Sunday, July 3, 2016

2007 Holiday Parades in Lane County, Oregon

Every year in Lane County several local communities start out the holiday season with a parade. Here are a list of some local parades to get you and your family in the holiday spirit. All are free to attend. I’ve included phone numbers and websites for contact if you are interested in participating in one of the local holiday parades. The Lighted parades are especially fun!!! Stop by the local coffee house and add an eggnog latte or hot chocolate to stay nice and toasty.

Springfield, Or – Springfield has its 55th annual parade this year themed “The Oldest and The Coldest” on December 8th at 2 pm. This Parade also has an annual Tuba Caroling Concert at 1pm before the parade starts. This is quite the musical concert to see and hear! The tuba concert is located on Main Street between 5th and 6th streets and can be heard for several blocks. The parade is free to attend. Costs to participate in the parade are $25 for a general float, $50 for a commercial entry and $100 for a political entry. Marching Bands may enter free of charge.The Parade route starts on Mowhak, goes to Main St. and 14th, then heads to Pioneer Parkway. Santa always makes a showing at the end of this traditional Holiday parade. Bring your folding chairs and a blanket to stay warm with. There is plenty of room on the sidewalks for viewing, but you might need to park a couple of blocks away from your seats. Come early for best view and don’t forget the camera. Depending on the weather an umbrella might not be a bad idea.
Springfield Christmas Parade Website
Contact phone number for additional information: (541) 988-0955
fax (541) 726-8105
email: info@springfieldchristmasparade.org

Parade Of Lights – This is a great parade where several of our smaller local communities get together on a series of evenings and have an evening lighted parade through each of the participating towns. This year’s participating towns include Fern Ridge / Veneta, Junction City, Harrisburg and the finale in Coburg, Oregon. The parades start at about 7 pm. There is no entry fees and spectators are free. The parade is never the same from night to night; there are many different floats participating in each of the parades. There is a lighted float competition in Coburg and maybe in the other towns as well. Be sure to come bundled up as these parades are in the evening and it can be very cold.

Fern Ridge / Veneta Parade of Lights – The newest participant in the lighted parade, Thursday December 6th, 2007 7 pm, contact 541-935-8841 or 541-998-8734

Junction City Parade of Lights – Friday December 7th, 2007 7 pm, contact 541-998-6154 Junction City webstite

Harrisburg Parade of Lights – Saturday December 8th, 2007 7pm contact 541-998-6154 Harrisburg City website

Coburg Parade of Lights – Sunday December 9th, 2007 7pm Coburg is the Finale of the Parade of lights and holds contests for the lighted floats.
contact Dale Aleska (541) 342-3828 Coburg City Website

I will add updated information when/if needed in the comments spaces below. Enjoy the parades!

Tags:2007 Holiday Parades in Lane County, Oregon

2007 Giants Preview II: Questions and Answers

I’ve decided to put off writing my preview for the upcoming Cleveland Browns’ season until there is absolutely 100 percent certainty on who will be starting at quarterback in week 1 versus the Steelers. That, and I’m at the office right now and therefore cannot consume the adequate amount of alcohol needed to write about my beloved Browns. Therefore, I’ve decided to once again write about my other team. For those of you that missed it my preview of the 2007 New York Giants can be found here. This article is a follow-up of sorts, answering some questions that have been posed to me by my faithful readers and friends. Thanks to everybody for reading and keep the comments/questions coming.

Is Brandon Jacobs really the best option for the Giants at running back?

I’ve been less than optimistic about Brandon Jacobs starting at halfback since Tiki Barber officially retired at the end of last season. Jacobs is undeniably a beast in short-yard situations and I look forward to Eli handing the ball off to Jacobs inside the five and watching Jacobs plow through the opposing defense. With that said, however, I still have my doubts about Jacobs’ ability to be an “every down” back that will receive 25 to 30 carries a game.

Reuben Droughns will be second on the depth chart at running back for the Giants and has even been playing some fullback lately with the injury to Robert Douglas. Droughns went from a system where I could rush for 1,000 yards in a season in Denver to the Cleveland Browns, a team with one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. The offensive line in New York isn’t all that better to be honest. While in Cleveland Droughns showed the he can be a good back if given the carries to do so (25-30 a game).

So what does this mean for the running game of the Giants? I have so many doubts about Jacobs being a starter that I actually drafted Reuben Droughns with one of my last picks in a fantasy draft last night. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Droughns begin to get more carries as the year goes on, especially if the Giants are struggling and Coughlin wants to mix things up.

Is this the year where Eli Manning proves he’s not a bust? Is he?

Every year since he officially became the starting quarterback has been Eli Manning’s “time to shine” and prove that he is an elite quarterback in the NFL. Many experts see 2007 as the year where Eli folds under the pressure of a weak offensive line and the loss of Tiki Barber. I see 2007 as Eli’s defining year.

As I’ve stated before, Eli is not Peyton Manning. Peyton is the best quarterback of this generation and will go down as one of the best to ever play the position. Everybody has been stating that fact for awhile now and Eli has been hearing it for years. If that alone isn’t motivation than Tiki Barber calling Eli out on network television a few weeks ago should light a fire under the young quarterback.

Manning certainly isn’t lacking in viable weapons to throw to. Plaxico Burress had ten touchdowns last season and if he can stay healthy is a great option in the red zone. Amani Toomer has lost a step or two but still has better than average hands. Love him or hate him, Jeremy Shockey is still one of the better tight ends in the NFL. Look out for Steve Smith as well. I expect the rookie wide-out from USC to see more and more footballs thrown his way as the season progresses.

If ever there was truly a defining year for Eli Manning it is 2007. With no Tiki behind him the offense now officially belongs to Manning. I have my doubts but I still believe that he has the ability to lead this offense and surprise the critics.

At this point do you even want to see Michael Strahan return?

No.

I respected Tiki Barber and loved him as one of my favorite players to ever wear a New York Giants’ uniform. When he announced in the middle of the 2006 season that he was going to retire at season’s end I was crushed. I was also angered that Barber decided to make such a statement in the middle of the season. The ego of Barber to make himself and his future more important than the team disgusted me as a fan of sports let alone the Giants. The way Barber has acted since then has caused me to lose any respect I had for him (not that Barber cares).
Michael Strahan is now in that same group. Strahan will forever be linked with Lawrence Taylor as one of the best defensive players in the history of the New York Giants. His inability to decide whether or not to return to the team has become one of the most ridiculous stories I’ve witnessed since, well, Tiki’s farewell tour last season. At this point Strahan is jerking around the team and the fans that have cheered him for his entire career. Let Justin Tuck play in his position and Osi Umenyiora become the leader of the defensive line. Thanks for the memories, Michael, but you’re tainting your Hall of Fame career by acting like a seven-year old who didn’t get the puppy he wanted for Christmas.

You were very hard on the Giants in your overall prediction. The NFC East is the most overrated conference in the NFL hands down and the Giants will be contenders.

That isn’t in the form of a question but I’m feeling generous so I’ll give my thoughts anyway. I do find it a little bit humorous that so many people are slobbering all over the Cowboys and the Eagles. Quite frankly I think that experts believe those two teams will have impressive records due to playing the Giants twice in the regular season.

I refuse to jump on the Dallas bandwagon yet but I still think they’re the best team in the division. A 10-6 record, a very real possibility for the Cowboys, could win the NFC East. Donovan McNabb is in a do-or-die year with rookie Kevin Kolb waiting for his chance to start for the Eagles. The Eagles season, as always, will rely on the health of McNabb and Brian Westbrook. The Redskins are one of the biggest question marks in all of football. I really believe this team could either sneak up and win the division or finish as one of the worst teams in the NFL.

Is the NFC East overrated? Not when it comes to being competitive for the division crown. To put it bluntly, though, I don’t expect the NFC Conference Champion to emerge from the East this season.

Tags:2007 Giants Preview II: Questions and Answers

2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali: An Easy-to-Drive SUV

I have been in the market for a new SUV for quite some time. Every time I looked at one, I was unhappy with at least a half a dozen things on them. I was driving the 1999 Expedition Eddie Bauer. I was always challenged by the inability to park it and even more frustrating, I thought it was too big to stay within the lines of the road. That was never the case, I was just a nervous driver when I drove such a wide car. I had not been used to it.

