Tuesday, October 25, 2016

20 Tips for Home Setup and Recovery After Back Surgery

If you are planning to have back surgery, you may be able to help yourself recover better at home by planning ahead. After recently undergoing lumbar spine back surgery, I discovered that many things I do in daily life and at home are simply impossible during the initial recovery phase.

In this article, I hope to share some home setup tips to help you recover as quickly and painlessly as possible. This is not a comprehensive list, but some ideas to help you get your home environment setup for surgery recovery.

1. Remove all area rugs, mats, or loose flooring. These items are tripping hazards. If you will be using a walker, you may not be able to navigate these obstacles.

2. Set out clean, loose fitting clothing on top of your dresser or other furniture that you can easily reach without bending. Set out entire outfits for the first week including underwear, socks, sweatpants, and easy fitting shirts.

3. Set up your shower by purchasing a 2-headed shower where 1 of the shower heads is hand held and flexible for hard to reach places. Be sure you can reach shampoo, conditioner, soap, and shaving cream without the need to bend, twist, or lift your hands too high. Consider purchasing a dispensing unit that you can mount on the wall of your shower.

4. Purchase a toilet seat riser with handrails. This device will be especially useful during the first few days and weeks as you may be unable to lower yourself to the standard toilet seat. This item may qualify for reimbursement through your insurance company.

5. Rent, borrow, or buy a small walker to help you get around the first few days. This item may also qualify for reimbursement through your insurance company.

6. If you have children, you will have a constant challenge with toys on the floor. These toys are serious tripping hazards. Work with your children well before the surgery so they expect to put toys away as soon as they are finished. Make a fun game out of toy roundup so that it becomes routine.

7. Put a fitted satin sheet on your bed. The satin is a bit slippery which will enable you to get in and out of bed. You can use the flat sheet as well, but it is not as important as the fitted sheet. I picked up an inexpensive set at Ross for under $20. You can find some satin sheet sets online at Overstock for under $30.

8. Do all laundry and housekeeping tasks before the surgery.

9. Pay bills due for the next few weeks the day before your surgery. In many cases, you can schedule future online payments with most companies.

10. Fill your prescriptions at the hospital before you go home to recover. You’ll have the pain medication ready and will not have to wait on someone to go fill the prescriptions.

11. Cook meals ahead of time and freeze them. Be sure you can easily reach the items in the freezer, and can easily reach a microwave to heat them up.

12. Buy smaller containers of milk. Gallon sizes may be too heavy.

13. Take up offers from people who want to bring you food. However, you do not want to receive 5 casseroles on your first day home from recovery. Ask people to coordinate the meals several days apart.

14. Create a medication chart on a piece of paper. Keep it on the counter with a pen. Mark down the dates, times, and quantity of each medication as you take it.

15. Stock a small container or basket with comfort items that you can easily reach while healing at home. Comfort items may include lip balm, tissue, water bottle with straw, saltine crackers to take with medication, phone, phone numbers, small notebook, pen, reading material.

16. Consider using paper plates and plastic utensils if you do not have someone who can help you with dish washing. You may only need to go the disposable route for the first few weeks, but you definitely should not be loading or unloading a dishwasher.

17. Rearrange your furniture so that you have enough room to maneuver a walker.

18. Go to the library before your surgery to check out books and movies. If your DVD player is not easily reachable without bending, consider moving it temporarily so you do not have to bend to insert a movie.

19. Purchase a reaching tool, such as the Gopher. This tool is handy to pickup small items that you drop on the floor.

20. Have someone stay with you during the first week after surgery, if possible. The first week is the most difficult, and having another person to basic tasks for you will help tremendously.

Tags:20 Tips for Home Setup and Recovery After Back Surgery

20 Ways to Market Your EBay Business on a Shoestring

As an eBay seller, you must not only compete with thousands of other sellers within the eBay arena but you must do so by offering low-cost auctions and still find time to attract new loyal customers. It is somewhat of an oxymoron since you want to maintain a low cost strategy and yet you need money to market and grow your online business.

However, there are ways to market your eBay business on a shoestring budget. Let me share my top 20 list with you:

Open an eBay store – Opening an eBay store is an inexpensive way to cross promote your eBay auctions as well as list masses of inventory that can be rotated from store to auction as required

Send out a Regular Newsletter – Keep in touch with loyal clients and build a customer base by sending out a regular weekly or monthly newsletter. Keep customers in the know about promotions, specials and new inventory in stock.

Use your off-eBay website – If you have a company website that is not on eBay, use this site to promote your eBay business. This can be done by adding content that talks about your auctions and eBay store inventory and provides direct links to your eBay page. This also will help with search engine seekers who are looking for a specific item.

Include Stuffers – Never send a package to a customer without a stuffer. Include a printed flyer that is branded to your business or eBay username. This is a great opportunity to provide the customer with a discount incentive to come back and purchase from you again. It is also an excellent way to introduce clients to your eBay store.

Partner with other eBay Sellers – If you know other sellers who sell complementary (but not competing) wares, set up a cross promotions program, where you advertise their links on your About Me page and they do the same for you. This will also help with buyer searches and expose your inventory to a market base that you may not otherwise have access to.

Become a Guide Writer – Get involved with the newest rage on eBay, known as Expert Guides. These are written by eBay sellers on a specific topic. For example, if you specialize in rare coins or childrens high end clothing, you can provide informative articles about coins or how to spot fake designer clothing. Once you become a guide, eBay provides a link on all your auctions, you can mention them in your newsletter and it will really help with marketing your eBay business.

Use Article Sites – Similary, use sites like ezinearticles.com and articledashboard.com to upload keyword optimized articles that relate to your inventory. For example, if you sell womens shoes on eBay, you may want to write and publish articles about shoe sizing, finding wide shoes, or the 2007 Shoe Trends. At the bottom of each article, be sure to imbed a link back to either your eBay store or your auction sellers list.

Be Keyword Savvy – In everything you do, from auction listings to articles, website content to your About Me page, always be aware of inserting all the right keywords and the alternatives that buyers might associate with that keyword (eg. Sweater, cardigan, sweatercoat, jacket) which will draw in as many new customers as possible and rank in the search engines.

Be a Professional Lister – Never miss an opportunity to market your business in a professional and competent manner. Be sure that every auction you list is professional with a great title, excellent description and high grade photographs. Also, make sure you cross reference your eBay store and About Me page.

Develop an About Me Page – Anyone will tell you that About Me pages get picked up by Google and other search engines quickly. You can also submit these to the smaller engines directly. Make sure you take the time to present a well designed and SEO optimized About Me page. It is free and an excellent marketing venue for your business.

List your eBay Store – Take the time to submit your eBay store and your About Me page to all the search engines. It is free (although it will take some time) but is an excellent way to gain exposure.

Use other Auction Sites – List items on other auction sites or collectibles websites such as Ruby Lane or TIAS, and then cross reference back to your eBay auctions and eBay store.

Offer Loyalty Bonuses – The easiest way to keep new customers is to offer a loyalty bonus of some sort This could be free shipping on the next purchase, a discount program or something similar. Keep in mind that this type of marketing costs you NOTHING unless they buy something at which time you have gained a loyal customer and sold product.

Brand Your Business – Include your business name and/or your eBay username on absolutely everything including email, printed materials, chat boards, blogs, etc. The more your name is out there, the more exposure your business will receive.

Create an Email Tagline – Create a professional email tagline and have it attach automatically to each and every email you send out. This should always include your name, company name or eBay store name or eBay username, and a direct link to your auctions or eBay store.

Start a Blog – Get a free blog at www.WordPress.com and start a blog, either about your experiences as an eBay seller or about your niche market (clothing, beauty products, jewelry, etc). This is the fastest and most viral approach to gaining exposure and new clients at no cost.

Free Classified Ads – There are many free online classified sites out there. List one item with a good description and include a link to your eBay store. This will drive traffic to your eBay auctions and store.

Directories & Discussions – Take part in online discussions and use this opportunity to tag your business with each post. You need not even discuss business but it will get picked up in search engines and it will also advertise subtly to others what your business is all about. Remember that every new customer is a good customer – even if they come in dribbles!

