conflicted.

Back in January, I wrote about an unpleasant decision: picking between Notre Dame and Alabama on the day of the football national championship game.

Today? Another title game, and another unhappy choice.

Back then, the basic choice was between a team I can’t stand versus a conference I hate above all others. This time, the choice is more complicated, because I’m picking between what should be good for my conference versus … uh … that Team Up North.

Let me make one thing clear — this doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with Louisville. I’ve lived there, I love the city and I’ve even seen a Dead show in the old Freedom Hall. And I have nothing at all against Rick Pitino; I was living in Kentucky when he took over at UK, and those undermanned teams were a blast to watch, what with the incessant threes and unrelenting full-court press.

No, this choice has everything to do with Michigan. Which is a word that is even uncomfortable for me to type.

Here’s the thing. My gut reaction is to want Michigan to not only lose, but lose badly. Don’t even want it to be close. Twenty points-plus. Back in January, I wrote about the terrifying potential for overbearing smugness on the part of ND fans, should the Irish win the championship; as I recall from 1997, Michigan fans are even worse, even if this is only a basketball title.

Don’t want any part of it. No thank you.

But then there’s this logical part of my brain — you know, the part that usually should keep you out of trouble. This time, my logical side is poking at me about how the Big Ten would benefit from a national championship tonight. It would help in a tangible sense and it would help improve the perception of the conference with those vote in polls or pick the participants in next year’s tournament. It would be a big deal for the B1G on nearly every level.

But shit, we’re talking about Michigan. If it were Michigan State, Indiana or maybe even Wisconsin, I wouldn’t have a problem. But it’s Michigan.

Or maybe two.

Or maybe two.

So what am I going to do? I’m going to have a beer and hope there’s something good on the History Channel.

***

I will, however, pay attention to tonight’s game, in the sense that we’re about to wrap up the Eighth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Bocktown). I have done exactly zero work to figure out what has to happen for who to win whatever … but I’ll work all that out in the morning and let you know who’s won the Bocktown gift card so generously donated by Chris Dilla.

awful.

EAUCNFFC killer.

EAUCNFFC killer.

I knew it was going to be bad.

I didn’t think it would be this bad.

Thirty five people entered the Eighth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Bocktown). And at the conclusion of the Elite Eight weekend, there are 16 — SIXTEEN — Blutarskys (and if you don’t know what that is, I’ll explain in a moment).

Given the general carnage of the tournament, I knew there would be some downright ugly entries — including mine, after Saturday night’s loss by Ohio State at the hands of Wichita State. But this, this is unprecendented in the history of AUCNFFC.

Before we get to the futility, let’s take a look at how everyone else is doing. There are a bunch of you who picked Louisville to not only make the Final Four, but to win the whole tournament. But in each of those cases, you guys had just one correct Final Four pick — the Cardinals — with the possibility of adding more points only if Looavull advances.

And yeah, it’s looking like the tiebreaker is going to be even more important this year than it was a year ago.

Those who have Louisville winning the tournament; in all cases, you two points for the correct Final Four pick and a possibility of 10 more:

  • My Mom
  • Aunt Annoyed Angel
  • Casey
  • Clara
  • Calipanthergrl
  • Barb
  • Scooter
  • Patrick

I think there’s one other person who would win the whole freakin’ thing, but she’d do it if Syracuse comes out on top. Jenn has the Orangemen beating Ohio State in the final (sigh); she has two points in hand and as many as 10 more to earn if ‘Cuse is the champion.

As we work our way down the standings, it’s worth pointing out that Pghrugbyref is actually our leader at the moment. He correctly picked both Louisville and Syracuse making the Final Four; unfortunately, he also picked Kansas and Ohio State to play in the title game, so he has no more points to earn.

And then we have the handful of people who made one correct Final Four pick — Louisville  – but don’t have that team going much further. These folks have two points in hand, with the possibility of earning four more. It ain’t going to be enough to win, but making any correct picks this year should be something to be proud of:

  • Tim
  • Fred
  • Kewyson

We have one more person in the Two Plus Four Club, but she got there via a different path. RPM has Syracuse going as far as the title game, but not winning the title.

Another group, this one including entries who gained two points for a correct Final Four pick but cannot earn any additional points:

  • Jaci
  • Ethel
  • Susan
  • Joe
  • Sheepthemoon

And that brings us to the special group, those of us who — this year, anyway — ride the college basketball short bus.

If you are new to AUCNFFC, you may not be familiar with the term Blutarsky. You are likely familiar with the scene from Animal House,  when members of Delta visit Dean Wormer in his office, to discuss the mid-term grades of the fraternity’s members. We all recall what happened when Wormer addresses John Belushi’s character. The words, at this point, are immortal.