After driving the Expedition for 7 years, Is till was not used to it. However, my theory was that, since I couldn’t really drive the Expedition that well, I may as well get a longer SUV so at least I would have more room. After much shopping on the Internet and Consumer Reports, I set my sights on the Denali XL. I went and test drove one and I was extremely impressed. The turning radius was as good as my Expedition but there was something else.

The Denali is thinner than the Expedition so it is much easier to drive. You do not get the sense that you are running people off the road all around you. It is very easy to park and because it has backup sensors, you can park and get out of anywhere with ease. I am in love with my new SUV! It does use more gas than the Expedition but it is well worth it. It is truly a luxury SUV. I feel safe with my children in it and my Great Dane loves the nice long back to stretch out in.

I recommend not getting the DVD system already installed. We purchased the GMC Headrest DVD system online and got someone to install it. It allows for one DVD to play in both headrests, or the watchers of the DVD’s can use their own separate DVD’s or it also has a gaming plug-in. It comes with wireless earphones or you can play the sound throughout the SUV. It is wonderful!

I do recommend getting the navigation system. We did not get it because they are hard to come by. We purchased one that is a plug-in which is fine but I would like to have a dash mounted navigation next time.

Keep in mind that these cars have side impact air bags in the back seat. This is not safe for little ones unless they are in a middle seat. Our experience was that most of the Denali’s are coming with split seats in the second row. We got lucky and found the bench seat as the second row but it took many trips to many dealerships. So I definitely recommend the bench seat in the second row. Plus it allows for another person to be seated in that row.

The car seats 7 very comfortably with a full load of things in the back.

We got the black leather which makes the wood accents really show nicely. We also got the sunroof and we use that all the time.

When purchasing the car, make sure they don’t try to slip in the “footprints”. We paid cash for our car and as we were looking over the paperwork, we noticed an odd $200 and something charge. The salesperson claimed it was a tax of some type and the finance person said it was for “footprints” to avoid theft and be able to track our car if it were ever stolen. So make sure you look for that when signing your papers!

I highly recommend this car. It is so easy to drive and park. I am still astounded I am not having any trouble driving such a large car. But it truly does feel like a car not a large SUV.

Tags:2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali: An Easy-to-Drive SUV

2007 Emmy Nominations Overlook Some of Television's Best Talent

It is nearly time for the fall season of television to begin, but before that happens, the TV elite prepare to recognize the best of the best at the 2007 Emmy Awards. The Emmys, hosted this year by Ryan Seacrest will air on September 16th.

As is also true every year, there is controversy concerning the nominees. The Emmys have come under fire several times over the years with accusations that the award roster seems to honor only an elite few. That begs the question “Is Emmy a snob?” I don’t really think so. I think, for the most part, those nominated are the most deserving.

I was actually pretty impressed with the number of first time nominees this year. Sure there were a few repeats but I think that is to be understood. But it does make me wonder what an actor or actress has to do to get an Emmy nod. There are those that, no matter how hard they try or how excellent their work is, just can’t quite get Emmy’s attention.

Who got loft out in 2007? Let’s analyze some of the most popular categories and see who might have been overlooked:

Nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series this year are:
Tony Shalhoub as the obsessive-compulsive Adrian Monk on “Monk”;
Steve Carrel as Michael Scott the eccentric boss of “The Office”;
Alec Baldwin as the oddly weird Jack Donaghy of “30 Rock”;
Charlie Sheen as Charlie Harper of “Two And A Half Men”; and
Ricky Gervais as Andy Millman from “Extras”.

There is no denying this is a list of talented individuals, but is it complete? Is this the very best that comedy television has to offer? I’m sorry to say that it probably is. The comedy sitcom just isn’t what it used to be.

I have to admit that I’m still scratching my head over Sheen being nominated as the “lead” actor and Cryer as the “supporting” actor of “Two And A Half Men”. Last time I looked they carried the show together. The truth is that this is a ploy to try to gain nominations for both actors. I resent it, though, because it causes other deserving actors to be ignored.

Nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series for 2007 are:
James Spader as the eternally strange Alan Shore of “Boston Legal”;
Hugh Laurie as the curmudgeon Dr. Gregory House of “House”;
Denis Leary as the seriously demented Tommy Gavin of “Rescue Me”;
Kiefer Sutherland as the overworked action hero Jack Baur of “24”; and
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano of “The Sopranos”.

Here we go again. Spader gets a “lead” actor nod and Shatner the “supporting” nomination. Perhaps it is time for Emmy to add a new category like “Outstanding Acting Team” in order to clear the way for single nominations that really make sense. Stacking the deck just isn’t fair.

This was an excellent year for “Lost” and Matthew Fox’s work as its lead has never been better. Yet he lost out to other actors who didn’t have as good a year. And what about Anthony Michael Hall’s outstanding work in the “Dead Zone?” Perhaps he must have a “vision” of his nomination so that it can finally happen.

While I’m at let me air a pet peeve of mine. Just because a show is going off the air should not be a reason for it to sweep every major category. That’s particularly true when its final year is far less impressive than previous years. Sorry, but I don’t think “The Sopranos” deserved so much Emmy attention in 2007, especially when it shut out even better shows.

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series nominees this year are:
Felicity Huffman as Lynette Scavo on “Desperate Housewives”;
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Christine in “The New Adventures Of Old Christine”;
Tina Fey as the heavily put upon Liz Lemon of “30 Rock”;
America Ferrera as the lovable Betty Suarez in “Ugly Betty”; and
Mary-Louise Parker as Nancy Botwin of “Weeds”.

I love Felicity Huffman and there is no denying that her work on “Desperate Housewives” is first class. However, how can the continually stellar performances of Marcia Cross and Terri Hatcher be overlooked? Yes, Huffman had a stronger story this year but Cross and Hatcher did a lot with what little screen time they were allowed. It is, after all, an ensemble cast. Move over, Felicity, and let someone else have a turn.

While I’m on the subject of actresses taken for granted, why is that Lauren Graham of “The Gilmore Girls” never got the recognition she deserved? It seems that award nominations are stacked against certain actors and shows. Some of the best work today isn’t being done on the major networks.

Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series nominees for 2007 were:
Sally Field as sassy mother Nora Walker in “Brothers & Sisters”;
Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson of “The Closer”;
Mariska Hargitay as Detective Olivia Benson of “Law & Order: SVU”;
Patricia Arquette as psychic crime fighter Allison Dubois in “Medium”;
Minnie Driver as the spitfire gypsy Dahlia Malloy in “The Riches”; and
Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano of “The Sopranos”.

Field, Sedgwick, Arquette, and Driver more than deserve their Emmy nods. If I had my way, it would be a four-way tie because they are all that good. While I love Hargitay and firmly believe she is one of television’s finest actresses, this wasn’t her best year and she didn’t deserve a coveted spot on the list.

There were other performances that were more deserving of an Emmy nod this year than either Hargitay or Falco. While I personally don’t care for some of the content of the show, the fact is that Courtney Cox’s performance as Lucy Spiller of “Dirt” was a revelation. Who knew that America’s sweetheart could realistically portray someone so seriously down and dirty? Her tour de force performance deserved Emmy recognition.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series nominees include:
Kevin Dillion as Johnny Drama of “Entourage”;
Jeremy Piven as Ari Gold of “Entourage”;
Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson in “How I Met Your Mother”;
Rainn Wilson as semi-loser Dwight Schrute in “The Office”; and
Jon Cryer as Alan Harper, in “Two And A Half Men”.

I’ve no real complaints about this category other than questioning the “supporting” category for Cryer’s character. Overall, it is a decent reflection of the best this category has to offer.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series nominees:
William Shatner as gun toting Denny Crane of “Boston Legal”;
T.R. Night as the lovable George of “Grey’s Anatomy”;
Masi Oka as the adorable Hiro Nakamura of “Heroes”;
Michael Emerson as the psychotically scary Ben of “Lost”;
Terry O’Quinn as the anti-hero John Locke of “Lost”; and
Michael Imperioli as Christopher Moltisanti in “The Sopranos”.

I’m not unhappy with the nominees in this category, per se, but Shatner can now play his character in his sleep. It might be time to either step-it-up or move over to make room for other gifted actors.

Both T.R. Night and Masi Oka are definitely deserving of recognition for their work this year. Their respective shows simply wouldn’t be the same without them. The same can be said for Terry O’Quinn of “Lost.”