Buy Cheap Advertising on eBay – On any day, if you search for ‘text ad’ or ’email sponsor’ on eBay, you will find tons of opportunities to advertise on someone else’s website for next to nothing. Some text ads are literally sold for a penny! This is a cheap and effective way to get your business name out there.

Banner Advertising – Consider joining a quality but free banner exchange program. Although you must include the banner code on your own website (it is not allowed on your eBay store or About Me page), you can sometimes choose your market areas that you want your banner to appear on. If you have a cleverly designed banner, you can draw in new traffic to your eBay business and gain new customers.

Tags:20 Ways to Market Your EBay Business on a Shoestring

2002 SaberCats Voted Best in AFL History

The Arena Football League Historical Society has confirmed what most insiders and informed fans already knew: The 2002 San Jose SaberCats are the greatest team in league history.

The vote, held on May 17, placed the 2002 SaberCats above the 1996 Tampa Bay Storm and ’97 Arizona Rattlers.

And what a season it was in San Jose.

The team had it all – talent and depth at every position – with a hunger for success. The 2002 SaberCats set an AFL record for wins in a season, going 16-1 and winning the franchise’s first ArenaBowl title.

Led by quarterback Mark Grieb, who was named the Offensive Player of the Year, and defensive specialist Clevan Thomas, who won both the Defensive Player and Rookie of the Year honors, this San Jose club won its first 12 games of a 14-game regular season and were within James Hundon’s fingertips of going undefeated.

“We won a few close games early in the year,” coach Darren Arbet recalled. “Then we just steamrolled everyone until that Arizona game when Grieb got hurt.”

Facing the Rattlers in Week 13 – with an undefeated season on the line – the SaberCats built a 17-point lead in the second quarter but saw it slip away. Arizona went on a 21-3 scoring run and grabbed a 45-44 lead late in the third quarter. On a San Jose possession near the end of the stanza, Grieb was thrown to the turf by Stacy Evans and sustained a broken collarbone.

“He (Grieb) was having such a great season and to see him go down on a play like that really hurt,” Arbet said.

Backup John Dutton stepped in and, with San Jose trailing by seven points late in the game, drove the team to the Rattlers 11-yard line. His fourth-down pass glanced off the fingertips of an outstretched Hundon in the Arizona end zone. The SaberCats suffered their only loss of the season.

San Jose would extract some revenge in ArenaBowl XVII by posting the largest victory in championship history, 52-14, before a sellout crowd in HP Pavilion. Dutton earned MVP honors by throwing five scoring passes and the SaberCats held the Rattlers scoreless for nearly three-and-a-half quarters.

Dutton would go on to lead the Colorado Crush to the ArenaBowl XIX title.

Arbet has been named AFL Coach of the Year twice during his tenure with the SaberCats.

San Jose set AFL records for regular season wins (13), overall wins (16), consecutive games won (12) and consecutive games won to start a season (12) in 2002. The team posted the second-highest per game scoring average in league history (62.7 ppg) and became the first team to score 50 or more points in every game.

The 1993 Tampa Bay Storm and ’99 Albany Firebirds rounded out the eight-person committee’s top-five choices in the poll.

The SaberCats have reeled off seven consecutive winning seasons and are currently in their seventh consecutive postseason. San Jose, the 2006 Western Division champion, hosts Arizona on May 23 in a divisional-round matchup.

HAMILTON GETS THE BOOT: Remy Hamilton of the Los Angeles Avengers was named 2006 AFL Kicker of the Year on May 22. Hamilton is the first player in AFL history to win this award in back-to-back seasons.

Hamilton recorded a league-high 173 points among kickers, connecting on 27 of 36 (75 percent) field-goal attempts and converted 92 of 98 (93.9 percent) extra-point attempts. He broke his own single-season record for highest field-goal percentage, exceeding last season’s mark of 74.4 percent (29 of 39).

(Neil Fuller is a member of the Arena Football League Writers Association and currently covers the expansion Kansas City Brigade. Fuller also covered the now-defunct Carolina Cobras for three seasons.)

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2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

She has over 135,000 miles on her now. I bought her in January 2005 and she only had slightly over 41,000 miles. I was so excited at that time. I found her while searching online on autotrader.com and I was so hopeful I could buy her. Yes, I refer to my car as “her”. With the help of my dad, we traveled 2 hours away and put some money down and then went back later and put the other half down. She is a 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS Jeff Gordon Edition. #1773 of 2,424.

I love driving my car. I felt great behind the wheel. I made a few modifications to her. One of the first things I did was put Flowmaster mufflers in. I wanted her to be a loud car and to let everyone know when she was coming. I also put in a cold air intake for a little better fuel mileage. A V6 engine lies under the hood, which I thought was surprising given it’s got Jeff Gordon’s name all over it. In this day and age of miles per gallon, I’m kind of glad it’s a V6. I get good gas mileage and I’m proud of that.

We’ve had many memories along the miles we’ve driven. One of the best happened in 2006 when I was selected along with 9 other Jeff Gordon Monte Carlo owners to meet him and have him sign our cars. I’ll never forget that day, even though it seems so surreal. I waited a month for it and it was over just as quickly. I got to talk to him briefly, which was so cool. Everyone had him sign on their dashboard, but with the advice of a friend of mine, I had him sign above my driver’s door. He thought that was so cool.

In 2009, I drove nearly 3 hours to meet a girl who is now my fiance. We were online friends for 10 years and the time was right to meet. We’ve been everywhere in my car since then. Sure, we’ve had a few problems with the car, but she is still going strong. I won’t let that car go. It means too much. I’ve had a great time with this car and I still do. So far, this is my only car and the time will come when I’ll get another one. She will get put in a garage and be used on the weekends.

Tags:2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

2002 Through 2010 Ford Explorer Maintenance Schedule – Up to 15,000 Miles

Vehicle maintenance is an important part of ensuring that your Ford Explorer gives you many years of service. If you keep up with the maintenance, not only do you ensure that the vehicle is properly maintained and safe, but you will also notice things that are worn out before they break. If something breaks, it could leave you stranded.
Tools and Supplies

Shop rags
Set of sockets
Set of wrenches
Common screwdriver
Phillips screwdriver
Oil filter wrench
Drain pan
Filters as needed
Windshield washer fluid
Transmission fluid – Motorcraft MERCRON V ATF for the 6R60 Transmission; Mercon LV ATF for the 6R80 transmission; MERCON Multi-purpouse automatic transmission fluid for the manual transmission and transfer case.
Oil – V6 engines: 5 quarts 5W-30; V8 engines: 6 quarts 5W-20
Power steering fluid – MERCON Multi-purpose automatic transmission fluid
Brake fluid – DOT 3
Antifreeze – Motorcraft Premium Engine Coolant (green) or Motorcraft Premium Gold Engine Coolant (yellow)
Tire pressure gauge
Floor jack Jack stands

Weekly Maintenance

Check the engine oil level. Checking and changing the oil is one of the most important parts of the oil change and maintenance schedule for the Ford Explorer. Pull the oil dipstick out of the tube and wipe it off with a shop rag. Stick the dipstick back into the tube, ensuring that you push it completely in. Pull the dipstick out again. Look at the level of the oil. If the engine is cold, it should be at the full-cold mark. If the engine is warm or hot, the level should be at the full-hot mark. If it is any lower, add oil through the oil fill cap in the valve cover.

Wipe the dipstick off and stick it back into the dipstick tube. Pull it out and check the oil level again to ensure it is at the appropriate level.

Check the engine coolant level. Never open the coolant overflow tank when the engine is hot. The system is under pressure when it is hot and you will get burned. You should be able to see the level of the coolant through the side of the tank. It should be at the full cold mark when the engine is cold. It should be at the full hot mark when the engine is hot. If you have to add coolant, let the vehicle cool off, then add coolant to the full cold mark.

Check the brake fluid level. You should be able to see the fluid through the side of the master cylinder reservoir. The master cylinder reservoir for the brakes is located on the brake power booster on the driver’s side of the vehicle. If your Explore is a manual shift, the clutch master cylinder reservoir is right next to it. Both should be filled to the MAX mark. If not, wipe off the top of the reservoirs. Remove the cap. Add brake fluid until it reaches the MAX marks.

