Sunday, March 31, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/30/19: Back to Eugene, Zags Drop a Heartbreaker, Cavs Win a Thriller

1. Debbie returned to Eugene today. She left Kellogg about 9:00 and arrived safely in Eugene in the early evening. I'm hoping that with some things taken care of here in Kellogg that I will be able to visit Debbie in the next month or two. I am done with the many medical appointments, transplant list tests, and the cataract surgeries that have taken up a lot of my time in recent months. I will help Christy with transportation and other things when she has knee surgery in mid-April and I will hope Maggie continues to do well and that I'll feel all right about leaving her for several days for a trip to Oregon and possibly elsewhere.

2. I watched two of the fiercest college basketball games I've ever seen today. It was heartbreaking to see Gonzaga lose in their Elite Eight game with Texas Tech, 75-69.  As I've written before, I tend to see teams win basketball games because of what they do well rather than what the losing team does poorly. That's how I saw this game.

What did Texas Tech do well?

Played defense.

Every great basketball team, over the course of a game, looks to establish an offensive rhythm -- or a comfort. They work to get shots where they want them, open shots, shots, if from the outside, that are launched with their feet set and their shoulders squared, and, if inside, shots that exploit an advantage one offensive player has over a defender.

Against a team that plays tough defense, this rhythm or this comfort gets disrupted. Shooters are crowded. Passes get deflected, and, even if the offensive team recovers the deflection, it disrupts their rhythm. This happened to Gonzaga all game long, but particularly in the second half. Texas Tech was ready for Brandon Clarke's patented inside spin moves and Clarke always spun into a helping defender, frustrating Clarke into a poor shot or a turnover. Likewise, while Rui Hachimura scored 22 points, he missed eleven of the nineteen shots he took, in large part because Texas Tech hassled him, made him force shots, especially close to the basket, and muscled him out of doing things he likes to do. Gonzaga often looked stressed out. Zach Norvell rushed some long three attempts. Josh Perkins played a pretty solid game. He buried four three point shots, including a dramatic one late, made a tough shot in the paint late, and forced a late Texas Tech turnover, but he had trouble, as the Zags' point guard, getting Gonzaga into their offensive sets.

How good was Texas Tech's defense? They blocked seven shots (including Tariq Owens' stunning block of Hachimura's late game shot from the corner), made nine steals, and forced sixteen Zag turnovers. 

Gonzaga played solid defense, too. This was a bruising game, black, blue, and bloody. But, Texas Tech converted shots in key moments and Gonzaga didn't. In particular, Tech's Matt Mooney and Davide Moretti came up big. Jarett Culver sank key free throws.  Gonzaga was only down by two points with eleven seconds to go in this game, but when Josh Perkins reached over the inbounds line and tipped the ball out of Mooney's hands as Mooney tried to put the ball in play, he committed a technical foul that spelled doom for the Zags. That was a most unfortunate and costly unforced error.

I have one more thought about last night's game and it is, in part, a result of many discussions I've had this winter with Byrdman. Teams like Texas Tech, Virginia, Michigan State, Duke, Auburn, and Kentucky play in brutally tough conferences. They get tested game after game by superb teams, especially when they play in their opponents' arenas.

Now, I think Mark Few is a superb basketball coach. He does all he can to schedule very tough opponents in the Gonzaga's preconference games. This year they played Duke, Tennessee, and North Carolina. They went on the road to Creighton. They played Arizona in a pre-season tournament, not knowing this would be a lousy year for the Wildcats. But, once conference play began, the Zags didn't play a single equal. Granted, St. Mary's beat the Zags with a brilliant game plan and (here it comes) bruising, collapsing, crowding defense, and with very timely shooting, but all in all, night in and night out, the Zags dominated their conference opponents.

There's nothing they can do about this imbalance in the West Coast Conference. I wish the Zags could move to a different conference, but history, tradition, geography, and alliances between WCC member schools makes this unlikely.

I don't know if Gonzaga would have defeated Texas Tech last night if they'd played a tougher schedule in January, February, and early March. But, I look at who Texas Tech played in their conference -- Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma, Iowa State, and the rest -- and I have to believe their experience against these teams helped prepare them for today's game better than the games Gonzaga played against Pepperdine, Portland, Santa Clara, USF, and even St. Mary's. The Zags didn't respond very well to St. Mary's game plan and defense back on March 12th and I think it would have done this team a lot of good to have faced more adversity over the course of the season, especially in conference play.

3. The second game this afternoon was among the best college basketball games I've ever seen.

I don't make that statement disinterestedly.

I am a University of Virginia basketball fan. I have great admiration for UVA's coach, Tony Bennett (as I did for his father, Dick Bennett) and I have enjoyed watching the Cavaliers play all through the winter.

This afternoon, Virginia faced Purdue. Purdue's team features a freaky good player and shooter, Carsen Edwards, and Purdue plays hard-nosed basketball.

Statistically speaking, Virginia plays the best defense of any team in the nation. But, throughout the game, they couldn't stop Carsen Edwards. Virginia defended Edwards with different players at different times; they often tried to double team him; but, sometimes Edwards launched shots from beyond where any player normally shoots and he was dropping them. Edwards scored 42 points. He made an astounding 10 three point shots.

On the Virginia side, the Cavaliers answered Edwards' brilliant shooting with some of their own, primarily from guards Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome.

Guy flabbergasted me.

Late in the first half he stepped on the foot of a Purdue player and rolled his ankle. He heard a pop, dropped to the floor in agony, and limped off the floor for treatment. I don't know exactly what the Virginia training staff did to help Kyle Guy's ankle, but he was back on the floor at the start of the second half (I think he actually might have returned very late in the first half, but I'm not positive.) Kyle Guy had been shooting miserably throughout Virginia's first three games in the NCAA tournament. But, despite his injured ankle and despite his previous poor shooting, Guy came out in the second half firing away and swishing shot after shot. Likewise, his running make, Ty Jerome heated up, scoring from outside and on some tough shots in the paint.

Neither team could shake the other and in the closing seconds, up by three, Purdue fouled Ty Jerome sending him to the charity stripe for two shots. Jerome converted the first and missed the second (on purpose?) and the Kiwi hulk Jack Salt spiked the rebound beyond the half court line where Kihei Clark recovered it, made a long, no-look pass to Mamadi Diakite and Diakite popped a short jumper through the nylon at the buzzer.


Virginia has a team motto: "Calmness is contagious."

The Cavs maintained the composure that earned them the tie in regulation on into overtime. They made key shots from the floor and the free throw line and benefited from Carsen Edwards' one blunder in the entire game, an errant pass intended for Ryan Cline that Cline couldn't secure and went out of bounds. With two seconds left, Purdue fouled Kihei Clark who calmly (it's contagious) made both free throws and secured Virginia's 80-75 overtime win.

I have one other kind of random thought about these games. In the NBA, playoff teams square off in best 4 out 7 series. It means that unless series goes seven games, no single game has the intensity of the one loss and you're out format of the NCAA tournament. The lose one and you're out approach is what brings the madness to March madness.

And I love it.

Nonetheless, I left both of these games wondering what would happen if Gonzaga played Texas Tech and Purdue played UVA in a best of seven series. Would the Zags grow from the experience of repeated meetings and figure out ways to crack the Red Raiders' defense? I think Tony Bennett makes smart adjustments within a game. Would he figure out ways to clamp down on   Carsen Edwards -- or would he instruct his team to not worry if Edwards goes for 40+ points when no one else on the Boilermakers even scored in double figures? How would Purdue coach Matt Painter anticipate Bennett's strategies and would he make adjustments to encourage more balanced scoring from Purdue?

These are idle questions, really, because what I'm wondering about will never happen. All the same, while single elimination tournaments create a unique pressure and excitement, a best 4 of 7 series between evenly matched teams creates intrigue and tests how well the two teams can tolerate the irritation of playing the same team repeatedly four to seven times. Compelling dynamics develop between players who see each other game after game after game within a short period of time.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/29/19: On Hold at Sacred Heart, Walking my Kidneys, Yellow Curry and the Ducks Win

1. I am on hold for three months on the kidney transplant list. I need to get vaccinated for shingles and with the vaccine in my bloodstream, were I to get called in for a transplant, it would mess up the blood work done right before the surgery to make sure everything between me and the donor is a match.  I will continue to accrue time on the wait list, but I am on hold as far as transplantation until the end of June. I got my first shot of Shingrix today, I'll have another in two months, and then after four weeks, I'll return to being active on the list.

This development doesn't concern me. My kidney numbers have been stable. I'm not in desperate need of a transplanted kidney. I also doubt that I would be offered a kidney in the next three months. Being vaccinated to prevent shingles is very important in my situation.

Speaking of transplants, I am getting close to finishing the book, When Death Becomes Life: Notes from a Transplant Surgeon and I've learned much more about the experiences of live donors and much more than I ever knew about liver transplants, a more complicated surgery than the kidney transplant. The book has also helped me appreciate how good my renal situation is at present.

2.  Back in Greenbelt, I started thinking of taking walks as walking my kidneys. I knew these walks were important as I tried to manage my weight, but I also became more and more convinced that my circulatory system and the health of my kidneys enjoyed these walks. So, today, I walked to Yoke's to get my shingles shot and then I walked to the Inland Lounge where Cas was getting his establishment ready for Friday night's business, stopped in for a cup of coffee and to shoot the breeze, and then I walked to the bank to make a deposit and returned home again. It was nearly an hour's worth of walking and I got in over 6000 steps and nearly three miles.

3.  Debbie and I stayed home today. We'd thought about going to Coeur d'Alene or Spokane, but Debbie wanted to spend the day relaxing with Maggie and Charly. Debbie asked me to make a curry.  I prepared broccoli, green beans, yellow potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, red and yellow pepper, and some ginger, combined these vegetables in a yellow curry sauce, poured the sauce over jasmine rice, and it made for a good dinner.

I gave varying amounts of attention to the men's basketball games, but gave my full attention to the Ducks' women as they defeated South Dakota State to advance to a regional finals game with the mighty Mississippi State Bulldogs on Sunday morning. When the Ducks are in rhythm, especially on offense, there's a snap to their game and they pour in points from everywhere, in the paint, from the elbow, from beyond the three point arc, and out of the corners. The Ducks seemed a bit out of sorts for stretches of tonight's game. They didn't shoot very well from distance and missed a lot of inside shots, some of them wide open.  Fortunately, they defended the Jackrabbits fiercely and South Dakota State never got their potent offense rolling. It was not a masterpiece, but what matters most in March is to survive and advance, and the Ducks did just that, 63-53.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/28/19: Fantasy Tutelage, Breakfast at Goose and the Tree, Zags Win Ducks Lose

1.  I plunged into a couple of fantasy baseball leagues this season and I'm trying to learn the ropes of how to manage my teams. Around 9:00 this morning, I dropped Debbie off at the Bean and raced up to the Lounge where Cas was getting the joint ready for a special Thursday night Zags' game opening and he gave me my first fantasy baseball tutorial.