I can take Imperioli or leave him and, for this year, I would have left him in favor of Ian Hart as the schizophrenic Don Konkey of “Dirt.” He was so convincing that he was often difficult to watch. His portrayal as well as that of Michael Emerson in “Lost” was nothing short of brilliant.

Nominees for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series:
Jaime Pressley as the unforgettable Joy Turner in “My Name Is Earl”;
Jenna Fishcer as Pam Beesly in “The Office”;
Holland Taylor as disturbing Evelyn Harper of “Two And A Half Men”;
Conchata Ferrell as Berta in “Two And A Half Men”;
Vanessa Williams as decadent Wihelmina Slater of “Ugly Betty”; and
Elizabeth Perkins as Celia Hodes of “Weeds”.

I have absolutely no complaints about this category. I will say, however, that I think it is past time for Elizabeth Perkins to get her just due.

Nominees for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series are:
Rachel Griffiths as the oldest daughter of “Brothers & Sisters”;
Katherine Heigl as the centerfold doctor of “Grey’s Anatomy”;
Chandra Wilson as the mother hen of “Grey’s Anatomy”;
Sandra Oh as the doctor with little heart on “Grey’s Anatomy;
Aida Turturro as Janice Soprano on “The Sopranos”; and
Lorraine Bracco as Dr. Jennifer Melfi on “The Sopranos.”

I have to wonder why nominate Griffiths and ignore Flockhart? They both had strong stories this year and are equally fine actresses. And while I’m a big fan of “Grey’s Anatomy”, I don’t believe all three actresses deserved a nod this year. This was definitely Oh’s best work so far. The nomination should have been hers alone. Instead, the three actresses will likely cancel each other out and open the way for someone far less deserving.

Outstanding Comedy Series nominations went to:
“Entourage”;
“The Office”;
“30 Rock”;
“Two And A Half Men”; and
“Ugly Betty.”

I question how “Two And A Half Men” landed this nomination when “How I Met Your Mother” and “Everybody Hates Chris” are funnier shows. But overall, let’s face it, comedy just isn’t what it used to be.

Outstanding Drama Series nominations went to:
“Boston Legal”;
“Grey’s Anatomy”;
“Heroes”;
“House”; and
“The Sopranos.”

I’m a big fan of most of these shows, but I think there could have been other nominations. “Lost” more than deserved an Emmy nod this year. The stories were far superior to last year. I suspect what hurt them, however, was the long break between their fall and spring shows. Some fans simply got tired of waiting.

I also have to ask why the controversial, but undeniably well done “Nip/Tuck” is constantly overlooked. This year the series pulled out all of the stops to deliver some of their strongest work yet.

While they certainly aren’t main stream, I also question why certain shows of superior caliber are constantly ignored. “Smallville” is one show that keeps getting better with each passing year, yet it has never been recognized for its quality.

“Supernatural” is also expertly done and features two stellar young actors; all of which never get a nod. Then, of course, there is the amazing “Battlestar Galactica,” a show that perhaps provides more social commentary on today’s world than any other. Yet, it too is always panned.

Hopefully, some time in the near future, Emmy will get her act together and find a better way of making sure that outstanding actors and actresses aren’t automatically overlooked. I find it difficult to believe that only a handful of thespians are worthy of receiving the award. It’s time to find a way to diversify.

Tags:2007 Emmy Nominations Overlook Some of Television’s Best Talent

2007 Florida Wildfires Ravage Hundreds of Acres of Woodland

In the last several weeks wildfires have torn through Southern Georgia and Northern Florida due to high temperatures and very dry conditions. The Florida wildfires have threatened many homes and burned through several thousand acres of woodland. Several hundred families have been forced to evacuate, and many more have chosen to do so out of concern for the danger of smoke.

Ironically, Governor Charlie Crist commented he was “praying for rain.” referring to the sub-tropical storm christened Andrea. These storms are known enemies of the state for there infamous reputation of destroying homes as they gain strength and make landfall. Unfortunately the storm remains too weak and too far away from the coast to offer much of any help extinguishing the fires. Governor Crist claims to be very confident in Florida’s ability to cope with the fires. There are about 11,000 Florida National Guard soldiers available with enough trucks and helicopters to help the State through the wildfire season.

Officials in southeastern Georgia issued a mandatory evacuation Wednesday to homes near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge due to the fires in that part of the state. The largest fire measured 430 square kilometers – the largest since record keeping began in 1957.

The fires in Northern Florida have threatened 100’s of homes in New Smyrna Beach. Fortunately the fire dissipated ‘overnight’. Monday afternoon the fire was said to be “basically contained” by Mike Brouilette – spokesman for the cities police department. It has been noted however that shifting weather conditions may still pose a danger.

The fires have destroyed 3 houses and forced officials in Florida to close a fairly large part of I-95, a major interstate in Florida. About 800 homes were forced to be evacuated near the interstate in an upscale subdivision as the fires grew to 1,000 acres Sunday, according to Shannon Lewis – a spokeswoman for the city. Monday afternoon, May 7th, almost all of those people were allowed to return to their homes – Brouillete said. About 60 families are still out of there homes due to the danger of smoke.

I personally live in Gainesville Florida, a ways south of the fires. Still, due to winds and weather conditions my town has been blanketed in smoke, severely decreasing visibility on the roads and causing several people to experience minor to moderate eye irritation along with the rarer case of nausea due to the smoke. My school was forced to move all the students inside during the morning and also during lunch because of the level of smoke. Many people in my city were forced to wear respirators to aid in protection from the smoke. I’d hate to see what people nearer the fires are having to deal with.

Tags:2007 Florida Wildfires Ravage Hundreds of Acres of Woodland

2007 Christmas Events for Children in Bakersfield, California

Christmas is a magical time of year for many, but especially for children. The magic of Christmas seems to affect children more, filling them with happiness. When it’s Christmastime in Bakersfield, California I love to take my children to local Christmas events to see the joy on their faces as they have a lot of Christmas fun. Here are 4 Christmas events that you could take your children to, in 2007.

2007 Christmas Events for Children in Bakersfield, California #1: Magical Forest

BARC is putting on their Magical Forest event on December 1st through the 22nd. It will be located at Stockdale Towers Parking Structure Corner of California Avenue and Mohawk. The area is transformed into a Winter Wonderland with such events as Santa’s Secret Shoppe, Tinker’s Village, Food Booths, Carolers singing, and you can even visit Santa at the North Pole. There will also be something called The Giving Tree, where you can chose to donate to any of 10 non profit organizations. One of the things that I think is really neat, is Santa’s Secret Shoppe. You send your kids into the little store area with some money and Santa’s elves will help your child pick our Christmas presents. The gifts are then wrapped so your child gets to keep your gift a secret until Christmas day. All gifts in the store are under $20 dollars. You will even be able to take a family picture in Santa’s sleigh. For more information, call 71-MAGIC (71-62442).

2007 Christmas Events for Children in Bakersfield, California #2: NOR Christmas Parade

NOR is having their 35th annual children’s Christmas parade on Saturday December 8th at 10 Am to 11 Am. The theme this year is Christmas in song. It will start near North High and end at Standard school. Your children will have fun as they watch or participate in this fun Christmas themed children’s parade.

2007 Christmas Events for Children in Bakersfield, California #3: Kids Club: Santa Bead Buddy

Michael’s Kids Club will be making a Santa Bead Buddy on November 24th, just in time for the holidays. Children ages 5 through 12 are invited to attend. Classes last 30 minutes and start at 10 AM, 10:30 AM, 11 Am and 11:30 AM. The class costs $2 dollars per child and includes any supplies that they will need. This event will be located at the Michael’s store across the street from the Valley Plaza. Their address is 2720 Ming Ave, Bakersfield, phone (661) 836-2712.

2007 Christmas Events for Children in Bakersfield, California #4: Hurry Up, Santa!

While this is something that the entire family could enjoy, children will especially get a special treat out of watching the Hurry up, Santa! play at the Empty Nest. Hurry up, Santa is about Santa Claus who accidentally sleeps in on Christmas. His elf’s have to save the day, so Christmas won’t be ruined. This production will also feature the Jack Frost Holiday Family TV Variety Show. It’s a tribute of sorts to classic TV Christmas specials. The dates of this enjoyable Christmas play are 12/7 & 12/8 8 PM to 9:30 PM, 12/9 4 PM to 5:30 PM, 12/14 & 12/15 8 PM to 9:30 PM, 12/16 4 PM to 5:30 PM and 12/21 & 22 8 PM to 9:30 PM. The Empty Space is located at 706 Oak St Bakersfield, CA 93304. Ticket prices are usually very affordable but to check on ticket prices and other information, call the Empty Space at (661) 327-7529.

