Sunday, January 29, 2006

Is SNL Getting Funnier?

My husband and I have been having this debate lately. The past two new episodes we've watched, those hosted by Scarlett Johansson and Peter Saarsgard, have actually been very funny.

Then someone at work forwarded me the Chronic(What?)cles of Narnia skit...and I must say it's worth a couple minutes if you haven't seen it yet. I'm not hip enough to know whose rap video it's ripping off, but it's funny just the same. Headphones strongly encouraged if you're at work.

And yes, I am online doing schoolwork today...hence my third post of procrastination this evening.
Illinois's Saturday Showing Against Purdue

I must hand it to the Purdue Boilermakers -- they played pretty darn well yesterday considering they only dressed nine players for the game. Matt Painter has done a good job with this squad and the tough hand he's been dealt. The Boilermakers got off to a fast start at the Assembly Hall, and I believe they were leading for the first 10 minutes of the game. I was a bit concerned as Dee wasn't hitting his shots and the defense seemed a bit out of rhythm, both offensively and defensively.

Some of you may recall that Purdue was the last team to win at the Assembly Hall, 58-54 on at the beginning of Coach Weber's tenure two years ago. This was shortly after the locker room funeral for Bill Self and shortly before Illinois bought into the "motion offense" wholeheartedly. Given that Illinois has been struggling with the offense a bit since Big Ten play began this month, I was still on the edge of my seat well into the first-half.

It wasn't a fabulous game, but Purdue was playing well for its level of talent...and Illinois figured out what they had to do to win. Dee couldn't hit his 3s, so he started taking fast break opportunities. Rich McBride shot something besides a 3, which was refreshing to see. Brian Randle and Augustine both played well on defense, although the ticky-tack fouls they continue to draw are of some concern. Jamar Smith threw in a couple threes and even grabbed rebounds. Chester Frazier provided a spark of energy. Pruitt and Arnold didn't score much, but they got the job done inside.

Overall, no one had me raving after the game, but it was a fairly impressive, high-quality performance. True it was against a Big Ten basement dweller this year, but it was a fun game to watch. If Illinois can keep firing on all cylinders like this, it could make this week's game at Wisconsin pretty fun to watch. And to Purdue, many thanks for playing good clean basketball and putting forth such an impressive performance given the limited bench.

Off to Madison! As Mark Tupper so nicely puts it, the stage is set. If this team wants to be special, it has an opportunity to do so Tuesday night at 7 pm. Unfortunately, I will be arriving home about the time the game ends...but I will do my best to watch and comment in a timely manner.
Unexplained absences & fondnesses

So yes, I have been offline for a few more days. It's been an eventful couple weeks here in Illinigirlland. I have officially became another year older, celebrated our one-year anniversary in our new home, happily learned that the hubby's ligament is not torn and surgery is being put on the back burner for a while, started up my night classes again, and just been swamped at work.

However, this swamping at work culminated in a trip to Vermont last week, and darn it if I am just not smitten with the place. Dean screams and bike trails aside, I really liked Burlington. I toured the Ben & Jerry's factory and sampled the fabulous new Dublin Mudslide flavor. I tried an assortment of stellar restaurants downtown near Church Street. The UVT campus was beautiful, and the scenery was gorgeous even in the midst of a January thaw. I can't imagine what it's like in the fall, but I hope to go back and see it sometime. I ran into a few hoity-toity East Coast university types, but I met just as many salt of the earth wonderful people in my work there.

Of course, some of this is perhaps colored by stellar shopping options available to this town of less than 60,000 residents. While I am somewhat of a cheapskate, I tend to have champagne taste on a soda pop budget and am a born shopper. As someone who drives 2 hours to Chicago for such window shopping, I may have been somewhat swayed by the sight of an Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn nestled away in such a charming little downtown.

