Tuesday, October 28, 2008

News flash: MPhelps alleged diet is hogwash?

Today my sports journalism class got to interview Olympic swimming gold medalist Garrett Weber-Gale. Here is his most famous moment, after the USA's upset win over the French in the 4 x 100 free relay, a celebration he doesn't really have recollection of:

He said he remembered checking the scoreboard and seeing a 1 next to the USA names, and wanting to check again to make sure. After that, he doesn't really remember the yelling or hugging euphoria.

He also recalled the Olympics as being "magical" on more than one occasion.

Weber-Gale is a former Longhorn swimmer who still trains in Austin with the likes of Brendan Hansen and Aaron Peirsol, both Texas Exes and Olympians in their own right.

Despite his success in the pool, GWG's looking to make waves in other parts of his life. He has dreams of starting a specialty food business and is contact with a New York literary agent about the possibility of making a cookbook.

For more info on GWG and his love for food, see his website.

But speaking of food, the big news was that GWG dispelled the Michael Phelps 12,000-calories-a-day myth.

"That's so embellished it's absurd," he said.

He's eaten enough meals with him to know it's untrue, he pointed out.

Too bad. Guess that means I'm going to have to cut out my 18-pancake and 12-omelet breakfasts if I have any hope of competing in the 2012 London Olympics. Crickey mate.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Don't pass gas.

Close your eyes and listen to this YouTube video. Seriously.

I was listening to the radio when this commercial came on. I'm pretty sure it was exactly the same script, but it was even more hilarious and effective when I only heard the audio.

Pretty cool ad, eh?

I love the surprise at the end when you find out that "passing gas" is smoking.

Plus I have a 6th-grader's sense of humor, so you know I howled the first time I heard it.

We now return to your regularly scheduled maturity.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Yesterday I walked into class with a cup of hot tea from 7-11 where my friend Tiffany greeted me, "You didn't vote!"

Bewildered, and confused, I had no idea what she was talking about. It was true, my Virginia absentee ballot was in fact sitting on my nightstand, but how did she know?

She sensed my follow-up question. "The cup. You didn't vote in the 7-11 election."

What is she talking about?, I thought.

She quickly explained the election, but to be completely honest with you I didn't get it. All I knew was there was some sort of voting action having to do with the cups.

Well, to the luck of my local 7-11, I awoke with a nagging sore throat for the third day in a row, which meant I sipped hot tea all day long. And since it's slightly lame and strange to carry around a Thermos around campus all day (not that I have one) and 7-11 is one block from the building housing all my classes, I made visit number two to the store in as many days.

Walking in the store I knew I had to do two things: secure a voting cup and make it back to class with I Love Lemon tea in hand in six minutes.

Thankfully I was a little less oblivious this time and was able to complete both tasks without a hitch.

At the "hot beverage bar" there's a seemingly endless parade of coffees (who knew? And Tiffany swears by the pumpkin spice flavor, by the way), but greeting the section is a bright red and blue promotional sign explaining how it works. Pretty simple if you aren't as spacey as me.

Pick red cup that says "McCain" on it to vote McCain. Pick blue cup that says "Obama" on it to vote Obama. Fill with hot beverage of your choice. Bring to counter. Purchase beverage. When beverage's bar code is scanned it adds your McCain or Obama vote to the tally, which can be followed at 7-election.com.

If you were wondering which color I picked, I'll give you two hints: it's my favorite color and is opposite of orange on the color wheel.

I commend your ability to solve that enigmatic riddle.

Not only are 7-11 hot beverages way cheaper than their Starbucks counterparts, but for the time being they are also infinitely more exciting. Not to mention, the packaging is really eye-catching and fun.

So get out there, save $2 on your next cup of coffee and get excited about the election!

Also, if you think the promotion is stupid, maybe you should read this info, which I found on the 7-11 site's "Fun Facts" section:
  • In the 2000 7-Election, [the] George W. Bush cup outsold Al Gore's cup by just 1 percentage point.

