swamped.

* Thanks to everyone who participated in the Second Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge. Congratulations to Mr. Burns, who proved without a doubt this year that he’s capable of picking games all by himself, and therefore will be the recipient of the promised fabulous prizes.

* An honorable mention goes to Columbus native Kewyson, who had to spend last night watching the game in an Orlando-area bar, while he vacations in Mouseland with his family. There should be combat pay involved.

* As far as the game goes, the loss of Mike Conley to foul trouble in the first half was the killer. Without him on the floor, there was no flow to the offense and Ohio State dug a hole it couldn’t escape from in the second half, when the Bucks actually outscored the Gators.

* Greg Oden showed last night why he’s going to be an NBA standout for a Very. Long. Time. Florida pretty much established a four-man rotation against him, with two of the guys serving no purpose but to beat on him until they fouled out.

It didn’t work. Oden played 38 minutes, scored 25 points, hauled in 12 rebounds and stuffed four Gator shots. His talent is obvious; his heart was the thing that stood out on Monday. Whether he stays or goes, he deserves our thanks.

* There is not a state in the union I hate as much as Florida right now. The trip there in two weeks is still on, but I feel a little like Woody Hayes in the famous story about him coasting across the state line from Michigan to Ohio because he refused to buy gasoline in the State Up North.

I am going to have to buy some beer while I’m there, though … otherwise I’ll never make it through the week.

aljekrjnciadsnrugaftz.

I’ve been dragging. Not sure why. Work is busy — and the little annoyances are stacking up a bit — but overall it’s not too bad. There’s lots of stuff going on outside the newsroom, too … and I guess the overall effect is that I’m a bit drained.

Here’s some stuff.

* Saw Jorma at the Rex Theater on Friday. Our former Southeast Ohio neighbor can still kick a little ass.

* Watched Ohio State beat Michigan while stuffing ourselves at Mad Mex on Saturday. Good stuff on both counts.

* We wandered through Ikea for a bit on Saturday before the game, looking for a replacement for the crumbling — largely thanks to my efforts to “repair” it — wheeled microwave stand that serves as storage of our canned goods, wine, bomber beer bottles and other miscellaneous kitchen shit. We found a couple of options that were probably suitable but didn’t pull the trigger. We also found these, which prompts a question: Get ’em or not?

* Lots of good music coming through here soon. Upcoming: Widespread Panic at one of the downtown theaters, Keller Williams returns to Mr. Small’s and Derek Trucks comes back, also to Mr. Small’s.

* Skiing ain’t over yet. There should be actual winter-like conditions on Friday, and then there’s still the promise of one good spring-skiing day, which is one of my favoritest things of ever.

* Another one of my favoritest things of ever: The dulcet tones of Tom Hamilton on the radio. Baseball is back.

* I think my endless search for new glasses has come to an end. Previously I had always had good luck at LensCrafters, but in visiting stores this time around, I kept running into the same problem: the frames don’t fit my big-ass head. I finally got an explanation two weekends ago, when a clerk cheerfully told us that frame makers had opted to make more styles, at the expense of making different sizes of the same style. She said this to me as if it was the greatest thing ever; she also seemed a little confused when I asked how this helped if none of the frames fit my head. So we’re going with America’s Best. Nice frames, sunglasses and an exam, all for under $200. Not bad.

* I’ve been reading up on what it will take to start podcasting, both because I think it would be fun and because I think it will be a good thing for me to know professionally. Yes. The voice of Uncle Crappy, coming soon to a computer near you. Yikes.

* Not sure what we’re doing for St. Patrick’s Day. Could stick close to home, although The Wife says she’s not interested in the parade downtown. Could go to Columbus. Could head to the Greenville Inn in Chagrin Falls for what promises to be absolute debauchery with Skinny Moo. Excellent choices all, except that out-of-town relvelry poses the usual I-Have-To-Work-On-Sunday-Problem. Hm.

* Coming soon: The Second Annual Uncle Crappy Official NCAA Final Four Challenge. You may remember this from last year; it’ll be the same deal again. Full details later this week. Participation is required.

buncha stuff.