2. Debbie and I ate breakfast together at Goose and the Tree in Pinehurst. Both of us enjoyed our food a lot: I ordered creamy sausage gravy over freshly baked biscuits with scrambled eggs and Debbie ordered lox on a plain bagel augmented by tomato slice, capers, and other things. While we were there, an order of mugs came in and Meredith showed us each mug she'd selected and why.

3. Debbie and I met up with Shawn and Teresa at the Lounge and gabbed while watching the Zags defeat Flordia State, 72-58, a very good win for Gonzaga. I felt dismay, but was proud of Oregon's effort as the Ducks lost to Virginia, 53-49 in a black and blue defensive struggle. I had fun yakkin' with Cas and Steve Rinaldi during the game and had had a good session with Ron Delcamp earlier in the evening.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/27/19: Cookies and Cribbage, One Tree Cider House, More Transplant Reading

1. Patrick took out the cookie dough he'd made the night before and baked a batch of his favorite chocolate chip cookies while Meagan and I played a second, and, for now, our last game of cribbage.  The three of us soon piled into the Sube and drove to Spokane.

2. Before flying out of Spokane, Meagan and Patrick wanted a bite to eat. We easily found the One Tree Cider House at 111 S. Madison.  It's a modest sized and, to me, Nordic looking room with several small tables and comfortable love seats facing each other, divided by narrow coffee tables. The servers were eager to help us choose from the twenty ciders available, from a variety of cideries. Meagan and Patrick ordered a flight of ciders. Meagan was intrigued by One Tree's cinnamon caramel cider -- I took a sip and enjoyed it, too. I ordered a 4 oz pour of a slightly hopped apple cider from Rev. Nat's. Patrick and Meagan ordered a large pretzel and a basket of tots.  Sitting in the love seats facing each other with food and drink between us was a comfortable, relaxing way to spend time together before I dropped Meagan and Patrick off at the airport.

3. I returned home and continued reading, When Death Becomes Life: Notes from a Transplant Surgeon. I continue to find the medical history of transplantation compelling and marvel at how much the practice of transplantation has progressed, particularly over the last 30-40 years. It's sobering and unsettling to read how much the pioneers in transplantation learned from practicing and experimenting on animals; in addition,  many people willingly agreed to organ transplants in the early days with little guarantee that they would survive for long. Many of these patients died not long after the transplant -- whether kidney, heart, pancreas, or lung -- , but in giving themselves over to these surgeries, helped the surgeons learn more and more about what successful transplantation required.

I was particularly fascinated by the book's section on the history of bypass surgery for the heart. I'd never really understood what "bypass" meant and now I know that a machine takes over for the heart and lungs, sending oxygenated blood throughout the patient's circulatory system, allowing the heart surgeon to operate on the heart with no blood present. The invention and development of such a machine, as well as the invention of the dialysis machine, has helped extend the lives of countless patients over the last several decades.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/26/19: Soup into Seafood Chowder, At Long Last Cribbage, Perfect Afternoon and Evening

1.  This morning, I thawed two quarts of crab stock, stock I had made from Elks Crab Feed shells, and I chopped up two onions, a few carrots, a couple stocks of celery, and about four cloves of garlic. In the Dutch oven, I cooked the vegetables until slightly tender and poured flour over them, cooked them for a while, and then added the stock, about a half a cup at a time, whisking the mixture. Instead of potatoes, I chopped up a head of cauliflower, put the florets in, added salt, pepper, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and Old Bay seasoning to the soup and cooked the mixture slowly. A short time later, I turned off the heat, let this soup cool off, and put the Dutch oven in the refrigerator.

Late in the afternoon, I took the Dutch oven out of the fridge. I had taken halibut fillets and pre-cooked shrimp out earlier to thaw and now I finished thawing this fish. I cut the tails off the shrimp, put them in the soup and I chopped a few fillets into small pieces and cooked them in butter for about four minutes and they went in the soup. I poured in a cup of half and half and now, to me, the soup became chowder and I warmed it up slowly and in the early evening Patrick, Meagan, Debbie, and I enjoyed our fish chowder with a baguette Meagan and Patrick purchased at Pilgrim's when they went to Coeur d'Alene today.

If you'd like to see the recipe that guided me, it's here. I have never made the seafood stock accompanying this recipe because I'm so happy with the quality of my own stock made from Elks Crab Feed shells.

2. As I was chopping and thawing halibut pieces, and thinking and yakking about Bill Murray and Lost in Translation and playing "More Than This" by Roxy Music on the Echo, Meagan asked me if I'd like to play a game of cribbage. Did I ever! I think it's been over ten years since I played a game of live cribbage -- I used to play online often -- and so I poured myself a little Uncle Val's Botanical Gin and Meagan and I played a game while listening to the soundtrack of 32 Short Films about Glenn Gould and keeping an eye on Patrick getting his cookie baking project underway.

3.  I had one of my favorite afternoons and evenings today. It started around 2:30 when I walked to the eye doctor for my final, and very positive, check up after having cataract surgery. From there, I walked uptown to Radio Brewing. Debbie and I sat at the bar. I drank a couple of pints of water and helped Debbie finish her 10 oz Imperial Stout. She and I talked a bit about our life over the next few months. Around 4:45, Patrick and Meagan arrived after being in Coeur d'Alene. I nursed a 10 oz pour of splendid One Tree Lemon Basil Cider. It was getting close to time to leave and I departed first and walked as far as the Humdinger where Patrick and Meagan pulled into the parking lot and gave me a ride the rest of the way home.

I racked up almost 5000 steps today and my legs felt great -- pleasingly tired, not sore, and I knew a great night's sleep lay ahead.

Meagan, Patrick, Debbie and I ate dinner later than usual.  Did I mention we loved the seafood chowder?

Christy had texted Debbie to invite all of us over to visit with her and Everett, and, it turned out, Paul, Carol, and Zoe. It was a lively time with lots of stories and laughter. By this time in the evening, I had quieted down quite a bit after seeing the doctor, walking, playing cards, cooking, eating, and having a little to drink. I enjoyed some great conversation with Paul about the NCAA basketball games coming up and started to fade. I returned home and cleaned up the kitchen, started the dishwater, sat for a little while in contemplation, and, before long, fell into bed, bringing a superb day to an end.

Wow! That's two great days in a row -- a full house and lots of family time.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/25/19: Clean Up and Silver Valley Touring, Driving Montana, Dinner and Reading About Organ Transplants

1. I started the morning doing some more cleaning in the back yard, uncovering the deck furniture, hooking up the outdoor hoses after turning on the outdoor water, hosing down the area around the back porch, and vacuuming the interior of the Sube.

I vacuumed the Sube to prepare for a day on the road with Patrick and Meagan. Since Saturday was the first time I'd met Meagan, I wanted to spend some time with Patrick and Meagan on our own to get to know them better.

We started our day at Goose and the Tree in Pinehurst for a very tasty breakfast and our conversation was easy and fun -- this was true all day long. We then drove on the old highway through Smelterville, past the Silver King turnoff, right by where the lead smelter used to be, past Deadwood Gulch, through the old mine yard, and on into Kellogg where we took a quick look at the public library, the house Mom, Dad, Christy, and I lived in until 1962, and other landmarks.

2. Soon we were on the freeway, gliding over Lookout Pass, easing into St. Regis, and meandering on the state  highway to Paradise, Plains, and Thompson Falls, MT. Patrick and Meagan and I continued yakking about different things and we drank in the splendor of the Montana landscape, the mountains, the Clark Fork River, and the occasional wildlife. We got out of the car at Goose Landing Park to admire the reservoir lake and enjoy the vivifying fresh air.

3. Upon our return to Idaho, we met Debbie, Christy, and Everett at Wallace Brewing and soon we hopped next door for dinner at the 1313 Club.

Back in Kellogg, Debbie visited friends playing Bingo at the Elks while Patrick, Meagan, and I made a quick stop at Yokes.

Before long, I spent a couple hours or so in bed reading From Death to Life: Notes of a Transplant Surgeon by Joshua Mezrich. I'd heard Dr. Mezrich interviewed on the podcast, To the Best of Our Knowledge, back on March 1st. I'm not quite a hundred pages into the book and already I have a much more detailed understanding not only of the medical science that informs taking organs from donors, transporting the organs, and reviving them once transplanted into a recipient, but also of the history of transplantation.

Mezrich's book is part autobiography, part medical history, part medical step by step explaining the transplantation process. I will need to reread the medical sections with a dictionary and familiarize myself with much of the terminology, but, upon first reading, I am understanding the gist of how transplantation works much better and the complex work that goes on behind the scenes once an organ becomes available.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/24/19: St. Luke's, Casual Shopping, Pizza and the Oregon Ducks

1. I drove to Coeur d'Alene this morning and attended the 10:30 Eucharist. I loved worshiping at St. Luke's. This morning's Lenten service stirred me and the homily reinforced ways I experience and think about the Divine. What I experienced this morning took hold, struck deep spiritual chords in me, but I cannot articulate what I experienced. So, I will continue to live with the readings, prayers, hymns, and homily privately within myself.

2. Often after church, I feel some urgency to return home so that Maggie and Charly aren't alone for too long of a time. With Debbie visiting, I was relieved of this urgency and I made trips to Fred Meyer, Kohl's, Costco, and the liquor store. I didn't purchase much, but I enjoyed slowly checking out some things and, as I was leaving Costco, two or three people from the church startled me by recognizing me, calling out, "Sir, Sir", and waving hello.

3. Tonight was my turn to host family dinner, but because Debbie, Patrick, and Meagan are visiting, I asked Carol to host dinner and suggested we do something a little different. A new pizza place called Zany's recently opened in the Sunshine Inn building, so Debbie ordered and purchased three pizzas and Christy, Everett, Paul, Carol, and the rest of us sat in the living room and casually yakked it up and ate slices together. I thought hosting tonight's dinner in our small house would be uncomfortably crowded and I was happy and relieved that we enjoyed one another's company in Carol and Paul's much roomier house.