  • The 2004 7-Election results tracked exactly with published national election results: 51% for George W. Bush and 49% for John Kerry (within a few percentage points of actual poll results in many states!).
While I can't with certainty say that there is any truth to these facts (if a fact is "fun," must it also be fabricated?) it is at least interesting. With all the negative political ads going back and forth, I find the informal red vs. blue competition to be a lot more light-hearted.

So get off your lazy butts and drink and vote!

Monday, October 20, 2008

What a Ray-lief

I'm soooooo excited to see the BoSox packin' and forced to watch the World Series from the comfort of their own homes. But I'm even more ecstatic about the prospect of their fans being shut up until spring training. Success!

In case you missed it, the Tampa Bay Rays won 3-1 in the clinching game 7 in a nail-biting marathon of an ALCS against the Red Sox.


No more "Red Sox Nation" this, "Red Sox Nation" that. Heavenly.

Like all teams in recent memory that won similar games of this caliber, the Rays doused each other in victory champagne. Players donned goggles and ALCS Champions regalia.

I wonder, where do they end up housing the already embroidered and imprinted incorrect "champions" memorabilia for the losing team? Alas, this is a mystery to be solved in a future post... hopefully.

The best quote from TBS's broadcast of the game tonight was a Yogi Berra-esque gem about the Tampa Bay Rays, "I knew they'd be celebrating like that if they won!"

I'll be rooting for the Rays in the WS, but as a non-Yankees non-Red Sox fan I feel like I've already won. I'll take my vicarious victories in life however I can get them.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Already got into college? Wanna retake the SAT?

That's right. Believe it or not, this policy is encouraged 100 miles north of UT at Waco's Baylor University.

In an attempt to make Baylor more competitive in college rankings in US News & World Report, the university offered already admitted and enrolled students $300 in bookstore credit for re-taking the exam. This applied to the class of 2012 only.

Students who improved their scores by 50 points or more were given $1,000 in merit scholarships. Of the 861 who retook the exam, 150 were able to secure the $1,000 in financial aid.

SAT scores are just one of the many criteria that US News uses to rank colleges.

Baylor's average incoming freshman SAT score also raised from 1200 to 1210. A staggering 10 points. Isn't that what each question is worth?

Or perhaps more importantly, how much will this take-the-SAT-after-I've-been-admitted plan really change Baylor's rankings? US News ranks them at #76 currently.

According to the US News website, "student selectivity" of an institution accounts for only 15% of its ranking. And of this selectivity score, SAT scores account for 50% of the 15%... so 7.5% overall. I can only venture to guess what a whopping impact those 10 points will make in the grand scheme of things.

By my calculations Baylor gave up at least $408,300 in scholarships and bookstore credit (assuming the bookstore is affiliated with the school) with its new policy. All for 10 points higher on the average SAT score? Was it worth it? Only time will tell.

And also, do other universities view Baylor's decision? That Baylor is rankings obsessed? Pathetic? Honorable? Charitable?

And who is to say that all students nationwide wouldn't be able to improve their SAT scores an average of 10 points when given that extra post-applications time?

Just some thoughts...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Beauty, art, and... politics?

Politics can be a beautiful thing.

Though much of the time it is anything but beautiful. Politics often showcases frustrating partisan debate, rampant blame thrust on opposing candidates, and everyone's favorite, accusatory TV commercials.

But this year it is different.

Yes, John McCain has vigorously critiqued Barack Obama and has said that his opponent would do little other than raise taxes if he were President. And Obama has made McCain's 90% voting with W during the latter's presidency no secret. So what's different about this time?

The art.

Artists from all over the country recognize the importance of this election and have used Obama's candidacy as a springboard for their artistic expression. Their work has induced what could possibly be the most artistic election ever.

Here are just a few of the many Obama-inspired works:

This leads me to wonder, why can't more candidates find a way to speak to such gifted artists? The world could be so much more picturesque.

More information and examples, especially on the color palettes and design, can be found here.

All artwork is from COLOURlovers, the "Color + Design Community for Creative Inspiration" at http://www.colourlovers.com/.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I saw the sign

I gotta admit, Austin has among the coolest signs and logos for its shops, eateries, and events. It's amazing how powerful something as simple as a sign or logo can communicate about an entity. Everywhere I go interesting fonts, color combinations, and other unique design choices tantalize my eyes. Here are a few of my Austin favorites...