Check the windshield washer fluid level. The reservoir is at the right front of the engine compartment. Fill it to the full mark with windshield washer fluid. If you live in a mild climate, you can use plain water. If you live in an area that gets cold, use the fluid, as it contains windshield washer antifreeze.

Check the power steering fluid level. The power steering pump reservoir is located on the right side of the engine compartment. It has MIN and MAX markings on the side. Start the engine and allow it to come to normal operating temperature. Turn the steering wheel from lock to lock – but do not allow the steering wheel to stay at each lock for more than five seconds, as you could damage the pump – ten times. Set the steering wheel in the straight-ahead position and shut the vehicle off. The fluid level should be between the MIN and MAX markings. If not, fill the fluid to just below the MAX level. Do not overfill the power steering fluid reservoir.

Check the tires and the tire pressure. Remove the valve stem cap and insert the tire pressure gauge onto the valve stem. Read the pressure. Compare it to the pressure on the side of the tires – the tires will have a p.s.i. notation. This is pounds per square inch when the tire is hot. If the tire is cold, add air until the tires read 4 p.s.i. lower than what is marked on the tire. For example, if your tires require 44 p.s.i., and they are cold, add air until the gauge reads 40 p.s.i. If the tires are hot from driving, add air until the tires read 44 p.s.i.

3,000-Mile Maintenance

Every 3,000 miles or three months, whichever comes first, complete the weekly check. Change the oil and filter. Lift the front of the vehicle with the floor jack and support it on jack stands. Slide the oil drain pan under the oil pan. Remove the oil pan drain bolt and allow the oil to drain for 15 minutes. Reinstall the oil pan bolt and tighten it snugly. Do not over tighten the bolt, as the oil pan only has a few threads, and you will warp the pan if you put too much torque on the bolt.

Move the oil drain pan underneath the oil filter. Remove the filter, using the oil filter wrench. Ensure that the oil filter gasket came off with the filter. If it did not, remove it from the housing. Discard the oil filter and used oil in an appropriate manner. Most auto parts stores have oil and antifreeze disposal tanks.

Wipe clean oil on the oil filter gasket. Install the new filter and tighten it snugly with your hand. Do not over tighten the filter. Fill the engine with the appropriate amount of oil. Start the vehicle and check for oil leaks around the pan and filter. Ensure that the oil light goes out or the gauge shows the proper oil pressure.

7,500-Mile Maintenance

Every 7,500 miles or six months, whichever comes first, complete the weekly checks and complete the 3,000-mile service. In addition, inspect the windshield wiper blades. Replace the blades if necessary. When replacing the blades, it is recommended that you replace the entire arm, instead of using just the wiper refill. Check the battery and ensure that battery acid hasn’t corroded the terminals. Clean the terminals if needed, using baking soda and water, with a wire brush. Always wear gloves when working with battery acid.

Check the cooling system – ensure that the radiator reservoir is full, check the hoses – they should not be soft. Check for leaks. Check the seat belts to ensure proper operation.

15,000-Mile Maintenance

Every 15,000 miles or 12 months, whichever comes first, complete the weekly check, the 3,000-mile maintenance and the 7,500-mile maintenance. In addition, check all of the hoses under the hood, including power steering hoses, brake hoses, radiator hoses and heater hoses. Ensure that the hoses are not starting to dry rot or crack. Check the brakes or have a certified service facility check the brakes for you. Ensure that the calipers and hoses are not leaking brake fluid.

Check the suspension and steering components. Check the power steering pump and its hoses for leak. Check the power steering gear and/or rack for leaks. Check the suspension. If you bounce each fender up and down, you should not hear noises and the vehicle should only bounce once or twice then immediately stop if the shocks are good.

Tags:2002 Through 2010 Ford Explorer Maintenance Schedule – Up to 15,000 Miles

2003 NBA Draft: Top 10 Players

The NBA saw the beginning of a new class of superstardom in 2003 with the arrival of would-be all-stars, an NBA champion and a two-time league MVP. The top players from the 2003 NBA draft are presented below in order from #1 to #10 best pick with a description of the methodology used to make this determination provided at the end of this article. Career averages in points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks are also shown for each respective player.

1. LeBron James (Round 1 Pick #1, Rank Score: 63.08) – 27.6 ppg, 7.0 apg, 7.0 rpg, 1.7 spg, 0.9 bpg

2. Dwyane Wade (Round 1 Pick #5, Rank Score: 56.40) – 25.3 ppg, 6.5 apg, 5.0 rpg, 1.8 spg, 1.0 bpg

3. Carmelo Anthony (Round 1 Pick #3, Rank Score: 48.93) – 24.7 ppg, 3.1 apg, 6.3 rpg, 1.1 spg, 0.5 bpg

4. Chris Bosh (Round 1 Pick #4, Rank Score: 47.84) – 20.1 ppg, 2.2 apg, 9.3 rpg, 0.8 spg, 1.2 bpg

5. David West (Round 1 Pick #18, Rank Score: 38.68) – 16.2 ppg, 1.9 apg, 7.2 rpg, 0.7 spg, 0.8 bpg

6. Kirk Hinrich (Round 1 Pick #7, Rank Score: 38.61) – 13.3 ppg, 5.8 apg, 3.4 rpg, 1.3 spg, 0.3 bpg

7. Mo Williams (Round 2 Pick #47, Rank Score: 35.58) – 13.9 ppg, 5.0 apg, 3.1 rpg, 0.9 spg, 0.1 bpg

8. Josh Howard (Round 1 Pick #29, Rank Score: 35.48) – 15.3 ppg, 1.7 apg, 6.0 rpg, 1.1 spg, 0.6 bpg

9. Chris Kaman (Round 1 Pick #6, Rank Score: 35.41) – 11.7 ppg, 1.3 apg, 8.4 rpg, 0.5 spg, 1.4 bpg

10. T.J. Ford (Round 1 Pick #8, Rank Score: 35.11) – 11.7 ppg, 6.0 apg, 3.2 rpg, 1.2 spg, 0.1 bpg

ppg = points per game
apg = assists per game
rpg = rebounds per game
spg = steals per game
bpg = blocks per game

Ranking Methodology
The top players were ranked using the following formula:
Rank score = ppg + (2 x apg) + (1.5 x rpg) + (2 x spg) + (2 x bpg) + participation bonus*
*The participation bonus is the total number of games played divided by 100.

References
http://ift.tt/Ht58FN
www.nba.com

Tags:2003 NBA Draft: Top 10 Players

2003 MINI Cooper - 50,000 Mile Review

My personally owned 2003 MINI Cooper just turned 50,000 miles old this month. In celebration, I thought it appropriate to look back on the past three years of ownership and report on my experiences with this wonderful vehicle.

First I’ll give some background. I put myself on the waiting list for a MINI Cooper in early 2002 at Long Beach MINI in Long Beach, California. The reason I picked Long Beach MINI was that at that time every other MINI dealer was marking up their cars $5000 and above just because they could. Plus you were stuck buying whatever was on the lot, and special orders were not accepted. Long Beach MINI however did not mark up their cars and did allow special orders. The only problem was that they had an incredibly long waiting list of customers. Anyway, after a nine month wait, it was my turn to order my MINI.

I had originally planned on buying the Cooper S (the supercharged version), but ended up going with the standard model instead. I figured I needed something to aspire to some day, plus the price point of the Cooper with all the options that I wanted was much more realistic. I ordered my Cooper with a five-speed manual transmission, black body color with a white roof and wheels, in-dash navigation system (thanks to my wife for that suggestion – it has changed my life!), black leatherette seats, panoramic moonroof, automatic climate control, and all-season run-flat tires.

Since picking up my new baby in February of 2003, owning this vehicle has been a pleasure. The handling is unbeatable, steering response is crisp and confidence inspiring, and despite the engine’s somewhat anemic horsepower, the manual transmission allows me to really toss it around when I want to. I have experienced a few issues with my Cooper, but nothing too incapacitating or inconvenient.

The first problem that I experienced happened at around 5,000 miles. The blower for the air conditioning and heating system just died one day. I took the car into the dealership, and the fan was replaced within a few days. This was the most labor and time intensive repair required since I have owned the car. It took three days since the blower motor was a special order part, but the dealership loaned me a BMW 330i while they had my car so I really can’t complain about that. I have not had any further problems with the blower since then.

