Spring brings sports & addictive television

April 11th, 2007

With April’s arrival comes another season of Mariner baseball. The team ain’t so bad this year, so far. They’re 3-2 and well rested after the snowstorm postponed games last weekend. I’m planning to go to Friday & Saturday’s games, so I’ll post pictures afterwards. Softball season is once again starting up, this time in a different community league. Apparently, the softball league we played in last year (where we were champions) didn’t have room for us this year…. so we have to play elsewhere. This isn’t the first time I haven’t been invited back after winning the previous year. Oh well.

April also bring some new addictive television. New seasons of The Deadliest Catch and Dog the Bounty Hunter just started and i just added it to the record list. The Deadliest Catch follows the Alaskan crab fishermen and is full of drama and dangerous activities. Dog the Bounty Hunter follows an unsophisticated family of bounty hunters tracking fugitives in my hometown of Hawaii. Their intentions are good, even though their methods may be a little “whiskey-tango”. Both shows have grown cult followings and I’m guessing this won’t be the last season of either one. Thank goodness for springtime and all it brings.

Tivo easily outperforms Comcast’s DVR

March 28th, 2007

After being a Tivo user for the past 5 years, I always thought other DVRs worked similarly. I was wrong. I recently started using Comcast’s HD-DVR and so far I am not impressed with the interface. To show that I’m not totally one-sided, there is one good feature that the Comcast DVR has; in that it shows a small screen of your TV show when perusing the schedule. I like being able to still watch the show while looking at the TV listings. Now let’s get to the things that make the Tivo better than the Comcast DVR.

  • The Tivo dual tuner lets you cache 2 different shows, so you can flip back and forth between them and miss the commercials. The Comcast DVR has dual tuners, but it only caches 1 tuner. The other tuner is used ONLY for recording purposes. So if you’re flipping back and forth between 2 shows, you lose your cached memory each time you switch channels.
  • When recording a series on the Comcast DVR, the default setting only records the show at THAT particular time. Example, if you want to record all new episodes of Heroes, it will only record episodes that start at 10pm (since the first episode on the list starts at 10pm). This is bad, since if NBC moves Heroes to 9pm one week, the Comcast DVR won’t find it. Tivo’s Season Pass WILL find all episodes of Heroes, no matter when it plays. You can manually change the Comcast DVR to record Heroes “anytime” a new episode plays, but shouldn’t that be the default setting?
  • The Comcast DVR uses only part of the screen for showing TV listings and DVR listings.  This limits what can be seen on 1 page.  Too much remote surfing required.
  • It seems like the Tivo has a quicker response to remote functions.  The Comcast remote either takes longer to process or something…. since it’s driving me crazy when I hit the down button 5 times and it only goes down 2 spots.

These are just the few things that have made me wish I still had a Tivo. I’m sure as I use my Comcast DVR more, I’ll get used to this inferior product. But if you have the choice between your cable company’s DVR and a Tivo, and if you can afford the higher cost of the Tivo ($700 for the Series-3 HD version), the Tivo is the way to go, hands down.

Get ready the corned beef

March 12th, 2007

Saturday is the 17th, St. Patrick’s Day. And that means as a Sullivan, I must uphold my Irish roots, however distant it may be. (Is Pfaff Irish?) As I was shopping at Safeway today, I noticed a big sign advertising corned beef on sale. As expected, the pairing ingredient of cabbage also had a sale sign next to it. For many, St. Patty’s Day is a rookie night out at the bars… meaning, similar to New Year’s Eve, it’s one of two holidays when folks who don’t normally go out to bars try to relive their wild partying days.
St. Patty’s Day being a Saturday, will likely bring out even a larger rookie class than normal. I used to do that as well. I remember St. Patty’s Day in Philly years ago, hitting the Walnut St bars all through town; starting with The Irish Pub, then Moriarty’s, McGillin’s, The Irish Bard’s, Roosevelts, New Deck Tavern, Cavanaugh’s, Blarney Stone and finally Smokey Joe’s. Last year for this holiday, I celebrated St. Patty’s Day with friends in Chicago; eating White Castle burgers and taking in the city. This year I expect a quieter holiday, making myself a little home-cooked corned beef and cabbage. If you’re planning your own St. Patty’s Day festivities, may I recommend that instead of the doing the trite (i.e. Going to the overcrowded Irish bar with other rookies to drink green beer), why not create a little shepard’s pie at home, or better yet, some boxty and Guinness stew. If you want to freak out your family, put a little green food coloring in a gallon container of milk and see if they’re willing to eat green-milk cereal… hehehe.

