blue. grass. bock. town.

I’m not sure that John Calipari’s system at Kentucky — grabbing a bunch of talented one-and-done freshmen in hopes that he can cobble together a solid team in time for a March run — is good for college basketball. And I know for certain that it wasn’t good for nearly every single person who entered the Ninth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Bocktown).

But it has worked out well for Bill, my colleague who was the one NAUCNFFC contestant to pick the Wildcats to win the tournament. As it turns out, Bill doesn’t even need Calipari to win on Monday night; by virtue of the fact that he was THE ONLY PERSON IN THE CONTEST TO CORRECTLY PICK  A CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PARTICIPANT, he’s already got more points than the rest of us. And there’s nothing any of the rest of us can do to catch him.

To be more specific: Bill picked up two points from Kentucky when the Wildcats made the Final Four. He grabbed another four when UK beat Wisconsin on Saturday and he could win another six if his father’s Cats win the title.

The rest of us? We shouldn’t be mad at Kentucky. We should be mad at Florida. Nineteen of us picked the Gators to at least make the championship game on Monday, and most of those guys picked Florida to win it all. So when the Gators gagged against UConn, the contest was over for just about everyone.

Honorable mentions? Sure. Even though the points don’t reflect it, our clear runner up was Barb, who would have been our winner had Wisconsin beaten UK in the Saturday’s semi-final game. With Florida out, NAUCNFFC (BTYBB) came down to that game, and Barb was a last-second missed shot away from her second AUCNFFC championship.

And shouldn’t forget Aunt Annoyed Angel, Sports Chump, HP and Jenny. That anyone — much less four of us — managed to find four points in the toughest AUCNFFC ever is remarkable. Nice work by you.

But as always, NAUCNFFC is a winner-take-all deal, and it is Bill who has earned this year’s $30 Bocktown gift card. Congratulations to him.

And to everyone who entered — thank you once again for playing along. Be sure to try again next year. We’re going to make sure the prizes for the Tenth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Bocktown) are even more fabulous than usual.

naucnffc (btybb) tipoff.

If it’s the longest post of the year, it has to be time to go through the entries of the Ninth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Bocktown).

Because of a couple of work things on Thursday afternoon, I’m posting this nearly a full day later than I usually do. I appreciate your patience; I also appreciate that most of you appeared to heed my warning about Ohio State’s first-round game against Dayton.

As is tradition, we’ll begin with the picks of yours truly:

I approached this year’s tournament with one thing in mind: Don’t be chalky. And I think I did pretty well.

Kansas v. Iowa State / Arizona v. Wichita State

Wichita State beats Kansas for the title, 79-78

(And yes, I think Ohio State will beat Dayton, in an uncomfortably close game.)

Family always comes first. That segment begins, as usual, with Mrs. Crappy, who’s all about the nicknames this year:

‘Cuse beats Cincy, Zaga beats Dook. ‘Cuse beats Dook for the championship (114 points).

Here’s Crappydad, whose geographic concentration is, uh, stunning:

Michigan State beats Florida. Michigan beats Arizona. And Michigan State beats that other team from the State Up North, 64-52.

Next up is my mom, who doesn’t want anything Crappy attached to her name:

Final Four: Florida & MSU, Arizona & Louisville

Final: Florida & Arizona

Winner: Florida

Score: 68-66

Next up is our defending AUCNFFC champion, Aunt Annoyed Angel:

Final four: Florida v Virginia & Wisconsin v Wichita State.

Championship game Florida v Wichita State. Champion: Florida. Tiebreaker: 162.

And then the rest of you, in no particular order. We start with Otimemore; the only reason I know Otimemore personally is because of this here college basketball pool:

Final four: Florida v. Villanova. – Arizona v. Louisville

Final Florida v. Arizona

Champ Arizona (149 pts)

Past AUCNFFC champion Casey:

Final Four: Florida vs. Iowa State / Baylor vs. Louisville

Championship: Florida over Louisville (150 points)

The lovely and talented Dana Bee:

FF: Louisville vs. Oklahoma – Kansas vs. UCONN

Final: Louisville vs. Kansas

Champ: Kansas

Tiebreaker: 154

The SportsChump gets in on the action for the first time:

Final Four: Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin, Duke

Florida over Duke in the championship game, Total Score: 144

Gina and her menagerie are giving it another shot. Sort of.

OK – so the stupid dog won’t pick and the cats are idiots, so I had to pick my own final four, then I rolled the papers into balls & threw them across the room. The winner went furthest. Next year, I’m letting the hermit crab pick.