Uncle Crappy’s been slacking once again. Busy. With, uh, stuff. Here’s what you missed:

* I’ve skied twice, on the last two Fridays, both at Seven Springs. The first trip was nice, with about four inches of fresh snow and a decent number of trail open. Last week’s trip, however, was killer, as good as I’ve ever seen Seven Springs. Nearly everything open, fresh snow covering the corduroy, nobody in my way … wow. Finally getting to go was a little like seeing moe. last summer — just the thing I need to shake a little funk.

* The Wife and I spent Friday night gallery hopping at the, uh, gallery hop dahntahn. Fun. Good art. Beer. We’ll go again.

* While we were heading to Pittsburgh Friday night, we got a call from sister of Uncle Crappy, who said her family would be in Canton for a few days, because of the death of my brother in law’s grandmother.

One of the reasons we went to Canton on Saturday was to pay our respects; she was a neat lady. But the other reason we drove to Canton was to see the Florida kids — two of whom were born in Cleveland but moved south before they could gather any significant memories of winter — play in the snow.

It was totally worth the trip. When we pulled into the driveway, all three kids were bundled up and running around outside. Actually, the youngest wasn’t running; her face was all red because she had been eating handfuls of snow. The boys, however, were beside themselves. The older had already built one snowman and was working on a second; the younger was diving, face-first, into piles of snow by the driveway. I did my best to start a snowball fight, and we ran around a bit, both before and after some family visiting.

My sister was worried about how cold it had been leading up to the weekend, but on the day we were there, Canton was positively balmy. She should have gotten a taste of real northern winter before they left, though; it looked like it was snowing in Canton on Sunday, and I know it got a whole lot colder. I imagine the boys would have been pretty wound if they got some significant snowfall while they were up north.

* The rest of my time has been devoted to getting ready for Groundhog weekend. We’re holding the party at the new home of the Grandhog and his brother, in a location that should have been pretty easy for people to get to. But I was a bit bummed to find that only a handful of people are planning to attend. This has led to some thoughts about all things Groundhog-related … but I’m not going to get into those now. We’re going to have a good weekend anyway…

* Last night, The Wife and I finally got around to drinking the bottle of Delirium Noel we bought three weeks before Christmas. Beer shouldn’t be allowed to be that good.

housekeeping.

There’s been a lot of stuff I should have been keeping track of in the last few days, but as I noted before, I’ve been pretty tapped out, from both an inspiration standpoint and an energy standpoint. So as I am wont to do, I offer you the patented Uncle Crappy Catch-up Synopsis:

* The First Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Contest ended, fortunately, in a three-way tie among Fred, Mr. Burns and yours truly. And despite the fact that Mr. Burns didn’t technically pick George Mason to make the Final Four — he merely accepted the picks given to him by me — there will be Fabulous Prizes as promised to all three winners.

* Baseball season has begun, and the Indians are 5-1. Ahhh….

* I got to see Keller Williams in Pittsburgh about 10 days ago. If you have a chance to see him, he comes with the Uncle Crappy Seal of Approval. Keller’s definitely hippie-friendly, but his one-man jam band approach is definitely unique. Pacing around onstage between a bass, a bunch of percussion toys, a keyboard and about a dozen guitars, Keller uses digital loops to build his own backing band from song to song, and then sings and solos over the loops. Infectious. I got to see him do a set with Larry and Jenny Keel, bluegrassers from Virginia who backed Keller on his most recent CD, Grass — very cool stuff, ranging from fairly straightforward bluegrass to covers of Steve Miller’s “Take the Money and Run” and, believe it or not, Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Night.”

* Uncle Crappy’s very existence has been validated. I’m writing a monthly beer column for the entertainment tab my paper has been publishing for about a year. The column is just two months old at this point, but the editors seem to like it and the feedback that’s dribbled in so far has been fairly positive, so I’m hoping that means I won’t be getting shitcanned anytime soon. The magazine isn’t online yet, but I’m told that’s coming sometime later this year; if you’re interested in reading — and you haven’t already tired of hearing me pontificate about beer — send me an email, and I’ll pass out a link as soon as it’s up.