Tags:2007 Christmas Events for Children in Bakersfield, California

2007 Convertible War Opening Up

Ever thought about buying a convertible? The thought might not have crossed your mind, but you might be surprised to find that dedicated convertibles comprise 5% of BMW, more than 10% of Mercedes-Benz, and a whopping 18% of Porsche sales.

With the stakes high, you can imagine the unease at the Porsche camp last year as BMW upped the power to its mid-cycle revised Z4. Rebranded 3.0 and 3.0si (from 2.5 and 3.0), engine output grew to 215 and 255 hp, respectively, corresponding to its 3 series brethren. Of course, the larger threat to Porsche was the potent $51,000 M Roadster, which conveniently slices between the two Boxster models. The M Roadster delivers an M3-inspired 330 hp and accelerates 0-60 mph in 5.0 seconds.

Outperformed and out-priced, Porsche responds this year with its own power increase to its Boxster line. Incorporating Porsche’s version of variable valve timing called VarioCam Plus, the Boxster’s output grows 5 hp to 245 hp, and displacement remains unchanged at 2.7L. But the larger upgrade is the M-challenged Boxster S, with engine displacement growing from 3.2 to 3.4 liters and power increasing from 280 to 295 hp. That’s good for 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds and a top speed of 169 mph. Pricing for the Boxster and Boxster S grows modestly to $45,600 and $55,500 respectively.

Mercedes-Benz holds its footing as the SLK enters its third year. Available in 3.0L, 3.5L, and an AMG 5.5L, it is unlikely there will be any power upgrades for 2007, as indicated by the E-Class press release. The SLK55 AMG competes effectively with the Boxster S and M Roadster, generating 355 hp and sprinting 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds. However, due in part to its standard retractable hard-top, the SLK55 is priced significantly higher at $62,275. An even more powerful Special Edition version generates 400 hp and goes 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, but is currently not available in the US.

More down market, Volkswagen offers the first retractable hard-top convertible priced below $28,000 for 2007. Based on the Golf platform, the Eos enters the market as a 2-door 2+2 convertible and available with a 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder generating 200 hp or a 3.2L 6-cylinder generating 250 hp. Standard equipment includes Electronic Stability Control, 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, fog lights, panoramic sunroof, power windows, and cruise control. Upscale options include the double-clutch 6-speed automatic transmission (DSG), automatic and bi-xenon headlights, dual-zone climate control, ten-channel 600-watt Dynaudio sound system, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The Eos was suppose to launch around summer but was delayed due to quality issues related to the retractable hard-top. Made by German-based supplier Webasto, who also makes the retractable roof on the Volvo C70, prototypes exhibited noise levels that were unacceptable to Volkswagen standards. Compared to the C70, the Eos’ roof is faster and more complex, having five folding panels instead of three and incorporating the world’s first built-in sunroof. Company officials say that it has “fixed the glitch, along with a problem in the production process.”

With the introduction of the Eos, Mazda’s Miata is now forced to offer a retractable hard-top. Although its starting price is significantly lower than the Eos at $21,000, the upscale Grand Touring model with automatic transmission starts above $26,000. With less than $2,000 separating the two, a retractable hard-top, with more security and reduced interior noise, would give the Eos a significant advantage over its soft-top rival. The additional cost of the hard-top roof will almost certainly position the high-end Miata directly against the low-end Eos. A retractable hard-top option can also aid Mazda in battling the GM convertibles, with both the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky available only with a soft-top. At this point, it is unclear if the retractable hard-top will be available throughout the Miata lineup or whether it will be standard or optional.

Beating Volkswagen to the market, Volvo launched its all-new Pininfarina-inspired C70 in April, selling an encouraging 435 units in its first month. Sporting a retractable hard-top roof and its usual safety marketing mantra, including a door-mounted inflatable curtain, Volvo hopes it can move its $39,000 convertible to the tune of 16,000 units globally. Safety aside, the C70’s Achilles heel is undeniably the turbocharged 5-cylinder engine. Generating only 218 hp, the unconventional odd number of cylinders doesn’t fundamentally balance out as well as even numbered ones. Honda tried unsuccessfully a 5-cylinder engine with the Acura Vigor, while most other manufacturers avoided them. Like the Miata, the C70 will face stiff competition from the high-end 6-cylinder Eos. With more engine power and a more sophisticated transmission and roof, the Eos is also priced almost $2,000 lower.

Tags:2007 Convertible War Opening Up

2007 NFL Draft: Projected Picks 1-10

With the 2007 NFL Draft approaching many mock drafts will be made, scratched out, then rewritten. Typically in the first ten picks there is not much surprise, but there could be some shakeups this year. Some teams could go many ways like Atlanta at number ten. Here are the top ten picks for 2007:

1. OAKLAND RAIDERS– QB JaMarcus Russell (6’6”, 260) LSU

With Russell’s arm and size it is no doubt that he would fit in well with rookie head coach Lane Kiffen’s scheme and wide receivers Randy Moss and Jerry Porter. If Al Davis is serious about trading Moss do not be surprised if Calvin Johnson is selected as the number one overall pick.

2. DETROIT LIONS-OT Joe Thomas (6’8”, 315) Wisconsin

With a young and talented defense and Matt Millen’s love for offense it is a give in that the Lions will select another offensive player in the 2007 draft. They have solid weapons on offense, but their offensive line is disastrous which is why Joe Thomas will be the selection. Don’t be surprised if Matt Millen picks a wide receiver though.

3. CLEVELAND BROWNS– RB Adrian Peterson (6’2”, 220) Oklahoma

This is the first pick that could have some questions behind it. Peterson is a great running back, who has talent for days, but his durability has been a problem for him in college and that can translate to the pros. Charlie Frye has not proven himself yet in his short career so Brady Quinn is another possible option at the number three pick. Even though Peterson has injury problems his talent and ability resembles those of greats, you cannot pass that up.

4. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS– WR Calvin Johnson (6’5”, 239) Georgia Tech

He is 6’5”, weighed in at the combine at 239 pounds, ran a 4.35 forty-yard dash on borrowed shoes, and has body control that no one has ever seen. Johnson is by far the best player in the draft and a steal at number four for the Bucs.

5. ARIZONA CARDINALS– DE Gaines Adams (6’5”, 260) Clemson

Coming in to his senior season Adams was recognized as one of the top defensive lineman in the nation. He proved that he deserved the hype with his beastly play on the field by punishing ACC quarterbacks. He showed his athletic prowess at the combine by running a 4.64 forty-yard dash. He is the best defensive player on the board and with Arizona’s strong offensive skill set Adams is the best choice.

6. WASHINGTON REDSKINS– DE Jamaal Anderson (6’6”, 280) Arkansas

Jamaal Anderson is a sack master and will fit perfectly in Gregg Williams’ defense. Williams is known for his great defensive mind, but last year his defensive pressure struggled. Anderson will get pressure on opposing quarterbacks and will allow Williams to do more with his defense to make it the total package.

7. MINNESOTA VIKINGS– WR Ted Ginn Jr. (6’0”, 180) Ohio State

With Brad Childress at the helm and an offense that is on the verge of being pathetic they need some excitement and Ginn’s speed will bring it to the Metrodome. With Troy Williamson and Ginn on the outside and Tavares Jackson, an up-and-coming quarterback, the offensive could be looking up in Minnesota.

8. HOUSTON TEXANS– QB Brady Quinn (6’4”, 228) Notre Dame

With the Texans falling more and more out of love with David Carr, Quinn is the best selection for them. After last years debacle in not picking Reggie Bush they need an excitement pick and Brady Quinn at number eight is just that. He is a guy that can make all the throws, and despite what his critics say he can make plays when they are needed.

9. MIAMI DOLPHINS- DT Alan Branch (6’6”, 330) Michigan

Alan Branch is a steal at number nine for the Dolphins. He can play anywhere on the interior defensive line and will take double teams away from Jason Taylor. If the Dolphins can get him this low it could be the steal of the draft.

