NBA Officiating – Contrived or a Guessing Game?

I am writing a few blog posts for future posts while watching the Utah Jazz play the Rockets in the first round of the NBA finals. Every time I watch a professional basketball game, I question the legitimacy of the current officiating in the NBA.

I am not a big conspiracy theorist, so I really don’t believe it is all scripted and decided in advance like a WWF wrestling match. That said, you can’t deny that officiating is more of an art than a science. Professional sports are about money and entertainment value. Team owners, TV broadcasters and players all know this, and so do the officials. Though there are some hard fast rules that are supposed to be followed, there is a heavy dose of subjectiveness thrown in at the official’s disposal.
What gets me most is the obvious favoritism the “big name” players get in the interest of making the game a highlight reel. Broadcasters often comment on it, we all see it; there is no denying it. Touted and perhaps truly one of the best to ever play was of course Michael Jordan, and he was given the most leniency out of anyone I have ever seen. Remember the famous play we have seen a thousand times where Jordan literally pushed Brian Russell out of the way to make the winning shot against the Jazz in the playoffs? That shot should have never counted had the rules of the game been applied equally to all players and in all situations.

All the big names benefit from it. Tracy McGrady in this game I am watching. Kobe Bryant, Shaq, Karl Malone, Dwayne Wade, etc.

It can be argued though whether it is good for the game or not? Is the game all about pure competition or is it about better entertainment? If you side with the entertainment argument, then do the “little” teams from smaller cities ever really have a chance? Are we watching a sport that is becoming more contrived and driven by money that will always be won by the teams that bring the more popular players and better storyline?

Perhaps that is a bit more cynical than reality, but it does cause me to wonder periodically. I think the sport still retains a bit more credibility than that. There will always be the whiners that complain about the officiating, almost always from the fans of the team that lost of course. There has been some real concern about it in recent years though. Remember the Mavericks owner Mark Cuban spending over a million dollars in fines his first year to make the point that some things were very wrong with the lack of oversight in officiating? I think he had a very valid point, though his methods of making it was a bit on the grandstanding side of things.

This is one of many reasons why I spend more time watching college games than I do pro sports. The egos are smaller, mistakes by officials and players are more expected and a part of the game and the game seems much closer to something I can relate to. The game I am watching tonight I am only seeing about half of, and it is only the third half of an NBA game I have watched all season. I used to be an avid fan and watcher of the game, and I no longer feel that drive. I wonder if I’m not the only one slowly slipping away.

Struggling With Family Mealtime

Mary, the “mom”

So, like the mom, I am supposed to make sure that my children eat a nutritious diet and I’m also supposed to try and have family dinners.

I do manage to put a reasonably nutritious dinner on the table for a family meal most nights. But, by the time we’re all home (from work, baseball, dance, etc.) to sit down to dinner, my youngest has consumed several meals worth of after-school snacks because she’s “starving” and then she eats no dinner. My son comes in from baseball so ravenous that he eats enough for a meal and then he, too, picks at his dinner. (My other daughter just grazes her way through after-school snacks and dinner!)

So, my kids are filling up on snacks, some of which are of dubious nutritional quality, and I’m packaging up leftovers every night. I do try to push one night’s leftovers as the next day’s after-school snack, but sometimes Chex Mix or the like win out.

I have always believed that you should listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry, not when the clock says its mealtime. Yet, I really do value that family dinner time. It’s the only time we’re all together and we actually talk to one another. It’s wonderful until the bickering starts! Hmmm…maybe separate meals aren’t such a bad idea after all!

How do you juggle the family dinner issue at your house?

Rach, the “teen”

It’s really important to have regular sit-down meals, and it’s fantastic that your family tries to. Besides all the bickering that gets done, it’s a good time to just sit and be a family.

Anyway, the food thing has never been a big issue in my family. Dad has dinner ready somewhere between five and six every night. If someone is late (due to work, friends or rehearsal) then they eat the “saved for them” portion.

As for pre-dinner snacking – if your kids are starving before dinner, set out something healthy for them. Nuts or fruit, something easily snack-able, but nothing that would spoil dinner. Remember, if you’re the one who buys the groceries, then you’ve got control over what they consume. Don’t want to snack? Don’t buy snacks.

Brad, the “dad”

I admit it: we’ve given up on the Meals Together thing. With two kids at different, distant schools, and with jobs that frequently involve late hours or out-of-town trips, the ritual of the Family Dinner died a pathetic death around here a couple of years ago.

So we looked for a replacement – a more natural opportunity for family connection when we could spend some low-pressure, non-distracted time together.

In short: we discovered Starbucks.