* In my last post, I mentioned the stuff that’s been going on in my personal world. Without going into too much detail, I can say that across the board things are headed in the right direction. John, the author of Life in Alaska — one of Uncle Crappy’s new favorite blogs — offered me some advice as a response to Friday’s post: “Breathe slowly…!”

John, you’re exactly right. That’s something we should all keep in mind. Thanks.

and i thought he was a cat.

As it turns out, the furry mammal that’s been living with us for the last several years is in fact an otter. I had no idea about this until tonight. We even placed a small rock on his stomach while this display was going on; he didn’t mind the rock, although he seemed a little irritated when told there was no shellfish, fresh or otherwise, available in the house.

In other news:

* The Wife’s knee is apparently just sprained, with perhaps a partial meniscus tear. She’ll be starting a physical therapy program here shortly. We were very happy to hear this.

* Wow. I just spelled “meniscus” correctly on the first try.

* I’m knee-deep in brackets: a couple for my office, a couple for The Wife’s pool and the internet pool that I came this close to winning last year. In that spirit, I’m announcing the First-Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Contest. Simply post your picks for the Final Four, the teams that make the championship game and the winner. You’ll get a point for each correct pick, and three points for correctly picking the champ. The winner will receive a Fabulous Prize direct from Uncle Crappy.

Oh, and the first person to point out that it’s impossible to have a “first-annual” anything will be disqualified, ridiculed and possibly banned from Uncle Crappy for, um, a day or two.

So have your picks in by noon Eastern on Thursday, which is something like 6 or 7 p.m. in Switzerland. Miles the Otter thanks you for your support.

ready. go.

Sorry. Getting caught up with work, dealing with hangovers, taking care of business, just being lazy. Cooking. Eating. Rocking. Rolling. Zigging. Zagging. Sleeping. Waking. Baking.

And now I’m back.

While Uncle Crappy was away:

* Winter ended. That’s been part of my alarming lack of focus since I last posted. No more college football, and no skiing to take its place. College basketball just isn’t picking up the slack, and the Penguins and Blue Jackets both suck. Pray for snow. Soon.

* I’ve been delving deeper into the soundtracks of the Warren Miller films I own — and some I don’t — via iTunes. Pretty cool stuff. But it doesn’t make the skiing jones any easier to deal with.

* Did I mention college football? We’ve already discussed the Fiesta Bowl, of course. Sugar Bowl? Happy that WVU won, especially since The Coochie Doctor’s new husband has been so supportive of our cause, and he deserves a BCS win for his boys. Orange Bowl? Happy with the outcome, but just an ugly freaking game. And I couldn’t help but think Ohio State would have kicked the shit out of Penn State if we had played in January. Rose Bowl? Wow. Vince Young? He’s good, and coming out to the NFL now is the right decision for him.

* Some of you are aware of the Groundhog thing. Info is coming soon. I promise. Keep the first weekend in February open. Spread the word.

* Remember my mention of the kick-ass chef’s knife I got for Christmas? I finally put it to use yesterday, while I prepped to make a Thai stir-fry kind of thing for dinner. The recipe wasn’t as good as I had hoped, but using a knife that feels that good in your hand is pure pleasure.

* Really. I meant it about the knife.

* I just got the XM Radio unit I got The Wife for Christmas up and running. I’ll never be without satellite radio again, boys and girls. If you haven’t tried it for yourself, Uncle Crappy gives it his highest recommendation.

* Work? Getting caught up. Dead bodies. Municipal-level bickering. Pretty much the same as it was last year.

* My picks in this year’s office Dead Pool: Ariel Sharon, Lady Bird Johnson, Patrica Kennedy Lawford, Ronnie Biggs and Karl Malden. Wish me luck.

* Via several friends, we’re about to be overrun by new babies. Uncle Crappy is available for light playing, babytalk and singing the occasional Grateful Dead song. But don’t look for me to change any diapers. It just ain’t happening.

* This year? There’s changes coming. I’m cautiously optimistic.

OK. We’re ready to go.