Day 28: When Manny Met Floyd

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When Manny Met Floyd. Photo from bleacherreport.com

I saw the Manny Pacquiao documentary last week. Since I’m a huge Manny fan, I knew I would love the film. There was nothing in it that was new or relevatory for us diehards, but casual or non-fans will appreciate the boxer’s rags-to-riches story. It’s the classic underdog tale, with an extremely likable protagonist.

Of course, these days, you can’t say Pacquiao without mentioning Floyd Mayweather; there have been talks for years about a Pacquiao-Mayweather superfight. My brother said it when the idea was first floated by the media and it took me a while to agree with him: this fight will never happen. No matter what the terms of the fight are, Floyd seems to come up with another excuse: blood tests, purse splits, promotion companies … nothing is ever just right for Floyd.

In recent weeks, supposedly there have  been increased talks between the camps, which led to last night’s interesting moment at the Heat-Bucks game, pictured above. The two best fighters of this generation met at courtside and exchanged numbers.

Will they finally meet in the ring? Frankly, I no longer care. Both fighters are past their primes and the only thing either fighter gains are enormous paychecks. Yes, it’s the match that fans have wanted for years, but it won’t be anything like what it could’ve been five years ago. No matter who wins, it’ll always be, “Well, if they would’ve fought in their primes …”

Back then, Pacquiao would’ve destroyed Mayweather: Floyd has never fought anybody with Pacquiao’s devastating combination of speed and power. It’s the speed that generated Manny’s vicious punches: it’s those bombs that you can’t see that do the most damage.

If they fought now? I’ve got Floyd by a boring decision. He hasn’t sustained as much damage during his career and he’s perfected the win-without-risking-too-much style of boxing. As the years have passed, Manny has slowed down. He still has bursts of quickness, but nothing like what he showed against Ricky Hatton or Miguel Cotto. The wars and the devastating knockout against Juan Manuel Marquez certainly didn’t help his speed. Physically, I don’t think Manny could make Floyd fight his fight anymore. He’d probably try to box with Floyd, which is exactly what Mayweather wants. Pacquiao is at his best when things are chaotic in the ring, especially after he gets tagged and bangs his gloves together, as if to say, “Okay, now we’re fighting!”

It’s a shame, too, since anybody who loves fighting loves Manny. He’s a bit reckless in the ring, but that’s what appealed to so many boxing fans: he’s a throwback to guys who fought to win. It’s a big difference from boxing not to lose.

Day 27: Post-Apocalyptic Reading

Station Eleven e-book cover

Station Eleven e-book cover

While I was learning the ropes of the board game Pandemic this weekend, I received a notice from the L.A. County Public Library. Apparently, I had placed a hold on the e-book* Station Eleven and it was now available. I didn’t remember doing this, but since I’d only read one book this year I decided to download it.

In keeping with my recent binge-watching of The Walking Dead and my fascination with the Pandemic game, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven fit right in with my entertainment du jour. It’s a brilliant book that I can’t put down. In fact, it’s so good, that once I finished 75 percent of it, I decided to slow down my reading pace in order to savor its final pages.

Station Eleven is a beautifully written book about life after a pandemic wipes out 99 percent of the world’s population. Mandel’s handling of each character is masterful and I’m looking forward to reading her previous work. For now, I’ll enjoy her post-apocalyptic novel between games trying to prevent the apocalypse.

*Note: One of my favorite things about the L.A. County Public Library system is its selection of online materials. Through the Downloads section of their website, patrons can borrow e-books, audiobooks, and music free of charge. All you need is a library card (any resident of California can get one) and a compatible device. I no longer own a Kindle, but the Kindle app allows me to borrow books on my phone or tablet.

Day 26: Back to School

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The Rolling Stones

 

In a future post I’ll write more about coursera.com, the online learning university that offers free classes from colleges worldwide, but for now let me say this: it’s one of my favorite things about the Internet. I’ve taken college-level courses in computer science, English, and music appreciation over the last two years and have been surprised at how sophisticated the classes are, as well as fascinated by the technology that makes MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) possible.

I’m currently enrolled in two courses. Through the University of Oregon, I’m taking Shaping the Way We Teach English 1: The Landscape of English Teaching. I’m halfway through the class and it’s been enlightening and beneficial; perfect for my line of work.

