Friday, November 12, 2010

Zags are back!

Zag basketball is back and I couldn't be more excited! The team is ranked #12 to start the season and the non-conference schedule delivers lots of tasty match-ups against the nation's best. I'm excited to see how the Zags stack up! If tonight's 117-72 season opening victory is any indication, it could be a special year. Here are three thoughts stemming from the big opening victory:

- It looks like the 2010-11 edition of the Zags will be able to score from the perimeter. The post scoring was never in doubt heading into the season, but the Zags drained 13 threes led by Gray and freshman, Monninghoff. If the Zags can keep teams honest on "d" with a decent perimeter game, the offense could be one of the nation's best...easily.

- To sandwich in a complaint amongst all the superlatives from tonight's blowout: the Zags played lousy perimeter defense, in my opinion. Too much collapsing into the paint and giving up open looks, and way, way too much fouls on three point attempts (I think we had four)! Against a stronger shooting opponent, that could be an achilles heel. I do have to point out: all our crashing the paint did was yield a 53-12 rebounding margin (in a word....domination).

- Dower is amazing. I can't believe he's a redshirt freshman. That he comes off the bench only serves to reinforce my excitement about our dominant frontcourt. Wow.
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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Shenooligans, no more!

Well, for those of you living under a rock for the last 12+ months, I'm married. Cara and I have combined our lives, our finances, our living space, and our love of 80s music to create quite the team. It is now time for us to combine our blogs (Shenooligans and Creating Musing Gabble) into one (The Hoag Life).

You'll get the same content you've come to know and love from me and even better stuff from my better half. You'll get more consistent posting because Cara and I can now deploy a divide and conquer method for keeping our postings current, relevant, fresh and fun. Finally, you'll get to hear from Bounce on occasion. He's part of this family (or "pack" as we like to call it) and he wants a say too!

So, follow the above link to The Hoag Life (that's at: Find the button to "follow" our blog. Add the blog to your Google Reader. And sit back and allow us to entertain you with our amazing blogging abilities. Come on. You know you wanna...



Wednesday, October 27, 2010

MLS Playoffs Predictions

The MLS Playoffs start tomorrow night at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Colorado. Here are my predictions for the first leg of the home-and-home ties (home teams are listed first). I'll post my predictions for the second leg of these ties next week.

Colorado Rapids 2 v 0 Columbus Crew:
Columbus brings a veteran lineup and a wealth of playoff experience, but their form has been poor of late. Colorado has looked very lethal on the attack with Cummings and Casey up front. Colorado cruises to a 2-0 victory at home. (Goals: COL - Casey, Mastroeni)

San Jose Earthquakes 2 v 2 New York Red Bulls:
New York rides into Northern California with the big guns and San Jose has not been overpowering at home this year. However, Wondo has thrown the team on his back and carried them all year and the Golden Boot winner will make it interesting in this matchup as well. I see an entertaining 2-2 tie (Goals: NY-Richards, Angel SJ - Wondolowski x 2)

FC Dallas 1 v Real Salt Lake 0:
Real Salt Lake are the defending champs and have been tough all year, but they're beatable away from home. FC Dallas has cooled off to end the season after a memorable unbeaten streak. Edge goes to FC Dallas at home in a hard fought, scrappy defensive struggle with Shea finding the back of the net for the Hoops. (Goals: FCD - Shea)

Seattle Sounders FC 3 v 1 L.A. Galaxy:
L.A. Galaxy were head and shoulders above the rest during the first half of the season and were able to hold off a late charge by RSL to earn the Supporters' Shield and the top seeding for the Playoffs. Seattle rebounded from two big losses to the Galaxy early in the season to win the third matchup between these West coast rivals in U.S. Open Cup play. Since then, the Sounders have been on fire, logging the best record in all of MLS during the second half of the season. The Sounders ride their torrid form to a 3-1 victory in front of a raucous crowd at Qwest field. (Goals: SEA - Montero, Zakuani, Fernandez LA - Donovan)

Things I love: Soccer

I love soccer. Or, should I say futbol/football? That is, afterall, what the world calls this great sport. Whatever name you wanna call it, I'm all about soccer. In particular, I love:

(1) Seattle Sounders Football Club (Sounders) - Were named the 2010 Sports Franchise of the Year by the SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily, beating out the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. I just its 2nd year in Major League Soccer, (MLS) the top-flight U.S. soccer league, the Sounders have won the U.S. Open Cup and qualified for the playoffs in each of its first two years. Perhaps more importantly, the Sounders pack the house, breaking the MLS attendance records and giving the league a definitive shot in the arm. Soccer snobs may continue to bash U.S. soccer, but the MLS is really beginning to pick up steam and the Sounders have been a huge impetus to the league's growth and success! If all that isn't exciting enough, the MLS Playoffs kick off tonight (Columbus v. Colorado) and the Sounders host the L.A. Galaxy in game 1 of their two game playoff tilt Halloween in Seattle. Qwest is gonna be rocking and I'm so bummed I won't be there in person, but you better believe I'll be decked out in Sounders gear supporting the rave green!