The second problem I experienced happened around 12,000 miles. My driver’s side window would intermittently shake violently when putting it up. It never got to the point of not working at all, but it did start getting a greasy streak on the inside when it was rolled down and put back up. The dealership replaced the window motor under warranty, which took less than a day. I waited until a scheduled service to have them fix this problem. Rarely I still have problems with the window shaking a little bit, but it’s nothing like it was then.

The worst problem that I have had with my Cooper was a punctured tire. Unfortunately around 30,000 miles I managed to drive over an unidentified sharp steel object that punctured my run-flat irreparably. Luckily since the tires on the car are run-flats, I was able to drive to the nearest tire store. Unfortunately the damage was so bad that the tire people could not patch the hole. The other bad thing was that they didn’t have a tire that would fit my wheels. They spent quite a while calling other tire stores looking for a tire for me, and it turns out that at that time there was a nationwide shortage of my tire. Goodyear was apparently only making enough to put on the cars coming out of the factory, leaving no extra stock for people like me.

I ended up buying a set of tires from a guy on eBay. They were from his Cooper S, and he had replaced them with after-market wheels and tires. He had driven on those tires for 5,000 miles, but they are still on my car and are working fine. Luckily I got a good deal, but I fear that if I had not found this guy that this would have been a much bigger problem. Hopefully there is some extra stock for the tire stores out there now, but I am not sure what the current situation is.

I have truly enjoyed last 50,000 miles in my 2003 MINI Cooper. This is a great little car, and continues to run well. The excitement of driving this little beast has not waned, and I would highly recommend a MINI Cooper to anyone interested in a compact, sporty, affordable car with class.

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2000 NFL Draft Steals

2000 NFL Draft Steals

#9 Brian Urlacher to Chicago. Chicago had been missing Mike Singletary since the 1992 season and longed for another middle linebacker to carry on the tradition. Urlacher stepped in and played every game except for the 2004 season. He’s averaged 125 tackles a year, has 33 sacks and 10 interceptions in his career and is the undisputed leader of the defense that has been one of the best in the league since he arrived. Top 10 picks don’t often end up being perennial All-Pros that change a franchise and lead them to the Super Bowl – Urlacher did.

#19 Shaun Alexander to Seattle. After being a backup in his first season, Alexander posted 5 straight seasons playing every game, gaining 1150+ yards and 14+ touchdowns. Alexander culminated with an MVP campaign in 2005 posting 1880 yards and a record 27 touchdowns. Alexander continues to be the focal point of the Seahawks offense, who get to the playoffs on a yearly basis and are a top-10 rushing team.

#149 Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila to Green Bay. “KGB” started on defense for the Packers beginning his second season and quickly became a pass-rushing force. He averaged 13 sacks for the following 4 seasons along with 3 forced fumbles a year.

#189 Mike Anderson to Denver. The former Marine was drafted late in the 6th round by a team that didn’t need running backs. Denver had Terrell Davis coming back from injury as a 2,000 yard back and Olandis Gary just filled in the year prior with 1200 yards. In 2000, both Davis and Gary got injured and rookie Anderson stepped behind the best offensive line in football to rush for 1487 yards and 15 touchdowns. He returned to back-up status in 2001, but filled in full-time in 2005 for another 1014 yards and 12 touchdowns for Denver. All for a 6th round pick.

#199 Tom Brady to New England. You know the story of Tom Brady not getting the chance to play at Michigan in college with Drew Henson in front of him. Brady was supposed to sit behind Drew Bledsoe for awhile if he ever amounted to anything in New England, he probably would have been traded after his rookie contract ended. His rookie season had him throw 3 total passes in garbage time action, but Bledsoe was injured early in 2001 and Brady ended up completing 64% of his passes with 18 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions. That season ended with Brady leading an improbable drive to win the Super Bowl against the heavily-favored St.Louis Rams. Three Super Bowl rings later, Brady forced Bledsoe on to Buffalo and Dallas and still leads the Patriots as one of the best franchises in the NFL annually.

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2000 Honda Civic EX Review

Do I like this car? We plan to drive this 2000 Honda Civic EX until the wheels fall off, which isn’t going to be real soon. If we stick to the maintenance schedule and don’t get caught in an accident, the car should last another 7 years. It still looks new, probably because no children or teenagers drive it.

Specifications: 4-door, 4-cylinder, automatic transmission, air conditioning, ABS brakes, sun roof, CD player … nothing special.

Passenger Comfort:

For a small sedan, the 2000 Honda Civic EX has good passenger space, better than some larger vehicles. The driver’s seat comfortably accommodates a 6-footer. The head room is adequate for a 6’4″ driver, better than in some larger vehicles, but the leg room could be better.

Theoretically, the 2000 Honda Civic EX holds 5 adult passengers. That is true only if some of them are short, because a 6-foot tall passenger in the back seat will be cramped if the front-seat occupant moves the seat all the way back.

My car has after-market seats, mounted to give the extra-tall driver extra legroom. When the driver’s seat has maximum leg room, there is no room for a passenger in that side of the back seat.

Driving Experience:

As a commuter car, the Honda Civic has been superb. The freeway mileage is about 33mpg, it handles easily, and has a good sound system. Interior noise is moderate: I’ve had quieter cars and I’ve had much noisier ones. The air conditioning handles Arizona summer afternoon driving easily.

As an “around town” car, for errand running and grocery shopping, it handles almost everything. It’s small enough to park easily between 2 space-hogging SUVs. The trunk The rear seats fold forward to make a fake hatchback for more cargo space. I’ve carried 8-foot lumber in it, or 15-gallon trees from the nursery.

For ski trips, the 2000 Honda Civic EX has been adequate, but not great. It doesn’t have the horsepower it takes to climb mountains without noticeable strain, and it’s crowded with a week’s worth of gear for 2 people. We managed one trip with four skiers, but all of the passengers were buried in luggage. They were not happy. The ABS brakes are helpful on packed snow and glare ice, but we got stuck in snow several times. Fortunately, the car is not heavy, so pushing it out of a snowdrift is possible.

For camping trips, the 2000 Honda Civic EX is pathetic, It’s a good road car, but it’s not big enough to hold camping gear and passengers too.

For off-road use, the only good point about the 2000 Honda Civic EX is that it’s small enough to push out of a soft, sandy wash when it gets stuck. The usual unimproved dirt roads the Forest Service provides are not a problem for a cautious driver, but it’s best to avoid them if you can.

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"2001: A Space Odyssey": The Movie that Blew Our Minds

The classic film ” 2001: A Space Odyssey ” challenges and inspires the viewer with its innovative story and narrative technique.

The film begins with the very dawn of the human race. A loser tribe of proto-human apes is visited by a strange artifact-the famous Monolith-which emits a penetrating tone while, apparently, it alters their very minds. The tribe discovers the use of large animal bones as weapons, with which they defeat other apes to gain access to a watering-hole. And so the human story begins.

Fast-forward to the year 2001 (over 30 years in the future when the film was released). A mysterious and obviously alien artifact-a Monolith-has been detected, buried beneath the surface of the moon. When human excavations expose the Monolith to sunlight, it emits a powerful blast of energy towards Jupiter. The bulk of the film follows the manned space expedition sent to Jupiter to discover why the Monolith sent this signal.

One of the remarkable stylistic aspects of the film is that the first 20 minutes or so (“The Dawn of Man”) have no dialogue whatsoever. The entire film has very little dialogue, focusing on the visual spectacle to carry the story, a magnificent exemplification of the principle that film is a visual medium.

The film does not showcase its human actors, but rather focuses on the material objects that symbolize greater forces at work in human history. The music gives it away. At the film’s opening, Richard Strauss’ “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” plays over stunning shots of the alignment of Sun, Moon, and Earth. The piece plays again when an ape first uses a tool, and at the end of the film, when a modern human space explorer makes a quantum leap to a state like godhood (again, through the action of the Monolith). Clearly, we are considering Major Moments in Human Evolution here.

Johan Strauss’ waltz, “The Blue Danube,” plays over the elaborate docking maneuvers of a space shuttle with an enormous rotating space station. Here we have the Romance of Technology on display.

We have a song, sadly sung by the artificial intelligence HAL, as it dies aboard the spacecraft sent to Jupiter. It is the most human bit of dialogue in the film, and forces us to reflect on the nature of intelligence and humanity.