By the way, my day of worship, shopping, and family dinner pretty much pulled me away from today's NCAA men's and women's basketball tournament action.

I watched the last of the second half of the University of Central Florida's heartbreaking loss to Duke, 77-76. After dinner, I saw much of Oregon's thrilling win over the University of California-Irvine, 73-54.

The Ducks game got pretty interesting in the second half. Oregon led by twelve at halftime and started the second half, as Byrdman and I like to say, Foreigner-- that is, "Cold as Ice". The Ducks went scoreless for the second half's first seven and a half minutes, missing eleven straight shots.  The Anteaters charged back to take the lead. But, Ehab Amin broke the drought with a three-point shot, made some hustle plays on defense, and jolted the Ducks with a sudden surge of adrenaline and energy. The Ducks resumed dominance, went on a 15-3 run, and before long Kenny Wooten was swatting Anteater shots and dunking alley-oop passes, Payton Pritchard and Louis King joined Amin in the scoring spree, and the Ducks won in resounding fashion.

I will add that while I didn't see any of their game, Oregon's women's team scored a runaway win over Indiana, 91-68, led by Sabrina Ionescu's 18th triple double of her career, her 8th this season. She scored 29 points, snagged 10 rebounds, and dished out 12 assists. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/23/19: Beef Stew, Remembering Mrs. H, Relaxing at the Lounge

1. I made Guinness Beef Stew to have ready to eat when Patrick, Meagan (Patrick's girlfriend), and Debbie arrived from Eugene. When Christy, Carol, and I went in together on a side of beef, my share included a package of stew meat and I didn't think it was enough, so I also got out the round roast from my share, trimmed the fat off of it, and cut it into small squares. To make the stew, I chopped up two onions, cooked them in shimmering oil until brown and added in tomato paste and two cloves of chopped garlic. It cooked until fragrant. When this turned a rust color, I poured flour over it, cooked it for a minute and then whisked in chicken broth, Guinness beer, brown sugar, and thyme. I had salt and peppered the beef and I added it to the pot and brought it back to a simmer.  I put this mixture, uncovered,  in the oven (325 degrees) for 90 minutes, stirring it at 45.

After 90 minutes, I put carrots and a medley of halved baby potatoes in the stew, returned it to the oven, and cooked it until the beef and vegetables were tender. At some point, confident the ingredients were about the right tenderness, I turned the oven down about fifty degrees and, later, I took the stew out of the oven and covered it and put it over a very low flame on the stove top.

Everyone enjoyed the stew.

I, and I hope the others, really enjoyed the bread I served. I drove out to Pinehurst not long after the Goose n The Tree opened and purchased a bag of a half dozen Parmesan basil rolls and a baguette, just out of the oven.

2. At 2:00, I joined Christy, Carol, and Paul and we walked over to the church across the street where we attended the memorial service for Mary Jean Hinkemeyer. Members of the congregation told stories in memory of Mrs. H. Chris Meyer sang a beautiful solo. The pastor, who came down from Spirit Lake, conducted the service. The family hosted a chicken strips and Jo Jo dinner afterward at the Elks, but I was in the middle of cooking the stew and laundering bedding and towels for my house guests and still wanted to vacuum and clean up the kitchen, so I didn't go uptown. While I finished cooking and cleaning, I put the Gonzaga game on my tablet and watched them defeat Baylor, 83-71.

3. After dinner, Patrick, Meagan, Debbie and I went up to the Inland Lounge for a while. When we arrived, things were pretty slow, so Cas and Tracy were available for some good yakkin'. Patrick seemed to really enjoy introducing Meagan to the Lounge and her introduction into the world of Kellogg will continue over the next couple of days.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/22/19: Ducks Win, Ducks Win, Early Morning Corgis

1.  I loved watching the resurgent Oregon Ducks defeat the Wisconsin Badgers this afternoon in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. I had a great time multi-texting, going back and forth between Byrdman in Coeur d'Alene, Bones in Tigard, Sharann in Scottsdale, and Linda in Eugene. The game was tied at half time at 25. During the first half, I texted out that I thought if Oregon could start hitting a few more shots they'd win this game because their defense was bothering Wisconsin. Turns out I was right. Paul White scored 14 second half points, Louis the King heated up, Payton Pritchard continued to score key hoops, and Kenny Wooten owned the pain on defense, helping limit Wisconsin's All-American, Ethan Happ, to 12 points and blocking four shots, dunking on the other end after one of his blocks. The Ducks outscored the Badgers 47-29 in the second half and won this contest, 72-54. On Sunday, the Ducks play another surging squad, California-Irvine, who, after beating Kansas State today, have now won 17 straight games.

2. A little while after the men's game, Linda, Bones, Sharann and I hooked up again and watched the University of Oregon women methodically crush Portland State, 78-40. The Ducks hadn't played for nearly two weeks. Coach Kelly Graves gave them a week away from basketball after the Pac-12 tournament to rest and give nagging injuries some time to heal.  Early on, I thought the Ducks looked a little rusty. As the game progressed, the Ducks shook off the rust, started to feel at home again both in their offense and on defense, and started piling up the points and the stops. Satou Sabally scored 21 points and snared 16 rebounds to lead the Ducks. Next up on Sunday? Indiana.

3.  Maggie regularly wakes up anywhere between 3-4 a.m. and jumps off the bed. It triggers a debate in my head. Should I or shouldn't I get up, too? Should I feed the dogs this early in the morning? Well, I've learned that if I just let Maggie wander around at this hour, she often moves her bowels in the house. Charly pretty much does whatever Maggie does, except the soiling part, so the dogs win my inward debate. I lift Charly off the bed, place her gently on the floor, and I feed them and let them out. This morning, at around 4, I decided not to go back to bed and so, on the one hand, I completed my morning routine before 6 o'clock breakfast at Sam's, but, on the the hand, I ran out of energy around 8 o'clock, made sure everything was turned off and put away in the kitchen, and went to bed early before all the basketball games were finished. Charly and Maggie and I all went right to sleep after a pretty good day.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/21/19: I Threw Away My Bracket, Great Day of Hoops, Zags and Taco Salad

1.  I had decided a few days ago on my approach. For the first time ever, I decided to accept Terry and Sharann's invitation and participate in the Watson's NCAA men's basketball tournament bracket pool. I have not filled out a bracket in the past because I wanted to pull for the teams I favor, emotionally, not root for bracket success. Having decided to participate, the first thing I did this morning was make a cup of coffee, print out a bracket sheet, fill it out, scan it, email it to Sharann, and throw my hard copy in the garbage and do my best to forget my picks. I downloaded my bracket on a personal computer I don't use often, lessening my temptation to go back and look at my picks. I remember many of my picks, but I honestly don't remember, for example, if I picked Wofford or Seton Hall. During that game, I was glad I didn't remember because forgetting left me free to pull for Seton Hall even if I picked Wofford.  I will wait until the tournament is over and then I'll go back and review how I did and await word from Commissioner Doug as to the winner of our pool.

2.  Today the tournament featured sixteen games. I saw at least parts of eleven of these games. The only game I wish I'd seen more of was Murray State's win over Marquette, primarily because I hadn't seen Ja Morant play this season, but, since Murray State won, I will see Ja Morant play in round two. Murray State sped by Marquette, 83-64.

I enjoyed several underdog performances. Although I was pulling for my former home team, Maryland, I really enjoyed watching Belmont play again -- Belmont could have won this game -- and it was thrilling to see Belmont's Dylan Winder perform superbly.  Maryland won, 79-77.

It was grievous to watch New Mexico State barely lose to Auburn after clawing back late in the game and having three chances to tie or win the game in the closing seconds, but failing because A. J. Harris didn't shoot an open lay up that would have tied the game but, instead, passed the ball to Terrell Brown for a game winning three that Brown missed. But Auburn's Bryce Brown fouled Terrell Brown. Terrell Brown then missed two of three free throws and, remarkably, New Mexico State scrapped for the second miss, Auburn knocked the ball out of bounds, and New Mexico State had one more shot at winning the game. Trevelin Queen got a decent look at a three point shot and chucked up an air ball.  Auburn escaped, 78-77.

Vermont played powerhouse Florida State tough, but lost, 76-69.  Yale made life very difficult for favored LSU before losing, 79-74. It wasn't an upset, but I got attached to teams from the Big East Conference this winter and enjoyed seeing the last few minutes of Villanova's win over St. Mary's, 61-57. Lastly, my jaw dropped, dropped again, and continued to drop all game long as Wofford converted a dizzying blizzard of three point shots on their way to blitzing Seton Hall, 84-68.

3. Around 4:30, I strolled over to Christy and Everett's house and watched the Zags crush Fairleigh Dickinson, 87-49. From the outset, the Knights were no match for Gonzaga and the Zags' starters got plenty of rest as Mark Few emptied his bench in the game's last five minutes or so. On Saturday, Gonzaga will play Bayor, 78-69 victors over Syracuse.

While the Zags' game didn't provide any suspense, dinner was sure good. Christy put the ingredients for taco salad out on the kitchen counter. Carol popped in toward the end of the game with a new hairdo, but I returned home to check on Maggie and Charly and to watch Wofford and Seton Hall before Paul dropped in for dinner after teaching Drivers' Ed.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/20/19: No More Tests, Bad Johnnies in Dayton, Basketball Texting is the Best

1.  Nurse Sheri is on a brief leave, so if the report on my nuclear cardio stress test has come in, I haven't heard about it yet. No problem. Today, however, Randy from the clinic called and my bone density scan came back normal.

What lies ahead?

Monthly blood draws. Routine check ups with my primary care provider and nephrologist this summer. A check up early next week with the eye doctor to make sure I healed all right after cataract surgery. A routine dental exam in late April. I welcome having a stretch of time lying ahead when I'm not having to be examined again or having another surgery. I'm grateful that, up to this point, it's all gone well and that I'm in about as good of shape as can be expected.

2.  Well, St. John's University's men's basketball season ended with a thud this evening. I had hoped the Good Johnnies would show up against Arizona State, but, alas, the Good Johnnies stayed behind in Queens and the Bad Johnnies took the ice in Dayton. The Bad Johnnies don't move the ball well on offense, miss shot after shot after shot, don't rebound on offense, and make one careless turnover after another. Arizona State pounced on the Bad Johnnies from the get go, and, yes, St. John's did trim the lead to under 10 points a few times in the second half, but always seemed to break their own momentum with another errant pass, a missed shot, or an untimely foul.  St John's lost, 74-65.