Hawaiian music - An intro for novices

March 8th, 2007

Growing up in Hawaii, there was always Hawaiian music around, either on the radio, or as background for TV commercials or in doctor waiting rooms. And when I say Hawaiian music, I don’t mean only songs in the Hawaiian language, I’m talking about the genre of music created in Hawaii. For many mainland residents that only visit Hawaii through luau-filled week-long family trips using a friend’s time-share condo, Hawaiian music is the stuff you hear at the Maui airport and during the luau hula show. But in fact, you probably haven’t been exposed to the songs that the locals have deemed “classics”. That’s what I hope to provide to you.

Hopefully you can find these on i-tunes or some other legitimate music sharing site. I know others may disagree with what I consider Hawaiian music classics, but this is only one man’s opinion. I’ve provided links to song samples where I could find them. (Song samples will pop-up in a new window.) These are in no particular order:

  • “Kuu Home O Kahaluu” by Olomana - This song is by one of the all-time great Hawaiian groups. The guitar picking is called “slack-key” and is something that is distinctly Hawaiian.
  • “Goodtimes Together” by Cecilio Rodriguez & Henry Kapono - These two guys have so many songs in their discography, that it’s hard to choose the few to make this list.
  • “Honolulu City Lights” by Keola & Kapono Beamer - A song that talks about departing on a night flight from Honolulu and from the plane, seeing memories in all the lights of the island.
  • “Far Too Wide For Me” by the Peter Moon Band - This song was used for a long-distance telephone commercial for years when I was growing up and I always picture it when I hear this song. This ballad describes some of the feelings people get being seemingly trapped on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
  • “You Don’t Write” by Ka’au Crater Boys - This song is more upbeat and incorporates the ukulele (a small 4-string guitar-type instrument). If you like this type of synchopated beat, I suggest you check out other songs by the Ka’au Crater Boys (I’d suggest the songs “Surf” or “Opihi Man”)
  • “You Ku’uipo” by Willie K - A Hawaiian ballad that demonstrates the falseto style of singing that Willie K is quite skilled at. Willie K also has hints of a jazz in his guitar licks, which come out in this song, as well as “Ho’okipa Surf Song” and “Katchi Katchi Music Makawao”. Ho’okipa was a very close 2nd to Ku’uipo, both are favs of mine.
  • “Makee Ailana” by Brothers Cazimero - These guys have many great songs, all which have a wonderful harmony. This one is more traditional Hawaiian and while you may not understand what they’re saying, it still puts you in a relaxed mood listening to the guitar strumming and their vocals.
  • “Kanaka Wai Wai” by Melveen Leed - This song is considered a standard, done by many different artists. I like Melveen’s version, since her vocals are powerful and she does an English and Hawaiian verse. When I hear this song, it reminds me of my Uncle Danny and how we know he’s walking in paradise.
  • “Flying with Angels” by Na Leo Pilimehana - This 3-female group has great harmonies and a contemporary sound of Hawaiian music. They have a fun song called, “Taro Patch Twist” that I enjoy as well.
  • “White Sandy Beach” by The Makaha Sons of Ni’ihau - Many of you may know Israel Kamakawiwo’ole from his version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” used in many movies and commercials. Before he ventured on his own, he was a part of The Makaha Sons.
  • “Live a Little” by The Hawaiian Style Band - Although the name of the band sounds generic, this group had a good number of hits and this is definitely one that is a fun listen. This group also is known for “Love and Honesty” and “Happy Just to Be With You”.
  • “Island Style” by John Cruz - This song talks about a lot of local traditions and living as locals do. It has a good melody and a cool guitar background.

I hope you check some of these out and maybe you’ll get to enjoy some of the great music from the 50th state. Aloha!

Penn is the first team in the NCAA tourney

March 4th, 2007

Congrats to my alma mater, The University of Pennsylvania (Not Penn State!) on receiving the first entry into the 2007 NCAA Basketball tournament. Penn is part of the Ivy League (aka “The Ancient Eight”), consisting of 8 schools that do not offer any athletic scholarships. Offering zero athletic scholarships makes it difficult to compete against other schools when scouting top high school athletes. Even with that, Penn has managed to hold its own against other top schools (beating Philly rivals Temple, St. Joseph’s and Drexel). The Ivy League is the only conference that does not have a post-season conference tournament, making the regular season so very important. Other conferences play a full season, just to play a conference tourney afterwards. That’s just stupid. That means the regular season means nothing, ‘cept for a conference tournament seeding. The Ivy League does it right (and smartly) by giving the team with the best Ivy record a ticket to the NCAA Tournament. That makes each and every regular season game extremely important. Penn this year is 12-1 in the Ivy with one last meaningless game against an insignificant and piss-poor Princeton team on Tuesday.