Final Four: Michigan St vs. Kansas, Wichita St vs. Arizona

Championship game: Michigan St vs. Wichita St

Champion: Michigan St

Tiebreaker: 148

AUCNFFC veteran Curl Girl Michelle:

Final Four: Florida vs. Virginia / Arizona vs. Wichita St.

Championship: Virginia vs. Arizona

Champion: Arizona

Tiebreaker: 137

The wise and knowledgeable Chachi:

Final four: Kansas v. Villanova, Arizona v Wichita State

Final Villanova v. Wichita St.

Champ Villanova

Tiebreaker: 139 points

Past champ Barb:

Final four:  Syracuse vs. Virginia, Wisconsin vs. Louisville

Champ Game: Syracuse vs. Wisconsin

Champ: Wisconsin

Tiebreaker: 140

Terry Coyne, I have no idea who you are, but thanks so much for playing along:

Final Four: Florida v. North Carolina and Arizona v. Louisville

Championship game: Florida v. Louisville

Champion: Florida

Tiebreaker: 161

Fellow former Ohioan Bluzdude:

Final 4: Florida vs Michigan State, Arizona vs Duke.

Championship Game: Florida vs Duke

Champion: Florida

Tiebreaker: 126

I’m glad I don’t have to pick a favorite rugby player in Pittsburgh; picking my favorite Pghrugbyref, however, is easy:

Final Four: VCU, UVA, Creighton, Duke

Championship: VCU v Creighton

Champ: Creighton

Tiebreaker: 121

Doug, aka Father Spoon, aka Doogle, aka past AUCNFFC champ:

Final Four: Florida vs. Villanova, Michigan vs. Arizona

Championship game: Villanova vs.Michigan

Champion: Michigan

Tiebreaker: 149

Trailion’s son Evan is trying to kill me:

Michigan State defeats Kansas.
Michigan defeats Arizona.
Wolverines beat Sparty. SPARTY, NOOOOOOO!

Dish is also trying to kill me:

I’m still waiting for The College of New Jersey to somehow earn a 16-seed one of these years. My main guiding principle is screw Duke. Also picking two Michigan teams to see Uncle Crappy’s head explode.

Florida over Michigan State
Michigan over Creighton

Final: Florida over Michigan (121)

Hellpellet’s assessment is correct:

Florida, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Louisville

FL vs Luhvl with FL winning.

Tiebreaker 142

Earliest I’ve ever gotten this to you? Yes, I think so.

Foodcollage, a Buckeye by way of Canada, returns with more picks:

Final Four: Florida vs. Michigan State, Arizona vs. Louisville

Championship game: Florida vs. Louisville

Champion: Florida

Tiebreaker: 157

Go Bucks!!

Redpenmamapgh’s treatment of North Carolina will make Mrs. Crappy happy:

Final Four: Syracuse vs. N. Carolina, Baylor vs. Duke

Final: Duke vs. Syracuse

Winner: Syracuse

tiebreaker: 122

My old friend Kewyson:

In the Final 4 – Syracuse will meet Michigan State – with the green prevailing over the Orange. Arizona will meet The Team Up North – with the Tucson team winning. MSU will win the final – with a score of 87 over 79.

Tim, another former AUCNFFC champion:

Florida, Nova, Arizona, Duke

Fl-AZ

Florida 128

My Carla and Crappy Show co-star knows college basketball too:

Kansas – Michigan St
Arizona – Louisville

Kansas – Louisville

Louisville
130 (68-62)

My colleague Kristen came up with solid picks, despite claims of college basketball ignorance:

Final Four: Kansas/Michigan State and Wisconsin/Duke

Final: Kansas/Duke

Winner: Duke

Tiebreaker: 137

My #asistradition buddy Jenny worked much of Wednesday afternoon to come up with these:

Four: FLA – VA, WISC – WICH

Final: FLA – WICH

Win: FLA

Tie: 148

My grumpiest colleague, J.D., is hoping some Bocktown fries will cheer him up:

Final Four: Florida, Michigan State, Arizona, Louisville

Championship game: Florida and Arizona

Champion: Florida

Tiebreaker: 160

Another colleague, Megan, joins us for the first time:

Final Four: Florida vs. Michigan State; Arizona vs. Michigan

Championship game: Florida vs. Arizona

Champion: Florida

Tiebreaker: 87 to 82 (169)

We can all be thankful that Bill’s son, a noted college basketball savant, didn’t enter. We’re happy to have Bill’s picks, though:

Final Four: Syracuse vs. Michigan State/Kentucky vs. Az.

