Stephen
Washburn

King George, the Third

King George the Third

It’s been rumored for about a week, and as an avid Sacramento Kings fan I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Come this Friday, when the Kings take the court to start the second half of their season, they will do so with George Karl as their third coach this year. Karl replaces interim head coach Tyrone Corbin, who replaced Michael Malone - the returning coach from last season. Personally I felt like it was a mistake to fire Michael Malone in the first place - until DeMarcus Cousins missed 10 games with viral meningitis the team was 9-6, certainly not a record that inspires confidence, but they WERE above .500 and having watched all those games I can attest to the fact that they were close in several of the losses, and most importantly were improving. Predictably the team did terrible without DeMarcus (2-8) and after 9 games, BEFORE DeMarcus even came back, Malone was fired. The terrible play that took place while Cousins was sick only got worse, and that led to where we are now.

For me, considering my relative youth, the memory I have of George Karl is as the coach of the Denver Nuggets, whose teams could score lots of points, also gave UP lots of points, and never get over the hump in the playoffs. According to nba.com George Karl is:

  • 7th all time in Regular Season wins (986)
  • 8th all time in Regular Season games coached (1,657)
  • 10th all time in Regular Season winning percentage (.595)
  • 0th in championships1

So it turns out the limited impression I had of Coach Karl was relatively accurate: he’s won a LOT of games but unfortunately hasn’t won any championships despite making the playoffs an impressive amount of the time.

So what does it mean? Well, as a Kings fan I’m hoping that at the very least it means stability at the coaching position. I’ve read multiple articles which indicate Malone and GM Pete D’Alessandro weren’t on the same page2. Additionally when Malone was fired, I read that part of the goal of management was for the Kings to become a much more fast paced offense. Malone was a defensive oriented coach, and Karl seems by all accounts to be the very epitome of a fast tempo coach (see as evidence those Denver Nuggets teams he coached). So this new stability (and this coach in particular) should hopefully translate into regular season wins, but after that…

While I think there are valid concerns as to whether Karl can deliver a championship, considering the Kings record is currently 18-34… they have a long way to go before championships are the issue.

  1. Obviously I made this measurement up, but its true, he hasn’t won any championships…

  2. Since Malone was hired by the new Kings ownership BEFORE D’Alessandro was, thats not necessarily surprising.

8 Years

Time is a strange thing1.

Eight years ago I successfully completed phase one of the biggest con I’ll likely ever attempt. Somehow I was able to convince a woman who I definitely didn’t (and don’t) deserve to say “I Do”.

Thinking back over that time while it feels like only yesterday, its amazing how much has been packed into the time. We’ve had more adventures than I probably have a right to in a lifetime: we explored Ireland, we rode trains aross Europe, we wandered the streets of Pompeii, we stood on the balcony of the Eiffel tower, we explored frozen creeks in Yosemite National Park, we’ve also bought a house, got a cat, a dog, and now had our first child. As I recall these amazing experiences I can’t imagine them with anyone else by my side.

Those of you who know us both, know that I am most definitely luckier to have her.

I’m hoping I can keep the con going for many more years, so please don’t let her know that I don’t deserve someone as amazing as her.

Wedding Day

  1. I know thats not a particularly original concept, but I’m struck by how much of a truism it is.

Song Number Two: I Am Me

A little over a year ago I made a public committment to create a new song in the following week, with the goal of making it a recurring accomplishment. The first week proved that I was actually able to write, record, and publish a song in one week. The second week, and each week ever since proved otherwise. As I mentioned when I made the initial committment there were a lot of excuses, and they wouldn’t suddenly go away. Well, they didn’t, but I also didn’t make the time necessary to overcome them.

With the holiday break I finally got around to recording another song. From the notes I have I can see that I had the first gem of an idea for it on May 4th, 2013, and finished writing it on May 11th. I’ve struggled a bit with this particular song because the chorus is so esoteric and borderline intentionally opaque. Rather than fully explain what I mean, both in my description of the song, and in the song itself, I’ll let the audio and the lyrics stand for themselves.

Projections up upon the screen
faded and a bit blurry
They're all you see, of me
They're all you see, of me

The distance grows behind 
I'm gettting further and further away
From what I, want, to be
From what I, want, to be

I am not him, I. Am. Me.
I am not him, I. Am. Me.

Shadows creeping in on me
Telling me that its too late
And that it just won't be
And that it just won't be

But
I am not him, I. Am. Me.
I am not him, I. Am. Me.

No I'm not him, I. Am. Me.
I am not him, That's not me.

Shadows fall apart on me
Falling further until I see, that theres, 
Shadows falling down on me
Falling further till I see

What kind of man, I'll, be
What kind of man, I'll, be

I am not him, I. Am. Me.
I am not him, I. Am. Me.
No I'm not him, I. Am. Me.

Hitting Reset

As an avid Oakland A’s fan I’ve seen or listened to almost every single game in the last three years. Considering that their last losing month was in May of 2012 I’ve had a lot of fun watching all those games. The way the team was playing, even in the games they lost, they almost always felt like they could win even if they were down big.

Unfortunately the last month has been a very different story. The early innings of games were filled with weak groundouts, shallow popups, and flailing or staring strikeouts. Even behind excellent starting and bullpen pitching, giving up three runs or less, normally a safe bet for a competitive game, felt like an insurmountable hurdle. After leading the American League Western Division and all of baseball for most of the season, the A’s fell behind the Angels of Anaheim in both.

