Dust-Covered

The work on our upstairs bathroom proceeds.  We knew it would take weeks, and that there would be workers in the house during that time, and that we’d need to use the downstairs bathroom, but the project had one byproduct I didn’t fully anticipate.

Dust.  Lots and lots of dust.

mezzanine_409When the tile was removed from the drywall in the bathroom, it produced dust.  So did pulling down the drywall.  So did prying off the floor tile, removing the shower basin and toilet, and taking the medicine cabinet off the wall.  I’ve concluded that most bathroom fixtures and coverings must be made of about 90 percent compacted dust.

And here’s another fun fact about dust that I’ve learned:  dust is adventurous.  Dust likes to explore.  Dust apparently wasn’t happy about being trapped in the bathroom for all those years, and now it wants to get out and see the world — or at least the upstairs of our house.  And dust must be curious, too, because it seems to be ending up in virtually every nook and cranny of our upstairs sitting room and bedroom and closets.

Every night when I walk upstairs, I enter the dust zone, and I think of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl of the 1930s and photographs of thin, sad-eyed women holding babies and children and staring forlornly into the distance.  There’s a fresh layer of fine dust everywhere, on the floor, on chairs, on my desk, and on the clothes in my closet.  We’re probably being covered with dust as we sleep, too.

But here’s the worst part — every time I see the dust, the Kansas song Dust in the Wind runs through my head.  It’s unquestionably one of the most morose, whiny, annoying songs ever recorded.  What could be worse that coming home from a hard day’s work and hearing Dust in the Wind, over and over again?  (Well, I suppose hearing Gordon Lightfoot’s  The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, but that’s a bit off topic.)

I’ll be glad when the bathroom project ends, and we can shake the dust off and move on.

 

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In Pluto’s Bad Luck Orbit

Pluto’s had a tough time of it.  It’s the loner of the solar system, orbiting in the cold regions of the Kuiper belt, far away from the warmth of the Sun.  It’s got the same name as one of the more pointless Disney cartoon characters.  Then, in 2006, it was exposed to the sizeist biases of scientists who decided that it should be embarrassingly downgraded from a planet to a “dwarf planet.”

But recently things were looking up for poor Pluto.  Two more moons were discovered in its orbit, bringing its total to five.  In the lunar satellite category, therefore, Pluto kicks the butts of those haughty, full-scale planets like Earth and Venus.  And then a naming contest for the new moons got underway, and people became interested when William Shatner — also known as Captain James T. Kirk, of the starship Enterprise, on Star Trek, the original series — suggested that one of the moons be called Vulcan, after the home world of his fellow Star Trek character Mr. Spock.  Vulcan was the top vote-getter by an overwhelming margin, and Pluto must have thought its luck had really changed for the better:  it would have a moon with a name that people would actually remember and that might, in some far distant time of routine space travel, become a kitschy tourist attraction as a result.

Alas!  Pluto’s luck could not hold.  The International Astronomical Union vetoed Vulcan, concluding that it was used elsewhere in astronomy and that Vulcan, the Greek god of the forge, was not sufficiently associated with Pluto, the god of the Underworld.  So, instead of Vulcan, Pluto will be orbited by Kerberos and Styx.

It must be depressing for Pluto to constantly be reminded of its grim, land of the dead namesake, and it’s got to be even more depressing to now be reminded of a mediocre ’70s rock band.  Cheer up, though, Pluto!  It could be worse!  Your new moon could have been named Kansas.

Pointing Toward Some Buckeye Basketball

It’s football season, sure . . . but college basketball is just around the corner.  The Buckeye roundballers open the season on November 9 against Marquette on the U.S.S. Yorktown, of all places, and will be trying to follow up on an excellent season that saw the team reach the Final Four before falling to Kansas in a heart-breaker.  The Buckeyes will need to replace their leader and mainstay in the middle, Jared Sullinger, and long-time starter William Buford, but the talent on the roster seems to give them shot at doing so.