(2) Tottenham Hotspur Football Club (Spurs) - A few years ago, I initially started getting more interested in becoming an international soccer fan and figured the English Premier League (EPL) was the league to follow. Many believe the EPL is the top soccer league in the world top-to-bottom. I tend to agree - though that in no way disparages the excellent soccer played in Germany (Bundesliga), Italy (Serie A), and Spain (Primera Division). Whatever your league of choice, the EPL is clearly exciting football and the season is fairly recently underway. I decided I would start liking the Spurs on a bit of a whim, they have historically been a middle of the road type of team that has a tough time shaking the underdog stigma. Thankfully, my Spurs have found a recent vein of success. Currently, they sit near to top of the table (what they call the standings in England) and are also three games into their first Champions League campaign (Europe's championship tournament for top club teams) since 1962, which they qualified for with their fourth-place league finish last year. Currently, the Spurs sit 2nd in their group of four and are in position to advance to the knockout stages of this prestigious tournament. Between the EPL season and Champions League matches, I've got no shortage of Spurs football to follow!

(3) "Rec-league soccer"! Mostly, I love watching my sweetie out there tearing it up! I'd love to play more "rec-league" soccer, but the last pick-up game I played saw me run into the goal post. OUCH!! Soccer's not easy when you don't see too well. So, I'll leave it up to Cara to be the soccer star in this family!

Things I love: Cara

I love Cara. You wanna know why? I'll give you three reasons:

(1) She's incredibly patient and understanding. Cara truly is the first person where I have felt comfortable being my true self. In previous relationships, I always tried to be PERFECT. Granted, I never was (and I'm still not) perfect, but I was afraid to let my guard down and show my insecurities, fears, anxieties, stress, frustrations, etc. I'm sure Cara doesn't always appreciate getting to see these less than perfect sides of me come out (and there have been many instances in the past year with the stresses of job searching and dissertation defending), but throughout, she has been patient and understanding. She is, without a doubt, a constant, steadying foundation in my life.

(2) She's spontaneous and fun. You see, I'm not a particularly spontaneous person. On top of that, I'm an accountant which is on the opposite end of the spectrum from fun. Cara, on the other hand, loves doing spontaneous, fun things. Things such as spontaneous dance parties. Or buying bicycles and becoming "quasi-cyclists". Then there was the time she up and registered us for a "Down and Dirty Mud Run." Okay, so she ran that one by me first and yes, we'll be mud-covered and exhausted this Sunday (more on that to come). The point is, she encourages me to live a bit more spontaneously and a lot more FUN. And I love that about her!

(3) She's my best friend. I don't have much to add to this one - it's quite simple. Whether I'm in a good mood or a bad mood. Whether we're engaged in serious conversation or watching brainless television. Whether I'm anxious and stressed or "on top of the world." Whether we're sitting down for a carefully orchestrated dinner, or eating fast-food on the go. From the highs of life to its lows and for everything in between, I cannot picture spending my life with anyone but her, my best friend, my wife.

I love you sweetheart! It's been an incredible first year of marriage - here's to a lifetime of incredible memories together!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Me and RP (Part II)

Shortly after I graduated from Gonzaga, I started doing a lot of Internet research on eye conditions in an attempt to explain my clumsiness - that's when I stumbled across an eerily fitting description of the condition known as retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Mostly, I was doing this research to assuage my curiosity - I don't think I truly believed something was "wrong" with me at the time. You see, with RP, it's hard to really gauge the vision loss. As it turns out, my peripheral and night vision have been slowly deteriorating throughout my life, so there has never really been an "AHA!" kind of moment where I could 'put my finger' on any noticeable change in my vision.

I first brought up the possibility of having RP with my parents, who rightly pointed out that it seemed odd that I wouldn't have been diagnosed in the 15+ years I had been seeing an eye doctor. However, we all agreed it made sense to raise the question in my next eye appointment. Several months later, I dropped in to get a new prescription at a Pearle Vision in Northgate mall with my buddy Rock. I posed the question to the optometrist who pulled out his scope to examine my eyes more closely. He quickly saw some of the telltale physical traits of RP: "mottling of the retinal pigment epithelium with black bone-spicule pigmentation" (as described on Wikipedia). He followed up with a computer-aided photograph of my eyes that more clearly showed the characteristics of RP and referred me to the University of Washington (UW) eye clinic for a follow-up appointment. Over the next year, my family and I visited doctors at UW and Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) who confirmed that I had X-linked RP, in addition to my mother and brother.

The symptoms of RP vary significantly from person-to-person. In my case (and my brother is similar), I have a working field of vision of approximately 25-30 degrees (90 degrees is "normal"). At night, my vision gets much worse to the point where I have significant trouble navigating at all (e.g., I am essentially night blind). One of the most critical elements of the condition is its impact on my independence, namely my ability to drive a car (I touch on this point in Part I of this blog). I am currently still legal to drive, but do so on a very limited basis and no longer drive at night. My initial diagnosis came about six years ago and it's been a rollercoaster of a journey since. There have certainly been some times where I've been left anxious, scared or depressed at the possiblity of losing my vision, but those times are relatively few and far between. Most importantly, I've got an amazingly supportive, loving wife, an incredible family support structure and some of the greatest friends a guy could ask for.