Last week I got to attend the third and final game of a series against the Angels - an awesome birthday prsent that came with babysitting from my awesome sister in-law and brother in-law. After taking the first two games it looked like the A’s might be turning a corner, but they ended up losing big, and it was NOT a fun game to attend… Fast forward a week and things got even worse - which I didn’t think was possible - after taking two out of three and being lucky to do so against the lowly Houston Astros, the A’s once again faced off against the Angels, this time in Anaheim. What followed was the lowest point in the last three years for me as an A’s fan1. After four straight losses, the streak of months with a winning record was gone, the once six game lead in the division had been flipped into a five game deficit, and something needed to change.

That’s when the calendar flipped over.

Yesterday with the start of a new month, a return home to Oakland, a serious talking to from the A’s remarkably calm and even keeled manger, and a holiday sellout at the Coliseum for a new series it sure felt like something had finally changed. I wasn’t supposed to get to attend this game, in fact the tickets to this game were a gift FOR the same brother in-law and sister in-law that had given us tickets. Before the game even started the feeling in the sold out coliseum was one of positive anticipation, and with some great defensive plays in center field by Sam Fuld the top of the first went quickly and entirely the home team’s way. Fortunately that was just the start.

In the bottom half of the first is when things really got started.

With one out, Josh Reddick hit a ball well to center field, frankly a ball that could have and maybe even should have been caught, but unlike the last month when those catches were being made, this one was misplayed and Reddick was standing at second base. After Josh Donaldson failed to drive him in the newest member of the team came to the plate. The rest as they say is history.

When the dust had settled, after a two run homer by Adam Dunn in his first at-bat as an Athletic2 and several other clutch two out hits, the A’s had knocked the Mariners starter out of the game and scored five runs. The rest of the game passed quickly (which considering the heat in the right field bleachers where I was sitting was definitely appreciated) and while there were a few opportunities to score more runs that were missed, including a runner at third with less than two outs, the team continued to play solid defense3. Then, when the Mariners got on the board with a solo homerun in the top of the sixth, the A’s countered with a run of their own in the bottom of the sixth, again requiring two out hits with runners in scoring position.

Almost lost amidst the five run explosion in the first inning was the fact that Jason Hammel once again pitched an excellent game. Allowing only one run on three hits he continued where he left off last week after a strong start against the Houston Astros that unfortunately netted him only a no decision. After what happened to Jim Johnson this year, it certainly wasn’t ideal for Hammel to struggle so much at the beginning of his career with the team, but it looks like he’s turning it around and the fans were clearly supporting him. Which brings me to my final point.

Sitting in the bleachers in Oakland puts you amongst the most focused, determined, and loyal fans I’ve ever been around. These are the fans who show up early to hang all the pictures and banners of their favorite players along the outfield wall. These are the fans who bring their own banners4 which they wave emphatically in support of the team. And these are the fans who come up with chants and catch phrases for the players: for Eric Sogard its #NerdPower, for Josh Reddick its WWE and SpiderMan, for Stephen Vogt its the awesome I Believe in Stephen Vogt chant. Yesterday, in the hot late summer sun, with two outs, and a full count on the batter in the top of the 8th, fans all across the Coliseum stood and began chanting “Hammel, Hammel, Hammel”. It’ll take more than one game, more than even one series, to know if this team has successfully hit the reset button and returned to the consistent quality baseball of the last three years, but for at least one hot holiday afternoon sellout, things sure felt like they were back to normal.

At the Coliseum

  1. Even lower than back to back division losses against the Tigers…

  2. The twelth player in Oakland history to accomplish that feat.

  3. Sam Fuld definitely lived up to his ‘Super Sam’ nickname.

  4. Some with a number and what I presume is their own name.

No. 3 Gun Turret

No. 3 Gun Turret

Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T2i
Exposure: 1/500 sec at f/9.0
Focal Length: 300mm
ISO: 250
Flash: Did not fire
LightRoom Preset: Direct Positive

This was next on my list of photos to share, and it seemed fitting to share it today, on the day we’ve set aside to remember and honor those who sacrificed everything to defend our freedoms.

The USS Arizona was one of only two ships not to be salvaged at Pearl Harbor. She lies today where she came to rest that day in December 1941 and is the tomb of about 1,000 men. This shot is of the sign labeling one of the few pieces of the Arizona which is above the waterline, the foundation of the ship’s No. 3 gun turret. A beautiful memorial was established in 1962 which rests over, but not on, the Arizona herself. If you get the chance to visit Hawaii, I know that many feel Honolulu is a tourist trap and not necessarily worth the effort, but I would humbly suggest that the opportunity to visit the Arizona and remember the men who served makes up for any perceived faults of Honolulu.

In honor of Memorial Day here are a few other pictures. The first three are from Pearl Harbor: the USS Missouri was the site of the Japanese surrender which ended World War II and she now sits as a museum, in a position to watch over the Arizona and her sailors (the white structure in the background is the Memorial and sits perpendicular to the Arizona).

The second three photos were taken at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Normandy, France. Its a beautiful cemetery that is obviously meticulously kept and treated with great respect.

There is no adequate way to thank those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country, but places like these are a step in the right direction and should help ensure that we never forget what they did.