We now await to hear when and where Penn will play in the first round of the tournament. The announement will be made next Sunday afternoon. I’m guessing Penn will be a 14-seed playing against 3-seed Georgetown in Winston-Salem, NC. This is only a guess, so stay tuned to see where Penn ends up…. Go Quakers!!!

I’m back and well rested….

February 18th, 2007

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Valentine’s Day and let’s see… what other holidays have I skipped over since my last post in October??? Oh well, after a winter hibernation, markksullivan.com is back in action. Sorry to those who have been faithful readers, but with a new year, comes a new outlook… and a new subjects to post on.

This first post is dedicated to the granddaddy of races, the NASCAR Daytona 500. You will see a few NASCAR posts in the next few weeks due to the start of the 2007 season, as well as my upcoming travels, (more on that in future posts) so if you don’t know much about NASCAR or racing in general, I suggest you turn on your TV on Sunday afternoons and enjoy what the southern states have known for decades, that the real national sport is going 185 mph around a asphalt oval. Lee, Blake and Chuck are in a NASCAR league with me, and I am declaring that come November, when the season concludes, I will be on top, with Lee a distant 2nd, Blake closely behind in 3rd and Cha Cha waaaaay back anchoring the field. Good luck to them all, but they ain’t got nothin’ on the baws hawg.

My prediction for today’s Daytona 500 is Dale Jr taking the checker and continuing the drama of demanding to own a larger stake in Dale Earnhardt Incorporated. Harvick will post a respectable 2nd place finish after his strong win yesterday at the Busch series. Rounding out the rest of the top 5 will be Stewart, Kenseth (GO DeWalt!!!), and Bowyer. We’ll see how the race plays out, but I’ve got a good feelin’ bout dem drivers.

More posts upcoming as I ramp up the blog production once again. Many new things to write about, from new electronics to new living quarters… lots of updates. Lee & Sachi are back from their trip, Amos is still sleepy and I’m off to California for the week starting tomorrow.

Thanks for coming back to the blog and look forward to more posts upcoming….

Bumbershoot weekend

September 6th, 2006

Bumbershoot is a weekend festival of music and arts that takes over the Seattle Center. With 10 stages of music, dance, comedy, etc going on all day long for the 3-day labor day weekend, it surely brings in plenty of fans and crazies from around Seattle. I got my hands on a 3-day pass to the festival, so I popped in and out throughout the weekend when I had time. The first day I didn’t have a lot of time, so I was only able to go down there for a little while to watch Roller Derby. Yes, that’s right, roller derby. Apparently, there’s a league of female roller derby teams from around the country (Minnesota, Carolina, Bay Area, Seattle, etc) and they travel around doing these exhibitions. After about 30 min of watching, I got bored.

Sunday and Monday acts were fun, including Kanye West, Tribe Called Quest, and Bittersweet. One highlight was seeing a comedy show on Monday. If you watch the show “24″, the actress that plays Chloe O’Brian was one of the comedians in the set. My friends and I hoped that she wouldn’t be the bumbling awkward person that she plays on TV, but sure enough… she was exactly that. We laughed more at her rather than the jokes she tried telling. Tribe put on a very good show, with about 22,000 fans packed in the mainstage stadium. Kanye also packed them in, but his show was a little weak and he played more songs from other artists, than his own. Next year, if I go to Bumbershoot again, I’m getting the front-of-the-line Platinum pass, since waiting in line in the summer sun isn’t fun.

