. So while hubby and I work on Plans C through Z as the fate of our newspaper (the entire industry, really) hangs in the balance, I find myself in a bit of a philosophical crisis. Was dad right all this time? Would my life be easier now if I’d spent my college years learning to crunch numbers rather than immersing myself in Shakespeare and Louisa May Alcott? At this perilous moment for newspaper journalists across the country, I’m inclined to say that maybe he was right. Just nobody go and tell him I said that.

2. The Librarian is a poor man’s Indy, and yet I love it.

Noah Wyle spent a decade at ER’s County General, and he still looks like he did on that first year, when Dr. Benton was kicking his ass up and down the hospital. That boyish cuteness makes him perfect for the role of Flynn Carter, the Librarian — imagine a more bookish Henry Jones Jr. minus the swagger, the hat and the whip. With the circular glasses he sports now and then, he looks like a grown-up version of Harry Potter.

The TV movies (the third premiered on TNT this weekend) are the perfect balance of action-adventure cheese and fun that you enjoy more than you expect because it’s on TV and it’s free. Also, there is Bob Newhart and Jane Curtin — National Treasure can’t say the same.

3. If Pushing Daisies was canceled, but I refuse to acknowledge it, did it really happen?

I have two episodes on my DVR, ready to watch. I just can’t bring myself to, knowing that I have no more Daisies to look forward to. I’ve seen too many episodes of Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill and The Real World to judge anyone’s TV watching habits, but it’s hard to live in a land in which The Hills and According to Jim are allowed to go on (and on and on and on) and a gem like Daisies has to be cut short.

Upon announcement of the Daisies cancelation, Television Without Pity put together a list of 10 shows that were canceled way too soon. Some of my all-time faves were among them:
Arrested Development: Hilarity, narrated by Ron Howard. Who wouldn’t love that and give it a ten-season order? Dare we hope a movie is on its way?
Deadwood: Fucking brilliance.
Pushing Daisies: Sigh. Too soon.
Veronica Mars: A high school show that even hubby grew to love? Will such a creature ever exist again?
Everwood: Loved, loved, loved. Yes, it should have been allowed to go on, but having been given warning that the end was nigh, the creators ended it perfectly.

4. For the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NBA draft, (insert Oklahoma Thunder or equally awful team here) take Stephen Curry, Davidson College.

According to Chad Ford, over on ESPN, this may happen. It probably won’t, but the fact that it could amazes me. A lottery pick? From Davidson?

LeBron believes:

5. Happy Dia de las Velitas, everyone!

Yesterday was the Dia de las Velitas in Colombia and in Boise, Idaho, where my mom celebrates with a few hundred of her closest friends. (It started out as her small way to show people one of Colombia’s richest holiday traditions, but the people kept coming and they kept bringing their friends.) I don’t have a lot of memories of this day from my Colombian childhood, but I know that mom loves it. I also remember my grandfather Nono, who got drunk for the very last time on the Dia de las Velitas back in 1995. A few weeks later his one good kidney would fail and a few months later he was gone, to that great big fritanga in the sky, where he could drink whisky and eat arepas like every day was the Dia de las Velitas. To learn more about the holiday (not just what it means to me), go to Wiki.