Final: Michigan State vs. Kentucky

Winner: Go ‘Cats, for my Dad, a native of Ky. who always believed in UK, except in football, as he was occasionally a wise man.

And Bill helpfully added a short time later:

If the ‘Cats win, I won’t need a tiebreaker, but I’ll post one anyway: 125

I’m not going to let the fact that Shane is my boss to influence the outcome of NAUCNFFC in any way. Probably.

Final Four: Florida vs. Michigan State; Arizona vs. Louisville

Final: Florida vs. Arizona

Winner: Florida 68, Arizona 64 (132 total)

Eric, a sportswriting professional, heads off the beaten path:

FINAL FOUR: Florida, Iowa State, Arizona, Wichita State

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Florida 71, Wichita State 60

Why? Because everyone is picking Louisville and Michigan State

Tom returned from vacation just in time to enter:

Florida, Virginia, Arizona and Louisville
Final: Virginia and Arizona
Champion: Arizona
Tiebreaker: 156

Patrick’s back:

Fla.Michigan StateArizonaLouisville

Fla.Louisville

Fla., 130

Grandpa Caldwell, who is a long way from being an actual grandfather:

final 4: osu v Villanova; sd state v Michigan. Champ game: Villanova v Michigan. Winner: Villanova. Tiebreaker: 145

Veteran AUCNFFCer Scooter, who didn’t pick Pitt:

Final Four: Florida, Michigan St., Louisville, Arizona

Final: Florida v. Louisville

Champion: Florida

Tiebreaker: 142

Penn Stater Neilson is sticking with the Big Ten:

Final Four: Florida vs. Michigan State / Arizona vs. Michigan

Championship: Florida over Michigan (137 points)

Doctor Lunchbox: No, thank you, sir:

Final Four: Michigan State vs. Florida and Louisville vs. Arizona
Championship game: Michigan State vs. Louisville
Champion: LouisvilleTiebreaker: 107
Thank you, sir.

And then there’s Juan, oh he of little basketball knowledge. I was able to track down the pick’s of Phil’s mom, so that’s what Juan gets again this year:

Gonazaga beats UMass, Colorado beats Iowa State. And Colorado beats ‘Zaga for the title. God, let’s hope we don’t need a tiebreaker for this one.

And that’s it, boys and girls. Thanks again to Chris Dilla for the generous sponsorship, and thanks to each one of you who entered.

If I missed your entry or somehow screwed up something else — a thing we know from past experience is not only possible but likely — just let me know and I’ll get it fixed right away.

And, as usual, good luck to everyone. Especially Mrs. Crappy (Woooo, Bocktown dinner!).

Edit, Friday afternoon: I forgot to include Eric’s picks in the initial list; his stuff has since been added. And as past repeat AUCNFFC champion (and NAUCNFFC non-participant) Mr. Burns pointed out, I predicted that the championship game would end in a tie. Even though my tie-breaker doesn’t really matter because I can’t win my own contest, I’ve corrected my typo.

getting lit.

icicles2

Confession: this post is for me as much as it is for you.

This is our sixth Christmas in our Pittsburgh house. I don’t think I’ve ever hung our Christmas lights the same way twice. And this post is going to help me remember what I did this year — because it was really easy.

For the first few years we lived here, we strung white lights into strands of garland. It looked terrific, but it was an incredible pain in the ass. If a string of lights wasn’t working when we hauled everything out of the attic, I had a choice: find the single bulb that was causing the problem or unwrapping the entire string and replacing it. This process is why decorating the front of the house used to take multiple days.

I gave up the garland two years ago, opting to just wrap the lights themselves around the porch railings. This presented a different challenge: I had to figure out how many strands I needed — and how many times each strand should be wrapped around the railings to make sure we didn’t have gaps on either side of the porch. And should I wrap all of the porch supports? Just the ones framing the door?

(Does anyone else struggle with these questions every December? Just me? OK. Fine.)

Just after the completion of The Game on Saturday, I ran to Home Depot to buy a few boxes of strands to replace the ones that died since last Christmas (How do Christmas lights die when they sit in an attic, untouched, for 11 months?) and hung the lights. It was … easy. The numbers worked out well. No gaps or overhangs (with one exception that I’ll fix later today).