So, the roller coaster ride is over. The St. John's version of the Timber Terror is shut down. I look forward to next year, seeing what players return and whether Chris Mullin can recruit some bigger players, and strapping back in to the roller coaster ride once again.

One thing I'll miss for sure about St. John's being done: the telecast of St. John's late season games often featuring some video clips of Chris Mullin making plays at St. John's when he played from 1981-85. Mullin was such an unlikely looking superb player. But, he was a stellar marksman, one of college basketball's best passers ever, and played the game with skill and elan, making him a respected leader. He undertook a difficult challenge by accepting the coaching job at SJU, but every season his team's record has improved and he coached them back into the NCAA tournament.

3. It's really fun that I don't watch these NCAA basketball games alone, even though I'm by myself in the tv room -- well, Maggie and Charly are there, too, but they don't say much.

Text messaging during these games is a blast, whether it's with Linda or Sally or Byrdman or Don or Terry or Stu or anyone else who might get a little conversation going during a game. It gives us a chance not only to keep in touch with each other, but to exchange observations and funny quips. Watching these games and exchanging remarks through text messages is as fun of a way of enjoying games as I've ever experienced.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/19/19: Medical Success, Corgis Love the Back Yard, Fun Basketball Night

1. To meet my 8:00 appointment this morning, I walked back to the Shoshone Medical Center today, the radioactive material from last week's nuclear heart stress test flushed out of my system, and Sarah had me lie on a table and I submitted to a bone density test/scan. Sarah kept my mind occupied while machine hovered over the lower part of my body by telling me about her family's love for their golden doodle and the grief they recently suffered when a longtime family dog died.

Later, I called Tracy at the lab at the clinic uptown about getting my monthly blood draw done for the transplant program in Spokane and found out that, for the time being, she and the LabCorp trainer she was working with don't know how to enter a blood draw performed for a non-LabCorp entity into their system. I don't understand this problem, but I don't need to. I thanked Tracy for all her work on this, packed my blood draw kit into my backpack, along with my copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and took another walk to the Shoshone Medical Center.

I got right in and Geri told me about how much she enjoyed seeing Captain Marvel Monday evening while she drew a vial of blood, labeled it, packed it up, and assured me it would be going out in the mail tomorrow.

2.  The back yard is Maggie and Charly's favorite place in their world. Over the past several weeks, the deep snow has severely limited the space they have been able to wander around in.

Today that changed.

There is still plenty of snow in the back yard. A frozen crust, however, has formed on the snow's surface, and today I watched Charly and Maggie walk on top of this crust and make their way to the fence over by Jane's yard, wander to the very back of the yard underneath the lilac bushes, and resume their love of strolling, sniffing around, and exchanging barks with Griz and the other dog staying at Jane's right now.

I came out to the back porch to check on them.

Maggie was back in the far northwest corner of the yard, and, suddenly, upon spotting me, galloped back to the house, as if she were five years old again.

Recently, Maggie has spent much of her time in the house resting. She's been eating eagerly, drinking plenty of water, and, once a day, continues to lick Charly's face and ears, taking care of her.

But, she's slowing down, and seeing her burst into this gallop and spring up the steps on the back porch and bound into the house made my heart leap up. I don't remember the last time I saw Maggie so animated, so energized. 

Charly's hind legs are giving out on her, but, she, too, not only managed to wander around the yard, but also to sprint in her own way back up the steps and into the house. My heart leaped up again.

3.  I checked in with Sally this afternoon to find out if she was about to watch Indiana's basketball game with St. Francis (PA) in the opening round of the NIT.  Sally made me laugh when she replied, "Yes, with no stress" (because it's the second tier NIT, not the first tier NCAA tournament). I thought Indiana was sluggish, maybe disengaged, in the first half. They were behind, 40-34, at halftime, thanks, in part, to surrendering four free throws with a second left in the half, a consequence of Coach Archie Miller being assessed a technical foul for hectoring the referees. Indiana came alive in the second half and steamrolled the Red Flash on their way to an 89-72 victory.

While I watched the Indiana game, with the sound muted, on the television, I also watched and listened to the NCAA tournament's opening game, the Fairleigh Dickinson/Prairie View A & M tilt on my tablet. I was especially interested in this game because the winner plays Gonzaga on Thursday. 

I loved this game.

Both teams wanted to push the tempo and, early in the game, Prairie View kept things sped up with a flurry of steals on defense and launched a blizzard of successful three point missiles. After the half, Prairie View cooled off a bit and Fairleigh Dickinson's flashy and gifted guards, Darnell Edge and Jahlil Jenkins, spurred a furious comeback and the taller and stronger Knights prevailed, 82-76.

When Fairleigh Dickinson plays Gonzaga, their front court will be overmatched by the quicker, more athletic Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura. If the Knights are going to compete with the Zags, it will because the guards who played so well tonight duplicate their effort against Gonzaga. But, when Gonzaga lost to St. Mary's, it was largely because St. Mary's executed a slowdown strategy and muscled up the Zags inside. I don't know if it's in Fairleigh Dickinson's DNA to play at a slower tempo and, while one of their forwards, Mike Holloway, Jr, is a muscular force inside, I don't think the Knights will be able to pack the key and collapse on the Zags inside the way St. Mary's did. 

Over the last few years, I've been aware that Belmont University near Nashville has had a strong basketball program. I was excited to see them play for the first time this evening and their game against Temple was a lot of fun. Temple blanketed and shut down Belmont's best scorer, Dylan Windler, but Belmont proved not to be dependent upon Windler in order to score and win. Windler only scored five points, fifteen below his average, but Belmont intelligently exploited Temple's attention to Windler.  Other players like Kevin McClain (29 points) and Nick Muszynski (16 points) were not guarded as fervently. They were either single covered or just plain open and they hit a high percentage of their shots and fueled the Bruins to a 81-70 victory.

Belmont's win lands them in a Thursday game with the young, strong, and often unpredictable Maryland Terrapins.  Can Muszynski score inside against the Terps' Fernando Bruno? Can Belmont unleash Dylan Windler and still get production from Kevin McClain? How will Belmont handle Anthony Cowan? Jalen Smith?

Back to Asia: Only Time Will Tell.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/18/19: Surprise Road Trip, Sunny Walk, Soup and Oregon Women's Basketball

1. I was just getting ready to decide what to do next after a couple cups of coffee and some writing when Ed called and said he needed to pick up a pressure washer at Hotsy in Spokane Valley for Kip and wondered if I'd like to ride along. I wondered if we could stop in Coeur d'Alene long enough for me to get a haircut. No problem. So, we piled into one of McGillvary's company pickups and Robin cut my hair, Ed strolled over to Starbucks for a latte, I sauntered over myself for a coffee and a blueberry muffin and soon we were turning off the Dishman-Micah Road and picking up the washer at Hotsy.

2.  Back in Kellogg, I strapped on my back pack and walked to Avista,  put my bill in the collection box, and crossed the street to Yoke's and picked up a few groceries. Walking conditions are improving. More sidewalks are clear of snow and today's weather was sunny with temperatures in the 50s. To the right of the porch, some tiny white flowers have emerged, the first sign at this house that spring is on its way.

Linda Yawn, N.P. prescribed me at least a half an hour of walking at least five days a week.

Today's walk was a half an hour long and I racked up 3,000 steps, the minimum I like to record in a day -- that's about a mile and a half.

3. I simmered broccoli, cauliflower, celery, carrots, and mushrooms in a quart of chicken broth and poured it over jasmine rice. I was surprised by much I enjoyed this simple vegetable rice soup.

By the way, in response to a request I received yesterday, soon I will look over the bracket for the women's NCAA basketball tournament and write a bit about what games I'm looking forward to.

I do know one thing: Oregon got a #2 seed in the West Region and will be in the same region as Mississippi State, the West Region's #1 seed. Mississippi State has been the national tournament runner up the last two years. If Oregon and Mississippi State advance to the regional finals, Oregon will have to contend with Mississippi State's formidable center, 6" 7' Teaira McCowan. She was the Southeast Conference player of the year this season. Last year she was the national defensive player of the year. (This year's award hasn't been announced yet.) I've seen some highlight video of her and she occupies a lot of space inside, grabs a lot of rebounds, is a dangerous shooter around the basket, and makes it very difficult for her opponents to score near the hoop. Should this game come about, it will be a stern challenge for the Ducks.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/17/19: House Prep and a Corgi Update, Family Dinner, Games I Look Forward To

1. Tonight, Christy was in charge of family dinner. Next door neighbor Jane and Carol's sister-in-law, Laurie, joined us. Christy prepared our meal, but I hosted it. So that I could clean up the house and be around when Christy brought over table settings, her crock pot to cook with, salad ingredients, supplies for our cocktails, and other things, I decided not to go to Coeur d'Alene this morning for church.  Two things keep me from making this Sunday morning trip: bad weather and hosting family dinner. For a long time now, I don't think I'll have to worry about the former, and I need to do more on Saturdays to deal with the latter.

The house was in pretty good shape, but, still, I vacuumed all the rooms and rugs, wiped down the kitchen counters and the stove, cleaned the back door glass and other windows, cleaned the bathroom, and watered the plants.

A sure sign of Maggie and Charly's aging? They don't attack the vacuum cleaner like they used to. Today, Maggie hardly acknowledged that I ran it and Charly barked briefly, but soon lost interest. I asked Christy and Carol how they thought Maggie was doing. We agreed that when she's not lying down, her energy is good, but all of us, including Jane, can tell she's losing weight. Every morning, Maggie urges me to hurry up and feed her by barking incessantly. Occasionally (I should say, rarely), she barks at activity outside the house. Otherwise, she doesn't bark much. She doesn't always make it outside to move her bowels, but she's been very good about urinating outside -- not perfect, but good.

2. Christy prepared a St. Patrick's Day meal, with a little help from Carol and Jane. We started with some olives and a whisky cocktail called an Irish Fix. The others moved to the table, which comfortably seats six, and I acted as server. Christy prepared each of us an Irish Pub Salad featuring lettuce, vegetables, sliced hard boiled eggs, pickled green beans, and a light and creamy dressing. The main course was slow cooker Guinness corned beef with red potatoes, carrots, and cabbage. Carol made Keto soda bread and a dipping sauce to eat with either course. Jane baked a green pistachio bundt cake for dessert and we topped off the evening with Christy making us a White Leprechaun, a refreshing cocktail combining whisky, Kahlua, and half and half.