I really only had one afternoon and a few dinners out to enjoy the town, as I was putting in 12 hour days, but my initial impressions were very positive. Enough navel gazing for the moment, just thought I'd offer up a quick update on goings-on to those who are intersted.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Quick thought on tonight's Illini showing

I have been out this evening, so I'm just now in the process of watching the Illinois/Indiana 4x speed on the DVR because I'd already heard the outcome.

I do have one point to make though. Anyone who calls themself an Indiana fan should be embarassed to have such a classless thug as Marco Killingsworth winning games for their team. As my hubby pointed out, he should have been tossed from the game with his second (uncalled) technical throwing the ball at Pruitt with 2:40 left in the first half. His third (uncalled) technical came before the end of the first half when he blatantly slapped Warren Carter.

This my friend, is why I despise Indiana, Mike Davis, and all the dirtiness this program recently represents. Relying on cheap, dirty transfers to come in for a year and magically save your team's season. (Apologies in advance to my one Hoosier fan friend Julie, but that's how I perceive it). And it makes me appreciate programs like Tom Izzo's Michigan State squad all the more. Even Tommy Amaker and his Michigan squad seem far and away cleaner players. Iowa didn't play this dirty. Heck, who doesn't look good when up against this kind of sportsmanship?

I haven't seen enough of Illinois's play to comment at this point. I'm disappointed, but much less than I was with the outcome of the Iowa game. Two-point Big Ten road losses, while not two-point Big Ten road wins, are respectable these days...but not dominating performances like those put forth by last year's squad. My feeling is that Illinois still has a lot of work to do offensive and definitely on free throws, before they can be a real Elite Eight contender in March.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

It was the best of games...

Then it was the worst of games. If Dickens wrote about basketball, he couldn't have composed this one better. After Dee's amazing performance and the Michigan State victory Thursday, Illinois looked terrible losing up at Iowa less than 48 hours later. It seemed apparent that this first loss was inevitable -- given the high quality of Big Ten Play, this was probably going to happen sooner or later. But in my husband's opinion, it shouldn't have happened like that.

That game was just horrendous to watch. I was at home watching it most of the first-half, and no one on either team could find the basket for minutes at a time. My hubby actually questioned whether the rims had been adjusted/tightened at both ends of the court. Well if that was the case, Iowa figured out how to make adjustments and actually went on a few scoring runs in the second half. No one from Illinois could come close to making that claim other than James Augustine, who fortunately broke out of his funk but unfortunately spent about half the game on the bench in foul trouble. I was a stamping party (I'm quite the domestic maven when I have time to do so), and I actually quit watching with several minutes left to play. It's easy to forget what that's like when your favorite basketball team has only lost five times in the past two years.

As Mark Tupper notes, this game exposed the flaws in Illinois's play that we already knew about, flaws that have made fans nervous during the first fifteen games. Tepid offense, horrible free-throw shooting, a tendency to stand there and look at Dee to make things happen. But as he also notes, Weber is too good a coach to let these things go on unaddressed. Hopefully they will make some progress before next Saturday's games against Michigan and the January 17th session at Indiana. We shall see.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


What a game! A defensive slugfest so to speak, somewhat of a nailbiter until the last two minutes, but that was some quality Illini basketball. 60-50 Illinois -- it turns out my prediction was not quite generous enough. I am a bit concerned about the offense, but it did seem like it started to gel in the last ten minutes of play. And I heart Rich McBride hitting those three pointers when they were needed. Keep it up big guy, we need you!

Thanks to Dee's unbelievable 34 points and an impressive defensive effort, I do not have to buy the Krispy Kremes tomorrow. As always, I salute Michigan State for being a class act...with one exception. Paul Davis and his repeated dirty digs at Augie were not well recieved at my house. Other than that...hoorah for a great game. Bring on the rest of the Big Ten, and let's see what Illinois can do in terms of a team offensive effort. ILL!

P.S. Just trolling message boards for post game feedback, and I had to amend this post to salute another class act. Mr. Daniel Brown in the Daily Illini -- thanks all his coaches and teammates and then drops this quote below. Illini fans can read the whole letter here.