And that, boys and girls, is the actual purpose of this post — I want to remember what I did, so I can do it again next year.

buhses

The bushes on the side of the house haven’t actually changed over the years. The little one gets three red strands, while the large one gets four (reminder for 2014: make it five on the large one).

shortside

The short side of the porch has always been a puzzler. Wrap the whole railing? The entire post, or just the front? What I did this time: Up the railing’s back post, wrapped once per spindle, down the railing’s front post and then around the front of the porch post. A second strand of 100 lights is enough to up to the porch roof.

icicles1

Fortunately, the icicle lights have always been easy. Two strands of however long they are. Rinse, repeat.

maple

It didn’t occur to me to light the Japanese maple until last year, when I found I had extra red lights. Three strands of 100 does the trick.

railing

And then there’s the rest of the porch. This is where I’ve changed my mind the most over the years — and I hope I have put that to rest from this point forward. Two 100-light strands, wrapped just once per spindle, cover the entire railing, the handrail along the steps and the handrail’s front post. To do the other porch post that frames the doorway, connect a strand of 100 to the connection between the two icicles, run it along the roof frame until you get to the post and start going down. The one thing that didn’t work Saturday night — I need one strand of 50 to finish that post. We’ll fix that soon.

front

That’s it. Easy. And it turned out pretty well, don’t you think?

20. practice.

tgivboxtyI’m a fan of Thanksgiving food in all forms. I love it when Mrs. Crappy suggests having mini-Thanksgiving in the middle of the winter. I wake up in the middle of the night craving turkey and stuffing smothered in gravy.

And when fall rolls around, I grab the chance to try some Thanksgiving takeoffs that seem to pop up in some of my favorite restaurants around here:

Waffles, INCaffeinated’s South Side store has a lovely special this month called the Gobbler. Their description: “The foundation is a waffle infused with turkey, fire-roasted and paired with butternut squash. Drizzled with a blueberry, ginger, and cayenne foam; finished with pecans and toasted fluff.” I honestly think that the thing I was most skeptical about — the marshmallow fluff — is the thing that makes it.

Mad Mex offers what I had previously considered to be the alt-Thanksgiving Holy Grail — the Gobblerito. A gigantic freaking tortilla loaded with turkey, stuffing, corn and mashed potatoes, doused in gravy and served with cranberry sauce? Yes, please.

And then there is what I ate at Piper’s Pub last night. To start, we have the boxty: a delicious potato pancake covering, uh, pretty much anything. And when that anything is turkey, stuffing and carrots — and covered with gravy — you have a Thanksgiving boxty, which is that beautiful thing pictured above.. You also have perfect — I love the Gobberito, but the fried potato worked a lot better than a tortilla. Without question, the best practice Thanksgiving meal I’ve ever had.

Sure, there’s a full Thanksgiving meal coming up in a few days — but I wonder if I can talk Mrs. Crappy’s cousin into trying this boxty thing out instead.

 

18. about me.

How you can tell it’s a NaBloPoMo month — we’re only two weeks in, and this is the second Facebook meme I’ve stolen from the blog.

I may have bitten off more than I can chew with this one, the *insertnumberhere* Things You Didn’t Know About Me meme. The rules and conventions for this one state that you like a friend’s post and they assign you a number; I liked Mel’s post last week … and she assigned me 15.

FIFTEEN. As in, the most she assigned to anyone who liked her post. I’m choosing to be flattered that Mel thought I could come up with that many reasonably interesting things about myself — even if myself thinks that’s probably a stretch.

hat2 (1)

Before I begin, let me make it clear that I’ll follow the rules here — comment on this post here, like or comment on FB and I’ll give you a number. And if you don’t have a regular outlet for Internet Fun, feel free to leave your list in the comments here.

Mushrooms and olives. I really want to like them. But I really, really don’t.

My first craft beer. I was visiting Juan in Brooklyn, and we stopped at his corner grocery in Park Slope to get some, uh, supplies before we went out for the evening. There, in the cooler, were six packs of Brooklyn Lager. I later found Brooklyn Brown in The Union, my home bar in Athens. And my life hasn’t been the same since.

Certified weather freak boy. I’ve always been curious about what makes weather work, ever since our childhood babysitter let me stay up and watch a thunderstorm light up Leighton Road. That fascination has continued well into adulthood, when I’ve voluntarily attended National Weather Service storm spotter certification classes multiple times — the basic class twice and the advanced class once. Understanding the weather helps professionally, but c’mon — as nerdy stuff goes, it’s pretty cool, too.

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Shorts, man. I love this time of year. When the weather turns, I love digging out sweaters and coats and scarves and all the other accouterments. But let’s be clear — if it’s above 30 degrees, I’m wearing shorts.

