Against All Odds

Tonight the NBA Finals begin.  For the fourth straight year, the Cleveland Cavaliers will face off against the Golden State Warriors.

If you listen to the pundits, this will be the most uncompetitive, lopsided contest in recent sports history.   You’ll see headlines like “Everybody is counting out LeBron James, Cavs in NBA Finals Again” or “Is Warriors-Cavs IV the biggest mismatch in modern Finals history?”  You’ll read about how the mighty Warriors, with their entire roster filled with All-Star studs like Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, are going to mop the floor with the poor Cavs, who can offer only LeBron James and a gang of unknowns and retreads.  You’ll see statistical analysis of why the Warriors are destined to win, and hear about how the Cavs are in the Finals only because the Eastern Conference of the NBA is like the minor leagues compared to the Western Conference, and see that the Las Vegas oddsmakers have made the Warriors a prohibitive favorite and set a double-digit point spread for the first game.

b45567aa1369a5376fdf8d85c224c52aThe only way puzzled commentators think the Cavs might even win a game or two is if the entire Warriors team comes down with the flu, or Draymond Green and a few of his teammates get suspended for multiple games after a crotch-targeting binge that can’t plausibly be viewed as involving “basketball moves.”

Is this the biggest mismatch in sports — say, since the mighty Miami Hurricanes were supposed to wipe the field with the Ohio State Buckeyes in the National Championship game on January 3, 2013?  I guess we’ll just have to see if the know-it-all commentators and talking heads could possibly be wrong, and the Cavs can luck out and scratch out even a single win against the media darlings — which would no doubt happen only with the help of the officials and an overconfident Warriors team that doesn’t bring its “A” game against a feeble opponent.

Sometimes, in sports, the underdog does win, and the conventional wisdom proves to be wrong.  Will it happen this time?  I’ll be watching to find out.  But if the impossible does occur, and David does manage to slay Goliath in 2018, it will be one of the sweetest wins in the history of sports.  Because this time, it truly is Cleveland against the World.

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Linking Glasses And Brainpower

Scientists have taken a careful look at one of the most important issues of our time and have found that there is, in fact, a link between innate brainpower and wearing glasses.  The findings warm the hearts the bespectacled among us — including, no doubt, many of the very scientists who conducted the study in the first place.

copilot-style-201506-1434641377474_lebron-james-01In research conducted by the University of Edinburgh, more than 40,000 people took a variety of tests that provided a general cognitive ability score, and also allowed their genetic data to be examined.  Researchers then probed the genetic data — including looking at more than 100 genomic regions that are associated with enhanced cognition — and found a correlation between intelligence and poor eyesight, with the smarter participants being, on average, 30 percent more likely to need reading glasses than those who scored poorly on the cognition tests.

And because the study involved actual cognition test data, the results shouldn’t be influenced by the “glasses effect” — namely, the general societal perception that those who wear glasses must be smarter because glasses are thought to make you look smarter.  Indeed, the lead researcher said the study “has identified many genetic differences that contribute to the heritability of thinking skills.”  So in addition to passing along the dreaded nearsighted genes, we glasses-wearers may also be passing along better thinking capabilities, too.

It all makes me want to square my shoulders, adjust my glasses, and — for today at least — proudly bear the name “four eyes.”

AFRICA

My bags have been packed for a few weeks in anticipation of my upcoming trip to southern Africa ! My friend and I are going to be there during the winter season when the weather is high eighties during the day and low to mid fifties at night making packing a bit of an adventure in itself. Reading the travel forums on the app Trip Advisor has been extremely helpful.

The Random Restaurant Tour (XV)

We’ve got a taco war brewing in downtown Columbus.  Condado opened a few years ago and has become a fixture on the east side of High Street, right next to the Columbus Commons.  Now Tio’s Tacos and Tequila has opened on the west side of High Street, just down the block.

Last week the lunch bunch paid our first visit to Tio’s and came away favorably impressed. Tio has a totally different vibe than Condado.  For one thing, it’s much quieter.  Condado goes for more of a bustling street taco approach; Tio opts for more of a traditional restaurant feel.  Consistent with that, there’s an actual menu of taco options, rather than the Condado build-your-own taco checklist.  That’s not to say one approach is better than another — they’re just different.

As for the tacos?  They’re very good.  So good, in fact, that JV and the Bus-Riding Conservative staked out the aggressive position that Tio’s tacos are better than Condado’s.  The Unkempt Guy and I, being less impulsive and more thoughtful by nature, weren’t quite willing to go so far after only one visit, but we admitted the tacos were excellent.  At the recommendation of our server we all got a spread of three, which turned out to be just right for a moderate lunch.  My favorite was the taco on the right, above, which substituted a folded slice of jicama for the taco and was filled with crunchy shrimp and covered with chipotle sauce.

Who will win the downtown Columbus taco wars?  I think the real winner will be the downtown lunch crowd, which now has a choice when they feel the call of the taco.

Happy Memorial Day!

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We’ve had a beautiful weekend in Columbus, with sunny, clear weather and a traditional cookout yesterday.  With the arrival of Memorial Day, though, it’s time to take a step back and think for a while about the reason for this three-day weekend, and the men and women whose sacrifices in the service of their country helped to safeguard the many freedoms that we enjoy.

When I was a kid, Grandma and Grandpa Neal took UJ and me on a trip to Washington, D.C.  We visited Arlington National Cemetery, with its long, quiet rows of white crosses, and the Iwo Jima Memorial and its depiction of the stirring photograph of a flag-raising effort on Mount Suribachi during one of the bloodiest battles in World War II.  Those visits made a tremendous impression on me, and on days like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day I turn back to those awed, hushed memories and reflect on how many have served, and how well.

The inscription at the base of the Iwo Jima Memorial reads:  “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.”  It’s a fitting point of reference on this Memorial Day.

A grateful thank you to those who served, and those who serve still.  Happy Memorial Day!

On The DayQuil Registry

We have a persistent cough in the household, so we went to the drug store for cough medicine. We picked up a bottle of DayQuil, and when I paid for it the cashier asked for my driver’s license, which then got scanned. So, in some government database somewhere, I’m now officially shown as a DayQuil purchaser.

Apparently this now happens because one of the components of DayQuil can be used by teenagers to do something called “robo-tripping,” and the government wants to try to shut down that channel. So, you need to prove you’re 18 to buy it, and because the information gets scanned, you must end up on a list. Presumably, you can’t walk in to the local CVS and buy 25 bottles of DayQuil without setting off alarms.

Having an identification requirement therefore seems prudent. Still, it’s kind of weird to think that purchasing a patent medicine that you could buy over the counter for decades now lands you on another government list. It makes me wonder — what do you need to show to pick up some Vick’s VapoRub?