“MISTER Blutarsky…”

Without further ado, the EAUCNFFC Blutarsky award winners:

  • Uncle Crappy
  • Mrs. Crappy
  • CrappyDad
  • DJ Lunchbox
  • HP
  • Bluzdude
  • Otimemore
  • Infinitebuffalo
  • Grandpa Caldwell
  • Styx4me
  • Carla
  • Kelly (and Evan)
  • Dish
  • Michael
  • Zombie Dudders
  • Juan

I would point out that this year’s tournament made it unusually difficult to make correct picks of any kind. I would point that out, but I would just be making excuses for my — our — pathetic performances. Thanks for playing, fellow Blutarskys — I hope we all do better next year.

sloth.

If I have to swallow some down time, I’m sure as hell going to enjoy it.*

OK, I’m not going overboard — much — but I am going to try to worry slightly less about stuff until I’m ready to test the groin again.

(I’m also apparently going to enjoy writing about my groin. Groin. Groin. Groin. Who thought up that one?)

It wasn’t a conscious decision, but I sort of started last week, when I did my best to keep up with the first-ever Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week. That deserves a post of its own (or maybe two posts, one here and one on the work beer blog), but suffice to say: That was fun.

I also had a pretty good start this week. I made my favorite Groundhog/tailgating breakfast casserole for a little thing at Kim’s house on Saturday. And last night, I made this:

There’s a little back story here. I found this recipe on Pinterest months ago, when I was in the mood for A) pasta and B) something a little spicy. Naturally, I modified the original a little bit (subtract cilantro, add a couple cloves of minced garlic) and was pleased enough with the results that I re-pinned the recipe.

And then? Nothing happened.

And then? Holy crap.

About two months ago, someone — someone who has many, many more Pinterest followers than I do — re-pinned the recipe from my post. My modified recipe started getting some attention, enough that I used that as an opportunity to finally write about Pinterest in my tech column at work.

After a brief lull, the re-pinning has continued. You can trust me when I say it’s good, or you can believe the 878 people who have re-pinned it or the 144 people who have liked it as of Tuesday night.

I can’t speak for the experiences of more than 1,000 people, but I can tell you the recipe is simple, quick and freaking delicious.

And, in fitting with the fat guy theme of the week, totally appropriate.

*I love the eating and drinking, but the not running thing is an irritation, to be honest.

on the record.

When we visited the library last week, Mrs. Crappy found a book she thought would be right in my wheelhouse. And she was correct.

Record Store Days is an ode to the romance of the dingy stores that occupied much of my time — and my money — from about age 10 until fairly recently. When I was younger, I had places close by where I got my comic books, but somewhere around 1976 or 1977, a couple things happened: I was given greater leeway by my parents to ride my red Schwinn 10-speed beyond the boundaries of the immediate neighborhood, and I started to really pay attention to music.

And when I found I could get to the Buzzard’s Nest record store on Henderson Road in about 20 minutes on my bike? I got a backpack big enough to hold LPs, and off I went.

Transportation was a key, here. My parents are exceedingly patient people — and my father, especially, understood the obsession — but I realized quickly that the legitimate number of requests I could make for a ride or a stop at a record store was limited. So the bike — and later the moped and the Pinto, my first car — got me to the nearby Buzzard’s Nest, the chain store (I think) on Lane Avenue and — the Holy Grail — the used-record stores on High Street on Ohio State’s campus.

Especially when I was still pedaling up to Buzzard’s Nest, I know I was in awe of the people who worked there. They were, in my pre-adolescent mind, my people. They knew the disco records, but they were rock ‘n roll guys, long hair, cheesy 70s facial hair, black t-shirts — they were what 10-year-old me wanted to be.

I grew out of the black t-shirt phase at some point in junior high school — that had something to do with discovering the Grateful Dead, which sent me off down a less-metallic path — but my love for the record store never wavered. I enjoy the ease of buying music now — and I will admit that I’m not a vinyl purist by any stretch, because the music itself is still more important to me than the medium — but I miss spending an hour in a store, flipping through bin after bin of treasure and coming across something I’ve never seen.

I’ve mentioned Buzzard’s Nest already. It was the local chain in Columbus, and I think it managed to stick around sometime into the late 1980s. I loved my local Buzzard’s Nest, but the real treasure was to be found elsewhere. Here’s a taste of what I remember about my record stores:

Magnolia Thunderpussy. Easily the best name for a record store I’ve ever heard. This campus staple is still around, although it seems like it’s moved at least a couple times since I’ve lived in Columbus. I remember it being the biggest, but not necessarily the best of the campus stores. Thorough selection, but almost as pricy as Buzzard’s Nest.