P. Terry's. This is my favorite sign in Austin. The red and white on robin's egg blue (green) are a memorable color combination. I love the space age-y feel to it also.

EZ's. The glitz and faux glamour of this diner's sign introduces me to a place that knows better than to take itself too seriously.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. An Austin favorite, with a classic, vintage cinema sign.

Spider House. This place never misses an opportunity to showcase its lovely quirkiness. This sign is no different. It's even laden with Christmas lights, just like the coffee shop's patio.

Sandy's. This sign choice communicates good old fashioned burger joint to me, which is exactly what the place is.

Allen's Boots. I don't care how corny people think it is, I like when people make letters into artwork, or other art into letters (as long as it works). The boot L's work here.

Austin Java. Clearly these guys take their coffee seriously. But otherwise the sign communicates a fun, earthy, laid-back vibe.

Shady Grove. I just love the use of rope to spell "Shady" here. Always have (since the first time I saw this place).

(Did you also notice I'm a fan of neon lights? Especially ones that are also aesthetically pleasing by day.)

UT street sign. I love when colleges make everyday things their own, like this University of Texas street sign. Not only does the burnt orange hue greet the eye, but uses a starkly different font than all other street signs in the city.

Asti. This Italian dinner destination brings modernity to the forefront. Literally.

El Chilito. Just because the fare is overrated doesn't mean you won't be duped by the bright colors and intriguing packaging.

Vivo. I've never eaten here, but the sign hypnotizes me every time I drive by it.

Third Rail Creative. This downtown ad agency makes you forget for a few seconds that you're not only not in New York, but worlds away.

Tesoros. Not sure if I like the font for "Tesoros" or the heart in the logo better. I definitely recognize the Lithos Black in "Trading Company" though!


Whataburger. When I read the word, I hear the voice of the commercials in my head, "Whatta-BURger." The logo has a stark resemblance to the Weezer logo of old, but I really like the repetition of the W's in the logo. It makes it memorable. As does the bright orange coloring and "packaging" of its franchises, with their white-and-orange striped roofs.

Torchy's Tacos. Did you really think I'd complete this post without a Torchy's reference? This logo insinuates that Torchy's is both completely badass and has a little bit of a playful side to it. Bingo.

Austin City Limits logo. The font calls to an earlier disco era. I really like the double outlines and smooth curves of the letters.

Taco Shack. Every location of this taco chain has this wooden plank lettering. It's unlike anything I've seen and really emphasizes the "shack" part of its name.

SXSW 2007 logo. Not sure what font SXSW is on this, but I sure do love it. I really like the simplicity of using thin lines to define what are otherwise bulky and lifeless letters.

Note: 90% of these graphics were found on Flickr (www.flickr.com).

Friday, October 3, 2008

Lights out on NBC in Austin

So at midnight last night (this morning?) KXAN, Austin's NBC affiliate turned off its airwaves to Time Warner cable subscribers. KXAN and Time Warner are in an apparent disagreement about subscribers fees, and were unable to reach an agreement before KXAN pulled the plug.

Who wins when this happens? Definitely not Time Warner cable subscribers. DirecTV certainly benefits from the situation. It's been putting out ads trying to get NBC fans of Heroes, The Office, and 30 Rock to switch to their service, which still carries the network.

If I weren't leaving Austin in three months I'd certainly consider the switch. As mentioned earlier, new Friday Night Lights episodes will only be available to DirecTV subscribers until February 2009.

If that weren't bad enough, the rumor has it that the CW Austin has been threatening to drop from Time Warner cable as well. Which would mean no Gossip Girl. What does that actually leave me with? Mad Men (AMC), no My Boys (TBS) since it's only a summer show, and ESPN and Food Network. Yeah, so basically my only show I'd have left is Mad Men. And How I Met Your Mother, which I keep stupidly forgetting to DVR.