10. ATLANTA FALCONS– OT Levi Brown (6’5”, 328) Penn StateThe Falcons could use a safety, but with offensive minded Bobby Petrino as the new head coach he is going to make a statement and go offensive. They need help at wide receiver and offensive line, but with Levi Brown becoming more of a hot commodity and moving up draft boards he is the right pick. He will help strengthen up the running game and give Michael Vick more time in the pocket to help their offense.

Tags:2007 NFL Draft: Projected Picks 1-10

2007 NFL Draft Report Cards

How did your team do in this years draft? Here is my preliminary grades for each team, but of course we won’t really know the true grades for a season or two.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

With RB Willis McGahee gone, RB was a position that needed to be addressed. The Bills answered this by taking RB Marshawn Lynch in the first, and RB Dwayne Wright in the fourth; both of whom will contribute immediately. Taking OLB Paul Posluszny in the second was also a good pick-up and they got good value for the pick.

Grade: B+

Miami Dolphins

Passing on QB Brady Quinn wasn’t really that big of a deal, it’s who they chose instead. Most boards didn’t have WR Tedd Ginn Jr going for at least another 10 picks, and there’s a chance he could never develop as a WR in the pros; you don’t draft return specialists in the early first round. Taking RB Lorenzo Booker also doesn’t make sense if Ricky Williams is supposed to return.

Grade: D

New England Patriots

FS Brandon Meriweather is a good pick in the first round, assuming he has no future incidents. Trading a 4th for Oakland WR Randy Moss was a good deal if Moss can return to his old form, but even if he doesn’t they aren’t exactly hurting for depth at the position.

Grade: B-

New York Jets

CB Darrelle Revis was considered by some to be the best CB in the draft (With the others going with Leon Hall), and the Jets traded up to get him. This is a good choice for the Jets as they are lacking a #1 CB talent and Revis should step right in and start contributing. MLB David Harris is also a good choice for Eric Mangini’s 3-4 defense will also contribute a lot.

Grade: B

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens took OG Ben Grubbs with their first round pick, and he will more than likely end up starting. WR Yamon Figurs who had the fastest 40-yard dash time at the combine was taken with their third round pick. They were also one of the teams who tried to trade up for Brady Quinn in the last first but lacked the ammo to do so. They instead drafted Heisman winner QB Troy Smith in the end of the fifth round, it will be interesting to see how he develops at the next level.

Grade: C+

Cincinnati Bengals

CB Leon Hall was a good pick in the first, but some wonder how he will fare at the next level against elite receivers. Taking RB Kenny Irons in the second was a bit of a reach as they could have filled more pressing needs with the pick, and they already have a solid RB corps with Rudi Johnson and Chris Perry. QB Jeff Rowe will be a good backup to Carson Palmer, but will probably be nothing more than that.

Grade: D+

Cleveland Browns

The Browns were among one of the winners on draft day, their first three picks alone might kick-start a revival for this franchise. OT Joe Thomas was a great pick, as he could end up being a starter for 10-12 years for them. Although they gave up quite a lot to get him, getting QB Brady Quinn near the end of the first round was a good move as they desperately needed a possible elite QB talent. CB Eric Wright was considered by some to be the 2nd best CB of the draft behind Darrelle Revis, but has some possible character issues.

Grade: A

Pittsburgh Steelers

With the loss of Joey Porter, LB was a position that needed to be addressed and they did so by selecting OLB Lawrence Timmons in the first round. Further bolstering their defense, they picked DE Lamarr Woodley in the second who was a premiere pass-rusher in college but some have labeled him a tweener. TE Matt Spaeth is both a solid receiver and blocker and they got exceptional value for him with their third round pick. Their seventh round pick was used on WR Dallas Baker, who some had listed as a sleeper.

Grade: B

AFC South

Houston Texans

The Texans drafted DT Amobi Okoye; the youngest player ever drafted with their first round pick. Okoye is certainly an intriguing prospect with TONS of upside, so they certainly made a good pick with him. But then they wait until the fifth and sixth rounds to address their biggest need which is their pathetic offensive line. I am sure their new QB Matt Schaub is just thrilled.

Grade: C-

Indianpolis Colts

The Colts selected WR Anthony Gonzalez with the last pick in the first round, which might be considered a reach by some because Gonzalez was primarily considered a low second-round prospect. I would have figured them to focus mostly on defense due to how many starters they lost, but their first two picks were on the other side of the ball.

Grade: C

Jacksonville Jaguars

Most mocks had the Jaguars selecting Florida safety Reggie Nelson with their 17th overall selection, then for them to trade down with Denver and still be able to get their guy is great value. The rest of their picks were pretty solid, Justin Durant is a speedy LB who figures to contribute immediately to an already lackluster LB corps.

Grade: B

Tennessee Titans

Quite surprising to see them go with safety Michael Griffin with their first pick as it didn’t figure to be a position of need, also I think it was a bit of a reach for him. Then they select RB Chris Henry with their next pick which was another reach, evidently they are not too high on their second round RB pick from last year; Lendale White.

Grade: D-

AFC West

Denver Broncos

The Broncos traded up with the Jaguars in the first round to move up five spots to select DE Jarvis Moss, this was rather pointless and a waste of picks as Moss would have been there at their original pick. Moss also has possible character issues, and this is not the year to have them. Then they spent more picks to select DT Marcus Thomas who also has character issues.

Grade: D

Kansas City Chiefs

With lots of holes to fill on their team, the Chiefs did fairly well with their picks. Dwayne Bowe is a very physical receiver and I like this pick for them. DT’s Turk McBride and DeMarcus “Tank” Tyler will provide them with some long needed support against the run.

Grade: C+

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders were either going to pick QB JaMarcus Russell or WR Calvin Johnson, both of whom who are great prospects at their position. They decided to finally draft a QB in the first round after passing on Matt Leinart last year, and they selected Russell. Getting RB Michael Bush in the fourth round was a major steal, one of the best of the draft. Bush, who was first round talent and a potential Heisman contender prior to breaking his leg is a bruising RB, and he will compliment their offense and JaMarcus Russell very well.

Grade: A

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers lost three veteran players at WR, Safety and MLB. And with their first three picks, they selected replacements at those three positions. WR Craig Davis and SS Eric Weddle might be considered reaches, especially considering they traded up for Weddle. ILB Brandon Siler was projected as a mid-fourth round pick, and the Chargers were able to get him in the seventh and thus got great value.

Grade: C+

Now for the NFC teams.

NFC East

New York Giants

A solid draft for the Giants, CB Aaron Ross, WR Steve Smith, DT Jay Alford, LB Zak DeOssie were all good pick-ups for them and they all should contribute in some way. Drafting OT Adam Koets in the sixth and safety Michael Johnson in the seventh were good value picks.

Grade: B

Philadelphia Eagles

With the loss of QB Jeff Garcia, it was a no-brainer that the Eagles would spend a pick in the mid to late rounds for a quality backup to QB Donovan McNabb. Instead they trade out of the first round and use their first pick of the draft to select QB Kevin Kolb. Although Kolb is a decent QB, McNabb is only 30 and he will or at least should be the starting QB of this team for five or so more years at minimum. RB Tony Hunt was a good pick up in the third, and he was probably their best pick.

Grade: D-

Washington Redskins

With only having one pick in the top 140, the Redskins should have probably traded their 6th overall for more picks. Instead they selected the best safety in the draft which is Laron Landry. A very solid pick, Landry figures to be a superstar in the NFL and will give the Skins a deadly tandem at safety. H.B. Blades in the sixth was a steal for them as well.

Grade: C

NFC North

Chicago Bears

Can’t argue with their first round pick, TE Greg Olsen with the 31st selection overall is a steal hands down. Olsen will provide Rex Grossman with a solid red zone target. But then they reached with their next pick by taking DE Dan Bazuin in the second round. RB Garrett Wolfe was an interesting pick as many have said he’s too small to play the position at the next level, but Wolfe should be quite a good compliment to their bruising RB Cedric Benson.

Grade: B-

Detroit Lions

The Lions have not had very good success recently with taking WR’s in the first. However Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson was the best player in the draft, and it was a smart pick by Matt Millen to take him. QB Drew Stanton was a good pick in the second, and will more than likely end up as the starter of this team in a year or two.