Through the University of Rochester, I’m taking The Music of the Rolling Stones, 1962-1974. I’ve taken other music appreciation classes with Professor John Covach and so far, this one is just as good as the others. The one thing this class has reminded me of is how young the Rolling Stones were at the beginning of their career. When I saw them back in 1990s, they were already considered old by rock standards, but it turned out that they had decades worth of farewell tours left in them.

Day 25: Happy Hour

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Now this is my idea of a relaxing Sunday evening: a Stone IPA for me and a mojito for the missus. Happy Hour at Paul Martin’s runs every day, including weekends, from 3-8pm. After being cooped up in the house all day, this was a terrific night out.

This is the Fleming’s owner’s other restaurant, so our expectations were high. Thankfully, the experience was top-notch all around. The craft beer choices were solid and the food was tasty. Get the $13 Burger + Fries + Beer special and you’ll be happy any day of the week.

Day 24: Game On … Continued

Epidemic card from Pandemic. This is bad.

Epidemic card from Pandemic. This is bad.

As I wrote here, I received my copy of Pandemic last night and was excited to play. This weekend turned out to be busier than I thought, but I finally played a few solo games tonight. I love the game mechanics; the sequence of actions is pretty straightforward and there aren’t dice to roll or huge charts to consult during each turn. I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out as it was designed, as a 2-4 player cooperative game.

I’m enjoying Pandemic so much that I’m in full-on geek mode right now, shopping for appropriately themed accessories to hold the game pieces (great idea, Tabletop!) or “Zombie Outbreak Response Team” shirts to wear while playing. Currently, I have no plans to enroll in medical school to learn how to fight infectious diseases … yet.

Day 23: Game On

Pandemic Game Board

Pandemic Game Board

Two days ago I did something I hadn’t done in eons: I bought a board game. As my wife and I were about to finish the first half of season five of The Walking Dead, we wondered how we would get our zombie fix until the new episodes were released. Although I enjoyed Dead Trigger and hadn’t downloaded Dead Trigger 2 yet, they’re still first-person shooter games that don’t offer  multi-player modes. We had fun playing Zombie Dice with our niece and nephew, but were looking for something a bit more challenging. A quick Google search offered plenty of zombie-related fun and we settled on the board game Pandemic.

While not exactly a zombie game, Pandemic’s theme is pre-zombie apocalypse: you and your team are trying to prevent infectious diseases from spreading and killing off the Earth’s population. You travel around the world, treating diseases and trying to discover a cure before it’s too late. The diseases aren’t named, but in our games one of them is definitely a strain of Zombie-itis.

What interested me the most is Pandemic’s cooperative game-play: two to four players play together, trying to beat the game. You share resources and do what’s best for the team, instead of trying to out-maneuver or out-wit your opponents. There are no advantages to withholding resources or trying to sabotage a teammate. There are various ways to lose, but only one way to win: cure all the diseases. It’s only possible if your team works well together.

Last night I watched the Pandemic episode of Tabletop, Wil Wheaton’s Youtube gaming show, trying to get a feel for the game. I also watched the instructional video on the Pandemic website and with these two videos, I felt like I had a good grasp of the rules and game play.

During a meeting this afternoon, I received the Amazon notification that the game had arrived. Yes! When I got home, I tore open the package, checked to make sure the game was complete, reviewed the rules, and set up the board.

It’s time to save the world.

Day 22: Ice Cream on a Cold Night

Handel's $1.25 scoop

Handel’s $1.25 scoop

There’s nothing better than a scoop of ice cream on a cold night. Over at Handel’s they serve scrumptious ice cream every day of the week, but my favorite day to visit is Thursday, when all single scoops are $1.25 each (normally $3.70).

According to their website, Handel’s originated in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1945. Although most of their stores are in Ohio, they’ve slowly added locations in several states and they have three spots in California: Rancho Cucamonga, Redondo Beach, and Upland.

Handel’s was ranked No. 1 ice cream by National Geographic’s 10 Best of Everything guide and it’s easy to see why. Every flavor I’ve had is fresher and creamier than other ice creams. While I’ll always be a fan of Thrifty’s Chocolate Malted Crunch, it doesn’t compare to the heavenly flavors at Handel’s. My two personal favorites: Blueberry Cobbler and Spouse Like a House (pictured above, it is a satisfying vanilla malt ice cream with peanut butter ripple and chocolate covered pretzels filled with peanut butter).