Having Laurie and Jane as guests augmented the conversational possibilities and so tonight people talked about a wide range of subjects including books and book groups, current events in the Kellogg School District, classroom instruction, family histories around corned beef, and a host of other things. At our last family dinner, Paul handed me a copy of a play featuring C. S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud discussing ideas and when Paul's spring break rolls around, I think we'll read through the play out loud and talk about if we want to do something with it.

3. I'm not what is known in the world of college basketball as a bracketologist. In fact, I'm lousy at expressing (or having) opinions about what teams should get what kind of seeding and who should or shouldn't get in the NCAA tournament. But, now the brackets are set and here are a few of the games that I'm eager to see in the tournament's First Four round and in the first round itself:

  • The last team selected to be in the tournament? A team I hooked the wagon of my emotions to this winter, the St. John's Red Storm. They will play Arizona State on Wednesday in a First Four tilt in Dayton on Wednesday and I'm intrigued because I fell in basketball love with the Johnnies back in January. They are coached by alum Chris Mullin, one of my favorite players of all time. Arizona State is coached by one of my least favorite former players, Bobby (Baby) Hurley and when this match up was announced during the selection show, I physically rose up out of my seat in joy. Go Johnnies!
  • On Friday, Oregon plays Wisconsin. I watched Wisconsin play about six times this season and watched the Ducks' last five games. I am eager to see Wisconsin's All-American low post magician Ethan Happ match up against Kenny Wooten and Francis Okoro around the basket and I can hardly wait to see if Oregon's swarming and disrupting defense will rattle the Badgers.
  • On Thursday, Marquette plays Murray State. Wow! Whoa! A brilliant match up, this game features two of the United States' best guards, Marquette's Markus Howard and Murray State's Ja Marant. Both were the player of the year in their respective conferences.  I can hardly wait to see Marant and Murray State play for the first time, but I've watched a bunch of Marquette's games and I love their squad. 
  • Remember last week when St. Mary's gallantly executed a perfect game plan and defeated the mighty Zags? Well, on Thursday, St. Mary's will try to slow down and muscle around this tournament's defending champion, the Villanova Wildcats. I will tune into as much of this game as I can because I love watching Jay Wright coach and I'm intrigued by the possibility that St. Mary's coach Randy Bennett might be able to draw up another way to coach his team to a second major upset. 
  • Another team I couldn't watch enough over the past month is Seton Hall and they play Wofford, a team from a liberal arts college in Spartansburg, South Carolina who won the Southern Conference. They play on Thursday. I haven't seen Wofford play, but when the know-it-alls on television talk about teams from less powerful conferences that are really good, Wofford is always among them.  Has Wofford faced dynamic, strong-willed player like Myles Powell this season? Is Wofford, like Seton Hall, a bruising physical team that scraps and fights on every possession, both on offense and defense? I don't know, but I am very eager to find out.
So, I need to write myself out a viewing schedule. I'll want to slip the opening Zag game into my schedule and I'll be ready, if need be, to watch two games at once on television and through my Fubo app on my tablet. 

I'm going to fill out one bracket and send it to a friend since childhood to enter hers and her husband's pool. My expectations are very low. As much as I love to watch basketball, I am not at all a skilled predictor of what will happen --- and that's good! It's the unpredictability of college basketball that makes it so compelling. 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/16/19: Championship Weekend, St. Patrick's Day Party, The Ducks Win During Another Magic Carpet Ride

1.  In college basketball, it's championship weekend. Many of the conference tournaments wrap up this weekend and today I had keen interest in three games: the championship games of the Big East and the Pac-12 and the semi-final match up in the Southeastern Conference between Tennessee and Kentucky.

With under three minutes to go and Kentucky ahead by eight in the SEC semi-final, it looked like the Wildcats might cruise to a victory, but Tennessee rallied. They clamped down on Kentucky on defense. Admiral Schofield, Grant Williams, and Lamonte Turner splashed shots late from beyond the three point arc and Jordan Bone converted a string of four clutch free throws. Tennessee won, 78-82.  Gonzaga fans watching this game must have had flashbacks to December when Tennessee rallied in a similar way late in the game to come from behind and beat the Zags.  Tennessee now faces Auburn for the conference championship on Sunday. Auburn defeated the Vols by four points just a week ago.

Villanova and Seton Hall also engaged in a tooth and nail gut tightener for the Big East championship.  Villanova triumphed, 74-72, stoutly defending their slim lead in the game's closing seconds, surviving Seton Hall's late surge. As expected, Villanova's Phil Booth and Eric Paschall performed brilliantly, but I thought the Wildcats' win hinged on the superb play of two supporting players, Jermaine Samuels and Saddiq Bey, who combined for 28 points and scored key points late in the game. Seton Hall played with great determination, mounting a late game comeback that just fell short when the irrepressible Myles Powell missed a potentially game winning three pointer with under 10 seconds to play.

I don't know how these Big East conference teams will do in the NCAA tournament which starts this coming week. I do know, however, that I loved watching the teams in this conference play each other over the last two and a half months. The games were emotional, unpredictable, hard-nosed, and exciting. I am going to miss checking the schedule every morning to see if another Big East tilt is being televised on FS1 that day and can hardly wait until next January when this Big East conference play resumes again.

2. Byrdman's son, Nick, was just hired to run the golf course in Pinehurst and he organized a St. Patrick's Day party today, maybe to help kick off his new job and get golfers together. I dashed out after the Villanova/Seton Hall game wrapped up and joined Byrdman, his daughter Amanda, Dan  and Jennifer Carrico, Bucky Fulton, and Michele Rauenhorst, and later Hank, and others around a big table and got in some yakkin'. I didn't stay long. The party was breaking up and I wanted to return home to watch the one game I'd been the most eager to see.

3. That game featured the Oregon Ducks playing the Washington Huskies for the Pac-12 Conference championship.

I sat in my TV chair, took a deep breath, and sang fitting lyrics in my head, in anticipation of another couple of hours with with the big red head, Bill Walton, in anticipation of yet another magic carpet ride. Here's a bit of the great Blues Image song I sang: "Ride captain,ride upon your mystery ship/On your way to a world others might have missed".

This is how I enjoy Bill Walton. I pretend it's a magic carpet ride. I open myself to going with Captain Bill on a mystery ship to who knows how many worlds that others might have missed.

Bill Walton came through, finding moments in this game to advocate for public lands, mourn the shootings in New Zealand, promote an upcoming John Fogerty concert, pay homage to Phil Knight and his entourage in the stands, claim, as a player, he'd suffered a broken nose 14 times and had his teeth knocked out 6 times; once again, Walton argued that all college basketball games should be played in the "spectacular" T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Duck Coach Dana Altman should be in the Hall of Fame, and, he may as well have argued that Oregon's trainer, Clay Jamieson should win a Nobel Prize for Medicine, so ebullient was Walton in his praise of him. Tonight, Walton did not make repeated references to Melville's Moby-Dick because Ehab (not Ahab) Amin didn't play many minutes tonight, but he did make other literary allusions that have slipped my memory.

Did Captain Bill take me on my way to worlds I otherwise might have missed?

Without a doubt.

Almost nothing Bill Walton says in the course of a basketball game is anything I would have thought about on my own.  Bill Walton should open every broadcast singing, "Well, you don't know what/We can find/Why don't you come with me. . ./On a magic carpet ride".


The game.

Oregon dismantled the Huskies. The Ducks were playing their fourth game in four nights, yet it was the Huskies who looked tired as the miraculously fresh Ducks swarmed the Huskies, disrupted their offense, blocked shots, changed the trajectory of other shots, and otherwise demoralized the Dawgs on their way to a 68-48 victory.

The Ducks were led in every way by Payton Pritchard who scored 20 points and had 4 steals, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds. He was the tournament's Most Valuable Player and (this is mind boggling) in the tournament's four games, Pritchard dished out 22 assists and only turned the ball over 4 times.

By the way, during the magic carpet ride, Bill Walton swooped into a lot of hyperbole as he raved about Payton Pritchard, drawing comparisons between Pritchard and Steve Nash and John Stockton.

Allow me to retort.

I'd like to quote the 80s group Asia on this one: only time will tell.

Once again, Linda Schantol and I had our text messaging machines on hand and commented back and forth throughout the game. Our single concern in the first half was that Kenny Wooten was mentally discombobulated. We both hoped that during the halftime intermission the coaching staff or his fellow players might help him clear his head.

Someone did.

Wooten was back to his shot blocking, shot disrupting, mighty rebounding self in the second half and the way he played had a lot to do with Oregon stretching a two point half time lead into a twenty point victory. 

As Bill Walton would surely say, "It was a spectacular night for the Conference of Champions!"
(Actually, he would probably say "this was the most spectacular night in the history of the Conference of Champions! Quack. Quack.")

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/15/19: Medical Shutouts, Walking in the Thaw, Peerless College Basketball Action

1.  It was kind of a bad news, good news day -- but the bad wasn't that bad and the good news was unspectacular, but really good.

First, the (sort of) bad news.

I walked up to the Shoshone Medical Center to have a bone density scan done as part of last Monday's annual physical exam. While filling out a two page survey about my blood and bones, I indicated that earlier in the week radioactive material had been injected into my bloodstream as a part of a nuclear heart stress test. A couple of the staff in radiology huddled and decided it would be best if waited until next week to have this scan done, so I'll return on to SMC on Tuesday morning.

Later in the day, knowing that Nurse Sheri at Providence Sacred Heart had submitted the work order to the clinic uptown to draw a sample of my blood each month, I loaded my blood draw kit into my backpack and walked to the clinic.

Phlebotomist Tracy wasn't sure if she could help me out today. The lab at the clinic is now a full on LabCorp site. Protocols have changed. Tracy wasn't sure how to enter a blood draw for Inland Northwest Blood Center into the system. She is still learning.  A phone call wasn't much help. The man who is training Tracy for LabCorp returns to the clinic on Tuesday, so Tracy asked me if I could wait until then, call her, find out if she can perform this service for me, and, if not, have my blood drawn at the Shoshone Medical Center.

No problem.

I'll let Nurse Sheri in Spokane know that things are uncertain at the clinic and that I might need a blood draw order submitted to the hospital.

2. The good news.

Nearly everyone I've talked with today, whether Ed, Buff, and Terrie at Sam's for breakfast, the people helping me at the clinic and hospital, Darlene, a checker at Yoke's, or Ron, John, and Jeri at the Lounge (Cas is in Nevada for the weekend), agree that this week's snowfall was probably our last storm, that the weather is going to gradually warm up, and, in time, the snow will melt.