"To all the fans I have to say this: Thank you so much for the support and love you have not only for me, but for the whole program. To see orange on road trips, sellouts at The Hall, fans traveling around the country, it means so much to us and YOU are the reason we compete at such a high level. Love always outweighs the hate, positive overshadows the negative, and in this business when expectations aren't met or struggles occur, what keeps me motivated and positive are the fans that wear my shirt, jerseys and hats. I really appreciate that, and it's really a blessing to play in front of wonderful fans that care about the program and this kid who wears a headband.

I have to say that if it weren't for the love I have for the coaching staff, Athletic Director Ron Guenther, the fans and the excitement of playing in The Hall, I would have gotten an agent and turned pro. The University of Illinois was so deep in my heart, and God made me understand how much love people have for me. Well guess what? I love y'all too!

I knew by coming back to school it would only help me send a positive message to the youth that education is essential. If people don't think I'll be a pro, I still can smile and say I have my degree from one of the best public universities in the country.

I hate to say this, but I'm kind of glad I broke my foot last summer because it made me a better person and made me realize my destiny and purpose in life. Thank you for the opportunities, and I will forever love the University of Illinois. I hope No. 11 lives on after I'm gone. Until then, I will continue to play my hardest and represent my school."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

On a more serious note

I wanted to note that I will be praying for Ariel Sharon tonight, as it has been reported that he suffered a massive stroke this afternoon and is clinging to life. While I don't necessarily think Israel is blameless in the current Middle Eastern situation, he has always struck me as an admirable, well-meaning man trying to do what he feels is right.

On a related note over at Opinion Journal, Mark Steyn has a long, thoughtful, distrubing piece on the greatest threat to Western Civilization. The declining birthrates in Western nations, the skyrocketing birthrates in radical Islamite countries, and the misguided notion that we should not be intolerant of any beliefs, even horrible ones that encourage suicide bombings and Islamic legal codes that allow for men to rape women at will. I cannot do the piece justice in my description as I have limited time available tonight. However, I encourage you to read and consider Steyn's arguments. It makes one of the better cases I have seen for actively encouraging liberty, democracy, and modernity in Radical Islam practicing nations.

This piece should make anyone who values their freedoms as a human, as a citizen of a democracy, or as a Christian stand up and take note. On a lighthearted note, it also makes me want to have lots and lots of babies. But pretty much everything does lately.
Big Ten play starts tomorrow...

...Big Ten play starts tomorrow! And not with a whimper but with a bang, as last year's conference Final Four contenders take one another on at the Assembly Hall in Champaign. It's a game I always look forward to, because try as I might to detest them because they are the enemy tomorrow night, I deeply respect Tom Izzo and his program. (This is basically the consensus in Illini Nation as well, as this thread over at IlliniBoard demonstrates). I can't get as excited about Indiana and Iowa because I just don't like their coaches and leadership quite so much.

Michigan State is a high-quality team. They've had two losses to good teams (Gonzaga and Hawaii) as their record states, but without Dee Brown's heart a few key free throws, Illinois could have the same win-loss numbers. Michigan State also owns clutch wins Arizona and Georgia Tech. With the exception of North Carolina and perhaps Xavier, Illinois has not seen what they can do playing a team of this caliber yet.

All that being said, I have to believe that this team has improved substantially in the past month or so since squeaking by Xavier. Dee has really started to gel at point guard, and the defensive intensity witnessed in the first half of the Illinois / Tennessee Martin game was incredibly impressive. If Illinois comes out with that defense tomorrow night -- if Augie and Randle can both control their men -- I think Illinois could surprise everyone and put out a very impressive showing. If Dee keeps running things like he's doing or Rich McBride has another hot shooting game, who knows what could happen. A win against MSU tomorrow would definitely silence some of the naysayers and force the ACC/Big East loving pundits to take this team seriously. I'm pretty sure it will be a hard fought battle, but ultimately this game is at Assembly Hall and I think Dee and boys want this one too much. With the sea of orange all hyped up, I'm going to basically agree with Mark Tupper and predict a 5-point victory for Illinois decided in the last few minutes of the game.