OBX: Day 5

August 26th, 2006

The last day has arrived and it was a great day to end my vacation on. After a hearty grits and country ham breakfast, we all went down to the beach and enjoyed the sun, sand and minimal surf. The group rented a kayak and people took turns paddling out to a nearby school of dolphins that came close to shore to play in the water. The beach here has fine-grained sand, so it is difficult to run in and it is tough to get rid of. “Sitting at the beach” never has really appealed to me…. don’t know why really, but it could be because I see the beach as a sandy, salty, sunburning place that makes people want to take a shower and get all that junk off of them. I also can’t just sit there. Even with a book in my hand, I think browning in the sun for the sake of browning is a very vane process that gets people burned more often than tanned. I did hang out on the beach for an hour or two, tossing the football and frisbee around and putting my legs in the shorebreak. After that, I knew I had an air-conditioned house waiting for me just a short walk away, so there’s no need to remain in the hot sun. (You can probably see why I like living in Seattle) After cooling off a bit, I went out to pick up lunch for the group, typical carolina barbecue pork sandwiches. If you’re not familiar with carolina barbecue, it is different than what the rest of the country considers barbecue. Here in North Cackilacky, they use a vinegar-based sauce, rather than a tomato-based sauce. This gives the meat (chopped/pulled pork) a tang and refreshing taste.

Fast forward to this evening and the end of the vacation bonfire on the beach. It was sorta camp-ish, where we all sat around the fire eating smores and trying to not burn our hands while holding the marshmellow skewers. It was a wonderful way to end the week and tell jokes with my old and new friends. It’s just after midnight now, but my night isn’t over. I have a flight out of Norfolk that leaves in about 5 hours and the drive is a good 2 hours (plus stops for coffee and more coffee along the way). I’ll be back in Seattle before most of you read this blog, but here in Nags Head, North Carolina, it has been a wonderful beach house experience that I hope to repeat again in the future. I’ll post pictures when I get home. I hope you all enjoyed reading about snippets of life here in the OBX and if you get the chance, I highly recommend the trip.

OBX: Day 4

August 25th, 2006

After last night’s crabfest, today was slow to get going. Everyone woke up at different times throughout the morning, so breakfast was a do-it-yourself affair. I’m not a cereal person, so a bowl of Special K or Cinnamon Toast Crunch just doesn’t do it for me. This is the south and traditional southern breakfast includes grits. The grits that we bought are called “Quick Grits”, which while convenient, are not respected by most southerners. As the movie My Cousin Vinny tells… “No self-respecting southerner uses instant grits. I take pride in my grits”. Since I wasn’t about to wait 20 minutes for real grits to soak, I settled for the quick grits. They were good, but then again, I eat grits about once every 2 years, so I really shouldn’t be a grit judge. The main activity today was a round of golf. Nags Head Golf Links was a nicely maintained course with narrow fairways and lots of wetland brush that gobbled up golf balls like it was Thanksgiving dinner. I lost many many golf balls, but somehow was still able to get 2 pars and a birdie during the day. The other guys in our group managed to hit a couple rooftops of fairway homes, but luckily no damage. I hit one shot into the parking lot of the adjacent wastewater treatment plant, thank goodness no cars were there at the time. After golf, we all had a quiet evening at the house, watching and rooting for the Eagles in a pre-season game. The sun can be brutal beating down on you all day, so chilling in a 68 degree house while the outside temp is 87 sure is a good thing. Although home in Seattle doesn’t get too hot normally, it’s going to be tough to go back to opening/closing windows to regulate temperature. Tomorrow looks to be a beach day and maybe some traditional shore activities. Until then…..

OBX: Day 3

August 25th, 2006

The thrill has gone… at least the thrill of being so close to the beach. I didn’t go to the beach today, but really, I didn’t miss it. After a breakfast of sausage gravy and biscuits, I drove back up to Norfolk to pick up my buddy John Koehler…. a good 2 hours from our beach house. Once we got back, we settled into our normal antics that keeps us busy through the day. Being that we are near the shore, we opted to get steamed crabs for dinner, a whole half-bushel. I don’t know what a bushel contains, so a half-bushel sounds like a lot…. turns out, it’s about 40 crabs, so there were plenty to go around. If you haven’t opened a crab and scooped out the meat, it’s quite easy, although I was the first to cut myself from the sharp shells that contain the oooh-so-delicious crab-meat. I thoroughly enjoyed the crab frenzy and hope everyone gets to try it out at least once. Old Bay is okay, but after awhile, I’m looking for something different. Is there nothing else that makes crabs taste good??? The rest of the night has been chill and right now there’s nobody awake as I write the last thoughts of the great day that today was. I would love to post more pictures, but I forgot the cable that connects my camera to my laptop. So, until then, all you can get are pictures from my cell phone that I can email to my flickr account. Tomorrow is golfing and definitely other fun as well, so stay tuned to upcoming posts. Happy Friday to those of you working out there…… too bad you’re working during a beautiful day in August. Wish you were here……mmmm, crabs are delicious….