In other words, the conditions are going to be improving all the time for walking.

So, even though neither of my medical visits worked out today, I got in nearly four miles of walking --- somewhere around 7500 to 8000 steps. I enjoyed a can of 7 Up at the Lounge, picked up a few groceries at Yoke's, and purchased a bottle of E & J VSOP Brandy at the liquor store.

My legs felt strong. I didn't get winded. I felt invigorated, especially after not walking this much for a few weeks during the recent cold snap and snow storms.

Furthermore, since I need to have the scan and blood draw done next week, I will have walking destinations built into my schedule then.

Next up? Getting my camera back out.

3. Back home around 3:45, it was time to dive into the March Madness of conference basketball tournaments. I opened my Fubo app on my tablet so I could watch the Big East tilts and, simultaneously, watched the ACC semifinals on ESPN on the Vizio. By the time the Ducks' game came on at around 8:45, I was able to watch that game alone. No simulcasts.

I love watching two basketball games at the same time and the viewing today was very challenging. All the games were close, riveting, dramatic, sometimes chaotic, and demanded my full attention.

Villanova scrapped back behind the steely leadership of Phil Booth and Eric Paschall and some clutch shooting by Jermaine Samuels and gutted out a thrilling 71-67 win over Xavier in overtime.

Meanwhile, the towering, lengthy, athletic, deep, and tough-minded Florida State Seminoles fought off every comeback attempt staged by the Virginia Cavaliers and very impressively defeated the nation's top-ranked team, 69-59.

In the other Big East semifinal, Seton Hall and Marquette squared off in an intense, bitter, emotional, physical, verbally aggressive, and bruising game. How chippy was this game?

57 fouls
9  technical fouls
3 players ejected

Even though the greatest rivalry in college sports, Duke vs. North Carolina, was being played at the same time as Seton Hall and Marquette, I was totally absorbed by the Seton Hall/Marquette game. The action was fierce, the players' faces were visibly drawn, the lines of fatigue growing, weary eyes sinking deep into sockets -- I thought I could tell some players had cried during this game --, but not one player relented. In the end, Seton Hall prevailed, 81-79. 

Now these wrung out Seton Hall players have to rest and recover and within 24 hours give everything they've got in the tournament's championship game against Villanova.

The Duke/North Carolina game was close. It was intense. The game more than confirmed that Duke's freaky and superb forward Zion Williamson has recovered from the knee injury he suffered a few weeks ago.

The teams played hard, often played beautifully, with astonishing grace and speed and power.

But, this game didn't rivet me the way the Seton Hall/Marquette game did. You'd think it would. Duke and Carolina are college basketball's premier programs, the heavyweights of the sport.

My explanation? Seton Hall and Marquette are not elite programs or elite teams. They are underdogs. Neither team has a McDonald's All-American on its roster. Duke and North Carolina played hard. Both teams wanted badly to win for all kinds of historical reasons, state pride reasons, for reasons having to do with ascending to the throne of college basketball.

But neither team was desperate. They don't need to be. They have other noble motivations. They are pursuing college basketball's loftiest goals. But they aren't desperate for success.

Seton Hall and Marquette both struck me as desperate to advance to their conference's tournament final. No one assumes, as everyone does with Duke and North Carolina, that Seton Hall or Marquette will succeed in the national tournament, no matter what happens in the conference tournament.  Seton Hall and Marquette were desperately battling for respect, for the chance to knock off Villanova (national champs two of the last three years) tomorrow, and to show basketball fans in Madison Square Garden and on national television, who might not have paid them much attention this season, that they play hard-nosed, passionate basketball with great skill and determination.

I enjoy underdogs. I loved watching Seton Hall and Marquette spend themselves right to the final buzzer in pursuit of intangible rewards exceeding the game's final score.

Oh. By the way, Duke beat North Carolina, 74-73.  It was an awesome game.

Yes, I love underdogs.

Like the Oregon Ducks men's basketball team. They came to Las Vegas this week riding the wave of a late season winning streak, but were the lowest seeded team of the four semi-finalists in the Pac-12 Conference tournament.

Tonight, they raced to an early lead against Arizona State, but fell into a funk, a slump in the second half and fell behind by as many as eight points and looked worn out.

But, fairly late in the game, the Ducks stole the rock on consecutive possession from ASU and it fired up the Ducks. With a minute and a half left in the game, an Oregon senior reserve Ehab Amin hit a rainbow trey to tie the game, neither team scored again, and so we basketball fans got to watch some bonus basketball in overtime.

The Ducks scored the first eight points in overtime, dug in and held off ASU's spirited attempts to come back, and won the game, 79-75.

My thanks to Linda Schantol for helping me make it, via text message exchanges, through this nailbiter without cardiac arrest.

Next up? The Ducks square off against the conference tournament's top seed, the Washington Huskies. Just a week ago the Ducks upset the Dawgs in Seattle.

Can this upstart, underdog, scrappy Ducks team upset the Huskies again?  We will soon find out.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/14/19: No Blood Draw, UVA and the Bad Johnnies, Ducks Win During Tonight's Magic Carpet Ride

1.  First thing this morning, I dashed uptown to the clinic, but the paperwork that makes it possible to have my monthly blood draw performed for Providence Sacred Heart's lab wasn't in yet, so I'll return tomorrow. I'll return tomorrow because Nurse Sheri from Providence Sacred Heart sent me an email later in the morning telling me she had faxed the standing order for my blood draw to the clinic.

2. I took advantage of my only day this week without a medical appointment by watching action from various conference tournaments across the nation.

One highlight was watching the University of Virginia overcome a slim halftime deficit, clamp down on North Carolina State in the second half, make an offensive adjustment at halftime, set Kyle Guy free to bomb three pointers from several spots beyond the arc, and beat the Wolfpack, 76-56. Guy poured in 29 points and Jack Salt, who rarely scores, surprised fans by scoring 18 points.

My roller coaster ride as a fan of the St. John's Red Storm hit a profound valley this afternoon. Today, the Bad Johnnies showed up at Madison Square Garden to play Marquette. Marquette got scoring early and often from all of their starters which helped set their star Markus Howard free to score thirty points, leading the Golden Eagles to an 86-54 crushing of St. John's. St. John's wobbled early. Their shooters never really warmed up and before long the Johnnies collapsed into chaos, taking wild shots and turning the ball over.  Before long, St. John's defense folded. Marquette's dominance resulted.

3. I also stayed up to watch Oregon defeat Utah, 66-54. The Ducks played smothering defense and turned several steals and turnovers into easy points.

The game was also psychedelic thanks to the improvisational and copious commentary of Bill Walton who once again took listeners (those who didn't mute him) on a magic carpet ride that swooped through the heat and expanse of Death Valley, celebrated the birthday of Albert Einstein, and continued the campaign for Oregon basketball coach Dana Altman to be elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame (Walton is "staggered" this hasn't happened). Walton presented his broadcasting partner Dave Pasch with a painting featuring Pasch and the broadcast's technical crew confronting a volcano. The painting had a message, directed at Pasch:  "Stay strong, Dave." I also learned from Walton that the area in the key between the foul line and the basket has long been known as the "honey hole". I've been following basketball for over fifty years and it has taken this long for me to find out about this evidently historic and popular term (according to the Big Red Head).

Oh! And on occasion, Walton commented on the basketball game, effusively praising the spectacular play of Oregon and Utah and enthusiastically praising the Conference of Champions. Walton never uses the term, Pac-12. He uses the conference's  marketing tag, only referring to the Pac-12 as the Conference of Champions.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/13/19: World Kidney Day Eve, RIP Lance Sparks, The Joyful Johnnies and the Tough Ducks Win

1. I jumped the gun.

For many, March 14th is Pi Day.

But, for a whole other segment of the population, whose lives rotate around the axis of Glomerular filtration rate, Blood Urea Nitrogen levels, creatinine levels, reduced sodium intake, a low potassium diet, and the daily monitoring of blood pressure, among other things, March 14th is World Kidney Day.

But, did I wait until March 14th to see Dr. Kristie Jones, my nephrologist?

No. I saw her today, on World Kidney Day Eve.

As I anticipated, it was a pleasant visit.

Because I'd seen the results of my lab work, I knew that my numbers were stable: 16% kidney function or GFR; not much change in my abnormally high BUN and creatinine levels; everything else in great shape. Dr. Jones reiterated that because I am not diabetic nor do I have heart disease, it makes sense that I continue to feel well, not show symptoms of renal disease, and maintain stability.

I see Dr. Jones again in July.

Oh! By the way, I received a World Kidney Day gift a day early in the mail. My first blood draw kit arrived from the lab in Spokane that serves the Providence Sacred Heart transplant program. It's a handsome kit featuring an easy to open box, a slender red-capped tube, blue protective foam to keep the tube secure in the mail, easy to read labels, and concise and clear instructions. 

I'm hoping that the proper paperwork will be in place tomorrow and that I can have my first blood draw for Sacred Heart performed on World Kidney Day.

2. I spent some time today in correspondence with a couple of friends in Eugene, discussing Lance Sparks, a longtime fellow instructor at LCC, who died on March 1st. Through Facebook, back in September of 2018, I received a group event notification of a Celebration for the Living given for Lance at Capitello Wines. I didn't know, back in September, that a lot of my friends in Eugene didn't know that Lance was ill or about the event in his honor; nor did they know the cause of his death once they learned he had passed away.

If you are reading this and knew Lance, you still might not know what afflicted him, so let me tell you.

Not long before his friends held the Celebration of the Living, Lance had been diagnosed with an uncommon, degenerative disease called progressive supranuclear palsy.  The condition slurs speech. It causes loss of balance and falls.  Lance needed a walker. Even more cruelly, this disease causes loss of vision and so, in his final months of life, Lance couldn't read or write. There is no cure or treatment for progressive supranuclear palsy.

I would have posted this information sooner, but I assumed, wrongly, that if I knew about Lance's illness up here in North Idaho, that it would have been well-known in Eugene.

To memorialize Lance, the family is hosting an open house on Saturday, March 23rd from noon to 5 pm at Kat and Lance's house. Attendees are welcome to bring, in Kat's words, "a nibble to share or a bottle to toast . . . or a story".  I'm not comfortable posting the address of the open house on this blog, but will be happy to share it in private. 