I’ll die with a beard. The last time I shaved off my beard entirely was late in my collegiate career. I had an interview for an internship with an editor from a major metro paper in Ohio, and I wanted to make a good impression. But I’ve always suspected that I blew the interview because the editor had a glass eye that pointed up and to the left by about 45 degrees. I was so distracted that I don’t think I uttered a complete sentence the entire time we talked (and it’s always been my guess that the paper sent this guy to interview college kids FOR THAT VERY REASON). I didn’t get the internship and Mrs. Crappy liked the beard, so I grew it  back immediately. And seeing old pictures of beardless me are more than enough to help solidify the decision to keep it forever.

My cause: skin cancer. I’m not a preacher. I generally think it’s best to let people make their own decisions. But for the most part, preventing skin cancer is so simple — and it seems that so few people ever worry about it. I’ve written a bunch about this over the years, starting the time the second tumor was hacked out of my left arm. I’ve had three taken from my arm and one burned off of my forehead. And if I had just put on sunscreen when I was a kid, chances are decent that I wouldn’t have had the trouble I’ve had. It’s not a huge deal — none of my tumors have been serious — but given that skin cancer is largely preventable, it’s a thing for me. And yeah, I’ll probably try to make it a thing for you too. Sorry in advance.

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Chateau de Blanc. I have eaten White Castles for breakfast. When we drive from Thanksgiving dinner in Pittsburgh to my parents’ house in Columbus, I will bring home a bag of White Castles for a Thanksgiving night snack. I once picked up 60 White Castles for my father’s poker night (along with another dozen for me) . If there was was a White Castle closer than Canton, Ohio, I’d be there right now.

Best concerts by non-hippie bands. Wilco, especially the show at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland a few years ago. Little Feat, on a sweaty August night at the Newport. The Stones, on the Steel Wheels tour in Louisville, especially because that’s the first time I heard them play Sympathy for the Devil (otherwise known as the Greatest Rock ‘n Roll Song of All Time) live. Cowboy Junkies at Metropol, which had temporarily lost its liquor license, making for a quiet, respectful audience. Jorma Kaukonen and Michael Falzarano, in front of me and maybe eight other people at Another Fool’s Cafe in Athens.

Bourbon. The Manhattan is the family cocktail. I come by it honestly.

Irish kid, Italian cook. I have no Italian in me whatsoever, but I love me some Italian cooking — and, uh, eating. Some of this comes from the family spaghetti-and-meatballs recipe, which was born decades ago when the family owned a restaurant somewhere in Columbus; I suppose it also comes from it not being too difficult to do Italian pretty well. Lasagna? Yep. Carbonara? Yep. Improvising and tinkering with pasta dishes? Yep.

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Meeting famous people. It might have something to do with my job — I’ve interviewed senators, congresspeople, Timothy Leary, Graham Chapman, and many others — but I have no difficulty marching up to someone I recognize and saying hello (and it still kills me that I wasn’t with Mrs. Crappy the time she walked right by Ringo Starr in Aspen a few years ago). As a caution — that goes for Internet-famous people as well. If we haven’t met before but I think I’ve spotted you while we’re out, I will stop you and introduce myself.

Best job ever. I have been a paperboy. I have worked in restaurants. I have made it through multiple holiday seasons at a chain of Hallmark stores in Columbus. And I am now a journalist, the fulfillment of the closest thing I’ve had to a lifelong dream. But without question, the most fun I’ve ever had was working at the Bagel Buggy in Athens every Friday morning for one of my senior-year spring quarters.

Work is surreal. I am a trained professional journalist. And nearly everything I do professionally now didn’t exist when I was a student at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

The moment I first set eyes on Mrs. Crappy. I was never really sure love at first sight was possible until it happened to me. I was starting a late night at my college paper, and I walked through the business offices just as the general assignment staff — where most of us got our starts — was wrapping up a meeting. I looked over and there was a new girl — long, light brown hair. Round, almost Lennon glasses. Big smile and a big laugh. I was thunderstruck; I think I actually stopped and stared for a second before moving on to the production room. I tracked down the GA editor as soon as I could and was filled in, because she also happened to be Mrs. Crappy’s resident assistant. It took a while for us to connect — although not for a lack of effort on my part — but, yeah, it’s worked out pretty well.

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Hats. In the summer? I’m a ballcap guy. But when the weather turns cold — as you may have gathered from the photos — I’m a fan of hats with stuff on them.