Grade: A-

Green Bay Packers

With the loss of RB Ahman Green, the Packers figured to have their first round pick set on one of the two RB prospects to be taken there (Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch) but both were gone after twelve picks. So they ended up taking DT Justin Harrell who is coming off a serious injury, but will be a stud once he returns to full health. LB Desmond Bishop and K Mason Crosby in the sixth round were great day two picks.

Grade: C-

Minnesota Vikings

With their first round selection the Vikings opted to pick RB Adrian Peterson over QB Brady Quinn. Peterson who despite injury concerns, was considered to be the second or third best player in the draft. WR Sidney Rice is a physical and speedy receiver who fills a big need for the Vikings. LB Rufus Alexander could also be a sleeper pick and end up as a steal in the sixth.

Grade: B+

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

A lot of people figured Atlanta to use their 8th overall selection on safety Laron Landry, but when the Redskins took Landry with their pick the Falcons were happy to instead take DE Jamaal Anderson. Anderson will immediately step in as a starter and contribute for the Falcons after they lost DE Patrick Kerney. OG Justin Blalock and CB Chris Houston in the second round were both steals, and both have the chance to make their impact as starters.

Grade: A

Carolina Panthers

LB Jon Beason, WR Dwayne Jarrett and OL Ryan Kalil were all considered first round talent at some point, and that’s who the Panthers used their first three picks on. The Panthers closed out day one by taking DT Charles Johnson, who was considered a second round talent. They had one of if not the best day one’s of any team.

Grade: A+

New Orleans Saints

After losing WR Joe Horn, the Saints decided to replace him with their first round pick by selecting the speedster WR Robert Meachem. RB Antonio Pittman was a good value pick in the fourth, but the rest of their picks do not look to make much of an impact.

Grade: C+

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After weeks of speculation saying the Bucs would trade up to nab Calvin Johnson, they decide to help out their aging defense and take DE Gaines Adams who figures to be Simeon Rice’s eventual replacement. They used their second round pick on OG/OT Arron Sears who is a versatile lineman that they can really put to good use. The rest of their picks were spent on depth and project players.

Grade: B

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

Fifth overall was a bit early for OT Levi Brown to come off the board, but the imposing lineman from Penn State figures to start at right tackle and protect QB Matt Leinart’s blindside. Arizona then made a trade to move up in the second to grab DT Alan Branch who is an elite run-stuffer and first round talent. MLB Buster Davis is also a solid pick in the third and will help to bolster an improving defense.

Grade: B

San Francisco 49ers

Among the winners of the draft was San Francisco, they picked up stud LB Patrick Willis with the 11th overall pick and made a trade to grab OT Joe Staley near the end of the first round. They spent their first third round pick on Pac-10 receiver Jason Hill who was very productive in college, and their other third rounder on DT Ray McDonald; both of which were good value picks.

Grade: A+

Seattle Seahawks

With leading receiver Darrell Jackson gone, the Seahawks used two late round choices to replace him by selecting Courtney Taylor and Justin Kent. DT Brandon Mebane was a solid pick in the third. Although they neglected to search for a backup to RB Shaun Alexander, they did select two offensive linemen in Mansfield Wrotto and Steve Vallos.

Grade: C+

St. Louis Rams

DE Adam Carriker was a solid choice to help improve a lackluster run defense. Also a solid pick and the best fullback in the draft was versatile FB/RB Brian Leonard who looks to contribute to the Rams offense in a multitude of ways. Jonathan Wade is a speedy play maker who will be a good addition to the Rams secondary.

Grade: B

Tags:2007 NFL Draft Report Cards

2007 Kentucky Derby Has Stories Galore

The Kentucky Derby looks to be full of stories this year as in years before. Stories add to the interest of the race for many. It’s the individuals that make it interesting for those who don’t bet. While the field is not yet set in stone, and there’s still some prep races left to run at this writing, there’s some horses getting early attention.

While celebrities abound at the track this day in particular, this year holds visits from royalty on and off the track. Along with crowned champions the Queen of England will be attending the race for the first time in person.

Some of the great stories of years past – the colt who was supposed to die as a youngster turned in the second fastest Derby time ever (Monarchos); the gelding owned by a group of people on the ride of their life (FunnyCide); the undefeated brilliant colt facing other undefeated colts (Smarty Jones).

The Kentucky Derby is a once in a lifetime ride for those connected to a big horse. The odds of getting there are immense. Of the thousands born in 2004 that overcame illness and early injury 450 were talented enough to warrant a first $600 payment to the Derby. The list carries names that will be talked about more in the next few weeks than probably any time in their lives. The top 20 talented enough to earn enough to be in the top 20, stay sound and have luck to get in the gates on Churchill Downs the first Saturday in May will accomplish something just in starting. There’s also nominations people have probably never heard of – but with pedigrees that warranted the gamble to run. Colts like Hawaii Calls by Fusaichi Pegasus or Lawrence The Roman by Point Given, the latter recently retired due to a leg injury. Sires like Awesome Again, Artax, Deputy Minister, Tiznow and Storm Cat – elite horses bred to be in that top class.

One doesn’t get to the Derby without credentials. It’s often said the winner of the Breeders Cup Juvenile is jinxed – will this be the year that might change? Street Sense destroyed an oustanding field of two year olds last fall by ten lengths. And the way he did it was coming from 13th in a field of 14. He’ll be lightly raced before the Derby – something often criticized but last year that didn’t matter. Street Sense is trained by Carl Nafzger – a man whose previous Derby winner brought one of the most poignant moments in sports as he relayed the stretch call to his elderly client when Unbridled gave her the ride of her life. Of this colt he says “this horse doesn’t make mistakes. The trainer may make mistakes and the jockey may make mistakes, but I’ve never seen this colt make a mistake except one – slacking off once he got the lead and he sure got over that in the Breeders’ Cup.” He is a son of the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner Street Cry (IRE) out of Bedazzled by Dixieland Band.

Then there’s Great Hunter – outrun in the Breeders’ Cup and now in the midst of a custody battle of sorts. One of a trio of good young horses owned by J. Paul Reddam (the others being National and Liquidity). His sire, Aptitude, has made quite a name for himself the last few years. Great Hunter was purchased at the September 2005 Keeneland sale for $50,000. The buyer took out a loan with several other horses named as collateral. Last summer Great Hunter was sold for $550,000 – and as he gained success he gathered other attention – that of the bank. If he was a $5,000 claimer he probably wouldn’t have attracted attention but a Derby contender is something else! The bank is threatening to sell the claim at which point someone else will take the horse, even though he was legally purchased. Reddam has offered to settle with Fifth Third bank and has been rejected. He’s slated to run in the Blue Grass Stakes in mid April but his starting in the Derby seems to be in the hands of lawyers and greedy bank executives not willing to honor a legal sale of property. A legal agreement keeps Great Hunter’s status safe with his current owner, leaving him open to travel to Kentucky for the Blue Grass Stakes in mid April. He’ll be lightly raced and fresh.

Notional has gathered interest on his own. A son of In Excess he’s making his own way towards the Derby took a space in the Florida Derby along with Kentucky hopefuls Scat Daddy, Adore The Gold, Stormello and Birdbirdistheword. In recent years it seems there’s a bargain colt in the mix and this year that’s BirdBirdIsTheword – an Ocala sale purchase of $32,000 after being bought back for $26,000 earlier that year. In the Florida Derby, an important prep race for the Kentucky Derby, Scat Daddy cruised home ahead of the pack. The prep races are deep in talent and weed through contenders seeking a coveted spot in the starting gate at Churchill Downs in May – a race that could be very deep in talent and truly any one of several look capable of stepping up to win. Looking through the Florida Derby results alone is a nice field. Scat Daddy, challenged in the race by Stormello, held on in Florida to win, with Notional and Chelokee. For the diehard Barbaro fan – this is the race Barbaro won last year before going to Kentucky; his trainer’s current star was third this year.