I passionately hope that the CW split is just a rumor, though I'm 90% sure I saw a commercial the other day warning viewers that cable may longer carry the CW later in October. I'm not completely certain on that though. Let's hope I heard and remember wrong!

Fear not though about all the NBC shows besides Friday Night Lights... they're all available for free on Hulu. The newest Office episode's up already if you missed it last week. So glad it's back!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I got the beat!

This week in my sports journalism class we got to pick our "beats" for the semester. Basically a beat is the sport or team you're assigned to cover, where it is your responsibility to hunt down and report the stories going on within that sport or team. We had four options for this semester (which was largely dependent on what UT sports were in season and the professor's desire for us to cover lower-profile sports): soccer, golf, women's volleyball, and swimming and diving.

I faced a mild conundrum because I'm very interested in both volleyball and swimming. I played varsity volleyball for four years in high school. I loved the sport and my senior year we even won the state title!

But I also love swimming. I grew up with the sport and swam summer league for 11 years. I would have swum for my high school, but they didn't get the sport until a year or two after I graduated (figures).

Anyway, in a few minute span I had to decide which sport I wanted to cover. The question "what is a libero?" put the final nail in the me-covering-volleyball coffin. The sport has changed drastically since I played, and I thought my having played earlier in life would put me at a great advantage for covering the sport. That probably is the case, but there are so many ways the game has changed, and it'd probably take me quite a bit of research to comfortably catch up.

When I played volleyball in high school (which is approaching a decade ago, yikes!) there was no libero position. To this day I still don't wholly grasp the concept of this position in volleyball, but I do know that they wear a different color jersey than everyone else on the court and they are utilized in some sort of defensive capacity (think digs, or "bumping" in your high school gym class). I guess I should do more studying up here.

The sport has changed in other ways too, and it was starting to change towards the end of my "career" (a laughable concept). I played some J.O. (Junior Olympics, a division under the USA Volleyball umbrella) volleyball simultaneously, and it was a lot more up-to-date in rules and allowances than high school play was. Rules trickled down to high school play years after they had been enacted in USA Volleyball and J.O. play. Whenever you'd suit up to play in either realm, you always had to be cognizant of the rules in your league. I can't tell you how many points have been screwed up in either division as a result of the varying rules.

Anyway, among other renovations to volleyball since my play (late '90s and yes, some 2000s) included the adopting of rally score, where every point played resulted in a point for a team. In high school, you could only score if your team served. We once got in a feisty game against a rival from across the state where both teams went about 10 or 15 minutes without scoring because we just kept getting sideouts on every point. Very dramatic, and probably one of the most exhilarating games I've ever played in.

You're also now allowed to hit the net when you serve. In J.O.'s we were allowed to too (it had to be like a let in tennis in order to be considered in play), but in high school, it counted as an automatic sideout, even if it landed in-bounds. In high school we weren't allowed to set (overhand pass) on the first hit for your side either, though we were allowed to at J.O.'s. As you can see it's getting pretty confusing, and I probably skipped a bunch more disparities between the two.

Now that it's been so long, VHSL (Virginia High School League, where I played), has adopted most of the USA Volleyball rules I mentioned. They also no longer play first to 15, win by two. It's still win by two, but now they use rally scoring, but it's first to 25, win by two for each game. This is how NCAA plays too.

Anyway, you can probably follow that there's been a lot of confusion in the sport over the years.

Keeping this in mind, and that my volleyball knowledge needs a serious dusting before use again, I thought swimming would be a wiser choice for my sports beat. I'm pretty sure it hasn't changed much. Butterfly is still the most exhausting stroke for your upper body, 50 free is still the fastest and most exciting events, and the strokes of the IM and medley relays are still in the same order. Winners are still determined by fastest times. Maybe the swimsuit technology has changed, but the sport is still the same. There's some major relief in that.

Oh yeah, I also don't mind that I'll get to be interviewing Olympic swimmers and coaches on a regular basis. Did I mention that eight (8!) current and former Longhorns made the US team that competed in Beijing? Oh yeah, and apparently we get to chat with former UT swimmers who train with Longhorn Aquatics as well. Should make for exciting material to report!