The famous conclusion of the film-the journey of a space explorer through a Monolith to some location beyond the known universe-is breathtaking. With György Ligeti’s evocative, dissonant music played over the scenes, this is the closest that film has yet come to describing a goal that has a very long history in the catalog of human hopes, dreams, and fears: the transformation of humanity to the Next Step. It is a theme that few films dare to address, but one that appears in our culture more and more frequently, showing up in places as disparate as the recent film ” Limitless ,” a recent Time magazine article on the Singularity , and Dan Brown’s novel (soon to be a movie) “The Lost Symbol.”

The bottom line: “2001” is a film that will both delight your senses and challenge your mind.

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2001: A Space Odyssey

April 6th, 1968, 2001: A Space Odyssey was released in theaters. 2001 was at once a film and a phenomenon, which purported to show a vision not only of humankind’s future in space, but of the next step in evolution.

2001: A Space Odyssey was directed by the famed film director Stanley Kubrick who had already won acclaim for Dr. Strangelove, Lolita, and Spartacus among other films. The screen play and the book that was released concurrent with the film was written by the late Arthur C. Clarke, along with Kubrick. Clarke was already famous as one of the giants of science fiction. 2001 would catapult him into legend.

To understand the effect that 2001: A Space Odyssey had, it is necessary to understand the times, now four decades past, in which it was released. The world of 1968 was rocked with war and civil strife to be sure. But it was also a world that was on the precipice of humankind’s greatest adventure, the Apollo expeditions to the Moon.

On April 6th, 1968, no human being had been further from the Earth than about five hundred miles. To be sure that by Christmas, astronaut explorers aboard Apollo 8 would watch the Earth rise over the lunar landscape and in a little more than a year Neil Armstrong would make the first footsteps on that landscape.

2001: A Space Odyssey was a project into the then distant future, of a time when humans would live in gigantic, wheel shaped space stations and in cities on the Moon. Humans would travel in great, nuclear powered space craft to the outer planets to explore the greatest, most profound mystery ever encountered.

Film goers who first saw 2001: A Space Odyssey (and there were myriads of them) were certain that they were seeing the future pretty much as it was going to happen. Humankind had already leaped from a standing start to the precipice of the Moon in about seven years. Thirty three years hence, what more wonders would not be possible? Cities on the Moon? Interplanetary space craft? Self aware computers? All within the realm of possibility.

What really made 2001: A Space Odyssey so authentic looking was how familiar parts of it look. The inside of the wheeled space station, despite the weird way the floor curved up front and back, look nothing less than an air port lounge. The conference room at Clavius Base looked like any corporate or government conference room in the civilized world. And there were familiar names. PanAm on the space shuttle. Hilton on the space station. Interplanetary communications courtesy of Ma Bell. Space commercialization was imagined four decades ago, in the midst of NASA’s greatest triumph.

There were scenes of great wonder. Space ships soaring to the tune of the Blue Danube, astronauts working on the lunar surface, the Moons of Jupiter far before Galileo ever visited, and, of course, the Monolith. The black rectangle, smooth as glass, as enigmatic as any mystery, would appear throughout history to herald the next step in human evolution.

It was an entertaining parlor game to discuss the last third of the movie, that resembled nothing less than a drug trip. Indeed there are still people who claim to have experienced Dave Bowman’s journey to the infinite while on drugs. Of course anyone could just read the book to find the answers.

Sadly, the real 2001 didn’t turn out like the film 2001. The everlasting image of the real 2001 is not of space ships or lunar colonies, but of planes filled with terrified people smashing into building for the sake of jihad. Cities on the Moon and interplanetary space ships still lay in the future.

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2002 Remake of the Japanese Horror Movie The Ring

Rachel Keller is a journalist who investigates the death of her niece and her friends, who all died on the same day at the same time- 10:00 PM. Rachel finds the cabin, where her niece had stayed a week before the deaths, and finds an unknown video there. She decides to watch it, and now has only a limited time to live. She and her ex-husband, Noah, research the video and find information about Anna Morgan and her daughter, Samara Morgan, the maker of the video tape. With only a week left, Rachel and Noah discover the unknown secrets of the life of Samara Morgan and try to break the curse.

This is my second viewing of The Ring. It’s an Americanized version of Ringu (1998) directed by Hideo Nakata, which is based on a novel by Kôji Suzuki. While this is not one of the first Americanized versions of an Asian horror movie, this is one of the first in the past four years in a new and strong Asian horror movie remake trend (others include Dark Water, The Grudge, the upcoming The Eye and several others). So far, I think that the Ring is the best of the Asian remakes in this new recent surge of them. It stays pretty true to the Asian version with a few changes but nothing detrimental to the story. I’ll review this movie on its own.

The story is pretty unique, at least from what I can recall of horror past movies. It certainly is more original than most of the awful dredge I’ve seen in the last decade, especially with the remakes as of late. I mean being killed by watching a tape cursed by a telekinetic and tortured girl is pretty unique (kind of like Carrie, if her powers had lived on after she died).

Most of this movie is about Rachel and her son Aidan being cursed by the tape and trying to find out about the curse and the mysterious girl Samara Morgan. Some fans think this part drags a bit. As Rachel’s research delves deeper, she learns that Samara had special powers which her parents hated and hid from everyone. The lengths at which Samara’s parents go through to keep her secluded would drive anyone crazy but add telekinesis and an evil part and you get a really scary person, hell bent on revenge on those who did this to her and everyone who did not help her.

In my opinion, this is the main reason that this movie scares me, because I just imagine what Samara would have been thinking throughout her childhood with parents who didn’t seem to like her and being secluded for most of her life (except for the doctors), even up to her death. I know that most young people who saw this probably just laughed when they saw this (I won’t digress into a social commentary about this) but I guess I have more empathy than that. But most viewers think that the ending scenes are the scariest part. Granted, the ending is scary but I find the events leading up to it, in reference to Samara, are more psychologically scary to the core. It just triggers something inside me that sends chills up and down my spine (like the spilled pig blood scene in Carrie).

Not to many the show effects are used, just enough to get its point across without unnecessary distractions, unlike most horror films as of late. Most of it is the sets & setting (near a cliff by an ocean, a well, a farm house strategically built – this set just felt so cold and lonely, a cold medical cell) and makeup (on Samara mostly). About half of that movie is in a modern city, which is not very scary compared to the rest.

Another scary part is the images on the videotape itself. They are very simple but cold and surreal which also chills up and down my spine. Very effect.

The acting is pretty sturdy and stable which is good because I wasn’t distracted by awful acting, prevalent in many of the remakes I’ve seen lately. Naomi Watts does a believable job as the protective mother of Aidan. The young David Dorfman does a fine job as the mature beyond his years Aidan, son of Rachel. None of them really stand out so it feels more realistic.

Overall, overall this is a fairly good horror flick and remake of Ringu. I prefer Ringu but this is fairly good too (I see about a 50-50 split on which is better, each has its better aspects). There is no gore and no blood, the victims die from shock / heart attacks. Also, there is no nudity. Just a good and scary psychological horror with some images that Weld themselves inside your mind forever probably. This is a sign of a future horror classic: having memorable scenes. If you haven’t seen this because you haven’t gotten to it or because you expect it to be like most of the other “popular” movies without any merit, I fully recommend this movie to you. Beware: some of the images can be really scary depending on your limits. If you want a better scare, trying to imagine what Samara saw.

Oh, and the movie does leave you with several questions, some of which are answered in the sequel (Hint: Ringu required three movies to explain most of it).

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2005's Most Promising Author: Stephenie Meyer

My favorite novelist is Stephenie Meyer. Not because of the famous “Twilight saga” although those are really good books; but because of the way she writes. She always addresses a specific audience, whether it’s young adult or adult. She hits the nail on the head every time, to say the least.

Stephenie is a stay at home mom with 3 kids. It was through potty training and swim lessons that she thought about, and eventually wrote her first book Twilight. It was named one of 2005’s most talked about book of the year. Stephenie then went on to write the sequel to Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse. Following Eclipse was a project she was working on entitled The Host. Shortly after that Breaking Dawn was released, the final book to the twilight saga. Stephenie attended BYU where she graduated with a bachelor degree in English.