The team begins with three stalwart players who really emerged last year:  scoring and rebounding machine Deshaun Thomas, point guard and defensive stopper Aaron Craft, and do-everything guard Lenzelle Smith, Jr.  All three played significant minutes and made big contributions to last year’s success.  To replace Sullinger in the middle, the Buckeyes will look to 6-11 sophomore Amir Williams, a shot blocker who showed promise is limited action last year, and senior Evan Ravenel, who backed up Sullinger.  The other spot might be occupied by point guard Shannon Scott, who will need to improve his shooting this year, jump-out-of-the-gym alley-ooper Sam Thompson, or silky smooth shooter LaQuinton Ross.  Add in freshman Amedeo Della Valle, from Alba, Italy, and you give coach Thad Matta lots of pieces to work with.

At Ohio State, Matta has been a master at matching his scheme to his players.  Will he move Craft to shooting guard and start Scott at the point?  With the depth and quickness the Buckeyes have, will he play an up tempo, pressing game that relies on Williams’ shot-blocking prowess to erase any breakaway efforts by opponents?  To add to the intrigue, the Buckeyes play an interesting preseason schedule that features not only Marquette but also games at Duke and a rematch with Kansas — followed by the always tough Big Ten schedule.

It’s going to be another interesting season for OSU basketball fans.

Coaching, And Kansas

Tonight Ohio State plays Kansas in one of the Final Four national semifinal games. The winner gets to move on to the national championship game; the loser will celebrate a great season but also wonder about what might have been.

A lot has been written about the match-ups in the game.  How will Jared Sullinger, who missed the first game between the Buckeyes and Jayhawks in December, fare against shot-blocking center Jeff Withey?  Will cat-quick Jayhawk Tyshawn Taylor be able to play his game notwithstanding the suffocating defensive efforts of Aaron Craft?  Who will guard the Buckeyes’ versatile Deshaun Thomas, and who will try to stop Jayhawk Elijah Johnson?

One match-up that hasn’t been talked about much is the match-up of coaches.  Kansas is led by Bill Self, one of the best coaches in the game.  He has won a national championship at Kansas and has done a great job of getting this team — generally viewed as having less pure talent than prior Jayhawk juggernauts — into the Final Four.  I thought Self outmaneuvered North Carolina’s Roy Williams last weekend as both coaches dealt with the loss of UNC’s point guard.  In the second half Kansas went to a triangle-and-two defense that seemed to knock the Tar Heels off kilter and left them flummoxed for the rest of the game.

Ohio State’s Thad Matta, on the other hand, seems to be under-appreciated by many people.  They acknowledge that he is a great recruiter, and they applaud his courageous way of dealing with the challenges posed by his physical condition, but they downplay his “Xs and Os” skills, criticize him for not using his bench, and say he doesn’t use his timeouts effectively.

I don’t get this criticism, and think this year’s NCAA Tournament demonstrates that Coach Matta can match up with anybody.  He has this year’s team motivated and ready to perform, also also has shown a lot of flexibility in how Ohio State has played its opponents.  Against Gonzaga, which had a strong 7-footer in the middle, he moved Sullinger around and away from the basket for some uncontested jumpers.  Against the fabled Syracuse zone, he changed the positions of Thomas and Sullinger and Ohio State made interior passes that led to some easy baskets; he also recognized that Lenzelle Smith, Jr. was not the focus of Syracuse defensive plans, and in the second half Smith helped to lead the Buckeyes to victory.  In every game, Coach Matta and his staff have put the Buckeyes in the position to win — and that is what you want from a coach.

When the ball tips tonight, we’ll see how Coach Matta has decided to deal with the match-up issues posed by the fine Jayhawk squad.  Before the game begins, however, Ohio State fans should take a moment to thank Coach Matta and his assistants for a job well done — and then hope that they have done a similarly good job in preparing for tonight’s tilt with the Jayhawks.

The Buckeyes Hit The Road, To Jayhawk Land (Cont.)

Jared Sullinger sat out today’s game, and Ohio State fell short and suffered its first loss of the season.  Kansas shot the ball well, Thomas Robinson was a beast down low, and the Jayhawks pulled away from the Buckeyes at the end, 78-67.