A few times a week, we either travel together to one of the 8,302 coffee bars in the immediate vicinity or send The Chauffeur/Delivery Man (i.e., me) down the hill with orders in hand. Then we spend an hour with a latte, frap, or – in my case – brew of the day and each other, and just talk. No TV, no headphones, and no ‘family meeting’ Big Issues allowed — just catching up. Joking. Maybe even making plans for a movie or a road trip. Sometimes it’s at four in the afternoon, sometimes not until ten at night, but we do it pretty consistently, and I’m happy to say we’ve reached a point where even the kidlings kind of expect it. If we all get too busy and don’t have a sit-down, it can just as easily be one of them as one of the parents who say, “Hey, can we have Starbucks tonight?” – meaning, “Hey, can we do that Family Thing?”

It ain’t no traditional dinner, I confess, and it ain’t even all that healthy. Sue me. It’s never been about the nutrition anyway: it’s been about the connection. And I’m willing to use any illicit device at my disposal to keep that connection alive…even caffeine, chocolate, and hazelnut syrup ‘way after dark. I’m sneaky that way. (And have you tried that new Pikes coffee? Not bad!)

Summer Job Dilemma

Rach, the “teen”

Right now I’m looking for a summer job. Actually, I’ve been looking since December. That means, I’m putting in lots and lots of applications, and getting few replies (most of which are: you don’t have sales experience?).

My parents have been bugging me constantly every day since January. “Get a job, you need money for college!” I know, of course I know I need pocket money for college and to take care of my breaking car.

So, my dilemmas this week are: how do I manage a summer job, and still have time for goofing off with my friends? And, how can I get my parents to stop bugging me? I am trying really hard to get a job and their incessant nagging isn’t helping.

Brad, the “dad”

Here’s the bad news, Rach: your parents aren’t going to stop bugging you until you get a gig. They might cut back just a bit if you’re lookin’ and lookin’ hard, but this is one of the nasty lessons of the Grown-Up World: good RESULTS matter more than good INTENTIONS.

I have only one bit of advice – the same I gave to the Valkyrie: have no fear or shame in asking friends, friends of family, your parents’ co-workers, your neighbors, anybody on your e-mail list, people at church or teachers a school, if they know anybody, anywhere, who’s hiring. Most folks would MUCH rather hire somebody that comes in on a recommendation, and everybody loves to be the one who did the hookin’ up. So don’t be shy or think you sound pathetic. You don’t. You sound like somebody who wants to work, and in this world, that’s rare all by itself. And surprisingly enough, most people are ready and even eager to help.

Oh, and as for goofing off with friends? FUN, ain’t it? You’ll still have time for that when you’re NOT working (or sleeping or driving to and from work), and trust me, that time with them will mean even more when there’s precious little of it. The old “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” thing. Again. Yet ANOTHER harsh lesson from Grown-up Land.

And congrats on graduating AND being responsible. You rock.

Mary, the “mom”

Well, Rach, I’m glad I’m not the only parent nagging their teen about getting a summer job. As “dad” said, they aren’t going to stop the nagging until you get a job — or win the lottery. Since the odds of getting a summer job are much better, I’d stick with that.

Again, I’ll agree with “dad” — aren’t you lucky that your “parents” see “eye-to-eye” on so many things — take advantage of any connection you can. Connections are my son’s only hope of getting work this summer!

I’ll throw in two more pieces of advice. First, be confident! When they say you don’t have sales experience, assure them that the only way for you to get sales experience is for them to hire you and since you are so wonderful and mature as to blog for ParentingTeensOnline, surely they should take a chance on you. Second, don’t be picky! This summer job isn’t a lifetime commitment. Does it really have to be sales? Compromise. Work a farm stand. An ice cream shop. A daycare center.

Sick For the Holidays

I am guessing most people agree, we work hard for our chance to enjoy our time off. Isn’t that a big part of working? I look forward to the holidays. Time with my family. Having fun with friends. Not having a schedule, just relaxing and having fun. Why is it that more times than not this is when I get sick.

I do have to make sure you know, I am not a sickly person by nature. In fact, I used to rarely get sick. I sure hope I am not just getting more prone to sickness with age, but I am afraid everything that comes with passing the 30 mark several years back has something to do with it. Of course, added weight and less exercise couldn’t have anything to do with it…no, definitely not.

I do place a lot of the blame squarely on my kids. They head off to school and preschool, centers of disease and pestilence, and bring back loads of new virus and bacteria colonies to join the funny farm we call home. Once one kid brings it in, we begin the joyful experience of passing it around the house multiple times until everyone has enjoyed the symptoms to their fullest. Rarely does a parent fall first ill, so I feel pretty secure in blaming my children.