Like previously mentioned, Meyer caters to a diverse audience. The twilight Saga and The Host is aimed at teenagers and young adults, but I have found through my own experiences, that these books can also be most enjoyed by adults as well. Her writing is very unique as it takes on a more science fiction feel to it. Unlike other science fiction novels, Meyer’s work makes you feel as if you are actually a part of the book that you are reading. You become involved with the characters and begin to care about the story line.

My favorite book by Meyer is The Host. It tells the story of what happens when “aliens” unknowingly to anyone else, take over your brain. The human becomes “The Host” to the creature implanted in the back of the brain. I find this very interesting because it specifically tells the tale about a woman who has too much fight. She won’t give up as much as the creature tries to banish her and control her. Throughout the story you become drawn into the action of it. You want to know what happens next and you want to know if they will be okay. This book is genius, I couldn’t put it down.

Stephenie’s books, the Twilight Saga is now being turned into a major motion picture. Millions have seen and probably even own the first three books. We are now anxiously awaiting the release of Breaking Dawn, Part one.

Sources:
StephenieMeyer.com | The Official Website of Stephenie Meyer. Web. 04 Oct. 2011. .

“Stephenie Meyer.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 04 Oct. 2011. .

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2005's Independent Horror Film The Toybox

It all began innocently for two children growing up in the countryside, their imaginations fueled by a book on local myths and legends. The sister convinces her younger brother that she is the reincarnation of a witch with the powers to put everything right. As they grow up Brian becomes emotionally dependent on his sister. When she returns to the family home for Christmas with her new boyfriend, he feels totally betrayed. At the same time a man strongly resembling the mythical Jake the Mid-Folker is closing in. An overwhelming sense of impending horror surrounds the house, but is the enemy outside – or is the enemy within?

Another independent movie I’ve ever heard of (as if that hard to do). But this is a refreshing movie because it’s good. In fact, I’d have to say that, with the exception of Bubba Ho-Tep, this is the best independent movie I’ve seen so far. Very well done and get this, it only cost an estimated £100,000 ($174,570)!! That’s it! Under $200,000!! Also, it was shot in only 18 days! The writer/director, Paolo Sedazzari, seems like a natural – he knew exactly what he wanted and when right into this production with a clear idea of what he wanted from every shot and actor.

The story is very unique in my opinion. It blends children’s fairy tales with a modern day dysfunctional family (think 10 times worse than the Bundys) and a crossover into madness. All three are related and blended together almost seamlessly. It starts out with a young brother and sister who created their own mythos around a fairytale story. The brother had become dependent on his sister and then they grew up part when she left their house. Now she is back to visit and he feels a little jealous. The sister’s boyfriend meets her crazy family and he can see things from the past like a psychic. As if this were not bad enough, the mythical Jake the Mid-Folker is on his way to their house and once he gets there all Hell breaks loose and body parts fly.

I am not sure if I’m correct but I sort of take this movie as a low-budget variation on the Kubrick version of Stephen King’s “The Shining”. Firstly, there is the boyfriend who sees psychic visions from the bloody past of the house – even a clown in a closet (think of the guy in the dog suit in The Shining). Secondly, one of the characters becomes possessed, I believe, by the mythical Jake the Mid-Folker and goes on a murderous rampage similar to Jack in The Shining – in interviews, I found out that the snow during The Toybox version of the snow chase scene, the weather was not planned which is a cool coincidence!

I like how the director merged all of these different aspects into one movie so cohesively they, while many directors would mess this up badly, that I didn’t feel at all that the pieces were just randomly smashed together. They actually feel like one whole story. This is a sign of a great writer with a great future if he can keep repeating this work and with a higher budget.

There’s a bit of morbid humor (but not overdone) for us horror fans. Others will think it gross but it had me laughing!

The acting is just fantastic for a low-budget movie with fairly unknown actors to me anyways (they are British/European actors so I might not know them for that reason). Suzanne Bertish was nominated for awards for her role as Madeline Usher, the dysfunctional mother. But I think the best actor here is Elliott Jordan as Brian Usher, the younger brother of Berenice. When Jake the Mid-Folker arrives and Brian finally snaps, Elliott Jordan truly shines (no pun intended). I totally believe his character is insane. It was fun to see him in action. I highly believe that Elliott Jordan has a bright future ahead of him as an actor. Alexander Abadzis plays Jake the Midfolker but doesn’t get to talk, he’s a role is all in his image and body language – resembles the guy from the 80s TV series, “The Hitchhiker”. Very well done! Everyone in the cast is great, they all want a terrific performances – it felt like a well trained stage troupe was performing, something which is missing from almost all other low-budget movies and many of the time budget movies as well. I wish that more movie producers would follow their lead and higher more stage trained actors and less twenty-somethings with pretty faces and no acting talent.

The special effects are little because of the budget but they all look pretty good. Some might find it a little cheesy when they see the handmade drawings used (rather than live action) for the scenes about the fairytale about Jake the Midfolker might I feel that the is perfect for the fairytale feel for that aspect of the movie. These scenes are spread out throughout the movie but only for a minute or less each time. There is blood but not too much visual gore which is also due to a low-budget – I don’t think that more visuals would have added to the movie anyway though. The setting is fitting, in the England countryside at an old house with a barn and a church next to it. It felt like Little Red Riding Hood’s house in the fairytale.

The music is full of atmosphere that actually plays when it should.

The camerawork is great, crisp and clear. It’s shot entirely on digital which, I feel, is a cheaper costing method that provides a better image and easier to edit & enhance.

Overall, I cannot praise this independent movie enough. There’s something for everyone. The unique story is refreshing. I see a great future for Paolo Sedazzari. Even if you’ve been mortally wounded by independent movies in the past, I can fully endorse and recommend this to all horror fans.

Tags:2005’s Independent Horror Film The Toybox

2006 Acura CL: Traditional yet Modern

Acura is known throughout the world for providing safety and dependability coupled with efficient performance. It’s no wonder since their parent company, Honda has been incredibly sufficient in doing just that for millions of customers. Acura has once again managed to outdo themselves with the 2006 CL. Their new and improved edition to their family of cars only strengthens their good name for all buyers across the country and around the world.

In the past the CL has performed among the best, but it’s new redesigned and updated high performance engine definitely ensures it a place among the cars to look for when shopping for quality. You will see the CL listed among such cars as the BMW 328Ci, Mercedes Benz CLK320, and the European Gran Turismo. To be listed with such high distinguished cars anyone can see that Acura perfects every detail of every car and it shows in their 2006 CL. Its new updated design still boasts a traditional feel with innovative technology and safety; plus a high level of quality performance that Acura buyers expect. In this way the CL blends the past with the present.

Buyers can choose between a 3.2 liter VTEC V6 engine with 24 valves or a 3.2 power plant that puts out 225 hp. Whether you are looking for power or speed there is a CL for you. It offers spacious leg and arm room with comfortable seats although its only downside includes a low roof for those who are a bit longer than others. When riding in any Acura you can be assured that safety is top priority. The CL is no exception with front and side airbags that sensor passenger dimensions to ensure they don’t cause more problems if they are ejected. It has anti-lock brakes and traction control system to prevent unnecessary skidding and sliding. But this isn’t all. You can also find a top quality brake system, sport suspension, improved exhaust system all wrapped up in a stylish exterior. One of the options available for the 2006 model is its high tech navigation system. It uses satellite linked computers that will keep you up to date and on the right path. Their new technology can be a bit confusing to operate sometimes, but after a while it will become easy to use.

To research and purchase Acura CL car parts please visit Auto Accessories Giant. You can find all new car parts to replace your used parts and accessories to personalize your Acura and make it a more comfortable driving experience. The Acura CL is definitely worth looking into if you are looking for a car with luxury, safety, reliability and a smooth ride. You won’t be disappointed.

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2006-2007 Big East Basketball Preview (Part II)

Considered the nation’s dominant basketball conference, the Big East has long been one of the most competitive conferences in the country. Last year was no exception, as Villanova and UConn tied for the regular season Big East title with identical 14-2 records.

With teams like Villanova, UConn, and West Virginia losing a number of key players, the 2006-2007 Big East season should be just as competitive – but more unpredictable. Without a dominant pre-season favorite, the Big East seems to be anybody’s game heading into the pre-season.