This past weekend, my family, Cara's family, and some friends all took part in the Oregon VisionWalk in Portland, OR, as a fundraiser for the efforts of the Foundation Fighting Blindness (team picture is below and Cara and I will post more on that later). I am also taking part in a clinical trial for a supplement that may help to preserve the retina and delay the slow degenerative vision loss. I'm also optimistic for several of the research projects ongoing with the FFB and it's affiliates, including gene therapy and retina transplants.

I could blog all night about my thoughts, analyzing, and experiences (both frustrating and uplifting) related to RP. But, this blog has already gotten pretty long. Before I end, I want to thank my beautiful wife, incredible family, and wonderful friends for supporting me, loving me and of course...for driving me around! Y'all are amazing!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Me and RP (Part I)

As many of you may know I have retinitis pigmentosa (RP). RP is a genetic eye condition that leads to gradual vision loss, primarily affecting peripheral and night-vision (e.g. low-light and bright-light conditions). As I get ready to participate in the Oregon VisionWalk this coming weekend, I wanted to (1) describe an experience I had several years ago (this blog - Part I) which involves my vision (or lack thereof); and (2) share my personal thoughts and feelings about living with RP (next blog - Part II).

Without further ado, here's Part I (I apologize for the length in advance):

I've got many friends and family members who would agree that being a passenger with me behind the wheel is a nervy experience. I've always felt like a bit of a clumsy oaf; bumping into things, tripping over my own feet, struggling to navigate at night, these were all regular occurrences in my life. But, I didn't think much of it until I had a nervy driving experience all to my own. Until now, this is an experience that I have not shared with many people...

I was driving home alone from birthday gift shopping at the Super Mall in Auburn, WA and after a wrong turn, I ended up in an area I wasn't familiar with. Stopped at a red light, I noticed that the road crossed four railroad tracks ahead. The light turned green and the car next to me peeled off (high school kids out being crazy), while I slowly accelerated through the intersection and towards the railroad crossing(s). Something didn't feel right to me as the car began to pick up speed; a feeling that was reinforced by an ominous train whistle that pierced the air. I looked in my rear view mirror as I approached the first set of railroad tracks and noticed the cars behind me had stopped at a second traffic light that I had previously failed to notice; a light that was red to keep the tracks clear for the oncoming train. "Thunk-thunk". My car crossed the first set of tracks and I began to panic as I approached the second set of four railroad tracks. My first reaction was to hit the brakes as it began to dawn on me that I was playing chicken with a train. Train versus Corolla? Train wins and it's not pretty. But where was the train?

A second whistle pierced my thoughts (and if it's one thing I can do, it's analyze...probably to a fault) and I fought off the urge to stop; afterall, it's not wise to stop on railroad tracks. "Thunk-thunk." I cleared the second crossing and was coming up to the third crossing when it dawned on me that I needed to stop looking in my rearview mirror at the stopped traffic and start trying to figure out where this looming train was. I frantically scanned left and right as my front tires ("Thunk") and then the rear tires ("-thunk") cleared crossing #3. Another whistle. It felt like the train was in the passenger seat next to me. The earth rumbled from its proximity. But where was it? Why couldn't I see the train?

My eyes darted left and right as I approached the last of the four crossings. I silently pleaded for my eyes to locate the train, but my vision didn't seem to work in my panicked state. Left and right. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. Left and right. I was mere feet from the final set of tracks at this point. Left. Right...THERE. There was the train. Just as my front bumper crossed the track, I had finally spotted the train off to my right through the front windshield. It was close and quickly getting closer, dwarfing my Corolla as I crossed the tracks. I could see the engineer and we locked eyes. I'm pretty sure he was thinking, "what the $#%@ are you doing?!" I couldn't take my eyes off that looming train. That incredulous engineer. What was I doing? Time seemed to stop.

"Thunk-thunk." My back tires cleared the tracks and snapped me back into the moment. I was clear of the railroad tracks. I looked at my rearview mirror and just beyond my rear bumper, I saw nothing but the steel side of the massive engine car. The train had missed me by no more than a foot. Eyes back to the road ahead of me, I approached another intersection and another red light. I stopped. Those crazy high school kids were idling next to me. They had seen the train and decided to be crazy and cross the tracks anyways. The driver rolled down his window and gave me an enthusiastic thumbs up. A thumbs up? They must of figured I had seen it too and had "out-crazied" them with my unintended game of chicken. The light turned green and the high schoolers peeled off. As they did, a passenger leaned out of the back window and yelled, "That was crazy!"

With these words echoing in my head, I slowly proceeded through the intersection and pulled over onto the shoulder. I put the car in park and instantly began to shake uncontrollably. That was crazy. I had just been inches away from a moving train. What's worse is that I didn't see the signal light OR the train until it was almost too late. My shaking turned to sobbing and I sat there on the side of the road shaking and crying until I had no more shaking or crying left in me. I then took a deep breath, collected myself and slowly pulled back onto the road to make my way home.