There are over 100 flavors that change daily and for regular readers of this blog: no, I will not be adding a Try Every Flavor at Handel’s to my 2015 goals. There aren’t enough cold nights in Southern California for that.

Day 21: Read, You Must

Read and the Force is with you

Read and the Force is with you

Is it really the 21st day of the year already? I’m in catch-up mode with a few of my goals for 2015. Today I finished the first of 26 books I’m trying to read in the next 12 months. Last year, I had the same goal and far exceeded it, reading 48 total. It’s the most I’d read since my college days and you can see the results of my 2014 Goodreads Reading Challenge here.

The last book I read was the terrific How Star Wars Conquered the Universe by Chris Taylor. It’s a Star Wars fan’s dream, a well-researched look at how Star Wars became an international phenomenon. For this year’s challenge, I decided to start with another Star Wars title. I began the final entry in The Thrawn Trilogy, but after a few chapters it sat on my shelf for two weeks; I just haven’t been in the mood, so I’ll pick it up again someday. In the meantime, I stopped by my local library and borrowed the graphic novel Star Wars: Rebel Heist. I didn’t really care for Rebel Heist (read my review here), but I’m glad I’ve got the first of 26 books read.

 

Day 20: Oink Oink

The Oinkster, Pho Ha

The Oinkster, Pho Ha

Just one of the many reasons why I love living in Southern California: dinner can be a pastrami burger one night and a bowl of pho the next. It’s exactly what my wife and I had yesterday and today, as seen above.

After sitting out traffic last night, we made it to The Oinkster for a late dinner. It’s one of our favorite spots in the area and even after being hyped on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives a few years ago, the restaurant consistently delivers amazing food. Kudos to Chef/Owner Andre Guerrero for maintaining such high standards. Last night I finally tried The Royale, which is a chili cheeseburger with bacon and several slices of The Oinkster’s famous house-cured pastrami. I typically get a pastrami sandwich, but after being in the car for much of the day, I was famished. The Royale was enormous and bursting with flavors and ingredients. Served with crispy Belgian fries, the burger nearly put me in a food coma before we could get back on the road.

Tonight, neither of us felt like cooking and the day turned out to be colder than we thought, so we decided to get a bowl of pho. It’s been great seeing so many pho joints open in the Inland Empire, since most are good and it saves us a trip to the San Gabriel Valley (my personal Mecca of Asian food in Southern California). Tonight we went to Pho Ha in Rancho Cucamonga. It’s always busy here and the service is meh, but the pho is always hot and delicious.

No plans yet for tomorrow’s dinner, but living in Southern California I know we’ll have plenty of options.

Day 19: Waiting in Santa Barbara

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Santa Barbara Roasting Company

Monday, 6:30pm: I’m at the Santa Barbara Roasting Company, waiting out traffic. It’s not a bad place to be stuck, actually: weekend destination for many, close to the wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley, and home to my alma mater.

I could write volumes on Santa Barbara: my love/hate relationship with the city, the good times, the bad times, and all of the friends I made over the years. Going to school and living here for years after graduating changed my life. I met a lot of wonderful people along the way, but when fate and circumstance convened years ago, I did not hesitate to move away.

Still, I’ll always consider Santa Barbara my home away from home. It’s changed a lot since I was a resident, but in many ways it’s the same. I still have friends here, but my closest friends are long gone. They were my last two roommates before I moved to the Inland Empire. We had a lot of fun together and whenever I visit this part of downtown, I think about them.

I remember one night we were downtown for dinner. Whether it was a pre-bar-hopping dinner or not, I don’t recall, but I’ll never forget what we had that night: pizza. Uncle Rocco’s was our spot then; we loved their big, thin New York pizzas. We each ordered a slice and I beat both of my buddies to the red pepper shaker, knowing that we all loved the added spiciness. I probably gloated a bit over my victory in the Great Red Pepper Race of 2006. No, I definitely gloated over getting the shaker first.

I then proceeded to dump the entire shaker’s contents onto my slice.

Thanks to some jokester who’d loosened the jar’s top, what was meant to be a few shakes to spice up my slice ended up being a single shake that unleashed an avalanche of red pepper onto my plate. My pizza was buried underneath, like a team of explorers meeting their destiny on Everest.

My buddies couldn’t stop laughing for what seemed like hours. I cleaned up my dinner and our table, laughing along with them. It’s nearly ten years later and I’m still laughing.