3. I don't know what the future holds for the St. John's Red Storm as far as the NCAA tournament goes, but at the very least, this evening I got to see the Johnnies play a whole game with gleeful energy as they thumped DePaul, 82-74. Tonight, after playing lousy during a three game losing streak, the Johnnies combined drives to the iron, easy buckets scored off turnovers, some timely missiles from long range, and some nifty hoops scored after pinpoint interior passes to roar out to an early lead they never relinquished. All five starters scored in double figures. Over the last several weeks, I've watched St. John's bounce back and forth between being the "good Johnnies" and the "bad Johnnies" and I loved seeing them perform tonight as the good Johnnies.

After watching the good Johnnies waltz to victory, I watched most, but not of all, of the Oregon Ducks total dismantling of the WSU Cougars, 84-51. If I can take Bill "Magic Carpet Ride" Walton at his word -- no, at his voluminous, non-stop words --, right now, the Ducks are playing the best defense of any team in the Pac-12. In addition, some of their younger players have developed superbly over the course of the season and they are playing their best basketball now, at the end of the season. Next up, the Ducks play the tough and well-coached Utah Utes, a stern test, and we'll see if their late season momentum and winning ways continue.

Oh! And St. John's faces Marquette next. St. John's has defeated Marquette twice, but, like the Ducks, face a rigorous challenge today.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/12/19: Nuclear Heart Stress Test, Brews at Slate Creek, "Upset City, Baby!" Zags Lose

1. Another winter storm swept into the Idaho Panhandle this morning and I paid close attention to the webcams stationed on I-90 and to road reports posted on the 4th of July Facebook page. By the time I needed to leave for Coeur d'Alene, it looked to me like the freeway was largely unaffected by the snowfall, so I kept my appointment at the Kootenai Heart Clinic. To my relief, the snowflakes were tiny, the roads were still a bit warm from previous days, and the roads were wet and clear.

Once I arrived at the clinic, Nurse Sarah led to me an testing area. My vitals were superb, especially my blood pressure, and she put an IV in my right arm. Then Rhonda arrived and injected a radioactive liquid into my arm and I was at rest for about twenty minutes so the liquid could circulate. Then Rhonda put me under a machine and I lay still for the next twenty minutes while the contraption took pictures of my heart at rest. Then Sarah escorted me to the treadmill room, placed  a bunch of electrodes on my chest, and put me through a 9-10 minute walk, steadily increasing the speed of the treadmill and its steepness. The test required that my heart rate hit 131 and once I reached that level, Sarah leveled out the treadmill and slowed it down and, before long, Rhonda walked me back to the picture taking machine and took another series of pictures after my heart had been stressed.

As I was leaving the testing area, Rhonda was looking at the pictures and told me there were "no surprises". To make sure I understood her correctly, I said, "So the transplant people should be happy?" Rhonda nodded.

I began the process of tests and classes to get listed for a kidney transplant back on October 18, 2018 and today, on March 12, 2019, I am done with the testing. The committee decided to list me, on February 28, 2019, ahead of today's cardio test. The transfer of my waiting time from Maryland to Spokane has been completed and I've been removed from the U of Maryland's transplant list.

I just need one more thing: the blood draw kit to arrive at home from Sacred Heart. My nurse coordinator thought I should have received the kit by now, had another one sent out, and asked me to let her know if/when it arrives. 

2.  After my two hour or so visit to the Heart Clinic, I grabbed a quick burger at Jack in the Box and then met Byrdman at Slate Creek where I enjoyed a couple of half pints of beer, a brut IPA and a pilsner. Byrdman and I had fun yakkin' about college basketball and other stuff. Snow continued to fall during our session, but, I was confident that it wasn't sticking to the roads and my easy and fully lit drive back to Kellogg confirmed my assessment.

3. One of the things I love about college basketball is that a person just never knows what might happen in any game these young men and women play.

Perfect example: tonight, the St. Mary's Gaels' upset Gonzaga, 60-47 in a win that shocked me and impressed me at the same time. (Fortunately, the meatloaf dinner Christy made tonight was much better than the Zags' performance!)

I have a lot of thoughts about how St. Mary's pulled off this win. I doubt I will write them all here, but here are some of them.

To begin: I tend to think winners win basketball games more than losers lose them. I tend to credit winners for wins more than I tend to blame losers for losses.

In watching this game, I thought what St. Mary's did really well contributed mightily to their victory and captured more of my attention than what Gonzaga did poorly -- in fact, I thought much of what St. Mary's did so well caused many of the Zags' problems.

Mostly, St. Mary's poured molasses over the Zags, slowed them way down, gummed up their gears, by not shooting until the shot clock on most of their possessions had nearly expired, not committing many turnovers, scoring on a number of high percentage shots (and hitting a few low percentage ones), by not allowing the Zags to dominate them when it came to rebounding missed shots, and by playing bruising defense.

I don't know if Randy Bennett (no relation to UVA coach Tony Bennett) coaches something like the UVA Pack Line Defense, but whatever his staff teaches his players to do defensively worked a lot like the Pack Line tonight.

St. Mary's defense collapsed on and crowded Rui Hachimura -- he only took six shots all game and only one in the second half. He only scored nine points. All this inside crowding and collapsing also kept Brandon Clarke in check for the most part. He only took eight shots (but scored 16 points). Josh Perkins drove to the cup several times, but in the heavy traffic of St. Mary's inside defense, he failed to convert many of his drives. St. Mary's also defended Gonzaga well from the outside and the Zags hoisted a lot of shots from long range that failed to fall -- Gonzaga's guards shot a combined 7-30, and the Zags only made 2-17 shots from beyond the three point line. Oh, yeah. The Zags also committed a number of careless turnovers or unforced errors.

Did one team seem hungrier than the other? Make more hustle plays? Dig out more loose balls and contested rebounds? Did one team appear more poised? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

That team was St. Mary's.

Put it all together, St. Mary's dictating the tempo, St. Mary's bruising the Zags on defense and bullying the Zags on the boards, the Zags' poor shooting and careless turnovers, and St. Mary's greater hunger, better energy, and higher motivation and the result was, as Dick Vitale kept hoarsely hollering, "Upset city, baby!"

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/11/19: Routine Appointment, Good Walk, Zags Bury Pepperdine

1. I figured it was possible that after our 7:40 appointment, Linda Jo Yawn might want me to have blood drawn so I fasted for the twelve hours beforehand. I was right. After she gave me a routine checkup and asked me some questions, declaring, in agreement with all the other doctors, that my kidney numbers look lousy, but have been stable, and everything else looks good. I had three vials of blood drawn and went to the Bean for a blueberry bagel and a good coffee drink, half Americano and half steamed milk.

2. I had hoped to walk to the clinic for my appointment, but, at 7:00, the temperature was well below twenty degrees and I drove. Later in the afternoon, however, I walked west on Cameron, turned right on Jacobs Gulch Road, walked around in the Medical Center parking lot, and then headed up to the high school and retraced my steps back home. It was a good walk, lasting over a half an hour. My pedometer malfunctioned so I don't know how many steps I racked up.

3. The Gonzaga men were back in action tonight in the semi-finals of the WCC tournament.  The Zags hadn't played a game in nine days. If they had to shake off any rust, they did it quickly, and trounced Pepperdine 100-74. Six Zags scored over ten points, led by Zach Norvell's 18. After a month long absence with a foot injury, Killian Tillie returned to action for 15 minutes and buried three treys. The Zags fans, including Christy, were thrilled to see him back in action, and he was visibly very happy to be in action.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/10/19: First Sunday of Lent, Errands, Ducks Lose to Stanford

1. Thanks to a nearly cloudless turquoise day and clear roads, I drove this morning to Coeur d'Alene and worshiped at St. Luke's Episcopal Church. 

Today was the first Sunday of Lent. The liturgy's combination of prayers of penitence, the readings from Scripture, the vicar's homily, and the hymns moved me deeply. As the church emptied out, I stayed behind, listening to the organist play the postlude. The vicar and a parishioner both approached me, but I couldn't talk because I was choking up, my chin quivering. The vicar could see that I was unable to speak and shook my hand and said, "We (referring to the parish) are very glad you are here." I managed to choke out a thank you. A few minutes later, the parishioner shook my hand and asked, "Are you carrying sadness to church today?"  I could only answer, "It's Lent."  He replied, "Well, it's been a long winter." "That's true," I croaked.

I occasionally had this kind of emotional experience at St. Mary's in Eugene, but when we moved to Greenbelt and I attended services at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross at Dunn Loring, VA, where Rev. Betsy Bagioni was acting as rector, and then worshiped at St. Andrew's in College Park, I frequently was unable to speak after services because I was trying hard not to cry in public.

I think I know why and it's pretty simple.

My day to day life as an Episcopalian is solitary. It was much less so in Eugene because I had friends who were Episcopalians. But, in Maryland, and now in Kellogg, I almost never have interactions with other Episcopalians and, almost without knowing it, I long to be with fellow Episcopalians.

After all, the Episcopal church is my spiritual home.

So, the liturgy, because it is nearly the same everywhere in the Anglican communion, connects me with Episcopalians everywhere. As I worship, I feel fellowship with people I imagine saying these same words, praying these same prayers, and hearing the same Scripture at St. Mark's in Moscow, St. Mary's and Resurrection (and others) in Springfield and Eugene, St. John's Cathedral in Spokane, Grace Episcopal in Nyack, NY, and the many parishioners I never knew at St. Andrew's at College Park, to name a few. It surprises me when a lump forms in my throat when we pass the peace or when people at St. Luke's to whom I am a stranger, extend warmth and hospitality, but, upon reflection, I know I am moved by my feelings of isolation dissolving and of experiencing the unique bond I feel through the Holy Spirit with others in the Episcopal church.

2. I left the church and climbed in the Sube and sat for few minutes, got myself back on a more even keel, took off, and decided to have a plate of corned beef hash and eggs and hash browns at the Breakfast Nook, enjoying both the food and my spot by myself at the end of the diner's counter. I ran one more errand, the purchase of a couple of rugs to help Charly get around the house easier, at Fred Meyer.

3. By the time Linda Schantol and I made text message contact to watch the Ducks women play Stanford, Stanford had already jumped to an 8-0 lead. As I've looked and reflected upon this game, I've concluded that the Ducks lost this game in those first few minutes. I say this, not only because Stanford won by seven points, 64-57, but because those first few minutes of the game put the Ducks on their heels, established Stanford as the more aggressive (and maybe the less fatigued) team, and, all game long, the Ducks were working to take control of the game back from Stanford, to overcome Stanford's fast start.