For previews of the projected bottom half of the conference, please see Part I of the preview.

(2005-06 records include post-season results)

Marquette Golden Eagles
2005-06 Results
: 20-11, 10-6 Big East, lost to Alabama in 1st round of NCAA Tournament
Key Losses: F Steve Novak, F Joe Chapman

Marquette returns three starters from last year’s underrated squad, which knocked off UConn, Georgetown, and Pitt en route to a ten-win conference season. Leading scorer Steve Novak is off to the NBA; but scoring guards Dominic James, Wesley Matthews, and Jerel McNeal return. The Golden Eagles’ big question mark is in the frontcourt. With five letter-winning forwards returning, Marquette has depth, but will need reserves Ryan Amaroso and Dan Fitzgerald to step up and fill some of the void left by Novak’s departue.

Marquette should be solid again this season; but another ten-win Big East season may be a reach. The Golden Eagles open conference play with a brutal six-game Big East stretch: at Providence, Syracuse, at UConn, West Virginia, followed by trips to Louisville and Piitsburgh. A 3-3 start could lead to big things for Marquette; but the frontcourt difficulties will likely leave Marquette in the middle of the pack this season.

Projected Finish: Eighth

St. John’s Red Storm
2005-06 Results: 12-15, 5-11 Big East
Key Losses: None

St. John’s should be an intriguing team in the Big East this season; with all five starters returning, plus junior college transfer Avery Patterson, St. John’s will have depth, size, and experience. If senior Daryll Hill can return to the 20-point per game production of his sophomore year, the Johnnies have a shot to be in the top half of the conference.

With a soft pre-season schedule, a nine- or ten-win conference season could get the Red Storm to twenty wins and NCAA consideration. Regardless, coach Norm Roberts has done an outstanding job rebuilding a program recently left for dead.

Projected Finish: Seventh

DePaul Blue Demons
2005-06 Results
: 12-15, 5-11 Big East
Key Losses: None

DePaul returns five starters from a team that finished strong a year ago, highlighted by a 39-point blowout of Syracuse that, at the time, crippled the Orangemen’s NCAA hopes. Four double-digit scorers return for underrated head coach Jerry Wainwright.

A key question for DePaul is whether their tough early schedule – with matchups against Kansas, Kentucky, Wake Forest, and likely UCLA – will help or hurt their cause. A quality win or two early may set the table for a Big East run; a slow start may hurt the Blue Demons for the second consecutive season. But with experience and talent, led by guards Sammy Mejia and Draelon Burns, DePaul should be at worst an upper-division team in the Big East this season.

Projected Finish: Sixth

Louisville Cardinals
2005-06 Results: 21-13, 6-10 Big East, lost to South Carolina in NIT Semifinals
Key Losses: G Taquan Dean

Another major disappointment a year ago, the Cardinals began the year ranked eighth in the AP preseason poll, only to stumble to a six-win conference season and an eleventh-place finish in the Big East. With four starters returning, the Cardinals looked poised to return to contention; but guard Brandon Jenkins, their third-leading scorer a year ago broke his leg, while promising rising sophomores Brian Johnson and Chad Millard have transferred.

The Cardinals still have talent; with the starting frontcourt returning intact and a major recruiting class arriving, Louisville will have weapons on offense. But depth will be a major issue, particularly for a Rick Pitino team that likes to push the tempo. The Cardinals will be a dangerous team game in and game out, but promising freshmen Edgar Sosa and Derrick Caracter will have to step up for the Cardinals to contend for the Big East title.

Projected Finish: Fifth

Connecticut Huskies
2005-06 Results: 30-4, 14-2 Big East; lost to George Mason in Elite Eight of NCAA Tournament
Key Losses: F Rudy Gay, G-F Rashad Anderson, G Marcus Williams, F Denham Brown, F-C Josh Boone, F-C Hilton Armstrong

What to make of the Huskies? Last year’s national championship contender faces a rebuilding year in 2006-07, with no athletic juniors or seniors on the roster. Last year’s top six scorers are all gone, and only four scholarship players return from last year’s team.

Of course, most programs would die for what UConn considers a rebuilding year. Sophomore Jeff Adrien contributed as a freshman a year ago; his 5.0 rebounds per game ranked third on a deep squad and his 61% field goal percentage led the team. Given extended minutes, Adrien looks to be an All-Big East performer this season, and if he improves from a year ago, he could be one of the conference’s best players. Three other sophomores, including Craig Austrie, who started 11 games at point guard as a freshman, will have to lead both on and off the court for the young UConn squad.

UConn’s season will probably be defined by A.J. Price, a highly touted recruit three years ago whose two seasons on campus have been derailed by medical and legal problems. Price’s talent is undeniable, and if he can get back into playing shape, the Huskies will continue to be dangerous. Price leads a group of eight newcomers who must contribute early and often for UConn to compete for the Big East crown. 7-3 center Hasheem Thabeet was described by ESPN.com’s Andy Katz as “a freakish shot-blocker”; but can he play both ends of the floor?

Even in the modern NCAA, where seniors are rare, it seems tough to expect UConn to compete for a national title with such a young roster. But with perennially underrated head coach Jim Calhoun, another 20-win season and an NCAA tournament berth certainly seem within reach.

Projected Finish: Fourth

Syracuse Orangemen
2005-06 Results: 23-12, 7-9 Big East (Big East Tournament Champions), lost to Texas A&M in 1st round of NCAA Tournament
Key Losses: PG Gerry McNamara

The Orange return four starters from last year’s squad, which finished 7-9 during the conference regular season but went on a spectacular run to win the Big East Tournament title. Syracuse followed up with a disappointing showing against Texas A&M and a first-round exit from the NCAA Tournament.

Syracuse’s inconsistency a year ago will remain their biggest issue until addressed this season. Big men Terrence Roberts and Darryl Watkins have the shown the ability to both take over and disappear from games, often in the same half. The Orange have the experience and the talent to move back atop the conference, if Watkins and Roberts can dominate. If freshman Paul Harris, recently named Blue Ribbon Yearbook’s Newcomer of the Year, can provide offense from the wing, Syracuse may be very, very good in 2006-2007.

Projected Finish: Third

Pittsburgh Panthers
2005-06 Results: 25-8, 10-6 Big East, lost to Bradley in second round of NCAA Tournament
Key Losses: PG Carl Krauser

The Panthers have to be considered a pre-season favorite in the Big East; with four starters and eight letter winners returning from last year’s Top 20 squad, Pitt looks to be a preseason Top Ten pick nationally in 2006-07.

The biggest question for Pitt is whether they can replace point guard Carl Krauser, a three-year starter who provided leadership and toughness at the point while leading the Panthers in scoring a year ago. There is experience at guard, led by Ronald Ramon, and the frontcourt of C Aaron Gray and forwards Levon Kendall and Sam Young is one of the best in the country. With Pittsburgh’s typical emphasis on toughness and defense, they should easily improve on last year’s fourth-place finish and look to make a serious NCAA Tournament run.

Projected Finish: Second

Georgetown Hoyas
2005-06 Results: 23-10, 10-6 Big East, lost to Florida in Sweet Sixteen of NCAA Tournament
Key Losses: F Brandon Bowman, G Ashanti Cook, G/F Darrel Owens

Head coach John Thompson III has revived a moribund program in short order, leaping from the NIT to the Sweet Sixteen last year. Now, with three returning starters and a deep class of newcomers, the Hoyas will make a run at a regular-season Big East title.

The frontcourt will be Georgetown’s strength; Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert return after each making the All-Big East Second Team. Green will be one of the conference’s best players, while the 7-2 Hibbert is an imposing presence in the middle. They may be joined by Patrick Ewing Jr., who transferred from Indiana, or McDonald’s All-American Vernon Macklin.

With additional depth on the frontcourt, the backcourt is the Hoyas’ biggest question mark. Jonathan Wallace will be a third-year starter, but will be joined by one of three inexperienced returnees or freshman Jeremiah Rivers (son of another NBA great, Doc Rivers). If Thompson can find a point guard, the Hoyas’ offense should be solid enough to support their traditionally solid defense. The frontcourt size and the Thompson offense should be enough to garner the Hoyas their first regular season Big East title in fifteen years.