The one at the bottom of the stairs. This was up High Street a bit, almost to Lane, in a basement spot customers reached via a double stairway on the east side of the street. I don’t recall if this was the Columbus version of Schoolkids Records, but I know it was my primary stop. A good selection of new stuff, and always a reliable flow of used records to pick over, at prices that accommodated my paperboy’s income.

The one above Bernie’s. Was this Schoolkids? The name wasn’t really the important part; the 25-cent and 50-cent bins were. This little place was hit-or-miss, but when you hit, you hit big. Used records were sorted by price per disc — a quarter, 50 cents or maybe a buck if the vinyl was really clean. On a good day, a five-dollar bill was enough to fill my backpack and make my ride back home a little uncomfortable — because of the weight of the LPs and the fact I was in a hurry to get home.

Schoolkids Records, Athens. Last time I visited OU, this was no longer a record store, and that’s a shame — it was a great one when I was a student. They mostly had switched to CDs by the time I returned from the Army, but I had as well, so no biggie. Excellent selection, including some difficult-to-find stuff. They did the midnight sales on Tuesdays for big-deal releases, and I attended a couple of those; once they got to know me, though, they would also hold copies of stuff on the promise I’d be in before lunch to pick it up.

The one downstairs, Athens. This was on Union Street, below a Chinese restaurant and next to the old carryout where I used to buy 12-packs of Weidemann beer for $5. It was small and dark, with used vinyl only. I scored some good stuff there, and was sorry to see it was gone when I returned to Athens after getting out of the Army.

A couple big ones:

Tower Records, NYC. From the moment that Juan moved to Brooklyn after he finished school, I made it clear that the first weekend I visited we would be heading to the village so I could bask in the glory that was Tower Records. I wasn’t disappointed, either. The place was huge, and it had everything. I was smart enough that I showed up looking for a few specific things — records to fill out a catalog of a couple bands, if I remember — and I think I left with nearly everything I was looking for.

ear X Tacy, Louisville. Upon completion of basic training, I was informed that I would be staying at Fort Knox in Kentucky for the remainder of my time in the Army. That was good, mostly; I was a fairly short distance from home, so I could get back to Columbus pretty much whenever I felt the need. But I still needed to explore Louisville a little bit, to find out what my home for the next couple years had to offer. Most of the guys in my platoon recommended the gigantic mall just south of town, but there was one guy who lived down the hall on my floor in the billets who knew better. His nickname was, appropriately, Pig; I met him when I heard astonishingly good banjo coming from down the hall and found him playing in the bathroom. Pig’s advice? “Go find ear X Tacy.” It was maybe the best independent record store I ever came across; killer selection, knowledgeable-and-friendly staff, the perfect vibe. It also served as a community hub in Louisville, or at least it did for me; at the end of those weeks where I was struggling with Army life, I’d drive up to the store on Saturday morning, spend a couple hours and a few bucks and come back happy. The closing of record stores isn’t news these days, but I was crushed last fall when I heard that ear X Tacy was shutting down.

Border’s Books and Music. Yeah, I know. Chain, box store, blah, blah, blah. I don’t care. Border’s — especially the one in Northway Mall — always felt comfortable to me, and when they were able, they were a kickass record store. But I’m including them here for symbolic reasons more than anything else, because the demise of music sales at that particular store was really the final thing that drove me to the world of downloads. The shift, at first, was subtle; if you went a couple months between visits, the music section would shrink by a row or two. The more obscure genres vanished first, and I didn’t really miss the Russian folk music CDs. But when the reggae section vanished? Jazz got reduced by half? The quirkier rock and pop musicians disappeared? At some point I walked downstairs and found that nearly the entire thing was gone; what had taken up nearly the entire floor had been consolidated down to two lonely, pathetic racks in the middle of the sprawling room. And I felt like crying.

We have good record stores here still. I stop in when I think to, but I generally can count on one hand the number of physical CDs I buy each year these days. For me, the hunt these days is in iTunes, at eMusic, on etree or the archive. I get what I need there, and most days, that’s enough. But I miss old version of the hunt: digging through bins, pulling the LPs from the sleeves and grinning when I found a clean one in the fifty-cent stack, pedaling home as fast as I could to give it a listen. That feeling I will never have again.

I don’t often do this, but I have questions: What was your favorite record store? What made it so?