Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hoops Bracket Challenge!

I'll probably jinx myself blogging about this, but so be it.

Every year I contribute ten dollars to my nephew Vic's Superbowl board or his NCAA men's basketball challenge. Every year I lose. I've never been good at games of chance.

But this year I think I have a good chance going into this weekend's men's final. My NCAA bracket that I created didn't look too good at first but as the field of 64 teams got whittled down to 4, I ended up picking three of the Final Four teams.

That puts me in a tie for first place among 17 contestants. All I need is for Ohio State to beat Kansas on Saturday and the way I figure it, I should collect between one and two hundred dollars. It's hard for me to cheer on Michigan's arch-nemesis the Buckeyes, but if there's money involved, I'll do it.

I guess it helped that many of my nephew's friends and fellow contestants are fans of Michigan State, who fell earlier than expected. Some had bet on the Spartans to go all the way. I'm way ahead of them.

Ironically, I'm participating in another NCAA men's tourney bracket challenge mostly with immediate family and my Final Four there only gets me fifth place out of ten. One of the teams ahead of me is my dad, who reminded me of that when I called home this past weekend.

"Do you know what place I'm in?" my dad asked.

"I'm not sure. I just know I'm in fifth place but I don't--" I responded before my father interrupted.

"Third!" he said.

Bragging rights are important in these family competitions. I teased my nephew that he put his best bracket together for our ten-team family challenge even though there was no money involved. He's in first place in the family competition but his bracket with different winners picked is way out of the money in his own bracket challenge.

"Why did you put your best effort here (in the family competition), instead of your own money league? You'd probably be leading there with a better than decent shot at winning it all, " I pondered on the message board.

My nephew Vic responded, "We all know what league is most important. The money is not even close to having braggin' rights in the family."

Gee, if money is that unimportant to him, if I win I'll ask him to pitch in to round up the prize to the next hundred dollars.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bad Weather

That's my backyard during a series of particularly wicked storms that rolled through lower Michigan last week. And that's hail mixed in there with the rain.

We were under a tornado warning at the time but instead of taking refuge in the basement, I went from window to window, camera in hand, looking for funnel clouds to photograph. What I won't do for my blog.

I did figure that if trees started swaying and winds started roaring, then I would beat a hasty retreat downstairs. But it never happened, although less than 20 miles away in the town of Dexter an F3 tornado tore a half-mile wide path of destruction, starting with a newer subdivision at the edge of town.

Whoa, that's as close as I've ever been to a major tornado. There were no deaths nor major injuries reported, partly because every radio and TV station in the area saturated the airwaves with reports tracking the storms and funnel clouds. It's amazing how detailed weather radar has become in this day and age.

Our power did go out eventually and we were blacked out for five hours. That's not the time to discover that the batteries in your flashlight are dead. But that's what happened. The only light working was Wendy's reading light, the kind that attaches to your book. We used that to track down fresh batteries so we could revive at least one flashlight.

Thankfully, by that time the storms had passed and the all clear message had been given.

Now today, it's 80 degrees. Mind you, it's not spring yet, is it? That comes tomorrow. So this is 80 degrees and it's still officially winter. Unbelievable. We' had a remarkably warm winter. My brother, who lives 100 miles north of us in Bay City, said he did not use his snowblower once this winter.

Why the weird weather? Is it that Mayan calendar prediction that the end is near? Or is like this old science fiction movie I watched this week--The Day the Earth Caught Fire, where our planet was hurtling towards the sun?

I just hope we don't get cheated out of spring . . . again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I Scarred My Grandson

Scarred, scared--it works either way.

It started with the nesting dolls pictured above which our youngest son Scott brought back from Russia a few years ago. We volunteered to babysit our grandson Grant one day last week when his usual daycare provider was out of town.

That meant keeping him entertained, or at least occupied, for better than eight hours while his parents toiled with their day jobs. Turns out that Grant gravitated to me for entertainment as I gave him horsey rides on my knee, carried him into the kitchen to ring our dinner bell, and helped him play with whatever toy interested him at the moment. Wendy handled the feeding, the changing, the rocking to sleep, etc.

I should add that Wendy and I have been waiting to witness his major milestone. He has taken his first steps, but neither my wife nor I had seen the little guy put even two steps together. When he's at our place, it's rug rat city.

Anyway, I'm showing Grant the Russian nesting dolls, opening a bigger doll and letting Grant pull out the smaller doll inside. This went on until Grant got hold of the tiniest doll which fit neatly inside his fingers. I should have seen what was coming next, but it's been a long time since I've watched a baby.

Grant promptly put that tiny doll into his mouth or, rather, tried to. As soon as I saw Grant open his mouth and bring his fist to his mouth I cried out, "Noooooooooooooooooo!"

And the little guy stopped. Wow, quite obedient. In fact, so obedient that he would not so much as touch any of the dolls from that time forward. He just looked at me as I took one out of the other. Even when I invited him to take out one himself, he wouldn't do it.

Okay, so fast forward to sometime later. Grant is busy going from one toy to the next, crawling on the floor, occasionally standing or pulling himself up to the coffee table, or getting on one knee a la Tebow (see picture below).

Then, almost like he didn't realize what he was doing, he turned around and took a couple steps just like a todder would.

"Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" I called out with proud grandfatherly excitement.

I realize now that 'oh' sounds a lot like 'no.' Upon hearing me shout out, Grant immediately sat down and turned to me as if to ask, "What did I do now?"

Wendy deadpanned, "Great, he'll never walk again."

Awwwww, he'll get over it. Babies have short memories, don't they?

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Entertaining Young And Old

I put my grandson Grant in his crib one recent day at our house. As he wasn't sleepy, he protested as soon as I left the bedroom. So I picked up my accordion and strolled back into his room playing a polka.

He was in awe, eyes open wide and lips parted, quietly staring at that outrageous music machine. I brought it closer so he could touch it, perhaps even play a note or two himself. Not a chance. He might play my piano, but that accordion apparently looked like some sort of musical monster.

I remember reading about a poll that asked people to name their most hated musical instrument. The accordion ranked second, saved from ultimate humiliation only by the bagpipes.

My sister invited Wendy and I up this weekend to my old hometown, Bay City, where an Irish band was putting on a show in honor of St. Patrick's month. Bay City turns green in March with a number of Celtic-themed events including a St. Patrick's Day parade.

The band we heard featured a musician who played a button-box accordion, as well as another who was featured on the uilleann pipes, the Irish version of the Scottish bagpipes. The band also comprised a guitarist and a fiddler. The musician who played the pipes told a joke regarding a fellow musician who was confronted by airport security when he tried to bring his own uilleann pipes past a checkpoint.

"Is this some kind of weapon?" the security officer asked.

"Oh no, it's far worse than that," joked the pipe player. Maybe he was aware of bagpipes reputation in that poll I spoke of earlier.

I thought the pipes sounded wonderful when played for us. And fellow band member Seamus did a masterful job on the button box accordion whileleading us all on the chorus of a couple Irish tunes, including The Parting Glass from Waking Ned Devine. Seamus told jokes too. My favorite, with apologies to blonde folk including my wife . . .

Two blondes walk into a building . . . (you'd think one of them would have seen it).

Music and mirth. That's the key to entertainment. I think Grant is catching on so far as the music. Now I just need to learn a few baby jokes too. Better be careful though. He has sparse but very blonde hair.