However, I can’t be too discouraged by the Buckeyes’ play today.  Clearly, the Buckeyes’ offense was out of sync without Sullinger in the game, and they are still adjusting to his absence in the middle.  Nevertheless, and although Ohio State just could not buy a bucket in the first half, they hung in the game and consistently answered the Kansas surges with a surge of their own.  Deshaun Thomas, and in the second half William Buford and Aaron Craft, made some big buckets to keep the Buckeyes within range — but Ohio State just could not get over the hump.  Credit Kansas’ defense, and also their making some clutch buckets to stop Ohio State runs.

I liked the fact that the Buckeyes did not quit and kept hustling, and I also like the fact that the Buckeyes’ two highly touted freshmen, Amir Williams and Shannon Scott, played important minutes in a hostile arena.  For all of the Ohio State players, this was a game that will toughen them up and get them ready for the Big Ten season.  They aren’t going to play in many venues as loud and tough as Allen Fieldhouse.

I do, however, have one other thought after today’s game:  Jared, get well soon!

The Buckeyes Hit The Road, To Jayhawk Land

So far this season, the basketball Buckeyes have stayed within the comfortable confines of the Schott.  They’ve beaten some good teams — Duke and Florida among them — but you never quite know about a team’s character until you see them on the road, playing before screaming fans in a hostile arena.

Today that will change.  This afternoon the Buckeyes will travel to Kansas to play the perennial power Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse.  And what a place for your to get your first taste of the road!  Allen Fieldhouse is one of the most venerated venues in college basketball, with its packed in fans and their weirdly chilling “Rock-Chalk-Jayhawk” chant.  The Buckeyes can expect face-painted, bare-chested KU students to yell their brains out every time Aaron Craft brings the ball upcourt.

This will be an interesting game for the Buckeyes for other reasons.  The big question to be answered is whether Jared Sullinger will play and, if so, whether he will be hobbled.  The Buckeyes offense is designed to exploit Sullinger’s many talents, and when he didn’t play last game the offense sputtered.  If Sullinger doesn’t play — and I wouldn’t expect Coach Thad Matta to take any chances, at the outset of a long season — the other Buckeyes will have to step up.

Kansas has a very good team.  They are ranked in the top 15 nationally, and their 6-2 record is deceiving because the losses have come against Kentucky and Duke.  The Jayhawks have lots of size and depth and are led by stud 6-9 forward Thomas Robinson and guard Tyshawn Taylor.  If the Buckeyes hope to win this game, they will have to play solid defense, force some turnovers, and — if Sullinger can’t play or is limited — get a big game from Evan Ravenel.

The tip is at 3:15 this afternoon.  We’ll know a lot more about the grit and determination this Buckeye team possesses by 5:30 tonight.

Five Bucks (And Counting — I Hope)

First round play in the NCAA Tournament ended last night, and I’ve got five bucks to show for it.  My first, second, and third round picks (Kansas, Texas A&M, and Xavier, respectively) all won, my fourth and fifth round picks (Texas and Florida) lost in heartbreak fashion in overtime, and I got pleasant surprise wins from the sixth and seventh round picks (Washington and Murray State).  Four of my teams were involved in “buzzer beater”-type games, and two won and two lost — which seems like a fair result.

Isaiah Thomas of the Washington Huskies

One interesting thing about the Buck Back is that it can turn on a dime.  You can be sitting pretty with lots of teams still in play and, a day later, be out of the competition totally.  This year, after the first round, the leader has seven bucks with six teams still playing (the lowest-selected team to win a game, in this case the Ohio University Bobcats, nets you two bucks), two players have five bucks, two have four bucks, two have three bucks, and the Purple Raider is bringing up the rear with two bucks.

Of my remaining teams, the one that was the biggest surprise to me was Washington, which seems to have a lot of quick, rangy, capable players and a good point guard.  I’m hoping that they can add another buck to my total when they face off against New Mexico today.