Scat Daddy is sired by Johannesburg, a very talented colt when he was racing. Scat Daddy has learned something for Kentucky – the ability to adapt to racing conditions as they happen, which may not be as the game plan was laid out. He’s got fans and critics but has taken on top-class horses from both coasts in seven consecutive graded stakes, including four grade I’s – he’s learned to be a race horse. Notional ran a good race in Florida but was unable to make up ground given up on the backside. It’s probably wise to note that he won’t do that in Kentucky. Chelokee, sired by classic contender Cherokee Run, is in the unfortunate wait and see mode. He’s had two very bad trips and his money earnings between now and May won’t change. That leaves him on the bubble – will another have more earnings to bump him from the starting gate – or will what he’s done be enough to get in. Like Barbaro, the public has largely overlooked this colt at this stage of the game. Unlike Barbaro – Chelokee has been handed defeats. In the Florida Derby he was boxed in on the rail and when it came time to run there was nowhere to go – taking precious time and ground from the young colt’s chance to make a bid for the winners circle. Stormello and Adore The Gold didn’t quite pan out in Florida and Birdbirdistheword failed to generate much excitement at all.

Nobiz Like Showbiz chased Scat Daddy and Stormello in the Fountain Of Youth stakes (Gr II) before winning the Wood Memorial over Sightseeing and a tired Any Given Saturday. A son of Albert The Great and winner of the Holy Bull stakes Nobiz Like Showbiz has reportedly been training beautifully and has done everything he’s been asked to do. He’s got the speed and knows how to find the winner circle. He sits solidly in the top 20 in earnings, something that may increase after his prep race. Not only earnings but soundness and heart will be tested – it’s a big step up to get a coveted spot in the Kentucky Derby and like many young colts it’s unlike anything they’ve seen or will see again. Nobiz will follow the program of FunnyCide in avoiding the massive publicity in Kentucky and focusing on training right up to the day.

Making it into the earnings but who will NOT be in Kentucky is the Irish based Holy Roman Emperor who has been retired to stud. At this writing Dreaming of Anna and Circular Quay are solidly in the earnings place to warrant being entered. Several have the earnings and were nominated to the Triple Crown – whether they have indicated enough to actually compete may vary. Dreaming Of Anna, the 2 year old champion filly, is perhaps more apt to be pointed towards the filly Triple Crown and the Kentucky Oaks, run the day before the Derby.

Hard Spun won the Lane’s End stakes (gr. II) and something has been made of the influence of the artificial track in some races. Hard Spun is a hot Pennsylvania connected horse, as is Great Hunter. This at one time was disregarded – a horse from Pennsylvania just doesn’t have a chance against real talent said the critics. Then came Smarty Jones and forever changed the definition of what a horse from the state could do. Mention was made that like Afleet Alex and Barbaro, Hard Spun broke his maiden at Delaware Park. Like Street Sense, Any Given Saturday and Great Hunter, he’s being pointed towards the Blue Grass Stakes. The son of Danzig seems to somewhat lose concentration on the lead – something he won’t be able to do with the caliber of horses coming to Kentucky. He’s a beautifully bred colt and is not out of his league.

The Illinois Derby has been a settling ground for Kentucky starters also. Cobalt Blue disappointed in Illinois as a road to Kentucky while Cowtown Cat (a son of Distorted Humor out of a Storm Cat daughter) won the race, chased by Reporting For Duty and Bold Start.

The Santa Anita Derby brought forth a contender in Tiago – little mention was made of him previously and he was overlooked much as his half brother was – he’s a half brother to Giacomo who was a longshot for the Kentucky Derby but won the biggest race of his life. Tiago comes to the front with the same connections. Liquidity, Sam P and King of the Roxy made their presence known in the Santa Anita Derby, while Bwana Bull was further back.

Curlin looms as an improving colt set to make his prep in the Arkansas Derby (G2). If he slips look for Ketchikan to be there to have a say in the finish.

The road to the Derby can be littered with hopes and disappointment. Promising colts can get injured even with the best of care and sometimes it’s not a major injury but happening this time of year it forever takes away the chance to win the Kentucky Derby. The Derby preps look to be exciting and the Kentucky Derby, while looking to be a field deep in talent, should be remembered as while it’s important it’s but the first step to being a Triple Crown winner. Getting a colt sound and mature enough to win the Derby is a challenge – being able to go on and compete in the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes is a gruelling campaign and is a testimony to the horses who have done it and made it look easy – Citation, the brilliant Secretariat, Seattle Slew. Affirmed dug down and fought for his in one of the best rivalries in racing history with Alydar. The ghosts of these champions linger and hopefully this will be the year a new name will emerge.

Ten late Triple Crown nominations set a record for the most nominations ever in the series. 460 young horses seek to get a piece of the Triple Crown pie. As for the Kentucky Derby, the prep races are slated to be telecast – look for the stations locally carrying it and tune in for a wonderful ride. Find a horse or two and follow them, not only through this next couple months. Racing isn’t a perfect sport, and all sports have their black marks. But under it all it comes down to a horse – one with the talent, heart and capacity to run. No whip or drug or other enhancement can make an unknown a champion. It comes from within – that something that can’t be quantified but is known when it expresses itself.

This year’s Kentucky Derby promises to be good – tune in and see it played out.

Tags:2007 Kentucky Derby Has Stories Galore

2007 Holiday Gift Guide for Movie Buffs

CinemaNow Gift Certificate
This is a great 2007 Holiday Gift for movie buffs who enjoy watching movies on their computer. New developments in technology have given people more options about where to get their entertainment. Being able to watch movies on a computer allows movie buffs to enjoy their favorite films outdoors, indoors and while traveling. While companies like Netflix offers the ability to rent movies, that is all they provide. That is why CinemaNow is a better 2007 Holiday Gift for movie buffs.

I would only recommend this for people who have computers with enough speed to play movies. If your computer is slow, this may not be the best option. Users can rent movies or purchase them right from their laptop or workstation computer. Movie buffs can also burn movies to DVD, making it easier to take the movie with them even with they do not have a computer. One of the best features of CinemaNow is that this company has tons of both Hollywood movies and independent films. That allows movie buffs to find more great movies that they may not have been familiar with otherwise. Gift certificates can be purchased online in amounts between $5 and $50.

Hollywood Walk of Fame Star
Almost everyone wants to be famous or at least important to some degree. There are a few placed online where you can purchase a personalized Hollywood Walk of Fame Star for the movie buff in your life. These are miniature versions of the real ones in California. They are about the size of a coaster and pretty thick. These are great keepsakes that movie buffs will love as they are not commonly seen on everyone’s bookshelf or mantel. A personalized Hollywood Walk of Fame Star will cost you $15 or $40 depending on what type of box you order it in. If you are shopping on a small budget, this is one of the most inexpensive 2007 Holiday Gifts for movie buffs to get.

Flat Screen TV
It seems that everyone is moving toward flat screens these days. A few of my friends have them and they are not even die-hard movie buffs. Therefore, you can imagine how great a Flat Screen TV would be to men and women who love movies. This is a pricey item that you will more than likely spend more than $1500 on. However, it is worthwhile if you can afford it.

The recipient will be able to watch those widescreen versions of DVDs without the annoying black strips that surround the image. The picture on flat panel LCD screen TVs are supposed to be superior to regular television sets. In that case, movie buffs can truly enjoy a film for the first time and get a great picture. This will be especially fun when watching action, horror and epic movies. Another reason that a Flat Screen TV is one of the best 2007 Holiday Gifts for movie buffs is that it tops most other presents. Your gift will trump anyone else’s and you will be remembered as the one who gave the coolest gift for years to come.

Tour of the Hollywood Museum
This is a great gift for film students and movie buffs that enjoy classic films with stars like Marilyn Monroe as well as modern movies. The Hollywood Museum has lots of fun exhibits that include costumes, props and posters from famous movies. Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” gloves and Tom Cruise’s costumes from “The Minority Report” are among the collections at this Hollywood Museum. It seems that tickets cannot be purchased online yet. Therefore, you can make an entire trip out of this 2007 Holiday Gift for movie buffs. If you live in or near California however, you can just by the tickets and make that your main holiday gift.

Tags:2007 Holiday Gift Guide for Movie Buffs

2007 NBA Draft Review

Last night, the NBA draft came and went. Many teams’ fans are left dreaming about what the future holds for their new superstars and fans of other teams are left scratching their head. Just like with any NBA draft, there were draft day trades that added excitement and rumors that ran rampant before the draft.

Many marquee players were mentioned in trade rumors. Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’neal, and Amare Stoudemire were players that many felt may be packing their bags. There was also that Bryant guy that plays for the Lakers that has been demanding a trade. As it turns out, Ray Allen was the biggest name to actually be moved. As usual, the hyped up trade rumors overshadowed the actual trades that took place on draft day.