Projected Finish: First

Tags:2006-2007 Big East Basketball Preview (Part II)

2006 Buffalo Bills Preview

For the Buffalo Bills, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Following last season’s embarrassing 5-11 season, Bills owner Ralph Wilson apologized to fans and brought back former head coach, Marv Levy to lead them back to mediocrity at the very least and possibly, back into AFC championship contention.

However, if the now, 80-year-old Levy thought he had it bad, losing four consecutive Super Bowls, then the Bills’ current state should have him wishing for the good ‘ol days any minute now.

In addition to Levy, the Bills have hired former Chicago Bears head coach, Dick Jauron to take over this fledgling team.
Here’s the breakdown on the Buffalo Bills for 2006.

Quarterback

J.P. Losman may or may not be the answer to the Bills’ prayers at quarterback. If he isn’t, which I suspect is going to be the case, Buffalo can count on Kelly Holcomb to at least provide some veteran leadership from the postion.

Free agent Craig Nall, will most likely end up as the third stringer, but the Bills need to find out immediately if Losman is the answer. If not, they had better start looking elsewhere because Holcomb gets hurt like clockwork each season and Nall is a career backup.

Running Backs

Willis McGahee is unquestionably talented. However, the loud-mouthed running back had better put up or shut up this season. If the Bills get some kind of competent passing to help balance their offensive attack, McGahee has enough talent to rush for 1,300 or 1,400 yards.

However, it is quite conceivable that Buffalo won’t be able to pass the bal with any kind of consistency and then McGahee will face a ton of “eight-in-the-box” looks this season. Second-year man, Lionel Gates, Shaud Williams will spell McGahee occasionally while Daimon Shelton mans the fullback position.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Eric Moulds is gone now, so the Bills will depend on a veteran group of eceivers that includes, Lee Evans, Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish and off season acquisitions, Andre Davis and Peerless Price, who was severely overpaid by the way.
I think Evans may have the stuff it takes to be a number one wide receiver in this league and if nothing else, Davis, Price and the rest of the crew will provide solid pass-catching. Robert Royal will be the new starting tight end in 2006 and Kevin Everett holds some promise for the future at the position.

Offensive Line

One little known fact that the Bills achieved last season, was the record for fewest yards gained in a 16-game season (4,122). Tackles Mike Gandy and Jason Peters and guards Chris Villarrial and Bennie Anderson are back this season, but the Bills’ 28th ranked offense is going to have to get some major improvement from their offensive line in 2006.

Former Minnesota center Melvin Fowler and Carolina guard Tutan Reyes, will either secure a starting spot of their own somewhere along the line or provide depth and leadership off the bench.

Succinctly, this is a unit that could either make or break the Bills in 2006. If these guys can’t block for McGahee and protect whomever is playing quarterback, it could be a long, cold winter in Buffalo – and I mean colder than usual.

Defensive Line

The Bills 29th-ranked defense was just hideous last season. Defensive end, Aaron Schobel, , is a pretty solid player, however, he will need Chris Kelsay and newly acquired free agent, Larry Tripplett, to contribute and make an impact. Ryan Denney, John McCargo and Kyle Williams will provide depth and energy off the bench.

Linebacker

The Bills could have some problems brewing with their linebackers. Takeo Dspikes is coming off Achilles tendon surgery and Jeff Posey and London Fletcher are aging. Fourth-year pro Angelo Crowell will be called upon to help replace either Spikes of Posey should either falter. Josh Stamer, Liam Ezekiel and Mario Haggan will back up the Bills starting trio.

Defensive Backs

The defensive secondary is one of the Bills strongest units. Cornerback, Nate Clements is a big time playmaker for the Bills and Troy Vincent has been one of my favorite players since he came in the league 15 years ago. Young cornerback Terrence McGee, is an absolute gem and Jabari Greer and Eric King are solid.

The Bills selected Ohio State rookie Donte Whitner, with the No. 8 overall pick and he, along with fourth-round pick, Ko Simpson, will learn behind Vincent.

Special Teams

This is another area of strength for the Bills. Kicker, Rian Lindell and punter Brian Moorman have prove themselves to be fine young players while Terrence McGee has been nothing short of spectacular in his role as a kick returner.

Coaching Staff

I know that Jauron is a fine coach, however, I don’t think he is necessarily suitd to the role of being a head coach. That’s not a knock, it’s just the reality of the situation for some coaches. Norv Turner and Dom Capers fall into this category as well.
At any rate, we shall soon see whether Jauron has what it takes to succeed as an NFL head coach. However, I don’t think Vince Lombardi himself could win with the Bills roster as it currently composed – and until Levy acquires some more talent, the Bills will continue to be on the outside looking in come playoff time.

Tags:2006 Buffalo Bills Preview

2006 Audi 3: The Weekly Driver

After a recent month of traveling in France, Germany and Spain, the habits of European drivers can be succinctly explained. They’re skilled, they drive fast and they’re often required to maneuver and park on small city streets. Audis are everywhere.

And with the 2006 A3, it’s as of Audi has decided to reintroduce the American driving masses to European ways. It’s a vehicle that makes perfect sense in its native country but whose functionality has been lost on the bigger-is-better mentality of U.S. car consumers.

My test drive for the week, the 2.0-liter, 200-horsepower, 4-cylinder, six-speed automatic A3 was an ideal example of how small is good and really not-so-small after all.

The A3 offers simple, yet advanced styling. It’s particularly quick, thanks to its DOHC turbocharged engine. And it’s extraordinarily spacious and functional for a vehicle that from outside looks rather small.

How has Audi accomplished this?

With quality engineering, astute ergonomics and solid materials, the A3 borders on luxury, yet it’s a wagon. There are substantial positives, like the Audi Direct Shift gearbox and paddle shifters conveniently placed on the steering wheel. And there are nice nuances like a thick, well-designed and nicely contoured steering wheel.

As a 6-foot, 180-pound driver, I find some small and medium-sized vehicles problematic. But while the A3 gives an exterior appearance of potential interior limitations, leg and head room are more than sufficient. The textured dashboard and comfortable seats complement the roomy interior, and the list of standard comfort and convenience features is impressive.

Consider: Front and rear power windows, a perfectly proportioned center console with two cupholders and two power outlets, AM/FM radio with in-dash CD player and satellite radio wiring and automatic dual-zone climate control with dust and pollen filter. In short, the Audi offers a lot for its base price of $26,140.00.

The vehicle I drove was dark blue (Audi calls it Moro Blue Pearl), and with its 17-inch alloy wheels, it looks sleek, despite its hybrid hatchback/wagon design. The lines are European hip, making it additionally difficult to think of the A3 as a wagon.

In fact, with its 200-horsepower and impressive acceleration, the A3 leans more toward sports car than utilitarian workhorse. Nonetheless, functionality is far from an afterthought. Map pockets, storage bins and the center console provide plenty of stowing options.

The A3 does have two small annoyances. Like other manufacturers, the vehicle is billed as a five-passenger car. Four adults can sit comfortably, but not five. And like other Audi models, when the hand brake is fully engaged, it still appears nearly parallel to the floor board. More than once, I began to drive thinking the hand brake was disengaged, only the trigger a warning sound.

While its base price is fine, Audi’s various option packages and extra charges hardly make the A3 a bargain.

The Navigation Plus & Sound Pack adds another $2,85o. The manufacturer’s Premium Package includes 12 items – 17-inch alloy wheels to power front driver seat and front fog light to leather seats. It adds another $2,025. The double sun and moon roof, which Audi calls its Open Sky System, adds $1,100. Xenon headlights and XM satellite radio, respectively add $500 and $300. The superior paint job costs another $450. With an above average destination charge of $720, the A3’s price jumps to $34,135.

That’s enough to prompt second thoughts. Still, the A3 is a fine car. It provides a glimpse of how driving – high speeds to tight parking – is done in Europe and how it can be done under the same circumstances in the United States.

2006 Audi A3

Safety features – Dual front and side airbags.

Fuel Mileage (estimates) – 25 (city), 31 (highway).

Warranty – Bumper to bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Corrosion, 12 years, limited; (24-hour) roadside assistance program via third-party supplier

Base price – $26,140.00

Tags:2006 Audi 3: The Weekly Driver

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