At the end of the third quarter, the Ducks temporarily seized control of the game and took the lead by a point at the end of the third quarter. The Ducks and Cardinal exchanged leads several times as the fourth quarter developed, but I thought the game, ultimately, turned on a single play.  With 3:31 left in the game, DiJonai Carrington made a lay up to put Stanford ahead 53-51. Eleven seconds later, Carrington stole the ball from the Ducks' Maite Cazorla and raced over half the length of the court to score, put the Cardinal up by 4, and the Ducks never led again.

Linda and I shared our sadness that the Ducks lost and agreed to look ahead to the NCAA tournament and see what kind of seed the Ducks get. We are eager to cheer them on again.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/09/19: Good Dog Day, Goose 'n Tree and a Walk, Ducks Defeat UCLA in OT

1. Maggie and Charly, it appears, have recovered from their dental work on Tuesday. The occasional coughing and honking Maggie experienced for a couple of days is gone. Today, both dogs had a normal and easy day, enjoying their meals, getting plenty of rest, and enjoying the sounds of squeaking sneakers and boisterous cheering coming from the television during a series of basketball games.

2. Outside, the temperature was slightly warmer today -- well, without any wind, it seemed so. Finally, I could get out and get in some walking. I drove to Pinehurst around 11 or 11:30 and stopped in at The Goose 'n the Tree. I had watched Seton Hall, the best 11 loss team in men's college basketball, upset Villanova.  Now I wanted to try out one of Derrick's bagels. Customers occupied four tables when I arrived and Meredith and I visited a bit when she took breaks from serving the others. They'd been very busy earlier in the morning. Meredith told me through a pleased smile that Saturdays and Sundays have been crazy busy.

Before long, she brought me a plain bagel and gave me a Danish on the house. The bagel was, in a very good way, unlike any bagel I'd ever eaten. It was buttery. Its texture was not as dense as other bagels I've had in shops or cafes, and having it toasted gave it a pleasing crunchiness. The Danish was also superb:  light, buttery, flaky with just the right amount of jam on top. As the cafe thinned out, Meredith told me more about the cafe, confirming what I thought was true: she and Derrick are running the business themselves without employees. (I know, however, that a couple of the Radio Brewing crowd have stepped in at times to help pour coffee or do some dishes.) As such, despite requests from customers asking for more, they serve breakfast only, are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and are looking to sell Derrick's baked goods in local stores.

Upon leaving the cafe, I walked about a mile, heading down Pinehurst's main drag, crossing over to the Barney's parking lot to locate once and for all the new bakery, the one that was originally housed in the Goose 'n Tree, strolled over to the golf course and peeked in the clubhouse (Byrdman's son, Nick, has been hired to head up the golf course and clubhouse), and returned to the Sube. I could tell all too clearly that I hadn't been on a good walk since the snow, ice, and wind descended upon the Silver Valley, but all day long, afterward, I felt invigorated and look forward to resuming my walking routine.

3.  Great basketball games packed this day. I watched, in part or in total, Seton Hall upset Villanova, 79-75; Virginia wear down Louisville and come from behind to triumph, 73-68; North Carolina speed by Duke, 79-70; and Michigan State blast by Michigan, 75-63.

Those were all men's basketball games.

My favorite game of the day, and, to me, the best, was the women's game matching UCLA and the Univ. of Oregon in the Pac-12 conference tournament semi-final.

I had watched these two teams play back on Feb. 22 and UCLA deeply impressed me with their toughness and skill as they erased a 22 point Oregon lead and stormed back to defeat the Ducks, 74-69.

As we've been doing recently, Linda Schantol, watching the game in Eugene, and I texted greetings to one another and texted comments back and forth throughout the game, helping each other get through the game's tension and uncertainty.

We agreed that the Ducks surely had some extra motivation tonight after their loss two weeks ago and we agreed that UCLA is a very formidable team and that this was going to be a rigorous match up.

We were correct.

Behind Erin Boley's scalding shooting in the first quarter, the Ducks raced to a ten point lead, but, as expected, the Bruins inched back, closing the lead to 25-21 at the end of the first quarter and they stayed close, trailing only 36-30 at halftime.

The second half was intense. Both teams fought and scrapped for every inch of the court, contested every shot, and battled for every rebound. The Ducks succeeded in consistently working the ball inside to Ruthy Hebard who made a series of spins, hooks, and lay ups on her way to scoring 28 points for the game.

It somehow seemed just and right that this tooth and nail battle was tied at the end of the fourth quarter.

The Bruins took an early lead in overtime. Keep in mind that the Bruins are coached by Cory Close, a great and demanding coach who implores her players to play with supreme effort, to never give an inch, to contest every last one of their opponents' possessions with vim and passion. Cory Close is fiery and in the overtime period she crossed a line while advocating for her team and the referee she dressed down issued her a technical foul.

I'm a fully committed fan of this great Duck team, but when Cory Close crossed this line, I spontaneously cried out, "Oh, no!"

I hated to see Coach Close hurt her team like this.

At this point, the Bruins held a two point lead; Sabrina Ionescu dropped both the free throws; the Ducks kept possession and scored to go ahead by two points. UCLA tied the game twice afterward, but with 59 seconds to go, Satou Sabally scored on a powerful and elegant drive, putting the Ducks up by two, a lead they never surrendered. Ionescu iced the game with two free throws with 3 seconds to go after being fouled following a bewildering UCLA  turnover. Why was Kennedy Burke driving to the basket with 4 seconds left when her team was trailing by three? Was she hoping to score and get fouled? Why didn't UCLA get the ball to sharpshooting Japreece Dean to hoist a three pointer? I don't know, but this crucial turnover, when Burke bounced the ball off her own knee, helped seal the Ducks' victory.

Things get even tougher for the Ducks at 5:00 on Sunday, March 10th.  They face the powerhouse Stanford Cardinal for the tournament championship.

I can hardly wait. Neither can Charly and Maggie.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 03/08/19: Normal Dog Day, Reading Colette Marie, Ducks Win!

1.  Nothing happened with Maggie and Charly today that concerned me. Maggie didn't have any coughing/honking spells. They had a normal day. Both rested and slept much of the day. Maggie  alternated her time between the bed and being close to me and Charly was always near me, often pressing against one of my ankles. Every day, they especially enjoy joining me when I watch television. I pretend within myself that they especially enjoy the University of Oregon women's basketball team, my favorite team to watch (no longer the Johnnies, but I remain faithful to pulling for St. John's success).

2. I am grateful that some of the students I worked with at Whitworth back in 1977-78 and 1982-84 have also been friends over the past 35 to nearly 45 years. I spent much of my time today working with one of these friends, Colette Marie, even though I was here in Kellogg and she was on her way to visit her parents in Arizona. Colette is applying for admission in an MFA program and asked me to write her a letter of recommendation. With her request for a letter, Colette sent me an excerpt from the novel she's been working on for quite a while.

I can tell from the excerpt that Colette's eloquent novel is both a family saga and a deep exploration of the ancient and contemporary power of stories -- and, I think, the power of writing itself. Because I was a reading an excerpt, a couple of details confused me. I wrote Colette an email asking her to clarify these things and she did, expressing gratitude for my questions. I trust that the whole novel would have answered these questions, and, with them answered, my already deep respect for Colette's work grew.

I will read the excerpt again and write the letter very soon -- and submit it ahead of the program's deadline.

3.  The Pac-12 Conference Tournament is underway in women's basketball.  The Pac-12 is a very tough conference. If you doubt this, just look at Friday's results and you'll see that the Washington Huskies, who only won two conference this season, defeated nationally ranked Oregon State.

This afternoon, I watched Oregon play Arizona. Arizona's team features Aari McDonald, a quick, fearless, and, for her opponents, annoying guard surrounded by excellent players.

Arizona gave the Ducks a tough test today. McDonald scored 34 points, but only a single point in the fourth quarter, thanks in large part to the defense of the Ducks' tough, flu-stricken Maite Cazorla. The Ducks maintained leads for essentially the entire game, but it never felt comfortable because the Wildcats fought back hard and made life difficult for the Ducks. But, Sabrina Ionescu scored crucial baskets and dished out some dazzling assists. Ruthy Hebard was a source of strength inside, both on defense and offense. She led the Ducks with 21 points.  Gebard's  knee is still tender and Oti Gildon played some strong minutes, allowing Hebard to occasionally rest, a huge boost.

I thought Arizona showed signs of fatigue in the fourth quarter and the Ducks pulled away, winning the game, 77-63.

I loved watching this game. One of the post-game commentators (I think it was Anne Marie Anderson), when asked what most impressed her about Oregon, replied "their chemistry". Yes! That's it! This team seems mind melded, both on offense and defense; they seem to have a sixth sense about what each other will do next as they move the ball on offense, help each other on defense, and jet in the open court on fast breaks. Sabrina Ionescu is their best player, and she does what the very best basketball players do: she makes her teammates better. She hits her teammates with pinpoint passes, inevitably when they are in a premium position to score; verbally, she encourages and challenges her teammates; she creates imaginative shots on drives to the cup and is a superb shooter from the outside. She's selfless, but, if need be, she can take over the offense and score much needed baskets.

I've watched this team play its last seven games. I've watched Erin Boley with special interest. Boley transferred from Notre Dame to Oregon, sat out last season, and is one of the very best outside shooters in all of college basketball. In recent games, I've seen that Erin Boley is not just a spot up outside shooter. What I'm about to say may have been true all season, but I've recently taken note of Erin Boley playing a more physical game, fighting for rebounds, not settling for outside shots, but taking the rock strong to the iron, and demonstrating that she is a sound shooter from 10-15 feet as well as from beyond the three point arc. Against Arizona, Boley was in foul trouble and spent more time than usual on the bench, but scored 13 points.

In Oregon's next game, against UCLA, I will continue to pay special attention to Erin Boley. It could be that Maite Cazorla's stuggles with the flu will impair her play. At the very end of the Arizona game, Satou Sabally took a spill and whacked her elbow on the floor and put a towel over her head to hide her face while, I assume, she cried on the bench. She later reported that her elbow is swollen and bruised, but that she's fine.  Oregon freshman, Taylor Chavez, normally their first sub off the bench, is unable to play because of a foot injury.  Without a day of rest, it's unknown what kind of shape Ruthy Hebard's tender knee will be in. With three of her teammates possibly physically compromised and with the Ducks' bench very thin -- only three subs available --, it's possible that Erin Boley will have to contribute even more than usual against the Bruins.

I can hardly wait to see how this all plays out at 6:00 on the Pac-12 network.