The most intriguing aspect of the 2007 NBA draft was watching where the draft entrants will be making their homes next year. The 2007 draft class is considered one of the deepest drafts in recent memory. Greg Oden and Kevin Durant will see their careers forever linked much in the same way that Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwayne Wade do. If you fast forward ten years and look back at this draft, the question people will be asking is ‘who was a better pick, Oden or Durant?’

At the end of the evening, the 2007 NBA draft was much like every other draft. A few no-brainer picks, a few picks that made you scratch your head, and a few sleepers. There were teams that won, teams that lost and teams that don’t know how they did yet. Here’s the breakdown:

Winners:

1. Portland Trailblazers- They landed the crown jewel of the 2007 draft, Greg Oden. Oden figures to propel Portland to a legitimate playoff contender next year and championship contender in the future. The Blazers also unloaded Zach Randolph on the New York Knicks for Steve Francis, a move which will give Portland salary cap room within a couple of years. That salary cap room will enable them to keep their young core together and possibly add a veteran down the road.

2. Seattle Supersonics- Seattle landed one of the best consolation prizes in draft history. Kevin Durant is a long, athletic player that can score anyway and anywhere on the court. They also traded veteran guard Ray Allen to Boston for the fifth overall pick. Seattle is rebuilding their franchise and the 2007 draft was a major step in the right direction.

3. San Antonio Spurs- How do the Spurs do it? Talented, ready to contribute players fall into their laps late in the first round. This year it’s Tiaggo Splitter, a foreign diamond in the rough that should be a solid contributor within a year.

Losers:

1. Boston Celtics- The Celtics had the fifth overall pick in such a deep draft and they dealt it away for Ray Allen? This move may make sense if the Celtics are able to acquire another veteran star to form a trio with the newly acquired Ray Allen and Celtic mainstay Paul Pierce (Jermaine O’neal, perhaps?). But unless that happens, the Celtics would have been better off keeping that fifth pick and adding to their stockpile of talented young players like Gerald Green and Al Jefferson.

2. Milwaukee Bucks- The Milwaukee Bucks landed one of the most intriguing and sought after players in the draft. They forgot, however, that Yi Jianlian has no interest in playing for Milwaukee. Players usually get their way in cases like this and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Jianlian never suits up for the Bucks. If they are planning on using him as trade bait, their leverage in any potential trade has been severely compromised. There were still plenty of great picks on the board and Milwaukee may have missed out.

Wait and See:

Los Angeles Lakers- The Lakers made some very interesting and risky picks last night. Javaris Crittenton has great upside, but is going to be a bit of a project. Their second round picks Sun Yue and Marc Gasol can be big hits or may never reach the NBA. The Lakers gambled pretty big with each pick, which has proven to be a good draft strategy. But that can’t make Kobe Bryant comfortable with staying in L.A.

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2007 NHL Season Preview - Detroit Red Wings

Throughout the past decade or so, there has been no more prolific team in the NHL than the Detroit Red Wings. The city of Detroit is not dubbed “Hockeytown” for nothing. Their fans watch every season as the Red Wings flirt with potential regular season greatness. However, greatness is also measured in Stanley Cup victories, and with their latest string of early playoff exits, one has to wonder whether that magic is lost.

For 82 regular season games, the Wings are among the game’s elite. They rarely lose, usually in contention for the President’s Cup for the team with the most points, and a favorite to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup in June. However, since 2002, they have not sipped wine from the Cup and are hungry. The run to the Conference Finals last season only further whet the appetites of their fans and the organization. Can they finally break through?

Detroit Red Wings
2006 Record (W-L-OTL-PTS): 50-19-13-113; Central Division Champs
2006 Postseason (if applicable): Lost in Western Conf. Finals (4-2 to Anaheim)
Coach Name (record w/team): Mike Babcock, 108-35-21 (.755)
Key Additions: D Brian Rafalski (New Jersey); RW Dallas Drake (St. Louis)
Key Subtractions: C Robert Lang (Chicago); RW Todd Bertuzzi (Anaheim); LW Kyle Calder (Los Angeles); D Mathieu Schneider (Anaheim)

Offense: This team has no shortage of goal scorers. Even with big men Robert Lang and Todd Bertuzzi leaving in free agency, the Red Wings have no shortage of players that can score and make plays. Their top 4 goal scorers return, including young stars Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Both of these guys must make a more consistent effort to score with some of these other names having left the team.

Datsyuk has been a great playmaker for the team, leading them last season with 60 assists, but the coaching staff and the team want him to have more of a nose to scoring goals rather than setting them up.

There is really a question as to whether Zetterberg has even reached his ceiling as an NHL player yet; they wonder if he can still get better and provide more of a scoring punch for this team. Those guys might be the most dynamic guys on this team, but there are more than a few name veterans who can give them some balanced scoring from all the lines: Tomas Holstrom, Daniel Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson, newly signed Dallas Drake, and others can all prove to be dangerous clutch scorers.

They lose no production from the defense either. Niklas Lidstrom is the best defender in the league and plays both sides equally well; he gets assistance from newly signed Brian Rafalski and rising stud Niklas Kronwall can also give them a bit offensively. Overall, this is still a team to watch out for.
Grade: A-

Defense: Whenever you can have the best defender of the era in hockey, you’ve probably got claim to a pretty decent defensive unit at the worst. When you look at the type of talent that the Red Wings put on the ice, you have to believe that this team is one of the best defenders. Niklas Lidstrom fits that bill and he lives up to all the talk. Whether it’s defensively getting in the lanes and stopping opposing offenses from pushing forward or putting some pressure on the other team, Lidstrom is the gold standard in the league.

If he were along with 5 minor league defenders, the Red Wings would have a decent defensive unit. As it were, he plays will another guaranteed Hall-of-Famer in Chris Chelios, still burning to play even at age 45. He’s still got a lot to offer defensively, although he did not score a single goal last season.

Mathieu Schneider is gone to Anaheim, but the Red Wings filled that hole quickly by signing Brian Rafalski, long time Devil, to give the Red Wings the production it would lose from Schneider’s departure. Young Niklas Kronwall could be a future Norris Trophy winner himself. The Red Wings are definitely glad to have him back 100% and healthy.
Grade: A

Goaltending: Some might question Dominik Hasek’s fire and desire for the game. But he will return for another season in the pipes for the Red Wings. Hasek is historically one of the greatest goaltenders to play the game. He’s the highlight reel for the NHL in goal; he’ll often make the sprawling save across ice and come out to play a puck on a breakaway and cut off an attacker’s angle.

What people do not see is a solid glove hand and a guy who gets his blockers on the ice and makes them nearly impenetrable to the opposing team. Hasek played great last season amidst some durability concerns, going 38-11-6. Can he put up another season like that considering that he’s getting on in age at 42 and fighting every offseason the urge to hang up the skates for good and walk away from the game? He’s got the on-again, off-again goaltender of the Red Wings Chris Osgood to spell him occasionally. Together, they form a pretty formidable tandem for the Western Conference.
Grade: A-

Coaching: Mike Babcock was brought in after the lockout to guide the Red Wings back into the playoffs and through to the Stanley Cup. He had previously brought the Anaheim Mighty Ducks to the Cup Finals back in 2002-2003, his first season of coaching in the NHL. With the heavy resume, there were very big things expected from Babcock. In 2 seasons with the Red Wings, Babcock has won ¾ of his games with the team, but they still have not returned to the Stanley Cup Finals. Babcock will really need to show this team that he knows how to manage the lines and get this team through the regular season with more than enough energy to get through the playoffs.
Grade: B+

Bold Predictions
Points/Conference Standing: 90-105 pts; top seed in conference (1st – 3rd in Western Conference)
Team MVP: Henrik Zetterberg
Prediction Notes: This is still a dominant team getting through the regular season. With Nashville regressing and no real other challengers in their division, they should easily coast into one of the top seeds in the Western Conference. It will be interesting once that happens because of how well they can play versus how well they perform. They showcased dominance against San Jose in the Western Conference Semis but were dominated against Anaheim in the Conference Finals. The Wings should be on the short list of Cup contenders once again.

Tags:2007 NHL Season Preview - Detroit Red Wings

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