This year, though, I am pretty sure it was me. Christmas Eve rolls around and I can start feeling it. Nothing like already feeling squeamish come early Christmas morning when you hear that shout of “SANTA CAME!” at o-dark-hundred. This year we were treated to an even earlier than normal wake up call – 3:30 am – to which we quickly threw the kid back into bed with a stern lecture on waiting until there was at least a bit of light. Of course, he had a hard time getting back to sleep but somehow managed. Me on the other hand, I was up for the duration. So on top of some bug running rampant through my system, I had sleep deprivation to deal with. Christmas joy to be had.

I was able to do the morning routine and help the kids play with their new loot. After that, I was spent. I missed the wonderful Christmas dinner my wife prepared and spent the entire next day in bed. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to me.

Now, three days later I am finally feeling like I am on the upswing. I will spare the gruesome details of my symptoms, but I will be happy to be in the clear of this bout with mother nature’s hidden little gems. I hope you all had more fun with your time off than I did. Being sick on the holidays has definitely gotta go.

These are unauthorized charges!

These are unauthorized charges!

Perhaps one of the most frequent agitated claims my company gets from customers calling in is “These are unauthorized charges!” When this is the first thing out of a callers mouth, we can be 99% sure that the charges were in fact authorized, but the customer was either not paying attention to or just not remembering what it was they signed up for.

What really gets our customer service reps going is nearly all of these people will never accept the fact that they did actually sign up and agree to the service, no matter how much explaining or proof you provide. Is this just a gene that some people are born without? A common sense ability that simply is not available to everyone out there?

These are unauthorized charges!

Granted, I understand when people are “tricked” by some marketing tactics out there, but when the details of a product or service are repeated multiple times in the purchasing process, I really have little no sympathy.

Typically, going hand in hand with the “unauthorized charges” statement is the claim that “This is fraud!” Another baseless and completely misunderstood statement being spewed vehemently in an effort to try and scare a representative into refunding all of the charges ever made by a company.

Funny thing is, we not only keep full records of the enrollment by the user, but we also take note of the IP address used when the registration took place. Even without delving legally into the precise user in an ISPs record to know that this was, in fact, the actual person, you can, with a public lookup services, identify the city and sometimes even the more detailed location of the computer that did the transaction. When this lines right up with the address of the credit card holder, we can feel fairly safe in knowing that yes, this doofus did, in fact, sign up.

These are unauthorized charges!

In the end, though, we typically refund much of the fees charged, which irks me to no end. We do this for two, sad reasons. First, the merchant industry is so screwed up that customers can in fact typically charge back anything they want on a credit card, whether they make false statements in the process or not. Though there are some basic yet futile ways for a merchant to dispute a customer charge reversal, in the end having too many chargebacks will get your account shut down whether you have resolved them or not. Second, we simply find it easier to refund these noisy, annoying customers than deal with long term liability of them making noise with the BBB, State Attorney Generals, etc. Yes, whether they are true or not, their false claims to organizations end up hurting you more as a business than just giving their money back.

These are unauthorized charges!

What really bothers me about all this is that our company is in fact in the right; yet, it doesn’t matter. In the name of protecting consumers, both private and governmental groups are so skewed to the customer that they hurt businesses. I’m all for protecting consumers from actual scams and deceptive marketing practices, but what about protecting the small businesses of the world from predatory and negligent consumers?

More on the failings of the merchant account industry another day.

A Close Look At Lipsense’s Shades

Those who are looking for ways in order for them to glam up would usually grab the lipstick first. This is because the lips are usually what people see first, and getting them in a nice, radiant, red color would greatly help illuminate your face and make it look so much more attractive. Well, red isn’t the only color to lipstick, and despite what a lot of people think, lipstick is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. With that said, some of the things that lipcarespot.com talks about are the different shades of lipstick. Here’s a closer look at some of the other shades apart from red.

Nudes

The “no makeup” look is something that people may want to wear every now and then. It’s because it’s relatively easier to wear, and it’s not as “noisy” as that of traditional makeup. It really takes minimal effort in order to put on, and it will not be difficult at all to get a nude shade for your skin, whether you are dark, fair, or olive-toned. Some nude shades available are bella, praline rose, and first love.

Pink

This is best for those who want to project a young and innocent kind of aura. It’s perfect for those who also want a little bit of sass and sex appeal. It also comes with just about all the types, such as matte, frost, and gloss. Some pinks are shocking, and some pinks are close to one’s natural lip color. Some shades include aussie rose and pink champagne.

Berries

One unique color which can be used on just about every skin color is the berries shade. Indeed, a lot of these shades under this category are bold and seductive, and thus can help to accentuate just about any face. Colors include mulled wine and sheer berry.