I do have a veiled interest in tomorrow night's game. Two boxes of doughnuts for my coworkers and the opposing screen's team saver on our monitors for a day per point of the victory margin ride on the outcome of this one. Let the game begin! As my favorite Illinois underclassman Jamar Smith said at practice Monday, "I’m pretty sure it’s going to be bananas!”

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy New Year!

I mulled a post about the best and worst of 2005 most of the weekend. Other than pop culture hits and misses, it was hard to categorize everything into bests and worsts. Instead, I'll just offer up some things that will stand out in my memory about 2005. Not necessarily the best or worst or most important things, but things that resonate in my mind in no particular order. Keep in mind that I don't get out much or stay that abreast of the newest trends unless they are televised.

Favorite TV Shows of 2005: American Dreams (RIP), Arrested Development (, The Comeback (RIP), Entourage, Everwood, Gilmore Girls, Grey's Anatomy, Jack and Bobby (RIP), Joan of Arcadia (RIP), Lost, My Name is Earl, Scrubs, Six Feet Under (RIP)

Favorite Movies of 2005: Mad Hot Ballroom, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Star Wars Revenge of the Sith (in there for the hubby), Walk the Line, 40 Year Old Virgin. (I really didn't see many movies this year. To be fair, I think Chronicles of Narnia, A History of Violence, Kung Fu Hustle, Me You and Everyone We Know, Munich, Shopgirl, and several other films might have made this list if I'd seen them)

Least Favorite Movies of 2005: Fever Pitch and Must Love Dogs. Promising films that could have been much better, just disappointing given the actors.

Favorite Albums of 2005: From Under the Cork Tree (Fall Out Boy), Wreck of the Day (Anna Nalick), Illinoise (Sulfjan Stevens), Why Should the Fire Die? (Nickel Creek), Nothing is Sound (Switchfoot)

Moments to Remember from 2005:

  • Watching the New Orleans levees break and the stranded citizens after Hurricane Katrina. Feeling pretty dismayed because New Orleans had known what could be in store for them...but the evacuation failed, mass chaos and calamity ensued regardless.
  • Meeting my friends' adorable babies -- and coming to terms with the fact that many of my friends are now having babies! Max, Yeva, Elizabeth, and Mason, welcome to the world!
  • Watching the Supreme Court nominations unfold after O'Connor's retirement and Rehnquist's passing. The process was somewhat messy, but overall I was pleased with the well-qualified justice and nominee that were eventually put forth.
  • Witnessing Mike and Alecia's lovely wedding at the Wash U chapel in St. Louis and the wonderful weekend, road trip, and company associated with the event.
  • Watching Illinois come back from 15 down to defeat Arizona in an incredible performance, after even I had written them off on my blog.
  • Vasher's 108-yard punt return during the Bears-49ers game this fall.
  • Visiting the Atlantis resort in Nassau and snorkeling off Port Lucaya with my family this spring.
  • Thanksgiving weekend in Ohio with my mom's extended family. It was an annual trip growing up, but I never really realized how special it was until we were able to reassemble the whole crew for the first time in ten years.
  • Feeling a bit sad when the Nick and Jessica separation was announced Thanksgiving weekend. The hubby and I were married just a few hours before them in 2002, so I was pulling for them to make it.
  • Pope John Paul's passing and Pope Benedict XVI's selection. I'm not Catholic, but it was fascinating to witness from a historical perspective.
  • Watching coverage of the Pakistan earthquake in October and realizing how many thousands perished there...
  • Seeing the sheer joy on the faces of Iraqis after voting in their election this December and realizing just how many Americans, myself included, take this privilege for granted.

Have to work tomorrow, so that's it for now but I will try to return soon.